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!