Tuesday, June 25, 2019
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Grant Light, Tuesday’s Prayer for Sisters and Nuns

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For the nuns and sisters suffering in the many war-torn lands of our world, we pray this prayer written by Thomas Merton:

“Grant light, grant strength and patience to all who work for peace. But grant us above all to see that our ways are not necessarily your ways, that we cannot fully penetrate the mystery of your designs and that the very storm of power now raging on this earth reveals your hidden will and your inscrutable decision.

Grant us to see your face in the lightning of this cosmic storm, O God of holiness, merciful to men. Grant us to seek peace where it is truly found. In your will, O God, is our peace. Amen.”

Image by Pexels at pixabay.com.

 



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When Did We Flip? A Plea for Love & Reason When LGBT+ is a Catholic Family’s Reality – Riparians at the Gate + Jennifer Fitz

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When Did We Flip? A Plea for Love & Reason When LGBT+ is a Catholic Family’s Reality – Riparians at the Gate + Jennifer Fitz


Editor’s Note: This essay is an anonymous contribution from a faithfully Catholic parent struggling with the giant black hole in the Pride Month Social Wars that gapes where sanity ought to reside.  The author asked to be completely anonymous, but this person is a friend I respect immensely, whose long and complex experience is worthy of your consideration. -JF

I can’t wait for this month to be over.

When did we flip? When did Pride month become something other than a just reaction to deadly harassment that led to the Stonewall riots, that defiant protest that all people have human dignity? When did Pride parades become a subculture’s visible face that allowed and even lifted up a public, campy hypersexual acting out? Where, at least sometimes, children were widely applauded for dressing in drag? (Mind you, this in a wider culture where only 10 years ago, we were outraged that little girls were forced to dress provocatively by big box retail selections.) When did these new Pride parades become a local event where people everywhere said “c’mon, and bring the kids!”?

When did we flip? When did we move from people saying rightly “he’s my son and I may not understand or agree, but I love him,” an honest and loving response that honors the dignity of all involved and the bonds of family….when did that change to a deluge of older folks having their own “coming out” this month, saying “my adult children are gay, or lesbian, or bi, or transgender, and anyone who disagrees can shut up and go to hell”? (I saw this three times in one week.) Yes, I hold the Catholic position that acting on same sex attractions sexually is wrong, although I wouldn’t dream of holding forth on that with everyone I know. I may share that if invited to, or possibly with others with whom I am in a close relationship. But this “flip” I’ve found this month is as vocally hostile and vicious, even much more so, than anything I have seen from the other side. I know LGBT+ folks have died as victims of prejudice, and suffered every form of harassment leading up to that. But I spent two decades of my life in an extremely LGBT+ friendly environment in a deeply fundamentalist Christian part of the country, with many friends who identified as LGBT+, and I rarely saw anything as widely or openly hostile as this.

When did we flip? When did love and friendship demand interpersonal agreement on this issue? When did human rights demand an ideological assent? When did friends begin worrying that teaching the Catholic position on sexuality in a Catholic educational institution as kindly and gently as possible would get one reported to a human rights board? When did sexual ethics move from the realm of revelation, natural law, prayer, and conscience to simple mob rule?

When did we flip? When did a majority of the people of the Catholic Church, hierarchy and laity, decide to give up on this issue? Because very few are saying anything akin to a nuanced distinction between inherently good human dignity, a neutral stance toward sexual orientation, and right and wrong sexual activity defined by intent and purpose. We’re losing most of a generation (or two) because they do not agree with the Catholic position on sexual activity reserved for marriage between a man and a woman, Instead, they see all things LGBT+ as a new civil rights movement. And of course, there is a partial truth here–we are called to defend all basic human rights (life, food, shelter, decent work, education). When people who identify as LGBT+ lose those human rights, we must fight that loss.

But something has happened here that goes beyond the real need for defending human rights. Many are buying the line—indeed, the hook, the line, and the sinker–that a life without sexual intimacy is not a life worth living. That human dignity can be won or lost, gained or dismissed, through sexual performance or lack of it. Some of what we’ve seen the past five years goes beyond Kinsey’s wildest and twisted imagination.

Seriously, when did we flip? Was it at Obergefell? Was it when we had a rainbow projected on the White House? Was it when Will and Grace made everyone laugh? When courts began closing religiously affiliated adoption centers? Was it when we had a sexual abuse crisis in our own Church and tiptoed around the homosexual abuse? Maybe, drip by drip by drip by drip, combined with friends who are gay, family who are lesbian, and more…we just wanted the ongoing struggle to define sexuality rightly to end by folding our cards and saying, “I can’t do this anymore”?

For a movement that argues it is all about love, there sure seems to be a whole lot of hate going on this month. Yes, on both sides–historians in the future will not look on this decade kindly as any model of civility. But all over the place this month I have increasingly seen a movement whose motto is “love is love.” And too many turn that phrase as, of all things, a rallying cry to shut out and shut down those who ask “but what is love anyway?”

As I said, I basically lived the ally life for two decades, from the beginning of the AIDS crisis until around 2005. Most of my friends for many years were LGBT+, and people I both loved and love. I went to a graduate school that was a bit of a hotbed of LGBT+ activism. I was thrilled I would have LGBT+ friends who would be like uncles and aunts to my own kids, when I had them. I read Judith Butler. I read John O’Neill. I went with gay friends to their bars. And I thought the Catholic Church would eventually come around to seeing that there was nothing wrong with homosexual unions. So many things were changing, like the use of contraception–surely this would as well?

But then a number of things happened. I read Theology of the Body and thought, to my surprise, hmm…that’s actually quite beautiful. I read Humanae Vitae and thought, to my surprise, hmm…that makes logical sense. I married and had a baby—and realizing that our love actually could result in a new human being had a bigger material and spiritual impact on our marriage than I expected. The first ultrasound of my firstborn still counts as one of the most unexpectedly profound spiritual moments of my life.

Later, I practiced contraception for about a year—and for something that was “no big deal” according to everyone else, I was quite unhappy. Then, simultaneously, the experiences of my LGBT+ friends from graduate school began to show signs of wear. I had a friendship with a gay man where he betrayed my friendship badly, which caused me to step back from being so involved in the ally life. Another friend who suddenly identified as bi realized, after coming out of a major depression, she was happier with her ex-husband (and rejoined him). All my other LGBT+ friends broke up with their long term partners. (Did some of my straight friends do the same? Sure. Did ALL of them? No. I realize this is anecdotal, but I am simply sharing my experience here.) Finally, I met a priest who I got to know quite well, who dealt with same sex attraction, but was chaste, and found a way to affirm church teaching as a wellspring of truth that led his challenges into a call to holiness.

It dawned on me that choosing chastity–regardless of sexual orientation–and being genuinely joyful was possible. It also dawned on me that given what I had seen, the people conforming with Church teaching (or at least trying to) were in general much happier and content people. So while I got to this place in a backwards manner–I have come to hold the fullness of the Lord’s teaching, communicated through the Church, on matters of sexual identity and expression. Perhaps I should have gotten there through obedience, a generous listening to the teaching of the Church. But by God’s grace, I did get there. God got me there.

So I look at every pro-Pride advertising campaign, every Facebook post, every virtue-signal tweet, every rainbow flag on my street, every “Love your neighbor—no exceptions” yard sign with a mixture of emotions. The most positive reactions are askance—because I see in a lot of people where I was years ago, wanting to support friends and family with or without reservations. And some of the civil rights issues are real. The persecution of LGBT+ people in many regions of the world is undeniable and sometimes brutal and deadly. This must be denounced and fought on human dignity grounds in the most full-throated manner possible.

But my most negative reaction is horror, because one of my children, a child I love so much I would die for him or her, says he/she is bisexual. And while he/she is Catholic, and seriously so, this child also sees no one—literally almost no one—encouraging him/her to lead a chaste life, showing him/her it can be possible, fruitful, holy, even…happy. At one level, he/she wants to hear this. He/she needs a mentor. But he/she cannot even claim the LGBT+ label without a flood of people demanding him/her to come out and join a movement that, at least in some corners, foments increasing bloodlust for anyone daring to step in and ask “but…what is love?” A movement that flipped somewhere to badly misunderstanding what human dignity is, and where it comes from.

So help me, I have found myself in a place where I can argue that this sexual activity is intrinsically disordered, and even if he/she simply does not understand that it is wrong, it has a real and negative impact on a person’s spiritual life: a living “out of order” that may be well-intentioned, but which acts as a barrier to full communication with God. I don’t question anyone’s good intentions. I question whether the act matches their intentions, and if the act doesn’t hurt a person more than they may realize. After all, this isn’t me saying this. It is God, through his scriptures and through natural law theory. And salvation may not be a fashionable word these days, but it is the heart of what Christianity is about. I worry that our silence as a Church refuses people the narrow (but walkable) path that leads to salvation.

It seems that no one in the Catholic Church in America knows the pain of watching a teenaged child stepping on stones through a whirling river moral lava. No one seems to know of my child’s struggle to chart a path that leads to true freedom this month. Or, much more damnably, doesn’t care.

Once this month ends, could we step back from the mob roar and actually talk about what it means to live out what is right and what is wrong? How to love through disagreement? How guaranteeing human rights doesn’t include forcing a state-regulated ideology? Could we stop brandishing rainbow colored social media swords and admit this is a bit more complicated than “whose side are you on?” Or if we have to choose a side, let’s call it the side for human dignity that is rooted first and foremost in being sons and daughters of the Father?

I can’t wait for this month to be over. But I suspect the reckoning is for more than 30 days.
–anonymous

ps. I prefer to own what I write by signing it. But this essay is anonymous for the sake of my child, and giving him/her space to make decisions based on faith and experience. I have an advanced degree in theology, so if your first thought is “if he/she only knew the right biblical interpretation of x,y,z etc., or truly understand natural law”–trust me, I’ve read it all, thanks.

Rainbow photo by Wing-Chi Poon, courtesy of Wikimedia CC 2.5



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Prayer Power – Marge Steinhage Fenelon

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Prayer Power – Marge Steinhage Fenelon


I receive so many requests for prayers on a regular basis! The need for prayer is so great – so many are suffering in so many ways! Then there are those who are seeking direction and hope in their lives. And then, there are those with grateful hearts who wish to offer prayers of thanksgiving. They all come to me asking for prayers. Of course, I gladly pray for them, entrust them and their petitions to our Blessed Mother Mary,  and encourage them to pray for others who are in need.

Because this has become so popular, I’ve decided to include it in a weekly blog post called “Prayer Power,” this being the first. Enter your request in the comment section below. If you prefer, send it to me privately using my Prayer Request form. Either way, I promise to include you in my prayers. In turn, I ask that you pray for others who have shared their prayer requests with me. Great things happen when people pray for and with one another.

That’s Prayer Power.

I look forward to hearing from you, and to the miracles big and small that will happen because of our mutual prayers!



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Who Knows?

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Who Knows?



 

I think that today just might be the first time I will find a way to convince you.

For years, you mistook my complaints for lack of affection. But I was never really upset with you.

It’s just my nature.

Yes, there were many nights that I kept you awake. The middle of the night has always been a time when I finally feel safe enough to release some of the anxiety that’s built up during the day.

And the times when I lashed out out you – seemingly for no reason and right when we were enjoying some peace together – well, that too is just part of who I am. I think you may get that after all of these years together.

Know that I’ve always respected you. For your kindness, your firmness, your willingness to sacrifice for me. I am grateful for all you’ve done. And on some level, I really do think I can grow to love you as much as you love me. Just give it some time.

But I hope that you won’t try to reach out to me right now. At least not until I tell you that it’s ok. And even then I reserve the right to suddenly reject you.

For now, let me just seat here beside you.

Who knows, I may not really be ignoring you after all?

Signed,

The Cat

Peace

Copyright 2019

Image Credit: Pixabay

 



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Sacred Ground – Grace Pending

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Sacred Ground – Grace Pending


 

Looking out through my backyard window this early summer morning – sitting at my kitchen table, sipping some warmed over Starbucks coffee from my favorite Boston souvenir travel mug – I unexpectedly began to understand something about my place here.

Like the space separating the trees that were seeded long before I was born and the saplings that were planted just last week, I am permanently wedged between generations.

I’ve never been one to overestimate the importance of my brief time here. There’ll surely be no lasting consequence to anything I will ever personally accomplish no matter how well played. And nothing that I will ever fail to do will exactly influence the historical record either.

But it’s as a connector, a bridge between the old and the new, where some lasting value fully reveals itself. That space, the fertile ground we occupy between old and new, can easily sustain growth while generating new, indestructible wisdom – but only if we can first learn to absorb and synthesize whatever has come before us.

It’s not necessary that we understand all of it, or even that we derive any personal value from it. Our role is in the timing – knowing when to pass it on. Otherwise, the space we occupy is little more than some back burned ground where perplexed bystanders are content simply to stand around, ready only to snuff out every wildfire heading our way. But not every fire need be extinguished.

I believe there is much sacred ground between generations.

And that it’s our job to stand firmly within that space as we hand off humanity’s continually unfolding testimony from one occupier to the next.

Sacred ground.

Peace

Copyright 2019

Image Credit: Pixabay

 



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Letters from Armorica- The Cumbrian Advance (13 April 35 AF) – Zymurgia House

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Letters from Armorica- The Cumbrian Advance (13 April 35 AF) – Zymurgia House


First Letter

Dear Journal,

Such news!

I received a letter from my cousin Jack yesterday; it came with our first large delivery of goods from Mont-Havre since the first snowfalls. He has come to Armorica and plans to visit us—news enough, surely—but the real news came with the letter and not in it. Cumbria has claimed sovereignty over Armorica!

Indeed, this is why Jack is here. His Majesty’s government has sent a fellow named Lord Dorcaster to be his “governor-general” in Mont-Havre. According to Guy, the wagoneer who delivered our goods, His Lordship addressed the Grand Parlement on his arrival and told them that Cumbria has no interest in Armorica’s internal affairs, but only wishes to preserve her from Provençese tyranny.

“And this you may believe if you choose,” said Guy, spitting on the ground by his wagon. But he admitted that Lord Dorcaster had made no attempt to claim the former Provençese governor’s palace (now the home of what passes for the Armorican government). Rather, His Lordship had rented a house nearby for himself and his entourage.

“And what sort of entourage has he brought with him?”

Guy shrugged massively. “Just a squad of soldiers and a few servants,” he said. “And his family, too,” he said, shaking his head.

I sent Luc inside with the sack of letters for Amelie to sort, and then Luc, Guy, and I unloaded the goods into our sadly cramped storeroom.

“What are these?” said Guy, jerking his head at the shelf after shelf of warming blocks.

“A mistake,” I said. “These boxes should go over here.”

It was only after Guy had left that I found I had a letter from Jack and got more of the story.

It seems that Cumbria has Le Maréchal on the run! His troops have been driven out of Andaluse and Malague; more, His Majesty’s government has made common cause with certain groups inside of Provençe, and with their help and connivance His Majesty’s army is even now approaching Toulouse.

Jack had a bit to say about Lord Dorcaster, whose full title is Dorcaster of Avilona. He was raised to the House of Lords only a few months ago, as a reward for particular gallantry during the seige of Avilona in Malague; his quick action saved the battle and led indirectly to the Cumbria victory in that country. Prior to his exaltation he was but a captain of infantry, and Jack was his first lieutenant. Now he has brought Jack along as his right-hand man. So much for giving Jack a place to stay!

I mentioned to Amelie last night that as the weather was improving, it would soon be time to find Jacques and Madame Truc a home of their own. Jack would be coming soon, and we needed a room for him.

Non!” she said, much to my surprise. “I will not hear of it.” I looked at her in surprise, and she took my head between her hands, drew me close, and kissed me. “Non, we shall simply have to expand our house. For our children need les grand-parents, n’est-ce-pas? And where else shall we get them?”

I thought of what it would be like, per impossible, to have my father living with us in one house, or indeed in one country, and shivered. “Not from Cumbria, not if I have anything to say about it,” I said. And then her words registered. “Wait. You said, children?”

Oui,” she said, and blushed. “And if I am to run the shop…”

I kissed her in return. “Yes,” I said, “You are right. And perhaps we shall need to get Jean-Paul in to help you.” And in truth I am glad, for Madame and Jacques have been very good to me, and I have often noted how they dote on little Anne-Marie.

And I am to be a father again!

I wonder how the Grand Parlement took Lord Dorcaster’s address? Guy didn’t know. I’ve heard little from M. Suprenant these past months, due to the weather. I hope I shall be hearing from him soon.

Next letter

____
photo credit: diocrio Ruinas de un molino en el Adaja via photopin (license)



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Just A Little More – Grace Pending

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Just A Little More – Grace Pending


 

Carry on they say.

As if nothing at all matters. As if all that happened began with one anxious dream.

But sometimes the ground beneath us trembles far too much. When every step guarantees a fall. It’s difficult to brace your legs while your mind is untethered, unsteady, unsure.

Just a little more they say.

A little more time, a little more effort. And surely, just a little more focus on others. It’s solid, practical, reasonable advice of course. And if I could absorb it, learn from it, embrace it, you know that I would.

As Jacob once wrestled, so too must I. And I will also find a way, even though I limp. Perhaps especially so.

But first today, let me sleep.

Just a little more.

Peace

Copyright 2019

Image Credit: Pixabay

 



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Leaves – Grace Pending

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Leaves – Grace Pending


 

Drinking in the wet summer, the trees around my house are thriving.

Spring may now have come to a full stop, but preparation for what lies ahead continues. Each robust breath in concedes to a more labored breath out. And today’s peak greens will soon abandon themselves to tomorrow’s reds, and yellows, and the irresistible coming breach.

But the fall will always remain my favorite. Time enough to savor the beauty of the day, and wisdom enough to appreciate the comfort of the night. And even stripped of all cover, I can still find winter’s harsh indifference to be more amusing than frightening. Much like the trees around my house.

So today, I’ll just enjoy the endless rain. But I’m still going to keep an eye on those trees.

Peace

Copyright 2019

Image Credit: Pixabay

 



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Polarities, Thursday’s Prayer for Priests

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Polarities, Thursday’s Prayer for Priests


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Thou Art a Priest Forever
~ Fr. J.B. Henri Lacordaire, OP

To live in the midst of the world with no desire for its pleasure…
To be a member of every family yet belonging to none…

To share all sufferings; to penetrate all secrets; to heal all wounds…
To daily go from men to God to offer Him their petitions…

To return from God to men to offer them His hope…
To have a heart of fire for charity and a heart of bronze for chastity…
To bless and be blest forever.

O God, what a life, and it is yours, O Priest of Jesus Christ!

From Pope’s World Wide Prayer Network 

Image by Stefan Schweihofer at pixabay.com.

 



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Three Easy Steps to Stop Brooding and Start Forgiving – Marge Steinhage Fenelon

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Three Easy Steps to Stop Brooding and Start Forgiving – Marge Steinhage Fenelon


Image: Marge Fenelon

You want to forgive, but you just can’t stop brooding about the wrong that’s been done to you. The fact that the other person isn’t one bit sorry makes things even worse. Here are three easy (yes easy) steps to stop brooding and start forgiving.

Here is Part II of my Forgiveness podcast. Listen, enjoy, and share!



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