Saturday, November 5, 2011
Monday, October 10, 2011
Saturday, July 2, 2011
The following as an awe inspiring story of one woman's experience of Divine Providence:
Monday, June 20, 2011
Sunday, June 12, 2011
Saturday, April 23, 2011
Friday, April 1, 2011
Today I finally went to Stations of the Cross, which consists of communal prayers said at each of 14 pictures stationed around the church. The point is to meditate on 14 aspects of the Passion narrative. I expected people to show up out of feelings of obligation (part of why I went), distractedly read off some prayers, and leave glad to be able to check off one more thing on the Lenten To Do list. I was a little concerned when I walked in and there were no more prayer books available, thinking this might be a disorganized mess. But as I shuffled into the pew I was impressed with the quiet seriousness of the group.
I did not anticipate the emotional experience about to unfold. The theme of this particular version of the stations was the experience through Mary's eyes. She watches her son suffer but knows that it has to be so. She silently cries and silently prays and silently follows. There were a lot of men and a lot of women both young and old in the pews and almost everyone was sniffling or hiding their face or drying their eyes. Whoa. Intense. It reminded me of when I sat trembling with dry sobs as I tried to sing at my boss's funeral with his engineers sniffing back tears on either side of me. The moving thing about Catholic sorrow is that it's sorrow mixed with expectant hope, which is a beautiful kind of sadness.
I never knew that my boss was (is?) Catholic until he died. What a surreal experience to attend a Catholic mass with upwards of 100 scientists and engineers! I was glad I sat next to a certain coworker when he hesitatingly crossed himself at the beginning of the Mass. I'm not sure how I would have overcome my performance anxiety if I were stuck between a bunch of stoic and silent old dudes. It was pretty intense having all of those people together at the same time remembering this man. I was struck with a mix of emotions including most prominently grief and hope. To me it felt like a going away party, with key people giving advice and toasts and the rest of us there for celebration and moral support. A story started to play out in my head of a young European couple marrying and then setting off for America (sort of like Far and Away without the class discrimination), where they may never be heard from again. This is what the Church says happened to my boss, I thought. He was united with his Beloved and he is now somewhere beyond our reach, until we finally join him in that place, or state of being, or whatever it is. What a beautiful way to achieve some sort of closure.
One check box remains on my Lenten To Do list: my pre-confession confession. Multiple people, including Father Bill, have suggested that us catechumens make a sort of practice confession before we get baptized. It's a practice confession because we can't do the real thing until after we're baptized, since through baptism we die to our old life and are born into a new life in Christ with a clean slate. So yeah, basically those of us who haven't been baptized get out of confession on the Constantine technicality (he supposedly waited to be baptized on his death bed). A lot of people I've talked to are terrified about this idea of confession but I see it as something like free therapy. I mean, there is now a person who is literally obligated to listen to me whine and complain and to comfort and encourage me that things will get better--what's not to like about that?
Three more weeks until I die to Old Sarah and become New Sarah! Unless I go all St. Francis of Assisi and rush off naked into a life of absolute poverty there should be another update soon.
Saturday, February 12, 2011
LOVE IN THE BIBLE
Entreat me not to leave you or to return from following you; for where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God, where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. [Ruth 1:15-17]
But do not be afraid, for she was set apart for you before the world existed. You will save her, and she will go with you. [Tobit 6:18]
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.
Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres, love never fails.
[1 Corinthians 13:4-8]
Upon my bed by night I sought him whom my soul loves. I sought him, but found him not; I called him but he gave no answer.
"I will rise now and go about the city, in the streets and in the squares; I will seek him whom my soul loves.” I sought him, but found him not.
The watch men found me, as they went about in the city. "Have you seen him whom my soul loves?” Scarcely had I passed them, when I found him whom my soul loves.
I held him, and would not let him go until I had brought him into my mother's house, and into the chamber of her that conceived me.
I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or hinds of the field, that you stir not up nor awaken love until it please.
[Song of Songs 3]
THE WORLD’S FIRST LOVE by ARCHBISHOP FULTON SHEEN
You exist for me absolutely, quite independent of my personal relations with you and beyond anything you could do for me. I adore you as a reflection of the Divinity, which can never be taken from me. And I have no need to possess in order that you have existence for me.
In real love, two hearts do not meet in sweet slavery to one another; rather there is the melting of two hearts into one. When death comes, there is not just a separation of two hearts but rather the rending of the one heart. …if she could have wept, it would have been a release from the tension; but here the only tears were red, in the hidden garden of her heart.
ST. JOHN OF THE CROSS
On that happy night, in secret I went forth, beheld by none, and seeing naught; having no light nor guide excepting that which burned within my heart, which lit my way more safely than the glare of noon-day sun to where, expectant, he waited for me who doth know me well, where none appeared but he.
When the breeze blew from the turret, as I parted his hair, it wounded my neck with its gentle hand, suspending all my senses. I abandoned and forgot myself, laying my face on my Beloved; all things ceased; I went out from myself, leaving my cares forgotten among the lilies.
How gently and lovingly you wake in my heart, where in secret you dwell alone; and in your sweet breathing, filled with good and glory, how tenderly you swell my heart with love.
Why, since you wounded this heart, don't you heal it? And why, since you stole it from me, do you leave it so, and fail to carry off what you have stolen?
Reveal your presence, and may the vision of your beauty be my death, for the sickness of love is not cured except by your very presence and image.
He weeps, but not from the wound of love, there is no pain in such affliction, even though the heart is pierced; he weeps in knowing he’s been forgotten.
POPE JOHN PAUL II ON LOVE
The fullest, the most uncompromising form of love consists precisely in self-giving, in making one’s inalienable and non-transferable “I” someone else’s property.
Love consists of a commitment which limits one’s freedom--it is a giving of the self. And to give oneself means just that; to limit one’s freedom on behalf of another. 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… Man longs for love more than for freedom--freedom is the means and love the end.
First there is the term hesed, which indicates a profound attitude of goodness. When this is established between two individuals, they do not just wish each other well; they are also faithful to each other by virtue of an interior commitment, and therefore also by virtue of a faithfulness to themselves. …it showed itself as what it was in the beginning, that is, as love that gives, love more powerful than betrayal, grace stronger than sin. ~Rich in Mercy
Every movement of your heart is known to me. Know, my daughter, that one glance of yours directed at someone else would wound me more than many sins committed by another person.
~Diary of St. Faustina Kowalska
And love does admittedly run counter to self-seeking--it is an exodus out of oneself, and yet this is precisely the way in which man comes to himself.
~Pope Benedict XVI
True love is love that causes us pain, that hurts, and yet brings us joy. That is why we must pray to God and ask Him to give us the courage to love.
Saturday, January 15, 2011
While Jesus did have a strange dislike for figs, homosexuals are not so much as mentioned in the Gospels.
I just finished watching an interesting documentary called "For the Bible Tells Me So" which looks into the question:
"Does God really condemn loving homosexual relationships?"
The documentary points out that there are precious few Biblical passages addressing homosexuality and that the loving, monogamous homosexual relationships of today were not really something that existed in Biblical times. There were no words to describe this type of relationship in the Ancient Greek and Hebrew. Scholars discuss in particular passages from Leviticus, Genesis (the story of Sodom & Gomorrah), and Romans suggesting that there is reason to believe that these are references to ritual practice, anal rape for the sake of humiliation, and male prostitution, respectively. And not to judge... but
1.) I don't want to follow all of those Jewish rules, like not eating bacon
2.) I think all kinds of rape are bad (duh!)
3.) I feel comfortable saying that men would be better off NOT prostituting themselves
Amusingly, one of the scholars admitted that maybe the Catholics have been right that scripture interpretation shouldn't be trusted to the uneducated. "There's nothing wrong with a 5th grade understanding of God as long as you're in the 5th grade."
Anyway I tend to agree with Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, South Africa and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Desmond Tutu in that I can't imagine God punishing someone for being gay any more than I can imagine God punishing someone for being born black or a woman. But the Catholic Church does not teach that homosexual inclination is a sin, but rather the sexual act itself. And so, the Catholic Church, thankfully!, sidesteps the issue of gay bashing by saying there is nothing inherently wrong with being gay so long as gay people are celibate. This puts the evil of gay sex on par with masturbation and premarital sex (or even marital sex with the use of contraceptives). As Monte Python so aptly put it, "Every sperm is sacred." Jen from the Conversion Diary explains here how she came to terms with the idea that sex should never be devoid of its life-creating potential. (http://www.conversiondiary.com/2007/08/what-will-i-tell-my-gay-friends.html)
This is not homophobia. [That's not to say there isn't homophobia in the church; e.g. a certain Cardinal pinning pedophilia on the gays. I don't quite understand this. I'm attracted to men and not attracted to young boys, so why should men who are attracted to men be any different?]
The problem with openly gay Catholics is to respect these people while respecting the Eucharist. Because the wafer Jesus is at the center of the Catholic faith, nobody wants to go without. A common characteristic among the Catholic Saints is a profound love of the Eucharist, connecting all Catholics-in-a-state-of-grace through the Body and Blood of Christ. Originally, any uninitiated visitors to the church were asked to leave prior to the Liturgy of the Eucharist because of the intimacy of the Sacrament. Through the Eucharist, God and man are joined as one in a way similar to the joining of man and woman as one flesh through sexual intercourse. So it's in some sense obvious why the church does not want to allow the participation of anyone who is not 'right' with God. Taking communion outside of a state of grace is considered a grave sin indeed, like exposing Jesus, and for that matter the entire communion of Saints, to an STD. For this reason, anyone publicly living in sin is excluded for participating in communion.
[There are the mortal sins which are like STDs that have to be cured through confession before taking communion, and there are the venial sins which are basically like non-communicable, minor infections that can be healed in other ways. The location of this line is sometimes a point of contention among Catholics (although it shouldn't be!), with liberal Catholics bordering on the opinion that there is no such thing as mortal sin.]
What is an openly gay Catholic to do aside from leave the church? One remains celibate. This is the ascetic lifestyle of gay Catholics like Eve Tushnet, a convert to Catholicism. She chooses to accept the teaching of the Church, and lives an openly gay but celibate lifestyle while finding ways of redirecting sexual energy in a healthy way. (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/05/us/05beliefs.html?_r=1)
Another approach would be to make some waves. The Episcopal Church ordained their first openly-gay non-celibate bishop in a ceremony at the University of New Hampshire in Nov 2003. This story is covered also in For the Bible Tells Me So. But when a religion is radically redefined does it still mean anything? Why stubbornly cling to a religion when one does not believe the moral and theological teachings? I have to say, I think Eve is right.
But the point is that nobody is Biblically obligated to be a hater. But if you need to hate something, hate the figs!