The Legacy of an Old Friend

Posted By on May 5, 2015

“There are two kinds of men who can be called rational: those who serve God with their whole lives because they know Him, and those who seek God with their whole lives because they do not know Him.” – Paschal

Justin Leedy is a dear old friend of mine… I met him when he was in college at Gonzaga, in late 2007, early 2008, living a grandiose worldly life.  I was privileged to observe my friend Justin, with great grace, fortune, and dedication, remake his whole life in the consideration of spiritual things. On a similar journey myself, as always, I followed Justin’s impassioned advocacy right into the Catholic Church. He taught me how to say the rosary, and shared with me over the years the great bounty of his diligent prayer, and study of the saints, the desert fathers, Thomistic philosophy and Church teaching.

I have been, of course, on many ridiculous adventures, heavily in and out of different religions and spiritual practices. Even after coming into the Catholic Church, I left again to join the Hare Krishnas in my hungry search for discipline, austerity, and the tangible reality of the spiritual in everyday life. I was happy that Justin stayed solid, because when horrible, terrible, nightmarish things inevitably happened to me, he was able to point me to people–Catholic priests, in fact, to my curious awe and chagrin–that seemed to have extreme sorts of powers of healing, stability, and deliverance. I figured after some time of grief, conflict, and acceptance, that I was thoroughly, through the avenues of peace, provision, and love, being forced back to the Catholic Church, so I went. Not unhappily, though the challenges have been many.

Meanwhile Justin’s spiritual journey has continued faithfully… he was accepted to a Benedictine monastery in Norcia, Italy, and began to work nonstop to raise funds to pay off his student loans.

GOOD OL’ LEEDY! I’m very happy for him even though I hardly get to talk to him these days! I did get to see him on a week-long visit to Idaho last December, and meet his whole wonderful church family and sing in the choir at St. Joan of Arc. Justin is really involved over there, sings in the choir and the Men’s Schola, and also lives and works at the Imago Dei Institute of Psychotherapy, helping to put together formation programs, a farm, and other fun tasks.

If you would like to help him out or hear more of his story, you can do so through his website here.

In the meantime, have some silly pictures from our week-long trip in the summer of 2010 to the Benedictine sisters of Our Lady of the Rock on Shaw Island. We had a lot of fun playing with llamas and baby cows, chanting the Divine Office in Latin with the sisters in their beautiful chapel, pulling out our musical instruments (or voices) to jam at the guest house, and teaming up with the other guests to do farm projects and have meals together.



Many are the Children of the Desolate

Posted By on May 5, 2015

The day was oddly cool for the season, even as the sun waxed higher in the sky. And me in flip-flops with no hat. Scarf, but no hat. It was fortunate indeed that the day was breezy and cool. The situation that had propelled me on this pilgrimage of a hike, across the interstate, up and down long grass and hills, fording two streams, walking on a terrifying highway bridge to cross a much larger river, seemed to me like one that my sense of self-preservation and terror had overreacted to, despite my having trauma with those sorts of triggers.

Along the hike my mind was occupied with placing my feet, finding the rather unwalkable route betwixt lanes of roaring traffic and fenced off gullies, with the occasional two-block jaunt through a nice residential neighborhood before I was climbing the next hill. I didn’t feel bad or even panicky, so long as I was out of the reach of the people who had caused my upset. I shook my head. There was SOME reason for this excursion, some greater plan for it that I knew nothing of. My flip flops kept coming apart, but between putting them back together and going barefoot, I was not making bad time. Had I planned this excursion, I would not be in flip flops. Nor without a hat.

I was on a MISSION… well, just to get to church. Eventually I did get there, after about three and a half hours of walking. Despondent, I took another three and a half hours to lay in a stupor half in the sun, wrapped in my chaddar, trying to get warm and feel less nauseous.  No one was ever around on Mondays, so I had a lot of time to think. I wasn’t quite sure what to think about. My brain felt in a slow fog, that circled from a strange kind of waiting confusion to outright anxiety and conviction, once again, that I didn’t belong here, that I should’ve been a Hare Krishna, where people lived more ordered and sane lives. Of course there was no food, but I took several trips to the water fountain to ease my aching head.

Five hours later I creeped my way into the church. The May crowning of Mary had occurred just yesterday–it had been glorious, I had been singing in the choir, and we had a long procession where we sang a litany and many hymns to Mary. The tenderness and sweetness of such a loving expression still filled the little Mary altar, overflowing with fragrant flowers of all types. The statue of her stood there with the wreath of flowers upon its head. I sat down in the front pew. I was still stupefied. I went in and out a few times, but achieved no more success either at praying or feeling any clarity on anything.

Presently I noticed that someone else had come into the church after me. Peeking back, I saw it was a priest–but one I had never seen before. We had three priests at our church, and being members of the Fraternity they always wore long black cassocks. This priest had on only a white collar and a black suit. He poked around the back of the church a bit, walked the aisles praying his office… I gave him a few glances, but then just continued sitting by the flowers. Who was he? Why had he come HERE to pray–as a priest didn’t he have his own church to pray in? Questions to which I had no answer didn’t bother me much.

A little while, and he left… but not before calling out to me, “Excuse me–” I turned around.  “Would you please pray for me?” he asked. “Father Gabriel.”

“Okay,” I said. He thanked me and left. Thinking little of it, I turned around and looked at the altar again. I hadn’t been able to pray at all for the past two days, and expected no more success now–but suddenly inspiration and consolation filled me and I found pouring from my heart every heartfelt thanksgiving, and petition for Father Gabriel’s help and hope, sentiments I could not have dreamed up five minutes ago. Of course I went with it–how exciting. I prayed for him for some time and then, when I finished, my previous dryness immediately returned.

I was too tired to care much, but the incident made me ponder. Truly the grace to pray is one given by God, for without His aid we have no power of our own to reach Him or even to speak to Him. He must, I thought, be proving this to me by allowing these various torments and the non-functionality that so frustrates me. Here, however, He proves to me that He can give it back in a moment should He so desire.

O fickle diety!

Still, as I sat there, I was soothed, peaceful. The colorful fragrant flowers felt like a sweet embrace, and I couldn’t take my eyes off of the altar. Here HE was. Some vestiges of the love I had always had for Him there with us in the Blessed Sacrament, for the Mass, perked up a bit. How wonderful it was of Him to care so much for his ministers, the priests consecrated to act in His person for the benefit of the whole world.

I went back outside to sit for a while. A friend of mine showed up, who I had been texting during the day. “Hi there, you crazy lady,” she said to me, and, telling me to eat already, unlocked the kitchen for me.

I set to this exhausting but by this time highly necessary task.  After this tiring repast, forty-five minutes later, I wandered out to stare at the bulletin board. As always, a large poster advertising the seminary was displayed prominently. On it were the photographs of all the current seminarians–I found myself absorbed with staring at each of their faces. All of them such ordinary looking men, features of all shapes and sizes, nothing physical remarkable at all… yet to me each one of them glowed. Those smiles for the camera were telling me excitedly, “This is my body–my life–given up for you and for many.”

The harvest is plentifulbut the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. …

I went back outside to meet my two friends. Father Gordon had just returned from a hike (Monday being his day off), and we all chatted for a while. I told them about Father Gabriel and my experience with praying for him. Father Gordon seemed to suddenly have attention for this story, looking at me–

“You see,” I said, “I have realized today that God does as He wishes with us, and it’s not even that I’ve done anything, but He is doing His own purpose torturing me!”

“No,” he said, “the reason I was taken aback… is that… it seems you may have a vocation to pray for priests.”

“There’s something I’m supposed to do…” I said. “That’s good news.”

Quite confidently he then quoted to me Isaiah 54:1…

“Give praise, O thou barren, that bearest not: sing forth praise, and make a joyful noise, thou that didst not travail with child: for many are the children of the desolate, more than of her that hath a husband, saith the Lord.”

“Hey, yeah!” I said. “It’s the way it was arranged; there won’t be any children for me, because my husband ran off…”

“Not physical children,” he agreed, “but so many more SPIRITUAL children.”

Fantasy and Salvation

Posted By on April 22, 2015

To Bryan Davis in response to his excellent article on the power of Christian fantasy.

I know I have said this a hundred thousand times to you over the years, but your books have, multiple times, saved my life or at least my sanity. I have always been a creatively minded person, I was always drawn to fantasy and dragons and could figure out how to put my feet in “this world”. I always longed for God and for virtue. I longed to find saints. When everything falls short in real life as it inevitably does, it is stories that bring us back to truth. Looking at old catechisis books–they’re all stories. Stories of the lives of the saints. Stories from the Bible. Stories and anecdotes of miracles, of peoples’ lives being changed. Stories of missionaries, stories of martyrs. I’m reading a book about Father Desmet right now, who was one of the primary forces in the West with the Native Americans in the 1800s. History is a beautiful thing. I love how in your books you take your own stories, you take Arthurian legend, the Bible, extra-biblical tradition, the whole richness of salvation history and bring it to life.

I will probably say it a thousand more times and sit here and applaud your stories and what they have done for me and for others and continue to do. I’ve written so many novels but never done anything with them. I’ve thrown myself into creative writing environments, roleplay, whatever, taking ideas and playing with them, turning them, trying to bring virtue, and innocence, into groups of people and worlds where they are not–reading the writing of creative friends I see unbelievable amounts of despair. The whole theme is despair. We need fantasy and stories that do not despair. So badly we need them. I am trying all the time to write them, and feel, failing.

I feel like I belong nowhere, as even so many spiritual people are not creative sorts, and I have never, ever, seemed to have been successful in excising that part of my personality, no matter how hard I try. If it doesn’t have a spiritual outlet it takes a worldly one with worldly company, which causes me immeasurable pain as I don’t often feel strong enough to combat in such company the huge waves of despair, vice, and impersonalism.

Yet on I trod. Thank you for your books. They will always be a light to me. I still haul them around with me everywhere I go!!

Real Effect and Free Will

Posted By on June 24, 2014

A response I have written to my own essay of several years ago, Euclid, Extra-Terrestrial Style.

This essay describes the phenomenon of Real Effect.

What Real Effect is, is a description of the drama of the human soul on the stage of the temporal world.  Two opposing goals, everything else is just props.

Real Effect only be apprehended (according to all the religious traditions I know of) through a change in our own consciousness, through personal purification and surrender/relationship to God, who somehow set the whole thing up and waits to see what we will do, and hides the stage so that we make our choices according to the quality of our will and consciousness.  Like C.S. Lewis’s “Til We Have Faces”.

So one side of Real Effect is that which we cannot have any understanding of Real Effect, and the other side is that position where we come to understand all of it.  The side where we come to understand all of it is (understood) to be our real destined position in eternity, as, quoting C.S. Lewis again, “All answers through the lens of time deceive.”

But because there is this world and we are going either one direction or the other, we have just as much opportunity to go the opposite direction—but again the Real Effect, while being an absolute movement (you can never be moving in two directions on that spectrum), is not dependent on time, form, or matter…. per say.  There are natural laws (for example an acorn will always have an oak tree as its final cause), and while on the stage we are bound by them and our field of activities is within them, they do not DIRECTLY reference movement on the spectrum.

Since the essay linked above is a treatise by extra-terrestrials who do not have access to any position on the spectrum, these impersonal observers from outside of the drama see that which direction human beings go (from an impersonal standpoint) is unimportant, because they can, truthfully and absolutely, end up at the extreme of either direction.

However, here we ourselves observe a crucial difference between the various religious traditions in their attempt to explain this reality.  In the metaphysics of many eastern religions, for example, is the idea that, through reincarnation and samsara (the cycle of birth and death), the soul is part and parcel of God Himself and ultimately all separation from its own eternal nature is temporary and illusory.

If the human being is made exclusively to end up inevitably at one end of the spectrum of Real Effect, with no LASTING (ie, outside of time and space) option to end up at the other end, then Real Effect is itself an illusion dependent on time.

So, next question.  The extra-terrestrials haven’t gotten to this one yet.

Free will means the human being has the choice of his end.  In some philosophies, this free will is absolute.  In other philosophies, it exists only in time, because ultimately the human spirit cannot escape its true nature of being eternal and made of the stuff of God.

Is free will absolute, or temporal?