Friday, September 19, 2014

Pope Francis and God’s Mercy in Marriage

My husband, John, and I were married outside of the Catholic Church in 1993. Back in those days we were smarter than the Church. We knew how to run our own lives and didn’t need a patriarchal, bossy church telling us what to do. So we shopped around for the most enlightened church we could find, that was also pretty and would look nice in wedding pictures. Classical music would be good, a nice long aisle and no teachings that infringe on “my body, my choice”. We wanted a male preacher for our wedding, but the possibility of a female preacher needed to be there for some other people who so chose. Next on our list: plenty of seating for our family and a communion service to make the whole thing feel “real”. Pretty deep theological stuff, no?

In His great Mercy, the Lord lead us to a patient and loving preacher who put up with my rabid feminism and un-supple demands and agreed to marry us, though we were not members of his church. After four years of living together, we were finally married.

Much to my surprise, marriage was different. I immediately felt different. I relished being called John’s wife and saying, “This is my husband.” It was very perplexing to me. Why should this antiquated and artificial social construct have such an effect on my well-being? But it undeniably did. Though we never darkened that particular beautiful church’s doors again, I knew that the time we spent there, presenting ourselves to the Lord for a blessing, was important. I just didn’t know why.

Fast forward five years and the not-so-newlyweds were going through our first real struggle. I had injured my back and was awaiting surgery. Through the grace of this suffering Jesus led me back to Himself and eventually to the Church He founded. After asking the Holy Spirit to help me with all of those patriarchal rules I objected to, He removed the scales, one after another, in very short order. Thanks be to God, Jesus brought John along very quickly afterward as well.

With surgery looming and our understanding of Church teaching widening, John and I realized we needed to be married in the Church. We spoke with our pastor, the late, great Fr. Robert Mack, about our situation and he quickly set to work to set things right. We planned our Catholic wedding far more quickly and simply than our first one. It would be two weeks hence, with Mass, just our parents and a few witnesses, no music, no photographer, but entailing three, count them, three Sacraments! After confessing our sins, we lived as brother and sister and refrained from receiving Jesus in Holy Communion until the day of our wedding. Confession, Communion and Marriage sure beat classical music, pretty pictures and an intact, prideful ideology.

On Saturday, June 19th, 1999 (my late grandmother Adele’s birthday) my sister, Cindy, surprised us with wedding flowers. It was a lovely, sunny morning, much like the day of our “first marriage” to each other almost six years before. Fr. Mack married us before the altar at St. Louis Church and took us through the traditional offerings to Blessed Mother and St. Joseph which we were still unfamiliar with. We received Jesus again, but for the first time as husband and wife. We had some treats and champagne back at our apartment afterward and two days later I had the long awaited back surgery. I went into it knowing that God had my hand and had set everything right. One month later, our contracepting ways behind us, we were pregnant with our daughter, Adele. Typical Catholics: pregnant after one month of marriage. Well, I guess it was closer to six years and one month, but with Mercy so great, who’s counting?

I write this little story from our life to illuminate God’s Mercy. The Mercy of allowing us back into the Church with open arms, despite our sinful past, gave us a new start in our marriage and our lives. This mercy set us on the right path. Fr. Mack was the instrument of that marriage and gently, so very gently, led us to all truth by showing us the blessings therein.

This same story is repeated around the world through many couples and many parish priests. It was also repeated on a global stage this past September 14th by Pope Francis. Many have tried to manipulate this beautiful little Sacramental story to demonstrate either that the Pope is somehow changing the nature of Catholic marriage, or to demonstrate that he is an apostate Pope.  Neither is anywhere near the truth. The truth is that Pope Francis is God’s chosen font of Mercy for this our day and time.

It is important to always consider the source when reading about the Church. Does the writer have an agenda? Does the writer speak from Mercy and with the mind of the Church? Does the writer even have a basic understanding of what the Church teaches and why? Consider the source. In an excellent article in National Catholic Register, John Grabowski, a professor of moral theology at the Catholic University of America is quoted saying:

"I think there is a perception out there, especially in some media circles, that Pope Francis is trying to undermine what the Church has taught and what the Church has practiced. I see absolutely no evidence of that. When he’s pressed on issues concerning the Church’s teaching on marriage, on sexuality, he is very firm, saying he is ‘a son of the Church. What he wants to do is simply put the Church’s focus on mercy, on an encounter with Christ as the heart of its life."

As so many other misunderstood actions of our Holy Father have been, this is all about Jesus’ Mercy. As St. Faustina teaches us, we are living in the era of Mercy. Why should we be surprised when our pope welcomes in sinners, offers mercy and healing and then sends them forth, telling them to sin no more? In the homily at their wedding, Pope Francis told the 20 couples that Jesus Christ “will bring them healing by the merciful love which pours forth from the cross, with the strength of his grace that renews and sets married couples and families once again on the right path.”

That’s what a good shepherd does. Catholic author, Charlie Johnston summarized Pope Francis’ works of mercy, especially regarding marriage:

The pope is reported to have mused that a good 50% of all marriages are invalid and is open to the idea of some remarried Catholics receiving communion without having had a proper annulment. This has inspired hope on the left that they have found an unlikely ally in their assault on marriage and the family. It has inspired fear of the same on the right. Both the hopes and fears are the unwarranted fantasies of those incapable of seeing things without the coloring of an ideological lens.

Those who appeal to the law are right that it was an unwarranted permissiveness that opened the gates to the wolves. But what a vanity it is to berate the sheep who were wounded when shepherds charged with defending them helped open the gates to the wolves! Pope Francis has two great charges in this. First, he must care for the wounded and try to nurse them back to health. Second, he must re-erect the fences that keep them safe.

Never forget, God calls all men to salvation. Man was not made for rules, but rules to bring men to salvation. It is a joy to me to see Pope Francis constantly thinking of how best to invite broken men back to salvation. We live in a time of great darkness, but the light is dawning and the darkness cannot overcome it. (

In the end, Mercy is scandalous to the world, foolish and scandalous. The world cannot understand it and therefore has to pervert it according to whatever lens it is trying to view it through. Mercy cannot be viewed through any lens other than the eyes of Christ. Are changes coming regarding the Church’s teachings on marriage? No. Might there be changes in the administration of the Sacraments through the annulment processes and other Church processes? Yes. The teachings don’t change, but with every generation the way we bring folks to those teachings must adapt in order to keep Open Wide the Doors to Christ (to paraphrase St. John Paul II). God and His Truth never change, and never can, but His Mercy is ever new. Thanks be to God.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Our Lady of Sorrows

I wrote this poem during the Ignatian Exercises last year during the weeks we prayed with the Passion.  It seems appropriate for the beautiful memorial today of Our Lady's Sorrows.

The Seventh

Have you ever
Picked up a newborn
Only to feel your heart
And your womb
Contract at once and together?
This primal longing
Now completed and fulfilled
As Mary receives Jesus’ Body
At the foot of the Cross
That I might one day
His Risen Body as Eucharist
She now receives His lifeless Body
And that final sword in Her Immaculate Heart
At the foot of the Cross
Heart, womb, soul
Can they burst?
It must not be so
If it didn’t happen here
Mine, too, will survive anything God allows
My hand in Mary’s

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Be All Fire

Burn, dross, burn
Leave no trace of web
Entangling wings of passion
Fire frees flight
Solders me to Him
New Golden Wings
Cannot fly low
Nor safely hover near
Fly high, they must,
And shout His Name
"Redemption!” Above the din. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Simon, son of Jonah

The Gospel reading from August 24th, Matthew 16:13-20, included:  “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah…”

Weeks ago ISIS blew up the tomb, relics and church of the prophet Jonah.  The world, in its din, barely noted.  This Old Testament prophet, prefigurement of both John the Baptist and Christ himself, wearily and warily proclaimed repentance to the inhabitants of Ninevah. 

Though I doubt it had this much significance to them, it can be seen as an attach, by the Enemy of our Souls, on the Rock, the son of Jonah, Peter, and the Church herself.  That is the Enemy’s goal, and also, without a doubt, ISIS’ goal.

St. Peter, St. Jonah, all Saints, pray for us.  


In prayer there is Mary.  I can always go to Mary.  And so I do, wrapped in a mossy midnight blanket, I go to Mary and explain how little and how poor I am.

She knows.  She holds me.  She turns me to her Son.  He is waiting.  My big brother, so beloved of the Father, so trusting of Him and His love.

Together, we go to Him.  He immediately receives me in warm embrace.  Together they turn me to the Father.

In the middle of the workday yesterday, I let out a small word, almost a sigh, from I don’t know where:


I miss my own dad always.  He loved so simply, so unconditionally.  Unmoved by both my talents and my flaws.

But this “Dad” that emitted from my soul, seemed more.

Back in my pre-conversion days, twice I called out, “Mommy”.  Bewildered and in pain, lost and despairing, I called out, “mommy.”  Even in the moment I knew it was not a call to the good, but imperfect woman who bore me.  It took me a while to discover the Lady I was calling out to.

Now that lady
Is my Queen
She is my Momma
I am all hers

Now, My Lady
Brings me, by hand
To Dad

Yes, in knowing Jesus,
I have known Him,
He is His own Person
This Father God of mine
He wants to dance with His daughter

Hand in hand
We head to the dance floor
The forest our ballroom
Dappled with sunlight
Pillared by cedars
A soft bed of pine needles
Beneath satin slippers
To bird calls and breezes
We dance

In an ancient Catholic hymn to the Holy Spirit, Veni Creator, there is this beautiful stanza:

Thou in Thy Sevenfold gifts art known,
The finger of God's hand we own;
The promise of the Father, Thou!
Who dost the tongue with power endow.

Like a small child, walking with his Father, too small to hold his whole hand, instead holds and owns his Father's finger.  The gift of the Holy Spirit is the means by which we, the beloved children, hold our heavenly Dad's finger.

On this memorial of the Most Holy Name of Mary, I want to thank you, Blessed Mother.  You always gently turn me, by your spouse the Holy Spirit, with your Son, my Lord Jesus, to the Father, my God and my Dad.  

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Black "Mass" and the Abducted Nigerian Girls

As members of the Body of Christ, we understand that all sin is corporal, that is, every time I sin, it affects the entire Body, all of us.  As the sad story of the 300 + Nigerian school girls abducted by Boko Haram continued to unfold on the World News Stage, something newsworthy happened at Harvard University on the other side of the world. Such vile and indefensible actions as the Black “Mass” have been going on in secret for a very long time.  However a new level of audacity by the Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club was reached when they chose to callously advertise that they had a consecrated host (i.e. – Jesus) in their possession and that they planned to inflict their despicable ceremony on Him. 
The unholy convergence of a Satanic Temple and our nation’s most prestigious university highlights just the sort of extremist sin which tends to lead to more extremist sin at the other end of the cultural-political-philosophical spectrum.  As soon as I heard about the planned Black “Mass”, it was linked in my mind and in my soul, to Boko Haram’s kidnapping of the Nigerian school girls.  God seemed to be showing me something here.  In the Mystery of the Body of Christ, the evil plans to desecrate the Eucharist and gleefully publicize it under the banner of elitist education and tolerance directly led to the Nigerian school girls being kidnapped, some killed, others sold into slavery, others into sexual slavery, right out of their school. 
Then I learned that Boko Haram translates to “Western Education is Evil”.  This violent group exists to combat this perceived evil.  Suddenly the inevitable kernel of truth behind the warped and broken reasoning of Boko Haram is exposed.  Calling bigotry and mockery “cultural education” is evil.  Only in heaven will we see exactly how evil in God’s eyes.

The Nigerian school girls knew they were in danger.  They knew that attempting to prepare for testing to keep up with their now banned studies could cost them everything.  Sharia Law forbids all girls, Muslim or not, to receive an education.  These girls were not hoping to go to school so that one day they could be at a ridiculously costly university and have the opportunity to mock the very source and summit of faith for 1.2 billion people.  They just want to learn so that they can have a future with hope.
The irony that adherents to this Puritanism on Steroids religion will sell pure young girls into prostitution and call it service to those girls’ Maker, seems lost on Boko Haram.   The sin and evil that this Muslim group is encouraging by feeding the supply chain of child sex slavery is also the ever-present sin which forms the foundation of the Satanic Temple itself.  Check out their website if you can stomach it.  You might want to say a St. Michael prayer before and after, and keep your Holy Water and Blessed Salt handy. 
These lost souls aid, abet and boldly support sex crimes against children.  In fact their leaders are registered sex offenders for the crimes they have been convicted of.  Imagine what goes on in secret.  On second thought, don’t.  Just pray for them.    
Sadly, the words, “Boko Haram” do hold that kernel of truth these days.  The Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club has proven it.  The hypocrisy of Boko Haram profiting and “serving God” with evil of selling girls into slavery, rape, prostitution and death truly boggles the mind.  But then so does the hypocrisy of calling hatred and desecration “tolerance” at a school founded by Christians.  Harvard’s motto is simply, “VERITAS”, Latin for “TRUTH”.  Perhaps the coat of arms should be inverted these days, as they seem to prefer to serve the Father of Lies. 

In the end the Black “Mass” was held above the Hong Kong Restaurant with about 50 lost souls in attendance, whilst downstairs patrons sipped or swigged the famous, “Scorpion Bowl” cocktails oblivious to what was going on over their heads.  Across the Square hundreds of the faithful and their friends of good will exercised their freedom to practice their faith and honor Our Lord.  In the end reparation was made and Love was loved. 

I pray that as we continue to pray for the lost souls of the Satanic Temple, the Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club and of Boko Haram, those prayers and the acts of Love at St. Paul’s Church on Harvard Square will affect the Body of Christ in an opposite and over-abundance-of-grace-way.  I pray that the Nigerian girls will be freed.  Some are lost to their families forever already.  But none, not one, is lost to God.

Praise You, Jesus.