How Can We Know the Way?

Children's Museum "selfie", including photobomb by Drew and Grandpa!

Children’s Museum “selfie”, including photobomb by Drew and Grandpa!

Spring Break 2014 is looking good so far.

Two of my three favorite young men are home lounging with me and yesterday we were greeted with a lovely sighting. Grandma Kate and Grandpa Jim brought us some special visitors from Chicago. A rarely and smiley day of fun with Aunt Robbi, along with cousins Maddie and Ellie ensued. We giggled our way through the Indianapolis Children’s Museum then onto a late lunch before most of the crew headed off to see either “The Muppets” or “Noah” and I drove down to Bishop Chatard High School to catch some Guerin Catholic baseball action where son # 3 simply couldn’t be left without a fan base, despite the rain.

Granted, it’s not sun and sand, but it’s an overflowing scoop of favorite people topped off with the angelic little toothless grin of my youngest Goddaughter, Ellie! Elle-belle is a 1st grader at All Saint’s Academy near my sister’s home in Naperville, IL.

“Aunt Thelly. I read at thcool math. But it wathn’t even fair. The reading wath impothible. It wath full of eth-eth”

I couldn’t stop smiling at her.  She was just like a piece of candy….you want to eat her up she is so sweet.

“Thesse thent hith theven thons to Thamuel.” She explained.

“Jesse sent his seven sons to Samuel?” I interpreted. “That’s what you had to read at school mass, Ellie?”


I mean, she’s 40lbs of sunshine that one. I couldn’t stop laughing. That moment of toothless cuteness is just a tiny window of time I now realize as my boys are all well past it. I SOOOO wish I could have been a fly on the wall at that mass. I think it’s a little rude of my sis to marry a guy from Chicago and move so far from me, actually. Don’t you agree?

Today is Spring Break day 2 and it’s a bit lower key.  I let my two “staycationers” sleep in while I headed to 8am mass. As I was getting ready to leave, my “holy texting friend” Vivian invited me (via text of course) to come sit with she and her hubby for the mass, after which I had set up an appointment for confession.

If I am honest, I didn’t sleep well last night. I was reflecting again on what I needed to apologize to Jesus about and I was tossing and turning. This confession seemed particularly overdue. There are loads of things every day I do or don’t do, or say, for which I know I need forgiveness. I suppose they had been piling up a bit.

Really, though, the biggest impediment for me in being the woman Jesus means for me to be this day is my own lack of forgiveness of myself. Many times, even after I know Jesus has forgiven me, I hang on to my sin, beating myself up over mistakes big and small.

My inner dialogue goes something like this:

Shelly. You know better and look at you. You act like you love God but you are just a worthless sinner. What qualifies you to talk about faith with your kids or friends? You’re nothing but a hypocrite anyway.

When it starts to sound like insanity, a broken record inside my crazy head, I know that I am overdue for some sacramental assistance.

It’s funny what happens when I pray “Jesus, I don’t know what I need, but You do, please help me. I want to love You more.”

“Shelly, Satan is clever. He’s insidious. He knows just what to do to disarm you. Lack of forgiveness of self, stirring up old wounds, that’s the devil. The prayer to St. Michael is a prayer of exorcism– say it. It will help you,” said my confessor very matter-of-factly.

We talked a bit more, and he absolved me, then he handed me a book. He asked me to read it, giving me the assignment of reading the first chapter as my official penance.

As I left my realization was that I cannot allow myself to be far from the grace of the sacraments. I need to be at mass receiving Jesus and I need more frequent receipt of the sacrament of reconciliation. Our priests are exhausted, and so I feel guilty asking for even more of their time. The thing is, that whole “the last thing Father needs is a call asking for time from a pain in the ass housewife”… that’s not righteous guilt. What that is about is Satan trying to take away what I know… by any means he can find which will work to unravel me. However, he cannot. Jesus loves me. This I know.

“St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.”

Shortly after I returned home today, I got an amazingly well timed message from a friend via email.  It was a copied little piece of a larger work of commentary on David by an author with whom I am not yet familiar named Mark Buchanan.

I don’t believe in coincidence. God’s perfect timing is at work.

In Louis Ginzberg’s monumental 7-volume work The Legend of the Jews, a compilation of the Jewish oral tradition, he retells the story of David in paradise. 

According to the legend, David is the superstar of the after life, a personage of “glory and grandeur,” whose throne sits opposite God’s and from which David “intones wondrously beautiful psalms.”

David’s “crown… outshines all others, and whenever he moves out of Paradise to present himself before God, suns, stars, angels, seraphim, and other holy beings run to meet him.”

But the main thrust of the legend is David’s relationship with God.

God throws a lavish feast on the Day of Judgment, and God at David’s bidding himself attends.

At the end of the banquet, God invites Abraham to pray over the cup of wine. Abraham declines on grounds of his unworthiness.

At the point I read this, I think, “Ok God. I’m listening. What are you doing to me today?”

It goes on.

So God asks Isaac, who for similar reasons declines. God then turns to Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua. All beg off for reasons of unworthiness.

Finally, God asks David to bless the cup. And David replies, “Yes, I will pronounce the blessing, for I am worthy of the honor.”

At first blush, this is shocking as I read it. It seems brazen and delusional. Who do you think you are?

The author goes on.

“On second thought, this sounds biblical. The heart of the Bible’s message, muted in the Old Covenant but shouted aloud in page after page of the New, is the improbable, astonishing, breathtaking good news that I am the one Jesus loves.

I am the tax-collector whose house Jesus had to enter, so that salvation could invade it.

I am the leper who cried out to Jesus on his way past Samaria, so that he could speak wholeness into me and then woo me back to worship him.

I am the lame man whose friends lowered me down through the rafters, so that Jesus could speak forgiveness and healing to me.

I am the invalid Jesus found in a dark part of town, bed-ridden and complaining, so that he could say to me, “Get up, take up your mat, and walk.”

I am the prodigal he saw a long way off, who ran to me, threw a feast for me, put his robe and ring and sandals on me.

I am the elder brother who refused to join the party, and so he went out to me and begged me to come in.

I am Lazarus, the one he raised from the dead and then invited to recline with him at the table.

I am not worthy to bless the cup, except He makes me so.

At great cost, all by his own doing, Jesus makes me his own, loves me without condition, forgives me without remainder, places his own name on me, puts his own Spirit in me, and goes ahead to prepare a place for me.

He’s made me a chosen people, a holy nation, a royal priesthood, one who belongs to God.

I am the one Jesus loves.

 Let that rattle around a bit. Then say this out loud.


You’d think this would be the end of my entry for today, wouldn’t you? But for me, who is a certifiable supernatural thinker, it got even better.

So, I read this lovely email which spoke just exactly to the sinfulness which was most bothering me this morning and I felt it was God kind of yelling at me to get it together. I quite literally took a deep breath and said ALOUD, “Thank you, God. I am listening. Your will, not mine…I get it. You love me. I love you.”


“One new email message has just arrived.”

I click on it, and the email makes me laugh aloud.

It’s from the editor of a Catholic periodical asking ME to write an article on THIS bit of scripture “How can we know the way?” (Jn 14:5).

What took you so long, Lord? I mean, I think I agreed to try it Your way about 6 seconds ago.

You best be sending the Holy Spirit in a big bad way if You want ME to show anyone the way to anywhere, Big Man. I can get lost on the way to the bathroom sometimes.

Our God is an Awesome God. He also makes me laugh. And laughing makes me smile.


And that is all I’ve got for Spring Break, day 2.




It’s Up to You- No More Than Two

Banner at Northview High School in southern Indiana

Banner at Northview High School in southern Indiana

“It’s up to you, no more than two.”

In an apparent attempt to “educate” the students entrusted to their care, the powers that be at Northview High School (right here in Indiana….Brazil, Indiana to be exact) have posted this banner.  The title of the banner is “Zero Population Growth”.

If we stop having so many children, the world is going to be vastly improved.  That’s the message.

I had no idea Tom and I were contributing to the downfall of humanity.  Thanks, Northview, for clearing that up for us with your math project.

What I think is that this is an unbelievable example of the culture of death which permeates our lives and those of our young people.  Offensive is the most gracious adjective whose use I could tolerate here.

Check out this story for more details and decide for yourself.

What does our Lord have to say?

“God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply.  Fill the earth and govern it.  Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals the scurry along the ground.”  (Gen 1:28)

Let us pray:

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.  Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.  May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the Power of God, cast into hell Satan and all evil spirits who prowl throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.  Amen.

Religious Persecution: Let’s NOT?

Irish crossRESOLVED: That the guarantee of the rights of conscience, as found in our Constitution, is most sacred and inviolable, and one that belongs no less to the Catholic, than to the Protestant; and that all attempts to abridge or interfere with these rights, either of Catholic or Protestant, directly or indirectly, have our decided disapprobation, and shall ever have our most effective opposition. –ABRAHAM LINCOLN

Published in a book written in 1920 titled Abraham Lincoln, Man of God by Dr. John W. Hill, this quote rang in my head when I read it today in a news story.

I loathe involving myself in any conversation that is political in nature.  It causes uncomfortable disharmony interiorly, and I value harmony much more than I care to admit.  That desire to distance myself from some flavors of discord is sometimes holy and other times not so much.

Today I’ve bumped up against a problem.  So, here I go stirring the pot.

My oldest son is 16.  He mumbles.  His room smells like the inside of a sneaker after practice.  I try not to pick fights too much but he’s driving me to stick my tongue out at him after he leaves the room these days.  That’s why it blows my mind that he is the one who made me realize I have to go on the record on this whole dreaded matter of “Obamacare”.

I’m not going to discuss our silly government who closes down the WWII Memorial to vets and leaves open the fitness center for Congressmen.  I am assuming that all reasonable people are with me on that one.  So, I’m sticking my neck out for one reason.  I don’t want to show up at the pearly gates and have to explain why I run off at the mouth about so many things that don’t matter a lick and chose to keep quiet on this one.

“Mom?  The Little Sisters of the Poor have a crappy choice.  Do I have this right?  Poor Nuns, like literally poor—it’s in their name– who take care of equally poor old people with nowhere else to go have to either agree to pay for abortion drugs or else give the government like a million dollars a day?”

“Yes, hon. “

“Well, don’t you think the people who work there knew they were going to be working for Catholics when they took the job?  I mean, obviously you’re gonna offend a nun if you ask them to do that.  They’re NUNS.  It seems like you would just not work there if you wanted that.   I mean the place is called SAINT Augustine.  Why not just apply for a job at Starbucks or something instead?”

So, my teenager wants to understand what’s happening?  The same kid who barely seems to notice there are others even in his space some days?  The kid’s observation seems pretty spot on.  You see, freedom to WORSHIP is not the same as freedom of CONSCIENCE.  Abraham Lincoln understood it very clearly.   Despite being a teenager, Nick seems to find the logic mind-bending too.

This is America:  Land of the free and home of the brave.  Today it’s my turn to be brave and go on the record.

Everyday, the Catholic Church feeds, clothes, shelters and educates more people than any other organization in the world.  It truly makes me proud to be Catholic.  Without freedom of conscience rights, this is in jeopardy.  If the statistics I read today are correct (and it is possible since Google has been wrong before), 13% of medical care institutions in the United States are Catholic.

Here’s what I think.  I think anyone who truly believes in God (by any name), respects the freedom of conscience rights of others.  Even kids know this interiorly.  Well, those that are blessed do.  That’s why Nick was thrown.  He understands the problem very easily.  Why?   It’s because he is a believer.

When I was about nine years old, we used to play “kick the can” in the backyard with the neighbors.  I would occasionally complain about the choice of game (mostly because I was slow and somewhat afraid of the dark).  One of the Benjamin boys would inevitable yell “What you’re problem?  Is it against your religion or something?”

I would argue this oft heard phrase indicates that even children recognize one ought not to interfere with matters of faith.  It’s sacrosanct.  A smart guy named Lincoln apparently thought so too.

“NO Brian, it’s not against my religion but how about let’s NOT and say we did?  Cuz I am so sick of this game!”

Those who argue that we Catholics are being “intolerant” on this matter of Obamacare  or are “overly sensitive” are largely unchurched people, I would guess.  Those who love God and choose faith in whatever tradition generally appreciate freedom of conscience and grasp the difference between that and merely the “freedom to worship” mindset that is prevalent in our overwhelmingly secular culture.

A Jewish friend with whom I have shared this debate quietly,  quickly came to understand my perspective once we chatted.  She believes in freedom of religion, not just freedom of worship.  That’s because Judaism is not just a set of beliefs about God, it’s a comprehensive way of life filled with rules and practices that affect every aspect of life:  what you can and cannot eat, what you can and cannot wear, how to conduct business, who you can marry, how to observe holidays, how to treat others.  This set of rules is called halakhah.  What I have been told is that traditional Jews believe that properly observed, it turns the most mundane or small things into acts of religious significance, which in turn leads one closer to God.

So, here’s the deal.  What’s being asked of Catholics now is a violation of conscience.  Or as Brian Benjamin would prefer “it’s against my religion.”

If violating the conscience rights of another doesn’t turn one’s stomach, then what I think we have is a person who does not realize that God loves them.  Our intense prayers are needed.  There is only one, and he cannot prevail, who wishes for a soul to lack a relationship with God.

For me personally, I know that I fail over and over.  I try not to worry too much about perfection but just persist giving my best effort.  I just try to give my heart to Jesus.  I know that He will take it, mold it, and fill it with the fire of His love if I keep asking.  Therefore, there’s no judgment here on this matter of making your own choices.  In Shelly’s world, YOU ARE FREE TO MAKE YOUR CHOICE about your own life, lifestyle, and healthcare.  God gave us all the gift of free will.

Don’t ask me, however, to give up my freedom of conscience rights to pay for another man’sfree will choices.

That’s called religious persecution.

This is America:  land of the free.

Let’s NOT?  I’m sick of it.

Sidebar:  Did you know my given name is actually Michelle?  That will help here below.

Here’s the prayer to my patron Saint, a fitting prayer for my petition today:  That all souls may know the love of God in this life and ever after.

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.  Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.  May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the Power of God, cast into hell Satan and all evil spirits who prowl throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.  Amen.