Catholic Exchange: Turning the Other Cheek in a Digital Age

The Internet and mainstream media have been set ablaze with the latest outrage that seems to be manufactured every five minutes. Each side rushes to judgment and paints the other group as the villain. Meanwhile supporters canonize the person or persons they agree with and the vitriol reaches an intensity that should startle every person of goodwill. Round-and-round it goes, this cycle of anger in our culture and even within the Church.

This piece is not specifically about the Covington Catholic controversy. Nor will I make any judgments about what transpired. The aim of this piece is to offer an alternative tactic that goes back to Our Lord Himself, but that is applicable in an age when any one of us could become the topic of a social media frenzy should a video be taken of us that could provide an ambiguous depiction of us that can easily be taken out of context or manipulated to appease the angry masses.

Our careers could be ruined, our families and friends threatened, and we could become the target of the social media mob if we are not careful. If you think I’m overreacting, keep in mind that I happen to pray regularly at the Planned Parenthood where a teenager was assaulted during a 40 Days for Life campaign that made national news. A town of 90,000 people. That video became viral in a matter of minutes and people were ready to draw and quarter those involved depending on what political side they happened to be on. This is what it is like to live an an age of never-ending digital consumption and intentionally manufactured outrage. Someone is always watching, even when we don’t think that is the case.

There are some situations during which we can’t avoid confrontation. However, while I was at the March for Life, I witnessed and exercised an approach that will help us to avoid becoming social media fodder in the future. It’s how Our Lord responded to similar situations that arose during His ministry and Passion. It is one we seldom want to use because we all desire tangible justice.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.

The Secular West’s Impotence in the Face of Radical Islam

We are now aware that the martyrdom of a Catholic priest, Fr. Jacques Hamel, has taken place in France. It was only a matter of time before ISIS began its assault on Catholicism in Europe, and eventually, the United States. Other than in the Middle East and Asia, Christians have not been the primary target of ISIS and other radical Islamic groups. It has largely been secular institutions that have been attacked.  Catholicism in the West is now a target of ISIS. The difference between the attack on Catholicism and the attack on secularism is that Catholics can win this war.

The West is largely impotent in the face of radical Islam. We do not seem to fully grasp this truth. We look to our political leaders for decisive action, but all we seem to get is the occasional air strike and hollow words. We Christians watch as our brothers and sisters in Christ are slaughtered and sold into slavery in the Middle East and Asia. There is no talk of the plight of Christians in Syria, Iraq, and even Saudi Arabia by political leaders in the West. Why? Quite honestly because the West has chosen to abandon its Christian roots for nihilism. (Oh, no. There she goes writing about nihilism again.) Quite frankly, we will never understand what is going on in Europe, and soon-to-be the U.S., until we understand the impotent, deadly, and destructive nature of nihilism that is the predominant philosophical influence in the West at this point in history.

Why is the West’s nihilism impotent in the face of radical Islam? Nihilism is a creed in which belief is predicated upon nothingness. I do not mean that nihilists believe in nothing, although material atheism does tend to occupy the thoughts of some nihilist adherents. Nihilism is the belief in nothing objective or concrete. This is best understood through the creed of relativism: What’s true for me doesn’t have to be true for you. This results in philosophical and moral incoherence. There is a reason Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI spoke so much of the dangers of modern philosophies and relativism. Is it possible for all of us to have our own set of beliefs and not impact others? Obviously not. If relativism is true, then it is morally permissible for a jihadi to walk into a Catholic Church and slit a priest’s throat. This is the serious problem we face with secularism and its nihilistic principles. The belief in nothing results in a free for all and objective truth is abandoned. When grave evil rears its ugly head in history, the nihilists either turn a blind eye or end up committing their own evils. The problem is that this incoherence is defended over and over again in our culture. Rugged individualism tears humanity apart because it contradicts our ontological being. I hope this is blunt enough because we have got to get this through our Catholic heads. This is what we are facing in secularism.

Nationalism and democracy cannot possibly confront the grave evil and violence of radical Islam. First, nations cannot seem to come together to confront this evil, which is spreading worldwide at an alarming rate. Since we all have our own set of beliefs we cannot come together to form a solution, whether it be military or diplomatic. Although, in my mind, the time of diplomacy has ended. Nihilism and relativism destroy unity. There is no cause or good to fight for in these philosophies. This is why the West shuffles its feet while thousands are slaughtered worldwide. Second, just battles are waged for a sense of belief in the good. World War II was waged on two unified fronts because the Allies understood the dignity of the human person and the need to defend good. In the West, there is no objective good, so we cannot come together and confront the bloodlust of ISIS.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.

Holy Thursday: Ending the Cycle of Violence

As another nation, this time Belgium, faces the aftermath of terrorism and its clarion call of hatred, the message of Holy Thursday and the need for Christ becomes ever more apparent. After Our Lord instituted the Holy Eucharist to be food for the Church, He went out to pray and submitted to the will of the Father. It was then in the darkness of night that Our Lord was betrayed and arrested:

While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived, accompanied by a large crowd, with swords and clubs, who had come from the chief priests and the elders of the people. His betrayer had arranged a sign with them, saying, “The man I shall kiss is the one; arrest him.” Immediately he went over to Jesus and said, “Hail, Rabbi!” and he kissed him. Jesus answered him, “Friend, do what you have come for.” Then stepping forward they laid hands on Jesus and arrested him.  And behold, one of those who accompanied Jesus put his hand to his sword, drew it, and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot call upon my Father and he will not provide me at this moment with more than twelve legions of angels? But then how would the scriptures be fulfilled which say that it must come to pass in this way?”  At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to seize me? Day after day I sat teaching in the temple area, yet you did not arrest me. But all this has come to pass that the writings of the prophets may be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled.

(Matthew 26:47-56)

This passage is filled with the sinful inclinations of human beings. Judas demonstrates greed and how easily people can cast aside one another for material gain. Of course, we know this does not end well for Judas. He does not find fulfillment in the money he desired for his betrayal and he hangs himself in despair.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.

Abandon Ideology for the Good News: The Test is Coming

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You will notice a trend on my blog that I am becoming increasingly anti-ideology. This is because I am observing a steep descent into ideology in our country and within the Church. Not the Church herself, but the people within it. This is largely destructive and causes division. Ideology is a type of heresy. It is to cling to a notion of something as ultimate truth, when ideology is typically our own blindness and proclivities. I had two experiences recently that continue to fortify my anti-ideological stance. First, I saw a National Review article recently that justified the killings of two civilians in a drone strike on the Afghan-Pakistani border in January. The moral gymnastics of the author made my stomach turn. The far Right has become a war-mongering machine and it is deeply disturbing. There are times when war is the final and just response, but not always. The killing of civilians is always deeply tragic and it is all the more tragic that no warning was given to these men or attempt at a rescue and the intelligence was bad. For both sides of the political spectrum in our country, “collateral damage” is a matter of statistics and numbers and matters little. This is a disturbing slide into a further dehumanization of others. I saw this from Congressional aides when I interned at The Heritage Foundation.

On the flip side we have the ideological Pacifists, notice I said ideological. The Church has a long history of rightly ordered Pacifism, just as she has a tradition of Just War. These two seeming opposites are united under a fully formed understanding of justice. The ideological Pacifists cannot comprehend that war is sometimes the only option. They also seek to vilify members of our military, of which I was one. They say heinous things about Veteran’s even to the point of denying the necessity of the Church’s presence in a war zone or within the military. They cannot separate the war from the soldiers and the individual consciences of each service member, which is precisely what our last couple of Popes have done. The Church has not agreed with the past two wars, but has left the choice to serve up to the soldier. While I am with the Church on war, I did serve under President Bush for the Global War on Terror. There were things that I supported at the time for which I have sought absolution through Confession, but the people who serve in our military are not psychopaths, sociopaths, or any other name that is given to them. They mean well and have a desire to protect our country. It is easy now to forget how tumultuous the time was following 9-11. I know, I worked as relief worker following the Pentagon attack. Fear and chaos does not always produce the best results. This mitigates circumstances a bit.

This is just two examples on opposing extremes that I have observed recently. This is also apparent in the “pelvic issues” as people try to do moral gymnastics around both Scripture and Sacred Tradition. Since ideology blinds us it hurts ourselves and the people around us. It inevitably puts us in a judgment seat, based not on our faith, but on our desire to conform others to our own beliefs. This is a great danger to the Church. As the secular culture encroaches more and more on our freedoms, it is essential that we make sure we are not a part of the problem. I am not trying to beat a dead horse. I am trying to warn people that we need to re-focus on what is important and that is bringing the world to Christ, not ourselves. I was an ideologue for a few years. I conformed my politics into my limited understanding of the Church. I could not see the whole. It created great tumult in my soul.

There will come a day very soon when we may be asked to give account for our faith and we will be mocked and derided for it. Our faith cannot depend on ideology, it must be centered on Jesus Christ. If our ideology wins out, then we cannot possibly survive the test that will come our way. The secular attacks on the Church will continue to grow and become more virulent. Now is the time to arm ourselves with holiness through prayer, Scripture, frequent reception of the Sacraments, and true study of the Faith. Those are what will help us should we have to undergo the test. While I have my own theories on how bad it will get, what is certain is that Catholics will become increasingly more marginalized. That will be difficult. It is not easy to say “no” to the prevailing culture. It is not easy to lose family and friends because we cannot agree to the sexual ethics of our culture. We cannot stay strong if our faith is an empty shell that is propped up by our own ideology.

I am not saying that we should not be involved in the public square, but we need to be prepared for our ability to participate to shrink greatly for a while. Honestly, we need to evangelize if we want to change the culture. This is the history of the Church. Our ability to operate in public waxes and wanes. There have been times of great persecution. There are times of great persecution upon the Church now. We are united to those Christians who are dying in the Middle East, Mexico, and in other places of the world. The Mystical Body is a communion that makes us a part of the same body as them. We suffer with them albeit not physically at present.

The most concerning aspect of ideology is that it cuts us off from one another. It causes alienation and anger. I lost my temper at a completely nasty comment made about service members and its implications. I later apologized, but ideology is hard to combat. It is irrational and it automatically invokes an irrational response in others. We have to learn to control our emotions because we will confront virulent strains of ideology in the coming years, much worse than the two examples that I listed above. The best way for us to control our emotions is to re-focus on Christ and to prepare ourselves for whatever may come. If we rest in Christ and His Church, rather than our own power, then we can calmly deal with the attacks that come. It won’t be easy, and like St. Peter and the other Apostles (except John), we may run for a bit, but if we continue to persevere and focus on Christ then we will make it to the end.

As Catholics we must ask ourselves what the purpose and goal of our lives is as revealed by Christ. Why am I here? What am I supposed to do? The answer should be to follow Christ even unto Calvary. This is the horrifying, yet freeing, truth of our faith. When we are baptized we agree to enter into the mysteries of His life, including His death. Most of us will not be asked to be martyred physically, but most of us will suffer some form of persecution, even if it is locally from family and friends. We all suffer within the Mystical Body when others around the world are persecuted. There is no isolation within the Church. No one suffers in isolation.

Ideology may be fascinating and create arguments, but it causes more division than peace and conversion. I have never been a Pacifist precisely because of the vilification of Veteran’s of which I am one. I am no longer a war-mongerer because I could see the horror of war up close through friends and family during my own service. I know from a few years of sexual relativism that the lies of the libertines do nothing but hurt and kill the soul. I know the joy and beauty of the Theology of the Body. The more I learn, the more I come to the center and desire to walk the tight-rope of the Church. She is the answer to the extremes of the world. She has the whole truth, not just the part we latch on to.

I am sure that this topic will come up again on my blog because it is so important for the coming times. There is such freedom in abandoning our preferred ideologies. We are less angry. We don’t make other people as angry. We grow deeper in our understanding of the Church and Christ and we are able to focus on the life of holiness. I encourage each of you and myself, to look into our beliefs and make sure they are properly ordered to the Church. Let’s make sure that we are not vilifying other groups of people. This even means our enemies. Yes, they do evil and we must confront evil, but if we dehumanize others we very quickly run the risk of becoming like our enemies. Ideology is the quickest way to dehumanize another group of people by making them the “other”. Even in times of battle we must live as Christians. We pray for our enemies, pray for peace, and most especially, pray for the conversion of the world.

Little Blogging as of Late

I have not been blogging regularly as of late. Any writing that I have been doing has been for my graduate studies.  The same goes for reading.  The good thing is that I am studying precisely what I enjoy studying: philosophy and theology.  I have also been taking a break from reading a lot of Catholic blogs.  I started to get frustrated with the political nature of the blogs, whether it is on the Vatican or American politics.  The more I study Church History the less I worry about the Church.  Yes, disturbing things come up, but that is how it has always been.  Perhaps when I have time, I can revamp some of my writing to focus more on holiness and less on the Fallen nature of the world.  There needs to be a balance, but I want my writing to help people on the journey, not fuel anxiety and anger.

I want to thank any of you who have supported Help Nasara.  The plight of Christians in the Middle East is dire.  We have raised $429 for CNEWA.  Please continue to get the work out as well as pray and fast.

What 9-11 Means to Me This Year: From a Relief Worker

This is very close to where I stood with 400 grieving family members a few days after 9-11.
This is very close to where I stood with 400 grieving family members a few days after 9-11.

9-11 means a lot of different things to people.  Everyone has a story of where they were on that day.  I just happen to be one of those people who spent 45 days smack dab in the middle of the pain, agony, and destruction of 9-11.  On 9-11 I was stationed at a large intel base.  We were considered a top 10 target and a mass evacuation of non-military personnel started right after the Pentagon was hit.  I don’t remember much because it was so chaotic and terrifying.  What I do remember is my friend was 8.5 months pregnant with her first child, and her then husband worked at the Pentagon.  The phones were jammed, so we waited until early evening before we knew that he was safe, having hiked up I-395 to get a ride back to our base.  I stayed with her all day to make sure that she was ok.  We huddled inside the Marine barracks, terrified of every jet engine we heard over head.  Our base was in the BWI flight path.   I remember a blazing sun against a crystal blue sky.  I remember people running frantically.  I remember armed Marines running with M-16s to secure our base.  I remember bracing for impact and being sure that death was coming.  I had never been that terrified in my entire life.  I don’t think anything else has matched it since (other than when the PTSD was rally bad 10 years ago).  Thank God!

Once the initial attacks cleared, my reaction was that I needed to help.  I lived a few miles from DC.  I needed to do what I could to help those in need.  Rather unexpectedly, a friend of mine, with a similar drive, said that she was being sent by our base to serve the families of those killed at the Pentagon.  I said that I was going with her, and so 8 of us from my base went to the Pentagon Family Assistance Center to serve the surviving families.  The Navy lost more people than any other branch or Agency, and they wanted us there in uniform in case the families wanted a Sailor to talk to and also to serve them in any capacity necessary.

The first few days were agony.  I witnessed the deepest in human suffering.  My 20 year old heart and mind, was not prepared for this level of pain.  My faith was still young and weak, and it was not my primary rock throughout that period.  I had to fight my own tears, in the face of hurting, mourning people.  A few days after the attack, I stood in front of the crash site with over 400 mourning relatives.  I knew that I was staring into the abyss of Hell.  Only Hell could bring such destruction and barbarity.

While 9-11 will haunt me for the rest of my life, I did witness the strength of the human spirit.  The first couple of weeks were devastating.  The wounds were deep and fresh.  Families waited helplessly for news of their loved ones.  No one survived the attack, and all 184 perished.  When bodies started to be returned to families (what was left of their loved one), families had a sense of relief.  Over 40 bodies were never recovered.  Once this phase began, I noticed a shift to healing.  The pain was deep, but there was the very beginning of hope and healing.  By the end of my 45 days as a relief worker, the families had returned home to begin to re-build their lives.

9-11 is a defining moment in my life, because, unlike the majority of the world, I was actually a part of the event.  I was there in all its horror.  This day has meant many things for me:   pain, agony, suffering, tears, mourning, nightmares, night terrors, flashbacks, hope, love, courage.  Today it means:  prayer.  These people who perpetuate this type of evil are still murdering thousands of people throughout the world.  The leaders of the West are impotent in the face of this evil, quite frankly, because in their nihilism they do not know good from evil, or evil from good.  So I wage the spiritual battle and I pray, fast, and give alms.  That is how I best serve the memories of those I met and their loved ones.  It is how I best served those being persecuted abroad.  It is how I best serve the persecutors.  So PRAY and pray hard, for the conversion of souls, for those murdered today (and every other day), the families, and the relief workers.

And, yes, because my 9-11 experiences make me feel a deep connection to the persecuted, check out Help Nasara to give alms.  We are trying to serve the suffering.  God bless you always.

We are on Facebook: www.facebook.com/helpnasara

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Changes in My Writing

For some of you who have been reading my blog off and on for months, you may have noticed a shift in focus in my writing.  Yes, my writing is sporadic.  I am a wife, mother, Lay Dominican, and now, a full-time graduate student in Theology.  So my time is limited.  The shift you will notice is a changing in my own understanding and deepening of what it means to be a member of the Mystical Body of Christ.  It is to suffer with the other Members.

The world will change drastically over the next few decades.  Demographically, the rise of Islam and secular humanism will be great.  The world has always been Fallen, but we are here to serve now.  I am no longer in a position to rush to the aid of those in need.  Instead, my vocation is teaching me that I must pray, fast, give alms, and raise awareness of different issues.  We can no longer go about woefully ignorant.  In our decadence we have forgotten that we are engaging in very serious, and very real, spiritual warfare.  There may come a day, on THIS side of eternity, where you and I will have to give testament to what we believe.

This is not meant to be gloomy.  Rather, it is a reminder of the things that truly matter, namely our Faith in Christ and His Church.  We must prepare and grow in holiness.  We must remain vigilant because the Enemy is on the move.  Yes, I post a lot about Help Nasara right now and that is because over a hundred thousand Christians are being openly and violently persecuted in Iraq and Syria alone.  That does not include the countless other countries being impacted.  We are not impotent.  God hears our prayers and cries for justice.  Trust in God and that he will answer our prayers.  Fast for others, but also to prepare and discipline our own bodies.  Give alms to help others.  This is how we will defeat this enemy.  God bless you and thanks for reading my blog.

Remember this prayer daily.  My dad sent it to me when I was a 9-11 relief worker.  It brings great courage and hope.

St. Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen..

Help Our Persecuted Christian Brothers and Sisters

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As I was folding laundry this afternoon, I began to pray the intentions for my Rosary.  I did not get far because I began to contemplate the horrors Christians and other minority groups in Syria and Iraq are facing today.  It’s not just a Middle Eastern problem.  Islamists like ISIS or ARAQ, are setting up shop around the globe.  There are countless countries already impacted besides our own on 9-11: Nigeria, Libya, Egypt, Somalia, Sudan, Indonesia, UK, Spain, Bali, etc.  This is a growing threat and danger, but more than that, we need to do what we can to help.  I cannot call up our President and demand he take action, but I can raise awareness and give alms.

As I contemplated the plight of hundreds of thousands of people, my mind was drawn to an article I read earlier today.  In the article it detailed how an Iraqi Christian woman and her husband lost their 3 year old daughter to the ISIS.  They kidnapped their daughter last month and this family has not seen her since.  You see, I have a three year old daughter.  I tried to imagine what that would be like.  I was horrified, struck with terror, and pierced by intense pain.  It is my greatest nightmare for something like that to happen to my child, and yet, this is the lot of hundreds of thousands to millions of people globally.

We Americans are pretty insulated from the intense daily suffering.  Yes, people get terribly sick, there is violent crime, and loss, but we do not live day-in-and-day out in the fear that today will be the day we die at the hands of murderous thugs.  I do not walk out of my home worried that a group of ISIS thugs is going to rape me, sell me into slavery, or behead me, or my family.  I go about my day in peace.  I go about my day in freedom.

These stories and others like it coming out of Syria and Iraq are the reason a bunch of us got together on Facebook and started our group Help Nasara.  The mainstream media and our current President are not mentioning the plight of Christians at the hands of ISIS.  We are selling custom designed bumper stickers and car magnets for $3.50 each plus shipping (.75 cents).  We are too small to cover our printing costs, so $2.30 will go to Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) and the rest covers our printing.  Help us get the word out about these grave injustices.  Like us on Facebook and check out our website: www.helpnasara.org

Thank you so much for your support and may God bless you always.

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