“Redeeming Love”… a novel by Francine Rivers

My mom gave me a book to read recently. Lately, I’ve been delving quite heavily into theology and history and I was looking for an easy fiction book for a nice change of pace. This book is supposed to be based on the book of Hosea, about a prostitute loved by a man that takes her back despite her infidelity. So what do I find? In the first few chapters of this novel, we are introduced to a nice Catholic harlot who regularly shacks up with her married lover. This woman refuses to abort her child because “it’s a mortal sin.” Lovely that the author failed to notice adultery is a mortal sin as well. Let’s forget that for a moment. This Catholic woman is abandoned by her lover, and turned away by her puritanical Catholic parents, rosary in hand the entire time. The mother dies, and her eight year old daughter chucks her rosary in the garbage before she’s sold into prostitution, with musings of purgatory and Cyprian the whole way down the line.

Do I have the stomach for a book that insinuates the Catholic Church is unfaithful, like the prostitute, rescued by the Protestant man who “seeks his Father’s heart in everything”. My mom isn’t a vicious woman. I can only think she doesn’t get it, but it hurts that she recommends this book so highly. I’m looking to join a body that is hated and slandered. I will be hated and slandered with it, and hurt by every attack and misunderstanding that is flippantly thrown her way.

It’s appropriate, isn’t it? Considering the approaching days. I can remember watching The Passion in the theater for the first time. The reel broke part way through, and the entire theater was silent for ten minutes while it was fixed. My family thought it was very well done, portraying Christ’s passion and death so personally and emotionally, for a Catholic. Every Easter, we will watch it again. Every time, I will wonder how people can have been so cruel to our beloved Master. I will never understand it, but I will readily join Him as He calls me.

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8 Responses to “Redeeming Love”… a novel by Francine Rivers

  1. margaret59 says:

    Dear Stacey,
    I am sure your mother is not trying to be unkind. She is probably just trying to show you what she believes to be “right”. I can certainly understand your pain.

    When I was 13, after my father died (18 months after my mother), I moved in with a friend of mine and her family. They were evangelical Protestants, and I learned rather quickly what their church thought of me and mine. I found a pamphlet in their home which described what they thought to be the Catholic Church. I can’t describe how badly I was hurt. The pamphlet called the Catholic Church the “Whore of Rome”, laughed at our “worship” of the Saints, in particular, the Blessed Mother. The Pope was, if not personally the antichrist, a forerunner thereof.

    This coming so soon after my beloved father’s death (a very devout and loving Catholic man), shocked me and hurt me to my very soul. Yet, those people who could have such literature in their home, were generally kind to me. In fact, they never tried to take my Catholic faith from me. Oh, I lapsed anyway, but it had nothing to do with them–I lapsed into general non-practice, but I never became a member of any other faith. Eventually, I returned to Catholicism, and the mother of that family was there for me, and for my children every step of the way–they called her Grandma, and so she was. RIP

    This is rather long and rambling, but what I am trying to say is that, even though people (even your own family) do not understand where you are going, and say and do hurtful things, it is not from malice or unkindness. They do not understand; God forgive them what they do.

    Trust in God, and ummmm “offer it up”, to put it in a traditional Catholic way. What you said about your family’s reaction to “The Passion of the Christ” is telling. They just don’t get the very intimate and loving connection of Catholics to Christ. Catholics don’t articulate our relationship in terms that most Protestants understand. Part of that is no doubt our own failing.

    God bless you and keep you, Stacey. Trust in Him to lead you in His way. I’m sorry for your pain over this.

    Mary Margaret

  2. Stacey says:

    Mary Margaret,

    Thank you so much for sharing that. I’m sorry that you suffered such a loss at such a young age. It’s wonderful that Christ has kept you close to Him, though. I wonder sometimes if he doesn’t give the opportunity for special grace to those who have suffered much.

    I know it seems in comparison that lending me an anti-Catholic novel is a silly little thing. I have always felt my mom’s opposition to Catholicism in many little things. Before I married Chris, she even warned me against it quite seriously, but believed maybe God was using me to bring Chris to “freedom”. It’s funny she never would have guessed the other way around. Lately, she’s been more open than usual about things Catholic, and has even ranted a bit that people like Kathleen Sebelius and Nancy Pelosi aren’t real Catholics. I know she and my dad suspect my journey toward the Catholic Church. I thought maybe she was becoming more accepting.

    You’re right that they don’t understand, and I know I’ll encounter much more of this throughout my life. I think sometimes it’s harder coming from the close sources, the people we love and who love us. But I’ve grown to love the Church, and when she is maligned like this, I feel like I’m watching The Passion again, the scene where Christ’s body is torn and beaten senselessly. Chris has told me, Christ has already won through that.

    You say: “Catholics don’t articulate our relationship in terms that most Protestants understand. Part of that is no doubt our own failing.”

    It’s interesting. There is a great difference between Protestant and Catholic expression, but I don’t think there’s a lack on the Catholic part. The Protestant habit is to buy “tat”(to use a N. Irishism) and flaunt their faith (I’m not saying it’s a bad thing). They buy t-shirts, write fiction, and have their own radio stations. The Catholic presence is minuscule in these things, and they restrict themselves to a few approved, I would say more reverent, expressions, like crucifixes and medallions and prayers at the stations of the cross or the rosary. It seems to me the Catholic way has deeper roots and doesn’t easily transfer to use all the most modern amenities. I don’t know for sure, I’m not sure why there’s this difference.

  3. lenetta says:

    I’d love to do more study on the topic of suffering. I believe the Catholic church is the only one (or one of few) to put worth to suffering on this earth. I am signed up for daily Scripture e-mails, and today’s had this to say:

    That I may know Christ and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings. (Phillippians 3:10)

    There is also an snippet from a saint or Church father, and today’s was this –
    Suffering is a great grace. In suffering, the soul becomes crystallized; the greater the suffering, the purer the love.
    St. Faustina, 20th century

    A bit off topic, sorry. When I first read your post, I hoped that your mother meant no harm . . . I’m sure your considerations to convert are bewildering at best. I’ll say a prayer for her next time I pray for you.

    A bit further off topic – I didn’t like The Passion. Maybe I didn’t like seeing the gore – which certainly was a part of the crucifixion. I think the next Easter after I saw The Passion, I went to a production called The Thorn. (New Life Church in Colorado Springs put it on – yes, that’s the one that had Pastor Ted that got caught with his pants down.) It was a large scale production that took full advantage of the evangelical church stage, lighting system, praise and worship band, etc. There was plenty of (fake) blood, and a very scary Satan and amazing sets and costuming and I much preferred it to The Passion. I wish I had attended it while I lived in the Springs. Ah, well.

    Did you get my e-mail? Yours spent a few days in my spam folder – it decided to grab a bunch of them, including ones from people I e-mail regularly. Weird. Anyway, as of now, it looks like hubs might fly me down and we’ll ride back with my parents so I don’t think we’ll be able to swing by. I’ll send you happy thoughts anyway, and will let you know if we pass that way again!

  4. margaret59 says:

    Stacey, Please don’t think that I am in any way denigrating your experience. I think that your pain is real, and in no way less or greater than mine.
    I do not think, in any way, that your own mother lending you a book that is anti-catholic is trivial.

    My point was only that people cause us pain, without truly intending it. Your mother’s gift was rather passive-aggressive–trying to change your mind without directly confronting you. She did it that way, I think, because she truly loves you, and cannot accept the path that you seem to be taking. May God forgive me for the pain that I have caused my own children.

    As to a greater gift of grace for those who suffer; I don’t know. I am likely to be fired from my job this month—is that grace? Doesn’t feel like it, but maybe it is. I always have trouble with thinking that God is behind everything we experience, possibly because that is too much like the “prosperity gospel”, indicating that if we get good things, then God is rewarding us, and if we get bad things, then God is punishing us. I prefer Job, I guess. God has given, and God has taken away. Blessed be the Name of the LORD.

    Best of luck to you (I would say Irish Luck, but I think the point is that we don’t have much). I look forward to welcoming you home to the Catholic Church if that is where God leads. Regardless, may God bless you, and Chris and your children with you.

    Mary Margaret

  5. Stacey says:

    Hi Lenetta 🙂

    No, I don’t think I did get your email. I’m sorry we won’t get to see you and the family, but I hope you have a nice trip anyway!

    I like that verse and quote on suffering. It’s something I don’t think I can wrap my head around yet. I see how our suffering can purify us, and how we rely on God more completely with it, but I don’t understand the Catholic way of “joining our suffering with Christ’s”. I do know suffering is somehow meaningful, and the prosperity gospels that Margaret talks about completely miss it.

  6. Stacey says:

    Margaret,

    No, I didn’t mean to say you were belittling the book thing! But I’m starting to feel silly for letting it get to me. Maybe I’m too thin skinned. I know she does these things because she loves me. She can’t understand the direction I’m headed in, and from things she’s said before, she probably attributes my change to “not being strong enough” in my faith, and just ignorantly conforming myself to whatever Chris likes. When I try to talk to her about things, she just reiterates that the Catholic Church is just another denomination and the biggest problem she has with it is “worshiping Mary and the saints” *sigh* No amount of explaining seems to help.

    I don’t think God is the cause of everything we go through, good and bad. But I think He allows bad things to happen to us for our good and the good of others. He works through them, walks with us, and gives us His grace in it. So I think God is in everything, but not just giving us what we deserve when something bad happens. He uses the bad things we or others cause for His good.

    Back in middle school, I was in a two person play named “God’s Favorite” about Job. It’s always stuck with me. One of the things that struck me was how much Job complained, while always giving glory to God. I guess God doesn’t expect us to be impervious to pain, but to always keep our heart right with Him through it.

    I hope you don’t lose your job, and I’ll be praying for you. If you need anything, including a place to vent, let me know.

  7. lenetta says:

    Yeah, like I said, I need to do some more study myself. I’ve read bits and snippets here and there to put an idea in my head, but I can’t really pull them all together to explain it. I find it fascinating, though.

    I dug up the e-mail and resent it – it might be in your spam folder again, though. :>) We’re back to a bit uncertain with plans – we have a board meeting for our little village, hubs is a trustee and I’m the treasurer, but I’m thinking we’ll skip this one. Hopefully. If he won’t skip, then maybe we’ll be able to stop! I’ll try to get it figured out and let you know if it’ll work (he’s not known for committing to things like that . . .), otherwise I WILL send you happy thoughts and we’ll see about next time!

  8. margaret59 says:

    Stacey,

    Thanks for your concern, and for your prayers! I’m not sure that I don’t want to lose my job (yay for double negatives). The job itself is not really my kind of thing, and the atmosphere is truly poisonous. I have been with the company for almost 25 years, and if I got a good severance package, it could be for the best. Please pray that God’s will be done, and that He leads me in the way that I should go.

    I would appreciate prayers for my younger daughter. She is graduating from college with her nursing degree (summa cum laude!) and is having trouble finding the nursing position that she really wants (PICU). She wants to live in KC, as her older sister already does.

    You never know, I might be following them to the area. So, if you know of anywhere that might want a chemist who has been away from the bench for several years, let me know!

    Thanks again for your kindness. God bless you and yours,

    Mary Margaret

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