It’s November: Get Busy!

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We are entering into the month of November which, in the Catholic Church, is dedicated to the souls of those in Purgatory. We should all be busying ourselves with nonstop prayer for the souls of the faithful departed every time we pass a cemetery or have a spare moment to offer a quick prayer for them.

First, let’s be clear on what the Church teaches—there is a Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell and, depending on the state of your soul at death, you will spend eternity in one of two and, possibly some amount of time in the other. The Church’s teaching on this is explicit and is beautifully addressed in Lumen Gentium, n. 48,  “Since we know neither the day nor the hour, we should follow the advice of the Lord and watch constantly so that, when the single course of our earthly life is completed (cf. Heb 9: 27), we may merit to enter with him into the marriage feast and be numbered among the blessed, and not, like the wicked and slothful servants, be ordered to depart into the eternal fire, into the outer darkness where ‘men will weep and gnash their teeth’ (Mt 22: 13 and 25: 30)’.”

The “Gentleman Saint” and Doctor of the Church, St. Francis de Sales, reminds us that during the time we are allotted on earth, we must live in a way that will prepare us for death, “Happy are they who, being always on their guard against death, find themselves always ready to die.”

We must be ready for death, because we have no idea when it will come. To enter Heaven, every single trace of sin must be eliminated, purged from the soul. As we know from what Our Lord suffered in His Passion and Crucifixion, the purging of sin is no small task.

Despite lack of popular usage, the terms “Church Triumphant, Militant, and Suffering” are still completely accurate descriptions of the different states of the Mystical Body of Christ of which we are all a part. We are brothers and sisters in the Lord, and beloved daughters and sons of the Father. Just as we pray for our earthly family, so, too, must we pray for our spiritual family as it exists in its various stages.

The Church Triumphant can be of great assistance to us in our prayers. They are already in Heaven, face-to-face with the Beatific Vision and can intercede for us, the Church Militant.

We are the Church Militant, because, as the etymology of the phrase tells us, we are the Church on earth, engaged in warfare with the devil, the flesh, and worldly powers of temptation and unrighteousness.

The Church Suffering are those souls who are being purged of any remaining attachment to sin that existed at their separation from their corporal body. It should be remembered that Purgatory is not eternal, it is the threshold to Heaven. St. Augustine of Hippo, Father and Doctor of the Church, in The City of God instructs us that “temporal punishments are suffered by some in this life only, by some after death, by some both here and hereafter, but all of them before that last and strictest judgment. But not all who suffer temporal punishments after death will come to eternal punishments, which are to follow after that judgment.”

It is our duty, privilege, and honor as Catholics to pray for those who are being purged of their last attachment to sin. We pray for their deliverance so that, as the Church Triumphant, they may pray for us.

On children and the kingdom of God

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Originally published:  May 8, 2018

The same weekend Alfie Evans passed from this life to the next, I spent the weekend at Child's Faith Christian Stock Photosmy sister’s house, babysitting my niece. My weekend was filled to the brim with all things childhood. As a single woman with no children, I found the entire weekend both utterly exhausting and spectacular. While I spent the weekend buying huge milkshakes, glow-in-the-dark punch balloons and jewelry that had strawberry scented lip-gloss hidden somewhere in its form, my thoughts occasionally returned to poor little Alfie and his parents. Like many others, I had followed the Alfie Evans story with great concern and prayers. I couldn’t help but to keep juxtaposing the facts of his case with the trappings of the culture of death in which we currently live.

In our culture, the prevailing argument is that a woman has complete control over her body as well as any life that takes root in her womb. However, that argument — which is held up as almost divinely inspired — didn’t apply in the case of Alfie Evans. Alfie’s parents had no control over his body. Fight, pray, argue and plead as they might, the government was the decision-maker when it came to what was to be done with and to little Alfie’s body.

Although they received assistance from the Italian government, the Vatican, and the pope himself, in the end, there was nothing Alfie’s parents could do for him. Alfie’s life support was turned off on April 23, after a final legal plea by his parents was rejected. Alfie died five days later on April 28. His death was a striking reminder that, young or old, we are only here temporarily. We are God’s children, and He will call us home in His own time.

My niece is a bit of a precocious child, is exceedingly well-behaved and is deeply Catholic. Anyone who knows me knows I adore her. As her aunt, I make sure to always have pens, small bills and gum in my purse. As her godmother, I make sure to ask God for her protection, for her growth in the faith, and that, along with her parents, I will be a good example that will help her one day enter into the kingdom of heaven.

On Sunday, we went to Mass. My niece was, as usual, very well-behaved and participated appropriately. Twice she tugged at my arm to ask me a question about something. I kept my answers brief, indicating that, while I appreciated her questions about the faith, the middle of Mass wasn’t be the best time to ask them.

During the consecration of the host, I felt a tug, I shook my head no, but undeterred, she tugged again, “Are all the angels up there right now?” she whispered. I nodded my head in the affirmative, paraphrasing for her what St. Gregory said, “The heavens open and multitudes of angels come to assist at the Holy Sacrifice.” A sweet smile was her response. Her question, her 8-year-old faith, was an indescribably beautiful gift to me on that Sunday morning.

Since Alfie’s death, there have been many posts on social media stating that “Heaven has a new angel.” While a well-meaning sentiment, it’s untrue because humans don’t turn into angels when we die. I presume; however, that heaven does have the soul of 2-year-old Alfie Evans and that he, along with the choirs of angels, are now sharing in the Beatific Vision. I pray that the angels and Alfie will intercede on my behalf and that someday, my niece and I will share in seeing the angels she so lovingly thought of at Mass when she had the faith of a child.

Living in Easter When Life is Good Friday

We just left the spiritually rigorous season of Lent. We should be exhausted, tired and hungry. We spent 40 intense days facing our mortality, our depravity and our unworthiness. In a spiritual desert, we united ourselves to Christ, who spent His own 40 days in an actual desert fasting, praying and preparing Himself to go out and preach a new law; to change hearts and minds; to change the world.

Of course, He wasn’t alone in the desert. God and the angels were with Him. But Satan was also with Him — waiting, for just the right moment, when Jesus was exhausted and vulnerable, to tempt Him to throw away all He was, all He knew to be true. During our Lenten journey, we were united to the mystery of Jesus in the desert. But as we all know … it’s not as easy for us to say “no” to the Devil and all his empty promises.

Already the first few months of 2018 have been littered with evil and tragedy: an earthquake in Taiwan; a helicopter crash in New York City; a Russian airliner crash; a mass shooting at a high school in Florida; a hotel attack in Kabul. The list goes on.

Humanity’s physical life on this earth, regardless of how blessed we are, is hard. Ever since Adam and Eve got us booted out of paradise, life for mortal man has been difficult. We suffer. We make others suffer.

So how do we live Easter when life is Good Friday?

Eastertide is the greatest season of celebration and joy in our lives as Christians; the greatest reason for our perseverance as God’s beloved children to go on, regardless of what this temporary earthly existence holds for us.

To paraphrase St. Augustine, on Good Friday, Jesus’ head bowed on the cross to greet us, His arms were outstretched to embrace us. He died, completely out of love for us. Christ freely gave Himself over to a brutal, horrible death again for mankind, suffering everything for each of us, but He would have done all of that even if it had been for only one of us.

Christ rose from that small, dank tomb alive and victorious not for His sake but for ours.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen wrote, “The Cross had asked the questions; the Resurrection had answered them … The Cross had asked: ‘Why does God permit evil and sin to nail Justice to a tree?’ The Resurrection answered: ‘That sin, having done its worst, might exhaust itself and this be overcome by Love that is stronger than either sin or death.’”

We are not alone in this brief life. We have Jesus at every turn. When we fail in sin, when others fail us, do not despair, but think of Jesus’ commissioning of the disciples: “… I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

St. John Paul II gives a fitting summation of Christ’s passion, resurrection and our responsibility as Catholic Christians: “There is no evil to be faced that Christ does not face with us. There is no enemy that Christ has not already conquered. There is no cross to bear that Christ has not already borne for us, and does not now bear with us. And on the far side of every cross we find the newness of life in the Holy Spirit, that new life which will reach its fulfillment in the resurrection. This is our faith. This is our witness before the world.”

Christ is risen, indeed! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

The Sacrilege of the Body as a Receptacle

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 Originallysexual_revolution.png published:  11.29.2017

Since the early drops that would become the recent deluge of “outing” sexual impropriety began to fall, Malcolm Muggeridge, a British journalist and satirist who died in 1990 at age 87, has been on my mind a great deal. Muggeridge, a nearly life-long agnostic who was received into the Catholic Church at the age of 79, once wrote, “Sex…the ersatz or substitute religion of the 20th Century…is the mysticism of materialism and the only possible religion in a materialistic society.”

To take Muggeridge’s suggestion further, I would offer that, if sex has become the substitute religion of the 20th Century, then relativism has become its rule of life. Instead of emptying of ourselves in order to follow a path that will fill us with a love of God and a respect for how He has made us in His own image, the relativism rule of life has filled the culture with a deep love of itself and a conviction that there is no absolute truth.

Prior to the 1960 FDA approval of the birth control pill and the subsequent sexual revolution in the culture, the prevailing understanding was that sexual intercourse between a man and a woman led to pregnancy. With the arrival of the pill, contraception was officially divorced from the sexual act. Sex didn’t need to lead to pregnancy. Women were finally given the freedom to do with their bodies whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. With this freedom was the implicit invitation that men could do as they wished with women’s bodies, sexually, and there would be no unwanted consequences, i.e., pregnancy. It became the culture’s truth that sex was no longer marital, unitive, or procreative.

In his February 20, 1980 Theology of the Body address, Pope John Paul II stated, “The body, and it alone, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine. It was created to transfer into the visible reality of the world the mystery hidden since time immemorial in God [God’s love for man], and thus to be a sign of it.”

Contraception, abortion, and pornography have all led to the cultural metamorphosing of women as simply receptacles to be used and discarded rather than the “spiritual and divine” as St. John Paul II discussed. When a person ceases to believe in his or her own dignity as being made in God’s likeness, then the idea that that person is simply a utilitarian sexual tool existing for the gratification of another will become a truth. In his book, Love and Responsibility, then Karol Wojtyla wrote, “A person’s rightful due is to be treated as an object of love, not as an object for use…Treating a person as a means to an end, and an end moreover which in this case is pleasure, the maximization of pleasure, will always stand in the way of love.” With the sexual liberation of women came the sexual enslavement of them.

Let me be perfectly clear, I am blaming neither women nor men for this Kafkaesque transformation. The hypersexualization of nearly every aspect of our culture is due simply to the fact that we are living a post-lapsarian existence where Adam and Eve first realized the naked human body and by which mankind has been titillated ever since. The human person and the marriage act are perceived by our post-Christian culture not as a divinely created being and an intimate, unifying act capable of producing new life, but as objects that exist for our increasingly depraved—as we see in recent studies on pornography—sexual appetites.

The #MeToo campaign seems to have been the match to the powder keg of this sexual harassment allegation explosion in which the likes of Weinstein, Spacey, and Lauer, among others have been immolated. This tag which those who had felt the effects of being perceived as simply an object of sexual gratification used to self-identify as being victims of a full-on assault to recipients of inappropriate comments, filled social media timelines across the country, including my friends, family, and even my own social media account. It was people proclaiming that enough was enough and that the culture finally had to address this sexually driven deviancy that had been allowed to fester for so long.

Unfortunately, I fear that a hash tag simply isn’t the correct weapon in this particular fight. When life in the very womb can be deemed as unworthy of respect, why should we think that our bodies, our sexuality, our relationships with one another should merit any more respect.

Muggeridge once wrote, “The orgasm has replaced the Cross as the focus of longing and the image of fulfillment.” To quote Love and Responsibility once more, “Limitation of one’s freedom might seem to be something negative and unpleasant, but love makes it a positive, joyful and creative thing. Freedom exists for the sake of love.” Until we focus our thoughts, our actions, our longings on God, we will continue to see our bodies and the bodies of others as simply the vessel of that which brings us selfish, fleeting fulfillment.

Surely not I…

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Today is spywedWednesday of Holy Week–Holy Wednesday, or, as I prefer, “Spy Wednesday.”

Those who know me know that Lent, and in particular Holy Week and the Triduum, are my favorite time of the Liturgical calendar. I think this is because of my tendency toward the melancholic. Also, if done correctly, it has the best, most heart-rending, beautiful music of the year…

I love “Spy Wednesday.” I’m sure it stems from my background in literature. No one could create a character like Judas Iscariot without divine inspiration. But beyond the great “character” Judas turns out to be, and beyond his “storyline,” he is also a key figure
–or should be– for each of us with regard to our own salvation.

How many times do we, post-lapsarian men and women that we are, sin and convince ourselves that what we did wasn’t all that bad, that everyone does it, that Jesusilver-coins-judas-money-450x338s loves me no matter what I do (which is true, but there are rules and consequences to sin), or that we can still receive Holy Communion with the stain of sin on our souls? How many times do we mock God, hurt Jesus, disappoint the Holy Spirit with our actions or inaction? How many times do we, like Judas, gamble with our very souls by trading what should be an overwhelming love for our Lord for whatever cheap, greasy pieces of silver the culture throws at us?

How many times does the Lord turn to us pained because of our offenses, from the wounds we have inflicted upon Him, and all we have to say is, “Surely not I!”

Tomorrow begins the Triduum, the Passion of the Lord. Reflect on it. Reflect on yourself. Make the most of this most glorious and blessed Holy Week so that when your time comes you can look at Jesus and say, “No. Not I, Lord.”

 

BRING BACK THE PIE!

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(The following is a blog post I wrote 12.26.16, but is applicable today.)

christmaspiegirlgraphicsfairy004bThe majority of Catholics have fallen into the same mindset as the general culture when it comes to the schedule of celebrating holidays.

Easter doesn’t suffer as much as Christmas, presumably because Easter isn’t a major retail holiday season, so the stakes aren’t as high, economically speaking. Sure, McDonald’s does a big business in fish sandwiches during Lent, and Cadbury gets its share due to goo-filled chocolate eggs.

Christmastide is greatly abused and forgotten these days, to say nothing of poor Advent.

Starting today, we enter the REAL Christmas season. Just as the rest of the world is putting away their decorations and throwing their trees in ponds, Catholics are just getting started…or should be. Santa has come and gone, but our 40-day celebration of the Infant Christ and His Holy Family begin now.

Fisheaters.com lays it out the traditional celebration very nicely for us:

The entire Christmas Cycle is a crescendo of Christ’s manifesting Himself as God and King — to the shepherds, to the Magi, at His Baptism, to Simeon and the prophetess, Anna (Luke 2). The days from the Feast of the Nativity to the Epiphany are known as “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” with Christmas itself being the first day, and Twelfthnight — 5 January — being the last of the twelve days. Christmastide liturgically ends on 13 January, the Octave of the Epiphany and the Baptism of Christ (at which time the season of Time After Epiphany begins). But Christmas doesn’t end spiritually — i.e., the celebration of the events of Christ’s life as a child don’t end, and the great Christmas Cycle doesn’t end — until Candlemas on 2 February and the beginning of the Season of Septuagesima.

Christmas: Christ is born
Feast of the Holy Innocents: Herod slaughters the baby boys in order to kill the Christ Child
The Circumcision (the Octave of Christmas): Jesus follows the Law
Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus: After He is circumcised, He is named and becomes a part of the Holy Family
Twelfth Night: The Twelve Days of Christmas as a Feast come to an end
Feast of the Epiphany: Jesus reveals His divinity to the three Magi, and during His Baptism, and at the wedding at Cana
Baptism of Our Lord/Octave of the Epiphany: Christmas liturgically ends with the Octave of the Epiphany.
Feast of the Holy Family: Jesus condescends to be subject to His parents
Feast of the Purification (Candlemas): 40 days after giving birth, Mary goes to the Temple to be purified and to “redeem” Jesus per the Old Testament Law of the firstborn. Christmas truly ends as a Season with Candlemas and the beginning of Septuagesima.

So, now that you know that we are just starting Christmas, pull out the ham, bring back the pie, return the ribbon candy, and don’t take down the tree! We have a lot to celebrate. Besides, a 40-day celebration of our eternal salvation hardly seems adequate.

Merry Christmas!

Divorce and the Holidays

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Today I was honored to fill in as guest host for my pal, Wendy Wiese, on her Relevant Radio show, On Call with Wendy Wiese.

I was joined by Lisa Duffy. Lisa is an author, blogger, relationship and divorce recovery expert with more than 20 years of personal in helping people rebuild their lives after divorce and find happy, lasting relationships.

For our interview and tips on how to cope with divorce during the holidays, listen to the podcast of the show HERE.

 

 

EXTREME ANGER: HOW TO DEAL WITH IT

This past week I was happy to be able to fill in for my friend, Wendy Wiese, on her radio show, “On Call with Wendy Wiese” on the Catholic station Relevant Radio.

I spoke with Tim Shininger, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, about how Catholics should approach treatment if they feel as though they are having trouble with extreme anger issues.

Mr. Shininger provides treatment for children, adolescents and adults with a focus on marriage and family issues. He also specializes in treating depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder as well as helping individuals with parenting issues, grief/loss, and marital communication/conflict.

Tim uses cognitive behavioral and systemic approaches in treatment. He has a special interest in studying the integration of principles of faith into the science of psychology.
To listen to my interview with Tim from Friday, September 10, 2016 click here.

A CATHOLIC VIEW OF INVESTING

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This past week I was happy to be able to fill in for my friend, Wendy Wiese, on her radio show, “On Call with Wendy Wiese” on the Catholic station Relevant Radio.

On Thursday, September 8, 2016, I was happy to talk about what Catholics should know when investing their money.

Craig Siminski is a Certified Financial Planner® dealing with goal focused investment planning.

To listen to my interview with Craig, click here.

INTERNET ADDICTION

This past week I was happy to be able to fill in for my friend, Wendy Wiese, on her radio show, “On Call with Wendy Wiese” on the Catholic station Relevant Radio. 

My guest was Sr. Marysia Weber, RSM, DO. SrWeberSister Marysia Weber, R.S.M., D.O., a Religious Sister of Mercy of Alma, Michigan, is a physician certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. She completed her residency and a fellowship in consultation-liaison psychiatry at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. She practices in her religious institute’s multidisciplinary medical clinic, Sacred Heart Mercy Health Care Center.

Her primary work includes assessing and treating seminary candidates, priests and religious. She has also offered numerous formation workshops on a variety of formation issues for U.S. Bishops, seminary formators and vocation directors. She presented to the U.S. Bishops in Dallas TX in 1992 on “Pedophilia and Other Addictions”. She was a member of the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse in 1994-1995. Sister Marysia has presented to the Curia, Vatican City State on “Sexual Abuse of Minors by Clergy in North America” in 2002. She has also served as a psychological expert consultant for the Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, USCCB.
Her publications include: “Medical Aspects of Addiction”; “The Roman Catholic Church and the Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests and Religious in the United States and Canada: What Have We Learned? Where Are We Going?”; “Pornography, Electronic Media and Priestly Formation”; “Significant Markers of Human Maturation Applied to the Selection and Formation of Seminarians”; “The Discernment of a Priestly Vocation and the Expertise of Psychiatry and Psychology”; and “Internet Pornography and Priestly Formation: Medium and Content Collide With the Human Brain”.
Here is the link to our conversation on Wednesday, September 7, 2016: Sister Marysia Weber, RSM, DO on Internet addiction