An Obsession with Papal Politics and the Cure

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I see it often and in all circles inside and outside of the Church. In fact, it is a major part of what ails our culture. It is the total focus on now and an ignoring of the long view. Now is important. How we live our lives now, each day is the slow process of our sanctification, but when all decisions are made with the now in mind, there are disastrous results.

Catholics have always taken a long view and that is because we have an eschatological (theological word for last things) end in that we are to waiting to be re-united with Christ. We have a history of waiting. Our eyes should be firmly fixed on Heaven, while we walk our journey in “fear and trembling” by grace. We have a long history and the Church has survived against great odds that can only be attributed to the Holy Spirit.

A lot of the battles the Church has within the culture have to do with a focus on what feels good now. Humanae Vitae was largely rejected at the time because people, clergy and laymen, could not see the long-term effects of birth control on demand that Pope Paul VI saw. They also ignored the long standing tradition on this topic and the fact that the Holy Spirit protects the Church from doctrinal error. Instead, what mattered is that the Sexual Revolution was happening the Church needed to get on board. This is a complete misunderstanding of the Church’s mission, which is the salvation of souls.

I see the same lack of understanding when it comes to Pope Francis. Truth be told magisterial authority is complex, so I see where some of the confusion comes from and since I am new to the theology of it all, I will wait until I am more adept before I explain it. What I can say is that celebrity Popes is a relatively new phenomenon that has gained traction due to technological advances. St. John Paul II had a dynamic personality and he used media to help bring down the Soviet Union. This served a great purpose. What we have now, however; is an almost obsession with the office of Pope. I have seen some people deny the last 2000 years of history claiming he is the greatest Pope we have ever seen and none of the others matter. Pope Francis would be quite upset to hear this, I am sure. I have seen others describe him as the worst Pope in history, as if a few of the nefarious individuals tied to the Borgias and other influential Italian families throughout history were nothing compared to our current Pope. Then there are people like me think he is a holy man who is leading the Church and I will submit to his authority in love and obedience. He is serving within the great tradition of the Church.

The point is that tunnel vision of history creates conflict and then we end up committing the same mistakes over and over again. Pope Francis, for instance, is not concerned about himself. He is trying to share the Good News with the world, which is a part of his office. As faithful Catholics, our obligation is to submit to his ordinary and, if used, extraordinary magisterial teaching authority. We do not have to love his personality, or agree with his tactics on everything, or how he phrases things off the cuff. The Pope is not God and a lot of Catholics need to be careful that they are not engaging in papal worship. I have seen a great many conversations that give me pause and cause me concern. I feel the same way about those folks who make their living attacking the Holy Father. Reality is somewhere in the middle, and anymore, that is where I try to stay planted because that is where the Church is planted.

What we should be doing is pointing to the Holy Father’s mission in light of the 2000 year history of the Church. He is the Vicar of Christ on earth following in St. Peter’s footsteps. He is showing others to Christ. We can use his words to share the Gospel with others. When we focus too much on him, the message gets blurred. And, quite frankly, we need to just ignore secular media reporting on him. A lot of people would have a lot less stress if they stopped trusting or reading secular news on the Church. It is impossible for people outside of the Church to understanding the workings of the Church. To them we are just another big institution with a charismatic man at the head. He is a politician in their eyes. They do not see that we are the communion of the Mystical Body of Christ and that the Holy Spirit is the life of the Church.

We are members of a living history. A history that has survived worse times than now. The Church has always been foreign in this Fallen world. She is the beacon of hope leading to the Holy Trinity and the world will hate and revile her for it. It is important that we live our lives today. We cannot turn our heads focusing on the past, but we can live out our shared and living history in order to focus on the goal, which is Heaven. We can use the vast knowledge and theological understanding given to the Church in order to evangelize the world. The truth of the Good News continues to deepen and grow in understanding through the living history of the Church.  The Church is more than now, she is the summation of what was, what is, and what will be.

I have found that those who are focused on papal politics or an obsession with pelvic issues are lacking in study of history. The Church has always been embroiled in battle, today just happens to be about sex, in the past it was Christology, Mariology, the concept of the Church, etc. Don’t get too caught up in it all. Yes, serve and fight the battles, but do so in trust of Christ and his working. I would say, from previous experience, make sure that you are waging a holy battle. Do not do so because of an impulse reaction of rage or anger. So much of social media is driven by impulse and anger. Pray, fast (I am still working on this), and live the Gospel.  Our high pitched yelling at others does nothing, but enliven the Enemy.  Share the truth, but be prepared for people to ignore it, and in those cases pray.  Share the Good News knowing that we will probably suffer, that is what Christ promised. Live the Gospel, in the end, that is all we can do. I hope your Lent is very blessed.

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Why Baptism during Lent?

This past Sunday’s readings were a strange connection of Baptism and the desert (for the Western Church).  We heard about the flood when God wiped out the evil of the world and saved eight righteous people.  Yes, the narrative is a pre-figurement of Baptism.  The waters of the flood cleanse the earth. We also see that the penalty for sin is death.  After hearing about Noah, we then hear that Christ was driven by the Spirit out into the desert for 40 days (notice 40 in both Scripture passages) to be tempted.  The reading did not include the fact that this occurred after Jesus’ own baptism.  So the question is, why is the Church talking about Baptism alongside Jesus’ temptation in the desert?  After all, isn’t Lent about being in the desert?  To answer these questions we need to take a look at what Baptism does to the believer.

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Baptism is a renunciation of sin that is caused by God. God infuses us with the supernatural virtue of faith so that we may desire to abandon sin and follow him.  He moves us to change and we choose that change.  We must choose to conform our lives to Christ and be so united in the mysteries of his life, death, resurrection, and ascension.  God gives us the grace to do so.  We cannot act until he acts. What is Christ doing in the desert?  He is showing us how to turn away from sin so that we may follow him.  The three sins Christ is tempted by are related to his three divine offices of priest, prophet, and king.  These are the very same offices that we share in when we become members of the Mystical Body (I will write posts about this in the future). Jesus is the High Priest who offers the pure sacrifice to the Father of his body and his obedience. He is the High Prophet who comes to share and reveal the Father.  Finally, he is the King of the Universe.  He reigns over all.  By our Baptism we are called to share in these offices of Christ our king, prophet, and priest.  In order to do so, we must do battle with sin.  We must reject Satan, just as Christ has done in the desert and through the Cross. Christ does battle with Satan after the Baptism in the Jordan.  We must battle Satan in this life after our own Baptism.  So Christ is showing us how to follow Him.  The sanctifying grace of Baptism allows us to begin that journey.

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Lent is a reminder of our spiritual struggle.  In that wrestling we are reminded of our Baptismal promises and the promises given to us by Christ.  We already possess living water within us, even as we wander in the dry heat of the desert.  At Easter we will renew our baptismal promises and once again renounce Satan, just as Jesus does in the desert.  That means that our Lenten journey is inextricably linked to our Baptism.  Lent is a time for us to renew our battle stance against Satan and to enter more fully into the mysteries of Christ’s life, namely his temptation and then his eventual Paschal Mystery.  I will focus on Baptism and the Paschal Mystery during Holy Week.

What I want us to keep in mind is that Lent is not just about giving up something.  It is about going into the desert and doing battle, just as Our Lord did.  It is to constantly say “no” to Satan, just as we did (or our parents did) at our Baptism.  When we entered into the Mystical Body of Christ, we were saying “yes” to Christ.  That “yes” also includes entering into His death.  For now, we need to once again focus on our death to sin.  We have chosen life over death. This side of the veil is a desert of sorts, but Christ has torn open that veil and conquered sin and death.  We must persevere.

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Throughout this Lenten season, the Church is reminding us that Satan has been conquered.  Through our Baptism we are united to Christ.  The desert of this life is flowing in abundant springs through our Baptism.  Even though we are in the desert of this life, we always proclaim love and hope.  The battle is won.  Let us remember as we do penance, pray, give alms, and fast that this is a time of renewal.  It is a time for us to be strengthened against Satan.  Through the grace of our Baptism, we are able to reach the ultimate goal, which is Heaven.  On first glance the desert and the flood seem at odds, but in actuality they reflect the deepest reality of the Christian life.

Some recommended reading:
Jesus of Nazareth by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
Life of Christ by Ven. Fulton Sheen

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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Wake Up America: A Call to Prayer and Fasting for Our Persecuted Brethren

I have been watching with horror as Christians are being systematically murdered, exiled, or placed in dhimmi status in Syria and Iraq. Over the past few years, Christians have endured public executions to include crucifixions, the loss of their homes and property, rape, torture, and the total loss of their homeland. Nary a word has come from our President. A President who is either so inept at foreign policy that he does not know what to do, too arrogant to mind, or worse, supports the persecution of Christians. I don’t know what the answer is, quite honestly. His actions tell me that he has very little regard for the dignity of any human person, but himself. But, no matter what, it should be deeply distressing to Christians here. I have no control over our current President who I believe is totally morally corrupt. But, I do have power to pray and work to bring awareness and funds to those who need it.

As Americans, we live in an insular bubble. Most of us have a roof over our heads, too much food, water, and a plethora of possessions. We go throughout our day oblivious of what is going on throughout the world. It does not matter that a good portion of the world is in flames, and that Russia has decided to make a power grab reminiscent of the days following World War II. It cannot last. I repeat, our oblivion cannot last. Human nature has always been at war. That is why Christ came. Peace is a wonderful blessing, but one that never lasts. We need to wake up and pay attention. We need to fall on our knees and pray for those countless slaughtered and for the conversion of souls throughout the world. My weapons of choice: the Rosary and the Holy Eucharist. Only Christ himself can save us. We are soldiers. Our weapons are spiritual and we are waging a battle against the forces of evil: Satan himself. It is time to wake up from our stupor and get to the business of working and serving Christ.

What can we do? First, since our mainstream media refuses to give air time to the murder of Christians, share news stories that detail the horrors of what our brethren are enduring in Syria and Iraq, Nigeria, North Korea, China, etc. Second, show the world that we stand in solidarity with all Christians. As the Cross was turned into a symbol of hope, we shall turn any symbol (see the picture below) used to murder Christians or take away their history or livelihood and turn it into a symbol of power: The power of Jesus Christ. Third, find reliable charities who provide resources to persecuted Christians and donate. It does not need to be a large donation, whatever you can spare. Give up a couple of lattes or a trip to McDonald’s, then use the money for charity. Fourth, pray, go to Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, however you pray, do it. Pray for the persecuted, the dead, the persecutors, and for our leadership and leaders around the world. Fifth, fast. I mean serious fasting. Take a day a month or a week and live on bread and water. Offer it up in solidarity with the victims and the poor. It is good for you and fasting can save souls. Did I mention, PRAY?!

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This makes a great social media profile picture.  It is no longer a symbol of fear, it is a sign of strength, solidarity, and the power of the Living God, Jesus Christ.
This makes a great social media profile picture. It is no longer a symbol of fear, it is a sign of strength, solidarity, and the power of the Living God, Jesus Christ.

We all must wake up from the slumber that peace, wealth, and prosperity has put us in. We have it all, so why does the rest of the world matter? First, because we are all members of the Mystical Body of Christ and when one portion is hurt, the whole body hurts. Second, because this mess is not always going to be “over there”. History tells us that war and violence is common, not peace. Prayers can prevent wars and bring peace. So let’s get on our knees and pray now before the cancers of secularism and radical Islam spread even more. May God bless you always. Onward Christian Soldiers!!!

Do you have any suggestions to add?