I Gave Up Facebook Again

Photo by Brandon Russell
Photo by Brandon Russell

I gave up Facebook, again. Anyone who has read my blog over the last couple of years knows that I have one of those personalities that struggles with temperance when it comes to Facebook. I like to read the news, watch the Church, and engage in discussions with people. What I have discovered over the course of the last few years is that most FB conversations are not discussion, they turn into fights that typically end with ad hominem attacks. For whatever strange reason, I get sucked in.

Facebook is not a bad thing. In fact, it can be used for great good. It has allowed people to stay connected well past the relationships of previous ages. We can stay informed in real-time and share a bit of ourselves on our tiny slice of the Internet. For someone who tends towards introvert in social settings, it is an opportunity to express myself without all of the awkwardness of idle small talk. It is also a great place to share writing projects, get feedback, and have people share your work. I am very thankful to the people who have shared my writing over the years. I want to be honest, though, in the hope that my weakness will help others. I have allowed my iPhone and Facebook to take over my life.

I have forgotten how to sit in stillness. I cannot even seem to sit for five minutes in the car without my phone when my husband runs in the store. At night, my husband sits and watches TV, I am on my phone or laptop, and our daughter is either vying for our attention or on her tablet that we got her for school use. I have become one of those mindless drones. I have forgotten how to live in the present.

I am ashamed admit this out loud. The only other people who are aware of it are my regular Confessor and my family. I am sure people have guessed who are friends with me on FB. They see my frequent posts and know that I have been sucked in. That I have chosen to use the distraction of Facebook to try to quiet the restlessness in my own heart. It became my go-to “distractor” (as my husband calls it) after my miscarriages and when the post-partum depression/anxiety was so bad. It became a way for me to engage in adult conversation when my husband was traveling for work. It started off as simply a way to connect, but then I allowed it to consume me.

I have seen people argue that we should not leave Facebook because we have an obligation to evangelize. I disagree. Perhaps God is calling me to evangelize in a different medium than social media? If I cannot use it in a temperate manner and I allow it to take time away from my family and my life, then it is no longer a good in my life.

I convinced myself that I needed it to be a writer. If I was going to get my work out there and find writing gigs then I need a social media presence. That is a lie. I am already a regular contributor for one of the largest Catholic websites available and the other sites that interest me are only looking for submissions, not my blog presence. I do not need Facebook to be a Catholic writer. I am already a Catholic writer.

How many of us struggle with our isolation or loneliness through an overabundance of social media? I suspect it in a few of my former Facebook friends who like me struggle with living in that moment. Mine stems from periods of existential dread and a battle with sloth. I realized the answer to my struggles in two very different experiences.

Yesterday was the Feast of the Holy Archangels. It is a huge feast day in our home because our daughter is named after St. Michael. I went out of my way to make it a special celebration. We made cookies, cards to deliver to Catholic friends, and I made a nice traditional dinner. I was living the rhythms of the Church and sharing it with my daughter. I felt the most profound joy and peace. It reminded me of what kind of life I want to live and how I want to lead my daughter.

Today is the exact opposite. I woke up tired from my hormone issues and didn’t want to accomplish much. I spent the morning on my laptop while my daughter played and watched PBS. We did about an hour of school with her practicing her writing. I am a bit of a zombie today. I then got into an argument with someone on Facebook in which we were probably both a little right and then I got irritated with my daughter. After that moment I could see clearly, once again, what I was doing. I was wasting my time arguing with someone whom I do not even know in person. Yes, a fellow brother in Christ, but he was not the flesh and blood daughter standing in front of me.

Our culture tells us social media is wonderful and that it is okay to be on it all of the time. To be clear, I am not condemning social media. I am cautioning against its overuse, especially in the face of loneliness. It quickly becomes the way we see the world. We are constantly looking at our phones or computers instead of the people around us. There are plenty of people who use social media in a healthy manner, at this point I am just not one of those people. So this is me being honest. I am addicted to Facebook and I just gave it up again. This time I pray for the long run. I have gone months and months without it, but then I get back into it for whatever reason. This time I want to focus on the gifts of my husband and daughter and see where God leads me. I want to quiet that restlessness through the stillness of God. Giving up Facebook means that I can devote time to my family, studies, and write the books I want to write. So I am walking away from it. God bless.

Theological Errors in Elizabeth Scalia’s Mo Rocca Article at Aleteia

Earlier today I read Elizabeth Scalia’s latest article over at Aleteia that discusses Mo Rocca’s presence as a reader at the papal Mass in New York City last week. As I read the article I realized rather quickly that I disagree with Scalia’s assessment because it is theologically wrong in its understanding of what mortal sin and obstinacy do in the soul and in relation to the Church community. Mo Rocca has publicly announced that he is homosexual and lives that lifestyle. At this point, he is still publicly living that lifestyle in disobedience to the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Let me first begin by highlighting what I agree with Scalia on in her recent article. It is true that everyone is welcome at Mass. Whether a person is in a state of grace or is not, all are encouraged to celebrate the Liturgy. Not all people are invited to receive Holy Eucharist, which she rightly mentions. In fact, it is said that Mo Rocca refrained from reception of Holy Communion at the Mass for which he was a lector. That is a wonderful witness to our obligation and love for Christ in the Eucharist. I applaud his honesty and respect for the Blessed Sacrament. But how do his lifestyle choices impact his relationship with the Mystical Body and therefore how he is to live within the worshiping community? This is the heart of the issue and where Scalia’s article misses the theological implications of our choices.

St. Thomas Aquinas was very practical about the notion of grace in the soul, either we are in a state of grace, or we are not. If we are in a state of mortal sin, the soul is dead. There is no grace in the soul. We are cut off from Christ and have turned from Him. Not only is there no grace it also means that we have cut ourselves off from the Mystical Body, the Church.  In order to return to full communion with the Mystical Body, we must make a public act of repentance to the hierarchical Church through the Confessional. Yes, Confession is a public act in the eyes of the Church because it is an individual coming before the hierarchical Church seeking reparation and the healing of division that their sins have caused. This can be seen in CCC 1462. While Confession is the direct confessing of sins to Christ through a priest it is also to repair the damage our mortal sins have caused to the Mystical Body. Christ restores grace in the individual through the Sacrament and heals their division from Himself and the Church. Everything we do within the Mystical Body has a public component to it, even if only at a mystical level. What are the implications of this in light of Scalia’s article?

First, I want to clarify that theologically there is no such thing as “public dissent”. That is a term our culture uses to try to soften such terms as heterodoxy or heresy. From a theological point of view I cannot be in public dissent and still be a member of the Church on my own terms. When we ignore Church teaching in a willful manner and in a particularly public manner, we severely damage our relationship with the Mystical Body, in the case of grave sin, we cut ourselves off from the Body and Christ. Our sins have far reaching consequences that are outside of our own sphere. They radiate throughout the Mystical Body in a profound way.

Second, when we have cut ourselves off from the Mystical Body through grave sin, we no longer have a right to the fruits of that union. We no longer have a right to receive Holy Eucharist because we have in some way denied our Baptismal promises. This also means that we do not have a right to serve *publicly* in the Liturgy or as a head of formal ministry in the Church. If we have chosen not to live the life of a Catholic of our own free will, then we do not have a right to lead in any capacity within the Mystical Body. We gave up that right when we chose our sin over Christ. That is, rather than go to Confession and seek to amend our lives, we persist in that sin willfully.

It is important for us to remember in a culture such as ours, that we are not entitled to anything. What has been given to us through the Holy Eucharist and the Church is a gift from God. That gift comes with a price. It comes with the call to remain in a state of grace. In those moments that we fall into sin, we must get back up and crawl back to the Confessional. This is a life-long battle that all of us will wage until the end. The difference comes down to obstinacy and weakness. One has no desire to live the Truth while the other falls in a moment of weakness, seeks forgiveness in Confession, and returns to full communion with the Church. They desire to overcome that sin and remain within the Mystical Body. The latter has ceased the battle and chosen to remain in their sin. Until the moment of repentance comes, then they should not serve publicly in the Church. Why should someone who willfully chooses to live outside of the faith serve it in a public capacity? The answer is quite simply that they shouldn’t. This smacks of an entitlement mentality that flies in the face of the free gift given to us by Christ.

Does this bar them from other charitable works? Absolutely not. As long as the individual is not spreading error and is just serving others, then charity is to be commended. We have an obligation to love and serve our neighbor. The issue really comes down to the fact that the Liturgy is a public assent to the truths of the faith. It is an expression of the Mystical Body that is reserved for those in full communion with Rome, at least in a public capacity. If we have cut ourselves off from grace, then we must return to the hierarchical Church, typically a priest, to return to that public community.

I understand that Scalia wants to highlight that all are welcome to come to Mass. That is absolutely true, but she falls short when she does not understand the distinction between the public nature of the Church and the individual. It does happen that people in the parish community have reconciled themselves with God and the Church without the knowledge of others. We don’t know the movements of another person’s heart. The problem with celebrities or politicians is that they publicly espouse a life that is counter to the Mystical Body. So they have to cease and desist in their public refusals to submit to Holy Mother Church. The same should be true at the parish level for those who publicly flaunt Church teaching. As brothers and sisters in Christ we need to be charitable and understand that people do have conversions all of the time.

While I applaud Scalia’s desire to portray the Catholic Church as the welcoming community that it truly is for the world, I found the theology of the piece to be lacking. In our desire to share the Gospel we cannot oversimplify our position to a point where it no longer looks like what the Church teaches. I am afraid that she has taken a position that is not theologically sound and that demonstrates confusion as to the nature of the Mystical Body. It is illogical for a person who willfully refuses to live the Christian life to serve in a public position within the worshiping community.

***

Redemptionis Sacramentum

[44.] Apart from the duly instituted ministries of acolyte and lector,[111] the most important of these ministries are those of acolyte[112] and lector[113] by temporary deputation. In addition to these are the other functions that are described in the Roman Missal,[114] as well as the functions of preparing the hosts, washing the liturgical linens, and the like. All, “whether ordained ministers or lay faithful, in exercising their own office or ministry should do exclusively and fully that which pertains to them”.[115] In the liturgical celebration itself as well as in its preparation, they should do what is necessary so that the Church’s Liturgy will be carried out worthily and appropriately.
[45.] To be avoided is the danger of obscuring the complementary relationship between the action of clerics and that of laypersons, in such a way that the ministry of laypersons undergoes what might be called a certain “clericalization”, while the sacred ministers inappropriately assume those things that are proper to the life and activity of the lay faithful.[116]
[46.] The lay Christian faithful called to give assistance at liturgical celebrations should be well instructed and must be those whose Christian life, morals and fidelity to the Church’s Magisterium recommend them. It is fitting that such a one should have received a liturgical formation in accordance with his or her age, condition, state of life, and religious culture.[117] No one should be selected whose designation could cause consternation for the faithful.[118]

Pope Francis and the Problem of the Eldest Son

785px-Rembrandt_Harmensz_van_Rijn_-_Return_of_the_Prodigal_Son_-_Google_Art_Project

Last week as I watched Pope Francis address Congress and our nation a thought dawned on me. Since Pope Francis’ election I have watched as certain groups within the Church and outside of the Church get themselves tied up in knots because of what he says and how he says it. These people are varied in their reasons for displeasure with our Holy Father, and some love a Pontiff who does not exist and who is a product of their own imagination. The latter are those in the mainstream media who love that he blesses and kisses babies and the disabled, but ignore his strong pronouncements on the Church’s moral teaching on abortion and “gay marriage”. There is another group entrenched in the heresy of Americanism that lashes out for what the Pope says about capitalism, without really understanding what the Pope means. Specifically, that a capitalism that uses people as a means to an end is evil; not necessarily capitalism that is rightly ordered. And finally, we have a group within the Church that greatly endangers itself by its irrationality, fall into calumny, and hardening hearts. It is this last group that I want to address in this post.

It is true that at times Pope Francis is not clear in his comments and at times it can be hard to understand precisely what he means. There have been moments early on in his Pontificate when he made comments about those serving in the pro-life movement that hurt many people. I understand. And the manipulation of his words by people inside and outside of the Church has made our mission more difficult at times. The “who am I to judge?” quote, which is taken entirely out of context by so many, has been thrown in most of our faces when it comes to moral issues in the West. I get it, but I want to consider something in light of the Pope’s recent visit to the U.S.

Pope Francis does not need to really worry about those of us who grasp and try to live the Church’s moral teaching. We are sharing that truth in our families, communities, and in social media. By the light of faith and the gift of human reason, we are able to understand why the Church teaches as she does on issues that are counter-cultural. We understand why life is sacred and that every human life is endowed with dignity given by God from conception to natural death. In other words, we are not lost. We have the light of Christ leading us. Pope Francis knows that you and I will go to Scripture, the Catechism, and Church documents in order to understand and defend her truths.

Now, most of our culture is being led astray by Lucifer. They have believed his lies and now live in ignorance and with dying or dead souls. This is even more tragic when baptized Catholics persist in these lies, especially in a public manner. Pope Francis addressed some of these people in Congress and our nation throughout his various speeches. When someone has hardened their heart or grace has left them, as is the case with mortal sin (yes, that’s how serious it is), it is difficult to reach those people. In fact, stating moral law to those people who are either deceived or willfully dissenting can accomplish very little. Why?

The reason is that what these people need is grace. If their soul is dead, then they need grace to enter their lives again. If they have never experienced grace, then they need the supernatural gifts of faith and grace. This first begins in a movement from God, but then the person has to be willing to accept this gift. God does not force us to love or follow Him. He preserves our free will completely. It is true that some people return or enter the faith through learning the moral truths of the Catholic Faith. By and large, however, this is not the case. In order for conversion or reversion to occur, a person must have an encounter with the Living Christ whether it be a slower process like St. Peter or a knocked off the horse experience like St. Paul. No matter how it happens, that encounter must take place first.

With that in mind, what is Pope Francis trying to accomplish? Since he knows the orthodox are well taken care of, he is reaching out to those who have either fallen into error or who have always lived in error. It’s not that he is encouraging sin. Anyone who takes the time to follow the Holy Father’s message in its entirety knows this to be true. Rather, he is sharing the power of Christ with the world. When people see Francis’ life, they wonder where it comes from and that answer is Jesus Christ. Then people can begin to look for Jesus. In coming to know and love Jesus and through Baptism grace pours into the soul and makes it easier to come to the fullness of truth, including the moral law. In fact, it is impossible to come to the Church without faith and grace. What occurs in the supernatural life is not up to us. We are mere messengers. A fact that many seem to forget. Conversion takes time. Real conversion comes with falls along the way and many trips to the Confessional.

It is important for those of us who know the truth to avoid falling into bitterness as the eldest son did in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. In fact, let’s take a quick look at that beautiful Parable:

Then he said, “A man had two sons and the younger son said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of your estate that should come to me.’ So the father divided the property between them. After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings and set off to a distant country where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation. When he had freely spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he found himself in dire need. So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens who sent him to his farm to tend the swine. And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed, but nobody gave him any. Coming to his senses he thought, ‘How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food to eat, but here am I, dying from hunger. I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”’ So he got up and went back to his father. While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son.’ But his father ordered his servants, ‘Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Take the fattened calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.’ Then the celebration began. Now the older son had been out in the field and, on his way back, as he neared the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing. He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean. The servant said to him, ‘Your brother has returned and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ He became angry, and when he refused to enter the house, his father came out and pleaded with him. He said to his father in reply, ‘Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends.But when your son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.’ He said to him, ‘My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’”

It is the last part of the this Parable that is most instructive for this particular discussion. The father says to the son: “My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.” This is really at the heart of Pope Francis’ Papacy. He knows that we are well taken care of. The last few popes have fought the Culture of Death. Whether it agrees or not, much of our culture is aware of what the Catholic Church teaches on these issues. If we solely focus on the “culture war” we run the risk of disengaging our audience because we resort to screeching at high volume to get our point across. Instead, we need to show people to Christ, so that they can come to the truth found in the moral teaching of the Church. We can’t put the cart before the horse. A person who has been steeped in relativism is not going to understand the Church’s teachings without the light of faith and grace.

Pope Francis is not an anti-pope or threatening the Church. He is welcoming the Prodigal. He is showing people to Christ, so that the Church makes sense. We forget that we have grace and faith while the majority of people in our culture do not. The Church is foreign and they look at us with blindness. They can’t see until they see Christ. It is not that Francis is leaving us behind or leaving the faith behind. He is being a Shepherd. He is welcoming the lost into the fold, and telling the Mystical Body to rejoice when people return or join us. Just because Francis doesn’t constantly mention our favorite pet issue, does not mean he is wrong. He is leading in a way we may not fully understand, but we can trust that he is doing his best to reach out to the world and bring people to Christ. That is his job on top of leading the Church. So, let us rejoice that wounded, suffering, and lost people are looking for Christ. Let’s go to the celebration instead of sulking or living in bitterness. Praise be to God for reaching the lost. God bless.

Catholic Exchange: St. Padre Pio’s Unification with Christ

I am going to be honest. The saint whose feast day the Church celebrates today both fascinates and intimidates me. St. Pio of Pietrelcina, also known as Padre Pio, was born the son of two peasant farmers on May 25, 1887. His given name was Francesco after St. Francis of Assisi and at the age of five years old he made the decision to dedicate his life to God. His family was devout. They prayed the Rosary nightly, attended daily Mass, and abstained from meat three days a week in dedication to Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Even though his parents could not read, they made a point of memorizing Scriptures and shared them with Pio and his siblings. His mother reported that he could see and speak with Jesus, Our Lady, and his Guardian Angel from a young age. This was so common in his life that he assumed that everyone could do the same. He was reported to have experienced heavenly visions and experience ecstasies in his youth, as well as throughout the rest of his life.

At a young age Pio expressed a desire to be a friar. He had great interest in the Capuchin Order, but discovered that he needed more education before they would accept him. His father arranged for him to have private tutoring so the he could meet the academic requirements of the Order. In 1903, at the age of 15, he entered the novitiate of the Capuchin friars at Morcone and on January 22 he took the Franciscan habit and the name Friar Pio, in honor of Pope St. Pius I, whose relic was in the Santa Anna Chapel at Pietrelcina. It was then that he took the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience and committed to living the evangelical counsels.

After seven years of study and a period of severe illness, Pio was ordained to the Priesthood in 1910. A few years later World War I broke out and he was drafted into military service. He assigned to the 10th Medical Corps in Naples. His service did not last long, however, due to his poor health. It took a few years for the Italian military to figure out that Pio was too sick to serve and he was finally declared unfit for service in 1918.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange…

Catholic Exchange: A 9-11 Relief Worker’s Dark Night and Healing

On the morning of September 11, 2001 I was 20 years old and had been in the Navy just under two years. I was driving to work across the base I was stationed at just a few short miles from Washington DC when the first plane hit the twin towers. Like most people that morning I was confused by the news, but I walked into work just in time to see the second plane hit on the TV in the office. My co-workers and I crowded around a television in confusion and horror for about half an hour, and then, the Pentagon was hit. The base I worked on was a perceived top 10 target and chaos ensued. A friend of mine was standing next to me when the news broke about the Pentagon. She was 8.5 months pregnant and her Marine husband was stationed at the Pentagon. We were instructed to return to our Divisions. I told her that I would check in with my boss and come find her and stay with her until there was news about her husband. After that things get hazy.

I remember the piercing sun and the brilliant blue sky of that morning. The latter is something that most people who were in New York or DC remember about that day. I remember civilians running to their cars as all non-essential civilian personnel were instructed to evacuate the base. I worked on a base with over 20,000 employees, to give you an idea of the chaos. After checking in with my boss, I found my friend and we barricaded ourselves in a room in the Marine barracks and waited. I only remember the terror I felt and the concern I had for my friend. I remember jet engines flying overhead as we braced for impact. Hours went by when we finally got news that my friend’s husband had hiked up I-395 and had found a ride home. He was safe. The phones were jammed until evening, so I also remember the relief in my own father’s voice when he heard me say that I was safe. He was concerned that I had been at the Pentagon that day for some reason. Given the line of work that I did, that would have been a possibility.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange…

Catholic Exchange: Trust, History, and the Synod on the Family

Next month the second part of the Synod on the Family will commence in Rome. Articles, theories, and concerns have been flying around social media for over a year now. Discussion on the Synod is a good thing and should be encouraged. What I have seen in many circles however, is a sense of foreboding that betrays a fear of a change in doctrine that runs completely counter to what we understand the Catholic Church to be. That foreboding is met with glee in many circles who are touting the Church will get with the times and completely revamp 2000 years of moral law in order to please the Zeitgeist of our own age. Both are wrong and neither understands how the Church operates.

First, let’s remember that the Church is not a human institution at her ontological level. Yes, on the outside she looks like an institutional structure, complete with a hierarchy, and extensive array of offices with the Pope at the head. The ultimate reality, however, is that she is the Mystical Body of Christ. Her head is Christ and the Pope is subordinate to Him. Christ Himself promised that the power of Hell would not prevail against her:

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. l will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Matthew 16:15-19

This passage from the Gospel of Matthew is often used to explain the Papacy and our understanding of Apostolic Succession. What it also tells us is that what has been revealed to Saint Peter, the Apostles, and the Church is not from earthly realities, but from the Blessed Trinity. The Church’s understanding is that the Holy Spirit will preserve the Deposit of Faith, that which is teaching on faith and morals, from error even in the presence of sinful men and sinful women. This has repeatedly played out throughout the Church’s history.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange…