Friday, October 29, 2010

Looking at the Fruits

When a movement comes under investigation, observers are often told that we ought to look to the fruits.  

This morning, my husband pointed out that Paul's letter to the Galatians actually TELLS us what fruits we ought to be looking for:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Notice that, on this list, there is nothing about: Numbers of Vocations, Speed of Increase, Signs, Wonders, Visions, Fundraising, Conversions, Retreats Given, Books Published, Numbers of Followers, Healings, Buildings Dedicated, or Youth Groups Started.

Meanwhile, we also have the Fruits of the Flesh: Immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies...

When we look at the fruits of a new movement, an association of the faithful, or an apparition, perhaps we should use Galatians as our guide.

Monday, October 25, 2010

An Apology and an Interesting Item

Sorry to be so absent from the blog this month.  October is a busy month for us - Birthdays, Anniversaries, Reunions, Guests - and when you add in our first foray into fall sports season and potty training and apple picking and cooking squash in all it's delicious variety....  well, blogging was really the LEAST important thing in the world to me. (As it should be...)

Anyway, I just wanted to point out this new article by Sandro Magister on the current struggles within the Legion.

There were a few points I found especially interesting.

Now that he has been made a cardinal, Archbishop Velasio De Paolis will have even more authority in implementing the mandate he has received from Benedict XVI to salvage the Legionaries of Christ, brought to the brink of ruin by their founder, Marcial Maciel, and by the men of his inner circle.
Why should a red hat affect his ability to salvage the congregation?  Will Garza et. al. suddenly say "Oh, my goodness!!!  We were placing roadblocks in the path of the official papal delegate--but how could we hope to oppose a Cardinal?"  That seems unlikely.

So, the only way he will get more authority from his new title is if the rank-and-file Legionaries will respect a Cardinal more than they respect a Delegate.   BUT if it really takes a red hat to get the necessary respect, the congregation is already doomed, in my opinion. 

After all, in that case they're not really being obedient to the Church, but to outward signs of influence.  The Delegate should not have to be a Cardinal in order to reform the congregation. 

In mid-September, De Paolis asked Garza to give up the main offices that he holds, at least those of territorial director for Italy, supervisor of consecrated virgins of the movement Regnum Christi, general prefect of studies and head of the financial holding company Integer. But Garza said no. A chill has fallen between the two
Why does the Delegate simply ask? Why not demand?  Is his hesitation due to the "Roman" way of doing things, or is it necessary that Garza resign on his own?  This is a curious bit of information, but Magister's sources are usually impeccable.  Still, did anyone really expect the Legion's leadership to meekly hand over the reigns?

The maddening thing about these games is that there are men's souls and vocations on the line.  There have got to be at least some men who remain in this congregation because they hope to see it be refounded and changed into something better.  Once they realize that they're signing up for decades of power struggles, they may leave, and the Legion will be left with only the men who cannot leave because they are damaged by the bad formation, methodology and violations of the internal forum.

In a sense, this attempted reform of the Legion has been a huge experiment.  There have been other 'orders' founded by frauds.  However, most of those stayed local and were easily suppressed by the bishops.  This is the first time we've had an international con game disguised as an order.  

The big question for me is - can a religious order have a charism "apart from the founder?"  De Paolis seems to suggest putting them at the service of the new dicastery -- so something like the Pima missionaries, but for RE-evangelization.   It's an interesting idea -- but in the same letter he mentions the concerns about formation.  How can we expect these men to form others if they haven't been well-formed themselves?

I think we're going to have to take a wait, see, and pray approach here.  Personally, I don't think reform is likely at this point.  And if a friend considering a vocation to religious life mentioned he was considering the Legion, I would... vociferously... try to dissuade him.  And respond with a list of other orders to consider.

Some of my friends think the Legion is still salvageable-- because there are men on the inside who love Christ and who joined with good intentions.  The question is, can love for God fix an order where the entrenched interests are full of love for self, money and power?

**NOTE: Edited because I forgot to run spell-check!**

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Halloween Wars

It’s October again, which means it’s time to repeat a venerable Catholic Blogosphere tradition. No, not Rosary Novenas- Are you mad??? It’s time to begin the Halloween Wars!


In past years I’ve been a bystander, but as my kids have gotten older, I’ve gotten a bit more entrenched in my position.

We trick or treat. Loudly, joyfully, and with much skipping, twirling, jumping, smiling and singing. My kids start planning their costumes in August and change their minds about 3,457 times before Halloween.

We live for the annual pumpkin patch trip. We draw haunted houses and witches and Jack-O-Lanterns. We obsess about candy. I am treated to calculations on every trip to the store—a Hershey’s miniature is worth three Smarties. But there’s a one to one lollipop to Smarties ratio, especially for the child with the corn allergy.

I know what you’re thinking: “But Deirdre, how can you allow your children to participate in devil-worship this way? One day they’re dressing up as princesses, and the next they’re pagan priestesses! Don’t you realize you’ve set your toddlers on the road to perdition?!?!?”

I see Halloween a lot like I see the Fourth of July. Some people choose to celebrate the Fourth by getting drunk, smoking pot, fornicating and disobeying local fire ordinances. I will not allow my children attend such celebrations. On the other hand, we ecstatically attend the local parade, cook bratwurst for lunch, and go to the fairground to watch the fireworks.

Halloween, as we American’s celebrate it, is mostly a harvest festival. That’s why the pumpkins are such a big deal (for my family, Halloween has always marked the first pumpkin pie of the season—which ought to be eaten BEFORE trick-or-treating…). And trick-or-treating is not about sneaking out into the woods for human sacrificing. It’s about small children playing dress-up, and adults telling them how cute (or pretty, or scary) they are and giving them treats.

In most neighborhoods in the United States, Halloween is basically “Children’s appreciation day” and has been for generations. And given how little our culture appreciates children on most days, it doesn’t hurt to remind people that children are a treasure.

Now, in recent years, especially in urban areas, adults have tried to take over Halloween. They’re trying to take “kids dress-up and get candy” day and turn it into “adults dress like porn stars and get drunk and fornicate” day.

Personally, I think this is a result of the fact that many ‘adults’ are no longer getting married and having kids. 25-year-olds used to celebrate Halloween by putting their toddler in a bear suit and making a trip around the block. But when you don’t have kids, there’s really no ‘age appropriate’ Halloween celebration. So the current generation is using Halloween as yet another excuse to get drunk and party. (I fully expect that in a few years “Veteran’s Day” will be an excuse to get drunk and party. It’s that whole ‘Fading Years of the Roman empire” vibe.)

So, what’s a Catholic Mom of little ones to do? Well, you can decide to boycott the whole thing – it’s your right, and this is an area where there’s no “Officially Orthodox” choice – it’s a matter of personal preference.

But me and mine will do the Halloween thing. We’ll march around the neighborhood in costume and fill our plastic pumpkins with treats. And afterwards, we’ll head home to warm cider and bed. Because, after all, the next day is All Saints’ and we’ll want to be up early for Mass!

Friday, October 1, 2010

St. Therese and Me

I’ve come to the conclusion that, although she died young, St. Therese is primarily a saint for grownups. When I was in high school and college, I loathed St. Therese. I thought she was sappy and wimpy. All her talk of “Little ways” and flowers and small, homely miracles left me sick to my stomach. She may have been Holy, but she never did anything. She was no example for me. I was going to change the world, create something totally new, be a heroine. What could a sickly girl who lived practically her whole life in a convent have to teach me?

Fifteen years and some heaping doses of humility later, I’m in a different place – almost a different person in some ways. I don’t change the world. I change diapers. And also sheets. Lots and lots of sheets. I may not live in a convent, but my home is a sort of enclosure – most of my time, energy and prayer-life are spent within these walls. And now, when I approach St. Therese, I don’t see a weak, sickly girl. I see a woman who understood that, when God has blessed us with an absence of large temptations, we ought to wage the same battle against the little temptations that DO afflict us. I see a Doctor of the Church, who teaches that even a humble unnoticed life has great value in the eyes of the Church.

St. Therese has gone from a target of my scorn and derision to one of my favorite saints. Here are a few reasons why:

1. St. Therese teaches us how to be good parents. When Therese describes her early life, her parents stand out. Her mother and father loved their daughters and doted on them. They were interruptible – when one of the girls wanted to talk, or play, or show off an accomplishment, their parents were willing to watch and listen and be present to them. Therese’s mother died young, but she was such a good example of maternal care that her older daughters were able to carry her love to her youngest child. Therese’s father took his daughter on long walks and on fishing trips.

St. Therese could bask in Christ’s love because she had already absorbed so much love and care from her family. She teaches us that to give our children a straight path to Christ, we should first give them our love and attention. Her description of her parents helps me to remember that the first job on my list should always be to convey God’s love to my children as best as I can. St. Therese helps me be a better mother.

2. St. Therese teaches us to accept the tasks we’re given instead of dreaming of the ones we wish we’d been given. Therese dreamed of doing really big things for God. She wanted to join the Carmelite mission to Asia, but that’s not what God had planned for her. Instead, she stayed in France, praying, working at homely tasks, and caring for the younger sisters in her convent. She didn’t give in to disappointment and daydreams. Instead, she focused on doing the little things before her well. And, because she was faithful in the small tasks, she now has a much bigger one: Patroness of the Missions.

3. St. Therese understood how hard it is to keep your temper in the face of little annoyances. One of my favorite episodes in Therese’s autobiography occurred as she was washing clothes. One of the other sisters accidentally splashed her and soaked her habit. Therese was angry, but she knew the other sister had just been clumsy – there was no malice in her action. So Therese stayed calm, continued to smile, and offered up the soaked habit. This incident is basically the “Mother of small children” experience in a nutshell. St. Therese can intercede for us as we face the spills and leaky diapers and broken dishes of our lives, because she knows how we feel.

4. St. Therese understood the importance of small, homely miracles. She accepted even the small gifts God gave her with great pleasure. She didn’t ask for the ability to levitate, or huge acts of healing. Instead, she asked for things like snow. And she was as awed and happy when God gave her snow as another saint might have been by the ability to cast out demons. For most of us, the small, homely miracles are the important ones: A car that makes it to the gas station on an empty tank, an open ‘sick appointment’ 20 minutes after we call the doctor because we’re sure the babies in bad shape, an out of season rose in bloom just when we’re at our lowest and really need a sign that God is still taking care of us. St. Therese is the saint for anyone who’s ever gotten an unexpected check just as the kids’ dental bill is due or who’s encountered a helpful stranger to change that flat tire. She knows that for ‘little souls’ like us, even the tiny gifts from God are very important.

I wish I’d understood Therese a little earlier in my life – I could have spent more years learning from this great saint. But I’m glad I gave her a second chance – because her little way is a great help to this mother of little ones.