We Need Gandalf

Time to move to Middle Earth. The Shire is calling. I want a brightly colored round front door, and I will tolerate large hairy feet to get it!

My newsfeed right now is terrifying on an apocalyptic level. I’m ready to start dissociating from my reality and living in Tolkein’s fictional Middle Earth. I’ll take Sauron’s treats over the current political and social disasters looming over the US right now. Where is the fellowship when you need them?

Better yet, where is Gandalf? We need Gandalf. We need the gray wizard and his staff of light to guide us through the darkness.

Tolkein understood how vital it is to have a shepherd – a spiritual guide through the dark times. Gandalf is the archetype for the bishop/priest. He is the one with great wisdom (and a short temper). He sees Bilbo’s great need to leave his shallow comfortable life and grow through trial and suffering. He loves each member of his small fellowship (parish) and feels their loss and suffering as if they were his own.

Gandalf sacrifices himself for them and the world of good men and free people of Middle Earth. He is not the messianic figure that Frodo becomes, but the spiritual shepherd that makes the whole story of salvation come alive and play out in the fallen world of Middle Earth. He reminds the fellowship at every stumble of their true destiny. He is the wizard with the gift of light, a symbolic image of the priest’s ability to bring people to THE LIGHT, the Son of God, Truth.

The gray wizard leads the faithful along the arduous path of redemption. He is there to show them the way when they get lost. Just like a good priest, he chastises those who veer from the path and reminds them of the cost of their failure.

When weak and power-thirsty kings of men fail to see the evil around them, the spiritual shepherd calls out the truth. At every battle, he is out front, rallying the faithful and leading them to battle the evil of their world.

How blessed we are then to have our spiritual shepherds/priest today. How vital it is to have a Father who will call out the truth and chastise our ways when we get lost. What a gift it is to have our priests who sacrifice their entire life for the vocation to bring us to holiness. These men are out front leading the faithful in the battle against the evils of secularism and the culture of death. They give us hope when the Saurons/evils of our world surround us.

We need the light cast from the spiritual shepherds in our parishes to help sort through the many temptations and confusions of this age. Only pride allows us to place our own judgment of right and wrong above that of the ordained priest of Christ’s own Church.

May Our Lord Jesus Christ, who instituted the priesthood, protect it always. Give the men you call the courage to hear and respond, Lord.

Middle Earth will have to wait after all. The shepherds of my church are rallying the faithful for a great battle – to protect life. I can’t break the fellowship. I must respond and follow the Good Shepherd. So should you.

Letter to Women

Feminism and abortion are opposing concepts. They are incompatible. The one invalidates the other.

This election season has focused in large part on the dignity and rights of women. In the most schizophrenic manner, the Democratic candidate has claimed to be a champion of the rights and dignity of women while also promising to make abortion restriction-free all the way through the ninth month of pregnancy.

This is how we honor women? This is what it means to be free and have “rights” as women? This is the sign of a society that holds women in high regard?

Oh, I can hear the angry readers now. I know what you think. I bet I have been placed in the category of uneducated, unsophisticated, and oppressed religious freaks. It’s ok. Just keep reading.

Here is why you can’t be a feminist and pro-choice. St. Pope John Paul II said it best in his Letter to Women (1995):

“. . . the choice to have an abortion always remains a grave sin. But before being something to blame on the woman, it is a crime for which guilt needs to be attributed to men and to the complicity of the general social environment.”

As JPII is declaring his gratitude for the “genius of women.” He holds firm to the truth that abortion is a grave sin. He does not, however, hold that this sin/choice is “personal” sin or restricted to women alone!

The public discourse on abortion has settled exclusively on the “rights” of women to choose abortion and not the failure of men to protect the dignity of women. Let us make sure men have as much sex without restriction, consequences, or obligations while denigrating the awesome life-giving power of the female body. How feminist are you feeling right now?

Feminism according to my graduate education (not as uneducated as you thought, huh?) is concerned with the dynamics of oppression present in society. The “social environment” JPII referenced includes the community’s failure to support a women’s material, social, and spiritual needs so that abortion is not an option. Why does Planned Parenthood get supported with $500 million a year in taxpayer funds, but your local crisis pregnancy center is scratching out an existence on donations and fundraising events?

Furthermore, “complicity” as used in the passage has political ramifications in the “social environment.” To be complicit is to participate in wrongdoing. Voting for an evil thing while being “personally opposed” is being complicit in evil. It is a participation in the wrongdoing! There is no invisible barrier between the evil I do and the evil I condone. My soul takes on both – equally.

From the Catholic world view, there is no personal sin. That is to say that the Mystical Body of Christ shares in the grace of one person’s virtue and the sin and spiritual death of another. We cannot ignore abortion and claim it is a “personal” choice with no impact on the society at large. Abortion has become a cannibalization of the dignity of women as well as society’s future.

A final quote from St. John Paul The Great:

“America you are beautiful…and blessed…. The ultimate test of your greatness is the way you treat every human being, but especially the weakest and most defenseless. If you want equal justice for all and true freedom and lasting peace, then America, defend life.”

-Pope John Paul II

Thirst Awakened

Two steps into the sanctuary I could feel a surprising weight. It was as if the air was pushing down on my body. The smell of Lilies filled the medieval church and evoked memories of Easter, water, and fire!

My eyes searched the ornate altarpiece for the notorious Eucharistic miracle of Santarem. Since 1247, the Host of Jesus’s Body has bled.

High above the altar in a small golden monstrance, the Host of Our Lord is on display. A golden tabernacle protects this divine miracle.

Almost as soon as I found a place to kneel, relieving the pressure of the air, the small golden door on the tabernacle closed. My knees ached against the bare wooden kneeler and my heart sighed. Could I not get closer? Could I not see with more than my heart? Like all good and true desires of my heart, God was about to exceed my expectations and delight both my eyes and my heart!

Adoration of God in the Eucharist proceeds from the belief/truth of The Real Presence of Jesus, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity under the appearance of bread and wine. No reflection on the Blood of Jesus would be complete without recalling the mystical intimacy Catherine of Siena had with Christ’s passion and Blood.

St. Catherine spoke incessantly of Christ’s Blood. She asserted the need to drink in the grace of Christ’s Blood and become “drunk” on the love poured out in the shedding of this sacred Blood. In one rather remarkable gift of grace, Catherine was permitted to drink the Blood of Christ directly from his side!

Catherine, reflecting on her spiritual children, declared, “Indeed, they go into battle filled and inebriated with the blood of Christ crucified . . . they will pass through the narrow gate drunk, as it were, with the blood of the spotless Lamb.”

By partaking in the Blood of Christ, her thirst was awakened, not quenched. The more she drank in of Christ, the more she desired. Her soul was intoxicated by the love found in Christ’s Blood!

Almost in mid-thought, a Portuguese woman in broken English interrupted my contemplation of Catherine. She bid my group of pilgrims approach the altar revealing a side staircase. The marble floor surrounding the altar gave way to a set of wooden stairs. The walls inside the staircase were covered in religious art and statues of Our Lady and various saints were tucked into every corner. An eclectic assortment of religious items was displayed in glass cases. Somewhere from behind the wall men’s voices were suddenly raised in Gregorian chant.

I climbed the hidden staircase only to find another narrow metal set of stairs at the top. One by one each member of our group ascended and returned. No one spoke. No one looked at each other.

Finally, it was my turn to climb the narrow stair. Up, up I climbed and then I saw Him! Almost six inches from my eyes, separated by merely a pane of glass, I gazed on my beloved Creator. The consecrated Host (the same consecrated at every Mass) was before me! This time the Host was covered in bright red blood! The clotted blood looked as if today His flesh had been torn open for my sins! Torn open for love of me!

Stupefied, I said and did nothing! For several moments I forgot to pray, or how to pray! His love on display, I felt the thirst and intoxication Catherine spoke about. So all I could do in that moment was to whisper through the glass, “I love you.”

Naked and Afraid

I was totally naked and absolutely terrified. – What a bizarre summary for a religious pilgrimage!

Even though I could not understand the beautiful French of the Handmaidens assisting me at the baths, I understood that I was to remove – everything – and wait my turn to be immersed in the miraculous waters of Lourdes. Then I found myself naked and afraid, waiting for whatever was to come behind the curtain. Why was I doing this?

Lourdes is a place of devotion and mystical healings. The waters are a gift of healing which many make a pilgrimage to receive. The Mother of Mercy, Our Lady, stands in the grotto lovingly and patiently hearing the petitions of the faithful. The ground reverberates with the depths and sound of these prayers. Mercy, have mercy, the penitent plead with their hearts.

As I stood there naked before the waters, I found my heart echoing these same prayers for mercy. What is mercy? Compassion? Forgiveness? Relief from suffering?

Dear God, what was my intention? This thought raced through my mind as I stood there exposed and vulnerable before the cold late September waters. Exposed in a new way, allowing strangers to see not just my uncovered body, but also my mastectomy scars.

With tears streaming down my face, I realized I wanted it all! Everything that mercy entails, I needed it all! My heart yearned for compassion, forgiveness, and comfort from my pain!

Scars inside and scars outside. I was a mass of toughened unnatural growth. Scar tissue where I should be supple and receptive to mercy. I could not see how deeply I needed God’s mercy. My nakedness and fear was the catalyst for Mercy to live and move within me.

Like icy blades, the water all at once shocked and enlivened me. Down into the cold clear water I went with my brokenness and scars and up I came being pulled by the mercy and charity of the volunteers (Handmaidens).

The cold water took my breath away so that all I could utter before the bath’s picture of Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart was “pray for me!” Breathlessly, I petitioned for mercy!

Her Son, The King of Mercy, knows your heart and is with you and in you in the midst of suffering. My heart is naked, hiding no longer my pain and scars from God, and I am unafraid because of God’s infinite mercy.


My favorite prayer for mercy: Prayer to Our Lord on the Cross

My Crucified Jesus, mercifully accept the prayer which I now make to Thee for help in the moment of my death, when at its approach all my senses shall fail me.

When, therefore, O sweetest Jesus, my weary and downcast eyes can no longer look up to Thee, be mindful of the loving gaze which I now turn on Thee, and have mercy on me.

When my parched lips can no longer kiss Thy most sacred wounds, remember then those kisses which now I imprint on Thee, and have mercy on me.

When my cold hands can no longer embrace Thy Cross, forget not the affection with which I embrace it now, and have mercy on me.

And when, at length, my swollen and lifeless tongue can no longer speak, remember that I called upon Thee now.

Jesus, Mary, Joseph, to Thee I commend my soul. Amen.

Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Wounds of our Lord Jesus Christ to heal the wounds of our souls.