Fraught With Peril

(This post was intended to be published in February 2016. For some reason that did not happen, but I still would like to share it with you.)

Al Kresta was speaking with someone recently about the in-flight interviews that Pope Francis does with news reporters (many ignorant or hostile to the gospel). He endures these exclusive, intense, merciless interviews on late-night flights on the way home after an exhaustive week in another country. The man is 80 years old. The questions are asked in multiple languages without an interpreter, and they are always about ‘hot-button’ issues, sometimes purposely intended to get him to make a mistake and say something ‘news-worthy.’ And as soon as he says it, it is immediately mis-quoted, taken out of context, and shared with the entire world.

The Catholic world goes into a tizzy when he does this. Our Holy father has truly thrown us for a loop. Many people are upset at his actions; his words can seem careless, confusing people, giving the enemy ammunition against us… Dear Pope Francis, what are you doing?! You’re messing everything up!!

I’ve never been very alarmed at his actions. I can see why his critics are upset. The Pope must be careful to be precise and thorough at all times, safeguarding the reputation and authority of the office, as a position of great significance – he is close to Christ, and is the visible head of His body on earth. He has the charism of Infallibility… stop messing up or they won’t take us or our message seriously!

But the Holy Spirit put him here at this point in time for a reason. He’s not done or said anything contrary to Church teaching, and he’s a fearless witness to love. He’s the successor of Peter, not Jesus. Jesus said and did everything perfectly. Jesus is God. Popes are Not God.

I only know two things about Pope Francis: 1) He is human. 2) He leads by example.

That he would subject himself to such peril is fascinating to me. For someone as timid as me, this decision of his is incredibly dangerous. Under those torturous conditions he’s pretty much guaranteed to say something wrong, or incomplete, or without enough mercy, or without enough knowledge. Which is EXACTLY the kind of thing us wimpy New Evangelization Neophytes need! How many of us simply don’t engage in any faith discussion because we doubt our knowledge and persuasive abilities? Let’s have a show of hands!

Yep, I thought so…

Do you see what he’s doing? If the Pope can make mistakes in faith conversations, so can you! Don’t be afraid to get right in the down and dirty world and try to bring light. If you make a mistake, or they misunderstand, or they trick you and use your words against you, it’s okay. God is bigger than all of it. Do not be afraid.

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The Lent of a Few Hundred Half-Distracted Glances Toward Heaven

Well, THAT wasn’t the best idea I’ve ever had…

At the end of Day 13 of our 2016 “Lent of A Thousand Sacrifices,” I can say without a doubt that I am WAY BEHIND and failing miserably.

Within two days I realized that I simply don’t have 23 opportunities to suffer each day. I live in America. To focus on my ‘sacrifices’ is dangerously close to feeling sorry for myself and playing the martyr. So I quickly modified the goal to “The Lent of A Thousand Offerings,” which is actually closer to the words of Scripture, and broad enough to cover all the things I can offer God throughout the day – pain, sorry, sacrifice, time, joy, adoration, contrition, petition, and gratitude.

But even with that revelation, I’m still not keeping up with the “pace” I need to cross the “finish line”. Part of it is bad record-keeping. Most of it is downright sloth. I do well at work, when I can sit at my desk all day, next to my notebook, and am pretty much aware of the time. Home is really the struggle – this is exactly where I NEED to rely on the Lord’s help more, but I’m not in the habit of calling out to Him, so I don’t. I just get wrapped up in the things that need to be done. I have to be totally at my wit’s end in order to lock myself in a closet and pray.

I’ve never had this happen before. Usually Lent is a good challenge – I give up something that pushes me and is difficult enough for me to grow in appreciation. This one seems downright impossible. I’ve thought about quitting dozens of times… but for some reason I can’t. It’s still early in the game, and even if I don’t make it to 1000, maybe I’ll be able to make it most of the way… I’m curious to see what will happen.

Please offer a prayer for me – I need all the help I can get!

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2016 Satan Is Fat Tuesday

Ahh… Nice try, McFly!

You straddle the mountains, your feet in great craters of lava surrounded by tumultuous twisters, turning and tearing the earth’s fragile soil, you seethe with contempt and bid we all die.

We built with our guilt your colossal legs of brutality, columns of cruelty, discarding the weak and crushing the strong till we break and we cry.

Massive torso of rock, engulfed in hell flames, your wings wide as the oceans and twice as high, violent flapping whirlwinds of fury, as death and debris darken the sky.

And that horrible head, swollen and pussing with pride, the face of a monster hissing and giggling; you imagine we glorify, your embarassment nigh.

You don’t see behind you, bigger brighter and better, your back is to Him: the Great Rabbi.

Use your brain, you dumb demon, loser lunatic, for how could you cast a shadow if Light was not nearby?

And oh, by the by, in all this commotion, in your haste to dominate, you’ve forgotten to fasten your fly.

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The Lent of A Thousand Sacrifices

First Reading for Saturday Feb 6, 2016

1 Kings 3:4-13

Solomon went to Gibeon to sacrifice there,
because that was the most renowned high place.
Upon its altar Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings.

In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream at night.
God said, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.”

Solomon answered:
“You have shown great favor to your servant, my father David,
because he behaved faithfully toward you,
with justice and an upright heart;
and you have continued this great favor toward him, even today,
seating a son of his on his throne.

O LORD, my God, you have made me, your servant,
king to succeed my father David;
but I am a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act.
I serve you in the midst of the people whom you have chosen,
a people so vast that it cannot be numbered or counted.

Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart
to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.
For who is able to govern this vast people of yours?”

The LORD was pleased that Solomon made this request.

Did you notice that Solomon offered 1000 burnt offerings? One thousand is a LOT! Messy, bloody, smelly, unpleasant time-consuming WORK.

I believe that the Lord has given me a heart like Solomon, a heart that desires understanding and wisdom. And I think this Lent He is calling me to offer 1000 sacrifices just as King Solomon did.

Lent is 44 days this year; that is 23 sacrifices per day. Our deacon gave a homily today and spoke about three necessities for Lent – Love, Listening, and Courage. I think those will be the exact categories that my sacrifices will fall into: Loving & doing for others, Listening to God in prayer, and acting or speaking without fear.

Pray for me!

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Letter to a Couple Expecting Their First Child

It is funny how something so normal and natural can feel so exciting and unknown.

When they say that your life will never be the same, they are right. It will be harder, but better. Which sounds very strange, but it is true.

You are now on a path toward greatness – if you accept the challenges in front of you, do your best, and do it with God, you will emerge on the other end a better person. You will be more patient. You will be less selfish. You will have more empathy. You will be more merciful.

Surprisingly, it will start now, while you are pregnant. You may find that the people around you will say the most startling, inappropriate, insensitive things you can imagine. They will share hospital horror stories. They will joke that you were unfaithful to your husband. They will call you names (preggo) and laugh when you are ‘about to pop.’ Ask God to help you let their worldly comments roll off.

That is mildly annoying and difficult – but the baby will come, innocent and permanent!

It is hard to figure out what an infant needs. Ask God to help!

It is hard to change a messy diaper on a squirming baby. Ask God to help!

It is hard to listen to crying, urgent crying, crying that won’t stop. God help!

It is hard to get up multiple times in the middle of the night. Ask God.

It is hard when you’ve been caring for them all day and you need a break, but you don’t get one. God!

God designed them to challenge you. They will find all of your inconsistencies. They will ignore you. They will disobey you. They will repeatedly forget what you just told them, and they will remember something you wish you hadn’t even said.

They don’t think like you. The things that are important to you are not important to them. And the things that are important to them will seem trivial to you. Don’t force them to be like you – there is nothing wrong with them. It is YOU that needs to change.

They need INSANE amounts of love, acceptance, understanding, tenderness, and mercy. WAY more than you are capable of giving – get it from God. You have to hug them MORE than correct them. You have to hug them WHILE you correct them. You have to hug them AFTER you have corrected them. And you have to be corrected just as much as they do.

They GIVE insane amounts of love, acceptance, understanding, tenderness, and mercy. WAY more than you are capable of giving. Their love is like God’s – UNCONDITIONAL – it is your job to be this way too.

You may notice that they also give attitude, temper tantrums, fits, fears, persistence, whining, and all variety of rudeness. DON’T take it personally. DON’T argue. You can be in charge without being an ass. Yes, it is embarrassing – get over yourself and deal with it like an adult. An adult who loves her children even when they behave like children.

One note about labor and delivery, which is a concern that was heavy on my mind when I was in your shoes. Yes, it is incredibly painful. Epidurals are wonderful, but getting one is incredibly painful. Someone once offered these words of comfort: the pain is over in a day. I did not find this very comforting, but it is actually the best advice I received on the subject. The pain IS actually brief. Memorable, but brief. And compared to what you get, you’ll probably be willing to go through it again.

Finally, your spouse. For some reason this gets harder too. Assuming there is no abuse, try not to think about yourself and your needs so much. Think about him. Think about her. What can you do to help? What can you do to make this moment easier for him or her? Give compliments and encouragement, even if they don’t deserve it. YOU ARE A TEAM. Yes, they are going to drive you crazy and be selfish and lazy and clueless. Choose to forgive. A LOT. Choose to do things you don’t want to do. Do them for God. You vowed to be with this flawed person forever, and they vowed to be with you and your flaws forever. Mean what you said – be with them forever.

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