Sunday, June 25, 2017

Boots-on-the-ground reflections from today's San Francisco (LGBT) Pride event....

At the wholly unexpected prompting of the Holy Spirit, my friend Rob Marco flew across the country less than 24 hours ago to join one of my heroes, Joseph Sciambra, in his ministry to the LGBT community at the San Francisco Pride event, where around a million people gathered. As Rob sat at the airport ready to board his flight home just moments ago, he sent me his reflections, below.

God bless Rob, Susan, and Joseph for their love and courage. 

Rob, Susan, and Joseph

It has been a marathon day, and I'm pretty spent, but God is so good. A few reflections from SF Pride while it's fresh in my mind:

The first reflection is that everyone was pretty pleasant and free-spirited for the most part. There was not a lot of belligerence, no yelling, and minimal confrontation. These are not "bad people," but as I see it, they are lost, hurting people, and there are also other people just going along with the crowd. There were a lot of drugs in the air, you could smell it everywhere, so maybe people were just "happy"--I don't know.

Joseph [Sciambra] is very mild-mannered and polite, and admits that his presence there is a bit of a Johnny Appleseed operation. People didn't know what to make of us. I think they were so pleasant because there were many gay-affirming churches present at booths, and I guess they thought we were just members of another one of those churches, since we were wearing shirts that said, "Jesus loves gay men and women"--which is true, but hard to go into it on the street, the truth that Jesus everyone without exception, loves us so much he wants more for us than what we degrade ourselves to.

Many "gay-affirming" churches were represented at the event. 

It was boots-on-the-ground ministry and hard to connect one-on-one, so we gave out rosary bracelets and a card with Joseph's website in the hopes that they will visit the site at home after the parade, when things aren't so crazy. Joseph said his site gets about twenty times more traffic than normal in the days after Pride. I remember the first post I read when I found his website was "Hell is For Real" about his near-death experience. I think that's what struck me about the day, and what I made mention to Susan: this parade, this's not reality. It's somebody's reality, but it's not what is really true and really real. It is as if there is a cliff behind the curtain, and nobody really sees it. For four hours, I wore a smile (a genuine one, mind you) and said more "God bless you's" than I could count. But on the inside, I was breaking up at the offenses against our Lord, the perversion. I offered up to the Lord the soreness, the sunburn, the hunger and thirst--in the hopes that he would pardon such offenses, an act of reparation that pales with what he endured on the Cross for us.

Something interesting to note as well: This really was a quasi-religious event, albeit not in the traditional sense. There was a procession of sorts, down Market Street. There were men in underwear dancing on platforms wearing angel wings. One man was dressed as the pope in mockery, blessing people...another dressed as Our Lady, a kind of blasphemous Madonna. Why would they do this? Like Satanists who do not have Black Masses at a Methodist church, or an Episcopal church, or a Baptist church...they mock the Catholic Church, and desecrate the Eucharist. And it was very similar here. Satan mocks, and he doesn't bother to mock the things that have no power.

But there was also a hunger here, a hunger for God and what is religious and even Catholic...but not on God's terms. It was a perverted substitution. There was also a legitimate sense of a craving for love and affirmation, but somewhere along the line a hurt, a trauma maybe came in and something must have failed along the way. Joseph has written about this. You wouldn't believe how many rosary bracelets we gave away; people wanted them, but in a way in which they did not understand. There was dancing and laughter and happiness, but it felt like a fa├žade, because, like Joseph, I know what's on the other side. It is easy, so easy, to go along with what is around you, when you are surrounded by it as the majority...and it's even seen as good. But it was like...I felt like I was in an alternative universe where everything was upside down. It didn't shake my faith, but it made me fearful of God's judgment. God has been so patient with us, and I think that time may be running out, and so I pray the rosary every day. And, if anything, flying out here has convinced me to start fasting and offering up sacrifices for conversions. Because there is really nothing we can do on our own, the force against us is too strong. We need God. NEED Him. And prayer is an indispensable weapon in this fight.

One thing that bothered me was seeing children at an event like this. I thought of my own children, and so many other children...toddlers, pre-teens, and adolescents...who are just being born into this confusion and won't know any different.

Joseph made an interesting point, too, that there were many corporate sponsors of the event, a lot of backing. It felt like Goliath, honestly...a powerful force to be reckoned with. I felt like a needle in a haystack. I had peace and an assurance of being on the 'wrong side of history,' because it was evident that this was the history of man, not God, for God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor 14:33). It made my heart heavy, but only because, as a Christian, I was finally entering into the fray; it was new to me personally, but not new to human history, for the world will hate us because it hated Him first (Jn 15:18), and we'd better get used to it if we want to be Christ's disciples.

My final reflection is that the scene was just saturated with sex. It's like you get numb to it. And that's not how God intended sex to be. There was no modesty at all, and I'm not talking in a prissy kind of way. I wasn't scandalized by it per se, but it's just...if people knew the power and holiness of sex as God intended it.... I don't know. It's like a secret, but one that God wants us to know. There was a part of the parade where people would engage in all kinds of perversions, and Joseph said in the past he has gone over and prayed over that area, you know outstretching his hand and all. And people would react violently, kind of in the way demonics would react to being exorcised....

Joseph praying in front of the "Fetish Zone."

I can't help but think the Church has let people down. I'm not talking about the Catechism or the Holy Spirit's assurance that the gates of Hell will not prevail against Her. I'm talking about waffling and wavering in practice. The temptation to be liked is so strong, and I'm sure those in ministry and pastoring have made the mistake of capitulating so as not to be hated. Well guess what? If you're not hated for your faith, it should give you pause. Because we are past time for dialogue and understanding. You'd better pick sides and get on your knees when you see what we are up against, and the way Satan has his way in the world. Now, I'm late to this fight, so maybe I'm just as much to blame. But the narrow path is becoming more clear to me as the only way to be saved. It should have been clear from the start.

I'm tired and sunburned, hungry and thirsty, and I thank God and give Him praise for the opportunity to offer up these pittances and to taste some of the derision and sorrow He experienced as He hung for us, men of the mob who favored Barabbas over the very Son of God. I don't know why He called me fly out here from Philadelphia. I hope maybe we touched one person. God bless Joseph for his endurance and compassion and commitment to Truth in a way that is not always understood or accepted as normative, and for loving and ministering to people to whom most of us would not minister. What a blessing to go into the trenches with him, even if just for a day. And thank you, thank you, thank you for all your prayers; they sustained us for sure.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Patrick Coffin interviews me, re: Primal Loss!

Enjoy this video interview with the wonderful Patrick Coffin, as we talk about Primal Loss: The Now-Adult Children of Divorce Speak. Please excuse the pink walls in my house (long story)!! 

(Friends and family: Don't let the title worry you; my mom and dad are still going strong after 52 years!)

Aaaaand, I'm still "blogging," but more in the form of my Catholic Answers Magazine Online articles, the latest of which is here:

Bubble readers, you are ahead of the game, because we have been talking Natural Law here for years! Now is the time to really step it up, and teach our children. After all, we live in a culture that, quite literally, rejects reality itself, so it's a real gift to be able to give our children a firm footing that makes sense, while the rest of the world is falling. By grounding our children and ourselves, we can then be in a position to help others climb out of the chaos. 

And as a reminder, if you miss the conversations here on the blog, I'm quite active on Facebook, and you can friend me there. Just please write me a note when you send a friend request so that I don't confuse you with a troll. 

Have a wonderful week!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

The systematic silencing of the children of divorce (Or, "What I've learned recently")

This is a "what I've learned" post.

It's late, and I'm tired, but sometimes my clearest thoughts come when I just commit to throwing them out on the page, stream of consciousness.

So here it is. 

As you may know, I've been immersed in a subject that, up until a few months ago, held no real interest for me. I have been teaching the Catholic faith for some 23 years now, and a huge focus for me has been marriage, family, human sexuality, raising up holy Catholic kids, fighting the culture war on the redefining (un-defining) of marriage, etc. 

And in all of that teaching, for over two decades of my life, I never much cared or thought about the issue of divorce, aside from lip-service... "Oh, divorce is bad. Yep, it's bad. We Catholics are against it. Yep." And in the meantime, I have looked the other way for the most part, or even tacitly approved of some friends' divorces (much to my shame now).

Every now and then I would write a blog post about the cop-out that is most divorces, and sometimes I would counsel a Catholic woman not to divorce (usually after the rest of her Catholic girlfriends told her to go "be happy"), but then I put it out of my mind and went back to my intact, uncomplicated life. <----- a fact I never realized until I discovered the complications children of divorce deal with every day.

Never in a million years did I think divorce would be "my issue." I simply have no real connection with it. It has not touched my life in a meaningful way.

What I now understand is that I was blind. I had no idea what was going on all around me, and I couldn't see the walking wounded of divorce, because so many of them appear so incredibly successful and put together. 

Maybe it's more accurate to say that I didn't hear the walking wounded, and neither do you. But that's because--and here it is--they don't speak.

They don't speak!! 

After the rush of adult children of divorce who volunteered to fill out my little divorce questionnaire (98% of them on the condition of complete anonymity), I was exposed to a world that I didn't know existed. Pain, suffering, anger, confusion, sorrow, insecurity, grief, disconnectedness--often many long years, even decades, after the divorce of their parents. So many different circumstances, completely different stories, and yet the same universal feelings. (Since my book was published, the contributors themselves have remarked that they sometimes thought the words of fellow contributors were their own!) 

Because of the silence and the hidden pain, these adult children of divorce did not even know that there were others like them! I could write several blog posts just on that point alone, and how the knowledge of others who understand them has been a huge relief and help in healing. One contributor compared the knowledge and friendship of the others to a reunion of "old war buddies."

They are all veterans of those wars, indeed, but they thought they were the only ones still nursing the old shrapnel from the explosion that blew apart their families--and their foundational security.

And that leads me to what I really want to say: The absolute disbelief I have at the unwillingness of much of the general public to hear what the children of divorce have to say. I can't get over it. Every time I post the words of the children of divorce on my Facebook page, two things happen. 

First, I get a flurry of responses from children of divorce (or abandoned spouses), thanking me for giving them a voice. Usually this is done via private message, so as not to out themselves. 

And then, on my page and others' pages (those who post the link or commentary from Primal Loss), there are the "divorce defenders." They are not only unhappy with any talk that says divorce harms children, they also want no part in hearing what the 70 contributors to my book have to say. When someone really digs in, touting the beauty and goodness of divorce (and yes, many are Catholic), I have offered to email a free PDF copy of the book, no strings attached, just so they can hear the voices of the children. (Only one woman veeeeeeery reluctantly agreed to receive it, and I have yet to hear back from her.)

One woman went so far as to question why a book like mine was even written. She asked, repeatedly, What purpose does it serve? Why is it published at all? In fact, a book like mine, she said, should not be published. I kid you not.

So, what is this deeply offensive book? Aside from the introduction and a few other components, it's not my words. In fact, the bulk of the book consists of eight chapters that contain not a single word of mine. Eight chapters of "no Leila." I did not "write" the book. The children of divorce wrote the book. They answered eight simple questions posed to them about their experiences and feelings and thoughts about the breakup of their families. I did not cherry-pick and I did not censor. I let them talk. And yet, that, apparently, is going too far. 

A question I have taken to asking those who resent the book's existence: Do you think that the voices of the children of divorce are too frequently heard? Do they talk too much? Is their view presented too often? Or...could it be the opposite? Could it be that the adults, the divorced parents, the culture of no-fault divorce get the bulk of the time and attention and sympathy? If we are honest, we know it's the latter.

Seeing how quickly the children of divorce are pounced upon and their perspective invalidated, I now understand why they don't speak, or only speak anonymously (and even then, with terror of being found out). Grown men and women, afraid to say how they really feel about their parents' divorce, even decades later! Why? Because they don't want to hurt their parents, whom they love; because they don't feel secure enough to tell the truth (if one has seen that conflict leads to permanent separation, one learns to avoid conflict); because the divorce narrative cannot be contradicted without serious consequences and penalties; because when they do speak, they are reminded--scolded!--that they are wrong and the divorced parent is right. 

I've seen it happen now, with my own eyes, and it's as shocking to me as it is (now) predictable.

When my friend Alishia (the inspiration for the book) told me carefully worded and oh, so casual stories over the course of a few years about the effects of her parents' divorce on her life, I encouraged her to write about it--but she always demurred. Turns out, it was wise that she did not write her own book, as that would have set her up as a target... which would have been devastating. Not only would she have been accused of having an ax to grind against her parents, but she would've had to beat a hasty retreat from the onslaught, to protect herself emotionally (something children of divorce learn early). 

As for me, I have no skin in the game. I can take the attacks and not be wounded. I can give the children a place to speak, where they can be free to say what they could never say to their own parents, much less the rest of the divorce-affirming culture. (By the way, I can count on one hand how many of the 70 actually disclosed to their parents that they participated in this book; in fact, most have told only their spouses and very few others; this is how guarded they still are.)

Okay, it's late (actually early). I've got to get to bed. But please, allow this book to have its place in the divorce discussion. Let the children of divorce have their small say. We hear from the divorced/divorcing adults all the time. Surely there is a little place at the table for those who are most affected and least able to have any say in the break up of their families. 

And please, pray for them. They are incredible and strong, but they have a lot of healing still to do, and I hope we will allow them that. And the healing begins by giving them their voice and actually listening to what they are telling us. 

The Foreword to the book can be found, now as its own explosive article, here: