Shining God's grace in dark corners

26 months ago. That doesn't sound like much. 26 months.

That's how long ago it was that our Dark-Haired Daughter went missing for 48 hours, during which time she was repeatedly sexually assaulted. We have come to believe she escaped a human trafficking situation.

Those 48 hours were far longer than the 26 months that have gone by.

Many of us have pondered how Mary felt watching her Beloved Son during his Passion and Death. How would she have felt? I believe I had a taste of that in the aftermath of my daughter's assault. She refused to leave my side; we slept together for weeks afterwards - with her waking up screaming multiple times a night. She still suffers from PTSD, although she has made a remarkable recovery.

I would do anything to take that pain, those events, that torture away from her. It was nothing but horror.

I have always told my kids that there is no situation so dark, so bleak, that God's grace could not redeem it, but in those days following our daughter assault, that was hard to believe.

Because I've my job, I've been given a platform to speak out about human trafficking. I had the opportunity to put together a presentation on Friday, March 28 in Grand Rapids, MI. We had five amazing panelists: Carol Isaacs, Judy Emmons, Leslie King, Andy Soper and Becky McDonald. More than 190 people came to learn, ask questions, and literally receive their marching orders. They were told in no uncertain terms by our panelists: now you know. You know the scourge of human trafficking. You have the resources now to make a difference. If you choose not to, then you are complicit.

I won't lie: this event was incredibly difficult to pull off. I really didn't think I'd be able to do it: just getting our panelists together on the same day was a feat. I spent a lot of time asking for the prayerful intercession of St. Josephine Bakhita (patron saint of slaves and human trafficking victims.) I begged God that everything would be to his glory. It was only prayer that pulled this all off.

The day before the event was very hectic: the linens weren't what we ordered but they had to work (and be steamed), the microphones came in but not the bases so they wouldn't stand up, we had to set up extra seating and figure out what to do if more than 200 people showed up, every time I turned around there was a phone call...you get the picture.

But there came a moment when I had to sit down and take it all in. It was really happening. I was getting the best experts in our entire STATE to come and speak to an overflow crowd about human trafficking. The pebbles would be dropped in the water, and the ripples would expand. Every person there would have the ability to make a difference.

And none of this would have happened had it not been for what happened to our Dark-Haired Daughter. It was her bravery, her willingness to share her experience, to fight for her own sanity, her compassion and empathy that drove everything that happened for this event.

I wept. I wept in gratitude for the ability to make some difference. I wept for her pain, and for the pain of every person who's been in that situation. I wept for the little girl that had been so wounded, and yet was so brave. I wept for the fact that this horrible, evil situation shed some light. Through the cracks of the wall of horror surrounding her experience, God's grace shines. I wept, knowing that Christ wept with me.

Reconciliation, Peace and A Thought

Do you go to Confession often enough? I know I don't. Our parish had a wonderful reconciliation service last night, with six priests there to hear confessions.

I took Dark-Haired Daughter with me. She always gets really nervous about confession, because she can't remember the prayers and procedures. Our pastor had published a "how-to" guide in the bulletin on Sunday, and I told her she could take that with her.

When we got to church, though, anxiety was running amok. She didn't want to go to just any priest; she wanted OUR priest. Where was he going to be? When would it be her turn? What if she forgot what to do?

Right before the service began, I stopped our pastor and told him Dark-Haired Daughter was afraid she'd forget what to do. He said, "Oh, no, no. Do not worry. I will help you every step of the way. So will each of the priests here. Do not worry."

After she went to confession, she was glowing. I mean it: she was shining with grace. "He knew I had something on my mind. It felt so good to tell him." I reminded her that when a priest was hearing confessions, it was just like talking to Jesus. "Yes," she said, "it was like that."

I went to confession as well, and felt that peace that the sacrament brings. But how joyful to see her, unburdened, and to know that those priests were so joyful in their ministry of reconciliation with God our Father.

Do you go to Confession enough? I don't.

"Hunger Games" and Being Catholic

If you haven't read the "Hunger Games" trilogy, I can recommend it. It is written for teens, so it's written at a fairly simple level in terms of language, but there's a lot to discuss. It would be great to read along with your teen.

I found this article, "The Holy Cross: A real life “Mockingjay” for Catholics" interesting. If you've read the book, the allusion to the mockingjay will make sense:

To me, the idea that ties the religious significance of this story together best is the “mockingjay.”  I find in the image of the mockingjay a clear and resounding symbol of the Cross of Jesus Christ.  The mockingjay is described as a bird that was first used by the Capitol as a tool of oppression against the districts.  It was used to spy on them during the war of rebellion, and thus was intended to be a tool to monger fear, distrust, and docility towards the power of the Capitol...
 
In the same way, the punishment of crucifixion was authored by the Romans as a tool to oppress the masses by instilling fear in anyone who might have thought of speaking out against them.  Crucifixion was a punishment reserved for revolutionists and traitors; those who sought to overthrow Roman authority.  In enduring his cross, though, Jesus was able to turn the tables, not only on the Romans, but on the devil himself.  What was designed as an instrument of torture and death became, through the power of God, an instrument of salvation for the world.  In passively submitting to his violent death, Jesus was able to destroy violence forever.  As Christians, we venerate the cross, and display it as a reminder of this reversal, and, like the district citizens wearing the mockingjay, we confidently say that we are no longer susceptible to the snares of death, because of our solidarity with the one who is life itself.  

If you've read the books, let me know what you think.

Prayers are much appreciated

I am working on a large event at work on human trafficking. The patron saints of slaves and sex trafficking victims is St. Josephine Bakhita. If you are so inclined, please ask for her intercession that event bring glory to God.

St. Josephine Bakhita, you were sold into slavery as a child and endured untold hardship and suffering. Once liberated from your physical enslavement, you found true redemption in your encounter with Christ and his Church. O St. Bakhita, assist all those who are trapped in a state of slavery; Intercede with God on their behalf so that they will be released from their chains of captivity. Those whom man enslaves, let God set free. Provide comfort to survivors of slavery and let them look to you as an example of hope and faith. Help all survivors find healing from their wounds. We ask for your prayers and intercessions for those enslaved among us. Amen.

Poor blog, I know I've neglecting you....

I've been working very hard at a project at work, that is near and dear to my heart: human trafficking. It's left me little time to write here, so apologies to faithful readers.

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Happy Feast of St. Patrick!



The bishops of Ireland have issued a statement for St. Patrick’s Day.

“We pray through the intercession of our national patron, St Patrick, for the faith and well-being of the people of Ireland,” the bishops said. “Saint Patrick was called to serve and bring God to a people far from his homeland. As Saint Patrick’s Day is a Holy Day of Obligation for Catholics in Ireland, the best way to honor him is to attend Mass.”

“In 2014 we celebrate our national Saint’s day in the midst of an ongoing economic recession which has resulted in domestic heartbreak throughout Ireland for many individuals and families due to the pressure of unemployment and emigration,” they continued. “As the plight of Patrick, himself a migrant, has been faced by many Irish people who have struggled to live and integrate into new cultures, we encourage all the faithful to pray for migrants at home and abroad as many face challenges arising from displacement and poverty.”

An Open Letter To The Parish We Left

First, we miss you. We really do. We loved seeing all of you every week, worshiping and praying with you.

We loved working side-by-side with you on parish activities, enjoying social time with you.

Our kids were baptized there, received there First Communions there. Geez, my husband joined the Catholic Church within those four walls.

But...

Our family faced several major crises, and the leadership in the parish turned a deaf ear to us. When we needed you most, you bailed. You fought us. You forgot about us.

We invited family and friends to help us celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. There we were, in the front pew, waiting for the priest to call us up at the end of Mass to renew our vows...and he didn't. He "forgot." Even though we were right in front of him. We reminded him before Mass. We took pictures. I was so crushed.

You made my teens feel anxious and unwelcome. In fact, you told one of my kids to leave. So he did. And I haven't been able to get him back to church since.

I later found out that you told a young couple, preparing for marriage and going through RCIA to leave the program and the church. She was pregnant. If that wasn't bad enough, the pregnancy was the result of a rape; she decided to give her child up for adoption. But you never bothered to ask, or talk to them, or even care.

It isn't so much that we left, but more than you gave us every reason to leave. And it's been hard. We love our new parish home, but it isn't the same. We don't quite fit in, yet. We're still at the awkward stage.

I'm not sure you care, but I hope you stop treating people this way. It hurts. It hurts people, families, the Church.

What would Jesus do? Well, I know what He wouldn't...

Tragic: Father says he wishes son was never born

I can't think of anything more tragic: a father saying he wishes his son was never born.

Peter Lanza, father of Adam Lanza (otherwise known as the Sandy Hook shooter) told New Yorker Magazine that his son was "evil" and he wished he'd never been born.

Peter Lanza was divorced from Adam's mother, and it appears to me that the mother was in deep denial about her son's mental illness. It is unclear how much contact Peter had with his son following the divorce, but he clearly blames his ex-wife:

“We can’t blame lax gun-control laws, access to mental health treatment, prescription drugs, or video games for Lanza’s terrible killing spree. We can point to a mother who should have been more aware of how sick her son had become and forced treatment.”
How sad. Hindsight is 20-20, and I know first-hand how difficult it can be to fully acknowledge your child's illness. However, no mother in her right mind would put off getting help for a child she suspected of having leukemia or bone cancer. We HAVE to erase the stigma of mental health issues so that more parents do not end up like the Lanzas.

The cool kids are all wearing these Franciscan T-shirts

Check out these cool t's from The Franciscan Mission Service. Fun stuff, good cause!

Lent is going quite well, thank you

Had a visit from my Eldest Son yesterday. It wasn't a pleasant, "just stopped in to say hi" sort of thing. I had his tax refund check.

During the visit, he said something very disturbing to me. It rattled me - it was evil. It wasn't directed to me, but nonetheless, it shook me. I literally having been praying for him ever since.

Dear Husband and I had yet another meeting at the school for Youngest Son, who continues to struggle. He was in a terrific school last year - an alternative school that got closed due to budget. This year has been a disaster. So, we started off the day in the principal's office.

Lent: it will offer you up.

Ash Wednesday: This winter of our discontent for our soul

"Homesick" - flickr member Artful Story
We should be discontent. We should be uncomfortable.

Our lives should feel like we just walked into the wrong party. We don't know anyone, we're dressed wrong, the food stinks, and the people are obnoxious.

We don't belong.

We are not supposed to be here.

This is not our party.

"My Kingdom is not of this world."

If we belong to Christ, then His Kingdom is ours. And that Kingdom is not this world. We're here as visitors, passing through, uncomfortable, out of sorts, trying to stumble through a foreign culture. We're the folks with the fanny packs, the knee socks with sandals, mispronouncing words on the menu as we whip out our English-to-whatever translator.

Lent is our time to pack, prepare. We're trying to get everything ready for our trip to the Kingdom. We've got a check list (we will - of course - forget something....) We know that there is a lot to do to get ready and we're already exhausted, even though the journey has just begun.

But we can't get to the Kingdom without this journey. This journey prepares us for everything that comes after.

This isn't our party. But we take off our coats, smile, take a nibble of the strange food, and make friends. Because even though we don't belong here, they don't either...only most of them don't know it. It's our job to tell them. Invite them along on the journey, be their tour guide and a good traveling companion.

"My Kingdom is not of this world." Thank God for that. And I sure hope I get my passport stamped by St. Peter one day.

Good Lent to you all.

Anxiety: Can't I just pray it away?

Great article from Greg Popcak on anxiety and faith. 

No, you cannot pray it away.

Yes, faith helps - tremendously.

No, a priest is not the same as a licensed therapist and/or doctor.

Yes, you can receive the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick for anxiety disorders.

No, prayer doesn't "cure" mental health issues, but it helps.

Yes, a Christian can take medication for anxiety.

Lenten Meditation: Dante's Purgatorio

Salvador Dali
From the eternal counsel
a power falls onto the tree and on the water
there behind us. By it am I made so thin.

All these people who weep while they are singing
followed their appetites beyond all measure,
and here regain, in thirst and hunger, holiness.

The fragrance coming from the fruit
and from the water sprinkled on green boughs
kindles our craving to eat and drink,

‘and not once only, circling in this space,
is our pain renewed.
I speak of pain but should say solace,

‘for the same desire leads us to the trees
that led Christ to utter Eli with such bliss
when with the blood from His own veins He made us free.

There is a bike in my dining room....

Really. There is a bike in my dining room. DH got obsessed with cycling after we bought our first house. You know: young, married, no ki...