Archive | September, 2014

Hanging by a Thread

23 Sep

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Embraced by God, Part 3

It Takes Honesty to Receive Mercy

“Repentance—how ‘cool’ it is!” That’s one lady’s response to salvation.

“Judy” is a woman who knows the great gift of mercy. She also knows the freedom and joy of changing her life, of finding the healing balm of repentance.

She calls her story, “Hanging by a Thread.”

Judy’s story is one of gradual separation from God—without even realizing it—and God’s loving mercy in receiving her back. It is about the importance of prayer, even when your prayer life is minimal. It is about the need for direction and correction as we mature. It’s also about patiently and gently guiding young people toward God’s truth about faith and morals.

She says “I was born into a large Catholic family. We faithfully attended Mass every Sunday.

“Growing up in the 60s and 70s, catechesis was weak. I don’t remember being taught about the beauty of the Church or the Mass.  I don’t recall being encouraged to have a relationship with God. My faith was a Sunday thing, not a part of my whole life.”

Coming of Age

She came of age in the 70s, and although relatively sheltered from what was going on among her peers, things changed when she went to college. At first, she attended Mass regularly. She had strong Catholic influences in the families with whom she was associated. But faith was “a Sunday thing.”

She got her own apartment and “with that freedom I could experiment. And I did.  I don’t remember being taught about the value of purity and chastity.  My parents never had the talk about the “birds and the bees”.  And the culture at the time encouraged sexual promiscuity.  Even older women, who loved me like a mother, were very supportive when I shared my plans with them for exploring things with my boyfriend.  Oh, how I wish they would have corrected me rather than affirmed me.

And so there began a time of promiscuity that lasted about two years. Along with promiscuity came contraception.

“During that time I stopped attending Mass. I don’t think I realized what was happening.  We can so gradually move away from God, and by the time we realize how far away we are, we can be truly lost.”

Judy says she “went from a naïve young woman to a foul-mouthed ‘woman of the world.’ I thought I was liberated, grown-up, cool.  But now I see how foolish and lost I was.  I ended up moving in with my boyfriend, who would later become my husband. He, too, was a non-practicing Catholic.”

Judy became pregnant. The doctor suggested a legal abortion. She and her boyfriend chose that option. “So I chose abortion and ended the life of my child.”

“I attended church only when I was home with my parents. Still, I remember praying every night.  It was just the simple, memorized prayers of a child—Our Father, Hail Mary—but I know they were the lifeline to God that kept me connected throughout that time away.

Hanging by a Thread

“There is a saying, ‘hanging by a thread.’” Judy said. “That’s what I envision with me and God. When I was baptized, there was a thick, strong rope connecting me to God. Each time I sinned, a thread from that rope was cut.  Eventually, all that was left was a thin string between me and God.  That string was prayer.”

After about ten years, she became pregnant again, but the baby was lost in miscarriage. Later, she conceived again—about one year after she began her journey back into the Church.

Judy says that in August of 2000, she “went to confession for the first time in more than twenty years, confessed the sin of abortion (and many others, of course), and began to make it to Sunday Mass on a regular basis. About a year later, in September, 2001, my son was born.  And I knew, throughout my pregnancy, that he would be fine. I had no fear of miscarriage or anything else.”

Slowly, God was calling her back.

She began to explore her Catholic faith. She attended “Why Catholic?” She began going to Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. “I don’t think I ‘got it’ but I was there.  I began reading and learning.  And once that began, I had a hunger and couldn’t get enough.”

Three Levels of Conversion

Judy refers to her conversion as having three levels.

“My first conversion was of repentance—recognizing my sins and confessing them. Then, it was an intellectual conversion—learning my faith. Now, the third conversion is one of heart—falling in love with God. This is the best part!”

Judy’s story concludes with this:

“I know that God loves me as only our Father can love. I feel like Molly Ringwold at the end of the movie ‘Sixteen Candles.’  She has a crush on a popular, rich boy and has no hope of him even thinking about her.

“But at the end of the movie, she comes out of church after her sister’s wedding and there he is, sitting on his fancy car. He waves at her and she looks around to see who he’s waving at, but she’s alone.

“She points to herself and says, ‘Me?’ He replies, ‘Yeah – you.’

“That’s how I feel about God and me. He sees me, some nobody who has offended him in so many ways.  And he waves to me.  I look around to see who he’s waving at because surely it isn’t me!  But it is.

God wants me!

How cool is that!”

Judy discovered that healing and spiritual growth are found in the Church, its sacraments, and in the embraces of those who also believe.

 

 

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I Surrendered

20 Sep

 

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Embraced by God, Part 2

My surrender to God followed years of alcohol abuse and severity in my family relationships. I had lived with a degree of self-hatred. I was not what I pretended to be. I acted holy—but I was far from being holy. I claimed belief in God and the Gospel, but did not live a committed Christian life.

I knew who I was as a drunk and a fake, but I did not know who or what I would be if I gave up alcohol, if at last I truly surrendered to God.

I would pray earnestly, “Lord, heal me so I can be like other people and stop after a couple of drinks.” But I consistently heard my conscience echo, “Go to AA.” I refused, telling God that I was not like all those drunks.

But I was.

The Painful Decision

And finally, at five a.m. on September 2, 1977, I surrendered. I decided to go to AA. I was afraid and quite anxious: Will I really be able to quit? What will other people think of me?

I went to an AA meeting and went home feeling better than I had felt in many years. I lost all desire to drink—and I have never missed it at all. (However, God in his goodness invented nonalcoholic beer just for me and others like me.)

For all those years I never realized (or admitted?) that alcohol was making me less secure, more depressed and less capable of love.

I had been blindly searching for the peace and joy that comes from intimacy with God.

How Achieve Intimacy?

Seeking to grow in intimacy is very personal. Each person must find his or her own way. However, you don’t achieve intimacy as though it were some goal you frantically pursue.

If you are seeking to know God better, relax–because you are already experiencing God’s touch. He is giving you that growing desire to become one with him, to live a good and joy-filled life. You are already beginning to listen, to move forward. You may want to ask God to come closer, or rather, to be more open to him.

Here is a great example of how simple a prayer can be.

There was a young boy possessed by demon. The father told Jesus, “If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” Jesus responded, “If I can! Everything is possible to one who has faith.”

The father cried out, “I do believe, help my unbelief.”

And Jesus healed the boy.

Cf Mk 9:20-29

So, you begin with prayer—from the heart. For example, you may pray something like this:

Lord, I don’t really know how to pray. But I want to know you as I never have before. Please help me, God.

That is a marvelous prayer. It confesses your weakness and states your desire. You place yourself into God’s hands—that’s trust.

Your search for God begins with a decision to know him better, to be open to his love, to try to understand what it means to love God in return.             Whatever your security blanket, give it up, surrender to God and be covered with his divine mercy.

Next, “Judy” discovers God as she “hangs by a thread.”

 

 

Wonferful, Wounded Humanity

18 Sep

 

Reaching Up

 

There is such beauty, comfort and power in life: the beauty of creation—mountains, clouds, the deep and light blue of the heavens.

And then, there is us, all of us spread throughout the world.

We are each a distinct creation, each of us an individual, but there is the mystery and comfort of our kinship, in our being one nature. We go about our own personal business, we each pursue individual agendas—but we all breathe the same air, travel the same highways and byways, shop in the same stores. Each of us has come to life in the same way—each conceived in his or her  mother’s womb, born into the world and all someday to die.

Though individuals, we are a massive movement of humanity from one day to the next, from generation to generation—a seemingly perpetual flow of life.

Each of us, creature and part creator, makes life happen. We affect and are affected by all things in life. We each have preferences—ski slopes or sunny beaches, gourmet foods or hot dogs, lemonade or beer.

But we have the regrettable ability to make a mess of what is supposed to be a perfectly good world.

Wounded Humanity

There remains for people of all nations much pain, fear, grief and suffering: the death of loved ones, polio, cancer, mental illness, broken families, World War II, the Korean and Vietnam “conflicts,” the tensions of the Cold War with the Soviet Union.

Now there are terrorism and conflicts in Afghanistan, the Ukraine, Iraq, Kuwait and Syria—as well as the nuclear threat posed by Iran. And the tensions remain with us today—including the serious challenges from Russia and China.

Need I list the domestic ailments of our nation—political division, doublespeak in government, the plight of the unemployed? The list could go on.

We must rediscover the power and wonder of belonging to and with one another, the great blessing of individual freedom which is fostered and strengthened through personal responsibility, adherence to a moral code, and the belief that truth cannot contradict itself.

It Comes with a Cost

But such rediscovery, I am afraid, will come at a tremendous cost to many modern Americans.

It’s the cost of getting real, of rejecting the lie that the individual is the center of his or her own universe. That’s the attitude of toddlers and juveniles.

It’s the cost of personal responsibility for oneself and one’s family. People must recognize the value and dignity of work—that their labors offer others what they need to live; our labor helps society become safer, stronger and happier.

It’s the cost of realizing that objective truth is not subject to change.

It’s the cost of realizing and accepting the fact that God is real, eternal, and all powerful. It’s the challenge of believing in him as he reveals himself in Scripture, especially in the words of Jesus Christ.

Next: I Surrendered to God.