Categories
Ink Slingers Mary Beth

Murky Waters and Marvelous Mornings

 

Murky Waters and Marvelous MondaysTo passersbys, I must have looked like some kind of crazed fisherman. There I was, standing at the end of our dock, thrusting a weighty, steel pond rake deep into the water, and then pulling it slowly and awkwardly back up to the dock with a rope. Maybe they thought I was angling for supper. Maybe they thought I had spied some kind of mini-Loch Ness monster and was vying for a spot in Ripley’s Believe it or Not. Maybe they thought it was some strange kind of aerobic exercise program I was into. Or maybe they are used to seeing weird things going on around our place and paid no attention (this seems the likely response). Whatever the case, I looked ridiculous. But I didn’t care. One of my dock chairs, a vintage “hotel chair” that I had recently refurbished, had fallen victim to a vicious thunderstorm and had plunged into our pond. I couldn’t allow my prized Pinterest project to rust away at the muddy bottom; I was determined to fish it out.

The biggest problem, aside from the utter clumsiness of the process, was that I had no idea where the chair might be. The pond water was murky and unsettled after the storm and I couldn’t see a thing. I was casting randomly, from one side of the dock to the other, and even into the deepest water off the edge of the dock, to no avail. I was sweating, the rake was heavy, and the rope tied to the handle of the rake was leaving angry marks on my palms. I was getting nowhere fast, so I decided to abandon my efforts and resort to my typical Plan B: Ask my husband to do it. Plan B usually works, but this time hubby was busy and couldn’t get to my request right away. I was disgruntled and discouraged.

The next morning, I walked out to the dock prepared to begin my rake-flinging spectacle once again when I stopped and smiled. There was the chair, in a mere six feet of water off the side of the dock. Six feet of clear water. I was amazed; I could see it plain as day. I waded in a few feet, grabbed the bottom rung of the chair and pulled it right out. No need for flinging, no need for acrobatics, and no fear of onlookers questioning my sanity.

Later, I pondered this development in my prayer journal: What a difference a day makes, Lord, I wrote. Many times I am faced with a challenge, and the situation seems overwhelmingly cloudy and confusing. I’m not sure which way to go. Nothing I try seems to work. I get disgruntled and discouraged. And then morning comes. I have rested, I have pondered, I have prayed. Things are now clearer. The solution appears. I can proceed.

The experts tell us to wait 24 hours before responding to a complicated or contentious situation that needs our response. There’s a truth behind that practice, my friends: The passage of time gives us a chance to calm down, gather more information, and regain perspective. For us Christians, it also allows us a chance to pray and ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom and guidance and the right words to use or the best action to take. Waiting—and praying— can bring about a much better result.

Are you in the middle of a puzzling situation, Sista? A day makes a difference. Rest, ponder, pray. Try not to worry. Give the murky waters time to settle and the Holy Spirit time to work. You’ll be amazed at what a fresh outlook the morning brings— with no fear of sea monsters, sore hands or becoming the talk of the neighborhood.

Categories
Anni Confession Ink Slingers

An Uncomfortable Truth

During a homily a couple years ago, the chaplain at the time shared a quote based on Pope Saint John XXIII’s Coat of Arms. The quote said, “See everything, overlook a great deal, correct a little.” At the time, this quote gave me the gentle reminder that it was okay to observe, and just as okay to hold my tongue. It was a powerful reminder that, while a spiritual work of mercy is to Instruct the Ignorant, instruction may not even require words and instead could take the form of modeling by our actions.

However, seeing everything, overlooking a great deal, and correcting little does not give us a green light to overlook our own thoughts, actions and words. As St. Teresa of Avila is credited with saying, “Be gentle to all and stern with yourself.”

In today’s culture, there seems to be an emphasis on pointing out another person’s faults, and finger pointing, instead of taking some thought to account for individual actions. The tendency to blame others, and the ease of getting away with blaming others, has led to a culture in which introspection is on the decline. Add in a lack of catechesis, we are seeing Catholics struggle with the Sacrament of Reconciliation, choosing to stand adamantly against the notion of confessing “to a man.”

Combine those with an attitude of only serious crimes (i.e. murder or robbery) being sins, there appears to be a serious lack of accountability…

…and, lack of the recognition of the severity of our sins.

Sins simply aren’t considered polite conversation. However, at times in our lives, we should be challenged to squirm in our seats.

We should be willing to face our own reflection in the mirror, and thoroughly examine what we have done in our days…

… and even more uncomfortably, what we may have failed to do.

Sin, no matter how small, separates us from God. They start small, with a nudge to perhaps sleep in a little bit one week, then the next, then the next – until it becomes an exception to the rule to actually go to church.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 states, “Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers – none of these will inherit the kingdom of God. And this is what some of you used to be. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the spirit of our God.

The small sins snowball – starting from a single flake, compounding to an avalanche if we are not careful. We begin to be dismissive of the little things, placating ourselves with a mantra, “At least I haven’t done…”

With that seemingly small statement builds the roots of one of the deadly sins – pride.

Fr. Juan Jose Gallego, an exorcist from the Archdiocese of Barcelona once explained the devil’s favorite sin is pride. When we try to justify our thoughts, actions, or behavior, instead of simply holding ourselves accountable, we are weakening our connection with God. We are telling God we are disinterested in being transformed by His grace, mercy, and love.

Sin is an uncomfortable subject.

Based on human nature, sin is an uncomfortable truth.

Yet, if we are truly being nourished by God’s word, and allowing the Church to guide us into a deeper relationship with our Creator, we will begin to be able to look sin in the face. While we won’t be perfect, we will have the grace to seek forgiveness for the times we slip, with a truly contrite heart, intent on strengthening our bond with God.

While we should continue to observe everything, overlook a great deal, and correct little in others, we will be able to be gentle toward them, but stern with ourselves.

If we focus on our actions, our behavior, our thoughts, and are truly introspective, we will be able to dig out the roots of pride and emulate the tax collector in Luke 18:13, saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”

Therefore, let us take some time to stop pointing fingers. Let us stop justifying our actions. Instead, let us spend some time truly sitting and reflecting on our individual relationship with God, celebrating our successes, but more importantly, acknowledging the moments we have created tension in that most loving and sacred relationship in our lives – with God.

And, let us seek God’s forgiveness – allowing our souls the reward of knowing they are forgiven through the Sacrament of Confession, and allowing our human nature to be transformed through the sage wisdom of our priests, as they are guided by Christ Himself in the confessional.

Perhaps the most uncomfortable truth is, we can’t save ourselves on our own – we must be willing to reach out, run to embrace the outstretched arms of our Savior, and allow Him to transform our lives. Allow Him to save us – today, and every day.

Categories
Ink Slingers

Life Goals

It happens to me every time I attend a funeral, especially a Catholic funeral Mass. I cry, I mourn and I thank God for the Catholic Church. A Requiem Mass is not just a ceremony but a prayer filled, beautiful sending home. While the loss of a loved one is always sorrowful, this goodbye always leaves me filled with hope. And, without exception, I find myself thinking on the spoken remembrances of the deceased. I am always moved to hear the story of their life and how they touched the lives of others. I enter into a reflection of my own life; am I living the best life I am capable of? Am I fulfilling what I was created for? Or, am I so busy living for today that I have forgotten I am not meant for this world?

Who do I say I am?

Would I be recognized as being a woman who knows who I am and whose I am? My identity is to be found in Christ.  I am a child of God. I am a wife, a mother, sister and friend loved into being by God. My faith in God is the core of who I am. I have finally come to understand, that my strength as a woman, wife and mother originates and stands firm in the knowledge that I am first a daughter of our heavenly Father. The deeper I trust in this, the better equipped I am to completely let go of the unrealistic worldly expectations placed on me as a woman. I can abandon myself to Him. I have nothing to fear knowing He will never leave me.  I am certain that if God is not the center of my life, it’s not a fruitful life.   I have tried doing life without keeping my gaze on Christ and found little success in living joyfully or peacefully.  Without God as my anchor, my spiritual and mental well-being is so easily disturbed. When I rely solely on my own power, I close myself off to allowing the Spirit to move in me and through me. I become so easily distracted by the unnecessary flighty things of today. Disappointments and frustrations follow me when I am solely focused on seeking worldly approval and accolades. As Fr. Henri J.M. Nouwen, reminds me “we must daily claim the love of God” by cooperating with His desire to draw me in closer and closer to Himself, the source of Truth and Love. I am beloved.

We are all saints in training.

For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be. (Matthew 6:21)  I am thankful for a great many things in my life, next to faith; motherhood has been the greatest gift I have received.  Becoming a wife and a mother has both ruined and transformed me. I can think of nothing that compares to the joy of embracing my babies, growing with them as my heart stretches near to breaking and overflows with all that is bittersweet on the journey of motherhood. Sharing in this blessing with my husband has magnified the wonder of it all.  I have always wanted to be a mother and to have a family; this vocation has fulfilled the desire of my heart. Marriage and motherhood are intensely beautiful, although neither is easy nor perfect. Ever. But, the beauty is, I am being refined and perfected in these roles. God is using the people and the relationships I cherish to teach me to love better, to forgive more and to grow in mercy. It is in persevering in this tiring and trying work of caring for and loving my family well that I am growing in holiness. They are my treasures on this journey. And, every instance that I am able to be generous in self-giving it is as my grandmother would often say, “another jewel in my crown”.  Family life and relationships are the place we learn to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48). God’s will is that all of His children become holy. We are called to live courageously as saints in training, that we may receive our crown of glory.

It is good to keep the end in mind.

Do I acknowledge and share with others that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life? Am I living as if He is my only hope? Am I greeting each new day with the end of this life in mind? I know, who wants to think of their death? It is not pleasant, demanding really. But, I hope that as my life is running its course towards its eventual unknown end, I am clinging hard to my faith while keeping my heart wide open. The example of my life is certainly not always pretty; I can be hard of heart, stubborn and judgmental. That friend I have been giving the silent treatment, the child I exasperatedly snapped at, the disrespect I threw at my husband,… these are the moments I need the Holy Spirit to remind me I have taken my eyes off Jesus and it is time to turn and plead forgiveness. The gate is narrow. The way is strenuous. I have found great help in leaning on Mary, our Blessed Mother, who proclaimed do whatever He tells you. Our Lady is a constant, gentle guide along the way, leading her children to her Son. In the end, when I arrive at my eternal destination, I pray I am bruised and exhausted from persevering in the loving and serving that has been asked of me, so that it is in the glorious beatific vision I find myself resting.

Heaven “is neither an abstraction not a physical place in the clouds, but a living, personal relationship with the Holy Trinity.
It is our meeting with the Father which takes place in the risen Christ through the communion of the Holy Spirit.”
-Pope St. John Paul II 

Categories
Current Events Reviews Victoria K

Why I Binge Watch Black Mirror

Disclaimer

“Black Mirror” is a TV show filled with every “no” in the book: adult content and themes, violence, language, drug use. I would never, ever, EVER let my (at present, nonexistent) children watch it.  To be honest, I wouldn’t recommend it to some of my adult friends.  It’s a show that’s hard to stomach.  

With that rousing disclaimer, you may be tilting your head, thinking…how could she possibly love this TV show? Stay with me here.  I promise it gets good.

The Basics

We’ve all questioned the influence technology has on our lives. Does scrolling through Instagram lessen self-esteem?  Should Google really know my location at all times?  Does Facebook stalking help or hurt relationships?  Are smartphones re-wiring kids brains?

Over the course of 3 Seasons, “Black Mirror” explores these questions—and take them to the extreme.  It’s reminiscent of “The Twilight Zone.” There’s a new set of characters every episode.  It takes us into the future (or a different present), showing us how our lives might be…or already are.  

It’s hard to shake the feeling: “This could be us…”.  As their creator stated, it’s: “…all about the way we live now – and the way we might be living in 10 minutes’ time if we’re clumsy.” (Source below). The black mirror is put up to our faces—and we see what technology is/could be doing to us.  

 

Why I Love It

You might see now why I love it—our society (me definitely included) needs some serious introspection.  My love was cemented by two episodes in particular (my husband and I stayed up super late discussing them—SO.  GOOD.):

 

“Fifteen Million Merits” (Season 1 Episode 2)

This episode challenges the media, “reality” tv, online “selves,” and the impact these have on our “real” lives.  The main question it asks are: in a world centered on entertainment, are our lives cheapened? (Answer: yes).

The whole episode is great, but I love it for a particular moment—a seemingly small but SUPER profound moment (I won’t spoil it all, because the reveal is great).

The main character finally gets to vent his frustrations publicly.  One of the main “baddies” responds to the frustrations: “You are so articulating something we all…and I mean everyone in this hall, something we all agree on.  Even though we might not comprehend all of it, I think I’m right in saying we do feel it. Even me.  I know you’ve got me down as this creature.  But, you know, hey, I get where you’re coming from and I like your stuff.”

“It’s not stuff it’s…”

“It’s truth.  Am I right?  Your truth, admittedly, but truth nonetheless.”

HOLD THE PHONE.  The main character was standing up for Truth? The “baddie” was on the side of relativism?? I wanted to stand up and applaud.  Because I’ve never seen relativism attacked so outright in a tv show, ever.  

 

“Nosedive” (Season 3 Episode 1)

This episode really shook me.  It presents a world where everyone is addicted to their phones (so, not much different than ours, right?).  Their lives revolve around an app in which people are constantly rated (from zero to five stars).  Feels a lot like what Instagram might be two or three updates from now.

These ratings effect your jobs, where you can live, who you hang out with, what you can buy.  We experience this world through a main character (Lacie) who is sweet, funny, caring.  She’s obsessed with raising her rating…she’s a 4.3 and wants to be over 4.5.

What really spooked me about his episode?  Lacie. Is. Me.  Lacie longs for love, to be appreciated, to be liked, to be affirmed by others—and I long for that too, so much.  With Instagram and Snapchat, it feels like my life is constantly up for rating.  I hunger for the “5 star” rating that Lacie is searching for—even, at times, to the point of cheapening my authentic self.  

After the ending, I lay in bed, staring at the ceiling, seriously re-evaluating how I present myself…and what I look to for affirmation.

 

Black Mirror as Evangelization?

I heard about Black Mirror from some of my husband’s friends (they LOVE it).  Admittedly, they might be drawn to Black Mirror by the “bad” stuff (see disclaimer above).  But I love that they love it.  

Why?

These friends aren’t Catholic, aren’t practicing a religion, aren’t really concerned with living a moral life.  These are guys who would never read C. S. Lewis, Chesterton, or a Catholic Blog.  They might never enter a Church or encounter a priest, ever. But by watching this show, they’re facing questions about relativism, authentic self…the list goes on.  Maybe, just maybe, these questions might lead them to the Truth.

 

Source: Chalie Brooker, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2011/dec/01/charlie-brooker-dark-side-gadget-addiction-black-mirror

Categories
Adrienne Faith Formation Ink Slingers Motherhood Parenting Spiritual Growth

“Mom, I don’t believe” Update

Sunrise-and-Clouds1
This is an update on my article a year ago about my then nine year old son struggling with believing in God (linked here).  The article stirred up some emotions and thoughts in several commenters both in the combox and in other discussion groups.  A portion of the commenters related to my position and were thankful for some kind of perspective, some found it insightful for guiding their own children, some felt I should have responded in a different way but granted that perhaps I didn’t share all of my response to my son in the article, some applauded my son for taking steps away from the faith they themselves found to be a myth, and one implied that I was creating a “family group where everyone is expected to be Catholic for some therapeutic reason.”  Unlike most things I have written for CS, this one struck a nerve.

It has been a year since my son bravely told me “I don’t really believe in it … God and the Bible and stuff like that”.  In that year he turned 10 and kept the theological questions coming.  He is a smart and logical boy.  I grew up a cradle Catholic and never bothered to study the faith beyond what I failed to absorb in CCD classes.  By the time he was born, I didn’t even know what Baptism was for, just that it was something to be done, which is such a shame!  However, challenged by a few family members to question and leave my Catholic faith for another Christian faith tradition, I chose to study and learn the Catholic faith first before ignorantly and blindly following those persons on their own paths.  Being ignorant of the purpose baptism is already a shame, but what a greater shame it would have been for me to leave the Catholic faith before I even knew what it taught!  Ten years later, I am genuinely thankful for these family members’ challenges because I know the Catholic faith so thoroughly I can answer most any question completely, with evidence to back up the explanation.  This skill has proven most valuable in my discussions with my son.

This week alone the boy and I had a 30 minute discussion about purgatory and indulgences (while I was exercising, no less), predicated on his desire to know if saints are sinless before they die.  Purgatory and indulgences are two of the most misunderstood Catholic doctrines both by Catholics and most especially by non-Catholics, however it is revolutionary in understanding our souls (as man is a composite of a soul and a body), our will (an attribute of our souls) and God given free-will (our ability to make choices, something that He never overrides).  Yesterday at dinner my son was adamant to know, “who started church?!”  My answer of “Jesus”, while perfectly true, wasn’t enough.  He wanted to know how the Apostles “did church” after Jesus’s ascension.  So we had a long discussion about how Jesus told us specifically how to worship Him in the future when He instituted the Eucharist, so when the Apostles gathered together, they always celebrated the Eucharist, which is exactly what we do today when we go to church.  We also talked about the Roman persecutions of Christians under the emperor Diocletian and how Christians had to “do church” in their houses as they weren’t free to build places of worship until the Roman Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity.

As my son asks more questions, and especially as his sense of logic develops, he is understanding the whole picture of Christian teaching, and this seems to be helping his faith develop.  It’s hard to believe in something nebulous, especially when the secular world offers so many answers.  However, Christianity is only nebulous when a teacher doesn’t have answers.  Christianity offers a comprehensive paradigm of truth that spans from our souls, Heavens and Hell, to our bodies and our earthly world and earthly existence.  Thus it is imperative to either be ready with the answers to our children’s questions or be ready to find out, knowing the sources or persons to seek out, as the answers exist.

"Jesus, I trust in you."
“Jesus, I trust in you.”

Just like my kids, I too, am still learning the faith, and always will be.  Just this morning at Mass we walked the church walls, looking at the stained glass windows.  There were a few Old Testament stories I didn’t recognize from the window pictures and also a few saints I need to read up on.  My son is looking forward to us learning these together.

Lastly, we have been attending daily Mass every day of the week.  The grace we receive sitting in the presence of our Eucharistic Lord (and most especially partaking of Him) is as healthy for our souls as the Vitamin D our bodies absorb from the sun.  Also, we have been reading avidly upon the lives of the saints.  Compared to these holy men and women, my example of Christian living for God pales in the shining light of their stories.  My son has been most impressed with stories of saints who led less than holy lives before converting to Christ.  He relates less (as do I) with stories of saints who were graced by God to be holy from their youth, though their stories are still amazing.

Our experience on Earth is a pilgrimage with ups and downs.  I expect that my son and other children will have doubts again.  It is my duty to them to teach them the faith as thoroughly as possible, and to guide them in keeping their souls as healthy as possible.  While under my care, I need to ensure that my children’s wills, which are perfectly free, have the ability to freely move toward God without the impediments of ignorance or lack of grace.