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About Heaven

 

My Protestant family is sure they are going to Heaven. They feel sorry for me because I no longer have the take-it-to-the-bank confidence that I will shoot to Heaven like a dart when I die.

If I die tonight, I think I’m ready, but it depends on a merciful Lord and my complete abandonment to — well, everything.

I wonder, sometimes, what it will be like for some Protestants who face that moment of Truth.

Let’s say the Catholic Church is correct (and I believe that it is). If so, Jesus will introduce them to His Mother as the Immaculate Conception.

Will they be horrified at that?

Jesus will introduce them to the Saints. “Here are some of my dear friends. St. Padre Pio. He had the stigmata.”

Will they doubt such signs and wonders and say oh, no. We don’t believe in that.

Jesus will look with love upon other residents of Heaven. “And this is St. Maximilian Kolbe and St. Louis de Montfort. St. Francis Xavier. Pope St. John Paul II.”

Will they turn in disgust and say, oh, no, not a pope. That can’t be. And the writings of some of those Saints, don’t You think they loved Her a little too much and You not quite enough?

Will they hear the Litany of Saints being sung from Earth, the Church Militant at Mass, the prayers of the priests and question why the prayers are heard in the Heavens?

Will Jesus tell them that the Church He founded is and was the Catholic Church, but His mercy is so great that those, through no fault of their own were born and raised outside of the Church, might be saved as well, if they humbly receive Him?

Will they shudder at all of that and say no? If it all ends up being true, what will they do?

Will they say no? Will they reject one final time what they have firmly denied throughout their lives?

You see, I have noticed that Catholics, though often criticized as the arrogant and intractable ones, are actually quite humble and accepting of things that are difficult, teachings that are hard to swallow, morals that are hard to follow.

The ones who are far from malleable and compliant to the most difficult teachings are not Catholics.

Atheists. Agnostics. And yes, even Protestant are far more stiff-necked.

Perhaps you think I am wrong about Catholics. Perhaps you think I am wrong about Protestants. Perhaps you think Protestants have it right and Catholics have it wrong.

Faithful Catholics are taught to bow deeply. To fall to their knees. To remain docile to the Holy Spirit as the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity speaks to and through the Catholic Church. To repeat the Creed every week. To embrace unity in the Faith and always let the I-Me-My battle cry be wrestled to the ground.

They are familiar with the Cross.

They not only accept suffering, but they offer it up as a prayer.

They know the Church is timeless and are never addicted to their own culture’s version of Christianity, never clinging with their fingernails to a religion that fits one era over another.

They are pilgrims here.

And pilgrims hold loosely and are ready to abandon everything.

Some may think that I became spiritually arrogant when I converted. Perhaps it seems to be the case. But I have wrestled many preconceived ideas to the ground. I have needed a teachable spirit every step.

This conversion has been the most humbling experience of my life.

 

I’m not there yet, but Lord, I want to be.

I want to hear Him speak, and no matter what He says, I want to say, Amen.

So be it.

I believe.

Wait for it…

It is like those videos we all love. You click on it. It seems like nothing unusual is happening. The title of the thing tipped you off, though. So you know something is coming. You don’t know if it will “gross you out” or if it will make you want to say “Yes!” or if it will leave you with your mouth open and needing to hit the replay icon because you can’t believe you saw what you just actually saw.

That is what it is like to be in between with God.

The key phrase here is not “in between” but it is “with God.”

If you are with God, there is an unstated title on your life. Wait for it.

This is a lull in the action. It is a time of preparation. Your suffering. The silence. The nothingness is anything but nothingness.

It’s like your soul is being filmed and nothing unusual is happening. But if you are a person of faith and you truly believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and you trust in the Eucharistic Messiah who came to you at Mass and the One who promised that you will have life because you have received,

then wait for it.

He created you and has used you. He will use you again.

Perhaps He wants to heal you first, or equip you, or put into place the help you need to fulfill what comes next.

Or maybe He wants you to be able to look back on the work that is about to unfold and see Him, not you. If it all clicked and happened on your timetable, maybe you would be tempted to think you controlled God or you were the key player in the events.

Wait for it.

Something is about to happen. Those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. They shall mount up with eagles’ wings. They shall run and not grow weary. They shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31)

Once renewed, look out. When God acts, you’ll know it. Wait for it.

Renting a Car in Israel

Wandering Lonely, but not like a cloud

Wading through PTSD years after one is violated is a lonely thing. And it is not like wandering lonely as a cloud. It is not a sunny day. It is not day at all, and it is not now either.

It is then, but not then. It is you, and yet there is a loss to the you that is now. The you that is strong and grounded, with roots that go deep in faith.

It is a fog. And once in a while, the fog clears for a moment.

In spiritual direction, it lifts, which is why a confessor/spiritual director is so important. How could one do it without the Catholic faith.

I wonder.

A counselor, too, helps to guide. Tells you that you are normal in this journey to somewhere other than here.

And, Lord, how I need to know that.

The daily readings are an anchor. My Missal doesn’t know what I need to hear today, but the Holy Spirit knows. And provides.

Like today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles – which is really a quote from Isaiah and is for me.

In his humiliation justice was denied him.

I have thought of the word justice often these past few months. I have felt the judgment of others who want me to keep it quiet, not talk about old things, the humiliation is not mine alone, they think.

Odd how the soul knows this is not true.

It is my humiliation. Crushed. Made something less for a space of time than what you are. Not wife. Not even a woman who is paid for services.

You are less than even that. Something like a slave for another’s use.

The King of kings was nailed to a cross. For a little while, a space of time, made something He was not.

Humiliation. And justice was denied him.

The cry for justice comes up from the ground. It moves up through our toes and into our souls.

Even when the cry is buried for thirty years. Especially then.

And I read the words of St. Luke in the Acts of the Apostles; I read the quote from the Old Testament.

With the backdrop of Easter, something else came to mind.

The fog lifted, as it does during spiritual direction and counseling. The fog lifted as it does when I read the day’s readings.

He is with you. Was with you. This is an echo of the old story.

Out of the curse, came life. And you let it be.

You loved it, loved that life with a fierceness that grew with the years.

Life conceived in rape is not a curse. It is not.

She is my beloved daughter. Overflowing with life. Abundant with a salve that only she could render. Soul of my soul.

From my body, yet beautifully independent.

My healing began with her and the yes to life. Her life.

Some think that healing after rape would begin with a no to life conceived in such a way. Some may see rape in marriage as a humiliation for the woman and the other children who do not need to know what their father did. Some would call it no humiliation at all, no violation. Some would think that the need for justice lessens with time, certainly does not grow with the years.

Some.

It is all part of the fog.

And I long to command the fog to go now.

Humiliated, without justice. But life took hold of me. And it was good. Is good.

Is the salve like no other.

This child is a precious gift. Conceiving a child in rape, it is the closest I have been to sensing the cross and resurrection.

In Search of the 15th Station of the Cross

Most booklets on the Stations of the Cross stop at the Fourteenth Station.

That is fine for Lent.

But then we move on to Easter. We set our eyes on Pentecost. We forget about the number 15.

Like the two from Emmaus, we may be weighed down by recent events. Our lives aren’t going quite as planned. Perhaps we aren’t looking down at all. Maybe our eyes aren’t on the ground because we are busy looking at the future, and it doesn’t look all that hopeful either.

The Cross is evergreen. It just doesn’t go away.

The Liturgy would have us praising God, but our lives have us stuck at the 14th Station.

If I could transport you to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and take you into the 14th Station of the Cross, I would.

We would duck our heads to enter, passing the candles flickering to our right and to our left, into the room where the angels stood guard, and then into the room where the Lord of Life was placed. It was supposed to be over then. Everyone went home. The stone was rolled over the entrance and sealed. End of story.

Perhaps that’s how it feels to you. You can’t seem to pop out of Lent.

Your feet will be thinking about all the Stations we just visited. You will have genuflected 14 times.

But I have news for you.

This 14th Station is also the 15th Station.

Jesus rises from the dead.

This cross that you are carrying today, the one that seems to stay and stay, like an evergreen tree that never changes seasons …

It will not last. It cannot last.

There is no cross that He has not overcome, broken, and fashioned into a new story.

Your cross will not have the last word. Jesus has already spoken the final word. Behold my hands and side. Wounds remain. But victory is sure.

I am in the final weeks of counseling for post traumatic stress due to an old memory. I was raped many years ago, and I thought it was done. It all came back around like a snake with a really venomous bite.

I have cried out to my Mother to crush the head of this thing. And it is dying, slowly. I have felt Our Mother’s Mantle and heard her calling.

It is Easter, Denise. Get out of that Tomb.

Wounds will stay. That’s okay.

But the proclamation of the Lord’s work is still needed. So many wait to hear it. Why are you hanging around the Tomb? Why are you stuck at the Fourteenth Station? The Fifteenth Station is now. And the Lord of the final station has told you to go to Galilee.

He will send you out to heal the nations, those who have been wounded like you.

Get going. He is waiting to heal and to send.

Addendum to the Examination of Conscience

I have never added this to my examination of conscience. Maybe it is because I have plenty of sin. I need to get to the heart of my vices – and there is nothing new under the sun.

The routine Examination of Conscience should suffice. Right?

So, we review our day, our week, our month… or the last thirty years if it has been a long time since we darkened the door of the Confessional.

And we come up with the usual suspects. The Commandments broken. The Precepts set aside. The grievances against another. The times we put ourselves and our desires above God.

But…

There is another sin, and it is probably rare. It is a sin that just doesn’t make the usual examination of conscience.

We are so busy looking at the vile things we do to another and to God that we fail to ask ourselves when we have sinned against our own selves.

Oh, I’m not talking about eating disorders or sexual immorality or self-harm.

There is a disposition in which we fail to elevate our souls to joy of life. Joy. Radiating joy.

We stopped feeling like little children so long ago that we don’t remember how to do it anymore.

A sweet treat without the self-loathing of will this make me fat.

A time set aside for planting flower seeds and watching them grow because we don’t plant anything anymore and if we do it is the practical, utilitarian seeds of vegetables. Bring on the kale.

A song that is sung in the shower, a song from childhood, something that used to make us happy.

A romp with our dog in the backyard.

A moment in the sun, on your back, making pictures out of clouds.

A deliberate walk in a warm rain. Or a night walk in the crunch of newly fallen snow.

Standing in the shower longer than usual, just to feel the water on your face.

Listening to the roll of thunder, without wondering if you left your windows open, or any of the many things adults think but children never ponder.

It is a sin to be joyless.

A true saint is not that.

Can there be true holiness without joy? Yet we never include this on an examination of conscience. When did I last do something that honored God by embracing His creation and letting that embrace come like a divine Visitation?

When did I last let myself be joyful?

Today’s Responsorial Psalm says: Look to Him that you may be radiant with joy.

And who doesn’t want that?!

Come to Him today as a little child. True saints are like little children. And little children never forget to have joy.

Radiant.

What a great word.

Top Three Easter Resolutions

Lent was not easy. Perhaps you can relate.

I began with a simple plan: Trust Jesus more.

On Ash Wednesday, I spent my last full day in Jerusalem, and I promised to trust Jesus.

Easy enough. Wrong. Then it all came to a head. The trauma of rape – though it all happened 30 years ago. The hurts I had sustained from others. Some I loved. Some I had trusted. Some new wounds. Some old.

Some minor. Some life-changing, personality-altering.

Jesus, I trust in You.

A person who prays as much as I do… shouldn’t feel like life is coming apart at loose ends.

A person who goes to weekly Mass, sometimes daily Mass, always remembers to take her hour of Adoration at midnight on Thursdays…shouldn’t feel like she doesn’t know who she is anymore.

She should have her act together.

She should be able to stand up straight.

No self-doubt.

Only self-doubt was all around me and in me and above me and beneath me… the opposite of St. Patrick’s Prayer.

Jesus, I trust in You.

And the words and letters seem to slip around on the page and fall off the page or slid down the page or disappear altogether.

J s  , I   st  n  .

e  s    tr   i  Y

u       u    ou

Nonsense. It doesn’t make any sense anymore.

What is trust? How do I do it?

And you find that you need your husband more, and your priest-who-is-also-your-spiritual-director, and a counselor, and a friend.

You cling to them, and begin to realize… It’s Jesus in disguise. Yes, Jesus, I do trust in You.

And when Easter comes, you find that you can stand on your wobbly legs though they feel like you just climbed Mt. Arbel all over again.

I can do this.

You are resolved:

  1. I will not be silent. I will speak out. I will keep speaking out. I will not be embarrassed by what happened to me. Jesus, I trust in You to help me be vocal about it.
  2. I will affirm life, even the life of the unborn conceived in rape. I will speak out. I will keep speaking out. I will not be embarrassed by what happened to me. Jesus, I trust in You to help me be vocal about it.
  3. I will continue to heal. I will not be weak. I will not quit. I will do the things that are hard for me. I will not hide. I will not cling to what is easy or familiar. I will not sit more than a few seconds in a place of old memories. I will not let unwanted dreams linger when I wake from them. I will reach for everything that heals. Jesus, I trust in You to finish the healing You have begun.

I will not be silent. I will affirm life. I will continue to heal.

So be it.

Amen.

The only wise choice: having the baby conceived in rape

I had the dream again last night. Same, but different.

That’s the problem with dreams. You can’t make them stop out of an ironclad will. Those who are walking with you as you sort through the buried violation of an old rape aren’t there either.

You are there all by yourself, and you aren’t even you.

That is to say, you feel all of it. Every emotion. Every fear. Every injustice. But you are in a weakened state without your coping strategies and the advocates who stand beside you in the waking hours of life.

I read an article yesterday.

It was about the road rape survivors walk. But it was from a secular viewpoint. The baby conceived in rape is the alien, unwanted, a constant reminder, something far from the human created in the image and likeness of God.

The unborn child is an extension of the violator.

Like they are joined more than the mother is to her child.

I wonder, sometimes, where I fit in this modern hashing out of the conception-in-rape scenario.

I feel the burden of memories and dreams-I-can’t-stop.

But I do not, at all, in any way, feel what the world says about the unborn-conceived-in-rape.

I’ve lived too long with my daughter who is a gift. A gift. A gift. A gift.

A GIFT!!!!!!!

She is the only good that came from those nights when I was violated.

Even in the dream last night, she was there, and I was protecting her. Getting her away. By force. By ingenuity. By biding my time. By any means.

She does not belong to him.

She doesn’t even belong to me.

She belongs to God, and I am entrusted with protecting her.

It is, perhaps, my only weapon against the violation. What was meant for evil, God has used for good.

And He has given me a path to something good and beautiful through the memories and dreams-which-are-nightmares.

Conception-in-rape is a topic used for the advancement of abortion.

Even the pro-life community doesn’t go there because it seems to be a difficult point to refute. Especially for a pro-life man. Especially for a pro-life woman who has not been raped. Even for a pro-life woman who had a child in less than ideal circumstances.

You just don’t know what it is like for the woman who carries with her a violation. A conception without a yes.

But I do.

And the only wise choice is life. It becomes the only good in a swirling mix of memories and nightmares.

It is a triumph over violation.

A living, breathing triumph.

Love Israel and the Jewish People

It is Pesach. Passover.

My Jewish friends are ready. Their homes are cleaned. Their hearts are there. Centered on the story of Moses.

The lamb. The spices. The unleavened bread. The memorial of blood on the door frame and an angel of death passing over.

The fleeing from slavery. The deliverance through the desert and into a Promised Land.

I am not Jewish. I am Catholic.

It is Saturday, and in one week, we will be preparing for Easter Vigil.

The Lamb. The unleavened Bread. The Precious Blood. Our souls cleaned through Confession. Our hearts there. Centered on the story.

Fleeing the days in the desert. Ready to receive the Promised One. Death giving way to the Lord of Life.

Our Jewish Lord. Son of David. Son of God.

The readings today make me feel the rush of time, the roll of events, the gathering together of prophecy and the reality of Old Covenant and New Covenant.

There is a trend today to focus only on the New. See Israel only in the New Israel. See the New and jettison the Old.

But God does not revoke His promises. He never jettisons His own Covenant.

Today’s prophecy tells of a nation that gathers in her children, scattered throughout the world. Just watch Against All Odds, a documentary by Michael Greenspan, and it is easy to see the fulfillment of the prophecy.

From 100+ nations, they came. After 2,000 years of exile, they returned. A dead language was reborn. And today, right now, Passover is observed in the Land that was a gift from God after slavery and wandering and total reliance upon God’s provision.

The Readings today predicted this. And we are told that, at the end of the age, the Jewish people will see the Messiah. And know it is He.

This One they pray for every day. This One promised to them, by way of David’s line, they will see it is the Christ.

The question that haunts me, the thought I cannot turn from, is this:

How will they ever see Jesus as the Messiah if we, faithful Catholics, do not renew our love for the Jewish people and reclaim our commitment to tell the stories of the Old as well as the New to our children and to the world?

They are our matriarchs and patriarchs.

Yet the world has become more and more anti-Semitic.

We must not join the world.

The Jewish people gave birth to the Blessed Mother. She is Daughter Zion. Her Son is Our Lord. She is Our Lady.

Does not honoring our Father (God) and our Mother (Mary) necessitate a remembering of the Jewish people on our part? Does it not require of us a love and rediscovery of the common ground we share?

Do we love the stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as we do the stories of the New Covenant?

Do we retell the stories of Sarah, Rebekah, Leah and Rachel? Do we remember the lineage of Jesus as well as the papal list?

Do we burn with a desire to share their Messiah with them? To tell them thank you for the greatest gift we have?

Or do we only see Israel today through the eyes of a growing anti-Semitic culture? Through policies or political ideology?

How will the prophecy be fulfilled if we, the Church, do not turn with massive amounts of love and gratitude toward them?

Now is a very good time. Passover. Holy Week.

Something Old.

Something New.

The Jewish people are not our enemy. They are our matriarchs and patriarchs.

Amen. And Amen.

Lent Should Heal Us