Polish Pilgrims Run 1,200 Miles to JP2′s Canonization

Polish pilgrims who ran to Rome for the April 27 2014 canonizations of John Paul II and John XXIII pause for lunch after the Mass Credit Alan Holdren CNA CNA

Polish pilgrims who ran to Rome for the April 27, 2014 canonizations of John Paul II and John XXIII pause for lunch after the Mass. Credit: Alan Holdren/CNA.

John Paul II, the Polish pope who brought down Communism.

Now, he’s a saint, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t soon become the new patron saint for Poland. I imagine he already is the patron Saint of most polish households.

From what I’ve read, Pope John Paul II retained a deep love and constant connections with his homeland to the day of his death. He had a Polish cook at the Vatican who prepared Polish meals for him, and he had friends from Poland nearby throughout his papacy.

Saint John Paul was so completely a pope for the whole world that we tend to forget that he came from a particular place and time and that this history shaped him in profound ways. The sufferings of Poland taught Saint John Paul about the cruelty and weaknesses of fallen humanity, the dangers of unjust governments and the sanctity of human life.

In this way, the whole world owes Poland a debt. The painful experiences of Poland, as the country was overrun from the West and then the East, were not in vain. They imbued this son of Poland with the great heart of a saint. He became the light of Christ for people everywhere. His teachings will echo down the generations.

It is no wonder that the good people of Poland wanted to do something special for the canonization of Saint John Paul II. I think their idea to run the 1,200 miles from Poland to Rome for the event is especially apt. It is a difficult thing to take on such a long run. It requires unselfish love of others, courage and perseverance in the face of difficulties to endure to the end of the race.

How can anything be more emblematic of Saint John Paul II than that?

From Catholic News Agency:

.- A group of Polish friends decided to run the whole way to Rome to be present for the canonizations of Saints John Paul II and John XXIII, explaining that their key motivation was to give “thanks.”

“We don’t have any (official) group. We are friends,” Tomasz Pietnerzak told CNA April 27, explaining that when another friend suggested “why don’t we run to Vatican? I said ok, we run. Let’s go!”

Having run a grand total of about 1,200 miles (2,000 kilometers) in order to be present at the Vatican on Divine Mercy Sunday for the papal canonizations, the group consists of 22 men of varying ages, who collectively ran about 185 miles (300 kilometers) a day.

When asked about the primary motivation driving the initiative, Pietnerzak simply stated that they “Run for thanks,” pointing to the word “Thanks” printed on the back of the matching athletic jerseys they wore.

“We run because we can’t do anything else,” the pilgrim explained, emphasizing their gratitude for John Paul II first of all because he is “from Poland,” but also because “he changed world, and Poland.”

“He’s a good man, good man,” they reflected, “he changed Europe.”

Despite the group’s fondness of the sport, they replied with a firm “No, no!” when asked if they would run on the way back, stating that they would most likely return by car – a “come back car,” they jested.

The Mass for the canonization of now-Saints John Paul II and John XXIII was held April 27 at 9:30 a.m. in St. Peter’s Square, where huge numbers of pilgrims gathered, spilling out onto the main road and overflowing into the surrounding squares.

Pope Benedict: The Essential Message Of Religion Is Against Violence

Patheos Public Square included this interview that Pope Benedict XVI gave in September before his resignation about religion and violence.

The Public Square topic is Can Violence Be Redemptive? To read the entire discussion, go here.

THE ESSENTIAL MESSAGE OF RELIGION IS AGAINST VIOLENCE

Vatican City, 15 September 2012 (VIS) – As is traditional during the course of his apostolic trips, Benedict XVI granted a brief interview to the journalists accompanying him on his flight to Lebanon, in which he turned his attention to various issues associated with the situation in the Middle East.

Question: “Your Holiness, many terrible anniversaries are occurring at this time, for example that of the 11 September attacks, and the massacre at the Sabra and Chatila refugee camps. On the borders of Lebanon a civil war is being fought, amid much bloodshed, and in other countries too we see an ever-present risk of violence. Holy Father, … have you been tempted to cancel your trip for security reasons, or has anyone suggested that you should cancel it?”

Holy Father: “Dear friends, … I can tell you that no one advised me to cancel this journey, and for my part I never considered doing so, because I know that as the situation becomes more complex, it is all the more necessary to offer this sign of fraternal encouragement and solidarity. That is the aim of my visit: to issue an invitation to dialogue, to peace and against violence, to go forward together to find solutions to the problems”.

Q: “Many Catholics are expressing concern about increasing forms of fundamentalism in various parts of the world and about attacks that claim large numbers of Christians as victims. In this difficult and often violent context, how can the Church respond to the imperative of dialogue with Islam, on which you have often insisted?”

Holy Father: “Fundamentalism is always a falsification of religion. It goes against the essence of religion, which seeks to reconcile and to create God’s peace throughout the world. … The essential message of religion must be against violence – which is a falsification of that message, like fundamentalism – and it must educate, illuminate and purify consciences so as to make them capable of dialogue, reconciliation and peace”.

Q: “In the context of the surging clamour for democracy that has begun to spread in many countries of the Middle East through the so-called ‘Arab Spring’, and in view of the social conditions in most of these countries, where Christians are a minority, is there not a risk of an inevitable tension between the dominant majority and the survival of Christianity?”

Holy Father: “I would say that in itself, the Arab spring is a positive thing: it is a desire for greater democracy, greater freedom, greater cooperation and a revived Arab identity. This cry for freedom, which comes from a young generation with more cultural and professional formation, who seek greater participation in political and social life, is a mark of progress, a truly positive development that has been hailed by Christians too. Of course, bearing in mind the history of revolutions, we know that this important and positive cry for freedom is always in danger of overlooking one aspect – one fundamental dimension of freedom – namely tolerance of the other, the fact that human freedom is always a shared freedom, which can only grow through sharing, solidarity and living side by side according to certain rules. … We must do all we can to ensure that the concept of freedom, the desire for freedom, goes in the right direction and does not overlook tolerance, the overall social fabric, and reconciliation, which are essential elements of freedom. Hence the renewed Arab identity seems to me to imply also a renewal of the centuries-old, millennia-old, coexistence of Christians and Arabs, who side by side, in mutual tolerance of majority and minority, built these lands and cannot do other than live side by side. I therefore think it important to recognise the positive elements in these movements and to do all we can to ensure that freedom is correctly conceived and corresponds to growth in dialogue rather than domination of one group over others”.

Q: “In Syria today, as in Iraq a while ago, many Christians have felt obliged, reluctantly, to leave their homeland. What does the Catholic Church intend to do or say in order to help in this situation and to stem the flow of Christians from Syria and other Middle Eastern countries?”

Holy Father: “First of all I must say that it is not only Christians who are leaving, but also Muslims. Naturally, there is a great danger of Christians leaving these lands and their presence there being lost, and we must do all we can to help them to stay. The essential way to help would be to put an end to the war and violence which is causing this exodus. Therefore the first priority is to do all we can to halt the violence and to open up a real possibility of staying together for the future. What can we do against war? Of course we can always spread the message of peace, we can make it clear that violence never solves problems and we can build up the forces of peace. … Christian gestures may also be of help: days of prayer for the Middle East, for Christians and Muslims, to demonstrate the possibilities for dialogue and for solutions. I also believe that there must be an end to the importation of arms: without which, war could not continue. Instead of importing weapons, which is a grave sin, we should import ideas of peace and creativity, we should find ways of accepting each person in his otherness, we should therefore make visible before the world the respect that religions have for one another, respect for man as God’s creation and love of neighbour as fundamental to all religions. In this way, using all possible means, including material assistance, we must help to bring an end to war and violence so that all can help rebuild the country”.

Q: “Besides prayer and sentiments of solidarity, do you see concrete steps that the Churches and the Catholics of the West, especially in Europe and America, can take in order to support their brethren in the Middle East?”

Holy Father: “I would say that we need to influence public opinion and politicians to make a real commitment, using all their resources, all their opportunities, with real creativity, in favour of peace and against violence. No one should hope to gain from violence, all must contribute positively. … Moreover, our charitable organisations should offer material help and do everything they can. We have organisations like the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, specifically for the Holy Land, but other similar organisations could also provide material, political and human assistance in these lands. I would like to say once again that visible signs of solidarity, days of public prayer, and other such gestures can catch the attention of public opinion and produce concrete results”.

Why Did Jesus Have to Die, and Why Does the Resurrection Matter?

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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.

They ate.

And they did not die.

Then.

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.

Sister Jane, Cowardly Clergy and Martin Niemoller Moments

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First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.

Pastor Martin Niemoller

Sister Jane Dominic Laurel is the latest victim of the group-think, all-things-homosexual movement. Her oppressor isn’t an amoral corporation. It’s the Catholic Church.

Sister Jane gave an hour-long presentation to students at Charlotte Catholic High School in North Carolina titled “Masculinity and Femininity: Difference and Gift”

Sister Jane is a member of the Dominican Sisters of Cecilia, which is known for its fidelity to the Magisterium. She has a doctorate in sacred theology from the Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas in Rome. Her presentation was based on a series of instructional videos created for Aquinas College in Nashville, where she is an associate professor.

The resulting uproar caused by this faithful Catholic nun faithfully teaching Catholic morality to a group of high school students in a Catholic High School immediately moved from disagreement to nasty confrontation.

In a meeting with “outraged” parents, the Rev Matthew Kauth, the school chaplain, apologized to parents and promised that the high school would develop “new policies that would better scrutinize visiting speakers in the future.”

Now, Sister Jane is “taking a sabbatical from teaching and canceling her other speaking engagements.”

After the fold-up of the Catholic Bishops in England, when they were scolded by a powerful British politician, I began to wonder exactly what’s with this all-male priesthood of ours. The craven behavior of the English bishops raised the question, at least in my mind, as to who is the teaching authority of the Catholic Church; the bishops or powerful politicians.

The situations in both Seattle and North Carolina make me wonder if the new teaching authority resides in angry mobs with tuition money.

Why are we bothering with an all-male priesthood, if the priests and bishops won’t act like men?

We. Need. Leadership.

We already have all the examples of collusion, running away, (what we call “crawfishing” here in Okieland) and back stabbing that anyone could want.

What those of us in the pews would like to see is active examples of manly defense of the Gospels and the Church by stand-up men of the cloth.

Scape-goating a nun during Lent, when we are remembering the sacrifice made by the Ultimate Scapegoat when He died on Calvary, is perhaps more apt than the boys in collars really want to be.

Are the men in our all-male priesthood men enough for these times? Are they men enough to pay the price of real leadership in ugly times when the Church is attacked, or are they going to sell the Gospels down the drain?

In politics, we have a saying, “I have your back.” That means that you are dealing with someone who will watch and not allow you to be blindsided; someone who will stick with you when things get dicey.

I have often criticized my fellow elected officials for certain behaviors, but I can tell you that I have not seen such a case of obvious cowardice as this from any elected official I ever served with.

The priests and the bishop put Sister Jane out on the ice and let the bears have her. How inspiring for the rest of us.

Why did they tuck tail and run away?

I don’t know.

Anyone can see that when the bears get through with her, they’re still going to turn and attack the boys in black. The only way to delay that is if they do sell out the Gospels, which, based on the comments by the school chaplain, is exactly what they plan to do.

Of course, the problem with that is that a lot of the rest of us aren’t going to trust them or follow them later, when they might need us; like when those bears come for them.

This was a Martin Niemoller moment. And they blew it.

When Pastor Niemöller was put in a concentration camp we wrote the year 1937; when the concentration camp was opened we wrote the year 1933, and the people who were put in the camps then were Communists. Who cared about them? We knew it, it was printed in the newspapers.
Who raised their voice, maybe the Confessing Church? We thought: Communists, those opponents of religion, those enemies of Christians – “should I be my brother’s keeper?”
Then they got rid of the sick, the so-called incurables. – I remember a conversation I had with a person who claimed to be a Christian. He said: Perhaps it’s right, these incurably sick people just cost the state money, they are just a burden to themselves and to others. Isn’t it best for all concerned if they are taken out of the middle [of society]? — Only then did the church as such take note. Then we started talking, until our voices were again silenced in public. Can we say, we aren’t guilty/responsible? The persecution of the Jews, the way we treated the occupied countries, or the things in Greece, in Poland, in Czechoslovakia or in Holland, that were written in the newspapers
I believe, we Confessing-Church-Christians have every reason to say: mea culpa, mea culpa! We can talk ourselves out of it with the excuse that it would have cost me my head if I had spoken out. From Wikipedia.

 

For more information, check out Deacon Greg Kandra, Katrina Fernandez, Jennifer Fitz, and Get Religion.

Hobby Lobby Founders Discuss the Supreme Court Arguments on the HHS Mandate

I’m not going to do a post mortem on the arguments the Supreme Court heard on the Hobby Lobby/HHS Mandate case.

I won’t give you a run-down of which justice twitched, which one pulled his or her earlobe and who coughed. Trying to divine how the Court will rule by studying the questions justices asked and the expressions on their faces has become a kind of sport, like handicapping a horserace. Only it’s not nearly so accurate.

I think we would know just as much about what they’re going to do if we slaughtered a goat and studied its entrails.

Besides, I’m too nervous about this one to do that. The Court hasn’t exactly been a friend to people with traditional Christian values for a long time now. In fact, the Court has made itself the architect of this brave new baby-killing, marriage-is-meaningless world we inhabit. To a great extent the whole social mess is of the Supreme Court’s devising.

But this decision is one of the really big ones. Will we be free after this ruling?

It depends.

On how they rule.

The Court can destroy religious freedom with this ruling. It can also do as it did with the gay marriage ruling last summer and just put out a row of dominoes for others to knock over and destroy it in succeeding months.

What are the chances that the Supreme Court will actually rule in favor of religious freedom?

Will we be free after this ruling?

It depends.

On them.

 

The owners of Hobby Lobby spoke about yesterday’s arguments before the Supreme Court. Here is what they said.

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Future Priests Embrace Celibacy

“The priesthood is too serious a call, not to have guys who are 100% committed to what they are doing.”

Amen.

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Missing Airplanes, Deep Water Ports and Russian Union at Gun Point

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I haven’t written much about the mess with Ukraine/Crimea/Russia. I haven’t written at all about the missing airliner.

The reasons are simple.

I don’t have a lot of wisdom to share about Ukraine/Crimea/Russia, and I don’t know what’s happened to that airliner.

My guess is that Russia wants a sort of alliance with its former satellites states; something akin to the European Union. I doubt that Russia wants to re-occupy those countries. They’ve already done that. And it didn’t work out.

On the other hand, creating an economic alliance that resembles the European Union would greatly enhance Russia’s economic clout. This is especially true if Russia is the absolute, unchallenged first among equals with the member states of that “union.”

Russia, being Russia, doesn’t seem to have gotten the drift of negotiation in developing this economic union. They’re more into gunpoint diplomacy than the give and take of actual negotiating.

Of course, negotiating with people who were, until a couple of decades ago, Russia’s slaves, would be tough going, even for the most delicate of debaters. Russia has what might be called a bad rep among their former satellites. The brutal police states they ran that impoverished people, destroyed their freedoms and ended many of their lives in gulags make people chary of being their pals now. These folks aren’t too eager to go back under the Russian lash.

It appears that Russia is still the child of its evil past. The response to frustrating displays of disregard for what Russia wants in its satellites seems to bring that evil child to the fore. Russia’s means of conversation is to bring in the tanks and troops.

In addition to economic hegemony, Russia also wants and needs something that Crimea — and only Crimea — has. Americans, who live in one of the other great continental nations, take our plethora of deep water ports for granted. We’ve got so many of them, and they are all ice free year round, that the whole question is not a question to us. We don’t think about what it would be like to be a continental nation without a single ice-free, deep-water port.

But Russia, despite its mammoth coastline, hasn’t got anyplace to park a fleet of big boats. It can’t ship goods by sea because there’s no way to get the goods onto the seas. I won’t discuss the issue of a Russian Navy at this point. I think it’s obvious that you’ve got to have ports to have an effective Nary.

Little Crimea is the proud possessor of a deep water port that is ice free.

Do I need to connect the dots here?

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At the same time that we’ve seen exhaustive and utterly confusing news reports about Russia/Ukraine/Crimea, we have also been partakers of the mystery surrounding a missing airliner. It seems that this airliner abruptly made a hard turn off its course, dropped to below radar level and flew on for several hours. Then, it vanished.

Nobody knows what happened. Nobody knows where it is now. Nobody knows anything except that the airliner, its crew and passengers are missing.

Speculation about hijackings and terrorists raises a hundred nightmare scenarios in all our minds.

We faced with other people’s tragedies as their countries are invaded and annexed for the use of more powerful nations. We imagine what it must have been like on that airliner. We feel for the families of these people. We speculate about whether or not the crew and passengers are still alive, and if they are still alive, what might be happening to them.

All this is laced with fear. Not lie-awake-at-night-and-churn-fear, but the cold frisson of fear that is part of living in an uncertain and dangerous world. There are so many good people. But the relatively few bad ones have the capacity to make a hell of this earth for all of us.

Both these situations seem to have a simple root cause, and that root cause is the assumption by some individuals and countries that other human beings are simple expedients to them getting what they want.

We deal with powers and principalities every day of our lives. We see the results of their control over human beings on the news every evening, and we live out the personal miseries they cause us in the dysfunctions of our relations with those around us.

I haven’t written about missing airliners and Russian tanks parked on the ground of other people’s countries because I’m not sure enough of the facts to say anything definitive. I decided to write about these things today because of the one thing I am sure of.

We will never get to the end of the evil that people do to other people in this life. That is why it is so important for us to remember that our primary citizenship is not in any country of this world. We are citizens of heaven, even now, as we live here.

I am not urging an otherworldly abandonment of our responsibilities in the here and now. We are charged with bringing the Kingdom. We are called directly and explicitly by Our Lord to be the light that shines in this darkness.

As Americans we have unique freedoms with which to do this. We need to use every opportunity we have to fulfill our call, and when we feel that frisson of fear that comes from living in a fallen world, we need to remember that we serve a risen Lord. This world is just the smallest part of our existence.

Doing Lent in the Fast Lane

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How to do Lent in the fast lane?

More to the point, how to do Lent when I’m catching myself running in circles?

This time of year is uber busy, fragmented and exhausting for Oklahoma House Members. How do I find time to pray more than Now I lay me and Bless us oh Lord?

What of the disciplines of fasting, alms and deep examination of conscience? Does all that go by the board when I’m stuck eating whatever is put in front of me and almost never get a moment alone?

I’m certain that I’m not the only person who finds themselves caught in a whirlpool of busyness during these days of Lent. That is, after all, our modern curse.

We are overwhelmed by a tsunami of too much: Too much stuff, too many activities and far too many people competing for our attention.

“Doing” Lent under those circumstances can easily reduce itself down to its lowest common denominator. Tuna sandwich for lunch on Fridays? Check. Grilled cheese for lunch on Ash Wednesday? Check. Confession, whether you need it or not? Check and check. And, oh yes, keep your sticky little fingers out of the candy dish at work.

Here we are, dealing with the fulcrum of history; the moment at which everything changed. We are considering the point at which the hopelessness of vanity, vanity all is vanity before Calvary was transformed into the birth of life everlasting after Calvary. Everything turns on that hilltop with the three crosses 2,000 years ago.

Lent is designed to take us there. It is meant to bring us to our knees before the foot of the cross where we can be born again.

But when you’re being drug by the runaway horse of overwhelming busyness that is our modern life, how do you do more than the minimum? How do you find the space, the quiet, the time to hear that still small voice?

I’ve dealt with this for years and to be honest, I’ve never found a fully satisfactory answer for it. Doing the minimum isn’t so minimum when it’s all you can manage. There is an element of faithfulness involved in those tuna sandwiches and skipped candy.

The trouble with doing the minimum is that it leaves you basically the same as you were before you did it. You don’t necessarily slide back spiritually the way you would if you didn’t try at all, but you won’t grow in Christ by doing the minimum. The minimum leaves you spiritually fed, but at a bare sustenance level.

Doing the minimum is just a step above not doing at all. It’s easy to slide from the minimum to less than the minimum and a deteriorating faith walk that leaves you half Christian.

How does anyone grow spiritually while living the lives we do, where emotional fracturing and distancing from faith seem built into the structure of it?

My advice, which is the advice of a woman whose Lenten practices are mostly a matter of minimums sandwiched into busyness, is to do at least the minimum, no matter what. Even if it means eating really substandard food like a spoonful of banquet carrots with a spoonful of banquet mashed potatoes with some kind of something that’s supposed to be gravy for lunch, do the minimum. Do it even if you can’t for the life of you remember your sins and have to search your memory while you’re standing in line outside the confessional.

I have a completely personal theology for doing the minimum that I call “God supplies the lacks.” What I mean by that is that I trust that if I don’t remember to confess every sin, or even my most important sins, God, Who knows everything about me, will supply the lacks and forgive me my forgetfulness, He supplies the lacks in my confession. God supplies the lacks. I don’t have anything but my own faith to base that on, but I believe it to a profound level.

I am not talking about deliberate refusal to do what you should when you have the opportunity to do it. I mean when you’re grinding metal in your life, God will supply the lacks to see you through it spiritually intact. All you have to do is your part, by which I mean those minimums offered up with the knowledge that the minimum is not really enough to keep you spiritually healthy for the long haul and a firm intention to do more and do better when you can.

This leads me to the “when you can” part of that. If your life is like Marine Corp boot camp 52 weeks out of every year, you really need to re-think your way of living. Otherwise, you’re going to be talking to God face to face a lot sooner than you expect. No one can use themselves up without breaking stride for their whole span of days.

You have to take time outs. It is essential to your sanity, health and purpose as a human being. For a workaholic, time out requires discipline. It is just as difficult for someone who is inured to a life of constant stimulation and overwork to take a pause as it is for a couch potato to get up and get moving. They are two sides of the same self-destructive coin.

Obeying the commandment to “remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy” is your best friend in this. I didn’t know this a year ago. I didn’t even know it six months ago. I had one of those spoing! moments of insight that occasionally come along. I realized that I had been breaking one of the commandments without realizing the significance of what I was doing.

It’s not easy for someone like me to quit working for one full day each week. But I have found it to be my new best friend. I recommend it for anyone and everyone as a bare minimum of Christian living. It not only rests your mind; it opens your heart to God. I was surprised by the effect this simple act of obedience had on my closeness with Christ. If your job requires you to work on Sunday and you can’t get out of it, my advice is take your sabbath rest on another day. Do not cheat yourself of this great gift of the Sabbath.

Sunday rest is another bare minimum of Christian followership. But if you add it to the bare minimums of fasting, confession, weekly eucharist, you will find that they combine to lift you out of the basement Christian walk of maintenance spirituality and into a gentle curve of Christian growth.

Doing Lent in the fast lane is often about doing the minimum. The minimum will starve you spiritually over the long haul. But if you do it with love of Christ, you will be able to make up for it at other times.

That’s how I get through it. I do the minimum, and whatever else I can in addition to that minimum. And I trust God to supply the lacks.

Pope Francis: Peace Depends on Human Dignity

 

 

Following the teachings of the Catholic Church means that you will always be on the right side of history, which is the side of human dignity.

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Western Civilization is a Dead Man Walking, but It’s Valentine’s Day and We Still Have Each Other

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A federal judge in Kentucky killed marriage this week.

A parliamentary vote in Belgium officially raised the Ashteroths and reinstituted the Baals in the name of medical Molochs.

It was the week that Western civilization, already weakened by the blood loss from the decades-long practice of cultural self-cutting, was given its death sentence. What we were and what we would like to think we still are is now a dead man walking, waiting for the final woof! of implosion that pushes us back down to the muck from which we came.

My first thought was to drape this blog in black crepe and declare a day of mourning. We civilized folk of the Western world now kill everyone, everywhere, with a pasted on silly-smile of patently bogus “consent.” The real consent is the one we have given ourselves; the consent to kill people from conception to the tremors and dependance of old age. No one is safe from the scythe.

And yet, the yammering for more continues unabated. Last night, when I googled euthanasia, I came across a forever-to-be-nameless blog that was chortling over the rise in public acceptance of medical murder, which polite folk like to call euthanasia. This blogger, who earns his literary bread by selling atheism, went on to say that this public approval of killing grandma pits Christians even more solidly against the culture of what’s happening now. This is, the writer said, an “opportunity” for him and his to gain converts.

The question arises: Converts to what?

Certainly not a disbelief in God, since that question never arises in this or most similar analyses. This wasn’t an argument against the existence of God. It was a smug rejoicing in the increasingly widespread public rebellion against God.

Rebellion and disbelief are two entirely different things.

But what of those of us who will not rebel against our Maker? We are free, unlike these self-appointed little g gods who have taken the power of life and death onto themselves, to not have to decide.

The burden of when to kill our elderly, murder our children, flush our unborn is removed from us. We know and accept that this is murder, plain and simple, and we will not do it.

By the same token, we do not eschew the pleasures of home and family. We still have our marriages between one man and one woman in lifelong fealty. We’re not burdened with the living death of empty sexual hooking up, polyamory, swinging and endless rounds of coupling and uncoupling. We have said “no” to the insect sexuality of modern day culture and the hollowed-out death of self that it ultimately brings.

We are human, and we know that means we are made in the image and likeness of the Eternal God.

We are free from these animalistic ways of living. Or we try to be. And when we fail, we go to Him to be washed clean so we can begin again.

What of us on this Valentine’s Day that falls on the Friday of the week that Western Civilization finally convicted itself and placed its life on death row?

We chose — of our own convictions — to withhold our support for this mass suicide of a whole world. We chose — through the enabling power of the merciful grace of a God Who loves us so much that He died for us — to go another way.

My husband of 30 years and I talked about the killing field that is Belgium over dinner last night. “Next, they will kill the disabled, the mentally ill, the mentally challenged,” he said. “That has already begun,” I told him, speaking of the two men who were euthanized because they were going blind, the many who have died because they were depressed, the untold numbers of the unborn who have been slaughtered for being disabled.

Who’s next for this “right” to be killed?

Marriage died in America the day before Belguim enlarged the killing fields of medical murder to include all of humanity. The symmetry is unmistakable. We destroy the home, the family, and the lives of our young and old, all in one week.

And yet, there are those of us who do not bend our knee to the Baals. If we are to be the remnant, a 21st century version of the 7,000 that God revealed to Elijah; if we are those whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him, then that is our honor and our privilege.

A husband of 30 years that I can share these thoughts with is a considerable reward for living the life Christ asks of me. Sons who are fine young men with values and kind hearts is another great reward.

But nothing, not even these wonderful things, can compare with the pearl of great price that is knowing and loving and walking with Jesus Christ.

He has saved me from the pit in which that other blogger I spoke of earlier, lies wallowing. He has lifted the deadly choice of killing grandma off my shoulders and left me free to love and, yes, to sacrifice for, my elderly parent.

He has given me the gift of love in my life and His own love, pouring down on me every day. He has spared me from the bloodguilt of killing my family members.

All of this in exchange for simply accepting that He — and not me — is God.

It’s Valentine’s Day. And on this day, those of us who follow Him have the many gifts of living good in this life, with eternal life ahead of us. In addition, He has also given us one another.

If we are today’s 7,000 who will not bend our knee to the Baals, then let’s rejoice and be glad for our salvation. Let us resolve to be the light that shines in this new darkness.

We, out of all this black morass of killing and license, are the ones who have chosen, by our free acceptance of the gift of God and His grace, to be blessed.


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