Divine Mercy Novena: Praying for Unbelievers

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by brett jordan https://www.flickr.com/photos/x1brett/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by brett jordan https://www.flickr.com/photos/x1brett/

Jesus told us that when a lost soul repents, there is abounding joy in heaven.

I experienced this joy when I found Christ. I was driving to Enid Oklahoma to make a speech. I felt — actually felt — an Other. I felt ecstatic love and joy rushing into me. I’ve tried to describe this joy and love, but I can’t do it.  Our language does not have the words.

Human language is inadequate to describe true encounters with God. The reason for this is simple and obvious, and yet we forget what it means.

God is not us. God is the I Am. The standards by which we measure reality do not apply to Him because He made what we call reality. Without Him, there is nothing. Not a vacuum, not non-existence, not oblivion: Without Him, there is nothing.

The concept of nothing in this eternal and absolute sense defies both our understanding and our imaging. We can not describe it any more than we can describe Him.

God is not an idea or an intellectual construct that we can manipulate and bring down to our understanding. God is a Being, a Personality, with a will and emotions of His own.

I did not convert to an idea. I was not embraced by a concept. I met another Being and this Other, even though He is transcendent, reached into my finiteness and loved me from death to life. The Way by which He did this is Jesus Christ.

Unlike those who lived before Christ, we can see the face of God and live. All we have to do is look at Jesus. He, and He alone, is the Way that leads to eternal life.

The idea that all faiths are equal is nonsense. There is only one empty tomb, only one Way out of the abyss of our sins. No one will ever approach the throne of God and live unless he or she is marked by the shed blood of the Lamb of God.

The Church teaches that it is possible for those of other faiths and those who have not heard His name to be welcomed to heaven, but they must come by way of their works and their sinlessness. They have to earn heaven.

Even then, the only entry, the only Way, is through Jesus. His grace and His mercy are the only hope that any one, anywhere, has. Without Him, we are damned, every one of us, by our own sinful and rebellious natures.

Jesus told St Faustina that unbelievers and those who had never heard His name were in His thoughts as He suffered and died two thousand years ago. He didn’t die only for you and me. He died for everyone, everywhere, for all time. He ransomed lost humanity with His blood — all of humanity.

All anyone has to do is choose Him over the world. Just as He did with the Israelites, God places before us Life and Death and lets us choose between them. Eternal hell is not a punishment. It is a choice that we make as free human beings clothed in radical freedom.

We are called to do more than glory in our salvation. We are called to be the Light in a dark world.

God has set us free, and now we must free others. The universal Christian vocation is the conversion of the world. We must offer Him to those who are perishing right in front of us, even if they rebuff us and shriek with the agony of devils touched by grace when we do it.

We Christians of the laity are conduits of the informal graces of life and love to the larger world. Our lives are the testimony and witness to our faith. We are the ones who go out from the churches, who step away from the altar and enter the fray of bashing and bloodletting that is modern society.

We go into the hospitals, schools, legislative chambers, court houses, construction sites, grocery stores, gyms and on-line com boxes. We go into all the places where ordinary life is lived and we enter them without the confining otherness of the collar. We are part of this larger world and we move inside it with the intimacy of fellow travelers.

Our priesthood is the priesthood of the laity. It is the priesthood that will either convert the world, or leave the world to die in its sins.

We are the People of God. We are the Easter people. We serve a Risen Lord. Our home is in heaven. We are, all of us, wayfaring strangers in this world of woe.

Even though you die, you will live. Jesus told us. Where I go, you will follow, he said.

We are going to die. I don’t write that to upset you, but to free you and comfort you. I want you to understand that there is nothing in this world for a follower of Christ to fear. You and I are just passing through this life. We are going to die. But when we die, we will live. Because of His Mercy.

So what should we do about those unbelievers who attack Christians? What should we do for those who have never heard His name?

Jesus says bring to Me those who do not believe in God and those who do not know Me.

He tells us that He was thinking about them when He suffered and died. His love for them is the unfathomable longing of God Who is love.

I don’t know which ones they are, but I believe that future evangelists for Christ are hiding among today’s Christian-bashing unbelievers. One day, they will say “yes” to Him, and He will fill them with the same love and joy that He poured into my soul and into yours. He will lift them up to testify to Him with all the fervor of someone who understands what it means to be rescued from eternal death.

I also know that among those who have not been told about Him there are people who will one day carry the news of His love to others who have not heard of him. Jesus is the Way, and that way is open to everyone.

But on this Easter Monday, they are still lost. They wander in the acrid bitterness of their unbelief, the noisy silence of their lack of knowledge. They are lost.

Christ’s mercy is the living water that enlivens our souls. Christ’s mercy is beyond our understanding, greater than our ability to reckon. It, like Him, is infinite. His mercy transcends time and place. It is available to everyone.

Please pray the Divine Mercy Novena today. Bring the lost souls of the world to Him and His mercy. He can change hearts that you and I think are beyond reaching.

I know.

I was once such a person myself.

Fourth Day

Today bring to Me those who do not believe in God and those who do not know Me, 

I was thinking also of them during My bitter Passion, and their future zeal comforted My Heart. Immerse them in the ocean of My mercy.”  

Most compassionate Jesus, You are the Light of the whole world. Receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls of those who do not believe in God and of those who as yet do not know You. Let the rays of Your grace enlighten them that they, too, together with us, may extol Your wonderful mercy; and do not let them escape from the abode which is Your Most Compassionate Heart.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls of those who do not believe in You, and of those who as yet do not know You, but who are enclosed in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. Draw them to the light of the Gospel. These souls do not know what great happiness it is to love You. Grant that they, too, may extol the generosity of Your mercy for endless ages. Amen.

*Our Lord’s original words here were “the pagans.” Since the pontificate of Pope John XXIII, the Church has seen fit to replace this term with clearer and more appropriate terminology.

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Indiana’s Religious Freedom Law and Holy Week

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

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

Indiana’s governor is at the center of a firestorm because he signed a religious freedom law.

I am aware that any Catholic blogger, especially a Catholic blogger who writes about politics, should be all over this.

But I’m not going to do it. Not this week.

This is Holy Week, and I need the time with Christ. I think a lot of other people do, too. Sad to say, this issue, and its many ramifications, is not going to go away. Religious freedom is under attack in this country.

I could easily write a strong post about this, as well as the outrageous attempt at intrusion into Church governance that is occurring in San Francisco.

However, this is Holy Week.

I write this blog for one reason: To contribute to the work of equipping Christians to stand for Christ at the intersection of public life and faith. However, I understand something that I’ve seen a lot of Christian culture warriors forget: This is not about changing the culture to our viewpoint. It is about faithfulness to Christ.

We must take time to be with Jesus. That means, among other things, deep prayer on a daily basis, reading the Scriptures every day, and mass as often as you can get there. It also means relaxing a bit and trusting Him.

I’ll say this again: This is Holy Week.

This is the week when God showed all the world for all time the depth, width and breadth of His love for us.

We are in a serious struggle to retain religious freedom in this country. The reason we are in this struggle is not because we have failed at power politics — although by every objective criteria, we have failed.

We are in the situation of fighting for religious freedom in a culture that engages in Christian bashing because we have failed in our mission to be the light. While we were blasting away at our enemies with the full-tilt ugliness of power politics, we forgot that our first call is to bring people to Christ.

Redemption is not won at the ballot box. Redemption was won once and for all by Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ at the cross.

This is Holy Week, when each of us should be thinking on that Cross. We should consider, for at least one week, the miracle of our salvation. We need to ponder and appreciate the unfathomable mercy of a God who poured out His life’s blood in an agony of public shame, humiliation and torture that we might be washed clean by that blood and given eternal life.

It is no accident that this final Passover on Calvary took place at the time of year when the first Passover is celebrated. In Egypt, the Israelites slaughtered a perfect lamb and then marked their doorways with the blood of the lamb so that the angel of death might pass them by. Scripture tells us that it was “the Lord’s Passover.”

When Jesus approached John the Baptist at the Jordan, John announced Him by saying, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” This was a clear prophecy of Jesus’ Passion. It was also a public testimony that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God.

Jesus is our Passover from death to life. He is the perfect lamb whose blood redeems all humanity with one perfect atoning sacrifice. If we are marked with His blood, the angel of death will pass us by.

Jesus died that we might have eternal life. That is how much He loves us. It demonstrates as nothing else can the depth of His mercy towards us.

This is Holy Week. We need to think on these things, to take time apart from the yelling and carrying on of political fighting and pray for guidance and strength in how we proceed in the days ahead. Because we are not called to leadership in the broader world. We can called to followership in the Kingdom of God.

We need to go to the cross and kneel there in the dirt and blood of our own sinfulness and be converted to an ever deepening life of following Him, wherever that leads, whatever it costs.

We are going to be called to much more than ballot box Christianity. We have a harder task before us than political activism. We must convert the culture for Christ, and we must do it one person at a time.

This is Holy Week.

Take time to worship, pray, meditate and recommit to the fight ahead. Consider the viciousness of the attacks the Governor of Indiana is suffering and understand who is behind them. You are not part of that dark army. Turn your back on replying with equal viciousness.

Go to the cross and fit yourself for this battle by believing that this Jesus who is dying there is Lord of all creation. Understand that even though He is God, the God, He will not force us to follow Him. We, like Mary when the Angel Gabriel stood before her, must give our fiat to His grace and His dominion over our lives.

Give Him your will. Decide to do what He wants from now on instead of following your own understanding. Do the holy thing, even when it’s not the smart thing as the world reckons smartness. Enlist in the Lord’s army for real.

We need to be far more holy than any of us have been up to now. We need to become true disciples.

We can only do that if we follow Him without question. Trust and obey, the old hymns says. There is only one way to be happy in Jesus, and that is to trust and obey.

Scripture tells us that if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us.

Draw near to God this week. Therein is our strength and our power. We will not win this fight if we battle for our own selves and our goals. Forty years of political fighting that has left us with dust and ashes is proof of that.

We will only succeed in our call to convert the culture if we yield up ourselves and become part of that great army of the cross. Our message is salvation paid for by the incomprehensible price of the death of God.

That is our faith. It is who we are. It is who we must be if we are to be pleasing to Him. Before we convert the culture, we must first be converted ourselves.

Go Look in the Mirror. That is the Only God You’ll Ever See.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by EvelynGiggles https://www.flickr.com/photos/evelynishere/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by EvelynGiggles https://www.flickr.com/photos/evelynishere/

Decades ago, not long after my conversion, I had a discussion with an atheist friend of mine.

This friend was from the time when just about all of my friends — including me — evinced a militant disregard for things Christian.

I didn’t know it at first, but that conversion to Christ was going to change everything in my life, including my relationship with people who had been as close to me as family. One by one and despite everything I could do to avoid it, I would lose them all. Worse, the same friends that I loved, truly loved, would become my worst enemies. They would do everything they could to destroy me.

This particular friend didn’t do that. But the friendship, the easy, warm trust between us, was gone almost as soon as I began to follow Christ. I tried my best to keep my new faith low key. I did everything I could to continue to blend in with my old crowd.

But … you’ve changed, this friend said one day.

It was an accusation, and I cringed inside, not understanding this “change” that he saw, even when I was doing my best to hide it. I did not realize in that moment that he had just unwittingly given me the greatest compliment he could.

He saw Christ in me. Despite everything I could do to pretend that nothing had happened and hang onto all my old friendships, I was changed. And this man saw it.

That comment began the slow unraveling of my old life as an unbeliever. I do not mean that it began my conversion. That had already happened. It was the start of the end of previous relationships with people who lived in the world of unbelief.

I fought it. I wanted to keep these people as friends. I wanted to hold onto the good times we’d shared.

But … you’ve changed, he said. And it was true.

This change began to resound in all these relationships with my old crowd. I never preached to them. I didn’t even talk about Christ to them. But I had changed on a fundamental level, and they were like ring wraiths sniffing me out.

This particular friend was the only one to address the change directly and then to lay into me at the root of that change. He knew, without my telling him, that I was now a Christian. And he began a program of reconversion.

Once, in one of our many arguments, he spat out a couple of sentences that I will never forget.

Go look in the mirror, he said. That is the only God you will ever see.

That comment was the apex of his arguing, and the end of our togetherness as people. It wasn’t the comment itself  that did it. It was the unbridgeable gap between us.

We never formally stopped being friends, but we did stop spending time with one another. It was too fraught, too uncomfortable. We had the memory of a friendship, nothing more.

He died of a heart attack a few years later. There were jokes about his vehement unbelief in the many eulogies at his memorial service. This was a man who understood friendship. The memorial service was a crowded event, the building filled to overflowing.

I walked out, gripping my husband’s hand, hoping that in those last extremities my old friend had finally turned to God.

Did he go to hell? 

I said it aloud when we got back to the car. Was he dead, really, eternally dead and gone to hell? My passionate, crazy friend — had he doomed himself to eternal death?

My husband was silent for a moment. Then, he reached out and squeezed my hand.

Probably, he said.

I changed again after that. My friend’s death shook me out of my somnambulance. I realized that being quiet about Jesus was the cruelest thing I could do to the people around me. I called quite a number of my old friends and told them directly that I did not want them to go to hell. I pleaded with them to change.

One of them changed, began following Christ and follows Him to this day. Otherwise, those calls had no effect.

You just don’t worry about me, one of them said, summing up the reaction from all of the rest.

A few years later, someone I knew and had crossed swords with was dying of cancer. This person and I barely spoke and when we did, it was barbed.

I picked up the phone and called him. Are you right with God? I asked him.

My friend’s death has taught me that there is never a wrong time to try to tell someone about Jesus, and there is never a right time to let another person slide into eternal death while you stand politely by and say nothing.

I read a headline before I began writing this post saying that 7.5 million Americans have abandoned their faith in Christ in the last year. I didn’t read the story, but I would assume that it was based on statistics from a survey of some sort.

There are a lot of reasons for the rising apostasy, but I think that the heresy of salvation through politics is one of the primary factors.

Many Christians have become besotted with a political Christianity where voting right and joining the correct political party has replaced following Christ. They have removed Jesus from Lordship of their lives and replaced him with an angry and unthinking devotion to their political party.

The Holy Spirit will not honor this kind of fallen Christianity. This Christless Christianity without a cross will not produce the fruit of the Kingdom because it is not of the Kingdom.

Go look in the mirror. That is the only God you will ever see. 

Seven point five million Americans evidently decided to turn their backs on eternal life and plunge themselves into eternal death while we were barking at one another over whether or not the priest wears a stole when he hears confessions and is the Church too “feminized” and which political party is the right one for Christians.

Let me tell you something. If Jesus Christ is truly the Lord of your life, it does not matter which political party you are in or whether or not the mass or church service you attend is sufficiently to your liking.

It does not matter because wherever you are, you will do His will. If people aren’t looking at you accusingly and saying You’ve changed, then something is wrong with your relationship with Christ.

If you fit comfortably in this world, then you are not going to fit comfortably in heaven. If you sit idly by and watch people trot themselves off to eternal hell and do nothing, say nothing to stop them, then you are the most cruel of people.

Let me turn my friend’s comment around. When you look in the mirror, do you see your God?

Sin is one thing. We all sin. This is why we have confession. But if you are one of those many people who are trying to cut your faith to fit your politics, if you are trying to shear the teachings of Christ down to slip them nicely into the folder where you keep your political handouts, then you are, no matter how often you go to Church or how much you proclaim yourself a Christian, in rebellion against God.

If you do not accept the Lordship of Christ in all matters, then you are not following Christ. If you do accept the Lordship of Christ, then it does not matter where you are or what people you associate with, you will be His witness in that place.

Bearing witness to the Gospel with our lives is the universal Christian vocation.

But it doesn’t end there.

We are also called to bear witness to Christ with our words.

Ask yourself this: Have people abandoned the Church because of you? Have you driven them away with your peculiar and particular insistence on a vengeful reliance on your version of what a Christian should be? Has your unbending self-righteousness made them feel that the Church is the last place on earth they would go for love and forgiveness?

Or …

Have people come to Christ because of you? Have they felt safe to tell you of their failings, to share their doubts, to trust you with their darkest secrets? Have they experienced the love of Christ in you and begun to follow Him because you allowed yourself to be a conduit of His grace in their lives?

What fruit have you born with your followership of Christ?

When you stand before God, will lost souls point at you in accusation and say He or she never told me about Jesus.

Or worse, will they say, He or she was so angry and so self-righteous that I thought their Jesus was the devil?

How many souls will point to you and say He or she was the spark that led me to Christ?

The answer to those questions begins with another one. When you look in the mirror, do you see a beloved child of God who can trust His love to forgive their sins? Do you see a sinner who does not need to be afraid before God; someone who is forgiven and who is grateful for that forgiveness?

Or …

Do you look in the mirror and see the true lord of your life and the only god you will ever know?

 

 

Ascension Press: Following Jesus to the Priesthood

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by VISION Vocation Guide https://www.flickr.com/photos/visionvocationguide/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by VISION Vocation Guide https://www.flickr.com/photos/visionvocationguide/

Ascension Press has released the beautiful video below to encourage young men to consider the priesthood. I am drawn to the raw honesty of these young men’s testimony. It also appeals to me that this is a video about vocation to the priesthood that focuses on God, instead of us.

Too much of our discussion about vocations focuses on attacks on the liturgy, women in the Church and other things that are supposed to make us more worthy of God. That leads to blaming, attacking and limiting one another. It creates self-righteousness and hurtful behavior that drives people away from Jesus rather than drawing them to Him.

Vocation to the priesthood really is about God and His call. We need to trust Him more and our prejudices and rages less.

Enjoy the video. It’s well worth the look.

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

Armen1 1

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

 

Nobody knows. 

Nobody sees.

Nobody knows but me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They can’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Home and Family are Not Outmoded. They are Eternal Truths on Which People are Built.

 

A long time ago in a land not so far away, married couples often stayed married to one another, despite their disagreements and problems “for the children’s sake.”

It was assumed that destroying a child’s home would damage the child. Underneath that assumption was another: Children have a better start in life when they are raised in their own intact families with their own biological parents.

Along came the 60s and this notion of staying together “for the children’s sake” was tossed in the cultural ashcan alongside civility, honor and a belief in the common good.

The Me Generation wanted to opt out of all the constraints that came between it and its essential drive to all-out me-firstness. “It’s better to be from a broken home than to live in one,” was the new slogan. It was put up there on the living-by-slogans billboard just below the “quality time” slogan concerning child rearing.

We didn’t, we were told, have to concede to the onerous demands of full-time child-rearing. We could drop in once in a while for “quality time” and this “quality time” would be so incredibly powerful in shaping the child’s character, values, morals and overall mental health that it would wash away the deleterious abuses of being ignored and shunted around for the bulk of the child’s life.

It was magical stuff, this “quality time” — the elixir of having it all without the need to feel guilty about short-shrifting our young.

Ditto for being from broken homes rather than living in them. It was, we were told, oh so much healthier for a child to live part of his or her life in a tranquil, albeit it lonely, home without Dad, watching tv, and later, playing video games, while Mom worked, and then to shuttle off to Dad’s tranquil homespot to watch more tv and, later play video games, while Dad worked.

“Blended” families and live-in boy and girl friends became the new normal. After all, if it makes Dad/Mom happy, then it must, by definition, be good for the kids. Or so we were told.

A child who gets the wondrous experience of counseling their bereft parent over their broken hearts about the guy/gal who dumped them, who wakes up in the morning, never knowing who’s going to be sharing the parent’s bed down the hall, who has to dip and dodge from the advances and abuses of boyfriends and girlfriends, who finds themselves suddenly saddled with steps — stepparents, stepbrothers, stepsisters, step grandparents — of all types and then, in a year or two, finds themselves without the steps once again, is, in the parlance, “growing up fast.” After all, the new new normal says, they’re going to have to deal with these things someday, anyway. Right?

Believing that all this is good for kids requires a bit of willful neglect of the obvious. First, we have to overlook the adults that these kids become. We need to stare right past the drug addiction, insect sexuality, near psychopathic way they treat one another and their increasing inability to form families and raise children of their own.

Second, we need to stop believing that there is any connection between their total lack of respect for marriage as an institution coupled with the abject willingness to see it destroyed and the fact that these young people grew up in cold, chaotic circumstances with child parents who failed at every personal value except selfishness and self-indulgence.

I know that someone is going to raise the specter of violence and abuse in the home and the need for divorce in those circumstances. That happens. And when it does, it really is better for a child to be from a broken home than to live in one.

The interesting thing is that violence and abuse in the home are not going away. Divorce has not ended it. Domestic violence is escalating. Why? You’d think that if divorce was the answer to it, domestic violence would be moving toward extinction.

I think one reason violence in the home is on the rise is this bizarre method method of child rearing that amounts to buying our kids stuff, driving them to activities and ignoring them as people while we do whatever else pleases us. I think it is giving us adult children who are exactly the kind of people we have raised them to be.

Each generation of children we are producing with these methods is less able to commit to other people and raise a family of their own than the generation before it. They exhibit a kind of internal chaos that I think reflects the chaos in which they were raised.

We’re not only producing whole generations of young people who cannot commit to one another and love one another and then commit to and love and raise children of their own, we are also producing young people who are marked by profound alienation and rage. We are, in short, getting the kind of adults that abusive homes produce. Are our current child-rearing practices abusive to children?

Oh yes. I think so.

We were deconstructing family at a massive rate long before the debate about gay marriage reared its head. When demands for polygamy follow on the heels of gay marriage — and they will — we will just slide further into the abyss right behind it because we have no cultural center to hold us.

There is only one way to reverse this trend. You must do it yourself. You must, to paraphrase Ghandi, be the change you want to see.

That means you must commit to your wife or husband; you must cherish and protect them. You must put your family, your spouse, your children ahead of everything else.

I know this will sound like blasphemy, but you need to put your home and family ahead of your career, your craving for “fun” and your desire to live life as a perpetual adolescent. You need to take care of the people God has entrusted to you before you do anything else.

The way to stop this is for both men and women to stop putting me first and put their families first. It is not enough for wives to be good wives, or husbands to be good husbands. We are male and female. That is the human race. And both men and woman have a responsibility before God to put the welfare of their spouses and their children above every other consideration.

This is drastically counter-cultural. You will get a lot of flack for doing it. Men will be called some of the pejorative names used for women if they don’t go along with the fellas about things such as sleeping around, and going out on the town. Other men will do this to them ruthlessly. I’ve witnessed it for years in my life of working with 90 men.

Women will be told they are “wasting their lives” if they stay home with the kids. When I was a stay at home mom, I had more than one person look me right in the eye and tell me I was “wasting” my life. When I ran for office again later, I also had people chide me for trying to come back when I should not have left in the first place.

The truth is, as my grandmother used to say, misery loves company. Why should a bunch of men care if their male coworker doesn’t go out to the stripper joints with them after work? Why should they turn aggressive and ugly and tell him he’s “whipped” because he loves his wife and family while they do not love their wives and families?

Who’s the real man here? Is it the braggart good-for-nothing who dishonors the people he has stood before God and promised to protect and defend, the strong individual who stands up under the verbal hazing and honors his promises with his fidelity?

By the same token, who is wasting her life? The woman who builds people, or the woman who builds widgets?

You have one life. In this free country of ours, you can spend your life how you chose. At the end of the span, when you are like my Mama and cannot do for yourself, do you want to be wrapped in the love and care of grateful generations, or do you want the cold hardness of the alone?

When you look back over your life, do you want to view a wasteland of broken relationships, crazy and dysfunctional offspring and nothing much worth claiming, or do you want to see a life that gave life, that nurtured and loved and created? Do you want to see strong people going forward into tomorrow with your love in their hearts?

When you stand before God, what will be the sum total of the great gift of years that He gave you to spend?

Home and family are not outmoded ideas. They are eternal truths on which people are built.

People Pleasing Will Not Only Make You Miserable: You Can’t Do It.

Dr Greg Popcak wrote an interesting post today on the subject of job burnout vs job satisfaction in the helping professions.

He cites a study that indicates that people who are motivated by giving of themselves (internally motivated) last in helping professions such as nursing, while those who are motivated by how people respond to their work (externally motived) burn out.

I would like to add a single, thoughtful wordish little word to the conclusions of that study: Duh.

If you go around, spending your life trying to get other people to feed your needs by earning their approval, you are going to have one miserable life. People pleasing is a one-way ticket to dependence and emotional hell.

I say that as someone who has spent 18 years in public office where it is flat-out impossible to please everybody. Making somebody mad at you every day is built into the business of setting policy for millions of people. You can’t get around it. Every single vote you cast is a decision of whom to hurt. Every time you make one person happy, you make somebody else mad.

The same vote will get you lionized and called a hero by one group and slandered and called everything but a nice person by another group.

This happens every single day. In fact, it happens dozens of times in a single day.

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Most politicians try to balance these things out so that they can walk between the raindrops. They try to balance issues and interest groups so that almost all of them, and certainly the most powerful of them, are never completely alienated. The trick in politics is to keep them coming back, which means to keep them hopeful that they’ll get what they want the next time.

Another political way of doing things is what both Presidents George W Bush and Obama practice. That method, basically, is to stick like super glue to one side of the political spectrum and flat-out ignore the other side. When presidents do this, it leads to a divided country and a dangerous inability to lead the people forward.

But enough of politics. Let’s talk about you.

Dr Popcak based his post on a study of nurses. It seems that nurses who approach their careers from the locus of doing their jobs to earn approval and affirmation from other people end up burned out. Nurses who do their jobs for their personal or internal reasons stay the course.

Again I say duh.

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People pleasing will only make you miserable. It will also make you weak and variable. If your north star is how other people react to what you do, then you’re going to have to adjust your actions in little ways almost minute by minute. Other people change that fast. A lot of times, the reason they change so fast is because they’re focused on people pleasing, too.

Perhaps the worst part of people pleasing is that you can’t do it. You can not please other people all the time, no matter how hard you try. The reason for this is partly that they think about and react to other things besides you. It is also because they change, minute by minute, day by day, all the time.

The ironic thing is that people who have the courage to be their own uniqueness are often the ones we find most attractive. Nobody really likes mealy-mouthed, people pleasers, not over the long haul. They’re boring. And they tend to be miserable, which leads to whininess.

People are attracted to people who have that shine about them that true authenticity and the self confidence it brings gives to them. That is the essence of charisma.

Dr Popcak tells us that nurses who are internally motivated experience greater job satisfaction than people pleasers. I would imagine that this overall attitude runs through the lives of both groups. The people-pleasing nurse is also the people-pleasing husband or wife who gets wounded and pouts when their spouse forgets an anniversary or doesn’t praise them enough. They are the father or mother who constantly demands their kids’ attention and time and who even gets jealous of their children’s friends and, when they grow up, their sons or daughters-in-law.

People who feed at the trough of other people’s approval can never get enough. Nothing anyone does can fill the holes inside them.

There is an antidote to this, a way out of people pleasing for the hungry souls who live by it.

That way is the Way. No matter if you are buck-toothed and ungainly. No matter if you’re not the sharpest knife in the intellectual drawer. No matter, even, if you are tall, straight and lovely with an IQ that busts through the top of the charts. Whatever attributes you think you are, don’t matter. Not really.

You are loved and accepted and forgiven for all your faults. You are also important, but not because of your looks, intelligence or great singing voice. You are important in an intrinsic and essential way that is based on the deeper you-ness that does not need talent, looks, power or success to justify itself. You are alive in this time to do something that matters in the eternal scope of reality. Everything you do — everything you do — matters.

Instead of trying to please people, which is the equivalent of, as Jesus said, building your house of sand, realize that you do not have to earn the right to exist. You have a right to be here because you were put here by the same God Who made everything, everywhere.

More than that, He loves you on a direct and personal level. I have personally experienced this love, this guidance and contact with the Divine. I know that it is real.

My beautiful friend Margaret Rose Realy says that our one goal should be to be pleasing to God. The wonder of that is that pleasing God is actually quite easy. All we have to do is let Him love us and love Him back.

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Give up people pleasing and lose the unending failure that goes along with it. You can not please people. It can’t be done. But simply by being your authentic self and truly giving your love and trust to the God Who loved you first and always, you can find the peace and strength of being whole.

You don’t have to change yourself and get sinless to go to Jesus. You don’t have to shine your soul like shining your shoes before a job interview to come to Christ. You can go to Him just exactly the way you are; stained, scarred, scared and weak. You can throw yourself at Him like a crying child running to its mama. I know because that is exactly how I came to Him.

Jesus never asks you to change to come to Him. He takes you as you are, then, over time, He changes what you want to do. It’s that simple. Loving God, being loved by God, doesn’t change what you do. It changes what you want to do.

People pleasing will not only make you miserable: You can’t do it.

God pleasing, on the other hand, is as simple as putting your hand in the nail-scared hand and letting Him lead you home.

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Book Review: Saints and Social Justice, a Guide to Changing the World.

To join the discussion about Saints and Social Justice, A Guide to Changing the World, or to order a copy, go here

Saints and Social Justice is an inspiring book.

Brandon Vogt, who is donating — tithing sounds more like it — 100% of his royalties from this book to Catholic Charities, has put the faces and stories of several saints on the universal call to social justice that comes to us from Our Lord. By doing this, he shows us how the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes and the parable of the Good Samaritan have been acted out in the 2,000 year history of our faith.

Reading this book made me want to be a better person and a better Christian.

This is going to be a short review, because I don’t need to say a lot.

Saints and Social Justice, A Guide to Changing the World is well-researched, well-written, inspiring and enjoyable to read.

I recommend it.

Transitioning to Religious Life: One Postulant’s Story

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Now Wait Just a Minute. If Chastity Applies to Nuns, It Also Applies to Priests.

I haven’t written about this particular story because it seemed like just one of those things.

You know. People fail.

Christianity, as I live it, is largely a matter of falling down and getting back up to try again. That’s why we have confession. It’s why we need to be kind to one another about our various weaknesses. Because we are all sinners who are bound to fail. None of us gets out of that.

So, when I read the story about the nun in Italy who had a baby, I basically just thought that she needed mercy and probably some help with her baby. I did not see it as the worst — or even close to the worst — thing that I had heard that day, much less ever in my life.

Then, today I was reading through some headlines and I saw that a local Italian bishop has called for the nun to “leave her convent in the North of Italy after breaking her vow of chastity.” (Emphasis mine.)

My reaction to that was an immediate and heartfelt Wait a minute buddy.

I agree that now that the sister is also a mother, her first responsibility is to her child. I think she should rejoin secular life (not be cast out, but helped to do this) so that she can devote herself to full-time motherhood. I also think it would be nice if dear old dad stepped up and took responsibility for his child, too.

Just for the record, and even though nobody has asked me, I want to say that priests and men religious who father children should also rejoin the secular world and take up their responsibility to their child. That includes marrying the mothers of their children and forming a Christian family in a stable, Christian home.

So I was ok with the idea that Sister/Mama needs to leave religious life and take care of her new baby.

But … kick her out because she has broken her vow of chastity????

The day Bishops start sending priests and men religious back to private life for breaking their vows of chastity, we can talk about that.

Not before.

I’m not going to go off on a rant about priests and men religious here. That’s really not the point.

What I am saying is drop the self-righteous, hypocritical double standard.

Chastity isn’t just for women. Men are called to chastity and are just as culpable when they violate it as the other half of humanity.  So long as priests are forgiven for violating their chastity and allowed to return to ministry, that same standard should apply to the sisters.

That’s just the way it is.

 


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