Monday, April 29, 2013

Walking Away From Pride

Pride sometimes keeps us tied to things from which we need to walk away. I've encountered that reality several times in my life but have really been assaulted by it lately. Often we just go on, in auto-pilot, long after an activity has played out its usefulness in our lives. We simply like how it makes us feel - important, liked and listened to - able to share our own thoughts.

But what kind of motivation is that? Shouldn't our motives be more pure? Shouldn't we be seeking to serve without strings, instead of serving because of what we receive in return? Without measuring in numbers or accolades? That type of thought has been echoing in my consciousness lately. Yet pride kept me firmly attached. Today I finally gave in to the niggling doubts, the persistent murmurs and allowed my mind's eye to be open to unadulterated truth. I let go of an obligation I loved. Walked away from something to which I have been willingly tied for many months.

Yet my fear of feeling empty was purged and instead I walked away with a weight lifted from my shoulders. You see, I had taken this prideful attitude toward the task and allowed it to take precedence over those things which should have held more importance. Relief has washed over me and the negative entanglements that accompanied my persistence to hold on can, at long last, be cast aside.

Now I am free and find that I have multiple directions to pursue. The oft neglected support that needs to be given to those who truly depend on me - those to whom I am tied by love and family - will take precedence  There will also be more readily available time to devote to creative pursuits. Most important of all, I will make much more time for some badly needed communing with nature and its awesome Creator. That, after all, is the purpose for which we, ourselves, were made!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

End Abortion: It's Simple, Yet Complicated

One of my pro-life efforts is creating memes that initiate thought, tug on the heart strings, or generally bring abortion into the light. As a rule, I go for the softer type of message - no bloody babies in trash bags or parts spelling out Planned Parenthood. The photos and messages are gleaned from where I am - my family, friends, favorite saints, popes, and such. Inspiration strikes me at the oddest times and sometimes the Holy Spirit will show me a wonderful photo and then - BAM! - a quote will appear in my Facebook wall feed that fits it perfectly. Other times, I will hang onto a quote or a series of photos and it will be months before something gels within this stubborn, creative mind of mine.

Yesterday, I finally had a thought pop into my head that fit 'perfectly' with a photo to which I have been
holding on for quite some time. I'm emotionally invested in this series of photos because the friend who shared them with me is a real life hero...she is living out the selflessness of putting her own life in danger for the good of this, her eleventh living child. With that in mind, I wanted to do my best for her. The thought that popped into my head was S I M P L I C I T Y. Often times, my memes require some thought, accompanying links, or a back story. This time the message was very basic - END abortion! The way I figured it, this would tug at heart strings, serve as one of those motivational posters, and get a simple message out there - you fill in the blanks of how to accomplish it. Plus, it had an element of humor - because the word 'end' is on the back end of the baby's diapered tushy.

So with the meme created, published, and shared with a pro-life group (one of many to which I belong) my mission was accomplished. Right?

W R O N G !

A member of the aforementioned group left a comment below my meme:

Who do you want to end it Birgit? It is a very complicated cycle we are in, very few understand what to do about it even if they agree with you. Most seem to see abortion as ok, so how to reach then is my question?
Good question and not too bad of a jumping off point either! My answer is this: it's a quandary. But the ultimate answer lies with each and every one of us. All of us need to be a part of ending it. If we cultivate a Culture of Life - each one to the best of our ability - there will eventually be a groundswell of love for all Life. It's not ours, it's not the government's, it's not the clergy's - it's everyone doing their part. The rest of it - and the timeline - belongs to God.

At the forefront of what we can do is education. Talk, live, breathe a Culture of Life - always bring it up and help it catch fire. Be the spark in your community and church. For our part, we must inform. We must pray. We must commit to give assistance to women, men, and babies who are affected by an untimely pregnancy - even after the child's life has been spared. In essence, we must live lives that respect all LIFE. It's up to each one of us - individually - to live a Culture of Life. God willing, our efforts, combined with those of others will eventually take us there. In the mean time, I get up every morning and do all that *I* can do for Life - that's my part! What's yours?

NOTE: My friend is scheduled for a planned C-Section on Wednesday. Please pray for good health for both mother and baby. You can find an update on the story at Catholic Sistas.

To see more of my Pro-LIFE memes go to the Designs by Birgit fan page.

Martha, Mary, Popes and Such: For Everything a Season

This year, the Gospel reading about Martha and Mary struck a different chord for me. I took away something more this time. It's not that one of the sisters was right and the other was wrong, but that – for that moment in time – Mary’s reaction to being in the presence of Jesus may have been the more appropriate. Yet, someone always has to be tasked with the grunt work, if you will, even as there’s also a need to stop and smell the roses – to take in the finer details and absorb them into our very souls. Perhaps, just this once, the meticulous care taken to have the house in order and meal prepared, cost Martha a very precious gift – communing with Jesus and the opportunity to drink in what He had to share. Nonetheless, each woman’s task was a necessity – otherwise, there would have been no household to gather within.

Martha or Mary: Both Roles Have Value

In pondering the way our Church leaders govern, a similar thought came to me. As much as we, as a Catholic people, find comfort in the familiar, sometimes a new way to approach our ancient faith can have its merit as well. Much has been made about the difference between Pope Francis and his most recent predecessor, but when we look to Martha and Mary in this broader way we are spurred to look at the overall picture instead of solely the minor details.

Pope Benedict XVI was a supreme teacher as well as being very shy and modest. His care of the liturgy and its reformation was a very necessary step after the ‘spirit’ of Vatican II led to numerous deviations from what the Mass is and always has been. What started out as a way for the laity to more actively participate in the liturgy, sometimes became the travesty of making the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass a do-it-yourself project for many. That the fault didn't lie with the documents or the council of Vatican II mattered not a whit to those who willfully used the opportunity for their own purposes – or, for that matter, to the people in the pews who were unaware that terrible liberties were being taken. The scholarly writings of Pope Benedict will feed souls for many years to come and his care of the structure of the Mass will help assure its survival.

Pope Francis, as best as can be surmised within the brief time he has been with us, is more outgoing in character. He seems to thrive on being in the company of the people – celebrating Mass in small venues, eating with the workers, and going out into the throngs to press the flesh. His homilies are short and sweet but very much to the point. The Devil is among us, Hell is a reality, and we must love one another as commanded by Jesus. He doesn't couch his words but matter-of-factly shares them as recurring themes. It doesn't appear that he is as concerned about maintaining protocol in the way a Pontiff dresses, where he lives, or how he travels. In my humble opinion, he appears to be a bit more spontaneous.

Martha and Mary: No Wrong, No Right

Like the story of Martha and Mary, however, we find that there is no wrong or right here – there is simply a difference of approach. That both men value the necessity of the rules governing the Church, celebrating Mass, and maintaining an order that ties us back to the very beginning of the Church instituted by Jesus Christ Himself, is evident. The Great Commandment that we love one another, is also very apparent in the lives of both Pope Benedict and Pope Francis. We are commanded to serve one another and that is given priority status by both. Rules cannot be followed at the exclusion of living the Gospel but neither can living the Gospel cause us to throw rules out the window.

What we are seeing here is a difference of approach – because their earthly God-given gifts vary – much like what is spoken of in 1 Corinthians 12. Whether it is an eye, foot, or ear – all are important. We are one body – the Body of Christ – and just like the physical human body has many parts, so does the Church. And all purposes are significant in their own service.

“That there might be no schism in the body; but the members might be mutually careful one for another.

And if one member suffer any thing, all the members suffer with it; or if one member glory, all the members rejoice with it.”

Martha and Mary: Both Are Necessary for the Whole

So we see that there is much more to Luke's Gospel than at first glance. Both Martha and Mary are a necessary part of the equation – they bring their special gifts to procure the accomplishment of the whole. There is a goodness in realizing the right season, the right mission, the right goal at a given time. For, “there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens”. It is ours to obey the whispering call as scripture and the Holy Spirit give us what we need - just at the right time. There is a necessity of continued learning and perusal of Gospels, the Word of God and the Catechism of the Catholic Church in order that we might arm ourselves with the proper tools for the proper time. As the cycles of our lives change so does what we take away from reading, prayer, and inspiration. As a very wise priest once told me, “sometimes the result of inspiration is not known until years later”. In the spirit of Martha, Mary, Benedict and Francis let us continue to function as worthy members of the Body of Christ - each doing his own part.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Dead bodies, severed limbs, blood - Boston Marathon or Kermit Gosnell?

I noticed that a gruesome photo is making the rounds in my Facebook news feed - it shows one of the mangled competitors in the Boston Marathon after the bombs went off. His leg is gone from the knee down but there is a long portion of bone still attached and jutting out where his leg used to be. The same thing happened when, Kevin Ware, a Louisville basketball player, broke his leg during a tournament game recently. There were photos everywhere showing the bone sticking out about 6" from his flesh. These types of explicit photos were/are shown ad nauseam while we are held as a captive audience. These images simply can't be avoided if we persist in our day to day activity on social media.

When something like this – or 9-11 – happens there is a preoccupation with viewing it over and over again. There are constant counts and recounts of - deaths, injuries, spectators, shrapnel, and every other type of tally. It’s as if hearing the minutia of the event will somehow fix the gravity of the situation in our minds. Since we are consumers of the 24-hour news cycle - like a train wreck - we seem to be unable to look away. And so the media shows the same video clips over and over again, others post and we stare at countless pictures. And we somehow try to take in the horror of the current event du jour. 

While the sports injury in Louisville was an unfortunate accident, in Boston the carnage was the result of an act of willful terror. Of course our hearts go out to all victims but, when we are forced to ponder the inhumanity that allows such a willfully depraved act, we see the frightening proof of evil. We are left to wonder how such an act could have been perpetrated by a fellow human being. What motivates such willful destruction? What can be done about it? Where do we go from here? The questions are as numerous as the injuries and the people affected by them.

 And yet…
Kermit Gosnell

When we attempt to expose the grisly horror that is abortion we are called 'over the top'. Facebook censors our fan pages and walls. The pro-abortion crowd vehemently denounces our efforts. We are accused of forcing unwilling spectators to see something so unspeakably evil that it simply can’t be viewed. There, too, are counts and pictures and carnage and blood and severed limbs. In addition, there are ‘trophies’ - babies in freezers, parts in jars. For its part, the media stages a blackout and ignores what's going on in the squalid rooms of abortion mills. And yet the pro-life faithful don’t have to daily peruse the grim reality of a Kermit Gosnell to know that abortion is an act of terror of the highest degree in every.single.instance.

All of the components for news reporting are there: countless victims, cold-blooded perpetrators, and an act so unspeakably violent that we recoil in sheer horror at the enormity of it all. Yet, it goes largely unreported and therefore neatly tucked away in the darkness of the unspeakable. And there it thrives – because no one has to face the ugliness. Pro-life efforts to shine the light of truth on abortion are shoved into a corner where very few will see, ponder, and rise up to ask the same questions they do when any othere act of terror happens. How can such an act be perpetuated by fellow human beings? What motivates such willful destruction? What can be done about it? Where do we go from here? Here, too, the questions are as numerous as the deaths, injuries, and the people affected by them.

With the spotlight finally on an individual who committed such heinous acts, perhaps we will move into a position where the answers will come. The hand of the media has been forced by those of us who rose up and demanded coverage of the Gosnell trial via social media - Pro-Lifers flooded Twitter With 100s of #Gosnell Tweets per second last Friday. More such efforts are currently in the works so perhaps we will finally fill those empty media seats at the Gosnell trial. Now that we have gained momentum, we must forge ahead in exposing abortion as the child murder it is. Maybe we will bring these dark, sinister acts into the light for all to see. And once we are all forced to face what happens at the hands of monsters like Gosnell, maybe we will be able to find a way to end the violence of abortion – for the good of the victims and for the good of our society. 

Find me on Twitter - @tigribj  and retweet: 

Dead bodies everywhere, severed limbs, blood. #Boston? #Gosnell? 1 you'll see the other hidden. #prolife #prochoice

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Eucharist as Perjury

This past Sunday, Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron put forward that Catholics who receive Communion while advocating gay marriage would "logically bring shame for a double-dealing that is not unlike perjury".  Likewise, Detroit Canon Lawyer, Dr.Edward Peters, says that "Catholics who promote 'same-sex marriage' act contrary to Church law "and should not approach for holy Communion". Adding that, "they also risk having holy Communion withheld from them ... being rebuked and/or being sanctioned". Not unlike the admonishment that politicians who publicly support and work for abortion rights, this goes to the heart of what Catholics believe - have always believed.

Let's take a closer look

The Catholic Church has a special set of beliefs that encompass acts that are intrinsically evil. According to the United State Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB):
"There are some things we must never do, as individuals or as a society, because they are always incompatible with love of God and neighbor. These intrinsically evil acts must always be rejected and never supported. A preeminent example is the intentional taking of human life through abortion."

Other intrinsic evils include euthanasia, human cloning, destructive research on human embryos, and homosexual marriage. These beliefs are a part of the Dogma of the Catholic Church. According to the CCC  the "Church's Magisterium exercises the authority it holds from Christ to the fullest extent when it defines dogmas, that is, when it proposes, in a form obliging the Christian people to an irrevocable adherence of faith, truths contained in divine Revelation or also when it proposes, in a definitive way, truths having a necessary connection with these". Unlike discipline - a practice that can be changed (think abstaining from meat on all Fridays of the year) - dogma is definitive and can never change.

So what are we to take away from all of this? Since these intrinsic evils are not subject to change, individuals who perpetrate or formally cooperate in them are making a statement to themselves, the Church and society as a whole. In essence they are saying, "we, with full knowledge of our willful disobedience, stand squarely against a dogma of the Church to which we proclaim to belong". While going through the motions of being in full unity with the Church, they publicly fly in the face of her most deeply held teachings.

What Eucharist Is

To understand the gravity of the situation one must examine exactly what Holy Eucharist (Communion) is, when referring to its fullest definition according to the Catholic faith. When Jesus said, "truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you", He wasn't speaking symbolically. This hard truth, the Eucharist as Christ's true Body, even caused some of His disciples to turn away from Him. Had he been speaking only symbolically, there would have been no reason for protest. His clear intent was the institution of the Eucharist, "the source and summit of the Christian life". Thus we know that "the other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ Himself".1324  When we allow ourselves to acknowledge the full impact of everything this means, it is no longer possible to treat the Eucharist lightly. Holy Eucharist (Communion) is our unity with Jesus Christ Himself and through Him, with each and every one of our Catholic brethren - for we become what we consume, the Body of Christ.

What Eucharist Says

Once we recognize the miraculous reality that is Eucharist, we must acknowledge what partaking of Him through this sacrament says about us. If we strive to know (accept) Him and His gift to us, we must also cooperate in the intent of this giving of Christ of Himself. The Catholic Church has always been very clear about the disposition of those who present themselves to receive Him in Holy Eucharist. They are to be free from serious moral impediments and must be in full communion with the teachings of Holy Mother Church - that is, that we are to present ourselves for reception only if we are loyal to and aware of that which the Church (through Jesus) holds as Truth. So when we go forward to receive Him - Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity - we are making a public statement that we know Who the Eucharist is and that we fully support His laws.

Eucharist as Perjury

The common name for the Eucharistic sacrament is Holy Communion - as in communion defined as 'solidarity or concord'.  This is a telling indication of what is expected of those who seek to participate in such an intimate way with Jesus and His Church. The act of receiving is a pledge to have a common faith, an intimate fellowship, with everything presented to the Body of Christ which is His Church. Along with the Communion of Saints, we are bound to each other through Him Who binds us. So the act of receiving is a public pronouncement of unity. If one stands up, publicly, to contradict a firmly held belief and yet publicly presents himself as in communion with the Church, that action is a lie - perjury of the highest degree in the court of God. St. Paul explained in 1 Corinthians 11:27-29 that we are to present ourselves worthily or we "eateth and drinketh damnation" to ourselves. It is no stretch, then, to surmise that receiving unworthily - especially in public, causing scandal - is akin to perjury. Because it is an oath not kept - a lie given in action.

As much as it might appear desirable to see the sanction of those who perpetrate this scandalous perjury, it would be far more beneficial to all concerned to have the desecration of the Eucharist come to an end. These actions may likely give aid to a persistent lack of belief in the True Presence and could lead others astray. What is needed is a renewal of faith - both in understanding and action. Unfortunately faith in the reality that is Eucharist is at an all time low. As members of the Body of Christ, this impacts us all, for as 1 Corinthians tells us, "if one member suffer any thing, all the members suffer with it; or if one member glory, all the members rejoice with it". Let us join in communion with one another for the good of the whole. May God have mercy on us all - sinners that we are!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Alzheimer’s: Is it Good for the Soul?

Ma Peak

My husband’s sweet little grandmother has progressively lost her short term – and most long term memory. At 97 years young, her past few years have seen her settle comfortably into a new reality. She is no longer telling us that she wants to go ‘home’ – both in the earthly sense and in the eternal sense. Her life has regressed back into infancy, where she eats, naps, and shared smiles with us. A recent development finds her pulling her blanket over her face when she decides that our interaction is over and it’s time for some rest.

Ma Peak is not Catholic and she, along with her dearly departed husband, investigated several churches throughout their wonderfully blessed (five decade) marriage.  But they were always there for us when we had Catholic events going on. While my convert husband’s parents declined such invitations, Ma and Pa where always there – even signing over their permission for their 18 year old grandson to marry his 17 year old bride (me). As with all families, there were disagreements and hurt feelings and all sorts of bumps in the road. This led to the sinful but all too human telling of tales and holding of grudges.

Now that she no longer remembers these events or her reaction to them, I am left wondering: what happens to the sins of those who are no longer able to confess them? Are we somehow still held culpable or is there some way for loved ones to help someone of altered mind attain Heaven? I know that the obvious answer is that ‘with God all things are possible’ and that He ultimately has a plan for all of us. A feeling of responsibility weighs on my mind, however, and I feel compelled to try to find an answer with which I can live. A finely honed conscience can be a wonderful tool for, not only our own salvation, but for helping others.

Here’s what we’ve done so far. When we visit her these days – usually after Mass on Sunday – we share a brief visit including smiles, kisses, and God bless you crosses on foreheads. Then, after her blanket is pulled up over her face, we pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet in her presence. I’m not sure what effect this will have on behalf of her immortal soul – but I am sure that acts like this matter. As her family, we are taking this fourth child of ours (Ma) and doing our best to help her achieve unity with the Lord. However God sees fit to apply these supplications, my security in believing in the Communion of Saints gives me the comfort of knowing that we are somehow giving her aid.
For the sake of His Sorrowful Passion...

There’s also a lesson to be learned here. In her new found innocence, Ma is made new. All of her past prejudices, perceived hurts and grudges have been washed away. She has completed the circle of, first forgiving and now forgetting any transgression that may have been stumbling blocks in the past. As a new creation, she has become a child once again. Our ministrations give her immediate comfort and, hopefully, future assistance on her journey. May we also use her gift of pointing us toward forgiving and forgetting – a sort of self-induced Alzheimer's for the good of our souls. What an opportunity - while we still have the presence of mind to seek absolution for our own transgressions.

On this, Divine Mercy Sunday, may we grow in our faithful seeking of forgiveness through the sacrament of penance!

Friday, April 5, 2013

News Flash! The Pope is Catholic

Ever since the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and the subsequent election of Pope Francis, all of the usual suspects have had a field day. Couched in seemly complimentary reporting of the actions of our new Holy Father, have been snide insinuations that finally, someone in the hierarchy of the Church is getting things right. Sadly, it's not been a practice isolated to haters of all things Catholic or poorly informed reporters. Some men and women in the pew have also fallen for the rhetoric - some of which has been perpetrated by professional Catholics and clergy. Everywhere you look, there he is, Pope Francis being - gasp - a Catholic! Well news flash, the pope is Catholic and all of those photo opps that are being so carefully thrust in the forefront of our news reports and Facebook wall feeds simply portray him acting in a manner that has been consistently practiced since Jesus initiated His Church.

Sure, Pope Francis has a certain style all his own - he eschews formality for the more simple. His Jesuit roots show, just as the professorial style of Pope Benedict XVI was evident during his reign. What isn't different is that all Catholics are bound by the Great Commandment - that we love one another. Whether in scripture, homily or practice, that has always been the case. After all, a highly significant number of the schools, hospitals and charities originate and are run by the Church - all over the world. That's something that has been going on for decades - centuries, really.

So what is it about our current state of affairs, that makes compliments to Pope Francis into insults to his predecessors (especially the past two)? One obvious answer is that the secular world (and poorly catechized Catholics) are always looking for a chink in the armor of the Church. These disgruntled folks seek to force the Church to conform to their ideology rather than taking up the teachings instituted by Christ Himself. There seems to be a lot of projection and wishful thinking going on. I find it puzzling that someone would seek to remain in a church with which they have grave disagreements, and attempt to change her, rather than becoming a member of a more like-minded church. And, let's face it, there are tens of thousands of man-instituted options out there!

Of course another persistent threat is from Satan himself, who prowls about creating mischief. What better way to discourage unity within the ranks of Catholics than to sow doubt by casting light on poorly conceived comparisons. Isn't it possible that we are simply given just the right man, as our Vicar of Christ, at just the right time - by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit? And in order for one Pope to be just what the Church needs, do those who came before him have to be discredited? I think that it's much more realistic to look at them as trail blazers - each for the one to come after him.

I've seen so many poorly rationalized comparisons in these scant two weeks - enough to make my head spin. Wouldn't it be better for us all to recognize that each of us is divinely created with our own unique gifts? Isn't that what we are admonished to do for each individual gracing this earth? Why then, not do the same for these men of God? They each have their gifts to share with the world - because even non-Catholics and non-believers are impacted by the man in the Vatican. Pope John Paul II gave us the New Evangelization and taught us about the dignity of all humans -  unto death. Pope Benedict XVI moved us toward reviving the liturgy and a renewal of faith - the Year of Faith. Likewise, Pope Francis will share his unique gifts with the world during his reign. One thing doesn't change, however, the truth as illuminated by God. The Church, through our priests, gives us access to Christ Himself - Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. Wouldn't it be a shame to detract the purpose of our existence? Shouldn't we focus on Divine Truth rather than human misconceptions?

--US Catholic Church statistics can be found here.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Not a Garden Gnome: Understanding St. Francis

The name, St. Francis, is on everyone's lips these days – ever since our new Holy Father took Francis as his official name. With this rise in popularity, a saint whose reputation has already been misrepresented, has swung into full blown mischaracterization. As arguably the favorite among all the saints – among Catholics, Protestants and even non-Christians – St. Francis has quite the reputation. But if we are to quell these misrepresentations it might be wise to take a longer look at this multifaceted saint. At first glance, he holds quite the surface image as a kind of garden gnome who holds bowls of water or seed for our feathered friends or perhaps with his arms outstretched as birds land on them much like they did on those of Snow White. I, myself, am guilty of having various representations of him in our vast gardens as mere decoration.

But St. Francis wasn't some hippy, tree hugging monk who worshiped Mother Earth and all of nature. Rather, he fiercely worshiped God while maintaining a healthy respect and sense of wonder for all of His creation. St. Francis' appreciation of nature and acknowledgment of its grandeur stemmed from his devotion to living a life devoid of the lures of earthly pleasure, instead focusing on service to the poor and outcast.

As a former soldier, St. Francis was also a lover of peace. Contrary to popular belief, however, he neither penned the St. Francis Prayer (it was written much later than his lifetime) nor did he say, “preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words". Although both of these nods to him embody his philosophy, the words are not his own. What Francis did do was amazing enough that there is no need for embellishments. For example, in his fervent pursuit of chastity he is said to have rolled, naked, in the cold snow of winter in order to resist temptation. And although he had many hard sayings and practices, there are also many anecdotes about his life that point to a communion with nature that was unusual to say the least. Yet warm and fuzzy aren't really a part of his story.

Read the rest of this original post and some of his amazing stories on Catholic Sistas.