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

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

 

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

They did their uggidy-buggidy thingamajig.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I prayed, and knew that I needed to go.

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

But, despite all this, I went.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Think about that.

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

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

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

Let me say that again: He loves us.

By their fruits you shall know them. 

Jesus said that. And it is true.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He wants to love us.

Why, I do not know.

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

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

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

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

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

For this I am both awestruck and grateful.

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Archbishop Coakley, holding the Host aloft. 

Our Sorrowful Mother: Ndi Nyina wa Jambo

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Ndi Nyina wa Jambo — I am the Mother of the Word

Today is the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows.

I remember years ago, a constituent of mine, a Hispanic gentleman of great faith, talking to me about all the visitations Our Lady had graced the world with in the past century.

Something’s going to happen. He told me.

I nodded and pretended to understand, but, in truth, I didn’t. It was only later, when I went to Fatima, that the great hidden truth of Our Lord sending His mother to warn and instruct us began to take hold in my thinking.

At that time, I was unaware that Our Mother had visited her children in Egypt, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East. I had never heard of her prophecy of the Rwandan genocide. But she had visited Rwanda and she did warn them. Our Lady spoke to the people of Rwanda 13 years before the genocide. This is from If Only We Had Listened, by Immaculee Ilibagiza:

… in 1982, all the visionaries reported horrid visions of unspeakable violence, bloodshed, torture, destruction, and thousands of dismembered corpses littering the landscape — it was a prophetic warning from the Virgin Mary that if Rwandans did not cleanse their hearts of hatred and fill their souls with God’s love, evil would win out and a genocide would sweep across the land. Sadly, the Virgin’s warning became reality: The terrible Rwandan genocide unfolded exactly as she prophesied. … In 2001, after a twenty-year investigation into the events of Kibeho, the Vatican formally recognized the original three visionaries: Alphonsine, Marie-Claire, and Anathalie. Kibeho has now become the only Vatican-approved Marian site on the African continent, placing the humble village on the same spiritual level … with … Lourdes and Fatima.

I didn’t know of this when my constituent talked to me about these things. Later, I only knew about Fatima, and what I knew about that was mostly from my personal experience. I knew that the place was God-soaked, and I knew that God had spoken to me there. From that vague nothing-much of an understanding, I began to learn.

What I learned was that Jesus repeatedly sent His mother to warn her children of the coming conflagrations of the 20th century. In each of these warnings, she spoke of the horrors of hell and of the great numbers of people who were going to end up there. She encouraged prayer for the conversion of these people.

Then, she gave what I tend to think of as political warnings: Of the fall of Russia into Communism, of the genocide in Rwanda. Along with the warning, she also provided a solution. Each time, this solution centered on prayer.

Pray the Rosary, she said at Fatima. Consecrate Russia to my Immaculate Heart, she instructed. She added a call to pray the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows at Kibeho. Turn to God and cleanse your hearts of hatred, she instructed Rwanda.

It is interesting — and powerful — that Our Lady spoke of the Divine Mercy when she spoke at Kibeho. The Divine Mercy comes to us through an obscure Polish nun named Faustina Kowalska. Sister — now Saint — Faustina was visited, not by Our Lady, but by Jesus Himself.

He dictated another Rosary to pray to her: The Chaplet of Divine Mercy. He also asked for a Divine Mercy feast day, which St John Paul II established.

The one who turns to God in this world, and lives according to God’s will, can, through Divine Mercy, shorten and even avoid his time in purgatory, Our Lady said at Kibeho.

Repentance, prayer, love and mercy: Can these things really be the answer to our miseries in this life? Mary said this at Kibeho:

When I visit someone and speak to them, I am openly addressing all people. If I am now turning to the parish at Kibeho, it does not mean that I am concerned only for Kibeho or for the diocese of Butare, or for Rwanda, or for the whole of Africa. I am concerned with and turning to the entire world. … Repent! Repent! Repent! … I am speaking this appeal to the whole world. Today man empties all things of their true value. Those who are continually committing sins are doing so without ever accepting that what they are doing is wrong.

The things Our Mother tells us do not change one word of the Gospels of her Son. They do not add to His teachings. They apply His teaching in a direct way to the challenges of our times. I think of them as the best sermons, the greatest Christian teaching, available to us in this world today.

Christ has sent us His own mother to teach us how to follow Him in these challenging times when, as the Anchoress said yesterday, the “center does not hold.” I both agree and disagree with what Elizabeth Scalia, aka, the Anchoress, said in that post.

Yes, we are flinging ourselves off into chaos, destroying our civilization with the glee of an angry child, knocking over a tower of blocks it took him all afternoon to build. But the center itself is unchanged by this. The center is Christ, and He is holding. We are simply refusing to take the outstretched hand of our Savior and be saved. We would rather thrash around in our self-centeredness and drown for eternity in the final and bitter desserts of our own caprice.

Repent! Repent! Repent! Our Lady tells us.

Devote yourselves to my Immaculate Heart, pray the Rosary, pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet, pray the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows. Cleanse your hearts of hatred. Fill your souls with God’s love. In other words, chose life, not death.

Because, Something’s going to happen. 

My constituent told me that, and I nodded in agreement without understanding what he was saying. Now I can answer him more honestly.

Something’s going to happen. 

Yes. It is.  

Mom’s Birthday Today

Today is the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

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If You Don’t Like Black People, You’d Better not Plan on Going to Heaven, Because There’s Going to be a Lot of Them There

 

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Opio Toure

Opio Toure was my friend. 

We knew one another before either one of us was elected to office, back when we were both young and full of ourselves. Then, for a few blessed years, we served together in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. 

We differed, as people always do, on a couple of issues. But our hearts walked the same path. There was a time, and it wasn’t so long ago, when being black in the Oklahoma House meant taking a lot of guff. It was subtle guff, but guff, just the same. 

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Opio, back when we both were young and full of ourselves. 

I remember one time when a battle of some sort of ugly guff-ism was coming down, I got overwhelmed. I turned to Opio in disgust. “You need to make me an honorary black person,” I said, “because I’m sick of these white folk.”

He looked at me and said, “Oh, you black. You black.” 

That remains a treasured memory for me, and it will until I see Opio again. 

When things got tough, Opio and I used to leave Bible verses on one-another’s desks. Those verses are also among my most treasured memories. 

Opio was a Baptist preacher, who had Catholic relatives. One of his favorite items was a Rosary that had belonged to his aunt. He carried it around on the House floor, fingering the beads for comfort. We talked about the holiness of that Rosary, soaked with years of the prayers of his God-fearing, God-loving aunt. 

It is not an exaggeration to say that I love Opio Toure, my brother in Christ.

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Linda Richardson, prayed my asthma away.

Then, there’s the God-fearing, God-loving black women who grace this world.

I have asthma. A few years back, the asthma almost did me in. It got worse and worse, until every step I took felt like I was walking through knee deep mud. Then one day, my assistant, Linda Richardson, reached out with the authority of the Spirit-filled and laid her hands on me and prayed, rebuking the asthma in Jesus name.

This was totally spontaneous on her part, we were just talking when she did it. But I felt the power immediately. From that day forward, the asthma began backing off. It’s still there, but it’s quiet. I don’t need medicine for it, haven’t needed medicine for it for a long time. 

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Kurt David English

I remember when I was working on my Master’s degree. My fellow student, Kurt David English, and I teamed up to help each other through the degree process. Kurt is a black, Spirit-filled man. We prayed together and talked about Jesus together and supported one another through that degree process. I don’t think either one of us would have made it without the other. 

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Representative, soon to be Senator Anastasia Pittman, carrying a Martin Luther King sign.

Then there’s my seat-mate, office mate and best legislative bud Representative, soon to be Senator Anastasia Pittman and our assistant, the incomparable Miss Trena Byas, as well as Gracie Monson. These praying women have gotten me through a lot of deep water. During tough times in the legislature, they formed a kind of retreat around me, a safe place. They made a home for me when being a pro life Democrat left me otherwise homeless. 

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Representative Anastasia Pittman and Miss Trena Byas, my legislative homies. 

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The powerful praying woman of God, Gracie Monson

This is just the tip of it. I could write a book on the powerful praying black people who have blessed my life. In this world of politically-correct weak-and-worthless Christianity that tries to make itself small enough not to be a target of those who hate Christ, black Christians are the unafraid and anointed. 

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Democratic Floor Leader, Representative Opio Toure

I once asked Opio (I was pretty mad when I asked it) why it was OK for a black Democrat to be an outspoken Christian but a white Democrat Christian who talked about Jesus got slapped around by the party. 

He laughed and shook his head. “I don’t know,” he said. Even though he didn’t have an answer, the acknowledgement of what I was facing helped me enormously. 

Back when Democratic activists were putting out flyers in the district I represented denouncing me directly for my Catholic faith in the most bigoted manner possible, it was Opio who said “This is outrageous.” No one else would stand with me. 

This post is more reminiscence than anything else. But it does have a message: If you don’t like black people, you’d better not plan on going to heaven, because there’s going to be a lot of them there. 

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Saint Josephine Bakhita, captured by slavers, freed in Christ. 

Another message I’d like to pass along is that if you’re a white Christian and you haven’t found yourself a few Spirit-filled, black, praying friends, you need to get out more, because you are missing your blessing. 

Black spirituality, including Black Catholic spirituality, is different from white spirituality in the precise ways that we white folks need to improve ourselves. Black spirituality is unashamed of the name of Jesus. Black Christians don’t mess around trying to hide their Jesus so that no one will accuse them of all the things that Christians get accused of in this post Christian America. They aren’t afraid of being harassed and criticized for Christ. They step right out there and proclaim the Lord and His power, and they mean it. Nobody talks their Jesus down to them. They won’t allow it. 

Black Christian power was shaped in the crucible of hundreds of years of slavery and second-class citizenship. It was black faith and that powerful black praying that allowed them to walk right out of those ghettos, to march through the fire-hoses and police dogs and cops with truncheons and lead this whole nation to a rebirth of equality. 

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Mother Mary Lange, founder of the Oblate Sisters of Providence

Faith alone explains the power of the Civil Rights Movement that fought and won a war without bullets or guns against an opponent who had and used both those things.

We don’t make enough of what black people have accomplished for themselves and for this country by enduring and winning the Civil Rights fight. We emphasize the wrong things. The evil of their persecutors was true evil. But the focus should be on the nobility and power of the fight that black Americans made against that evil. 

The Civil Rights Movement was faith with legs. It was truth spoken to power. It was, in a way that we don’t acknowledge, our finest hour as a nation. 

And it was Spirit-filled from bottom to top. It was an expression of black Christianity and the power of a praying people. 

White Christians need black Christians. We need to learn from them. 

Try spending time in a black church once in a while. I promise you, you will be blessed. 

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James Foley’s Home Parish Celebrates His Life with a Memorial Mass

dt.common.streams.StreamServer.cls_.jpegJames Foley’s family and friends celebrated a memorial mass for his life in the family’s home parish this weekend. His funeral mass will be in October, on his birthday. His parents said in an interview I posted earlier that they did not expect ISIS to return Mr Foley’s body.

Watching these videos makes me proud to be an American, and a Catholic.

For more details about the memorial mass, check out Deacon Greg Kandra.

This video starts with a small bit from James Foley’s Memorial Mass and moves to a longer discussion about the British Jihadists, one of whom is thought to be the James Foley’s murderer.

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James Foley’s Memorial Mass

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James Foley’s parents speak of praying for other hostages.

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Defend us in battle

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Miracle Approved. Fulton Sheen on the Way to Sainthood.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen may soon be called Blessed Fulton Sheen. Watch the video below and learn more about it.

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God Bless Father Terra

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Father Joseph Terra at the funeral mass of Father Kenneth Walker. PHOTO SOURCE: ABC15

My heart goes out to Father Joseph Terra.

He has to heal from grievous injuries, but that’s the least of it, really.

He also has to heal in his wounded heart. He will live with the trauma he has suffered personally, and also from the additional trauma of seeing his brother priest die in front of him, for a long time to come.

Survivors of violent crime are often saddled with guilt of all types.

Why didn’t I fight harder? Why didn’t I call the police? Why didn’t I do this or that or the other? They ask themselves these questions over and over until the questions themselves become a wound, a source of shame and grief.

There are other questions, as well. Why me? Why did this happen to me? Why would anyone do this? And the companion questions: Why did I survive? Why am I alive when others are dead?

Father Terra did all he could. In fact, he was heroic. But, good man that he is, he is also bound to be attacked by the questions that keep coming in the middle of the night, the first moments after waking, when he sees a television show that reminds him.

He will wake up at the hour it happened for a long time to come. He will be struck with panic and sudden memories that feel like he’s reliving it. He will face, over and over and over again the endless repeating memory of Father Walker, coming to help him, the sound of the gunfire, the death of his friend.

It doesn’t stop because the victim wants it to stop. It doesn’t stop because people tell them they were heroes and to let it go and get over it. It simply doesn’t stop.

These thoughts punch holes in a person. They drain away self-worth, peace of mind and trust. Everything depends on how people treat the victim of a violent crime in the first days, weeks and months after the event. In that, I think Father Terra is blessed. He is surrounded by loving people who want to help and honor him.

Father Walker is in heaven. I don’t doubt that. He is probably praying for the man who killed him. I have little doubt that he is also praying for Father Terra as he makes his way through the pain and grief of what has happened.

Father Terra will never be able to rewind this tragedy. He will always be the man that this happened to. But he can, with time and God’s grace, make it into something good. He is a priest, which means he is a conduit of God’s grace. He is now also the victim of a senseless violent crime. The Holy Spirit can combine those two things in wonderful ways.

I pray for Father Terra. My heart goes out to him. I hope that God uses him and this tragedy to give new hope and healing to many lost souls who need it.

 From ABC15:

PHOENIX – On Monday morning, Father Joseph Terra, a victim from last week’s attack at a Phoenix church, made his first public appearance.
Terra didn’t speak at Monday’s Requiem Mass service.
Father was in a wheelchair and hands were bandaged up. Severe lacerations were evident on his head.Father Terra was beaten so severely, he was brought to the hospital in critical condition.
Around a thousand people packed into Saint Catherine of Siena Monday for a requiem mass service in honor of murder victim Father Kenneth Walker.

I Had 1001 Things I Was Going To Do. I Sorta Did One.

I had 1001 things planned for my first week after session closed down.

I was going to storm the gates of heaven and get flaming arrows of direction in reply.

I was going to clean my house from top to bottom.

I was going to move the garden statue of Our Lady that’s been languishing in my “music room” (Don’t laugh. There is a piano in there.) outside and buy an arbor thingy and plant flowers and create a prayer garden in my back yard.

I was going to get up every single morning and work out like Bette Midler in Ruthless People with the same, awe-inspiring results.

I had 1001 things I was going to do.

What I did instead was collapse into a heap. We went out after sine die and had a wonderful dinner, just me and my family. Then, after almost no sleep, I got up Saturday and putzed around, too tired to make sense of myself. I began a Novena to Our Lady. I did do that. Prayer is the one thing on my list that I sorta did.

My husband and I went to vigil mass and back out to eat again. Then, we came home and I watched tv like a zombie.

It’s always like that after session shuts down. I don’t know what I was thinking when I made all these plans. The closing days of session are intense. And I mean INTENSE.

After it’s over, I’m still jazzed for days, and at the same time, I’m all rubbery and shot through and through. It takes a while to get my mind right and my body rested. Add to that the fact that this was my last sine die, and you’ve got a recipe for crash down time.

My youngest son and one of his friends moved my office home for me on Monday. I spent last week opening boxes and rather listlessly trying to figure out where to put everything. I need more bookshelves. And I am going to give a couple of the paintings away. I have no idea where I’m going to hang the rest of them or where everything will go. I still have a couple of boxes that are partially unpacked and two drawers that are full of things I haven’t found a place for. I also have a couple of boxes of books and posters/awards that are still at the capitol that I need to go get.

As for cleaning the house, nope.

Still needs doing.

Storming heaven? I prayed, but there were no messages wrapped around the shafts of flaming arrows coming my way. The only answer I got was when I rather lazily prayed and asked if it would be alright to skip Sunday mass yesterday (That’s how low my laziness had sunk me.) I definitely got the feeling that I should get up and go to church. So I did.

I dreamed about my constituents several times during the week. They were anxiety dreams, worrying about who is going to take care of them. That’s the hardest part, leaving my people to someone else’s care.

My friends gave me a lovely party yesterday. It was a complete surprise. I had thought they were going to do something when the session closed down, then, when it didn’t happen, I was ok with it. The date of the shut-down had been uncertain right up until the end. So I assumed it was too uncertain to plan anything.

I was totally surprised — astonished — when my husband drug me into a restaurant yesterday. I mean, I don’t do restaurants on the Sabbath. In fact, I thought he’d gone daft. He insisted I go with him back to where the restrooms were, which I thought was plenty strange. As long as I’ve known him, he’s gone to the restroom by himself. Then, he walked past the restrooms and into the kitchen. I wouldn’t follow at first, and he had to insist.

By this time, I was convinced he had lost it. We went through the kitchen and into another room and I walked into a party.

They completely surprised me. I was thrilled. And touched.

So that’s my week off. I need to pray more. In fact, I’m going to start a 54 day Novena, consecrating the rest of my life. I did the St Louis de Montfort thing of consecrating my life to Jesus through Mary a while back. This is just a sort of renewal of that.

I realized yesterday that I already know what I should do. I also realized that God has given me everything I need to do it. I was wanting direction when I already have the road map. As for my constituents, I am going to pray for them and their future as part of the 54 day Novena. I have to let go of taking care of them, and that, as I said, is the hardest part.

So, this letter to my friends, telling you what I did on my little vacation is my first post after my week off. To be honest, I’d like to take another week. I’m just now getting my head above water a bit.

But writing this disjointed post is a good palate cleanser. Telling you all about it wipes a bit of the dust off my mind.

It’s time to get this deal on the road. I think I’ll begin by doing a bit of that working out I more or less skipped last week. You see, I don’t have to get into my car and drive to work. My office is just on the other side of the living room. And my recumbent bike/elliptical/Total Gym (yes, I’ve have all that; not that it’s done me any good) is in the spare bedroom down the hall.

Wish me luck, boys and girls. I’m re-inventing myself.

Wagons, ho!

Atonement and the Undoable

Note: This is a re-post of an earlier post. I hope you enjoy reading it again.

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Eve Tushnet and a friend went to see a presentation at the Jewish Community Center in Washington, DC. The presentation was designed to prepare people for the High Holy Days.

Since the High Holy Days are about repentance, it tracks that the presentation was on atonement. However, Eve finished the evening more bemused that enlightened. As she put it,

All of the stories were interesting and for the most part well-told–but literally none of them followed the form I was most hoping for: “I sinned, I realized I was wrong, and I made amends, here’s how.” Several of the stories explored related questions of conscience: Ritija Gupta turned the story of how a bad-girl friend persuaded her to steal sixty cents’ worth of beads, at age seven, into a sharp little parable on how we misunderstand the gravity of our actions, condemning ourselves for peccadilloes while assimilating huge ongoing sins into our sense of what’s normal and acceptable. The host, Amy Saidman, did a funny shtik about the war between “Citizen Amy,” whose conscience would never allow her to damage a car and not even leave a note, and “Spray-Tan Amy,” who can’t stop because she is receiving an award that night, who is special and above the rules.

… The most powerful story came from the most intensely compelling storyteller, Colin Murchie. He’s someone I’ll be looking out for at future Speakeasy events. I don’t want to tell his story for him, but it was about a night when he was forced to completely reassess the motives which had led him to become a volunteer firefighter in a very tough Maryland suburb.

Based on Eve’s description, I would say that one reason the stories didn’t lead to atonement is that they weren’t about serious sin. I understand why, or at least I think I do.

The evening wouldn’t have been entertaining if the story tellers had talked about their adulteries, abortions, shoplifting and the night the guys all got drunk at the fraternity house and passed the girl around. If the wife-beater among them had confessed to beating his wife, and the woman who was sleeping with her husband’s best friend had told all, the evening might have ended early.

But the truth is that the first requirement for atonement has to be an action that wounds someone else.

Let me give you an example. Back in my misspent youth, I was the NARAL Director for Oklahoma. I referred women for abortions. I helped organize the first abortion clinic in Oklahoma and got it up and running.

In short, I helped kill people.

Lots of people.

Helpless little people that I denied were people while I was advocating for their deaths.

Now there’s something that needs a little atonement.

But how? How does anyone atone for so heinous a crime?

For those of you who are reading this with baited breath, waiting for me to give you an answer, I’ll cut to the bottom line: You can’t. You can not atone for sins as black as the ones I’ve committed.

Can’t do it.

Nothing you can do, nothing you can say, nothing, but nothing, but nothing will ever make right again what you have done wrong.

But if, for reasons that confound all comprehending, God still loves you, even after what you’ve done; if He welcomes you home to Him with joy that defies your ability to find words to describe it, and if He then puts you back into the same place where you committed some of your worst sins in the past –

– If He does all that, then, just maybe, you get the chance to … not do it over, because nobody ever gets the chance to do anything over … but to do it again, and this time to do it better.

How does an adulterer atone for his or her adultery? By being faithful to their spouse.

How does a wife-beater atone for beating his wife? By loving her the way God intended.

But even this kind of living atonement cannot undo the harm you have done. One of the hardest penalties of committing grave sin is that you can’t un-sin it. 

You can’t unadulter, unbeat, unrape, unkill anyone.

Without Jesus Christ you are stuck there in the pit of your sin and remorse forever. You will be a murderer/adulterer/liar/beater all your days. This is why I sometimes get so impatient with people who come on this blog and demand that the Catholic Church change the rules to tell them that their sins aren’t sins. They never do this about eating too many cookies or being a volunteer firefighter for the “wrong” motives.

Nope. They’re ok with those things and the Church’s teachings about them.

It’s the biggies that get them on here demanding a hall pass to heaven. They want the Church to tell them that their adulteries, abortions, disordered sex and lying, cheating ways are not a sin. They claim that anyone, anywhere, who says otherwise is “judging” them.

There are days when I want to put my arms around these lost souls and hug them. There are other days I want to ask, Are you kidding? Where do you get the arrogance to do these things and then demand that the Church — the Church — say that they are not sins?

Do you know what saved me?

The knowledge that I had sinned.

Without that, I would still be lost.

As for atonement, that came long afterwards, when I was mature enough in Christ to survive it. Atonement for me was being given an extra measure of forgiveness I most assuredly did not deserve. God put me in the place and almost coerced events so that I would be given the opportunity to pass pro life legislation. Atonement for me was being pilloried by pro abortion people. I was forced (against my will, I have to admit) to suffer public hazing for the babies.

It was that suffering, that character assassination and constant emotional battering, that finally set me free.

God forgave me, and, after a period of intense grief, I realized that I could not refuse His forgiveness by hanging onto my grief any longer. To do otherwise would be to say that my sins were greater than His mercy.

But it was the atonement — which in my case amounted to a kind of social death — that finally set me completely free of my sins.

I could not undo what I had done. I could not unkill those I had helped kill. I was powerless to rewind the havoc I had wreaked with my sinfulness.

But God could heal me of this grief, and He did. He gave me the chance to suffer just a bit, and the suffering cleansed me in my heart and mind.

I read somewhere — I think it was In This House of Brede, but I’m not sure — that atonement is really at-one-ment. That is a beautiful thought, and I think a true one. Atonement heals the person who atones and allows them to fully rejoin the human race, including those they have harmed, with a renewed self and a new purpose.

Now I, the former advocate of abortion, champion the unborn. I moved from who I was to who I am, from my then to God’s now. In the process, I found a wholeness and forgiveness that only someone who has gone to Jesus in the hopelessness and desperation of knowing that nothing they do can ever undo what they have already done can understand.

None of this belongs in a play, of course. At least not an entertaining one.

But it is the truth.


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