Thursday, November 29, 2012

More Reversion: Looking For God

This post is a continuation of my attempts to write about my reversion back to the Catholic Church. My last post on this topic is here:
The Catholic Mom's Corner: Biblical Revelations

Suddenly things started happening.

1. I was convinced that God was real.

2. I knew that I did not have a close relationship with God and that I hadn't tried hard enough in the past to change this.

3. My Co-worker, who was so kind to me, and was loaning me his books, attended a Traditional Latin Mass (which I had no idea what that was about on any level and wasn't even aware that such a thing even existed in our present age). He had 7 kids who were home-schooled before they joined a co-op/school that was only attended by other Traditional Catholic children who went to his special church. He was absolutely unapologetic and uncompromising about his faith and talking about it at work (when people would ask, but not to people who didn't care to hear). He did not watch any rated "R" movies, and didn't have any interest when I would talk about the cool new movie I had seen that weekend. I was internally floored when he mentioned that The Sound of Music was one of their family favorites. Needless to say, I was smart enough to not mention my book collection (see my last post in this series). All the females in his household were modest dressers, skirts below the knees, yet were stylish, normal and very well adjusted people, despite any prior stereotypes I may have held out of ignorance, about homeschoolers. His teenage daughters were not allowed to date the same way that I did in high school... for instance, they were only allowed to go out in groups, and if they wanted to have an actual "date" with a friend of the opposite sex, they had to take one of their much younger siblings with them! I had never met anyone like this before, and I was frankly, fascinated, with him and his family. I asked a lot of questions and he was very open with me.

4. "The Lord" vs. "Our Lord". Now that I could chime in a little with all the Anne Catherine Emmerich discussions going on, I quickly realized that my friend always referred to "The Lord" (which is what I would always say), as "Our Lord". I just couldn't bring myself to say "Our Lord", it felt too personal and too uncomfortable for me. I tried it once, and I felt as if I hadn't earned the right to say "Our Lord", because He wasn't really mine. Isn't that sad?

5. I started praying in the morning in the shower a simple, "God, please show me who you are. I have no idea. Are you even there?"

6. I wandered into a local Catholic book store and picked up a book on Padre Pio (my Grandmother had mentioned him before, and the stigmata seemed interesting...) and a book called No Wonder They Call It the Real Presence  - I was still wondering about that whole veiling before the Blessed Sacrament thing, I just didn't get it, but was on the verge of discovering a whole new sub-culture below the radar of the comfortable "Catholic" world that I had known my whole life.

As always, there is much more to say, so I shall return... !

Click HERE to continue the story.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Eucharistic Flash Mob

I love this! I wish I could experience something like this on Black Friday...

What do you think?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Jacob's Daddy Issues - Session 5

A couple weeks ago we concluded Session 5 of  the Great Adventure Bible Timeline Catholic Bible Study - The Study of Salvation. I got through the entire book of Genesis! Yeah, that feels pretty good. For the first time in my life I can honestly say that I have learned more about our Biblical Patriarchs than ever before. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and his 11 brothers - their strengths and their weaknesses... how they were so human and flawed, just like us. How they trusted in God, and sometimes doubted God. Their lives were messy and complicated and God was with them every step of the way, drawing them into a deeper relationship with Him.

One really interesting theme from this session is the life of Jacob and his relationship with his father. While the Bible doesn't go into too many specifics of the dynamics, I don't think it is a stretch to "read between the lines" and to suggest that Jacob had to have some real issues and insecurities that he probably struggled with for his entire life. The kind of wounds that only God can heal.

Let's take a brief look at Jacob's bio. His dad, Isaac, at the age of 40, was overtaken by Rebekah's beauty, and he married her, and he loved her. After struggling with infertility for almost 20 years the Lord God heard Isaac's prayers and granted them... double! Rebekah was blessed with twins. Esau and Jacob, who battled from the start, in utero. Esau was the first born, ruled by his passions and often profane, yet favored by his father. Jacob, the younger twin, quiet and cunning, he was his mother's favorite child. How it must have hurt him to sense that his father loved his older brother more than him. He probably spent many hours in vain as a young boy trying to gain the approval and affection of his father, to no avail. All little boys want to be loved by their father and be the "favorite one".

As the boys grew older, they did not grow closer. Jacob ended up "buying" his brother's birthright for a bowl of stew, after Esau was clouded with famine due to a day of hunting and so hungry that he could not think straight. This essentially doubled Jacob's inheritance, and he would take over the rights that were usually set aside for the eldest child. Later, after their dad, Isaac, grew old and blind, he made plans to call Esau in for the coveted final blessing, which would bestow him with the promises of wealth, fertility, and prosperity. His dad wanted some of his good hunting game first, however, and sent him off to bring back fresh meat to prepare a delicious dinner. While Esau was gone, Jacob's mom helped him craft a disguise where he would pretend to be his brother. And to top it off, she would prepare the dinner, exactly to Isaac's liking, as she knew perfectly well how to do, and then Jacob would pretend to be his brother, pretend to have hunted and cooked a special meal for his dad, and then steal the blessing away from Esau! Jacob was scared he would be caught, but his mother encouraged him. It wasn't easy, but he received his father's blessing through deceit and fraud. How could he feel good about himself after what he did and how he did it? He had received the blessing, sure enough, but it still didn't change the fact that his father didn't want HIM, he wanted his brother, Esau to be his beloved and blessed son! And not only that, but when Esau figured out what happened, he wanted to kill Jacob. The Bible doesn't tell us how his father felt about all this specifically, except that he trembled violently and recognized that his younger son acted with guile. We can only imagine the anger and bitter disappointment that Isaac felt for his failure and loser of a son, Jacob, who ends up fleeing the house so his brother won't murder him. This was not a good scene!

After things have cooled off a bit, Jacob is blessed again and sent away by his father and mother to the Northern land of Haran to find a wife. He eventually sees his young woman/cousin named Rachel and wants to marry her, he agrees to work for her for 7 years. On their wedding night, his Uncle, Laban, "switches" his youngest daughter, Rachel, with his oldest daughter, Leah. So, Jacob wakes up in the morning to see that Rachel was "switched" with her older sister Leah and he has now married and consummated marriage to the wrong woman! When questioned, Laban replies that in his country, the oldest comes first! (Talk about What Comes Around Goes Around!) Jacob was getting a taste of his own medicine. He works 7 more years for the woman that he originally wanted. One can't read this without knowing that somewhere in this life experience God is trying to teach an important lesson to Jacob, however, through it all, Jacob still has the blessing and it is all part of God's important plan.

Jacob goes on to father 12 sons with Rachel and Leah, who will become the Fathers of the 12 tribes of Israel. He later reunites with his brother, Esau.

The day before the two brothers are about to reunite after many years of estrangement, when at Peniel, Jacob encounters a mysterious supernatural being (an angel in human shape who represents the Son of God) who battles with him for his life throughout the night. Jacob is wrestling with God! Is he angry with God because of the lost relationship with his own dad? Clearly he has divine assistance while fighting the angel, as no mere mortal human would have the strength to hold back one of God's angels.  God is showing Jacob that it is HIS will, and that neither his brother Esau, nor his father can determine or sway his God given destiny. God has chosen him, not by his merit or because of anything he has done to deserve it, but simply because it is God's will. When the angel says "Let me go, for the day is breaking." Jacob replies, "I will not let you go, until you bless me." What a peculiar response. He is still yearning for the blessing, the affirmation and the acceptance from someone, anyone, from The Father, because deep inside he knows that the actual blessing he got from his biological father was not truly intended or deserved. He must have deep seated insecurities and inadequacies and this is why he wrestles with God in this cryptic bible passage in Genesis 32:22-32. Jacob is then blessed by God and is given the name of Israel. He has seen God (or at least one of his angels) face to face, has lived to tell of it, has been humbled by being "touched on the thigh" and wounded by God, and ultimately healed by God, who has provided him with the fatherly love, relationship, and approval that he has been yearning for his entire life. He has truly earned his blessing this time. How fulfilling this must have felt for Jacob.

For those of you who can relate to Jacob because of lack of parental approval or affection, I think God can heal and make us whole again. He can provide meaning to our suffering and an ultimate plan for our lives. I know it is hard to imagine that He loves us even more than our parents, spouses, and our closest family and friends, but this thought provides me comfort at times when I am sad.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Biblical Revelations

In my last post I explained how I got my hands on Volume 1 of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich's Biblical Revelations.

I am a reader and always have been. I love non-fiction, and anything that tells a story about something that has actually happened or can expose some kind of truth, especially a shocking one, is especially appealing to me. Up to this point, I had always been attracted to the dark and macabre. For example, during this time, I can think back and one book that I "couldn't put down" was "A Child Called It" by Dave Pelzer. This is a horrifying autobiography of the worst child abuse case in California history and a mother who forces her own son to eat his own vomit, excrement, and bleach, amongst tales of brutal beatings and mental abuse. Sounds nice, right? The other book I had somehow found was, Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper by Diablo Cody, which tells of the real life experiences of the 24 year old neophyte author, as she works in the underground sex arena as a stripper, at a peep show, and for a sex hot line just for fun. You get the idea...

So, I'm pretty open minded, great thing... I pick up Volume 1 of this 2500+ page epic 4 set book which pretty much chronicles main events from the entire Bible, touching on Creation and earlier Old-Testament stories and focusing heavily on the life of our Blessed Mother, and the entire life of Jesus Christ. I know its religious, and I know the Good Catholic people at work are loving it. I decide, what the hell, right? Let's see what the big fuss is about.

I start reading the first chapter, and you know what? IT IS REALLY GOOD! The stories are vaguely familiar, they are our common Bible stories that we all know, but they are infused with great detail and insight and truth. I quickly find that Anne Catherine Emmerich's private revelations are very interesting and very readable. I am surprised that not only is this not at all boring, but extremely easy to read and even enjoyable. (Imagine the Bible re-written as a New York Times Modern Best Seller.) I found that I couldn't wait to get home every day from work so I could read a few more chapters in Volume 1. There were even parts that were appealing to my "dark side" - because she speaks in so much detail about false gods and how people from earlier times loved to worship them and what detrimental effect this has on their souls. It is all very fascinating.

Anyway, there's a lot I could write because it took months and months to read. And in fact, before I would finish all 4 volumes, I would indeed come full circle back into the Catholic Church with a force that I would have never even known was possible. But it is the kind of thing that you don't really ever want to end, and when it does you are a little sad. I remember telling my sister on the phone, trying to explain this new book I was reading, and not doing it any justice, just saying, "I don't really know how to explain this, but I think I am going to become religious..." I remember her saying something like, "Well... Good, I guess..." I started to slowly realize that reading tabloids was a waste of time, and reading things like the aforementioned books about sexual deviancy and child molesters and abusers were interesting, yes, but perhaps not really necessary, perhaps even less than what God would want... Months later, many of the books in my personal collection would be given away or donated to Goodwill. I remember giving away Candy Girl to a younger co-worker, a recent graduate with a nose-ring at my job who thought the author was "cool". I remember saying "Here, you can have this book. I don't want it back." (Maybe I shouldn't have encouraged her, but at the time, it seemed like an OK thing to do.) What should we do with books in this type of situation? Burn them? Throw them out? At the time, I just wanted to pass them onto someone else and get them out of my possession.

Writing out this story is difficult for me. First of all, it has been almost 5 years ago and the order of events tend to overlap, so I am trying to maintain the integrity of my details. And more importantly, I am afraid that it is boring and that nobody particularly cares. I'm going on and on about minutiae. A couple of people have mentioned that I should write this story down, but there are so many small details that have come together to make this all possible, it is not easy to capture everything succinctly. Anyway, if this even serves to help or entertain one person, it will be worth it! I appreciate the encouraging comments I have received thus far.

Next time I will explain further either how the Traditional Latin Mass began to arouse my curiosity and how I first began to pray and seek God even without knowing what I was doing in
The Catholic Mom's Corner: More Reversion: Looking For God

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Session 4 of The Great Adventure Bible Study

Hello Everyone and a Happy All Saint's Day to you!  Here is a quick check-in on Session 4 of Jeff Cavin's Bible Timeline Great Adventure Catholic Bible Study.

I am excited that I feel I am beginning to 'gel' a little more with some of the women in my group. (Even the 'strong' personalities that I tend to clash with, I am liking/accepting them too. Hopefully they feel the same way about me :-)

This past week we talked about the early patriarchs in Genesis. We learned all about Abraham and how his faith in God was unshakable. He trusted God to leave Ur and go to an unknown land, leaving the comfort and stability of his home. He trusted God when he was promised an heir, even though his wife was beyond childbearing years and he was a very old man! (We learned how this parallels the "impossible child" Jesus and Mary at the Annunciation). He trusted God when he was asked to sacrifice his only begotten son, Issac, on Mount Moriah. (So many hidden parallels to Jesus to be found in this Old Testament narrative.)

One take away I had from this session was that Adam and Eve, during the fall, were asked to trust God. They did not pass their "test".  In Abraham's life, he is not only asked to "trust", but also to "act" on that trust, ultimately with the willingness to sacrifice his only son. It really drives the point home that obedience, and our actions, are paramount in showing our faith and trust in God. It is one thing to believe, but a whole other thing to ACT on that belief in a righteous way.

Lord, may I have a strong faith in you, as Abraham did, and may I always act in accordance with that faith and your will! Amen.