Saturday, October 14, 2006

Continuum


A friend mentioned a book by Michael O'Brien and I went to read about it, finding O'Brien's website instead. He has some very interesting essays, one on modesty in dress that I snipped a portion of and posted below. It works well in line with my various posts concerning art, modesty, as well as identity. I'm going to continue thinking about these things and posting what I discover. Read my excerpt from O'Brien if you wish.

“Dad,” each of our children has asked me at one time or another, “Am I in my body or am I my body?”

The look of puzzlement and intense curiosity on their faces when they ask this is a sign that ultimate questions are working their way up from the soul to the consciousness. But how do you explain it to a six year old, or a twelve year old, or a fifty year old? Of course, the body is not a container, nor simply a biological organism, nor is it a machine. It cannot be owned, manipulated, used, bought, sold or violated without something drastic and negative happening to one’s well-being.

Which is why the Pope was so insistent about lust in marriage. The body is part of the gift of life from God. We are in exile and weakened, but we are beloved of God and capable of sharing in his divine love. We are made in his image and likeness. We are damaged but not destroyed. Since the Incarnation an added significance has been given to our flesh, for we are now temples of the Holy Spirit and Christ dwells within us.

Saint John of Damascus once wrote that when man first sinned he retained the image of God but lost the likeness of God; and since the coming of Christ we are freed to be restored to the original unity. Thus, any diminishment of this truth is an offence against God; any harm inflicted on our bodies or the bodies of others is ultimately an act against Love.

In his encyclical on the family, Familiaris Consortio, John Paul II teaches that God calls man into existence through love and for love:“God is Love, and in himself he lives a mystery of personal loving communion. Creating the human race in his own image and continually keeping it in being, God inscribed in the humanity of man and woman the vocation and thus the capacity and responsibility of love and communion.

Love is therefore the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being . . . Conjugal love involves a totality in which all the elements of the person enter: the appeal of the body and instinct, power of feeling and affection, aspiration of the spirit and will. It aims at a deeply personal unity, the unity that beyond union in one flesh, leads to forming one heart and soul; it demands indissolubility and faithfulness in definitive self-giving; and it is open to fertility.” Michael O'Brien

More on Suffering and Identity


"The Martyr Sebastian Being Rescued By the Matron Irene." - Ribera



Please excuse me for accommodating the poetry of St. John of the Cross regarding the suffering a soul endures as a result of childhood sexual abuse...



Nevertheless, the verses can just as easily be applied to a soul in mortal sin, or a person suffering from a variety of addictions, and most likely, even depression.

"I live, but not in myself...
I have neither God nor myself.
What will life be?
It will be a thousand deaths,
Longing for my true life
And dying because I do not die.

What life do I have
Except to endure
The bitterest death known?
I pity myself
For I go on living,
Dying because I do not die.

Lift me from this death,
My God, and give me life;
Do not hold me bound
With these so strong bonds;
See how I long to see you;
I am so wholly miserable
That I die because I do not die.

What death can equal
My pitiable life?
For the longer I live,
The more drawn out
Is my dying.

I will cry out for death
And mourn my living
while I am held here
For my sins.

Dying because I do not die." (My free-base John of the Cross)

I left out most of the contemplative references to God to show the acute suffering a person in this state experiences. Contrary to the words, "I pity myself" it is not a whine of self pity the soul utters, it is the acknowledgement of the state of his soul. The person suffering doesn't seek pity - no one could penetrate that wound so deep and thorough, except God. On some levels it is the lament of hell, yet for the soul who prays and frequents the sacraments, it is part of the purgation process, that results ultimately in healing, although never satisfactory until eternity, since the pain continues to ebb and flow, as the night follows day.

(And please excuse me for dwelling on this subject for so many days. It's for "you". :)

Identity and Conversion


I was thinking of the first reading from today's Mass as it regards identity. Paul states;

'There is neither Jew nor Greek,
slave nor freeman,
there is not male and female,
for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Galatians 3

I thought of my friend who is struggling with the issue of identity. As well as others who may have been abused or degraded at some point in their life, who struggle with low self-esteem and a shattered self-image. Even women not unlike the Samaritan woman who perhaps have been married several times in some unconscious effort to find validation in the love of a man. Or the promiscuous whose identity is and emotional life is affirmed and assuaged by meaningless sexual encounters.

From what I understand, recently in this Archdiocese there had been a 'coming out' prayer service for so-called gay people at one of the Catholic churches in town. That is just unfortunate. Again, I think it is based in an identity problem. (If it had been a healing service, that would be all together appropriate, yet a prayer service, a coming out service, is a rebellious act.) Gay culture wants people to come out as a political act - it is not so much a liberation of self. Certainly there is a camaraderie and a modicum of acceptance amongst peers, but it is in the end a political act. The more self-proclaimed gays coming out, the more clout for the gay agenda - whose battle cry is that the gay life-style is normative. Hence, not only their demand for recognition and acceptance, but validation by Church and society.

The person who experiences same-sex attraction should understand this as an aspect of personality, not as their core identity. Their identity is as Genesis states, "Male, female, God created them." Each person's identity is that of being a human being created and loved by God, and now, as a baptized Christian, his true identity is in Christ, that he has become a co-heir with Christ. That is the starting point in conversion, the beginning of self-knowledge and discovery of identity. At least, that is what I always think of when I hear St. Paul's letter to the Galatians. Let me change some of Paul's words;

"There is neither black nor white,
addicted nor free person,
there is not male or female,
gay or lesbian,
therian or animal person;
for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
You are a new creation."

We have been created in the image and likeness of God - Christ came to restore that image. He has subjected all creation to Himself, and therefore to us. To mistake our true identity for something else is a form of idolatry on some level. We are placing the creature above God as it were. Christ, the Church calls men to conversion, to turn from what is false, to turn from their idols, and to be converted. There is indeed a wave of diabolical illusion sweeping the world, distorting the truth, while ensnaring many souls.

Elsewhere, Paul speaks about those of us who engaged in all sorts of sin and he tells us emphatically "you must put all that aside now." (Colossians 3) I do believe, however, there is good reason in the "school of self-knowledge" to accept the distorted image of one's self in an effort to understand and deal with it - not to fear it, since oftentimes the adoption of the identity was a result of fear, thereby becoming a coping mechanism in one's life. To accept one's 'therianism' (therian - derived from theriomorphic- is a person who believes his core identity is that of an animal, or an animal's spirit I believe. It seems to be associated with African or Native America animism.) or to accept one's homosexuality, is a first step in understanding the self. After all, same-sex attraction can be a rather neutral thing, if not acted upon. While the idea that one is a bear remains neutral, unless one begins to live like a bear. (Acceptance does not mean acting from it.)

The key would be in understanding what these experiences mean for the individual. What need is being satisfied, what does it do for the person? When did you first encounter it? Get to the bottom of the issue; where did it originate? Gradually one will unlock the secret and lessen it's power. It requires faith, courage, and perseverance. To understand the why and wherefore, is to begin the process of healing and conversion. Prayer, the sacraments, a good confessor is a necessary component in the process - because everything is a grace.

"Do not surrender your confidence; it will have great reward. You need patience to do God's will and receive what He has promised." Hebrews 10: 35-36

(Just some thoughts for "you" and you know who you are. :)

Friday, October 13, 2006

The desert...


"If I had the wings of a dove, I would fly away and be at rest." from the Office of St. Bruno.

Pictured, St. Catherine's Monastery in the Sinai.

I love the desert fathers. If they only had showers. My VP at Dayton's (eventually Marshall-Fields, now Macy's.) was Greek and once in a conversation I spoke glowingly of the monks on Mt. Athos - hoping as an Orthodox Catholic he'd have some great tales about the holy mountain. He sneered - "I hate those monks - they never bathe!" He was very "The Devil Wears Prada." yet, for all his high and mightiness, he enjoyed conversing with me.

When testing my vocation in monastic life, very few monasteries appeared to me to be observant enough for my ideals. Few seemed poor enough, or if I found a community that was poor, there seemed to be a lack of stability. While some 'new' orders seemed a tad pretentious and ambitious as well as lacking any spiritual maturity. Of course I found, in my opinion, the Carthusians to be the best, but I wasn't suited to their life.

My experiences in good monasteries left me with a prejudice regarding other forms of religious life, and an imperious attitude towards new communities as well as hermits, not to mention neo-gyrovagues. Gradually, I learned never to judge whether a person or community was living a fervent life or not, that there are many instances in the spiritual life of persons seeking the will of God that do not conform to our prejudices.

There is a story from the desert fathers wherein a monk went to see another, renowned for his wisdom and holiness. The monk was scandalized that the father lived in relative luxury compared to what he had been used to in his scete. The father drank wine, slept on a bed of straw, bathed, and ate rather well, although he fasted and was faithful to the rule of psalmody and other exercises peculiar to the eremitical state.

The young monk left the father to return to his skete. The father knowing he had been scandalized called him back and questioned him as to his life. It turned out the monk had been a shepherd, sleeping in the fields and eating a very meager diet, without any comforts, no bathing, except in the river, and so on. In the skete, he had regular meals, a mat to sleep upon, in a hut for shelter.

The father then told him of his past. He had lived like a prince in Rome, with many attendants and great luxury, dining sumptuosly every day. Upon his conversion he renounced all of that and went into the desert to live the ascetic life as the young monk could see.

Filled with compunction, the young monk recognised his presumption and asked the father's forgiveness, often returning to him for spiritual instruction.

The story taught me as well. If a sister lives in an apartment and drives a car, she may no longer have had a convent to live in. If a friar lives in a nice friary, or a monk has a beautiful monastery to live in wherein every need is met, that does not mean he is not a fervent religious.

If a lay person dresses well, lives in a nice house, watches TV, or listens to rock music, or does anything else worldly, while striving to live a devout life, albeit hidden - that does not mean that person is living in sin. No more than two men or two women sharing the same house, or a man and a woman sharing the same house, are living in sin.

"Judge not and you will not be judged." I think Jesus said that.

A 'desert father-like' story.


About Bishop Carlson

I heard a story about him that when he was instructing a young couple who were preparing for marriage, he told them that it was inappropriate for them to live together before the wedding.

They had been living together for some time and their two incomes were necessary to keep their residence. Bishop Carlson said the young man was welcome to live at the Bishop's house with him, free of charge. He meant it.

The couple eventually found a way to live apart until marriage and kept the residence.

That's a good Abba, don't you think?

Wisdom from the Thebaid


Remaining sick today, after returning to work yesterday, I'm reading the sayings of the desert fathers.

A few of the sayings refer to that temptation which has been mentioned so frequently in our time. It made me think of the scandals in the Church that might have been avoided if there had been a greater vigilance on the part of the elders.

"Isaac from the Thebaid said to his brothers, 'Do not bring boys here. Boys are the reason why four monasteries in Scetis were deserted.'"

"A hermit said, 'Do not give or receive anything from worldly people. Take no notice of women. Do not remain long in the company of a boy.'"

To be honest, I found the warnings against boys or young men strange. Then Gustav Aschenbach, obsessed in his pathetic infatuation with Tadzio, came to mind. ("Death In Venice") In another place I again read that monks should avoid spending a long time in the company of the junior monks and never to steady one's gaze upon young men. I can't remember if it was from Dostoyevsky or Archbishop Brianchaninov - but I believe it was from the Russian Thebaid. It would be prudent to say these cautions would easily be applied to looking at young women as well.

Then for those who may pass judgement upon others, suspecting everyone as gay, there is this story.

"A brother, being tempted by a demon, went to a hermit and said, 'Those two monks over there who live together, live sinfully.' But the hermit knew that a demon was deceiving him. So he called the brothers to him. In the evening he put out a mat for them, and covered them with a single blanket and said, 'They are sons of God and holy persons.' But he said to his disciple, 'Shut this slandering brother away in a cell by himself; he is suffering from the passion of which he accuses them.'"

The desert fathers were hermits of course, yet their teachings are profitable for all, informing us of all sorts of temptations the demon uses. Discretion and vigilance are good sentries for any state of life.

Medjugorje - Controversy and Resistance

An Exorcist tells his story.

This photo is one of many purported to be miraculous photos of the Virgin taken in Medjugorje. In the late '80's I was given a similar photo. The person was photographing a burning bush - burning yet not being consumed. When they returned to the States, the image of the Madonna appeared. The photo was much like this one, I still have it.

I was impressed because it hearkened back to the liturgical antiphon used in the Office for the feast of the Mother of God, January 1st. "In the bush seen by Moses, as burning yet unconsumed, we recognize your glorious virginity, O glorious Mother of God." It is an ancient praise offered to Our Lady. It fits the archetypal image of the Virgin of the burning bush at Sinai, as well as the more ancient image of the Virgin of the Sign, rooted in the passage of Isaiah, "Behold the Virgin shall conceive." If it is an authentic photo, then it is rather substantive, scripturally and theologically.

I'm not opposed to Medjugorje nor attracted by it. I am more disposed to wait for Church approval. Unlike others, I would never dare claim it is false or of the devil. This morning's Gospel reminds me of some who claim it is a deception. The crowds claimed Jesus cast out demons by the power of the devil, by "the prince of demons, he drives out demons." That's a serious charge to make.

I recently read a piece on Spirit Daily concerning an interview with Fr. Gabriel Amorth while he visited Medjugorje. As many know he is the chief Exorcist of Rome and has written several articles and books on the subject of exorcism. His opinion and discernment is highly regarded by many in the Church. It seems to me, if anyone would have some perspective regarding supernatural activity, it may be him. Here are a couple of statements he made in the interview:

Interviewer: In her messages in Medjugorje, Our Lady says often that Satan is strong and she invites us to pray, to fast and to be converted.

Amorth: Yes, this is true. In an Italian magazine, I had the occasion to comment on Our Lady’s messages where she speaks about Satan. She often spoke about this.

Interviewer: She underlined that Satan is powerful and that he wants to destroy her plans. She invited us to pray, to pray, to pray. In her messages, Our Lady spoke about the Rosary, about the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, about prayer before the Cross, and she said even that through prayer wars may be stopped.

Amorth: Yes. Through prayer, we can even stop wars. I always understood Medjugorje as a continuation of Fatima. According to Our Lady’s words in Fatima, if we had prayed and fasted, there would not have been World War II. We have not listened to her and therefore there was a war. Also here in Medjugorje, Our Lady often calls to prayer for peace. In her apparitions, Our Lady always presents herself under another name to show the goal of her apparitions. At Lourdes, she presented herself as the Immaculate Conception, in Fatima as the Queen of the Holy Rosary. Here in Medjugorje, Our Lady presented herself as the Queen of Peace.

Interviewer: We all remember the words “Mir, mir, mir” (peace, peace, peace) that were written in the sky at the very beginning of the apparitions. We see clearly that humanity is running the risk of war, and Our Lady insists on prayer and on Christian life to attain peace. In her messages, the Queen of Peace also underlines fasting, which is a bit forgotten in the Church. She speaks about fasting according to what is written in the Gospels - that through fasting and prayer we can eliminate all influence of Satan.

Amorth: This is true. First in Fatima and now here in Medjugorje, Our Lady speaks often about prayer and fasting. I think that this is very important, because contemporary men are following the spirit of consumerism. Humanity searches how to avoid any kind of sacrifice and so it exposes itself to sin. For Christian life, except prayer, we need a certain austerity of life. If there is no austerity of life, there is no perseverance in Christian life. I will give you an example - today, families fall so easily apart. They celebrate the wedding, but the couples divorce quickly. It happens because we are not used to sacrifice any more. In order to live together, we have to be able to also accept the deficiencies of others. The lack of spirit of sacrifice leads to the fact that we do not live Christian life in fullness. We see with what facility abortion is being committed, because of the lack of readiness to make a sacrifice to educate children. This is how the first reason of marriage is being destroyed. This is because there is no practice of making sacrifice. Only if we are used to sacrifice ourselves, we will be able to live Christian life.

Interviewer: The fruits of Medjugorje are numerous. Conversions are numerous. A theologian says that here, heaven came down on earth. Our Lady invites us to abandon ourselves totally to her so that she may lead us to Jesus. Isn’t this the essential for Christian life?

Amorth: No doubt! Medjugorje is really a place where one learns to pray, but also to sacrifice oneself, where people are converted and change their lives. The influence of Medjugorje is worldwide. It is enough to think about how many prayer groups came about thanks to the inspiration of Medjugorje. I also lead a prayer group, which was founded in 1984. This group is already 18 years old. We live one afternoon as it is lived in Medjugorje. There are always 700 or 750 people. We always meditate on Our Lady’s message of the 25th of the month and I always read this message in relation to a sentence from the Gospel, because Our Lady does not say anything new. She invites us to do what Jesus thought us to do. Groups like mine exist all over the world.

Interviewer: Is it true that Medjugorje is a “big mouthful” for Satan?

Amorth: Surely. Medjugorje is a fortress against Satan. Satan hates Medjugorje because it is a place of conversion, of prayer, of transformation of life. - Spirit Daily

A few days ago, when in the Gospel Jesus held up the Samaritan as an example of holiness, it reminded me of Our Lady of Medjugorje signalling out a Muslim woman as an example of holiness. I think the apparitions at Mejugorje should not be brushed aside, the faithful should keep an open mind, at least until the Church decides. A Vatican commission is currently studying the events once again.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

October 13, the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima


"A woman clothed with the sun." - Book of Revelations

Newspaper photo of pilgrims experiencing the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima in 1917.

The Miracle of the Sun:

"The proclamation of a public miracle caused the most intense speculation throughout Portugal. People from all parts of the country descended, in their tens of thousands, on the Cova, despite the terrible storm that lashed the mountain country around Fatima, on the eve of October 13.

A page from Ilustracao Portugueza, October 29, 1917, showing the crowd.

The children reached the place around noon, and then saw the flash of light as Mary appeared before them. For the last time, Lucia asked what she wanted: "I want to tell you that a chapel is to be built here in my honour. I am the Lady of the Rosary. Continue always to pray the Rosary every day. The war is going to end, and the soldiers will soon return to their homes.

"Then rising into the air and opening her hands towards the sun, growing more brilliant as she did, she disappeared, being replaced by various visions seen only by the children.At the same time the vast crowd of approximately 70.000 people experienced a visible miracle.

The black clouds parted, and the sun became visible, looking like a dull grey disc that could be looked at directly quite easily.

A journalist, Avelino de Almeida, described the event as follows: "...one could see the immense multitude turn towards the sun, which appeared free from clouds and at its zenith. It looked like a plaque of dull silver and it was possible to look at it without the least discomfort. It might have been an eclipse which was taking place. But at that moment a great shout went up and one could hear the spectators nearest at hand shouting: "A miracle! A miracle!" Before the astonished eyes of the crowd, whose aspect was Biblical as they stood bareheaded, eagerly searching the sky, the sun trembled, made sudden incredible movements outside all cosmic laws - the sun "danced" according to the typical expression of the people..."

"People then began to ask each other what they had seen. The great majority admitted to having seen the trembling and dancing of the sun; others affirmed that they saw the face of the Blessed Virgin; others, again, swore that the sun whirled on itself like a giant Catherine wheel and that it lowered itself to the earth as if to burn it with its rays. Some said they saw it change colors successively..."

The crowd experiencing the Miracle of the Sun.

Many other witnesses testified to the terrifying nature of the solar miracle: "It turned everything different colours, yellow, blue, white, and it shook and trembled; it seemed like a wheel of fire which was going to fall on the people. They cried out: 'We shall all be killed, we shall all be killed!' ... At last the sun stopped moving and we all breathed a sigh of relief. We were still alive and the miracle which the children had foretold had taken place.

"Other people witnessed the solar miracle from a distance thus ruling out the possibility of any type of collective hallucination. A final intriguing, and important, point was that the heat of the sun, as it descended on the people, also had the effect of drying their clothes and the ground, so that they went from being completely soaked to being dry in about ten minutes." - Courtesy, "Living Miracles" website.

The New York Times also reported upon the event.

Triskaidekaphobia - fear of the number 13.


In keeping with the season...Halloween...many of my posts will have a touch of the wyrd for October. (So what else is new?) It's just for fun to play with the superstition surrounding the holiday.

So tomorrow is Friday the thirteenth. I'm so scared!

Actually, it is also the anniversary of the great miracle at Fatima as well, and Our Lady always appeared on the 13th of the months preceding the final apparition in October.

For me, 13 has always been a lucky number - although as a friend once pointed out - my conviction is absurd because I could never explain why - nothing fortunate ever happened to me as a result of the number 13. It's just one of my nonsensical theories. Oh well.

Here is some #13 trivia from Wikipedia for conspiracy theorists to possibly get excited about:

The great Masonic nation of the United States of America has these details involving the number 13:

"The number of original colonies the United States was founded from.

The original flag had thirteen stars, one for each state. New stars have since been added whenever a new state joins the union, but the idea of adding stripes for new states was soon dropped, so the American flag to this day has thirteen horizontal stripes: six white ones and seven red ones.

The Great Seal of the United States has:
13 levels of the truncated pyramid,
13 letters in "E Pluribus Unum", which appears in the banner running through the eagle's beak on the right side of the bill's reverse.
13 letters in the phrase "Annuit Coeptis", which appears over the pyramid on the left side of the bill's reverse.
13 stars above the Eagle,
13 leaves on the olive branch,
13 olives on the olive branch,
13 arrows held by the Eagle, and
13 bars on the shield.

The number of guns in a gun salute to U.S. Army, Air Force and Marine Corps Major Generals, and Navy and Coast Guard Rear Admirals Upper Half.
The Naval Jack of the United States has 13 stripes, 7 red and 6 white, the rattlesnake has 13 buttons on its rattle, and the motto "Don't Tread on Me" has 13 letters." Wikipedia

And, OH...MY...GOSH -

"The number is also considered unlucky by some as it is the sum of 1+4+5+3, the year of the fall of Constantinople to the Turks, marking the end of the Byzantine Empire." Wikipedia

Isn't superstition fun! In the Tarot, the 13th card is the death card.

(A side note from Spirit Daily; just guess what the date 10-11-06 reads if you turn it upside down? Yesterday was 10-11-06, ya know, and, like that small plane, like flew into that apartment building in NYC. Okayeeeee - like I am soooooo scared right now!)

I have to watch "Ugly Betty" now.

"He's alive! He's alive! HE'S ALIVE!" - Dr. Frakenstein at the awakening of his monster.


Yes, I am alive! I just want everyone to see that I actually have relatives!

This is my nephew Todd with his son Jackson who will soon be 1-year old! Are they cute or what? Todd's wife is Carrie - who is also gorgeous.

This is the nephew whose wedding I forgot to go to. It's a long story - they were married in the fall and I knew it was close to a holiday - so I assumed it was Thanksgiving...no one believed me of course - or called - because I'm notorious for not showing up at family functions anyway. (I recently missed my Aunt and Uncle's 60th wedding anniversary party, having set the invitation aside in August and forgetting about it.)

My nephew and his wife eventually forgave me and now lovingly keep me posted on Jackson. (I still have a gift for him I have to send! Geesh! What an uncle!)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

"Que muero porque no muero."


"That I die because I do not die." - John of the Cross.

Pictured, "St. Sebastian" by Mimmo Rotella

I have often painted St. Sebastian, who had been shot with arrows, left to die, only to be revived and submit himself for martyrdom again. In a sense, for me, he became an allegory for what happens to a person who has been sexually abused in childhood. The image shown here by Rotella, is particularly poignant since the saint is visible only as an outline, his body simply a shell, his identity obscured.

Speaking to a friend who had been abused and degraded as a child, we discussed the issue of identity, self image, and dissociative experience. Oftentimes, at the moment of violence, the victim removes herself mentally from the actions being performed upon her. This can result in a dissociative personality disorder that endures throughout one's life. Or, it can be simply a coping mechanism that does not become pathological. Then again, the person may so identify with the personality they either invented or embraced, they become conditioned to accept it as being their true identity. In such a case, this new, safe identity helps them to navigate through life, unknown to outsiders.

My friend is going through great passages of self-knowledge and acceptance, experiencing a wonderful freedom of spirit. At times however, the wounds reopen and she goes through difficult times dealing with the hurt, the pain, and the anger - as well as the lonely sense of isolation that is the result of having one's self-image disfigured by abuse. I mentioned my concept of St. Sebastian, having died in a sense, only to be revived, yet the stigmata of his wounds remaining. However it is a long, difficult process of healing that one must go through. Something someone cannot just "get over".

I compared it to the mystery of the saints who actually had the stigmata, which would open and bleed on Fridays and feasts of the passion. In similar fashion, I believe the person who has been abused, while on the road of recovery, perhaps all of their lives, will periodically relive the event with all it's pain and suffering - only now, like the stigmatist, the person may have a better awareness of who they are and what happened to them and what the pain means. In a sense, the suffering becomes redemptive and healing. (This is best accomplished if the person prays and frequents the sacraments, as my friend does.) Nevertheless, no outsider can ever understand the person's interior martyrdom of spirit. They die because they do not die.

Abuse is a terrible crime against a child, it kills the spirit in a manner, it devastates the identity. The person's resurrection from this death is difficult, although often taking a lifetime, it is not impossible. Oftentimes we mistake others behavior, even their sinful life, as a willful moral failing. To be sure, sin is sin, yet I have met prostitutes and promiscuous people, as well as homosexuals, whom I believe are living in such a way as to assuage their pain. Often victims of sexual abuse or some other trauma, they adopt an identity or way of acting that alleviates their misery, or in the worst case scenario, they are living out the personality they adopted after the degrading assault or trauma they experienced. They self-fullfil the prophecy that seemingly damned them to make such a choice, albeit, not a choice made in complete freedom. Many alcoholics do the same thing. It's not a satisfactory remedy however.

Remember to pray for the living dead.

October 12















While on the subject of hostile work environments, I came across this...

On this day in history:

1773 - America's first insane asylum opens for 'Persons of Insane and Disordered Minds' in Virginia.

Do we still have asylums? Or is everyone now prescribed medications and turned out on the street?

The Traditional Mass


Pride of Place.

"Consider that the rite of Mass, with its texts and rubrics, both reflects the Church’s Faith and undergirds the Church’s Faith. Lex orandi – lex credendi … the way the Church prays has a reciprocal relationship with what she believes. If we believe certain things, we will pray in a certain way. If we pray a certain way, we will more strongly hold to certain things." - Fr. Zuhlsdorf

News reports are attempting to confirm what has been rumored for months now, the Holy Father is expected to sign an universal indult for the Tridentine Mass to be celebrated freely throughout the Catholic world. From what I understand it will be on equal footing with the reformed Mass known as the Novus Ordo. Although I thought it always enjoyed this status, it just wasn't generally permitted for the sake of establishing the reformed rite as the norm.

It will not surprise anyone that I am no scholar on the subject. I'm very happy with the Mass of Paul VI as it is celebrated at the Church of St. Agnes in St. Paul, Minnesota. It is offered in the traditional style - much like the Tridentine Mass pictured here. I grew up with the Traditional Mass and was an altar boy. We learned Mass Latin in Catholic grade school, as well as practised Gregorian chant; my favorite was the Mass of the Blessed Virgin.

When I returned to the Church in the early '70's, the Mass was in the vernacular, which I loved as well. I was fortunate to have returned to daily Mass in a Church that never turned the altar around, thus the Mass differed little from the old rite in that respect. I guess I was always graced with a somewhat contemplative approach towards liturgy irrespective of form. My focus was always upon the Eucharistic sacrifice and presence of Christ. I never had much awareness of the rubrics, except when I encountered blatant abuses. As a layman, I learned to avoid liturgies that were badly celebrated.

My seminarian friends would often get into discussions about liturgy, that was their vocation, I was more interested in prayer. As a novice in the monastery, I never talked to anyone, so the topic never arose. Though the liturgy had been reformed, no one celebrated liturgy as well as contemplative monks. Perhaps after leaving monastic life I became more aware of the liturgical crises, yet found places where the Mass was celebrated well.

Now days, with many lay folk studying theology and going to Rome for studies, it seems the average person knows a great deal about liturgy. I hear many discussions about it where I work. Not a few are very excited about the indult predicted to be granted. Again, I know little about the details, but this is one of those times Fr. Zuhlsdorf comes in handy. Of course he has a very good grasp on the subject. Go to "What Does The Prayer Really Say" for his take on it all.

The Divine Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary




The Mother of God "Salus Populi Romano"

[snip] In the year 1931 a jubilee marking the fifteenth centenary of the Council of Ephesus was celebrated to the great joy of the whole Catholic world. The fathers at that Council, under the guidance of Pope Celestine, formally condemned the errors of Nestorius and declared as Catholic faith the doctrine that the Blessed Virgin Mary, who gave birth to Jesus, was truly the Mother of God. Prompted by holy zeal, Pope Pius XI determined that the memory of so important an event should continue alive in the Church. Accordingly he ordered the renovation of Rome's famous memorial to the Council of Ephesus, namely, the triumphal arch and transept in the Basilica of St. Mary Major on the Esquiline. His predecessor Pope St. Sixtus III (432-440) had embellished that arch with a beautiful mosaic, but time had done it damage.

In an encyclical Pius XI, moreover, underscored the principal teachings of the General Council at Ephesus, developing in detail and with loving affection the singular privilege of divine Motherhood granted to the Blessed Virgin Mary. He believed that so sublime a mystery should ever become more firmly anchored in the hearts of the faithful. At the same time the Pope singled out Mary, the Mother of God and the one blessed among women together with the holy Family of Nazareth as the foremost model for the dignity and sanctity of chaste married life and for the religious education of youth. [snip] - The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch.

Pray for us O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

"You're all bastard people." - Corky St. Clair


Those are Corky's lines from the hilarious film, "Waiting For Guffman."

Sounds a little like Monseigneur Lefebvre, the deceased schismatic Archbishop, father of the SSPX. Gerald posted a few of his quotes - I couldn't resist grabbing one (just for Corky!):

"All these [pre-John XXIII] popes have resisted the union of the Church with revolution; it is an adulterous union and from such a union only bastards can come. The rite of the new mass is a bastard rite, the sacraments are bastard sacraments. We no longer know if they are sacraments, which give grace or do not give it. The priests coming out of the seminaries are bastard priests who do not know what they are. They are unaware that they are made to go up to the altar, to offer the sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ and to give Jesus Christ to souls." Thanks to, The Cafeteria Is Closed.

And some people tell me that he is most likely a saint, that the schismatic traditionalist movement does not engender doubt, dissension, and disobedience, while questioning if the Novus Ordo is even valid. It doesn't seem to be a good spirit at work here. One has to be cautious.

Blessed John XXIII, pray for the Church.

Blessed John XXIII


October 11 is the feast of Blessed John XXIII, as well as the feast of the Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the day chosen to convene the historic Second Vatican Council in 1962. The first image of the Holy Father I present is one I painted for the occasion of his beatification by John Paul II, it is now in the possession of the Cathedral of Santa Fe, New Mexico. The second photograph captures the wonderful kindly spirit that was his.

I wrote to him when I was little and received a beautiful picture of His Holiness, with a little note, that unfortunately has been lost. (My mother hid it for safe keeping and I never knew what became of it after that.) He was universally loved, and is now venerated among the saints of God.

Pray for us Blessed John XXIII.

[snip] Before the reform of the General Roman Calendar today was the feast of the Motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The theological controversies regarding the divinity of Christ which disturbed the Church during the fourth and fifth centuries led to a denial of the divine maternity of Mary. The heretics refused to honor Mary as Mother of God. The Council of Ephesus in 431 declared that the Blessed Virgin "brought forth according to the flesh the Word of God made flesh" and that in consequence she is the Mother of God. Thus she is rightly given the title of divine maternity. In 1931, on the fifteenth centenary of this great Council, Pius XI instituted today's feast. By this act the pope wished to emphasize not only Mary's divine maternity, but also her motherhood of all the members of Christ's Mystical Body. [snip] Go to Catholic Culture for further reading.

(And do not neglect to visit tonight - and tomorrow for his homily - Don Marco's "Vultus Christi" a superb blog, for his posts concerning Bl. John XXIII.)

Adaptation and the needs of the faithful.


The litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Loreto.

In every era the Church has canonized new saints for the edification of the faithful. New devotions have been promulgated, such as devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, devotion to the Holy Face, and more recently devotion to the Divine Mercy. The devotions are not "new" yet their form and cult have been adapted for the needs of the faithful at any given time, oftentimes by express command from the Lord himself. (Although always requiring the recognition and approval of the Church.)

Recently, two new titles of Our Lady have been added to the litany of Loreto. It is my understanding that this is not unprecedented, having occurred in the past as well; in fact, certain religious orders have been permitted to add titles, such as "Queen of the Friars Minor" for the Franciscans - who incidentally are the custos of the Shrine in Loreto, Ancona, Italy. (See "History of the Litany" for details.)

In reading some traditionalist blogs, as well as comments left, it seems the changes add to their suspicion of anything new promulgated by the Vatican. Comments such as, "Why did JPII feel the need to add his innovations to everything that has been a defined devotion for centuries?" Of course, many will not accept the "Mysteries of Light" he suggested, since it increased the traditional 15 mysteries of the rosary to 20 mysteries.

Certainly proponents of the rosary understand the history and development of the devotion. Many realize that a series of beads used to count one's aves and paters eventually became organized to become the original 150 aves emulating the 150 psalms. While the mysteries were categorically introduced later. One could always meditate upon other mysteries of our Lord's life. Upon examination, the mysteries comprise in detail, the essential points of the creed. If one is so attached to 150 aves, then let them pray 150 aves a day, using the traditional mysteries or adding the new mysteries - just don't exceed that magic number of 150. (Though praised by a succession of popes and saints, the rosary is not even a required devotion for Catholics.)

One website compared the more ancient text from the litany of Loreto with a supposed new litany they found in a missalette. It had been adapted and was obviously not the official litany. I found the official 'new' litany on the Holy See's website - it is the same as the ancient one, except for the new titles. See for yourself:

THE LORETO LITANY

Lord have mercy.
Christ have mercy.
Lord have mercy.
Christ hear us.
Christ graciously hear us.
God, the Father of heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
God the Holy Spirit, Holy Trinity, one God,
Holy Mary, pray for us.
Holy Mother of God,
Holy Virgin of virgins,
Mother of Christ,
Mother of the Church, (Officially added - although suggested by Paul VI after V.II)
Mother of divine grace,
Mother most pure,
Mother most chaste,
Mother inviolate,
Mother undefiled,
Mother most amiable,
Mother admirable,
Mother of good counsel,
Mother of our Creator,
Mother of our Saviour,
Mother of mercy,
Virgin most prudent,
Virgin most venerable,
Virgin most renowned,
Virgin most powerful,
Virgin most merciful,
Virgin most faithful,
Mirror of justice,
Seat of wisdom,
Cause of our joy,
Spiritual vessel,
Vessel of honour,
Singular vessel of devotion,
Mystical rose,
Tower of David,
Tower if ivory,
House of gold,
Ark of the covenant,
Gate of heaven,
Morning star,
Health of the sick,
Refuge of sinners,
Comfort of the afflicted,
Help of Christians,
Queen of Angels,
Queen of Patriarchs,
Queen of Prophets,
Queen of Apostles,
Queen of Martyrs,
Queen of Confessors,
Queen of Virgins,
Queen of all Saints,
Queen conceived without original sin,
Queen assumed into heaven,
Queen of the most holy Rosary,
Queen of families, (Officially added - do you have to wonder why in a time of the disintegration of the family?)
Queen of peace.

The Church and the Holy Father certainly have a right to add to the devotional life of the Church, certain elements requiring our attention. Why is the litany so sacrosanct that titles of the Blessed Virgin may not be added, or the rosary, that additional mysteries of our Lord's life may not be added? These are devotions after all, and become the means of catechises in their formulation. As far as the rosary goes, there are many forms; the Franciscan Crown, the Brigittine, along with a variety of chaplets. In one's private devotion, one may meditate upon any mystery of the Lord's life one wishes while praying the rosary; as with the litany, when privately prayed one may praise the Mother of God with varying titles according to one's devotion - so long as they conform to Church teaching and revealed truth.

Queen, Beauty of Carmel, pray for us. (A privilege given to the Carmelite order when they were custos of the shrine.)

Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray. Grant, we beseech thee, O Lord God, that we, your servants,may enjoy perpetual health of mind and body; and by the intercession of the Blessed Mary, ever Virgin, may be delivered from present sorrow, and obtain eternal joy. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Because he wished to justify himself...


Pictured, "The Good Samaritan" - Hungarian artist, Henrik Stefan. (The painting reminds me of St. Martin of Tours clothing the beggar.)

Yesterday's Gospel continues to resonate within me. The most disturbing line at the outset was concerning the scholar continuing to press Jesus; the Gospel says, "But because he wished to justify himself" he asked Jesus "Who is my neighbor." And of course, Jesus goes on to relate the parable of the Good Samaritan.

The priests and teachers of the law always were testing Jesus, looking for a way to catch him, while seeking to justify themselves. It seems everyone one in the world today is eager to justify himself as well - gosh, I always do it in my examination of conscience - until I'm convicted by the Holy Spirit otherwise.

We today are perhaps the most educated people to have walked the face of the earth. Many people in the pew may even be more highly educated than the priest who is giving the homily. Reading our blogs, one might get the impression that bloggers are the new scholars of the law and the prophets, looking for the chinks in the Church and her ministers, and ready to criticize, if not condemn whenever we uncover something.

It makes me wonder if many bloggers pray. I hear it is a maxim at the Angelicum in Rome that to study is to pray. Which reminds me of the maxim dubiously attributed to Augustine, to sing is to pray twice. Many people may be substituting knowledge and study, or, God forbid, blogging, for prayer. Having the form of religion, yet without an interior life.

"Wishing to justify himself..." We all do it. The conflict between Catholic progressives and traditionalists has many scholarly spokesman seeking to justify their positions; along with the less broadly educated who seem to know a lot about a little; as well as the not so highly educated, yet intelligent, passionately speaking their convictions. (I obviously fall into the last category.)

The story of the Good Samaritan reminds me of what some of the opponents of Megjugorje (An apparition I have little affinity for) who insist the Virgin cannot be appearing there because of the way she answered a question once. She was asked who the holiest person was in the vicinity, and to the scandal of some, she cited a Muslim woman nearby. I expect the Muslim woman was devout as well as being humble, kind and charitable. Every uber-Catholic I know brings this up as proof that Our Lady could not possibly say such a thing. Really?

Yet her Son, when asked who one's neighbor was, illustrated his point by telling the story of the Good Samaritan. As everyone knows, Samaritans were outcasts, little better than pagans. Not unlike our idea of Islam today. Yet Jesus held this man up as an example of holiness. What was our Lord saying?

There really are people outside the Church who are holy and will be saved, and have been saved. I think of Betsy Ten-boom, who in the Nazi death camp was a source of light and spirituality to women of mixed races and religions. In death her face radiated a mystical light, such as witnessed in the deaths of many Catholic saints. I also think of the girl from Columbine who died for the faith. And more recently, the little Amish girls who were shot to death, laying down their lives in the hope to save the others, while forgiving their executioner. Afterwards, the entire Amish community quietly and peacefully forgave the murderer, while consoling his family.

What did St. Paul write? "If any man thinks he is wise, let him become ignorant." Or something like that.

(Thanks to The Penitent Blogger, who always writes well, with his recent post on the same subject. His commentary reminded me to post my own thoughts on yesterday's Gospel. The Penitent obviously prays; his commentary never fails to be rich, insightful, and full of wisdom. I recommend that you read his posts everyday - especially if you can't get to daily Mass - he normally has a fine lectio on the daily readings.)

Monday, October 09, 2006

1984, News-Speak, and the Gay Agenda.


Pictured, Rupaul with some other drags.

Surfing the net I came across the Zenit News item on how Christians are being arrested for speaking out against the homosexual lifestyle as being opposed to Christian teaching as well as deviant.

Now look at these men. If this looks normal, then pick up a gay publication - I see them all of the time at my Dr.'s office. Gay magazines are full of sex ads, bar ads, what have you - all very sexually explicit and provocative. Go to a gay pride day or a gay bar and witness the perversity for yourself. It is so not normal.

Maybe ask Chandler on "Friends" (I guess he's not real) how it was growing up with a drag queen for a dad? (By the way, Rupaul isn't married - pretty talented though - I loved his CD "Supermodel" - very good dance music - I threw it out when I realized he was a guy. Sorry - if you read my profile I like 'dance-trance' music too. Rave-on!)

Here is the piece off Zenit:

[snip] LONDON, OCT. 8, 2006 (Zenit.org).- In many countries speaking out publicly against homosexuality leads to serious legal problems. And in the battle under way to protect freedom of speech for Christians to express their beliefs, the future is far from clear.

A recent victory in Britain saw legal charges against Stephen Green dropped, the Telegraph newspaper reported Sept. 29. Green was arrested by police in early September after handing out pamphlets at a "Mardi Gras" homosexual festival in Cardiff, Wales. The pamphlet contained Bible verses about homosexuality. During a hearing before a magistrate's court last week, the Crown Prosecution Service announced it would not proceed with charges. A Sept. 6 report in the Daily Mail newspaper quoted police as saying Green had not been violent or aggressive. His only offense was distributing the pamphlet. The article noted it was the latest in a series of police actions regarding opposition to homosexuality.

Writer Lynette Burrows was warned about a "homophobic incident" after she suggested on a BBC Radio Five Live program that homosexuals did not make ideal adoptive parents. A Christian couple in Lancashire were warned after they complained about their local council's policies in favor of homosexual rights. And police in London investigated Sir Iqbal Sacranie, a former leader of the Muslim Council of Britain, after he said in an interview that homosexuality was harmful. Police behavior regarding homosexuality was questioned by the Christian Institute in a press release dated Sept. 22.

While action against Green was pending, the group noted that the Gay Police Association will not be prosecuted for publishing an advertisement that accused Christians of violent assaults on homosexuals. More than 40,000 complaints by the public were made about the advertisement, according to the Christian Institute. [snip] Continue article on Zenit.

The whole Zenit story is kind of Orwellian, don't you agree? How did homosexuals get so much power? I still say - the attack is primarily upon Christianity, specifically the Roman Catholic Church, while the powers that be, civil libertarians, are simply using the gay community for their agenda. The goal, fantastic as it sounds, is to arrest the Pope for hate crimes - and that is not my imagination - other more prominent critics of the EU have said the same thing. Nevertheless, despite their apparent success in the short term, as happened in Nazi Germany, the gays will end up the losers, along with religious Jews and Christians. Sounds conspiratorial doesn't it? I think it kinda is. And there seems to be a bit of historical precedence - remember Hess with his 'Brown Shirts' and the 'Night of the Long Knives'. (What did you say Ms. Tanutta? "It could happen!")

Regardless, I wouldn't mind being arrested for my opposition. It would be a very interesting trial once I got on the stand.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

"Evasion"


By Jared French.

One of my very favorite artists and one of my very favorite paintings. Elements I have used over and over in my "hidden" art. One was "The Death of Jim" - very Frida Khalo-ish - Jim was one of my group from high school as well as my friend who died in the early '90's; while another element of French's piece I used in my psycho-spiritual self-portrait painting, "Abbey-Roads" 1990 - which I gave to my gallery owner because I would have burnt it several times over. (It will be famous one day - for reasons not associated with me - rather because it documents elements of 'culture' one might say.) I shouldn't say I used anything from this painting shown here - rather, I was inspired by French's image and adapted a portion of the piece to a section of my painting. However, everything and everyone is derivative - no matter what the field - or what anyone may protest to the contrary - consciously or unconsciously - I'm just honest about it.

For me, Sunday has always been about art, so I just thought I'd share this with you. It's rather enigmatic, don't you agree? What could it mean? (Shut-up Keevin! He comments anonymously sometimes.)

"EAT STEAK!" - Jon Lovitz in his new ad for "Subway".

The inhabitants of Limbo...



"How low can you go?" - Remember that song and dance from Chubby Checker - it was called the "Limbo" since you had to dance forward under a stick, bending back until you were as if suspended in air. Limbo is like being suspended - as everyone knows.

Many blogs are covering the topic - the
definition of Limbo - well there won't be a definition as such, just a statement from the Commission's findings. It is so not going to be abolished, one can be sure of that.

Yet I thought it interesting that for centuries, millenia, the inhabitants of Limbo have been represented in art. They are called 'putti', which translates 'little boy', in Italian. The ancient Romans frequently painted them in frescoes and sculpted them on facades or objects. Since the Renaissance they are often seen in Roman Catholic religious art, frequently in the clouds surrounding the Madonna, along with little Cherubim. In his secular work, Michelangelo used them, as did most of the great painters of mythology.

It demonstrates how deeply embedded in the unconscious is man's concern for the innocent dead. It suggests the belief in Limbo is a major dimension of man's spirituality. Though it has never been formally defined by the Church, it is a comforting belief for those who have lost children. On the other hand, to say the departed are in a suburb of hell is not at all comforting. It reminds me of something St. Therese said to a sister in her monastery whose spirituality was focused upon the justice of God. Therese said something like this, "Well, if that is what you expect of God, then may you have it. We receive according to our hope. As for me I will continue in my confidence and hope in His merciful love." (A very free-base quote from memory.)

In art, the putti are usually shown joyfully playing, often exhibiting gifts of the fine arts, suggesting a superior talent and knowledge. Their Limbo is one of natural happiness and contentment. If the souls of the innocent, as it has long been believed, are deprived of the beatific vision, surely they may keep company with the saints and the Madonna - even Christ in His humanity, I suppose. How could that be? Well, the Blessed Virgin and the saints could visit them. If they are depicted in art as surrounding these personages, then one can hope it could be a reality. (Not that art is dogma, although some Orthodox iconographers would have you believe that.)

Ah! There is the key...hope. Limbo, while not a defined article of faith, is a place one may hope exists; furthermore, one may hope, that in God's merciful love, the unbaptized may be saved. I'll bet the conclusion by the Commission will be on those lines. No big deal, unless the SSPX's make it into one. OH! MY! GO.....! What if there are Jews there! :)

I missed my chance for Limbo - I always imagined it would be like being on Valium, running around naked in the sun, painting when I felt like it, bathing in the ocean - oh I'm sorry, that was one of my vacations.

The man was first.


Today's readings at Mass focus upon marriage - an old fashioned idea - yet one Hollywood celebrities seem to enjoy doing over and over.

I love the passage from Genesis, wherein the Father brought the animals to Adam for him to name - just like little kids get teddy bears and bow-wows to name and play with from their parents.

In His Providence, God recognized man needed a partner and created Eve from his side. So pay attention ladies - the man was first. Evolutionists ought to think about this as well.

Thinking about marriage however, one cannot help but recognize how it has disintegrated today in our society with the increase of divorce over the recent decades, along with the trend of couples more frequently cohabiting without benefit of marriage. Many of those who feel they do not need to be married to authenticate their union have done so after having endured a divorce or some other trauma in their own family. Many people in their desire for affirmation or self-preservation do not seem willing to admit the consequences of divorce upon their children. Granted, in some cases a marriage was bad from the beginning, perhaps there was abuse, or intolerable alcoholism, or some other mitigating circumstance, wherein there was no other alternative but divorce, or at best, annulment. That isn't my focus.

It's the kids. My own mother was divorced and remarried my father, I have an older sister and brother from her first marriage. There are negative effects in such a family. There had always been a sort of disconnect between my step siblings and myself. My brother really didn't like me, I'm certain he resented me. My mother resented my brother and sister, because every time she looked at them, she was reminded of her 1st husband, whom she despised. And my dad never adopted them. It wasn't a happy home. Nevertheless, this isn't about me.

It's about a woman I know. She has a little brother. Her parents were divorced when she was about four or five-years old I think, her brother was a baby. The mother was addicted to drugs and alcohol and rather promiscuous. As is often the case in divorce, the kids go with the mother. Though not homeless, my friend and her brother were pretty close to being so. Sometimes they would awaken in the morning not knowing where the mother was, only to find out a day or two later she had been in jail. An occasional ray of sunshine for them was when they would be placed in a foster home, although the niceties and kindness of the strange people who took them in baffled them. They didn't know how to act.

They moved a lot. The mother was drunk or doped up most of the time, the house was full of other types just like her mom, and of course, the kids were abused and neglected. Sometimes, when the mother was in jail, they scrounged in dumpsters for food. At school they were humiliated and rejected because they were dirty and poorly clothed. It was a horrible life.

One day when my friend was little, she was watching a cartoon on television and found herself identifying with a strong cartoon character who was a fierce animal. She was convinced she was watching herself - in other words, she adopted the beast as her interior identity. To this day she feels within her deepest self that this is her true identity - her true self. She is normal and functions ably in the workplace and society, nevertheless, interiorly she is always the outsider. Her self image had been shattered in her formative years and she found a means to cope and pull herself up and out of a near animal existence - by identifying with an animal.

It caused me to wonder, this concept of the "shattered image" many people have had to come to terms with in their life. It wasn't a great leap for me to view trans-gender or homosexual persons with the same compassion and understanding that I learned from my friend. Many of these people must have had some experience in their life that caused them to choose an identity contrary to their created being. What else could convince someone so fundamentally that they are indeed other than the norm of those around them, the person they were created to be?

It is not just divorce that shatters one's image of oneself, or one's identity, there are many dynamics at work. Yet, it seems to me, as the family disintegrates, and the stability of marriage is cast aside, society itself shatters, hence the children, the most vulnerable, have no compass.

My friend still lives with her brother, who has children from a broken marriage. They work and make a good living and home for their "family.' My friend is an uber-Catholic, if you will. She went through very much to get to the Church: aspects of the occult new age, fundamentalist Christianity, and so on. The abuse and dysfunction she discovered in the Catholic Church moved her to find greater stability in the strictures of the traditionalist movement. It demonstrates her need for moral absolutes, coming from a life wherein reality was what can only be called occult - that is, obscured and distorted. Thus in traditional Catholicism she has found the truth for which she had been yearning. My friend still has issues that she works on, but I see her growing and becoming whole. Grace builds upon nature, and God is allowing her to understand and find her true identity.

We must sometimes step out of our paradigm and try to understand one another - we never know what may have happened in the life of the person next to us. Prayer for one another is good. Pray for my friend who has helped me understand things a little better.