Archive for July 2012

Forgiveness is a hard-won virtue   Leave a comment

I went to confession yesterday. That’s not big news; it wasn’t like it had been months or years. But I needed it, and my pastor was the person to go to because he knows what I have been going through lately. [Sidebar: isn’t that funny: I had to “go to my pastor because he knows what I’ve been going through.” It’s so very Catholic of us to decide to go to a priest we don’t know for that very reason. After all, we don’t want our own priest, of all people, to know what we’ve done. Our Church needs to do a lot more catechesis on the purpose and meaning of the Holy Mystery of Confession. But, maybe that’s another post….] I am having a hard time forgiving the loss of my job, and the blame for that one is easy: the hierarchy of the Archdiocese. But the problem comes when, in my mind, I start to get specific; I “name names,” and compile a dossier of evidence to support my claim for unjustly having been let go. And that specificity starts to grow physical characteristics. It ceases to be merely a thought form and morphs into an almost physical presence. Not a person, not someone alive, but a darkness that is palpable, that I can envision in my mind’s eye, landing squarely in my chest, right there in the center, festering, brewing, smothering and cannibalizing.

So going to confession was something that took motivation – because the dark, smothering specificity doesn’t want you to let fresh air into your lungs – but I knew I had to do it. And it was good. That forgiveness is still going to be hard-won, but before I hadn’t even begun to fight. I also put my St. Benedict medal on for the first time on more than a week. Wow. That made a huge difference.

Finally, draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power. Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground. So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace. In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all [the] flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:10-17

While I am working on forgiveness with regard to my job, I still have a mountain to climb in my sights: my desire for a baby. This isn’t like the dark, palpable “presence” stuffing itself inside my chest, trying to expand. No, this one is a mountain, high and formidable, with plenty of dangerous terrain. Wild things prowl, ready to pounce on me. Instead of feeding on me, they feed me, lies and half-truths and distortions. They ask me who is to blame, and if I don’t know, they bid me to investigate further, to discover the culprit, the author of my frustration and unhappiness. God is an easy suspect, since He is the Author of Life. Yet strangely, I don’t end up blaming Him. I wonder at Him – I even have trust issues with Him on occasion – and yet I don’t find a compelling case against Him.

The next suspect on my list is the one closest to me: my husband. It must be his fault, I reason (that’s what I call it, even though it is patently unreasonable to blame him), because…well…because!! He’s in this with me, so he must bear some of the blame. Oh hell, why not all of it!! Someone has to take the blame, after all. Then I remember why Catholics should go to their pastors, their Spiritual Fathers, instead of being an “anonymous Christian” kneeling before an anonymous priest: because my pastor knows me – but he also knows my husband, and he reminds me that my husband bears my frustration and sadness and all the unjustified, irrational junk I heap upon him, because that’s what love does. And suddenly that mirror that sometimes shows up in my husband’s hands (without him ever knowing it) shows me in truth, in my selfishness, and those wild things slink away into that mist that covers the mountain. And again, I see how hard-won the virtue of forgiveness really is.

So I am left back at square-one. I guess that’s where everyone ends up eventually; actually, all the time. Because we always have to start over. Sometimes the rungs on that Divine Ladder are a little slick, and our eyes get clouded over so that we lose sight of Christ. We don’t have proper, sturdy shoes to grip each step, and to crush the snakes that slide onto the rungs, trying to make us slip off again.  Our feet are clumsy, and our knees are weak. My friend Dawn Eden writes so beautifully about the gift or forgiveness in her book, My Peace I Give You. She says, in part:

[W]hen we pray for those who have offended us, we transform the detritus of evil into a seedbed of goodness – not by our own power, but by the power of the Holy Spirit. working in and through us. the Catechism says that the effect of praying for our offender is so spiritually potent that it purifies our memory: “it is not in our power to feel or to forget an offense; but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming the hurt into intercession” (CCC 2842, 2843).

All this is not to say that forgiveness is without pain. Union with Christ demands interior martyrdom (2 Cor 4:11). But we’re in good company. The Cathechism says our acts of forgiveness connect us with all the saints who gave their lives for the faith: “Forgiveness…bears witness that, in our world, love is stronger than sin. The martyrs of yesterday and today bear this witness to Jesus” (CCC 2844).

Truly, forgiveness is not by our own power. And I do want my heart, my home, my marriage to be a seedbed of goodness.  I think perhaps the offender I should be praying for is me. It is time to stop looking seeking blame and look inside myself. Time to stop trying to figure out what I should do – or stewing over what has been done to me – and just…be.

The mist gathers again. The mountain peak seems to have grown so high it’s disappeared into the clouds. The darkness waits for an opening into my heart. I need to take hold of Someone’s hand.


Posted July 30, 2012 by palsa99 in Uncategorized

Planning life around the baby who never comes   Leave a comment

I really want to have a baby. I mean, I want to be pregnant, grow a big belly – even if it means growing big ankles, too – have the glow a woman has about her when she is carrying new life within. I want my husband and me to experience family life from the inside out, from ground zero, from within our union. I want to hold a precious little one in my arms. More than that, I want to see my husband hold him or her close, fearful at first, but every day growing more and more into his role as “daddy.” I want us to raise a child together who will be a child of God, who will know His love even as he or she knows ours. I want my mom and dad to be grandparents, and my brother to be an uncle (since he’s a priest, will he be the child’s Uncle/Father:-) I want someone to call me “mommy,” and I want to be able to live up to that title. I want a little one to hold his or her mother’s hand, even as I am trying to hold onto my Mother’s.

So here I am again, in that time where my body becomes a chemistry set, a biological experiment. Sometimes I think it’s more like a time bomb. Diet, supplements, pills, charts and stickers, calendars and counting the days. It’s not supposed to be like this. It’s supposed to be simpler, isn’t it? It’s supposed to be miraculous and wonderful and a surprise in the good way that happens when a group of your friends plan a party and all show up at once to be with you, taking your breath away with how it was all orchestrated around you, without you knowing it would happen, just because you’re loved.

Here I am again, waiting and hoping that the surprise will show up, taking my breath away, orchestrated from up above…just because I am loved. And if this is just one more month where the guest we so eagerly await doesn’t show up…are we not loved? I’ve gone through this one a million times at least, and the answer still comes up the same: no. No, it can’t possibly be that we are not loved by God. For us, perhaps, in His infinite love and mercy – and mystery – this will be the shape that Love takes. Who but God Himself knows?

We will continue to plan life around the baby who may – or may not – come. And we will continue in the struggle to surrender our plans and our desires to the One who knows us best…and loves us most.

St. Ann, my patroness and patroness of those desiring a child, pray to God for us!

Posted July 21, 2012 by palsa99 in Uncategorized

WE ARE…so ashamed   Leave a comment

I come from a Penn State family. My dad is an alumnus, as is my brother. My husband went to State, and so did I. I grew up on Penn State football: JoePa, tailgating, National Championships, the Lion Shrine and grilled Stickies. “If God isn’t a Penn State fan, why is the sky blue and white?” But over these last several months, it’s been increasingly hard to be Penn State proud.

This morning I eagerly awaited the Freeh Report, to hear, finally, how we got to this terrible, tragic, horrifying point. With a heavy heart I listened first to local talk radio as the Executive Summary was parsed. No one comes out of it unscathed. No excuses can be made for the lack of regard for the safety of children on Campus – or in the community at large. Someone called in to the radio show to defend Coach Paterno’s reputation and prefaced his defense by saying that all the alums and students, the fans, and “anyone who bleeds blue and white is a victim.” I felt sick and outraged. I am not a victim, and to put any of the hurt and disappointment we feel about what’s happened on par with those of the real victims is unconscionable – not to mention downright moronic.

I have been feeling today much as I have for the last few years in my job – and particularly the last year. Grand juries, accusations and allegations, media scrutiny (“what’s the news truck doing outside our building now?”), waning trust in those who should know better, and overwhelming sadness for those innocent ones who have been brutalized by people who should have shown them the utmost care. Institutions, reputations, programs and hero worship. No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Lk 16:13.

God brings good from evil and, as with the institutional Church, He will bring good from this painful time – provided we as persons, citizens, a culture, cooperate with Him. We bear responsibility, too, for our own contributions to the decline of our culture; or because of our willingness to “opt-out” by taking an “if you don’t like it, don’t watch it” attitude toward the music, television, literature and the garbage that tries to pass for art. In our own homes, do we create and promote a Culture of Life and a Civilization of Love? Kids are over-scheduled with activities, both parents are working – or only one parent is even in the picture. Families don’t eat together, don’t talk and work and play together, and are not praying together. Communication from person-to-person has (d)evolved, on account of technology, to being device-to-device. We don’t “create” pedophiles or murderers by not eating dinner together or sending an email to a friend instead of paying a visit.  But we do nothing to promote the cause of love for our fellow man, the value of each and every human person, and the stewardship of all of the gifts God has given us by pretending that we have don’t have a stake in what’s going on around us; no responsibility for what our culture has become. Each of us, person by person, family by family, in his or her own small sphere of influence, forms the culture, re-shapes it, gets it back on the right track, and builds it up. In a culture where the human person is valued, where we see (as Bl. John Paul II said in Labroem exercens 12) the primacy of man over things, there is no fear of acting when an injustice observed, or a crime is witnessed. Perfect love drives out fear (1 Jn 4:18).

So today, I am sad that heroes have fallen, structures have not lived up to the greatness of their foundations, and that good men – and women – chose silence over selflessness. I’m sad for the children who were so vulnerable and who were let down, as it appears, so easily by those who should have protected them. I am not sad for me, but I am ashamed that I, in my own little sphere of influence, don’t do enough, pray enough, be enough to build a civilization of love that not only does not, but absolutely cannot enable such disregard for the good of the person to flourish as it does in these days. Another reminder to me – and all of us – of our need to hold Mary’s hand tightly.

Posted July 12, 2012 by palsa99 in Uncategorized

To have…and to hold   Leave a comment

After years of reading blogs, and a year or two of considering writing my own, I’ve finally done it. I suppose this was as good a time as any, since I have lots of time on my hands. Most recently I have worked for the Church; for six years and three months, to be exact. My job was largely preparing couples to receive the Sacrament of Marriage, and to work with parishes in educating couples on the holiness or marriage, and providing an opportunity for them to encounter Christ in a profound way through His Church. Because of budget cuts (and lots of other messy goings-on), I recently became unemployed, and the sting of that separation from a job I saw as a calling, and which had become so closely tied to my identity, is still with me.

Each day is easier, and this time has re-focused me, turned my attention to what is most important, and to where my true identity lies: as daughter of God (and of two great parents), sister in Christ to others (and to an awesome brother), and – most importantly – wife to my husband. So I guess this blog will be, in part, a journal of my thoughts, and also a travelogue of my new journey – the roadmap to which is being written by the Lord. I am learning to be a wife – even though I’ve technically been at it for just over a year. I have many, many miles to go! I desire to be a mother – even though, so far, that destination can’t be found on the map. Mostly, I want to be the woman God made me to be, because if I am that, everything else falls into place. And to do that, the only thing I can do is hold my Mother’s hand….


Posted July 11, 2012 by palsa99 in Uncategorized