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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Patience is Eternal by Linda Kracht 

“Patience teaches us to trust our journeys.” “Patience helps us maintain right attitudes while waiting.” “Good things will always come to those of us who believe, but even better things to those who are patient, and the best to those who don’t give up?” “Be patient; everything is coming together.” “Patience is one’s capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.” While these cliches attempt to describe patience, an authentic understanding of this human virtue involves more than striving to have good attitudes; simple trust; tolerance; or avoidance of anger. Even the synonyms for patience get us a bit off-track from owning patience. At a minimum, patience is the sum total of all of the above plus more. Let’s talk about more next. 
Michelangelo - a genius/master sculptor, drawer, painter, architect, and philosopher noted: “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it. Within our lifetimes, the greatest danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short but setting our aim too low and achieving our mark. If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.” His statements begin to unveil the qualities and characteristics of authentic patience. How? 


Substituting the words — blocks of human flesh —  for Michelangelo’s blocks of stone moves us beyond mere thoughts about our natural talents and invites us to reflect on the intrinsic/natural purpose, value, and design of the human person — especially self. ‘Every block of human flesh has a great masterpiece inside it and it is our tasks to discover our genius. Within our lifetimes, the greatest danger for us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short but setting our aim too low and achieving our mark.’ Michelangelo’s disappointment with those who take the easy route should be our disappointment as well. But is it?

Why do we aim low and achieve less? It seems directly related to the lack of patience with self, others or God. We want to resolve the who, what, when while very young without giving much thought or exploration of the our core self. We all too readily want to accomplish yesterday’s goals last week without looking ahead 20 years or more. We fail to really consider who we are in terms of body, soul and mind with psychological, spiritual, social, physical, and mental dimensions. Too often, we turn our backs on the needs of our immaterial selves while gratifying only material desires. 
Michelangelo’s philosophy of life still applies even though — as a society —  we tend to aim low and deliver less just because of our impatience with self, others and God. Few of us spend the hours Michelangelo did to create David, Moses, the Pieta, the Sistine Chapel, and others. His masterpieces reveal authentic patience with himself, others and God. Michelangelo said that he painted with his head and not his hands; we live in a time where its easier to create with our hands rather than our heads. And the results are accordingly less masterful — to be sure. How can we discern authentic patience? 

Several years ago, a priest taught students in the St. Paul Catechetical Study Program that each of us probably has a greater struggle with one of the three Theological Virtues [Faith, Hope, Charity] for different reasons. He assigned an hour of personal prayer, reflection, and discernment to help us figure out which of the three virtues was most challenging for us —  personally. I discerned that Love [Charity] was my obstacle to holiness without being able to fully articulate why. That is, until I read Adel Bestavros’ [self-described servant, teacher, leader, and family patriarch of the Egyptian Coptic Christian Sect] prescription for Patience. Bestavros defined patience this way: “Patience with others is Love; Patience with self is Hope; and Patience with God is Faith.” His explanation revealed why Love is my greatest challenge to holiness. Impatience with others opposes authentic love because it all too readily reveals the underlying, competing issue of pride and self love. Impatient love is not the way that Christ loves me. It is not the way that Christ loves the people I am most impatient with. Bestavros’ definition helps me understand patience more genuinely than do the modern cliches quipping about the virtue. For all of our sakes, let us pray for God’s help to love others authentically. He has taught us that there is Faith, Hope and Love but the greatest of these is Love. “ If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” [1 Corinthians 13:1]

Patience with self is Hope. For those struggling with Hope, perhaps you have discerned that you are most impatient with yourself. You may not reflect often enough on the fact that you are God’s masterpiece — a work of art in progress. Maybe you tend to tell yourself you coulda, woulda, shoulda done this or that. These negative thoughts beat you up for not already being perfect! This self-abasement stymies the revelation of a genius within! Any do-overs are probably pretty hard on your self esteem. “If you consider yourself a work of art, and you should, then you will be able to fully appreciate that you are not to be rushed. Meet yourself where ever you are and don't judge. Work patiently and gently to free the masterpiece that is you. Never give up. Never give in. Keep at it. Oh so patiently.”   [ http://www.sandraguzman.com/2012/05/genius-is-eternal-patience.html] When we are impatient with self, we may also tend to question our relationship with God. We may be tempted to lose Hope - the firm awareness that we need God’s help [grace] to get to Heaven.  [CCC p. 882] List your talents, gifts, and abilities and thank God for each of them. Strive to become the genius he designed you to be. Pray for Patience with yourself.

Patience with God is Faith. For those who struggle being patient with God you are probably also struggling to be patient with His Church. Impatience dismisses our First (Primary) Obligation: “To Love, Honor and Obey God with all one’s heart, with all one’s soul and with all one’s efforts.” [CCC 1809; p. 879] Impatience with God, makes it very difficult to accept, adhere to, assent to, or even desire to know His moral right from wrong. We already have a tendency to be independent from God; impatience hurries that tendency along. Impatience with things of God blurs the necessary linkage between our feet and the practice of our Faith. Impatience with God diminishes the desire to get to Heaven because we may wonder whether or not God and Heaven even exist. Your blame for things gone wrong probably point to God rather than self. As impatience turns us from God, our love for Him is replaced with love of self and all things material. Have you wondered if Truth and Morality - one right conduct — are real? Perhaps unwittingly you have allowed relativism to seep into your worldview; thereby, decreasing your patience with God. All too often we use the excuse of relativism to explain away our greatest moral defect or sin. Ongoing impatience with anyone always makes it difficult to acknowledge their goodness publicly or privately — this also pertains to God. Pray for an increase in Faith-always - but especially when acting impatient with God. 

Understanding that patience acts as a barometer of the strength or weakness of Faith, Hope and Love is important. It is also important to note that the authentic practice of patience helps to advance all human virtues while opposing all vice. Finally, it’s worth noting that patience — the virtue — is negatively stressed by living overly busy lives. Have you read that BUSY is an acronym for being under Satan’s yoke? Busyness prevents us from aiming high and achieving mastery of things worthwhile — of God. Studies show that Americans complain about  being too busy; while, actually loving it. Authors, Silvia Bellezza, Neeru Paharia and Anat Keinan, found that while most Americans complain about being too busy, they are actually humble-bragging about their own value and purpose in life. Being overly busy only serves to pat ourselves down with false honor and purpose. The above authors contend that in our society, the “busy person is perceived as having high status which is heavily influenced by our own beliefs about social mobility. In other words, the more we believe that one has the opportunity for success based on hard work, the more we tend to think that people who skip leisure and work all the time are of higher standing. By telling others that we are busy and working all the time, we implicitly suggest that we are sought after, which enhances our own perceived status.” [Research: Why Americans Are So Impressed by Busyness. Harvard Business Review. December 15, 2016.] This is a rather new American phenomena that probably won’t change anytime soon. Compared with Italians [who still value leisure over busyness],  Americans are on unhealthy paths forward toward the undisciplined pursuit of more. [Bellezza, Paharia and Keinan, McKeown, etc.}
The most unfortunate reality of over-valuation of busyness is that it will be readily passed on to the next generation! Children learn what’s normal from their parents example. They also tend to adopt similar world views after learning through example. And parents have proven beyond a doubt that they love being busy. All too many of us equate time with money and busy lives mean we are living the Good Life.

Thankfully, many people love patience for all the right reasons and swear by it. These are the people we should listen to. The next two examples help prove that point. In the first example, the couple has learned what patience is all about. The second example proves the need for patience.

Lesson 1: My friend recently remarked that she and her husband take the backroads home from their lake cabin. She had to explain why to my surprised face — proving me to be the dummy. Mary gave three reasons. The backroads are almost always less crowded and the traffic is slower. Fast drivers naturally prefer freeways over backroads. Mike and Mary like to drive slowly so they can appreciate the nature they are passing by — the animals, birds, fields, places and people of interest. The slow drive also provides them with the opportunity to reflect [together] on how the weekend went for their guests and themselves. They get to discuss what — if anything — they will do differently next time, based on what worked or didn’t work this weekend. Mike can more easily participate in such discussions when the traffic is light and he feels unhurried. Finally, they arrive home just as rested as when they left the cabin.

Lesson 2: Several years ago, we hosted a family reunion. That was a true test of patience with self, others and God! One of our nephews named Mike came with his parents. Mike watched our son, Patrick, water ski; and was very eager to try it since he never had opportunity to do so before this weekend. We were happy to accommodate his desire to learn to ski. After explaining the waterskiing basics to Mike, he informed us that he was going to start out with one ski — just like Patrick. We explained the need to start with two skis — balance, inexperience, slower starts, etc. We said he could certainly try one ski after first learning on two… Mike insisted that he would try slalom skiing since he already knew how to snow board! We tried to explain that snow boarders just jump up and go down the mountain from a standing position whereas water skiers have to learn how to let the boat pull them up and out of the water while maintaining good balance, etc. Mike continued to insist on going solo. His personal motto emerged: “One or none — and no problem.” Nothing changed his mind. His mother didn’t help matters when she asked us to let him try. “Don’t discourage him.” She was also a non-skier. His father agreed with us; however the son insisted he could and would do it with only one ski — and on the first try. Perhaps he was a Michelangelo in the making — high aims without promise of success. But after several tries, he just gave up even though we tried to encourage him to use two skis next. “Nothing doing” said Mike proving he was no Michelangelo.  Mike lacked patience and self discipline to learn a new skill the right way.  However, he would have agreed with Michelangelo’s assertion that after realizing how hard Patrick had to work at mastering slalom skiing; the water skiing just wasn’t worth it or even wonderful. He turned down the chance to become a great water skier who loved the sport after first practicing extreme patience.
Patience matters. Patience with others, self and God matters. Authentic patience helps us appreciate life. Patience helps us aim high and hope for the future. Patience is eternal. God is eternal. Patience is one of God’s many attributes. He has proven he is eternally patient with mankind. He has proven he is eternally patient with you and me. Let’s be patient with His Design. 
I hope you found this article helpful and inspiring. Please use the following exercises as a way to better understand patience with self, others, and God. 
1 Pray for authentic patience. 
2 Receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation frequently. 
3 Pray to the Holy Spirit for help and strength to put on Authentic Patience. 
4 Reflect on the Three Theological Virtues. Pull out your copy of the Catholic Catechism and read the various paragraphs listed in the index for Faith, Hope and Charity.
5 After reflecting on the Theological Virtues, select which Theological Virtue challenges you the most.
6 How patient are you with God, self or others? Who are you most impatient with — self, God, or others?  Does this least patience link well to your most challenging Theological Virtue? Why/why not?
7 Write a short paragraph describing yourself.


If you would like to read other works by Linda Kracht, founder of Fortifying Families of Faith visit www.fortifyingfamiliesoffaith.com. Linda has authored many books that benefit parents interested in parenting agains the tide of today’s wishy-washy culture. Recommended reading include: Black & White: An Examination of God's Moral Laws; Mothers Forever, Fathers Forever: Parenting Against the Tide; and  Daughters Forever, Sons Forever Curriculum. You may also ask Linda a question by sending her an email to linda@fortifyingfamiliesoffaith.com

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Preparing for Lent 

“My God, My God why have you abandoned me?” Matthew 27:46

Lent is a solemn Liturgical Season designed by the Church to draw us closer to the Lord. As we enter Lent, let’s reflect on Matthew 27:46: “My God, My God why have you abandoned me?” [Matthew 27:46] A few verses later, Matthew writes that Jesus “cries out again with a loud voice and then yielded up His Spirit.” [Matthew [27:60] St. Matthew does not tell us what these last words of Jesus were. By way of contrast, St. Luke records Jesus’ last words in the following way: “”And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice said, Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit.” And having said this he breathed his last.””[Luke 23:46]

Both Gospels point to Jesus’ willingness to hand over His Spirit to the Father; however, the first does so after attributing that willingness to both Jesus’ humanity and divinity. His cries evidenced his humanity; his initial assenting to the plan provides clear evidence of his divinity. And because he was full of grace — humanly speaking — his humanity never rubbed or competed with his divine self. Yet, these passages describe the pain Jesus felt in part because of the silence of His Father during the passion and suffering on the cross. 

We too will also experience silence — or feelings of being abandoned by God -  at certain times of our life. It is then that the essence of our faith will undergo personal scrutiny. What do we do about these periods of silence which challenge our faith? It depends on how well we prepare for them. Jesus is the model to imitate and he showed the way by entering into Forty Days of Intense Preparation. Unlike Jesus’ preparation, we will need to eat, It is also unlikely that we will have to endure  the frontal assault by Satan. The Church advises the following: prayer, reflection, almsgiving, self denial, fasting, penance, and performing charitable works of mercy [CCC 1438]. If we merely flirt with our spiritual preparation, we will be less prepared for whatever lies ahead. And at least yearly, we have at least one chance to really grow in our faith and accept the Holy Spirit’s active participation in granting us Divine Grace - as He infused in Jesus before the Final Trial. Like Jesus, we will need to have storehouse full of grace in order to endure the trials and suffering that is sure to come our way in this lifetime. And that suffering will include periods of silence during which time it will feel as if the Father does not exist or is not interested in us. These trials will surely test our faith. Allow this Lent to help you get prepared —  spiritually and mentally.

Lacking a full storehouse of grace, we will react to trials much like any other human being who is weakened by original and personal sin. We will draw inward and further distance ourselves from those we love; our neighbors and God.

All of us know what abandonment [of any type] feels like — at least partially — because we have experienced it in one form or another. While God will never leave us or abandon us, He may allow us to experience His Silence - which in effect will feel like abandonment. How do we know this? Because it happened even to Jesus - and while he was sorely wounded physically and mentally. Yet, Jesus did not give into temptation principally because He was fully prepared and bolstered by the  storehouse of graces infused by the Holy Spirit. 

Each of us will also experience God’s silence as He tests our faith and love. While few of us will have to endure the physical torture that Jesus experienced, we will feel the sting of being dismissed by someone at some time in the past, present or future. We will react in one of two ways. Either we will commend our lives into our Lord’s hands — no matter what — or we will commend our lives to ourselves or the situation at hand and fail to turn to God. The first reaction allows us to draw closer to God and cash in the grace chips awarded during our times of preparation. The latter will only allow us to withdraw from God as we pump our fists; grow angrier and angrier; yell or scream demeaning words to hurt someone [even God]; develop a grudge or two; refuse to forgive; lash out uncontrollably; cry and maybe even try to get even.

This Lent, let’s prepare like there will be no other time of preparation. Let’s commit to experiencing the Forty Days of Preparation [Lent] as Jesus did — by denying self pleasure in dramatic ways. This will allow the Holy Spirit to fill up our spiritual storehouses with divine grace which in turn we can cash in on as needed trials come our way. 

What do we have to do? Stop, Look, Think and then decide how to prepare yourselves this Lent. Then write down your plans. Don’t leave it to memory because that will fail in moments of weakness. Then stick to the plan. What’s the plan? Each of ours will be and should be different from everyone else’s. God desires our personal response — not a canned, group think, plan. 

Let’s be proactive in ways none of us have never been before. Let’s pray intentionally. Let’s receive the Sacraments often. Let’s give alms to the poor more purposefully. Let’s fast meaningfully. Maybe all of us should avoid those fish fries that make life easier — or anything that makes our life easier this Lent. Let’s deny ourselves those things we would not ordinarily give up. Let’s think about new things to give up. Let’s stop giving up the same old same old things that end up being pretty meaningless. Let’s get involved in others’ lives unlike our usual ways. Let’s attend to the charitable and spiritual works of mercy by asking ourselves the following questions: When was the last time I visited the imprisoned; fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, admonished the sinner; sheltered the homeless; visited the sick; buried the dead; counseled the doubting; consoled the afflicted; forgave offenses willingly and easily; bore wrongs patiently; prayed for the living and the dead; instructed the ignorant about faith; practiced mercy willingly; pledged to step out in faith without fear? After answering these questions; let’s prepare our battle plan for Lent! 

God’s blessings on you! 



Monday, November 23, 2015

May the Universe Be With You

 by Linda Kracht 

Star Wars fever is heating up as fans await the release of the much anticipated (promoted) Star Wars; The Force Awakens this December. Every Star Wars fan expects this movie to deliver on the promise to shock and awe even more than its predecessor films. A man dying of a rare form of cancer hoped to live long enough to see the film — and he did. Ethan Sacks writing for the NYDaily News [11-15-2015]  stated “Now that’s what you call a Hollywood ending. A terminally ill Texas man (Daniel Fleetwood) was granted his dying wish to see Star Wars: the Force Awakens before “succumbing to cancer after LucasFilm employees brought a copy of the most highly anticipated movie in the galaxy to Fleetwood’s home.” He died several days later. Many fans would bid him farewell with the famous Star Wars line: may the force be with you

Just a week ago, the city of Paris felt a force that nobody would wish on any peoples except for the jihadists carrying it out. Amidst its rubble and hurt, one news agency interviewed a survivor of the Bataclan shooting rampage. The investigative reporter asked the survivor how she managed to escape death. Her response stunned me because of its immediacy, its simplicity and its oddity. She responded: “the Universe was with me.” Thinking I was hearing things, I asked others to confirm what she had said and they did. She had just given credit to the belief that the Universe was with her. She didn’t give credit to God Himself but to his creation. She didn’t even give credit to friends, or family.  She gave credit to the force [of the Universe]!  

Her credit seems to be a blend of spiritual and philosophical nonsense. Maybe we should give her a break and overlook the statement considering her circumstances. However, precisely because of the special circumstances, I expected to hear what she really thinks. Moments of crisis readily reveal our inner beliefs ; these are very personal, very deep-seated and come forth naturally and without much effort. So, imagine the surprise of hearing her expound naturally and without effort about the force of the universe. As a believer, I hoped to hear her give credit to God even though that might suggest to others that God failed to protect the ones who died that day. Instead, she gave thanks to the Universe. Very Star Wars like words that evidenced false beliefs and worship. Romans 8:31 teaches us: “if God is for us, who can be against us?” The Bataclan victim  seems to hint that if the Universe is for her, what/who can be against her? 

The statement struck me in part because of the warnings issued by the prophet Isaiah to Israel (and to us because God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow; His Word matters even today). Isaiah warned Israel of the woe that would come their way principally because of their false worship, iniquity, arrogance and haughtiness. False worship was the reason that led to their other errors including iniquity, arrogance and haughtiness. They had arrived at the time in which they thought they could live well enough on their own. They did not believe that they needed God even though they pretended to. Why was false worship such a temptation for the Israelites? Because of their assimilation in and with neighboring states and kingdoms that did not believe in God. That helps to explain our false worship as well. Perhaps the modern world doesn’t worship false gods such as golden calves or other statues but it appears the case that some people worship things God made (His Universe) rather than God Himself. Consequently, like Israel, we also have problems with iniquity, arrogance, and haughtiness.  

What do the latter terms imply? Iniquity refers to the failure to live/lead moral lives. In turn this causes us to forget about the needs of others especially the sick, the weak, the poor, and the widows. Haughtiness is giving the appearance of being morally upright and superior while one’s personal and interior disposition is the opposite. Arrogance is having or revealing an exaggerated sense of one’s own importance or abilities. 


False worship will always take us further away from doing as God instructs us and that includes the taking care of the poor, reliance on God, avoiding false worship and avoiding divination (crediting starts or the universe with our own good luck). This explains why the victim’s statement struck me so profoundly. Her credit was to things made by God and not God Himself. Did you know that orthodox means to give right praise to God alone? So, like this young woman, we often fail to give right praise to God alone which in turn leads us to the pathways of haughtiness, arrogance, and immoral behavior.

Wisdom 

by Linda Kracht 

God is the Blessed Trinity made up of three Divine Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The first person of the Blessed Trinity is Our Father the Creator. He is not the Son or the Spirit. We pray to Him when we say the Our Father. He is humanized by artists who paint an old man with a long, white, flowing beard and hair and surrounded by saints and angels. This humanization of the Creator was encouraged by His Son, Jesus, who wants us to see the First Person as our Father and so taught us to call him Father. And so we pray to Him using the very words of Jesus  - Our Father who art in Heaven… This prayer helps us to see and feel the Creator in very endearing terms - caring, extraordinary yet touchable, and His beloved. 

The second person of the Trinity is the Son. He is our Savior. He is not the Father or the Holy Spirit. We call him Jesus. He is the one we can most easily identify with because He became human for our sakes while not abandoning His Divine privilege. And He did that for our sakes. It is hard to imagine - yet easily imagined if we dwell on it - how much humility and love would be required to take on the lowest form of a person. To some of us that could mean being willing to become a street beggar or the person of the lowest rung of any caste system found in our world. The suffering would be intense as would be the humiliation. Yet, Jesus did it willingly for our sakes. What LOVE! 

The third person of the Blessed Trinity is the Infuser of Seven Gifts: wisdom, understanding, 
counsel, knowledge, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord. He teaches us how to pray. He is also not the Father or the Son. Clearly, the Holy Spirit is the most mysterious of the Blessed Mystery. 

The above foundational beliefs are gleaned from the Catechism; they become very significant and important as we describe God but words still fail to capture the essence of the mystery of the Blessed Trinity. That essence lies far beyond our intelligent understandings and human perspectives. Yet, when we meditate on the Mystery itself, we give praise to the Almighty Mystery. It becomes our open admission to being a beloved creature of the Creator. In light of that statement, let’s mediate  about the Holy Spirit (recommended by today’s Mass homilist) using today’s reading from The Book of Wisdom 7:22b-8:1. 

It describes Wisdom as  “A spirit, intelligent, holy, unique, Manifold, subtle, agile, clear, unstained, certain. Not baneful, loving the good, keen, unhampered, beneficent, kindly, firm, secure, tranquil, all-powerful, all-seeing. Pervading all spirits, though they be intelligent, pure and very subtle. Wisdom is mobile beyond all motion; she penetrates and pervades all things by reason of her purity. For she is an aura of the might of God and a pure effusion of the glory of the Almighty; therefore nought that is sullied enters into her. She is the refulgence of the eternal light; the spotless mirror of the power of God, the image of his Goodness. And she who is one, can do all things, and renews everything while herself perduring. She produces friends of God and prophets. For she is fairer than the sun and surpasses every constellation of the stars. Compared to light, she takes precedence for that indeed, night supplants but wickedness prevails not over Wisdom. She reaches from end to end mightily and governs all things well.”

Whether the reading is describing the Spirit or the spirit (grace) of God matters not simply because Wisdom comes from God, it describes God and therefore can it can be said that it is the Spirit of God.

What do the various words mean in this reading? Spirit can mean one’s soul or the qualities that form one’s character or essence (our ethos). The latter seems the most fitting definition to apply to the first verse. Therefore, the opening verses seem to suggest that when combined with intelligence and holiness Wisdom is unique and capable of manifesting itself in many different ways and forms  (manifold). Wisdom is subtle, agile, clear and sure. Wisdom does not seek evil but loves the good. It penetrates to the core; it is kind, secure, peaceful. 

The tone of the words used seem to begin describing Wisdom - the Holy Spirit- rather than just wisdom - the virtue and the grace imparted to all holy souls. When we repeat the words, it feels as if we are giving praise to the Holy Spirit. We are acknowledging that He is all powerful and all seeing, all penetrating, a pure light; the aura of the might of God, the refulgence (shining brightly) of eternal light; able to do all things. Wisdom renews everything (a petition few actually ask for in the Come Holy Spirit prayer) while herself perduring (remaining in existence). She is fairer than anything created - fairer than Sun and the stars and the arrangement of the heavens. She is more than light which gives way to night and darkness (here darkness infers evil). The passage declares that Wisdom always prevails over evil and darkness (wickedness); she governs all things well and mightily. 


How great is Wisdom and wisdom! Yes, you readers have just given thanks for the gift and the Gift (the Holy Spirit). Amen! Amen!

What about Horoscopes?  by Linda Kracht 


After every meal at a Chinese Restaurant, patrons are handed the bill for the meal and a few fortune cookies. The restaurant’s place mats nearly always feature the 12 signs listed in a horoscope (aka the Zodiac) which attribute personal characteristics born under the various signs of the Zodiac. The Zodiac is “closely tied to how the Earth moves through the heavens. The signs are derived from the constellations that mark out the path on which the sun appears to travel over the course of a year. In principle, dates in a horoscope should correspond to when the sun passes through each constellation. But they don’t, much of the time. And a closer examination of the motion of the Earth, the sun, and the stars shows the Zodiac to be more complex than you might imagine!” [What is the Zodiac by Christopher Crocket in FAQs|SPACE on Nov, 14, 2014} 

It takes Faith to realize why the Zodiac is much more complex than we can imagine! When we believe that the movement of the cosmos is orchestrated by the one and only God and Creator of the Universe we will realize that the Zodiac and other means cannot tell us our personal fortunes or losses. 

So, what about the cookies? Should we eat them? Should we read their fortunes or their aphorisms [a pithy phrase expressing a partial truism] that are written on the little piece of rolled up paper inside the cookies? Yes, eat them if you think they taste good. What about reading the fortune? While that may seem harmless, the reading of them is a form of divination on a diet. To ensure that they do not catch our attention or interest, it is safer and wiser to crumble them up without reading them. 

Unfortunately, I had not given this enough thought even while firmly believing that divination was wrong. Even baby steps can move us away from God! So, I am grateful for participating this fall in a Bible Study of The Book of Isaiah [by Fr. Mitch Pacqua, Catholic Scripture Study]. This study among other things, brought to light the full impact of the evil of all forms of divination. The punishment that befell the Israelites, their enemies, and us for participating in divination is/was very real.  The Catechism [2115-2117] helps to explain why. 

And so, even when it seems as if divining the future is just a cheap fortune cookie, is a convenient past time (reading of one’s horoscope) or seemingly just a game, consider this warning.  “Ouija boards and tarot cards and crystals and how-to-palm read booklets might not seem to cost very much, but the spiritual price we pay for using them is often much steeper than we realize.” [Ouija Boards and Tarot Cards by Susan Brinkmann in Catholic culture.org. See more at: http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=8760#sthash.Vh7nyxSm.dpuf]

And yet, many Catholics participate in practices that try to foresee or gain insight into their future even as they admit that it’s not just a game. This is more obvious when  people pay for the telling of their fortune (or misfortune), send spells on their enemies (voodoo); try to communicate with deceased loved ones; hire sorcerers, charmers, mediums, wizards, or soothsayers to tell them things they do not need to know — at least not in this here and now. But divination is also sold as just a game using a board or a deck of cards. It is also the simple reading of a daily horoscope. 

Imagine my extreme disappointment upon hearing my older sister describe a recent visit with a diviner for the sole purpose of contacting our deceased mother. My sister wanted reassurances that Mom was in ‘an ok place’. Ironically, her visit would have been expressly forbidden by our mother while she was alive! My sister attended this out-of-state session with her adult daughter, and several other friends. When asked why she went, she blamed it on her daughter. Whatever reason, she at least admitted that while she appreciated the evening, she would not ever do it again because it was ‘creepy’. Unfortunately, she isn’t the only one.

Recently, a diviner appeared at the Excel energy Center in St. Paul, MN. The seats were filled despite the fact that the civic center charged a fortune (no pun intended) for the event. The local paper described her meteoric rise to fame and riches in and through her telling of fortunes and misfortunes. The reason for starting a divination business is easily explained (money); but the reasons for giving financial support to this business is problematic at best. 

Another friend (retired pastor of a Luther congregation) recently complained of the new job his granddaughter took. She was hired to run the business side of a local fortune teller. The grandfather had written his granddaughter a lengthy letter explaining why he was opposed to her working in the divination business even if it only involved activities such as balancing the books, re-creating the website; managing the social media and all other types of advertising, etc.  She wonders why he is so concerned. Why should he be concerned? 

Why is any form of divination harmful even if it seems so harmless? Because “they contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.” The First Commandment of God: “thou shalt have no other gods before Me” is still in effect and for good reason. He alone LOVES freely, fully, faithfully, forever and fruitfully and has invited us to participate in His Divine Life - if we want to.  In addition the first commandment “proscribes superstition and irreligion; idolatry; and divination and magic; atheism, and agnosticism.” [CCC 2110]

Divination reveals our hidden desire (to be like God); it causes us to try and grasp for power — that isn’t ours — over time and history. Does this characteristic remind you of anyone in particular? Adam or Eve would be a good guess. Divination exposes the hidden desire to gain supernatural power that is not ours for the taking. Divination opposes the virtue of religion. The practices of divination are not to be used even when there is an intention that appears good — for example the restoration of someone’s health. They are not to be used when the intention is to harm someone. They are not to be used for exploitations of any kind. [CCC 2117]

So, the next time you go to a Chinese restaurant, think about how that little fortune cookie represents the baby steps that we take away from the God who loves us without condition. Let’s love Him back by taking our next baby step toward — not away from — God. Let’s show it by refusing to read every little fortune cookie on our plate — even if we paid for it! 


War On Women?
By Linda Kracht  


We are all familiar enough with real war — take the Gulf War for instance. We know that war is hell for those fighting in it and for the people who witness the fighting in their own regions. We also realize that there are two sides to war. Wars start when one side provokes the other to take up arms in an attempt to defend, protect, or resist further provocations. Wars have a start and end date which are recorded along with the outcomes, number of casualties, territories gained or lost; naming of the aggressors, and other consequences.  

We hear often enough that a war is being waged against women in the United States. Yet, war (the noun) is defined as the state of armed conflict between different nations or states or different groups within a nation or state. That definition makes it hard to continue arguing that a war is being waged against US women. For who is the provocateur; when did it start and why; and who have been the casualties? 

Words matter. In this instance, the charges of wars being waged against women appear to be flagrantly false and misleading and largely exaggerated. But, is it?

I have been leading a discussion group using my latest book, Mothers Forever, Fathers Forever, for the Nativity of Our Lord Mom’s Club.[St. Paul, MN].Recently we discussed whether or not there is a war on women. Before opening up the discussion, I defined the war using Wikipedia’s definition:
The War on women is an expression in the US politics used to describe certain Republican Party policies and legislation as a wide scale effort to restrict women’s rights, especially reproductive rights. It is the forcing of Republican social views on women thought legislation. It is often used to describe opposition to the contraceptive mandate in Obama Care and policies to defund women’s health organizations that perform abortions. It has also been used to describe Republican policies in areas such as the prosecution of criminal violence against  women, the definition of rape for the purpose of public funding of abortion and workplace discrimination against women.
As  the definition was read, I heard occasional snorts of disdain especially when the blame was assigned to the Republican Party. Immediately, an attendee immediately asked for the source and then the real discussion started.
The women in the discussion group were very aware of a theoretical war on women but mostly disagreed with the premise that they were personally under attack. They agreed that all women deserve equal pay for equal work and should have equal access to higher education and employment opportunities. They felt equal to [yet different from] men in their lives. Not one felt oppressed by men with regard to sexuality and sexual reproduction. However, the most consensus came from the statement that the war is a war of words  and politics and is primarily concocted by ‘liberal’ women against conservative leaning women — regardless of age.

Interestingly, these young, well-educated women (a mix of stay at home moms & part time employees and former full time moms) have been stung by judgmental words from women making different choices than themselves. For instance, while weighing employment vs. staying home after pregnancy, one woman was told by a female co-worker this: You can’t quit after your baby is born because I [the older co-worker] have worked too long and too hard for your right to work! Other negative experiences were also shared. So, while male domination continues to be the complaint of  feminists, these women do not have this same concern. They agreed that all too often, others link personal worth to one’s position in a company and paid employment. Americans tend to believe that doing is superior to being [a mother who stays home, for example]. They noted that feminists definitely try to drive home the adage that women can do it all and can have it all because of that work ethic. The women didn’t seem to believe that this adage is realistic or possible given their own personal situations and experiences. They believe that Motherhood is too demanding to have enough left over after giving it all to one’s employer; it is also too rewarding to want to give it all to an employer regardless of financial rewards. These young mothers know that they just couldn’t have it both ways — satisfying both family and employer equally. The mothers mostly thought that their children understand the difference between having to work and wanting to work with the last being the least altruistic. [That is the subject of another discussion.] They also agreed with [Sue Ellen Browder, award-winning journalist and author and former writer for Cosmopolitan magazine] statement that the “women’s movement and the sexual revolution were falsely joined together even though they were radically different movements.”

So who are winners and losers of these false narratives? My group unanimously stated: Men! They say this because they see widespread, tacit approval given to men to have/desire unrestricted sexual lifestyles while also encouraging women to behave like men. Yet, they agree, most women do not want things to be like this. Even Michael Kimmel, author of the Gender of Desire seems to agree with my group of mothers as he writes:“Women’s increase in sexual agency, revolutionary as it has been, has not been accompanied by a decrease in male sexual entitlement nor by a sharp increase in men’s capacity for intimacy and emotional connectedness.” 

What do women really want? If you listen to the feminists it’s access to abortion and contraception and sexual agency. Yet, in reality what women yearn for is old-fashioned intimacy and emotional connectedness with their sexual lovers, permanently. Young women may be going along to get along but not getting what they want in the long run. They want love, they want marriage, they want babies. The go along to get along approach isn’t working out very well for women who are wounded by the rapid advancement of male entitlement to sex. Unfortunately, too many women realize  the problem far too late in the game.

What are the consequences of flirting with falsehoods? Consider the explosive growth of the pornography, birth control, sex trafficking and abortion industries. It’s true, men are the most advantaged by the arguments that women need to behave like men in areas of sexuality. Consider how men [and woman] are able to troll for sexual partners without limit or responsibility. Charlie Sheen is their poster boy. Yet, who stands to lose the most from this trolling? Certainly not men! Consider how Sheen could have been spared the HIV disease had his ‘reputation’ preceded him with women who knew what they really wanted and needed.

Consider the problem of sex trafficking and sexual enslavement. Why isn’t this problem front and center of  every feminists’ radar? Why are they not speaking out with one voice against any and all forms of sexual enslavement? Why are they not demanding  good legislation and policy making? Why are women not solidly speaking out against pornography when we know that the majority of all of today’s divorces (56%) today involves at least one of the parties having an obsessive interest in pornographic websites? [American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers] Saint  Pope John Paul ll said it best: “The problem with pornography is that it fails to reveal enough of the whole person” And yet, feminists don’t seem to care. Mark Kastelmann, author of The Drug of the New Millennium, raises some red flags appropriately. He states: “internet pornography is at a level none of us have ever encountered or even imagined. It will create an epidemic of obsession, compulsion and addiction that will sweep across America like a tidal wave, destroying marriages, families and individual lives with a devastation never before witnessed…”


This group of young mothers seem to recognize the core issues; that’s what really at stake for all of us but especially them as they look to the future for the sake of their young sons and daughters. they seem to get it that the real war is one that is being waged between two principalities: good vs. evil. The bad side is fighting both men and women while pretending to fight only one: Women. It divides and separates love from life. It disaffects the spiritual, psychological, social and physical wellness of men and women. It is a war that is worth waging against — justly and righteously.
The Great Masquerade 
by Linda Kracht 


What comes to mind when you think of masquerades? Balls? Phantom of the Opera? Costumes? Beautiful dresses? Charades? Harmless fun or deceit and treachery? 
Today or a by-gone era?

Masquerading about is certainly not something relegated only to previous centuries. Neither was (is) it without controversy then or now. Let’s see how the masquerade applies today after first taking a peak at the past for a bigger perspective.

The Masquerade Balls date back to the 14th and 15th centuries; they began as part of Europe’s carnival season according to Savannah Cox [All That Is Interesting author ]. She states that “when tied with the Venetian Carnival celebrations, masquerade balls (of the past centuries) were rife with decadence, gluttony and a large amount of lust.” Gradually, the balls retreated from popularity until Count John James Heidegger of England revitalized them during the 18th century by “bringing costumes from Venetian balls to public dances in gardens across London. This helped transform the night of sin synonymous with unescorted ladies and drunkards into an occasion for The Man of Taste. And while some disputed the immorality and influence of the masquerade ball, particularly in colonial America, the pomp of the glamorous dances once again saw the masquerade ball grace some of the finest halls in the world.” 

This in part explains how and why masquerades can be bewitching. The false show or pretense pulls many of us into the make-believe and some of us get stuck there or do things based of falsehoods rather than reality. Some simply can’t see beyond the various masques (masks) used to deceive or pull off the bluff. From 1957 - 1968, a ‘reality show’ entitled To Tell theTruth was quite popular and was a modern day masquerade filled with intrigue and entertainment. According to Brian Washington [ ] To Tell the Truth featured a person of some notoriety and two impostors who tried to trick a panel of celebrities into thinking that he/she was the real Mr. or Ms. So and So. The object of the game was to bluff well enough so that the celebrities would vote for the imposter. Each vote earned the person up to $250.

Similarly, twenty - first century online role playing is another modern era form of the masquerade. Assuming an avatar or an alter-ego is entertaining to many people. Like the great balls of the past, this type of masquerading seems harmless enough to those seeking a temporary escape from reality. Yet for some, it becomes addictive and thus problematic. 

But there are more serious masquerades that are occurring today that we need to think about. These re-make reality into make-believe and visa versa. For example, let’s begin with a forewarning against making theological appropriations that are too limiting with regard to the Creator and then apply it to everyday life. 

Father Maurice Zundel warned that we have to be on guard against making “theological appropriations which have amounted to a true catastrophe in the sense that we too often limit Father to Creator, Son to Redeemer and Holy Spirit to Sanctifier. This produces a false sense of divinity.” In a nutshell it reduces God to something He is supernaturally superior to! It helps to invert the truth about God! Father Zundel warns us that we also have to be on guard against making false human appropriations. For example, Father Zundel explains that just as there can be no marriage unless there is nuptial reciprocity, there is no bride without a bridegroom and no parent without having a child and no child without having a parent.” [Magnificat, April 30, 2015. 372} And that is where the Great Masquerade of the 21st Century obfuscates and confuses many. 

The great masquerade began when it was argued that divorce does not harm women and children - that it can be settled by not attributing fault to anyone. In fact some argued that divorce helps to lift up children and women. It was even argued that divorce helps children by creating circumstances whereby they now have 2 mothers, 2 fathers, 4 grandmothers instead of the usual numbers. Few argued that family pyramids that get too top-heavy tumble far too easily. Did anyone ask the children their preferences? Most assuredly, the adults convinced the children rather than the other way around. How many grandparents stay involved when they have been deposed by another set?

The Grand Masquerade confuses couples into thinking that children are the problem whereas dogs and cats are not. It tricks people into white-washing the existing social problems out of fear of being called judgmental. It creates so many illusions, we don’t know which problem to attack or with any vigor. It treats the family as being a myriad of relationships and configurations whereas we know that it still takes one father and one mother to create the child even when the child may not know either parent due to technological intrusions made into human reproduction. The masquerade also tends to position parents as morons who can’t do the right thing for their offspring and so it takes a village to raise a child. It arms teenagers with enough arrogance and independence to do what they want while still on their parents’ dole. 

Previously, society was concerned about the effect of divorce, remarriage and out of wedlock births on the larger society. Today, those worries are looked at as background noise because of more pressing arguments such as women’s rights (but only as far as sexual freedom concerns), income re-distribution, climate change, religious freedoms, hate speech, same sex marriage, gender transformation,, cloning and surrogacy and other assisted reproduction techniques. etc. 

We have spent too many years and decades making theological misappropriations with regard to God and his Creation and our creature status and getting confused during these masquerades. Wrong headed philosophies have inserted themselves into our everyday thinking making it seem as if we have it all right only to see that we are headed in the wrong direction. 

Just yesterday, I heard a political commentator ask a presidential candidate this question: “As you know there is not one type of family anymore, what are you going to do about the various problems in the various families?” That is a zero-win scenario for any politician. Those that pretend they can easily address this are simply creating another masquerade. Those that try and answer the question reasonably will come across as the thoughtless, the bigot, the loser. We have let the masquerades go on so long that it will be difficult to reveal the right direction from the wrong one.

But it’s never too late to unveil the masques. Begin by asking tough questions of friends, family and even persons of influence in all the right ways when they seem to be dancing around the issues. We have to begin sorting out mis-appropriations and false assumptions from true ones. For example, when told that two fathers are better than one; ask how and why. Ask for their hard evidence not opinion. Ask the children what they really think about having two mothers without any father. Ask, children what they really think of their parent’s divorce. Ask about the yearnings of all of us to know both of our parents - and God. Ask how and why same sex marriage differs from traditional marriage, Ask about the real psychological, social, spiritual, emotional and economic consequences of every social issue in question. And let’s keep asking until the masquerading is exposed.




The Ten Great Paradoxes of Christianity - part 1
by Linda Kracht 

What is a paradox? For purposes of discussion, let’s use its common definition. A paradox is a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained proves to be well founded or true. The problem with trying to discuss the ten greatest Paradoxes of Christianity is that the author cannot provide irrefutable proof for them; therefore some may argue that they are not a paradox at all. However, people of faith would disagree with that conclusion because they do not need the kind of proof positive that non-believers would require. Believers have been bestowed with the greatest [Theological] Virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity. And so, while lack of proof causes unbelievers to dismiss Christianity; it doesn’t do that for believers. Lukewarm Christians may grow weary about defending what seems to be the impossible but that is another article. 
Eventually, believers and non-believers alike will discover the necessary evidence required to prove that the paradoxes are indeed well founded and true and anything but contradictory or absurd - that will come at the end of their lives. 
So, what is the point of this article if Great Christian paradoxes cannot be proven at least not for the non believers? It is to support the faithful who will also have questions about some of the same points as our unbelieving friends, neighbors or family members. Wondering, pondering or asking questions isn’t the problem. The problem is the wholesale refusal to think about God or the tendency to dismiss God because we can’t figure Him out. In light of that, what are the ten greatest Paradoxes of Christianity?

Paradox 1: God is Trinitarian in nature. This means that when we talk about God we may be asked to distinguish which person we are referring to. It could be any one of the three Divine Persons:  God the Father, God the Son or God the Holy Spirit. Or we may be thinking more generally of all three at one time even though each divine person is uniquely distinct from one another. It is at that point that some accuse us of veering away from the worship of one omnipotent God. But our faith teaches us that “God is one but not solitary. The names - Father,  Son and Holy Spirit - do not designate various modalities of the divine being for they are distinct from one another. He is not the Father who is the Son; nor is the Son he who is the Father; nor is the Holy Spirit he who is the Father of the Son. They are distinct from one another in their relations of origin. The Father generates the Son who is begotten; and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. The divine unity is Triune.” [CCC 254] This great paradox will remain a mystery because few of us can really understand what that means. 
Basically, a full understanding of the nature, substance and relationship of the Trinity is lost on us [creatures] because only God can know and understand Himself. He is Creator and we are His creatures. Therefore, the three Divine Persons are the only ones capable of fully knowing their Divine substance and their distinct relationship with the other Persons of the Trinity. We creatures will also never fully understandor comprehend God’s Creation. Since we can’t understand/know God, we obviously will always have difficulty explaining the Trinity using human terms, understandings and reasonings to ourselves, our children and others. However, that should not dissuade us from dismissing the mysterious nature of  God. If it was possible to come to understand the nature, relationship and substance of the Trinity through mere reasoning, it seems logical to conclude that Jesus would not have had to submit to the Incarnation or His passion and death for our sakes. Neither would we need God for we would be demi-gods.
Even the Church has struggled to explain the Trinity using acceptable terminology and dogma throughout the course of the centuries since Jesus’ Resurrection while striving to avoid the introduction of heresy. Basically, a slip of a word here or there changes everything with regard to our understanding about the Trinity and God. The Church is the first to admit that the  Mystery will remain a mystery. “But his inmost Being as Holy Trinity is a mystery that is inaccessible to reason alone or even to Israel’s faith before the Incarnation of God’s Son and the sending of the Holy Spirit.” [CCC 500].
When left to human imaginations and reasonings, the very nature and even expectation of the Divine God changes with time and cultures. Most cultures eventually reason that for God to be god, He must be an omnipotent deity. If he does not possess omnipotence (all powerful), it is logical to assume he could not have been the Creator and isn't the one true God. Man’s struggle to define God helps prove that this is one paradox that will never be fully understood or proven even when fully accepted by Faith. And that will be the topic of the next article: Faith. Yet we know God to be Triune in part because God has revealed Himself to mankind throughout history; the Father spoke three times in the New Testament. He spoke in the Old Testament as well. The Holy Spirit was also present at several main events recorded in the New and OldTestaments. And of course we have the incarnated Christ revealing to us who he was and who the Trinity was.  So even when/if observers could not understand the Divine Trinitarian revelations found in “both the Old and New Testaments and in traces within His creation” [CCC 50] I Am Who Am is still God. But it does help to see and accept with eyes of faith. And it is also true that all of us are disaffected by pervasive polytheistic or atheistic traditions that swirl around us. Consequently our personal and institutional beliefs can erode faith and Truth due to misunderstandings and misperceptions about God unless we are careful to protect ourselves from these influences. 

When praying to God or talking about Him, which person are you thinking about? Pondering? Why? Have you ever tried explaining the Trinity to a child or even other adults and found yourself searching for the right words? It will be helpful to pull out the Catholic Catechism as you begin such conversation. Read the paragraphs that expalin the Trinity. Also ask God to help you explain His truths in words that make sense before embarking on such a discussion. Great minds that have come before us have helped to formulate the dogma [light] of the Church that is explained in the Catechism. It is one great resource that you should all have in your home and refer to often. Yes, it uses great big words to explain and describe the relationship and substance of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and other conepts, precepts and principles. But it helps to remind ourselves that matters pertaining to God are by their very nature so much bigger than matters pertaining to the human person (and sometimes science uses big words too). So, big words help to impart the reality - God is Great! He is Mystery. He is Creator of the universe! And any words used will always be too inferior and too human to define our omnipotent, Triune God. And that’s ok. After all, He is the Creator and we are merely His beloved creatures.