The Way #814

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“A little act, done for love, is worth so much!” — St. Josemaria Escriva

If only I could keep this quote plastered on my brain and never lose sight of it. I get so frustrated with changing diapers, washing dishes, finding other people’s shoes and socks and then putting them on those other people whether or not they want me to (narrowly missing getting kicked in the face during the process), that I forget WHY.

Why all the mind-numbing drudgery that seems so meaningless? How many times have I already changed this toddler’s pants, and how many times will I in the future? Why am I even here… I mean, can’t *anyone* do the menial stuff? Why is it *me*? Why can’t I be off curing cancer or discovering a new species or saving the world or something?

Why?

Because I’m here right now and the stuff that’s right in front of my face is what needs to get taken care of. 

Because I can’t  see how much of an effect I’m having on these small persons’ lives (or on the history of the world, for that matter) but God can… And he’s the Man with a plan, and he never makes a mistake. He knew what he was doing when he put me here with the babywipes and detergent.

Because all you need is love… Love is all you need. Love turns the smallest thing into a beautiful gift. Love makes a smile actually mean something. Love means I’m sacrificing myself (including my traumatized and nearly-dead sense of smell) every time I scrub someone else’s puke off the carpet. 

Love is the reason for everything, and without love, everything would mean nothing. But when done with love, every one of the little nothings can mean everything.

The Way #179

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“Choose mortifications that don’t mortify others.” — St. Josemaria Escriva

I laughed out loud when I first read this quote.  It’s like St. Josemaria was speaking straight to me right through the pages of my paperback book.

For the longest time, I was one of those people who thought I could “earn” heaven by making sacrifices and doing penances down here on this earthly plane.  Now, in my defense, I was a kid of six or seven when I somehow-or-another accidentally wound up with this mistaken idea.  It’s not like I was a vile heretic spewing falsehoods from the devil and liable to the fires of hell or something. I had just barely received my First Communion.

The point is, I thought I had to become a master at self-mortification in order to squeak into Heaven by the skin of my teeth.  So I would do things like close my eyes while riding in my Mom’s 12-passenger van down the L.A. freeways so I couldn’t see all the entertaining billboards. Put pennies in my shoes and walk on them all day long. Refuse to go into Grandmother’s backyard swimming pool on random hot days of summer. Make myself suffer in uncalled-for ways, day in, day out, every day.

I was so confused that, as an adult, I would consider — and attempt! — crazy penances such as giving up my morning coffee for Lent!!

Until the fateful day that my pastor said it from the pulpit: “Your penances should be yours, not someone else’s.  Don’t make yourself a burden to the people around you!”  It struck me like a ton of bricks.  It was seriously a facepalm moment. Mama Bear minus the morning coffee equals Grumpy Bear.  Which was just making my family suffer. Not good.

Now, every time I flip through The Way and happen across St. Josemaria’s take on it, I have to laugh at myself, and at the whole situation (including the silly idea that this poor human being could possibly ever “earn” Heaven. LOL).

And I no longer try to stop drinking coffee during Lent.  Ahem.

 

 

 

The Way #281

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“Silence is the doorkeeper of the interior life.” — St. Josemaria Escriva

It’s so hard to be quiet.  Does silence even exist any more?  Sometimes I think the only way I’d be able to experience true silence is inside a sensory-deprivation tank.

But, if silence is the doorkeeper of the interior life… and I know I have an interior life, since I’ve had experiential proof… then physical silence that can be heard (or, rather, not heard) must not be the silence St. Josemaria is talking about.

Silence of the heart?  Silence of the mind?

Silence of that kind comes to me when I’m stunned by God, which makes sense, since the whole point of the interior life is having a relationship with Him.  When I am amazed or subdued or captivated by God, that’s when my internal monkeys fall silent.  And it’s not like I sit down intending to be captivated by God.  He surprises me in the middle of washing the dishes or letting my seven-year-old give me a makeover.

It’s like He’s a Daddy playing peek-a-boo with a baby.  Baby doesn’t know what’s going on when Dad covers His face with His hands… He disappears! He’s gone. Baby is alone, confused about what’s going on, wondering what’s going to happen.  But when Dad takes His hands away and greets His baby with a smile, such intense delight engulfs that baby that it’s like nothing but Dad, and the love between Him and His baby, exists in the whole world.

And that’s the whole point!

Nada, nada, nada

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St. John of the Cross has intrigued me for a long time.  It’s only recently, however, that I’ve started to have an inkling about what the heck he’s saying.

His “way of the nada” has always made my brain feel like it’s turning into a pretzel, trying to understand.  How can there be a “nada” way to God?

But, as it turns out, I was misinterpreting his “nada.”  Now (for whatever reason) I think I get it: to let God have access into you, you have to have “nothing” in God’s way.  It all seems so simple now.  While remaining very complicated.

Literally “no thing” should be in the way as God is trying to get to you, and as you are trying to get to God.  “No thing” includes the Self.  You have to get out of your own way!

This is very difficult.  Frankly, at this point, it sounds impossible to me.  How can I get out of my own way? Even as I’m sitting here thinking about how to get myself out of God’s way, I’m wondering if the act of wondering about it is actually part of what’s in the way. Sigh.

Does anyone else ever feel like throwing their hands in the air and telling God, I give up on trying to understand this! I can’t wrap my brain around it anymore.  And I don’t really need to understand it all anyway, as long as You know what’s going on… because that’s what matters.

You And I Aren’t One

I was mulling over my last blog post and I think I got it wrong. Or maybe only half-right.

You and I aren’t “one” any more than that tree over there is “one” with the pumpkin pie I have in my fridge. The tree and the pie share certain characteristics, like you and I do, but they’re far, far away from causing the two things to be “one.”

You and I are very different. Each human being is unique, just like snowflakes are unique. Yes, we are made of the same fabric, but saying “We are one” like I did previously just sounds too, um, not-Catholic. (I am Catholic, after all, and this is supposed to be my Cathoic-subject-matter blog.)

So. How *are* we “one” with each other? Well, let’s see. We all came from our Creator and we’re all meant to go back to Him in the end. We all have the same archetypal desires imprinted on our hearts by our Father God. We have all been rescued from an eternal death sentence by our Savior. And while we’re still on earth, we are all in this fight together. Let’s not forget that.

You and I are One

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I read a phrase a while ago: “the Cosmic Christ.”  I don’t know the history or origin of this phrase, but it intrigues me.  I’ve thought about it a little.

Everything that exists, exists in God. Our Creator is closer to us than we are to ourselves. His essence, or being, or is-ness, holds in existence the entire created universe.  The fabric of ourselves is the fabric of God.

You and I are made of the same fabric. But, we’re not cut off from eachother, like clothes made from the same fabric would be, because how can God be cut off from Himself? Impossible!  So, you and I are made of the same fabric… the same single piece of fabric.  We are the same.  You are you, and I am I, but, at the same time, in the “Cosmic Christ,” you and I — and He — are One.

 

The Image and Likeness of God

“God is the Creator dwelling within us, and within the human soul is God’s true abode.  And when our soul realizes this, it becomes like the one it beholds and grace quietly unites it to God in peace.” — Julian of Norwich

I was taught as a kid, from the Baltimore Catechism, that each and every human being is made in the image and likeness of God (and that this likeness is chiefly in the soul). That old question-and-answer memorized truth seems so bland and colorless compared with what I know now.  There’s a difference between mentally knowing a fact, and having experiential knowledge of the same fact.

God is closer to us than we are to ourselves.  It has to be this way, because we are His creatures, and without His constant holding-of-us-in-creation, we’d cease to exist. The beauty of it!  We not only share in the Divine by adoption into His family, but the very fabric we’re made of is Divine.

We should all be carrying ourselves like princes and princesses, because that’s what we are.  That’s who we are: sons and daughters of The Most High. Our place is by His side. He lives in us, and we in Him… and once a person realizes this fact, nothing is ever the same again…

Life is a love story.

When Everything is Blah

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Sometimes life feels like cold oatmeal.  Nobody likes cold oatmeal.  It’s sticky and slimy and weird and just gross.

Sometimes, even knowing that I share in the Divine life (being a baptized child of God and all), life still seems pretty darn cold, mushy, and tasteless… and, yes, even gross.

It’s comforting to know when life seems blah and I can’t feel God anywhere near me, much less living in my heart, that many, if not all, of the saints went through this too.  St. John of the Cross called it the Dark Night of the Soul.

The Dark Night is really awful.  I mean really, REALLY awful.  This is coming from a person who’s had life-long problems with depression and anxiety. I know it’s probably a bit different for everyone, but in general, I feel like I’m cut off from everything good and there’s nothing but nastiness in me, around me, everywhere I look … even God seems blah.  When I’m in the Dark Night I can’t feel love.  Love doesn’t seem to exist except as a faint memory.  I even sometimes question that memory of love.  Was it ever really there to begin with, or was it all in my head?

The only thing I can do is hold on.  This is where Faith comes in and gets strengthened. As long as I keep trusting that everything will be OK and God is in control, the sun will come out again sooner or later.

Holding on is hard…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holy Mother Church

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As a Catholic, I love that phrase!  “Holy Mother Church” expresses how important each one of us is, as her children and children of God.  A mother can’t love anything the way she loves her children, and we truly make a family: God is our Father, Mary is our Mother in Heaven, the Church is our spiritual Mother on Earth, Jesus is our Brother, the Holy Spirit is our best Friend.  With a family like that, it’s easy to feel at home anywhere.

And, on the other hand, sometimes it’s hard to feel at home, even at home.  We are all just pilgrims here in this “valley of tears.”  I, for one, have always had this deep sense of this life as being temporary and simply not the Real Thing.  The Real Thing is through the final doorway, and it’s God’s decision when I get to go there.  I’m just waiting and working until then, trying to be patient.

Sometimes, what with feeling at home and not at home at the same time, I get the sense of being pulled apart.  They say that St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower, died of love even though her medical cause of death was tuberculosis.  I can totally understand having a feeling so intense that it kills you.

I was raised in a pseudo-Catholic fringe group whose members call themselves “Traditional Catholics.” Growing up, I was taught to differentiate between “Traditional Catholics” and all other Catholics, “because they may as well just be Protestants,” according to my parents.  There was this huge sense of Us verses Them.  They were the bad guys, the false ones, the fake ones, the Modernist heretics.  We were the real, true, loyal sons and daughters of the Church, even though we disobeyed the Pope, the Bishops, and our parish Priests . . . we were The Remnant.

I was totally convinced.  How could I not be?  We left our parish church when I was 6.  I didn’t know any better.  I trusted my parents.  This is how indoctrination happens.

First, we went to a church that was run by an ex-Jesuit priest who had no faculties and said Mass illicitly since he had no permission to do anything in that diocese, or in any diocese for that matter.  He was not associated with any organization but taught us that receiving Communion in the hand was a sacrilege. He claimed the Church was in a “state of emergency,” which gave him the right to do whatever he wanted without permission from anyone, bishop or Pope, and even to disobey the bishop and Pope if he thought he knew better than they did.  He heard my first Confession (were his absolutions valid? I don’t know!) and gave me my first Communion — on the tongue while I was kneeling, of course.

My parents and extended family followed Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre’s actions in the ’80s with great interest.  Sooner or later, they ended up identifying themselves as supporters of his.  Lefebvre was talked about as if he were a living, breathing Saint, because he disobeyed a direct order from Rome and consecrated four bishops for his Society of St. Pius X.  The Archbishop, the new Bishops, and all supporters of theirs were excommunicated.  Including, apparently, my parents, most of my extended family . . . and 10-year old me.

After moving away from the area the ex-Jesuit operated in, my parents found another renegade priest who claimed to have resurrected an ancient society called the Order of St. John of Malta. He said he operated directly under the Pope’s authority.  In other words, he claimed he didn’t need to obey the hierarchy of Holy Mother Church and could do what he wanted, just like the first renegade priest.  This priest not only called receiving Communion in the hand a sacrilege, but claimed the Ordinary Form of the Mass was, itself, a sacrilege!  In fact, he wrote a whole book about it, The Great Sacrilege.  He taught us that it was a mortal sin to attend a Novus Ordo Mass.

We spent only two years being brainwashed by that priest before we moved again and wound up regularly attending a chapel of the Society of St. Pius X.  Based on the teaching of the SSPX priests, my parents decided that it was sinful for me to wear pants.

Over the years, I became almost fully indoctrinated by the “Traditional Catholic” or “Lefebvreist” movement, and the SSPX. At one point, as a young adult, I even spent a year teaching in one of the SSPX schools while living in a convent next door to their church.  There was always at least a tiny whisper of doubt in the back of my head, though, because of things like the ban on pants for women.  Things like that just never made complete sense to me.

My husband and I were married in the local SSPX chapel. In fact, my husband is a convert and was Baptized in that chapel before we married.  Later on, all seven of our kids were Baptized there, too.  I had no idea that our marriage, contracted in that chapel and witnessed by an SSPX priest without permission from the local bishop, wasn’t recognized by Holy Mother Church!  I totally believed we were good Catholics getting married in the Catholic Church.

It wasn’t until I met a priest of the Priestly Society of St. Peter (FSSP) a couple years ago that I realized what was going on and just how badly I’d  been brainwashed.  That priest told me the Lefebvrists’ claim of a state of emergency or necessity in the Church, which supposedly made it OK for “Traditional” priests to do what they wanted without permission and without ecclesiastical authority, meant “Absolutely nothing.”

It was all lies!  Falsehoods.  It was all in their — and my — head.

But this is what brings me back to the idea that a person can die from an intensity of feeling, like St. Therese died of love.  The feeling of conviction, certainty, and truth which hit me when that good priest said the words, “Absolutly nothing,” took my breath away.  I was suddenly convinced that all my life I’d had it wrong about the Church and my relationship to her. It was mind-boggling but good — so, so good — to know that I’d had it wrong, because now I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I had it right.

Starting that day, my husband and children and I made the spiritual journey away from the SSPX toward Holy Mother Church. We are now in full communion with her.  Thanks be to God.

It took roughly thirty years away from the Church for me to understand what a wonderful Mother the Church is!  No matter how weird our journeys are, how we stray, whether it’s our fault or not, whether we get indoctrinated or brainwashed or simply convince ourselves of untruths because we don’t like the truth, Holy Mother Church is always there to welcome us back with open arms.

I’m never leaving Holy Mother Church again.

Sometimes words are useless

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I’m currently reading The Impact of God: Soundings from St. John of the Cross, by Fr. Iain Matthew. I haven’t gotten very far, but I was struck by something today . . .

I’m in chapter 4, A Quiet Man Speaks, and for the last couple or three pages, Fr. Matthew has been talking about how when your relationship with God gets deep enough, strong enough, or mature enough, you can no longer describe the experience with words.

Why am I even trying to write about how words aren’t enough sometimes?  How they can actually get in the way and be worse than useless?

I guess I’m a glutton for punishment.  I just feel like saying that I finally found a connection with St. John of the Cross!

This is a big deal for me, since I’ve been trying to understand St. John’s work for years now.  I’m finally starting to get it, YAY.

The thing I’ve realized is, it’s not what he wrote in his poems that holds meaning so much as what the reader can grasp at in between the lines. It’s not what he wrote, it’s what he didn’t write, that is finally speaking to me.

When prayer gets to the point where words are useless, then you’ve found Someone. . . or, rather, He has found you.