Thursday, May 17, 2012

O, happy fault.

The glorious promise is this: Christ is both human and divine. Though fully human, he did not sin. The painful reality is this: The Church is both human and divine.  Though divine, her children sin.

And thus it shall ever be until the end of all things. After all, our sin is precisely why Christ took on human nature, lived it, breathed it, but did not give in to temptations. "O, happy fault..."

But when we approach him, we can only do so in the community of sinners, "of whom I am the chief." We compass each other about like a swarm of locusts. We tread on each other and eat each other alive.

In the great wisdom of the Creator, however, we cannot reach him alone. We want so much to break free of the swarm and run onwards alone, but we can only go together. That means, in plain terms, that we are on a pilgrim way full of other pilgrims who will hurt us.

Perhaps they hurt most when they wear the semblance of authority. When the person you love most and want to trust most hits you hard, the world falls to pieces. When that person is a minister or layman of authority in your local Church, the Church seems to fall to pieces, too. The promise of Christ, though, is that the Church will endure. She may be ravaged, but the gates of hell will not prevail. Her own children cannot destroy her.

How can we still sing "O, happy fault, O, necessary sin of Adam"? What possible joy can we find in this state: where the leaders of the pilgrims can beat them to death with bureaucracy or worse?

The answer is this: We can find ALL JOY in this.

O, happy fault. If I was not prone to pride and temper, I would not have You, my King. If your minister had not betrayed me, I would not have You. If your enemies had not whispered in secret against me, I would not have you. If they did not need Your mercy, I would not have received your mercy.

O, happy fault. If I had not crucified my King, He would not now forgive me.

Image source.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Mothers of the Church.

Mike Aquilina and Christopher Bailey teamed up to bring us the Mothers of the Church: The Witness of Early Christian Women. You see, their wives--Terri and Teresa--thought of it. As Teresa told Chris, "Everyone knows about the Fathers of the Church, but what about the Mothers?"

She was right--not only that the book needed to be written, but also that I needed to read it. I tend to associate the phrase "Mother of the Church" with attempts to prove that women should be priests because "they used to have deaconesses!" This book, however, never even approaches historical reconstructions.

Instead, the authors present the true feminine genius that was set free by the revelation fo Christ's incarnation. The first chapter, "The Christian Revolution," treats concisely and in a very readable way to radical shift that the ancient world experienced in its view of the female and women. As a result of that shift, many Christian women found themselves able to dedicate their lives to the service of the Church in ways that were specifically feminine. They truly became the "mothers of the Church."

Many of the women profiled here are familiar: Felicity and Perpetua, Helena, Monica, and Macrina. But others are new to me: Blandina, Proba the Poet, and Eustochium, to name a few. The authors offer a biography of each woman (or group of friends) as well as extensive primary texts written by the women themselves or those who knew them.

This book is a treasure and a great addition to any home library or high school curriculum. Sadly, it is unavailable at the Catholic Company right now! But The Fathers of the Church is also a great read.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from TheCatholic, and the reviewer received a free copy of the text in exchange for her opinion. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on The Fathers of the Church. They have some good resources for Lent!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Some art to support, y'all.

Now, I want to see these and I want my girls to be able to watch them next time I'm sick with hyperemesis. So, please consider sending in a little something this May!

Dear God, it's foggy!

Did you know that Zelie Martin yelled at her daughter, Marie, at least once? The mother of St. Therese of Lisieux tells the story in a letter to her sister, a Visitation nun. Zelie was in great pain from her breast cancer and Marie told her, "Mama! Don't make that face, it's worrying auntie!" Zelie snapped back, "Well, I'm doing the best I can!"

She regretted it.

In that same letter, she writes of how irritable she has become in her final illness, of her anxiety for her children who will soon be orphaned, and of their financial woes.

Her life had become for her a fog and darkness.

Sounds familiar. When I was in the throes of postpartum depression and anxiety last year, everything was a fog. I still, when the stressors of life pile up too quickly, fall back into that fog and dim twilight. Sometimes it's my own fault--I haven't slept enough or I've scheduled too many evenings out. Sometimes it can't be helped--the kids are sick, the Scientist Dad has a good 60 hours of work for a week, and the babysitter cancels. The past few weeks have been a whirl of activities--all joyful and good--and a fog of exhaustion.

And in that fog, the ugliest parts of me emerge. I snip at the Scientist Dad or my in-laws. I lose my temper and yell at the 4-year-old. I simply cannot fold another piece of laundry, even though the living room has been covered in wrinkled t-shirts for three days.

Then, it lifts.

The rain comes, Divine Mercy flooding my soul. In three days, I can get out, go to Confession, talk with a close friend, spend time with my husband, and the kids all nap at the same time. The fog clears, I look back, and what seemed like weeks of anger and frustration are transformed.

The hardest times are the most beautiful, when they're over. We can see, if we can't articulate, the presence of God.

I look back at the depression now and recognize that Todd and I came through it by no strength of our own: we were so totally brought low that we had no power. And when we had no power, all power was Christ. He came to us in our families, our friends, perfect strangers, and the sacraments. The extraordinary graces of our vows somehow carried us. And here we are. More humble. Older. Quieter. Happier.

This little bit of foggy weather in my heart was a little reminder of what men live by. And we do not live by bread alone.


Friday, May 4, 2012

Life of Julia 2.0

I just can't resist.

President Obama's re-election website has posted the most bizarre page, "The Life of Julia," chronicling in 12 installments a woman's life "under Obama" (his words, not mine). The entire idea is strange--is Julia supposed to represent the ideal woman? The average woman? The Lowest Common Denominator of Womanhood? Is she the prototype of the women President Obama would like to see in this country? Who is Julia?

In an effort to laugh rather than cry, here is a different story of Julia: "The Woman Who Survived."

Julia is a survivor! As the child of an African American mother who chose to give Julia a chance at life, she is one of 616,017 black children born under Obama in 2009. The other 458,400 were aborted, 98% because they were "unwanted or inconvenient," not the products of rape or incest. Way to go, Julia!

3 years old
At the the tender age of 3 still under Obama, Julia--who is also lucky enough to live with both her mother and father at this point--is put into Head Start. It's fortunate that Head Start exists, because if her parents had to pay for a private daycare in addition to working full-time jobs so that they can pay their income taxes, they would each have to take on additional work. She joins thousands of children across the country who see their parents for about three hours every day.

17 years old
Julia's parents are divorced by now, but that's okay because her health care plan covers 12 psychiatric visits per annum. She has gone to a public school since the age of 4. Under Obama she has never heard of Louisa May Alcott, Christopher Columbus, or Leif Ericsson, but she did learn how to put a condom on a banana when she was 11. The Race to the Top program is great, though, because it makes sure that no student, school, or state will start reading things like, oh, Charles Dickens too soon. Or ever. She sure can surf that web, though! Keep it up, Julia!

18 years old
She's off to college! Encouraged by the Pell Grant, which gives her $10,000 over four years, she's attending a private college that costs about $43,000 per year. Although she works for minimum wage (which Obama has raised for her!), she will be in debt until she is 62. She still thinks William Shakespeare directed Leonardo diCaprio in Romeo and Juliet. Her major surgery junior year is covered entirely by her health insurance, but she has to wait 18 months for this vital procedure since all the Catholic hospitals are closed.

22 years old
Julia is now in debt and must work under Obama. There are few available jobs in the private sector, so she goes to work for the government. Her healthcare plan will pay for her temporary sterilization, so that while she is working for the government, she won't be deprived of sexual pleasure and she "won't have to worry about her health." Julia has known her whole life that living for years on birth control really optimizes a woman's health.

28 years old
"Under President Obama, Julia decides to have a child" (I kid you not, this is a direct quote). This is just a little weird, because by now he is 79 years old. Oh, well. Sadly, she knows this will be her only child, because the insurance companies still only pay for two labor and deliveries. Julia has placenta previa, requiring a c-section, and is told that future pregnancies could cost her her life and the insurance will not consider paying for such a stupid, personal choice. They will gladly cover future abortions, because they are required to do so by law. She decides to just get her tubes tied and invest quality time in her child, who will begin Head Start in 3 years.

33 years old
I'm just going to quote from the website: "Julia's son Zachary starts kindergarten. The public schools in their neighborhood have better facilities and great teachers because of President Obama's investments in education and programs like Race to the Top." 

This is an awesome thing, I guess. She really wanted to send Zach to a Catholic school, using the scholarships available to him under Catholic Charities, but both the schools and Catholic Charities ceased to exist when she was seven. Her son Zachary will never be asked to memorize a sonnet.

63 years old
Julia enrolls in Medicare and goes to live in a state retirement home. She doesn't get Social Security, because it no longer exists, but she does get three square meals a day, lots of prescription drugs, and gets to ride electric buses for free. She is happy, because she just paid off her student loans! If she hadn't had the Pell grant, she'd still be paying!

88 years old
Under Obama, Julia has had a pleasant and basically comfortable life. She even was able to live free from all welfare programs from most of it! She has had every basic material need met and was even able to afford some luxuries using the money sent her every April in her tax refund.

Because this is what life's all about. Bread and circuses.