Mortification is the key to happiness

July 3, 2010

I’ve always had trouble understanding mortification. In becoming Catholic, there were subjects that I sidelined, preferring to focus on the meat and potatoes of Catholic life, instead of the weird fringe. For instance, I always steered clear of the saints section of the bookstore, especially the book entitled The Incorruptibles. That’s the kind of stuff that gives me goosebumps. Then there’s mortification. What sane person would subject themselves to pointless misery? But when you look at those who have practiced mortification according to the faith, like Pope John Paul II or Mother Teresa, they weren’t miserable. They were gloriously, happily, unshakably at peace. Maybe those crazy Catholics (ha! us crazy Catholics) are on to something.

Let’s consider the nature of mortification for a minute. It is technically, “the subjection and denial of bodily passions and appetites by abstinence or self-inflicted pain or discomfort”. It’s not just self-inflicted pain or discomfort. It is pain in a very specific context, with the goal of subjugating our desires. Why should our desires be subjugated? We could just chase our every whim, letting our desires rule us. But then we’d look a heck of a lot like Chris Jr. (He’s 2 now! And good at it.) when he’s protesting the denial of his third DanAnimals drink for the day, no matter what it might do to his digestive system. If we decide we must have the light-up bouncy ball, when it is taken away from us, we suffer great emotional angst. Of course, this is nothing more than our own ridiculous desires turned against us. If we could wield our self-control such that our very desire for the light-up bouncy ball doesn’t sway our emotions, we could be happy no matter what come along. If.

So then, mortification is a forced detachment from the things that matter more to us than they should. I’m sure that Pope John Paul II liked a comfortable bed, but when he slept on the floor, he made himself rely on the bed less and rely on Christ more. He detached himself from the bed, so that he didn’t need it to be happy. When we’ve achieved that detachment, we can be happy in whatever circumstances we are in. Then like the men of the New Testament who suffered great persecution, we can rejoice in the great things that God has done for us even when the world seems to be ending.

Unfortunately, we are creatures made of flesh. Our desires are difficult to ignore just by concentrated effort. They can only be subjugated by making a habit out of mastering them. It is with practice that we can hone our desires and attitudes and emotionally suffer less though our physical sufferings remain. That is the goal of mortification – our happiness based firmly on the foundation of what really matters instead of on something as changeable as the weather. Truly, what matters most is our relationship with God, to remain in Him and He in us. If we have that, nothing else should bother us. It’s not that our sufferings aren’t real. We really feel the physical pain, and pain is a real evil that we sometimes must endure. It’s just that our happiness lies in God alone, not in our creature comforts.

Where am I with all this? I’m taking baby steps to mortify my creaturely desires. Right now, I’m having a difficult time controlling the urge to buy. Specifically the urge to buy yarn. That’s right. Yarn. It’s something that non-knitters/crocheters might have a hard time understanding, but it’s a well known addictive side effect of knitting. I see a skein of 40% alpaca, 35% merino wool, 25% silk, in a pearl gray hand dyed colorway and I start to drool. I imagine the lovely things that could be done with such a yarn. My world would be a better place, I’d be a happier person, a more patient mother, if I only had this yarn. But I am making an effort to control this seemingly ridiculous urge. I’m waiting to buy. I’m saving up spending money. I’m resisting the desire to load up the credit cards and hide the mail from Chris.

It’s maybe only half a baby step that I’m working on here, and I’m not doing all that well. I think the reason I fall so short so often is that I spend a lot of time thinking about the best way to do things, the right thing to do, and I try very hard to work it all out. In the end, it’s me trying to work it all out. All too often, I’ve sidelined Christ as my guide instead of my strength. I’ve tried to get to know the person of Christ, to serve Him, to emulate Him. But it’s just me trying, and I’m not letting Him do the work. I confess I don’t spend nearly as much time as I should just with Christ. I haven’t made Him the light of my life, I’ve made Him the book light. I turn Him on when I want to look something up and figure something out.

Mortification teaches me that practice at denying my lesser desires will allow Christ to blossom as the center of my life. So then – small steps, little habits, repeated attempts. All on my to do list.

These lyrics are from Paul Inwood’s Center of my Life, and seem applicable:

“O Lord, you are the center of my life: I will always praise you, I will always serve you, I will always keep you in my sight. Keep me safe, O God, I will take refuge in you. I say to the Lord, “You are my God. My happiness lies in you alone; my happiness lies in you alone.”

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The First Lashes

March 10, 2010

And so it begins. I had a feeling that the reason my parents took my joining the Catholic Church so well is that they didn’t realize how Catholic I am. Today, I was telling my mom that we will most likely put our kids in the Catholic school of our parish. It’s a good school that even Catholic-shy Protestants send their kids to. It doesn’t cost much more than public school and I’ve been really unimpressed with public schools lately. She wavered and stalled, then confessed she doesn’t like the idea of Catholic schools because they teach the kids things she disagrees with, like “praying to the saints and doing rosary beads for forgiveness.” I told her there are things she disagrees with that they teach, but Chris and I agree with them. It’s like I slapped her and called her ugly.

She stuttered, “You believe in things like praying to the saints????”

“Yes, mom. Why do you think I’m joining the Catholic Church this Easter?”

“But Jesus is our only intercessor!”

“He is our only intercessor in one way, but even you ask others to pray for us.”

“People who are alive and in the body of Christ!”

“Those who have died are still in the body of Christ.”

“There’s nothing in the Bible that tells us to pray to the saints.”

“There is the cloud of witnesses. If they can see and hear us, and they’re with God, there’s no reason to believe they can’t pray for us. They’re not spiritually paralyzed!”

“We’re supposed to pray directly to God.”

“I do pray directly to God. And I ask you to pray for me, and Chris to pray for me, and the saints to pray for me.”

“You are such a chameleon. You change your beliefs according to who you’re with.”

The last several weeks, since Fat Tuesday actually, I’ve had this tension headache/neck pain from stress. It gets worse when I’m more stressed. Right about this point in the conversation, my neck hurt. There’s really no reason for my mom to suggest that I just conform to those around me. There is never an instance in my past when I have changed my faith, let alone changed it to agree with the multitude of strange ideas from people I’ve come across. I’ve dated atheists (one who was “Catholic”), Catholics who believe everyone goes to heaven, a multiple personality ridden Protestant, and one guy who actually thought he was God, but I never changed the beliefs that I was raised with. I’ve been surrounded by nihilistic attitudes, scientism, “spirituality” rather than “religion”, and other religions. The most I had in common spiritually with any of my friends in college was with a Muslim friend of mine who agreed that science and religion are not at odds! And yet my own mother now thinks that despite all this resistance and adversity to my beliefs that I’ve gone through, my faith is week enough that I’ve just passively absorbed that of my husband. I’ve never changed my faith for anyone, and I still haven’t. I’m not becoming Catholic for Chris. Neither am I just becoming Catholic in the same way that my parents join different churches. I am Catholic.

She changed the subject a bit, “You believe in praying rosary beads for forgiveness?”

“That’s not why people pray the rosary, mom.”

My faculties failed me while I attempted to explain the power of forgiveness in confession. I recounted Christ breathing the Holy Spirit on the Apostles and telling them what sins they forgive are forgiven and the sins they retain are retained. She answered, “I’m not sure where you’re going with that.” I considered going through the whole Apostolic succession through the laying on of hands thing. The words that Father Andrew said last week at the RCIA class on confession ran through my head, “Well, how can they forgive sins if they don’t hear them?” The look on her face stopped me. Instead I ended it with “Oh look, Isabel wants to watch Star Wars.”

I think my mom accused me of being a chameleon because she was rather shocked, and couldn’t think of another way to explain the fact that I believe in praying to the saints. Unfortunately, all this came after a bad day in which I was rather frustrated and annoyed with the kids, perfectly demonstrating how Catholics shouldn’t act. I’m holding my breath, waiting for the phone call from my dad. And bracing myself for the next barrage of challenges to Catholic beliefs.


In the Midst of Cradle Catholics

October 19, 2009

I’ve been a member of the mom’s group at our church for a little while, and recently joined a Bible study with some of the women. We had our second session yesterday and I was struck, as I was at the first meeting, by the strangeness of being the “voice of orthodoxy” in a group of Catholics, when I’m not even Catholic yet. All of them are cradle Catholics, and it’s really strange the questions I was getting asked.

The first session, we were sharing a little of our background, and when it came to light that I was in RCIA I was asked, “What’s the difference between Protestants and Catholics?” This completely stumped me! I mean, where do I start? I muttered something about there’s a lot of differences and we even use the same words in a different way. When pressed, I gave a brief synopsis of “saved by faith through grace” meaning different things for Protestants and Catholics. What I should have said was something along the lines of acknowledging the authority of the church through the anointing of Christ on the Apostles and their successors vs. believing that the Bible itself is our only authority. The question took me too off guard though. It’s good practice for my coming out.

At the second session, I was more used as a different perspective. This time I was asked, “So why did you convert? What made you believe the Catholic Church was the true church?” The real clincher for me was that the Catholic Church possesses the authority of Christ through Apostolic succession. I got it right that time, and thought I’d said something common to the group. Until someone said, “What do you mean? How is that different than any other church?” Uh… I tried to explain as concisely as possible that Christ instituted the church at the Last Supper, and sent the Holy Spirit to guide His Church in all truth, that the Apostles laid hands on their successors to confer the gift of the Holy Spirit, and that there is a direct line of those they’ve ordained from current priests and bishops going back to the Apostles and Christ. I felt like I was speaking a foreign language though.

The conversation took a weird turn, in which she said she couldn’t defend being Catholic at all. Her husband is not Catholic. She doesn’t know why she should be Catholic, other than she is and she won’t be anything else. Kudos to her for sticking with what she knows is right, even if she’s not sure why it is. That was always a problem for me when I was young. If I wasn’t as clear on my reasons, people could talk me into their perspective. This woman said she’s heard something to the effect of: Catholics just trust other people to figure things out and follow along uneducated and unquestioning. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to say that obedience doesn’t equal blind following and that we have to understand the rules of the faith if we want to grow in our faith at all! At least I had a chance to tell her, when she pointed out how screwed up the leaders of the church can be, that this is one reason the Catholics have it right. Everyone’s screwed up. We can’t let people we elect direct our faith because they’re so holy and smart. They’re not good enough. Man’s best is not good enough. That is why we trust that God is able to do His will and the Holy Spirit will direct His church through fallen and faulty men. Otherwise, we are just like the rest of them.

I wonder how common this is for cradle Catholics. I worry that not everyone who lacks apologetic prowess will be as resilient as the woman I was talking to against the reasonable sounding wolves that will question their faith. It’s a real danger for people not well educated in their faith, that someone will come along, point out a few difficulties (not inconsistencies!) of belief and *poof* they’ll turn coat faster than Benedict Arnold. It’s easy enough to see how it could happen. Chris has been scouring Out of the Labyrinth, a book “disproving” Catholicism which was written by an ex-priest who ought to have known better! It contains so many just plain wrong representations of Catholic beliefs, it’s no wonder people can show them to be unbiblical and persuade believers to turn Protestant. If you don’t know enough about what the Church teaches to point out the flaws of their arguments, what defense will you have except plain old stubbornness?

Chris thinks every parish ought to have a basic apologetics course available, on top of RCIA, since RCIA really only describes Catholicism in its most basic form. It’s a good idea. Until then, here I am, explaining orthodox Catholic beliefs to people who have always believed them but don’t know why. The leader of the group says she’s glad to have my perspective, thinks converts make the best Catholics, and says she’ll ask me many more questions. I hope I can do the Church justice. I’ve already found myself having a typical over-reaction against anything that smacks of my Protestant experiences, even when they’re alright for Catholics. The Bible study is focused on the Holy Spirit, and of course, there’s a lot of run ins with charasmatic Protestantism which I usually run from screaming. I have to watch myself and try not to let the pendulum swing too far off center. So pray for me, that I will say what God wants me to say when the time comes.


Don’t knock the Rosary till you try it

October 14, 2009

The Rosary is not what you think. Well. Since most of the readers of this blog actually are Catholic, it probably is what you think. But for Protestants coming from a stereotyped perspective like I have, it’s not what you think. I prayed my first rosary only three nights ago with Chris. We decided to do this after a particularly trying day where the kids were running around screaming, I was constantly pressed to thwart Chris Jr.’s life-risking escapades, and Isabel had more than one fit lasting too long for stubbornly refusing to say “please”. Days like that make me feel like I’m either working in an insane asylum or I’m losing my own mind. I get lost and dejected. It’s hard to focus and keep your patience with tedious, boring, and thankless work. I had half a mind that a better devotional life would help, so that night Chris busted out the rosary and we prayed.

I went into this, even in my converted state, thinking that Marian devotees and the rosary in particular were very superstitious. I hear people say that Mary will not fail to save those who are devoted to her, and that the rosary will “obtain” all sorts of miracles or favors. Before we started, Chris told me that the rosary is the most powerful devotion in the Church. I was skeptical. It sounded like some sort of holy spell casting or something. It turns out I didn’t understand the rosary at all.

Chris has printed off the New Advent rosary instructions, which we used and I highly recommend. Each day, there are five different mysteries that we meditate on while praying the five different decades of the rosary. I knew about the mysteries, but didn’t really understand how it worked. The New Advent page lists the mysteries and gives Scripture readings for each, which I love. Reading these scenes from the life of Christ beforehand help me recall things lost in time and memory. Surprise! It is Christ-centered. As a result, we were praying, not only to Mary, but also praying the “Our Father”, “Glory Be”, and “Oh My Jesus”, contemplating the person of Christ, who we are in Him, and our relation to Mary as our Mother since as adopted sons and daughters of God we are like Christ to her. This is more profound than I ever could have imagined! We better understand who Mary is by contemplating Christ and vice versa, and begin to understand our own place in life.

For instance, in the sorrowful mysteries, the first of which is the agony of Our Lord in the garden, Christ is facing horrible suffering and tells God the Father, “Nevertheless, not my will but your will be done.” Following Christ’s example, we begin to understand how our surrender to God’s will is a divine thing, especially in the face of suffering. Praying the Hail Mary while meditating on this reveals more of who Mary is–truly the Mother of God–an acknowledgment of Christ’s divine person, not some assertion that Mary created God.

I could go on rather incoherently explaining more of my contemplations during the rosary, but if you want to understand it, try it. I tend to think the best effects of devotional prayer are that it focuses our minds on the things of God and aligns our will with His will. That is the power of the rosary. I can definitely see how done daily it will change your life, not because it contains hocus pocus, but because faith changes you and the rosary is a tool of faith. Irenaeus (the commenter on this blog, NOT the Church Father) said once that the rosary is addictive, and I think I might already be addicted.


In Need of Encouragement

September 11, 2009

I read a few amazon reviews of books aimed at “saving Catholics” who are sadly without knowledge of the gospel. It’s amazing how people resort to rhetoric snatched from the blurred edges of their memory, mindlessly repeated half-baked lies and flipping from one learned talking point to the next when challenged. I knew a girl when I was young who although her faith was sincere, she didn’t think about it much or question what she was told. She instead memorized and repeated “spiritual” language like a pro, neatly boxed up for every occasion. It really used to annoy me. When I read the lingo-ridden block paragraphs lamenting the dead faith of Catholics, flippantly deriding the Catholic “works driven” salvation, tossing a bone in the form of a half-hearted “God help them” prayer, the voice in my head is always the one of the girl I used to know. Bizarre.

I get discouraged when it seems like no one listens, no matter how many times you repeat that you do not worship Mary and the Saints and that the Pope is not the Anti-Christ (Seriously, have they read the Bible? Do they even know how the Anti-Christ is described?). I wish that I could explain things better and help people understand what the Catholic Church teaches and see her for the beautiful and spotless Bride of Christ that she is. I can’t stand the insults and blind hatred; people throwing her human failings in her face, abandoning her when she adamantly calls sin a sin, criticizing and deriding her. People call Catholics idolaters and morons. They call the Church at best an obsolete antiquity or at worst the whore of Babylon. A raging war is constantly swirling around the Catholic Church, and at times that’s all there seems to be. I feel helpless to even lift my voice in protest, since “they have ears but they do not hear”.

When your eyes have been opened, it’s hard to remember what it was like to be blind, and there’s no chance of forgetting the truth you’ve seen. Chris has told me, while I anguish over the attacks on the Body of Christ and the stubborn souls who lack understanding, not to forget where I was five years ago. It’s hard to keep in mind. My journey to Rome has been unpredictable and fraught with landmines. I was so stubborn, so lost, so ignorant and willful. Neither Chris nor I ever imagined my conversion, and the only explanation is the grace of God. I thank God that Chris obeyed Him and married me. I thank God for answering my desperate prayers throughout my life and showing me His truth. It truly was an act of God that my ears were opened, that I heard the corrections to my misconceptions after the five hundredth time.

I remember the flip in my mind, when I saw that succession from the Apostles was important, and I was angry that I had been wrong. I didn’t want to admit it, or listen further. I told Chris, “I’ll be so mad at you if you’re right.” and he said, “Why?? Don’t you want to be united as a family?” I didn’t really. I wanted to be right and for him to change his mind. But more than that, I wanted God’s honest truth. After so many arguments, repeated over and over, God touched me that I might hear, and there was still a long, hard road to go down, accepting the authority of the Church and its many hard teachings. What do I expect from my family and friends and strangers on the internet? Do I expect after I was so mired in the Protestant paradigm that they can easily hear the words “Catholics believe we are saved by grace and we can’t earn our way to heaven!!!”? (My mom has finally assented to that in conversation. Thanks be to God!)

Looking back, I wasn’t convinced of the truth in Catholicism, I was drawn into it. I told Chris I would marry him only three days after meeting him because his faith drew me. He was assured of its truth, but more than this I saw from the way he spoke that God carried weight with him. I knew Chris was someone who would seek the heart of God, face His truth, and follow His will. I wanted a husband like that. Chris continued to surrender to God’s will and live a Catholic faith that was attractive and very different than any stereotypes I had heard passed around. That was the reason I listened, and maybe that is all that we can really do. We can’t convince anyone with a good argument or change their minds by showing them how every Catholic belief has Biblical support. We can live a life committed to doing God’s will and allow Him to draw people through His work in us. Maybe that’s why Mother Teresa didn’t try to coerce anyone into converting. Doesn’t work anyway.

The battle rages and silent victories are won. Non-famous people join the Church in obscurity living quiet lives of servitude and piety. But I have to thank the commenters on this blog and writers of others for not being so silent about their faith. When I’m up against a wall of resistance, I am encouraged thinking of the evangelical professor who cared more about the truth than his career, the one wife who also listened to her husband, the other wife who prays for hers, the pilgrim who visits area churches with his daughter, the cradle Catholic who proves the stereotype wrong with a well-informed and fiery faith, and everyone who shares a glimpse of their Catholic heart for Christ. It’s good to know that not everyone is crazy and to witness these small miracles.


Catholic Guilt

June 10, 2009

I was watching Dead Zone the other night with Chris, the episode “Transgressions” in the final season. At one point, Johnny tells Sarah he just feels so guilty, and she quips, “It’s all the Catholics you’ve been hanging around.” Odyssey 5 also comes to mind in which someone tells another, “You’re Catholic, you always feel guilty.” After I finished reading Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers, I decided I was too harsh on her, that she wasn’t being deliberately malicious, and decided to email her and ask why she made certain characters Catholic. She responded by saying “Because [she has] many Catholic friends who suffer guilt until they realize how much God loves them.”

Where did the “guilty Catholic” come from? Personally, I have never met a Catholic who’s tortured by guilt. I feel no guilty motivations for any “works” I may do, though Lord knows I have plenty in my life to feel guilty about. When I asked Chris, he joked, “I feel guilty for not feeling guilty!” Although as far as I can tell, this stereotype has little basis in reality, it is a widespread and deeply ingrained stereotype. I can only speculate as to its origin.

The Original Guilty Catholic

Maybe we can look back to the Reformation. Martin Luther was initially wholly motivated by guilt. At least that’s the picture I got from his biography, Luther the Reformer. He ran from pilgrimage to pilgrimage, in a frenzy to rack up his good works points and wipe out his guilty debts, which eventually led to his “faith alone” epiphany. Repeatedly, he was told by his fellow monks to look to the cross, but was plagued knowing he could never do enough to be righteous, and stand before a righteous God, of his own merit. When I accused Luther of pride in a conversation with a friend, because Luther somehow believed his sins were too great for the usual method of salvation from the cross, he told me this form of pride is called despondency. I’m willing to venture that the generic guilty Catholic stems from despondency. I think Luther’s pride is also seen when he believed that he was the only one whose interpretation of Scripture was correct, and that his belief was enough to save him. Focuses way too much on himself to be of Christ. Enough about Luther, the original guilty Catholic.

Why Catholics Might Feel Guilty

The difference between Protestants and Catholics in how we see ourselves, is that Catholics believe what we do matters, but we take full credit for our sins, and only share in any credit for the good we may do by God’s grace. Of course, many of the far removed Protestant denominations believe the same thing (my parents and I agree on the technicalities of this issue, a great relief!), but this was a crucial breaking point during the Reformation. “Faith alone” means what we do doesn’t actually matter in that it doesn’t affect anything, it is merely proof of faith without our free will. Always keep in mind, Luther emphasized grace to the point of condemning free will in even our decision to accept Christ’s sacrifice for our sins. Calvin took things further and said our damnation and even our sins are designed by God to increase His glory, we have no choice in anything. Both thought that any effort on our part was pride, and that any claim to glory on our part was an attempt to take away glory from God. Of course, increasing the glory of His loved ones increases His glory, especially since we can only be glorified if we become like Christ. How can that be prideful?

This kind of disconnect with our actions doesn’t make much sense, and it scrambles any of the beauty of our relationship with God because free giving of our selves is crucial to any real relationship. If what we do doesn’t matter, then why are we here? That’s why many Protestant denominations have drifted back to Catholic dogmas, without a clue as to their roots.

So here is the defining Catholic feature: we must do things. There’s really not much that we must do, and Augustine assessed it as a very easy yoke to bear indeed, especially compared to the old law. There are observances of a few “sweet” sacraments, and obedience to those in authority. Like any kind of guilt, I’m assuming that of the guilty Catholics (I’m sure some do exist though I haven’t met them), comes from knowing that either you’ve done something wrong or you haven’t done what you should do. In the Catholic Faith, what we should and shouldn’t do is more clearly defined than in many other faiths or denominations, so I guess it makes sense that there is a guilty Catholic stereotype. Maybe it has sprung, not from real experience with guilty Catholics, but from what people imagine they would feel if they were Catholic and had to follow “all those rules”.

It’s true that the Catholic punishments are also well defined. There is the sacrament of reconciliation and penance. Usually, people are instructed to right their hearts through prayer, not to sin again, and are forgiven. Doesn’t sound awfully guilt inducing to me, but hey, I haven’t actually gone through it yet. Then there is the punishment of Purgatory, although as C. S. Lewis puts it, our souls cry for the purifying fires of Purgatory. We would not wish to stand before a righteous God without being purified. The pain of Purgatory is a sweet pain when thought of that way. The only real catch in all the Catholic rules is that we must mean it. Everything is vain without faith that bears fruit in love. If someone obeys all the rules, and goes to confession, does their penance, etc., but does so without love of God or faith in His mercy and salvation, they must know in their heart they haven’t fulfilled the greatest prerequisite to accepting God’s grace. So is the guilty Catholic really the same as a guilty Protestant, just better defined?

Why Catholics Shouldn’t Feel Guilty (and most don’t)

Of course, those familiar with Catholic beliefs know we can never merit our salvation, and even the good works we do are not by our own merit, but Christ’s. Salvation and our lives here on Earth are not about us, and we need to avoid pride, which leads us to believe it is. Instead, we must realize that all we are capable of is cooperating with Christ, and allowing God’s grace to work in our lives. Any good that we do or have is only by God’s grace. So the pressure to “earn” salvation would seem to me an entirely invented pressure, designed to make us feel more important than we are.

That must be the key. Realize that it’s not about us! It’s not about fearing His punishments or even fulfilling a list of requirements. It’s about God, and loving His laws, because you love Him and want to please Him and be conformed to His will. When we realize that, the pride of giving ourselves credit, and beating up ourselves with guilt disappears. Because then, we see that our sins are washed away by Christ’s more than adequate sacrifice. Our works are performed in earnest effort to be closer to God and conform to His will. The good we do is not ours, and the bad we do doesn’t matter in light of the cross, like Luther’s peers told him.

I don’t know how Luther could have missed it, because as I’ve said before, the heart of the Catholic Faith is sacrificing our pride, our selves, and surrendering to Christ. I know the Church of his time was a hyperactive abused thing, but it’s all there in the catechisms and councils. Guilt was conquered at the cross. We realize that nothing we do is enough to stand before a righteous God, but that He has done enough. What we do matters, because we choose to accept or reject God, His grace, and His will in our lives. We choose to respond in love or pride, and consequently feel peace or guilt.

Disclaimer

This is all more of a journal entry pondering this stereotype that I find bizzare, and doesn’t really qualify as a public statement. Do I understand it right? Or is the guilty Catholic outside my reach still?


“Redeeming Love”… a novel by Francine Rivers

March 31, 2009

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.