The second year, I received a doctor of the church, Saint Alphonsus Ligouri. I started with the best of intentions, read a bit about him, tried to learn how to say his full name, but life got cluttered and I dropped the ball. I did start to read the Catechism a bit more, so I credit his influence on getting me to read more and think more about willfully applying my faith to everyday, but I'm not sure he appreciates the shout out given that I keep doing a spectacularly bad job with application.
So this year, I thought, if I'm going to do this, perhaps I should take it more seriously. I drew Saint Peter. Ha! I thought. Straight to the top, I must need serious help. I thought of how I had one in college, one about to leave, one in high school, one about to start, one in middle school, three in elementary, one at special needs and one too young to start. I had to manage a large flock, it fit. And yes I did need the help, as high up the ladder as I could get.
2. Growing a friendship with a saint.
How to grow this relationship with a Saint? I've done it before, though I feel as if Saint Anthony sometimes feels ours is a bit one sided. Me asking for him to please help me find...insert anything here, and thanking him when it immediately shows up after I ask. Today, I suspect he's a tad miffed at me.
I forgot to ask when Peter could not find his coat. I looked for it, but I was more interested in telling my Peter he should have hung it up. It got late and I had to take other people where they needed to go. He eventually found it and called me for a ride, he chided me for not looking. I told him I had, but inside, I remembered, I hadn't looked in one way, I hadn't asked. But the result was I took Peter by himself to school. You grow a friendship with a saint the same way you do any other relationship, by spending time, by talking and listening. Today, I would be listening.
3. Riding to School.
We got to hear Fr. Ricardo's talk on what it was like when Christ appeared after the crucifixion. I'm attaching a link to his program page, but the talk for today isn't listed yet. That being said, there isn't a bad talk he's given that I've heard. Today however, this talk he gave which took place the week Pope Francis was tapped to be the successor of Peter, focused on Peter. So my son Peter (who is preparing for confirmation and considering who should be his sponsor and who should be his patron saint), heard about how things always had to be a bit different for Saint Peter. I thought the same for my son, and I know, so did he. We did not talk the whole ride, we just listened as Fr. John told the story of Peter waiting for Jesus to drive him away, to point out how cowardly he'd been, to ask where he went when the trial and scourging and crown of thorns and carrying of the cross and crucifixion took place. Jesus didn't do that, he offered peace. He offered forgiveness, and the recommission of Peter, to begin again, to feed the sheep.
4. I went back home. It's not enough to just know his name. I've started reading Peter's writings. A rock upon which the church is built, is not seen, it merely allows everything else to be placed on top. A rock is a foundation, a parent is a foundation. Good parenting, like discipleship is invisible, it is the foundation upon which everything else rests. He also shepherds all those he is commissioning to continue the work. This is also what a parent does.
5. Listening to the news, shoot, turning on the television or the radio, let alone the internet, it's hard not to have one's sensibilities assaulted. The messages in the music, never mind the commercials, constantly sings a chorus of absolute appetite, zero consequence, from puberty unto death. It hurts because I like music, I like dancing, I like letting my children sing along, but I have to play the DJ censor not because I'm a prude but because I don't want my children singing things I would not want them saying much less doing. I don't want them to become dulled to the beauty of sex by having it too soon, nor by being taught things they should not do nor know about. The overexposure of our children to sex and sexuality via entertainment is like giving children fine wines with happy meals, it is a waste of all that is being offered, in favor of providing something that the children are not ready to appreciate let alone consume. There is no upside.
But I want to have more than a classical music/disney show tunes bubble around my children. I know some moms who close off the outside, no tv, no cable, no wi-fi, no kindle, no cell phones, no radio, nyet. I get it. There is a temptation today to close off into a small room of like minded people, it's certainly safer than having to deal with all the tangled messages and snarls of moral kudzu that clutter our culture. But it isn't what a follower of Christ is supposed to do. We're supposed to engage the world, and to teach our children how to be lights in it. How? Locking one's self in a Catholic conclave certainly seems easier than going out and proclaiming anything not politically correct. Smarter, safer, more reasonable. But it's not discipleship.
Saint Peter understood this fear too. Did you see what they did to HIM? What will they do to us? The rational reasonable part of my brain understands the reality we live in, is not a tolerant age, and lukewarm keeps you safe and appearing reasonable, and ultimately, leaves you lost. How does one come to know and speak truth in charity, reveal the beauty of the church to a world who only sees all limits on everything as repression and intolerance? Personally, I became acutely aware of 1) how sheepish I am and 2) how stupid, and 3) how very lost.
6. The Wrong Alternative
The alternative absent a faith fully grounded in Christ and driven by the Holy Spirit, is the sword. I see it on the internet, the desire to fight all these powers and principalities that demand we denounce all our values in favor of more socially acceptable norms that allow everyone to just go along. Cry Havoc! This is the purist approach that tries to create simply a bigger bubble by bullying those who run counter to the faith. It is the danger the Pharisees succumbed to when presented with Jesus' teachings, and the subsequent teachings of Saint Peter and Saint Paul.
Saint Peter understands that desire too, he cut off the ear of a slave of the ones who came for Jesus. But when you meet the enemy with a sword, you will only always meet the slaves of the enemy, and when you cut them with your sword to defend Christ, you will injure the slave's capacity to hear Christ's message and mar your own capacity to represent it. Being a light to the world compels people to come toward you, to see better, or to carry you with them, to see where they are going.
7. The only proper response, is the response Peter has when he first encounters Christ, and when we see him last with Christ, to drop the nets and follow. To feed the lambs, to tend the sheep, to focus on them rather than the I that also seems insatiable in its time consuming desires. Feed the hungry, and you will be less driven by hunger. Offer simply what you know to be true, when the opportunity presents itself. A shepherd doesn't leave the sheep to go to find the wolves, she simply keeps her eyes vigilant for their coming. As a final note on today's reflections on our first pope, I wasn't going to post this 7 Quick Takes. I'd written everything up until "As" already, but I had not pushed Publish. I didn't know if I should. I didn't know if I wanted to, I wasn't sure if my musings added or took away, if they were light or a sword, and I didn't want to be preachy, and a bit of me felt scared to be so frank. A silly thing really, this is a blog, it's mine, it reveals my faith, so why should I be afraid? But I was, so I hadn't posted.
Then I turned on the radio. Granted I'd left it on 1160 AM, the Catholic radio station that started this whole talk, but there it was again, a nun discussing Peter's response to Jesus, to drop what held him there, and follow. So I came back to the computer, knowing I had to finish the post. And just to make sure I didn't chicken out, a fellow blogger wrote, it's all too much, where's my retreat? and so I thought, three minute retreat coming right up. Well, here's the retreat offered. Click here! How do I find Jesus's glory, grace and truth? To be honest, he whacks me upside the head with it daily whenever I give the least request for a sign. Why? Because like Saint Peter, I'm notoriously hard headed and stubborn, unyielding and hard to move. Rocks are like that. Have a great weekend and I hope to hear from you about whatever Saint becomes your patron for the year. I also hope Saint Peter helps me to go fishing soon. That would be fun.