Thursday, November 12, 2015

Why Catholic Homeschooling and Monks Seek the Same Thing...

Below is another guest post by our fabulous SOLT Sister, Sr. Anne Marie Walsh. This post was originally featured on Seton Magazine.

Why Catholic Homeschool and Monks Seek the Same Thing
It can be challenging to look at the world today and to remember the words of Scripture: “…where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more” (Rms. 5:20).
We know the Gospel’s relevance is timeless. However, understanding the way in which it penetrates a specific period in time requires a creativity found only in the Holy Spirit, Who searches the hearts of men and applies the deep things of God within concrete historical situations.
Pope Benedict XVI, meeting with representatives from the world of culture at the Coll├Ęge des Bernardins, Paris, in 2008, addressed the threats to modern culture by drawing attention to the roots of Western Civilization.
In particular, he considered monasticism and its development, noting that,
“Amid the confusion of the times, in which nothing seemed permanent, they (the monks) wanted to do the essential – to make an effort to find what was perennially valid and lasting, life itself. They were searching for God. They wanted to go from the inessential to the essential, to the only truly important and reliable thing there is…Quaerere Deum, to seek God.”
Whether on the mainland (Europe) or in Celtic lands, the establishment of monastic communities was ordered to a life that was conducive to finding God and to living out a covenantal relationship with Him.
The daily communal life of the prayer and work of Christ became a seal against the chaos and barbarism of the times, a stamp of the deeper Gospel message that brought order, meaning, and ultimately, great cultural development.
It should not surprise us that the biblical principles by which the monks lived and  their deep study and contemplation of the mysteries of God, started to leaven the secular order, so that time, learning, art, music, animal husbandry, farming, care of the poor, all began to be marked by the laws and light which God Himself had put into creation.
An order and a fruitfulness developed that actually had heavenly origins. The bells announcing the call to prayer, which punctuated each day, and the liturgical seasons with their abundance of solemnities, feasts, and even the rich Gospel lessons of ordinary time, made the meaning of life, one’s responsibilities, one’s destiny, readily understood.
And though there were variations of monastic tradition and development between the mainland and the Celtic lands, the essentials were the same: “the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus”…(Phil 3:8), in light of which all else is rubbish.
Monasticism did not begin as an attempt to create a new culture or civilization. The holy men and women of those times were interested in the one thing necessary. The impact upon the surrounding culture, even when efforts to evangelize became more direct, was quite in accord with the words of Christ:  “Seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides” (Mt 6:33).
The Catholic homeschooling movement in our present age has, at its heart, this same seeking of the monks. It is a response to a loss of vision. Caryll Houselander, in her book, Guilt, noted that “The great repression of our age is the repression of Christ in man” (p85). Nowhere is this more evident than in secular education.
We live in a time that has known Christ and now rejects Him. Given this, we cannot wonder that man no longer understands himself: apart from Christ it is not possible,  “For in Christ were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominations, or principalities or powers, all things were created through Him and for Him.  He is before all things and in Him, all things hold together” (Col 1:16-17).
He is the pattern, the form of our own identity and destiny. His life must be allowed to grow in us. Apart from Him, everything begins to disintegrate, both interiorly and exteriorly, individually and communally. Our own time witnesses to this with alarming clarity.
However, in Catholic homeschooling, genuine education seeks to assist the child in developing into the fullness of all that God has created him or her to be. This kind of education involves heart, mind and soul and fulfills its purpose by forming children to Christ, preparing them ultimately to see God face to face.
In coming to the full measure of the mature Christ, children become natural evangelizers in all the realms of human activity in which they may engage: intellectual, physical, scientific, academic, artistic, apostolic, spiritual. The Christ-life within is the essential thing in the midst of the contemporary bombardment of the inessential and the society’s growing barbarism. The Christ-life is a gift that one begins to yearn to give for the happiness of others.
The path of a movement such as Catholic homeschooling is provided by God, just as it was for monasticism, in His Word and in the rich teachings and traditions of the Church. A beautiful image for today is of little domestic monasteries where children are formed to true humanity.
With authentic education, they begin to become, not in a forced way, but in a supernaturally natural development, little Christs touching the world in the activities of their childhood and adolescence. Finally, in adulthood, they become an even greater leaven as they take their places in the world.
Pope St. John Paul II often pointed out that the Church and the world are at a crossroads. He exhorted us to commit to a New Evangelization in order to usher in a new springtime of Christianity. He also warned us that if we do not follow the movements of the Holy Spirit, we will see a new age of barbarism.
Among the great signs of hope, we can claim Catholic homeschooling as one of the harbingers of the formation of the new man and a new springtime, knowing that, “a Christian has only to be, in order to change the world” (C. Dawson, Christianity and the New Age).

Friday, May 08, 2015

Mary, Motherhood and the Family of God

Below is the latest post by the awesome Sr. Anne Marie Walsh, SOLT 

Mary, Motherhood and the Family of God

Mary's motherhood, like motherhood in general, was lived out quietly behind the scenes. St. Pope John Paul II pointed out that "History is written almost exclusively as the narrative of men's achievements, when in fact its better part is most often molded by women's determined and persevering action for good." (Papal Message On Women's Conference to Mrs. Gertrude Mongella. May, 1995)

Mary achieved more than any other human being. This was done in the most intimate way in the context of Her Divine Motherhood, a role which God asked her to live, and which She joyfully assented to! She continues to bring souls to life in grace and to love saints into being, so essential and eternal is Her motherhood to who She is.

But just as God took His own flesh from the body of Mary, so every child comes into this world through the body of a woman. Every conception is a kind of annunciation, God asking permission of the woman to bring a new life into the world because His creative love has delighted in the thought of that particular and unique little one. He "entrusts the human person to her in a special way" (JPII) and asks every woman's immediate care and participation in the formation of the life He gives. Just as He sent His own Son to be His ultimate gift to a world dying from sin, so He sends every child to be a gift to a world in desperate need of His goodness.

Some are meant to show the face of Christ's mercy, others His compassion. Some will be teachers in His likeness, others will bring his miracles into people's lives. Others will spend and consume themselves to heal and unite us all into one Family of Our Father.

Every mother wants greatness for her child. That greatness will be measured by the part they play in the greatest drama ever, the drama of redemption, the battle for souls, the battle for the brothers and sisters of our own particular age. The call on every life is to participate in redeeming its own age. Every gift of Christ made incarnate in the lives of those born into this world is meant to serve this.

It should be no surprise then that the attack on family is so strong today. We have an enemy who fights ferociously to keep us from living the image and likeness of God, especially as mothers and fathers. He hates the reflection of the Incarnation in every newborn child. And he despises the communion of Trinitarian love that each family is called to live.

Mothers have a particular answer to this which is seen most clearly in the life of our Blessed Mother at the foot of the Cross. In Christ, all the joys and sufferings, sorrows and glories of motherhood are taken up into His own Mystery and become redemptive. Archbishop Fulton Sheen puts it this way:

“The pains which a woman bears in labor help to expiate the sins of mankind, and draw their meaning from the Agony of Christ on the Cross. Mothers are, therefore, not only co-creators with God; they are co-redeemers with Christ in the flesh.” (Three to Get Married)

There is likewise a Eucharistic reflection which St. John Chrysostom notes: "As a woman nourishes her child with her own blood and milk, so does Christ unceasingly nourish with his own blood those to whom he himself has given life."

If we are to imitate Christ and become one with him in all things, Motherhood is truly a privileged place where, with Christ, a woman can fully say: "This is my body which is given up for you." The tragedy today is that so many women are saying instead: "This is my body and I will not give it up for you." They have not seen nor understood the greatness of their calling.

The work of pointing the way and leading people to the kingdom that is not of this world, is not an easy work. It requires death to self. But God takes even the most insignificant daily realities and makes them fruitful in this work. Mary did for Jesus everyday what all mothers do for their children, dressing them, washing them, feeding them, teaching them. It is hidden work but has immeasurable value.

Mothers know this better than others. They not only live out the Paschal Mystery in their own flesh and spirit, but they also live it out for and with their children. Their boundless love bleeds redeeming grace into the lives of their sons and daughters. Mary is the most profound example of this. But it is clearly seen in the lives of women like St. Monica, St. Gianna Molla, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, and countless mothers whose lives will never be known to anyone outside of their immediate circles, until they get to heaven that is, where they will be honored and esteemed for their deep and faithful participation in the creation of God's own Family.

Human motherhood, along with human fatherhood, comes directly from the hand of God. Both are, in fact, a reflection of and participation in God's own Fatherhood which is Divine. When God created man He considered what would be the human expression of the life He Himself lives. His answer was Family, and family constituted as mother, father and children.

In the simplicity of God, our life on earth is meant to be about what our life in heaven will be like. The real stars in heaven will be mothers, for without their "yes" to our existence, none of us would have a chance of going there. But the supreme star will be our Queen, our Mother Mary whose "yes" to God's love gave us our Savior and Redeemer, the chance to once again call God our Father, and the gift that every heart longs for: to live in the perfect family forever.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

"Cinderella" and the Marriage to the King

Great explanation by Fr. Robert Barron of the fairy tale "Cinderella" and why it speaks so powerfully to our hearts.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Overcoming The Lies and Tasting the Resurrection

Below is a powerful and honest piece originally posted on written by my friend @heatherkhym

Perhaps we have all felt this way at times and we all long to taste the Resurrection.

Great job, Heather.

Your Real 

I could see it coming from 1000 miles away. The place I could end up if I wasn’t careful. The place so many strong ones have gone before….never to return.  When I suddenly found myself questioning the things I thought I was most certain about, honestly, it freaked me out.  My daily prayer became, “God, please save me…from myself.”
I’ve been Catholic my whole life, and at 14 had an encounter with God that was so real and deep it forever changed the course of my life.  I knew He was real, and out of hundreds of people in the room that night, He saw me, chose me, and came for little old me.  Only He knew my story, a shy, broken girl who was paralyzed by fear.  He knew how much I needed Him and He rescued me from the dark and brought me into the light. 
I’ve been working in lay ministry in the Church for 21 years now and my faith has been a constant.  I have seen both tragedies and miracles and when hardships in life came, I was anchored in my trust of the One who could see me and who loved me.  So, how did I get here, to the point of questioning almost everything?
I think we all know those voices in our head that are at war against the voice of God and His plan for us.  They are like tapes replaying familiar songs full of twisted lies.  Things like… “you are never going to be good enough, you will always end up disappointed, you are unloveable, you can’t trust anyone, you are so ugly, you don’t really matter, you will never be safe.” Oh, so familiar.  
The problem with the tape is that it sounds so damn true!  In moments that you are aching or crying out, the enemy’s whispers lies that are chillingly “true” and the voice of God fades fast.  Usually we get so intoxicated with the lie and soon find ourselves a broken mess on the floor, taken out by the enemy again, wondering, “how did I get here???”. 
In the midst of this recurring battle, something I’ve realized is that precisely in those moments, when the enemy begins to whisper, I have a choice.  I’m back in the garden of Eden with two trees to choose from, life or death.  The lies have no power on their own, but if I choose to agree with them, well….then the assault begins.  
The enemy always fights dirty and lately he has come on strong, with an unrelenting assault on my heart.  The uncanny life events coupled with his violent, persistent lies led me into a place where I was questioning everything from my calling, to being loveable, to wondering if there is even a place for me in my beloved Church.  It all seemed so true….and isn’t that the story of humanity?  The beloved turning from the Lover to trust the evil one who has no love for her and seeks only to destroy her.  I was beginning to agree with the lies and was drowning in doubt. I was losing myself. 
I struggled to speak truth to my weary heart. Honestly at times I just couldn’t do it, so like a parent making their child take their medicine, I force fed myself inspiring podcasts, books, and worship music letting them speak the truth over my life that I desperately needed.  Over a few months, I prayed, I fumed, I cried, I ranted, I ached, and finally conceded to the fact that I could not do it alone.  In my blindness and self reliance, I couldn’t see my desperate need for reinforcements.   I have no idea why it still takes me so long to realize my need to reach out to someone who can help.  
I called a close priest friend. A dear, trusted priest friend who knows me well and who recalled God’s story over my life, reminded me of truth of who I was and threw down some major spiritual warfare. Finally something broke and my head was lifted out of the choking waves.  This well loved psalm came to mind:
Psalm 18
He reached down from on high and seized me;
drew me out of the deep waters.
He rescued me from my mighty enemy,
from foes too powerful for me.
They attacked me on my day of distress,
but the Lord was my support.
He set me free in the open;
he rescued me because he loves me.
The breakthrough wasn’t anything earth shattering. But, I could finally breathe again and the screeching static separating God’s voice from my ears lifted. The veil got thin and Christ was suddenly close and whispering for me to come away with Him again.
A few days later on a family trip to Tennessee, I went to the Nashville Dominicans’ motherhouse with my family.  Its a beautiful place filled with beautiful, joyful sisters.  Within a few minutes of my arrival, my eyes welled up with tears. I could feel it, my nostalgic soul waking.  Something sacred was happening, God was coming close again.  
That place was so saturated in prayer and peace. The stillness, the smell of stone and incense, the stained glass.  I realized how homesick I had been for this.  It wasn’t the convent, it was the mysterious passing through the veil from the worldly into the sacred, where the truth, beauty and goodness of God quickly calms the restless heart.  I stood breathing it in, remembering how much I have missed the secret place and the aroma of heaven.  This is the challenge and the gift, to have this place in my heart that always remains, where the lies have no power and the encounter with God is happening, where His truth is the song over my life.  The funny thing is, I could have had it all along, but my choices to agree with the lies and ugly patterns of thought created solitude and separation from the One my heart was so longing to be with.  The lies aren’t gone, they are being whispered to me daily, but the difference is that I have clarity to see and agree with the truth instead.  It is my choice and I’m choosing to stay close Jesus.
As I’m approaching Holy Week, my prayer for myself and for all of us is that the power of the resurrection would become a deeper reality in all of the dead places in us, the lost ones, the broken ones, the ones filled with lies and that we begin to truly live as children of our faithful and loving Father.  Here’s a worship song by one of my favourite worship leaders called “Christ the Rock”.  It’sa been a good reminder to me.
Heather lives in Canada with her hunky husband, and raises three beautiful amazing talented children, and a cute pup. She is passionate about ministry, music, family, and good coffee. She loves God, and lives to serve him First. She loves long walks on the beach and has great hair… -joyful mysteries.

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!