Little Does She Know: Change Starts Here

When I think of God’s Justice, I tend to find it intimidating. When I think of God’s Justice, I tend to think of a long stint in Purgatory that I’d really rather avoid. When I think of God’s Justice, I tend to think of punishment for sin. Then I think of he riots across the country, and I find myself praying, “Let justice be done.” I realized that Mercy alone isn’t what’s needed. Justice would mean consequences for those who have damaged people’s property. It would mean jail time for the policeman who murdered George Floyd, and consequences for those who stood by and let it happen. It would also mean tangible action taken  to solve the problems of not just racism, but all discrimination  in our country. I realized that, actually, sometimes justice is the merciful thing.

No one is in the right in this situation. Protests that started as noble, peaceful demonstrations have devolved into chaos that proves nothing. I fear, too that innocent men and women in our nation’s police force will suffer hate and violence because of the actions of a handful of bad men. To be honest, my family has had a handful of encounters with police who have been arrogant and unkind. This does not mean that all police are jerks. I prayed for justice, but I also prayed that society would have mercy on police because the many good people shouldn’t have to take the hit for the terrible few.

I think justice and mercy get confused sometimes. Mercy is defined in two ways; “love in action,” and “kindness, or leniency where it is not deserved or earned.” When I think of justice, I think of fighting for those who can’t fight for themselves, and in this sense, it seems synonymous with mercy. It also means making sure those who treat others poorly face consequences. When the riots first broke out, I was sad. It felt like I was watching a rerun. Every time something like this happens–and it happens far too frequently–there is a lot of anger and in many cases, violence. A lot of people post “Black lives matter” on Facebook and then go on with their day. There is a lot of rhetoric by police and politicians, and nothing changes.

I don’t have a solution. On occasion, I have felt the effects of able-ism. People have made assumptions about me based on the fact that I use a wheelchair without even speaking to me. Often in media, if there is a Catholic character, it is to make fun of the Catholic Church. The character is portrayed is stupid, bigoted, or hypocritical. Our world was not built for someone with multiple disabilities, and though I have a pretty easy and comfortable life, it is only because my parents are kind and relatively wealthy. Our culture is one that flees from absolutes and objective Truths, and religious liberty is something churches, Catholic service groups, and individuals often have to fight for.

Persecution and discrimination of anyone, to any extent, for any reason, is wrong. The demonstrations in city streets started because of the murder of George Floyd, but this  has become bigger than that. I saw an article someone posted on Facebook about police officers in various places standing in solidarity, and in some cases, praying with peaceful demonstrators. People need to see that, especially people who devalue others because of their skin color.

To be perfectly honest, I would have proposed a solution that involved actively and publicly shaming anyone I encountered doing or saying anything racist. It would have been easy. It wouldn’t solve the problem, though. It would only make more people angry and would probably just grow into more hatred and maybe even more violence. I was sad when this whole thing started, and to be honest, now I am a little angry. This is a problem that requires justice, but it also does require mercy. In the past several nights, people on all sides–rioters and police–have done wrong. They’re all people, though.

Whether you’re stuck inside in some small town somewhere, or you’re cooling off, reading this as someone who’s been directly involved, remember that the person you threw stuff at, or shot tear gas at, is somebody’s brother, sister, father, or mother. Remember that they’re angry and scared, just like you are. Before going out tonight, consider what Jesus said on the Cross; “Forgive them.” The ultimate injustice was that the most innocent Man ever was unjustly sentenced to death, tortured, and killed.

I’m not saying that anyone should just “take it.” I’m saying that any good solution starts with forgiveness. It also requires dialogue. This might mean being extra annoying so that you’re heard, but it doesn’t mean setting things on fire. It means listening. Too often I see posts on Facebook that say “I’m listening.” Too often I hear politicians say it on the news. Don’t just say it; do it. Shut up, and listen. Once you’ve listened, pose solutions; do something with what you’ve heard. It needs to go beyond that, though.

This is a heart problem. Everyone needs to look at the other and really see a person before them. We need to stop labeling people. A person who belongs to the republican or democratic party is not just a republican or democrat, for example. I am a white woman living in suburbia. Knowing that can lead my readers to make assumptions about me in the same way that it might lead some to make assumptions about a black blogger from somewhere closer to Boston.

There’s a literary device when the author is writing in the third-person omniscient; “Little did he know.” This is used when the narrator knows something the protagonist of the story doesn’t. I think it is useful to apply this to ourselves when looking at other people. We must see the other as good, beautiful, and unique; an opportunity to discover, to learn, and hopefully, to form a new relationship. We can’t just stop at the label. We can’t just stop at “democrat,” “republican,” “black,” or “white.” Imagine looking at this through God’s eyes; the Author of every person’s story.  Meet a new person, and imagine the Author of your story saying, “Little does she know.” It can be humbling to keep in mind our ignorance, and that humility is important. Change starts with humility, hope, admitting one’s culpability, and forgiveness offered and accepted.

Study Notes 1 (June 2020)

Blessed are those who hunter and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied
Excerpted in part from the writings of Sr. Patricia of Mary Magdalene

Historical context: The Jews hungered for liberation from Roman rule and a restoration of the Davidic kingdom
-they wanted a savior who would liberate them

There is still injustice in the world, and the innocent and vulnerable still hunger for a “savior”

Justice is one of God’s attributes, along with Mercy, Love, Beauty, Compassion, Goodness, etc
-humans are made in the image and likeness of God with free will to distort these attributes

“As contemplatives, it is our ideal and goal to ‘feed the hungry’ through our prayer, to ‘quench thirst’ through our meditation, and to appease justice through penance and sacrifice.”

The hunger for justice builds/strengthens the virtue of patience

“Our first and primary model for this virtue is Jesus Himself. The ultimate example of injustice was this loving and forgiving Savior being slapped, spat upon and nailed to the cross by the very people He came to save. Yet, the richest example of patience was His silent humility as He accepted the insults and physical blows to His most precious cheeks. If ever there had been a time for the vengeance and justice of God, it was then.”

“…patience is the main intermediary between justice and mercy.”

“If justice is thought of in its good or proper aspect, it will lead us to the hunger and thirst spoken of in the beatitude: a hunger and thirst that desires to feed the starving, assist the downtrodden, bring freedom to the oppressed, instill peace where there is strife, establish unity and fellowship among all peoples.”

“As contemplatives, our “action” is prayer. As contemplatives, our prayer should be
continuous, night and day, without ceasing. We, like St. Therese, should be missionaries of justice by our example of honesty, integrity, morality, and spirituality in a world hungry for all of these.”

“Being just doesn’t only mean being severe in punishing the guilty, it also
means recognizing good intentions and rewarding virtue.” St Therese

 

Remember And Sing

Late last night I read yesterday’s Mass readings. The first was Acts 16: 22-34. It’s about when Paul and Silas were imprisoned in Philippi. Verses 25-26 say, “about midnight, while Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God as the prisoners listened, there was suddenly such a severe earthquake that the foundations of the jail shook; all the doors flew open, and the chains of all were pulled loose.” I remembered that this had been the Scripture that initially inspired my song Nothing Else.

While Paul and Silas were hoping, questing, and teaching people about Jesus, they were imprisoned. In the middle of the night, though, they still prayed, and they still sang songs; they worshiped Him. I don’t remember what the “bad thing” was that compelled me to write this song. Lately I’ve had writer’s block. I tried for a few minutes, then just sang a few lines from the prayer I wrote five years ago.

You let us know you’re listening;
let us know you’re listening.
This is why we sing;
we sing.

You let us know you’re listening;
let us know you’re listening,
so in the dark we sing;
we sing to you.

You let us know you’re listening,
so we sing for joy.
Because you are good, Lord,
we sing.

This is a song to sing in the dark.
This is enough, a spark to start a fire.
This is a prayer you answer with love;
cause you are God, and you are with us.

I haven’t actually listened to a whole lot of Christian music lately. I’ve been trying to write my own original music, or blog posts, and I often find music distracting. The rest of Nothing Else is about wanting to be alone with God, especially when everything is falling apart, or at least seems like it is.

Paul and Silas were in a pretty bad situation, but at midnight, they sang; they hoped, and there was an earthquake. Acts continues the story and tells of how the jailer and his family were converted to Christianity after speaking to Paul and Silas.

This past Monday, the Governor of Massachusetts announced that we will start phase 1 of re-opening the state. Cardinal Sean O’Malley also announced that churches in the Archdiocese of Boston will begin re-opening. Around a year ago, I wrote my song Victory. The chorus goes: “You are my new dawn/ so here’s my hallelujah/ I sing your victory song/ the King of Heaven Come.” The news of churches re-opening, and Masses starting again really feels like I’m seeing the pale light just before dawn.

Being able to go back to church, for a lot of people, is going to feel like the end of “war.” For a lot of people, it isn’t. A lot of people are still sick, jobless, worrying about a family member, worrying about keeping their business afloat, or worse. We still have to be “social distancing.” This isn’t over. Remember that. Remember them. Remember too, though, that there are things to celebrate. Find that song to sing in the dark, look for the light just before the dawn, and sing “Hallelujah.”

Works Of Mercy, Quarantine Edition

Lately I’ve been thinking about the Works of Mercy because of the very real circumstances people are facing due to the pandemic. The Works of Mercy are split up into two categories: Corporal, and Spiritual. As Christ’s followers, we’re meant to do these things in imitation of Him. He says in Scripture, “What you do for the least of these, you do for me,” and He speaks of many of the Works of Mercy.

The Corporal Works of Mercy are:

  1. Feed the hungry
  2. Give water to the thirsty
  3. Clothe the naked
  4. Shelter the homeless
  5. Visit the sick
  6. Visit the imprisoned or ransom the captive
  7. Bury the dead

The Spiritual Works of Mercy are:

  1. Instruct the ignorant
  2. Counsel the doubtful
  3. Admonish the sinner
  4. Bear with wrongs patiently
  5. Forgive offenses
  6. Comfort the afflicted
  7. Pray for the living and the dead

It is important to do all of these things as much as we can, but I want to focus on the Corporal works of Mercy for now. In Quarantine, we can still fairly easily do the Spiritual Works, online, in our bedrooms, in our basement, in the shower, or what have you. We can talk to friends and family online and while we’re all in uncharted territory and maybe suffering emotionally, we can comfort each other.

The other Works are often harder to do in general. I think right now, though, they are especially important. Right now, depending on where one is, it is more difficult to get resources (food, cleaning products, etc), and where many are losing their jobs, it is important to do what we can to help. This may mean, if we can, donating to food banks, for example.

As one progresses through the list, it seems that the Works get noticeably more difficult. Again, it is relatively easy to “clothe the naked” because one can donate hand-me-down clothing. To shelter the homeless is probably the most difficult, but I think, possibly the most important. I think with much more free time on our hands it is easier to become more introspective, and even selfish. Jesus said to love our neighbors as ourselves. This literally can, and should mean the people living next door to us. If we know they are struggling to pay the rent, for example, and we know they have quarantined for several weeks, for example, it would be merciful to either offer them a room to stay in for free, or simply offer financial assistance.

To visit the sick and imprisoned are both extremely dangerous right now, but they remain important things to do. I think in this case, it is important to use technology to offer friendship and comfort, even from a distance. Especially where hospitals and prisons are some of the most dangerous places, it is important to be a source of hope to those who are scared. Obviously this is no substitute for being there in person, but it is still necessary.

Lastly, though it’s a bit of an ugly thing to think about, it is a Work of Mercy to bury the dead. I think this means a couple of things. It means making sure a person dies with dignity, and it means making sure they are honored at their burial. To be clear, when I say that a person should “die with dignity,” I do not mean that assisted suicide should be an option. I mean they should be respected and taken care of until the moment of death. No matter what condition they are in, they are a valuable human being. When I say that they should be honored at their burial, I mean that they should have a proper funeral, regardless of how many people can attend.

Right now, the world seems a bit out of control. It can be tempting in such a world to fall into a purely survivalist mindset. It is in such a world, however, when mercy is needed most. It is extremely important to teach the faith, and to pray for people, for example, and if this is what we can do, we have even more of a responsibility to do it, but if we have the means, freedom, and ability to provide for the physical or financial needs of those less fortunate than us, it is vitally important to help. It is a sign of our own humanity, and a recognition that the life of the other is just as important as our own.

I have defined “mercy” before as “love in action.” Another definition, however, is “kindness to those who don’t deserve it.” This is God’s love for us; He didn’t owe us anything, but He came to save us; He died for us. It doesn’t matter if you “owe” anything to your friend, or even a stranger living across town. If we are to be like God; if we are to arrive at Heaven’s gate, we need to be merciful, too. I did not cover every way in which we are to do these Works of Mercy, but they need to be done. This is a time to be creative and to love each other as God loves us.

Study Notes 3 (May 2020)

Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the earth
Excerpted in part from the writings of Sr. Patricia of Mary Magdalene

“In Webster’s Dictionary, the word ‘meek’ is described as ‘mild of temper; patient under injuries; long-suffering; gentle and kind.’ This surely describes Jesus’ life and how He wants us to imitate Him. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says, ‘Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.’

“Because meekness and humility are almost always tied together, the virtue of humility should be the one to be developed under this beatitude.”

“We all have a temperament…. We constantly struggle through this beatitude, attempting to meekly and humbly temper our attitudes towards ourselves and others.”

“Physically, when there is the pain of an illness or an operation, or even a recurring health problem, we must humbly pray asking for the grace to bear our cross, not running away from it or regarding it as an evil thing or something to be avoided at all cost…. it must be stressed that it is not suggested or implied that one should not accept any form of relief”

The same pertains to emotional/psychological suffering; it should not be sought out, but it should be humbly accepted and dealt with as much as possible.

“What now is meant by ‘long-suffering?’ This is going even further than the first two
phrases, as it may require indefinite or extended or permanent suffering. This too can be physical or psychological.”

“Psychological ‘long-suffering’ may include the spiritual pain of seeing loved ones no longer practicing their faith, or emotionally supporting an alcoholic… To be ‘long-
suffering’ requires a high degree of humility, because often the very things that qualify under ‘long-suffering’ are problems we can do nothing about…”

“Gentleness clothes herself in patience and tenderness, while Kindness adorns herself in humility and affection.”

Regarding Saint Therese: “Her ‘Little Way’ consists almost entirely of being meek and humble of heart. She realized and accepted her littleness and humbly accepted God’s love in spite of any unworthiness. She was patient and kind under injuries, long-suffering both physically, because of tuberculosis, and psychologically due to the ridicule and insults often placed upon her by a certain superior and other sisters of her community.”

“Others, in becoming aware of their own imperfections, grow angry with themselves in an unhumble impatience. So impatient are they about these imperfections that they would want to become saints in a day. They do not have the patience to wait until God gives them what they need when He so desires.”
Saint John of the Cross

– Speak as little as possible of oneself.
– Mind one’s own business.
– Avoid curiosity.
– Do not want to manage other people’s affairs.
– Accept contradiction and correction cheerfully.
– Pass over the mistakes of others.
– Accept blame when innocent.
– Yield to the will of others.
– Accept insults and injuries.
– Accept being slighted, forgotten, and disliked.
– Be kind and gentle even under provocation.
– Do not seek to be specially loved and admired.
– Never stand on one’s dignity.
– Yield in discussion even though one if right.
– Choose always the hardest.
Saint Teresa of Calcutta’s suggestions of how to be humble

Study Notes 2 (May 2020)

Blessed are they who mourn for they shall be comforted
excerpted from the writing of Sr. Patrician of Mary Magdalene

Question: Why is mourning included with Mercy, Justice, Purity of Heart, and Meekness?

Immediate thought: It is tied to compassion

This type of mourning is sorrow for our sins and what they cost Jesus
-self awareness, and love for the Lord

Conscious or unconscious longing for God
-longing for something permanent, perfect, and good

The Holy spirit is the Comforter

This longing/mourning builds the virtue of Hope

“And to those whom He gives here below the kingdom we ask for, He gives pledges so that through these they may have great hope of going to enjoy perpetually what here on earth is given only in sips.” Saint Teresa of Avila

Thought: The more He gives, the more I want

“We have given proof that a soul must renounce all possession of the memory in order to reach union with God in hope. The soul, therefore, must live in the nakedness and forgetfulness, …so as not to impede union of the memory with God through perfect hope.” Saint John of the Cross

“Only a soul that is naked and forgetful of its worthiness can have the perfect hope that leads to union with its Comforter. By renouncing the memory of all previous graces and consolations, the memory becomes naked and open to the hope of perfect union.” Sr. Patricia

Hope is tied to detachment:
-If we long/mourn/hope for something/someone “else,” we care less about things immediately available

Study Notes 1 (May 2020)

I’ll be having online formation on Saturday with two members of our Carmelite Community. I was going to take notes on a regular text document, but then I decided to share my notes on my blog for two reasons. The first is that I’m the most disorganized human alive and thought they might be easier to find if I put them on here. The second is that others might find them useful, or at least interesting.

This month (May 2020) we’re studying the Beatitudes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

The Beatitudes can be split into 3 groups according to the Purgative, Illuminative, and Unitive Way (spiritual growth, Saint John of the Cross)

Purgative:
1: blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted
2: Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied
3: Blessed are they who suffer for justice’s sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven

Illuminative:
4: Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy
5: Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth
6: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God

Unitive:
7:Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven
8: Blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see God

Carmelites promise to be spiritually poor so that nothing stands between us and God
-To do this one must practice the virtue of detachment
-detachment = “holy indifference” to goods as an end in themselves
-this can mean monetary, or worldly goods (money, entertainment, food, etc), or spiritual goods (friendship, consolations in prayer, etc)

We must not put pride or importance on the good we do, but focus on the good we must learn to do

To be poor in spirit means to have all and disregard it for the sake of another (surrender)

No one owes me anything (paraphrased from St Therese)

Keep in mind why you do the things you do
-scrupulosity is bad
-don’t follow rules for the sake of following rules