In Which I Respond to an Amusing Critique of My Blog

Yesterday I chanced upon a random, short, and sarcastic review of the look and content of my blog on Reddit. I don’t even know the purpose of Reddit, by the way. It made me chuckle. I wasn’t angry, I thought it was funny. I found it amusing because it is so typical of us human beings to misunderstand, judge, and label people, even based on their Internet blog choices or writing. Since I found it amusing, I thought I would answer some of their complaints. This is not meant to be snarky at all and is really a reflection of my amusement with it all.

The commenter is clearly fed up with the Catholic Blogosphere and it’s declaration that it is its own Magisterium. I completely understand. I have argued against the same mentality and took a break from writing for that very reason. I no longer wanted to be a part of the problem, at least not intentionally. I could see that a great many people make their living in the Catholic world the same way the secular world does, through shock jock tactics and click bait headlines. I get it. It sells, but in my mind, it doesn’t serve the mission which is the conversion of souls. I examined my own tactics and style not only on my blog, but in social media and realized that I was a part of the problem. When I started graduate school last year, I started to see the wealth and beauty of the faith that can be shared with others. So I decided to focus on those things that will help people on the journey and steer clear of polemics as much as possible. I am not saying that my writing is the greatest out there, not even close, but I would encourage readers to pay attention to a new breed of Catholic writers who are coming up. We are also fed up with the fighting and want to focus on holiness. That is why I am so honored and love writing for Catholic Exchange. Their mission is the conversion of souls, not Catholic in-fighting and politics.

Moving from the topic of the Catholic blogosphere, they complained that I was just another self-proclaimed theologian. That’s not entirely accurate. In my About section I make it clear that I am a “student theologian”, which is what my professors call me and my fellow graduate students. I did this so that readers understand and are aware of my education status and knowledge level. Much to my shock, folks with doctorates and who are way more knowledgeable than I am, have visited my site. I want them to know where I am at, so that if I inadvertently make an error, they can offer the intellectual and fraternal correction that may be necessary. I am not sure what constitutes theologian in this person’s mind, but advanced study is a typical pre-requisite, which I am trying to fulfill. By virtue of my vocation, I am limited in my ability to study as much as I would like and may have to stop at the Master’s level. So, no, I will never be a great theologian, but perhaps God will use me in some manner because of the gifts and interests he has given me. For now I am focused on theological study at the graduate level.

The rest of the complaints were visual, and that is really what had me amused. They complained that Catholic blogs always have a specific look or name to them. Well, that makes sense. Catholic writers tend to be lovers of beauty, sacred art, and Catholic Culture, so that is what is reflected on our blog. Beauty is a very big theme on my blog. I don’t write every day because sometimes people just need a chance to marvel at the beauty of the universe. I go out of my way to make it easy for people to find some form of beauty on Mondays and Fridays. It’s not great intellectual work, but it is one of the very specific ways that God reveals Himself to us through reason. So, yes, my blog is a typical Catholic blog.

They complained that my picture was black and white, in they guessed, some attempt to be artsy. Actually, and this is why judgment is a silly thing to do, I found this picture on my phone after my daughter had change it to black and white. Being iPhone illiterate, I didn’t even know that my phone did that, and I was impressed that my daughter, who is 3 years old mind you, had changed it. So my profile picture is me, but it is also a reminder of my daughter. She made my profile picture. I guess it is easy to mock people when we have no back story or understanding of why they choose certain things.

They also complained about the self promotion of Catholic writers. I get that, but much of that is based on perception of the individual, not reality. I absolutely loathe self promotion. I hate that I have to “promote” my writing in social media. I especially dislike Twitter. I don’t like to use it and it is so much information that I don’t know how anyone finds anything in their feed. I essentially post and run. I share a few random things on Twitter, but not because I am particularly engaged. I use Facebook more because I think that it is a useful social media platform and I am connected to many learned Catholics who are smarter than I am. I feel awkward every single time I have to share something that I have written, whether it is from this blog or my professional writing for Catholic Exchange. I also try to promote my fellow writers at Catholic Exchange in social media since we are all trying to fulfill the mission of bringing the Good News to the world.

They also made fun of the title of my blog. I have actually struggled over the years finding my niche as a Catholic writer. I am not a mommy blogger. I came up with this title when I was contemplating the vastness of the Blessed Trinity during my first semester of graduate school. In my mind, I felt like I was swimming into an infinitely deep and vast pool. Swimming the Depths just made sense to me and it is my own private devotion to the mystery of the Blessed Trinity. People don’t have to like it, but it is a profound reminder to me personally of how small I am in light of the Beatific Vision.

I think what people like this forget, is that God does call certain people to writing. I love writing. It just flows out of me. Most of the time I read my own writing and think “How on earth did that come from me?!”. I use my writing to serve God, not myself. Yes, I have to fight pride, but as I told my Confessor earlier this week, that is part of the great struggle in public work. Many people write as a hobby, much like people who paint or draw. I was writing as a hobby until recently when, by the grace of God and the charity of an editor, I became a “professional writer”. I am not entirely sure what that means, but it does mean that I will occasionally get paid for my musings. We also need to remember that in this digital age, self promotion is a part of the task of becoming a professional writer. I don’t like it, but if I want to be a writer then I have to share my stuff. I think there are a great many writers who feel the same way. Perhaps some enjoy it, but most of the writers I know despise promoting their work.

I will end with these thoughts. Feel free to dislike my choices for theme and picture. Those items are a matter of taste. The picture on my site of the rose is something that I took in Charleston, SC, which is a beautiful city. I like the picture very much. Please feel free to disagree with me, although, any Catholics disagreeing because they are not submitting to the Magisterium should take that up with their priest. This blogger submits completely and totally to ALL teachings of the Catholic Church. If you want to discuss items that are open for theological debate, please do. I would say that it’s important to move from superficial judgments, however, or we may find ourselves thrown into pride and envy. I know. I’ve done it and still do it, which is why I write quite a bit about the great blessings of frequent Confession. I thank anyone who stops by and I truly hope you leave this little basement corner of the Internet better than when you came. I just ask that you give me the benefit of the doubt and not let superficial prejudices keep you from Catholic websites. God bless.

Follow Up to I Am Not the Pope and Neither Are You

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Sinful anger is usually defined as the irrational desire for vengeance or the blinding of reason. There is such a thing as right ordered anger, or righteous anger. St. Thomas Aquinas discusses anger in the Summa Theologica and his argument can be found here. I want to focus on anger as it pertains to the blinding of reason. I have had periods of my life where I have struggled with sinful anger, so I recognize it when I see it and it is very apparent to me in the written form through social media.

Yesterday I wrote an article on Pope Francis, which much to my amazement, has struck a chord for thousands of people. It appears that my friends and myself are not the only ones who have witnessed the distressing trend for many Catholics to ignore the Pope, try to be the Pope, or to limit the Church’s mission. It seems that many people have noticed a move away from the mission of bringing the world to Christ, and that many of our fellow Catholics are getting lost in the weeds.

The comments in response to my post have been less vitriolic than I expected given how popular the post has been. I am very thankful for that fact. I have seen or been in discussions on this topic that are downright nasty. That is precisely why I wrote the piece that I did. I want us to focus on the mission and move away from tearing one another down.

I have observed a sect within the Church, I say sect, because they seem to be trying to carve out their place within the Mystical Body, when there is no carving to be done by the very nature of the Church. They engage in intense, irrational, and offensive Pope-bashing that betrays a blindness to reason. It is impossible for many of us who understand the Church in a fuller light, to explain the situation to them. They have turned in on themselves (which is a Medieval understanding for the sin of pride) and do not want to think or pray about it. They also tend to lord over people in a superiority that is distressing, especially since the great majority are not theologians or highly educated on such matters. They take their cues from the media, to their own detriment.

Sinful anger comes from a lack of trust and fear. It arises from a lack of control. As Catholics, we have very little control over the hierarchical aspects of the Church. Quite frankly, that is how it is supposed to be because of the nature of the ministerial priesthood’s place within the common priesthood of the Church. I will save that theological topic for another day. Part of being a member of the Church is a letting go. When we are Baptized we agree to die to self. That means obedience to the Church, and I think trusting that the Holy Spirit is guiding the Church even while sinful men (and women) work against Him. No we don’t have to agree with every word uttered out of the Pope’s mouth or the Bishops’, but we have an obligation to love and respect them all the same. If they are teaching on faith and morals, then we absolutely need to be listening. The Church’s teaching comes from God, not men.

When we allow sinful anger to blind us, then we essentially give up our use of reason and go wherever the anger takes us. We read articles about the Pope that are inflammatory, deceitful, untruthful, or incomplete. That’s what sells in the media, including in Catholic media. That is why by and large I write about Catholic Culture from the perspective of holiness rather than polemics. The path to holiness is not to be found in polemics. The path to holiness is found in Scripture, prayer, theological study, and reading about the lives of the saints, and then taking that knowledge and living it.

More than anything, sinful anger takes us away from Our Lord, Jesus Christ because we cave in on ourselves. Our own struggle for control, the “I can do it better” attitude puts us in the same position as Adam and Eve in the Garden. We desire to be God. We desire to tell the Holy Spirit how to lead the Church. More than anything, we place our trust within our own finite and limited control. We forget that Christ calls us to obedience, including to the Magisterium of our day. We forget that Pope Francis is Christ’s representative on earth and is worthy of the dignity, love, and respect of that office. He should not be the topic of pernicious gossip or attacks. I am not talking about papal idolatry, which I have also seen. I am talking about a healthy regard for the Vicar of Christ and the hierarchical part of the worshiping community, the Church.

I am going to say this again. The Church has always had struggles. There has been sin and corruption at all levels. Pope Francis is not corrupt, but there are people within the Vatican who most assuredly have turned from Christ and given into sin. I think what is going on with the German Catholic Church is a good example. Concupiscence is a struggle for all of us, including bishops, cardinals, and the pope. People are not perfect, and even the pope will make statements that give many of us pause. When that happens, I trust in Christ’s promise to the Church. I also know as a former linguist, that translations are difficult, especially colloquialisms. Much of what is reported is misleading or bad translations. I know with every fiber of my being that irreformable doctrine will never change. That includes contraception, abortion, “gay marriage”, etc. If the Church can survive for 2000 years of violence, corruption, hedonism, stupidity, heresy, and division, then she can survive in the post-modern world. We cannot lose sight of the big picture. More than anything, we cannot lose sight of Christ and the mission to bring the world to Him.

The choice is ours. We can close ourselves off from Christ in anger, fear, resentment, and envy, or we can trust Him. The comments I see on social media are a page right out of the Gospels from the lips of the Pharisees. That makes me sad. It makes me hurt for those people who would restrict themselves from the Mystical Body. Sinful anger can easily become a mortal sin. It is something that we must guard ourselves against, for our own soul’s sake. In the end, it is not worth the stress and anger. Stop reading the mainstream media on the Church. Stop going to blogs and websites with in the Catholic Blogosphere that are intentionally inciting anger and division. If we want to bring about change within the Church and in the world, then we must strive towards holiness. God gives us the opportunity to love and serve the people we come into contact with throughout our day. Those are moments when we can share our joy. We can’t do that if we are wrapped up in anger and fear about what might happen. Usually we are wrapped up over things that will never happen i.e. changes in doctrine.

I am trying to bring some sense of reason and peace to a growing problem. I love Christ, in my fallen, broken, sinful way. I love the Catholic Church. I do not like to watch people tear themselves or the Church apart because of their anger. It is impossible to reason with people when they are that angry. Ask my husband. If we ask, Christ will give us the peace that we need in the face of growing secularism and problems within the Church. Trust in Christ and the rest will fall into place. God bless.

Month of Mary GIVEAWAY WINNERS

maywinnersThank you to everyone who entered my Month of Mary Giveaway. The random number generator tells me the winners are Maria and Maryann. Please email me your full name and address at swimmingthedepths@gmail.com so that I can order your copies of The Little Book of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Congratulations! Check back next month for another fun little giveaway. God bless.

I Am Not the Pope and Neither Are You

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The deeper I go into my theological studies, the more I am at peace with the Church. My peace does not come from the knowledge of men, but from the reality that the Holy Spirit is at the helm. It is easy to get dragged into outrage because of pockets of corruption and the sins of the people within the Church. The Pope said this, a Cardinal did that, a heterodox priest is now working in the Vatican. I think the truth is always somewhere in the middle and if people are truly interested in giving up their outrage, they will stop reading reports from the mainstream media on the Church. It is impossible for a secular world to understand the Church. They view us as a bureaucratic institution, rather than the Mystical Body of Christ that is animated by the Holy Spirit.

It seems in some of my dealings with people in social media, that Catholics are forgetting who we are and who we are not. It seems that many respond strongly to Pope Francis because they have forgotten the mission. I don’t agree with everything the Pope does, but I don’t feel the need to rant and rave about it. He is human and most of the time is not acting infallibly. I am not the Pope. I don’t know what goes on in his head most days. I am sure it is a daunting task to lead a Church of 1.2 billion Catholics as well as try to evangelize the other 5 billion people on the planet. He is probably learning as he goes just like all of the other Popes. He will make mistakes and while we are not obliged to agree with him, we are still required to treat him with the dignity and respect that is given the Vicar of Christ. We are also called to consider his non-infallible statements.

I think that many people would breathe easier if they studied more Church history. There have always been heretics, sinful, and corrupt people within the Church, even at high levels. There have been periods of great violence and Popes who were martyred or exiled for the faith. Pope Martin I comes to mind here. The world has always been upside down. I have no doubt that there are heretics and heterodox clergy in the Vatican. It’s always been so, whether Arian, Monophysite, Monothelite, Nestorian, Gnostic, etc. When we focus on this fact and allow it to overwhelm our faith then we are acting as the secular world does. We forget who is in charge of the Church, who guides the Church, and who is perfecting the Church. We also forget that even in the face of great corruption, the Church’s doctrine has been preserved. In a thorough and honest reading of Church history the only explanation that she has not been destroyed is that the Holy Spirit is keeping her on course. The Church never should have made it out of the catacombs, let alone throughout the world.

We need to accept that we are not the Pope and most of us lack the holiness, insight, experience, or understanding to lead the Church. Sure it would help if things were more articulate at times, but we can’t get bogged down by distortions and mistakes. We need to live the mission. The mission is to bring the Good News to the world. That is what Pope Francis is doing. He is bringing us back to the center: Jesus Christ. I am a student theologian. I love theology and most specifically the works of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. I understand him, as much as anyone can understand his brilliance. That being said, I get what Pope Francis is doing. He is bringing us back to the core so that we can convert souls on the issues of our day. I look to him for guidance in holiness rather than great works of theology or philosophy. Although, I have read both Lumen Fidei and the Joy of the Gospel and they are insightful works in which we could learn a lot. His mission is different from his predecessors. People are not typically converted by a great argument against abortion or “gay marriage”. They are converted by a real encounter with the Risen Lord. That is where we begin. The rest will fall into place.

So what will bring us peace of mind within the Church? I don’t mean apathy or willful ignorance. I mean peace. The kind of peace that only comes from trusting the Most Holy Trinity. First, accept that we are not the Pope. Second, accept that fallen men and women are within the Church. Third, read more Church history. Fourth, pray for the Church and her leaders. Fifth, stop reading mainstream media reporting on the Church. Sixth, pray for humility. Seventh, continue on the path to holiness, Eighth, trust in the Holy Spirit. TRUST, and Ninth, most importantly, live the mission. Let’s bring Christ to the world. Our bickering hinders the mission.

While we are not required to accept every statement by the Pope, we do need to stop flying off the handle at every word he utters. Our own panic only enlivens the secular world. Yes, the world is in a bad place right now, but it’s always in a bad place. Our age has the same level of evil as previous ages, we just have more powerful weapons. Here’s a thought: Listen to Pope Francis and watch his actions. What is he trying to teach us prideful people? Pope Francis is not leading as a theologian or philosopher like our last two popes. He is leading from the simplicity of the very Early Church. It is Christ Risen that is the great mystery and hope of the Church. When we come face-to-face with Jesus Christ, when we love Him, He gives us the grace to overcome sin. He helps us with our battles and with the lies of the culture. We need Him first before we can combat the evil of our age. We have to stop putting the cart before the horse. In the end, that is what Pope Francis is teaching us. If we are angry or frustrated by that fact, then the issue is not our Pope, it is us.
**I am stunned, humbled, and amazed at the response this piece has generated. Thank you for reading. I have written a follow up, which can be found here.

Catholic Exchange: Mary, Mother of the Persecuted

Today I am writing for Catholic Exchange on how Our Lady can be our guide during periods of persecution.

There is little doubt that the situation for Christians in Nigeria, Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, Kenya, and other countries is dire. The number of martyrs for this year alone has reached well into the thousands. In the West attacks on Christian conscience have left multiple business owners with no livelihood or exorbitant fines. To the person who is paying attention to the times, there can be little doubt that the persecution promised by Our Lord is very real in our present age.

A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master; it is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Be-el’zebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.
Matthew 10:24-25 (RSV)

Persecution of the Church has been a reality since the beginning of the Church. If Our Lord and Savior was crucified, what makes us think that our fate should be any different? That persecution may come in a variety of forms, but one thing that is certain, there will be periods in our lives in which we will be maligned for our faith. In those moments we should turn to Our Heavenly Mother. She is the Mother of all Christians and she is the Mother of the persecuted.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.

Don’t forget to enter my Marian book GIVEAWAY for the month of May. Details can be found here.

Monday is for Beauty: Sunset on a Rose Petal

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This morning I was out watering my flowers in preparation for a hot day. My rose bushes are in full bloom and I found this beauty of a rose petal laying in the grass. There on this tiny petal is a sunset. I wondered and marveled at it and then put it in my book where I dry flowers. This little treasure blessed me today. My rose bushes were planted in memorial of each of the babies that I have lost in miscarriage. I have three rose bushes, each unique, just like my babies. This particular bush is for my son, Caleb Augustine. What are small wonders and gifts of beauty that you have found today? God is THE Artist. Sunsets on roses. Amazing!

Today is Memorial Day in which we remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Take a moment to pray for those KIA and their families.