Catholic Exchange: Christmas-The Light in the Darkness

During Advent every year I try to imagine what it was like for the people of Israel as they waited for the fulfillment of the promises to Abraham, David, and the prophets. We live in a time after the Paschal Mystery, but we do still wait for Christ in the Second Coming. We approach Christmas each year knowing that Christ has come and He is reigning over the universe. We live in the light of the Son of God who became a baby, died a prophet’s death on the Cross, and rose from the dead.

The Israelites lived for centuries suffering exile, persecution, and darkness. As in our own Fallen lives, much of what they suffered was self-inflicted because of sin, but God repeatedly comes to their aid and our aid despite the battle we wage against the darkness in our own hearts. God never forgets us, nor ceases to forgive us when we come to Him with contrite hearts. Christ is the light of the world, or as Lumen Gentiumbegins: “Christ came to be the light to the nations (LG 1).”

The Solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord is the time we celebrate the fulfillment of God’s plan to bring light to a Fallen world. As C.S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity:

Enemy-occupied territory — that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.

Christmas is the stealthy landing behind enemy lines in which God condescends Himself to become a babe in a manger in order to bring about the salvation of the world. He descends into the utter darkness, weakness, and helplessness of the human condition so that He may shed a great light upon us and draw us into friendship with Him. This is accomplished in the most unexpected way imaginable!

There is little doubt as we look at the world around us that we live in Enemy territory. The news is a constant barrage of violence, injustice, disease, natural disasters, and suffering. Every single day people suffer immensely. In truth, the greatest suffering and tragedy to befall each one of us is sin. From a material perspective this doesn’t seem to be the case, but in truth it is spiritual wounds that cause the most damage to us and our relationships. Christ tells us: “There is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the darkness will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed on the housetops. I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body but after that can do no more (Luke 12:2-4).” Sin is what we do in darkness, but all will be brought into the light of God. It is this darkness that Our Lord seeks to free us from by His divine light.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.

The Annunciation: A Brief Theological Look

Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord. It is a great feast day which celebrates the salvific mystery of Our Lord taking on human flesh through Mary’s fiat, but also her profound role in the Kingdom of God. The Annunciation is the beginning of the fulfillment of all that God promised in the redemption of mankind.

In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

Luke 1:26-38

Volumes have been written over the theological and spiritual dimensions of the Annunciation. Today we will examine three theological components that can be found in this passage of Luke. The first will be the obvious aspects of Mariology present which are directly tied to the second topic which will be a brief look at the Christology on display, and finally, the Ecclesiology which can be seen in Mary’s response to Saint Gabriel. We will examine these topics briefly.

Read the rest at Catholic Exchange.

Living as a Resurrection People

It is now the Octave of Easter. We will celebrate Easter Sunday for eight days and the Easter season for fifty days. It is Easter, not Christmas, which are the highest, holiest, and most important days of the year. Without the Resurrection and the Paschal Mystery of Our Lord there would be no Church and there would be no Christians. Jesus would have been a failed religious leader with some interesting insights, but he would still be in the tomb and we would still be in the darkness of sin and death without the Resurrection. As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI put it in the second part of his book on Jesus Christ, “The Christian faith stands or falls with the truth of the testimony that Christ is risen from the dead.” It is precisely those people who deny the Resurrection and look to Jesus as some kind of guru who have completely lost the mystery and truth of the Christian message. The Resurrection is everything for the Christian, without it we would be nothing.

Only if Jesus is risen has anything really new occurred that changes the world and the situation of mankind. Then he becomes the criterion on which we can rely. For then God has truly revealed himself.

Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection, 242.

During this Easter season we should meditate on this great mystery and truth of our Faith. Do we truly believe that Jesus Christ, who gave himself in total love and obedience to the Father for us, rose from the dead? Christ asks us this question over and over again throughout our lives as we make choices and battle along the path to holiness. Do we testify that Jesus is Lord? Is he the Lord of our lives? The entire Easter season is about us celebrating that Jesus is risen and is the Lord of all.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.

Television: Art vs the Obscene and the Catholic Answer, Part I

watching-tv

I have found that one of the things we Catholics do not like to think about is what we watch on television or read in novels. In fact, when I have discussed this with friends and shared my own struggles, I usually encounter a great deal of push back. We don’t like to be reminded that our choices in the Christian life expand even to our choices in entertainment. I want to consider these choices and the dangers of much of what is on television or in novels these days, and why Catholics must guard themselves in a culture that would lead us astray with glee. In this post I want to focus on gratuitous and graphic sex in television shows, especially on Premium channels on cable. In the second part of the series I will focus on the glorification of violence and how we can discern if what we are watching glorifies violence and leads us to engage in voyeurism.

A few years ago the show Scandal came out on ABC. I enjoy political intrigue and started to watch it. I really should have known better as the premise of the show rests in an adulterous affair with the President of the United States, but no, I was slow to acknowledge the sick feeling I felt after watching the show. It took me a season to realize why my conscience was telling me to stop watching it. It is graphically violent, focuses on adultery as romantic, and most of all, had absolutely no objective good in it. Not a single character possessed the good. There was no hero or heroine. Every single character was objectively evil on some level. It’s quite shocking really, since much of Western culture is still driven by the idea of good overcoming evil. That being said, no one should watch a show with no redeeming value and that glorifies sin. Adultery is objectively evil and destroys the people involved. I should not watch a show that glorifies and tries to paint over this reality. I finally decided to stop watching it and I didn’t miss it.

Why does the good matter, even on television? It matters because we are a people of redemption. We understand the pit that sin leads to and the ever present destruction of mankind, but we know that evil has been overcome by Jesus Christ. Evil does not win and evil is never good, no matter what our culture tries to tell us. Many television shows draw people in and they don’t realize they are watching a show that only depicts evil and no good. Evil can easily be wrapped up in a glamorous package. Why shouldn’t I watch adultery, “gay marriage”, the protection of evil and morally reprehensible behavior? I don’t do those things. Well, the problem is that these shows can dull our sense of what is morally correct. This has been apparent with the Catholic dissent on the nature of authentic marriage. We see enough “gay marriages” on television and somehow that becomes acceptable. Divorce is a foregone conclusion in our culture. Hollywood is our Magisterium, rather than Rome. We start to second guess ourselves and our faith. We begin to embrace the all consuming nihilism of our age that tells us this is it. All that awaits us is oblivion, nothingness. Make the most of it, even if it means using people and then discarding them as garbage when we are done. This philosophy is diametrically opposed to the message of the Gospel. What we ingest has a direct impact on our soul. Through our viewing we tell Hollywood that the garbage they are producing is acceptable. We help with the ratings.

Yesterday, I watched a thread on Facebook related to Game of Thrones that caused me some concern. The amount of justification for watching a show with graphic sex and violence is a problem in the Catholic world. I noticed this when thousands of practicing Catholics claimed that 50 Shades of Grey was acceptable reading, when in fact it is pornography, violent pornography. First, graphic sex scenes are not “art” no matter how we much we want to justify our choices. Pornography is not art, it is the obscene. Art is to bring human beings to the good and the true. The same goes for over-the-top sex scenes that are essentially pornographic. We just tell ourselves that it is not pornography because it is on HBO and Starz not a porn channel or Cinemax. That’s just us engaging in mental gymnastics so that we can hold onto a particular vice.

I will give you an example from my own life that is quite recent. Someone had told me that I should check out the show Outlander on Starz because I like British dramas. Mind you I have not read the novels. I watched the first episode which has multiple graphic marital sex scenes in it. Marital sex is a beautiful and holy thing, but we don’t need to watch graphic scenes that incite us to lust in order to understand this point. The show gets worse from there, not to mention that regardless of time period adultery is adultery. I should have shut it off. My conscience told me to shut it off. The struggle with lust told me to turn it off, but I didn’t. Instead I had to hang my head in shame and drag myself back to the Confessional. In full disclosure, this is not a sin that I have struggled with a lot. I have shared the two most recent experiences and they are spread out by years, but I am married and I have a lot of male friends. I know that this is a serious struggle for some people, which is why I am writing. When I did get to Confession, my Confessor said that in actuality there is not much good on television and that he sticks to soccer in order to avoid the lust that our society invites us to in a great deal of shows. He’s Scottish, so the soccer reference is understandable. My Confessor did not encourage me to watch these shows, in fact, he did the opposite. He told me to steer clear of them.

I am not suggesting Puritanism. There is a great deal of art in which the body is shown in its full beautiful nude display throughout human history, but there is a difference between showing the beauty and sacredness of human beings and graphic sex scenes that move us to lust. Sex is holy. Sex is fun and meant to be enjoyed. It is not meant to be profaned. Even sexual sin can be demonstrated without a move into the pornographic.

One of my favorite novels, and its movie adaptions, is Evelyn Waugh’s, Brideshead Revisted. No one could accuse Waugh of Purtianism. The novel is rife with hedonism to include adultery, lust, homosexual acts, and alcoholism. The difference is that Waugh is not pointing to those things as good. He is showing how in our brokenness and darkness, God is always working for our salvation. In both movie adaptions, the one with Jeremy Irons and the shorter one with Matthew Goode, this hedonism is on display in all of its forms, but without appealing to the graphic. One scene in the Matthew Goode version shows that adultery can even be committed with most of the characters’ clothes on.

Many people trying to defend their Catholicism and their graphic television choices try to appeal to art or history. I even saw someone try to claim Scripture’s sexual sins and graphic violence as justification. This is merely a cognitive dissonance for something that we know to be wrong. Scripture demonstrates the depravity of mankind in light of God’s salvation. There’s a major difference between Scripture and Game of Thrones where sexuality is used for illicit reasons and that is all. Television shows can be true to the deprivation of humanity without resorting to lust filled sex scenes. But, in reality, these shows are glorifying hedonism, not pointing to the brokenness of sexual sin. Let’s at least be honest. These shows are not interested in redemption. So that argument is false and being used to justify sin. If you don’t believe me, then take it to your parish priest. Tell them exactly what you have been watching, including graphic sex scenes and gruesome violence. See what they say. It’s probably not going to be what you want to hear, but it will be what you need to hear.

Catholic art has always given an authentic portrayal of the human person, but in light of Revelation. We have a real opportunity here to move Hollywood to provide actual art. We need to stop supporting trash and force them to provide us with the beautiful and the ugly in a proper light. If you are a Catholic who has struggled with watching shows like this, then go to Confession. Trust me, the priests have heard it all. I had to go Confess this very sin of lust recently. I allowed myself to get sucked into the lie and I lied to myself in the process. I am married. I know that sex is beautiful, so why on earth am I ok with counterfeits on television? Why am I ok with watching our culture destroy one of the great gifts that God has given us? I would encourage you to seriously consider what you are watching or reading. Ask yourself, is this strengthening my soul? Does this help me grow closer to Christ? Will this help me become a saint? Does this serve the mission? Chances are, the answer will be no.  When that happens, pray for the grace to abandon those shows and books. It might be hard for a week or two, but eventually, you will forget all about them. The reality is that the closer we draw to Christ the less we want to have anything to do with counterfeits. God bless.

My First Ever Short Story-A Very Rough Draft-Lacks Punctuation for Dialogue

Hello!  My name is Alexandra.  Most people call me Alex or Alexis, but I prefer Alexandra.  No one really cares to ask me my preference, so I gave up on correcting people long ago.  I want to tell you my story.  I have heard my whole life that I am worthless and that my mom should have done away with me.  The woman, whom all I can do is thank for giving me life, since that is all that she ever gave me.  All I know of my father is that he was one of many in a long line of affairs.  I am not even sure if the man’s name on my birth certificate is real. “David Miller” may as well be “John Doe” as far as I am concerned.

For whatever reason my mother decided to carry me to term, in a world where doing away with me would have been easy.  She gave birth to me in some alley in SW Washington DC.  She had been high at the time.  An older homeless woman found me lying in the snow.  My mother had left a trail of blood as the only remaining evidence of her existence, in what would be her last appearance in my life.  She survived, only to overdose 10 years later.
The old homeless woman dropped me off with some sisters who would feed her hot meals a few times a week.  Unfortunately, the sisters could not keep me.  As happens with most homeless children in this country, I was placed with Child Protective Services.  I passed from foster home to foster home; 23 in all before the age of 13.
That last home did a number on me.  It was where I lived the longest.  There were four other foster kids in the home with me: two boys and two girls.  The boys were 16 and 11 and the girls were 8 and 6.  The foster parents were raging alcoholics who also dabbled in various drugs; meth being their favorite.  Occasionally they would leave leftover meth lying around, when they were too high to know the difference.  That is when, Chad, the 16 year old taught me about the power of meth, and eventually, he taught me about sex.  Neither seemed like a big deal.  Why not get high and have sex?  They told us that it was natural at school and the school nurse had gotten me on the Pill when I was 11.  She said I would have sex sooner or later anyway.  I guess she was right.  Eventually, Chad turned 18 and wound up in prison for jacking our “parents’s” car.  That was the end of him in the story, but drugs and anonymous sex would dominate the next 8 years of my life.
At 15 I got tired of living with my foster parents and ran away.  I lived on the streets. I had to avoid shelters because I did not want CPS to find me.  They caught up with me a couple of times when I got arrested for shoplifting.  I usually stole food and beer.
I had a few relationships, the longest being with my dealer.  He used me as a mule for his political clientele.  He told me that I was pretty enough and willing to do favors when necessary.  Why not just get paid for sex too?  Let’s just say, I know which Congressmen like young redheads.  Occasionally I got an expensive meal and a night in a luxurious hotel.  It beat sleeping in Bobby’s dingy apartment.
Bobby finally took up with some 18 year old and kicked me out.  I was back to living on the streets.  I was 23, homeless, and had fully turned to prostitution to make my living.  My rich clients stayed with Bobby so I was back to sleeping on the cold, hard cement and eating only when I had some money.
One spring evening I was wandering through a college campus.  I thought that I would blend in, not realizing the state I was in.  I must have looked pretty bad because an older man wearing all black, except for white at his collar, gave me a sandwich, 20 bucks, and a business card with an address of a nearby shelter.  He then ran off towards an enormous cathedral with a blue dome.  The Church was lit up and people were hurrying in.  I wondered what people were doing there at 8pm on a Saturday evening?  It was warm enough to sleep outside in the open, so I found a place to sleep in a nearby cemetery.  It was one of my frequent sleeping places during the warmer months.  I would sneak in and hide until they locked the gates.
I spent the next few months in a booze and drug induced haze.  I walked the streets in search of clients.  I never had any problem finding one: young men, middle aged, even older men.  All lonely and lost in their lust.  I gave them what they wanted and they gave me what I wanted.  We then discarded one another and went onto the next.
One night the tragedy that had been my life up until that point, came crashing down.  It was autumn.  The nights were starting to get colder.  The shelter I usually stayed at was full for the night, and I would never make it to the nearest one before they locked up for the night.  I honestly do not remember too much about that night.  I was too messed up to know the difference.  I don’t remember where those two men came from.  I barely remember them taking turns on top of me.  When they had had their fun, they left and I curled up in a ball along an alley.  I heard church bells chime in the distance as I passed out for a few hours.
Days passed by in a blur.  I never really thought about what had happened.  I figured that was normal.  That is all men need me for anyway.  Why not take whatever they want and leave?  I continued on my usual path.
One night in December, I hit rock bottom.  Yeah, the actual bottom.  I had scored a sandwich, of all things, and was just about to eat it when out of nowhere someone knocked me to the ground.  They kicked and punched me.  When I could not fight back anymore they took my sandwich and ran.  These things happen when you live on the streets.  It’s called survival of the fittest.
So, there I was lying in the snow, yet again.  I was unconscious as snow flakes fell softly on my lifeless body.  The only softness I had really known.  I came to for a split second to see billows of white and black cloth blowing in the wind.  Black shoes and running.  And, then, I slept.
I awoke in terror.  Pain and deep depraved ache had taken over my body.  I screamed out as two women held me down.  The agony was unending.  The terror, soul shattering.  I tried to claw my way out of the bed.  I heard one woman say that this would be the worst of it.  The other asked if it would be good for the baby.  Baby?
Days passed by until I awoke one bright and sunny January morning.  Sitting in a chair across the room from me was the most beautiful man that I had ever seen.  He was holding a leather bound book and his head was bent low.  He was mumbling to himself.  He wore all white, and a black cape like object hung over the back of his seat.  He was probably about 30, with a strong square jaw.  He had dark black hair and the lightest blue eyes I had ever seen.  He had a strong, but gentle voice.  His eyes were full of light and serenity.  A peace and joy that I had never seen before.
He closed his book and looked up at me with a radiant smile.  I immediately wondered what he wanted from me and I put my guard up.  They always want something from me.  He introduced himself as Father Gabriel Moore.  Father, I thought.  Who goes by Father?  You did not think that there were people in DC who had never met a priest before, or had dealings with a Catholic, or the Church.  Let’s just say, we don’t run in the same circles.
He then told me that he had found me unconscious in the snow on his way to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.  Given the state I was in, he wanted to get me help without also getting me arrested.  He called a woman from a local parish who was a nurse, and a former addict.  She had nurtured me through detox.  Her name was Mary New, and her daughter, Theresa, had also been there helping me.  He then said that he had to leave, but that he would be back frequently to check on me.
Later that week Mary came to see me so that we could talk about what had happened.  I had a headache, my back hurt, and I felt fat.  Mary asked if I knew who the father was. The father?, I asked.  Of your baby?, she said.  It was then that I realized with horror that I was pregnant.  I spiraled into panic and confusion.  She tried to comfort me, but I just screamed for her to get out.  All I could think about was how I had no money, no job, at least not a licit one.  I could not have a baby!  The father could be any number of guys.  Then it hit me.  The deep crushing realization.  That night in October came back to me in a haze.  I had been without my birth control for a few days.  I was going to the health department the next day.  One of those two men was the father.  One of them.  I curled up into a ball and rocked myself to sleep.  Eventually a restless sleep enveloped me.
I did not speak for days.  Mary brought me food and checked on me regularly.  I laid in bed mulling over my options.  Father Gabriel came to visit me daily.  Whenever he entered the room, this warmth and safety would wrap around me. I would blush and shy away.  But, as I got to know him my confidence grew.
As I got stronger, I started to think about what I should do about the baby.  The other girls on the street found ways to get abortions.  I was sure that I could figure it out.  This seemed like my best option.  I just cannot have a baby!  I have no way to care for them.  I don’t even have a place to live.  I told Mary of my plans.  At first, she was silent.  She asked me if I was sure and I said yes. Teresa came in and sat down with us.  Mary then told me about her days as an addict and her three abortions.  She had run out of an abortion clinic, half doped up, when she decided to keep Theresa.  A group of sisters in the area had helped her and she converted to Catholicism.  It saved my life, she said.
I told her that I did not need anyone to tell me what to do.  She smiled and she and Theresa left to make us lunch.  They continued to feed and shelter me.  I thought about her words.  I had even taken a walk to the closest abortion clinic.  My belly now obvious for all to see.
I did not want my child to have the miserable life I had.  It was better to kill them.  After all, my foster parents had repeatedly told me that my mom should have aborted me when she had the chance.  But, I never could bring myself to walk into that clinic.  I saw groggy women leave with their boyfriends.  At least they had someone to support them, I thought.
One spring day, as I was out for a walk, I heard church bells.  They sounded vaguely familiar.  I walked down the street a couple of blocks, until I stood before a stone building with a cross on top of a steeple.  For some inexplicable reason, I felt the urge to go inside.  As I opened the door, my eyes were met with darkness.  As my eyes adjusted, I walked into the empty sanctuary.  It was silent.  A silence so deafening that I did not know how to deal with it at first.  The light poured through stained glass windows.  The golden rays warming abandoned pews.  A single red candle burned next to a large, ornate golden box.  It was beautiful.  I ran my hands along the smooth, cold marble pillars.  A faint scent of incense hung in the air.  A statue to the right of the altar was of the most beautiful woman I had ever seen.  She held a small child, who looked down at me.  He was holding up two fingers.
I sat down in one of the pews.  It creaked and groaned.  I sat there for a good while.  I enjoyed the quiet, warmth, and peace of that place.  I was happy, until for no reason that I could understand, fear grabbed hold of my heart.  I could not breathe.  I had to get out of there as quickly as possible.  I ran out, nearly knocking the parish priest over in the process.  He asked me if I was alright, but I ran out into the street to breathe in the city air.
I did not belong in there.  Me?!  I do not belong in such beautiful places.  I belong in the gutters, not among beauty.  That woman, whomever she was, was the exact opposite of me.  That child was hers.  The one that I carry cannot be mine.  This child will go to some family.  If I cannot kill it, then at least it will go to someone who as an actual home.  I will risk them ending up like me.
The next day Father came to see me.  He would go for walks with me sometimes.  I was getting quite big, but still needed the exercise.  I greatly enjoyed our time together and I felt things for him that I had never felt for a  man before.  It confused and excited me.
I had learned a bit about his life.  He explained some of it to me, but he was patient in his explanations of the Church.  What he talked about intrigued me, but deep down I knew that I was unworthy of such a life.  What I knew, was that I loved him.  And finally on one of our walks I could not contain it, and I kissed him.  He gently grabbed my wrists and sat me down on a nearby bench.  I protested.  He then told me about his vow of celibacy.  Celibacy?!  You mean there are men who actually can give up sex?  But, I love you.  He told me that he loved me too, as a great friend and sister.  Isn’t that what every woman wants to hear?  He then asked me to walk a couple of blocks with him if I could.
We ended up standing in front of the stone building that I had run away from.  We walked inside.  Silence.  Deep silence.  He led me to the front of the church.  He pointed up at cross with a man hanging from it.  It was strange in its beauty and power.  He then said that you are not in love with me.  You are in love with Him.  For you see, my life is His.  He dwells in me.  I was hurt and confused.  He then told me that he had left a gift for me with Mary and he would come see me in a few weeks when the baby was born.  He left.  I felt utterly abandoned.  Another man leaves.  I did not understand.
When I got back to the house, I found a gift bag on my bed.  Mary had gone to work at the hospital.  Inside were two leather bound books.  One was smaller and said The Gospels on it.  On the inside it said, “Start here, Father”.  The other book was a beautiful Bible, my first.  I placed it in a drawer and began to read from Matthew.
I read all of the Gospels in one sitting.  I read with awe, confusion, wonder, and a very deep skepticism.  What does Jesus of Nazareth have to do with me?  What does that man on the Cross have to do with the likes of me?  This is the 21st Century.
Weeks went by.  I kept reading over and over again those words that bewildered me and gave me something like hope.  But, I still did not understand.  Then the agony of labor hit.  Mary got me to the hospital.  I labored for hours.  I wanted to give up.  I was ready for the baby to be with someone else.  Finally, a brand new scream broke out into the world.  I was stunned and exhausted.  The nurses worked to clean her up.  Tears streamed down my face without my realizing it.  And out of nowhere I asked to hold her.  As they placed her in my arms, the most amazing thing happened.  I felt love.  I knew love. I chose love.  A love unlike anything I had ever known.  I had the deepest gratitude that I had ever experienced.  I instantly loved this stranger.  It was then that I knew I could not give her up.  I could not let her go.  And I haven’t.
My understanding of what Father was trying to tell me was slow going.  I felt hurt and unwanted.  I was exhausted from the duties of being a new mother.  He came to see me a couple of weeks after the baby was born.  I had named her Hope because that is what she gave me.  He encouraged me to continue reading the Gospels and told me to consider attending a Mass.  I was unsure.
I finally agreed to go and I sat in the very back pew holding hope.  She slept.  I felt self-conscious and guilt ridden.  Once again my whole life told me that I should not be there. I spent most of Mass fighting the urge to flee. Then, the strangest thing happened.  The priest said the words of what I now know is the consecration.  I had read the Gospels over and over again for months trying to see how they applied to me.  Then it hit me.  Jesus is here now.  He told me so in John. He is calling to me. Me?! Me. A nobody.  A former prostitute, drug addict, throwaway.  My whole like I had not known love or compassion.  Or so I had thought.  Then I remembered: the nuns who had saved me as a baby, the church bells, the older priest at the campus, Father Gabriel, Mary, Theresa, and now Hope.  That was Love on the altar.  He had been calling me all along.  This nobody, was somebody to the Creator of the Universe.
Being a mother has not been easy, but it has saved my life.  Choosing to abandon my old ways and follow Christ is a daily struggle, but it is the only struggle worth making.  My life, by the world’s standards, should have ended with my mother killing me.  I lived in emptiness, loneliness, and forsakenness for most of my life.  I used people and they used me.  I was raped, beaten, a prostitute, and a junkie.  But that is all over now.  I am a new creation.
So, was my life worth living?  Even knowing the pain and despair that I endured?  No life is beyond salvation.  No life is not worth living.