Bringing Christ to the Walking Wounded of the West

Psychology Today
Psychology Today

Tonight I saw a comment (social media provides me with a lot of food for thought) that implied the issues of the West, transgenderism, homosexuality, divorce, adultery, etc. are not the same as the murder, rape, persecution, and poverty overseas or in Third World countries. This was, of course, in response to the Bruce Jenner situation. I do not wish to write on that topic because there are people who would do a much better job on it than me. I pray for him and discuss it with people who bring it up to me, but I do not feel called to that discussion.  This comment got me thinking. Have we forgotten about the unique dignity of every single human being? Have we forgotten that Jesus loves every single person? Yes, there are great horrors going on, but many of those are on our own street behind closed doors. The penalty for sin is death and destruction, so how can we think that our culture is somehow better off? How can we think that we don’t need to be concerned about the one lost soul we meet? What does Scripture say?

The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to him, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So to them he addressed this parable.  “What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it? And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance. Luke 15:1-7

We can easily fall into the mentality of the Pharisees. I know I do it at times. We can decide that certain evils are greater because we have a visceral reaction to them. Who among us is not appalled by the rape and murder of children overseas? Those are great evils to be sure, but they are not the only evils impacting souls. When Blessed Teresa of Calcutta would come to the U.S., she would observe a great poverty in our country and in the rest of the West. It was a poverty of loneliness, the feeling of being unloved.

The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

Our country is being torn apart by broken homes, hedonism, materialism, and relativism. The by-products of these philosophies are everywhere. People are screaming out to be loved, but they don’t know where to go. They don’t know the answer. They have never been shown. Instead they have lived lives of abandonment, pain, anger, confusion, and frustration. This is exacerbated and deepened in a culture that lies to them. A culture that tells them that if they only do whatever they want, they will feel better. But, no. This is a quick fix and it leads ever deeper into the pit of destruction and despair. How many women are crying alone in their apartments tonight because they believed the lie that promiscuity would bring them love and acceptance? How many men are drowning out their desire for a deep and lasting love through sexual conquests only to return to their lonely lives afterwards? How many teenagers and adults are struggling with same sex attraction and hating themselves? How many of those live with that deep hate, not because people like me tell them that homosexual sex is a sin, but rather because they know that that sex has not filled the ache they feel within themselves? Homosexual or heterosexual, filling the void through sex doesn’t stop the deep hunger for Love. How many children sit home alone and never see their parents because they are working too many hours? How many parents are trying to buy their child’s affection to make up for their absence? How many children are crying tonight because they were told divorce was coming for their parents? How many inner city kids are craving the attention of a father they have never met or a mother they seldom get to see? How many husbands and wives are living with the pain of adultery? How many people are drowning out their sorrow in drugs and alcohol at this very minute? How many of us (me) use social media to dull the isolation they feel? THIS! This is the poverty of our country.

We tell ourselves that this poverty, pain, and immorality is nothing compared to ISIS, Boko Haram, China, or any country living in barbarism. We don’t equate the two because we don’t want to have to look in the mirror. We don’t want to have to examine our own sins. The sins of others are greater than our own. We don’t want to look at how we are preventing Christ from reaching the people near us. The shouting and yelling at others about their sins does nothing, but make people dig in their heals. Meanwhile, Christ is looking for every single lost sheep. He will leave the 99. He will leave the 6 billion for the one. Have we Christians forgotten that truth? A truth that is so profound, so big, so unbelievable, but somehow we have forgotten to share it with others? We are not Christ, so our yelling at others will accomplish nothing. Instead, we must offer an invitation in charity and truth.

No we cannot confirm people in their sins. We cannot lie to them in order to make them feel better about their choices. But we will never bring people to the pews if all they see is us screaming about their sins. Isn’t this the point Pope Francis is making? He’s not changing Church teaching. He’s pointing out that hurt, wounded, aching, unloved people, need to have a real encounter with the Risen Lord. We need to share our joy and not only reserve it for the people who we decide are worthy because it is quite clear that Christ is interested in each and every single person. We need to show them how Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church is the answer to the longing of their heart. That Christ is the answer to their loneliness, brokenness, and wounds. That the Holy Eucharist is the answer to the meaning of life. To be a saint is to be fully alive. WE need to be willing to enter into their brokenness and pain. We need to be willing to hurt with them because that is what the Mystical Body does. Can you imagine what it is like to have never known love? To only know how to use hedonism to fill up that deep void? They must ask themselves in confusion: Who is This? Love me?! It has to be blinding like it was for St. Paul. It has to be difficult to accept and completely foreign. These are the people we are called to reach out to, but we cannot do it on our own terms. I mean our own individual terms. We must use the greatness of Catholicism, but allow people to find their footing. We need to walk the journey with them in charity and truth. I have known these very people throughout my lifetime and I have failed them. I have failed them.

There are unspeakable horrors around the world. I sit back and watch the news in pain for people most days, but I have no control over what happens in Nigeria or the Middle East. I do weep with them. I do have control over my family, friends, community, parish, and social media interactions. All I can do is fast and pray for those parts of the world I cannot impact, but I do have the ability to share my faith with people who do not understand it at all. To patiently bear their burdens, questions, confusion, flight, and struggle. It is not easy to be converted. It is not easy to agree to conform one’s life to the Most Holy Trinity through Baptism. It is not easy to die to self. It is not easy to let go of greed, lust, envy, gluttony, pride, anger, avarice, and sloth. It’s a life long spiritual battle, but one that we engage in with Christ by our side. It is easier when we fall in love with Christ. Things that seemed impossible slowly get easier. We need to show people how to fall in love with Jesus Christ in union with the Father and the Holy Spirit by our own example. Christ leads us to the abandonment of sin. That is the only way they will abandon sin and begin the life long battle. They will want to die to self because they love God. Do we? Do we want to die to self because of our love of God? We have to ask ourselves that every single day too because we fall and sin and must return to Him in our weakness.

Let us remember in our daily dealings there are a lot of hurting people who need Christ. There is a lot of evil in our own neighborhoods that needs redemption. There is not a single soul who Christ does not desire. A lost soul is a horrific thing. The people in our country who are trapped in the lies of hedonism, materialism, and relativism are prisoners of the Evil One. They too need the Paschal Mystery to break loose their chains. Think about that the next time you call someone a “freak” or other ad hominem. These people are lost and we know the Way. Are we showing people the Way?

As I write this post, tears well up in my eyes for all of the times I have failed in this exact same call. In all of the ways that I fail to show love to the people around me and even the people I encounter on social media. I have a daughter who needs my complete and total love, but I get lost in selfishness some days and fail her. I do the same thing to my husband. These are the people Christ entrusted to me. How many other people have I encountered in my life and failed? Jesus wanted every single one of those people for His own and I failed to serve Him. All power rests in Him, but He uses each one of us to further the mission of bringing the world to Him. Let’s stop being afraid. Let’s stop ignoring His call. We need to trust in Him. He can bring about the conversion in even the most hardened of hearts and he can heal the sins of our age. . We have to be willing lives of courageous virtue and holiness. We cannot just use words to draw people in, our joy and way of life should point to Christ. We have to be willing to love as He loves and search for the one soul he puts in our tracks each day.

Small Success Thursday: Protecting Our Children Edition

It is Small Success Thursday over at CatholicMom.com.  Come share this week’s small successes with us.

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This week was a travel week for my husband.  Thankfully he is home for a while, but things get a little topsy-turvy when he is on the road.  I managed to actually get some sleep while he was gone.  I slept fine for years in my own apartment alone, but now I am a restless sleeper when he travels, even though I am packing heat if necessary.  I guess a lot of wives get used to the security of their husbands.
Our daughter gets irritable when he is gone too.  She did pretty well until yesterday afternoon.  By the time he got home, she was in full blown defiant toddler mode.  Today she is back to her happy go-lucky self.  She did not even fight me when I put her down for a nap.
So even with this crazy week, here are some successes.
1.  We did our “Biggest Loser” weigh-in and I am down 6lbs.  Only 24 to go to my goal.  I have not been as strict about my diet as I need to be.  My husband has been doing great and I keep praying for the grace to be more disciplined.  I have started adding exercise back in, which should help.  Plus, my daughter always wants me to dance with her to The Wiggles.  How can I say no to that?!
2.I have been avoiding TV for the most part.  I occasionally watch re-reruns of The Middle, which I think is ridiculous and hysterical, while I cook dinner at 5pm.  Other than that I have been reading.  I finished The Walk series and now I am reading a book about protecting our daughters (and really our sons) for a CatholicMom.com book review.  Look for the review and a book giveaway in the coming weeks!
3. Speaking of protecting daughters and sons, I wrote a letter to all daughters this morning on my blog.  The link is below this post.  Reading this book has reminded me of a lot of experiences of my teen years and twenties that I have blocked out as I focused on marriage and my daughter.  However, those experiences came flying back with a vengeance and have convicted me that we must fight the culture with everything we have in order to protect our children.  We as Catholics cannot become comfortable or complacent in our homes, especially if our children are in public schools.  Do you know what your kids are taught in sex ed?  Have you asked?  Have you looked at the materials?  Does your child’s school hand out birth control?  Has your child witnessed or heard about domestic violence?  Is pornography “normalized” in school?  Is masturbation? What is a good age for your kids to date?  Are your children reading books they shouldn’t? Have you read your school’s recommended reading list?  It might surprise you!  Why do I bring this up?  Have you discussed dating violence and abuse with your child? I say this  because a lot of us are either blind or willfully ignorant about what is going on in the culture around us.  Let me tell you a story.
I served in the US Navy for 6 years, but even before that, my first experience of meeting a girl who was being beaten by her boyfriend was when I was 15 years old.  We were in gym class together.  I saw her black eye and bloody lip and knew what was going on.  Her track star boyfriend was beating her.  I asked her about it.  She knew that she needed to get away from him, but her own mother was in an abusive relationship.  I did not have the knowledge or understanding to help her.  I should have gone to a counselor or teacher, but I didn’t.  I did not know what to do.  I pray she is okay.
While in the Navy, I was introduced to a sexually amoral culture.  It is the same in college, don’t kid yourself, especially public schools.  Pornography is rampant and is considered acceptable.  In fact, my Marine friends would compete over who had the largest porn collection.  Promiscuity, rampant, to include orgies.  I was living chastely, which made dating extremely difficult.  I had at least 3 roommates who had either been sexually abused or raped.  They were all acting out their pain in a promiscuous and risky manner.  I tried to help where I could.  I had a roommate who had slept with enough men to fill a platoon.  That is over 40 men.  She was deeply hurting.  I still pray for her.  There were women who had been with so many guys in one weekend they did not know who the father of their child was.  These women are someone’s daughter and need our love and help.
In the last 15 years, at least 5 women have confided in me that they were assaulted or sexually abused.  That is what I know of.  I suspect more, but have not asked.  I wait for them to come to me. These women believed that it was normal for men to use them and that hook ups were okay, healthy even.  They were miserable.  Binge drinking was also common place.  I thank God that the few times I binge drank that someone kept me safe from harm.  I had good friends.
Our culture has put it in men’s and women’s minds that sex is required in dating, or even a given.  I have had countless men tell me that I needed to put out.  I didn’t and made it through the Navy unscathed.  I did not cave until I was 26 and lived with a boyfriend.  The biggest regret of my life.  Thankfully God is merciful, loving, and forgiving.  I am vehemently opposed to cohabitation because of my own experiences, and my understanding of marriage.
What is my point?  My point is that the culture at large wants the hearts and minds of our children.  The pressure to engage in sexual activity, even risky sexual activity is immense.  Sex ed classes are touting sexual freedom as liberating and bringing happiness.  All I have seen is pain and despair.  Have you taught your children the Church’s beautiful teaching on human sexuality: the Truth? Are you talking to your kids about this?  Are you monitoring what your kids read or do on the Internet? 50 Shades of Grey is going through high schools like wildfire. It is pornography and normalizes S&M.  Men are looking at pornography, even violent pornography, at staggering rates.  Have you spoken to your sons and daughters about porn? This is dangerous for both sexes, but especially women.  It can create violent men.  In fact, almost all violent offenders report being addicted to violent pornography.  Do you monitor what shows your children watch?  Shows like How I Met Your Mother glamorize promiscuity and the abuse of women.  Our children see this and start to believe that they should live this way too.  After all, everyone else is doing it.  Most shows these days believe that teenagers having sex is a given.  This should horrify parents.  Shut these shows off and show your kids real love.
I feel am very passionate about this if you cannot tell.  Not just because of my own mistakes, but because of what I have witnessed.  These threats are very real, whether you live in a rural area, suburbs, or a city.  Talk to your children.  Be open!  The antidote to a culture that has gone mad is Theology of the Body.  Check it out.  Arm yourself with the weapons of Truth and Joy that is in Christ Jesus.
To bring a Culture of Life to the world, we must first bring it to our own families, starting with our children.
Please take the time to read my letter to our daughters here and share it.  I will write a letter to sons very soon.
Dear Daughters (the iPad would not let me hyperlink) https://swimmingthedepths.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/dear-daughters-a-letter-to-girls-teens-and-young-women-in-their-dating-years/
Theology of the Body: http://www.tobinstitute.org

Dear Daughters: A Letter to Girls, Teens, and Young Women in Their Dating Years

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*A note to moms and dads: Some of this may be hard to read or understand, but this is the reality of what our daughters are facing. Things have changed drastically since we were teens.

Dear Daughters,

  You are beautiful.  Every single one of you.  You are created in the image and likeness of God.  You were made to be loved and to love others.  You have every right to be truly loved.  Our society will tell you things that are not true.  Our society will push you to do things that you do not want to do.  Our society will tell you how women are to act.  Our society will tell you how women are just like men.  This is a lie.  Yes, men and women are equal, but they are not the same.  You do not have to be a man and you should not try to make men into women.
You might be a young girl, teenager, or an adult when you stumble upon this writing.  It is meant for all daughters, but I wanted to directly speak to teens and young women who are dating.  You will get a lot of information in your short life about how you are to act, to be, and what to do.  You will be told that certain behaviors are normal and expected.  You probably heard a lot of this in your sex ed classes or other classes.  So here are a few things I want you to know.  I am a daughter.  I have been hurt by the lies.  I also have a daughter. All women deserve respect and love:
*You do not have to have sex.
*Waiting to have sex until you are married is best for you and your future husband.
*No man should expect sex from you. A man who loves you will wait for you.
*Your peers should never pressure you to have sex.
*Teen pregnancy is not “normal”. If it happens there are plenty of centers that will help you.  Planned Parenthood is not one of them. Abortion is not the answer.
*Casual sex hurts women. It hurts men too, but they are less likely to recognize it.
*It is NOT acceptable for boys and men to look at pornography. If he will not stop, then he does not deserve you and you need to move on.  You need to discuss this with your boyfriend.  He may be doing it and you do not know it.
*It is  NOT acceptable for women to look at pornography or read pornographic novels like 50 Shades of Grey.  S&M is not normal and it should not be read in a novel that portrays it as normal.  It is unhealthy, destructive, and uses people as objects.  Pornography is not just pictures and movies, it includes novels.
*No man should expect you to act like a porn star.
*No man has a right to hit you or abuse you in other ways.
*It is always the right thing to do to get help in abusive situations.  You have a right to safety, love, and justice.  If the first person you talk to will not help you, tell someone else.  Keep going until someone will help you.  Never give up.  You are worth it!!!!  The first girl I met who was being beaten up by her track star boyfriend was when I was 15.  It starts early.
*Rape is never right or acceptable.  Get help!  You deserve healing and peace.
*Abuse from family members is never right.  Get help! Talk to someone, regardless of how it impacts your family.  You deserve safety.
*Cheating (you or him) is not acceptable behavior.  Love requires devotion and loyalty.
*It is right for a woman to desire marriage, regardless of what our culture tells you. (Men want marriage too)
*Sexual promiscuity is never the answer. It only leads to pain and self-hatred. You deserve a partner who loves you for you and does not use you as an object.
*Never live with a man before you are married.  A man who will not put a ring on your finger, but will live with you, is not fully devoted to you.  Cohabitations end in break ups way more often than they do in marriages.  You deserve MARRIAGE!
*Women and men should never use drugs.  Stay away from drugs!  You have so much more to offer this world.
*Binge drinking is dangerous. It puts you in vulnerable situations that you may not be able to get out of.  Enjoying a couple of drinks is fine.  Binge drinking is not.  Regardless of what our culture tells you, you are not physically stronger than your average male.  You also do not have the physical capability of keeping as much alcohol down as a male.  Alcohol poisoning hits a lot earlier for women.  You have a long life ahead of you.  Don’t endanger yourself to fit in.
*It is a good thing to desire feminine things: motherhood, marriage, love, comfort, security, etc.  You can also desire a career and success in the workplace.  God created us as female.  The gifts we have to offer the world stem from the beauty of our femininity.  You were not created to be a man.
*Motherhood is the most important job.  It comes first. It comes before a career (you can still have one, just prioritize).  Shaping human beings is a tremendous gift, it is hard, but joy-filled.  Children help make us better and less selfish people.  It is a good thing to desire children.  It is natural.  When we do not prioritize our children, they are hurt and become resentful.  Children need their parents, even if they say the opposite.
*No one should expect you to go on birth control and that includes doctors.
*Material possessions are not more important than having a family.
*You deserve a man who works hard for you and wants to provide for his family.  Slackers need not apply.
*Not all forms of feminism are good.  In fact, the majority these days will bring you heartache and misery because they fly in the face of who you really are designed to be.
*Take a lot of what you learn about feminism and politics in school with a grain of salt. Ignore snide comments about religion.  Read and educate yourself on these topics from a variety of sources.  Learning does not end after school.
*Remember that you are so loved that God came to earth as a man and died for you.  You are worth dying for.  No matter what you have done.  Jesus Christ forgives all sins and he gives us the grace to overcome sin.  Ignore the people who mock you for this belief.  They, like you, crave love, but have not found it.
*God needs to be priority in your relationship.  Religion becomes huge in marriage.  Marrying across religions and even denominations can add stress to a marriage.  Really consider your faith before you get married.
This list is not meant to be a condemnation.  Rather, it is to show you that you are worth more than what the outside world would tell you.  Doing these things will help you find happiness and love.  You are worth so much more than what our culture would have you believe.  You are talented, unique, smart, beautiful, and gifted.  You have unique gifts to give to the world.  You deserve a man who truly understands what it is to love, and he deserves a woman who truly understands what it is to love.  God created you in His image.  That makes you beautiful beyond compare.  May God bless you on your journey.

*There will be a letter to sons coming very soon.