Secretum Meum Mihi
Volume 1, Number 8
A Newsletter for Catholic Women Clearing Vermin from Dark Corners
BLESSED ARE THE PURE OF HEART
Before Edith Stein left Breslau for Gottingen in 1913, one of her fellow students remarked to her, “Well, I wish you the good fortune of finding in Gottingen people who will satisfy your taste. Here you seem to have become far too critical.” Edith was dumbstruck. She had assumed that people thought well of her, and that her tendency to mock the faults of others was well-received. Apparently, it wasn’t.
Feature Essay: Page 1 Clearing Vermin from Dark Corners Interview: Page 2 Nancy Grubbs: A Different Kind of Warrior Scripture Study: Page 5 Washing His Feet with Her Tears Prayer Intentions: Page 7 For Women Sold Into Prostitution Historical Sketch: Page 8 Dorothy Day Gets an Education in Prison
She reflected later, “I had been living in the Book Review: Page 9 naïve conviction that I was perfect…I was Vipers’ Tangle by Francois Mauriac not angry with him for saying [these words]. Reviewed by Beverly Mantyh Nor did I shrug them off as an undeserved reproach. They were for me a first alert to which I gave much reflection.” The dark corners of our hearts, minds and souls are often a surprise even to us. Secretum Meum Mihi means “My secret is mine” Whereas last month we talked about the passion of God’s love burning out the impurities in our souls, this month we turn to the aftereffects of such cleansing. The divine flame now burns in a cleared area in the soul, and it is easier to assess the darker outlines of our deeds that are tainted by self-interest and pride, rather than a love that continually is renewed by sacrificial self-giving. (continued on page two)
Copyright 2007 All rights reserved Secretum Meum Mihi Press
Edith Stein (St. Teresa Benedicta ) was a Jew who became Catholic in 1922 after reading the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila. When asked why she converted, she wrote, “secretum meum mihi.” She became a Carmelite in 1934, but perished in Auschwitz. Her feast is August 9.
P.O. Box 34-0243 Milwaukee, WI 53234-0243
Sometimes it makes us angry when others reveal these “minor” faults to us, such as Edith’s excessive honesty. After all, most of us are doing the best that we can, and this isn’t heaven. There are so many problems, and sometimes our advice is objectively good. Is it wrong to offer advice, even if it is self-righteous in tone? Without realizing it, Edith Stein imitated the Blessed Mother in this episode of her life. She pondered the the hurtful words, applying them to her actions, and seeking to live a deeper Truth. God is the housekeeper of the soul. He clears the corners for us. All we have to do is ponder, in the quiet light of truth, all that we might ask Him to sweep away for the sake of our salvation. Happy Easter!
Kristen West McGuire interviews Nancy Grubbs: A Different Kind of Warrior (Nancy Grubbs is the mother of four children, one of whom has severe autism. Before motherhood, she worked for Concerned Women of America, and was a drill sergeant in the U.S. Coast Guard’s Presidential Honor Guard.) Kristen: When did you become a mother? Nancy: My newbie Catholic faith, deepened through the oven-blast desert of infertility, really was scorched up a notch when God brought us new life through adoption. Following roughly nine months of paperwork and St. Gerard’s intervention, our five week old son arrived in 1994 with a very difficult birth history. Six months later, a dynamic duo of girls arrived, one just shy of a year old, the other barely two. Six months, three babies… Oy, the infertility was the easy part! Kristen: Were you scared in those early months? Nancy: Yes, but not for the reasons you would think. Shortly before the girls arrived, their maternal grandmother gave me pictures of their baptism. It was literally over fire, a black baptism, an occult ritual. This was unexpected. Fortunately, I understood the seriousness of this history. I had even attended Spiritual Warfare Training at the Intercessors of the Lamb in Omaha, Nebraska.
We couldn’t legally baptize them for sixteen months. Armed with Holy Water, Blessed Oils, Blessed Salt and Objects, Divine Mercy chaplets, and a fresh new confession on my part to clear the decks; we took the girls to a Deacon for a cleansing prayer. God won! They are devout Catholics today, literally plucked from the fire. Kristen: What about your son? Nancy: It turns out that he is autistic. Dragging three toddlers around to fifteen appointments a week for quite some time with a negative sleep factor was body and mind crushing. Autism with ‘possibilities’ morphed into autism with severe “delays.” (I love that word, it almost gives you hope.) But, changing the diapers of a 12 year old boy going through puberty relinquishes that hope and replaces it with the knowledge that you do not have your mother’s life. Kristen: Had you ever considered adopting special needs children? Nancy: Absolutely not. I just wanted to have children. During the infertility process, God broke down my barriers built on what I thought life would be like and eventually, I came over to His side. But, from the time I was a kid, I always thought adoption was the coolest. Kristen: Do the girls have similar issues? Nancy: Matthew was the bigger blip on a very busy screen filled with blips. We adopted another little guy in 2000, who is the spitting image of his older sister in word and deed. All three have issues, but less severe than Matthew.
Nancy Grubbs - not a drill sergeant! We’ve filled out the case history clipboard at over 110 professionals and 33 in-home therapists. I did enough research to qualify for a Ph.D., learning about autistic spectrum disorders, learning disabilities, ADHD, sensory processing, and fine and gross motor deficits, along with the normal adoptive issues such as extreme fears, attachment disorder and birthparent experiences. Kristen: Have you seen improvements? Nancy: Things are easier and simpler. For three of the four, most people don’t even know they are different. I’ve always enjoyed being unique, and God made sure that it was a hallmark. We always stand out in a crowd, our son makes sure of that. His vocalizations are so loud and piercing that people actually cover their ears in pain. Still, we were able to go to Disneyland recently as a family. That was very exciting.
Kristen: Do you worry about the future? Nancy: We have no idea if we will still be sleeping with our kid in our bed when he is waking up and needing a shave. Our marriage is strong, our family is supportive, we are flexible, and our desires for our children will only be what they desire for themselves. We pray that we can still care for our son’s needs when we are very old, then hopefully, his siblings will take over. Kristen: Where is God in all this? Nancy: We have been stripped of the things that tempt many because the choice has always been for our children’s needs. We have purity in our intentions, our goals, and our desires as a natural side-effect. The “littlest one”, the one who will never be a “productive” member of society, he is the Great Equalizer. He is the substrate that defines our family. Ultimately, his face is the Face of God for us. Kristen: I think I see what you mean. He helps you to serve, just like Jesus came to serve, and not be served. Nancy: Exactly. It’s amazing to watch what God can help our son to do despite his delays and weaknesses. Surely, God can show us mercy in our own weakness as we lean on him for every step of that walk. We all have our “threshing floor” especially chosen for our purification. So, then, shall we not drink the cup which the Father has given us?
Nancy’s Favorite Scripture: Psalm 20 The Lord answer you in the day of trouble! The name of the God of Jacob protect you! May He send you help from the sanctuary, and give you support from Zion! May He remember all your offerings, and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices! May He grant you your heart’s desire, and fulfill all your plans! May we shout for joy over your victory, and in the name of our God set up our banners! May the Lord fulfill all your petitions! Now I know that the Lord will help His anointed; He will answer him from His holy heaven with mighty victories by His right hand. Some boast of chariots and some boast of horses; but we boast of the name of the Lord our God. They will collapse and fall; but we shall rise and stand upright. Give victory to the king, O Lord; answer us when we call! (Revised Standard Version) (Nancy found this psalm particularly comforting when she was struggling with infertility.)
Bible Study: Luke 7:36-50 Washing His Feet with Tears Luke 7:36-50 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house, and took his place at table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “What is it, Teacher?” 41 “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42* When they could not pay, he forgave them both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43* Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, to whom he forgave more.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house, you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but
from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48* And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50* And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Revised Standard Version) Context: This invitation to dinner came to Jesus against a backdrop of increasing tension. The Pharisees demanded ritual purity of their dinner guests. So, while Jesus was accused of dining with tax collectors and sinners, it is clear the Pharisees considered him at least worthy of their table Large feasts were open to the public in biblical times, and the poor could enter, listen and eat, so long as they were not disruptive. So, the presence of the woman at the table would not have been noticed before she began to weep. Only slaves cleaned feet; the sinful woman may have been poor, but she was not a slave! When the woman begins to use her hair to dry his feet, the scandalized dinner guests must have been in shock. One’s tresses were never let loose in public, and to use one’s hair as a tool was a deep social embarrassment, both for her and for Jesus, who accepts her gesture.
Bible Study, continued: Translation: This story in the book of Luke appears after several encounters with the Pharisees and general teachers of Judaic law. Two more banquet conflict stories are found in the book of Luke, in verses 11:37 and 14:1. This first account presents Jesus as the prophet of mercy. Luke draws the reader in by presenting the salacious details first. The host has omitted certain customary courtesies toward Jesus, but we don’t learn of this oversight until after the parable of the creditors. A first century Greek reader would have been shocked at the heedless actions of the woman, but then disappointed at the self-centered reaction of Simon the Pharisee.
Many scholars have debated the identity and putative sins of this nameless woman in Luke 7:36-50. Does it matter who this sinner was? Does it change the quality of her repentance to know the details of her sins? Once her heart discovered the truth about Jesus, and she recognized his power to forgive her sins, she fell to the floor in gratitude and joy. As we work through Holy Week and the Easter season, I challenge myself to join her on the floor, and to weep with gratitude for the gifts of mercy that He brings to my life. Who is this, who even forgives sins? This is Jesus, and He has offered to forgive everything and make us new in the fire of His Passion. As Lent turns to Easter, may we find anew the saving power of His forgiveness, every day.
Vocabulary: sinner: The Greek word amarantos has the connotation of misdeeds that do not fade away. Once one had “missed the mark” in this society, public opinion registered the negative verdict, often permanently. Likely the woman felt she had nothing to lose.
Teacher: The Pharisee calls Jesus “didaskalos” which was an ambiguous title indicative of his disregard, a subtle put-down.
2. Have you ever befriended a social misfit? Does this story prompt any ideas about doing so in the future? Why or why not?
loved much...loves little: The Greek in this passage (agape) means love in the social or moral sense, implying an assent of the will. There is another Greek term for love, phileo, which connotes personal attachment and affection. It is the deep agape love, heedless of consequences, that Jesus highlights.
3. Have you ever worried that your sins have placed you beyond the mercy of even God? According to Luke, it is not our sins, but our lack of repentance that hardens our hearts. What freedom does Jesus offer to you in this story?
1. Have you ever done something so shocking that a room fell silent? If so, how does that experience affect your reading of this gospel? If not, does it bother you when others flaunt social conventions?
Prayer Intentions: Pray for Women and Children LORD, we pray: Sold Into Prostitution * for women and held Just last month, newspapers highlighted the plight of young women lured against their will into prostitution in Great Britain. Selling women and children into sexual slavery is all too common, especially in nations where civil war or widespread poverty can destroy social safeguards and accountability. Once these vulnerable women are caught, they are often wounded both physically and emotionally by their captors, and despair keeps them bound to their sad fate. Modern technology has made it easier to isolate these victims from family and friends likely to come to their aid. They are uniquely deserving of our sustained prayers. The Protection Project is located at John Hopkins University, and seeks to establish an international framework for the elimination of trafficking in persons, especially women and children. The organization sponsors research on prevention of trafficking, and also information for recovery of victims. More information is available at: www.protectionproject.org Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty provides a harrowing account of the reality of this situation for young women from Moldovia, Uzbehkistan and other economically depressed regions of the former Soviet empire: http://www.rferl.org/features/ 2001/05/23052001122001.asp
captive and forced into prostitution, all over the world; * that any children who come under the influence of these captors would be preserved from lasting physical and emotional effects; * that women who find themselves enslaved in any way would find the financial, medical and emotional resources they need to escape; * for an end to wars and economic hardships which make it easier for cunning wolves to prey upon the weakest members of the flock; * for the families and friends who are deprived of a loved one in such a violent and debasing manner, that they would have the courage to seek for their relative ceaselessly until she is found and set free; * for those government officials who are in a position to put an end to the slavery, that they would enact legislation to ban human trafficking and enforce it; and * for those who knowingly or unknowingly contribute in thought, word or deed to the slavery of another person, that they might repent of their actions and work for justice and healing.
Historical Sketch: Dorothy Day Gets an Education in Prison In 1922, Dorothy Day was arrested for the second time. Doing jail time as a suffragist in Washington, DC among socialites and intellectuals was vastly different from doing time among prostitutes dragged before the “morals court”. She later wrote, “I do not think that ever again, no matter of what I am accused, can I suffer more than I did then from shame and regret, and self-contempt. Not only because I had been caught...but because of my own consciousness that I deserved it.” What exactly did she do? An older acquaintance, Mae, who was also a former drug addict and thief, had attempted suicide, and signed herself out of the hospital. Mutual friends had allowed her to stay at a flophouse owned by Industrial Workers of the World (“Wobblies”). When she called seeking food and clothing, Day visited and found her so weak that she decided to stay overnight. Police targeted the house that night, part of regular round-ups of suspected communists at the time. Surprised, they arrested the two women, assuming them to be ladies of the evening. Calloused from prior convictions, Mae laughed, but Dorothy was “horrified”. Vice raids filled the holding cell with actual prostitutes throughout the night. Hanging their dresses nearby to keep them clean, the scantily-clad women interacted gaily. An accused madam attempted to comfort her by drawing attention to the tears of another inmate. “There’s a first time for everyone, honey.” Day didn’t protest her innocence.
Several lost children were included among the inmates for a time, and the women put their dresses back on and tried to soothe them. Sandwiches were available from the jail matron for a dollar. (A lot of money back then!) The red light ladies shared their largesse with one another, tenderly looking after Day and the children. Before appearing before the judge, they were strip-searched and checked for venereal diseases. They had the option of going to the Lakeland Hospital for ten days or to the county jail. Aware that friends were already at work on their release, they chose the county jail. It was even more shocking. A drug addict in the next cell “beat her head against the bars…and howled like a wild animal.” It was her first up-close view of such suffering. Whether she knew it or not, it was another step in her road to the Catholic Church. “I felt the sadness of sin, the unspeakable dreariness of sin, from the first petty selfindulgence to this colossal desire which howled through the metal walls.” Dorothy and Mae were released the next day. “The instinct for self-preservation made me forget everything but a frantic desire for freedom, to get away from these depths into which I had fallen...I could get away, paying no penalty, because of my friends, my background, my privilege. I suffered but was not part of it. I put it from me. It was too much for me.” In time, God showed her the freedom she yearned for, and she spent her life sharing it with those who had taught her the true meaning of human freedom.
Book Review: Vipers’ Tangle by Francois Mauriac (Translated by Gerard Hopkins. Chicago: Loyola Press, 2000. 464 pp.)
by Beverly Mantyh We prepare our homes for Easter by dusting away the cobwebs the dim light of winter hid and washing our windows to let the spring sun shine through clearly. Like a good spring cleaning, Lenten fasting cleans up our lives so we can see our spiritual cobwebs, then a good confession clears the way for the light of Christ’s resurrection. It sometimes takes a different point of view, in addition to a healthy dose of God’s grace, to see what really needs attention. Vipers’ Tangle is just the novel to jolt us into seeing a few more of those cobwebs. Written in the form of a husband’s letter that is to be delivered to his wife and family posthumously, this letter is anything but endearing. Mauriac asks us to suspend judgment of his main character and “in spite of his baseness, feel pity and be moved by his predicament.” As the letter begins, we are plunged into Louis’ feelings of revenge, resentment and hatred. In his own words, he is “eaten up by hatred and avarice.” The saving virtue of this malevolent revenge seeker is his honesty. Louis’ honesty is brutal and he spares no one, including himself, from the harsh beam of truth. His letter quickly develops into a probing selfanalysis. But as Louis writes his dark, general confession, he also sheds light upon a family whose difficulties stem from a multitude of misunderstandings and wrong assumptions. Louis’ assumptions lead him to create a cold war between himself and his wife and children. Mauriac makes it clear that Louis’ honesty can not see beyond his own presumptions.
From Louis’ perspective, it appears there can be no resolution for this conflict. Mauriac then creates a moment of unexpected grace. The light shines through and Louis is given the opportunity to view himself, his marriage and his family from outside his own “tangle of vipers.” This God-given and unanticipated perspective leads Louis to the change of heart Mauriac sets out to illuminate. Vipers’ Tangle is a fascinating read that addresses the question of how we welcome God’s grace into our own lives. Francois Mauriac (1885-1970) won the 1952 Nobel Prize for Literature. He was a prolific French Catholic author known for his deep insight into the psychological drama between sin and grace. The Loyola Classics edition of Vipers’ Tangle is available at: www.loyolabooks.org.
Discussion Questions 1. Louis’ conversion experience comes about through an unexpected shock. He lets his guard down and God has a chance to work. Hopefully we don’t wait for such sad circumstances before we allow God into our lives. Have there been events in my life that have changed my perspective drastically? What was it about this event that opened me up to God? Have I continued to remain open to God’s grace? 2. Louis’ letter gives an interesting perspective of his wife, who probably hopes she is doing a wonderful job as a wife and mother, given what she has to work with. Louis perceives her as closed off to him. Is there a relationship in my life that I could open up and view through God’s grace? Are there people in my life that I have relegated to the status of “duty?” Would my own family “know we are Christians by our love?” (continued on page 10)
Book Review, continued 3. Mauriac ends Vipers’ Tangle with correspondence between Louis’ children and his grandchild, Janine. Her letter said, “All our strength was employed in keeping our eyes fixed on material things, while Grand’pa….I wonder whether you will understand what I mean when I say that where his treasure was, there his heart was not?” Janine, Luke and the seminarian appeared to be the only people who were actually able to see the location of Louis’ heart. What kept others from perceiving Louis in a similar way? Do I construct barriers that keep those closest to me from seeing my true heart?
Secretum Meum Mihi Press Kristen West McGuire Founder/Editor in Chief
Editorial Advisory Board Alexandra Burghardt Meredith Gould Beverly Mantyh Margaret McGuire Sandra Miesel Secretum Meum Mihi is a monthly periodical dedicated to fostering the spirituality of Catholic women. Individual subscriptions are $12.95/year for download, and $24.95/yr for U.S. Mail delivery. (International mail delivery $29.95). Parish subscriptions are $119.95. Address all correspondence to the address below, or visit our website at:
www.MySecretisMine.com Secretum Meum Mihi Press P.O. Box 34-0243
Milwaukee, WI 53234-0243
“On the contrary, the soul of woman appears dull and dark, opaque to herself and to others. Only the divine light renders it clear and bright.” – Edith Stein,
in The Spirituality of the Christian Woman, Essays on Woman
Coming Next Month: Protecting the Inner Life Interview: Helen Alvare, Stability on the Front Line Bible Study: The Women of the Book of Tobit Book Review: The Doll House by Henrik Ibsen Historical Sketch: Rescuing the Royal Crown
Copyright permissions may be directed to: copyright@MySecretisMine.com