Sunday, February 17, 2013

Inside the Mind of an Agnostic

"It is said that God has created man in his own image.
But it may be that humankind has created God in the image of humankind."
- Thich Nhat Hanh, Living Buddha, Living Christ 

Last night I "interviewed" someone important to me in my life. Someone that I don't see very often and don't talk to very often, but somebody that I love and care about. Our conversations are always interesting. This article is an attempt to summarize and capture some of the questions that we discussed last night.

What religious affiliation are you?

None. I don't have one. I am still searching.

What does this mean?

I am an agnostic. I don't identify with any specific religion.

Does God Exist?

I do not deny the existence of God or a higher power. I accept that there are forces far greater than us, but I cannot understand them, and I am OK with that. I am not arrogant enough to know how the universe was created. God is not a human being, that I am sure of! I cannot accept that which is beyond human understanding.

Have you thought about the ramifications of this?

I think it is more important to focus on living better and being a better person right now. People are too caught up in the afterlife and creationism and preaching. Like missionaries who knock on your door and want to convert you. Religion provides us with a Moral Code. It helps us to live a better life today. The afterlife is not more important than our life today.

Do you believe that you have a soul?

No. But I'm not some horrible person, I just don't believe this. We have physical brains that have all sorts of neurons and chemicals that provide us experiences that we misinterpret this way.

Who is your favorite philosopher?

Thich Nhat Hanh... a Buddhist Monk who led the 2nd largest passive resistance movement in Vietnam in the 60's. He is now in a monastery in France. He talks about improving  your daily practice here on earth. Being Mindful, being in the moment...

What is your favorite quote by Thich Nhat Hanh?

A quote that comes to mind is also the title of one of his books... "No Death No Fear". I also recommend his books, "Peace is Every Step: The Mindfulness of Everyday Life" and "Living Buddha, Living Christ"

Have you rejected your Catholic faith?


Does religion help or hurt society?

It should help to make the world a better place, but it can hurt also. Wars... fighting... Abuse of women in the Middle East, all in the name of God, etc.

This summarized the bulk of our conversation. We also talked about how spirituality helps one when dealing with death and how this is a positive thing. I also was able to listen to what it was like to be at a Quaker "Friends" meeting, where individuals gather in "silent expectant" waiting, until moved to speak on whatever subject that they are moved to do so. All are welcome. He mentioned that in the future he will "interview" me, and I welcome that opportunity.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Rahab and her Mighty Works of Faith

I hope everyone had a nice Ash Wednesday. I am ready for Lent this year, I need this. I am planning on ditching some really bad habits. Right now I'm hungry. We just got back from 7 pm Mass. It is always tough to take the little ones to a late Mass...

Something good happened to me last week. I was invited by somebody that I don't know all that well, although he is a devout Catholic, and knows that I am too. (This all happened 3 years ago when I was walking by his cubicle, and I saw a Saint calendar, a crucifix, and a small statue of Our Lady tucked away behind a large plant.) This guy is supper quiet, and I am pretty extroverted, I just walked up to him and said, "Wow, you have a very Catholic cubicle..." And we had a nice one-time conversation about Our Faith. I really didn't see or talk to him after that... but apparently, here a few years later, he is moved to my floor of the building, and I noticed him so stopped by again to say "Hello"... He then asked me if I had heard about the "Spiritual Encouragement" meeting that is being put on by a group of men during the lunch hour. This is a group open to any denomination of  Christian to meet together to talk about faith, the Bible, and to pray. And he asked me to come to the meeting. (A few years ago, there is no way I would have said Yes to something like this. I would never have "put myself out there" at work like this... and I would have been intimidated by any "sola scriptura" protestants in the group who may not agree with Catholic thinking.) But my CATHOLIC  bible study is giving me a little bit of confidence.... Maybe I can do something like this? So, I said YES!

Tomorrow my friend is leading the group (everyone is taking turns) and I know he is going to talk about Grace, and Our Sacraments... and I have a feeling there is going to be a debate ensuing.

What does all this have to do with Rahab, and Session 9 of the Bible Timeline Great Adventure? Well, while I was doing my homework last week, I learned who Rahab was while reading Chapter 2 of the Book of Joshua. Rahab was a cult prostitute in Jericho. She helped the Jewish spies when they came to hide and instead of turning them in, she professed her faith in the One True God, and asked to be saved. The red cord she hung out of her window in Joshua 2:24 is symbolic of the Passover and indeed what allowed her life to be spared when Joshua's warriors would destroy the city.

Rahab later marries into the tribe of Judah and becomes an ancestor of Jesus! She is heralded later in the bible, in Psalm 87:4 "I will be mindful of Rahab". And again in Hebrews 11:31 "BY FAITH Rahab the harlot perished not with the unbelievers". And once again in James 2:25 "And in like manner also Rahab the harlot, was not she justified by WORKS, receiving the messengers and sending them out another way?"

This is interesting and I'm stuffing this into my arsenal for when the Faith vs. Works argument comes up, as I'm sure it will. Some Christians will quote Ephesians 2:8-9 "For by grace you are saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, for it is the gift of God. Not of works, that no man may glory." They will interpret this passage that WE ARE SAVED THROUGH FAITH (ALONE). The "Alone" addition was a Martin Luther interpretation that stuck.

However, our Catholic understanding of the matter, is that we are saved by grace through faith AND works. This can be clearly seen by the entire 2nd Chapter of James. "Faith without Works is Dead!" (See James 2:17, 2:20, 2:26, well go ahead and just read the entire Chapter, it is good!)  I may not be eloquent in expressing it, but I hope I can adequately defend Our Faith in a discussion on this matter. Maybe Rahab will help me. (I need it.) God bless everyone. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

My Catholic Musings For Today

Where you as stunned as I was when you heard the news that Pope Benedict has resigned? I heard on the way to work this morning as I was dropping the kids off at day care.  It leaves such a strange feeling. Our Holy Father has been (and is) such a source of inspiration to me. I pray that his health is well. We can only wonder what is really going on in his mind and what suffering he could be going through with all of this.


Speaking of wondering what is going on... I surely cannot be the only one pondering the whereabouts of Father John Corapi. He was a sort of personal hero to me and both my husband and I spent hours listening to his talks. He is such a gifted speaker and made the Faith simply come alive. We haven't heard a peep out of him, and God only knows where he is now and what he is doing. I like to give him the benefit of the doubt and hope that he has repented of any wrong doing that may have occurred and has already long since been to confession. I hope he is living his life out in silence and obedience and has not left the Church or turned his back on his priesthood. I was working my way through his 50 volume Catechism series CDs when the scandal broke in 2011, and haven't been able to finish listening to all his CDs since then, but don't want to part with them. At some point, I will probably listen to the rest of them. Right now, it's like he is completely invisible and in fact doesn't exist. It's sad because Catholic media can't really discuss it, and can't really endorse him by playing his recorded talks, even though they are incredible to listen to. God please help him wherever he is...


So, this weekend we were running late as usual, the kids were in very rare form, and none of us had nice clothes to wear, so we had to settle for the "Church down the street" (that I don't prefer to go to Mass at, but, it is literally right down the street and super easy... so we seem to often end up there.)  It makes me squirm, because there are probably 20 Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. (A Sidebar: I used to call them "Lay Ministers" as to make them all sound less important, but the correct terminology is actually "Extraordinary Minsters of Holy Communion" - not to exalt the role in any way, but to purposely stress the fact that they are not supposed to be the norm, (it is an extra-ordinary thing after all) and you are handling the Body and Blood of Our Lord! (Not to diminish anyone who does this, but it is really overused and abused at my local parish. It is like a casual social event rather than a solemn Miracle.) 

Also, at this church, I have noticed that the Father has stopped reciting the Nicene Creed and the Cantor has stopped singing along with the Gloria. It is the strangest thing, as we have been used to having the backup. (You know how it is when you kind of "know" that popular song, and it's easy to sing along with when it is playing on the radio, but without the vocals to fall back on, there is no way you can sing the words on your own?) Well I guess that is what was happening because the silence was deafening. Pretty embarrassing. It was so obvious that nobody around me knew the words, and worse yet, they didn't know exactly where to flip to in the little red book, and nobody was saying or singing a thing. I was actually embarrassed for all of us!  I felt like I was the only one saying and singing anything! I started singing louder to fill the void, but it was only even more obvious that nobody was singing... (There were a few people in the front who were chiming in, but the HUGE VAST MAJORITY were just standing there and not saying a thing!) I kept thinking  "Whoa, people.. you better make some noise!"  It kind of seemed like the whole point was that the priest intentionally decided to be silent so that we could feel and hear for own selves the ignorance and hypocrisy evident in our congregation. And boy did I feel it. Is this happening at your parish too?   

Sunday, February 10, 2013

An unfortunate blog update...

Well, this kind of sucks, but I just went through all my posts and deleted all the pictures I had taken from Google Images after writing my posts. (Yeah, I love finding the perfect "pretty picture" for my blog after I write something.)

I was justifying this by looking for public pictures that were posted in other people's blogs, that they had taken, (if they did it, then, I guess I can't get into too much trouble, right?)

Anyway, I do not want to have to worry about any copyright infringement so I decided to just remove all the photos. (Now, my blog is going to be even more boring, but oh well, maybe it will force me to come up with better content.)

Friday, February 8, 2013

Hi! Nice to Meet Ya!

Well, It's time to shake things up just a bit. It is either do this, or delete my blog. I mean, I'm all over the place, I know... I am working out some of my issues and I know I lack direction.

When I first started this blog I wanted to make some money. (I made 3 cents.)

Then I wanted to convert the world to Catholicism. (But who am I kidding? I need to shut up and listen to you guys!!!)

For the past year I've been seeking a lot of sympathy. (Post Partum depression, hypothyroid, probably regular depression too, yikes.)

And when I lack the guts to be TRANSPARENT, I've just stuck with safe topics, like the Holy Bible. (And how I love it so!)

So, without further delay, I would like to say:

My GOAL for 2013 is COURAGE.

The Purpose of this blog (for today at least) is to Share My Joy (and occasional pains) of Catholicism and Motherhood and Working Full Time, with anyone who cares.

My mission is finding JOY and discovering how to grow closer to Christ.

For Lent I am giving up SELFISHNESS.

Here are my 3 beauties: Lauren is 6, Leah is almost 10 months, Layna is 2. (And very soon to be: 7,1,3).

Here we are at the Mexican Restaurant/Dive down the street were we can feed our family of 5 for less than $20 (except when we order one of these...)

I am a software engineer. My husband, J, is a teacher.
We usually need a drink after all the screaming and tantrums at our house:
(Although, this picture was not taken in our house, and this is a LONG STORY for another post, but it is a picture of my 2 year old in the throes of a tantrum.)
Here is our beautiful church where our youngest was baptized. This is where I drive across town to get away from all the liturgical abuses I complain about in my posts:
Oh, yes, and my name is Sharon.  Nice to Meet You, Really, It is!
I wish you a wonderful lent. GOD BLESS YOU!

A Bitter Cup...

Well, it's past midnight, and I've gotta get up at 5:00am for a dreaded all day meeting tomorrow... and my laptop battery has ~ 20% remaining, so I will try to bang out a cohesive post in the next 25 minutes so I can go to sleep. Here goes:

Today at work a coworker mentioned lent and he talked briefly about something that he wanted to give up. Somehow we got on the topic of COFFEE, and I mentioned how that is something I should consider. (I did this one year by the way, and it is HARD.) He joked how giving up coffee would be disastrous for him, and frankly, at this stage and age, I think I agreed with him. So I half-joked that I should give up drinking McDonald's coffee... (so good in the morning!) and drink the crappy coffee at work, that would be penance enough for me. He talked about how he puts massive amounts of sugar in HIS coffee and drinking his black would be extremely difficult for him. Well, I love my coffee black, and I laughed about how putting sugar IN my coffee to drink would be a sacrifice on my end.

And really, where am I going with all this?

Basically, we are all so wonderfully unique that our trials in life are completely different. I can't help but think about how I started out in life not even knowing if I wanted any kids (due to fear and selfishness), and there are countless couples out there suffering from infertility who would give anything to have kids, but cannot. I complain that "I have to work" and don't see my kids enough, while the stay at home mom of 4 across the street is complaining that she cannot find a job and wants to work. Isn't the grass always greener on the other side? Your internal every day trials and my trials may seem trivial in the face of a life threatening illness or other medical issue, but it is suffering, mental or otherwise, nonetheless and is valid and real. Yeah, even aging is a form of suffering. Who out there is excited to be "over the hill" and watch your physical youth and beauty fade away, slowly, year by year?
Some insight on Temptations yesterday from my spiritual reading can be summed up like this:  There is great variety in our trials and temptations. Some of us have very serious temptations after deciding to turn to God and live a Christian life. Some suffer cruel illnesses near the end of a very easy life. Some of us have trials every day all throughout life. Some of us have it easier than others. It is all part of God's mysterious plan and His great wisdom and justice. But one thing is this: All things given, good and bad, are for our salvation, if we follow the will of God. This is how we become saints!

Oh, how I hate suffering and have a hard time embracing my cross. (Maybe I'm not running from it, but it's more like I'm dragging it behind me...) I'm not sure how to really change this, but I know prayer can help.

And I'm not making this stuff up on my own, but rather sharing with you from what I am reading... Here are two little prayers for encouragement.

Prayer for Light

Enlighten me, O good Jesus, with the brightness of eternal light, and let all darkness depart from my heart. Let me see through my wandering thoughts and help me to replace them with good, healthy thinking. Defend me against the evil beasts that come to me in the shape of attractive desires. Bestow on me true interior peace through Your power, so that Your praise may echo within my soul as in a holy temple. Command the tempests and storms. Say to the sea, "Be still!" Call to the raging wind, "Blow Not!" And there shall be a great calm within my soul. Amen.

Prayer Against Temptations

Lord, my God, do not depart far from me. Please look upon me and help me. Evil thoughts have risen up against me and great fears afflict my soul. How am I to pass on without being harmed by them?  Show me how I may crush them. You have said, "I will go before you and will humble the great ones of the earth. I will open the gates of prison and will make known to you hidden secrets." Dear Lord, do as You say, and let all wicked thoughts and desires flee before Your face. Amen.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Do Normal People Have a Spiritual Director?

Today, I am wondering about Spiritual Direction.

I am just a pretty average "normal" person. (And what I mean by "normal" and average, is that I am not a consecrated religious, I do not have a theology degree, nor write spiritual writings for a living. I am just a struggling working mom of 3, wishing that I could be at home with my kids, but financially I need to work.) I'd be lying if I said I was not having a hard time with this. One highpoint, however, is that over the last 5 years I have REALLY turned to my faith... reading the Bible, getting to know all about Catholicism, teaching my children about our Faith and God, getting to know the Catechism. It has been great! In many writings and radio programs and religious circles and catholic forums, you'll constantly hear people referring to their "spiritual director" ... or recommend getting one, or talking to your own, (as if everyone has one.)  Well, I don't know about you, but I have seriously wondered about this, and I don't exactly feel comfortable asking the priests I hardly know, if they would be open to "spiritually directing" me. (I think this would be a huge annoying burden to them. They are busy enough as it is. And besides, isn't that type of thing reserved for priests and young men in the seminary)? I am really curious if anyone else (especially female) has ever wondered about this, and if you have sought out "spiritual direction" as a layperson. How did you do it, and who do you talk to? How often do you meet? What do you talk about?

Since I don't have a spiritual director, I am using a little book that I found, called "My Daily Bread: A Summary of the Spiritual Life" which is a short daily reflection and includes a little prayer to read everyday, that only takes one minute or so. The coolest thing is that the priest who wrote it, Father Anthony J. Paone of the Confraternity of the Precious Blood, (sometime in the 1950's) said that you can take every daily reading as a direct message to you from Our Lord and that often you will receive a singular "grace" for that day to help you in some way in your spiritual path, to grow closer to Christ.

I want to write a follow up post on The Predominant Fault to explain further about what this means and what happened to me after I prayed to God to show me what mine was. (I am still trying to figure this out, but at least I am aware now that the question needed to be asked!) Boy, do I have a long way to grow spiritually! I have been reading this little gem daily for 43 days. I keep it in my car and pull it out in the parking lot before I go into work every day. I admit, sometimes I even put it in my coat pocket and I will take it into the bathroom at work to read it to get "My Daily Bread"... it is rather addictive. It is like I have my own little makeshift spiritual director.