Monday, May 17, 2010
This is the "terrifying" relevance of the message of Fatima, according to Benedict XVI. But the last word in the story is the goodness of God. To be welcomed with penance and a spirit of conversion
by Sandro Magister
ROME, May 14, 2010 – Curiously, Benedict XVI spoke the most stunning words of his four-day trip to Portugal, centered on the visit to Fatima, before he landed in Lisbon, while he was still in flight, the morning of Tuesday, April 11.
And he spoke them in response to the journalists on the airplane, apparently improvising.
In reality, the words were carefully chosen. The questions had been presented to him ahead of time by the director of the Vatican press office, Fr. Federico Lombardi. And the pope had chosen three of them, the third of which concerned the "secret" of Fatima and the scandal of pedophilia.
Here is the third question with the pope's answer, in the transcript released by the Vatican offices, typical of spoken language:
Q: And now come to Fatima, in some way the culmination, even spiritually, of this visit. Your Holiness, what meaning do the Fatima apparitions have for us today? In June 2000, when you presented the text of the third secret in the Vatican Press Office, a number of us and our former colleagues were present. You were asked if the message could be extended, beyond the attack on John Paul II, to other sufferings on the part of the Popes. Is it possible, to your mind, to include in that vision the sufferings of the Church today for the sins involving the sexual abuse of minors?
Thursday, April 29, 2010
How is it in this day and age a woman of 47 has 14 children?
My husband had been married briefly when he was a young man-this marriage spawned his oldest daughter. Then we married and started a family right away. When I was pregnant with our third son the comments began "don't you know what is causing this” was the most common. When I became pregnant with fourth child I was very upset. I did not want to be pregnant and I certainly was not happy to be so. In fact I was angry.
I recall phoning my father sharing the news with him. Within a week I received a letter in the mail. The anger and frustration must have come through my voice because his letter explained how he and my mother never thought it was the right time to have another child. Whether it was because of finances, or time, there was always a reason to say “no not now”. Unplanned and unexpectedly my mother became pregnant with her fourth and last child. That child was me.
In his gentle and kind way he was trying to tell me "don’t be so selfish Terri. You too were once an unexpected fourth child who was welcomed and loved". Here I was bemoaning a pregnancy with a child who could only bring us joy and love. My attitude turned 360 and I embraced my pregnancy. Unfortunately I was not to carry this baby to term. I lost her while I was at home alone, the pains of the miscarriage were acute and painful much like labor. It is not easy for women to lose a child under any circumstance.
God blessed our family with the addition of our sweet Nichole. By this time our oldest daughter was quite independent. She and her older siblings were natural helpers, getting a diaper, holding or carrying the baby, or whatever the situation happened to be at the moment. On occasion I have heard comments about large families- and tsk tsk - the older children do so much of the work. What these misguided comments don't understand is how these roles are assumed naturally. They create such a strong character for the older children. I could not have given the world more beautiful, socially conscience d, and independent citizens, had they not been blessed with a large family. My children quite frankly are remarkable.
I distinctly recall thinking wow this is easy. The first three children were the most tiring because I was a young mother, there were no older helping hands and my husband worked long hours. After the birth of Nichole I was not averse to more children. I gave birth to two more sons, and endured two miscarriages.
For some reason, and usually unplanned, our home often had an extra child or person living with us. Children were frequent sometimes long term guest in our home.
Eventually we were asked to assume the care of a young baby which initially I was not keen to accept. My co-worker literally begged me to take the baby for three weeks. I handed the decision over to my husband because she was not accepting my no –he said yes. At the time I was driving to my stay with my father-who was waiting for heart surgery- for a few days.I stopped to pick up the baby first, getting pulled over by the police, but not acquiring a speeding ticket when I explained why and where I was going.
Something completely unexpected and amazing happened-when I was alone with the baby. A familiar sensation warmed over me. It was the exact sensation I received when I left the hospital with my newborn biological babies. This is difficult to explain but suffice to say I knew this baby was a gift. This sensation was a moment of bonding between a mother and child that can never be revoked. He is now 10. Our young man started a movement in our home we have since added five more babies as fully fledged members of our family. Our extended family members consider our bonus children equally as their cousins,nephews, or niece as they do our biological children. We are truly blessed.
I cannot express the honor it is for me to be chosen to love and nurture these children, or to witness my own flesh and blood accept other human beings as full siblings, without reservation. For example, my oldest children moved out of the home when the youngest three arrived. Yet the bonds between them are unbelievably strong. They drive from the city to pick up them up for play dates, the younger children are frequently invited for sleep over’s with their older sisters. Not a week goes by that the older siblings do not stop at our home or phone their younger siblings.
I did absolutely nothing to deserve this gift. At times I am moved beyond words when I look at our children and marvel that I am their mother. I cannot explain it in any other way. It is a gift and a blessing of unbelievable proportions to be given this opportunity in my life.
My journey as a mother has been peppered with joy, occasional sadness, extreme loss, worry, laughter, above all love-unbelievable love!!! Here I am at 47 still amazed at my 18 month old or our 3 year who retain such innocence and unconditional love. I am more patient with the younger children then I was with my older children. I know now how fast time passes by so I savor their youth and enjoy it. My sons who are eight give me as much pleasure as the younger kids.
Yes, we have our bad days, some days I get cranky and nag -because I can. Some days our teenagers behave like—well teenagers— and we have our squabbles. None of us is afraid to say “I am sorry I was wrong”, or to make amends in other ways. The comments from strangers no longer faze me, rather, as we get older and our family gets larger we hear less negative comments then we did when we had four children.
My oldest daughter graduated from University with a Professional Writers degree. She is employed with an oil company as a Technical Writer. She has been promoted more than once over the past year. She married the vice principle of the local school, another joyful addition to our family.
My second oldest graduated from a Bachelor of Nursing Degree, she just moved in to her new condo today-her first home owners purchase.
My eldest son has worked steady for the same company since graduating high school- he continues to play hockey, he likes girls and nice cars. He is becoming a man and we are proud of him.
The other children remain at home all of them perform very well in school. The reports I receive from school are filled with comments about their goodness and generosity towards others. Of course they have moments where they argue and fight and may even be mean to others, but the good emanating from them obviously outweighs the negative.
Last —but never least— is my husband of 24 plus years. He cooks—much better then I — he assists with cleaning and has always been a hand on dad. He can be gruff at times but his children love and adore their daddy. He does so much for and with them I cannot imagine a more dedicated father than my husband. Our life together has weathered some storms, but we are more in love then when we met. It is a satisfying love that develops as we age, it is so much deeper and real then the love and passion of the early days.
As for how I manage...well that will be for the next blog. thanks for reading this one. Blessings
Friday, April 23, 2010
On Sunday a young man –he would have turned 18 next month- died in a head on collision. I was informed via email that Mark had passed away. The name was familiar but no face would accompany the name-still I prayed. I received another email on Thursday announcing the prayers and wake were taking place in my old parish. The wake was a traditional all night viewing of the body "lying in state". Off we went —my two older adolescents and I— to pay our respects.
When we entered the church I instantly recognized the family in the picture. I attended the same church with them for years. I recalled the mother when she was pregnant with Mark. A knot formed in my stomach. This was not a stranger; rather this was someone I was familiar with. We stayed at the wake –we viewed the body- we spoke to the father- and we prayed. Then we came home. My daughter crying –my son and I in silence.
Apparently Mark was driving to work-probably rushed because he liked to be on time- and attempted to pass too many cars at once. His life ended with that decision. The unbearable pain of this choice will live on as long as his family members live out their earthly lives. They are Christians and as such their hope is in eternal life-one day they will reunite with Mark . Oh what joy that day will bring!
But what about now? Someone who they loved, someone who was irreplaceable, is gone from their day to day lives.
Spring time always fills me with excitement and a desire to move -to travel -get out and get busy. Today was no exception. I marveled when the sun broke through the clouds shining brightly after a good shower of rain. I watched a van stop at a news paper box and two teenagers jump out quickly to grab a paper. They returned to the van laughing and running. I had just dropped off my son to jam with two of his friends. I watched as they both walked down the street, laughing and chatting with guitars in hands heading to another friends home so the three could jam together. The sun was shining-life was good.
Then a it struck me- all of the people I observed appear to be living life as normal. Meanwhile two parents and two siblings, a mere ten miles away, are living the unbearable pain of losing a loved one. A loss made more difficult to bear because it was preventable. While the rest of us carry on enjoying the sun-they may be trying to find any speck of light.
Please dear God reduce the pain of their loss- the gut wrenching pain. Pain that is similar to labor, so intense and painful, but difficult to remember the intensity once it has dulled or faded with time. But we never forget how difficult the pain was to bear. Or the fear to close ones eyes because once the eyes close the reality sinks in. The pain of this reality is too painful to bear. It is easier to remain awake and exhausted than it is to close ones eyes and feel the pain.
Perhaps they will walk into a store and watch people carry on as though nothing in the world has happened. They may silently scream 'how can you live and laugh my son has just died'? Those living and laughing are innocent ,they may not have experienced this pain, God forbid they ever would.
The heart ache having to live and readjust to the new reality is a long and difficult road. The family will eventually merge into life again. They will return to work, or school, or previous activities. A semblance of normalcy will emerge, but a piece of light is forever snuffed out until they meet in the place of eternal light.
Life will become bearable again- they will even find laughter. If they journey with God through this pain they will emerge stronger and better people, but they will never emerge the same. An experience such as this is life altering. Their Mark will never be far from their hearts –in sadness and in laughter he will be present and yet missing. A reality too difficult to explain and for some impossible to comprehend. So dear friends I ask you to pray for them please.
Eternal rest grant unto him O'Lord-let perpetual light shine upon him . May he rest in peace. Amen!
Sunday, April 18, 2010
My enrollment into the Newman Theological College is part of longer journey that began in earnest after tragedy visited our family. Through the lens of hindsight I recognize the hand of God at work in my life, in every event from the first time I entered the doors of this college until this moment sitting at my laptop to share my story. When I reflect on these events I remain dumbfounded and humbled by the events that unfolded during this time period. Each one of us has a similar story to tell –here is mine.
I had passed the college numerous times over the past 20 some years. Occasionally I would look at the enormous statue of Jesus welcoming passersby into the complex, and other times I did not pay much attention. Other then this exposure I knew little about the college and even less about the seminary located behind it. The odd time I heard comments that the college was a liberal bastion of dissent, which was enough to curb any further thought I might have given to it.
The family of my youth was orthodox or conservative Catholic; while at the same time my parents were liberal in much of their worldview. For example we never missed mass, and we said our rosary every day after supper except on Sundays. At the same time my parents were open and accepting to any person from any faith or walk of life. They did not restrict my exposure to other faiths. I don’t recall having a Catholic friend growing up as we lived in non catholic communities that were dominated by the Baptist or United Church faiths. I often went to services with friends from these denominations; however, I still attended Sunday mass. My parents managed to instill in us four children a deep love and loyalty to the Roman Catholic Church. Even during periods of my youth when I was not living a good Catholic life, I self identified strongly with my Catholicism. I am fortunate and blessed for the parenting I received.
I walked through the doors of Newman College for the first time when my boys joined a Catholic boys club. Neither the college nor the seminary was affiliated in any way with this club but they allowed the facilities to be used on Wed evenings. I do not have a clear recall how I discovered this Catholic boys club, but I am grateful I did. I enrolled my two boys who were of age to attend. Initially I would drop them off and utilize the time to complete errands but as winter dawned I would wait inside and read. I always took a few moments to sit with the Lord in the chapel. The time spent in the chapel increased with each Wed. Anyone who has spent time in a quiet chapel with the Lord knows the peace and tranquility such a visit places into ones heart. I began to anticipate Wed evenings.
Then tragedy struck our family- unexpectedly events pertaining to one of our children unraveled and literally brought me to my knees. At times I was not sure I could carry on, but Gods’ grace always ensured I did. The ensuing year I spent hours and hours in the Newman College Chapel -quite frankly to be in the presence of the Lord was the only place I experienced tranquility during this time. Catholics believe that Jesus is truly present in the Holy Eucharist. Consecrated hosts are placed in the tabernacle which is why you will see Catholics genuflect when they enter the church. It is an acknowledgment of the presence of Christ present in the Tabernacle hidden under the guise of bread (John 6:53).
During my time praying I experienced a profound transformation- suffice to say I began to see that the ‘good Terri’ I thought I was needed a great amount of fine tuning. Thankfully God works in slow incremental steps because if I was to experience all of these personal epiphanies in one shot I may not have survived. I say this without exaggeration I had no idea how far away from God I actually was. It was little things that inhibited my relationship with him- personal quirks that I needed to let go of- past wounds I had to confront and forgive- putting who I was in perspective and so on and so forth. I endured an internal struggle to let go and accept Christ who true to his word guided me through an often painful but liberating journey to personal freedom. Freedom from myself most of all- freedom discovered in letting go and letting God. Words I heard and repeated many times but never actually experienced. Here I found myself in moments with me and the Lord- I was surviving an excruciatingly painful episode in my life, and that of my families, while simultaneously experiencing the deepest peace and freedom as I drew closer to God. I remain on this journey- the fine tuning is far from over.
This experience enticed me to read and read whatever I could about spiritual growth and grace. I read the writings of the saints- unfortunately so much of what I read I had to re-read because it was “over my head”. Eventually I became curious to take a class at the college. In the meantime the boys continued their Wed evening club. Wed. became our day off together where we would attend mass at Newman; go for lunch in the cafeteria-where dearest Shelly provided the best kids meal in the nation. A peanut butter sandwich, chocolate milk and a cookie for $2:00. One priest in particular was very happy and kind to us. Otherwise for the first year we were relative strangers to others and them to us, but we always enjoyed the time we spent at the college.
I recall with clarity the day I prepared to register at the college. I engaged in conversation with the Lord as I was preparing my makeup still doubtful about my decision. I reminded him this was expensive and I was not certain I should be doing this.Here I was 44 years old, a mother of a large family and employed. Prior to the previous year studying theology was so far off my radar screen-it was never a consideration. So Terri of little faith reminded him- “Lord can you give me a sign that I am doing the right thing”.
I left the house heading for Newman to enroll but I stopped at the post office first. An errand I rarely perform my husband usually performs this task. In the mail that day was an unexpected cheque with extra funds sent from a deceased Aunts estate in the amount of $580.00. The amount of the cheque was a small amount more than what I needed to pay for the tuition for my first class. I headed to the college with all doubts assuaged and enrolled in my first class-"The Church."
A new Journey had begun!
Father Gerry was one of my instructors during my quest to earn a Bachelor of Theology. He embodies the suffering servant. He is an active instructor for Newman College and an active priest - serving the church- while at the same time he has been battling a very serious cancer. Father Gerry is an exceptional witness to all of us .
... And in that same Spirit I want to extend your call to encompass all the priests of the Montreal Archdiocese to whom Cardinal Archbishop Turcotte renders thanks and praise in a Letter to be read next Sunday in all places of worship. They need this positive life to continue their challenging ministry in the face of much indifference and resistance. I myself do my best to share in weekend ministry since I have returned to Montreal. And finally in this special weekend April 16 - 19, following the Gospel of Jesus confirming Peter as the universal shepherd (Jn 21, 1-19), I invite all your readers and pray-ers to include the Holy Father Benedict XVI in their prayers for embattled priests. His 83rd birthday was this past April 16 and his 5th Anniversary of election will be celebrated this Monday April 19. Though he continues to age in his service to Christ and Church and is led to lay down his complete life, let us pray that the Lord be ever with him so that he may be a witness to Christ and to God's people. And may you continue to be a joyful living witness to all the members of your large family. I need your example and it motivates me to carry on with hope for the future in Christ,
God Bless and Thanks,
Fr Gerry +
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Describe the last four things (eschata, Death judgement heaven hell). Explain how these four last things are affected by the relationship between infinite and finite freedom.
The Christian faith teaches that we are created with free will, which allows us to act and choose according to our reason and intellect. Our choices determine the level and type of freedom we can attain. Choosing for God offers total freedom, while choosing against God enslaves us. This can be a difficult concept to grasp in a secular society that bombards us with self-help books and the psychological mantra of freedom attained through self esteem, self actualization, and self efficacy. With this mindset or mantra playing continuously, it is easy to acquire a false sense of self and of freedom. Therefore, the Christian idea of true self actualization — discovered completely and infinitely in Jesus Christ — which requires death to self and new life in Christ Life in Jesus, does not sound like freedom to the modern culture as much as it sounds like slavery.
We also live in a society that wants to reject the notion of sin. Yet the Christian worldview holds that true freedom is found in the rejection of sin, not the denial of sin. Because of these types of ideas permeating our culture, a natural fear can exist to take the step into life with Jesus Christ. We have the freedom to make this choice, but it requires a leap of faith—especially in today’s idealistic world. Infinite freedom is attained in death—choosing to die to ourselves and become reborn into life with Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit.
Human beings are finite, and as such, virtually everything comes to an end including our finite internal freedom. We are created free, with finite freedom that eventually requires us to make a final choice when we come to the time of judgment. Freedom is exercised through choice and act of the will. Our finite freedom can be understood only in comparison to God’s infinite freedom. The failure to seek infinite freedom inevitably results in the abuse of another’s finite freedom or rights. Exercising finite freedom in and of itself to achieve self actualization is a certain road to disaster. When God is taken out of the formula, my choices will be based on the limits of my finite freedom. I will choose based on my needs and wants. Under such conditions, anything that I seek to acquire will be based on me taking or imposing on another person’s finite freedom. On the other hand, infinite freedom is attained when one surrenders and unites with Triune God. To understand how this operates, we need only to meditate on the continuous giving and receiving relationship of the Holy Trinity. The Holy Trinity exemplifies the continuous giving of self and receiving love from the other. Seeking infinite freedom though union with God, enhances everything in our lives including our relationships with others and nature.
I will briefly use myself as an example. I was raised a conservative catholic. I always, even in states of serious sin, identified strongly as a Roman Catholic. I never once doubted my faith. As life went on, I did good works, attended church, and said my prayers. I considered myself a good Christian. I readily saw the faults in others, but I was doing pretty well. Then tragedy hit and we lost our daughter. Our entire family was traumatized. I survived by spending many hours in prayer. In the beginning, I prayed for everyone else making these horrible decisions. Lo and behold, during moments of intense prayer, I began to see serious flaws about myself. Slowly a transformation took place. It was as though scales fell from eyes and I saw how the truth of my spiritual life. At times I felt a death happening—an internal struggle to let go of myself, my wants, my needs, all of those things that made me happy and free. At some point, I let go. I chose for God. It was then and only then, for the first time in my life, that I loved God more than myself or anyone else. I felt and understood true freedom. Worry and anxiety went out the window. I know now that no matter what happens in my life or in the world, if I remain in the mode of giving myself to Jesus Christ and receiving from God through the Holy Spirit, then I will remain free and untouchable by world events. I think I understand how martyred saints were tortured with a smile on their face.
God had used tragedy before to knock on my heart and for the most part I would respond. But I inevitably turned back to myself. So I understand how the lie we choose can become so ingrained in us that if we choose it often enough we forget that it is a lie. Here I was, this ‘good’ Christian who had no inkling of the conversion I needed because the lies I chose in my pursuit of happiness enslaved me. I was (may still be) in for a heavy shock if I had met my maker in such a state. The irony is that I thought I was in a good Christian state. Only when I truly attempted to unite myself with Christ and let go of myself did I begin to feel joy and freedom.
What happens when we meet our maker? Will we meet an angry God or will we meet a merciful God? St. John of the cross said, “In the evening of our lives we will be judged by our love.” All we can really know for certain is that we die and our bodies decay. Various theories exist about the reason for death. For example, some view death as punishment, while others view it as atonement to God for sin. When we die our earthly life is over. Christians believe in the resurrection, so while the body dies the soul journeys to meet God immediately after death. A second final resurrection will take place where all are judged and our bodies are reunited with our souls.
What is the state of death like? Again different theories abound explaining what or where heaven and hell are. Are they physical places or states of being? Heaven and earth will pass away, but God’s word will not pass away. Does this include hell or will hell exist for eternity? . The bible speaks of Heaven as a place of bliss where we live within the beatific vision of God in utter happiness and love—forever!