I can’t find the bottom of this bag

EPH 4:17, 20-24 “…..that you should put away the old self of your former way of life”

I hear this Gospel loud and clear.  As a mom, we come into this vocation with whatever we are bringing from our old life.  Often we bring what is good, helpful. But there are those things that we bring that hold us back.  I am speaking of our own woundedness.

As human beings we all deal with a certain amount of spiritual-emotional baggage.  Some of our bags are quite small.  Some are as magical as Hermione’s traveling bag; it seems to hold everything while looking quite normal.  I journey with moms who are dealing with painful pasts, or deep woundedness, these moms feel as if they are the poisoned tree of their family.  They sit in my little office and weep to God of their pain.  I hear that pain because as a human being I have my own woundedness issues.

The second reading is asking us to let our faith be bigger than our fear.  Not an easy thing to do.  It requires that we let go of fear the blocker of all faith, and really prayerful look at ourselves and what we have brought into our vocation.  We just might learn that we brought in more good than bad.

St. Mary Tchou-Ou-Cheu

One of my goals with this blog is to try and introduce fellow faith-filled moms to women saints.  There are many wonderful women who have heard the call of God in their lives and they can be an inspiration to us.

Many of these brave women are not well known so I am trying to bring them to our attention as a way of honouring their sacrifice and work.

So on Saturday I will be posting about an extraordinary woman saint of the Church.  Today it is St. Mary Tchou-Ou-Cheu.

Not much is known of St. Mary Tchou-Ou-Chen.  She is on of the 120 Catholics who died between 1648 and 1930 as its “Martyr Saints of China”.  The Chinese Martyrs Catholic Church in Toronto, Ontario is named for them.

 

How to spot a Feminist

Patty Perkowski is a John PaulThis is what I believe a feminist to be: “John Paul II had begun his theologically based affirmation of integral gender complementarity in his Wednesday audiences between 1979 and 1984, in what is now compiled as the Theology of the Body. In this work, he describes his belief that men and women are formed as complementary human beings, whose purpose, strengths and weaknesses are reflected in the physical make-up of their bodies. New Feminism holds that women should be valued in their role as child bearers, both culturally and economically, while not being viewed as a “homemaker” in the broader sense of the meaning.  Its main aim is to promote the idea that women are individuals with equal worth as men; and that in social, economic and legal senses they should be equal, while accepting the natural differences between the sexes.”  New feminism

 

Devil you bully, you have no power here

In today’s Gospel Jesus speaks at the Feast of the Dedication:  He says his sheep follow his voice.  How many of us are there who Jesus is desperately screaming for like a lovelorn lover.  Calling to us passionately. Begging us to believe him when he says he loves us.  He forgives us ALWAYS!  He wants nothing but the best for us; that he is always with us.

Jesus will go hoarse calling to us, that is the depths of his desire for us.  So, why don’t we hear?

Pain. Guilt. Feelings of self-loathing.  These are just a few of the things that keep us from God.  But to say these are sin AND that is why we can not hear God is both spiritually and theologically irresponsible.

The Old Testament is replete with those suffering from depression: Moses, Elijah, Job, and Jeremiah.  Paul, the Greatest Apostle, was also a suffer.  There are numerous Saints who suffered from major mental health problems:

Saint John Paul II said of those suffering with mental illness: ”Whoever suffers from mental illness ’always’ bears God’s image and likeness in themselves, as does every human being. In addition, they ‘always’ have the inalienable right not only to be considered as an image of God and therefore as a person, but also to be treated as such.”  ~ International Conference for Health Care Workers on November 30, 1996

We have to think responsibly and charitably about mental illness and sin.

 

Deep depression is not just self-pity. The level of anxiety of those with generalized anxiety and panic attacks is significant even during sleep. If you can imagine the anxiety of being on a hijacked airplane and seeing several co-passengers shot, you can begin to grasp the level of anxiety some people suffer for days at a time. Even people with moderate clinical depression (dysthymia) feel pain on their best days.

From a research perspective, the emerging answer to what causes emotional illness involves three components: nature (one’s biological, chemical, and genetic makeup), nurture (environment, circumstances, teachings), and personal choice (which can but does not necessarily include sinful choices). Not uncommonly, the cause is a combination of all three of these.  ~Dwight L. Carlson Exposing the Myth that Christians Should Not Have Emotional Problems In Plain Site

So to say that emotional issues are caused by sin or that the persons dealing with these issues are sinning, is denying God His power to heal. Their ability to use their story for God’s good, and for God to them as instruments of His Glory.

So why would we not want to hear God’s call?

Let’s go with Guilt.  As moms, we have more guilt than we want to admit.  A small amount may be of our making.  But the majority is not.  I know from my life that the guilt I express most comes my feeling of inadequacy as a mother. Inadequacies which come from the fear that I am not raising perfect children. I know in my head that is impossible, but my heart still tells me that I must, or the world will look down on me poorly.  This makes me deaf to God because it is society, or “friends” who hiding their guilt, limiting the advancements, triumphs, I have made.

Now for Pain.  Emotional/Spiritual pain that comes from issues, situations, or problem causes us to become isolated.  The insolation that we create we believe will be helpful, only keeps us from the support we need.  Going deeper inside is like burying ourselves in a grave.  We think of nothing else, do nothing else, experience nothing else but the problem.  Blocking us from finding solutions, we only concentrate on the dilemma.  Making us deaf to God’s calling out to us.

Feeling of self-loathing are the most difficult to control unless we get/have support from affirming God loving friends and family. These feelings come when we do not care for ourselves emotionally, spiritually, physically or socially.  It is a vicious cycle: we feel the pain of our self-doubt, it causes guilt which create self-loathing forcing us to hide making us emotionally/spiritually deaf to a loving God.

Now this deafness.  I am not one that will say everything bad that comes into our lives is the work of the Devil.  That takes us out of the responsibility for our actions.  I am also not so inclined to call the devil the “evil one”.  Gives the big bully more power than he deserves.  But I will say that there are times when the devil will bully us into not hearing God.

Like what he did in the Garden with Eve.  He uses the same technique now as he did then.  He uses our feelings to goad us into doing what he wants, not what is good for us.  For the slightest of moments what he has to say makes sense, and then the reality sets in that we have been duped.  If we are not careful, we run around that vicious cycle pain/guilt/self-loathing for far too long.

It is better for us to take a few minutes out to discern what it is we are thinking and how it will benefit us.  If we have peace than it is of God, if not, time to do more rethinking.

A Temple of Cloth

I will not wear a chapel veil.  I know many women who do feel called to wear one, but I am not one of them.  Wearing one for me implies a servitude of women, one that blocks women from fully participating in their faith read more here.

But I will wear if I had one, and I hope to have one this Mother’s day, a Woman’s Tallit.

I have been in love with the idea of a Tallit since I was a child.  I am a DC gal and many neighbourhoods have multiple Catholic Churches and Jewish Synagogues. One of my best friends was a Jewish girl named, Judith.  She lived three doors down and we spent hours at each others houses.  Fascinated by the expression of faith on display; which was very interesting to say the least!

Judith’s father was a prominent psychologist and her mom was a stay at home mom.  They were Orthodox Jews.  I loved their understated display of their Menorah, Torah, Talmud, Sabbat candlesticks.  Their house seemed like church to me.

When Judith visited my home, I often felt embarrassed by my family. In our living room was a huge, and I mean huge, almost life-size crucifix hang to “greet guests” as my mother would say.  Terrify them I always thought!  It seemed to scream: “Here is Jesus, the guy you people crucified!”  It was church size!  Now Judith being a good southern girl never said anything about it, never showed any discomfort, never seemed bothered.  But I was!

We would go to each others services, something very modern for Judith’s family, bringing this Catholic girl into a Synagogue and letting their daughter go to a CATHOLIC service!  But I loved what I was allowed to see from behind the curtain, the men in their Tallit praying.

I asked Dr. Schamberger why the men worn those cloths while praying. He told me they were Tallit, and they wear them for morning service. The tassels are reminders of the laws of Moses.

But the one explanation I loved about the Tallit: it was like wearing the Temple of the Lord, so when you prayed you were alone; just you and God.  Now that just warmed me to my soul!  From that day on I wanted one, I wanted to be wrapped up in a temple of cloth with God/Jesus. That speaks to a great deal of spiritual power!  Something that we as women must begin to take as part of our mandate.

One fun fact I learned from Dr. Schamberger was that for many years women could freely wear a Tallit, and, in fact, some communities do. It made me wonder if Mary had one?

Spiritually blind

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

For three days, he was unable to see Acts 9:9

Saul sure has an encounter with Christ on the to road Damascus, knocks him right off his horse!  During my time as a mom, I have been knocked off my horse many a time.  Sometimes, like Saul, I am doing it to myself by how I perceive things or how I am reacting to things.  Like Saul, I may just have a certain experience of a situation that I angerly can not shake;  won’t shake.  I am emotionally and spiritually blind.  Or worst of all, I am just too tired from life to want to hear, see, be anymore.

How many times have we all said: “Well you opened my eyes!”  We aren’t physically blind, but emotionally/spiritually.

Emotional/Spiritual blindness has everything to do with the heart.   “For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise, they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them..” Matthew 13:15  We can become so involved with the mundane aspects of life, the tedium of troubles,  soul-crushing worries that we no longer can hear God, see God or feel God’s presence.  Does all that life close our eyes does to wear us down? Do we stop hearing that soft, small whispered voice of God because of the cacophony of noise from gossip, negative talk, depressing news?  Or do we hear God but just ignore Him because His message is too hard to accept: that we are loved, that we have a purpose larger than the world, that we are made wonderfully?

It is clear that Saul, before he became Paul, saw no use for the Christians.  They were upsetting Saul’s well-planned world.  His blindness came from prejudice.  His was not going to see any of the good that the Christians were doing.  He was not going to acknowledge God’s power, Jesus’ sovereignty.

Like Saul, we do the same thing.  Is time for us to become Paul?

elated articles

Easter a let down or just the beginning.

Compare the preparation of Lent with that of a large lavish wedding.  There is the slow beginning when the bride has no idea what she wants so she looks at everything until she can narrow her focus, settle on just the right thing.  There are weeks of getting everything just right. Then the wedding day comes closer and everything up to this point simultaneously seems like not enough is done and there is too much yet to do!  Eventually things settles down and the preparation seem routine, until the evening before the wedding.  Excitement is high. The day of the wedding seems as if it would never have come.  When it does and all is going on it feels as if the day will never end, until it does.

The next morning there is a strange sense of let down.  The mundane hits you like a tons of bricks.  Suddenly you are this new you without any feeling of change.

This can also happen at Easter.  You have worked so hard on your Lenten promises.  Picking yourself up when you fail. Working hard to build momentum for each stage of your journey.  You gave alms, you prayed, you did good works.  Maybe you went to every service the Church celebrates to try and get deeper into the spirit of the season.  You made it a point to read your bible daily.  You found time for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Holy Saturday Vigil comes and you can sense the end is near.  There is excitement at the prospect of Easter.  Easter comes and you just don’t feel as different as you had hoped.  What does that mean?

It doesn’t mean that you are now spiritually inept.  It may mean that the focus was more external than internal.  It may mean that you have yet to recognize the change that Lent has helped you achieve.  It also doesn’t mean you have failed at Lent. Lent isn’t a one and done thing.  It’s not as if the Church says: “Well, you missed your chance, have to wait until next year!” No, the spirit of Lent can happen anytime.

During the next 50 days of Easter look at your Lenten promises; which were the most successful and you would like to become part of your daily self, that after all is the hope of Lent, we change and continue that change.  Now look at what was not so successful, see how you can modify it and make it something to work on during the 50 days of Easter.  Think of these revisitations of Lent as gifts to God, not as punishment, ultimately gifts to yourself.

Issues of a Spiritual Nature

Now, as many of you know I love Twitter, and kinda like Facebook. As a person of faith, working in a ministry of faith, my timelines are often filled with other persons of faith posting words of encouragement and hope. These of course are very helpful. Here is a spiritual conundrum: We want people to be happy, but sometimes people are too depressed to be happy, so saying to be happy actually hurts. Go figure?

It’s true.

There are several issues that are hot button spiritual-emotional issues: Depression, Trust, and Misuse of emotions. These issues are all interconnected. If you are depressed you don’t trust, and while in that distrustful nature your emotions can be used as weapons. Which brings us to the nature of sin. As a Catholic I believe that sin is the breaking of the bond between God and you.  God love triangleYou can not love God unless you love BOTH yourself and your neighbour.  In sin you are not in a healthy spiritual relationship, and spiritual issues like depression, trust and misuse of emotions can be caused by sin or create moments of pains which feel like sin.

Say a victim of abuse has a hard time making and keeping relationships because of depression, trust and using words as weapons; is she sinning, no. She is reacting to the sin done to her.  Her reactions are emotional responses she thinks will protect her, and maybe at one time they did, now she is struck.  If she goes to Facebook or Twitter and sees anything that says God is love, be happy while in that state those words feel like a condemnation. Look at that word: condemnation; really look at!  That word damns, we have just damned our girl. She believes herself a failure because she can not feel God’s love, she can not feel, or think, she can be happy.  We have just driven her into a deeper depression.

What she needs, everyone needs, is to know why God loves them.  Give her reasons to accept that God’s love is real.  She needs to be guided out of the weeds of her hurt and into the light.  And throw away sentiments don’t cut it! So, here is a challenge for me and everyone else who works in the spiritual feeling field: Can we stop talking in platitudes, which I believe lacks faith, and start speaking in strength and truth with examples of God’s power and majesty?