Saturday, April 28, 2012

Saint Gianna Molla

Today, April 28th, is the feast day of my patron saint, Gianna Beretta Molla. 
I chose her as my Confirmation saint because, at the time of my Confirmation, I was very heavily and actively involved in Pro-Life work (I still am involved, though my ministry has taken the form of prayer more than anything else, lately).  And who is a better example for a Pro-Lifer than Gianna Molla?

I am sure most of you already know the main focus of her story; how she was a doctor, wife, and mother who was diagnosed whith a uterine tumor when she was pregnant with her fourth child.  How she refused proper treatment because she refused to harm her baby.  How she died when that baby was only one week old...

Therefore, I am going to speak of something less often mentioned about Gianna: her interaction, as a doctor, with patients who had had or who intended to have, an abortion. 

Gianna's stance on abortion was very firm.  She viewed all human life as ineffably precious, and illustrated her views where words could not express them by being unfailingly charitable, caring and loving to everyone, and by never failing to do what it took to save her patients.  Her sacrifice is a testament to her reverence of life.  Gianna was well aware of the fact that abortion involves the ending of a new yet equally important human life, and so her views on the subject are rather obvious.  She was greatly grieved when one of her patients considered abortion, and would talk to them about their decision, discussing with them the value of life and encouraging them to rethink their options.  Nevertheless, no woman ever met any sort of condemnation or intolerance from her.  She was motherly toward them, and treated them with the utmost compassion no matter her strict stance. 

"Once, a young woman asked Gianna to come to her home because of some "mysterious" hemorrhaging, which was actually the result of an attempted abortion.  Gianna treated her compassionately, but firmly, urging her to seriously consider what she had done.  ...On another occasion, Gianna treated a young woman who had had an abortion.  With particular kindness, Gianna offered the young woman some words on the sacredness of human life, which the patient listened to attentively.  Gianan gently encouraged the woman to face the seriousness of her act and to realize that what she had done was not only an act of offense against her child, but also against God.  Gianna invited her patient to be reconciled with the Lord, and she encouraged her to embrace God's infinite mercy." [A Woman's Life, by Guiliana Pelucchi, p. 59-60]

I hear often from Pro-"Choicers" that those who are against abortion are also against women.  That they just wish to make women's lives more difficult, that they only hurt women by making them feel guilty.  That they don't care for women, even hate and kill them, etc. etc.  Gianna is proof that that is not what being Pro-Life is about.  Being Pro-Life is being Pro-LIFE.  She talked of God's mercy as much as she did the wrongness of abortion and the value of human life.  She supported women during and after their pregnancy, caring for them and their children often without accepting payment.  Gianna cared no less for the lives of the mothers in her care than for the lives of their children; of that her actions left no room for doubt.   Everyone who knew her liked her, and cries for her Cause arose soon after her untimely death.  Her example is a brilliant one, one which I strive always to follow.  Gianna was Pro-Life.  For that cause she gave her entire life and even her death.  Even those who had had an abortion acknowledged and appreciated her.  What better saint could I have chosen for this day and age?

Saint Gianna, pray for us!

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Flesh is of No Avail

John 6:63 reads, “It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless.” (NRSV)
How can the bread actually be Jesus’ flesh if the flesh is useless? It is a question I have heard many times from people trying to disprove the Catholic Church’s teaching on the Eucharist. However, it has one very obvious fault: it is a comparison of verse 63 to verses 55-56. Let us, then, compare these two verses.
John 6:55-56 “For MY flesh is true food and MY blood is true drink. Those who eat MY flesh and drink MY blood abide in me…”
John 6:63: “…THE flesh is useless.”
In the former verse, Jesus is referring to His own flesh; in the latter, the flesh in general (in other words, your flesh and my flesh). Verse 63 cannot render null the literal interpretation of verse 55, because Jesus is speaking of two totally different fleshes in each one. With this understanding, let us now read verse 63 in context. Crack open your Bible and read John 6:60-65.

In this passage, we see the disciples tell Jesus, “This is a hard teaching to accept! How can we believe it?” To this statement, Jesus responds, “What?! Am I not credible yet? If you saw me ascending into heaven where I came from, then would you believe me?” Jesus goes on to give the listening disciples the same lecture He will give to Thomas in John 20:29. “You want to believe your eyes, your own flesh. But the flesh is useless! You must believe in your spirit, in your heart. Blessed are those who have not seen, yet still believe. This knowledge is given them in their hearts, told them by the Father. For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.”

John 6:63 is not meant to render null and void verse 55. It is, in fact, a very clear rebuke to those who do not believe that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist. At this point, I would like to point out another fact worthy of note, and that is that John 6 is not simply a command to eat Jesus’ flesh and drink Jesus’ blood in a very literal sense. It is also a claim to divinity.

“Jesus would not drink blood, or command others to! The Jews were forbidden from drinking blood!” is typically the objection that comes next from my Protestant/Evangelical friends. And yes, it is true that the Jews were forbidden from drinking blood. But, why was it forbidden?

The Jews were forbidden from drinking blood because they, along with the pagans, believed that if one drinks blood they consume and assume the life of the one whose blood they drink. Assuming the life of a mere animal or human is then indeed repulsive. Who wants or needs the life of another mortal? Ah, but the blood and life one who is divine and immortal. That would grant eternal life. Doesn’t this sound familiar? John 6:51, 53 “…whoever eats of this bread will live forever. …unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood you have no life within you.”

Jesus is telling the disciples that if they drink His blood, they will have His eternal life. He is claiming to be divine, and they know it. That is why he points to the Ascension as the miracle they would need to witness to believe. They would need to see Him returning from whence He came to believe that He actually came from heaven.

So, no, John 6:63 is far from a disproval of the literal Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. As we have seen in this blog post and the last, the entire passage only makes the utmost sense in light of the doctrine of Transubstantiation. So, my friends, “do you also wish to go away?” Or do you believe?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

How Did His Disciples Take It?

John Chapter Six is known as the “Bread of Life Discourse.” It caused a lot of commotion at the time Jesus gave it, and is still causing a bunch of ruckus today. Protestants and Catholics seem to always be at war with one another over it, the former claiming that Jesus meant His words figuratively, and the latter claiming that He meant them literally. The question to ask is, “How did Jesus’ disciples take it?”

There is no hesitation over this one. The people listening to Jesus when He gave the Bread of Life Discourse took him very literally. “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” they ask confusedly. Jesus responds to their confusion by repeating the same words over, in verse 54: “Amen, I say to you, except you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood you shall not have life within you.” Jesus did not explain that He was speaking figuratively, as He did when saying we must be born again of the Spirit. In John 6, He does not change His teaching or expound upon it. Why? Because there was nothing to explain; everyone had understood him correctly. They must actually eat Jesus! “This is a hard teaching to accept,” they say. “Does this scandalize you?” Our Lord replies. “What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before?” In other words, they would need a sign to believe His words. They would have to behold a visible manifestation of His power before they would give His words credence. Knowing this, Jesus rebukes them. He tells them that the evidence of their flesh is to no avail, and that they must simply believe. They receive the same message as Doubting Thomas is to receive later. Yet, they still do not accept Christ’s words. “Because of this, many of His disciples turned back and no longer went about with Him.” They took Him literally and could not handle the implications, so they left.

Was this all a misunderstanding? It could not have been, because Jesus does not call them back. Everywhere else in the Bible, when someone misunderstood Him, Jesus explained. Yet here He does not explain. Instead, He lets them walk as He turns to His Apostles and asks them if they, too, are going to abandon Him. To which Peter responds, “Oh, no, Lord; we know you’re only speaking figuratively…”

Oh, wait.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Publishing: Paused

Hello, everyone! We haven't been posting in a while, and for those few of you who have been waiting for a new post, I do apologize. Truth be told, I simply haven't had much time. As you may recall, my graduation (and Ana's) is coming up, and I (we) am (are) swamped with school and preparations! It doesn't leave much time to write, or to format posts. And formatting the posts is becoming increasingly difficult. You might have noticed missing spaces in my paragraphs, misplaced pictures; and, to add to that, blogger just changed their dashboard. I'm going to have to re-learn how to use it. (I'm thinking of switching to another blog host, but that will be in the distant future, if at all. If you have any advice, it would be greatly appreciated.) Anyway, to get to the point; I'm sorry for keeping you waiting. I will try to post the rest of the mini-meditations soon, and some other posts. Thank you for your patience! In the meantime, please stop by this blog:
The Perky Pilgrim
This perky girl has some beautiful and inspirational musings.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Right Choice and the Wrong One

At my talk to the Confirmation and Highschool students the other day, I was asked two very interesting questions by a young fellow discerner.
The first was: "How do you know if you have made the right choice about your Vocation?"
Well...I haven't personally found "the right choice" yet, as I am still discerning. I've heard some Vocation-Decided people say that "You just know." Does that answer your question?
...Yeah, it didn't cut it for me, either, and after speaking with some more experienced and eloquent people, I've come to the conclusion that the greatest sign that you have discovered your calling is: Peace. Not happiness, or contentment, or even superficial fulfillment, but peace. A deep abiding sense of rightness, like everything fits. I mean, think about it. God knew what you were going to do, and what He wanted you to do, before He even created you. He would never create you to be bad at what He plans for you to do, and He would not force you to do something that you are not made for. You and His Plan are going to fit together like two puzzle pieces. So, when you find your fit, when you make "the right choice," you will JUST KNOW, the same way you will JUST FIT.

The second question was: "What if you make the wrong choice?"
I firmly believe that the only wrong choice you can make is to refuse to trust in God and so not truly discern. If you don't trust in God and decide to make your own way in the world, you are setting yourself up for failure.
(...No, Self, it's not that I don't love you. It's just that you are a fallible human being, and making eternity-affecting decisions isn't your strong point. I'm sorry, but this Me, Myself, and I relationship isn't going to work...)
I firmly believe that as long as you trust in God, you will have nothing to worry about. Place all
your trust in him, and He will not let you down, because that is not the way He works.
("What are you doing Father?"
"I'm looking at that human down there. It's trusting in me."
"Let's play a game with it!"
"...Alright, Son, what shall we do?"
"Oh, I know! We will throw it into the world and let it fend for itself. Oh, irony abounds!"
"That's a great idea, Spirit. Should we give it a hint?"
"Okay, I'll give it a hint. Hey, human:
"Hehehe, pathetic humans!")

That sounded funnier in my head, but you get the point. God will not fail you as long as you trust in Him. You won't have to worry about choices; you will be incapable of making "the wrong choice," because HE is incapable of making the wrong choice.
Now, what happens if you do not trust in Him, decide to do your own thing, and end up doing something you weren't created to do? Well, all is not lost. There is not a single situation on this
earth, past present, or future, that God is incapable of--some way, somehow--turning to His advantage. He can turn the worst of situations into a good situation. Sometimes, He will even make you holy in spite of yourself. But still...why go through the trouble? Why make a bad situation into a good one when you can be making a good situation into an awesome one? If you haven't made a choice yet, just trust in God now, not later.

Confirmation is like Graduation

High school graduation is a time of celebration. Twelve tortuous years in the classroom have been successfully completed, and you joyously proclaim your praiseworthy accomplishments, your success, and the death knell of the formidable Institution. No more school, no more
books, no more of teacher's dirty looks! Over and done with, in saecula seaculorum.
Yet it is also a time of nervousness, apprehension, and excitement, for what is the number one question high school seniors are asked? (No, it isn't what parties they will be attending, young man)
The question is: "What college are you going to?"

(So much for the death of the Institution....-.-)
But that simple question, so often asked, reveals the second and truer purpose of high school graduation. It isn't about looking back, and it isn't about the end. It is about looking forward to a new beginning. It's about the future: your future. And the query looms: what are you going to do
with your life? You are an adult now, ready to take on responsibility, decide who and what you are going to be, and make something of yourself. It's not your parents' job to get you out of bed in the morning anymore, it's yours. Scary and exhilarating at the same time, isn't it?
It's almost Easter. I'm staring at my own high school graduation right now, at the same time
many other teenagers are staring at their Confirmation. I had to talk to some of these teenagers the other day, and the juxtaposition of events got me to thinking.

Confirmation is like graduation.

After your Confirmation, you become an adult in the Church. You take on the full responsibility of being Christian, and being a soldier for Christ. And once again, the biggest question mark is: what are you doing to do with your life? What is your place as an adult in the Church? How are you going to fulfill the call to sainthood? What does God want you to do? Just as the year of your high school graduation is the first step in finding your place in the world, the year of your Confirmation should be a large step in finding your place in the Church. Your Confirmation, therefore, is an excellent time to begin taking some serious time out to discern your

Sometimes, that's easier said than done. If finding the right college can be confusing, discernment is even more so! So, here is a quick guide to beginning discernment (as tested by moi):

1. Be Open. I really, really can't stress enough. Discerning your Vocation is asking God, "What do you want me to do?" If you intend to ignore that answer when He gives it, that defeats the entire purpose of discerning.

2. Challenge Your Assumptions. "I already know I'm going to get married." I've heard those words so many times! And while some people know what God is calling them to do from a young age (Padre Pio being an example) most people do not. Imagine if everyone just assumed they were going to be a dentist when they grew up, because their parents were dentists, or because they said they were going to be a dentist when they were three! While there is definitely nothing wrong with being a dentist, when you just assume that you are going to be one, you cut yourself off to a world of possibilities. It's the same with Vocation. How do you know for certain you are called to marriage (or religious life) if you have never even learned and looked into your other options? I used to assume that I was going to get married and be a famous author, but once I stopped clinging to that idea and allowed myself to really learn about religious life, I found that I really liked it. You might, too.

3. Talk to People and Ask Questions. Go to a priest and ask him what drew him to the priesthood. Go to a holy, married couple and ask them what is the best thing about
marriage. Go to a nun or consecrated single and ask them what they do. Hearing about the experiences of others is always helpful. And though I hesitate to challenge the wisdom of the elders, it has been my personal experience that curiosity does NOT kill the cat; it doesn't hurt to ask questions, and it will give you a real feel for what the different Vocations are actually like.
And you are bound to hear lots of funny stories, as a much-appreciated plus.

4. Research. Some excellent resources for Marriage and the discernment of it are:
BadCatholic (You might have to do some sifting, but this guy has several amazing posts on marriage; just don't get distracted by the awesome pictures)
And Nic's Blog, on the sidebar (to get a taste of how marriage and Faith fit together)
Some resources I've found helpful for learning about the religious life are:
And some of the blogs on the sidebar.
There are many more for both Vocations, but that would be a series of blogposts in itself!

5. Pray. Pray, pray, pray. Discernment can't happen unless you establish a dialogue with God; how else are you to ask and He to answer? So, grab your Rosary, your Bible, and your book of Novenas, and head off to Adoration.

6. Find a Spiritual Director. Sometimes, it is difficult to hear the voice of God over the clamoring of our own wills. Sometimes, it is difficult to hear God, period! A Spiritual Director can help you with that. A Spiritual Director is a holy person who can advise you, support you, and pray with you and for you. They help you when discernment gets hard and your thoughts (or feelings) become more tangled than Rapunzel.
One last quick piece of advice: you do not have to be extremely holy to discern. I've met people who say, "Oh, I could never be a nun/priest/what-have-you because I'm not HOLY enough." And that statement completely misses the point of discernment and of Vocation. It seems to have forgotten that we are all called to holiness. We are all called to be saints. HOW we are going to achieve that is what we do not know, and what discernment is for. Discernment is our search for the life that will make us saints. It asks what God wants of us (which is, in a word, sainthood) and how to achieve it (specific vocation). The very fact that you are discerning, then, admits that you are not holy, and you need God's help and plan to become so. So none of that "I'm not holy
enough." You do not need to be holy to discern. Discerning, if you approach with an open and
trusting heart, will make you holy.

So, no excuses. You are going to be an adult in the Church soon!
What are you going to do with your life?