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

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?