Frank Sheed’s “Theology and Sanity”

Since I had to type this out of my book for a class, I figured I would share one of my favorite passages from Frank Sheed’s Theology and Sanity:

“To complain that a spiritual thing is unimaginable would be like complaining that the air is invisible . . . Spirit is beyond reach of all senses . . . With the eyes of your body you cannot see justice. You can see a just man or an unjust man, but justice itself you cannot see with your eyes . . . Thus the reality of any spiritual statement must be tested by the INTELLECT, not by the imagination . . . [INCONCEIVABLE] means that the statement proffered to the intellect contains a contradiction within itself . . .

If concepts are beyond its reach, imagination acts as sensor and simply throws them out: while the intellect, grown flabby with disuse, tiredly concurs in a rejection so beneficent because it saves so much trouble. But this happy arrangement receives a check if one happens to be Catholic. For the Faith binds us to accept many truths altogether beyond imagination’s reach . . . Here imagination does its subtlest piece of sabotage. It cannot forbid intellect to accept them: so it offers to help intellect to accept them. It comes along with all sorts of mental pictures, comparisons from the material world. Thus for the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity imagination offers the picture of the shamrock . . .

Now there is a definite role for such analogies . . . God’s dealings with men may often be seen more clearly by some comparison drawn from the material universe [like] Our Lord’s parables . . . But useful as such comparisons may be . . . they shed no light whatever upon the innermost being of God in Himself. The shamrock simile tells us absolutely nothing about the Blessed Trinity . . . The excuse for [the simile] is that they help us to see the doctrine. But they do not. They only help us to swallow the doctrine . . . Certainly it prevents the truth about God from being a danger to our faith; but in the same act, it prevents the truth about God from being a light to our minds. The same objective might be obtained by not mentioning the doctrine at all.

Thinking is very hard and imagining is very easy and we are very lazy. We have fallen into the habit of using our imaginations as a crutch, and our intellects have almost lost the habit of walking . . . Once the intellect is doing its own work properly, it can use the imagination most fruitfully, and the imagination will find a new joy in the service of a vital intellect”

Also, if anyone is interested, I have posted some material over at http://voccola.blogspot.com for my Church History class about St. Catherine of Siena, including a book review of Sigrid Unset’s incredible biography Catherine of Siena. (My author name on the blog is Lilting_Lilies). God bless!!!

Annulment Merry-Go-Round

 

I have finally accomplished writing my first post to contribute to The Dead Philosopher’s Society, which is a blog for Holy Apostles College based in Cromwell, CT. Please visit the site to read the full post, and feel free to comment:

An annulment does not invalidate a marriage, but merely recognizes the reality that binding marriage vows were absent during the entire span the “spouses” were together. Toward the end of my marriage, I would recall the circumstances surrounding our vows, and I would think, “Wow, I am not actually married because I could get an annulment.” Currently undergoing a drawn out divorce, I haven’t even been able to file for an annulment. The thought that an annulment simply validates the reality that my marriage never took place has always circled my mind. It is what eventually led to my justification to venture into the dating scene without an annulment. I figured I deserved to move on with my life, and I had suffered enough. Besides, I told myself, God knows what’s up—I’m not really married.

Never forget the subtlety of the serpent; he has an ingenious way of appealing to our reason, clothing sin in some fraudulent good . . . [Read More Here]

Eruption

I know I’m seriously past due on my final post to conclude the series. I’ve just been swamped. But here is a poem I wrote to keep you satiated until I can finally get ‘er done.

Eruption

Don’t tread near my winsome wreckage,

The flames, they lick at my skin.

I’m now accustomed to bondage,

The consequence of my sin.

Don’t be deceived by warmth and light,

Too close and I’ll consume you.

Thick lava drips from lips I bite

To fight from inviting you.

Don’t breathe in this sweet perfume,

It’s merely my flesh burning.

Seeing my fanning fiery plume,

Banish your eager yearning.

None can reach my internal depths,

Run! A coming combustion,

I feel building tension

In my tired engine

(Your eyes again…)

Explosion

Amen

!

Yes, I Am Getting Divorced. Yes, I Believe in Traditional Family Values. No, That Doesn’t Make Me a Hypocrite or Less Catholic! (2 of 4)

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(If you missed Part 1 last week, read HERE)

Before I get into anything, I want to say I’m not here to give advice on whether or not to get a divorce, only prayer and spiritual direction can truly advise you. An intact family is always the best option for your kids if possible, and so they need to be the NUMBER ONE priority. Try reaching outside for help before coming to a decision (like Retrovaille, which is a great program). My intention is to share my experience with those who have already made the heart-wrenching decision and are now embarking into the great unknown, in the land you never thought you would find yourself. Be prepared that divorce is not simply a “solution” for your problems; it only complicates your life even further. However, what it does do is eliminate that toxic environment you (& your children) are in. It is the best way forward, a lesser of two evils, and the problems that arise down the path of divorce are far lesser than the evils foreseen in the prospect of staying together. I also hope to give outsiders a little insight so they can better support their friends and family who are undergoing the same difficulties.

Here is a little backstory to help you understand my state of mind and how everything has progressed… I am a Cradle Catholic who attended Catholic schools my whole life. I have sinned plenty but never outright left my Faith. At age 20, I became pregnant and dropped out of college and got “married” (in quotations because I believe it was invalid). I was “married” for about 6 years before I was finally able to reconcile my religious beliefs with the need to end the “marriage.” So much ensued in leading to this conclusion, but another set of posts will have to deal with that fiasco. Early in 2013, I had just moved in with my parents upon the final separation (there had been many others in the previous 6 years), and I was clueless as to how a single mom makes friends in a new area.

“Loneliness Begets Loneliness”

Alone with my parents (who are wonderful but can’t themselves fulfill my desire for friendship), I longed for Christian friends who could offer the support I needed. I got a job waitressing, but my coworkers appeared to dwell on another planet, or perhaps I was the alien on their planet? I joined the gym, but everyone there seemed to be all set with their own circle of friends. And like I said in my last post, I’m just no good at the idle chit chat that leads to friend prospects. Also, Cape Cod can be very cliquey when it comes to “townies” born and raised here, and few people make use of the internet for meet-ups like they do in heavily populated regions. I entertained joining a mom’s group, but online there were only a handful of options. As I read through the threads, I just felt I didn’t fit in with these moms. I tried going to daily Mass, but it was nothing but a sea of gray hair. Then the daily Facebook battle began, to be on Facebook or not to be. I just wanted to hide myself away from everyone I knew. Sometimes I felt FB helped soothe my loneliness, and other times I felt scorned by it. One day, I sought to conquer my disability by deleting nearly all my “friends” (sorry to those of you reading this who were axed in the midst of emotional turmoil). My mind was filled with paranoid mania in this dreaded gray area, and it didn’t help that I was dealing with the X2B (clever, no?), who took every occasion to assassinate my character and proclaim that I am destroying our family and our children.

Meg Meeker describes my state of mind pretty well in her chapter on friendship in her life-saver of a book The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers: Reclaiming Our Passion, Purpose, and Sanity (Find it HERE):

Loneliness gouges a woman’s heart because inherent in loneliness is a subconscious feeling that we deserve to be alone. A mother who feels lonely believes on some level that she is unlikable, even unlovable. She is too inept, stupid, disorganized, or messed up to be with . . . When she feels this way, she retreats from other women and finds herself even lonelier. Stay away from the tennis crowd, because they have money. Don’t go to the book club because you have nothing worthwhile to add. Avoid the playgroup, because those mothers stay at home with their kids and are better mothers. And on and on the voices go in our heads. Loneliness begets loneliness and pretty soon we sink into a deeper belief that life is probably better lived by ourselves in our own muddy mix of frustration, disorganization, or compulsions. With all of the pain Mother Teresa witnessed during her life, she counted loneliness as the worst. She said “The most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved.”

The Cure?

Up late one night watching FoxNews, I saw a commercial for Match.com. As I contemplated joining, I saw the land-mine up ahead but thought I could merrily tiptoe around it without falling and blowing myself to smithereens. My idea of compromise was to join Catholic Match to see if any conservatives existed in these parts (I don’t know why they don’t have the same service for making regular old friends). It wasn’t long before I realized other Catholics on the site were scared off by my profile because I wasn’t even divorced yet. I felt I wasn’t even “my kind of people” anymore. I felt really foolish for even attempting to befriend other Catholics through an online dating site, but loneliness can lead to poor choices. I felt pathetic for being lonesome, as if it were some reflection on my character, so I left Catholic Match. “I am lonely,” seems to be the most unutterable phrase in the English language, at least for me it was.

It soon dawned on me there was a place of acceptance for all sorts of people, a cyberspace where I could seek comfort in the absence of moral absolutes—the secular dating site, Match.com. It’s a slippery slope, folks, so so slippery (not that the site itself is bad, but in my position… no bueno). I began by seeking out female friendships, but that turned out to be an egregious error… you could only view females who sought other females. And let’s just say their desires were far from coinciding with mine. So, running scared, I returned to seeking males. I’ve always had many male friends and few girlfriends, having grown up a tom boy. I thought if I made my intentions clear about platonic friendship being my goal, then there could be no issues. I tried seeking out those who were at least Christian, thinking I could then work my way into a Christian circle of friends. Around this area, most people congregate in bars to drink themselves silly, but that was far from what I was looking for (although Theology on Tap would be nice). If only I could find one authentic Christian, I could open the door to future fulfilling friendships.

Before You Go…

I went on a few coffee “dates” with other men, who called themselves Christian but were at best agnostic and thus didn’t share my same worldview or interests (I refused to call them dates at the time because I was simply looking for a friend, after all). I was losing hope in my online pursuits for Christian platonic friendship, and just as I was canceling my membership, I received a message from, let’s call him Ben. He was a Christian Air Force vet a little older than I was, and in his message I sensed raw honesty and genuine character. I sat on the message for 10 days as I considered giving up my online shenanigans altogether. I finally decided I ought to at least sit down and give him the courtesy of writing a thoughtful response. I pressed send, and when I was redirected to my Inbox, there was a new message waiting from him. It read something like, “I don’t normally do this, but I’m sending a second message despite no reply to the first because there are few truly Christian women around here.” I wondered at the odds of writing each other at the exact same moment 10 days later, and initially I questioned whether perhaps he somehow orchestrated it in order to evoke some kind of awe, stars aligning and such. I did get goosebumps, but I am one quick to dismiss coincidences. My computer took a while to load, and it was such a short message that he could have written and sent it off the moment he saw he had a reply from me. Needless to say, I was extremely cynical about meeting people online.

Once we began interacting, however, my skepticism slowly faded. There was no idle chatter, no wasting of time in getting to the heart of the matter, and an earnest desire to know one another. When we met face-to-face, he saw through it all—my fictitious smile, my cool facade, my searching eyes—and seemingly peered directly into my soul. At the time, I was distanced spiritually and intellectually from Catholicism; I was just going through the motions. Ben was a fallen-away Catholic of a more Baptist persuasion, so we enjoyed challenging each other about our differing beliefs. In order to answer his challenges, I found myself diving deep into the Bible and Catholic Apologetics seeking answers (for once, my having to be right all the time actually served some good :-p). Alas, my Faith was beginning to be reawakened, although simultaneously, as we grew closer a romantic spark was ignited. I slowly came back to life as I began to bridge that unbearable chasm felt between myself and the rest of humanity. All seemed cozy and promising, as it always does at the outset. Please join me next week when I will share what exactly unfolded, demonstrating how God always holds us in the palm of his hand, tenderly guiding us, even when we wander. Please know that it is never too late to turn back, as long as you have a beating heart (especially a broken one) from which to repent.

“The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

(Psalm 51:17)

Yes, I Am Getting Divorced. Yes, I Believe in Traditional Family Values. No, That Doesn’t Make Me a Hypocrite or Less Catholic! (1 of 4)

Being a Catholic in Limbo awaiting divorce and annulment can be treacherous. I’ve walked through the minefield in this emotional wasteland, not unscathed. With hope, I choose to learn from my missteps and persevere, navigating this dangerous territory, Catholic Compass in-hand. I want to share some of my experience with other women and men who may be stumbling through this strange land trying to find their way. It is absolutely a lonely place to be, especially for a devout Catholic. It’s so important to realize we aren’t alone and connect with one another, offering each other support that those outside our situation can’t possibly offer.

There is a strong tendency to isolate in my situation. I often avoid conversations because my life doesn’t fit a neat little timeline and my current situation can’t be summed up in a few pleasant words. Meeting new people is something I dread. The small-talk questions I can’t seem to satisfy with simple, small-talk answers. Somehow I find myself either over-simplifying (which makes me feel like a liar) to avoid awkward over-sharing, or eventually giving in-depth explanations to my brief answers which, as they add up, seem inconsistent and confuse the unsuspecting listener. Their distorted faces often betray their regret for asking me about myself at all. I never will and have no desire to master constructing the facade that is small-talk. However, explaining myself to people is wrought with pain in remembrance of my past. But that is just me, and I may be totally alone in this regard, so moving on…

When I talk to non-Catholics, there’s a complete inability to truly comprehend my current state. Often, there’s an attempt by many to spin it positively by exulting my newfound “freedom” with the obligatory question: “so… are you dating yet?” When interacting with fellow Catholics, I frequently feel the need to be defensive—explaining how I’m not like all those secularists out there who just cop out of marriage due to some lack of personal fulfillment. I felt ashamed that I had failed and had been thrust into this circle, which to outsiders appears to have been simply a personal choice. When the truth is I felt there was no real choice to be had. In reality, it was more of a final acceptance of what our “marriage” really was (or rather wasn’t) and prayerfully looking at the path forward. Accepting the worldly attitude and abandoning Christ, whom I know to be Truth, just to fit in somewhere simply was not an option. Yet, an unintended consequence of my choice  seemed to be that a wall was unwittingly erected between myself and Catholicism. I felt as if I didn’t belong anywhere. At other points in my life when these feelings crept up, the Church was always the place I knew I belonged. But I was not even convinced of that anymore. I could now join the chorus of other outcasts, my only solace being that Christ too bore this burden: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Lk 9:58).

Now, If there’s any advice I could give someone on the outside of this circle: don’t try and understand the why’s or how’s or when’s of the divorce. Most likely, we ourselves aren’t exactly crystal clear on the matter, and unless we come to you, don’t prod. Above all, no one, and I mean NO ONE, knows what went on in that marriage except the spouses, and you must assume that there is a whole lot you don’t understand, and perhaps never will. If we need your opinion on something concerning the divorce, we will ask for it. Clearly, a decision has been reached, painstakingly so, and we don’t need to be talked into or out of anything. We just need to be accepted and prayed for and with. If we are wading into some kind of “grey area,” be supportive and listen before offering words of caution. We need to be reminded of Truth but in a loving, not condemning way. Realize that we may have to make stupid mistakes before we can grow, and love anyway, letting us know all the while that you are there regardless.

For all of those inside this seemingly dreadful circle, I will try and compact my story and share what I’ve learned so that you might have a chance at avoiding the same painful land-mines that I didn’t have the wherewithal to avoid. Join me next week as I reveal a portion of my tumultuous journey, and how it has brought me to rest in the bosom of the Church, who never turns Her back on Her beloved children.

Weight of Glory

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This book by C.S. Lewis was the first book that I had read outside of his Narnia series. I found an old copy at the back of my high school Theology teacher’s classroom. I was intrigued because I hadn’t realized he had written other books besides his children’s novels. She graciously allowed me to borrow it, and although I didn’t quite understand it as I do now, his words elevated my thoughts to an entirely new plane. This book spurred my C.S. Lewis obsession… or rather appreciation. What especially attracted me was the immense beauty of the ideas contained within this little book, perhaps because he writes so descriptively of earthly and heavenly beauty. Also, one thing that was so striking was that Lewis seems to put into words the truths that I’ve always held in my heart, but could never quite articulate. In the following passages, he speaks of man’s experience of earthly pleasures, which never truly satisfy our longing and rather urge us on to discover the source of all beauty and goodness.

“In speaking of this desire for our own far-off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you–the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is our desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name. Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter. Wordsworth’s expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past. But all this is a cheat. If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out to be itself a remembering. The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust in them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things–the beauty, the memory of our own past–are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself, they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited . . . Almost our whole education has been directed to silencing this shy, persistent, inner voice; almost all our modern philosophies have been devised to convince us that the good of man is to be found on this earth. And yet it is a remarkable thing that such philosophies… bear reluctant witness to the truth that our real goal is elsewhere… They begin by trying to persuade you that earth can be made into heaven, thus giving a sop to your sense of exile in earth as it is. Next, they tell you that this fortunate event is still a good way off in the future, thus giving a sop to your knowledge that the fatherland is not here and now… Do what they will, then, we remain conscious of a desire which no natural happiness will satisfy.”

“We usually notice it just as the moment of vision dies away, as the music ends, or as the landscape loses the celestial light. What we feel then has been well described by Keats as ‘the journey homeward to habitual self.’ You know what I mean. For a few minutes we have had the illusion of belonging to the world. Now we wake to find that it is no such thing. We have been mere spectators. Beauty has smiled, but not to welcome us. We have not been accepted, welcomed, or taken into the dance. We may go when we please, we may stay if we can: ‘Nobody marks us.’ A scientist may reply that since most of the things we call beautiful are inanimate, it is not very surprising they don’t take notice of us. That, of course, is true. It is not the physical objects that I’m speaking of, but that indescribable something of which they become for a moment the messengers. And part of the bitterness which mixes with the sweetness of that message is due to the fact that it so seldom seems to be a message intended for us, but rather something we have overheard. By bitterness I mean pain, not resentment. We should hardly dare to ask that any notice be taken of ourselves. But we pine. The sense that in this universe we are treated as strangers, the longing to be acknowledged, to meet with some response, to bridge some chasm that yawns between us and reality, is part of our inconsolable secret. And surely, from this point of view, the promise of glory, in the sense described, becomes highly relevant to our deep desire. For glory means good report with God, acceptance by God, response, acknowledgement, and welcome into the heart of things. The door on which we have been knocking all our lives will open at last.”

“We want something else which can hardly be put into words–to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become a part of it… That is why the poets tell us such lovely falsehoods. They talk as if the west wind could really sweep into a human soul; but it can’t. They tell us that ‘beauty born of murmuring sound’ will pass into a human face; but it won’t. Or not yet. For if we take the imagery of Scripture seriously, if we believe that God will one day give us the Morning Star and cause use to put on the splendor of the sun, then we may surmise that both the ancient myths and the modern poetry, so false as history, may be very near the truth as prophecy. At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendors we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumor that it will not always be so. One day, God willing, we shall get in.”