Sophie Scholl: The Power of the Written Word

Sophie Scholl: The Power of the Written Word

Sometimes I wonder why I take the time to write.

While I enjoy writing, it doesn’t seem to be changing or transforming the world.  In fact, “the pen is mightier than the sword” seems a bit lost when we are inundated with words upon words.  Blogging seems ridiculous in a cyber world overflowing with anyone and everyone’s thoughts and opinions.  Amidst the suffering and tragedies occurring daily, why do I post my thoughts, experiences, and reflections? Why add one more little voice to the cacophony?

The other day, I stumbled upon a name that I knew little about yet was not entirely unknown to me.  Sophie Scholl.  Curious, I found a website with a story about the White Rose Resistance and the role of Sophie Scholl.  In a few moments, I felt as if I had discovered the reason I stumbled upon this article.

One day in 1942, copies of a leaflet entitled “The White Rose” suddenly appeared at the University of Munich. The leaflet contained an anonymous essay that said that the Nazi system had slowly imprisoned the German people and was now destroying them. The Nazi regime had turned evil. It was time, the essay said, for Germans to rise up and resist the tyranny of their own government. At the bottom of the essay, the following request appeared: “Please make as many copies of this leaflet as you can and distribute them.”

The leaflet caused a tremendous stir among the student body. It was the first time that internal dissent against the Nazi regime had surfaced in Germany. The essay had been secretly written and distributed by Hans Scholl and his friends.

Holocaust Resistance: The White Rose – A Lesson in Dissent, Jacob G. Hornberger

This young Sophie Scholl along with her brother and friends built a resistance through writing.  Speaking out against the Nazi regime was a sufficient reason to be executed by the state.  What was the reason they used mere words to fight Hitler?  Sophie told the courtroom during the “trial.”

Sophie Scholl shocked everyone in the courtroom when she remarked to [Judge] Freisler: “Somebody, after all, had to make a start. What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just don’t dare to express themselves as we did.”

Speaking the truth in a world filled with lies is a courageous undertaking.  The truth has a power to stir and ignite people.  It is a bold, troublesome thing that inflames hearts, encouraging them to risk all for the pursuit of truth.  Not everyone is courageous enough to speak this truth.  It makes others uncomfortable and it often costs us something.  I’ve had more than one occasion where questions in the classroom resulted in uncomfortable sessions of truth-telling.  When students ask questions about divorce, contraception, homosexuality, mortal sins, and so on, I try to tread lightly, but truthfully, as I attempt to explain the wisdom of the Church. Continue reading “Sophie Scholl: The Power of the Written Word”

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Speak Truth

Speak Truth

There is something about truth that attracts.

It isn’t because the truth is always what we want to hear.  Many times, it is the exact opposite.  Truth, however, spoken ardently and sincerely can be a powerful force, a compelling and crushing beauty.

Challenging someone with unadorned truth can provoke change.  And it can be a testament to the great love and respect the truth-teller has for the other.  These reflections I’ve had spring from a rather unlikely source: I watched a movie. Continue reading “Speak Truth”

Truth and the Balancing Act of Teaching

I hesitate to say this too soon.  Mostly because I have one class period left and that could very well be the class where it all falls apart.  But so far, so good.

Today we spoke of truth.  Specifically objective and subjective truths.  My first year, I naively threw around bold statements like, “The Church is the fullness of truth” and the thing was, I didn’t know they were bold claims.  I was simply saying what I believed and had been taught.  How that translated in the minds of some of my students was that I hate every other religion and think they are stupid.  Or something to that effect.

It is a delicate balance, this teaching high school students thing.  I do not want to tip-toe around and offer the truth with an implied, “I’m sorry that I believe this, but here it is” attached to it.  However, my students aren’t quite ready for the fullness of truth.  There is something to be said about trying to put them in the best possible frame of mind when presenting the teaching of the Church.  Sometimes I come on with too much and sometimes I am a coward by choosing to say too little.  It is an art and I’m not very artistic.

Last class period, I think it went pretty well.  I didn’t want to argue with pitting specific religions against each other.  Instead, I chose the logic route.  Logically speaking, can all of the world religions all be completely correct in their teachings?  Some teach there are several gods, some teach one god, and others profess no god.  Can they all be correct?  Logically, the answer must be no.  I used this to apply it to the different religions.  Is it intolerant to say that not all of the world religions can all be correct?  You can argue that no religion is entirely correct, but you cannot argue that they are all completely true.  I then encouraged them to seek the truth.  Obviously they know what I believe to be true.

My hope is that I intrigued them and challenged them to evaluate their beliefs.  I want them to be grounded and I want them to actually believe what they profess to believe.  If they will honestly pursue the truth, I am convinced that they will find it.  That they will find Him.

A Sinister Euphemism

At times we simply grow accustomed to the sinister euphemisms that are found in our world.  They make life more comfortable when we have a pleasant way to say something awful.

One of my students just turned in a parental permission form for going to pray in a park and also in front of Planned Parenthood later in the semester.  Those words struck me as if I had never seen them, let alone be the one to write them: Planned Parenthood.

One would read those words and, if one didn’t know any better, would assume birth takes place there.  A birth might take place there but it is entirely accidental.  Nobody goes to Planned Parenthood to actually walk out a parent cradling a child.  The idea it presents is that you are to only become a parent if you plan to be one.  Part of the trouble (or gift–matter of perspective) is that by the time Planned Parenthood is “needed” the person is most likely already a parent.

As I looked at those two little words—so innocent on their own—I wanted to say that it was unfair.  They shouldn’t be allowed to use those words, to speak those lies, to shove that myth down the throats of the unsuspecting and vulnerable.  But of course—that is why those chose it.  It is built on a foundation of lies.  And do you know what happens with that kind of foundation?  Jesus does.

“Every one who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep, and laid the foundation upon rock; and when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house, and could not shake it, because it had been well built.  But he who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation; against which the stream broke, and immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”  (Lk. 6: 47-49)

The days of pernicious lies are numbered.  In the end, everything will be tested and what is not of the Lord, will fall.  And the ruin will be great.

Surrogacy and Women: A Rant

“Wouldn’t spending the money and going through the extra effort prove they loved the child more?”

“Isn’t is just nice to do for someone?”

In a move that was perhaps questionable from the outset, I decided to open the floor to questions for the entirety of a class period.  After a couple weeks of my classes being off-sync, I wanted to finally draw them together and the rampant questions of one class had provided the perfect opening.  However, that class asked questions that flowed naturally from one to the next and with only thirteen in the class, there was a feeling of closeness and simplicity.  Trying to re-create that atmosphere for a class of twenty-nine was a different story.  I offered to them the chance to simply ask questions that they had about the Church or the faith.  The first class had found questions that flowed from Our Lady to salvation to exorcisms.  The next class found a different route and were spurred on by different questions.  They followed the line of exorcisms with a leap to evolution and surrogacy.  The result was a class that ended with a bit more intensity and moral depth.  Time ran out and they left unsatisfied with some of my answers.

I have never really discussed surrogacy with a class before but I had recently talked about such things with a friend of mine.  One girl originally asked the question and she seemed alright with my answer.  Others were not.

“Wouldn’t spending the money and going through the extra effort prove they loved the child more?”

I tried to explain that spending money doesn’t mean more love.  (Only later did I think of prostitution as a fitting example.)  Can the couple love this child?  Of course.  I’m not denying that a couple can love a child they “paid” for, but I don’t think it means they love him/her more.  A great example came to mind (thanks, Holy Spirit) that the true statement of love would not be that I can afford to create a life in a laboratory but rather that I can let go of my desire to have a biological child and rather adopt.  (They argued that adoption was spending money, too.  A different matter, I believe.)  The love is found not in the willingness to spend a large sum of money so that their desires can be fulfilled but rather that they can accept the disappointment and then love a child that isn’t theirs biologically but is accepted totally into their loving family.  That seems to indicate a great love.  
“Isn’t it just nice to do for someone?”
The heartache of infertility is not one that I have experienced nor one that I hope to experience.  However, lending my womb to a friend doesn’t seem to fall under that category of “nice.”  This world tends to approach situations with an “how can I get what I want?” attitude.  The desire isn’t simply, “I want a child.”  That would be easily remedied.  The desire is, “I want a child that is biologically mine even if I cannot carry that life in my womb.”  Perhaps, even, the “want” is changed to “deserve” or “have a right” to a child.  
It isn’t “nice” to let yourself be a host for a child.  You can love that child, you can love that couple, but you are not permitted to let your womb be used in a paid/unpaid transaction.  The worth of woman is more than just a womb.  I don’t quite understand what people mean when they say the Church suppresses women or has a negative view of women.  They have never read Chesterton.  Chesterton will throw men under the bus and elevate the dignity of women in one fell swoop.  They also have never looked very closely at theology.  The Church says no only so that she may say a greater Yes. 
Woman, you may not engage in sex outside of marriage because you deserve the lasting love and devotion of a man who will offer his very life for you, not just a few moments right now.  

Woman, you may not have an abortion because that little baby in your womb needs you and you will only inflict a great wound on yourself.  You deserve better.  

Woman, you may not use contraception because you are a precious gift in your entirety and when you offer yourself to your husband, you must offer your whole self holding nothing back, masking nothing of your beauty.  Your ability to create life is not something to be disabled but something to be exalted.

Woman, you may not be a surrogate mother because you are far more than a host for the baby of your friends or strangers.  You are not an object to be used but rather you are a person to be loved.  It is beautiful for the gift of life to grow within your womb but it should be planted there by God and your husband, not by the doctor in the laboratory.  You are more than what they would lead you to believe.
How any of this becomes heard as “Women are stepped on by the Church” is beyond me.
This “niceness” is not something that should be encouraged because it is the same “niceness” that will cause me to put you out of your misery if I think your quality of life is not good enough.  “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions” is a cliche because there is truth to it.  It is not enough to just intend to do good things, you must actually do them.  And this good must go beyond my personal understanding of good.  (Cue Hitler and his quest for what he deemed good.)
I was surprised with the direction the class took the Q&A session and how we wandered into the realm of sexual morality.  Again I am convinced that the way to win the next generation is to have holy couples that teach their children the faith in their home and live it out daily.  My rant is finished but I cannot help but wonder what the future holds for this world.  The youth are such an important part of the future and their hearts can be in a world-imposed ignorance.
Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us.

Fullness

I’ve learned some lessons the hard way.  As a teacher I’ve done things that I thought would work really well but did not.  I’ve said things that I thought they would understand and yet I could not believe how horrible they would misconstrue them.  So sometimes I am left understanding that I made a mistake yet not certain how to actually do it the correct way.  That obviously didn’t work.  But what will?

My first year of teaching (way back last year) I talked to my classes about objective truth, subjective truth, and how the Church has the “fullness of truth.”  The phrase rolled off my tongue easily after hearing it said with great love and passion at Franciscan.  Little did I realize that this was, to some of my students, a very offensive thing to say.  Some were pretty upset with me and I was baffled as to why they would feel such emotions.

The Church has the fullness of truth.  Wouldn’t nearly 12 years of Catholic school lead them to see the beauty of such a statement?  I said it as fact and they resented it.  I paid for my “sin” the rest of the semester.  I was a new teacher, a bit timid, trying to preach the Gospel, and ending up making students dislike me and the Church.  That was how I felt, at least.

So I became a little gun-shy of the statement “fullness of truth” because I knew what a powder keg it could be.  Yet isn’t the truth of the Church supposed to be explosive?  It radically transformed the world as it was and, if unleashed, can do the same thing in our modern world.  Yet I waver.  I wonder if I will push the students away more if I speak too strongly.  Yet I refuse to water Theology class down to “Jesus loves you.”  I want to delve into that truth.  “Jesus loves you and so He gave His life for you.  Suffered and died for you.  His human heart ached for you.  He loves you at every breath you take and wills your very heart to keep beating.  That is what I mean by love.”

So when the “fullness of truth” phrase came up today in one of my classes I was hesitant yet determined to speak clearly.  While being gentle and charitable, I wanted to not be apologetic.  I didn’t want to say:

“Yes, the Church believes she has the fullness of truth but I am very sorry that she says it like that.  She could just say she thinks she is correct…it would be essentially the same thing.  Let’s just say the Church is a really good institutional body but sometimes we let it go to our heads.”

OK, perhaps a bit dramatic but I didn’t want to give them the wrong impression by swinging my gavel down and condemning the rest of humanity to Hell.  I don’t think that but students can conjure up rather impressive falsehoods in their minds.

I said the Church has the fullness of truth.  That to hide this truth or to claim to be just another church, any one of which would be fine to join, when we believe that it was instituted by Christ Himself would be a lie.  Christ was pretty dogmatic.  “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”  That statement doesn’t leave much room to follow some other way.  He also was known to anger people and to upset modern notions.  Perhaps that is what we need today.

Tomorrow I might be facing a class full of students who have thought about what I said and have thrown me in a camp of Catholics who think they are better than everyone else.  Maybe I will find another tempest brewing for this semester.  Whatever may come, I hope they know of my sincerity to teach the truth and, despite all of my fumbles and quirks, that they will come to know Jesus Christ in a deeper way.  The real Jesus Christ who desires to break into our lives, wreck havoc, and bring us to Heaven.  The fullness of Heaven.

To Thine Own Self Be True…

Morals get in the way of fun, don’t they?  I remember taking a Christian Moral Principles class in college and then I began to analyze everything I was doing.  Well, probably not everything…but many things that I hadn’t considered before seemed to present the possibility of being immoral.  Even to this day I cannot quite decide if this semester (because it didn’t last until now) of near scrupulosity was a blessing or a curse, was good or bad.

At times I think we are able to give ourselves passes or excuse ourselves from seeking holiness in every aspect of our lives.  I want to be holy…but it isn’t that bad if I ____________________ (insert current vice or guilty pleasure).  I’m pretty good most of the time but I’m human, which means I am not perfect and thus I ________________________.  While the Lord doesn’t call us to beat ourselves up for being imperfect, He does desire perfection.  We are to strive for the perfection that our Heavenly Father has.  Yet we are really good at excuses for ourselves.

So this semester of questioning the morality of different actions was interesting.  Was speeding a sin?  Would not obeying posted signs or rules be sinful?  Was it a sin to lie to the Nazis standing at the door asking if I was harboring Jews?  The professor I had insisted that it was morally good to follow all just laws to our fullest extent.  Lying, he said, was always sinful, even in the case of the Nazis at the door.  (Side note: Before you get upset about not being able to lie to Nazis, he also said that we were not supposed to tell them the truth either.  Interesting, huh?  We should use “discreet language.”  They don’t have the right to know the information they are seeking because they desire to hurt others.  Anyway, lying in this circumstance would you make less morally culpable because you under pressure.)  Now I wanted to follow all of the rules and I am a person who typically likes to do so anyway.  I think I have a pretty good sense of right and wrong but this class was challenging me to look at things I had always accepted as “not that bad” and strive to look for what would be virtuous.

The memory that comes to mind is from when I traveled to Switzerland and Germany.  The semester that I took the Christian Moral Principles class happened to be when I was studying abroad in Austria.  One weekend a few friends and I traveled to Germany and Switzerland.  We were not in Germany for long but during our time there we went to Fussen, Germany and saw Neuschwanstein Castle.

Isn’t it gorgeous?  Sadly, I never really realized how beautiful it was until I was looking for pictures of it.  We were there for such a brief time.  And now I wish I would have actually toured the castle.  Instead, we got there, looked at the outside, saw the price to tour, and decided against it.  I regret that a little but I think I was getting so used to seeing gorgeous cathedrals and opera houses that touring a castle didn’t seem that special.  It seems a bit crazy now.

The story: We are at this gorgeous castle but decided against touring it.  However, there was a bridge one could get to that gave a lovely view of the whole castle.

Unfortunately for us, it had recently snowed and was closed for safety or to clear it off.  Doubly unfortunate for me was that posted sign was in German and English.  It was easy enough to slip around the gate and several people were doing it.  The people that looked like they would be in charge didn’t seem to mind that much or shoo the people away.  Here was the dilemma–do I obey the rule (made, presumably, with my best interest in mind and clearly posted in English (drat!)) or do I dismiss the rule out of a desire to see the castle and acknowledging that it wasn’t really very bad conditions.

What did I do?

I didn’t go on the bridge.  Instead, I sat by the bags with another girl (who didn’t want to go–not because of a moral dilemma but because she had little interest in it) and felt an internal tugging over the situation.  I can see it going both ways and I hesitate to say that I should have just done it because we are to strive for perfection, not “OK.”  Yet part of me thinks this is being scrupulous.  I don’t exactly know but I know it was a semester of pondering the morality of different things.  (Was it wrong to sit in the lovely window seat even though we were told not to sit there?)

Why does this reverie surface today?  Today the school tried to surprise all of the students.  The original schedule was altered and afternoon classes were not to take place, unbeknownst to the students.  However, word spread (as it always does) and students began to question if we had afternoon classes or not.  Today was a shortened day anyway but the students wanted to be in the know.  Yesterday I managed to dodge all of the questions, carefully replying to afternoon classes that my plans were to watch videos or not do too much.  All true.  However, today I received a direct question and my little “don’t-lie-but-try-to-evade-question” was uncertain how to morally respond.

“Do we have afternoon classes or not, Miss –?”
Pause.  No way to skillfully evade this question without it being obvious.  This was a student just coming into class and many of them were not yet there or paying attention.
“Please don’t ask me direct questions about the schedule.  I don’t want to lie to you but I can’t tell you the truth.”  I am so skillfully secretive.

They kind of laughed at that but I hoped nobody else would ask.  They did.  For them I just responded, “Accept whatever happens today…just don’t worry about it.”  I overheard some of the students talking and saying that other teachers had said there were afternoon classes and that whatever rumors they heard weren’t true.  I just couldn’t bring myself to do that.  I have lectured my classes on different occasions about always being truthful.  Not that one always has to tell the complete truth all of the time.  (Ex. How do I look?  You look fat and ugly.  What do you think about me?  Well, to be honest, I really hate you.  I can’t stand the way you….)

I wonder sometimes if I take things too far.  I read an article about how telling your children that there is a Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy, and Easter Bunny is not sinful because it is helping them develop an imagination.  (If that is not the thesis of the author, I apologize.  I actually skimmed it more than read it thoroughly.  The main gist of the article: you can tell your kids about Santa.)  My professor argued that we shouldn’t tell them things that aren’t true.  People gave examples of kids who, upon finding out that Santa Claus didn’t exist, wondered if Jesus was made up, too.

I think I can see both sides of the story but I am left wondering what is the most virtuous decision.  Because I hesitate when people give the excuse of “it isn’t that big of a deal” or “everyone does this” or “don’t be so serious/strict/restrictive.”  If we are called to be saints, perhaps we will have to look different than others and behave differently.  Not perhaps…we will.  Does being a saint mean being super serious, never joking, and never fun?  No, definitely not.  But saints do strive for virtue in everything that they do.

I end with no neat conclusion because I do not quite know the answer.  Is one being “over the top” attempting to follow all rules and laws?  Or it is simply a death to my desire to be my own boss and do things my own way.  Sometimes just going the speed limit is an act of self-denial.  Do we make excuses for the little flaws we have because we do not desire to put the work into weeding out these things from our hearts and habits?  Or am I being legalistic and missing the main message of God in favor of focusing on little details?  I don’t know.  Maybe all are true to a degree.

“Strive even to death for the truth and the Lord God will fight for you.” -Sirach 4:28
“A lie is an ugly blot on a man; it is continually on the lips of the ignorant….The disposition of a liar brings disgrace, and his shame is ever with him.”  -Sirach 20: 24, 26

"Quo Vadis" — A Call to Bearing Witness to Authentic Christian Living

I recently read Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz and was drawn deeply into the story.  It is set in Rome during the reign of Emperor Nero and tells the tale of the beginnings of Christianity.  While I enjoy history, I am probably far more uninformed than I should be and thus it took me a bit by surprise to read of the moral depravity found in Rome.  Sienkiewicz accomplished the arduous task of transporting the reader into the time period and understanding the tradition of the times.  Prior to the revolution of Christianity, Rome was a burgeoning epicenter of vice and immorality.  The feasts held by Nero were consumed with gorging oneself on food, drink, praise, lust, and selfish whims.

Enter Christianity.

The Christians are portrayed as being something entirely different from the rest of the Romans.  They are set apart and act with never before seen goodness, honesty, and courage.  When faced with betrayal and anger, they freely bestow forgiveness.  The Christian life is not presented as easy by any means, but it is presented as filled with light and being something beyond human powers.  As I read this book I thought about how beautiful it was that the witness of Christians to the truth in word and deed was able to transform a sinful culture.

Think about that: the witness of Christians in their words and deeds consistent with what they profess to believe was able to transform a culture of death and vice. 

Nero spread the lie that the Christians were responsible for the great fire in Rome but when the citizens saw the goodness that was at the root of the Christian life, they doubted the words of their emperor.  While the martyrdom of the early Christians seemed to provide a set-back for the Church, soon they were inundated with many people who wanted to be Christians.  The bloody deaths they endured do not seem to be good advertisement to prospective members, but they were drawn by their courage, love, and the manner in which they died.  The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.  By their faithful witness to Christ and His teachings, they were the compelling force that spoke to the basic dignity of the human person, the freedom found in forgiveness, and the willingness to die for that which one firmly believes. 

I found myself thinking that if it happened once, what is to stop it from happening again?  We are again facing a culture of death and a world riddled with vice.  Yet the Truth is still living and active.  What if we became the faithful Christians who lived what Our Lord taught and by this simple witness were able to spark another revolution?  To be a Christian is in essence to be a revolutionary.  In Quo Vadis the words on the lips of Vinicius, one of the central characters, struck me as something that perhaps we wouldn’t be so quick to proclaim today.

“It’s not enough, you see, to honor Christ with rituals and worship. You have to live according to his teaching, and that’s like coming to the edge of an ocean and being told to go across on foot. It’s deeds, not words, that matter to these people….There’s no longer a difference between the conqueror and the conquered, the rich and the poor, the master and the slave. Christianity means the end of all authority, of government, of Caesar, of the laws, and of established order as we know it. Instead there is Christ. There is an instant sense of mercy never found anywhere before. What follows is such superhuman goodness that it overturns everything we know about mankind…I tell you frankly there’s nothing more at odds with my character than this Christian teaching, but I simply can’t tell who I am since I brushed against it. Is this love or magic? I don’t know…I feel as if they’ve changed my soul!”

Our very souls must be changed, must be transformed by the very life of Christ.  If we simply go to Mass each Sunday, we are not giving a faithful Christian witness.  Our lives must be filled to the brim with the Gospel, it needs to find it’s way into every aspect of our life.  We must be the people that others look at and are amazed at our goodness, forgiveness, and zeal.  Not because we desire the praise, but because we are witnessing to what a life rooted in Christ actually is.  When I think of the early Christian martyrs the last words to come to mind are: mediocrity, comfort, politically correct, and fashionable.  If we desire to be like the early Christians, then we must also abandon the hopes of being able to live a mediocre, comfortable, and easy life.  When I look within myself, I discover that I am very attached to all of those things.  I want to be great and be a saint, but I also don’t want the sacrifice that is necessary.

Sienkiewicz very clearly presents the seeming contradiction found in the truth that the more you surrender to Christ, the more happiness and freedom you gain.  Vinicius wonders how he could be happy giving up the life of Roman decadence he has always known, but the happiness he discovers is of a far grander and long-lasting sort.  From the witness of the early Christian martyrs to the modern men and women who dedicate their entire lives to Christ in the priesthood or religious life, we see that Christ asks to be Lord of everything.  He asks for much but He rewards generously.  We may not be popular or comfortable in this world, but He promises to prepare a place for us in Heaven.  We may experience ridicule and humiliation, but then we would be simply following in the footsteps of the King of Kings as He was nailed to a cross. 

The world will hate us because we are not of this world.  But we serve a King who is not of this world and who has already conquered it.  The battle has already been decided.  Truth prevails, Goodness wins, Love conquers all!  Which side will we find ourselves on? 

If Rome can be transformed from vice to virtue, can not our world once again become what it ought to be?  I do not know what the Lord will ask of me in the future in order to bring about His Kingdom, but I do desire to have the grace and courage to do as He asks.  After a radical encounter with Truth, we cannot remain as if we have not changed. 

Imagine what the Lord could do with a few souls that do only His will.

Will you be one?  Will you say yes to the grace that is trying to flood your soul and pierce every avenue of your life?  Will I say yes?

Pray for me, dear reader, and I will pray for you.  May the Lord give us the grace to endure whatever may come.  The grace to follow Him to Rome to be crucified, to the classroom to be mocked, to the office to be scourged, to the public forum to be humiliated, to our families to be dismissed, and to our world to be belittled.  And may the world be transformed by the Truth, Goodness, and Beauty that we bear witness to through God’s grace.

 

Movie Love

“I think I’m falling in love with you.”

That line from a movie should be captivating and romantic but at that specific point in the movie I found it utterly—belated and ridiculous.  So far the movie had been mindless albeit slightly different from other chick flicks that I’ve seen, but it came to a necessary aspect in nearly every modern romantic movie.  Boy and girl become very passionate and end up in bed together with no ring on their fingers to make this a marital embrace but rather an over-glorified way to use the other person.  In this particular movie, the guy and girl are in bed and as she is going to tell him something, he looks her in the eyes and huskily admits, “I think I’m falling in love with you.”

My response?  A few short disbelieving laughs and an overwhelming sense of sadness.  You think that you are falling in love with her?  Aren’t those words (or perhaps simply “I love you”) supposed to come before you say those words with the language of the body?  I think the effect is supposed to elicit a response of “Awwww!”  But instead it makes me realize how far we have fallen.  The pinnacle of expressing one’s love for the other person is not found in virtuously denying oneself for the good of the other but rather in letting passion consumed oneself.

The romantic movies that are produced by the mainstream media always leave me less than fulfilled.  The man could be strikingly handsome and the girl witty and smart yet as soon as they fall into the cliché that love = sex, I find myself saddened inside.  If this is what the media is hailing as natural and love, then I shouldn’t be surprised at the decay of the culture.  The dignity of the human person is not upheld as it should be.  When I see a romantic movie it would be nice if I didn’t have to say, “That was good.  Except for….”  Or to think that it would be exactly the love story I would want if only they had shown virtue and a desire for the good of the other person.  Instead I typically leave with this odd feeling that is half wistful and half disgusted. 

I am a romantic by nature–perhaps not discoverable exteriorly but definitely found within my heart.  I want a wonderful love story and a love that is unending.  Yet I do not find myself agreeing with the only romance Hollywood knows how to offer.  Rather I begin to feel that I must be one of a small contingent that has a radically different view of love.  A purer, deeper, truer but far less exalted type of love.  The modern day romantic “fairy tale” ending is ridiculously trite.  In fact, it would be far more innovative for Hollywood to begin to use the oft-forgotten tale of the man and woman who show their radical love for one another within the embrace of Holy Matrimony.

This weekend I found a song with which I have fallen in love.  Her voice is beautiful and the lyrics are true.  It leaves me with a desire to be married yet with none of the bad aftertaste found in the typical mainstream music and society.  Relish this piece of true beauty!

While writing this I also thought of how if we want to transform the media and the culture, we must be willing to support places that are striving to do just that.  I want to see a change in what is being offered in the culture but if I do not support them, how are they to succeed?  So just when I needed it, I received an invitation to support a movie that speaks of the dignity of the human person.  I accepted the invitation and I would like to extend it to you.  While it isn’t speaking of the human sexuality of the person being trampled upon, it nevertheless is speaking about the inherent dignity of each individual regardless of the context of the situation.  Please support them in prayer and money and pass it along to your friends and family.  If we want to see this culture change, it will be through a group effort.  And it will require sacrifice.

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/450183161/frohe-ostern-movie?ref=live

P.S. God is ridiculously and madly in love with you.  He is pouring His mercy out upon you but He needs you to accept this mercy and glory in it.  This unfathomable love doesn’t really make sense–but that is probably why it is called “Divine Mercy.”  No mere human person is capable of that kind of love and mercy.  But glory to God we have a God who not only provides for the weak and the lowly (i.e. you and me) but loves to do that. 

For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

Divine Revelation

Jesus loves the poor.  Today in class we read the story of Lazarus and the rich man from the Gospel of Luke.  The rich man neglected the needs of Lazarus and his punishment was hell while Lazarus was in the bosom of Abraham.  As happens fairly often, I find myself teaching my students, trying to drive home a point that I am simultaneously realizing I do not live by. 

“Jesus is saying in no uncertain terms that helping the poor is necessary.”

The interior dialogue is one that my students cannot see and one that I wish was different.

“Trish, what have you done to help the poor?”  Apart from a few isolated instances, I am loathe to say that I have done very little.  I am quick to reassure myself that I am not that rich man, I would never be so calloused.  But perhaps I am, in many ways.  I am quick to reassure myself that some are called to embrace radical poverty.  However, some are not, I remind myself.  I think of unused clothes in my closet and then I think of those who go without many clothes at all.  I think of the slight pain I feel on a day of voluntary fasting and then I remember the involuntary starvation of people around the globe. 

I’m not going to lie, at times Pope Francis makes me uncomfortable.  He is crashing into my world, he is kissing the feet of inmates, he is embracing the disabled, and it is disconcerting.  Not because I dislike the imprisoned or the disabled.  Rather it is because I find myself falling short of the Gospel message in many ways and I don’t like that truth. 

The Gospel is radical.  Some of my students are under the impression that everyone has heard the Gospel and that it isn’t something that is difficult.  Yet there must be a reason that people grew angry with Christ and persecuted Him.  They didn’t drive Him to the brow of the cliff because He told them that their lifestyle was perfectly acceptable.  He challenged them.  Today He still challenges us.  The Bible is both a book of comfort and a book of seemingly impossible challenges.  I am to be meek, humble, loving, sacrificial, trusting, repentant, merciful, poor in spirit, and so much more.  I will be hated by all for the sake of His name and will be handed over to be killed.  I will be given the words to speak at the proper moment and I will not defend myself against the accusations of others. 

We are so quick to make the Bible a good story that Christianity is based around without realizing the radical implications for our own lives.  In order to fully embrace Sacred Scripture I will need to accept the gift of transformative grace.  I will not live on bread alone but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.  The Gospel is challenging and if what is being preached about the Word of God is not challenging us and calling us to change, then it is not the Gospel!  If I read the Bible as it is meant to be read then I cannot be content to be complacent.  I can never say that I have done all that I need.  The message of the Gospel calls for continual conversion. 

The story of the prodigal son fit in perfectly with the recent words of Pope Francis.  I was telling my students about the beauty of the mercy of God as He is depicted in the father in the story of the prodigal son.  The father doesn’t wait for the son to even reach home but races out to meet him.  And he doesn’t wait to hear the son’s plea to simply be a servant but he gives him the best of everything out of gladness that his son is home.  “The Lord never tires of forgiving, never!  It is we who tire of asking his forgiveness.”  All of Heaven rejoices when one repentant sinner returns home.  Even as I am explaining this to my students, I am realizing in a deeper way the truth of this.  God doesn’t forgive us begrudgingly.  He doesn’t sigh when we approach the confessional, slightly irked that we have done again what we just promised we would strive to never do again.  He isn’t like me.  He doesn’t wonder how I could be so dense, how I could be so self-centered.  Rather, He races to me with open arms and rejoices in my repenting.  What a God!  He calls us to be what He created us to be and yet when we fail, He calls us to return to Him and begin again.

I do not sacrifice enough for the poor.  I do not love my students as I ought.  I seek after acceptance and affirmation more than holiness.  I fall into being judgmental when it isn’t my place.  Yet God is calling me to overcome these failings with His grace and begin again.  The Word of God is living and effective.  It is cutting to the heart of the matter and revealing the truth of who we are and who God is.  It is uncomfortable and disconcerting.  But it is compelling and captivating.  It rebukes, consoles, reassures, revitalizes, convicts, elevates, and embraces.

I hope my students are learning at least half as much as I am.

“Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” –St. Jerome