Learn more about my latest book – All In: Why Belonging to the Catholic Church Matters. Available for Pre-order now!

Archives for June 2013

The F.U.N. Quotient… another gratuitous Boston Terrier post

The F.U.N. Quotient… another gratuitous Boston Terrier post

Brady: "Why yes, it is all about the ball!  You no touchy the ball."

Brady: “Why yes, it is all about the ball! You no touchy the ball.”

Great Animal Planet Video on Boston Terriers.

My Pinterest Board for Boston Terriers.

 

note: comments have been disabled because I’m not at my desk to moderate them.

In Today’s SCOTUS Ruling:  “The Court refused… to create a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.”- Ryan Anderson

In Today’s SCOTUS Ruling: “The Court refused… to create a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.”- Ryan Anderson

That photo is part of the tree line I view from my back porch. I’m enjoying some time off right now, but today’s legal news warrants a bit of thought and comment.

::

 

Generally, I don’t write much about political subject matter at this blog, or in the periodicals or websites I write for. Yet the religious liberty issues and the marriage issues that are currently being debated in our nation have a lot of meaning for Catholics. The debate in which we find ourselves touches the spiritual core of our identity as Christians.

Among Catholics, there is a deep divide over this issue of marriage. I say we are divided because there is such disagreement between Catholics who hold what the Church teaches about marriage and freedom as true and unchanging, and the Catholics that see those ideas are archaic or no longer binding, or in need of updating. If you’ve been a reader of mine for a while, you know I stand with the Church on this issue. But I also know that the law of love demands that we love those who disagree with this teaching. So I’m not in any position to malign or discredit the persons who disagree.

In truth, the Catholic Church sees marriage not only as a function of natural law, but also as a sacramental one and divine one, instituted by God, the kind that no person should put asunder. (Mt 19:6, Mk 10:9) For me this means that marriage is a very specific and permanent joining of man and woman, and nobody, and no law ought to separate them. Following that, it stands to reason that no law ought to separate, or put asunder, the meaning of marriage from its origins.

So I’m writing this post as a reminder that we all have to pay attention to what’s going on,  for we all are part of the discourse in this nation, and in our families, for the sake of the common good. As a Catholic, recognizing the dignity of the human person and their ultimate good, and the good of the many is very precious to us. When human laws disregard human flourishing and human rights, or are contrary to God’s law of love, we must speak up.

Not only that, simultaneously, we must find better ways, as a Church, to witness to the law of love for the sake of our brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, who are lobbying for a same-sex marriage recognition. The Church’s stand on moral codes has always been a hard road to travel. There’s a reason Jesus preached about a “narrow” way. (Mt 7: 13-14, Lk 13:24.) We must find ways to stand for marriage without rejecting others who disagree with our positions. I believe Jesus’ advice about loving our enemies was more about how to fight the good fight without degrading or disrespecting the other person in the process. Let it be that whenever we are asked to give an account of what we believe, we may do so as happy warriors, as those who offer respectful dialogue and ultimately praise to God in the process.

::

There are many who will write about this Supreme Court ruling much better than I. And when I was looking for a title for this post, I almost wrote the same one as I now see Kathy Schiffer wrote over at Patheos.

Besides praying about all this, I do read, and I do discuss these things with my friends and family. I hope you are too. I hope you are  a conscientious voter in the state where you live. So, rather than me blab on about this, let me share with you a few resources to read in the midst of what is sure to be a media firestorm on the subject of today’s ruling.

::

I’ve been reading Ryan T. Anderson. He’s smart and he knows the law… The law, not the spin. The law is precise. The spin not so much. The spin that some same-sex marriage proponents want the rest of the world to believe is that same sex marriage is the law of the land. It is not. It is the state’s right to make its own policies regarding marriage laws.

From Ryan T. Anderson, at Heritage.org

The Supreme Court announced disturbing decisions today on two important cases dealing with marriage law. The Court refused, however, to create a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.

Proposition 8 (Prop 8)

In its ruling on California’s Proposition 8, the Court declared that the citizen group that sponsored Prop 8 did not have standing to defend the constitutional amendment that millions of Californians voted to pass. The only reason this jurisdictional question was an issue is because the governor and attorney general of the state of California decided to not defend a law passed by the people of that state.

It is scandalous that the governor and attorney general refused to perform their duty. That abdication of their constitutional responsibility should not have prevented these laws from having a vigorous defense in court. This sets a disturbing precedent and distorts the balance of powers between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government. It would allow the executive branch to effectively veto any duly enacted law simply by refusing to defend it against a constitutional challenge.

While the government of California through its inaction has tried to silence the voices of Californians, the Court has not created a right to the redefinition of marriage. Marriage laws in the states that tell the truth about marriage—that it is a union of one man and one woman to provide children with a mom and a dad—have not been struck down.

And we must now work to protect marriage laws in the 37 other states defining marriage as a man and a woman across the country.

Read the rest of this article.

On the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Anderson continues…

Defense of Marriage Act

In its ruling on the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the Court struck down Section 3, declaring that the federal government cannot define marriage for its own federal policies and federal laws but must accept whatever the states decide about marriage. The Court’s ruling, however, does not affect Section 2, which provides that no state is required to give effect to another state’s recognition of same-sex marriages.

Here, the Court got it wrong. The Court ignored the votes of a large bipartisan majority of Members of Congress. It is absurd for the Court to suggest that Congress does not have the power to define the meaning of words in statutes that Congress itself has enacted. Just as the states have constitutional authority to make state policy about marriage, so too Congress has constitutional authority to pass a federal statute defining a term for federal programs created by federal law.

Again, read the rest of this.

The folks over at CatholicVote. org are not waving any white flags either. Brian Burch, the President of CV had this to say today on both DOMA and Prop 8:

It is also important to remember that DOMA protects states from being forced to recognize same-sex marriage in other states.  That portion of the law was not challenged and remains in force.

The Court disenfranchised millions of voters today with its decision on Proposition 8.  An activist majority effectively overturned the votes of millions of citizens who twice voted to protect marriage.  Nevertheless, the record in California is now plain: the people voted to protect marriage, but reckless  politicians refused to respect the right of the people and enforce the law.  What is left is a single decision by a district court judge that applies to two couples.  The legal fight to clarify what happens next will be critical and will be heavily contested by defenders of marriage in the courts.  Same-sex marriage  advocates touting immediate statewide gay marriage in   California are misleading the public.

Today’s decisions, while disappointing, should embolden proponents of traditional marriage to fight on with even more vigor while we can.  Same-sex marriage advocates did not get what they wanted, namely a “Roe v. Wade” for marriage. The future of marriage remains a dispute open to ‘We the People.’ The debate on marriage lives on.

This means the dialogue continues, and the states must take the lead in these discussions.

Our Catholic Bishops are adding their own outcries. This is from the USCCB’s press release today:

Today is a tragic day for marriage and our nation. The Supreme Court has dealt a profound injustice to the American people by striking down in part the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The Court got it wrong. The federal government ought to respect the truth that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, even where states fail to do so. The preservation of liberty and justice requires that all laws, federal and state, respect the truth, including the truth about marriage. It is also unfortunate that the Court did not take the opportunity to uphold California’s Proposition 8 but instead decided not to rule on the matter. The common good of all, especially our children, depends upon a society that strives to uphold the truth of marriage. Now is the time to redouble our efforts in witness to this truth. These decisions are part of a public debate of great consequence. The future of marriage and the well-being of our society hang in the balance.

Marriage is the only institution that brings together a man and a woman for life, providing any child who comes from their union with the secure foundation of a mother and a father.

Our culture has taken for granted for far too long what human nature, experience, common sense, and God’s wise design all confirm: the difference between a man and a woman matters, and the difference between a mom and a dad matters. While the culture has failed in many ways to be marriage-strengthening, this is no reason to give up. Now is the time to strengthen marriage, not redefine it.

There’s a lot of  room for Catholics to share their wisdom in these state forums that will continue. I hope you will add yours. And while we’re at it, let’s remember to pray for one another.

CV-Supreme-Court-Marriage-400x533

 note: comments have been disabled because I’m not at my desk to moderate them.

Among Women 163: A Name for Eternity, with saint name researcher extraordinaire Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur

Among Women 163: A Name for Eternity, with saint name researcher extraordinaire Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur

This time on Among Women we look at the beauty of being both Martha and Mary with an excerpt from author Lisa Hendey’s A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms, just one of the book in the Catholic Mom imprint series from Ave Maria Press.

This episode also introduces another new book in the line, The Catholic Baby Name Book compiled by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur. Join me for this conversation with Patrice about the long standing traditions around naming children with saints names, and finding the right Confirmation name. Also find out where else you can find Patrice’s writing online.

You’ll also hear about details about the upcoming Special Edition I’d like to create for Among Women, using the voices of women who have read the book. You can help!

Listen to this Among Women podcast here. 

 photo

note: comments have been disabled because I’m not at my desk to moderate them.

 

The F.U.N.* Quotient… pope memes edition

The creativity behind the folks at Catholic Memes is incredible. One part funny-bone, one part Catechism, I love these! Here are some of my favorites that spread Catholic joy.

249114_192045197611897_483724238_n

 

379641_201923439957406_1815972075_n

 

935541_200541743428909_771069762_n

183137_190259277790489_660167401_n

 

*F.U.N. = frequent unbridled nonsense

 

note: comments have been disabled because I’m not at my desk to moderate them.

Among Women Podcast website redesigned

Screen Shot 2013-06-20 at 2.06.36 PM

If you’ve been an Among Women listener for a while, you’ve seen the podcast web pages grow and change through the years. Today I’m a happy to announce the latest version, courtesy of the web talents of Dorian Speed of Up to Speed.  Some of you may know Dorian as the author of the Scrutinies blog, too. I’ve had the privilege of meeting Dorian once here in Massachusetts when she ventured to the Faith and Family “Moms Day Away” that I helped to host a few years back. I caught up to her in her home state at last year’s CNMC in Texas. But after working with her over time on this project, and on the many upgrades she brought here to my personal site, I feel like she could be one of my neighbor’s down the block who I’d welcome for coffee. She’s that kind of friendly. So let me recommend her to you if you need this kind of web developing and design service.

Now, I’ve got to go now cuz Dorian has given me a lot more work I need to do on the site to finish tidying some of the content items on the site! You know, rearranging the furniture and sweeping up a bit! But its so cozy and inviting already I just had to let you in even if I’ve still getting things gussied up for you! C’mon in and let’s have a chat Among Women!

 

note: comments have been disabled because I’m not at my desk to moderate them.

I recommend Catholic Voices USA

I recommend Catholic Voices USA

Back in February, I had heard that the Catholic Voices team would be coming to the Archdiocese of Boston.  A few folks I know gave me a nudge to apply. I wasn’t sure I was a good candidate, but I was curious nonetheless.

Catholic Voices is a program that takes committed Catholics who want to be better spokespersons witnesses for the Church in the public square.

Being a catechist, my usual role is one of teacher and evangelizer. I’m someone who is usually working with people who are already interested in the subject matter at hand. Now and again, in church settings, I get questions hostile to the faith, but mostly, the folks I meet are there to learn and grow in their faith, and the natural disagreements we encounter at times within the learning process are usually handled in a civilized manner, not with media cameras and microphones rolling!

To be honest, I had some mixed feelings about applying for Catholic Voices, since I tend not to want to engage in fighting over church teaching with other people. I know a lot of good people who do that very well, the um, creative engagement with the folks who want to fight or diss the church for her stances on things. There are some great apologists out there for the faith, but I did not consider myself one of them.  I feel that my ministry is to convey the faith with as much love and friendship as I can muster. People have free will and they can accept of reject what is said. I considered myself a person whose strengths are for those Catholics who are in the pews and need a deeper experience of the faith.

I never saw myself as someone who might reach beyond the pew to the media channels that exist beyond the Catholic media that I am already engaged in.

Yet, with the subsequent publishing of my book, I felt it was time that I sharpen my abilities to handle media settings, especially those opportunities that were outside of the Christian and Catholic media circles. Not to mention, any writer and speaker can always use improvement in sharpening one’s message to one’s audiences.

So I applied to attend the Catholic Voices training session, complete with a questionnaire, bio inquiry, even creating a video short of myself explaining my faith to fallen away Catholic. To be honest, I tend to be a bit self-conscious in front of the camera, and usually avoid it at all costs. I prefer radio segments to all the prep that has to go into a television interview. So I figured the video portion of my  application might sink the whole thing. Not to mention, I tend not to want to argue with people who get hot under the collar where Church issues are concerned — have I mentioned this already? — preferring instead to keep the relationship intact so we can live to discuss things on another day. Truth be told, in years past, I’ve had problems with my temper, and the last thing I want to do is discredit or dishonor the Lord or the Church because of a sinful misstep on my part.

Save for the grace of God, I still applied, and to my shock, Catholic Voice accepted me!

So in April, I met with the varied group of willing volunteers to undertake some education and practical training for radio and television interviews where the Catholic faith intersects the public square.

CV-Boston-Training_2

The intrepid volunteers and the CV team at the Pastoral Center of the Archdiocese of Boston, Braintree, MA. (That’s me in the pink jacket on the far right.)

Catholic Voices first began in the UK in anticipation of Pope Benedict’s Apostolic visit to those countries…

Catholic Voices is a project which began in the UK to improve the Church’s representation in the media, above all in news programs and debates. It started in 2010 with the six-month training of 24 lay people and a priest in preparation for the UK visit of Pope Benedict XVI. Our appearances on over 100 programs at that time made a big impression on bishops and broadcasters alike and we were urged to continue.

Since then the project has grown in many ways in the UK and has spread quickly around the world: there are currently 10 active CV groups in the world, in Europe, the Americas and Australia. (–From the UK website.)

Kathryn Lopez and I in Braintree.

Kathryn Lopez and I in Braintree.

Catholic Voices USA is lead by Kathryn Jean Lopez, the amazingly prolific Editor at large for National Review Online and contributor to numerous mainstream and Catholic periodicals and websites. (Until her recent appointment to Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s team, Kim Daniels was co-director.) Kim was present to give the training in Boston alongside Lopez, and others at the Pastoral Center at the Archdiocese of Boston. These men and women shared their vision for a better Catholic media presence when news is breaking, and when Catholic ideals and mission need better explanation to the public at large.

Catholic Voices USA states its mission:

The mission of Catholic Voices USA is to put the Church’s case in the public square. We speak as Catholics who know and love the Church and have the authority of direct lived experience. We’re media-friendly and studio-ready, and offer an authoritative (but not official) group of articulate speakers who make the Catholic case in interviews and debates — clearly, reasonably, and compellingly. We offer a new apologetics for the new evangelization.

Catholic Voices USA is a direct response to a call of the Holy Father to U.S. bishops in January 2012. He said: “we see the need for an engaged, articulate and well-formed Catholic laity endowed with a strong critical sense vis-à-vis the dominant culture and with the courage to counter a reductive secularism which would delegitimize the Church’s participation in public debate about the issues which are determining the future of American society.” He added: “The preparation of committed lay leaders and the presentation of a convincing articulation of the Christian vision of man and society remain a primary task of the Church in your country; as essential components of the new evangelization, these concerns must shape the vision and goals of catechetical programs at every level.” (From CV USA website.)

Besides the training in media techniques, we received advice for dressing for interviews, hair, make-up, courtesies, and interview do’s and don’ts. The team also presented Catholic viewpoints and perspectives on the current religious liberty debate, that will be a lively topic in the weeks and months ahead.

I really learned so much, especially what my weaknesses are, and areas that I need to work on. I recently contacted fellow Catholic Voices “attendee”, Dana Dillon, PhD, a theology professor from Providence College. She shares her insights on the program:

I really enjoyed the opportunity to connect with a group of Catholics who take their faith so seriously and yet come from a wide variety of professions, age groups, and parishes.

One of the key books informing the Catholic Voices approach to media is Austin Ivereigh’s How to Defend the Faith without Raising Your Voice.  I found this approach, especially its attentiveness to listening for what really drives an interlocutor’s concerns, very refreshing and helpful.

The Catholic Voices leaders were really wonderful at giving feedback that was both critical and constructive. Although each one of us had our interview attempts picked apart, with plenty of areas to work on identified, the whole process was one of encouragement and affirmation in the midst of a real challenge to improve.

I really appreciate Dana’s comments, especially since she stands up before her students all the time to talk about the faith!

The book she recommends by Austen Ivereigh was profoundly helpful and I plan on re-reading it this summer. For anyone in Catholic new media or ministry, it is chock full of great suggestions for presenting the faith… like “be positive”, “shed light not heat”, and the reminder to “think in triangles”, that is, have three points and try to keep the discussion centered on those three points. If you get to two of the three points in the interview you’re doing good!

Catholic Voices is currently running a workshop out at the Catholic Media Conference in Denver, and will be soon bringing the training to other cities. Bookmark their website! I highly recommend that you consider attending!

 

update: comments have been disabled because I’m not at my desk to moderate them.

Endow reviews “Blessed, Beautiful, & Bodacious” and offers a discount on it for purchase now thru July 31!

Endow reviews “Blessed, Beautiful, & Bodacious” and offers a discount on it for purchase now thru July 31!

IMG_4710

Terry Polakovic*

One of the nicest things in the book-writing process for me was when Terry Polakovic, the Executive Director of Endow, offered to write the foreword to Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious.  She writes, “Pat and I both seek to communicate that when women appreciate and nurture their “feminine genius” through prayer and faith-filled living, they are equipped to do the urgent work of transforming the culture into a civilization of love.”

I am so grateful to have Terry’s endorsement, and one way to express my thanks is to tell you about why I asked her to write the book’s forward, and it’s simple: I have long been a fan of Endow’s book club-style of evangelization and catechesis for women to know and learn about the feminine genius, and their dignity and vocation as women.

Terry writes about Endow’s mission on their website:

We are blessed as women. And our blessing contains many mysteries that God reveals to us along our journey of life and faith.  I still remember my “aha” moment when I read Pope John Paul II’s Letter to Women and realized that God made every woman, including me, with dignity and worth. That defining moment was a revelation that moved me to help establish Endow.  Since then, I have been thrilled to meet Catholic women and girls who are discovering the fullness of our faith—perhaps for the very first time.

I met Terry by phone back in 2009 when she agreed to be interviewed for one of my earliest Among Women podcasts. We struck up a friendship then, and a few years later we were finally able to meet in person out in the Denver area when I was traveling with my husband on business. I’m so grateful for her enthusiasm for the book and to meet this beautiful leader, who has been recognized for her service to women by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI  himself!

Recently, Gina Warner reviewed Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious for Endow readers…

“If”.
For women, the word just might be our greatest deterrent to loving ourselves in the here and now.

“If I could just lose 10 lbs.”
“If I get that job.”
“If he would just apologize.”

Because if we spend too much time in the ifs, we miss what is: that we are blessedbeautiful, and as Pat Gohn puts it, bodacious (her melding of “bold” and “audacious”). The author regales this message in her recent book.

Pat Gohn’s Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious is likely to initially spark interest among readers simply by its testimony that the Catholic Church has been “singing the praises of women out loud”. But where it truly penetrates hearts is in the lively, three-part dissection on Catholic womanhood she provides to illuminate this truth.

Where some authors fall short when it comes to unpacking theology in a manner that is accessible to all, Gohn manages to accomplish heartily. Through her injection of personal stories that are marked with spirited wit and an ever-enthusiastic grip with which she holds her faith, Gohn makes the theology of Catholic womanhood understandable and straight-forward.

To read the rest of the review, go here.

Here’s where you can order Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious at a discount, now thru July 31, 2013. Be sure to use the special offer code listed!

Endow offers book studies, special events, resources and more! If you’re a woman, be sure to look for Endow in your diocese, and if it is not already there, or offer to bring it to your diocese by contacting Endow! (There’s even a Girl Genius series for youth!)

Go learn more about Endow! 

Thank you Endow,

and Terry Polakovic,

for your incredible support of my book!

72dpi

*photo adapted

This makes me think… how clear am I when I talk about Christ and the Church?

The Characteristics of Effective Evangelization

If, then, our encounter with Christ is the premise of evangelization, what are some of the other characteristics of evangelization that will render it effective in our time? Let me suggest the 4 Cs of effective evangelization – namely that it needs to be CLEAR, CHALLENGING, COMPASSIONATE, and CONVINCING.
First, our presentation of the Gospel and the faith of the Church needs to be clear and accurate. I wonder how many people have left the Catholic Church, or never considered joining the Church, because they received incorrect information or were laboring under a misunderstanding of Catholic doctrine or discipline. More than once I’ve heard someone say, “I left the Catholic Church because I was divorced and could no longer receive Holy Communion.” Or, “I left the Church because Catholics don’t believe in the Bible.” Both statements are completely inaccurate, of course, but there are many others like it.

We have to admit, that in too many settings during the past 50 years, the teaching of the Church hasn’t always been presented in a clear and consistent manner; and in other times individuals have simply misunderstood the tenets of the Church. In any case, a serious approach to the believing community needs to be based on teaching that is accurate and authentic.

Next, evangelization in the world today needs to be challenging.

Many critics have suggested that the Catholic Church would attract more adherents if, for example, we changed our teaching about difficult topics such as abortion, contraception, homosexuality, divorce and re-marriage, the ordination of women and clerical celibacy. But, we need to ask in response: Is an easy Church, devoid of any moral imperatives or challenge, being faithful to its mission? Is it contributing anything of value to the moral well-being of the world?

I recall that a journalist asked Pope Benedict what we could do to make the Church more “attractive” to the modern world. The Holy Father responded: “I would say that a Church that seeks to be particularly attractive is already on the wrong path. Because the Church does not work for her own ends, she does not work to increase numbers and thus power.”

In other words, the task of the Church is to proclaim the truth – whether easy or hard, popular or unpopular, “convenient or inconvenient” as St. Paul charged. (II Tim 4:2)
The fact is, we do no one a favor if we water-down or minimize the hard teachings of Christ and his Church in a vain attempt to make them more palatable to modern taste.

The Third “C” of evangelization, for those returning to the Church or those who have never been part of our community, is that it needs to be compassionate.

Here I mean that our presence in the world and our outreach has to be attuned to the real life experiences of those we meet; we need to be sensitive to their needs and concerns. Good teachers and preachers, in the Church as elsewhere, have to be careful listeners and astute observers as well as articulate speakers.
Some folks who have departed the Church have done so not for doctrinal reasons but because of more personal experiences. Perhaps they had an argument with another member of the Church – clergy, religious or lay. Maybe they approached the Church with a pressing, personal need or problem and were turned away.
It’s instructive to recall the many personal encounters Jesus had – with the poor, the outcast, the sick, and the sinner. Jesus was always alert to and responsive to their situation. He was a listener, a counselor, a companion. And while he clearly challenged individuals to repent of their sin and to live a moral and upright life, his starting point was the human condition. In short, he was compassionate. And so must our evangelization be.

Finally, it seems to me that our evangelization in the world today has to be convincing, and by that I mean that we can effectively evangelize by our deeds as well as our words, by our actions as well as our axioms.

Pope Francis has certainly given us an example to consider.

The early days of his pontificate were marked by symbolic gestures that spoke of his desire for simplicity and humility in the Church – for example, the preferred simplicity of his attire, personal and liturgical; the personal phone calls he made; the fact that on the day after his election he stopped and paid his hotel bill; his decision to not reside in the Apostolic Palace but rather in the Domus Santa Martha.
I have to confess, when the media turned somersaults because the Pope paid his own hotel bill, I said to myself – and I think to a few others – “Big deal; I pay my own hotel bill all the time, and nobody cares.”
But it seems clear that while this simple approach is truly the Pope’s style, with or without the presence of cameras, he is also sending a message to the rest of the Church, especially its leaders.

But even beyond these simple symbols, we evangelize most effectively by our works of charity. In the works of education and health care, in the ministry of our homeless shelters, food pantries and soup kitchens, we serve Catholics and non-Catholics alike. We serve without asking for baptism certificates or parish registrations. We serve in the name of Christ and with the knowledge that in those we serve we encounter the real presence of Christ.

Effective evangelization is a combination of words and deeds. It is in our works of charity that our words are fulfilled, that we convince people of the authenticity of our message.

-+Bishop Thomas J. Tobin, Diocese of Providence,

 “Evangelization in a Secular Age”

How to Forgive our Fathers: By Making Jesus’ Prayers Our Own

How to Forgive our Fathers: By Making Jesus’ Prayers Our Own

This post is for all those who struggle with their relationship with their fathers. Sometimes, when Father’s Day comes around, we are reminded more acutely that the pain of these relationships or non-relationships plays like uncomfortable background noise in our lives.

I’m no expert in the field of human relationships, but I do know this: As Christians we get to tap into a power that it bigger than ourselves. It’s called grace. And the graces we receive in and through the sacraments, beginning with our Baptism, allow God’s life and love to be activated in us. As Christians we also experience on-going conversion… which is another way of saying, we learn to cooperate with God and God’s graces more and more as we continually grow closer to Him.

So what does all of this have to do with our fathers? With grace and time, we can learn, to forgive our fathers (or our mothers, or anyone significant to us) thanks to the incredible love of God that unfolds in our lives through on-going conversion.

Frank Weathers, at his blog Why I Am a Catholic, whose parents were divorced when he was young, explains that forgiveness of his father flowed in the days that followed his conversion to Catholicism…

One of my first memorable acts upon becoming a Catholic was to forgive my father for leaving his wife and family behind. It took me a few months to get around to it, though.

Prior to my becoming Catholic, I had boasted that I would never forgive him. And not just to myself, but to others, publicly, and loudly.

Break your promise and leave your family? I just couldn’t see how someone could do such a thing.  And Pharisee that I was, planting the flag of prideful honor on the hill of righteous indignation came pretty easy to me.

But this all changed back in the Summer of 2008.

My wife and children were in California on vacation (two weeks ahead of me) visiting her family…

I invited my dad to spend the weekend with me during this time…

You see, I needed to tell him that I was a Catholic now, and I figured getting together with him was a good way to broach the subject.

Certainly he knew that I had married a Catholic. He’d witnessed the event of our Nuptial Mass nineteen years earlier. But I had never converted to the faith either.  Just like I had loudly and publicly said I’d never forgive my father for leaving us (not when he was around to hear it, you understand), I had loudly said to him on more than one occasion that I’d never become a Catholic either.

Oh, he probably already knew, as my sister had attended the Easter Vigil and either her, or my brother, might have told him during a phone call. But I wanted to tell him, and tell him in person.

I thought it would really be a big deal, but it wasn’t. During a lunch break while we were working, we were talking about being Christians, as he himself had undergone a reconversion of his own. I was reading Pope Benedict’s  book Jesus of Nazareth at the time, and I shared a few things I’d learned there.

Then I just up and told him that I was now a Catholic…

The mountain I thought I would climb to make this revelation turned out to be a mole hill. Or perhaps with faith the size of a mustard seed, the mountain was just leveled for me. Either way, it was a relief.

My dad went to his car and brought me a few things he wanted me to have. One of these items was an envelope full of photographs that he wanted to give me. They were duplicates of photos of me from various time periods, including when I was a wee tot and we were still together as a family.

As I was leafing through them, my heart burned within me, and I just felt compelled to tell him the simple words that mean so much, but which are rarely said. Earlier that year, he had had a mild heart attack, and there being no time like the present,  before I could stop myself I said,

“Dad, I just want you to know that I forgive you for leaving us.”

Of course, by the time I got those last three words out, my voice had broken and the tears were flowing, and we embraced each other much as I figure it was like when the prodigal son was embraced by his dad. The roles seemed reversed to me, but the effect was the same.

Cathartic reconciliation.

Read his entire post.

This is a fact: the deeper you come to know Jesus, the more that relationship will invite you to forgive those who have hurt you. Forgiving them doesn’t change the facts of what happened between you, or make the gravity of their mistakes or offenses — or ours — any less. For example, it doesn’t take a felony against love and reduce it to a misdemeanor. But it changes us. Grace allows us to choose to leave the judgment of the offenses, or the pain, in the hands of God, and allows us to cling instead to the mercy of God. Mercy and grace restores some measure of what we’ve lost by helping us let go and move on. Mercy combined with forgiveness helps us transcend hurts.

Jaymie Stuart Wolfe, in her column in The Pilot, reflects on this.

There comes a point in our lives when we can no longer hold our parents responsible for what we’ve become or haven’t. Even the very worst of situations is within the reach of transforming mercy. While forgiveness doesn’t necessarily mean reconciliation in every case, it can mean peace.

When I left home for college, I packed a lot more than I thought I had. I took the hurt and rejection of fatherlessness with me. It didn’t take long to notice the elephant in my dorm room. By Thanksgiving, I had found my dad’s Florida address and phone number. I knew I had to forgive him.

That phone call was at once one of the most difficult and liberating things I have ever done. Talking with him after 10 years of absence didn’t make the hurt disappear, and didn’t end up giving me the father I had needed. What it did do was enable me to let go of unmet needs, broken promises, and reasonable expectations.

Perhaps you or someone you know needs to forgive, or ask forgiveness from a father. Maybe there are fathers, too, who need to be forgiven. Whatever regrets or hurts, whatever disagreements or disputes, whatever obstacles there are between children and their fathers, it is not impossible to set them aside. You don’t even have to trust your dad to do it. You can trust your heavenly father, and have faith in Him, instead.

Read it all.

Wolfe’s final point is significant… “we have to trust our heavenly father and have faith in Him, instead.”

How do we do that?

What if I can’t trust my Heavenly Father because I’ve had a damaged or broken relationship with an earthly father?

I talk about the “how” in Chapter Three of Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious: and while that is a book largely written for women, one theme in this particular chapter for everyone: JESUS IS THE WAY TO THE FATHER.

Here’s one suggestion for “how” we can start to trust our Heavenly Father: thanks to our baptism, we can make the powerful prayers of Jesus our own.

Jesus entered into the world that we might enter into relationship with God the Father. We all need to know who our Father is. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16).

Maybe you’ve heard that before. Sometimes when we hear something over and over again, we take it for granted. Notice the language of fatherhood, love, and life: “For God so loved . . . that he gave his only Son. . . . Everyone who believes in him should . . . have eternal life.

Jesus reveals the personal and unique love God has for us and his universal plan of love for the salvation of the world. Jesus taught us about God in the ways we really need to experience him most—as a father.

Jesus knows some of us harbor reticence when it comes to fatherhood. Still Jesus teaches the necessity of our knowing the Father: “I and the Father are one” (Jn 10:30). He reveals the Father by what he did and said. He never stops using examples in parables about fathers or praying to the Father himself.

The gospels record Jesus saying the word father over 130 times. Coming to know the Father in heaven is not optional for a Christian. Jesus repairs the rift opened in the days of Adam and Eve when the first human relationships with the Father were fractured. Most important, Jesus instructed us to call God “Our Father” in The Lord’s Prayer, which is one of the most basic prayers in Christianity: Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name” (Mt 6:9; emphasis added).

Jesus taught us how to enter into his prayer, using his words, when he taught us to pray to our Father. Jesus shares the love of his Father so that we, too, might enter into conversations and prayers—a loving relationship—with the Father like he did. Ultimately, “the Lord’s Prayer reveals us to ourselves at the same time that it reveals the Father to us” (CCC, 2783).

The gospels are filled with Jesus’s prayers to the Father, a Father that yearns to love us, not disappoint or hurt us, a loving Father who understands the baggage we may be carrying. Let’s make Jesus’s words our own. Learning the words of the Son’s heart can help heal our daughter-hearts.

The image of the Good Shepherd soothes my daughter-heart. Jesus describes the tender, committed care that he offers his sheep, a care in union with his Father:

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one. (Jn 10:27–30)

No one is father as God is Father. If someone has treated you badly, such that you cannot understand the gift of the Father’s love, remember that “no one is able to  snatch . . .  [you] out of the Father’s hand.” His love for you has never wavered, even if you have been unable to know it, see it, or understand it. Jesus’s word guarantees it.

We can make this our prayer, too: no one can snatch me out of the Father’s hand.

To trust Jesus is to trust the Father.

When we address God as our Father, as Jesus has taught, we are moved toward trusting the Father. When we refer to God as “our Father,” we do two important things. First, we declare him as the origin of everything in our lives. Second, we trust the goodness and loving care that a father bestows. (See CCC, 239.)

When Jesus was finished with his work on earth, he charged his followers to baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. (See Mt 28:18–20.)

In the graces of Baptism, God became a father to me…

The graces of Baptism empower me to make Jesus’s words my own…

In Baptism we meet the fatherhood of God, blessed and dignified as beloved daughters. Unfortunately, it is a gift we can fail to recognize or take for granted. Imagine owning a costly heirloom worth millions, but having no idea of its value because it is locked away in a chest and forgotten. For many of us, that treasure is our Baptism, specifically the knowledge that we are God’s beloved daughters. That knowledge is the key that unlocks many graces.

 If we ponder that, relying on the graces we’ve already received in Baptism, we will begin to reclaim the girl who may be carrying around a lot of angst and rejection where fatherhood is concerned.

Baptized Christians utter the word Father six times in the Nicene Creed. There’s a reason. We are blessed daughters standing before a magnificent, loving, all-knowing Father…

Here the fatherhood of God heals our hurts. Lest we think this is some kind of romanticized vision of love, think again. It is rugged and strongly tempered in power, yet gentle and approachable enough to trust. The Father’s love is sturdy enough to enable us not only to thrive despite our hurts, but also to transcend them.

How can we transcend hurts?  You already know—by deeply entering into the prayers of Jesus and making them your own. Jesus and our Baptism give us direct access to our heavenly Father. You’ve seen it with the Our Father; now take it a step deeper. Jesus prayed at his crucifixion amidst complete suffering. He forgave his persecutors, his detractors, enemies, friends who betrayed or left him, and those who forcibly put him to death. And he forgave us even before we came to be: “And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them’” (Lk 23:34).

With grace, we can forgive in the name of Jesus, with Jesus, who is one with the Father. I can forgive each person who has hurt me, even the worst offenders. I can even forgive myself. “Father, forgive them.” Father, forgive me.

The name of the Father is the name Jesus used when his deepest wounds were open and bleeding. It’s the name we can call on to heal us of wounds we can see and the ones we keep hidden. It’s the name that brings our ongoing conversion.

[More details about my book here.]

This Sunday at Mass, on Father’s Day, when I stand to pray the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, I will be remembering my own healing and growth in these areas, and pray that we can all enter into those prayers more deeply that they may bear good fruit in our lives.

Let us pray for one another. And pray for all the fathers out there too.

 

“Would that Wood Could Talk”, another in the series “Tales from the Empty Nest” at CatholicMom.com

“Would that Wood Could Talk”, another in the series “Tales from the Empty Nest” at CatholicMom.com

Today I’m over at Catholic Mom, with another installment in what I loosely call, “Tales from the Empty Nest” … a little ruminating about my passing on furniture to my daughter who is getting married very soon.

I’m busy repainting two pieces of furniture that have already served three generations of my family — a 3-drawer bureau and a tall dresser. Over thirty years ago I was getting married and in need of more storage space for my new home. My husband and I became the happy recipients of the bureau from my parents’ home, and the dresser, once part of a pair from my grandmother’s home. So there’s a little bit of history stored between those dove-tailed wooden drawers. And here I am looking at their empty gapes spread out around the room on a drop cloth. This is the third time in twenty-five years that the chore of repainting these two old companions has fallen to me.

photoSo I stand in old painting jeans, hair tied back, brush working in one hand, readying these drawer sets for a new purpose. I hum a little bit to the country music playing on the radio nearby, as memories float into view unbidden as I tackle the repetitive task. Back and forth, back and forth, dip, wipe, back and forth.

It’s a good way to do some thinking, and remembering.

The first time I painted these two relics was in preparation for the birth of my oldest child. Oh, the heavenly anticipation of getting a room ready for a newborn! I recall the joy as I painted — repurposing a piece of furniture and making it “new” for a baby — the start of a new kind of family life in a modest two-bedroom home.

My heart was set on the primary colors of childhood, and I made the three drawers of the bureau red, yellow, and blue, on a white chest. I added a changing table cushion on top and in the years that followed I changed the diapers and clothes of my small children on that bureau, and countless visiting babies. Not to mention seeing the drawer contents change over the years, from 0-3 month-sized onesies, to toddler overalls, to soccer jerseys. Meantime, the old tall dresser was still giving good service to my equally tall husband as a place to keep his socks and lanky jeans.

Three children later, we outgrew the little two-bedroom place, and despite the luxury of relocating to a 4-bedroom house, we were still a little strapped for cash for new furniture. So, out came the brush and paint cans again, and a re-shuffling of furniture against the needs of a growing, busy family.

This time, both the bureau and dresser were given to my only daughter for her new bedroom. Her own young fashion sense had outgrown the bureau’s primary colors and the ancient dark-stained dresser from generations of yore. I promised new coats of paint on both to match her new white headboard for her bed. I also remember going to the hardware aisle at the Home Depot to pick out shiny new ceramic knobs for updating this furniture, befitting a girl’s room. And that’s the way it stayed, even through her college years.

Now, it’s my daughter’s turn to marry and the soon-to-be newlyweds have just bought a small apartment-sized two-bedroom condo. It will have a few new things, and a few old things that they will bring from their single lives. My daughter gets to keep the bureau and dresser. And here I am painting again.

Read the rest over at CatholicMom.com.

photo