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St. Francis de Sales and the Velveteen Rabbit

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.” 

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”th (9)

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

 

I don’t know whether Margery Williams intended to teach us all a great spiritual lesson through her beloved children’s story, but she certainly did. Sometimes it hurts to let yourself be loved for real.It takes a long time, and you won’t look the same anymore. But once you’ve been loved that way, you don’t mind being hurt or looking shabby.

Such is the process of holiness for us. We’re not supposed to be satisfied to merely believe; we are to pursue holiness. We were never meant to hold private beliefs that are for our own good only. If we will begin to practice devotion, we’ll soon find out what it means to be loved and to be real.

Over four hundred years ago, a very gentle, very wise priest gifted the world with the radical and liberating knowledge that a devout life is for every person, in every state of life. Holiness is not only for those in religious life, he said, but for the married, the king or queen, the servant, the worker, the single person, the politician, the doctor, and so on. St. Francis de Sales opened the door for every soul to learn devotion, to practice it and live it, and so make great strides toward holiness, whatever the vocation.

It begins with love, because love, of course, is the heart of devotion. Love for God and for His will above our own. To freely love God, to be free to follow Jesus in humble obedience, there is first the matter of God’s love for us. As the wise old Skin Horse said, sometimes real love hurts. Jesus simply refuses to love me or you in any way other than for real, and this consuming love warms and burns and purifies; it comes with pain.

The first stab we must endure is the pain of being completely revealed. With no more pretense of hiding anything, we lock eyes with Him and know that He sees all and knows all. A rather intimidating thought, yes? The idea of having no secrets at all, not the smallest bit of knowledge about yourself that’s yours alone could be downright terrifying; it would be unbearable if not for the way He loves us.

With everything laid bare before Him, listen to what He says: “I have loved you with an everlasting love… I have called you by name and you are Mine.”

Immediately the anguish of being revealed dissolves in merciful love and a spot of fear is rubbed away. He loved us first, last and always. Despite our weakness and sinfulness, God loves us so much He became one of us and died for us. Settle the matter in your heart once and for all and then firmly resolve to live a holy life. Now it’s time, as they say, to get real.

One of my favorite lessons from St. Francis is this beautifully simple directive: “Let us be who we are, and be that well, so as to honor the Master Worker, whose handiwork we are.” Devotion to God will lead me to my real self, the “me” that God has always intended me to become. The Skin Horse was right about that part, too. We do become. It takes a long time.

Every day that I give myself intentionally to His service out of love, I become more myself. Each time I choose to act quickly to do that thing God asks of me, my devotion grows. Each time I get up after I have failed and do not wallow in discouragement, fear diminishes and love increases. When I decide to practice patience, humility, honesty, gentleness and mercy, my soul makes progress in holiness.

It’s not great or extraordinary things that push us on toward holiness. It is the ordinary, unseen, simple acts of our normal, everyday lives that accomplish this when we perform them willingly, eagerly, simply because He asks. And make no mistake – those everyday actions particular to our state in life, our vocation today, are exactly what He asks of you and me. I can stop looking for a more glamorous or grandiose way of serving Him, because what He asks is that I care for my family and keep my house in order.

St. Francis also reminds us that the pursuit of holiness must be practical. It must transform our thoughts, our attitudes, our actions, and our attributes. Love must change us. It’s the way we become real… and it hurts a little. But once again, the old Skin Horse was right. You don’t mind being hurt when Love is making you real. The hurt becomes sweet to us because as our devotion grows, we only desire more of Him, more of what He wills for us. And spots begin to fade, stitches come loose, sharp edges are softened, and we who would have been easily broken are made strong by Love.

th (12)

I’ll leave you with these words from St. Francis:

“Don’t waste your time dreaming of being someone else. Don’t try to be someone else. Work and pray at being yourself. Be who you are, where you are. Concentrate on the little everyday problems and pains that beset you. Reserve your best efforts; expend your spiritual energy on what is right before you. This is what God asks of you. Listen closely. This is very important – and very misunderstood – for we all prefer to do what is to our personal liking. Very few of us choose duty first, or the will of God. Don’t cultivate someone else’s garden. Grow where you are planted.”

I think St. Francis would have loved The Velveteen Rabbit.

th (8)th (11)

 

© Jennifer Hartline. All Rights Reserved.

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Etsy vs. Pinterest

Etsy vs. Pinterest

Pinterest is a site I haven’t found much use for. It seems to be a digital bulletin board, where you can “pin” things you find of interest wherever they may be online. Recipes, clothing, interesting articles to read, shopping sites, etc. You name it, you can create a “board” and “pin” things you want to save and go back to later on.

Etsy is like a digital Mom & Pop store shopping center. Small businesses, crafty people making homemade goodies of every kind, all together in one spot. You can shop many different “stores” and put everything you want to purchase in one cart. I have shopped on Etsy many times, and never yet been disappointed with my purchases. It’s nice to find things that are unique and well-made.

Recently I’ve been made aware of another site called Peter’s Square, which is very similar to Etsy except the merchants are all Catholic. The merchandise ranges from t-shirts to jewelry to icons and statues and rosaries and more. I was able to purchase beeswax candles from a man in Ukraine and help support him and his family. Peter’s Square also charges the merchants smaller fees than Etsy, which means the merchants keep more of their profits. So you’re purchasing good Catholic products and supporting Catholic business owners. Win win!

 

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Why I Am Catholic

I can think of only one reason to be Catholic, and to remain Catholic. Because I have realized it is true. All of it.

And if it is not true, then nothing is true, and there truly is no hope anywhere.

But the older I get, the more it sinks into my bones, and I know the Church is my only home, and keeper of the only Truth, because the Church is His, and He remains with the Church in Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.

I may limp along in my faith sometimes; for long stretches of time, even. But I know I would starve to death without Jesus in the Eucharist. And as Flannery O’Connor famously said, “If it’s only symbolic, then to hell with it.” Exactly. If it is not Real Food, then to hell with it because it’s worthless. Who needs another symbol? We need genuine food. And we have it in the Church.

We have the Word of God for our minds, our ears, our hearts, our spirits, and our bodies. I cannot leave. There is nowhere else to go. I am Home.

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

The Very Unfunny Truth Bill Cosby has Taught Us

Bill-Cosby

Published at The Stream

It seems very likely that Bill Cosby is not the kind of man we thought he was. While he hasn’t been convicted of a crime, and perhaps never will be, there is a growing mountain of accusations, and now sworn court testimony, that reveal a pattern of grave and disgusting abuses on his part against women.

More than anything, this makes me very sad. I have been a Cosby fan for decades. I’ll say it — I love Bill Cosby. At least the public, creative Bill Cosby I’ve known all my life.

As a kid, I remember marveling to myself that Cosby made me laugh and care so much about some cartoon kid named Fat Albert.

I still remember the commercials he made for Jell-O Pudding Pops. The pudding pops were yummy, but Cosby’s charming antics made them just plain awesome. It was the treat to have back then.

I can’t count how many times I listened to his Noah’s Ark routine. We had the LP version (yep, a record player!), and my entire family would stop whatever else they were doing when they heard it playing, and come sit down and laugh. We’d laugh, and laugh, and cry, and hold our aching stomachs, and howl with delight. It was the funniest thing I’d ever heard. In fact, it still is.

Even without the benefit of seeing his hilarious facial expressions, we enjoyed cheek-hurting laughter time and time again. “Noah!” “How long can you tread water? Hahahaha!”

And his parenting routines? Classic. I still remember the one about him feeding his kids chocolate cake for breakfast, patting himself on the back for his ingenious insight: Eggs! And milk! In the chocolate cake!

Not until I became a mother did I fully appreciate the wisdom and accuracy of his repertoire of parenting jokes. Remember when he and his wife brought home their first child, a daughter, and they marveled at the adorable little poopy diapers she made? “Then one day, God put odor in the poo-poo…” It’s true!

And who can forget Little Tiny Hairs? Simply hilarious.

Cosby’s humor was unique and rare even 40 years ago. It’s practically unheard of today. It was classy, intelligent, clever, truly creative, and clean. He didn’t rely on profanity or R-rated (or worse), crass, derogatory, or sexually explicit material.

He was incredibly funny without ever assaulting my ears or my innocence.

And yes, I know how very ironic that statement is now. That’s why it makes me so very sad. A brilliant and happy legacy is now forever tarnished and left in ruins. A man with rare talent, beloved by so many for so many years, now will be remembered as a lecher and possibly a rapist.

I wish it weren’t so because I would have loved to share Cosby’s humor with my own children. Mostly, I wish it weren’t so because my heart aches for the women he has hurt, especially his wife. It seems clear that if nothing else, he’s guilty of serial adultery.

We are in dire need of learning the lesson his wreckage has to teach us about ourselves and our self-indulgent, debauched culture.

He was a master on the comedy stage; a slave to his own passions in real life, and those passions weren’t impressed by his accomplishments or his fame. They just took him down.

It may be unfashionable these days to speak of virtue, and positively appalling to speak of chastity, but such are precisely the remedies that would have saved Cosby’s life and legacy. They’ll save us, too, if we’re smart.

It’s a simple as this: work continually toward self-mastery and be happy, or live as a slave to destructive passions and be miserable and hurt other people. That truth runs completely counter to the directive of our culture, but with such a stunning exhibit of the culture’s handiwork, let’s have a good look at it, shall we?

What’s the key to self-mastery? Virtue.

“Human virtues are firm attitudes, stable dispositions, habitual perfections of intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to reason and faith. They make possible ease, self-mastery, and joy in leading a morally good life. The virtuous man is he who freely practices the good. The moral virtues are acquired by human effort. They are the fruit and seed of morally good acts; they dispose all the powers of the human being for communion with divine love.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1804)

Which virtue in particular will help us learn self-mastery? Chastity.

“Chastity includes an apprenticeship in self-mastery which is a training in human freedom. The alternative is clear: either man governs his passions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy. “Man’s dignity therefore requires him to act out of conscious and free choice, as moved and drawn in a personal way from within, and not by blind impulses in himself or by mere external constraint. Man gains such dignity when, ridding himself of all slavery to the passions, he presses forward to his goal by freely choosing what is good and, by his diligence and skill, effectively secures for himself the means suited to this end.” (CCC 2339)

“The virtue of chastity comes under the cardinal virtue of temperance, which seeks to permeate the passions and appetites of the senses with reason.” (CCC 2341)
“Self-mastery is a long and exacting work. One can never consider it acquired once and for all. It presupposes renewed effort at all stages of life.” (CCC 2342)

It’s a terrible shame that Bill Cosby’s remarkable genius was sullied by destructive passions. But the point is, the potential for such disaster is not outside our doors, not just out there in the fallen world, but within our own selves. No one is immune to temptation or struggle in this life.

Still, each one of us is charged with the task of mastering those passions which will otherwise destroy us and those around us. The good news is that we’ve been given the means to do it. Pray for supernatural strength and practice virtue, particularly chastity, every day. Flee from the devil, resist temptation, and if you fail, don’t give up the long and exacting work of self-mastery. Start again. Exercise freedom properly, and choose what is good and honorable. We each have everything to gain if we do, and everything to lose if we don’t.

 
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Posted by on July 8, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Independence Day

John Adams on Independence Day or “the Day of Deliverance”:

“I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more. You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.”
-John Adams, letter of July 3, 1776 to his wife Abigail

john adams

 
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Posted by on July 4, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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An Old Letter We All Must Read Again

Time to make sure we live up to this description once again.

Christians are indistinguishable from other men either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life. Their teaching is not based upon reveries inspired by the curiosity of men. Unlike some other people, they champion no purely human doctrine. With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is Greek or foreign.

And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labor under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. Like others, they marry and have children, but they do not expose them. They share their meals, but not their wives.

They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law. Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again. They live in poverty, but enrich many; they are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything. They suffer dishonor, but that is their glory. They are defamed, but vindicated. A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult. For the good they do they receive the punishment of malefactors, but even then they, rejoice, as though receiving the gift of life. They are attacked by the Jews as aliens, they are persecuted by the Greeks, yet no one can explain the reason for this hatred.

To speak in general terms, we may say that the Christian is to the world what the soul is to the body. As the soul is present in every part of the body, while remaining distinct from it, so Christians are found in all the cities of the world, but cannot be identified with the world. As the visible body contains the invisible soul, so Christians are seen living in the world, but their religious life remains unseen. The body hates the soul and wars against it, not because of any injury the soul has done it, but because of the restriction the soul places on its pleasures. Similarly, the world hates the Christians, not because they have done it any wrong, but because they are opposed to its enjoyments.

Christians love those who hate them just as the soul loves the body and all its members despite the body’s hatred. It is by the soul, enclosed within the body, that the body is held together, and similarly, it is by the Christians, detained in the world as in a prison, that the world is held together. The soul, though immortal, has a mortal dwelling place; and Christians also live for a time amidst perishable things, while awaiting the freedom from change and decay that will be theirs in heaven. As the soul benefits from the deprivation of food and drink, so Christians flourish under persecution. Such is the Christian’s lofty and divinely appointed function, from which he is not permitted to excuse himself.” 

 
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Posted by on July 1, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Whom Will You Serve?

serveIf somehow Catholics didn’t realize it before Friday, I hope the realization has dawned. We have a choice to make.

If you’re a Catholic who feels like celebrating this wretched Supreme Court decision to impose same-sex “marriage” on the nation, may I strongly suggest that you reconsider your cheers.

I saw a lot of that on Facebook all day on Friday. Catholics, using the transparent rainbow on their profile pictures; Catholics repeating the secular line about “not imposing their beliefs” on anyone; Catholics talking about their unwillingness to “judge” anyone who supports same-sex “marriage”, and so forth.

It was discouraging to say the least.

It means that too many Catholics have been catechized only by the secular culture and not by the Church. They believe the lie that by speaking the truth, they are “imposing” their beliefs on others. They fear the accusations of hatred and bigotry from friends or family more than they fear the Lord.

That may sound harsh, but let’s cut through the crap and get right to the point. Each of us must choose whom we will serve. We can no longer live as though agreeing with the world isn’t disagreeing with God.

We’ve gotten away with such duplicity, it seemed to us anyway, until now because the culture tolerated it.

Those days are over.

The Supreme Court has declared a “new orthodoxy”, as Justice Samuel Alito called it. How fitting that he used religious terminology to describe Friday’s ruling and this new mandated form of “marriage” that we must all accept, by their decree.

“Today’s decision usurps the constitutional right of the people to decide whether to keep or alter the traditional understanding of marriage. The decision will also have other important consequences. It will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy. In the course of its opinion, the majority compares traditional marriage laws to laws that denied equal treatment for African-Americans and women. The implications of this analogy will be exploited by those who are determined to stamp out every vestige of dissent.”

Dissent from this new orthodoxy will certainly not be tolerated, even to the smallest degree. This brings us swiftly to the decision point: Who will it be? God or Caesar? There is no middle ground — that earth has been scorched.

If there remains confusion about what our Church teaches on the subject, let’s clear it up. From Canon lawyer Ed Peters:

“Catholic doctrine and discipline can never, ever, recognize as married two persons of the same sex, and any Catholic who regards “same-sex marriage” as marriage is, beyond question, “opposed to the doctrine for the Church” (Canon 750 § 2). I am sorry so many Catholics apparently think otherwise and I recognize that many who think that Church teaching on marriage can and should change, do so in good faith. But they are still wrong and their error leads them, among other things, to underestimate how non-negotiable is the Church’s opposition to the recognition of same-sex unions as marriage.”

And from the United States Catholic Bishops:

“Regardless of what a narrow majority of the Supreme Court may declare at this moment in history, the nature of the human person and marriage remains unchanged and unchangeable. Just as Roe v. Wade did not settle the question of abortion over forty years ago, Obergefell v. Hodges does not settle the question of marriage today. Neither decision is rooted in the truth, and as a result, both will eventually fail. Today the Court is wrong again. It is profoundly immoral and unjust for the government to declare that two people of the same sex can constitute a marriage.

The unique meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is inscribed in our bodies as male and female. The protection of this meaning is a critical dimension of the “integral ecology” that Pope Francis has called us to promote. Mandating marriage redefinition across the country is a tragic error that harms the common good and most vulnerable among us, especially children. The law has a duty to support every child’s basic right to be raised, where possible, by his or her married mother and father in a stable home.”

It doesn’t matter how popular same-sex “marriage” becomes. It changes nothing, because the truth of the human person and marriage will never change. Catholics need to understand that marriage has an ontology that cannot be changed. There are no such things as round triangles; or green made from two similar shades of yellow; and there is simply no such thing as marriage between two men or two women. It is an impossibility.

In the beginning God created them male and female… Do we now think that God made a mistake? Are we really so arrogant as to insist that what God designed and ordained can be altered because the present age demands it?

On the one hand, I believe there are those, as Ed Peters said, of good will who think Church teaching should change. They are wrong, but I don’t doubt their good will.

I think there’s something else at play here as well though, and that’s self-image, fear, and personal cost. We want to be nice. No one wants to be called hateful. No one wants to be branded a bigot. Nobody wants to lose friends or family over the “issue” of marriage. No one wants to risk being publicly ridiculed and persecuted for not riding the rainbow parade float.

It’s hard to stand against the crowd. When the crowd looks like they want blood, nobody wants to offer theirs.

It’s very hard to withstand the accusations of being narrow-minded, discriminatory, homophobic, backwards, bigoted, and hateful. It means being very unpopular in a world that prizes popularity.

Christians who’ve not suffered for their faith often romanticize persecution. They imagine themselves willing to lose their jobs, their liberty, or even their lives for standing up for the Gospel. Yet when the moment comes, at least here in the United States, they often find that they simply can’t abide being called “hateful.” It creates a desperate, panicked response. “No, you don’t understand. I’m not like those people — the religious right.” Thus, at the end of the day, a church that descends from apostles who withstood beatings finds itself unable to withstand tweetings. Social scorn is worse than the lash.”

Indeed. It’s terrifying to risk great personal sacrifice; even real persecution in the loss of a business or job or position; or agonizing grief at losing a loved one or a friend. It takes some real inner steel, some unshakable conviction to stand firm in the face of all that.

But there is no compromise. If we choose to obey the world’s mandates, we will forsake the God we claim to love and forfeit our eternal inheritance.

Some will read those remarks and recoil, saying how can a God of love condemn me for supporting “equal rights” for all people?

Catholics need to understand there is no “right” for two men or two women to marry, just as there is no “right” to kill the unborn child in abortion. Just because people may want to do something doesn’t mean they have the right to do it.

Feelings are not the barometer of moral rightness. Love is not a feeling!

Is all this hatred toward homosexual persons? No, it is not! At least not what is being called hatred. If by hatred, you mean saying that homosexual sex is not licit and morally right, then there’s the problem. If by hatred, you mean saying that marriage only exists between a man and a woman, then there’s the second problem. If by hatred, you mean upholding the Natural law and the truth of the human person created male and female, then that’s the trouble.

It isn’t hatred to say what is true. It isn’t hatred to obey the sovereignty of God’s law, and to recognize the Natural law. (For the record, it’s also true that adultery, fornication, and pornography are also immoral, illicit, unacceptable. It isn’t hatred to say so.)

Frankly, Catholics have got to stop being so emotional about all this. We’ve got to stop worshiping everyone’s feelings, including our own.

Don’t be deluded into thinking it ends with marriage. Oh, no. Far from it.

The end goal is the family. The militant activists in this movement to normalize homosexual sex will not stop until they have decimated the family unit of father, mother, and children. They call it “heteronormative” as though being male and female is by its very nature discriminatory against homosexuals.

The movement to wipe out gender entirely is well underway and gaining tremendous steam. A man can chemically castrate himself, get breast implants, hair extensions, wear a push-up bra and make-up and voila! He’s a woman, because “gender is a social construct” that must now be rendered meaningless.

“Sex Ed” beginning in Kindergarten now will indoctrinate children into this kind of thinking, and cause healthy, normal, impressionable young kids to question their own sexuality, their own gender, and reject the natural differences between boys and girls in favor of “gender fluidity”. They will be taught to see their God-given bodies as separate and even opposed to how they feel, then told all that matters is how they feel.

We’re on a luge going at breakneck speed toward this depraved societal revolution. Catholics who are celebrating this as a “victory” for equal rights are as sorely deceived as the rest of the crowd, but far more accountable because they are obligated to know better.

Now that marriage means anything (and thus, nothing), now that being male or female either means nothing or whatever we want it to mean, the assault on the family by the enemy of our souls will gain a power and intensity most of us are not prepared for.

We have to stop being afraid of hurting someone’s feelings and start focusing on eternal truths.

The goal isn’t to discriminate against anyone or deny anyone their human rights. The goal is to not be deceived into believing that sin is no longer sin just because that sin has become wildly popular and celebrated by the whole world.

“And if you be unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

It’s decision time for every Catholic in America: the false gods of our culture, or the Lord. There’s no fence to straddle. It’s time for courage and fidelity.

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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