Monday, August 9, 2010

Who is responsible for sacramental preparation?

There has been a new proposal floated out of the Vatican, specifically the Prefect for the Congregation of Divine Worship, regarding the age of receiving First Holy Communion. Actually it is not necessarily new, but it has resurfaced as a new idea. It has been proposed that perhaps lowering the age of reception would be of benefit to the salvation of the little ones. This is true as to benefit but the question arises with regard to the age of reason. Is a child younger than the age of seven truly aware of what it is they are receiving and the concept of transubstantiation, what is truly and really received in the Sacrament?

I have been an advocate for the lowering of the age of Confirmation for the exact reasons cited above. If the Sacrament confers the gifts and graces we profess it to confer, then these children, in this day and age, would truly benefit from Confirmation at a younger age than sixteen or seventeen. They need these gifts to strengthen them against the evils of the secular world. But as a teacher of the faith for the past ten years, I wonder if it might not be more beneficial for a child to understand the reasoning and significance of the Sacrament of Reconciliation prior to receiving Holy Communion and to emphasize that what they are receiving is truly the Body and Blood of Christ. What is being proposed would be a return to the practice of conferring the sacraments simultaneously with the Sacrament of Baptism. This would place the reception of Communion and Confirmation with Baptism, Reconciliation would come along at a later date as needed.

Apart from the fact that the job of the catechist with regard to sacramental preparation is concerned would be easier, the teaching and catechizing would fall to the parents. The Holy Father has emphasized that the family should be the primary catechists to their children and I wholeheartedly agree. This is accomplished by word and action, done by parents who live the faith according to the teaching of the Catholic Church, parents who Know what the Catholic Church teaches. Ahhh, and there it is, the fly in the ointment. And this is my concern. My fear is that the receiving of the Precious Body and Blood will become taken for granted and will just be another practice one goes through while at a Sunday service, much like watching people recite the Our Father, no longer meaningful, just going through the motions. We must never lose sight of the fact that the receiving of this Sacrament is not a right, it is a gift given by God. We, as Catholics, adopted children of God have done nothing to merit this gift. Having the privilege of preparing second graders for the receiving of their First Holy Communion, I have witnessed the wonder and awe that they have experienced as they become aware of what it is they are receiving from God.

As parents, we must emphasize and reiterate the reverence due our Precious Lord. If the age for receiving the Sacrament of Holy Communion is lowered and becomes a reality, we must remember our responsibility and example to never take the reception of Holy Communion lightly. Actually our children should witness our reverence for the Sacrifice of the Mass at all times, but if the formal preparation falls to parents then it would be a good idea for all parents to brush up on their catechism and be more aware of their example at Mass. You know, as parents we shouldn't wait, we should be mindful of our behavior in front of our children no matter the age, because we are the primary catechist. Get out your Catechism of the Catholic Church, register for a class given by your local Office of Religious Education, read the rubrics of the Liturgical Mass, brush up and be informed, remind yourself what it means to be a Roman Catholic and how we can arm our children, and ourselves, against the wickedness and snares of the devil.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Why is it so hard to get that Mary spirit in a Martha world?

Today is the feast of St. Martha. I've always liked Martha, she was a take charge kind of gal. I always think of Martha when I hear those women who wail and moan about the treatment of women in the Bible and how they were depicted. She spoke her mind and was not afraid to confront the Lord Himself when Jesus was delayed in coming to see her brother Lazarus before he died. ..."if you had been here." Very accusatory of her, don't you think? I can relate, I react like that when I feel helpless and don't know what to do. You know the feeling, someone needs to share the blame or someone surely can make this better. Human beings do not like feeling helpless, it is a loss of control thing that gets us freaked out.

We also remember Martha was the one who wanted Jesus to fuss at Mary for not helping her in the kitchen while she was trying to serve Him, the honored guest in the house. Oh, how I can relate to that, I am ashamed to say. Call it a gift, or maybe a curse, but I can assess a situation and see what needs to be done and then I do it. Then I get all bent out of shape when no one helps me. This usually involves the kitchen dishes or the laundry. Like Martha, I get resentful and then I pout about it. I do eventually come to my senses and realize this is my problem and I need to deal with it.

I tried to read that book, you know the one about having a Mary spirit in a Martha world. It was right on target and gave some valuable information, but reading and agreeing then putting into practice are two different things. Easier said than done. I do find that prayer helps, and offering the tasks up truly helps, but when the family is sitting and eating and messing and mom is cleaning and picking up and washing and straightening, well, you get the point. I have come to realize that Jesus' message to Martha was a humbling one. I should choose the better part as well. It is my choice and I suppose my pride that makes me want the house to be neat. Of course I have to listen to it when the clothes are not clean or something is amiss, but that is a mom thing I suppose.

I think what Jesus wants from me is to pray about everything I do and then do it for the love of my family and for the love of Him. It was a message that He wanted Martha to take to heart and one for me as well. I hope that as I think of Martha today I will be mindful of the task I do around the house and to adopt that Mary attitude, to keep my eyes focused on the Lord.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Is a procession so imporant?

I recently realized something about myself I am not particularly proud of...I am a liturgical bigot. I attended Mass in the Ordinary Form at a small town Catholic Church in my new home town. Like so many Ordinary form celebrations it was highly infiltrated by the protestant influence of the post Vatican era. The music was atrocious, the priest used the term "friend" so often I thought we were having a casual conversation around a round table, and the "icing on the cake" was the invitation to offer your own special intentions at the prayers of the faithful.

Yes, I have become a liturgical bigot. Yesterday was the celebration of the Feast of Corpus Christi, The Body and Blood of Christ. I have come to believe that most dioceses have some sort of procession, or they should, to mark the witness of this "source and summit of our faith". The only mention of this at our Mass was the priest's regret the day was no longer celebrated on the Thursday as a holy day of obligation. I wondered at the green altar cloths but figured it was some sort of oversight on the part of the altar staff, the priest travels between two parishes, but no, it was no oversight. Green was the color of the day, go figure.

I fear for our Catholicity. I found out after Mass, there is no CCD program because the priest believes the parents are the teachers of the faith to their children and there is no need for any formal education. I looked around at the parents represented and wondered at their knowledge with regard to the doctrine and dogma of our Catholic faith. Yes, I have become a liturgical bigot. I happen to believe that the way we worship God and give glory to Christ in the celebration of the sacraments makes a difference in the way we conduct ourselves as Catholics. I believe that we must lead the charge against the loss of the dignity of the human person, that we must fight to regain the right of all life from conception to natural death and it all begins with the celebration of the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist.

Yesterday was the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. It all began with a procession to Orvieto by a priest who doubted the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. While he was consecrating a host it bled down his hand and arm and onto the altar. He took it to the Papal dignitaries in Orvieto, in procession, and it is still visible to this day behind the altar in the Duomo. We should continue to process, we should continue to reverently show our Lord and Savior to all the world, to be proud of our Catholicity, the differences most noted in the Mass and the liturgy. It makes a difference. Yes, I am a liturgical bigot.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Why do we look like we are getting married?

We recently celebrated as a parish our First Holy Communion Celebration. The girls were beautiful all in white and the boys were so handsome in their coat and ties. One of the little boys told his grandmother that he felt like he was getting married. Ahh, that was the point. Because indeed he was, as a member of the Church, the bride, he was getting married to the bridegroom, Jesus Christ.
I had several conversations with the girls about the significance of the veil because they did not want to wear them. I had a few ask why they had to wear white and why did they have to wear a dress. I sign of our times I suppose, but this was non-negotiable. The significance of the white dress and veil means everything when it comes to the visible sign of an invisible reality here. The white historically signifies the purity of the soul, while the veil is a sign of the mystery. Yet in this day and age we no longer want a mystery. In this day of instant gratification, our kids have to know everything. A mystery is lost on them.
In the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, the Holy of Holies was separate by a veil. It was mysterious, only the High Priest could enter and tend to the duties of keeping the incense burning and the candles lit. The bride was always hidden behind her veil, to protect her innocence and to present some mystery of what was to be revealed to the bridegroom on the wedding night. The bride was a gift, to be slowly revealed so the beauty of her person could be explored and discovered by her husband, her lover. This is our relation to Christ. We as the Church are the Bride, He the Bridegroom. He gives us his body to be consumed and this consummation binds us to Christ and we become one. This occurs with each Mass, it becomes for us a bridal banquet. He makes the supreme sacrifice for us, and then enters into us as a bridegroom enters his bride. It is for this reason that the priest, in persona christi, is a male. God is a He, Christ is a He, priests are male, He's, in the Catholic Church.
The male-female relationship is finely and beautifully apparent in the Catholic Church. There is a reason for this and it is most visible in the liturgy of the Mass. It is in the Mass when we witness the consecration and as presented above, Christ presents himself to His bride and the two become one body to go out and do the work Christ was called to do for God. Sadly these roles are constantly muddied and disordered by a secular world that insists that girls can only be equal or as good as boys if they can prove they can do the same "jobs" boys can do. It is unfortunate that girls are not encouraged to see the beauty in themselves, as girls, and to accept by the virtues of patience and obedience the gift of their femininity.
It saddens to me to see the girls in jeans and pants at Mass. I wonder at what point did we, as a society, lose the allure of being a girl. A girl that wore dresses and liked the way she felt all dressed up, "pretty as a picture." Oh I see girls wearing makeup, but now a days she looks like she might be working a street corner, it is not feminine, it sends the wrong message, and then she comes to Mass dressed like this. This is the devil's secular world at work here. Instead of fostering the positive attributes of the feminine mystique, our society has denegrated the fact of being female, which is what God created, to something that is looked down upon. Being feminine is seen as a weakness.
I pray for our society, but I pray for our girls. I pray that they will see the gift of being feminine for what it is. It is a gift to our counterpart, the masculine, the male. We must step back at some point and see that God creates for a reason and what He creates is reasonable. There is a place for the girls, but we must see that there is a place for the boys as well and it is not always our place, as girls, to be in their place, as boys. Embrace being a girl, being feminine. Rejoice in that which the Lord has made.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Where exactly does a missionary mission?

Today I was talking with my 2nd graders about missionaries and the idea of mission work. I could tell that some of them did not believe that there are people in this world today who do not know God or have never heard of Jesus. I tried to show them some pictures of some far off places where missionaries work but alas, a sign of the times would not let me google because of a block on the computer. I realize that for some of them the world consists of their own making, what they know and what they have been exposed to.

Indeed some of the children have been exposed to alot in their young short lives and then others have no idea for they have been so protected. I so wish we could all stay so protected, to feel the unconditional love of our parents always. This is the love that Christ has for us, that comforting love that lets us know we are safe and will not be harmed. Children need this love, it is this that gives them confidence to grow and to try new waters yet still feel safe. Have you ever noticed a child looking at you and they seem worried,... until you smile at them. When you smile at a child they will grace you with a smile that is genuine and you get the feeling you just made someone's day special.

This must be the way for a missionary. To be able to make someone's day by just being there, ministering to a need that would not have been met if not for the grace and the sacrifice of the missionary. In many ways my family and I are being called to a new life. I think of it as being sent. We are not going to a third world country or even very far away, but it will be different and not overly Catholic. We will be missionaries to those around us who are not Catholic and I hope to make someone's day everyday, as I hope I have done here. It will be new and exciting full of new hopes and promises for the future.

I hope to continue this blog as I know the questions about our faith and the Catholic religion are never ending. I also hope to be able to clear up some misconceptions about our faith and to give some clear insight into a faith that has sustained over 2000 years of persecution yet is made ever stronger because of it. We can all mission to others. It is a callling we receive every Sunday at the end of Mass...go out to love and serve Christ and one another.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Birthday blessings for the Holy Father, deservedly so!

Happy Birthday, il Papa! ad mustos annos. What a blessing he has been to us. He needs our prayers, folks. This week offer your Mass, your adoration, your special intentions up for the continued good health and blessings of our Holy Father.
Pope Benedict XVI has been instrumental in putting policies in place that protect all victims of abuse. All because of allegations that have surfaced since the 1980's and 1990's. Any form of sexual abuse is a horror and a sickness that time has taught us can not be cured. As a parent learns to discipline a child, they might try many methods before realizing that a whipping with a belt does not work. How many times I have heard a parent tell me that they were whipped with a belt and they turned our alright, so they rationalize that as a reason they discipline with a belt as well. We now recognize that form of discipline as a form of abuse. Years ago a teacher could spank a child in the school, with the permission and sometimes blessing of the parent. Now, in this day and age that teacher and parent could be brought up on criminal charges for whipping a child. My point being we can not place rules of today on situations that took place years ago. Thankfully, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger recognized the situation for what it was, something that needed to be changed. He implemented new guidelines and practices that garnered protection for minors.
We are blessed here in our archdiocese to have an incredible policy to safeguard our children. In the United States, the USCCB have made great strides in protecting the dignity of the child and the woman. Sadly it came with a price. You have to walk through the darkness, unfortunately, to get to the light and the Catholic Church throughout the world is coming into the light. We are a strong Church, founded on solid principles and teachings, the teaching of Christ Himself. Be ever vigilant and pray for all victims of abuse. If you have been in the darkness and come into the light as a victim, please know that the graces of healing and forgiveness are strengthened in you by the sacraments. We have a strong spiritual leader in our Holy Father, may God continue to bless him.
as multos annos.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Are you immune to the trappings of the devil?

We are in the midst of Holy Week and today is Spy Wednesday. So noted I believe to mark the betrayal at hand of Judas the Iscariot. This week Catholics are focused on the most sacred time in our Liturgical Year. Is it no wonder that the devil is doggin us on our quest for spiritual renewal as we seek the light of Christ on Resurrection Sunday morning?
And it seems that no one is immune, from the Pope to the smallest child trying so hard to keep his Lenten sacrifices. This week I have read spiritual reflections on Peter as well as on Judas. As I am saddened and sickened by what is a horrible abuse of children, I am even more disturbed by the attacks against our Holy Father and our Church. With the bias of the mainstream media it angers me to no end the one-sided story they report and then revel in the chaos they insight. Woe to those who cause scandal in the Church with their gossip and lies. This can only be the work of the devil who rules the secular world. God Bless Archbishop Dolan and others who have spoken out against this blatant abuse of the media. I ask you to please pray for our Pope and our Church, our bishops and priests, and all those suffering in our world today. We are reminded that Peter was so human, weak and fallen with his desertion of Christ, but then lead our Church with such conviction and determination as our first Pope. The Pope is not infallible, please remember that, he is human. The Pope can declare an infallible dogma with regard to our faith and morals, but the man is not infallible. We as a Church are truly blessed to have this man as our leader, to guide us and to give us our spiritual strength to ward off attacks from the devil. There is so much more to a story than what the devil would want us to know, sadly money and power is what sells a news story and the mainstream media has lost its way when it comes to morals and truth.
Our own schools are not immune. We have lost our way as a Catholic society to fight this secular world we live in. I remember a time when there were no field trips during Lent, or no parties scheduled because of the solemnity of the season. My professor was sharing with us in class the other day, he remembered keeping silent on Good Friday from the hours of twelve noon until three o'clock then as a class they would walk to church and meet their parents for Good Friday services. One of the student teachers said she couldn't imagine keeping the kids quiet for three minutes much less for three hours. We live in a different time and we have allowed it to happen. We have lost our identity as Catholics and what behavior is expected of us during certain liturgical seasons, Lent especially.
Tonight our parish is celebrating a Traditional Latin High Mass to jump start our Triduum services. It should be beautiful and I hope our Church comes together for the celebration. Sadly it will be second to ball games, dance practice or what have you because many catholics don't see the extra Masses as counting for anything. Well for many this is true, you only get out of something what you put into it. It's difficult to fight the secular world but we keep at it. The graces recieved from the Mass are priceless but the graces are not material, they cannot be seen so for many it's just not worth it. I can only hope that for those who make the sacrifice they experience the joy and beauty of the sacred Mass. Hopefully they will be encouraged to complete the final walk with Jesus beginning with Holy Thursday's Mass of the Last Supper and the Veneration of the Cross on Good Friday as well as a Tenebrae Service Friday evening. Only after experiencing the final days with Jesus on earth can you truly appreciate the glorious significance of the Resurrection of Easter. It is this that is truly priceless.