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Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

Sweet Dreams are Made of This

In Faith, Real Life on May 2, 2016 at 7:04 am

20 years of study, more than 170 books on religion and philosophy read, 5 years of inquiry, 4 years of writing letters and phone calls to local priests, 7 letters to the Pope, hundreds of thousands of prayers said, hundreds of Masses attended without benefit of sacrament,  A yearning in my soul that could not be quenched,  Knowing that my time was growing shorter and shorter, Trials of faith that sent me into despondency and despair. Traveling through a 2 year Dark Night of the Soul without any spiritual adviser, Continually returning to call out  to Jesus: I trust in you. Thy will be done.

And finally April 30, 2016. I can say: I am Catholic.  More than that, I had my first communion. This was always my goal. The altar and the Eucharist.  To partake of the true body and blood of my savior.

 

If you begin an earnest and honest study of the Catholic Church there is a time when you realize that transubstantiation is true. Once your mind and heart and spirit accepts this reality, then nothing can keep you from that altar.  The hunger in your soul is almost unbearable.

Because I was not catholic however, I could not take communion in the Catholic church. So I set about to join. As I pointed out in previous posts, I had already overcome many barriers in doctrine through my studies.  Becoming catholic requires going to catechism classes called RCIA, but because of my own personal situation this was almost impossible for me to do. I attempted several times but either they were held at night when the bus was not running ( I even learned to ride the bus to try to accomplish this.) Or they were in places where the bus did not run.

My journey to it was just more difficult than most because of the logistics of my life. First, I have been sick with heart problems for many years, I am an agoraphobic and do not like to be around a lot of people, it gives me panic attacks. I do not drive and do not have ready access to a vehicle. This journey was also very private to me. My faith always has been. I am a quiet contemplative prayer person when it comes to my spiritual life. I also did not personally know one person who was Catholic. That is, until my sister married one.  I had a couple conversations with him about it, but they were casual really, but I digress.

Before I became Catholic, I would spend some hours in Eucharistic Adoration. Most especially in the Chapel of the Holy Innocents in prayer for women considering abortion. It was to me at least a special time to spend with Jesus, without partaking of communion itself.  I could also get there by bus. (2 hour ride to and from)

Then the cancer came with its prognosis of a fairly rapid death, and my situation, to me seemed dire. No one else did, it seemed. I continued to call write  and contact people. We puzzled over the lack of action.   I told my sister that this may be something that just won’t happen. I may have to resign myself to this fact.  No one from the powers that be were acting on it.  I wrote one last letter to the Pope. The priest from the local church came to my house 3 times but then he forgot me one day and did not show up, nor did he tell me he wasn’t coming, and I got a little testy with him and he blew me off entirely. The nun the pope sent me got testy with me and then left town for Rome.

Then the priest called. I was shocked.  He said he would receive me on Pentecost.  I said I would attempt to live that long, but in truth, I am never even certain I will wake up the next day, since the tumors are now pressing on my spinal cord and may click off my on switch at any time. He moved the day to the following Saturday, which was April 30.

It was simple, and my sister, her husband and a very old and dear friend Mary Kay stood with me as sponsors.  They were all in tears, especially my sister, who had listened to my own weeping in despair and knew my innermost thoughts and prayers. I was in a daze. And then I was the happiest person on the face of the planet.

I am Catholic.

I know because God told me, that the body of Christ in the Eucharist will strengthen me for my painful journey ahead of me.  The struggle and the frustration and the trials to arrive at the altar were also part of my strengthening for this journey.  God has his plan, and it is always perfect.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes the Choice is Not to Fight

In Deep Thoughts, Faith, Real Life on April 20, 2016 at 5:50 pm

 

January 8, 2016 was the day I got the news I was dying.  Of course everyone is dying. Most people do just do not accept or acknowledge this fact. We are all on our way to the grave. We just get there at different times and in various ways. But we all arrive at this destination eventually. So far, over the course of human history this is the one indisputable fact: Humanity has a 100% mortality rate.

I have always been pretty realistic about death, especially my own, and even to many seemed somewhat morbid with my obsession about it. I made many decisions about my own death while I was still in my 20’s. Pre-paid for my funeral while I was in my 30’s. Had my will in place before I was 40, Talked openly with the people I wanted to be in charge of things once I was incapacitated regarding my advanced directives and continue to discuss those things as the state of my health deteriorates currently.   I believe people who ignore these basic things are foolish. As a nurse I have seen many people die, and it is not pretty when all these things are left undone.  My niece Mysi, since she was 4 years old, (She is 37 now) has known that she will be the one to “take care of me” when I am old. I have no children. I was not sure what marital status I would be in, and in truth it is probably better in my opinion if someone other than a spouse is an executor of end of life matters.  But this blog is not about all that, in fact I may have already covered all this previously, but the cancer also makes my short term memory boggled and I now have a tendency to repeat myself. Some would say this is just old age–so be it.

But what I really wanted to talk about is the reaction of other people to my cancer. There seems to be a prevalent thought that everyone who has cancer is in some noble battle to beat the cancer and live. If you are not clutching white knuckled to every minute of life you can steal back from it, or following every single avenue of treatment then you are somehow failing at the whole “cancer thing”.

I was not given this kind of choice. They could not operate and remove them. There is no chemo that can find and reach them.  They could diminish the swelling and perhaps with full brain radiation reduce a couple of the small ones and give me back some function.  Everything from this point on is palliative.  From the get-go my diagnosis is  FATAL. The median survival is 6 months.  1 year at best.  In other words, most people are dead at 6 months. Some people live for a year.  This is Stage 4 brain cancer with large tumors in my brain growing rapidly. Because I am a Christian, my initial response was somewhat surprising I suppose to those who have not given their lives over to Jesus Christ and trust that God is ultimately in control of everything in one’s life. I was going home. I was closer to the goal that is the goal of all Christians. To meet my Lord and Savior face to face. There was joy in it. I was also called upon to suffer for the Lord. This too, to most would seem a ludicrous thing to see as a blessing but it is not. Jesus suffered for the Love of me. I can now suffer for love of Him, and to him give all the glory. This was a gift.

So my thoughts turned immediately to “How do I wish to die? How can I give this meaning, not only to me, but to others who are now in the unfortunate position of watching me die? My goal is to die with dignity, in the arms of my beloved family. To not prolong their pain and to not cling to life that would ultimately only prolong my own suffering and that of my family and friends.  All decisions I make are based on this goal.  But again, many people, for whatever reasons, do not accept this. They continue to ask questions of me based on THEIR goals or expectations of how I should be treating this. I am daily given some new advice on how I can cure myself. How I can grab a little more time on earth.

This is NOT my goal. That fight is not mine. I want only peace and strength for the fight I am in, which is to die with dignity and peace and to go to heaven. Adding more time is the equivalent of extending my time of suffering, and it is ludicrous to me to spend the short time I have fighting for extra days of suffering. Spending precious days hunting down ways to extend my time has nothing to do with where I am or wish to be.  My most fervent prayer is for it to be soon and let me not linger long.  Let my love for God shine through to others in the end, and let my family be at peace when I am gone.  Knowing what the battle truly is helps. I am not “giving up”, I just know the battle I am in, and accept it.  And…I have my ticket to another and better place. I hope to see you there someday.

 

 

 

 

 

Letting Go of Resentments

In Deep Thoughts, Faith on March 13, 2016 at 5:13 am

Three times in the past few months I have been confronted full force with the selfish ugliness of human beings. These were not merely passing insults or minor annoyances, but faith shaking, mind-boggling betrayals of trust and love. Every day my first prayers have been to have forgiveness in my heart and to remove any resentment I feel. But I weep. I weep bitterly over them. My mind goes over and over them in some vain attempt to understand them, but I can make no sense of them, and the pain returns every day.

I hate ruminating over past hurts. It is a waste of time, and I know it. Maybe these hurts are still too close and fresh and unhealed.  I had resolved never to speak of it in the open, never to write about it, because it may come off as vindictive and petty and I should just get over it, and I know in time I will, but I also know that these 3 events were life changing—relationship changing events that tore out pieces of me and left large wounds.  How much can I say honestly without wounding many others?  My standard way of dealing with things like this that confuse me is to write it down, analyze it, find my own fault or blame in it, and vow to change what I can in myself, which is all I can do really to remedy the situation.  But the resentment and anger remain and haunts me.

Anger. It has always been my greatest sin.

I am generally a very direct person. Some say I am blunt. I am not passive aggressive. You know if I am angry at you. You never need ask. I take responsibility for my actions and admit my wrongs. But I find myself writing this in a passive voice, skirting around things, protecting those who, in truth, I do not believe have really earned any protection from me. In fact they deserve to be exposed for the evil they are. Evil.  Strong word. But after some time of analyzing their actions I can see it no other word that truly describes their actions.  Thoughtless. Cruel. Selfish. Are these not evil?

What would it change if they were all exposed? How much of my own analysis of the situations are tainted by my own overwhelming sense of hurt and betrayal? How do I let go of the resentment?

I pray.

I pray everyday. Lord Jesus, take this anger from me and replace it with your Peace. Let me be an instrument of your peace. Remove all hatred from me. Holy Spirit, fill me. Use me as a blessing. Guide my words and my thoughts. Eternal Father, let me be an example of your love. Soften the hearts of those who have injured me, and allow them to see their own errors. Give me a forgiving heart. Free me of all anger.

 

 

 

 

 

“My Boys” (And a few girls)

In Deep Thoughts, Faith, Real Life on March 6, 2016 at 6:01 am

 

I often say I am Nanny McPhee who has not yet finished her “lessons” to her charges.  This is generally said because I also am blessed with a “fang” in front. (of my own making, when I was a child, my front baby tooth fell out, (as they always do,)  only out of curiosity I explored the subsequent hole with a toothpick, and it broke off, and the piece stayed there til the new tooth came in around it, pushing the piece of toothpick out and causing the tooth to move forward and for some unknown reason, grow continually, albeit slowly. I have had to have the tooth filed on occasion over the years, but have not done it in some time so I kind of look like a combination of Nanny McPhee  and Ollie of Kukla, Fran and Ollie fame.

Not sure why I decided to go off on this particular physical flaw of mine at the beginning of this post, I guess because it has always been an embarrassment to me, I have never known what I might have looked like with straight teeth, and it is the one thing that pops out (pun intended) at anyone meeting me for the first time. I watch as people watch me talk and I see their eyes go continually to this mouth of fang, and wonder how much of what I say they are hearing or are they just mesmerized by my snaggletooth.

So yea, back to the Nanny McPhee analogy. Over the years, online I have met many young people. I play online games and of course it is very hard not to meet them if you are a gamer. I have also had numerous encounters with young people in the real world, as well.  Because of my own troubled youth, I have always felt “called” to help young people through some of their more difficult times in life, in some way if I can. I have even felt that God leads to me kids (or kids are led to me) that need special guidance or encouragement.  Most of these kids have been boys, but I have had a few girls too.  I have, however, always called them “My Boys”.  Most of them even over a course of 20+ years have kept in touch with me and though they are grown now do still come back for advice, or encouragement, or commiseration from time to time.

During this time, as they have in their time discovered I am dying, they have sent me so many kind notes and letters telling me how I changed their lives, how much I taught them, and what I meant to them during those difficult days, I have been blessed to know that I made a difference. This is such a special gift to me. I could of course hope that some word or help that I offered was of some use, but to hear from them has so touched my heart over the past couple months, and I am so very thankful.

I don’t even care that I did not get rid of my fang.

 

 

 

THE LIST

In Deep Thoughts, Faith on February 21, 2016 at 9:04 am

THE LIST

These were the issues  I had to research and find the real truth about before I could consider becoming a Catholic.

Prerogatives of Peter

Praying “To” Saints

Marian Doctrine

Idolatry

Purgatory

Confession

Real Presence in the Eucharist

PREROGATIVE OF PETER

I will take these one by one here. I am not going to give you all the research I did, but try to capture the turning point, the epiphany moment when it sunk in that this was correct, it was truth. One of my biggest problems was the Pope himself. To me, as an Episcopalian, he was just the Bishop of Rome. There were 12 Apostles. (Matthias  replaced Judas)  And my belief was each one were on equal footing as far as hierarchy of the church goes. My understanding of the scripture which relates to the argument of the Prerogative of Peter which is Matthew 16: 13-19  was simple, the “rock” was not a man, but the faith professed by Peter. However, opening my mind, wiping my prejudices out of my head, if you re-read the scripture you will note the words YOU THOU THEE, these are not words you use for a concept, but a person. This person is Peter.  Jesus does not haphazardly select words, especially in something of this magnitude. The Rock is Peter. But this was not my epiphany. My epiphany came at the tomb during the Resurrection. In John Chapter 20:1-8.  Peter and the beloved disciple “run side by side” and then the beloved disciple outruns Peter and arrives at the tomb first. But he does not enter.  He bends down, and peers in from the door. When Peter arrives he immediately enters, and examines the burial cloths. Only then does the other disciple enter. This clearly shows there was even at the Resurrection a deference to the authority of Peter.  There are many many other examples of this, especially in the Acts of the Apostles. But it was this example at the tomb that cleared this hurdle for me.

PRAYING TO SAINTS

Of course as a lifelong protestant this would give me pause. My prayers go directly to Jesus, I pray to no other. He is my savior and king. However this obstacle fell easily. As Christians we do not die. This is the promise of Jesus, and the hope of Christianity. John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. So all who have died in Christ, are alive. They are in heaven. There is the Church Universal which comprises of the Church Militant, this is us, those on earth who are still  “working out our salvation with fear and trembling” Philippians 2:12. The Church Triumphant, these are those already in heaven. And in the Catholicism (and some other Orthodox and Liturgical communions) there is the Church Penitent or Expectant for those in purgatory. (I will cover the hurdle of purgatory separate from this paragraph.)  So, we have absolutely no problem asking our friends, those here in the corporal world to pray for us. We do it almost daily.  We pray for others without being asked as well.  All Christians are a part of the Communion of Saints. 1 Corinthians 1-31. Catholics do not pray to Saints. They ask Saints and Christians in heaven to pray for them. Hurdle overcome.

MARIAN DOCTRINE 

In truth I really had very little trouble with Marian Doctrine. There is this idea outside of the Catholic Church that Catholics worship Mary as they do Jesus Christ. But this was really never my understanding.  I found she was just highly revered and honored. As in Honor thy Father and thy Mother. Mary was given to John at the cross “Behold your Mother.” In this way, I always saw her as being given to all disciples, and therefore to me, as my Mother as well.   Mary is the perfect disciple and a worthy role model for our own Christian walk. From her first “Yes” to Gabriel. Thy will be done. At the Wedding Feast of Cana: “Do whatever He tells you.” Mary continually points to Her son. She is the Mother of God. Personally I have seen people revere (and practically worship) their own pastors more than they do the woman who gave birth to our Savior. Not much of a hurdle. Overcome.

IDOLATRY 

Yea, so Catholics have a LOT of statues, icons, medals and just plain stuff. Again this was not a big hurdle because I know the propensity for humans to be distracted away from the spiritual by the physical. So making a physical thing represent and remind us of spiritual thing was not a big issue. I have always done this. Again, small hurdle. Overcome.

PURGATORY

This was probably one of the hardest obstacles for me to overcome, and of course the hardest to describe how I came to the conclusion that the doctrine was sound and biblically  based. To understand it fully you must begin with the whole idea of God’s Judgement. The Bible specifically says there are two judgments. This judgement does not determine salvation. Salvation comes from Faith alone.

“For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”  1 Corinthians 3:11-15

But we are subsequently, after our conversion and belief in Jesus Christ expected to act upon that faith, to walk the Christian Path and to produce good works. It is on these works that we are judged. First is our personal judgement. But then there is the Last Judgement where all will be judged. Purgatory is merely a place of waiting, and further cleansing before we enter Heaven. I can quote many many verses that back up this Doctrine. And praying for the dead or those in purgatory. But this particular Doctrine took me a year or so to come to grips with and it would take me even longer to write it all out here. I sometimes look at it like the scene in “The Wizard of Oz” when they are about to go in to see the Great Wizard and they are getting all spiffed up. Purgatory is like that, a place where we get cleaned up before we enter the Glorious Presence of God and behold the Beatific Vision. Although this hurdle is overcome, I do understand why for most it is a hard doctrine to accept.

CONFESSION TO A PRIEST

This one did not really cause me a problem by not being Biblical because Jesus says himself in Matthew 5:20-26 to confess to your brother if you have sinned against him and then there are numerous times in the Old and the New Testament about confessing to your brother, most specifically in James.  But, as a protestant all my life, my issue was that my sins are and have been directly confessed to Jesus Christ in prayer, and so I wondered did this mean he did not hear those, and had I died would those be on my conscious, marring my soul?  I struggled with this as well because my sins are so numerous over my lifetime and when one enters the Catholic Church there is a “lifelong confession” that is made to the Priest, and I thought: Well this will take a year or so at least, does this priest even have the time to spend to listen to my wayward life?  This obstacle however, was not overcome merely by scripture, it was overcome by fervent prayer to God, and listening to God in silence. I came to peace with it when I knew that to go to a priest, a representative of Jesus Christ and have him give me a verbal assurance of the absolution of my sins would give me much peace. Recurrent guilt that I have felt all my life would have a release. The repetitive recitation of sins I have passed confessed would end with this absolution.

REAL PRESENCE IN THE EUCHARIST

Because I had went from Baptist to Episcopalian, and many Episcopalians do believe in the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, that is transubstantiation of the wine and the bread into the actual physical body of Christ, this was not all that difficult for me. Every time I took communion in the Episcopal Church, I thought of this. But the actual transition here for me took place as I went to my first Eucharistic Adoration. I spent an hour in prayer and mediation in front of the exposed Blessed Sacrament and have never before experienced the Peace that I felt in that hour. My conclusion was that I could not have felt that if Jesus Christ were not truly there.

 

At the end of this search, some 20 years ago, I knew I was Catholic. I began to live as a Catholic, although I had not entered the church. I went to Mass when I could, prayed the rosary daily, spent many hours reading the Catechism and other books, and continuing my research. But I am Catholic. The church just has not made it official. Around two years ago I began my formal attempts to become a Catholic, and was surprised that my last obstacle was…the Church herself. This was when I began to write the pope. I have written him 5 times now. It now appears that there is a chance I might become Catholic before I die, and I try very hard to just trust in God in this. But I have my moments of doubt and they are my only moments of despair while I am dying. That I will die without benefit of having ever my first communion. It is my only wish while still alive. It is the reason I cling to life and go through all these treatments. That I might last til that day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dust to Dust

In Deep Thoughts, Faith on February 19, 2016 at 2:55 am

 

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[ Note: This blog entry was begun on Ash Wednesday, but I left it as a draft for a while, as I side-tracked to other things, Life is like that. We are constantly distracted from spiritual things by the temporal.  It is one of the reasons sacramentals are so important, they draw us back into our spiritual journey.]

The Season of Lent has always been my favorite season on the Christian Calendar. I suppose it is because it is a time of intense prayer and reflection. And I have always had a gift for prayer.  It is 40 days with Jesus.  It is a time of honest self evaluation, and to begin again.  It is the “second chance”  time on the calendar.

For 20 or so years I have observed it by choosing a specific aspect of the faith, or episode in the life of Christ, or sacramental in the church to meditate upon.  I have also always had some kind of handiwork or craft project that I complete during the 40 days.  The project itself is also a quiet time of reflection and prayer and becomes its own meditation and time with God. It is in the silence that I hear Him speak.

Of course this year is especially significant to me because I am dying. This will, in all likelihood be my last Lent. I find it very interesting and of course, again, perfect timing, that I would have this particular season at the beginning of my journey.

“You can depend on this as worthy of full acceptance: that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.  Of these I myself am the worst. But on that very account I was dealt with mercifully, so that in me, as an extreme case, Jesus Christ might display all His patience, and that I might become an example to those who would later have faith in Him and gain everlasting life.”  1 Timothy 15-16

So this year my meditation is on the Sacred Heart. I have acquired a book on it to read and have printed several other things online. I have to say that this year my Lenten ritual has been awry, due to visitors in the first week of Lent, In a strange way it is also apropos. I did go with my sister on Ash Wednesday for the imposition of the ashes, and although I have managed to have some time for prayer, not nearly as much as previous years. I always have a hard time finding things to “give up” on Lent. So, the idea that my prayer life has had to be laid aside or diminished is a real hardship on me. I seek the Lord’s forgiveness for my neglect of it.

Food has never been a problem for me to give up, so I rarely bother. Unless it means something, I do not see the point. However, this year while Zach was here he bought me a pound of my favorite candy and it is currently sitting on a table in front of me tempting me. I will open it on Easter Morning. I resist it now.

For my project I will try to complete the Sacred Heart in Filet crochet.

 

Hoping my Lent will turn out meaningful and full of mercy and God’s grace and new fervor in my love for the Lord Jesus Christ. My hope for yours is the same.

 

Misconceptions, Misinformation, and Catholic Prejudice

In Deep Thoughts, Faith on February 1, 2016 at 8:28 pm

In this whole journey of mine to figure out if I am a Catholic, one surprising thing was the amount of misconceptions I had, and even more so how many OTHER people had. (and still do)  I had a list. These questions must be answered or it was a no go.  My spiritual journey began in the Baptist Church, from there to Hippy Jesus Freak, from there to exploration of it all, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, and etc. etc..  There is a great poem I love by Ogden Nash, and it pretty much sums up this time of exploring  the whole tapestry of religion.

The Seven Spiritual Ages of Mrs. Marmaduke Moore
by Ogden Nash

Her pigtails slapped on her shoulderblades ;
She fed the chickens, and told the truth
And could spit like a boy through a broken tooth.
She could climb a tree to the topmost perch,
And she used to pray in the Methodist church.

At the age of twenty her heart was pure,
And she caught the fancy of Mr. Moore.
He broke his troth (to a girl named Alice),
And carried her off to his city palace,
Where she soon forgot her childhood piety
And joined the orgies of high society.
Her voice grew English, or , say, Australian,
And she studied to be an Episcopalian.

At thirty our lives are still before us,
But Mr. Moore had a friend in the chorus.
Connubial bliss was overthrown
And Mrs. Moore now slumbered alone.
Hers was a nature that craved affection;
She gave herself up to introspection;
Then finding theosophy rather dry,
Found peace in the sweet Bahai and Bahai.

Forty! and still an abandoned wife,
She felt old urges stirring to life,
She dipped her locks in a bowl of henna
And booked a passage through to Vienna.
She paid a professor a huge emolument
To demonstrate what his ponderous volumes meant.
Returning she preached to the unemployed
The gospel according to St. Freud.

Fifty! she haunted museums and galleries,
And pleased young men by augmenting their salaries .
Oh, it shouldn’t occur, but it does occur,
That poets are made by fools like her.
Her salon was full of frangipani,
Roumanian, Russian and Hindustani,
And she conquered par as well as bogey
By reading a book and going Yogi.

Sixty! and time was on her hands—-
Maybe remorse and maybe glands.
She felt a need for free confession
To publish each youthful indiscretion,
And before she was gathered to her mothers,
To compare her sinlets with those of others,
Mrs. Moore gave a joyous whoop,
And immersed herself in the Oxford group.

That is the story of Mrs. Moore,
As far as it goes. But of this I’m sure —
When seventy stares her in the face
She’ll have found some other state of grace.
Mohammed may be her lord and master,
Or Zeus, or Mithros, or Zoroaster,
For when a lady is badly sexed
God knows what God is coming next.

Even while in the hospital, I had two glaring examples of complete ignorance of the Catholic Church smack me in the face, and puzzle me. The first was a nursing assistant who mentioned to me that she was glad that the cross I wore was not a crucifix, and then began to semi-lecture me about the risen Lord. This “fear of the crucifix” is something I see a lot in protestants, and  it is just a misconception I think. I think they probably feel that Catholics give an inordinate amount of time to the Passion of our Lord, and the work that was done on the cross, and not enough time on the Resurrection. This is patently false. On the other hand, to Catholics it seems sometimes that protestants have an abnormal aversion to the Christ hanging on the cross. so it works both ways.  I say anyone who cannot gaze at a crucifix and find themselves tearing up with gratitude and love for Christ’s suffering for them, loving them enough to suffer to wipe away all their sins, needs to spend even MORE time studying Calvary. The only thing I said in response to her statement was “Yes, but it is His blood that washed me clean.” and left it like that. She probably would freak if she knew how many crucifixes are in my home.  The second incident was even more an example of complete misinformation. A nurse asked if she could pray with me, I of course said yes. Then she said “Because you know you don’t need a priest to talk to Jesus, you can talk to him directly.”  I was kind of taken aback for a second then smiled and said “Yes, it works like that for Catholics too.”  I am sure this comes from an incomplete understanding of Catholic Confession. Catholics of course confess their sins directly and daily to God in prayer. However we have the added Communal confession done in the liturgy, which is general and gives a general absolution of those sins, followed by a blessing and admonition to go and sin no more. This is completely Biblical and is what Christ taught and did. He never just left them hanging there. “Go, and sin no more.”   And we have private confession to a priest, with absolution. This is for grave sins. Remember again that Christ never forgave sins without assuring the sinner they were forgiven. Now we, and more especially Priests, who have had hands laid on them from the BEGINNING of the Church, first from Christ to his Apostles, then the apostles to every priest down the line then there is an anointing done down 2000+ years now to priests.  When the priest is in the confessional he is not the priest, he is Christ Himself, in person. How glorious it is to hear the words “Your sins are forgiven.” given that knowledge. We all, even when we do confess, will have the same old sins pop up in our minds and come back and haunt us. With personal confession, you really do feel they are forgiven and forgotten. You have been told –out loud–by Christ.

 

There is also a great deal of “anti-catholic” sentiment everywhere, but more so here in Oklahoma, the belt buckle of the Bible Belt, and the home of a big chunk of the Southern Baptist Convention, not to mention OBU is here as well. Protestants outnumber Catholics here probably 500 to 1.(And this is pure guesswork, I have not done any research on it)  Let’s just put it this way, if you are going out to a restaurant for Sunday Dinner, you best get there before the Baptists let out of church.

Of course the Seventh Day Adventists despise the Catholics. They, and a few others believe the Catholic Church IS the “Anti-Christ” Personally, I am sort of bemused by this logic and the whole the Pope is the anti-Christ conspiracists.

So, there is that. And of course I was a Baptist for the majority of my life and then I was a protestant most of the rest, Granted, I had become an Episcopalian at around age 28, but contrary to popular belief Episcopalians ARE protestant. I fell in love with the Liturgy.  Then later in the 90’s I left altogether. I believed the Episcopal Church had fallen into complete heresy.  This began my journey to find my Church.

I had been reading a lot of Church History and then the Early Church Fathers, the Mystics, Many of the Extant stuff, Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, and I finally just settled back into a kind of “Desert time” where my spiritual life was one of deep contemplation, solitude, and prayer.

The question arose. Why am I NOT a Catholic?  Is it because of my own misconceptions and prejudices? So, I made a list. These things must be answered for me. I wiped all the garbage out of my head and began an earnest and thorough search for the truth. I began by reciting the Creed, reading each line and deciding DO I BELIEVE THIS?

The first creed was the Apostles Creed, and was very basic, then came the Council of Nicaea and the Nicene Creed was born. Personally I love the Nicene not only for the beauty of its wording but for its clarification on many points of the Apostles Creed. But going back to basics, I chose the Apostles Creed.

I believe every word.

Next I read the entire Bible again 4 times through. I had read it all my life, and of course in Liturgical Services you read it every Sunday all year long. Specific readings, and in a 3 year time frame you pretty much have read the entire Bible in Church.

I believe every word.

So, the foundation is laid. Next was to tackle: “THE LIST’.  But that will have to be for another blog post because this one is getting just a tad long at 1500++ words

One last little warning and or disclaimer. I do not like to argue religion. I am not an apologetic (though I have read some good ones, (GK Chesterton, CS Lewis, etc.) . I also will not discuss or argue the scandals in the Catholic Church. I will not enter that field of battle.

Know this however. I love all Christian traditions where the sheep are being fed. I will worship in any house of God where I feel His presence.  I will pray for and with anyone who asks me to (and many who don’t.)

A priest once told me this and it stuck in my head: “The sheep follow the good shepherd, they know him and follow him. If you see someone behind the sheep prodding them, then that is not the shepherd, that…is the Butcher.”

 

 

 

Bravery and Fear

In Deep Thoughts, Faith on January 27, 2016 at 5:08 am

A person commented recently on my Facebook and called me brave. Being a “word person” this set me on a rather lengthy meditation on the real meaning of bravery. Brave. This is a word I have used all my life, a simple word, really. I looked it up again. Read all the definitions.

brave
brāv/Submit
adjective
1.
ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage.
“a brave soldier”
synonyms: courageous, valiant, valorous, intrepid, heroic, lionhearted, bold, fearless, gallant, daring, plucky, audacious
noun
1.
people who are ready to face and endure danger or pain.
2.
dated
an American Indian warrior.
synonyms: warrior, soldier, fighter
“an Indian brave”
verb
1.
endure or face (unpleasant conditions or behavior) without showing fear.
“we had to brave the full heat of the sun”

I don’t really feel brave. It seems too heroic for me. But then again is bravery heroic? In truth I think that if I come off as brave, then really it is just my ability to accept circumstances in my life and to struggle through them in the best way that I can. My life has been rough. Very rough. I have seen things few human being see. True evil. I have been alone through  much of it.

Much of the true evil I have had to face was during my years homeless and on the streets at a very young age as a hippy runaway chick. Murder, rape, violence, death and all the various “mini evils” that  hover like dark satellites around people in this outcast world were a part of my daily life for a long time.

I wrote a book about it. My life that is. I never finished it. I found that writing about some of the worst parts was too painful. I began to talk to people about it, because I could talk about it, but the writing of it brought too much of that memory into the present and was too painful. I was not brave enough I guess.

But in all this, my decision that to share it all, openly, my passage from this life, I suppose to others it may indeed seem brave. Or perhaps it is my attitude towards it. But you see that comes from God, and so it is effortless on my part. He is the one giving me strength, comfort, and peace. From the very moment that the news was given me, I have been wrapped in His arms, I am safe, so there is no reason for bravery of my own volition.

Even having said that, there is Fear. But the fear is so small, human worry. And it does not affect me deeply, I instead turn again to God.

Jesus, I trust in you.

My fear is not death, or dying. My fears are mundane little things. I fear that my first seizure will happen when I am alone. I fear seeing the pain in my sister’s face when I am in the darkest parts. I fear my brother Paul’s grief as he loses his Lolly. I mostly fear that my dream of becoming Catholic before I die, and having a full confession and partaking of the Eucharist will not happen. But it is God’s timing, and it is in His hands, I reassure myself with this knowledge and release the fear to Him.

Easter.

Let me make it to Easter.

 

 

 

Convoluted Blessings

In Deep Thoughts, Faith on January 25, 2016 at 11:17 pm

From the moment I was told that I was going to die this year, and probably quite soon, the world changed. I changed. But it was not in a way that most would expect.  This shall probably be the hardest thing to convey or explain because it is indeed : convoluted.

Every single moment is a blessing.

Every single moment is a surprising revelation.

I have always been a troubled soul. I have never felt worthwhile, loved, or even redeemable. I have suffered for years from deep depressions and a sense of utter failure as a human being. I have had to fight suicide ideation that never leaves me. People who suffer from depression as I have all my life cannot explain it to others, and usually try all kinds of remedies to rid themselves of it to little or no relief.  I identified my own “cause” for my permanent depressive state, and perhaps others may recognize it.  I am a romantic thinker.  I see the world as it should be, could be, and it is not like that. It has gone horribly wrong. It is MacArthur Park. It could be heaven on earth. But it went wrong. I cannot fix it. I cannot tell people it could be all right if only…..if only…..because most are realistic thinkers and think me a fool for dreaming.

My cure was to cling to any small joy. Any “rightness” I experienced so that it would keep the dark shadows at bay. This was at times the only thing that kept me alive.

The first blessing was that I was no longer depressed. For the first time in my life I felt complete peace of mind and happiness.  I was immediately relieved of any suicidal thoughts. Seems logical of course, God has that covered, I am going to die, no need to pull out the gun and bump myself off. But that was not it. It was that those two horrendous, endlessly cycling problems in my head went poof in an instant.  This was no small thing. For the first time in my life I got to feel like what it is like to be me without the depression, without the nagging thought to take my own life.  It was monumental and instantly freeing.  I had always wanted just 5 minutes of peace from these thoughts.  Now I was given months of this happiness. What….a …..blessing. What a gift!!! I will gladly suffer physical pain to have a brain that loves this planet and the people in it and all its beauty!

This was the first of many convoluted blessings that have occurred over these few past weeks since I learned I am going to die.

The second was learning people love me. Seems simple huh? Not so much. I have never felt loved, truly, nor even known. I hide so much of me because I think of myself as an oddity–an outcast.  I have always felt outside looking in. Surely I have had people who I thought love me, but thinking and knowing are two different things. But again one of the first blessings God gave me in this was to be wrapped up in a blanket of warm and glorious love showered on me suddenly by family and friends, that I could no longer deny that by gosh by golly….I am loved. I was gobsmacked.

The third blessing was learning I had made a difference. I had harangued and ruminated and worried for years that I was so very blessed by God with so many talents and yet I have done nothing with them. What a waste I was. What a disappointment. I sat on my behind and let the talents grow dust.  How could I face a God who gave me so much and that I just squandered it all?

But then people began calling me and thanking me, and again I was just….shocked. And I realized that I actually did use my talents, or more so….God used them for HIS purposes in ways that I did not see or know, the silly things I thought were important, the talents I thought I had wasted were just used in ways I had never thought of. Again….what a Gift to know this!

I will share more of this in the coming days, until my brain no longer lets me use language, since that will eventually happen given where the tumor is, but right now It is the happiest time of my life.

 

 

The Set Up

In Deep Thoughts, Faith on January 24, 2016 at 5:45 am

 

One advantage to having been a nurse is that you know a lot about what is available to you in the world of medicine at times like this. Because of my other medical issues I have been under the care of a home health nurse for some time.  I specifically chose an agency that had the broadest range of services that would not only help me, but my family should my illnesses become terminal.  The availability of Hospice by this agency was paramount.  The agency I am using is filled with caring, loving nurses, social workers, health aides, occupational therapy and a great office staff. I chose Ross Health Care here in Oklahoma. I highly recommend them.

At the beginning of this journey, while I am still cognizant and able to make decisions, I began to set up (with my most competent niece and sister, Denise) all the legal falderol. Advance directives, Power of Attorneys, bank account access, and other things that would be needed by my family once I fell silent, and unable to be my own advocate.

I included my loved ones, my care givers in as much of any and all information given to me by Doctors, nurses and others as I could possibly manage. I involved them immediately in my care. I wanted them to know each person in the health field who would be caring for me, so they would have resources and support they needed.  This was a lot of what the last couple weeks was like at my home. People coming in and out doing various things and my family, most specifically my sister, getting to know the routine.

Also because I am a nurse and I am just a zippity doo dah kind of gal, I set up my own system of chart keeping and communication by paper stuff. Stress is a mind killer, and keeping track of things in a terminal illness is hard, but can be done. Jotting things down so you know what happened when, helps ease that stress some, and knowledge is power.  The greatest boon to doing this is the family does not feel helpless. They are doing something. Helplessness in an illness like this is debilitating to them.  Cancer is also especially sneaky and the changes in the patients condition can be subtle. Making little notes of changes you see can identify a big change soon, and also allows you to be more knowledgeable care giver to the health care team. Catching those creeping secondary illnesses and nipping them in the bud before they get out of control increases the quality of life for the ill person.

So, all our ducks are in a row, we have a good system, we have good communication and all the legal mumbo jumbo is on board.

I could go on and on about how important it is to make your wishes known to people before you begin to die, but it certainly has been harped on by better minds than mine. I have always made it known I want no heroics, I do not wish to be on machines, I do not wish to die in a hospital where frequently despite everyone’s best efforts you die alone or with a crowd of strangers chaotically trying to extend your life in vain while your family is in the hall. No. I want to die in my sweet little home holding my sister’s hand, with people I love milling about drinking coffee, and hearing their sweet voices in the background in quiet conversation.

So Hospice is for me.

I have not started Hospice yet, but it is waiting in the wings when the time comes, They will be there to give me care, and more importantly to me at least, much needed emotional and spiritual support to my family.

I am not trying to eliminate sadness, sadness and death go hand in hand. But being prepared allows you to give in to the sadness and heal it with tears and laughter without much of the “trappings and suits” of it all.

I aim for a good death. There is an excellent article here should you want to read further.