Thursday, January 31, 2013

Moved by the Spirit: Understanding Death through the Eyes of a Child

by M. J. Joachim
Explaining death to a child, or anyone for that matter, is a difficult task at best.  We don’t like to talk about death.  We don’t like to examine its cause, or go back to the beginning.   It makes us vulnerable.  

Children are already weak in so many ways.  They seem so far from death because of their youth; it is exactly this attribute that helps them understand death much more easily than many adults. 

When my dad died, I had the unbearable task of explaining death to my own children, Maria and Olivia.  They were six and three at the time.   I contemplated many scenarios which might explain how and why people die to my girls.  As it turned out, my daughters ended up explaining death to me.  Their openness and love helped all of us embrace change.  Their sensitivity shed new light on what death is all about.

It is with great pleasure that I share the insights of my daughters with you.  Their first experience with death was very positive and moving.  They taught me to step back, and let them observe what is taking place when someone dies.  They taught me not to shield them from the pain, and allow them to ask questions.  My girls helped me understand that death is not a bad thing, even though it is an undesired fact of life.  Death affects emotions, but it is of the spirit.  Maria and Olivia showed me that the spirit is much closer to children than we realize.

A Birthday in Heaven

There was so much hustle and bustle going on in the house.  Eight kids and their families were flying in from around the country.  Dad was sick with cancer, and he only had a few days left to live.  I arrived early.  Dad had turned seventy-two this week, and I needed to be there.  I brought my oldest child Maria with me.  She had a special bond with her grandpa, and I knew he would be thrilled to see her on his birthday.

Maria and I sat quietly during the two hour plane ride.  She sensed my sadness, though she didn’t understand it.  We had just seen grandpa a few months earlier for my birthday.  He wasn’t sick then, and Maria couldn’t grasp why I was certain he was going home to Heaven.  She was only six, and she never knew grandpa to be anything but strong.

When we got to the house, Maria ran in to hug grandpa.  He came hobbling down the hall, calling her name in a scratchy voice.  Maria stopped short.  She looked up at her grandpa.   He didn’t look anything like the big, husky man who used to pick her up, toss her in the air, and give her hugs so big they would make bears jealous.  She turned away in uncertainty.  She was scared, but not of grandpa.  She was scared of the illness that had changed him.

Grandpa went into the family room.  He sat in the pale blue, overstuffed chair.  Maria was cautious.  She walked over to him and asked, “Do you hurt, Grandpa?”  My dad motioned her to sit on his lap like she used to, but he didn’t ask her to.  Maria walked closer, and my dad looked into her eyes.  “Are you scared?” she asked as she leaned up against his leg, afraid to put her weight on him.

Later that night, Maria asked me about death.  I told her that life is a process.  I talked to her about my pregnancy with her.  Up until I had conceived her, I didn’t know what it was like to carry a child.  I just knew that it was a very special thing to do.  We talked about how she grew in my tummy, and used to kick me.  She was growing inside of me, but she wouldn’t be able to stay there forever.  She was going to get a birthday, and grow in a different way after she left the comfort of my belly.  She asked me if I ever missed having her in my belly.  I thought about it for a moment.  Finally, I told her that I did, but not enough to keep her from getting held in my arms.  “So grandpa is going to be held in God’s arms?”  Maria asked.  “Yes, honey.  Something like that,” I said with a tear running down my cheek.

A few days later, my husband and two young children arrived.  Dad was in his final hours, and he died the next day.  There were so many people around.  Some of my siblings hadn’t seen each other in several months.  It was good to have everyone together again.   The younger grandchildren were all playing, while the teens were sitting on the patio catching up on old times.  This was a very sad time because of the circumstance that brought us together, but in a strange sense, it was also wonderful.

My daughter Olivia, who was three, had quietly decided to go inside.  Maria watched her, and noticed that she looked confused and sad.  Maria went over to Olivia, and comforted her.  “It’s okay,” she said.  “Grandpa is having a birthday in Heaven.”  

Olivia looked up at her sister.  She got that look of determination that only she can express so clearly.  She went from room to room to find me.  Then she took my hand, and started dragging me down the hall.  I thought she was taking me to my room, but she stopped at the end.  She looked to the right, where my room was, and then looked left.  She saw grandpa’s room, and started pulling me in that direction. 

“No, Sweetheart.  Grandpa isn’t here anymore.  He’s not in his room, honey,” I tried to explain.   Olivia just kept pulling me.  I didn’t know what to do, so I went with her.  “See, Grandpa isn’t here.” I told her.  Olivia looked around.  The bed where Grandpa had died was already made.  His pillow lay on top of the bedspread.  His green, glass ashtray was on the nightstand with his prayer beads.  Olivia walked over to the nightstand.  She glided her hand across the bed where grandpa had died just a short time before.  She touched his ashtray and rosary.   Then she put her cheek on his pillow.  All of a sudden, she began to began to exclaim, “Oh, ohoh, ah, oh.”  I hurried over to her.  “What’s wrong, honey?” I asked.  “Nothing, Mama,” she said.   “Grandpa gave me a hug.”

I realized at that moment, all of the words I had rehearsed to explain death to my children, were in vain.  They understood death, and accepted it much more readily, than most of the people crying in the other room.  Death is not something you need to talk about with young children.  It is something you allow them to actively participate in, letting them come to terms with it in their own way.  Maria related death to something she could understand.  She then reached out to her sister, so that Olivia could determine how to feel.  Olivia was not afraid of death.  She was curious.  When I allowed her to see, and touch my dad’s bed, she understood death very easily.  And in fact, she gave me comfort in my belief that death is a beginning.

That’s all for now, kind followers. Until next time, I wish you well.

M. J.

Footnote:  My dad passed over 15 years ago. This story was written sometime after that. It is a true story, one of my favorites, I have written. The names of my children are changed for obvious reasons. Their response to Grandpa dying moves my heart today, just as much today, as it did when it happened.

Photo credit:  Bergfriedhof Heidelberg Gräberfeld, 4028mdk09, Creative Commons Attribution License
©2013 All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Spirited Image

by M. J. Joachim
Body and spirit
One and the same
The newborn child
With a Christian name

Baptized in water
Sealed by His blood
The child of reason
Took Him at His Word

Anointed with oil
The spirit inflamed
The youth said “Yes”
To God again

Going forth
Sharing good news
Being Christ to the world
Without money or shoes

Proclaiming the gospel
Revealing the way
Of peace and love
For all people each day

To copy and share
Living up to the call
The spirit of Christ
Healing one and all

Photo credit:  Village of Christianized Tapuyos Indians, Johann Moritz Rugendas (1802 – 1858), Public Domain
©2013 All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Biography: Pontius Pilate

The details of Pilate’s life are sketchy at best.  What is known is that he was Governor of Judea, and he reigned from AD 26 – 36, making him the Judean procurator during the active ministries of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ.  

Pilate’s role was to keep order in his territory and account for taxes collected from his citizens that he would give to King Tiberius Caesar.  He is known for his cruelty, having earned a reputation for being merciless toward prisoners, often sentencing them to cruel and unusual punishment, even if he thought they were innocent.  Much of Pilate’s reputation for being so abusive was determined by his treatment of Jesus, whom he declared innocent, but had beaten and crucified anyway.

The actual facts about Pilate’s life have been debated for centuries.  There are some common beliefs based on legends, but most of what we know about him comes directly from scripture.  The Bible indicates that Pilate was a worldly man, timid and afraid of mobs to the point of yielding under pressure.  He abused his authority, casting extremely harsh sentences on prisoners, and excused his behavior by blaming it on what the people want.  His own wife encouraged him to do right by Jesus, and though he struggled with the decision, he ultimately blamed the crowd for it saying that he washed his hands of Jesus’ blood by giving the people what they wanted.

The fact that Pilate knew Jesus was innocent speaks directly to his character.  Here was a leader who waffled when he was face to face with God.  He sent Jesus to Herod, hoping to evade his jurisdiction and avoid pronouncing sentence of him.  It is widely believed that on that day, Herod and Pilate, who had been fierce enemies, became the best of friends.  However, Jesus was sent back to Pilate who ordered His crucifixion.

In order to appease the crowd, Pilate, who had claimed Jesus’ innocence to them, gave the command to have Jesus brutally whipped by his soldiers.  “Some of them, going to Pilate, said that as Jesus pretended to be the king of the Jews, it would be but just to crown Him with thorns.  Having obtained his permission, they took Jesus, threw over His shoulders an old purple cloak, placed in His hand a reed for a scepter and violently pressed on His divine head the thorny diadem.” (The Divine Life of the Most Holy Virgin, Ven. Mary of Agreda pg. 176)

Pilate was a cruel, unjust man, medium in stature, and extremely power hungry.  Though there are differences of opinion about his decision to crucify Jesus, some blaming Herod who left Pilate no alternative, some stating that he had little choice if he was expected to keep the mob under control and avoid a riot, everyone readily agrees that the most significant event of Pilate’s life was his decision to scourge and crucify Jesus, even though he knew our Lord was innocent.  Pilate had little peace after that, and many historians claim that he committed suicide in AD 41.

Photo credit:  Antonio Ciseri, Eccehomo (1821 – 1891), Public Domain
©2013 All Rights Reserved

Monday, January 28, 2013

Quotes from Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

by M. J. Joachim
There are times in life when we need to read and absorb the words of others, because their words are a reminder, comfort or inspiration to us. Today, I’m enjoying some words spoken and written by Mother Teresa, and I’d like to share a few of them with you.

There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread, but there are many more dying for a little love. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.

When you know how much God is in love with you, then you can only live your life radiating that love.

By becoming poor ourselves, by loving until it hurts, we become capable of loving more deeply, more beautifully, more wholly.

We have a right to be happy and peaceful. We have been created for this – we are born to be happy – and we can only find true happiness and peace when we are in love with God: there is joy in loving God, great happiness in loving Him.

Christ’s love is always stronger than the evil in the world, so we need to love and to be loved: it’s as simple as that.

Until next time, I bid you peace,

M. J.

Photo credit:  Mother Teresa Receives Medal of Freedom (1985), United States Government, Public Domain

©2013 All Rights Reserved

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Christian Representation in the 113th Congress of the USA

by M. J. Joachim
“Catholics still largest denomination in Congress,” states the headline on the front page of my community catholic newspaper. And get this, 10% of them are Jesuit grads too.

That’s quite a few people representing beliefs near and dear to my heart, things like recognizing babies as human beings and protecting them from being aborted, keeping the words “one nation, under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, allowing religious organizations to hire people with consistent beliefs and respecting people of faith across the board.

Somehow, I’m not overly impressed with the numbers. All those Christians determining the fate of fellow Americans…they’re still politicians first, and they don’t live by the same set of rules.

There are 163 Catholic Congress members (30.6%). Add in Protestant denominations and other Christian groups, and we now have more than 85% of the 113th Congress of the United States of America representing Christianity on our behalf.

Yet we continuously battle the age-old arguments on human rights. We are still being stifled by laws (new laws even) that have no regard for our individual faiths and morals, in the name of separating church from state. It’s the timeworn story of taxation without representation, a story capable of dividing and conquering a nation, or at the very least, oppressing its people with rules and financial burdens that fail to abide by their conscience.

Until next time, I wish you well,

M. J.

Photo credit: United States Capitol, Public Domain
©2013 All Rights Reserved

Friday, January 25, 2013

Suffering – For the Faith or Because of the Faith?

by M. J. Joachim

For whatever reason, many Catholics think of it as a badge of honor.
They wear it proudly, embrace it boldly and even find reasons to do it nobly.

(I suppose a lot of this stems from the days of early Christian persecutions, when Catholics truly did suffer for the faith.)

There’s a thought…

Suffer for the faith…

…as opposed to suffering, because of the faith?

Puts a whole new perspective on things, doesn’t it?

People who suffer for the faith are oppressed. They might not even be suffering for Catholicism, because they’re so oppressed, they aren’t allowed to express any faith at all. Oppression and tyranny take precedent!

These people don’t wear suffering – or use it as an excuse for that matter. They don’t embrace it either, because they’re too busy living it.

Suffering isn’t something we use to guilt other people into feeling sorry for us. It’s not a tool in our bag of tricks, to draw more attention to ourselves. It’s a plight of the human condition that can happen to anyone, and happens to a lot of people more often than we think.

I was reading a bit about the early history of the Catholic Church last night; one of the things that hit home was how so many early Christians were converted to Catholicism and why. It was because of suffering – not that of the Catholics, but because early missionaries in the Catholic Church, were so willing to ease the suffering of others.

Now that’s something to be proud of when it comes to being Catholic. It’s also something to learn from, strive for and maybe someday, personally be able to wear as a badge of honor, when celebrating some of the ultimate joys that come with living a life based on faith in God and His holy church.

Until next time, I wish you well,

M. J.

Photo credit:  Christian Martyrs’ Last Prayer, Wikimedia Commons Cooperation Project, Public Domain
©2013 All Rights Reserved

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Catholic Popes: Pope Sixtus I (Our 7th Pope)

by M. J. Joachim
Pope Sixtus I, son of Pastor, was a Roman by birth. Some resources indicate Pastor was also a priest. Sixtus’s reign lasted approximately ten years, sometime between 114 – 128. Exact dates are undetermined.

Pope Sixtus I appears to have had great reverence for the Mass. He is credited with protecting sacred vessels (chalice and paten, which are used during the transformation of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ), providing that only men of the cloth (deacons, priests and bishops) could touch them. He is also credited with including the Sanctus, prior to the Eucharistic Prayer during Mass.

Another item credited to Pope Sixtus I is that bishops returning to their local flock after visiting the Holy See, could not be received by their people, unless they were presenting Apostolic Letters. (In other words, Pope Sixtus I set bishops apart – my personal interpretation of this particular decree.)

It appears that the hierarchy of the Catholic Church was beginning to take shape and become more formal under the reign of Pope Sixtus I. Bishops and priests became more loyal to a single leader (the pope) in Rome. Reverence for the Mass and its sacred venue were more clearly defined, with precautions taken to respect not only Church teachings, but all things holy, as well.

On another note…
This week marks the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. My heart breaks every time I think about it. Please, please pray as much as you can for an end to abortion. And if you feel so inspired, take positive steps to protect our unborn children any way you can!

Best to all,

M. J. 

Lives of the Popes (McBrien ©1997)

Photo credit:  Wikipedia, Public Domain, Rafael (1483 – 1520), Sistine Madonna
©2013 All Rights Reserved

I don't usually do this, but after what I just saw, I think it's important to get the word out...

In the interest of public safety, and hoping this message gets shared far and wide, I wrote a post regarding Internet safety and posted it on my Effectively Human blog. 

Please, take the time to read and share the article. One of the things I learned is that these predators literally monitor hundreds of victims simultaneously. It gives me chills just thinking about it!

Here's a link to the article:  Webcam Peeping Toms - A Public Service Announcement

Wishing you safety on the Internet,

M. J. 

©2013 All Rights Reserved
Photo credit:  Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution, sunshinecity, Love Padlocks in Italy

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The 40 Year War Against Mother & Child

by M. J. Joachim
I wasn’t even in double digits when they passed a law allowing children to be killed without mercy in the United States of America. Suddenly, there it was on the books – a law most people at the time couldn’t begin to fathom, which is undoubtedly why too many of them didn’t speak up and fight against it.

Common sense told everyone you couldn’t kill your own babies, even if they were still in the womb. It was a no-brainer, a logical conclusion, regardless of the attempts to misplace it as a woman’s choice, and disguise pregnancy as some sort of illness, rather than the result of making love or having sex, which resulted in a child.

I don’t know. I was just a kid. Maybe it was more like Obamacare or something, where people really did fight hard against it, and despite all their efforts to prevent it, abortion on demand became the law of the land here.

Forty years later…talk about all the progress we might have made, had most of those wee ones been allowed to grow and make an impact on our world! It would likely be a very different place, that’s for sure!

Instead, we’ve spent the last 40 years, fighting to undo the wrong – seems so fluffy to phrase it like that…it is an injustice that has been more harmful to our world than any other crime against humanity in history. (Slaves, regardless of their capture and demise, stick together – moral support, hope, survival; Jews during Hitler’s holocaust did the same, working together to protect themselves from the madness.)

Unborn children aren’t so lucky. They have only their mothers to save them, and if their mother is pro-choice, they don’t stand a chance.

I was working at the kitchen table the other day; the t.v. was playing in the background. My ears perked up as I heard the commercial. Roe from Roe v. Wade was speaking out against abortion, saying she made a terrible mistake and wished she could somehow take back her role in legalizing abortion on demand in this country. Too little, too late? Their blood is on her hands too – millions upon millions of babies, sentenced to death because she was young, stupid and confused back then! But there she was, defending our children. Takes guts, and she was tough enough to help push this vile agenda through…stupidity is such a lousy excuse though.

Blame it on the lawyers…one of the weirdest parts about this whole Roe v. Wade case is that Roe (real name, Norma McCorvey), never actually had an abortion. She was pregnant, but you know how court cases can drag on and on. By the time abortion on demand became law, she’d already given birth to her third child.

The lawyers needed a stupid, messed up, young pregnant girl to further their own agendas and win big. So did all the feminists. Roe was being hit up by greedy, selfish parties all around…groups who wanted to celebrate personal victories, without considering the price of winning – in this case millions of lives and a 40 year war against both mother and child, that looks like it might never end.

Please mark January 25, 2013 on your calendars. It’s the Annual March for Life – what I consider a National Day of Mourning. To be true, the government doesn’t see it that way, and the Supreme Court hasn’t reversed its decision on Roe v. Wade. However, the blood of millions of children’s lives cannot and will not be silenced. It is impossible not to hear their cries!

May God bless and help us all,

M. J.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

Friday, January 18, 2013

Hyperdulia – Veneration of Mary, Mother of God

by M. J. Joachim
Placed higher than other creatures
Remaining a creature, just the same
Humble woman, born of two parents
Blessed, sinless and without blame

Noble creature, God’s creation
Beyond ability to understand
Heaven’s blessing, gift to all
Beneath the Lord, above each man

O Word Incarnate, born of Mary
Dare we not sing her praises?
Cast all shadows from our hearts
To venerate her greatness

Photo Credit:  Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain, Rosario Weiss, La Virgen en Oracion (1840)

©2013 All Rights Reserved

Catholic Popes: Pope Alexander I (Our 6th Pope)

by M. J. Joachim
One of the things that strikes me most about our earliest popes is that legend and myth often fill in the blanks. So it is with Pope Alexander I, where each source I turn to for reference begins making claims about him, only to assure us, these attributions have been refuted and proven unreliable.

In truth, we simply don’t always have strict documentation about much of the earliest formation and growth within the Church, complete with detailed biographies of all the popes and how they advanced Catholicism during their reign.

Pope Alexander I is a pope, by all accounts, that we know very little. We do know that the Romans weren’t very fond of him at all; he was jailed by them – though if this happened during his papacy or not remains a mystery. During his stay in jail, Pope Alexander I is said to have miraculously converted his jailer, along with his jailer’s daughter (Quirinus & Balbina) – both of whom became recognized saints in the Catholic Church. St. Quirinus and St. Balbina are among numerous converts attributed to Pope Alexander I, who was also declared a saint in our church.

It can reasonably be stated then, that Pope Alexander I fulfilled his duties as pope by converting people to the faith, and ensuring consistency within the faith.

Until next time, I wish you only good things.

M. J.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons, Public Domain
©2013 All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Playing Tug of War with Our Internal Struggles

“If you resolve to do what you ought, that is, to suffer and die to yourself, things will go better with you and you will find peace.” (Imitation of Christ)

by M. J. Joachim
Reflecting on the above statement gives me pause. I mean, who truly wants to suffer and die, right? Yet, we all face obstacles, deal with disappointment and get our feelings hurt in this life. No one is immune from the human experience, complete with each emotion that goes with it.

We all have faults, and some of them are very hard to deal with – not only for ourselves, but also for those who have to put up with us. Doing what we ought requires an internal battle to take place, a tug of war capable of knocking us down when we least expect it.

Ever watch or play a good game of tug of war, btw? Both sides go back and forth in an intense and oftentimes brutal struggle. Several people, each pulling with everything they’ve got. One person loses their footing, while another picks up the slack to support his team member. The other team tries desperately to take advantage of the weak spot, until finally, one team has waged the war too long, and simply can’t hold on any longer.

So it is when we resolve to do what we ought against our own faults and shortcomings. Sometimes we win; sometimes we lose. As long as we don’t give up, we continuously become stronger, each time we play the game, and each victory we win, gives us peace in our hearts.

Best of the day to you all,
M. J.

©2013 All Rights Reserved
Photo Credit:  Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain, US Federal Government, US Navy

Monday, January 14, 2013

Catholic Popes: Pope Evaristus (Our 5th Pope)

Pope Evaristus reigned during a time of Christian persecution. The Church was in its earliest stages of formation; consequently, many Jews were challenging their faith and converting to Christianity. The Roman Empire was expanding through the rule of several Roman emperors – namely Domitian, Nerva and Trajan, during Pope Evaristus’s term as pope.

Christianity would spread its faith throughout the world, but not without facing many obstacles and trials along the way, throughout the first four centuries of ancient history. Many Christians were brutally martyred for their faith, often made an example of by Roman authorities. Pope Evaristus seemingly stayed off the radar for the most part, as was necessary for his work of building up the Church and furthering its cause.

Pope Evaristus, also known as Aristus, is thought to be born as a Bethlehem Jew. At some point, he converted to Christianity, became an apostle of Jesus, which eventually led to leadership in the faith and ultimately to his pontificate.

Ancient records indicated that Pope Evaristus was the head of the Church; however, he divided it into smaller (parishes) with one priest as pastor, along with several deacon assistants for each priest. Remember, this was a time of great persecution for Christians. In keeping parishes small and providing a (local) leader, Pope Evaristus safeguarded the faith, particularly since each pastor was under his direct guidance, thereby maximizing the potential for a consistent universal message to be shared with all the faithful.

As Christianity grew and spread throughout the world, individual parishes made it easier for the faithful to practice their faith, and for priests to perform their priestly duties which included offering Mass, preaching, caring for the sick and burying the dead with the rite of Christian burial, among other things.

Thus it can be said without hesitation that Pope Evaristus contributed wholly and richly to the Catholic faith and universal Church of Jesus Christ.

There are conflicting reports as to whether Pope Evaristus was a martyr. Many believe all of the earliest popes were martyred, and unproven records indicate this might be true, though no one really knows for sure. Pope Evaristus is listed among the holy saints of the Catholic Church; his feast day is October 26. It is believed that he is buried somewhere near St. Peter’s tomb.

That’s all for now, kind followers.
See you again soon,

M. J.

Lives of the Popes (McBrien)

©2013 All Rights Reserved
Photo credit:  Wikipedia Commons, Public Domain, representation of official icon

Friday, January 11, 2013

Perfection through Faith in Christ

by M. J. Joachim
Visualize it if you will. Jesus was considered certifiably nuts, enough so to be crucified. All systems of His time had their structure, order and authority established, well-documented and securely in place – oftentimes with plans for future generations, should “the people” do what was required of them.

Along comes a guy like Jesus, a man like any other man, stirring up trouble. Of course they killed Him! It is only by the grace of God that we weren’t there to be participants in, or bystanders of, His brutal torture and killing.

So you can imagine the Early Church – the Roman hierarch believing so many things were under their control, only to be challenged by a group of heathens, preaching that Jesus (whom they had already killed) was alive! “He is the way and path to freedom, the Righteous One!”

I leave you with a quote from St. Paul,

“I look on everything as so much rubbish if only I can have Christ and be given a place in Him. I am no longer trying for perfection by my own efforts, the perfection that comes from the Law, but I want only the perfection that comes through faith in Christ, and is from God and based on faith.”

Happy Friday, kind followers,
Until next time,

M. J.

Photo Credit:  Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain, Heinrich Hofmann, Christ
©2013 All Rights Reserved

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Catholic Popes: Pope Clement I (Our 4th Pope)

by M. J. Joachim
“After the martyrdom of SS. Peter and Paul, St. Linus was appointed Bishop of Rome, and after eleven years, succeeded by St. Cletus. Upon his demise in 89, or rather in 91, St. Clement was placed in the apostolic chair.” (EWTN Library)

Studying Pope Clement I became a bit confusing, but then the Early Church was a far cry from the Catholic Church we know and love today. Political and Christian conflicts ruled the era of the times. Think back on your memories (whether they come from books, movies, the Internet or other sources) of overly –exulted Roman emperors and rulers, Spartans playing for their lives in the Coliseum, for sport of the citizens of Rome and average citizens, ever fearful of what their government could do to them.

Christianity wasn’t all that popular or understood, and yet faith in Christ was consistently spreading throughout the land.

Clement was a Roman. He met and befriended SS. Peter and Paul, earning the reputation of being an apostolic man. The Early Church at this time was more-or-less divided – not in disagreement, but by small groups (houses) of people who came to know, love and believe in the teachings of Jesus, which were taught by Peter, Paul and the apostles, including those like Clement who became apostles after the death of Christ.

It is only natural that some discord came into play, as well as a misplacement of power. Pope Clement I is probably best known for how he handled a specific conflict (considered schism) at Corinth. It seems authority was challenged there, and Pope Clement I reinstated order quickly, beneficially and to the satisfaction of those involved. Much of this was accomplished through an ancient writing of his, I Clement, “placed in rank next to the canonical books of the holy scriptures, and with them read in the Churches.” (EWTN Library)

Having observed and learned well from the hierarchy established in the Roman Empire, Pope Clement I is credited with laying the foundation of the hierarchy within the Catholic Church. “When some Catholic theologians and historians today suggest that the hierarchal structures of the Church, including the Papacy, owe more to the Roman Empire than to Jesus, they do not exaggerate.” (Lives of the Popes)

Thus, there is indication that Pope Clement I helped bring the Church together under one Vicar of Christ, as it were, as opposed to maintaining several small houses, as the Church grew in numbers and prosperity.

Some research leaves me cold, with a feeling that Pope Clement I ruled with an iron fist, much like the merciless Roman Emperors. His writings, however, quickly dispel such notions; they speak of love, humility and good will.

“We must hasten with all earnestness and readiness of mind, to perfect every good work, laboring with cheerfulness; for even the Creator and Lord of all things rejoices in His works.” (Pope Clement I)

Pope Clement I was a natural leader, a father figure who loved Jesus and the Holy Church Jesus established here on earth. His faith emanated from almost everything he said and did, undoubtedly one of the reasons he is listed among our beloved saints in the Holy Catholic Church.

That's all for now, kind followers. 
Until next time, I wish you well, 

M. J. 

Lives of the Popes, Richard P. McBrien 

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain
©2013 All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Happy 2013! Let’s Get Busy!

by M. J. Joachim
In the interest of communicating, today’s post is about my prospective plans for this blog. As might be expected, I’ve learned a few things, since I first started publishing articles on the Internet in fall 2007. Some of them are nuts & bolt, ins and outs of web writing and publishing. Others relate to getting to know my audience and giving them what they want, as opposed to being bull-headed and writing only what I want to write.

Finding my voice and delivering my message efficiently and effectively has been quite the learning curve for me. This is the Internet, after all. Wasting your time is simply not an option, especially since you can always click the back key, quicker than I can edit a misspelled word or fix a punctuation typo.

 Here’s what I’ve concluded from feedback, traffic etc. so far.

Bible Study – Trust me when I tell you, I’m working on it. A couple of years ago (fall 2011), I started my first website Effectively Human. Talk about a learning curve; I’m so glad I dove in though! Just this past fall, I launched a compatible website to my crochet blog, Lots of Crochet Stitches. Recently, I found a public domain, pdf Catholic Bible, complete with verses listed in the text.

Bible Study posts were a bit long and overwhelming, not only for me, but undoubtedly for you as well. Web pages make it much easier to format them in a way that will be easier for you to follow and enjoy. You guessed it. I’m building another website (for Catholic Bible e-Study). My goal is to launch it in the next couple of months. I hope you’ll stay tuned for updates about this, and visit the website frequently once it goes live.

Church History – What I wouldn’t give for a few months to be a hermit or a monk! (Okay, not really). Research is intense on this topic. And sloooowwww.

Papal History – Our next pope is Clemente I. We’re getting into the foundations of Church hierarchy here; thorough research and extra reading are a must. I’ll be posting about him in the near future.

Pro-life – I’m all about this one, which is one of the reasons I started Effectively Human. You will continue to see posts, prayers and comments relating to saving and protecting our babies throughout this blog. However, I firmly believe “life issues” are not Catholic issues, but people issues, much like slavery and the Jewish holocaust were not specific to one group, but are blights on all humanity in general.

I also believe we’ve gone well beyond the babies in all of this. Our personal self-destruction is taking a monumental toll on our perception of the world around us. It is with this in mind that I added a Diet, Nutrition & Recipes category to EH recently. If we don’t value our own lives and take care of ourselves, how on earth can we be expected to value life that hasn’t even been born yet, or is aged and decrepit? And with all those toxins and chemicals we’re ingesting, is it any wonder so many of us simply can’t think straight?!

There’s more, but this post is getting rather long. Suffice to say, I’ve got a plan and you’re more than welcome to join me on the journey.

Also, please share your thoughts with me. Tell me what you want to read and learn about here. Comments are more than welcome. 

You can also email me privately: if you’d prefer. I’d really appreciate itJ

Have a great day everyone J

M. J.

©2013 All Rights Reserved
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution, Forest Wander, Spring Hiking Trail Wv

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Spiritual Devotions and Finding Peace in Our Hearts

by M. J. Joachim
One of the things that keeps me grounded each day is reflecting on the Stations of the Cross. I have a little booklet, complete with frayed cover, dog-eared corners and smudges on the pages.

Some days, I could sit for hours just looking at all the pictures. Then there are times when I read each word and try to do the devotion correctly, according to the way my pamphlet intended. Other days, it’s all I can do to ramble off a quick prayer, “We adore you o Christ and praise you, because by your holy cross, you have redeemed the world.” Most days, in fact, the latter will suffice.

At first, I thought I might be being disrespectful to utter my reflections in such a flash. After a while though, a couple of months or so, I realized that that little instance of turning to God, opened the gate for me to think about Him all day long.

I’d be walking the dog, folding laundry, making dinner or working when (without warning) a sudden calm would overtake me, and I’d find myself thinking about Veronica, Mary – “Behold your Mother.”, Pilate and a crowd of people or any other individual station Jesus embraced for us.

These are private moments, when Christ speaks directly to my heart – telling me to slow down and not worry so much. I’m a mom. It comes with the territory. Somehow, Jesus affirms my very existence in these moments. I feel loved, even though I didn’t spend hours on my knees in prayer, or have time for long periods of spiritual reading.

At times like this I remember one thing, “The heart says in a moment…” I believe it’s from Imitation of Christ. This too has a way of inserting bits and pieces into my day.

God knows me. He’s my friend and Savior, not my enemy. He understands the culture I live in, my responsibilities, hopes and desires. He’s not out to blast me for not being pious enough. He’s embracing me all the time, to assure me that the world cannot get the better of me, unless I let it.

I think we forget, or maybe we never truly knew, how much we are loved sometimes. Yet we were loved into existence, and we are loved enough to die for. Trusting in this one thought is enough to be at peace within ourselves, no matter what happens each day in our lives.

That’s all for now, kind people.
Until next time, I wish you well!

M. J.

©2013 All Rights Reserved
Photo Credit:  Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain, Budapest Museum of Fine Arts, Sebastiano del Piombo (1485 – 1547)

Monday, January 7, 2013

Faith Identification

by M. J. Joachim
I thought a lot about being catholic over the holidays, considering what it means in general terms, as a community and individually.

People tend to name things. More people come along, identify with the name (and philosophy of the group), and there you have it, a general term describing a community of followers.

Being catholic should be so much more than that though. It is described as a universal message and shouldn’t be used an excuse to scorn others; it is documented as a faith dedicated to following the truest teaching of Christ, without prejudice.

This is the part of being catholic I feel compelled to identify with most…the part that requires me to be humble in my humanity.

I read in a catholic pamphlet recently, that if you’re not defending life as a catholic, you’re not practicing your catholic faith as well as you should. The little booklet was written by a bishop; he stated plainly that those who turn a blind eye to defending life, risk facing grave consequences throughout their lives, as well as when they die.

I don’t know if what he said is true or not, but I do know life deserves a chance. I’ve always been pro-life. I mean, is there any other way to be? Who would we choose to eliminate based on our say-so, just because we can say so, and (God forbid), have the power to enforce what we say?

To that end, will God judge me on how many rules I followed in the Catholic Church, or will He look at my heart and see that, even though I broke a few rules, I wasn’t trying to undermine His Church? How many times as a mom, when I was frustrated beyond belief, did I embrace my child and have mercy, instead of grounding him or her for the rest of their life?!

God isn’t the big bad boogey man, and the Catholic Church isn’t a game we play throughout our lives! Being Catholic is about being human. It’s about believing in a faith that knows people are sinners, and turns to a merciful savior – not because we deserve to be saved, but because we are loved enough to be embraced by Him. After all, we were loved into existence, and no matter how bad we might think we’ve blown it in this life, we will continue to be loved throughout eternity, if we have the courage to believe in what it truly means to be catholic.

That’s all for now, kind followers. Until next time, I wish you well J
M. J.

©2013 All Rights Reserved
Photo Credit:  Wikimedia Commons, GNU Free Documentation License