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Fr. Mark of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word interviews Denise:
Marilla says what so many have said.
“I don’t understand her.”
This Anne is not like the Anne played by Megan Follows. Both characters are the Anne from the book, but the Anne in the recent series is hard to understand…
…unless you are a grown-up.
…unless you have experienced trauma.
Then you understand her, and you feel many things when you watch her. You feel a little sense of vindication.
This Anne has a hidden trauma. She has known domestic violence and bullying. One scene suggests she has known the deception of a predator and has learned to run, really fast.
Emotional flashbacks plague her. She has the kind of flashbacks in which she is taken to the moment in the past, and sees it all again, like she is right there, like it is happening to her again.
But she also has emotional flashbacks. What is that? It is an experience in the present, the now, in which one feels old emotions welling up inside, over the top emotions, but the very emotions one felt in the moment of violation. When bullied. When victimized. When suffering due to control or the misuse of power. And all that old emotion is flung at a person in the present moment. The response doesn’t seem to fit the offense, and others are horrified.
Poor Anne is judged.
She is stuck.
She is in a world where then is now and now is now. And all of it is mixed up.
She pours her sorrows out to Belle, Matthew’s horse, and the horse is a kind of therapy animal. She can receive the words and nuzzle closer. There is no rejection. There is no judgment or misunderstanding. In Anne’s mind, the horse understands – even before Marilla begins to understand.
And thankfully, Marilla does understand in time.
As a victim, Anne knows well the fear of getting too attached if it is going to all disappear. Or if affection will be withheld. Or if opinion will change. Or if others will be affirmed. Or if she will be made the scapegoat.
Anne speaks of things one should not speak about. This Anne is for those of us who are no longer impressionable children. We know this Anne.
Seen too much.
Experienced too much.
Been in seasons of life when we lived out what we knew-but-did-not-understand.
We have felt the same when we didn’t fully understand the Pandora’s Box we opened. We have received punishment. And nobody thought to ask why we talk like we do or act like we have acted.
Nobody stopped to wonder why we would be so foolish as to be caught in such a trap.
This is an Anne we know–even if she is one we worry will be unpredictable and test our resolve to be merciful. We know this Anne, this one we have judged harshly.
We need to consider this Anne, contrary to what some are saying. Don’t let the kids watch it, but for the love of all victims and survivors of trauma, don’t dismiss this Anne.
There is something to her. Her predicament is far more likely than the precocious Anne with a slightly mysterious past and a whole lot of charisma.
It says something about us if we refuse to admit the more likely scenario. This Anne has PTSD, and she is everywhere. She is all around us. One quarter of the women we know have been victims in childhood. Some were victimized as adults.
Before you decide to boycott this Anne, pause. Ask yourself if you have boycotted girls and women like her. Be Matthew. Be Marilla. Go beyond sayng, “I don’t understand her.” Try to understand. To be patient. To let her work though the trauma.
Don’t reserve all your love and pour it out on the Megan Follows kind of Anne.
A bruised reed, he will not break. Isaiah 42:3
I have never successfully fasted apart from the liturgical calendar’s mandatory fasts.
But I have a big petition. Something I must get right.
Mother Mary, it is in your hands. You always take care of my petitions with such love. Even as I give the petition to Mary, I know there is something rightly-ordered about being ready to give up something for my petition.
Something that takes it from, “Here, Mary, take care of this for me” to “Thank you, Blessed Mother, for taking my petition, which I have offered with love by way of prayer and fasting”–and what a journey it has become!
The first day, I kept thinking it was time to eat. I saw every Facebook video depicting how-to clips for desserts, and my mind wanted to pause and watch. I was too weak-in-spirit. It was all too tempting. So I scrolled up or down as fast as I could.
Then, it was easier.
And the intimacy with Christ was sharper, clearer, set apart.
Over the weekend, I traveled to Iowa and gave a talk to a Magnificat group. Before the fasting began, I decided to fast from solid foods except when a meal was part of fellowship in the line of duty. For me, that is when I speak or travel for the Gospel message.
Those few moments were precious. The people I broke bread with were precious. The whole of it–precious.
But my first day back to the deep fast was hard.
Like the Enemy was nipping at my heels.
I don’t know if I can do this for a month. I want to.
I want to say that I would offer everything for God’s holy will. I want to say that He has all of me. That I am completely fixed on giving Him my total yes.
Fasting has a way of testing that resolve. It has a way of clearing through good intentions and getting to the heart of the question:
“Are you sure about that?”
It is only day eight.
I think I’m sure.
I want to be sure.
So, I give you today, too. Help me to be faithful, My Lord and my God!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What a great word.