There are times when — all too innocently, because we have not been mindful of what is before us — we give too much license to a dead past that cannot be changed, and then we lose our handle on things.
Like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, we conjure from the ether of our past a solitary-but-sharply-outlined idea, and then suddenly, one after another, memories begin to fall upon us, like bright orbs called from galaxies far beyond, and much better kept in the distance. Our disappointing families and imperfect parents, our closely held secrets and sins and sorrows and regrets, given too much free reign, begin to dominate us. They wreak havoc on our emotions and then begin to drain our spirits until we are depleted and depressed — all trust, all hope diminished.
When we get to that place, we begin to hate everyone — or to imagine that we do — and to wonder about that Being people call “God”; we think if that Being exists, it’s probably worth hating too, for creating so much that is warped and destructive; for allowing death and devastation such as we are seeing in the wake of Haiyan; for permitting innocence to be stolen, and hearts to be broken, and evil to flourish all-too-widely.
When we reach the point where God seems worth hating, we have also unavoidably entered into self-hatred. We can’t help it; we are fallen and the same instincts to idolatry that cause us to make godlings of the things and circumstances and people we love are also at work when everything becomes about our hatred and our hurts and where our darker feelings may safely be projected.
How do we protect ourselves from falling into this accidental deterioration of our spiritual and emotional health?
Read on and find out. Ms. Scalia has a way of reaching deep down inside her readers and pulling out that which leaves us wanting more. It's a gift.
The culture would rather this issue be left alone. The culture says simply that this is a personal matter and there's but one mind on it. The culture sees a contrary opinion on this as judgment and high-mindedness.
The culture, let's face it, is the death culture and the death culture is single-minded.
I can see the appeal of “death with dignity” and programs like those offered in Oregon and the Netherlands, where doctors will help you leave this world at the moment of your choosing, without fuss or bother or pain. I do not want to die and I really, really do not want to die the way my father did. I would find the indignities as excruciating as he did, and I have no confidence I would deal with the pain as bravely as he. I would not want my children to see me so pathetic.
“Death with dignity” seems to offer not only an escape from pain and humiliation but a rational and apparently noble way to leave this life. You look death in the eye and show him that you, not he, are in control. All “dying with dignity” requires is that you declare yourself God. Make yourself the lord of life and death, and you can do what you want. All you have to do, as a last, definitive act, is to do what you’ve been doing all your life: Declare yourself, on the matter at hand, the final authority, the last judge, the one vote that counts.
But you are not God, and, the Christian believes, the decision of when to leave this life is not one He has delegated to you. It is not your call. The Father expects you to suffer if you are given suffering and to put up with indignities if you are given indignities. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord. And that, as far as dying goes, is that.
This is not, from a worldly point of view, a comforting or comfortable teaching. It is one much easier for Christians to observe in theory than in practice, and to apply to other people than to themselves. In practice, we will want to die “with dignity.”
My father was an engineer. I’m not sure if he read a theological book in his life. The questions that interested me bemused him. But he knew who he was and what he was called to do, a condition others would put in a theological language I suspect he thought was unnecessary. He was dying. That was his job, and he would do it as well as he could.
Lying in a hospice bed, in the very last situation he would have chosen for himself, my father taught me that to die with dignity means to accept what God has given you and deal with it till the end. It means to play the hand God has dealt you, no matter how bad a hand it is, without folding. It means actually to live as if the Lord gives, and the Lord takes away, and in either case blessed be the name of the Lord.
It’s dignity of a different sort than the corruptingly euphemistic slogan “death with dignity” suggests.
You need to read the entire piece. Though for David it's so deeply personal I think it to be deeply relevant to what's happening today.
I'm aware that because this issue is so personal, the temptation on it is, as I know many are doing, to simply shrug and adopt the mantra of live and let die. But there's much at stake here. So much. And for faithful Catholics, there are core principles involved.
What follows is educational though I hesitate initially in posting it because I think too many are put off by the overtly religious... but... it brings some much needed clarity to this in my view... so... why not sit through the following 3 minutes and minimally better understand why there's opposition to this issue from faithful Catholics.
“It is so difficult to listen to the voice of Jesus, the voice of God, when you believe that that the whole world revolves around you: there is no horizon, because you become your own horizon,” the Pope told mass-goers in the Vatican’s Saint Martha residence on Nov. 4.
“In the end (they) prefer their own interests rather than sharing dinner together: They do not know what it means to celebrate,” the Bishop of Rome said, noting that if the dinner had been a small gathering for business, everyone would have come.
“But what shocked them was the gratuity. Being one among the others, there…this form of egoism of being at the center of everything.”
Pope Francis explained that this form of egoism is often rooted in a fear of God’s gratuity, saying that when Jesus offers something so great that “even the saint is suspicious,” like he did to the disciples of Emmaus or to Thomas who wanted to touch his wounds, we think it’s better not to get involved.
“We feel safer in our sins, in our limitations, but feel at home; leaving our home to answer God's invitation, go to God’s house, with others? No. I'm afraid,” Pope Francis said, observing how this is a fear that all Christians have hidden deep inside.
The message seems clear.
If you want to feel good about yourself, if you want to be validated at all times, if you want to feel secure and comfortable and sentimentally warm and fuzzy in the faith, then Christianity, and dare I say Catholicism, is not for you.
But if you want to be challenged, if you want to be stretched, if you're ok with occasionally having your toes stepped on or in fact, occasionally be the toe stepper yourself, then Christianity, and particularly Catholicism, is something you should be embracing because in the end, you'll be better prepared to take on what life hands you.
The Pope steps on many toes and I'm of the firm belief the Holy Spirit is guiding his steps and for good reason.
"I chose it with no intention to provoke or scandalize. Reading the text, without being influenced by previous interpretations, you discover that it is a song about the power of love to renew people, to rescue them from their past," she explained. "And this is the way that I wanted to interpret it. For this reason, we have transformed this song from the pop-dance piece which it was, into a romantic ballad, a bit like the ones by Amos Lee. Something more similar to a lay prayer, than to a pop piece."
We are wounded by God because in being touched by Him we have been opened to a whole new way of living and seeing the world. Opened in this way we respond by going out of ourselves, offering ourselves up. As St. John of the Cross puts it “…after wounding me;/ I went out calling you, but you were gone.” These wounds then are wounds of love, of openness to the Other.
Such openness takes the form of a wound because we are not yet able to fully embrace God while we remain in sin and imperfect. There is no other way: We must be open to God before we can be filled by God.
As we come closer to Him, however, our wounds only worsen, as it were, as the dross of sin is melted away from our souls.
Not exactly what we hear from the televangelists, from the name it and claim it crowd, the prosperity gospel-arians, the well coiffed get rich quick theologians, all who flood the airwaves with their heretical bottom-of-the-birdcage-make-Jesus-your-Savior-and-be-happy claptrap.
If I've learned anything about faith, orthodox, traditional, historic faith (and not the sort of shallow, Hallmark sentimentalism too many are selling and too many more, so very sadly, are buying), is that faith can in fact be most painful.
Faith that lasts, faith that overcomes, faith that sustains, perseveres and eventually brings the greatest of comfort is faith that comes paradoxically from wrestling with God and from the pain God allows to happen in our lives. It's the faith taught by the Saints and especially by their lives. It's the faith passed down over the ages. The faith taught by the Church. It's the faith we all seek though many of us unknowingly, even blindly.
Pope John Paul II, in his Apostolic letter titled Salvifici Doloris (On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering), wrote:
A source of joy is found in the overcoming of the sense of the uselessness of suffering, a feeling that is sometimes very strongly rooted in human suffering. This feeling not only consumes the person interiorly but seems to make him a burden to others. The person feels condemned to receive help and assistance from others and at the same time seems useless to himself. The discovery of the salvific meaning of suffering in union with Christ transforms this depressing feeling. Faith in sharing in the suffering of Christ brings with it the interior certainty that the suffering person "completes what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions"; the certainty that in the spiritual dimension of the work of redemption he is serving, like Christ, the salvation of his brothers and sisters. Therefore he is carrying out an irreplaceable service. (SD 27)
I've not yet suffered like a Saint. I hope in fact to never have to but I'm conforted by the fact that should Saintly suffering come, I'm enmeshed in the faith they used to overcome it.
God help all who suffer see You in that suffering and might they be sustained by that seeing.
As the Church, the Body of Christ, each of us baptized as priests, prophets, and kings, do we keep the worldly powers awake at night worrying about the truth we might unleashed upon the realm? Though fear can be a powerful motivator for getting the right thing done, we no longer rely on ecclesial knights and papal armies to threaten kings with the violence of heaven. In all the ways that truly matter, we have become more powerful by abdicating power, wealthier in abandoning wealth, and holier in surrendering the pretenses of an Imperial Church. But are we stripped bare enough to bring the prophetic word to those who would threaten what we have left? Christ warned his disciples that to be faithful to the end they could prefer nothing and no one before him. Anything and anyone we choose before we choose Christ is something or someone for us to lose when the king gets anxious about our truth-telling. Then, we are forced to choose again and again, each time we are called upon for the sake of unity, or fashion, or convenience, each time we are harangued to compromise or lie or cheat, we must choose. Christ or power? Christ or influence? Christ or celebrity? Christ or popularity? Christ or the family and friends?
The preacher, Qoheleth, infamously laments: “All things are vanity!” Futile, fleeting. For the Church, this is not a lament but an expression of hope. The Good News of Christ Jesus is no thing. Neither futile nor fleeting. And if we, his Body, are to be prophetic in a time of corrupt and violent power, we cannot flinch from speaking veritas in caritate, truth in love.
So, let me ask you: how do you think your head will look on a silver platter?
A personal note and as vague and general as I can communicate it while still making the point.
Things have been happening in my life that have not been fun of late, some of it my fault. Yet time and again, I'm seeing or hearing things from others, to include my most Godly priest, that have brought me a great deal of comfort, affirmation and validation, all of it timely, all of it most needed.
This from Fr. Powell I can now add to the list. He by the way ought to become a regular read.
The entire interview is just excellent but I especially enjoyed this particular section:
What’s the best thing Pope Francis has done for the Catholic blogosphere?
I think he’s forcing a confrontation with the rest of Catholic social teaching. By that, I mean all of the incredible riches the church has to offer beyond the questions of abortion, euthanasia, gay marriage, human cloning and embryonic stem cell research—which in my neck of the blogosphere, started out as the five non-negotiables of orthodox Catholicism, but have mysteriously morphed into the only five things that matter to a lot of American Catholics. It has spawned a curious soteriology in some sectors that often boils down to a theory that can be fairly accurately summarized as "opposition to abortion taketh away the sins of the world." Francis has forced a reassessment of that reductionist view of Catholic social teaching and I think it’s all for the good.
Why does the Catholic blogosphere need this challenge?
Because we need to become more fully Catholic, but in the sense of personal conversion, not in the sense of purging the church of lukewarm believers. By that I mean helping people to become more fully Catholic, as Pope Francis has been trying to do. This challenge, to me, is what the Catholic blogosphere has most needed for a long time. I’m sure Francis is challenging some people on the left end of the blogosphere as well, but I don't hang out there all that much.
Francis isn’t interested in purging the church for the same reason St. Paul isn't interested in it. When St. Paul speaks to the Corinthians, he doesn’t tell this passel of screwed-up Christians who are sleeping with their stepmothers, getting drunk at Mass, taking each other to court, denying the Resurrection, and dissing him as a fake apostle that “you’re not real Catholics.” Instead, he insists that even the dopiest of the Corinthians arereal Christians.
In short, instead of kicking people out, Paul cries “become what you are!” One of the mythic expectations inexplicably attending gentle and sweet Pope Benedict was the notion of a "Coming Benedictine Purge” where many Catholics on the right dreamed he was going to start kicking people out of the church. But that was never going to happen. And now, under this Pope, that has been confirmed beyond all doubt. What Francis wants is for all of us to accept each other with the all-embracing love of God—which is certainly a challenge for me, because the people he wants me to love and forgive are not people I would normally be eager to embrace.
For me, he’s challenged me to think and live in new ways, to ask myself new kinds of questions about how I spend my money and what I’m doing about the poor, weak and vulnerable around me. To be sure, that includes the very old and very young our culture of death wants to kill. But it increasingly includes others to whom I have been blinded in the past by the reduction of the five non-negotiables to the Only Five Things That Matter. How am I responding to Iraq? How am I responding to what’s happening at the border? What about families being destroyed by gross income inequality? Those are questions that would not have occurred to me 10 years ago because I considered everything other than the five non-negotiables to be matters of prudential judgment—and I took prudential judgment to mean "feel free to ignore the church if it threatens your political ideology in some way." But I’ve learned in the past 10 years that prudential judgment doesn’t mean I can just blow off anything from the church that isn’t prefaced by “Simon Peter says.” We’re called to bedocile to the church so that unless we can give a really good reason why the church’s guidance is absolutely immoral, we should try to do what the church asks even on things which aren’t absolutely essential. We should try to obey the church and the mind of Christ as much as we possibly can. That’s the point of the story of the rich young man in the gospel. Marriage is another example. If a married person asks “what’s the least I can do for my spouse and still call it a valid marriage,” that marriage is already in trouble. Real love never asks “what’s the least I can get away with doing?” It always asks “what’s the most I can do?” That’s what Francis is asking us to consider. What’s the most I can do to love you, Lord Jesus? It’s not about doing the minimum daily requirement to live as selfishly as I can and still squeak into heaven.
What is your impression of Pope Francis?
I love the man. It’s almost inarticulate, but I have nothing but love for the guy. I think he’s the absolute real deal and I feel tremendous hope for the church. As I said before, I’ve loved every pope we’ve had, but I particularly have a soft spot for this man just as a human being apart from whatever he does as pope. I think the world of him. There are some people you just recognize as genuine people and I always respond really strongly to them. There’s no artifice about him and I really like that.
Here's an excerpt I hope will move you to read the entire thing:
When my cell phone rings early one sunny fall morning, I reach for it groggily, see that the call is from my mother and know that whatever she is about to say will be heartbreaking. I am still in bed in my pajamas, and my mom tells me that Marian Elizabeth has been born. Everything else my mother says is drowned out by the roar in my brain that tells me that I must see my new niece. “Call me back on FaceTime,” I say interrupting her. A moment later, the video call comes through.
Marian Elizabeth, named for two women with difficult and miraculous pregnancies, is wearing a hat that is way too big for her tiny body, two months premature. My sister, Elizabeth, is holding her daughter both gingerly and with such strong love. And I just keep saying over and over again, “She’s so beautiful, I love you both so much. You are both so beautiful. I love you. I love you. She is beautiful,” even though I know my niece can’t fully comprehend it, while at the same time trying to understand it all myself. And then a few minutes later, somehow, I tear myself away from the phone, and I head off to work and I wait.
I am waiting for the next, inevitable call. The joy of seeing my niece alive is accompanied by the heaviness of knowing that what we had expected had, in fact, come to pass. Marian, facing a host of health problems, will only live for a few hours.