Everything You Want is on the Other Side of Fear

Everything you want

I read Father Dwight Longnecker’s fine post, Bergoglio’s List, and it sort of pushed me over the edge I’ve been standing on for a while. Be forewarned: There’s a rant coming.

Pope Francis is like Blessed John Paul II in that he has lived through times when the devil was ascendant and incarnate in his country. He has, in the same way that Blessed John Paul II did in World War II and then under Communism, witnessed and lived through times of great evil. Like Blessed John Paul, he responded to these terrors with Christian courage, fealty and love.

As the article Father Dwight quotes says,

In his Argentina, between 1976 and 1983, Jorge Mario Bergoglio lived through the ‘years of lead’ of the military dictatorship. Kidnappings, torture, massacres, 30,000 disappeared, 500 mothers killed after giving birth in prison to children who were taken away from them.

… In front of three judges, Bergoglio was hammered for three hours and forty-five minutes with insidious questions, above all by the attorney Luis Zamora, the lawyer for the victims. A key passage of the questioning comes when Bergoglio is asked to justify his meetings with the generals Jorge Videla and Emilio Massera, in 1977.

… The “list” of Bergoglio is a collection of highly diverse personal stories, which make for exhilarating reading, whose common characteristic is that the people in them were saved by him.

… There is Alicia Oliveira, the first woman to become a judge in the criminal courts in Argentina and also the first to be dismissed after the military coup, non-Catholic and not even baptized, who went underground and was taken by Bergoglio, in the trunk of his car, to the college of San Miguel, to see her three children.

There are the three seminarians of the bishop of La Rioja, Enrique Angelelli, who was killed in 1976 by members of the military in a staged auto accident, after he had discovered who was truly responsible for numerous assassinations.

There is Alfredo Somoza, the scholar saved without his knowledge.

There are Sergio and Ana Gobulin, who worked in the slums and were married by Father Bergoglio, he arrested and she wanted, both saved and expatriated with the help of the Italian vice-consul in Argentina at the time, Enrico Calamai, another hero of the story.

I posted a pro life homily Cardinal Bergoglio gave in which he spoke of the children in his country who live in the dumps and search these dumps for their subsistence.

Our Holy Father has seen the devil looking at him through the eyes of another person. He has lived through times when the devil had absolute control of the government and military of his country. He has been forced to help people without letting his left hand know what his right hand was doing because secrecy of this degree was the only key to survival.

Children dump

He has seen small children cast out to fend for themselves in dumps.

I am sick to the marrow of my bones of hearing the carping about the way he does the liturgy or how he dresses. I know that the liturgy and the way it is presented is important to some people, but I think we should all remember that the liturgy is not a show. It is prayer. The mass is an hour-long prayer (half hour on weekdays) in which the sacrifice at Calvary is brought home to us and then presented to us in the body and blood of Our Lord for our strength as we go forward in the faith.

Jesus Christ, the living Son of God, is wholly present in His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Eucharist.

I respect the hunger of those who love the liturgy for its beauty and draw sustenance from that beauty. But some of the people I’m reading are dangerously close to making an idol of it. The point is Jesus Christ and Him crucified, risen again and ever present to us on all the altars of all the Catholic Churches of the world.

I think Pope Francis “gets” this. I think he also knows that the mass is prayer and that prayer comes from the heart. There is a whole world out there beyond the borders of the United States, and that world is a butcher shop. The mass, as prayer and re-enactment of the sacrifice of Our Lord, has to speak to people whose reality is far different from ours.

Who knows better what those children in the dumps need; us in our American self-absorption, or the Pope who has walked with them for decades? Who can best address the Church to the people who are suffering and dying for the faith; us, or the pope who has lived with the terror of a killer government himself?

I believe the Holy Spirit gave us this pope for these times because he is the pope we need. He is the pope for those people who are suffering and dying in this butcher shop world of ours.

I think that God gave us this pope at this time because He loves those children in the dumps, those who are unjustly imprisoned, beaten, tortured, raped and murdered. He loves them.

Our problems here in America are — every one of them — things we could solve ourselves if we’d just stop being such cowards. The reason our faith is being successfully attacked from every direction in this country is because Christians are colluding with the attackers by their silence, their tacit support in what they watch and say, and by their actions in how they live their lives.

We don’t need the pope to excoriate those who attack Christ in this country one more time. How many times do the popes have to reiterate Church teachings on the sanctity of human life, gay marriage and all the other evils our debauched society loves more than Christ? Does each pope have to say it five times? Or is it 20?

Maybe the problem isn’t that the popes haven’t told us, but that we aren’t doing our part. We don’t need more excoriation, and we don’t need more obsession over the details of the liturgy.

We need Christians who will follow Christ and stand up for Him, come what may.

The people who need the Holy Father’s active help are those who can’t do for themselves: The ones who are at the mercy of the evils of this butcher shop world.

Here in America, our problem is our own lack of faith in God, which makes us cowards. Christians all over the world are suffering and dying for Jesus. We need to get on our knees and pray for faith like that. It is the answer to all our problems.

Legislator 101: If You Pass a Bad Law, Fix It.

If a law is being interpreted in ways you did not intend and doing harm, then its a bad law and you need to change it. 

That’s legislator 101. 

According to Sir Alan Beith, former deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats and chair of the Commons Justice Select Committee, Britain has some bad laws floating around concerning religion. So far as I know, he doesn’t address whether or not British lawmakers intend to change these laws. 

He says that “Christians feel that they are being forced to hide their religion because of ‘silly’ interpretations of equality laws.” He refers to cases this year in which “two street preachers have been arrested, schools teachers have been reprimanded, Councilors forced to resign, Universities told to take down Christian symbols, Girl Guides forced to reject God, many Christians persecuted because of equalities obsession and along with all this, Christians can’t object to same sex marriage for being called homophobic or bigot.” 

Tim Pearson of The Way said, “Many Christians are treading on egg shells in their work place or in the wider society, worried that they may step over the mark by doing or saying the wrong thing.” 

Sir Beith says that all these problems are due to “completely false interpretations” of the law. 

Well, Sir Beith, that’s fine. 

What are your lawmakers going to do about it?

When laws are so poorly written that they lead to “false interpretations” that cause huge number of law-abiding citizens to “tread on eggshells” for fear of losing their jobs, being arrested or otherwise persecuted simply for, say, wearing a crucifix or saying that they oppose gay marriage, then maybe the law itself is a piece of junk. 

Legislator 101 says that when you pass a law this bad, you repeal it. If, for some reason, you don’t think it’s wise to repeal it, you re-write it, and repeal large portions of it in the re-writing. What you don’t do is sit around clucking like a hen about those nasty folks out there who are interpreting it incorrectly. 

If you write a law that puts large portions of your law-abiding citizenry in fear of their government, then it’s on you to fix the thing. Blaming other folks for misinterpreting your law and washing your hands of the whole thing is not allowed. 

Britain is the land where people can lose their jobs for wearing a crucifix, preachers are arrested for preaching against gay marriage and the government breaks into newspaper offices and smashes things up. 

It sounds to me like some of their laws need re-writing. 

From The Way:

A senior member of the Liberal Party has said that “Christians feel that they are being forced to hide their religion because of “silly” interpretations of equality laws”.

Sir Alan Beith, the former deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats and chair of the Commons Justice Select Committee, has likened the misunderstandings to those surrounding health and safety regulation, where the rules can be overzealously applied for the wrong reasons.

Referring to recent high profile cases, some of which have gone to the EU courts, involving people being told not to wear religious symbols in the workplace, Sir Alan said that many Christians feel that they have to keep their faith “under wraps”.

 

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The Church is a Widow, Seeking Her Bridegroom

In his homily at morning mass, Pope Francis described the Church this way: The Church is a widow, seeking her bridegroom. He went on to say some beautiful things about our mother and how we should seek her,

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Book Review: Coming Home to Wholeness

To join the discussion about Atchison Blue, or to order a copy, go here

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Life is hard. 

Life for Americans is not only hard, it is usually frantic. 

We are frantic, almost driven, people. I did not realize this until I went to a country where people live by a different internal clock. The contrast was stunning. 

Americans are certainly not the only people who race from deadline to goal to commitment to task. And we have a sense of self about how we do it that is our special grace among the driven places on this earth. But living here is a tough boogie.

Life is hard and it is fractured and in some ways desperate. Our nation is divided between the drop outs who just sit, and the doers who never sit at all. In both cases there is a kind of desperation and overwhelmed thing going on. In the case of the drop outs, overwhelmed is where they live and what they do. But for the doers, overwhelmed is the demon they fight every day. 

Judy Valente, the author of Atchison Blue, is an overwhelmed fighter. She is an astonishingly high achiever who has managed to carve out a flourishing career for herself in two competitive worlds: free lance writing and human interest broadcast reporting. 

Her private demons are a nagging dread of death and the great bugaboo of everyone; family problems. The major betrayal of her life was being laid off from her job at the Wall Street Journal the year after she was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Based on what she writes in this book, losing this job was an earthquake for Ms Valente, a wake-up call about trusting career to be the all-in-all of life. 

Her solution for her human woes is to seek the thing we lack in our American society: Wholeness. 

It is a simple fact that the abundant life that Christ offers us is based on a spiritual and emotional wholeness that the larger society (any larger society) can never provide. Anyone who wants to be whole must find a way to retreat at intervals from the squabbling bitterness of our workaday lives. Without these retreats, we slide into a kind of fractured insanity without being aware of it. I see this insanity quite often in the exceedingly fractured world of politics. In fact, there was a time, back before Jesus rescued me, when I was pretty sick with it myself. 

There is no permanent cure for this fractured-ness. It’s causes are so thoroughly woven into this fallen world and the way it treats people that no one anywhere can completely escape its pull. However, for overworked, over-stimulated Americans, it is particularly ubiquitous. We are a driven people. The fact that we in large part drive ourselves does not change this. 

Without retreats, stopping places, we become so fractured that the insanity of life becomes our own insanity. 

My retreat is simply going home. When I walk into my house and shut the door behind me, I leave the frantic outside world. Nobody inside those walls is going to attack me or betray me or go on the internet posting lies and accusations about me. Inside these walls, I am free of that. 

Ms Valente sought something akin to this when she went to the Benedictine monastery, Mount Scholastica, in Atchison Kansas.

I’m beginning to think that monasticism is a particularly good fit for writers. After all, writers are already contemplatives by nature and avocation long before the monastery bug bites them. 

For someone like Ms Valente, who is a poet and human observer writer, walking into the monastery must have been something akin to what I feel when I walk into my house. She must have known at some level that this was home. 

Atchison Blue is a lovely book written by a journalist-poet whose writerly skills enable her to tell the story without letting the poetry overwhelm it and still keep the romance of the contemplative life in the midst of the story. It’s a delicate balance; the kind of writing that probably comes naturally to a journalist-poet. 

Reading this book makes me want to pack my bags and head off to Atchison myself. I imagine it will do the same thing for many of its readers. 

Love stories are like that. They make you want a love of our own. 

In the final analysis, that’s what Atchison Blue is; the love story between one woman and monasticism. It is the tale of her homecoming to wholeness in the contemplative life at a Benedictine monastery. 

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The oblates of Mount Scholastica, Benedictine Monastery. Ms Valente is the one on the bottom right. 

What We Need: Divine Mercy

I pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet every Friday. I also pray the main prayer after Communion. It is a beautiful prayer of atonement and Christ’s unending mercy towards us.

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