Archive for July, 2015

Photo by Carmemlucia, 2005, Photo by Carmemlucia, 2005,[/caption]

Order discovered is not merely a sign that there is an intellect in the one who has made the discovery; it is a sign that there is an intellect in the one who has made the ordered being.—Fr. Arnold Benedetto, S.J., “ Fundamentals in the Philosophy of God.”

Order in the universe is proclaimed every time the revolution of the earth about its axis causes the phenomena of day and night. Order is manifested by the earth’s travels in its annual circuit around the sun, with that journey causing seasons of summer autumn winter spring, that causing the accompanying phenomena of growth, decline, decay , and regeneration. The miracle of photosynthesis, the insect world, and the animal world, with each specimen instinctively knowing what it particularly takes to survive; all amazingly ordered. And finally, man.

Think of the development of an embryo, and before that, the organs of reproduction in male and female, created perfectly, one for the other. And how about the human body? What could be more orderly than an individual cell, or an organ such as the heart, or the eyes and ears that record sight and sound?

It is a fact that human beings can detect this order through human intelligence, and marvel at the magnitude of it.  How can it not prove the existence of God?

Photo by The Brass Glass, 2014,

Photo by The Brass Glass, 2014,

Have we become gravediggers burying GOD?

If we do so, we are burying part of ourselves as well.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) was a German philosopher and atheist, who claimed God is Dead. He thought the exemplary human being must craft his/her own identity through self-realization and do so without relying on anything transcending that life—such as God or a soul.

Of course, this is ridiculous, a contradiction to who we are. We have a soul–each of us, and that soul came from God. When we say we’re made in God’s image, our human soul is what we’re talking about. It is the one and only way we are like God, who is pure spirit.

However, my human soul, and yours, are not pure spirit. Spiritual, yes–but not pure spirit. Man is a spirit in matter, in the form of a body. He is spirit and body. God and the angels are pure spirits because they are not dependent on matter, as we are, either intrinsically or extrinsically. To be completely independent of matter for any material being is impossible. The human soul is intrinsically dependent on matter for some of its activities. But our soul is not purely material either, because for other activities it is not intrinsically dependent on matter.

So the human soul of man belongs to both the realm of the spirit and the realm of matter. Man is the lowest of the spirits, and the highest of the material beings, and he alone belongs to both the realm of the spirit and the realm of matter. As the new Catholic Catechism explains, spirit and matter, in man, are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature. (CCC 365).

Most human beings understand that the soul, by its nature, is often in opposition to the body. This is the struggle of every human person. Because we have free will–we can choose.

Nietzsche struggled with many questions, and used his free will–a component of his soul, and part of his human spiritual make-up–to come up with his own wrong answer about a living God, only because that living God gave him the freedom to choose.

We have the same freedom as Nietzsche, and many other God-despisers like him, because despite what they say, they have inherited spiritualty from God.

When we make personal, even political, decisions, are we helping to dig those societal graves that want to bury God, too?

Well, it cannot be done without burying ourselves–we are part of Him.

Photo by hotblack, 2014,

Photo by hotblack, 2014,

Who is the woman who means, or has meant, the most to you? Is it someone you trust? Someone you love? A woman you admire from the media?

Or is it a woman unnoticed by the world, a part of your life, but loved by only a few?

What are the qualities this woman has that makes her so important to you?

Traits traditionally cited as feminine include gentleness, empathy, and sensitivity. I would submit another trait: extraordinary bravery.

Is the woman you most admire a woman of bravery?

There are many women today who stand up with courage–in quiet and often unappreciated ways such as:
Loyalty to a loved one.
Tending to sick children or parents.
Making a paycheck cover the month.
Giving up something she WANTs so her children can have what they NEED.
Standing by a friend despite the politics.
Loving an enemy who’s asked her for forgiveness.
Quieting the gossip of others when she knows it is hurtful.
Continuing, when continuing is hard.
Keeping faith in God and passing it to others by her example.

Here are some examples of bravery in women from the Bible.

Sarah – wife of Abraham. Sarah was also the step-sister of Abraham. When they went down to Egypt, Abraham told Sarah to say that she was his sister, which was true. She then caught the eye of the King of Egypt who took her as his wife, but later restored her to Abraham through divine admonition. Sara gave birth to their son Isaac when she was 90 years old and Abraham was 100 years old. She laughed when she was told by visitors to their home that she would have a son. Therefore, the son she bore was named Isaac which means “He will laugh.” Isaiah 51 calls Sarah the mother of the chosen people.

Rebecca – married Isaac when he was forty years old. Rebecca bore twins, Esau and Jacob when Isaac was sixty years old. Esau grew to be a skillful hunter and was preferred by Isaac. Esau was tricked into selling Jacob his birthright. Rebecca favored Jacob and when Esau was sent by his father to hunt some game, Rebecca prepared a dish for Jacob to give to his father, pretending he was Esau. She also covered Jacob’s hands with goatskin since Esau was hairy and Jacob was not. Isaac, thinking that Jacob was his favored son Esau, gave Jacob his blessing. Esau returned and learned that Jacob had received his father’s blessing and his father had no blessing left to give to Esau.

Deborah – a unique character in the Bible. She was a prophetess as well as the only woman to be a Judge of Israel, making her the equivalent of a king. She was also a leader of the army of Israel. Israel had been under domination by the Canaanites for twenty years. Sisera was the captain of the Canaanite army which far outnumbered the army of Israel. Deborah was told by God to have her general, Barak, take his soldiers to Mount Tabor. They would be engaged in battle by the Canaanite soldiers but the Israelites would win the battle. Barak agreed to do it only if Deborah would accompany him. The Israelites did indeed defeat the Canaanites. Deborah gave all the glory to God for the victory and also thanked Him for what He had done for the nation of Israel.

Judith – The king of Ninevah sent his general Holofernes to subdue the Jews. The Jews who were suffering from a famine were about to give up when the widow Judith reprimanded them and told them she would deliver the city herself. She entered the camp of Holofernes and captivated him with her beauty. When he became drunk, she cut off his head. She returned to the city with his head as a trophy and the Jews gained the strength to defeat their enemy. Chapter 16 is Judith’s song of thanksgiving to God for the victory.

Ruth – In the time of the judges, a famine arose in the land of Israel. Therefore, Naomi and her family emigrated from Bethlehem of Judea to the land of Moab. After her husband and children died, Naomi left Moab to return to Bethlehem. She was accompanied by her daughter-in-law Ruth who insisted on going with her. Ruth intoned that famous quote “Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” To help out, Ruth went to work in the fields of Boaz, a rich man. Boaz married Ruth who bore him a son Obed, the grandfather of David. The book of Ruth therefore gives insight into the origin of David, King of Israel and the royal ancestor of the Messiah.

Esther – Upon the death of her parents, Esther was adopted by her uncle Mordecai. Esther won the favor of King Ahasuerus who made her his queen. The king had meanwhile raised Haman to high rank and all the king’s servants bowed down to Haman. Mordecai would not bow down to Haman. Haman obtained the king’s consent to a massacre of all the Jews in the kingdom. (Mordecai, of course, was a Jew.) A gallows was erected to hang Mordecai. The king learned belatedly that Mordecai had never been rewarded for revealing a plot by the eunuchs to kill the king, and therefore planned to reward him accordingly. He asked Aman what would be a fitting reward for one to be honored by the king. Aman, thinking that he himself was to be honored, suggested the use of the king’s apparel and insignia. Esther informed the king of the plot of Aman to destroy her people. The king then ordered Aman to be hanged on the gibbet he prepared for Mordecai and bestowed on Mordecai all of Aman’s property. Mordecai then instituted the feast of Purim to celebrate the day when Aman would have destroyed the Jews but which Esther turned into a day of triumph.

All of these women of the Bible showed extraordinary bravery during a time when women were regarded as mere chattel with no rights and little respect. It is fitting that they should be recognized for their character and accomplishments in the book that is the Word of God.

Shouldn’t those quiet women in our lives today–those we love and admire–be recognized by us for their the courage of their character?

Photo by Mensatic, 2010,

Photo by Mensatic, 2010,

How many people in today’s world would you call ‘damaged?’
Or does life itself just pre-conclude that by the time you leave it you’ll have been damaged in some way?

Life is difficult. For many, it is sometimes dangerous. It’s not a gift, but something to get through. Of course, that’s a depressing view, but many people, especially children, hold it.

Countless children are born into circumstances they did not create, and under circumstances that cause them great pain. Others have been taught to have no faith in anything except themselves, a ‘self’ that is blemished and marred: Trust no one. Everyone is out to get you. Take what you can before it’s taken from you. Grab. Steal. Even kill.

None of us choose the circumstances of our birth, but some appear to be luckier than others—I’m not talking about money here; I’m talking about strong families who support their children. Yes they make mistakes, but they confirm their children as being valuable, and patiently direct them onto non-destructive paths.

I’m talking about one father per family, not a father of ten by ten different women. Appalling? Yes. Yet those young lives are no less valuable in the eyes of God than are the more fortunate children. But how can they know this when their parents slap God in the face by their selfishly stupid behavior?

There is no all-encompassing solution to changing this. More parental responsibility would go a long way, with fathers who not only see life as a gift, but their child and his mother as a gift, rather than a notch on his belt of so-called, ‘baby mamas.’

Every parent is human and often makes poor decisions. There’s no getting around that fact. And sometimes it takes tragedy to see what our mistakes as parents have been. When that happens, we can either fall apart or try to rectify it however we can.

Because life IS a difficult journey for each and every one of us; no matter our parents, no matter our circumstances. It’s little steps, one foot in front of the other, and all the while thinking of ourselves and our children not as victims, but as victors.

Photo by BBoomerindenial, 2015,

Photo by BBoomerindenial, 2015,

There are a few people who I believe are meant to be in my life. From our beginnings, our lives were meant to cross. Our shared, and even unshared, experiences are meant to accent each other, to pull from each other the best of ourselves.

I don’t mean that these certain people are easy–far from it. They are difficult. They are demanding, self-centered, and in many ways self-destructive.

But so am I. So how do we “save/help” each other?

The “how” comes through recognizing the similarity in the flaws that make us difficult. The same flaws that cause us to ignore good and get in bed with evil. The same flaws that cause us to lie, cheat, steal, even murder.

The means of exhibiting those flaws may be different for each, but the root causes of an evil action are the same for all.  It is one of these:

Lust (excessive sexual appetites) in opposition to Chastity (purity)
Gluttony (over-indulgence) in opposition to Temperance (self-restraint)
Greed (avarice) in opposition to Charity (giving)
Sloth (laziness/idleness) in opposition to Diligence (zeal/integrity/Labor)
Wrath (anger) in opposition to Forgiveness (composure)
Envy (jealousy) in opposition to Kindness (admiration)
Pride (vanity) in opposition to Humility (humbleness)

And why should we care? Why should we even try to “help/save” each other? The reason ‘why’ is that the image of God is mirrored in each of us. We must love each other because of that, even if it is not an emotional love.

Loving each other will always be difficult. And sometimes we’ll actually hate the effort. We may even give up, throw it all to the wind. I’ve done that, too.

When that happens, I eventually, and humbly, remember my own words:

Love isn’t a symbol. It’s an irritant, and it will cost you some skin….Sarah Neal Bridgeman, A Hunger in the Heart.

So, what can I do? What can any of us do? Only one thing. Keep trying, for ourselves, and for each other. We simply can not give up.

What Will Your Echo Be?

Posted: July 24, 2015 in World On The Edge
Photo by Veggiegretz, 2012,

Photo by Veggiegretz, 2012,

In my foyer there is a Grandfather’s Clock dating from the mid eighteen hundreds. Its origin is German. Before it came to me, it belonged to my husband’s uncle, a chaplain and Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Air Force. It is a beautiful clock, and temperamental, but if I keep it wound, its gong is clear and loud and steady with an echo that resounds for nearly a full minute throughout the house.

On top of a china cabinet in my dining room, there is an Arsonia Mantel Clock that belonged to my grandmother, also dating from the eighteen hundreds, and may have belonged to my great-grandmother. My grandparents had it when my mother was born in Savannah, GA, and it traveled with their family to Panama City Florida, and finally to Dothan, Al. I remember my grandmother’s daily ritual of winding it. I wasn’t allowed to touch it then, but today, I’m the performer of that ritual and the receiver of its chiming. 

These two old clocks have evaluated time for nearly two centuries. They have broken silence as they struck through births and deaths, through happiness and sorrow, and through all in between. In hours and minutes, these clocks have measured out the lives of many people, some of my family and some unknown. And as people died, the clocks continued to tick along.

There are many clichés about Time: Time is of the essence. Time heals all wounds. Time is money. But what is time really?  To understand, we might consider its opposite.

As human beings on Earth, we cannot experience the opposite of Time–timelessness, or eternity. We cannot fathom ‘No Beginning. No End.’  Our everyday lives are full of schedules and the ticking of clocks.

Some lives tick slow and heavy like the pulse of the Grandfather Clock. Others are quick and lithe as in the tick of the Mantel Clock.

But if Time is how we measure out our lives here on Earth, then what we do in those hours and minutes and seconds we have, must signal something awfully important.

Just as in the ritual of winding the old Mantel Clock, we have a great deal to do with how our time on Earth will be spent and perceived. And as with the Grandfather Clock, there will surely be an echo.

What sort of reverberation will my Time on Earth create?

What will my own echo be?

Am I Doing it Right????

Posted: July 23, 2015 in World On The Edge
Photo by Tabaluga, 2014,

Photo by Tabaluga, 2014,

Am I doing it right? In  Life, I mean.

Most of us wonder about that. We don’t set out to do things wrong. But we often do.

We want to do the best for our families and ourselves.  But what is Best?

There’s really no certainty about what’s best for us.  We do know though, we’re to follow God’s Commandments. But exactly how to follow them in particular situations is sometimes hazy.

For example, in parenting children. What is the best way? What’s good for one child may not be good for another child.

And in marriage. We have two separate personalities involved, so we often have two very different ways of approaching problems.

In our job, or with friends, or with aging family members–is one way better than another?

What are we doing? Are we coming anywhere close to doing it right?

I’ve come to the conclusion that as long as we pray, try to  listen in our prayer to what God is telling us, and have a true desire to please Him–to do things right–then we shouldn’t worry.  We are doing our best.  And this is what is desired of us. That we sincerely, without excuses, TRY.

The really beautiful thing about trying is that even when we stumble, even when we fall, even when we fail, most of us get back up! This is due to the amazing human spirit given us by God.

I’ve posted this prayer of Thomas Merton before.  I love it.

It’s something I pray often.

Especially, when I’m not sure of the path I’m on.

Especially, when I’ve made mistakes and want to start over.

Especially, when I feel lost and need to be led.

Especially when I feel as if no one is able to advise me what to do.

For many years, it’s been a solace for my  own worries–indeed an answer TO my worrying.

Maybe you’ll become fond of it, too.

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Photo by dylanbonnerxti, 2008,

Photo by dylanbonnerxti, 2008,

We all have people in our lives who’ve put us down, made us feel bad about ourselves, even made us feel worthless.

And we also have people in our lives who do exactly the opposite, build us up, make us feel we are worth a lot, make us feel loved.

No one loves us more than God loves us. He is madly in love with us, and we should never forget that.

God never bullies us though. He never makes us His puppet. He does not make us love Him back. We choose to do that, or not.

But always, in the eyes of God, we are His children. His beloved.

When we are maligned by others, God is there to comfort us.

When we are hurt by others, physically or mentally, we can turn to God, not only for solace, but for instruction through His word.

When we put ourselves on the wrong path, and hurt other people, we can be certain that if we ask Him, he will forgive us–and expect us to do something about our behavior.

Comfort, loving instruction, and forgiveness. How can we NOT run to Him?

Aren’t these the qualities we’d like to see in the earthly eyes of those who love us?

And aren’t they the same qualities the ones who love us would like to see in our eyes, too?

Photo by quicksandala, 2015,

Photo by quicksandala, 2015,

Starting this blog post, I looked up a general definition for ‘family.’ Well, most of those definitions stretch the gamut of credulity to the point that the entire world can impersonally be called one’s family.

But the entire world is NOT my family–because I am not personally responsible for it. I cannot feed the world. I cannot advise the world. I cannot hold the world in my arms. I am not responsible for when that large entity makes less than good decisions and goes astray. And I’m not held accountable for it.

Love begins by taking care of the closest ones-the ones at home.
–Mother Teresa

I am, however, seriously accountable for those God has seen fit to put under my care. In that I must feed them, advise them, love them, and provide for them as best I can, I am responsible for my children, my spouse, my parents, my other relations, and to a certain extent, those I call my friends.

I am in charge–for a while–of love and peace among a few precious people I relate with every day. I am not in charge of the world. I am not in charge of love in the world, or peace in the world. God is in charge of that. And He may use my heart and hands in particular situations to facilitate that kind of love. But my first priority is my family.

Peace, like charity, begins at home.–Franklin D. Roosevelt

Are all human beings family? Only in that God created us all and called us to care about each other. This is agape love, meaning sacrificial love and an act of the will. And that concept is huge. But in order to accomplish it, we must start small; at home, with family.

If we do not provide for and love our own family first, we certainly will not love our fellow human beings in a sacrificial way–not genuinely anyway. Only if we accomplish love at home are we prepared to accomplish it elsewhere.

Remember James Foley? It’s been nearly a year since he was beheaded, only a year. Have we forgotten his horrible death? I’m reposting this blog from August, 2014. We must remember. We must realize what is happening. We must wake up! And we must pray.

The mother of Jesus is our partner in prayer. We do not pray to her, we ask her to pray to Jesus for us. The latest, publicized example of this is James Foley, beheaded last week by a fellow human who made evil his personal choice.

James Foley beseeched Mary’s prayers in his hour of greatest need.

Here are the stirring words of Elizabeth Argue, Catholic

“He knelt in the sand with a shaved head, in the garb of a prisoner. The image is heartbreaking and maddening, a cruel act of hatred……

James Foley lived and died as an American Catholic man and he ought to be esteemed as such. He did not call out, but clenched his jaw and courageously faced death. Although we cannot know what he thought in that moment, he wrote that he recited the rosary in captivity, slowly tracing prayers over each knuckle of his hands.

He wrote that it brought him an interior freedom, which his captors could never take away.

James Foley’s life and death are a testament to his character and to all who raised him: to his country, his religion, his family, his teachers, his friends.

Life as an American Catholic is one of relative ease, but it places upon our shoulders a burden of responsibility. While we work and play, we must remember to pray, to read and write, to discuss real issues, to care for one another, to lift up all humanity through our lives. We have opportunities to speak freely and to proclaim the truth – not just that of faith, but also of the beauty and suffering of humanity.

Each day, we must face with courage the little battles – cultural, political, social, moral, personal – in order to be strong if ever a great challenge arises. Each day, we must stand with those who suffer persecution. Each day, we must raise our eyes above our very small trials to see the hope that freedom and faith bring. We are privileged to be both Catholic and American.

Let James Foley be an example to us all of one who lived, suffered, and died with the courage derived from a life of dedication to the truth. Although we will never know what he thought as he knelt in the sand, we take comfort knowing he had often prayed these words:

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.

Surely these prayers, uttered as his only hope in the darkness of a prison, were answered. The Blessed Mother was with him at the hour of his death and nothing, not even the taunts of his murderers, can take away that freedom.

May James Foley rest in peace, may he be freed from death.”—Elizabeth Argue