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Monday, April 11, 2016

What If I'm Right?

Sometimes I forget how blessed I am to have born into a Christian family.    My father was raised Catholic and although my mother didn’t convert to Catholicism until I was seven years old, both parents taught me about God, Jesus, Prayer, Blessings and Thanksgiving even before I was baptized into the Church.  

I sometimes live in a bubble where I assume everyone around me believes as I do.  It isn’t until I’m challenged by a non-Christian that I am reminded of how paramount my faith is to me.     I have only been truly challenged about my beliefs three times.   On the first occasion,  I was severely ill-equipped to defend my core beliefs.   I had involved myself in a non-Catholic Church and when I came to them with concerns and questions, I couldn’t wrap my mind around their teachings.   They just didn’t make sense to me.    My gut was telling me I needed to search elsewhere for spiritual peace.  

The second time I was confronted; I had returned to the Church and was facilitating Religious Adult Education Programs.   I was provoked by an Atheist and although I knew what I believed, I couldn’t explain why I believed.      The Atheist viewed my answers as child-like, simple and uneducated guesses.     I've found that most  Atheists I have come in contact with tend to be condescending and scoff at my "non-enlightened" uneducated answers.    

This most recent challenge came through my Crazy Catholic Woman Facebook page and I believe I have been handling this situation very wrong.    Just as this person has his beliefs, it is not up to me to “convert” him, that’s God’s job and I’m not Him.    All I can do is express to him what I believe as a Christian and show him through my life and actions that I am living what I believe.

As a Christian, I must “Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls me to account for the hope that is in me”, but I must do so “with gentleness and reverence” as stated in (1 Peter 3:15).
The hope that is in me is through my Christianity and my core beliefs are spelled out in the Apostle Creed.   I believe the Apostle Creed to be written by the original apostles as a Symbol of the core beliefs of Christianity.      This Creed was taught and learned, word for word by every Christian and because Christianity was against the law, punishable by extreme torture and death, the creed was used as a sign for believers to recognize each other.     The Fathers of Christianity died for their beliefs and Christians throughout the world are still martyred today because of this Creed.

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit?
Born of the Virgin Mary;
Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Was crucified, died and was buried.
He descended into hell;
The third day He rose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven,
Is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
From thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
The Holy Catholic Church,
The communion of Saints,
The forgiveness of sins,
The resurrection of the body,
And life everlasting. Amen.

I believe in God our Father because when I have tried to run things myself, I have made a mess of my life.    I have learned the importance of Prayer.    Prayer, for me, has become a powerful tool in doing “the next right thing”, and sometimes a weapon against evil.   There have been times when I have experienced a frightening dream and awake to find me reciting the Lord’s Prayer or the Hail Mary.   Even my subconscious cries out to our Lord in times of trouble.  

I have recently been reminded of the miracles that have occurred as a direct result of prayer.    When someone asks me to pray for them, or if I have an issue that I bring to our Lord, I keep a journal of my requests and the outcomes.      I took my Prayer Request Notebook out the other day and was astonished at how the Lord has worked in my life in the past six months.     Through direct prayer and through intercession prayers through Mary, St. Jude and St. Dymphna, problems that seemed hopeless have been resolved, miraculous physical healings have occurred and my peace of mind has been restored.   Is everything perfect?   No, but through prayer, my faith and hope are continuously renewed.  

As some of you know, I pray the rosary every morning with my coffee: it is my private time with our Blessed Mother.    As I meditate on the mysteries of the most holy rosary,  I have a bad habit of rolling the bead between my fingers and have tangled the chains of many of my rosary and sometimes even broke them as a result.        A few months ago, I did just that.    I had twisted the chain between the last Hail Mary on the second decade to the Our Father bead in such a knot that it was impossible to undo.   I had resigned myself to the fact that I would have no alternative but  to enter my husband’s toolbox, get out the needle nose pliers,  dismantle the knot and piece the chain  back together.    For two months, I continued to pray my Rosary with this huge knot and every time I would come to that section of the Rosary I would become obsessed with that bothersome knot.    During that entire decade, I would recite the Hail Mary but my hands would be frantically attempting to undo the knot!      It was maddening and every day I told myself, “You need to fix this rosary!”   This particular Rosary is precious to me because my husband gave it to me for Mother’s day last year. Last Sunday, I got out my rosary to pray and the chain was fixed.   The chains and beads were perfectly restored and lined up as if they had never been damaged.      This was my own personal miracle.   It was a message sent to me from God to stop focusing on the knots and brokenness in my life and put my faith in Him.        

Non Christians often try to prove my faith wrong and try to ambush me with deep philosophical questions.   So I asked myself, What if my faith is wrong?    What if I live my entire life with a strong belief in Christ, attempt to follow the teachings of the Gospel and adhere to the teaching of the Church?   What if I live my life in the hope of spending eternity in unity with our Lord?   What if  when I die, there is no afterlife, no heaven or hell, I am just laid to rest in the ground and I cease to exist?   The way I look at it, I've lost nothing!   I would have lived a good life, done the next right thing, and lived with love in my heart.  I will live on in the memories of my children and hopefully, be an example and instill values that they will pass on to their children and grandchildren.    

Now, I ask those who do not believe this challenging question, “What if I’m right?"     Just something to ponder!   Have a very blessed week!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Alleluia! He is Risen and I Am Renewed!



Well, I’m back.    I suffered from depression during the season of Lent.   Thankfully it wasn’t the deep, dark, helpless depression I’ve suffered in the past; it was what I like to refer to as “depression light”.    I carried on with my day to day activities, and put on a happy face when necessary, but it was not without effort.  I was exhausted and every day was a struggle to move, my body ached, my memory was non-existent, my attention span was nil and I ate everything and everything I could get in my mouth.  Although I had grandiose plans of getting involved in my new parish, reading inspirational reflections and attending special services during the season of Lent, I did nothing.   My thoughts raced as I prayed my morning rosary.     My voice would be speaking the words but my mind would drift.      My inadequacies became overwhelming and the harder I tried and failed, the more I would tell myself “Why even try?”   Sensing my depressive mood, my husband suggested we get away for a few days.  I would turn 50 years old on March 14th, a milestone in life, and he desired to do something special to celebrate my birthday.   Thus, a get-a-way to Hocking Hills was planned.   As luck would have it, our four-hour car drive to Hocking Hills would take us directly through the city of Columbus.   A dear friend from High School lives just north of Columbus and my Father lives just south of Columbus so we arranged to visit both.     

I had kept in touch with my dear friend, through Facebook messenger for over six years.    Jokingly I told her that my online commitment to her lasted longer than my first marriage.      Although we wrote to each other at least twice a month for six years, we had not seen each other for over twenty-two years.     I was at her wedding shower, pregnant with my daughter and going through my divorce when we last laid eyes on each other.    So many things had changed. 

We decided to meet at Panera Bread for coffee.   My husband said, "Do you know what she looks like now?"    I laughed at the absurdity of his questions, of course I would recognize my friend.    As we pulled into the parking lot I caught sight of her.   She had not changed, she looked exactly as she did when we were in high school.     I could hardly contain myself and almost jumped out of the truck before it came to a complete stop.       I met her at the entrance of the restaurant and hugged her, it was so good to see my friend.       We sat and talked for two hours.   She brought pictures of our glory days.   We had sung together in a barbershop quartet called "Champagne and Soda Pop" and had won singing competitions through the Sweet Adelines.   The pictures invoked countless memories.     As I stared at the pictures of me at age twenty, I recalled how incredibly selfish I was in the past.   Who was that girl?   I expressed to my friend my regret for past mistakes and she lovingly replied: “We all live and learn.”   I’m grateful I was able to meet with my friend and hug her.   Life is too short to live in fear because of past mistakes.

After my visit with my friend, we set off to see my Dad and Step-Mother.  I’m ashamed to say that my trips to Columbus are few.   It is a three-hour drive so it requires an overnight stay.  My eyes are not what they use to be consequently night driving is not an option.   Driving in high-stress traffic fills me with anxiety and high-stress traffic to me is more than three lanes!     Unfortunately, this puts the burden of long distance driving on my husband which means trips to Columbus need to be well planned and within my husband’s work schedule.          Our overnight visit with my Dad and step-mother was a good one.    It’s hard for me to have him so far away.    For my entire life, my Father lived within two miles from me.   There was a five-year period when we lived two doors down from each other.   To have him so many miles away is difficult for me.       Although we talk on the phone every Sunday, nothing can take the place of a hug from your dad.    

On Monday, we set out for our “Cabin in the Woods”.  The cabin was tucked away in a wooded lot that provided privacy for the hot tub located outside on the back porch.     We had no WiFi or cable TV so we spent our days exploring the gift shops, antique stores, hiking and taking long naps.   Our evenings were spent sitting by a campfire, soaking in the hot tub and watching old movies on the DVD player.   These stress-free few days relaxed and rejuvenated us.   It was just what we needed as a couple.

My serenity quickly left me when we I woke up at home on Good Friday.   After my morning coffee, I stepped on the scale and found myself fifteen pounds over my goal weight.   I had fought for two years to lose seventy-five pounds and had carelessly allowed myself to start gaining it back.  The anger within erupted.  I knew depression had played an enormous part in my weight gain.  The vicious cycle of mindless eating and no exercise had certainly taken its toll, but I had to blame someone!  So I lashed out at my husband.  My husband is the great enabler and an unaware food pusher!   He loves to eat and is an excellent cook.    During my two-year weight loss journey, I resisted the late night meals, sweet treats, and excess fatty foods but somewhere along the line I had given in and given up.   I stopped tracking my food intake, measuring my portions and most of all I stopped saying “NO”!    Meaning well, my husband attempted to make light of my weight gained and told me to start my diet on Monday.     I screamed, “I have to start today!  You don’t understand! I don’t want to be over 200 pounds again.”      The despair I felt was paralyzing.   My husband’s attempt to lighten the moment with jokes and laughter enraged me all the more and that’s when it happened…I called my husband an awful name.  As the words left my lips I wished I could hit rewind and swallow them back up.  What had possessed me to be so cruel?   I immediately apologized but the damage was done.  I had awakened his anger which is something no woman, married to a full blooded Irishman, should ever do.    I had poked the sleeping lion and the damage was done.   I kept apologizing, but my words to him had been too harsh.  I was filled with shame, guilt, and regret.   Only an hour earlier I prayed the rosary as he read the paper.    I was not only cruel, I was a hypocrite.

We had planned to have breakfast together at a little Amish Diner in Middlefield and as my husband heatedly grabbed his jacket he said: “I don’t even feel like doing anything with you today.”    We drove in hostile quiet as we ate at our favorite diner. The silence was so loud I was positive that everyone in the diner that day could hear it.   Tears streamed down my face as I played back in my broken mind the demeaning words I had spoken.   I had sincerely apologized, but would he forgive me?   I silently prayed the Memorare, but felt undeserving of his forgiveness.   I was wrong,  I should not have cursed  at him, but didn’t he understand that for him to state, “One bad food choice wouldn’t hurt you”,  would be like me announcing,  “One beer won’t hurt you!”   I am not capable of having “Just one” of anything; once I go off “plan” I’m done. After a three hour cooling off period, my husband began speaking to me again and our day went on as normal, but my heart broke for the pain I caused.  What Christian speaks to their spouse with such disrespect?

I usually watch the Passion of Christ during Holy Week and here it was, Holy Saturday and I had let God down again.   My husband is not Catholic or even Christian for that matter.  He has faith in God but despises organized religious.  He views church goers as hypocrites and who could blame him?  Look at the way I had treated him in the past twenty-four hours.   For over ten years I have tried to convert my husband to Christianity and in less than ten seconds, I blew it, with a few thoughtless words said in anger.   As with every day, my husband cheerfully asked, “What‘cha thinkin' ‘bout Seetie? What’s the plan?  What’s going on?  What’s happening?”      Sheepishly, I said “I’d like to watch the Passion of Christ.”   I usually watch this film in private when my husband is not at home.      The one thing my husband hates more than biblical movies is subtitles and “The Passion of Christ” is over two hours of both.   Imagine my surprise when he agreed to watch the movie with me.    

As we began to watch the movie I found myself becoming perturbed with my husband right out of the gate.  He wasn’t watching the movie; he was playing on his iPad and missing critical points of the story.  My first reaction was to call him out and say,  “Hey! Pay attention!” But something held me back, and I kept hearing this voice say “This is for you as much as for him, be silent!”
I decided to listen to the logical voice in my head and keep silent.    Then it happened, he lowered his iPad and really began to watch.   He was asking questions and proud of himself when he would recognize some of the characters.    “Is that Mary?” he asked.   “Who was Peter?”      I explained who different biblical figures were and some of the events taking place.  When the movie ended he said, “That was pretty cool.”   To me, this was an Easter Miracle!   Not all had been lost!

On Easter morning, I went to mass alone.  My children have wondered away from our faith and although my husband had expressed an interest in trying out my new parish, I didn’t want to push.   He will come in God’s time, not mine!  At Easter Mass, I was reminded of God’s forgiveness.   Jesus conquered death through the Resurrection!  I then was reminded of how Peter, the Rock, had denied Christ three times and was “forgiven.”  My Lenten journey had been filled with failures, disobedience, and periods of time consumed with my own ego.  I had Eased God Out!  Jesus forgave Peter and his apostles for abandoning him during his passion.   I cannot let my shame, guilt of fear, keep me from our Lord.  The resurrection was the beginning, not the end.   My spiritual journey had not ended!  Just as the apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit and sent out to preach the Word of God, I too can call on the Holy Spirit and get back spiritual track.   Alleluia! He is risen and I am renewed in Him!