Thursday, January 29, 2009

Vene Sancte Spiritus

I accept you in Jesus' name.

The diocese where I live has an annual fund drive (D/PSC), as I think many dioceses and other church bodies do. And each year it has a theme. This year's theme is "Accept one another as Christ accepted you. (Rom. 15:7)." Considering the difficulties we have been going through here with parish closings and mergings, not to mention brouhaha over stalled plans to build a Cathedral, this theme seems quite appropriate.

When I first saw the theme, it got me thinking of a song I listened to as a child, simply called Acceptance Song. I have no idea how this particular tape came into my possession or who the recording artists were, but they were some Australian (or otherwise accented-English, but not British) group of Evangelical or pentecostal persuasion. The tape sounded like it was recorded in a large church or theater-type venue, with a large congregation that occasionally joined in.

The words of the Acceptance Song were simple: "Christ accepted you/accept one another also/That you may with one accord/glorify the God and Father/ of our Lord Jesus Christ." After this was sung a few times, one of the singers says "Let's do this now... Everyone turn to one another and say this: 'I accept you in Jesus' name.'" You hear hubbub for a good couple of minutes while the music plays, and then everyone sings the song again.

It struck me as odd as a child, mostly because I couldn't imagine any setting where people would talk like this to one another. But as I saw this theme for our D/PSC this year, I couldn't help but imagine what it might be like to have everyone do this at the dinner that kicks off the drive for the year.

"I accept you in Jesus' name." What would it be like to say this to those who like to complain about homeschoolers, or the adamant Democrats, or the adamant Republicans, or the people whose musical tastes I don't care for? What would it be like to hear people say this to me? What does it mean to accept someone, and what is it that might make it challenging to accept certain people?


Monday, January 26, 2009

Contemplating Martyrdom

Lately I have been thinking about martyrdom. I'm not really sure from whence this has come into my thoughts. Perhaps it was a very vivid dream I had sometime around Christmas. I was talking with a woman whom I was going to invite to our home for a Japanese dinner. We were having a lovely chat. (The woman was no one in particular that I knew). Then I walked out of her home and fell in line with a large group of Christians who were also walking down the street. I suddenly realized, "I'm never going to have her over for dinner, am I?" And while I was filled with emotion when I thought about my children and my husband, I was also filled with a purposeful peace. It was evident that all of us were marching off to be executed for being Christians. I woke just as I saw it was going to be death by beheading.

This was a vivid dream, but it wasn't frightening. It was, I don't know... bracing I guess I would say.

I have to say I face many instances even throughout my routine day that strike me with a hint of this same kind of bracing quality. Every time I consciously stop myself from reacting as I don't want to with my children. Every time I choose to get up and do a task I'd rather put off. Every time I take courage to say something or interact instead of just giving it up. I guess it is every time grace moves me in these ordinary moments (making them really quite extraordinary.)

Then yesterday at Mass I had one of those light bulb moments where something I've known took on a completely new aura of reality for me. And that thing goes something like this: Years ago I heard Scott Hahn speak on a covenantal understanding of the sacraments and how receiving Holy Communion is akin to swearing an oath. Jesus swore His oath to the Father, and as we enter into the New Covenant in His blood, we answer with our lives, swearing an oath. (Sorry, I'm a bit rusty on the whole thing right now, but if you want to investigate the idea as he presents it there are lots of resources floating around out there to do so...) But the point of an oath is essentially to pledge one's self unto death to bind oneself to the partner in the oath. This is what Jesus did for us, and this is how we encounter Him in the sacraments.

To say it with the bluntness as it entered my mind, to receive Holy Communion is to pledge oneself to follow Jesus unto the death, by His grace.

Perhaps this sounds odd, but to me, contemplating death is a beautiful way to live. When I think of death, I see more clearly that love alone matters in living, that small material beauties are just that: small, material, and beautiful -- and as such they mirror something eternal. It is only in this way they speak of true value. Death gives perspective. Death gives courage.

(Maybe I've read too much poetry, but honestly I haven't touched Emily Dickinson in decades!)

All these little moments in my daily life that I mentioned earlier are little practice deaths. I leave behind my comfort and step by grace into God's greater way of peace.

And I realize that at each Mass the words I hear in Scripture and in an exhortation are like the words of Ignatius of Antioch, meant to impart courage to others who might at any moment face giving their ultimate sacrifice for Christ. When life depends on it, doesn't every word of the Beloved resound in our ears like beauty itself? In the Eucharistic prayer, I see my Beloved going before me, willingly giving Himself for me, and to me, and leading the way. In every Eucharistic procession, I relive something like that dream I had. Instead of being beheaded, though, I give my life to Christ in a different way that enables me to give it in every other way I face now or ever will face. The Mass is all about this miraculous place where heaven and earth intersect, where life and death morph into one glorious resurrection.

This is my contemplation.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. Psalm 23:4-6

Saturday, January 24, 2009

In God's Name

I watched an interesting DVD last night entitled "In God's Name." This National Geographic production wove together comments and events from the daily lives of 12 spiritual leaders. The documentary began with the event of 9/11 and its impact on the two filmmakers, which lead them to ask where was God when this happened. The production of this film was their quest, which they discovered afterwards was in itself a religious act, for finding that answer.

Some of the details which struck me: Neither the Chief Rabbi of Israel nor the leader of the Sunni Muslims nor of the Shia Muslims could escape commenting indirectly at least at the longstanding animosity and violence of one people against the other. All three condemned violence as in direct violation of religion. Yet all three made some allowance, politically, for its use in some circumstances.

The Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America was an interesting figure to me. I was struck by how clear it was that he had completely conformed his life to what he felt was the call of the gospel. Yet, his comments about reason being yet another powerless human tool stood in clear contrast to the comments of Pope Benedict's on the need for all things human to begin in reason and broaden to the ultimate flowering of reason, which is faith. He also spoke of how he doesn't not have the image of any quest for God, but that it is only God who seeks him.

I was particularly struck by a piece in the "bonus material," that which didn't make it into the TV production of the film, where the Bishop was addressed with the question "What is the meaning of life?" Rather than answer from his own experience of faith, he insisted that the question needed to be reworked because so many people in the world do not have the luxury to do anything but wonder where there firewood would come from so that they could make porridge for their meal. "Most people can't think about the meaning of their lives, so it isn't the right question to ask" was the gist of his response. I don't know if there is a personality similarity or if there is something in Lutheran theology that makes this kind of response sound so familiar to me. But I do think this is an example of someone making something abstract. His intentions, I could see, were pure and consistent, but not only in this question, but in others, it seemed he was trying to answer life's questions to him by looking into the needs that other people had, thereby avoiding his own need, his own response. He was deeply concerned and committed, personally, about discovering justice for "people everywhere," but his responses lacked a certain quality that struck a strange chord in me. It was not about Jesus' call to him, or a personal encounter with truth. He is at a "liberal" pole of Lutheranism, but I felt as a conservative a very similar regard not towards social justice but towards doctrinal truth. With the same piece lacking. Yes, God seeks me first, but it is because of this that I seek Him. Without my seeking God and my acknowledging that seeking, something is missing in my humanity.

The Dalai Lama and Mata Amritanandamayi, a Hindu spiritual leader, both struck me as examples of what Fr. Giussani might call those with the natural religious sense. Frankly they seemed the happiest, and the most focused simply on childlike love without all the complicated notions of reason, doctrine, or commentary on political or social issues. It was ok to them to waft away certain questions of ultimate truth and to just focus on this fleeting moment. Perhaps from that came their intensity for the fleeting moment, because it is all they had.

The Shinto priest made me chuckle to myself. Shinto is a religion of Japan whose beliefs, if any, have been pretty much lost in history. What remains are various ritual practices that represent a very basic animism and a desire for good luck. This Shinto priest had been a corporate executive when he was asked by the Emperor to care for the main shrine. It was clear that he was essentially a secular Joe with nothing remotely profound to say at all. And it's not like that matters one whit to anyone who practices Shinto! People just don't matter in that scheme.

Pope Benedict came across, unfortunately, as sort of institutional and distant, because he never gave any personal comments to the camera. All the shots of him were from otherwise public addresses, from pre-written talks. If this documentary had been conceived of after 9/11 I wonder if work had gotten underway to graft Pope John Paul II into the documentary, as it was nearly four years later that he passed away.

The President of the Southern Baptist Convention was featured, and for some reason it was hard for me to watch him without battling certain uncomfortable notions in my mind. I could feel how much he wanted this to be an opportunity to "share the gospel" in the way an Evangelical would think about it. Again, he was an example of someone completely given to the gospel as he understands it, but with him it struck me that he had a very low view of the sacramentality, if you will, of his own life and his own thoughts to have any value. While no one could doubt his sincerity I felt from him that Christ's message is something that one's essentially speaks, rather than something that transforms your very being, thereby Christians becoming "other Christs" whose very act of breathing is a sort of preaching. Don't get me wrong, I am completely all for making the gospel message explicit with words. If we lose that we risk losing everything into confusion. But there is a Eucharistic aspect that is needed when we preach. We don't just have a message, we become transformed into a message.

I wouldn't say this was highly insightful, but it was interesting.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Obama Overturns Mexico City Policy

President Obama today sign[ed] an order that will put hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars into the hands of organizations that aggressively promote abortion as a population-control tool in the developing world. The rest.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Papal Preaching and Teaching on the Baptism in the Holy Spirit

My dear pentecostal brothers and sisters in Christ! My dear Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ! My dear everyone! Here are two texts that knock my socks off.

On Pentecost Sunday, 2008, Pope Benedict told the gathered crowds "Today I would like to extend the invitation to all: let us rediscover, dear brothers and sisters, the beauty of being baptized in the Holy Spirit..." (Read the whole thing. Who says Catholicism isn't pentecostal at its Heart?)

Here, papal preacher
Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFMCap gives an amazing teaching on the baptism in the Holy Spirit as it relates to water baptism and the call to Christian maturity that baptism is. A snippet:

Here, then, is what I feel is the significance of the Baptism in the Spirit. It is God's answer to this malfunctioning that has grown up in the Christian life in the Sacrament of Baptism.

It is an accepted fact that over the last few years there has been some concern on the part of the Church, among the bishops, that the Christian sacraments, especially baptism, are being administered to people who will not make any use of them in life. As a result, it has even been suggested that baptism should not be administered unless there are some minimum guarantees that it will be cultivated and valued by the child in question. For one should not throw pearls to dogs, as Jesus said, and baptism is a pearl, because it is the fruit of the blood of Christ.

But it seems that God was concerned about this situation even before the Church was, and raised up here and there in the Church movements aimed at renewing Christian initiation in adults. The Charismatic Renewal is one of these movements and in it the principle grace is, without doubt, linked to the Baptism of the Spirit and to what comes before it.

It's effectiveness in reactivating baptism consists in this: finally man contributes his part -- namely, he makes a choice of faith, prepared in repentance that allows the work of God to set itself free and to emanate all its strength. It is as if the plug is pulled and the light is switched on. The gift of God is finally "untied" and the Spirit is allowed to flow like a fragrance in the Christian life.

In addition to the renewal of the grace of baptism, the Baptism in the Spirit is also a confirmation of one's own baptism, a deliberate "yes" to it, to its fruit and its commitments, and as such it is also similar to Confirmation too. Confirmation being the sacrament that develops, confirms, and brings to completion the work of baptism. From it, too, comes that desire for greater involvement in the apostolic and missionary dimension of the Church that is usually noted in those who receive the Baptism in the Spirit. They feel more inclined to cooperate with the building up of the Church, to put themselves at her service in various ministries both clerical and lay, to witness for Christ -- to do all those things that recall the happening of Pentecost and which are actuated in the Sacrament of Confirmation.

I have never read another human being describe so vividly my own experience!

The baptism in the Holy Spirit unleashed in the modern age has most certainly been a movement of God's desire for unity among His people. My heart shouts with Fr. Cantalamessa: "We men, and in particular we men of the Church, tend to limit God in His freedom: we tend to insist that He follows a compulsory pattern (the so called channels of grace) and we forget that God is a torrent that breaks loose and creates its own path and that the Spirit blows where and how he wants (notwithstanding the role of the teaching of the Church to discern what actually comes from the Spirit and what does not come from Him). What does the Baptism of the Spirit consist of and how does it work? In the Baptism of the Spirit there is a secret, mysterious move of God that is His way of becoming present, in a way that is different for each one because only He knows us in our inner part and how to act upon our unique personality."

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Gift and a Call

Earlier in the week I had decided I wanted to post some of what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about unity. When I posted this, I decided to type it myself rather than cut and paste from the handy dandy online source so that I could ponder it as I typed. There were quite a few things that struck me, like how I had overlooked in my earlier ponderings the fact that unity among Christians is inseparable from the unity of the Trinity, and is therefore (as Scott Hahn so firmly taught me) a family unity, a covenant unity. But one other thing that struck me was this line from the end of paragraph 820: "The desire to recover the unity of all Christians is a gift of Christ and a call of the Holy Spirit."

I am compelled to say that this is a gift and a call given to me. I almost don't see how it couldn't be, given my experience in several corners of Christendom: a confessional Lutheran, an interdenominational charismatic, a Catholic; and having been employed among Evangelicals, and friendly with more liberal Lutheran clergy types as well as a wide smattering of pentecostally-inclined believers. I don't think I could have this type of life experience and come out dispassionate about unity among Christians.

Very shortly after I received Catholic confirmation and entered the Church (about two weeks to be precise), I went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land and Rome. While in Rome, I climbed the Holy Stairs. I remembered hearing a story about these stairs, believed to be the very steps Christ climbed to Pilate's praetorium during His passion, from the life of Martin Luther. I don't recall the details of the story I was told in Sunday School, but the impression I took from it was that Luther (and all Catholics) were made, by the Catholic hierarchy, to grovel in their wretched unworthiness to exist, and this is why he (and they) went up these steps on their knees.

I was wrong, of course. The practice of walking up the steps on ones knees is out of the love and reverence and worship we wish to offer our Savior, whether his feet ever touched these actual steps or not. The fact was, he walked to his death and I love him. The Church loves him. This is why a pious practice of love developed surrounding these stairs.

But misunderstandings and misinformation do so much damage to the unity and love between Christians and lead to judgments, divisions, and the teaching of others to follow suit. This filled my mind as I climbed the stairs. At each step I prayed for separated Christians of some denomination, for healing and reconciliation. It seemed only fitting to me.

When I lived in Japan there was a sister there who was a native of French Canada. She spoke Spanish, English and Japanese fluently as well. Once she was serving as a translator between those who spoke only Spanish and those who spoke only Japanese. She said just then someone approached her speaking in English, and she had to hold her head lest she lose her balance in trying to hear them. This is how I sometimes feel when I have two emails open: one to a Catholic friend and one to an Assemblies of God friend, and I am trying to speak of the same things to both parties. How I wish sometimes I could simply attach a wire to the hearts of all these various Christians, and we would simply know and share in what each one sees clearly from the Lord.

Psalm 133

1Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!

2It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments;

3As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.

Catechism of the Catholic Church on Christian Unity

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 813-822 : (see original text for all footnotes and sources.)

"The sacred mystery of the Church's unity"

The Church is one because of her source: "the highest exemplar and source of this mystery is the unity, in the Trinity of Persons, of one God, the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit." The Church is one because of her founder: for "the Word made flesh, the prince of peace, reconciled all men to God by the cross,... restoring the unity of all in one people and one body." The Church is one because of her "soul": "It is the Holy Spirit, dwelling in those who believe and pervading and ruling over the entire Church, who brings about that wonderful communion of the faithful and joins them together so intimately in Christ that he is the principle of the Church's unity."

What an astonishing mystery! There is one Father of the universe, one Logos of the universe, and also one Holy Spirit, everywhere one and the same; there is also one virgin become mother, and I should like to call her "Church." (St. Clement of Alexandria)

From the beginning, this one Church has been marked by a great diversity which comes from both the variety of God's gifts and the diversity of those who receive them. Within the unity of the People of God, a multiplicity of peoples and cultures is gathered together. Among the Church's members, there are different gifts, offices, conditions and ways of life. "Holding a rightful place in the communion of the Church there are also particular Churches that retain their own traditions." The great richness of such diversity is not opposed to the Church's unity. Yet sin and the burden of its consequences constantly threaten the gift of unity. And so the Apostle has to exhort Christians to "maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."

What are these bonds of unity? Above all charity "binds everything together in perfect harmony." But the unity of the pilgrim Church is also assured by visible bonds of communion:
  • profession of one faith received from the Apostles;
  • common celebration of divine worship, especially of the sacraments;
  • apostolic succession through the sacrament of Holy Orders, maintaining the fraternal concord of God's family.
"The sole Church of Christ [is that] which our Savior, after his Resurrection, entrusted to Peter's pastoral care, commissioning him and the other apostles to extend and rule it... This Church, constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in (subsistit in) the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him."

The Second Vatican Council's Decree on Ecumenism explains: "For it is through Christ's Catholic Church alone, which is the universal help toward salvation, that the fullness of the means of salvation can be obtained. It was to the apostolic college alone, of which Peter is the head, that we believe that our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant, in order to establish on earth the one Body of Christ into which all those should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the people of God."

Wounds to unity

In fact, 'in this one and only Church of God from its very beginnings there arose certain rifts, which the Apostle strongly censures as damnable. But in subsequent centuries much more serious dissensions appeared and large communities became separated from full communion with the Catholic Church -- for which, often enough, men of both sides were to blame." The ruptures that would the unity of Christ's Body -- here we must distinguish heresy, apostasy and schism -- do not occur without human sin:
Where there are sins, there are also divisions, schisms, heresies, and disputes. Where there is virtue, however, there also are harmony and unity, from which arise the one heart and one soul of all believers.

"However, one cannot charge with the sin of the separation those who at present are born into these communities [that resulted from such separation] and in them are brought up in the faith of Christ, and the Catholic Church accepts them with respect and affection as brothers.... All who have been justified by faith in Baptism are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers in the Lord by the children of the Catholic Church."

"Furthermore, many elements of sanctification and of truth" are found outside the visible confines of the Catholic Church: "the written Word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, as well as visible elements." Christ's Spirit uses these Churches and ecclesial communities as means of salvation, whose power derives from the fullness of grace and truth that Christ has entrusted to the Catholic Church. All these blessings come from Christ and lead to him, and are in themselves calls to "Catholic unity."

Toward unity

"Christ bestowed unity on his Church from the beginning. This unity, we believe, subsists in the Catholic Church as something she can never lose, and we hope that it will continue to increase until the end of time." Christ always gives his Church the gift of unity, but the Church must always pray and work to maintain, reinforce and perfect the unity that Christ wills for her. This is why Jesus himself prayed at the hour of his Passion, and does not cease praying to his Father, for the unity of his disciples: "That they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be one in us, that the world may know that you have sent me." The desire to recover the unity of all Christians is a gift of Christ and a call of the Holy Spirit.

Certain things are required in order to respond adequately to this call:
  • a permanent renewal of the Church in greater fidelity to her vocation; such renewal is the driving-force of the movement toward unity;
  • conversion of heart as the faithful "try to live holier lives according to the Gospel"; for it is the unfaithfulness of the members to Christ's gift which causes divisions;
  • prayer in common, because "change of heart and holiness of life, along with public and private prayer for the unity of Christians, should be regarded as the soul of the whole ecumenical movement, and merits the name 'spiritual ecumenism';"
  • fraternal knowledge of each other;
  • ecumenical formation of the faithful and especially of priests;
  • dialogue among theologians, and meetings among Christians of the different churches and communities;
  • collaboration among Christians in various areas of service to mankind.
Concern for achieving unity "involves the whole Church, faithful and clergy alike." But we must realize "that this holy objective -- the reconciliation of all Christians in the unity of the one and holy Church of Christ -- transcends human powers and gifts." That is why we place all our hope "in the prayer of Christ for the Church, in the love of the Father for us, and in the power of the Holy Spirit."

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Unity -- Why Bother?

This post by my friend Suzanne at Come to See has been rumbling around as I'm thinking about Christian unity. In it, she writes about a certain mentality in which salvation is thought to be summarized in this way: "Love God, be good, make sure you get your sins forgiven, and then you will go to heaven when you die." What is missing from this picture? Do you feel it? There is no sense of communion, of community, of the need for others, of the need for witnesses, of the need to reach out to others. No power of the Holy Spirit. Salvation, in this estimation, becomes a solo, moralistic effort.

In Suzanne's experience she sees this as a certain kind of Catholic aberration whose formation didn't get beyond the most famous passage of the Baltimore Catechism: Q. 150. Why did God make you? A. God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next.

But what I am most reminded of is an experience I had as a child among the Buddhist friends of my best friend's family. On one occasion, a small group gathered to chant their sacred text. Someone, I don't remember if it was me or my friend or someone else, was whispering or chatting quietly in the back of the room. What I do remember is a firm and sharp "shush" from one of the chanters. This made a strong impression on me, and it came to mind as I later studied and read more about Buddhism's concern for the complete effort of the individual to enter into this pure place of harmony, peace, enlightenment. It is the greatest affront to have one's path to this enlightenment beset by some sloppy individual fumbling his humanity all over it. While these Buddhists were great friends and welcomed the lonely and supported one another in their needs, when it came down to their spiritual path, it was absolutely a solo effort to attain one's own peace. The vision: your mere humanity impedes my perfection.

When I go below the surface of this memorable "shush," I find the vast difference between Christianity and everything else. Christianity is the faith of the Incarnation. Everything that is human is taken up in Christ and is welcomed into His mission. Ours is not a call to escape the illusion of this created world for a spiritual truth that lies beyond it. Ours is a call to embrace all of the created order, and especially humanity -- especially our fellow human beings and their fumbling humanity -- with the same love of the Father that is revealed in the God-Man, Jesus Christ. The Incarnation is the way God has chosen to reveal Himself and is the principle by which He works in the universe.

One phrase that has always gotten me confused when discussing this type of spirituality (which I must say I cannot relate to personally) is labeling this a "Jesus and me" approach to faith. I understand now that people have meant "Jesus and me" as a type of escape from the real Jesus who unites us in His body. I would call this simply a "me" spirituality, or just a religiosity, a love of religious practice for the perk my work gives me. I have always understood "Jesus and me" to refer to a personal relationship with Christ, as opposed to a formalistic relationship to a cultural religious identity instead of a Person.

So, how do we possibly get a Catholicism that has this Incarnation principle carved away from it? I don't think it is ever that blunt, and few people, if anyone, set out to say "I reject the incarnational principle through which the Holy Spirit unites me with the Body of Christ, sharing one life with all who are joined together by Him. I simply am able to fulfill the Lord's desires alone, by my own effort." Rather, I think it is when we get irritated by other people, by their injustices, their inconsideration, their shortcomings, and we let unforgiveness and bitterness fester and grow, that we decide that we are really better off, we are purer Christians, we can become holier, without them. I am reminded of the Billy Joel song "My Life" ("I don't care what you say anymore, this is my life/Go ahead with your own life, and leave me alone"). This post that I came across last night gives a humorous but poignant example of how, in certain Protestant cultures at least, the religious peer pressure can be enough to drive one batty. Someone get me the oxygen!

If we look around at our fellow Christians and find nothing more but a bunch of anal sphincters, why bother seeking unity?

It's simple. Jesus wills it. We need to back up and own our need to repent of bitterness and forgive hurts and injustices. There's a little principle Romans 2:1 that essentially says when we pass judgment on others we ourselves do the same things. So if I see only sphinctery type folks around me and find myself resisting communion with them, I might examine how I am acting this very way to others. It is the fiery love of God that transforms hearts. What could fit us all better, as this is what we all are made for and long for.

Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. (Col. 3:12-15)

Which Way to Unity?

The week of prayer for Christian unity has been on my mind a lot in the last few weeks. Recently I was in an extended conversation which touched on the question of what, actually, the unity among Christians is. The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of how the Church is "the great sacrament of divine communion" because the Holy Spirit is the "Spirit of communion" and is like the sap of the Father's vine which bears fruit on its branches" (CCC 1108). So, we could say that the unity among Christians is the action and presence of the Holy Spirit who gathers us together.

Seen from one perspective, this unity is not something which anyone can ultimately destroy. But I believe we can be ignorant of or darkened toward God's plan of unity, and therefore we can resist it, we can hinder others from it, we can sin against unity.

How do we foster Christian unity? Dialogue can help, but a program of dialogue is likely to be nothing more than an intellectual exercise, limited in its ability to change lives. If the stuff of Christian unity is the life of the Holy Spirit present in us, then "let us walk in the Spirit" (Gal. 5:25)! Jesus reveals that unity is the desire of His heart in His high priestly prayer before the passion (Jn. 17:20-23). Let us give ourselves fully to the Holy Spirit, to move where he leads. Let us submit ourselves fully to the church, to those who are "over us in the Lord" (1 Thess. 5:12) and to the fullness of that which God has revealed. Let us daily pledge our allegiance to the Father and entrust all that we have and are and do to Him. Let us ask in return the grace to be obedient to His every directive to the fullest possible extent.

In this way, open, listening, watching, following, we will be available to the unity the Lord Himself will build among us.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

What's On My Mind

The week of prayer for Christian unity: January 18-24. Hope to be back to blog about it shortly.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Loving That Rebounding

Two months ago I posted about my introduction to rebounding. Some time later, thanks to Angela's eagle eyes, I scored a very cheap rebounder from a local thrift shop. And some time after that, namely last week, I decided to give it more than the occasional bounce.

And I'm hooked!

I've been giving it at least a good 10 minute go for over a week now (yes, every single day -- this is amazing for me!). I have never really enjoyed exercise before this, although there have been times when I have been somewhat diligent (like during pregnancy). But I find myself actually looking forward to my rebounding minutes.

I probably don't need anything to boost my appetite (for food) any higher, but I have sensed my metabolism speeding up as I am even hungrier than usual. And, there have been rumors circulating that I actually have muscles in my stomach as my little post-operative (endometriosis) pouch has changed shape somewhat. But the weirdest thing I have experienced is that my sleep cycles have been very different. I have actually been tired at night and awake in the mornings. I am hoping that by blogging about this I will jinx it, because this is not the way my life is used to being structured! I have actually felt rather energetic during the day, but this getting tired at 9pm just will not do. For one thing, no one has given my children the memo. For another thing, how do I get in the swing of blogging when the sun is shining?!?

Well, I'll deal.

And now I'm hoping this will wear off.

But, if I could manage to eat chocolate at night and still fall asleep, I might just try to get used to early morning blogging. Time for a little caffeine experimentation!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

You Are Three

Tonight, my daughter had some trouble getting to sleep. Well, no, she went to sleep just fine, only she couldn't stay asleep. Seems pinworms or something of the sort were causing her great grief and aggravating every other possible minor discomfort into something that demanded attention and wakefulness. I gave her the appropriate medicine, and as we waited for it to take effect, she said she wanted to go downstairs with me.

So, we sat on the couch, and I tried to encourage her to lay down and try to sleep. She flopped herself into my arms.

Watching her drift off to sleep, I couldn't help but be overcome. Still the same face that greeted me moments after birth with eyes wide with exploration. Only so much bigger. I wept with sheer gratitude for her existence. I thought how so soon she would resist my kisses, as her big brother already does and has for at least a year. I thought how soon she would be far too big for me to hold like this and to carry down the stairs.

But for now, I thought, you are only three, and here you are cuddled up in my arms!

I carried her, now sound asleep, back up to her bed -- all 38 pounds of her. She stirred a bit and remembered she had had reason to be uncomfortable earlier, but then dropped back into sleep.

I just want to hold this moment, this day, like the treasure it is. Not because I don't believe tomorrow will be an equal treasure, but because as long as I can marvel in today, tomorrow takes care of itself.

Friday, January 09, 2009


I came across this testimony today. It is a beautiful account of a "nerdy goth girl" who encounters Jesus at a Latin Mass.

God is good!

Fr. Robert Barron

I recently discovered this priest and his preaching ministry. Here is Fr. Robert Barron talking about Eckhart Tolle's book A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose which has become widely famous due to its exposure through Oprah Winfrey's book club.

Good stuff!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Maybe Congress Has Had Too Much Lead Exposure

Perhaps you've heard of the new law that has gotten a lot of press today.

In an attempt to protect children from lead exposure (thanks to all those toys from China with copious amounts of lead in them), a law was passed in August, 2008 that will require all children's products (toys, books, clothes, electronics, you name it) to be tested for lead content or be scrapped, beginning February 10. Items testing over a limit cannot be sold, even if they were produced before this law was drafted.

It sounds like a fine idea to protect our children from lead, doesn't it. But guess who will be able to afford the testing of these products, and who won't. Mega corporations can test one of their little products and sell their other hundreds of thousands of them. The mom corporation, selling books or fabric toys to help manage to stay home with her kids, will not be able to do so. Lots of small or medium sized companies are staring bankruptcy in the face.

Read all about it:

U. S. Consumer Protection Agency Statement
World Net Daily news story
Hearings on the implementation of this law have been "postponed"

By the way, I have to add that only one (1) member of the House of Representatives voted against this bill. Who was it? Of course, Ron Paul.

Click here for the latest developments to help put sanity back into this picture.

Anne to Speak in Steubenville

Evening of Eucharistic Renewal

Franciscan University of Steubenville
Christ the King Chapel
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Begins at 8:00 p.m. and includes:
Introduction by Fr. Michael Scanlan, Chancellor of Franciscan University of Steubenville
Talks by Anne, a lay apostle and Dr. Mark Miravalle
Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction

Who Doesn't Love Mint?

Here's a chance for you help a Michigan family farm avoid mortgage foreclosure by buying a dram of essential peppermint or spearmint oil. They also sell candles and candy. In the spring, look for their soil rejuvenator! Check out

Monday, January 05, 2009

Give Me This Author's Face to Kiss!

Bringing up children properly is a helix sport forcing you to realize no boy or girl on Earth is just like another. If you do understand this you also understand there can exist no reliable map to tell you all you need to do. Process kids like sardines and don't be surprised when they come out oily and dead. In the words of the Albany Free School, if you don't make it up as you go along, you aren't doing it right.

John Taylor Gatto, The Underground History of American Education, p. 90.

Seeing God in the Day-to-Day

Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you. See, darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples; but upon you the LORD shines, and over you appears his glory.
Is. 60:1-2, from the first reading for Epiphany Sunday.

There's that wonderful verse again that keeps catching my attention in Handel's Messiah. It caught me again hearing it read at Mass on Sunday.

At School of Community on Saturday my friend Suzanne asked a question that I'll rephrase (because I have forgotten the exact wording she used) this way: where is the glory of God being revealed, where are we encountering the reality of Christ, right here, right now in our lived experience. This is a pretty basic CL question, but I feel nudged to seek for an answer in a particular way, in focusing not in the realm of my life that is either interior or virtual -- both of which are real -- but in the realm of life that involves other real people with whom I rub shoulders with from day to day. Do I see God in this kind of day to day? This is the question that has echoed in my heart. How much do I overlook or take for granted?

I didn't have to look too terribly far for a nice example to share Sunday. (It's after midnight; I can't say "today" anymore.)

We arrived at Mass when the clock in the car already said 11:00. Fortunately, Mass had not actually started yet. Fortunately or unfortunately, as you choose to see it, the church was jam packed and few seats were available for two adults and two small wigglers. Except the ever-faithful pew behind the choir. Since becoming a cantor I have been more aware that those seats are often available. Strewn with coats, but available. (Great, now all my friends from my parish know our secret!!)

So I led my kiddos back there, and hubby followed after parking (he does the chivalrous thing by letting us off by the door, even, or especially, when we run late). I already had many strikes against me (running late because of waiting for my son, who was cranky, it was raining, packed church, cramped area). But none of this really got under my skin by some great grace.

Then as we sat, one of the singers greeted me with a big smile and a suggestion that maybe I should just sing along, too. I smiled back and said "sure," just kind of playing along. Ten seconds later, I heard "Is she singing?" "Yeah." "She's a cantor, you know" "Oh! great" and then I had music in my hands. The three men who had been conversing turned around and smiled with genuine happiness. At the sign of peace I received other grins from the alto section. I sang all but the last hymn (my daughter demanded my attention through that one). But it was so evident that I was very welcomed, unconditionally, into this choir community. It didn't matter that I hadn't practiced. It didn't matter that I had two children banging into me. I was treated as a gift to be received, not an intrusion, or someone messing things up. Afterwards the choir director (who also is the organist I work with when I cantor) smiled and said "So, we'll see you Tuesday at 7:30, right?" Several members of the choir have asked me from time to time since I joined the parish whether I would join the choir. I've generally begged off because of small children, but even this hasn't caused anyone to turn away from me. I know that in many parish settings, no one might ever extend any personal invitation to me, let alone welcome me like I was welcomed today. I was really being welcomed as Christ, and as by Christ.

Friday, January 02, 2009

When Perfect Feels Awful

Here is something to ponder: What might our lives feel like to us when from heaven's perspective, everything is going perfectly, that is, when we are right on target in moving towards our destiny? God's "perfect" might just feel like our "yuck!" or "arrg!"

On the first of every month, Our Lord gives Anne a new message about His call to service.

January 1, 2009


Dear apostles, today I wish to bring you heavenly encouragement. You often feel the opposite of encouragement, that is, discouragement. While this experience of discouragement is an unavoidable part of your time on earth, I want you to be aware of My presence in this cross. Talk to Me about your feelings of discouragement and you will move through these periods safely and more comfortably. If you talk to Me, you will be better able to understand that your discouragement comes from your humanity and not from heaven. In other words, feelings of discouragement are not accurate reflections of heaven’s feelings about you, your service or your effectiveness. It could be that all is going perfectly with you from heaven’s perspective, and yet, you are unaware of this for many reasons. Perhaps we are allowing a cross of suffering for you to bring benefits to you and to the world. You feel this as discouragement and yet heaven is not discouraged. Indeed, it is often the case that heaven is pleased with your faithfulness in the face of your cross. Human discouragement must be viewed with Me, Jesus, so that its cause and benefit can be understood. As an example, someone suffering in their body with sickness or limitation can justly understand their struggle with discouragement. An apostle struggling in this way can accept that he is both receiving graces himself and obtaining graces for others. Beloved apostles, allow Me into your struggle. It will become lighter. I will keep you encouraged if you remain united to Me.