An Ever-Present Mystery

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Suffering.  Death.  Resurrection.  Ascension.  These themes are very present to us as we continue on our Lenten Journey into Holy Week.  Every year we are reminded of the Passion of our Lord.  Every year we are thankful for His Suffering, Death and Resurrection, and every year we are at risk of becoming complacent about this awesome Mystery.  I know, it sometimes is hard not to feel complacent about it.  We are comfortable with it.  I think in some respects that’s a good thing.  If we can be confident in God’s Love for us, if we can be sure of our redemption, than good for us!  But this confidence and comfort doesn’t detract from the awesome and glorious fact that Jesus suffered because of our Sins, Conquered Death, and then defied Death as He Rose from the Dead; and no amount of comfort or confidence can ever fully explain the Great and Awesome Mystery that is the Paschal Mystery.

Oh great.  I though this was going to be an interesting blog post about something that has to do with femininity.  Instead, its going to be a Lenten lecture. Blech.

Not quite.  Oh yes, this is a post about the Paschal Mystery – but most certainly not a lecture about the more common talking points of the subject.  What I would like to present to you for your consideration and meditation is that the Paschal Mystery plays itself out in our daily lives.

You’re talking about the suffering, Death, and Resurrection of Christ, right?

Yes.  The Pascal Mystery.  It surrounds us.  In fact, this is part of the Mystery!  When we reference a “Mystery” in the light of our Faith, we aren’t necessarily talking about something that is not understandable.  Rather, when we say something is a “mystery” we mean that it is still being revealed, that our understanding is continually growing.  It also often means that we will not fully understand it until we are in Heaven, but that while on earth, we can continue to gain deeper understanding and knowledge.  Isn’t that amazing?  For the rest of our lives we can gain a deeper and deeper, a more profound understanding of the Paschal Mystery, and yet we’ll never really get to the bottom of the whole mystery until we are in Heaven!  God loves to constantly reveal His Truth to us in new ways – this is what comes from a life of interiority (see the previous post The Inferiority if Interiority )

So what is there for us to learn about the Paschal Mystery of Christ?  I mean it sounds pretty cut and dry – Christ suffered, He died on a Cross, He was buried, and then He rose from the dead, and later  Ascended into Heaven, and then sent His Spirit to His Apostles and Mother.  Right?  Thats why we are all gearing up for Easter and eating a lot more fish  and pizza lately…what more is there to it?

Perhaps one of the most amazing aspects of the Paschal Mystery is that it is still playing out.  In fact when you live a life of Interiority, when you are in Communion with God, it plays out every day.  When you look through the eyes of Faith, you see the Paschal Mystery everywhere – even in creation itself.  Look at the butterfly.  It starts out as a caterpillar – an ugly black or brown wormy thing.  Then it ‘dies.’  It stays in its tomb-like cocoon and when it emerges, it is a beautiful, delicate butterfly!  What a lovely and gentle image of the Paschal Mystery!  Think now of a seed.  It is dead, for all intents and purposes.  Yet, when planted it will grow and become a strong and tall tree, or a fragrant blossom.  What about the seasons?  In many parts of the world there is a season of ‘new life’ which follows a season of dryness, rain, or winter.  These may sound simplistic, yet they are just some of the many ways God keeps the Paschal Mystery constantly before us.

I think its safe to say that most of us know that the Paschal Mystery is is presented to us every time Mass is celebrated, (I mean, we all sing the “Christ has died, Christ is Risen, Christ will come again” ditty semi-robotically) but do we really realize that its happening right before our eyes?  Mass is like a Time Machine – transporting us back to Calvary, for His suffering and death, then to the Tomb – which is empty, then to the Mount of Olives (Mount Olivet) for His Ascension, and finally to the upper room for the Descent of the Spirit.  The Mystery of the Paschal Event is that while we remember and recall these things through the words and actions of the Priest at Mass, they are made present for us at the same time.  Made Present. As in right here, right now.  That is hard to completely bend your mind around – and yet it is the Truth – and part of the Mystery.  We’ve all heard that the Lord loves to reveal Himself to us – all the time if we let Him – but did you ever stop to contemplate whether He ever reveals Himself to us through the complete Mystery of His Suffering and Death, Resurrection and Ascension?

The Paschal Mystery is in many ways one of the linchpins of our Faith – the fact that Christ became Man – fully and totally Human, cannot be divorced from this Great Mystery.  It is in this Mystery that we find the Sacraments – Heavenly realities made manifest by earthly actions and objects.  Outward signs of Inward Grace, instituted by Christ for our Sanctification (Catechismus concil. Trident., n. 4, ex St. Augustine“De Catechizandis rudibus”).  They are also a means by which we participate in the Paschal Mystery.  The theme of a resurrection after suffering a “death” is present in the sacraments themselves.  Baptism is a re-birth into the Life of the Church and into the Life of Christ – it is a death to sin – particularily the Sin of Adam.  Reconciliation is also a death to sin – and a rebirth, a Resurrection, into Grace – the Life of Christ in our Souls – and one that we can avail ourselves of as often as necessary.  What of the Eucharist?  The Body and Blood of Our Lord – the Word made Flesh?   In the Eucharist we see the entire Paschal Mystery available for us to literally internalize.  The God-Man, our Savior, who suffered, conquered death, and Rose to new life, is totally present to us in the Species of Bread and Wine.    The Eucharist is the “Source and Summit of the Christian Life” (CCC 1324), and it is also therefore an embodiment of the Paschal Mystery.

What of the other Sacraments?  There are seven, after all?  The Sacrament of Confirmation celebrates the Coming of the Spirit – and the reception of His Gifts – our own personal Pentecost – which is the fruit of the Paschal Mystery – for at His Resurrection, Christ promised to send His Paraclete to His Disciples and Mother (and by extension – to Us!).  The Anointing of the sick – Extreme Unction – is a preparation for our souls’ own Ascension into the Heavenly Kingdom – a culmination of our earthly journey towards sanctification.  The two “sacraments of service’ – the vocational sacraments – Holy Orders and Matrimony – exemplify the Paschal Mystery in a very particular sense.   Holy Orders is a participation in the Life of Christ on a very profound level.  For women who enter into the Consecrated Life as sisters, they take Christ, Himself as their Spouse.  Brides of Christ they become, and in that sense they become Wedded to the Paschal Mystery of the God-Made-Man.   They ‘die’ to themselves and to the world, renouncing earthly life to give us a glimmer of the next.   Isn’t this what Christ did as well?  Likewise, men who become Consecrated Religious  as monks and Brothers give us a glimpse of the Heavenly Reality of the Loving Relationship that God desires to have with each of us.   Men who become priests enter into the Paschal Mystery in a different way from other religious.  They literally become “other Christs.”  They act “in persona Christi Capitis”  (in the person of Christ, the Head) meaning that “In the ecclesial service of the ordained minister, it is Christ himself who is present to his Church as Head of his Body, Shepherd of his flock, high priest of the redemptive sacrifice, Teacher of Truth.” (CCC 1548).  What a profound way to enter into the Life of the Paschal Mystery!  To actually embody it in the Person of Christ!  In this Year of the Priest, let us think on the Great Mystery that our Priests live every day – they live the Paschal Mystery – some of them very deeply, as they take on the Sufferings of Christ, as they die to themselves and to the world, and as they witness to the Resurrection.  Let us be thankful for the crucial role they play in aiding us along the way of Salvation!

The Sacrament of Matrimony is one I would like to spend a little more time on.  Many of you, dear readers, I know, find yourselves called to this vocation – whether or not your present situation is one in which you are married, engaged, dating, or hoping (waiting on the Lord…and Mr. Right!).   Marriage is particularly unique in its embodiment of the Paschal Mystery, because  in this one sacrament the entire Paschal Mystery plays out, sometimes in dramatic fashion.  How I wish I had learned early on that Marriage reflects the Paschal Mystery!  What Hope that might have given me during the more difficult times of my marriage!  What Joy I would have felt – better able to embrace the ‘tough times’ as my crosses on my road to a resurrection of sorts!   But I get ahead of myself!

We’ve all heard more than once (a lot more, if you are engaged or newly married) that ‘marriage takes work.’  We’ve all heard that at some point the ‘honeymoon ends and reality sets in.’   We’ve all heard that ‘you will grow’ and ‘your relationship changes.’  None of these pearls of Wisdom ever seemed very hopeful or comforting to me.  More than once after being offered such sage advice I caught myself thinking, “What am I getting myself into!!??”  What I didn’t realize was that I was jumping right into the Paschal Mystery of Christ!  Think of a Marriage as a timeline of sorts of Jesus’ Life.  The joy of the Birth of Christ reflected in the Wedding Day – a new beginning, a new life as two become one.  A journey begun, and a sacrament entered.  Just as God became Man at the Incarnation, so too do Two become One, with the promise of accepting the blessings of the union, should the Spirit allow procreation.  After a while – be it a month, 3 months, a year or several years, the relationship does change, it feels as though the honeymoon is over.    But this is because you are now entering into the throws of the Paschal Mystery!  You are picking up your Crosses.   Sometimes your vocation is your Cross – there will be days when you do not feel anything towards your spouse, worse yet, there may even be days when all you feel is resentment.  There will be sickness, there will be disagreements, there will be discord.  The Evil One uses these times to the best of his nefarious advantage.  He seeks to exploit the times when you are on your own road to calvary to destroy your marriage and lie to you about the fact that there will be a Resurrection.  So many divorces and separations occur at this time!  See, the secret is, since your Marriage mirrors the Paschal Mystery – there will be times of struggle – heart-ache even.   BUT these are the times to “pick up your cross and follow Christ.”  These are the times to reflect on the fact that you are living the Paschal Mystery – and to HOPE, for there is a Resurrection.  What is in between?   Yep.  The Crucifixion.

Oh, great, Laura, stop right there, I am becoming a nun.  Can I get an annulment?  – that doesn’t sound like fun! Now, hold up, before I single-handedly increase enrollment at all the convents in the country (and beyond), let me explain.  The Crucifixion was Christ’s Death on the Cross.  It is what directly precipitated His Rising from the Dead, and His New and Glorified Life.  The long road of suffering and temptation was before the Crucifixion – the Crucifixion was the final act – the culmination.  Dare I say that in some way, perhaps it was a relief?  That once on the Cross Our Lord knew that the end of His suffering was near, and that this gave Him Hope?  On the Cross, Jesus gave His tremendous Act of Surrender to the Father, and spoke Words of Tremendous Love about those who Crucified Him, “Father, forgive them.”   This is what I mean when I talk about the Crucifixion we face in Marriage.  It is a death – but a death to SELF – living for the other.  Loving surrender.  Love, dear readers, is an act of the will, much more than it is a feeling.  Christ proved that on the Cross.  Do you think He felt warm and starry-eyed and fuzzy for the three excruciating hours that He hung there?  Yet that is known as the ultimate act of Love.  That is what is required of us in marriage – total surrender to the Father of All, and a total death to self.  Depending on the crosses we may be carrying, to Act out of Love for the other may seem no less than heroic.

Do not be Afraid!  Do not feel intimidated!  It is the crosses, and the Self-Scarifice – the death to Self, that bring about the Resurrection – and this my friends is well worth it!  My husband and I like to joke with our friends, “You name it, we’ve been through it.”   This really isn’t far from the Truth!  But what continues to amaze me is that we wouldn’t change a thing.  Now, thats saying a lot, because there were more than a few times when I found myself screaming and crying at God,”How can You expect me to deal with this!??  I’m never going to make it through this!  Thats it!  I’m done, I can’t handle this anymore!  Not this time God, this is too hard, and I don’t see how we’ll get through this.”   Yet, we did;  and looking back from where we are now, I couldn’t have imagined all we’d go through – or how much closer and stronger we’d be.  I wouldn’t trade the Marriage I have now, for the one I had when I was a newlywed.    (and the one I had as a newlywed was pretty darn good!)  That’s part of the Mystery!  That is why knowing that Marriage reflects the Paschal Mystery shouldn’t make us wary or trepidacious!  Instead it should give us tremendous Hope and Joy!  You see, God never, ever, ever allows us a Cross that we can’t carry.  Our Heavenly Father allows free will and the post-Eden world to deal us some hard blows sometimes, but He is so Amazing that He can take ANY circumstance and redeem it – and let it bring us closer to Him and closer to our spouse – if we let Him.  Just as Christ prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane and accepted God’s Will and Love, and in doing so, redeemed the Act of Adam in a similar Garden that rejected God and His Love, we too can take our crosses – how ever difficult – and use them to either grow closer to God and our Spouse, or to reject God and our spouse.  Yes, I am talking about everything – like I said, God allows some things we’d really prefer He wouldn’t, but NOTHING is above His redemption – with our cooperation.  *Let me just take a minute to point out that I am NOT advocating staying in an abusive situation  – Yes, God can redeem that as well, but He isn’t expecting you to actually experience the physical torture of Christ.  Staying in an abusive or harmful situation is NOT accepting your Cross.  In that case, the most loving thing you CAN do is protect yourself and demand that your spouse receive immediate assistance.  That, dear readers, is tough Love, and sometimes that kind of Love is called for.  It is truly heroic.*

Before moving on I’d like to point out one more thing about the Paschal Mystery in Marriage.  On the way of the Cross, our Tradition tells us, there was a man named Simon who was from Cyrene, and a woman named Veronica.  These individuals made Jesus’ burden a little lighter.  Simon helped Jesus carry His Cross, and Veronica comforted and soothed Him.  In the same way YOU are never alone on your road of the cross.  Whatever Cross you may be carrying, at whatever time, God will send you Simons and Veronicas –  whether in the guise of a counselor, therapist, priest, family member, or friend.  Some people are afraid or embarrassed to seek help in dealing with difficulties that might arise in marriage.  DON’T BE!  Christ Himself needed help along the way of the Cross!  Remember the goal is to get to the Resurrection!   If there is someone who can assist you along the way, and help you get there faster – it’d be silly not to let them!

My last thought on Marriage and the Paschal Mystery is this – it is a journey.  Sometimes it might seem like cross upon cross – like you might never get a break.  During times like these pause for a moment and reflect on just how far you’ve come!  Other times you will not be able to belive that you could ever be so happy!  Then all the harder times will gain perspective and you will be able to see how God used every tough time to draw you closer to Himself, and to strengthen your union with your spouse.  Lastly – understand that Marriage is a Sacrament – it is a physical, earthly reminder of the Infinitely  more Perfect Union that God desires to have with us in Heaven.   It is a share in the Life of Christ – a beautiful opportunity to participate in His Paschal Mystery and to grow in Love for Him who is Our Way, Truth, and Life.

This Holy Week, and during the Easter Triduum, I hope that you experience the Paschal Mystery of Christ in a truly profound way.  At the very heart of this Great Mystery is Christ’s undivided, unfailing Love for you, and it is my hope and prayer that you will openly receive this Love anew from Him this Easter Season.  May God Bless your beautiful Feminine Hearts!

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Holy Healthcare, Batman!

I am in the middle of writing a post about the Paschal Mystery, and yet I can’t take my mind off this health care debacle that is currently facing our country.  So, I decided that I might as well give healthcare another go-round. We discussed this topic back in November (see Anti-Woman Healthcare – HR 3962).  It is important enough to revisit now, especially since some things have changed since then.  Just to clarify – the original Health Care Bill was numbered as HR (House Resolution) 3200.  The one that passed the House at Christmas was HR 3962.  The current bill is from the Senate, and it is a version of the original HR 3962, but with some nice cushy amendments (eh-hem, bribes) thrown in, and has been given the House designation HR 3590, and the “Reconciliation Bill, which is supposed to be passed in tandem with HR 3590 is designated HR 4872.  Besides some great teachable moments on the merits of a Democratic Republic, the Constitution, and power run amok, there is little else that I would congratulate the Congress on accomplishing with the current Health Care Legislation that is supposed to come to a vote on Sunday (March 21, 2010).   One extremely unfortunate byproduct of this whole health care quagmire that our Country finds itself in, is that it has sewn some tremendous seeds of confusion about the Catholic Faith, and the privilege of being a woman.

I generally try to stay away from politics (just keeping all the numbers and versions of legislation straight is almost a 9-5 job!) in this blog because I prefer to focus instead on the gift of Femininity and how we can reclaim an authentically Christian Femininity in our times.  The thing with healthcare is that our “Feminine genius” is exactly what is needed in this whole mess, and yet it is being hijacked and misrepresented by the “most powerful woman in America,” the Speaker of the House!  What a sad day for women!

Many Catholics are (once again) being confounded by this Health Care debate as various news agencies report that the “Catholic Nuns” are in favor it, but the “Bishops are not.”  This is simly false.  The Truth is, a dissident faction of  Sisters (Nuns)  who formed a group called NETWORK sent a letter to Congress.  The letter had 55 signatures – thats it – 55!  (And one signatory signed twice!) The letter pledged the support of the group – of the 55 nuns.  Now, the US has over 65,000 sisters in it.  Fifty-Five nuns is a teeny tiny amount not even CLOSE to representing what the majority of Catholic Nuns think.  Yet, the way this letter played in the media makes one think that somehow all the Catholic Nuns in the US got togther and decided that they really like this bill and that they want it to pass.(1) That’s just absurd!  This kind of reporting only confuses Catholics (and non-Catholics alike).  The bottom line is that this Bill, in its present form, along with the “Reconciliation Re-writes” is anti-Catholic.  It does, despite what is being said by members of Congress, increase funding for Abortions, and in fact would expand it – using federal tax monies to do so.  (2) The legislation also does not include a”Conscience Clause”  which would protect medical professionals against having to perform procedures or prescribe medications that are contrary to their Faith.  Without such a provision, Pro-Life Medical Professionals would literally be forced to perform abortions or face serious consequences.  The same goes for Catholic doctors who, for now, are not required to prescribe contraceptives.  If this bill passes, that would change.  This puts Catholic Hospitals in a very dangerous situation.  It does not bode well for Catholic Medical Professionals, and places a burden on them that was never intended by our Founding Fathers and the framers of the Constitution.  What part of ‘religious freedom’ forces a professional in this country to provide a good or “service” that is against said individual’s Religion?  In fact the whole purpose of the “separation of Church and State” was originally to protect the Church from the State – not the other way around!  (by the way, that phrase, “Separation of Church and State” is NOT in the Constitution – it was written in a letter by Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association, and it provided the idea for the Establishment Clause that is currently in our Constitution today. )

Anyway, I am getting ahead of myself.  I just love history!

I have been extremely saddened to watch Speaker Pelosi exploit her Catholic Faith.  On Friday she shamelessly invoked St. Joseph, as she once again pushed for the Health Care Bill’s passage.  Then she had the gall to lie.  I know, I know its a serious accusation, but that is the ONLY word for what she did.  She brazenly stated that she had the support of over 60 Orders of Nuns – which according to her, represented “Every order you can think of.”  This is purely false.  Catholic League President Bill Donohue wasted no time in responding, “In fact, there are 793 religious communities, which means she heard from seven-and-a-half percent of them. Moreover, since there are approximately 65,000 nuns in the U.S., that means she was contacted by .0008 percent of them.  In other words, not only are the bishops formally opposed to the bill she champions, it’s a lie to maintain that the nuns are on her side. Shameless is too kind a word to use to describe what Pelosi did today.”  I have to agree with Mr. Donohue.  Speaker Pelosi is the first woman to hold her position.  That is certainly laudable.  Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici specifically called on the Laity to enter into public office, and he mentions in his Letter to Women and Mulieris Dignitatem that women have a very unique and special role to play in the public arena – because “humanity has been entrusted to woman.”  The late Holy Father explained to us that women have the gift and responsibility of recognizing and defending the dignity of every person.  It is part of our genius as women.

The moral and spiritual strength of a woman is joined to her awareness that God entrusts the human being to her in a special way. Of course, God entrusts every human being to each and every other human being. But this entrusting concerns women in a special way – precisely by reason of their femininity – and this in a particular way determines their vocation….

A woman is strong because of her awareness of this entrusting, strong because of the fact that God “entrusts the human being to her”, always and in every way, even in the situations of social discrimination in which she may find herself…..

… unilateral progress can also lead to a gradual loss of sensitivity for man, that is, for what is essentially human. In this sense, our time in particular awaits the manifestation of that “genius” which belongs to women, and which can ensure sensitivity for human beings in every circumstance: because they are human! – and because “the greatest of these is love.”

What better place that the public arena to “ensure sensitivity for man?”  This is perhaps why I am so incredibly disappointed in Speaker Pelosi.  She could be such an example to all Catholic Woman of how to live a public life of true Faith!  She is a woman with considerable power, who professes an ardent Catholic Faith, yet she does not adhere to the most basic of Catholic Teachings, namely that all Life is Precious, and Life begins at Conception.  My children grasp this concept!  It is not complicated!  My dear readers, we must pray for Madame Speakers’ conversion.  She has been speaking falsehoods and heresies. She is sewing seeds of confusion and causing scandal.   These are most serious charges and I urge you to join me in praying for her, and all public officials, that they may fully understand God’s Truth.

Speaking of Truth…there is a tenet of Catholic Social Teaching called the Principle of Subsidiarity, that I hoped would get more attention what with the whole Health Care bru-haha.  A great explanation of this Principle is available from the Acton Institute, so rather than try to explinain it myself and re-invent the wheel, I have excerpts here for you:  “One of the key principles of Catholic social thought is known as the principle of subsidiarity. This tenet holds that nothing should be done by a larger and more complex organization which can be done as well by a smaller and simpler organization. In other words, any activity which can be performed by a more decentralized entity should be. This principle is a bulwark of limited government and personal freedom. It conflicts with the passion for centralization and bureaucracy characteristic of the Welfare State…..The principle of subsidiarity is both thoroughly Catholic and thoroughly American.” (3)  In fact Alexis de Tocqueville, who helped shape our democracy as it is today, was a firm proponent of the Principle of Subsidiarity.  For a complete article on this principle, as it relates both to expanded welfare and the current helthcare debate visit http://www.acton.org/publications/randl/rl_article_200.php. The legislation before Congress is the exact opposite of what the Principle of Subsidarity stands for.  The late Holy Father, John Paul II warned against violating such a principle because he saw that once the violation of Subsidiarity becomes the Status Quo, a Socialist state emerges, and the freedoms of the people are drastically curtailed – making them no longer free.  Growing up in Poland during the Nazi occupation and then the Soviet Occupation, he would know what he was talking about.  “This is why Pope John Paul II took the “social assistance state” to task in his 1991 encyclical Centesimus Annus. The Pontiff wrote that the Welfare State was contradicting the principle of subsidiarity by intervening directly and depriving society of its responsibility. This “leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies which are dominated more by bureaucratic ways of thinking than by concern for serving their clients and which are accompanied by an enormous increase in spending.”  (4)   I can only imagine what he would say now if he saw the Federal Government of the United states trying to take over the Health Care system!  Especially since the Catholic Church has such a strong tradition of providing health care for the citizens of this country – insured and uninsured alike.  Now these very institutions which have long provided care are under attack by the Health Care Bill, which would strip them of their ability to both practice good medicine, and live their  Faith within the bounds of a clear conscience.  What have we come to?  What are we to do?

Do not lose hope!  There is much we can do , both on a civic and a spiritual level!

As our founding fathers made clear in The Federalist Papers, the U.S. Constitution was designed to leave many issues of great importance in the hands of the states. The federal government was to do only those things which the individual states could not effectively do for themselves. The subsidiarity principle was at work in the foundation of our nation. But from the New Deal era onwards, there has been a steady growth in federal power at the expense of the states. This has sparked a renewed interest in the Tenth Amendment, which reserves all powers not delegated to the federal government to the states.” (5)  This reborn interest in the 10th amendment (the “States’ Rights” Amendment) is what has led to States such as Virginia and Idaho passing laws that protect their citizens from the Health Care Bill – essentially making the Federal Legislation defunct in their states (How relieved I am that I live in Virginia!)  There are 37 other states with this type of legislation pending as I write this.  Some Sates’ Attorneys General have also sent official letters to Congress saying that if this Bill passes and becomes law, their respective states will SUE the Federal Government over a violation of the 10th Amendment.  (Virginia is also one of these States!  As are Florida and Idaho.)  So right there we have hope in the individual states standing up for their rights according to the Constitution, and under the Principle of Subsidiarity!  We must pray for those who seek to oppose this legislation.  As a citizen, you can contact your local representatives and demand similar actions be taken.  Our Faith demands of the Laity an interested and active civic mind.  How else will we stay free?  How else will we hold those politicians, who work for us as Civil Servants , accountable?  Often times Freedom is not easy – it must be guarded.

The Enemy does not like Freedom.  Oh, C’mon Laura, this is a political thing, the Devil could care less. That my friends, is one of his lies.  When people are free, they may serve God and others without constraint.  When people are free, they can speak the Truth to those who have never heard it.  When people are free, they are free to choose the Right and Good over all else.  When people are Free they may worship Our Heavenly Father openly.  Do these sound like things that the Father of Lies, the One who seeks to bind you in chains of Sin, would like?  NO.  Now we come to Abortion.

The National Right to Life Committee has looked over the tandem bills before the House of Representatives and has declared them to be the biggest Government Expansion of Abortion in this Country.  Ever.  Not only would abortions be covered by your tax dollars, in an unprecedented way, but the abortion industry itself would expand. Anyone who says that Abortion is not in the Health Care Bill (or in the “Fix-it” Bill) is either grossly ignorant, or lying.  Its that simple.  Now, who among us can say that Satan himself would not love to expand the holocaust of this Nation?  Those of us who have taken to the front lines of the Abortion War in this country know first hand that it is first and foremost a Spiritual Battle.  Do not think that there isn’t a Spiritual Battle waging around this Health Care Legislation as well.  In this light, isn’t it interesting to note that the First Vote for this Legislation was on Christmas Eve, and that the original Time Line gave Congress a deadline of Easter – which meant they wold be voting on Good Friday?  Then when the administration caught too much flak for an “Easter Vote” by Christians, the deadline was pushed back – to a Sunday.  The Lord’s Day.  There was a time when the Government shut down in observance of the Lord’s Day.  Not this time.  Not for this bill, which seeks to expand the killing of the most blameless, innocent and vulnerable.  Yes, my friends, this is indeed a Spiritual Battle as well.

That is why first and foremost we must pray.

Yesterday I was in washington DC with my family.  We went to protest the Bill, and as my son put it, “To tell the Congress NO!”   (He was really into it!)  I have been to several of the protests and rallies in DC over this legislation.  Each time I am struck by the Faith of those who are there.  Each time thousands of people have joined together in prayer for our country and our Congress.  It never fails to bring tears to my eyes.  Yesterday, while it was invigorating and exciting, and as empowering as it is to chant and cheer, what struck me the most were the people who quietly approached the Capitol Building and knelt down to pray.  They did not pray out loud.  They were not showboating or dramatic.  They were quietly kneeling in prayer.  Many stayed through the night to pray outside that building – “The People’s House” as it supposed to be called.  That dear Readers, is what this is all about. That is why we will not fail.  Even if this abomination passes, the fight is not yet over, because we realize just Who is on our Side, and with Him, we have already won.

Do not lose heart!  Make you voice heard, as is our civic duty as Christians, but then make your voice and your heart known to Our Father.  That is our duty as His Daughters.  “In God we Trust” is still our motto as Americans, certainly now, perhaps more than ever, is not the time to doubt Him and His Providence.  May God Bless you, and may He continue to Bless America.


(1) Catholic League Press Release, March 19, 2010 – text follows:

March 19, 2010

DISINFORMATION ON HEALTH BILL IS RAMPANT

Catholic League president Bill Donohue seeks to set the record straight on the status of the Catholic Church’s position on the health care bill:   We are delighted that Sister Mary Ann Walsh, director of media relations for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), issued a news release yesterday clarifying the position of Catholics on the health care bill. She explicitly cited a dissident Catholic group, NETWORK, for giving the false impression that 59,000 nuns have lined up in favor of the bill. “The letter had 55 signatories, some individuals, some groups of three to five persons. One endorser signed twice.”   Perhaps the most commonly disseminated piece of disinformation concerns the question of abortion in the legislation. Is it true, as Catholic dissidents are saying, that the Senate bill does not cover abortion? And if so, are the bishops the ones promoting false information?   The answer does not require legal analysis. All it requires is an ability to read and exercise common sense. If abortion coverage is not in the bill, then why is it that every single amendment written to make absolutely sure that abortion funding is not in the legislation was defeated by pro-abortion senators?  We are happy to note that a health group of real professionals, namely the Catholic Medical Association, has formally opposed the bill; Catholic doctors should be listened to on this issue. The fact that they see right through the disinformation is heartening.  Those in the media who want to know what the Catholic position is on this issue, and every other public policy issue, need only access the website of the USCCB. What others say is intriguing, but hardly determinative.

(2) http://www.lifenews.com/nat6147.html

(3), (4), (5) http://www.acton.org/publications/randl/rl_article_200.php

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The Inferiority if Interiority

The past few posts have been somewhat hard hitting- attempting to get to the truth about some unfortunate trends in our modern day culture.  We have sought to uncover the facades that Satan paints over things such as pornography and contraception, and reveal them for what they truly are – damaging to women (and men!) and out-and-out lies.  In this post, however, I am going to break from this trend and seek to be a little more introspective.  I would like to discuss “Interiority.”  Lent is a perfect time to have this discussion.

Lent is, in a way, a time for interiority.  Preparing for Easter is so different than preparing for Christmas!  In our consumer culture there is no mistaking Christmastime.  Decorations go on sale as soon as October is over.  The malls are decorated by mid-autumn and the Christmas Carols begin creeping onto the radio stations well before Advent even begins!   All this reminds us that a huge event is on the horizon – and amidst Cross of Ashesthe consumerism and secularism, we remember that we are anticipating Christ’s birth.  Easter is so very different!  Certainly the amazing event of  God-Made-Man rising from the Dead, defeating Death and taking on Himself the sins of the world is worthy of as much anticipation!  (Not to mention that this same man is also the baby whose birth is so readily anticipated every Christmas time!)  Yet, when Lent comes there is hardly anything that

Crossofashes.jpg

would give it away.  Sure on one particular Wednesday you may catch a glimpse of an unusual amount of people walking around with an ash smudge on their foreheads, and the menus at the fast food restaurants betray that Lent has indeed arrived with their revised menus including some sort of Fish Sandwich entrée, that just so happens to be half price on Fridays!  But aside from these things, Lent arrives quietly, and goes on for some time before we are inundated by the consumeristic interpretation of the Easter Event  involving a large rodent delivering candy.  (Not that I have anything against the Easter Bunny – he comes to our house and announces the Resurrection of Our Lord by leaving us treats to help us celebrate).

So why this great disparity between these two major holidays?  Why is it that one seemingly can’t begin fast enough, and the other unobtrusively comes upon us?  I think it has to do with interiority.  Advent and Christmas are about being outward – about giving and happily anticipating an event that is always and forever exciting – the birth of a baby who would save us.  Lent is more about looking into ourselves and allowing God to help us weed out those things that keep us from Him.  Lent is about focusing inward and testing our Faith, strengthening our Spiritual Mettle through mortification and penance.  Lent culminates first with a very real and candid picture of death and suffering.  It forces us to confront our own mortality  – it begins with us being told that we shall return to dust! and our wearing proof of this statement on our foreheads; it ends when our Lord and God dies a grisly death and is placed in a tomb.  Lent is uncomfortable.  So too, is interiority…at first.

Sometimes the hardest place to look is within.  Many of us don’t always like what we see, and its much easier to focus outward and on others, rather than face those interior struggles against things that we know we need to change, but don’t really want to admit the need to change.  Yet, this time of year, that is precisely what we are called to.  The cry begins with John the Baptist at Advent, “Repent!”  and we think to ourselves, “Oh I can do that, no problem.”  So we go about our frenzied present wrapping, gift giving, and bargain hunting.  We throw some coins in the Salvation Army pot, feel good about it, and hurry along to the next store.  We squeeze in a penance or prayer service and try to feel prepared.  When Christmas Eve comes we all too often realize that Advent sped by, and we didn’t spend as much time as we intended pondering and praying, preparing and repenting.  Then there is a short lull.  We start to get comfortable with ourselves and with our place on this walk of Faith.  January winds down and February sets in.  Then out of nowhere its time for Ash Wednesday and Lent is upon us.  This time though, there is no frenzied holiday rush.  There are 40 long days to be reminded that what we might have attempted to do during Advent – Repent! – better happen this time around, because after all, “We are dust, and to dust we shall return.”   Thats when it starts to get uncomfortable.

In order to truly repent, we must figure out what we are repenting of, and, my friends, you guessed it, you can’t do that unless you take a good hard look inside.  This is the beginning of interiority.

Interiority is spoken about quite a bit in the Theology of the Body.  It is a word that has been thrown about in matters of personal faith from the times of the early Church Fathers.  A relatively new phrase, coined by the Venerable John Paul II is the “interior gaze.”  But what does it all mean?  What does it have to do with Lent, and most pointedly, what, if anything, does it have to do with Femininity? (I mean thats what this blog is ultimately about right?)

Interiority is actually a very feminine thing.  Here is yet another instance where our biology and our morphology (how we are put together) teach us something about the realities of Faith and God.  Think of your body.  One of the most uniquely feminine things about it is that you have a womb.  This interior part of you is created with the ability and the purpose of carrying and nurturing a life, and then bringing forth that life.  Think of this – in order for that life to be created, the woman must first ‘take in‘ the love (in a very physical sense) of her spouse.  Then this love is quite literally internalized.  Then, God willing, this love that was internalized becomes a person, and for nine months gains strength and size inside the mother.  As the baby – the incarnation of Love – grows and becomes stronger, the woman’s body changes and grows. Once the appointed time has come, and the new life, the new person, is ready, the woman brings forth – out of herself – the baby – the creation of Love.   Now parallel that to the Love of God:  a person accepts and takes in the love of God. We do this in a most profound way through Holy Communion.  This Love fills our souls, we dwell on it.  We pray, we are strengthened by it.  Mediating on this Love, allowing this Love to wash over us, to change and mold us (much like a woman’s body changes and grows during pregnancy), we begin a life of interiority – internalizing God’s Love, letting Him show us the things inside ourselves that keep us from Him, allowing Him to help us get rid of those things so that we become a better  vessel in which He pours His Love.  After we learn how to internalize His Love, and after this Love changes us, grows within us, and teaches us how to see the way God sees, we then are ready to bring forth this Love to the world.  This Love then bursts out of us – as we Love the way God Loves.

How amazing is it that your body is a metaphor for interiority!  You see, Interiority is about our souls.  It is about knowing how to look within, so that we can properly look without .  An interior life is one in which we allow God to dwell within us, and to teach us how to encounter the world through the eyes of our souls – the way He sees.

What does this have to do with Lent?  Lent is traditionally a time when we try to begin or deepen this thing called the interior life.  Before God can truly dwell in us, we have to make sure He feels welcome.  We do that by looking within and asking God to help us remove those things which keep us from Him.  This is a hard and terrifying process.  Sometimes it is painful.  This is why interiority is so inferior today.  It is not for the faint of heart!  Again – kind of like a woman. You may look unassuming and timid on the outside, but within, you are made with the ability to do the pelvic equivalent of expelling a watermelon through your nose.  THAT, my friends is not for the faint of heart either!   Lent reminds us that we strengthen ourselves interiorly by doing acts of penance and mortification.  We gain in our ability to make Christ welcome in our souls when we mortify our senses.  This is how our interiority gains strength over our worldliness.  If you truly want to see how Christ sees, you have to teach yourself to look with the interior gaze – not looking through the lenses of the world.  Once again, we cannot do this unless we have allowed Him into our souls.  To “dwell in our hearts” so to speak; and once again, He cannot take up residence there if we have still have within ourselves that which prevents Him from entering: namely sin, and sinful habits.

Did you  ever notice that for most of us we confess the same types of sins over and over again?  Maybe you’ve never had to confess to gluttony in your entire life, but it feels like every time you go to confession you are confessing a sin of calumny or gossip.  Satan loves to trap us into a sinful pattern – it makes his job so much easier.  It is our “weak spot” and this ‘bad habit’ really puts a damper on trying to lead a life of interiority in Christ.  Just as these sins are a bad habit that we have to break, looking inside ourselves to attempt to weed out the root of these sinful habits is the beginning of the interior life.  During Lent when we sacrifice and do acts of penance, when we fast and practice mortifying our senses – not letting our senses and passions rule us – we begin to form good habits – Holy habits.    With the help of the Holy Spirit these good habits begin to replace the bad ones.  Our sinfulness is replaced by holiness and Christ is more welcome to dwell within us.  This is is when we let Him teach us how to use the interior gaze – which also takes practice;  seeing others the way God sees them – with dignity and beauty – made in the Image of God Himself.  Seeing from within allows us to see without the way it was intended.  Living a life of interiority gives us a glimmer of how we were to encounter the world before the Fall, before that infamous apple.

Interiority is about relationship.  Relationship with the Triune God.  It is about learning how to live with Christ inside us.  Living through and in our souls.  Frank Sheed, an author and Theologian, in his book, Theology and Sanity, explains that when we think about our souls we often picture this little compartment inside us that is generally white, black or some shade of gray.  This little compartment has its own place and generally stays out of the way of everything else about us.  He goes on to explain that this is not the most accurate depiction.  Rather, we should see our souls as encompassing our bodies – our bodies, in a sense, inside our souls.  If we are truly living this interior life, then we are in a very real sense, living inside our souls – seeing, hearing, sensing, acting through Christ who is Dwelling in us.  Its a different picture to think of our souls and living interiorly, in this way isn’t it?  It’s a different twist on interiority, and I daresay more accurate.  I like to think of it as a bubble that I walk around in – and it allows me to see reality – to see and encounter the world on the Lord’s terms, the way He wants and would.  When I begin to lose my interior life, when I stop praying as I aught, when I let sin creep in and take hold, when I become selfish, my “bubble” shrinks.  I am unable to see the world properly and start to see through worldly eyes.  I ‘hear’ but I don’t understand. I speak, but not words of Love.  I act, but not charitably.  Life becomes disordered.  I am not longer taking care to live a life of interiority.  This when a look inside is once again required.  What is preventing me from living a life of Interiority?  What has shrunk my “bubble?”  What must I confess?  And again the work of building up an interior life begins.  The “bubble” gets bigger and I am once again able to see with the interior gaze, to live interiorly in the world.  To encounter the world through my soul, as Christ dwells within.  It is a life-long process.  It gets easier, and our interior life deepens to depths unimaginable as we grow in relationship with our God.

Wow.  This all sounds so hard!  This takes a lot of work!  yes, I won’t deny that – but God doesn’t think the same way about time as we do.  For us 40 days seems long enough to work on this interiority thing!  Hmm….that would be nice….but no.  It takes a lifetime of trying, a lifetime of deepening, and a lifetime of practicing.  Forty is a symbolic number – it is the number of days Christ spent in the Desert facing Satan (and, we might say, working on His interior life…?)  but it is also the number of days that it rained on the Ark, 40 years is the amount of time that the Israelites wandered in the desert, and I might add, 40 weeks is the actual time of human gestation – the number of weeks that a woman is pregnant.  (here we see again femininity as part of the great metaphor!)  In the Bible 40 represents a “really long time.”  It reminds me of what my kids mean when they say something was “a hundred minutes!”   Its not literal – to them it means that it was a long long time.  Thats what the number 40 means too – a long time.  But more than meaning a long time, 40 also denotes a time of waiting, of trial or testing, and of preparation.  That is what this life is – a time of trial and testing, while we prepare ourselves for Eternal Life.  Pregnancy is a great metaphor for that.

So what does this have to do with the interior life?  Well, while we may use the 40 days of Lent to jumpstart us into beginning (or deepening) a Spiritual Life of Interiority, it is hardly the end of such at Easter! Rather, we should be encouraged at Easter as we celebrate the Resurrection, to continue our efforts at an Interior Life, in order that we may enter Heaven and experience our own Resurrection!

May God Bless you this Lenten Season as we all anticipate His Glorious Resurrection at Easter

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