Lent in the Legislature

GreatSeal Next week and the week after, I will become less and less accessible, more and more grumpy, and if you push me, downright mean.

These next two weeks are “deadline” weeks in the Oklahoma legislature, or, as we affectionately think of them, living hell.

We have to vote on every bill that every House member managed to author, get out of the various committees and onto the House agenda. That means long days, longer nights, endless debate and mind-numbing exhaustion. I finish deadline weeks feeling like I’ve been drug by a runaway horse. So does everybody else. By the end of this two weeks we’ll hate our jobs and we’ll probably all hate each other, as well.

That’s how legislators do Lent in Oklahoma.

Once, years ago, I tried to give up swearing for Lent. If Lent happened when the legislature wasn’t in session I would have had a fighting chance. But after the third or fourth time I had to go to confession because I’d broken my penance, my pastor got exasperated and told me, “I want you to forget this and pick something you can do.”

I jokingly said, “Well, I haven’t killed anybody. Can I count that as giving up something for Lent?”

He was not amused.

Ever since then, I’ve tried to come up with Lenten practices that fit into my job. You know; things I can do while driving my car to work or when I’m standing in an elevator. That sort of idle time activity. I literally do not have time to pray during deadline week. When I try to pray before I go to bed, I fall asleep. When I try to pray in the mornings, I’m late for work. If I try to pray while I’m driving … well, I’m already tired and distracted, so that’s not the best plan.

WebJESUS Prayer

One prayer I’ve found that I can actually do is called the Jesus Prayer. It goes: Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, have mercy on me a sinner. 

That’s an excellent prayer for deadline week. If you reflect on it, it’s sort of a mini Gospel in a few words. Anytime you’re in a pinch for time, or at a loss for words, I recommend the Jesus Prayer. It says everything you have to say in one profound sentence.

Another one sentence prayer I pray a lot during deadline week comes from Scripture: May the words of my lips and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, my God and my Redeemer.

I pray that a lot before debate.

Then, there’s the Hail Mary: Hail Mary, full of grace. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for me, a sinner, now and at the hour of my death.

The Hail Mary is a cry for help and an act of worship, both at once. It, like the other short prayers I use during deadline week, covers all the ground you have to cover to talk to God.

These quick prayers save my soul (literally) during times like deadline week. But there is another prayer that I’ve learned through the years. This one doesn’t have words, and yet it is perhaps the most eloquent. There are many days when my work is my prayer. I know that sounds odd, but I’ve learned that this can be the most profound prayer and act of worship any of us can do.

What I mean by that is that I am convinced that the most profound act of worship is simply doing what God tells you to do. If I can do my work in a manner that follows what God wants, then I am giving Him obedience, which is profound worship and prayer with feet.

I learned this during a time when I was getting blasted and battered in an ugly and personal way for passing pro life bills. (This was the time when I tried to convince my pastor that the simple fact that I hadn’t killed anybody should count as giving up something for Lent.) It was tough for me as a person and as a woman. But with God’s grace I was able to persevere, and in the persevering I experienced the Lord’s presence in a way that taught me an enormous amount about what prayer and worship truly are.

The best worship is doing what God tells you to do. The most profound prayer is obedience to God from the heart. 

All the other worship we do — the retreats, meditations, hymn-singing, scripture reading, long reflective silences — are simply exercises to get us to that state where we can do what He tells us to do with willing obedience from the heart.

Lent

I am looking forward to a real Lent one day. I think it would be most edifying to have time for prayer, reflection and long hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

But this week is deadline week, and my Lenten practice may very well be once again, not killing any of my colleagues. I think that’s a fine goal for a pro life legislator.

Up to Our Earlobes in Alligators: Marriage, Religious Freedom and Fiscal Cliffs, Oh My!

Alligators

We are up to our ears in alligators folks

Trying to respond to all the challenges to faith, sanity and the future of Western Civilization these days is like playing a game of whackamole on speed. 

But there are things you can do. Pick one and do it. Then tomorrow, pick another and do that. 

Here are a few ideas. If you have others, please add them in the comments section.

 

 

Marriage

Now that the president has come out swinging for gay marriage, and Britain and France have heads of state who are doing the same, we appear to be in a losing battle on this one. States are passing gay marriage referendums, poll numbers keep piling up in favor of redefining marriage essentially out of existence, and in Britain and other places where they are further along with this than the USA, the refuse from this change is already piling up.

Christians are losing their jobs, being sued and excluded from public life in those countries because they will not compromise on the Gospels. I’ve been told that Britain is talking about doing away with the legal notion that marriage has anything to do with sexual fidelity, since, (I guess) they think that somehow tracks with gay marriage.

So, what are we to do?

First of all, we are to stay the course. We are to stand our ground. Do not quit on the Gospels of Christ because polls tell you that other people are doing that. Do not ever make following Jesus a matter of what is popular or trendy. 

Second, we need to take good care of our own marriages. Love your spouse. Raise your children. Be there, at home with your family as a true husband or wife; father or mother.

Third, we can pray/fast and offer our concerns about the future of marriage up to the Lord, uniting them with His sufferings. Kathy Schiffer, who blogs at Seasons of Grace, published a post about a suggestion from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. Here is what part of what she said:

The U.S. Bishops have an idea:  With the Supreme Court about to hear an important case on the rights of homosexuals to marry, the bishops invite you to fast today.  Dedicate your penance, they urge, for the intention of marriage:

For the justices of the Supreme Court, that when they consider two marriage-related cases later this month, they would uphold the authentic meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, a good in itself and for all of society.

This is a good idea.  Just publishing their flyer today, on the day of fast, is NOT such a good idea—I’d have told you (and told myself!) yesterday, had I seen anything in the news about it.  (Of course, it may have been pushed aside due to the dramatic news yesterday, namely, the resignation of our Holy Father.) 

Nonetheless, late is better than not at all; so if you’ve already had breakfast and lunch and some snacks (as I have), consider sacrificing in whatever way you can today:  have dinner an hour late; skip the dessert; don’t eat between meals.  Let us join together to offer our minor mortifications in defense of the sacred institution of marriage.

As Kathy notes, it’s too late to skip eating between meals today. But it’s not too late to engage in another simple type of penance. I am going to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet and offer that up. I’m sure you can think of something that will work for you. 

Fourth: We can go to Washington to participate in the March for Marriage on March 26, 2013. We are having our annual Oklahoma March for Life on the 25th, so I don’t know if I can manage to go, but I am looking into it. A reader asked me a couple of weeks ago if I knew how we could manage to communicate with the Supreme Court. I didn’t answer her, because I wasn’t sure what to say. Now I know of one way, and this march is it. 

You can find details at the March for Marriage website here. The March for Marriage Facebook page is here

Frank Weathers, who blogs at Why I am Catholic, has also written about this march. You can check it out here. I got this great logo from Frank’s blog:

Marriage March



Religious Freedom

I already gave you a “to do” for this one. You need to call or email your United States Senator or Congressperson and ask them to make the repeal of the HHS Mandate their bargaining point in the Fiscal Cliff/Sequester fight. You can find who they are and how to contact them here

You might also drop a note to the National Democratic and Republican Parties, letting them know that you oppose the HHS Mandate and support religious freedom. 

You can email the Republican National Committee here.

You can email the Democratic National Committee here.

Do not underestimate the power of these national parties where issues like this are concerned. In a Congress of Puppet People, they are often the ones who ultimately pull the strings. 

Cross flag

What Happens During a Papal Conclave?


We will have a new pope.

Pope Benedict’s resignation becomes effective February 28, at 8 pm. The See of Peter will not be vacant long. In a short time, the College of Cardinals will convene for the Papal Conclave to elect a new pope.

Catholics and other Christians the world over are praying for the Holy Spirit to guide this conclave as they select the man who will lead the Church through the times ahead. This Lent is like no other because of the Holy Father’s resignation and the transition to a new pope.

History is making while we are watching. I pray that this will lead to a new springtime in the Church, a renewal of faith and faithfulness from everyone who bends their knee to Our Lord Jesus.

The following CNA article gives a brief description of the general procedures that the cardinals follow when they are electing a pope. It says in part:

Vatican City, Feb 24, 2013 / 01:12 pm (CNA).- Pope Benedict XVI’s successor will soon be elected during a conclave, a secret vote of cardinals that will occur in the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel next month.

The number of cardinal-electors, who will travel to Rome from across the globe, is limited to 120, and only those cardinals who are not yet 80 are allowed to vote in the conclave.

Conclaves are events of “the strictest secrecy,” to preserve the impartiality of proceedings.

… The cardinals are not allowed to communicate with those outside the area of the election. Only a limited number of masters of ceremonies and priests are allowed to be present, as are two medical doctors. The cardinal-electors stay at “Saint Martha’s House,” a guest house adjacent to St. Peter’s Basilica.

While the papacy is vacant, all the heads of the Roman Curia lose their office, except the Camerlengo – who administers Church finances and property – and the Major Penitentiary, who deals with issues of absolution and indulgences.

The conclave begins with the votive Mass for the election of the Pope in St. Peter’s Basilica. The cardinals then invoke the assistance of the Holy Spirit, and enter the Sistine Chapel.

A well-trusted priest presents the cardinals with a meditation on the problems facing the Church and the need for discernment, “concerning the grave duty incumbent on them and thus on the need to act with right intention for the good of the Universal Church, having only God before their eyes.”

The priest who offered the meditation then leaves the Sistine Chapel, and the voting process begins.

John Paul II allowed for a simple majority for a valid election, but Pope Benedict’s “Constitutione apostolica” returned to the long-standing tradition of a two-thirds majority.

Each cardinal writes his choice for Pope on a piece of paper which is folded in two. The ballots are then counted, double-checked, and burned. The voting process continues until one candidate has received two-thirds of the ballots.

When the ballots of an inconclusive vote are burned, the smoke is made black. If the vote elected a Pope, it is white.

… The man elected is immediately the Bishop of Rome upon his acceptance, assuming he has already been consecrated a bishop. One of the cardinals announce to the public that the election has taken place, and the new Pontiff gives a blessing from the balcony of the Vatican Basilica.

Pope Benedict will resign at 8 p.m. on Feb. 28, and at that time there will be 117 cardinal-electors. (Read the rest here.)

Miracle Story: An Eyewitness to the Miracle at Fatima Remembers

Thousands of people witnessed the miracle at Fatima, October 13, 1917

My virtual friends, who blog at Biltrix, penned a wonderful post yesterday that I want to share with you.

Our Lady appeared to three Portuguese shepherd children in 1917. She prophesied the rise of communism in Russia and said that the way to end communism in Russia was to consecrate the nation to her Sacred Heart.

I didn’t know about this when the Soviet Union, after almost a century of threats and saber rattling, just dissolved. I did know that what was happening defied everything that history had taught us about despots, and dictators who grasp for world domination. These people don’t stop until guns and bullets stop them.

And yet, that is what happened. Many people gave many explanations, but nothing really explained it. It made no sense.

There is an old song that was popular a few years before the Soviet union dissolved itself called “Lawyers in Love.”

The song was a whimsical, humorous piece that contained the line “and the Russians went away as Russians will.” The reason the line was in the song was because it was a joke to think that the Russians (meaning the Communists) would just “go away.” The whole world at that time was standing perpetually on the brink of nuclear annihilation because of the Cold War. The joke lay in the absurdity of the notion that the Communist Russian threat would ever end without bloodshed.

Soviet Union

Soviet Union

But that is precisely what happened … as it was foretold by Our Lady to three shepherd children at Fatima, Portugal.

John Paul II believed that the prophecies Our Lady gave at Fatima also foretold his own attempted assassination. I have been to Fatima and seen the bullet which wounded the Pope. It is amazing that he could have survived.

At her last appearance to the shepherd children, an appearance that was witnessed by thousands of pilgrims, she performed what we now call “The Miracle of the Sun.” The post that is reprinted here is an eyewitness account of that miracle.

I think it’s a wonderful addition to our Lenten reflections.

Father Jason Smith

Biltrix is written by a group of people. The following post, by Father Jason Smith, is printed here with permission.

“See I Told You She Would Come:”  Testimony of an Eye Witness at Fatima

Things become old much too quickly.

Imagine my delight, then, when last Friday I met someone who told me his Grandmother was present on October 13, 1917 at Fatima; she was personally present at the moment when the sun danced and fell out of the sky.

Suddenly Fatima jumped out of history like the sun did that day and became relevant and modern to me.

I jotted down the account she had told him so I would not miss any of the details. I write it here because, first of all, it’s a miraculous story, and second of all, even if we might already know what happened at Fatima, an eyewitnesses account of a miracle always serves to freshen the memory and more importantly our faith.

News spread throughout the village that Lucia de Jesus and Francisco and Jacinta Marto—whose feast day it is today, February 20th—had received an apparition of a “lady brighter then the sun.” The Lady was holding a Rosary and told the children to return for five consecutive months, on the thirteenth of each month; moreover, on the day of the last apparition there would be a sign visible to all. That day had finally arrived.

His grandmother left her nine year old brother to watch the sheep and headed out into the driving rain and dropping temperature. The ground was completely muddy and the rocks were slippery. Over seventy thousand people had made the trek that morning, making the traveling conditions even worse. By the time she reached the apparition sight she was covered head to toe in mud and her clothes were completely soaked.

All types of people had gathered: those with faith who knelt and prayed the Rosary, those who were curious, and then there were the communists and atheists, many of whom were cursing, chiding, and yelling out cat-calls to Jacinta and Lucia. As the time went on and conditions worsened, it seemed as though nothing would happen and it became very tense among the people.

Then the rain stopped and the clouds parted. The sun shined and began to change colors and spin around itself in a mad whirl. It glittered and began to whirl even more wildly. Suddenly it loosened itself from the sky and fell threateningly toward the seventy thousand gathered below. People screamed. Many dropped face down into the mud or dropped to their knees. Those next to her who had been swearing began to cry for mercy. Then, just as quickly as it had started, it ended. The sun was back in its place.

Her hair, skin, and clothes were completely dry.  The ground around her was dry. There was no trace of mud on her. She felt completely clean, both inside and out. A man from her village who was crippled was able to walk. Several others who were sick were cured.

She prayed three Rosaries daily for the rest of her life in honor of what Mary asked, that we “say the Rosary every day, to bring peace to the world and an end to war.”

I know what my Lenten resolution will be this year: three daily Rosaries for peace. I invite you to the same.

If you haven’t seen it already I wholeheartedly recommend the 13th Day, an incredible film about the historic, but not ancient, event of Fatima.

YouTube Preview Image

Should Cardinal Mahony Stay Away From the Conclave?

Cardinal Mahony has a “right” to attend the Conclave to elect the next pope, but at least one other cardinal has broached the idea that he should stay home for the “good of the Church.”

“The common practice is to use persuasion. There is no more than can be done.” Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, told La Repubblica Daily. “Ultimately, it will be up to his conscience to decide whether to take part or not.”

Archbishop Gomez, of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and Cardinal Mahony’s successor, recently announced that he was ending Cardinal Mahony’s public work for the archdiocese. The announcement resulted from the release of years of files that were compiled during Cardinal Mahony’s term in office. According to Archbishop Gomez, the files related “brutal” mistreatment of the Archdiocese’ children.

In his statement, Archbishop Gomez said,

“Effective immediately, I have informed Cardinal Mahony that he will no longer have any administrative or public duties. Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Curry has also publicly apologized for his decisions while serving as Vicar for Clergy. I have accepted his request to be relieved of his responsibility as the Regional Bishop of Santa Barbara.”

Cardinal Mahony has responded to this with a series of blog posts in which he has characterized himself as a “martyr.”

Several Patheos bloggers have commented on Cardinal Mahony’s recent statements. You can find information on Cardinal Mahony’s latest comments at The Deacon’s Bench, or if you want powerful commentary, Egregious Twaddle, Why I Am Catholic and Catholic and Enjoying It have been serving it up with style.

As for me, I just wish Cardinal Mahony would give it a rest. I also wish that he would stay home from the Conclave. I wish that he would stop publishing bizarre blog posts and that he would find the humility to accept that he is not a martyr. He is a miscreant who has been caught in his own sins.

I wish he could have been a better Cardinal and a better priest. If he couldn’t muster that, I wish he had at least been able to be a better man and a better Christian.

In the final analysis, if he had been either a good man or a good Christian, that would have been enough. If he had just been following Jesus, he would never have enabled priests he knew were abusing children to keep on abusing more children. His conscience would not have allowed him to do it.

I am not saying that he doesn’t have many good qualities. I don’t know him, but people are almost always mixtures of good and bad. It’s hard for a man who has spent so many years basking in flattery and cozened by yes men to suddenly find himself “all alone to weep his outcast fate” as Shakespeare put it. It is hard for anyone, but especially so for someone who has been pandered to and pampered for decades to come face to face with the fact that the only lies he has left are the lies he tells himself because everyone else knows the humiliating truth of his dirtiest sins.

I believe Cardinal Mahony is at that place. The blog posts he keeps publishing sound like deep denial with an overcoating of bitterness. They do not sound like remorse or repentance. It seems that he simply will not accept that nothing he says can change what he’s done and that no good he ever did can undo or wash away the harm he’s inflicted.

It appears that he has committed unthinkable crimes against innocent children by enabling and allowing other men to continue abusing them when he knew what they were doing and had the power to easily stop them. No matter how he tries to explain that to himself and to spin his present disgrace as a martyrdom, the facts are the facts and his situation is what it is.

Odd as this sounds, I pray for Cardinal Mahony. His current disgrace is in reality an opportunity. He must face what he has done and repent of it from the heart. There was never a time for excuses. He was always wrong in what he did. Now that the whole world knows it, he needs to stop trying to hide the truth from the one person who still avoids it: He needs to stop trying to hide the truth from himself.

I am concerned where this self delusion will lead him. There is only one way out when you’ve done something this bad and that is the way of the cross. I worry what might become of the Cardinal if he continues down this path of self-deluding self-justification.

He needs to go to Jesus as a broken and sinful man. He needs to grieve the harm he has done, suffer the guilt and endure the shame of it. Only in that way can he find the peace of Christ.

My advice, if I could talk to Cardinal Mahony, would be simple. I would say, Accept that you have sinned, and be quiet.

 

What if Jesus had said yes to Satan?

 Then the devil took him up and revealed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. “I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them,” the devil said, “because they are mine to give to anyone I please. I will give it all to you if you will worship me.”

What would the world look like today if Jesus had said yes to Satan?

What if, when Satan offered Our Lord all the kingdoms of the earth, Jesus had said yes?

What if, like the Saturday Night Live skit, dJesus, Our Savior had used his powers to force people to bend their knee to Him?

These questions strike to the heart of other questions. Why does God allow people to rape, torture and murder innocent children? Why would He allow cancer? Why doesn’t He stop us from harming one another so viciously?

Why, in short, does He tolerate a creation that rejects Him and what He has taught us to do and so often goes in the opposite and entirely cruel and destructive direction?

If He is God, why does He allow so much suffering?

I have heard people say things like this when they were in the extremities of pain and loss. Their question was not so much an accusation as it was a kind of prayer, a cry from the depths.

On the other hand, it has become fashionable in certain circles for privileged people to ask questions like these as a method of self-justification or simply as a way to attack faith. This  nonsense of blaming God for our sins is becoming an increasingly accepted way to brush aside personal responsibility for our actions. Instead of acknowledging what we have done wrong, we point out that someone else is doing just as bad or worse.

Who better to blame for all the sins of humanity than a God who has the power to stop us from harming one another and will not do it? So, the fashion of the day is misplaced blame. We hold God accountable for human depravity.

But what would happen if God stopped us from sinning? What would have happened if Jesus had been the kind of conquering messiah the Jewish people wanted? What, in short, would happen if God was more like us?

I am the first to admit that if I was God every rapist and child batterer on this planet would be a pile of ash. Poof! And they would be on their slimy way to hell.

But God doesn’t operate that way, even when we wish He would.

He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where he was tempted by the devil for forty days. Jesus ate nothing all that time and became very hungry. 

Then the devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become a loaf of bread.”

Jesus said “No” to Satan’s offer of worldly power. He turned His back on the temptation to use His power for Himself, even for something as simple as turning stone to bread to eat when He was hungry. He said no to all of it, and by doing that took the first steps to the cross.

Our eternal salvation began with that series of “nos” to the prince of darkness and his tempting offers to make right with might.

The truth is that even when God directs us, he always leaves us the choice of saying no to Him. He sets before us life and death, and then He lets us chose. He gives us a radical type of freedom that allows us to literally do our worst, including mocking, criticizing and attacking Him.

When Jesus said no to the control of earthly kingdoms, He was also saying no to the use of force to convert us.

God’s Kingdom is made of free people who freely chose to follow Him. The narrow way is narrow precisely because so many people would rather go the way of power and license, of selfishness and greed rather than give themselves to a Lord Who chose suffering and death over all earthly power.

Why the cross? Why did Jesus have to suffer and die on the cross; beaten, tortured, mocked, naked and humiliated? Why was this necessary to save us? Why didn’t He just reach out and save us with a magical touch?

From the beginnings of Christianity to now the cross has been a scandal. It is the subject of mockery from today’s evangelical atheists just as it was the subject of mockery by the Romans. The Romans saw the cross as ignoble. It was shameful, a disgrace, to die in such a manner; proof that the person who suffered it was from the scum classes of society and essentially worthless. The idea that Christians claimed such a victim as their god was, to them, ludicrous.

Today’s atheists are not so class conscious. They hang their critiques on a distaste for the whole affair. They sneer at the bloodshed and suffering and rebuke Christians for what they claim is a morbid worship of death.

But in truth the cross was the greatest gift of love ever given to humankind. The cross was not the only way God could have saved us. But it was the only way He could have done it and left us free.

Frank Weathers, who blogs at Why I Am Catholic, published an interesting post a few days ago. He commented on the Saturday Night Live skit, DJesus, that mocked our Lord by casting him as a violent, vengeful killer who wreaked havoc on everyone who ever crossed Him. Frank raised the question, “What would things be like if Jesus had been this vengeful god the skit portrayed?”

I think another way to ask that question is, What would things be like if Jesus had said yes to Satan in the wilderness?

The answer is probably along the lines of Jesus as He is portrayed in the SNL skit, only much worse than anything we can imagine. People of the first century were accustomed to gods who hungered for power — over each other, and over human beings. Humanity had long worshiped various deities who craved death and demanded that their followers slaughter their children, captives and other helpless ones as sacrifices to them.

How is that so different from our current culture of abortion, euthanasia and meaningless wars? St Augustine said these early gods were in fact demons. If he was right, then it appears these same demons are working through people today. They have not changed their tactics. They have only changed their names and their arguments.

God doesn’t allow suffering. He allows us our freedom and we cause the suffering. God doesn’t rape and torture. He doesn’t send drones, tell lies and ignore the elderly, sick, poor and helpless in our midst. We do that.

What God does is allow us to choose who we will serve. Jesus was born in a stable and died on a cross to open a path to salvation and eternal life for us. He suffered all this because by suffering it  He could both redeem us and leave us free to reject the redemption He offered.

God lets us chose. He sets before us life and death and then He lets us chose. That is the way things are because on that day so long ago, Jesus made His own choice. He said “no” to satan and turned His face to the path that led Him to the cross.

Remember: Thou Art Dust

And the Lord God formed man from the dust of the earth … 

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust …

I am going to die.

You are going to die.

Public Catholic has enough regular readers that it is a statistical certainty that at least one of us, perhaps more, will die this year.

Our souls, as the Scriptures say, will be required of us.

We have unbelievers who post on this board who tell us that nothing awaits us when we close our eyes on this world, that we will simply drift into the nothingness of non-existence, go back to the dust from which we came, and cease.

Our ending, according to them, will be our end.

But this, quite simply, is not true. I doubt very much that the nonbelievers who say it actually believe it. They use it as a ruse to hide behind when dealing with the existential miseries that their bankrupt philosophy imposes on them. It is an odd and sad outlook on life that finds its comfort in a studied hope for annihilation.

The truth is, there is no death for us. We are immortal beings who will live on past our bodies. Most of us sense this in a deep and incontrovertible way that can either comfort or torment us, depending on what we do with this innate knowledge of our own natures.

God is real. I have felt and known Him. I experienced His Presence in my life as an inpouring of love that I neither expected or sought.

But — and this is something that so frightens unbelievers that they invariably become angry when you say it — the devil and his evil are also real. It is not fashionable to say that. I’ve had members of the clergy chide me and tease me for believing it. But I do not doubt the reality of a malicious personality that hates the light and craves annihilation. I have felt his presence, too.

“If you eat of the fruit, you will not die” he told the woman, and like all really effective lies, this one was partial truth. You will not die … today. That was the truth of it. Turn your back on God. Defy Him. Do your own thing. And you will not die … today.

God lies, Satan told the woman, just as he tells us today. God lies to you when He says “Thou shalt not kill, lie, steal, commit adultery or covet.” He doesn’t mean it when He says “Put no other gods before Me.”

He lies. Because he doesn’t want you to have the pretty things of this world, to be able to enjoy the sexual pleasures He created for you, to live as you choose with your own free and preeminent will. He lies, and you are a fool for listening to Him.

Because you are not dust. You are the Lord of creation, the master of your fate, the god of your own life. There is nothing to fear because there is nothing that matters. At the end of our days, there is nothing but nothing. We stop. And we rot. We are carrion meat that walks for a time. So we should, again as the Scriptures say, eat, drink and be merry.

Like all effective lies, this one contains a bit of truth mixed in with the untruth. “Eat and you will not die … today.”

“Ignore God now and there will be no reckoning … today.”

Because you are dust, and you will die, regardless of how you live. You can run ten miles a day and your heart will still stop at some unknown time in your future. You can eat spinach and beans and forego fast food and steak, but your arteries will still cease to pump blood on some day you don’t know yet.

You can break every moral precept in the Scriptures, and you will not die … today. You will live for a time and you may even appear to triumph over those who do not indulge their darker natures as you do. There will be no reckoning … today.

But God is real. He gives us every opportunity to turn to Him and live life His way. He lets us choose. He sets before us every day life and death, and He lets us freely choose which of these we want.

That is what Lent is about. It isn’t a matter of giving up candy or foregoing wine for forty days. It is not about wearing ashes on our foreheads like religious jewelry or meatless Fridays.

Lent is about conversion. It is about renewal by means of awareness that we need to be renewed. The penances of Lent are signposts to guide us to a knowledge that we are but dust and we have sinned, but that we are also immortal beings who will one day stand before the God Who made us.

Lent is a time of turning again to the roots of our being. It is going back to the garden and acknowledging that we too “are naked and ashamed” before God. We, too are, to paraphrase St Peter, “sinful men and women.” But instead of crying out as Peter did, “Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.” We can say, “come close to me Lord, for I am your broken child.”

The difference is the cross. The difference between despair and trust is the certain knowledge that we are bought at a terrible price and we do not have to be masters of our own fate. We do not have to feel our way blindly through life with no idea of what is right and wrong. We do not have to die an eternal death. We can have life, and have it abundantly. Because of the cross.

Lent is a time of penance and reflection in which we take an honest look at ourselves and our tawdry righteousness. Lent is for turning back to the One who can save us from ourselves. We are preparing to go to the cross where we will stand in solidarity with the rest of humanity, united in our sinfulness and our great need of Him and His redemption.

Lent is not about giving up candy and meatless Fridays. It is rather our gentle foretaste of Gethsemane.

Okie Snow: Be Careful What You Wish For Girl

I have always loved snow.

Snow in Oklahoma means an automatic unscheduled holiday. Employers close down their businesses, churches and schools cancel services. We stay home from work, go to the grocery store and stock up on food, put the movies on tv and kick back.

Like I said, it’s a holiday.

This happens mostly because we are so totally unprepared to deal with snow and ice. We don’t have the clothes for it, don’t know how to drive on it, and have no clue at all as to how to keep our balance while walking on it.

A glaze of ice means gridlock; I mean people get trapped in their cars in long lines of traffic that do not move for hours. An inch of snow can shut us down for days. Fortunately for us, it usually melts even faster than it came down. We’re lucky if a snow stays on the ground for more than two days. Or maybe, I should say we are unlucky when it stays down because we don’t have plows to take it off our streets and driveways. It basically has to melt off. If for some reason that takes time, the gridlock extends beyond holidaying and turns into major inconvenience.

I’m talking about relatives moving in together to share the one house in the family that still has electricity (which always goes off in ice storms) This one house in the family with electricity on which all the relatives descend invariably is the house with one bathroom and no spare beds. Other people crash and bang into one another on the way to jobs that have reopened, no matter the roadways.

So when I say I love snow, you have to understand that I’m grouping myself with schoolchildren praying for a snow day and not much of anyone else. But it’s true. I do. Love snow, that is. Love the stuff.

Which is why I’ve been sad about our snowless winter so far. Oklahoma, in case you haven’t figured this out from what I’ve said so far, is not big snow country. But we do get an ice or snow storm once or twice each winter. That’s all it usually amounts to, but it does come around like clockwork every year.

However, we’d been snowless so far this winter. There were a few flakes before Christmas, but they weren’t enough to dust the ground. I think this is mostly due to our overall waterless state. We are in a drought cycle reminiscent of the one that gave us the Dust Bowl. We’ve dodged the Dust Bowl scenario this time around due to conservation efforts people put in place after the 1930s’ misery. But no conservation effort can change the fact that the rain has stayed away. It clouds up, but nothing comes down, and that has included snow.

I had resigned myself to a snowless winter. In fact, winter itself was beginning to look like a quickly passing phase instead of a full-blown season. We’ve had shirtsleeve weather a couple of days this past week. Garden supply stores are starting to gear up. And I keep finding seed catalogues in my mailbox.

Snow was the furthest thing from my mind when I got up this morning. I had two bills up in committee today, one of them an important pro life bill. I was excited and happy about the idea of defending them in committee. I am a legislator, and I live for this stuff. Passing a bill you really care about is one of the highest highs you can have on any job. Passing a bill like this pro life bill, that you know will save lives, is … well … it’s reason enough to put up with the guff and grump of public office the rest of the time.

When I walked out of my house and saw the snow coming down, my first reaction, despite my love of the white stuff, was dismay. I broke my foot last October. Yesterday was the first day I’ve been able to go all day with a regular shoe on that foot in all those months. I spent two months in a wheel chair and even more time basically confined to my house. I still don’t walk exactly the way I did and I’m not all that sure-footed.

It’s getting better every day. But the thought of slip-sliding on the ice with the Gimpster really scared me. I do not want to break anything else. I’ve enjoyed that deal just about as much as I can stand.

I took heart in the fact that the snow was not “sticking.” It was coming down, but melting in the puddles on the ground. I hoped that meant it would be an ice free passage when I needed to get out of the car and walk. But I only drove a short way before that changed. The snowfall thickened and I guess the temperature dropped because it started packing on the streets and piling up on the ground.

I got over halfway to work and decided the risk was too great. I called everyone and told them I was bailing. Then I turned the car around and headed home. No trip to the capitol, no committee meeting, no ice walking for me.

This is not something I did lightly. In eleven years, I had only missed two days of work, one because of a death in the family and the other one because of Gimpy. Now, thanks again to Gimpy, I’ve missed three days.

But the thing that really bothered me wasn’t missing a day of work. It was getting that bill out of committee. There’s a timing to these things and the time for this vote was now. I wanted so badly to go in there and present that bill in committee, but the Gimpster has her own rules and I’ve learned the hard, hard way that I’d better follow them.

Long story short, another legislator friend of mine, Representative Mike Ritze, graciously agreed to handle the pro life bill for me in committee and got it voted out. (Bless him.) I am so grateful to Representative Ritze for being willing to jump in there like that.

Representative Mike Ritze

At the same time, I am disappointed that I didn’t get to do it myself.

I mean, really disappointed.

I got the snow I was wishing for. And I did not re-injure my healing-but-still-gimpy leg. On top of that, the bill that matters so much to me was voted out of committee, thanks to an understanding chairman and a kind-hearted and willing colleague. Thanks to good people who pulled together to help me, a life-saving bill made it over the first legislative hurdle.

Kinda hard to feel sorry for myself when I put it like that, so I guess I won’t.

The bill is still a long way from making a new law. I’ll have plenty of opportunities to defend it, I’m sure.

In the meantime, I think I’m going to enjoy this little bit of Okie Snow.

It’s Shrove Tuesday. It’s also two days before Valentine’s Day. If it hadn’t snowed, my husband was going to take me out tonight. As it is, I may make pancakes. We have a bottle of champagne that’s not doing anything.

Champagne and pancakes on Shrove Tuesday.

Sounds like an Okie snowstorm to me.

Have a great evening, my friends. Happy Shrove Tuesday.

And be care what you wish for.

 

Lent: Repentance, Divorce and Your Children

Lent begins this Wednesday.

It’s difficult in our over-scheduled world to reflect. On anything. It is doubly difficult to reflect on something as unpleasant as our own sins.

However, unless the statistics and the evening news are entirely bogus, we have a lot to repent of this Lent, a lot to change.

Most of us, me included, tend to focus on the entirely personal nature of our sins that pertains only to us. We don’t often consider how our personal sins affect others. We almost never think about  how our personal behavior either contributes to the common good or diminishes it.

We’ve had quite a few discussions on Public Catholic about marriage and family. A lot of this discussing has focused on the question of whether or not our society should change the legal definition of marriage. The question is, should we redefine marriage  to something that does not focus on marriage’s institutional purpose of creating, nurturing and equipping future generations of people to become stable and productive adults?

I think the primary reason we have come to the point where we can seriously consider such a thing is that we have become a divorce culture. Divorce and our easy acceptance of it as a solution for almost any spousal grivance has destroyed marriage as a nest for many millions of our young people. So, destroying it absolutely through a redefinition of the law just seems like the next step for many people. We’ve abused marriage so much that we’ve forgotten what marriage is.

One of the questions I’d like all of us to ponder during this Lent is how we treat our own families. In this post, I’m going to focus on divorced parents.

Divorce does not end your obligation as a parent. It complicates it and makes it more difficult to live out, but it certainly does not end it. Your children are still your children.

I see a lot of finger-pointing between divorced spouses. He claims that she won’t let him see the kids. She tells stories of fathers who make dates to see the children who wait eagerly by the door for hours for their Daddy who never shows up. Some divorced spouses move hundreds of miles away from their children and then only see them once or twice a year.

This is going to make a lot of people angry, but I’m going to say it. If you are only seeing your kids once or twice a year, you are not functioning as a parent in their lives. You are functioning, at best, as a kindly uncle or aunt.

Parents are there. Parents put their children first, ahead of their anger and resentment toward their former spouses, and yes, their careers and their new spouses.

I know all the stories about jobs and second marriages and all the other “necessary” reasons people move far away from their children. But, to be honest, I don’t buy it. Your children should come first. I once knew a divorced dad from England who had followed his divorced wife to Oklahoma so he could be near his kids. That’s a father.

The mother who moved her children so far away from their father on the other hand … not so much. I don’t think divorced dads should move away from their kids. I also don’t think divorced moms should move the kids away from their father.

I can hear the anger now over that statement. After all, isn’t divorce about starting over?

In truth, I don’t know what divorce is. I do know what being a parent is. Among other things, being a parent means you put your kids’ needs ahead of your own. So, no, divorce is not about “starting over” and having a “new life.” You are a parent first, foremost and for life. There are no excuses for forgetting that.

If you have kids, you need to put them ahead of yourself. You need to do what it takes to be their mother or father. Your career, your desire to remarry, your “needs” are all second to that.

Too often, divorced parents use the children to punish their former spouses. Also too often, they remarry and put their new spouses and their new children ahead of their “old” kids. After all, babies are always cuter, cuddlier and simpler than your older children with their knobby knees, braces on their teeth and the emotional damage you’ve done to them with your custody fights, attacks on their mother or father and indifference to their needs.

It must seem to children of divorce like their parents stop loving them. Unfortunately, in far too many instances, this is not entirely an illusion.

Divorce is a wrecking ball we take to our lives. It is a ripping apart of that “one flesh” that marriage is. It violates the trust of family, destroys the peace and safety of home.

Divorce hurts people to the core. It inflicts wounds on them that will not heal.

Whatever harm divorce does to the adults who commit it can be raised by powers of ten for their children. Divorce wounds adults. It maims children.

I know there are many experts who will tell you that this is not true. But look at the generations of young people we are producing. They appear to be increasingly unable to form families and nurture their own young. That is a profound, civilization-destroying failure of child-rearng and family that rests on the heads of their parents.

It speaks directly to our excesses and abuses of our marriages and children. Unfortunately, we are not getting the message. Instead of repenting of our societal excesses that have led to this destruction of our homes and families, we are attempting to complete the process by redefining marriage as a social contract in which fidelity, children and stability play no part.

We want to base our understanding of marriage on things like job benefits and inheritance laws (all of which can be changed without touching marriage) rather than its essential function as a cradle for creating and raising our children. It is as if we have fallen in love with our own cultural/societal suicide.

Lent begins Wednesday. Lent is a time when we are supposed to examine our lives, repent of our sins and do penance for those sins. I’m going to suggest that you take a look at how you treat your family. For this post, I am going to focus specifically on divorced parents.

Are you doing your best to be a good parent to your children? How high are your children on your list of priorities? Do they rank somewhere below your job, your dating life, your grief/bitterness/rage over the divorce and your desire to “put it behind me” and get on with a new life?

Do you even care about what your behavior does to them? Are you concerned about the fact that you are shaping people? Have you forgotten that they are your own flesh and blood?

For today, I want to ask divorced parents to consider examining their own lives and how they can do a better job of overcoming the many deficits divorce inflicts on their ability to properly nurture, guide and shelter their children. Think of ways you can be an effective father or mother to the children you have brought into this world. Consider them, and not you.

They are, after all, your children. Nothing else you do in life matters if you don’t take care of them.