6 Things I Hope the Synod on the Family Does That It Doesn’t Seem to be Doing Now

I had high hopes for the Synod on the Family.

I had hope that it would find ways for the Church to support and strengthen traditional marriage, that it would address the real problems of children of divorce who grow up with half their souls amputated by the constant roiling.

I had hope that it would take a look at ways to help people who are trying their best to follow Catholic teaching in a hostile world where one McJob won’t support a family, so both parents end up with with two or three jobs, leaving the children to raise themselves.

I had hope that the Synod would address the clanging juxtaposition of overprivileged kids in too-expensive Catholic schools staging walk-outs from their fine educations while inner city kids are forced to share textbooks and don’t even feel physically safe.

I had hope that the Synod would find ways to strengthen the family, not abandon and destroy it.

In truth, I not only had hopes for the Synod, I had trust in it. I believed in it and in the men who were participating in it. Now, I’m afraid of what they may do.

Here are 6 things I wish the Synod on the Family would consider that it doesn’t seem to be considering now.

 

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1. Poverty and its deleterious effect on families. As I mentioned above, even here in America, poverty grinds families to bits. American children aren’t forced to scavenge in garbage dumps for food. But they spend most of their lives being raised by everything and everybody except their parents.

There is such a divide between the elites and the rest of this country that I honestly don’t think they know or believe what their policies are doing to ordinary people. Low wages and a stagnant economy caused by exporting our industrial base has led to the need for mothers and dads to work two or three jobs apiece, just to put a roof over their kids’ heads.

There’s no nanny or au pair for these kids. They end up raising themselves, and being raised by other kids and the second-rate schools they must attend. As soon as the law allows, they get McJobs of their own, often working long hours to help support the family. The resulting exhaustion often ends their education.

Too many of them opt out altogether. Their real family, their real parents, are the gangs and the other kids. They have no moorings to make decisions, so they fall into early and promiscuous sex, babies without dads, drugs and gangs.

That’s in America.

I’m sure it’s much worse — by powers of ten — in developing countries. After all, the reason our corporations shipped our industrial base overseas was to be in places where it could treat people any way it wanted.

Divorce among the working class and lower classes in America is a plague; as is shacking up and having kids out of wedlock.

It destroys families. And the destruction of families destroys lives.

Perhaps the Synod should look at what it can do to help Catholics who want to have families and raise them well but are crippled by poverty that makes living out their vocation a desperate and losing fight. How can the Church support families in the face of poverty and corporatism? I wish they’d look at that.

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2. How the Church can actually teach its teachings to the people in the pews. Re-writing the Gospels to fit the times is not the correct pastoral answer. The correct pastoral answer is to take a look at why the Bishops have been such abysmal failures at teaching Church teaching.The arguments these men are having now are a direct result of their failure to teach in the past.

The Church leadership has gotten soft and disengaged. It has lost its missionary fervor. Its operating ethos is build-a-church-building-then-wait-for-the-parishioners-to-come. Follow that by preaching fine homilies that are nonetheless removed from the fact that ordinary pew-sitting Catholics are out there without ammunition or support on the front lines of a cultural war.

I don’t think that Catholic clergy really “get” what the Catholic laity is facing every single day. I don’t believe they understand the many social martyrdoms that many devout Catholics endure.

My hope is that the Synod could address this failure as it applies to the family and actually talk about how to help Catholic laity be the Light of the World that Jesus calls them to be.

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3. Stop speaking in indirections and obscure language. I would love to see our religious leaders take the marbles out of their mouths and actually communicate in a straightforward manner. The flap over the relatio is a case in point.

I’ve heard comments that people are “stupid” for not understanding that the document is just basically minutes of the previous meetings and nothing official. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my dealings with the public, it’s that if you say it, and they don’t get it, it’s on you to fix that. Leadership is mostly a matter of being understood.

This inability to speak in simple declarative sentences may be a large part of why the bishops have failed so disastrously these past decades in their job as teachers of the faith. If I could make one reform of Catholic clergy it would be to teach them to talk to people about the faith from the heart.

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4. Bring Catholic education back in line with Catholic belief, and provide it to the poor. Catholic education is losing its Catholic savor. It is also more and more the inaccessible privilege of the privileged. It smacks of hypocrisy to preach about “the poor” while shutting the doors to a good Catholic education in the “the poor’s” faces.

Catholic families of every social strata need the Church’s help in raising their children to be Catholic. If Catholic schools fail in this mission — and many of them are demonstrably failing horribly — then what are parents to do? By the same token, if access to a Catholic education is denied to parishioners who are trapped in the McJob syndrome, that will only quicken and deepen the destruction of their children.

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5. Address the plague of drug addiction that destroys our families. Drug addiction destroys the personalities of the people who suffer from it, and it also destroys the homes and happiness of everyone they love. It is a plague that is filling up prisons, destroying families, leaving children damaged and too bereft to become functioning adults, and hollowing out whole societies.

It leads to corruption and massive violence on a governmental scale. If the Synod wants to help families, it needs to discuss ways the Church can aid them in their anguished fight against drug addiction.

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6. Talk about Jesus, not one another. The priesthood is not supposed to be all about the priests. From the sex abuse scandal to some of the things I’m hearing from this Synod, the trouble stems, not from a lack of leadership, but a lack of followership.

Many of our religious leaders seem to think that their world is the whole world and that they have no need for the humble reliance on Christ that is the mark of true Christians the world over. My hope for this Synod is that its participants will follow Christ, and not each other. My number one wish is that our religious leadership would preach Christ. If they would do that, everything else would follow.

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Book Review: Trusting God with St Therese

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You can buy a copy of Trusting God with St Therese here

 

Does news of ISIS, the Ebola virus and the Synod on the Family fill you with anxiety?

Are you downcast and disheartened by the unraveling of our society and its descent into amoral self-destruction?

Maybe your problems are closer to home.

Do you worry about your children’s friends? Are you caring for a sick child or an elderly relative? Does it seem that you’ll never make enough money to get ahead? Do you fear for your job? Are you faced with a scary health problem?

Is life beating you to the ground on a daily basis?

Trusting God with St Therese is for you.

Connie Rossini does a good job of teaching St Therese’ “little way” in a comprehensible manner that makes it easy to apply to our daily lives. Since reading the book, I’ve been reminding myself to say “Jesus I trust you,” whenever I consider the problems that face me. It helps me a great deal to remind myself that I am not in this life alone. I have a companion who will never desert me, and who, ultimately, has already claimed the victory over all that assails me.

St Therese practiced a life of sanctity based on living each day for Him and through Him. She did not focus on being sinless, but on trusting God for her salvation. She did not attempt great deeds, but entrusted her every action to Him on a daily, and even momentary, basis.

It’s so simple, really. When my mother interrupts me for the 50th (I’m not exaggerating when I say 50; over the course of a day it’s accurate) to ask me something she’s already asked me 49 times and I snap at her, What do you want? St Therese reminds me to turn to God and ask Him for a kiss, or a bit of comfort rather than falling into guilt and despair.

She teaches us to view God as a loving parent, which, for me, is a good analogy. In that way, my own imperfect Daddy is a good model for God. I understand unconditional love because I had it all my life from my Daddy and from that elderly Mama I now care for.

St Therese teaches God as that same sort of loving parent, only writ eternal and almighty.

Think about it for a moment. Is there anything you can do, any accomplishment you can accomplish, that will make God love you? Conversely, is there anything you can do that will make Him stop loving you?

Too often, people come to the conclusion that the answer to the last question is yes. Yes, you can make God stop loving you.

But that simply is not true. Hard as it is to fathom, God loves the murderers of ISIS as much as He loves you and me. They have rejected Him, and sadly, they’ve done it in His name. They are running away from Him and from salvation as hard as they can, and they are laying waste whole areas of the world in the process. They have made themselves the servants and the disciples of satan.

But that does not cancel out God’s love for them. It does not change His willingness to forgive them and change them from sons of darkness to children of Light. The message of the Cross is that no matter what we’ve done, Jesus has paid the eternal price for it. All we need to do is say “yes” to His offer of forgiveness and newness of life.

God’s love lets us roam free, even of Him. We can do our worst. He will still love us.

And if we turn back to Him, the rejoicing in heaven will fill us with love and peace enough to change our souls.

For those of us who do not commit the ghastly barbarisms of ISIS and their fellow mass murderers, this may seem like an odd example. After all, what does me, speaking tartly to my Mama when she interrupts me repeatedly to ask me what day it is or where she put her cane, have to do with the destroyers of life and civilization?

Nothing. And everything.

God’s love for them is the same as His love for me. It is, in both cases, unconditional.

Which is why St Therese and her little way are true. The Bible tells us that God remembers our frame, He knows that we are dust, which is a poetic way of saying that He knows our weaknesses, our tiredness, our sadness; our anxiety and our fears.

He knows us. All the way through. And He loves us with an everlasting love.

We can go to Him like disobedient children because that is exactly what we are.

Connie Rossini has written a fine book, explaining how to live the Little Way in our daily lives. I recommend it.

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Our Lady of the Rosary is also Our Lady of Victory is also a Lady for Our Times

It has always been the habit of Catholics in danger and in troublous times to fly for refuge to Mary.

Pope Leo XIII

Today is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. It’s alternate name is the Feast of Our Lady of Victory.

This feast commemorates the battle of Lepanto, which took place in 1571, and which CatholicCulture.org says is the battle that saved Europe.

In our politically-correct, revisionist history that we use in place of real history these days, the Battle of Lepanto is one of those events about which we may not speak. It, along with the Crusades, has been re-written or, in the case of this battle, ignored, in order to create a version of history that demonizes Christianity and gives Islam a complete pass for its invasions and wars.

In truth, the Crusades, which were horribly executed, were a series of defensive wars against invaders who took over large areas of the world by the sword. There was corruption and terrible mis-use of victories in the Crusades. As such, there is much to criticize about the way they were executed. These points of legitimate criticism are the key to the Crusades ultimate failure to achieve their stated objective, which was to free people who had been conquered by invasion.

This objective is what current history has lied about. I say lie, because there is no other word for it.

The Battle of Lepanto was a sea battle fought to repel invading Muslim armies. The Ottoman Empire, which came about as a direct consequence of wars of conquest against peaceful countries, had spread throughout the Mediterranean. The Sultan’s fleet controlled the Mediterranean. The military goal was to bring all of Europe within the dar al-Islam, the “House of Submission,” i.e., submission to sharia law. They called Europe the dar al-harb, the “House of War.”

The reason for this name was simple: Europe was the land of the infidels, i.e., Christians.

The invading armies gained purchase for the same reasons they were able to conquer Constantinople in 1453: Divisions within Christianity. In that instance, the argument was over who should be pope. This  had led to a bitter division of Christianity. In the Europe of the 1500s, the argument was between Protestants and Catholics, with some Protestants becoming so insane with their hate that they actually welcomed the invading Muslims as fellow enemies of the Pope.

On the day of battle, October 7, 1571, the pope called on the faithful to pray the Rosary, asking for Our Lady’s intercession. Crew members on the Christian ships prayed the Rosary prior to battle, as did Christians everywhere. Churches were opened for people to gather together to pray the Rosary. It is said that Pope Pius V was given a miraculous vision of the victory.

The Battle of Lepanto was not only a pivotal victory for Europe and Christendom, but the loss was so costly to the invaders that it turned them back permanently. All but 13 of the nearly 300 Turkish ships were sunk, and 33,000 Turkish sailors were killed, wounded or captured. Twelve thousand Christian slaves were freed.

The deeper symbolism and symmetry of this historic battle connects like a row of dots with the miracles and warnings that Our Lady gave us at Fatima. Fatima, which acquired its name during the time the area was a territory under Muslim conquerers, was the place. Our Lady appeared at Fatima to warn us of the reality of hell, the fall of Russia to Communism and the cataclysmic wars of the 20th Century. She introduced herself to the shepherd children by using a name that harkens back to Lepanto.

I am the lady of the Rosary, she said.

 

 

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Pope Francis: Inequality Between Rich and Poor Threatens Democracy

 

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I have Decided

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Pope Francis: The Future is in the Meeting Between Youth and the Elderly

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Christians are Suffering and Dying for Christ. We Must Stand Witness.

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The first genocide of the 20th Century, the “forgotten genocide,” was the genocide of Armenian Christians.
We must not “forget” again. 

 

Nobody knows. 

Nobody sees.

Nobody knows but me.

That is the lament of victims of discrimination and violence throughout time.

They are trapped in the unimaginable alone experienced by people who fall into the hands of human monsters. It is impossible to describe the depth of terror, horror, pain and absolute, total and complete isolation that is part of the shock of being helpless in the hands of satan’s disciples on this earth.

The survivors can’t tell of it, not really. Because if they try, there are no words. Because if they try, they find that they are speaking to blank walls of incomprehension and denial.

The rest of us don’t want to hear these stories because they remind us of our own deep helplessness. People who have never looked into the pitiless eyes of satan in another person’s face and known that they were his to do with as he chose, do not want to consider that the only thing separating them from a similar fate is geography or chance.

There is nothing special about American Christians that we have not been subjected to the violence that attacks other Christians around the world. We are not more faithful. We are not more holy. Quite the opposite.

The difference between them and us is a matter of government. It is not innate in ourselves. The tightening noose of social discrimination that Christians face here either is a harbinger of worse to come or not, and that, whether we want to accept it or not, does depend on us.

We can choose to fight back and not go there. We can boycott the products of media outlets that defame us. We can speak out about our faith and defend ourselves.

They can’t.

Christians who live in places where killing Christians is always a question and not an anathema, live their lives under a genocidal Sword of Damocles.

We can not turn our backs on them and their stories of great suffering because it upsets us to be reminded that satan walks the earth in human form. We must not avoid them for fear that satan will come at us through the rage we feel over their suffering, that standing witness for them can open a doorway to satan in our own hearts.

People are suffering and dying for Christ, and it is our vocation in these times to stand witness.

Christians in the Middle East and in much of Africa are suffering their own Shoah. They are being annihilated and driven from their homes. They are being kidnapped, raped and sold into slavery.

The satanic barbarity of ISIS, Boko Haram, the Islamic Brotherhood and al-Qaeda are a testament to what giving your heart to satan and following him can turn people into. These men who do these things are fallen, fallen, fallen. They are satan’s disciples.

They are fallen, but the Christians they murder are lifted up. They are martyrs to Our Lord in the same way that Christians have been martyred for Jesus throughout our history. They are His saints. Every Christian that ISIS and Boko Haram murders goes to heaven. And each one of their murderers — unless they face the horrible reality of what they have done and repent from the heart — is destined for the flames of eternal hell. They will burn there alongside Hitler, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Stalin, Osama bin Laden and all their followers.

No matter how they lie to themselves, these things they do are not of God. They are from the pit.

Our job, dear brothers and sisters, is to stand witness to our fallen brothers and sisters in Christ. We must tell their stories. We must lift them and their sacrifice up because they are being lifted up in the exact way that Our Lord was and for the same reason, so that the world can see them and be healed by turning to Him.

We need healing desperately in this world, and that healing we need can only come from one place: The Cross.

When we witness the violent persecution of Christians, we are seeing a re-enactment of Calvary in our world right in front of our eyes, today. Every Christian who suffers and dies at the hands of these satanic human monsters is Christ crucified again in real time in front of our eyes.

Can you wait with me one hour? Jesus asked Peter, James and John.

Will you run away from me again? He asks us. Will you shout crucify Him! as they did? Or, will you just walk away and hide your faces because bearing witness hurts too much?

We must stand witness to these our brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering and dying for Him. We must. It is our charge, our call and duty. It is our vocation before God.

We must write about them and develop a literature for them as the Jews did for those who died in the Holocaust. Because this is another holocaust. It is the holocaust of Christians in an entire region of the world.

Satan’s lessor disciples; the ones who make fun of Christian persecution and who try to bully into silence those of us who must bear witness, are our small cross. Their carping bits of nastiness should be meaningless to us. Offer up whatever pangs you feel for those who have died and pray for those who do this, then keep on keeping on bearing witness to the truth of this martyrdom of a whole people for their faith in Christ.

It is painful and exhausting to stand witness to atrocity. But we must do it, and we must do it in the Lord.

Any lessor action would be running away from Him all over again.

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Be Ready to Take a Beating: OKC Bishop Emeritus Marched with Martin Luther King, Jr

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Our current leader, Archbishop Paul Coakley, and Archbishop Emeritus Eusebius Beltran.

Oklahoma City’s Archbishop Emeritus Eusebius Beltran was a gift to our state when he led us.

He was always willing to take the hard step up to the plate to defend the human person from the ravages of discrimination and hate.

About 10 years ago, Oklahoma passed an outrageous law aimed at Hispanics. This law made it a crime to help people, even when they were in dire situations, who had entered this country illegally. It was so draconian that it cut right across the mission of every Christian to serve and love the “least of these.” It was, in truth and in fact, a Jim Crow law for Hispanics.

I actually debated this point when I spoke against this law. I dug out the vote on the original Jim Crow law that Oklahoma had passed not long after statehood.

Do you want your name on a list like this, I asked my fellow legislators, pointing to the votes. It did no good. The state Republicans had whipped the public into a mindless and vicious anti-Hispanic hatred in order to win elections, and even legislators who saw that this law was a crime against God voted for it for fear of losing their next election.

My own district, which was a mix of all sorts of people — a true “rainbow” district of skin colors — was in a welter over it. Later, when the pro abortion people tried to defeat me in an election, they made an attempt to use that stand against this law to defeat me.

I had to take another stand, this time in my district, and tell the people there that I would not vote for something like this, and that if they wanted a racist who attacked people for political gain, then they should not vote for me. I won that election by a huge margin, with the full support of every racial group in the district.

What that meant — and continues to mean — to me is that the people of District 89 are far better people than you will find in much of the rest of our good state. They are some of the best people you will find anywhere.

Archbishop Beltran did not have the luxury of speaking to and for the Catholics of a small part of Oklahoma, like my House district. He wasn’t dealing with people who had known him all his life. He had to deal with the irascible and diverse Catholic population of his archdiocese. Many of the Catholics were just as thoroughly whipped up into anti-Hispanic hatred as the rest of the state.

So, when their Archbishop came out against this law with the full force of his prophetic and moral voice as their religious leader, they were irate with him for doing so. He did not let that stop him at all. The Catholic Church in Oklahoma stood tall against this dastardly legislation, just as it had stood for life and human dignity in an absolutely reliable way for years.

The Church was not able to stop passage of the law, but the Church, by taking this stand, raised the issue of the moral responsibility of lawmakers in an arena which was operating by a faux morality that justified harming other people. The Catholic Church was alone in taking a stand against this law. Others joined later, but in the beginning, the only voice against it was the Catholic Church.

The priests who were on the priest council here in Oklahoma all signed a declaration saying that they would not obey this unjust law. The statement declared that they would minister to everyone, regardless of ethnicity or legal status, even if doing so meant that they would go to jail.

These men made me proud to be Catholic. More than that, they made me feel that the Church was a refuge for those who were without other refuge, that Christ really did animate what they were doing as His priests. They sent the message with that statement that the Church was for real.

That taught me a simple lesson that I’ve seen enacted again and again around the world. When people are totally abandoned by everyone; when they become the object of such universal hatred that anyone who stands up for them is taking a big risk, the Church is their refuge.

That is what happened to black people during the long dark night of segregation. The black churches not only created community, they ennobled a people. Their message of Christ saved black Americans from falling absolutely into the pit of rageful despair which would have destroyed them in an absolute way that Jim Crow could not.

Archbishop Beltran was a young priest in Atlanta at the time of the Civil Rights Movement. He knew Martin Luther King, Jr. Father Beltran did in that time what Archbishop Betran did later. He stood with the weak and the hated against the powerful haters who wanted to destroy them. Archbishop Beltran marched with Martin Luther King when it was a dangerous thing to do. He marched with his bishop’s permission, but with the understanding that if he was arrested, his bishop would not try to get him out of jail.

This was a time when jail was a witness to truth. Father Beltran marched with the understanding that he might have to be just such a witness.

Among the many wonderful things that Archbishop Beltran did, he wrote a pastoral letter about violence against women. I treasure this deeply. The Church needs to use its moral and prophetic voice to speak out more decisively against violence against women. It could make such a difference if it did.

The Sooner Catholic recently published an article, discussing Archbishop Emeritus Beltran’s experiences in the Civil Rights movement. Here is a brief excerpt.

From the Sooner Catholic:

On a steamy Georgia morning in March 1965, Father Eusebius Beltran and three of his brother priests piled into the four-door sedan they borrowed from the Archdiocese of Atlanta and headed south toward Selma, Ala.

 It had been two days since they’d heard news of a police shooting and beatings during a protest march in Selma that would later become known as “Bloody Sunday.”

 The men were not strangers to marches during the Civil Rights Movement, having marched many times through the streets of Atlanta to protest discrimination by schools, restaurants, bus stations and other public venues. But, they hadn’t marched in a protest like this. The Selma marches became a national spark to protest the ongoing exclusion of African-American voters from the electoral process and from the discrimination they faced.

 At the urging of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who they’d spoken with often at his father’s Baptist church, the Catholic priests sought approval from Archbishop Hallinan for the road trip to Selma and use of the archdiocese’s car.

 “He told me that he wanted to see the boys, the priests, who were going with me before we left,” said Archbishop Beltran, who is now Archbishop Emeritus of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City.

 “The four of us went to see Archbishop Hallinan in the hospital and that’s when he asked us ‘Do you guys know what you’re doing? Do you realize you’re breaking the law? Do you know that you could go to jail? And, that if you go to jail, I want to let you know I will not bail you out because part of standing for the truth is you take the punishment, and that’s part of the punishment.’ We said we all knew that, and he said ‘OK, God bless you.’”

 After a nervous 4-hour drive to Selma, the priests each claimed a mattress on the floor of a hallway at the Catholic church and headed to join the crowds at a pre-march pep rally.

 “The whole thing was well-organized and there was always a spokesman up there who was giving directions, reminding people no violence and to be ready to take a beating. It was scary in a way, but when you’re young, you don’t think about it. And, it had to be done too. It was part of the movement at that time. Selma brought together everything we were working toward.”

 The next day, the march began in the same way it had two days earlier. Dr. King led the way across the Edmund Pettus Bridge where the group of more than 2,500 marchers were met by state troopers. Since a judge had issued a court order prohibiting the marchers from continuing to Montgomery, Ala., they turned around and marched back to the church without incident. (Later that evening, three white pastors were attacked by members of the Klu Klux Klan, killing one Universalist pastor after the public hospital refused treatment.)

 Following the second march, which became known as “Turnaround Tuesday,” Father Beltran and his crew returned to Atlanta where they continued their meetings and marches for several years – including a march to protest a segregated chicken restaurant owned by Lester Maddox, who later became Georgia’s governor.

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Oklahoma’s Black Mass Backfires. Opens the Doorway to Christ.

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Nuns Off a Bus. Sisters, arriving at the Benediction. 

 

I don’t know what to say about the whole “black mass” deal.

They did their uggidy-buggidy thingamajig.

I didn’t get near it. And I’m not going to get near it now. If you want to read about the uggidy-buggidy black mass and the brain-dead fools who attended it, google is ready when you are. You’ll find none of that here.

I went to the Holy Hour and Bendiction conducted by Archbishop Coakley. I suppose I could begin writing about all this by telling you that, based on what I experienced, this was a real deal.

I had a hard time getting to the Holy Hour and Benediction. All day the day before I experienced the most dreadful spiritual crisis I have been through since I converted to the Catholic Church. My mind was deluged with negative thoughts, to the point that I began to wonder if I even was Catholic or had a right to enter any Church.

Then, at mass that evening, I prayed and prayed and it let up.

Later that night, I got hit with a sudden and rather violent gastrointestinal thing.

It was at that point that I finally recognized old scratch.

The next day, I thought about skipping the whole Benediction. I felt so terrible, and now I was tormented with thoughts that I might meet a particular person there who had hurt me in the past and who I dread ever seeing again.

I prayed, and knew that I needed to go.

I told a friend of mine that all this made me feel as if the devil thought that if Rebecca Hamilton showed up at this Benediction he would be cast back into hell. I told her that if other people were getting a dose of what I was getting, I feared that the church might be empty.

But, despite all this, I went.

And what I experienced was the Presence and Love of Christ.

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There were a lot of young people wearing red t-shirts with Oklahoma on the front. The back read Sooner Born, Catholic Bred.

That’s a play on an Okie saying: I’m Sooner born and Sooner bred and when I die, I’ll be Sooner dead. 

 

The prayer service was, for me, an exorcism of sorts. I prayed more deeply than I have in many months, and during the praying I went down into the seamy side of my own soul and confessed sins I had walked into that service not knowing I was harboring. It was cleansing, renewing and deeply, deeply humbling in the most beautiful way possible.

I think the reason that the devil had such a good go at me before the Benediction was that he had his claws hooked into me already. Writing about ISIS, seeing the photos of what they’ve done to people, is a gateway for satan. That came on top the raw hurt and anger I have about a gay friend of mine who dumped our lifelong friendship (which was as close as family; he was my brother) and who then went out on the internet to attack me — all over gay marriage. Then, there was that person I mentioned, the one I was afraid I would encounter at the Benediction. I had allowed myself to become a seething pit of resentment because of them.

The first two, personal, things, made me an easy target. But ISIS, which is satanic through and through, raised it to an active rageful anger. ISIS, Boko Haram, and all their stepbrothers, are satanic. Their beheadings, rapes, kidnappings, buying and selling of women and children, church burnings and genocides are just as much a black mass as what happened in Oklahoma City yesterday. When they say they do these things in the name of God, they add unspeakable blasphemy on top of their unspeakable actions.

The difference is that, for all its crudity, satan takes off his mask in the black mass and comes out as himself. When he gets inside people and uses them as his instruments on a governmental scale, what you get is Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, ISIS, Boko Haram and al-Qaeda. I don’t know what you get when he comes out as himself as he did yesterday (except a carny sideshow conducted by a convicted rapist) but I do know that Christ is fully able to cast him down with a flick of the finger. I experienced that in a profound and deeply personal way yesterday.

I don’t know about the other people at the Benediction, but I needed what I got there. I barely managed to force myself to go, and what I experienced was a deeply cleansing encounter with Our Lord. It was, for me, a small and much-needed exorcism.

I was in the overflow in the church gymnasium. I got there an hour early, and the gym was already mostly full. I sat on a folding chair on what was then the back row. Later, they added more chairs behind me.

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The Eucharistic Procession. I was near the back of the line. 

 

I took bad photos with my iPhone and settled in. It wasn’t until the Benediction entered into its first time of private prayer that I plunged, head first, into a dialogue with Jesus. I found myself, my real self, in that time of prayer. I saw my sins, my need to forgive and how deeply God loves me. One thing that came to mind is so simple and powerful.

Before I went to the Benediction, I prayed and asked if, considering how really lousy I was feeling, I had to go. And He answered me.

Think about that.

God, the God who made the deep reaches of space and time and everything there is everywhere there is, stooped down and answered me. Who am I that God should notice my existence, much less engage in dialogue with me and answer my prayers?

He cares. He cares about us. He loves you and me and everyone else. Think about that, my brothers and sisters. Let it roll around in your mind and consider the magnitude of what it means to say, I prayed and He answered me.

He loves each and everyone of us. He enters into dialogue with us, despite our silly and limited little brains and our flawed and sinful souls. He loves us.

Let me say that again: He loves us.

By their fruits you shall know them. 

Jesus said that. And it is true.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. St Paul told us that, and it is also true.

When I read that list, I know — know — how far I am from truly walking with the Lord. God offers me love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. I nibble at these things, like someone sampling a salad bar.

But I save a huge portion of my spiritual plate for resentments, angers, self-righteousness, fear, blame and shame.

The truth is, to the extent that we cling to and protect ourselves, we deny ourselves the free gifts of the spirit. We have to lay it all down on the altar and trust Him.

That doesn’t, never has, come easily for me. I am not a trusting person. If I ever was a trusting person, happenings in my life have knocked it out of me. It is as if someone somewhere decided to teach me one thing and then to reteach it over and again throughout my life: You can’t trust people.

People will turn on you on a dime. People will abandon you when you are in disgrace. People will betray your confidences, search out and display your shames and, when you need them most, deny they ever knew you.

Does that sound familiar? It should. I began that paragraph writing about my own life experiences, and ended it with the realization that I was also writing about the Passion of Our Lord.

He wants to love us.

Why, I do not know.

But He does. And He wants it so much that He became one of us and allowed us to treat Him the way we do one another. He allowed satan to gloat and howl with delight as He was humiliated, stripped, tortured and murdered.

If the degradations of humanity that take place at the hands of satan’s disciples in ISIS, Boko Haram and all the other haters of humanity that stalk our world are a black mass, then, they also are, despite their evil intentions, the reenactment of His Passion. The victims of ISIS are the ultimate Eucharist, in human form. When I am writing about the victims of ISIS, and all its evil twins, I am writing about Him, and His Passion.

Satan intended his little uggidy-buggidy carny show to harm Christ. He can’t get at God, so he tries to get at God through us. He can do that because God loves us.

I allowed myself to become so overwhelmed by the evils of our day, and the sadness of humans hurting one another in my private life, that I gave him purchase in my own soul.

If the black mass was meant as a way into our world for satan, it backfired, at least where I am concerned. I experienced a little exorcism at the Benediction yesterday. God brought me back, snug against His side once again.

For this I am both awestruck and grateful.

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Archbishop Coakley, holding the Host aloft. 

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No Person Defines You. Christ Defines You. Know that and be Unafraid.

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I am having a blest life. In some ways, it is almost a charmed life.

I say that, not because everything has come easily to me, or because nothing bad ever happened to me. I say it because, in ways that I won’t talk about here, my life is one gigantic save.

I’m a survivor in that I’ve walked — sometimes crawled — away from a lot of crap.

I’m a survivor in that I’ve walked — oftentimes crying my eyes out — away from a lot of betrayal from people I trusted and loved.

I’m a survivor in that I’ve walked right through — oftentimes bitter and angry about it as I did it — right through repeated barrages of very public slams and whams.

I’m not writing this to talk about my grandiose survivability. In truth, I’ve survived things that should have put me down in the dirt because my surviving was to God’s purpose. I don’t understand it all, but it may have been, in a small part, so that I can write this post and say these things today.

Surviving requires one consistent thing of you, and that one thing is more difficult than all the gritty endurance that goes along with it: You can not allow yourself to be defined by other people.

If you are going to survive in this world you must — must — learn to think for yourself about yourself. You cannot allow any person’s cruel assessments of you determine your fate or your relationship with God.

I am writing today about one specific kind of person and one specific type of cruel assessment. I mean clergy and their condemnations and cruelties toward people who get on their bad side.

To my knowledge, there is no kind of clergy — Protestant, Catholic, Jew, Muslim — who is immune to this dastardly misuse of clerical power. They are especially prone to it when someone challenges what they see as their authority, or when someone does something they find deplorable, or, most damning for them, when their followers get into a group hate of some poor hapless soul and they join in to keep them from turning on their preacher/priest/rabbi/imam.

As I said, this post is not the place where I’m going to talk about my deepest wounds. But I will talk about one very public happening that devastated me at the time. That very public happening was the very public refusal of a number of prominent protestant clergy to accept me as a Christian after I met Jesus. One of these clergy was someone who knew me, knew how sincere I was, and who joined in with his “brother” clergy rather than stand up for me.

I made the mistake of trying to talk to these pastors. That was more damaging to me as a Christian and a person than their initial — and I want to emphasize this, very pubic — attack against me had been.

It was, as I said devastating. I felt as if I had been cast out, banned, from Christianity.

It was one of the only times in my life when I hid in my bedroom for several days and wouldn’t get out of bed and just cried. I stopped going to church and withdrew from everyone but my family.

I stopped everything except believing in Jesus. That didn’t change or weaken. If anything, it grew stronger.

This wasn’t my first time to be attacked by clergy. Being attacked by clergy was my daily meat and bread during my first time in office. However, that didn’t bother me on any deep level. I was in my anti-God period at the time, and they couldn’t touch me inside my soul. I already thought they were cruel, so their behavior was little more than a confirmation.

The ability of clergy to do deep, permanent harm to another person is in direct proportion to how much that other person believes they are dealing with someone who speaks for God. When they cast off someone or “ban” them, they can only actually hurt the person who believes in their authority.

Their followers, the seekers and believers who look to them for leadership and relate to them in trust are the ones they can harm. Because nobody else gives a care what they think.

The fact that clergy can persuade people and that this persuasion can manifest in votes in elections has made them the target of a lot of people who don’t really give a care about what they think. This isn’t a matter of taking them seriously as men of God. It is a matter of tactical power politics. It’s a huge mistake to confuse that with the anguish and broken heartedness of those who believe and are seeking acceptance and love.

The person who saved me from total, absolute and permanent alienation from all organized religion was an Episcopal priest. I cold-called her because she was a woman. I could never have gone to a man. She didn’t know me, but she readily agreed to talk to me, came in to her office one day when the church was empty, just to meet me.

She saved me from the despair I was feeling, not so much by any deep eloquence, as her affirmation that I had a right to be there.

That whole experience taught me a number of lessons. It also deepened and re-taught me things I already knew.

First, I am convinced that women have a profound and necessary place in ministry. Men are only half the human race, and when they deal from positions of power with the other half of the human race, they can be extremely cruel.

Second, I know that surviving requires a refusal to give yourself over entirely to other people, and that includes clergy of all types. Because, in truth and no matter what they claim, they do not speak for God. Not always. They never speak for God when they are defending their power and privilege, when they are limiting God’s love and mercy to those whom they like or want to support. When they do that they are speaking from the depths of their own black and sinful hearts,

Third, no one, of any faith, is ever obligated to accept any other person’s degrading and destroying abandonment or cruel assessment of them as if that degradation, abandonment and cruelty is a judgement from God.

Because it does not come from God and is not His judgement. Degradation, abandonment, cruelty are not of God. Ever.

It is foolishness in the extreme to allow yourself to think that clergy are exempt from these sins. It can destroy your faith in Christ, Who, in the final analysis, is perfectly capable of speaking for Himself.

I want to emphasize that last point because it is so critical. I am a living testimony to that fact that Jesus Christ is absolutely capable of dealing with a fallen person directly and saving them all on His own.

In all my years of anti-Godism, I was roundly and soundly rebuked by various religious leaders. I was lied about and slandered from the pulpit on a regular basis. But I never had a single member of the clergy try to talk to me as one human being to another. I never had a member of the clergy talk to me about Jesus and actually try to convert me. Not once.

Years later, after my conversion, a member of the clergy in my district — who was the only one who had never lied about me — told me that he had once asked his fellow pastors, “Do any of you ever pray for Rebecca?” He said no one answered him.

There were people who did talk to me about Jesus, they even argued with me about my anti-Godism. Both of them were fellow legislators. One of them argued gently, lovingly. The other argued loudly and aggressively. Both of them had an impact on me.

I am writing this very personal and somewhat confessional post for one purpose. I want those reading it to realize that no person has the power to cast you away from the forgiveness and love of Christ.

Not only is the love of Christ greater than any sin you can commit, it is greater by far than the self-importance and narrow me-ism of all these bishops/priests/rabbis/imams who lay claim to Him and try to keep Him for themselves and use Him as their personal ticket to unmerited respect and power over other people.

I know this is not a very Catholic post, in spite of the fact that I am, in truth, very Catholic myself. But I am a child of the living God before I am anything else. And no one and nothing defines me other than that. This is the single great lesson of surviving that I have learned and re-learned and then re-learned again.

No person defines me. Christ defines me.

Those two sentences are the bedrock of survival in this world.

Do not let the petty wickedness of clergy and their ego-driven God-ownership issues convince you that you stand outside the circle of Christ’s beloveds. You do not.

Do not accept the cruel things they say to you as anything more than their own sinfulness. Nothing, not even Christ’s own Church, can separate you from the love of God.

Know that, and be unafraid.

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