Slip slidin’ away – the ‘un’ definition of marriage.

Last week many in the country and around the world celebrated the Supreme Court’s decision regarding the unconstitutionality of the ‘Defense of Marriage Act’. The court’s overturning of this legislation opened the door for legalized same sex marriage around the country. Much celebration ensued as a result of this decision as no more could a ‘spouse’ be defined as a part of a heterosexual couple.

blueisblueWhat many (most?!) are failing to overlook is that the removal of the definition of marriage between a man and a woman means that there is *no* definition of marriage. A change in definition is a removal of the original definition which, in turn, means that the definition is not static but is fluid. As such, it is not enough for those who believe in ‘marriage equality’ to decide that ‘equality’ *only* applies to them. Once the door of ‘discrimination’ is opened it cannot be arbitrarily closed.

The courts have ruled that it is a form of discrimination to refuse to allow same sex marriages and allowing the door to open on states to pursue this option again. So what does that mean for marriage? If same sex marriage is permitted and it is discrimination to refuse ‘equality’ to those who wish to marry someone of the same sex – then what happens when polygamists go to court to argue that they are being discriminated against? If we have decided that marriage no longer means a relationship between a man and a woman, then – technically – any form of ‘marriage’ must now be accepted or face the risk of being discriminatory.

Think it sounds far-fetched? Not so much…

The definition of marriage is plastic. Just like heterosexual marriage is no better or worse than homosexual marriage, marriage between two consenting adults is not inherently more or less “correct” than marriage among three (or four, or six) consenting adults. Though polygamists are a minority—a tiny minority, in fact—freedom has no value unless it extends to even the smallest and most marginalized groups among us. So let’s fight for marriage equality until it extends to every same-sex couple in the United States—and then let’s keep fighting. We’re not done yet.

And what happens when parents and children decide to marry each other? What about 6 women and men deciding to ‘marry’ one another? Would it be okay to discriminate against those who believe that they should have the right to marry in the previous examples?

‘Oh, that would never happen.’ Would most discussing the idea of same sex marriage 50 years ago have believed that we would be redefining marriage at this point in time?

Robbing Myself of Joy

joyAs a woman, I try very hard to maintain ‘control’ over my life. I’ve written about this – repeatedly. Its very difficult to try and maintain order amidst chaos of running a household without some element of ‘control’. I recently wrote about my attempt to instill the virtue of ‘meekness’ in my life. Its not very easy.

I had the blessing of being able to bake biscotti with the Dominican Sisters recently. They are an amazingly joy filled group of women of which I am still trying to determine exactly how I can abscond one or perhaps all of them to come and live at my home. Of course, that’s not the answer nor is it possible. I know that I must be a source of joy for my family. Ultimately, their joy must come from within, but – as a mother – I must be an example for joy by revealing the sources of joy to them.

While baking biscotti, I talked with Sr. Maria about my virtue paper I had received on the weekend of the retreat. She explained to me that meekness isn’t necessarily what we believe it to be, but truly means ‘having an appropriate response’. We didn’t have much time to delve into that further, but I appreciated her insight into the definition. It had given me much food for thought and I have contemplated it during my day to day activities since that encounter. One of the most ‘appropriate responses’ to any given situation is joy.

Over the holidays it occurred to me that I had ‘lost’ my joy. Its funny, but we forget that we are capable of joy until we experience it – even if only momentarily. I had realized this because of two experiences when I felt true joy – one was with theDominican Sisters baking biscotti. The other was during the Liturgy of the Eucharist during a Sunday morning Mass. It was the Sunday morning of my retreat weekend with the Dominican Sisters.

I had returned home on Saturday afternoon and went to Sunday Mass at our local Parish. During the Liturgy of the Eucharist while on my knees in prayer waiting to receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist, I felt a joy in my heart that I had never felt before during the Eucharist. It was a feeling as though I might burst inside at the excitement and anticipation of receiving our Lord and Saviour. I looked around and saw everyone looking so serious as they filed their way up the aisle to receive the Holy Eucharist. It dawned on me that, while quiet contemplation and humility are appropriate responses to preparing to receive the Eucharist – so is joy. I could barely contain myself. My face almost hurt from smiling so wide. That feeling has returned during subsequent Masses, though not as intensely as that very moment. It was a beautiful gift of grace from God to reveal the love and joy He wants for us to feel and can receive through the power of the Sacraments.

Sadly, I allowed myself to be robbed of joy over the holidays by what was a less than appropriate response to something entirely beyond my control. We had travelled to be with my husband’s family and were looking forward to visiting with them as it had been some time since we had been together. Our little family hadn’t been back to visit for a major holiday since the passing of one of his sisters in May, 2011. It was a bit of a milestone for us. One of his sisters had suggested hosting a lovely Christmas Eve dinner at her home. His parents had booked a photographer for early that afternoon in order that we might have family photos done since everyone would be together. Again, another milestone since the last family photo we had included his deceased sister just months before she passed. On the morning of Christmas Eve, we received an email from his sister hosting the dinner to advise that she had left town with her family to be with her husband who was away on business and unable to return for Christmas. She wanted to surprise him and take her kids to be with him. The email indicated that they had just landed and she was sorry for any inconvenience it would cause.

My response – I was livid. I was over the top and almost out of control livid. My anger completely overtook me – and I let it. In the middle of an absolutely crazy month of projects, I had done all of our Christmas shopping and wrapping early in order that we could pack everything and take it with us to his family’s Christmas. While we were only traveling for a few days, I packed for my kids and myself and took care of all the necessary details for our road trip. I did this with a sinking feeling in my heart because all I really wanted to do was stay at home and be in our comfortable little abode. I have been feeling anxious and overwhelmed with managing the work on my plate and the details of Christmas and planning a trip nearly put me up over the top. Needless to say, when I heard of part of his family’s decision to leave town without advising anyone after the efforts we had made – I felt utterly betrayed.

‘How could someone invite someone to come and spend the holidays and then leave after they arrived – and without telling them?’

I was ready to pack up the car and head home. I was a mess. My kids were upset at seeing me upset so I packed myself up and went out for a drive trying desperately to figure out how to pull myself together. I drove around looking at Christmas decorations. I even went to the Mall to try and find Christmas spirit there (not exactly an ideal choice on the day before Christmas!). I finally felt marginally acceptable to be around and decided to return to my husband and our kids at his parents’ home. I turned to prayer. I was so closed off to receiving any gifts of grace at that exact moment that even God couldn’t break through my armour of anger. I was still highly volatile and really not ready for prime time. I hadn’t yet been convinced I was even going to participate in the family photos. What was the purpose? Not even everyone was there!

When I returned, I saw the sadness in my daughter’s eyes and realized that I needed to get it together. I had allowed my joy to be robbed and it was robbing her joy. I was being entirely selfish and entirely inappropriate in my response. Yes, I had reason to feel angry – but I had no right to allow it to consume me such that it would destroy how everyone else was feeling. We were all disappointed and sad. I picked out a present from under the tree for my daughter to wear so she’d have something new and pretty for our dinner.

We ended up at my sister in law’s house for the photos and dinner. We did what we could to make the best of it. We took our family photos with our marginally sincere smiles and we enjoyed the company of those who were there.

Had I been a bigger person – or perhaps a little less overwhelmed to begin with – I might have responded in a way more in keeping with the idea of ‘meekness’. It was a great lesson in ‘joy’ because it was a moment where I allowed myself to be robbed of my joy. Christmas is about celebrating the birth of our Lord and Saviour. I had lost sight of the true meaning of Christmas. I had lost sight of my children and what Christmas meant to them in the excitement of seeing their cousins again. I had lost sign of what it meant to my husband to be with his family who were still there. I had lost sight of what it meant to be ‘meek’ and allow myself to feel joy.

The beautiful thing is that I have been able to reflect on what I have learned and it has provided me a reminder of being aware of those things that can bring joy – and hopefully be reminded to not rob myself or others of joy in the future. I stop and look at my beautiful children and find joy in their laughter. I look at the beauty of my surroundings in nature and find joy in the canvas that God has painted for me to look at. Perhaps most importantly, I can attend Mass and experience the joy that comes through the gift of grace received in the Eucharist.

‘Thy will be done.’

Some weeks ago, on Election Day, our parish offered last minute Eucharistic Adoration for the day. We only offer Adoration on Wednesdays every week, but a special request was made as it was Election Day and our Priests very kindly agreed. Given the anxiety, I decided to go – not once, but twice – that day. I went for a short while in the afternoon to offer up prayers. Admittedly, those prayers were for what *I* wanted the outcome of the election to be. Sort of a ‘request’ of God.

As the day progressed and turned into evening, I felt more anxious and sick to my stomach than I had in some time. I couldn’t watch the returns and was determined to entirely tune out the mainstream media as they’d already made their preference for President known for over four years. Our family ate dinner and I felt overwhelmingly restless upon finishing. I had not signed up for a specific hour of adoration, but decided to go back to the Church again and stay as long as needed in order to return to a place of inner peace.

I should clarify and note that the place of ‘inner peace’ had been missing for quite some time. Several months in fact. Perhaps even as much as a year. It had become particularly bad as I was finding myself suffering regular bouts of insomnia where I would wake in the middle of the night with my mind racing through roughly as many topics on Wikipedia and doing so at the speed of sound. To make matters worse, I would drift back to sleep sometimes only minutes before needing to wake up for the day. These sleepless nights weren’t regular – but they were consistent.

I did what any good Catholic would do during times such as these… watch TV or go on the internet. I would pray now and then, but only very briefly. It wasn’t anything deep or meaningful and ended up being more rote than anything. I’m not entirely sure what I was trying to accomplish other than I knew that someone – likely my husband – would ask me in the morning, ‘Did you try praying?’. Of course – other than saying the ‘Our Father’ and some other prayers in a very rote and meaningless way – I hadn’t.

As I made my way into the Sanctuary, I thought about the craziness taking place in the country that day and how much it was contrasted by the calm and quiet at our Church. There were several people already there and they were those whom I would expect to be there praying.

I knelt down on the floor at the end of the pew. The stone floor felt cold and hard but the light was warm and the entire mood inviting. I prayed for God to guide me. I asked Him to share with me for what He wanted me to pray. I moved off the floor and made my way into the pew and knelt along the kneeler. I could feel Jesus’ presence so strongly that night. I took my rosary out of my purse and began to pray. I listened quietly to the intentions that God placed on my heart and began to realize the importance of prayer as a moment of conversion.

Yes, God wants us to pray. Yes, He wants to hear our petitions. But He also wants for us to  be moved in our prayer. He wants for us to experience ‘conversion’ and to move away from ‘my will be done’ and move towards ‘thy will be done’. None of our prayers come as any surprise to Him. God always initiates prayer through an offering of grace. It is up to us to receive that grace and act upon it. He wants us to spend that time in conversation with Him and not only share with Him our petitions, but to listen to Him speak to us in the silence of our hearts.

I saw the beauty in this so clearly during my prayers on this night. Instead of praying for one candidate to win over another, I prayed for a return of our country to His will. I prayed for our country to turn its eyes back to Christ and to accept Him into our lives and to let Him lead. Of course, He’s given us all the grace that each of us need to do that. He *wants* desperately for us to love Him and share our lives with Him, but we – as a nation – have decided that *we* know better and that our time here on earth is more important than our time spent in eternity. We have become the result of the instant gratification that we have been sold through mass marketing.

My prayers that evening became God’s prayers for us instead of what *I* wanted. I could see within myself, at that very moment in time, the conversion that was taking place during that period of meditative prayer. I listened still and quietly and heard God speak to me over and over and over again through the thoughts he placed in my mind and on my heart. I didn’t write it down at the time, but it is clear as day in my mind and I’ve already begun to act upon it in several different ways. I hope to continue to be able to do so as the days pass.

What was, however, the most powerful experience for me was His leading me in prayer. As an ‘organized Mom’, I have difficulty letting go of being in control – its counter to what society tells us we need to do! I learned that if I was willing to let go and let God be in control, even if it was just leading *me* in prayer, beautiful things happen and we experience His grace and His mercy. We can experience the beauty of conversion.

All the grace we need.

One of the ways in which I know God is trying to talk to me is when I see or hear the same message over and over and over and over again. I say that He is ‘trying’ to talk to me because often times it takes a good smack upside the head for me to pay attention. He is, however, always there and always speaking to each and every one of us.

The message to me of late has been about ‘grace’. As I look back in recent times, I see moments where the idea and concept of grace is placed in front of me on several different occasions, but in my infinite stubbornness – I refuse to acknowledge or see them.

The trend started with my husband noting – repeatedly – that everything is grace. As a wife, I – of course – thought, ‘Yeah, yeah honey… everything is grace. Pass the peas please.’

God, however, was trying to make a point and I wasn’t seeing it so He spoke a little louder by having one of our sessions of ‘Catholicism’ by Fr. Robert Barron speak about the ‘Communion of the Saints’ of which my biggest takeaway was that the saints were virtually overflowing with grace. It was a beautiful reminder of His intention for ALL of us to become saints in our lives here on Earth.

The Catholicism session may have been a reminder, but apparently I *still* wasn’t getting the message so He spoke a little louder and sent me on a 24 hour retreat with the Dominican Sisters of Mary. It was their very first retreat here in Central Texas and I knew virtually nothing about it until after I registered and even then I was still fairly in the dark only looking up where the retreat center was the morning of the day I was to drive to it and discovered it to be much further away from home than I had thought! I had received the agenda only a day or two before the retreat was to take place and discovered that it was to be centered around the theme of – you guessed it – grace!

While on the retreat, each of the women were given a little gift from the Sisters. It was a sheet of paper on which a particular virtue was written. They had given them to each of us with the idea that we could meditate on them for the next 24 hours we would be together, or even for the entire Advent season. The little sheets of paper were all placed in a basket and passed around among the women who had been told that they could either search for a virtue in which they knew they were struggling, or perhaps leave it up to the Holy Spirit. Working hard to let God be in the driver’s seat, I decided to it be a Holy Spirit moment and closed my eyes and picked my paper out of the basket. My virtue – meekness. I am an organized control freak to put it politely. I knew that the Holy Spirit was calling on me in a big big way. That little sheet of paper which may have seemed like such an ‘insignificant’ gift may have been one of the best gifts I have ever received. It serves for me a constant reminder of my need to trust in God and His will.

Over the weekend, Sr. Maria noted that

God gives us enough grace in each and every day to become a saint.

Tonight I had a beautiful example of God’s grace and my need to focus on meekness – as well as the way in which we are able to see God’s unending and merciful love in a lighthearted and humourous way as we accept the grace that he unceasingly bestows upon each and every one of us.

This evening our Parish held out Advent Reconciliation Service. As we arrived at the Church I had an organized Mom moment and thought that we should find a place close to the one of the confessionals as we arrived so that when the mad rush to line up for the various Priests scattered around the Sanctuary took place we would already be seated in a primo spot and would be in line! ‘Brilliant’, I thought. God, however, had His own ideas. And I’m pretty sure he was looking at me and thinking of that slip of paper I’d received this weekend with the word ‘meekness’ on it – and laughing. Not in a spiteful way, but in a knowing and fatherly way that said ‘Oh, my dear, how quickly you forget.’

As the various Priests were introduced and our Pastor noted where they would all be located, I realized very quickly that he went through the entire list and didn’t say who would be in the confessional to which I had so ‘brilliantly’ placed my family. No, he hadn’t said it would be because there would be no Priest in our confessional. A name was posted on a sign on the window, but that name had not been called and was clearly not going to be there. This, of course, led to a mad dash across the Sanctuary to get to another line… and hopefully a short one. The one that I *thought* was short had nine people ahead of us. Because I am ‘organized Mom’, I did the math in my head and estimated that it would be on average between 5-10 minutes per confession – leaning more toward the 10 minute average which would see us there for roughly an hour to an hour and a half. Of course, there were several behind us in line – so we wouldn’t be last.

During the course of our waiting, I spent time reading and also reassessing my calculations regarding how long we would be waiting.

‘There are many young people ahead of us in line. They don’t like to be in there very long.’ I thought. Perhaps it wouldn’t be so long after all. I looked around the Sanctuary at the other lines and saw people who had come into the service late and were already in the pews praying their penance.

‘Ugh’, I thought, ‘I was here first.’

I realized as I stood in line that, while I had just been to confession on Friday, I might build up enough sins just standing in line with my children to be able to have enough to confess again myself! As the evening progressed and the lines got shorter, people bounced from line to line trying to find the one that would move the most quickly. I, of course, didn’t pick quite so well. People behind us left our line and moved to shorter lines. They came back after their confession and told those still waiting behind us that they had already made their confession and fulfilled their penance. Even my daughter jumped ship for a faster moving line with her friends.

In the end, it came down to my son and I and one other person in line behind us. I noted to her that there was still a Priest in another room nearby and that while he was with someone at that moment, there was no one waiting. She noted that she really wanted to see the specific Priest for whom we had been waiting in line.

In went my son in front of me. Then I went in. My son was very patiently waiting for me when I finished. My husband and my daughter had left a little earlier as she had homework to do and I didn’t want her to have to wait around needlessly and then be up late.

As I picked up my books and purse off the floor where my son had been sitting, I looked up and out around the Sanctuary. It was empty. Absolutely and completely empty. I saw one other Priest who was getting up from his spot and getting ready to leave. As I stopped and looked around, I laughed. I saw the humour in God’s gift to me.

I had spent the early part of the evening ‘planning’ for how we would get in and out of there quickly and easily. Didn’t happen. I then spent my time in line feeling frustrated and trying to figure out how long we would be there. For the record, we were there longer than I had anticipated. The Service ended at about 7:25 and we left at roughly 7:20. We had waited for two hours.

There is a saying that goes like this:

If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.

Tonight’s experience couldn’t have been a more perfect example of this idea. I envisioned God above looking down and chuckling at me thinking, ‘You just don’t get it do you? You are NOT in control.’

As I stood in line with my two children – both of whom were incredibly patient – I began reading ‘The Better Part’ written by John Bartunek LC. Its a wonderful book on prayer. On one of the pages he notes

Mass media stimulates the surface of the mind, but the constant rapid flow of images and information militates against going deeper. Meditation provides a respite from frenzied mental stimulation and gives the soul a chance to simply love and be loved in the intimacy of spiritual embrace.

I thank God for the many graces He provides including the the many reminders of where He is calling me to listen and grow, and especially for the opportunity provided through the retreat to stop, slow down, listen and be willing to receive His unlimited supply of graces – and then through His love and mercy this evening give me that gentle and light-hearted reminder that I need to carry over what I learned while on retreat to my day to day life.

Just shut up and listen.

I’ve been reading a wonderful book I picked up at Clear Creek Monastery in Oklahoma called ‘Praying the Bible – An Introduction to Lectio Divina‘ by Mariano Magrassi. Its a wonderful book in which I hope to learn more about ‘praying’ the Bible instead of ‘reading’ the Bible. Its been wonderfully informative thus far.

This morning I spent some time reading the chapter on Concrete Dispositions in which Magrassi talks about preparation for Lectio Divina. One of the dispositions on which he focusses is ‘Dialogue’ about which he explains that the reading of scripture is a dialogue between two people – God and the reader.

When I read, he speaks to me. When I pray, I respond to him. (p. 78)

What struck me, however, was the reminder that God speaks to us first.

The whole Bible stresses the primary of the divine initiative. Augustine says that we would have not sought God if God had not first sought us. It was not Israel who chose God, but God who chose Israel. Speaking of love, John observes that it was God who first loved us. The same must be said of that primordial reality, the Word. God is not only someone who listens to me. Before that, he is someone who speaks to me. The Word is the act by which he takes the initiative: he seeks me, enters my life, takes hold of it and molds it through the power of his love. It is, in a way, the central point of God’s intervention in human life. Our history becomes sacred the moment he intervenes in it.

As I read this, I felt a pang of personal ‘guilt’ as I realized that I have stopped listening to God recently. Its not that I haven’t been ‘praying’ per se, but my prayers have not been a dialogue with God. Over the past several years I had been very good at listening to God and maintaining that dialogue, but more recently – I’ve been doing all the talking.

It struck me that I’ve become somewhat stunted in my spiritual growth in the same way a child or young person can become stunted in their own maturity. As children grow and learn more about themselves and the world around them, they come to a point where they believe that they know what is best for them and that the things that we – as parents – have to say are very ‘nice’ but not entirely necessary. They are kind suggestions, but they need not be taken to heart or given serious consideration as the child believes that they know what is best for them based on their own experiences. It hit me right between the eyes – I have become that child of late.

Its not so much that I don’t follow the 10 Commandments or respect and fully love my faith. I know that the 10 Commandments were not called ‘commandments’ and not ‘suggestions’ for a reason. My spirituality, however, has shallowed somewhat in the sense that I have been going through the motions but without any real or deep intentions. I have continued to believe and practice – but the practicing has been lacking at best and fairly non-existent at the worst.

Does that make me a fraud for trying to write a blog about being a Catholic convert? No – quite the opposite. It makes me a human being on a real and true faith journey in which one will not always be fully immersed in their beliefs to the fullest extent possible. I need to be fully honest about where I am on my faith journey at any given moment in time and know that I am not alone in these experiences.

Thankfully, however, God had us spend a couple of nights along our vacation journey at Clear Creek Monastery and had me stumble upon this wonderful book so that he could give me the good whack up the side of the head that I needed. The whole book has been wonderful reading and has me very excited to return to my Bible with an eager and open heart and prayerful mind, but this chapter in particular has helped me to stop and consider where I most need to modify my behavior.

Too often, God is seen only as an object of faith. All I have then is a set of truths to memorize, rather like dry grammar. I cannot enter into communion with the living God. No, he is first of all the subject of the relationship. God ones to meet me and addresses me through the free and sovereign initiative of God’s love. Then for me, as for Abraham, God has a face and a voice. God called me by name and speaks God’s Word to me. And I fall on my knees before God like Thomas, with a cry of faith, “My Lord and my God.”

With regard to prayer in particular:

… the two participants are the soul and God; the initiative must belong to God. What he says must matter most. We could even say it is the ONLY thing that matters. Thus prayer is first of all listening – listening to someone who speaks in Scripture.

Magrassi explains that prayer that does not begin with the Bible is inconceivable. Here is what I had been missing entirely – I had stepped away from my Bible. This hasn’t been an intentional act, but one that had simply ‘happened’ through the basic acts of ‘life’. Fr. Larry Richards is known for saying

No Bible, no breakfast. No Bible, no bed.

I had always thought that this was a nice discipline, but didn’t understand – until now – the considerable importance summed up into that simple statement. I had thought it something one should ‘do’ to be a good and faithful servant, but had no real understanding as to ‘why’. As I read the chapter in ‘Praying the Bible’, I realized that prayer and the Bible go hand in hand which led me to understand why I had felt a spiritual void. My morning prayers in the Magnificat had been put by the wayside recently meaning that I have had no daily connection with Scripture. I am abundantly aware that this has to change.

Scripture is a letter. Unlike a book, a letter always bears a personal message.

In my own life, I had put aside the importance of reading the personal letters that God wishes for me to experience as part of my faith journey – not just read, but fully experience.

On a larger scale, however, I was also struck by the idea that we, as a society, have stopped listening and have become stunted in our growth. We have decided that we would prefer to life perpetually in a state of childhood whereby we insist that we know best and need not consider that there is a power greater than ourselves that set out to love us first, as our parents love us, and guide us to a greater joy and happiness than we could know if left to make our own decisions without experience or wisdom. One only has to glance at the world around us to realize that we have made a conscious decision to stop listening.

Thankfully, however, I had an opportunity to stop, shut up and have listen to God by reading the book he placed before me and recognize its intention for me as a gentle nudge back onto the path in which he knows will lead me to a more peaceful and meaningful existence. It may not always be ‘easier’, but it will be the one that God intends.

Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.

… and don’t hesitate to remind me to shut up and just listen.

One item on a list of things that make me crazy.

I’ve been reading a lot about Melinda Gates efforts to donate billions to provide contraceptives to those in poorer countries. In the articles, they usually mention that she is ‘defying the Catholic Church’ by doing so. Take, for example, this particular quote from an article in ‘The Independent’ out of the UK:

Melinda Gates, billionaire philanthropist and practising Catholic, yesterday laid down the gauntlet to the Vatican by vowing to dedicate her life to improving access to contraception for women in the developing world.

This was the FIRST sentence in the article. I know I titled this piece ‘One item’ but I would like to mention two points that jumped off the screen and hit me in the face – I will, however, focus on the first:

1) The article described Mrs. Gates as a ‘practising Catholic’.

2) The article indicated that Mrs. Gates ‘laid down the gauntlet to the Vatican’.

In the second point, the author implies that Mrs. Gates is throwing down a challenge to the Vatican as though they believe that the Church will somehow be swayed by Mrs. Gates and her billions of dollars. That’s right, 2000 years of teaching will be changed because Mrs. Gates has decided that it is better to provide contraception and abortifacients to the underprivileged in poor countries rather than continue their already broad efforts to provide expanded health coverage, or to spend the millions that the Church spends to help provide farms, clean water, shelter etc…

In the eyes of the Catholic Church, every life is sacred and has dignity. In Mrs. Gates world, the solution to the problem is that they simply not be born. Mrs. Gates feels that rather than attempt to instill and educate regarding reproduction and natural forms of preventing pregnancy, that we should instead encourage women to keep their bodies in artificial states of pregnancy and pump their bodies full of synthetic hormones.

Mrs. Gates said:

 “I believe in not letting women die, I believe in not letting babies die, and to me that’s more important than arguing about what method of contraception [is right].”

What she really believes is that life be prevented entirely – in my humble opinion, this borders on eugenics.

What really bothers me, though, is that the author of the article professes that Melinda Gates is a ‘practising Catholic’, yet indicates that she has challenged the Vatican. Clearly the author understands that what Mrs. Gates is promoting is entirely against the most basic and fundamental beliefs of the Church. On the one hand – she is Catholic. On the other hand – she is challenging the Church. How, then, is one a ‘practising’ anything if they are seeking to change the most fundamental teachings.

Every time Catholics attend Mass, we recite the Nicene Creed which states that:

I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.

This is key and critical. The Catholic Church depends on unity but welcomes diversification. The unity comes from our beliefs, the diversification comes from how we express those beliefs. The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly defines the ‘Offenses Against the Dignity of Marriage’ in which it states:

2399    The regulation of births represents one of the aspects of responsible fatherhood and motherhood. Legitimate intentions on the part of the spouses do not justify recourse to morally unacceptable means (for example, direct sterilization or contraception).

Yes, yes, there are those will argue – ‘Oh, those men just want to control women… yada yada yada yada’, but one only needs to look back to Pope Paul VI’s predictions as the widespread use of the birth control pill took hold:

In the case of Mrs. Gates, she clearly doesn’t believe in this particular teaching of the Church and, therefore, is not in unity in with the Church. If one is not exercising unity with the Catholic Church, can one then describe themselves as a ‘practising Catholic’? The Church will not change – thank goodness! I’m not here to judge Mrs. Gates, per se, but look at the logic of statements like these. There are lots of things within other faiths that I really like and some which I believe – but I don’t believe ALL of them. Can I call myself a ‘practising Jew’ if I believe that Jesus is the son of God? Can I call myself a ‘practising Mormon’ if I believe in the Holy Trinity? If I don’t believe in the ‘core beliefs’ of a particular faith then should I try and change that faith or look for a faith in which I share the same core beliefs.

As for the effort of the Gates themselves, how nice of them and the folks at the UN to create an even larger environment for the objectification of women. And what about the spread of AIDS? The pill, IUDs etc… do nothing to stop the spread of AIDS. The most successful program in Africa to slow the spread of AIDS took place in Uganda where they promoted – egads – abstinence! Imagine telling people the truth and having it have a positive impact! Will wonders never cease?!

But, back to Mrs. Gates. I’m not sure I can even appreciate the motivation behind her desire to ‘help’ in this particular case because it does nothing to promote or encourage any kind of self-control. Why is it that we must have sex whenever we want it? We recognize the need for self control in other parts of our lives – why not our sexual lives?

The result of her efforts, I believe, will lead to a further breakdown of the family in other parts of the world as has happened in the US. Not everything that the US has provided to other countries has been good, and – in this case – I think we are doing more to harm these particular societies than we are to help them.

Think of the double-speak that exists in this particular situation. Here we are telling those in third world countries that your lives would be better if there were just fewer of you. To me this is insulting and degrading to those this program is professed to help. Nancy Pelosi once stated that:

“Well, the family planning services reduce cost. They reduce cost. The states are in terrible fiscal budget crises now and part of what we do for children’s health, education and some of those elements are to help the states meet their financial needs. One of those – one of the initiatives you mentioned, the contraception, will reduce costs to the states and to the federal government.”

Mrs. Gates is right along there with her. Very sad.

Stepping outside the comfort zone.

I have been reading ‘Radical Hospitality‘ by Father Daniel Homan and Lonni Collins Pratt. Its a wonderful book about Benedictine Hospitality – of which I *thought* I understood, but am learning that I didn’t really know what it truly meant until I started reading this book. We have come to know the idea of hospitality in terms of the social niceties that exist in society today – serving someone a warm meal, offering a place to stay. These are ideas that exist within Benedictine Hospitality, but the idea goes much deeper in its need for us to open ourselves – not just our homes – to strangers.

Hospitality means bringing strangers into your heart, which may or may not result in inviting strangers to the table.

True hospitality requires that we open our very selves to strangers and be willing to listen and care. Doing so, however, doesn’t require that we need to bring people into our lives forever as a result. Someone who gives of themselves

… does not have to attach himself to every person who passes through this open heart of his, however: he can love them at the moment and let them go on.

I am only half way through the book, but there clearly a recognition that asking people to open themselves in this way in this day and age is a radical departure from that which we are used to. Today we fear strangers. We keep a distance from them as we go about our busy lives. We think that the issues and troubles of others are of no concern to us. Asking people to modify this way of thought requires a change of heart and behavior. Changes such as these require most of us to step outside our comfort zone. These days, however, we do not welcome the idea of being outside the comfort zone.

Advertising today shows us that the primary goal of our consumer centered society is to find ‘comfort’ in some way. Comfort can be our feeling good about ourselves because we wear beautiful clothes that are in-style making us feel a part the well-dressed in our society. Wearing the latest styles also gives an appearance that we can afford to throw away our ‘old’ clothes at the whim of designers and clothing companies that need to change styles in order for us to continue to consume. Comfort can also be found in the ease and convenience provided by various products – smart-phones, kitchen appliances, GPS mechanisms in our car, prepared foods. The list goes on and on. Consumers today want ways in which our lives can be made easier – less work means more comfort. We step further and further away from the idea of knowing what it feels like to be outside the comfort zone.

Yesterday, I worked outside in our yard. There was much work to be done and it was a warm day outside. I thought about the comfort zone as I went about completing the yard work in the heat of the sun. My body felt progressively tired and I was starting to feel aches in my knees from bending down and pulling up semi-dead grass that was growing among the spaces in our rock garden. It occurred to me that as we have moved away from an agrarian and rustic society and toward more highly concentrated urban centers, we have stepped further and further away from understanding the challenges of physical labor and more and more toward a society of convenience.

After our second child was born, I began to run more regularly and eventually decided to tackle the challenge of running a marathon. If one ever wants to step outside their comfort zone in a physical sense, run a marathon. For those just starting to run, a 5k can be just as much an accomplishment! When I began to run more competitively – a relative term meaning that I ran in an attempt to improve my time and compete on a local level, I enlisted the help of a coach who would be able to walk me through the training necessary to improve my speed. What I began to learn is what any athlete will be able to tell you – that to improve and excel at a particular sport means being required to step outside of your comfort zone on a physical and mental level on a regular basis. For runners, it means running faster than you intended to run your race and holding that pace for extended periods of time. For distance runners it means logging lots and lots of miles on days when your legs are already tired from a tough workout on previous days and the cumulative effects of already having run lots of regular miles. Doing these things brings discomfort to your body which requires a strong mind in order to overcome and be willing to keep going.

We have also taken the willingness to step outside our comfort zone of pain in child-birth and even breastfeeding with the advent of pain suppressors and formula. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking anyone who opts for the epidural or a shot of Demerol. I fully understand that there are no medals given for women who choose to give birth drug-free. I have to confess that I opted for a shot of Demerol in the birth of our first child because I was feeling as though I was coming a little ‘unglued’, but did manage to relax and overcome the pain of childbirth with our second child and was able to do so drug-free. I share this not to give myself a pat on the back and will confess to you that my choice to do so in both cases was two fold – i) knowing that women have done this for thousands of years and survived made me understand that I would be able to do so and I really wanted to avoid bringing un-natural drugs into the experience and ii) I am petrified of needles and a medial procedure weakling so the thought of an epidural scared me far more than the thought of the pain of the experience which I fully understood would end as soon as my sweet baby was born. Once our beautiful babies are born, many opt to not breastfeed and instead choose formula. I’ve heard a multitude of reasons for this – but the great majority seem to center around either the discomfort that can arise during the initial period of breastfeeding, the inconvenience and embarrassment of breastfeeding in public, not wanting to have enlarged breasts for an extended period of time, or going back to work and not wanting to pump. The theme throughout is the idea that ‘this isn’t going to be a great experience for me’ for some reason or another and will require extra effort. In both cases, my attempt isn’t to criticize anyone who opts for the drugs during childbirth or not to breastfeed – to each his own, but to identify the idea that we are again – in the most natural experiences in our lives – drawn toward the experience that will give us the most comfort.

The ways in which we move toward comfort in our lives are too numerous to mention. Contemplation led me to begin to understand that reaching toward comfort is allowing us to spend our time focussed on a self-centered life and concerned mostly about our own comfort level. How then, can we expect to fully and freely move outside our comfort zone? And if we aren’t willing to step outside our comfort zone, are we truly capable of significant and radical change enabling ourself to give back to those we encounter every single day? This is going to be a wonderful exercise!

Being a good steward.

On our daily drive to school, my children and I spend the few minutes between our house and the carpool line in prayer. Some days they like to pray, and on other mornings they are tired or cranky and less enthusiastic. We begin our prayer in thanksgiving and spend time asking God to look after others, but also to look after us.

We ask God to help us be ‘good stewards of the gifts and talents He has given us’. I think I added this specific line to our prayers at the beginning of this year. This morning, my sweet boy decided to ask me what ‘steward’ meant – which, of course, at first led me to wonder to myself what he thought we’d been praying for all year. I kept that little thought to myself and instead turned to gratitude for his being inclined to ask and want to know.

I explained to him that being a ‘steward’ meant that we were taking care of or looking after something – something that usually belonged to someone else. We then talked about how God – through his grace – gave us the gifts and talents that we all have. We all have beautiful things to offer this world and everything in it, and that each of our gifts has a very specific purpose in order to help create harmony. I explained to my son that the gifts and talents that we have are a gift from God and that, by giving us these unique abilities, He wants us to use them for a greater good and to their fullest potential – so, in that sense, we are to be a ‘good steward’ of our abilities.

My heart was warmed as each child began to list off what they believed to be the gifts and talents they possessed. I reminded them that it was important that they be respectful and appreciative of those gifts and to only use them for a greater good.

Discussions like these make me stop and ponder whether or not I am using my gifts and talents to their fullest potential. Truthfully, I’m not sure I have ever sat down and listed what I think that these might be… which suggests that I am likely not only not using them to their fullest potential, but may not also be always using them for a greater good.

Perhaps its time for a period of discernment to prayerfully consider these gifts and talents and determine where it is God would like to see me use them in His name and for His glory. How wonderful that a simple conversation with children can lead us to an opportunity for deeper thought, consideration and discernment.

Who is being bullied and who are the bullies?

This past fall we had dealt with a situation in which our young son was being bullied at school. It had been taking place for almost two months without our knowing. What we did know, however, is that his sweet and cheerful disposition had changed and he had become prone to sudden outbursts of physical and emotional rage. His behavior had become so extreme that we contemplated seeking professional help from a counsellor to try and learn why this might be happening. It was torturous to see him so unhappy and feel helpless in trying to understand why. He’s never been one for sharing his feelings in discussion, so it was very difficult to try and determine the root cause of this change in behavior.

In late October, our prayers of understanding why this was happening had been answered. We went to our scheduled parent-teacher conference and learned that on that morning a boy had written an unkind note about our son and had showed it to him in order to have him feel badly. We spoke with our son about this note and the floodgates opened. We discovered that this had been just one in a series of incidents that had been taking place almost daily. The cumulation of this behavior by this boy had caused our son to feel terrible about himself. We, with our son’s teacher, told our son that this behavior would change and that he could freely and openly tell us about these incidents going forward. While we didn’t realize it at the time, we noticed within that very week that our son’s cheery disposition was starting to return and his moments of rage had begun to diminish.

I’ve been more alert to bullying and its impact since this happened. I admit that I had read of teen suicides as a result of bullying in the past and had wondered ‘How could the parents not know what was happening?’, and – after having our son experience someone telling him repeatedly that he was worthless for two months and not know though knowing something was happening – I can say that I now understand how I understand how they could not have known.

Watching the news the past few weeks, I have seen examples of bullying take place in very public ways and it has been appalling to watch. A bully is defined as ‘A person who uses strength or power to intimidate those who are weaker.’ and the act of bullying is ‘Use superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force him or her to do what one wants.’

The most prominent example of this blatant bullying took place when prominent anti-bullying advocate, Dan Savage, founder of ‘It Get’s Better‘ (widely endorsed by the Obama administration) took the opportunity to use his pulpit at a teen journalism conference to speak horribly about the Bible and Christians who believe in the validity of sacred scripture. During a lengthy anti-Bible rant, Savage noted that

We can learn to ignore the bulls-t in the Bible about gay people.

He went on to refer to those who, offended by his behavior, got up and left by calling them names like ‘pansy-asses’. It is astounding to me that a young gay man who has been the subject of much name calling and criticism of his choices in life – so much so that he would start a foundation to speak out against it – would be so hypocritical to exercise the same behavior he abhors to a group of teens who thought they were coming to hear about journalism. Dan Savage has become the bully (we become what we hate?).

Sadly, this behavior is being exercised from the top down by our own President here in the US as ‘Obama for America’ had the audacity to publicize the names of donors to the Romney campaign whom they deemed to be ‘questionable’. The point here isn’t to discuss the merits of whether or not Romney has ‘questionable’ donors, or even to point out the hypocrisy of President Obama doing so when his own list of donors contains their own questionable characters (John Corzine?, Jeffrey Katzenberg? George Kaiser?), but rather to illuminate the poor example it sets for our children when the highest office in the land to abuse its position of power and threaten those who speak out (or donate) against it. Isn’t this considered intimidation of those weaker than the office of the President – which would be essentially everyone in the US.

I’ve been doing my very best to stay away from being political on this blog… I really have! Reading this story yesterday, however, combined with the revealing of Savage as a bully prompted me to write this today. The story reveals how the publishing of questionable and inaccurate materials on the Obama for America website about Frank VanderSloot, the CEO of Melaleuca, Inc. has cost Mr. VanderSloot significant business deals. Other articles regarding the matter indicate that Mr. VanderSloot is considering libel lawsuits – and rightly so. The first line of the article states

Here’s what happens when the president of the United States publicly targets a private citizen for the crime of supporting his opponent.

It is saddening that we would find ourselves with the individual occupying the highest office of the land speaking out against bullying, and then using the same tactics he criticizes in those who bully in an attempt to hold on to that office.

How can we teach our children the importance of respect for one another and treating those with whom you may disagree with dignity and respect if those who occupy prominent places in the media don’t do the same and exemplify that behavior? Its even worse when those who speak out against it turn around and do the very thing against which they speak.

Thankfully, there is always the opportunity to share with our children the idea that Jesus taught us loving others as He loves us.

Why are the ‘secrets’ of the Eucharist ‘secrets’?

Once a month, I lead a discussion for a group of women who wish to come together to share and deepen their faith. It was never really intended to be a ‘book club’, but our discussions have largely been based upon a monthly reading. We’ve read ‘He and I‘ and this month we read ‘7 Secrets of the Eucharist‘ by Vinny Flynn. We had read it for our meeting last month, but had a guest speaker at last month’s meeting, so we decided to carry over our discussion on ‘The Eucharist’ in order that we could discuss this wonderful little book.

What struck me as I was reading this book is ‘Why the secrets of the Eucharist are secrets?’ Its not as though these are ‘secrets’ in the sense that these are little known facts being intentionally hidden by a select few. The secrets are things that we really *should* know in order to fully appreciate the magnitude of the gift that we have in the Eucharist. The ‘secrets’ are really the things we either keep ourselves from realizing, or have never had the beauty of someone share them so that we may deepen our understanding.

One of the keys to bringing the soul into a faith filled union with the Eucharistic Lord Jesus is the virtue of humility.

For me, one of the most profound and thought provoking statements of the book is the one noted above. Of course, it makes perfect sense – but how often do we stop and ponder our own humility? How often do we do so in a world that rewards those who bring themselves to attention for achieving almost nothing and fails to recognize the virtue that exists within those who quietly achieve great things that change the world.

Flynn goes on to note the ‘The Emmaus Problem’ in which the Apostles fail to recognize the true identity of Jesus until

‘at the breaking of the bread’ their eyes are opened, and they recognize Him (Lk 24: 13-35)

As a convert, the most difficult concept for me to grasp was the idea of ‘transubstantiation‘. Flynn’s discussion of ‘The Emmaus Problem’ spoke to me in a very particular way in that I recognize fully that I continue to try and understand the concept with my head. But, how does one understand ‘The Mystery of Faith’ with one’s head? It cannot be grasped. I am constantly reminding myself of needing to understand with my heart.

The first mystery talks about the Eucharist as being ‘Alive’. I’d never thought of this before. I’d never thought of whether it was a ‘dead’ or ‘living’ Jesus and what that meant. Truthfully, I felt like a bit of a nitwit when I read the bible passage at the end of the chapter.

I am the living bread… Whoever eats this bread will live forever… Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. Jn 6: 51, 57

I had images of Homer Simpson running through my head saying ‘Doh!’. How did I miss this? I’ve only been fortunate enough to receive the Eucharist since December of 2007, but did I really miss this *the whole time*! It wasn’t, however, until I read the whole book and was reminded of other ‘secrets’ of which I was already aware that I realized why Christ was ‘Alive’ in the Eucharist – it is because He lives in Heaven and when we participate in the Mass we are invited into the presence of those in Heaven through the lifting of the veil. Of course – it makes perfect sense. If the Eucharist is the presence of Christ as He exists in Heaven – then the Eucharist *has* to be ‘Alive’. It makes sense… but why am I just now learning this?

‘The flesh of the Son of Man, given as food,’ explains Blessed Pope John Paul II, ‘is his body in its glorious state after the resurrection.’

With this in mind, it is easy to see why Flynn takes significant time to reflect upon the importance of being prostrate in either our bodies or our minds – or both.

Flynn goes on in the second secret to note that ‘Christ is not alone’. How many times when we receive the Eucharist do we hear ‘Body of Christ’ or ‘Blood of Christ’ and think ‘Yep – its the Body of Christ’ or ‘Yep – its the Blood of Christ’, but we forget completely that Christ is only one element of the Holy Trinity. So where Christ is present, so too are God and the Holy Spirit also present. Also, we forget that Christ – in His perfection – cannot be ‘divided’. Hence, His body and blood are fully present in the Eucharist under both species which is why we are in full communion upon receiving either the consecrated Host or the Precious Blood. Flynn also reveals the presence of Heaven during the Eucharistic Liturgy as revealed in the Book of Revelation. A nice summary (albeit somewhat antiquated website!) can be found here and also here.

Time and Space for God is what exists under the 'arc' - it is not limited by linear time or man's concept of space.

The third secret ‘There is only one Mass’. In order to fully understand this aspect, one really needs to understand the first two secrets – they build on each other. The concept of this secret is the idea that God exists across all space and time and that time, for God, is not linear or chronological as it is for us. This is a concept that many seem to struggle with, but somehow my ‘warped’ brain seemed to understand. Two elements that helped me to understand this were asking – if God created the Universe, why would He be constrained to linear or chronological time. We, as humans, live on a chronological time scale and (save for some Saints who were able to bi-locate) can only be in one pace at any given time. God, however, is all encompassing and it would seem almost insulting to box him into the same concept of space and time limiting him to the notion that He can only be in one space and in one point in time. Realizing this, I was able to visualize the idea of a line representing the ground in which we stand and also the linear time scale, and a person (you, me, whomever) at a certain point in time. If it was our names that Jesus whispered on the cross, wouldn’t God be able to be at any point in time that He wanted to be and also at *ALL* the points in time that he wanted to be? With this is in mind and the idea of being invited to be in the presence of those in Heaven from the second secret, it becomes easier to contemplate the idea that when we attend Mass, we are stepping in and out of one Mass.

With the Lord, one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. 2 Peter 3:8

The Mass is a re-presentation of the sacrifice of Christ – not a ‘memory’ of it, and not a ‘recreation’. At the Mass

the once-for-all sacrifice of the Cross, which is always present before the Father in heaven, is now made present on our time and place – p. 43

Even more astounding

We sit there in our parish church, locked in the confines of our own time and place, thinking that we’re joining our priest in offering our own particular Mass. But, in reality, Christ is inviting us to enter in, beyond the veil, so that He can lift us up, out of time and into the Eternal Now, into the very sanctuary of heaven, where He leads us into the presence of the Father (See Hebrews 10:19-21)

The awareness and belief in this – in and of itself – is absolutely mind-blowing to me.

In the fourth secret, Flynn asserts that the ‘The Eucharist is not just one miracle’. I have to confess that I didn’t fully grasp this the first time I read this book. One of the women in our group the other night noted that she thought that perhaps Flynn had *really* wanted to have ‘seven’ secrets and could only come up with 6, but then struggled and came up with this idea. She wasn’t quite sold on the idea. After some reflection on the first three miracles, she and I both came around to the idea that if you looked at everything that was taking place during the Mass – it became easier to see that there were, truly, several miracles involved.

Secret 5 was a good reminder – ‘We don’t just receive’. We are invited to participate in a relationship with Christ.

How can we receive such a gift in a merely passive way? Yes, Christ is doing something. But part of what He’s doing is calling to us, inviting us to respond to His initiative in an active way.

We receive innumerable graces through receiving the Eucharist, but we are also called to enter into communion, or to be in ‘union with Christ’. Being in union with Christ means that we are called to be like him, to love him, and to actively participate in our relationship that He and I share.

In Secret 6 we learn that ‘Every Reception is Different’.

…there is an absolute relationship between how I receive and what I receive. – p. 71

Flynn brings into the discussion the passage from 1 Corinthians that is often used to help Catholics explain to our Protestant brothers and sisters why only confirmed Catholics may receive of the Eucharist in the Catholic Church. As Catholics, we believe that the Body and Blood of Christ is present in the consecrated hosts and wine, as such, we also believe

Whoever eats of the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily, will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgement on himself. 1 Cor 11:27-29

For years before my confirmation, I attended Mass with my husband and would quietly sit in the pew while the rest of the Mass attendees went to receive the Holy Eucharist. There were times that I did feel ‘excluded’ wondering why I couldn’t receive. As I began to learn more about the faith, I began to understand that its not an ‘exclusion’ with the intent of keeping one from receiving – but rather a concern over the soul of the recipient. For one to attend a Catholic Mass where, through the Priest, the hosts and wine are consecrated to become the Body and Blood of Christ and *not* believe this but still receives the Eucharist calls into the idea that one ‘eats and drinks judgement on himself’. Of course, this opens a pandoras box of discussion regarding the significant number of Catholics that receive and still don’t believe in the true presence of Christ and those who knowingly participate in sinful acts and continue to receive – but that’s well beyond the discussion here. The scripture makes it clear that we are not to judge and that instead those who do so ‘eat and drink judgement on themselves’.

What Flynn does note is that

If when I receive, I’m not desiring this special sacramental union with Christ and trying to get rid of anything in my mind or heart that is blocking it, I gain none of the sacramental effect that Christ wants to give me. I’m still receiving the sacrament, but I get none of its fruit.

and more specifically

My spiritual disposition before, during and after receiving the sacrament will determine whether the sacrament will produce good fruit in me (in varying degrees), have no effect at all, or result in my condemnation. – p. 76

This seems entirely fitting if we review the secrets until this point. They truly do build on one another and are intertwined.

The final secret is the one that opened my eyes in a significant way – ‘There is no limit to the number of times we can receive’. Someone will say, ‘But the teachings of the Church say that we are not to receive more that twice in one day.’ This is true of the number of times we are to receive ‘sacramental’ communion. We can, however, also receive ‘spiritual’ communion.

…we can also receive spiritually through our desire for the sacrament, uniting our hearts to the Heart of Jesus in the Eucharist. – p. 84

When we receive sacramentally, it is ideal for us to also receive spiritually – to be in full communion with Christ body, heart and soul. There are, however, times where we are unable to receive sacramentally, but can still be fully united with Christ which is known as ‘spiritual communion’. Flynn does, however, make it clear

Spiritual communion is not a substitute for sacramental Communion, but a very real anticipation and extension of its fruits.

Throughout the day we may have thoughts about Christ – moments of reflection and contemplation, moments of prayer etc… Why not turn those moments into moments of spiritual communion where through our thoughts and prayers we express our desire to be with Christ. Flynn brings examples of various Saints who lived their lives in perpetual ‘spiritual communion’ – a long shot for a wife, mother of two who works part time and tries desperately to keep up with her blog! St. Catherine of Siena noted a vision of Christ holding two chalices and saying to her

In this golden chalice, I put your sacramental communions. In this silver chalice, I put your spiritual communions. Both chalices are quite pleasing to me.

While perpetual spiritual communion is not likely in the cards for this blogger, there is no reason I cannot make a conscious effort to be in spiritual communion at various points throughout the day. During my morning prayers, after blessing the food at meals, during prayers with my children, even while doing the laundry – I can make a point of saying a little prayer and acknowledging my belief and desire for the sacramental Eucharist and my desire to be in communion with Christ. Flynn notes

Frequency is much more important than duration, because the more you practice spiritual Communion, the more it becomes a habit, a natural instinct to unite yourself with God.

All these ‘secrets’ are beautiful and insightful contemplations on the richness of the Eucharist as the Mystery of Faith. I fully appreciated my RCIA experience, but I wish we had the opportunity to spend more time discussing the Eucharist in the level of detail and on the level which Flynn outlines in his book. But then I ask myself, ‘Would I have been ready to hear and understand these things at that time?’ Perhaps not. Thankfully though, God placed this book in my path along this point in my spiritual journey so that I could not just read the book, but begin to contemplate the beautiful mysteries within and appreciate them each and every time I receive the Eucharist going forward.