Friday, October 24, 2014

Guilty Gifts from my Social Media Blackout

Joining 7 Quick Takes today.

Don’t send out a search party, I’m still alive! I’ve just been strictly off social media for the last thirty days to discern, fast and pray over something.  While I haven’t sorted the insights of the self-imposed “retreat,” I come bearing (guilty) gifts to share inspiring highlights of my sabbatical.

1.   This song “Ave Maria Alleluia” by Dan Kantor is my go-to song when I want to remember the peace that Jesus promised.  It's not the regular Ave Maria, fast forward to 1:30 if you don't believe me. (I’ve only been able to find it in youtube, but if you find it on i-tunes, please let me know the artist’s name.)

2. The latest book by Marino Restrepo Purgatory: Divine Mercy. Ohmygoodness, go get a copy and give yourself and the souls in purgatory a gift for All Souls Day.  Mr. Restrepo divides the book into four parts:  Church doctrine and teaching on purgatory as well as biblical basis for it, the writings and mystical experiences of the saints with the poor souls, Mr. Restrepo’s own experience and understanding based on his mystical experience, and the various prayers for the souls along with promises given by Jesus to the saints, as well as a comprehensive list of the means for obtaining plenary and partial indulgences for the souls.  

3.   The Covered Deep by Brandy Vallance.  Because mine was not a typical retreat, I indulged in fiction reading.  This Christian romance won my heart.  It has an impressive list of positive reviews from the Christian Writer’s Guild and it is worthy of every glowing praise.  A young woman dreams of a man of her prayers and finds one on a trip to the Holy Land. The heroine was just how I like them --strong , spiritual and a great role model for single young women.  The hero is a surprise but characterized with heroic virtue. The setting of a journey, a Christian pilgrimage was full of symbols and imagery, as a writer I often reread sentences to marvel at Ms. Vallance's literary skill.  If you like my kind of fiction, you'll want this on your shelf.

4.  We celebrated the Fatima Feast day with the Alliance of the Holy Family for a Family Night.  Being part of a procession with rosary and waving of white handkerchiefs/Kleenexes as is customary in Fatima was a treat for me.  My night photography still hasn't crawled out of beginner level, but this is all I could shoot of the floating rosary made of balloon beads.

5.  Have you heard of the short Marian consecration prayer sung this beautifully? 


The singers are from the Shoenstatt Shrine in my hometown. Schoenstatt began as a pilgrimage place in Germany.  In 1949, Fr. Kentenich invited a covenant with Our Lady and promoted the Shoenstatt devotion all over the world.  If you sign up for the pilgrim mother campaign, a replica of the miraculous picture of the Blessed Mother rotates around a group of families and visits your home once a month.  For the last 27 years, Our Lady has been a treasured monthly guest in our family. Shoenstatt apostolate celebrated 100 years this year as televised on EWTN.

6. Turns out my social media blackout protected me from all the hype and hysteria over the Synod.  I did hear some nervous murmurs questioning the Pope’s religion (second hand) but after I read his statement at the end of the Synod, St. Peter’s successor didn’t strike me as a dummy. So when we ran into him, I smiled and happily posed.

Sorry to cut off the little people but my selfie is a good enough gift, right?
            I guess more bold and opinionated bloggers would have jumped at the chance for a private audience teeming with unsolicited advice and fraternal correction ;) but I’m still hearting Pope Francis and I’m with Mark Mallet on his opinions about the Pope -- how I’ll have to pray (which I do!) and trust that the Holy Spirit is guiding him. 

7.  "What we Take to Heaven" by Michael H. Brown.  Having enjoyed “The Other Side,” I was excited to read this sequel.    There were several NDE stories and private revelation that I was familiar with, but there are also some undocumented new ones that managed to surprise me with insights on the afterlife.   I found the chapters on finding our life missions and the evil of criticism particularly reflective. This book is, like they say in the South, “Winner, winner, chickin’ dinner!” 

Enjoy the presents. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Failure and Fishing for Dolphins

The vast majority of my dolphin knowledge comes from spectacular Sea World shows. So when we vacationed in the Emerald Coast of Florida and saw them just off our condo beach, I was surprised to learn a lesson on dolphins, fishing …and failure.
Tip of the pier from our beach

            My husband and I strolled the wooden pier and spoke with a friendly local who was fishing on his day off.  When his line caught a fish, two dolphins swooped in on his catch, gave chase and tried to grab his fish as he was pulling up his catch.  The fish escaped.  The dolphins hung around directly where his line was, patiently waiting for him to catch another, underneath our line of vision so that I happily snapped photos. 

            “Dolphins are amazing creatures,”  the man said.  “But they are a pest to have around when you’re fishing!”

            We laughed, thanked him for chatting with us, wished him luck, and proceeded on our walk. He was gone by the time we made a full circle around the pier.

            I don’t know if he went home empty handed and bummed.  But I went home with lots of great close-up pictures of an unrehearsed show after a leisurely lunch date with my husband. Whether or not it was a good fishing day for the fisherman, I went home satisfied, feeling that God was a master artist who had fun showing off his fascinating creation.

            As I stared at the rise and fall of the ocean waves that afternoon, the whole incident made me reflect on the number of times I’ve failed –teaching math concepts over and over to a child who refuses to like it; re-writing or editing a manuscript that hits a snag; cleaning an oven or a kitchen floor that gets dirty right at the next meal time; going to Confession for the same “favorite” sins that I cannot kick; getting sick and cursing my cross instead of embracing it; or even evangelizing online and coming up empty handed. 

             Keenly, I felt the frustration of a fisherman who tossed a line out only to have a silly tourist snapping up pictures of his dolphin-competition.   I try to raise my children right, perfect a skill, be a good wife, cleanse my soul to perfection and preach on the side.  I haven’t gotten an award for any of those things, so far and probably never will.

             But what if I’ve been looking at the picture upside down?  What if the high points of my spiritual journey are exactly the wearisome moments that make me want to scream, “Aargh! I give up!”?

            Maybe I’m not the fisherman, and Jesus is.  Maybe God’s looking down from the pier next to Him, and what He sees instead of my failures is just a wild dolphin who tries to swim, catch a fish, come up for air, and attempts to serve Him everyday I get up.  Maybe He even thinks I’m fascinating, even when I’m not successful on the Sea World stage.


Friday, September 05, 2014

How is Evangelization Judging?

            This post is featured on Catholic Stand.
             “Don’t judge me!”

            A flabbergasted wrinkle joins my forehead. Wait. What? I’ve was just relating to a friend how the Church changed my mind about birth control, or maybe I was posting a funny meme about modest dress, or showing my picture joining a pro-life rally, when I heard those unbelievable words.

            How is evangelization judging?

  Evangelization, as defined by Pope Benedict XVI, is to:
 “propose anew the perennial truths of Christ’s gospel.”
 Rash Judgment, according to the Catechism 2477, is
“a fault against the eighth Commandment committed by one who assumes the moral fault of the neighbor to be true without sufficient foundation.”   

            Usually when I’m posting on social media, or engaged in social conversation, I’m evangelizing, not dwelling on the state of someone in particular’s soul.  Rarely am I imputing moral faults, weighing a soul’s aggravating or mitigating circumstance and banging on my gavel, condemning him to hell because no one died and made me judge.  

            Also, I’m probably yammering about things I believe in because they are important to me.  In the same way people openly discuss home decorating, health, sports, cars, or work, I like discussing the topic of faith and religion.   I don’t see anything wrong with that.  Everyone exchanges tips or voices out opinions all the time.  When someone says they’ve whipped up the perfect chocolate brownie recipe, they’re not automatically condemning everyone else’s box mix as dumpster worthless. When they tag people in a post inviting to a marathon, they’re not stoning those of us whose idea of fun is to sit on a beach chair sipping a berry smoothie for being a bag of lazy bones.

            The problem is that in evangelization, the concept of sin will be addressed directly or indirectly. There will be a moment when the audience will grasp that the perennial teachings of the Catholic Church have not modernized into accepting all behavior as good, and this is where the feeling of guilt crops up, defense mechanism kicks in, and someone feels “judged”.  In reality, the evangelizer has not declared another guilty beyond reasonable doubt, but a conscience is obviously prickled and the conscience judges itself guilty though the evangelizer hasn’t actually filed any charges.

            I recognize this feeling, somewhat. My feathers get ruffled when a conversation implies it’s cruel to have more than the average 2.0 children or a post huffs that it’s negligent to homeschool my children.  I feel angry, irritated, humiliated, misunderstood and defensive.  But I never throw around the ‘judged’ word lightly.  When I’ve had sufficient time to cool down and reflect, I realize that this person is not condemning me to hell, maybe he even had the best of intentions. But the bottom line is: I shouldn’t care much about his opinion if I’ve got one thing straight: he’s got no power to judge me. Jesus is my judge, and I will answer to Him alone.  

            Judgment is the Lord’s job. Evangelization is every Catholic’s.

            Evangelization is proposing the good news, and the good news is this: though we are all sinners, you as much as I, Christ died for us and we have a chance at eternal happiness if we follow the Way.  What is this way? Well, that’s what we’re trying to share! It’s a way to live, a truth to believe in, a person to love and obey. It’s shouting truthfully, excitedly, compassionately, charitably from the rooftops: “Come and see!” as Andrew told Peter.

            Most evangelizers would still sit next to a lady who doesn’t censor her cleavage; we’d still hug an old gay friend and find his jokes funny; and send Christmas cards to the co-worker who had an abortion. Love the sinner but not the sin.  But sadly, more often than not, it’s the “judged” party who takes offense and severs ties.

            The irony of being accused of being judgmental is that the accuser is presuming that the accused believes the worst about the accuser, when in reality evangelizers love the persons we’re interacting with though we disagree on major issues. Often, we’re just sharing the treasure we’ve uncovered or offering a general solution if anyone happens to be in the same boat we were stuck in. 

            Please, don’t judge us rashly. Evangelizers are not praying for Noah’s flood to wipe out the earth, but pleading and trusting in Jesus’ Divine Mercy for the whole world.


Friday, August 29, 2014

Love Story #11: Craig Loves Lucy

Please welcome a guest with an amazing love story written by St. Joseph and Our Lady, as narrated by Lucy...

My love story started when I left the noviciate after 18 months due to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and felt God speaking loud and clear to me that His plan for me was not to be religious life.  I rallied against it as I felt that the best way to serve God was obviously through religious life.  After all how many stories of the saints had I read about stay at home mums??

So I fought God about it but finally gave in and decided to start praying novenas to St. Joseph for a good husband. This was the only way I could see of ever getting married as I had a chronic illness, had to move back home with my parents and wasn’t able to work or go out socially much due to my health.  I needed a major miracle and thought God did it for Mary with St. Joseph so I’ll go straight to him.  There was a beautiful statue of St. Joseph in a side altar at my church, and I would often pine longingly in front of it.

Any male that darkened the door of a church was a potential object of dreamy desperation for me.  It was quite sad but true.  Not that I ever would have shown it, but in my mind we were already married with a vanful of kids by the time he had sat down in his pew.

I was like an eagle (or vulture?) with precise vision for the vaguest sight of movement that would allow me hone in on my potential target.  This was of course all in my mind as I felt, “What can I as a woman do?  I want the man to make the first move!”

I don’t remember how many novenas to St. Joseph I prayed, but it was quite a lot.  In the meantime, I began to get quite cranky with men in general.  I perceived a lazy kind of complacency amongst many of the Catholic men I knew.  Just kind of comfortable with all these girls around and no real interest in exclusive or committed relationship.  Sorry guys this was harsh and coming out of my impatience, so bear with me!

During my illness I had an idea of going on a “holiday”  from being sick.  My Dad’s family came from the other side of Australia (called Western Australia) and I had never visited there.  This was the only real option for me as my funds were limited.  A few weeks before I left, I had a sense of Our Lady sitting on the edge of my bed before I went to sleep one night and she said, “You will meet your future husband in the next month or 6 weeks at least.” 


Was I dreaming??

I thought that maybe my pining had taken on a life force of its own.  Nevertheless, I filed this thought away in the back of my brain.  I was very cautious about divine inspiration after my failed attempt at religious life.  I had been SO sure that God wanted me to be a nun and that all ended in disaster, so how could I know whether this was my imagination or not?

Well, off I flew to the other side of the country for 6 weeks.  During that time I was invited to a Catholic black tie dinner/dance by some girlfriends, and asked my Aunt who I was staying with, whether she knew of any boys we could ask to even up the numbers on the table.  She was a committed Pentecostal but was (freakishly) attending a Catholic prayer group where she did know of a fellow.  He was the second on her list after the first one said "no thanks".  His name was Craig and he was a convert.

Well, she called him and he said, “Sure but I am going to be joining the priesthood in a couple of months is that ok?”

She said, "No problem."

When she told me I thought, “Typical.  The only available Catholic male in this whole half of the country is going to be a priest.  I’m doomed.  DOOMED!”

He suggested coming over to meet me before the big night.  So we met at my Aunty’s home.  He called before he arrived and I just loved the sound of his voice.  Then he arrived and about 5 minutes into meeting, I was absolutely smitten.  Head over heels.  I spent the rest of the time with him trying not to make a fool of myself.  Then, that night I prayed, “Lord, I really like him, but if it is not your will and you wish him to be a priest then please take away this feeling I have for him.”

I then had a sense again of Our Lady sitting on the edge of my bed saying, “Rest assured.  He is the one.”

Then, I (ever so skeptical) said, “If that is true, he has to give me a red rose on the night of the ball."

Now I have never asked for a sign in my life, but I had this picture of him come into my head giving me a red rose, so I guess I just went with it.

The night arrived and downstairs I went.  Craig was chatting to my cousin in his tuxedo and NOT holding a red rose so I thought, “Great.  Clear sign.  Not the one.”

Then he said, “Hang on a minute, I’ve got something for you.”

He left the room and came back in with a single red rose.  Yep.  

Now I am trying to look calm on the outside while inside I am saying swear words no Catholic girl should say when a divine revelation swoops into her life.  Off to confession for that one.

I spent the night at the ball with a split personality.  The calm exterior and the stormy interior.  It is one thing to know God wants you to marry someone, but what if they don’t know it yet?  What if they still think they are meant to be a priest?  I made a decision then and there to say nothing to Craig about it but give him his free will.  I guess I didn’t want him to like me because he thought he HAD to because God told me this.  I decided I would tell him if or when he ever proposed to me.  I had a while to wait. 

It was a couple of months before he joined the seminary, then spent 3 months there before deciding it wasn’t God’s will for him.  A week after leaving he called me and asked me out.  We started “going out” (we don’t tend to say “dating" here).  We went to Mass one day at my church and after Mass Craig said he was going to have a pray.  I looked across the church and there he was kneeling in front of the same statue of St. Joseph that I had prayed and pined before so many times. 

We also worked out he was converted at the time all those years earlier when I had first begun those novenas.  His conversion was from a pagan background and he was literally “zapped” by God while working on an oil rig in the North Sea.  But that’s a whole other universe.

A year later, we were engaged on the Feast of the Annunciation.

Then married the following year on the 1st January, 1998.  The Feast of Mary, Mother of God.

16 years later and the Lord is continuing to bless us.  Time and again we marvel at His work in us.

Thanks for allowing me to share my story.