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Bless Me, Father

3 Jul

When I was in the middle of RCIA, I was thrilled to discover that, thanks to the questionable validity of my baptism, I was going to be conditionally baptized and treated as a catechumen.

No confession for me!

The thought of confession terrified me. Walking into a tiny booth and pouring out my soul to a man was enough to give me an anxiety attack.

Now, I’m a pro at counseling. I can sit on the couch in an evangelical church office with some nifty cappuccino from their mod lobby and emotionally vomit all over the counselor sitting next to me. I’m pretty sure my previous Tulsa home church bought stock in Kleenex before I left. As my friends can tell you, I’m more than open book — I’m a veritable public library. Anything you want to know about me, if it’s going to help you walk through something, I probably don’t mind sharing. But suddenly, being faced with actually listing, out loud, my sins to a priest?

I. Clammed. Up.

I still went to confession when necessary (which is fairly often when suddenly a handful of things you never knew were mortal sins could now, you know, SEND YOU TO HELL, and when a handful of things you previously thought would send you to Hell are now completely acceptable), but I didn’t really get it. I did it because I had faith that this is the Church God drew (dragged) me into, and she said to do it, by God.

No really, by God.

I had a few experiences in the confessional that my Totus Tuus teammates now lovingly (as I tell myself) describe as “your Pentecostal moments”. As in, I really FELT that something holy and sacred was going on, something more than just a navel-gazing blubber fest. But even when I didn’t “feel it”, I still obeyed.

Somewhere along the way, I realized I had been living in a perpetual theological blonde moment.

If all I’m worrying about is listing sins I’m doing it wrong.

To appreciate the sacrament of confession I have to gain an understanding of what it is I’m confessing, and catch a glimpse of the almighty, incomparable love of Christ.

Confession isn’t me, me, me, me.

Confession is Him, Him, Him, Him.

Confession is understanding that I am loved, wholly and completely, by a God and Man who sacrificed himself for me. It isn’t about me and what I’ve done wrong. It’s about Christ and what He did right.

Confession is a physical, tangible conduit of the forgiveness God has never stopped pouring over us. I’m not asking the priest to forgive me, because the priest is just as human as I am. I’m throwing myself at the feet of Christ working through the priest and saying, “Here I am, Lord. I don’t want to hide from your mercy any longer. Wash me. Cleanse me.”

Part of attempting to echo Mary’s “Yes” is saying “Yes” to everything God has to offer me — and for someone unquestionably less holy than Mary, that means saying “Yes” to His grace, mercy, and forgiveness. And that means saying “yes” to confession, in order to say “no” to sin.

Clarity and the like.

6 Feb

Apparently, dear readers, I should stick to 7 Quick Takes and random musings on Disney and dating. I get myself into too much trouble otherwise. After I published the post before last, I have gotten three different searches for “Secret Vatican Douchebag” that directed people to my blog. Nice! After much debate behind closed doors, I feel I should clarify a few things. After this, we can put this brief moment where I attempted to be intelligent behind us and get on with our merry lives! Tongue in cheek there, guys.

When I wrote “Where has all the charity gone?” I was not, in any way, trying to speak ill of my fellow ORU converts – and I was not, in any way, denouncing the particular anonymous group in question. That’s precisely why I kept all names unmentioned – even the name of the one who was very unjustly spoken ill of, and did not mention the medium the discussion occurred in. Only that it happened online. If this had been the first instance of an attitude like this I might not have even said a single thing. But this is by far not the first experience of this nature I have witnessed from my student convert friends (and only the student converts) – both from ORU and not, online and in the nonvirtual world. I was using the instance in question to speak out against radical instances of uncharity to our brothers and sisters in the Church. This exchange was the most recent – and I still say appalling – example I had before me.

Kevin Clay, of MonkRock/Transitus Oblates of the Last Martyrdom wrote an excellent and thoughtful response to the post – you can read it in the combox of “Where has all the charity gone”. He is one of the most charitable – and Traditionalist – Catholics I have ever met. I agree very much with his statements, and they did much to ease my troubled soul. I do, however, still stand by premise that our attitudes amongst each other can greatly help or hinder the case for Conversion we present to our separated brothers and sisters. This was the point I was trying to make with my statement that those outside of the Church often have nothing to go on but their interactions with us. I would be hard-pressed to educate myself about a faith whose participants continually attacked each other. I know of several deeply personal instances where this has unfortunately been all too true. I do agree, however, that once a person has been exposed to the Truth found in the Church there is nothing that can hinder them from coming into her arms except for their own “hang-ups” so to speak, and at that point any fingers pointing in the direction of infighting are mere excuses. (I realize that my dear Orthodox friends will have more than a thing or two to say about this! :D) The problem is when that infighting prevents someone from having a reason to even begin considering setting their prejudices aside. This has, unfortunately, been more than true with many friends on campus whose only experience with Catholicism has come from less-than-charitable exchanges with zealous, well-meaning converts on and off campus.

I was not denouncing debate, nor was I trying to promote an All You Need Is Love approach to conversation. There is certainly room for lively, intelligent, and indignant debates and conversations regarding the liturgy. I actually love these conversations. Charity and debate are not mutually exclusive. Anyone who knows me knows that I am snarky, I have a dry sense of humor, and it is really, really difficult for me to separate the two from any conversation I’m having – and it gets me into plenty of trouble. But there is a difference between friendly, tongue-in-cheek jabs, good-natured debate, and ill-tempered name calling. The latter is what I was denouncing.

I was also not attempting to denounce Traditionalism. If I had to choose between Traditionalism and Modernism, I would choose Traditionalism in less than half a heartbeat. I love the t/Traditions of the Church, and my personal, private spirituality is far more Traditionalist in nature than most people realize – I do, however, worship corporately in a Novus Ordo parish that I love deeply, and I do not see this changing at any point in the near future.

In summary:

1) I do not hate my fellow ORU converts.
2) I do not hate Traditionalists. No, not even the SSPX. Which apparently makes me a Modernist? Another post for another day.
3) I should control my social workers need for justice while writing response posts.
4) Being snowed in for a week makes me a very impassioned writer.

Now, who wants a peanut butter brownie recipe? Sigh.

The Secret Vatican Hit List: Conversions, boondock style.

16 Nov

It was a dark and stormy night. Well, not so much on the stormy side. But it was still dark so it counts. I was conversing with Secret Agent Eli over a lukewarm, slightly stale plate of Chinese food. We were discussing politics, and I mentioned how dumb it was for Catholics to write off certain political commentary from Glenn Beck just because he was Mormon – even when the message itself was at the very minimum thought provoking. I reminisced about my early junior high days when I would sit in our driveway with Talk Radio 570 KLIF playing, taking eager notes and laughing gleefully over MorOn Trivia and Freak Jury (yes, I realize I am branding myself as a complete nerd, and exposing my hardcore Evil Conservative Upbringing) – my favorite time of year was Christmas when the Politically Correct Christmas Songs would air. I was such a Beckky that my sister wrote Glenn Beck when I graduated from high school and had him mail me an autographed poster.

If you are not steaming out of the ears by now or staring aghast at my idiocy, then please, by all means, continue reading.

It was in that moment, while breaking into a musty, soggy spring roll that I made an offhand comment –

“I’m going to add him to my Catholic hit list.”

Eli gave me a wary look – I had also just expressed an intense interest in studying Krav Magra, and recently watched The Boondock Saints for the first time, so the combination of these three things led him to half-way question my capacity for violence.

“My conversion hit list.” I amended.

Having assuaged my border-line Hauerwas-style Pacifist boyfriend’s mind  – although, though he’ll never admit it, he secretly MIGHT be okay with Glenn disappearing forever – he asked me to expound upon this delightfully violent sounding idea.

Through a series of lectio divina sessions that had transpired over the last week or so I have been compelled to do something specific for the conversion of certain people in my life. I won’t go into the details on this blog (until they convert!) because, quite frankly, it’s scary and difficult and almost-impossible and if there’s one thing my daddy taught me, it’s “Don’t share your dreams with people who’ll tell you it can’t be done”. But, that particular personal revelation inspired something else in me.

What if we spent a year praying for the influential people in our society?

Eli talked about it, and began to tongue-in-cheek make a “conversion hit list”. We made a list of every important person that personally shaped our families, our cultures, our media, and began to play a really awesome game of What-If?

What if Dr. Cho and his church converted to Catholicism and ALMOST 1,000,000 PEOPLE ENTERED THE CHURCH AT ONE TIME?

What if Brian and Bobbie Houston of Hillsong Church in Australia converted? With Darlene Zschech?


What if Barack Obama converted?

The names and the hypothetical situations flew. Almost four hours later we had the whole world Catholic, a unified church, liturgical reform, and no abortions to boot. I call that dating with purpose. (That’s a joke, ladies and gentlemen).

We wrote the names down, no matter how crazy or controversial, as we thought of them, and decided that no matter how long it took us (we calculated about 8 and a half years), we would dedicate 30 days of daily mass and prayer for each of the names. Yes, we are crazy.


I thought that other people might like to get in on the spiritual sniping too! We pared the list down to 100 (not counting our personal petitions), and decided to post an Open Mission for all you fellow Vatican agents out there. Here’s how this will work:

  1. Each month (or 30 day segment, however it works out) will be assigned 10 names.

  2. You can choose one name off the list as your target for the month.

  3. Attend Daily Mass with special intentions for your person that month.

  4. Leave it in the hands of God.

You can participate for just one month, or all ten months, or just pray for the people who are participating. We’re wanting to start in January. None of these people may ever step foot into a Catholic church for the rest of their life. They may die blaspheming the name of Christ with their dying breath. This isn’t some holy, Get-Catholics-Fast ponzi scheme. The jury’s out on whether or not it was whispered into our subconscious by the Almighty or just the brainchild of two overzealous converts. WE AREN’T CLAIMING DIVINE REVELATION, HERE. But really – since when has daily mass for the intention of conversions of souls been a bad idea??

Never, that’s when.

So what do you think? Is anyone interested in participating with us?


9 Nov

It was wet-marshmallow sticky, and hot, hot, hot in March 2007, in Hefei, Anhui Province, People’s Republic of China.

We’d done it.

We made it.

With four international adoptions in five years, life had been a little rough for our family, but we survived, and we were on the other side of the world standing in a Civil Affair’s office that smelled of old books, bureaucracy, and sour laundry.

“Gotcha” Day was here.

Xiao Dian and Xiao Zhong were about to become Aeren Renae and Trenton Allen. Their short lives spent drinking recycled sewage water and living on the side of a mountain, five hours from the nearest village, in an almost-forgotten orphanage were about to be traded for a family. A home. A community of faith. Friends. Food. Water. Texas and Dr Pepper.

Aeren, who had been left to waste away in a hospital bed with no mental stimulation to speak of after facing death from unsanitary living conditions would get the medical treatment she needed. The cerebral palsy that destroyed any hope for a normal life five minutes before she crossed into the office would instantly morph into a starting point, not a finish line.

Trent, born without a foot and so heart-breakingly ashamed of his “deformity”, would finally be able to wear two shoes. He would be able to run. To play. To be a boy.

My parents fought hard for them. My entire family sacrificed – but not out of a sense of “doing our Christian duty”. We fought because they were US. They were Rutherford’s. They were our brother and sister, daughter and son – we were called to them. But they weren’t the only ones waiting that day.

A young boy who was about 5-years-old had arrived before any of the rest of us. He was sitting at a table, next to a representative from his orphanage, clutching a small photo-album until his knuckles turned white. It was a simple photo album, filled with pictures of his soon-to-be Forever Family. As soon as we entered the room he stared at our faces. He was disappointed we didn’t match any of the faces he had most likely spent countless hours burning into his mind, waiting for the day when they’d arrive and say,

“Hello, son – welcome home”.

But it didn’t damper his excitement for long. Soon he was running to each of us, grabbing our hand and pointing to the one picture that mattered more to him than any of the others.

“Mama!” he shrieked, over and over, “My mama is coming!”

It was one of the only English phrases he knew – but it was all he needed to tell us.

Children like these. . .

Are waiting for us to stop groveling in our despairs, to stop worrying about whether we can afford the latest car, the best higher education, the hottest clothes, to leave our failures and our mistakes behind us and push forward.

To bring them a future, and a hope.

What are you waiting for?

Please contact me if you are interested in these children. Their cases are classified as urgent.

On Tarzan and Conversion

28 Oct

I do not hug trees. I do not drink out of aluminum water bottles. I did buy some adorable reusable grocery bags at Forever 21, but half the time I forget to bring them along. Due to overexposure to Investigation Discovery and living in a city with one of the highest violent sexual crime rates per capita in the nation, when I’m alone I drive everywhere, even if the location is only a mile or so away. I’m not actively trying to slaughter the earth – but frankly, I’m just too busy/lazy/rebellious to do anything super active to SAVE the earth (more on this later).  All this to say, I am not usually a fan of environmentalist agenda that is entrenched so deeply in much of family entertainment these days. I am hyper-critical, I fully confess, and if I’m not careful I can find an evil conspiracy behind the most innocent of things (ugly disclosure time, you guys!). I am actively trying to combat this kind of negativity, though.

So the other day, when my young charges chose Tarzan as their daily movie choice, while I was elated that I did not have to watch Thomas the Tank Engine for the seventy-billionth day in a row, I was getting ready for a pompous, arrogant, IntellectaDouche criticism of the One World Peace Lovin’ Damn Frickin’ Hippie diatribe I was sure to find in this film that, in my far more ignorant, unenlightened childhood I counted among my favorites. Ahem. Unfortunately, I forgot that I’ve been praying to find God in every…single…thing like my daddy can. Forrealsz, he can get a divine revelation over a McDonalds Happy Meal. So, my expected 90 minutes of wild critical abandon was cut short by, you know, Almighty God?

If you haven’t seen the movie (and you really should – the writing is great, and the soundtrack is squee-inspiring), the basic premise follows the classic Tarzan story – Tarzan’s parents are killed by a cheetah, Tarzan is raised by gorillas, or apes, or something like that, and then the mandatory Disney romance transpires between Tarzan and the explorer Jane. So much of it reminded me of the conversion process that I just sat on the couch crying, with a snotty-nosed little boy asleep in my lap and a near-200-lb St. Bernard slobbering at my feet. Like Baby Tarzan, left to die in that tree house, our beliefs, our expectations, have been murdered. Our entire spiritual culture is gone – we know we have to find something different, but we don’t know what. We have to find shelter, but we don’t know where. I am so unbelievably blessed to have a family that loves me dearly, and for the most part either supports my decision to convert, or is getting over it – I did not lose my family in the conversion process. But I know of so many other converts who HAVE, and for them, they have to find an entirely new emotional home.

When you’re in that bleak chasm of I-can’t-keep-doing-what-I’ve-been-doing-but-I-don’t-know-if-I-can-really-make-this-leap, it is a genuine crisis. You’re terrified of what might happen if you stay, but you’re equally terrified by what might happen if you go. It’s not that God has abandoned us, it’s that we’re still too busy rationalizing and emotionalizing things within ourselves that we’re not willing to reach up and grab the hand that’s trying to pull us out of the abyss. And for far too many of us, the enemy is all too willing to seize that moment and whispers the lies that maybe, just maybe, ALL of this is a farce…maybe staying where we are is okay…maybe God will understand…maybe he’ll make an exception for us, this one time…maybe converting will spark a Beauty and the Beast style “Kill the beast!” villagers uprising and we’ll be martyred before we’re even able to be received into the church and made a Saint.

But when we’re faced with the beauty, and the peace, and the blazing, raging, earth-shatteringly silent roar of truth, we know.

We know what we have to do.

We know we have to obey God.

We know we have to follow this strange, new, thing that is so unlike everything we’ve known, and accept whatever comes next.

We have no choice. We’ve been burned by the flame of truth, and if we try to run there will be an ugly, blistering wound left behind that will kill us slowly.

Is it easy? Do we get everything right immediately? Do we have an instant metamorphosis into a beautiful CathoButterfly? No. We have fights. We have opposition in our new spiritual home. . .we have to fight battles just like we had to fight before. But it’s different this time. We have an entire community of Saints and Believers that have gone before us that are fighting and praying with us. We’ll fall down. We’ll screw up. But in the end? We win. Against doubt, against fear, against pain, and brokenness, and suffering, and starting over, we win. Not through our own strength, because we have none. But through the sweet, precious power of Christ, we win. We’re home, and nothing can ever, ever drag us out.


Also, the little elephant in the movie? Totally adorable.

Fundacatholics: why they make me want to jump off a cliff.

28 Sep

 I can see it coming. The glimmer in their eye that sparks as soon as I say something edifying about a Novus Ordo (or Eastern Rite) parish in town. When I’m caught entering the sanctuary without a headcovering (usually because unknowingly to me it floated off while running from my car to the church doors). When I quote Pope John Paul II on Facebook or mention reading the CCC or mispronounce a word in Latin.
Enter the Fundacatholic: “Pardon me ma’am, but your Vatican II is showing.”
Yes, well, the putrid scent of your Catholic arrogance is overwhelming me. When I decided to convert, I thought I was leaving denominationalism behind – unfortunately, it just tends to take on a different name in the Church. We call it Vatican II vs. Vatican I (or The High Holy Purveyors Of Truth). Do I consider myself a Traditionalist? No. Do I consider myself a Modernist? No. I’m Catholic. Period.

 I love the Traditional Latin Mass. It touches corners of my soul that before I began my conversion only ever came out of the shadows in the cold, dark, damp ballet studios where I poured out blood, sweat and more than a few tears. It’s personal to me. It’s coming face to face with God. The majesty and the imagery make me tremble before the Almighty, and I realize just how small I really am in Eternity – and just how powerful my God is.

 But the Novus Ordo is equally special. It’s like a family reunion. There are the cousins that irritate you. The grandfather that tells embarrassing stories. The crazy uncle who does things like hula hoop in a coconut bra in the middle of a barn. (True story. From family reunion. Not Mass). Is it as earth shatteringly beatiful as the TLM? Hardly. But it’s coming together in simplicity and union, and meeting God in community. Where the TLM, for me, is interior and vertical, the NO is exterior and horizontal. Both are necessary. Both are valuable. I recently attended my first Eastern Catholic Divine Liturgy, in the Maronite Rite, and it added even more to my spiritual life.

 I’m tired of the rigid “My way or you’re a heretical schismatic.” vitriol. My personal favorite is when it’s announced that non-Religious (and the definition of Religious is limited to only those who are anti V2) have no business studying the theology of the church, and should leave that to “The Intellectuals”. ?????

 But you know what? However blood-boilingly angry Fundamentalist-behaving Catholics make me, they are still my brothers and sisters, and I have to love them – just like I do everyone else. Just. . .in the meantime, please make sure you cover your Fundacatholicism when you’re in public – I can see your knees.