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

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Much Needed Break Day

Part three of Catholic Witness coming tomorrow or the next day. Today was a dr's appt kind of day. Yesterday afternoon, as I was writing part two, I received a call from the last dr who hadn't sent info to the insurance co. He was faxing my records as we spoke. Please, please pray that this whole waiting to receive insurance payments issue will be finally resolved very soon.

In the meantime, I found this compelling.

"For ourselves, we shall resist [slavery] by speech and vote, and with all the abilities which God has given us. Even if overcome in the impending struggle, we shall not submit. We shall go home to our constituents, erect anew the standard of freedom, and call on the people to come to the rescue of the country from the domination of slavery. We will not despair; for the cause of human freedom is the cause of God.”

Monday, March 22, 2010

Catholic Witness & Those Who Bear The Imprint of Hell

”…my body flesh is learning Christ's mercy.”

Fallen Sparrow and I often discuss that people don't know how bad it is out there. Most people don't. And with the exception of two with whom I’m particularly close, most of my friends don't know how bad it was for me. If they have read this blog, they know some of it - just as all my readers do. Conversations with me reveal more. But there are things I share with no one. And then a time comes when they must be shared. This is one of those times.

For long, my first memory was of standing with my mouth pressed against a rusty, dusty screen door looking at adults reclining and children playing beside a creek. In the distance there was a thicket of trees. I did not know who the people were. I did not know where I was. I did not even know my name. But I knew I wasn't alone. A Presence was with me, it was almost tangible. A woman shouted at me: "go and finish your nap!" I ran back into a bedroom, climbed into the lower bunk, stared up at the rungs of the bed above and shrugged to the Presence. That Presence has been with me ever since. I came to know Him as my Friend. Through everything else that has ever happened to me, that Presence has been with me. It is important to remember that. It helps.

I've written much about the man who "raised" me and many of the horrible things he did. But there were some horrors that neither he nor his wife directly visited on me. He had children and foster-children. In particular there was his eldest daughter who used her seniority to arrange our lives as if we were in a brothel. She assumed that we all ought to be having sex with at least one of the other children in the house. It did not matter that I was not quite five and had no ability to give any sort of consent. She simply assigned boys to have sex with me and that was that. Except it wasn't. When she wanted satisfaction and none of the boys was available, or later when her boyfriend wasn't available, she used me. Imagine being eight years old and having a sixteen year old thrust her fist into your body? Imagine lying there and waiting for it to be over or hoping it hurt because that's what you deserved? That was my life. Not every day but on many occasions, whenever I was desired.

For me, it all ended one night when I was about thirteen. I had begun to worry about getting pregnant and I just didn't like it: I had a Catechism under my mattress that told me such activities were wrong. I heard sermons in my foster-father’s Church that said the same. I didn't want to be that way and I didn't want it in my life. But I didn't know what to do. When I was desired, I was supposed to remove my clothes and let it happen. But that night my foster-father came home late and the lights were out in my room and when I heard him coming up the stairs I pushed my foster-brother away, put on my nightie and turned on my television. My foster-father pounded on my door and we opened it; by then my foster-brother was dressed. We asked what he wanted, told him we were just watching TV. He gave us an odd look. I bought a lock, put it on my door and when I heard a knock and a voice asking for entry, I said, "No." And when that voice insisted, I said, "No." And I kept saying, "No" until they stopped knocking. And through it all I asked God to please help me to continue saying “No.”

I paid for saying it. They were seriously confused that I would refuse to have sex. I was beaten up, my secrets betrayed, one of my foster-brother's threatened to kill me. Even after I learned my foster-father was dead, I knew I could never return. Though I have often longed for a family and there have been those who suggested I might seek out some of my foster-siblings because they are the closest thing to family I have, I've never returned. There is much I've come to understand about the people who lived in that house and why they behaved as they did and much I will never know this side of heaven. Many children went through that house. As far as I know, they were all sexually abused – if not before then certainly while they lived there. Some introduced new experiences of abuse. One thing I do know, that was not family. That was not even a whacked out, crazy family. When you put it all together, when you realize that the children were as vindictive and destructive as the adults*, when you accept that each person's purpose was to dominate and enslave those below them, then you realize that was an image of hell "and I alone have escaped to tell you"** because of my Friend.

But He didn't exempt me from the horrors of hell. He allowed me to live there for 11 years. And when I tried to leave, tried to enter the foster-care system and get a new set of foster-parents and a new home, I learned that there was even worse out there. My foster-father wasn't poor. Add poverty and you get a whole new level of horror. So back I went to hell. And hell left an imprint in my flesh. From a very young age, I was repeatedly dehumanized. I was at the service of others rage and hatred and sexual desire and just plain boredom. I have spent many years since working to become human. It’s not an easy job. Therapy helped. More knock down, drag out fights with God than I can remember worked wonders. Coming to see that God really loves me and is the Friend who has always been with me made a huge difference. Human friends have helped enormously. And then I returned to the Church and being made human took on a whole new meaning.

I've always been a helpful, outwardly cheerful (inwardly too for a number of years now), caring person and that has helped me make friends. But in returning to the Church I found the kind of friends I never imagined. Not only do they not make it their mission not to hurt me, they make it their mission to love me. There are times when I'm like a burn victim having all the charred flesh scrubbed away, that's just how much they love me. I've awakened in a hospital bed to find a woman I hardly know has come to visit me. I've needed an escort home from the hospital and that same woman has been there - even if given just an hour or two of notice. I've needed help paying my rent these past few months and she helped me. And others have helped me. They've remembered my birthday and bought me toys and fruitcake and listened to me speak and responded as if what I was saying made sense and come to my home to feed me when I'm undergoing chemo and looked sternly at me for doing too much. I even had breakfast prepared for me in my own kitchen by a Jesuit Seminarian in his "SWAT gear" uniform and another friend even brought an upside-down doughnut cake.

Many of my friends will recount what I have done for them but they don't know what they are doing for me: they help me become human! Not fully human but just human. They help me become free to choose for myself so I needn't just remove my clothes and let it happen. This is what Christian witness does for those of us who bear hell’s imprint. It binds us back together. It gives us life. This is why Catholics need to get off their duffs and become active in the public forum because I am not unique. God how I wish I were. I am one of many, many imprinted souls. And I've known that for years. Some of the girls I knew at university, all from homes at least as "privileged" as mine, spoke of "fooling around" with their brothers. Brothers pimp their preteen sisters. Older cousins rape their younger cousins. Mothers and fathers sexually abuse their children. Sex parties are the norm for too many 13 year old kids. And all that sexual abuse, even when it's not considered abuse, does something to a child. It makes them hard. It leaves a deep imprint that poisons the rest of life unless it is healed and only Christ and we Christians letting Him use us in Christian friendship can really do the job.

You don't know how important extending an invitation to brunch is. It doesn't matter if you're shy, it's an easy thing to do. Do it. You don't know how important having a few people over for tea or a movie or a chat is. Do it. So many of us never learned to make a home, never learned to invite people, can't imagine why you'd invite us. Do it. It isn't help from the government we need. It's an invitation to lunch or dinner. Those of us who bear the imprint of hell need the friendship of those who had normal, healthy childhoods. And we need the friendship of those who are having their humanity restored too because we need to know it’s possible. We need to know that Christ comes to save us from the damnation others try to visit upon us. He comes through us. He comes through you.

Our country is in grave peril. We know that. Many traditional Catholics believe impurity is a root cause of that peril and that novenas to Our Blessed Mother are the response. Well perhaps some of those novenas got me to finally write this piece and I hope I’ve opened the can of worms that shows you don’t know what impurity is. Prayers of all sorts are certainly necessary to heal our land but they won’t replace Christian friendship. After the Annunciation, Mary visits Elizabeth. After Mass and holy hours and novenas, we need to visit one another and include those outside our regular group. Ultimately, the imprint of hell is a lie. It burns. It scars. But it needn’t destroy. If we are willing to be friends to others as Christ is to us, our people and our land would flourish.

* My foster-father was investigated for rape. His eldest daughter made the charge. The results were inconclusive.
** Job 1:15

He Always Intended To Vote For The Bill

I and many others read Bart Stupak's comments from the article in the National Review Online (which was unavailable as I wrote this piece) or in LifeSite News:

"If you pass the Stupak amendment, more children will be born, and therefore it will cost us millions more. That’s one of the arguments I’ve been hearing [from Democrat leaders],” Stupak said in a phone interview published Friday. “Money is their hang-up. Is this how we now value life in America? If money is the issue — come on, we can find room in the budget. This is life we’re talking about.”

But this video from over a year ago tells a radically different story:

We must repeal this bill! And we must get them out of our house! We have no time to waste, no time to lose.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Catholic Witness and the Healthcare Bill

Fallen Sparrow sent me the link to this First Things article. It is well worth a read as are many of the comments both to enhance our catechesis and to learn the dismal state of many in the Church today. We need to do some work cleaning our own house.

I strongly ecommend Grace McLoughlin's comments at 3.20.2010/12.00 p.m. and Matt Beck's at 3.20.2010/10.19 p.m. My comment, which hadn't appeared as of the time of this post, is below:

Obebedience to the teaching Magisterium is central to what it means to be a faithful Catholic. We may like it or hate it but that's the choice.

In most of the world, people are subject to the state. In the United States, the state is subject to the people. And that puts American Catholics in an odd position. Whereas we are accustomed to being subject to the Church and to the state, here we are subject to the Church and we are each sovereign. We owe obedience to the Church, the government is our servant. We must get that through our head. This is what it means to be an American Catholic.

I am so grateful that Bishop Chaput has made it clear that the nuns who have come out in support of the health care bill are causing confusion amongst the faithful. I am also grateful to God that abortion, conscience protection or any other issues cause the bishops to oppose this bill because whereas abortion is an absolute deal breaker (the blood of 50 million babies is already on our hands) I don't think the bishops have gone far enough.

As Grace commented, subsidiarity is also central to Church teaching. In simple terms, we are to govern our own selves and love our neighbours as locally as possible. We cannot get away with sending a cheque to DC in the form of taxes and have DC love our neighbour for us. We must do it ourselves because the goal of this whole thing is holiness and we only get that by loving one another as Christ loves us.

Charity is a good thing. Church charity, local charity, personal charity are all good things. The Church teaches that health care is a right but how we provide it is left to us. The Church (both Catholics and other Christian denominations) provides an enormous amount of charity health care. We need to support them with our money. We need to provide for our brothers and sisters who are in need, which many do. It's our job. The state can't do it.

Accepting charity is tough. I know this personally. As I write this, I am disabled and in pain (in 15 min I can take my pain meds). I am in one of the many doughnut holes waiting for my disability insurance company to begin making payments to me. Disability has always been part of my salary package and I have paid for it for many years. I never intended to get sick and am hoping to either get better or figure out something I can do to earn a living while being sick. But right now, I'm too sick to work and don't have any savings left and I must wait. But in my wallet are a number of cheques from friends and friends of friends that will pay for meds and utility bills and food. Friends have paid my bills over the past three months. Of course, I can't buy clothes but then I don't need any clothes. I've been fine. I've had what I need. I've had to give up my pride. It hurts. Being homeless and without food and medicine would hurt more. My pride isn't worth keeping. I've been afraid and then I've asked for help and the community in which I live my life has helped me and I am beginning to be less afraid of being in need, in general - my body flesh is learning Christ's mercy.

Charity is a good thing. And it is available to those who want it. It's easier if one is part of a community but it is available to those who want it. We need to do a better job of letting that be known. And we need the Church to stop making negative statements about picking up the pieces of a flawed healthcare system. That is the Church's job and it's a good thing. (It would be even better if we could get rid of the flawed healthcare system but that's another post.)

We have a nation of people who are badly catechised, have poorly formed consciences and are poorly educated as citizens. The Church must do a better job of catechising us. We need the bishops and our parish priests, to remind us regularly of Church teaching on the sanctity of life AND of social teaching including subsidiarity (which many have never heard of before). We need homilies and teaching on pride and all the other deadly sins. We need modern references for humility and love. We need the Church to be more specific and proclaim Church teaching rather than the general homilies about how special we are and how much God loves us.

I pray this bill doesn't pass because I am sick and though I have private health insurance, I will be one of the many who are given pain meds and sent off to die because it is too expensive to pay for my healthcare. I pray it doesn't pass because I know babies will continue to be slaughtered on the altar of convenience. I pray it doesn't pass because the elderly will die of treatable illnesses because some central bureaucracy decides it's too expensive. I pray it doesn't pass because suicide will be recommended. If this bill is passed and actually enacted, death and misery will spread throughout the country but we will have paid our taxes so it won't be our fault.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Nation of Prayer: Something We Can All Do

The National Prayer Caucus is a great place to begin. Commit to pray five minutes per week and participate in a 24/7/365 wall of prayer surrounding our nation.

Dems Tell Us What They Think About The Healthcare Bill

Because the blood of 50 million dead babies cries out to God for justice, because I am one of those who will be given pain meds and allowed to slowly die since my healthcare is too expensive (even though I pay for my own insurance), because I love my country, I say, "Wake up! Get your heads out of the sand! Understand that if we don't get involved, our lives, the lives of our familiy members born and unborn, and, in fact, our very souls are on the line here!"

It's a simple question, will we live the life God has given us in the place He has put us? He has given us neither a king nor a parliment but rather has entrusted each of us with sovreignity. That means each one of us is in charge. We don't have the luxury of saying it's the fault of our elected officials because they're simply our servants whom we hired to do a job. If they're not doing the job, we must replace them with servants who will follow our instructions. We've been given something unique here and the question is, what will we do with it?

He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, `Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not winnow; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.' But his master answered him, `You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sowed, and gather where I have not winnowed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to every one who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.' (Matthew 25:24-30)

Time To Take Our Heads Out Of The Sand!

Are we scared enough yet? Do we understand the evil that we face. It comes down to abortion. It comes down to death. We must fast and pray and sacrifice and suffer and then do it all over again. We must sign petitions and go to our district offices and march on DC and do anything else we can lawfully do to get their attention. And to do that, we must take our heads out of the sand and stop pretending that the party of death is doing anything other than genuinely seeking more and more death. Moral is, we don't get the government to pay for our healthcare unless we allow government to kill our children.

Is that really what we want?

Friday, March 12, 2010

I'd Like To Learn To Follow

"Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?

I have begun dating again, which doesn't mean I've gone out on any actual dates but only that I have registered on a couple of Catholic dating sites and am talking with one man. Needless to say, I feel better than I did a few weeks ago even though I've now completed chemo infusions and am actually more physically tired than before and am still undergoing the experience of insurance companies and doctors not providing the requested information. But things have calmed down in my home and while registering on a dating site I remembered, I love life. I really, really love life. It's all banquet and I'm happy to be here.

About seven or eight years ago, I made a conscious decision to stop having sex unless I get married. I didn't stop going out with men, but deciding not to sleep with them meant I was going out with them less and less. For many of us here in New York (and I suspect elsewhere too), sex is simply part of dating, occurs on the first, second or third date and continues indeffinitely. Often, men and women will pair off for a few weeks or months but not always. It's not unusual for young New Yorkers to be "dating" several different "partners." It has become almost like shaking hands or kissing a friend on the cheek. Sex is expected, normal, not that big of a deal. And that was always my problem. I've always wanted it to be that big of a deal, always thought it should be one of the biggest deals in my life. Long before I made that conscious decision, I'd already stopped having sex with most of the men I dated.

Getting most (but by no means all) men to stop expecting that I'd sleep with them was easy. Many people know that God and I are "side-by-side," we hang together (in reality, He chooses to hang w/ me but language is so difficult to express these things). I decided to bring God into the conversation and fewer men expected me to be available. And then there was my wounded bird attitude, in which I presented myself as fragile because of being sexually abused as a child, and I really wanted sex but I also wanted a whole lot of other things that would assure me that the man I was with wasn't another abuser. I thought that was the truth - that I just wanted a man to take things slowly and "get to know me." I didn't realize that the truth was that just as I didn't blame God for killing my family or for the abuse I suffered, I didn't see every man as an abuser. I really like men. Enjoy flirting with them and wearing pretty clothes that please them and just being in their company. And I love sex which is why it ought to be a very big deal.

The real truth is that I was living out what I'd been taught: that all men are the enemy just waiting to abuse me, that I am better alone, that sex is for recreation because my body needs to be appeased from time to time. I was taught and kept insisting, I don't need you to take care of me without ever realizing that the corollary is, no one needs me to take care of him.

Illness changes things. When my body no longer does as I command (and for a dancer, that is bigger than big), my ability to control life is gone. Add a bunch of meds that make focus and concentration difficult and one is left with oneself. This past year, lying on my bed, watching old family comedies from the 50s and 60s because TV has become too loud and harsh, I've come to realize that loving and being loved are the best gifts God has given us. All the deep intellectual and spiritual conversations and research and writing and building a career are only so much crap if they take us into separate little worlds where we are walled off from one another. Making a home for a husband who cherishes me and protects me would be worth so much more than anything I've ever done in my life. No one ever taught me that when I was a girl. No one taught me that maybe it's enough to cook a delicious dinner, put on a pretty dress and make my husband happy.

The statistics are not in my favour and there are those who'd diagnose me as profoundly disturbed for venturing out into the fray. I'm not in the 25 - 35 age range that most men on the sites seem to want and without Divine intervention, can't have a child. I'm not a virgin and won't pretend to be. Sex is a big deal to me and I want it to be a big deal to the man I marry. (I think that makes me really scary to a lot of older men who are divorced-and-annulled or widowers or never marrieds.) Plus my health is bad and wind surfing along w/ sports of that sort are certainly not in my near future. It doesn't look good for me in the world of Catholic dating.

But I don't believe in statistics. I believe in God. And I believe that in this banquet, He has created a room for me and for the man who is willing to take the risk and love me exactly as I am, willing to risk that I will love him exactly as he is. I no longer have much else on my list of what he has to be - I'll leave it up to God to surprise me. (It would be lovely if he could teach me to dance the women's part. I was always one of the tallest girls in class and so learned to dance the man's role. I'd like to learn to follow.) And so I re-enter the fray, stroll around at the banquet and trust that God is bringing us both to that room. I've always loved parties and this is one I intend to enjoy to the fullest.

PS - Thank you dear, dear readers for all your prayers.

Thursday, March 04, 2010