Monday, December 8, 2014

No, We Don't Worship Mary. We Just Don't Ignore Her

Back in 1984, when I had a full out born again conversion experience with Jesus, I was convinced that He is the Truth the Way and The Life.*1  That hasn't changed. I'd say that my walk with God has developed, grown and flourished. It has sprouted from a tiny seed and branched out to a great big oak tree.

At the time and moving forward in my walk with the Lord, I never had an issue with Mary, the Mother of Jesus. In the little Baptist church I attended in Pompano, she wasn't mentioned, so there was no issue. Later, Assembly of God, Pentecostal, and Baptist churches took stabs at Mary and at the Catholic Church. I listened, but it never sat well with me to develop contempt for another Christian church, and especially someone's mother...Jesus' Mother.

I heard how the Catholic Church worships Mary and statues and how the Pope is seen as God, and that Catholics confess their sins to a priest, as a way of relieving responsibility, and then go back into the world and commit the same sins over again. I didn't care. My relationship with Jesus was fresh, alive and totally sold out. Getting into delineating denominations was too much for my milk fed infant crawl with Christ. What did it matter? Did this or that church worship Jesus, espouse the Virgin Birth, the Crucifixion, the Second Coming? That criteria was good enough for me.

But then, life got tough again. The Jesus that I knew was evasive. I doubted, my faith became diffident. I no longer knew the answers. I felt alone in being a mother of five all under the age of 7 and my oldest was autistic. I felt like I was drowning.

There is a long story in between, but I will get to the point of Mary.

I was introduced to praying the Rosary. When the kids napped, I sat on the sofa, looked out the picture window and thumbed my way back to sanity by praying the Mysteries of Jesus. Each event contained a myriad of scripture verses to meditate upon as I invoked Mary to pray for me.*2  I didn't feel so alone, so little of faith, and I could lean on her to pray for me. She knew the inside story of Jesus. She was I found out, the first Christian. She was trusted to take care of Him. She was the original chalice. She could mother me too. In a big way, salvation with Jesus was wrought through her. Jesus through Mary.*3

Later as a Catholic, I learned of her Immaculate Conception. Not a big deal. If Jesus is the new Adam and Eve was created without sin, why is it a stretch that Mary was conceived without sin?*4 Why wouldn't she be? Jesus, fully divine, the Holy of the Holiest  can not dwell in sin, as a baby growing within His mother would need a sacred womb. *5 That is okay by me.

Then at the foot of the cross, Mary stood. Nobody doubts that every word out of the mouth of Jesus during his Passion was significant on all levels. Every word meant the world. So when Jesus said to John, behold this is your mother and to Mary, behold, your son, he meant that Mary would be our mother too. That John would take care of her memory. That John represents all the beloved of Christ, and that Mary the mother of Jesus is the mother of the Church, that we are to cherish her.*6  No biggie, to me. No hang ups here either.

Also I learned that Mary was assumed into heaven. Why not? Did she not merit that as the Mother pierced by the sword that Simeon prophesied?*7 Could she not be counted in with Elijah and Enoch?  And you would think that if she did suffer a mortal death there would at least be a tomb to visit. But there isn't. I am okay with Mary being assumed, being honored as Blessed among all Women, (Elizabeth said it)*8 Mary was the first to say yes to Jesus.*9 And she said Yes! We can say yes because of her. God set it up this way. He could have blinked Jesus into existence, ready for ministry, but he chose a human family to bring forth the salvation message. A holy family. Not a sinful woman, and not an average Joe did He trust with his only begotten son. *10

We are taught to think critically. We can infer from scripture these thoughts about Mary. She said, "My soul doth magnify the Lord."*11 Her example expands and enriches our understanding of God. It doesn't detract from it.

I believe that God isn't jealous of Mary. I've heard that Fulton Sheen said, "Don't worry about loving Mary too much. You couldn't love her more than Jesus." Right on!

Mary serves as exemplar for my life in Christ. I have hope in heaven because of her example. *12

Veneration isn't the same as worship.

No we don't worship Mary, we just don't ignore her.

1 * John 14:6: Jesus as The Way the Truth and The Life
2 * Hebrews 12:1 The Communion of Saints
3 * Luke 1: 26-38: the Annunciation of Gabriel to Mary
4 * Romans 5;15: Christ as the new Adam
5 * 2 Chronicles 5:7-9: The example of a holy tabernacle
    * Hebrews 9:11: A more perfect tabernacle
6 * John 19: 26,27: Jesus' words to John and His Mother Mary
7 * Luke 2:35: Simeon's prophecy
8 * Luke 1:42: Elizabeth's Greeting to Mary
9 * Luke 1:38 & 46-55: Mary Says YES!
10 * Matthew 2:13,14 and 2:21: God's call for Joseph
11 * Luke 1:46 Mary Magnifies Jesus
12 * Philippians 3:20,21: New heavenly bodies

Monday, November 3, 2014

Memoir #4: Shallow Water Blackout

Shallow Water Blackout

      Psycho Coach pushed us beyond oxygen to the outer reaches of carbon dioxide. He had designed his own swim suit. It looked like a futuristic get up seen on Star Trek, with a zipper in the back. I imagine that moon and star space, the nebula, is much like a swimming pool...quiet, no air, lots of room to think. 

     We were a community college team. There were three campuses and the pool submerged at the central campus. I drove a 70' Ford Falcon about a half an hour to get there, bee bopping to music of 83', that being Duran Duran, David Bowie, and The Fixx. Because of the distance, two a day practices were too difficult. So the coach compressed; he squeezed; he wrung out every drop of water he could from us little sponges. As a sprint coach, he didn't subscribe to middle or long distance training. To him that would have been a waste of time.

     Aqua Girl—that was me, a comic book character—built for the water, duck feet, long fluid muscles—svelte from losing eight pounds in two weeks. Tired, man was I tired. As a student, I trudged to classes, my quads feeling like the cement stairs. IM is short for Individual Medley, a collection of all four strokes and a race that isn't at all short . After high school, I tried my sea legs in the 400 IM and pushed technique in butterfly, backstroke, breast and front crawl drills. All that lonely pool time—it gets to you. My head was all swimmy.

     “Susie, Mike, Mary, and Steve,” he barked. “Take the blocks.”

     People don’t believe that swimmers sweat in a cold pool. This juxtaposing the icy terror we felt against a 65 degree breeze as we waited for the coach's direction. 

     I hopped up there and shook my arms like noodles. The wind blew like a mockery. Wrapping my toes over the tilted edge of the starting block I waggled my legs back and forth to loosen up, adjusting my goggles over the skin head swim cap. 
     We never knew what was coming. It was the big psych-out, in order that when we build endurance and be competitive. We were ready for any race.

 “Alright 75’s!” Coach bellowed. That’s three lengths of the pool, each length being 25 yards.


 Oh great.

     Butterfly is the hardest thing there is. Picture a butterfly spreading its wings underwater. That’s about what it’s like. When done well, it’s beautiful, like ballet. A good swimmer makes it look easy.

“Breath control.”

That’s all he said. We got it. Swim, but don’t breathe.

“The first length, you take two breaths.”
“The second, one breath.”
“The third length, no breaths.”

Zip, zilch, zero breaths.

     This was after some fantastic sprint drill. I can’t remember what it was. but I was winded and spent already. We’d probably done 20 fifties (that’s swimming up and back) on a minute for each.
     He had it in for us, but we’d brought it on ourselves. Friday night was party time for swimmers and this was a Saturday morning practice. Boone's Farm is never a good idea. 

     He was a perfect swim coach for college freshmen. He taught psychology of all things.  

     Leaning over, grabbing the edge, my toes were shriveled, the nail beds purple, water dripped two feet to the surface, creating small circles.  

     We had to do a set of five, and if we took an additional breath, he added another 75.

     I had trouble. With each leg, I tired, breathing more than was allowed. So I swam another 75. I think I’d added three extra.
      Determined to finish this next one, there seemed to be no choice.
     That last length is indelibly stamped on my makeup—of who I have become.

     I remember the morning was overcast, like a habitual mood. Reaching in with a two hand touch at the wall, I pulled my head up and gulped two lungs full, pushing off hard, for momentum. Half way across, my abdomen waved in and out as it fed on carbon dioxide; every ounce of air absorbed by gasping cells.
     At the last third, I saw the bottom black line, the 'T' at the end. I thought, “I’m either going to make it, or pass out, right here in the pool.”

     “But I’m not taking a breath.”

     I reached the wall at the time of  'fade to black'.

     Standing, I swallowed precious air.

     “Good effort!” My teammate Steve grinned at me.

     I got a standing ovation from the other few, the only accolade I got that year. Barely passing school, I was so average. C’s at BCC. Swimming took most of my focus. Heck, it took all of it.

     Shallow water blackout, is a real condition. I was close to drowning, in the pool, at school, in life. I look back now at that little pond. My think tank seemed ocean size. How would I keep my head above the surface? 

     Those drills were good training for the future wife and  mother. Still, I swim.

     Treading water.

     Guarding lives. 

     Holding my breath, often. 

     Swimming at my own risk.

     Yet never swimming alone.

      I am in the deep end now.





Friday, October 24, 2014

Memoir #3

Woman, Splits/Ville

"Do the 50 memoirs have to be in chronological order?" Danika asked.

"Well, that's the idea, " I mused and reconsidered.

It's my blog, so I break the rules at will.

I'd read the book, so yeah, I wanted to see the movie.

I'll call it , Woman Splits/Ville.

The book was a real page turner, I'll give it that. I'd read it about a year ago. But sometimes my memory deletes the bad parts, so there were scenes I forgot. After we saw the movie, my sharp Katie commented, "Books are tamer. Black letters typed against white pages aren't as graphic as the theater screen, plus you read a book in segments. You have more time to digest it in parts." Isn't she smart?!

Rated 'R' movies are worse than they used to be. Or maybe I'm just getting old. Either way, the images and slang/jargon/vulgarity steam rolled through my central nervous system like a freight train.

The real embarrassment here is, I brought my daughters and a male friend of theirs.

If I'd gone alone, it wouldn't have been so bad. But I was blindsided by the current chaos of my "What Next Family" and I just needed an entertainment escape. I should have suggested a Disney flick. In addition, my brain was fried from the week at hand, hence the name of the day, "Fry Day." It was past my bed time. I wasn't thinking clearly.

I did remember from the book that the characters lacked nobility. I sort of liked two of them, but they were supporting roles, one a sister, the other a detective. They had a bit of moral fiber, authentic humanity, and a little humor. The protagonist was insipid;  had no humor and no moral compass. The villain should have been named, Marvelous Malevolence.

So into the black comfy seats, a bucket of popcorn and soda, at the ends of our elbows, we noshed and watched. And soon, we squirmed. We winced. We covered our eyes. Too late at times we plugged our ears. It got pretty bad, real fast. I kept waiting for it to ease. Not half way through, I leaned over to my daughter and whispered, "I can't watch this."

I walked out. I'd forgot my phone, didn't bring a book. I was hoping the kids would wander out to me and we'd get our money back and leave. It didn't happen. I sat on a bench outside the movie chamber and across the aisle, two other macabre types reeled on. The doors were propped open, so I could picture the chain saw slash and dash of heinous supernatural crime scenes. There I was, sitting in the den of iniquity, Hollywood style. I fingered my Rosary beads and wondered what to do.

I thought of all the research on the effects of violence in television and movies on humans. There are some images, memories, that can't be unseen. Some auditory scabrous slurs, that can't be unheard.

I went back in and asked the girls if they wanted to leave.

"It hasn't been bad since you left."

Reluctantly, I sunk back into my chair.

Quickly, it worsened, with one graphic depravity after another.

The movie should have been rated Rx, because it required a sedative to get through.

With the augment of one of the final grotesque scenes, disgusted, I got up and announced, "Let's go."

Back in the car, reeling, Katie said, "That was disturbing."

We all dished about how bad it was.

"I'm sorry, guys. I should have known better. That was over the top. We should have left sooner."

"It's okay Mom."

I went to Confession before Mass on Sunday. I wanted to be rid of it.

Is it possible to sift through a bad memory and learn from it without being bruised and scarred? The scars remember, I'm afraid.

Rated R means restricted audiences. Those sensitive to speed, spin, and visceral violence.