Category Archives: God

Unplanned

In light of the release of the film “Unplanned” which tells the story of Abby Johnson who was once a director for Planned Parenthood, who goes through a conversion to becoming one of the most leading voices in the Pro Life movement, I wanted to share a time in my life that I became a part of the Pro Life cause.

After a tough two years from being diagnosed with Lupus, I was seeking ways to use my energies and my renewed Catholic faith.

In the Church bulletin, was a post “volunteer crisis pregnancy counselors needed”. I thought ‘that sounds like something I want to be a part of. I have the time and I love babies, how difficult could this be?’ How clueless I was to soon find the raw and vulnerable situations I would be involved in.

Crisis Pregnancy Centers, CPC for short, had a two week training course for all volunteers. The training was designed to also inform them if the volunteer who completed it, could really take on the role.

The training had videos, speakers, manuals, and role play. The training included videos of actual abortion procedures, interviews, that left your mind spinning, and many tears. What I thought I knew about abortion was a completely sheltered world than from its true reality.

But I knew it in my heart, I wanted to continue and felt like the courage I was experiencing was not from me. I felt purpose!

When I served in this ministry, the women who came in for assistance, were of many backgrounds and nationalities. The women who worked or volunteered were from different Christian backgrounds. Out of these group of women, I would say out of the 40, maybe 5 were Catholic. CPC was not a Catholic agency.

I think if it wasn’t for some boisterous women who would like to voice their opinion of the Catholic Church, I would’ve stayed longer. It’s too bad such an important cause would have to have some bitter helpers.

But in either case, the women I counseled will always be a big piece to my heart.

There was a set of go to resources we would give the woman once we did their pregnancy test and if it showed positive. Like next steps, medical care, resources for food/nutrition, etc. We were given the freedom to pray with them and most of the time I did.

I’ll never forget one gal in particular. She came in appearing confused. She was young (like most) possibly 20. By her appearance, her clothes did not look fresh nor her hygiene. When I walked her into a counsel room, I then noticed her arms. They were riddled with heroin track marks. I didn’t want her to think I paid attention. And what came next was complete guidance by the Holy Spirit. By her approval we prayed waiting for results. Being a complete germaphobe, I lost myself in the fact, that I could’ve harmed myself since I was holding her bare arms. But it didn’t stay my focus.

Here I thought I was helping her in the beginning, yet I felt strength from her at the end. She seemed tired, scared, and needed someone to give her time.

Honestly, my memory doesn’t recall if her test was positive. All I remember, is how she touched me and know my Lord used me to meet her.

The women who came to CPC received love, direction, and support. Many are in need of hope. Most do not have money. But centers like CPC, are there for women to know they are respected and their unborn child will be cared for by the many resources who support CPC.

One of my biggest questions I have for the Pro Choice movement, is if they have really taken the time to see what an abortion does? To see what a “fetus” (BABY) shows in form and what it brutally does to a woman. If Planned Parenthood cares so much for the woman, I would like to see testimonies from the women who had abortions and what follow up care (emotional especially) they were given. Because I’ll tell you what, I never seen it. Where are the YouTube videos, website, Twitter, or feminist groups highlighting the post abortion care? I mean if it’s such a liberating action to have an abortion, why not film women explaining how valuable the process was? Where are these testimonies?

Kudos to Abby Johnson and the team who put this film together. Hopefully, there will be many who are not Pro Life, who will see this film.

If we practice our faith – Catholic or Christian, than our life decisions are based on that first. Not a political party, celebrity, or our opinion. If we place ourselves in all of God’s creation, we will take honor to His design.

Psalm 139

You formed my inmost being;

you knit me in my mother’s womb.

I praise you, because I am wonderfully made;

wonderful are your works!

My very self you know.

My bones are not hidden from you,

When I was being made in secret,

fashioned in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw me unformed;

in your book all are written down;

my days were shaped, before one came to be.

False Witness

In order to write this post, I have to reveal an area of sacrifice I’m working on this Lent.  A part of self control, for me, is the sin of gossip.

Throughout my life, I have wrestled with this sin. Before I began practicing my faith, I never knew gossiping was a bad thing.  It was all around me.  Family and friends always used gossip in conversations. It was and still is a way to either vent or share things because we feel we can in either making fun of someone or puffing up our chests to make ourselves look better.

Over time, for me, I realized my confessions continued to cough up this sin and yet, no real self reflection struck me on why this was repeated.

At this stage in my life, I do find myself gossiping, but it’s like I told myself in a certain way…well, I’ll only go this far in sharing, or I won’t say too much as to not fall into the trap. But regardless, I would find myself reflecting on discussions I’ve had with others after that fact and see that no matter how  I wanted to classify it, it was still gossip.

There is a fine line I want to say when it comes to being concerned  over an individual when sharing things for the sake of helping them without their knowledge.  Speaking about their decision making or ways that could hurt them spiritually, those incidents may cause for others to discuss and plan out what could be done to get them back on track.  But to just have a  field day about someone’s lifestyle or continued same actions that cause pain to others, does nothing to keep talking about how awful this person is to everyone.

Coming back to my sin of gossip during this Lent.  I’ve come to take on an action that I first saw as my own penance. And that is to correct myself with those who I gossiped with as a way to reconcile my behavior and sin. Explaining to the individual, that I did wrong and that I shouldn’t have said what I said.   Doesn’t matter if it was one word blurted out or ten.  Doesn’t matter if I didn’t mean harm in sharing, because it is harmful no matter what.  It places me in accountability.  Makes me humble myself that I sinned and want to correct myself because Jesus placed it in my heart and eyes to see what I have done.   Oh how much Our Lord wrestles my heart to show me my sin. I’m thankful.

What catches me to about gossip, is that I wish those individuals who do know it’s wrong, don’t pin it on me or correct me right on the spot. Gosh, how I wish they would. I’m not saying it’s easy to do but I’m going to start trying. Sometimes we don’t do that enough or at least in my circle I don’t see it.  I also don’t see much in asking forgiveness for daily actions that can hinder unity or cause disruption. Most of the time, we don’t want to take notice we’ve done some thing wrong or pride ourselves that we are doing all things right. Really?  There are some things to dig deep about and frankly, I would appreciate if my fellow Catholic/Christian would call me out when I sin so it’s corrected right then and there.  But I know it’s not easy.  Honestly, I know.  And I know I will slip up again, but my hope is the day it completely stops for me. That I am so rooted, it doesn’t make me budge.  And most of all, throughout this self examination, how the path through it gets me to God’s mercy.  It’s there every time.  Like the Light at the end of the tunnel. Once I’ve reflected, accounted for, asked forgiveness, His mercy is there…and I move on.

If the dialogue isn’t fruitful brothers and sisters, there is no end that points to a helpful solution, then do yourself and me a favor….don’t go there!

 8th Commandment, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

 

Added note: The Catholic Church has always taught there is a communal reconciliation

Instrument of Your Hands

Lord, make me an instrument of your hands with care for my mother in her now season of life.

When she’s impatient, help me to be patient.

When she’s anxious, help me to be peace.

When she worries, help me to show faithfulness.

When she is angry, help me with self control and gentleness.

Lord, help me to not be overcome by the weight of this journey you have us on. For through it, it is not only to tend to her needs but lessons in selflessness and trusting your will I am to learn.

What is Truth?

So Pilate said to him, “Then you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”

Pilate’s response has been ringing in my head these days. I’ve been thinking about his response in relation to current events. The illusionist is working many angles from religion to politics to family relationships. I understand this is nothing new. But what seems different to me is the loss of respect in people’s attempt to defend their truth.

The lines of facts are skewed and there are many who use them to benefit a cause/point no matter if there is validity. If they believe them to be true, that’s all that matters. Reason or logic to a situation isn’t taken into consideration and what seems even worse is that people don’t care what that might mean to the person/persons it affects.

Credibility weakens when facts are skewed because the person/persons where respect was once given is thrown out the window too.  Seeing this more towards the Church.  The mocking and the not taking seriously the Church’s position to everyday moral questions by Catholics and Non Catholics. However, it is not just the Church authority that is suffering. There is a string of other high regard positions of people under attack as well. From school teachers, law enforcement, business leaders, medical professionals, pharmaceutical industry, political office, etc. Never have I felt credibility to not be important to possess, but it seems from recent events, accountability and respect are becoming blurred and the attempt by the devil is to make people lose sight of order and control.

The biggest example is from Church leaders. Certain clergy are still visible doing things that they shouldn’t be. The faithful, from my assertion, are moving on knowing there’s only so much they can do or put their time and energy into the fight. The visible results are slowing being seen. It’s not that nothing is being done, but it might appear to some it isn’t changing.  I feel all must share and care to inform others change will take time.

Now going back to the truth, if you don’t show honor to ones truth, then you must side with the opposition and therefore you’re the enemy. Sensitivity and boundaries seem to not work for everyone. If you’re not for them, you’re against them. People want you to not take away their ideals, but are not understanding that’s what they’re doing to you.  Some news line is fed out and people, without further researching, believe it. They never look past it and then begin using it as a weapon of defense on something that is not true.

There are countless sources out on the internet feeding people garbage that they believe in and end up falling in the trap. Untruths about the President, the Pope, government programs, crimes, etc. They tend to not go further into fact checking and become paralyzed with fear.  It’s awful and scary.  I truly believe that if they spent more time in their faith, practicing, their eyes would see what is truth and what are lies. I’m grateful Our Lord has me where I am, but I know I need to get deeper rooted.  I feel it for the sake of my own family.

The best I and others can do is help our brothers and sisters know what to focus on and where to take our fears. The world is changing fast and those around us may not see what their eyes are losing sight of.

I believe

For almost these past two months, there has been increase in news exposing the darkness in the Catholic Church. It feels like each week, there is more news to prove, it’s worse than what we thought the day before.  Personally, I receive the bulk of my news through Twitter. The national news isn’t even reporting in the speed Twitter is feeding it.  The news sources I cover are reputable Catholic news agencies, along with Catholic reporters/journalists, theologians, speakers, public figures, etc.

At this point, I feel like where I’m at in information, is a bit numbing.  I’m stunned and shocked.  But as I pointed out earlier in a previous blog, the aid of reading from St Catherine of Siena’s writings to Catholic bloggers, experts of the faith, have channeled me with direction.  Attentiveness to the daily Mass readings, and thanks to God, the rosary for reparation for the Church that began a novena on the Queenship of Mary, have been key to me in clarity.

However, I felt the need to write about some of my feelings on particular responses I’ve read from the ‘faithful’.  A part of me is a little apprehensive about sharing my thoughts because I don’t want to come off as one who thinks I have attained all faith and knowledge. I clearly have not!  But the other side of me, is well…getting a little fed up with Catholic folk on sharing their voices about their Catholicism.

For example, and I mainly see it on Twitter, are comments shared by celebrities, writers, politicians, etc, who express they have just had it with the Papacy, Cardinals, and just think the whole tie to identifying oneself Catholic is questionable.  That the disgust, mistrust, no firing of the Cardinals is quick enough, Pope Francis isn’t stepping down, is all enough to leave the Church.

There are people blurting out all these things to the faithful not ever recognizing their responsibility to them.  I’ve written a few responses to them saying, bluntly, stop feeling so victimized and get out there and fight.  Fight for those who are victims of priest sex abuse, for those who only have faith because of where/how they live is dire, for the good priests having to push through it all and be everything to everyone right now, for the bad priests who cannot see past “self love” and are not aware to ask for God’s mercy, for the faithful at your parish who are family, for the Catholic Church as a whole who is the Body of Christ. You, me, everyone. We need to be strong!

It blows me away and I have to be careful about this thought, and I know we are all at different stages of our faith, but besides that, those who are vocal about their indecision are not 4th graders. They’re educated. They’re intellectuals. They should recall all those scriptures covered in Mass that they have attended and know what they are supposed to do!  All those readings are life and guidance!

I mean, even if you did not have all the knowledge, why wouldn’t you seek answers by what you have been taught and why you are Catholic in the first place??  That’s all I’m saying. The Eucharist is the number one reason. The number one very big reason. How is it that easy to walk away?

In no means, am I perfect at my faith. I do not know everything. I’m a 47 year old woman.  I practice and seek each day. But for something as so sacred as our faith in which Jesus entrusted to the Apostles by the Holy Spirit to the Church to be given to us, how can we all sound so flaky about our response when we deal with crises.

Multiple scripture verses come to mind:

Luke 9:23 – Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

Ephesians 6:10-12 – Finally, draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power. Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens.

1 Peter 5:8-9 – Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for [someone] to devour.fResist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings.

1 Corinthians 12: 27-31 – Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it. Some people God has designated in the church to be, first, apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers; then, mighty deeds; then, gifts of healing, assistance, administration, and varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work mighty deeds?Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts.

 

Recite the Nicene Creed.  You don’t follow men. You follow Jesus and the Church He gave us! Fight!

I speak LOVE and you?

Let me begin by saying that this issue I’m about to speak of, I have expressed about before and have fumbled over it many times. I’ve also come to know that I am not the only one who has trouble with it.  It has to do with “LOVE LANGUAGE”.

Sometime ago, I heard on Jennifer Fulwiler’s radio show, speak about love language on her program.  I can’t remember who she was speaking with, but the topic was about being frustrated, down in the dumps about people’s behaviors towards oneself. Where you try to go the extra mile with certain people in your life so that they may revere you in the same way.  Where you share yourself with them the same way as you do with everyone else, but these individuals don’t bite.  This topic I come to again and find more and more lately, I am not the only one in this black hole.

Coming across others who experience the same thing, I tend to find the same characteristics.  Usually, the one who seemingly goes out of their way to engage with others, repeats the same tactics, feels like there is progress, and then find themselves right back where they started.  The lasting notion is that it is all very exhausting.

Going back to Jen Fulwiler’s talk, they hit on the answer well.  It has to do with people each having different love languages. What might be a way for you in how you engage your love is not the same for someone else.  This hit me like a ton of bricks!  I’m sure it is something I have heard before, but didn’t pay attention to. However, this time when I reflected on it, it gave me a whole new outlook.

Over and over again, I would find myself being squeezed into these situations.  It would feel like I’m running with a basket of love, carrying it here, there, over here, backwards, then running towards a doorway trying to not let it spill so they can receive it fully as I come towards a doorway that turns into a pinhole of their acceptance.  Most of the time, feeling like I just went from 20 yards ahead to 10 feet back! Never feeling the love I hoped for returned back in the way I was sending it.

This idea of love language allows me to focus on not tiring myself out in trying to appease, but to give what I normally do, and then let it go. It doesn’t exhaust me and I stop fretting over whether I did something right.

I also would like to touch on something that we heard in Sunday mass a couple of weeks ago and it goes with this scripture:

Cure of a Crippled Beggar. Now Peter and John were going up to the temple area for the three o’clock hour of prayer. And a man crippled from birth was carried and placed at the gate of the temple called “the Beautiful Gate” every day to beg for alms from the people who entered the temple. When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked for alms. But Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.”He paid attention to them, expecting to receive something from them. Peter said, “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, [rise and] walk.”

Fr. John at our parish spoke about that in our lives of faith sharing…we give what we have whatever form that may be.  If it’s our time, we give our time, if we can financially share, then we share, if we are a good baker or a handy person, then we give in those forms.  You get the picture. So when I think about how I have a giving a heart, I just do that…give.  And with my love for writing or expressing my faith walk, then I do that by writing on this blog.  Care for my husband and my mom in best way.  Being accessible to family and friends, when they look to me for a listening ear.

We give what we are given.  What God has graced us with.  It’s not about waiting for the best time to do it because we are measuring what we think is most valued, but instead giving in what we have today!! It’s not about gaining more of the world just so we can float on by in this life, but to share what we know and have.  Our love and time are free.  Whether faith filled knowledge, church knowledge, love, care giving, helping someone by preparing a meal or driving someone who needs a ride, etc.  It doesn’t have to big on a big scale.  It doesn’t need much prepping.  It doesn’t have to look like someone else’s gifts.  We each have it. Our Lord has given it and the more we pass it on, the more grace He will fill us up with to give again.

STOP looking for things not in your basket and START reaching in it and share the gifts that are in it.

————————–

Parts Truly Unknown

On Friday morning, I get a text at 6 a.m. from my friend Angela informing me that Anthony Bourdain committed suicide.  She knew how much I liked him and knew this would be hard for me to hear. My husband was on his way out for work as I read out the text to him.  He said, “I know. I didn’t want to wake you up with that news.” But he knew, it wouldn’t matter how it came, the news was not good.

The rest of the day and now, I still feel a sense of sadness as I know I am not the only one. The media has continually been interviewing his friends, showing past Parts Unknown (his show on CNN), and my social media is covered with his face.  Mainly, because I follow many chefs. I have a big interest in the culinary scene due to Bourdain.

After a pilgrimage to Italy in 2006 which came with much anxiety because of fear of travel, my craving for food and travel grew.  At that time, to my knowledge, there were not many travel shows other than Rick Steves and Samantha Brown.  Much to my delight, the Travel Channel gave us No Reservations where I first became acquainted with Bourdain’s witty culinary ways.  It right away captured for me an escape from my life in concrete Phoenix suburbia, track house living.

The trip to Italy placed a sense of adventure in me that I knew had to be somewhat contained. Let me preface here, my life is greatly blessed.  To date, my husband and I have traveled abroad two more times after our first Italy trip (London, Paris, Italy again). We travel within the States quite often.  However, I long for travel in the sense that I would like to discover it like Bourdain captured it.  Places not necessarily on the tourist map.

On Sunday’s, I would look forward to his latest episode.  Where was he now? Thailand. Croatia. Turkey. Sicily.  His demeanor was also a familiar connection to me.  He had a bad boy, rebellious nature. Reminded me of my youthful past and the group of friends I hung around with. His taste in music too was much like mine. A like of rock n roll and classics.  His wit also had me laughing as I was amused by how no matter whom he had in his show, he never changed himself to interact with them.  He had them laughing. Giving me a sense that no matter what part of the world you are in, we are all the same.

Once his show went from the Travel Network to CNN, I stayed with it.  I adapted a viewer relationship via his program.  This means about 12 years of fan watching.  And with social media, there became another connection.  It gave the fan a closer connection to his person who we all believed had the best job in the world. Travel and eat the best food. What could be better? He was the one who introduced me to taking pictures of food and share my experience of it.

He was also very vocal on Twitter about social issues.  One in particular had to with the Mexican immigrant and how interwoven their culinary skills are wrapped in America’s fabric.  Always pointing out that if we were to walk into any kitchen across the U.S., you would for sure find Mexicans working the kitchen, citizen or not.

Bourdain was not a believer.  Often on his show, he would give a tidbit on how he couldn’t rationalize believing in a higher power.  I don’t recall him ever pointing out one god over another or Jesus in particular, but he was clear he didn’t believe in any of it. Even when his close friend Eric Rippert was on his show speaking about Buddhism, you could see Bourdain wasn’t fully embracing.  Despite him not having faith, I never heard him bash anyone for believing.  But I know, it would strike him if he felt a religion was, in his view, destroying a people or nation.

So why do I dedicate a blog to him?

Bourdain’s suicide not only shook me, but it had my mind going.  I thought of my cousin Gil who committed suicide in 2010.  Thought of my Godmother who was married to him, his two sons, his family. All of us who went through that day with them. The feeling of life spiraling out of control. The big black hard depth of despair.  The confusion. The pain.

Here we all saw this man Bourdain on TV just about every week or on social media, seeming to live the life we all wanted. Celebration. Laughter. Good food and beautiful environments. But it wasn’t all true. I mean, did he have that?  Yes, I do believe he did. But he also had demons that wouldn’t let him go.

In his early life, he became addicted to heroin.  He spoke about the struggles of it and also shared how he was ‘recovered’, yet always conveying, recovery is day to day. Each day, he worked at it as many recovered addicts do.  I understand this well.  My Dad was a recovered addict. Difference was, my Dad found Jesus and lived his life with freedom from it.

However, from current family who is an addict, heroin is the worst of all drugs you could ever become addicted to.  This is one that has effects for the rest of your life. Now, that’s what I have heard scientifically, but I place all in God and know that if Jesus was in their life, it would be different. And you know, I’m no expert and I don’t want to go into heroin effects, mental illness, when is it not mental illness and we call it a demon, or lack of faith issues.  I don’t have expertise to discuss.

But what I do want to write about is the soul and how our faith responds to someone who has taken their life.

Because Bourdain was a self confessed non believer, my thought process on his passing made me think about the soul like I haven’t encountered before.  Some of his fans were leaving comments on Twitter or Instagram, saying things like “hope you have peace now in heaven or hell wherever you are’, or ‘give them hell’, etc.  I thought what darkness!

In my prayer time and reflection about Gil came forth. Thinking about his time of death and what we as a family learned. Although, Gil did believe in Jesus and was Catholic, family was confused on whether his soul went to heaven. And what I found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church forever changed my outlook.

Suicide

2280 Everyone is responsible for his life before God who has given it to him. It is God who remains the sovereign Master of life. We are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for his honor and the salvation of our souls. We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of.

2281 Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends love of neighbor because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations. Suicide is contrary to love for the living God.

2282 If suicide is committed with the intention of setting an example, especially to the young, it also takes on the gravity of scandal. Voluntary co-operation in suicide is contrary to the moral law.

Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.

2283 We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.

Bourdain stood up for the marginalized. He brought to light topics of the poor, no one else was touching in this form of media. He used his celebrity to bring witness, life that the world sees as dejected because they don’t live like we live.  But in reality showed more riches in their cooking or family members.   In a sense, we saw the Beatitude come to life “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”.  And he used that compassion, which I believe was placed in him by God. Even though, he never claim that. And it wasn’t always about the poor, but sharing stories of those living with wars around them.

In God’s mercy, we leave his soul and others who have taken their lives in such despair.  For we really do not know. I for one need to be aware to check on another.  From the one who we think has it all together to the one who looks like they are crumbling.

My food pics and travel will forever have root in Anthony Bourdain. For these I leave…

*******

Help us Lord to be more aware. Help us with courage to speak to those who do not show their belief in you Jesus, so that we may direct them to your love and mercy.  For we know as St. Peter says “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Heaven is not out there only in the sky, but can by the grace of God, can be attained in the heart with true joy.  In how Your peace can allow them to breathe again. +++