Reflections on loving God, being Catholic, being a woman, being ill, loving life and anything else that comes to mind.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam* - Part I

I have had many reasons to ask God why. For long, my top three “why” questions were: Why did You allow my parents to be killed? Why didn’t You let me be killed? Why did You put me with a horrible, hateful foster-father?

Eventually my questions began to be answered with a bluntness that surprised me. Before, I had always experienced God as nice and cozy. Then, when He began answering Why?, not so much:

Why did You allow my parents to be killed? If the bullets had not been real and capable of actually killing, there would have been no freedom – only a pretence. I do not deal in pretence.

Why didn’t You let me be killed? You are not an appendage of your parents: I have other work for you to do.

Why did You put me with a horrible, hateful foster-father? To save your life.

Today many of us ask Why? The United States is the greatest nation in the world. We play an important part in worldwide stability and sanity – at least we should. So then why would God allow this country to elect the most pro-abortion president ever? Why would He allow us to give the keys of the F16s to a man who knows neither obedience nor how to command? Why didn’t Our Lord and Our Lady grant the miracle for which so many of us prayed and fasted?

Every few years, I read the Bible as one book, from Genesis through Revelations. This is the first time I’m doing so since my return to the Church and I’m finding the story so much more exciting than I did the last time. I love action movies and keep thinking, with the right people, the Bible would make a series of the best action movies ever. There’s romance and drama and comedy – it’s the most amazing book. And the most awesome action. It’s so much more than battles. In fact, the battles are minor in proportion to the action that occurs as a result of God’s relationship with His people.

In 1 Samuel: 4, the Israelites go out to fight the Philistines and are routed. They go out again but carry the ark of the Lord as if it’s a magic talisman, as if it’s presence is all that is needed for them to be victorious. They are routed again and the Philistines capture the ark. The Israelites are astounded, the glory of the Lord has left them. Finally, Samuel tells them: "If you are returning to the LORD with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ash'taroth from among you, and direct your heart to the LORD, and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines." (1Sam 7:3) And so the people of Israel put away their foreign gods and idols and serve the Lord only and the ark of the covenant is returned. God delivers them from the Philistines. Ultimately, He gives them a king – David (and we all know how important David is).

A few month ago, before my health flare-up, I was working on a series of articles under the general category: “Unmarried, Not Single.” While conducting research, I spoke with several priests who insisted that the besetting sin of our age is selfishness. Selfishness is when I become my own God. This past election is proof of that. In the weeks before the election many of us came out of the woodwork, commented on a variety of threads and prayed and even fasted but what were we doing before then? Two years ago? One year? Six months ago? What were we doing well before the election was imminent and we became scared? For many of us, the answer is Huh???

Is being Catholic something we are 24/7 – 365 – on the outside? How do we present ourselves to the world? Do we keep our faith and the rest of our lives separate? Do we try to keep ourselves untouched by the world? Is being Catholic limited to Mass and when we’re alone? Mass and when we’re with like-minded friends and family? Do we limit our contacts to a Catholic sub-culture? To those who are like us? Do we even know our neighbours at home and at work? Say hello to them whether or not they speak to us? Reach out to them whenever the opportunity presents itself? Involve ourselves in community events and organizations? Are we involved in local politics? Do we consider running for office or working on a pro-life candidate’s campaign? Do we give money to support pro-life candidates and pro-life work? Do we even vote in primaries and other local elections? Do we write and/or call our elected officials to weigh in on proposed legislative actions? Are we still asking, Huh???

Do we proclaim the good news even in situations when we can’t mention Christ’s name? Do we even know how? Have we tried to learn? Are we learning to respond from the Church’s teaching to comments such as abortion is only one issue among many? Are we importunately asking our priests and bishops to teach us how to do so? Do we take the light and love of Christ out into the communities in which we live and perform the corporal and spiritual works of mercy with eagerness and joy so that we attract those who are so hungry they accept anyone or anything rather than Christ?

So many of us cannot give a positive answer to any of those questions. (And for some of them, neither can I – this is not an I’m doing it right pontification.) For so many of us, they’re not even on the radar. We really have no reason to wonder why God in His wisdom and mercy and love, has answered our last-minute fervent prayers and fasting for victory with: NFW?

And while we are still shocked and wondering why and before we lull ourselves back to sleep with too many platitudes and consoling phrases, we need to accept that God gave the election to Barack Obama. We watched it happen. In amazement, we asked how can people be so blind? We commented about it on a variety of threads. The blindness prevailed. Not so much in the popular vote** but in swing states many of which are more than 30% Catholic: once again, Catholics determined the election.

And we can’t say it’s the fault of those who are not real Catholics either because blindness prevailed amongst us serious, devout, Sunday Mass-going Catholics too. We thought we could be lazy and then dutifully fervent for a bit and then lazy once again. We can’t. But in doing so, we failed this country and the world. Most of all, we failed to serve God. We didn’t fail to save the world. That’s not our job. We didn’t fail to defeat Obama. That wasn’t our job either. For years many, many of us have been complacently inactive. We have failed to participate in the lives God has given us. We have failed to proclaim the good news in our words and actions where we.

We complained about those running for office when we were not running ourselves. We expected candidates who follow Church teaching to spring up but we neither instructed them nor supported them. We excused ourselves by saying, the non-negotiables are natural law and available to everyone, while knowing that our knowledge of natural law has been so badly fractured even devout Catholics often don’t know the difference between right and wrong. We live in a time of insanity and we too are insane: to do nothing for years, to be complacent and inactive and yet to expect victory because we have been smart and witty on a few threads and prayed and fasted hard at the last minute is our personal form of madness. We know prayer and fasting are not charms that will give us the winning number in the great lottery of American politics. We know God will not let us use Him or His Mother as good luck charms, as idols. And He didn’t. We were routed.

The day after the election a friend sent round an email that told us "[t]hings will be bad for us for a while by the world's standards." She then went on to assure us that she hadn’t given up hope and knew all would be well. Though I’ve commiserated with messages of that sort in the past, even made such remarks myself, this time I objected because I’ve been thinking so much about hope recently and have come to realize that deciding the way things will be in advance, be it persecution or all will be well, is not hope. It’s hard to accept but hope is being workers in the vineyards who, having been hired earlier in the day, roll up our sleeves and get busy from the first moment because we’re so happy to be hired, so happy to be working with Him. It is joyfully enduring with Christ because He is giving us the gift of hanging in there with God Himself. Hope energizes us. It does not leave us sitting about waiting until the last hour to make certain we needn’t do more than our fair share of work since we’re only getting the same pay as the last hirees. That’s selfishness. And hope is certainly not treating God like a machine that fails to start but only needs a bit of perseverance and perhaps a swift kick. That is as if God is a genie awaiting our personal commands – again, selfishness.

The night after the election a friend who works in a pro-life/pro-family ministry told me he had been hoping McCain might win so that he needn’t work so hard but now he must work very hard and in ways he hadn’t imagined. His face showed amazement as he thought of it. His words are prophetic: we must work very hard and in ways we have never imagined. We don't know how things will be. We only know that it is our job to go out into the world and in our words and deeds, through the lives God gives us proclaim the good news every day. Without advance decisions. Or advance intel. With only the commitment to live our baptismal vows and the knowledge that we work alongside God.

We cannot participate with God when we treat prayer and fasting as talismans. Neither can we do so if we are waiting for others to do the job for us. Nor if we decide all will be well because we are fervently and faithfully devout. Nor if we spend our lives flitting from shadowy doorway to shadowy doorway, cringing from the blow we expect to fall. Nor if we use any other lame excuse to avoid the work of proclaiming the good news with our own lips, using our own bodies. Lame excuses only leave us thinking we are doing our best when we are just being selfish and lazy. They infect our hearts and lives and ministries with defensiveness and fear, convince us to stay hidden. We think we are serving Christ when we are actually using Him as a false god and if He is false, then we have nothing at all.

I am convinced that Our Lord and Our Lady have many surprises in store for us. We ain't seen nothing yet. But then too many of us really haven’t done anything yet either. And others could do more. We’ve been made so much stronger than we know, so much more than we realize. If we all get busy, we’d soon be amazed at how much God would use us: On the day after the election, 40 Days For Life reported that during their campaign on “more than 540 [occasions,] women arriving for abortions changed their minds and decided to keep their babies,” that abortion mills (I can’t call them clinics) shortened their hours or closed down during the prayer vigils and some of the employees have had changes of heart. On the day after the election a friend decided not to vote for Obama because of a long conversation she had had with two other friends that had convinced her a vote for Obama was a vote for abortion. On the day after the election, I learned that a co-worker had decided not to divorce her husband of 22 years after long conversations with me and another Christian friend who struggles to be devout.

After my parents died, after I was left alone in a strange country with strange people, I begged God to let me die. God gave me a horrible, hateful foster-father to fight and in fighting him I learned to fight for and love my own life, to turn away from seeking death. If we ask God, Why Obama? I think He will tell us that He is saving our lives. We must get this: corpses are inactive. Life requires activity. And if we’re alive in the Church, we must be alive in our communities, we must be proclaiming the good news to those who haven’t heard it – and that’s a lot of people. We must put aside our lame excuses to be selfish and lazy because they are killing us: failing to proclaim the good news is deadly. It makes us weak. And then we die.

God is in control. He’s not a false god no matter how we treat Him. And Obama’s election is for His greater glory. We know that. We also know that His presence is all that is needed for victory but He will not let us use Him and He will do all things to save our lives (and Obama’s too for that matter). He will not be complicit in out attempts to hide out in shadowy corners. If necessary, He will allow circumstances to scare us into activity. But it’s only the activity we should have been involved in all along. He has insisted, all along, that we put away our false gods and “serve him only” by serving all those with whom He has put us.

* For the greater glory of God

** I do wonder how many felt their vote didn’t matter and so stayed away from the polls or voted third party mostly for that reason and not because they honestly could not vote in good conscience for McCain. That’s another question we need to ask ourselves: What can we do to swing certain states to a pro-life direction?

Monday, November 03, 2008

The Children We Fight For

I have longed to be a mother but I’m unmarried and then there’s my health – giving birth to children just isn’t going to happen. Of course, there are miracles but once, when I was most distressed about being unable to have a child, I heard the familiar Voice say: I do not promise that you will have children of your own but I do promise you will have many spiritual children. At the moment, I was thrilled but that moment didn’t last very long. Were I as good as St. Therése of Lisieux or so many others, spiritual children would be enough for me. But I am not so good. I want babies. I love babies. When I was three I asked Marmar if we could have a baby (she told me she wasn’t able to have more children) and I haven’t stopped wanting them since. I did go through a short time in my late teens when I pretended otherwise but I baby sat a lot so there were babies anyway. And while others may read my work and God may use it and just use me in general in others lives and while I might mother all sorts of people giving to them what God has given to me, I still want babies.

A few months ago as I penance, my confessor suggested I pray one decade of the rosary for myself and in particular for those things I was having such difficulty changing in myself (read impatience). He told me it was important to pray for myself – something I have never really done. Other things, other people have always seemed more important; God has always cared for me anyway so I tend to forgot about praying for myself.

The rosary is not always one of my favourite prayers. I tend to drift off into meditation or distraction – often both within the same decade. I get lost and then spend a great deal of time trying to recall where I left off and, in the midst of remembering, drift off again. I begin at the Annunciation and half an hour later discover I’ve been praying for Obama’s daughters and thinking about Michelle Obama’s lack of fashion sense and how horrid it is that some women think she might be worth emulating and then drift off into musing on the way we women are having been raised with mothers whose minds have not really been on us even when they’ve been physically present and then drift off into something else … until finally, I remember I am supposed to be praying and ask God to tell me where I left off. Then there are the times when I don’t think at all, when my mind is blank and I’m just snuggling up but half an hour still passes and I still don’t remember which mystery I’m on or how many Hail Marys are left and sometimes I get the Chaplet of Divine Mercy tangled into the rosary and it’s just a big mess. Praying the rosary is a lot of work. It takes hours and I might not even finish it. But since I was given a penance and penance is important I decided I could handle one decade, if I forced myself to focus and if God helped me.

My confessor didn’t specify which mystery I should use neither did he give me a specific number of times to pray, neither say this once nor for the next week nor anything else that would encapsulate the penance into any sort quantity or time period. So I, as I am wont to do, just began praying a decade of the rosary as instructed nearly every day. Usually, I prayed the Annunciation. It is the first one I remember. But then I discovered one decade wasn’t enough. I kept thinking of Obama’s children growing up believing that babies are punishment and that that’s what they are. So I added a decade for the Obama family and asked Our Lady to protect the Obama children (and defeat their father too). And soon I discovered other personal petitions, other things connected to me for which I had never really prayed: a girlfriend going through a similar experience of discovering Mary as her Mother whose determination has encouraged me, my work and, most importantly, the intentions of my heart – those things that a Mother knows about. Very soon I was up to all five decades, oft times wandering off in my meditations but somehow making it through.

It turns out mothers know their children. Marmar knew me. Once in a while, even my foster-mother knew me: not long before her final illness she came to understand that I lived with deep, deep sadness and pain, that I could not just forget my family, that she couldn’t just fill-in for my mother. I have known that I longed for my mother. And perhaps that too is why I found the rosary so difficult – it is a long conversation with Our Mother about all the wonders and joys in Our Lord’s life. It’s chock full of: And then He did that! and Okay, I’ll go through the scary parts as long as you hold my hand. and Isn’t what happens next wonderful? The rosary is an exciting, cozy nursery experience. But that closeness can be excruciating for those of us who long, especially when we keep such longings from ourselves.

I’ve tried to pretend not having babies was okay since that’s the way God wanted it. (I sort of told myself that longing for my mother was enough longing for one lifetime.) But I didn’t know that my desire for children cuts a deep channel through my heart that joins up with longing for my mother. Certainly, I’ve thought I could adopt or foster a child but as my health declines and as I get older I realize that adoption or even fostering a child might not be a great idea – unless I choose to be selfish.

And haunting me has been the experience of friends who have aborted their babies. Four times I have known women who have been pregnant and have gone from being pro-life to pro-abortion because of their special circumstances overnight. One changed her mind and I hope I had something to do with it – certainly I told her that aborting her child was not taking care of it as she said. That taking care of a child could never be killing him. Not long after deciding not to have the abortion, she miscarried. It hurt her badly. I mourned with her and also rejoiced that she had trusted God and had not murdered her child.

The other three each aborted their children. I understand their fear: once, when I was seventeen, I thought I was pregnant and the terror was amazingly huge – I was hysterical (I do not become hysterical). But I don’t understand their actions particularly since they were not alone. Particularly when they told me about their pregnancies and knew me well enough to realize that I would remind them that they were against abortion, that abortion was wrong. Particularly when I not only offered to help each of them but begged them to allow me to care for their children. Particularly when I was willing to change my life so that I could provide for a baby. Particularly when I offered open adoption or guardianship so that if they changed their minds, at some future point, I would return custody of their children. We were friends. We were close. We loved and trusted each other. And two of them loved God too. But they did not love their children. They did not love and trust me enough to allow me to care for their children. And even the two who loved God did not love Him enough to choose His will over murdering their children. They knew I would do whatever necessary to care for their children. They decided it would be better to kill their children instead.

I fought for those children. And I fought for those friendships. But the children were more important. I wanted to give life to those children, wanted them to become what God had created them to be. I cajoled them and reminded them of God’s love and begged them. I sent the two who believed in God to spiritual directors who also reminded them of God’s love and providence, reminded them that abortion was a mortal sin. I prayed many prays and asked other to pray. I fought hard and I failed.

I would do it again even though my friendships with the children’s mothers were casualties of those battles and I still miss them – our friendships could not withstand such evil. I would fight for any child though again I might fail, though I myself might not have the strength to raise them, would probably need to entrust them to someone else. And that is what I am doing when I insist that Our Lady protect the Obama children, when I ask others to pray for them: I am fighting for them. I have fought for a number of children in my life (and have taken on several terribly remiss parents). But I didn’t know that in fighting for them, in doing what I can, be it fervent prayer, fasting, providing substitute care, seeking to remind their parents that abortion is not an option but simply murdering their own children, in doing whatever I could do the children I have fought for have become my children. I have mothered them when their own mothers did not. I have cared for them, valued their lives when told to dismiss them. God has given them to me to be my children. And in praying for the deepest desires of my heart, in wandering off whilst lying my head on Madrinha’s* lap, I have come to realize both the deep, painful longing for those children murdered in their mothers’ wombs, children I might have raised, and I have come to see that God answered my prayers before I knew to ask. He has given me children that I didn’t know I had – there are babies waiting for me in heaven, caring for me as I tried to care for them. But they are don’t fail because my children are with mi Madrinha and She never fails.

In taking Our Lord into Herself, She was made the perfect vessel of love: She cannot but love us. And She fights for us, fights against the foolish convictions we use to close our hearts off to Her love. She is immensely patient and tenacious and simply wears us down with love. And, like Our Lord, is ready to take advantage of the tiniest chink in our protective plating. She knows we are worth fighting for, worth loving. She cannot but know our hearts, our longings, our prayers and asks Her divine Spouse and Her Son to give us more than we can let ourselves desire.

So I wander off as we rehearse the mysteries of Her Son’s life and have stopped being hard on myself for doing so. I am just a child resting her head on her mothers lap** so at home that my heart shares its entire contents even though the story line sometimes becomes incoherent. She will sort it out. And when I ask to become the woman God would have me be and I pray for the desires of my heart, the things She knows I long for better than I know myself, I can be confident that She is listening and that my prayers are being answered in surprising and wonderful ways. I’m a mother and the day will come when I hold my children in my arms and laugh with them and rejoice at what God has done with us. And my friends are safe with Her – I’ll trust Her to wear them down too. I am not bereft as my heart imagined (I’ve been laughing even more these past few days – and that’s probably getting insufferable). I’m filled with excitement: what lovely things has Madrinha prepared for me next?

* Madrinha is the Portuguese diminutive for Mother. I have called Our Mother that privately, when I needed to call her anything at all, for several years.

** My friend Dawn Eden told me about St. Catherine Labouré’s vision for which I am most grateful. She and it have also been instrumental in helping me to accept Our Lady as mi Madrinha.

*** Please continue to pray for the Obama children.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

“And For a Helmet the Hope of Salvation”

But you are not in darkness, brethren, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all sons of light and sons of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But, since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we wake or sleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. …Be at peace among yourselves. (1 Thessalonians 5: 4-11, 13b)

I have a hazy memory of sitting on the floor in a very large church between two coffins and wondering why everyone was so sad. Actually, the memory is quite clear. What I am not certain about is whether it is a memory of Grandpére’s and Ti Eduardo’s funeral. But I do remember sitting on the red carpet. And I do remember wanting to play but being quiet because everyone was so sad. And I remember that it made no sense because Grandpére had not been sad. He had been calm – concerned with Marmar, concerned with me, concerned with the soldier who shot him – but not sad. In fact, I don’t think he was at all concerned about dying at that moment. I think he was busy doing something else.

We think of the last days as days of terror, days to be frightened, days of woe – days when the horrors we read of in the book of Revelations will happen. But aren’t they also good days? Great days? Amazing days? Aren’t they exciting days that usher in the greatest most exciting thing ever – the manifestation of the Kingdom of God? For Christians, shouldn’t they be days of rejoicing particularly since we know we fight on the winning side? There’s no doubt about that. The stable is real. The Cross is real. The empty tomb is real. The fullness of time intersects with what we know as reality and everything changes seemingly in an instant. But the change is actually happening all along – it’s just that most don’t recognize it. But we have inside intel, we’re members of the team. And though we’re on a need to know basis, we have some awareness of what is happening. We’ve been given so much information. When we read the lives of many of the saints, when we read scripture, and, even for a few of us, when some of those we know and love have faced death or just faced the hard work of illness or of simply living as God calls us to live in this world, many, many of them have not experienced terror and great anxiety but rather, have been full of joy. During the days of being starved to death with nine others who were being starved at the same time, St. Maximillian Kolbe sang in the darkness and his companions sang with him. We know he was busy doing something else.

Certainly none of us wants to be starved to death. Neither do we want to be shot nor persecuted nor even inconvenienced. We want to be left alone to live our lives. But the fullness of time is upon us; we’re in the midst of a war. In fact, it was only an illusion to think we could just go our own ways and be concerned with ourselves and our families and friends and our own personal salvation. But really, if we are honest, we know we should never have become so lacksidasical in the first place – we have always lived in the end times. We are and have always been in a time when we ought to be busy doing something else.

My spiritual director used to tell me that hope was more important than getting what I wanted. I’d nod my head and try to take it in but really, I found his words confusing. Why bother hoping if it wasn’t to get what I wanted? Why hope for the sake of hoping itself? I have goals and I want to reach them. But what if I don’t reach them. At what point do I stop hoping? (I was actually quite proud of myself for continuing to hope.)

My spiritual director was telling me that I had envisioned a goal that I expected to reach and when I did, my job would be done. Then I would rest. I would no longer be engaged in this constant perseverance, this constant struggle, this work that life is. I wanted an end place, a place where I would be out of the fray, out of the action, where I could sit and relax and know that I had finished and there was nothing more demanded of me. I wanted a holiday from persevering. That was my definition of hope. That is not hope at all.

Hope never takes us outside the action but, rather, puts us right in the middle where we might be starved to death or shot or faced with choosing a viable candidate in an election or even become aware and fluent enough to tell others why we hope, why we persevere, why we are grateful for a chance to fight alongside God Himself. We know hope will not take us to the goals we have established and leave us there to have a well deserved rest. Hope isn’t a road to retirement. The job continues regardless of what happens on 5 November or when the electoral college does its job or if any or all of our neighbours choose to be violent and uncivilized once a decision has been made. We know we will be failed. And we will fail. And we will be played. And we ourselves will be the player. And the winner of the election will break many promises, make many mistakes, commit many sins. And babies will die. And someday, two little girls will become aware that their father believes children are a punishment and their mother has not smacked him in the head and insisted he publicly affirm that their daughters are precious gifts - at the very least, they will wonder if they are punishments. No matter what happens, there will be no halcyon days of retirement. There will only be hope.

We are in the midst of an immensely exciting election. And there are thousands of babies whose lives might or might not be saved. And mothers and doctors and nurses who might or might not the commit mortal sin of abortion. And two little girls who might or might not learn that they are beautiful gifts from God regardless what their parents let slip. There might be even more gains in defeating the evil of abortion or all we have fought for these past 35 years might be lost. But this is not an apocalyptic movie. Neither is it some sort of cultish frenzy. We really are, right now, in the last days, in the time when what we do matters. What we do participates in the might or might not of it all. We are not in a lull. Others can't pick up the pieces for us in the future. We ourselves, at this very moment, are awaiting the Bridegroom and woe unto us if we are the foolish virgins.

What we ought to be busy about is our Father’s business. We ought to be loving and praying and sacrificing and saying that some things are just plain wrong and running for office and chooisng a viable candidate who will protect life and caring for neighbours whomever they happen to be at this moment and lighting up the world with an immensely bright flame – all at the same time. There’s no place for petulance or frustration or just plain fed up-ness. And while it isn’t our place to try to force others to love God (and it won’t work anyway so it’s really not worth trying), it is our business to be doing everything we can to make His love known. It’s urgent. We haven’t any time to waste. We must just do it.

And we can do it. That’s part of the gift of fighting on the winning side. We’re with angels and saints and the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. We have more help than we know - we probably don’t even make up a division in God’s army. (I’ve dreamt that I was surrounded by four angels, one on each side and that Marmar and Papa walked along beside me.) We are not alone in this. And we’re given supernatural endurance – that’s what hope is. Otherwise, we couldn’t do it. We’d have given up long ago. And it’s as simple as that. That the Church continues to persevere with all our divisiveness and foolishness and sinfulness is evidence that God gives us the strength to do it. We have been given armour that makes us stubborn and hard headed and able to insist that Jesus Christ is and always has been and always will be Lord. Our stubborn insistence that salvation is real is proof of its reality. Maximillian Kolbe and Grandpére and so many, many others have attested to that truth and to the hope as endurance, as perserverance. We have plenty of examples that tell us we must just keep doing it. Not until we get it right. Not until our government gets it right. Not until we reach any goal we can imagine at all. But because we can’t love unless we hope. We can’t love if we will not endure. Because when Christ ascended to Heaven and took His seat at the Father’s right hand, it wasn’t so that God might take a well deserved holiday. He continues to persevere with us and gives us hope as a helmet that we might persevere right alongside Him. He really wants us with Him in this greatest action-adventure.

We Must Do This

This may be the most important post I have ever made.

Our Lord and Our Lady are awesome. Let's trust them.

A Call for a Rosary Novena
By Fr. John Corapi

Among the most important titles we have in the Catholic Church for the Blessed Virgin Mary are Our Lady of Victory and Our Lady of the Rosary. These titles can be traced back to one of the most decisive times in the history of the world and Christendom. The Battle of Lepanto took place on October 7 (date of feast of Our Lady of Rosary), 1571. This proved to be the most crucial battle for the Christian forces against the radical Muslim navy of Turkey. Pope Pius V led a procession around St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City praying the Rosary. He showed true pastoral leadership in recognizing the danger posed to Christendom by the radical Muslim forces, and in using the means necessary to defeat it. Spiritual battles require spiritual weapons, and this more than anything was a battle that had its origins in the spiritual order—a true battle between good and evil.

Today we have a similar spiritual battle in progress—a battle between the forces of good and evil, light and darkness, truth and lies, life and death. If we do not soon stop the genocide of abortion in the United States, we shall run the course of all those that prove by their actions that they are enemies of God—total collapse, economic, social, and national. The moral demise of a nation results in the ultimate demise of a nation. God is not a disinterested spectator to the affairs of man. Life begins at conception. This is an unalterable formal teaching of the Catholic Church. If you do not accept this you are a heretic in plain English. A single abortion is homicide. The more than 48,000,000 abortions since Roe v. Wade in the United States constitute genocide by definition. The group singled out for death—unwanted, unborn children.

No other issue, not all other issues taken together, can constitute a proportionate reason for voting for candidates that intend to preserve and defend this holocaust of innocent human life that is abortion.

I strongly urge every one of you to make a Novena and pray the Rosary to Our Lady of Victory between October 27th and Election Day, November 4th.

Pray that God’s will be done and the most innocent and utterly vulnerable of our brothers and sisters will be protected from this barbaric and grossly sinful blight on society that is abortion. No woman, and no man, has the right to choose to murder an innocent human being.

May God grant us the wisdom, knowledge, understanding, and counsel to form our conscience in accordance with authentic Catholic teaching, and then vote that well‐formed Catholic conscience.

Please copy, email, link and distribute this article freely.

God Bless You
Fr. John Corapi

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Voting - Revisited

To vote for a candidate who supports the intrinsic evil of abortion or ‘abortion rights’ when there is a morally acceptable alternative would be to cooperate in the evil – and therefore morally impermissible. (Joint Statement issued by Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas and Bishop Kevin Vann of Fort Worth, Oct. 8, 2008)

We forget how precious a gift it is to live in this country, what a privilege it is. And we also forget the importance of voting in this country. For many reasons, this will be the first time I vote and I continue to be awed that I will do so at all and on such an important occasion. This is a momentous election – life and death are in combat and our individual votes have become immensely important. If that were not true, there would not be American brownshirts harassing voters, or voter fraud in several states, or intimidation all over the place.

When I learned about his experience as a POW during the Vietnam war, I decided I’d probably vote for John McCain. A man who would stay with his men struck me as a man I would trust to lead this country. Of course he would make mistakes but we would be able to count on him not the least because he has learned to follow, he has learned obedience and he has put his body on the line for this country. I know that voting is not just a matter of good feelings or even prudence, not for a Catholic who desires to be faithful. Voting is also and especially a time to be a disciple, to adhere to Church teaching.

To form my conscience, I read the applicable sections from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, read the pastoral document, Faithful Citizenship from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, many the Holy Father’s writings on the Church in the public arena as well as other pastoral documents provided by the magisterium. They don’t give a great deal of attention to the economy or the war or immigration reform or taxes or the many other issues that fill the MSM or that we discuss over and over and over. The Church doesn’t spend much time worrying about whether I’m comfortable or like a candidate or believe he’s erudite or looks good on the cover of GQ. They don’t even care if my favourite candidate can take down a moose. The first and most important issue the Church cares about is a candidate's stand on intrinsic evils, on those things that are always and everywhere and on every occasion evil:

Now, it must be admitted that not every moral evil is equally grave (CCC 1852-1854). Some issues have little effect beyond themselves; some touch on a few related issues; some are foundational to the whole structure of politics and society. The issues which have been labeled as “non-negotiable Catholic issues” are the most grave, because they are at the foundation of all our rights and responsibilities. These are, namely, the “life issues” of abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, and human cloning; and the fundamental social issue of the family, which in this country today mostly means the definition of marriage. These issues are “non-negotiable” because, if the fundamental right to life is not secure, no rights are ultimately secure. If existence is contingent upon the will of others, so too is every other human right contingent. (See also Faithful Citizenship.)

Because of his pro-life position and support, I had few doubts about John McCain. But because voting is such a serious undertaking, I knew I must actually research his positions, especially when I read that he had voted to fund destructive human embryonic stem cell research (DHESCR). At the same time, I decided I should research Barack Obama. The Church sets forth certain non-negotiables and I wanted to know how each candidate stands in relation to them.

A candidate’s position is so much more than what he says or even what others say about him. Candidates want to win and they will try to convince as many people to vote for them as possible. Elected officials may not tell us the truth but who they are will become apparent in their voting history, actions, endorsements (both received and given), party affiliations and platforms and those with whom a candidate has associated both now and in the past. As a writer and student of theology, I’ve learned history sees beyond advertising.

I reviewed voting records at the Pew Forum and The Washington Post.

Endorsements occur at all sorts of levels so there were web searches, attention to neighbourhood sign boards, commercials and comments from friends who teach or work in other areas that are unionized. I found congressional endorsements here.

Each party’s platform may be found at The American Presidency Project.

Finally, I surveyed copious articles and documents in both the MSM and non-MSM news sources for information about each candidate's actions throughout his life and his associates. Blogs often gave me links and information to conduct web searches. I wanted to know what each candidate’s supporters as well as his detractors had to say and mostly, I wanted to read official records and documents. Unfortunately, many major news sources, including Catholic ones, cannot be trusted. Fortunately, there are some trustworthy ones including Zenit and EWTN. And, a number of friends sent me news links and made my research so much easier and pleasant.

I didn’t expect an unblemished, untarnished history. People change. But change must be more than talk. There must be action. It’s not enough that a candidate become silent on some past activity. Silence often has more to do with the desire to be elected than actual change.

Associates helped complete the picture. They shed powerful light on what a man really believes and values. Who he spends his time with, where he gives his money, what he works and fights for, especially when he’s not being paid, indicates what really matters to a man.

Diligence was required. Diligence was rewarded. Pictures of each candidate began to emerge.

It very quickly became apparent that Obama delights in death as do many of his associates. His motto might easily be: “It’s alive! Quick! Kill it!” I have wondered what he and his wife will say to their daughters when they ask if they are punishment. I also quickly realized that Obama is the way my foster-father became after my foster-mother’s death, is like so many other "snake-oil touting faith healers” – black, white and Hispanic – whom he sought out in an attempt to save his wife as she was dying of cancer.

They spoke well and said absolutely nothing. They were angry. Enraged. Pretended their anger was against sin. In reality, they were angry with life. Angry that religion did not give them a magic code which gave them control. Angry that God asked for faithfulness on the via crucis: they insisted Easter must come without Good Friday. Instinctively I’ve always recoiled from Obama, he reminds me of an inflatable plastic skeleton: Barackacide offers death as a brand name – slickly tasty, slickly attractive, slickly deadly. It's no surprise he associates with terrorists such as Ayers and others who are known to be enemies of this country.

The picture of John McCain is pretty solid: he’s pro-life, in fact he’s terrific on all the non-negotiables except DHESCR. He has voted to fund some form of it twice in the past five years or so. DHESCR is an intrinsic evil and so that should eliminate McCain. But voting in accordance with Church teaching is not a game of bingo wherein we match each candidate’s positions on a playing card with bright plastic markers and gleefully vote for the one who allows us to make the right picture. Being Catholic is not so easy.

In all honesty, the more I looked into the man and his actions and his associations, I did not get a clear picture on DHESCR – the Republican party platform and his VP choice are totally against it, he surrounds himself with people such as Sam Brownback who are also firmly against it. McCain has, in fact, voted against funding certain types of DHESCR during the past five years.

Faithful Citizenship, all of the Church’s pastoral documents, my local bishops, bishops from other dioceses as well as those the church has specifically authorized to teach (and I have intentionally attended my diocese’s conferences on voting) have clarified two important points:

1 - The importance of voting to limit evil.

2 - Researching each candidate is vital because, the party-platform and running mates and associates and life history inform us whether or not a candidate’s position on an intrinsic evil can in fact be changed, limited or nullified.

In charity and based on his pro-life actions but only after listening to my bishops and those they authorized to present Church teaching, I determined it is faithful to believe that McCain is struggling with DHESCR and that voting for him is actually voting to limit evil and the one morally acceptable alternative we've been given.

I personally know or am acquainted with those who say, ‘My vote doesn’t matter.’ Or, those who throw up their hands in disgust and decide that nothing is getting better so they won’t vote. Or, who have decided to technically vote by writing-in some candidate dredged up from the bowels of the internet or created as a joke. They tell me they desire to avoid evil but what I hear is hopelessness and fear.

As Catholics, voting is a matter of discipleship. It is a moral responsibility. It’s serious. The act of voting involves our salvation. It requires making choices and getting involved in the messiness of life – but so does waking up each morning – life with all its messiness is the grace we have been given. And we are only allowed to sit out the vote when “all candidates hold a position in favour of an intrinsic evil” – but we had better be certain they do, we had better do the work and find evidence. To fail to do so is to fail in charity, it is to be terribly dishonest, to indulge in lame excuses for being hopeless and afraid.

This truly is a cosmic election and we really are presented with a choice between life and death. This is a rare country – we are not coerced into self-destruction, at least not yet. And we must either value our freedom or we will lose it. In fact, we must value it so much that we will give up something for it so that self-destruction may not become our governing principle – that something may well be our hopelessness or our pride.

Originally, I wanted to walk the fine line between telling others how to vote and making it clear that only one viable candidate exists. Then Dawn Eden sent me the Texas Bishop’s joint pastoral letter and Fallen Sparrow kept saying to me what I have been saying to so many others: this is a matter of life and death and we had better get busy. In reworking this piece, I’ve gone so far over that fine line I can’t even see it any longer but every year we murder nearly 1.5 million babies and that’s unspeakably self-destructive and unspeakably evil and if we don’t know it, we have become utter fools. It's evil we must at least limit because if we don't, we cannot hope to limit any other evil, particularly not when we face someone who deals in such thuggery.

It becomes clearer and clearer to me, we must not let ourselves be distracted by the din and fear. “[We] did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but [we] have received the spirit of sonship.” (Rom 8:15) We are incredibly powerful. We can storm heaven with prayer and sacrifice. We can blog and talk to others and tell McCain and Palin that while we are thrilled with and support their pro-life positions, DHESCR is never acceptable and we will not rest until they both repudiate it. And we can vote (at least for now) for the only morally acceptable candidate available, we can reject the death that so many foolishly welcome. (When the slick “faith healers” left town with all the money they had collected, it didn’t take long for their followers to denounce them – but that was after the fact.)

Our Lady of Victory won at Lepanto. We are Her children. Is She any less powerful today? Our Lord conquered death at Calvary. Do we not participate in His victory? Has He become weak as time passes? We trust a God who called Abraham to follow Him and created of him the people Israel that His glory might be known, that through them He might come into the world. Has He become impotent? Is He not able to fight for us today as He has fought for His people in the past?

We have work to do and we had best be very, very busy. First, doing what we can to defeat the Barackacide (prayer, sacrifice, especially the Mass, voting and anything else God has given us to do) and then reaching out to those who clamour after him. They are in desperate need and though some, possibly many, will reject Him, it is our business to share with them the One who can actually respond to their longings and truly fulfill their desires – the real One, Jesus Christ.

* And do pray for the Barackacide's children. Pray very hard that Our Mother will be their mother too and protect their hearts and minds from the ugliness they are being exposed to. In fact, pray for the entire family - Obama and his wife as well as the children. More than anyone, they need our prayers.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Please see Voting - Revisited.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

"A Warm and Delicate Blue Mantle"

A commenter writes: ...some of satan's greatest targets are the little souls, those who trust the Word of God sometimes even blindly in the midst of enormous suffering of numerous kinds ...when it seems we can't take it a moment longer, we run to a warm and delicate blue mantle which would've given anything to wrap itself around the naked and shivering Son on Golgotha, and so gladly wraps around us now, Her new child.

I don't see myself as a little soul - I wish I did. Instead, when I'm really afraid, I see myself as the young child left to fend for herself in a strange, hostile world. That means I am the center of everything and I must work very hard to remind myself that I'm not. I don't think my friends realize this about me, at least they don't let on. Sometimes I wish they did. Sometimes I wish I was better at letting them know when I am that frightened.

Fortunately, I don't get as fearful as I once did - there were years when fear filled nearly every waking moment, when I lay awake at night shivering in Our Lord's arms, feeling His hugs and finally drifting off for a few hours sleep. Until I was 28/29, I was tired all the time - I never got enough sleep. It wasn't until I was 32/33 that I began sleeping well every night. Being ill now, when I must take drugs to sleep, when difficulty swallowing means I often don't get enough protein and so even the pills don't work, I don't get as much sleep as I need. I reached a point at the end of June when I hadn't had more than two or three hours sleep each night for several weeks and my body simply refused to work anymore, hence disability. I imagined they would have fixed things by now - fantasy is a lovely thing but it's still fantasy. Sleep is a glorious thing. I'm grateful I had a few years experience of sleeping well; I wouldn't mind having that experience again.

And in the midst of all this, of not sleeping, of being hungry and having horrible headaches most of the time, of just being in pain, of the recent attacks of fear, I fail to hide my face in the folds of the "warm and delicate blue mantel." That's so hard to do. The abandoned little girl was left without a mother, twice, and she's been just fine, thank you very much. How does she expose that she's not so fine after all? And then too, I remember hiding my face in Marmar's lap - she wore a watery blue silk dress and my tears left streaks of dye on my skin. How stop being strong enough to withstand the pain of her loss? How be a weak child again and still as strong as living in this world demands?

I don't know. No one has ever told me. I only know that I need to be within that mantle, that I need to apply all the stubbornness and determination I have applied to everything else, to receive even more grace than I ever have before. I only know that I can't be really strong unless I am a little soul; I can't be a woman unless I become a daughter once again. I need a mother, I need Our Mother, so I can once again bury my face in Her lap and know that she is helping along the way.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Attacks Against Hope

Every so often I am struck by an attack of immense fear: that I will be left on my own without what I need, that I will be too sick to work and will have no income, that I will be alone forever – never get married. Essentially, I fear that I will use up my quota of God’s love and He will freeze my account.

In a way it’s logical. God has given me an extravagant amount of love, has cared for me since before I can remember and I have no memory of a time when He wasn’t with me. I know how very fortunate I am. More than once, I’ve been closer than a hair’s breadth away from death and he has saved me. I’ve wasted time and opportunities and money and he has never stopped providing for me. I’ve been stupid and committed stupid sins that have hurt me and others and, I believe, have simply mocked and ignored the love He has lavished upon me. At some point, you’d think He’d tell me that I’ve reached the end of my allotment.

This seems a good time for that to happen. This is a time of great change for me; I try to pretend otherwise but I’m really, really sick and that means I must accept change. Facing a year or more out of work is scary, very scary. Yes, I have an excellent disability policy but what if…? With all the craziness in the world, there are just too many possibilities for me to choose one and fill in that question. And what about being alone? How do I meet people, how do I get married stuck here in my apartment? And I could easily come up with a whole host of horrible possibilities. I shan’t because just writing about my fear, and just talking with a friend, which I did (and Fallen Sparrow is a very good friend), makes me see how silly I am being, makes me see that this is indeed an attack.

My fear limits God’s love and that’s just silly. That must be of Satan. I’ve not been given a spirit of fear but of hope and everything I’ve been reading lately from Spe Salvi to Magnificat to rereading the Bible beginning with Genesis (I’m in Leviticus now) reminds me to hope. My entire life has been filled with hope, with the reality that hope brings – not anything bright and flashy, with fake columns (though I do have my ornate side) but simply grace that has sustained me through the valley of the shadow of death and beyond.

It turns out, I haven’t that kind of power, the kind that can use up God’s love. I’m not that big and I really don’t want to be. I am amazingly silly and God continues to love me and care for me anyway. Who am I to argue with His wisdom?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Difficult Time

These days I awaken from sleep in a hazy, drugged stupor that lasts for an hour or more so that I usually open my copy of Magnificat and begin Morning Prayer before I am fully aware. This morning, I was surprised to find myself reading:

Psalms such as this are not reserved for those who are persecuted by visible enemies. They are given to us to pray whenever life’s troubles threaten to overwhelm us.

Now I know, like any other magazine, Magnificat is written well in advance of publication. How could Fr. Peter Cameron and the staff know that this is an especially difficult time for me personally and also for the country? When the Intercessions included:

You delivered your people from exile in Babylon: deliver all those who endure or fear the loss of homes and livelihood,

I realized that perhaps the lead time is not as great as I had at first imagined and also, that Morning Prayer was being very practical when I’ve been thinking of it as a nice way to begin my day. At first, this was a bit of an affront. Very soon though, my surprise (and drugged stupor) passed off so that I was awake enough to remember what prayer is.

Life isn’t going all that well for me right now. I’ve spent the past few weeks experiencing debilitating and painful symptoms that may well be side effects from the magic medicine. Of course some or all of the new symptoms may not be the result of the new meds but that is no better – my health is worse. I’ve had to realize that I can’t be fixed in a month or two or three (and I had hoped to return to work for the fall season). This is a long-term enterprise. My doctors are doing their best but treating autoimmune diseases continues to be a trial and error process: this week, one doctor told me it would probably take a year or more to figure this out and treat it enough so that I can go back to work. There may be some who hate work and wish they could stay at home and have nothing to do. At times, I have felt the same way – but I was working then. And perhaps, if one is healthy, that would be lovely, at least for a while. But after three months of mostly sitting on my bum, I can say, I am never bored but I am often lonely. And while it is possible that I may be able to do a bit of volunteer work and some writing and there’s always my new project, Glam of God*, my body holds me down, I’m sick much of the time: there are strict limits to what and how much I can do and few people around for most of the day. (And certainly the cold of winter will encourage me to stay home alone more often.) This is not the life I would choose for myself, not the life I’ve worked and hoped for. Just thinking about it makes my heart hurt.

And the country is in a very, very difficult time. People are afraid. There is a presidential election looming. One candidate encourages death (and we must accept that people who kill their children cannot be working towards life and social justice for anyone). The other candidate mostly encourages life and surrounds himself with those who encourage it even more than he, but he does not inspire the confidence so many people long for. For those people, he’s very far from perfect and there is the enticing alternative of a kind of perfection that embraces death while promising life. For those not enticed by that false promise, the candidate who embraces life is problematic but the best leader available and we fear he may not win.

Economic problems also terrify many, many of us. What if the stock market fails? What if banks fail? What if we lose everything? What if life becomes harder? Even those of us who live rather frugally have benefitted from an economy in which people buy everything they want on credit and assume they’ll have the funds to pay the bills when the time comes. Since at least the ‘80s, we have lived in a world that extends credit in such lavish style many of us no longer just live from paycheck to paycheck (people have been doing that forever) but as far beyond our paychecks as possible. And we do so individually, as a country, as a world. Food and housing and practically every other basic commodity human beings have historically worked hard to provide for themselves and their families have been abundant and fairly cheap. Things that were considered luxuries in the ‘50s and ‘60s are taken for granted today throughout the industrialized world and, increasingly, throughout the other two-thirds of the world as well. We haven’t really cared much about how the bounty has come to us. We have come to believe that the lifestyles to which we have become accustomed are what we need and what we deserve.

And now we’re angry and afraid. Government and big business have failed us. We don’t want to pay more money to bail them out. We want them to fix things, to come up with a solution so that we can be left alone to go our way and continue to live the lives we are owed. Our collective surprised, angry howl sounds in the thousands and thousands of emails and voicemails demanding that our elective representatives not bailout big corporations with our money, or wait and see if it’s really necessary, or, at least, make certain we get something in return.

I think many of us are looking for parents – people who will pick us up and take care of us. People who, knowing how to navigate this horrible world that suddenly threatens to harm us, will carry us to safety and make the bad, scary things go away. But we don’t expect that to happen and we are left afraid that we face lives we would never choose for ourselves, lives we would never work nor hope for. Just thinking about it makes our hearts hurt and too many of us don’t know how to stop thinking about it.

The last Intercession this morning read:

You delivered the world from sin and death: deliver all those who minds and hearts are wrapped in the darkness of fear and anxiety over the burdens they must bear.

We aren’t helpless. There is something we can do and it’s past time for us to get busy. Prayer is always the most practical thing we can do and we know, the prayer of the Church is powerful. We also know the prayer of sacrifice, of offering God our fearful, hurting hearts is at the center of that practicality. If we turn our troubled thoughts to the truth for just one moment, we know this is an opportunity to participate in the Cross. It’s not fun. It’s frightening. It’s also a great honour which we mustn’t pass up.

The defeat of those who embrace death becomes more and more important to me each day. (I can’t believe how political I’ve become.) So God is welcome to use my fear of continued loneliness, a fear that is greater than I knew, to help make that happen (or for any other purpose He desires – but I think he desires this). And, I know that what I’m actually suffering is not reality but fear; I have been at home for three months and though it’s lonely and I miss work, I’m okay and I suspect that I will be okay a year from now. The Friend who has been with me my entire life will not leave me or fail me now so it is safe to let Him take my fear and use it in his economy.

Today, many of us dread the future. But we know that has happened before. Today, we’ve come to see that things are not as we imagined. But that too has happened before. Today, we long for someone to make things – us and our lives and our world – well. Such longing has been and will continue to be ours until we reach heaven. But today, we can ask God to use our fears in his economy. Our fear is safe with Him. He will never leave us or fail us even when life is not as we expect it to be. And, He never spends beyond His means.

* Glam of God is a new idea I’m thinking about for a site that presents fashion and femininity through the lens of Theology of the Body. I’ll keep you posted.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Overwheming Sorrow

First, I recalled myself holding Marmar’s hand with Papa’s arm around my shoulder, his hand on my back as we crossed a tarmac towards the plane.

Fallen Sparrow and I were talking on the phone when I read his and Pentimento’s posts on Lot’s wife. Suddenly I broke into tears. FS has the gift of remaining patiently silent and did so as I fumbled for tissues and then told him that reading the two posts, was causing me to flashback to my early childhood in Brazil. I said, “It never occurred to me until this moment how much my mother lost in leaving her home.”

I recalled Marmar and myself being escorted from Grandpére’s office to another room. We passed Ti Eduardo’s body. Ti lay face up on the tile floor. Blood covered the top of his head and his chest. His beautiful, brown eyes stared, sightless at the ceiling. He did not move. I wanted to stop, to take in this sight, to touch him, to understand this incomprehensible thing.

Marmar spoke one word: “Walk.” I walked, my hand in hers, incomprehensibility left behind. Alone with her in a sitting room, Marmar pulled me close as she sank into a chair. I stood between her knees, her arms circling me. She broke down crying and groaning. More incomprehensibility. I did not cry.

When Papa came in he held us both. Marmar cried. Perhaps Papa did as well. I don’t remember. I did not cry. At some point I needed to use a toilet. We were not allowed to leave the room. Papa emptied a vase and held it for me. I wet my sock. I did not speak – only pointed at the sock and cried. Papa removed the wet thing and dried my foot with his handkerchief. He held me and Marmar again as we cried: she for her father and brother, I because of my wet sock.

When the angel of the Lord commands Lot and his family not to look back, I do not think he is creating a supreme test to determine whether they will be faithful. Instead, he seeks to protect them from a horror they cannot encompass. He warns them so as to save them from the becoming enmeshed in the destruction that befalls the cities on the plain.

Some things are too big for us. Some losses so great, they will destroy us. Some experiences so fraught with destruction, that only by God’s grace can we avoid being engulfed too. We have been created to shut down emotionally, to be unable to take in that which is overwhelming. But that very act of shutting down can become destruction if there is no awakening: when Lot’s wife looks back, what she sees is so overwhelming she becomes “pure, distilled tear-stuff, the physical manifestation of sorrow." But for the grace of God, beginning with Marmar’s command to “walk” which pulled me away from the devastation, to a wet sock – a comprehensible reason to cry, to this day when that devastation has taught me to forgive, that fate could have been mine.

On the feast day of “St. Maximilian Kolbe" I found myself realizing that he too faced the overwhelming. Being condemned to starvation in a lightless bunker drove one man to desperation; Fr. Kolbe offered to take his place. How look into the face of those who have lost their humanity so badly that they can starve ten men to death? How face such utter sorrow? God gave him immense grace at that moment and during the ensuing days.

I think I can better understand the apostles who fled the crucifixion. In all history, that must have been the greatest horror anyone could have faced. How look on the sight of the man you know to be God being tortured and killed by those he came to save? How survive that? Sanity would drive them to hide, to believe they had perhaps been mistaken. But those who stayed – his Mother, John, the other Mary - those who bore it without being utterly destroyed, we know they received tremendous grace, were given the ability to see him die without becoming “the physical manifestation of sorrow.”

His grace is real, overcomes the most devastating sorrow. None of the ugliness in this world, not even the horrors men release on each other can impede the grace that is ours through Christ. And perhaps, one day we will meet Lot’s wife whose utter sorrow will have been transformed into absolute joy by the sight of His overwhelming love.

(I intended this post for last week but Humira, a fancy name for chemo in a cuter package, combined w/ methotrexate (another type of chemo) leaves me more exhausted so it takes me longer to get things done. Que sera!)

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Work of Charity In Our World

Since I'm home most mornings (I try to plan drs' appts, errands, etc. later in the day), I've been reading the short form of morning prayer from Magnificat. This morning I was struck by the words:

"As we leave the work of prayer for the work of charity in our world..."

The work of charity in our world often seems to be a job - something beyond the stregth of the busy, the ill, the average person. We imagine such works will always be difficult employment. We forget that the smallest tasks are the most difficult to do, the easiest to ignore or discount. But the work of charity in our world actually consists in hundreds of ordinary gestures such as reigning in our tempers, helping a sick friend with laundry, flirting with a baby, showing a bit of cheerfulness, helping an over-loaded mother onto the bus, being appropriately outraged when a bus driver zooms off while a frail person is still trying to climb the steps, even just saying "Excuse me" instead of fuming because someone is blocking the path. Those tiny gestures always expose us to other people as Jesus exposed himself on the Cross even if they cause no physical or emotional pain. They simply take us outside ourselves, outside the private shells we erect when we leave for the day and make us more like Christ. They're never beyond the strength of the weakest nor do they prevent us from fulfilling our real jobs.

God is so kind. He has made each moment full of opportunities to love others as He loves us. He has not made love too dificult for anyone: the cross is always bespoke, custom fit. It's the accessory that no man or woman should ever be without.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Potentially Magic Medicine

It's called a TNF inhibitor and is ultimately another form of chemo. I'm already taking methotrexate which is also a form of chemo. The medical cadre agree that it's going in the right direction - they disagree on whether this is the right treatment as well as on exactly what they're treating but all say it's the right direction.

The amazing one is my internist who tells me this may not work but that he knows I'll be okay making it through the next six weeks while we give it a try. He has come to know me over the past five years and is certain that even if I continue to be in pain, I will be okay. Doctors who trust me are not my part of my usual experience. My rheumatologist didn't believe I was seriously ill even though she was prescribing stronger and stronger doses of methotrexate and more and more pain medication until I broke down and was weeping so hard she couldn't make out what I was saying. And still, on the forms she rates me as "moderately ill." 'Tis a wonder.

I am so grateful that God led me to my internist - he's a hematologist/medical oncologist. His specialty is another wonderful thing because even though I don't have cancer, the treatments for serious rheumatological diseases and cancer are the same. And he's an expert! (And, because I'm more susceptible to certain cancers, he watches me like a hawk.)

God is very good. Very, very good. And my internist is right. I will be okay because I'm okay now. Had you asked me two years ago if I could withstand this amount of pain, I'd have said, "No f---ing way!" (And I would have actually used the "f" word - I'd have believed it appropriate.) Yet here I am, in constant pain with episodes of unbelievably intense pain along all sorts of other lovely experiences. (I'll have to remember to write about being hungry much of the time and the Ambien: "I want my lemon bars" experience.) My life is full of joy and laughter and great friends and lovely discoveries (I'll also have to write about shopping for heels while recovering from anaesthesia). There are so many prayers going up to God for me. Thank you all so much - your prayers are such lovely gifts. And there's suffering which God is combining with the suffering of others to fashion the perfect medicine to heal some horrid brokenness in the hearts of my brothers and sisters – medicine that is gloriously efficacious; perhaps a few others who don't know him are coming to know him partly because of my experience.

I hope the new medication works. Whether it does or not, God is very, very good and I am very, very fortunate.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Suffer and Hope! - Responding to the Better Than Brigade

Normally, I'm a-political. As far as I'm concerned, politics exist mostly to fix things: each party insists he can make life the way it should be or at least better than it is. Except we're human and we’ve never been all that good at fixing things. Eve was convinced she could fix her lack of wisdom by eating the forbidden fruit. Since that day, we human beings have been busy fixing whatever we can get our hands on.

I have long loved fixing things. One of the first things I fixed was an old TV. It was so old it had tubes and a bad black & white picture. It lived in the basement of my foster-father’s (the Victorian relict) home. He literally loved that old TV, preferred it to the one in the living room with its clear, colour picture and cable connection and cool cartoons and MTV. He scoured old repair shops to buy tubes and replacement parts whenever necessary. I often watched him work on it, even accompanied him as he went in search of what he needed. Then one day, I decided to open the back of the TV - just to look. I wanted to fix it too. On another day, I removed a tube and then replaced it. On yet another day, I fiddled with some other bit of wiring. And on one final day, I removed several tubes and replaced them in random order. My plan was to put them back correctly but I didn't remember where they had been originally so I closed the back and hoped for the best. I hovered around the next time he turned it on and watched as it emitted a noisy phoof!, a crackle of sparks and a puff of smoke. I had killed it. He tried fixing it and I hoped he’d succeed but it was beyond repair. Finally, he gave it to the owner of one of the repair shops and wiped tears from his eyes as it was taken away.

It would be grand if I could say I learned my lesson. I didn't. I fixed clocks, a walkman (at the beach, which was really stupid – no schematic and lots of sand), lamps, toys - all sorts of electrical and mechanical items. I fixed clothing and food and, for years, I worked on fixing myself. I’ve even tried to fix other people: there was the boyfriend I invited to dinner which was actually a set up to be criticized for several hours by me and my best friend; others have experienced my attempts to fix them too. Occasionally, my ministrations worked. Too often, they failed. Still, to this day, I honestly can’t say I’ve totally stopped trying to fix things or people (including myself).

At some point, I did begin to realize that I’m horribly inept at fixing things. I also came to see that I wasn't the only one with that problem. This desire to fix is a human condition. We perceive a problem and rush to fix it. Many of the horrors throughout history involve smart people fixing problems.

There are real problems that need to be healed. We are really broken and have real wounds. This is truly a fallen world. But we don’t know how to fix those problems. We’re inept whether we like it or not. We actually tend to make matters worse, often much worse. We forget we are not God. We don’t know much about how things ought to be. And we really don’t know what we’re doing.

Who amongst us would have saved the world by dying on a cross? And not saved us in sensible fashion, making everything clear and easy and genuinely safe? But rather saved us by giving us the choice to become like God through accepting something that isn't at all clear or easy or safe (at least not our definition of safe which includes not scary), accepting the cross? Who amongst us wants the cross? Who believes it actually does save? Isn't that one of the hardest things to believe?

My health has taken a very serious turn this past week or so. I’ve entered a new phase in being ill, have been out on disability since Monday. I can’t imagine getting better. The pain is bad - even 1000 mg of Vicodin four times a day isn't enough to ease the ache in my joints and blood vessels and abdomen. I certainly don't want this and I do hope the cadre of doctors treating me finds answers soon because I really, really want them to fix me. But this is what I have been given. This is my salvation. Even if it ends tomorrow, today, this is my salvation. And not only mine but hopefully, God is using it to help heal China and to care for a friend who is serving in Iraq. Still, it’s very, very difficult to imagine that my pain is somehow useful. I can’t hover and watch. All I can do suffer and hope.

That would be a great campaign slogan: Suffer and hope! But politicians don't run on such promises and we don't want them to. We want them to fix things even though, if we are honest, we know they can't – they’re at least as inept as I am. (God has done well not making me a politician.) And we do our best to believe they will. Even though we know party X is no better than party Y because both are made up of humans, we still put our hopes in X or Y. But that's also human - we hunger for a saviour. And even Catholics and other Christians forget that we have a Saviour and that he is the only one who can really fix things and us. And of course, if we're really honest, sometimes we don't forget it at all, we just reject the cross. Worse still, sometimes we actively embrace destruction for ourselves and others because we imagine that doing so will fix things.

Of course this piece is not just the musings of a fevered Catholic – I haven’t the energy for that. Rejecting the cross and embracing destruction are never private actions. They have repercussions, just as fixing my foster-father’s TV did. And sometimes those repercussions are huge. Sometimes they are so huge an a-political Catholic must speak out. Abortion is one of those times.

Some Catholics support Barack Obama and/or other candidates who endorse and work for abortion. It makes no sense. Many of those candidates honestly seem to believe that abortion is a way to fix things and many of their Catholic supporters honestly seem to believe the same thing. I’ve been engaged in a bit of an exchange with supporters of one such candidate and they do seem to be genuinely full of good intentions and desires. But it makes no sense for people who believe that God became an infant to support killing infants. Well actually, it does make sense if I remember it is horribly difficult to accept the cross. For a woman, there are times, when pregnancy is terrifying. When I was a teenager, I was once afraid I was pregnant. I remember the abject terror. That terror was as much the cross as anything I’m experiencing today.

Those who are anti-abortion tend to write and speak about abortion mostly from the perspective of saving babies. That’s exactly as it should be. An unborn baby cannot be his own advocate, cannot help himself. Anytime we let our voices be used on an unborn baby’s behalf we do a good thing. And we must do our best to protect babies.

Still, there are also foolish young girls as well as young girls who are victims of child abuse. There are terrified young women and older women. There are pressured women and women who are convinced the child they carry is a mistake who will ruin their lives, who is better off dead than living the kind of life they can offer, the kind of life society can offer. There are all sorts of girls and women facing the cross. And perhaps we who are anti-abortion forget their sufferings must also be remembered because it’s genuine suffering. Facing the cross is excruciating. It’s f---ing hard to face the cross. We can’t change it. We can’t fix it but only because the cross is not broken – it’s just horribly difficult. But no matter how difficult, the cross is the one thing that fixes every brokenness.

So its time to ask God to add Catholics who support abortion to the list of uses for this illness. And I’d like to ask you all to join me in prayer and asking God to use your sufferings for the same purpose. Catholics who support abortion are in desperate need of healing. We know that abortion cannot fix any problem, but instead murders babies and is the destruction of those who participate in it. And while the babies are with God, those who participant in it are choosing hell and leading others astray by preaching the message that it is good for Catholics to support abortion because abortion will fix this experience of the cross. It is a lie and we all know it. It is intolerable. It is a brokenness that cries out to be repaired and only God can do it. But we can participate. We can suffer and hope on behalf of those who will not.

(Those who are not Catholics also need our prayers. Still Catholics who support/engage in abortion are brothers and sisters who desperately need the prayers of their family.)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Off To Boston

Caros todos -

Today, I am off to Boston for medical tests and treatment decisions and whatever else they decide to do to me. I don't know how long I'll be there, how long I'll be in hospital - actually, I won't know much of anything until I arrive and see the first of what may well be many doctors. (It's as if I'm a Jaguar being sent off for major diagnostics and refurbishment.)

All I can say about what I'm feeling right now is exhausted. Of course, I packed too much into this weekend - seeing people and preparing to go (I'd still like to get to Dean and Deluca for more jelly beans before I depart). And I've still got packing left to do but fortunately, that's mostly pajamas and medicine (that would be an interesting name for a novel or a film). Your prayers are appreciated. I'll keep you all in my prayers too.

Um grande abraço.

UPDATE: Boston looks to be an experience that will last throughout the summer. They sent me back to New York but I will return for cardiac and pulmonary catheterization on the 21st of July. Then back to New York and probably, back to Boston at least one more time.

A few months ago, I had hoped to make a pilgimage with my parish to Lourdes and Fatima (they're going in August). And even when I realized their itinerary would be too intense for me, I hoped to meet them there - St. Bernadette is my confirmation saint and Our Lady of Lourdes became a dear friend in my childhood and has remained so ever since. But it seems I shall be making a different pilgrimage this year. Thank God I am a parishioner at The Church of Notre Dame in New York City which is affiliated with the Shrine of the Blessed Mother in Lourdes, so that worshipers in New York City may obtain the same spiritual benefits as worshipers at Lourdes, including the plenary indulgence granted to pilgrims to Lourdes during the 150th anniversary year of the apparitions. It would be lovely to go to Lourdes (I have never been) and yet I have Lourdes as often as I wish which is immense grace.

Friday, June 13, 2008

So, I Am Still Very Sick...

...which is the way it rolls here on earth. I would love to write about other things but for now, that won't be happening. I have been thinking that perhaps I should share some of my experience dealing with this illness. Such sharing will be brief - I'm so exhausted these days and still trying to work. But since this is what God has given me, I think I'd rather share what I can rather than continue to wait until I am well enough to write about other things.

Just over a year ago, I was awakened by chest pain and went off to the hospital. The cardiologist checked the left side of my heart for coronary artery disease and when he found my arteries clear, decided all was well. But, I've had pulmonary hypertension for several years which affects the right side of the heart and the lungs and though the cardiologist knew it, he did not check further.

At the same time, this has been a very bad year for me in regards to the autoimmune illnesses with which I live. They must be kept under control or the pulmonary hypertension will get worse. My rheumatologist hasn't been aggressive in treating me so now both my autoimmune illnesses and the pulmonary hypertension are worse. The first have left me nearly disabled - I work and crash and haven't even enough energy most days to eat properly (but since I haven't the energy to go shopping, there's not much to eat in my house anyway). The second has made it necessary for me to sit and rest two or three times while climbing the three flights of stairs to my apartment and unable to walk more than a few blocks without becoming dizzy and out of breath.

The week after next, I am being sent from New York (which isn't at the cutting edge of medical research) to Boston for in-depth medical tests and treatment decisions. (It seems Massachucetts General is actually at the cutting edge of medical research and care.) I don't find the tests terribly scary but I do find being away from my friends and home daunting. Also, I won't know how long they will keep me there until Tuesday or Wednesday - I would prefer to have definite parameters.

Fortunately, I will be staying with friends of friends from Communion & Liberation so I won't be alone. And I find myself remembering that God knows what he is doing and is taking care of me as he has always done. I'm grateful too. Pulmonary hypertension is fatal fairly quickly if not treated properly but God has given me a job that priovides me with great health and disability insurance so I can go to the best hospital and get the best treatment. And while some of my doctors have failed to provide the level of care I need, God has given me others who not only do their jobs but go out of their way to get me the best care available. And the Church is there in Boston too.

I remember when I came to this country as a numb five year-old child who understood nothing that was happening, who only knew her Friend was there in the midst of the big, strange world. Today, I understand a bit more including the knowledge that I participate in the Body of Christ. My Friend is still with me and I have so many other friends. Thank you for your prayers. Please continue to do so; you are all in my prayers too.

*Pulmonary hypertension has nothing at all to do with regular hypertension and can't be treated the same way.

Monday, January 28, 2008

I'm Still Here...

...but I've been quite ill and the amount of pain medication I'm taking seems to preclude writing and most other things as well. I pray this latest flare up will be under control soon and once it is, there will be new posts.