punchy line

...and he (Simon Peter) saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth ... not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. - Jn 20: 6-7
-Jn 20: 6-7

Friday, September 30, 2011

Patrons of (Insert Household Catastrophe Here)

Who says saints shouldn't be appealed to for everyday household concerns?  After all, the Church has a patron saint for almost everything: bee-keeping, charcoal burning (Fourth of July patronage?) even eczema.

But, alas, some ‘gaps’ exist in its list of causes; holes, if you will, like those found in tattered curtains that have shredded from prolonged sunlight exposure, or the termite munched consistency of a fence or window pane, the universally telling sign of a nice, expensive-to-fix infestation.

What I’m trying to say is: wouldn’t it be nice if there were saints synonymous with Fr. Fix-It, or Mary the Merry-Maid to whom we might appeal for an occasional domestic life miracle, where, “Bing!”  termite ridden wood and hole-y (holy?) household draperies became miraculously mended?  Or a novena to a saint for the deep-clean to take care of itself?

Hey, it could happen! God does throw us the occasional worldly reward bone, (Remember, “Holy Mary, full of grace, help me find a parking space?” If you've tried it, you know that one works!)

And since our community does extend into Eternity, and, if enough of us made a fuss, some sympathetic saints ‘up there’ might just knock on the Big Guy’s door and say, “Um, Father, Earth has another weird request,” I say we lobby for some advocates who directly intervene in household doings.

And while we're at it, why don't we hypothesize over who may be a prime candidate for patronage of select common domestic catastrophes?  You know, start discussing how a saint (or future saint) might have lived to become associated with an at-home 'cause.'

Is that too brazen?  Oh well, here goes:

Hypothetical saint #1: St. Stain-Master patron of carpet stains (you need a miracle to get rid of ‘em, after all)

How this saint might have lived:

Obviously, during their life this saint would have tried their best to avoid the stain of sin (Original, I know.  Sin, that is - ha!)  But let’s get creative.   What if this self-abnegating saint slept on a rug or carpet, which came to exude the scent of roses over time?  Or this saint could be someone with the stigmata who miraculously never left, er, “evidence” of where they stood or sat (sorry, was that a bit irreverent? I’m sorry, God.)   You get the picture, no stains anywhere, bodily or otherwise.  

#2: St. Dust the Devil-Slayer patron of deliverance from dust and lint

Spiritual combat at its most physically minute level, I say.  Perhaps a humble cloistered nun who was tasked with doing the dusting and lint-rolling her sisters’ habits which she accomplished with a smile despite her allergies? Or perhaps this role is already slotted for James Dyson, inventor of Dyson vacuum?  Either way, when this saint is invoked, dust and lint don’t stand a chance.

#3: Sta. Perpetua de Pergamentum (Latin for trash), patron of the 'perpetually needing to be emptied' trash receptacles

Okay, before writing this post I did not know that pergamentum was Latin for trash, rubbish or filth.  I guess this makes sense since our world “purge” comes from the Latin pergare.  It also casts a whole new light on Purgatory, for me.  Speaking of Purgatory…what does the life of a holy person designated as the patron of taking out the trash look like?  I say a dad.  Maybe a married couple, just in case the dad needs reminding.   Yeah, that’s all I got and that’s holy enough, as far as I’m concerned! (Or is it purgatory? Hmm….)

#4: St. Creepy Crawly, patron of spider webs in room corners

I’m picturing a Franciscan Friar for this one.  What other brand of religious could unpretentiously address the creepy crawlies that inconsiderately weave little hammocks in the corners of the room?  Of course, my entreaty to the humble friar would be along the lines of "Smash the little buggers to pieces!" In other words, the complete opposite of Francisanism.

Alright, I’ve reached the end of my ability to be humorous (if I even arrived at that at all) and I just reminded myself to remind the husband to empty the trash. 

Now it’s your turn to tell me your ideas for a patron of a household catastrophe.  What chores or states-of-disrepair in the home do you need a saint for? St. Martha, patron of servants and cooks, and of this blog, pray for us!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Time is Our Best Ally

I started my daughter in ballet about a year ago.  At that time I envisioned that our mommy-and-me class would be filled with memories of my pink ballerina and I floating across the dance studio surrounded by the frothy halo of mother-daughter bonding.

In reality, it was torture from day one.

It was like a Dr. Seuss nightmare.  She did not want to stretch.  She did not want to dance.  She did not even want to hold hands, nor smile here nor there.  She did not want to do ballet anywhere.   Any attempts at soliciting her compliance were met with screams and the hurling of her small body to the worn dance floor.

But we persevered and her instructor, who was excellent, assured me that it was normal for first-timers to act like that (if she was bending the truth for my sake, I'm still grateful.)   A year later, my little girl now loves ballet. In fact, she excels in all its technical aspects and she no longer needs mommy there to feel secure (we also stayed with that same wonderful instructor.)

What changed?  She did.  We kept at it, sure, but my greatest ally in this case was simply time.  With time, she was able to see, on her own, how fun the class was.  With time, she eventually matured enough to gather that the other kids were not going to bite her if she held their hands.  With time, her overall curiosity and reason uprooted and assuaged her anxiety and fear.   With time, (and yes, some exposure to ballet in picture books as well as cartoons) she, at some point, decided that it was better to go along with program, rather than spend her energy in protest.

But it took time.

Heck, it took time for me to come around to the fullness of the Faith too. 

As I’ve already written, I spent a good chunk of my formative years as a  ‘cradle’ Catholic assuming that I knew the Faith when, in fact, I did not.  It was only when I discovered what the Church truly taught and how reasonable those teachings were that I began to change my perspective on the issues around me.

But it did take awhile to fully assimilate all that I had been missing in my religious education.  And I’m still learning though I like to think I do know a little bit about the faith by now.

And one thing I do know is that, though Christians currently face egregious persecutions for our moral convictions, time, again, is our best ally.

Let me explain.  While our most fundamental beliefs on marriage, the dignity of the unborn human person and end of life issues currently dominate the political canopy, something beneath the willingly blind eye of the media is happening and it’s very much tied up with the march of time. 

What do I mean?  Have you ever noticed that many of our most cantankerous opponents espouse a worldview that is somewhat, er, dated? Whether its embracing the tenets of the sexual revolution, or believing that abortion is the essence of women’s liberation, time, the great equalizer, turns nice sounding ideas like free-love and the ‘right to choose’ on their heads, and exposes them for the fraudulent notions of liberty they are.   

The passage of time is going to flush out the stories of those who discovered how unfulfilling the empty promises associated with 'sexual liberty' actually are.  This will only serve to lend credence to the counter-cultural aspect of our faith that promotes abstinence, chastity, faithful covenantal unions of husbands and wives as well as openness to children.  Time is the reason we are going to win this culture war in the end.  And it makes sense as to why.

Simply, nature has this built-in component which dictates that those who engage in self-annihilating behavior, eventually become, well, annihilated.  The reverse principle is also true: they who behave in a way conducive to human flourishing (literal and figurative) tend to flourish.  Ultimately the reasonableness of the Christian perspective will be confirmed in how we fair, and yes, proliferate over time.

One, two, maybe even as many as four or five generations can subsist spiritually starved, but after awhile it starts to become pretty clear which camp is going to outlive and outnumber the other in the long run.

I’m not saying that Christians should just sit back watch the world implode.  Far from it.  We need to work for true justice like today is all we have.  The reality is, we want our opponents to abandon their slow Bataan death march into oblivion because we and Christ desire for everyone to “have life and have it in abundance” (Jn 10:10).

I think we are seeing the fruits of a faithful, evangelical Christian witness in the world already – which is why our opponents are currently reacting to us with an unprecedented venom and with a new degree of bully tactics upon religious freedom as they so desperately try to peddle the same old lies (and some new ones) in shiny trappings to younger generations.  However, their irrationality and frustration is very telling, and very easily overcome with reason.  But it takes time.

Just like my daughter eventually discovered she had everything to gain by overcoming initial fear in ballet class, I pray the same will happen in popular culture so that it abandons its recalcitrance to morality and instead embraces a doctrine of life.   It may not be in our lifetimes, or our children’s or our near future descendant's, but that’s just it: we’re going to have descendants (which is not something we can take for granted anymore!)  To them belongs the chance to form the world according to tried and true Christian ideals.  Ideals that are not fleeting but founded on truth, which shows us the way we should live, and indeed, that give us life.

"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." (MT 5:5)

Friday, September 23, 2011

What's the Most Ironic Thing You Can Witness When Praying Outiside an Abortion Mill?

It's watching abortion workers (in scrubs) bringing in a birthday cake.

Think about it.

If someone's birth is something to celebrate, then....

(Purposely ending post by leaving that one open.)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Just When You are About to Give Up

I think it was after unloading the sixth load from the washing machine and stuffing it along with the fifth one into the large spin dryer, that I realized I was having one of ‘those’ days.  You know, the kind where the fabric of dear ol’ mommy-hood is both heat and stretch tested to see how much it can stand (kind of like the laundry I was subjecting to commercial drying.)

But after a couple of minutes of watching the stuffed hedgehog’s face revolve in circles behind the thick monocle of glass before me, It happened.     That thing that always happens just as you feel you’ve reached your limit and are about to give up.

What is It?  For lack of a better word found in any language, It was God.

That day, God opened the window of grace in that laundromat in two ways.  The first was granting me the wherewithal to realize that if I didn’t retrieve the spinning hedgehog from the dryer, its soft spikes would have fried into crispy ones.  The result would have been the unintended destruction of my husband’s beloved childhood toy which was currently being enjoyed by our children.  “What happened to Hedgehog, mama?  Did you kiww him?” I could imagine my three year old daughter asking me.   Well that wasn’t going to happen, I resolved!  I may have been a casualty of that day, but by Jove, Hedgey wouldn’t be!  

So I saved the fat-headed puppet and, in a moment reminiscent of Mel Gibson in The Beaver, I stood there amongst all those nice bystanders in that public place, and began to laugh out loud.

I mean, I had a hedgehog on my hand.  In a laundromat.  After what I had been through in the last twenty four hours, it was just such a perfectly ironic end to my day. 

I was the mom who, since the night before, had been caring for a family that was battling a horrible stomach bug.  I, who was running on three hours of sleep, had managed the house, the administration of medicine, my own hygiene and I was now trying to clean the vomit drenched sheets while staring at the marble-black eyes of a puppet.   Part of me wanted to express to my fellow laundromat occupants, “No really!  I’m a mom! This is normal! I’ve got it all under control!”  But I resisted, seeing as how a woman with a puppet trying to reason with strangers probably doesn’t help her case.

So instead I sat down, already feeling a bit more lighthearted about the day.  I threw Hedgehog into the wheeley basket and checked my cell phone.

That’s when It happened for the second time, in the way of adjusting my perspective.  My friend had just announced on Facebook that she had had her baby.  “My son was born! ‘X’ lbs and ‘Y’ ounces!” “Congrats!” I posted on her wall beneath the first picture of her new one.  Just then I realized that where once were feelings of throwing in the towel (or two loads of them) and running away to the nearest Starbucks with a book for the rest of the night leaving my husband to do pajama duty for the kids, there now was humor, and joy and sense that this too shall pass.

Call it God, call it Providence, call it grace, It is what always seems to happen just as things are at their bleakest, tiredest, or most hopeless: it’s God’s built in back-scratch for those that need a moment to remember, relax and regroup.  And it can happen anywhere, in my case it was doing the laundry.

Come to think of it, maybe that’s why I named this blog the way I did.  I’ve discovered that God really is concerned with everyday life.  He’s there in every moment, even with you and your hedgehog, at a laundromat, during any given evening.

It's just like Him to do that.

Theology of laundry indeed.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Those Who 'Have Not' Give More

I could feel the tears welling up as I opened the envelope my husband handed me.

After hearing where the envelope came from, you might understand why.

My husband is a teacher and one of his middle-schoolers who has been classified as having Asperger’s wanted to celebrate his birthday in a “don’t give me presents” kind of way.  No, instead he wanted to invite people to watch The Planet of the Apes and just to have a good time.

Asperger’s, for those who are unaware, is a high functioning autism that typically emerges in the ‘tween’ years and is characterized by a child exhibiting sheer brilliance in certain academic subjects side by side a pronounced social awkwardness (which sometimes leads to trouble with their peers).  But it also turns out, as evidenced by my husband’s student, that social non-conformity can be liberating – they’re free not to care about what others think of them.  Though an Asperger’s child can struggle with feelings of failure, and become riddled with anxiety should they step outside of their familiar routines (I should mention here that I don’t know if this is the case with this particular student), if they’re in a comfortable, familiar setting they tend to thrive and become very successful, caring people.

As one of my education professors used to say, “They’re the millionaires who work in the tech industry because they can sit and code for hours!”  In other words, many grow up to have the dream incomes the rest of us wish we could have.

And yet, they start off by not having the social advantages of their peers.

But as this student showed, those who 'have not' tend to give more.

So to celebrate his birthday, this student preferred to give to others instead.  His gift to his class (or rather, his mom’s present to him) was to go out and purchase everyone a movie ticket and to give them money for popcorn.  And they decided to include, in an instance of unfathomable generosity, a pair of tickets for both my husband and I which they placed in an envelope. My husband carried it home and then related a snippet of this student's story to me so that I could understand a bit about who was giving us the chance to see a matinee on a Saturday.

If you picked up on the fact that I only wrote “the mom’s present,” it’s because this student also ‘does without’ in another way: his father passed away only a couple of years ago.   

When my husband told me this, I really had to break out the Kleenex box. 

But, it’s just a movie and popcorn, right? 

No, it ‘s more than that.  It’s the graciousness coming from someone who ‘does without,’ compared with many others his own age who function normally (whatever that means – I know I don’t even do this most days) and have both parents living.  It’s his mom’s willingness to foster this virtue of kindness within her son; yes, with financial means, but the investment she’s making, I’m betting, will make a deposit directly into his character and faith.  And, by extension, into mine and all those inspired by generosity on the part of a very young man who didn’t have to be so aboundingly thoughtful at his own party but decided to be anyway.  I mean, seriously, what middle schooler does that? Or 'mature' adult for that matter?

I feel I can only end with, then, with a birthday wish.  Happy birthday, dear student!  I look forward to the movie and to meeting you in person.  May I just say that I’m sure dad is smiling on his gentle and kindhearted son for his inspiring, and somewhat tear-jerking actions!  (And as my husband said "Let’s be sure to get him an awesome gift!”)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Only 'Pro-Life' is Fully Pro-Human

“What does it mean to be a human being?”

I have a simple answer to this question which can be confirmed in any person’s daily life.

Simply, to be human is to seek to save one’s life and the life of another.    

I’m going to deal with the latter, first.

First, saving the life of another:  My son loves to scare the bejeebers out of me.  If he isn’t trying to crowd surf (without the crowd) by diving head-first off the couch, or pulling household chemicals out from under the sink, then he’s stuffing some inedible object into his mouth and then giggling as I scramble to stop him.

Instead of becoming complacent to his consistently suicidal habits, I am on red-alert most of the time, actively working to curve his I-think-I’m-Superman behavior and channel his curiosity to non-fatal objects, such as toys.

And I’ve observed that I’m not alone in seeking to preserve my child’s or anybody’s life. In fact, our most basic human instinct compels us to do so.  With regards to my children: whether we’re in public and another adult calls out to my child if they’ve disappeared around a corner, or we’re in the mall and the grown ups surrounding us take care to avoid knocking over my toddler who is absentmindedly darting through knees and couples, people always demonstrate a very human sensitivity to the vulnerable little person near them.   I have never once encountered someone willing to callously kick a child over, or ignore them if the are in danger. 

No, something triggers within us when we sense the potential for harm is imminent.  I would say this is our human instinct to be on guard, whether consciously or not, to protect life-in-general.

Second, saving your own life.  This is inextricably linked to safeguarding someone else’s life.  Think about it.  What makes us different from the magnificent wild beasts that roam the Savannah?  The difference is that we care for those among us who are wounded; we don’t treat them as broken objects and leave them to become some predator’s meal ticket.  Somehow we sense that our welfare is intimately tied up with theirs, and we begin to instinctively operate by the golden rule: we treat those in need the way we would want to be treated were we the ones injured (I think deep down, we know we all will need to be cared for at some time or another.)

If you want to put it another way, our empathy, our ability to look outside of ourselves and care for someone else is what humanizes us.  This can help us understand what Christ meant when He said, “Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” (Lk 17:33 NASB)  It’s when we turn exclusively inward to seek our identity at the expense of loving those around us that we’ve missed our own humanity because we’ve betrayed our innately human ability to care for and sacrifice for others.

Therefore it is consistently human to want to save life: your own and someone else’s.

Those in the pro-choice camp want to argue that “preserving one’s life” (at least, the outer shell of a it and all its material accouterments) requires the ‘choice’ to kill an unborn baby.  But their argument is inherently flawed because the so-called 'choice' of abortion is one whose essence contradicts the nature of the human being, who is naturally inclined to save and not eradicate life. 

Therefore, only the pro-life perspective is consistently and fully pro-human.

This stands in sharp contrast to the view of an abortion providing giant like Planned Parenthood which justifies the taking of innocent human life because they see the bringing of that life into the world as a violence.  And the same can be said for euthanasia: the pro -‘death with dignity’ camp operates under the perverse notion that we ‘impose’ life on those who are nearing its end.

This world view is the complete opposite of the pro-life, pro-human camp.   It’s anti-human because its manifesto holds that life is somehow detrimental to us.  We’re supposed to laud those that would end this burdensome gift-of-life, be it our own or someone else's.

But the pro-life movement marches on because its principles are confirmed in our inner-most being.  Deep down we seek to truly preserve our lives and to flourish – even the 'choice' of abortion grows out of this desire, though it’s a decision that inherently violates it.   And this is not only the case of abortion but to all life issues.   One needs not look much further than within the confines of their own home, at their children or in the mirror for proof.

Friday, September 9, 2011

What We Might Learn From a Dirty Window

It's the 'wash me' etched into its dusty surface, that makes you realize a window is dirty (otherwise it may never strike you that a car needs cleaning save for the most obviously muddy vehicles!).  A dirty window, I therefore submit, can teach us a bit about the importance of repentance.

No, really. Bear with me here, for a moment.

It's the disposition of Christian penitents proclaiming "Wash all of me, Lord!" (after the example of St. Peter at the Last Supper) that reminds the world that it too needs to be clean. Without this very important witness, how else would we ever sense our own 'dirt?'  We probably wouldn't and that's what makes Christianity such a stumbling block for many who don't appreciate the reminder that they sin. And yet, if they would just consider the humble example of a dirty window entreating someone to wash it, they may just change their view of repentance and even the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

What can a dirty 'wash me' window teach us, exactly?  Here's what I got (let me know if you have any further insights!):

All of us need to be clean.  Anyone who goes around assuming their soul is inherently clean without grace is soon to hit an obstacle or just a big dose of reality.  We can live in denial for awhile, until the damage we've done by driving 'blindly' becomes obvious.  Standing in line for confession can be instructive in this: it goes to show that nobody -  not the elderly, not a daily communicant, not even a consecrated nun - is immune to needing to have their consciences cleared.  It is not 'weird' to admit that we've messed up; it's far more strange to presume oneself blemish-free. Man or woman, married or single, rich or poor (but mostly poor in this economy), we all need to wipe the slate clean as often as we can.  I'm thinking confession once a month should be everyone's minimum.  Realistic? What do you think?

Asking to be 'washed,' and acknowledging one's sins humbly is the only true way ask for help.  Many people bemoan their imperfections with pride.  We all do this to some extent.  "I am so bad at doing the laundry," I say as I snigger and switch on the Netflix while the unattended laundry pile stares at me (this isn't a sin, but slothfulness to the detriment of one's family is - and no it's never gotten that bad in my house, in case you were wondering). And that's just a minor example - I've done worse, believe me.

You often hear people pridefully proclaim their flaws like mischievous school children, "Oh I'm such a meanie, that I..." "I'm so lazy that I...."  "I know I shouldn't but I..."  Admitting weaknesses this way doesn't really indicate any repentance; it's just a lot of blasé over the fact that we know we could behave a lot better than we currently are.  Although we may not intend to be prideful about our imperfections, and it may just be part of our humor to do this,  too much of it and we risk eventually dismissing more egregious sins, or occasions for it as not-as-bad after all.  Try paying more attention to this in your life; I'm convinced it's a gateway to more serious lapses of sin under the guise of being harmless chatter or 'socially permissible'  (gossip, cussing, imbibing too much alcohol, etc).  Truly, having a humble and contrite heart that seeks to remedy the negative effects of sin, is the only way to find the help we need.

Christians who go around proclaiming God's cleansing grace are a reminder that the world needs to repent. And, as I've said, it doesn't like to be reminded.  So if you do go around like a jolly dirty window fervently entreating the Lord to, "Wash me in your mercy!" be prepared to find resentful countenances disturbed at your presence.  But keep it up, I say, because, as I've said, everyone needs to be clean, and you may just be the person whose example they remember when it's their turn to seek of forgiveness.

Being washed and seeing yourself as you should be, makes it tougher to ignore newly acquired dirt.  It's a huge grace and blessing not to want to go back to being covered in sin.   It means that we've actually experienced ourselves as clean, as we were meant to be.  Now, over-scrupulosity should be avoided, but, let's face it - it feels good to be clean.  In fact, it's the best feeling in the world when you've discovered that lightheartedness of spirit that comes with following God's law! Ironically this may be one of the reasons people avoid Christianity: because they sense that once they do buy into this whole "saved" thing it will be impossible for them to go back.  But I say that if they only knew the peace (yes, there's difficulty also, but the meaningful kind) that came from purity of heart, they'd run to the nearest confessional in a heartbeat!  (Note: if your confession is going to take longer than fifteen minutes, please make an appointment at the rectory - many a poor mother towing children who grow more antsy the longer she stands in line would appreciate it!)

Here's something that I didn't know about dirty windows: that some guy transforms them into masterpieces.  Who knew?  There's an analogy here regarding how God deals with the sediment of our lives to make a case for His Mercy. In fact, it seems, the dirtier one's window, the more clearly discernible or more intricately beautiful the message!

I know this post is random, but still, if we took half as much care of our souls as our cars (how often do you wash yours?), purity would permeate the world. And then we would really see God in each other.  The next time you need reminding to go get your soul all squeaky clean, I hope you pass a dirty window bearing the humble entreaty "Wash Me!"

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

You Might Be a 'Good' Catholic If...(Redux)

They're back!  They're cornier! They're more uber-Catholic than your Polish grandmother!  They're ten ways you might be able to tell if you're a 'good' Catholic, re-vamped from a previous post!
Leave a comment if you can think of anymore!

You might be a 'good' Catholic if...

1. You hold on to devotional religious objects because you'd feel too guilty throwing them out. 
2. The acronyms JP2 and B16 get you fired up (Woot!)
3. Your family-sized Catholic van is adorned with religious or pro-life paraphenalia.
4. You catch yourself humming Church hymns in the car, at the supermarket, anywhere and everywhere!
5. You hope that Jesus 'likes' the last thing you ate before fasting for mass.
6. Your scapular is bigger and badder than an iPad.
7. You're a daily communicant (and by extension, your kids are daily communicants).
8. You treat your patron saint's feast day like a second birthday.
9. You make rosaries for fun! (Again, woot!)
10. You miss Lent once it ends.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

What Being a Cradle Catholic Means To Me (And What it Doesn’t Mean)

Since entering the blogosphere, I’ve discovered something that I did not know about ‘cradle’ Catholics and converts: that, like rivalling siblings, we often scrutinize one another under a theological microscope in the hopes of exposing the other’s flaws in a “See! You’re not as holy as we are!” kind of way.

This is all due, of course, to our mutual fallen human nature.  Pride, it seems, erupts on both sides when breaking out the 'holiness measuring tape,' whether it’s a a lifelong Catholic feeling somewhat resentful at being instructed in the Faith by a convert, or a convert suggesting that a 'cradle' Catholic's piety is only artificial or that they're lame at evangelization.

From my point of view, while some converts do know more about the tenets of Catholicism and express their faith more passionately than ‘cradles,’ it still does not detract from the latter’s sometimes inexpressible faith experience and the profundity of their witness which is lived, more often than not, in secret and in humble service of others. I can think of many such faithful Catholics entrenched admirably in the trudge-work of everyday life: they raise their children, support their parish or diocese, pray the rosary daily, try to make it to Adoration weekly etc. You can’t tell me that they are any less ‘evangelical’ in their ministry than someone more vocal and well-known. The fact that we rival is just plain ol’ silliness to me and it reminds me of the times my two kids start fighting over something that I’m offering to both of them.

As someone who was baptized as an infant into the Catholic faith, I started reflecting: what does it really mean to be a ‘cradle' Catholic,’ to me? And what doesn’t it mean? Even if someone has been a Catholic-from-the-crib, many questions remain, such as: when did they start believing what the Church teaches? Or truly begin to love Her? For ‘cradle’ Catholics, just as with everyone else, the answers to these questions vary widely.

And so here are some pointers to keep in mind about ‘cradle’ Catholics according to yours truly. My experience may be different from yours depending on which cradle you were placed in – let me know how these insights compare with yours.

‘Cradle’ does not mean ‘well catechized,’ and ‘well catechized’ does not mean constant or consistent.

Growing up, I was not well catechized. Neither were my parents, for that matter. This was the result of several factors but, suffice to say, we just didn’t get it. And we so thought we got it. In fact, countless Catholics really believe that they are being consistently Catholic even though they aren’t. Why? Mostly, I think, because of ‘false compassion,’ the kind that dictates that “God is so merciful we don’t have to follow any of the Church’s ‘rules'” which is a slippery slope to leaving the Faith altogether.

Therefore, while I can say I never left my Faith, I must also acknowledge that I didn’t really know it for a long time, and that without God’s grace, I most likely would still be ignorant of what the Church truly teaches. And therein lies the reality that might help us overcome any cradle/convert differences: if anyone stays, returns to, or converts to Catholicism it’s by the grace of God.   But, of course, we need to make ourselves available to that grace.

The truth is, even a well-catechized Catholic can abandoned their faith despite the best efforts of their parents and community around them. Some leave and discover God's love in another Christian denomination. Others are seduced by the world and attempt to sojourn without Her. While the term ‘cradle’ should not be equated with “constant" or "consistent,” I still like to think that our childhood faith does 'keep' within us and helps us to return to the Church should we fall away later.

Conversion stories inspire me, but perseverance stories tend to fill me with hope. 

I really wish that someone would pen the companion piece to Abby’ Johnson’s Unplanned. As much as I appreciate her book (and I do!) I would love to hear the other side of the coin: the perspective of those who prayed outside of her abortion clinic for years without fail, who witnessed thousands of women procuring abortions for every one child saved: that is the story I also need to read about. A 'cradle' Catholic needs to hear instances of perseverance, just as much as someone questioning or ‘on the fence’ about faith needs to read about someone's conversion. This is because ‘cradles’ also need help persevering in hope. A chronicle or snapshot of what persistent witness looks like is the kind of story that would really help me.

Sometimes I take things nonchalantly, when I should be proclaiming their glory from the rooftops.

You see that miraculous phenomenon which can save the world, would we but unite ourselves to its purifying majesty? Yeah, yeah, that’s the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Those documented appearances of Our Lady? She always does that- it's kind of her thing. What’s that behind the altar? Oh, it’s just Jesus, the Lord and Savior of the world.

You get the picture. I’m embarrassed to admit that, on occasion, I catch myself being a casual Catholic, that is, I take God’s radiating majesty nonchalantly mostly because I’ve always been bathed in it.

This is something I would call a common difficulty with ‘cradle’ Catholics: we become so used to the miracles surrounding us that we run the risk of taking it all for granted, which is worse than rejecting our faith outright: it's essence of the lukewarmness Christ warned us about in the gospel. There’s a reason why Pope Benedict recently asked forgiveness for cradle Catholics who are remiss in passing on the Faith. Simply, ‘to those to whom more is given, more is expected.’ And so, though we may be ‘small’ sinners in comparison with others, when one of us falls, I would still consider it a more serious offense. And yes, if there is one group that I would blame for many of the ailments of the world, it would be us. We’re the ones who have been given Truth itself, and it’s graver to squander Truth than any other type of inheritance (money, our bodies etc.)

“Typical 'cradle' Catholic guilt!” you may be saying, and you’re probably right, but, as I’ve just explained, there’s a good reason for it.

What helps me when I fall is Jesus whacking me upside the head with a good dose of humility, which, as a parent to young children, happens frequently. Only then, do I truly have a sense of God’s grandeur, mercy, and humor, which I then pray to be able to share with others. Yes, I have to get over that stereotypical ‘cradle’ Catholic bashfulness: evangelization is not ‘natural’ in my case. It takes grace and a lot of it!

I really would not be caught elsewhere.

“Better a single day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere” the psalmist writes. But I say, why not have a few thousand days in His courts instead? I truly would not be anywhere else but with God in His Church receiving His sacraments and Love.  Nor would I trade the difficulties that arise from following Christ with those that come with pursuing worldliness. In one case there's Mercy, and in the other, heartache for no definitive purpose whatsoever.  No thanks.  With my Father I will remain.

To me being a cradle Catholic means that one has the potential for possessing a richness of soul, character, life experience etc. that comes from persevering in faith.  But that doesn't mean converts don't have this potential also. All who attempt to follow Christ learn firsthand what it means to be “lead to where [we] would rather not go” just like our Lord informed St. Peter he would be. I personally know what it is to be thus lead out of love for Christ who asks me and all of us to “feed His sheep.” I am grateful for this because it is what we are called to do. 'Cradle' or convert, the Springtime of Evangelization is here. It’s in our hearts if we allow it to be.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Theology of Laundry Receives a Notable Mention!

And, considering the source, Jennifer Fulwiler, who is an inspiration for all bloggers, I feel honored to receive the presteeeegious "Fulwiler Award for Excellence in Making Me Waste Time on the Internet!" Check out our latest nod on Jennifer's excellent, award sweeping blog, Conversion Diary! Thanks, Jen! Link here.