You guys have seen all the videos, articles and memes regarding the ALS Ice-Bucket Challenge at this point. For those of you that haven't (I can't imagine there being many of you), there is a viral challenge sweeping the internet. It goes like this:
Maggie gets nominated by Joe to dump a bucket of ice-water over her head. Should Maggie accept the challenge, she donates $10 to ALS research, videotapes herself getting soaked, and nominates 3 new people to the challenge. Should Maggie NOT accept, she donates $100 to ALS research.
Either way, money is donated to ALS research. With those accepting the challenge, however, the added benefit is raising awareness.
Now I've seen a lot of folks complaining about the challenge taking up space on their news feed. I find that to be an incredibly arrogant complaint, especially when the "hide" feature is so easily accessible. Why complain about other people posting a 30 second video that you don't have to watch? It just seems incredibly arrogant.
Then I saw folks complaining about donations to the ALSA. The ALSA funds embryonic stem cell research, so I was mostly on-board with folks complaining about donations made to the ALSA. Most people are completely unaware of the embryonic stem cell issue. That being said, there are several organizations one can donate to that meet the requirements of the ALS Research donation. I, for example, offered the Kimberly Kim Foundation as well as the John Paul II Medical Research Institute as viable, moral alternatives. So again, why complain about something with such an easy solution?
Finally, I saw the most ridiculous of all arguments, and it shamefully came from a Catholic whom I follow via Facebook: Frank Weathers of Why I Am Catholic. Normally I can get behind stuff Mr. Weathers writes, but his brief, snarky message against the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge made me cringe.
He quotes Matthew 6:2-4 and uses that as his "#1 Reason" for being against the challenge:
When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites
do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen,
I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms,
do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your
almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who
sees in secret will repay you.
I think Mr. Weathers is stretching things a bit. He'd've gotten more support if he stuck with the anti-embryonic stem cell research. Pulling the Bible into things as if he actually thinks Jesus wouldn't be cool with His children banding together in such a way to help one another... that's mind-blowing to me.
People aren't dumping water on themselves to say "Look at me and how charitable I am!"
In all honesty, I think the majority of folks are doing it so they can feel a sense of belonging. They see this challenge as being a real solution to a real problem, and it's a solution that is fun, easy and entertaining. And they're right! This sense of belonging has become a real movement which has already raised over $70 million dollars. $70 MILLION DOLLARS!!!
And that's only from the ALSA. That doesn't count the Kimberly Kim Foundation or the JPII Medical Research Institute.
That is nothing to turn your nose up at. More than raising money, this viral campaign has raised awareness of ALS which has raised compassion and understanding. It has caused folks to reach out to one another in new and unexpected ways. It has given hope to those struggling with ALS, and in some ways empowered them to realize they COULD do something about their seemingly hopeless situation.
Again, it has bonded people into a sense of belonging to a real solution. That is incredible!
And yes, while it'd be nice for folks to support, en masse, Christians is the Middle East, you cannot condemn participants of the ALS Challenge because, frankly, you have no clue if that person already IS. Supporting one does not preclude you from supporting the other.
So I'm in favor of the challenge, and I think anyone who would attempt to shame me or call my Catholicism isn't question would do well to remove the hull of the Titanic from their eye first . I accepted the challenge from a friend, explained my donation to the Kimberly Kim Foundation (as opposed to the ALSA), and then requested (in my commentary) for my three nominees to do the same. So not only am I spreading awareness for ALS and donating to the solution, I'm also making folks aware of the embryonic stem cell issue that, again, most folks are simply unaware of (and not seeking to intentionally be malicious about).
Finally, from a marketing standpoint (given my background in Communications), I LOVE the simplicity with which this challenge went viral. Brilliant marketing ploy. Kudos all around.
Ooo, and obviously, keep folks suffering with ALS in your prayers, and if you haven't already, make yourself aware of the signs and symptoms so you can better serve those whose lives are affected by it!
Prophecies II - The Warning
This series deals with visionaries not yet approved by the Church. Under the umbrella of private revelation, it is up to each individual to decide for him/herself the truth of these claims. I am not suggesting you believe or disbelieve. I'm suggesting that the messages contained within are important enough to warrant an open and honest discussion. Above all, these messages deserve to be looked into with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. So please read this prayer before moving on:
O Holy Ghost, divine Spirit of light and love, I consecrate to Thee my understanding, my heart and my will, my whole being for time and for eternity. May my understanding be always obedient to Thy heavenly inspirations and the teachings of the holy Catholic Church, of which Thou art the infallible Guide; may my heart be ever inflamed with love of God and of my neighbor; may my will be ever conformed to the divine will, and may my whole life be a faithful following of the life and virtues of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to whom with the Father and Thee be honor and glory for ever. Amen.
Prophecies II - The Warning
I hate to call it "The Warning." However, that's what everyone, including our Heavenly messengers, are calling it. I guess that's because it truly is a Warning. But it's not meant to be a warning in the sense that God is wagging His Finger at us while yelling from the front seat of the mini-van to be quiet.
Instead, it is an educational experience meant to teach us - once and for all - that God both exists and loves us with an incomprehensible passion... that He longs for us to return to our rightful inheritance.
How best to do this when so many of His children deny His existence? How best to do this when so many of us have never heard of Him? How best to do this when those who DO know Him don't understand Him?
Leave it to God to come up with a brilliant solution to all of those problems at once.
According to several different visionaries (including some who have already undergone a "mini-warning" so as to prepare the rest of us for the experience) humanity as a whole will undergo an Illumination of Conscience.
What exactly does this mean?
According to those who have undergone it (St. Faustina included), time stops and we will see our souls in the Light of God's Truth. We will experience a "mini-judgement" similar to what souls experience at death.
Time will stop and all of humanity from ages 7 on will experience this Illumination. We will immediately feel the overpowering Presence of God's Love encompassing us. Then, we will be shown all of those instances in which we were blessed with His Grace. We will see all those times in which we accepted His Grace, and all those times in which we rejected it (through sin).
In this way, we will immediately come to know not only God, but His Love for us and the myriad of ways in which He's shown us that Love throughout our lives.
This experience will be for believer and non-believer alike. It will happen simultaneously for everyone all throughout the world, and during this experience of intense love, we will understand for the first time what God expects of us as His children. Having seen our souls in this manner, we will know exactly what must be done in order to reconcile ourselves to Him.
There is also an added grace being granted, according to certain visionaries. During this brief Illumination (said to be about 15 minutes long), God will allow humanity to experience what it is to endure Hell. He will allow us all (saint and sinner alike) to feel the spiritual flames that are punishment for rejecting His Mercy and Love. So for a time during this Illumination, all will know what Hell is, and no more can folks insist that it does not exist.
How can this be considered mercy?
Well, is mercy not in ensuring your children understand the true ramifications for bad decisions? Is not mercy instilling knowledge of the Truth in them so that they may be equipped to choose the ways of Love and Mercy?
Allowing us to touch Hell allows us to break the bonds of disbelief. Allowing us to feel the flames of hatred allows us to know and cling to Love.
So yes... even the experience of Hell is Divine Mercy.
But more exciting... more incredible... more awe-inspiring is the idea that we will see ourselves before God and through His Eyes! We will experience His Love in totality! At the close of this experience (we are told) BILLIONS will be converted. To finally know, without a shadow of a doubt, that God exists and wants us back with Him in Heaven... to have a taste of His Love and to finally have the veil lifted from our sin-goggled eyes... oh joy of joys!!!
Judge Not or Ye Shall be Judged
Judge a tree by it's fruits, man!
I got an e-mail last night from a friend of mine. We had been discussing the current LCWR review. He was under the impression (as so many are) that the Vatican was trying to stamp out the personal freedoms of poor, innocent nuns just trying to live our their vocation serving their communities.
I admit I got rather heated at the thought of these women being pitied as a result of the media's false stories of heroism in the face of the big, bad Vatican. These women should never - EVER - be held up as the gold standard for Catholicism. The women in question shouldn't even be held up as a bad example of Catholicism. Many have given up being Catholic long, long ago and just haven't 'fessed up to it yet. Thus, use them as a bad example of Protestantism. Please leave the word "Catholic" out of their mess.
Anyway, this friend chided me for my harsh words. He quoted the oft repeated (and incredibly misunderstood) line from Matthew 7: "Judge not lest you be judged."
I've already sent this friend an e-mail detailing my feelings on the matter (candidly as I'm apt to do). However, I felt this a topic very necessary to broach with the general population as this quote is so often used by people in an attempt to bow out to political correctness.
In my opinion, it's nothing more than an excuse to hide one's insecurities behind a veil of false nicety.
Let's say my mother is driving a car. We're about to take a curve too harshly. Considering there's a canyon to the left of us, if she continues speeding, we're likely to tumble into the abyss.
Do I refrain from telling her to slow down because I'm afraid I might hurt her feelings for criticizing her driving?
No. I like my life.
Instead, I'd say, "Hey Mom, you need to apply the brakes because if you don't, we're likely to take a tumble neither one of us will enjoy."
Would I be judging my mother to be a bad driver? No.
Would I be judging her behavior to be bad? Yes.
Might she feel as though I'd judged her to be a bad driver? Yes, it's a possibility.
If she feels as though I've passed a negative judgement on her, does that mean I have? No.
Even knowing that she might have her feelings hurt as a result of my criticism, should I refrain from suggesting she slow down? NO.
As I've said in previous entries, I simply do not have the personality to sit on the sidelines while someone is acting in a way that is either harmful to self or others. I can't. I automatically put a familiar face on these folks and my decision is made - political correctness be damned.
That is exactly what we are asked to do as Catholics. The quote "Judge not, lest ye be judged" is often given as a means to stifle this responsibility. However, if we read juuust a little bit further, we'll come to understand that this misrepresented quote (found on everything from billboards to memes to T-shirts) means something much different than the sound byte it's utilized as.
Here is the quote in its entirety (from the New American Bible, so the wording is slightly changed):
Jesus said to His disciples: “Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.” Matt 7:1-5
In other words, use your God-given intellect to discern judgement. It isn't necessarily meaning we should condemn, but it's certainly charging us with the responsibility of properly judging all things with equality.
In fact, there are quotes all over the Bible specifically commanding this of us.
In the gospels, Luke echoes Matthew in Chapter 6 with "Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven... For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you."
John (7:24) relays Jesus saying "Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteously."
In Proverbs (3:21), "Preserve sound judgement and discernment."
In the Letter of St. Paul to the Phillipians (1:9-11), "And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God."
And my favorite (also from Luke 6) stating, "A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For people do not pick figs from thorn bushes, nor do they gather grapes from brambles. A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil; for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks."
"See the good that we do and give glory to God."
That being said, we have a Christian responsibility to judge that which is presented to us in this world... ESPECIALLY when that which is presented wreaks of evil. We must not allow such evil to continue spreading as a cancer. The Body of Christ - OUR spiritual body - must be protected. If we remain silent as these "religious" continue to misinform, polarize and confuse the general population, we commit a sin of commission. We allow a greater evil to exist both within our ranks, and within ourselves through our silence.
This is exactly how the atrocities of WWII were accomplished. Sure there were plenty of folks who disagreed with the Nazi ideals. However, too many were silent for too long.
First they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.
I, for one, cannot endure such silence. I cannot wither away behind a false veil of "live and let live" when that includes allowing misinformation to fester and spread to my friends, family and children. No. It is my duty as a Christian to call evil out where it is and shed the light of truth upon the dishonesty and willful desecration of the Faith.
And those Christians among you who read this (be you Catholic or otherwise), this is your duty as well. We must work together to bring the light of Truth to others. We must not allow the lies, the half-truths, the confusion to tear souls away from Christ.
Mortal Sin and I
One of the things I've tried to do better with is Confession. Ever since my reversion, I've sorta made inconsistent progress with this. Some months I'll amass a hefty "sin log" after doing a thorough examination of conscience. Other times I'll rush myself to the nearest confessional to hastily spout off a list of sins I've "probably" committed since my last trip to the box.
Obviously you get out of Confession what you put into it. In my latter example, I wasn't getting much out of the experience, and I doubt highly that Jesus was thrilled with my half-baked effort.
So how does one become better at Confession, anyway?
For me, I went to a source that seems to have usurped Confession as his life's mission - Fr. Z.
You folks have heard me prattle on and on about him in the past. I can't help it. I really have learned so much from following his blog. He talks about Confession - a lot - so I knew that a good breeding ground for knowledge would be his archives.
The most helpful thing for me has been Father Z's insistence on completing a thorough examination of conscience using one (or more) "checklists." He even said if you're in a total pickle and don't have access to a specific list, run through the 10 Commandments in your mind.
I've found that the easiest way for me to complete a thorough exam is to list all 10 Commandments and then the 7 Deadly Sins. And yes, I write them all out with my matching offenses underneath the various categories. I feel like those cover just about every dirty little deed I could possibly do, so taking inventory with those as my guide ensures I don't miss anything. The most helpful, in my opinion, are those 7 deadly sins, though.
In compiling this guide for myself, I realized I needed to delve into a few that I hadn't really thought about before. Gluttony, for example.
Oh, Lord... gluttony.
I admit it. I had no idea that gluttony could be considered a mortal sin. Looking it up in the Catechism, though, I found that gluttony is most certainly a mortal sin (and with good reason). And oh, how gluttonous I am!!!
Wrath, as well. I always assumed wrath looked like this:
After doing some more research into what constituted wrath, I learned that it could also look very much like me when I angrily react towards Vincent after a string of sleepless nights. Upon understanding the Church's definition of wrath, I came to understand that it was something I struggled with intensely. A mortal sin I'm most ashamed of as it not only hurts Christ, but my sweet little angel baby. A sin that hurts my husband when I verbally tear into him for a perceived insult or a forgotten pile of dirty dishes. A sin that hurts me because it destroys my relationship with God and those around me through severing trust, love and peace.
You see, I always thought mortal sin was relegated to things like murder, torture and stealing stuff from poor people. Eating a box of popsicles, reactionary punishments and even withholding forgiveness to satiate prideful arrogance never entered the realm of mortal sin thought because I simply didn't think of them as mortally sinful. In light of Church teaching, however, I really have come away with a much better understanding of these particular "dirty deeds" and as a result, I've been able to work on reigning them in.
So yes. Mortal sin is definitely something that I've been thinking a lot more about in recent months. Instead of running around thinking it was darn near impossible for me to commit one, I've come to realize that it's a lot easier than I once thought.
This understanding, I think, wasn't given to me to have me freak out over every failure I have as a mother, wife and friend. I do, however, think this in-depth reflection has been granted so I could pull myself closer to Christ. It's almost as if He threw out a rope to me to begin yanking myself up out of the muck. All the while I've been putting one hand over the other, struggling against the weight of myself, He's not only been holding up the rope, He's been pulling it steadily towards Himself, and with it, me.
Again, the process isn't fun, but the reward is well worth the struggle.
For as much as I'm against using Wiki as a reference, explanations for the Deadly Sins are actually pretty spot on, so it's a good place to start if you're interested in learning more.
Ever get into bed only to realize you forgot to say your nightly prayers?
I do this at least once a week. I know, I know... awful. I'm being honest, though.
This is what always follows that realization...
1. I feel intensely guilty about forgetting to say "Thanks" to the Guy who got me through my insane day.
2. I then feel doubly guilty for not realizing that even though it was an insane day, it was an immense blessing.
3. Say an immediate "Sorry. Thanks, God, I really do appreciate everything you do for me and my family."
Here's where the fun begins...
Conscience chimes in "But DO you really appreciate everything? You couldn't possibly know ALL the things God blessed you with on any given day."
I retort with "Conscience, I know enough, and for all the stuff I don't, let's agree to count them among the things I'm thankful for anyway, ok?"
Conscience scoffs and says, "You realize we have this conversation every time you get in bed without saying your prayers because it pushes off getting back out of bed, right?"
Feelings of shame make me blush because I realize my conscience is right. I don't wanna give in so quickly, though, so I pretend like that's not true and barter. "Okay, God, I promise I'll just pray double tomorrow night, okay?"
Conscience steps in with, "Oh yeah... like that'll happen. And besides, who exactly are YOU not to make time for God? GOD!"
Darn it, Conscience!
"Seriously, - stop having this stupid conversation with me and just get out of bed!"
"Uugh... can't I just pray in bed where it's warm and I'm comfortable?"
"Sure, 'cause Jesus stayed in bed through His Passion. Great idea. You're awesome. What a gracious little creature you are, huh? The God of the Universe endures untold torture to bring you Salvation, and you can't give up the fluffy comforter for five minutes while you kneel on your fluffy carpet to help round up some souls for Him? Real nice."
"Darn it, Conscience... now I REALLY feel like a jerk!"
"Good, 'cause you are a jerk. Now stop being a jerk, get on your knees, and thank God for even giving you the chance to be a jerk. Then apologize for choosing to be a jerk and, as a show of gratitude, say your prayers with the intention of bringing souls back to Him. I hear He appreciates that sorta stuff."
"Okay, okay. You win."
Then my attention diverts back to God and I have this conversation:
"I'm really sorry about all that. You know I don't mean to offend You, but sometimes I'm a really selfish jerk who doesn't think of all the reasons why I should constantly have my face planted firmly on the floor in thanksgiving. Thank You for giving me an irritating conscience who nags me until I realize how selfish I'm being. You really are awesome. I'll try to nix at least part of the conversation the next time this happens and get out of bed faster. May my prayers bring some of Your children back to You tonight."
Then I pray the Divine Mercy chaplet for anyone God wants to use it for (be they sinners on earth or in Purgatory). I really do figure that's the best way to show my gratitude for His Blessings.
Seriously, though, I always feel like such a jerk when I forget because, without fail, this is the conversation that plays out in my mind. *Shakes head* Ah well... at least I know my conscience is looking out for me. :)
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