The Ugly Suffering of Christina the Astonishing

I just read an incredible article by Kristin Valdez Quade about Christina the Astonishing: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/07/31/christina-the-astonishing-1150-1224

I have bipolar depression and found Christina’s name in an internet search for patron saints of mental illness.  I’m not exactly sure why we call them patron saints “of” mental illness.  I’m not sure it even matters, and Christina is not a saint anyway.  Not really.  She was never canonized and I’m pretty sure her cause isn’t up for consideration by the Vatican.

She was more considered a holy woman.  She could smell the sin on people and tended to avoid them.  Aggressively.  She is not an easy person to get behind or to have fuzzy feelings for, which Quade’s New Yorker piece highlights well.

I’ve spent much of my time studying what makes the supernatural world tick, and how it interacts with this world.  Why exactly do people get possessed?  What does it look like?  Do we even recognize it when it happens?  More often, people suffer from demon “oppression,” and that is certainly not easy to recognize.

It occurred to me that Christina the Astonishing was oppressed or possessed by a demon or demons.  But the part that really intrigues me is that the story goes that when she died that first time, she was given the choice by God to come back to earth to offer up her earthly suffering for the souls in purgatory.  She took God up on that offer.

She did suffer in her life.  But it was an ugly suffering.  She usually attacked the people who tried to help her, throwing their food offerings back at them, yelling their sins at them.  Demons can cause some nasty suffering.  It’s pretty characteristic, in fact.  They are mean and cause their victims to last out at the people around them.  Kind of like Christina did.

The Catholic Church has the idea of redemptive suffering.  That your suffering can be offered up to help others.  I’m fascinated by the idea that this suffering could possibly be demonic in nature.

What about you, gentle readers?  Have you ever suffered something that had a demonic edge to it?  If you’re Catholic, did you offer your suffering up as a sacrifice?  The answer to both of those questions for me is “yes.”

 

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The Woman Who Jesus Called a Dog

Remember when Jesus called that woman a dog? When I heard it, I was horrified!

Here’s the passage from Matthew 15:21-28:

Then Jesus went from that place and withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not say a word in answer to her. His disciples came and asked him, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.” He said in reply, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But the woman came and did him homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed from that hour.

I always felt bad for this woman. Jesus called her a dog, and yet she continued to beg him for help. Shouldn’t she have told him where to go and then huffed off? Isn’t that what we are supposed to do? I mean, he blew her off three times! I think I would have left after saying a few choice words. My pride would have been too great and too injured. I would have wanted to leave with at least a shred of dignity, especially since it seemed he wasn’t going to help me anyway.

But not this woman. She cared more for her daughter than for her own pride, her own “dignity.” That is just not how we do things here in the world. We are supposed to rant, get righteous, demand to speak to Jesus’ manager. We don’t want to look like fools when we tell this story to our family and friends, do we? “So then after this man and his friends had ignored me and told me to go away and called me a dog, I begged him some more.” That just doesn’t sound good in the retelling. Makes me look bad.

The Canaanite woman didn’t care about all that. She didn’t care how it looked. She continued to subject herself to Jesus, even after apparent rejection – three times over.

Do you ever feel rejected by God? I do. I remember after my father died. I was so miserable. The misery went on and on and on. For months, then years. I felt rejected and like I was being punished. God must not like me, I thought. Or else he is just too mad to deal with me. I mean, I haven’t led a spotless life. I’ve done things that were so wrong that I’m too ashamed to even mention them here. This crushing pain must be my punishment, I reasoned.

I’m reading the Diary of St. Faustina. She went through crushing mental and spiritual pain – nothing eased it. You know what she said? She said to Jesus, “Even if you kill me, still I will trust in You!” (See Job 13:15.) She continued to be faithful to her vows and the Sacraments. She writes, “…this blind obedience was for me the only path I could follow and my very last hope of survival.”

That’s what the Canaanite woman was like! She continued to be blindly obedient even when ignored, even when she felt rejected. She persisted in her pleas. And she was rewarded for her faithfulness. “O woman great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed that very hour.

God, please help me to be patient, persistent, and obedient. Help me even when I feel rejected to do you homage and say, “Lord, help me.” I want you to be able to say to me, “O woman, great is your faith!”

Doors, the Enemy, and Strongholds

“Any time a door is opened, it allows the enemy to set  up a stronghold in our lives.”

I had heard these words, read them, in many places, but I never understood them.  I mean, what is a “door,” and what is a “stronghold?”  And who, exactly, is the “enemy?”

When I was in middle school, my friend and I pulled out the ol’ Ouija Board for the first time.  We didn’t see any harm in it.  Nobody had ever told us not to do it.  And it was made by Parker Brothers I believe, the company who had made lots of our other games.  It took a long time to work, but finally we were able to talk to a “spirit” who told us to do things, like go down to the crawlspace under the house.  We did, and nothing seemed to come of it at the time.  But it opened a door.

Later, we tried automatic writing, and, again, got to talk to spirits.  Nothing much seemed to happen immediately, but it also apparently opened a door.

Then the nightmares started.  I woke up drenched in sweat at 3 am every night.  I felt like something was in my room, something that I couldn’t see.  It’s difficult to convey in mere words the terror that haunted me nightly.

That, it turns out, is what happens when you open a door into your soul.  Things walk in.  The enemy.

So, a door is just anything that invites the enemy in.  The enemy is Satan and his demons.  And a stronghold is the snuggly little camp they set up inside your soul from which they make their nightly and/or daily forays into your mind and life.

I will try to post more on what doors are out there, how to avoid them, and what the end game is.  In the meantime, let’s all put on the armor of God as found in Ephesians chapter six:  “So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace.  In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

What about you?  Have you ever opened what may have turned out to be a door?  What happened?