Name Calling, Nastiness, and Hope

I probably ought to be feeling really bad about myself today. Yesterday, as I noted, I got flipped off by an older couple immediately after getting rear-ended. A Catholic reporter called an article of mine on my work blog "revolting", and a Twitter follower called me a bunch of nasty names simply for expressing concern and prayer.

Pilate sends Jesus to Herod - artist William Brassey Hole
Yeah. Haters gonna hate and prayers gonna pray.

It takes awhile to develop a thick skin about such things, but it's necessary. It is not necessary to be nasty in return, and it does so much more good to pray...even if the prayer is said through gritted teeth. A prayer is a prayer is a prayer, and perhaps the prayer said under duress carries a bit more weight since it goes against our grain.

Hope and prayer. It's the only way to answer nastiness and name-calling.

Herod was very glad to see Jesus; he had been wanting to see him for a long time, for he had heard about him and had been hoping to see him perform some sign. He questioned him at length, but he gave him no answer. Lk. 23: 9-10

Getting rear-ended: how to react?

This morning I got rear-ended on a busy street on my way to work. No damage to my car, which is agood thing, since the guy who hit me couldn't be bothered to much else besides yell out his window: "It's fine! It didn't do anything!"

Then, as I tried to merge back into traffic, the older couple (70s?) in the truck next to me FLIPPED ME OFF and refused to let me back in. Wow. Thanks.

With my chai latte now all over my front seat, a sore neck and an aggravated attitude, I finally got going again. Snarling. Churlish. I wasn't feeling at all nice. Then, just as a "gentle" reminder, from my radio came:

Hello, my name is child of the one true King
I’ve been saved, I’ve been changed, and I have been set free
“Amazing Grace” is the song I sing
Hello, my name is child of the one true King
I am no longer defined
By all the wreckage behind
The one who makes all things new
Has proven it’s true
Just take a look at my life
What love the Father has lavished upon us
That we should be called His children
I am a child of the one true King-
Matthew West

And with that subtle reminder, I put a smile on my face and got myself to work. Your day is what you make it.

Jim Gaffigan: 4 kids and counting...

I watched Jim Gaffigan's "Mr. Universe" over the weekend and laughed really hard. Here's a great piece:

And now a word from our Holy Father...

From his  homily today:

"Following Jesus is just that: going with Him out of love, behind Him: on the same journey, the same path. And the spirit of the world will not tolerate this and what will make us suffer, but suffering as Jesus did. Let us ask for this grace: to follow Jesus in the way that He has revealed to us and that He has taught us. This is beautiful, because he never leaves us alone. Never! He is always with us. So be it".

Freakin' Friday Fun

Apparently, "cat bearding" is the new craze. I know what I'm gonna do this weekend! Here, kitty kitty....

In the category of "It wasn't up for a vote, you guys...."

A survey says the majority of Catholic priests don't "like" the changes in language to the Roman Missal.

Huh. I don't remember this sort of stuff being up for a vote in the Church. As I tell my kids, I don't suppose Jesus much "liked" hanging on the Cross for three hours. Now get your backside off the pew and kneel up!

Exorcism: let's not lose our heads

There has been a big kerfuffle (I think that's the first time I've used that word on this blog) about Pope Francis performing an exorcism or not.

First, any priest can perform an exorcism. In fact, every priest DOES perform an exorcism whenever he baptizes someone. It is part of the baptism rite. (Did you know that? If you're Catholic, you should.)

Every diocese has an exorcist. It is not someone who is called upon frequently, nor is the Rite of Exorcism done lightly or "on the fly." I highly recommend The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist by Matt Baglio. It is a dispassionate look at the work of an exorcist, and does a terrific job of explaining the rite.

Take it easy, folks. While Satan is at work, God is almighty.

Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle, be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the Divine Power of God, cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who wander throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

Potholes and Your Soul

In Michigan, we suffer from potholes. Extreme potholes - the kind that can damage your car, deflate your tires and kill your day. Because we have such extreme temperatures (below freezing one day and 70 degrees the next and I'm not kidding), our roads stretch and groan, and eventually just give up and collapse.

Our lives can do the same thing. We get put under tremendous pressure. Sometimes it's good - like that 70 degree day, and sometimes, we are faced with a bitter cold wind, blistering our faces and making us wonder if we will ever make it home. It can be pressure at work, at home, from family, from our health. It can be a new baby or a new marriage, an old problem or an aging parent. It stresses us out, pushes us and pulls us in different directions. We groan under the weight of it all. We wonder how we'll manage, how we'll hold it all together. And sometimes we don't: just like the potholes in the road, we collapse.

That's okay. What's even better is to ask for help. What's even better than that is to pray. Not that God will be some sort of road crew who will smooth out your road for you, but to help you pick yourself up and drive on. You might be a little dented, but you'll also be wiser, knowing what to watch for next time.

Our lives are full of potholes. We have to pray our way around them, through them and over them. We won't avoid all the damage, but we will have the strength to keep going on the journey - even if it means a few more potholes.

Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Cor. 12:10

And now a word from our Holy Father...

From his homily on May 20:

"A courageous prayer, that struggles to achieve a miracle, not prayers of courtesy, 'Ah, I will pray for you,' I say an Our Father, a Hail Mary and then I forget. No: a courageous prayer, like that of Abraham, who struggled with the Lord to save the city, like that of Moses who held his hands high and tired himself out, praying to the Lord, like that of many people, so many people who have faith and pray with faith. Prayer works wonders, but we have to believe! I think we can make a beautiful prayer ... and tell Him today, all day long, 'Lord, I believe, help my unbelief' ... and when people ask ask us to pray for the many people who suffer in wars, all refugees, all of these dramas that exist right now, pray, but with your heart to the Lord: 'Do it!', but tell Him: 'Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief 'that is also in my prayers. Let us do this today."

Mama, don't let your babies grow up to be religion majors....

Yahoo Education cheerfully warns us not to "allow" our children study these majors: architecture, fine arts, philosophy/religion, anthropology/archeology, film/video/photography. Apparently, these majors don't have "market value".

Now, I know that you want your kid to get a good education, and presumably, a job with which they are satisfied. But "market value"? Does that mean I should not encourage my children to follow a passion, just to chase a paycheck?

I have not one but TWO degrees in religion: a B.A. and then, because that wasn't enough geekiness, an M.A. And I have a job. A good job, that I like, that I utilize my education for.

Do I make as much as a surgeon? No, but I don't want to be a surgeon. I don't make as much as a public school teacher...but that's not where I'm supposed to be. I am where I am because I followed my passion...I prayed about what God wanted for me to do, and I believe He has blessed me for that.

Just like I don't think you should "make" your 6 year old play soccer if he hates soccer because you think it's good for him, or make your 10 year old suffer through piano lessons that she clearly abhors, I don't think you should be telling your 20 year old to become an accountant when he wants to study theater design.

But then, I'm a religion major.

Freakin' Friday Fun

Catholic: License to Annoy

The Pope told Christians it is better to be “annoying” and “a nuisance” than lukewarm in proclaiming Jesus Christ.

“If we annoy people, blessed be the Lord,” said Pope Francis during his morning Mass at the Vatican on May 16.

“We can ask the Holy Spirit to give us all this apostolic fervor and to give us the grace to be annoying when things are too quiet in the Church,” he said at the chapel of the Saint Martha residence, where he lives.

The Pope preached on today’s first reading from Acts 22 and contrasted “backseat Christians” with those who have apostolic zeal.

“There are those who are well mannered, who do everything well, but are unable to bring people to the Church through proclamation and apostolic zeal,” he stated.

The pontiff said apostolic zeal “implies an element of madness,” which he labeled as “healthy” and “spiritual.”

He added that it “can only be understood in an atmosphere of love” and that it is not an “enthusiasm for power and possession.”

My kids have never beeen to Disney World...and survived

Apparently, it's not enough to take your kids to Disney World. Nope, to be a really great parent, you have to pay $1000 a day to hire a disabled companion so you can jump to the head of the lines. I have no idea what that says about American culture. I just shake my head.

Our family vacations have been pretty lame. We've never had a lot of money, so long weekends at hotels with water slides or renting a lake cabin for a week have pretty much been it. Mickey Mouse was never involved. And yet, my children have survived, and thrived.

Even if we'd had the money, I don't think Disney would have been a destination. There are way more interesting, historical, beautiful places that America has to offer, but I understand the allure of that "dream".

My brother and his wife raised 10 kids. Vacations were trips to Grandma and Grandpa's cottage. I suppose with less kids, both families could have done more, but which kids would we want to do without?

This summer, if your family vacation is a slip-n-slide in the backyard, followed by a round of popsicles and then laying out in the backyard to watch fireflies, good for you. Good for your kids. Enjoy every minute. There's nothing at Cinderella's Castle or the Animal Kingdom that will beat that.

Vatican II and you

I had the great privilege of listening to Sr. Timothy Prokes, FSE on Saturday night, speaking about the Second Vatican Council. (She's written a slew of books; you can look them up. Be warned: she's a deep thinker and her writing is a challenge!)

She did a great job of putting the Council into context and reminding us that it was truly a miracle that the Council was pulled off. John XXIII, in a matter of months, had nearly every bishop in the world in Rome. Remember, this was a time before computers, when travel from many parts of the world was difficult, when putting together recording, microphones, television crews and other media was a Herculean effort. And yet, there it was.

Sr. Timothy spoke about the four Constitutions that came from the Council, and their great importance. She also urged us to read them. Think about it: the most significant event in Catholicism in centuries - literally - and most of us haven't bothered to read the documents. Her advice was to read just a small bit at a time, and really pray over and ponder it.

I started with Dei Verbum:

In His goodness and wisdom God chose to reveal Himself and to make known to us the hidden purpose of His will (see Eph. 1:9) by which through Christ, the Word made flesh, man might in the Holy Spirit have access to the Father and come to share in the divine nature (see Eph. 2:18; 2 Peter 1:4). Through this revelation, therefore, the invisible God (see Col. 1;15, 1 Tim. 1:17) out of the abundance of His love speaks to men as friends (see Ex. 33:11; John 15:14-15) and lives among them (see Bar. 3:38), so that He may invite and take them into fellowship with Himself. This plan of revelation is realized by deeds and words having an inner unity: the deeds wrought by God in the history of salvation manifest and confirm the teaching and realities signified by the words, while the words proclaim the deeds and clarify the mystery contained in them. By this revelation then, the deepest truth about God and the salvation of man shines out for our sake in Christ, who is both the mediator and the fullness of all revelation. 

God, who through the Word creates all things (see John 1:3) and keeps them in existence, gives men an enduring witness to Himself in created realities (see Rom. 1:19-20). Planning to make known the way of heavenly salvation, He went further and from the start manifested Himself to our first parents. Then after their fall His promise of redemption aroused in them the hope of being saved (see Gen. 3:15) and from that time on He ceaselessly kept the human race in His care, to give eternal life to those who perseveringly do good in search of salvation (see Rom. 2:6-7). Then, at the time He had appointed He called Abraham in order to make of him a great nation (see Gen. 12:2). Through the patriarchs, and after them through Moses and the prophets, He taught this people to acknowledge Himself the one living and true God, provident father and just judge, and to wait for the Savior promised by Him, and in this manner prepared the way for the Gospel down through the centuries.

The part I bolded is what struck me: "He ceaselessly kept the human race in His care". What a thought! I shall keep that in my heart today.

And now a word from our Holy Father....

From today's homily:

"Let us think of that moment with the Magdalene, when she washed the feet of Jesus with nard, which was so expensive: it is a religious moment, a moment of gratitude, a moment of love. And he [Judas] stands apart and criticizes her bitterly: 'But ... this could be used for the poor!'. This is the first reference that I personally found in the Gospel of poverty as an ideology. The ideologue does not know what love is, because they do not know how to gift themselves".

The House Next Door

In a working-class neighborhood in Cleveland, it is discovered that the owner - a guy known for hosting barbecues and playing salsa music - was holding and torturing three women in his house for ten years. No one in the neighborhood had a clue.

There is a woman who lives down the street from us. She is married, has a couple of kids. Their home is beautiful - a showpiece, really. In the 10 years or so that they've lived there, I have never once seen her smile. I've waved as she walks her dog, picked up the mail at the mail box, said a hello. Never smiled.

We have friends who are as poor as church mice. They live in an older home that is sort of cobbled together, and bursts with the enthusiasm of their five kids. When you visit, you often have to clear a space on the table that is wedged into the kitchen, or shoo a cat off an old rocking chair in the living room. It's one of the warmest, most hospitable homes I've ever been in.

We make assumptions about the people that live around us, especially when we hardly know them, or think we do. We no longer live in a society where are neighborhoods are social places - we are all inside, on our computers. Or our houses are empty during the day, everyone at work and school. We feign politeness, but don't really care. We're too busy with ourselves and our lives.

We judge though - those people don't take care of their lawn, their kids aren't very well-behaved, the house needs a paint job. But judging isn't knowing, and we don't really want to know, because then we'd be responsible. And we've got enough to do already.

That house next door - do you know what's going on? Do you care?

Freakin' Friday Fun

Because all moms are super in some way.

Sleepless, prayerful nights

Dark-haired daughter is struggling right now. She's had a rough couple of weeks. She severely sprained an ankle, had her wisdom teeth yanked, and is dealing with some PTSD from her assault last year. It's made for some sleepless and scary nights for her, and sleepless, prayerful nights for me.

When I can't sleep, I often pray. I don't know if I'm praying well, as I tend to drift from memorized prayers to extemporaneous ones and back again. It seems muddled to me, in a half-awake and stressed-out state; I can only be assured that God makes sense of what is on my heart.

How many of us lie awake at night, asking God for something? You don't know when you meet someone what their night before held. Were they awake praying for a child with an addiction? A spouse who is cheating? Money issues? Worries about work? What did the night hold for them?

Most of the time, night means rest and refreshment. However, there are those nights when we search in the dark for answers and hope, conviction to do the right thing and strength in the morning to do what God lays before us.

Lord Jesus Christ, during Your earthly sojourn You went sleepless at times and spent whole nights in prayer. But there were many other times when You slept. I cannot seem to get to sleep these nights and I cannot even pray.

 I need sleep to do my work and to behave as a pleasant human being as well as to act in a Christian manner. Enable me to get a good night's sleep, or at least to spend my time in prayer with You.
Thank You Lord.

Watch OUT!!

There are times in your life when you see a friend or family member heading for a fall off a cliff. It's so plain, you cannot imagine how they themselves don't see it. You reach out to them, grab for them, yell out a warning....and they keep happily toddling towards the precipice.

It's frustrating, it's maddening, it's scary....and there is not a damn thing you can do. Except pray.

Most of us come to the realization that we can't make choices for other people. We can advise, cajole, admonish and guide, but we can't choose. What's even more upsetting is when you *think* that person is on the right path, and then they swerve, u-turn, fall off the wagon.

The Church tells us we are to admonish the sinner. And we must. Then, the sinner has to take responsibility. That's the tough part.

For me, over the past few weeks, this means not only watching someone make choices that I think are not only poor but possibly dangerous, it means suffering the erosion of a friendship. The hurt of that is so hard. I've been trying to put words to it, and I can't. It's not really a betrayal to me, but rather a betrayal of that person to themselves. I cannot imagine that the choices this person is making is what God intends, as it is so destructive.

I know that praying for someone is no small thing, but it feels like trying to grab them off the precipice with my hands tied - as if I'm not doing quite enough. Of course, that's not true; it's the frustration of the situation.

So, they will likely fall. And get hurt. I hope prayers soften the blows, and that the results aren't devastating. I posted the signs, I yelled out the's out of my hands.

And now a word from our Holy Father...

From his sermon on the Sixth Sunday of Easter:

You have a specific and important mission, that of keeping alive the relationship between the faith and the cultures of the peoples to whom you belong. You do this through popular piety. When, for example, you carry the crucifix in procession with such great veneration and love for the Lord, you are not performing a simple outward act; you are pointing to the centrality of the Lord’s paschal mystery, his passion, death and resurrection which have redeemed us, and you are reminding yourselves first, as well as the community, that we have to follow Christ along the concrete path of our daily lives so that he can transform us. Likewise, when you express profound devotion for the Virgin Mary, you are pointing to the highest realization of the Christian life, the one who by her faith and obedience to God’s will, and by her meditation on the words and deeds of Jesus, is the Lord’s perfect disciple (cf. Lumen Gentium, 53). You express this faith, born of hearing the word of God, in ways that engage the senses, the emotions and the symbols of the different cultures. . . . In doing so you help to transmit it to others, and especially the simple persons whom, in the Gospels, Jesus calls “the little ones”. In effect, “journeying together towards shrines, and participating in other demonstrations of popular piety, bringing along your children and engaging other people, is itself a work of evangelization” (Aparecida Document, 264). When you go to the shrines, when you bring the family, your children, you are doing the proper work of evangelization. You must go on doing so! May you also be true evangelizers! May your initiatives be “bridges”, means of bringing others to Christ, so as to journey together with him. And in this spirit may you always be attentive to charity. Each individual Christian and every community is missionary to the extent that they bring to others and live the Gospel, and testify to God’s love for all, especially those experiencing difficulties. Be missionaries of God’s love and tenderness! You are missionaries of the Mercy of God, which always pardons us, always awaits us. . . . He loves us so much!

Get Your Geek On: Four Women of Middle Earth Who Reflect Mary

From the blog Into the West:

Éowyn. Daughter of Théodwyn and sister to Éomer, Éowyn was a woman who longed for battle and despised being sequestered to the “cage” that was her life. In the end it was her heroism in battle that defeated the Witch-King, where she proclaimed, “Begone, if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you.“ After her victory, she would eventually devote herself to “be a healer, and love all things that grow and are not barren.” Éowyn reflects that power of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who crushed the head of the serpent and is called the “Terror of Demons;” for when called upon, demons fly away from the sound of her name. Éowyn also reflects that healing power of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is called the “Health of the Sick,” “Comfort of the Afflicted” and “Help of Christians.”

Eowyn's my favorite character, so you'll have to head over to the blog to read the rest.

Monday Morning Art Jam: Paraclete

artist: Stushie

God's Traits

On my way into work this morning, I was listening to a local Christian radio station, and they often have a little "thought" from a Protestant minister and professor. Today, his pondering was on, "What is the primary trait of God?" Great question!

My immediate thought was "God is good." The professor's answer was that God was creative, based on the fact that the first action we know of God was to create - in Genesis.

What would you say is God's primary trait, should someone ask?

The Morning-after pill and sex trafficking

morning after
This is from my "work blog". I pray to God I can stop writing posts like this soon....

The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has cleared the sale of the “morning-after pill” (such as Plan B) for teens as young as 15, with no need for parental consent, and mandated that the drug no longer can be kept behind the pharmacy counter. Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, believes there are “daunting and sometimes insurmountable hoops women are forced to jump through” when faced with a crisis pregnancy and that this measure is a step forward for women’s health. While there are conflicting opinions as to whether or not these medications cause abortions, there is no doubt that the side effects for the female taking the medication can be harsh, including hypertension, depression and ovarian cysts.

What is disturbing to many is the fact that this move by the FDA now gives human traffickers a way to stop or end pregnancies in young girls being trafficked, with no medical care or follow-up. For instance, LiveAction did several “sting” operations at Planned Parenthood facilities around the country to see if workers in those facilities would follow mandated laws to report suspected sexual abuse of a minor. Over and over, workers were complicit in covering up what was presented as minor girls acknowledging having sex with much older men. In 2008, MSNBC reported that sex trafficking victims were “compelled to perform sex acts 12 hours a day and were subjected to beatings, rape and forced abortions.” With now-easy access to “morning-after” pills, sex traffickers won’t even have to visit a clinic; they can simply send a girl into the local pharmacy for the drug. No fuss, no muss…no medical follow-up, no chance for a medical professional to question the teen for her safety, her health, her well-being.

According the the Polaris Project, there are approximately 100,000 underage young people in the US who are considered sex slaves. The majority are young teens. One of the biggest obstacles to helping these children is that they are isolated. They often have no access to phones or computers and are emotionally and physically abused when they attempt to reach out. By allowing the sale of “morning after” medications over-the-counter to teens, the FDA has effectively removed one line of defense against human trafficking: compassionate and well-informed health care workers.

Jeanne Monahan,  the Director of Family Research Council’s Center for Human Dignity, is concerned about this very scenario:
There is also the issue of sexual abuse and exploitation. The average age of a girl who is sexually trafficked in the U.S. is 13 to 14. There is a real danger that Plan B could be given to young women, especially sexually abused minors, under coercion or without their consent. Interaction with medical professionals is a major screening and defense mechanism for victims of sexual abuse…
Human trafficking is notoriously difficult to recognize, let alone prosecute. The FDA just took out another line of defense for young victims, opening them to further violation, danger and exploitation.

Things of Beauty: Franciscan Liturgical Art

From David Clayton's the Way of Beauty - the beauty of Franciscan liturgical art. Please visit his website - it is a treat. Here is a preview:

Treating mental illness, disparities and help

Catherine Zeta-Jones likely identifies herself in many ways: wife, mother, actress....and bipolar. It is being reported that she has "proactively" checked herself into a mental hospital for treatment of her illness.

Hurray for her! Not only for being proactive about her health care, but for letting the world know. Mental illness is not something to be ashamed of, it is not under one's control and it requires the person who has it to be part of their own treatment and stability. Good for her!

Now, Catherine (can I call you Catherine) has an advantage that many sufferers of mental illness do not have: money. She can afford the best of private care. Again, good for her. She and her husband have worked hard for their money, and if I were in her very fabulous shoes, I'd do the very same - seek out the best treatment available.

But most mentally ill people in this country don't have that luxury. Our mental health system is still a disastrously difficult mess to navigate. If you happen to be mentally ill and have any type of cognitive impairment, you will find yourself out of luck. You practically have to have a Master's degree and 40 hours a week to get the help you need. And that's wrong.

Mental illness is as common in this country as heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. Yet it still suffers stigma and can go untreated for years due to misunderstanding on both doctors and patients parts. There are places with great mental health systems, but it's not enough - not yet.

Thank you, Catherine, for letting people know that you have bipolar disorder, that you are taking care of yourself, and that those with mental illness can be happy, productive, (gorgeous?) and healthy people. Now, let's push for the rest of the country to catch up.

The Best Laid Plans...

About 20 years or so ago, I stopped giving up things for Lent. It's not that I didn't find it a worthy practice; I did. It's ...