Tuesday, March 19, 2013

POPE FRANCIS


The other day I had a talk with a good, kind, sensible friend who approvingly referenced an op-ed in Sunday's NYT to the effect: Why can't you Catholics focus on what you do best--serve the poor--and just shut up about sex, about which you know nothing, about which you insist on clinging to your ridiculously medieval notions that any self-respecting modern person would be mortified to voice? Having been raised in the Church and long since fallen away, my friend can't possibly see, for example, why anyone of nominal intelligence, and the Church, would not counsel every woman in the world to get birth control. If women where in charge of the Church, she is sure THEY would change the "law"...

How can you tell people you have been saved from the abyss and thus live in state of insane bizarre grace and that you offer up your sexuality out of love? That to manage and control human creation, to the lover of Christ, seems monstrous? That when we say "I believe in God" we are really saying, "I view life as a gift, not as a possession"...

It's the secular world that's obsessed with sex. It's the secular world that has divorced sex from life. In my sixteen years in the Church I have never heard a single homily in which the priest exhorted the congregation that birth control is wrong, extramarital sex is wrong, being gay is wrong, gay sex is wrong. I've hardly heard those things mentioned. I have heard countless homilies about mercy, sacrifice, our longing hearts, our brokenness, our stumbling search to learn how to love.

Dorothy Day could be a champion of the poor partly because she left the love of her life and offered her whole self to God. St. Maximilian Kolbe offering himself up to starve in the place of another at Auschwitz was on a continuum with his celibacy. St. Francis of Assisi could speak to the birds because his entire procreative urge was ordered to Christ.

So it's not a matter of being right on social justice and wrong on sex (nor of celibacy being a higher calling than marriage): it's a matter of the ground of existence, whatever our station in life, being love. It's a matter of worshiping an entirely different Master than the world, whose gods are security, comfort, efficiency, power, property, prestige and control. I wanted to say to my friend, Haven't you ever wanted to bow your head in wonder? Haven't you ever looked around for Someone to thank? In so many words I did say those things, and then I wrenched my hands, for I could feel her embarrassment for me and my "archaic" views, and stammered: "I actually believe it...I believe Christ is the Savior of the world"....

To kiss the feet of AIDS patients and drug addicts, as Pope Francis has done, comes from an entire being that has been formed, has been disciplined, and has as its sole aim love. You don't have charity in one area and not in another. You don't offer up one part of yourself and keep another. You offer it all. You lay down your life.

Broken, stumbling, poor as we are--that's what we do best.


35 comments:

  1. Brings me to tears, this post. Love. That is it. Thank you, Heather.

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  2. Wow. Both for your words, Heather, and for posting that, well, awesome video.

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  3. Aren't the nuns awesome? And haven't you noticed that nuns are among the happiest people on the face of the earth ... while some of our more "enlightened" (and as you say, sex-obsessed) thinkers don't often radiate that same joy?

    And golly, I'm with you on Good Pope Francis, as you already know. I'm with every Pope! But this good bishop and priest of God has given me a kind of soul-to-soul resuscitation! I intend no disrespect to the two titanic pontiffs who preceded Pope Francis -- but I really want to be holy for and with this pope! Joyfully holy!

    If anything I'd like to thank the Holy Father for his reminder (not expressed in words) that our faith is not homework, but a glorious and challenging adventure!

    I hope that the new Bishop of Rome turns us all into "radical Jesuits" -- people who at their roots (radix) are of, for, and with Jesus!

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  4. Heather,
    I don't think I've ever heard anyone explain it better, even the religious men & women I've known and loved. I feel the Holy Spirit at work through you. And the videos of the nuns is wonderful. I must admit I was at work watching cnn live as the news came. I am hopeful that our Good Pope Francis will reach out to our youth as John Paul II did, for they our the future of our church.
    Be well,
    Donna

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  5. You know a few weeks ago I was speaking to a group and someone shouted out that they liked what I was would say all the words and things that no one else would. When I heard that I thought, "Man, they should hear HEATHER KING. then they would really hear someone who really says it, like no one else does."
    Thank you, Heather.

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  6. You know, Heather, I was with some friends last night and we were talking about deprivation. We are so afraid of it, and I think that's the problem. So, we drink, eat, carouse, spend,and live a promiscuous life all so that we don't feel inhibited; that we're missing out. So, we're told (often by professionals) that "everything in moderation" (which is an oxymoron) is a good thing. But the beauty of deprivation, which we get to particularly discover in Lent, is that we open ourselves up more to encountering God, to getting a glimpse of what eternal communion with God is like.

    The Church, like God, values my freedom more than my salvation, and allows me to make my own decisions. The Church in her infinite parental wisdom, simply reminds me that there are always consequences to every decision I make; that even by the standards of human nature, every action I take has an effect. Had God valued my salvation over my freedom, both salvation and freedom would be gone as I would just simply be a puppet of a supreme puppeteer.

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  7. "It's the secular world that's obsessed with sex. It's the secular world that has divorced sex from life. In my sixteen years in the Church I have never heard a single homily in which the priest exhorted the congregation that birth control is wrong, extramarital sex is wrong, being gay is wrong, gay sex is wrong."

    If you had, it wouldn't then mean that the Church is "obsessed with sex." I think it's regrettable that we do not hear more about the evil that birth control and extramarital sex and gay sex are ("being gay" in itself is not wrong).

    This is the teaching of the Church. It's part of our offering all that we accept it, strive to live it, and witness to it.

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  8. I've been waiting for a post like this! Now, I think there should be more homilies that talk about sin in order to make clear the need for God's lovingkindness (I love that word!). After all, where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more!

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  9. This is perfectly put, Heather. I've printed it out and linked to it on my Facebook page. Thank you.

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  10. Perfectly put, Heather. I appreciate your comments too Ms. Luisi. I've printed this out and linked to it on my Facebook page. More people need to read your words Heather!

    BTW: I also really enjoyed your essay in the Magnificat for St. Joseph's feast day. I remember similar moments with my Dad at the table - waiting for the reaction that would make or break the meal. Well done.
    Cheers,
    Dana

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  11. Just so perfectly said, Heather. And to end with the sisters--Oh. I had seen this video posted but for some reason had not taken the time to watch it until this moment. Now I know why. Perfect.

    And if you want to hear homilies that reference those things, maybe you need to head to the heartland. Here in Cleveland, we hear homilies like that quite frequently.

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  12. I actually believe it too...the heart of the matter....the heart of the " matter of God"...Jesus Christ, crucified, risen, forgiving victim.

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  13. Thanks so much for your as-always generous response! I’m not wildly interested in hearing about other people’s sins but I’m always interested in looking more closely at my own: my fear, my self-righteousness, my hardness of heart, my terrible pride, my abysmal lack of charity. All the things that lead to loneliness and isolation and the desperate hunger that lead to wanting to anesthetize the pain with sex, food, booze, shopping, drugs, porn…I would like to hear more homilies on the beauty of the Narrow Gate! That Christ calls us to come fully awake, fully alive, fully open to joy…That doesn’t come from limiting faith to the following a rule book and even less does it come from constantly peering around to make sure everyone else is following the rule book. Of COURSE when you’re awake in love, you’re not going to cheat on your spouse. Of COURSE you’re not going to be frittering away your life energy on porn.

    And of course you are going to feel your own pain and loneliness and hunger and fear very deeply, so deeply that at times it seems it cannot be borne. You’re going to be pruned into compassion. That is our whole value as followers of Christ: our we allow our suffering to make us available and vulnerable to the suffering of the world; to the terrible sexual and emotional wound at the heart of mankind…

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    Replies
    1. Lord I came here for the post and I found a hidden treasure in the combox. I truly truly truly am moved by this comment. Beautiful. Succint. Truthful. God bless you!

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    2. Came here for the post and found a treasure in the combox. Lord, what a beautiful, truthful, succinct statement. God bless you Heather!

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    3. PS. Are you a Walker Percy fan/reader?

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  14. Bravo, Heather. So often your writing leaves me with a lump in my throat. Coach Jim Valvano said you should laugh every day, think every day, and cry every day. See? You're a one-stop shop.

    Peter

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  15. Terrific post Heather.The secular world wants everything their way. I loved the video of the sisters.


    Just one thing- I am having a little bit of trouble reading the answers on the dark gray background.

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  16. I know, Barbara, I have tried every which way to change the template and get rid of this darn gray comment background but nothing seems to work. I'll gather my strength sometime soon and try again and in the meantime, sorry, folks...

    Thanks, Peter!

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  17. Your frank and provoking post blew me away, Heather! Thank you... yes, that *is* the heart of the matter. And then that video -- it brought tears to my eyes :-)

    thank you for being genuine and for sharing yourself with all of us. we may never meet in person, but we are One in heart and sisters in faith.

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  18. Lovely post.

    When I can find silence for prayer and for time to listen, I am humbled that God called me to the Church. Me, with all of my warts.

    I am very optimistic about Pope Francis not b/c he is Pope but for the way he has lead his life. It is beautiful!

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  19. At the risk of sounding stupid allow me to say that until last week I knew little to nothing about who the pope was, what he did, or why there even needed to be a Pope. I was raised by ignorant Catholicism-hating Protestants who apparently thought discussing such things was unnecessary. But, as my interest in Catholicism increases I am reading articles and other pieces about this new Pope, and I am impressed! I am thankful for such a love-filled, humble man to be in leadership, and I look forward to learning more about this gentle man's commitment to God, the world, and Catholics everywhere!

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  20. "I would like to hear more homilies on the beauty of the Narrow Gate! That Christ calls us to come fully awake, fully alive, fully open to joy…That doesn’t come from limiting faith to the following a rule book and even less does it come from constantly peering around to make sure everyone else is following the rule book. Of COURSE when you’re awake in love, you’re not going to cheat on your spouse. Of COURSE you’re not going to be frittering away your life energy on porn."

    Have you read or listened to Anthony De Mello? This is his message.

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  21. Thanks so much all and GW, yup, I've read and liked Anthony DeMello, but I also think this is not some original or new idea but the very heart of the Gospels. Everything Christ taught, lived for, died for was about coming awake in love...

    Tracy, love The Moviegoer but for some reason have never responded deeply to the couple of other Walker Percy novels (Love in the Ruins, Lancelot) I've tried. Paul Elie quoted from several of his essays (the way I remember) in The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage so maybe I'll explore those one of these days. Of course I love his response to the question, "Why Catholicism?": "What else is there?"...

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  22. Heather--let me whisper a suggestion to you--the Walker Percy book I think you would like best of all is Lost in the Cosmos, "the last self-help book".

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  23. Spot on, and beautiful. Thanks, Heather.

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  24. All I have to say is WOW! You said all that needed to be said, Thank you.

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  25. I hope you will be watching the Mass on Holy Thursday as Papa Francis will be celebrating the evening Mass in a youth prison outside of Rome. I know it will be a powerful witness of love and charity in line with the gospel message of our Lord Jesus Christ. I am new to your blog and as a fellow Southern Californian, I relate to your views on L.A.
    The video of the Sisters is wonderful and joyful. Love their reaction to the pope as he was making his appearance onto the balcony, what joy!
    May our hearts be set aflame with the same joy so we can carry on in this vale of tears.
    God bless!

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  26. About the dark-gray background color here in the comments: Don't know if this tutorial is too high-tech, but it might help.

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  27. Thanks, Lydia, I didn't mind the gray so much as that the links/headings were a lighter gray and therefore difficult to see. Now that all the text is black I can breathe easier and am happy for now.

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  28. It's difficult to talk about chastity in life and purity of love in our sex obsessed media but it can be done. And you just did a wonderful job, Heather! It's all a question of priorities and articulating them well. What we all want is LOVE, what we are all searching so relenlessly is LOVE and although sexual intimacy is (sometimes) a component of love, sex has to rest on a firm base of trust and respect, sex cannot be divorced from emotions and feelings, commitment and honesty! So right there, I just threw promiscuity and porn out the window... And you know what? When that's what they hear, young people understand this very well.

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  29. It's difficult to talk about chastity in life and purity of love in our sex obsessed media but it can be done. And you just did a wonderful job, Heather! It's all a question of priorities and articulating them well. What we all want is LOVE, what we are all searching so relenlessly is LOVE and although sexual intimacy is (sometimes) a component of love, sex has to rest on a firm base of trust and respect, sex cannot be divorced from emotions and feelings, commitment and honesty! So right there, I just threw promiscuity and porn out the window... And you know what? When that's what they hear, young people understand this very well.

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  30. As we are finished with Advent and celebrating Christmas what two people better to exemplify the notion of offering up sexuality out of complete love and respect for each other than Jospeh and Mary. Joseph, out of respect for who and what Mary is-the Arc of the Covenant and Mary for who she bore. Mary also said yes in her fiat to a lifetime commitment to God out of love. It is breathtaking when one thinks about it.

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