Monday, February 24, 2014

"My Life with the Saints" by James Martin, SJ, is an Easy Way to Discover Some Saints

Many people turn to Saints in times of trouble, for example, or for intercession. It's like having an older brother or sister who faced the same situation you're going through, one you can  turn to for inspiration or advice. They are our cheerleaders, leading us to Christ through their examples.

There are Patron Saints for various illnesses, professions, and attributes. St. Peregrine, who was cured of cancer, is the Patron Saint of those suffering from the disease. St. Therese of Lisieux, also know as The Little Flower for her little steps to Jesus, is the Patron Saint of depression. I think Blessed Mother Teresa will probably be the Patron Saint of the marginalized.

I would like to learn more about Saint Jerome, because it sounds like he had the same difficulty I have with playing nice. His biting sarcasm made him enemies, even in the Church. Like when he snarked about some Roman clergy,  "All their anxiety is about their clothes.... You would take them for bridegrooms rather than for clerics; all they think about is knowing the names and houses and doings of rich ladies." Ouch.

Have you ever wanted to meet a few Saints but you just didn't have time to delve into their lives detail? Or maybe you weren't sure which Saint might speak to you -- who you might relate to -- and you didn't want to pick through several books.

"My Life with the Saints" is one book that contains stories of many saints.  Written by James Martin, SJ, (that would be Society of Jesus, which makes him a Jesuit) Father Martin introduces several Saints he met during his journey as a priest. Told in an easy-to-read conversational style, the book relates how Father discovered each holy person and what he learned from their example.

Saints he covers include Joan of Arc, Therese of Lisieux, Ignatius of Loyola, Thomas Merton, the Ugandan Martyrs, and Mother Teresa. You can see from the list that not all are canonized Saints and not all are individuals, but  all of these people lived their faith with conviction (and sometimes died for it,) and their example can bring us closer to Jesus.

Winner of the Christopher Award, which salutes media that  "affirm the highest values of the human spirit."

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Was Miley Cyrus Sexually Abused? Why Isn't Anyone Asking?

From this

To This

We see her onstage imitating fellatio, simulating sex with older men, and masturbating with a giant hand. We giggle or gasp or frown. Feminists say it's just a woman expressing herself and are pleased. Those with solid moral standards dismiss her behavior as slutty.  Some men (especially father's with daughters) are shocked; some men, those who appreciate a chance to objectify women, are gratified.

Why isn't anyone asking the obvious question? Is Miley Cyrus' behavior a result of having been sexually abused?

Sexually abused girls, with their lowered sense of self worth and their skewed view of sexuality, tend to act out. They sleep around. They use sex for attention, or as a means to be loved. They have so little sense of worth that they believe how others view their body defines their value. Or they act out as a means of having control. Sound familiar?

You can hear the stories of those who have been abused from Oprah or Johnnette Benkovic. Or check out support groups for those who were victims of sexual predators. They all say the same thing: Their abuse resulted in promiscuity, which reinforced their low view of themselves.

Miley might have given us a clue when she labeled her congregation as hypocrites. Was her abuser someone she trusted? A youth minister? A member everyone else viewed as especially holy?

She also got into drugs. Sexually abused minors often turn to drugs to numb the pain and humiliation of what they've gone through.

There are so many clues pointing to this young woman's possible abuse, but our culture is so fixed on objectifying women that we're ignoring the obvious. From the media's emphasis on women as sexual objects to our politicians' push for sexually active minors, we're making it easier for abuser. Abortions for 12-year-olds without parental notification? A predator's dream come true. No awkward questions. No proof.

Is this young woman really enjoying herself? Or is she crying out for help?

We don't know, because no one has asked the question.

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Novena of the Little Way, or How to Have Peace When the Toilet Overflows

Image of Oakbrook Terrace Tower
from Wikipedia. I used to work here.
We live in a society that thinks BIG is the answer. Bigger servings at restaurants. Bigger vehicles. Bigger paychecks.

Sometimes, this translate into our prayer life. I must say the entire Rosary. A single Hail Mary or Our Father isn't worth as much. A quick prayer in the car as I'm driving to my appointment isn't worth it. I'll wait to talk with Jesus until I can get on my knees and spend at least fifteen minutes in prayer. I'll wait to do it right,that is, BIGTIME.

Bigger isn't always better. Just ask me after I take one more bite of Peruvian Fried Rice. And have you ever tried to park in between two SUVs? That mindset - everything needs to be BIG - can get in our way.
Can you imagine ignoring your spouse or your child as you dash out the door? "A quick I love you isn't worth my time. I'll talk to you when I have time to sit down and have a big, long conversation." Sometimes what we can give at the moment is enough.

When a woman in a writing group announced that she had a medical worry, she asked us to say a novena for her.  A novena is a prayer that lasts nine days. It can be a Rosary with additional prayers, or a set of prayers along with the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be. It can be time consuming.

My typical reaction would be, "Oh, sure. I'll find time in-between bleaching the kitchen grout and scrubbing the dog's butt hairs." (Yes. I'm serious. About both.) And then she explained.

Her novena was so incredibly simple.  As frustrations come up during the day, like trying to catch the dog to clean his bottom, offer them up for your intention. That's it. And if it sounds too easy, just pause a moment and reflect on how many frustrations come up during a normal day. Pretty powerful, which is no surprise, since it came from a Saint.

Therese de Lisieux, the Little Flower, is known for her Little Way to Jesus.  She insisted that she was too small to do BIG things like the great saints, but if she offered the small things to Him, it would be like taking a stairway to God. A step at a time. If she raised her arms to Jesus, he wouldn't be able to resist and would lift her up, much the same way that people can't resist picking up a beckoning toddler. Jesus turns the steps into an elevator to the top.

So she was nice to that nun who was mean to her. She offered up her irritation during prayer time, when an older nun's clicking Rosary beads drove her crazy. (Isn't it comforting to know that a Saint can get hacked off by the same things that bug me?) She took little steps toward Jesus, and now she's a Saint. A BIG Saint, with a capital S.

And so I employed her technique. When Buster passed up the wide open hillside did a messy job on someone's private front lawn, I offered up the cleanup process. When the computer glitched again and again, up it went to God. Whenever we attempt holiness, the enemy jumps in to distract us, but this time it backfired. He gave me so many opportunities to offer my frustrations to God, and something wonderful began to happen. God always rewards our efforts.

As I continued this process, the things that would normally have me shaking my fist and swearing like a sailor ... well, they didn't bother me so much.

I went to the church office to help out, and because of computer problems, I wasted an hour before we had to give up for the day. Me, the same woman who left my chiropractor's office in a stressed-out tiff because I waited fifteen minutes past my appointment time, wasn't bothered.

When I had to make a Rosary bracelet special request, the wire kept breaking. I persevered and finally found the right gauge wire. (Note to self. Mark those bags of wire.)

The website problem that has brought me to tears? I went at it step by step until I found the solution. (I really think the Holy Spirit had something to do with that one, because I'm incapable of figuring out problems on the computer.)

* * *

I took a break from writing this blog to walk the dog. I had to cross a busy street because some jerk had her dogs off-leash, even though the park signs clearly say All dogs must be on a leash. I really, really hate this. It's rude. It's inconsiderate. It's stupid. It shows a disregard for other people and the dogs, who could be hit by cars or attacked by other loose dogs or coyotes. It's lazy. The dogs ran around while she texted on her phone.

Just as I was working up a deep breath to bellow at her, I remembered my novena. Though I grumbled a bit about being deprived of the satisfaction of telling her what I thought about her rude, inconsiderate, stupid, lazy ways, I gave it to God. And my anger dissipated. (Truly. I'm smiling as I write this. Well, maybe not smiling, but the urge to kill something is gone.)

Our lives are never going to be free of frustrations, so why not offer them up for your special intention? Try it. Then let me know how it worked out for you.