God calls each of us to use our talents and whatever years of life He gives us to further the Kingdom.
There is no one way to do this. In fact, there are as many ways as there are people. I believe that the most Christlike thing I have ever done was to raise my children. The sacrificial love of a mother truly is a Gospel love. When mother love fails, nothing can replace or compensate for it.
Celine Diaz is a beautiful young woman with an equally beautiful voice. She had the option to move into the world of fame through secular music, but felt called to turn to Christian music, instead.
In that way, her gift has become a gift to all of us.
Like everybody my age, I’ve got a lot of past.
Not all of my past is good.
In fact, a portion of it is seriously miserable.
I try to forget.
And forgive myself for the things I’ve done.
I try to forget.
And forgive others for the things that have been done to me.
But there are days when that load of past can get heavy. Especially in church. My miserable past includes a couple of bad times with church. I’ve experienced the rejection of unforgiveness. Even though I forgive as best I can, the memory still comes back from time to time, like an ache in an old break in a bone when the weather changes.
The two greatest challenges this poses are a loss of trust and a deep feeling of unworthiness. The bad opinions of others can imprint on a person and leave their ugly image. Trust, once it’s cut away, doesn’t re-grow. It callouses over, but the nerves are dead.
I have periods of time in my life when the hardest thing I have to do is go to mass. Not because of any latent anger, but because of the deep sense of unworthiness. I have no right to be there in the presence of the Presence, and I know it.
I had an exceptionally rough bout with this recently. I actually left the church during mass, left my husband there, holding the hymnal and looking at me with uncomprehending eyes as I left, driven away by the unworthiness that is branded into me.
I used those moments away to gather myself to myself and then I went back in. But it wasn’t easy. I got through that mass by looking at the tabernacle and talking to Him.
Because it’s true, you know. I have no right to be there, in the presence of the Presence. I am unworthy, as John the Baptist said, to untie His sandal. Yet the reason, the only reason, that I am there is that He invited me.
In the final analysis, the Presence does not belong to any priest, or even to the Church itself. They are its guardians, and the conduit by which God graciously consents to dwell among us in the Eucharist. But the Presence is God Himself, and as such, that Presence belongs to no human being. It is It’s Own Self.
I came to the Catholic Church and asked to come into full communion because Christ in the Eucharist called me to Himself. It was a call that was so clear, persistent and patient, that, in the end, it worked its way past all the obstacles to what was at the time a rather bold step of faith.
Jesus called me to Himself in the Eucharist. That is why I am Catholic.
And on that day when my own unworthiness flared into a blistering flame inside me, when I wanted to run away, to paraphrase St Peter, because I am a sinful woman, He was there, not to call, but to strengthen me past my focus on me and bring me into a fresh focus on Him.
I kept looking at the tabernacle, at Jesus, present in our midst. I don’t know if it was a prayer, or a conversation, or a vow of a sort. I only know I spoke directly to Him and He heard me.
“You are my Lord,” I told Him. “You are the reason I am here. You are the One I trust. You and only You.”
There was more. But that’s the gist of it. Shattered trust is like an amputation. It can’t grow back. We can never undo the things we’ve done or forget the lessons of the things that are done to us. Forgive, yes. But forgetfulness would be to unlearn the life lessons and forego the spiritual depth these things give us.
If you live long enough and do enough hard things, you will lose your trust in people, in fate, in your own good luck. The illusions of personal invincibility die a hard death, but Christ can and will raise up a new trust and a new invincibility from the ashes on that pyre of self-sufficiency.
“You are my Lord,” I told Him, and it was as much vow as prayer; an open acknowledgement of the truth of things, bound up in a promise. “You — and You only — are my Lord.”
“You are the reason I am here.” I said, not because I enjoy the liturgy or find affirmation in the friendships, but “You — and You only — are the reason I am here.”
“You are the One I trust,” because You have proven Yourself trustworthy time and time again, because You loved me first and because You forgave me and walk with me and endure me and keep forgiving me over and over again.
“You and only You,” because people, even the most lovable and precious of people, will let you down. Because, I, you and everyone, will let ourselves down. We will betray one another and we will also betray ourselves. Only Christ will never fail us.
I was not the only wounded person in the church that day. I am never am. We are all wounded, in one way or another. We shatter our self-righteousness by the things we do, and we face the terrible isolation and aloneness of the things that are done to us.
The many cruelties people practice against one another — our gossip and slanders, violence, lies, betrayals and deliberate degradations — are all at base an isolation of the other person, a way of putting them outside while we remain inside.
We draw lines around ourselves and our group, whoever that group may be, and then we push everyone outside that line into a sub-class of one sort or another. This hurts and maims all of us.
So many times on this blog I see angry, harsh comments, coming from people who at base are just trying to express their sense of isolation and rejection. The truth is, no one of us, not a single person of us, has the right to stand before God.
But He is our Lord. And He has invited all of us — ALL of us — to His table. No one of us has a right to be there. But, by the miracle of His love, no one of us is too wounded, too sin-sick, too disreputable, too female, too gay, too poor, too fat, too ugly, stupid or lost to be refused a place at that table. We are all welcome.
He is always with us, even when others fail us or turn us away. He is always ready to accept us and forgive us. We don’t have to stop sinning and get perfect to come to Him. He accepts us just, as the old hymn says, as we are.
We may have to jump through more hoops that we can manage to find surcease and acceptance from other people. But all we ever have to be or will ever have to do with Him is put our hand in His and say “Yes.”
“You are my Lord,” I told him. It is as simple as that.
Kevin Sorbo, star of God is Not Dead, shares his remarkable story of faith, including how his faith helped him through a traumatic health crisis that could have killed him or left him an invalid.
As his wife says in the video, “He’s a good guy.”
Calvary is the fulcrum of history.
Everything changed on that hill called Golgotha 2,000 years ago. Three days later, when the stone rolled away, God put His final redemptive imprimatur on the story of our salvation.
Before that Day in the garden outside the empty tomb, when He looked at the woman and said, Mary!, Solomon’s ancient wail of “Vanity, vanity; all is vanity,” was the summation of the reality of human existence.
But Calvary and what He did there, the garden and Who the woman met there, changed all that forever.
Do not eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, for you will surely die, God told them.
“You will not die,” Satan countered, in one of the deceptive lies disguised in a seeming truth that he uses so often against us.
And they did not die.
But death was born into the world with that first bite of disobedience. The scales fell from their eyes and they knew. They fouled their primal innocence with willfulness, and they knew shame; first the shame of their nakedness, and then the shame of their fallenness.
Their first action was to hide from God because, as they told Him, “We were ashamed because we were naked.”
God’s answer illuminates their changed condition, Who told you that you were naked?
Their second action was to blame one another.
Primal innocence was gone in a single bite of the apple of disobedience, replaced by primal love of self.
Humankind denied this loss throughout its history, denies it even to this day. Self-will battles with God’s will in each of us every moment of our lives. And yet, there is in each of us, encoded in our souls, a haunting memory of who we really are, and an inchoate longing that will not be silenced for what we have lost.
“Our hearts are made for thee,” St Augustine said. And so they are.
God-longing is a part of the human condition, as is a hunger for transcendence and lost innocence. Separated as we are, this longing festers into resentment and denial, while the hunger congeals on our souls as hubris and self-worship.
The curse of lost innocence drives us to rageful disobedience. It ensnares us in our own desires and, if we let it, murders us with the excesses those desires breed in our lives.
Throughout human history this pull of longing for God and lost innocence has played against the push of the hubris of our self-aggrandizements and twisted desires. The tension it creates drives us into a universal acceptance of insanity. We kill one another and we kill ourselves in as many ways as the human story can devise. Our blood-soaked history of suffering and misery has one message: We cannot save ourselves.
The God-hunger encoded in us and the God-image inside of us, drive us to seek propitiation. From moloch to corporatism, we feed our lives and the lives of our children into the empty maw of false gods of our devising. We seek our lost transcendence in debauchery and achievement; in doing good and doing bad; in war making and peace making; in causes and rights and laws.
We try to achieve a lost immortality by looking as Ted Bundy did, into the eyes of those we kill and persuading ourselves that in that moment when the light of life fades we are like gods. We attempt to overcome our finite hopelessness by doing good works, and advancing humankind through the achievements of our efforts and our minds.
But in the end, we are but dust. Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.
God does not force us. He doesn’t reach down and re-invent us back to our lost innocence.
That is not cruelty as some claim. It is love and longing. Love, to be love, must be freely given. Our love for Him must be ours to give or withhold, or it is not love at all.
So God led us gently over long years and slow changes to the moment when He stepped into our history as one of us in order to offer us a Way. Jesus had to die because by dying He became the ultimate sacrificial lamb, the complete propitiation for our sins. He made it right by offering Himself in lieu of us on the altar of life and death.
He was our Passover lamb and Calvary was the ultimate and final Lord’s Passover.
If that is true, then what is the meaning and the necessity of the Resurrection? Wasn’t dying on the cross enough to redeem us?
The answers people give are all true. The Resurrection demonstrates that Jesus is God. The Resurrection is a sign of the resurrection that awaits all of us who accept Him and go through the open doorway of redemption that He represents. He is the Way in a literal and absolute manner. We enter into the Kingdom through Him.
But I think there is another ultimate meaning to the Resurrection. Calvary wasn’t the only way that God could have restored us to Himself. It was the only way He could do it and leave us free.
The Resurrection was the great undoing of that curse we cursed ourselves with in the garden. If you eat of the tree of knowledge, you will surely die.
You will not die, Satan told us, and left out the word “today.”
We believed the lie, and the curse of death, real death that is separation from the Light, entered humanity.
The Resurrection broke that curse. God Himself entered into death, took on the curse, and experienced its depths. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me, Jesus cried from the cross as He experienced the cold annihilation of The Alone in its absolute form.
I’ve have written about The Alone that we inflict on one another with our cruelties. But that Alone, which is a foretaste of the pit of hell, is nothing but a foretaste. The real hell, the true Alone, is complete separation from God.
We experience shades of this hell in the bitter blackness of our sinfulness. I have lived a bit of it, both in things I’ve done and things that have been done to me. The pleasure people take in hurting other people is a dark thing that swallows their own humanity.
We can cast other people into The Alone with our rapes, tortures, murders, greed, gossip and pretentious claims to superiority. Every time we do this to another person, we experience a bit of the cold blackness that such actions come from.
The curse of the fall is our daily experience, and that curse is death. The Resurrection broke that curse. God entered into our cursedness and experienced its shattering consequences. He, Who knew no sin, became sin for our sakes.
Then, on the third day, He shattered the curse like a glass by breaking death itself. He cast off death and arose from the grave.
This was different in every way from miracles such as raising Lazarus or the little girl or the young man who was being carried to his burial place. The difference is that He didn’t stand outside death and undo it for a time, He entered into death and dissolved it for all time.
Physical death is a huge thing to us. But to God it appears to be almost trivial. Jesus raised people from the dead as easily as taking a drink of water. Little girl arise, He said. He took pity on a mother’s grief at her son’s funeral procession and raised the young man with a word. Lazarus, come forth He commanded and Lazarus walked out of his tomb.
Physical death isn’t the great divide that it is to us to One who sees both sides of the experience, to the One Who created life in the first place.
The Resurrection isn’t another casual raising of someone from the dead so that they will die again in a few years. The Resurrection is an everlasting casting off of ultimate death altogether.
Eat, and you will surely die.
You will not die … today.
I am the Way … all who believe in Me will never die.
The Resurrection is the end of death. It is the Way out of getting what we deserve.
And it leaves us free. We can accept Him and love Him … or not.
Love is not love unless it is freely given.
How do Catholic politicians come to the conclusion that it’s A-Ok for them to vote, speak and advocate for abortion?
How do Catholic politicians decide that it’s not a big deal for them to vote for discriminatory laws against whole swaths of humanity?
How do Catholic politicians develop the belief that they can vote and speak for the HHS Mandate and not be attacking their own Church?
How on earth do Catholic politicians come to believe that, even though John Paul II expressly wrote a whole letter telling them flat out that politicians who vote for gay marriage are committing grave sins, that it’s still ok for them to vote for gay marriage and that they can march right up to the front of the church and take communion afterwards?
Where do these elected officials get the gas to denounce a bishop for having the temerity to teach the teachings of the Church? What is the source of the arrogance that allows a member of the Catholic laity to proclaim that a bishop’s teaching, which is based on papal documents and the constant teaching of the Church, is “a tragedy?”
Where do politicians who essentially tell bishops of the Church to “mind your place” when they teach Church teaching acquire their overbearing attitudes towards their religious leaders? Where did the princes and princesses of Western democracies get the nerve to lecture the Church on what constitutes a state of grace and who would be taking communion unworthily?
It has grown past scandal and become a broad cultural reality that dissenting high profile Catholics deliberately and publicly thumb their noses at Church teaching by deciding, with a clear knowledge of what they are doing, to cast votes, make speeches, accept awards and publicly advocate for abortion and gay marriage. These actions have been specifically defined as mortal sins by the popes.
Who brought this beast of arrogant Catholic politicians who oppose and attack their own Church to life? Who feeds it?
While there are multiple factors and causes involved in the exploits of such a large group of people, one thing that stands out in my mind is the actions of the Bishops themselves. I understand that telling a group of people that they may not take communion unless they repent, as in the situation of politicians who cast a certain vote, is a difficult call, primarily for reasons of justice.
Votes can be misleading simply because there are procedural methods of killing a piece of legislation or of working to get at it, which can look one way to the outsider and are really another thing altogether to someone who understands the process. Lawmaking in a democracy is a wild West process where anything that works, goes.
Added to this is the fact that the bishops themselves seem to have little more than a high school political science understanding of how legislating works. A few years ago, I watched an EWTN broadcast of a meeting of the USCCB as they tried to iron out what would have been simple parliamentary procedures for an elected official. It was funny stuff. But it also taught me that these guys don’t understand what politicians do for a living.
That is why these cases have to be taken individually and why a repeated practice of voting a certain way, added to public statements is the best method for a bishop to determine if he is dealing with an elected official who just fell off the horse, or who even may be doing the right thing with a confusing procedural move, or, if the politician in question is a hardened dissenter who is committing mortal sins without compunction.
Even though examples of obvious, high-profile cases of the latter are easily found in American politics, both at the federal and the state level, I do not want to see star chamber Catholics with their desire to use communion as a club to beat people they don’t like to rule the day. I appreciate the caution of good bishops in a matter as serious as telling someone to refrain from taking communion.
But if they want to lead their people, the bishops are going to have to get together and do something. They should have done something a long time back. It needs to be consistent, cohesive and understandable. It also needs to occur in non-election years so that there is no taint of electoral politics to it.
This penchant for openly committing grave sins and then denouncing anyone who says that it is, in fact, a sin, has become a mass revolt in the public at large, and it is being led by large numbers of Catholic politicians.
I know that it is difficult for a bishop to talk to each one of these offending politicians personally and advise them of the gravity of their situation. I also understand that a certain number of the politicians in question will make the whole thing public and milk it for all it’s worth. There will inevitably a public outcry and excoriation of the bishops for their “intolerance” when they advise someone to refrain from taking communion until they repent and go to confession.
But the fact is that the reason there are so many Catholic politicians doing this is that the bishops have failed Catholic elected officials in this matter for a long time.
Elected officials are not just things with power. They are human beings. They are immortal souls. If they are Catholic, their religious leaders are their pastor and their bishop. If both these men do not take note of public dissent against Church teaching in grave matters when it is manifesting and step in to advise the person of the danger to their soul in what they are doing, then that pastor or bishop is failing this person.
It really is as simple as that. Bishops who allow high profile Catholics to run amuk and commit equally high-profile mortal sins without at least making sure that their pastors talk to them about it are failing these people. What’s more, they are failing them in an area which strikes to the core of what a bishop is, which is their role as the shepherd of souls.
If the pastor or bishop allows this behavior to continue unchallenged until it becomes a public scandal — as it will — then they have not only failed this one individual, they have failed all those who observe this politician’s defiance and decide that it must be ok for them to defy the Church in matters of mortal sin, as well.
In this way, the pastor and bishops are training both elected officials and the rest of the laity to defy the Church and ignore its teachings. The bishops are indirectly teaching that mortal sin is not mortal sin and the Eucharist is simply a social rite which may be taken by the force of public approbation and criticism.
We’ve just been given a startling example of this by the Catholic Bishops Conference of England.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of England basically did exactly what I’m talking about in a recent letter in which they made it clear that, insofar as the Church is concerned, the Catholic MPs who voted for gay marriage did not commit a serious sin with that vote.
They didn’t say this explicitly, of course. What they said was that there were no plans to deny communion to those MPs who had voted for gay marriage. So far as the public is concerned, this is the bishops’ imprimatur on the power of Catholic politicians to commit any sin they chose with their offices and not have to count it as sin.
Again, the bishops didn’t explicitly say that, but there is enough past experience here, and they all have to be intelligent well-educated men who are fully aware of the consequences to this sort of thing that I’m certain they know how people will see their actions. They also have to know that the effect of their little letter will be more dissent in the future.
Where do you think dissenting politicians come from? They are empowered and enabled by bishops like these.
LONDON, April 2, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales assured Catholic Members of Parliament this week that there are “no plans” to refuse them Holy Communion after they voted to support the “gay marriage” legislation that came into effect yesterday.
Greg Pope, head of parliamentary relations at the conference and a former Labour Party MP, wrote to MPs assuring them that comments by the bishop of Portsmouth, Philip Egan, on the Church’s Code of Canon Law forbidding Communion to “manifest grave sinners,” would not be applied to them.
Today the media office of the bishops’ conference confirmed with LifeSiteNews that the letter was addressed to the Catholic MPs with the bishops’ full authorization. “Many thanks for your mail. Mr. Greg Pope was speaking as a spokesperson for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales,” a spokesman with the bishops’ Catholic Communications Network said. Greg Pope was chosen as the liaison between the English Catholic bishops and Parliament despite his consistent voting record in opposition to traditional moral teachings. Pope has supported abortion, adoption by homosexual partners, and artificial contraception.
“The statement was approved by the General Secretary of the Bishops’ Conference after appropriate consultation. ‘There are no plans by any Bishops in England and Wales to deny communion to Catholic MPs who voted in favour of same sex marriage legislation last year,’” the spokesman said.
Pope’s letter came in response to a LifeSiteNews interview with Bishop Philip Egan in which he said that denying Communion to someone engaged publicly in grave sin is an “act of mercy” and a “medicinal” remedy for Catholics.
He said, “When people are not in communion with the Catholic Church … in terms of the teachings of the Church on marriage and family life – they are voting in favour of same-sex marriage – then they shouldn’t be receiving Holy Communion.”
“When people are not in communion with the Catholic Church on such a central thing as the value of life of the unborn child and also in terms of the teachings of the church on marriage and family life – they are voting in favor of same-sex marriage – then they shouldn’t be receiving Holy Communion,” he said.
Bishop Egan refused to be intimidated by the possibility of opposition, saying “Nobody is forced to be Catholic.”
Here is how the discussion began, also from LifeSiteNews:
PORTSMOUTH, UK, April 1, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – An openly gay Catholic MP who voted for same-sex “marriage” in Britain has said he “feels unable,” in the words of The Telegraph, to receive Communion after his local bishop said that those who vote for legislation that is contrary to Church teaching on marriage and family make themselves unworthy to receive Holy Communion.
Conservative MP Conors Burns called Portsmouth Bishop Philip Egan’s remarks a “tragedy.”
“I have been a practising Catholic and communicant within the diocese of Portsmouth since I arrived at Southampton university in 1991 before anyone in Portsmouth Diocese had ever heard of Philip Egan,” Burns told The Telegraph.
He voted for the same-sex “marriage” legislation that came into effect last month, even though he had voiced prior reservations to redefining marriage.
“If the arrival of this bishop means that I can no longer be a practising Catholic within the diocese, that is a tragedy,” hetold The Tablet last week.
Burns co-chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group on Britain’s relations with the Holy See and is considered to be one of the country’s most senior Roman Catholic MPs.
Despite his high ranking, Burns appears to have missed his bishop’s main message.
Egan made it clear in a video interview last month with LifeSiteNews that denying Holy Communion — which Catholics believe to be the body of Jesus Christ —to Catholic politicians not believing and practicing the faith is not a punitive measure, but “always an act of mercy.”
It is done to “encourage someone to come back to seek communion with the Lord with the truth and say I’m sorry I got lost,” he said. It is done “with the hope and prayer that that person can be wooed back into full communion with the Church.”
Canon 915 of the Church’s Code of Canon Law states that those who are “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.”
However, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has responded to Egan’s remarks by assuring Catholic politicians that Canon 915 will not be enforced. The bishops’ head of parliamentary relations, Greg Pope, has written to Catholic MPs that Communion will not be denied to those who supported gay “marriage,” reported The Telegraph.
American Cardinal Raymond Burke, head of the Vatican’s highest court, known as the Apostolic Signatura, has strongly advocated the use of canon 915 in the case of Catholic politicians who publicly support abortion and same-sex “marriage.”
In a recent interview published exclusively in English by LifeSiteNews, Burke said denying these politicians Communion is a “prime act of pastoral charity,” since it helps the person in question to “avoid sacrilege and safeguard[s] the other faithful from scandal.”
I recently posted a statement that if you want to disrespect the Pope, you need to go to another blog.
That post garnered quite a few complaints from would-be Pope dis-respecters, including attempts to get around it by use of innuendo and leading questions. It’s interesting how committed these people are to disrespecting the Holy Father.
Michael Voris of The Church Militant recently put up a YouTube video in which he addresses the same issue. It turns out that he doesn’t disrespect the Pope, either. I don’t agree with everything Mr Voris says, but he’s right-on about this.
Have a look.
Pope Francis has set aside this coming Friday as “24 hours for the Lord.”
He is hoping that local parishes will offer special opportunities for prayer and the sacrament of confession. I’m going to try to take advantage of this call for prayer and reconciliation as best I can. Hopefully, many Public Catholic readers will do the same.
We are living in times where our faith is challenged and attacked by the larger culture. If we are going to stand for Christ and not fail, we need to pray and keep ourselves spiritually clean.
From Catholic News Agency:
.- During his Sunday Angelus, Pope Francis announced that March 29-30 would be “24 hours for the Lord,” during which people can find special opportunities for prayer and the sacrament of confession.
“Next Friday and Saturday we will live a special moment of penance, called ‘24 hours for the Lord.’ It will begin with a (liturgical) Celebration in the Basilica of St. Peter’s (on) Friday afternoon, then in the evening and night some churches in the center of Rome will be open for prayer and confessions,” he explained to the crowds in St. Peter’s square on March 23.
“It will be – we could call it - a celebration of forgiveness, which will happen also in many dioceses and parishes of of the world.”
The Holy Father then noted that “the forgiveness that the Lord gives us” should make us “celebrate like the father in the parable of the prodigal son, who when the son returned home, had a party, forgetting all his sins.”