Tuesday, April 17, 2012

My Favorite of the Seven Deadly Sins

I am basically, like, the worst Catholic ever. I know, I know, this coming on a day when someone tweeted that I was not only faithful but also orthodox. Which I of course had to clarify that they were talking about me. But really, I am really bad at this Catholic stuff.

I learned a hard lesson the Saturday before Easter. I was in Confession (I know, I waited till the last minute, but I had tried to go to other parishes (because I am scared of confessing to my own priests) and the lines were so long they started to turn people away), and I learned the truth behind “never go to a Polish priest for confession.” (Do people say that? I think someone told me that.) This is because they are blunt. Really blunt. Like, so blunt that, even though you are telling them your sins which you already know are sins, they manage to make you feel like you sinned somehow worse than you did. But I should take my own advice and remember that sin is sin. And also, it’s kind of like when you have really bad acne and you put super harsh chemicals on it and it burns like hell. You know the acne is going away even though you feel like your skin is going to burn off. So, basically confession to a Polish priest = straight vodka on acne. I highly recommend both, for the record.

So, what is it that I am so bad at, you may ask? Forgiveness. Basically the most fundamental and base thing Jesus asks us as Christians. I used to think that being able to hold a grudge was some sort of badge of honor. Some kind of time-honored tradition that came with my Southern roots (I still hate carpet baggers, by the way. And I’m not entirely sure what a carpet-bagger is.) Then I thought maybe it was just a personality flaw, but a minor bad habit like interrupting people. It was annoying and maybe not very nice in high society, but no need to really get worried about it, right? But the closer I got to my faith, the more I started to realize that this sin was a nice little ball of lots of other sins, many of which were part of the 7 deadly ones. The problem was, with my unforgiveness, I felt justified. I could be mad at my father for walking out when I was 2 and never calling again, except randomly texting me to tell me that he loved me. That was allowed and no one could tell me that I should forgive him. What did they know anyway? And I could definitely not forgive the person who acted as my father for being mad about something that he never told me about and then leaving the country and not telling me about that either. Because, really, that is permissible. And I could be mad at my former best friend for hurting me deeply over 10 years ago and never apologizing. I could hold a grudge against my mother-in-law for saying something really hurtful and inappropriate the week before my wedding. Every hurt I ever had was easily justified in my head and the more I justified it to myself the more I nursed it. And besides, none of these people had asked me to forgive them. Heck, half of them had no idea that they had even hurt me. And I certainly wasn’t going to bring it up because why rock the boat. It’s probably all in my head and I am aware that I ruminate, so why bother talking it out? And it spiraled from there.

What this all comes down to is pride. I am prideful when I hold a grudge because I think it’s all about me. I am presumptuous that I know others’ intentions. I allow myself to believe that they are trying to hurt me because I am prideful that people should, essentially, want to hurt me. I have to be aware that all of us sin, every single one of us, including (and probably especially) me. I have to practice the virtue of humility, one of the virtues that are so, so hard for me. Because for so much of my life, humility just wasn’t required. By not acknowledging that God has a plan for me, I fail to see these people who hurt me as a way to be better. As a way to practice my humility, to better myself, to ask myself “what is God trying to teach me here.” Jesus tells us to ask the Father “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” So that’s that. If I can’t forgive people who have hurt me, how can I expect God to forgive me? I need to remember that as a Catholic, I can follow all the rules, but if I am not an example of God’s love, no one will want to follow those rules anyway. And if I can’t help lead people to God, what is the point?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Only the Lonely

When I was away from the Church and not practicing any kind of religion, one of the things that I loved to pontificate on was the fact that so many Christians were holding themselves to the standard set by Jesus. I scoffed that it was impossible, and that Christians should focus on the actuality that Jesus was human and not just God. While I recognized that it was an ideal to strive for, I saw it as just an ideal. As I have come back to the Church, it’s still something that I struggle with in a way. In fact, Jesus is something I struggle with. Okay, I know that sounds weird, and it could be that I have a weird association with Him. I think of Him in a few ways: the goofy high-school counselor who just wants to hug it out; the hippy-dippy goody two-shoes always telling us to love one another; the source of all those obnoxious televangelists who apparently is waiting for me somewhere in the ether, promising me health and happiness and anything my heart desires as long as I donate now. I never had these problems with God, and certainly not with Mary or any single Saint (well, St. Therese a little bit.) Don’t get me wrong, I never questioned the reality of Jesus or what He did, but more the idea of him. I think it’s Jesus’ dual nature that gives me the hang-up. Sure, it’s easy to be a nice person and turn the other cheek when you’re also God and perfected in nature. As mush as I didn’t like people focusing on just His divine nature, I had the hardest time thinking of Him as being human in any way. And so, I just sort of distanced myself from thinking about Him at all.

Lately, though, I have found myself really focusing on a couple of things about Jesus.
I always find myself feeling really bad for Jesus during the Agony of the Garden. It’s so sad to think that He asked His friends to stay awake with Him and they couldn’t even do it. Granted, they probably had no idea what was about to happen, but He did. He needed support and not one person could give that to Him. How many times have you spent a sleepless night, worrying about something you knew was going to happen? And that something is never, ever a brutal death by execution. I think the thing that gets me here is that Jesus shows Himself as a flawed human, even if just for a moment. He actually asks God the Father to take the fate away from Him, if it’s possible. Jesus knew that He was the Son of God. He knew that He was not going to die, and that many of the people who doubted Him would believe. But He was still scared. It seems to me that at that moment, Jesus had a hard time trusting that His Father would provide, would protect. This seems more poignant at Lent, knowing that Jesus was about to go out and die for me, someone who wanted to ignore him.
totally inappropriate- yet somehow fitting

This passage is where the Catholic notion of a holy hour comes from. We are asked to spend at least an hour with the Blessed Sacrament—Jesus. I heard something on the radio not too long ago from Fr. Antoine Thomas who teaches children to go to adoration. He told a little girl who was about to make her first Communion that she should spend time in adoration. He said that she should ask her parents to take her because Jesus was lonely. Again, a human emotion for someone who I previously wanted to think of as human, but just couldn’t. It hit me all of a sudden though, when I heard it. I thought about the state of the Faith across the country. I thought about how our Cathedral in Denver was three quarters empty on a Sunday and I later found out there were only 600 registered families. It struck me that Jesus really is lonely. He knew what He did, we know what He did and yet, so many of us can’t be bothered to stay with him for an hour once a week. I became so grateful at that moment for the gift of faith that I have been given, even if I fight it sometimes and can’t always wrap my mind around it. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Serenity Prayer for the New Evangelization

I sincerely hope that the Good Lord accepts my Facebook debating as Authentic Christian Witness. Sometimes, I just can't help myself, and I believe this to be one of my greatest weaknesses.
I find myself at least once a day wishing I had some kind of BadCatholic come-back generator (or just Marc Barnes whispering in my ear Cyrano-style) when I (inevitably) end up in these stupid social media throwdowns. Is this what BXIV meant when he called us to use the internet as our platform for spreading the gospel? When all manners are out the window (by the other party) and the gloves come off, I find it hard to keep my cool. In fact, this morning when I was called a religious extremist for the second time in 12 hours (before 9 am, mind you), I had to honestly stop myself from putting an end to the debate with this nugget: "well, I may be a religious extremist, but you're a putz. *drops mic*." But, somehow cooler heads prevailed, and I managed to just not retort.

So... I went ahead and wrote myself a little serenity prayer for this exact situation. Use as needed and call the BVM in the morning.

Lord, grant me the tenacity to defend the things I know
The wisdom to know the things I defend
And the patience to not call others names when I get branded a “religious extremist.”

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sex, Style and Substance

I just finished reading Sex, Style and Substance: 10 Catholic Women Consider the Things that Really Matter edited by Hallie Lord (aka Betty Beguiles). And man, was it great! It was sold out everywhere, but it was still available as a Nook Book so I loaded up my little Nook (thank you gift card I got for Christmas) and went at it. It features chapters written by 10 different women on all aspects of Catholic life: from modesty and style to marriage to the single life to the media we consume. I tried to read only one chapter a day/night and really try to do the reflection questions at the end, so I could get something out of it. I found it really inspirational to read insights from all these wonderful Catholic women (many of whom have blogs that I enjoy), especially now when I feel like the Catholic Woman is under attack. I particularly enjoyed the chapter God and Godiva by Karen Edmisten. Here is an excerpt:
"Who is this contemporary Catholic woman of whom we speak? Let's take a quick inventory, shall we?

We work in the home and in the public square. We go to Mass every single Sunday (sometimes more), eat bread that we call God and sip wine we call Blood. We care about what that anciently-robed guy in Rome says, and we spill our sins to another human being. We mate for life. We shun artificial birth control. Let's face it-- we're, umm, different. We're proudly pope-loving, sterilization-eschewing, Eucharist-adoring, confession-going, twenty-first-century Catholic specimens of femininity who buck societal norms and balk at contemporary expectations. Yeah, we're the face of the new rebellion.
Scary, aren't we?"
I definitely couldn't have said it better myself.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Sound of Silence

Sorry for the "dead air" lately. I have been wanting to post something positive and uplifting and I am finding that hard to do when I seem to get myself worked up almost daily on something I see or hear on the news. I want to add my voice to these things, but I am tired of fighting in some ways. So I am considering this stuff my penance for Lent and I am hoping that I am passing on the Truth to my Adult Confirmation class so that we can have more Church Militant to fight the good fight.

I just don't want to be that person who wages Facebook flame wars with the Liberal Ladies Who Lunch. Correction: I WANT to be that person, but I don't have the heart at the moment.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

On Sin, Statistics and Catholicism

Okay you guys, if I hear one more time that 98% of all women who identify themselves as Catholic (except when some of those women were baptized Catholic and are now actually Unitarian) use contraceptives, I think I am going to scream. Not kidding. I think I am going to go all ballistic and start pulling out my hair. And I rather like my hair so this is something I would like to avoid.

Let me just send a little message in all love and Christian charity: Sin is Sin. The consequence of sin is separation from God. Separation from God, if not corrected and continued willfully is a mortal sin. Mortal sins, if not corrected, will lead to Hell. Sorry for that, but that is the Truth. It doesn’t matter whether you particularly like a certain sin or whether you even agree that sin really exists. The truth is the truth whether you agree with it or not.

Being Catholic starts with baptism. But it doesn’t end with it. It is a journey and a constant battle, every single day. Believe me, there were times when I knew it would be easier to not be Catholic. I had that very thought the other day at the grocery store as I was passing the table of Girl Scouts selling their delicious wares (that fund Planned Parenthood). So it’s not a walk in the park and a yummy Samoa. But to me, it’s worth it in order to live my life aligned with the Truth. And I have been happier every day for it, even when I thought I was miserable in the moment (like when I had to wake up at 4am on my Hawaiian vacation to take my temperature). And being Catholic is something active. It involves things, very basic things, like going to Mass, availing yourself of the sacraments, and living the life that the Church in Her 2000 years of wisdom proscribes for us.

So here’s my main argument about that 98% statistic. If you don’t attend Mass and you don’t accept the rules that are being given to us (especially when not accepting them puts you in a state of mortal sin), then you are.not.Catholic. Even if some years back, your mother and father brought you into the Church in a beautiful little white dress and promised to raise you in the faith. Even if you attended Catholic school all your life until college and then had an “epiphany” that a “bunch of old guys in Rome have no idea what real life is like.” Even if you want to take birth control. The Church is not a democracy and your opinion doesn’t really count. You either are Catholic by actively being a Catholic or you’re not. This 98% squarely puts themselves in the “not Catholic” camp.  

I am so tired of being someone living the Catholic life to the best of my ability, and being the one ignored. Why are they measuring us by those who aren’t of us? I know this is media spin, and I know we have made strides, but really? There are plenty mass-going, NFP using self-identified Catholics and we never even pop up on the radar.

So what do we do? How do we make ourselves heard? What do we have to do to in order to prove that those of us who are actually Catholics truly live our faith and that it’s not really open to discussion?

If they can say “don’t like abortion, don’t have one,” can we all just say “don’t like Catholicism, don’t call yourself one”?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Now What Indeed.

There are so many things I could blog about. I could blog about HHS (ugh, don't even want to get started). I could blog about Nicki Minaj (why bother? She's like a somehow less talented Lady Gaga and she's dug her own gave.) I could blog about St. Valentine (because martyrdom= way cooler than pink paper hearts.)

But instead, I want to blog about a billboard I saw on my way to work today. It features a girl looking at a guy and smiling with the words "I've fallen for him. Now what?" and the address beforeplay.org. I was intrigued, so I went to the site. It's run by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Colorado Initiative to Reduce Unintended Pregnancy. And it's allllll about your choices in birth control! Yay!!! Finally, something that will tell me about birth control! Lord knows there is just not enough information out there.

One of the things that irritated me the most was this about us:
"Beforeplay.org is the hub for a Colorado statewide effort to reduce unintended pregnancy and help “normalize” conversation around sexual health and well being. About 40% of Colorado pregnancies are unintended, and the rate is even higher among young adults in their twenties. Poor knowledge about effective contraception or how to use it, jobs without health insurance, and ambivalence toward starting a family—If it happens, it happens—all contribute to this situation."

Um. What? I don't really think that "if it happens, it happens" is ambivalence. I mean, in my daily life, I call that "being open to life." But maybe I need to go to confession, I don't know. And I also don't think that a pregnancy that occurs when you have that attitude would really be "unintended" now would it? But then maybe I just have poor knowledge about contraception.

I feel unsettled by this and I think the Holy Spirit is prompting it. I mean, come on, they list FAM as "less effective" right up there with the withdrawl method. Really? Should they even list that as a method?? Because that's less of a method than a superstition. I did write them an email, but maybe we can "spam" them.

Small miracle there's not a bunch of information about how awesome abortions are.