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.

Help Me to Confront My Own Transgressions

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

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

This Lenten Prayer of St Ephrem goes back to the 4th century.

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Holy Martyrs of ISIS, Pray for Us

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Harrison Staab https://www.flickr.com/photos/harrystaab/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Harrison Staab https://www.flickr.com/photos/harrystaab/

As they now stand amid the white-robed multitudes, and behold the Throne of the Almighty One, let us speak their names in prayer. As they shimmer within the great cloud of witnesses, let us — in the Communion of Saints — ask their intercession before the Lamb.

+Holy Martyr Milad Makeen Zaky, pray for us, and for the whole world,
+Holy Martyr Abanub Ayad Atiya, pray for your ISIS murderers,
+Holy Martyr Maged Solaimain Shehata, pray for their salvation,
+Holy Martyr Yusuf Shukry Yunan, pray for the release of all their captives,
+Holy Martyr Kirollos Shokry Fawzy, pray for all in the path of ISIS,
+Holy Martyr Bishoy Astafanus Kamel, pray for the displaced, for those made refugees by ISIS,
+Holy Martyr Somaily Astafanus Kamel, pray for the protection of our Holy Lands and our history,
+Holy Martyr Malak Ibrahim Sinweet, pray for those who act now in resistance against ISIS,
+Holy Martyr Tawadros Yusuf Tawadros, pray for those in immediate danger from forces of evil,
+Holy Martyr Girgis Milad Sinweet, pray for those infected with the virus of hatred and extremism,
+Holy Martyr Mina Fayez Aziz, pray for families being challenged, throughtout the world, by ISIS,
+Holy Martyr Hany Abdelmesih Salib, pray aid workers may work together unmolested, to give assistance,
+Holy Martyr Bishoy Adel Khalaf, pray for the targeted clergy and religious of the Near East churches,
+Holy Martyr Samuel Alham Wilson, pray for all people of good will, in every religion, every nation,
+Holy Martyr Whose name we do not know — you “Worker from Awr village” — pray for those in leadership, whose names we know all too well, that that their motives may be purified of political intrigue, and for their salvation,
+Holy Martyr Ezat Bishri Naseef, pray for Jews, throughout the world, chosen of God and so despised,
+Holy Martyr Loqa Nagaty, pray for the “two lungs” of Christianity, East and West, to breathe together,
+Holy Martyr Gaber Munir Adly, pray for the illumination of that which is All-Good,
+Holy Martyr Esam Badir Samir, pray that in beholding it, we will wish to serve it,
+Holy Martyr Malak Farag Abram, pray for the generation in power, that their egos may be put aside and their hearts might be opened to the Way, the Truth and the Life,
+Holy Martyr Sameh Salah Faruq, pray for the generations to come.
O new martyrs, now numbering among the ancients through a malevolent force as old as Eden, keep us particularly in your prayers. Once again, we are focused on the mysterious lands where humanity first came into being, and into knowing, and where all will finally be revealed. Pray that we may put aside all that is irrelevant to the moment and, looking forever to the East, prepare our spirits for the engagements into which we may be called, whether we live amid these places of ancient roads and portals, or in the most modern of dwellings.
Mary, the God-bearer, pray for us,
Saint Michael the Archangel, pray for us,
Saint John the Forerunner, pray for us,
All Holy Men and Women, pray for us.
Amen, Amen.

 

Written by The Anchoress, Elizabeth Scalia

 

I have Decided

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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!

Pope Francis: March 29-30 Will Be a Day of Reconciliation

 

Pope Francis has set aside this coming Friday as “24 hours for the Lord.”

He is hoping that local parishes will offer special opportunities for prayer and the sacrament of confession. I’m going to try to take advantage of this call for prayer and reconciliation as best I can. Hopefully, many Public Catholic readers will do the same.

We are living in times where our faith is challenged and attacked by the larger culture. If we are going to stand for Christ and not fail, we need to pray and keep ourselves spiritually clean.

From Catholic News Agency:

.- During his Sunday Angelus, Pope Francis announced that March 29-30 would be “24 hours for the Lord,” during which people can find special opportunities for prayer and the sacrament of confession.

“Next Friday and Saturday we will live a special moment of penance, called ‘24 hours for the Lord.’ It will begin with a (liturgical) Celebration in the Basilica of St. Peter’s (on) Friday afternoon, then in the evening and night some churches in the center of Rome will be open for prayer and confessions,” he explained to the crowds in St. Peter’s square on March 23.

“It will be – we could call it -  a celebration of forgiveness, which will happen also in many dioceses and parishes of of the world.”

The Holy Father then noted that “the forgiveness that the Lord gives us” should make us “celebrate like the father in the parable of the prodigal son, who when the son returned home, had a party, forgetting all his sins.”

My First Response: KY Ruling Kills Marriage. Belgium Allows Docs to Kill Kids and Old People.

LORD

St Thomas said, “my Lord and my God.” My Lord, which means the One who decides. You decide, not me. You judge. I am the judged. You are the Lord of my life, which means I give fealty to you in all areas of my existence; in my work, play, home, and down to the secret corners of me that only You and I know exist. You are my Lord, my God. I do not confuse myself by thinking that I am the Lord. I know always, that the Lord of my life is you.

JESUS

Jesus, born of a human mother, raised as the son of a carpenter, died at the hands of rapacious human power. You are human and I am human. You understand hunger, thirst, grief and temptation. You know what it is to be tortured, mocked, humiliated, shamed and murdered. You understand absolutely what it is to be helpless prey in the hands of human monsters in whom there is no pity, no remorse, not a shred of kindness. You are Jesus, my brother, who understands me with the tenderness of having been there with me in the depths of my experience.

CHRIST

Fulfiller of prophecy, God made human, the Great I Am; you are the Christ, the only Way to eternal life. Your death and resurrection are the unending testament to the Christ, the Savior of the World that you are.

SON

Begotten, not made, You, who are the son of Mary, are also the great I Am. You declared “Before Abraham was, I Am,” and by saying that, you identified yourself forever with the One who has no beginning and will have no end.

OF THE LIVING GOD

God, Who lives and reigns over all creation. God, Who made everything, everywhere. God Who is outside time, outside the rules that govern existence, but Who, through the miracle of His greatness calls to every human heart. You, Oh Lord, are Son and One with Him.

HAVE MERCY

Only faith in Your love could allow me to approach Your throne and ask for mercy. I do not deserve mercy. My hubris and sin define me too clearly as undeserving and lost. But You came to live among us, You died on the cross, for me and my lostness. You came to seek and find me, to redeem me, to bring me to You, and through Your sacrifice to restore me to what I was intended to be. You, Who have no sin, become sin, my sin, to pay the price and ransom me, to save me from getting what I deserve and from eternal death.

ON ME

Me. The one and only me that ever was or ever will be. The beautiful, priceless, totally unique and beautiful me that You have created in Your image, and into whom You breathed the breathe of life. I not just a body that processes chemicals and will one day die and rot. I am a living soul, and my soul was made in Your Image. You gave me the power to chose, to decide, to go my own way and live according to whatever light I decide to follow. You made me free, even to reject You. Or, to turn to You to love You and accept Your guidance like the child I am, slipping my hand into the hand of my Father.

A SINNER

I am a child of the Fall, as well as a child of God. The stubborn stain of original sin mars my soul and leads me into the idolatry of self.  I, who came to life on the breath of the Living God, am prone to iniquity. I can not stop myself. I can not do otherwise. I will sin. Of myself, there can be no salvation.

Which is why I pray,

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner. 

Nick Vujicic: Fully Living for Jesus Christ, Part 3

This is part 3. If you haven’t seen parts 1 and 2, you can watch them here and here.

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Time Out

 

I’ve got a big year ahead. I need to take a few days to pray and seek the Lord before I dive in.

I’ll be back Monday.

God bless and keep each of you as you start this new year in Christ.

Rebecca

Conversations with God

 

Prayer is a conversation.

Prayer is an action.

Prayer is friendship, love, companionship and trust.

It is not a performance or a recipe you must follow to “get it right.”

I’ve read a trove of books and articles about prayer down through the years, all of them well-meaning, and none of them either wrong or right. The authors of these books and articles seek to give Christians instructions or a methodology for doing prayer right.

The most common advice is to avoid laundry-list prayers in which you just say “I want this. I want that.” as if He was your personal genie and prayer was the lamp. That’s good advice, by the way, for the reason that just listing your wants is not prayer at all for the simple reason that it’s not conversation. It is, at base, rude and presumptuous. How would you feel if the only time you heard from your kids is when they want something?

But the writers who give this advice usually try to help you out by giving you a formula to follow before you present your list of wants. Begin your prayers with another list, they tell you. List your thank-yous. Then move into a list of praises for the wonderment of God’s creation. Don’t forget to ask forgiveness for your sins. After all this, you can get back to the real reason for praying and trot out that list of wants.

The main problem with this advice is that it’s just another kind of clocking in. It is predicated on formulas found in the Old Testament (Think Abraham dickering with the angels over Sodom and Gomorrah) and also mirrors the formulas of many public worship services.

Even though it is based on legitimate foundations, when you go through it as you kneel beside your bed at night, it is not genuine. You may be following the recipe, but your heart is really only in the end piece where you ask for the things you want.

There is nothing wrong, in fact, there is a whole lot right with saying thank you to God for the blessings of your life. There is certainly nothing wrong with pondering His greatness. We all need to confess our sins and ask His forgiveness. It is wise to do this daily.

But you don’t need to go through this whole list of worship stuff in order to pray. In fact, practicing prayer in this way can lead to, well, practicing prayer instead of actually praying from the heart. If it’s a performance, God sees through it, even more clearly than you do — and if you will admit it, you see through it too.

Other people advise that you use a totally formulaic approach. The most common formula used by Catholics is the prayer-meditation of the Rosary. Protestants urge the laying on of hands and a sort of rotational prayer among friends. They also advise “claiming God’s promises” by quoting a verse of Scripture and telling God you are “claiming” His promise in that scripture.

I’m a big fan of the Rosary myself. Prayerfully meditating on the Gospels through the heart of Mary is a powerful experience. I’ve also had groups of people gather around me, lay their hands on me and take turns praying for me. That’s an incredibly powerful experience, as well.

I am, however, not so much in favor of the “claiming God’s promises” stuff. The prayers I’ve heard that were done in this way sounded more like an attempt to bully God than worship Him. But maybe I just haven’t heard it done right. I’ll leave that to people who know more about it.

Still other authors advise that you meditate on a painting or crucifix to focus your mind while you pray. There are those who tell you to set aside a place in your home for your prayers.

None of this is bad advice in itself — except perhaps for the effrontery of reminding God of His “promises” like a lawyer carping at a witness on the stand — and all of it can have positive applications.

However, these various pieces of advice and formula can leave the average Christian with tongue-tied brains where prayer is concerned.

I know.

I’ve been there.

I never could get into the first, say thank you, then praise god, then confess your sins, then ask for what you want formula. I tried it a couple of times, and it was dead as dirt for me. God and I both knew I had reduced Him to a little g god of doing it right instead of the big God Who is a living being. So I chucked that bit of advice almost as soon as I considered it.

However, I did drink deeply of the notion that I should not just ask God for things. Unfortunately for me, this led to a deeper and almost immediate shut down of praying altogether. Somehow I morphed this into an admonition not to bother God with my itty bitty stuff.

I almost quit praying for a time, simply because I’d read too many books telling me all the right ways to pray, and the sum total of them was to make me feel that my little prayers were unworthy.

I reached the point that I never asked God for my wants, stopped talking to Him about my hurts and fears and pits and stains, aches and scars. I felt that all this stuff of my life was unworthy of Him and since it was just about everything I had going on in my mind, I didn’t have anything much to say.

When I first found Christ, I chattered to Him almost like a stream of consciousness prayer. I would fall asleep at night, just talking to the Lord about whatever was in my mind. But somewhere along the line, I become too sophisticated for that. I began to try to pray “right” and in the process, I found myself praying to a wall instead of entering into conversation with my heavenly Father.

My prayers got drier the more I censured them. When I read enough books to become convinced that it was wrong for me to go to Him with my picayune wants and needs, that I should only approach God with problems that were worthy of God, my prayers verged into formulaic deadness.

I stopped praying except in church because I didn’t feel that my prayers were worthy to be prayed.

It was a strange time of living faith without conversation with the One in Whom I had such faith.

In all this time, God never left me. His presence was right there with me, but He was quiet, letting me bumble around in my unworthiness.

What saved me was, ironically enough, a prayer. I had a personal problem, a family problem, that was driving me up one side of the proverbial wall and back down the other side and then back up again. It was one of those things I couldn’t solve and didn’t think I could bear. I just burst out saying, “Lord, I know I’m not supposed to talk to you about this, but it is more than I can handle.”

I don’t know exactly how it happened, but I realized as I was praying my desperation prayer about my desperate little problem that I had it all wrong. I was supposed to be talking to Him about these “little” things that make up my life. Because …

My prayers are not “worthy” of Him. Ever.

I are not “worthy” of Him. Ever.

That is the point of Calvary. The cross on which Jesus died is the bridge. We walk through Calvary onto the cross and into God’s loving arms. Not because we are “worthy” but because we are loved.

If you love God, you will find yourself thanking Him spontaneously. When you look into your baby’s eyes. When you finally get that new house. When you find a job. When you lie down at night in a comfortable bed. You’ll say “Thank you” from your grateful heart without any formalities.

If you love God, you will find your awe of His greatness spontaneously. When you look up at the night sky. Or down the tube of a microscope. When you see your child on an ultrasound or stand on a ship and watch a whale break through the water, glistening in the sunlight. You’ll know that He is God.

There is no reason to turn your prayers into formal worship sessions. Prayer is talk. Not God talk. But talking with God, your heavenly Father, Who loves you beyond your ability to comprehend.

It’s not only ok to chatter to God the way you did to your parents as a small child, it’s good. Prayer is putting your hand in His hand and walking through life beside Him.

I still pray the Rosary, by the way. I also pray a prayer of consecration to Our Lady. I do not ever refuse to have people lay hands on me and pray for me. Every single one of these things blesses and sustains me.

Real prayer is conversation and these things are just another type of conversation.

Don’t worry about praying worthily. Just consider that the same God Who made everything, everywhere; Who holds all of existence in existence with a single thought, enjoys your conversation that same way you enjoy listening to the talk of your little children or, as in my case, my elderly mother.

Consider that miracle of miracles. And be grateful.

Then talk to Him from your heart.


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