I’ve Got a Lot of Past, and Not All of It’s Good

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Like everybody my age, I’ve got a lot of past.

Not all of my past is good.

In fact, a portion of it is seriously miserable.

I try to forget.

And forgive myself for the things I’ve done.

I try to forget.

And forgive others for the things that have been done to me.

But there are days when that load of past can get heavy. Especially in church. My miserable past includes a couple of bad times with church. I’ve experienced the rejection of unforgiveness. Even though I forgive as best I can, the memory still comes back from time to time, like an ache in an old break in a bone when the weather changes.

The two greatest challenges this poses are a loss of trust and a deep feeling of unworthiness. The bad opinions of others can imprint on a person and leave their ugly image. Trust, once it’s cut away, doesn’t re-grow. It callouses over, but the nerves are dead.

I have periods of time in my life when the hardest thing I have to do is go to mass. Not because of any latent anger, but because of the deep sense of unworthiness. I have no right to be there in the presence of the Presence, and I know it.

I had an exceptionally rough bout with this recently. I actually left the church during mass, left my husband there, holding the hymnal and looking at me with uncomprehending eyes as I left, driven away by the unworthiness that is branded into me.

I used those moments away to gather myself to myself and then I went back in. But it wasn’t easy. I got through that mass by looking at the tabernacle and talking to Him.

Because it’s true, you know. I have no right to be there, in the presence of the Presence. I am unworthy, as John the Baptist said, to untie His sandal. Yet the reason, the only reason, that I am there is that He invited me.

In the final analysis, the Presence does not belong to any priest, or even to the Church itself. They are its guardians, and the conduit by which God graciously consents to dwell among us in the Eucharist. But the Presence is God Himself, and as such, that Presence belongs to no human being. It is It’s Own Self.

I came to the Catholic Church and asked to come into full communion because Christ in the Eucharist called me to Himself. It was a call that was so clear, persistent and patient, that, in the end, it worked its way past all the obstacles to what was at the time a rather bold step of faith.

Jesus called me to Himself in the Eucharist. That is why I am Catholic.

And on that day when my own unworthiness flared into a blistering flame inside me, when I wanted to run away, to paraphrase St Peter, because I am a sinful woman, He was there, not to call, but to strengthen me past my focus on me and bring me into a fresh focus on Him.

I kept looking at the tabernacle, at Jesus, present in our midst. I don’t know if it was a prayer, or a conversation, or a vow of a sort. I only know I spoke directly to Him and He heard me.

“You are my Lord,” I told Him. “You are the reason I am here. You are the One I trust. You and only You.”

There was more. But that’s the gist of it. Shattered trust is like an amputation. It can’t grow back. We can never undo the things we’ve done or forget the lessons of the things that are done to us. Forgive, yes. But forgetfulness would be to unlearn the life lessons and forego the spiritual depth these things give us.

If you live long enough and do enough hard things, you will lose your trust in people, in fate, in your own good luck. The illusions of personal invincibility die a hard death, but Christ can and will raise up a new trust and a new invincibility from the ashes on that pyre of self-sufficiency.

“You are my Lord,” I told Him, and it was as much vow as prayer; an open acknowledgement of the truth of things, bound up in a promise. “You — and You only — are my Lord.”

“You are the reason I am here.” I said, not because I enjoy the liturgy or find affirmation in the friendships, but “You — and You only — are the reason I am here.”

“You are the One I trust,” because You have proven Yourself trustworthy time and time again, because You loved me first and because You forgave me and walk with me and endure me and keep forgiving me over and over again.

“You and only You,” because people, even the most lovable and precious of people, will let you down. Because, I, you and everyone, will let ourselves down. We will betray one another and we will also betray ourselves. Only Christ will never fail us.

I was not the only wounded person in the church that day. I am never am. We are all wounded, in one way or another. We shatter our self-righteousness by the things we do, and we face the terrible isolation and aloneness of the things that are done to us.

The many cruelties people practice against one another — our gossip and slanders, violence, lies, betrayals and deliberate degradations — are all at base an isolation of the other person, a way of putting them outside while we remain inside.

We draw lines around ourselves and our group, whoever that group may be, and then we push everyone outside that line into a sub-class of one sort or another. This hurts and maims all of us.

So many times on this blog I see angry, harsh comments, coming from people who at base are just trying to express their sense of isolation and rejection. The truth is, no one of us, not a single person of us, has the right to stand before God.

But He is our Lord. And He has invited all of us — ALL of us — to His table. No one of us has a right to be there. But, by the miracle of His love, no one of us is too wounded, too sin-sick, too disreputable, too female, too gay, too poor, too fat, too ugly, stupid or lost to be refused a place at that table. We are all welcome.

He is always with us, even when others fail us or turn us away. He is always ready to accept us and forgive us. We don’t have to stop sinning and get perfect to come to Him. He accepts us just, as the old hymn says, as we are.

We may have to jump through more hoops that we can manage to find surcease and acceptance from other people. But all we ever have to be or will ever have to do with Him is put our hand in His and say “Yes.”

“You are my Lord,” I told him. It is as simple as that.

San Franciso Archbishop: Dissenters and Those Living in Mortal Sin Must Repent and Confess Before Taking Communion

The Church’s teaching on worthiness to receive communion goes all the way back to St Paul. 

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco

“Anyone who would violate this by dissenting from divine Church teaching or who are living in a way that violates the moral teachings of the Church in a serious way — what we would call mortal sin — are not properly disposed to receive Holy Communion,” Archbishop Cordileone tells us in the video below.

“The Eucharist is not simply a way of welcoming people, or affirming people … the Holy Eucharist is our sharing in the Body and Blood of Christ,” he said.

This is Catholicism 101.

Everybody who knows anything about the Church knows this.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone performed an important service by reiterating it clearly and concisely.

People who demand that they be allowed to take communion in the Catholic Church while they flaunt their dissent and immoral lifestyles are rife. They often seem to have reporters at their elbows, ready to write scalding stories about the Church’s “discrimination” the minute they don’t get what they demand.

I don’t think that this behavior has anything at all to do with genuine faith in Christ and a desire for the graces of the Holy Eucharist. I believe it is a coarse and aggressive political action which is made in a deliberate attempt to force the Church to change 2,000 years of Christian teaching.

Our world is so completely upside down with its messaging that we are constantly bombarded with cultural “teachings” that evil actions are good and good actions are evil.

Make no mistake about it: A Church, bishops and priests who will stand against this tide of excoriation to tell people that their sins are, in fact, sins, are doing great good.

People need to hear this, no matter how much it outrages them. They need to hear it because, without repentance and conversion, they are doomed to hell.

We — all of us, no matter what our sins happen to be — must approach the cross on our knees.

A broken and contrite heart, You will not refuse, King David prayed after his sins of adultery, murder and lying were exposed.  Against You and You only have I sinned. 

That is the essence of it. The Way to heaven is the way of conversion, and conversion means laying down your own understanding and accepting the leadership of God. The easiest way to do this is simply to follow the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Lean not on your own understanding, the Scriptures tell us.

You will not get to heaven by defaming God and demanding that His Church affirm you in your sins. If you deliberately take communion with mortal sin on your soul, you are essentially thumbing your nose at Jesus as He hangs on the cross. You are joining in with the jeering mobs who mocked Him as He suffered.

In this video, Bishop Cordileone outlines Church teaching about worthiness to receive communion in a clear statement.

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Pope Francis Leads Corpus Christi Procession on Foot

Today is the feast of Corpus Christi, the body of Christ.

Jesus said,

“Unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink of his blood, you have no life in you … Whoever drinks of my blood and eats of my flesh remains in me and I am in them … the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna in the desert and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

This teaching was so hard that many people stopped following Him because of it. Afterwards, He turned to the the disciples and asked if they were going to leave Him, too.

This prompted Peter to reply “Where else would we go? You alone have the words that lead to eternal life.”

This teaching is just as true today as if was then.

Pope Francis led the Corpus Christi procession on foot this week. Remember, he is 77 years old. Here is a video of the procession with a summary of his homily. 

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Welcome Home, Leah

To bring him back with a twitch upon the thread

 by Leah Libresco

Today, I was recieved into the Catholic Church and was given the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and holy communion.

I had expected, earlier this year, to choose Catherine of Alexandria for my confirmation saint.  After she was converted by a tutor, she king sent various scholars and theologian to argue her out of her belief, and, when she met them in debate, she made converts of them all.  She is the patron saint of apologists, lawyers, philosophers, preachers, students, theologians, and, generally, scrappy people picking fights in charity.  (Also potters, spinners, knife sharpeners, and haberdashers, but they’re a little off the point).  St Catherine of Alexandria is everything I like best about myself.

But she has no extant writings.  I wanted a saint it would be easy for me to get to know as themself, not just my image of them.  I wanted a confirmation saint that I could be more directly surprised and challenged by.  And I wondered if it made sense to pick the person who played to my strengths and my pride, instead of my weaknesses.

After I decided to convert, the book I read next was Augustine’s Confessions.  And the thing that spoke to me most was Augustine’s love affair with Truth.  He sought after his beloved along a long and winding path, but his love and fidelity were powerful enough to give him the strength to walk away from incomplete philosophies. (I was not yet in love, yet I loved to love…I sought what I might love, in love with loving).

I’ve grown attached to Augustine’s prayer “Give what you command, and command what you will.”  Like Augustine, I had people who loved me storming Heaven on my behalf.  (Read more here.)


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