Deal W. Hudson
November 10, 2008
Anne is still tired from her recent trip to China, but she wants to talk about Barack Obama. The explosive growth of her apostolate, Direction for Our Times, has left her exhausted and half-sick, but she is alarmed about Catholics who are describing Obama as the anti-Christ.
She asks me if I have heard those comments. I tell her I have heard not only that but also his election described as a “chastisement.”
Anne has encountered the same, and she is alarmed. She understands the disappointment but not the hysteria. “It was a body blow like we fell to the ground from the eighth rung of a ten-rung ladder. Then I prayed and heard a voice, ‘Get up and work.’”
The demonization of Barack Obama among some conservative Catholics will only disconnect them from the society they need to evangelize, she says. “Obama is a child of God, and we need to pray for him and his family. He’s important to God. Let God be God.”
She believes this current overreaction to Obama is a kind of spiritual panic: “Is Our Lord in Heaven, or is He not?” Rather, the question we should be asking ourselves is, “How do we serve the Lord under these conditions?”
“The last thing we want is to fill the air with ugly rhetoric.” She compares the anger being expressed toward Obama with how liberals treated Bush. “We need to empower Obama – we need him to begin thinking straight.”
“But what about someone who would say that we need to tell the truth about Obama – especially about his positions on abortion and marriage?” I asked her.
She didn’t hesitate: “I would ask how they speak the truth. If they don’t speak it with a love they are not speaking the truth.”
Anne has spoken to me in previous interviews about the abrasive quality of many Catholics who are committed to protecting doctrinal orthodoxy. “People are not monsters, and we shouldn’t treat them that way.”
“We are a mission Church,” she says. “We must ask ourselves whether or not we are attracting people to the faith.”
“But shouldn’t we be sure we are attracting people to the true faith?” I asked.
“Truth is not just about accuracy, or about getting the words right,” she told me. “Bitter, angry people can drive people away from the Lord, rather than draw them to Him.”
I asked Anne why Catholics forget this important aspect of speaking the truth. “They don’t want to have hope; it’s more fun to be negative.”
Anne uses what she saw in China as an example of powerful and effective evangelism: “In China they are so humble. They create camaraderie with their brothers in sin by not making them feel worse than they already do.”
Anne believes that the ministry she plans to open at Holy Trinity Abbey in nearby Kilnacrott will lift people up and lighten their hearts. “If people face Jesus, they will become buoyant.”
Her ministry has only a month to raise the additional million dollars needed to meet the purchase price of the abbey. The Norbertine priests still in residence there will be an integral part of the new ministry but will be housed in a new, smaller building soon to be built on the 46-acre property.
A men’s community and women’s community are already being formed. With four men and three women at the beginning of a year’s discernment, it appears that Direction for Our Times is attracting the vocations necessary to support the new youth program, Re-Charge, and the expansion to the abbey.
With conservative Catholics in America despondent over the election and Irish Catholics cringing at the seemingly endless disclosures of sex abuse cases, Anne’s message of the Christ who lightens the heart – and softens the tongue – is finding fertile ground.