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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.”

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

Living With Intention: A Review of The Grace of Enough

Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch

 

There are some pretty common themes in the writing you see here week by week. I did not start out with this vision in mind. As I reflect, more than anything, I would say, the topics have circled around the idea of intentional living as the source of The Good Life, Aristotle’s not so elusive idea that happiness is possible, possible for anyone, in any circumstances. It is just is not the life of pleasure, power or money we might grow up thinking it is.

Through the blogosphere, I learned about an upcoming title, The Grace of Enough by Haley Stewart. The title was fascinating. Her story, even more so.

 

 

Their family was tired. Tired of long hours working. Tired of making just enough. Tired of the isolation of life at home. It was time for a movement. Rather than go the way of more money, which would mean longer hours, less meaningful work, less time together, they decided to make a radical change. Her husband applied for an internship with World Hunger Relief Farm where they both volunteered prior to marriage. Accepted, the family of five sold their home and moved to a 650 square foot apartment on a massive farm and began their education in slow and intentional living.

The author takes her lessons and shares them here. Lessons in:

Slow walks…to savor nature, to notice things, to let her children school her in beauty, wonder and awe.

 

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Photo by Andreas Dress on Unsplash

 

Intentional home life…it does not need to be fancy, but with greater simplicity, fill it with the things you love, things built to last and say no to fast fashion and fast home design or trends.

Slow food…connecting our food’s origin with its end. Stewart saw her children’s appreciation of their food grow as they learned the process from farm to fork, even the parts we might be tempted to shield from our urban children like slaughtering animals so we eat chicken that night. Slow food does not simply mean avoiding the total convenience of buying whatever we want, but taking more time to savor our meals, cook with others, eat together as a family, not rush to next task at hand.

Stewart transitions easily to the conversation of hospitality. Have you ever avoided seeing a neighbor because of how long that conversation will be? I wonder at my neighbor’s patience as my children hold him hostage in his driveway for ten minutes. No doubt he just wants to take off his shoes and relax. But he loves them and engages with them, answering their questions, offering ideas they suspiciously do not hear. It is a lesson in hospitality. I hope we can always afford to share ten minutes connecting with those we encounter.

Those interpersonal relationships spill into the larger community. As a (primarily) stay-at-home mother, the days can be lonely and daunting. The internet became a great connector for me, helping me stay in touch with other mothers with whom friendship deepened. But we are also called to give without return to our communities through volunteer work. That might mean through the church or local non-profits or city activities. We wonder what has happened to society, but with most families requiring dual incomes, the time and space the parent at home might have spent volunteering is devoted to other, though also important things.

Stewart goes deeper in reflection to the internal sources of our disconnect. Some of her statements might not square with those of other faith or non-faith traditions. She acknowledges this. Regardless, she adds that the fascination remains, how do we rebuild our lives into something meaningful? How can this option be available for any person regardless of socioeconomic status?

“The Grace of Enough” operates as a guide for reflection on how we can pursue today, the good life Aristotle described, almost 1700 years after Aristotle wrote about it in the “Nicomachean Ethics”. I walked away from this book feeling supported in our choices, inspired by the ideas and challenged to do more. I highly recommend it.

Discloser of Material Connection: I am a freelance writer for the Hughson Chronicle. As such, this is a “sponsored post,” reprinted with permission. The company who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment to write it. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Links to understand this Church Crisis

What a week and a half it has been. I do not know what it looks like if you only read the secular press. I do not know what it looks like for non-Catholic Christians. I do not even wholly know what it looks like for Catholics who are not plugged into Catholic social media.

 

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Photo by Ruth Gledhill on Unsplash

 

But I know this: it has been one of the wildest two weeks I have experienced in the church.

Part of it started in June, with McCarrick sexually harassing and abusing seminaries yet somehow still rising in the ranks.

This did not hit the secular news. It was actually Catholic journalists who uncovered it, brought it to life and blew it open. Now, he is stripped of his title and confined.

But he never should have gotten as far as he did.

The scandal goes deeper than the creepiness of pederasty (like we were ancient Greeks or something). These were supposed to be our shepherds, our fathers, they were supposed to be men of God.

 

And they failed.

 

Those seminaries were supposed to be houses of formation, not distortion, spiritual hermitages where men could deepen their faith, discern their vocation and delve into the mysteries of the Church’s teaching preparing them for the pastoral care of the people of God.

Instead, it destroyed them.

 

Was it everywhere? I knew of the failings of my own diocese (we are bankrupt), but I held onto this hope that elsewhere in the world there were priests and bishops who not only love the Church but were courageous enough to talk about and it takes the risks God calls us to take.

I wrote the priests from the podcast, “Catholic Stuff You Should Know.” The priest who responded reassured me that it was not as widespread as it seems, that it was not the norm, and cautioned me in the direction my heart would take in sorting through this mess.

 

Well, the onslaught continued. The Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report revealed the heinous crimes of clergy and Fr. Dwight Longenecker, with typical insight and concise clarity posted “Cardinal Whirl Resigns.”

The idea that bishops who failed would resign and commit themselves to prayer, penance, and service of the least of our brothers, whispered into my heart what ought to be. This ought to be the spirit of our leaders.

 

Those priests on “Catholic Stuff” took up the call from their listeners and had a podcast (THE SCANDAL AND THE SCOURING) on the subject. I needed this. I needed to hear from the men of the cloth saying they are heartbroken. Otherwise, it feels very much like we are on the outside and alone, abandoned by our shepherds, left to the wolves of the world on one side and their own distorted sexual vision on the other.

 

Fr. Longenecker, less humorously, more practically made a list of “What the Bishops Should do…

 

By this time, social media had erupted. Female Catholic bloggers began #sackclothandashes calling for a time of reparation, like another Lent, to beg God for mercy on our Church and to bring these men back into the light of grace that they may do their duty in justice. From August 22 to Michaelmas, September 29, we would pray, fast and make sacrifice for reparation.

This is the John Paul II generation, taught we could do great things, taught to love the Church and love her shepherds. We are in tears, in rage, in astonishment, but instead of attacking Mother Church, we dove deeper into her traditions, looking for answers, knowing it was these men who were failing the Church, not the Church failing us.

The weekend brought an even more wild wave of news:

Ex-nuncio accuses Pope Francis of failing to act on McCarrick’s abuse reports

And the Pope responded on the plane: ‘I will not say a single word’ on Vigano’s allegations of cover-up.

 

We ask ourselves, WHAT FRANCIS KNEW.

We were not surprised to see California produced more corruption with the retiring bishop of San Jose planning to move in a 5-bedroom 2.3 million dollar house upon retirement. Following the heroic trend, he changed plans once the media caught wind of it. We would, perhaps, prefer to see those “leaders” consider doing the right thing before they’ve been caught, you know, because it is

the right thing to do.

 

There were great articles about how this could happen, how the bishops could become so far removed from the real world to perceive themselves above the law of God. Mass readings called out bad shepherds, pasturing themselves, Jeremiah lamented.

And out of the ashes, Fr. Longenecker wrote, THE COMING CATHOLIC RENEWAL AND THE TREE OF GONDOR.

Something could happen. Something could change. But then Fr. Longenecker gave us a dose of reality. As much as we want these bishops to resign and Pope Francis to tell us what he knew, he likely won’t, they won’t. Instead of speaking truth, Francis will likely just remain silent, as he did with the dubia, when faithful Catholics wanted to know what he meant. He refused to clarify.  And awful, infuriating and likely accurate prediction.

 

It is a marvel that I could end this week feeling inspired and hopeful, but I do.

That bit of magic came from Al Kresta, who explored in depth what we know and what we do not know on his radio program, “Kresta in the Afternoon.” Kresta is a journalist and as a journalist, he takes a different approach. He interviews journalists. It was the journalists who first brought this to light and who will not let it rest, even as Francis refuses to tell us the truth.

 

Kresta in the Afternoon – August 27, 2018 – Hour 1

Kresta in the Afternoon – August 27, 2018 – Hour 2

Kresta in the Afternoon – August 28, 2018 – Hour 1

Kresta in the Afternoon – August 28, 2018 – Hour 2

Kresta in the Afternoon – August 29, 2018 – Hour 1

Kresta in the Afternoon – August 29, 2018 – Hour 2

 

I invite you to listen for yourself. As the days moved forward, Kresta comes to the belief that like the great crises in the Church, occurring approximately every 500 years, this will be another. He calls it the era of sexual heresy.

The root of this evil grew in denying the Church’s authority in sexual morality. A personal denial, then a refusal to teach her teachings, a refusal to counsel others to follow her teachings, then a refusal to follow her teachings. The teachings on sexual morality stem from a belief in the goodness of God’s creation and that one must never use another person. The sexual act is to be one of total self-gift, committed in marriage, unitive and procreative. When it becomes about me, use, or merely pleasure, all kinds of distortion can come into play, reaching, ultimately, at the extreme ends, the disregard of the other person in rape or abuse.

Don’t believe me or want to know more where I’m getting this stuff? Read Humanae Vitae.

 

There is a lot more to be said but this post has gone on long enough.

I am praying for the victims. I am praying for the truth to be revealed. I want to see those filing cabinets wide open. Let every last crime come to light. Only then, can our Church be purified and renewed.

 

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Photo by Linus Sandvide on Unsplash

Facing the Brokenness: Thoughts on the crisis

This is a heartbreaking time to be a Catholic. The brokenness of the institutional Church is broken open. I am thankful it is that the truth may be known. When this happened before in 2002, I was too young to be plugged into the news cycle. We did not have social media. We have it now. My online peers and mentors are speaking out. There must be change and not just talking points.

 

 

What are we to do when we discover and rediscover the brokenness of our families, our community or the world around us?

We left behind the old life to commit to the new. For some, this represented a significant break from their history and making considerable sacrifices in a new way of living. When we first fall in love, we see only the good. This is the romance or colloquially called the honeymoon stage. One might say we see only what matters. Alice von Hildebrand, in her book titled “Letters to a Young Bride” writes that this vision of the person (which can be applied to the communities and organizations we love) is a vision to help sustain us when this next phase kicks in.

Disillusionment is the loss of the illusion, the honeymoon period of which we saw only the virtues. It is celebrating National Night Out before reading the griping on Nextdoor.com. It is knowing the beliefs of a Church or the mission of a non-profit before encountering the mess of a bureaucracy. It is realizing how long the man goes before clipping his toenails. All of this comes to light gradually. In the eye of the beholder, the flaws grow and grow. One may resist seeing them, fight them, but ultimately, to continue the relationship, one must learn to separate the flaws that are normal human imperfections and the sins that must be left behind.

Because I love you, I accept that you are more forgetful than me.

Because I care about this mission, I will jump through these hoops to get approval for my project.

But I will never, ever let you lay a hand on me.

I will not tolerate being spoken to in that way.

If I am employed, I expect to be paid for my work.

You must follow the law.

And if I really loved the thing or person I thought I did in the first stage, if I can remember how this commitment first came to be, then it is possible for me to decide, now, with eye wide open, if this person or organization is worth fighting for.

 

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

 

Vices plague communities in ways similar to how they plague people. The person I loved is more than that vice and if I love him then I will want to see him restored to the person I know him to be.

But if I am in danger I will get out and go somewhere safe. We cannot help a person or an organization continue maltreatment and call that being faithful to it.

Creating safe boundaries is another way of helping a person move through the stages of change to sobriety from these grave faults. Staying in a situation when you are in danger does nothing to help that person. Separation does not have to mean divorce from the first commitment. You are better than the way you are hurting me. By not allowing you to hurt me, I am helping you return to the person I know you to be. By creating safe boundaries, I am reminding you of the accountability to which you are called.

There are many paths through the disillusionment stage. We accept our personality differences, we accept that weaknesses exist, we exhort without nagging the need for growth. When both parties are willing to grow and acknowledge their faults, the relationship can move into the third stage of a mature, stable love and commitment. Or it will dissolve, either internally or externally.

What did we know in that first stage? There will be clues along the way to know if this thing is worth fighting for. Then I will spend my life loving you enough to call and help you to become what you have always been meant to be.

While this is not the place for deep dive into the news surrounding the Catholic Church, I encourage those who want to learn more to go to http://www.wordonfire.org/resources/blog.

 

 

 

Why Should I Attend my Parish Festival?

We don’t have to know our neighbors.

 

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We don’t need to know about the little community events.

 

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Our children will survive if they never see a Ferris Wheel in real life.

 

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We can know nothing about the cultural roots of the person next door.

 

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And we can live without any sense of wonder and awe.

 

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But how much better if we can, like a child, see the world as it is, bright, beautiful and connected. For the child able to live in a world of security with stable attachments, the world is their playground, everything is made to amaze them.

We can live that way to

if we open our eyes

and try

A Mother’s Grief: Reflections on the Most Holy Rosary

Update: With the End of May came the end of this offer, but sign-up to receive free reflection ebooks and mini-liturgies for the home in the future!

 

The irises are fading, the mums are mounting and the herbs are filling out the little flower bed whose sole purpose when I first planted was to give me lavender.

It is May in California. The blossoms are past and summer fast approaching.

To honor our Mother Mary in this month of May, I would like to offer you something very close to my heart.

It is a free ebook, with meditations on each mystery of the rosary. The meditations are written

for those mothers dying to themselves with every diaper

for those mothers who have raised their children

for those mothers whose children have walked away

for those mothers who have buried their children

for those mothers who never met their children

because in embracing motherhood, we embrace the cross.

 

Here is a sample of what you’ll receive…

Meditation sample

Click here to receive it in your inbox.

The link will take you to a form to enter your email address and once opted in, you’ll receive a link to the ebook.

If you choose to share it with others, I do ask that you send them the sign-up link in this email, rather than the direct link. Every email address on the list brings me a step closer to having the platform publishers crave to bring my story to you, in print.

 

Lent: what is it good for?

Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch

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It begins with that day of the year when Catholics walk around with soot on their foreheads. The ashes are burned, blessed and distributed with the reminder, “you are dust and unto dust, you shall return.” I can think of more romantic ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year.

And yet…

What does “carpe diem” and living the moment intentionally mean apart from the understanding that we must live today, cherish every moment because our tomorrows are not guaranteed? It is the grip of that reflective reaction which occurs when someone dies. When we think of what he or she accomplished or perhaps how little time there was; we review our own regrets and gratitude.

Lent is meant for that. Although instead of doing it after a death, it does it leading up to a death, the day Christians recall the Crucifixion, a Friday called Good.

I reflect for myself: am I living a life consistent with my convictions? What can I improve?

Along with reflection, it encourages fasting. Catholics and other traditions “give up” something for Lent. Removing the excesses brings into focus what really matters to me and the things that may have become unintentionally central in my life. Chocolate? Perhaps. Snacking? Perhaps. Gossip? Perhaps. Whatever it is, when I make a focused effort to abstain from it, I do not only become free to evaluate what role it played in my life, but like the Whole 30 diet, this intensive approach seeks to break the bad habits in order to make room for the new, the things I want to be central in my life.

Prayer becomes the sustenance to help me endure and inspire me to continue. It facilitates the initial inquiry of what I want to achieve and keeps the goal in mind. Like using a charitable project to inspire marathon training. What do I want my life to look like? Not just what I want but what am I called to? How can I adjust my expectations and beliefs to fit the bigger picture, love of God and love of neighbor? Am I fully embracing the path I walk on? The formation of that vision inspires the sacrifices.

Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are the ingredients to the season of Lent. Because much of human error can be located in the area of what we do for others and financial practices, Christians are invited to give more at this time. Like “Giving Tuesday” after the trio of shopping days: Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. When there is a concerted effort in a short span of time, the effort tends to be more effective.

Equivalents exist in small examples throughout our culture. I welcome the quiet of Lent as I welcome the storage containers that come to Target’s shop floor the first of January. It is good to have seasons of focus. It is a bit too much to live life and keep everything in mind. We need seasons.

My plan is to continue with the disciplines (new habits) I have been working on this spring, to give up bread (to encourage healthier options), to do some spiritual reading, to become more consistent in charitable giving, to take more time for silence and remember to keep work days as their own thing rather than let them spill all over my home days. It is not a radical shift, though it could be if that were necessary. Lent provides the opportunity.

I am not sure our culture has an equivalent to this practice as a whole. Advertisers would have us focus on the here-and-now. At Thanksgiving, we practice gratitude. During Christmastime, we oscillate between the desire to acquire and the desire to “count our blessings.” I think we need it. Our tomorrows are not guaranteed, so when the priest will say, “you are dust and unto dust, you shall return,” I will think in my heart, “I know” and I will try to live like it.