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Sacred Heart of Jesus, Your Mercy Saved Me


I have a strong devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Being that this is His month, I wanted to share a little story of my childhood.

Growing up, my mom had this image of the Sacred Heart in our living room. This is the image I would look at day in and day out. This was HUGE by the way it measured about 5 feet x 3 feet, think a big poster. I experienced many sad moments in my childhood: the loss of my father, sexual abuse by my step father (I’ve shared in Broken Childhood, Healed by Christ), my mother’s alcoholism due to the first two, and much more. But this image always gave me hope, even when we didn’t go to Mass, even when my mom fell away from the Church.

One time when we were moving for what felt like the 1 billionth time, she wanted to change the frame it was in because it was heavy and she and I were moving our entire apartment alone with my little sisters (I was 12 then). She messed it up and sprayed the image itself in silver. She cried and cried so much! I told her that it didn’t matter, it was beautiful anyway. Once we moved she never put it back up on the wall. Mind you this move was to get away from the abusive man that had hurt all three little girls and in the process my poor mother. My uncle saw it in a corner and thought it was trash so he was going to throw it away but then thought to keep the frame for another picture. So he starts pulling the picture off and guess what?

There was a second intact image underneath it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

For us it was a miracle and gave us the strength we needed to move forward and away from the life we had lived for so long that was so far from God. I knelt before this image begging God to help my mom and her alcoholism MANY MANY times. I screamed at Him many times too, in those moment where I felt so alone and helpless. He pulled me/us through though. Many years later, when I was 25, my mom stopped drinking completely, not even socially. She had dry moments but that wasn’t enough. She went through a retreat and at the end of it there was a Mass and then followed testimonies of Faith. She stood up and told this story and then publicly apologized to me and thanked me for my Faith in Him, which is what helped her she said.

I have an incredible devotion to the Sacred Heart, can you see why?

But God’s amazing mercy didn’t stop there. When I met my husband, Peter, (on what used to be SaintRaphael.org and now CatholicMatch.com) he had this image as his profile picture for some time. It was a photo of the one that hung in his living room! The same exact one! It was what made me curious about him and got us chatting. His screen name was “SacredHeart1220”! In our bedroom we have a smaller but exact same image. My screen name was “LittleFlower1220”. Notice the 1220 that are similar? We have the same birthday, Dec. 20th. For me, there is no such thing as coincidence! Maybe God-incidences? See, I had just prayed a 30 Day Novena to the Holy Ghost and in it I wrote 30 things that I wanted my future husband to be like. I am not lying when I tell you he had all 30 things. It was just amazing, I giggle each time I remember…I met him on day 30!

Sometimes, it is hard to realize this but

God is always with us, even when men and the world, and the Devil want to hurt us. Cling to Him through the storm and in the end He will reward you!

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!

 

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Where is the Cry to Ban Porn?

There are now two dead girls and one who is forever changed because they were gang raped by boys who then posted pictures and videos of those rapes online. Where is the outrage that politicians are giving to the gun debate?  Oh, right, porn isn’t on their agenda. It’s not even on their radar. Well, it’s on mine. And I’ll tell you why.

I was sexually abused as a small child. Most people know that about me. However, the part I rarely talk about are all the boys and men who followed, who took advantage of me because of that experience, using me for their own enjoyment.

I was used by man after man. Boys talked me into doing things that, had the Internet existed and our exploits gone public (as they so often do now), I would have been horrified for the world to see. It was bad enough that most  people in my town knew through gossip.

The reason I hate talking about the promiscuity that followed my sexual abuse is because I know I share the responsibility for that behavior. Yes, boys used me and talked me into things I didn’t want to do, but most of the time, I chose to let them.  Only once was I actually force into sex and even then, it wasn’t so much fighting an assault, but acquiescing to the man so it would be over as soon as possible.

So I know what these girls are going through. Yet there’s a huge difference in what happened to girls in my generation and what is happening to the girls of this one.  We didn’t have the Internet, cell phones with cameras, or even cell phones at all. I’m not sure we’d be alive today if we’d had. But there is one important similarity between the women of my generation and the girls today: both are plagued by fatherless homes and easy access to porn. The “boys will be boys” mentality probably plays as big a role today, too, in the acceptance of casual sex.

Whenever it’s suggested we need to examine our attitudes toward sex and porn, people balk at the idea because in our “me first!” culture, this could change how we have “fun.” We don’t want to think porn is wrong and contributes to sex being so abused in our culture. Because maybe then we’d have to face our own porn use…our own contribution to this problem.

Many kids (including mine) have seen their parents engaged in non-marital, intimate relationships. Go to a club on a Friday or Saturday night and you’ll see two crowds: the college kids and the “single mothers” who are there for “Ladies’ Night.” Sometimes the women are the same young age, but for the mothers at least, the fact that they are at a club means the kids are home with a babysitter. Nothing is wrong with Mom having fun with her friends once in a while. But when your kids see that Mom’s (or even Dad’s) life revolves around having romantic relationship after romantic relationship, that becomes normal for them. Children learn through example, after all. 

And while Mom is out clubbing, where is Dad? Not at home…not even in the family, most of the time. It’s fairly normal today for kids to be raised in fatherless households. I’d go further and say many kids really grow up parent-less, not just fatherless. Even when children are fortunate enough to live with two parents, the parents are often either glued to their phone or computer, working all the time, or chauffeuring the kids to a thousand activities. Being a parent is much more than that.

I didn’t always know this. I was a self-centered mom for most of my kids’ lives (and may still be, considering I just told my son, “I’ll talk to you about anything you want when I’m done writing my post!”). Parenting is about talking to kids and teaching/guiding them on how to make good decisions, holding them accountable when they make bad ones, and applauding them when they make good ones. Nowadays a lot of parents think that it means defending their kids against anyone who wants to hold them accountable for anything.

But even more damaging than kids receiving no guidance and not being held accountable for poor choices is the easy access to porn. Porn is a contributing factor in most sexual assaults, because kids today have 24/7 access to hardcore, violent porn. When my husband was a teen who wanted to look at porn, there was a whole set of hoops to jump through: getting someone to buy the magazine for him, the embarrassment in ASKING someone to buy it for him, and then finding a place to look at it. Today, there’s no shame at all attached to looking at porn, much less any difficulty in accessing it.

Before my conversion, I watched porn, all kinds of porn, and the stuff I’ve seen that kids can access for free on iPods shocked the hell out of me. Teens with raging hormones and access to that kind of violent porn will act out at some point. Many people–even those who watch porn regularly–don’t realize that rape is the most common plot in porn movies.

But most adults in our culture glorify or at least ignore the dangers of porn. At worst, it’s “No big deal for consenting adults.” But we’re forgetting our children learn to behave by watching the behavior of adults. If Dad “checks out” Kim  Kardashian, then teen boys are going to think it’s okay to do the same. If they find porn on their parents’ computers or phones, they’re going to Google how to get more on their iPods and own phones. Before long, they will want to live out these titillating scenes. And it doesn’t take much convincing for a group of boys to think it’s okay to imitate what they see in porn by raping a drunk girl.

Porn is everywhere, even in the grocery store aisle, folks. I opened a copy of Cosmo the other day for the first time in forever and holy moly…there were articles about sex clubs, orgies, girl-on-girl sex, and masturbation. The whole thing from cover to cover was sex, sex, and more sex. My 11-year old could buy that magazine.

Why do we wonder what is behind the epidemic of rape in our society? Isn’t it obvious?

As adults, we are the only ones who can help our children. Do we have what it takes to look at our lives and make the changes needed for the sake of our kids? I hope so, because if we don’t, there will be a lot worse things happening to our kids in the future. I wish our nation’s president was nearly as concerned with our youth’s access to porn as he is with their access to guns. As long as we’re banning things that harm our children, where is the cry to ban porn?

 

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Shiela Uncategorized

The Scandal at Penn State and Syracuse: A Call to Action

When I heard the news about the sexual abuse scandal at Penn State, I was shocked and horrified for the victims.  I was disgusted by the actions of the alleged perpetrator and the cover up that followed.  And, I was sad for the students who were in shock and denial.  I experienced similar feelings during the early days of the sexual abuse scandal in my beloved church.  Catholics are still vilified for remaining faithful to the church and are considered complicit in the abuse by some people just for being Catholic.  Not surprisingly, that never-settled dust from the Catholic Church scandal is swirling again in the media.  Comparisons are being drawn.  People are trying desperately to understand how this could happen and how it could be covered up?  With all the mixture of emotions and controversy, it can be difficult to remember what is most important: protect children at all costs.

In the wake of this new scandal, I have created a short list of actions we can all take right now to protect all children.

1) Be Vigilant
Where are your children spending time?  We can’t wrap them in bubble wrap and follow them wherever they go all the time.  But, we can know who their friends are by name.  We can meet their friend’s parents.  We can make sure they are supervised when playing at another friend’s house.  Make sure their friends are age appropriate, too.  Sadly, many perpetrators begin offending in their teens.  When our children join an activity we can inquire about the child protective practices they have put in place.  Does the organization have a policy where no child is to be left alone with an adult?  Are the shower and bathroom facilities safe for children.  Are they able to maintain modesty and privacy?  Is the staff required to report any suspicion of abuse when they observe it within the organization?  These are all initiatives that have been put in place by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.    We must stay vigilant and make sure these practices are being put into place in our church programs.  And we must advocate that they be put in place in all community activites.

2) Teach Modesty
One of the best thing we can do as a parent is form a strong marriage so that both the mother and father are interacting daily with their children in a loving home and keeping an eye on any changes that occur.  We can set the standard for modesty in dress and behavior.  We can teach our children how to dress modestly and keep their private body parts private.  Otherwise, a young child may not know when a modesty boundary is being violated.  We must teach them to speak up and be assertive with their classmates, as well as with adults.  All kids need to learn to respect authority but they need to know that that respect must end when a boundary has been violated.  This way we can empower our children to protect themselves when we are not around.  Tell them to come to you whenever an adult, a classmate or anyone does something to attack their sense of modesty and privacy.

3) Look on the Bright Side
One good thing about this scandal is that now that it is exposed, the cycle of abuse for this perpetrator and victims is over.  If the students at Penn State can accept that their school failed them and make sure that practices are put into place to never let it happen again, then good will ultimately come out of this.  They must make sure that they don’t fall into the trap of defending the wrong people.  They must keep their focus on protecting innocent children.  Perhaps they can set a new standard for child safety and make it a model for other college programs that work with children.   Hopefully they will not fall to the pressure of some in the media who suggesting that male dominated organizations are to blame.   The idea of creating a sports program for at risk children is not what caused this abuse.  The students should not be discouraged from continuing to support programs that aim to help at risk children.

4) Leave No Stone Unturned
Most people are in denial about child predators. They are content to believe that predators come in one shape and one size only and are easily spotted by their tell tale white collar.  Rather, the most common predator is someone you know.  It could be a stepfather or a mother’s boyfriend.   Basically, anyone who has access to children is a potential predator.   But, people are more comfortable believing predators are priests.  Why?  It is likely because those who believe that never actually come in contact with one.  So, folks are lulled into a false sense of security.  Well, the Penn State scandal sort of blew that out of the water.  Sort of.  It’s an institution predominantly run by men much like the Catholic Church.    So, we do have to ask ourselves what is it about this institutional structure that allowed, if not the abuse, then the cover up to occur?  If we are to protect children, we can leave no stone unturned in this investigation.  The Catholic Church is being asked to question its policy of priestly celibacy.  Fine.  Examine it.  Are there any other demographics about candidates for the priesthood that may be problematic?  Let’s look into it.

And, now, we have Penn State and Syracuse.  Is there something in the sports arena that makes children vulnerable?  Do parents place too much trust in coaches?   Do adults have too much access to our children in sports and other activities?   Are there any practices in place to protect children in sports and other extracurricular activities?  And what about Hollywood?  Are child actors safe?  Corey Feldman, a former child actor, said that pedophilia is rampant in Hollywood.  Is this true?  Let’s look into it.  When we are talking about protecting innocent children, we need to leave no stone unturned.  So, let’s not be afraid to look into any of it.  Bottom line is we need to stop being defensive and stop worrying about offending people and just focus on protecting children and stopping abuse.

While the church remains in the shadow of scandal, knowing that the teachings of the church are always in stark contrast to the horrible crimes committed by some members and clergy is an important touchstone for me.  And, now, thanks to all the media scrutiny, the lights are on in the church, shining brightly in every corner and crevice, thank goodness. But they are still out in Hollywood, our communities, schools and many other areas where children remain vulnerable. Hopefully, the scandals at Penn State and Syracuse will shine a light on this kind of activity in sports and put an end to it. Because I guarantee you, the abuse and cover up at Penn State is not an isolated story.  It is likely happening right now as I write this and the perpetrator may be somebody we least suspect and, quite possibly, someone we most admire.