A theory on suffering

A while ago (man, QUITE a while ago now), I was having a conversation with someone about suffering; to wit: why? Human beings have an innate sense of justice, and sometimes it’s hard to understand why we have to endure suffering, especially when it is long, painful, and seemingly un-earned.

Well, I had an epiphany on the way home from Wal-Mart a few minutes ago, and here it is:

I was talking to someone who is kinda resentful about some broken relationships from his past. I told him that I believed that, in general, everybody in the situation made the best decisions that they could with the understanding and resources that they had at the time. But, I thought, that doesn’t mean that you get to be immune from the consequences. Even if your culpability for a particular action is small, you still have to live with the results of it, and sometimes that means that certain people never want to see you again.

So, you ask, what do you do with that suffering? In this case, it seems obvious that your own actions caused this suffering, so you should do what you should do with all temporal consequences: learn from them, and use them to further perfect your soul. You know, get a head start on purgatory.

That makes sense to us, right? When we do something wrong as suffer as a result, we can see both the justice and the practical aid that the suffering brings us: we rightly suffer for our sins, and we can use the suffering to learn our lesson. But what about suffering that we DIDN’T cause?

That’s where the epiphany came in: I suddenly realized that I have done tons of wrong things that HAVEN’T necessarily caused me great suffering. I still need redemption both eternally (the consequences paid by the death of the infinite God), and temporally (the consequences within time that I have to pay in order to perfect my soul). But — and here’s the kicker — the suffering you use to learn your lesson doesn’t have to be directly related to the sins you committed.

Think of it this way: you have run up a huge, huge debt. You were just dumb, made a bunch of stupid financial decisions, and now you’re in over your head. You know you were stupid, you accept responsibility, and now you’re trying to get the debt paid down. So for most of the debt, you are working a second job to EARN the money to pay down the debt. You are suffering in order to reduce the consequences. That makes sense, right?

Then add this: while you’re working and doing the best you can to pay your debt, someone gives you a financial gift. You can use that money to pay down your debt, too. The debt doesn’t care where the money comes from, just so long as you apply it. Same thing with suffering: when you suffer, you are being given currency to pay down the temporal consequences for your sins. Whether the currency was earned yourself (consequences of your own sins), or by someone else (you suffer unjustly due to someone else’s sins), you can use that currency as temporal atonement for your sins.

So when you are suffering because of someone else, not because of anything you have earned, you can rejoice, because you are literally being given the currency to pay down your debt. You didn’t have to go out and earn it yourself; someone just handed it to you for free. That’s why suffering is so valuable: because you can use it to perfect yourself, to learn from your mistakes, and to make up for the harm you have caused to your relationship with God and to your own soul.

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My struggle with annulments

Remember back in 2014-2015 when the Synod on the Family overwhelmed Catholic media? (Aren’t you glad THAT’S over? I am.) I was in RCIA at that point, and I remember hoping that a certain topic would be addressed, but to the best of my knowledge, it really wasn’t. So here’s what I would have liked to have clarification on, as regards marriage and annulment.

I think the most important premise, when talking about annulments, is the concept that a “annulled” marriage had something wrong with it from the very beginning. At the time of “consent,” there existed factors that nullified whatever vows the spouses attempted to make. From what I understand, those are the factors for which the marriage tribunals are looking when they decide annulment cases. In other words, they are searching for known, visible factors to determine if there was a pre-existing problem.

As a survivor of domestic abuse, that is very concerning to me, because one of the defining features of domestic abuse is that it doesn’t show up at the beginning of a relationship. When you think about it, it’s just logical: no one’s going to show up on a first date and punch their date across the room; the victim has no attachment to the attacker at that point, and will immediately terminate the relationship, such as it is.

Abuse is a control mechanism, and treating someone badly early in a relationship ends the relationship, and the potential for control. So abusers play nice — sometimes for YEARS — until the victim is so attached to them, and entrenched in the relationship (financially, emotionally, socially), that they will tolerate all manner of mistreatment.

So when a victim of domestic abuse finally leaves (and abuse is one thing that most Christians will accept as justification for civil divorce), they are in a really bad situation when it comes to getting an annulment. They have clear evidence that living with their spouse is not currently tolerable, but it is unlikely that they have any such evidence from the beginning of the relationship. In fact, their abuser may have been unusually kind and admirable in the beginning, showing all the trademarks of being mature, well-balanced, and reasonable.

I guess my question is: what are victims of abuse supposed to do? Do they just get the short end of the stick? They are unable to get an annulment, but their relationship is the very definition of irreconcilable? I understand that in this world, sometimes innocent people just get the shaft. I guess I just would have liked that particular situation to have been addressed more explicitly in the document from the Synod.


For example, if a person has been abused, yet there is no evidence for nullity, then what they’re being told is that their marriage is valid and sacramental — that God gave them and their spouse special grace to be able to live marriage out well — yet in their case, it seems to have had the opposite effect. How can they reconcile the validity of a marriage that seemed to destroy them, instead of build them up? If the sacramental grace of marriage allowed their spouse to tear them down, then of what good is it? Is there no way to take evidence from after the marriage was attempted, and to conclude that the current situation demonstrates a lack of sacramental grace from the very beginning, even if there were no explicit indications at the time?

I’m not saying the Church is wrong; I’m just struggling to understand her teaching in light of how my life has played out. As I’ve said before, it’s irrelevant to me because I plan on avoiding marriage like the plague for the rest of my life, so I shouldn’t find myself in a canonically-irregular situation regarding reception of the Eucharist, for example. But I nevertheless struggle to reconcile that my marriage is valid and sacramental with my husband’s abuse.

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“I WISH I had your cross!”

(Simcha Fisher had a good post today that got me thinking about cross-comparisons. 

So, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, here’s my contribution to NFP week:)

I can’t believe that all of you are complaining about NFP, or infertility, or subfertility, or super-fertility (is that a word?). I WISH I had those problems! It’s hard to feel sorry for people whose problem is that they desire their spouses TOO much! They’ve obviously never considered that they could be in an abusive marriage, where they don’t have to worry about NFP because just being in the same room with their spouse is terrifying, much less sleeping with them!

I WISH that I had to worry about having too many kids, instead of spending the rest of my life as a single parent. And I’m not even in the position of being a single, never-married Catholic, because if I don’t get an annulment, then I will NEVER have the option to have all the kids that some Catholics think are required to be faithful. And since I already have a child, I can’t even turn the loss of the marriage into a vocation to the religious life!

If I have to hear one more person complain about their squishy new babies, or talk about how hard it is to abstain from their smoking hot spouse lying a few inches away, I will punch somebody. How about being forced to have nauseating sex in the attempt to persuade your spouse to treat you like a human being, instead of like a piece of garbage? Boo hoo, it’s so terrible that you have a spouse whom you like, and actually want to be around, and have children with! Cry me a river.

Just the fact that you have a spouse with whom you WANT to have kids must be the greatest thing in the world. How can you possibly complain when you don’t dread going to bed every night, afraid that your spouse will touch you and you’ll get sick to your stomach. How bad can life really be if you don’t have to worry every day about committing imaginary offenses that will cause your spouse to throw you and your new baby out into the street? If I could merely feel safe and secure in my own home, then I would HAPPILY endure any type of family-planning issues.

(Okay, that’s my rant! Next person’s turn! You can tell me how lucky I am that I at least have the possibility of getting away from my spouse, or at least I have one child already, or once I’m divorced I’ll have tons of free time to devote to serving the poor, or whatever. Tell me what I should be grateful for that I’m overlooking!)

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How to be a faithful Catholic

I’m probably just giving myself a complex; I shouldn’t spend all my time reading Catholic mommy blogs. But it presents a question: how should I live as a faithful Catholic, given my state in life, when my state in life is all kinds of messed up?

I wasn’t Catholic when I married (neither was my husband), but our goal was that we would have a bunch of kids, he would work, and I would stay home and care for / homeschool the kids. (We kinda did this backwards, I see now. Usually people decide to do all those things AFTER they convert.) But in my back-asswards world, I’ve moved FARTHER from the desirable “Catholic wife/mother” state AFTER my husband and I joined the Church.

I realized that my husband’s behavior was abusive about 4 years after we married, 3 years after we started living in the same place. This was before I had any interest in Catholicism. I told myself that marriage was for life, and that I would stay with him for our child. Perversely, my journey toward the Church aligned with the eventual collapse of our marriage. The closer I got to Catholicism, the more I came to realize that I could not live with him any longer, not for the rest of my life, not for 12 more years, not for any longer than absolutely necessary.

So now I’m in the weird position of becoming a single mother, who has to send her child to group school so that she can work to support them — AFTER having joined the Church and acceded to its teachings. Hence my question: how should I be a faithful Catholic? The mommy bloggers talk about serving their husbands and children, confident in their vocation to matrimony. What about those of us who lost our traditional family since joining the Church? Discerning a vocation to a contemplative convent seems impossible, as much fun as it sounds. I will have no husband toward whom to direct a vocation. If no evidence for nullity is found, I will spend the rest of my life alone. (Honestly, even if we do get an annulment, I have no intention of ever marrying again. Knowing the potential for marriage becoming a living hell, I can’t imagine ever taking that risk.)

Is there a blogosphere for divorced Catholic single moms? Or should I just stop torturing myself via the Internet?

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Timing of Evening Prayer

I’ve been struggling to get Evening Prayer in lately. I can do Morning Prayer when I get up, and sometimes can get in one or two daytime hours. And then Night Prayer as I’m going to bed. But once I get dinner done, and the dishes done, and homework done, the whole evening has rushed by and I’ve forgotten it, again.

I try to stick close to the every-three-hours schedule, just because it’s easy to remember: 6 for Morning, 9 for Midmorning, etc, which puts Evening Prayer at 6 p.m. But because I keep forgetting about it until late, I just tried to look up what the ACTUAL requirements are for Evening Prayer.

Guess what I found? That Morning and Evening are more closely linked to sunrise and sunset than to a clock-time. And at my latitude, at this time of year, sunset doesn’t happen until 7:56 p.m.! So I’m totally justified in doing Evening Prayer at 8 p.m. 🙂

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Confirmation: a cautionary tale

Last night, our parishes had three people confirmed into the Catholic faith. One of them opted not to choose a saint’s name for his confirmation, which is fine, right? That’s up to him; we’ve had people do it before. Anyway, the guy has an unusual first name, so just for the heck of it, the priest decided to see if there was a saint with that name already.

And wouldn’t you know it? There was!

st. maturin

Say hello to St. Maturinpatron of comics, jesters, and clowns! 🙂

The lesson here is when you’re given the opportunity to choose a saint’s name for something, just pick one — otherwise you might end up with the patron saint of crazy people and clowns.

Given that St. Maturin probably doesn’t often make it into the Litany of the Saints, I can just imagine him up in heaven, all like, “Ha! The rest of you can suck it! I just got invoked on Easter, and it wasn’t even intentional! Score one for the patron saint of pranksters!”

St. Maturin, pray for us! 🙂

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The Divine Office during the Triduum

Interesting fact!

According to my prayer book, Evening Prayer on Holy Thursday and Good Friday are not said by those who participate in the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, and in the Celebration of the Passion of the Lord, respectively.

Cool! I don’t mind saying them, but I was just wondering when I was supposed to, given the traditional times for the services mentioned above. On one hand, it would be cool to pray, for example, the Midafternoon prayer on Good Friday; on the other hand, the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion seems to trump that.

As I mentioned before, I love how the prayers and readings correspond to the liturgical seasons; there is continuity between what I prayed this morning, and the Good Friday service I’ll be attending this afternoon.

Now I need to see if there’s a prayer that talks about the agonizing calculation of how many hot cross buns constitutes a “small meal.” 🙂

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The Divine Liturgy of the Office Hours

Ha! See the pun I made? It’s even grammatically correct!

Seriously, though, I recently started praying the Divine Office / Liturgy of the Hours. I didn’t really plan to; it just coincided with something else that I felt like I should be doing in my life, and here I am!

I remember hearing about the Liturgy of the Hours from the very beginning of my exploration of Catholicism. The idea was appealing; I had always greatly admired Islam for its 5-times-a-day prayer, and the concept of formally acknowledging God at predetermined parts of the day made a lot of sense to me.

The problem was that every time I investigated further, I was discouraged by the number of people who complained about how complicated and confusing it was, and how they could never figure it out, etc. etc. So, being the lazy and self-detracting person that I am, I concluded that I’d never be able to do something so (apparently) complicated, so I never bothered to try.

Well, I am here today to tell you that it’s really not all that complicated, at least to a lay person who has low standards.


Here’s a back-lit picture of my books.

For me, of course, there have to be books. Partially because I lovelovelove books, but also because if you use one of the many, many digital options there are for the Liturgy of the Hours, then it’s not complicated at all, and you have no excuse for not doing it! 🙂

To me, the Divine Office is set up kinda like Mass. If you (like I do) follow Mass faithfully every Sunday in your little missalette, eventually you should be able to pick up on certain rhythms. Like: song, prayer, reading (with bracketed response before and after), psalm with responses, reading (with responses), homily, song, prayer, etc. etc. The Liturgy of the Hours is the same way, so once you pick up on the rhythm (which itself is not complicated), then you’re good to go.

I have always sucked at praying. I was raised Evangelical, so all prayer was supposed to be extemporaneous. So I always hated praying in front of other people, and even when alone, I always felt like my prayers were lacking. Since I’ve become Catholic, I tried to make my own little prayer book, carefully copying prayers that I liked into a notebook, even trying to divide them into morning and evening so that I could do them every day. Problem was, once I got the notebooks completed, I never used them.

I thought about being satisfied with the “Catholic minimum,” as I heard someone describe it: an Our Father, a Hail Mary, and a Glory Be, twice a day. That never worked either. For one thing, it’s so short that it wasn’t enough to re-orient my attention from whatever else I had going on. Plus, it’s really boring and repetitive.

So what with one thing and another, I picked up Shorter Christian Prayer a few weeks ago, and I’ve actually been able to stick with it — so far. Even though it’s greatly abbreviated, it’s great for beginners because it’s small and relatively cheap. You still have to learn how to flip ribbons, but that’s not that bad. Especially if you start in Ordinary Time; I started during Lent, so it’s a more complicated time. The book comes with one ribbon, but I have four in there that I usually use: one in the Ordinary (the instructional section that has the daily morning psalm), one in the Psalter (the four-week basic schedule of psalms for morning and evening), one in the Proper of Seasons (special readings and antiphons for Lent; in Ordinary Time I won’t need that one), and I ended up sticking one in Night Prayer once I added that to my rotation.

I am far from an expert, but this is my basic pattern for Morning Prayer:

  1. Inside cover, where I wrote in the Introduction: Lord, open my lips. And my mouth will proclaim your praise.
  2. First ribbon in the Ordinary for the Invitatory Psalm and its antiphon: say the antiphon, the psalm, the Glory Be, and the antiphon again.
  3. Second ribbon in the Psalter: say antiphon 1, 1st psalm, Glory Be, antiphon 1 again.
  4. Say antiphon 2, canticle, Glory Be, antiphon 2 again.
  5. Say antiphon 3, 2d psalm, Glory Be, antiphon 3 again.
  6. Fourth ribbon (since it’s Lent; otherwise all this stuff is right there in the Psalter where you just were): say the reading, responsory, antiphon, Canticle of Zechariah, Glory be, antiphon again, intercessions, Our Father, prayer.
  7. Conclusion, which I also wrote inside the cover: May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil, and bring us to everlasting life. Amen.

See, that’s not so bad, is it? You only need the three ribbons, and once you go to each one, you finish that bit, then move to the next one.

Notes: I have omitted the hymns and “Psalm-prayers”; I have reason to believe that they are optional, and I plan to add them back as I gain proficiency.

This edition has the Canticle of Zechariah (said every morning) and the Canticle of Mary (said every evening) printed inside the front and back covers, which is great. I added the other couple little things that I need every time so that I don’t have to flip back to the first ribbon to find them. Otherwise, everything goes pretty much in order.

The first couple days I did it, I was loosey-goosey with the timing; I think I said Morning Prayer at 2 p.m. one day! Importantly for me, I didn’t set such a high standard that I was bound to fail and never try again, and I was super-relaxed about timing and mistakes. (St. Alphonsus, patron of the scrupulous, pray for us!) Which antiphon to use can get especially tricky sometimes, but I just went with it if I used the wrong one, or even started the wrong day or time and had to double up on a psalm or something.

I started just trying to do one “hour” (prayer) a day, and when that was easy, went to two, then added Night Prayer. Once I could be fairly certain that I would do Morning Prayer early enough that I didn’t have to take Shorter Christian Prayer with me when I left the house, I went back and picked up Daytime Prayer, which includes 3 potential hours for praying during the day (Midmorning, Midday, Midafternoon). That one’s very slender, so it’s easy to throw into my bag, and short enough that I can get a couple in during the day.

Right now, my goal is to say no fewer than two “hours” a day. Often I exceed that, and sometimes the two are Midmorning and Night. And I’m still pretty flexible with the timing.

Daria Sockey has a nice blog about the Divine Office. She says,

Luckily we lay folk are not bound to do everything according to regulation. In fact we are encouraged to adapt the Divine Office to our situation.

I’m taking her word for it, so that’s why I’m giving myself lots of leeway. Truthfully, as regimented as it seems, I feel like the flexibility has been the most enabling thing for me. If I miss Morning Prayer, I have 5 chance to make up for it, and that’s not even counting the Office of Readings (which is above my level, at this point). I have acquired a one-volume edition of the Breviary, and one of the Office of Readings, but what I have so far is working for me right now. Once I master this level, I’ll move up. There are options for different postures at different parts of the prayers, and options for saints days and stuff, so I feel like this will never get boring. And it’s linked to the liturgical year, which is helpful if you’re like me, and you’re checking at church every Sunday to see what season we’re in…

Short version: I really like praying the Liturgy of the Hours; it’s not that complicated; and if you have trouble getting a good prayer routine going, I highly recommend trying at least one section of it every day!

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To:           God

Subject:  Suffering


From:     Me

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Works of Mercy opportunity

Not many of us often get the opportunity to perform “burying the dead,” but I think this comes close, and it also probably counts as “visiting the sick.” Not to mention giving alms to the poor, etc.

go fund me march 2017

Basically, a friend of mine from back in the military has a friend who is terminally ill, and needs some financial help to put his affairs in order.

I appeal to everyone who is a service member, a veteran, a Catholic, a Christian, and/or a human being to give even just a little to help him out!

And if you can’t give, then a share on social media would be great, too. It’s Lent, so be charitable! 🙂

“Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”

(P.S. I’m requesting the intercession of Mother Angelica for this intention. It’s been one year since her death, which means we only have four more years to get some miracles for her canonization! Anybody who wants to join in is welcome!)

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