Isolation versus solitude

Contemplation and prayer are solitary endeavors, opportunities to be with You, Father, and Your Holy Spirit in me.

How does this feeling of oneness with You wander so easily during times of trial into a such desert of isolation and division?

There’s a part of me that wants to curl up and hide from all the realities of my life today. To separate and isolate myself from others; to run away from home; to hide myself in You.

And yet, it’s different than my desire to find my rest in You.

I think the Father of Lies is lurking about me, too close right now, possibly sensing my weakness and vulnerability to his promises. Waiting to cull me from the herd, then to separate me from You.

Pray, strengthen me, Holy Father against His lies and designs for my soul. Help me to submit only to Your holy and gracious plan for my life. Enslave me, Father, to Your will, Prepare me, by Your grace, to be worthy to be with You one day in Heaven.

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

My belated response to Melinda Henneberger

Melinda Henneberger wrote and published a column in the National Catholic Reporter back in December 5, 2018 on her reasons for leaving the Catholic Church. She (and many of us) felt a crisis of conscious over the McGarrick revelations and the unfolding knowledge of our church’s continuing sex abuse scandal and coverup.

I shared her pain and her anger and frustration, as so many of us Catholics did, upon hearing the unwelcome news. I wrote this response at the time, mostly for my own healing. I share it here in the hope that it touches other hearts that have been broken by this terrible tragedy.

Dear Melinda,

First and foremost, I want to tell you how grateful I am for your column in NCR. I’ve been avoiding organizing my own thoughts, even as I’ve known I would have to do so eventually. Your column provided a helpful catalyst.

My heart hurt for you, as it does for all of us, as I read your piece. Our hearts have been shattered by this evil…most especially for the first order victims and their families. Their pain is paramount. But, all of us who love the church are experiencing our own personal crises.

I’ve recently been trying to understand and live better our church’s teaching on how to be blessed by the pain and challenges given to each of us. To somehow recognize and be blessed more deeply by His grace that attends painful times.

So, it was in this frame of mind that I prayed for you and for our church this morning. I asked God how my heart should respond to your decision to leave. Is it a signal for all of us to fragment? To exercise Rod Dreher’sBenedict Option”?

If not, how best do I respond? To the obvious corruption that has so gripped our beautiful teachings? To my own confusion and distress? How can I possibly be blessed by the knowledge of this terrible travesty that too many of our church fathers have allowed or enabled … or worse?

And, as I felt emotion well up inside me, I saw Our Lord in Gethsemane as Christ shed His tears of blood. I heard as His words from Sermon on the Mount rang out:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

And I looked on at Calvary as He hung in pain on the cross. I heard Him tell Dismis, the good thief, “you will be with me today in heaven.

Then He gave His beloved disciple and all of us into HIs mother’s care to wait for Him until His return. Mother Mary will comfort each of us, if we allow her to embrace us.

For my own part, as a sinner who wandered and wondered for far too many years before finding the Catholic Church, before being allowed to join in the joyful celebration feast, before being fed and formed by the church’s teaching, before experiencing the warmth and abundance of our Blessed Mother’s embrace, before knowing how or even why I should want to walk with our Lord as He lived and died for us and for our salvation, I have opted to continue to receive and be fed by the Holy Eucharist and, as often as I can, to sit with our Lord in adoration and to pray our Holy Mother’s Rosary .

Is He really present in the host as Catholic teaching says? Can He only be present through the word and exhortation of priests ordained in apostolic succession from Peter? I was told once, ‘It’s a Mystery. We have to leave room for the mystery.’ So, is it true? I don’t know….mysteries, by definition, mysterious. But I do have faith. I believe based on my own personal experience and based on knowledge from the Holy Spirit within me, and my belief comforts me.

I’ve opted to stay — where else can we go, Lord? — and to wait (as much as possible) in joy-filled anticipation of His beautiful face. I know He will come one day and sort us all out. He will cleanse and purify, again and again, each of us and His Church Bride on Earth.

In the meantime I give thanks that you and I and other believers have already been given the end of the story. We know that the sweet incense that fills our beautiful sanctuaries throughout the world will not be overwhelmed by the sin and corruption of Satan’s smoke.

Those priests and bishops will not win, who, through their acts or their inaction, have caused your crisis of communion with the church. Theirs will be a terrible fate.

I pray your mourning for our church blesses you and that you allow Him to walk with you and to comfort you as you wander for a time in the desert. And when it is time, I pray you will again find a comfortable place at His table where we will all rejoice as one church in Christ, where we will all rejoice that we who have gone lost are once again found.

In the meantime I pray He blesses you richly and continuously on your journey.

Yours in Christ,

Mary Adrienne

Spread the Light of Love, not the darkness of division

Heavenly Father,

I am so sorry for my words last night.

We have friends visiting from out of town. They’ve been here now for several days and we’ve gotten all our catch-up conversation out of the way. As the evening wore on and our words became less guarded, the conversation turned to politics and our relationships with our respective relatives. As it did, the frustration I have felt with several of our kin just spilled out, raw and unguarded.

My husband and I stand pretty much alone in our family on most issues of our day. With next year’s presidential election, these issues are already heating up. Our family once again is coming face-to-face with the deep fault-lines in our respective world views. During less political times we manage mostly to ignore them or paper them over in attempts at family unity.

Facebook exacerbates the problem for us. It can be a terrible force for separation and division. People are less guarded there in their comments. One relative, in particular, feels driven to re-post others’ misguided, thoughtless, and ill-informed memes and opinions. As much as I would like to remain ‘above it all’, the endorsements quickly feel personal and alienating and divisive. Ugh. I understand why some go into convents and monasteries, taking vows of silence and severing contact with the outside world.

But, those were only the triggers. My poor judgment and incontinence of speech are more the problem here. I’m disappointed in myself and ashamed for allowing these distant postings to drive my own behavior. In doing so, I’ve hurt You, gracious Lord, and been a poor example of what it means to be one of Your chosen ones. None of us, last night, was blessed by my comments, and this morning, I am more frustrated and angry after giving voice to my frustration than I was before. Not because what I said was untrue, but because I surrendered to the temptation of…what?…whatever sin this would be. Gossip? Not really. Bearing false witness against one’s neighbor? Not really, because it was all true. So what is the sin? Submitting to the luxury of venting in a safe space? Maybe. If nothing else just talking too darn much!!

So, I apologize, Father, and beg Your forgiveness. And I’ll go to confession and ask for Your absolution and You, in Your grace and love for me, will forgive me and wash me clean once again. And I will try to be better.

But I need Your help, Holy Lord, to overcome whatever this is that causes me to lash out about people and issues that frustrate me. Help me not only to control my words and my emotions and my behavior better, but if there is better way to address these concerns and to deal with them (writing here, maybe?), please direct my action to Your purposes and Your service.

Reaching out to change the minds and hearts of the particular person (people) involved have only made relations worse in the past and would likely result in a full severing of communication. So I pray Father that You take these concerns, and bless them with Your grace and love. Help me to be more detached from ignorant, hurtful words and actions, and more focused on You, who are my first love. These situations make me realize how often I fail You, fail to be that person You intended me to be.

You created me and called me to help carry Your light out into the world. All I seemed to be spreading last night was the darkness of division.

I am sorry, Lord. Please forgive me.