She is a Rainbow in the Clouds Reaching Towards God

Excerpts from Ad Caeli Reginam (Proclaiming the Queenship of Mary)

From the earliest ages of the catholic church a Christian people, whether in time of triumph or more especially in time of crisis, has addressed prayers of petition and hymns of praise and veneration to the Queen of Heaven. And never has that hope wavered which they placed in the Mother of the Divine King, Jesus Christ; nor has that faith ever failed by which we are taught that Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, reigns with a mother’s solicitude over the entire world, just as she is crowned in heavenly blessedness with the glory of a Queen.

51. By this Encyclical Letter We are instituting a feast so that all may recognize more clearly and venerate more devoutly the merciful and maternal sway of the Mother of God. We are convinced that this feast will help to preserve, strengthen and prolong that peace among nations which daily is almost destroyed by recurring crises. Is she not a rainbow in the clouds reaching towards God, the pledge of a covenant of peace? “Look upon the rainbow, and bless Him that made it; surely it is beautiful in its brightness. It encompasses the heaven about with the circle of its glory, the hands of the Most High have displayed it.” Whoever, therefore, reverences the Queen of heaven and earth – and let no one consider himself exempt from this tribute of a grateful and loving soul – let him invoke the most effective of Queens, the Mediatrix of peace; let him respect and preserve peace, which is not wickedness unpunished nor freedom without restraint, but a well-ordered harmony under the rule of the will of God; to its safeguarding and growth the gentle urgings and commands of the Virgin Mary impel us.
— Pope Pius XII, 1954

The saying goes:  if you want to get to know a man, get to know his mother.

Prayer of the Day:  Memorare

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.


Question of the Day 08-04-15

Question of the Day:  What if I’m wrong?

Do any of the following women have the humility required to reflect “what if I’m wrong?”

When I watch and listen to these women speak, they look and sound to me like the very men whom they do not want telling them what to do.

These women are products of their time. As a GenXer, I grew up on the ‘pro-choice” contraception / abortion story line and how it was not just good but essential for women, for their happiness, for their freedom and success. What if this story line was and is wrong about what brings about happiness, freedom, and success? What if the sales pitch has done more harm than good?

What if artificial contraception is actually bad for women? What if intentionally disabling your reproductive system is a trap that does not lead to true freedom? What does hormonal contraception do to a woman’s health? What if the “war on women” is not coming from the Catholic Church or the Republican party, but rather from the faulty story I keep telling myself? What if the “story” I tell women about themselves is wrong? What if my story comes from fear and control, or selfishness, rather than authentic love and respect?

Who knows better what is best for women than the one who created them male and female? There is a plan and purpose for our sexuality. Women are not called poison or mutilate themselves with artificial contraception and render themselves “faux males.” There is another story about women (and men), a story that’s true for all times, whether it is the 1890s or 1950s or 2015.

What is the story you tell yourself about what it means to be a woman (or a man)? Where did it come from? Where do you stand and why?

Prayer of the Day:  May men and women everywhere be set free. May men and women appreciate and respect a woman’s ability to bring new life into the world. May girls and women experience authentic love. May the wounds between men and women be healed. May all women be open to and have the support needed to choose life.

Christian Identity: Love for Love

Today’s QUESTIONS are inspired by the discussion among mainstream and social media and general responses of people regarding the racial identity of Spokane NAACP Chapter President Rachel Dolezal. Ms Dolezal’s parents say their daughter is Caucasian of Czech, Swedish, and German descent, with “traces” of Native American ancestry. Ms Dolezal has self-identified as mixed race, including white, African-American, and Native American.

  • Question of the Day:  How often do you identify as a child of God?
  • Question of the Week:  What is it in human nature that causes us to treat the “other” as something less than what we are?
  • Question of the Centuries: When will we have peace?

News Coverage

At its monthly membership meeting tomorrow, June 14, the NAACP will address the matter (issue of misrepresentation and deception), and in the interim, the NAACP has released a statement.

In every corner of this country, the NAACP remains committed to securing political, educational, and economic justice for all people, and we encourage Americans of all stripes to become members and serve as leaders in our organization.

Rachel Dolezal also released a brief statement to members of the NAACP, saying she will address the issue of her racial identity at the monthly meeting.

UPDATE:  Ms Dolezal resigned from her position on June 15. A commenter posted a video of a student interviewing Ms Dolezal about experiences of black women.

This “Reality TV could not have made this up” drama is a good opportunity to expand the conversation about what constitutes a person’s identity, which is what the questions on the Ask Good Questions list (on this blog) are all about.

How often are people limiting their notion of self, defining their life experiences, and shaping their story based on the color of their skin, their gender, their sexual orientation? How often does the media (be it general news, television shows, sitcoms, movies, or commercials) reduce the true identity of a human person to a single or a few physical aspects, and what is lost in doing so? What is the cost of “identity politics”?

Much of the Rachel Dolezal newsstory and responses to it are rooted in what we see with the eyes. How often we get caught up in what we see:  skin, gender, age, etc., forgetting what is not seen with the eyes:  human beings are both body and soul.

There is so much we don’t know or understand about Ms Dolezal. Details are being revealed piecemeal, and the more we come to know, the sadder and more confusing the story gets. That human beings lie to themselves and others is nothing new. That human beings miss the mark when it comes to love and truth is an old, well-known story. The remedy to this problem is both two thousand years old and as old as the foundation of the world:  Christ.

What does the Bible and Catholic teaching reveal to us about our identity as human beings and who we are as Christians? In Christ, we are a new creation:

Consequently, from now on we regard no one according to the flesh; even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know him so no longer. So whoever is in Christ is a new creation:  the old things have passed away; behold new things have come. —Saint Paul, 2 Corinthians 5:16–17

It is as a new creation, that we begin to walk by faith and not by sight. The faith by which we walk is not blind, though. It is rooted in relationship and our identity as children of God and as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Question of the Day:  How often do you “identify” as “Child of God”? How often do you relate to other people as though they were children of God? Has anyone ever told you that you are a precious and irreplaceable “child of God”?

According to Jesus, not only is being a “child of God” not just for children, it is essential for reaching our eternal destination:

“Amen, amen I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of Heaven.” — Jesus, Matthew 18:3

To take on this identity of “child of God” is to enter a relationship of trust:  trust in the God who created us, who redeems us, who works all things for the good of those who love him. We are not alone in this endeavor; it is the Church that helps us live as a new creation.

The Catholic faith teaches that human beings are made in the image and likeness of God. In his image, we have an intellect, a memory, and a will, from which our actions proceed. Catholicism teaches also that God is a communion of persons in love:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Human beings are designed for relationship, made for communion with God and with each other. We are made for love:  to receive God’s love and share that love with others. This is man’s great purpose and achievement:  to be the beloved and become one who loves. Love for love.

“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”— Jesus, Matthew 22:36–40

Because God is infinite, love is boundless, learning to return love for love is a life-long project. We never fully “arrive,” where we can say “OK, cross that off my bucket list. I’ve loved and been loved enough.” So what does our ethnicity, our gender, our natural intelligence and ability, our social status have to do with our identity as God’s beloved? Nothing. None of these things impede or influence God’s love for us.

But the Lord said to Samuel:  Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him. God does not see as a mortal, who sees the appearance. The Lord looks into the heart. — 1 Samuel 16:7

Do we allow these things to impede our love for others?

But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. — Romans 5:8

It was his Christian identity that caused Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio to say

“I am a sinner, but I trust in the infinite mercy and patience of our Lord Jesus Christ, and I accept in a spirit of penance.” — Pope Francis, America magazine interview, 2013

What happens when people no longer obtain their identity, dignity, and purpose from God? They look for it elsewhere, yet nowhere else can man’s identity be found in its fullness, except in Christ. Our dignity and equality do not come from the government. It is the government’s responsibility, however, as an institution to serve people, to safeguard and promote the dignity and equality of all human beings. The source of our dignity and equality, however, is God alone.

In Redemptor Hominus (1979), Pope Saint John Paul II says that Jesus “fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his most high calling.” If a person’s identity and value are not rooted in God’s love, on what then are they based and how does a person form his or her sense of self?

If I was to take any sort of guess about how Ms Dolezal came to identify herself as black, it would be to err on the side of love. When she speaks of her racial identity, I suspect she is talking about more than just the color of her skin. (But I’m assuming too much already, and won’t go any farther than that, because right now, not only is limited information available, it is God alone who knows the depths of a person’s heart. And my guesses say more about me than they do about Ms Dolezal and the media buzz she has created.)

I will add only that in our human frailty, our “love” often falls short or is misguided or is tinged with impurity ((sometimes saturated with it), and we end up making a mess of things. When Ms Dolezal steps forward to share her mind and heart with us, and no doubt she will, and the media will pay her well for it, I suspect we will discover that one small decision to move away from truth and reality led to a second step farther away, and eventually began to spiral out of control. Until… one day the media was asking her questions about her racial identity and her story spread more quickly than reporters could gather facts.

With today’s technology and social media, it takes only one thoughtless word, one mistake, before your life or your family disagreements and difficulties end up on international television, and the public begins to misunderstand, mock, shame, and vilify. Because news stories are reported and published in part rather than whole (gathering all the facts and taking time to analyze them, before publishing a coherent article), the public is poised to jump to wrong conclusions (not just once, but each time a new piece of the puzzle is put in place). (How often does reading a news article leave us with one fact and ten questions?)

This style of instant piecemeal publishing in no way serves justice and truth. [What does serve justice and truth is humble repentance, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).] How might have the general population responded differently if the story was thoroughly investigated and the facts presented together with thoughtful analysis. But the tools and technology are what they are, and readers must exercise patience and prudence with “news.”

But there is an important fact Christians do have, even when the other 99 percent of the story is missing:  Rachel Dolezal is loved by God. God loves her and us not because of our skin color or our opinion of ourselves or what we have achieved. God continues to love her and us in spite of our faults and failures and hurts we’ve caused. God loves us, because God is love, because we are his creation, and he made us in his image and likeness.

We are put on earth a little space, that we may learn to bear the beams of love. — Poem of the Day:  The Little Black Boy by William Blake (1789)

We must recover in the media and in our country the identity of the human person as having body and soul and as being made in the image and likeness of God. Only then will the dignity and value of all human beings in our society be resurrected. We must have the courage to live out our faith and speak the truth in love to a culture that promotes relativism. We must allow God to transform us. We must have the humility to be what we are:  human, and we must say, again and again, with Christ, “forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Often we think we are waiting on God — to do or give us something, to change the world, to fix us or someone else. But it is God who is waiting on us — for us to cast a glance his way, to seek him, to acknowledge him, to enter into relationship with him, to return to him after we’ve fallen away, to take the next step toward him. The more we get to know God as our creator, the more we know ourselves and accept what it is to be human, the better able we are to relate to people who seem, on the surface, different than us. The more likely we are to love others, in imitation of our Father who first loved us.

This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. — Jesus, Gospel of John 13:35

Question of the Week:  What is it in human nature that causes us to treat the “other” (be it a person of another ethnicity or gender or language or age or religious belief or political affiliation or education level or ability/disability or outward appearance or social status or culture and so on) as something less than what we are? Why do we forget so easily that we are all children of God?

Question of the Centuries:  When will we have peace?

When we love our neighbors and our enemies as we love ourselves.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect. —Jesus, Matthew 5:43–45

peace and all good
may you swim in the ocean of God’s mercy

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. — Jesus, Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:9

The Power of Words

Scriptures of the Day

By the LORD’s word the heavens were made;
by the breath of his mouth all their host.
He gathered the waters of the sea as a mound;
he sets the deep into storage vaults.
Let all the earth fear the LORD;
let all who dwell in the world show him reverence.
For he spoke, and it came to be,
commanded, and it stood in place.
The LORD foils the plan of nations,
frustrates the designs of peoples.
But the plan of the LORD stands forever,
the designs of his heart through all generations.
Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people chosen as his inheritance.
Psalm 33:6–12

Question of the Day:  What will you create today through the power of your words? What will you sculpt with your silence?

The Works of God in Nature

Now will I recall God’s works;
what I have seen, I will describe.
By the LORD’s word his works were brought into being;
he accepts the one who does his will.
As the shining sun is clear to all,
so the glory of the LORD fills all his works;
Yet even God’s holy ones must fail
in recounting the wonders of the LORD,
Though God has given his hosts the strength
to stand firm before his glory.

How beautiful are all his works,
delightful to gaze upon and a joy to behold!
Everything lives and abides forever;
and to meet each need all things are preserved.
All of them differ, one from another,
yet none of them has he made in vain;
For each in turn, as it comes, is good;
can one ever see enough of their splendor?

Sirach 42:15–16; 22–25

Quote of the Day:  You have stricken my heart with your word, and I loved  you.
— Saint Augustine, Confessions Book X, chapter VI.

Read Good Books – Dante’s Inferno

First Sentence of the Day

Midway in the journey of our life
I came to myself in a dark wood,
for the straight way was lost.

— Dante, Inferno, The Divine Comedy (translated by Robert and Jean Hollander)

For the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis recommends that Catholics read Dante as a spiritual guide.

Dante is therefore a prophet of hope, a herald of humanity’s possible redemption and liberation, of profound change in every man and woman, of all of humanity. He invites us to regain the lost and obscured meaning of our human journey and to hope to see again the bright horizon which shines in the full dignity of the human person. Honouring Dante Alighieri, as Paul VI previously invited us to do, we can be enriched by his experience to pass through the many dark woods still widespread in our land and to complete happily our pilgrimage through history in order to arrive at the goal dreamt of and yearned for by every man and woman: “the Love that moves the sun and all the other stars” (Par. XXXIII, 145).