Monday, August 9, 2010

Who is responsible for sacramental preparation?

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 29, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 7, 2010

Is a procession so imporant?

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Why do we look like we are getting married?

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

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Where exactly does a missionary mission?

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 16, 2010

Birthday blessings for the Holy Father, deservedly so!

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

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Are you immune to the trappings of the devil?

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

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Was it so important to know what Jesus wrote in the sand?

Have you ever wondered about the true significance of this story? We seem focused on the mundane, for instance the first comment I hear from women are "well, where was the man? It takes two to tango... blah, blah, blah" or the younger set always wants to know "what did Jesus write in the sand?"

The true lesson wasn't about the role the man played in the act of committing adultery or why we need to know what Jesus wrote and if it was significant. The lesson is about judgment. Remember, Jesus tells the woman, "Nor do I condemn you, go and sin no more." He was acknowledging her sinfulness but not condemning her. Our true judgment will come for us when we go before God at our own final judgment. The Pharisees were trying to test Jesus on the Law of Moses and the Israelites, yet Jesus turns the tables on them. He reminds us we will be measured as to how we measure. For some it will be a harsh call. For the woman's accusers it was a humbling and pointed statement with regard to their own sinfulness. What is also interesting to note is that the accusers walked off before they heard Jesus' words of admonition. They were only baiting him, they could have cared less if the woman was stoned to death for her sin or not. For them the "fun " was over, Jesus was not going to play the game.

From the guilty to the innocent. The next day's reading brings us to Susannah, innocent yet accused of adultery and brought to judgment before the King. Susannah was spared because of her faith in the One, True God. It is our faith that leads us to righteousness. By our faith is reflected that which we do and the way we live our lives. Susannah had true faith and it was reflected in her prayers and in the confidence she had that God would spare her. We don't know for sure what happened with the woman caught in adultery but we are led to believe she went away with a new found faith in the One, True Christ. The woman was probably moved more spiritually because of the compassion of Christ and knew her sinfulness than if she had been stoned for the crime she had committed against the Law of Moses and died with no remorse only resentment in her heart for what she might have seen as an injustice.

If we pay close attention, woman will play a major role in the coming readings of the Gospel. It will be the women who watch and wait for Jesus during his Passion as well as on Resurrection Morning in the garden. It will be the women who get the "news" first, it will be the women who will keep the faith. Watch and wait for it...

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Will God always forgive us?

Today at Mass we heard the parable of the Prodigal Son. It has always been a classical favorite for the teaching of forgiveness. It is used in our children's catechism textbooks as the bible reference for the teaching on the Sacrament of Reconciliation. For me it is the first reference I have to God the Father as loving and forgiving as opposed to the God who wiped out the whole earth with a flood or burned Sodom and Gomorrah for the wretchedness of mankind. This parable speaks volumes about who God is as a father to us, yet the history of the flood and those two doomed cities reminds us of the power of God and his presence in creation.

The Prodigal Son is about so much more than returning to God and seeking forgiveness. God gave us an incredible gift in our intelligence. He trusts us to use our intellect for the good of all mankind. We are given this higher intelligence to make choices that are in alignment with what God wants for us. Ironic that when we speak of beings with higher intelligence we usually refer to aliens from outer space...just sayin'.

It's comforting to know that if we mess up because we have chosen that which goes against the will of God we can come back and seek forgiveness. We know God will forgive and with His grace grow in wisdom and knowledge. God wants us to choose for the good, He wants our choice to be a loving choice. We are all prodigal sons and daughters. As we learn from our sinfulness, hopefully we see the wisdom of God and we come to know what is the good, our good as well as the good for others.

As the father in the parable allowed the son to make his choice, God allows us to make our choices. It is up to us to think about what the consequences of those choices will be. Too often we don't see beyond the immediate gratification of our wants, we don't look at the big picture of who the choice affects. We are too influenced by "if it feels good, do it" mentality. Sometimes there will be difficult choices that bring pain. The father most probably felt pain knowing it wasn't going to end pretty for the son, but he let him go anyway. God experienced much pain giving up His only Son for the sinfulness of others, yet He did it out of love for us, His children of Creation. This could be the perfect example of "divine tough love". No parent wants to see their child hurting or in pain, yet there will be times a parent has to let the child learn by experiencing the pain. It's how we grow, it's called life.

We as parents can then be there to welcome those children home, to love them, comfort them and feel for them. What a gift we will give them, to help them build character and to watch them as they move along the journey God has called them to.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Who do we know who to listen to?

We are in the second week of Lent and I hope everyone is keeping to their Lenten promises and growing in faith and perseverence. It is during Lent we hear some of the most familiar gospel stories as well as our most favorites. It could be they are favorites because they are so familiar.
This past weekend we heard the gospel story of the Transfiguration. I always thought it was Jesus showing the disciples his wondrous glory and revealing to them who he really is, God in the flesh, come down to give them hope and salvation. It just seemed so obvious, didn't it? And yes that is what the story is about, but it reveals so much to us about who we are and the promises for us as created by God. It speaks to what glory awaits us in heaven, if only we would listen and keep God's commandments.
In the Transfiguration, Jesus is revealed along side Moses and Elijah. He could have easily been glorified alone on that mountain top and God could still speak the words, "This is my beloved Son, listen to him." But the figures of Moses and Elijah are significant. Jesus is the new Moses, the keeper of the new covenantal Law, the true Keeper of the Law for He is the Word of God, Incarnate. Remember Moses' face shone so bright the people could not look upon him, he had to cover his face. Elijah was a prophet and now Jesus is revealed with Elijah present. The Israelites believed Elijah would appear before the coming of the Lord, this was significant for them. The Law and the Prophets were being fulfilled in Christ Jesus. Jesus in His glory was showing us what promises awaited us if we would but listen.
In another reading this week, we hear about the rich man and the beggar at his doorstep. The rich man dies and goes to the nether world, while the beggar dies and goes to lie in the arms of Abraham. The rich man is revealed the beggar man's fate and ask Abraham to send someone to his brothers to warn them of the consequences of their unholy actions. But Abraham reveals to him that he had prophets in his lifetime and they too have prophets to show them the way. It is a choice we make to listen and to follow God's Laws.
This is what Lent does for us. It is an opportunity to change our ways, to listen to the Word of God, to follow the teaching that has been given to us, and to make our hearts new. We have prophets all round us, beginning with our Pope and bishops and priests to lead and teach us about living a life in Christ. By our Baptism we are called to be prophets to one another, to serve others in their faith as well as their works. Are we listening to those prophets around us, are we open to the change of heart God is calling us to?

Monday, February 22, 2010

What does it mean to cross that River Jordan?

I recently had the honor of sponsoring a candidate for our Archdiocese's Rite of Election. The Rite is traditionally celebrated on the first Sunday of Lent and begins the process of welcoming new Catholics into the Church. As I sat in the pew of our Cathedral, I was swept back in time to the year 1991, when I participated as a candidate getting ready to 'cross the River Jordan', as they say. I remembered all those many years ago, standing so proud and professing my faith, giving my Amen so strong, I was going to be a great Catholic. It only hit me yesterday, as I listened to their strong "I do's" and "I will's", that many of these candidates and catechumens have no idea to what they are agreeing to, not fully.

I didn't. In all honesty, I truly did not know what it meant to adhere to all that the Church teaches and what that entailed. What would I be giving up as to my own beliefs and convictions?Oh I believed in the consecration and transubstantiation of the Body of Christ, I knew that the bread and wine became the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. I believed in the Perpetual Virginity of Mary and knew what that meant, I also believed in her Assumption. But what I questioned was to why women couldn't be priest, I mean what was the big deal, other religions had female pastors, right? Poor me, I had no clue as to the true meaning of the Sacramental Priesthood and what true Ordination entailed. I also was somewhat of the "Nancy Pelosi" mindset, I certainly didn't believe in abortion, but what someone else did was between them and God. I was not to judge them. Well I was right about the not judging them part, but I was clueless as to my responsibility in the teaching and keeping of the faith when it comes to protection of the unborn and the rights of individuals in all aspects of life.
These are two examples of controversy when it comes to the teaching of the Church and my responsibility as a Catholic to adhere and be obedient to this teaching. I wonder if candidates and catechumens understand what apostolic means, I certainly didn't. I have come to understand so much about the deposit of faith that Jesus gave to the Apostles and especially Peter and how that is the teaching that has been handed down for these past 2000+ years and this is the reason this great Church has persevered all this time.
Even something like our Liturgical calendar I didn't take very seriously. Lent was a time to give up something as a sacrifice, no more, no less. When I began to live Lent as a spiritual desert and to walk the walk of Jesus during the Easter Triduum, then I got it. I understood the importance of why there should not be weddings during Lent, or (this is a big one) why we should not be having that big crawfish boil and beerfest on Good Friday. I was not LIVING my faith, I was talking the talk but not walking the walk. To identify myself as a Catholic, I must be willling to adhere to all the teachings of the Church and the Holy Father. I could no longer be a "cafeteria catholic". For a part of me that was strong willed and stubborn, this was a hard pill to swallow. But in all honesty, it was easy actually. I knew this was what my Baptism and Confirmation was all about. I, as all Catholics, are set apart for a holy purpose. That is our mission as disciples of Christ. There are things I don't agree with but I have come to know that this is based on ignorance on my part. My salvation is not of this world and it is not for me to agree or disagree, but to be obedient. God will take care of me.
I encouraged my friend to continue reading, praying and especially to get involved with her parish church. To make her Church of which she will be a valued member the center of her and her family's life. I encouraged her to spend some valuable time in the Adoration Chapel, to learn and grow in her faith, and to be open to the way the Eucharist and the Holy Spirit will work in her life. I do this because I speak from experience. I continue to learn and grow everyday by the power of the Holy Spirit and I see how Christ works in my life. I have a long way to go to get to the promised land, but the journey is so worth it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"...remember you are dust and unto dust you shall return.'
Prophetic words for us to begin our Lenten journey, just a reminder to us that we are not of this world. This world is so much material and stuff, but one day it will all pass away, as will we.
We were put in this place for God to do what He wills. He created us to care for His creation and to worship and glorify Him. Lent is a time to reflect on the love of others that God created us for. We are to love others as we love ourselves, but first we are to love God with our whole heart, soul and mind. Today as we are marked with the ashes of our 'physical'ness let us be reminded there is a spiritual glory awaiting us that will not pass away. We can know that as we embark on these next forty days we will be filled with the graces and virtues to strengthen us on our way. The love that fills us can then be shared with others and returned to God tenfold. It was for this that we were created.
Remember that all the 'stuff' will pass away, but the love never does, the Love of God will always be with us.

Monday, February 15, 2010

What is in store for your Lenten journey?

In a few short hours another Mardi Gras will come to a close. This season has been a celebration for the record books. For us here in New Orleans this Mardi Gras had more meaning and feeling than those past. But Who Dat or not, the Lenten season is upon us and time for us as Catholics to remember what Jesus sacrificed for our salvation.

Before we left school for our Mardi Gras break, I reminded the students we would be entering our spiritual desert. I could tell by the look on their faces that they thought this was going to be an interesting way to look at the Lenten season. After all Lent reminds us of the forty days and nights Jesus spent in the desert. It was during this time He fasted and prayed, but He also fought the temptations of the Devil. In the next several weeks I will be writing and contemplating on the different aspects of Lent that have significant meaning to us as Catholics. I hope to explore the concept of true fasting and abstinence, the importance of prayer in our lives, and why real sacrifice brings us closer to our goal of being 'Easter people'.

I asked the children to think about their sacrifices, to put it in the context of doing it out of love, but not as a hardship. The idea is to come out of the desert a changed person. A true metanoia, a person better for the love of Christ. Someone said that if our sacrifice is for us, we are sure to fail. But if our sacrifice is for the love of God, then it means so much more for us because we seek the good that God created for us.

We begin our lenten journey by receiving ashes on our forehead marked in the shape of a cross. The ashes remind us that we are human and will one day die and return to the dust from which we came, as Adam was formed in the image of God from the dust of creation. We are marked much like the mark we receive at Baptism, marked as belonging to God with the oil of Chrism. This mark should remind us we are God's and knowing this arms us for our journey into the lenten desert to fight all the temptations we will be faced with. The visible sign of the ashes points to the invisible reality of what our baptism signifies. We die to self and live in the new life of Christ. What we need to ask ourselves is what is it about us that needs to die, what is it about ourselves that needs to change so we can become what it is God created us to be. For some this is very hard to acknowledge, so in our Lenten journey can we be open to the plan God has in store for us, no matter how much pain there might be in that acknowledgment.

As you embark on your own journey, I will pray for one and all and ask you to pray for me as well. I also encourage you to embrace the darkness of the Lenten season because the Light of Christ is so much brighter and beautiful on Easter morning, but keep in mind the words of Christ to His disciples...Do not be afraid for I am with you always.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Do you know the extraordinary gifts of St. Blaise?

Today is the feast of St. Blaise. We will be having our throats blessed come the weekend. Odd, I always get a sore throat after having my throat blessed, hmmmm. It doesn't stop me from getting my throat blessed year after year, it is just something I've noticed.
We have recently celebrated the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas and The Presentation of the Lord. Our New Year, liturgically, starts off with a bang. St. Blaise isn't remembered for any incredible writings or teaching as St. Thomas is known for, nor is his feast as remarkable as the Presentation of our Lord at the Temple or not nearly as significant. We recall St. Blaise for a simple throat blessing. We get something tangible on his feast day. Actually we don't get the blessing on the feast day itself, unless it falls on the weekend and we happen to be at Mass. Could it be any easier for us? I wonder, a drive through blessing window maybe... Oh I digress.
Not much is known about St. Blaise. He was a bishop, who was martyred for his faith in Christ. It is believed a woman brought a young boy to him who had a fish bone stuck in his throat and St. Blaise cured him, hence the throat specialty. But did you know, St. Blaise is also known as the patron Saint of wild animals? He lived as a hermit for a while to escape persecution and while living in his cave, he cured the wild animals and communicated with them. Legend has it that when St. Blaise was arrested, he first stopped to 'speak' to a wild wolf who had stolen a poor woman's pig. The wolf released the pig and the pig was returned to the poor woman. I suppose he could be called the St. Francis of his time. So it would seem the wild animals had more respect for the man than the human beings he was most like in creation. Our intellect is an incredible thing.
Humans with their higher intellect are given this gift to discern the truth. It is said in the bible that Simeon and Anna discerned the truth of the Messiah upon seeing him enter the Temple with his parents. They didn't hear him speak or witness a miracle, they just opened their eyes to the truth that was revealed to them. Sounds so simple, doesn't it? We as humans do tend to over analyze a situation, my brother refers to this as analysis paralysis. It is just one more way the devil plagues us with doubt and puts up barriers to our faith. We must be more open to truth in seeking it out through prayer and contemplation. If we are in tune with what God has in mind for us, then the Holy Spirit will lead us. We have to be willing to let God lead us, He will put us where he needs and wants us. St. Blaise might not have seemed to be a shining example hidden away as he was, yet in and through his faith in Christ he is remembered eternally.
Everyday I look for what God has in store for me that day. I can plan til the cows come home, but always there is something better waiting for me, something that will bring me closer to God. Oh it might not always be fun and glorious, it might be sad and tragic. But what awaits me is God to help me through whatever trials and experiences I go up against. It is so much more exciting to watch and wait for the adventure that God has in store. That is our life, our life in Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit, all for the glory of God.
St. Blaise, pray for us!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Is it fate, is it luck, or is it the hand of God?

After our beloved New Orlean Saints made it into the SuperBowl this past weekend, there have been endless questions about the how they got there. I don't suppose this question is being asked of the Indianapolis Colts, it was to be expected. It didn't seem to matter they the Colts had a rocky start to the game or that they were behind for most of the game, the Colts are the Colts with the most beloved Peyton Manning, one of our town favorites, as quarterback and no one questions their abilities.
But the that's a different story. This last game was not their prettiest win, nor was it their most well played, but win they did and they are going to the SuperBowl. Some people would say it was charma, kismet, luck, fate, destiny that the Saints would go to Miami this year. It was in the cards. Whatever the phrase of the minute, something had a hand in their going to the big game this year. Was it 'something' or 'someone'?
Our faith seeks understanding according to St. Anselm and if we delve far enough, that understanding always leads us back to a higher power that is not of our making. For Catholics that higher power is God, the One, the Good, the Beautiful, the Almighty God. It is through God that all gifts were made, that all gifts are given. God has had a hand in the outcome of the game because of the gifts He bestowed on those players. It becomes the responsibility of the player to hone the gift and to use the gift for the good of others. In this case it was for the good of a city beaten down and given up for lost. A city that has climbed back up from ruin and devastation and continues to climb and come back stronger. I always felt that New Orleans was given an opportunity to show others that you can come back, you can rebuild and you can be better. Isn't that what Baptism is all about? New Orleans has been washed clean and given new life.
In every interview I saw or heard, the players mentioned the city and the fans of New Orleans. It was for them they were playing their best, not for their own glorification, but to show a nation the city is stronger and a vital part of the country. That is the example "men for others". They have stumbled and fumbled but they never gave up, just like the city, they always came back stronger. It is for this reason that they will be the team to beat come February 7th. They are taking the gifts God has given them and using them to bring a city that was on its knees back to stand taller and prouder. So did God have a hand in the outcome of this bet He did!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Why did Jesus get baptized?

The decorations are all put away, the tree is bare and laying at the side of the road, the magic seems to have disappeared. Yet the mystery still remains and that is the magic of this incredible season. God becoming man for us is truly a mystery, one we can barely comprehend, but He did it for love of us.

Today we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord. Another mystery that God brings to us to show us how He truly loves us and how easy it is for us to return that love back to him. When talking to the kids about Jesus' baptism, they are quick to tell me that Jesus got baptized, not because He needed it, but to show us we needed it. It is the one thing we need to do to wash away Original Sin. They are so correct, but then what? After the stain of Original Sin is cleansed from us in Baptism, then what? What is our responsibility to God after that?

We learn from the Gospel that when Jesus was found preaching in the Temple at the tender age of 12, He returned with his parents back to Nazareth and grew in wisdom and grace. Imagine the Son of Man needing to grow in wisdom and grace! After his Baptism, Jesus went into the desert to fast and pray then returned to begin His public ministry of healing and teaching. I believe it was the combination of being filled with the Holy Spirit at His baptism and His discernment in the desert that Jesus realized in full what He was being called to do and His divine purpose as a human being, his fulfilling the promises made by God all those years ago to the Israelite people. Now for us we come to know this realization at our Confirmation.

When a child is baptized, he becomes as close to Christ as he will ever be. Think about this for a minute. It is not what you see, it is what you don't see that is significant. It is the invisible reality behind the visible sign that matters most to us as Christians and our salvation. The water we see washes away the stain of Original Sin that marks all of mankind handed down from our first parents fall from grace. We are marked with the Chrism oil as a sign we are now marked as belonging to God. We are His adopted children. The baptismal gown that is placed around us is white to signify we are pure, we have put on Christ. Our parents are given a lighted candle to show we are the light of the world, like Christ we are to be a light for others in our life. After all this we are now so much like Christ, God's own Son, we are truly children of God. How awesome is that? The significance of our baptism is almost too much for me to put into words. God did this for us, for our salvation. It is then at our Confirmation that we can reaffirm that act of faith and say yes to God, we understand what he has given us and we want a part of it.

It was very significant for Jesus to get baptized. He came to show us how to return the Father's love, but it is still left to us to freely give that love back to him. Once we realize we are more like Christ than we could possibly imagine, how could we ever turn our backs on God? It becomes easier to choose the path we want to take, easier to give thanks and easier to show love and forgiveness. But like Christ, we are marked as God's, we belong to God. We must be willing to live our lives for Him and there will be times it won't be so easy. Like Jesus there will be sacrifices and hardship and sometimes persecution for the sake of righteousness. Remember we are not of this world, we are meant for a heavenly purpose and it will be those trials that test us as willing to live as God's children. It is for this we pray. We pray for strength and guidance to live as Christ taught us and showed us. He came to redeem mankind for the purpose we were created. He came to lift us out of a quagmire that we can not climb out of alone. Man fell so far that man could not possibly be the redemption, it took God to send His Son to return us to our rightful place. What a gift He gave to us. Let us be thankful and celebrate Jesus' baptism with a commitment to live the call we received by our own baptism. We can continue this journey and we don't have to do it alone. God Bless and may we continue to love and serve the Lord and one another.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

What does epiphany mean to you?

With the New Year comes rejoicing, and the arrival of the Wise Men. It is the Epiphany, the time of the season when Christ is made known to those around him. The Wise Men represent the many different cultures and faiths who welcome the arrival of Christ into their lives and recognize the work of God at hand.

The twelfth night is so many things to so many different people. For some it is known as 'little christmas', the night the gifts of the Magi were brought to the Christ child. For others it signifies the time to take down the tree and other decorations and organize their lives for a new year. Down here around the New Orleans area, it is time to start celebrating age old Mardi Gras traditions of King Cake and parades of revelry prior to Lent. Yet with every significance Christ remains at the Center.

I have only recently wondered at the impact Christ must have made on the Wise Men. Here are three intelligent and learned men, non-Christian, non-Jewish, being moved to travel many miles to gaze upon....a baby. What power God has to manifest Himself in such a way. These men were not fools, nor were they foolish. They recognized the Salvation made known to man, yet there are times when we, knowing our faith, knowing what God has given to us turn away or walk away from that which has been made known to us.
What is even more interesting was the gifts the Wise Men chose to present to the, frankencense and myrrh. The insight these men had, to choose gifts that spoke to the Who of the Person in Christ is truly amazing. The gold was to signify the kingship of the Child that would one day rule over Heaven and Earth which is amazing in itself, but did you ever wonder about the oil and incense. The incense was a direct reference to the divinity of the God-man. The Israelites would use the incense at the sacrifices to lift their prayers and offerings to God. The incense reminded them of the Glory Cloud of God who would sit on the Glory seat of the Ark of the Covenant when they rested in the desert during that long sojourn out of Egypt. The myrrh, a fragrant oil used for anointing was a direct reference to the anointing of the Kings, King David in particular, The Chosen One of God, the Messiah. But this oil signified the anointing with oil the women would use to anoint the body at the burial. How prophetic was that? These men got it. They recognized that little body as the Christ, the one chosen by God for our Salvation. Imagine the angels singing while the Wise Men knelt in wonder and awe...remind you of anything?
Next time you are at Mass and kneeling as you listen to the bells ringing, or singing "Hosanna in the Highest", think of those men so long ago who gazed upon the little child in a leanto shelter, with cows and sheep close by. Think of the honor and glory they gave to Him and remind yourself you too are in the presence of greatness, before you is lifted up the Body of Christ and soon you will receive Him into your body and become one with Him as a Bride becomes one with the Bridegroom. Now glorify in the closeness and oneness and ask yourself, do I do enough or give enough to this relationship I have with Christ? After reflection on those questions, go and make your New Year resolutions, do it for yourself and your relationship with Christ and watch how all the other relationships just fall into place. The results will not take place over night, but in time you will see a difference and it will amaze you. Go in peace to Love and Serve the Lord.