Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Matters of the Heart, a continuation of "A Still More Excellent Way"

There has been a lot of talk amongst my friends on the blogosphere about feelings, emotions, matters of the heart.  I read from some of my fellow women that this area is just a bunch of "touchy feely mumbo jumbo" and that there's  no room for it in the Faith life.  I ardently agree that the word "love" is the most abused word in the English language, just as it seems to be a tie-breaker between Americans as to whether sex or eating would be the most abused act.  I also agree that in the art of womanhood, emotions have been hijacked to be used as a form of manipulation for some of my sex to get what she wants from the world.  Afterall, victimization is the pathway to entitlement, and there are many women who can use this path to her own ruin.  I believe in our Faith life that we should strive to ensure there is only one victim, namely the "Paschal Victim" we will celebrate in a little over six weeks.  How can any man, woman, or child's daily sufferings in this life compare to that "greatest act of Love?"

However, I don't believe that an emotional tie to the Faith should be brushed off, or pushed aside, especially in regards to the Faith, and especially in the true feminine spiritual tradition.  I began to pursue this point in my blog post "A still more excellent way", and I will continue to elaborate on it here.  In this previous post, I focused on our sufferings, and uniting these sufferings to Christ.  I'd like to focus a little on the Marian tradition of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of our Lord, and how that can be tied directly to matters of the heart.

As a wife and mother in my Catholic vocation, I look to our Blessed Mother for my example of living.  It came to me in a Homily delivered on the Feast of the Presentation that Mary lived in accord with Jewish customs and traditions in a spirit of humility, obedience, and simplicity.  Wow!  How profound!  Those very attributes of Mary that I sought for out for comfort in my daily life, are one in the same with the attributes I am to emulate?  Mary knew, in a deeply profound way that she was "loved by the Lord".  She knew this in her most purest of pure hearts.  She knew this in her maternal bond with our Savior.  She knew this in her moment of her "shadowing" by her divine spouse the Holy Spirit.  Mary, that most beautiful and blessed of all women, became a source of blessing and grace for us in the Church.  She "treasured all these things in her heart", and still bears countless mercies in that same Immaculate Heart.

It was Mary's life, lived in humility, obedience, and simplicity, that formed her to become the Mother of God, to raise her most Holy Son, and to follow Him to His death.  This is where it gets hard for me.  As a mother, I can't bear to see any of my children suffer.  And yet, our Blessed Mother did not back down, she did not shy away, she stayed with Christ every moment and united herself to His Passion.  She bore all "these things in her heart" even as it was pierced by a sword.  And I believe she did this as an example to all women of the Church.  She knew, in her most simple and profound way, that we would need a model of Faith, that we would need to be shown how to engage our hearts in Christ's Passion.  The differences between a man and a woman, although becoming more and more blurred in our culture, should remain as individual as Jesus and Mary in our minds.  Men are called to unite their physical beings to their suffering, as husbands are called to "work the soil" to provide for their families and Priests are called in persona Christi to give of themselves on the Altar of Sacrifice, in the example of Christ.  I believe, as women, that we are called to do the same, but that unlike men, we women must to unite our hearts to Mary, and be a source of mercy and grace for our family.

The heart of the home - what an important title.  For in the heart, as we know from devotions to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus lies well-springs of grace, mercy, and love.  Love was all Christ ever did, unto His death.  Love was all He ever taught.  Love was what drove Him to save us, the ancient text of the Scriptures enacted in the Flesh, a Lover seeking his Beloved.  Love was His great commandment to us "You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, your soul, and your mind.  And...you shall love your neighbor as yourself."  Catholic motherhood affords the rare gift in the plan of salvation to model this love and to live in this love for our entire family, our Church, and our fallen world.  I strive every day to enthrone Christ upon my heart to guide me and form me from within, to be the King of my heart, and the King of my home.  In times of trial and tribulation I turn to my heart first, to "ponder these things" with my Lord, and to wait patiently for that still inner voice that speaks to me there.  I come to our Lord in all matters and in all ways, full of love and gratitude, full of fear and anxiety, full of sorrow and weariness.  He comforts me and lives with me there.  I give these trials to Him there, these little gifts to be laid at His feet, and carry on.  In turn, He points me to His mother, and aside from my Angel, she is my constant companion, my model in life and in death.

It makes sense then, that the Devil would work to plant seeds of discord and sin in our hearts.  That he would tempt us to distance ourselves from our emotion as mere "tom-foolery" when there are more important things to think and to do.  What if our role as wife and mother, our primary role, is to feel?  To be?  Our genuine response to the hardships of life may not be collected, gathered, and orderly thoughts.  It may be an emotional act that needs to be turned over to our Lord.  This is our unique and genuine role as women, to be vulnerable, to be merciful, to be grace-filled examples for our children of humility, simplicity, and obedience.  It might be a sneak attack from the devil for us to be tricked into believing that our emotions are worthless, that they shouldn't be recognized or dealt with.  If we are truly living in the grace of our Lord, in the example of His most Blessed Mother, why then should we fear our emotions?  Should we cut them out as if they were sinful tendencies?  I say to that "Welcome to femininity!"

My husband was built to be strong - like bull:)  He can work for hours every day, all day, on his feet, and then come home and help me with the evening routine and chores.  He is tough, but loving.  His hands are enormous!  He can literally wrap his fingers around my entire hand.  He can lift, carry,and handle loads alone that it would take me and four of my girlfriends to move in a day.  Yesterday, I was watching him change our baby's diaper.  His concentration was so intense you could cut it with a knife.  He can move three pieces of sheet rock at a time, but it took him double that effort to get those cumbersome hands to be gentle to our baby.  It was an endearing picture, one that I'll "treasure in my heart".  My husband can take on the problems of life, break them down, and solve them as quickly and effortlessly as my son does in his first grade word problems in math.    In about the same amount of time too:)  When I'm confronted with a problem, I sit and ponder it over at least two cups of coffee.  Then I might call a girlfriend or two and talk to them about it for their advice.  Then I might blog about it.  And then, when I'm confused and overwhelmed beyond belief, I'll call my husband to help me solve it, and ten minutes later he's got it knocked into line for me.  I just realized I should resolve to go to him first rather than stewing on it so much and wasting so much of my (and my girlfriends') time!  *lesson learned*  There are times when my sons get hurt (did I mention they like to wrestle?  It's like watching bear cubs sometimes!  Sheesh!)  and they will come to their father who will logically explain to them why they shouldn't have been doing that in the first place, that they exceeded the physical limits that one wrist or ankle could sustain, hence the reason its now sprained or bruised, all in a very matter-of-fact, logical way.  My youngest son, whom my husband has knicknamed "Fred" will wait until his father's conjecture is done, hold out his sore appendage to simply say "Will you kiss it Daddy?"  My husband must be confounded by this - no medicine?  No ace bandage?  No quantam physics?  All this boy wants is a "kiss"?! Our roles as husband and wife, as mother and father, are complimentary.  I've found that when I'm a woman living in the grace of the Church, in accord with Her teachings, and striving to live the example of our Blessed Mother, that I am at my best in my role of 'help meet' to my husband. 

I am not logical by nature, and I'm still learning how to be practical (it says a lot when I say that Anne Shirley was my role model growing up), but these simply were not my gifts.  I've been gifted with a heart as big as the ocean in love with my Lord, my husband, and my children, for all my dear loved ones.  I could no more deny my heart's longings, thoughts, emotions, prayers, then I could those of my own children.  And I don't think that that should be the path of any woman in the Faith.  If we love in humility, simplicity, and obedience, then we've nothing to fear.  Could our emotion lead us to sin?  Absolutely!  I can understand this over-correction of many of my fellow women for that very reason.  However, emotion can draw us ever closer, in the Marian mystery, to our Lord and His Passion too, and I don't think it can be discounted.   I must be resoundingly clear though, when I say that emotion can not be solely used as a gauge of salvation.  I've seen this reactive tendency in too many of my more liberal Catholic sisters: "I feel good about where I am with the Lord, I'm not going to change my lifestyle to some arbitrary Church teaching."  There must be some form of moderation.  But one question I can't wait to ask my Lord if/when I get to Heaven is "What is greater Lord,  Truth or Charity?  And somehow, as I'm standing there staring Truth and Charity in the face, I might begin to figure it out.


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