Friday, April 7, 2017

Flexing the Muscles of Fearlessness

After spending last weekend happily rooting out nonsense that has been weighing me down for years at our Catholic Women's conference, I left feeling less afraid.

I remember when I gave up.  It's a long painful story (for another time).  The nutshell is that when I cut out an abusive person in my life as a teenager, I was emotionally manipulated by people I trusted into continuing with them in my life.  I'm certainly not the only person with this story.  The problem was, it destroyed the strength I had left in me.  After confronting this history, I felt a sense that I could go back to my much younger self and give her permission to take over where social niceties clouded my judgement and made me a quivering mess in confrontation.

I remember meeting up with an old high school friend some time after university.  Keep in mind, I had become a Christian as well, so some of my edges had come off too.  He asked me a couple of times, "What happened to you?"  When I finally asked him what he meant, he told me that he always wanted to be friends with me, so that if he was ever involved in some sort of drama, he could count on my fierceness (he might have said viciousness...) to save him.  He just wondered where the tiger had gone.

I am not, by any means, advocating for Rookie Catholic to start picking fights: delighting in scoring verbal sparring points.  There is; however, certainly room in my life for a certain amount of fearlessness that has disappeared.

Today was no exception.  I actually had prayed on the way in to work for two things: first, a desire and ability to pray all day long (I'm going to have to go ahead and re-ask for that one...).  Second, a fearlessness in sharing who I am in my faith - my love for Jesus, the Father, the Holy Spirit, Mary, the Church, et al...

So, a teacher and I were discussing a little friend in our class who has been diagnosed with severe anxiety.  The psychologist actually recommended private school.  Problem: the teacher didn't know any in our area.  I recommended our Catholic school.  When I did, her eyes widened in disdain.  I think her nostrils may even have flared.   She then told me how her husband had spent more time in the principal's office at Catholic school and hated all things Catholic now...

So, I took a baby step and blundered out something along the lines of, "Well, we're Catholic, so we love it.  You know we all had similar experiences in public school too": because we did.  We had a science teacher who (much to our delight) threw pencils at kids he hated.  We had a Vice-Principal, who told me I (the shortest by a long shot) could use the toilet instead of the sink to clean up with - wasn't he clever???  (My mother cut down half the apple tree over that one to pull herself together).  What about the PE teacher who moved in with the student 15 years his junior within a month of her high-school graduation?  As if we didn't all see that one coming....

Creepy things happen everywhere.  I know you're probably wondering why I think the halting, poorly thought out reply was a step in the right direction - but while it's maybe not even a step - at least I am turning in the right direction.

People think all sorts of silly things - or get stuck in all sort of untruths, half-truths, and mis-conceptions.  Here's the thing: it seems obvious to me God's main way or removing the scales from peoples' eyes is with.... you got, other people.

Before we read a book that can help us out, someone markets it and suggests it.  Before we change our mind about something, we quibble with someone we actually respect at a dinner.  They might feel badly or not for having the discussion, but it could change hearts.  Before we go to a talk that changes our lives, someone invites us.  Before we care about the suffering of the weak, we are challenged by teachers who share Jesus' love for all the kinds of poor people who exist around us.  No little thing.  Our words - our bravery - matters.

Proverbs 28:1 says, "The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion."

Love Jesus, love your bible, pray for fearlessness, and say your small part.  You are the only who can do it.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Maintaining the "Camp High": The Sacraments

Coming from the protestant church, I have spent many happy weeks at amazing bible-based summer camps.  The people I met, the teaching I got, the songs we sang: they were a package that packed a powerful spiritual punch.

Often, towards the last day, the camp speaker would talk about the "camp high" and how to maintain that increased enthusiasm about our faith we were all feeling.  Find a good church, go to youth group, read your bible, read your bible, read your bible.

Invariably though, that excitement couldn't be maintained.  By October or November, life had crowded in.  Church got missed: I had to study!  Youth group numbers dwindled: school, sports, music, and family nights caught my friends to differing degrees.  I read my bible - but less.

This past weekend I attended the Catholic Women's retreat in our archdiocese.  I have to laugh - coming from the protestant church sometimes these titles sound like the least fun thing to do.  BUT - and here it is - it was amazing.  I truly don't know what I expected, but I didn't expect this weekend.  4 speakers - each gave 1 unbelievable talk.  Actually, by the last talk, I just felt so emotionally spent, I couldn't imagine getting anything more out of the weekend - BUT - the last talk was a charge!  It knocked me on my pins. Michelle Benzinger challenged and empowered us, as women, to go forth and listen to the prodding of the Holy Spirit - and then act.  To not miss His guiding.  Wow.  It was such a powerful message.  I felt like I couldn't take much more.  Every corner of the weekend filled me up - I was flying.

Here's the thing: I know about camp highs.  I know about the crash that inevitably comes.  Or does it?  The last night of the weekend, I went to confession.  As I stood in line, I felt this overwhelming joy that I didn't have to lose the inspiration I felt.  God has given me gifts through His beautiful church to keep me connected to His heart, in particular: confession, the Eucharist, and the study of scripture.  When I feel flat - it's often because of sin in my life.  I have a spiritual vacuum in confession that can clean house to leave my whole life open to God any day of the week.

The Eucharist is my time with Jesus.  I can receive Him and be with Him.  I hope to add another day in each week.  To carry me to Sunday.  Finally, I can read my bible - but I can read it alongside the teachings of the Catholic church.  The Magisterium of the Catholic Church serves us by beautifully laying out the full meaning of scripture.  It opens scripture up in ways and to a depth I simply didn't know existed.  Amazing that my decades of life as a banker, mother, and education assistant didn't make me a perfect theologian...  My tool of choice (currently costing a whopping $11 USD) is the The Catechism of the Catholic Church. (If you don't have one, grab one with no shipping cost - in your currency - to anywhere in the world here:

I feel deeply thankful to the women who worked faithfully and tirelessly to put together a weekend that ignited the hearts of 250 women in our corner of the world.  Fortunately, I don't need to pack them in my suitcase for year 'round encouragement.  Jesus founded a church on the Apostle Peter that does just that.