Home as Sanctuary, Refuge

Rumors are flying on both sides of the political spectrum, as America heads toward the anticipated inauguration of Joe Biden next Wednesday. It’s a difficult time, and not a little alarming, as Trump supporters and other Conservatives are threatened with retaliation by those on the Left.

A few years ago, Rod Dreher wrote a book called The Benedict Option, in which he urges people to consider following the example of the venerable Father Benedict of Nursia, who abandoned Rome and headed to the hills to dwell in caves before he was persuaded to take leadership of a monastic community. From that community he wrote a Rule which has become the standard of many successive Orders’* Rules over the centuries, and is still read and aspired to by Benedictines, today. Dreher recommends abandoning society and retreating to a more isolated life away from the controversies and difficulties of modern society.

Of course, Benedict left the depravities of Rome, not its collapse. And he didn’t have the technologies to complicate his life that we do, today.

Fact is, a full withdrawal from the world is extremely difficult in the 21st century. We have families, jobs, obligations of varied descriptions that make a full retreat impossible.

However, there is something to be considered in the Rule and life of St. Benedict that is useful for us all: the mandate to consider every dimension of our lives as belonging to God. He required his communities to set aside very particular times of the day to pray (the Mass and the Divine Office/Liturgy of the Hours), to study, to labor. In addition, his counsel calls his communities, and us, to remember that every dimension and aspect of life is God’s. The tools of life did not belong to the monk, nor even to the monastery; they were God’s, and were expected to be treated respectfully in consequence of that reality.

Likewise, our lives and our homes belong to God. And in a world where so much stress and uncertainty are at the fore (Will more shutdowns cost me work, and income? Will political and theological convictions jeopardize my employment?) the only place where we really have influence and some degree of control is in our homes.

The control should, must! be used to make our homes places of refuge from the world — for our families, certainly, but also for our neighbors and friends who are drawn to us to share concerns, burdens, prayer, need in an uncertain and frightening time. Reduce/eliminate clutter. Establish a place for everything and put items in their proper place (a great personal challenge). Cultivate a standard of hospitality, not entertainment, for welcoming friends to your home. Plain simple food with warmth and affection in the atmosphere is far more soul-nurturing than an impressive meal with stress and irritation.

In the coming days we will be called upon to comfort and encourage others, in and out of our family circle. Let’s be careful not to look on this challenge as a burden, but as our calling as home-makers. Let’s establish as our objective that all who enter our homes might sense God’s holy and healing presence there.

  • An Order, for my nonCatholic readers, is a community founded upon the particular gifts and insights of its founder — i.e., the Franciscans (St Francis of Assissi), the Domincans (St. Dominic), the Benedictines (St. Benedict), et al. Each Community and its daughter houses adhere to a Rule which outlines the particulars for that community, that Order, to live out its special gifts and calling.

On Recovering the Culture

Last night, in my blog post, I said I think our culture is past the point of no return, and that we are presently on a Search and Rescue mission. I then woke up, in the middle of the night, and I think it’s the Holy Spirit reminding me that He transformed civilization under more daunting conditions, 2,000 years ago, and will do it again —

1) We must recover our zeal for Christ, a zeal to match that of the early Christians, who carried the Gospel through the entire world, even when doing so meant their physical death.

2) And men must step up and lead the way. We women have a role to play, but we cannot do a man’s job with a man’s strength and skill. Men *must* exert their physical and moral strength and courage, and make a public stand for Christ. Without masculine leadership, Christians cannot recover our influence in the world.


New Year, Resolutions?

January 1, 2019. Another year, and the push to make new resolutions for a “New Year, New You” for the coming twelve months, mixed with the jokes about broken resolutions and the unending cycle of same.

For us as Catholics, the year begins with Mass – not for a new year, but to honor the power of the Incarnation through the fiat of Mary, in a grand Solemnity. I cantored for a local Mass last night, and played at the chapel for another, this morning. This is a very good way to begin.

We are in a grave time of crisis, and we have important choices to make. Our culture is running mad. Children are being exploited as sex objects, even applauded for being transgender or a drag queen on national television, for all our children to see and to think should be imitated or looked up to.  Local libraries and bookstores are promoting reading hours with drag queens — again, to influence our children and to lure them into a false glamour, to rob them of their innocence.

There is an increasing push to criminalize reparative therapy:  the gay lobby insists, very loudly, that it is impossible to change one’s gender preference and that reparative therapy is abuse of a criminal degree — while they insist that one can overcome biology to change one’s own gender.

Public schools are promoting these ideologies, and even taking children to begin the process of “transitioning” — without parental consent.  Parents who oppose these manipulations of their children are being charged with criminal acts and losing their children to the State.

It’s being reported than nearly 14,010,000 babies were aborted in the past year.

The hallmarks of paganism are human sacrifice and sexual depravity.

More and more, Christians and those who hold traditional moral and social values are being scorned, persecuted, punished in the public square.

And even our beloved Church, which is supposed to be the safeguard of all things holy, and the example of sanctity in the world, is embroiled in one controversy and crisis after another — as princes of the Church protect one another from accountability for grave misdeeds, and promote individuals who defy Church teaching in order to promote deviance in the name of “love” and “acceptance.”

We can’t even take our own pontiff seriously, any more, for whatever words he might utter about homosexuals being kept from the priesthood, he promotes and protects the apologists for the homosexual lifestyle and punishes those who actually hold faithful to the Magisterium.

So, in this coming year, I propose that we must be resolved:

  1. to make an oblation, an offering, of our lives to God.
  2. to live faithfully to Christ, even in isolation, even in defiance of the tsunami of atheism and insanity that is pouring in on us.
  3. to know our Faith better, day by day, through diligent study of the Scriptures and works of the Magisterium (beginning, in conjunction with the Scriptures, the Catechism)
  4. to foster a greater love for Christ, through an increase in prayer and devotional time, so that the whole of our life might be a continual, unceasing prayer and praise
  5. to practice the Works of Mercy – which includes the often-uncomfortable Works of rebuking sinners and instructing the ignorant
  6. to guard our minds and hearts against the influence of the Evil One
  7. to do all in our power to protect our homes and families from evil influence
  8. for those who are married to pray together as a couple, and those with children to incorporate the family rosary and prayer in your daily routine
  9. for those who are not married to find prayer partners with whom you will unite in prayer and service, holding one another up to God and to accountability
  10. to serve faithfully in the Church Militant in that sphere of life to which we are called, and in which we daily live.

Frankly, I think our culture has gone past the point of no return. I don’t believe we can recover the innocence and purity of past generations.  I believe we are now on a Search And Rescue mission.

Let us do our very best.

Vivat Christus Rex!

There is nothing that can happen to us –

I would not, for all the world, want to seem to trivialize the tragedy of Newtown, CT, but I think I would be mistaken if I did not post this. I have learned its truth over the years, and after my ranting and raging, earlier today, it slips into my conscious thought with soft but victory-promising murmurs:

There is nothing – nothing! – that can happen to us that God will not redeem, that He will not use for our greater good and for His own greater glory.

Human Life – Disposable

I’m still reeling from the news about the school shooting in Connecticut, which I’ve been following all afternoon. One of my piano students is kindergarten-age, for goodness’ sake! And I remember so vividly how sweet and small and precious my own daughters were at that age.

So many people on Facebook are screaming for more gun restriction laws – but just who’s going to have guns, then? I mean, for crying out loud, people, the school was a NO GUN ZONE… and who had the guns there? The criminal. The off-hinged young man who came in and shot up the school and killed at least 26 people, 20 little kids.

No. The problem is not “gun control.” It’s a rotten, selfish attitude that people are here for someone’s personal convenience, are disposable. It begins with the 1960s and the idea of contraception on demand, the idea that we can have our pleasure without consequences, without lifechanging commitment. It grew in the 1970s with the legalization of abortion-on-demand, and the idea that if the contraception fails (or if one is too lazy or selfish to use it) then a little surgical procedure will take care of the problem – the baby can’t even be called a baby any more; it has to be a “clump of cells” or a “fetus”; God forbid we should acknowledge the humanity of the unborn.

It grows with a sense that children can’t be spanked, no matter what they do, because that would hurt their precious feelings. Most of the parents I’ve known who refused to spank their children have tried to present themselves as morally superior to the rest of us, but in reality they’ve just been too damned lazy to deal with their kids. Working in a lawyer’s office, several years ago, I saw the names of some of those unspanked kids of my acquaintance listed on a series of police arrest reports for drug, larceny, and property damage charges. Mom and Dad wouldn’t deal with them as toddlers and preschoolers, so now the court system has to deal with them.

What happened in CT this morning is an extreme consequence of the disregard of personal responsibility. It’s really not so ironic that on the same day, in another abortion capitol, China, a man went through a crowd of school kids with a knife, hurting more than 20 of them.

We must renew our fight against the attitude of children – of people – as accessory objects that can be casually gotten rid of if they get in the way of our personal satisfaction.

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.

A contrast of two deaths

He’s not my uncle, he’s the uncle of my dearly loved friend, Angela. He lived in Holland, and was elderly and ill, and on Friday, March 25 (the Feast of the Annunciation – Feast of the Incarnation) “Uncle Theo” was propelled unnaturally into Eternity. Put to sleep like a dog or a cat.

Euthanasia sounds like such a compassionate act – take the elderly, the infirm, the incapacitated, the suffering, and just go ahead and ease them out of their misery.  “I don’t want to suffer like so-and-so,” someone will say. “I’d like to just be put out of my misery.” But we don’t really expect to be taken literally, do we?

After all, our hours and our minutes belong to the Author of Life, to God Himself, not to us. We didn’t ask to be born, and we don’t get to determine when or how we die. It’s His call.

We don’t always get to see the point. There lay my dear friend Nora, incoherent so far as we could tell, unable to eat for months because of the cancer that had ravaged her body for the past four years. But her vital signs remained strong, and when her husband tried to help her take her meds, or to perform some other service for her, she fought back.

Pain was compounded by fear.  Severe depression, depression that had required electroshock therapy more than once, had left her bereft of hope. “I’m scared,” she grabbed my arm on one of my visits. “I’m so scared.”

Father had pointed to a statue of an angel and told her to remember her Guardian Angel. “You are not alone,” he promised her. “God loves you.” But she had become unable to hold on to that hope for more than the time it took to sing the refrain of “Be Not Afraid.”

“There’s no point to this!” her husband protested during one of my visits. The lingering, with the impossibility of providing true comfort, or to see how long the ordeal would last, took a toll on everyone. It always does.

But there is a point. And I saw it in the family – in Nora’s husband as he persisted in getting pain meds down her throat for as long a time as she could swallow, in her children as they came and kept vigil with their mother. Love was perfecting them – they might not see it right away; it might take years before they can point to this time in their lives and say, as I now can after my mother’s horrific death from lung cancer, twenty years ago: “We were all made better people because of this.”

Nora died a week ago – at home in her own bed, quietly, gently, naturally. Yes, she was momentarily alone as her husband had to leave the room briefly. But she was not really alone, because her family had waited for God’s hand, for His time, to choose the moment of Homegoing.

That last afternoon, I went to visit. We didn’t know it was the last afternoon, of course. I just went, because it was a day when I could. And after I’d been there a few minutes, another of her friends arrived, and a few minutes after that, still another – and each time a new friend walked in the room, Nora’s breathing quickened and deepened: she was aware that we were there.

Sally and I prayed the Divine Mercy chaplet, sitting by the bed, and Nora became still and quiet, her breathing regular and steady. When Carole came back in, and the conversation shifted to mundane things, her breathing altered with the flow of the conversation.

Nora – who could not actively communicate, was still in our conversation. I’m chuckling to recall how a couple of times she seemed to interject her own responses into my mind. She had a low opinion of one of the people being spoken of, and I could hear her calling him by a not-very-nice word.

But we had to go home, not knowing that it was the last visit, expecting to return the next day – and that evening, while herchildren were en route from their own families and jobs, and while her husband stepped out of the room ever so briefly, she died.

Nora’s death was a victory of human spirit and the Love of God over suffering – seemingly pointless suffering that had the point of perfecting Nora and refining the hearts and characters of those of us who loved her.

What beauty of redemption was circumvented because some Dutch doctors were too impatient to let death come in God’s time? Two doctors told Theo’s daughter that euthanasia was “the only option left.” What obscenity!

And what a stark contrast between these two deaths.

Mortal v. Venial

Mortal sin is like a bomb blast: the damage to one’s soul is immediate and catastrophic.

Venial sin is like a termite infestation. It may not seem like much at first, but if you don’t deal with it quickly and decisively, that one or two wee little bugs you almost don’t even notice are going to multiply, and become a colony; and that colony has the capability of doing some serious long-term damage to the structure it inhabits: your soul.

When someone we love is in mortal sin –

It doesn’t matter who it is, or how much we love them, or how “good” that person is:

Our affection doesn’t sanctify that person’s sin.

Okay – it’s understandable that people want to minimize and whitewash their loved one’s flaws. But when someone we love is engaged in acts of mortal sin, we must have the courage to look at those acts and to name them for what they are. I don’t care what your son or daughter or nephew or best friend is doing – if you can’t recognize that their mortal sin is just that, then you’re not loving their immortal soul.

This is called cooperation with grave matter, and it’s also a sin, by the way.

One of the most courageous couples I know did something incredibly hard and risky: they sat their lesbian daughter down and told her in no uncertain terms, “As long as you are involved in the lifestyle, you aren’t welcome here. We cannot, we will not tolerate your engaging in sin as if it were of no consequence.”

It might have been horrible – the daughter might have rebelled, she might have chosen her partner over her family, she might have estranged herself from her family for years and years. Instead, she chose her family – and because they loved her enough to tell her that sin is sin, she is now out of the lifestyle and able to look back objectively and with admirable honesty at what she left behind. At the ugly and manipulative community she escaped.

In any event, she told me, some time later, her parents had made sure that there would be someone who loved her enough to tell her the truth – that what she was doing was morally wrong, unacceptable in a Christian, and dangerous. If she ever struggled or vacillated in her choice, she had the truth echoing in her mind the whole time.

Love cannot – must not! lose sight of the fact that those we love possess a soul that is immortal, that we all will face a particular Judgment and pay the penalties – the just penalties – for our sins. And when we ourselves prevaricate, rather than facing head-on our duty to the Truth, then we compound the wrong; we take guilt to ourselves and we prolong and deepen our loved one’s slavery to sin.

Lessons of a biblical proportion

Wow. Reading through Joshua and Judges, yesterday and today (research, as well as – well, reading!), I’m struck by several things. One in particular I think worth blogging about.

Israel has come out of bondage to Egypt, been forced to wander around in the desert for forty years because Israel still doesn’t get it that God means it when he says, “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt….” I’ve lost track of how many times He’s told them this.

Look. Who we worship determines what our lifestyle choices are going to be. Our morals, our ethics, our politics, our everything.

Here God is reminding Israel again and again and again, “Hey, folks, listen up: I am NOT the gods you left behind in Egypt, I’m ME, and you are my people, so prove it! – Here’s what I want from you.”

He’s given them the Law, the 10 Commandments and all those details thereof – He’s brought them twice across bodies of water, parted so they walk across on dry land (the Red Sea, leaving Egypt, the Jordan River, entering the Promised Land). He’s given them extraordinary military victories against superior political powers…

All He’s asked of them – required of them – is that they remain faithful to Him and to the covenant He made with their fathers, a covenant by which they are bound to Him as His own possession.

Part of that obligation is that they get rid of the pagan inhabitants of this land He’s given them. And guess what? They didn’t oblige. Some of Israel’s tribes let the pagans stay put. Some were put into servitude (against God’s command) and some were just left alone, in some sort of – what I expect must have been an uneasy peace.

Then the sons of Israel began marrying pagan women. The pagans began marrying daughters of Israel.

And what happened next you don’t have to be prescient to anticipate: The Israelites began worshipping the pagan gods.


But here’s what’s happening: the people of God ignored the presence of the single greatest threat to their spiritual health. They ignored the pagans and all their pagan worship practices. They let those practices catch their imagination, gain a toehold on their own family life.

We live as strangers in an alien land – in a secular world dominated by allegiances to false gods. The hallmarks of that pagan world were twofold: sexual licentiousness (surely I don’t have to draw the parallels of how that’s playing out in American culture today) and human sacrifice (abortion? euthenasia?). We’re called to live as distinctive children of God in this secular culture. And we’re falling asleep at the wheel.

How does pagan culture infiltrate the Church?

What television shows do you watch? “Oh, it’s just a tv show, it doesn’t mean anything.” Well, yeah, it does. The adulteries and fornications and lies and sarcasm and lack of respect and lack of reverence and contempt for decency that you find so funny and so entertaining are like a termite infestation eroding the best part of your own good judgment, subtly persuading you that what is twisted, perverse, and unworthy of the people of God is just ordinary human behavior, nothing wrong with it.

What periodicals do you read? What values do they promote? Do they promote chastity and fidelity, or are they full of articles on getting more gratification out of your romance du jour? Do they promote modest living or acquisitiveness?

What movies do you pay to see? What sort of music do you listen to? and how much violence, profanity, and misogyny is it promoting?

What entertains you? How do you spend your leisure time? Would you want the Final Judgment to descend upon you as you engage in these? Do you want to be held accountable for the destructive influence these recreations are having on the children in your households?

These are the subtle ways in which the Enemy of our souls is undermining and sabotaging our best spiritual life – our fidelity to our God.

And, if we don’t regain our senses, the same fates of judgment, destruction, and slavery await us – just as they did Israel.