Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Anguish: Wilkerson, Giussani and the New Evangelization

This evening one of my Facebook friends posted this video (really it's an audio with subtitles) by David Wilkerson.

David Wilkerson used to be one of the preachers I followed, regularly reading his messages and newsletters. His book The Cross and the Switchblade was one that impacted me as a young charismatic, and I have respect for this man.

For the most part, I can echo just about everything he says in this message entitled A Call to Anguish, perhaps all but the last few sentences where he speaks of the need to build walls and hunker down inside. This isn't what Jesus' ministry was about. Yes, he did avoid people who were trying to kill him when it wasn't time, but we can have the assurance that this was about obedience to the Father rather than a fortress mentality. I'm not going to make too much of that, though, because it was almost an aside after the rest of his address.

I can hear in this, though, God's mercy to me in calling me to become a Catholic. While what Wilkerson says is, I believe, very true: life-giving ministry, life-giving ... life is given birth to through an anguish, a deep, burning desire that consumes us, literally purifying us as it consumes our dross. But Wilkerson's address is deeply intense with no real joy to be found in it. This was my experience as a Protestant charismatic. Ready to be spent for God, ready to "give it all," but without the joy of the Incarnation to really, deeply know Jesus right next to me, loving me in my humanity, in my life. I'm not saying this lack of knowledge is Wilkerson's problem, because if you read The Cross and the Switchblade, you can read of his experiences. But this was my problem. I believe that the charism expressed in Fr. Giussani, Communion and Liberation, gives me the balance. He expresses this deep passion, this deep desire, yes, a deep anguish and longing, and yet I can't help but think at the same time about the joy that characterized him as well. Perhaps we in CL could stand a bit more of the purifying anguish, rather than seeking after "the joy," or what we find pleasing. And I say that not so much as a judgment against anyone in CL I've actually met but more as a reflection based on what I've heard Fr. Carron try to emphasize to us in the Spiritual Exercises.

I hear in this message not only God's mercy to me, but I hear again a call that has been gently rapping on my heart for several weeks now: I hear a thirsting, desiring and longing among our separated brethren for the fullness of Christ's Church. We ALL need to share what God has done in our lives and the treasures He has given us, but we Catholics have an obligation, a serious obligation, to get proactive in our bearing witness to Christ's Church. We need to be aware, first, of the treasure we have been given. Then our love must compel us. I believe people are getting very ready to hear that God does indeed have more for them in mind than they know. We need to know how to explicitly call people to faith in Christ Whom we have met in His Church.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Witness to Miracles

Last night I went with my family to the open session of Franciscan University's Charismatic Conference. The open session is always the Saturday night gathering, and as the phrase implies, it means that anyone from the community (or from anywhere) is welcome to attend. A friend of my husband's had put a bug in his ear that he would want to be there, so there we were. It was a miracle service. What is a miracle service, you may ask? Well, from what I witnessed, I'd say it is a gathering of people where miracles are prayed for and received.

There were scores of people healed. We saw people who had been unable to walk without crutches or canes running, a woman with scoliosis who had been unable to do more than stoop her shoulders bend to touch her toes, a man who with severed nerves in his arms feel fingertip touches, dozens of people able to hear better without hearing aides, including one man who had ear drum damage for 59 years and a woman who had lost most of her hearing 46 years ago. There were far more people ready to give testimony to Jesus' healing than there was time to hear.

My son, who for years has prayed to see a miracle, watched what was happening in awe. One of the women who got out of a wheelchair and walked was seated just a few feet in front of us. After the healing service there was an hour of Eucharistic adoration where the priest asked us simply to remember the leper who returned to Jesus to say thank you, and to thank the Lord, even if we did not experience the healing we desired, but to thank Him for His presence, His salvation, His redemption, and for His gifts outpoured to the community. My son was intent in prayer during this time, and it was clear from his conversation later that night that he was aware that Jesus' presence there that night was for him, too. Even my 4-year-old daughter, who napped through almost the entire evening, stated on the way home with great intensity, "We may not know everything, but this we know for sure: God IS Jesus!"

Miracles are a part of my life, so I was not shocked or flabbergasted by seeing dramatic miracles like this. I was, however, deeply moved with the realization of Jesus present. My thought was "oh, how much You love us!" and also "because You are with us now, I am reminded that everything for the future is also in Your hand." Being in a place where I could witness this dramatic power happening in front of me was very satisfying, like a special date with my husband, only with a very intense desire factored in.

And I have to say that this was nothing like some other healing services I have witnessed, either in person or on film. There was no emphasis on "the healer," meaning the human being who was leading the service. The speaker did not lay hands on anyone nor individually pray over anyone (except for a couple of seconds while interviewing a few people who had experienced partial hearing restoration); that was all done by whomever happened to be standing around the person with the need in the congregation. There was no hype or sensationalism or speaking in a scolding manor (to those who had not been healed). The constant focus of the evening was on Jesus, and the teaching came from Scripture and the Catechism.

At the conclusion of the service, the speaker addressed those who had not been healed that night, and shared that his own wife (there present) had three benign brain tumors which he had been completely unable to heal. And of course, for he is not the healer, Jesus is. And Jesus was teaching them that by faith some overcome obstacles, and by faith some persevere through obstacles. But the point is to live in relationship with Christ by faith.

Miracles absolutely have a purpose both in the life of the one who receives them, and through that person's life as a testimony to others of the power and presence and love of God. He testified to some healings that happened in India among Hindus who went back to their villages, witnessed to what Christ had done, and through them, the Church was planted in that place that had not one believer beforehand. The speaker witnessed that this is how God was moving more and more visibly all over the world, and urged us to faith that through us He also wants to do the same. Amen!

The speaker is the founder of the Cor et Lumen Christi community in London, England.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Healing Power of Reality

Lately I have been reflecting on the healing power that is unleashed when one simply gazes full-face upon reality, and allows reality to extend its embrace.

I suppose that is more readily apparent when one capitalizes the r.

But then this week I was struck by the reading at Mass of Moses at the burning bush:

Moses decided, "I must go over to look at this remarkable sight, and see why the bush is not burned." When the LORD saw him coming over to look at it more closely, God called out to him from the bush, "Moses! Moses!" He answered, "Here I am." God said, "Come no nearer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground. (Ex. 3:3-5)

Moses' encounter with God at the burning bush was one where distance was mandated. There was a holiness which was infinite separation between Moses and God. Moses did not even know what to call this reality.

The only reason that I can talk differently about Reality is that I have met Him and through His Church I have seen His face. His name is Jesus Christ, Emmanuel.

You have not come to a mountain ... burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words... The sight was so terrifying that Moses said "I am trembling with fear." But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God... to the church of the firstborn... to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant... (Heb.12:18-19, 21-24)
In my experience, and I have no reason to believe that I am unique, reality still holds an edge of terror for me like it did for Moses. But I believe that terror looms in the anxiety of anticipation of exposure. In other words, terror lives where sin lives. What I mean is the sort of anxiety that overtakes you when you need to make a confession, or make restitution, until you actually do it. There is also another dreadful sort of anxiety that just sits with you when something within you is disordered, but you can't even really put your finger on it, much less know how to make a confession or a restitution and get free. This is especially when we need to turn ourselves full-face to reality and seek that healing.

I had an experience of this recently. While I talked with my husband, I brought out into the open, and hence into the reality of our relationship, and hence, before Jesus Christ, something which was bothering me. That process brought order and peace where there had been disorder and anxiety. It sounds very simple, but actually it was the fruit of tremendous grace and work on one hand, and an old, crushing pain on the other.

Still -- and I don't know how to say this well -- just as God sometimes uses years of therapy and medicine to heal someone of a disease, sometimes He uses a word and a moment. I think the point is that God gives us what we need in order that we may know Him more intimately. Apparently what God wishes me to know of Him is that if look to Him, owning what I truly am, nothing more, nothing less, I will see that He is love and mercy, and that He tells me "Don't be afraid. It is I."

Monday, July 13, 2009


I find waterfalls to be the single most beautiful natural phenomenon there is. I could probably go to a setting like in this picture above, and, if the temperature conditions were suitable, I could watch this waterfall flow at least as long as I could watch a feature-length movie. There is something about the newness of every drop of water, the precise path it is destined to follow, the sound, the color, the humidity, the freshness it brings.

I was reminded of this the other day, after I posted the reference to Psalm 42 and the link to the song Sicut Cervus, when my children and I visited the Good Zoo in Wheeling. We spent a few minutes in rapt attention at the little waterfall there. What deer wouldn't travel for miles or even days to drink from living streams of water like this. What what a beautiful simile: as the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul thirsts for you, oh God. When I look at a waterfall, I want to be one with it. In fact, when I lived in Japan I lived very near a famous waterfall, pictured below with the fall foliage.

The river these falls fed flowed down the mountain, and in the summer I helped myself to bobbing in the water at one of the much smaller falls. It is an ancient Buddhist practice to stand under the flowing water and let it pummel you, so I figured playing in the river near a small one had to be somewhat socially acceptable. I was so thirsty in those days I just couldn't bear to only watch the waterfall. I had to get in it. I had to try to alleviate the ache in my soul for Beauty.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Some Things Change, Some Things Stay the Same

I like to note precise dates, so it amazed me when I just realized that it was exactly 25 years ago today that the event described in this post took place.

It's funny, because I've been thinking about a song I wrote about three years later in reference to the pastor mentioned there.

You Have Changed My Life

I've tried so many times/to say what's on my mind
But still I feel my mind has not been heard
I've tried so many ways/But I've waited so many days
But now I know there's something I gotta say
But how am I supposed to look you in the eye and tell you the truth
You have changed my life

You prob'ly don't even realize
How important you are in my eyes
But maybe it's better that you don't know
Cause if you really knew/I'd shy away from even looking at you
That's just the way I am I wouldn't know what to do
Cause how am I supposed to look you in the eye and tell you the truth
You have changed my life

It seems silly that it's so hard to say
I wish I could throw these chains away
But if I let me feelings fly too free
They may never come back the same to me

So I'll try a few more times/to say what's on my mind
Hope I always feel my mind has not been heard
I'll try a few more ways/but I'll wait a few more days
And all along I'll be sayin' what I gotta say
How am I supposed to look you in the eye and tell you the truth
You have changed my life

The reason I thought of this is because I recently shared a sort of testimony with someone else about how my life had been affected by him. A couple of the emotions were the same as what I expressed here when I was 19. It still is work to express myself as clearly as I'd like about something deeply meaningful. I guess I'm no longer as willing or eager to hide, however. And I'm not worried that my experience is all simply a feeling that is likely to vanish as soon as I express it. Most of all, I still see that experiencing Christ's presence in this way compels one to tell it, regardless of how difficult. I did, as I recall, send this song to Pastor Turriff (along with others in a similar vein).

Friday, July 10, 2009

Stopping to Take a Breath


Thus far, 2009 has been an amazing year for me. I don't spend a lot of time imagining what the future might be like, but if I had I would not have imagined it to be that way it is. That's not to say I am complaining or disappointed or even remotely sad about it. But in the last little while I have been feeling myself way out on a limb.

Yesterday I found myself thinking if I were just back in my box, life would not feel so risky. Last night as I drove off to the monthly meeting of Steubenville for Liberty I thought about all that had led me to that moment. I thought about my husband at home who was wishing me luck and would be waiting to hear the full report when I got home. I even thought about the phone call I made just before I left which I just did because it seemed to be the best thing to do, despite how much I hate that kind of phone call. As I walked into the Community College to set up for the meeting, my heart was filled with the same kind of prayer that arises in me when I'm in an airplane that is taking off. "Lord, my life is in your hands." Yeah, flying scares me too.

Lately there have been several major ways that I have risked what is deepest in my heart. It's hard to even create the right analogy to speak about the effect this has had, because I don't know exactly. I suppose you could say I am in the process of verifying whether taking one's "talents" and investing them really produces a return or not (a la Mt. 25). I am not anxious to see a certain kind of result. That isn't where my mind is headed. I think mostly of the garden I have planted this summer: when I planted those seeds I didn't have a lot of faith that they would actually do anything. And many of them didn't, because I didn't plant them in the right conditions. My initial bean seeds died. Only about five green onions sprouted. My pea plants grew, but they haven't been getting very good sun and their fruit has not been what you would call abundant. My radishes were mostly too close together and didn't do so well. Now, I'm not trying to draw some analogy between learning gardening skills and these risky steps I've taken in life. While I don't sit around and anticipate the future, neither am I filled with dread that I'll have bad results. I just am very aware that abundant growth is not guaranteed simply because seeds have fallen to the ground and died. At least when those seeds are purchased from the greenhouse and fall into Steubenville soil.

All I know for sure is that I am living far differently than I have ever lived before. It wasn't some program I set myself on, because I do lousy with programs. All I did was try to follow what Fr. Giussani taught me about living. In so doing, the basis on which I try to evaluate what is God's will for me to do has become less my own measure and more a response to reality, to the Church. When I search for the face of Christ, He looks a bit less like my own reflection.

One day when I lived in Osaka, I visited the convent next to the school where I taught (as I did many days). One of the Sisters had written in English on their penboard "God is in reality." I was the only native English speaker to frequent there in those days, so I figured that was meant for me to see. I remember being very upset by that little phrase, and my mind devised all sorts of arguments to call that heresy. The fact was, my entire life was spent trying to avoid reality, and my idea of being in relationship with God was to leave my painful reality to go to be with Him. And things never really got better that way, only worse.

So, here I stand, feeling maybe not completely drained, but completely risked. Thirsty. Longing to be filled. Quemadmodum desiderat cervus ad fontes aquarum ita desiderat anima mea ad te Deus.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Marriage Encounter

Last weekend my husband and I went away for a long weekend which included a Marriage Encounter. All I can say is that it was a very powerful, transformative experience that really merits the term "encounter." It is a reawakening of the Sacrament of matrimony through the work of communication. The reawakening is marvelous; the work is sometimes very difficult and even painful. But not doing the work is even more difficult and more painful, so in the end it is a very joyous experience.

We also had a very pleasant few days away together afterwards as Erol showed me around Detroit, where he had attended some classes during his undergraduate years in Windsor (which is just across the boarder into Canada). Highlights of the trip included a morning in Frankenmuth, a lovely German-themed tourist town where we saw the world's largest Christmas store, and a visit to the Solanus Casey Center which was very moving for me as I have grown very fond of this Capuchin venerable.

This weekend away and all the graces that have come with it has brought about life-changing effects for me. (I think Erol would agree, but I'll let him speak of his own experience!) I hesitate to say that an experience just a week old is life-changing, and I know that because I am still alive the change is still in process. But this has been a definite profound encounter with Christ in the person of my husband, and in the presence of our Sacrament. As a friend put it, the work is to abide in what Christ has given. I am finding the way I live to be changed as a result, not only of the weekend but of the ongoing work that we have committed to do to further our daily communication.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Happy 4th of July!

Molly graciously blogged on today's Wintersville parade in which Steubenville for Liberty took part.

Friday, July 03, 2009

The call to sacrifice

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

July 1. 2009


My dear apostles, how grateful you will be that I have given you these opportunities to serve. You will look back at your time on earth and you will see that the opportunities I gave to you to serve others as apostles, were truly My greatest acts of mercy to you. You see that My service requires sacrifice. You see that often My service causes you suffering and perhaps you think that it would be easier to live your life without such a call to serve. It is true that often by rejecting
My call to service in a day, you can diminish your immediate suffering. I acknowledge this truth. It is evident to all that service to Jesus Christ comes with an enhanced call to sacrifice. While I
acknowledge this, I ask that you, too, acknowledge this. You are giving Me your day and I am then taking you from things that would give you instant gratification and asking you to delay gratification for the sake of others. It can appear in these moments of your life, that you are giving something up. What you do not see is that the more you serve Me and the more you abandon yourself to My call, the more grace you receive. You are giving up earthly pleasures and receiving a constant stream of heavenly pleasures. Compare the two. Earthly pleasures last for moments. Heavenly pleasures last for eternity. Perhaps you do not understand the difference. only in heaven will you have complete understanding but let it be noted that heavenly pleasures come through you, blessing you, and then spread out, blessing all those around you. Your soul is open to receiving heavenly graces, not just for you but for the whole world. Imagine how beautiful a soul looks to heaven when that soul is an open recipient of heavenly graces. Thank you for helping heaven. Thank you for helping those around you. And thank you for helping Me. Regardless of your suffering and regardless of your sacrifices, there will be a moment when you will thank Me for allowing you to participate in this, My renewal.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

It's All Right Now (in fact, it's a gas!)

This evening I attended a very nice Tea Party in the next county. I was asked to give a short speech about the education/activist group that has formed from the April 15 Steubenville Tea Party, Steubenville for Liberty. So I did. I wrote out my thoughts last night at adoration, and went to give the speech with just my notebook which I looked over for a few minutes before I spoke, but had never actually practiced. This is so unlike my experience of organizing an event in April, where I was anxious for weeks beforehand, feeling the weight of what I had taken on myself. I enjoyed that in a very different way... sort of in the way one "enjoys" a fruitful Lent. I really had fun today. My speech felt a little heavy-handed, because I talked about Corrie Ten Boom and Maximilian Kolbe and Edith Stein and their experiences of living in concentration camps and still caring for the people around them, drawing them together in unity and inspiring them to hope and charity. But hey, you ask a Theology Masters student for a political talk, and this is what you get! Interestingly enough, the first speaker, who was immediately before me, was a man from Austria who had grown up under communism in East Germany. It was kind of a nice dove-tail for me to tell people "you are free people; you are human beings! Let's live that way!" This is my vision of grass roots political effort: we need to remind each other that we are free, and we need to live our loyalty to the people right around us, instead of fearing what government can do to us and feeling ourselves pawns in the hand of some nameless, faceless system. Am I an idealist? I don't know. I told people in April I don't like politics, and I wasn't lying. But I do value freedom. Very highly.

Right after I finished, a woman came over and said "Thank you! I'm thinking of becoming a Libertarian." I wondered, do I ooze Libertarianism or something? Or is it just the organization name: Steubenville for Liberty? If people are savvy they probably realize the name "rhymes" with the name of Ron Paul's group Campaign for Liberty.

Several people thanked me for my words. Several more people thanked me "for all that I'm doing." People's graciousness and appreciation catches me off guard. I never expect it so I'm always really touched by it. People in this Ohio Valley really seem to me more gracious than your average folk.

It was also really nice to see Jim Babka of DownsizeDC.org and his wife again. I admire his willingness to tell people not to get caught up in supporting political parties, but to stick instead to true principles.

Best of all, my husband drove the extra 25 miles from work and got there just as I started speaking. He and I both helped Jim Babka hand out registration forms for DownsizeDC (with Jim admiring how Erol was going after people on the far side of the crowd after everything was finished to get them to sign up!) Erol and I don't exactly see every political detail the same, but having his support for my endeavors is priceless. He's the political one of us, after all! I'm just out there singing this song.

Really, I felt like doing cartwheels tonight. I have secretly always wanted to do public speaking, but I never dreamed it would be this sort of thing. And it is so much more fun without the stress of organizing.