23 October 2008

Quick update

Still here, still alive ... enjoying my work, really enjoying my dearest, praying for a friend who is having sand thrown in her spirit's eyes by the liar ... it's just as irritating and blinding as it sounds. I am praying "send spiritual Visine, Lord!"

The election has me just ... I dunno. I'm appalled at the hordes of people who are uncritically preparing to vote for a man who has serious baggage and whose motives can only be considered questionable. "If it walks like a duck..." etc.

But it's (still) a free country. I will still defend my fellow citizens' liberty to vote as they will.

But if they vote our liberty away, they will regret it.

We need to consider History, folks.

Liberty requires eternal vigilance.

Think about what you are voting for. Change is OK ... but this isn't like decorating your living room.

You can't give it back if you don't like it.

So think. Pray. 'K?

25 September 2008


One of the most healthful things I've ever done was unhook the cable boxes from my TV sets and carry them down to the cable company and return them.

My evenings are spent reading or puttering around the house.

If I use the radio, it's to play classical music.

As I write this, there is tremendous economic turmoil (thanks, Ben! :P ). I don't minimize it. I'm just limiting my exposure to it.

I read the news on the Internet, during breaks at work. I don't turn the computer on at home if I can avoid it.

Besides the extra $70.00 a month I now have to spend, the tranquility is amazing.

I didn't do it all at once. In fact, I thought about it a long time, and went without TV until I was sure that it would agree with me not to have it available.

It does.

15 August 2008

Quote of the day

Encouraging quote for parents:
For unflagging interest and enjoyment, a household of children, if things go reasonably well, certainly all other forms of success and achievement lose their importance by comparison.
- Theodore Roosevelt

Take the pill, choose a loser?

Planned Parenthood would've loved to squelch this one, I bet: researchers have figured out that, since women are hormonally in a pregnancy state while on the pill, their olfactory senses don't pick up on the right kinds of scent to tell them when they're near the right kind of man for them.

06 August 2008

Parents, television, and a clue

A study has revealed that TV shows portray a lot of sex and little of it in the context of marriage.

The only new bit that I wasn't aware of was the increasing references to kinky stuff and prostitution.

You know why?

Because I don't watch TV. I gave it up several months ago when I found that the news, etc. was getting on my nerves. It's been much nicer without it. I'm about to take my cable boxes back. The extra money every month will be nice, too.

Hey, parents - guess what? If it's not good for your kids, it's probably not good for you, either. Custody of the eyes, and all that.

You know what Hollywood says to itself when it reads conclusions like those in the study? "Well - at least they're watching!"

Hollywood does not produce its dreck for any reason other than money. If no one watched the bilge, there wouldn't BE any more bilge.

01 August 2008

Ruminating on my future

... with the help of Jen over at Conversion Diary. Some time ago, she wrote a wonderful post about how she learned to see the happenings in her life from the perspective of what they might mean to others, instead of just herself. Please hop over and take a look, as it is really well-written, and has stayed in my mind for weeks.

I was reminded of it when reading this ruefully humorous post of hers, about what it's like to live in Texas. As I was typing a comment to that post, I had an epiphany about the meaning of something which happened this week, and it's got me thinking.

In this blog, I've hinted at my personal situation. That's partly out of what I hope is prudent veiling in this day of GoogleEverything, but also because going into it to any degree would give scandal. My faith has suffered from scandal given by uncaring or thoughtless ones in the past, so I don't want to imitate them. I look forward to the day when I can speak more freely, but that won't be for some time, yet, -- as God wills.

As I got to this point - today, here, right now - I have prayed so deeply for guidance at each step in the road... and guidance has been given me. The way has been opened for me and the friend of my heart in ways which just have God all over them: ordinary things which are miraculous. And there are so many of them! At any point God could have easily stopped the whole journey.

The latest is yet another one of those ordinary / extraordinary things. (Side note: I shall never be able to use those words without thinking of Holy Mass. A bit exasperating - but in a good way. And, as you read what follows, you're going to think it's deliberate. But it's not - and those words are the best for what I want to convey. But I digress.)

What Jen writes about Texas - the heat, the scorpions - absolutely true. And yet, that is where I will end up one day, if God's grace continues to abound. I will because my love is there, his three grown children are there, and his grandchildren are there. I have no children and, outside of my sister and her husband, no family ties. To move is the obvious thing.

But, as I type this, on August 1, I am sitting beside an open sliding glass door in the foothills above Los Angeles. It's in the low 70s outside. It will be hot later, but it will cool down in the evening, as the sea breeze comes through the valley. The door beside which I sit looks out over a large, completely private enclave which includes extensive gardens (poorly maintained by yours truly) and a large, inviting swimming pool. During the day, I can see my beloved mountains. At night, I can look out over the lights of the valley. This property - old, shabby, and in need of expensive repair as it is - is mine. I own it. And I love it.

But there's more: I've never lived further than 10 miles from this spot, except while I was in college, which was in San Diego - hardly a change, if you know what I mean. I'm half Irish. The Irish tend to bond with their home turf.

The idea of leaving all this, plus having to go deliberately into one of the most inhospitable climates this great land offers, has not been easy to get my will around.

I'm not done whining yet! I also - EXACTLY like Jen - crave solitude. More than that: I must have it. Long, uninterrupted hours of peace and quiet. My mother noticed this about me when I was a child. In fact, this weekend I intend to take my cable boxes down to the cable company and turn them in. Not only do I need the money their monthly subscription represents, I virtually never use them! I can't stand television - and the longer I go without it, the less patience I have for it.

Throughout my young adult years, starting well before I entered the Church at 14, I wanted to be a Carmelite nun. "I wanted" is the operative phrase; I don't think I had a vocation. When I say "nun," I mean just that. Not this (although I would have dearly loved it), but this. The Story of a Soul by St. Thérèse of Lisieux, now my patron saint, was the book which, along with my mother's 1930 Manual of Prayers and the Bible, brought me into the Church.

For all those reasons, the dread of moving away from here has been deep and pervasive. Being the wife of a man who is an active, involved, and dearly loved father and grandfather to three grown, married children and their offspring does not sound like a recipe for solitude. There is no oasis in Texas like where I live now. Once there, I could not reasonably expect to ever be able to afford to move back.

In the meantime, however, God, through our Holy Father, has been coaxing me back from the barren fields of protestant thought into the lush vistas of the Catholic pastureland of the soul. I sustained spiritual and emotional wreckage in my late teens and early 20s, when blow after blow fell in my spiritual and personal life. In the archdiocese where I live, it was a toss-up at times whether the object of worship at Mass was Our Lord or The Spirit of Vatican II. I gather that ambiguity still exists, but I wouldn't know for sure. I refuse to set foot inside a novus ordo Mass anywhere in this area. The unexpected ambushes have an extremely deleterious effect on my soul. My informed conscience tells me I simply do not have to submit to insults and bullying. It is wrong and gives scandal to seem to approve of the sacrilege that goes on at an ordinary Mass around here. In this archdiocese, to protest means to go against the documents which have been issued by the Cardinal Archbishop. I am at a loss why people pay attention to anything the man says. I need say nothing about him. His actions speak for themselves, whether through the "cathedral" he caused to be built, which was a self-serving exercise - and what a self it reveals! - as well as the shameful behavior which led to the financial catastrophe of the settlements. May God have mercy upon him. He has been a stumbling block for so many of us.

When Pope Benedict was elected, I watched him warily. He'd written some persuasive, hopeful-sounding things during his previous life, but would he prove to be merely a puppet of an entrenched cadre of Vaticanistas, bent on making the Church more banal than even the protestants?

Uh - no.

Summorum Pontificum was the work of a man fully in charge. And I use the word man deliberately. It is one of the most, er, masculine documents in recent memory: reasonable, tactful, and explicitly clear. I particularly love the part which says, if a bishop is "having difficulty" with the provisions, Ecclesia Dei will "help". I doubt there's anyone who didn't understand the meaning of that. It literally was a gauntlet thrown down.

As a displaced Catholic, I was astonished by his alpha-dog leadership. I wondered if it was real. It's clear by now that it is. Benedict XVI is serious about this. He is moving ahead "brick by brick" to reclaim the Church's historic treasures of liturgy and devotion and bring them to light along with - not in place of - the real reforms intended by Vatican II.

I'm very close to capitulating and returning to the Church, starting, as I must, by attending Mass again. Pope Benedict has graciously made it possible once again. A regular TLM has been established a few miles away, instead of the scant "provision" previously made under the Indult. Can you guess which parish is on the Archdiocesan website as the first, and so far, ONLY parish to offer regular TLM since Summorum Pontificum? St. Thérèse of Lisieux in Alhambra!

And now this: at some point this week I was following an Internet trail, possibly via a comment left on some post over at Fr. Z's - I truly don't remember - and here's what I found: the Mater Dei Latin Mass Community in Dallas, Texas. In the neighborhood where - God willing - we will settle.

That changed everything for me. OK, so the weather will be hot, but there's air conditioning most places. Scorpions are God's creatures, too. How soon can I leave?

But back to Jen's point, while this may seem to be about me, it really feels a lot more like, "Here are the tools you need to do the job I have for you. I know you're weak, so I put padding on the yoke before I lay it on your shoulders. But you're still going to have to pull. And it will be uphill, both ways, sometimes. But I'll be there. I'll always be there. I always was."

My dear one, when we were dating and fell so irrevocably in love all those years ago, was a typical cynical teenager. I was a devout Catholic. It didn't bother him that I was; he just didn't partake. When he left me - a deliberate act on his part, I grant you, although he didn't really want to, and he was most definitely lured - the one he eventually married was a cradle Catholic, and they were married at Mass in an extravagant ceremony. That hurt!

Imagine my reaction when he told me - about three years into our current conversation - that he was baptized when one of his sons was. Baptized a Catholic. My friend. However, my dear one didn't follow up on it. He's a man of few words, but he once said, "The Church doesn't seem to know what it wants to be." The deformative Masses and theologically bare homilies and self-celebrating, poorly-done music quickly snuffed out any spark of interest he might have had in following through. He was going through an extremely difficult time at home. He did not need to hear How Wonderful It Is That We All Are Here Loving Each Other when he went to Mass. He needed another man to show him the way to Christ - a strong priest who would speak to his better self, point out the trail towards holiness, hand him a staff and backpack and say, "get going!"

The moment he told me I immediately had the sinking feeling that there was a Reason for this renewal on my part. What if I was meant to do this for myself, but also for him? And what about his kids? And their kids? I am a firm believer in the witness of daily life. I've known many Catholics, whose consistently loving choices touched my life and my family's in ways that truly made a difference to us. That, to me, is a lofty goal: to live a quiet life and do good in my own circle. I don't want to preach or argue or do apologetics. I want to get out of God's way and let Him speak to others' hearts through my acts and words. I have so often been the downcast one, bewildered and alone, and a Catholic's steady, joyful example has heartened and encouraged me.

If this is my vocation, I will need to sacrifice the solitude I so dearly love, give up my house and beloved California, and learn to manage in uncomfortable weather - and those are only the things I know about going in. I am not ignoring those difficulties. I have pursued other paths when I did ignore or deny obvious problems. This is not one of those times. It is just different, this time. God's gracious provision of what I most need in my life - the extraordinary form of the Mass - and daily, even! - proves to me that this is where I am to go. It is quiet, calm knowing. I have no doubt.

After all these years, it would seem that I've found my vocation. In my wanderings, I've had to learn what a true father is, so that I could recognize that God is one, through the example of my dear friend. I've had to accept that God loves me and wants me to thrive in His love. It might mean all kinds of physical, mental and emotional crosses to bear, but He still wants my soul to thrive. And it would seem I've healed enough to be able to be used for something worthwhile, at last.

It is none of my doing... nor, strictly speaking, is it what "I" want. "I" want to loll in my garden, read novels, and eat potato chips and never get fat! Instead, I need to choose to go where "I" will have to submit to the exigencies of daily life. My life literally will not be my own any more, but will be in the hands of God entirely.

I've been on a long, painful, bewildering journey, much of which I brought on myself through willfulness and misapprehension. I would rather atone for my failings here than hereafter; but I have learned that I cannot choose the arena or means of my atonement. I have to let God decide.

I used to work long hours, serve my mother, and do what I could at home, until I wept from exhaustion and despair. He wants me to rest and sleep and do a daily routine of work and play, with appropriate breaks for rest and nourishment. I used to deny myself every pleasure, thinking by doing so I was atoning for my sins. God bestows exquisite pleasures - the scent of a fresh gardenia, this cool morning by an open window, the presence in my life of my dear one - and the penance is in humbly accepting those gifts with gratitude, instead of arguing about why I shouldn't accept such joys - or, worse, outright rejecting them. In my previous attempt at marriage, any show of affection was either denied or only grudgingly, hurriedly given. It was a very lonely existence, but I did my best to accept my abandonment as my punishment for marrying as I did. God's idea of marriage is completely different from that. Real marriage brims with affection, mutual respect, and friendship! Who knew?

Until this revelation, when I thought of marriage, I reflexively cringed at the thought of the exhaustion and loneliness with which I associated it, due to my unfortunate experience. As I've been observing my dear one's behavior, I realize how good it can be when two people are committed to each other's well-being. My friend would not let me get overtired or overwrought, even if it meant he had to work all night in my place. He would do that without even a thought for his own comfort. I marvel at that. I marveled at it when we were teenagers, and I marvel at it today. He is a treasure. And, in that, he behaves in the way I associate with true Catholics, based on my experience. That's why I am sure God has more in store for him, and it's up to me to mind my own spiritual health and fill my soul with God so that He can work through me and I can get out of His way.

Part of that involves cultivating a healthy inattention to others, whether it be their opinion of me, or the impulse to see whether or not "I" have made a difference. There is only One I must serve and please and follow. So long as I do my best, step by step, moment by moment, to be with Him and near Him, the rest will be as He wills. It is actually a relief to finally understand that I'm not responsible for how others choose to react to me. He's there for them as He is for me. What matters is how I serve Him.

You can't make that happen by willing it. You can only love Him, and know Him, and pray, and wait, and accept whatever He gives you in trust that He knows what's best for you and the ones you love. It seems so simple, yet it is a mystery which takes all of one's life to plumb.

It's even caused me to rethink the title of my blog. "Finding Pasture" meant originally that I was doing the "finding," seeking a spiritual home where I could be a sheep and not always have to be on my guard for wolves in sheep's clothing. I see it differently, now. It's not up to me to find pasture. It's up to me to trust God as I go in and out of the various stages and places and times of my life. By His grace, I will find myself in the pasture to which He has led me, after preparing me to know it when I saw it, and teaching me to accept it once I waded into the chest-high sweet clover, instead of automatically assuming I wasn't supposed to be there and just stealing a mouthful or two surreptitiously before sneaking back out into the barren, dry world beyond. I'm not going to change it, though - the title of the blog, I mean. The verse to which it refers is one God used to start me on the journey back from self-denial to healthy acceptance of His will in my life.

The picture on my blog is that of a pasture in Texas. I put it up there some time ago to remind myself that Texas isn't really just a scorpion-infested desert - at least, not all the time. ;)

30 July 2008

A thought about Latin

Fr. Z has posted a clip of Benedict XVI arriving for vacation in a favourite spot. The clip shows the Holy Father speaking to the assembled people and greeting them, and thanking them profusely.

In Italian.

In fluent, easy, comfortable Italian.

The anti-Latin crowd must grind their teeth at his fluency, just as they must have when John Paul II spoke so many languages. They've been telling anyone who will listen that people cannot be expected to learn a new language, especially not Latin.

But it's a language like any other. The Romance languages - Spanish, French, Italian among them - spring from Latin, which makes them easier to learn if you are familiar with the source. And so much Latin is present in common English constructions that a knowledge of it is a positive help when learning vocabulary and reading.

So to say that people cannot understand the Mass if it's in Latin is neither compassionate nor charitable. It's insulting.

28 July 2008

Blogger Tony Woodlief has a great story in Image

Last month's Image journal contained a powerful story, Name.

Then I ran across Sand in the Gears blog, and realized that Tony Woodlief is the author of that amazing story.

Tony's comments aren't working or I'd tell him directly. In the meantime, I can definitely recommend the story, and Image journal, for that matter.

It's put out by the school which Karen Hall over at Some Have Hats heard about from commenters when asking for info about low-residency MFA programs... and where I shall go for my MFA, should that happy day ever arrive.

27 July 2008

A few words about, and for, Dr. P.Z. Myers

At the Hermeneutic of Continuity blog, Fr. Tim Finigan reports on the desecration of the consecrated host by Dr. P.Z. Myers.

Dr. Myers is childishly proud of what he's done. He thinks he's gotten away with something. He thinks he's shown the Catholics a thing or two.

What did he think would happen?

Wouldn't he be chagrined if someone, who'd not heard before that Catholics believe Jesus is actually present in the Host under the form of bread, said, "they believe that? but why?" - and picked up the Gospels to find out?

I think there ought to be consequences for what he's done. The university must be held to its published principles and not allowed to pick and choose which groups they will defend from hateful acts.

But we don't need to exact revenge. Desecrating a Host does not reduce the amount of Jesus in the world. He is still alive, still with us.

I gather that Dr. Myers wanted to prove that, since there would be no dramatic supernatural intervention, Jesus was not in the Host.

Dr. Myers forgets that there was no dramatic intervention on Calvary, either.

Jesus puts Himself in our way deliberately, and makes no attempt to protect Himself.

Dr. Myers did not perceive Jesus when handling the Host.

That's OK. Lots of us overlook Him, even those of us who know better.

Nevertheless, Dr. Myers, Jesus was there. You touched Him. The Son of God Who walked this earth - that Jesus. You could have asked Him for anything, sir, in that moment. You could have listened for His voice in your soul. Instead, you did some childish, hateful things, and then bragged about it.

Why did you do it, sir? Were you just wanting some attention to liven up your life for a while, or do you really have a grudge against Jesus?

To ask it another way: would you have done those things if no one knew about it?

Either way, if we Catholics are on our game, you will hear almost nothing from us.

You might even think we don't care.

But, see, there's no point in trying to defend Jesus from the likes of you. Not only doesn't He need it - legions of angels, etc. - the shameful truth is, He needs to be defended even from us, even on our very best days. Without His love and grace, any one of us could sink to the level of baseness you displayed. It's no great feat to throw Jesus' gift back in His face.

In the end, your stunt wasn't even very original. The rusty nail? It's been done before.

And, in spite what you did, and the fact that no bolt of lightning descended on your unworthy, sinful head, we Catholics are still here, and we still believe.

You know what? Lightning bolts don't descend on our unworthy, sinful heads, either.

Jesus laid in your hands, helpless. He let you do what you were going to do. While you did it, He loved you, Dr. Myers.

You see, nothing you can do will make Him stop loving you. It might keep you from being able to love Him, but that's different.

He's still loving you, Dr. Myers.

If you want to get His attention, you don't need to do anything but say His name. If you can't bring yourself say the word, say it in your heart.

He's listening.

Tell Him what's really going on. Tell Him how you feel about Him, and religion in general. Tell Him why you did those nasty things to Him.

Use whatever words you like. He can take it.

He loves you.

Great Catholic comments on a post on contraception

Thanks to Alicia for posting this. I didn't even read the article... just enjoyed the comments.

26 July 2008

Humanae Vitae - here's what I think

Humanae Vitae was published into a world which was primed for its rejection. Among the factors I perceived were at work: the recent adoption of the television into homes, with the earliest publicly-announced broadcasts in the United States (personal liberty) and the USSR (control by disinformation); a frenzy for innovation in all areas of life; and a disproportionate number of young adults.

Television, and its secondary technology, recording, were initially under some control, but, as we all know, there is virtually no limit to what can be broadcast now. Recording allows the most foolish and ill-advised presentations to be forever available and repeatable (I am thinking YouTube). To sell television in the then-current sponsorship model, entertainment programs must appeal to the broadest audience, which usually means stripping them of distinctives, especially in matters of belief.

Innovation without reference to the past became the norm. From the ridiculous (the abandonment of phonics-based reading education for "look-say" methods pervasively used in schools during this time), to the sublime (what happened to the Mass in the wake of Vatican II), the passion for newness was everywhere, and never more so than in the area of sexual behavior. Innovations with profound implications were foisted upon society in an apparent vacuum. Those counseling prudence were mocked, when not simply ignored.

The post-WW II "baby boom" resulted in teeming hordes of young persons whose minds were full of what they saw in movie theaters and on television, but little else. In school, they were denied the tools which would have enabled them to read omnivorously and quickly. In their classes, reference to the sages of history was proscribed. Religion, when it was admitted, was to be seen as only personal. God could not be stipulated as an absolute when discussing anything. According to the professors, the only reliable source of information about the meaning of anything came from within, based on experience. Critical thinking came to mean simply being critical, instead of doing the intellectual heavy lifting required to thoroughly learn a topic and come up with original ideas based on it.

If the young had been taught to think for themselves... if they'd had the skills to read well... if they had been protected against the distractions and misinformation disseminated by television and movies... and if the Church had not been swept off its place of authority in the public mind by dissenters who proclaimed the worthlessness of her teaching, without even the first glimmer of a clue of what the teaching really was...

But if is a big, sprawling, slippery word.

So here we are, 40 years later, with lives full of experiences formed in a crucible of our own making. If we are honest, we will admit that, by deriding the wisdom of those who had gone before, we merely consigned ourselves to slogging through the same muck they did. Their writings and clear guidance were not meant to spoil our fun, stunt our personalities, or ruin our lives. They did not hate us, sight unseen! They meant to help us avoid slog, instead to start from the intellectual and moral point they had attained with such suffering and effort, so we could go on further, bringing the rest of our human family along with us. Instead, we spurned their patient work, and declared our little experiments to be better than anything they could ever have dreamed of.

We were deceived.

To those who still regard Humanae Vitae, and all that went before it, to be simply wrong, I say this: be honest. Do not say that the Catholic Church should not teach this. What does it matter to you what she teaches? Say the truth: I cannot do this. I do not accept its teaching. I cannot be persuaded. But before you declare that, you really must read the encyclical, once, carefully. To do otherwise is at best simply childish; at worst, it is intellectual dishonesty.

There will be those who dismiss it out of hand, citing science and medicine as far more advanced than some gang of old celibates. Oh, really? There is no shortage of empirical proof of the ills predicted in Humanae Vitae: women exhausted from trying to manage career and family, cast off after bearing children; rampant divorce; wholesale slaughter of unborn children; loss of dignity, loss of respect, loss of control, and harm to the environment (from all the hormones in the water supply). It is pointless to say they're not related, unless the way set forth in Humanae Vitae is really tried. And I am not speaking exclusively of attention to a woman's hormonal patterns, although there are plenty of testimonials as to the benefits of NFP, for conceiving as well as for spacing children. I am referring to the framework, the foundation, which Humanae Vitae and all similar teaching the Church assumes: marriage as a vocation.

A common insult levied at the Catholic Church is that it "treats people like children." I don't see that at all. If anything, the Catholic Church has always had a view of humanity which transcends anything the world has to offer. Yet its ideals are not invented; they are revealed in Scripture, and the Church simply points to them and does everything she can to help them be attained.

Very recently there has been an upsurge in an interest in tradition among the youth. Traditional orders of monks and nuns are flourishing. Young men are entering seminaries where they can be traditionally trained for the priesthood. From the world's point of view, a traditional Roman Catholic priest is either a hero or a fool. To live in continence and celibacy, without a family of one's own...? When undertaken by a mature individual with a right intention, definitely heroic. The Church has a very high view of what people can do with God's help. Her faith is often rewarded: the last two Popes are exemplars of how the celibate, continent man can take the people of God as his family, and be a good father to them.

But if a priest is called to heroism in his daily life, what about laypersons? Of course they are... and none more than observant Catholic spouses. They live out the virtues of faith, hope, and love every single day of their lives. Couples who practise contraception may still be devoted to one another, but no one will deny it takes another whole level of maturity, discipline, patience, and trust in God to live as a family, open to His gift of children.

By the way, it takes no less of those virtues to live through the sorrow and grief of greatly desiring to have children but being unable to conceive, or carry to term. It takes strength and grace to withstand the well-meaning offers to medically correct the situation by using unnatural methods. Those who cannot accept God's will in this matter can end up in grievously disordered situations, in which scientific achievement is the god, and the consequences to human life and emotions are studiously ignored.

Finally, again to be honest, Humanae Vitae's reception was compromised by The Spirit of Vatican Two, at least in the United States. Humanae Vitae was published in 1968. It dropped into an environment of eager relinquishment of things which were once distinctives of Catholic life. The National Conference of Catholic Bishops in their pastoral document of November 18, 1966 stated:
Catholics in the United States are obliged to abstain from the eating of meat on Ash Wednesday and on all Fridays during the season of Lent. They are also obliged to fast on Ash Wednesday and on Good Friday. Self-imposed observance of fasting on all weekdays of Lent is strongly recommended. Abstinence from flesh meat on all Fridays of the year is especially recommended to individuals and to the Catholic community as a whole.
What they said: "In order for you to have a more authentic Christian experience, pray and study and find another ascetic discipline, if you like, to replace Friday abstinence." What we heard: "This was a mortal sin, but now it's not." Stunning!

Then, on May 29, 1969, Memoriale Domini was published, which reported,
...in certain communities and in certain places this practice [communion in the hand] has been introduced without prior approval having been requested of the Holy See, and, at times, without any attempt to prepare the faithful adequately.
(Hmm... sounds like most of what came after Vatican II.)

It also contained these words:
...with a deepening understanding of the truth of the eucharistic mystery, of its power and of the presence of Christ in it, there came a greater feeling of reverence towards this sacrament and a deeper humility was felt to be demanded when receiving it. Thus the custom was established of the minister placing a particle of consecrated bread on the tongue of the communicant.

This method of distributing holy communion must be retained, taking the present situation of the Church in the entire world into account, not merely because it has many centuries of-tradition behind it, but especially because it expresses the faithful's reverence for the Eucharist.
It goes on to record the vote from the bishops:
1. Do you think that attention should be paid to the desire that, over and above the traditional manner, the rite of receiving holy communion on the hand should be admitted?

Yes: 597

No: 1,233

Yes, but with reservations: 315
By the time this vote was taken, you know it had to be a widely-known practice. But, for some reason, Pope Paul VI kind of waffled, and ended pretty much by saying, "well, if you must ... send me a note in six months and let me know how it goes."

What that translated to, for those two worthies, John & Mary Catholic, was, "we used to say this was sacrilege; but, oh, all right - go ahead."

And, of course, in the meantime, Latin missals were being thrown into the trash, Mass was being said entirely in the vernacular versus populum, and women gave up covering their heads.

But, in the midst of all that, the Church forbade contraception - and had the gall to couch it in the idealistic 50s claptrap that Vatican II was supposed to do away with!

John & Mary Catholic heard: "Oh yes, there will be top-to-bottom reforms, you won't recognize the ol' Church, - but when it comes to this? Ha ha, just kidding!"

Pope Paul VI was asking a hard thing. On the one hand, he was asking for heroic sacrifices, and saying that this was an unchangeable principle. But the bishops were sweeping away penalties for other things which had seemed no less important and logical. While not a scholar, I do try to understand, and even I was bewildered. It didn't make sense. In the end, it came down to this: I'd become a Roman Catholic at 14 knowing that I would have to be willing to welcome children as God sent them, if I was ever married. I took it very seriously, to the point where it was a factor in losing my dear one.

To raise children, I would need to be able to rely on my faith, not only for myself, but to teach them. In the wake of Vatican II, the Church's message was incoherent, and all that was good and beautiful was headed for the Dumpster (literally, in some cases). I didn't recognize the Church any more, and the Church didn't want the likes of me. Coming on top of my already extremely distressing home situation, it was just too much.

I didn't have the wisdom or the experience to know that the Church has gone through lots of similarly challenging times, and survived. I was incredibly hurt and angry, and I left. I didn't go anywhere else, though. There really is nowhere else, for a Catholic. I can go just so long, eating the dry straw that is Protestant doctrine, before I have to go back to the pasture that is the Truth. And, when I did, I would get out my dear old prayerbooks (rescued from garage sales and trash bins over the years), and my precious Douay Rheims Bible (another garage sale), and I would comfort myself, in private. Because all those things were Wrong and Bad in the new church.

With Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict has not just made it clear the the Extraordinary Form of Mass is Good, he has given us permission to enjoy the beautiful, helpful books and practices from centuries gone by. He has made me feel welcome again. He has shown me the courtesy and kindness and respect for my feelings which was never forthcoming from the liberals.

It may be too late for me. My life did not go down Catholic paths, although I never really left. There will need to be some big changes in my life before I can take my place again as a Roman Catholic. I owe it to Benedict to try. He has certainly come more - far more! - than halfway. I would never have considered trying to go to Mass before S.P. Now, I have no excuse.

Earlier, I said that the Catholic Church does not treat souls like children, because its standards are high and its faith in grace unlimited. Benedict's approach to the youth at World Youth Day could not be called condescension. He painted a picture of what they could do, and urged them to do it, for the love of God. And yet, I do feel like a child, sometimes... like a dirty, tired, hungry child who's been chased out of the house and forgotten about, left to wander about, begging for scraps. Benedict is going out into the hedgerows and coaxing us back in. He is protecting us from marauders, feeding us good food, and giving us the treasures which are rightfully ours. By giving the priests the right to say the Extraordinary Form of Mass, he has preserved it forever, because there will always be priests who want to say that Mass. By making sure the Extraordinary Form is available, Benedict has ensured that the faithful will be there - those faithful who know what the Mass is, and cannot accept the deformative changes, even after 40 years of being told how Wonderful We Are. And by giving the faithful a place to pray and know God, led by priests who know how close the Church came to losing the Extraordinary Form forever, Benedict has, quite simply, saved the Roman Catholic Church. "Where two or three are gathered in my name..."

1968 - one Cardinal remembers

Cardinal James Francis Stafford has written a reflection on the year in which Humanae Vitae was set forth. It is posted at Catholic News Agency. Cardinal Stafford is Major Penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary. He writes,
It was the year of the bad war, of complex innocence that sanctified the shedding of blood. English historian Paul Johnson dubs 1968 as the year of “America’s Suicide Attempt.” It included the Tet offensive in Vietnam with its tsunami-like effects in American life and politics, the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee; the tumult in American cities on Palm Sunday weekend; and the June assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy in southern California.
In my own life, this sense of upheaval was made complete by my parents' acrimonious divorce. All of this took place in the context of the idea that "God is dead." Life had no moorings.

I appreciate the Cardinal's honesty. He relates how, while he was a priest serving in Washington and Baltimore, the Baltimore Metropolitan Health and Welfare Council undertook a study in 1965-1966 to advise the city government in how to address the issue of a sharp rise in unwed pregnancies. He writes, "At that time, the Board members of the Council, including myself, had uncritical faith in experts and social research. Even the II Vatican Council had expressed unfettered confidence in the role of benevolent experts (Gaudium et Spes 57)."

He goes on to say, "Not one of my professional acquaintances anticipated the crisis of trust which was just around the corner in the relations between men and women. Our vision was incapable of establishing conditions of justice and of purity of heart in which wonder and appreciation can find play. We were already anachronistic and without hope. We ignored the texture of life."

His ecclesiastical superior, Cardinal Lawrence J. Shehan of Baltimore, had been appointed by Pope Paul VI along with others as additional members to the Papal Commission for the Study of Problems of the Family, Population, and Birth Rates, first established by Blessed Pope John XXIII in 1963 during the II Vatican Council. This was the group which did the (in)famous study which was submitted to the Pope, which seemed to show that contraception was a necessary adaptation to the demands of modern life and economies. As it turned out, even Cardinal Shehan believed this.

But then-Father Lawrence had come to a different conclusion, based on his personal history of early introduction to an integrated view of sexuality and holiness thanks to his parents, and his direct observation in his ministry of the dreadful consequences which followed in the wake of a loss of appreciation of meaning in sexuality. He writes, "I had taken a hard, cold look at what I was experiencing and what the Church and society were doing. I came across an idea which was elliptical: the gift of love should be allowed to be fruitful. These two fixed points are constant. This simple idea lit up everything like lightning in a storm. I wrote about it more formally to the Cardinal: the unitive and procreative meanings of marriage cannot be separated. Consequently, to deprive a conjugal act deliberately of its fertility is intrinsically wrong. To encourage or approve such an abuse would lead to the eclipse of fatherhood and to disrespect for women."

His remembrance then takes a tragic, graphic turn as he describes the effect of the carefully orchestrated dissent on the morale of the priesthood. You need to read it to know that he speaks honestly, from his heart, in spare but clear language. "Conversations among the clergy, where they existed, became contaminated with fear. Suspicions among priests were chronic. Fears abounded. And they continue."

And then he says something striking: Priests’ fraternity had been wounded. Pastoral dissent had attacked the Eucharistic foundation of the Church. Its nuptial significance had been denied.

Surely he was not alone. Many, many priests must have felt betrayed and bewildered.

25 July 2008

Humanae Vitae, revisited

I recommend Mary Eberstadt's article, The Vindication of Humanae Vitae," (First Things, August/September 2008), as a well-written retrospective about what happened when Humanae Vitae was promulgated.

(And, if you haven't read it, you need to. Don't believe what other people say about it; read it for yourself.)

(OK, done? All right, let's go on.)

The Catholic Church is pleading, on behalf of your soul and everyone else's, for you to stop and consider the notion that love is what being human is all about. No other creature on God's earth can love the way we can, but we must learn to do it.

When we are young, self-absorbed, and foolish, we're impatient with any kind of restraint. When we shook off guiding principles in the 60s and 70s, we did not gain our freedom from anything except a reasonable chance for happiness.

This review of “Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon — and the Journey of a Generation” (Sheila Weller, Atria Books) by Stephen Holden from the New York Times back in May (free registration required) describes a book chronicling the lives of three singers who were icons in their day. The last two paragraphs are beautifully written, and strictly copyrighted, so I can only recommend you hop over there and check it out. The review concisely and almost lyrically conveys how the book depicts the consequences of life and love undertaken without the framework of centuries of Christian wisdom.

Innocence, youth, and virginity are precious because they are so easy to lose. Indeed, they're often thoughtlessly relinquished like Esau's birthright: for "a mess of pottage," or, worse, taken, by cynical adults.

I'm one of the victims of the sexual "revolution" of the 70s. (I prefer "regression." Be that as it may...) I was a staunch Roman Catholic, a convert who had read a lot of Scripture and spent a lot of time trying to figure out what the Church was about. My dear friend and I loved each other, but I was chaste. He was ignorant of my reasons, but accepted my explanation. Another girl decided she wanted him, and took the most direct and effective way to persuade a handsome, inexperienced 18 year old man to stay by her side without the tiresome process of discernment, building a relationship based on shared values, etc. They were married in a grand Catholic wedding a couple of years later.

OK, so he chose another. What's the big deal? It is this: he and I were long-time friends, and right for each other; our relationship was based on everything but inappropriate intimacy; and we had bonded to one another. She was entirely different from me. He never forgot me. After their divorce, he looked me up. Eleven years after that, after losing track of me, he drove wistfully around the streets of our old neighborhood during a rare visit, hoping against hope he'd see me.

In His mercy, after all those years apart, God has brought us together again. But, at times, around my dear one's kids, I am overwhelmed with the magnitude of my loss. Their mother is still part of their lives. Our exchanges are cordial. I am still tempted to anger towards her at times, but, by the grace of God, I think: No. I can let go of that, and leave her to God. He knows all. He knows what happened, and how and why it happened. I can repent of my part in it (not speaking up when my friend needed a good smack upside the head, back in the day) and be grateful for the renewed friendship and love I have now.

It would be dishonest for me to pretend I accepted Humanae Vitae. I did not. I was dismayed by it. Watching my own mother's struggles in the wake of divorce didn't help me feel any too confident about the permanence of marriage, so I wanted to get my degree and start working before I had children. I shouldn't pretend that it was easy to remain chaste while we were dating, either; when my dear one and I became friends, he was shorter than I, endearingly freckled, with a round face and smooth chin. By high school graduation, he had attained his full height and hirsute adornments and had filled out, with powerful neck and shoulders, a heart-stopping smile, and a quiet male confidence that completely undid me. We managed because he genuinely loved me and cared for me, not always because I was strong and resolute. So I could not imagine marrying him before I'd established myself in the working world. That was years away. And how would we live? Where would we live? etc. etc.

When I met him after his divorce (and he'd gone from merely devastatingly handsome to the picture of male perfection in the meantime, a devoted father to his kids, successful in his work, and as obviously fond and respectful of me as ever), I learned that his parents had pitched in to help to a great degree during his troubled marriage, even renting him a house of theirs. It was a painful but necessary lesson for me: God would have cared for me. I was wrong to let my fears guide my life decisions.

I did, of course, again and again. But, finally, I think God's getting through to my dim brain. I'm stepping out in faith more often, after due prayer and reflection, and He's blessed me beyond all telling.

Humanae Vitae isn't about telling people what to do. It's not about dried up little old single men who've never touched a woman trying to dictate to those in the real world. It is a kind of Cliff's Notes to the wisdom of Scripture, tradition, and reason in the all-important matter of personal love and relationships. God does expect us to trust Him. When it comes to building a family, He's given most of us women entirely natural means to space children, including breast-feeding and paying attention to our body's signs. But that does require that we relax into His provision, and it requires that we know ourselves - emotionally, mentally - and that we focus on what we're doing; in other words, it means we have to grow up.

The Holy Father spoke movingly of God as courting lover in his meditation on the Angelus before leaving Sydney (one report and transcript here).
As Mary stood before the Lord, she represented the whole of humanity. In the angel’s message, it was as if God made a marriage proposal to the human race. And in our name, Mary said yes.

In fairy tales, the story ends there, and all "live happily ever after". In real life it is not so simple. For Mary there were many struggles ahead, as she lived out the consequences of the "yes" that she had given to the Lord. Simeon prophesied that a sword would pierce her heart. When Jesus was twelve years old, she experienced every parent’s worst nightmare when, for three days, the child went missing. And after his public ministry, she suffered the agony of witnessing his crucifixion and death. Throughout her trials she remained faithful to her promise, sustained by the Spirit of fortitude. And she was gloriously rewarded.
I knew all that, all those years ago. I just couldn't step out in trust. I still have many cowardly moments. My ability to love is defective due to my own faults; that doesn't mean God is mistaken about how best to show love. Just because I cannot always believe He loves me enough to care for me through everyday miracles, that doesn't mean He won't do so.

Will I be able to trust this time? Pray for me, please, that I may know and do God's will in my life, for the sake of those whose lives mine will touch.

What Summorum Pontificum meant to me

On July 7, Fr. Z posted a request for reflections on what Summorum Pontificum meant to people one year later. Well ... after much editing, it's still too long for the combox.

I came into the Church in 1971. My essential formation as a Catholic was provided by a 1926 Manual of Prayers, which contained all the information one needed to be a Catholic: prayers, laws, explanations. After the Bible, the second most important book in my conversion was The Story of a Soul, the writings of the saint I subsequently chose as my patron, Thérèse of Lisieux.

The other day, I came across these verses in the Fourth Poem of the Song of Songs (New Jerusalem Bible):
I opened to my love,
but he had turned and gone.
My soul failed at his flight,
I sought but could not find him,
I called, but he did not answer.

The watchmen met me,
those who go on their rounds in the city.
They beat me, they wounded me,
they took my cloak away from me:
those guardians of the ramparts!
I did not grow up knowing about the Real Presence. When I read in the missal that Jesus was really present in the consecrated Host, I dug into the Gospels, especially John's, and Paul's reference in Corinthians. I was amazed that they all said the same thing, and that the Church had accepted those writings and ordered her spiritual life around them for two thousand years. My first act of abandonment to God was to trust that Jesus really meant what he said, as reported by the Gospel writers and Paul. If it was not the right interpretation, both Jesus and Paul had wide-open opportunities to correct it. They didn't.

Therefore, a consecrated Host is not a cracker. It is Jesus, the Son of God.

If Jesus were to appear by your side right now, what would you do? I would kneel and reach for his wounded hand, burst into tears, and thank him. (My hair is too short to wipe his feet with. I would regret that.) In communion before the reforms, I could kneel to receive Jesus and welcome him into my heart. There were tragic, horrible things going on in my life in those days. It was an inexpressible comfort to kneel quietly, knowing Jesus was really with me in that mysterious way, that he loved me and knew what I was going through. No one in my mortal life would ever be so close to me. If I wept thinking about it, I could pull the mantilla forward a bit so no one would notice my tears. Sometimes during thanksgiving I was given the grace of thoughts of profound comfort and love; sometimes, correction; and, sometimes, just silence - Jesus and I would just be together for a while. Those were the best moments of my life as a Catholic.

Becoming a Roman Catholic took courage. It meant everything from Friday abstinence to refusing inappropriate intimacy on dates. It meant going to confession. It meant thinking seriously about my vocation, trying to discern God's will for my life. It meant learning enough to be able to explain my faith. It was something I did with my whole life. There's no way I would have done it merely for some kind of abstract idea or cause. I did it because a Person made himself known to me and invited me to "come and see." But I was just beginning to get my bearings when the changes were imposed - usually without more explanation than, "it's a reform." I never doubted Jesus, but I could not believe what was going on in the Church. It was not the same Church I'd struggled into.

My soul failed...

Worse, the "watchmen" - those zealous guardians of The Spirit of Vatican Two(tm)(r) - beat me and wounded my spirit by declaring the traditions I loved, and which had brought me into the Church in the first place, to be wrong, and calling me disobedient to want them. They took my cloak from me - my Roman Catholic identity. They forbade me to kneel to greet my Lord. They spent vast sums to tear up the churches so I would never be at risk of thinking about God and the saints instead of Fully Participating. Confessionals became quasi-therapy stations, where you sat in a chair to talk to the priest, instead of confessing to God on your knees. The liturgy was put into the changeable language of the everyday world, then subjected to the academic fad of linguistic reductionism until it was stilted and childish in vocabulary and tone. The priest, who ideally could be as devoted a husband and father as any other healthy man if he hadn't discerned Jesus' call to celibacy, was no longer offered the charity and respect of modest dress by women. It was decided that for a layperson to touch the consecrated Host wasn't sacrilegious, after all. And, all along the way, the cantor brayed into the microphone and energetically waved us through songs which would be acutely embarrassing to offer to Jesus, if he was really there.

If he was really there.

Remember the "informed conscience," the concept generally (ab)used to get around difficult teachings about the use of sex? I claimed it for myself for a different reason. I concluded that my faith was in peril whenever I went to any O.F. Mass, especially in the Los Angeles archdiocese. I shook the dust from my feet and haven't been back. I will not be bullied any more.

And then came Benedict.

Summorum Pontificum floored me. It is a clearly worded instruction, to those deluded "guardians of the ramparts," to stand down. If I return to the Church, it will be because of that letter, as well as Pope Benedict's gentle, reasonable invitations, his intellectual prowess, and his firm leadership. (I accuse Fr. Z of conspiring with him in this. When he posts the texts of the talks and interweaves his emphases and commentary, I read them because I don't want to miss any of his bon mots.)

In one of the Song's allegorical interpretations, I can hear the Church, Christ's bride, saying to her Lord as a result of Pope Benedict's leadership:
The most exquisite fruits are at our doors;
the new as well as the old,
I have stored them for you, my love.

10 July 2008

Whom to blame for the credit crisis

Ben Bernanke.

Forbes Magazine called it, 'way back when Bernanke decided to stop the madness of speculation in real estate.

He could have eased back ... slowly ... and let people wake up gently.

One can only speculate that he was new in his job, and wanted people to know he was boss. So, he slammed on the brakes.

We are paying the consequences.

The abrupt rise in interest rates squeezed homeowners who had gotten in way over their heads, with risky mortgages with inflexible balloon payments.

They quit buying. Businesses started feeling the pinch.

Add in gas prices, and there you have it: a mess.

Bernanke evidently didn't figure in the logic of markets.

Had he been more moderate in the controls he imposed, the gas price hikes would have taken care of the problem for him, restricting people's spending and helping them wake up to financial reality.

That said, it's not fair to make Bernanke our Dad when it comes to money.

Too many of us overspent. Too many of us didn't factor in The Future, with its unknowns. We bought on credit, got into upside-down mortgages, and refused to save money.

We were greedy.

We didn't trust God to provide our needs and legitimate wants within our incomes.

We declared it was our "right" to have new shoes, a vacation, a facelift, a new book, or a car.

I'm hurting, too. I have some debts that make me think I'll be 70 before they're paid off.

However, I'm OK for right now. God has provided me what I need, and SO much of what I truly want: Himself, and heart's ease in family and friends.

I was already in tight-budget mode before this began. In fact, I had the opportunity to sell my house, without fixing it up, for an astronomical sum of money, five years ago. I passed on the chance. It would have meant moving someplace which cost an equally astronomical sum, and I didn't want to leave California. And my house is a blessing in disguise: it's terribly shabby, but it's in a lovely spot. I enjoy privacy, safety, and quiet - all of which are extremely important to me right now.

So God has provided. I'm learning to trust Him more and more.

Maybe this current crisis will be an opportunity for others to do the same... to abandon themselves to His love, and quit worrying about clothes and food and, most particularly, status.

The only status that matters is where we stand before Him ... or, rather, kneel.

God cannot give to those whose hands and minds are hearts are full of themselves and their "accomplishments."

It is hard to empty oneself, let go, let God. I know. It is a daily, sometimes hourly, discipline.

But I can tell you this: it's a LOT easier to do it voluntarily than to wait for Him to pry away the pretty things for your own good. Because, sometimes, He cannot do it gently, because we will not take the point otherwise.

He is there to help through the hurt... but He'd so much rather you never got hurt at all! By trying to care for yourself without reference to, and guidance from, Him, however, you are setting yourself up for pain.

Lots of lessons to learn, for all of us, these days. May God grant we will be humble, teachable, and open to His leadings.

01 July 2008

Still here

... just busy with work, family and friends.

Wait: read that again... especially the last part.

"Family and friends".

Something new for me.

Part of finding pasture, I guess.

For most of my life, two things always either made me scoff, or at least feel puzzled:

- if their house was threatened, people would grab their photo albums; and
- people would say, "I want to be with my family."

Neither of those ever made any sense to me.

Oh, I have plenty of photo albums ... don't get me wrong ... but none from my 20-year marriage. It never occurred to me.

Even while I was in it, I didn't want to remember. In fact, the only way I could remain was to put it out of my mind. Daily, hourly, by the year.

And family ... for so many years, that meant "purgatory." The emotional torture might end someday, but, in the meantime ...

God has given me a new life. I'm starting to cherish photographs. And family - what's left of mine, and the burgeoning one I shall eventually join - is precious to me.

I'm blessed with health and the means to keep clean and sleep in private, but for a long time I was no less wandering and confused than any one sees on the streets, tugging along their cart of worldly possessions. My hunger, desolation and notions were just as keen, if of a different kind.

Who's to say that God cannot rescue anyone who will allow Him access to their heart, mind and soul?

And who's to say that God isn't working on the most confused person you know?

Be God to them, to the degree you can and still be safe. Be consistently loving, cheerful, and kind. And pray. He is there, in the darkest, most bewildering life. He never forgets His own. He never lets them go, so long as they recognize Him in any form.

13 May 2008

Calumny in the blogosphere

Via the blog at Ignatius.com, found this link to an article by Reverend Michael P. Orsi reviewing the sin of calumny and noting the rise of the unfortunate practice in the blogosphere.

Father is right: our eternal felicity depends on our treatment of our fellows, no matter where we find them.

But I find myself feeling angry when I know that there are mature, normally intelligent young persons and adults in the pews who do not know what calumny is. They cannot even spell it - in any language. They have no clue.

Father's excellent list of recommendations begins with:

"Pastors should speak on the Eighth Commandment and its corollary injunctions against calumny and detraction."

OK, so we're done then.

Father is probably a good homilist. I note he is not in the diocese from which I write. I trust it is not a sin to note that there are lots of homilies delivered in this diocese which are worse than mere blather. And let's not even get into what passes for "catechesis."

It is a kind of abuse in its own way, and perpetrated with unflagging zeal. And the sheep are so ignorant that they don't even know they're being starved.

However, the Holy Father is a good shepherd. He is a good teacher, a wise man, a servant of God... he is our miracle in this generation. Some bishops will obviously need a lot of help just to implement a very simple directive. And remember, there are those who earnestly believe that people cannot understand words like "consubstantiation," or anything in Latin. It would not be surprising if those gentlemen also balked at using a word like "calumny" in a teaching context.

But, as Father Z. so wisely says, brick by brick.

Father Orsi is concerned for the souls of calumniators. May his article be read and understood by those who will benefit from it. Let us pray for all who are guilty or tempted by this terrible sin. But let us also pray for the souls of those who accepted the responsibility of being a shepherd to souls, then abdicated it for the sake of popularity, worldly acceptance, or tithes.

11 May 2008

More on the subject

... of love and the not-love promulgated by The Liar's minions:

the Curmudgeon says it very well
Kay S. Hymowitz explains what happened in "Sex and Its Discontents"
Obi's Sister does a good wrap-up in "The Hook-up Generation"

"Casual, careless, lighthearted and fun"

As a definition of what's up with young people today ... I'm not seeing it, myself. Young people are so confused. Now, there's no news in that: young people are young, inexperienced, impulsive and at the mercy of hormones. Of course they're confused!

The difference is, these days, young people in a certain demographic haven't got any guidance, beyond "use a condom." The very things they ought to be thinking about, really seriously, they are steered firmly away from.

The Anchoress has a thought-provoking post about the young these days and their issues with relationships. Via another blogger, Fausta, she finds this article, which ends,
I tried to remember that no one is my property and neither am I theirs, and so I should just enjoy the time we spend together, because in the end it’s our collected experiences that add up to a rich and fulfilling life. I tried to tell myself that I’m young, that this is the time to be casual, careless, lighthearted and fun; don’t ruin it.
Contrast that with Sigmund, Carl and Alfred's stance:
Sexuality does indeed exist for the purpose of creating life, but that is not the only purpose of our sexual natures. In reality, it is with a spiritual context that the healthiest of sexual expressions and families are anchored. A family wherein spirituality and sexuality are found are families that are the most evolved and most progressive. Within those families are humans with higher ideals and higher aspirations. They are families in which the higher self is expressed.
I wish that could be said a bit differently, however; I can just see the sneer, imagine the eyes rolling ... it's a bit pedantic, no?

Nevertheless: it's right.

The lie is that sex is all there is, that we're just biology, any feelings of affection we might have are accidental and could evaporate tomorrow. If you look at it that way, your life will indeed be lonely and longing, and there will be nothing progressive about it.

The truth is, humans have a distinctly spiritual aspect to their personalities, which is perceptible through being embraced, vehemently denied, via life wreckage if it's ignored, or joy-full life if it's honored and encouraged.

If one starts with love, learns love, commits to love, and finds one's vocation in family love, sex will happen, but it will be secondary, believe it or not. Furthermore, affection, without which sex is reduced to mere physicality, permeates life, and nourishes the soul and emotions even when sex is impossible.

That is what kids need to know: the goal is not sex. The goal is love and affection, a sense of knowing what one is about, and a right outlet for responsibility and protective impulses.

The college student who wrote this essay needs to use the critical thinking and reasoning skills one hopes to learn at the college level to figure out what might work better for her. She is clearly missing out on beauty and joy in love, if she only knew how to make herself available to it. Clue No. 1: it will not be found by watching Sex and the City...

05 May 2008

The beneficence of Benedict

His influence is remarkable. He is bridging the gap between the factions in the Church brought about over the last 40 years.

Fr. Z's wide-ranging blog highlights two examples.

First, the Transalpine Redemptorists are clearly mellowing in light of Summorum Pontificum. I recommend you follow the link to read the posting, which includes Fr. Z's comments and emphases. However, I find my self in strong agreement with a couple of passages:
These forty years of crisis, the empty convents, the abandoned presbyteries, the empty churches and the sad state of Catholic education has finally awakened the realisation at the highest level of the Church that we are in a period of crisis. This realisation has produced a visible change in the will of Rome: no longer are the orientations of the 1960’s and 70’s to be imposed with the uncaring absolutism of "that period with all its hopes and its confusion." Rome is ready to admit that "omissions on the part of the Church have had their share of the blame…"
I have said before on this blog that whatever requires harsh treatment of people who, with good will, want to engage in reverent, joyful worship is wrong.
Also, there is the visibility of the Church that urges us. During these long years of crisis our position – we feel – has not harmed the visibility of the Church because there were visible problems to account for the apparent visible break in unity. We in tradition were the object of visible injustice and of visible abuses of power. But now that the successor of Peter has diplomatically apologised and has extended his hands to us, welcoming us simply as we are, what further visible justification will we find to refuse communion with him?
There are those who vehemently oppose traditionalists who maintained the traditional Mass and recognisably Catholic way of life in the face of the harshly imposed reforms, saying that they were schismatic and scandalous, etc.

Have you seen this bumper sticker?
If you can read this, thank a teacher.
If you can read it in English, thank a vet.
Well, if you can attend a Latin Mass - in either form - thank a traditionalist! Because there were those who were determined to eradicate everything that was pre-Vatican II - especially the use of Latin in the liturgy.

But the miracle that is Benedict appears to be mellowing some of those folks, too. Fr. Z posted Archbishop Mahony's reflection, which closes with, "I return to Los Angeles a different disciple of Jesus than when I left a week ago. Thank you, Lord, for sending us not only the Vicar of Christ and the Successor of Peter, but also a brother and friend who knows Jesus personally and gave us six extraordinary days of grace and hope!"

As for the wandering sheep... my story is perhaps typical. My conversion was to the pre-Vatican II church, but I was baptized in 1971, so my experience was disorienting and baffling from the first. By 1980 it was pretty clear I was simply out of luck. As the Church's discipline fell apart, so did that at home. It got so that going to Mass was an occasion of sin for me... and, on at least one occasion, when I tried to confess it, the priest showed open contempt for my need for some kind of structure in liturgy and a sense that the bishops and clergy had some level of respect for Rome ... even if they'd just pretended. I finally just packed it in. The bishops and priests didn't have a monopoly on viewing people's preferences with contempt; I could do the same, and I did. I trusted my soul to Christ and let Him lead me to other pastures, keeping me fed and alive and near to Himself while I traversed the valley of the shadow of death in my personal life.

During that time of great loneliness and confusion, I married. It would not be right to say I even attempted marriage, as the Catholic Church puts it. It was a superficially Christian act on my part, mere legal formality on my husband's. God protected me through the 20 some-odd miserable years that followed. I was maintained chiefly by pride. When I surrendered that, and was willing to relinquish my disordered concepts of myself and God, He was able to intervene.

Miraculously, as He restored my personal life, He restored the Church as well, providing for the election of Joseph Ratzinger and the declaration which, as the Transalpine Redemptorist letter puts it, "...makes possible the return of the entire mindset and life associated with the traditional Mass."

When I came into the Catholic faith, my guide was a Manual of Prayers from the 1920s. That book was beautifully printed and illustrated, and contained a wealth of information and inspiration. One needs to remember how vehemently such books were denounced in the years after Vatican II, and how any attraction one might have to the "mindset and life" so clearly set out was characterised as just this side of sinful, to understand the bewilderment and sorrow felt by those for whom the Church was The Guide to Life. It wasn't just liturgy, although that was certainly a major part of it... it was the laissez-faire attitude towards marriage and political belief; the relaxation of discipline in priestly life, and such seemingly laudable changes as that to the Friday abstinence. The message was clear: "we don't care, so long as you come to church and give us money."

In fact, it was exactly what the reformers accused the pre-Vatican II church of. And they were wrong. (The Monsignor at my church stayed outside after the beginning of Mass and greeted the latecomers, and those who expected to be praised for showing up at all were in for a disappointment! But there was nothing of contempt in his manner! He was obviously concerned for one's soul, and that due reverence be shown to God. I felt chastened when he did it to me - he was right to do so. When Bishop Tod Brown scolded the communicant who had the temerity to kneel to receive, and made her stand: that was contempt, and I felt the same towards his degrading actions, as well.)

My dear one is like me: could not reconcile what led him to the Church with what was taught and modeled "at the local level," so to speak. I think he might one day be open to reconsidering, as would I... but we would both need to submit our previous attempted marriages to the tribunal before we can be fully reconciled with the Church. It may be too late for us... but I trust Christ. It would be only a little miracle, compared to the big ones He's provided of late!

In the meantime, I watch from the sidelines and rejoice for those who can now experience the liturgy the way it was. They are fortunate to have the choice. Those who want feathers and guitars are welcome to them, if that floats their liturgical boat. But those innovations sink mine. I need to love God and worship only Him. If I know and love God, then I can properly respect and love my neighbour. Loving my neighbour will not lead me to love God. It just doesn't work that way! And Benedict knows that and, superb teacher and thinker that he is, he helps us all understand it, wherever we are in the journey. Saint or sinner, traditionalist or reformer, we all can perceive him as being God's servant first of all, and our leader as a natural consequence of his calling. People remark upon his humility; it is precisely because he gets out of God's way that so much can happen on his watch - and is, and has, and, if God graciously permits, will continue to do so, for many years to come.

It always happens

Just when I think I'm Done with a part of my life ... something happens to reawaken me to what I'm trying to ignore or move on from.

It happened last week, during the Sierra Madre wildfire. At work, nervously checking the Internet now and then for updates, I saw that the mandatory evacuations had been extended ... to within two blocks of my house!

I left work a bit early. As I drove home, trusting God to do His will in this, I found myself appealing in my heart to Mary, my mother. When I'm in trouble and need help, I always turn instinctively to Jesus' mother, as well as to God.

She needs to be part of the pasture I will call home.

10 April 2008

Gone grazing

I've started a new blog to reflect the new world I'm entering. In it, over time, I hope to convey a sense of the wonderful blessings unfolding in my life right now.

For you who read this blog: thank you. Your attention has helped me more than you'll ever know (yes, yours)... unless I'm able to convey it adequately in my new place of pasture.

Blessings and best wishes. I hope your pasture is peaceful, full of tall, deep green grass, protected from all evil, and full of fun!


A. Noël

25 March 2008

Newsweek interview about "the God particle"

I don't have the time to fisk this, and I know that others will do it far better, but, here's someone to lavish Easter prayers on.

Steven Weinberg, the scientist of the interview, was running along nicely until this one sticky spot, where he said:
We don't see any purpose dictated to human beings in nature. Human life does have a purpose, but it is a purpose that we invent for ourselves. It takes a certain act of courage to look at nature, not see any plan for human beings in there and yet go on and live good lives, love each other, create beautiful things, explore the universe. All these take more courage without having some divine plan that we discover, but one that we rather create for ourselves.
At which point, Ana Elena Azpurua of Newsweek asked:
Do you think most people have that kind of courage?
And he answered:
I don't know. People have to have a lot of courage just to get on with their lives. And if there is no … Well, I don't know the answer to that question.
Well, there you have it. At this point, I would ask the gentleman if he thought it took courage to do the things which are related in the Bible - Esther with Holofernes, for example, or the epic battles against incredible odds, or - as remembered last week - to willingly undergo crucifixion.

Those episodes fall outside of the bland "live good lives, love each other, create beautiful things, explore the universe" type of thing, don't you think?

And yet many of us take up a cross every day in some way, and do it with courage not our own. Perhaps Dr. Weinberg hasn't had the kind of experience which would drive him into the arms of God. He might at least allow himself to postulate that God exists, so as to be ready ... just in case.

You can examine the brain with a microscope, and not find the mind. You can study the universe all your life, and not find God.*

On a separate note, I admire Ana Elena Azpurua's interview skills. She elicited a clear statement from the scientist, treated him fairly, and didn't pounce on his "I don't know."

Because which of us does know, really?

* I cannot locate the name of the author of this quote at the moment ... will update with it when I find it.

Speaking of the Bettinelli family

...as I was in my last post - blessings and best wishes to them on the arrival of dear Sophia! I've linked to their Easter photo, below.

11 February 2008

The short years

On Melanie Bettinelli's blog, the Wine-Dark Sea, she mentioned a link to a short movie which Dom had sent her.

Definitely worth watching.

An unexpected source of self-discipline during Lent

Verizon's "customer service."

My phone line has always been problematic. It always goes out in rainy weather. The weather has cleared now, but no one can hear me when I speak on the phone, and there's the ever-present static.

So I can't report the problem using my own phone.

If you've ever tried to report an issue via the incredibly cluttered Verizon website, you know what I'm going through.

And I have time to work on this today, because I'm home sick.


Tell me again why deregulating the phone industry was a good thing ... ???

More on John McCain

What Bill Bennett says.

(found at Recta Ratio)

05 February 2008

Who's gonna win?

Karen Hall lays it out well, and I'm not going to try to improve on it, rushed as I am at the moment. She says that conservatives will be able to rally behind John McCain, because:
(1) He's pro-life.
(2) He's a war hero.
(3) He can win.

Many will narrow it down to #3.
Indeed. And not only against his contenders in the election.

For me, it comes down to, what will the world think of whomever we elect? We can natter about family values and the sanctity of marriage all we want, but we need peace and prosperity at home to accomplish anything of worth, whether at home or abroad.

Those who decry the war might do well to remember that, after the Towers were bombed, it ended for us in our country. Some would say it was because of our exemplary TSA folks, etc. Perhaps. I'd like to think it was also because our media gleefully painted George W. Bush as a reckless, mindless, heartless cowboy - and there were those who - while perhaps not sure about that - were inclined not to test the theory, if you know what I mean.

(Instead, head on over to the Anchoress if you want to hear how it's really going ... the incredible gains the Iraqis are making towards independence, with our help.)

Barack Obama doesn't seem to have the, er, inner strength. It's one thing to get everybody yelling for "change", but can he lead this country if it is under attack? I don't know, and I don't want someone to learn on the job at a time like that. I think Hillary, on the other hand, could inadvertently start a war, by lecturing some intemperate world leader with that second-grade-teacher-ish voice of hers.

McCain isn't perfect. However, I believe he knows the true purpose of government, which is to defend the country so that we can live in peace and get on with our business, literally, which is what supports the world economy. The world leaders all know this. And anyone who stops to remember will know that, while he doesn't make a big deal about it, John McCain proved he has grit, determination, courage, and the kind of leadership ability that will see him through the worst of circumstances.

He also has the kind of resources and relationships needed to assemble a good working Cabinet, not just sycophantic hangers-on.

I'm glad he's still in the race. He has my vote.

02 February 2008

This article makes me sad, too

"Even great sex can end in post-coital blues."
Q: I’m male, 33, and wonder why the majority of times after sex with a chick I feel depressed. It could be the greatest sex ever, but afterwards I'm depressed and can’t wait to get away from her. As soon as I’m back in my car and on the road I feel better. Any insights?
Brian Alexander, the column's author, replies with some quotes from literature, then serves up the obligatory scientific reason:
There may actually be a scientific reason why this happens, though I like the poetry better. It involves the hormone prolactin...
But ... but ...

What if the emotions are real? Some (I suspect many) men are suffering from a couple of issues: 1.) their emotions are separate from their selves, and entirely ignored unless they cause a problem - in which case, the man just wants to fix it, like a broken alternator, and just move on; and/or 2.) men are persuaded at every turn that sex is good and necessary, and it has nothing to do with love, permanence, etc.

But inside, we know the difference.

Men talk a good game, but I suspect that most want a loving home, too. This man is engaging in behaviour which the wisdom of ages says is best reserved for husbands and wives in the context of home life. When he doesn't have that, his body may be satisfied, but his soul cries out in loneliness and grief.

In fairness, Brian alludes to this by writing, "We communicate other things with sex, too, like satisfaction, bonding and commitment. If we aren’t emotionally invested and ready to communicate those, however, repenting in the car might seem like a great idea."

He does, of course, stop short of the obvious: "If we aren't emotionally invested and ready to communicate those with someone to whom we've committed ourselves in marriage, then we shouldn't write checks with the body that the soul can't cash," or something like that.

And he does point up gently the questioner's apparent immaturity: "By the way, if you try explaining any of this to a lover who asks what’s the rush, you might want to avoid calling her a 'chick.' Just a thought."

Great sex isn't just what happens in bed. Great sex is talking and paying the bills together and reluctantly making time to visit the folks and walking the dog at oh-dark-thirty when the mate wants to sleep. It's getting up in the morning and resolutely going to work, whether that's to an office, a construction site, or the kitchen. It's looking into the eyes of your child in one of those moments when it hits you just who that child is, and how he or she came to be. Mere sex alone is nothing compared to that, and going through the motions just to have physical closeness and nothing more is sad.

Maybe the man will figure that out one day. Maybe it's the Spirit, working on his soul. Let us pray for him to know what's really best for him and for the women he is now merely using.

20 January 2008

Attachment marriage

Just got done having a look at Danielle Bean's blog. I gather from it and from a quick drop-in at Heart, Mind & Strength (God, please support Pam Pilcher and her family) that there was a bit of a (courteous) dust-up about Attachment Parenting, or AP.

There is a corollary to that which I think is important: the willingness to be affectionate in marriage. We all know those married folks who show up together at a party or some gathering, and either split up immediately, only to reunite for the drive home, or who stay by each other the whole time, never touching each other.

I sometimes wonder if it's a sad side effect of the attitude that affection in marriage is simply about sex, and nothing else. (For a good discussion of this, see this article.)

To insist on interpreting physical closeness as a prelude to sex is a serious misunderstanding, and very dangerous to marriage. People need to be cuddled. It's such a strong need that they'll become very vulnerable to anyone who's willing to listen to them and touch them in a reassuring way. There is nothing quite so discouraging as to offer friendly, non-sexual touch and have one's hand removed ... however kindly it is done.

And now, a word from the grammar lady

When you have the frame of an idea - the skeleton, so to speak - and you want to fill in the blanks and make it whole - put meat on it, in other words - you want to flesh it out.

Not flush it out.

Thank you. You may go back to what you were doing.

A priest to pray for

A post on The New Liturgical Movement today highlighted an article Dr. Jeff Mirus of Catholic Culture wrote in which he discusses The Other Health Crisis: Why Priests are Coping Poorly by Fr. Paul Stanosz in Commonweal.

Dr. Mirus' article absorbed me. As he points out, "this article unintentionally demonstrates an extremely important spiritual point."

It is important to read both articles in their entirety. However, a flavor of Fr. Stanosz' conclusions may be seen in these sentences, which appear towards the end of his article:
For me personally, acknowledging that the church and priesthood are in decline will lower my expectations of my bishops, brother priests, and my parishioners ... I’ll learn to say “no” when diocesan officials ask me to take a third, fourth, or fifth parish. I’m not advocating apathy in the face of decline; I’m merely recognizing that the decline began before me and will continue after me. Even Pope John Paul II, with all his vision, courage, and tenacity, was unable to return the masses to the church. The new evangelization he called for remains to be undertaken.

And so I anticipate ministering to a shrinking Catholic flock as I grow old. This does not mean that the work and mission of the presbyterate will be increasingly irrelevant. On the contrary, it will be all the more pressing and challenging. Embracing this reality decreases my anxiety, sharpens my vision, makes my expectations more realistic, and makes my spirit less likely to burn out; it leads me to care for my health, so that I will be able to care for those entrusted to me. To restore health to our pastoral function, we priests first need to admit our own pain and disorientation in a foundering church.
In his words, one can sense Fr. Stanosz' tired resignation. My heart grieves for this priest, and for all who feel as he does.

Read Dr. Mirus' article to see what he thinks. For my part, I was struck by the solutions Fr. Stanosz recommends: "embracing" the reality of a foundering American church, and taking care of his health.

At only one point does Fr. Stanosz mention his boss (not the archbishop; Jesus). And it is in a remarkable paragraph.
An aging presbyterate should not exhaust itself in implementing new programs that are at best only Band-Aids. Instead, we must acknowledge the magnitude and the complexity of the forces that lie behind American Catholicism’s loss of vigor, and stop blaming Vatican II or the bumbling bishops who shielded pedophiles and failed to protect children. We should avoid blithely scapegoating “the culture of death” and the evil of the secular world. After all, there are currents of sin and grace in both the church and the world. An eagerness to blame “the world” may keep us from seeing our own failure to embody the compassion and virtue of Jesus Christ.
Dr. Mirus discusses the many problems and implications of the passage, and I (again) recommend reading his article. What struck me about it was Fr. Stanosz ends by saying, in essence, that we should embody the compassion and virtue of Jesus.

I think, for me, that is the key.

While it could be argued that one might embody the compassion and virtue of Jesus, there is only one way that is going to happen ... and that way is not mentioned anywhere in the article.

Mother Teresa was renowned for an extraordinary, relentless, heroic charity. Her order is full of those who regularly rescue dying persons and tend to their loathsome physical conditions and, in truth, embody the compassion and virtue of Jesus.

However, they do not try to rev themselves up for this exclusively by sitting around and singing songs about how wonderful it is to be with Jesus.

They kneel on the floor, and they pray and meditate on Jesus. Then they go out with their hearts and minds and thoughts attuned to Him, so that they readily recognize Him in His most needy ones.

Analyzing her deeds and achievements, John Paul II asked: "Where did Mother Teresa find the strength and perseverance to place herself completely at the service of others? She found it in prayer and in the silent contemplation of Jesus Christ, his Holy Face, his Sacred Heart."

In his first encyclical Deus Caritas Est, Benedict XVI mentioned Teresa of Calcutta three times and he also used her life to clarify one of his main points of the encyclical. "In the example of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta we have a clear illustration of the fact that time devoted to God in prayer not only does not detract from effective and loving service to our neighbour but is in fact the inexhaustible source of that service." Mother Teresa specified that "It is only by mental prayer and spiritual reading that we can cultivate the gift of prayer."
From Wikipedia

Fr. Stanosz refers to "... high stress, poor health, and low morale. More and more [priests] are battling burnout and depression as well as suffering heart attacks and dying prematurely..." Yet we know that health benefits, such as lower blood pressure, increased longevity, and reduced risk for depression, may occur in people who regularly practice their spiritual faith or who are part of a religious community. Fr. Stanosz rejects "disciplines and devotional practices that flourished in the middle of the last century," identifying them with unsuitable candidates to the priesthood. He does not mention the prayer habits and lifestyles of those priests who are suffering. However, Carlo Carretto wrote: "I do not believe in theologians who do not pray... When there is a crisis in the Church, it is always here: a crisis of contemplation."

While perhaps not to Fr. Stanosz' taste, there is a worldwide initiative to help priests through Eucharistic Adoration which has been launched by no less than the Congregation for the Clergy in Rome.
Women were also mentioned as important members of this new initiative. “The vocation to be a spiritual mother to priests is not well known, poorly understood and therefore not commonly practiced, despite its vital importance. Regardless of age, all women can be spiritual mothers to a priest”, the congregation noted. Women are also encouraged to pray anonymously for a specific priest and to spiritual accompany him.
My patron saint - one Fr. Stanosz likely does not "cotton to" - was committed to interceding for priests.

Dr. Mirus gave a balanced, clear analysis of Fr. Stanosz' article. I think there are some of us who can clearly see what Fr. Stanosz perhaps cannot, in his exhausted and dispirited state. Let us pray for him.