Saturday, December 22, 2012


(For the Parents of the Children Killed @ Sandy Hook School on December 14, 2012)                                                                                                                          By Arlene B. Muller

This year a silent morning will follow their silent night,
As their tear-worn eyes view your empty bed as they walk to the Christmas tree.
They remember Christmas mornings, when yours was the first face they’d see,
When your glowing face and your shining eyes were like lights on their Christmas tree.

How could it be Christmas!  What a silent day it could be!
No squeals of delight, no child opening presents under the Christmas tree!
How could it be Christmas!  It feels like a mockery!
For you were their light; you were their angel; you were the star on their tree.

Nothing is calm.  Nothing is bright.  Darkness is all that they see,
As they kneel before an empty manger under their Christmas tree.
A Child was born.  A Son was given.  But their child was taken away.
Come, JESUS, come, fill their aching hearts as they kneel by their Christmas tree.

Then it could be Christmas!  Then a healing day it could be,
Though no squeals of delight or child opening presents kneels under their Christmas tree.
Come, come fill their Christmas! Let it not be a mockery!
You came as a Child.  You came as the Light—

Be born in their lives—Be born in their hearts—As they kneel by their Christmas tree.

© Copyright 2012 by Arlene B. Muller (Arlene Clare Muller, OSF)


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Post Election Angst & Advent Hope

I'm grateful for the testimonies in Scripture which reflect what I am feeling now.  

I relate to Martha in John 11, in which JESUS had waited to come to Bethany until after Lazarus had died & asked, "WHERE WERE YOU, LORD!  IF YOU HAD BEEN HERE, THIS WOULD NOT HAVE HAPPENED. BUT YET EVEN NOW I BELIEVE THAT GOD WILL DO WHATEVER YOU ASK."  God had a better plan to raise Lazarus--a plan that she could not understand.  

Once again I relate to the apostles who left Calvary on Good Friday & to the disciples on the road to Emmaus who were disheartened & crushed that the unthinkable evil--the cruel murder of the Messiah upon Whom they had placed such hope--had happened.  But God had a better plan--a spiritual rather than a political redemption, the suffering of the Innocent One to atone for the sins of the guilty, and the joy of Resurrection.  

I'm sure that it was hard for the early Christians to have assurance that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church as they were being thrown to the lions in Rome.  

Soon we will begin another Liturgical Year & another Advent & recall & spiritually relive the many centuries in which those faithful to God waited with eager longing for the time when Messiah would come & set His people free.  

Thank the LORD last night we had our choir practice for LESSONS & CAROLS & practiced songs with strains in a minor key that reflect our longing for God to come & make things right, along with strains in a major key that reflect the hope that, in His timing, He will.  

It feels as if in this 2012 Presidential election in America God abandoned His people who struggled so hard to promote His righteousness and His glory, to protect the lives of those most vulnerable from being slaughtered because of "inconvenience", to protect the right of people not to "enable" all forms of sexual immorality and to restore the Judaeo-Christian principles of God-given inalienable rights upon which our nation was founded with His providential blessing.  The false messiah who endorses & enables all sorts of evil has won the election (for those who share my convictions, contrary to the false propaganda, this has nothing to do with the color of his skin or "bigotry", but it is about the content of his character and the sin he endorses) & God once again allowed this to happen.  

It is only the testimony of Scripture that gives me a glimmer of hope to continue to believe in "the substance of things hoped for--the evidence of things unseen"--that somehow even this tragic mistake of the American electorate can be a piece of the puzzle of God's plan as we wait in joyful hope for the time when the LORD & His righteousness & peace will prevail upon the earth & when the kingdom of this world will finally become the kingdom of Our LORD and of His Christ & He shall reign forever & every knee, even that of Barack Obama and his allies, must bow & every tongue proclaim the JESUS CHRIST IS LORD, to the glory of God the Father.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Franciscan Spiritual Gifts– Joy and Hospitality

There are various aspects of the life, personality and spiritual gifts of St. Francis of Assisi which attract people to follow his way of following JESUS CHRIST, either in the First Order (friars), Second Order (Poor Clares), Third Order (Secular Franciscans for laity and also priests and religious who follow the Third Order rule), or simply as Christians who admire him.  Many people speak of his commitment to radical poverty and may be inspired to live more simply.  Others marvel at the story of his conversion and his commitment to a life of penance.  Others marvel at his deep life of prayer. 

In modern times we can often look back upon the events of the Protestant Reformation and the division in the Mystical Body of Christ in light of the call that St. Francis received from the LORD while praying before the San Damiano cross, “Francis, rebuild My Church, which is falling into ruin”. There was corruption and materialism in the Church at the time of St. Francis.  Francis worked to rebuild the Church, obedient to the LORD’s call in a way that was still totally loyal and obedient to the Church.  He did this not by criticizing or condemning anyone or pointing fingers or breaking away, but by his own example and message of simplicity and devotion to God’s Word and his integrity.  Unfortunately, not everyone learned from his example and there was still materialism and corruption in the Church (e.g. abuses such as the selling of indulgences)—factors that helped provoke the Protestant Reformation.  So if people had paid greater heed to Francis’ preaching and example and lived more simply, with greater integrity and greater devotion to Scripture and living the Gospel, perhaps there would not have been a Protestant Reformation, because there would have been less of a need for reform.

Others cite St. Francis’ great love for God’s Creation and his special relationship with animals.  Still others marvel at his identification with the Crucified Christ in the gift of the stigmata, his life of prayer, his devotion to the Eucharist that was so great that it even caused him to honor the most sinful priest, his representation of the events of the Birth of Christ at Greccio, or his dedication to the cause of peace and reconciliation.

Even one of these—and particularly the combination of all of the above—provide good reason to love and admire St. Francis of Assisi and even seek to follow his example of living the Gospel in our various states in life (priesthood, religious/consecrated life, diaconate, married life or the single vocation and in various professions and occupations).  However, although these are all very significant, I think that with the possible exception of Francis’ call to rebuild the Church, I don’t think that any particular one of these are what attracted me most to our beloved seraphic father Francis.

In the interview preceding my profession as a Secular Franciscan almost 20 years ago, I stated that my deepest admiration for St. Francis and sense of connection with him is that he was so in love with the LORD that he was not afraid to appear foolish.  Many are attracted to Francis as one who embraced suffering and embraced a life of poverty and penance (all of which still scares me). However, I am more attracted to the other side of Francis, which is equally true:  a man so full of life and love and joy—the love and joy that led him to burst into song and to tell people he encountered, “The LORD is in love with you!” This Francis so desired to share his love and joy that one of his great delights was that the LORD gave him “brothers” and “sisters” who were drawn to follow his way of life.  In the process of formation I read a few books about St. Francis that inspired me to draw this conclusion, particularly GOD’S FOOL by Julian Green.

Although many would see the obvious contrast between the pre-converted playboy “party animal” Francis and the saint committed to penance and poverty, it is also true that in the conversion of Francis the LORD actually sanctified Francis’ “joie de vivre” and transformed this ringleader of late-night revelry and carousing into the “Troubadour for the LORD” and the jovial host of a feast of bread crumbs at the Chapter of Mats.  I think that it is generally true that the “new creation” God works in each of us is often not a stark difference that makes us “other” than ourselves but a sanctified actualization of the person God created us to be—our “true selves”—much of which can be seen in our pre-conversion life.  After all, Saul/Paul was always characterized by great zeal bordering on obsession-compulsion:  the Pharisee zealous to “protect” the God and religion of Israel from those “followers of the ‘Way’” on the road to Damascus became the zealous Christian compelled to preach the Gospel and consider his suffering and even martyrdom nothing in comparison with the joy of union with Christ.

Why did I become a Secular Franciscan?  Quite simply, I came because God called me (and showed me in various ways that He was calling me), and I came for the joy.  I came for the joy of falling in love with the LORD, of praising and worshipping God for and with His awesome creation, of singing the LORD’s praises, of preaching the Gospel always and using words when necessary, and the joy of sharing with and serving my brothers and sisters.  I suppose that this connection with joy can be viewed to be consistent with my character and personality and the working of the Holy Spirit in my life, since people throughout my lifetime have referred to me as “the one who’s always smiling”.  It is consistent with the way God made me and the way I was raised.  As I see it was with Francis, I see that in myself this joy finds its fulfillment in sharing community and fellowship and in praising the LORD in song.  Shared prayer, shared song in harmony, and shared food and fellowship in an atmosphere of warm welcome, good conversation, laughter, and gracious hospitality is, for me, a foretaste of heaven.  After all, it has been written that in heaven we will share in the heavenly BANQUET.

I remember learning from Jesuit retreat masters (and one of the early experiences of my calling to become a Secular Franciscan came at a Jesuit retreat house with a Sister of Charity of Halifax as my director) that St. Ignatius of Loyola initially called his followers “Companions of JESUS”.  I was taught that “companion” literally means someone with whom one shares bread.  I think that this applies not only to the Eucharist but to earthly bread as well.  The Francis I admire has often been depicted as inviting people to share in the fellowship he enjoyed with the LORD and his family of followers.  It has been said that evangelization is actually “one beggar showing another beggar where the bread is”, so, in that vein, evangelization is actually a high form of hospitality.

The Francis I admire has often been depicted engaged in extending hospitality.  The Francis who was once extravagant with material riches became extravagant in the context of his poverty, as in the feast with bread crumbs at the Chapter of Mats.  Francis loved God and loved people extravagantly, desiring to share and give all he had, and putting the needs and comfort of others ahead of his own, as, we, too are called to do in demonstrating the virtue of hospitality!  Francis embraced and welcomed all in a spirit of joy and gratitude for everything as coming from God, which is a wonderful example for each of us.

Although St. Francis and the friars fasted both when required by the Church and for times of voluntary penance, he also thoroughly enjoyed celebrations and feasts (e.g. Christmas) and encouraged others to enjoy feasting, in contrast with others who were more ascetic. For Francis, there was a time to fast and a time to feast, which is in keeping with the spirit of Ecclesiastes 3 (“To everything there is a season…”).  When St. Francis heard a friar crying out in the night, “I am dying, I am dying!” and learned that the friar meant he was dying of hunger, Francis awakened the whole community and gave them all something to eat so that the friar both would be fed and spared embarrassment.  This is another example of Francis’ gracious hospitality expressed in concern for the needs and comfort of all and his gift for turning an occasion of meeting a brother’s need into an impromptu celebration!

I believe that the joyous hospitality of Francis is fully realized when members of the various branches of his family come together to share prayer, song, food and fellowship, and when all share in love and joy together as brothers and sisters in one Franciscan family.  Perhaps this is a foretaste of the joy Our LORD desires for ALL His children that will finally be fully realized in heaven.

Arlene Clare Muller, OSF – September 25, 2012

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

We Lay People Must BE The Church In The Secular World

I imagine there has always been a serious discernment issue concerning the role of us Christians in secular matters, especially in the world of politics.  In everything we must be centered in Christ, who is the Author and the One Who completes our faith, and we must not be trapped into focusing on power, position, and prestige or looking to any political leader as a savior or messiah in place of Christ.  Only JESUS CHRIST is our Savior.  I have been reminded that “salvation is through the Church” and not through politics. However, I think that there is a difference between the role of the institutional Church/hierarchy/clergy and our personal salvation and the role of the laity within the Church called to act as a bridge between the Church and the secular world not only to evangelize and help bring people to Christ and the Church but also to do our part in impacting the world and seeking to right what is wrong, especially in a nation like America where the government is “of the people, by the people and for the people” and where citizens have the power to make a difference.

The role of the institutional Church/hierarchy/clergy is to send missionaries into the mission field and to "equip the saints" by providing us with teaching on the Church's perspective of what is going on in the world, by facilitating our understanding of the Scriptures, by presiding at Mass, giving us the Eucharist, hearing our confessions and providing counsel when and where needed, and administering the other sacraments.  The pope and the bishops publicly declare the Church's position on the issues.  

We as Catholic Christian lay people are thus equipped to go out into the world in our various professions and live the Gospel and make a positive impact on the world.  I believe that it is essential that we Catholics go to Mass, receive the sacraments, get married* and *lovingly and faithfully raise children (*if we are called to marriage—some people, like myself, have been called into the single vocation), fulfill the duties of our specific jobs, and take care of our parents.   Although it is very important to do all these things well first and foremost, I do not believe that our role as lay people necessarily ends in our homes, our schools, our workplaces, and our parishes.  I believe that we are called to do more for our country and for the world than to wait in our homes while people in the world who have not come to Christ or nominal Christians who are not living according to Gospel values continue to make the world worse and worse and we all die and go to heaven while those whom "the Church" has not reached goes to hell and the rest of the world goes to hell in a hand basket!  If we are true Christians, the Gospel should permeate every aspect of our lives, and as Christian lay people we are called to permeate the various walks of life and the social and political climate of our times with the values of the Gospel that we have heard and believed and that are nurtured by worship, Word, and sacraments in the institutional Church.

We need the Church, of course!  But we also need to BE the Church and to pervade the world with the Gospel in every area of life!  Politics is one of many areas.  The Church can teach us that abortion is wrong, and Church organizations can minister to women in crisis pregnancies and their babies.  

But the Church doesn't change the laws--we need people in government to change the laws.  It is for the Christian politician to end the funding of Planned Parenthood, to make laws restricting and hopefully ending abortion, to discern how best to exercise compassion and social justice to those who are poor and marginalized, and to discern how to deal with the scourge of terrorism.  The pope can tell a president, "don't go to war", but it is the president who has to decide how to protect our country from potential acts of terrorism--something that the pope cannot do.

It is for the Christian filmmaker, producer, director, actor, actress to decide not to make films or TV shows that glorify immodesty, premarital sex and/or homosexual activity but to make and promote films and TV shows that show how young people can be chaste and wait to have sex until they are married, how married couples can meet the day-to-day challenges and trials that can occur during their married life and remain faithful and devoted to each other and have true joy rather than "the pleasures of sin for a season" and to raise their children to be godly people who love and serve God and people, and how a person struggling with same sex attraction can find healing and live a chaste life that might have its ongoing struggle but can be happy and fruitful.  It is for the Christian singer/songwriter/musician to write,  perform, and produce music for both the Church and the world that will honor God and reflect Gospel values, whether it is music written for the Church, contemporary Christian music, or secular music without specifically religious content.  

It is for the Christian doctor, nurse, and other medical professional to insist that he/she will never perform or enable an abortion, to counsel a woman carrying a child with Down syndrome that although this child's life will present many challenges, he/she is still a valuable human being who has potential to achieve more than he/she realizes--with the proper help--and can be more of a blessing than she can ever imagine, to insist that a patient with diminished brain function or in a coma be provided with nutrition and hydration, and to affirm by word and actions the Church's teaching on the sanctity of human life at all stages from conception through natural death.  

It is for the Christian teacher or therapist in a Catholic or other Christian school who can teach religion but also the Christian teacher or therapist in a secular school who is not permitted to speak directly about God, Jesus or religion to love the children he/she teaches, to affirm the value of each child and his/her gifts, to teach sharing, caring, and other Gospel (while not specifically “religious” in areas where this is not permitted) values by his/her love, word, and example, and to wear his/her cross so that someday hopefully this child will grow up and see a cross and make a connection between that cross, the teacher who loved him/her and provided a beautiful example, and JESUS and the Church.

It is for the Christian working in the corporate environment to demonstrate integrity, hard work, the value and dignity of every human being above numbers and production, charity, good will, and joy in an atmosphere that has become increasingly de-personalized and demoralizing.

We also need Christians who will report the news to help us see what is happening in the world from a Christian perspective rather than the liberal views of the secular media.  

Obviously we are concerned about the salvation of individual souls—especially of the souls the LORD has put in our care and those who are dear to us-- but we must also be concerned about making a positive impact on the world in our various professions (which, I realize, include areas more numerous than those  to which I have referred in this blog), in our voting decisions, in communicating with our political leaders, in supporting candidates who represent our values, and by speaking out and writing in accordance with the gifts and calling given to us by the Holy Spirit.  The hierarchy and clergy have their important function of bringing people into the Church, helping individuals achieve salvation, nurturing us through Mass and the sacraments, and communicating Church teaching, but for the most part it is up to Christian lay people to take what we have received and “go in peace to love and serve the LORD” by trying to save our broken world.  I would suggest that it is often through a lay person's influence that a person not of our faith becomes interested in coming into the Church.  

I would also suggest that in addition to our participation at Mass and in our individual ministries within our parishes, we lay people need to be able to get together in a kind of "holy huddle" to pray and support each other in our mission, whether it is in a prayer group, a Bible study, the lay expression of a religious order, or a combination of these.  The priests give us the sacraments, which are essential for us to be nurtured, they preach and teach us, which is essential for us to know how to apply the Gospel to life (which is how I view the purpose of homilies), and they provide the counsel we need, but they don't walk in our shoes, so we not only need the priests, deacons and religious, (as essential as they are), but we lay people also need each other.  

As Christians IN the world but NOT OF the world, and as lay Christians who “bridge the gap” between the Church and the secular world, we are the ones who are best in the position to CHANGE THE WORLD! 

May the Holy Spirit quicken each one of us in our hearts and give each of us the wisdom and courage to know and do what is ours to do to shine the light of Christ into every corner of our world, especially here in America.

© Copyright 2012 by Arlene B. Muller

Monday, April 9, 2012

Living Between Good Friday and Easter: Awaiting Easter Dawn

With the election of Barack Obama, the strongest pro-abortion president in US history, and especially with the passage of Obamacare without the Stupak-Pitts amendment (the amendment that would have guaranteed that no abortions would be funded except under the conditions of the Hyde amendment), under the guise of a promised executive order, the pro-life movement in America was dealt two very severe blows.  As I experienced feelings of disillusionment, disappointment, frustration, and discouragement after all the prayer and written communication to try to ensure that unborn babies, people with disabilities, people who are elderly, people with chronic or serious health conditions, and the conscience rights of health care personnel and facilities that oppose abortion would be protected, I needed to relate this experience to something in the Gospel.  I recognized that my feelings in some respects were in some degree connected to my perception of what the apostles must have felt with the realization that JESUS, their Master, had actually undergone crucifixion, had died on the cross, and had been buried.  It was in some way connected to the feelings of the women who left the tomb where the lifeless body of JESUS had been placed.  How could this have happened?  How could God have let it happen?  How could He have abandoned them?
History and faith demonstrate that this was not the end of the story.  While the unthinkable (yes, unthinkable to them, even though JESUS had tried to tell them several times) had happened and while all seemed lost, the LORD was, in fact, doing the great work of gaining the salvation of all who believed and would come to believe in Him and rescuing the just souls from the prison of Sheol and bringing them to heaven.  God had already arranged that the event of great horror and suffering, which appeared to be the worst thing that could ever happen, would be the way to the best thing that could ever happen, our salvation and the resurrection of JESUS CHRIST from the dead.  Death was to be swallowed up in victory at a time when faithful followers could only feel mired by defeat.  However, in the absence of understanding, it was as if a deep cloud had covered the area and deep fog hung over the land.
Although people in the pro-life movement, unlike the disciples who hid for cover in the Upper Room, have continued to press on and even gain several important victories, there still hangs a veil of gloom over our land while a strongly pro-abortion president remains in residence in the White House, promoting his pro-abortion agenda and showing a serious lack of respect for religious freedom, the right of conscience, and the rights of the unborn.  Where is God in all this?  What is He doing?  Will He ever reveal His Presence and once again act on our behalf?
The election of a genuinely pro-life President in November would be a sign of our vindication.  It would reassure us that God still raises up people who are determined to seek and follow Him and to work to defend the most vulnerable.
It seems to me that God is raising up Rick Santorum for such a time as this.  Rick Santorum is not God, not a messiah, not a savior, and not even a saint, but a fallible human being like the rest of us.  If elected President his goals would still be subject to the decisions of Congress, and he would still be attacked by the liberal secular media. However, he is a genuine Catholic who strongly believes in the rights of those most vulnerable and has a great track record of defending the unborn.  He is a father who is concerned for the life of his precious daughter who has a chromosomal abnormality whose continued existence on this earth is very fragile and who, due to severe developmental delays, has a life that is not always valued by medical professionals and whose plight would probably become even worse if Obamacare goes into effect.  At first his campaign yielded a small percentage of support until he almost miraculously beat the odds and won the Iowa primary.  This was the first sign of hope that perhaps the dawn is near, and there have been many subsequent signs of victory as well.
At present it appears as if the odds are still against Rick Santorum, but sometimes Easter miracles still can happen.  We do not yet know if God will intervene miraculously in this upcoming election or will once again allow Americans to be left to their own devices to choose the candidate that appeals to the worldly and fleshly concerns.
For me, if Rick Santorum wins this election it will be as if the clouds have lifted, the rainbow has appeared and an Easter morning will have finally dawned.  It will be a sign that God is  smiling on America and the pro-life movement once again.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Time Is Now

With the upcoming Presidential election and the mandate initiated by the Department of Health and Human Services of the Obama administration (and the first glimpse of what Obamacare will involve), our nation and the Catholic Church in America stand at the crossroad of what will become of religious and conscience rights and respect for the sanctity of human life in America and perhaps even in the world. 

I totally support what Cardinal Dolan and the USCCB is doing to fight the mandate, and the voice of the Church speaking out on all levels (hierarchy, clergy, religious, and laity) on what are not merely political issues but crucial moral issues must be heard.  As Church we do not mention the names of candidates or the names of political parties, but we have to speak out for moral issues and for freedom of religion and freedom of conscience before it is too late.  

This is a time when millions of unborn babies are being slaughtered and our government is acting as an enabler.  This is a time when certain scientists are not only questioning the rights of the unborn to life but even the rights of newborns!!  This is a time when elderly and seriously or chronically ill people and people with disabilities might be given questionnaires to complete with questions that cause them to consider their "quality of life" and whether their lives are still worth living.  Right now the issue about which Catholic organizations that are not the local church but include schools, hospitals and other social services and individual Catholic business owners are being asked to violate Church teaching and conscience (the "compromise" addition of a third party insurer is merely paying Peter so that Peter can pay Paul instead of a requirement to pay Paul directly) may seem rather insignificant, since for many people contraception is a "gray area" and even common practice, but it is better to stop violations of conscience and violations of religious freedom while the matter is still small and can be "nipped in the bud" than to wait until the matter is more serious.  I have heard that the next mandate very well could involve a requirement to pay for abortion so that those who wish to procure abortions can get an abortion for $1.  

We are at a very crucial moment in our history.  To me this election is a time when America will decide whether we will slide further down the slippery slope of the "culture of death" and the erosion of our freedom of religion and consciences or whether we will make a positive difference in standing for the Gospel of life.  The issue facing us is not merely political but a grave moral issue, and the time for a "tip of the hat" to respecting life and for mild statements of political correctness is over. The Church must always be above political parties, but the Church must speak out for freedom, human dignity and morality. We must stand together for the cause of the sanctity of life or else we could see it slip away as it did in Nazi Germany.  "If not now, when?"  

I believe that we are being called to stand up as Catholics in America "for such a time as this".  I want history to reveal that in 2012 that the Church in America stood courageously to speak out for the vulnerable and defenseless and turned the tide from the culture of death to the culture of life. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Delicate Fine Line of the Christian Walk

Being a Christian involves the challenge to walk the delicate fine bearing the footprints of JESUS.  We are called to judge actions in order to discern right from wrong but never to judge or stereotype people, because only God can read hearts, truly know & completely understand everyone's motives, reasoning & circumstances.  We are called to hate the sin but love the sinner. We are called to tell the truth in love. With God's grace, love, mercy, wisdom & discernment we pray that we will keep on that fine line, but in our human nature we tend to fall on one side or the other. If we lean too far to the right we can become judgmental, self-righteous, smug, legalistic, pharasaical, set in our ways, & angry. If we lean too far to the left we can become moral relativists with misguided compassion and the "sloppy agape" that enables sin, & we can fail to stand up for essential principles like the sanctity of human life, integrity, purity, & righteousness and to see ourselves as somehow superior because of our "open-mindedness" while judging others as "narrow-minded bigots". Our acceptance of people should not include tacit approval of all their actions.  We need to love and accept people unconditionally but we are not supposed to promote an "anything goes" society.  We cannot have love without truth or truth without love.  At the same time that our lives, words and actions must authentically proclaim "I love you", they must also authentically proclaim that certain behaviors are unacceptable, or else we could be "loving people into hell" and creating a society of moral chaos.

It took me awhile to realize that as hard as I try and as much as I claim to be otherwise, I am sometimes critical and judgmental deep inside, even though I try to fight it and sometimes hide it deep inside myself.  I do strive to be authentic, but sometimes I miss seeing this fault in myself.  However, in striving not to be critical or judgmental I must be careful not to accept the moral relativism of our society and not to fail to stand up for what is right or to try so hard to please people that I compromise my values.  If "sin" is really "missing the mark", then I guess this is often where some of my sin--and possibly the sin of many of us--lies.  JESUS is perfect unconditional love and perfect justice, perfect compassionate love and perfect uncompromising truth.  It is so hard for us to be fully "on target".

In recent years I have become stronger in my convictions of the urgent need to protect the unborn and fight abortion, especially since we have a president who has an extreme pro-abortion agenda and who is closely aligned with Planned Parenthood, the largest purveyor of abortion.  I believe that we who are Christian, especially we who are Catholic, have a moral duty to fight abortion, to fight Obama's agenda, and to work to ensure that in the upcoming election we elect a pro-life candidate to replace him. I know that I find it very difficult not to go from my ardent disagreement with this president--whose views might be connected, in part, to misguided compassion--to severe judgment of him as a person and to hatred of the sinner as well as hatred of his sin. I believe that the abortion issue, freedom of religious expression, protection of conscience rights, and the Judaeo-Christian values on which our nation was founded are the key issues that must guide our voting decision.  Yet there are people of good will--even good Catholics and even strongly pro-life Catholics who are active in the Church and faithful to the teaching of the Magisterium--who do not agree, and there are people who are pro-life who sincerely believe that other issues, like peace (including refraining from engagement in war), social justice, the plight of undocumented immigrants, and our troubled economy are of equal or higher priority. The teaching of the Catholic Church requires us to be pro-life and recommends that the pro-life cause should be an important part of our voting decision, but the Church does not necessarily condemn people who are pro-life but who vote for a pro-abortion candidate or choose not to vote for either candidate if they weigh all the issues and somehow find the pro-life candidate deficient in other important areas. These people either chose to vote for Obama or chose not to vote for either presidential candidate in 2008.  God alone knows their hearts--I don't.  I do not know how many we can successfully win over to give a higher priority to the abortion issue and support and vote for the pro-life candidate in 2012, but I'm trying. Those with more liberal leanings might accuse the candidates who are mostly strongly pro-life of a lack of compassion for the poor, while I would argue that the candidates who support abortion are candidates who are trying to "help" the poor by "killing" the poor by means of abortion and who are not providing for the poor by reaching down and lifting them up but by increasing their dependency on the government and turning America from the land of opportunity to the land of entitlements.  It is hard for me to understand how a pro-life faithful Catholic could ever vote for Obama and could not share my passionate opposition to him, but I know that some have voted for him and might do so again, and although I hope that I can persuade them to my point of view, I also need to respect them and their consciences.  I must not go so far to the right of the fine line to agree with some pro-life Catholic FACEBOOK friends who insist that faithful pro-life Catholics who choose not to put the abortion issue as the highest priority are somehow unfaithful or "cafeteria" Catholics and "paint" all Catholics who voted for Obama with "the same brush".  To do that would be to engage in stereotyping them and to judge people rather than to judge actions.

This can seem very confusing, but finding a delicate balance is no easy task.  The challenge of walking the fine line that JESUS walked is a great challenge.  It is so hard for us as human beings to know the mind of God fully.  I know that God is passionate about the protection of innocent human life and moral righteousness, but He also is a compassionate and merciful God of unconditional love and the only One Who has the right to judge people as well as actions, because only He can fully understand the heart and circumstances of each human being.

LORD, give us Your love, Your grace, Your wisdom, Your vision, and Your truth so that we can truly follow Your footprints on that delicate fine line.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Somebody Your Own Size: Why the Abortion Issue Matters

There are so many people who do not seem to consider the Presidential candidates' stand on the abortion issue as important.  I know that people warn against voting solely on the basis of one issue.  Even people who consider themselves pro-life seem to give the abortion issue a back seat to the economy & to foreign policy or allow themselves to be deceived by smooth rhetoric and empty promises.  Of course, the economy is important, especially when so many Americans are out of work & some have even lost their homes to foreclosure due to joy layoffs & the difficulty of finding another job.  Of course, foreign policy is important because we need to be protected from the threat of terrorism, have a leader who knows how to deal with this threat & with our relationships with the rest of the world & we hope that we will be able to live in peace, security & freedom.  But the number of unborn babies who have already lost their lives to abortion & the ongoing acceptance, enabling & even promotion of abortion in our country is no small matter.  As a nation we have been guilty of a terrible sin, & our attitude toward abortion & to the larger issues of the sanctity of human life in general (e.g. the unborn, children with special needs, the elderly, people with disabilities, people who are seriously ill, conscience rights) says a lot about who we are as a people.  It has been pointed out that the greatness and the morality of a nation is best judged by how we treat those who are most vulnerable, and I believe that this is true.  We need to respect and value the lives of all people, but especially those who are most vulnerable.  I believe that this is very much a part of what it means to be Christian, to be Catholic, and to be American, and our respect for the life and the freedom of others is an essential part of the founding principles of America.  

I'm in my late 50's now, and that means I grew up in the late 1950's, the 1960's and the early 1970's.  My "baby boomer" generation is probably the first to grow up watching television.  One scene that seemed to recur in children's programs and cartoons was the scene in which a bigger kid was starting to pick on a little kid.  An even bigger kid would then come along, stare at the bully and bark, "Why don't you pick on somebody your own size!" and the bully would run away.  This was very much what the America I grew up with was all about.  For better or worse, America was a country where the "little kids" who were being bullied could find a safe haven, where our soldiers rushed to the aid the little countries that were being bullied by the Nazis and the communists, and where the lives of the most vulnerable were protected.  Well, for many years now the lives of the most vulnerable in America have become "at risk".  Unborn babies who are "inconvenient" or who have disabilities, risks and health concerns are considered disposable at the will of their mothers (often due to pressure from others and desperation) and are discarded and even used for experimentation!  Where is the conscience of America?  Should not Americans once again be concerned for the lives of the most vulnerable?  And who is more vulnerable than an innocent, helpless unborn baby? I think it is time for Americans to stand up to the abortionists and to those who enable and promote abortion and demand, "WHY DON'T YOU PICK ON SOMEBODY YOUR OWN SIZE!!"  

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Pro-Life Meditations on the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary

Pro-Life Meditations on the Joyful Mysteries
(Arlene B. Muller)

(1)   The Annunciation
Mary, you said “yes” to becoming the Mother of JESUS.  Though you had the great privilege of being mother of our LORD, Savior and Messiah, your “yes” was given in light of great risk to your reputation, your future, your relationships, and even your life!  You were subject to false accusation, and if not for God’s protection and the love and openness of Joseph, you could have been stoned to death!
Thank you for your courageous “yes’ to life and to God’s will in your life.  Inspire, be present with, encourage and intercede for the many women in crisis pregnancies.  They also face great risks and challenges and need courage to say “yes” to life in a society that pressures them to seek abortion as a false solution in their desperation.  Be with them at every moment to help them choose life and be their comfort, model and guide throughout their pregnancies, at every moment.

(2)  The Visitation
Mary, when you heard the news of your cousin Elizabeth’s pregnancy you went in haste to be with her, to bring her and her unborn baby the joy of the Holy Spirit by bringing JESUS, alive in your womb, to her.  It is so easy for us to tell women not to have abortions.  We are called not only to speak out for life but also to put our respect for life into loving service.  Help us to show women in crisis pregnancies compassion, understanding, and spiritual, psychological, physical, and material support.  LORD, bless the work of crisis pregnancy centers, of Birthright, Bridge to Life, Good Counsel Homes, and all pro-life organizations who provide help to women in crisis pregnancies and all the people who work in them.  Help all of us to do our part in supporting their work.  Consecrate their work and bless all the women, the babies, and families to whom they minister.

(3)  The Birth of JESUS
LORD, the night on which you were born was a great occasion of joy for the entire world and the night of the birth of Great Love.  We often forget that this birth took place under less than ideal circumstances.  Your mother had to give birth to You in a stable or cave and place you in a manger used for feeding messy animals!  Joseph, your loving and chaste spouse, was with you, but you did not have the benefit of sanitary medical facilities.  Many women are giving birth in less than ideal circumstances.   Some are giving birth in poverty.  Others are in the best medical facilities, but have no husband or parent or other loving person to give them comfort, love and support.  Mary, be their loving mother and intercessor.  LORD, as the angels came to surround You and announce the glorious news of Your birth, send Your holy angels to surround the new mothers and their babies so that in spite of their difficult circumstances, the new lives may be welcomed with joy.

(4)  Presentation of JESUS in the Temple
LORD, it is Your will that every child born be dedicated to You.  Thank You for the gift of faith and the gift of baptism that makes every person baptized Your child and a member of Your family.  Many parents do not share our faith and do not have the joy of having their children baptized and do not know how to raise them to love and obey You.  Show Yourself present to all parents and children and help them to come to know and love You.
Mary, at a time of joy in presenting your Son and hearing the witness of those who recognized and accepted Him as the Messiah, you were warned that you would experience great sorrow, so you understand the sorrows and joys of child raising and you still have a tender mother’s heart.  LORD, may parents—especially mothers—feel Your Presence and the presence of Mary with them and give them the love and wisdom they need throughout the j0ys, sorrows and challenges of parenting.

(5)  Finding the Child JESUS in the Temple
LORD JESUS, when You were missing for 3 days YOU knew You were in the right place and so did Your Father in heaven, but to the anxious minds of Mary and Joseph, You were lost!
There are many children, teens and young adults who are lost, whether physically, psychologically, or spiritually.  Some have no one concerned about them.  Many have anxious parents, guardians and relatives praying for them with great sorrow and desperation.  Help those who are lost in any way and those who are seeking them in sorrow find You.  Bring those who are lost safely home to loving families and back home into relationship with You.  May women in crisis pregnancies who have been estranged from their families find a safe, secure, loving and welcoming home for themselves and their children.

© Copyright 2012 by Arlene B. Muller (Arlene Clare Muller, SFO)

These were written after I prayed the rosary at 7AM on the day of the MARCH FOR LIFE.  I felt inspired to write these as I realized how deep a connection is between the Joyful Mysteries and the pro-life cause.

"From Sister to Brother"

The following is the rap/poem that I wrote in response to the video "I Hate Religion But I Love Jesus":
From Sister to Brother – Response to “I Love JESUS But Hate Religion”
(By Arlene B. Muller)

I’m glad you love JESUS!  You’ve made a great start
If you’ve welcomed JESUS to live in your heart.
Welcome, my brother!  God’s called you to be
A part of His wonderful family!
For all of God’s children are sisters and brothers.
He’s joined to us all, so we’re joined to each other.
It begins and not ends when you have the new birth,
For we are Christ’s Body right down here on  earth.
He gives us His Spirit and gives us His grace
To spread His good news to the whole human race.
He started with 12, but from the very beginning
He put them to work—lots of souls needed winning!
He’s our Savior and LORD and He’s made us His own,
And ensured none of us would have to “go it alone”.
The Holy Spirit came on that Pentecost night,
So the Church was born and we’d do what is right.
The disciples preached JESUS, Who rose from the dead.
Now we are His Body, and He is our Head.
Christ gives us His Word that He wants us to keep.
He’s our Good Shepherd and we are His sheep.
He feeds us His Body in the Breaking of Bread;
Those who eat of His flesh won’t be spiritually dead.
Rules, rubrics and laws are only a part
Of the way we love JESUS, alive in our hearts.
The Church and the laws will help us do better
When we follow the Spirit, and not just the letter.
Relationship is what helps us stay true
To the LORD and His Church and what He calls us to do.
Religion’s not bad when it serves as our mentor
As long as we keep JESUS CHRIST as our Center!

© Copyright 2012 by Arlene B. Muller

Starting At the Very Beginning

Hi!  Some of you who are reading this are family members, some are personal friends, & some are people I have met through FACEBOOK.  In figuring out how to write a blog--something that is totally new to me-- I'm not quite sure how to begin, but I'm reminded of Julie Andrews as Maria von Trapp singing, "Let's start at the very beginning--a very good place to start..." I am a happily celibate single Catholic Christian middle aged woman who is active in the Catholic Church as a lector, a Eucharistic minister, a choir member, & a professed member of the Secular Franciscan order.  I've also been part of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. I've sung in different music ministries. At the moment I'm unemployed, but I am a part-time teacher of preschool children with special needs & I've also begun to do some free lance writing.  If any of you have read any of my e-mails & FACEBOOK posts & comments you will know that I like to write--A LOT--& I have deeply held convictions regarding faith & Church & I'm strongly pro-life.  I love to sing & I have written some children's songs & some Christian songs.  I have ideas for two children's books. I would like to use this blog to share some of my writing (some of which some of you might have already seen).  My goal is to be able to combine part-time teaching, writing, & music & to do what I can to make a positive impact on the lives of others & help build the Kingdom of God.  I'm calling this blog "Joysong's Journey" because I am generally a joyful person & I take the name partially from Psalm 100:2 that I hope describes my life, "Serve the LORD with gladness.  Come into His Presence singing for joy", and because we are all on the journey of life with its ups and downs and mysteries and puzzles that hopefully will lead us to our ultimate home in heaven.  So, welcome to Joysong's Journey.  I hope that we can help each other to become all that God has created us to be.  Several years ago when I was working toward ensuring my certification as a Teacher of the Speech and Hearing Handicapped and wanted to make sure I was doing all I was supposed to do, I made up this little prayer inspired by the last words of St. Francis of Assisi and by the Serenity Prayer, "LORD, help me to do what is mine to do, to trust You to do what is Yours, and to enjoy the ride.