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

Monday, December 31, 2012

Why is the Generation of “Tolerance” so Complacent to Religious Persecution?

If you are following current events, especially those involving Hobby Lobby and the lack of public outcry over the injustice of their predicament, it would be a fair assessment to suppose that, never in the course of all our schooling, was my generation ever exposed to 'tolerance' and 'anti-bullying' education.   In fact, the opposite is true.

To all the Gen X’ers and Y’ers out there: didn’t we all read the Diary of Anne Frank, or Night by Elie Wiesel, which detail what happens when a religion is demonized by the government and almost totally annihilated from existence?

If so, then why, when religious persecution begins to crop up in our own backyard, do we not even protest?

And why do I get the un-funny feeling that, not unlike the townspeople of Aushwitz who cheerfully sat sipping lemonade on their porches while the smoke stacks of the death camp daily bellowed black ash above their rooftops, our generation will be characterized as distractedly updating their Facebook statuses while the fate of the First Amendment is similarly and tragically ignored.

Sadly, a day at the office for many.
It should be a worrying thing to any rational person when those presently in their 20s and 30s, who were the population most indoctrinated with phrases like,  “Bad things happen when good men do nothing,” and  “Become the change you wish to happen,” are also the most ostentatiously mute when their own government tries to force its people violate their religious beliefs.

Hm. Methinks the ‘lessons’ we were taught in school never took – or they just took on the same tone of superficiality and commercialization that characterizes our age.

How else could it happen that an imposed healthcare system arises where every employer of faith must choose between not offering healthcare to their employees or funding abortion inducing drugs – a decision, which historically, has never befallen any freely worshiping individual in our nation?

Martyrdom: always been a spectator sport, apparently.

The most popular argument one hears in favor of the HHS mandate is this: Religious employers can't "force" their beliefs upon their employees. What those who hold to this argument don't see, is that now the government is imposing its beliefs upon privately enterprising employers who wish to operate their businesses (and their whole lives) in accordance with the tenets of their faith.

The government’s message is simple: the religion of the state trumps yours.  Since what the Obama administration dogmatically believes regarding healthcare is widely held amongst individuals than your religion's tenets (because popularity has always been religion's aim) then you must violate your beliefs to publicly uphold the state's beliefs. 

If that isn't blatant infringement of the practice of religious freedom, I don't know what is.

It begs the question of why now?  Did the administration know that there are few of us remaining, would become indignant at their actions?

It used to be that anyone with a backbone could be trusted to call out bullying when they saw it.  Now, it seems, that so long as our medical bills are covered, all is well and good.  

To a point, I sympathize with the silence of so many.  There is a feeling of, "What can I do?" in the face of such unprecedented evil.  That and my generation is poor, very poor.  Because most of our parents aren’t going to retire, ever, we don't want to jeopardize our chance to take the handouts the government is willing to give us, since we don't have a way of becoming sufficient for ourselves.

Also, why “become the change we want see to happen,” when we can now all run out now and get our tubes tied or our urethra severed for free?  Apparently, that's the pinnacle of everyone's middle age, as my husband and I are now learning from most of our peers. 

We no longer need to become those proverbial “good people” who speak up when bad things happen because the media is not going to report all that dreary bad stuff anyway, and, heck, most of us probably even voted in the guy doing all the persecuting.

So, sorry, persecuted religious people, you’re on your own in this fight.

Along the way, my generation had to pick its battles, and it seems we’ve chosen to save our own necks and stay silent while those who are being unjustly treated are silently lead to martyrdom by the state who is trying to forcibly excise their right to practice their beliefs in the secular sphere.

Instead of reacting, here we sit comfortably, while it all occurs, sipping our Moscato in our apartments, while the ashes of the first amendment rise above our heads.  Just like every other do-nothing-about-it generation of people who allowed evil to rule and themselves to be ruled by evil.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

To My Daughter, I Hope I Can Still Hold Your Hand at 18 (And You Will Still Hold Mine at 80)

Author’s note: I wrote this post before the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy.  It has taken on a new sentimental significance since then.

As she grows up, my firstborn is hitting her milestones at lightning speed.

And I don’t like it.

On the one hand, her unfolding maturity and blooming language acquisition is a wonder to witness.  On the other, it’s utterly terrifying and makes me slightly sad.

My baby is growing up, and I can’t stop it. I don’t want to stop it, but I can’t believe it’s here.

She’s almost five and about to enter kindergarten.  In a few months, we will welcome our third child to the family.  Maybe it’s this impending reality that has me reminiscing back to my first pregnancy and thinking of my first most especially.

I can’t help but think of my eldest baby in a special way as the one I’ve lived the longest with.  She’s my proverbial “first pancake” child, the one I’ve made most of most of my mothering mistakes on.  The one whose forgiveness I will probably need more than any of the others.

She’s the one most like me in sheer stubborn will, but most unlike me in her general interests.  She’s a dress and skirt preferring, princess-loving, daddy adoring, lego-building and cake baking little math whiz.  I was none of those.  Not even close.

Yet I know her so intimately, and, if I’m being very honest, she knows me just as thoroughly.  It’s an amazing mystery, the bonding that takes place between mother and daughter.  We know how the other ticks.  And when she does little impressions of me (especially when she’s ‘disciplining’ her little brother, it’s scary just how accurate her imitation actually is).

Where will she and I be in 13 years, when she is 18 years old?  Or what about the next 50 years, when I am 80.  Well, I know where I hope to be, and what I still hope we do.  And if I had to make a list now for her, based on all of our experiences together so far, it would read something like this:

To my four-year-old daughter; when you are eighteen, I still hope you let me hold your hand – yes, in public (and I pray you will continue to hold mine when I am eighty and crippled).

Hopefully we will still bake together for family birthdays and holidays and look at pictures of baked goods in books and on the internet.  Maybe Cake Boss’s grandkids will be running the family business by then.

I hope I can still cook you steak (and that you never stop asking me to make it for you).

I hope you will always adore your father (I know it sure helps me to do so, wink) and are patient with your mother – and visa versa.

I hope you always want to share the big decisions in your life with me.  This week it was deciding to share your dessert with your brother.  Who you will marry, where you wish to travel to, and the projects you love the most – I hope I can be there to witness them all (and there’s an extra ticket for mom if you’re going someplace tropical or ancient).

I hope that one day you too will know what it is like to have a daughter.  To brush her hair while she squirms, to find her raiding your makeup, to walk in just as she’s flushed your pearl necklace down the toilet.  And I hope you know what it is to watch a pint-sized version of yourself scarily remind you of all the ways you struggled as a child.

I hope that, despite all of my mistakes, you still are proud to call me your mother. That you see how hard I tried in between those unfortunate blunders and that you come to love the person who, at the end of the day, was learning just like you were. 

I hope you still retain a little of an English accent – for daddy’s sake.

I pray that we will always forgive each other.

Lastly, I hope your gift of Faith grows and cements you more firmly to God’s will for you.  I don’t know what Our Heavenly Father wishes for you yet, but I’d love to be there in some way as often as I can.

And if you are a mommy one day, I hope you remember to call me and invite me to mass with you and the grandkids– that way I can encourage when you have to take your daughter outside a million times, knowing that she does outgrow it.

And really, they all outgrow it far too soon.

Dear baby girl, you are my first and will always know me at my best and worst.  Hopefully, the bests are what you remember most.  That I was there for every ballet class and every math problem, as well as every sign of the cross you made before meals and bed.

I hope I am made worthier of your love with every passing year, and that you can always find a way to love this mama of yours, who will never outgrow her role, ever.

All my love, signed the one making you steak again tonight.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Tragedy In Connecticut

For my next writing deadline, I'm writing a post formatted as a letter to my daughter Abigail.

She's almost five.

Most of the children who died in yesterday's massacre in Connecticut were just a year older.

I can't imagine the grief of those parents.

Further, I'm struggling to comprehend how such a great evil could take place.

Every life is precious, from the moment of conception and beyond.  Until we recognize this as a culture, there will be more massacres.

We're already in the midst of the largest running assault on the most innocent among us.

So pray for those families, for the souls of the deceased and for the soul of our nation.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, let the perpetual light shine upon them, may they rest in peace.  Amen.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Regretting your Marriage Doesn’t Mean it was a Mistake

Right now, like millions of other married couples, you may be suffering in what you consider to be a tough marriage.

First, take heart! There is good news about perseverance through these difficult times.  Featured recently on the National Organization for Marriage’s Facebook page is the following, hopeful quote:

"In studies of 700 miserable, ready-to-split spouses, researchers found that 2/3 of those who stayed married were happy five years later. They toughed out some of the most difficult problems a couple could face... What was their strategy? A mix of stubborn commitment, a willingness to work together on issues, and a healthy lowering of expectations." -featured in Prevention Magazine (from Marriage Missions International)

I can personally relate to this quote.  In the past, I have regretted my marriage many times (especially during those moments where the bitter cup tasted down right poisonous).  But, even in those dark moments, I’ve come to realize, it didn’t necessarily mean that my marriage was a mistake.  What am I getting at?

First, let me be clear, that God never intends a bad marriage.  We do that ourselves.  Living a good, fruitful marriage is entirely possible and the Church gives the surest way of achieving this such as abstaining from premarital sex and being open to children (neither of which is easy to do, mind you). 

Sometimes (most of the time) though, life still happens.  Things still happen. Our fallen nature still happens. But human beings are also capable of redemption and that’s what I’m getting at.

During our first years together, I struggled daily against believing that my marriage was some sort of critical error and that God had duped me into undertaking a path too difficult for any human being.

But this was only a temptation and one that is very prevalent today.  Why so?

Just look around.  Missing from the current media frenzied over-glorification marriage is the unending mileage of forgiveness required for its harmony.   Instead it is depicted as a romantic, cozy adventure for the benefit of the spouses alone.  

But, boy, when do people do marry, then what happens? 

They quickly encounter the universal difficulties that have always plagued marriages such as breakdowns in communication, conflict, and difficulty raising children.  No wonder so many people call it quits, thinking it was a mistake!  It looks and feels and tastes like nothing they expected!
But again, take heart if you’ve found yourself in the boat of those who have contemplated ‘ending things.’ Yes you may feel regret over you marriage, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it was mistake.  In fact you may discover, as I and so many have, that my perseverance through my marital difficulties has added to me.

For instance, I am far less judgmental of people in general.  I get it now.  I’m not perfect – neither is my spouse.  What was I thinking all those years that I felt “we” could do no wrong together? Our particular rough “patch,” lasted almost two years – and to be honest, we’re still trying to get things right. 

Believe it or not, some of the most saintly couples currently walk this earth have been there.  They have endured addiction, adultery, abuse, depression…sometimes all at once.  And many have walked the healing path and come out victorious.

Why mention all of this?  Because I’ve learned that marriage, more than anything else, is a path to sanctification. As a vocation, married life will cleanse your heart and exercise your faith muscles in an almost inhumane regimen of sacrifice and death to self ad-nauseum – and that’s if you’re doing it right!

I used to think of being married as some sort of security blanket.  Now I see it as a journey I travel everyday, arming myself through prayer and the sacraments to face it’s sometimes blistering conditions.  Christ’s own example shows us that the way to Heaven is the cross and marriage is not impervious to this reality. 

 But what about happiness?

Here God surprised me.  When I finally abandoned the notion that I had made a mistake in marrying my husband, and started to focus on doing God’s will alone, things got better. I was suddenly happy. And I finally came to see that the marriage I so often regretted was not necessarily a mistake. In fact, it really is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t immediate marital bliss or anything, I have grown up from that young college girl clutching on to her, high, unrealistic ideals which in the end, only hurt me and my opinion of my husband.

Certainly the world says suffering within marriage is pointless, and that it’s best to discard it if things aren’t working.  Barring abusive circumstances, we Catholics know better. The saints, who suffered far more than any of us, show us the ultimate reward for undertaking our crosses: peace of heart, and heaven.

God has proven time and again, in even the most broken of circumstances, when His mercy is applied, they become light for the world.    He does have a plan for married people who are hurting and we are capable of being the saints we are all called to be. We need only seek it in all confidence and love.

I’m writing to reassure you that searching for God’s will in the midst of your painful marriage is possible; that perseverance is worth it and that you will be the more peaceful person for doing so.  In the end, you cannot fix another person, you can only change yourself.

(And please, get real marriage help!  Retrouvaille ministries is one such resource. We recommend them.  Also Marriage Ministries.  See link above.)