Yesterday I brought some of my students from Immaculate Conception Academy to a local parish to help out with CCD. I comfortably settled down to get some really overdue letters written (yes, I still believe in hand-written letters; I’m a literature teacher, after all.) Then I overheard a conversation that moved my heart, because it was basically a plea for help, a cry for comfort that only the best of Mothers can give. A woman had come to the CCD classroom building asking why the church and the parish hall had been locked, because she loved to spend time with the huge image of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the hall downstairs. “She just helps me calm down,” she said with disarming simplicity. But there was nothing to be done, as one of the teachers explained; just weeks ago the pastor had decided that everything needed to be locked up early in the evening and kept safe. I was supposedly writing my letter in silence; I had put up a little window between me and the rest of the world, but the words of their conversation came pinging against the glass… “But why?…She’s so beautiful…Well, there’s nothing to be done…It’s such a shame.” Finally I realized I had to do something. I poked through my agenda, and there it was…a perfect little card of Our Lady of Guadalupe, full-length in all her beauty, with an explanation of all the miraculous details of the image. I ran after the woman and almost stumbled over the chairs on my way to reach her, but I gave it to her. The woman was almost in tears and gave me a tremendous hug. She introduced me to her daughter Alexis, whose birthday is on December 8th, the feast of the Immaculate Conception (the name of the academy where I teach.) And she was thrilled to discover that my birthday is on December 12th, the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
As a consecrated woman, I can definitely say that there are really two women inside me: one is Eve, and the other is Mary, or the proverbial ‘bad girl’ and the ‘good girl.’ Every day they duke it out, and it is only by the grace of God that the ‘good girl’ wins over my shyness, laziness, and many other little vices. I could have let that woman at the parish just go on her way without reaching out to her, without giving her that assurance, however small, that her Mother in heaven loves her. The battle simply isn’t won without God’s grace… but we can win. The huge, unmerited, gratuitous gift of being consecrated means that I remind everyone around me about eternal life, and that it is possible to live an incredibly fulfilled and happy life in poverty, chastity and obedience, just as Mary and Jesus did.
It takes a lot of self-knowledge to realize where and how we fall and what steps can be taken to prevent them. How did Eve fall in the first place? She was simply too weak to stand up to the serpent’s insinuations; it is all too easy for us, as well, to remain half-asleep in our comfort zone, to just ignore the incredible needs that are out there. We Catholics feel especially vulnerable right now. We may think it’s just not worth it; it’s not worth the time and effort. We have too many internal problems and conflicts; we are all reeling from severe wounds. People have been badly hurt, and everyone’s trust and faith has been tested. So why put ourselves on the line, just to get hurt again? Of course we don’t want to take more hits. But if we flee from the battle, we won’t win any victories. If we allow ourselves to be the victims in this digital age, there will be serious consequences. If we don’t get the truth of Catholicism out there in the media, then there are many other things that will fill up thousands of minds and hearts: just what the Father of Lies ordered. Fr. Robert Barron summed it up very well in an interview with Tim Drake.
“We have media now that Fulton Sheen would have died for. The explosion in the last 10 years is incredible — that I can produce a YouTube video, put it up, and it’s there 24/7. It was so edifying to be at World Youth Day in Madrid. We were flooded with young people who had seen our YouTube videos. They’re a great way to communicate. I also hear from atheists and secularists. How else would we be able to reach someone like that? I savor the opportunity to reach out to radically unchurched people. That’s what the new media has given us.
The Church needs to reassert what it’s about… A year ago I was on a local Chicago news program and the opening question was: “You represent the religion that has the worst public relations in the world.” I said, “Yes, we have this problem, but I refuse to let 2,000 years of Catholicism be reduced to the sexual-abuse scandal. A handful of people did terrible things, but we have 2,000 years of beauty, art, architecture, liturgy and the saints. We have St. Thomas Aquinas, [Blessed] Mother Teresa, the Notre Dame Cathedral. I don’t want that reduced to the sexual-abuse scandal.”
Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/why-father-robert-barron-filmed-catholicism/#ixzz1YiQjG2tg
I think all Catholics need to ask themselves some serious questions at this moment in time, with everything we have lived through. What is the real tragedy here? Is the tragedy being lied to? I would argue that it is not. The tragedy is not even in believing the lie; we are all weak and easy to fool when an angelic intelligence like Satan’s is pitted against our own puny rational powers. Satan is clearly trying to destroy the Church from within, and he will fail because of the truth of the Resurrection. The real tragedy, in my opinion, is being consumed by the lie, becoming so overwhelmed with it that the light of truth is blocked out. We also have to be humble enough to admit that we also lie to ourselves. We deceive and are deceived. Eve was lied to by the serpent, but she also lied to herself when she decided to give in to temptation; when she decided to taste that fruit, she in essence denied the goodness and wisdom of God. He walked in the cool of the evening with her; she had known and experienced his goodness and wisdom, but she was too weak; she denied it all when she was faced with the devil’s suggestions. It’s not all Adam’s fault, even though he was supposed to protect her. She definitely pays for her sins; in punishment she is expelled with Adam from the Garden of Eden, and she sees her son Cain murder his brother Abel. But even then not all is lost, because of that incredible verse in Genesis 3:15. We are promised a Savior. Then things get really good: Mary comes into the picture.
Mary did not know everything about God’s plan for her; she was not given a detailed report of everything that would happen. But she says ‘yes’ to his plan, without even knowing how it will all take place, and reverses the damage done by Eve. She trusts in the Father totally, even as Eve did not trust. God places his trust in humanity again through Mary, because trust is the cement of all relationships. The important thing to remember, though, is that he trusts in us first. ‘Eva’ spelled backwards is ‘Ave’, meaning ‘hail’ or ‘praise’, or ‘chaire’, in the original Greek of Luke’s Gospel where the Annunciation is recounted. ‘Chaire, kecharitomene, o Kyrios meta su.’ Will we choose to praise God’s name through our simplicity and trust? Will we choose to give him to others? Even if we fall, even if we are liars or the victims of lies, God has promised to be with us, and Mary has given him to us. That gives us all the strength we need to forgive, to trust, to believe and move on with our lives. Mary’s ‘yes’ has given us Jesus; through her we can reverse the damage and bring him into the world.