Tuesday, July 14, 2009

"I'm Such a Bad Catholic" - he said

About a year ago, I was returning from a speaking engagement in Oklahoma. A male flight attendant stood at the exit door along with the rest of the flight crew to thank each passenger for choosing American Airlines.

You know how it is, the chaos of so many people all trying to file into the center aisle and claim overhead baggage. I tried to make myself as small as I could. I shifted my carry on totebag to the front of my body and held it close. My purse was sandwiched between the bag and my body. My eyes were watching the feet of the person in front of me. Finally, I was almost to the open door. Almost home.

As I passed the flight crew, the male flight attendant commented on my bag.

"Women of Grace, what's that?"

I looked down at my bag and noticed that the logo was facing out for everyone to read. "Oh, it's a Catholic women's group." I kept inching my way past the young man.

He groaned. "Oh, I am such a bad Catholic!"

His words caught me by surprise. Immediately, I stopped trying to move forward. I looked at him, square in the eyes. I read no disdain there. Just honesty. Right in front of his colleagues, he had admitted that he was not living a rightly-ordered life. He could have kept quiet. He could have said something with a note of sarcasm.

Instead, he spoke with sincerity and contrition. And I had to wonder if my logo had been a kind of message to him. Yes, God is still calling you back. Come on home, son.

I smiled, the best smile I could muster. "Well, you know the remedy for that." And I silently prayed, Sweet Blessed Mother, shower him with graces. Let him know I really care about him

"I do." He smiled back at me, then. "I need to find a good priest, one who's gentle."

"Oh, St. Louis is my Archdiocese. There are many good priests here. And I haven't met one that isn't gentle. You can do it. You know what to do."

Every time I think of that young man, I whisper a prayer. I pray that God honors his honesty, his bravery - to speak of such things in front of his own co-workers. And I pray, if he hasn't yet set things right - that God will continue to use clueless women like me to send messages. Come home, son. Come on home.



  1. a question: why did you pray to Mary when you spoke to that flight attendant? why didn't you rather pray to the God or the Holy Spirit? Does Mary have the power to do what you asked of her (as she is not God), or is that not something that we should be reserving to God, as he is the source of all grace? I'm a Catholic myself, and I've been grappling with the notion of our relationship with/to the saints...so anything you have to say will really be appreciated!

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. Dear Maidei,

    I understand your concern. My first question to a priest (when I was beginning to journey from Evangelical Protestant to Holy Mother Church) had to do with Mary worship. He very clearly and quickly addressed my concern, saying, "We do not worship Mary. We reserve worship for God alone. Mary is not divine." He (and many others) have gone on to explain:

    We do, however, ask one another to pray and intercede. I might even ask you to pray for me; I might tell you that I will pray for you. That does not preclude my praying to God. I frequently ask others to pray for a particular situation - to intercede - and I STILL go to God in prayer. It is not either/or. To petition Mary - or any saint - is to seek the intercession of the communion of saints.

    In the Creed, we profess that we believe life continues, in that beautiful "the communion of saints". And so we know that the saints in heaven are more alive than they have ever been. Who better to pray for us, to intercede for us, than those who are at the Throne. And, I encourage you to take a deeper look at the role of queen mother in the ancient civilizations - especially in the lives of the Hebrew people.

    The queen mother had the ability to go to her son, the King, and place petitions of the people at his throne. She had access to the King's treasure, and she could dispense them to the people.

    Our Lady is the Mother of the King of Kings. She is the Lady of Grace. She petitions her Son on our behalf.

    Specifically, why did that prayer come to me in that moment. I suppose this prayer was in my heart and on my lips most especially because I was petitioning for this man's return to Mother Church. The "need" fit the "intercessor" perfectly.

    A great help in this area is MARY, THE CHURCH AT THE SOURCE and DAUGHTER ZION by Pope Benedict XVI writing as Cardinal Ratzinger. Our Lady is not merely the prefigurement of The Church; she is an archetype of Mother Church - and the Holy Father goes on to say that the Church Fathers "see Mary as the only one person who, without losing her own action within the communion of saints, is therein adequate to, and coincident with, the action of the Church as Christ's 'helpmate'" (141-142).

    Pope Benedict XVI speaks of The Church as being The Marian mystery (17) and says, "Only a conversion to the sign of the woman, to the feminine dimension of the Church, rightly understood, will bring about the new opening to the creative power of the Spirit, and so to Christ's taking form in us. . ." (61).

    I was reading this book (MARY, THE CHURCH AT THE SOURCE) about this time, and so it felt natural, right to petition Our Lady for the return of this one to Mother Church.

    All Marian devotion and petitions do not end with Our Lady. From the moment she gave her Fiat, she has been working to bring Her Son to the world. From the moment she spoke to the disciples at the Wedding in Cana, she has been working to show us and remind us to do all that He tells us. From the moment she embraced her role as mother to St. John (at the cross) she has been working to bring the world to the cross of Christ, her Son.

    But, I guess it was even more basic than that for me. In that moment, I saw a young man who needed someone soft and gentle to guide him Home. I was a stranger. I could not go with him into his life and continue to help evangelize and disciple him back to Jesus Christ.

    But Our Blessed Mother could - and would.

    Marian devotion has many facets - like a kaleidoscope moving and turning.

    But, she is a venue to God. She is part of the Communion of Saints. She is Queen Mother to the King of Kings.

    She is not God.

    She shows us, better than anyone else, how to be pleasing to God, how to be a true disciple, how to evangelize - and how to find our way Home to Mother Church.

    Thank you so much for your question. I hope this helps.

  4. A note of explanation:

    For some reason, Maidei's comment posted twice. I have deleted the second comment as it was a repeat of the first.

    Sorry for the confusion.