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 about...is 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, www.brantpitre.com. 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 www.fallibleblogma.com 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.