Friday, September 19, 2014

Failure and Fishing for Dolphins

The vast majority of my dolphin knowledge comes from spectacular Sea World shows. So when we vacationed in the Emerald Coast of Florida and saw them just off our condo beach, I was surprised to learn a lesson on dolphins, fishing …and failure.
Tip of the pier from our beach

            My husband and I strolled the wooden pier and spoke with a friendly local who was fishing on his day off.  When his line caught a fish, two dolphins swooped in on his catch, gave chase and tried to grab his fish as he was pulling up his catch.  The fish escaped.  The dolphins hung around directly where his line was, patiently waiting for him to catch another, underneath our line of vision so that I happily snapped photos. 

            “Dolphins are amazing creatures,”  the man said.  “But they are a pest to have around when you’re fishing!”

            We laughed, thanked him for chatting with us, wished him luck, and proceeded on our walk. He was gone by the time we made a full circle around the pier.

            I don’t know if he went home empty handed and bummed.  But I went home with lots of great close-up pictures of an unrehearsed show after a leisurely lunch date with my husband. Whether or not it was a good fishing day for the fisherman, I went home satisfied, feeling that God was a master artist who had fun showing off his fascinating creation.

            As I stared at the rise and fall of the ocean waves that afternoon, the whole incident made me reflect on the number of times I’ve failed –teaching math concepts over and over to a child who refuses to like it; re-writing or editing a manuscript that hits a snag; cleaning an oven or a kitchen floor that gets dirty right at the next meal time; going to Confession for the same “favorite” sins that I cannot kick; getting sick and cursing my cross instead of embracing it; or even evangelizing online and coming up empty handed. 

             Keenly, I felt the frustration of a fisherman who tossed a line out only to have a silly tourist snapping up pictures of his dolphin-competition.   I try to raise my children right, perfect a skill, be a good wife, cleanse my soul to perfection and preach on the side.  I haven’t gotten an award for any of those things, so far and probably never will.

             But what if I’ve been looking at the picture upside down?  What if the high points of my spiritual journey are exactly the wearisome moments that make me want to scream, “Aargh! I give up!”?

            Maybe I’m not the fisherman, and Jesus is.  Maybe God’s looking down from the pier next to Him, and what He sees instead of my failures is just a wild dolphin who tries to swim, catch a fish, come up for air, and attempts to serve Him everyday I get up.  Maybe He even thinks I’m fascinating, even when I’m not successful on the Sea World stage.


Friday, September 05, 2014

How is Evangelization Judging?

            This post is featured on Catholic Stand.
             “Don’t judge me!”

            A flabbergasted wrinkle joins my forehead. Wait. What? I’ve was just relating to a friend how the Church changed my mind about birth control, or maybe I was posting a funny meme about modest dress, or showing my picture joining a pro-life rally, when I heard those unbelievable words.

            How is evangelization judging?

  Evangelization, as defined by Pope Benedict XVI, is to:
 “propose anew the perennial truths of Christ’s gospel.”
 Rash Judgment, according to the Catechism 2477, is
“a fault against the eighth Commandment committed by one who assumes the moral fault of the neighbor to be true without sufficient foundation.”   

            Usually when I’m posting on social media, or engaged in social conversation, I’m evangelizing, not dwelling on the state of someone in particular’s soul.  Rarely am I imputing moral faults, weighing a soul’s aggravating or mitigating circumstance and banging on my gavel, condemning him to hell because no one died and made me judge.  

            Also, I’m probably yammering about things I believe in because they are important to me.  In the same way people openly discuss home decorating, health, sports, cars, or work, I like discussing the topic of faith and religion.   I don’t see anything wrong with that.  Everyone exchanges tips or voices out opinions all the time.  When someone says they’ve whipped up the perfect chocolate brownie recipe, they’re not automatically condemning everyone else’s box mix as dumpster worthless. When they tag people in a post inviting to a marathon, they’re not stoning those of us whose idea of fun is to sit on a beach chair sipping a berry smoothie for being a bag of lazy bones.

            The problem is that in evangelization, the concept of sin will be addressed directly or indirectly. There will be a moment when the audience will grasp that the perennial teachings of the Catholic Church have not modernized into accepting all behavior as good, and this is where the feeling of guilt crops up, defense mechanism kicks in, and someone feels “judged”.  In reality, the evangelizer has not declared another guilty beyond reasonable doubt, but a conscience is obviously prickled and the conscience judges itself guilty though the evangelizer hasn’t actually filed any charges.

            I recognize this feeling, somewhat. My feathers get ruffled when a conversation implies it’s cruel to have more than the average 2.0 children or a post huffs that it’s negligent to homeschool my children.  I feel angry, irritated, humiliated, misunderstood and defensive.  But I never throw around the ‘judged’ word lightly.  When I’ve had sufficient time to cool down and reflect, I realize that this person is not condemning me to hell, maybe he even had the best of intentions. But the bottom line is: I shouldn’t care much about his opinion if I’ve got one thing straight: he’s got no power to judge me. Jesus is my judge, and I will answer to Him alone.  

            Judgment is the Lord’s job. Evangelization is every Catholic’s.

            Evangelization is proposing the good news, and the good news is this: though we are all sinners, you as much as I, Christ died for us and we have a chance at eternal happiness if we follow the Way.  What is this way? Well, that’s what we’re trying to share! It’s a way to live, a truth to believe in, a person to love and obey. It’s shouting truthfully, excitedly, compassionately, charitably from the rooftops: “Come and see!” as Andrew told Peter.

            Most evangelizers would still sit next to a lady who doesn’t censor her cleavage; we’d still hug an old gay friend and find his jokes funny; and send Christmas cards to the co-worker who had an abortion. Love the sinner but not the sin.  But sadly, more often than not, it’s the “judged” party who takes offense and severs ties.

            The irony of being accused of being judgmental is that the accuser is presuming that the accused believes the worst about the accuser, when in reality evangelizers love the persons we’re interacting with though we disagree on major issues. Often, we’re just sharing the treasure we’ve uncovered or offering a general solution if anyone happens to be in the same boat we were stuck in. 

            Please, don’t judge us rashly. Evangelizers are not praying for Noah’s flood to wipe out the earth, but pleading and trusting in Jesus’ Divine Mercy for the whole world.


Friday, August 29, 2014

Love Story #11: Craig Loves Lucy

Please welcome a guest with an amazing love story written by St. Joseph and Our Lady, as narrated by Lucy...

My love story started when I left the noviciate after 18 months due to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and felt God speaking loud and clear to me that His plan for me was not to be religious life.  I rallied against it as I felt that the best way to serve God was obviously through religious life.  After all how many stories of the saints had I read about stay at home mums??

So I fought God about it but finally gave in and decided to start praying novenas to St. Joseph for a good husband. This was the only way I could see of ever getting married as I had a chronic illness, had to move back home with my parents and wasn’t able to work or go out socially much due to my health.  I needed a major miracle and thought God did it for Mary with St. Joseph so I’ll go straight to him.  There was a beautiful statue of St. Joseph in a side altar at my church, and I would often pine longingly in front of it.

Any male that darkened the door of a church was a potential object of dreamy desperation for me.  It was quite sad but true.  Not that I ever would have shown it, but in my mind we were already married with a vanful of kids by the time he had sat down in his pew.

I was like an eagle (or vulture?) with precise vision for the vaguest sight of movement that would allow me hone in on my potential target.  This was of course all in my mind as I felt, “What can I as a woman do?  I want the man to make the first move!”

I don’t remember how many novenas to St. Joseph I prayed, but it was quite a lot.  In the meantime, I began to get quite cranky with men in general.  I perceived a lazy kind of complacency amongst many of the Catholic men I knew.  Just kind of comfortable with all these girls around and no real interest in exclusive or committed relationship.  Sorry guys this was harsh and coming out of my impatience, so bear with me!

During my illness I had an idea of going on a “holiday”  from being sick.  My Dad’s family came from the other side of Australia (called Western Australia) and I had never visited there.  This was the only real option for me as my funds were limited.  A few weeks before I left, I had a sense of Our Lady sitting on the edge of my bed before I went to sleep one night and she said, “You will meet your future husband in the next month or 6 weeks at least.” 


Was I dreaming??

I thought that maybe my pining had taken on a life force of its own.  Nevertheless, I filed this thought away in the back of my brain.  I was very cautious about divine inspiration after my failed attempt at religious life.  I had been SO sure that God wanted me to be a nun and that all ended in disaster, so how could I know whether this was my imagination or not?

Well, off I flew to the other side of the country for 6 weeks.  During that time I was invited to a Catholic black tie dinner/dance by some girlfriends, and asked my Aunt who I was staying with, whether she knew of any boys we could ask to even up the numbers on the table.  She was a committed Pentecostal but was (freakishly) attending a Catholic prayer group where she did know of a fellow.  He was the second on her list after the first one said "no thanks".  His name was Craig and he was a convert.

Well, she called him and he said, “Sure but I am going to be joining the priesthood in a couple of months is that ok?”

She said, "No problem."

When she told me I thought, “Typical.  The only available Catholic male in this whole half of the country is going to be a priest.  I’m doomed.  DOOMED!”

He suggested coming over to meet me before the big night.  So we met at my Aunty’s home.  He called before he arrived and I just loved the sound of his voice.  Then he arrived and about 5 minutes into meeting, I was absolutely smitten.  Head over heels.  I spent the rest of the time with him trying not to make a fool of myself.  Then, that night I prayed, “Lord, I really like him, but if it is not your will and you wish him to be a priest then please take away this feeling I have for him.”

I then had a sense again of Our Lady sitting on the edge of my bed saying, “Rest assured.  He is the one.”

Then, I (ever so skeptical) said, “If that is true, he has to give me a red rose on the night of the ball."

Now I have never asked for a sign in my life, but I had this picture of him come into my head giving me a red rose, so I guess I just went with it.

The night arrived and downstairs I went.  Craig was chatting to my cousin in his tuxedo and NOT holding a red rose so I thought, “Great.  Clear sign.  Not the one.”

Then he said, “Hang on a minute, I’ve got something for you.”

He left the room and came back in with a single red rose.  Yep.  

Now I am trying to look calm on the outside while inside I am saying swear words no Catholic girl should say when a divine revelation swoops into her life.  Off to confession for that one.

I spent the night at the ball with a split personality.  The calm exterior and the stormy interior.  It is one thing to know God wants you to marry someone, but what if they don’t know it yet?  What if they still think they are meant to be a priest?  I made a decision then and there to say nothing to Craig about it but give him his free will.  I guess I didn’t want him to like me because he thought he HAD to because God told me this.  I decided I would tell him if or when he ever proposed to me.  I had a while to wait. 

It was a couple of months before he joined the seminary, then spent 3 months there before deciding it wasn’t God’s will for him.  A week after leaving he called me and asked me out.  We started “going out” (we don’t tend to say “dating" here).  We went to Mass one day at my church and after Mass Craig said he was going to have a pray.  I looked across the church and there he was kneeling in front of the same statue of St. Joseph that I had prayed and pined before so many times. 

We also worked out he was converted at the time all those years earlier when I had first begun those novenas.  His conversion was from a pagan background and he was literally “zapped” by God while working on an oil rig in the North Sea.  But that’s a whole other universe.

A year later, we were engaged on the Feast of the Annunciation.

Then married the following year on the 1st January, 1998.  The Feast of Mary, Mother of God.

16 years later and the Lord is continuing to bless us.  Time and again we marvel at His work in us.

Thanks for allowing me to share my story.

Friday, August 22, 2014

How to Foster Devotion to Mary in Your Children

My love for Mary was fostered by my mother from my earliest years, and continues to grow as a homeschooling mother. Here are some ways your family can foster devotion to Mary:

1. Celebrate Marian Feast Days.  Assist Holy Mass on Marian Feast days.  If you can’t make it to Eucharist, your domestic church can pray a litany for Mary and cook a special cake or dish in honor of Our Lady.  You can also begin novenas nine days before Marian feast days and encourage your children to think of a special intention.   They can write their intentions and place it under Mary’s statue.

2.  Pray the Rosary.  The rosary is the best way for teaching your children devotion to Mary. Homeschoolers are with our children more than most mothers, so we have the best opportunity to pray the daily rosary.  Find a specific time and make it part of your daily devotions.  Start with a decade a day. Many families work the rosary around their schedules: before bedtime, travelling in the van, at 6:00 in the morning before father leaves work, or a decade here and there throughout the day. It is not impossible to pray the daily rosary. Ask Mary to help you and she will.   

3. Enthrone your home to the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts with a ceremony. Purchase statues or pictures of the two hearts, and ask your parish priest or head of your family to do the consecration and enthronement prayers. Enthronement means to invite invite into your family the King and Queen of Heaven and declaring your home to be a kingdom of Jesus and Mary.

4. Surround the children with Sacramentals.  Decorate various rooms of your home with Mary’s statues or pictures. Have your children wear the sacramentals with promises attached to them like the brown scapular and the miraculous medal.

5. Consecration Prayers.  Consecration means to dedicate a specific thing to Jesus through Mary. Weave in your morning prayers a short form of consecration.  Teach your pre-schoolers to say “Good Morning, Mama Mary!” which encourages them to think of Mary as a real mother.  Rotate prayers like the Memorare, the Angelus and Miraculous medal prayer.

6. Plant Mary’s garden.  Children love planting flowers for an outdoor statue of Mary.  When the flowers bloom, they pick flowers from the garden, put them a vase and offer them to the statues for Marian feast days.

7.  May Crowning.  During the month of Mary (May), prepare a coronation ceremony for Mary’s statue.  Sing songs and have each of your children crown her with real or silk flowers or pre-made crowns.  Gather homeschooling families for a living rosary and have each family prepare a presentation of their talents to Mary.

8. Build up a Marian Library.  The CCC cartoon videos of Guadalupe, Fatima, and Lourdes are recommended starters for the children’s video library.  Also, find them age appropriate books about Mary.  Josephine Nobisso’s “Take it to the Queen” is a beautiful book to read aloud over and over.

9. Pilgrimage and visit Marian Churches.   Unless you can afford to, you don’t have to go somewhere exotic to pilgrimage.  Find a parish dedicated to Mary one in your area and make a special field trip out of it.  Study the statues, icons and windows and research their significance.

10. Arts and Crafts. Kinesthetic learners enjoy simple arts like coloring books, painting, cross stich or embroidery, cut outs, rosary making, and doll sewing.

Don’t think you have to do these all at once. You have an entire childhood to teach your children.