An appointment with The Passion

Going to the dentist. Getting your eyes dilated at the optometrist, then driving home half-blind with those super-flimsy shades sitting squee-jaw on your face. Ladies, that yearly pap smear isn't a barrel of laughs.

These are a few of my not-so-favorite things.

We all have our own set of routine health exams, cleanings and check-ups that involve some degree of bodily discomfort. But ultimately, we know that these things lead to a better life: fewer root canals, a lower risk of untreated cancer, more time with our loved ones.

It's led me to thinking: Do I give my soul the same treatment that I afford my body? I've written before that I'm no fasting guru, nor do I think, with the bearing of children and whatnot, that I'm bound to become one. But prompting me to this question is an event from my Passion (Palm) Sunday weekend: watching The Passion of the Christ.

Mel Gibson released his epic film in 2004, and since, then, it's been more or less the summit of all films made of Christ.

Even though I helped organize the event with a parish committee, I was dreading having to attend. Dreading it. Like, I contemplated staging a dire gastric emergency (not uncommon for me), or playing up the usual pregnancy fatigue. But in the end, I attended--and am so glad I did.

I saw The Passion on the big screen in college during the Triduum, and what I saw of it (through peaks at the big screen as I squeamishly covered my tear-streaked face) left me with a new, staggering appreciation of the brutality of Roman crucifixion. Attending Mass for the next few months afterward meant that I sat in sorrow, replaying the more, well, difficult scenes in my mind. The nailing to the cross. The crowning with thorns. The awful, disturbing scourging.

And so it was a great blessing to watch it for a second time, knowing what parts were coming--and when--and reacting accordingly to what I know I can take.

During the scourging, I left the room (though kept myself within earshot of the film) and prayed steady Hail Marys through my tears, asking the Lord to forgive the men that beat him.

During the carrying of the cross, I quietly closed my eyes when I needed a break from the injustice of it all.

During the nailing of our Lord and Savior to the cross, I clutched my jacket through my somewhat silent sobs.

Doing this allowed me to appreciate three new things, regarding the movie:

1. Throughout all of Jesus' bloodshed, I told myself: I need to get through this. I cannot leave the room again, I cannot leave my seat, because if I do, I won't come back. And if I don't see the end, I let the devil win, because I won't have seen what all of this suffering is for. And, of course, the suffering is for our redemption in the Resurrection.

2. Seeing the movie twice meant that I paid more attention to the flashbacks and what we might call "character development" of Mary, the apostle John, Pilate, and the various Roman soldiers. How carefully had I watched those peaceful, prayerful, beautiful glimpses into Jesus' life the first time I saw the film? Him playfully teasing his mother (pictured above)? Giving the Sermon on the Mount? Offering His Blood at the Last Supper? I was too busy holding every single muscle in my body taught with tension. This time, I watched. And learned.

3. Not every Catholic (or Christian, or anyone else) is called to watch this film. Just like it may be hard for a busy mother to work in the Liturgy of the Hours into her day, but it's more feasible for her to pray a nightly Rosary with her family, so too should viewing The Passion be considered a personal piety that resonates with some, but not with all. On a whole, I think many, many Catholics would deeply benefit from seeing the film. But for some, its intensity prevents the heart of the film from sinking in, as it did for me at the first viewing.

A day after seeing it again, images of Mary's face float through my mind--a face that isn't porcelain, isn't painted in an icon, isn't carved in stone. Though those images of our Blessed Mother are precious and beautiful (and I keep many in our home), pondering Mary as a person that lived and breathed and walked the Way of the Cross with her Son is a different mode of contemplation. Her face, blood-streaked and dirty from gently kissing the feet of her Son on the cross as he hangs dying, is a gift I've received from Gibson's film.

That's the beauty of enduring some discomfort for the sake of a soul check-up.

"...I'll be honest with you, there are things that I went through that I can't even talk about. I felt like a great presence came within me at times when we were filming. This prayer that came from me was, 'I don't want people to see me. I just want them to see Jesus. And through that conversions will happen.' That's what I wanted more than anything."


Why don't you crawl?

At nearly the exact time the House was taking its "historic" vote on Obamacare, I was sitting in an evening Sunday Mass.

Gonzaga basketball had occupied our morning, and our loss to number-one-ranked Syracuse proved to be the herald of a bad day--a very bad day. We watched C-SPAN the rest of the afternoon. Images of a smug Louise Slaughter, a pleading Paul Ryan and a rather comical Jesse Jackson Jr. (filling in for Speaker Pelosi) are still burned on my retina. 

Then it was off to 7 p.m. Mass, knowing full well that during the hour or so that we'd participating in the Lamb's Supper, another kind of feast would be happening in the House of Representatives: the feasting of liberal interests on one-sixth of the American economy. 

It's been said, over and over, how bad this bill will be for our country. For months now, we've read the analysis, the commentary, the conclusions of just how bad this will be. It's been grueling. And it's hardly over. 

Realizing this afternoon that Stupak would cave (after what he says his family has been through, I'm not sure I can blame him), that Pelosi had the votes and that the largest expansion of government-funded abortions since 1973 was at our country's doorstep, I was in lockstep with the deadly sin of despair. Our taxes will rise. Our increased taxes will fund abortions--save me the comedy of any "executive order" precluding that. Our private decisions regarding health care will be made for us, by a government that can't even manage a car subsidy program without going bankrupt. 

Oh, woe are we.


I sat in Mass. And just before standing to join the communion line, I realized something. It's the same thing I realize every time I discipline my mind in Mass instead of letting it freely meander. It's what I realize each time I focus on the altar, not on my ego. 

I realized: Jesus is here.


Present. Incarnate. Holy.

Living. True. Salvation. 

Christ. Now. Forever!

Before me--just yards away. I realize that, and I cry. Because I know I am utterly unworthy to receive Him. 

Cardinal Arinze, speaking about the Eucharist, once said: "If you believe that Christ is God and He is present [at the Eucharist], why don't you kneel? Why don't you crawl?"

And if we really knew what is given to us at each and every Mass, we wouldn't enter with our heads full of despair over healthcare and our futures. We wouldn't be wondering what Mass John Stockton usually attends with his family (as they just happened to sit two rows in front of us tonight), what he does with his days and if he watched the game this morning. We wouldn't turn our heads with each little wail and giggle from a toddler across the aisle. And we wouldn't--I wouldn't--despair about a truly henious turn of events in our country.

If only I would realize it a little bit sooner than the communion hymn. 


Condoms, etc., part II

Hard not to pass this one up:
Called the Hotshot, the condom has been produced after government research showed 12 to14-year-olds did not use sufficient protection when having sex.

Family planning groups and the Swiss Aids Federation campaigned to have the Hotshot produced after a number of studies, including the government study researched at the Centre for Development and Personality Psychology at Basel University.
Pause. Wait for blood pressure to recede.

On what other planet does the fact that 12-year-old boys are having sex without condoms constitute "risky behavior," but the mere fact that 12-year-old boys are having sex does not?
Nancy Bodmer, who headed the research, said: "The result that shocked us concerned young boys who display apparently risky behaviour. They have more of a tendency not to protect themselves. They do not have a very developed sexual knowledge. They do not understand the consequences of what they are doing and leave the young girls to take care of the consequences.
See previous post on the money trail. Only this time, Switzerland's leading condom manufacturer, Lamprecht AG, gets a shot at the profits before the abortionists. Tee-rific.

Furthermore, Lamprecht has its sights set on UK children:
Nysse Norballe, a spokesman for the company Lamprecht AG, said the “hotshot” condom is only produced in Switzerland, but “the UK is certainly a very attractive market since there is a very high rate of underage conception. The UK would definitely be top priority if we marketed abroad.”
Only in a world where sex is made virginal and virginity is mocked would we see Lamprecht's "attractive market" as anything other than preying on children for profit.


A sexy, self-fulfilling prophecy

From Condoms, Propoganda, and the Money Trail, from Catholic Exchange:
"In other words, if you ignore the clinical facts and continue to give away condoms, the recipients of those condoms will come down with an STD that will require treatment. And since Planned Parenthood provides that treatment service, why not get a leg up on the competition by making sure your clients come back again and again, even if it is because you actually created the opportunity for the disease to invade the body in the first place." (emphasis mine.)
Here's my respectful contention when debating abstinence education vs. condom education (let's be honest and call it what it is, eh).

We're all, hopefully, trying to reduce teen abortions and pregnancy (I'd hope most everyone could agree that anyone in their teens would do well to delay pregnancy, and thereby abortion). In general theory, abortions decrease when there are fewer pregnant youth to procure them. The likelihood of getting pregnant drops to about nil in the absence of sexual activity.

So if we want to decrease teen abortions, the simplest, least complicated, danger-at-zero route is to help kids avoid having sex.

AH--and there's the rub. While I (we) believe the way to avoid teen pregnancy is to avoid teen sex, others believe avoiding teen pregnancy is avoiding conception, thereby leaving the sex in place, and throwing a condom in the mix.

Opponents to abstinence education (which, I fully admit, has a wide range of interpretations, program authors, teachers and intents) would like to equip these kids (kids) with all the tools necessary to enjoy their budding sexuality with all the safety and finesse of a toddler wielding a chainsaw. Get them condoms. Get them on the Pill. Get them access to abortion. But by all means--please do not tell them to save sex for marriage.

Well, wait, they might not be quite abortion-ready until they are 16. We'll have to deal with that ugly situation of statutory rape. Or do we?

Again, do we?

Once more, I mean, is it really that big of a deal?

Sigh. Anyway.

Steering from youth sex to all matters of sexual "liberation" in general leaves us with the holy grail of the condom, that treasured rubber tube, and its sister, Pill.

From Matt and Pat:
"Abortion, ESCR, and euthanasia all call contraception 'mother.' That is why any
acknowledgment, no matter how trivial, obvious, or scientific, that calls into
question the magic consequence-erasing power of contraception must be attacked
with all vigor."
And that is why all of this--which, at some point started with teen sex education--comes back to one thing: money.

Who profits when you give a 15-year-old teenage girl a condom, tell her to frolic, and she comes back with Chlamydia?

Who profits when that same girl is raped by her abusive father, or date raped after her first drinking binge, or when she gets pregnant by her older boyfriend--and everyone tells her what her obvious solution is?

Who profits in the mess of all this?

We all know who. It's every Planned Parenthood, every abortuary, every "doctor" who makes a living killing the unborn children that come as a result of teen sex. They're making money ($1.02 billion, to be exact). And it's blood money.

I have a hard time accepting that we shouldn't teach children--from before they even enter a classroom to when they're getting ready for prom--about saving sex for when they're married, instead of equipping them to use every contraceptive tool on the market.

Maturity is beautiful--so is innocence. Sex is beautiful. Sex in a healthy marriage is life-giving and amazing. Sex between committed people who don't fear STDs, who don't fear pregnancy, who give without reservation--that is beautiful.

Why would we rob children of that beauty with a cheap counterfeit? And a counterfeit that serves the contraception and abortion industries, at that?

To me, it seems like a circle of condoms, propaganda and the money trail.