Tag Archives: Catholicism

Sorry, not sorry.

I heard some good news today about an old friend who had hurt me a great deal a few years ago. It soured my day.

But it made me realize, yet again, how fragile forgiveness can be,  and just how difficult it can be to live as Jesus did, and as the Father wants us to. Funny how we can assure ourselves we have forgiven in our minds, but when shocked or surprised somehow – like when you run into someone unexpectedly – the truth comes out. At least in your heart.

So, what to do? I guess I could sit around, walk around, whatever, feeling glum, excavating the pain and rehashing all the terrible things I think ruined my friendship. Isn’t that what we all do? Those of us who are willing to admit it, anyway. I know I do. But I don’t want to do that. I’m trying to live my life better, by what I’ve learned and by the path God is asking me to follow.

I tried something new instead. I said two prayers. One for me, and one for my old friend. Nothing elaborate. Just a quick nod to the Lord acknowledging that it’s hard to control our feelings, even when we can admit they are sometimes a little irrational. I asked him to help me let it go and find happiness in someone else’s success. And to remember the goodness of that relationship, not the bad ending. It was a long one. Most of it was special.

I also asked God to bless my friend and her family. I’m not sure if she ever understood the impact her actions had on my life. I prayed for her happiness, and that she always keep in mind that others are part of the decisions she makes, no matter how insignificant they may seem to her. The people or the decisions.

I find again that being a Catholic is indeed a great challenge, every day on every level. Forgiveness is not a one time thing, where you say your sorry, shake hands and everyone goes on merrily. It’s an ongoing choice to fight off the negativity and maintain your desire to make that “I’m sorry” stick. 

We certainly don’t make it easy for one another. Here’s to trying harder to forgive and to forget.

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Pop Quiz

Jay Leno often did a schtick on the Tonight Show where he would have someone go out into the streets, read something from the U.S. Constitution or Bill of Rights, and tell people the government was thinking of implementing whatever it was. Most of the subjects would be outraged, or amazed, often remarking the excerpt was way too extreme.

I’ve seen more recent similar videos where interviewers have asked college students questions like “Which side won the Civil War?,” “Who is the Vice President?,” etc. with equally awful results.

I can’t help but wonder what kind of answers one would get if challenging Catholics with a similar pop quiz on the Bible and Catholic Catechism. My guess is that responses would be nearly if not more atrocious.

I’m not saying that to be insulting. In recent years, I’ve come to see that there is a great deal I do not know about Catholicism and what I’m supposed to believe or not believe. This is particularly distressing to me having attended Catholic school from first grade through graduate school, received instruction for five of the Seven Sacraments, trained as a Eucharistic Minister, written for a Catholic newspaper, read various books on Catholicism, attended numerous retreats and so on and so forth.

There always seems to be more to learn. Considering the many resources I’ve had over the course of my life, I wonder what Catholics who have not attended Catholic elementary, intermediate, secondary, college and graduate school do to learn about “being Catholic.” Although I must admit, I have a number of friends who are converts, who, much like naturalized Americans do about the U.S., know more about the history and rules than most lifelong Catholics I know.

While those believers out there who want to show us all how much they know about God and Catholicism would probably disagree, I don’t think it should surprise anyone that many, if not most, Catholics have more to learn about their faith. Unlike our Protestant friends, Catholics are less known to be big Bible readers. And if you’ve ever seen a print version of the Catholic Catechism, you might feel more comfortable picking up a copy of War & Peace.

The Bible, as one of my high school religion teachers liked to remind us, is far from boring reading. He loved picking out more risqué passages and asking an unsuspecting student to read them allowed. He particularly liked the story of Lot and his daughters after fleeing Sodom and Gomorrah. Also, David and Bathsheeba. Or Sampson and Delilah. You get the point. I’ve been reading my copy more these days. It comes in handy when people tell you “that’s not in the Bible.” Often, it is.

In recent years, when I lost two very special people to suicide, and was teetering on the brink of depression myself, I turned to the Catechism for clarity. I was comforted to know the Church recognizes mental health issues can indeed lead us to a type of distress that can only be quieted in death. I was under the impression that suicide was always mortal sin. Some may be surprised that in regard to homosexuals, the Catchism clearly states “Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”

We Catholics who are not theological or moral specialists might also want to consider reading and studying other Catjolic documents of importance – Humana Vite, anyone? How about Amoris Latetia? Do we know what the Church really says about infallibility? I used to think if the Pope said it, God said it. It’s much more complicated than that.

Catholicism is a living, breathing faith. Just like our relationships with people, we must attend to our relationship with God. What we hear and learn at Mass simply isn’t enough in a day and age when there is such challenge to our tradition and freedom to practice it. I forget this a lot. My children are learning more about Catholicism at Catholic school today than I believe I did as an elementary school student. They challenge me to know more and be more devout. And know the answers to their Catholic questions.

I challenge you, my fellow Catholics, to refresh your knowledge of our faith. It’s one thing to know the rules – yet we should know where our rules come from. We should recognize both the good and bad of our history, and realize that the humanity of Church leaders can lead them to sin just like the rest of us. We must know what conventional wisdom about Catholicism is correct, and what has been exaggerated to discredit our beliefs and values, should we be called on to defend God.

Catholicism is good and can be shared in love and with respect among lapsed and non- believers. Study up for those more and more frequent pop quizzes. Evangelize, don’t hide.

Teach Your Parents 

A few years back, before love, marriage and children rudely interrupted, I was working with my favorite client on a profile of her company. One afternoon, we were meeting with a freelance writer and the conversation turned to children and parenthood. 

The writer asked if I had kids. I was just newly married and still honeymooning. He remarked that I would understand the conversation better when I had some. I was incredibly offended. What could a child teach me about life? I was finally an official adult – on my own, a good man at my side, making my own choices. I knew how life worked.

I’d like to give that 20-something me a whack to the back of the head. Now, I do indeed get it.

Children. Change. Everything.

It’s not cliche. It’s truth.

Catholics often talk about the power of giving one’s life for another, as Jesus did. I’m never going to achieve that level of love-giving, but I think being a parent is as close to that as I may ever come. It’s not about death and dying for love. It’s about putting yourself last and someone else first -not in the same way you do with a man or woman you love, but in making someone else’s life your responsibility.

Parenting is one of the greatest opportunities God gives us to “die to self.” I think this is the reason many (not all) people today don’t want children. I personally never really understood this concept until I was faced with it directly. When you have a child, you decide if she lives or dies, thrives or struggles, eats or starves. If you truly love the child, you put its needs before all of yours – physical, emotional, spiritual, social.

I have wrestled with this and continue to fight demons of self-centeredness everyday. That’s another blog post. But my daughters have changed me in ways I never dreamed possible. For instance, if you’ve known me a long time, you might be surprised how conservative I’ve become. I know I am. Eight short years ago, I was lobbying friends to vote for Hillary Clinton. I thought she’d be a good president because she was a mother. Today, I wouldn’t vote for her for all the money in the world because I’m a mother. 

Two high-risk pregnancies that required sonograms every two weeks taught me to hate abortion. The horror of 9/11 taught me the fragility of our freedoms. Having had my career destroyed by office politics and watching my girls face bullies as early as preschool has me instilling a healthy caution about others’ motives.

My kids hear about American history more than they want to – I demand they understand how regular people sacrificed and struggled for what they take for granted. Recently, I beamed with pride when my daughter started her own petition for something she wanted to see happen in her school. My husband and I are what some people call strict – not because we’re mean, but because we care. We’re trying to raise respectful Catholic Americans.

Sunday morning, after the sting of ISIS’s attacks on Paris, my eyes welled talking to my Deacon after Mass. I told him I wasn’t sure I could explain the world away to my children any longer. I was angry that my younger daughter had been scared of ISIS even before Paris – now she doesn’t want to sleep. At Catholic school they’re taught to love others. What would they think if they knew some considered them “extremists” not unlike terrorists? My older daughter asked me why no one is protecting the people of the world. I had no answer. And she has no faith in our leaders.

I want ISIS dealt with. I want fiscal responsibility from my elected officials. I want people in my country to stop blaming other people for their problems. I want them to stop claiming ownership of what other people earn. I want respect for all life and all belief systems – even the ones I don’t like. But most of all, I want the ideals of America preserved for my children, so they may live free and safe. 

And should my girls decide in their teens or early 20s to eschew the more traditional values we are using to sustain them into adulthood, well, so be it. We all rebel as we grow – I know I did and my parents are why I survived.  I will no longer hold responsibility for the girls’ lives when they’re grown. It will hurt to see them struggle. They too will have their own experiences and will think they get it just fine, thank you.

Should they have children of their own, they may also find the need to step up their game, as I did. It’s our own experiences after all that teach us to be cautious when someone else’s life and future are in our unsteady hands. Loving another person more than yourself, wanting someone to have it better than you had, makes some of us, even the rebels, seek tradition, truth, and stability.

We Can Be God for One Another. Just Try.

So I was reading Matt Walsh’s blog this afternoon on the wake of the two journalists killed live on air, in which he talks about our problem not being guns or mental illness, but Godlessness. I wholeheartedly agree. We either don’t want to recognize evil, or we have lost our ability to recognize it.

As he was talking about the few among us who are still truly fighting in the name of morality, I stopped to think. Perhaps the problem is not that there are so few, but that for us to make the kind of progress we truly want to see is going to take some time.

I’m a person who truly worries for and about the world we live in. I have cried myself to sleep over things I have witnessed and experienced. I try to live as a disciple of Christ and put my talents to work for a better world. But I’m human. I know I have light years to go to even consider myself worthy of His love. I screw it up constantly. Just like everyone else in the world, I’m complicit in this mess.

Yet this summer in many ways has been a revelation. I have found more hope by realizing that there is truly a swell of people who want better for us all. It’s subtle. Simmering beneath the surface. But it’s there. And when you see it, you want it to grow faster and stronger. But the road is indeed long, and the change built on little things.

A few months ago, my husband and I took our girls to a local amusement park. It’s an amazing place, in the theme of the classic East Coast parks of yesterday. But it had some trials upon opening this year, as it’s not exactly located in the safest of neighborhoods. While sitting at one of those games where you shoot a water gun to make a plastic gorilla shimmy up a pole, I dropped $50 out of my purse. I would have never known.

A young black man, about 14, approached me, and without picking it up, pointed it out to me and told me he saw it fall from my bag. I’m a middle- aged white woman with two young white daughters and a husband who has worn a thick-style Duck Dynasty-type beard since Phil was still cheating on Ms. Kay. This young man, and his five friends, were the people I’ve been told to fear. They would rob me blind. 

Yet this young man was returning money I never knew I lost. He could have taken it, walked away and enjoyed everything in that park on my dime. He didn’t. The sheer surprise and amazement I felt at his honesty made me realize, even though I try hard, I’m not trying hard enough. I believed the hype. He changed me. Instantly.

I pulled a $10 bill from my purse, walked up to his seat at the water gun game and handed it to him. I so wanted to reward him for doing what he did. To reinforce his behavior in front of his friends, as if I were his mother. He looked at me quizzically, and said, “Ma’am, I didn’t do anything anyone else wouldn’t have done.” I told him he indeed had, but it hadn’t anything to do with the money. He shook his head, and took the reward.

Later, I realized I may have unintentionally insulted him. He didn’t need a reward. He was simply a good kid. One who knew how to show people he was properly raised and proud of who he was. But me, I was so excited to have been surprised and challenged by this young person, I had to show him somehow. I wish his parents had been with him so I could tell them how beautiful their son is. 

I’ve witnessed a lot of those kinds of things this summer. I watched my husband pay for dinner for an older veteran in a diner one night, without anyone but me (including the vet) knowing. I found an old friend and his wife had doubled the size of their household by opening it to three older kids who needed a family. I saw other parents refuse to allow their children to get away with bad behavior, holding them accountable for their actions. My own 10-year-old daughter just the other day, reached into her own pocket at a restaurant to donate to St. Jude. I saw my workaholic brother cancel his entire business schedule to be with his best friend when his mother passed.

People have the capacity to be Godly. There are so many other examples everyday that keep people like me, trying so hard to lead, moving ahead toward Godliness. We’re out here Matt. I hope more of us find you and show you our light soon.