I’m Not Going to Church Tomorrow. I Have Other Plans.

Breast Cancer Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by crazy_dame https://www.flickr.com/photos/craftydame/

Breast Cancer Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by crazy_dame https://www.flickr.com/photos/craftydame/

Bright and early tomorrow morning, my husband and I will head to the hospital for another biopsy. They found another “suspicious mass” during scans Monday. It may turn out to be fine. I’ll know more in a few days. If you could spare a prayer for me on this Holy Thursday, I would be most appreciative.

I wrote about it in more detail for the National Catholic Register:

Please Remember Me in Your Prayers This Friday
Jesus will take care of me, and I know it. I am not alone, because He is there. He is so completely there.

I have another “mass.” My biopsy is scheduled for this Friday — Good Friday.

I’ve asked a number of people to pray, and their first response has been “how can that be?” I had a bilateral mastectomy, and in their minds, that removed all risk of breast cancer.

But cancer doesn’t give guarantees. Or rather, it gives one guarantee, and that is that it will hang over you like the Sword of Damocles all the rest of your days.

None of this means that I am back in the cancer soup again. I may learn next week that this thing is something other than cancer. That is a real possibility.

But even if it turns out to be a benign something-or-other, I still get to have more fun and frolic with doctors. I still have to consider the what-ifs of this disease all over again. If the cancer has gone off and made an appearance somewhere else, then those “what-ifs” are both simple and existential to the max.

Once again, if I am afraid, I do not feel it. And, once again, I’m using this situation to spring people from Purgatory. I believe that my illness earned a way out for quite a few good souls last year. That’s a good feeling.

I got this good news Monday. I almost cried when I was lying on the table while being scanned and saw the look on the face of the person doing the scanning. There were tears, wanting to leak out.

But I didn’t. I sniffled a bit later that evening, while I was working in the kitchen, but that’s been it with the crying. I’m not being stoic. If I needed to cry, I would. I just haven’t.

The first couple of days, I was blue and angry. I mean really, I-want-to-be-left-alone blue-and-cursing angry.

I had actually begun to think I might be on the road to years of cancer-free time. It took me a while to get there, but I had started thinking I could exhale and just live for a while.

That’s why I was so angry. I lost that little bit of lightness Monday and I was angry about having it snatched away. (Read the rest here.)

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Pray with Pope Francis. Pray His Prayer Intention for January.

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons. http://www.presidencia.gov.ar/

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons. http://www.presidencia.gov.ar/

Pope Francis’ Prayer Intention for January will probably challenge at least a few of American Catholics.

The Holy Father is asking us to pray for dialogue with those who differ from them. I have a feeling that will challenge more than one American Catholic. We have become so angry and divided that many Catholics will be unwilling to even ask for peace with our neighbors. In fact, I won’t be surprised if a few of them become angry with the Pope for suggesting that we pray for such a thing.

Rather than run away from what our Holy Father has to say because it makes us uncomfortable and challenges us to reach out to other people, we need to take it to heart. Pray the Pope’s Prayer Intention for January. Pray for increased dialogue between and among people of different faiths.

Sitting down to talk to one another certainly sounds better than shooting at one another. Unlikely as that might seem, nothing is impossible with God

The Holy Father is exactly right. We are all children of the same God.

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Do You Forget to Pray Until You’re in Trouble? Pray Anyway.

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons by Agência Brasil, a public Brazilian news agency. Their website states: "Todo o conteúdo deste site está publicado sob a Licença Creative Commons Atribuição 3.0 Brasil exceto quando especificado em contrário e nos conteúdos replicados de outras fontes." (English translation: All content on this website is published under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Brazil License unless specified otherwise and content replicated from other sources.)

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons by Agência Brasil, a public Brazilian news agency.
Their website states: “Todo o conteúdo deste site está publicado sob a Licença Creative Commons Atribuição 3.0 Brasil exceto quando especificado em contrário e nos conteúdos replicados de outras fontes.” (English translation: All content on this website is published under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Brazil License unless specified otherwise and content replicated from other sources.)

Do you forget to pray until you’re in trouble? You’re not alone. A lot of people are like that.

Pope Francis tells us that God understands and will welcome our tough-times prayers. All we need to do is go to Him in faith.

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Come Out of the Cold This Advent

Photo Source: Flickr Commons by Bruno https://www.flickr.com/photos/_pek_/

Photo Source: Flickr Commons by Bruno https://www.flickr.com/photos/_pek_/

I need Advent this year. I think we all do.

I wrote this post, concerning Advent and renewal because I need Jesus. I need His love, forgiveness and strength. I was blessed to have someone I could go to and talk about these things; a generous, loving spiritual mother who did not turn me away.

From the National Catholic Register:

Come Out of the Cold This Advent
Praying for someone does not mean you agree with the bad things they do.

I needed spiritual guidance and I didn’t know where to turn. This election and the evils thereof had driven me to hatred and a kind of despair about people and the integrity of many Christian religious leaders.

I needed spiritual guidance, a spiritual friend I could trust to lay bare my soul, to let them into the hurt, the ravaged misery I was feeling. I couldn’t talk about the things that needed saying. I’ve learned the hard way that there are some things, some experiences, that belong between me and God.

I turned to the woman I think of as my spiritual mother. I called her out of nowhere and asked if I could come talk to her. She was busy, but she set all that aside and welcomed me.

She was the one who suggested a Novena. Her suggestion was a simple one: Go to Mass every day for 30 days and pray the prayers of the Mass earnestly. I thought it was a good idea.

I left her feeling comforted. She understood my anger and hurt, didn’t deny the reasons for it, then redirected me back to Jesus and away from the visceral hatreds of our political mess. But, it turned out, God was not done with me yet, not by a long sight. The Holy Spirit kept at me, making me miserable as only the Holy Spirit can when you’re doing something wrong.

I’m not good at being on the outs with God. When the Holy Spirit gets after me, I cannot resist for too long. After a couple of days, I yielded and went off alone and prayed. I asked God to forgive me for the hatred in my heart that this political campaign had aroused, and I asked Him to help me. He immediately soothed and comforted me, sent graces of forgiveness and calm.

But the question of a novena stayed. And the anger remained. With the help of prayer, I came to realize that you do not fight the devil with the devil’s weapons, and hatred is absolutely the devil’s weapon. But the anger that fuels a fight for justice is another animal entirely.

Anger in the face of evil is both just and necessary. It is the human response that Jesus Himself evinced when he was confronted with the leaven of the Pharisees. Anger that does not fester, that does not hate, but propels us into good, positive action to right wrongs, is not a sin. It is a force.

Hatred corrupts and destroys the effectiveness of that force. It steals the light of justice from it and turns it to destructive use that never results in any good thing but only feeds the darkness. God is love. Satan is hatred. It’s as simple as that.

That brings me back around to the idea of a novena, or something kind of like a novena. I am not talking about a literal nine-day prayer. I mean something both grander and less than that. I am talking about repentance and conversion; about turning around. I am talking about coming back to God.

This is the second week of Advent — a time of repentance, of making way for the Lord.

We need, this year far more than most, to take advantage of the opportunity Advent affords us to cleanse ourselves of the evils of this political campaign. I know full well that there are going to be recounts and fisticuffs even now, weeks after we voted. But it’s time for those of us who say we follow Jesus to stop following these little-g gods and get back to actually following Jesus.

Here’s what I’m going to suggest. If you are a Hillary hater, pray and ask God to forgive you for the sin of hating her. Contrary to what you may have told yourself, hating her is not righteousness. It is sin, and it separates you from your Maker and imperils your immortal soul. You can end up going to hell for righteously hating Hillary. Wouldn’t that be an ironic end to all this?

If you are a Trump hater, then you need to ask God to forgive you for the sin of hating Donald Trump. Just like the Hillary hater, you can end up going to hell for your righteous hatred of Trump. For all I know, your special hell may be spending your eternity next to a Hillary hater and battling it out with them forevermore.

Ask God to forgive you and then ask Him to use your good anger at one (or both) of these candidates, the anger at abortion and race-baiting and other sexual and moral depravities, to good purpose. Ask Him to give you the courage to do something useful and helpful to save lives — something real that requires a bit of sacrifice on your part, that makes you pay a price for the innocent victims of our sins.

After you pray your please-forgive-me-for-the-sin-of-hatred prayer, I want you to keep it up. If you are a Hillary hater, I am asking you to pray for her every single day of Advent. If you are a Trump hater, I want you to pray for him every day of Advent.

I don’t have any idea what, if anything, these prayers will do for them. That will depend on how receptive they are to the Holy Spirit. But I know what it will do for you. It will do the same thing that praying for those who hurt you — and they have hurt all of us with this campaign, grievously so — always does. It will clear your mind and heal your soul.

Praying for someone does not mean you agree with the bad things they do. It means that you acknowledge their humanity, that they are, like you, made in the image and likeness of God.

The most important reason for praying for both these people is that Jesus told you to do it. Jesus didn’t tell you how to vote. In fact, He said that His Kingdom was not of this world, meaning, I think, that Christians are citizens of a Kingdom without politics first, and citizens of the political kingdoms of this world second.

We have all bent our knees before the little-g gods of politics these past months. Now it’s time to bend our knees before the real God, the One Who does not want to manipulate or exploit us, the One Who only wants to bless us.

You and I need to pray for both Hillary and Donald because Jesus told us to pray for our enemies, to forgive those who spitefully use us — and we have been very spitefully used in this campaign. We need to pray every day of Advent for the candidate who is not our choice.

That is not a penance. It is obedience. It is doing what our Lord God Christ commands us to do.

It is time to lay down the nasty name-calling and spiteful self-righteousness. We all have sinned and gone astray. We don’t need more fuel for the hideous fires of hatred burning in our politically obsessed souls. We need the cleansing, healing perspective of the Cross.

This campaign has been one of the many Gethsemanes of our lives, and from what I can see, none of us — including our religious leaders — was able to wait with Him for one hour. We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. All of us.

We need forgiveness. And we need to change.

Of all the reasons for going to hell, senselessly hating one of these two people has got to be one of the stupidest.

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I Want You to Stop and Think for a Moment About How Much God Loves You

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by BuzzFarmers https://www.flickr.com/photos/buzzfarmers/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by BuzzFarmers https://www.flickr.com/photos/buzzfarmers/

Note: I’m re-publishing this because it didn’t come through in its entirely the first time I put it up. I hope it makes more sense this time around.

I wrote this a few months ago for the National Catholic Register. I think it’s worth publishing again at this time when we have been so deeply damaged and degraded as a nation and a people by the amoral cruelty of the election just past, and when our Church, which should be the lodestone that guides our lives, is at odds with itself.

I was in a special place of grace when I wrote this. Cancer was, for me, a powerful experience of the love of Christ. The graces He rained down on me during that time could only have come from a God Who truly is love.

Here’s what I wrote:

I’ve spent the past seven months in the hermetically-sealed world of cancer treatment. That world disconnected me from the other world of normal life with the abrupt finality of amputation.

One minute, I thought I was fine. The next, I was fighting for my life. The re-entry into what I just labeled “normal” life was as abrupt as the leave-taking. I arrived, not well, not even close to well, but wounded and battered from treatments that had just ended. The sights, sounds, behaviors that confronted me in this “normal” world seemed alien and more than a bit trivial.

I suppose it was a bit like a soldier returning from an overseas war. They get on the plane with sand in their teeth and the rattle of gunfire still sounding in their ears and get off a few hours later in the impersonal noise and confusion of an American airport. Technically they are home, but “home” feels more alien than the alien world from which they have come.

They are stunned. As I was stunned.

The single biggest change is not that I am changed physically, although I am changed physically in obvious ways. It’s the shift in values, in my understanding of what matters, that sets me apart from everyone around me.

Take, for instance, Pope Francis’ recent Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of Love. I think I heard something about it when I was in that other world, but I don’t really remember what. Between the drugs and the overwhelming sickness, nothing stuck except a clear memory of how wretched I felt. That, and not much else, is imprinted on my mind, in much the same way that I would keep seeing a blinding flash, even after it’s over.

I was aware, in that same vague way that I knew about the Exhortation, that there was the usual carrying on from the usual places that seems to accompany everything the Holy Father says or does. But somewhere between the words “you have cancer” and the release of the Exhortation, my relationship with my Church had changed.

That’s only reasonable, since my relationship with God had also changed during that time. I’ve never felt closer to Jesus than I did during those months of treatment. He was, to paraphrase W H Auden, my North, my South, my East and West, My working week and my Sunday rest.

I was both too sick to care about the reaction to Pope Francis’ Exhortation and too deep in the love of God to take it seriously. Now that I am slowly getting better, tip toeing ever-so-cautiously around the rim of normal life without actually diving in, I retain the profound crystallizing viewpoint that is, to paraphrase another poet, all I know of heaven, all I need of hell.

I’ve been someplace quite rare in this life. I’ve been to hell while wrapped in the loving arms of God my Father.

I want to tell you what I learned on the trip. I learned that all we know of heaven lies in the peace of Christ Jesus. There really is a peace that passes all understanding, a love that does not die, that grows stronger when we are weak. The secret to life in Christ is no secret at all. It is not built on being sinless, pious and perfect. It is certainly not built on having the right political ideas and voting correctly. You do not get to God by hating the right people for the right reasons. Rely on yourself and your own righteousness, and you will never see heaven at all.

The only way to heaven is through the Way, which is Jesus and His love. All you have to do is trust Him. That’s all. Just throw yourself into His arms and let go of everything else.

We are so grounded in this life that we lose sight of that. It’s very difficult for earth-bound creatures like us to fly. I was blessed to encounter the terror of cancer. Cancer pushed me right up to the cliff of abandoning myself utterly into God’s hands, and in the faith that came from decades of walking in Him, I closed my eyes and stepped off.

The rest is a song of floating in His love through the white water that lay ahead of me.

During that passage, as a result of that step off the cliff, I changed. The Church became, not a set of teachings and dogma, but the living Eucharist, the Body of Christ in fact and in truth.

I encountered Jesus every day, and He blessed me over and over again, while the Church fed me with the concrete love of Christ in Eucharist. I could reach out and touch Him, taste Him, receive Him physically, while He surrounded me with His loving presence spiritually.

God’s beautiful people reached out to me with letters, emails, offers of help and assistance from every direction. They, too, became the living Body of Christ and I found deep healing in their caring.

When I heard about the Exhortation, I didn’t really care what it said. Pope Francis is Peter. Me? I’m just a back-pew sitter who has no real right to be part of this beautiful Body of Christ. I am not here by virtue of my virtue. Far from it. I am only here because God loved me from eternal death to eternal life through His forgiveness and Mercy.

I am writing this post for one reason. I want you to stop and think for a moment about how much God loves you. Stop what you a doing and just think about what He has forgiven you, and how much you rely on His love and forgiveness. Without that love, without that bounteous mercy, you and I would both go straight to hell.

That, my friends would not be a harsh judgement. It would be justice in its absolute and accurate sense. We do not deserve heaven. We deserve to go to hell.

If those people who hated me back when I was doing my worst had had their way about it, God would certainly have never forgiven me. It is a verifiable fact that some of them were outraged and bitter when I converted, that they called everyone from my bishop to other members of my parish to protest and say that I should be shunned and kicked out.

But that great Body of Christ which is the Catholic Church welcomed me home and accepted me as its own daughter.

If Pope Francis is telling us that God’s Mercy extends to everyone without regard to what they have done, he is only telling us the truth. He is not changing doctrine. He is preaching Christ.

I know only too well the kind of willful sinfulness leaning on my own wisdom can lead me to commit. I pray every day that God will protect me from my own understanding, that He will not let me walk past Lazarus.

If you are one of those who is outraged by what our Holy Father has written, stop for a moment and think. When you stand on the edge of that cliff and look out over the expanse of nothingness that is your own suffering and death, the Church will be there to sustain you.

When you step off that cliff, the arms of Christ will catch you.

None of this will happen because you deserve it. It will happen because love is stronger than death, and our God is a deeply personal and infinitely loving God of mercy.

Do not begrudge other people the same forgiveness that saves you. Do not, ever, tell anyone that God does not love them. The first is not only a cruelty, but a denial of your own salvation, as if you are throwing God’s gifts to you back in His face. The second is a lie, plane and simple.

I think that when we get to heaven one of the biggest surprises we’ll have is who we see there. And who we don’t.

Trust the Church and trust Jesus. Don’t wait until one of life’s existential trials forces you to it, trust Jesus now. And stop worrying.

Whether it seems like it or not, God’s got this. If you are His, you have nothing, absolutely nothing, to fear.

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Cancer has Taught Me the Cure: We Have to Follow Christ.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Waiting for the Word https://www.flickr.com/photos/waitingfortheword/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Waiting for the Word https://www.flickr.com/photos/waitingfortheword/

I wrote this last week for the National Catholic Register.

 

I’ve been trying to find my way back into writing for quite a while. It isn’t easy.

Every time I think I’m moving forward, I fall down. I get sick again; not cancer sick, but too sick to do anything. I get colds, kidney infections, gastrointestinal thingies, then I get another cold, and so on and so forth.

Each little illness — and these things come at me like they were being fired from a repeating rifle — takes the little bit of pizazz that I’ve mustered and smashes it flat. I have to rebuild my stamina, and yes, my interest in the world outside the confines of my personal life, all over again. Then, just as I’m peeking over the rim, I get hit with another illness.

These things take me down in a way that colds and such have not in times past. I don’t remember ever missing a day’s work over a cold or a kidney infection. No matter what happened, my verve for doing kept right on keeping on. It has fueled me all my life. But cancer extinguished that verve in a deep, deep way. My focus switched to an all-out fight for my life.

In addition to wearing me down, cancer shifted the things I care about. What mattered to me, in fact all that mattered, was Jesus, my family and a few friends. Whatever verve I had left went to cuddling my granddaughter and taking my Mama out for drives.

There was a time — quite a long time — when I could do neither. In fact, there was a period of at least a couple of weeks where my memory was so drug-laden that it’s just a spotty series of scenes that I sort of remember.

I had one tough instance of runaway high blood pressure. I had daily visits from nurses for a few weeks. They were wonderful and probably saved my life when the blood pressure went wacko. The nurse caught it and went to bats with the docs that they had to do something about it. I don’t remember a lot of things, but I do remember her telling a doc “You have to act. I will not leave this patient in this condition. I don’t want a mastectomy to stroke out on me.”

The odd part of that memory is that a friend of mine was Rebecca-sitting during this whole event. She came to my house each morning as my husband was leaving for work and stayed with me all day. I remember we watched movies and that she helped me strip drains and such.

Later, when I was trying to remember the big mess with the blood pressure, I asked her, “Were you there when that happened?” She smiled and said, “Yes, I was.”

Another time, I was telling her about how heavy my Kirby vacuum cleaner is and bragging that I had been able, for the first time in a long time, to vacuum my living room floor. She smiled and said, “I used that vacuum to clean your house when I was taking care of you.” I have no memory of that.

There’s a lot I don’t remember, and a lot I do (Read the rest here.)

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It was a Mama Kind of Weekend.

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

My family and I had a rough weekend with Mama. Here’s a summary of part of it that I wrote for the National Catholic Register.

If you could spare a prayer for me and mine, it would be much appreciated.

From the National Catholic Register:

I woke with a jolt — one of those soldier-coming-awake-in-a-foxhole snaps from dream sleep to full awake without a step between.

The house was quiet and dark.

I hauled my tired self out of bed and walked down one hall and then the next hall and yet another hall until I came to Mama’s bedroom, flipped on the light and looked at her bed. Which was neatly made up and empty.

Panic is the word, but it’s inadequate. Think baby-missing-from-the-crib-in-a-silent-house, think every nightmare of bungled love and responsibility pounding straight down with one slam.

I ran through the house, yelling for her.

Nothing.

Then, I noticed that the pillows on the sofa were laid out flat in a row that went from one armrest straight across to the other. I walked to the sofa. Lifted a pillow.

She was lying there, fully dressed and sleeping. Her white hair was streaked red with blood, her pants and shirt had huge spots of blood. It was bright red; fresh, newly-bled.

 

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/rhamilton/living-pro-life-is-a-blessing-that-asks-much-of-the-blessed/#ixzz3lpIjaoqQ

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Converting the World, Ending Abortion, the Jesus Way

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Koshy Koshy https://www.flickr.com/photos/kkoshy/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Koshy Koshy https://www.flickr.com/photos/kkoshy/

Mama is scheduled to come home from the hospital today. It’s a new reality. Most of what she could do before last week, she can no longer do.

I’ve enlisted the help of hospice, and they’ve already been great. They brought over a hospital bed, oxygen, and all sorts of helpful equipment. But I am concerned about my physical ability to do the lifting and such. I’m asking for your prayers.

In the meantime, I wrote this post for the National Catholic Register about the need to pray for those we would like to hate. I’m talking about pro choice politicians, in particular those who voted against the attempt to defund Planned Parenthood last week.

We can lose our souls while we’re trying to serve God if we become instruments of hate instead of love. Scripture tells us that God is love. So, if we do not love, including those we feel are the most unlovable, then we have no part in Him.

Remember that Jesus is God, and He showed us a new and history-changing dynamic. Jesus died for us, and we are not the least bit lovable by the yardstick we use to judge others. We are, if we will admit it, full of angers, petty grudges, lies, selfishness and greed. That is the best of us, those who do not commit the wrongs we read about on the internet or see on the news.

But He died for us. He came down from heaven and became human, with all its aches and pains, loneliness and hardship, and He did it for us.

That is an example of loving someone who doesn’t deserve it that goes beyond our understanding or capacity for understanding. We can try to approach it by thinking on the wholly human side of Jesus, that part of Him that understands us because He consented to be one of us. But we can not begin to understand what it meant to give up heaven, to go from being God to become a helpless baby and on through dying as a criminal, hanging on a cross.

We can’t comprehend that, but we can know that it calls us to more than just genuflecting and crossing ourselves and the showy stuff of empty piety. It calls us to emulate this divine love as best we can when we are given the opportunity.

Jesus told us without any equivocation to go out into the world and teach what He taught, to convert sinners and baptize them in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This was His commission to us. The mission statement for all of Christianity, everywhere.

He also told us to pray for those Who hurt us. Then He modeled that for us from the cross.

I applied that commandment from Our Lord directly to the political situation we are facing now. Here’s what I said.

From The National Catholic Register:

I was once one of them. The pro-aborts, I mean.

After my conversion, when I began to understand that abortion was wrong and, worse for me at that time, when I felt the Holy Spirit calling me to change, the major obstacle for me was pro-life people. I had been the Oklahoma Director of NARAL. I had been a pro-choice legislator who used my position to kill pro-life legislation.

I had made speeches, organized and worked for abortion rights with all my little heart. I was as sincere and committed in my pro-choice advocacy as anyone could be. Pro-life people in Oklahoma counted me as the enemy. And they came after me.

The trouble was, they made it into a personal fight against me instead of advocacy for the babies. Instead of speaking for the humanity of the unborn, they tried to hate me to death. They said I was a communist, a prostitute, a lesbian, a whore and a slut. They claimed all sorts of political positions for me that I did not hold, and that ultimately were proven lies by my actions.

These lies hurt me as a person and as a woman. They wounded me, and they hardened me in my pro-choice resolve. They also enraged people who know me and who knew full well that the pro-life people were telling creepy, hate-filled, low-life lies about me. What they did not do was convert anyone to the pro-life cause. To the contrary, they tempered all of us into pro-choice steel.

After my conversion, when the Holy Spirit began urging me to change on abortion, I was reluctant and fearful precisely because I didn’t know one single pro-life person who I thought was sane, much less trustworthy and nice. If God had asked me to jump into an active volcano, I could not have found it more dreadful.

I believe this same dynamic is at work with pro-choice politicians today.

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/rhamilton/we-can-stop-abortion-only-with-christs-weapons-not-the-devils/#ixzz3iW2d3N1r

 

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10 Things You can Do to Save Your Family and Change the World

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Lars Ploughman https://www.flickr.com/photos/criminalintent/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Lars Ploughman https://www.flickr.com/photos/criminalintent/

I’m going to launch into the political ramifications of the Supreme Court Decision destroying marriage as a legal construct in a day or so.

But before I do, I want to make a simple point: Conversion of the culture does not begin at the ballot box or changes in the law. It ends there.

Conversion of the culture does not even begin with bringing your family and friends to Christ. That’s a mid-point.

Conversion of the culture begins with yielding your own self and your life to Christ in an absolute way. That is the beginning. Everything else — everything else — flows from that.

St Paul did not jump off his mule and start preaching. He was knocked off and into the dirt and left blind. He had to come face to face with Christ and his own sinfulness before he became the Apostle to the Gentiles.

We will not convert this culture by excoriating and condemning sinners, for the obvious reason that we are all sinners. Many of the people who are condemning gay marriage have trashed their own marriages and dumped their own children.

If they are divorced, they don’t spend time with their children, or they spitefully try to keep their children away from their former spouse. They don’t pay child support and they spend their days going over and over how they were wronged.

If they are married, they sleep around, or talk to their families like they were dirt under their feet. They harangue their children and spouses, or worse yet, they are physically violent with them. How many of the people who loudly proclaim the sanctity of marriage commit adultery? How many of them sit in front of the tv and ignore their families? How many of them ignore or even abuse their elderly parents? How many of them do not show up for school plays or be a trusted best friend when their spouse is in distress?

If we want to convert the culture, we have to begin with ourselves. It’s that simple.

Here are 10 things you can do to save your family in this family-despising, family-attacking culture of ours:

1. Go into marriage with the idea that this is your only spouse. If remarriage is off the table, divorce is not going to be such an easy option.

I know that there are times when divorce has to happen. If somebody’s beating up on somebody, if there is adultery or chemical abuse with a refusal to get help, then divorce may very well be the only door open. But divorce is a civil solution to a moral problem. What God has joined together, man can not put asunder.

Go into marriage with the knowledge that this person is your life’s partner, the only one who will walk with you through your days. That viewpoint will immediately raise your spouse’s value in your eyes. Keep that viewpoint in front of you, and remember: This person’s happiness and your happiness are bound with a life-long cord.

Hurting your spouse is hurting yourself. Never forget that.

2. Put Jesus Christ on the throne of your life and your marriage. Do not do this lightly. Prayerfully consider the option of a formal enthronement of Christ as the Head of your home. I have not done this, but my husband and I are talking about it. I have friends who have done it, and I’ve seen the fruits of it in their lives. For more information, go here.

3. Get on your knees and pray together every night before bed. My wonderful Aunt Tid and Uncle Ozzie did this every day of their married lives. They had a list of people and problems that they lifted up to the Lord together before they went to bed each night. This is true communion of spirits between a man and a wife. It is a powerful uniting of life and soul. Everyone I know who does this has a marriage that is filled with mutual devotion, love and happiness.

4. Do not harangue your family members who have fallen short of your Christian ideal, even those who have fallen far short of it. Love them, continue to be family to them, and pray, pray, pray.

Remember also the things you’ve done. I worry about my kids — a lot. But I know that they are much more together than I was at the same age.

My parents never stopped loving me and they never pushed me away. Love them. Love them. And pray. And remember St Monica. And pray some more. Then, trust Jesus.

If the Holy Spirit wants you to speak up, He will open the door. I’ve had this happen, and when I speak in His time and with the words He gives me, it never fails to be the right thing. Just … trust Him.

5. Go to mass. If you can, go to daily mass. But at least go to mass every Sunday. Every time you take communion, Christ heals you. I feel it, and so will you. I need it, and so do you.

6. Be loyal to the pope. Don’t follow internet popes who attack the Holy Father. Do not be so foolish as to make a little pope out of yourself.

I hate to say this, but the bishops are all over the map on a lot of things. The same politician will be told during election years (It always seems to be during election years.) that he or she may not take communion, in, say, Sioux City, but can take communion in, say, Dodge City. It’s the same politician; the same sin. But a different bishop.

What are those of us in the pews to make of this? Does it confuse you? It certainly confuses me.

We need the pope. The pope is the only world leader of his type. He alone speaks for over a billion people who live under every government, in every clime. His voice reaches from pole to pole; dateline to dateline.

That is why the press goes ga-ga over his every utterance. It is why politicians of every persuasion alternately revile and pander to him.

But it is not why we should be loyal to him. His temporal reach has nothing to do with our call to loyalty to the pope. We must be loyal to the pope because he stands in the shoes of the fisherman. He is Peter. And Jesus Christ said that on Peter He would build His Church.

Be loyal to the pope.

7. Pray the Rosary. Pray the Rosary in a meditative way, thinking about the Scriptures the decades represent and what they mean to you. Take your fears and problems, rejoicings and griefs to Our Lady and pray with her to Jesus. If praying with your spouse binds you to one another, think how praying with Jesus’ own mother will bind you to Him.

8. Ask God to show you your sins. We are all blind to our own faults. Everyone of us is capable of the intellectual sophistry which allows us to proclaim our sins a virtue and condemn those of the person next to us. That is the nature of our nature. It is a manifestation of our fallen state. It is us, listening to the devil without the slightest awareness that this is what we are doing.

The Holy Spirit is a loving guide to our own hearts. He will reveal your self to you to the extent that you are capable of comprehending and reacting with grace to this painful truth. Trust Him. He will not dump all your sins on you like an acid bath that destroys you. He will show you what you can take at the time. And then He will be with you as you face it and convert away from it.

The Holy Spirit is a great teacher of willing souls. But you must be willing. Ask God to show you your sins, then accept and repent of the sins He shows you. Realize that this is a life-long process. Be grateful for it. He is fitting you for heaven.

9. Forgive others. This is often the toughest one of all. It’s easy enough to forgive those you love and who love you. It’s not too tough to forgive anyone who sincerely admits they hurt you and asks for forgiveness.

It gets more difficult when you are dealing with a person who has hurt you and who continues to hurt you and who claims that you deserve the hurt. It is impossible under your own power to forgive certain violations of your humanity such as violent rape or torture.

In these areas, forgiveness is a gift of the Holy Spirit, and it does not come cheaply. The cost is letting go of the great defense of anger that has freed you from victimhood.

Too often, people practice a phony forgiveness, a premature rush to proclaim forgiveness, which does not allow them the dignity of proclaiming their own worth and value in the face of what has been done to them. This is particularly true when they have suffered soul-destroying attacks on their humanity that can actually cause a kind of psychological death such as violent rape, torture, slavery or child sexual abuse.

Before we forgive, we must first know and believe to our depths that we were wronged, that we are not the receptacles for other people’s trash they these people have reduced us to. This is difficult if the world around us will not affirm this with us.

Anyone who faces this should read the book of Job. I don’t think the book of Job is, as is usually claimed, about suffering. I don’t think it is about suffering at all. I think it is about victim-blaming.

That’s what Job’s “friends” did to him. It’s what happens to any victim who is among those the culture proclaims may have “asked for” the evil that was done to them.

Forgiveness in the face of this is only possible when it comes from God. God alone can give us the certainty of our own humanity and worth that is so rock solid and absolute that we are free to lay down the defense of our humiliated rage and forgive from the heart.

This circles back to earlier points. Scripture tells us that if we “seek the Lord, He will draw near to you.” Everything I’ve listed above, including #1 is a way of seeking the Lord.

10. Accept God’s forgiveness. I’ve had a real tussle with this one and more than once. The most dramatic and public of these situations was after God showed me the full horror of what I had done by being pro choice.

I was plunged into grief, shame, remorse that went beyond the graces of confession. Long story short, after a long period of intense grief, I finally realized (this was probably from the Holy Spirit) that I had to have the humility to accept God’s forgiveness.

It is a kind of narcissism to think that your sins are bigger than God’s mercy. Nothing we can do is beyond the mercy of God.

There are times when it takes humility and trust to accept God’s forgiveness. But those moments plunge us into what He told St Faustina was the “ocean of my mercy.”

No matter what you have done, confess your sins and accept His forgiveness.

These are 10 things that you can do to save your family. Notice that not one of them is political. Not one of them involves any of the solutions that are usually recommended for marriages and families in trouble.

Every single thing I’ve mentioned is about you and your spouse, getting right with God and trusting Him.

That is how Christians change the world. We do it by giving ourselves without reservation to the One Who made us and loves us and who will be with us the end of time.

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Westboro Baptist Church Will Demonstrate at Beau Biden’s Funeral

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Sylvar https://www.flickr.com/photos/sylvar/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Sylvar https://www.flickr.com/photos/sylvar/

The church that Christian-bashers try to equate with all 2 billion Christians plans to demonstrate at the funeral of the son of the  America’s Vice President.

Beau Biden, the son of Vice President Joe Biden died recently of brain cancer. He will be buried after a funeral mass in the Catholic Church.

Vice President Biden will attend his son’s funeral, and according to the Westboro Baptist Church’s press release, he will pray the Rosary. This is the “reason” that Westboro Baptist Church has given for their planned demonstration at Beau Biden’s funeral.

I can’t remember what reason they gave when they showed up a few miles from my house to demonstrate against the May 20 Moore tornado victims. I only know that they didn’t stay around.

They also announced plans to picket Steve Jobs funeral, but were foiled by the fact that it was totally private. I think they began these demonstrations by picketing the funerals of American soldiers killed in combat. They usually carry signs proclaiming that God hates homosexuals. You can find a list of their future pickets here.

I don’t think the reasons they give for picketing are their reasons. I’ve read that they do this to provoke attacks so they can then sue for damages. I don’t know. Maybe they are just addicted to the notoriety. All I do know is that it takes money to move even a small group of crazies and their signs around the country for these demonstrations.

My sympathy goes out to Vice President Biden at the loss of his son and I pray for Beau Biden’s soul. God be with Joe Biden in this time.

From Religious News Service:

Westboro’s protest apparently is targeting the Bidens’ Catholicism and the Catholic practice of praying the rosary. The site says:

WBC to picket the funeral of Beau Biden, son of Joe Biden who holds a position of power in today’s Doomed America with a very public platform with which he could give the glory to God for this event.  Rather, news reports indicate the elder Biden will be praying the rosary.  The Lord Jesus Christ plainly said to keep yourselves from idols at 1 John 5:21.  Yo, Joe!  Start reading the Bible and OBEY and get rid of the goofy beads.  They are an idol made with hands and cannot save you, Beau or anyone!

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