Monthly Archives: June 2015

No Catholic is Perfect

I have something to own up to. It seems, through all of the soul searching it takes to blog about finding God in your life and your family, I’ve discovered one very important thing. And that is that I’m not exactly a good Catholic.

The thing is, you probably aren’t either.  You might be like me. I thought I was a pretty good Catholic when I started this blog. And I don’t exactly think I am or was ever a “bad” person. I get the big things right : I haven’t killed anyone; I don’t steal or cheat; I always say I’m sorry; I pray; I give generously to charity; and I work hard to put the needs of others before my own. 

But when you get down to the nuances…there’s where things get a little fuzzy. For instance, God doesn’t want us to harm ourselves. I’m not exactly out there engaging in risky behaviors. I don’t drink, don’t smoke, have never done drugs, don’t bungy jump, jump out of air planes; or sign up for one-way tickets to Mars. But. I’m a diabetic. And I’m not exactly good at that. It’s not that I like sweets; I do, but those things can be controlled. I’m just not exactly a big exerciser, sometimes I forget my insulin, and sometimes I actually don’t eat enough. I don’t have a lot of structure in my life. That can be problematic – and maybe it’s sinful, too. After all, I did end up in the cardio unit not so long ago due to my inability to care about my health.

Once upon a time, I used to be really good at celebrating birthdays, milestones, special events. I kept Hallmark running. I sent people gifts and flowers. Sometimes for no reason other than I wanted them to be happy. I still often remember those dates. But I can’t remember the last time I sent a card. I miss parties, cancel plans, etc. Sin? Probably not. But those habits certainly keep me from experiencing joy and sharing it with others. Mostly because of laziness. I think that’s one of the seven deadly, isn’t it? The Church calls it sloth.

It seems when it comes to spreading Catholicism, we all have this idea that were supposed to be pointing out the logs in one another’s eyes, instead of discovering where we go wrong ourselves. If you don’t believe me, get a Twitter account, and start following anyone who says they’re a Catholic. Then sit back and watch them fight with each other (me included) over how much more they know about God, religion and sin. If you don’t think there are schisms in the making within the Church, you soon won’t know how it survived this long after a few tweets.

Jesus tells us all the time in the Bible and at Mass – we are all sinners. Even Pope Francis admits it. WE ALL HAVE DEMONS. Sins we fight to resist. Which means none of us are better than any other. I have issues with anger. I have friends and family who have trouble with lust, greed, gluttony, and jealousy. It’s the same struggle to be a better person under different circumstances. We should be embracing one another, differences aside, recognizing we fight the same evil in different forms.

Yet were too busy telling other Catholics their kids are too loud in Church, that they don’t give enough in the collection, or that they shouldn’t wear certain clothing to Mass. Perhaps if we took that time to look inside, we just might discover just how far we ourselves are from God.

In the last year or so, I’ve started reading my Bible, exploring Catholic literature, and referencing the Catholic Catechism. I’ve learned quite a bit. Stuff I thought I would have known after 18 years of solid Catholic education. I started making connections to my life I never made. I’ve even started saying the Rosary, which I’ve never done before.

The closer I get to God, the less important my own idiosyncrasies seem. The more I realize others have their own extenuating circumstances that may make them late, crabby, or particular about something. The more I realize that being Catholic, or the best Catholic I can be, is downright HARD!

You all know that too. That’s where people – all people – trying to live a Catholic life are special. We embrace the difficulty of life as Catholic – we don’t turn away from God because what he asks is challenging. But we are not perfect, not even one of us. It’s our job to be harder on ourselves, not on one another. There are enough people out in the world who are hard on Catholics. 

We must take an even harder road – embrace one another, differences and personal demons included, and realize we too are imperfect. And together present a united front to the world that questions our faith.

Demons & Devils & Whatnots

I’ve been talking to my girls these days about some pretty weird stuff.

Not Caitlyn Jenner, although she comes up and I’m not sure yet who’s more confused on that one, them or me.

No. I’m talking about demons. And Satan. And exorcisms and all kinds of stuff I had to go on a Chatechism research binge to learn about. (Many thanks to my parish parent friends for the heads up on Charlie, Charlie.)

There’s a lot of stuff in Catholicism that doesn’t get talked about much. Exorcisms and the scarier stuff probably reside among those topics. But the Charlie, Charlie game sure has brought all that messy stuff to the surface these days.

Here’s the skinny as I understand it : Catholics believe in Satan. We believe there is a hell for the eternal damnation of some souls. We believe that Lucifer, a fallen saint who once thought himself (and probably still does) more clever than God, has his own legions for spreading discord. (See C.S Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters.) Much like God has his angels to watch over us. You don’t really want to mess with demons and you certainly don’t want to go inviting them over to our dimension for a friendly chat, ala Charlie, Charlie.

For the most part, the Church would rather you not dabble with Tarot cards, fortune tellers, voodoo, pentagrams, Wicca — even horoscopes, zodiac signs and astrology. Only God knows the future, one bishop wrote. Getting information about it, correct or incorrect, apart from God, is sinful.

Now. I can’t honestly say I have any experience with the occult past some silly “seances” and games of “light as a feather, stiff as a board” at slumber parties in junior high. I’ve had some unsettling dreams in which dead people beloved to me have shared interesting messages, but otherwise, nothing. Never saw a ghost, encountered an evil spirit, etc. I’ve run across people I could call evil – I even once had a date that could have turned deadly under the wrong circumstances. But no demons, or X-Files kind of stuff I’ve noticed.

But, like most, I’ve met people who say they’ve had these experiences. And my Church tells me, experience or no experience, scary things do exist. This is where talking to two young girls gets tricky. As a young person, these things scared me as well. They kind of do now too. I was always trying to get out of the room when someone pulled out the Ouija Board and I still haven’t seen the Exorcist in its entirety. I got so creeped out watching The Sixth Sense that I made my husband leave the theatre before we learned the horrible truth about Bruce Willis. I know. Pathetic.

So, three scardey cat “girls” talking about God, Satan and inviting demons into the world is weird at best. I did what I could to stop their imaginations from running wild. (note to self : The Book of Revelation won’t be good bedtime reading.) We talked about my very superstitious German/Romanian grandmother who believed if you changed your sheets between Christmas and New Years, someone you knew would die. She never wore red. Then there was my husband’s mother who salted all the window sills outside to keep witches from getting in. They had to count all the grains before entering, apparently. But I also gave them the truth according to the Church, and reminded them that doing good, praying and the crucifixes in each of their rooms would help keep Charlie and his ilk out. 

The next day, my older daughter came home with a story of some friends playing Charlie, Charlie at school. This didn’t surprise me so much. I had friends in school fascinated by these things as well, years ago. They were always looking for ghosts and what not. My daughter has a particular buddy who has been obsessed with ghosts, vampires, werewolves and scary game apps since they were in kindergarten. They’re 10 now. I could never figure out why the kids who fed on this stuff loved being scared. It just made me grouchy.

But the story from school was more sweet than it was scary. You see, my children, if you don’t know yet from other blogs, go to Catholic school. If there is a place with more crucifixes, statues of Jesus and Mary, and people wearing religious symbols, I don’t know where it is. The school is connected to our Church physically, and has been blessed numerous times. There are priests and nuns around, and parishioners saying the Rosary at various times of the day. Doesn’t sound to me like a place Charlie would want to be. 

I assured my daughters, in this case, Charlie was certainly more scared than they were.

Pomp & Circumstance

I had a little bit of a shock today from an old friend. He noted on his FaceBook page that it had been 25 years to the day, June 2, 1990, that our senior class had graduated high school.

It wasn’t that I didn’t know that…I did. But it finally dawned on me what 25 years really meant. It meant a college degree, a graduate degree, a series of very rewarding jobs, a wedding, a husband, and two wonderful little girls. It also meant diabetes, depression, the crash and burn of a promising career, the failure of a new career attempt, the loss of once-true friends, and a heart attack.

In June of 1990, I was a young woman with all of that ahead of me, and of course a lot more hair. The night before my graduation ceremony, three days before my 18th birthday, I had broken up with my first love. I whimpered through most of the graduation and baccalaureate Mass. In true teenage fashion, we were back together the next day, and held on for three more years, as our very different lives sent us down separate roads little by little.  

 A few years back, we found one another. He told me he was using the lessons he had learned from my parents to guide his own children. I cried – He had come from a broken home, and my parents never really approved of our relationship. To think he had learned from them anyway was extraordinary. My first love took his own life a few years ago now. There’s a different, bittersweet feeling to the world when I look back at graduation today.  The same world that propelled me had failed him.

Two good friends of mine spoke as co-salutatorians on my graduation day. I’d spent everyday and almost every class with them for four years. I lost track of them almost immediately. I still really don’t know why. I saw one, now a successful and admired doctor, one day when I was at a local hospital for a pre-natal check-up. We had been thick as thieves, yet I couldn’t bring myself to even say hello. For some reason, I was afraid she wouldn’t remember me. 

In the same hospital, I ran into another classmate while visiting my grandmother. I had known her since elementary school. And, as few know, in our junior high years, lived in fear of her bullying me. I was happy not having seen her more than twice since high school. Even in my late 30s, the encounter sent me back to a time when I was timid, embarrassed and sad. A time when good grades allowed our principle to overlook me skipping school to keep away from her. Today, I’m using that experience to help my own daughter who gets bullied.

Just a few weeks ago, my oldest daughter went to a sleepover at a friend’s. The friend’s father graduated a year after I did from the same school. I had a friend then who had a colossal crush on him. I lost track of her a few years back, but I hear she’s somewhere back around town. If you had told me in 1990 that his daughter and mine would be in the same class in Catholic school, I’d have laughed. God brings people back into our lives sometimes. Only He knows why.

It’s amazing to me how 25 years later, the lessons of those years of Catholic high school are still with me. How the people I knew then can illicit the same feelings from me now. How the teachers I knew then can still make me feel like a kid. How my older brother’s friends who looked after me as a freshman still make me feel safe and loved today. How memories of class trips and adventures keep me connected to some I’d never have known otherwise. How I can’t hear the Eagles sing “Take it Easy” without thinking of a dear high school friend who sang and played it better to my ears.

So much that I learned in those years made me who I am. Not only personally, but in relation to God. My experiences in Catholic high school, while maybe not so different from those of other teenagers in many ways, came with an underlying morality, and a safety net of teachers, parents, administrators and friends to hold me up. In my later life, I find many of the lessons I learned from them have kept me alive to fight another day. Literally.

I couldn’t have imagined sitting in that wood pew in St. Paul’s how much hardship life would bring in my future. Nor could I have imagined the blessings. As I look at this year’s graduates, I can’t help but wonder what the Lord has in store for them. I hope they have learned as much as I found later that I had.