At the of end of the hearing, the trial, I was too tired to speak. I would leave drained, silent. I would go home turn off my phone and for days I would not speak. You bought me a ticket to a planet where I lived by myself.
-from the statement of the woman Brock violated
While I usually write about life here at the farm, today I am speaking from my heart about something a little different. I know the title of this piece is rather provocative. What could a drunk rapist and an early pregnancy loss possibly have in common? Let me enlighten you: sex.
The night the "actions" that set in motion my baby’s life was one I remember clearly. For one, I wasn’t drunk. Not the slightest bit drunk because I had had no alcohol. So no similarities there. And even if, for the sake of argument, both my husband and I had been drunk, I don't believe that one of us would have raped the other because we love one another and want what is best for the other. And for two, I not only consented, but invited. Despite knowing full well that I was very likely to get pregnant and even fearing what might happen (you know that little consequence of sex, pregnancy--a condition that has been heart-breaking for me at times) I invited. So no similarities there either, since Brock Turner was the one who initiated, or rather, committed, every single action that happened on his night.
So the one thing that we have in common is sex. Brock’s actions demonstrate every possible thing that can go wrong when you don’t understand what sex is about. In his “defense” some point out that Brock was drunk. Okay, but lots of people get drunk and they don’t go out and violate other people. They don’t force themselves on people who are completely unconscious. So let’s set aside his lack of sobriety for a moment. Some might argue in his defense that he didn’t actually physically rape the woman (you know, with his penis). This argument has little merit, as he was forcibly stopped by passers-by from whatever would have happened next. There is but little hope that he would not have completed what he was obviously in the process of doing had others not intervened. The problem with Brock, the problem with so many people, is that they don’t understand what sex is about. Sex isn’t about relieving urges, about a moment of pleasure, about seeing something I want and taking it, or about the now infamous "twenty minutes of action". Sex is about uniting your body, in genuine love, with your beloved. What Brock and his dad don’t get, is that the body Brock violated, the body he took because he was simply following his baser passions, is the body of a unique, unrepeatable human person worthy of dignity, respect, and honor. Instead of getting on top of her and groping her, if he truly understood what a woman is, Brock would have been on his knees before her, reverencing her for the incredibly beautiful, unique person she is.
A woman is a masterpiece. A woman is a masterpiece in which exists, naturally, completely naturally, the potential for a completely new person to come into this world. A woman's womb is, in a very real sense, sacred ground, for it is the place where God continues the work of creation. Even if she never brings a person into this world, yet every woman is a miracle for every person is a unique, unrepeatable creation, crafted with intent and love by God. When a husband and wife share in the privileges that marriage affords, a beautiful love is created between them. Their hearts are bound together ever more deeply, hearts following the actions of physical union. Brock violated not only this woman’s body, he violated her entity. Yes; “consent” is needed for a lawful sexual encounter, but consent is just the barest beginning of what is needed for a true act of sexual embrace. Sex has so much power--the power to create, the power to destroy, the power to unite, the power to kill. With that much power, it must have bounds. And the bounds that are right, are proper, are beautiful, are the bonds of marriage. Because with that much incredible power at stake, only a vow to keep this powerful gift and give it only to one person, a person to whom I commit my very life, holding nothing back, no matter what, only this vow is strong enough to contain such a powerful gift.
Brock does not understand the smallest glimmer of this truth. By his actions on that night, as well as his actions since, Brock has demonstrated that he is a man who lives for himself. What he wants, he takes-- and takes whenever it pleases him. Alcohol doesn’t change one’s basic character, it merely strips away the inhibitions that keep one’s behaviors in check. So the man who stripped, who groped, who fondled, and who forced, was the same before the alcohol as after. Brock is a man of immaturity and pride; a man who does not even understand in the slightest how to take responsibility not only for his actions, but for himself. He is a man who relies on his father to defend the indefensible. He is not even a man, but a boy, and a poor excuse for a boy at that.
But he is not alone. He has a league of pitiful, stunted boys-in-men's-bodies surrounding him and justifying his actions. Every man who strips a woman with his eyes, every man who takes a woman and uses her whether on the page or on the screen, or in the flesh, is also a poor excuse for a man. A real man, if he sees a woman unconscious, will defend and protect her, as the men on those bicycles did. A real man understands his own self, and takes responsibility for himself, masters his passions, reigns them in and uses them, in the right way, at the right time, with the right person, with his beloved, with his wife, the only one of all the people in the world he has vowed to love and cherish for the rest of his life. A real man might face very real temptation, and probably will, but he has the power over himself to resist. He has humility to understand that he is weak and that temptations will come, and takes steps to remove himself from the sources of temptation. He knows that he cannot face temptation alone, on his own strength, but asks for divine help, many times, even every day, if needed. He does not give into every whim and passion, because he understands that his actions have profound consequences on others--on their lives, and on the lives of those who love them; and that those consequences can be devastating, or they can bring profound ecstasy and joy and give life, in the proper setting, with the only person whom he has been given the right to unite himself, his wife.
The actions that led to Brock’s pitiful six month county jail sentence were false, ugly, and evil. The actions that led to the life of my baby were in every way true, beautiful, and good. Though her life in this world was exceedingly brief, my baby's life mattered. My baby was love incarnate. While Brock left tears, pain, and sorrow in his wake--and while I have tears, pain, and sorrow as well--the tears, pain and sorrow I feel are because the actions that began her life were not able to complete what they naturally should have brought into this world--a new life. Brock’s actions were sterile, and simply brought destruction and pain, and a kind of death in the heart of the woman he violated. May Brock read this, and be mindful that he has the choice today and tomorrow and every day, to choose the true, beautiful, and good, to become a gentleman, in the truest sense of the word. As the courageous survivor herself counseled, "Figure out a way to take responsibility for your own conduct." It is never too late to change. While Brock's father lamented that his son's conviction as a sex offender will influence his future ("where he can live, visit, work, and how he will interact with people and organizations"), it is a blessing in disguise. Always keeping in the front of his mind what he did, and what he is capable of doing, given the occasion--this knowledge has the potential to motivate Brock to become a better man. No one needs to be controlled by his inclinations, nor by his past. Instead, he can freely choose a different path, a better path. Yes; Brock's life WILL be affected by his impulsive, thoughtless decisions that night, just as my life will always be impacted by my freely chosen, freely embraced actions the night my baby was conceived. But both of us can become better people, stronger people. Brock, by letting the knowledge of what he is capable of doing humble him and motivating him to change; me, by letting the joy of having cooperated in bringing a new life into existence overshadow and heal the pain of being separated from her. We humans are neither fixed, nor determined by the past. Today is a new day. Choose wisely.
Just two years later, his rivals cooked up a false charge against John. The trial against him was short and unjust; he was not allowed to speak in his own defense or even appear at the hearing. Stripped of his teaching position, he was exiled to work as a parish priest in the small rural hamlet of Olkusz in Bohemia.
Parishes are known for their own unique culture. The parish at Olkusz was known for being a group of obstinate, cantankerous, critical troublemakers. It was to this inauspicious congregation that the gentle, thoughtful, brilliant John Cantius was exiled. Not surprisingly, even the saint was nervous as he traveled to his new assignment.
Eight long years later, the trumped-up charges against John were found to be baseless, and he returned with joy to the University of Krakow. Surprise of all surprises, all of his long-suffering patience proved to have not been in vain, as the parishioners followed him for several miles down the road, begging him to stay. But John’s heart was always in academia, and his return to a position there as a professor of Sacred Scripture would be for the rest of his life. Miracles were attributed to his intercession both during and after his earthly life. His life reflects one of his frequent teachings: “Fight all error, but do it with good humor, patience, kindness, and love. Harshness will damage your own soul and spoil the best cause.”
The Collegium Maius at the University of Krakow. This building dates from the earliest days of the university. By Cancre (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
The emperor at the time of our story was Julian, popularly known as Julian the Apostate. Julian was born of Christian parents, and educated by Christian tutors, one of whom he remembered fondly even in his later years as a pagan. As a boy, Julian witnessed the massacre of most of his close relatives by Constantius II, an Arian Christian cousin, a tragedy that no doubt made a significant negative impression on his young mind. It is believed that the intercession of Julian’s grandmother, Empress Eusebia, might have been the key to the survival of Julian and his brother, Gallus. Though allowed to survive and given a Christian education, Julian and his brother were kept under a kind of house arrest, closely guarded throughout their youth and excluded from public life. No doubt already quite far along in his rejection of the Christian faith of his childhood, when he was twenty, Julian was initiated into the Eleusinian Mysteries, which required the sacrifice of a piglet to the goddesses Demeter and Persephone. From then on, he embraced paganism and when he eventually became emperor, Julian sought to reverse the support of the Christian faith among the upper classes and a restoration of paganism.
According to the pagan Roman historian, Ammianus Marcellinus, in the year 363, Emperor Julian appointed a man named Apronianus to the post of governor of Rome. While on his way to the city to take his post, Apronianus had the misfortune to lose an eye. He immediately attributed the accident to magic--and the magicians, he believed, were the Christians of Rome. Since there were many miracles associated with the Christians, this was not an unreasonable assumption.
Peter served briefly as a teacher at the newly founded Jesuit college of Messina, but a year later was given the assignment that would occupy the rest of his life--teaching and preaching to the people of Germany. The Duke of Bavaria needed new teachers of theology at Ingolstadt. From 1549 to 1580, Peter Canisius tramped the roads of Germany as teacher, preacher, writer, Jesuit provincial, and even as advisor to the Catholic princes. He is believed to have logged as many as 20,000 miles during these years! In spite of all this activity, he managed to squeeze in as many as seven hours of prayer daily.
Peter spent much of these years explaining the Catholic faith and packed churches when he came to town. While others may have insisted on more aggressive means of debate, Peter wrote in a letter to his superior: “It is plainly wrong to meet non-Catholics with bitterness or to treat them with discourtesy. For this is nothing else than the reverse of Christ’s example because it breaks the bruised reed and quenches the smoking flax. We ought to instruct with meekness… [P]eople should be attracted and won to the simplicity of the faith as much by example as by argument.” He wrote three catechisms: one for adults; one for middle school students; and one for young children. During his lifetime, his catechisms were translated into fifteen languages and reprinted more than 200 times. His work was of such significance to the faith in Germany that he is referred to as the Second Apostle of Germany, following St. Boniface, some of whose story is recounted here.
So it’s not very surprising that when he grew up, Dominic felt drawn to a life where he could continue to spend long hours in prayer, as a Benedictine monk at the monastery of San Millan de la Cogolla in his hometown of Navarre. That probably would have been the end of this story--if it hadn’t been for the king. The king of Navarre, Garcia III, had his sights set on some land acquisition and the monastery lands looked pretty good to him. Garcia thought that the monastery lands rightly belonged to him--being the king and all. Understandably, Dominic, now prior of the monastery, disputed Garcia’s claims. Garcia wasn’t about to let a simple shepherd-turned-monk stand in between him and “his” land and so he had Dominic escorted from the property--by force.
(Scroll down for an interesting postscript to this story!)
Monastery of St. Dominic of Silos. By No machine-readable author provided. Somoza assumed (based on copyright claims). [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons
Situated in modern-day Serbia, Pannonia was divided in the year 296 by the Emperor Diocletian into several regions, with one of them called Pannonia Secunda, where Sirmium was located. The estimate of the number of residents of Sirmium varies widely from as few as 7,000 to as many as 100,000, but what is known for sure is that at least five Roman emperors were born in Sirmium, and as many as ten emperors used the city as a base for military operations throughout the course of the early centuries A.D.
Built on the Sava River (at that time called the Savus), Sirmium was an important military and strategic center since the Sava flows into the Danube River. The centuries of the later Roman Empire marked a golden age for Sirmium. A large hippodrome for horse racing was built in the late third century. The city also had many workshops, a mint for producing coins, a theatre, temples, public baths, markets, luxury villas, and eventually even an imperial palace.
Fausta died of natural causes, and soon after, Praepextatus arranged for the beautiful Anastaia to be married to the pagan Publius Patricius. At first, the marriage was a good one, but somehow Publius discovered that his new bride was a Christian, whereupon he abused her mercilessly and repeatedly and kept her enslaved in their home. She patiently endured this suffering, and rejoiced that she could suffer for Christ. Perhaps the discovery of Anastasius' faith resulted in the exposure of Chrysogonus’ Christianity, because he was imprisoned during this time. Yet somehow, Chrysogonus was able to send letters of encouragement to Anastasia from prison. Mercifully, Publius drowned soon after and Anastasia was freed from his abuse. A very young widow, she never remarried but spent the rest of her days secretly visiting the imprisoned and helping the poor. She is known to have interceded successfully for many who were poisoned so that the poisons had no effect. Because of these deeds, Anastasia’s reputation spread wide and both she and her teacher Chrysogonus were martyred during the persecutions of Emperor Diocletian. Like St. Lucia, Anastasia died during the Great Persecution of 304.
In the year 720, three men set off on a pilgrimage. A youth of nineteen years, Winebald left his home in Wessex with his father, Richard, and his brother, Willibald, just one year older. Winna, the boys’ mother, having died ten years before, Richard entrusted the care and education of his eleven-year-old daughter, Walburga, to the abbess of Wimborne. The three men planned to travel to Rome on pilgrimage to see the sights, visiting the tombs of martyrs and saints along the way.
After these two years of contemplation and study, Winebald felt a burning desire to share his life of prayer and study with his fellow countrymen. Setting off once more, Winebald returned to his homeland of Wessex, and recruited several relatives to return to Rome to join him in monastic life, where they remained for a number of years.
Abbot Winebald made it his regular habit to go forth from the abbey to preach and teach the pagan Germans in the surrounding region. He taught with such precision and love, that many were convinced of his words, and many came to know the love of God. Abbot Winebald grew to be greatly revered by all within and without his community. When the beloved abbot died in 761, Willibald and Walburga were at his bedside, and he was surrounded by all those he loved and those who loved him--and his sister, Walburga, took his place as Abbess of the community.
The newly minted priest, John of Matha, did not typically receive visions. But the day he celebrated his first Mass, January 28, 1193, he saw something extraordinary. He saw two men in chains: one was a Moor and the other a Christian, and a blue and red cross. When the Mass ended, John pondered the vision he had received, and felt compelled to redeem Christian slaves who had been captured by Muslims during the many battles and raids that were ongoing.
John had been born of noble parents in Provence in 1169. Educated as a nobleman’s son, he had learned grammar, fencing, and riding. Yet even in his youth, he led a life of virtue. He gave away most of the money his father sent for his support and it was his habit to visit the sick at a nearby hospital every Friday.
It was clear that he would not follow in his father’s footsteps. Instead, he decided to attend seminary where he studied theology. At the age of thirty-two, in December of 1192, he was ordained a priest.
It took about a year before the men received the blessing they sought, a permission granted in December of 1198. During this time, they worked out the particulars of how their new order, the Order of the Most Holy Trinity, would be structured. The emblem of the order would be a blue and red cross. In addition to redeeming slaves, the Order served the people wherever they were established, providing hospitality, caring for the poor and sick, educating children, building churches, and sharing the good news of Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection.
Being promised in marriage when you are two years old might be shocking today, but that was life for a Burgundian princess in the tenth century. Adelheid (in English Adelaide) was the daughter of Rudolf II of Burgundy and Bertha of Swabia and born in the year 931.
The young widow did not have much time to mourn for her late husband. Berengar no longer felt he had to pretend. He crowned himself king and began to rule with an iron fist. Berengar’s actions turned the people against him, and rumors of his part in the death of Lothair began to circulate. What is more, the people favored the young and virtuous Adelaide. Adelaide recognized that her life was in danger. She attempted to flee, but was recaptured by Berengar’s forces and imprisoned at Lake Como. Berengar II and his wife, Willa, concocted a plan. Approaching the young queen with guile, the power-hungry couple attempted to compel her to marry their misshapen son, Adalbert, presumably to repeat their previous successful strategy of acting as the power behind the throne. When Adelaide refused, Berengar was outraged and set off to plunder the royal treasury, even helping himself to the queen’s crown, which he no doubt believed would look perfect on his wife, Willa.
Having no intention to ever marry into such a treacherous family, the intelligent Adelaide waited for and then took the first possible opportunity to escape. With the help of her two maidservants, Adelaide managed to escape but was recaptured almost immediately. In a fit of rage, Willa attacked Adelaide, tore off her jewelry, scratched her face, pulled her hair, and kicked her. Berengar, determined to establish his right to the throne, took the injured queen and, like a real-life Rapunzel, imprisoned her in a castle on Lake Garda.
Four months into her captivity, Adelaide again escaped, this time with the help of a faithful priest, Warinus. Warinus saved the young queen by boring a hole through the thick castle wall. Each night he appeared and bored a little deeper through the stone. Meanwhile, Adelaide and her maid did the same from the inside. At last, a small passage went clear through and the two women escaped to a boat and were borne across Lake Garda.
The young queen found shelter in a marsh. Though they were pursued again almost immediately, and soldiers went through the marsh stabbing here and there with their lances, the two women manage to evade detection and the soldiers moved on to search elsewhere. Warinus returned and helped Adelaide and her maid to Canossa, where they took shelter in the castle of Count Azzo, about 150 miles away.
Not one to give up easily, Berengar arrived and laid siege to the castle. That wily priest, Warinus, managed to slip through the siege and deliver a letter from Adelaide to Otto I of Germany, the most powerful man in Europe. In her letter, the young queen pleaded with Otto for his help and offered her hand in marriage--and her lands--in return!
Otto was charmed by the letter and assembled his army. As his future enemy marched toward Canossa, Berengar of course caught wind of the danger confronting him and withdrew in defeat.
It appears to have been love at first sight, as Otto gazed on the beautiful face of his future bride. The rush of saving the clever queen worked magic on the older Otto’s heart and the thrill of being saved from her mortal enemy moved the queen’s heart as well. The marriage took place on Christmas Day in 951.
By all accounts, Otto and Adelaide were a happy couple. Otto trusted Adelaide, half his age, and allowed her to rule over her lands, which she capably ruled, and Otto gave her more besides. In a touch of divine retribution, Berengar was compelled to pay homage to Otto the year after the couple were wed. There was an uneasy peace between the parties which was broken in the year 960, when Berengar led a force against the Papal States. At Pope John XII’s request, Otto again marched against Berengar and Italy. Berengar’s forces deserted and Berengar was deposed, eventually surrendered to Otto, and died in imprisonment. Willa spent the rest of her days in a German convent. Five children blessed the union of Otto and Adelaide and the two were crowned Emperor and Empress of the Holy Roman Empire by Pope John XII in 962.
During her years as Empress, Adelaide worked tirelessly for peace and to serve the church and took great interest in bringing the gospel to the Slavs. After Otto died, Adelaide retired to a convent where, though she never took vows herself, she spent her remaining days in prayer.
In her teens, Paulina’s mother, the Countess di Rosa passed away. Paulina decided to leave school and by the tender age of seventeen, she was managing the family household in the void left by her mother’s death. No doubt managing an estate was a job big enough for anyone, but Paulina was gifted with an energetic and tireless personality and great compassion for those suffering or sick. Interestingly, Paulina was physically frail, but her strong will and intense love compelled her to work long after her physical strength gave out. Her life is an example of these words of St. Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you. For my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Noticing how capably this young woman managed these many responsibilities, at the age of twenty-four Paulina was asked to supervise a workhouse for poor girls. Workhouses were early charitable institutions. Initially intended to provide honest work to keep the poor from being forced into prostitution or destitution, the poor were given the opportunity to earn wages doing menial tasks. The type of workhouse that Paulina was to supervise provided meager wages for orphaned girls in return for their work during the day. At the end of each day, the girls were released.
Paulina quickly learned the girls’ names, tried to ease their difficult lives, and provide a good example for them. By the time she had worked as supervisor for two years, she was aware that the girls had nowhere to go when they left the workhouse at the end of the day, and that this put them in great danger of coming under the influence of disreputable persons, being victimized, enticed into brothels, or even worse. She spoke with the trustees about setting up a shelter where the girls could sleep, but the trustees refused. Unable to cooperate with a situation she believed was unjust, Paulina left her job as workhouse supervisor. She immediately set up a boardinghouse for poor girls while helping her brother found a school for the deaf.
Chris & Stelle
Blogged by Christopher and Christelle of Claret Farm
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