Thursday, June 14, 2012

What do YOU think of?

Almost a year ago, I posted the following note to my Facebook page. I got some interesting and compelling responses, but I feel the time has come for a broader forum.  Would you please leave me a comment below?  Or if you prefer, email me at mamacantrix@gmail.com.  I am particularly interested in the responses of those who are of other (non-Christian) faiths, and those who do not practice or identify with any faith or religious tradition.  I welcome ALL responses, so long as they are honest and respectful.  PLEASE SHARE THIS PAGE!  The more responses, the better! Thank you so much!!

Dear Friends,

I have been reading and thinking a lot about a particular statement made by St. John of the Cross: "In giving us His Son, His only Word, He spoke everything to us at once in this sole Word -- and He has no more to say ..."  

So I'd like to know...from whoever is willing to share their thoughts on the matter...what does that Word mean to you?  What do you think of when you hear or say Jesus?  I'm tagging some friends whose opinions I know are very different from mine, and some friends whose religious and spiritual leanings I don't know much about, and some whose faith and religion I know well.  PLEASE, comment, even if I didn't tag you.  Share with friends.  The broader the forum, the betterI'd love to see as much of the whole spectrum represented as I can.  Just keep it civil.  I'm not looking for a battle or a thread full of insults, just a referendum of ideas and experiences.  Thank you!!

What does the word "Jesus" mean to you?  What do you think of or feel when you hear it or say it?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Called to Prayer

I love this prayer.  I pray it often, share it regularly, and pray, too, that the desires of my heart truly be conformed to the sentiments it expresses. 

Prayer for Ordering a Life Wisely
O, merciful God, grant that I may
desire ardently,
search prudently,
recognize truly,
and bring to perfect completion
whatever is pleasing to You for the praise and glory of Your name.

Put my life in good order, O my God.


Grant that I may know what you require me to do.


Bestow upon me the power to accomplish your will as is necessary and fitting for the salvation of my soul.


Grant to me, O Lord my God, that I may not falter in times of prosperity or adversity, so that I may not be exalted in the former, nor dejected in the latter.


May I not rejoice in anything unless it leads me to you;

May I not be saddened by anything unless it turns me from you.

May I desire to please no one but you,

Nor fear to displease anyone but you.

May all transitory things, O Lord, be worthless to me

And may all things eternal be ever cherished by me.

May any joy without you be burdensome for me

And may I not desire anything else besides you.

May all work, O Lord, delight me when done for your sake

And may all repose not centered in you be ever wearisome for me.

Grant unto me, O God, that I may direct my heart to you

And that in my failures I may feel ever remorse for my sins and never lose the resolve to change.

O Lord, My God, make me

submissive without protest,
poor without discouragement,
chaste without regret,
patient without complaint,
humble without posturing,
cheerful without frivolity,
mature without gloom,
and quick-witted without flippancy

O Lord, My God, let me

fear you without losing hope,
be truthful without guile,
do good without presumption,
rebuke my neighbor without haughtiness,
and -- without hipocrisy -- strengthen him by word and example

Give to me, O Lord God,

a watchful heart, which no capricious heart can lure away from you
a noble heart, which no unworthy desire can debase
a resolute heart, which no evil intention can divert
a stalwart heart, which no tribulation can overcome
a temperate heart, which no violent passion can enslave

Give to me, O Lord my GOd,

understanding of you
diligence in seeking you
wisdom in finding you
discourse ever pleasing to you
perseverance in waiting for you,
and confidence in finally embracing you.

Grant that with your hardships, I may be burdened in reparation here,

that your benefits I may use in gratitude along the way,
that in your joys, I may delight by glorifying you in the kingdom of heaven, you who live and reign, world without end.

Amen

--St. Thomas Aquinas 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Plan of Attack

Lent is upon us...or will be in a few hours.  I've thought about my life and my habits, and about what I'd like to change over the course of this penitential season.  I've thought about my "idle", thanks to an article at Fallible Blogma.  I've considered habits, priorities, and things around me that need particular prayerful attention. It's a humbling realization that 40 days might only scratch the surface of my faithless heart, but I'll just have to pray for the grace to continue on the path of salvation with the same resolve that I feel today.

**I'm not giving up Facebook...completely.  I am going to log out on my phone so that I don't just wander there out of habit.  Fast days, I won't be on at all. I'm going to try to fill those "just a couple of minutes" times with work or prayer, and hopefully learn to value those moments more.

**I'm going to set aside some things in my diet that rob me of my energy and my health, since my good nature (ha!) and patience go with it.  Soda, sweets, afternoon coffee...buh-bye.  Hello again, Friday fasting.  Discipline in one area translates to discipline in other areas, and discipline and diligence are two virtues that I need to develop.

**I'm going to make a point of following some things that the Lord has placed heavily on my heart and in my mind the last few weeks, in prayer and study.  I'll  write as I go, and pray for the grace and fortitude to be bold, to be wise, and to be courageous.  "...courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the breaking point."  --C.S. Lewis

I wish you all a blessed, fruitful Lent that bursts into Easter joy, finding your soul ready to receive the blessings God has for you!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Basics



It’s been a challenging couple of weeks for my brain.  The political world has squarely taken aim at some of my fundamental beliefs about human life, and has declared null and void the right of Catholic institutions to adhere to those beliefs as a matter of conscience.  It’s gotten personal.  

Naturally, the ensuing discussions have displayed the full spectrum of political and spiritual convictions, leaving my head spinning on more than one occasion.  In the course of one exchange, a friend was ardently defending Planned Parenthood.  I was completely shocked by some opinions she holds, even though we’ve known each other for 20+ years.  What really sent me reeling, though, was the assertion that she, a Methodist, should not be expected to “feel the same as [another denomination] just because [she’s] a Christian.  …[W]e share the same BASIC beliefs.”  I was completely stunned.  If you, as a Christian, believe that a child has no right to be born because it is unwanted, and an organization like Planned Parenthood has a right to exist on the dime of taxpayers in this nation, then what basic belief do we share?  **Later discussion clarified her position:  she is PERSONALLY against abortion, but doesn’t feel that she can tell another what is right for her.  She considers Planned Parenthood to be something of a necessary evil because of the non-abortion services they provide.  

Christianity is not an acknowlegement of a set of historical facts about a guy named Jesus. Christianity calls us to look at that set of historical facts and see in them an interaction between creator and creation, bridegroom and bride, redeemer and redeemed, and be consumed in love.  It calls us to open our eyes and see what God sees, and love as God loves.  So what are the basics?  And how does faith have any relevance in secular politics?  Be still, my aching spirit....

God desired Humanity. (Gen. 1:27)  Humanity sinned, and destroyed the innocence that God had given.  God, in response, protected humanity by closing the way to the tree of life. In His mercy, He would not allow us to live forever, separated from Him. (Gen. 3:22-24)  God set before Adam and Eve the forbidden tree (warning them that if they ate of it, they would die), and the tree of life. Interestingly enough, in Deuteronomy 30:15, He is still offering the same choice.  In 1 John 5:12, the choice is the same.  He desires us, and wants us to desire Him.  How humbling a truth!  Behold, what manner of Love...!  The Psalmist, in pre-scientific wisdom declared the truth: we are wonderfully made, known as we are knit together in our mothers’ wombs (Ps. 139:13-16, et al.).  From the time of Moses, the law protected the unborn, with penalties for even an accidental injury to an unborn child (Exodus 21:22).  From the time we are conceived until the time of our last breaths, our Heavenly Father desires us.  He calls us by name (John 10:3).  We are His people; the flock He shepherds (Ps. 100:3).  We are members of His body (1 Cor.12:27), His radiant Bride (Rev.19:7, 21:2).  It is such very basic - God desires us and loves us unto death (Phil. 2:7-11) - but infinite, unfathomable truth.  No human life, from its scientific beginning (conception) to its last breath in this world, is exempt from this love.  Who are we, mere men, to determine that a life is unwanted? inconvenient? too burdensome?  Who are we to say that it is mercy to “free” a tiny human from a life of poverty or disability?  Who are we to decide that the course of a woman’s life is more important than that of her child? That one has more right to exist than the other?  Who among us could stand before the Author of Life and tell Him that a life that He desired into being was not welcome?  Oh, be still, my aching spirit!

The founding principles of this nation included a set of basic rights, afforded to us by our creator.  Among them were the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  These rights were not to be compromised by any law, and the rights of one were not to be held superior to the rights of another. Somewhere along the course of our history, the Declaration has been deemed inapplicable to those who had no voice of their own.  In 1973,  it was the unborn.  The right of Jane Roe to live her life without a child in tow was deemed superior to the right of that child to ever draw breath. Since that time, others have decided that their right to be childless (and grandchildless) superseded the right of a child to be born.  Or that one child in a womb had a “better chance” than another, and therefore should be allowed to continue to develop while a brother or sister was, quite literally, ripped from his or her side.  Or that a child in the womb was imperfect, and therefore should be “mercifully spared” this cruel world, a life of disability, or the indignity of burdening a family.  Since 1973, it has happened 52 million times.

In 2005, it was Terri Schiavo.  She became the public face of countless private battles.  Her life was ended by a court order, not a divine one.  Her heart was beating on its own, she breathed completely without assistance, and because she could not speak for herself in a way that was deemed “meaningful,” she was left to starve, dying of dehydration over the course of 13 days.  The aged, the infirm, the handicapped, are all vulnerable to such de-valuation in our current culture.  In other places, in other times, great crimes have been committed against humanity because of this same decision in its basic form:  I have the authority to decide that you must cease to exist, not because of harm you have done, but because of who or what you are, or because you are not useful to me in achieving my personal goals.  Be still, my aching spirit.

These examples fly in the face of our founding principles, but they also find conflict in the legal halls where they claim asylum.  If a pregnant woman is killed, the responsible party is held to account for the loss of two lives.  If that same woman walks into a medical facility to terminate that pregnancy, she is “within her rights,” up until the time that the child’s head leaves the womb. If she should die as a result, there will be no charges filed.  Two lives lost, just a part of the “accepted risks” of a “surgical procedure.”  If the child should be born alive, it will be denied care or comfort.  It will be abandoned to die alone and in pain, because we are a civilized nation that “respects the reproductive choices of women.”  Be still, my aching spirit.  

I believe in freedom.  I believe what I believe, and I believe that you are free to believe what you believe.  I want all others to have that same freedom, to the fullest extent possible.  If those beliefs constitute a complete, vehement rejection of all that I hold dear, then so be it. Until our convictions lead us to undermine the rights of ANY citizen - the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness - we are free.  The moment the government protects the rights of any group over those of another, the seed of tyranny is sown.  Unchecked, it will be the death of liberty in any nation.  Oh, be still, my aching spirit.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Untitled

There is an appointed time for everything,
and a time for every affair under the heavens.
...a time to be silent, and a time to speak.


I have been stewing on this post for a few days now.  It has kept me awake, it has swirled through my dreams, and it has commanded my waking hours, demanding to be written but refusing to be titled.  And so I write, with racing thoughts and brimming heart, my soul at once broken and steeled with resolve.

There have been several events over the past few days that have stirred the proverbial pot from which this post comes.  My husband's grandmother was called to her eternal reward last week.  As with any passing, memories come alive and I contemplate the impact that person has had in my life, immediate and long-term, direct and indirect.  It also leads me into gardens of remembrance of others who have gone before me, whose lives have left indelible impressions on me, on the woman I am and have been, and on the world around me.  I think of life and death, and the journey from our first stirrings in this world until our last breaths, and I am quieted and humbled by what C.S. Lewis called the "intolerable compliment."

Last Friday, by Presidential order, a full frontal attack was launched against the Catholic Church and the right of Catholic institutions and Catholic employers to omit contraceptive and abortifacient drugs and procedures from their health care plans.  (You can read more about the order HERE.)  I have been wary of government intervention in the private affairs of citizens, but never before have I felt myself (or a group with which I identify myself) singled out and targeted because of a moral conviction.  To say that I am shaken is an understatement.

Yesterday, our nation marked a tragic landmark in our history.  Thirty-nine years ago, the Roe vs. Wade decision by the Supreme Court struck down state laws in all 50 states, creating a Federal mandate for abortion-on-demand in this nation.  Since that time, nearly 40 million innocent children in our country have been denied the right to life, in spite of the founding principle of the right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."  I have friends who spent the day in Washington D.C. at the March for Life.  They were in my prayers, and I was with them in spirit.

My heart has been full, my spirit has been unsettled, and my mind has been a whirlwind these last few days.  I could spend pages pouring them out.  Just a few recurring thoughts will suffice, though; take them as you will and act as you are called.

There is a quote from Martin Niemoller, a German pastor in the 1930's that keeps coming to mind, and I wonder how it might read for our nation in this moment in time:

First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak out because I was Protestant.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.


Perhaps Niemoller would say today, as an American:
First they came for the unborn, and I didn't speak out because it was none of my business.  
Then they came for the old and the sick, and I didn't speak out because I was young and healthy.  
Then they came for the inconvenient, the weak, and the burdensome, and I didn't speak out because I was self-sufficient.  
Then they came for those of Faith, and I didn't speak out because it wasn't my place to decide right from wrong.  
And then they came for me, and there was no on left to speak out. 

God help us.

I'll leave you with the passages of scripture that have surged through my thoughts over and over again this weekend, and a simple request:  Pray.

Psalms 12
Ezekiel 22
"God has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us, in the deepest, most tragic, most inexorable sense." - C. S. Lewis

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Familliar Path, New Perspective

Happy New Year!  Yeah, I know.  But it's the first week of Advent, which marks the beginning of the Liturgical Year.  This year, we Catholics began using a new translation of the Mass...a bit of an adventure to be sure.  It is a beautiful translation, though, and I'm looking forward to growing comfortable with it in the coming months.

I'm a little embarrassed to admit what I'm about to share, but I'm too excited to keep it to myself.  I purchased a new Bible a few weeks ago.  It's my first Catholic Edition Bible.  I have continued to use my trusty NIV, even though I have been Catholic for nearly 16 years.  I am using this Advent as a jumping-off point to re-discover scripture.  It's been several years since my last "read-through" of the Bible.  I've grown, and God has led me down some paths that I never imagined even existed.  I've read, seen, heard, and experienced a lot during these years, and it has changed me.  My companion resources are different now, and the actual translation is new for me, too.   I can't wait to see what treasures I will uncover this time through!

So, in the spirit of expectation and new beginnings that Advent holds, I wish you a blessed Advent.  Prepare ye the way of the Lord!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

No Storm Can Shake My Inmost Calm

A week ago today, I began to face the possibility, now realized, that my seventh child would not be born into this world.  As anyone might expect, I was scared.  I prayed. I begged God to keep his hand on my little one -- to keep him safe.  I began to dread confirmation of what, somewhere in my heart, I already knew:  the life I had carried inside me was gone. But even as scared as I was of what was to come, there was a stillness inside of me.  I knew that regardless of the medical outcome of the pregnancy, my little one was in God's hands, as was I.  In the stillness, gratitude became my strength.

I am so grateful for my family.  I have a wonderful husband who loves and provides for me and for our children.  I have six beautiful, healthy sons who make me crazy, and bring me such joy.  I have an extended family that has always encouraged, supported, and loved me, even when I have worked at being unlovable.
 
I am so grateful for all the women in my life who have had miscarriages, and have been so generous with their support.  They have not tried to explain, distract, or comfort.  They have simply acknowledged, and let their own silent triumph be my encouragement.

I am so grateful for kind words from sincere hearts.

I am so grateful that medically, this loss was a simple one:  early, uncomplicated, and without cause to fear future complications.

I am so grateful that in all the ways this could have been worse, it wasn't.

I am so grateful that the sun is shining today.

No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that rock I'm clinging
Since Christ is Lord of Heav'n and earth
How can I keep from singing?


I am so grateful.