In Silence This Advent

Quietly, I sneak out of bed in the dark hearing the drops of rain pitter upon our rooftop and the slosh of puddles divided by passing cars. It is five in the morning. Yesterday I told myself perhaps I would have to wake this early to find that elusive state I dreamt of, the one so key to a season like Advent: silence.

Quietly, I gather my laptop and phone and latch the door that separates the living spaces from the sleeping spaces, tightening my jaw in the prayer that the eager kitten outside does not begin meowing at the first sign of light from our living room lamps. In the dark, I plug in the Christmas tree. The soft glow of blue lights from our blue and silver Christmas tree decorations illuminates the room of comfy furniture and scattered books. Softly, I settle by the lamp that will give enough light to see and work.

All is quiet.

Success.

I sit down, laptop in hand, and open the day’s doings. It feels good to reconnect with work, with the calendar, with the to-do list after a week of family-focused hustle and holiday fare. It was a glorious holiday filled with a delicious menu, efficient planning, friends and new acquaintances. It was a time to stop pushing, stop worrying, and just be with the family, letting the pruned branches lay where they will as the water and mud expanded the earth of our backyard.

I catch my breath as I hear a stirring in the hallway. The moments are short; I must make the most of them.

Emily P. Freeman emailed her seasonal “What I Learned This…” feature for Fall.

What did I learn?

I learned my limitations. I learned how to work within my limitations. And then I learned my limitations again.

As Thanksgiving transitioned all too quickly to Advent, I am faced with the well-known reality that grief creeps up where it wills. Turning away will not help, we must face it, lean into it, and discover what there is here, what task of grief must be addressed this season, in order to find any peace. The horizons expand. I pen a presentation for St. Mary’s in Oakdale. In a Brooklinen tote, I gather my Advent resources. One should do it and yet I have five.

Resting at midday on the couch on Sunday, I comb through each one, looking for a connection, hoping for some justification for their numerous quantity. In these weeks leading up to Christmas, with most of the shopping done, I want to seek hope; I want to seek silence.

Christmas trees branches in darkness
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Perhaps I can commit to a little each day: a little reflection, a little reading, a little quiet.

I say to my children on the way to mass, “you want me to be a good mother right? To be a good mother I must be able to be quiet and pray.” My oldest is nine and still, I have not learned this lesson.

A resource by writer Sarah Damm

encourages me to reflect on my goals and priorities this season leading up to Christmas. What is most important to me? What do I hope to gain spiritually? What traditions bear repeating within my family?

And let go of the rest.

She offers a list.

Cards. I do not really want to write these, send them. A stack of thank-you cards sit on my desk from a month ago, penned by a nine and seven-year-old. They are still here only because I have failed to look up the addresses.

Yes, let’s forget about cards this year.

When we give ourselves permission to let go of it all, we find there are those things we want to hold onto. But instead of burying them in a pile of obligations, we can anticipate them, then savor them, then reflect on them as good things we did.

What are your goals these weeks leading up to Christmas?

What is it time to let go of, without guilt or regret, because it only robs the family of peace (even if Pinterest, family history, and the blogosphere tell you not to)?

What does your heart ache to see again, hold and rest in?

Let the rain and chill outside slow you down. Let the store ads sit neglected. Look to your heart and the hearts of those around you….and decide, in a moment silence, what to do this Advent.

Photo by Zoran Kokanovic on Unsplash

Previously published in the weekly column, “Here’s to the Good Life!” in the Hughson Chronicle & Denair Dispatch

Saints and Heroes – A review of Dorothy Day: The World Will Be Saved by Beauty

Is Dorothy Day a saint?

Cover of Dorothy Day: The World Will be Saved by Beauty: An Intimate Portrait of my Grandmother by Kate Hennessy

Dorothy Day: The World Will be Saved by Beauty: An Intimate Portrait of my Grandmother” is the story of an influential woman told by her granddaughter. Kate Hennessey explores not only the biographical details but considers the controversy over how Day is presented historically to the public, the push for canonization (naming her a saint in the Catholic Church) and the complex relationship between Day and her daughter, Tamar Hennessey, the author’s mother. Hennessey paints a portrait no other author can, that of exploring the depths of this remarkable woman, seeking to discover her for who she is, beyond the black-and-white claims of the left or the right.

On the surface, Day was a journalist, a columnist, a social justice advocate, a founder of a publication called the “Catholic Worker” so named to stand in contrast from the Communist publication the “Daily Worker,” and founder of houses of hospitality and worker farms in which no souls seeking shelter were turned away. She was a Catholic convert with a past to rival St. Augustine of Hippo, the first of our spiritual memoirists. 

Many want Day declared a saint.

Others object. Hennessey, with an eye on the person of Day, is willing to look at her as a human being filled with good motivations and good work, some mistaken ideas, a clear vision and the energy to put it into place. 

The author does this with deft and skill at the written word, following in her grandmother’s footsteps. She offers details usually left out of such works such as the operas listened to or musicals watched on television, the type of drinks consumed, the variety of shells collected. These details paint the scene for the reader, drawing out the sense of time, place and personalities engaged at these moments in Day’s life. 

The book opens with a question of how far back one must go in order to begin to understand Day. One must go very far back, it turns out, to her family of origin.

Hennessey’s perspective of a searching granddaughter never wavers. She writes openly of peppering her mother with questions of their past, and as the book draws to a close, shows clearly those moments at the kitchen table when the conversations must needs also come to a close, there was nothing more to say.

Saint-social-justice-warrior or radically-minded failure?

Hennessey offers the evidence and leaves the reader with the lesson we all must learn, most of our heroes succeed in some areas and failed in others, but that does not diminish their heroic status. 

Like many a student in California, I learned the virtues of Martin Luther King Jr. And the vices of Christopher Columbus. 

In graduate school, I was stunned to learn of the instances of plagiarism in MLK’s life and his failure in faithfulness to his wife. 

During a radio program exploring Columbus’ legacy and diaries, I got a glimpse of the nuances in his life indicating there might be more to the story, more villains and more innocence, good but period-influenced intentions. 

What does it mean? 

There are heroes and there are saints and the two paths might not always cross. A saint, recognized by the Catholic Church is someone who achieved an extraordinary degree of holiness, conformity with the will of God, during his or her life. 

A hero, in contrast, is someone with a remarkable skill or ability needed in a particular time and place, who moved forward history in some significant way. It says little about the rest of his or her life. Just because one person sees the vision of a more perfect union or has a dream where children of any color can play together, does not mean that person was perfect. Few of us are. 

We want our heroes to be immaculate and without sin, and so the temptation, especially in this modern name-changing, statue-removing times is to erase their presence in history. We want to throw out the baby with the bathwater, so to speak, an archaic saying meaning to accidentally throw out the good when we try to discard the bad. 

A better way is to approach, as Hennessy did, is the exploration of a person’s life in search of understanding, to praise the good, acknowledge the bad, and know that we can love the sinner who may never be a saint. 

I hope we all can aim for a virtuous and moral life. I wish we all might seek the good and desire to find a way towards goodness and improvement. But I also understand that human weakness runs deep, the temptation is strong and just as we grow up to see our parents’ in a fuller light, more than just mom and dad, but people with flaws, good intentions and great failings, we can see our heroes similarly. 

They can still be heroes. 

And so can we.

The Feminine Genius in Art at Blessed is She

On a rainy May afternoon I ducked out of the drizzle through the double glass doors of the Mistlin Art Gallery in the city’s historic downtown to join an intimate gathering of local opera lovers. Patrons gathered around mezzo-soprano Nikola Printz, artist, performer, and remarkable stage presence for a solo recital titled, “Women & Matters of the HeART.” The theme allowed Printz the opportunity to select and perform those songs closest to her own heart.

 

What are Women’s Matters of the Heart?

 

 

molly-belle-a-xEUwYSPLw-unsplash.jpg
Photo by Molly Belle on Unsplash

 

 

Printz began with, “Neruda Songs,” a series of sonnets written by Pablo Neruda and set to music by Peter Lieberson.

Romantic love, its devotion and emptying out in self-gift comprised the sonnets’ core matter. Their haunting quality affirmed immediately the otherworldliness of love, taking us beyond time and space. Pope Emeritus Benedict wrote in Deus Caritas Est, “love promises infinity, eternity—a reality far greater and totally other than our everyday existence.” (Deus Caritas Est, 3)

Read the rest at the Blessed is She blog

Watch the recital by Nikola Printz for Opera Modesto

A Key Ingredient for a Phenomenal Advent

Advent begins tomorrow. Are you ready?

“I can see that we as a society are hungry for community and shared experiences,” the author writes. And what do you know? Catholics have hundreds of possibilities throughout the year for just such celebrations. But we are confused. After having looked so long at the parish for how to celebrate, with the parish turning inward as well to serve within its parish walls and not its parish boundaries, and a society that is increasingly less Catholic in practice and population, the question of how to allow the liturgical year to interrupt our daily life can leave the ponderer perplexed past the Advent wreath.

 

 

The Catholic All Year Compendium: Liturgical Living for Real Life by Kendra Tierney came out this past October, published by Ignatius Press, with enough time for me to read the 343 pages of ideas and inspiration, copy some down and implement in the Catholic New Year, Advent.

As a Catholic blogger and mother, Tierney introduces these are the ideas of what she does from which the reader can glean what he or she chooses and leave behind those of little interest. On topics for which Tierney holds a special passion (begin celebrating Christmas on December 25, use beeswax, abstain from meat on all Fridays) she makes her case convincingly. Tierney’s writing style is approachable and encouraging, written in a conversation, not commanding style. Her work readers like a blogger with experience.

She explains “It’s also, I hope, an accessible guide for beginners and experienced celebrators, for big and small families, for single folks, for teachers and catechists, for working and staying at home moms.”

The book is endorsed by Jennifer Fulwiler, author of One Beautiful Dream, and proponent of the idea of the blue flame. Certain activities are going to be life-giving for you, and others, are not. I thought of this concept as I read the many kitchen oriented ideas for feast days and consciously did not write those down on my list, because they won’t happen. Waffles for dinner, perhaps, but not Shepherds Pie. But hymns, special prayers, story sharing, decorations, and maybe, just maybe, some crafts, yes. That I can do.

I celebrate by the binder. In November I dig out the 1-inch binder titled “Thanksgiving.” Here are the tried and true recipes, the schedule of what to cook the day ahead and when to begin the bird. Decor ideas that I may or may not implement but when looked at inspire a festive mood. There is a binder for our homeschool day as well. It contains the hymn we’re learning, a prayer card, assignments, and a general schedule. I feel that, with this binder, I could thee celebrate, O Advent, O Lent, O time called Ordinary.

I began compiling the Advent and Christmas feasts and the ideas I thought we could try. I printed pages for those feasts. It can live at our dining table or near it throughout the season, or come out at school time, I do not know. I am not just excited, Tierney’s book actually makes me feel competent because the resources are so endless.

So here we go, feast days. If I fall short of the binder, Tierney says, again and again, there are seasons when it will work and seasons when it won’t, and that is okay. I’ll take her at her comforting word.

The book crowns a trio I’ve read of late. The Grace of Enough by Haley Stewart reminds us to put our heart into our home and local community. Building the Benedict Option inspires Catholic gatherings to build that community. The Catholic All Year Compendium contains the recipes and ingredients to fill those gatherings with Catholic flavor. If you want to build it where you live it instead of clicking away for the community, these will be indispensable resources on your shelf.

 

As a gift to you, I’m making the Advent booklet I made for my family, available to you when you sign up! I promise not to spam you or bug you. I do promise to send you this and similar works that I am using myself.

Click to Download “Advent Practices”

advent-practices-1.png

 

We Can Grieve Together While Grieving Differently

Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle & Denair Dispatch

A Review of Grieving Together: A Couple’s Journey Through Miscarriage by Laura Kelly Fanucci and Franco David Fanucci

Grief.

The five stages of grief are shock, bargaining, anger, depression and acceptance. The four tasks of grief are accepting the reality of your loss, processing your grief and pain, adjust to the world without your loved one in it, and finding a way to maintain a connection to the person who died while embarking on your own life.

How easily they are listed, how much more difficult they are to live.

"Grief is as unique as the soul of the child that you lost." Excerpt from Grieving Together.

When I was twenty weeks pregnant with my fifth child, an ultrasound revealed she had anencephaly. My body supported her growth in utero, but without a brain, she would die during or soon after birth. We learned this in the fall of 2016. I chose to carry her until she was full time and deliver near her due date, in early March.

How different that Thanksgiving was! We faced such loss that year.

How strange it was on Christmas to celebrate the birth of the Christ child, knowing what would happen to my child.

A counselor from the palliative care team spoke with me weekly to help me process my grief and pain. I knew of no reference books to help me. Instead Facebook groups kept me informed. Like my miscarriages from early in my marriage, we looked for resources where we could find them, and developed a helpful array of tools to keep in our spiritual backpack, so to speak.

Having found my answers from unexpected lines by C.S. Lewis and an unexpected Lutheran hymn set to a song about a planet and a pagan god, it is with awe and deep appreciation that I read a new publication called Grieving Together: A Couple’s Journey through Miscarriage, by Laura Kelly Fanucci and Franco David Fanucci.

book cover of Grieving Together.jpg

I thought I had all I needed.

I have grieved and life’s demands have helped propel me forward with a current focus of applying all those good things I learned to live at home.

Grieving Together had more to teach me. Never have I encountered a book that aims so high and hits so successfully grief from a spiritual perspective. The authors are Catholic and offer Catholic resources. But it is the material that is not directly Catholic that amazed me most.

The Fanuccis examine that physical process, known causes of miscarriage and the types of miscarriage. I cannot recall seeing a theoretical spiritual resource decide to go ahead and hold all the information you might need in one place.

In the second section, relying heavily on stories rather than drawing lines on theoretical gender differences, the Fanuccis explore the different ways mothers and father process their grief and how these differences can lay a strain on the relationship in an already difficult time. My husband and I grieved differently. He withdrew to play online video games with his best friend while I talked through my grief with women in my life and my counselor. His silence was not a sign of a lack of feeling, it was his process.

In the third part, the authors offer insightful understanding to the cliches many, if not most, in grief will hear, and presents some better and more on point alternatives to those cliches. Sometimes we unintentionally try to push a person past their grief to peace or happiness with sayings intended to comfort because the suffering makes us uncomfortable. There is beauty in staying put with your grief for as long as you need. To let the reality unfold, to let the process take its place, to let the presence of the loved one cement in the heart. Often those who grieve just need someone to walk alongside them, rather than try to fix the thing that is broken.

After a series of prayers, rituals and role models from the Catholic Church, the Fanuccis consider ways to memorialize the life of the infant the parents never had a chance to meet and encouragement for those seasons following the tragic event.

The entire book is written with such clarity, empathy and support, that, once again, I am daring to recommend it to you even though this is not a column focused on religion.

It has been almost seven years since my last miscarriage.

Reading this book, I found wounds dressed and questions answered. It is a remarkable little book.

"Be gentle with each other. Grief sometimes gets worse before it gets better." quote from Grieving Together.

P.S.

I wrote more about this wonderful book at Blessed is She.

Laura Kelly Fanucci writes at the blog, Mothering Spirit, where I found a great deal of hope leading up my daughter’s birth.

You can listen to Laura and David share more about their story here.

You can read an excerpt on that excellent section for those seeking to support someone in grief here.

Meet Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha

In honor of Native American Heritage Month and a reminder of the power of Christian unity, please allow me to introduce you to Kateri.

 

Image result for kateri tekakwitha

 

Written and presented to the Young Ladies Institute, Antoinette #193, a Catholic Women’s Organization

 

Called the “Lily of the Mohawks”, and the “Genevieve of New France” Kateri was a virgin of the Mohawk tribe, born around 1656, in the present state of New York, and died in Canada, south of Montreal, on April 17, 1680. Her mother was a Christian Algonquin, captured by the Iroquois, saved from captivity by the Mohawk chief, to whom she bore a daughter, Kateri, and a son. Kateri’s father, mother, and brother all died from smallpox when she was four years old. Before her death, Kateri’s mother prayed her daughter might grow up a Christian. Her uncle, also a Mohawk chief, and her aunts adopted her. Her uncle hated Christianity.

Smallpox marred Kateri’s face and impaired her eyesight. Her eyes became so sensitive to light that she covered her head with a blanket when she went out. Despite the disfiguration and her shy nature, her family was committed to arranging a marriage for her.

Jesuits missionaries first introduced Kateri to Christianity. It lodged itself within her heart, though she did not ask for baptism either because of her natural reserve or her uncle’s command not to. She followed a path of Christian virtue in a society that surrounded her with war, torture and debauchery. She, who was so timid and obedient, resisted all efforts to induce her to marry, though at great risk to herself. Indignant, her family heaped more chores upon her which she bore with patience. What role did a woman have outside of marriage? What value did a woman have without a husband?

Fr. Jacques de Lamberville arrived years later to take charge of the mission, which included the Turtle clan to which Kateri belonged. Kateri was 19, and she eagerly requested baptism. After a year of preparation, Kateri received the sacrament with all due solemnity befitting the daughter of a chief. She was named after Catherine of Siena, translated to Kateri. Christ would be her spouse. What other identity is there than to belong to God?

Kateri found her consolation in God though relatives mocked her devotions and twice daily trips to the chapel. They sent boys to throw stones at her, drunken men to threaten her.

The time came when her uncle would no longer protect her. Her life was in danger. One day, a young Indian man rushed upon her with a tomahawk. Her natural timidity and the strength of faith mingled in her heart. She bowed her head and sat motionless. Shocked at her peace, the man stopped. Spellbound, he dropped the tomahawk and crept away.

Worn out in loneliness and reproach, Kateri confided to the priest that she must leave. He interceded for her to an Iroquois Warrior Chief and Christian who agreed to help her to escape to the Saint Francis Xavier Mission in Caughnawaga, 200 miles away.

Safe in the mission, Kateri devoured the lessons of her faith and the practice of virtue. Her prayers deepened as she spent nights in prayer before the altar. Common to the times, Kateri exercised her zeal for the Lord through extreme asceticism and mortification. When she visited Montreal and witnessed the lives of sisters vowed to perpetual virginity, she committed herself to dedicate her life as a bride of Christ. Even in the environment of Christian fellowship, Kateri found herself at odds with those who counseled her to marry.

Listening to the Spirit, she allowed grace to become the force of her life and found the strength to resist the external force and values around her.

Kateri died four years after her baptism. Her last reported words are, “Jesus, I love you,” Fifteen minutes after her death, the priest at her side reported her disfigured face became miraculously beautiful and fair, a reflection of the state of her soul.

Devotion to her by her people began immediately after her death. She is the first Native American to be recognized as a saint by the Catholic Church, canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on October 21, 2012, and named the patroness of ecology and the environment, people in exile and Native Americans. John Paul II called her a “sweet, frail yet strong figure of a young woman,” reminding us that Christ’s death and resurrection turned our understanding of strength on its head. Christ’s strength is made perfect in weakness, and no physical deformity can stop a person from living a life of meaning, grace, and power.

Meet Joan of Arc…and Mark Twain

By the time Mark Twain died, he was anti-Catholic and anti-French, yet he still referred to “The Recollections of Joan of Arc” as his best and favorite work. It was the work he claimed to have researched the most, using the transcripts from the trial of Joan of Arc and other important French sources. This work introduced Joan into the United States and is for the most part historically accurate with some fictional flourishes that do not contradict history. It is from there we take our understanding.

Her will was made of iron. Like the female saints for whom it seems nothing is impossible, even in Medieval Europe, when the role of woman is degraded and dismissed, there comes a woman full of intelligence, spirit, goodwill and kindness to teach us how to live.

Joan’s story is timely for us today as the hearts of informed Catholics fill with unrest and disgust at the actions of certain clerical officials in commissive and omissive sins. 46,000 women signed a letter to Pope Francis on behalf of Catholic women requesting answers. The voice of the feminine genius cries out for the protection of others, for a vision of the wholeness of those the Church is called to serve, and for justice. We know of a lot beyond the required love of faith. We know of a love of home, of family, of children, of hobbies and it emboldens our desires and shapes our pastimes. Women are not to be ignored.

Twain’s biography of the woman begins with a long treatment of a tree and fairies. I appreciate a work that can fully acknowledge the presence of these little creatures, treating them with civility, respect, and the lightheartedness lacking in too many biographies. Good authors know they must first introduce you to the person, because you can then understand how the following actions were inevitable. Twain does that, and he does it with fairies.

With the full use of her rational powers, the child Joan defended the fairies and argued with the priest over the wrong he had done in banishing them. Her effort amuses him. She succeeds in convincing him she is right and then succeeds all the greater by her willingness to take on his sins and suffer. This is what ultimately moves his heart to contrition for acting as priest according to rules and not according to right.

Twain’s reverence for Joan knows no bounds. She is beautiful, sweet, soft-spoken, can laugh heartedly, find amusement in others foibles, and possesses special powers with animals, taming the wildest of them as friends. Blood makes her weep. Yes, there are visions. The period of visions caused her to turn inward. She is private, reflective and serious until the hope has come. Then on a dime, she becomes fierce and forceful, determined and undeniably a leader of the greatest cause, a commission sent by God. Obedient to God, she will do all she is supposed to do.

This is what we see of her. Twain humanizes her when he explains her willingness to sign at the first sight of fire. “I was scared by the fire,” she admits. He shows her tired, this one time, beleaguered by the scheming of hierarchical officials who wish to rise higher still.

According to all Twain says, Joan is a larger than life saint who fits in the ranks with Catherine of Siena and St. Francis de Sales. Remarkable about her is the willingness of God to use his servant to touch into history. Her role in bringing the Hundred Years War near its conclusion is undeniable and beyond natural reason. God acted miraculously. What must France have done to deserve that?

It is both good to think of God intervening in history without requiring the use of rainbows and to think of a lesson taught to the reader when Joan refuses to submit her mission to the evaluation of the Church. She argues with the prelate. It was given by God. He counters, that is Church Triumphant (the saints, angels and God in Heaven). Will she not submit it to be evaluated by Church Militant (those of us scrambling around this earth)? No, she will not.

I pondered this distinction. These were men of Church Militant, of the Church on earth, of the Church on mission, of the Church made of sinners. How deep were the sins of these men not content with killing her but who must also prove her a heretic and idolater!

Yet, perhaps, as the Church is greater than any number of priests or nuns or laypeople, who all make up “The Church”, so this strain of corruption has always existed among her members, as members who are capable of sin. It does not touch on the Church Triumphant and it will not defeat the suffering Church.

She will endure. She will be vindicated. A short time after Joan’s death her name was restored to its glory and her accomplishments recognized, likely only by the selfish motive of the King who abandoned her.

Her story is timely indeed, for hope, for courage, for the knowledge that God will never abandon the littlest of these.

Meet Hildegard of Bingen

A brief introduction to the person and personality of one of the greatest ladies of the Catholic Church.

 

Image result for hildegard of bingen

 

We can know God.

Born in 1098, Hildegard of Bingen, a sickly child born of nobility was given at the age of eight to Jutta of Sponheim for care in a hermitage as an oblate of St. Benedict. At Jutta’s death, Hildegard was elected abbess. Attracted to her greatness and sanctity, the convent overflowed with vocations and she went to establish two new monasteries.

Her early education was poor, but she was instructed in Latin enough to chant the Psalms. Here and in the Church she met the Lord. He granted her visions from an early age. After revealing them to her spiritual director, she was instructed to write them all down. These visions were approved as being from God by Church authorities. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux encouraged her. Pope Eugene III authorized her to write and speak in public.

She wrote books on theology and mysticism, medicine and natural sciences. We have 400 of her letters, addressed to simple people, to religious communities, popes, bishops and the civil authorities of her time. She composed sacred music.

In his letter proclaiming her Doctor of the Church, Pope Benedict wrote, “The corpus of her writings, for their quantity, quality and variety of interests, is unmatched by any other female author of the Middle Ages.”

Hildegard died at the age of 81. It took 800 years for her to be formally elevated by the Church.

 

Image result for hildegard of bingen

 

In the great canon of her work, she spoke of the reciprocal relationship between men and women, the complementarity, and contrasted with other traditions, did not blame women for the fall. Her writings acknowledged the hylomorphic reality: that we are created body and soul, and body and soul will be involved in our search for God.

Summarizing her teaching, Pope Benedict continued: Hildegard asks herself and us the fundamental question, whether it is possible to know God: This is theology’s principal task. Her answer is completely positive: through faith, as through a door, the human person is able to approach this knowledge. God, however, always retains his veil of mystery and incomprehensibility. He makes himself understandable in creation but, creation itself is not fully understood when detached from God. Indeed, nature considered in itself provides only pieces of information which often become an occasion for error and abuse. Faith, therefore, is also necessary in the natural cognitive process, for otherwise knowledge would remain limited, unsatisfactory and misleading.

Creation is an act of love by which the world can emerge from nothingness. Hence, through the whole range of creatures, divine love flows as a river. Of all creatures God loves man in a special way and confers upon him an extraordinary dignity, giving him that glory which the rebellious angels lost.

… man, of course, is the creature who can answer the voice of the Creator with his own voice. And this can happen in two ways: in voce oris, that is, in the celebration of the liturgy, and in voce cordis, that is, through a virtuous and holy life.

…In this regard, the most precise description of the human creature is that of someone on a journey, homo viator. On this pilgrimage towards the homeland, the human person is called to a struggle in order constantly to choose what is good and avoid evil.

Meet Edith Stein

A brief introduction to the person and personality of one of the greatest ladies of the Catholic Church.

 

Image result for edith stein

 

During her beatification, John Paul II described Edith Stein as  “A personality who united within her rich life a dramatic synthesis of our century. It was a synthesis of a history full of deep wounds that are still hurting…and also the synthesis of the full truth about man. All this came together in a single heart that remained restless and unfulfilled until it finally found rest in God.”

Biographical accounts will tell you, Edith Stein was born in Breslau, Poland to a Jewish family on 12 October 1891, the youngest of 11 children.

The major events of his life were: the death of her father when she was two years old; the loss of faith at age 14; regaining her faith in adulthood; the completion of her doctorate, summa cum laude, in 1917, after writing a thesis on “The Problem of Empathy”; entry into the Catholic Church on January 1, 1922; joining the Carmelite Convent of Cologne on October 14; making her final vows April 21, 1938; her arrest by the Gestapo on August 2, 1942 and deportation to Auschwitz with 987 Jews; and her death seven days later in the gas chambers of Auschwitz. She was beatified in 1987 and canonized on October 11, 1998.

 

Image result for edith stein

 

But what can we learn by meeting Edith Stein?

God does not ask us to leave behind who we are at our core when he calls us to him. Rather he deepens and enhances the skills and gifts with which he created us.

On the exterior, Edith was an avid student, a brilliant philosopher, a feminist, a Jew, a Roman Catholic, a Carmelite nun.

Interiorly, the question of the suffering ran throughout the fabric of her life. In her early life, prayer seemed irrelevant to life’s challenges. It was a meeting with a young woman that radically altered Edith’s understanding of life. She described this moment, “This was my first encounter with the Cross and the divine power it imparts to those who bear it … it was the moment when my unbelief collapsed and Christ began to shine his light on me – Christ in the mystery of the Cross.”

 

Image result for edith stein art

 

Despite obstacles in her scholarship (she was first denied a professorship because she was a woman, then later, because she was a Jew) she learned that it was possible to pursue scholarship as a service to God. God would draw her deeper into the world rather than ask her to retreat from it.

Edith presented in herself a desire to carry the cross for those who had not met the all-encompassing love of Christ. Like Queen Ester, taken from her people in order to represent them before the King. After many years absent from prayer, she wrote she “did not begin to feel Jewish again until I had returned to God” through the Catholic Church.

Let us reflect on her words:

“God is there in these moments of rest and can give us in a single instant exactly what we need. Then the rest of the day can take its course, under the same effort and strain, perhaps, but in peace. And when night comes, and you look back over the day and see how fragmentary everything has been, and how much you planned that has gone undone, and all the reasons you have to be embarrassed and ashamed: just take everything exactly as it is, put it in God’s hands and leave it with Him. Then you will be able to rest in Him — really rest — and start the next day as a new life.”

Can we still find refuge in the Catholic Church?

 

The image is a pelican, a mother whose children will starve, so with her beak, she opens her breast and allows them to drink from her blood, that they may survive.

 

Image result for pelican stained glass

 

In the selflessness of a mother, Christ’s heart is pierced on the cross and, pouring his blood out for us, he saves our lives.

 

Image result for christ cross blood chalice

 

This sacrifice continues in the mass. “For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink…Do this in memory of memory…” We must not ignore those words.

 

Image result for christ crucified chalice mass

 

Since July, I have felt at odds with the men on the altar. I heard nothing. From across the country, priests were speaking out. Women in Facebook groups shared how their priests preached on the crisis. Hours of reparation were scheduled. But not here. One parish here, but not where I attend.

We are split between two parishes. One did not even include the statements from the bishop in their bulletin. No mention. No words. Happy-go-lucky music. Was it even happening? Is it business as usual while the faithful who are up on Church news feel broken, alone, lost, abandoned by their shepherds to the thieves who disguise themselves as shepherds?

I heard a priest could choose to dress in black on such an occasion as this. Sackcloth and ashes.

Fed up, I contacted a priest who I knew had preached on the crisis. And by preaching, I don’t mean a passing comment for a few words connecting what he is preaching on to the news and back to the topic at hand.

 

No, I mean it was the focus.

 

They have no excuse because the readings have been all about the failure of the shepherds who choose to shepherd themselves. Even now, Augustine’s sermons on pastors fill the Office of Readings.

We left town for the day to the hills of Sonora, to mass at St. Patrick’s were a pipe organ fills the back wall, a few miles from Indgeny reserve, our destination for the afternoon. There were saw Fr. Sam. He looked deeply into the eyes of those he passed by. He bends down a little to do so. As his gaze grazes the congregation, he stops from time to time. He sees them.

And he preaches to them, to us.

In the reading, he said Christ exposes a great error we fall into, to think we can adapt God’s will to our will. He points out Peter being rebuked publicly by Christ, “get behind me Satan.” It wasn’t private, it wasn’t soft, it was public, it was telling. He pointed out that Peter went onto become Pope. The pope is infallible on the teachings of morals and doctrine, but he can still make mistakes, still make grave errors. We have seen it in history, we are seeing it now.

It doesn’t mean the Church has failed.

The exposure to the light is good. We need that.

He said all that…and more.

 

I felt seen. I felt heard. For over two months I’ve put my heart into the effort to feel it is not us (the laypeople) against them (the establishment of men either committing crimes or men afraid to rock the boat by speaking the truth, by preaching God’s word). I have felt desperate to hear this word, desperate to hear from the representatives of Christ, in person.

Last week reeling, this week refuge.