What Is God’s Purpose for My Life?

I know people who search for “God’s plan” for their lives all the time. They spend days in prayer, “seeking the Lord” over what they should do next.

I am not criticizing that or even commenting on it except to say that I know there are people who approach things this way. My way of walking with God is much more passive. My experience has been that if God wants me to do something, He’ll tell me. In fact, if God wants me to do something, He’ll pursue me. I won’t be able to get out of it.

I’m not someone who has ever hungered to do great missions for the Lord. I am so grateful that He forgave me and lets me be part of Him. That is enough for me. All I want is just to live my life in His grace, and when I die to get my toe onto the lowest rung of Purgatory. I trust Him completely with my life. I’ve been in the palm of His hand since the moment I was conceived, and I will be in those same hands through the passage of death and onwards through eternity.

However, as I said, there are those who “seek the Lord” asking for a ministry or cause. This video is for them. It’s also for all of us in that it gives some good common sense Christian guidelines for discerning how to live, whatever you do.

For instance, if you feel that the Holy Spirit is leading you in directions that oppose 2,000 years of Church teaching, then you need to do some more honest praying. It’s time for you to listen to God instead of telling Him.

The only vocation I ever prayed for was the vocation of motherhood. God gave that to me, but after a time of trial and sorrow. Then he has added other, complimentary vocations on top of it. He took me out of the world and let me spend wonderful years as a full-time wife and mother. Then, He put me back in the world where I “mothered” a broader swath of people … my constituents.

Now, he’s leading me beyond that.

God does not waste anything about us, including our deepest sins. He doesn’t obliterate our sinful acts or undo them. He transforms our weakness and our sinfulness into an instrument of His purpose.

But before He will do this, He first puts us through a deep-cleaning, a personal Gethsemane. I suffered deeply in this period when I faced the full horror of my sins. God gave me the gift of letting me see who I really was and what I had done. He removed the self-protective illusions of being a good person that I had sheltered behind and let me see the depth of my own depravity.

I think sometimes that the people who are praying for God to use them do not know that before He can use you, He has to first break you of your self-sufficiency. They think they’re good to go just as they are.

Active vocation is not a higher blessing that simply being still in the Lord. The most generous gift the Lord ever gave me was those years at home, removed from the spotlight, with my husband and babies.

Never forget that our first vocation is just to let Him love us.

Enjoy the video.

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Faith in the Trenches: The 911 Call You Will Never Forget

A mother who works as a 911 operator gets a call from her own house. The shooting victim is her son. This is a real-life walk of faith.

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Praise You in This Storm


Where is God when we’re hurting?

He’s right beside us.

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They’ll Know We are Christians

They’ll know we are Christians by our love.

How tragic for us if that is not true.

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3 Quick Takes: Vampire Atheists, Jesus Stomping Class Assignments and Gay Marriage

Religious freedom and gay marriage have taken a couple of turns while we were looking at other things. Here are 3 Quick Takes.

1. Vampire Atheist Case Against 9/11 Cross Tossed by Judge

The bizarro case filed by American Atheists claiming that the sight of the 9/11 Cross caused them to experience  “depression, headaches, anxiety and mental pain and anguish” was tossed out of court by a federal judge. The case had sought to have the cross removed from the 9/11 Museum in New York City.

 

2. Florida Atlantic University Drops Charges Against Student Who Refused to Stomp on Jesus’ Name

Ryan Rotela, a devout Mormon student, refused to stomp on the name of Jesus as he was requested as part of a class exercise. After complaining to administrators, Rotela says he was suspended from the class. The university has now dropped all charges against Rotela and apologized.


3. New Zealand, Uruguay, legalize gay marriage. 

New Zealand’s Parliament voted 77-44 to legalize gay marriage on April 17. Uruguay Chamber of Deputies voted to legalize gay marriage on April 10.

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West, Texas and a Failure of City Planning

West, Texas is not a region of the State of Texas.

West is the name of a town that almost blew itself off the map this week through a combination of poor city planning and lax enforcement of safety laws.

Fertilizer makes plants grow. It also explodes. Remember the nitroglycerin in dynamite? The “nitro” part of that is the same “nitrates” found in the fertilizer you sprinkle on your rose plants. The difference is quantity and, hopefully, the stability of compound.

I won’t go into the sad history of fertilizer bombs. But I will say that the town of West, Texas played host to a humongous fertilizer bomb in the form of West Fertilizer plant.

There is nothing wrong with having a fertilizer plant as part of your town’s economy. People have to make a living, and fertilizer, if it’s used properly, allows us to grow the crops that feed our planet’s population. We need the stuff, and making it is an honest living.

But it can also be dangerous. That’s why government officials have a responsibility to plan how they allow a town to grow around plants like these. For reasons unknown, the town of West allowed a school and a nursing home, along with a number of private residences, to be situated near a fertilizer plant.

I know full well that the people of this little town are shattered over what has happened. They’ve lost people that, in a community of this size, they all knew and most of them probably loved. Many more were injured. Others have lost their homes. There is no reason for a janey-come-lately from Oklahoma to butt her nose into this and tell these people that they made some mistakes in how they situated this fertilizer plant.

I am not writing this post to chide or criticize the hurting folks of West. I want to use it to forewarn the rest of us. City planners in lots of places, including my own town, often seem to make their decisions in a sort of moral isolation tank where the preservation of communities and the safety and well-being of residents doesn’t enter into their deliberations. 

Likewise, government inspectors are often either too lax or too punitive in their approach to businesses. I’ve read that the West Fertilizer plant had not been inspected since 1985. 

We need a housecleaning at the local level about things like this.

If you are a Christian and you hold one of these jobs, you have a responsibility to do it honestly and with concern for the common good. I realize that a lot of people who hold these positions would lose their jobs if they tried this, but that doesn’t change what Jesus asks of us.

It also doesn’t ameliorate the responsibility of elected officials to oversee these processes and guarantee that the citizens’ needs are not overlooked. That is their job, even if it means going against the local Chamber of Commerce and getting beat in the next election. Whatever our job, we ultimately answer to God for how we do it.

I’m sure there will be recriminations and ugliness about the tragically wrong-headed city planning that took place in West, Texas. I am equally sure that after the news cycle has moved on, little will change in the future Wests around the country.

We really need to stop driving our government by looking in the rear view mirror and face forward. If you are in city government, you need to replay the videos of West, then give some serious thought to the potential Wests in your town.

We can’t undo things like this once they happen. We can’t bring the dead back to life. I also know that we will never be able to stop terrible things from happening altogether. From the Tower of Siloam to West, Texas, people die in tragedies like this.

But that does not excuse us from doing our best. It does not exempt government officials from careful thought and planning that places the welfare of the citizens it governs as its primary concern.

If you don’t understand that, then you shouldn’t be in government at all.

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Cardinal Wuerl Speaks Out for Priest Who is Under Fire for Teaching Homosexuals are Called to Celibacy


Cardinal Wuerl used his homily at George Washington University to make it clear that he stands behind the priest who is under fire on that campus, Father Greg Shaffer. 

Two gay activists attacked Father Shaffer recently because the priest teaches that chastity for homosexual people means that they are called to celibacy. The stated purpose of the attacks on the priest was to have him removed from campus ministry and to either force the Newman Center where he is assigned to stop teaching Catholic morality.

Cardinal Wuerl’s homily seems to indicate that Father Shaffer has the confidence of his Cardinal. This takes the possibility of him losing his assignment off the table.

Now it’s up to the university to decide if they are going to jump into this and try to close the Newman Center or if they will allow freedom of thought and speech on their campus as they have up to now.

Cardinal Wuerl’s homily, excerpted from CNA.

“I want to offer a word of support and encouragement to your chaplain, Father Greg Shaffer…and to stand in solidarity with a good priest,” the archbishop of Washington said April 14.

His remarks come as two gay students said the Newman Center chaplain had told individuals who came to him for counseling that if they experience same-sex attraction, they should remain celibate.

Asserting that this was anti-gay behavior, the two students have launched a campaign to force Fr. Shaffer off the campus of the private university.

Cardinal Wuerl reflected on the duty of bishops and priests to “feed Jesus’ flock,” and considered to whom “Jesus’ flock” refers.


Christ’s flock are those who freely choose to follow Christ and be a part of his Church, the cardinal said, and that those who choose not to follow Christ are not forced to do so.

“We propose the ways of the kingdom of God in terms that the world can understand and examine, in terms they may freely accept or reject.”

When Christ himself was faced with those who would not follow his teachings, he “did not respond by changing the teaching,” Cardinal Wuerl noted.

“Even when they said to him you need to be current, you need to be contemporary, you need to be politically correct, you need to be with the times, Jesus did not say, ‘Oh, then, I will change my teaching.’”

Christ continues to offer unchanging truths today, which cannot be changed to “conform with any particular cultural demand,” he said.

“Yet, there are those who claim that voices for the Gospel should be silenced, that we should be silenced. There are those who say there is no room for any other view but their own.”

Cardinal Wuerl said that this experience is not new to the Church, and she has always bore the brunt of “narrow-minded discrimination and blind bigotry.”

He urged a need to preserve and protect religious liberty in the face of attempts to silence priests lest they “be allowed to engage in dialogue with our culture.”

Just because there are forces in society wishing to change marriage and to deny the dignity of human life and natural law, that “does not mean that the rest of us no longer have a place in this society,” the archbishop stated.

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Boston, Sandy Hook, Aurora: Maintaining an Even Strain in the Face of Repeated Atrocity


Oklahoma City is a smaller town than Boston. 

I know people who were grievously injured in the Oklahoma City bombing. They have lost their homes and jobs because of the injuries. Some of the survivors will require care from their families for the rest of their lives.

America reached out to us during the days after that horrible event. Huge amounts of money were donated. Despite this, families of the injured have been forced into bankruptcy and ultimately been left to deal with the after affects themselves.

We are going to have to get used to these tragedies.

They appear to be coming at us Wham! Wham! Wham! We need to learn how to maintain an even strain in the face of them and still take care of the victims and their families.

We also need to go after the perpetrators, which, I believe, we will. I’ll save the conversation concerning our society’s overwhelming need for conversion for a later post.

Today, I want to talk about what “maintaining an even strain” in the face of repetitive atrocity means in real life. I’m going to link to a video showing how the people on the ground in Boston responded to the bombing. They swung into action immediately. They went to the aid of the injured and they did it calmly, cooperatively and, in my opinion, the way that Americans have always done it.

We do this every time, don’t we? Americans don’t run away from each other when we’re in trouble. We reach out and help each other. Boston was no exception.


I’m also going to put a link to at least one place where you can donate money.
The owner of the Boston Patriots has set up a matching program for donations for the survivors. Go to this link and donate a few dollars. If you don’t have much, just give $5 or $10. If enough of us do that, it will add up, fast.

If you learn of other legitimate links, feel free to post them in the combox. But please do your best to make sure they are reputable.

Another suggestion I’m going to make is that we consider forming support groups for specific survivors of these atrocities in our Altar Societies, parish Knights of Columbus, etc. The reason I described the hardship survivors of the Oklahoma City bombing have been through is because genuine caring doesn’t end when the ratings go down and the news media skips on to the next big thing. 

There are people who survived the shooting in Aurora who will probably need help for a long time. That is almost certainly the same in Boston. The rescue workers are also going to suffer from this for a long time.

All these people need both financial and emotional support that is on-going and long-lasting. 

Here are things you can do that will make a difference:

1. Pray for them — by name, if you know their names. Pray for them every day. Include them — again by name, if you know their names — in your group prayers, your family bed time prayers, etc. Take the trouble to learn about at least one of these people and adopt them for prayer intercession on an on-going basis.

2. Send them a card. Not a card “to the victims,” but a card addressed to them using their own name. Tell them that you are praying for them and that you care about them. Then, in a couple of months, send another card. Next Christmas, send them a Christmas card. Lift them up as long as they are down.

3. Consider doing an altar society bake sale or a Knights candy sale and using the proceeds to help pay the medical expenses of this one person you have adopted.

4. Write corporations such as Nike who have an interest in the Marathon and ask them to also start a matching donation fund for the victims’ on-going medical expenses.

5. Put activities in place that we will follow after each one of these tragedies. We may need to set up atrocity prayer chains that we activate every time another one of these things happens.

The important thing is to stop wringing our hands and asking “How could this happen?” We need to get on with the business of taking care of each other in the aftermath.

Here is the video I spoke of earlier. Notice that the person holding the camera is in shock, but he keeps on filming. I would guess that the people who were moving barricades were in shock, too. But they didn’t flinch and they didn’t run away. That’s what Americans do when the going gets tough.

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You can donate to the survivors here. Be sure to indicate that you want your donation to go to the Boston Marathon bombing survivors.

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Conversion Story: The Story of How a New York Jew Wrestled with Christ and Became Catholic

 

I needed this.

I’ve been affected by the events of this week like everyone else. In addition to that, there’s been death and sadness closer in at my parish. Everything bugs me this week.

Right in the midst of my anomie comes this conversion story. Conversion to Christ is birth, re-birth, being born again. It is a person stepping in one move from death to life.

This particular conversion story describes something a little bit like the conversion I experienced in that it was instantaneous. God does that with some people. It’s as if He points His finger and says “You.”

When that happens, there is no denying the reality of it. I guess you could ignore it and say no, but you’d have to lie to yourself in a big way to do it.

This particular conversion story, is titled “The Story of how a New York Jew wrestled with Christ and became Catholic”. It describes the instantaneous and unbidden conversion of Roger Dubin. God said “You” to Mr Dubin in an airport while he was watching the announcement of Pope Benedict’s election as pope in 2005.

I won’t tell you more because it would spoil the story. I’ll put an excerpt below with a link to the rest. I hope it cheers your day as it did mine.

From The Catholic World Report:

On April 2, 2005, there came the news of the death of Pope John Paul II. I’d always admired the pope for his courage in confronting the horrors of communism, and for aligning with President Reagan and Prime Minister Thatcher in a united front that led to the downfall of the Soviet Union. Yet as a spiritual leader he meant nothing to me.

Nevertheless, Barbara and I found ourselves becoming involved in the events and the funeral as they unfolded on television. Even the typically skewed commercial coverage couldn’t disguise the tributes from all corners of the globe, and the love for the pope and grief at losing him from Catholics and people of every faith. At some point in the two weeks following, Barbara—a long-lapsed Protestant who’d never lost her regard for Christianity—turned to me and said, “You’ve got to get religion, Roger. You’ve been drifting way too long.”

Early on the morning of April 19, I left on a business trip, first taking the commuter flight from Prescott, our home since 2001, to the Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix. There was a wait before my next flight to the west coast, so I stopped for coffee, and soon after I arrived at the gate, the white smoke appeared over the roof of the Sistine Chapel on the television monitor. Sipping my cappuccino, I watched with a large group of travelers, interested—as a news hound mostly—in who’d been chosen. From my casual observation, however, quite a few in the crowd were Catholics, and far more invested in the outcome than I.

When the announcement was made that Cardinal Ratzinger had been elected, people around me seemed to register either shock or joy. I had a pretty good sense of the reason for the split. In the days following Pope John Paul’s passing, I’d noted the avuncular and, to all appearances, mild-mannered cardinal playing a high-profile role in the funeral and related proceedings. I’d also heard quite a bit of commentary about his staunchly conservative stance as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, set in contrast to the “modernization” and “progress” many were hoping for and demanding. That hoary theme, complete with groan-inducing code words and liberal shibboleths straight out of American politics, brought on a depressing sense of déjÀ vu. “God’s Rottweiler,” some even called him, a denigration that struck me as both outrageous and naïve, though I knew almost nothing about him.

I’d been a senior corporate executive for many years, I’ve had my own consulting business since 1996, and I understood that the cardinal, like the centurion in Matthew 8:9, was “ a man under authority.” Which meant that whatever he’d done to garner his reputation had been undertaken with the guidance and approval of his boss. Yet the criticism fell on him, which also told me he was a loyal lieutenant, willing to do his superior’s will and take the hit himself without complaint. People who viewed it otherwise, I grumbled, likely had an axe to grind, or were reluctant to criticize Pope John Paul, or were simply fools.

That’s not very charitable, I admit. But remember, I was nowhere near being “Christian” in my judgments at the time. (Actually, I’m still nowhere near where I should be, yet I’m trying.) How often I’ve marveled since then at Pope Benedict’s kindness to everyone,even as he took on the agonizing work of expunging the “filth” from the Church and laying the foundation for renewal. How often I’ve wished I could feel his Christian charity towards the enemies within. But the rockiest rise on the road to becoming Christian, at least for someone like me, is learning to love as Pope Benedict loves—especially those whom you’d much rather smack upside the head and who richly deserve far worse. I suspect I’ll be wrestling with that one for a long time.

So there I was at the gate—standing now, with just a few minutes left before I’d need to board my flight. If I had to miss the introduction of the new pope, it was no big deal, though I was vaguely hoping I wouldn’t. And then Pope Benedict XVI walked onto the balcony. The camera zoomed in, his eyes seemed to look right at me and through me, and that’s the exact instant my conversion happened. (Read the rest here.)

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We are Going to Have to Learn to Live with This

 

We have to learn to live with this.

Aurora, Sandy Hook, the Boston Marathon.

The names are like a slow beat sounding out grief and sorrow.

They don’t cover the “smaller” tragedies and the near tragedies. They also don’t speak of the Amish girls, Columbine, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma City.

We talk about gun control, but gun control is no defense against pressure cookers loaded with ball bearings or rental trucks filled with fertilizer mixed with jet fuel.

In truth, we can not seal ourselves in a room small enough, we can not pass laws limiting enough to be safe. We are dealing with murderous humans. Humans are too smart for us to ever stop them with our prohibitions, metal detectors and regulations. We are like dogs, chasing our own tails with that approach.

Our society, our world, needs conversion.

But before we can even begin that basic task we have to face a single reality: We are going to have to learn to live with this. 

The “this” we must learn to live with is the steady beat of the murderous metronome of casual killing that has become part of the fabric of our lives. Whether the killer of the day is a mass murdering young man with a high-powered weapon, a terrorist with a recipe for mayhem or a serial killer hiding in the shadows, the thing that drives them is always the same. It is, as a reader of this blog said in an unconnected quote, an ability to “not consider the person” who will die.

Murder is made possible by a disconnect from the suffering of others. It is, in the final analysis, the most extreme failure of empathy. Not, notice, as we like to say, a “failure of love.” It is not necessary to love someone to refrain from killing them. But it is necessary to separate from their humanity, to objectify them and to not “consider” them and what you are about to do to them.

This nation has been raising up psychopaths the way we once raised up artists and inventors. At the same time, we live in a world of directed psychopathy that creates terrorism, which is nothing more than the murder of innocent civilians.

If we are ever going to change any of this, we will have to face the fact that we need to do more than reach for another quick fix through regulation, safety protocols and prohibitions. We can not give up enough of our freedoms to make ourselves safe from one another.

The only way to become safe from other people is to structure our society in such a way that we end the continuous abuse and disregard of our children. We must stop raising up psychopaths. To do that, we’ve first got to admit that we are doing something wrong. I see a complete refusal to acknowledge that running throughout our public discourse.

Even if we woke up tomorrow, resolved to re-shape our homes, families, schools and institutions along healthy, nurturing lines, it would take time to turn this vast ship of  disintegration away from its current path toward the rocks of social dissolution. Since there is very little hope that we will do this, we are out of alternatives.

We are going to have to learn to live with this.

If we are going to stay sane as individual people, we must accept the reality of our lives for what they are. That means accepting that Boston, Sandy Hook, Aurora, the Amish school girls, Virginia Tech, Columbine, Oklahoma City and even 9/11 are not isolated events. They are part of our national life. They are what happens. We have to face the horror of their having happened and add the certainty that they will happen again on top of it, then learn to live with this bitter knowledge.

I am not preaching and teaching a course in despair with this post. I am trying to bring us down to the hard cold reality of our situation.

We are going to have to learn to live with this. 

That does not mean that we have to learn to accept it. It means that we have to stop viewing each horror as a separate event and realize that they are all connected in the psyches of those who commit them. This indifference of killers to the people they kill is not new. The blood of innocents has cried out from the ground since people left the garden.

God gave us the only answer to this. Those of us who are Christians have it, if we will just use it.

We are going to have to get used to this, this blood-soaked world in which we live. But we do not need to dive into despair and hopelessness because of it. We must, for the sake of our sanity, stop letting these horrible events take us over and cast us down. We have to get used to it and live with it and move on past it.

We need to focus on the message that we as Christians are the only ones equipped to bring: There is no death. Life has meaning. Everything we do in this life matters in eternity. 

Get up off your bed of grief and despair and Catholic on. Turn off the tv and go to work. Take care of your family, clean your house, do your job and live. Pray for the injured, the dead and those who love them. If you are able to help them directly, do it. If not, you can help them best by maintaining the order and stability of the society in which they live.

We are going to have to learn to live with this. The time to begin is now. 

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