Thursday, December 31, 2009

Do we go to Church because it is the New Year?

This is really just a reminder....the 1st day of January is a holy day of obligation to honor our Blessed Mother, Mary Most Holy. Mary is the Patroness of the Americas and it is on January 1st that we celebrate and honor her as such. For us, the Church, she was the one, true Ark of the Covenant. With her yes to God and His will for her, she bore our Salvation to fruition.

I think about how she must have worried about raising Jesus and that responsibility she had. Did she worry that she had done an adequate job as a mother to God the Son. Can you imagine the panic when she realized the child she bore for God was left in Jerusalem. I lost my little girl in the mall once and my first, flash thought was, 'I have to tell her father, please help me find her.' Of course I did, but that feeling of panic was overwhelming.

Another reason Mary is so important to us is because she was given to us, as Church, from the Cross. When Jesus designated John as the son to care for Mary He was saying, followers this is your Mother now, take care of her. She became the giver and caretaker of the Church. It would be Mary who would intervene for us to the Father. You know how that is, whenever you did something wrong as a child, who did you go to, she could break the news to dad and help soften the blow.

Mary is such an incredible role model for women. Mary was perfect mother and wife and a wonderful example to young girls on living a chaste life of virtue. We have so much to be thankful for when it comes to the gifts given to us as Church. As we welcome in the New Year and ponder all those resolutions, let's remember all we have to be thankful for and to offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God the Father for all He has bestowed on us.

Happy New Year and many blessings for you and yours!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Heaven has been graced with a saint and this one needs no declaration.

As most of you know by now, my husband's mother died this past Sunday, the Feast of the Holy Family. I would be remiss if I did not give a place in my musings and thoughts to this incredible Catholic woman. Gloria, or Memaw, as she was so lovingly known was a gracious lady, and a true Catholic, not only by nature but by faith.

Actually the words do not do her the justice she so deserves. Gloria taught me what it means to be a woman of faith when being a wife and a mother. This is not to take from what my own mother has shown me or taught me, but Gloria impacted my life at a time I was wanting to learn and I was open to listening to the lessons she had to share. She taught me about giving in a marriage that was not always going to seem fair, she showed me a loving patience when giving so unselfishly to children. As Marie told Debra (from an episode of Everybody loves Raymond) "we are mothering". Gloria was mothering. Gloria was the Catholic wife and mother. I found that I wanted to be like she had become. She was gracious, loving and giving. She was a lady and I wanted to be just like her. I miss her terribly. I am not the only one.

Years ago we noticed a change in her behavior and found she was diagnosed with the beginning stages of Alzheimer's disease. The family made loving, yet difficult decisions with regard to her care and she has been in a wonderful facility in Memphis for several years. We began to miss her many years ago, but her spirit remained with us whenever we visited. Several years ago I wrote a paper arguing that the brain is not the mind. I wrote this paper with Gloria in mind. Gloria was so much more than the physical body we watched deteriorate, her spirit, that soul gifted by God was still alive and full of life. Her 'self' was inside that shell and she still loved and was loved by those who cared for her. I remember her daughter saying once that now since her children were grown she could travel and enjoy her mother, she would not be able to. It seemed so unfair. A friend, a mom was lost to us.
There are so many memories I could share. I will always remember that glorious smile and the fact that she loved to sing. She loved music. It is with sadness that I realize there will be no music.... I know she will be singing up in heaven and enjoying the beautiful music of the angels. Gloria sat only after everyone else sat. She served others , she was our 'Martha', always tending to the needs of those around her. She was happy doing it, she loved caring for her family. I miss her terribly.

This is when we must realize we are not of this world, we are God's. Gloria was always one of God's. She can now be with Him where she was meant to be. I hope that Heaven is all she hoped it would be and more, I pray she is praying for us for I know we have been graced with a saint. Saint Gloria Jeanette, pray for us!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

What does this birth mean?

"...and the word was made flesh and dwelt among us..."

Next to the Resurrection, the miracle of the Incarnation is one the great mysteries of our faith. When Elizabeth spoke those words to Mary, "who am I that the Mother of our Lord should come to me", any one of us could have spoken those words. God has come to us, each one of us, to show us the way to new life. He came to show us that as human beings, which Christ was fully, we too can live a holy life. I always thought that was some sort of rhetoric cliche when I heard that God humbled himself to become a man. The reason for that was because I didn't know what those words meant, what the impact those words had on me as a creature of God.

I have come to understand that God so wants me to be like Him. At our Baptism, the invisible reality of the signs of the water, the Chrism oil, the white garment, the candle, it all points to our being made in God's image. As we look upon the Christ child in our manger scenes, think about the invisible reality of this visible child and the consequences this will mean for us as human beings. We are called to make intelligent choices, we are called to rise above the animalistic behavior that is instinctual and look out for our well-being and those around us. When we approach Jesus in the Sacrament of the Altar, let us worship and adore, then let us remember, He became like us to remove our sin, He became like us to show us...

...'Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing, O Come Let Us Adore Him, Christ the Lord'

Monday, December 21, 2009

are we there yet?

How many times have we heard that question or asked it ourselves? I wonder if Mary asked it of Joseph after many days on the road to Bethlehem, riding on a donkey, very pregnant and anxious to boot. As we have heard in the readings Mary has been visited by an angel and has visited with Elizabeth. The misconceptions as to the child's father has been cleared up and now Joseph and Mary have set out on the road to Bethlehem. Much has happened to these two in a short time, their stress scale would be through the roof. Maybe though not so much....
They were such devoted people, to the Lord and to each other. Think of the words Mary uttered to the angel, Gabriel, " it done unto me according to thy word." What incredible words of trust. I wish I could be so trusting. I question everything and I am so controlling. This is something I pray about often, to trust in the Lord's plan for me and to let go and let God. I know that sounds so cliche but there is something to that. I am forever giving advice to people to take it to the chapel and let God handle it, I could be more accommodating of my own advice. There are times when I do Know God is leading me in a direction that I can follow and He gives me the means to be in control. He knows me so well.
This last week of Advent as we continue to get ourselves ready for the joyful hope of the coming of the Lord, I pray that we all can be more trusting in what the Lord has in store for us and to say that 'yes' to Him more often. I hope you all have a blessed and exciting week as you get ready to welcome Jesus into your hearts and homes.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

why throw in a pink? we wait in joyful hope...

The time is drawing near. We are waiting joyfully for the coming of Christ. As John the Baptist put it to the people, our salvation is at hand, repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand, make straight your path. I love this time of year. It is really getting exciting. Everyday the house becomes more festive, the music gets a little louder, the smells of cakes and cookies baking fill the air.

This weekend we light the pink candle in the Advent wreath. The pink candle is truly a rose color that represents the joy of our salvation. It is the penitential joy we feel as we truly wait in joyful hope. We've been preparing and getting ready, now as we perform works of mercy and kindnesses for others we take joy and delight in the happiness we bring to others. As we cleanse our souls from sinfulness we feel the joy of the burdens lifted from our hearts and celebrate the coming of Christ into our lives.

Rejoice in the spirit of Christmas, the gift of Christ to one another. But don't forget to let Christ come into you. Accept the gift God meant for you, the joy of salvation brought by the birth of His only Son, Jesus Christ.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

What do the candles mean again?

It is the second Sunday of Advent and today we here about a simple man with a simple message, 'prepare the way of the Lord". The country of Israel is a political mess, look who's in charge, Herod, a tyrant if ever there was one, Caesar, well...we won't go there, Pilate a Governor, who knew his hands were tied as far as his political power of being in 'charge' was concerned. The people were starving for some SPIRITUAL direction. Can we relate? In many ways we can.

Our secular government has thrown God to the wayside and our Church is fighting tooth and nail to protect all human beings' rights from birth to the disabled to natural death. Our Church is in the business of saving souls, it's not about the feeling good of this world that will pass away. When will we get this through our heads? Only God knows and He is doing His best through the prophets He has given us of this day. I suppose that is what we use this Advent season for, to listen to the prophets of our time to remind us of the preparation we need to get ourselves ready.

I read that this second Sunday of Advent is a week of Faith. We need to have the faith of Mary and Joseph. They were visited by an angel to tell them something absolutely incredible. Mary would have a child of God, Himself no less, and was to accept this. Joseph was to go with the flow and accept this child as his and love Mary, no matter what. Now that is faith, could we do as well? Talk about your reality show and fodder for gossip. But what incredible news they had and yes they accepted this with such faith. We could be so blessed. As a matter of fact we are blessed. We are given the opportunity to receive Jesus in the Sacrament of the Eucharist everyday. It is our faith that opens this opportunity up for us. We believe that Jesus is truly present to us in the Sacrament. We prepare by going to confession, giving of ourselves to others, and carrying on Jesus' mission of loving others.

This Advent as we wait in joyful hope let us remember that it is our faith that gives us hope for a better life in Christ, to not give up on our secular society, to continue to pray for the conversion of those that have lost all hope, and to continue to prepare for the coming of the Lord. Get ready!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Have we been experiencing a liturgical drought?

When the moon is in the seventh house, and Jupiter aligns with Mars. When peace guides the planets and love will steer the stars...

The year was 1969 and it was the Age of Aquarius. Dare I say the Church as well got caught up in the "Kum-ba-ya" of the day. It was on this day forty years ago, November 30, 1969, the 1st Sunday of Advent new liturgical reforms were implemented to the Mass. It was called the Novus Ordo, the 'new order' to the liturgy. The new reforms were implemented for several reasons, to foster an increase in the liturgical participation at the Mass and to try and encourage an ecumenical participation of those that had left the Church. I read a surprisingly spot-on article in the New York Times that addressed this exact issue. I then went and looked at some not too surprising statistics that reflect those changes in our liturgy today.

What caught my attention immediately was the number of years since the reform. For biblical scholars and those theologians attuned to the numbers, the number forty will not be lost. It was forty years the Israelites wandered in the desert and it was forty days Jesus spent in the desert fasting and praying before beginning His ministry. We spend forty days in Lent fasting and praying for our own spiritual conversion as we come out of the darkness of our sinfulness and into the light of Christ as an Easter people. Coincidence, I don't think so. I encourage everyone who reads this post to read some history on how the reform came to pass. It is sad in a way how a Pope of our faith can be taken advantage of and duped in such a way, yet duped he was. It was reported that after the reforms had been implemented he noticed his vestments that were laid out were the wrong color, when he questioned his Master of Ceremonies about this, the MC told him the week long celebration of Pentecost were no longer celebrated with the reform that he had signed and implemented. It was witnessed that when Paul VI heard this he broke down and wept, not realizing the impact and subsequent consequences the reform would incur.

Thankfully, Pope Benedict XVI has a few reforms up his sleeve and has been instrumental in bringing us out of our liturgical darkness and into the light once again. Why did he feel compelled to do this to begin with? The fact that he is a liturgist is a big part of it, whereas Paul VI was not. He recognized that with the loss of the Latin and other liturgical reforms this had done more harm than good and he planned to do something about it. Statistics have shown that before Vatican Council II and the reforms that were implemented 52 percent of all Catholics attended Mass on a weekly basis. Today only 21 percent of all Catholics attend Mass on a weekly basis. Interestingly enough those protestants that the reformers were trying to bring back into the fold, attend a liturgy that is celebrated in the Latin and in the pre-Vatican format, that being with the priest facing the east and leading the people in the act of worship.

With the issue of Pope Benedict's Summorum Pontificate, he has lifted what was seen as a ban on the old Latin Mass. It was never banned to begin with but because of overzealous liturgical reformers the Latin in the Mass was considered outdated and the vernacular was the language of the day. It was felt that with the vernacular people would have a better understanding of the Mass and that this would foster a better and more fuller participation. The Blessed Eucharist was to be made so available to everyone it could be placed on anyone's hand while standing and the priest turned to the people so as to see and be seen. Pope Benedict has said that this immediately closed in a circle that just as immediately closed out God. The Pope has begun implementing receiving Holy Communion on the tongue while kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament, and he has renewed a significant amount of Latin back into the prayers of the Mass.

Our Liturgy is getting ready to take on another reform soon. Recently the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops voted to accept new translations for our Mass. You have heard the phrase "lost in translation". That is exactly what happened with the translation of the Mass after Vatican Council II implemented changes from the Latin to the vernacular. We lost so much of the richness to the prayers and the Scriptural translation. These changes will take some getting used to but the translations will be so much more accurate bringing a fuller meaning to what we are saying and witnessing. I hope as well more of the Latin will be used and the true meaning of liturgical east for priest and congregation alike will be implemented. My biggest hope is that once again we will kneel before our Lord and receive Him on our tongue. I firmly believe that with a more reverent appreciation of our Lord there will be a more reverent appreciation for the Mass and our liturgy in general.

A blog I follow by a very learned priest has as its motto, "Save the Liturgy, Save the World". I am beginning to see the point and find myself repeating that motto often as I attend some poorly celebrated liturgies. For I notice that with a poor liturgy there follows a poor and very lax following in the parish. There are many reasons for this and that will have to be a subject for another time. In the meantime, I encourage Catholics to embrace the changes and to also learn the meaning behind the reasons. It will all be worth it, all for the glory of God.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

What are we waiting for?

Happy New Year! Yes it is a new year for us as Catholics. We begin our new Church liturgical year with the season of Advent. We are celebrating the expectation and anticipation of the coming of Jesus. For the Jewish people it was the waiting and expectation of the birth of a Savior, for us as Catholics we anticipate the second coming of Christ. We wait in joyful hope....

To be honest it was only recently I knew what those words actually signified. Like everyone I decorated for Christmas shortly after Thanksgiving and then Christmas was over right after the actual day. I related that time of preparation to the material, I didn't do anything for me personally, my interior preparation, so to speak. I never thought about the waiting and the getting ready and what that was supposed to mean to me as a Christian. I remember one time I gave all my 5th grade students a small wrapped box of candy and made them sit it on their desk and wait until after Christmas Day to open it. The wait was very hard for them, but wait they did. I think there might have been only one student that opened his present ahead of time, but the others waited and seemed very proud of themselves for doing so. I told them that Advent was a perfect time to practice the virtue of patience. It was a lesson I learned as well. I think trying to teach them about the Israelites and those Jews that waited for a lifetime for a Savior to be born was something difficult to grasp. I'm not sure I was able to understand what all the fuss was about at that age. But having to look at a wrapped gift for three weeks would have been excruciating, the wondering would have killed me. I hope that with that one particular lesson and the celebrating of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I gave them some insight into 'getting themselves ready' to receive Jesus into their hearts and lives and to the changes in themselves they can expect by doing so.

A few years ago, we began to put off decorating the tree until just before Christmas Day. Everyday or so, I would put up a few more decorations and we would 'travel' the Nativity set until all the pieces came together on the Feast of the Epiphany, when the Wise Men would appear kneeling next to baby Jesus. This would take place over several weeks, all the cast of characters in different rooms of the house and the kids would anticipate whose room the Holy Family would travel to next to get to Bethlehem, located in a prominent place under the Christmas tree. It has remained a tradition in our house for many years now. I hope they will continue the tradition in their own homes someday. Doing this has helped me to truly appreciate the gift of the Christmas season, that it doesn't end on Christmas Day, it lasts a full twelve days to celebrate the greatest gift we have ever been given.

Last year at Lent we were preparing for a visiting priest to celebrate a Traditional Latin Mass in our parish and he was running a few minutes late. As we all sat in the pews, waiting, quietly reflecting and anticipating, it struck me that this must have been what it felt like. This feeling of wondering and not quite knowing what was going to happen, this must have been what the Israelites felt, what Mary and Elizabeth and Joseph must have felt while waiting for the birth of the newborn King. Or even Anna and Simeon, waiting all their lives for a Savior so they might be redeemed. That is the feeling at Advent. What excitement that must have been.
So yes indeed get ready and get prepared for Christ is truly coming. Anticipate Him and wait for Him and then fully enjoy the season, all twelve days of them. And then...lucky us, we can celebrate the gift of Jesus in the Eucharist every time we receive Him in the Mass.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I love this time of the year. Maybe because it's my birthday month, but I have always been drawn to the season of Fall. The colors of the changing leaves are glorious and remind me of a perpetual sunset. It's that time of the day when you might sit and reflect on your day, think about all you did that day , or all you failed to half empty, glass half full kind of thing.

I am so thankful for so many things, but especially my faith and the gift God has given me in the Eucharist. I have been given so much and it's times like these I know God has given me an opportunity to give back. I hope I can reflect that in my daily life. My husband teases me about the little pity parties I have once in a while, I mean really we're all entitled, right? I look back on those whiny Israelites in the desert and realize we all fail to fully appreciate the bounty we have been given...until we lose it or it has been taken away.

I look at the richness that is my life and I wonder what I have to grouse about. Do you ever whine or complain and then, almost immediately, you hear a story that makes your situation look laughable? That happens to me all the time, and I realize God has just humbled me to my knees. He has such a way of hitting you upside the head at the most opportune moment, well of course He does, He is all that is. Thankfully I have the insight to recognize these moments for what they are, teaching moments. Sadly there are some who don't, or can't see God for who or what He is. It is most unfortunate.

I watched a video the other day with my 2nd graders, it was Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. I realized as we were watching that they actually made a mention of thanking God at least four or five times during the show and of course little Linus, the youngest and most insightful, offered up this beautiful prayer for all the bounty and wonderful gift of friends. It made me wonder that if the video were made today would there be a mention of God, in particular, anywhere in the piece. It made me think about our founding history, the ethics our country was founded on, and I thought how sad that there is even a debate about the mention of God in our Pledge of Allegiance or whether the fact that we should trust in God should be on our currency. These thoughts lead to even deeper thoughts that eventually make me angry and today is not a day to be angry. That can be discussed on another blog.

So I will get ready to go to Mass and give thanks to the Lord for what is just and right. I am thankful my family is all together and I pray that you, too are with family and friends and know that you are loved dearly. God Bless! and ...Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Are we missionaries?

Today at Mass we had a visiting missionary from St. Lucia. We were reminded of our universal call to be missionaries to all. He reminded us that Jesus was first and foremost a missionary. He had been sent by the Father and he in turn sent the disciples out to all the nations to bring the 'good news' the end of the earth.

As I listened to him speak, I wondered how many people knew where St. Lucia was or considered the poverty of other countries. The deacon speaking to us said the children had to take their chairs with them from class to class because there was most likely not a chair in the next classroom. A mom sitting in front of me leaned over and asked her young daughter if she could imagine that. It was a wonderful teaching moment for them. Fortunately for our parish this talk of mission is not new to us. Our previous priest is now a missionary priest in Mexico and he made regularly trips with parishioners down to the mission prior to his leaving us. He made it a point to include missionary teaching in our school and parish. Our children learned to collect their pennies, toiletries, out-grown clothes, shoes and socks to be sent regularly to the mission. It was who we were as church and our families were very generous. Sadly because of flu and border violence our trips have been postponed but the generosity of our parish continues. We are truly blessed to have the opportunity to share our gifts with the missions.

This week before Thanksgiving our school begins their annual food drive for the needy of the parish. It always amazes me to see the donations overflowing the baskets. The students will also be filling the mission banks with their pennies to be sent down to the mission once again with a note wishing the parishioners of Saltillo a Happy Thanksgiving. We have so much to be thankful for it just seems natural to share all we have. I'm sure we don't often stop to be thankful for the chair or desk we have in the classroom, things we take for granted. After listening to the missionary remind us once again that we are called by our Baptism to be missionaries to one another maybe we will look at all those material possessions in a new light.

..go in peace to love and serve the Lord and one another...Thanks be to God!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Is it Christmas yet?

I was walking through the mall a couple of weeks ago and lo and behold, there it was... the huge tree in the middle of the courtyard. It was decorated with lights, big red bows and large gold balls. Around the tree were animated reindeer and brightly colored packages, oh it was festive. What disturbed me was that it was 80 degrees outside and did I mention it was October?
Once again I was taken aback by the greed of the secular industry and the gullibility of the consumer. I was also saddened by the fact that by the time Jesus' birthday does roll around His followers will be so weary of the "holy-day" sights He will have been forgotten on day 2 of our Liturgical Christmas season if He hasn't been shoved to the back of the celebratory calendar already. Need I remind everyone this is a time of Thanksgiving, it's not Christmas yet!
I told the kids the other day we would be focusing on Thanksgiving the next few weeks, so everyday we would say or write about something we are thankful for. Interestingly a facebook friend posted this same thought on her page, to offer something everyday that one was thankful for. What a challenge.
Historicallly, the Israelites would go up to Jerusalem every year at the Fall Harvest and offer their first fruits and harvest to God in thanksgiving for all their gifts given them from God. They would live in tents to remind them of the time they lived in tents in the desert after leaving Egypt. This festival is called the Festival of Booths. This festival lasted seven days and culminated on the Sabbath. It was this festival that was going on when the disciples saw Jesus in the Transfiguration and they offered to build a booth for Elijah and Moses, remember?
The word eucharist means thanksgiving. In the Mass we give praise and thanksgiving to God for His Son given to us in Holy Eucharist. It is this breaking of bread that makes us one in Christ and we literally become the Body of Christ. As Church we have so much to be thankful for, first and foremost, Christ Himself. Let's not shortchange Him by not paying Him homage and giving Him his due at the true Christmas season. This season begins on December 25th and lasts until Jan 6th. Presently we are closing out our liturgical year with Ordinary Time. We will begin a new liturgical year on November 29th with Advent as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Why does religion class focus so much on doctrine?

In one of my classes last semester we were discussing the oft times misconception regarding the teaching of the faith as opposed to teaching the children about having a personal relationship with Christ. I had shared a story about a parent who questioned the fact their child had a "D" in Religion when the child went to Mass every week and was an altar boy. I could not for the life of me get this person to understand the difference between teaching the doctrine of the faith and spending time in prayer with the Lord. They are not the same, as evidenced by the "D" in Religion class.
Religion as an academic subject can be difficult. There is a lot of "meat" to be learned. We have 2000+ years of tradition to live and learn. I mean tradition in the strictest sense of the word, the tradition with a capital "T". As a Catholic religion teacher I have great responsibility to help children come to understand why we as Catholics do the things we do and where it all comes from. I do stress the importance of knowing our faith in order to help them understand why it must be lived as well and this does include their prayer life.
I have mentioned before that we as Catholics are losing our identity as Catholics because we do not know the teaching of our faith. Our Catholic faith is rooted in Sacred Scripture and the Traditions of the Church. This deposit of faith has been passed down Apostolically, meaning apostle to apostle, pope to pope, bishop to bishop, for 2000+ years. That is incredible and it was meant to be because Jesus Christ meant for it to be. I tell my Confirmation class that when they go off to college the day will come, if it hasn't already, someone will ask them why they do such and such in the Catholic Church or why we don't do such and such. It is important for them to be able to defend the Faith, defend the teachings that have been safeguarded all these years. They are the future of our Church, hopefully there are some future priests and nuns in the mix as well.
I firmly believe, and this is where the faith and reason issue comes into play, that if a person knows and understands their faith, can reason and rationalize it, the faith will follow. To know this incredible faith of ours surely makes someone stop and contemplate the awesome wonder of what God has done for us. Some people have told me different, it is their faith and belief that keeps them rooted in the Church and they believe that it is this faith that will keep their kids in the Church. It is a personal relationship with Christ that will keep them Catholic. ummm I wonder....
The Catholic Church is so rich in Tradition and so rooted in Scripture. Other religions are Scripture based and encourage a personal relationship with Christ, but the Magisterial teaching that hands down that apostolic tradition is what keeps us grounded in truth. This is the reason the Catholic Church has been around all those 2000+ years. It is the truth and it is this truth that wells up in us to reach out for a personal relationship with Christ, the Truth.
As Catholics parents we have a responsibility to teach our children the prayers of the faith and to make sure they attend Mass regularly. The little "t" traditions of the Church come from the handing down the faith from parent to child. If a child sees a parent in prayer, or sees their parent genuflect before the Blessed Sacrament, that speaks volumes for the development of that child's personal relationship with Christ. I had a lady fuss at me once because the second graders I was with didn't all genuflect before entering the pew and wanted to know if I was teaching them to do so. I assured her I could teach them and remind them to genuflect until the cows came home but if they didn't see their parents doing it then I didn't have a leg to stand on. My point is that this lady thought it was my responsibility to teach them this so it must be my fault they weren't doing it. I teach them why we do it and can show them how but this must be lived by all Catholics to make an impact on the faithful.
This week we as Catholics are being encouraged to contact our legislators to vote "no" regarding a health care reform bill that does not mandate the refusal of using funds for abortion. As Catholics the respect for life, unborn and elderly and disabled, is fundamental to the dignity of the human being as created in the image and likeness of God. Yet I wonder how many have done so and how many make this teaching a priority in their faith life. In order to have this personal relationship with Christ I would think that this understanding of the human person would ironically be the basis of what is "personal". We know Christ because He was a person, a human person. It doesn't get any more personal than that.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

What is the significance of All Souls Day?

As mentioned in the previous post after Halloween comes All Saints Day. This year we will celebrate All Saints on Sunday, but on Monday our school community will celebrate All Souls Day. Not being a holy day of obligation I thought this would be a witness for the students to come together to pray for the souls of the dear ones who are in purgatory.
This morning while reading a blog I was reminded that it being the Year for Priests it would be appropriate to pray in a special way for the souls of the departed priests. In that the priests are marked by signs of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, they are still human and not always in a state of grace. We forget the man behind the clerics as a human being is tempted in all things and must reconcile his sinfulness to God as we all do.
There are special indulgences for All Souls Day as well as Plenary Indulgences granted to all the faithful who are truly repentant, attend the Divine Sacrifice of the Mass and offer prayers to Jesus Christ, the Eternal High Priest for the first Thursday of the Month during the Year for Priests. This would be an incredible week to offer for the souls of the departed priests. To receive a Plenary Indulgence, a person must be in a state of grace by receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation, prayed in accordance with the Pope's monthly intentions, an Our Father, one Hail Mary and one Glory Be, and celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
An indulgence is the remission before God of the temporal punishment due sins already forgiven as far as their guilt is concerned which the follower of Christ obtains through the intervention of the Church. Christ died for our sinfulness, but the sin is still ours alone and we make reparation through the Sacrament and with our penance. The Church as minister of the redemption authoritatively dispenses and applies the treasury of the satisfaction won by Christ and the saints to the faithful follower of Christ. In a nutshell, indulgences shorten your time in purgatory. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains purgatory as a process, not a place. It will be suffering, but a suffering that cleanses the soul, a "purging" of temporal punishment due to sin. This is the suffering we will enjoin to Christ. There will be rewards in heaven after our own suffering on our own "cross". It makes sense, why would we be granted easy access to heaven when God's own Son suffered so? The reality is who will be in a perfect state of holiness at the time of their death, what are the chances? With the indulgences we are granted we pray for ourselves and others to have a shortened time in purgatory. If you pray for someone who has already made it to the Beatific Vision, those prayers will be offered for someone else.
This is how God's mercy is led to forgiveness and it becomes possible for the sinner who has repented sincerely, to share, as soon as they are capable of it, in the full enjoyment of the benefits of God's family. There is a connection made through prayer between those in heaven, in purgatory, and those still on earth. This is what points to that communion of saints. We are all in that number.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Do Catholics celebrate Halloween?

It's that magical time of the year, and no I don't mean Christmas. While googleling images for this post I came across everything from the macabre to the mundane, so I settled for the pumpkin. It was either that or something with witches, black cats, devils, or the gorry, slasher trademark ala Mike Meyers. I get asked this question every year, the one it okay for Catholics to celebrate halloween?
And I give the same answer, of course, as long as you as a Catholic understand the meaning behind the name All Hallows Eve. When I was growing up we always dressed in costume and traversed the neighborhood for goodies. My brother and I were always some sort of comicbook or cartoon character. We never went for the scarry or evil side of the celebration. It was meant to be fun and it meant a night to run around the neighborhood with friends going from house to house yelling and screaming just because you could. When my husband and I moved into our neighborhood twenty years ago we were thrilled to find that there was a block party that was planned for each halloween night. Everyone came out of the house and set up their tables of candy in their driveway so the kids could go house to house without worrying about going up to a darkened house and being frightened. It was not a night to be scared, but was a night for family and friends to come together in the 'spirit' of fun.
Of course this tradition is about as American as one can get. For Catholics we are reminded that the next day is All Saints Day. We pray and remember all those loved ones who have died and are in heaven as saints. The next day, November 2nd, is All Souls Day and we remember those souls who are in purgatory awaiting to be granted entrance into heaven by the prayers of all the faithful praying with the Church. As Catholics we have to be mindful of how we celebrate the night before All Saints Day. Sadly it has become for some a night to worship evil and many think that dressing as devils and witches is just in fun and has no real significance. As Catholics we must never give any credance to evil even in jest. Opening a door to the evilness in the secular world is just that...leaving the door open. Remember initially the night before All Saints Day was a pagan holiday celebrated in Ireland, it took the Catholic Church's influence to change the day into one of charity and commemoration of the dead. Men and women would go from house to house asking for food to be distributed to the poor and then ask the poor soul's to pray for the donor's dead.
Some still believe the gates of the underworld are opened on this night for ghosts, witches and devils to roam freely and cause havoc. I recently read an article that said people would masquerade so as to disguise themselves from the ghouls and goblins that roamed the lands, hence then they would not be bothered. There are many stories and folklore surrounding the history of halloween and how it came to be celebrated as we know it today. We as Catholics still need to be aware of the significance of All Saints Day. This is especially true when picking costumes for children and planning parties. Evil is real and we need to pray for the safety of our children and for ourselves. Have fun and be safe.
Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

When is a covenant more than a promise?

...she glanced up the aisle and saw him, standing tall and proud. As the wedding march began she took a breath, looked to her brother who was walking her down the aisle, nodded and began the walk that would begin an incredible journey of two people committed to a lifetime of memories....

That was twenty-five years ago, October 19th, when I married my husband, Ben. I still remember thinking that my dad, who had been dead ten years, would have approved of my choice for spouse. I realize now it was not my choice but God's will that brought us together. As any married couple will attest we have had our ups and downs, our joys and sorrows, and have wondered how we could make it together another year much less five or ten. The answer to the wonder has been our faith, a deep respect for our sense of commitment, but I have come to realize it was the covenant we made in the sacrament that binds us to something neither one of us can break, nor would we want to.

I blogged recently on the commitment to the priesthood, the lifetime commitment to that call but it is the covenant, the binding promise made in the presence of God, that is the glue, the sealant of the two becoming one. Please don't get me wrong, I love my husband and I wouldn't trade him for the world. That's my point, we are married, we made a binding promise before God to not let 'man put asunder'. We recognize the fact there will be differences and we respect those differences. I have come to learn there is someone in charge of our domestic church and by God's natural Law, that person is not me, it is my husband (see blog, What's the Deal with the Veil?).

We recently discussed the idea of covenant in class, both in the class I teach and in the class I attend. It can be quite difficult to explain the idea that a covenant is more than a promise, it binds people to God as one people. ...and the two shall become one. Children who come from single parent homes, or broken homes have a difficult time accepting or understanding this concept of a promise kept no matter what. The secular media of television and music videos have no idea what it might mean to portray the Sacrament of Matrimony in light of God's covenant. Hence the term 'bonds of Matrimony'. It is a bond that forms a sacred kinship to God. My husband and I both realize the work that goes into married life. We have grieved the loss of a child, we have been separated by circumstances of war, we have had to deal with the unforeseen toll of illness and disability and it has tested us to what for some would have been the limit. As Catholics we value the sacredness of the Sacrament and for me that has made an impression that was lost on me before I became Catholic.

A covenant is holy, in that an oath is made in God's name, calling on God to bear witness to the vows recited by the bride and groom. Feminists whine about the fact that the phrase 'to obey' was in the vows and eventually they were taken out of the vows. But what happens to the other parts of the vows, sickness and health, for rich and for poor, in good times and bad... Those words don't seem to have much of an impact, one in three couples married will end in divorce before three years into a marriage. Where's the holiness in that?

Yes, a marriage takes work, commitment, a lot of prayer, respect and love. The love that is reflected in gift of self. But never forget that God made this covenant with us and will never forget the promises He made with His people, the People of God. He will not take it lightly. Remember He marries us in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, He renews that covenant every time He enters into our bodies and we become one in the Body of Christ. We are bound to Him. To me that is one of the most important reasons a couple should complete the ceremony with the Eucharist. That binding of the Sacrament becomes so complete with both man and woman taking Christ into their bodies, the ultimate Bridegroom entering the Bride of Christ, the Church, represented so beautifully by this man and this woman....what God has joined together, let no man put asunder...

Friday, October 9, 2009

What does it mean for one to promote peace?

As most of you know by now our president, Barak Obama, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace for the year 2009. I am not going to rant and rave here about the choice made, as it has been done and I will not beat the dead horse, so to speak. What I would like to do is to introduce to you the other candidates who were also nominated... you decide, what does it mean for one to promote a sense of peace in the hearts of men?

Sima Samar is a women's rights activist in Afghanistan who "with dogged persistence and at great personal risk, she kept her schools and clinics open in Afghanistan even during the most repressive days of the Taliban regime, whose laws prohibited the education of girls past the age of eight. When the Taliban fell, Samar returned to Kabul and accepted the post of Minister for Women's Affairs."

Ingrid Betancourt: French-Colombian ex-hostage held for six years.

Handicap International and Cluster Munition Coalition: "These organizations are recognized for their consistently serious efforts to clean up cluster bombs, also known as land mines. Innocent civilians are regularly killed worldwide because the unseen bombs explode when stepped upon."

"Hu Jia, a human rights activist and an outspoken critic of the Chinese government, who was sentenced last year to a three and a half year prison term for 'inciting subversion of state power.'"

Wei Jingsheng, who spent 17 years in Chinese prisons for urging reforms of China's communist system. He now lives in the United States."

Dr. Denis Mukwege: Doctor, founder and head of Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo. He has dedicated his life to helping Congolese women and girls who are victims of gang rape and brutal sexual violence."

Maybe I am missing the "big picture" and am not able to see how the love and care these people have brought to their countries has benefited the world, but the peace they brought to the lives they touched would seem unmeasurable. No, it doesn't sound like they gave any great speeches read from a teleprompter, and no they didn't travel around the world smiling for the cameras, but what they did was to give of themselves for the sake of others. President Obama could take a lesson.

Friday, October 2, 2009

no question, just sharing- Support a Catholic Speaker Month
I know I usually post with the answering of a question, but today I get the opportunity to blog about a speaker I enjoy listening to regarding our Catholic faith. I want to encourage you to visit the website, If you ever get the opportunity to listen to Dr. Brant Pitre do so.

I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Pitre while attending Our Lady of Holy Cross College in New Orleans. I was able to attend his classes in both Liturgy and Sacraments. These are classes I will never forget. I learned so much because the passion this man speaks with is genuine. He also gives us the truth. He loves his faith and he is passionate about sharing his knowledge. He also lives his faith and this resonates through his lectures. Dr. Pitre has a gift and it has been a blessing to be a witness to this gift.

Dr. Pitre is a biblical scholar. He prides himself on knowing the Jewish roots of the bible and has studied extensively these roots. When I took the Liturgy class, I came away with a new found appreciation for the biblical references found in the liturgy. He approaches his teaching with an excitement that draws one in. He taught us about Jesus' fulfillment of the Jewish feasts found in the spring and fall. It was like opening a gift at Christmas, everyday brought a new present. I felt empowered with the knowledge he was imparting. I also came away with a love for the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. Our liturgy is solidly scripture based, God inspired, God given.

Dr. Pitre has a way of injecting humor into his lectures that is a dynamic all his own. Others have tried it, yet no one else can pull it off so naturally. Once again I refer to a gift given to him which he uses to teach the faith he is so passionate about. I encourage everyone to attend one of his lectures, it will be a treat. He has been voted #25 in the top 100 speakers. Celebrating Support a Catholic Speaker Month, the site is promoting Catholic speakers along with websites and blogs that promote the teaching of the Catholic faith. Let's hope this has a positive impact on the secular world out there and helps to spread the truth about a faith we know to be the truth.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Have you ever met an angel?

Today I met another angel. He came and he went, not so unnoticed, for he was very noticed, but he passed by our way in such a way as will be talked about for days and weeks to come. I say another angel for I met one several years ago that brought me comfort at a time when I thought all comfort was nowhere to be found.

Children often ask me if I believe in angels. We had this conversation yesterday, as a matter of fact, being it was the Feast of The Archangels. I tell them yes indeed I do and then point them in the direction of their guardian angels and St. Michael. They are fascinated by the stories of the angels, especially when told from a first hand perspective as evidenced in the book, All About the Angels. Makes me wish the show Touched by an Angel was still on the air, even though it was Hollywood, it had a wonderful message that kids can relate to.

Today a simple man wandered in to our Adoration Chapel and knelt down in prayer. Sounds ordinary, right! Wrong! This simple man was dressed too simply in long white linen robe (alb), no shoes, and was carrying a bible and blanket. He had long hair, drove no car, no bike, walked from we did not know where. It was reported upon entering the Chapel he showed such reverence before the Blessed Sacrament, the ladies in the Chapel were dumbstruck, ran out of the Chapel and went straight to the parish office to inquire if anyone knew of a play going on in the area. What ensued throughout the remainder of the day one can only imagine.

By the time I met this man, he was surrounded by any number of people, being interviewed by the local newspaper and explaining to a small group of children that Jesus loved them very much. I offered him some lunch provided by our school cafeteria, hey you never know. It wasn't going to be said we did not feed Him when He was hungry, if you know what I mean. He sat and visited with several of our office staff and explained his ministry.

He said he was a disciple of Jesus, following Jesus as the early disciples did. He left all he had behind him and went out to evangelize the world with the good news of Jesus Christ. He relied on the gifts of strangers for food and lodging and was on his way to Rome to appeal to the Pope for permission to start an order for his mission. He had been traveling in this way for fifteen years. He prayed with us and for us, as we did him in return. When he left us, he walked barefoot in the direction of a new destination. He touched us and our parish. For the rest of the afternoon, he was all we spoke about. For this moment in our lives we talked about God sending us this "angel", how he looked like Jesus, his spirituality and gentleness. I am still amazed by how this man transformed our parish with his simpleness. He did no miracles, nothing extraordinary, he was just there in our lives for a brief time.

This amazes me because people do these same things everyday. People are kind, they spend time in Adoration and pray everyday. What touched us? He dressed differently and some people wondered if he wasn't crazy. There were skeptics who thought we should send him on his way, but for the most part there was an excitement in the air. Questions were asked, "have you seen 'him'?" I mean who walks around barefoot, on concrete, for crying out loud. We found out later there is a website depicting his story in documentary form at, but at the time we had no idea who he was or where he came from. It was shared with us that a woman who encountered him in the Chapel was overwhelmed with his presence and she broke down and wept, not from fear but from joy. She had been praying to God for guidance and help in some way and in walks this man straight out of the Bible. You can't make this stuff up. This is how our day went, sharing stories of miracles in our lives and how this man resurrected some feelings that gave hope to some that had lost hope for various reasons.

I wonder why it took this special instance to awaken a joyfulness in us that has been lacking for awhile. We only have to look at the Blessed Sacrament this man was worshiping to feel a joy like no other. We only need to reverently receive Jesus, the Body of Christ into our bodies to experience the wonders of God's grace and all that this grace promises for a life everlasting. Our society has made us so cynical and skeptical we find it difficult to trust in the gifts God gives to us. Be it Jesus in the Sacraments or an angel coming to share God's peace, we need to believe in the love God has for us and to accept the graces given to us no matter the form. Go be an angel for someone today!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Why does the priest add a drop of water to the wine at consecration?

This question was posed to me the other day, why does the priest add that small drop of water with the wine at consecration?

We then began discussing that some priests use the tiniest drop while others will just splash some water in the chalice of wine. The simple explanation is that this is believed to have been the custom of the Jewish people. They would temper the wine with water according to the custom of that country. This would have been what Jesus did at the traditional Passover meal.

If we reflect on the invisible reality presented by the visible sign of the cup, the Lord's Passion comes immediately to mind. We remember that both water and blood flowed from the side of Christ when His heart was pierced. And this signifies our Baptism in Christ, to die to self so we can become one in Christ. At the point of the Mass, when the priest pours the water into the chalice, he recites almost sillently, "By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity."

Our Church Fathers believed the water is understood as the people and the wine is understood to be the blood of Christ. When the water is mixed with the wine, the people are made one with Christ. We are now cojoined with Christ and nothing can separate the two. We become the Body of Christ, cojoined with Him. It could never be just the wine or just the water, there must be a comingling of the two. I read that the Council of Trent felt this was so vital that whoever denied this practice of mixing the water and the wine was to be excommunicated. Who knew something we see at every Mass could have such an effect on us as Church.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Do you remember that fateful day?

I will never know, nor have I thought about, why I didn't turn on my television that morning or even the radio for that matter. We usually put on the news to listen to either the traffic or the weather to help us plan our day. This day was problably rushed to get Em and myself off to school, I suppose. Ben and Phillip were already on their way into town. I remember getting to school that morning and hearing bits of chatter about a plane crashing into one of the twin towers, maybe the pilot had a heart attack or something. Little did we know at that time it would be the 'or something'. Our priest, at the time, Fr. Benny immediately went into action and handled the situation of calming fears the only way he ever handled situations, with prayer. He hustled everyone in school, all 500 of us, into Church to pray the rosary. I have to say, at the time I still didn't know what was happening. There was speculation about being under attack but no one knew for sure what was going on. With everything going on in our own heads we, the teachers, principle and other adults were trying to present an aura of calm for the children, and for one another if truth be told.
It is what came after that stays with me the most. We came together as a nation to pray to God for guidance and to help us make sense of this senseless situation. The inevitable question was asked, "why did this happen?, how could God let this happen?" As a religion teacher I was asked this question countless times in the days to come. I had answers, but not the politically correct answers anyone wanted to hear. How do you explain to someone who knows a loved one is lost to them forever that in God's merciful love Good will come out of this evil. Sadly innocent people can be the consequences of someone else's stupidity. We can not even begin to question why someone lived and why someone else died that day, or any other day for that matter. I don't even have the adequate vocabulary to put this into words. I can't begin to speak for God. I can only offer prayers to ask for the wisdom and strength to go on and to appreciate the life I have been given to help others to go on.
We all have a part to play in God's plan of salvation. As God's people we are called to help one another participate in this plan. Those people that fateful day were sacrificed for a greater good. That day was a wakeup call to our vulnerability as a nation and to the evils that abound in the world today. How many times have we noticed that it takes a tragedy to get something done or to grab someone's attention? This was one of those times. We turned to God because we knew this was bigger than we could handle on our own, we came together as a nation to support one another as a country. We waved our flags, we wore red, white, and blue, we sang the National Anthem and God Bless America every chance we got. God is not a controlling God, but a loving God. He loved us as a people so much He gave us free will to make free choices. The caveat to that is that the choice is to be a loving choice for the common good, not necessarily for own personal good. Sometimes the choice we make for the good of all may be quite a sacrifice for us personally. Those men who drove those planes were only thinking of themselves, or in their convoluted minds what they believed to be for their own good. It was a choice they made that affected many people. As a Nation for a while we overcame this evil for the common good.
I have to believe God was with those people who died, He was giving them time for prayer and for many He allowed them time to say goodbye to loved ones. God is with each and every one of us to help us through our worst moments and to lead us back to Him. We must find comfort in that so we can put one foot in front of the other and continue on this incredible journey He has planned for us. We can not begin to imagine what goes on in peoples minds to be so full of hate and anger, but we can find solace in the fact that God loves us and wants the very best for us. That best is to be with Him in Heaven. We are not meant for this world, this world will pass away, we are meant to find our ultimate end before the Beatific Vision, standing in God's Glorious Presence. May God Bless us as we remember the significance of this fateful day, let us never forget.

Monday, September 7, 2009

What was Jesus and Mary's last name?

The children ask me every year, did Jesus and Mary have a last name? Ironically Fr. touched on this in his homily this weekend, people were identified by their trade or by where they came from. Joseph was known as the carpenter, Jesus was often referred to as the Nazorean. A girl or woman of the household was associated with her father's or her husband's household. Slaves took the name of their master's house.

I ask the kids to identify what their parents do and then we identify them by their trade. We come up with labels of 'Bill the engineer' or 'Joe the computer technician'. It makes them laugh because they can see how the old trades evolved into some peoples last name, like Carpenter or Baker or Blacksmith. Today is Labor Day and I am reminded of all the labors people are called to in this day and age.

When God created Adam and Eve, He never meant for His people to be burdened with their labors. It was never meant to be a job. He gave Adam dominion to till the soil and care for His creation, but it was to be "a labor of love." The burden and toil of labor came as result of the Fall, a consequence to Adam and Eve's disobedience. We have been given the opportunity through Jesus Christ to offer those labors up for the glory of God and with those graces, the burden is lightened. Jesus says, "take up your yolk and follow me and I will give you rest."

How many of us find pleasure in the work that we do? How often do we look at our work as a job and have lost the joy it once brought to us. To know we are sharing a gift we were given by God to bring to someone else and take such a pride in the gift we cherished it and honed it so we could be the best God created us to be. And then....after sharing that gift with those around us, God gave us a Day in which to rest in His presence and give honor and glory to Him. A Day in which to thank Him and to receive Him into our bodies to nourish us for another week, all for the Glory of God.

I have found that if I brought a ho hum attitude to the work I have been given, that is all I've got...ho hum. You will only get out of something what you put into it. For some people that is a hard lesson to learn. But once we realize this gift in us was given by God, and we recognize that fact and then give God His due, an attitude change takes place. It may be subtle at first but our 'job' no longer seems like a job but truly becomes a "labor of love" just as God planned it to be.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

the picture says it all...

Our community was rocked by a tragedy over the weekend. This senseless act of violence didn't occur in our community directly but it affected us just the same. It affected one of our own so of course it affected all of us. We mourn the loss as if it were one of our own family members because indeed it did touch a member of our community so directly. As the Body of Christ we share the pain and loss of even one member of our Church community. We feel the pain as if it were our own.
One of my second graders asked me the other day if God created bad people. We had been talking about creation and how after God created something new each day He pronounced that creation good. I reminded her of this teaching and so naturally the next question was the why do people do bad things. I was waiting for the inevitable why do bad things happen to good people question but she really was concerned with the fact that if people were good why did they do bad things. She reasoned that they must be bad and that they must not love God. I asked her if she had ever gotten in trouble and done something "bad". She honestly answered yes she had, so I asked her if she loved God, she emphatically said she did. I let her mull that over in her head and then I reminded her we all make choices, some good and some not so good. Our actions are a reflection of the choices we make. She then asked that if someone had made a bad choice would God forgive them. I reassured her that yes God would forgive us if we were truly sorry and asked for his forgiveness.
I was reminded that God is truly a forgiving God when it comes to any transgression, but the key is to acknowledge our wrongdoing and we must be sorry for the transgression. I wonder if we realize the sorrow we must feel in our hearts when we have sinned against God and against one another. It must be a gut-wrenching, I am sick to my stomach for hurting you, kind of sorrow. We can not know what is in another's heart and it is not up to us to judge, that will be for God alone. We can pray for those that need to find their way back to God and know that ultimately justice will prevail in the final end, maybe not in this life but certainly in the life to come.
Out of every tragedy comes God's merciful love. Sadly for some it does take a tragedy to see the path their lives have taken. The tragedy that occurs is someone's darkness and from that darkness they may see the light eventually. Hopefully the light of Christ will reach these poor souls involved in the horrific events of this past weekend. It will take much for forgiveness to be won, both from the victims as well as themselves and from God. We as a community can pray for healing, the Body of Christ has been hurt, we as a community must help one another with the healing.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

"What's the deal with the veil"?

I wrote this in June, but considering the readings for this weekend's Mass I felt compelled to republish my thoughts on the wearing of the veil and the true meaning of submission with regard to Paul's teaching. So enjoy and God Bless.
I recently wore a veil to Mass and I got looks, no comments but looks. I had decided to begin wearing a veil because of learning about its significance and what I have come to learn about the woman in the order of creation. My thesis is about woman, Ishshah, "out of man" and what a magnificent creature we were created to be all by the grace of God. I have so many thoughts and feelings about this subject I'm not sure I can articulate it very well. It is going to come out disjointed and jumbled because there is so much in my head that wants to come out. But let me try.

In my research and more specifically in reading Pope John Paul II I realized woman is truly an incredible piece of the salvation picture. God made us women to give love and bring life into the world, but this was to be done with man. And because God is the Master Planner, He created an order to everything. In Genesis we read that God created out of man a helper, woman. But God created woman out of love, the woman was a gift to the man. And in man's acceptance of this gift he showed his love in return. Yet in this order, and because of the Fall, woman was to be subordinate to the man, as man is subordinate to Christ. Sadly this is read as the man is to dominate the woman. Submission is not the same as being dominated. Man and woman are to love and give the gift of self to each other. As I mentioned in a previous post, the woman is another "I" of the man. They are partners, giving mutual respect showing the dignity and respect afforded to human beings created in the image and likeness of God.

Now comes the significance of the veil. St. Paul tells the Corinthians "... I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a woman is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. Any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled dishonors her head. For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. (For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman created for man.) That is why a woman ought to have a veil on her head." It comes down to woman recognizing her place in the order of creation. We are all members of the body of Christ and in this instance Christ is the head and we are the body. In our families there is a head and that is the husband. As wives we respect the head and in return we are respected and revered as the support of that head. We work together and honor one another. One of my professors shared with us in class that in his family he listens to his wife and they discuss any major decisions that need to be made, but the ultimate decisions lies with him and she respects this.

Now I have to share with you that I am a very stubborn and strong-willed woman. I want to be heard and I want to be right. Does this make for a peaceful communion of persons in my family? No indeed. I have had to pray about this and admit that a lot of my marital problems are because of my stubbornness and my will having to be imposed. That's what I finally had to admit, it was what I wanted, not God's will for me. Something else I was reminded of by this same professor, it is my husband's responsibility to get his family to heaven and to make the decisions, with my help. It is my responsibility to build him up and pray for him and get him to heaven. Now is all this ever easy, no it is not. Marriage is hard work, but rewarding in the graces received through the sacrament.
I have begun to wear the veil out of respect for my place in creation. It does not mean I have less value than my husband, we are all valuable in God's image and likeness. But I do realize now after much reading and praying how I can be a witness to Christ as the head of all creation.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

What is it that places us above the animals in the order of creation?

"Dignity is worthless if we have not knowledge; knowledge without virtue only does us harm." - St Bernard of Clairvaux

Today we celebrate the feast day of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, considered the last of the Fathers of the Church and a Doctor of the Church. This quote comes from a reflection St. Bernard gave regarding the waste of the gifts we have been given or the opposite situation of glorifying those gifts given as our own and not coming from God.

Our dignity comes from the fact that we, as human beings, have been made in the image and likeness of God. We have been given an incredible gift of the intellect and the will. Animals and plants have been given no such gift. This fact puts us on a different playing field from other "earthly" creatures. We are able to think about a situation, judge the situation and act according to the good it will bring. An animal acts according to its nature, instinctually and out of habit. Our habits can be either virtuous, or become a vice which leads to sinfulness. St. Bernard warns in his reflection, "the creature, not knowing itself, distinquished by the gift of reason from the beasts confounds itself with them, not recognizing its peculiar glory, which must be formed within, gets led astray by sensible and outward things as a result of its own curiosity, and thus sinks to the level of the lower creatures." We must learn who we are as images of God. By coming to know ourselves as human beings and by practicing the virtues we rise above the animal instincts of a sensible nature. Sensible in that an animal uses sense instinct.

It is difficult to teach the concept of dignity to little children. Yet they do understand what it means to be respectful and that they too are worthy of respect. They might not be able to put humility in a sentence but they know when they have been embarassed or shamed. To be humbled can be a powerful lesson to learn. It takes our gift of intelligence to be able to discern this lesson of humility as a gift that comes from God and this too is not of our making. It is in ignorance that we "esteem ourselves" as less than what God has created us to be. I remind the children I teach to become what God created them to be, that is to be intelligent human beings, to rise above mere reaction and instinctual habitual behavior.

This teaching is lost on the secular world of today. In a world that promotes the teaching of a strict form of evolution or "intelligent design" there will not be the appreciation of a higher intellect that is a gift from a first cause. That first cause being God, Who created all in goodness and Who created mankind in His image and likeness. If we as a society are not taught to rise above the standard of animal, then animal we will be. Relativity, rationalism, materialism, and secularism all foster behaviors that dismiss the rewards granted by the practicing of virtues. Jesus ask in the parable "how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?". He refers to our faithfulness and living the life God created us to live once we enter the heavenly wedding banquet. Yes we need to be prepared but we would do well to teach those in our care what that preparation entails.

Monday, August 17, 2009

What will we do with this new day?

I realize I have been in a "funk" since my last post, all doom and gloom. I have been thinking and discussing about the judgment of God on our society. It is like Moses allowing divorce among the Israelites, he only allowed it because of their hardness of heart, Jesus tells the Jewish people it was not always so, nor was it meant to be. Basically He was saying you wanted to divorce and wouldn't shut up about it, so here you go. I wonder now if we are not the same. God sees the chaos that materialism brings, God sees the destruction of the unborn and has allowed us to "reap what we sow". The evidence is in our liturgy, our Congress, our world leaders, our media, our schools, and sadly our Catholic schools have not been immune to the infiltration of this hardness of heart.

God has not turned his back on us, we as a society have turned our back to Him. Our society has deemed that its wants and needs come before God and in his infinite mercy and wisdom have granted us what our hearts desire. And in his infinite wisdom He will welcome us back with open arms once we realize the error of our ways. Like the Prodigal Son, He will enfold us in His loving arms and give us another chance to redeem ourselves. How many times have we granted a child something they wanted, not because it was necessarily good for them but because they wanted it or we just gave in. God as a loving Father is doing the same thing. He loves us and wants what is best for us and that is to get to heaven and rest in His Beatific Vision. But He wants us to do so willingly, He will not force us, that would not be love.

This morning while reading my prayers, I came across this in the Magnificat, "Every morning we arise afresh in Christ our light. Ancient Christian writers warn against 'morning demons': yesterday's worries and grievances returning to poison the new day." I realized that is what I had been doing, letting the doom and gloom of all my fears affect my attitude. I am still frightened, but I know this new day will bring me a new opportunity to love others and be Christ to someone else. Every day we are given a new chance to turn back to God and to help someone else turn back to God. So I will continue to fight for the unborn when it comes to legislation, I will continue to encourage my priest to face "ad orientem" and lead us in the liturgy and I will speak up when I see blatant materialism take over my Catholic community. God must come first in all aspects of our lives if we are going to set things right in our society. God has given us a new day, now what are we going to do with it?

Friday, August 14, 2009

pondering a queston....

I am currently pondering a question that I can't seem to let go of. I can't even phrase the question properly or I'd post it. I thought if I put some thoughts out there on the table, so to speak, I could "see" it on paper and move toward an answer. For now remember we are Christians, and as Christians we suffer as Christ did, for the sins of others. Also too God's judgment, is just that, His judgment. We are to be obedient and to pray for ourselves, for others, and for society. Especially now we need to pray for our leaders and priests, even the ones who are doing less than stellar jobs. Sometimes these are hard lessons to learn, but I am coming to realize, in the grand scheme of things, it's not about me or about what I want. I am frightened, though. I am frightened for the direction our society is headed and I hope and pray to God that we, as Catholic Christians can reclaim our identity as Catholics and set the world aright.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

What is the invisible reality behind the "anointing"?

At our last confirmation class we focused on the use of the Chrism oils in the Sacrament of Confirmation. I could tell by responses and uninterested looks on my student's faces that this truly spiritual anointing had no real significance for them. I threw in the word "spikenard" to peak their interest, I used the analogy of a fighter using oils on his body or a bodybuilder using oils to enhance the appearance of the gleaming muscles, that got a grin. Okay we have cracked the surface somewhat, but still no real interest in their gain from the oil used at Confirmation and what this will mean to them.

It began to dawn on me how in this world of materialism and instant gratification, kids these days probably don't have an interest or real knowledge of "the invisible reality" that takes place in our visible world. That is the Catholic faith, the visible signs of an invisible reality. When we are anointed as Christ was with the oil of Chrism we are set apart, we are consecrated for a sacred use in God's plan of salvation. Christ, the word, means "Anointed One" When the Wise Men appeared before Mary and Jesus in Bethlehem, they brought myrrh, a fragrant oil that prefigured his anointing at his burial. When Mary washed Jesus' feet, she was chastised for using such expensive "spikenard oil". She was humbling herself by performing the most lowly of services, washing his feet. She was "anointing" him. We become associated with this service when we are set apart to continue Christ's mission with our own anointing at Confirmation. It becomes our responsibility to carry on this mission.

At Baptism we are anointed with the Oil of Chrism to set us apart as God's children. We have been washed and marked as Sons and Daughters of Christ. At Confirmation, the anointing sets us apart to continue the mission of Christ, even unto death. Strengthened with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, we are ready to do battle for Christ. Confirmation has been called the Sacrament of Martyrdom. Why? Because now we are ready to die for Christ, we use our "anointing" as a shield to fight the evils of the secular world. But we have to be open and willing to accept the responsibility given to us.

I pray for the children of this world today and what they have to deal with. I am encouraged to know that the Holy Spirit is with them in such a powerful way and I hope they come to understand just how much supernatural power they have been given to fight this increasingly secular world they live in.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

"Why don't you ever go to the Latin Mass?"

I was asked this question the other day by someone who knows very well my love of the traditional Latin Mass, now referred to as the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. It is true, I rarely travel into New Orleans for the TLM even though I do love it. I explained to the person asking me the question that is was because my family attended the Ordinary Form, the Novus Ordo, as it is called, and it was more important for me to attend mass as a family. It may sound cliche but that old adage, "the family that prays together, stays together" is something I firmly believe in.

Today is the Feast of the Transfiguration and no better place is this revealed to us than in the Mass, Ordinary or Extraordinary. Jesus in all of His glory is shown to us at the consecration, made present by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is made possible through the graces a man receives at his ordination when he becomes a priest. With the bishop laying his hands on the priest and with the anointing of his head and hands, the priest has been 'set aside', consecrated for the Lord. It is this that makes the Mass valid as a great prayer of thanksgiving when offered to God. Can one Mass be made more beautiful or can one Mass seem more spiritual? Yes, but at the moment of consecration when the priest is 'in persona Christi' the Mass is real and Jesus is on the altar made present in the bread and wine as the Body and Blood of Christ. We must never lose sight of this fact. Do I long for and pray for the Mass to return to the more traditional and for the Latin to return to the place it was meant to have in the Liturgy? Yes, I do but not because it is more real but because the reverence of the more traditional focus is given to God. We must always remember it is not about our likes and dislikes when it comes to giving honor and glory to God, the focus must always be on Him.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

'ad orientem' vs 'versus populum'; why do we need to vote?

As I sit watching the sun rise on this glorious Sunday morning, I am reminded of another Sunday morning where the Son rose and it brings to light ever more the argument for "ad orientem". 'Ad orientem' is Latin for 'toward the east' and this was a subject brought up by our pastor yesterday at Mass. I found this to be a teachable moment because...well he didn't.
As I have mentioned in previous posts our Mass is founded on rich tradition and Sacred Scripture. Historically the earliest Christian practices was to have the entire congregation face the east, the natural and cosmological symbol of the rising sun which is the perfect expression of our Risen Savior. Churches are built to face geographical East, or as Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, points out the position called "liturgical east". The priest is in the position of leadership guiding the congregation toward their eternal salvation and the Second Coming of Christ. The priest now leads the congregation in prayer and worship, offering our sacrifice to God. The priest is leading, not turning his back to the people as so many are want to phrase it.
Cardinal Ratzinger states in his book, The Spirit of the Liturgy, that with the advent of 'versus populum' the 'turned to the people' posture would lose sight of the worship to be given to the Lord and make the priest, the man, more of the focus. Unfortunately in many instances this has been the case. A priest I spoke with claims that now with the priest facing the people the worship space is closed and God is left out of the circle. There is no leading, we become closed in and self-centered, to use Cardinal Ratzinger's words. When this posture changed after Vatican Council II it was never meant to be about facing the people or centered around the priest. The discussion was brought about because of the construction in new churches that had free standing altars. Something was terribly lost in the translation of the general instruction and unfortunately God has suffered for it. Never was the priest encouraged to put his back to the Cross, he was to face the congregation at times of prayer to encourage participation, i.e. ..."now pray my brothers and sisters...".
Ironically our pastor's homily was about our reflection of the sacraments after we leave Mass. Do we convey what we believe in our everyday lives? And after attending Mass and receiving Holy Communion do we reflect the graces received in our actions toward others? All good points and something we can all ponder, but I found myself apologizing to Jesus again for our denial of Him during the Liturgy. Heaven forbid the priest should face Him instead of us, heaven forbid we miss out and not be able to see or hear what is going on. The priest reminds us of our actions after we leave the Liturgy, but what about the time spent in the presence of the Lord. Is that little head bob enough of a sign of worship or receiving Jesus on the hand and popping Him in the mouth enough to show Jesus He is really and truly present? Being dressed in our most casual attire is that another action to show Him we believe? Where is the sacrifice we are willing to make all for the glory of God?
The subject of 'ad orientem' is not debatable as far as I'm concerned, nor should we be voting on the position the priest takes at Mass. It is all about the glory and honor given to God. Until we realize it is not about us, sadly our lives will reflect our behavior toward God and all mankind for that matter.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

What makes us catholic with a capital "C"?

I recently received an email from one of my professors encouraging us to not miss the opportunity to learn more about the priesthood in this the designated "Year for Priests" by attending the upcoming Word of God Conference. As I read his post two things made an impression on me; (1) the designated year for priests has not been embraced with the fervor shown the designated Year of St. Paul. He was correct in his post that this year is more about learning about the ministerial priesthood than it is about praying for vocations, which should be done as well. Secondly as Catholics we don't always embrace the opportunities given to us to learn about the Sacred Traditions of our faith.

I am impressed, I must admit when someone shares with me they read their bible regularly at home, usually at night prior to bedtime. I have to say, my parents were avid readers but they did not read the bible and we were protestants. But if I were to ask that same person if they read something out of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, or if they knew the Church's teaching on immigration, let's say, they might stumble for the correct words or give me the more popular secular view on immigration. Never more as this come to my attention than recently with the discussion on abortion. Remember as Catholics we are not "sola scriptura" but we have a teaching authority, the Magisterium, and much of this teaching is based on Sacred Tradition handed down in a deposit of faith that has been kept for over 2000 years.

Catholics identify themselves as Catholic because they were baptised Catholic, attend a Catholic Church and receive Holy Communion, although it's debatable as to whether they believe in the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist. For many, this is as far as their identity with the Catholic faith goes. We are losing our identity as Catholics because too many don't understand what the Church teaches and then when told or instructed don't accept the teaching because it doesn't go along with the main stream secular way of life they are living. Yes we all have a hard time swallowing the truth from time to time because our pride gets in the way, it's not what we want to hear. Yet if we claim to be one body in Christ, one Church, then that truth pertains to us as Catholic Christians.

My new go-to-book is the Compendium of the Catholic Church's Social Doctrine. In this day and age of politics, economics, health care and immigration it is our responsibility as Church to know what the Church teaches and the basis for that teaching. Also timely is Pope Benedict XVI's new encyclical "Caritas in Veritate". We are Catholics because we believe in the teaching of Christ and because He gave that teaching authority to the Apostles to continue His misssion. We are the Body of Christ, we must live as the Body of Christ, doing His work and continuing the Mission.