August 31, 2006

My First Individual Confession in a LONG Time

I mentioned in my very first post that I made my first Individual Confession in over 15 years on the day Pope John Paul II died.

2005 did not start well for me. In January, I had to put my beloved 18-year old cat to sleep. His kidneys were failing. I was completely devastated. The silence in my home without him was unbearable. He was a "talker" and, yes, I talk to my cats. I had not lived in my home without him. I felt terribly alone.

Beginning in mid-2004, I started reading some Apologetics literature and doing a lot of lurking on the Catholic Answers Forums. By late 2004, I was at the point where I knew I should go to Confession but I was afraid to.

After I put my cat down, I made a bargain with God. "Lord, if you get me thru this, I will go to Confession". It sounds poor but it is what I did.

It took me 4 months to go. I know it is recommended that if it has been a long time since your last Confession you should make a private appointment with the Priest. I did not have the courage to do that so I showed up during the regularly schedule Confession period at my neighborhood parish, St. Andrew.

At the time, St. Andrew was not my registered parish, even though it is less then 1 mile from my house. I was still registered at the parish, named after that French girl who heard voices, in South Minneapolis.

For at least one month I had been drifting back and forth between the south Minneapolis parish and St. Andrew's. I quit receiving Communion because, somehow, it had finally sunk in that I was not properly disposed.

I did not confess everything the first time. I went back several times over the period of one month. All the while I refused to go to Communion. I know, once you confess and are given Absolution "for these and all the sins of my life" you are technically covered. But, I did not feel like I was. To me, it was important to get it all out there.

I was afraid, not of the Priest. I don't think I was afraid of the Lord's Judgement either. I think I was afraid of myself, because I was afraid to speak of the all garbage and all the stupidity I'd done in my life "out loud". If I verbalized certain things I'd rather forget I did not think I could handle it emotionally. I was afraid I'd fall apart.

It's strange, but after all these cycles of Confession I KNEW when it was time for me to receive the Body and Blood of Our Lord again. I had made a Confession and I was in the church before the Tabernacle fulfilling my Penance and I felt the last ring on the chain that had been around my neck fall to the ground. I started crying; clutching my late Mother's Rosary and crying.

When I particpated in the Eucharist at that Anticipatory Mass, for the first time in my entire life, I felt like I knew what it really meant. I finally "got it" and I was finally "worthy of it".

Notice I emphasized: 15 years since my last INDIVIDUAL confession. I was taught, by those that should know better, that General Absolution was a perfectly acceptable form of Confession and we don't need to go to Communal or Individual. I know now, that General Absolution is an acceptable form of Reconciliation, but only in what would be considered exceptional circumstances.

Honestly, I did not like the General Absolution services at my former parish (the French Girl one). They were only held twice/year (Advent and Lent) and I did not see any point to them. Individual or Communal Confession were never offered and were perceived as uneccessary. The word "sin" was an unmentionable word. Confession and repentence were bad words too. All were equated with guilt and shame--which are bad things. I was also told that since Vatican II we don't have to do a lot of that "old stuff" anymore. The "gospel" according to Matthew Fox was the guidebook.

After a while I quit going to the General Absolution services. If there really is no such thing as sin and thus no need for redemtion or forgiveness why waste my evening traveling across town to "ritual" and read Thich Nat Han? I walked out of those General Absolution "reconciliation" services feeling the same as I did when I got there. Oh, I did get to visit with my friends which was nice.

I feel sorry for people that are paralyzed by fear and don't know the catharsis that comes from a well-made Confession. I used to be that person.

I've heard some people say they are afraid to go back to the Confessional for various reasons. One of the reasons I've heard is: I don't think I can remember the Act of Contrition. For at least 2 months, I carried a "crib sheet" in with me and a pen flashlight in case it was too dark for me to read from it. I don't think if you preface your Confession with "it's been 2 to the power of x years since my last Confession", Father is going to think you are an expert on the Sacrament.

It has been my experience since I've been back, that Priests are delighted that you are THERE. You care enough to go. They are willing to help you. That's what they are there for. It's their job, it's their calling.

Now, I go to Confession about once every two weeks. Sometimes, I'm in the Confessional the very next day! I'm still a sinner but I accept that now and I know what I need to do. I don't know how I did without it for so long!

Confess, please. Trust me, you will feel better!

August 30, 2006

Credit Where Credit is Due

The August 31st issue of The Wanderer has a front page story by Mr. Jay Kline on the Archdiocese of Minneapolis/St. Paul's Talking About Touching program. Talking about Touching (TAT) is the program the Chancery selected as the default "safe-touch" program for the parishes in the Archdiocese if the individual parish does not come up with, or select its own plan. TAT has been a subject of controversy because many parents think it is too graphic and not age appropriate. Also, there have been allegations that Planned Parenthood had some involvement in creating TAT.

About 1/4 of the parishes in the Archdiocese have elected to use a program other then TAT for the upcoming school year. The Wanderer story gives credit to two local organizations: Primary Educators League and Catholic Parents Online for educating the Archdiocese on TAT and some good alternative programs to TAT.

The article also mentions that one of the instructors of TAT could be Gabriel Ashley Ross. Ms. Ross has taught sacramental preparation and other religious education classes at a handful of Catholic parishes in the Archdiocese.

Here's a quote from The Wanderer article (emphasis mine)

Ross is listed on the Archdiocese's resource directory as having expertise in "creative teaching techniques" and Women's Spirituality, drum and ritual groups, River Spirit (focusing on eco-spirituality and the Misissippi River)" After local Catholic bloggers pointed out that Ross was listed on circleofthesacredearth.org as a shamanic "Local Minister of the Circle of the Sacred Earth" her name was removed from the site.

Today, I noticed that she is no longer listed on the Archdiocese website's Resource Directory either.

The local Catholic bloggers were:

Adoro Te Devote
Stella Borealis Catholic Roundtable
Our Word and Welcome to It

My apologies if I missed anyone.

Adoro was the one who first broke the story about Ms. Ross and she received some hate mail because her story.

Cathy_of_Alex gives a deep curtsy to all those involved in shining the spotlight on TAT and the parties involved.

Though this Archdiocese is often portrayed on Catholic blogs and in the Catholic media as being full of dissenters, there are many in the trenches of this Archdiocese fighting for authentic Catholic teaching.

Hey, even ME (now).

August 29, 2006

What Have You Done for Them Lately?

Today is the one year anniversary of the devastation of the Gulf Coast of the U.S. by Hurricane Katrina.

One year later, thousands of people are still living in FEMA trailers that were intended to be used for only a few months. Thousands will never return to their homes. Thousands can not buy homeowners insurance. Thousands of homes are still unliveable. Entire neighborhoods may never be rebuilt.

The displacement of people after Hurricane Katrina is one of the largest displacements of Americans in our Nations history. FEMA estimates 270,000 people were displaced by the hurricane.

Like many Americans, immediately after the disaster, I wrote a check and I prayed.

Then, I forgot about it. Sure, there was the occasional "special" on the Weather or Discovery Channels to remind me. But, it seemed like it happened so long ago. I had already long since moved on to the "next big story"

If you can help, make today the day you write a check, sign up to volunteer, donate food to a foodshelf, pray, have a Mass said. Do something. There are still a lot of our brothers and sisters on the south end of the mighty Mississippi in need.

I wrote a check to Catholic Charities and I dedicated my regular Tuesday morning Adoration hour to the survivors and the deceased of Hurricane Katrina.

What will you do?

August 28, 2006

Love and Pray

Do you ever have one of those days where everything and everyone seem to be trying to tell you something? It has to be the Holy Spirit. What a day.

Lately, I have been feeling like I'm teetering on the cusp of "holier than thou". I mean, now, that I've been this ultra knowledgeable super-Catholic for a whopping year, I deserve to be righteous, correct?

BAM, WRONG, GO STRAIGHT TO THE BACK OF THE LINE, RECITE THE LITANY OF HUMILITY 10 TIMES AND COME BACK.

I find myself losing control of my eyes and watching other people a lot. Ray from MN told me recently that he sits toward the front of the church so he does not get distracted and irritated by others. You know the ones: the late-comers, the talkers, the inappropriately dressed, the people who leave early.

I find myself getting really irked. I try not to look around but focus on God. When I see something that makes me mad, I try to pray for my anger to pass. It does not always work.

Something really set me off today. It did not happen in church. The "Womenpriests, " yes, them, are supposedly coming to the Twin Cities in September. Those defamers, those violators etc. etc.

I feel like I have absolutely no business being irritated. A year or two ago, I probably would have been at their ceremony in the front row! Go, my sisters! Show those old, out-of-touch, white men how enlightened you are!

So, I did something after work today. I went to Mass.

I went to the 5:15 at St. Agnes. St. Agnes is not my regular parish. St. Andrew is. But, occasionally, I go to St. Agnes for Devotions, Confession or Mass. St. Andrew does not have a regular evening Mass during the week.

I'm sitting there and it was like all 3 readings today were selected for me. I don't mean to be selfish, but, dang.

Fr. Welzbacher had an excellent homily. I swear he looked right at me at 2 points. The first was when he said: "Augustine said: If St. Stephen had not prayed for Paul, Paul would never have converted" The second was when he said: "If you have friends or family who have left the church, pray for them" When Father was in the Sacristy did the Angel of the Lord tap him on the shoulder and say: "Psst, hey, Father, see that woman in the 5th row? Here's what you are going to say." It was just like that.

I've been so judgemental about others that I've forgotten I was "the others". St. Augustine was a dawg before he converted. Wine, women, song, but he loved his Momma. His Momma, St. Monica, never stopped praying for her sons conversion. Eventually, her prayers were answered.

I need to do more praying and less judging. If I can come back so can anybody else.

One thing I've noticed, if you wear your chapel veil far enough forward it acts as a blinder for the side view!

August 27, 2006

Beware



There is a Demon amongst us. He may be identified by triangular orange and black signs. That is, when he is inclined to set them out. This Demon exists to thwart us, to delay us, to frustrate and irritate. He laughs at our anger. He rubs his hands together at our unnatural finger positions. Sometimes, we see his acolytes, drinking coffee by the side of the road, oblivious to our despair. This Demon is particularly aggressive this time of year because he knows he only has a few weeks left before the Demon Frost will drive him back underground.

Christian: arm thyself with the MNDot road construction map, say a prayer to St. Christopher, and leave early!

August 26, 2006

5 People in 5 Categories

Adoro Te Devote tagged me for a meme. I thought this would be easier than blogging today. Ha!

Five People in Five Categories
Instructions: "If you could meet and have a deep conversation with any five people on earth, living or dead, from any time period, who would they be?" Name five people from each of the following categories:Saints, Those in the Process of Being Canonized, Heroes from your native country, Authors/Writers, Celebrities.

Then, tag five people.

Saints

* St. John the Evangelist-the author of my favorite Gospel and the "beloved disciple" The caretaker of the Blessed Mother after the death of her son.

* St. Catherine of Alexandria-Little is really known about her so I would like to ask her directly to tell me her story.

* St. Gianna Beretta Molla-I would ask her what she would say to women considering abortion.

* St. Alphonsus Liguori-His book The Holy Eucharist and his prayers to the Blessed Mother are some of my favorites.

* St. Margaret Mary Alacoque-The Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is one of my favorites. I would just want to ask her what it was like to experience the visions, to have people doubt you. How did she remain steadfast?

Those Being Canonized

*Pope John Paul II - my maternal Grandfather and his Mother were from Poland. I still remember Grandpa's elation in 1978 when Cardinal Karol Wojtyla became Pope. It was a huge moment for Poles everywhere. John Paul II did not disappoint. I believe my discovery of the truth of the Catholic faith, owes much to him.

*Bishop Fulton Sheen - I'm too young to know his original run on TV but I really enjoy listening to him on Relavant Radio and EWTN. He is funny and orthodox. A very good teacher.

* Kateri Tekakwitha-I'm a Native American and the parish my Dad belongs to on the Leech Lake Reservation in northern MN prays for her Canonization at every Sunday Mass. Her strength in the face of persecution and her unwavering desire to become a Catholic are inspiring.

* Mother Teresa of Calcutta-I'd ask her how she maintained her Faith in the face of such poverty and suffering.

* Sister Anna Katharina Emmerich-She suffered (literally) for others. She believed by her suffering she was making reparations for others. She was a stigmatist. People that literally suffer physical pain baffle me. I would also ask about her visions of the Passion.


American Heroes

* Mother Angelica - one day, Mother Angelica will be on the list of those being canonized and then the list of Saints. I'm sure of it.

* John Adams-we would not have a Nation if he had not lived.

* General Robert E. Lee-I find him fascinating. Brilliant, tactical mind. Some may argue with my choice of him in the heroes category, but he felt strongly about fighting for his state's rights, but he also knew when it was time to walk away. After the Civil War he encouraged southerners to accept joining with the north. Because he was highly respected, a lot of southerners did so.

* Sacagawea -Lewis and Clark would have probably been lost or killed without her guidance. Without their maps of the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase would the U.S. extend to the Pacific?

* Thomas Edison-inventor of the light bulb, and the telegraph machine.


Authors

This is a tough one to limit to 5 because I LOVE to read!

* Thomas Hardy
* The Bronte's: Charlotte, Emily, and Anne.
* Dante Alighieri
* C. S. Lewis
* William Shakespeare


Celebrities

* Harrison Ford
* John Wayne
* Sir Alec Guinness
* Bette Davis
* Frank Sinatra

I don't know 5 bloggers that I feel comfortable tagging or who have not been tagged already so I'll pass. I hope this does not mean that I will have bad luck for the next 5 days!

August 25, 2006

Me and My Dissident Friends

After 15 years of hard-core dissenting Catholicism, how are my still dissident Catholic friends taking my reversion? I have many friends and probably only a handful are practicing Catholicism at all, liberal or not. My remaining friends are: atheists, new agers, agnostics or Protestants. Despite Minnesota being a large Lutheran state, most of my Protestant friends are Methodists. I have one good friend of many years who is a Mormon and another who is Jewish (Reform)

I am still in contact with most of my dissident Catholic friends. But, I can feel almost all of them slipping away. Faith plays an important role in our lives, and after a while it's really hard to talk about the weather every time you get together. Even if you are in Minnesota!

There are a couple of women that have been friends of mine for over 20 years. They have seen me go thru a lot of difficulties and they have remained steadfast and loyal friends. These 2 friends are technically Roman Catholics but they are big-time dissenters. They believe in relativism. "I believe x, but if you don't that's ok" or "You may believe y, but I don't and that's ok" One of these friends is a life-long Catholic, the other is actually a convert from Methodism.

We all used to belong to an infamous parish in South Minneapolis on 45th St. and 3rd Ave S. Said parish is in the local and, dare I say, international Catholic news a lot. I don't feel like talking about it right now. My two friends are still members of that parish.

You can imagine what our brunch conversations are like now, eh?

Please bear with me because I think I'm working up to a point here.

Anyway, now that I have left my former parish and officially transferred to my neighborhood parish in St. Paul, some of our get-togethers can become a little awkward and tense. For a while, they were constantly "working" me to come back to my former parish. I have steadfastedly said no. "Oh, come on, just a visit". I no longer feel like the Mass is valid at that parish so why would I waste my Sunday Obligation on it?

Lately, we have had some really interesting long silences about Sin, Hell, Purgatory and Confession. To me, they all fit together. My 2 friends don't believe in any of it and fall back on their relativist comments of: "YOU may believe in Hell, but I don't", "I only have to confess straight to God", "You can't tell me my dead children are in Purgatory" In response to some of their comments, I can't always help but get angry and retort that they are speaking "like true Protestants". I get nowhere with that one. I think it's an insult to call a Catholic a Protestant and they could care less. I mean people have been killed in Belfast for that kind of talk. Doesn't faze them.

What spurred all this talk amongst friends of Sin, Hell, Purgatory and Confession? On April 2, 2005, the day Pope John Paul II died, I made my first Private Confession in over 15 years. I told my friends and they were stunned. Stunned. Over a year later, I think they are still stunned.

I'd been floundering about in late 2004-early 2005. I'd been doing a lot of reading (on the sly) of Catholic Apologetics literature. I'd even purchased a Catechism! I was at the point in my life where I felt like a phony. It was time to either put up or get out. If I was going to call myself a Catholic, then I better be one or leave. My Mormon friend, of all people, was the one who was always asking me: "How can you call yourself a Catholic if you don't believe it?" Of course, she has long been trying to convert me to the Mormon faith. In spite of her wishes that I convert to Mormonism, she has always been a good, honest friend. She was perfectly right, of course.

I believe my 2 friends feel betrayed by me. Here I was talking the good liberal Catholic game for OVER A DECADE and then in one day (so it must seem to them) poof, I'm gone. Wasn't I the one who loaned them my Ruether, Brock, Fiorenza and Starhawk books? Wasn't I the one who was a small group leader at RE-Imagining? Wasn't I the Goddess of Feminist Biblical Exigesis?

I also think that on some level my buddies are scared. If I have gone over to the "other side". What does that mean? What if I'm right and they are wrong?

I continue to pray for these two friends and I have seen some small signs of hope. We have had some conversations on the Real Presence, in which they are now (mostly) on the same page as me. It may not sound like much, but in the parish we used to be in together the Real Presence is barely acknowledged. It's a big start.

I may have lost many of my old friends but I have found many new ones. Friends that share the same beliefs as me. God has truly blessed me.

And so to bed.

The Fair

It's that time of year again. The 12 days when every resident of South Como avoids Snelling Avenue and Como Avenue between Lexington and Raymond. No, it's not the 12 days of Christmas. It's the 12 days of the Minnesota State Fair.

Every year I go to the Fair on the first Saturday and every year I somehow manage to forget the Fair is going on at least once and I get stuck in traffic on northbound Snelling.

Yes, it happened today. I'm going to the Fair tomorrow and I still forgot. I had the brilliant idea to go to Rosedale via Snelling and then it occurred to me: "Gee, there's a lot of traffic" Fortunately, I knew how to get out of it, but I still felt like a dope.

See you at the Cheese Curd booth!

August 24, 2006

The Recovering Dissident Catholic



My name is Cathy_of_Alex and I am a Recovering Dissident Catholic.

What do I mean? With the exception of a short stint in a cultish church, I am, allegedly, a life-long Roman Catholic. I was raised by Roman Catholic parents who are descended from generations of Roman Catholics. I went to Catholic church on Sundays with my parents. I received (most) of the Sacraments of Initiation. I was enrolled in CCD. I went to two Catholic institutions of higher learning.

Yet, despite all this, I was a dissident Catholic, a dissenting Catholic, most, if not all, of my life thus far. I was a "cafeteria" Catholic in a sense. Although, honestly, I did not know enough Catholicism to choose from the full buffet. So, perhaps even "cafeteria Catholic" is being too generous.

I am still in "recovery" from my dissident days. I'm still discovering, learning and accepting the "legs" of our Faith: Scripture, Tradition, Magisterium. Like many in established recovery groups, I'm hiding behind an alias, for now.

Do you ever hear someone who has left the Catholic church say that they are a "recovering" Catholic? I have. They mean that it was so terrible being a Catholic that they seek healing.

Similarly, I seek healing, recovery, if you will, from being a dissident Catholic.

I am not going to bore you with my entire life story in the first post. No, Gentle Reader, if you want to learn more, stick around.

My reversion, no, I can't even say that since I don't think I ever was a true Catholic. My awakening to the Truth was not like the story of Saul on the road to Damascus. It was not one day, one moment, it was a gradual process, lots of days, lots of moments.

Catholic media (Relevant Radio, EWTN, CA forums and blogs) played a HUGE role in my journey. If you are a reading this and you are using the power of today's media to express the Catholic faith, be assured that you make a difference. Thank you.

Why am I starting this blog? I hope that this blog will, over time, help others like me find their way home. I hope that this blog will help you reach the disenchanted, the fallen away, the non-members, reach the dissident with the "language" of the dissenter.
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