Sunday, December 22, 2013

Hold Me Together....

Hello Ladies,

Today I would like to share with you one of my favorite Christmas songs. It is a perfect example of what our relationship with God should be. We think we are not important to anyone. We are necessary to God's loving plan. Have the strength to love others, be vulnerable, forgive, pick yourself up, and know that you are not alone in your journey. Walk along in humility. You don't have to know all the answers. Walk in strength. You do not need to remain in abusive situations. Dare to forgive - even if from a safe distance. Every moment you choose to love, you choose God.

Merry Christmas to you and your family.

I have traveled many moonless nights
Cold and weary with a babe inside
And I wonder what I've done
Holy Father, You have come
And chosen me now to carry Your Son

I am waiting in a silent prayer
I am frightened by the load I bear
In a world as cold as stone
Must I walk this path alone?
Be with me now, be with me now

Breath of Heaven, hold me together
Be forever near me, Breath of Heaven
Breath of Heaven, lighten my darkness
Pour over me Your holiness for You are holy
Breath of Heaven

Do you wonder as you watch my face
If a wiser one should have had my place?
But I offer all I am
For the mercy of Your plan
Help me be strong, help me be, help me

Breath of Heaven, hold me together
Be forever near me, Breath of Heaven
Breath of Heaven, lighten my darkness
Pour over me Your holiness for You are holy

Breath of Heaven, hold me together
Be forever near me, breath of Heaven
Breath of Heaven, lighten my darkness
Pour over me Your holiness for You are holy
Breath of Heaven, Breath of Heaven
Breath of Heaven


Read more: Amy Grant - Breath Of Heaven Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Amy Grant - Breath Of Heaven

Saturday, December 21, 2013

In the Beginning...

Hello Ladies,

What I am humbly offering you today is the start of a Christian allegory of the journey of the soul. It is not enough to say "God loves you". This is true. But it helps to have a context to put it in. The Christian worldview is an exciting one complete with epic battles over the fate of humanity, supernatural beings, and love that transcends time and space. If you want a really good read look up The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis or The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien. These are true masterpieces. But since I am not a bachelor and/or do not have a wife to lighten my workload, you will have to be content with the following.

In the beginning…

…there was you and God. Surrounding you was the rest of creation, but that was ok because God was the center of it all. Every voice, unique and distinct, was lifted in song, creating a melody greater than the sum of any one part. And that was as it should be.

Then came a change, small at first, a discordant cord. Then came a crash, a break, a sense of… loss. But still there was God, shining in the center. And there was peace.

Then one day a messenger of God came before you. 

“Would you like to be tested?” asked the angel. 

“What would that entail?” you asked of the angel. 

“God will be obscured from you. You will have a chance to hear the discordant voices. You will be given the power to choose your own path, to choose a way other than God.” 

“But why would I choose to undergo such a test?” 

“Because God, creator of all, sees your potential to become greater and wiser than you are now. You may choose to be tested. At the end there will be judgment. All that you have chosen that is not of God will be burned away. Your sins will be forgotten and your sacrifices and strengths perfected.” 

Then the angel took you by the hand and showed you the earth. For the first time you became aware of the concepts of space and time. You became aware of separateness and isolation. And you felt small and trembled.

“Do not fear, little one,” said the angel. “You will begin as small and secret as a dream. Then you will grow. You will be helpless and vulnerable. You will learn to love by being loved first.”

But you could see so much sorrow and fear that you were not convinced.

“What happens to those who do not choose God?” 

The angel stood aside and before you lay a void of agony and isolation. 

“Who would choose to go there?” you asked. 

“Those who refused to see the beauty within themselves and so did not honor it in others. They lived their lives in thoughtlessness, fear and dread. For they knew deep down that what they were doing was not right.” 

“Why doesn’t God do something??” 

“Because God loves us and respects our decisions. Their small decisions in life formed them and led them there. When God called to them, they did not recognize Him and turned away. They always thought they would spare themselves in the end. They were wrong.” 

“Then why would I leave my place of safety?” 

Again the angel moved and before you lay a place of trust, joy, growth, and harmony; souls gathered together at a feast. There is a sense of love, not of blind faith as you have known, but of a relationship whose bonds have been tried and found secure. The beauty of grace and gratitude is breathtaking; the souls are grateful for God’s love and grace and God is grateful for their steadfastness in adversity. 

“What am I to do?” you asked the angel. 

“Be who God created you to be. Sing your song to others. Love. Always. God will be with you. And so will I.”

May God Continue to Bless You!!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Conversion - The Integrity Project

Hello Ladies,

A Christian talking about conversion can be a tricky thing. It conjures images of annoying people ringing your doorbell during a nap time to tell you that you are going to hell unless you follow their beliefs. It implies disrespect for your way of life and the values that you as an intelligent person hold dear. It violates the 'live and let live' mentality that is the basis for any free society. The words "guilt", "intolerance", "manipulated" and "theocracy" come to mind. I live in a secular society. I know how it goes. I am free to be Catholic as long as nobody knows about it. On the other hand I'm not of the belief that you have to follow my way or you're going to hell either.

So, being a Catholic who doesn't bang on doors and doesn't believe that you are going to hell because you are not rattling those rosary beads, what have I got to say about conversion?

That you have been created for the sole purpose of being loved and loving in kind. 

That's it.  Ok - one more thing:

If you knew how much you are loved you would cry for joy.

You are not some sort of cosmic accident. You are not here to "make others happy". You are not here to fill some dogmatic idea of what it is to be a woman (whether the dogma be religious or secular). You are unique in all of creation. You will only be on this earth for a short time. You are here because at the moment of your conception, possibly before, God could not imagine anything more beautiful and perfect than you. You were created to be loved by God and to love God in return.

Let me tell you a story about a man I met when I was a child. I don't really remember what he was like before this incident. He was an acquaintance of my father and he was involved in international real estate. He was very, very good at it. [Author's note: The following is a summary of what this man told my father in my hearing.]

One day I was closing a deal in Rome. My host took me to see the architecture at St. Peter's Square. [This man was an atheist.] I was standing there when there was some commotion and... I found myself face to face with Pope John Paul II. No exaggeration. The pope smiled at me and started speaking to me in Italian. My host began to translate. Hearing the English, John Paul II immediately switched languages and began asking me questions about myself. ("Why would the pope care about me? With all those Catholics standing around, too!") When the pope heard I worked in international real estate, he became very excited and said "God has heard my prayers! I am so happy to meet you. You are the one. Think of the poor. They have no homes. They need you. The need you now. I am praying for you!" 
Well, what could I do after that? The pope was praying for me by name for crissakes. Told me that God had placed me there. Didn't even tell me to go to church. Guess there's more to life than making money.

A few years later my father heard that this man had been heckled at a real estate conference for giving a talk about social justice while making money. Last I heard this man still made money but he was truly happy for the first time in his life.

You are loved. You are unique in all of creation. If you knew how much you are loved you would cry for joy. You are who and where you are for a reason. Do not let others quantify you. You are without price and loved constantly without cost. You are irreplaceable. You have dignity which others cannot take from you. You are beloved of God.

If I have one prayer it is that one day you will truly believe this.

May God continue to bless you!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Integrity Project - Introduction

Hello Ladies,

It’s been a while since I’ve written. Yes, I’ve been busy with “mom stuff” but I’ve also been working on giving my writing some direction. My time has not been wasted; I’ve come up with a purpose for my ramblings.

You see, the more I thought things through the more I came to realize that the challenges we face are far deeper than the day-to-day challenges of being a mother. As far as I can tell the greatest challenge is that we live in a “me” centered soulless society. We live in a society that does not value sacrifices made for others. Or perhaps you live in a society where women are expected to do nothing but give until you are a hollow shell of a human being. Either way, love, respect, and integrity are treated as finite resources which cannot nourish everybody and therefore need to be hoarded and fought for.

Some people say that religion is the answer. Obviously I agree in some part to this. But to place religion over what God is calling you to do is idolatry. Since this would be breaking the first commandment I cannot say that this is the whole answer. Let me then say that religion should be used as a form of grammar that helps you communicate with God. If you have no understanding of the grammar of your mother tongue it will be very difficult for you to communicate in your own language and impossible to learn a foreign language. Do not be afraid to respectfully question your faith.  As Jesus said:

I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not now that the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another. (John 15:15-17 NRSV)

Friends have conversations. Friends listen to one another. Friends support each other. Jesus invited us into a relationship of dignity and strength. He calls us to be greater than what we tell ourselves we are capable of because his resources are infinite.

As I write I will be addressing the following questions. My answers will begin in the simplest terms and work their way up to a more theological and Catholic understanding. I understand that many not Catholics read this blog. I do not try to make it all things to all people, but make Catholic teaching accessible to all. It is my hope that any reader will be able to grow in faith and wisdom without feeling that my way is the only way. My way isn’t the only way. It probably isn’t the best way. (This is not only a blog but a conversation. If you have any other ideas please let me know.):

What is prayer? How can I use this new understanding to strengthen my life? How can I approach Catholic prayers and sacraments to make them more meaningful?

What is mysticism? Am I called to be a mystic? How can I deepen my relationship with God? How is mysticism used in the Catholic church?

What are virtues? If they are supposed to be good then why are they often portrayed as demeaning? (Humility, obedience, etc.)

What is conversion? How can I use this understanding in my everyday life? Do I need to give up my own dreams of work/ commercial success to be a good mother?

These are only a few topics that I have come up with. Please let me know if there are others you would like to have addressed. The underlying question is how God is calling you to live your life to the fullest, secure in love and dignity.

I look forward to sharing with you!!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Change of Name

Hello Ladies,

Earlier today I searched "Theology Mom" on the internet and found that it was being used by a Christian homeschooling mother. I honestly believe that I had the name first but hey, she's really dedicated to her calling as a Christian mom. So in order to avoid confusion I have renamed myself "Mariam Mom". I chose this name to distinguish myself from all the other "Marian moms" out there. Mariam was also my conformation name. And my husband liked it. So there you go. Hopefully this will lessen any confusion.

Blessings to all,

Mariam Mom

Monday, October 21, 2013

Litany of Forgiveness

Hello Ladies,

If you have been following my blog you have noticed that I talk a fair bit about forgiveness. It's because I'm really bad at it. Or, should I say, I'm really bad at the 'forgive and forget' attitude. I don't believe that bad things happen 'to help us grow' or because they are 'God's will'. Sometimes people decide to hurt others. Sometimes people just don't care about the consequences of their actions. Some people are, to put it politely, jerks. And in no way are some of their actions ok. Sometimes it is not a question of misunderstanding. Some actions are truly evil. God did not put them in our path. God does not condone them. We do not deserve them. But still, bad things happen to good people. Or, in my case, a mediocre person.

And yet, we are called to forgive. WHY???  It is not enough for me to hear 'forgive so you will be forgiven'. I simply don't like myself that much. There are a whole host of things I have not forgiven myself for. Nor do I believe that I should be forgiven. (No, nothing dire. Just for part of my life I was a bit of a bitch. I didn't want to be but looking back there is no other word to describe me.)

So if I'm not willing to change on my own account, why should I change at all?

Because I love Jesus. There you go - I have become a Jesus freak!

Let me explain the only way I can understand forgiveness. When Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane, he did NOT want to suffer and die. He really struggled with this one. But listen carefully: He did NOT say that his feelings and fear did not matter. He did NOT say that he 'deserved it'.  Jesus did NOT squash his feelings, pretending that they were wrong or bad. Instead, he placed them in the hands of God. Jesus accepted torture and death because he asked God if it was truly His will. I wonder how many of us do that?

When Jesus died, he forgave his attackers. He was innocent. He knew he was innocent. And yet he went to his death like a lamb going to slaughter. He forgave them because "they know not what they do".  Jesus took the time to discern God's will. In so doing he discovered that it is God's will that we should be more God-like. God is forgiving. We must be forgiving.

This was a total a-ha! moment for me. Instead of believing that my feelings don't matter, that I'm some sort of cosmic punching bag existing so that others could learn their lessons, I realize that God wants me to be more like Him!! What a difference!!

Forgiveness is a process. It's not an act of will. It begins with gratitude for the mercy God has shown me. With that gratitude comes the desire to live the life God wishes for me. And believe me, God has a lot more compassion towards me than I do for myself. So I spend time with God. If a situation really brings me down then I ask God if the situation needs to change or if I need to change. Probably both. Because really, even if I behave properly, my thoughts can be rather snarky. Again, not what God wants for me.

But how can I let go? A pries, Fr. William,  taught this in a homily the other week. I call it the litany of forgiveness.

Think of the person/ situation that needs healing. Include yourself.

Speak the following words:

I have wronged you.

I'm sorry.

I love you.

Please forgive me.

Now I know it's hard when a certain person has intentionally hurt you or somebody that you love. They were wrong! It's also easy for me to let my anger for another affect my relationship with God.  Yet I firmly believe true forgiveness is like relinquishing a rotten apple in order to enter a feast. We are called to be more like God.

There have been times these past few weeks when I've literally stopped what I was doing, bowed my head, and recited this litany in my heart. (My husband thinks I'm slightly nuts when I do this but he's used to me being slightly nuts.) And you know what? I feel better after saying it. I feel a tiny bit of healing. The warm feeling might last only a few moments but it's a few moments without bitterness. It also keeps my anger and feelings of inadequacy from spilling over to my husband and children. Mostly though, I feel loved when I say this. Yes, loved. Because I feel like I'm participating in something beautiful and divine.

May God Continue to Bless You!!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

One of Those Days- kenosis

Dear Ladies,

Have you ever had one of those days when you wake up angry? When you resent having to get breakfast for the kids and change the baby's diaper? You know you should be grateful for all of your blessings but you don't and that makes you feel even worse...

Tonight I want to go to adoration but if I do then the kitchen won't be cleaned and I'll be totally unprepared for tomorrow. It's easy to say that things will work out when you're not responsible for getting the tedious details of life done. So I have the desire to take care of myself spiritually but I have to weigh that against the physical need for sleep. It's all so unfair. How can it be so hard to have a half hour alone with the Lord?

Yes, this is exactly how I feel now. It's not nice. It's not joyful. I'm not beaming with pride or personal fulfillment. I just feel tired and worn out. And alone. And yes, angry. I would give anything for a call from a friend right now (as long as she wouldn't mind talking while I clean the kitchen). These feelings are normal. They're honest. Feeling this way doesn't make me a bad person. God knows I'm weak.

How do you know when you give too much? When you cannot give joyfully. What do you do when you cannot give joyfully but still have to give more? Invite Jesus into your kitchen and talk to him while you clean. Some of my best prayer time happens when I'm washing dishes or folding laundry. Usually I say things like: "You know I'm doing this for You, right? I mean, I don't take any particular pleasure in cleaning the same cup for the fifth time in one day. The night is lovely and I would much prefer to be going for a walk. But am I? No! I must love You and my family a whole heck of a lot to put up with this!" Okay, so it's juvenile. But it beats saying: "I cannot believe how ungrateful my family is. I feel so powerless and unappreciated. If I go out this late then I'll really regret it in the morning. How fair is that??"

I added the word 'kenosis' to the title. Kenosis is emptying one's self so that God may enter. It doesn't mean that our own thoughts aren't important. Our thoughts are so powerful that they can invite in or shut out the grace of God. Our thoughts are crucial. We must use them wisely. So instead of feeling sorry for myself, or stuff my emotions into a corner and pretend that they are unworthy of notice, I'm going to clean the kitchen and know that I'm doing it for love of Him and my family.

Life is hard. No matter who you are or what you do - it's hard. Whether you have one child or a dozen -  it's hard. It's so easy to believe that others have it better than you. They don't. We still have to finish the tedious details of everyday life. They're not sexy or fun. But they need to be done. And we can invite God to join us or we can shut Him out. I've done it both ways and I prefer the former. My way might be a little bit messy - but so is my kitchen.

May God continue to bless you.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Joy of Humility

Dear Ladies,

The joy of humility is acknowledging your own insignificance and knowing that you are loved, cherished, adored and indespenseble anyway.

May God continue to bless you.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Why We Do It.

Hello Ladies,

These last few days I've been working on a post that is really, really angry. I make some good points in it. It's about isolation. It's about constant interruptions. It's about not being able to finish a sentence, go to the toilet by yourself, and not being able to get a child to go to bed. This is the stuff of early motherhood is made of. It is real. It is frustrating. And happily, it's not what this post is about.

You see, moms don't do it for the money or the glory. We do it because it is in front of us. If we do it with great love then we can get by. We can also do the same tasks feeling defeated, bitter, and covetous. Some mothers don't do it at all and the children are physically and/ or emotionally neglected. But when we do change that diaper, we never, ever do it for ourselves.

So why do we do it?

Today I took my girls to visit my dad. My dad is now totally bed and wheelchair bound. He is now confined to his bed for several weeks (except for doctor's appointments) due to sores on his bottom. He has to use a bed pan. I am typing with tears in my eyes. My mother died before my children were born so I know that as awful as it is to see my father this way, at least he is with us. Was he lying there feeling sorry for himself? Was he bitter because I have a future in this life and his is winding down? No. He lay there, helpless, with sores on his bottom, a model of integrity.

He spoke to me about how the picture a my 8th grade teacher took of us dancing during the Valentine's Day dance at school. I was picked on in the 8th grade. When I saw that picture posted on the classroom wall I thought it would fuel more bullying. Instead the other girls were jealous.Their dads never danced with them. I got a copy of that picture, put it in a cheap frame and gave it to my dad for Christmas. He still treasures it - cheap frame and all.

He told me that my daughters (and son) are beautiful - they look like their mother. (For the record they look like my husband's side of the family.)

When I complained that my youngest daughter had been fussy and only wanted mama, he laughed and told me it was because I was doing such a great job. He told me it was a sign of trust.

He thanked me for raising his grandchildren with love and discipline.

He thanked me for bringing the children over.

When I had to leave (the baby was fussy) he told me that it was my job to take care of my children, not to worry about him. Right now my children are safe in bed. I worry about my dad.

I love my dad. He's awesome.

Writing all this, I realize that it's easier to do those silent, hidden, tedious tasks set before me with great love because I am loved. I also have someone whom I adore who believes in me.

One day, sooner or later, my father will die. My mother, with all of her problems, died, if not at peace, then in hope. I believe that she is now in heaven.

Ladies, we all come from God's imagining. Our potential is greater than we can ever comprehend. We are born. We are broken. We are scattered. If we are very lucky, our lives become a love song, sung in harmony with those who have dared to sing since the dawn of humanity. Maybe the tune will continue without our voices, but the result will be greatly diminished. We are unique. We are important. We are a single thought given form and freedom to become greater in our capacity to love.

When I held my son for the first time I stopped seeking knowledge and began seeking wisdom.

It isn't that my children deserve "the best". They deserve the best from me. And my father, in his helpless, childlike state, knows that the only thing to regret is that which we failed to do for others with great love. That and not being able to play on the ground with the grandkids. But now I'm crying again.

May God continue to bless you.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Question for My Readers

Hello Ladies,

To date my blog has been more of a ramble than anything organized. Sometimes I think this is a huge failing. To this end I am working on a systematic theology for mothers based on Pope John Paul II theology of the body, Marian theology, Blessed (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta, and various mystics.

If there is any questions, theological or otherwise, you wish to have addressed please do not hesitate to let me know.


Theology Mom


Hello Ladies,

Lately I have been thinking about forgiveness. A lot.

As you might already know, an elder of my family was dying at the time of the birth of my youngest daughter. Did the prospect of new life bring her joy? No. She told the entire family and anybody who would listen that this child should NOT be born. She told anybody who would listen that we should only have two children. She told everybody that I felt trapped by my pregnancy and that I did not want, that I even resented, the child.

Ladies, sometimes I look at my youngest baby and want to cry at the cruelty of her words. How this woman could even think those things, much less utter them? And who in their right minds would believe them?? This is the sort of slander that this woman had been spreading for years before her death. I don't know what angers me more - that she said them or that people choose to believe it.

My husband and I are still dealing with what this woman said. Relationships within the family have been broken. Horrible accusations and insults have been met with stony silence. What should be a strong family is now fragmented. (And people still believe that I don't love my child. The bastards!!)

And of course we are right. We are the reasonable ones.

Which is why I have a hard time forgiving. No, I simply can't forgive.

Growing up, I remember watching silly television shows where every problem is neatly and humorously dealt with in a half hour. Injuries were caused by misunderstandings, not by spite. But spite DOES exist and we do deal with people who couldn't care less about reconciliation.

So now I believe that this 'forgive and forget' thing is just a load of crap perpetuated by people who don't want to deal with the real issues and want to go on as if nothing had happened.

What I DO believe in is the transformative love of God. Let me explain. I don't think we can 'forgive and forget' because we approach forgiveness as an act of will, not of healing or transformation. I simply cannot will myself to pretend that what happened didn't happen. I cannot pretend that I am not hurt by it. I will never say that on some level what happened was good, right, a misunderstanding, or acceptable. And I will not try to see things from the point of view of a bitter woman who died as a direct result of her addictions.

What can I do? I can pray. First I flung my anger at God and asked for deliverance from it. Then I began to pray for those who wronged me. I didn't pray for any particular outcome, just that they should know the love and grace of God. I prayed for myself. I poured forth my anguish at the harm that this slander did (and continues to) inflict. And one day, God answered:

"Yes, it was wrong. No, you did not deserve it. Yes, it hurt you. But I was with you. I am still with you. Please, come to me and be healed."


Ladies, I do not believe that we can forgive. But I do believe that God can share His vision with us. I may or may not be right in this situation. I may or may not be justified in my anger. But I will not be a victim of slander. If God wants me to let go of this so I may be a part, however small, of His beatific vision, I will let go. And when I see my misguided relatives again, with practice, I can allow God's love and forgiveness to flow through me. I am small, formed of dust and Breath. That is the best I can do.

May God continue to bless you.

Friday, July 26, 2013

"Offering It Up"

Hello Ladies,

Today I have learned a very important lesson: Sometimes things just suck. There is no other way of describing it. Sometimes you cannot plaster a manic smile on your face and pretend that things are 'just fine' because you have faith in God. Sometimes bad things happen that you did not bring on yourself and that you can do nothing to change.

As a child, my father would often tell me to "offer it up". Um, what? Excuse me? What on earth does that mean? I could never figure it out and my dad could never explain. To me, it sounded too much like saying things were ok when they weren't. Or having to suffer with things that should be dealt with.

Today I finally figured out what my dad has been trying to teach me all these years.

This morning I received a dreaded text: Dad fell. He's going to the ER and either everything will be fine (meaning he miraculously broke nothing) or, more likely, something is broken and because of his age and health there will be nothing they can do. We have known for years that he would not be able to survive another (yes, another) serious fall. What to do?

What I wanted to do was panic (which I probably did). I wanted to rush to the ER just in case. But it just wasn't feasible to rush to the hospital with three young children in tow. (My son has a fever, no less.) So I prayed. I prayed for my dad's safety. I dared pray for the miracle that my dad managed to be unharmed. And I prayed that God lead me to where He needed me.

I offered up my desires and fears. I told God that I would do what He wanted if He took care of the things that I could not handle.

Because, Ladies, as mothers, our lives are no longer our own. And sometimes we need a little extra help and wisdom to do the task in front of us with great love.

So I stayed home. I tended my sick child with great love. I put the baby down for a nap with great love. And I waited for my brother to call me from the hospital. And I prayed that God give me strength to face what was happening. Through prayer, I did not resent the mundane tasks set for me. Through prayer, I trusted God in His wisdom.

I offered it up. And I did not suppress my feeling and pretend that they were wrong or did not exist.

I offered it up. And I was not powerless.

I offered it up. And I found the peace that only God can give.

And my prayers were answered. Somehow, though my father is old and feeble, he did not break. The doctors were amazed. They used words like 'lucky' and 'amazed'  several times. They shook their heads and smiled. I was able to see my dad at home this evening and not in the hospital. There is relief and joy in our family.

More than anything I am grateful that I can tell my dad that I finally understand what he's been talking about all these years. Would you believe that I was so happy to see him that I forgot to mention it?

May your day be as blessed as mine has been.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Unity in Wine, Bread, and feasts! Hooray!

Hello Ladies,

Today I would like to talk to you about many things. I would like to talk about heaven, salvation, hope, connection, faith, Jesus, loneliness, communication, and freedom. This will take us through history,  misunderstandings, theology, and finally understanding and  transcendence.

Several years ago I was in church. My grandmother had recently died and to say that I miss her would be an understatement of epic proportion. She had been a guide to Christian life and a source of wisdom and consolation during my turbulent upbringing. When she spoke about love, forgiveness, Jesus, and the strength needed to be a woman, I listened. For my Protestant grandmother, heaven meant being in a garden with Jesus. Just Jesus, I asked? Her preacher said so, but she could not imagine heaven without being with her own mother and other 'kin'. Even so, she was sure that Jesus would provide for her whatever she needed. She was a strong woman who changed the world around her. Her obituary read like a textbook for feminism and  social activism. Did she ever use those words to describe herself? No. She was quiet and gracious. She listened to Jesus, who was her strength, and trusted in Him. In doing so she was the scandal of her church (she went back to work when her children were in school to pay the bills and eventually divorced her husband). But she never gave up on her faith or her church. She just quietly changed the world.

That particular mass, I was incredibly sorrowful. I was happy for my grandmother, who had 'run the good race' and was now at peace. But my loneliness was like an aching hunger that would never be sated. She was gone, gone. I could only pretend that there was no hollowness inside and get used to being without her. Before I knew it the Eucharistic prayer started. It was then that it happened: The day seemed to brighten and light began to be born in my hollowness. I suddenly realized that she was there at the Mass. For a few moments time didn't matter. I was in communion with countless others throughout time who had spoken the same prayers in a variety of languages. I was with my Protestant grandmother, who was in heaven. I was with those who would come long after I had returned to dust.

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Pleni sunt caeli et terra gloria tua.
Hosana in excelsis.
Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domine.
Hosana in excelsis.

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts.
Heaven and earth are full of your glory. 
Hosana in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosana in the highest.

Soon after I became warm and had to sit down. The 'vision' lasted while the host was present.

I kept quiet about it for a while, thinking that I was studying too much theology and needed to take a break. My professors, knowing of my great loss, were concerned and compassionate. One pulled me aside and asked how I was doing. Not taking 'fine' for an answer I finally revealed my 'vision'. Her response floored me.

When we take part in the Eucharist, we take part in the Kingdom of God. 

You would think, being a theology major, that I would know this. But I was a budding academic who could cooly remain aloof from such fantastical notions as being affected by my subject material. (Okay, you can stop laughing now.) Suddenly my world shifted. Going to church was no longer a pleasant duty but an ardent desire to get closer to Jesus. The Eucharist was no longer just a ritual but an invitation to be transformed by a foretaste of heaven. It became obvious why Catholics and our Orthodox sisters and brothers would place the Eucharist at the center of faith.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus says that whoever does not eat of His flesh and drink of His blood will not have life in him. This was so scandalous to his followers that many of them left. The synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, record the Last Supper word for word. The host and chalice were common drawings in the catacombs. When the early Christians were thrown to the lions one of the major charges against them was cannibalism. And yet they were willing to die joyfully for their beliefs.

Not only was the Eucharist, as we understand it today, a fundamental part of Christianity, but so was the Mass. Yes, the Mass. Complete with procession of the Word, opening prayers, readings from the prophets and the apostles, a reading about the works and words of Jesus, prayers of intercession, and the Eucharistic prayer - handed down word for word. (For more information read The Mass of the Early Christians by Mike Aquilina. It references all of the bible verses, church fathers, and historical documents. Or you can look it up online. I'm not just making this stuff up.)

Now the most incredible thing isn't that it's been passed down for 2000 years in essentially the same, recognizable format. The incredible thing is the we take it for granted. Something that people died for is now a ritual or some sort of dirty secret. "Yes, I go to church because that is what I do. But I don't worship the bread or anything." Ever hear anything like that? But I had a similar attitude. I was shocked  to find Jesus in church because these things don't happen these days.

Maybe we just set low standards for ourselves. Maybe we don't think God really loves us. Maybe we think that mystical encounters happen only to saints.

Let me tell you a secret: Saints are not those who are the best. Saints are those who know that they are entirely reliant on God. There is no schizophrenic divorce between church and the "real world". God cannot be removed from the saint because God is the saint's heartbeat.

Do you believe that Jesus left us a way to ingest His substance in simple bread and wine? Those who knew Him on earth certainly believed it. Do you feel you are taking the Eucharist for granted? Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you. Go to Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and sit quietly for a while. Go to mass and wonder how many people have uttered the same prayers in hope and faith.

I have just touched the tip of the iceberg in my own journey and I have been transformed. Have you?

May God Continue to Bless You!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Life Bearers

Hello Ladies,

I have been reading a lot of Mother Teresa's writings lately. I love how she does not aspire to greatness but endeavors to bring God into the most menial of tasks. Her spirituality is built on suffering: suffering for Christ who suffers on the cross for love of us. She herself suffered immensely in her calling. How did she manage during her dark times? The most obvious answer is that she turned to Jesus, her spouse. And she did. She also had years of training in obedience, theology, spiritual direction, devotion to Mary and the sacraments,  and had incredible support from her bishop and the community. In short, she relied on the Body of Christ and not solely on her own power. Obviously we Marian moms rarely have the opportunity to go to daily mass, Eucharistic adoration, and an annual month-long retreat. Yet we are also called to bring God into the most menial of tasks.

One thing I do not recommend is focusing on the suffering aspect of Christ. Or, place the suffering Christ in the correct perspective to our calling. Remember that these remarkable Sisters or Charity go through years of formation and a great deal of training in order to embrace their suffering spouse in a healthy, balanced way.

It has occurred to me that there is no functional spirituality specifically for mothers. Or perhaps I should say that there probably is, or has been, but has since been lost. I once asked an elder of my family how she managed to raise six children in an impeccably clean house. (I'm only half joking when I say that her floors are cleaner than my dishes.) She told me two things: that children were allowed to roam outside on their own in those days and that women were trained from a young age to be wives and mothers. She had a longer stay in the hospital after each birth and she certainly wasn't expected to cook or clean for several weeks after the birth of a child. She lived in a community that valued her children and her hard work. She didn't believe that she would be able to manage the same thing now that children had to be constantly supervised and mothers, working outside the home or not, are, in her opinion, isolated. In her words, motherhood, nay, parenthood,  is no longer valued. (Obviously not everybody feels this way. There have also been some amazing changes. She was just very secure in her role and would feel very insecure in the shifting society. In short, she did not need a special spirituality for mothers because they were living it in community. She had a hard time understanding my question.)

The point isn't to make martyrs of mothers and fathers but to point out that there has been a fundamental shift in society. Everybody is trying to catch up. I'm not saying anything new in my theology. It's probably been said before in a much better way. But nobody has bothered to tell me what it is so I'm searching for it on my own. This is where my meandering thoughts have brought me (unsystematically, of course):

  • Whenever we get lost or don't know how to pray, ask the Holy Spirit to pray through you.

  • Mary was a life bearer. Jesus was conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit. (Medieval art depicts the Holy Spirit entering through her ear. This was very big for them. I'm suggesting that you breathe in the Holy Spirit and pray that you may bring life into every situation. This is a good way of praying because everybody likes to breathe, it's practically addictive, and it's highly unlikely that you will get pregnant by doing so.)

  • As Mother Teresa said, we were born to love and be loved. Why were we born so small and helpless? To learn how to be loved so we can teach others how to be loved. Even Jesus was born a helpless baby. This means that we need to let go of our fears and feeling of inadequacy so that the Holy Spirit has room flow through us (kenosis!). In short, we need to fully accept that we are wholly, passionately, and uniquely loved by God. The rest will follow.

God does not expect us to be perfect. He only asks that we do what is in front of us with great love. This takes practice. Mother Teresa was called to love the Suffering Spouse. I believe that we are called to allow the love of God, the basis of all creation, to move through us. I believe that breathing in the Holy Spirit is an excellent form of prayer to allow us to do so. I believe that by doing this, we will be able to accept God into the most mundane, unpleasant moments of our unique, busy lives. I believe that we must get rid of our own self-depricating, angry thoughts, that we must allow ourselves to be loved by God, in order for this to work. And I believe that Jesus continues to suffer out of longing for each and every one of us. But I'll let Mother Teresa tell you about that.

May God continue to bless you.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Hello Ladies,

Normally my posts are theologically based. After all, theology is the point of the blog. More specifically, theology that might be useful in orienting a mother of small children toward God. In this way, the mother can better bear the responsibility of raising her children.

I have noticed from some of the more private correspondences about the blog that some mothers believe that this (hopefully beautiful) theology makes me some sort of super mom. I am not being humble when I say: Ha! Hahahahahahahaha!!

You might wonder why I don't talk about myself very much. One of the reasons is that I want the theology to shine through, not me. Another reason is that I want each woman to read this and find her own way to God. My path, more or less, is the path of Everywoman. We are all on a journey to find our True Love, only to find that He has been with us all the while.

Most importantly is that I DON'T have all the answers. For example, do NOT ask me about:

potty training
three year olds who decide rules do NOT apply to them (see potty training)
nap times
getting children to eat fruits and veggies
getting children to behave during mass
getting sleep (I rely on coffee)

I have been informed by my children that I am a "meaner" and that a certain kindergarten teacher is better than me.

So you see, I am very far from being a perfect mom. I have given up on perfection. On my good days I think I'm raising future priests and social advocates. Today I think I'm raising future felons and politicians. Or worse. And yes, if you were at the Good Friday service, that was me carrying a baby and leading a wise young boy out while being trailed by a little girl, (who had been hitting her brother prior to making a break for the altar), who was screaming "Mommy! You can't leave me!! I wan't to stay at church!! MOMMMMYYYY!" Yup.

All that beautiful theology? Some days it's all that keeps me from eating my young.

Don't feel bad if you have a bad day. Or week. Ask Mary to guide you to Jesus. After all, she is the mother of all Christians. How about that for a job. No wonder she asked Jesus to make wine at the Wedding of Cana. She probably needed it!

May God continue to bless you!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Change of Perspective


A while ago a woman contacted me about the imagery I used in my post entitled Path to Humility - In God's Arms. She raised some very valid concerns that I thought others might share. I have her permission to address her concerns publicly in the blog while respecting her privacy.

Hello Ladies,

Lately I have received a message from a woman who is having a hard time visualizing herself being a child in the arms of a loving God. Why? In her case, and not to get too personal, her mother was not a safe, nurturing person. In her message this woman admitted that for years she has been trying to work through her past. What to do?

I appreciate her struggle and her honesty. After all, parents are the first example of God in a child's life. If a parent is abusive, absent, misguided or otherwise unloving, this will mark the child forever. It is likely that the child will perceive the world as a cruel place and behave accordingly. Even when the child grows into adulthood and wishes to believe in a loving world, there can still be the sense inadequacy, a knowledge of love withheld. It takes nothing less than a leap of blind faith to try to believe that one is lovable and cherished. (Yes, I'm speaking from experience here.) Then there is the added burden of 'healing' from such an upbringing. Let me qualify this statement: getting to a point where you can live as if the hurt never happened. Forgive and forget.

There are many pro-active steps we can make on the path to healing. Psychiatry is a wonderful thing. Sometimes medicine can help you regain your bearings. This can also be a good thing. (I'm adding this because I have no background in psychiatry or counseling. I'm a theologian when I'm not changing diapers. Sometimes medical expertise is the answer to your prayers.)

So back to theology, which is what I'm reasonably good at.

It would be easy, and not incorrect, to say that are many, many ways of imagining being in God's loving arms. If the image of a child peacefully sleeping in a parent's arms ins't helpful then by all means don't use it.

But this woman's e mail really struck a cord with me. Her concern wasn't about the imagery. She understood her reaction to it and why. The underlying questions were how can I heal from being misguided about love as a child. How can I heal and feel love and cared for at the most fundamental level? Why can't I rationalize or will myself out of this feeling of inadiquacy?

Ladies, these were the exact same questions I had been grappling with and pretty much for the same reasons. I don't have all the answers but I feel confident in writing a fuller response than "change the imagery".

Let me start by saying that it is not our job to heal ourselves. Yes, you heard me. We can no more heal ourselves of our spiritual wounds than we can will a broken leg to heal. The best thing we can do is get the experts to set the leg, elevate it, and take pain medication. Then sit back and let it heal. If you have pain in your leg later on in life you can reasonably say "oh, I injured it years ago. Now it aches every time it rains".  But talk about emotional scars? We feel bad every time we feel a twinge. Hadn't we 'taken care' of that issue already? So why is it bothering us now?

Let's get back to that broken leg. Do you break the cast open every day to analyze the progression of healing? Do we pick at it and berate ourselves for not healing faster?

Enough with the broken leg. You see my point.

We can't heal ourselves. But we can't go around being the emotionally walking wounded. And it isn't what God wants for us, either. Being the theologian, I ask, who healed Jesus? God did. And Jesus even bore the scars of His passion and death.

Think about this for a moment. Or two.

Ladies, if there is evil in this world, it whispers that we and those around us are not worthy of love. This is the root of all of our brokenness. We are broken. We are broken through original sin. We are broken because of the sins of others. We continue to break because we do not believe we are worthy of being healed.

Now take a deep breath. God breathed life into us. Jesus breathed on people in order to heal them. If you have ever been married, you gave your spouse a kiss - the breath of life. Sometimes all you can do is breathe through the pain. Whenever we encounter discomfort, whether mental or physical, we are told to take a deep breath. Have we ever taken the opportunity to invite the Holy Spirit in as we breathe? It's not like we don't breathe, anyway. It's practically a habit.

But what do we pray for during these times of pain? Who is wise enough to know what is best to wish for? What if you're so lost and confused that you don't even know how to begin?

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
Romans 8:26-27 NRSV

That's it, ladies. Breathe the Spirit in and then let things be.

I'm going to tell you a secret that will shock those of us with Western sensibilities: We can't do it all. Nope. We can go only so far on our own power. That's pretty insignificant before the power of God. Yet we can achieve miracles if we allow God to work through us. As we breathe the Spirit in, we are cleansed. It is not our actions which make us closer to God, but our reliance on Him.

The only way to make rapid progress along the path of divine love is to remain very little and put all our trust in Almighty God. - St. Therese of Lisieux

All I need is a quiet corner where I can talk to God each day as if there were nothing else to do. I try to make myself a tool for God. Not for myself, but only for Him.  - St. Edith Stein

Ladies, if I have learned anything in my life, it is that we either have faith in God or we don't. We either believe or we don't. Most of us are standing at the edge of the pool of faith, daintily dipping our toes in to make sure the water is warm. What use is that? And what does it cost us to hold on to our insecurities and pick at our wounds? Sometimes it's just best to get out of the way and let things heal. You will be amazed. And you will also be healthier and, dare I say, joyful. This is the promise of Christ.

Just a different way for looking at things.

May God continue to bless you!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Psalm 22 - NRSV

Hello Ladies,

We have all heard that Jesus called out "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" upon his death. (Mark 15:34; Matthew 27:46). Have you ever wondered why? Jesus was saying the first line of what is now referred to as psalm 22. All the Jews would have known exactly what he was meant when he said the first line. Perhaps reading the psalm in its entirety will give some food for thought this Good Friday.

Psalm 22

1My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?

2O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest.

3Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.

4In you our ancestors trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them.

5To you they cried, and were saved; in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.

6But I am a worm, and not human; scorned by others, and despised by the people.

7All who see me mock at me; they make mouths at me, they shake their heads;

8“Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver— let him rescue the one in whom he delights!”

9Yet it was you who took me from the womb; you kept me safe on my mother’s breast.

10On you I was cast from my birth, and since my mother bore me you have been my God.

11Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.

12Many bulls encircle me, strong bulls of Bashan surround me;

13they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion.

14I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast;

15my mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.

16For dogs are all around me; a company of evildoers encircles me. My hands and feet have shriveled;

17I can count all my bones. They stare and gloat over me;

18they divide my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.

19But you, O Lord, do not be far away! O my help, come quickly to my aid!

20Deliver my soul from the sword, my life from the power of the dog!

21Save me from the mouth of the lion! From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued me.

22I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:

23You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him; stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!

24For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him.

25From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will pay before those who fear him.

26The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord. May your hearts live forever!

27All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him.

28For dominion belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations.

29To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, and I shall live for him.

30Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord,

31and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that he has done it.

Have a Blessed Good Friday

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Redemptive Suffering: Part II

Hello Ladies,

In my earlier post entitled Redemptive Suffering, I explained how suffering can be used to the greater glory of God and for our own healing. If you have not read the earlier post or if I did not make myself clear, know that I do not endorse suffering for the sake of suffering. I do not believe that a woman's role is to be subservient, meek, or silent. Having said this I must point out that God does meet us in our suffering and speaks to us in the silence. This is not a contradiction because we are God's beloved children. In the silence, He will tell us when to speak softly or with loud voices. In the stillness, He will tell us when to be bold.

In a moment I am going to give a beautiful quote from Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta about the virtue of silence. Why would I place silence in the same post as suffering? One reason is because women, even now, are told that they should suffer in silence. Why? So that their suffering can be ignored by those who wish to perpetuate their inequality. Obviously this is not what Mother Teresa is saying. Mother Teresa changed the world by silently suffering for God! Nobody forced her to do this: not her confessors, not her spiritual directors, not her bishop. She did this because Jesus was calling her and she responded out of love for Him.

I think it is very important: that union with God. You must be full of silence, for in the silence of the heart God speaks. An empty heart God fills. Even Almighty God will not fill a heart that is full-full of pride, bitterness, jealousy-we must give these things up. As long as we are holding these things, God cannot fill it. Silence of the heart, not only of the mouth-that too is necessary-but more, that silence of the mind, silence of the eyes, silence of the touch. Then you can hear Him everywhere: in the closing of the door, in the person who needs you, in the birds that sing, in the flowers, the animals-that silence which is wonder and praise. Why? Because God is everywhere and you can see and hear Him. That crow is praising God-I can hear its sound well-that stupid crow; we can see Him and hear Him in that crow and pray, but we cannot see and hear Him if our heart is not clean. (Where There Is Love There Is God, p. 12.)

Mother Teresa also had a great devotion to Our Lady. This is an enormous help to me because, being the academic that I am, I appreciate it when somebody else does all the hard work for me.

We must pray, we must really bring Our Lady into our life fully because she was the one who taught us how to find Jesus. And how did she find Jesus? By just being the handmaid of the Lord. She was surprised when she was called "full of grace." She didn't understand, but she understood beautifully when she said, "I am the handmaid of the Lord," and she remained like that. She could have gone round [talking], but she did not even tell St. Joseph. Poor St. Joseph did not know till the end. She could't say anything-the handmaid, that silence. Because God speaks in the silence of our hearts. And Our Lady knew that silence and because she knew that silence, she was able to love from the fullness of her heart, and this is what the young people want to see-that silence. Silence is a sign of our oneness with Christ, of our surrender to Him, of our being His totally, and for vocations to grow, we have to teach them that silence. Because...we need that silence to learn to pray...the young people want to learn to pray. Not in noise but they want to pray in the silence of their hearts, to teach them to hear that voice, to hear God in their hearts. And so they want to see what is our silence. They have to learn this silence from seeing us, from being with us and as we know, silence cannot be corrected also. It is so beautiful. I am seeing these young people during our adoration-we have adoration every day for one hour. I've seen these people, these young sisters, these young "come and sees" completely, really one with Jesus...because their hearts have understood "you are precious to Me, you are Mine." (Where There Is Love There Is God, p. 13-14.)

Have you noticed how loud our society is? My mother, God bless her soul, used say that if she didn't make a big deal about something then nobody would know that it was important. Unfortunately, everything became a big deal so her real needs became lost in the noise. Jesus was trying to heal her but she couldn't hear Him. Silence for women has become synonymous with victimhood. But do we listen to those who need us? Do we listen to God within us?

It is easy to brush off the saints. After all, they were saints so they had an 'in' with God. And even if they did struggle, they were religious so their entire lives could be devoted to God. We mothers of young children, on the other hand, do not get silence. We do not get sleep. We do not even get to go to the bathroom by ourselves! What we get are cries that must be answered immediately. We get dirty diapers and dirty kitchens. And we are supposed to find a quiet place with God? And suffer silently, don't we already do that? We could scream our pain at the top of our lungs and it would fall on deaf ears.

Well, Ladies, fear not! I am going to give you some brief prayers that will help you keep your heart untroubled so that God may always enter. And yes, I have tried them. And yes, it works. When things get difficult try repeating one of the following:

Holy Trinity, One God, have mercy on us.

My God and my all.

My God, I love you.

Teach me, O Lord, to do your will, for you are my God.

My Jesus, mercy.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, protect our families.

Heart of Jesus, I place my trust in you.

Jesus, I love you. Jesus, I trust you.

Holy Spirit, guide me.

I am the handmaid of the Lord.

These are just a sampling of prayers. It is hard to yell at your kids when you are praying. (I've managed once or twice but mostly it's hard.)

Yes, we suffer. But we suffer a lot less when we make calm, life-giving choices. And when we do suffer it should be because we are bringing forth life, as does God. We are God's beloved daughters, mothers to God's beloved children. God guides us through our most mundane tasks and gives them value. Let others yell and scream and demand attention like spoiled children. In the meantime we will be going about the work of changing the world. Think that such simplicity doesn't work? Look at Mother Teresa's life. She brought God to all she met. She suffered but she could see God working through her.

Let us pray for each other, that by being faithful to God, we may be faithful to ourselves.

No wonder the secular world fears silence. No wonder the secular world fears suffering. The secular world is its own god. Let us transcend it. Let us live fearlessly.

May God Continue to Bless You!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Redemptive Suffering

Disclaimer: This post is about suffering, more specifically, redemptive suffering. This is not a topic to be undertaken lightly. As Christians we believe in a suffering God. We really need to understand what exactly this means. It is a crucial part of our faith and so our understanding of it is a crucial part of our everyday life. Please be patient as I explain the difference between suffering and redemptive suffering. Yes, there is a difference. No, I’m not splitting hairs or delving into a topic that has no simple, practical application. And NO, I will NEVER tell a woman that it is her role to suffer. EVER. Jesus has done the suffering for us.

What I will tell you: The origin of suffering
            The definition of meaningless suffering
            Why Jesus suffered for us
         How suffering can be redemptive
                                What this means to us
        Prayers to help us on our way (part II)

Hello Ladies,

Tonight I'm going to try to tackle a topic I really don't want to approach: redemptive suffering. I don't like suffering. It sucks. I don't like reading about it (which, by the way, was what I was doing this past Friday night. Pathetic!) I don't want to write about it. But it's important and misunderstood. So like most things that are painful, I'm going to get it done as quickly as possible, hope I don't screw it up too badly in my haste, and pretend like it's not happening. So are you with me? Let's go.

The Origin of Suffering: In the Beginning

Why is suffering so miserable? Because we weren't created to suffer. We were created in the image and likeness of God to be in communion with God and the rest of creation. There was no concept of death or separation. There was no alienation. Our sense of self and others came from God. Sounds kind of like the Garden of Eden, right? But now suffering is so much a part of the human experience sometimes we even define ourselves by our suffering. Healthy? No. But it's true. We now feel alienated from others, our parents, spouses, children. We are so alienated from God that sometimes we even question His existence. So what gives?

The book of Genesis clearly states that suffering entered the world when Adam and Eve ate the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Their eyes were opened and they saw that they were naked. When they saw their nakedness they were ashamed and hid from God. This distancing of self from God is sin. Since God respects our free will suffering is allowed to continue.

To the woman he [God] said,
"I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you."

And to the man he said,
"Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree about which I commanded you, 'You shall not eat of it,' cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return."
Genesis 3:16-19 NRSV

Thus did fear, inequality, alienation, and the suffering they would cause enter the world. But then so did the beauty of choosing to love in spite of our desire to hide ourselves from God and those who would love us, even ourselves. The root of our suffering comes from choosing to hide ourselves from God. The more we hide from God the more we suffer. Did God create suffering to punish us? He didn’t need to. He didn’t need to curse us with pain and toil. He simply knew what distancing ourselves from Him would result just as we tell our children when something is a Bad Idea. You don’t have to be divine to know that a child who habitually jumps on a bed will eventually fall off and get hurt.  In the same way God didn’t curse women to be subservient or have painful labors. He simply knew what would happen when He was no longer the measure by which we rate ourselves.

Before we go on let me clarify a few points. When humanity fell from grace so to did creation. Since that time creation has been in labor, so to speak, until the new heaven and new earth are created: the end of the age. We all understand this allegory. Carrying this allegory a step further we are called to be midwives to creation - to be bringers of life. In order to do this we must be in communion with God. More on this later.

The Definition of Meaningless Suffering:

So what makes suffering redemptive? Well, God suffers because we are not close to Him. We suffer because we are not close to God. Jesus suffered so that our souls might reunite with God. And we suffer because... Ah, this is where it gets tricky.

Why do we suffer? We suffer because there are a lot of jerks out there who say we deserve to suffer because we are: too rich, too poor, have the wrong hair color, we're women, wives, mothers, not wives or mothers, too ugly, too sexy, to educated, too ignorant, wrong nationality or language group, wrong skin color, wrong religion, wrong gender in wrong religion, etc., etc...  These jerks have a lot of power, sometimes the power of life and death. And really, we can all be jerks sometimes. I have seen a soldier in an invading army work for peace in her every word and deed. I have seen peace activists destroy all in their paths out of hate. Things don't have to be this way but they are. We may suffer because of these people. There’s no way around it. But do we allow them to define us? Should we suffer simply because they want us to?

Why Jesus Suffered for Us and Redemptive Suffering:

Did Jesus think suffering was a great thing? No!!  In the ancient Greek text of the Gospel of Mark , when  Jesus was confronted with a suffering person, the Greek term used translates "he held them in his bowels". In more palatable English it is translated as "He had compassion for". Perhaps a better translation would be "his gut wrenched at the sight of such suffering and he was moved by love to cure them". Or maybe we should have a more informed idea of what compassion means: to suffer with. It pained Jesus to see people suffer. And when it came time for Jesus to suffer and die for our sins did He skip for joy? No! He prayed and begged in anguish for hours, asking the Father to spare Him. Are you afraid of pain, suffering, humiliation, separation from God and death? You are in very good company.

So why did God demand this of his Beloved Son? Well, He didn't, really. We were the ones who chose to separate ourselves from God (sin). Out of respect for human free will sin is the one place God does not go. But a human can. A human cannot heal the breach between God and humanity. But God can. (Do you see where this is going?) So Jesus, who is fully human and fully divine, through the human condition of suffering, which is the effect of our rejection of God, which is sin, can bring God for us to be healed, which is salvation. Phew! Before the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, suffering had no meaning. Now suffering is a place where God meets us to heal us. Redemption. In short, God is using a flawed tool of our own creation to heal us. It's not the only way to heal us, but since suffering is the effect of our choice to sin, it might be the way we understand best.

When we suffer we desire to be closer to God. As we become closer to God we become more like God: more of what we were created to be. We become more of ourselves. We have less fear. We have less weakness. We no longer worry about what others say; we share the same mind as Jesus, who is Love. No matter what we go through, He has been there first. We will never be asked to do anything that He has not done. We will continue to sin, block God from our souls, because we are fallen. We will suffer and die because we are in a fallen world. We can meet God in our suffering not only because suffering breaks down the "I" and we allow God in, but also because Jesus bore the mantle of our sins and suffered for us and with us. Simply put: in our suffering we have a beautiful opportunity to meet God because God is not afraid of a filthy soul. For this the soul is grateful.

Gratitude will lead us to do some strange things. Well, strange according to a world that wants us to suffer needlessly. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta loved the crucified Jesus so much that she willingly took on His suffering to do His work in the world. And she really did suffer. Once she began her life as a Missionary of Charity she felt alienated from God, as if He had abandoner her or her soul needed to be purged from imperfections. Her spiritual directors disagreed with her reasoning stating that instead of being far from God that she was in closer communion with Christ Crucified. Remember, sin is the rejection of God. God respects our free will so sadly endured our rejection. When Jesus willingly took our sin upon Himself, He was in a place where God could not go until it was transformed by death and resurrection. God NEVER abandoned Jesus just as God NEVER abandons us. But Jesus truly suffered for want of God. And so did Mother Teresa. And do you know that Mother Teresa was grateful for her suffering? Her loneliness? Why? Because it allowed her to reach out with compassion and understanding to those in despair. For the people Mother Teresa touched, the Kingdom of God is already at hand.

Suffering can also unite us with others who suffer. Mother Teresa had a spiritual sister who, due to painful physical infirmity, could not do the active work of a Mission of Charity. The solution? This spiritual sister was to 'offer up' her suffering for Mother Teresa! In fact, Mother Teresa saw her sister as having the more noble calling! How does this work?

Suffering is a place where we meet Christ Crucified. Remember that because of Jesus Christ, God can now move through even our sin if we allow Him. Think of it this way: The soul embroiled in sin is like a closed, stuffy, dirty room. It might stink but it's MY stink. I might hate it but it's MINE. I might even despair but it's MY choice. Now imagine allowing God in, even a little bit. Whoosh! The curtains are pulled back and the windows opened. Suddenly light and fresh air enter. Now I can start to see things as they really are. Some things that I once feared turn out to be mere shadows that disappear in the light. Some things I thought were clean turn out to be dirty. Purging the soul of dirt can be painful. But once you see the filth you will wish to become clean at all cost! Now, through the grace of God, there is hope of becoming clean, a new creation. Gratitude enters the soul. Joy. A new world begins.

As Jesus is transforming us from the inside out, we are also in communion with all of the suffering. Remember we are connected to each other through the bonds of love, the Holy Spirit. Deep within us there is a place where we are meant to be connected to all of creation. We are fallen. We cannot heal it. But we can allow God to heal us. This is the place where God reaches down and takes us by the hand. This is the silent, lonely, empty place where God fills us. This is the place where we are connected in prayer and love. This is the place where suffering takes us.

Does that make suffering good? Heck no! And do we, as Marian moms, glorify suffering in any way? Nope! We are proud of our scars, our strength, our faith in God. Any sane person tries to avoid needless, or any, suffering. A woman might endure the pain of a natural childbirth because she believes that it is better for herself and her child. I have yet to meet a woman who walks into a birthing room and says 'gee, I think I'd like to make labor longer and more painful, please'. No. She does not do one more push, endure one more stitch, than absolutely necessary.

What This Means To Us:

We suffer because we need to be healed. We suffer because God suffers in longing for us. We suffer because God calls us to help heal the creation that we broke in a fit of infantile rage. We suffer because we try to see the world as God does but we continually fail. We suffer for love of God. We suffer because on some level we understand that we all make it to heaven together or heaven is greatly diminished by our failure to love. We suffer because we know that this isn’t our true home.

How does this understanding of suffering affect our role as Marian Mothers? Well, you tell me. You were created in the image and likeness of God to do something that nobody else in the history of creation can do. I cannot tell you how to be a mother. I cannot tell you what it is to be a woman. (Presumably you already know.) But like Mary, I can tell you “do what He tells you to do”.

Go sit in the silence. Stare at the wall. Ask God. Bring your suffering to God. Have compassion for others instead of judging them. Allow God to heal you. Allow God to heal the world through you. Observe the small but profound miracles happening around you and give thanks. Do small things will great love.

Conclusion of Part I:

Well Ladies, this post has turned out to be very different than I expected. Hopefully it is relevant and worth reading. It is my wish that by seeing your situation differently you will begin to behave in a more loving manner. I now see the Infant Jesus in my young children. Instead of becoming angry with them for infringing on my freedom I now see them as an opportunity to love the least of His people. We are all much happier. I still suffer. I still get angry. But I allow love to pour through me. Well, more often anyway.

In my next post (if it doesn’t evolve into something else again) I will try to give some suggestions on how to find Jesus in the midst of suffering.

God Bless You During this Holy Week

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Matthew 34:31-46

It is not those who commit the least faults who are most holy, but those who have the greatest courage, the greatest generosity, the greatest love, who make the boldest efforts to overcome themselves, and are not immoderately apprehensive of tripping.
St. Frances de Sales

Hello Ladies,

One of the biggest challenges mothers of young children come across is that of isolation. We are up at all hours of the night. Our activities are curtailed by nap times. And don't get me started about having to deal with two children on different nap schedules! There are days I barely leave the house.

And then what happens when you want to meet with friends? If your friends have young children as well then it's a whole new set of nap times and rounds of colds. And when you do get together? Anarchy. My point? We sacrifice quite a bit and it mostly goes unnoticed and unappreciated.

If this isn't enough most mothers, whether working outside of the home or not, are continually challenged to go out into the world and make a quantifiable difference in society. Even when I had a newborn baby in my arms I had people asking me when I was going to get a "real" job. (I told these people that my child could not pay taxes for their pension or health care if the child grew to up to be on government assistance or in prison because of parental neglect. Some people.)

My point? Lots of people have opinions and advice as to how you should live your life and raise your children. Many of these people are supportive and encouraging. Others, those know-it-alls who see children, even their own, as burdens, can drive you crazy. Sometimes it's hard to focus on or know what is truly important. So being the Marian moms that we are we turn to Jesus for help and direction.

The Judgment of the Nations. (Matthew 34:31-46)

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, 32 and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, 36
naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?
39 When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ 40 And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’
41 Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ 44  Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ 45 He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ 46 And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

All right! I can hear the screeches and groans from here. "Geez, Theology Mom, more judgment? As if we're not judged on a daily basis about the kind of diapers we put our children in! And apocalyptic judgment?  I can barely get through the day and you're talking to me about all sorts of charity work that I just can't manage right now. Talk to me after I get a full night's sleep. I'm off to eat chocolate ice cream out of the container."

I hear you, Sisters! What I am going to say is not original. In fact there is a beautiful reflection based on the above scripture passage. I heard it once but have been unable to find it again. If you happen to know it please send it to me.  Since I don't have the original reflection I will paraphrase it.

A mother dies and is surprised to find herself in heaven.
"Jesus", asks she, "not that I'm complaining, but how did I come to be worthy of this"?
"Good mother," says He, "when I was hungry you gave me food."
"Lord, that is not possible. There were so many hungry in the world and I barely had presence of mind to take a dusty can of food out of my pantry for a food drive. Tell me, when did I feed you?"
"In the middle of the night I cried because I did not have words. You sacrificed your sleep to feed me. But there is more. When I was a stranger you welcomed me"
"But Lord, when were you a stranger to me and I welcomed you?"
"When your body was not your own and rejected food. When I was placed in your arms and you were terrified of the responsibilities ahead. When you resented me for your loss of personal freedom until your body healed and still you allowed the seeds of love to bear fruit. That love was a choice. But there is more. When I was in prison you visited me."
"Lord, I have never stepped foot inside a prison!"
"Mother, I was imprisoned in a helpless body, unable to comprehend my most basic needs, hoping that somebody would pick me up and love and nurture me so that I could grow. You have done these things. Come, share my joy!"

(I would like to take the opportunity to thank those mothers who, unable to care for their own children, had the strength and faith to give them up for adoption. Some of those children have blessed my own family. Several adopted children continue to bless my life with their friendship. Also a special thank you to mothers who welcome adopted and foster children into their homes. May God continue to bless you!)

Yes, Ladies, we will by judged by God. The good news is that He will never ask us if our children wore the latest designer clothes or had the newest toys. The challenging news is that we must give much more of ourselves. Our consolation is that Jesus will guide our steps if we allow it.

We do not have to do great things to prove our worth. That is the judgment of the world. In Jesus our worth is beyond measure. Our sacrifices are met with respect and gratitude. Our suffering has meaning. (More on the Suffering God later.)

Mother Teresa said that if you want lasting peace in the world go home and love your family.

Now go take care of some of the most helpless in society. I am off to take care of my teething baby before she wakes the other children. Again.  Or bang my head against the wall. Probably both.

May God continue to bless you!

Friday, March 1, 2013

A Change of Direction: Q&A

Hello Ladies,

I'm writing today because some friends of mine are asking about all sorts of things from basic teachings of the Catholic church to reactions on death. This is a pretty wide range! One or two of my friends have asked if their questions or concerns are blog-worthy. Um, Yes!! What is written on a blog is not more important then the person reading it. So if you have any questions or concerns feel free to write and ask. I will answer them as confidentially and compassionately and as true to Catholic teaching as I am able. I will also endeavor, as always, to make my reply relevant. This is not meant to be an advice column. I don't have all the answers. But we are all human and our situations are not so different that we can't support one another. WE are the body of Christ.

Since I really have no idea who, if anybody, reads this blog I will continue to write about whatever thought can survive the slush that is my brain. But I would really love to hear from you.


Theology Mom

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Practical Humility- kenosis


Hello Ladies,

I've been trying to write this post for a while now. My life has been a bit of a gong show these past few weeks. Normally I would find this very frustrating and behave accordingly.  (Which is to say I would not have behaved well at all.) Luckily for those around me I've given up needless worry for Lent. Things don't get done the way I wanted them to? No big deal. And instead of praying that things pass me by (please, God, don't make me go to that event tomorrow; I'm much too tired!) I pray that God be with me and give me strength and endurance for the challenges ahead. This lent, I'm letting God decide what is important in my life. The rest will take care of itself.

So without further ado, I present this latest post.


I hope that you've noticed that my theology is very practical. If it doesn't work, don't do it. I may suggest praying the rosary or going to mass but I also know that some non-Catholics read this blog and still want content relevant to their spirituality.

You might have also noticed that this blog isn't very systematic. I don't want to write too much because I don't want to be another 'mommy blog'. It's also very difficult to plan anything on three hours of sleep. I might have more mystic encounters but I don't trust them.

I write what is on my heart. If something tells me that an idea is relevant then I write it. So much for scholarly treatises! (They're as much fun to read as they are to write.)

So of course pray the rosary and go to mass. But don't cheapen them by doing it 'by rote because that is what you're supposed to do'. Jesus is calling us into a relationship with Him. So go! Relate!

I might not be systematic but I have hit upon a theme that I find inspiring in my own life: humility. And believe me, Ladies, I'm going to give you practical reasons why humility is a great thing.

These days when people think of humility they think of an unequal relationship. Someone, usually a man, has more control over another, usually a humble woman. In this case humility becomes a feminine virtue and in this way the unequal relationship is perpetuated. Which is exactly what Jesus was against! (Meaning Jesus is against any form of unequal relationship.) Yet we are called to be humble to be closer to God. So what gives??

Okay, ANY relationship with God is bound to be unbalanced in God's favor. Obviously. So it's a good thing we follow a humble God.

If there is any encouragement in Christ, any solace in love, any participation in the Spirit, any  compassion and mercy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love united in heart, thinking one thing. Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but [also] everyone for those of others.

Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus,
Who though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.

Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:1-11

We're weak humans. We think that thinking of others first is degrading. Jesus is God and he died on the cross for us. [Enter humble pause here.]

Yet Jesus was also human. So what did he do? He emptied himself. He took the form of a slave. And did God leave Him there? No. God made Jesus greater than Jesus could have ever accomplished on his own if he had selfishly guarded his human vanities.  God did not leave Jesus empty and He does not want to leave us empty, either. This relationship, this self-emptying and being filled by God, has a very profound term: kenosis. Or, if you're Jesus, Kenosis. It is a great mystery upon which the relationship of the Trinity rests. And we are called to be a part of it. (And you won't have to write a 30 page paper to be a part of it either. Lucky you.)

So here is a profound truth of Christianity. 

But let's start with humility. At an earlier post I said that we are called to be humble before God - not man. I really like this definition. But then I heard theologian, Jeff Cavins, define humility as knowing your own limitations and who you are in relationship to God and others and being okay with that.  Once again humility is taken out of an unequal context and is now the empowerment of self-knowledge and the surety of God's love.

How does one become humble? By praying and practice. Practicing humility can be as simple as truly listening to what another has to say. This means NOT thinking of your next words while another is talking. This is such an important skill that there is even a term for it: active listening. However you chose to practice humility you will notice an immediate change in your life and your prayer life. Let me give an example.

This year I gave up undue worrying for Lent. Why? Because I found that this is one of the major stumbling blocks that I put up between me, God, and the rest of the world. Why do I worry? For the illusion of control over my life. What do I seek to control? What others think of me. Is there any way I can control this? Not really.

So what are some of the practical changes I've noticed?  People think I'm wiser because I'm less likely to interject with really stupid comments. Am I wiser? No. But at least I don't look like a total idiot.

I'm becoming more compassionate. Why? Because I'm taking the time to listen to what people have to say instead of making snap judgments.

I am also less likely to worry about what other people are saying or thinking about me because the world is becoming a less dangerous place. They're not out to hurt me. They're probably not thinking about me at all. They're just trying to get through their own day.

There is less drama in my life because I'm not creating the drama. Outbursts with my husband last only a few minutes instead of a few hours because I have faith in our shared love instead of having to be right. This works out better for the whole family. (If my husband reads this and disagrees then he has no idea what goes on in my head sometimes! Sometimes ignorance is truly bliss.)

But, you might say, I've prayed about this humility thing (or something else) and I still don't get it! Well, let's talk about prayer for a minute because we won't get very far without it.

Everything we have comes from God. If we are called to God it is because God has called us first. And God is faithful to us in all things. So why don't we always get what we want?

What is prayer? Prayer is entering into a relationship with God. Many of us, myself included, treat Jesus like Santa Claus. When we do talk to Him we tell him all of our wants. Maybe they're good wants: world peace, meaningful work, conversion of souls. But how do you relate to somebody who just asks for things all the time? Would you put up with that from your spouse? Your beloved? Probably not. You would probably walk away muttering terms like 'need healthy boundaries' and 'not enabling'. You get the idea. So why do we treat Jesus this way? Or we could look at it another way. Here is a conversation I had recently with my son:

Son: Mama, can I have some candy? Please?
Me: No.
S (whining): But why not? I asked nicely.
M: You did ask nicely. But candy has lots of sugar and it's bed time. You won't be able to sleep with      all that sugar and besides, you've already brushed your teeth. I love you. Go to bed.
S: But candy is good and you want good things for me. You love me and want me to be happy!!!
M: I love you too much to argue with you about this. Good night.
S: You're mean! I don't want to talk to you any more!

I walked away thinking that this is how I pray! How does Jesus put up with me?

Now I am much more careful how I pray and what I pray for. My prayers begin with praise and gratitude. Then I ask the Spirit to guide me in my prayers. I am aware (or more aware) of the mercy that God has continually bestowed me in my life. I use the life of Jesus as a model for my life. Or I'm trying to anyway.

Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus,
Who though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.

Humility is a wonderful thing because humility is God-like. The only way to transcend the hollow and painful cares of this world is to become more like Jesus. The only way to become more like Jesus is to spend time with Him. Yes, pray the rosary. Yes, go to mass. Yes, read (nay, PRAY) the bible. Listen. You will find peace. You will see an immediate, practical improvement in your life. But be willing to change. Be willing to let go of things that just aren't that important. Do what is important with great love. Go, beloved child of a faithful God. Go, love your children. Help them grow and change. Lead them by your example and steadfastness. Find the peace that only God can give and bless your children with your faith. It is the best, most practical legacy you can bestow.

God Bless.