Friday, August 31, 2018

Thoughts On How to Fight for Our Church or Be a Sheepdog

I sent my post about wolves and hirelings to my father last night. He responded with a...

"Nicely done. I'm thinking about sheepdogs."

I knew exactly where he got that idea from.



My father is a retired submarine officer and he had sheepdogs on his subs all the time during the end of the Cold War. In the Navy sheepdogs are called Navy Seals.

Mark Devine writes that:

"..the vast majority of the world's population are sheep grazing in ignorant bliss of any threat,
oblivious to any situational condition of what surrounds them. A much smaller percentage of the population, though, is compromised of wolves that make it their business to prey upon the sheep."





The wolves are prone to violence and are comfortable taking what is not theirs, without conscience intervention.

The wolves tear into the weaker sheep while the others, and society at large, pay scant attention."

Mark Divine writes that there is a fractional percentage of the population who

straddle the line between the sheep and the wolves.

Dr. Dave Grossman, a writer and army officer who studied the psychology of the warrior in combat, called this group of people:

sheepdogs.


Sheepdogs keep "their eyes on the wolves to protect the sheep. The sheepdog is the soldier, sailor, marine, coast guardswoman, police officer, ethical leader and Good Samaritan.



It also needs to be you, if you are not there already."



Related image



This chapter, in a book about forging mental toughness, is really meant for those who are willing to step up in a time of crisis. The ones who DO something.






I wonder what a sheepdog looks like in our Church?

I left off on my last post thinking about what it means to REMAIN with the Good Shepherd with wolves and hirelings in our midst.

I'm starting to believe my father's answer, sheepdogs, means...being awake and strong. It means having a sense of duty and knowing the Good Shepherd's voice. Heeding EVERY instruction from the Good Shepherd.

Mark Devine writes that the first rule of engagement for a Sheepdog is:

1. STOP BEING PASSIVE. Commit to being a Sheepdog and making a difference. Pull your head out of the sand and pay attention to what is going on around you.

We WORK for our Good Shepherd EVERYDAY. Be a Sheepdog.

Sheepdog training starts with training your awareness, but it quickly moves from the "I-Self" sphere of personal mastery to the "We-Team" sphere of team mastery. 

No sheepdog operates alone, you see; a team is required to tip the balance against the violent elements. Contrary to our cultural story of staunch individualism, it is teams of like-minded individuals who change the world. 

I have good news! I know teams of sheepdogs already!


Image may contain: Nick Redmond, standing and outdoor


Yes! Good priests. I know them! I know a team of sheepdogs who met last night in our basement for the weekly "Holy Papas" meeting. A gathering of a handful of Catholic fathers from our parish, yes, good men!

I can often hear muffled music and laughter from downstairs. Much of what they do is a mystery to me, although I was told one of the fathers, James, brought delicious smoked ribs last night...ha! which is why it must have been so quiet there for a bit.





And I do know part of their sheepdog training is being in the Word...





It is not just the priests and fathers of families who need to be sheepdogs. It is all of us.

Being Sheepdog Strong requires that you set aside worry about what others think of you. Many may think your training and preparation to be extreme.

..be a leader and be viewed as the one willing to go the distance to train and prepare body, mind, spirit and team for some serious kick-ass if the wolves come around. 

When I think of the wolves I'm up against, we're up against, I don't think of pedophiles. They are wolves yes, but I'm after the fattened powerful wolves of corruption. The truth twisters and abusers of power that are embedded DEEP in our Church. It feels impossible for one sheepdog to sniff out a wolf in sheep's clothing, but not so in a TEAM of sheepdogs.

As the news of the cover ups and lies and darkness come out, out into the Light, we are witnessing the efforts of sheepdogs who have ALREADY been working. Sheepdogs who have been obedient to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

I am loving the idea of taking up this work. It is empowering me.



Yes. Yes of course, we will get nice letters from bishops telling us they will address this. We will fast and repent. I'm sorry if this sounds tongue in cheek, but speaking about cheeks, I'm kind of biting the inside of my mine and I'm tasting blood because I have been silent.

I'm pissed.

I want my Church back. Get out of my way. By my Baptism I am ready to CLAIM WHAT IS MINE..that I am a Daughter of His.

BELOVED.



I am Priest, Prophet and King.

You all preach it to me all the time.

Watch me OWN it.

I'm not standing in line anymore with my friend on the stretcher.

Standing in the line waiting for things to CHANGE so I can get my paralyzed friend healed. My sheepdog friends and I, we're gonna rip a hole through the ROOF.

We are going to tear apart your building of lies that is keeping us...keeping our friend.. from our Good Shepherd.


Sorry...got on a little rant there at the end. I feel Anger and Courage at the same time, which a friend pointed our today are daughters of Hope. Thank you for reading this, it is part of my Sheepdog training.

Hope you will take up this work.







Thursday, August 30, 2018

How I Revealed the Darkness In Our Church to My Children

I wonder if children take on the stress of their parents through non-verbal cues more than verbal?

For the past week or so I think my children have most likely blamed my tense face and huffing around, my short temper and biting words as mom/teacher trying to prepare for another year of school.



 My husband is in the military so we are also doing the wonderful "Where should we 
ask to go but maybe won't have a choice either way?!?!" dance as our billet list is due the end of this month. So, the little ones probably think that is stressing me out too. 

Yes those things are stressful, but they aren't depressing.


I am fighting depression. 

I am fighting the feelings of betrayal. 

I am angry. 

My poor children have no clue why.

But...today, in the middle of unpacking groceries (because the Spirit waits for THOSE kind of moments to press) I burst into tears.

It was with my three eldest daughters, nine and up. They had been helping.



I blurted it out, "Girls....I'm stressed because something is happening in our Church."

They looked at me with wide doe eyes silently asking the question, "What Mama?"

I half regretted opening my mouth. 

"So...our Church is in a very very dark time. I have tried to keep this from you, but I can't anymore.

 It is too big and it is making me so sad. 

It isn't fair how I have been acting toward you, I just don't know what to do."

They listen.

I start to sob. "Girls, I remember being at the little mini-mart at the academy watching the news broadcast a second plane hitting the towers on September 11th in New York City. Girls, I watched it and I knew that our country, the world, would not be the same. It was so much to feel. It was so scary and I will remember it the rest of my life."

Gah...tight throat, hot tears.

Breathe. 

Be vulnerable and show them strength through being weak.



"Girls, I feel like that same kind of moment is happening in our Church right now. There is darkness that is being made known and it is terrible. There were priests, many of them old men now, who did dark things to little children, to young people. This news happened in Pennsylvania. These priests in Pennsylvannia touched children in dark ways. Thousands of children, and these men hid. These men hid like wolves in sheep's clothing among us.


And so...the children grew up to become adults, who had to be very brave, to tell us there were..there are... wolves in our Church."



My girls don't know how to respond and I don't ask them to, but I do continue.

"Girls, we have to pray. We have to pray and we have to know some things about this news. 

The whole world is hearing about it. 

The whole world is hearing about this darkness in our Church. Many many people will leave the Church. Many people will say terrible things about our Church. They will wonder why we are Catholic. 

This will be especially hard for good priests, like our friends Fr Nick and Deacon Kyle, who are sheep like you and me. We have to pray for them."

"We also have to pray for more brave sheep. We need brave sheep to tell us where the wolves are, it will be so hard to hear, but we have to pray that more brave people who are suffering and wounded come forward. We need all the wolves out. We have to pray for other priests to speak up who know about the wolves."

"But what do we know about our Church girls? Who is taking care of our Church?"

Silence.

"We know that WE are the Church and we know that the Good Shepherd will take care of us."


I asked them if they had noticed how Monsignor's homily last week had been about this darkness. 

They had not.

And so, we decided we would keep unpacking our groceries to get to the pool. We would work together in our kitchen in our home, in our space set apart from the world, to put the food in its proper place.

It was all very anti-climatic.


So, I found the moment to think about my poverty before the huge task of trying to share this with my children. 

I found myself thinking about how small and helpless I am before this UGLY FOUL REVOLTING DISGUSTING GOLIATH.

Make my life, my vocation, this home, a tiny pebble Lord. 

So I get in the Word. The Book of Light, meant for all people in all times and I read from St John:

I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. 

This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. 



I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep." John 10:11-14

And I am left with thoughts of hirelings and how they run away.

The hirelings protect themselves. 

They protect themselves and leave the sheep ALONE. 

They don't love the sheep. 

They don't know each sheep by name. 

The hireling DOES NOT CARE ABOUT THE SHEEP and ONLY CARES ABOUT HIMSELF.

As the cup is wiped clean, as the temple is destroyed, as the sick branch is cut off the True Vine, I may need to share this other part of the parable. Not just wolves girls...but...hirelings. I am bracing myself for how STRONG this storm might get.

Breathe.

I can point my finger back at myself too.

We are all in this mess.

Would I have stayed awake while he prayed? Would I have stayed when they came to the garden to take Him away? Would I have said, "Yes I am a follower" outside the gates of the city by the charcoal fire? 

"Remain here and keep watch" Mark 14:33

Remain.

He uses that word doesn't He?

When we read the True Vine parable to the children in the atrium, the room set aside for encountering Jesus in Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, we ask the children what Jesus means when he says "remain"?

They answer...

Stay.

Don't go anywhere.

My beloved Jesus, my Good Shepherd, met me in the smallest piece of Bread. Life giving bread that changed the course of my life forever when I was struggling with pitch black darkness in own life. I didn't know Gift. I didn't know what being His friend meant. And He met me everyday, in the small that held Everything.

The Holy Eucharist is how He remained with me.

He remained. 

He never left me so I will stay with Him always.


So...

My deepest prayer in sharing this little moment I had with my children is summed up in the words of Sofia Cavelleti, the founder of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd...

"The mystery of faith brings us before the mystery of life and death. Every day we witness life being born and dying at every level of creation; every day we experience darkness and light. 

The Christian message does not ignore the scandal of evil and suffering; rather, this reality is central to our profession of faith. The Christian message illuminates the reality of evil and suffering with....

hope.

In proclaiming the mystery of our faith, we proclaim the resurrection, thus, the victory of life over death. We tell the world that death, negativity and darkness are destined to be conquered. We affirm that history will conclude in light, a light that has already begun to shine."

We can rest in the confidence that history will conclude in light but we have to respond. We have to explore what remaining with Him looks like with wolves and hirelings in our midst. We have to reflect on what being brave means. 

Peace friends.





Friday, August 3, 2018

My Net

I love the Call of the First Disciples in the Gospel of Mark. There is something so powerful about that drop the nets moment.

The I'm loved moment.

The I know Him moment.

The moment when you hear His voice and know that everything for the rest of your life makes sense, because the rest of your life you will be following and praising Him.



"As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, "Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men." Then they abandoned their nets and followed him.

He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him."

I've been stuck on this passage for a few months. I've heard it so many times before. The call was always for those particular men some two thousand years ago...Simon, Andrew, James and John. He surely doesn't call to me.. Stephanie.

Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.

But He has called me.

So, I want to point out that Simon and Andrew had nets that were "theirs." These nets might have been equipment on "their" boat. Or maybe for that day, they might have been a friends' boat, but had brought "their" nets with them. The two disciples....owned a net.

Then they abandoned their nets and followed him.

The OLD life and their OLD net...the OLD ways of life before Jesus, can not suffice for this kind of trade. He is going to make them fishers of men. So these disciples are taking up the work of the Good Shepherd. It's as if Jesus literally left the old net, useless on the ground...and placed into the open hands of these men...a new net, one that will enable them to do the work they are being called to.

When you were married, God literally handed you a new net. You literally dropped the old ways of the life you had before, and you have been given a new net.



The net is your vocation.

He calls you to it.

He gives you the new net.

You become fishers of men...in your marital vocation.

And what a beautiful net this is too! You get the awesome privilege of co-creating with the CREATOR. It seems unfathomable and yet, we have held that tiny gift in our own womb, in our hands.

A net bursting with new life.

This net holds those people that you are called to disciple in your own home. So much of my motherhood journey has been a constant turning to and turning in to the very people who are right in front of me. It is a journey of being clumsy with my net. A journey of watching it come up empty many times. A journey of being so sure of how to use it only to find out it is a tangled mess.



You see, when you have these nets, there are times for casting like Simon and Andrew.

There are times for mending like James and John.

I was a little obsessed for awhile that the distinction even had to be made. Scroll back up and read it!  Why...why didnt St. Mark just say...fishing!??!? But...within fishing, there is a time for casting and mending...and you need to DO both in order to catch!

In your vocation of marriage there is a time for casting. Are we being open to Life? Are we inviting others into our home? Are we GOING OUT as a family to be the Hands & Feet of Christ? Yes. Go...cast it!



One's home could even be seen as one beautiful big net that can be used for the Sea of Humanity in the Work of the Good Shepherd. A home that, when people come in, they can breathe and settle and they may wonder to themselves this space is set apart for this family to grow toward Someone.



For Whom are they setting this space apart for?

They can wonder about these things while you feed them yummy food...this is homemade strawberry pie purchased at the market run by the farm across the river....aaaaallll for YOU.



Casting is SO fun! Go ahead....toss that net..fling it! But..if...if you DO too much casting...I wonder, if the net, might not hold up. I wonder if it gets worn, if it gets snags or holes.

SO WE MEND OUR NETS TOO!

In your vocation of marriage there is a time for mending! Am I listening to my body's needs and my mental health and do I need to prayerfully abstain in my marriage? Do we need to say NO to the traditional "event" we always host so we can pull in a bit as a core family? Are we GOING OUT so much, even if it is too serve Christ, that we are too tired to serve each other in our home?

Oh the net...the net can stretch and stretch and BE bountiful if cast out, but to make sure it holds, it needs prayer, retreat...mending.



On the other hand...to just mend. To be afraid to cast...well...that's not what a net is for. It is not meant to sit on the bottom of the boat, it will not catch anything there. The control of having it on the bottom of the boat, is nice..your net can stay nice and pretty that way...but Jesus gave you your vocation of marriage...so that you too can participate in the work of bringing more people to him.

Can we think about the ways we mend and cast? I know all too well the signs of a home and of a marriage that has been stretched to breaking point, but not stretched because it is catching men but because it is wrapped around and hauling in things that my vocation ISN'T about.

Are we patiently learning this trade we are called to??

I know one thing...I have a Teacher and he tells me the when and where of this trade, if I would only learn His voice.

And so..how do we know the when and where of fishing, I will leave you with St Peter. Oh dear St Peter...who announces he will go fishing...and we read...that he doesn't catch anything until the Resurrected Lord tells him the when and where to cast:

After this, Jesus revealed himself again to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias. He revealed himself in this way. Together were Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus, Nathaniel from Cana in Galilee, Zebedee's sons and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We also will come with you." So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not realize it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, "Children, have you caught anything to eat?" They answered him, "No." So he said to them,

"Cast your net over the right side of the boat and you will find something."



So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish. John 21: 1-6