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Somehow, the ‘whole me’ will be included in that name, and it won’t be complete until my life is complete. My current name is like a symbol of this fully-known and fully-uttered ‘me,’ who has being within Him. At the moment during Mass when we pray, “only say the word, and my soul shall be healed,” I sense Him speaking this one word: my name. I ‘hear,’ “Charlotte,” but my heart hears that whole name, spoken from outside time into the moment of two small syllables. Each time, I hear my Self spoken back into being, healed, renewed, called forth to be me. What could better prepare me to receive Him than this Love, whose voice continuously upholds my being?? I love this moment! Sometimes, when I need that love to renew the face of my being, I just ask, “Lord, will you just say my name, please,” and He does.
Sarcasm is the last resort of one who despairs of being heard.
I learned this the hard way – God convicted me of the sin of despair. What I thought was a way of giving humorous vent to ‘communication frustration’ was really the snarky voice of despair, which always leads to more sin. In this case, to the sin of voicing truth caustically, instead of ‘in love,’ as the Scriptures recommend.
Oh, and about that ‘truth’ I was telling so cleverly. True as it may be, ‘truth’ colored by despair is very likely to be a narrative skewed toward hopelessness. My sarcastic words became an anti-sacrament, conveying my own despair to the one at whom I aimed (yes, like a weapon, those witty, biting, snarled remarks of mine).
Memo to self:
If there is someone who cannot seem to hear me, I must turn to God for help finding new, loving, positive ways to communicated, or – at least – be quiet, without resentment. If their ‘cannot’ is really a ‘will not,’ that does not give me free rein to hit at them with sarcasm. And even if they do not seem to be bothered by my remarks, sarcasm is hurting our (already weak?) relationship. It is beneath my dignity, and hope is the way to prevent it.
You may go through life with nary a thought about how you think, or what you think, or how well you think. But life without ‘meta-cognition’ is flatter than life with at least a bit of it. So, here’s a little ‘cognition cocktail’ to sparkle up your day.
How Do You Think?
In a nutshell, your brain is like a little kid, constantly trying to get your attention. Movement, scary antics, chatter, funny faces – whatever it takes, it keeps up a running display of ‘ads’ or concepts – shown on your mental screen as words or visual images. Like a child, it wants your engagement. The fun isn’t in standing on the edge of the wall, but in standing there while Mom goes ape and runs over to grab you. Only if you actually engage with one of the concepts being advertised do you have the fun of thinking. Your emotions might react to images and words even faster than you can attend to them. Sometimes, what draws your attention to thought is some feeling you can’t account for. You wander into the mental theater wondering why your tummy is tied in knots, or why you suddenly want to run and hide. There, you can ask for a playback of the last few minutes to help you figure this out. Basically, ‘how you think’ is ‘pay attention to what’s going on in the Brain Show’.
What Do You Think?
If asked, “What do you think?” many people will say, “I don’t know.” It hasn’t occurred to them to check in on their own interior goings-on. Once you ask, they can usually begin considering the question. If you’ve posed a topic, they turn inward, looking through the Brain Database for material on that topic. Your question may seem like a pop-quiz (i.e. – they might not enjoy this process), or an assignment to write an essay extemporaneously on the topic (see ‘hate this process,’ above). Thinking will be loads easier if there has been some ‘reading about,’ ‘talking about,’ or ‘related experience’ beforehand. “What do you think?” is largely a function of what’s in your database. People whose database is filled with smut think about smut. Those whose vocabulary is limited think mostly about things that can be expressed in a small number of words. Full of movies? No doubt you’ll regale us with a complete rendering of the cast list, or script of your favorites. For good or ill, what you talk about emerges from what you think. Which brings us nicely to:
How Well Do You Think?
Hmmm….Maybe I don’t think well enough to do this one justice, but I’ll give it a go.
The quality of your thinking, in general, comes before the quality of your thoughts about a particular subject. Memory plays a huge role in thought strength, but real thinking goes beyond fact storage to the building of networks of information. Good networks help make up for weak memories.
Good thinking involves good source material. Stronger and more resilient networks will be created from reading Shakespeare and Chesterton and Aquinas than from reading comic books, People Magazine and cereal boxes. The best networks have paths that are used frequently. So, either think about particle physics a lot (alone), or pick a topic that’s more likely to come up in general conversation, like “Catholicism,” “What’s wrong with the world?” “male-female complementarity,” or “reasons for hopefulness.” (Did that remind you you’re always supposed to be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in you? Scripture is a great network-builder!)
Good thinking emerges from overlap and interlinking between topics and experience. New networks develop where, for instance, one author cites another’s work, a book about the Sabbath references economics and the environment, or a play by St. Pope John Paul involves questions about social justice and art. A good thought-network can provide hours of mental hiking through interconnected pathways, or help you move a conversation from territory no one has thought about (say, ‘quantum physics’) into a more thought-populated zone (such as ‘amazing medical discoveries’).
How well do you think? How much hiking have you done for exercise in this mental landscape? If one node of your mental network is stimulated, how many others light up, raising their little hands and hopping up and down wanting into the conversation? Quality of though also depends on the self-disciplines of not-thinking-about and intentional-thinking-about.
More on all this later. I’m thinkin’ about it!
Did you know it’s very important for kids to walk about on different kinds of surfaces – rough, smooth, inclined up and down, wobbly? This variety of physical experience has positive ramifications for their growing brains. By toddling hither and yon, in rocky and slippery (and yes, risky) territory, their little synapses develop a more three-dimensional ‘reality map’ and a dynamic balance that frees them enormously in the actual world.
It occurs to me that I’m to be sort of a spiritual All-Terrain-Vehicle. No wonder God has had me bump along over so many different ‘surfaces’. This little ATV has practice with pain, grief, frustration, stupidity, rejection, conflict, disappointment, smooth-sailing, steep hills (both up and down), slippery slopes, rocky relationships, dangerous cliffs and more! My map of Reality is ready for just about anything. Because I’m an “ATV” I’m free to inhabit a much larger territory than someone with less mileage and less scope of experience. I’m glad my dear Father knows just how to train me for dynamic balance, range of motion, and freedom!
Two paths of mine converged recently: I’ve been working on the 50 Million Names project to see to it that aborted babies are given names and honored by prayer and gestures of love, and I recently prepared for a talk about helping women heal from interior ‘dis-integration’. Into this mix, in God’s timely fashion, came the book Healing the Family Tree, by Dr. Kenneth McAll, a devout Anglican psychiatrist who writes about hundreds of cases in which an emotional or physical illness was cured through the release of spiritual bondage.
His awareness developed as he looked for the roots of illness that baffled all physical and psychological approaches and, finally, began to look backward from the patient into the family history for clues to seemingly incurable problems. In many cases, an instance of abortion, miscarriage, or other ‘loss’ of an unnamed child was found to be at the root of the symptoms. In others, some unquiet spirit within the patient’s blood line cried out for healing prayer. In fewer, outright oppression by evil spirits was involved.
In every case, the patient and the bondage was taken before Jesus Christ in prayer, and the Eucharist received with the intention of release for both patient and relative. I did some research and discovered that McAll’s work had influenced many, many people, including Catholics, to take more seriously the work of consciously praying for the dead, and for the living affected by generational sin, or bondage to dead relatives in unresolved need of acknowledgement, forgiveness, and other release.
McAll quotes Scripture, St. John Chrysostum, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, St. Augustine, Church fathers, the Eastern Orthodox tradition in support of praying not to, but for the dead. He refers to the many Anglicans who are nowadays convinced “that there exists – and that there is an absolute need for – an intermediate stage of purification between death and resurrection” from which the dead may appeal to the living for prayer. Of course, Catholics have already acknowledged Purgatory’s existence (which Anglican author C.S. Lewis termed a ‘hopeful doctrine’) and are already instructed to pray for the souls there. I’m sure I don’t pray enough for them!
What struck me about McAll’s work is that I had never much thought about my own family history. Though I had done some praying for near relations, I began to pray about whether there were any souls in our tree, or any needs within my living family , for which such prayer should be offered. Using a prayer from Catholic priest Father John Hampsch, I headed for Our Lord in the Eucharist and began to pray. I was surprised as a number of ‘needs’ surfaced very clearly.
For example, I had once used birth control pills, and realized that there are probably children I’ve ‘lost’ without even realizing conception had occurred. My husband’s grandmother died during an abortion, and that child was never named or mourned. I have two adult sons living non-Christian lives, who may have fathered children now ‘lost’ to us. A father I know of died without reconciliation with his children, and without Sacramental burial.
A number of other souls came to mind as I prayed, and I believe that, through the prayer united to the Eucharist, release and healing was poured out on our family and friends in ways that I may not ever be fully aware of in this life. I’ve given names at 50MillionNames.org for several babies in honor of these persons for whom I prayed. I offer Fr. Hampsch’s prayer, here, as a gift to anyone else who may feel led to discern her own family’s need for healing in this way. God bless you!
P.S. Here is some more help from Fr. Hampsch, a Claretian priest, on such healing prayer.