Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for March, 2011

A Tragic Scenario

A mentally vulnerable, suffering woman walks into a psychiatrist’s office for help.

Let us say she is your daughter.

She later reports that during her sessions with her shrink, she became “intimate” with him. Although it did not cross the line to involve consummation of the affair, there were definite professional boundaries that were crossed.

Later you begin to hear comments from the public. They generally sound like this;

oh my! The poor shrink! It must be hard to have to deal with so many mentally disturbed people. I hope he will be ok.”

Not a word of concern for your daughter is mentioned, although you do hear a few people saying:

she is a vixen.”

Or that maybe;

she came on to him. I have known devil women like that.”

Would you not think that something was clearly amiss and completely skewed in the minds of those commenting?

I know I would.

I would be left wondering, “where are their hearts? We do not know what happened, but she was mentally ill! She was vulnerable! She was already suffering. Her judgement was far more impaired than that of her shrink. What more is she perhaps suffering now as a result of the person she trusted violating such professional boundaries?”

I would feel troubled just at the very potential for further suffering and victimization that such a situation could contain for that woman and I would be irate at the lack of concern for her on the part of the public.

You just do not cross those lines with such deeply vulnerable, suffering women. There is something fundamentally disturbing about it.

A Tragic Reality

Although I tried not to blog about it, I just cannot stay silent anymore. That is how I feel about the Father Euteneuer scandal that has emerged in recent months, primarily because I am amazed that the public consensus is as warped as the one I fabricated in the scenario above.

  • Before I go any further, I want to make a very loud disclaimer and emphatically say that I support our priests and the priesthood. I understand that we need our priests and that the fall of the priesthood is tragic. While I do not know Father Euteneuer, if he has any conscience I am sure that he is suffering deeply regarding this. I am not writing this to take aim at him. I agree with many who feel that exorcism is a dangerous endeavour and can leave a priest open to many diabolical temptations. He clearly needs prayers during this time.

That aside, I cannot help but feel disturbed by the public reaction towards this tragic situation. Especially when such a reaction would have easily been condemned if it had been in response to a situation like the hypothetical one I mentioned at the beginning of this post.

It seems clear that the majority have taken the stance that Father Euteneuer’s role as an exorcist, which exposed him to great temptation, somehow lessened, or even completely negated, the need to recognize the woman’s suffering and pain. As if it made crossing the line with a vulnerable, suffering woman in his care somehow more acceptable than if he had been a shrink.

As a result, the general public opinion amongst Catholics seems to be that he alone needs their compassion and prayers, while ruling out the need to pray or express concern for the woman involved. It is as though people see her suffering as less than it would have been if she were, for example, the fictional woman in my fabricated scenario.

I am sorry but this really bothers me. Did everyone forget that she was suffering long before him and that she was possessed? She did not just fall prey to temptation as he did, she was possessed. You know, suffering from demons. Unable to control her own person. Tormented. Mentally and psychologically vulnerable.

I have read pages of comments on many different sites, and I have grown overwhelmed with the disbelief that so many Catholics could so coldly ignore the woman in this situation. While they are quick to express their concern for the priest, she is not even mentioned hardly at all. Are they that heartless? Do they not think that she needs their prayers and support as well?

It seems so, for I have even read those who have called her names, saying she was the one to blame, that she was a devil harlot who was after him, the list goes on.

To me, this is deeply tragic.

The devil has been after women since day one, and even when he gets ahold of one and torments her, and then convinces the person who was supposed to help her to cross some very dangerous boundaries, people still neglect to express any sign of concern for her.

Something is not right, and what makes it worse is that it is mostly Catholics who are neglecting her. The secular crowd seems to be more empathetic to her than the religious crowd!

I am not saying we should not pray for the priest or express our concern, but something is amiss when that means to the exclusion of the one who was suffering even more.

The Facts

While it is true that we do not know what happened, and I do not want to start speculating, there are some facts that we just cannot ignore.

  1. Anyone who is possessed is suffering. Even if you do not believe in possession, and you want to call it mental illness, you cannot deny the reality of suffering that would be present. And if you believe in possession, then that is a victimization in itself.
  2. Most victims of possession have been sexually abused in the past.

This means that we have to admit this woman was suffering, and we cannot ignore the chance that she was abused in her past. We cannot know for sure, and we do not want to speculate, but we cannot avoid that this potential exists.

Therefore, she was at least a victim on one level, with the potential of further victimization in her past through abuse.

Just this alone should make our hearts go out to her.

But can we coldly turn away from the potential for suffering that could have incurred in her life if boundaries were crossed sexually when she reached out for help? When is it less devastating to cross professional boundaries with psychologically vulnerable women?

And for those who so coldly insinuate that she may have “come on” to the priest, we should not speculate but even if she did, how can we ignore the fact that she was possessed and possibly being lead to it by stronger forces? I cannot imagine being in the shoes of an individual who is being forced to do things that they do not want to do, can see them happening, and has no control over them. How terrible!

The entire situation is tragic just in its potential for greater suffering on her part.

A Clear Message

The public consensus regarding this situation shows that we need to reassess what it says about us when we are so quick to offer our prayers and support for the priest, but so slow to offer any concern for the woman.

Not only do we need to ask what this says about us, but what does this say about the continued diabolical attacks against women that are perpetuated on so many levels in our world today?

I think it sends a very loud and clear message that we as a people really do not understand the level to which women are under attack by the devil. Even if we find a woman who is totally possessed, we are quick to come to the aid of the priest who fell to the temptation to cross unhealthy boundaries with her, while abandoning the woman who was fully possessed, tormented, and therefore unlikely to be able to control her own actions.

I am left speechless, disheartened by the words of others, and all I can continue to think is that something is not right. Something is definitely not right.

 

Read Full Post »

I have to admit, I can get scared sometimes.

It is strange how fear works. I can travel around the world all by myself and hardly blink an eye, while I have friends who would find just getting on the airplane to be nerve-wracking. Forget spending months on end in a foreign country all alone.

Yet sometimes, if I am reading or discussing a scary topic, all my bravery goes right out the window and I am left wishing I had purchased more lamps for my bedroom. Like maybe 10 more.

This happened to me last night. Too many scary topics and too much thought.

The former Pope John Paul II was known to say, "do not be afraid!"

Then suddenly, I saw the former Pope John Paul II in my mind. I imagined him standing there saying “Do not be afraid!” as he did so many times during his pontificate. My creative version of his person seemed to show him looking up towards heaven, and I felt strongly the impression to just focus on the goal and never turn away. Just focus on Heaven.

Tunnel vision. Heavenly tunnel vision.

Tunnel vision can actually be an incredible help, and I have used it many times in other situations. For example, when I moved to London I went through a myriad of challenges that could have sent me packing back home if I had not been determined enough to stick them through. But I did, and it was largely due to my repeated focus on my goal. I forced myself into living life with nothing but tunnel vision for the future.

I was so completely into utilizing tunnel vision that I would stand on the underground platforms morning and evening, silently bopping to my iPod, and just focus on my dreams, as if I was looking through a tunnel and had to filter out everything but my goal. Much of why I succeeded was because of that.

So the thought of using tunnel vision in the spiritual life really caught my attention. Was this what the saints did? Did people like Pope John Paul II always have Heaven as their one goal, ever before their eyes?

And when thinking about Heaven as their goal, what did they think about? Did they think about the joy of meeting Christ in person? Of finally getting to know Mary, the Mother of God, face to face? Of wiping away every tear they had ever shed and every fear that had ever haunted them, and living eternally in peace and bliss? Of finally seeing all the scoffers gaping wide-eyed in awe at the truth they had denied?

St. Therese of Lisieux even used to say that as a young girl, she dreamed of Heaven. When she went through her dark night, and her mind was clouded by dark obsessions, it was the thought of Heaven that had once given her such great joy that she most seemed to miss. And not the Heaven of rewards – for her it was the Heaven of just loving and being loved that she dreamed of, without anything to stand in her way.

Heaven. Tunnel Vision. Heaven.

Yet tunnel vision is not always easy to maintain. Anyone who has read the Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis knows that life has many plots and plans to divert our attention away from the meaningful to the trivial and the mundane. The TV, news, the internet, the radio – anything, said the little devil in the Screwtape Letters, to distract souls from their goal of Heaven.

So what can we do to fight back? How can we develop such tunnel vision for Heaven in our lives if we are so inclined?

One tactic that always helped me in the secular life was to make a list of my goals, with the most important at number one and then descending in their value to my life. Not only did I make this list once, but I re-wrote it over and over. Changing it, editing it, copying it – it did not matter what I did to it. I just wrote it time and time again.

I would be hanging out with friends and all of a sudden I would start making my list (I was not rude though – I only did it if the opportunity was right), or at night I would sit and re-write. I would pin it to the wall in my bathroom, and read it while I was brushing my teeth.

While I did not accomplish every goal that I made on that list, and there are places where I failed, I accomplished enough of them to feel good about it. Yet I also accomplished enough secular goals to know that they alone do not make a person truly happy.

This is why Heaven is my true goal. The Heaven of love, where all is love and no one can think a thought or lift a finger without love for God and others.

If more people had this goal ever in their sight, what would the world be like? If we all had little “Post-Its” on our TVs, computers, mirrors, notebooks, day planners, iPods, cell phones – everywhere – that said “Goal: Heaven! Is what you are doing right now going to help get you there?” I wonder how that would change our lives.

I for one am going to start making a new list, with Heaven at the top and my vision of why Heaven is so amazing underneath it. This is my new tunnel vision for my spiritual life, and I am liking it.

Goal: Heaven! To one day live forever in a place where love is given and received endlessly, and without any selfishness or ugliness ever interfering. HEAVEN!”

I wonder if the great Pope John Paul II is smiling in Heaven and saying, “you go girl! Adjust the focus of your mental lens! And always remember, do not be afraid!”

High-five to you John Paul! The focusing is on!

Read Full Post »

Now that I have shared all the reasons why no one should ever read my blog again (you are back – brave you), I thought it might be appropriate to share what it was that made me “revert” to the Catholic faith. After all, this is a Catholic blog so I suppose I should address the question of “why are you Catholic?”

So, here we go!

By the time I was in my early 20s, life had pretty much set me up to become a raving anti-Catholic. And I mean raving. Foaming liberals would have had nothing on me! I was livid come to life in a pair of jeans! (My poor Catholic grandma, God rest her soul. She would just stare at me with shock and then promptly head to battle – with her rosary. Thank heavens for my grandma!)

Yep, this was my definition for the Catholic Church in my early days.

My anti-Catholicism set-up was classic. Liberal Catholic school (do parents really expect their children to come out of that experience feeling good about the Catholic faith?), a “one hour Catholic family” (you know, Sunday Mass and then five minutes after leaving the church you are wondering if they heard a word the priest said), a nun who threw me into a wall…the list goes on and on.

Then there was the matter of books. In my late teens, I somehow managed to get my hands on a pile of information relating to the Catholic Church and it’s history. I devoured all that I could, and soon it was my passionate mission to educate everyone that the reason Catholicism was so lousy today was because of how lousy it was a hundred years ago, two hundred years ago, five hundred years ago…in short, it was just plain lousy in every century of history for the last two thousand years and what was wrong with everyone that they could not see this? Did I have to bang it into people’s heads that this was one messed up Church? Can head banging get you into trouble if it is not your head you are banging?

Well armed and loaded with ammunition, I was sure I could take out anyone who attempted to defend such a “rotten” organization.

All this was until the day I came across one little innocent Penguin Classics book neatly hidden away on the shelf of a Barnes & Noble bookstore.

I can still remember the day I found that book. I pulled it out from its  nestled perch, turned it over, read the back, and became almost instantly intrigued by it’s description. Something about an unbalanced woman who still managed to find God despite everything that was against her. Hmmm…that sounded a little close to home! Maybe I could relate to this. I turned it over in my hands and inspected the cover.

“The Life of Saint Teresa of Avila by Herself.”

An autobiography of a saint.

But what made me actually buy this book? I mean, Catholicism was not exactly high on my list of favorite topics, unless I could get all the juicy dirt to launch my next attack. I think I even put the book back once or twice but kept taking it back out. Something about that book called to me. Finally, I felt I had to read it.

The cover of the book that I dog-eared and smudged to no end as I toted it everywhere I went

For the next month or so, I carried that book with me everywhere. It went with me to the islands, where I snuck away from my friends and found a little hermits nest to freely live in my nerdy little world of Spanish nuns and reformation spirituality. It went with me on camping trips to the forest, where I would hide in the car, trying to get some good light rather than join everyone near the bonfire. I was addicted.

I had also met my match.

By the time I finished that book, all I could think was “wow.”

One big, gigantic, over-the-top, jaw-dropping, deer-in-the-headlights, “wow.”

Then, silence.

The next thought was a little more timid, but it went something like this; “is that really what the Catholic Church is supposed to be like?”

Hmmm…

The third thought was completely foreign, but bravely announced itself to my anti-Catholic self; “if that is what the Catholic Church is really supposed to be like, then that is the Church that I want to be apart of! Not the lousy, wishy-washy, hypocritical, spiritless Church I grew up with – but that church! Saint Teresa of Avila’s Church! The Catholic Church of the saints!

I think I heard squealing breaks and smelled burning rubber. I definitely felt some whiplash from an almost instantaneous 180 degree turn.

What just happened?

All of a sudden, I wanted to be Catholic. Again.

A split had suddenly occurred inside of me. Like an earthquake that shook the ground and then drove a massive divide into the foundation of a building, a gigantic rift had shot straight through me, changing everything.

On one side of this rift was the modern version of Catholicism that I knew, with the increasingly barren churches, the watered down faith, the endless lines of hypocrites going back through the centuries. You know, the Catholic Church that so many love to hate. I don’t think I have to elaborate too much on that.

Then there was this version of Catholicism. This passionately devoted, deeply spiritual, intensely loving, all-consuming, close relationship with God version that most “do you have a personal relationship with Christ?” Protestants would probably pass out from the extreme intimacy if they ever got near it.

I was simply taken by it. Caught up in the fire of the burning bush taken. I probably would have removed my shoes and approached in awe if I could have.

St. Teresa of Avila somehow managed to snatch up my little narrow brain that could only see the failures of others and the hollow externals, gave it a few good whacks to kick out the dust, and then liberally poured everything she had straight into it.

I still had a few rational “kinks” that needed ironed out before I could get over my “embarrassment” of heading back to Church and participating in the Catholic life (you know, sitting in the pews with all those hypocrites) but once I did there was nothing holding me back. I knew what I wanted.

I wanted the type of relationship with God that Saint Teresa had. I wanted to know such an all-consuming love first hand. I wanted to dwell in the heights that skeptics scoff at and angels guard. I wanted to know such joy, such bliss, such beauty. I wanted to become a saint.

I found my way home and I found it entirely through the example of one woman’s life.

My entire view of the Catholic faith up until that point had been skewed not because I somehow had opened the right window to the “rotten” soul of the faith, but because the examples of everyone around me that I was seeing or reading (in the case of history) were skewed.

I saw the people who failed. I saw what it looked like when they failed. I saw the hypocrisy, the ugliness, the sheer blackness of failure when someone preaches such a high creed in word but not in deed. I saw what the teachings of the Church looked like when humanity failed to live them. It was not pretty. When people fall from tall heights, you do not want to be there to pick up the remains.

Yet one good example, just one, of a woman who lived her faith in fulness, devotion, intensity, and rich closeness to God had the strength to turn all those years of bad examples completely around and open an entirely new window to the faith. The true window. One good example revealed the living heart of the Church as it could be lived, and it was alive with a love I had never dreamed of.

I reverted because of example, and because of that I know example is everything. We can preach and teach, write and write again, but in the end it is example that speaks the loudest. I think that is something that it is important to remember. Especially in this time when so many examples continue to set many afire with a vengeance against what they think is the Church. We know they are fighting those who failed the Church, but they think they are fighting the Church.

How can they ever know the Church except through example?

So I guess the question remains, what will our examples be?

Read Full Post »

How you may feel after reading this post!

Well, without further ado, here they are – all the reasons why I am so darn weird it is scary. I may even tick you off I am such a freak. Definitely run and don’t look  back!

1) I believe in God – yes, I believe in God. You know, the BIG GUY. The BOSS. I actually believe in Him, and I am not afraid to admit it either!

2) I blog about God – yes, not only do I believe in God, but I have the absolute audacity to risk offending someone by actually blogging about him. As if that did not make me weird enough, I belive in God from a Christian viewpoint. You know, JESUS. Getting even weirder, I am – gasp – Catholic! Total freak.

3) I like the Pope – you know, that old guy in Rome who keeps telling everyone to get their acts together and be better human beings. I actually like this guy. Not only do I like him but I totally support him. I think he is brilliant and yeah, I actually have the nerve to think he is the successor of Peter. Now I am not only weird and freakish, but I am scary too huh?

4) I am traditional and old-fashioned – I like tradition. I like the old-fashioned heritage of the Catholic faith. I miss when women could wear dresses all the time. I am nostalgic for the past. I freak out modern feminists. The liberals in the church that are dying off would like me to go away. On that note…

5) I am a feminists worst nightmare – where did they get the word “feminist” anyway? It sounds like they all want to be feminine. Well anyways, regardless, I want to be feminine. I do not want to be like a man. I am a woman and as such I am one of God’s most beautiful creations because I reflect the feminine aspects of God into this world. Even if I have a bad hair day, gain weight, or my face breaks out. And there is no way I am going to let anyone take that away from me.

6) I wear a veil – yep, when I go to Mass I wear a veil. A mantilla. One of those old lacy things that your grandma wore. Maybe its the same one? I did get it in an antique store…anyways, I like veils. I feel reminded of my sacred nature as a woman when I wear veils. I might even start wearing one in my daily life as well. You will stare at me and think I am a freak when you see me in the grocery store, but I do not care. (Well, I do a little, but man I am stubborn!)

7) I expect men to be men – that is right, I have high standards. If a man is rude to a woman, any woman, I am offended by him not only as a person but as a man. If a man acts macho and brags about his manliness, I am offended by his mis-guided pride in his strength which is meant to be the foundation upon which the woman can flourish. When is the last time you saw a foundation bragging? I love when men work hard, take care of their families, treasure their wives as sacred and holy, and encourage others to do the same. And I love having doors opened for me!

8) I think women have messed things up for themselves and are making it worse with their lack of modesty – yep, I blame a lot of this mess on women. Women parading around in skin-tight jeans shaking their booty like they are on a Beyoncé video, prancing about on TV in bikinis, showing up for gigs as strippers…you  get the point. No one is going to respect you or womankind as long as they can find women willing to debase themselves. So cut it out, figure out your own worth, and be modest!

9) I have no hang ups about sex or the human body, yet I try to live chaste and modesty – yep, that’s right. I have none of the issues that your modern bikini-toting, pole-dancing, jump-into-the-sack-before-the-third-date woman has. She bares it all and hates it all! I am modest yet love it! I am not a skinny model, you will never find me on the cover of a magazine, but I like my body. All of it! It is sacred, flaws and all. Sex is beautiful and sacred. That does not mean I have to give it away to prove I have no hang ups or issues about it.

10) I will not read anything you can buy while standing in line at a grocery store – oh my gosh, those magazines are embarrassing to be caught looking at! I would run and hide in shame! Not only are they trashy, but they have nothing deeply meaningful to contribute to life. I stopped reading them when I was about 18 or so and ever since then, I have felt better about myself, my life, my looks, my body, everything! Whew! Thank heavens I do not fall for that trap.

11) I cannot stand celebrity culture – these people are famous for…being famous. They live in an insular bubble. They dish out advice that is no more fallible than yours, but everyone listens as if they are gods and goddesses sharing the secrets of the universe. I think celebrity culture is tacky and yeah I would turn red and run away in shame if someone thought I was into celebrities.

12) I do not watch TV – oh my, TV drives me mad! It is like an endless drone of chaotic babble. I keep it off as much as I can. Yes, there are some shows that are ok to watch, and there is good that can come from TV, but as a rule I try to leave the “noise box” as my grandma used to call it, off.

13) I am – gasp – against homosexuality and – gasp – I am not afraid to say it – AND – GASP! I LIKE HOMOSEXUALS!!! – yeah, that’s right. I am one of those people who is so dangerous to the world because I am willing to voice my support of traditional sexual mores. And I will not shut up about it! To make things worse, I really LIKE homosexuals. I think that there are so many amazing ones out there. I am not afraid of them. They are just like me – they have their temptations and faults to fight against. Homosexuality is just one of their particular ones. So don’t accuse me of being a homo-basher because that would just be silly.

14) I support traditional marriage – and I even have the nerve to think society would fall apart if traditional marriage came to an end. (Hey, we are hanging on by our bare teeth here, do we really need to plunge off the cliff?)

15) I am pro-life – yikes! Now I will probably get cursed at and attacked while I peacefully state my point. Terrible, scandalous person that I am for believing in life. How dare I act so repressive by asking women to not destroy the life inside of them! People like me…

16) I expect liberals to be, you know, liberal – I want liberals to live their creed and start behaving maturely. Stop yelling at anti-abortionists because they are anti-your-beliefs. Stop attacking people who think different and promote different causes. Yep, I actually expect them to be liberal and say “hey, live and let live!” In fact, they should really just kick back, relax, get out of politics, go chill out on an island somewhere, and liberally let the conservatives get the job done.

17) In the end, I am me and just me. I have a voice and I will use it. I am a little nuts, but the liberals will deal with it if they are really liberal and the conservatives will just have to come to terms with the fact that I am on their team  🙂

  • I talk to birds and other critters.
  • Sometimes they talk back! (Just joking – but I am imaginative enough to make it so!).
  • Statues have given me good advice before (yep, imagination rules!).
  • I know people who have seen and talked with angels (no imagination necessary).
  • I talk to my angel (never heard back, but I know he/she is there).
  • Sometimes, if no one is looking, I dance in public.
  • If I am standing near to you, I may imagine that I have a tiny friend who is dancing on your shoulder just for the sake of making me laugh. I may laugh. Not at you – but you may think I am a little cracked.
  • I talk to myself sometimes. Myself gives really good advice when I do.

I could go on, but I think you get the picture. I am weird, offensive, a threat to modern civilization, feminists, and society as a whole. I am just me being me and using my big mouth expressing it.

So now it is up to you if you want to risk ever reading this blog again 😉

Read Full Post »

Sacred Sites, Peaceful Moments, and…Noisy Tourists?

The candles flickering, the old Italian lady quietly praying, the dark lonely crypt with so much history you can almost feel it, the peaceful sound of a camera loudly “click click clicking” non-stop – wait, where did that come from?!

Don't hesitate to take non-stop noisy photos in quiet places

There is nothing more frustrating than travelling thousands of miles to visit a beautiful, holy site and then have it ruined by tourists stomping about as if they were at McDonald’s. While to some visitors the site may just be a spot with beautiful artwork or a great addition to their photo album, for others it really is a holy site that they want to appreciate it in peace, tranquility, and prayer.

Yet it is amazing to me how many people do not seem to understand this and act as though they are attending a social gathering at a museum or historical society. Because I have spent far too many times amazed at the lack of respect, I created this list of some of the things that really bug me when visiting sacred sites and dealing with irreverent tourists.

The Seven Official Ways

1) Take photos using your flash – do not bother to check if your flash is turned off. Just step up and start shooting with wild lights in the middle of Mass, a quiet church where people are praying, an archeological ruin that someone else is trying to enjoy, etc. They will definitely appreciate the flashing lights and may see it as a sign from Heaven emanating from your welcome camera.

2) Snap some great shots using a noisy camera – you know, one of those cameras that has to make noise every time you take a picture. Then do it over and over and over and over and over and over…and over…without stopping – like Chinese water torture. When people stare at you, just ignore them. Who are they to expect you to be less intrusive about your photos?

3) Hang out and talk in churches or other sacred places – we all know churches are great social halls and not places where anyone would want to spend some personal time in quiet prayer. So mill around and chat for a while. If the person in front of you appears to be praying, act like you did not notice. Talk about the art, talk about what you want to have for lunch, talk about anything but just talk. Oh, and if you have any of those noisy shopping bags, play with them a lot so that they distract everyone around you.

4) Enter chapels designated “for prayer only” – if you do not want to pray, but are really curious to see the chapel, just enter anyways. Walk right in and gape at the ceiling, the walls, the statues. Sit in a pew in the middle of the room and keep writhing in your seat to get the full view. Sure, the other people there are focused and intent on prayer, and can tell you could care less, but you want to see the art darn it!

5) Attend Mass for 5 minutes just so you can see the church and then leave – if Mass is being said, but you really want to see the church, take a seat in one of the pews and linger for a few minutes. Then get up and leave when you are done. Sure you are distracting, and completely irreverent, but who cares?

6) Talk on your cell phone – of course the call cannot wait until you can step outside. So just take it there in public. It is your right!

7) Complain about the money that was spent on building such sites really loudly or make fun of religious customs you do not understand – forget the fact that thousands of unknown souls may have found solace, hope, and healing in such a place and through such a faith. You don’t like it and you travelled all the way around the world just to see it, so you could complain about it some more! Really, it is a very rational move and the money you could have given to the poor that you spent on your airline ticket, well, who would ever expect you to carry the burdens you lay on the shoulders of others?

Ruined Moments

These are just some of the things that have attempted to ruin some very sacred moments for me when visiting holy sites. It seems that in our modern world, people tend to view churches and holy places as relics from the past, a sort of living museum, but forget that others still see it as a very sacred place indeed.

So now that I have vented, what are your pet peeves and aggravations when visiting holy sites or traveling? Let me know, I would love to hear!

Read Full Post »

(Editor’s Note: WordPress has been acting up lately. I have notified customer service, but until they can fix the strange editing mis-haps that I cannot, you may find some unusual things in the posts, such as periods to separate paragraphs that are otherwise insisting on bunching together. My apologies!)

.

It was night in Rome. The stars were shining in the sky above, the air was cool and crisp, my i-Pod was singing sweetly to me alone, and the sparkling water of the Tiber was running ever onwards to the sea. As I made my way across the famous Bridge of Angels, the illuminated Vatican glowing in the distance, I felt at peace and deeply happy.
.
Pausing on the cobbled pavement of the famous bridge, I gazed up at the angelic figure who so kindly gazed back at me. The soft white of the wings against the twinkling stars and romantic black sky made me almost feel as if I was gazing upon a real angel who had traversed the universe just to be here tonight. The moment seemed surreal, like something out of a dream or a fantasy (and this was a bridge I have crossed many times in the 10 years I have been visiting Rome). Tonight was different in some way.
.
I passed the angels one by one, contemplating the treasures that they held. They seemed to be imploring for me to consider what each one meant; to unlock the symbolism before me.

The first angel on the left holds the whips

First the pillar of Christ’s passion on the right, and the whips used at the scourging on the left. I smiled at the angels and silently replied, “yes, I see what you are suggesting.” I responded to their call by contemplating the scourging of Christ, particulary in the items represented.

Next, two angels on each side displayed the crown of thorns and Veronica’s veil. I nodded in understanding; “I am moving along through the passion of Christ.” I considered the sufferings from the crown and the bloody results that would have left him barely able to see until Veronica so kindly wiped his face.
.
Stepping to the third pair of angels hovering over me on the moon-lit bridge, my eyes fall upon two more items to consider. One was the nails. Another was the clothing that was stripped from Christ before the crucifixion and the dice that the soldiers used to roll for the fabric. The angels were leading me through time, asking me to meditate upon the moments before Christ was crucified.
.
Further along the bridge, the next set of angelic figures presented the cross and the sign that read “Jesus, King of the Jews” which was nailed to the top of the beams. Now I was mentally at the crucifixion, through the items that were used in those hours.

The last angel on the right holds the lance that was used to pierce Christ's side after his death

Nearing the end of the bridge, I gazed up at the last pair. On one side, an angel held the sponge tainted with vinegar that was pressed to Christ’s lips when he cried out in thirst. On the other side, an angel held the lance that had pierced his side after he had passed away.  These were the final cruel instruments used against him, in his final moments and even after his death. The journey was complete; both of his passion and life, and mine across the bridge.

The angels all smiled at me in silent witness. They joyfully knew that I was about to know what they knew…

I stepped onto the northern bank of the Tiber, and in the cool night air I gazed back at where I had journeyed from and what I had journeyed through. Turning, I looked at the direction ahead; Saint Peter’s basilica glowing in the distance. That was when I realized something I had never caught before.
.
I had just journeyed through time. What now lay behind me was the foundation of what lay before me, both physically and historically. All that Christ had suffered during his sorrowful passion, as represented by the items that the angels carried, had provided a bridge across time to a new civilization and a new faith. St. Peter’s Basilica standing triumphantly in the distance was the physical manifestation of the goal Christ had achieved; the Church of Christ on earth. The Roman Catholic faith. Christianity. Salvation from destruction through suffering.
~*~
It was a physical journey accompanied by a historical one all via the angels gently calling upon the viewer to remember…just to remember.
~*~
It was brilliant! I hurried back to the beginning of the bridge. Who was there, guarding the way? Saints Peter and Paul! The very same saints who stand in the same positions before St. Peter’s Basilica! They greet and guard the beginning of the journey across the bridge and to the Vatican, and welcome home at the end, for they are the first great protectors of the faith who gave their lives so that it would not be forgotten.
.
Now I understood how this would have all played out centuries before. When instead of tourists snapping too many photos there would have been devout pilgrims in prayer, and this was the route that would have been laid out for them to cross.

View of the Bridge of Angels from across the street. Saint Peter is on the left and Saint Paul is on the right.

As they approached the Bridge of Angels, they would have seen Peter and Paul greeting them while guarding the path. The great gatekeepers of the message of Christianity had something to tell them, something they wanted them to consider and see. It was the message of Christ that lead to the Church that they  helped establish.

Stepping onto the bridge, the pilgrims would have passed the five sets of angels, two by two, and perhaps meditated on the passion of Christ through the instruments of the passion that the angels carried, just as I had. Crossing the river, they would have perhaps also felt the sense of crossing through the passion, through time, to the other side where the present glory awaited. The glory of the Church, of their faith.
.
Arriving at Saint Peters, would they have thought, as I did, “yes, all that suffering grew into something so great! And here is the witness before me!”?
.
How would they have felt about their own sufferings, seeing first hand what had grown in splendor from those of one man who bore his own sufferings in simple love and humility?
.
As I walked towards the Vatican that night, under the beautifully clear Roman night sky, I felt as though my journey was suddenly enriched. I was not just walking across a bridge with pretty angels and then heading down a street to an amazing basilica, but if I listened, I was journeying across time. From the Passion of Christ and the guardians of his message to the triumph of that passion and those who had protected it; this was the deep message I had discovered on one famous bridge.
~*~
And my simple walks to Saint Peter’s Basilica have never been the same again.

Read Full Post »

He was someone I could not forget.

He stood alone in front of his make-shift, temporary home, which would be gone by the time morning arrived. In the niche of a locked doorway to a shop selling religious goods he had laid out his bed, which consisted only of cardboard and tattered blankets.

The softly illuminated St. Peters in Vatican City was his personal painting on the transparent walls of his life. The street light shone harshly down upon him as life most likely had for some time now.

A solitary nun was walking towards St. Peters square, as I was walking away. He was in the middle, and for some reason he approached me.

His Italian was terrible, for I could hardly understand it, but I knew he was asking for money. I pieced together the words “for a drink…in the morning…please…” and could not help but reach into my purse and hand him a Euro and some change.

He thanked me and I walked away, moving on with our separate lives.

Life-sized Stations of the Cross in Rome

As I approached the life-sized Stations of the Cross that had been set up for the Lenten season along the Via della Conciliazione, I heard someone speaking to me and felt a gentle touch on my arm. I turned, and it was him.

In the shadows of the night I somehow could see his face more clearly. He was attractive. Maybe in his early 30s. He had kind eyes, despite his otherwise ragged appearance.

In his confused Italian he began speaking to me, but I could not understand him again. He clarified that he was Polish; Italian was not his mother tongue. Finally I was able to gather; “a drink…together…”

I did not want to let him down. He seemed so sweet as he gazed at me through wide, imploring eyes. His uncanny gentleness took me off guard, which is unusual for one used to major cities and many homeless approaching her.

I politely declined. He politely persisted.

“…tomorrow….morning…a drink….together…”

Again I declined. Again he persisted.

“…walk with you…now…together…”

For some reason I felt terrible saying no, but explained I had to return home.

He smiled and asked my name. I told him, and he offered me his hand as a farewell gesture. I accepted, and he took mine in the proper old world fashion – ladies palm down, as if he would offer a respectful kiss.

What was my surprise when he looked me in the eye and said “may I?”.

I smiled at the unusual request, one so little offered by the most wealthy and dignified of the world, and said “yes.”

He gently raised my hand and graced it with a perfectly honorable kiss. Truth be told, any well-bred English gentleman would be ashamed to know that their variation would pale in comparison to a simple homeless man on the side of a street on a Saturday evening in Rome.

As I left, I made my way along the Stations of the Cross, and then through Rome. Yet somehow I could not forget him. His presence lingered with me so much so that I could not help but turn around several times, wondering if he had followed me. He had not.

I eventually arrived home, made dinner, showered, relaxed with a movie, and finally fell asleep. But as I lay there in the dark something about that man could not leave me. Although our interchange was so very brief, there was a goodness about his soul that spoke volumes in a way that all the educated, well-bred men in suits could not buy (and I do love a man in a good suit).

Two worlds briefly collided for one moment on the streets of Rome, in front of the living Stations of the Cross on one side and Saint Peters on the other.

The framework was undeniable. Perhaps his world was more like Christ’s than I knew. The Christ of poverty, neglect, and a forsaken life memorialized on the Stations of the Cross on the Via della Conciliazione leading to the Vatican was the noblest soul the world had ever seen, yet never recognized. His worth was a true worth that delights not in masks but in the soul, come what may if others cannot seek or truly find it.

That homeless man taught me something small yet deeply meaningful, about finding beauty in the forsaken, and I do not think I will ever forget him. And I cannot help but wonder how many souls will fall asleep tonight, lonely and forgotten by the world, but greater than us in their deeply humbling, suffering poverty that we know so little of.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: