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Among Women Espresso Shot #11: The Moment of Truth at the Moment of Death

Among Women Espresso Shot #11: The Moment of Truth at the Moment of Death

I’ve been away, but now I’m back…

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Download my latest! Listen to Episode 11 of Among Women “Espresso Shot”IMG_0228
– a short strong coffee break of faith sharing and teaching from Pat Gohn.

Today’s topic: Preparing for Judgment with the Sacraments of the Church

This topic comes after experiencing the recent death of a loved one, and writing an article for Catholic Digest on preparing for the judgment that follows death by receiving the sacraments of the Church. I hope this podcast informs and inspires you to consider your own mortality, and to make a choice for Christ and living in the graces that He has provided for us. Death is not to be feared, but we should prudently consider that, in the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict, that “our life is ascent toward an encounter” with Jesus.

Listen.

“O death, where is thy victory?”

“O death, where is thy victory?”


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“O death, where is thy victory?
O death, where is thy sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 
But thanks be to God,
who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 15: 55-57

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And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 
but when they went in they did not find the body. 

Luke 24 2-3

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From my house to your, a very blessed Easter!

Among Women 185: The Life of Ryan, with Mary Ellen Barrett

Among Women 185: The Life of Ryan, with Mary Ellen Barrett

This latest episode of Among Women may require a box of Kleenex handy. My most wonderful and gracious guest is  Mary Ellen Barrett.

This week we look at the difficult subject of losing a child to death. Blogger and Long Island Catholic columnist Mary Ellen Barrett reflects on the fifth anniversary since the death of Ryan, her 14 year old son, who died during a camping trip. The search for Ryan, who at first was thought to be lost, went on for some time, and many, including myself, were glued to the internet for news of him during that search as prayers stormed heaven.

Listeners or blog readers familiar with this event will be encouraged by the musings and memories of Ryan’s mother, Mary Ellen. Those uninitiated will be blessed by the faith of this Long Island family who suffered the keenest of losses.

Since this is Respect Life Month, my goal with Mary Ellen is to talk about the beauty and dignity of Ryan’s life — his Christian devotion even as a young boy with special needs — as well as the ups and downs that he faced in family life and elsewhere. Finally, we discuss the outpouring of support from near and far for this grieving family, plus offer tips for helping others facing a similar grief.

In our saint segment, I once again look at the life of St Anna Schaffer, whose life of prayer and acute physical suffering offers a witness to us for how to make our heartaches and pains a path of redemptive suffering.

If you’d like to read a little bit about Mary Ellen’s life with Ryan, you might enjoy this recent article in Seton Magazine, or this one from Catholic Digest. I’ve left a few more, plus blog posts from Mary Ellen’s blog, over with the episode notes for Among Women 185.

Listen to Among Women 185 right now!

If you enjoy Among Women, kindly leave a rating and a review over on iTunes!

 

The Assumption: Our Lady … “a gracious reminder” because we’re forgetful.

We need reminders.

Because we’re forgetful.

We need reminders of what’s true.

We need reminders that are unmistakeable.

We need reminding that God wants us… that God loves us.

God wants to be in relationship with us. He wants that to be part of our here and now. But we have to want it too. We have to choose to return this Great Love of God.

God’s Great Love of us is active. The love of the Trinity — Father, Son, and Spirit — “an eternal exchange of love” (CCC, 221) — has this plan of sheer goodness (CCC,1) — to draw us in.

It’s a plan that means we can be in relationship now. And for eternity.

Today’s feast of the Assumption helps to remind us of this Great Love — for eternity.

The Father sent his Son Jesus to seal the deal, to keep to the promise, that we are destined for glory in heaven. That means one day, by the unfathomable mercy of God, we may live body and soul in heaven, in union with the God of Love. That’s awesome, right?

It is an awesome — as in, full of awe — goal for our lives. It’s a real inspiration for being in relationship with God now, right? Like, why wait?

But it is a long wait (in our minds) to finally get there to heaven.

And even if we are longing for heaven, there are a few things we have to face before we get there.

That’s why we need reminders about how awesome this Great Love of God really is.

We still have to face death, for corruption of the body is one of leftover effects from Original Sin. And even though Jesus rescued us from Eternal death — death is no longer a dead end, but a threshold to the afterlife for our souls — it does not diminish this promise of union with God in our totality, body and soul.

We still have to face judgment. Our love still has to be weighed and measured, face to face by the lover of our souls, Jesus.

We still have to wait for the end of the world to have that total, remarkable re-union of body and soul with Bridegroom, Jesus Christ.

That’s a lot of waiting.

In the meantime, we can begin to have this relationship with God now, thanks to the life and death and resurrection of Jesus.

And today, we have a gracious reminder — a reminder full of grace — about the future glory of heaven.

One Great Woman has already said yes to this Great Love: Mary, the Immaculate Conception.

This is why the Divine Praises of the Church mention Mary’s Glorious Assumption.

Since Mary’s humanity was perfectly blessed, perfectly pure — sinless — her response to the Father’s Great Love was perfect and immediate. Her relationship with God was so perfect that she responded to the Father as an obedient Daughter, a faith-filled Mother to the Son, and an incarnate Spouse to the Holy Spirit.

Mary’s entire life was a complete and total yes — a perfect choice — to the Great Love.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 6:23

All choices have consequences, right?

When the Father created Mary, He chose to make the future mother of his Son a sinless, perfect human person — the zenith of humanity. Since Mary knew no sin, the future consequence of this was that her body did not undergo corruption and death. Jesus brought Mary directly to heaven at the end of her life.

Mary’s obedient and Immaculate Heart always chooses the Good and the Beautiful. So her personal judgment was always in union with the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and the Father’s will. In a way, her final judgment at the end of her life by God, was the same as when she was first created: she is perfect and without sin and, consequentially, bound for eternal glory.

God’s creation and redemption of Mary brought the consequence, the result, of the Assumption. Mary, taken into glory — body and soul — is “a gracious reminder”of that promise of future union with Christ — our own relationship — with God, who desired us from the very beginning.

Christ has risen from the dead, we need no further assurance of our faith. Mary assumed into heaven serves rather as a gracious reminder to the Church that our Lord wishes all whom the Father has given Him to be raised with Him. In Mary taken to glory, to union with Christ, the Church sees herself answering the invitation of the heavenly Bridegroom.

National Conference of Catholic Bishops, “Behold Your Mother” (1973)

Just as Jesus’ Risen Body, is a glorified body in heaven, one day, we too, will have glorified bodies in heaven after the Final Judgment. (See CCC, 1060.)

Mary is our gracious reminder that all Jesus has said and done is true.

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Also on the Assumption:

From my archives: My favorite reading and podcasts about the Assumption.

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Good Friday Meditation: A prayer before the Crucifix, by St Francis de Sales

Good Friday Meditation: A prayer before the Crucifix, by St Francis de Sales

A while back I came across this stunning prayer by St Francis de Sales. It’s a prayer about one’s death, and the grace to die a holy death that leads to union with Christ. It is a perfect prayer,  I thought, for our own meditation before the Cross of Christ on Good Friday.

“O Jesus, agonizing on the Cross, be my model at the hour of death. Although You are the Creator and Restorer of life, You willed to undergo death and accepted it willingly in order to expiate my sins. Death had no claim on You; You are the fountain of life and immortality, in whom and by whom all creatures have life; yet You willed to subject Yourself to death in order to resemble me and to sanctify my death.

“O death, who will henceforth fear you, since the Author of life bears you in His bosom, and without doubt, everything in Him is life-giving. I embrace you, I clasp you in my divine Savior’s heart; there, like a chick under the wing of the mother hen, I shall peacefully await your coming, secure in the knowledge that my most merciful Jesus will sweeten your bitterness and defend me against your rigors.

“O Jesus, from this moment I wish to employ all my powers in accepting all the circumstances and pains of my death; from this moment I desire to accept death in the place, hour, and manner in which it may please You to send it. I know very well that I must suffer and be ground by the teeth of tribulations, sorrows, privations, desolations, and sufferings in order to become bread worthy to serve at Your celestial banquet, O Christ, on the day of the general resurrection. I well know that if the grain of wheat does not fall into the ground and die, it brings forth no fruit; therefore, with all my heart, I accept the annihilation of death in order to become a new man, no longer mortal and corruptible, but immortal and glorious.” (St. Francis de Sales).

This quote is from Divine Intimacy by Fr Gabriel of Saint Mary Magdelen, OCD.

Note: I did try to find this quote within the writings of St Francis de Sales but I could not come up with its original source. I’d be obliged that if you know where the original text is from that you let me know in the comments box or send me an email.

 

Among Women 172: Good grief, God!

Among Women 172: Good grief, God!

Has a recent death or loss left you grieving? In this latest episode of Among Women I interview Cheryl Amari of GriefTeach.com who helps us learn about why we need to grieve well — and how our faith helps us to do that. Also hear the words and wisdom of one of the newest Church Doctors, St Hildegard of Bingen, as I share her prose, poetry, and music. Listen here.

Newtown CT: We pray with you and mourn with you. (Here’s my latest on Patheos on turning to the God who saves.)

Newtown CT: We pray with you and mourn with you. (Here’s my latest on Patheos on turning to the God who saves.)

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Newtown CT: we pray for you and we mourn with you.

Like so many of you, I’ve been disturbed about the carnage that took place in the sanctuary of an elementary school in Connecticut. Here’s a few thoughts on what I learned by recalling that the liturgical calendar places the Feast of the Holy Innocents squarely in the midst of our Christmas season, so we do not forget what we have been, and are being saved from.

Of course, may we pray never to be put to the test, but if we are, may we cling to Jesus as we cling to one another.

Here’s the opening of my article:

One night there was inexplicable, explosive joy. The kind of joy that sends its ripple effects not only around the world but the news of which transforms the hearts of generations to come.

The Savior was born. A heavenly host of angels announced his arrival, echoing the message of the prophets of old and the longing of humanity for centuries.

Yet several nights later, there was terror and excruciating heartache… Herod had arranged for a systematic killing of innocent Hebrew boys under the age of two. Only God knows how many little ones were massacred at the royal command, at the whim of a king who would not abide a future rival.

Generations later, we remember the heartaches of those parents whose children were taken from them so violently. For Catholics, in our liturgical calendar, we remember both… our Christmas season exults the Savior’s coming, and solemnizes his human peers that were lost because selfishness considered their lives expendable. The slaughter of the innocents – little ones who were martyred on behalf of the God-man who was in their very midst – are memorialized annually on Dec 28th, the Feast of the Holy Innocents. In their deaths, we recall that even though the Christ was born into their land, his presence was not yet born into the hearts of all those for whom he had come.

It is the same for us today. Unless Jesus is embraced by us we cannot dissuade the sin that is born from the free will of those hell-bent on rejecting the Savior’s way, truth, and life.

We have a hard lesson in that this week.

In this third week of Advent — the one that begins with the call of Gaudate!to rejoice, for the Lord is near! — it is hard to reconcile the mourning and weeping of a nation in the aftermath of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, with the joys of Advent and the coming of Christmas.

And yet… that very coming of the God who saves… Jesus… is the very heart of the hope of all who mourn with a magnitude of grief that, for most of us, is beyond our ability to fathom.

This week, many Americans came against something from which we need saving.

We cannot face the gruesome depravity that is in our midst. We want to look away. We want to go back to what we knew before what we know now. And for the bravest among us, we want one more chance to go back in time, to turn the tide, to do the one thing that may have stopped this evil from befalling us, and others.

The slaughter of innocents will always have that effect on us.

It is the same for Jesus.

In the fullness of time, it was Jesus who looked down from heaven at our depravity and destitution, our evils and ills, and turned to the Father and said, in effect, “No more. Send me.”

Read the conclusion here. Or subscribe here.

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Image credits:

Creche: from the Gohn home
Churches in Newtown, CT

 

 

This makes me think… about how hell reflects the refusal to choose life

A Second Death

Hell is a second death. This is what the Book of Revelation says (Revelation 21:8). Just as there is an eternal life, there is an eternal death. Eternal life is a second life; eternal death is a second death. Our first death can be a passage not only to eternal life but also to eternal death.

Looking at hell as a second death takes away the images of eternal suffering and torture that are so prevalent in medieval art and literature. It defines hell more as the refusal to choose life than as a punishment for wrongdoing. In fact, the sins that the Book of Revelation mentions as leading to eternal death are choices for death: murdering, worshipping obscenities, sexual immorality, lying, and so on (see Revelation 21:8). When we sow death we will reap death. But when we sow life we will reap life. It is we who do the sowing!

~Henri J.M. Nouwen, Bread for the Journey (from the blog that remembers Henri Nouwen’s writings)

A second lawn sign against “Question 2” was stolen from our front lawn… “Dear Neighbor: let’s overcome the signs of disrespect.”

A second lawn sign against “Question 2” was stolen from our front lawn… “Dear Neighbor: let’s overcome the signs of disrespect.”

There’s a self-appointed censor in my neighborhood. So far, our front lawn has suffered the theft of one of those lawn signs in opposition to the ballot issue known as Question 2 here in Massachusetts. (No, it was not the wind or rain. Our other candidate sign for the local state rep has not been touched on either occasion.) So, after the first one disappeared, we got another. That one lasted about four hours. Someone is deliberately removing our signs.

Now we’ve moved to adding bumper stickers on our cars, but my husband is thinking of attaching another sign with anchors to the big tree out front. He’s incredulous that we’ve been robbed twice. I see it more as un-neighborly. But I also realize that political passions are running high on several fronts this year, and bad behavior, and juvenile antics may come with the territory, but are so unnecessary. This IS Massachusetts, after all, a region not really known for political “dialogue”. But up until now, I had not detected any outright hostility from my neighbors with whom we’ve held differing views over the years.

Our standpoint on Question 2 is that this is a poorly written law in support of “physician-assisted” suicide… which is nothing more than a doctor’s prescription for an overdose of pills for a patient to self-administer in private – without any family consultation, and sadly, without the last rites of the Church and the grace inherent in those sacraments.

Naturally, the Catholic Church is mobilizing the faithful and other concerned citizens to show the error of this proposed law. It totally disregards human life. As a cancer-survivor myself, I’ve been a support person for friends of mine who have been terminally ill and have died. I believe in helpful, loving, and spiritual palliative care when the end of natural life is near. Pain can be treated. So can depression. Not to mention the graces of the final sacraments to accompany a person through the threshold of death into the afterlife is no small thing to overlook.

So, pray for the voters here in the Commonwealth that we might defeat this bill known as Question 2. If you need more information on the subject, I’ve written a previous post with links to share. Remember, even if you don’t live here, this fight is coming to you. Be aware and be ready.

Please pray for my neighbor whom we have obviously ticked off with our signage, that he or she might have a change of heart. I don’t know who it is, and I cannot even fathom who it might be. I seriously don’t want to accuse anyone in my mind. I’m just sad that this person or persons has been reduced to stealing signs in an effort to stifle our freedom of speech, and silence our attempts at public discourse on a life-and-death issue in an election season.

(Confidential to my neighbor who took the signs: Please ‘fess up and apologize. I’ll forgive you on the spot. I already have. Yes, I’m offended by your actions, but I’d rather remain friendly even if we disagree on this subject that is close to our hearts. They were only cardboard signs, after all. But we’re both failing at neighborliness if these become the signs of our disrespect for each other. Let’s re-establish some trust and talk. Sure, I agree, “all politics is local.” But I believe all the more that the virtue of conversation beats stealing any day. Knock on my door or leave a note in the mailbox. You already know where I live.)

 

 

Physician-Assisted Suicide is Something we can live without! Massachusetts: This is a matter of life and death!

Physician-Assisted Suicide is Something we can live without! Massachusetts: This is a matter of life and death!

Election Day brings the Presidential election, but for folks in Massachusetts, our election on November 6 is, truly, a matter of life and death. On the ballot in Massachusetts, is Question 2 in support of physician-assisted suicide. Here’s the ballot question, and here’s several groups opposing this proposed law:

 Other resources:

3 Reasons to Oppose

The Slippery Slope of Physician-Assisted Suicide by Cardinal Sean O’Malley

The Catholic Church supports life from conception until natural death. This proposed law in Massachusetts is against our pro-life ethics. It undermines our human dignity and it reduces us to being evaluated in terms of our productivity, our health, our usefulness, or our so-called “quality” of life. All life is sacred and we must protect it.

Even if you are not a resident in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, you should be paying attention to this issue… as this assisted suicide initiative will be promoted in other states soon. So get yourself educated on the arguments against it and the Catholic perspectives that can help shape the arguments.

At the risk of sounding punny, physician-assisted suicide is something we can live without. Let’s stand for life!