Tuesday, August 26, 2014


I have been formed by the Office, the Sacrament of Reconciliation and daily Mass. Sometimes people will write to me and say, “I see you are the type that goes along with the Church but will very much welcome the ordination of women priests and the evolution of the sacrament of marriage,” and I’m like, “Actually, no, I wouldn’t welcome those things. I don’t think we need women priests; I think we need one person, man or woman, who actually follows Christ.”

In the homily I heard last Sunday, the priest spoke first in Armageddon-like tones of the Iraqi extremists who were beheading children. Then he approvingly noted that we were bombing the heck out of them in order to “preserve our freedom.” Then in the intercessory prayers he led us in praying for world peace.

I was reminded of a recovering crack addict who said she used to smoke a pipe at four a.m., then, remembering she had to work the next day, lie down and pray, “God, please help me sleep.”

Peace is no deus ex machina that’s going to spontaneously materialize while on the one hand we’re supporting a government that is extremist in its own use of force, and on the other, we’re praying the Rosary.

I’m no theologian but isn’t it Catholicism 101 that the history of the world is the history of the coming, and now waiting for the Second Coming, of Christ? Isn’t it painfully obvious that our country is not built on Christ, but on some kind of vague prosperity, lust-to-dominate god that for over 300 years we have tried to bend to our will? Isn’t it a foregone conclusion that a house divided against itself cannot stand? Isn’t the question then not whether the United States will fall, but when?

If so, why do we waste so much time on mindless political-religious argument? The state has never been Christ’s realm. Shouldn't our question instead be How do I address the problem of suffering? How do I live out my faith to the smallest “hour” of my life? How do I continually develop my own conscience?

Lest this be mistaken for a “leftist” rant, I’ve had other, equally demoralizing experiences at monasteries, convents and retreat houses in which, in an effort to be welcoming and non-threatening, the folks have utterly de-sacramentalized the Mass.

No holy water, no genuflection, no crossing in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, no recognizable penitential rite, no Creed. At one such place we were invited to face first north, then east, south and west while waving our hands about and intoning some kind of Native American incantation, after which, the priest (or whoever it was) simply held out a big tray of bread morsels and we were invited to saunter up and grab one. They apparently considered this a "renewal" of the liturgy, for advanced sophisticated types who are not attached to the fusty formulas of the “institutional” Church.

If I were interested in Native American spirituality I would have gone to a sweat lodge. If I thought Communion were a mere symbol of togetherness, I would have become a Protestant. Never had I been so aware of the treasure, of my profound need, of the liturgy. This was an alternate form of the crackhead prayer, the delusion here being that any of us has the faintest hope of getting along together for five minutes without 1) deeply, regularly pondering the Word of God, as set forth in the Gospels; and 2) regularly partaking of the Real Body and Real Blood of Christ.

The fact is that left to my own devices, I couldn’t care less about Native Americans or anyone else—which is why I so desperately need the Sacraments.  I need to be reminded every day that the thing I want to do I don’t do, and the thing I don’t want to do, I do. I need to acknowledge that without supernatural help, I will remain forever conflicted, forever in bondage, forever isolated. I need to remember that Christ is both as close as my own heart and utterly unknowable. I need to eat his consecrated Flesh and drink his consecrated Blood. I need to see a naked body above the altar, nailed to the Cross.

Because another teaching of Catholicism 101 is this: actions have consequences.

For people who claim to be grounded in the Gospels, we seem to have skipped over, “How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,' when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye? You hypocrite! Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter in your brother's eye” [Luke 6:42].

For people who claim to know the universe is a battleground of the light versus the darkness, we seem strangely ignorant of the virus-like nature of the violence we perpetrate on our own and on the rest of the world.

Surely as followers of Christ, we cannot found a country on the annihilation of a culture and a race,  drop atomic bombs, operate remote-control drones that pick people off, often civilians, from thousands of miles away, and keep prisoners in 24-hour lockup for years on end—to name just a few of our contemporary practices—with no moral or spiritual repercussions. As the Puritans well knew, God will not be mocked.

So if we want to be part of the New Evangelization, perhaps in conjunction with our prayers for peace we could call for a national examination of conscience.

Instead of panicking about the infidels, perhaps we could look inward and thoughtfully explore the link between abortion and war.

Perhaps we could observe that as followers of Christ our focus is not so much on how to be good citizens as on how to be good neighbors—which would naturally include the refusal to own a gun that would kill one of them.

The point of acknowledging the truth about the economic, political, and military systems under which we live is not to point the finger at those systems and exonerate ourselves.

It's to see how we contribute to the darkness.

It’s to understand that the only way to address that darkness is by the purification of our own hearts.

For me, it’s to constantly examine my daily interactions with others; to weed out my resentments, my fear, my shame; to stretch myself beyond my comfort zone, to ask uncomfortable questions, to consent not to know the answers; to risk censure; to to know I am often wrong, often straying, always weak.

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” [John 14:27].

Peace, but not the peace of this world. As followers of Christ, in this world we are perpetually torn apart, driven, frantic, stricken, anxious, alone, anguished. On the move. Pilgrimaging, with nowhere to lay our heads.

But in the end, “Lord, to whom shall we go?” In the end, I say thank you to that priest who said Sunday Mass, thank you to all the many monks and nuns who have sheltered and fed me, thank you to God for letting me exist. Thank you for this land and for its shorelines, mountains, deserts, prairies and plains that I love so much.

I pray for peace, and for the courage to be ever more conscious of what authentic peace entails.

I pray, in this time of such darkness in the world, God, please help me sleep.



  1. You bring me to tears with the Truth. The only other person to do this to me is Cardinal George in Chicago. Thank God for those of you who are able to articulate it in such simple, yet profound, ways for those of us who are trying feebly to live God's will. Thank you.

  2. It's kind of schizophrenic to bomb people in far away places and then pray for peace. Wacko!

  3. Your words enlighten my mixed feelings about all that is happening in the middle-East. On one hand, I agree to bombing ISIS off the map, but want them to stop killing those who won't join their cult. I need to sit in a quiet room and ask our Lord to change my heart. Thank you.

    1. This is exactly how I feel about the present situation. If ISIS was not so adamant on ridding the world of infidels (Christians, Jews, etc.) we would not be in such turmoil. Please someone correct this outlook so I can sleep.

    2. Yes, same here. It is such a horrible situation. But there is talk that forces in (behind) our government are forming groups like ISIS to anger the world against them (ISIS) so the forces behind our government can expand their dreamed Empire of a New World Order. And that NWO does not include Christ as a brother and savior!
      I don't believe most of our politicians run the show -they are puppets manipulated by their sins and weaknesses and much, much more powerful men who know how to manipulate them through their sins and weaknesses.

    3. If all conflict (political) is evil, consider WWII and concentration camps which would still exist. Family members were praying then that peace would come. It took our solders to bring that about albeit with much mayhem. Tell me where you find that it is (behind the scene organizers who want NWO) which sounds so "progressive" and that is not a good word to me. That term to me is what brought about anti-Christian abortionists. Hope you do not consider this too "political" but I believe it is pro-religious freedom.

    4. By the way, Heather, I love all your articles but this one did touch a nerve. because I AM having trouble sleeping lately. Have cut off all news programs but have delved more into my spirituality (life-long Catholic) than ever before. Back studying good literature, and re-reading St. Francis de Sales. Reads differently now in my 70s than when I was 22-23. God bless.

  4. I heard it was said of Charles Peguy, or maybe it was Paul Claudel, that through his writings he brought the good news of damnation back to France. That would have been about 150 years after their terrible Revolution which so secularized that great country. And how can there really be a heaven without a hell? If everyone is just going to heaven, I'd argue it mustn't then be a very special place!

    And now is just as good a time as any to let the US know what she has really become. Even a short list of our vices is appalling. The Federal Reserve (a private corporation) prints us a currency that is also the reserve currency for the world. With this fiat money our government builds a military that frightens just about every other country in the world to do as we say, or else...there is a million ways we can bring those states to their knees if they don't. Then we export pornography, contraception, inane culture and fast food products everywhere, etc. May as well stop there, because the list is indeed long.

    Loving myself implies, among other things, looking at my sins and trying fix them. And this holds true for families, parishes, communities, states and countries. I love the US, but she is one messed up place right now, -spreading much poison globally. And if we can't see this we are either sick or we have some agenda.

    It is very clear Heather that you speak out of love for a very sick country that even slaughters her unborn. Using the word satanic for what we are doing globally is no hyperbole. It is simply accurate. And for Bush or Obama to send troops everywhere like we will improve the rest of the world is the height of hubris. Politics generally make me sick anymore since I know that here only Holy Mother Church can really save us. But since we are all forced to live in one political system of another whether we like it or not, let us remain vigilant in pointing out our country's sins (which we participate in every time we sin!) until we become better.

  5. America has sold her soul. Please God, not another World War to remind us.

  6. Heather, your prayerful reflections became a powerful meditation on the Gospel for yesterday and today (Matthew 23:23-32). I am so glad that we who read your blog did not have to miss out on it! And I hope that Aleteia readers who are looking for more from you find this here. God bless you.

  7. I found an interesting piece related to a poet I happen to like although I can only understand about 25-30% of his stuff. Maybe someone else will be able to understand more and appreciate better this short article pertaining to this poet's view of Empire. His name is David Jones and he was a Welsch poet who fought in WWI.

    1. you'll have to copy and paste the above address

  8. Thanks Heather - these last two pieces are worthy of more reflection and I will print them to re-read them as part of my daily prayers.

  9. The evil in the world is terrifying, but what is even worse is when I see it in my own heart. That journey is the hardest, the one I need to make the most. It's too easy to talk about the racism in Ferguson without considering my own prejudice, to judge the hypocrisies of others than remember the times I have lied.

    Very good article Heather, as always. One day we Christians will remember that the US is not synonymous with God. I hope it won't be too painful a lesson.


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