Sunday, January 30, 2011

Answering Miss Gwen: The distinction between a person and his actions

In our discussions on a previous post, Miss Gwen asked a great question about the distinction between a person and a person's actions. She said, "I'm trying to see it, but I just don't." So, I thought the subject deserved its own blog post. Miss Gwen's words are in red.

I don't always see a clear distinction between the person and their actions. Maybe you can help me understand. I mean, does that entail "seeing" Hitler as a misguided person who performed bad actions? 

First, we don't necessarily say that Hitler was "misguided". We don't know what he was. All we know is that his acts were gravely sinful, terribly evil. As Christians, we can say that part loudly and clearly, because we know what sin and evil are, without ambiguity.

What we cannot say is that Hitler was irredeemable. We don't (ultimately) know anything about the state of his soul or whether he repented of his monstrously evil deeds at the moment of his death. We just don't know. It is not our place to damn him to hell; it's only God who can read souls and pronounce ultimate judgment. When Jesus told us not to judge, this is what he meant. We may judge actions, but not people's hearts or the state of their souls. Only God can read a human heart, and only He knows the state of a soul.

Or a serial killer as someone with a troubled past who unfortunately gruesomely killed a lot of prostitutes because they were easy targets? 

Same as Hitler. We can and must speak clearly that these actions are evil. Even if the killer had a troubled past, his actions are still evil. Even if he is mentally ill, his actions are still evil. Even if he committed his crimes under hypnosis by an evil genie, his actions are still evil. We can agree on that, right?

However, culpability -- i.e., whether or not a person is fully responsible for his actions -- is a separate issue. We can all understand that someone who is truly insane and completely out of touch with reality is not morally responsible for his actions. The actions of an insane killer are still objectively evil, but the killer may not have total (or even partial) moral culpability. [Note: Lack of moral culpability does not mean that a dangerous person is free to roam the streets; the state has an obligation to protect its citizens via humane and appropriate means of incarceration. And we should all hope that a mentally ill prisoner would receive treatment for his disorder.]

If we leave judgment to a higher power, then why is it so easy to point fingers at what people do and call it satanic or sinful?

Distinction: We leave judgment of souls to a higher power (God). But judging "what people do" (i.e., acts), is legitimate. We must speak clearly about what is right and wrong. Imagine a society, or even a family, that fails to identify or distinguish between good and evil.... What would that look like? I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want to live there. 

Oh, and the reason we find it "easy" to call something sinful is that we know what sin is. Sin's been around pretty much forever, and it's not hard to identify. There are no new sins, just variations on the old.

And if we separate the actions from the person then all the good things we do aren't part of us too? 

Please don't misunderstand: I've been talking about judging a person's soul vs. judging a person's actions. I have not been talking about what is or isn't "a part of us".

We have all been given the incredible gift of free will. Each individual "owns" his choices, good or bad. The good and the bad are both "part of you" -- but the bad is not "good for you". Does that make sense? It all comes down to our will. God does not touch our free will, and our actions are our own. 

Maybe this is a good time for...

A little something about our human nature:

Human beings are essentially good. God did not create anything that was evil or corrupt. 

Tragically, sin entered the world by our first parents' choice, and mankind fell from God's grace. Since then, humans have been afflicted with concupiscence, i.e., the tendency to sin. Where once humans had perfect integrity of body and soul, we now are easily tempted to evil. However, human beings, who are made in God's image and likeness, are still essentially good.* Every person, without exception, has inherent dignity and was made for the glory of Heaven. 

So (going back to the original subject), that is why we can love the sinner. 

And that is why we hate the sin. 

We hate the sin because sin is destructive to the human person. Sin demeans. Sin enslaves. Sin offends against human dignity. Sin harms not only the sinner, but others as well.

Think of it this way:

A father discovers that his beloved child has been engaging in theft and vandalism. He loves his boy. He loves his boy with every ounce of his being and would be willing to give his very life for his son. But he hates the sin. He hates it with a red-hot hate, because it demeans his son, it enslaves his son, and it offends his son's human dignity. It twists and distorts that which is good in his son, thwarts his potential, and blocks his true destiny. The father pleads, works and prays for his son's conversion. It is precisely because he loves his son that he will not accept the sin as a legitimate choice.

The father hates the sin and loves the sinner. He is a good father. 

Is that so hard to imagine?

*Note that this is quite different from the Protestant belief in the "total depravity" of human nature after the Fall. That is a post for another day.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Lord, have mercy.

I do not advocate using graphic images of aborted babies when sidewalk counseling at abortion mills. However, in other contexts, the photos of abortion need to be accessible. The first time I saw photos of aborted children in a book my parents had on their shelf, I knew I would always be pro-life. These photos and images have their place.

I am going to link you to something here that warrants a HUGE warning. I am still sitting here sick to my stomach as I type this. I don't know if I will ever forget what I have just seen. If you have a weak stomach, or if the thought of seeing an abortion take place makes you recoil, then you don't want to look. Consider yourself warned. It is very graphic.

My simple hope is that one fence-sitter will look at this video of an abortion (juxtaposed with a late-term abortion clinic's soothing video extolling "goodness and love") and come over to the side of life, human dignity, and true love.

Here it is, from Jill Stanek's site: The Most Shocking 4-Minute Abortion Debate You Will Ever See.

God forgive us.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Bubble is blessed!!!!

I recently asked my wonderful priest (and friend), Fr. Vietor, if he could somehow bless this blog. He graciously agreed, and look what I just received!

Dear Leila,

January 28, 2011

Thank you for asking for a blessing on Little Catholic Bubble. Your blog is a “Center of Social Communication,” linking people together through the technology of the internet. And while there is no one physical place that may be blessed, there is still the physical and human reality of the connection that is established between the people who read and post on your blog. I have Little Catholic Bubble open right now on my computer as I say this prayer of blessing:

Lord God Almighty, we humbly praise you, for you enlighten and inspire those who by probing the powers implanted in creation develop the work of your hands in wonderful ways. Look with favor on your servants who use the technology discovered by long research. Enable them to communicate truth, to foster love, to uphold justice and right, and to provide enjoyment. Let them promote and support that peace between peoples which Christ the Lord brought from heaven, for he lives and reigns with you for ever and ever. Amen.

Please feel free to copy and post this message on Little Catholic Bubble as you may see fit.

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Rev. Oliver R. Vietor

Praise God! Thank you, Fr. Vietor!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Not your average "pro-choicers"

Jen at Conversion Diary attended the Walk for Life West Coast last weekend in San Francisco, and I was fascinated by the photos she posted of the "pro-choice" counter-protesters (who were a tiny handful compared to the throngs of pro-lifers).

Now, I realize it's San Francisco and all, but I am interested in the average liberal's reaction to the following pictures, which Jen was kind enough to permit me to use:

The generous use of sacrilege, via anti-Christian signs and open mockery of Christian symbols, is clearly an important tactic for these folks as they show their support for abortion.

This sign was so offensive that I took Jen's cue and obscured part of it. Note the upside-down cross on the women's face who is holding the sign.

The elaborate costumes and disguises are interesting.... It reminds me more of a gay pride parade than a pro-abortion protest.

How terribly heartbreaking to see a young girl dressed up in costume and holding an anti-Catholic sign. Children are naturally pro-life, so I can only imagine what this girl has been told about the need to terminate the unborn.

In case you think that all "pro-choicers" want abortion to be rare, please note that this man's "halo" reads, Thank God for abortion. Many others wore the same sign. Again, the message on the banner was so vulgar that I have obscured it.

What you can't see in these disturbing photos is what Jen saw in real life: "Some of them put on little impromptu plays where they’d pretend to be Jesus or Mary and pantomime lurid sexual acts, shouting profanity-laden narration all the while."


When I got past my initial revulsion of it all, including the outrageous (but expected) anti-Catholic bigotry, I was left with a deep sense of sadness for these people. Despite the exaggerated display of "happiness" you find on some of their faces as they mock the pro-life marchers (check the first three photos), they are clearly deeply troubled souls. My heart goes out to them. There's a lot more I want to say about that, but I will just suggest that they need our love and prayers.

Meanwhile, here are some questions that come to mind, and I welcome the thoughts of any atheists/secularists who want to help me understand:

1) Why do you think that this largely homosexual group is so invested in abortion rights? What is the connection?

2) What do you think of the anti-Catholic bigotry that you see on display here?  (Or, do you even see bigotry?)

3) Do you think this is a fringe group of "pro-choicers" and do you denounce their tactics? Or are you proud to have them courageously carrying the "pro-choice" banner for the rest of you?

Please feel free to answer any or all, or add your own thoughts and comments.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The power of a nun in a habit

Power is a secular value, and many spend their lives chasing after it in one form or another. Women in particular are told that the key to ensuring our own empowerment is "reproductive rights" --  i.e., the right to abort our unborn children.

But what is true power, and where is its source?

Who possesses real power?

Like so many of you, I have been engrossed in Abby Johnson's book, Unplanned, for a few days now. I read a chapter or two whenever I can steal a quiet moment, and every page has compelled and educated me in surprising ways. However, there was one scene in Chapter 9 that stopped me in my tracks.

One day, as she worked as the director of a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic, Abby heard a coworker gasp. She went to investigate:
I walked over to the window to look, and soon several of us were gawking out the window. The temperature was near 100 degrees that day, yet there in the hot sun was a nun dressed in a heavy, dark brown habit that swept the ground. Her head and hair were completely covered so that only her face showed, a face lifted toward heaven, eyes closed, clearly praying. Believe it or not, I'd never seen a nun in full habit before.
"Her face looks so sweet," said one of our clinic workers. "But anguished." There was an awkward silence. Then, one of our clients, who had just had an abortion, was escorted out the door and to her car by one of our volunteers. Our eyes were glued to the nun as, her eyes fixed on the client, she moved from the center of the driveway to the side, making room for the client to pull out of the drive. And then she began to weep. She fell to her knees and wept with with such grief, such genuine personal pain, that I couldn't help but think to myself, She feels something far deeper than I ever will. She is honestly pained. This is real for her -- this grief at knowing that client had an abortion. A sense of shame washed over me. I tried to shake it off but couldn't get past the fact that a nun was grieving over what was happening inside my clinic.
Several of our clinic staff were Catholic, but even those of us who weren't sensed a shared discomfort, as if we all felt embarrassed or ashamed. We tried to get back to work, but every few minutes someone would look out the window and offer an update on the sister, like, "She's still weeping," or "Look, one of the pro-lifers is consoling her now." It was agony just knowing she was out there.

Sister Marie Bernadette became a presence at the clinic on abortion days:

The truth was, the sister's simple, prayerful presence bothered most of us, Catholic, ex-Catholic, Protestant, and unchurched alike, as if she somehow represented our consciences. 
Over time we found ways to tease ourselves about the "power" of Sister Marie Bernadette as we came to realize we all avoided going outside when she was present. I found it eerie that her presence seemed to pervade the entire clinic every time she showed up at the fence.
Her simple presence always reminded me of confession.

And this from a non-Catholic abortion clinic director.

All because of a nun in a habit.

I didn't grow up seeing nuns in habits, and so when they began to permeate my world as an adult, I was moved, enchanted and... quieted. The religious habit, like the cross, is a sign of contradiction. It's a sign of poverty, chastity and obedience in a world which values money, sex and power. It's a sign of prayer, humility, and God's grace. It's a wedding gown adorning the brides of Christ.

Ultimately, the habit is a sign of love, which is the source of true power and which is irresistible. Instinctively, the ladies at the abortion clinic understood that. All worldly power -- financial, sexual, academic, political or otherwise -- is rendered impotent in love's presence.

The remarkable, joyful footnote to this story is that Abby Johnson and her family are now preparing to enter the Catholic Church.

Here's to the power of a nun in a habit!


Monday, January 24, 2011

Is Christian love "gibberish"?

It's clear from comments on this blog that there are two very different views of love: The Christian view and the secular/atheist view.

The cultural shift from the Christian view to the secular view has been steady -- and troubling. In past posts, I've asked atheists "What is love?" and the answers and discussions have been fascinating. Here are some thoughts on love from our atheist readers:

To me, love is a human emotion and doesn't have a 'meaning', any more than other human emotions like euphoria or anger or curiosity or whatever. 

Just as I painted the walls of my master bedroom blue because it is my favorite color and makes me happy, I am married to my husband because he makes me happy as well. 

I think that the feeling of "love" is what sets marriage apart from any sort of close friendship you might have with someone else, so once it is gone, there is no longer any point in staying with that person.

I absolutely would equate love to "chemical reactions in a brain that was randomly created and has the basic effect of making us feel good." 

I don't think that I chose to love [my husband]. I think my love for him is one of those crazy chemical reactions, and not something that I picked for myself. I would say that love is something you "have" for someone, not something you "do" or "choose."

[Love is] a very special emotion. 

[Love for a child is] due to a biological desire to care for your young [and] has no higher meaning than that.

Love is an emotion...associated with hormonal changes, physiologic changes, rapid heart rate, deep emotion, glad feelings, sad feelings, satisfaction, anxiety. Not under voluntary control necessarily.

I appreciate and respect the honesty of my atheist readers. This is how I would sum up their position, and they should correct me if I have it wrong:

Secular view of love = involuntary emotion; random chemical reaction; biological response; transitory; a feeling you "get", not something you "do".

Let's switch gears and look at the Christian understanding of love:

Christian love is an act of the will

Love is a choice.
Love is a deliberate decision.
Love is willing the good of the other.
Love is an outpouring of self ("self-donation") to the other.
Love is an offering; in other words, a sacrifice.

Love is not a feeling, although feelings do accompany love. Sometimes those feelings are ecstatic, blissful and peaceful, and sometimes they are excruciating, agonizing and raw. At other times, there are no feelings at all.

What a relief and a freedom that true love is dependent on the will alone! Imagine the possibilities: While our emotions are not always within our control, our decision to love always is. This makes us capable of loving our enemies (or a cranky spouse, a defiant child, a nasty neighbor). It made the saints capable of loving their executioners. (Think about that for a minute!!)

Christian love is not transitory, self-interested and fleeting, but rather transcendent, transformative, and eternal.

We are told (and shown) by Christ that the greatest love is to lay down one's life for another. This is no "good feeling" or "chemical reaction" -- it is a choice and an act, a willful offering of one's whole self.

When I recently wrote about the sacrificial nature of love, one atheist reader responded with a single word: "gibberish"

Gibberish? Really? 

But which view of love do we all yearn for? Is it the view that says "My love for you is based on an involuntary good feeling I get from you, and once the feeling is gone, so am I"? Or is the one that says "My love for you is based on an irrevocable decision to put your good ahead of my own, even at the cost of my own life"?

Which love do you want? 

I don't really have to ask. We were all made to love and be loved, not to use and be used. In the depths of our souls, we know this. Every one of us knows this. 

And it's not gibberish -- it's a clear, understandable, harmonious love song, straight to the heart.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

In memory of the 50 million

50 million babies aborted in America since Roe v. Wade legalized abortion on this date in 1973.

In Blessed Mother Teresa's words:
What is taking place in America is a war against the child. And if we accept that the mother can kill her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?
Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what it wants. 
It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.

Friday, January 21, 2011

I am sorry to be inciting you to envy...

... but look who I met!!!!

Yes, that is who you think it is! It is Jen from Conversion Diary!!!

She had a layover here in town, and we got together for a blogger meet-up at the airport (there aren't many people I'd get up early for, but Jen is one of them). I think we chatted for over two hours over breakfast, but it seemed like ten minutes! She is every bit as wonderful as you'd think, not to mention that she is six feet tall and drop-dead gorgeous. (I am grateful that she allowed us to sit for the photo, ha ha!)

I could have talked to her for several more hours. It was like meeting an old friend, but for the first time.


I was excited to learn that Jen is the cover story for the current Envoy Magazine. Listen up, people: You must read this story! I read the article after we parted, and I learned so much that I hadn't known about her journey from "cradle atheist" to devout Catholic. So compelling, and now I have a million more questions to ask her. I cannot wait for her book, which is in the final stages of editing.

The meeting came and went too quickly, but I'm thinking this won't be the last time we connect. :)

Life is good, oh yes it is!

(Can you tell that I had a good morning?)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Abortion advocates, please comment on what you will see here...

I am only posting the link.

I almost can't stomach doing even that. But it will have to do.

I don't suggest that any pro-lifer look at the photos in the link, because you know what abortion is, and you are already working to end such atrocities. But I do ask that abortion advocates go and look. Please go and see, and please tell me what you think of these photos?

Oh, yes, it is true that the "doctor" who committed these crimes is now (finally!) facing prosecution. However, late term abortions go on every day here in America. Babies -- human babies -- the same age, killed just as brutally.

I must know.... How do you look at these children and not become moved to fight the evil and injustice of abortion? How did liberalism -- which used to stand for the weakest, the most defenseless, the marginalized -- come to this? Is the right to have sex with no consequences more important than these children's lives? We now kill for sex routinely, and look the other way?

Abortion advocates, go look.

You know it's evil.

May God rest their precious souls.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Just Curious: What are you reading now, and what book changed your life?

So as I attempt to excavate myself from the mess surrounding my desk, I thought I would throw out a "Just Curious" post, because it's quick and I can get back to work (if I stay motivated!). It's actually two questions, and I am so interested to read your answers!

1) What book are you reading now?

2) Is there a book (besides the Bible) that changed your life?

My answers:

1) I am reading Unplanned, by Abby Johnson. (Isn't everyone?) It's definitely a page-turner, and I am surprised at how generous she is to those on the "pro-choice" side. It has given me pause, and I am grateful for the reminder that no matter how evil abortion is, we cannot know the hearts of those who support it. And boy, that first chapter is hard to read. So much sadness, and for what? Sigh. When will we realize that life is always good, love is the highest law, and that killing is not loving?

2) The book that changed my life... well, I already wrote about one here, but there is another one that came earlier. It was the book my mother handed me sixteen years ago, a week or two after I told her I was thinking of leaving the Church. It was Catholicism and Fundamentalism, by Karl Keating. I opened the book ready to be a Protestant, and I closed it knowing I could never be anything but a Catholic. The historical, biblical and logical truths were so clear -- I knew my life would never, ever be the same. And it hasn't been. 

Okay, how about you?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

"Ask Them What They Mean By 'Choice' Blog Day" -- January 21

Way to go, Jill Stanek

It's been said that the pro-abortion side needs to "complete the sentence" when talking about "choice".  Now NARAL and its supporters have a chance to clarify their euphemism. When they start their unfortunate "Blog for Choice Day" on January 21, we pro-lifers will politely ask them what they mean when they say "choice".  For more info, look here. 

I'm in. Are you?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

How do the media know so little about Catholicism?

It's not like Catholicism is a new religion. It's not like the teachings of the Church cannot easily be found. It's not like a reporter couldn't pick up a Catechism as a reference, or search the Internet for official Church statements, or even pick up the phone and call the local Catholic diocese, whose staff is always ready to help.

And yet the other day, I'm happily reading an AP news story* about the upcoming beatification of Pope John Paul II, and I trip over this:
Once he is beatified, John Paul will be given the title “blessed” and can be publicly venerated, or worshipped. Many people, especially in Poland, already venerate him privately, but the ceremony will allow Catholics to publicly worship him.  [Emphasis mine.]
This level of cultural illiteracy reminds me of the other times I've witnessed the media completely blow it when it comes to Catholicism.

For example, I'll never forget the night I was watching my local TV news a few years back (the NBC affiliate), when a story came on about the possibility of the Pope officially defining Our Lady as the "Mediatrix of All Graces" (a legitimate title for her). I about fell over when the anchor said that the Catholic Church was considering making Mary a "fourth person of the Holy Trinity"!!!!!**

Catholics (or anyone who knows a lick about Christianity), can you imagine?!

I was flabbergasted. This was a respected news station! How did this get by all of them? How could they not stop and think for one moment that the Church cannot simply decide one day to elevate a creature to the Godhead? How does such a thing even enter the radar screen of possibilities? I ran to my husband and screamed! (Yes, I was worked up, ha ha ha!) I thought of the Protestants out there, the evangelicals who already erroneously think we "worship" Mary, and I imagined all of them saying, "Aha! We knew those Catholics think that Mary is God!" Ugh!

Fast forward a few months, and the same news channel has another report about the Catholic Church. A married man was to be ordained a Catholic priest, and the anchor stated that for the very first time, the Catholic Church would allow the ordination of a married man to the priesthood! I ran to Dean again, flabbergasted.... Where were the fact-checkers? There have been married priests since the beginning of Christianity: In the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches, ordination of married men is still the norm, and although celibacy is required of priests in the Latin Rite, dispensations are given occasionally (i.e., when married Anglican clergy convert to Catholicism). In fact, we had at least one married Roman Catholic priest in my diocese at the time of that local news story!

After the "first married priest ever!" story, I did contact the news station and asked about the blunder. The anchor wrote back and apologized, saying that his producer -- who was a Catholic -- cleared the story. (Yet another example of why I want this to be a teaching blog, primarily for Catholics!)

I know that this sort of misrepresentation of the Catholic Faith goes on all the time. Sometimes it's deliberate, but I would like to think that most of the time it's not. However, the fact remains that the regular media do not generally take the time to research and report accurately when discussing Catholicism, and yet accurate reporting and fact-checking is the crux of a journalist's job! I don't expect the general public to know what the Church teaches, but the failure of the media to accomplish what is essentially their only task reinforces my growing belief that mainstream journalism is useless.

As Paul Thigpen said after the rush of "Pope Approves Condoms!" headlines:

"I've often said that if a sports reporter was as clueless about his subject as the typical religion reporter is about his, he couldn't keep his job for a week."

Nicely said.

* The linked article has since been modified or replaced, so the above statement no longer exists in this form. This could be a result of the emails some of us sent to AP.

** I seriously try not to overuse exclamation points, but this was warranted!!!!!!!!

Friday, January 14, 2011

"Values" vs. Virtue -- and what kind of man your daughter will bring home!

I've been a parent for a long time now, and I have heard many, many parents -- in real life, in print, and on television -- talk about their ultimate hopes for their children: "I just want my child to be happy." "I want my child to be successful." "I want my child to have a good education, a good job and good relationships."

I never hear: "I want my child to be virtuous."


Who talks about virtue anymore?

Well, outside of the Church, not many. (Okay, let's be honest... even most Catholics today don't talk about virtue.) In general, talk of being virtuous has been replaced by talk of having "values" -- even though virtues and values are not synonymous.

Here's how I see it:

"Values" are simply, well, what one values. We all have them. They are beliefs, ideas or priorities that are special and important to a person. Values are subjective, and they are not based on the concepts of good and evil, or right and wrong; rather, they are based on personal preference, choice and emotion. Even unrepentant killers, narcissists, and the devil himself have values.

Virtues, on the other hand, are based in objective morality. The very word, virtue, means "moral excellence" and is defined as the habit of doing good and avoiding evil. As St. Augustine said: "Virtue is a good habit consonant with our nature." So, while everyone has "values," not everyone is virtuous.

To illustrate the difference, let's play out the scenario of a daughter (my daughter??!!) bringing home a man of "values" vs. a man of virtue.

Scenario #1: The "Values" Man

Daughter [excited and giggling]: Mom, Dad, I want you to meet Fritz! He is just awesome, and he has so many values! He's spent a lot of time going through "values clarification" exercises in school, from elementary all the way through grad school, so he has learned to "choose, prize, and act upon" the following things that make him feel great:  Being popular, making money, looking good, being comfortable, and enjoying sensual pleasures*! Oh, Mom, Dad, don't you love him??!!

[Mom faints in horror, and Dad catches her as he weeps.]

Scenario #2: The Virtuous Man

Daughter [excited and giggling]: Mom, Dad, I want you to meet Athanasius! He is so awesome! He was raised to have the habit of virtue, and thus is incredibly virtuous! He is patient and humble, chaste and temperate, courageous, just and merciful. He is prudent in all he does and has incredible fortitude. He is joyful, generous, understanding, faithful, and has amazing self-control! He is also modest, peaceful, hopeful and reverent. And, he has such love! Love for God above all, me next [giggle], and for his fellow man! Mom, Dad, he is what real manhood is all about! Don't you love him??!!

[Mom faints in ecstasy, and Dad catches her as he weeps for joy.]

Moral of the story? The difference between "values" and virtues could be the difference between my daughter bringing home a narcissist or a hero!

I'm rooting for Athanasius.  ;)

So my hope (plea?) is that we Catholics would bring "virtue" and "virtuous" back into our everyday vocabulary and to the front of our minds. It shouldn't seem strange to say the words, nor should it be old-fashioned to live the life. In fact, in this confused, disconnected, disordered world of "value-neutral" values (irony!), I'm thinking that to quite a few lost and wandering souls out there, the rediscovery of virtue might be like a cool drink of water to a parched and dying man.

*all these "values" were found on "values clarification" exercises on the Internet. 


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Suffering follow-up: Jesus' "affliction" on the Cross. Plus a site and a book you don't want to miss...

A while back, I wrote a two-part post on the secular vs. Catholic meaning of suffering, posted here and here. That's the background for today's post, so read it if you haven't already, and come right back! We'll wait!

Back already? Okay then, on we go....

Recently, Kristy commented on the suffering posts with a question:

OK, I've been pondering this post. It is a very clear explanation for me. I asked some other friends about it (all Protestant), and one replied with the explanation that the word "afflictions" is never used of the suffering of Jesus on the cross. Do you know if this is true? His point was that the "affliction" was describing what Jesus endured in ministry. These afflictions are not yet complete and in this sense Jesus still suffers as He ministers through His people. 
I am soooooo curious what you would have to say about that one. I know what my gut tells me, but I always have a hard time putting it into words. 

Well, to get the best answer to a Bible question, there was no question about what to do next! I asked Gayle Somers!


Here's what Gayle said:

It's curious (and, to my mind, somewhat arbitrary) to assume that because the word "afflicted" isn't used of Jesus in the Gospels about His suffering on the Cross, it would only refer to what He experienced in His ministry before the Cross.  One of the most powerful OT passages about Jesus, the Suffering Servant, says this:

"He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.  Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities." (Isa. 53:3-5).

Surely this is a prophecy of Christ's redemptive work on the Cross, and it uses the word "afflicted."

There is another Pauline verse that speaks about the dying of Christ (which He did only on the Cross) being in our bodies as well:

"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us.  We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair, persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies" (2 Cor. 4:7-10).

It seems clear from these verses that St. Paul was associating the afflictions in his body with the suffering of Christ on the Cross.  Of course, Jesus gave a direct invitation to ALL of us to join Him on the Cross--"If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me" (Mt. 16:24).  There would be no point in Jesus making reference to a cross if He only meant self-denial in a kind of spiritual way.  He meant for us to deny ourselves AND to join Him in His suffering on a cross.

One other point:  I read through the blog and some of the posts, and I don't think I saw it mentioned that when Jesus freely accepted His suffering and death on the Cross, He was acknowledging that these were the just punishments of God on man's sin.  Man's sin is that serious.  So, when we ourselves enter into some kind of suffering, I think it's helpful to have a brief moment when we acknowledge that, too.  The great gift comes, as you so wonderfully made clear, when we realize that our suffering can be joined to the Lord's to accomplish the very reason He was willing to suffer on the Cross.  So beautiful!

Thank you, Gayle! And, I hope this answers your question, Kristy!


Okay, since we are talking Scripture, I thought I would tell you about a very cool new site. 

A regular Bubble reader, Lori, tried to find a clickable "read-the-Bible-in-a-year" plan for Catholics. She could only find Protestant versions online (which do not include the Deuterocanonical books), so she decided to make a Catholic site herself! The result is Reading the Catholic Bible in a Year, which I will be using myself since it's convenient and uncomplicated! Enjoy!


And finally, I hope you have already ordered your copy of Unplanned: The Dramatic True Story of a Former Planned Parenthood Leader's Eye-Opening Journey across the Life Line, by Abby Johnson. It's being released today, and it's currently #13 the Amazon Top 100, praise God!

Unplanned: The Dramatic True Story of a Former Planned Parenthood Leader's Eye-Opening Journey across the Life Line

You may know the story, but if not, here's a quick overview:

In October 2009, after eight years with Planned Parenthood, clinic director Abby Johnson quit. She had been asked to assist in the ultrasound-guided abortion of a 13-week-old baby, and what she witnessed was enough to make her walk headlong into the pro-life movement. In fact, she joined the very group which counseled outside her clinic. Not surprisingly, Planned Parenthood took her to court after that, in an attempt to keep her silent. The judge listened to PP and promptly dismissed the case.

Abby joins the ranks of many other courageous converts to the pro-life cause, including Norma McCorvey ("Roe" of Roe v. Wade) and Dr. Bernard Nathanson (co-founder of NARAL).

I've already ordered my book, and I hope you will, too.


One last thing: 

Those of you who are new to the Bubble, and those of you old-timers who are just lazy (you know who you are) -- I want your faith story. If you are Catholic, write about your spiritual journey, post it on your blog (and let me know when it's been posted), and I will link your story to the "Bloggers' Faith Stories" at the top of the page.