Monday, April 24, 2017

“Please, talk to me about love, Mommy, Daddy.”

“Please, talk to me about love, Mommy, Daddy.”

Notes from a conference in French “S’il-vous-plaît, parlez-moi d’amour”given at the Diocese’s offices March 29th, 2017 by Inès Pélissié du Rausas, a mother who has written books on how parents can form their children well at the various stages of their development in ways appropriate to each age to understand and live well their human sexuality. 

Inès advocates precocious but progressive education of children with tenderness by their parents in contrast to the intrusion of culture and society which, truthfully, is erroneous, violent, and damaging, all too often ruining or at the very least hurting our children’s innocence and ability to appreciate all the beauty, truth, and goodness of the gift of life entrusted to them by God and their own great dignity and that of others.
As lionesses are so ferocious in defending their young; so too should we be as parents to defend and form our children regarding their vocation, their calling to eternal life, which is at stake, and the spiritual strength God offers us with Marriage and family life. Let us think not only of our own children, but also of the children of others and of the poor. We need to rediscover or to acquire for the first time our spinal column, our backbone, and stand up for our children, for our family, for our Marriage, for others, for the poor, for the Church, for humanity, and for God.
With the Holy Spirit we have at hand an infinite variety of new solutions to age old problems created when people – motivated by so many hidden goals driving them – tamper with our children and seek to “play around” with their innocent, vulnerable, trusting and hearts. No one must play around with our children’s hearts!

PRESSURES AND LOBBIES

There are 3 lobbies and “outside interests” putting considerable pressure everywhere and all the time on our children, and particularly on what the marketing strategists call “pre-adolescents”. In reality, there is no such thing as a pre-adolescent unless it is in the interest of someone to target children in the “latency stage” in view of influencing them in advance of becoming adolescents. The latency stage is what children live from the age of 6 until puberty, when in principle all sexual things don’t interest them or are even repugnant to them. In other words, there are interests out there addressing our children in the latency stage as though they were already adolescents, or potential adolescents, or children wanting to become adolescents. These interests threaten to interrupt the safety of the latency stage as they prematurely stimulate the imagination of children and, in so doing, to damage their innocence.

Tactic # 1.                   Under the pretext of taking the defense of freedoms / liberties and equality, such as, for example, the fight against AIDS, all manner of misinformation and outright lies are propagated, always with the overhanging threat of severe reprisals upon anyone who might dare to oppose this tactic in real life and time.

Tactic # 2.                   Consider all the frantic activity around pornography – such as with the considerable pressure on parents to provide their young children with an I-Pad, or I-Phone, or Laptop, or their equivalent – to sever the safety ties of young children to their parents and make them free to “roam” and be led astray by any number of “wolves” in sheep’s clothing presented to them in any number of creative and cleverly disguised ways.
        All pornographic voices and images and words speak of prostitution – none of them speak of love, not of true love, nor of divine love – but always of pleasure, greed, power, and domination. Solicitation to draw children into various forms of prostitution of their bodies as pleasure objects and to treat others not as persons but as pleasure objects often takes violent forms but is always aggressive with dangerous consequences.                                  
                    The person of the child is hurt, damaged, within their very self, but they also become dangerous for others by being conditioned to believe that they are incapable of mastering or restraining their own impulses.

SOLUTION                   We must do all we can to protect our children against these attacks and form them to learn to avoid such animal and predatory behaviors as are portrayed and promoted by pornography in all its forms. What is hopeful is that with children we can always repair any damage, and they can always learn and grow. With a child we can always love and begin afresh.

Tactic # 3.                   We have all become painfully aware of and familiar with the latest new ideology which aggressively seeks to impose on young and vulnerable children and adolescents and even young adults a burden to select their own gender, as if our gender were an “à la carte” activity for human beings. Gender ideology negates human sex and gender by replacing male and female with homosexual and heterosexual, M - F with H - H.
                        This new ideology seeks to replace the individuality and complementarity of our human nature as designed by God with pleonasm – that is, with what is the same as, with redundancy – favoring what is the same as me, rejecting what is different from me. It is the destruction of the richness of complementarity for the sake of the identical.

SOLUTION                   We must avoid using any other terms than those given to us by God – male and female – and simply say that I am woman, or I am man, girl or boy. The term “heterosexual” was coined by a German who wanted to promote homosexual activity in the 18th/19th century. He used from the Greek “heteros” which means different and “sexue” or in Latin “sexus” which means separate or different. In other words, the term is redundant, saying the same thing twice. It’s a clever trick to annihilate the final purpose of our human sexuality – which is life and union for life and stability in Marriage and family life – and replace it with individuals seeking after their own pleasure.                          
                             In the Creator’s plan for our happiness, the finality of our human sexuality is union and fecundity, life and family. These other “interests” want to promote “sex ed” – that is, education to sexual practices that it is claimed “everyone wants” and how to practice them providing safety and protection from sexually transmitted infections and diseases. However, there is never any question or concern in “sex ed” to protect the person in all that we are and can be.
                             Such “sex ed” ignores and tramples the meaning and beauty of the human body as well as the body’s union to relationship, marriage, children, and family, and the truth that we all want to be loved. All the “dirty” content damages the child’s heart by presenting a perversion of human sexuality. The solution is to reach the child’s heart by treating with the truth, love, beauty, and life, which is good news, and “different from what you have seen”, what is presented out there in the world, in culture, and in the various media of mass and social communication.

SUMMARY         The pre-adolescent or rather the child in the latency and innocent stage is “beaten up or mugged” by publicity which treats him like and adolescent when he isn’t one yet.

First we have to present love as beautiful before we can treat what is dirty, false, violent, etc. We only have to look at video clips that turn various scenarios into pornography. Porn is to be avoided by everyone in all of its forms, because this garbage expresses itself in the heart and hardens it. The world of “hot” folks is actually glacial… cold… without real love which builds the other up without exploiting him or her.

7 to 8 years old is the age of reason which introduces a new form of stability for the child who leaves infancy behind.

6 or 7 to 12 is the latency period during which a form of modesty awakens and manifests itself in different ways. From now on the child wants to bathe alone, now having a greater awareness of himself, of his body. 

As a result the boy displays a kind of repugnance for everything sexual and even for marks of affection for members of the opposite sex.

The young girl for her part may begin to keep an intimate diary which must be protected from her brothers.

In any case parents must gently open their child to others during this period during which both girls and boys are inclined to close in on themselves.

In the west for the past 100 years puberty has been advancing and showing itself younger; without doubt due to pollution and the increased presence of estrogen in the environment due to the pill and other sources which end up in the waters and the soils and, as a result, in the food chain.

THE CHILD IN THE LATENCY STAGE

Paradox # 1.                       The child is really connected but very alone. He has a great need to be loved. Parents should ask themselves, “Does my child know that I love him?” Even in the culture we see evidence of this unavoidable truth as, for example, in the “Harry Potter” series of novels we see from beginning to end the conviction that “evil can do nothing against the sacrificial love of a mother.”
                Our children need to be absolutely loved by their parents, no matter the conditions. In addition there is the even greater good that they are wanted and loved by God. Let’s do what we must so that they can bathe in the love of God.

Paradox # 2.                       During this latency stage the child puts forward “me by myself” but for all that we continue to deliberately accompany, congratulate, and surround him with our love, perhaps a little more discretely, but just as truly and personally, despite the new “distance”.

Paradox # 3.                       External autonomy versus interior liberty – The child now becomes more competent in getting around and doing things, but going about taking care of his own needs by himself requires maturity, more than he is likely to have at this age. His incomplete maturity requires a degree of support that varies from one child to another. Parents need to observe and realize that during this latency stage the child cannot yet be really mature or entirely autonomous.                                                                                                                           Here lies the great challenge for the parent who is too busy and tired: to recharge his strength and energy for the good of the child in his suffering, pain, and shadows. The challenge is all the greater for the parent still living with his own sufferings, pain, and shadows; which he must manage privately in order to continue providing the emotional education of the child. This emotional education of the child becomes all the more difficult in view of the child’s own interior states. At this level, what the parent is going through can make him more compassionate to the states through which his child is passing, and this same compassion can allow the parent to sufficiently forget himself to attend to his child’s needs.
                          In the matter of emotional education in his human nature and sexuality, the child has the right to see, to hear, and to know his parents’ love story, and thus, his origins. It doesn’t matter if one of the parents and spouses is no longer around. The remaining parent must put aside all recrimination he may feel against his ex- spouse; because the child has both the right and the need to know about his origins in the love that his parents had for one another, and hence, for him their child.

EMOTIONAL AND SEXUAL EDUCATION OF CHILDREN BEFORE ADOLESCENCE

The emotional and sexual education of our children needs to happen before they enter into adolescence, and it can begin as soon as they ask questions that remotely or closely touch all that has to do with their origin or sexuality. This education of the child by their parent must always be done with great tenderness and affection; for this is the most faithful expression of the truth about love which gives life not only at the beginning but which continues to give life all during life. Given the human and cultural situation in which we currently live, parents need reference points in order to effectively embark on the emotional and sexual education of their children.

Reference point # 1.                      Human love is lived in the world of human persons. Human beings are not things, not animals, not machines, not toys, but persons. We, human beings, we are a living network of body, soul, spirit, mind, and heart. So we’re not talking about a model of animal instinct as in wild or domesticated beasts. We are not human beasts, but rather human persons. This is why we absolutely reject all forms of pornography, of prostitution, or of perverted sexuality which, in every case, showcases instinctual, impulsive, and therefore, animal behaviors and activities.  

Reference point # 2.                      Your body – is you – it is not a thing which belongs to you, but you are your body at the same time that you are also your soul, your spirit, your mind, and your heart, which all together form the person that you are. So what your body lives, you live it too. That is why all behaviors which deform the human person and human sexuality by whatever pornographic expression – such as submission to concupiscence or instinctive behaviors such as fellatio and others – are a disruption of your dignity.                                          Serial or repeated sexual relations harden the heart which becomes incapable of truly loving or being loved; which brings deep suffering of isolation and interior cold. Having recourse to pornography causes the person with a hard heart no longer to believe in real love or even in life. Such a person may either be swallowed up in the impulse to suicide or may seek an escape in the artificial option of “no sex” or refusing to identify with any gender: “I am neither male nor female, neither man nor woman”.

Reference point # 3.                      Faced wit hall this pollution of ideas, of propaganda, and of interior states, what do we say to our children? “I am made to love… I have a heart.” The parent can and must soak the heart of their child in love and the child will himself or herself recognize “garbage” assertions. In the same way that one must wax well with many repetitions a piece of furniture made from high quality wood to protect it from stains; so must parents must “wax well” their children’s hearts, spirits, minds, and souls. The “layers” of wax are so many intimate moments of complicity with their child as they entertain all sorts of assertions about love – about their parents’ love but also about God’s love – of which he, the child, is the product and of which he continues to be the object, and of which he is also now becoming the subject, capable of loving in his turn in a disinterested fashion with a sacrificial love.

VOCABULARY EVOCATIVE AND FORMATIVE TO THE VOCATION TO LOVE

The mommy’s tummy, the mommy’s uterus is a safe cradle for the baby right next to the mommy’s heart where the baby hears his mommy’s heart, and together they make the music of two hearts beating together.

How will the baby come out of mommy’s tummy? The baby will come out by a little path reserved for life and for love, reserved for the baby to live, and also reserved for love and therefore for the daddy.

The vagina of the mommy is made only for life and for love.

The anus is for something else, to let the body get rid of garbage.
The channel for pee is also for getting rid of garbage, even if it seems to be the same channel for two different things, it is only part of it which is shared, but by only one thing at a time.


THE TIDAL WAVE OF INNOCENT CHILDREN'S QUESTIONS

How did the baby get into mommy’s tummy?

Path of love # 1.           The baby entered into mommy’s tummy be the same special path that the baby will take to come out on his birthday. It is the little path reserved for life and for love, for the heart.

Path of love # 2.           Daddy and Mommy love each other and tell each other, but it isn’t enough – just like when you are glad to see me and give me a hug – so Daddy and Mommy give each other a special hug.

Path of love # 3.           When the heart of the daddy and the mommy are full of love; then the daddy’s heart is also full of love and he is able to give all his love to the mommy. The Daddy’s rod gently lifts up and is able to enter into the mommy’s path which is reserved for life and for love.

Path of love # 4.           Then there is a crowning of their love… there is great joy in their united hearts and bodies, and it is from this love that the child begins to exist in the mommy’s tummy.

ADOLESCENTS

The education of our children belongs to our right and our duty to think and to speak. Various ideologies try to intimidate us and reduce us to silence, but it is more essentially our right and our duty to speak more precisely to our children who, for their part, have both the right and the need to know the whole truth about their life and their origin, their human nature, and their human sexuality. Adolescents now observe the dichotomy among the various voices demanding their attention and allegiance; so we must approach them with a much more precise language.

Approach # 1.                  Confronted by all the voices speaking of human sexuality, with adolescents we need to talk all the more precisely, because they have a greater need to understand more concretely.

Approach # 2.                  We must also speak to them of the interior battle and of self mastery; that as human persons we have a great capacity for self-control, but we must exercise it, and that our self mastery grows with time and practice, and that the love of God is the source of our interior strength. It is God who loves us first and who draws us to love Him, to love others, and to love ourselves.

Approach # 3.                  It is good and necessary for us to elicit in the child – and eventually the adolescent – admiration for the perfection of love. Loving is like having a good voice. To sing well one must see and know the partition well. The lyrics and notes of the partition are: respect for the other, fidelity to the other, tenderness towards the other, and paying attention to the expectations of the other.

Approach # 4.                  Homophilia – at the beginning of adolescence youth find reassurance in their peers and can feel all kinds of emotions towards their peers, but there is nothing sexual about it. However today the culture (which for decades has been manipulated by those with strategic agendas to change society’s attitudes) so the culture tries to sexualize the other. Unfortunately, this sexualization of the other renders more difficult any ordinary true and disinterested friendship without any sexual overtones.

Approach # 5.                  One must certainly not listen to voices that advocate “trying everything” in terms of sexual activity, because we have a “body memory” which even after a single act colors everything that follows. That is why outside of the loving relationship of one man and one woman in a committed, permanent, exclusive, and faithful union, such as in marriage, all sexual activity conditions the human heart on a path of egoism and the quest for personal pleasure; which hardens the human heart and makes true love all the more difficult.

Approach # 6.                  A youth can become aware of a “dragger” or homosexual predator trying to impose on him or her. This youth must understand – this is absolutely essential – that “feeling” something is not “consenting”. The youth, like any human person, remains ever free to ask himself, “What do I want?” and “Is this good or not?” the “No!” of which I am capable in my conscience protects me in order to one day be able to say a beautiful “Yes!” to the person that I will choose to love and who will love me in return.

Approach # 7.                  The young adolescent woman like the young adult woman can find herself temporarily in the condition of “homo femini” or fear of male sexuality because of its violent portrayal in pornography. She must learn from her parents that it isn’t really like that in a loving relationship between human persons.

Parents, have many gratuitous moments sitting down face to face with your child. See the relationship of befriending when the fox meets the little prince. We must approach gently, and that takes time. For boys, it’s better by the father; but if not, the mother must do it. For example, the mother can say to him, “Your father and I want to tell you…”

THE SPIRITUAL LIFE OF CHILDREN

Original sin consists in man and woman turning away from their relationship with God the Creator to prefer making up their own life, their own reality, their own universe, their own definition of human life and of good and evil. There is nothing more painful in our human condition than this isolation from God, who is not only our origin in love but also our destiny.

That is why it is essential for parents to introduce their child to God. However, we cannot give what we do not already possess. Still, with God, it is never too late. So, the simple realization by parents that there is somewhere within them some sort of desire to give their children what is best can already open within them the gateway to all that is “beyond”. These are the opportunities in real time, in the present moment, to give their children the “sacraments” or knowledge of God, or prayer, or spirituality, or faith.

The heart of the Judeo-Christian Tradition is clearly that the God who is good and loving, the Creator of the Universe, wants to have a relationship of friendship and love with every human person. God, who is infinitely rich, wants to give us everything, but all the obstacles that exist are within us… the “gates” within us are not always open, or else they are not always open wide.

BAPTISM – At Baptism God the Holy Trinity engenders within the human person a “family relationship” of adoption introducing the person – even a newborn baby – into the heart of the relationship of communion already existing from all eternity and which “defines” the divine being we call God and whose nature Jesus has revealed as a “communion of divine persons in a single divine being”. The life that exists in God in perfect love and perfect harmony begins to “flow” or “vibrate” in us, and we begin to “live in God”. As for everything else regarding our human life on Earth, this new life “in God” must be cultivated, first by our parents and godparents, but gradually by the free and motivated participation of the child himself or herself.

CONFIRMATION – Whether it is the day after its birth or at 11 / 12 years old, at its confirmation or chrismation the child receives a new “effusion” or “outpouring of the Holy Spirit of God” as the apostles and 100 or so other disciples received as they gathered around the Mother of Jesus in the Upper Room on the day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit is ever at work to infuse his gifts: piety for greater respect for the works of God, especially man and woman, girl / boy; and all the other spiritual gifts for the person and the charisms for the good of others and the Church. Parents can and must help their child to see himself or herself as loved by God and that they receive themselves from God in love. Their gender – female or male / man or woman – was given to them at their conception and will ever manifest itself and develop.

HOLY COMMUNION – as the mother gives of her blood / milk in nursing her baby at the maternal breast, so does Jesus – risen from the dead and Son of God – give of himself as spiritual food to communicants, giving us in holy communion a veritable “transfusion” of the divine life He possesses with his Father and the Holy Spirit. Our sharing in the divine life of love which is in God and in which we are initiated through Baptism is not yet “permanent” on this Earth, but it will only be permanent in Heaven when we will have accomplished our life and mission.

ANOINTING OF THE SICK – As He did in Palestine, Jesus continues to heal the sick and wounded while forgiving sins and driving out evil spirits who at various times torment the baptised.

PENANCE – RECONCILIATION – Jesus allows us to meet Him face to face as He did when He walked the Earth through the representatives He gives himself and whom He sends us in the persons of his priests (HOLY ORDERS).

MARRIAGE – To those who believe in Him and who put their trust in Him Jesus vouches that their love will reflect his faithful and sacrificial love for his Church, his Beloved, the body of all his assembled faithful disciples.

P.S.: Genesis portrays God’s creation of humans as man and woman in original innocence. Sin divided us into man or woman. Patriarchy is domination by man. Feminism reduces us to neither man nor woman. Gender ideology seeks to neutralize our innate human gender as woman or man by replacing our identity with the illusion of a “choice”. For its part, the “gay” culture and homosexual “lobby” prey on young children before puberty and young adolescents who are likely to be experiencing temporary “Homophilia” as they develop, in a deliberate strategy to impose their ideology on them precisely when they are most vulnerable. Their objective is to have the young “fall” and identify themselves as “gay” or “lesbian” and, in effect, deny and abandon their great dignity as girl or boy, woman or man, in accord with the gender with which they were endowed at their conception. The good news is that Jesus Christ our Lord restores lost innocence and our capacity for the reciprocal gift of self for which our gender as man or woman empowers us, and which is God’s gift to us to enable us to live our human life and love in the image and likeness of God the Holy Trinity.

These notes were taken from a conference given March 29th, 2017 at the offices of the Archdiocese of Montreal by Inès Pélissié du Rausas with added thoughts by me. He book containing a much more complete and detailed explanation of her instructions to parents is entitled:

“S’il te plait, parle-moi de l’amour ! »

It is available from Amazon in France at this link: https://www.amazon.fr/Sil-te-pla%C3%AEt-parle-moi-lamour/dp/2351170059 

or at Amazon.ca at: https://www.amazon.ca/Sil-plait-maman-parle-moi-lamour/dp/2351170644/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1492705376&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=S%27il+te+pla%C3%AEt%2C+parle-moi+de+l%27amour+%21%2C+In%C3%A8s+P%C3%A9lissi%C3%A9+du+Rausas

Saturday, April 08, 2017

The suicide of a loved one provokes an upheaval in the survivors

WHAT HAPPENS TO US WHEN WE DIE?

Human beings are mortal, that is, in our current condition we cannot avoid dying. Once we grow out of infancy - sooner or later - we come to realize that we will one day die, that our life as we know it on planet Earth will come to an end. How we understand our mortality and what we do with this knowledge determines to a great degree the quality of our life here, the range of possibilities for the time we have, our openness to meaningful relationships with others, and also what we can expect after the passage through our death.

Death precipitates or "forces" to happen what we call the "last things", that is, "What will happen to us after we die?" The Jewish and Christian traditions believe that God has revealed to humanity what to expect immediately after we die. Death is the first of the "four last things" which are: death, judgement, heaven, or hell.

DOES GOD EXIST? - Death is one of those human realities that is inescapable. Long before we may ever come close to our own death or even its possibility, we are confronted by the death of all other living things and, in time, the death of someone we know and may even love intrudes rudely into our life and awareness. As it does, it causes an upheaval within us of questions, doubts, and fears amid a whole range of human emotions, many of which are intense and unpleasant. The natural human impulse is to live in denial and avoid even the mere thought of death, but death is one of those things that just won't go away and, sooner or later, we need to face up to it.

One of the first effects which death provokes within us is the question about God. GOES GOD EXIST? Either God exists or he doesn't exist, which leaves every human being in one of three states:

  1. I believe in God or
  2. I think God may exist but I'm not sure or
  3. I don't believe in God

1. I believe in God

We are all so different, but if God exists, then it makes sense that everyone should be able to come into a real and lively connection with God, based on the evidence from the Jewish and Christian sacred or inspired Scriptures contained in "The Bible". If one single thing is unmistakably clear from the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, it is that God exists and that He wants a real, personal relationship with every single human being who is willing to be open to what it is that God offers.

To believe in God is, in other words, to at least - or to begin with - to "give God the benefit of the doubt" or to go on with our life "as though God exists" and to believe that "God is trustworthy or deserves my trust or has given sufficient proof that He is good and means me no harm but only good.

This fundamental or basic act of belief and trust opens the human mind, heart, and spirit to the divine being that is God. God has revealed to Jews and Christians that He respects our freedom; so He needs our consent in order to enter into our life in a real and substantial way. Once a person is willing to believe in and trust God, their trust allows God to respond to their faith and He is now free, in full respect for their freedom of conscience, to take initiatives that the believer begins to experience in a more personal way.

How each person actually experiences God varies from person to person, given our unique human profile at every level, but there are consistencies because of the stability that is in God. The Bible records God's revelation to the Jewish People as He told them of his "ways". We know this to be true in our human relationships, that each person has his or her own "ways" of thinking, feeling, acting, behaving, and otherwise expressing themselves. Well, so does God have "his ways" and we can know what his ways are by reading the Bible, by sharing with other people, and through our own personal experience of God.

When all of these sources "line up" in a consistent way, then we know we are on the right track. When they don't line up and there are inconsistencies and contradictions, then we know we need to do more research, we need to consult those wise and holy people who know God better than we do.

2. I think God may exist but I'm not sure

It is clear from the above that if God exists, then He is a being that wants a personal relationship with human beings. For this reason, as long as a person remains trapped in the labyrinth of the mind and tries to go about understanding God or his existence as a problem to be solved intellectually; then it is very unlikely that much progress will be made. There would remain too many unanswered questions such as those that follow.

One thing is certain and it is this, that as long as a person remains exclusively in the mind, it is not likely that they will experience God personally. Why not? Because God is bigger than our mind and we cannot succeed in trying to make God fit into our mind. God is a divine being, an infinite being who has no limits, which means that He is eternal. God had no beginning and will have no end, and we cannot understand that. If we try to understand it by our intellect alone, we are likely to come to the logical conclusion that it cannot possible be true because it makes no sense to our intellect.

On the other hand, there is something in the human being that has a glimpse of the infinite, of the eternal. Believers understand that our human spirit or soul continues after death, that it contains the essence of the person we are becoming throughout our life, and this essence of who we are does not end in the death of the body but goes on. Our soul is in fact immortal, it will have no end. Our soul is not infinite or eternal like God, because unlike God, our soul had a beginning. It was created at the very same moment that we were conceived in our mother's womb. So our soul is "forever young" and it has within it a "homing beacon" aimed towards God or a "nostalgia for eternity".

Still, as long as we explore these mysteries and realities exclusively through the intellect, there remains between us a chasm that we are unable to cross by our own efforts. God wants a relationship and this means we need to allow God room to take initiatives and to respond to our prayers and to provoke or challenge us; as any friend would do and actually does in real life.

As long as a person remains predominantly unsure or uncertain, then, it is probably because that person is keeping God at a "safe distance". It's sort of like a young man who loves women from a distance but feels very uncomfortable when one of them gets "too close" because he is not ready yet to enter into friendship with "a real woman". In reverse it's the same for a young woman who loves men from a distance but feels very uncomfortable when one of them gets "too close" because she is not ready yet to enter into friendship with "a real man".

3. I don't believe in God

Some people appear not to believe in God but in actual fact they probably would believe in God if they could discover God as He truly is. In other words, many people seem to reject representations of God that are in fact an insult to the true God as He is in himself. As my friend Bishop Tom Dowd loves to say, "I don't believe in their god either!" In other words, the distorted image of God that people reject, well, we also reject those distorted images of God. In so many ways God has been given a "bad rap" and all too often those who are guilty are believers, both laity and clergy.

Other people who don't believe in God or who deny the existence of God come to this conviction because of their great love for humanity, for the environment, and for the universe. These are often very sensitive human beings and also very bright. They love life, other people, and the world, and it torments them to see the terrible state of human society, of the environment, and of life in general. Because we find ourselves in such a mess, these good folks find it offensive to think that God exists precisely because of the mess. This brings us to a few hard questions to which atheists or agnostics can find no answer.

IF GOD EXISTS, WHY DOES HE ALLOW EVIL?

God has revealed much about himself, about his creation of the universe, about life, and about us in his "revealed word" in Sacred Scripture as we find it in The Bible. It is abundantly clear beginning with the creation narrative in Genesis right through to the end of the prophetic statement of hope in God's final triumph over evil in the Book of Revelation that God created us human beings with a very precious gift - our faculty of will - which includes intelligence, sensitivity and feeling, judgement, a capacity for decision and commitment, and conscience.

God created human beings to be free because He intends for us to enjoy friendship with God. Even though God is a divine being, mysteriously composed of three divine persons in one single divine being - as revealed by Jesus and as reported in the four Gospels - what is amazing is that this great and infinitely superior being has created us capable of friendship with Him. We can best come to understand the intentions and attitudes of God by looking at good human parents. Although they are superior to their children in age, experience, and wisdom, still they desire to one say enjoy with their children a relationship of friendship as equal to equal, though different. Parents desire that one day their children will get over their immature resentments and generously decide to show their parents respect and kindness, offering them the benefit of the doubt with regards to their parents' faults.

Parental love and devoted service is a fairly good reflection of the infinitely greater and more perfect love that God has for us human beings, his creations, as we discover that He is inviting us to come into a loving relationship with the Holy Trinity as beloved children of the Father, beloved brothers and disciples of Jesus Son of God, and beloved living dwellings of the Holy Spirit.

WHAT IS EVIL? 

Evil could then be defined as anything that would hinder the wonderful plan of God for the perfection of his creation and the unfolding of his desire that human beings experience life in all its abundance in a loving relationship with our Creator. Evil also includes anything that brings human beings to do harm to themselves or to others or to God's creation, or to hinder others from entering more fully into God's wonderful plan for our happiness and fruitfulness.

God has revealed that evil was first introduced by a rebellious angel, "Satan" or the "Devil" into his Creation and caused disorder - first among angels - and then among the first human beings. The names attributed to "the rebel" mean "the accuser" or "the opponent", that is, the one who accuses God, opposes God, and accuses human beings, the enemy of humanity and of God.

WHY DID and DOES GOD ALLOW EVIL?

It was only out of love and extravagant generosity that God created anything at all, but especially that He created living beings with the faculty of free will; so that both angels and human beings, we would be capable not only of receiving love but also of giving true, selfless, self-giving love.

The simple existence of freedom introduces the possibility of disobedience, rebellion, or refusal to go along with God's plan, preferring instead to follow other plans and opinions, thereby rejecting God in order to pursue one's own "original paths". Only God loves perfectly and infinitely; so only God's plans can bring about perfect outcomes of love and abundant life for all involved. In rejecting the plan and will of God, the devil and other rebellious angels introduced chaos and instability into the order of God's Creation, and when human being succumbed to the same temptation, that chaos and instability was also introduced into our existence on Earth.

The result is that we are inclined now to reject God and prefer our own will, and in so doing, we do harm to ourselves and to others, and we have lost our capacity to enjoy God's friendship and love. All that we touch tends to turn out badly, and whereas death would have been a much anticipated and blessed transition from mortality to immortality, from Earth to Heaven; now death is something that we fear and loath. Ending our own life is the logical outcome of refusing God's will, of being unable or unwilling to trust in God or in his love for us.

Still, God has allowed evil and continues to allow it because, like a good parent, God our Creator and Father wants all his children to have the pleasure and satisfaction of working with our Father to bring about his perfect solution to all the evil in the world, beginning each of us with our own life.

IF GOD EXISTS AND HE ALLOWS EVIL, WHAT IS GOD DOING ABOUT EVIL? 

The entire Bible is a chronicle of what God has been doing and continues to do about evil. The highlight is when God sent his divine Son into the world to become human like us through the cooperation of Myriam of Nazareth - Mary - who accepted to conceive Him through the power and overshadowing of the Holy Spirit and gave Him birth in Bethlehem, calling Him Jesus with the love and support of her husband Joseph.

Jesus showed us how it is now possible, with the help and power of the Holy Spirit, for human beings to live once again in friendship with God, as beloved children of God, in lively communities of faith which Jesus called his "Church" or "Assembly" of all those who believe in Him and have been initiated into his mysteries or, in other words, have been introduced into a sharing with Jesus in the life, love, and vitality of the Holy Trinity.

God tells us that we can know that we love God and have welcomed the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit into our lives when we see that we live and conduct ourselves just as Jesus did. We cannot do this on our won, but can only do it in a trusting relationship with God the Father through Jesus and by the power of love and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Jesus' Church is the "home on Earth" in the midst of which we have access to the divine life that is in God and which Jesus wants to pour into us.

IF GOD EXISTS, HE ALLOWS EVIL, AND HE IS DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT, THEN WHAT DO I DO? 

Simply put then, all that God asks and expects from human beings is that we accept to participate as fully as we can in our own life, in the lives of others as good neighbors and citizens, and in the whole world around us, and that we awaken to the presence of God, to the ongoing contribution of God, and to the love of God which is driving all that exists and all that God does. To put this in terms that our children would use and understand, it is like God is saying to humanity, "Here I am, will you come out and play?" We can accept to come out and play with Him or we can refuse.

Recap of the 4 "last things" - Death - Judgement - Heaven - Hell - with the temporary provision by God's mercy of Purgatory for souls in need of final purgation before entering into Heaven.

LAST THING # 1 - DEATH - here we mean the death of our mortal body, the surrender of our life breath, the beginning of our body's return to the "dust" of which we are made and to which we will return, all that is left once all the breath and water leave or are taken away. When we speak of death we also mean that at the end of life in our body on Earth, the essence of who we will have become until the moment of death, or our "soul", will go through a separation from this life and enter into another "realm", or level of existence, which we refer to as "eternity" or "eternal life".

QUESTION - Unless we understand what leaving our body behind means, where we are going next, or what we will need in order to be able to face what comes next; then how can we know whether or not we are ready to "move on" from this world into the next?

God has revealed to humanity through his divine revelation in the Sacred Scriptures of the Jews and Christians - The Bible - that human beings are immortal spirits embodied in a mortal flesh. When the body dies it releases the immortal soul or spirit into God's presence. The soul is of a nature designed to "contain" within it in a living way all that makes up a human person in all their uniqueness. All that we think, feel, say, do, behave, take, and give - all our decisions, words, actions, behaviors, and deeds - continually build up the person we are becoming. When we die and the body releases our soul, our spirit is "fixed" in its final state.

It is somewhat like a piece of clay put into the kiln which is fired up. Once the clay is baked into a piece of pottery, it can no longer be changed. It can be glazed and put into the kiln again and comes out in its final form. This second burning could be an analogy for the process of Purgatory. The point though is that once we leave the body behind we lose our ability to modify, to change, to convert, to purify ourselves. We will have become helpless to improve ourselves and will be entirely dependent on the mercy of God and the prayers of the saints in Heaven, of the souls in Purgatory, and of the faithful on Earth.

For this reason alone, then, it is highly unwise to take upon ourselves the awesome decision about the moment of our death and give death to ourselves, but rather much wiser to leave the moment of our death in God's most capable hands.

Only God understands what eternal life will be and what condition we will need to be in for to be ready to endure the full intensity of eternal life in God's company. From God's point of view, then, it makes perfect sense to allow us on Earth to undergo any number of trials so that these trials may give us opportunity to struggle and be purified in our willingness to accept to endure the struggle with full trust and confidence in God and his mercy.

God knows what He is doing. Either I accept that or I don't, but woe to me if I don't, because then I am unwilling to trust in God, and if I can't trust in God, than in whom can I trust?

SO WHAT HAPPENS TO US WHEN WE DIE? 

LAST THING # 2 - JUDGEMENT - God won't need to judge us; we will judge ourselves. 

First of all, we need to understand the teaching of our Roman Catholic Tradition on what happens at the moment of death. Unlike the "Hollywood" scenarios picturing us coming before God as a harsh judge sitting on a judge's bench with gavel in hand; we may be shocked to discover that what will take place as judgement will not so much be God passing judgement on us, but rather us judging for ourselves what is the truth about our life and, as a result, what we deserve.

WHEN WE DIE THERE ARE THREE "DOORS" - 3 SCENARIOS

LAST THING # 3 - HEAVEN - is simply being with God, entering into the intimate family life of the Holy Trinity. Saints are souls who begin living in Heaven while still on Earth, already living in the radiant light of God's merciful love and trying to draw other souls in with them. 

Scenario #1 - HEAVEN - This soul will see how God has prepared it for Heaven and will want to welcome his gift and accept his invitation to enter into "the Father's House". "Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master!" Matthew 25:21 JOY!

LAST THING # 4 - HELL - is simply being apart from God, refusing to have anything to do with the family life of the Holy Trinity, preferring instead the miserable and hateful company of demons and the damned. Doomed souls doom themselves by refusing all grace or aid or mercy or opportunity to change and repent sent by God. Already living in Hell while still on Earth, they try to relieve their misery by dragging other souls into the darkness with them. 

Scenario #2 - HELL - This soul will see finally all the truth about God's love and goodness, but it will resent all of it because of the way it has chosen to live life on Earth for itself in selfish ways. Like those who hated and condemned Jesus because He was embarrassingly good, this soul will also hate God and refuse to enter into his presence, apart from the fact that it will find the intense burning heat of God's love impossible and excruciating to bear. Ironically, this soul will prefer to go to Hell with all the other miserable souls and all the demons; rather than have to endure any longer the presence of God. On the other hand, to continue for ever in its misery will certainly be torment, and equally painful will be to live for ever with the same impure desires which on Earth could never be fully or permanently satisfied. ETERNAL FRUSTRATION AND MISERY WITH ONLY ITSELF TO BLAME BUT INCLINED TO PASS THE BUCK OF BLAME TO GOD AND TO OTHERS....

LAST THING # 3A - PURGATORY - is a temporary measure whereby God prepares souls for Heaven who aren't quite ready to endure the intensity of his radiant presence and love. Souls who on Earth trust in God's love and accept to endure all trials and sufferings that come are already experiencing this process of God's purifying mercy and love. The more we accept to endure everything that comes to us in this life, the less we will need to be purified after we die. One way or another, we need to submit ourselves with trust to the loving scrutiny of God before we can enter into the eternal company of the Holy Trinity and all the angels and saints.

Scenario #3 - PURGATORY - This soul will see that it is partially ready to go in to be with God for ever, and it will want to go in, but it will recognize that it is still "unclean" or impure in its thoughts, desires, feelings, or track record of behavior, or unrepented sins. Too embarrassed to be able to endure God's perfect love, it will be glad instead to go to the "waiting room" of Purgatory to be cleansed of all that cannot be allowed to enter into God's loving presence. However, not being able to go in yet into the wondrous beauty and love of Heaven will be quite painful, and this will be part of the fire needed to burn away impurities and prepare the soul for Heaven. PAINFUL WAITING....

SO WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS THEN TO US WHEN WE DIE? 

IT WILL BE DIFFERENT WHETHER WE BELIEVE IN GOD, 
ARE UNCERTAIN, OR DON'T BELIEVE IN GOD

1. When a person dies who has believed in God and has entered into a personal relationship with God by opening up their whole life to God with trust, looking to know and do God's will as Jesus did.

When true believers die, their death comes after many experiences - in proportion to their age at their death - and trials, and to the degree that they have truly come to know, trust, and love God; then to that same degree when they die and come face to face with God, they will find themselves at home. In the face of Jesus they will recognize the One who has loved and supported them their whole life long, the same One who forgave them their sins and faults so many times.

To the extent that there were still facets of God that they did not know about or that they only saw in distorted ways; then to that extent their encounter with God after death will also surprise them, but this new knowledge of God will purify their mind, heart, and spirit - this fuller revelation will relieve them of any burdens or shadows they may still carry on account of having partially misunderstood God and his ways.

2. When a person dies who has believed in God, but has not  entered into a personal relationship with God but has been loath to open up their whole life to God with trust; while still on Earth, they will have remained in their doubts, hesitating by the side of the pool but never diving in, and as a result will not have looked to know and do God's will as Jesus did.

Unlike the believer who knows God and will find Him so familiar and welcome at the moment of death, the uncertain believer's faith did not actually make much difference in their life, in their whole outlook on life, in the way they valued their life while on Earth, or in the way they treated others or the environment during their lifetime. As a result, when they die and their soul comes face to face with God, they may be surprised and even embarrassed to find themselves looking into the kind and loving face of Jesus Risen from the dead.

When they finally see in all its clarity and wonder the full truth of God's infinite love for humanity, and the full extent of Jesus' courage in demonstrating the Father's love for us to the point of shedding his very last drop of blood on the Cross; then the doubting believer will probably experience varying degrees of embarrassment and regret. This person is unlikely to suddenly be ready to endure the full blast of God's intense and perfect love. Such a person won't want to enter into Heaven, at least, not yet, because the intense furnace of God's love would be felt as far too intense that it would hurt.

I believe that most human beings have at least once felt the intense love of someone for them and also found it uncomfortable for any number of reasons. One simple reason might be that this total intense love of someone makes me feel a burden of obligation to love them back the same way, and I may not be ready or may not want to love that much. This is one of the reasons why Jesus was put to death, that He caused, simply be being present, the religious leaders to feel excruciatingly uncomfortable.

The Roman Catholic teaching from the earliest times that God in his mercy would not force such souls into Heaven; nor would He condemn them to Hell, but would provide them with time to allow themselves to be purified by God's burning love, allow God to burn away all impurity of mind, heart, or spirit, for as long as it takes. This process, more than a place, is called Purgatory. When Our Lady of Fatima gave explanations and teachings to the three little shepherd children to whom she appeared in Portugal in 1917; she told them that some of the people whom they knew that had recently died would be in Purgatory until the end of time, when would come the Final Judgement.

3. When a person dies who has not believed in God, they also will not have entered into any kind of personal relationship with God, nor opened up their whole life to God with trust, nor looked to know and do God's will as Jesus did. 

For such a person, coming face to face with God is far more likely to be a very shocking experience indeed. Such a person will suddenly find the whole fortress of their atheistic reasoning crumbling in the brilliant glare and intense heat of God's selfless and boundless love. To the extent that they came to hate God, then their attitudes will cause them great and intense suffering upon discovering that God in no way deserves such treatment, but that they are unwilling to repent or let go of their hatred. They may find they have passed judgement on God and found Him guilty and are unwilling to change their judgement; so they will certainly not want to spend eternity in God's company. Their only choice then will be to enter into the miserable company of those consigned to Hell.

While we can expect that our loving God would never want anyone - angels or human beings - to spend eternity in Hell away from his loving presence in Heaven; nevertheless, it is only just that God create the possibility of Hell, for angels and human beings to be separated from God for all eternity. If there were no hell, then any demons or damned souls who would otherwise be admitted to Heaven would, in their misery, turn Heaven into Hell anyway. God's only option then is to allow Hell to exist, if for no other reason than to separate Satan and his demons from the blessed in Paradise to protect them from the devils' hatred and interference.

AS SAINT PAUL WROTE, ONLY GOD IS COMPETENT TO JUDGE

DON'T BE SO QUICK TO CONSIGN PEOPLE TO HELL

However, the person who while on Earth denied God or refused to believe in God may acknowledge at long last that the image and understanding they had of God while on Earth was either partially or entirely false. As Bishop Tom Dowd quips, "I don't believe in their (that false) god either." Then they may be able to warm up to the true God quite quickly, and may even surrender everything to God, submitting themselves to his righteous judgement and merciful love.

They may or may not be in need of purgation and, it is conceivable, they may possibly be forgiven and purified by God's merciful love in a single instant of all their sins and of all punishment due to all the many consequences of their sins. Only God can know and do this. So let's not be so quick to consign people to Hell based only on our superficial observations of their external behaviors, words, and actions while they lived on Earth. Only God knows the mind, heart, soul, and conscience.

DON'T BE SO QUICK TO "CANONIZE" PEOPLE AND ASSUME THEY ARE IN HEAVEN

For similar reasons then it would be foolish for us to assume that someone who has died is now in Heaven with God, and with all the angels and saints. There is nothing wrong with hoping and even believing that a remarkably good person who has died "in the odor of sanctity" may very well be in Heaven. This is particularly true if their death is accompanied by a fragrance as of flowers when there are none or by a more mysterious perfume with no tangible cause for it. Some saints have died amid such fragrances, and this gave rise to the expression "dying in the odor of sanctity".

Still, no matter how favorably we may feel about a person who has died, we do best to cultivate the hope that God will admit them to Heaven while we continue to pray for "the repose of their soul", that is, that our prayers may encourage them to fully accept the mercy of God and submit themselves completely to his merciful judgement and, if need be, the process of purgation under the action of his divine mercy. This is why we pray for our deceased loved ones and for the souls in purgatory. This is a pious practice whereby faithful disciples unite themselves by acts of will and devotion to the saving action of God on Earth and in the heavens beyond the gates of death.

LET'S NOT GAMBLE WITH OUR ETERNAL DESTINY - THESE ARE THE HIGHEST STAKES

Notwithstanding these considerations, it would be very unwise for human beings to presume in a cavalier way on God's mercy and fail to take responsibility for their own thoughts, feelings, words, actions, attitudes, and behaviors in this life and put it all off to the final moment. Only a fool would make such a risky gamble when one considers the value of unending eternal life. Yes, God is merciful and kind, understanding and patient, but He is no fool. We cannot trick God or bargain with Him, and it is very foolish to try. We may be able to fool other human beings, but we cannot fool God.

HOLY WEEK AND THE PASCHAL MYSTERY

While on Earth, Jesus of Nazareth revealed that God our Father is a kind and wise God who knows best how to guide us in life and prepare us during our life for the eternal life which He has prepared for those who love Him. In his wisdom, God knows that most human beings need time to change, time to grow and understand, time to come to know Him and to put our trust in Him and, more time to come to love Him in return for his love to us. While it is difficult to love God back directly, the most direct way to love back the God whom we cannot see is for us to love the neighbor whom we can see. Holy Week, beginning today - Palm and Passion Sunday - is God's annual gift to humanity to walk with Jesus along the Way of the Cross, from Gethsemane to Golgotha and the empty tomb. 

As we walk along with Jesus carrying his Cross, He helps us to see Him in our suffering neighbor in an infinite array of painful and suffering circumstances, which are so many opportunities for us to show our love and gratitude to God through loving care of our neighbor, of strangers, and even of enemies. Jesus showed the highest and most perfect love when He asked the Father to forgive his enemies, his torturers and executioners, and those who condemned Him to death. He even supplied them with an excuse: "... for they know not what they do." Luke 23:34

Friday, March 24, 2017

When a loved one dies, our loss plunges us into deep grief

Over the years I have observed a number of deaths - from illness, accidents, suicides - over long drawn out periods or suddenly and unexpectedly, of people who died young or old or in between. Their deaths are particularly difficult to endure when the deceased were good people who were greatly loved by many, and I have found that there are several levels in the grief of those who felt close to them. The following factors are by far not an exhaustive list, given the great variations in the lives of human beings, but these probably account for a great portion of our grieving.

1. You miss the deceased simply for who he or she is as a person, who he was and came to be, and what she meant to you simply as a one that you have known and loved.

2. You may miss the deceased as your son or daughter, whom you would naturally expect to outlive you as a parent or live as long as you as a sibling or friend or coworker.

3. You grieve the loss of the ways in which their life would have unfolded - as your hopes for their future were inflamed when they were doing well - and so you grieve the loss of their future as a person.

4. It is natural for parents, for example, to grieve the loss of a child who, later on in life, would have been there to walk with them during their senior years and comfort and support them in old age. That future is now lost, and you grieve over it.

5. You naturally grieve your child as parents, as Mom and Dad, and the loss of that relationship with each of you and with what siblings there may be and with all of you as a family. Your family is no longer quite the same.

6. You invested in your child who responded to you over the years. It is not surprising that you should grieve over the abrupt interruption of this relationship.

7. In the particular circumstances of the deceased person's final or life long struggle - with illness, or persecution, or addiction, or ill fortune, or any of a host of other troubled circumstances - you may have invested so much of yourselves, your time and energy, your finances, your emotional investment and psychologically intense attentiveness and concentration. As a result, in recent years you have been living at an abnormally intensive degree, which simply on a human level, could not do otherwise than go through a period of dropping off, which in comparison to the previously intensive emotional level would now appear to be depressive.

8. When it is a premature death you may be grieving inasmuch as this death may seem a failure or bad end to their long or intense struggle.

        Without completely realizing it, and to varying degrees, it is not unusual for people who care to get "sucked into" a disposition of spirit or of mind and heart that is not really healthy, by virtue of the ways in which their life struggle "reshaped their personality". For example, in the case of addiction it is now clearly understood in both medical and psychological fields as well as by social workers and addiction recovery workers to cause a "social disease" of addiction which "makes sick or diseased" the relationships of everyone relating to the addict as well as all the circles to which they belong, such as their family, place of work, friends, and so on.
         Some of the manifestations of this "social disease" may be lying, denying the truth, pretending all is well, covering up for the addict, excusing the addict from taking responsibility for themselves, accepting to "perform roles" assigned by the addict to various members of each particular circle, and any number of other attitudes and behaviors that are "not normal" but troubled.
        God's design, intention, and will is for each human being to develop from infancy to adulthood, from total dependence to autonomy, from selfishness to altruism.
        The responsibility of parents diminishes as the responsibility of the offspring increases until the young adult "takes over" the entire responsibility for his or her own life. By analogy this is also true of the responsibility of individuals in other kinds of relationships. While an addict or any other person may develop degrees of caring for others and selfless service; people can yet remain underdeveloped in their ability and willingness to care for and take full responsibility for themselves.
        As loved ones descend into dangerous attitudes and patterns that are self destructive, those who love them can fall into feeling "overly responsible" for the addict or person who is struggling; as though in their caring they have become the second wheel on a cart that had only one good wheel. You can come to so completely identify with the troubled person that their failure or bad end now feels like your own failure, and their death now feels as though it were somehow your fault.
        In effect, in taking on an exaggerated degree of responsibility for the one who struggled and died you may have taken on yourselves a degree of responsibility for them that belongs exclusively to God, our Father and Creator. Your grief torments you with wondering "What if?" scenarios, as though you were God and had the power to save the person but failed to use that power.
        All such thoughts are false, misleading, and dangerous, and in the end, they are part of the "enemy's strategy" to paralyze us, trick us into passing premature judgement on ourselves, and deceive us by distracting us from God's care and mercy; so that we stop trusting in God's judgement, God's loving mercy, God's divine providence.

9. To the extent that you have over recent years "reorganized" your lives around caring for the sufferer as you would for an infant, a handicapped child, or invalid parent, then to that extent you may have "stopped fully living" your own lives. As it happens for a person who gives up most of their autonomy to care for an invalid parent, spouse, sibling, or child over a long period of time; when it is finally over the person can often experience a "rude awakening" to suddenly find themselves older and with feelings that they have lost a part of their lives. They may or may not feel resentment to the recently deceased, but it is natural to have a sense of loss as we realize the passage of time in our lives, and especially the passing of our "best years".

10. It is to be expected that there is some degree of satisfaction in expending efforts to care for someone in trouble, especially when it is someone we love. When such a situation extends itself over a longer period of time, we develop "habits of thought, of feeling, and of action" which can "take over" our lives or a significant portion of our lives. When the period of caring comes to an end - even more so when the end comes unexpectedly - it is natural to experience this change as a shock. You may have gradually over some years reorganized your life around the sufferer and now, suddenly, the reason or need for this reorganization is gone. You cannot suddenly just go back to the way you were, but will need time to make this new transition, just as it took you time to adapt in the first place to put yourself at the more intensive service of the person in need.

11. While you were so busy and intensively focused on caring for your loved one, you would have felt the need to relativize or ignore some of your own needs and desires. To the extent that you have neglected your own needs, now you may find it difficult to face your own needs and admit them to yourself, and be troubled by false feelings of guilt, interpreting your inclination to care for yourself as "selfish". Such confusion is caused in part by a false or erroneous way of understanding the balance between care for others and care for ourselves. The more they manifested helplessness, the greater would have been your temptation to feel responsible for them and to neglect others and yourself.

12. To the extent you have succumbed to these or other such temptations, you would probably feel some true and genuine guilt for having neglected self care and your other relationships, including allowing the Lord to be God.

13. No one but God is perfect, with a close exception for our Blessed Mother Mary and, to lesser degrees, the saints. Sadly it is all too often the case that people - to varying degrees - have been "beating up on themselves" over these years over the effectiveness or quality of their caring for the one in need. This is like the so-called friends of Job who "beat up on him" trying to convince him that his suffering had to be a punishment from God, that he must somehow have done something wrong to deserve his personal disasters and suffering. Well, "get over it"! It is true that we are not perfect, nor should we expect to be - no more than we should expect to be all-powerful as God is - so that we all need to let God be God and to accept our circumstances and those of others in our lives, with trust in divine providence. We need to trust that God loves us more than we love ourselves, and to daily entrust our lives and the lives of those we love to God. While we may have been trying to do that, to the extent that you have been "beating yourselves up", then you need to repent of that and drop it.

14. Like it or not, even for people of great faith in and intimacy with God, as human beings we still care about who we are, the well being of our family, and our place in the extended family and in all the circles of our lives. It matters to us to "do well" at every level of our lives. When we lose a person for whom we have been expending our efforts to help them overcome illness or other troubles and in the end it all seems to end in failure, like it or not, there is bound to be some form of "stigma" or feeling of failure.

We can feel as though our efforts have not been "good enough" as a parent, as a person who cares, as a responsible adult, and so on.... We need to see the truth and let go of what is false in our feelings, and let the person go. We need to rediscover the value of our own lives and to resume living our lives fully as God intends for us to do, not only for our own good, but also for the good of others, for his glory, and for the good of his Church.

There may very well be other factors, other levels, in your deep and genuine grief, but the Holy Spirit will help you "peel the onion" of your grief one layer at a time and apply the healing touch of divine mercy to it, to you, moment by moment....

Dear Reader, if you are experiencing grief over the loss of a loved one, I invite you - alone or with your spouse or with your family - to sit, pray a little, and then read through this reflection, one line or sentence at a time. If you are doing this with someone else, stop to share your thoughts and feelings as you go, and only as you are satisfied with where it brings you can you then move on to the next sentence....

You may need to work at this a little each day for some weeks before you get through it all the first time. Then over time, God will lead you over some of these same issues again and again as his healing love penetrates more and more deeply into your mind, heart, psyche, and soul....

In the end, all will be well, as St Teresa of Avila used to say....

Monday, February 20, 2017

Controversy and confusion over Pope Francis & "Amoris Laetitia" Part 2

Thanks to some good Catholic Christian friends I've had occasion to reflect on and discuss these matters at some length over time. Time actually is itself a gift from God and in the time in between our exchanges, upon further reflection, by the grace of God it occurred to me that our "fencing" over such matters might get closer to the target by taking a more concrete approach. Let's examine different scenarios or venues in which to apply these principles, or to put it differently, two primary modes for dialogue over God's revealed truth and his will: first, the classroom mode, and secondly, the confidential mode.

In the "classroom" mode or approach

In a classroom, regardless of setting or age of the learners, the professor or teacher is expected to not beat around the bush presenting the material, in this case, God's revealed truth and subsequently the Church's teaching on it, and so to be very clear about the material and also to present specific cases to illustrate the principles. The clearer and more direct the presentation, the more likely the participants may have reactions, questions, comments, and hence a good discussion may follow. Along the way, the teachers apply their skills to observe and check out whether or not the material is being properly assimilated. Depending on the class's responses and reactions, it may take more or less time for the whole group to take it all in. It is the teacher's responsibility to map out over time the presentation and assimilation of the entire segment of the material and to prepare the class for testing and for practical exercises.

In the "confidential" mode or approach

In a confessional or in a priest's cabinet or office or when a person confidentially approaches a priest for personal advice and counsel, the classroom approach might risk being perceived as a "dumping" of a whole lot of theory and stifling the person's ability to express their concern. If he is not careful, a young inexperienced and zealous priest, or even an older one, can "cut the person off and stop them in their tracks" by being too categorical too quickly, and demonstrating zero patience to allow the person the time to take it in and wrestle with it. Wrestling with God is one of the classic images of how God is ready and eager to relate to souls, as with Jacob who became Israel because of the wrestling, and as Jesus treated with his apostles and disciples.

What priests must quickly learn in their ministry is that most of the time, if not all of the time, when people approach us more formally in one of these or in similar settings, they initially put out a "feeler", i.e. a formulation of their concern that is a little more general, or apparently more theoretical. Whether they realize it or not, they are testing us, to see whether or not they can trust us, whether or not they can be safe with us, whether or not we will pour balm on their hurt or simply intensify the hurt by wounding them some more. People often already apprehend the truth, to some degree, and merely need to have it confirmed or clarified.

In the arena of conscience

People, or souls, are often already being disturbed by their conscience, and are often afraid that they are unable to accept or to take the full impact and brunt or burden of the truth or of God's will. In addition they often, as we all do, suffer under imperfect images or understanding of who God is, and the more fearsome, the worse it is for them. When people don't have  fear of the Lord but only terror instead, they tend to manifest a conscience that is more scrupulous.

On the other hand, when people have a false view of God as loving and adopt a falsely "familiar" attitude towards God as "buddy" or as a God who is "permissive"; then they run the great and dangerous risk of presumption, of taking God for granted and avoiding his judgement or justice. The more they live and act out of fear / terror, or out of presumption / permissiveness, the less likely are they to ever truly understand morality or relate truly to God or know his love and mercy and finally respond with gratitude, praise, and a return of love that goes out to others.

Often, before we can say anything to them about the matter of their concern, it is more urgent to treat their misguided, mistaken, erroneous, or incomplete images or understanding of who God is and of what are his ways. Knowing the Lord's ways, or how God treats souls, makes possible the true "fear of the Lord" and is the beginning of wisdom. Jeremiah reported in 31:31-34 God's promise that the time would come, and it came with Jesus, when the Lord would make a new covenant with his people and they would all know Him, from the greatest to the least, and they would not need to be instructed because the Lord would instruct them himself.

After the example of the "Good Shepherd"

So, what proves better is for the priest to be receptive and just listen at first. After the soul's initial outpouring of concern, some priests may then "lay down the law" as it were, lest the person continue to "stray" and get more completely lost. However, what proves more effective is a similar skill as that put into practice by the teacher observing and measuring assimilation of the material, that is, it is for the priest to initially, before spelling out the truth, asking the person to say what they understand to be God's will in the matter, or how much they know of the Church's teaching about the revelation and will of God.

Then the priest can see whether or not the person knows the truth and is simply having a hard time accepting it or putting it into practice, or whether the person is stumbling around in the dark for not knowing God's revealed truth on the matter or the Church's teaching of it. The wise and experienced priest, like the counselor or therapist, then leads the person one step at a time, and while so doing, observes whether or not the person is able to take that step in and consider it. If not, then the reason or obstacle becomes the next point of focus, and so on. As in the classroom, with the individual, couple, family or other group, the priest will observe how much they are able to take the truth in and consider it, and it will become more apparent how long they have been struggling (often their whole life) and how much time the process may take.

We have to remember here that it is not our place to "force open" or "stretch by force" the opening of the consciences and wills. That is God's job and the Holy Trinity are at work on it 24/7. Our part is to discern how much we can do at any one sitting and invite the person to continue then with the next step, and so on. Secondly, we are to do all we can to help the person(s) anticipate to be tested in real time by the events of life and also by the Lord. Our role, like the role of every Christian to "walk with others in their faith journey", is to encourage souls and to learn the Lord's ways, to discover what the Lord is like, and to "Be a man and accept the Lord's discipline...." says 1 Kings 2

In a more casual setting such as before or after Mass or a coincidental encounter in public or other such "bumping into" each other, when a person puts an ethical or moral question to a priest, once again the priest must realize that just as in the more formal settings, people initially "test" us to see whether or not they can trust us not to hurt them, not to "rape" or "violence" them with the truth, wielding it like a club to subdue them or to impress it upon them and "control" their conscience, or contrarily, whether we will manifest respect for their conscience, i.e., whether we will respond in the knowledge that in the end it is for them to decide and to act in conscience before the Lord. God alone is competent to judge souls because He alone knows them better than we know ourselves.

People want to know that we will "release" them into the Lord's hands and allow them to conduct themselves upon the knowledge of the truth, just as parents do when they send their children out to go to school or to other activities out in the world. God trust us even to the point of allowing us to get it wrong, to makes mistakes, and to learn from them. In God's school we always have the option of learning the "easy" way and the "hard" way.

In conclusion, let us follow Jesus in his shepherd Pope Francis

In conclusion, then, I believe that a primary reason for the persisting confusion in public discourse over Pope Francis' "Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia" is that most participants in the public debate are functioning in the "classroom mode", whereas Pope Francis is appealing to both pastors and souls to leave the "classroom mode" to those other settings of learning, and instead, to pay closer attention to the "confidential mode".

Pope Francis gave the universal Church - with the conviction that Almighty God ardently desired it for his Church - the Jubilee Year of Mercy precisely due to the urgency of leading the Lord's flock away from "terror" of the Lord or excessive and false "familiarity" with the Lord and, instead, to real experience of the Lord and both just (and so confessing to Him) and merciful (and so approaching Him in his priests without fear).

Pope Francis from his very first days as Bishop of Rome has been continually, energetically, and confidently exhorting pastors to show mercy through hospitality of spirit, kindness, understanding, patience, generosity, and gentleness; while simultaneously exhorting souls to practice greater trust in the Lord and confidence in his mercy and in his presence and power at work in his priests, and to approach God through priests and other people exercising pastoral ministry without fear.

The longer those engaged in this debate continue to avoid discerning the difference between these two modes, approaches, or objectives - the "classroom mode" and the "confidential mode" - the greater, thicker, deeper, and more destructive will the confusion become. That is what I have been trying to elucidate all along through my stumbling and bumbling comments and reflections; so thank you dear friends in the Lord, for granting me the venue and opportunity to clarify my thought.