Sunday, November 3, 2013


As Pope Francis says, we’re not looking for numbers. We’re looking for saints, ordinary saints. St. Maximilian Kolbe, in rags, martyring himself in the starvation bunker; Matt Talbot, former drunk, chains wrapped around him in penance, quietly anonymously attending daily Mass.

Christ said I came so that your joy can be complete. He said Love one another as I have loved you. He said Suffer the little children to come unto me; he said It will be worse for you if a millstone were tied around your neck if you lead one of these little ones astray; he said Unless you become like a little child, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. He had a child-like heart himself.

We're in danger of engaging in the New Corporatization, not the New Evangelization.

The mark of the follower of Christ is that we can sit down beside our brother or sister who's hurting, who's broken. We can share our experience, strength, hope and most of all our joy. Not "These are the rules" but "This is the freedom from bondage that comes from living this thing out."

Not "You're doing it wrong"--but "Welcome home."


  1. Throughout my life, each step of my spiritual journey began with the words "welcome home" and when I converted and was received into the Catholic Church at my confirmation seven years ago, the priest looked me in the eye and said "welcome home". Thank you so much for this post and for reminding us of the importance of being faithful and loving in all of day to day activities and interactions. God bless you, Heather!

  2. This is the true truth, Heather, perfectly said. How simple, and how rare, to turn away from the resentment that always seems (to me) like flaming-sword JUSTICE--how can these Republican swine be doing this to the poor?--and ask myself what I have done for the poor in my community and how I have handled the relationship between my own multifaceted poverty and the Truth. The answer usually spurs repentance and--rarely--some action. Blessings and gratitude.

    1. Yes, Jon! When I get off my high horse at OTHER people's Phariseeism (all too rare), I am cowed by my own almost complete lack of charity, willingness to be invonvenienced, inability to simply sit with other people's brokenness, wounds, despair...more and more I see it is really about the depth of our desire to love Christ. And when you witness the gigantic gap between the desire and what you are willing to suffer for it...the main response is silence....

  3. Dear Heather, you're _such_ a hippie-Catholic {wink -big, big wink}. At least your beads are a Rosary. {wink, wink, wink...}

  4. From Lydia:

    Mother Teresa did give up her whole life as a sacrifice and she truly lived her love for Christ, but she also did not shy away from making hard-hitting public statements about the family, and, in particular, abortion, calling it "the greatest destroyer of peace today":

    "But I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another? How do we persuade a woman not to have an abortion? As always, we must persuade her with love and we remind ourselves that love means to be willing to give until it hurts. Jesus gave even His life to love us. So, the mother who is thinking of abortion, should be helped to love, that is, to give until it hurts her plans, or her free time, to respect the life of her child. The father of that child, whoever he is, must also give until it hurts.

    By abortion, the mother does not learn to love, but kills even her own child to solve her problems. And, by abortion, that father is told that he does not have to take any responsibility at all for the child he has brought into the world. The father is likely to put other women into the same trouble. So abortion just leads to more abortion. Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. This is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion."

    That's from her to speech to the National Prayer Breakfast on February 5, 1994.

    Would Henri Nouwen consider that giving in to a "temptation to be relevant"?

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Hi Lydia, I can't speak for Henri Nouwen but thank you for this wonderful quote which I've seen before--it exactly proves my point which is the profound connection between abortion and war.

      Surely we're not so naive as to believe that a government so bent on dominating the planet that it spends more on the military than every other country in the world combined is actually going to care about "the unborn." Surely we don't believe a government that protects the fetishization of gun ownership, with all the ensuing and inevitable carnage, is actually going to commiserate with our tender love of babies. Surely we can't talk about abortion without first addressing the vicious idolatry of nationalism.

      This to me is exactly why Pope Francis is saying that to be obsessed with abortion and sex as "issues"--with no cognizance of or effort to alleviate the arrogance, greed, and violence that underlie our culture and that lead, among other things, to abortion--is misplaced.

      Of course abortion is a sorrow, a wrong, and a terrible rent in the human fabric--as Mother Teresa said so beautifully, and as I have said less beautifully but consistently and repeatedly, up to and including writing a book about my own abortions.

      To simply state our views on abortion, to do the hard, unsung work so many have done in this area (and is anything harder or more unsung than being a mother?) is of course distinguishable from "harping," "shrilling," making a career of "debating point by point," or "speaking out" against abortion while having a day job as a weapons manufacturer or the equivalent thereof.

      Of course we'll also want to consider the many saints who to my knowledge never mentioned abortion OR war; St. Therese of Lisieux, for example, Doctor of the Church, and considered by many to be the greatest saint of the twentieth century. Surely we don't feel St. Maximilian Kolbe or Servant of God Matt Talbot to be any less holy because they never isolated/made a career out of/or point-by-point debated the "issue"--to the exclusion of all other issues--of abortion. Surely we also know exactly where they stood.

      As I wrote to another reader who privately emailed me the same quote, it's not a matter of whether we "speak," but how. One of the reasons Mother Teresa's views on abortion ring so true to me is that she lived out Christ-like love and peace in every area of her life. Her 50-year dark night shows that living out Christ-like peace and love is a crucifixion. I don't feel the same consistency in, say, pro-life politicians who think nothing of going to war and killing tens of thousands of OTHER people's children, nor in the people who vote for them.

      Of course that doesn't leave us much of anyone to vote for--which brings me back to the idolatry of nationalism. To put our security in Christ alone is a fearsome challenge. To love one another as Christ loved us costs. That's why we believe the saints--because they have paid the price. That's why Mother Teresa knows that abortion is so closely connected to war--because when we have paid even a tiny tiny bit of the cost, we begin to know to the marrow of our bones that we are all connected and that to harm any human being is to harm all human beings. That is why Pope Francis says War No More: No More War.

      As always, I get to look at my own inconsistencies, my own lack of peace, my own lack of love, my own tepidity, my own idols. And to pray to avoid the temptation to be relevant.

    3. By the way, folks, one of the highlights of my Advent this year will be the talk I'm to give Dec. 6th at a fundraising dinner to benefit Guadalupe Pregnancy Services here in L.A.

      I plan to excerpt this passage from Henri Nouwen's Peacework:

      "Death is solid, uniform, unchangeable. It is also big, boisterous, noisy and very pompous. A military parade, in which tanks and missiles are proudly displayed, preceded and followed by disciplined, uniformed soldiers, is a typical manifestation of the life force. Life is different. Life is very vulnerable. Life, when first seend, needs protection—a plant slowly opening its flowers, a bird trying to leave its nest, a little baby making its first noises. It is very small, very hidden, very fragile. Life does not push itself to the foreground. It wants to remain hidden and only hesitantly reaches out. Life is soft-spoken. The sounds of life come gently and often seem part of the silence in which they are heard. Life moves moderately: no quick, brisk steps but a growth so imperceptible that we never really see it, only recognize it. Life touches gently. It does not slap or beat, but caresses and strokes. It makes us speak a tender language: “Be still, she is asleep.” And then later: “You can come now and look. Isn’t she beautiful?” Do you want to hold her for a moment. Be careful.”

      Those who resist the power of death are called to search for life always and everywhere. The search for this tender and vulnerable life is the mark of the true resister. I have learned this from friends who have dedicated themselves to resistance. They have helped me to appreciate anew the beauty of life. One of them spends an afternoon every week visiting cancer patients, another works with the mentally disabled, a third spends time with lonely people in a psychiatric institution. Somehow their direct contact with the powers of death has made them aware of the preciousness of life and given them the desire to affirm life precisely where it is weak and very tender. Their quiet and unspectacular care for broken people has become for them a true form of resistance.

      This has opened my eyes to life in a new way. Having a baby seems such a natural, obvious, and rather unspectacular event. But for those who are deeply aware that we are living on planet that is being prepared for total destruction, in a time that can be sure only of the past and the present but not of the future, giving life to a new human being becomes an act of resistance. Bringing into the world a little child totally dependent on the care of others and leading it gradually to maturity is true defiance of the power of death and darkness. It is saying loudly: For us life is stronger than death, love is stronger than fear, and hope is stronger than despair."

  5. Maybe I should say the book (a 10,00-word essay) I wrote about healing from my own abortion wound is called Poor Baby: A Child of the 60's Looks Back on Abortion.

  6. Really enjoy reading your stuff, Heather, but I don't see similar warnings to the lefty types in this essay. These folks are just as susceptible to evil as the right wingers you seem to loathe. Many (if not most) liken faith in Jesus Christ to belief in the Easter bunny and see the Father God as irrelevant at best. That is the one thing I was taught that God might actually hate; to be such a fool as to doubt whether He even matters. I reckon Phariseeism runs second to disregard of the Creator and His “rules”.
    In previous writings I detect a desire to be fair, to at least hear the other side. I would wager you would not want the label "polemicist" or "pundit" tagged to your pen name.

    From St. Paul, today's readings:

    Let love be sincere;
    hate what is evil,
    hold on to what is good;
    love one another with mutual affection;
    anticipate one another in showing honor.

    1. Hi there Machining Instructor--

      Lefty types? Teresa of Calcutta? St. Maximilian Kolbe? Servant of God Matt Talbot? The whole point is that followers of Christ are neither right NOR left. To lay down your life for your friends transcends all political categories.

      You may want to check out my most widely-read post of all time: Avoiding Both the Catholic Left and the Catholic Right.

      What I loathe is lies. "Let love be sincere"...the first time I really prayed, I thought about it afterward and realized the word sincere (for once in my life) was just right. I looked it up and found it meant "without decay"...

      Yes, may God continue to purify our hearts.

    2. Mmmmm! Your last paragraph reminds me of my most sincere prayer. I have prayed many a prayer - some poetically arranged in beautiful rhythms with just the right church-approved amount of religiosity inside, but my most sincere prayer yet was a tearfully shouted "God, I'm fucked up and need some help!" prayer. You can't get more authentic than in those desperate moments.

  7. Last week, while teaching a social work class at a small Christian liberal arts university during the professor's absence, I showed a documentary titled The Corporation (2003). The film touched on many aspects of the way corporations operate - including the way they oftentimes trod upon human rights, safety, and wellbeing with the intention of only growing in power and wealth (evidently at any expense). God save us from taking this approach in our own personal lives and in our interactions with others - but rather, allow us to extend authenticity and gentle service onto others as Mother Theresa had. Thanks, Heath'.


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