Advice to a Catholic Woman Dating an Agnostic Man and an Admission of Omission
I must've written and rewritten this entry a dozen times. I've come to the realization that there's simply no neat and tidy way of being fully honest, especially given the circumstances. Thus, I apologize for the mess you're all about to find yourselves in.
A lovely woman named Anne is a Catholic woman who is dating an Agnostic man. She believes they are a perfect match in all things but religion. He was born and raised Catholic but now views Catholicism as something akin to a fairytale while she obviously has deep reverence for her Catholic heritage.
She asked us for our advice on what to do given she's looking to marry this man.
I've been wrestling around a lot with this one. She commented her plight at the end of August to my "I Married an Agnostic" post from 2011, and I'm half afraid she thinks I've forgotten all about her!
Anne, I promise that I haven't. I just didn't know how to write this without upsetting you. My advice, I fear, is not what you're hoping for.
My advice, in fact, is to get out now.
I realize you might be surprised to hear that from me, but I've walked in your shoes. For miles. I'm STILL walking in them which is precisely why I'm telling you that unless you know for certain you are being called to convert this man through a lifetime of marriage (which, itself, carries the reality of conversion not happening and your struggle having an adverse effect on future children), cut your losses, give your heart a healthy time to heal, and ask God to put the right man in your midst.
You might be wondering how I could say such a thing when my own marriage hasn't fallen apart and my son is a (mostly) willing participant in the Faith.
This was not without toil, tears, a very real threat of divorce, and an intense overhaul of my entire relationship with John. That's not even counting the amount of prayers and work that still go into it.
Am I saying I wish I hadn't married John? Of course not. I got two children out of the deal and undoubtedly grew closer to Christ. However, I was significantly less spiritually mature than you currently are when I answered the call to marriage.
You fully understand the importance of your faith and the necessity of a father to be a spiritual leader for his family. I didn't understand that; worse, I didn't even think such a thing was necessary! As a result of my ignorance, my family started out with a distinct disadvantage. We were not a cohesive unit in what would become a very large and important part of our lives. That friction reached its tentacles into everything, especially as I matured in my faith and realized the depth of my ignorance.
John's refusal to accept my religious beliefs as valid directly - DIRECTLY - correlates to his refusal to be open to more children.
So Anne, if you plan to have children, be prepared for a similar fate. It is an excruciating,
at-times-unbearable, cross to shoulder.
Readers who have been following me for a while might be incredibly unsettled by this.
When I first learned that this was the driving reason behind my husband's reluctance to have more children, words couldn't possibly express the emotions that coursed through me. In fact, it's been over a year since I learned that this was my reality and this is the first time I've voiced it beyond my two closest friends.
It's also the prime reason why responding to you, Anne, has been so challenging. I couldn't be honest with you without being honest about the depth of my own struggle. This is a tragic, brutal and incredibly bigoted reality, and it's a reality I want so much to protect you from. I wouldn't wish this sort of sacrifice on anyone.
It's a sacrifice that I willingly make, yes, but it's a willing sacrifice only because I've already made my vows. You have not. Please understand that this is what you'd be saying "I do" to... not just for yourself, but for your future children.
And before you think to yourself that your boyfriend would never do such a thing, again, I've walked in your shoes. My husband said he accepted my Catholicism.
Seeing Vincent's participation alongside me must've shifted that for him, because Catholicism was no longer some harmless fairy tale. To John, it became a bitter irritant. Prayers at bedtime are nails on chalkboard. Sunday Mass can solicit anything from an eye-roll to not-so-secret vindication when Vince cries that he doesn't want to go.
Catholicism has become such a hated thing to my husband that he does not want to see it replicated in his children. Because he cannot love that part of me, he cannot love that part of our children. Thus, the only way to stave off such irritation is to stop having children. To poison one is enough... to poison more than one is unthinkable to him.
And that is his mindset. Through tears, I demanded to know how he could hold such a bigoted notion in his head. He is not what I'd consider a bigot. He's otherwise incredibly tolerant and accepting. In fact, should any of his friends read this, they'd probably think I was somehow mistaken - that I'd misunderstood his motivation.
I assure you I have not. I had him spell it out for me. That was one of the most painful and damaging conversations I've ever had with anyone in my entire life. It still stings when I think of it.
I couldn't understand. I still don't to a certain degree. I asked him what part of Catholicism bothered him so much that he couldn't stand to see it played out in me... in Vincent. He couldn't answer me. He noted prayers at bedtime or his little sayings of "Jesus loves me" irritated him, but our son is wonderful. Him being baptized Catholic has not somehow made him less wonderful, but for John, it was enough to make him resent and yes, even hate, Catholicism. Hate it to the point where he willingly allows me to suffer an enforced infertility so as not to bring forth any other children who would suffer the fate of *gasp* Baptism and a Catholic education.
It is not fear of finance... fear of time constraints... fear of love or capability that has condemned me to this cross of infertility. It is my husband's hatred of Catholicism.
He shared this in a moment of deep and unfiltered honesty just over one year ago. I appreciated his honesty, because it showed a level of trust that we'd never come close to understanding. However, I've lived with this knowledge, completely unsure how to proceed. When I thought his decision was based on finances and such, the cross was easier to bear. At least his rationale made sense. This, however, was almost insurmountable. It is still a daily struggle.
It is a struggle I want to preserve you from, Anne. It's a struggle I want to preserve your future children from.
My husband and I have since discussed things. We both agree that had we known then what we know now about the importance of faith to one another, we likely would not have gotten married. I had, after all, broken off the engagement at one point when he tried to get me to agree not to baptize our future children. We should've known then that faith was more important than we were giving it credit for.
But we didn't, and we publicly vowed to love one another every day for the rest of our lives. Love doesn't begin and end with tummy butterflies. It is an active choice to respect, honor, protect, nurture and support your spouse - every day.
So that is how I find myself in this situation. I love my husband, Anne. I love him, respect him, support him, and do my best to nurture him in ways that will ultimately make him a better person. He obviously tries his best to do the same for me. However, I'd be remiss if I didn't warn you of the heartache that comes with this sort of union.
Take my story to heart. For as much as you love your boyfriend (and I have no doubt you do), you will also love those children you create, and you need to be thinking of them. The best decision you can ever make for them is who their father will be.
In all things, you have my prayers. Other readers, please feel free to chime in with your advice for Anne.
Christ's Valentine to Us
On Tuesday night, I explained the roots of St. Valentine's Day to my class. I told them about Father Valentine and the love for (and dedication to!) God that he was ultimately put to death for. I explained how from his jail cell, awaiting death, this holy and courageous priest would write letters to his parishioners telling them to hold fast to their love of Christ through their love of one another.
Many of them were surprised to know the national day for flowers and candy actually springs out of the martyrdom of a holy and courageous priest. When I pointed out the liturgical color for a martyr's feast is red, it took them all a quick moment to connect why everything associated with Valentine's Day follows suit. Tradition is a terribly hard thing to bury indefinitely. *Grin*
Anyway, at the end of class, I read an excerpt from The Hours of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. For those of you unaware, this incredibly beautiful prayer book was dictated to Luisa Piccarreta by Our Lord, Himself. Together, the two of them journeyed back to His Passion and experienced it for the purpose of sharing the depth of His love story to us.
I could speak of this prayer book forever, but I chose a small snippet for my class expressly for St. Valentine's Day. It is taken from the 10am-11am hour of His Passion, just as He takes up His Cross. It reads:
I [Luisa] see that your enemies shove You down the steps, while the mob awaits You with fury and eagerness. They have You find the Cross already prepared, which You seek with great longing. You look at it with Love; and You go straight towards it to embrace it. First, You kiss it; and, as a shiver of joy surges through your most Holy Humanity, You look at it with utmost satisfaction and measure its length and width. You now establish the portion in it for all creatures. You endow them with sufficient cross in order to bind them to the Divinity with a nuptial bond and render them heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven.
I reflected thusly to my children:
Jesus did not run from His Cross. He did not turn away from the torturous and humiliating death He was about to endure. Instead, He JOYFULLY accepted His Cross. He kissed the very instrument of His death because He understood how necessary it was for the salvation of His beloved family. WE are His family. He kissed that Cross for Love of us. He shouldered that Cross for US, and He left to us the inheritance found within its splinters so that one day we might be reunited with God in Heaven.
This is our constant Valentine. Each and every time we see it, we must stop to reflect upon the Divine Love that was infused within its very existence.
"Behold, I make all things new."
Oh Lord, behold, indeed! You took the world's symbol of humiliation, agony and defeat only to turn it into the triumphant throne of mercy, salvation and victory. This is, indeed, our truest love letter from You, signed in Your Most Precious Blood and delivered with Your final, loving sigh.
This is my reflection for Saint Valentine's Day.
May the Lord bless each and every one of you with peace, love and mercy.
A coworker wanted to get a St. Michael medal for his friend who is becoming a police office this weekend. I told him I had one at home and promised to bring it in.
Given how much I use medals for Lenten projects, I typically have a bag of 20 or 30 on-hand, so I put them in my purse and brought them in today.
As we were sorting through them looking for St. Michael, I came across one for St. Philomena. I added it to the holy card on my office wall. I look at them constantly, and each time I do, I'm reminded to say a prayer or refocus my attention on God. Finding her medal was a nice bonus.
I actually found three, so I'll wear one and keep the other in the pile for my kids at Lent.
Anyway, I also found one for St. Genesius. I've never heard of St. Genesius! So I did some digging and came up with a pretty awesome conversation story.
St. Genesius of Rome was apparently the Shakespeare of his day. He led an acting troupe and performed plays that mocked Christianity.
During one play which sought to belittle the Sacrament of Baptism, Genesius saw two angels come towards him with a list of his sins. Immediately demanding baptism, his fellow actors thought he was simply acting out the play. However, Genesius insisted that he must be baptized and proclaimed the truth of Christianity.
Upon hearing this, Diocletian ordered St. Genesius to be tortured. This had no effect on Genesius. He continued to proclaim the truth of Christ to anyone who would listen. Confounded by his refusal to deny Christ, he was beheaded. From his martyrdom, a popular devotion to this saint sprang forth.
That's what I call Divine Intervention!
What a great conversion story - very Saint Paul!
Ah well. I'm glad to have been acquainted with a new saint today. I'm always fascinated by the stories of these ordinary people who, unbeknownst to them, are called to be beacons of truth. Just... incredible!
When I was younger, I'd read all about the various saints doing super heroic stuff.
Martyr after martyr welcomed death - joyously - to prove their love for Jesus.
Heck, there were saints who just got dealt persecution after persecution (though not to the point of death) and joyously offered it to God as an offering of love.
Now, after reading all these stories of such heroic devotion and love, how many of you wanted to get martyred or experience persecution to prove yourself?
If so, is there a particular saint whose experience and example has really resonated with you?
A Beacon of Hope Amidst Tragedy
My morning started off pretty awesome. My son gave me hugs and kisses before I dropped him off at daycare, several of my friends were already on their way to the Pro-Life March in D.C., and I was on my way to the most awesome job in the world (made that much more awesome by the fact that my coworkers are pretty much the best people in the universe). That all being said, I looked something like this:
About an hour or so after getting to work, however, one of those aforementioned awesome coworkers sent me this article which put me in a mood decidedly...
After a few minutes of fuming - loudly - I checked to see which diocese St. Thomas More was actually a part of. I wanted to make sure it wasn't Archbishop Chaput's old Denver stomping grounds. When I found out the hospital was located in the diocese of Pueblo, I hopped over to their site to find out if any statement had been made by the bishop there. When I got to their homepage (found here), I took a moment to read the press release posted there. While reading, I probably looked a little something like this:
The quick (and pointed) response to this situation is incredibly heartening. In fact, I was SO pleased that they responded that I wrote the wonderful folks over in Pueblo to tell them how wonderful I thought their bishops were in a letter to the Office of the Bishop. I would suggest all of you do the same. When you're done praising them for being defenders of Life, go ahead and exercise your fingers by then moving over to St. Thomas More Hospital's site to unleash a lesson or two on what TRUE Catholics stand up for and defend.
This, my dear friends, is what today's version of Defending the Faith looks like. We might not need to shed our blood in the Colosseum (yet), but we do need to take a stand and refuse to back down on our beliefs simply because it's financially beneficial to do so. Those hack-job lawyers in Colorado have just destroyed so much of what the Pro-Life movement has worked hard for. How DARE they claim that fetuses aren't people only to kick a lawsuit under the rug!
My heart goes out to the father who lost his wife and children. How invalidated he must feel that a set of Catholic representatives (whether or not they were Catholic themselves doesn't matter - they represented a Catholic Institution, and thus should have reflected Catholic values in their actions) basically told him his two children were nothing... that they were undeserving of proper care because they weren't technically alive by the standards of the law...
I am sickened by that! At the very least the firm representing the hospital should never again be allowed to step foot in the courtroom in defense of St. Thomas More. I'd also like to see the administrators of this particular hospital feel a little fire for their part. SOMEONE over there had to have given some sort of consent to this diabolical argument. Ugh - I just... I can't.
Anyway, after you spit some of your justified venom their way, refresh yourself by viewing some of the incredible, uplifting and thought-provoking images of today's incredibly successful March for Life. These imagines? They'll remind you that you're not alone in your desire to see a better, brighter future for this generation and all generations to follow. They'll remind you that you're part of something bigger... something mystical... something militant - the Body of Christ.
Please be warned - the linked article has a moderately graphic image for some of you involving blood. No bodies are shown, but blood smeared on the wall in letters is.
This is an article regarding the wave of anti-Christian crime that's been sweeping through Russia and the surrounding areas in the wake of the Riot sentencing. A few people are now dead in connection to the crime-spree (whether capitalizing on the fame of the trial or not is to be determined) and countless churches and communities have been victimized through desecration, theft and violence.
We are to be tried once more in the public square. Anti-Christian fervor is building, and we can expect more of this to spread even to within our own borders.
Arm yourselves, Church Militant. Prayer is your sword; the saints are your armor. Your battle cry is Truth and that Truth is Christ.
My 1st Quick-Takes... I Think?
So I've seen a lot of my blogger friends take part in Conversion Diary's Quick Take Fridays. I've also been an avid follower of Jennifer Fulwiler's for a while. I'd considered taking part in the past, but my life is honestly not interesting enough to do a weekly "catch-all." Maybe a quarterly one.
Anyway, today I lucked upon some great articles that totaled seven in number. I thought Hey now! That's just enough to make an actual Quick Take Friday post! Then I wondered, Is it cheating to use articles for my quick takes as opposed to using items about my actual life?
The answer I arrived at was "Yes. Yes, it's cheating, but who cares? Doubtful anyone's gonna come after me with some sort of blogging demerits."
So, my 7 Quick Takes:
From Esquire Magazine comes an open letter to the world from a Christian who aims to correct the negative perceptions of an anti-Christian world. My favorite quote:
"... at one point God even speaks to a guy named Balaam through his donkey. Some say God spoke to Balaam through his ass and has been speaking through asses ever since. So if God should choose to use us, then we should be grateful but not think too highly of ourselves. And if upon meeting someone we think God could never use, we should think again."
NBC reports that some yahoo decided to drop raw bacon in the field where Muslims were celebrating the close of Ramadan. This person (people?) also left a note and police are investigating it as a hate crime.
I'm all for investigating this as a hate crime because it's obvious this person (or these people) was attempting to bully others on the grounds of their religion, but I find it interesting that this had no effect on their celebrations and this wasn't even done on sacred grounds / with sacred objects. It's rightly being investigated as a hate crime, but folks are still indignant that the Russian women - who desecrated the main altar of a Cathedral - were convicted of religious intolerance. Color me incredulous.
A high school valedictorian has been denied her diploma by her school because of the use of "Hell" in her speech. They haven't denied her transcripts (which she needs for college), but the diploma is symbolic of her achievements.
I think the approach is heavy-handed, but I do believe she owes the school the written apology it asked for in punishment for her misstep. Her reaction and continued "I'm right, I'm right, I'm right" when she is CLEARLY in the wrong only serves to show how arrogant she is. She provided them with an approved speech, then she decided to throw unnecessary vulgarity in there. As punishment, they with-held the diploma and simply asked for an apology.
I'm sorta bothered by everyone coming to her defense in saying this is an attack of freedom of speech. It's a SCHOOL SPEECH that everyone knows must be approved first by the board (or whoever is in charge of the ceremony). It's to both protect the school and the student from embarrassment. This girl simply thought she was above the rules because of her intelligence and achievements.
Sorry, honey, but you've still gotta play by the rules. This has nothing to do with freedom of speech. It has everything to do with following procedure during a solemn ceremony. Get over yourself. If this is how you respond to situations that call you out for trying to place yourself above authority, you're in for a rude awakening when you make it to the real world.
Fr. Levi over at The Way Out There came across the last words of St. David Lewis, a martyred priest whose story is incredibly touching.
After reading both his life overview and then his final address, I couldn't help but thank God for granting us so brave and faithful witnesses to His Love. Bless our priests.
God certainly knows how to choose them!
This is for all my fellow educators out there. In a special way, it's for those who are part of the unique group of people who work with children who have speech delays (my son being one of those children!).
I have no words to properly express the appreciation I have for your dedication and your love. Michelle at Liturgical Time does a fabulous job of expressing so well just how much we love the children we're blessed to work with, and I think being an educator myself, knowing that love on a personal level and seeing it doled out to my son just makes me that much more appreciative and awe-struck. Those who work with children are special, special people.
By Erika V of CS!
This is almost another cheat, but CatholicSistas has absolutely been on a roll this week. It's like someone swapped their coffee for Red Bull and they've been hammering out gold on a daily basis. Two of their articles REALLY touched me this week and I wanted to highlight them for you.
The first is Infant Death and Scared Parenting. A perinatal loss nurse is interviewed and she gives an inside look into this oft-overlooked area of holistic medicine. Incredibly inspiring and moving.
The second is titled The Trauma and Pain of Abortion After Rape and is written by a woman who conceived through rape. Exceedingly well-written, honest and poignant.
Finally, and maybe this isn't an article so much as a Book Release, but a mystic I've been following for a while, Maria Divine Mercy, has finally had the messages bundled into a book.
However, you don't need to purchase the book to read the messages. You can simply go to the website dedicated to collecting them all and download the PDF.
Again, typical warning goes into effect with mystics. Ask the Holy Spirit for guidance as these are all considered personal revelations. Also, try to forgive the horrific formatting of the website. It's set up very much like a yellow-journalism rag and whoever is in charge of it is definitely trying to capitalize off fear and panic. I don't approve of that. Ignore the terrible formatting and focus on the messages and the Crusade Prayers. I promise you'll thank me later for it.
For more Quick Takes, check out Conversion Diary (who hosts this entertaining weekly blogroll!
Written by a Muslim professor who was friends with this saintly priest, a call for victory comes... but not through violence or retaliation. Instead, this wise man understands that victory comes through prayer... through the unflinching dedication to truth and love.
Bless not only this man and this priest, but all those in Iraq - Christian or otherwise - who cling fast to this hope.
Read the brief letter here, and remember to pray for our Suffering Church in Need.
Saint Maria Goretti
by Sharon Clossick - click for more info
Saint Maria Goretti has always been, in my mind, the epitome of forgiveness.
At this point in time, most people know her story. She was a poor girl from a poor family. Destitute, they had to give up their home to work with (and then for) another family, the Serenellis. Shortly after, Maria's father passed away from malaria, leaving her mother and siblings at the mercy of the Serenelli family.
For several years the Goretti family worked for the Serenellis. However, even before her father passed away, Maria (then only nine) had found herself on the receiving end of sexual advances from Alessandro Serenelli. She thwarted his attempts to sully her purity several times, and each time was threatened with death if she uttered to anyone his treachery.
However, at 11 years old (she was 2 months shy of her 12th birthday which is why so many folks incorrectly list her as a 12 year old), he found her alone after her mother and siblings had gone to work in the field. Maria was home taking care of her infant sister, Teresa. Maria had just placed Teresa down for a nap when Alessandro approached her - again - with the intent to force her into sex. He brandished a 10 inch dagger with which to subdue her. Maria, however, would not allow his perversion to tarnish her chaste purity.
Crying out, "No! It is a sin! God does not want it! You will go to hell." Maria tried to fend off his lustful advances. Enraged, Alessandro choked Maria. This, too, proved futile as Maria insisted she'd rather die than endure the desecration of her body. As a result, Alessandro stabbed her body 11 times times.
He left her bleeding on the floor of her kitchen to die alone, agonizing in pain as his dagger cut through her throat, heart, lungs and spinal column. Yet she attempted to crawl to the door to call for help. Alessandro (who was asleep upstairs) heard her cries of "Mother, I am dying!" and went back to finish his work. He stabbed her 3 more times - 14 in all.
Alessandro then fled upon hearing little Teresa cry out. Alessandro's father was awoken by the baby's cries and went down to chide Maria for being negligent. However, he found her bruised and bloodied body instead, and his frantic calls for help brought her mother running.
Maria was rushed to the nearest hospital where doctors, incredulous that she'd survived with such terrible wounds, did their best to help her. She underwent immediate surgery (without anesthesia), but doctors knew she would not last. A priest was brought in to perform Last Rites. It was to him she expressed her forgiveness of Alessandro, citing Christ's forgiveness upon the Cross saying, "I, too, pardon him. I, too, wish that he could come some day and join me in heaven."
It was this forgiveness that finally caused Alessandro to amend his ways. Having been convicted of murder and imprisoned, he spent many years brooding in his cell. However, no doubt through Maria's intercession, God allowed him the grace of seeing little Maria in her glorified state. In this dream, Maria handed Alessandro 14 lilies, one for each of the wounds he inflicted upon her. Each of these lilies burst into flames of forgiveness as he took them, one by one, from her outstretched hand. From that moment forth, Alessandro changed his life and sought to live out the same love of Christ that Maria had taught him through her pure and holy example.
Upon his release from prison, Alessandro went straight to the home of Maria's mother. When she opened the door, he flung himself at her feet, tearfully begging for her forgiveness.
Again, modeling the holy example of her own saintly daughter, Assunta said, "Alessandro, Marietta forgave you, Christ has forgiven you, and why should I not also forgive. I forgive you, of course, my son!"
The next morning, she led him by the hand to Mass where they received, together, the Eucharist.
Alessandro lived out the rest of his days in the service of monks. No doubt he is in Heaven with little Maria as she had promised so many years before.
And what a blessing that her mother and siblings were able to witness the canonization of their own. Assunta said of Maria, ""My God, I was not worthy to have such an angel!"
If only she understood that it was through her blessed example that Maria came to understand the love of the Lord. Through her witness, Maria came to love Him and strive for His Grace in all she did.
Not only were you worthy of Maria, Assunta - you helped to create her place in Heaven. May you both, together with Alessandro, forever enjoy the Beatific Vision. And may you all intercede for us still toiling below. Pray for us that we may always understand the power and blessing of forgiveness.
Laws no longer protect but intimidate.
Thanks to Catholic Vote for seeding. This article details the plight of a young photographer who refused her services to a lesbian couple looking to have photos taken of their commitment ceremony (since homosexual unions aren't recognized or legal in New Mexico).
Instead of simply finding another photographer, these miscreants took Elaine (the photographer) to court. Apparently their poor little feelings were hurt because Elaine didn't want to take pictures of their ring-exchange. So what's any rational couple to do?
Silly me, if faced with such a decision, I'd simply type "photographer" into Google.
Apparently it's way more entertaining to sue the person. With this being the great country of America, it's incredibly easy to do considering we don't understand our own Constitution!
*Grumble grumble grumble*
As I said, the homosexual lobby is attempting to manipulate laws into forcing folks to accept their lifestyle choices. Instead of simply finding another photographer to take photos of their "special day," they wanted to drag this woman through the mud to make an example of her in order to put pressure on others who would deny services to protect their consciences.
Since when did people become so entitled to having the world conform to their opinions? Are they so really so insecure and desperate for acceptance that they're willing to stoop THIS LOW in order to intimidate folks into a false posturing of agreement?
For shame. For absolute shame.
I Will Stay with You, Lord
For Good Friday, I was lucky enough to find a parish that offered Confession for two hours before noon.
The church was barren, save for an empty wooden cross crowned with a ring of thorns. I wanted to kiss the cross as I waited for confession, but it was in the sanctuary so I could not.
This church had also removed all the kneelers which I thought was interesting. I didn't mind kneeling on the floor and thought it was a good idea that we could now offer up this slight mortification in union with Christ.
All the fonts were either empty of draped in purple. It almost felt wrong that the sunlight poured in through the gorgeous stained glass windows. Did nature somehow forget that Jesus was suffering death? Did the sun forget that we were to remember His Passion today?
No - nature didn't forget. That same sun shone down upon Christ as He followed the Via Dolorosa. That burning sun tried so hard to light His way... to warm His Body that must've been shivering dreadfully for lack of Blood. It poured its rays of warmth over Our Lady to offer her even the simplest of condolences. It offered itself to the people - the same people who angrily kicked, spit upon and mocked the Savior. If the sun could think, would it have let loose torrential solar flares in an effort to enlighten these ignorant people that they were cruelly murdering the innocent and mighty Hand of Creation? Would it have spun faster to strengthen its gravitational pull in order to pull its God closer to itself in a protective embrace?
That sun - our sun - was the same sun that shone down on Christ's hanging Body upon the Cross. It didn't forget... maybe it just knows better than we do the power of Christ's resurrection and wants to remind us that though our hearts are black with grief, His Light will prevail and will work Itself into even the darkest of tombs.
Then I began thinking about Our Lady and the grief she must've carried along that same trail of tears. To stand at the foot of His Cross and to fully understand that this was the Sacrifice she was born to offer in union with Her Son... incredible. The same Baby she cradled in her arms and nursed at her breast... the same Child who picked her wild flowers and proudly crafted His first wood project into a gift for her... the same Man who she watched heal, love and unite - now she watched His final, passionate act of Love during His earthly Life.
I cannot even imagine that pain. When I think of the Blessed Mother and the other women who were forced to watch their children be sacrificed (for early martyrs, this was common- to endure witnessing the torture and death of your children before being killed yourself) my heart nearly stops. My breath always catches because as a mother, I cannot help but put Vincent's face on each of those children. I cannot help but imagine my own indescribable terror, pain and fury as I was shackled to a wall to endure Vincent's agonizing torture, unable to help, comfort or avenge him. Would I be able to offer our suffering up to God as Mary did?
And I do think of this often. I can't help myself, especially with the increasing amounts of political pressure being built up against the Catholics not only in this country, but all around the world.
It's no secret that Christianity is the most persecuted faith in the world (actually, it might be in the US where many assume it's Islam). Also, since I subscribe to VOM's monthly newsletter, the reality of this problem is often in my thoughts.
My husband has often questioned why I continue reading these things as they tend to make me upset. I respond that my ignorance doesn't help, and at the very least, these folks deserve to have people aware of their plight... even if the only thing we can do is offer prayers for them. I'm not willing to ignore the suffering of others in order to spare myself a few sleepless nights. It doesn't seem right.
I won't lie - there have been times where I've wanted to put down books or newsletters. I've wanted to ignore particular headlines because of the emotional stress I'd end up with, but I typically end up reading on. I have to. How would I feel if someone ignored me? How would I feel if someone had the ability to help me and shut the door because it was just "too painful" to even acknowledge my pain's existence?
It's why I forced myself to endure learning about the different methods of abortion. For weeks I'd burst into tears, dropping to my knees to beg God to force us to stop these heinous murders. I didn't care if that meant the world would end, I just wanted the suffering of these innocent children to stop. This was actually during a period that John tried "forbidding" me from accessing the internet. Heh - he knew he couldn't really forbid me, and I doubt he wanted to, but he was so upset for me that he didn't know what else to do. He didn't understand why I kept trying to learn more about abortions. He said, "You know they happen, and you learning about how they happen isn't going to make abortions happen less."
I said, "You're right. My understanding won't stop abortions because I already made the decision to never participate, but I bet if others who haven't made that decision learned about abortion it would happen less!"
And it's true - so many people who are "pro-choice" really don't understand all that goes into an actual abortion. For all the philosophical waxing pro-choicers do, they never once get into the hard-science of what an abortion physically does to both a child and the mother who carries it.
But I digress. Sorry!
Back to Good Friday. After confession, I went to my own Church for the silent prayer before the Crucifix before 3pm when the statue was veiled. I tried to imagine how God the Father felt - He willingly handed Jesus over. He understood that His Sacrifice was necessary, but the cost! How much He loves us to do this!
Would I be willing to hand over Vincent for such a slaughter?
I mean, let's say that 1 million people were in jail. I'm not talking about the US jail system that allows inmates to watch TV, hang out in a cell, and be provided with 3 meals a day.
No... I'm talking about a hellish, hard labor camp akin to Auschwitz or worse.
Now let's say these million people aren't just random strangers... they're family. Yes, they are family that's guilty of every offense possible ranging from cursing all the way through murder, but they're family. Would I be willing to sacrifice Vincent for the lot of them?
Let's take it one step further... let's say these million family members aren't just distance relationships. They're a million Maria's and Shannon's... a million Raymond's and yes, even a million Evelyn's... my true brothers and sisters. What then? Would I be willing to hand Vincent over to save them?
And finally - even more than being my brothers and sisters - what if they were my children? What if these jailed souls were my children? Would I be able to hand over Vincent, my first, only and beloved son over for a torturous death so that they might be freed from jail?
What if I knew that even if I offered Vincent's life for theirs that they'd ridicule our sacrifice? That they'd scorn him?
How could God the Father ever consent to this sacrifice??? How could Christ, knowing full well what the future would hold for His wayward children???
Yes, we indeed crucified the entire Trinity that first Good Friday. We continue to crucify Them each time we are negligent in our duties as Christians... as dignified human beings made in His Image.
May God have mercy on us, and may we remember the Love shown to us through the truest Sacrifice ever made.
Nigerian Midnight Mass
Heartbreaking news came from Nigeria today. As I'd been busy traveling to see both sides of the family, I hadn't turned on the news. This morning, however, the stark reality of martyrdom greeted me as I opened my browser and saw the headlines.
I was upset, but not altogether surprised. An Islamic group claimed responsibility for the horrific violence. Ugh - this comes after several dioceses across the Islamic world decided to forego Midnight Mass on account of the increased threat from Muslims. Much like Dymphna, I'm sick of hearing that Islam is the religion of peace. Considering how much of the Islamic world condones this sort of behavior, I have my doubts anymore.
I'm sure many Muslims recoiled in horror upon hearing of the massacre, but let's be honest - how many of them spoke out against this injustice? How many marched in protest? But make some political cartoons that depict the Prophet and you've got riots, marches, and protests galore.
Ever since reading Bruce Bawer's book While Europe Slept, (and subsequently Ayaan Hirsi Ali's book, Infidel) I've come to realize just how well the Islamists use inaction to support the so-called "extremist" movement within their ranks. Islam in the States vs. Islam in Europe vs. Islam in Africa... they're all very different from one another. In the States, we've done a pretty good job buffering ourselves against the extremist versions on account of our naturally overwhelming "melting pot" mentality. Europe has done a poorer job of this, and as a result, remained ignorant of the subtle take-over being wrought through immigration. Now there is palpable tension between Islamists and non-Islamists, but due to politics and niceties, no one wants to talk about it and even less does anyone want to do anything about it. Thus, flare ups occur randomly and burn hotly for a short while only to return to a seemingly dormant state as fuel builds for the next eruption.
In Africa (and more Islamic European countries), everyone is more than aware of the tension and simply feel powerless against Islam. Education is lacking in many areas, and as a result, folks don't understand their ability to mobilize. They also aren't properly taught the truth about Islam... only the angry, polarizing parts that are useful to the militants in charge... as a result, you've got a constant powder keg of miseducation and manipulation that is willfully pushing the population into an ever greater frenzy. Flare ups become commonplace as the war machine attempts to forcibly take over those who don't want to adhere to the Islamic vision of peace.
Now obviously all religions have extremists who go and do all sortsa nutty things. We can't always blame the evil people do on the religion they practice. However, the difference between other denominations and Islam is that when others step out of line, their religious leaders immediately distance themselves from the violence, condemn the evil for what it is, and verbally reprimand the guilty party in the hopes of re-educating both the perpetrator and those confused by the perp's actions "in the name of X religion."
How many imams have risen up against this group to decry their actions? How many Islamic leaders denounced such tactics as contrary to their religion? We've got a lot speaking about peace and inter-faith dialogue, but condemnation in an effort to distance and re-educate? That seems to get choked on an awful, awful lot.
May those souls rest in peace, safe in the arms of the Creator whose Birth they died celebrating.
Some of you know I'm a big fan of Richard Wurmbrand, a Christian pastor who spent years building up the underground church in Romania, enduring imprisonment and countless tortures. Ever since reading his book, Tortured for Christ, I've been subscribed to a monthly newsletter called "Voice of the Martyrs." The newsletter, put out by an organization of the same name, details VOM's efforts to assist other Christians who are being (or have been) persecuted.
Reading the articles is always difficult. I don't feel it fair to ignore the plight of my fellow Christians, however, so I muster the courage to read on. Countless stories of families being torn apart, illegal imprisonment, careless legal systems, and ruthless persecution overflow from the pages. However, something deeper holds those stories together - Love. Even in the face of such incredible circumstances, these people share such a true and unshakable love of Christ that I am repeatedly amazed. I have learned so much from their steady, courageous examples. They understand the message of love and forgiveness better than I ever could. I am humbled by their strength, and their child-like acceptance of God's Will in all things.
Anyway, with those stories in mind, I knelt down to offer a Divine Mercy chaplet for them before bed. As I prayed the Our Father, I felt my normal twinge at "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."
You see, ever since I understood that phrase to mean "Forgive us to the same measure we forgive others" I've added a mental prayer in addition to that. I'll typically ask that God will give me the strength to forgive others to the extent that He forgives. I fully understand that my ability to forgive is incredibly handicapped. I'm much better at being holding grudges or even stamping my spiritual feet in defiance of responsibility. However, each time I pray the Our Father, I note my failings and ask God to teach me the proper road of forgiveness, understanding that this road is what leads me to being forgiven, myself.
That all being said, I had an epiphany last night. Instead of my normal "God, help me to forgive like you forgive" mental note, I was thinking of those tortured families who freely offered forgiveness to their captors. As a result, my prayers slightly changed. My mind added, "God, forgive the torturers their trespasses as those persecuted Christians have forgiven them... and help me to offer that same forgiveness for love of You."
That's when I had my little epiphany. The Our Father is a collective prayer using the words "us," "our," we" and "those." It is inclusive not just of ourselves, but of all people - past, present and future. And since Jesus, Himself, gave us this prayer, we know that He, too, included Himself by first stating "Our Father."
Oh my goodness! This part of the prayer isn't just asking God's forgiveness of daily offenses. This prayer is asking God to collectively forgive all humanity as humanity collectively forgives one another. Since God is within all of us, we each offer one another the chance for His Forgiveness if only we'd open ourselves up to it. Jesus, Himself part of the collective, offered perfect forgiveness. Through Him and with Him we ask God for the chance to be forgiven in the same perfect way that He forgave.
How awesome is that?!
The Our Father, already an awesome prayer, totally just went up a few more notches in my book. The Holy Spirit has been kind to me. :)
All Saints Day
The above image portrays the entire Church. At the top, we see what's known as the Church Triumphant, all those souls who made themselves worthy to stand in the Presence of God (either through saintly lives, or a stint in Purgatory). Halfway down, we see the Church Militant - those of us still left living on Earth to battle against evil both for ourselves, and those at the bottom of the image... the Church Penitent. These are the holy souls of those who have not fully cleansed themselves of the sin they committed while still alive. We call them "holy" because they are no longer able to sin. Having seen the Face of God at Death, they yearn for nothing more than to join the Church Triumphant in Heaven. Through our prayers and acts of charity, they one day will.
In honor of All Saints Day, I wanted to post a few links that gave me a different take on God's desire for all of us to become willing participants in His Divine Plan.
I'll start with this one. A former skinhead found the love of Christ through the love of his family. As a result, he endured his own Purgatory-on-Earth as a doctor painstakingly burned away the scars of his old life. Satan only has claim over us for as long as we condescend to give him that power. Once we revoke his power, instead giving ourselves to God in humility and love, we become children of God. I have no doubt that this man will one day be a saint in Heaven, and his children, too. What a wonderful example of God's Grace and Mercy.
Next up, a beautiful anecdote written by Father Gerald T. Brennan, author of Father Brennan’s Favorite Stories. It's a story titled "The Most Beautiful Picture in the World." I'm going to be passing this along to my CCD students tonight. It is always important to remember that Christ calls us to be as children, fully trusting in His Plans for us. Indeed, Heaven is full of little children. Their innocence, beauty and trust must shine so brightly.
Over in Ireland, we have a wonderful priest calling for a humble and penitential Mass during their upcoming Eucharistic Conference. Oh, that we might all be so lucky to have such wise priests in our parishes!
Finally, I leave you with the tale of a missionary priest, Father Stanley Rother, who will hopefully be canonized at some point. I recently posted another story about a missionary priest who was also martyred for choosing to bring the Gospel to those who had no other means to hear it. We are blessed more than we know to have such saints living among us.
I'm sure I don't need to remind everyone of the importance of praying for our dead. We can never be sure where their souls end up at Judgement, so prayers certainly couldn't hurt. Plus, those we help achieve Heaven will undoubtedly plead our case ceaselessly before the throne of God. :)
God Bless Our Missionaries
Father Fausto Tentorio, a missionary priest (PIME) working in the Phillipines, was gunned down early Monday morning. Police are currently looking for suspects.
Already, however, the people Fr. Fausto served are pouring into the church that holds his body. People from all over the country are gathering to pay respects, comfort one another, and voice their love of and appreciation for all that Fr. Fausto did. Reading the commentary and some of the signs they're leaving for him is beyond moving.
Most moving of all, however, are Father Fausto's own words, written to superiors years before his untimely death:
Grateful to God for the great gift of missionary vocation, I am aware that it involves the possibility of being involved in situations of serious risk to my health and personal safety, due to epidemics , kidnappings, assaults and wars, even the possibility of a violent death. I accept it all in the confidence that I am in God's hands, and lay down my life for Christ and the spread of his Kingdom.
May we be blessed with missionaries as true and beautiful as Father Fausto. May our missionaries be blessed to be so loved by their people as Father Fausto no doubt was. May the Blessed Mother keep them, guard them, and grant them whatever privileges they need to continue their important, courageous work.
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