The Hope In ISIS

I was outside playing catch with Andrew a few days ago and one of my throws went way off course. He made a running, leaping, reaching catch before falling proudly to the ground with ball in glove. He, of course, gave a play-by-play commentary afterward saying, “Terrible throw by Mom, really awesome catch by Andrew!” Just calling it as he saw it (with a big smirk on his face). I saw it a little differently and happily gave him my point of view. My terrible throw gave him the opportunity to make an incredible catch. He needed my terrible throw.

As we all know, the atrocities being committed against Christians in Iraq, Africa, and elsewhere are top news stories of late. Our fellow Christians are being murdered and brutalized and, as our country’s leader stands seemingly silent, the situation feels dire and dark. We are feeling helpless as we watch in wide-eyed horror, with the powerful exception of coming together in prayer for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Certainly, I don’t want to make light of the horror by suggesting it compares to something as trivial as throwing a baseball around, but I do see tremendous Hope in the horror. ISIS is providing an opportunity to stand before the world and boldly give up everything for Christ. ISIS is drawing the line in the sand in a monstrous way, thereby allowing Christ followers to set an example and send a powerful message, to their God and to the world.

Arabic-NazareneEvery night, my family prays and gives thanks to God for these faithful Christians willing to risk everything, in the eyes of the world, for the one thing only seen with the eyes of Faith. They are a beacon, a light post on top of the hill, standing up for the only thing that truly matters. They risk everything to claim Christ and they know it. They possess Christ so much so that not only are they willing to die for Him, but mothers are willing to let their children die for Him. It is beautiful and it is encouraging. It is the Hope we need in this darkness, an example to be pondered while we pray for that kind of faith and relationship with the Savior. Do you have a faith worth dying for? What is our own suffering now in light of martyrdom and persecution?

Some of the most haunting images coming across my newsfeed are those of children and babies, mutilated and beheaded. The cry comes from deep within me as I think of my own sweet innocent baby. Surely, I would die for her. Why the innocent children, Lord? But then I ask myself, “Would the slaughter of only adults make it somehow more palatable”? These children are marked for Christ and I think it is a sign of even greater hope. Just as in the days of Herod, when he slaughtered all the male children because he couldn’t find the true object of his hatred, these holy innocents are being sacrificed. Then, as now, evil thrashed about like a kid having a temper tantrum, destroying all that it could in its path. Why? The answer is so simple and so full of HOPE!! Because God lives! God lives here and now and He has a plan unfolding. The Christians in Iraq are chosen as part of the unfolding. Those who have died, now live. They are a great light for the world and yet just a shadow of the True light that is coming.

Shortly after Anna died, I had a very strong message and experience that I could not fully understand. I wrote about it here. It was of a sunrise that wasn’t quite full of the splendor and majesty I was expecting or seeking, and yet it was a sunrise that dispelled the darkness all the same. It was a sunrise with the hope and expectation of bright rays burning through the clouds at any moment, but it was incomplete and fell short. What was the Lord trying to tell me? I understand that experience with a little more clarity now. We may not feel the hot sun on our faces quite yet, but we must TRUST fully, deeply, and wholeheartedly that the sun is there and the clouds cannot last forever. Even if that sun sets behind clouds and we are steeped in darkness, we must TRUST that it is only dark for a time. The sun will rise in splendor and glory.

The time to seize opportunities to choose Christ, to choose our faith, and to choose Truth is now. It is critically important that we hone a faith like Abraham. Pray for it. Beg God for the kind of faith that willingly offers your child as a sacrifice to Him. We all know the story of Abraham and Isaac when the Lord stays the father’s hand at the 11th hour and spares the son. We breathe a sigh of relief and hug our own children a little tighter, but that’s not the end of the story. Along comes Jesus, willingly offered and sacrificed by the Father, and this time there is no stay.  Anything less than the full sacrifice just does not get the job done. The willingness to lay down life isn’t adequate, only the actual giving of life will suffice for the salvation of the world. The sacrifice of Jesus was once for all, but it is the model for each of us to follow daily. There have been many throughout history who have done exactly that. We need to be prepared to give back to the Lord all that He has given us including our very life. It is the example of faith that we need for the salvation of our souls in these dark, dark days. Every single martyr is a beacon of HOPE that sends a clear and strong message. Dying is not true death. Dying for Christ is true Life.

Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (MT 16:24-26)

These holy men, women, and children who refuse to deny their Lord are heroes and champions. I will tell you of the true horror and tragedy taking place around the globe because, sadly, it will never get reported.  It is the tragedy of the Christians who are being given the opportunity to choose Him, but instead are denying the Christ. “But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven.” (MT 10:33) We must pray for them as we pray for ourselves.

When a gunman, the unpopular Truth, the socially unacceptable Church teaching, or the private battle with sin calls us to account, will we choose Christ or will we sever ourselves from the Body? No matter the consequence, will we have the courage to take the outstretched hand of our Blessed Mother and say, “Yes Lord. Not my will but yours be done.” At any cost? At every cost? After all, there is no cost greater than Eternity. Our brothers and sisters being persecuted by ISIS know this intimately and many have chosen boldly.

No matter their past sins or successes, when given the choice by ISIS to convert or die, their entire lives of faith have boiled down to one choice in one moment. And the rest of the Body proclaims, “Well done, good and faithful servants. Pray for us.”

Courage!

I was starting to think I might never have a prayerful moment or coherent thought again with the challenge of a new baby and a whole slew of kids to get settled in their various schools and activities. I’ve missed my little blogging world and all of you tremendously so here I am for a quickie post.

These days, this season that I’m in, is quite frankly an exhausting one! No sooner do I crawl into bed at night than it’s time to crawl out again. The pace is frenetic, this baby is hungry and all the kids need my attention. The cross of acutely missing Anna, day in and day out feels monotonous and heavy. Every day that she doesn’t walk back into our lives is a new day to work on growing spiritually; the only comfort. And my marriage needs time and attention too. It feels like I’ve hardly seen my hubby in weeks and weeks! There are two relationships in my life that sustain all else; one with Jesus Christ and the other with William Pullano. I can not afford to be too busy for either of them. The cost is simply too great. In short it seems everyone wants a piece of me! A couple of things struck me in the past week that have given me renewed courage and I thought I should share them with you all. After all, I think courage is a cornerstone for these times!

My friend Leila at Little Catholic Bubble published a post a couple of weeks ago titled Women: Save your marriage. In Five minutes. It is definitely worth reading and seems to have struck a chord in many circles. There has been a lot of buzz about it in the blogosphere and the post has been linked on several diocesan websites. I had to see what all the excitement was about and promptly ordered the book that Leila recommends in her post, “The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands.” by Dr. Laura Schlessinger. I dug right in and wasn’t even through the first chapter before the “Alleluia bells” started chiming! I love this book because Dr. Laura has a solid grasp of marriage as vocation and that takes center stage as she deals with just about every situation you can think of. The read is worth every minute of the investment and has something to offer for every marriage but I think these 6 tips alone, excerpted from one of her listener’s emails, will absolutely change your marriage. Right now. Today!

Kaye writes “…Thank God daily for such a terrific guy, mentioning specific qualities for which I’m grateful.

Look for daily ways to be a blessing to my husband (trying to understand what pleases him, anticipating his needs, etc.)

Chart my menstrual cycle and remind myself on the PMS days that what I’m feeling isn’t true and to keep my mouth shut and let it pass.

Avoid books, magazines, and TV shows that describe what marriage, family, and husbands ought to be like, and make a conscious effort to be grateful for things as they are instead of trying to change the people around me.

Take responsibility for my own emotional well-being: Stay rested, don’t overcommit and then complain, stay in touch with friends with a positive influence.

Stay focused on making a home for my family and remember that this is my highest calling and responsibility, and that it has eternal value. The more I do this, the happier and more content I am.”

I had to re-read these several times and really pray about how well I am or am not embracing these things! Grab a copy of this book and see for yourself.   Leila would love feedback for a follow-up post in the future so send her an email with your thoughts littlecatholicbubble@gmail.com (or contact me and I will pass it along)

The Alleluia bells rang for me again shortly after reading this when I decided to see for myself what the media buzz surrounding our Holy Father is all about. I’m sure you’ve seen the media headlines proclaiming ways in which the new Pope is single-handedly changing 2000 years of Church doctrine. It was a little shocking to hear our sweet little local newscaster proclaim such a thing when of course nothing could be further from the truth. I decided to see for myself what prompted such sensationalism and erroneous reporting and what I found was a lengthy interview FULL of beautiful truths and insights. Pope Francis’s humility is, well, humbling and if anyone wants to get to know Pope Francis the man, I highly recommend reading this interview in its entirety. But here is the one paragraph that called to me like a beacon.

“I see the holiness,” the pope continues, “in the patience of the people of God: a woman who is raising children, a man who works to bring home the bread, the sick, the elderly priests who have so many wounds but have a smile on their faces because they served the Lord, the sisters who work hard and live a hidden sanctity. This is for me the common sanctity. I often associate sanctity with patience: not only patience as hypomoné [the New Testament Greek word], taking charge of the events and circumstances of life, but also as a constancy in going forward, day by day. This is the sanctity of the militant church also mentioned by St. Ignatius. This was the sanctity of my parents: my dad, my mom, my grandmother Rosa who loved ​​me so much. In my breviary I have the last will of my grandmother Rosa, and I read it often. For me it is like a prayer. She is a saint who has suffered so much, also spiritually, and yet always went forward with courage.”

To go forward with courage, with patience in our day-to-day lives is our greatest sanctity and the means by which we can become saints!!!

I needed this reminder. It is basic stuff but somehow I allowed the noisy world around me to cloud the simple truth. In the face of day-to-day monotony, struggles, crosses we carry and even the greatest blessings that require something of us, God is present and doing a work in us.

I don’t have to do anything great today, I just have to do the very best I can right where I am. What Hope! What Joy! What rest!

Seriously, by loving my family and doing the laundry and the dishes and driving to activities, God is making me a saint? Not only can I do that, I want to do that!!

Courage my friends!

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