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Tread Softly, Pray Fiercely

Tread Softly Pray Fiercely

The past several months of this year have been exceptionally hard to watch, as friends and family seem to quickly and easily tear each other apart. Assassinations of character, name-calling, ad hominum attacks, and vitriol seem to be spewed with nary a thought of a backward glance. All across social media, the push to speak first, think after seems to be prevalent, and the share buttons seem to promote use of simply sharing what best suits our own narrative, rather than considering the point of view of friends who may not hold that same viewpoint.

We all seem to be in a rush to drown out the other person, without taking the time to not just hear the words of the other person, but to slow down and identify the true intent behind that person’s beliefs. Social media, of late, is simply a tool being used to air grievances, ills, snarkiness, and ugliness.

There used to be an unspoken social norm that said, whenever engaging in public discourse with someone outside your home, “Never discuss money, politics, sex, or religion.” Yet, in today’s world, it seems as though we have all waded into a hotbed of discussion, with no preparation in understanding the best way forward in a debate is to listen to the opponent’s argument – both spoken, and unspoken.

And, our relationships are suffering because of our inability to listen… to truly hear each other.

Left and right we are witnessing our friends and family on social media tout their message, while lambasting those who do not agree.

This lack of voice has left many feeling downtrodden, depressed, and silenced.

This is precisely where the devil wants us.

Matthew 7:19-20 reminds us, “Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So by their fruits you will know them.”

The uncomfortable question to ask ourselves is not where we stand on any given issue; rather, the question to ask is are our actions – spoken and unspoken, in real life or on social media – bearing good fruit?

What are these fruits? The list of bad fruit, or “works of the flesh,” is found in Galatians 5:19-21 and include, “… hatreds… jealously… outbursts of fury… dissensions, factions..” and more.

Yet, the good fruits, or the fruit of the Holy Spirit, are, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

There is a time and a place to correct someone for their sins. After all, we are given the task as Catholics to perform Spiritual Works of Mercy, in addition to the Corporal Works of Mercy, which include admonishing sinners and instructing the ignorant.

However, many of us have forgotten the other Catholic Spiritual Works of Mercy: Bear patiently those who wrong us, forgive offences, and comfort the afflicted.

In an effort to prove our way is the best and most correct, we find ourselves speaking over, and forgetting the patience, the forgiveness, and the comfort to which we are called to share.

As faithful Christians, we are reminded blatantly in 1 Corinthians 13:1, “If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.”

Going back to the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and the Spiritual Works of Mercy, the guidance in 1 Corinthians is sound, but is also sometimes a hard pill to swallow.

How do we extend love to others, when we are interested in getting our own viewpoint heard, or even convince others of our approach to situations?

Quite simply:

We tread softly, gently and silently.

We assess the situation.

We determine which battle we want to choose to fight and champion.

We remember the adage that God gave us one mouth to speak, and two ears to listen, and we employ that saying as we approach the situation.

We employ the cardinal virtue of prudence, which challenges us to, “discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it…” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1806).

We recognize the bad fruit trying to sway our country toward further division, hatred, and violence. Satan operates under darkness, and in secrecy, to create division.

We call out the prince of darkness, not by casting blame at each other and hurling accusations at them, but by recognizing his sleight of hand in the strife.

We call to mind one of the last words of Christ, as He hung on the Cross, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

Finally, we pray… fiercely.

We ask God for prudence, but we also ask Him for the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and for the ability to speak less and listen more.

We ask God for both the willingness to hear the spoken word of our opponent, and the grace to see beyond the spoken word to understand the unspoken, and perhaps even subconscious, motivation behind the words.

We pray, not just for the other person, but for humility to acknowledge when our own viewpoint may be both difficult to hear, and also at times, completely incorrect.

Simply put, as we continue to wade the waters of instant gratification on social media, and swim these waters of division in this world, we tread softly, but pray fiercely.

– AnnAliese Harry

We listen to the words spoken but listen harder to the underlying motivations and experiences of the other person.

We speak firmly, but with patience.

We love each other.

We pray unceasingly (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

As we continue to move forward, let each of us visit, and re-visit, the uncomfortable question at hand – are our actions, both in real life and on social media, bearing good fruit?

Are we living with our collective and individual sight set on our eternal home?

Are we ready to squirm a little by taking accountability of our own actions, in an effort to live in a manner which is ultimately pleasing to God?

Are we being agents of love?

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Social Media is Ruining Social Justice: Here’s Why

Note:  OK, OK, the title of this post was unnecessarily incendiary.  I love social media, you probably got to this post via social media.  Social media could never single-handedly ruin social justice.  What’s happened is I noticed a trend with social justice topics on social media, and I wanted to point it out and talk about what we, with a full understanding of Catholic Social Justice, can do about it.

Social Media is Ruining Social Justice Here’s Why

Already Out of Mind

Take a minute to switch tabs back to your social media feed.  How many articles are there about the children separated from their families at the border?  I hope to goodness it’s not none.  But I wouldn’t be surprised.  After all, it’s been a few weeks since the headlines broke.

You know, a few weeks.  Basically an eternity. 

Definitely enough time for the well-being of children to pass from our attention.

It sounds harsh.   But the reality is harsh.  To be completely transparent, I’m guilty too.  Things slip in and out of my notice – largely based on what’s in my social media feed. 

And that isn’t enough.

This doesn’t just apply to the children at the border.  If our commitment to social justice is SOLELY based on our social media scrolling, if our activism is SOLELY reactionary, we are never. going. to. change. ANYTHING. 

Don’t get me wrong, I was amazed by the initiatives to provide aid for these children and to work towards social justice.  But we must build off of their efforts to build lasting change. 

Everyday Social Justice

You may ask…is lasting change even possible?  I would argue yes.  But it’s going to take a mindset shift.

See, I think that social justice is more achievable that we actually give it credit for.   We’ve just been conditioned to look at it completely the wrong way.   In the social media age, social justice is primarily reactionary, rather than an everyday practice.

Here’s what reactionary social justice looks like: I see a headline: Children that are sleeping on the concrete underneath a blanket of tin foil.  And I go “I can’t fix that!”  Because I can’t.  It’s just the truth.

To contrast, here’s what everyday social justice looks like: I get to know the immigrants in my community (I work at a majority Hispanic school).  Within these relationships, I listen to their stories.  Their experiences make me more aware of the political and cultural issues that impact their lives.

Then, I give of my available time and resources.  There’s a first grader struggling to overcome the language barrier, and I advocate for him.  There’s a community fundraiser to get Christmas gifts for children with parents across the border, and I participate.

And for some of you, that exact path is feasible (if so, totally let me know because I’m curious as to your approach!)

For others, it may be a different community that you have the opportunity and skills to help (and still let me know because that’s awesome and inspiring).  The point is, we take small steps towards justice.


Everyday Social Justice is Catholic Social Justice

We must commit to everyday social justice.   Because that’s Catholic Social Justice.  Catholic Social Teaching is not based upon simply reacting and jumping on the bandwagon.   It’s about incorporating the call of Christ into our day to day lives.

You’re probably familiar with the corporal works of mercy.  If not, check them out here.

These aren’t every now and then ideals.  These are Christ’s command to us as Christians. 

Maybe it’s giving food and supplies to children at the border.  Maybe it to bagging up extra baby clothes and donating them to a crisis pregnancy center.  Maybe it’s serving a meal at a homeless shelter.  Maybe it’s investing in the community to ensure safety and security of our kids.  Maybe it’s writing a letter to someone in prison.

Whatever it is — Christ expects commitment.


“I’m too busy.”

OK, fair enough.  You’re busy.  We’re all busy.  I’ll be the first to advocate for balance and self-care.

Yet I really feel like we need to pick through our priories.  Do you really want to look at Jesus and tell Him you were too busy to help the children at the border who were not properly dressed, eating uncooked frozen meals?


For me, this ends up being more of a perspective thing than an actual “I’m too busy” thing.  I can’t do the big things so I end up doing nothing at all.

To counter this, here’s my idea for an “I’m too busy” approach to Catholic Social Justice:

  • Every day: Pray for social justice.
  • Every week: Read an article about a current social justice issue. I would totally recommend posting it on social media and sharing your thoughts.
  • Every month: Donate (within your means) to some social justice cause. This can be money or things: A food donation to a pantry, a clothing donation to a homeless shelter, a diaper donation to a crisis pregnancy shelter.  Extra points for committing to one cause or organization with which you can form a lasting relationship.
  • Every 4-6 months: Complete some larger service project.

You may be able to do more, maybe you have to do a little less.   Start small if you have to – but start.  Christ will take what you give and make it grow – He’s amazing like that.


Where are the Catholics?

Your small commitment is so essential.  Because we need to be working.  Every day.  We need to anticipate headlines.  We need to fight for what’s right even before it’s a “hot button” issue.

So that, when someone asks: “Where are the Catholics when…?”

The response should be:

“We’re already here.

And we’d love it if you joined us.”

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We have all been there – sitting in Mass with our children and just waiting for that moment when we may have to step in and distract, redirect, step out, or pray the moment passes where they feel like being loud at the most inopportune time.  It always gives me a chuckle because as a parent, you just know.  You know that moment when one of the kids might be reaching their threshold. 

For us, that “moment” is basically constant with one of our children much beyond the usual expected toddler shenanigans.   Our 5th daughter as you know was born with some congenital brain issues.  This always makes Mass interesting.  Don’t get me wrong, actually, she loves Mass.  But she also doesn’t realize how to whisper, or be quiet on command all the time, control her brain overload, manage her physical limitations, or even acclimate to the environment…even though we are there weekly. 

Hosanna - The Power of PrayerOne Sunday at Mass we were  doing the usual “holding our breath.”  We were doing so more than usual because she had complained of her head hurting the night before (this is never a good sign with Meagan because it can mean something is wrong requiring a hospital stay or surgery).  When she woke up, she still complained.  I had offered to stay with her at home but then Meagan told me she needed to go to Mass.  Of course I obliged and off we all went  She laid on my lap in the pew and seemed to calm down. I remember thinking I hope her head pain was going away.  As the choir started to sing the “Holy Holy,” all of a sudden out of nowhere Meagan sat up and  belted out at the top of her lungs, “Hosanna! Hosanna!”  I started to say “shhh” (while also thinking – wow, she remembered some of the words!).  She continued to belt out “Hosanna” numerous times during the song….. and after. And I continued to hush and try to distract her.  We luckily finished Mass as a family, and Meagan seemed to calm and handle the rest of her day well.

As we left Mass that day, I was surprised Meagan not only remembered the words, but also knew when to sing it.  I also started to think about my initial knee jerk reaction – to say “shhh.”  It wasn’t punative by any means, but why was that my first reaction to my child praising God? To the words finally coming to her lips?  It really got me thinking about kids and prayer- if that stuck with Meagan, what else was swirling around in her head? What other parts of the Mass or parts of prayers was she retaining even if not repeating them out loud? What else was she hearing that maybe we weren’t?

The last few weeks haven’t been great regarding the news in our world.  Unfortunately, we keep hearing about this tragedy and that conflict and these sad events…and the list goes on made much easier to repeat with all the instant access to information.  Some of my older children approached me and expressed concern about some of the things going on.  I understood their concern; it is so hard to balance.  We want to be informed and aware, but how do we balance that with staying focused on God and the good in our lives? And what about all the good in the world? (That does exist by the way despite never hearing much about it…)  Then I thought of Meagan’s “Hosanna” and remembered… prayer! I told the girls the story of Mr. Rogers and how his mother always said to look for the helpers in bad situations – because there is always good in bad.  Light in darkness.  Then I understood what my kids were asking – it wasn’t so much fear as much as they felt helpless.  And they wanted to feel like they were doing something.  Again, prayer came to mind. 

That very night we had a long talk about prayer and how God hears all our prayers, especially those of children.  We talked about the power of prayer and how important it is.  We talked about how it brings peace and love and strengthens our connection with God – and yes, sometimes, even brings about action to help good overcome.  The girls felt much better.  At that moment, the four older ones got their rosaries, knelt by the beds, and started to say the rosary.  It was late so I told them if they wanted to do one decade they could.  And they did….but then they continued.  And so my girls knelt there praying the Rosary and the whole room was calm.  I could feel their fears and worries lift away, and when they were finished, I could hear their voices so much lighter and happy.  They went to bed just fine and woke up with a new sense of calm and strength.


Hosanna - The Power of Prayer
Four sisters praying the Rosary together


I heard a great homily recently that offered insights and perspectives on why we go to Mass.  The priest related it to the greatest prayer.  He talked about how for that moment, for that one moment at Mass where the Eucharist becomes Jesus Himself, we can free ourselves of our daily worries.  The strife.  The fear.  The responsibilities.  For that beautiful moment at Mass, we are free with Him as He comes to be present in the Eucharist and nourish us at Communion.  The priest continued by saying that by us participating in the Mass and receiving Jesus, we are participating in the greatest prayer; we allow Jesus Himself to be within us to guide our words and our actions for the following week… and bring us peace from within as we go back to navigating our daily worries.  The strife.  The fear.  The …. well, you get the point.

I think it is really hard to navigate tough times with children.  They want so badly to feel action – that they are doing something or helping the situation or taking control of their circumstances.  And so often, they just can’t.  I’m so glad I was able to be reminded of the importance of prayer  for our children.  It is not only a way to talk to God, but it is in fact a way to take action! Prayer is something we DO – it’s an active communication with God, an active plea for peace and calm, and an active way to teach our kids to not just pray “for,” but pray “to accept.”  We ultimately pray for His Will to be done.  To teach this to our children is priceless. 

It wasn’t too long after my mini reflections on prayer with our kids that we were back at Mass another Sunday.  As soon as the Holy Holy started, sure enough it happened again. “HOSANNA!!!HOSANNA!” Meagan just as loud and proud as could be kept saying “Hosanna!” But this time I just thanked God for the “do over.”  I looked at Meagan and instead of saying “shhh,” I whispered in her ear “That’s right! Sing!”  So she did.  And I’m sure God heard her prayer.

Hosanna - The Power of Prayer

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Chariot Race to Regression

Perhaps the most common and dreaded cliché about history is that those who don’t know it are condemned to repeat it. Human nature, being that it has not changed since the fall, would have us immediately place ourselves in the camp that knows history and thus will not contribute to its repetition. Automatically, most of us, or at least some of us, will assume this is a negative cliché and, full of pride and a bit of arrogance, will tell ourselves that we know better and there is no way the horrors of the past will happen again. Egypt’s Pharaoh, Rome’s Caligula, Mexico’s Aztecs, Germany’s Hitler…Not in our lifetime, no way! We convince ourselves that in this day and age, where the information superhighway contributes to the education of millions and exposes injustice on real time, there is nothing that will get past the scrutiny of the jury of the people. In our minds, at this point in time, history has ceased to be cyclical; it no longer moves in circles, like the chariot races of the Roman Empire. Now, with all our knowledge and vision, we think history has finally become a straight line, a ray pointing forward towards blissfully enlightened, progressive times. But it hasn’t, and it won’t, not ever.

Lately, the strong, progressive, liberal push for all things sexual, homosexual, feminist, atheist and/or socialist is being presented as something new or ground-breaking , has come to the attention of even those like me, a simple stay at home mom. The persistent disdain for tradition, Christianity, modesty, specificity of gender roles, is growing fast and has a ferocious and violent appetite. What in other times has been called anarchy or socialism or fascism or communism, is now disguised behind purposeful misinformation, word manipulation, and coupled with mass under-education. The propaganda lulls the crowds and convinces them of the need to move our society FORWARD in the areas of sexuality, secularism and feminism, when in reality we are witnessing a massive REGRESSION. This race to legalize same sex unions, to mark women’s success at the expense of men, to take God out of His creation is actually sending society back to some of the most violent and chaotic times in history.

We are currently facing a movement whose agenda craves destruction, humiliation and extermination at the same time it cries out for tolerance, freedom and respect. It is contradictory in every aspect of its implementation. It creates confusion, disenchantment, hopelessness and finally, minds ready for the taking. We are battling a generation raised on Nike and Coca Cola commercials, addicted to instant gratification, impatient, disrespectful and intolerant. A whole demographic that knows very little or nothing about the past, looking only at self and at present, results in a very volatile society with a fragile future. For the first time in American history, we witnessed, in 2008, the election of a president based on brand recognition and slogans. Attractive graphics and catchy phrases put in power the most unlikely candidate to the presidency in the White House: Change, Yes we can. A man without any of the necessary credentials to run our country sits at the helm and we continue, to this day, to pay dearly for it. Even today some would still argue that what happened here in November 2008 is completely different than what happened in Austria when they voted to annex themselves to Hitler’s Germany. Well, I am going to have to disagree. It is very, very similar and it proves that we have yet to find our way out of the never ending cycle of repetitive history.

Our current abortion numbers, both national and international, easily exceed any other civilization’s victim toll of sacrificial rituals or attempted genocides. The Egyptians had at least two major ethnic cleansings, as recorded in the bible. When Moses was born, all the new born males were taken from the Jewish people and killed. Then again when Jesus was born, the same thing happened. Aztecs used to sacrifice from one to several thousand at a time in the name of religious balance and peace. The Romans killed Christians for entertainment. The Nazis prided themselves in ridding the world of  Jewish people and anyone who considered them human.  The U.S. of A., with tax money, continues to sacrifice millions of unborn at home for the sake of the individual’s “peace of mind”,  and justifies it with ” bad timing”. We also promote and fund millions more abortions abroad under the guise of wanting to end poverty and advance the women’s liberation movement.

We are no different than those Godless cultures that killed mercilessly for selfish reasons. We, in fact, are so much better at it than they were. We have better resources. We have managed to raise an entire generation to think that silence is irrelevant, when in truth, it is permissive. We have managed to make morals relative, Christianity a thing of the past, and turned God into yet another one of the bad choices that will not be tolerated. Where there once was a common thread of religion in this country; now is a knotted up bunch of strands, tugging and pulling, trying to figure out, where they come from, why they are here, and what is their purpose. Left alone to sort out all the confusion, they become easy targets for the slogans and catchy phrases: Pro-Choice, My Body, Reproductive Rights. It all sounds good and respectful until we look down and see we are walking in a pool of the blood of the innocents. But how many people actually stop to look at anything but themselves? Not many, but hopefully enough.

We are also not the first nation to cry out separation of church and state. We will not be the last. But that is not really what we are doing. We are not crying separation of church and state; we are calling for a separation of Christianity from the state. For the “sake of freedom and equality”, our government steps on Christianity and knowingly makes room for the next church to attach itself to the state. Governments cannot lead societies without a moral compass. There must be a standard, a rule, a guide. Where that guide comes from is, inevitably, the predominant religious belief. The Aztecs conquered many cultures before them and imposed their own religious practices upon them. The Spanish, the English, the Moors, every conquering culture, without fail, has imposed its religious beliefs on the conquered and proceeded to rule according to them. What we are living now is no different. We are just making room for one of the less forgiving religions to fill in the hole left by Christianity’s uprooting.

It is nothing new, it is not good, but it is not new. We are only racing back around the track, one more lap. Back to the times of uncontrolled self-indulgence, or to the times when your birth determined your social status and your potential. Wherever this new lap takes us, it is certainly not a new place, just a new group of people making the same mistakes. So why is it that we insist on running around in circles? It is human nature without the grace of God. It is all the looking inward and taking care of our wants before other’s needs. It is greed, pride, gluttony, sloth, envy, anger and lust. What is left without God is nothing but chaos and death and we are riding our chariots, horses at full gallop, right around the bend. 

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Respond with grace…

Oooh-wee!   The Catholic Blogosphere is all worked up, aren’t we?

HHS!  PP!  SGK! 

(LOL… better keep up on your acronym lingo!)

We’ve got fire in our belly… straining at the leash…  rarin’ to go… all fired up!
Pointing fingers, neck hairs raised,  nostrils flaring, bloodshot-beady-eyed…



Whoa boy… down, down boy… okay deep breath.
Yes, you are a good Catholic {ear scratch}… goooood booy {belly rub}.



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We are all trying to get our reactions known and heard.   We’re all in a tizzy trying to state our opinions and be the first to react.  So, how are our readers viewing our response to all this news?
Let’s take a trip to the local pet shop and see how our furry/feathery/scaly friends would handle this on their blogs!

The Fish
Bubble… bubble… post a link… don’t say anything… maybe no one will notice…

The Bird
Lots of annoying chatter in the background…  SQUAWK!  SQUAWK!
Or the un-caged, free-flyer who comes to sit on your shoulder and poops down your back?

The Cat
Leave me to my sunny spot under the window and I will pretend you do not exist.
Don’t ask my opinion because I’m not giving it to you anyway.

The Gerbil
I will run the good race… around and around and around.
You may not notice me, but I’m okay with that.

The Friendly Puppy
I will love you and lick you and tell you how much I love you by licking you!
I’ll be your best friend forever and nothing you can say will change that!
Can’t we all just get along?

and for good measure…


Now, I KNOW we’re all feeling a special desire to take home that Attack Dog right now… and with very good reason.  However, our goal is to win the hearts and minds of our brothers and sisters and bring them ever closer to Christ through our words and actions… and bite their heads off.

So, let’s reconsider those other pets for a moment.
Take the fish, for example.  Fish isn’t afraid to post what’s on his mind, but also likes to keep the peace.  Props to Fish.
Or Bird… this sweet little sneak attack pigeon catches the tourists off guard and poops on their fanny packs.  Tourists are just rubberneckers who want to see the carnage – they totally deserve it though, right?  Props to Bird.
Cat is tricky though.  Cat ignores the problems that clearly exist.  And Puppy isn’t doing much better.  Sometimes the truth needs to at least be examined.
And last, but certainly not least there is Gerbil.  Gerbil is the real winner.  Unrelenting in his quiet little goal.

So, the moral of the story… no, I’m not anti-dog or cat – that’s not the point.  Besides, I’ve had my allergy shots, they’re both cool with me now.

Our reactions and responses to this unfolding news drama of late need to be continually under scrutiny.  Are we needlessly creating enemies out of could-be friends?  Are we burning bridges before the caboose has crossed?  Or, on the other hand, are we ignoring or placating issues that deserve our voices of support?

And regardless of how we want to voice off in this new Blogosphere world, we must remember to run the good race… praying unceasingly… in faith and hope.  Let’s approach this recent news by taking the  higher road, a “New Way”, through prayer, fasting, and penance.  Let’s turn to the Patron Saint of breast disease – St. Agatha.

In prayer:

Oh St. Agatha, who withstood the unwelcome advances from unwanted suitors,
and suffered pain and torture for her devotion to Our Lord, we celebrate your
faith, dignity and martyrdom.
Protect us against rape and other violations, guard us against breast cancer and other
afflictions of women, and inspire us to overcome adversity.
Oh St. Agatha, virgin and martyr, mercifully grant that we who venerate your sacrifice,
may receive your intercession.