Religion: November 2004 Archives

I don't understand

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There is a story, possibly apocryphal, about a child who repeatedly bashed his head against the wall. When asked why, the child replied, "Because it feels so good when I stop."
There are people who carry anger and bitterness against the church, against organized religion, against Christianity. Many of them have endured great pain and suffering in their lives. Some have come to the conclusion that their sorrows are because of the (to them) malign influence of religion. They become anti-Catholics, anti-Semites, anti-Christians and some even become crusaders for their cause, trying to protect others from the influence of religion.
I guess I can understand the crusading zeal - I have my share of it too. I want to protect those I love and even those I have never met from what I see as the errors of common value systems such as secular humanism, scientism, the worship of sexual expression as the highest good, or whatever. So on some level I can understand those crusaders out there who want to restrict or eliminate various 'Christian' values such as traditional marriage, monotheism, sin and redemption, chastity, faith, or whatever.
What I don't understand is why some of these persons spend the time and energy seeking out the weblogs and other outlets of those whose values are in opposition to theirs, and why they try so earnestly to convince those of us who hold these values, to change. They must find it frustrating, even painful, much like the child bashing his head against the wall.
I must confess, I find myself admiring their missionary zeal even as I shake my own head in disagreement with their viewpoints. I personally don't take the time and energy to seek out the weblogs of, say, radical feminists, atheists, secular humanists, and argue their points. Maybe I should.
I remember, though, that when I was in their midst, I would not have been convinved by any kind of argument. My then-belief in moral relativism would have kept me from being persuaded by any argument, at least to the point where I would have had to change. I could not be converted to Christianity until I became convinced that there was and is an absolute truth, and that my task is to find and follow that truth wherever it might lead.
So, I will reply to those who visit here and have questions, concerns, or comments. I will follow links that I have been given and will consider the wisdom of commenting. But I have decided not to become a frustrated and frustrating missionary. Does that make me a moral coward? Or am I simply trying not to cast pearls in the slop? Or is it a little of both?
If I truly believe in what I profess, do I have a moral duty to proselytize? Or do I run the risk of alienating those I would like to see converted? The great commission was given - "Go, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit." How best should I follow that commandment?

The season of the midwife

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I have always seen Advent as the season of the midwife. Advent has a secular meaning -""The coming or arrival, especially of something extremely important - an arrival that has been awaited (especially of something momentous)". Today's readings from Mass Matthew 24:37 - 44 and Romans 13:11-14 both tell us that we will not know the hour but that we need to be prepared. So too is it with childbirth - we know the approximate time that the child is expected to arrive, but babies don't often arrive exactly when expected. As a matter of fact, only one in two hundred will actually arrive on the exact date that was estimated in advance. The EDC is the estimated date of childbirth, not the exact date - we can only know the exact date after the fact. So too for the children of Israel - they could know by signs and portents that the Messiah would be arriving, they could even know into what tribe He would be born - but they could not know until after the fact that He had arrived.
Tradition tells us that Mary had an easy childbirth, as she was protected from the 'curse of Eve' (Genesis 3:16-19). She did not bring forth her child 'in sorrow' - no, her sorrow was to come much later on. She must have had signs that the birth was imminent - such that she could prepare the manger and so on - but I am sure that she did not have the hours or days of hard work that most mortal women go through in preparation for giving birth. And I have heard that she had no midwife - something I find hard to believe if only to have a companion )as Joseph would not have been able to touch her at all once her labor began - not until the 40 days had passed).
Not all women experience severe pain in childbirth - but it is hard work. In Genesis, Adam was told that he would toil (etzev) to bring forth fruit from the earth by the sweat of his brow, and Eve was told that she would travail (etzev) to bring forth fruit from her womb. Eventually, God had mercy on His children - he sent the men draft animals and tools to help him plow and plant - and to women he sent the midwife.
Midwifery is mentioned early in the Old Testament. A sad reference is to the birth of Benjamin and death of Rachel - Genesis 35: 16-19 , probably a breech birth, as the midwife told Rachel she had a son even before he was fully born. My favorite reference is to the midwives of Egypt - Shifrah and Puah in one translation, Sephora and Phua in the Douay-Rheims translation. Their civil disobedience, their action to preserve life in the face of a culture of death, makes an admirable example to the midwives, nurses, and physicians of today. In Exodus 1:16-21, we learn that God not only approved but He rewarded those faithful midwives.
Being a midwife means spending a lot of time seemingly doing nothing, simply waiting on the baby and helping the mom cope. If I have done my job well, I will seem to be unnecessary. If I have helped a mom to stay healthy during her months as a lady-in-waiting, her hours of labor will be more manageable. I think that God has given us the equivalent of midwives to help us prepare for the coming of our Messiah - He has given us the sacraments and the priests to minister them to us. We are cleansed by Penance, fed by Eucharist, healed through both these sacraments and also through the Anointing of the sick.
The word "midwife" in English comes from the old English words mit (with) wyf (woman) - with woman. In Spanish and Portugese there are two terms for this calling - partera and/or comadrona. Partera is to assist in parturition, comadrona is a mothering companion. There is also a lovely idiom for giving birth - dar luz (to give light). The mother gives light to the child she is bringing forth. Sometimes, in the moments of birth, we joke around and tell the baby "come to the light". I have noticed over the years that, left alone, labors tend to happen more in the night time and that babies like to arrive with the dawn. Most labors these days are not left alone to find their own rhythms, but I know that of my 6 children, 5 were born between midnight and dawn, and none between noon and midnight.
Christ is our Light. In Advent we await the coming of our light, but we also have a responsibility to move towards that light. It is no mistake that, in that hemisphere which first became Christian, Advent comes as the days are becoming shorter and shorter. Have you ever noticed that the colors of the dawn in winter are the purples and rose of Advent? Lately I have had to leave for work before sunrise, and as I am driving south I can see the first streaks of purple turning rose with the sunrise, and I am reminded of the candles of my Advent wreath.

thank you

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to all who commented on my post 'paranoid', below.
I have suffered from Seasonal Affective Disorder for most of my life. As the days get shorter, I find that I have more mood swings and that I tend to over react to seemingly minor incidents. I try to reality check myself before I blow off at the handle. I really appreciate that you all have dropped by to remind me that I am not alone in the blogiverse!
Advent is coming! Get out the wreath and the candles and prepare to prepare for the birth of the King of Kings!

quiz alert

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You scored as Catholic. Welcome to the One, Holy, CATHOLIC, and Apostolic Church!
You my Friend are a Catholic.

Viva Cristo Rey


The cry on the lips of many martyrs, "Long live Christ the King", is the fitting close to the church's year. "Jesus, remember me, when you come into your Kingdom", said the good thief.
Heaven is not a democracy, it is not a republic, it is a kingdom.
The Church is the kingdom on earth - imperfect, flawed, sinful - but still Christ's Kingdom.
It is not a democracy. We get our marching orders from the King of Kings.

urgent prayer request


Karen Marie is in the hospital again
I had the opportunity to spend several hours in her company earlier this year. She is a wonderful feisty woman who bears up under some pretty stiff infirmities with grace and courage. Please hold her in prayer.
Our Lady of Lourdes, intercede for her!

Young, confused, and catholic

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I've watched from the sidelines as a brother in Christ has see-sawed through some pretty tough times, and I have always tried to keep him in prayer. I ask you also to remember him in prayer.
Nathan has a lot of struggle and angst, but I think that God is going to do great things with him - eventually. I dimly remember being his age and struggling with all these issues - obviously my issues were not the same ones that he has - but conversion is seldom a one step process. Like Nathan, in the end my issues boiled down to one single issue - obedience.
Nathan - just keep listening to God and to the Church, the Bride of Christ.

on the eucharist


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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Religion category from November 2004.

Religion: October 2004 is the previous archive.

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