Today my blog is very blessed by an anonymous contribution from a dear dear personal friend of mine, one that writes so much better than I ever could:
(note images added by me, not the author)
Brown tieschel with a brown cord. Navy headscarf with navy trim. A brown plaid triangular scarf. A large electric blue scarf. A burgundy tieschel with ivory cording and pearls intertwined. These are the headcoverings I have so far. I have not been covering for long, one to two months or so; the calling, however, has been present in my heart since 2004. At that time I had wanted to, but my husband was not really for it, and my spiritual director/confessor told me not to do it. The calling has remained steadfast in my heart, and has proven not to be a whim, or a passing phase. Whether I will have the courage to respond to this calling long-term remains to be seen, but for now, I am.
I am not of the opinion that all women should cover; I am of the opinion that those whom God calls to covering should respond in the affirmative and with courage. Indeed, we live in a society in which if you wear a headcovering, you will have assumptions, usually incorrect ones, made about you. What do people think of me when I am out and wearing a headcovering? “She’s a Muslim.” “She’s Jewish.” “She’s Mennonite.” “What a showoff.” “Holy Roller.” Who knows. Who cares! I guarantee you that not one person who sees me would be able to peg me by looking at me, especially when out with my eight children.
I am a thirty-five year old woman, with, as I said, eight young children, ranging in ages from four months to fourteen years. I am a practicing Catholic, in love with Jesus Christ, and the Church that He founded. I am not an ultra-orthodox traditionalist, nor am I a kumbaya cafeteria Catholic. I am a faithful Catholic, striving for holiness in my daily life, cultivating my faith in, and knowledge and love of, Jesus Christ. How does covering my head fit in with this? Let me give you a little theology, and then some background.
Jesus Christ redeemed me by shedding His blood for me upon the cross. Through this action, He restored the life of grace to a fallen humanity and opened for us the gates ofParadise. This grace is the very life of God within us. By it we grow in holiness so that we may follow Jesus’ command to be holy as the Father is holy. When we sin, we can wound that grace in our souls, or if the sin is unto death, i.e. mortal, we can kill that grace, that life of God in our souls. We must continue to run the race, to fight the good fight, likeSt. Pauldid. We must work hard in our spiritual lives so as to strengthen our muscles of faith, our virtues. We don’t believe in “salvation by works” but in salvation by faith working through love.
When we sin, we wound the Body of Christ, the Church. We receive the forgiveness of Jesus Christ, but the wound is still there. It must be repaired through penance. If I broke your window, and apologized sincerely for it, in tears, even, and you forgave me, I would be so very grateful. Your window, unfortunately, is still broken, and needs repairing. I must repair that window, even though I am back in your good graces. It is only just. And so I sacrifice to replace your window and make it like new. This is a very simple explanation of the Catholic idea of penance and reparation.
Jesus’ sacrifice upon the cross was once for all. He could have done everything and just given us our salvation with nothing in return, not even faith in Him. But he didn’t. We could never appreciate the gift, nor prove that we really wanted it if that were the case. He wants our participation in our redemption, like the mother who wants her child’s “help” when baking cookies. Sure, she could have made the cookies without the child putting the dough on the pan, or without helping to stir, or pour in the flour, but those cookies mean so much more to the child when his participation in making them is sought. He could never make the cookies without the parent, who provided everything, including the directions, but after he has stirred the dough, he is proud, and says, “I made cookies!!” You know who really made the cookies, but wow, what a special thing those cookies become to the child, and the experience has improved the bond between parent and child. When the child gives his sister the cookie and says, “Want one of the cookies I made?” the sibling is happy, and feels gratitude towards her brother, although of course, we really know where that cookie came from.
So it is with our salvation, and what we call the “economy of salvation”. Just as Jesus died on the cross for us, and merited for us, his brothers and sisters, the sanctifying grace which saves us, so can we as members of the Body of Christ, the Church, do things which spiritually benefit our brothers and sisters in Christ, and all children of God. Let’s say I broke your window again. You forgave me, but for some reason it would be really difficult for me to replace your window. My friend then steps in and says, “I would like to replace the window for Hester, here.” Voila. I am forgiven, and the damage is repaired, although by someone other than myself. So it goes in the spiritual life. There are times we may be too spiritually bankrupt or injured to make just reparations for the damage we have done. Sometimes we are too bankrupt to even be sorry. We need a grant, a grant of grace for the work in progress that we are. The grace is there, being obtained by people all over through prayer, through good works done in faith, through sufferings united with the suffering of Christ.
The life of Grace in us, like the Holy Spirit, is not static. It is alive, dynamic! We are either gaining in grace or losing in grace at any given moment. When we do what we do for Jesus, and we offer to him the prayers, works, joys and sufferings of our days, we turn our days into prayer, and everything we do becomes an offering to him. Everything we do wins us grace, because we are doing it for love of Him. We may pray that the grace He bestows on us for the good we do would be applied to us, or to others. This opens us up, as Christians, to a whole new life where we can be Christ to others not only by what we say, or by helping them out or whatever. We can become Christ to others by suffering for others, for making reparation for their sins. We can, in effect, step in and replace the windows they broke. We can put the cookie dough on the pan, and then give them the cookies as if they had made them. We can spiritually lift our brother up from the depths of a personal living hell when they have no strength to do it themselves. We do it by prayer, works, and sufferings all offered to Jesus for this specific person, or that specific intention. Our prayers, our sufferings, our works, when joined with the Salvific Action of Jesus Christ on the Cross, become in their own small ways redemptive. And so we can do penance for others. We can rejoice in our sufferings, likeSaint Paul, who made up in his body what was lacking in the sufferings of Christ.
“But I thought this was about head coverings.” Well, it is.
I wear my headcoverings as both an act of penance and an act of reparation. I believe God has asked me to do this. Let me explain.
Thirteen years ago, for a time, I entered and was fairly active in the world of internet pornography. I do not wish to expound on it too heavily here, although I suppose it provides much “jucier” reading than does my expounding on the “economy of salvation.” In any case, I was beautiful, young, lonely, and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. I needed an outlet; I needed connection to people who would give me what I thought was positive attention, and I wanted to “have fun.” So I did. A friend sent me a digital camera and I was off and running, not only posting very risque photos of myself to a porn site, but spending a lot of time chatting with the “star” of the website and with all the men who watched her cam and wanted to chat with others. For two to three months, the pictures ensued, one after another. And I was most definitely “making connections” with others, beyond the website, to the point of nearly ruining my marriage, another marriage, and yet another relationship. My selfishness progressed to the point where I was considering sterilization so I could pursue an open marriage without any “ramifications”. To those who know me, contraception is terribly out of character for me, for I wanted many children and never believed in birth control, not even as a sexually active fifteen year old. Sex, to me, always meant a complete 100% self-donation to another, and it included the donation of my fertility. But there I was at 22, suffering from very traumatic events which concerned the birth and first couple of years with our sick daughter. I was devastated and too afraid to go that route again. I was saved from my path of self-destruction by my second pregnancy, which occurred as I was waiting to begin the birth control pill. Hallelujah. This child was the catalyst which brought about the rebuilding of my marriage and our return to Jesus Christ and the Church He established. That is not to say I have been perfect since, but it was certainly the turning point towards a better life.
I have struggled with this period of my life. I am forgiven, yes, but I broke many windows. The cruel thing about internet porn, is that when you have long since renounced your part in it, you know your “material” is still out there for the viewing. Sure, the website I was on is down now, but I know for a fact that some of the members saved my images. I can only pray they are all gone now, but I would suspect that at least one or two people have them. And even if they are all gone, these images stay burned in the mind of the men who have viewed them. I have greatly sinned in my treatment of my body, but also in leading others to sin. I WAS the “other woman” to many men. They spent hours chatting suggestively with me and “enjoying” my photographs instead of spending that time with their wives and children. And there I was, basking in the attention of it all.
I don’t call this guilt “Catholic guilt.” I call it my conscience, and perhaps one of the only “decent bones” in my body. No pun intended. So why a headscarf? Because I am covering more than I would normally need to cover as an act of penance for those times I did not cover what I should have. Sometimes I wear sleeves in very hot weather. That is not as noticeable, but it certainly has the desired effect of giving me a little suffering to present to Jesus, to add to His Divine Suffering.
It can be annoying at times. Do I look more attractive without it? Certainly. But I still have internal issues with pride and vanity and perhaps it is better that I render myself a little less attractive to others. Also, I have to fix it and re-fix it throughout the day. But when I feel it on my head, I remember who I am, and Whose I am. I am His, and I am giving Him my all. I feel it, and remember what I have done to feel called to wear it, and I offer my interior suffering to Jesus. It is my prayer that in my acts of penance and reparation, I might not only repair the windows I have broken, but repair others’ broken windows, too. The cry of Our Lady of Fatima was to pray and make sacrifices for sinners, for most people who go to hell do so for sins of the flesh. The angel of the third secret ofFatimacried, “Penance! Penance! Penance!” I have a special place in my heart for the Fatima apparitions and Our Lady of Fatima, and I take these messages to heart profoundly.
I offer up my sacrifices for the men whose lives I touched. I offer it for the men I know now who struggle with pornography. I offer it for the healing of the women whose husbands were giving me attention instead of them. I offer it for the healing of their children. I offer it for my husband’s healing, for he put up with much from me. I offer it for my children, who are unknowingly being raised by a mother with such deep scars and dark skeletons. And I offer it for myself, because there are still times I have to tame this wild heart of mine.
And so there you have it. There will be many who see me and roll their eyes at that “holier than thou” over there. That’s okay. I offer it up. Jesus knew humiliation and misunderstanding, also. I am not holier than thou. I am the one at the back of the Church beating her breast saying, “Lord having mercy on me, a sinner, ” because, I am a great sinner in need of Christ’s mercy. I praise Him for His great mercy, and for the Sacraments of Confession and the Holy Eucharist which fill me with such peace and grace, and enable me to keep forging on this tough road that is the Christian life. I thank Him for not only allowing my verbal prayers to positively affect the lives of others, but also my prayers of action. To this end, in addition to my headcovering, I add a weekly fast on Wednesdays. I am fasting only on bread and water on Wednesdays, to the best of my ability, for the specific intention of a very dear friend struggling with sex addiction, and for his wife. When he can, he fasts with me. Some sins can only be routed out through prayer and fasting, so I add my fasting to his, and we present that to Jesus with our prayers. How can our dear Jesus refuse to hear our prayers? He cannot.
Again, I wish to stress that I believe covering is a calling. Just as not everybody is called to have a large family, and not everybody is called to homeschool, not every woman is called to cover her head. Not everyone is called to fast, certainly not the infirm. But all of us are called to holiness, and all of us are called to unite our sufferings with Christ for the sake of His Body. We are all called to love each other as Christ loved us, and He loved us to the death. So do not be afraid to die to yourself for your fellow brother and sister. TheFatimachildren went without meals, and put rocks in their shoes. Some saints kept difficult hours so they could put in extra prayer time. Some people wear hairshirts to render themselves a bit uncomfortable amidst all the comforts of our modern day. For some, spousal submission is a sacrifice in itself. Our Lady of Fatima said that in our day, simply performing the duties of our state in life would be penitential. How correct she was! Although conveniences have vastly increased, it seems increasingly difficult in our society to discern how to be a good wife and mother, and how to accomplish that. We are a distracted and confused generation! I pray that you take the time to pause, and listen in your heart to where in your life Jesus might be calling you to join Him on the cross. Every little bit of grace you earn for those of us struggling through life now, and those who have gone before us, brings great joy to the heart of Jesus. When you accept suffering into your life with joy, Jesus will look at you and see….Himself.
“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church, of which I am a minister in accordance with God’s stewardship given to me to bring to completion for you the word of God, the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past. But now it has been manifested to his holy ones, to whom God chose to make known the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; it is Christ in you, the hope for glory. It is he whom we proclaim, admonishing everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. For this I labor and struggle , in accord with the exercise of his power working within me.” Colossians 1:24-29
God love you.