Sunday, March 31, 2013

Catholicism Through My Eyes: The End

Happy Easter. Since Lent is over...this will be my last dedicated Sunday blog to Catholicism. No....this does not mean I will not be talking about my faith nor does it mean I will not be answering any questions on the subject to the best of my ability if asked. It simply means that this Sunday blog became a rather unexpected Lenten gift to myself. It gave me as much to think about as I hope it gave all of you. I know that I barely scratched the surface of my faith, but perhaps from time to time I will do more on the subject. Truthfully....these Sunday blogs have been the most difficult of all my blogs. I have had to put much thought and yes....even prayer into them to say what I felt needed saying and say what I hoped would please God and be true to my faith. I hope I have done my subjects justice and that when all was said and done....that you learned a little about Catholicism and that I was able to squash a misconception or two. I still welcome questions and comments on the subject and will be happy to revisit or conquer new territory in the future if I see a need.

I would like to end this series speaking about miracles. Miracles are something that Christians and Jews alike.....believe in. The Bible, both Old and New Testaments are filled with miracles from the Wedding at Canaan to the Resurrection. Miracles are ultimately God's gift to us to remind us that He is always there and that there is always hope. More than once I have felt great sorrow for those who have no faith in God. How can you possibly see a miracle or understand a miracle if you have no faith in a higher power. Those who practice beliefs where man, animal or inanimate objects are their higher power must see the fallibility in their thinking for none of these has the power to completely rid the body of an inoperable cancer that even medical science could not accomplish or to heal an injury that even the most skilled surgeon cannot fix. As for those who believe in nothing.....just how do you explain that which is unexplainable?

As a Catholic....I was taught to believe in miracles from birth I think. It wasn't something that was just lectured to me and I believed because I was "told" to. I have seen miracles. I once saw my mom and brother crossing an intersection where a car was not paying attention and jumped a curb sailing head on into them. Realizing what was happening....they both froze. Miraculously...the car never touched them but ended up 6 feet on the opposite side of them as if it had gone through them. No one on the street could believe their eyes as there was no way the car ended up where it did without running over them. Yes...God gives us those "big" miracles that are wake up calls to the fact that He has His arms around us and when in need....He is there. However....those once in a great while miracles are not the only ones. Daily miracles happen that perhaps we don't recognize. Everything from the intricacies of the human body to the fading glow of a sunset are miraculous gifts given to us by God.

I remember once coming home and telling my mom that our science teacher told us that God creating the earth in seven days was nothing more than a myth. That the earth was actually started by a huge explosion in space or the big bang. Usually this would have sent my mom into a tail spin. Instead though she said...."Okay....if that is the case, then who created space? Where did it come from and who or what caused the explosion?" It was here that she took the time to explain to me that those who don't believe in God will spend their lives trying to disprove His existence....but some things simply can't be explained away. She taught me that there is room for both science and religion/spirituality in this world for God created both. She also explained that this is where our faith comes in. Those who do not believe in God live in both a very egotistical and a very narrow world with very narrow thinking. In essence they believe that the world revolves around them and when they are gone....there is nothing more. It is simply the end. They can't except anything that they can't physically see and touch, so they believe in nothing but themselves. So who do they turn to when everything is out of their own hands? One of two things usually happens....they either get religion really fast....or they suddenly realize their own inadequacies and become angry because in their narrow vision....all is lost. There is no hope. In Christianity...we know there is always hope, miracles happen and that this world is only a prelude to the next. If you think about it.....the ability to have faith itself is a miracle, for it truly is being able to believe in that which we cannot always see or prove.

As miracles we celebrate the greatest miracle of all time. Today we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. God the Father gave His only Son for our sins. He allowed for Him to die on the cross for the salvation of all of us. I can only imagine the pain God felt as He watched those He was trying to save scoff at, abuse and ultimately kill His only son. My heart breaks for Mary His mother and for all those whole loved Him and had to watch Him die such a horrific death. He was truly an innocent, sinless man who was put to death out of fear, prejudice and hate. The loss felt that day must have been insurmountable. You know there were many asking God..."Why?" and begging for a miracle. On that Sunday morning.....a miracle was given....for on checking on Our Lord's body....the stone was removed from His tomb and His body was no longer there. He had risen and in the miracle of all miracles.....He was alive. 

At Mass this morning Father made a statement while totally true....I had not really thought of before. Each time we go to Mass....we celebrate Easter. We celebrate the life, death and resurrection of our Lord. Each Sunday we celebrate the greatest miracle of all time. It was a pretty profound way of thinking if you ask me.

So yes....I am a Catholic and I believe in the Resurrection. I believe in miracles and I believe in my faith and in my church. Being a Catholic is sometimes very difficult as society and church often collide and it takes a great deal of prayer and yes keep on track. I love my church though and I love knowing we were started by Jesus Himself and that our faith has a rich history. Not a perfect one mind you....but one filled with both human frailty and human strength. I love that sinners can become saints and that God works many miracles through these special souls who often gave up everything for Him. I guess what it all boils down to is being a Catholic is a huge part of who I am. I don't even think I knew how much until I started writing this Sunday blog on Catholicism. I am grateful for the readers who took time to read and as I said....I hope I might have opened both minds and eyes for some. Well I guess that is all I have to say today. Go out and enjoy your day, your family and the miraculous world God has given us. May each and everyone of you have a wonderful and Blessed Easter Sunday.

Friday, March 29, 2013

I Remember Momma and the Good Friday Prayer

It has been a strange week for me. For one....I think I have blogged almost everyday and two......Wednesday would have been my mom's 77th birthday. It has been brought up to me that I talk a great deal about my mom in my blogs. I guess it is true. Her words of wisdom and the education she gave me....stay with me to this day. They can't help but spill over into my everyday thinking....and they do. Not a day goes by that I don't quote her, think about her...or and I know she is in heaven laughing now.....act like her. 

For those of you who knew my know she was a force to be reckoned with, for those of you who didn't....I can only say I am sorry, for she is not someone you would soon forget. My mother was an amazing woman. She had a firey Irish temper and she could put the fear of God in you if you got on her bad side. She was also beautiful, smart and I only  once ever heard her tell a lie. She hated liars and if you lied to her.....did I mention she had a firey Irish temper? She was very smart and there was nothing she couldn't do if she put her mind to it. She was kind and spiritual and when she was always a chain reaction for everyone around her. This just made her laugh harder until everyone in the room was in tears. Mom always taught by example and she could tell the greatest stories. Her stories were better than any tv show or movie, because they were always true. She had a stubbornness and determination that few could rival and she was fiercely protective of those she loved. She also had a very hard to challenge moral compass with a black and white view of right and wrong. Most of all though....she was an amazing mother. Her children ALWAYS came first. I was to say the least....very blessed to be able to call her mom.

It has been a little over 10 years since we said good-bye. It was at this time that she told me the only lie I ever knew her to tell. She said...."Don't worry. I will be fine!" She was not and I think she knew she would not be. I miss that woman every day. God though in His infinite wisdom has not taken her completely from me, for every time I look at David's smile, see Z's kind heart or deal with Wesley's stubbornness.....she is here. She is smiling and she is reminding me that through my kids....she lives on. Occasionally when I look in the mirror....I also see her face. I remember a day in my teens when her wisdom at the time seemed anything but wise and I was having my own fit of stubbornness that I told myself that I would never be like her. Little did I know at the time....I already was.

Wednesday was a really difficult day for me and I just couldn't bring myself to think about her too much. For whatever reason....this year I am really feeling her loss. Today though....I am better and I am remembering that a force like Mom is never truly gone and she will live on in my heart and my blogs forever.

Speaking of Mom and her stories...she had her own little idiosyncrasies. Today is Good Friday.....a day where Christians around the world honor the greatest sacrifice known to man. God gave His only Son and allowed Him to die on the cross....for our sins. Mom told me one time...that in her lifetime, the weather on Good Friday had been stormy or at the very least overcast more Good Friday's in her life than it had been nice. I have no doubt Mom knew what she was talking she probably kept track somewhere. She was like that. After she died, I found a calendar that Mom had kept one year and each day she had documented the high, the low, the weather conditions and a little statement of how she felt about that particular days weather. Mom was a weather freak of yeah.....she probably knew exactly how many Good Friday's had been stormy vs. nice.

As I said....Good Friday is honored by Christians around the world. It is part of Holy Week which starts on Holy Thursday and ends on Easter Sunday when we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and the end of Lent. As a Catholic....we view Good Friday as a solemn day of fasting, abstaining, prayer and introspection into what Christs life, death and resurrection means to us. By fasting and abstaining, we continue with eating no meat on Friday and today we eat only two small meals, one larger meal and nothing in between. Traditionally this is also a day of prayer especially between the hours of noon and 3 p.m.....the time when Jesus was suffering and ultimately died.

One prayer that my mother taught us she called the Good Friday Prayer. We would say it as a family 33 times between noon and 3 p.m. on Good Friday....for whatever special intention we had. Often we would pray for family or friends we knew were in need and never did I know of this prayer not being answered. Apparently I am not the only one who knows the power of this prayer for you will find it all over the internet on Good Friday. I will share it at the end of this blog in case anyone is interested.

To me....Good Friday is possibly one of...if not the most important day of the year to Christians. It is a day that shows us pure sacrifice for the love of others. While God may have tested Abraham asking him to sacrifice his son Isaac, He did not make him carry it out. However....God did sacrifice His own son. It was to show us the love He had for all of us. How His heart must have broken to see His beautiful Son suffer so horrifically at the hands of the very people He was paying the ultimate sacrifice to save. It kind of makes you wonder why God hasn't done away with us long before now....because this sacrifice seems to have long been forgotten or at the very least....disregarded by many.

So this morning...I opened my eyes at 4 a.m. and never closed them again. My head was full of Good Friday, Mom and wondering what today's weather would bring. Yes...I know...another one of those blogs that you need a GPS to get through. Sorry....maybe next week...... Ah...who am I kidding?  ;)

May you have a blessed Good Friday!

Good Friday Prayer

Oh my Lord Jesus
I humbly beg of thee by
the merits of thy Precious
Blood and by the Divine Heart
and by the intercession of
thy cruel death to assist
me in my present necessity
(Make Your Request)
Say: 33 times from 12:00 noon
to 3:00 pm

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Strange, Change and Rogue Thoughts

So ready to head out on a journey???? It could be scary because I am letting the inner workings of my mind go rogue today. Not sure what is going to come it will be a surprise for both of us.

I have noticed as I grow older that not only do "strange" and "change" rhyme....but they also seem to walk hand in hand. The world gets stranger and change is happening every second. Profound? Not really. People and things just get strange sometimes. Actions...reactions and the ability to see what we want to see rather than reality seems to be a popular theme. Not wanting to be disagreed with and trying to eliminate or ban those who another one. It is definitely a change. Not all change is necessarily good.

Speaking of strange and change....did you know that strange while it has always meant different, has not always meant different in the modern context? Back when I was young (60's and 70's especially)...homosexuality was a taboo subject. Most of mainstream society knew very little about it, thought very little about it  and when they did....the conversation was had in whispered tones and the word "strange" was used to cover the subject. I remember watching Paul Lynde one time on tv and my mother turning to my dad and whispering...."You know he is strange...right?" I thought she meant the way he dressed or the way he acted because he was a great physical comedian. It wasn't until much later that I understood what the whispering and the word strange were all about. But like everything...change occurred and the word strange was found to be both offensive and inappropriate and therefore the terminology was changed to "gay." And on that same note of strange and also used to have another meaning. Probably a more widely remembered and recognized meaning. Gay used to mean happy and joyful. A gay man was a happy man and songs were full of the word gay. When it changed or why it changed I am not sure but it did and now a days if you called a man gay who was might get punched! So there you have it....strange and change. You still with me?

Now going back to peoples actions and reactions. I have noticed that the more prolific I get with my blogging....the more commenting seems to be happening. Many are public comments at the end of each of my blogs, but a lot of comments come in the form of texts from my friends or email and fb messages. Those that like my blog sometimes choose a private message because they want to tell me a personal story that my blog made them think of or they want to tell me just how much a certain blog meant to them. Those that don't like my blog often want to give me a good piece of their mind privately and tell me how much they disagree or in some cases were offended by my blog. It is amazing how much words can affect people. In fact...friendships have been won and lost over them.

For those of you who have never blogged.....blogging is just journaling through technology. The one thing you must always remember blogging, your words are ALWAYS going to be out there and you never know who will find them. If you are a private person....there are much better ways of expressing your thoughts than in front of literally billions of possible readers. On the other hand....if you are like me and like most writers....blogging is magnificent. Especially if you came from an era where everything was either hand written or written with the use of a temperamental typewriter. In order to get anyone to read your had to force family and friends or send hundreds of copies out to would be publishers....and even then a forced audience or no audience at all was the usual end game.

If you have a true writers heart...then keeping thoughts, ideas and stories to yourself is not the idea. Sharing them with the world....even if it means doing it for nothing more than the occasional feedback is what we live for. To be quite honest....writers are attention whor....rrrrr....junkies. We live for comments and praise, but more than that.....we live for the comments and reactions that tear us apart. We love those readers who read and then disagree with us, argue with us and basically tell us they hated what we had to say. Strange? There's that word again and of course it is but there is a reason. To read something that makes you feel so compelled as to do any of the above means that what you read caused a passion inside you. It made you think and most of made you feel. Chances are it made you feel to the point that you had to go back and reread the piece more than once and it invoked inside of you.....emotion! I have found that these readers are the ones that come back....again and again. Why? Because I made them feel something. I got their blood boiling and made them think and in thinking they had to come up with thoughts and arguments to disprove what I said or muster enough emotion and words to disagree.

Don't get me wrong. Nothing touches my heart like someone who has read a blog of mine that came from my own heart and it made them feel happy or even sad, because again.....I did my job. I used my words in a way.....that made someone else feel. Knowing I brought someone to tears or even made them so mad that they had to tell me so.....means that my writing evokes strong emotion....and ultimately....that is what every writer wants to do.

I smile when I write a blog and people disagree with me. I have my staunch supporters who often try to defend me and my blog and will even on occasion take up battle against someone who has attempted to disparage me in comments. I have even been asked why I would allow those comments to remain. My answer.....two rules I have about comments. 1) I will never delete a comment unless it is someone viciously attacking another commenter or someone who is spamming or using nothing but vulgarity. It's called freedom of speech and although I may not like what you say or agree with it....I will defend to the death your right to say it. 2) I seldom comment on comments. The only time I will do that is when I feel that something I have said has been taken out of context or completely misunderstood. At that point I will comment to clarify. Other than that.....I try hard to stay out of the comments. I always read them....but comments are my readers jurisdiction....not mine. Occasionally I will also get those readers that I am pretty sure are just trying to use my blog as a catalyst for an argument. Those readers always stand out like a sore thumb as their comments are full of twisted words, imaginary context and baiting verbage. The thing about these readers though....they are usually pretty few and far between, they usually hit up hot button topics and I can tell from the way they word their comments that they have actually read every word I wrote, know exactly what I said and my intent and they not only want to see a comment war....they also want to be the one to start it. They are basically harmless and if ignored move on pretty quickly to some other blog where they can actually get something started.'s a free country and who am I to tell you that you are making an a$$ out of yourself?

So yeah....strange and change and rogue thoughts. Pretty for a Thursday morning. Yeah I know....reading this was 10 minutes of your life you will never get back! Not happy? Tell me about it in the comments! ;)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Soundtracks of Our Lives

You know that song that you hear out of the blue and it suddenly takes you back? How about that song that you just can't help getting misty eyed over or the one that makes you want to stand up and matter what you are doing? Those songs have a name. They are called the soundtrack of your life. I had no idea. It is amazing the knowledge you can amass from the internet. What's more....unless you have lived without music your entire life....then you too have a life soundtrack.

For has always played a huge part in my life. From the earliest times I can was in my home. As a very young child you could often hear Johnny Mathis, the Andrews Sisters, the Platters, Frank, Dean and Nat coming from our house. My mother too loved music and these artists were definitely a huge part of her soundtrack. We also listened to our fair share of 60's and 70's country....when country actually sounded country. 

As a child I was also introduced to musicals by both my parents. Coming out of the 40's and 50's....musicals were a natural listening progression for them....but for me.......they were magical! I remember the first musical I ever saw was the Sound of Music. As I sat there glued to my seat and fixated on the huge colorful screen ahead....I simply could not take it all in enough. To this day that music is so special to me. Following the Sound of Music, there was Oklahoma, Carousel and one of my all time favorites....West Side Story. I can still get chills when I hear that opening sequence and the snapping begins. As corny as it sounds....that kind of music did and still does do something amazing to my soul. 

Speaking as someone who sounds like a wounded animal that needs to be shot when I never deterred me from cranking the tunes and singing along and I am sure my family appreciated my morning shower solo's. As I grew and what I listened to became my choice, you could hear a mish mash of southern rock, still a little country and a lot of 70's pop coming from my room or the basement....wherever I happened to have a radio. Then there was DISCO!!!! While it was popular to hate the stuff, there are few that can refrain from wanting to shake their groove thing when the Bee Gee's, Donna Summer or Earth, Wind and Fire come on.

Then there was the 80's. Again....this decade gets a lot of haters....and yet it was a glorious decade (at least music wise) for me. Country changed and Alabama stole my heart. Rock changed too as did some of the artists. I became infatuated with music by everyone from Billy Idol, Van Halen and ZZ Top to Heart, Kenny Loggins and Pure Prairie League. My taste in music had no bounds until......hip hop. I never liked hip hop and I hated rap. It seemed over night that these styles of music took over MTV and for a was my only friend. I used to swear that my older kids had it in for me when they would blast the likes of Jay Z, Tupac and the Beastie Boys. Do you think my mom felt the same way when I played Meatloaf and AC/DC?????

Finally....when Z became old enough to choose his own tastes began to change again. Also....I will admit that the show Glee has changed my view on certain music and artists. More than once a song has been on Glee that I thought I really didn't like....but after actually hearing the wasn't too bad. The fact that Z sings constantly and his tastes range from punk to rap, country to rock and old to new.....I have been schooled in just about every type of music there is. Some that I didn't even know existed. What's more amazing is....I have found that I like a little something in all of it. Yes....even rap. 

So why all this music and life soundtrack talk? Well...I was driving home from the store just a bit ago and on the radio came Brooks and Dunn's Red Dirt Road. Immediately I was transported back to a day in Missouri...several years ago. I was driving down the road with Z and my niece Taylor in the back seat. They were about 7 and 8 at the time and Red Dirt Road came on the radio. They both in unison began to sing. They knew every word and they were actually very good. Maybe it was the being related thing but they sounded so good together and they were both so serious singing. I was mesmerized and I remember my eyes tearing up as I thought to myself...."Now this is a memory you will never forget!" I was right because every time I hear that song I am right back there in that car with those two beautiful voices singing with all they had. I still tear up at the thought.

There is nothing like a song to take you back. For just a few moments you can actually relive a memory. It brings back sight, sound and smell and suddenly the present is gone and you are somewhere else completely. It is these songs that are the soundtracks of our lives.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Act Like a Lady

Well....I have for the most part stayed away from facebook for the last five weeks. However, I do check in for my messages and the other day as I was checking in....a post caught my eye. I will admit that I felt the need to read on further. The post said: ACT LIKE A LADY! It caught my eye because I can't tell you the number of times growing up that my mother said those exact words to me. It was ingrained in me from the moment I had any understanding of anything....and it stays with me to this day.

The post that it came from was from a Mary Kay fb friend of mine who had been at MK Career Conference (at least I think that is what it was.) According to the the conference this is what the speaker spoke about. As a former MK lady myself....I know that in essence this is what MK is all about...and honestly you would have to search far and wide to find a greater or more gracious lady than the late MK founder.....Mary Kay Ash. She was the epitome of the southern lady, but her lady likeness was not to be confused with weakness for a true lady is strong beyond measure.

At any rate....after reading the post, I couldn't help but think what a underused statement "Act like a lady,"  seems to be in our current society. We live in a world where girls wear the shortest skirts with no underwear and have no shame when their dress hikes up. Young girls have mouths that could make a sailor blush and the only thing left to the imagination with their wardrobe choices is what their internal organs look like. I don't shock all that easy.....but I can say that their have been times waiting to pick my kids up from the middle and high schools that I have been totally shocked at what some girls seem to think is school attire. I can't help but wonder if their parents actually saw them walk out the door that morning or if they are simply preparing their girls for a career on a street corner. Where have all the ladies gone? What's more....when did my generation decide that we didn't need to teach our girls how to dress or conduct themselves like ladies?

Don't get me wrong...I am not suggesting we start dressing our girls in burkas, but I am suggesting that perhaps we dress them age appropriately. No middle school girl needs to wear her clothes so tight that we can see her kidneys nor do they need to wear so much makeup that they actually start to melt when sunlight hits them. As for high school girls....while they have their own clothing biggest concern with them is their mouths. I have never heard such filth and disrespect for teachers, parents and other students come from the mouths of such otherwise attractive girls. Again.....when did we as parents suddenly find this acceptable behavior in our teens.....let alone our girls? 

Sadly even if you go a few years older....the situation is not much different. It is nothing to go out to a bar (yes....I do occasionally get out to town) and see women in their twenties and thirties straddling men in a chair (this is not a strip bar mind you) or giving a guy a lap dance to the music. Again...most have everything they own hanging out and again...the way they talk and present themselves....well unladylike doesn't even begin to scratch the surface. And we won't even go into the way they dance on the dance floor. In my day that was called foreplay....NOT dancing! When and how did this happen? How did we go from a generation of girls who wore bike shorts under short dresses to prevent wardrobe malfunctions and who might cuss on occasion but rarely said the f-word to a generation who has no shame or modesty physically or verbally?

Granted....I am not speaking of all girls, but I am speaking of a majority. Did their mothers never tell them to "Act like a lady?" Whats more....did their mothers fail to show them just how a lady acts? One theory I have heard and I think might not be too far off the rails is Women's Lib. When women decided they were the same as quit looking at them as ladies....because women quit acting like ladies. In some sort of need to prove themselves....women lost themselves. Women quit dressing sexy and started dressing slutty. Little did they realize that this didn't show showed a sad lack of self-esteem. What's are not all that complex. You put sexy next to slutty and a man 9 times out of 10 will pick sexy every time.

How do we expect our girls to understand the meaning of ladylike if they are not taught? So what is ladylike anyway? It starts with self-confidence and self-respect. It carries on to respect for others. It is not merely the ability to dress attractively without showing the world everything you have and some of what you don't, but it is also the ability to carry on a conversation with less than five f-bombs in it and to speak respectfully to and about others. A lady knows less is more and you don't have to give a guy a lap dance to get his attention. perhaps I was a bit soap boxish today. It is what it is. All I know is....I thank my mom, Mary Kay Ash and the other wonderful women in my life.....from the bottom of my heart for teaching me not just with words but also by Act like a lady.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Catholicism Through My Eyes: Sin! has occurred to me of late...that if Lent lasted more than one more week...I might not ever go back to facebook. Of course the fact that this last week was Spring Break didn't give me much time to even check my messages....and my house is much cleaner with the absence of fb. However....I do miss my friends! Sigh!

I had to laugh. I checked my fb before I came to blogger and low and behold I had a couple of messages from people asking me if I was going to do my Sunday blog. Fear not....I am here, better late than never. I thank you for reading and once again....I hope I do my subjects justice.

Today's blog is going to be about something that we all do and most of us don't really like to think about. SIN! I was told once that the problem with Catholics is that they spend way too much time thinking about sin. This is probably true and I can't say that it is a bad thing. In any Christian religion....sin is looked upon as soul killing and they key issue that will keep us out of heaven. I did have one Protestant friend tell me once though....that they were saved, meaning that they were heaven bound regardless, therefore God forgave their sins automatically....regardless. Now I am not an expert in how Protestants believe but I would almost bet there was more to the story than this Protestant was inferring. I would say that more than likely...sin puts you sideways with God....saved or not.

Did you know that all sin is not created equal? In the Catholic church there is much talk and reference to sin and it is closely tied in with all the Seven Sacraments of the Church....and especially closely tied to the the first three Sacraments....Baptism, Penance (Confession) and  First Communion. Now here is where I am not sure how other Christian religions believe as I have been told by some that they view all sin equally horrific to God, but in the Catholic faith it is believed that there are three types of sin. The first and one that we all have because we are born with it is....Original Sin. Original sin was the sin passed on to us from Adam and Eve. Had they only listened to God and stayed away from that apple....there would be no sin, but alas....they were the first to show human frailty, human error and human arrogance in the face of God. Because of this....their sins have been passed down to all their decedents which includes each and every one of us. This is why Catholics unlike many other other Christian religions baptize as close to birth as possible. The sooner the baptism, the sooner the soul is cleansed of sin. From that point on.....we see children as basically sin free as they (in most cases) do not have the ability to openly "sin" because they don't really have the knowledge of real sin. At seven is the time we begin teaching about sin, our souls and the importance of the next two Sacraments.....penance and their first communion.

Penance as I have explained in another blog (also known as Confession or the Act of Reconciliation) is what cleanses our souls from sin in preparation for communion. In order to receive communion (the body and blood of Christ), it is imperative that our souls are as pristine as possible and penance is what accomplishes this. So you see....sin and the first three Sacraments walk hand in hand.

The other two forms of sin which I referred to are venial and mortal. A venial sin is a lessor sin such as a white lie, a slipped out curse word or an unkind thought about another person. Although still a sin, they are not soul destroying and often a heart felt Act of Contrition accompanied by true sorrow for the act and maybe even retribution such as admitting the lie to the one you lied to....will suffice until you can get to Confession. The mortal sin on the other hand is a grievous sin. This type of sin such as a willful murder, an act which harms someone either physically, spiritually or mentally or habitually committing the same sin over and over again.....can leave the soul open to evil and cause you to risk hell. These are sins you want off your soul as soon as possible and amends must be made for these acts to the best of ones ability. Dying with a such a sin on your soul endangers the soul for all eternity.

I have been told by some that they think very little about sin because sin is subjective. Not everyone sees sin in the same light nor do they view the same things as sin. In todays world...especially if you are young, I can see where this might be an issue. We are a world who seems to steer clear of labeling anything as sinful. Then there are those who view EVERYTHING as sinful. A certain Topeka, KS based Baptist church (no insult intended towards Baptists) comes to mind. So how do we really know what is sinful and what is not? God actually made it very easy for us. Back many years ago....He hand wrote the rules and gave them to Moses. Since that point in time.....they have pretty much stayed the course and new sins have been invented that don't in some way link back to the Ten Commandments of God. These ten rules have been the basis for not only church laws but also secular laws, ethics and morality. Try as some might to circumvent them.....they are still as relevant today as they were in Old Testament times. And not only that....they are the laws by which all Christians....Protestant and Catholics alike along with those of the Jewish faith all base the foundation of their religious beliefs in. So what are these Ten Commandments?

An interesting fact comes into play here. Catholics, Protestants and Jews all believe in basically the same Ten Commandments....the only difference is the wording and in some cases the way they fall numerically. Also...Protestants have a commandment about worshiping any graven images such as statues. While Catholics cover the no worshiping any other gods in the first commandment, Protestants often feel that because Catholic churches have statues that we worship them. It is an unfounded belief but still one that causes contention between the two Christian sects. Perhaps that will be a good blog for another day. At any rate....I found an interesting site called the Biblical Heritage Center, which has all three versions side by side. For sake of ease and since this is a blog about Catholicism....I will give you the Catholic version.

1. I, the Lord, am your God. You shall not have other gods besides me
2. You shall not take the name of the Lord God in vain 
3. Remember to keep holy the Lord's Day
4. Honor your father and your mother
5. You shall not kill
6. You shall not commit adultery
7. You shall not steal
8. You shall not bear false witness
9. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife
10. You shall not covet your neighbor's goods    

Regardless of the version you choose....they all give us the guide lines for what God asks of us. Disregarding these wishes in any way is to put it quite simply.....a sin. They tell us that; there is only one God and no other gods shall be worshiped, that God's name should only be used in prayer and with respect, that the Lords day should be a day of rest and one that is dedicated to the Lord through church, prayer and family; that we should always show respect to our parents; that we should not kill, we should not have sex outside of marriage, that we should not steal, lie, be jealous of someone elses spouse or what someone else has materially. They are still relevant and will be until the end of time. Yes....of course there will be debate on biblical times and biblical thinking vs. modern times and modern thinking but still today....morality and ethics tells us that stealing, lying and cheating are wrong. We do tend to get off kilter though when we start trying to mesh God's law with man's law as often man's law is secular and has justification built into it, thus believing that somehow it is okay to veto God's law. Perhaps this is why my mom always said that "Just because man makes a law does not always mean it is a good law." Important words to always keep in mind.

Because of all the man vs. God law making and because we as humans fall prey to our own wants and desires as well as what society says opposed to what God says....sin is committed daily. However...when we break the Ten Commandments we are committing a mortal grievous sin because we are breaking God's specific rules. It as if a child commits an act which a parent "specifically" tells them not to commit. That is going to carry a much heavier sentence than say not putting his clothes in the hamper or forgetting to set the table. The child is in the wrong for all three, but the one that is going to get him in the most trouble is the one where he was deliberately defiant against his parents wishes. The wonderful thing about God and sin though.....with true sorrow and a willingness to avoid future sin....God ALWAYS forgives even the most horrific of sins, an ability that most humans have not nor will ever master.

So there you have it....SIN! It is something that we all fall prey to. We have all done it on one level or another and we will all likely do it again. I have often wondered how different things would have been if Adam and Eve had just listened to God that day, but us humans often do.....they chose the hard way and gave us a legacy that has caused wars, crime and if we aren't very eternity in hell.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Catholicism Through My Eyes: We Have a Pope!

This week was a glorious week in my book. First....we had our first 80+ degree day which gave me every hope that spring is REALLY on it's way and.....more importantly, the Roman Catholic church welcomed a new pope.

On Wednesday March 13, 2013, thousands in St. Peters Square along with millions of people around the world watched as white smoke billowed from the chimney signaling that the conclave of cardinals had elected a new pope to lead the Roman Catholic church. It was a short voting period as he was elected on the fifth vote in a day after the voting began. There were cheers and tears....and those....were just at my house. It was an amazing day. I had friends Catholic and non-Catholic alike....texting me to make sure I had my tv on as we all waited to see the new pope make his first appearance to the world. There were questions too. I was getting questions texted to me as a couple of non-Catholic friends watched the process but did not fully understand what was going on or what this meant to the Church. It was then and there that I knew what this weeks blog would be about. The Pope!

In my life there have been six popes elected. Of those I only remember five. Of the five....the pope who has been the most influential has been Pope John Paul II. I remember the day he was elected. When the white smoke was seen by the world via tv and then we first saw Karol Józef Wojtyła for the first time appear to the world as Pope John Paul II, my mother cried. She knew nothing of this man who would lead the Church for over a quarter of a century and who would welcome many to the church and bring many back who had left the church, she just knew that his eyes were kind and that in her heart she felt a connection with this man. Apparently it was the same connection that many around the world....both Catholics and non-Catholics....felt for few could deny the work this pope did during his papacy nor what he brought to the Church as its leader.

So just who and what is a pope and what does it mean to the Catholic church. The pope is the leader of Roman Catholics around the world. The first pope was the Apostle Peter hand picked by Jesus Himself to start HIS church.....the Roman Catholic church. According to wiki answers: "The pope is appointed the task proper to the papal office. He is actually, above all, an administrator. His duties include the protection of doctrine and the sources of revelation, the mandate to advance and consolidate the Church's mission to preach to all nations, the formation of schools and seminaries for Catholic education (usually done by local bishops), the regulation of correct discipline and rubrics among the faithful and in Catholic practice, to act as spokesperson of the Church to the world, the establishment and maintenance of the college of bishops as well as properly delegating Church authority for the running of the Church, the rare use of the papal charism of infallibility in a timely manner on those issues of Faith and Morals that require final clarification, to approve official Church documents and encyclicals for the education and edification of the faithful, to denounce error and immorality in the world and cure abuses in the Church, to pray for the Church and for the salvation of souls, to live his papacy worthily by doing his priestly duties as well as those of the papal office and thereby save his own soul."

I will admit....that before I was asked questions about the election of a pope....I wasn't well versed in the papacy. Granted...I knew the basics and a little history here and there....but I didn't know enough to write a blog on it. I decided I best do some research. In the history of popes, since St. Peter took the first throne....there have been 266 popes (counting our newest pope, Pope Francis). Over the course of these many men....some have been great and holy popes who have later become saints. Some have been not so holy and not so great and there have been times when the church has been without a pope as the cardinals have been deadlocked in a vote for months and even years.

When a pope is chosen....he then chooses the name for which he will use throughout his papacy. Names are usually chosen from saints who have in some way affected their lives or from previous popes in order to keep that particular name going. There have been a great many Leo's, Gregory's and Benedicts. In my life time there has been Popes: John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and now....Francis. Pope John XXIII is now called Blessed which indicates that he is in the second stage of becoming a saint. He is best known for opening the Second Vatican Council. The Second Vatican Council was to bring modernism into the Catholic church. It was at this point that the Latin Mass was done away with and churches began to take a more modern approach in everything from doing away with traditional architecture to more modern societal views. TSVC caused an upheaval in the Church causing more traditional Catholics to part ways with Rome and to choose to become a part of the Pius X group which held on to both the Latin Mass and traditional Catholic beliefs. Pius X is not recognized by the Roman Catholic church.

Pope Paul VI, the first pope that I remember, concluded TSVC. Because I was very young during his papacy....I remember very little about him. After some research though....I found that a lot of Catholics were on the fence about him because of Vatican II. He was also the first pope to visit the United States.

Pope John Paul I, was the first papal election that I remember. We watched the tv waiting for the white smoke to signal a new pope. I remember the square being filled (as always) and the tv news breaking in each time black or white smoke was seen. That was when my mom said...."When a pope is chosen....for a moment in time, the whole world is Catholic." At the time, I did not understand this....but now I do. Even United States presidential elections don't hold the worlds attention like the choosing of a pope does and even the most non-religious know that whoever is chosen is not only important to Catholics....but the world. Pope John Paul I was the first to have two papal names and he took them from his two predecessors. He was also the first to put a "first" after his name. I remember my mother like a lot of Catholics....wondering about this new pope and what he would bring to the Church after Vatican II. Before we even knew this man though, a little more than a month after his election.....he was gone. He had died just 33 days after his election.

Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. He took his name from the man whom had no time to make his own mark. On his election....the Catholic church had a pope that in many ways would change the view of the world on Catholics and popes. During his papacy Pope JPII spent a great deal of his time traveling....something most popes never did. He was a pope of the people and instead of the people coming to him.....he went to them. He also was responsible for canonizing more saints than any of his predecessors. He touched hearts and souls up until his death and had the longest reign above Popes Pius IX and St. Peter. Since his death...he is in the process of becoming a saint being now known as Blessed.

In 2005, not just Catholics....but the world mourned as we said good bye to Pope JPII. We knew the world had lost a great pope and heaven had gained a great saint. I remember feeling that the new pope would have astronomical shoes to fill and I was not sure that anyone was worthy. When a fairly well known cardinal....Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger from Germany was elected and Pope Benedict XVI appeared to the world the first time, I was saddened that I didn't feel the same exhilaration that I had twenty six years before. I knew in my heart that the Church had the pope it needed at the moment, but........

I, like the rest of the world was stunned when Pope Benedict announced that he would be retiring just weeks ago. He was the first pope in centuries that had not died as pope but stepped down. He cited health issues as the reason for his retirement, but the world began to speculate. Many wondered if there was more to it. While many felt that this pope was a holy man others criticized him for not taking a quicker and harsher stand on priests accused of pedophilia. I honestly...respected his position as pope but never felt close to him as the leader of my church. In my humble opinion...he had never been able to fill the shoes left behind. Perhaps I was not alone and perhaps he knew this. At any rate....his retirement was the cue for the conclave of cardinals to head to St. Peter's Basilica and for a new election to begin.

When Pope Francis appeared to the world for the first time....again there were tears. He was the first Latin pope ever. He was also the first Francis. I saw a kindness in his face...maybe it was a kindness not unlike my mother saw in Pope JPII. I don't think I was alone...for the cheers seemed to be heard around the world with the tolling of the bells singing loud and clear that "We have a new pope." Yes...for a moment the whole world was Catholic.

So how is a pope chosen? There is a conclave of cardinals from all over the world who choose the pope. Cardinals in hierarchy are below the pope. They gather in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome and then are sequestered until a 2/3 vote is achieved in the election of pope chosen from those gathered. All signals and media are broken from the room. There is no chance for a leak (even in this modern world) until the white smoke is seen and the new pope makes his first appearance on the balcony to the world. Sometimes the sequestering lasts days and in the past as said before, months and even years pass until a 2/3's vote has been met. Each non-successful vote is met with black smoke to announce that a pope has not yet been chosen.

A friend asked about the media stating that there were those saying that God had chosen Pope Francis. In actuality....this is probably true. While Jesus hand picked the first pope all successors have been picked by men. That being said....before voting, the cardinals spend a great deal of time in prayer...praying for the ability to choose the best person for the position of pope. So if the cardinals listen to God....God is indeed picking the pope.

Another friend asked me....why is the picking of a pope such a world wide media event? In essence....the pope has an effect world wide...because the Roman Catholic church is world wild. Popes have the ability to influence how Catholics believe and ultimately how they vote. World leaders watch to see if a pope will have more liberal or more conservative leanings and people in general watch as they are mesmerized by an event that goes back to 33A.D. Catholics watch as they realize the importance of the vote and how it will affect the church they love.

Can the church operate without a pope? Obviously it can and it has in the past for years at a time. I noticed at church though after Pope Benedict retired and before Pope Francis was elected....that where we usually pray for the pope and our bishop....we only prayed for the bishop. It was sad and it really struck my heart that something was missing. I can't imagine going for years with that feeling.

How do I feel about Pope Francis? It was a great question and one I was ever so happy to answer. I feel hopeful. There is something wonderful about him being Latin and although I have no idea which St. Francis he took his name from....I can't help but imagine it being St. Francis of Assisi one of my favorite saints whose kindness and strength of character is legendary. I am tremendously happy that Pope Francis is a champion of the unborn and the poor and it seems that he is of a conservative nature that coincides with my own.

It is my belief that Pope Francis is the pope we as Catholics and the world currently need. I hope that even at 78 years of age that he is young enough in spirit to be a leader of the church for some years to come and that the mark he leaves will be as his name sake, kind and strong. For now though....I wish Pope Francis a long and fruitful papacy and ask that the strength of God be with him. Bless you Pope Francis!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Strange Days and Who Shot J.R.....Again?

Have you ever hit Wednesday and already felt as if you had lived several weeks since Monday? That is me this week. In fact this is just a very strange week. I guess the only way to top a strange week is to share my train of thought with an even stranger blog.

My week started with my gallbladder surgery. As surgeries go....this was by far the easiest I have ever had. I was at the hospital by 2 p.m. and although the surgery was suppose to be at 4, it was pushed back until 5:30, and yet I was still home by 9 p.m. I went into surgery telling myself that I was going to be out of recovery in record time. Apparently I was. I was dressed before they could even take my final vitals. It went well and all I have to show for it is a small glued together incision in my belly button. Thank you Thiry for the ride!

Yesterday I started out feeling only mild discomfort. I decided to fight the discomfort and go about my life doing my usual...minus any lifting. I can't lift more than 20 lbs for two weeks. By late morning I was starting to feel more than discomfort. YES! I over did. I went immediately home to the comfort of my bed which actually held no comfort at all. Meanwhile I get a call from Z telling me that he needs a doctor appointment. He has been lifting weights with his brother in the last week and yesterday about mid morning....he couldn't lift his arms. Then he started getting charlie horses or muscle cramping in his biceps. I thought he had just overworked them but he said he hurt enough that he was afraid he had done something bad to them. Apparently he had. He had overworked his muscles to the point that he had caused keatones (think that is what they are called) to explode in is system. The norm is 35 to 250. His were 16,000. This can cause kidney problems or complete renal failure. I had no idea this could happen. He cannot lift anything (especially not his brother...which puts us in a pickle right now) until his muscles have healed. He also has to drink tons of water to help bring down the levels in his system. He then has to go back in on Friday to have it all rechecked again. REALLY?????

Then last night was Z's spring music program. It is the first one I have ever had to miss. By the time evening rolled around...I  knew even walking from the parking lot into the school would have been impossible. Add to that sitting for a couple of hours and I am not sure I would have survived. Luckily his vocal music teacher allowed him to get a copy of the video tape made so that I could watch it when he got home. It wasn't the same as being there...but it sure was better than missing it all.

This morning before my eyes were even opened....Z was standing by my bed telling me he was running fever. He was/is. Right at 102 now. It is accompanied by sneezing, scratchy throat and stuffed nose. Could it possibly be that spring is here? And then finally.....I was able to get in touch with the IRS!

It has done me absolutely no good to be one of the first filers this year. I finally got a letter last Saturday telling me that I needed to call the IRS because they had some questions on my return. I finally got a hold of them yesterday after waiting 2 hours on hold Monday with no results. They quizzed me about both my 2011 and my 2012 return and then said that my account was verified but that I would have to contact another number today to find out the status of my return. Today I found that my return had been put on hold the minute they received it (almost a month ago) because apparently they suspected that someone else was trying to use my social security number. It might have been nice if they hadn't waited all this time to let me know that. Anyway that is why the letter and the need for verification. Now that it has been verified and taken off will be another six weeks before I receive it. I decided this morning that the next time I owe the IRS......I am going to wait about a month and then call them and ask them a bunch of questions telling them that I am just trying to verify that they actually ARE the IRS. Then I am going to tell them that now that I am satisfied that they are who they say they are.....they "should" get a check from me in the next six weeks provided I don't find anymore discrepancies. This would however become null and void if I find that they are federally delinquent in anyway. I think this would work....don't you? you has been a lot for such a short period of time. Today I do actually feel better but so as not to feel like I did yesterday afternoon....I think I will just relax and not overdue today. Tomorrow I should be fine!!!

So....about thirty years ago...on Friday night at 8 p.m. I was usually in front of the tv. Actually me, my family and millions of others. What was the draw? From 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. whether you were country or city, rich or poor.....we all spent an hour in front of the tv...watching...DALLAS! It was a time when oil wells across the country were busy working around the clock and oil was black gold for many. Wealth across the board was rising as oil was being discovered all over Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas...and you could scarcely drive a country mile without seeing the landscape dotted with dereks and often full on crews working to pull that oil from inside the earth. The 80's were a prosperous time for many in this country and the show Dallas was as much a part of the decade as big hair and Madonna.

Every week the country tuned in to watch the Ewing family and see what money and power was driving them to do this week. We loved the delightfully evil J.R. who ran Ewing Oil with a firm hand and the morality and ethics of satan himself, Bobby (J.R.'s younger brother) who was the polar opposite of J.R. in both ethics and personality, Sue Ellen (J.R.'s long suffering wife) who went from beauty queen to wife of an oil man...was cheated on, cheated, became an alcoholic, went on the wagon, suffered depressions, had a child she wasn't sure who the daddy was and finally became an independent business woman who left J.R. and was able to step outside his shadow. Last but not least there was Pam (Bobby's wife) who was as good as she was beautiful and because she came from the family of the Ewings arch enemy.... she never stood a chance with J.R. at the helm of the family. Of course over the more than a decade that Dallas ran....there were many more characters who came and went an added great story lines and even series spinoffs, but no storyline in history ever had the impact of WHO SHOT J.R.?

J.R. Ewing's conniving, back stabbing, cheating ways finally caught up with him on March 21, 1980 when "someone" shot J.R. at the end of the season. America was left on the edge of their seat wondering who had shot him and if he would be back the following season. What had been a good show up until then....catapulted it to the status of great and history making....leaving the entire country wondering and trying to figure out WHO SHOT J.R.? That spring and summer it was the question on everyones mind and being that good ol' J.R. had made an enemy out of just about everyone he had ever known.....the list to pick from was endless. Even the cast did not know who shot him. In a stroke of genius by the writer/director/powers that be......several characters were given scenes and taped as the killer. Only in November 1980 did we and the cast learn that Sue Ellen's little sister Kirsten had been the culprit. From that moment on until Dallas's last episode in 1991....dishes went undone, phone calls went unmade and people around the country were glued to their tvs on Friday night. We simply couldn't get enough Dallas. When it ended....Friday nights fizzled on tv as nothing could replace J.R. and the Ewings. I was literally sad.

In the mid to late 90's, cable tv station TNN picked up  Dallas and once more I was able to watch Dallas from beginning to end and see every dirty trick J.R. ever pulled. I loved being able to watch the Ewings all over again and see both fashion and characters change from 1978 to 1991. It really was history in the making. The oil boom was all but over and many who had ridden high on it for years had ended up going bust, some losing everything. The glitz and glam of the 80's was gone and the reality of the 90's held no such mesmerizing history or tv programing. Thus the reruns were welcome. I watched them until they were replaced by the Waltons. I loved the Waltons too....but John Boy was no J.R.

You can imagine my surprise and sheer joy when I saw a couple of years ago that Dallas was coming back. Not reruns mind you....but a whole new show. It was to have many of the old core characters (yes...J.R., Bobby and Sue Ellen) along with their grown children John Ross Jr. and Christopher. It was in someways to take off where Dallas left us in 1991 but at the same time.....take the Ewings and Southfork ranch and make a whole new chapter of Dallas...all its own. The old characters were interviewed over and over and their excitement to be brought together again and resurrect the roles they made famous decades before was evident. The magic was back and I couldn't wait to see it.

I admit that I watched the new Dallas for several weeks and the acting by the new characters especially John Ross Jr. and Christoper was amazing. They were the J.R. and Bobby of this generation and yet they each held their own uniqueness. And the old characters kept enough of who we remembered and added enough of who we expected them to be now, to make the show as comfortable as a familiar old chair to watch. For some reason though....after several weeks...I just quit watching. Not sure why.

A few weeks ago the totally unthinkable and yet the totally expected happened. After years of fighting health issues, alcoholism and a liver Larry Hagman who made J.R. famous.....died. I don't cry over the death of actors.....but I did shed a few tears when I heard he was gone. Hagman outside J.R. was a larger than life character whose acting skills were far more enormous than I think even he knew. Just as he had made each of us wish we had been the one who had pulled the trigger on that fateful day in 1980.....he had also made us laugh when he had played the lovable Major Nelson on I Dream of Jennie. He had great comic timing along with the ability to do pratfalls with the best of them. He was an actor of great much so....that when he died, we mourned not only for Larry Hagman, but also for J.R. Ewing and for Tony Nelson. Now THAT is an actor.

It crossed my mind when he passed that perhaps Dallas would no longer hold the attention of the public without the glue that had held it together all these years. Then the other day I saw that the next episode would be his funeral and believe it or not I heard the question posed once again.....WHO SHOT J.R.? Yeah...I hadn't watched in a year or so....but I simply couldn't miss this. I was glad that I didn't. Many of the original cast who had come and gone over the years were back to mourn/celebrate J.R.'s passing. It was all dependent on how badly he had screwed (for lack of a better word) them. I can't be positive but I have a feeling that some of the tears shed in this episode were more than acting. As I watched....I was reminded of what a really good show this still is and how wonderfully acted it is. It is as if the old formula from the original show has been taken and maybe even improved upon. The show actually had me in tears. Perhaps these actors were at the top of their game in this episode. Maybe this was their farewell tribute to the man who without his ability to play scoundrel the way he did.....Dallas might possibly never have made it to this point. OR...maybe this show is just this good and I should start watching it again. Whatever the case....I am sure both J.R. and Larry Hagman are smiling down as this was written in just the way J.R. would have wanted it. Even dead....J.R. will be a major part of the story line for sometime to come. He went out shrouded in several mysteries that will take at least a season...maybe even uncover, and once again......he left enough enemies behind to post the question....WHO SHOT J.R.? Yes...I have no doubt J.R. is in heaven with a bourbon and branch just waiting to see who did him in this time.

Strange blog today? Strange few days! 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Taken to Task and Blessings

Sometimes....when it seems that things are circling the drain and you can't count on much of anything...maybe that is when God is telling us it is time to start counting our blessings. And may quote me.....she said with a smile.

It is a new work/school week and although the temp is only about 25 here, there is blessedly no wind. (A blessing if you live in Kansas). The forecast this morning was extremely encouraging that perhaps we are seeing the tail end of winter. (Could this be another blessing?) Next week is spring break and it looks as if it will be lovely. I can't wait as I will have surgery behind me and hopefully have things in better order all the way around.

 This weekend was really nice. Friday I had everything cleaned and Saturday and Sunday I just relaxed. The best part of yesterday was getting to spend the afternoon with two wonderful friends. One from out of town and one from in town. Sadly....I never see either of them enough. It was nice to laugh, over talk each other and just have fun. It occurred to me as we were chatting that I simply do not laugh enough. I must remedy that!

Yesterday's blog took me four hours to write and when I finally hit publish.....I still wasn't sure that my words captured what my heart and mind were trying to convey. I know this is a concern of many bloggers, but usually not a concern of mine. I usually have no qualms about my blogs....but according to some...perhaps I should. I received quite a few comments on the blog and then a number more through facebook. A good many were complimentary but there were a few that were full on attacks about how I could post such a "narrow minded" view. I was also taken to task by a couple of other people on past political posts.....and on my fb posts. I had one say they had unfriended me because my fb posts were negative and brought them down. Naturally there was no name attached....and quite honestly, I really don't care who said it because of course I respect their right to voice any opinion they choose. Obviously though....that tolerance is not a two way street for some. Others again....told me that I was basically crazy for my beliefs and that people (guess they considered themselves a majority) were sick of what I had to say. I would like to say that like most times it all just slid away like water off a ducks back, but yesterday it didn't. Maybe it was because I didn't feel a 100% or maybe it just caught me in the wrong mood.....whatever the case though, the words stayed with me all day and even through last night. It was nothing that hasn't been said to me before and don't get me didn't hurt my feelings, it actually just made me mad. WHY? I am usually not one to give anyone else power over my emotions....unless of course you are my dad, but that is a whole other story. So why did I let people make me mad? Why did I care what anyone thought? It really did bug me.

Waking up this morning....I felt better all the way around and answers seemed to come more readily. I think the reason that the comments made me mad was because it was another case of people who claims to be "tolerant" of different beliefs, cultures and schools of thought....right up until someone says something they don't agree with. At that point...all bets are off and suddenly tolerance is thrown out the window. The word hypocrite comes to mind....but then again....I am not much of a name caller.

I get really tired of words being thrown around like "tolerance" and "acceptance" when to many they are terribly one sided. "I tolerate you as long as you think like I do." "I accept you as long as you say what I want to hear and support only that which I support." However.....if you do think for yourself and your thoughts aren't what some considered the status quo, then other words are used. "Narrow minded," "illiterate," "racist," "terrorist," "anti-woman," and those are just the ones I can repeat in polite company. It did occur to me though after a good nights sleep that there are always going to be people who will bury their head in the sand, allow others to think for them and shy away from anything that doesn't make them rainbows and unicorn happy. They live in a rose colored world and refuse to allow anything in that doesn't either agree with their way of thinking or makes them have to think outside their bubble. Now I am not being critical. I myself have done some pretty lengthy vacationing in denial land. I have turned off the news, hidden some posts on fb and refused to read anything that might make believe that anything outside my world could actually affect and disturb my world. Sometimes when you have a lot on your plate....this is the only way you can exist and maintain your sanity at the same time.

My issue now is this. I am no longer in my 20's, 30's or even 40's. I see life through much different eyes than I did back then and experience has taught me a great deal. I have learned that just because you don't want to hear something doesn't make it any less true, that nothing is guaranteed us and that life can change and turn inside out with every breath we take. I have also learned that never speaking out makes you part of the problem, having your own thoughts makes you an individual and letting those who disagree with you have control of a recipe for disaster.

I guess what it boils down to is that yesterday the once shy and non-confrontational little girl that I used to be came to the for front and it bothered me not that others disagreed with what I had to say.....but that somehow I had failed because I hadn't pleased everyone with my words. Apparently that people pleaser gene still lies just below the surface and yesterday it decided to show itself. The truth is....I am not sorry for anything I say because I am always careful to never be hateful or vindictive in my blogs or on fb. My opinions are my own and I don't claim to speak for anyone but myself. Bottom line though....there will always be those who view a difference of opinion or something that makes them think outside their own comfort zone as hateful and vindictive and there is simply nothing I can do about it. I am honestly grateful that people take the time to read what I have to say whether they agree with me or not and 99 and 9/10% of the time.....I am thrilled with all comments positive or negative. In fact the negative ones are welcomed because it tells me that someone not only read what I had to say.....but they actually thought about what I said. It stayed with them enough that they couldn't help but comment. It shows that words for a brief few minutes held their attention, made them feel and caused a reaction....and quite honestly.....what more could any writer want? (Yep....another blessing!)

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Catholicism Through My Eyes: Birth Control

Yes....Daylight Savings time is upon us...and may I say....I am not a fan!!! Good Sunday morning. Here in the central part of the US it is cold, dreary and too early to be up...and yet here I am.

It has occurred to me that since I have started writing these Sunday blogs dedicated to my religion....that I have started learning a little more about myself, my religion and the views of the world around me. I have received both good and bad reviews (which is par for the course on most of my blogs) and I have received ideas for future blogs and questions about blogs I have already written. One Sunday I will dedicate my blog to those questions.

This week I am tackling a subject which the Church takes heat on from both non-Catholics and Catholics alike. And right here....I need to point out something I have learned. The Catholic church seems to take a lot of heat where public opinion is concerned on a lot of issues. Why? I don't know of any other Christian religion where such misinformation and often public disdain are so prevalent. The Catholic church really is not so much different in beliefs or in socially viewed problems as any other church. In some cases....the Church set the standard for other churches, yet Catholics seem to take the brunt of criticism for all that is bad in the non-secular world. It seems that every week my blogs start out with.....words like "misconception" and "misunderstood." It is interesting if you think about it. I guess that is what comes from being the worlds oldest Christian religion. Today's topic is a bit different though. Today I am discussing a topic that  most other churches have loosened their stance on.....and because of this...the Catholic church seems to take even more heat being one of the few remaining holdouts to their stand on it. Today I will talk about birth control.

I can't tell you the times I have been told that the Catholic church is anti-woman because they don't support a woman's right to control her own body. It is a battle that has been fought since birth control was invented and since abortion was brought to the fore front of our thinking with Roe v. Wade. While abortion is huge....I will leave that for another day. Today I will talk birth control.

Birth control (bc) has been a deal breaker for many Catholics. One of two things seems to happen, they either pretend that the Church has no ruling on birth control and live as sinning Catholics or they leave the Church altogether blaming bc for this decision. Bottom line is that most everything you do in life has rules and the Church is no exception. You choose not to live by rules in any other aspect of life and in most cases you are fired, let go, asked to leave, jailed or you stick around and pretend to be something you are not...all the while knowing that you are breaking the rules. In the Catholic church...the latter often seems to be the case. For some reason....people have a great deal of trouble with the no bc rule in the Church. My question is....why? To me....if we do as God asks and trust in Him, then we would have complete faith that we are not going to have more children than we are suppose to. It should be as simple as God said it! I believe in it! End of story! But it isn't that it? humans allow our will to over ride God's and it has been that way since Adam and Eve.

Our issues with bc stem from so many places and they are all man made issues....not God made. The moment man quit letting it be about God and started making it about man....then issues were created. When man started proclaiming that we as a population were getting out of control and that there would not end up being enough resources to go around.....then people jumped on the bc band wagon. The fact has been shown to us time and again that when we listen and follow God with our hearts and with faith then He always provides. Anyone remember the loaves and fishes? 

Forms of bc have been around for a long time, however it began being socially and actively pushed by Margaret Sanger beginning at the turn of the last century. While many will tell you that Sangers reason for pushing bc had to do with her own mother who had multiple pregnancies and who ended up dying at the age of 50, another not so widely talked about reason was her prejudice against the African American race. There are published accounts of her belief that she found them an unworthy race so in the guise of "helping" African American women....her true reasoning was that if she introduced them all to bc thus stopping their procreating.....eventually they would just cease to exist. She  felt they were too ignorant to realize that behind her act of "care and concern" was her true desire to wipe out an entire race. So ultimately....she was pro-woman were the right race? She also felt that women should be able to limit their pregnancies in the union of marriage and also that in the "modern" world women should be free to have sex with or without marriage without the worry of pregnancy. What did this all equal? Mans desire to live man's will and not God's. Man was creating a mess by turning his back on marriage, sex as an act of love and procreation and God's will.

We no longer left the size of our families up to God and many felt that sex was not just for marriage any more. The world of morality and the belief that God's will was to be followed was quickly being taken over by a more secular belief that man was somehow his own supreme being and God either did not exist or if He did....He had somehow made a mistake by giving families many children and calling sex outside of marriage a sin. Because of this new brand of thinking....Sangers push for bc for all....led to the opening of Planned Parenthood. Could any place on earth be any more offensive to God? Possibly only one.  An abortion clinic.

In today's modern world....Planned Parenthood has become synonymous with women's rights. It is almost a right of passage for some mothers and daughters as the moment young girls start their periods.....their mothers march them into PP to start them on bc. Young girls who should still be passing notes (or in today's world...texts) and not yet even thinking about their first kiss are being started on bc with the expectation of them having sex. Apparently we quit telling our kids that sex is special and that they are special....therefore saving themselves is special....and now just send them out the door saying..."Did you take your pill...oh and be sure and wear a condom!" 

Yes....I have raised teenagers and I know that the reality of today's world is that kids are having sex and kids are getting pregnant. Even in good Christian homes where parents do try to teach abstinence and the fact that you can only have your first time once and that you are special so it should be given to someone special, and most importantly....that sex outside marriage is a are still having sex. Why? Because kids live on a strict diet of sex from the time they are old enough to understand the world around them. It is in tv, movies, books, magazines, on the internet and in the schools. Even in a home where sex and the value of self is taught.....we are fighting a tough battle against what society now calls the norm. Sex has gone from a special God given act of love and procreation to nothing more than another bodily function and PP and society in general propagate this message every chance they get.  Still and all up and putting our kids on bc with the expectation that they will have sex just sends the message that mans will is greater than God's. When we quit listening to God and quit living by His teachings.....then man found the need for bc because it was a "fix" to the mess we had created. While many will disagree with this (even a great many Catholics I am sure), the bottom line is......bc is mans will circumventing Gods. We are telling God that somehow He....perfection in every it wrong and man is stepping in to fix it.

How have we fixed it? With bc we have sent a message that sex is okay outside marriage and that no matter what age you is fine as long as you are protected. We have also said that in marriage....limiting our families is fine and choosing ourselves and our careers over children is fine too. How has this worked out for us? Marriages up to the mid 1950's seldom ended in divorce. Since that time....the divorce rate has climbed each decade. In fact the number of people who have been divorced and remarried multiple times is astronomical. In our self involved world....we keep searching for happiness on our terms only to be disappointed. Sex is seldom looked on as beautiful and wonderful anymore. It has been trivialized to an act of bodily satisfaction. We quit teaching kids that sex is not only special but also sacred. Our first times are not to be given away like an unwanted object but to be given as a gift of not only our body but also our hearts, thus...we should be very choosey about who receives this gift and the recipient should be worthy. If this were taught by word and example in every home.....I have no doubt that the number of kids having sex would drastically go down. Instead though....many leave this extremely important education to schools, friends, the media and society in general and then are shocked when they find out their thirteen year olds are having sex with multiple partners.

We cannot control the world, we can only control our own. Birth control and the teaching of abstinence are not popular in our modern world. As Catholics though....we are taught that the only bc is abstinence. If we are unmarried.....the only way to avoid the sin of premarital sex is to abstain. This means total abstinence. Regardless what a certain president once told us...the Church still is sex. If you are married and wish to limit your family.....then again....abstinence is the only way. Sex inside marriage was designed for procreation and if our faith in God's will is strong nothing will ever be given us that is without purpose and not ultimately in our best interest. God has the big picture and we don't and that is something we must always keep in mind.

While many of you I have no doubt will read this and walk away feeling no different, maybe now you have a little more understanding of where and why the Church has this standing on bc. Society and people such as Sanger have muddied the waters of right and wrong and mans will vs. God's will. Even many Catholics find themselves at odds with this, but as Catholics we must always remember that sometimes the difficult things, the things we accept simply because God asked us to...showing that we have complete faith in His word....are the things that mean the difference between heaven and a rather lengthy stay in purgatory....or even hell.

What is my take on the Church and bc? I grew up with my mom. I remember Mom talking to me about sex when she knew I was old enough to comprehend the notion. In fact I remember our first talks on the subject rather uncomfortable because sex was just an icky word to me at the time. However...Mom was persistent and also wise in knowing how much was too much information. It seems that in some form....Mom and I always discussed sex. Never did we talk about it though that God and our faith and the Catholic church were not brought into it. I knew from the beginning that sex was God given and thus must be treated as a gift.

In high school and college...many of my friends were on bc and most were having sex. At that point in time though...even though many were sexually active, most were monogamous in relationships and many ended up married to their partners. Of course it was a different era. I sadly did not wait for marriage and many has been the time over the years that I wonder how different life would have been had I waited. I also did not go on bc. I did get pregnant before I was married. Would bc have changed my life? Dramatically! Because I became life which had been going in one direction, suddenly changed its course and went in a completely different one. I thank God every day that I did not choose bc back then. Honestly.....I can't imagine my life without my son. He as given me more joy and love and given my life more meaning than I ever dreamed possible.

As you may have already guessed. I am hardly the perfect human....let alone the perfect Catholic. I am a sinner of great magnitude and I have learned that listening to my own will above God's never ends well for me. I also realize that in this out of control world....why parents wanting only the best for their kids do see bc as a way to protect them in the short run. But sometimes I think bc is also seen as the easy way out. By putting them on bc perhaps they feel this absolves them of their duty of having those "uncomfortable" conversations over and over again. Regardless of the reasoning though.....if you are a practicing matter what you tell yourself or how you try to justify it.....bc is wrong! It is a sin and if you are using bc OR if you are responsible for putting your child on are willfully committing sin thus making it impossible for you to receive the sacraments. God said it! I believe it! End of story!

Wow....this was kind of uncomfortable for me to write today. While intellectually I might see myself on the fence at times about bc....religiously I am not. Knowing something and understanding why some others might see it differently still does not make it right. I feel I may have rambled a bit as it was somewhat difficult for me to say all that I wanted to say and make it understandable to those who read this. When I come to issues such as this and feel the pressure of those outside the Catholic church and even some inside who either do not understand or disagree....I always go back to the quote my mother used to say when someone disagreed with the teachings of the Church. "The Catholic church is the hardest church to live in.....but the easiest church to die in." Today....with this subject....I totally agree!