From Elisabeth LeSeur –

September 25, 1899 — No one knows what passes in the profound depths of our soul.  To feel God near, to meditate, to pray, to gather all our deepest thoughts so as to reflect on them more deeply: that is to live the inner life, and this inner life is the supreme joy of life.  But so many moving thoughts and ardent desires and generous resolutions should be translated into deeds, for we are in the midst of human life and a great task lies before us.

It is time for painful effort: one must tear oneself asunder, forsake the realm of thought for that of reality, face action, know that one will either not be understood or be understood wrongly; and that one will perhaps suffer at the hands of humanity for having willed the good of humanity.  We must already have drawn from God an incomparable strength and armed our hearts with patience and love, in order to undertake day by day and hour by hour the work that should belong to every Christian:  the moral and material salvation of his brothers.

(Leseur, Elisabeth. My Spirit Rejoices. Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 1996.)

The HHS Mandate

Every blogger in Christendom has addressed their reaction to the Health & Human Services mandate for religious institutions to fund contraception and abortion in their insurance packages. I think I’m ready to post mine, now. Goodness knows, I’ve commented on enough blogs and Facebook posts, this week.

Obviously, I do NOT support the Obama administration’s move. Sure, there are exceptions. If you only hire members of your church, and if you only serve members of your church, you’re exempt. But what church do you know of that is so self-limited and self-contained as that? Every church I know of, Catholic and Protestant, hires people outside its own membership. Most Catholic parishes have to hire nonCatholic musicians because there aren’t enough musicians to go around any more. Right now I have the pleasure (heightened by my delight in the irony of it all) of being a Catholic filling in for a nonCatholic church’s pianist while she recovers from surgery. Many churches have support staff not from the membership, for a variety of reasons – if nothing else, many hire cleaning teams.

Every church daycare I know of serves families not of its membership. Every charitable outreach, whether food pantry, clothes closet, or whatever, is extended to the larger community, not limited to that narrow congregation. Catholic hospitals comprise some 25% of medical services in this country – and they don’t limit their hiring or their caregiving to Catholics.

So the exemptions are worthless.

Right now, Catholics are being named as the target population being affected by this mandate, but let’s not fool ourselves, Mr & Mrs America: many, many nonCatholic Christians find this mandate a violation of their own religious sensibilities. Every Protestant Church I was ever part of – Methodist, Baptist, Christian & Missionary Alliance, FourSquare, Pentecostal Holiness – taught that abortion is wrong, that it is murder of an unborn child and therefore unconscionable to a Christian community. Many, many of those churches taught against certain types of contraception which act as abortifacients (IUD and the Pill). They, too, are being held in contempt by this Administration in this mandate.

We must band together in fighting this threat to our Constitutional liberty and to the salvation of souls. What’s more, we must learn to band together to fight the even great threat to souls: the paganization of our culture.

We’re told that we, as Christians, have an obligation to sit down and shut up and quit trying to manipulate the culture. This is a lie straight from the pit of Hell. Our obligation, friend, is twofold:

We are obligated, mandated, to carry the Gospel into the highways and byways, the marketplace and where we are often the only representatives of the Gospel encountered by our fellows;

And we are obligated, mandated, called by Christ to infuse that world with Gospel values.

If we sit, silent, and let a government agency that is hostile to Faith call the shots, if we sit silently by while our neighbors, coworkers and very family members wallow in grave sin, then we not only are failing to achieve our calling – we are bloodguilty of their souls through our silent complicity in their sins.

That’s serious business. That’s scary business.

And this “accommodation” of mandating insurance companies to cover things objectionable to thinking Christians? Just a wicked ploy to force a diabolical mentality on us. If I had a dollar for every time I encountered the argument that we Christians need to get out of the abortion debate “because it’s legal, so shut up,” I’d be a rival to Bill Gates in wealth. People really do think that because something is legal, it’s acceptable. (And point out that owning human beings through slavery was legal, or that all the atrocities of Hitler’s Germany were legal, and listen to the screams of indignation.)

We know better. Or we’re supposed to know better.

So I oppose this mandate as the forcing of a pagan values system on a nation that was founded on a premise of Christian moral and social values. I oppose the coercing of our children and our young adults to be desensitized to the utter wrong that is abortion and the contraception mentality – the divorcing of sex from love, commitment, respect and family life. Okay, from procreation. But that’s another blog post.

The American Catholic bishops have stood up and howled – a bit late; they should have begun standing like this when President Bush’s conscience protections were overturned almost as soon as Obama got into the Oval Office, and they should have stood united to defend Catholic Social Services when that fine organization, in several states, quit handling adoptions rather than yielding to new state “laws” that mandate serving gay couples in the adoption process. But they didn’t. Now they’re standing – and I hope they will continue to stand and give us leaders to be glad of, to rally with.

But if they fall flat on their faces, we the Faithful must continue the fight.

In life we are in death…

So reads the a line from the old Requiem Mass. It certainly has been a vivid reality during the month of March, when several of my friends lost close loved ones and my own life was touched by the deaths of my dear friend Nora, and my friend’s Uncle Theo (written about, below).

I think about the nature of death – I’m not so much afraid of death as I am of dying (how it could happen, that is). My maternal grandmother had a deep dread of becoming incapacitated and winding up in a nursing home, where she had seen so many family members wind up – “I just hope it’s quick,” she said. And when the time came, it was. She sent my grandfather out to the garden to get an eggplant for lunch, and while he was out there she suffered a massive event of some description; she died moments after Papa found her lying on the hallway floor.

The fact is, we take what we’re given. God hasn’t spoiled us yet by sending us emails and polls asking us how we prefer to go – He determines the time and the method, and that is it.

What we have to do between now and then is to prepare. And one of the ways we prepare is by visiting the sick and dying, which is a Work of Mercy. It’s an obscenity that any of our family members should approach death alone, untended and unsupported by our love.

“I want to remember Granny as she was,” is just a flimsy cover for abject selfishness. We owe our parents, our siblings, our extended families and our friends – even strangers, if we happen to have them placed in our paths – with the very tenderness and compassion that we, ourselves, would have extended to us as we approach the hour of meeting God face to face.

Death is a part of life – it’s the end of the finite and the beginning of Eternity. We experienced its parallel in being born – dying the security and familiarity of the womb to be born into our life as independent creatures. This is only the prep school for Eternity, after all.

No need to be squeamish. No need to recoil. Comfort the afflicted – visit the sick and dying.

Tria munera

Literally, Three Gifts –

And those gifts are our sharing with Christ His identity as Prophet, Priest and King. These gifts are given to us at the time of our Baptism and Chrismation, whether we’re infants or adults.

Now, the thing is, we don’t hear an awful lot about these gifts except in the context of the Baptismal Rite, but we need to give them some thought –

They’re not just a nice idea, or some other-worldly notion. They’re our mandate.

This is what is holding me up on my work on Pray, Study, Work: doing research on what this identity means, and how we’re supposed to live out these roles in the living of our common priesthood.

Quite the challenge, yes?

An Open Letter to friends – on Marriage

Dear M.,

I see on Facebook that you were married yesterday, and I want to write to share with you my best wishes for your greatest happiness.

I also want to share with you my very grave concern that you have chosen to marry outside the Church. By not waiting until your boyfriend’s prior marriage was resolved through the proper channels of the Tribunal, by being married by a nonCatholic minister, you have entered into a marriage which is both invalid and illicit.

This means that you and your new civilly recognized spouse. have removed yourselves from full Communion with Mother Church, and you cannot receive any of the sacraments until P’s prior marital bond has been resolved –

IF it’s resolved. Declarations of nullity are not a right, nor are they guaranteed. Even where indisputable grounds exist, those grounds still have to be adequately demonstrated to the Tribunal. Without such demonstration, the Tribunal cannot declare affirmatively in the case, and you’re going to be slap flat-out sunk.  Canon 1100 warns that private opinion doesn’t eliminate the possibility that nuptial consent was actually present.

You also need to consider what impact, what influence, your decision to marry outside the Church is going to have on your friends and relatives. You have received scores, at least, of congratulations from people who don’t understand the gravity of what you have done, here. Your actions make it look as if it doesn’t matter that a nonCatholic minister is not approved for Catholic Sacraments, that a nonCatholic minister’s ordination bears the same weight of authority and authenticity as a Catholic priest’s.

In other words, you’ve added scandal to the mix.

I never would have thought you would have taken such a dangerous, even irresponsible step. Too often, in our acquaintance, I’ve seen you speak affirmatively of the Church’s requirements, and labor with those who would treat those requirements carelessly. Now you’ve followed the same path, and from your announcement it appears that you feel your particular personal circumstances justify willful rejection of the very rules I’ve heard you defend repeatedly as long as I’ve known you.

Marriage is not the civil contract you have treated it to be. It is a sacrament, and as such under the rightful authority of Christ’s Church. You cannot in seriousness ask God to bless and reward such disregard, nor expect such scorn for the wisdom of the Church to be shrugged off as inconsequential.

You’re off to a very bad start, and I’m sorrier for it than I can say. I hope you will at least possess the integrity to not present yourself for Communion until your civil union can be convalidated, and I hope that the spiritual communion open to you will teach you renewed and greater respect for the Magisterial authority of the Church.

Laura

Once falsely accused –

I’m home from Mass today because of knee and back pain. I had to call Fr N to let him know of my absence, and he had some shocking and very distressing news for me: one of my dear priest friends has had his priestly faculties suspended in the wake of accusations that he behaved inappropriately toward a then-minor girl, back in the early ’80s.

I’ve known Fr K for more than ten years. He heard my first Confession, and numerous subsequent ones, and he has always given me solid, sane, spiritual counsel. He’s been a good friend, and a great support during a particular difficulty he happened to walk in the door to face… and I’m having a very hard time believing this accusation.

I’ve been falsely accused. When the ex- and I separated, he told his parents (and who knows who else) that I was having an affair with one of my professors (I was in college at the time). I suppose I can see how he found it easy to foster this idea: after being treated like an idiot unworthy of simple conversation in the privacy of our own home, I was deliriously enthusiastic about being in an academic setting where brilliant people, and this professor in particular (who had a reputation for being difficult to get along with) treated me as if I were someone special, possessing brilliance, even. I thought the world of this professor who opened the world for me, and he seemed rather partial to me – within the confines of the classroom.

HOWEVER, a mutual admiration society is not adultery, and the closest we came to even a social relationship was a brief exchange we had by the milk case of the local grocery store, that July –
Laura: Hey, Dr. B – how’s summer school going?
Professor: Laura, I swear, the incoming freshmen are getting dumber every year. I can’t wait for the regular term to begin so I can be with my upperclassmen again!

I really thought adultery was supposed to have a bit more to it than that? be a bit more exciting? a bit more wicked?

But somehow quite a lot more was added to the story during the translation, it appears. And, of course, there are those foolish people who will always love a scandal more than the truth. We just have to live with that.

There are a lot of factors that motivate people to lie – on both sides of the fence, let me add. The guilty are almost always going to vehemently deny culpability, even when caught in the act (just ask anyone who’s been married to a drunk caught in any one of a thousand lies), and for some reason I simply cannot fathom, sometimes people lie about the innocent.

It’s terribly hard to be a priest these days. It’s never easy – the self-abnegation required is unimaginable for folks like me. Folks just don’t have an idea what priests go through, day to day, in solitude, often without adequate fraternal support and comaraderie. And it’s open season on Catholic priests anyway.  Hardly a week goes by that a preacher or youth minister in some Protestant group or other isn’t reported by our local news outlets to be arrested and charged with some form of abuse or misconduct, but none of those denominations, seminaries, or camps go through the scrutiny or public insults that our good Catholic priests suffer.

Pray for our priests. Pray for the accused, and the accusers. Pray for Truth and justice.

* * * *

On another, but not unrelated note:

A well-known pro-life activist reports that another well-known pro-life activist suffered a bit of public humiliation over the weekend of the National March for Life. Names don’t matter for the point I want to make.

That point is this: that we who call ourselves by the name of Christ have a greater obligation to conduct ourselves appropriately in public, not to glory or wallow in gossip, not to rejoice in a fellow Christian’s downfall.

Akin to this situation is the uproar that occurred when Pat Robertson made his perhaps-indiscreet remarks about voodoo having something to do with Haiti’s current misery in the wake of the horrible earthquakes it has suffered this past week and a half. Mr. Robertson was called a number of immature and offensive names in Facebook and around the internet media. I rebuked one young man for using an offensive word as a predicate nominative –

We have to be above such behavior, if we’re going to make a difference in the world. Okay?

Just a thought –

Non-Catholics, and especially the anti-religious secular liberals among us, think our values and ideals are ridiculous, and they ridicule us for holding them. But – when we compromise, when we blow it, when we fail to take those standards seriously, they note it, and they regard us with outright contempt for not taking our own professed religion seriously.

I was sharing this observation with Angie, and she said, “Years ago i got called out by an evangi for saying, as a supposed catholic, that i picked what i liked and left the rest…which is an AA principle –
she was 100% correct!”

Yep. It’s another reason to hold firm to the Faith that was transmitted to us: the nonbelievers WANT us to prove them wrong! They WANT us to love our Faith enough to be true to it.