Filth & Faith Part 2: Weathering the Storm in the Church

A couple of weeks ago, a huge fall thunderstorm erupted in the middle of the otherwise quiet night.  It startled me from a dead sleep. I tried my absolute best to disregard the racket and the flashing light in order to remain blissfully slumbering.

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I was in that foggy quasi-sleep state in the midst of trying to self-soothe back to a deep unconsciousness, when one of my sons snuck into our room and boldly announced, “What is going on out there?!” If you’ve ever had a kiddo swoop in while you’re trying to rest, you’ll understand when I say my hair was now standing on end. Children are like nighttime ninja. You never hear their stealthy approach but are made frighteningly aware when they are hovering mere inches from your face. It’s straight out of a horror film.

He had my attention. In fact, my heart was racing. “It’s just a thunderstorm! You’re fine. Try to get back to sleep.” That was enough to calm his frayed nerves as he padded back to his room. Mine, however, were now almost electric with alertness. I lay perfectly still in bed, fully awake, listening to the wind howling and the deluge of hail and rain that pelted the windows. Even when my eyes remained closed, I could see nature’s dramatic fireworks through the veil of my eyelids as my room illuminated and went dark. There were loud cracks of thunder that jarringly urged me to remain awake, as if the storm were saying, “There’s no sleeping through this. You’re about to get swept away. Wake up!” With my husband still peacefully snoozing, I must admit, it was a little frightening listening to the battle that seemed to be encroaching on our little ranch home and I wondered if it would ever stop.

Eventually, the winds did die down and I relaxed enough to fall back asleep. But when I woke in the morning, my first thought was of that crazy storm. A quick glance outside revealed there was no major destruction. Our patio chairs and their covers had indeed taken a beating. All significant structures were intact, although my flower bed looked like it had been doused and put through the ringer. Even my hearty petunias looked a bit war weary.

In a brief jolt of understanding, I saw the night’s storm as an allegory for what we’ve been experiencing in the Church. It’s been awful and downright scary. People are getting tossed about. Many of us would prefer to sleep through it. We’d like to cover our ears and shut our eyes tightly and pray for dreamy sleep to soothe us back to oblivion. But even our kids are waking from the storm. They are seeking reassurance from us. I want so badly for it to just go away! But it must run its course. God clearly is demanding our keen attention.

Gratefully, in the early morning light, our grassy yard and stalwart brick home remain. And dare I say, they appear somehow refreshed, clean and new. Unfortunately, I don’t think the storm has passed for our Church. The thunder will most likely continue to startle and violently redirect our notice. We are being pelted by an unbelievable torrent of reckoning. And we must all stay alert.

I am more than hopeful that our church will weather this storm. 

“And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” —Matthew 16: 18

There will eventually be a time for rest, but at the moment we must continue in vigilance. We must proceed to talk about the topic that is roaring against all of our doors and windows. It is literally on the doorstep of every single domestic church. We cannot ignore it! We must encourage each other to speak up, even in seemingly small matters—to take a stand. We need to remind our friends, relatives, kids, and clergy that priests, deacons, bishops, and popes are mere humans, just like the rest of us. We all must walk in humility with Jesus as sinners who constantly fall short of His glory. Realize that priests, who are mostly so good and holy have satan nipping at their heels. Pride is such a powerful sin that corrupts and distorts. We can never idolize humans. Only Christ will never let us down.

I’m reminded of what was revealed to St. Faustina by our Blessed Mother. Mary mentions three virtues that she says are dearest to her. She says,

“The first is humility, humility and once again humility; the second virtue is purity; the third virtue, love of God.”

It is NO mistake she mentions humility three times! That’s because each and every one of us is gravely susceptible to the sin of pride. And our clergy often more so. They provide us the essential nourishment, the Eucharist. Many can bring the scriptures spectacularly alive for us. And while offering forgiveness of our sins in persona Christi, they mirror His merciful Sacred Heart. Most of them are wonderful men. Praise God! But they are human. 

We too must follow the Queen of Peace’s wise counsel. We must practice humility, humility, humility, purity, and love of God. It is through the practice of these virtues, we will wake up to a Church refreshed and renewed.

I was interviewed on Relevant Radio about my essay on how my husband and I are talking to our kids. We want desperately for our own kids to remain faithful and love our Lord with all their hearts, despite all this filth. We pray that all the faithful will weather this storm in Christ’s Church. To those of you who are moms and dads, our kids are waking from the storm. God asks us to wake up too, to reassure them and do whatever needs to be done to point them in the direction of our Redeemer, our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Photo by Layne Lawson on Unsplash

Serena Williams Doesn’t Speak for My Daughter or Me

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I’m not a serious tennis fan, but over the years, I’ve followed the amazing career of Serena Williams. In fact, she’s hard not to watch, such a force of sheer athleticism and drive, not to mention all the spellbinding, gutsy grunts that accompany each swing of the racket. In addition, her striking, glamorous face has covered countless magazines over the years from fitness to fashion. She’s got the world’s attention, including mine. That’s why her recent rant at the US Open truly disappointed this mom.

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Filth & Faith: How My Husband and I are Talking to Our Kids About the Problems in Our Church

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Is it just me or have you noticed how every single reading from Mass over the last couple weeks seems to point to all of the unrest and scandal in the church of late? Not in that oblique, beating around the bush kind of way, but overtly, and in a way that seems to strike you to the core. It’s kind of how I remember feeling after a romantic heartbreak. No matter what station I tuned the radio dial to, I’d hear a song that eerily seemed to be speaking directly to me. But this a lot different. It’s not the voice of Tears for Fears. It’s God who is knocking on our collective foreheads, trying to break through so we might truly hear Him in the midst of such devastation.

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Radio-Active (my national radio interview!)

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Last week I was on the radio! And I didn’t even have to get out of my bathrobe. My recent post about the etiquette of speaking to those who are grieving got the attention of a national Catholic radio show. A producer from “Morning Air” on Relevant Radio contacted me via email asking if I’d be interested in being interviewed about my essay, “I cried with Michael Jordan.” So, I peeled myself off the ceiling and quickly replied yes. A couple days later, after gravely bribing my children to remain silent in the background, I was live on the air with John Harper of the “Morning Air” show. I can’t help thinking my parents were smiling down on me since I finally got to use the Radio part of my Radio/TV/Film degree from the exorbitantly priced Northwestern University. Thanks, mom, and dad! (My mom used to urge me to apply wherever I wanted. “If you get in,” she’d remind me, “I’ll clean toilets to cover the cost if need be.”) Such parental sacrifice they modeled for me.

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A Big Whopper of a Lie

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When my kids were really small and just learning to talk they occasionally told “fibs.”

“I don’t know how that gross banana got mashed into the carpet. I think I umm… just found it like that.”

Their little half-truths coupled with their beguiling faces were just too cute. I couldn’t consider their stories lies. “Lie” is such an ugly word. My kids told fibs.

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Finding Christ in the Clutter

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Sacramentals do not confer the grace of the Holy Spirit in the way that the sacraments do, but by the Church’s prayer, they prepare us to receive grace and dispose us to cooperate with it. “For well-disposed members of the faithful, the liturgy of the sacraments and sacramentals sanctifies almost every event of their lives with the divine grace which flows from the Paschal mystery of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ. From this source all sacraments and sacramentals draw their power. There is scarcely any proper use of material things which cannot be thus directed toward the sanctification of men and the praise of God.” —1670, Catechism of the Catholic Church

I have a 5”x7’’ picture of the face of Jesus on the dresser directly across from the bed. It’s a pretty popular characterization of Christ that I suspect can be found in many Catholic homes. What makes the rendering especially moving are His eyes. They follow me. Not in the menacing way I imagined portraits and pictures did when I was younger. It’s a non-threatening, loving stare. His eyes search for me, pleading, imploring.

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I Cried with Michael Jordan

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Certain iconic sports images of epic underdog wins and poetic last plays witnessed over the course of my life remain imprinted on my brain. Consider Tiger Woods dramatically donning the green Masters’ blazer as the first person of color, Michael Phelps shattering the record for the most gold medals, the Chicago Cubs’ curse-breaking World Series triumph against my beloved Cleveland Indians. I could easily go on, but there’s one memory that is even more enduring. Yet, I suspect many of you probably won’t even recall it.

For me, the moment crystallized not just a legendary sporting achievement, but an encounter with sadness and mourning in the midst of victory. It was Father’s Day, 1996. Michael Jordan had just won his 4th championship for the Chicago Bulls. His win was rendered even more momentous after a brief retirement and triumphant return to the sport that made him a household name. Also notable, this marked Jordan’s first major career win without the support of his father in the stands. Jordan’s dad had been murdered three years earlier.

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