Collection of Stories and Observations.

I like to consider myself a Catholic Christian.  These are some of my stories and observations.

 

A Catholic On The Plane.

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What Do You Do When You Do Not Agree with Fake News Used About Your Pope?

The message has to be modified because it turns out, Pope Francis did not say what was written below.  It was written by so called media pundits for MSNBC who would use the Pope to divide Catholics, one from another.  It is a sign of a sickness within our mainstream media where nothing is sacred and apparently nothing is truthfully spoken.  Sadly, a large number of us fell victim to the report.  Some praised the lying article as wonderful while some of us denounced it.  Finding out the article was lies gives me hope for the Catholic Church.  My blog is not why the Pope is wrong but why the lies put into the mouth of the Pope are wrong.  Please forgive me.  If you read the actual words of the Pope and compare it to what they said he said, there is quite a bit of difference.  Though I still have an issue with the ‘yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life’,  it is a far cry from how it was spun.

Actual words of Pope Francis:

Dear brothers and sisters in the United States, I have witnessed with great concern the disturbing social unrest in your nation in these past days, following the tragic death of Mr George Floyd. My friends, we cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life. At the same time, we have to recognize that “the violence of recent nights is self-destructive and self-defeating. Nothing is gained by violence and so much is lost.” Today I join the Church in Saint Paul and Minneapolis, and in the entire United States, in praying for the repose of the soul of George Floyd and of all those others who have lost their lives as a result of the sin of racism. Let us pray for the consolation of their grieving families and friends and let us implore the national reconciliation and peace for which we yearn. May Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of America, intercede for all those who work for peace and justice in your land and throughout the world. May God bless all of you and your families.

What I wrote before knowing what was posted was wrong.

We were already reeling from the senseless murder caught on tape of a black man by a vile white police office.  The video is heart wrenching.  People were horrified.  Some protested peacefully.  Mobs became violent.  At a time when the church needed most to be brought together in shared grief and unity, I feel the Pope failed us.

The article posted in Facebook, read in part:

“Francis wants to send a very clear message to these conservative Catholics here who are pro-Trumpers that, ‘Listen, this [racism] is just as much of an issue as abortion is.’” …. “We cannot close our eyes to any form of racism or exclusion, while pretending to defend the sacredness of every human life.”

While it was right of him to call out racism and injustice, there was also so much wrong with what he said that I was in tears.  He condemned pro-life Catholics that vote Republican.  He insinuated a vote for Trump is the same as being a racist.  Then explained that we should not ignore racism while only pretending to be prolife and singled us out as if we were the worst possible example of Catholics.  I felt rejected.

“There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” (Proverbs 6:16-19)

He accused me of only pretending to be prolife.

Not quite 50 years ago, when I was in high school, I saw a classmate go by me in the hallway.  She was wearing a black arm band.  I asked her why and she said, “Didn’t you hear about it.  They legalized abortion.”  I was horrified that anyone could possibly want to kill their own child in their womb.  As I grew in wisdom, I came to realize there were times when women could become so desperate this might seem like an option.  Still I knew in my heart that this ‘option’ was cruel to all involved and the worst possible solution.

In my twenties, I joined a pro-life group at my church.  We would go every Friday to walk in front of the abortion clinic and pray the rosary and console women going inside.  We were screamed at and cursed. Some were spit on.   My children and I were photographed. The license number of my car was written down.   I received both obscene and threating phone calls.  But we were rewarded when one woman of any race would turn away to find a different solution.

Often, we were called on to help in that different solution.  It meant taking women to their doctor’s appointments or driving them to birthright or the welfare office.  They were black, Hispanic, Native American and white.  Their race did not matter.  We took them to the St Vincent De Paul food pantry when it was open or bought them food with money from our own pockets when necessary.  We helped anyway we could because we were not pretending to be prolife.  We were prolife.  I found the Pope’s words hurtful.

He accused me of being a racist by my political leanings.

In all the years that I worked in the prolife movement, I never met anyone who was truly involved as a prolife witness that was also a racist.  Not one.  It is inconceivable that you could so care and love the most vulnerable of the human race, using your time, talent and treasure, putting your safety and reputation on the line and at the same time hate people because of their race. True prolife hearts and hearts dead with racism are mutually exclusive.  I cannot imagine any prolife person not knowing that racism is a horrible sin.   But Pope Francis singled out the most non-racist group of his flock for reproach because of politics.  It was as if he was blaming the choir as they sang because someone else was making noise in the parking lot.  I found that insulting.

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.” (Matthew 12:35)

He accused me of closing my eyes to racism.

It is very odd to think that since the Pope believes Trump is a racist, which I do not believe, that this should equate a vote for him as being a racist act by me.  That is flawed logic. Would that also mean that a vote for the other party would be then a vote for baby killing and any other unknown amount of bigotry and hatred that is never mentioned by the media?  If racism is just as much a sin as abortion, and I truly agree with that, then why is it somehow worse to vote for someone who is a racist but prolife than someone who is pro-abortion but may not be a racist?  If you believe they are equally bad then you should not vote for anyone if it makes you guilty of their sins.  You should, however, vote for the one who you believe will work for ending the greatest amount of evil.  We need to legislate against the murder of innocent babies.  We already have and continue to legislate against discrimination but we cannot legislate against racism since it requires a change of heart within each individual.

“The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.” (Ezekiel 18:20)

One of the saddest things about the country being divided is that no one speaks of forgiveness.  If we are truly racist then yes, we need to repent and ask forgiveness.  Prayerfully, honestly, soul suffering repentance given freely with the promise to sin no more.  Then with repentance should come forgiveness.  No one speaks of forgiveness.  Instead we see violence and brutality and we turn a blind eye to the injustice heaped upon painful injustice as if violence would solve violence.

When the church needed to hear consoling words of peace driven by repentance and forgiveness founded in justice, Pope Francis divided the flock of Christ, not on moral grounds but on political grounds.   The words of the Pope are supposed to carry respect and be honored but those of the church who agreed with him on political grounds would use his words like heavy mallets to pound on their brothers and sisters saying, “See, even the Pope disagrees with you and you should be listening to his moral authority. The Pope says you are not good Catholics if you vote for this person or that person.”    I found his words divisive.

“Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.”    (Acts 20:28)

When I look at the flock of Christ, I see lambs of every color and race. I see my beloved brothers and sisters, everyone of which has fallen short the glory God and only by God’s unmerited grace can we continue.  But the flock is greatly at risk.  I tell you now, if this continues, the body of Christ will fracture again.  We are heading toward schism.  We are running for the divide like lemmings plunging off the cliff.  Satan knows if he keeps us divided, we will be fighting among ourselves while he sits back and laughs.  He is the winner in a divided Body of Christ.

“I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.” (John 17:21)

If the Pope had only gathered his flock together, encouraging us to keep reaching for the goal, binding the wounds of racism and violence, pleading for us to seek justice and forgiveness, then maybe we would see the healing grace of God flow over us, over our land and over our church.

 “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)

I do not dislike Pope Francis and no matter what others say of me, I do not think he is a bad person, but like Cardinal Zen, I think he has bad advisors.

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Who Will Roll The Stone Away?

The realization suddenly hit them as they were walking to the tomb.  “Who will roll back the stone for us?”  They had the oils for preparing the body for final burial and the necessary wrappings.  Nard and grief weighed heavy in their arms.  Three days of horror, pain and tears.  They had not considered how they were supposed to get into the tomb.  Three days were all that was permitted since corruption began on the fourth day.

“For you will not abandon me to Sheol nor will you allow your holy one to see  corruption.” (Psalm 16:10)

The entrance to the tomb had been sealed by Pharisees and was guarded by the Romans. “Would they perhaps show kindness and allow us to enter and maybe help us with the stone?” they must have questioned.  Shadows giving way to the light of the early morning reveled a frightening mystery, everyone was gone and the tomb was empty.  The stone had been rolled away. Horror, pain and tears again.  Where have they taken his precious body?

“In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead?’” (Luke 24:5)

The trauma of seeing his death, his murder, had shocked their senses and now, someone has taken even his lifeless body away.   The stone that remained was the one that blinded their faith.  Had he not said in three days He would rise again?  There must be someone who knew where his body was taken?   She searched for the gardener, the caretaker of the tombs.  “Please,” she cries, “if you know where they have taken his body, tell me and I will bring him back.”

“Mary,” He calls her by name.  She recognizes his voice and He is alive.  “Rabbani,” she answers.

The risen Lord, full of life, right before her.  She will be the first witness of his passing beyond the rock of death.   What a glorious morning!  The horror, pain, and sting of  death was gone.  So this is what He meant when He said ‘rising from the dead.”  He laid his life down for us and picked it up again.  The lifeless stone was left behind.

 “and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:4)

We like to think we would have known better or even been waiting at the stone for it to be rolled back. How silly we are.  The stone which exists is the stone that we roll in front of our own hearts.  If we loved Him too much what would He want of us?  Would He make us do things that we do not want to do?  I trust you Lord, but first let me know what I have to do and I’ll think about it.  The stone is set in place. I can pretend the stone is not there then wonder why I cannot hear his voice.  I can reason that the stone does not matter but then wonder why I do not see miracles and wonders.  It is I who created the rock and it is I who stumble over it.

“Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”  (Matthew 21:42)

Stones were never meant to keep Jesus out.  He already proved they were a barrier he could easily breach.  They are what our hearts become when we turn away from God.  They become the hardened stone of daily compromises with sin that over time block the light and keep our souls entombed.  Can this cold and stony heart be risen back to life?

“I love you, LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”  (Psalm 18:1-2)

Who will roll the stone away, the stone that blocks my heart?  Only the Lord of Hosts. It is He  who casts the stone of death away and softened my hardened heart.   On the stone that marks my resting place, the one that is left behind, write these simple words of me, “She is still alive”.

 “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die’”  (John 11:25)

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When Does Love Begin?

“As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.”   St. John Paul II

It was an op-ed in the St. Louis Post Dispatch in response to various states creating laws banning abortion by certain gestational dates and written by a woman pleading her cause for abortion rights. Sadly, one the more desperate cases. She claimed her unborn baby was diagnosed with some genetic defect making the baby incompatible with life after birth.   What genetic defect she did not say as if that fact were not important. She emotionally wrestled with the decision to abort. After all, wouldn’t it be more merciful to her two current children if they did not have to bear the death of a sibling? How could it more humane to allow a child to be born just to suffer and die? [She apparently did not count the pain the baby would feel being ripped to pieces by abortion and nor could she really say how much the baby would suffer at birth since it is only a guess of course.] How could her family face the mountain of medical bills and emotional distress caused by such a birth? Her final decision was to be both the hero and the martyr.   She alone would bear the pain and sorrow and abort her child. The story might have seemed like a logical victory for abortion rights until the next paragraph as her story continued.

“The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.”     (Proverbs 14:1)

Now fast forward and she is pregnant again and heading to the hospital for an ultrasound to determine what if anything might be wrong with her baby’s heart. As she drove along, a terrible fear came over her that what if, what if there was something wrong with her baby’s heart and now that she was 24 weeks pregnant, it might not be legal for her to have an abortion. God forbid in her eyes that abortion even up to the day of birth would be illegal. No, she was not afraid for the life of her child whom she carried close to her heart for 24 weeks but that if the child was not perfect, she could not dispose of it.

“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God and God in him.” (1 John 4:16)

I have known a lot of mothers who when pregnant had to face incredible hardships and pain. I have known women who were terribly sick through the entire pregnancy. I have known mothers who had to be in bed rest for weeks on end and of mothers who had to face the choice of chemo or their child’s life. These are the real heroes.   It seems unreal to me that there would be a mother who was not willing to fight heaven and hell for the life of her child even a disabled child. I have never met a woman who’s had to bury her child say, “Darn, I wish I had just aborted him/her before they were born.” I have never met a man or women who did not long for one more minute or one more day with their child who had passed.

“Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs.” (Proverbs 10:12)

Women who demand abortion to be legal, might argue that life only begins at birth and even then, they want the choice to allow a baby to die after birth if they do not want the child for any reason.   They have made the question of when does life begin, irrelevant.   At 400wordsforwomen.com, the important question is asked, “When does love begin?” It is the selfless choice to love that makes sacrifice bearable even in the most difficult of situations. Without love, it is meaningless.

“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born, I set you apart I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”   (Jeremiah 1:5)

Jenna Gassew and Dan Haley were faced with a similar problem when they discovered the baby Jenna was pregnant with had the rare genetic condition, anencephaly. If even born alive, the baby named Shane, would die shortly after birth. Instead of aborting, they chose instead to make the most of the little time they would have with their baby. They made a bucket list for him, trying to give their baby every experience a baby in the womb could possible have. They traveled and took pictures and embraced the painful yet hopeful future that lay ahead because where there is life there is hope. Cutting short the already precipitously short life of their baby was not an option. Finally, the day arrived. Shane was born and died. He did not suffer. They would post to their Facebook page:

“Today at 6:15 a.m., after meeting his entire family and being baptized into the Catholic faith, baby Shane died peacefully in his mother’s arms. We are so grateful for the time that we were blessed to hold and hug our son. Shane spent his entire life in the arms of people that loved him unconditionally and I don’t think you could ask for a more beautiful life [than] that… he is home now with the Lord and will forever be our little miracle.”

‘Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”’ (Matthew 19:14)

I wish there was no such thing as children born with disabilities of any kind. I wish we lived in a world where there was no sickness or death. I would hope that all suffering of any kind was impossible. But I would be wishing for heaven on earth.    There are no guarantees nor insurance for risks.  Most of the time, there are no do-overs.  Suffering and pain are part of the human condition and try as we might, the harder we fight to avoid the pain, the more it pursues us until our hearts become like stone that are no longer capable of passion and love.  Sacrifice and love go hand and hand. If we are not willing to suffer for the lives of our children then we are doomed as a species and as children of God.

“These are born, not of blood, nor of the will of flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1: 13)

Leaven for the Loaf,   a Granite State Pro-life Blog by Ellen Kolb,   Tag: 400 Words for Women

‘Facebook page- “Prayers for Shane”—hacked but company returns control to Jenna and Dan after several painful hours’, NRL News,   Oct 14, 2014 Dave Andrusko.

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A Humble Prayer.

“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” – from St. Augustine’s Confessions (Lib 1,1-2,2.5,5: CSEL 33, 1-5)

 

This story is a prayer. A prayer for a couple who were and are friends despite the fact they have never invited us back to their home nor made any effort to contact us again after that fateful night four years ago.

Jack and Mira* met my husband, Chuck nearly twenty some years ago. Jack came to St. Louis with the purpose of working for a popular local nondomination church which Chuck just happened to belong. He and his wife are delightful Christian people. Though you would not refer to us as close friends, there was a definite connection through the churches and faith.

Jack came to a point in his career that he could no longer support his church and continued in his job. Like all churches, sooner or later by what is truly the hand of Satan, scandal comes. Jack and Mira were disillusioned. We all want a church that is full of saints when truly we are all sinners seeking the mercy of Christ. When he and his wife could not find another church to call home, Jack called on a friend who was a minister to have ‘church’ in his home on Sunday night and he invited Chuck and me to come and worship with him.

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat,”   (Luke 22:31)

I have never felt that any group that comes together in the name of Jesus Christ was not worthy of my time, so I attended, the lone Catholic in the midst of ‘non-denominational’ believers. I was always treated with love and never had a reason to criticize anything said or done. Their lovely Sunday night services went on for several months.

“In all  truth I tell you, everyone who believes has eternal life.” (John 6:48)

After a time, they took a break from the service and simply invited us over for dinner. I am sure what happened was not planned. It just happened. The questions of Catholicism came up as their daughter was dating a Catholic. They could not understand how Catholics pray to Mary. I explained why we pray to Mary. We pray as children and ask her to pray for us which is no different than if I were to ask my own earthly mother to pray for me. Prayer meant as adoration and worship are only for speaking with God. He alone is the Holy One as all Catholics proclaim at Mass.   I gave them enough bible verses and explanations that they asked me, “Why don’t other Catholics know this, because when we asked them, they couldn’t tell us this?”

“’Our fathers ate manna in the desert; as scripture says: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ Jesus answered them: ‘In all truth I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, it is my Father who gives you the bread from heaven, the true bread;’”    (John 6:31-32 )

I know. So many Catholics are used to being bottle feed that they never grow up and seek solid food. They do not search or hunger for that which is beyond their basic understanding. Some Catholics may think they know all that is needed. If all they surround themselves are with other Catholics, they have no need to explain their faith. Some may be disinterested. They may only do what they perceive is the bare minimum to be saved.   Some just do not care. They are Catholic in name only.

“Jesus answered them: ‘I am the bread of life. No one who comes to me will ever hunger; no one who believes in me will ever thirst.'”    (John 6:35)

I suppose if the conversation had stopped or the subject changed, we might still be friends. That is when they asked me one last question, “Why are you Catholic?”

“I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate manna in the desert and they are dead; but this is the bread which comes down from heaven, so that a person may eat it and not die. I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.'”                  (John 6:49-51)

This was certainly not the first time I was asked that question and not as if I never asked myself the same question. I did, but the answer was so clear.   Catholics almost entirely alone among Christians believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. My answer? “I find it interesting that fundamentalists believers will tell me they believe that everything in the bible should be taken literally until they come to John chapter six. Then suddenly the word of God is no longer literal but some symbolic message that Jesus never explains.” They were puzzled. John chapter six? I had to remind them, “My flesh is real flesh and my blood real drink. Catholics believe the words of Christ literally.” Jesus does not just state this in passing. He doubles down, even when his disciples are leaving him and says it again.

“Jesus replied to them: ‘In all truth I tell you, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I shall raise that person up on the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in that person.’” (John 6:53-56)

Now they looked stunned. Chuck explained, “They call it Transubstantiation.” He had to repeat it a few times till they took hold of the word. Transubstantiation, the transformation of the physical substance of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus. An incredible mystery. A magnificent miracle. A reality so profound that our soul has no words to explain and our physical being no ability to worthily worship the physical presence of the living God. Only a merciful God could so long endure a flock that takes this gift so lightly.

“After hearing it, many of his followers said, ‘This is intolerable language. How could anyone accept it?’” (John 6:60)

I had a few examples of miracles around the Eucharist. One was the eight-century miracle where the bread and wine turned into flesh and blood before the eyes of the priest who was celebrating mass.   The flesh and blood have never decayed and can still be seen in Lanciano, Italy. They stared at me in disbelief.

“After this, many of his disciples went away and accompanied him no more.” (John 6:66)

We talked about a few other beliefs as well. At some point I mentioned something I thought about heaven, but prefaced my silly thought as certainly not biblical.

Jack quickly responded, “Yes, it is.”

Surprised, I asked him where in the bible it might be found.

He responded, “In the book of Mary.”

“Then the Jews started arguing among themselves, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’” (John 6:52)

I sensed that it was time for us to go as I had offended them, not with lies or falsehoods of any kind but with the truth. Jesus emphatically said his flesh was ‘real food’ and I believe. It is hard to fight the truth when you are seeking it with all of your heart. Sometimes the truth comes not only from those you least expect it to come from but from those you least want to hear it from, the Catholic in your midst.

“Simon Peter answered, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we have come to know that you are the Holy One of God.’“ (John 6:68-69)

It is also hard to lose friends. Friendships seem to have a natural ebb and flow. This was not the case. I truly believe in my heart that the reason they were offended was not because they did not believe what I was saying but rather were unable to fight the truth they sought and afraid that they too might come to believe the same things. It did not fit in their nondenominational prayer lives. It might just change everything they thought about the Catholic Church. It inspired fear that the Catholic they tried to convert may just have spoken some truth that might instead convert them.

“And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’” (Luke 22:19)

I pray that I have planted seeds. I pray the seeds have found fertile ground and I pray that others will be there to water the seeds and help them grow. I pray that as they seek the face of God, they will have the opportunity to seek him where ever the gentle Holy Spirit guides them, even if that is at a Catholic Mass. Many who sought God thinking the Church was the most impossible place to find Jesus, have their spirits transformed in the Mass. Those truly searching have their hearts ignited by Christ burning for love of the Savior who humbly gives his very real presence in the form of bread and wine. Impossible? Improbable? Inconceivable? Maybe, but to the unbeliever the story of Christ is just that. Why should his words in John chapter six be any less remarkable?

“But we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness;”   (1 Corinthians 1:23)

 

*not real names

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A Must See Movie.

“The nation doesn’t simply need what we have. It needs what we are.”
-St. Teresia Benedicta (Edith Stein)

With no thanks to the media and advertisers, I did manage to see the move, “Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer.”  I had to search for it by name since it was not listed in the paper nor in the, “Now showing in your area,” link, on the Fandango website.  The movie was very well done.  For those who do not know the story, this was the true case of an abortion doctor, Dr. Kermit Gosnell, charged with murder.  He ran an abortion clinic in Philadelphia for nearly 30 years. The movie is based on the book, “Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer,” written by Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer.  When the book ‘s sales figures revealed it should be placed on the New York Times best seller list, the Times refused to add it to the list admitting they adjusted the list based on an “editorial decision,” which basically means they refused to give it any mention because it placed the sacred white cow of the political left, abortion, in a bad light, proving once again that when the left cry for abortion to be safe for women and girls, they lie.  If anything, they should have been decrying the horrible conditions of the clinic, instead they were working to keep it quiet and in effect became complicit in all of the killings done there.  In this true story, there are a lot of different groups who were complicit and this was just one of may different things about the movie that were so disturbing on so many levels.

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil,
who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and
sweet for bitter.” (Isaiah 5:20)

One of Gosnell’s first run in with the law happened in the May 1972, in what was called the “Mother’s Day Massacre.” Harvey Karman, a psychologist pretending to be a doctor, came up with a new abortion method using what was called, the super coil which he apparently tested on hundreds of Bangladesh women.  It was ball that contained 97 sharp blades. The intent was to push the ball into the uterus and then the knives inside would eventually spring open to destroy the fetus growing inside.  Gosnell and Karman convinced 15 impoverished women from Chicago in their second trimester, to take a bus to Philadelphia where they would record their new improved abortion method on Mother’s Day.  The women were never warned they would become guinea pigs in a horrible experiment.  The results were disastrous with women suffering lacerations, hemorrhaging, infections, pieces of their dead babies remaining inside them and one woman cut up so badly, she had to undergo a hysterectomy.  What happened to Gosnell?   Nothing.  Nothing happened.  Gosnell retained his medical license.  He left the country for a short while then returned to Philadelphia to continue his abortion business.  A joint federal state investigation did little to pursue the matter. The Pennsylvania Board of Medicine turned a blind eye to the whole incident.  They hold a share of blame in this modern-day holocaust.

“Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who turn a blind eye will be greatly cursed.”  (Proverbs 28:27)

Returning to Philadelphia, Gosnell continued his abortion business.  When he was finally charged with a crime 30 years later, it started as a drug bust.  He was selling scripts written out to the names of his abortion patients and being filled by drug dealers.  Search warrants for drug dealing revealed his abortion house of horrors where the most unsanitary conditions imaginable existed. Single use instruments were being reused over and over again without sterilization.   When the bathrooms were unusable or full, women routinely had to urinate in the hallways.  Bags with fetal remains were stuffed into the refrigerator and never disposed of.  Medical waste was sitting in bags all about the clinic.  The smell was said to be unbelievable. The horror would decend into obvious depravity as numerous see-through, carefully labeled containers were discovered in Gosnell’s office filled with the amputated feet of the babies he aborted like some sort of perverted collection.   All of this would never have been brought to light and result in the murder charges against Gosnell, if it were not for the numerous illegal late term abortions he performed and the one recorded death of a woman who died in his care.  [The movie was excellent in that it did not show the full extent of the horror.  It only describes it, thereby avoiding the possibility of sickening the audience.]

 “I will punish the world for its evil and the wicked for their guilt.  I will put an end to the pride of the arrogant, the insolence of tyrants I will humble.”  (Isaiah 14:11”)

In the grand jury, the women representing the health department was asked why she or the department never inspected the clinic when even nail salons were subjected to yearly inspections.  Her response was that they do not inspect unless there were complaints.  When shown a large stack of complaints, she simply said that this was abortion and a women’s right to abortion was to never be impeded thereby making the health department complicit in the serial killings.

  “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)

Gosnell showed untrained employees with no medical background, how to administer drugs and anesthetize patients and allowed them to treat patients without him being present.  They also witness Gosnell snipping the spine of babies born alive with scissors.  They would become complicit as well in his murderous reign and their silence allowed the gruesome acts to continue unimpeded.

“They are odious; they have done abominable things, yet they are not at all ashamed, they know not how to blush.” (Jeremiah 9:12)

Baby A was the largest fetus found in Gosnell’s abortion clinic of horrors.  Pediatric doctors estimated the baby boy to be no less than 32 weeks gestation, was born intact and alive and had his spine snipped with scissors.  Gosnell was found guilty of murder for this little baby. Yet, I cannot help to wonder why a woman would go almost all the way through her pregnancy and then walk into an abortion clinic to have the baby killed when there are many women who cannot have babies and are desperate to adopt, raise and love that child?  The only answer I can think of is that fear makes people do crazy insane things, even making them complicit in the death of their own babies.  Like prey in the sight of the serpent, they freeze and allow themselves to be consumed by evil.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  (Romans 6:23)

Abraham Lincoln once warned that the sin of slavery would only be expiated when every drop of blood caused by the slave master’s whip was paid for by blood drawn by the sword.  And so, it was and ten-fold.  War is not a punishment meted out by God but the direct result of our own un-repented actions.  We have sown the winds of innocent deaths and we will reap even more.  Let us not be complacent and become complicit.  Let your voice be heard for those who cannot cry out.

 “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”    (Deuteronomy 31:6)

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It’s Official.

“You don’t stop laughing when you grow old, you grow old when you stop laughing.”
George Bernard Shaw

 

    I saw it coming for a long time.  If I had not, by now, I would have been beyond living in denial, I would have been delusional.  After all, every birthday is another candle and even my beloved grandson Henry did not recognize me in old family videos.  The march of time brings changes on gradually but it still marches in tough old army boots with one hand on the trigger of the gun.

   So, there I was, walking back from church to work.   It was a nice crisp sunny morning and my path took me down the street next to the middle school where a group of six and seventh grade boys were playing some sort of game where they throw a tennis ball against the side of the brick school building and when the ball is in the main boys hand, they can run toward him but when it is in flight against the wall, they have to stop.  The boy with the ball held up the game so I could get safely past.  The other boys in an obvious attempt to exploit the good manners of the boy with the ball kept running.  Just past them, I heard the boy with the ball say, “You can’t run.”   They laughed. “No,” he continued, “I had to stop to let the nice old lady go by.”

   And there you have it.  “Out of the mouths of babes and innocents,” I thought as I smiled up the street.  It’s undeniably official. I have become the nice old lady. 

“Lord, let me know my end, the number of my days, that I may learn how frail I am.”  (Psalm 39:5)

   When I look in the mirror, I do notice that things are not like they used to be.  I cannot say exactly when I went from mature women to old lady, but sometime when I was not exactly looking too closely, I crossed the line.  I looked in the mirror again at a wrinkle around my mouth and think, “When did that happen?”   I poke the small (OK I do have some denial) muffin top over my jeans and think, “Where in hell did that come from?”  I realize things are not like they used to be and maybe I need a glass of wine to recover. 

“You have given my days a very short span; my life is as nothing before you.  All mortals are but a breath.”  (Psalm 39:6)

     I have come to realize that there is mercy in the aging process which is proof positive that my God lives.   Maybe why our eyesight starts going is that it keeps us from scaring ourselves to death looking in the mirror in the morning.   Maybe why our hearing starts to go is so we cannot hear our bones creaking.  When I was younger, someone asked me, “Why do old ladies wear so much perfume?”   Well, now I know the answer….   Its because old men stink.  (Just kidding, guys.)  God is indeed merciful in all of his ways.

“Mere phantoms, we go our way; mere vapor, our restless pursuits;  (Psalm 39:7)

   I now have a special appreciation for my Father in heaven.  He promises to renew my youth like the eagle.  That someday I will run again and not get tired.  That He will restore my beauty from ashes.  The goal is to one day see him face to face and He will not see the old lady I see in the mirror.   The ultimate test is if He sees the face of Jesus instead of me.

“And now, Lord, what future do I have?  You are my only hope.”  (Psalm 39:8)

   The key to passing the test is to empty myself of all that is me without Jesus and ask Jesus to replace it with his Holy Spirit.  At my age now, it’s not too much to empty myself since I am becoming a lot less than I was.  Yes, I have also shrunk an inch in height.  But that being said, I am forgetting exactly who I thought I was so it’s much easier to give up myself for Jesus.  God is good, of that I am sure.  I am going the way of my parents, my grandparents and all those before me.  Even in the midst of this aging process, I give thanks to God for every ache and pain, for every small loss of youth and all new adventures to being an old lady.   Now if I could just retire.

“From all my sins deliver me;  let me not be the taunt of fools.”  (Psalm 39:9)

  By the way, young man with the ball, thanks for saying I was nice.  It would have been much worse if instead you had said, “The batty old lady.”

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One Look.

We need no wings to go in search of Him, but have only to look upon Him present within us.
-Saint Teresa of Avila

 

   In her visions, Blessed Therese Neuman would describe the life of Jesus. In one account, she saw the visit of the wise men and described it as such:

“At first, they were disillusioned at seeing the simplicity and poverty which greets them, and they feel they must have made a mistake.  Nonetheless, St. Joseph cautiously comes outside.  Only the brown man can speak a language that St. Joseph understands.  He brings them inside, where they bow low to the mother and speak with her.  Then the child Jesus, who is already almost two years old, looks at them in the eye with a ‘divine look.’  Immediately they recognize that this child is the goal of their journey and they throw themselves to the floor.”  

“Then he turned to his disciples and said privately “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.  For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”   (Luke 10:23-24)

   How blest were the disciples to be able to look into the eyes of Jesus!   For much of their time with him, it may have seemed that Jesus looked so very ordinary.  After all, no one could look upon the face of God and live.  But God made man changed that.  The word became flesh so that those who saw Jesus saw the Father.  Until they believed in who He truly was, they would be unable to see how the divine was among them.   But when the veil was lifted, the disciples would be privileged to see the very divinity of Christ.

    “After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John, the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.  There he was transfigured before them.  His face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as the light.”   (Matthew 17:1-2)

   I have often wondered what that ‘divine look’ would be like.  Was it like the blinding light that that Paul saw on his journey to Damascus?  A look that would turn his path 180 degrees around.  A look so deep he gave up everything for the sake of the name.  Home, wife, family, he forsook having anything for Christ his Lord.  There was nothing he would not suffer for the name.  Beatings, being stoned, imprisoned, shipwrecked and deserted did not deter him from the race.  St Catherine of Siena said of him, “Imitate that dear Paul, who was so in love, and be a vessel of affection that bears and proclaims the name of Jesus.  It seems to me that Paul gazed into this eye [ sic of Christ] and lost himself in it.”   I think St Catherine would know what captured St Paul as she herself would have the visions of our risen Lord and would give up all to follow him. And like Paul, would bear the marks of Christ on her body.

   “The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow.  His eyes were like a flame of fire.”  (Revelation 1:14)

    The look of love from the savior’s eyes must have the power to crush us in sorrow over our sins as when Peter denied Jesus three times.  “The Lord turned and looked at Peter.” (Luke 22:61)   The moment their eyes met must have been a memory that haunted Peter his entire life searing into his heart the depth of pain he caused his lord and savior.  The look was not accusing or perturbed, but of deep sorrow at being betrayed again by the one who professed he would die with him.  Each of us must cause that same look to be cast our way every time we choose to sin when we know full well the price for which our souls were ransomed.

“Immediately a rooster crowed.  Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: ‘Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.’  And he went outside and wept bitterly.”                    (Matthew 26:75)

   In faith, we look into the mirror dimly at the face of Christ and like the song, “I Can Only Imagine,” I wonder what it will be like when I can see him face to face and look into his eyes and be forever lost in his love.   If it only takes one look of love to place our feet firmly on the path of righteousness, then Lord, cast your look of love our way and open our eyes to see it.

  

Steiner, Johannes (1976).  “The Visions of Therese Neuman”,  Alba House, New York

“I Can Only Imagine.” By Bart Millard.  The Worship Project.  Mercy Me. 1999

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From Whence Do You Come and Where are You Going?

“Christ acts like a loving mother. To induce us to follow Him, He gives us Himself as an example and promises us a reward in His kingdom.”                    –  St. Anthony of Padua

 

Contemplating the crucifixion, one cannot help but be moved by the sacrifice Jesus made for us that one Holy Friday.  I think over time, it is somewhat normal for us to start taking it for granted.  As Catholics, we pray the Stations of the Cross and the Sorrowful Mysteries of the rosary to renew our remembrance and awe of the love shown us on that day and refresh in our hearts his sacrifice.

In these prayers, I am reminded of his sufferings at Gethsemane where the agony was so great, his sweat was filled with blood.  It was as if He was shown the sins for which He would suffer and they were loaded upon him like the scapegoat so that He who was without sin would become sin.

“But the goat on which the lot for the scapegoat fell shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make atonement upon it, to send it into the wilderness as the scapegoat.”  (Leviticus 16:10)

“But the Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all.”  (Isaiah 53:6)

He endured the horrible scrounging so terrible that even Pilot would be shocked.   And our Lord knew that as bad as the scourging was, the worst was yet to come.

“Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, Behold the man!”  (John 19:5)

Then baring his cross, He struggled under the weight of the beam strapped across his shoulders so that He could not even wipe the sweat and blood off his face.  Stripped of his clothes, laughed at and humiliated, He was nailed to the cross.

I am in complete humbled remembering his suffering and death on the cross, yet even this is not the most surprising to me.  I am amazed in his capacity to be stay silent when questioned and not try to defend himself.   What surprises me is that our Lord Jesus never reached that point where the spirit rises up and says, “NO MORE, these sinners are not worth it.”   He would be right to have done so.  We were not and are not worthy, yet his meek silence humbles me.  I was taken aback on how much Christ suffered and did not utter one angry word.

   “Like a lamb led to the slaughter or sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth.”  (Isaiah 53:7)

This is not like me. I have often reached the point in suffering with pain and sorrow so much so that I get angry and say, “NO MORE!”   I reach my breaking point where I really believe I cannot go on.  Too often, I have said to our Lord, “HEY, I didn’t sign up for this!”  as I turn to walk away.  Then giving me a little time, in his truly loving way, He reminds me of my promises I made in love to follow him where ever He leads.  Oh, yes, now I remember too well, that I did indeed sign up for even this.  And I humbly bow my head and return to the fold.

“Return to me, and I will return to you.”  (Malachi 3:7)

In his beautiful book, “Quo Vadis?”  Henry Sienkiewicz, uses the story from apocryphal Acts of Peter (Vercelli Acts: XXXV), where Peter is fleeing from crucifixion in Rome, disgusted with the Roman persecution of his Christian brothers and sisters.   As he walking away from Rome, he passes Jesus walking the other way.  Peter asks Jesus, “Domine Quo vadis?”  meaning, “Where are you going Lord?”  to which Jesus replies, “Roman eo iterum crucifigi.” (“I am going to Rome to be crucified again.”)  Jesus explains that if Peter abandons the others in Rome, then Jesus will have to take his place.  Peter cries out, that it must be him not his Lord, that it should be crucified and he turns quickly back to Rome where is he crucified upside down because he said he was not worthy to die as Jesus died.

“Walk while you have the light, so that darkness may not overcome you.  Whoever walks in the dark does not know where he is going.”  (John 13:35-36)

I believe that the only place in the bible, where an angel of the Lord actually asks, where did you come from was when Hagar was fleeing the abuse of her mistress, Sarai.

“The Lord’s messenger found her by a spring in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur and he asked, ‘Hagar, maid of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?’”  (Genesis 16:7)

Then the angel tells her to return to Sarai and submit to her abuse for the Lord intends to make her son the father of a great nation.  And so, Hagar humbly returns.

The Lord has little need to ask where we came from.  He knows where we have been.  He knows what we have done and what has been done to us.  The question we need to answer is, “Where are we going?”  He does not need to tell us exactly where, we just have to follow and He will show us the way.

“I did not tell you this from the beginning, because I was with you.  But now I am going to the one who sent me, and not one of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’”  (John 16:5)

 

Sienkiewicz, Henryk (June 1896). “Quo Vadis: A Narrative of the Time of Nero”. Translated from the Polish by Jeremiah Curtin. Quo vadis, Domine?

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Believing is Seeing and Hearing. Part II

“Faith is to believe what you do not see. The reward of faith is to see what you believe.”   –   St. Augustine

 

I laughed until I cried watching them [Collin’s special needs baseball game] that late afternoon.  Then I looked around me.  While I was laughing everyone else was silent and stone faced.  Some of the parents were watching the same thing I was seeing, but I seemed to be the only one around me who could see it all.  Why eludes me.  I wondered if this was like when Jesus was baptized and God’s voice pierced the silence saying that Jesus was his beloved son, and many of them thought it was merely thunder.  It is as if, you have to believe in God to hear his voice and truly seek him to see him.  Seeing in not believing so much as believing is seeing.   It is not that I am more blest when watching the children to see them in that special way, it may be only because I know that God sees them in a special way and I am open to seeing them in that special way as well.  While some parents may see their children as kids who cannot hit or catch a ball or barely run the bases, I was able to see them as beautiful innocent children at play.

“On coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit like a dove, descending on him.  And a voice came from the heavens, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’”   (Mark 1:10-11)

When stories of the saints are told, some things sound almost too fantastic to believe but if we are to believe the words of Christ telling us that we would be able to greater things than this, the raising of the dead, walking on water, healing the leapers and multiplying the loaves and fishes, then why would it be too implausible for saints to levitate, carry the marks of Jesus on their body and live only on the consecrated bread and wine?   Why would it be impossible for them in the name of Jesus to heal the sick and stop battles and natural disasters?  Why should their visions of Christ’s life be dismissed as foolishness?  Should their witness to Christ be treated with disbelief just because they are Catholic?

“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”  (John 14:12)

We have been given the gift of faith yet too many times, we live like we have no faith at all.  Getting up each morning to the sound of the alarm clock, the one thing I want to do is close my eyes and go back to sleep.  Yet if I live for something greater, then getting up and opening my eyes of faith to seek the Lord, should make me want to jump out of bed and begin to seek him with all of my heart and all of my mind and all of my soul.  If we believe we will see him, we will see him.  And we will see him in the land of the living.

“But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.”   (Deuteronomy 4:29)

There are the times we complain to God about not being there and say, ‘Where are you God?’  In faith we should know, He is right there next to us, holding us in his arms and trying to comfort us.  I think we miss his presence when we need it the most because we do not trust him.  Our problem is not that God has abandoned us but that we did not exercise our faith.  We reached out in blindness and came up empty when we should have stepped out in faith and received blessings and visions.

“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God may believe that He exists and the He rewards those who seek him.”   (Hebrews 11:6)

If today we were to hear his voice, would we say it was only thunder?

 

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Being is More Important than Doing.

Part I

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire!” St. Catherine of Siena

There have been several times, and why not more I cannot say, but it is as if all the stars align and I get a glimpse of the world as God sees it through the presence of our special needs children.  One of those times was when Collin was playing on a TASK baseball team. The day was a perfect blend of summer and fall, sunny but not too hot.  Floating through the air, much like I imagine the angels do around our beautiful children at all times, were fluffy seeds from the nearby white cotton wood trees and it gave the scene a most unworldly essence except for the fact that our children still had special needs.  When the final ball was hit into the outfield, it landed between two boys just feet from one another.  One picked it up and held the ball not knowing what to do with it, while the other boy next to him, yelled, “Throw it to me. Throw the ball to me.”  The fact that he could just have handed the ball to the other boy did not seem to occur to either one.  In the meantime, with the air fluff angels flying around, every one was yelling, “Run HOME!”  This encouraged not only the batting team to run around the bases but even the other side joined in and everyone began running the bases home together.  In joyful pandemonium, both teams felt they had won.

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”  (Matthew 19:14)

Only with a special needs group would such a victory be achieved.  Whenever one of their team members crossed over home plate, they called out their names and gave each other high fives.  There is no calculated pretenses or subtle nuances with these children.  Just the joy of seeing a friend touch home base.  They clap and applaud each other’s victories just as they comfort each other in their failed shots.   Like an extended family of abnormal birth, they have become kin to one another.

I clearly understand what Henri Nouwen says in the book, “Love Henri, Letters on the Spiritual Life”,

“As I am trying to understand this better, I have come to realize that mentally handicapped people, first of all, teach me that ‘being’ is more important than ‘doing.’ In our competitive world so much emphasis is given to doing that we forget that God first of all asks us simply to be with Him and with each other.  Mentally handicapped people, who can ‘do’ so little, can ‘be’ so much.”

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones.   For I tell you that in heaven their angles always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.”  (Matthew 18:10)

And the ‘doing’ we seek always seems to be to win the race, the fight or the test.   Did you get the highest score?  Did you win the most races?  Who is the current title holder and how to you related.  Yet not one of those accomplishments can exceed the grace of one special needs child encouraging another.   St. Paul never says he won the race or the fight.  Only that he ran and did not give up.  It should be so comforting to us to know that Jesus wants to just be with us and that all of our winnings and failings are not what He sees in us.  He sees us for who we are in him.

“Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”  (Luke 18:17)

Our special children will most likely never win the Nobel Peace Prize yet our Father in Heaven could not love them more.   They will not be granted Ph.Ds. yet the Lord is not disappointed in them.  They will make hundreds of mistakes, yet not one of them is abandoned by God.  To simply be with God, is why God gave us the gift of his presence.  His flesh is real food, his blood is real drink and we can go and simple be with him in the form of the transfigured bread and wine.  We do not have to pretend to be anything except who we truly are.  We just have to be with him.

“Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, and do not lean on your understanding.  In all of your ways acknowledge him and he will make straight your paths.”  (Proverbs 3:5-6)

How much farther from the mind of God can we be?   On some level are we not all mentally handicapped in comparison to the mind of the almighty God?  Yet with faith we are given the very gift that leads us on the path to God.  He provides all we need to find him, hear his voice and see him in all of those around us, even the least of us.  Our prayer should always be, “Lord, let me see as you see, let me hear what you hear and be what you want me to be.”  I longingly seek those moments when angels fly over us and love triumphs over winning and I can take comfort in just being with Jesus.

“Rather, I have stilled my soul, hushed it like a weaned child.   Like a weaned child on its mother’s lap, so is my soul within me.” (Psalms 131 2-3)

 

 

Henri J. M. Nouwen, “Love, Henri  Letters on the Spiritual Life,”  Convergent Books, 2016

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