Tuesday, August 25, 2009
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
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
"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
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
Thursday, August 13, 2009
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
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
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.