Friday, January 30, 2015

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Passing Look At Football

Below is a great article by Sr. Anne Marie Walsh as Super Bowl Sunday draws near...

A Passing Look At Football 

This is a hard article to write because I love football.  


I come from a family of nine:  Mom, Dad, 6 brothers and myself.  From late August through January,  the Sunday family ritual always included football.  Packers football. No question.  We all went to Mass together, and when we came home, Dad gave Mom a break by feeding all of us ham and rolls from the local bakery.  

Then, we settled in front of the TV for time together, united in one and the same desire for a good game and a win for our team.  It was something we were all a part of.   As a girl, I was not excluded.   A fan is a fan after all!  We loved being able to throw ourselves into the game with Dad.   And he enjoyed teaching us all he knew.  As a result, I can talk football with the best of them.  Every game links me back to the feels, smells, tastes and high excitement of Sunday afternoons growing up.

So what is the problem?  It is difficult to admit but my observation is that football today (which I still watch and enjoy) has become a kind of liturgy of the secular culture.  And unfortunately, it is the only "liturgy" many people participate in on a weekend.  

Humor me for a minute and consider the typical game.  There is a communal gathering, most often on a Sunday. People arrive hours ahead of time, prepared to celebrate.  They are willing to sit in open air stadiums, through rain, sleet, snow and even subzero temps, hoping  to participate in their teams' victory.   The Game begins with an entrance procession in which the specially vested (uniformed) enter the sanctuary (I mean arena).  An opening hymn (National Anthem) is sung.  The seating of the congregation (fans/crowd) takes place, and the beginning of long commentaries (or mini homilies) on the game play starts.  The crowd has the "appropriate" responses, before, during and after.  And, of course, there is special football food and drink.  The homage paid is evidenced by the offering of incredible amounts of time, money and attention on both sides of the ball, by the Management, and by the fans.  All elements of Liturgy, but without the Divine.  Interesting.

I find myself wondering about these players today.  There are many I admire, who 
acknowledge God for their gifts and express gratitude for His help.  (I do wonder if they're given time on Game Day for worship.)  But there are also many I've had to mentally "unfriend" after learning about the lack of integrity in their personal lives.  This is not because I am any better than anyone out there.  I have my sins too.  But at the same time being gifted doesn't give anyone the right to behave like a jerk, especially as a public figure who has a part in shaping the attitudes of youth. No free passes here.

Disinhibition is a growing contemporary phenomenon that is alive and well in the world of sports.  Fame nowadays seems to give stars license to do and say almost anything they feel like, with little repercussion.  It can bring out the worst, just as it does on the internet, where there seems to be hardly a filter left.  (Witness the commentary after any article or post.  It is 90 % negative, filled with incivility and vitriol.  It is embarrassing to see the level that people regress to when there is no moderating influence on them.)

Personally, I prefer to see character, not beast mode, on display.  It is mortifying to see grown men behave with vulgarity and crudeness, braggadocio and temper tantrums, gifted or not.  Ego can be an ugly thing to watch.  And were it not for penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct, who knows how far it would go? 

When I discover I have been duped by a public  persona I am always disappointed and it causes me to back up. Public image does not make the man.  And being gifted can create a lot of illusions we eagerly buy into.  In our minds we can form one-sided, sentimental relationships with our favorite players (Hollywood star, musician, etc.), all based in fantasy.  We idolize people who don't actually exist because we've made them up in our minds.  In a similar way, women complain about being loved just for their bodies and not known for who they really are.  So it is good to "unfriend" these kinds of ghosts.

Mind you, football, like most everything, has always had it's bad guys.  And nobody who knows the game wants it regulated into a tea party.  But really, when increasing violence becomes the objective, and winning at all costs is the only motivation, (witness Spygate, Bountygate, Deflategate, etc.) then something is wrong.  The game is on the dangerous road to the Roman coliseum.  No joke.

I find myself wondering about us too.  It is a strange enmeshment.  Our own identities become wrapped up with our teams.  We're no longer merely fans.  When we say we're going to the Super Bowl we mean it personally.  And we sometimes take it personally when
our teams don't do well, as if they have directly failed us and altered our lives forever.  It must be a great weight for particular players to realize that thousands, perhaps even millions, are vicariously living out their own desires for success and excellence through them.  

Fantasy of course, in the world of the football money changers is now big business too.  And money does  drive the game.  But it's worth remembering that the coin of Caesar is not the currency of heaven.  And Hollywood stars, sports heroes and any famous person, will not find entrance there based on their popularity, or performance in their field.  They may be known the world-over, yet still hear The Lord say:  "Depart from Me.  I never knew you." One of my favorite quarterbacks recently said he doesn't think God "cares a whole lot about the outcome (of a game).  He cares about the people involved."  -A Rodgers, SI wire.  I agree.  As Jesus said: "What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world yet lose his soul."  Mark 8:36. The measure of success in this world is hardly the measure of success in the next.

So, is there room for football on a Sunday?  I hope so.  With a few cautions.   Like anything we enjoy, there is a temptation to go overboard and to give inordinate amounts of attention to what we love until before we know it we're in a kind of bondage to it.   

It's good to remember that worship and recreation/ entertainment, are different things.  And it's good to remember, as Archbishop Fulton Sheen pointed out that “If you do not worship God, you worship something, and nine times out of ten it will be yourself."   (Sports can definitely become a vehicle for the vicarious worship of oneself, even as a spectator.)   Archbishop Sheen reminded us, " we have a duty to worship God, not because He will be imperfect and unhappy if we do not, but because we will be imperfect and unhappy.”  He also wisely noted that  "All these externalizations are signs that we are trying to escape God and the cultivation of the soul".  So, first things first.  

In the meantime it is helpful to understand that our attraction to physical and moral excellence touches on our yearning for the transcendent, which will only be completely realized in Christ.  He is the fullness of all excellence! That is why excellence is exciting to see in any area.  Sports is no exception.  Pope John Paul II expresses this beautifully:

"...every sport, at both the amateur and competitive level, requires basic human qualities such as rigorous preparation, continual training, awareness of one’s personal limits, fair competition, acceptance of precise rules, respect for one’s opponent and a sense of solidarity and unselfishness. Without these qualities, sport would be reduced to mere effort and to a questionable, soulless demonstration of physical strength.

“When sports are played and understood in the right way, they are an extraordinary expression of a person’s best inner energies and of his ability to overcome difficulties, to set goals to be reached through sacrifice, generosity and determination in facing the difficulties of competition.”

All lessons  to be learned and disciplines to be cultivated in facing the  ever present challenges and battles that need to be won in our own lives!  

Sr. Anne Marie Walsh, SOLT 

I Will Follow

Check out this incredible new vocations video produced by Ascension Press! God is still calling heroic men to follow Him to the priesthood. Know of any? Watch it and pass it on!



Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Man, Woman and the Meaning of Life

I am absolutely loving this incredible video series on man, woman and marriage that debuted this week at Humanum, an international colloquium in Rome.

This series is visually captivating and deeply substantive. So beautiful!

Here is the trailer that introduces the series of six short documentaries. Check out the rest on the Humanum youtube page.

Watch, learn and share.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Loved As I Am

I am delighted to announce the November 3rd release of my first book, Loved As I Am.

Read a sample here and buy it at www.avemariapress.com

Thank you!


Auto-correct Humanity?

Thought-provoking

Synods and Such

Twitter and the blogosphere has been abuzz regarding the report released Monday by the participants of Synod on the Family. It was a gut-check for a lot of Catholics while others hailed the "revolutionary" language of the document regarding marriage, same-sex attraction and birth control.

Fr. Robert Barron posted one of the best responses to the document that I have seen. I appreciate his honest, historical perspective on what seems like a daunting synodal direction.

Let us continue to pray and fast for all those who are participating in the Synod. Dealing with crises is never easy- where it be the topics of Christology, salvation or what it means to be human. I think we would all like a tidy discussion on these matters with a swift, orthodox consensus. However, even from the beginning of Christianity, it has never been a tidy affair. From the beginning we see things like weakness, betrayal, deceit and cowardice. And I think if we are honest, we see those things in ourselves at times. We ALL need the grace of God who gives us every good thing.

Yet, in all of our "crooked lines", God makes a pathway. Let us continue to allow God to purify our motives and sentiments. May He embolden us to speak the truth with love, even when it's hard.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Awesome New Blog

The most popular guest blogger on my blog, Sr. Anne Marie Walsh, now has her own site! Read her wisdom at: http://missionaryinthemodernworld.blogspot.com

Sr. Anne Marie is our former SOLT General Superior and she has an incredible ministry in the areas of healing of families and women's ministry. Visit her site and invite her to speak at your parish today!!


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Divine Love

From Sr. Anne Marie Walsh-


The Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Urgency of Divine Love
In 1673, Jesus began appearing  to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, a humble nun of the Visitation Order, in Paray Le Monial, France.  He revealed to her the tender wonders of His love for her, desiring through her to share these same wonders with the whole world.  

In the course of His revelations to St. Margaret Mary, Jesus complained of our ingratitude.  But His complaint was weighted with the sorrow of a lover who knows not what else He can do to gain the attention of his beloved, a beloved who is totally distracted and uncomprehending.  In the great apparition which occurred sometime during the octave of the Feast of Corpus Christi, 1675, He said, in what must have been an imploring spirit, "Behold the Heart which has so loved men that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming itself, in order to testify its love.”

We should ask ourselves: What is it we behold, what is it we see, when we look at the Heart of Christ? What is Jesus trying so hard to show us?

It is interesting that Jesus says: "Behold the heart," and not:  "Behold My heart."  Jesus, in His Incarnation, comes to reveal the Father to us. Scripture says Jesus "is the image of the invisible God." (Col 1:15) He tells the Apostles:  "If you see Me, you see the Father."  (Jn 14:9)

So is He not really saying: "Behold the Heart...which is the Heart of the Father.  If you only knew the depths of His love!” ?

One of the most compelling revelations of the Heart of God in Scripture is found in the father of the prodigal son. The younger son, returning home after losing everything, though genuinely repentant, is in survival mode. He approaches the father completely broken by his own sinful choices. He has utterly spurned his father's love and squandered every gift that has been given to him.

Yet the love in the heart of the father who has been anxiously watching and praying for his son's return sees only that his son is back.  And though the son has no real expectations, other than to be treated as a slave, the father's response instead is an explosion of love! He orders the best robe, a ring for his finger, sandals for his feet, and the commencement of a feast!  His heart has no other response.  Not anger, not judgment, not punishment.  Only rejoicing, tearful embraces, and celebration! Perhaps we are sometimes held back from approaching or returning to our Father, because we have the same poor expectations as the prodigal son did.  Our defective appreciation of God's love only harms us!

The sufferings of our lives, especially those that come from our sinful choices, wound our hearts and often plunge us into our own little hells on earth.  But the Wound in the Heart of Christ, which we caused, is different.  It is a gateway into the Father's love.  Entering that Wound takes us on our first steps into Heaven.

Witness the promises of Jesus to those who recognize His love, the Father's love, and seek to live in the Heart that is the source of that love.  These promises were given to St. Margaret Mary as part of the revelations of Divine Love and are made to those who are devoted to Jesus' Sacred Heart:

1.  I will give them all the graces necessary for their state of life.

2.  I will establish peace in their families.

3.  I will console them in all their troubles.

4.  They shall find in My Heart an assured refuge during life and especially at the hour of their death.

5.  I will pour abundant blessings on all their undertakings.

6.  Sinners shall find in My Heart the source of an infinite ocean of mercy.

7.  Tepid souls shall become fervent.

8.  Fervent souls shall speedily rise to great perfection.

9.  I will bless the homes where an image of My Heart shall be exposed and honored.

10. I will give to priests the power of touching the most hardened hearts.

11. Those who propagate this devotion shall have their names written in My Heart, never to be effaced.

12. The all-powerful love of My Heart will grant to all those who shall receive Communion on the First Friday of nine consecutive months the grace of final repentance; they shall not die under my displeasure, nor without receiving their Sacraments; My heart shall be their assured refuge at that last hour.

Does that not already sound like Heaven begun on earth?  Isn't that what we're seeking? 

But there's even more.  Poor as we really are, and we are all poor in the presence of God, just as stripped as the prodigal son, we have the possibility of being able to bring joy and consolation to the Heart of Jesus, to the Heart of the Father, by returning to Him, by remembering Him in the ways He asks above.  This helps repair, in some mysterious and superabundant way, the hurt Jesus feels, the hurt the Father feels, over the indifference and ingratitude of the vast majority of men.  When we behold the Heart that has loved us so, these are small requests.  But fulfilling them can transform our lives.  And at the end of our lives, these practices will safely lead us through the Wound of Divine Love into the glory of Eternity.

Sr. Anne Marie Walsh, SOLT

Late Post

Sorry I have not posted on the blog in a long time! My twitter account is a lot more active- check it out: @onegroovynun


Sunday, March 09, 2014

Finding Intimacy in the Desert

A Lenten reflection from Sr. Anne Marie Walsh, SOLT

In the depths of our being, we all crave intimacy, connection.  We enter the world connected and remarkably well-equipped, even as babies, to draw others into relationship with us.  The very first moments of a baby's life have to do with bonding, with cementing fundamental relationships with mother, father, siblings, grandparents, extended family.  It happens in a rather mysterious way, before a baby has developed verbal language or conscious powers of reasoning. Nonetheless, by his very existence he draws people to himself by something that goes beyond a mere sense of obligation or duty on the part of the adults around him.

Agape, or the unconditional love of God for humankind, is sometimes described as being like the innocent love of an adult for a baby.  This is how God loves us!

From the beginning, this being in relationships is so much a part of us, so deep a need, that, by our nature, we are always seeking real relationships, and suffer deeply when we are deprived of them.  This is very much in keeping with our being made in the image and likeness of God Who lives in a communion of Persons and Who desires to share this happiness of a relational life with us.

It is equally true that almost from the beginning, the evil one sets out to disrupt and destroy not just particular relationships but all relationships.  He knows that if he succeeds in dividing us from God, we will become divided from others, and divided within ourselves as well.  Once God is removed, everything fragments.  Relationships fall apart. This was the strategy of the evil one in the Garden of Eden.  This is still his objective in every temptation he sends our way.  When one considers the incredible breakdown of marriages and family relationships, it is obvious he excels at this.  Yet, it is interesting to note that among couples who regularly pray together, the divorce rate is 1%, a striking contrast to the 50% rate found in society at large.  God keeps us together.  The evil one tears us apart.

True relationships are always a threat to the evil one.  They have a power in them that defeats him.   It is no surprise that they are his central target.   He severed himself from his relationship with God and all that is good.  He now seeks to pull everyone else out of that same relationship.  And so, there is always hidden, within any temptation, a challenge to our relationship with God and the way we live it, which invariably affects the relationship we have with ourselves and with others.  What is presented to us is presented in the guise of a good, but the thrust of it always seeks to disturb or break our relationship with God.

Today, a successful strategy used by the evil one is the lure of "alternative" relationships, perhaps with other people, with nature, with technology, or even with himself, (though it is misleading to speak of the possibility of having a real relationship with the devil since he seeks ultimately, not our good but rather our destruction, and has lies and deceptions without number to accomplish it.)  He draws us in countless ways, sometimes through vain curiosities that waste time, through pursuit of base appetites, through legitimate goods such as digital gadgets that end up replacing personal relationships in many people's lives.  He falsely suggests that the intimacy and inspiration we crave is more effectively met in these ways, than in fidelity to God and our loved ones.

Jesus went into the desert to show us the necessity of immersing ourselves in  our relationship with our Father.  When we are in deep communion with Him we easily recognize temptation and its core object.
It is intriguing to watch what Jesus does as He is tempted by the devil.  He does not debate the truth or lie of Satan's statements for there is always some truth in temptation.  He knows clearly Satan's aim.   Jesus hears the suggestion to abuse grace by turning stones into bread, to presume on or test God's love by throwing Himself down from a height (and every fall from grace is exactly that) and to replace worship of God with the worship of Satan in the interests of exalting Himself as ruler of the kingdoms of the world.  Jesus responds by defending the Father's  ways and holding fast to Him.  Real love always recognizes a threat to it's treasure and is not moved by self-interest but rather willing to sacrifice self to preserve that treasure.

Jesus shows us that in the desert, in a poverty where we strip ourselves of excess and superfluous things, we much more easily attend to and are able to enter into this living relationship with God.   This is what our life is truly about.  In the desert, less is more.  In the desert we are actually strengthened, not weakened.  In the desert, God can speak to our hearts, as the prophet says (Hosea:  2:14).  In the desert, we conquer, with Christ, the evil one who is always looking for ways to take us out.

The traditional practices of Lent:  prayer, fasting and alms-giving have this aim.  They are not mere disciplines or exercises of will, (which we often quickly abandon when the 40 days are over.)  They are instruments of healing, meant to strengthen our relationships, especially in areas where we have either been negligent or where the evil one has caused damage.  Prayer helps heal and strengthen our relationship with God.  Fasting heals the brokenness we have within ourselves, addressing especially our tendencies to selfishness.  Giving alms helps to heal the brokenness we have in relationship to others.  

Holiness is really nothing more than this: being in right relationship with God, with each other, and with ourselves.  Lent is a time in which particular grace is given to correct our relationships and bring us to the intimacy with God we  are created for.  When we come to this kind of holiness then we will have power and protection against evil, joy even in the midst of suffering, and grace-filled effectiveness in whatever God asks us to do in mission and ministry.  May this Lent bring us, through the Holy Spirit, to become one with Jesus in His love for the Father, His love for us, and His love for all our brothers and sisters.  May Our Lady enflame our desire for this life of love, and especially accompany us and protect us in our efforts.