Labor Pains in the Church

This morning the top story on my Facebook newsfeed was a post about the sudden resignation of one of my former profs at Sacred Heart Major Seminary — one of the few female professors, who had taught there for decades. God alone knows the full story, and the point of sharing even this much is to acknowledge my own grief and dismay over just how broken the Body of Christ has become. Color me naïve, but never in a million years would I have suspected just how widespread this sickness had grown.

go bravelyThen, mercifully, a bit of light came in the form of another post, this one by Ave author Emily Wilson. Like me, she has grown weary of the brokenness that has surfaced in the Church. In her post, “Labor, Delivery, and Our Sick and Sorry Church” she compares what is going on in the Church today with the painful realities of childbirth, particularly C-section:

There are evil men in my Church who have abused their power at the expense of thousands of innocent people whose lives are forever altered by such abuse, and  … spineless cowards … who have covered for these monsters and done absolutely nothing to protect the vulnerable except turn a blind eye and pretend to be exhibiting “leadership.” Any person with a brain would wonder why anyone would stay when the continued cover-ups of abuse and corruption go so deep and wide it is unfathomable.

But on that Sunday in the hospital, as I sat on my bed with my baby in a clear box on wheels next to me, and this woman held up the Eucharist, I received “His body, given up” for me. Those words I had spoken to my baby so many times the day before this Eucharist…they are the reason I stay.  

To be Catholic is to understand that pain and suffering is not without purpose when it becomes a purifying force, joined to the sufferings of Christ. In his March 2002 homily that was later picked up by the Los Angeles Times,  my friend Monsignor Clem Connelly observed, “What’s happening is good for the church,” he told parishioners. “Bad for its image, maybe, but good for the church. In some miraculous way . . . through the growing of the Holy Spirit in the church, we will find our way to a new day in which there is more honesty, courage, faith and accountability.”

That was more than fifteen years ago. So much has happened since that time, and yet his words continue to hold true. The pain and suffering of the faithful — innocent laity and clergy alike — are like the labor pains of the mother whose body has betrayed her, and must be splayed open in order to give that child life. “This is my body, given up for you.”

Give us strength, dear Jesus, not to waiver. And give us sustaining faith that we might never turn away from the scalpel of the Great Physician.

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31 Days of De-Stressed Living, Day 23: Sense the Mysteries

child in churchDo you ever tire of the Catholic “mommy wars” over proper parenting at Mass? Cry room vs. front row pew; pro-breastfeeding vs. anti-Cheerios; attending as a family vs. letting each spouse go separately. The only subjects more likely to get fur flying are head-coverings or Marty Haugen. Or maybe pants, eh Simcha?

Now that my children are young teens, part of me actually misses going to Mass when they were younger. Sarah would sit on my hip and sing her version of the hymns (“Amazing grapes…”), while Chris would remind me to listen for the angels when the priest raised up the Eucharist. (I had told them that their guardian angels wanted to join the other angels in heaven at the consecration, but if they were naughty, they would have to stay behind, and would be most put-out.)

One of the most wonderful parts of parenting is being able to experience, vicariously, the wonder of the invisible world: God and angels and saints and heaven … and electricity and Tooth Fairies and Mommy Magic and microwave popcorn and musicals and Mozart. So much of life is conducted behind the scenes, like the miles of tunnels beneath Disney World. Gifts and serendipitous moments are as much a part of life as bedtimes and vaccines. Through our children, we learn that if we spend too much time focused on the minutiae, we lose the sense of wonder, and deplete our own joy.

So … just for today, lets give the taskmaster the day off, and take some time to sense the mysteries and remind ourselves of the innate goodness of life.

*  The explosion of a vine-ripened tomato in a mouthful of garden salad

*  The heady aroma of home-baked bread and the simmer of soup.

*  The gentle flickering of a votive lit in a countryside chapel.

*  The crunch of compacted snow frosted with a shiny veneer of ice.

In these moments, time stands still and we catch a glimpse — however fleeting — of life as it was meant to be lived, experienced, and reveled in. These sweet mysteries whisper of the destiny of all human beings: Not constrained by obligation and responsibilities, but liberated to experience life at its transcendent best.

 

Eucharist of Divine Love (The Love Project, Day 20)

divine mercyToday’s quote is taken from the Diary of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska (1239).

O living Host, O hidden Jesus. You see the condition of my soul. Of myself, I am unable to utter Your Holy Name. I cannot bring forth from my heart the fire of love but, kneeling at Your feet, I cast upon the Tabernacle the gaze of my soul, a gaze of faithfulness. As for You, You are ever the same, while within my soul a change takes place. I trust that the time will come when You will unveil Your countenance, and Your child will again see Your sweet face. I am astonished, Jesus, that You can hide Yourself from me for so long and that You can restrain the enormous love You have for me. In the dwelling of my heart, I am listening and waiting for Your coming. O only Treasure of my heart!

Today’s Love in Action: Print out this little prayer and bring it with you to Mass today. Offer it to the Lord with all your heart. He is waiting to meet you there.

Weekend Ponderings: Water Carriers

water carrier

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples said to him, “Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?”

He sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city and a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water. Follow him. Wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, “Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”‘ Then he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready. Make the preparations for us there.”    Mark 14:12-16

Sunday’s Gospel reading is a familiar one to most Christians — in his characteristically spare style Mark records the events leading up to the very first Eucharistic celebration. Mark doesn’t even name the two disciples Jesus sent to make Passover preparation — but the Gospel writer goes into some detail about Jesus’ directives on how to find the place they were to spend Passover: a man carrying a water jar would lead them there.

Why was this “a sign”? How could they be sure they were following the right water-toter?  Simply put, carrying water was “women’s work,” and few men would be caught in broad daylight engaged in such a humble endeavor.  It simply wasn’t done.

Earlier today I posted an announcement about the review of “Raising Up Mommy” at CatholicExchange. No many how many other books I write, this little book will always be close to my heart. It records my own journey toward grace, my own purifying experiences in motherhood. Most of them involved copious quantities of humble pie. And yet, invariably good things — life-transforming things — were the result.

Sometimes God asks us to do things that take us outside our comfort zone. We may even appear foolish — as I was reminded last night at a VBS meeting, in which I taught my Tribe Leaders the songs they would be singing next week with the kids. (This year we have an “International Church” theme, so it involved singing songs in other languages, which was clearly outside the comfort zone of most of them.) “Don’t worry,” I encouraged my sheepish group. “If you look like you’re having fun and enjoying yourself, so will the kids!’

That’s true for most of the “water carrying” tasks God gives us. Attitude is everything. Just hoist that water jar, put your chin up — and lead on! In the words of Oswald Chambers, “If you’re going to be used by God, he’s going to take you through a myriad of experiences that were not meant for you at all. They were meant to make you useful in his hands.”