Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Barack Obama, Faith in the Public Square, and Catholicism

Yes, I know. Hefty title. But I'm going to toss in my own two cents regarding Obama's latest troubles that surround his pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Rev. Wright is a very controversial figure. On one hand, he is a highly talented speaker who knows how to capture the attention of his audience. On the other hand, he is also the author of some extremely divisive rhetoric that has landed one of his congregants (who happens to be running for President) into hot water.

The latest development shows Sen. Obama is trying to distance himself from Rev. Wright. I have to ask what took him so long. Although I have heard the argument that "people shouldn't be judged by who they associate with," I humbly submit that this should not apply to one of the most personal parts of our life - namely our faith.

People choose a church for a variety of reasons. Maybe they grew up in that particular denomination. Maybe their church gave them a free soft drink and invited them to visit. Or maybe it's the closest church to them. Whatever the reason, people end up visiting a church to see if they fit in and if the church fits in with their values. If it's not a good fit, most people leave and search for something else.

I see a problem with Sen. Obama's choice of attending Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ, although it isn't the problem others may see. First, Sen. Obama, for whatever reasons, found something with this church that aligned with his values. There was something about this church that resonated with him. If not and he still decided to stay, then the reasons seem more opportunistic. In other words, what does a membership to Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ prove? Some would say an agreement with Black Liberation Theology. Other's would say it underscores a commitment to racial identity. Whatever the reasons, Sen. Obama and his family belonged to this church for years.

The main problem I see is Sen. Obama's inability to admit his faith in the public square. Pope Benedict XVI nailed this issue with his recent visit to the United States. As believers, we should not be relegated to a social Siberia when it comes to allowing our faith to have a voice. I should not be required to disengage myself from my faith because my faith does, in fact, permeate my entire life. I'm not forcing anyone to convert to my faith, but neither do I think it's fair to force me to be silent. Everyone has a faith in something, whether it's God or the Yankees. But a person of true conviction will take a stand no matter what.

Sen. Obama, in my eyes, has not taken a stand for what he truly believes in. I am left with two conclusions: Either Sen. Obama didn't agree with Rev. Wright's rants or he did agree with them. If it's the former, then he was simply using the church for credibility among African-American voters. If it was the latter, then he has been bullied into not sharing his faith in the public square.

My opinion is that it's actually a mix. Sen. Obama and his wife may have agreed with some of Rev. Wright's messages and not others. But they are caught between a rock and a hard place. Sen. Obama cannot now confess that he actually agrees with Wright. It would not be in his favor. But not supporting his pastor also can damage his relationship with Wright and look like he's a wimp when it comes to defending your faith.

Finally, I look at this whole mess and think how much simpler it would be if Sen. Obama was Catholic. This is yet another reason why I am falling in love with my Catholicism. If I attended a parish that had a priest who was waaaay out there, and say I was running for political office; I could say simply, "Well, then. Father Peter Progressive does have some interesting views but first and foremost, I am a Catholic who upholds the church's teachings on the sanctity of life, social justice, and living the gospel daily in my life." Or some such. You get the point.

Which brings me to a question I'd love to ask of Rev. Wright. If he's so intrigued with Black Liberation Theology and the thought that "white theology had no relevance as Christ's message because it was "not related to the liberation of the poor." (per James A Cone, whose book, A Black Theology of Liberation, is available at Trinity's bookstore), then where the heck has he been these past 2,000 years? The Catholic church, more than any other church I know of, has made ministry to the poor (and yes, liberation), one of the main ministries of the church. I suppose he's never heard of St. Elizabeth of Hungary or Mother Teresa, just to name two out of hundreds of saints who devoted their lives to the poor.

We are called to be accountable for our beliefs. Sen. Obama just got caught in the crossfire. I can't help but wonder what he really believes in, and if he'll ever be unashamed to say it.

Attended Latin Mass This Morning

Low Mass is still very beautiful. Quiet, reverent. This Mass is like water upon my parched soul.

A young mother, with her veil, brought her four (!) little ones with her. They seemed around the ages of 8, 6, 4, and 3. Very young. What touched me was that all three girls had a head covering and she made sure all of them showed reverence for the Eucharist by genuflection. She even made her little boy go out of the pew and genuflect before coming in again.

That's a strong commitment to the faith formation of your children, for sure!

Monday, April 28, 2008

In Love with the Latin Mass

When I was falling in love with my husband, I was inspired to write sonnets to him. I have always written poetry ever since I've been a young girl, although never sent any for publication. It's just been my way of expressing my heart.

I was able to attend the Low form of the Latin Mass this morning. Even without the chanting or choir, it was still beautiful. My soul soared to heaven as I gave thanks to God for such abundant blessing. I thanked the priest afterward, saying that I knew there were many who would be happy enough to have a Latin Mass at their church once a month, let alone having the opportunity to attend one several times a week! He smiled and told me he was praying for more priests to help the parish so he could focus more on the Latin Mass.

Would you please say a prayer for Fr. L? I know he'd appreciate it.

Meanwhile, here is the sonnet I was inspired to write today:

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Too Funny! And Thoughts on the Novus Ordo

I am researching various sites that talk about the differences between the Novus Ordo liturgy and the Tridentine Mass (the traditional Latin Mass). I came across this beaut:

The Novus Ordo Mass by 2040

Oh. My. Gosh. I was laughing so hard, tears came to my eyes! My husband, who just shakes his head at me, said that if I showed that page to my father, he'd probably be offended. I said my dad would probably laugh a little and then quickly scold the person who created it, saying they should know better.

But the guy has a point! The liturgy has been diluted since Vatican II. Even I, after being away for so long, can see that. I was also surprised to see one site claim that the man who was the chief architect of Vatican II, Fr. Anibale Bugnini, joined together with six Protestants to strip the Catholic rite of anything that would be a "stumbling block" for our "separated brethren," the Protestants. (!)

If that is true, then all I can do is echo Neo from the film, The Matrix - Whoa.

One of the things I realized from this (the introduction of the Novus Ordo), was that the doctrine of Transubstantiation was lost. Ask most Catholics today if they believe that what they're receiving is the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ or if it's only symbolic. The same site I just listed referenced a 1992 Gallup poll study that found only 30% of Catholics believed in the Real Presence. The attitude of that nun from my "Coming Home" program spoke volumes. If she was minimizing the Eucharist in the Tabernacle, then I'd think it would be a safe bet that she didn't place much stock in Eucharistic Adoration.

I can only look at the fruit from the past 40+ years to see that we've lost something precious. To me, it's even more reason to celebrate the Tridentine Mass. We need to reclaim that which is most intrinsic to our faith.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Blessed Imelda Lambertini and the Eucharist

As a little girl, Imelda Lambertini longed to receive the Eucharist. She entered into a Dominican convent at the age of nine. She was so in love with Jesus that she would pray continually for the day when she would be allowed to receive the communion. During that time (1322), the earliest age to receive first communion was 12. She would sometimes exclaim: "Tell me, can anyone receive Jesus into his heart and not die? " To her, to receive communion would fill her with unspeakable joy.

When she was eleven, she attended Mass as usual with the sisters. Afterward, she stayed to pray fervently to receive Jesus in the Eucharist. Suddenly, what appeared to be a Sacred Host floated above her as she knelt in prayer. A nun who witnessed this hurried to the priest. The priest had no choice but to take the paten and receive it, then giving it Imelda for her first communion.

After such a miraculous event, the priest and the nuns left Imelda to spend some time in prayer. When they came to retrieve her, she was still in prayer, but did not move when they called her name. Finally, she collapsed on the ground and they found she had died from ecstasy! The year was 1333 and she was eleven years old. So indeed, her words were prophetic as she wondered how anyone could receive Jesus and not die from joy.

Blessed Imelda was beatified in 1826 and is considered the Patroness of fervent first communion.

I heard this story today on my Catholic radio station. I don't think it was by accident. I know this is the season for First Communion. But I also am in the midst of an annulment process, because my husband was previously married and when I married him, we married outside the church. At the time, I had no thought that I'd ever return to the Catholic church. Then when I returned, I erroneously believed that since I had never been married, there would be no problems. (Wrong!)

I discovered that Rome recognizes all marriages. I needed to first have my husband's first marriage annulled before we could be blessed by the priest. Only after all this happens, will I be able to receive communion again.

When I was young, I understood communion but my heart never fully absorbed the truth of it. I don't think I gave much thought to walking up and receiving communion in my hand. It was casual. I didn't look at it as a vital part of my life.

When I discovered that I was most likely going to have to wait months before receiving it, I knew it was a sign. I believe that God has given me this to bear so that I may absorb the truth of Jesus Christ's presence in the Holy Eucharist. I know that when the day comes for me to receive communion again, it will mean something. I may have over a year to study this topic and am very grateful to God for the opportunity to do so.

I've been longing for meaning once again in my spiritual life. This may be the very heart of it all for me.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Is There a Patron Saint for Understanding?

One of the reasons I was drawn toward returning to my Catholic faith as opposed to just finding another Christian church was because I yearned for unity and stability. Some of the churches I've attended in the past have been rife with disunity and seemingly inevitable church splits. I've often wanted to echo Rodney King's lament, "Can we all get along?"

So, fast forward to my re-entry into Catholicism. As I started to reacquaint myself with ancient prayers and rites, I soon discovered divisions within the church. Some don't like to refer to it as a conservative vs. liberal approach, but at this time, I don't have a large vocabulary to distinguish the two. Some understand the word "Orthodoxy" to mean Eastern Orthodoxy, which I know isn't the same thing. Orthodox to me seems to mean a strict adherence to the Magisterium, the motu proprio regarding the celebration of the Extraordinary Form of Mass, and others that I don't know about.

I'm almost at the end of Colleen Carroll's The New Faithful:Why Young Adults are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy. She said something I found profound and not a little convicting:

The most committed members of a denomination frequently are the least likely to work with outsiders and understand views that contradict their own. Strains of that insularity are plainly apparent in this crop of orthodox believers, especially among conservative Catholics, evangelicals who inherited heavy doses of anti-Catholicism, and members of some Orthodox churches.

That insularity also will damage the credibility of their movement, relegate it to the fringes of society, and perhaps even repel their own children, who are apt to rebel against the subculture as did some of these believers and many of their parents.
(p. 266)
This really gave me some food for thought. As much as I am ecstatic to find like-minded believers on the internet and starting to meet a few in real life - I realize I am going to be faced with this tension the rest of my life: how to balance my own growing love with orthodoxy while still treating my more liberal brothers and sisters with love and respect.

I know, for instance, that the priest of the parish who celebrates the Latin Mass, has been known to poke fun at the more liberal parishes. The liberal parishes, in turn, criticize XYZ parish for being behind the times.

I agree with Carroll's assessment. I think we need to be careful of our hearts because just as liberals show their prejudice toward conservatives by sneering at their beliefs, so conservatives should be careful not to fall into the same hole.

Now, after saying all that, I will say this: truth is truth. The Roman Catholic church has stood for centuries, amid many upheavals, because (in my humble opinion), they've sought truth. Rome has admitted its mistakes and I'm sure more will happen in the future. Still, there is a hierarchy of procedure and structure for a reason, and most of those reasons come straight from the Bible.

I'm half-jesting regarding the patron saint question. I know that my responsibility as a Christian is to love and forgive others. Personally, I think most of the exhortations of the New Testament are meant to bring the brethren together to dwell in unity.

Because if anything tests our faith - it's getting along with one another in church.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Tonight's "Coming Home" Program - The Sanctuary, etc.

I'm starting to feel like a fish out of water in this group. Most of the lay leaders involved are progressive. They're also between the ages of 50-65. So we often hear "Back in our day, we weren't allowed to do this..." or "It used to be the priest didn't face the congregation at all, so it was like he was up there doing his thing and we just watched."


The leader tonight pointed out that after Vatican II, most church buildings had the pews arranged in a fan formation, around the altar area. This seemed to be much preferable in everyone's eyes versus the "old" way of having the church be one long rectangle with a few wings to the side to create a visual cross.

The parish that is sponsoring this program has a modern sanctuary. I can't help it. Modern tabernacles leave me cold. (For the one on the left - I have no idea where it is.)

Is there any way a modernist cube could evoke the majesty and splendor of our God? Now church buildings like this, take my breath away:

I much prefer the "old" style. Why? Because everyone is facing the altar. The tabernacle is right there, calling to us.

I know it's an issue of preference, but to me, the whole "fan" idea just invites distraction. Instead of looking at the altar and being unified in our hearts toward Jesus Christ, our eyes inevitably drift toward the late-comers or the young mother leaving with her child. I loved the Latin Mass because the priest was facing the tabernacle. I felt more connected to him as he performed the rite. I felt as though he was truly leading us, his congregation.

I find it slightly amusing that I feel like a radical. Somehow, I found all these blogs online that celebrate gorgeous church architecture, the Extraordinary Form of the liturgy, Gregorian Chants and sacred song. I don't know how it happened (I think it started with The Curt Jester's blog but I can't remember how I found him.) but it did. Now my days are filled with listening to Ave Maria Radio, praying the rosary with Mother Angelica and her sisters, visiting Fr. Z's site and loving all the other blogs I'm starting to discover.

For the most part, they're all leaning toward orthodoxy and I just love it.

Catechism Study - I Believe, We Believe

This may be a rather ambitious attempt on my part to journal thoughts regarding the catechism. It's pretty big. But yet I feel compelled to read it and really absorb what our spiritual forefathers intended when they compiled it.

It is divided into many sections. Part One is "The Profession of Faith." Part Two is "The Celebration of the Christian Mystery." Part Three is "Life in Christ." Part Four is "Christian Prayer."

Within all those are sections, articles, and paragraphs. Very orderly. I've always loved order because I believe it keeps one on track. Just as a train needs the rails to reach its destination, so too I believe we need "rails" to help us reach our spiritual destination. I have believed for years that the Bible is our guide. But now I am seeing that the catechism is also a very good manual to help us keep on track.

So, Part One:

Faith is man's response to God, who reveals himself and gives himself to man, at the same time bringing man a superabundant light as he searches for the ultimate meaning of his life. [26]
Faith is something I have been blessed to have ever since I was a small child. I am very grateful for this because I know there are many who do not have any faith. It is easy to look around the world and wonder if God even cares or exists.

But the catechism states it beautifully - faith is a response to God. God has already initiated the conversation. He already made "first contact," as it were. Our faith is the response to His "Greetings..." to the world. Sometimes it's easy for me to forget that He is forever there, knocking on my heart, asking to be acknowledged. I'll never forget a time when I was struggling in my life with my devotions. I was at work and started to think about how long it had been since I had studied the Bible or prayed. Now granted, my idea of "long" is a few weeks or at the most, a few months. Still, I knew I was apart from God.

Suddenly, I sensed a voice within me say, "Has it ever occurred to you that I miss you? I've missed your smile, your joy, your laughter. I've missed our communion."

I was stunned. There I sat, at my desk during a typical workday and was just in awe that God spoke to me and told me He missed me! I was gobsmacked right upside the head! (I love that word...gobsmacked. Good word.)

So my faith needs strengthening again. It's good to know that He is still there, waiting for my response, and loving me into His Kingdom always.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Catechism

I posted this as a response on the Catholic Online Forum:

I've been pondering the whole Catechism thing the past few weeks. It made me realize how good it feels to have something stable. I've belonged to a few churches, but within those churches there has been a plethora of voices, each one focusing on a different aspect of our faith. Our faith is for sure, a huge undertaking. There are so many aspects of it - for instance, surrender to God, making Jesus Christ central in our lives, forgiveness, prayer and study of Scripture, etc. ,etc.

Although a Catholic parish can have a priest who is on fire for meditation, we still have the Catechism to guide us as we read the Bible and pray. We get a understanding from the Catechism that is refreshing and cuts through the personal bias of a pastor or elder. It is a standard and I for one am so grateful for it.

I don't think I appreciated what a gift the catechism is for us. So many churches "do their own thing." It can become confusing, especially if you have a ministry that is led by a person who is immature in their faith. (Some churches just grab someone to be a leader without much thought of their level of spiritual understanding.) The catechism keeps us on track.

I'm thinking of going through the catechism as a type of Bible study. I may post some thoughts here from time to time.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Crucifix

Recently, I read a post on a message board where a Catholic woman was the target of an insensitive comment by a Protestant man. He saw her uncle wearing a crucifix and said something to this effect, "Why do Catholics insist on wearing a crucifix? Obviously, they don't know where He is at this moment but we do."

In other words - don't bother me with the suffering of Christ because I'd rather focus on the resurrection.

This gave me some pause. When I left the Catholic church in 1982, I quickly discarded any Catholic symbols, imagery, and doctrines while embracing a more Evangelical perspective. I remember having several gold crosses on chains that I would wear constantly. Yes, the focus was different in a Presbyterian or a Baptist church. Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, rose from the dead. It wasn't until years later that I started to realize the imbalance of an emphasis on the resurrection to the exclusion of the crucifixion.

I heard a saying that I fell in love with during those years: Everyone wants to rush through the Crucifixion to get to the other side. But without the Crucifixion, there is no other side.

Catholics have the unique position of focusing on these sufferings by remembering them in the Mass. It isn't just during Lent and Holy Week that the sufferings of Jesus are remembered. The Paschal Mystery confronts the sinner during each Mass of his need for a Savior, his need for salvation, and God the Father's need for justice.

The crucifix is not an easy piece of jewelry to look at. Sure, it's much easier to see a plain gold cross than the figure of Jesus stretched out upon the wooden beams. But I'm starting to realize we need to look at Him hanging on the cross. We need to meditate upon His sufferings because it reminds us what He went through in order to deliver us from sin, to purchase our souls for the eternal glory of God. He went through such unspeakable anguish and pain so that we may join Him in full, Holy Communion with His Father through the power of the Holy Spirit. We get a taste of that communion during Mass when we receive the Eucharist. We will receive it in whole when we are fully accepted into Heaven.

I think the crucifix is one of the "hard truths" of Catholicism. Some people think it is a focusing needlessly on suffering when (in their minds), clearly Christ suffered but it's over, done with. The empty tomb eclipsed Calvary. But what the crucifixion does for me is allow me to think upon my sins and how it was my sins that nailed Jesus Christ to the cross.

I'm going to be thinking upon the crucifixion more because I believe my soul needs it. I need to understand on a deeper level what Christ has done for me. His suffering places my sins squarely before me. And who really wants to face their sins?

Not me. Which is exactly why I must do it.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

My First Latin Mass

Okay. I loved it.

I attended my first Latin Mass today. I was looking forward to this all week, especially after my "Coming Home" session on Thursday that made me long for something substantial. Well, I got substantial, alright. Grade A Prime Beef. Yessireebob.

As soon as I walked in and saw many women wearing veils on their heads, I knew I was in a good place. I was with people who take the Mass seriously. It isn't rote for them. It isn't a drudgery. It's desirable, it's vital. It's life.

I was surprised by how many younger women wore a head covering. My husband and I had a discussion years ago about this practice. He used to attend a strict Church of Christ where all the women wore head coverings. I told him I wasn't sure if I could ever do that. One Sunday, I attended a non-denominational service with a colorful scarf on my head, just to see how it felt. Of course no one else was wearing any type of head covering. I felt kind of silly. That was it for me.

Or so I thought.

This morning, piety had a new face. It no longer was the sole ownership of elderly women who shuffled slowly to a pew. No, piety wore the face of a young woman, head bent down as she followed the service in the Roman Catholic Daily Missal with her husband. Piety was with the young mother with a black lace mantilla as she draped her arm around her young four-year old daughter, who wore an adorable straw hat. Piety was with the young man who sat behind me, kneeling in prayer after the service was finished.

This hunger, this desire to cross the barren land of secularism into the holy was what moved me to tears. The words were unknown to me but the heart cry was unmistakable. The chimes, the incense, the choir's voice in unity, spiraling toward heaven were used by God to remind me that this is a journey and I'm surrounded by the sublime microcosm of His eternal love. There is nothing too small that cannot be offered up to Him. And it is not ritual for the sake of ritual. All of it has meaning. I know this like I know the back of my hand. I may not completely understand the meaning, yet - but I know it is there.

I spoke with the priest afterward and shared with him that it was my first experience of a Latin Mass. He was a joy to meet, all smiles and obviously very much in love with what he does. This is what I enjoy - meeting priests who love what they do. Their desire opens doors for those of us still trying to figure things out.

I also shared with him what Pope Benedict had to say about church buildings with stained glass windows. Here is the full text:

I would like to draw your attention to a few aspects of this beautiful structure which I think can serve as a starting point for a reflection on our particular vocations within the unity of the Mystical Body.

The first has to do with the stained glass windows, which flood the interior with mystic light. From the outside, those windows are dark, heavy, even dreary. But once one enters the church, they suddenly come alive; reflecting the light passing through them, they reveal all their splendor. Many writers – here in America we can think of Nathaniel Hawthorne – have used the image of stained glass to illustrate the mystery of the Church herself. It is only from the inside, from the experience of faith and ecclesial life, that we see the Church as she truly is: flooded with grace, resplendent in beauty, adorned by the manifold gifts of the Spirit. It follows that we, who live the life of grace within the Church’s communion, are called to draw all people into this mystery of light.
(Pope Benedict XVI Sermon at St. Patrick's Cathedral)

The parish nearest to me is unfortunately the owner of one very ugly brick and mortar building. There is nothing grand about it. I do not feel challenged when I am there nor uplifted. They have three graphic windows that is simply modern designs of color and shape. There are no saints or angels or anything that I associate with aspiring toward heaven. I need this. I need imagery and ritual to shake off the sludge of the world and awaken my soul. I'll take this old church with the creaking wooden floor any day over some sterile, "modern" structure.

I think I found my church. :-)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Femininity and Nuns

Again, the Nun-Who-Also-Is-A-Minister has generated a few thoughts regarding femininity and feminism. One aspect of Catholicism that I've not quite understood was why a woman who is called to be a nun would be made to look like a man. In grade school, the nuns wore shoulder-length habits and skirts that fell mid-calf. I could still tell their hair was cut short which was confirmed when nuns started to go modern and eschew any clerical attire altogether. Nuns wearing pantsuits, with short hair and no make-up often look like men to me.

The nun I met on Thursday had a masculine air about her. Is it possible for a woman to act feminine without all the trappings of cosmetics and jewelry? I do believe so but I've not met many nuns who were able to pull it off. It has led me to ponder the role of women in the church and if a pursuit of leadership positions within the Catholic church nullifies any femininity at all.

It's been 20 years since Pope John Paul II gave his Apostolic Letter, Mulieris Dignitatem (The Dignity of Women), to the world. In it, he praised women's contributions to society and noted Jesus Christ's attitude toward women in the New Testament. It is a beautiful letter. However, it was a disappointment to many women who desired to see women ordained into the priesthood.

Women have had a unique place in Catholicism. In fact, since I've been more involved in Protestant or non-denominational ministries, I'll even go so far as to say that the Roman Catholic church has them beat in how they incorporate women in the ministry. A consecrated, religious vocation is available to both men and women. Both men and women have served as missionaries all over the world. Both men and women have been beatified. Both men and women, sadly, have also been martyred. Both men and women have been recognized for their spiritual gifts and given the opportunities to exercise those gifts within their communities.

But something just doesn't jive with me when I see a woman devoid of all femininity. What are the telltale signs? First, what is a telltale sign of a godly woman:

She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue...
(Prv. 31:26 NAS)

A kind wisdom. A wisdom that speaks the truth in love and with heart.

In other words, not a strident voice. I can quickly tell a woman's heart toward her femininity by how she treats the opposite sex. If she treats men with a callous attitude or attempts to bait them into a show of strength, I know I'm in the presence of a frustrated woman. Or even more to the point, a woman who has yet to die to her flesh.

But if a woman speaks gently with men, respects them but allows her own God-given gift of wisdom to shine through, she often will have both men and women singing her praises. We women have such an incredible opportunity and an incredible calling to be faithful daughters of the Most High. Men and women each have a role to fill but yet a woman cannot fill a man's role and neither can a man fill a woman's.

All I can say is that this woman, a nun, expressed a masculinity that eclipsed her femininity within her appearance, attitude, and style of communication. She had not one iota of femininity that I could discern.

You know, every time I look at the photograph of St. Theresa of Lisieux, I see a very feminine nun. I also see a nun who died to her dreams of accomplishing great deeds in order to accomplish the little things to the glory of God. Even though she died at the tender age of 24, her "little way" would become her path to sainthood.

Something to think about, indeed.

Memoir in Six Words or Less...

Angela M. of the blog, Where Angels Go, tagged me with this:

Write a memoir of your life in just six words.
Post it on the blog.
Tag 5 others.

As seen on Digi's blog.

Thank you, Angela for the tag and the add! Here's mine:

Blessed by God with amazing love.

It's tough to do! I feel so blessed to have God love me so much that He gave His only Son for me, and then entrusted me into a loving family with good friends over the years and one incredible husband. I sing His praises constantly...

I'm not sure who to tag because not many people know me in the blogosphere. So if you're reading this, consider yourself tagged and add your own in the comment section!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Catholic Identity Musing #1

I referenced a number because I suspect I'm going to be covering this topic frequently. Last night's "Coming Home" session still has me thinking about Catholic identity. I got the sense from that nun that she didn't think much of what Rome had to say about many things. She even boldly confessed that although she can't make a formal statement about what she believes regarding taking communion if there are sacramental conflicts, she pushes her view every chance she gets within small groups.

So basically, she is rebelling against authority, which isn't so unusual given her age and the cultural mores of her day. I understand, but I so badly wanted to say, "So how have such attitudes helped the Church? How has such attitudes helped other Catholics who want to do the right thing?" She talked about an "informed conscience" but I have some very serious concerns about people who think that something isn't a problem simply because they deem it so.

I'm still reading the book, The New Faithful by Colleen Carroll. Thank God for this girl. It has comforted me greatly to discover that others are seeking orthodoxy and are frustrated with the "anything goes" approach to religion. Standards exist for a reason. They bring unity, security, and they bring peace to the soul.

I liken it to a child's desire for discipline. Sure, they may yell and put up a struggle; but ultimately they want the boundaries. We feel safe when we know what they are and God has certainly placed boundaries in our faith for good reason. Not that I think we need to understand everything - far from it. There is a mystery to our faith and "faith" is very much a part of it. How can we ever comprehend the incomprehensible? God is vast, like a huge ocean of holiness and grace, love and judgement, sacrifice and benevolence...I could go on and on. Jesus said if we know Him, we will know His Heavenly Father. I am thrilled to see the Catholic church focusing more than ever on knowing Him. And I believe we can know Jesus Christ more through the Sacraments.

I'm still thinking and feeling my way through this. I joined a Catholic forum today and look forward to discussing such topics there. I need input or at the very least, something to wash out the bad taste left in my mouth from last night's milquetoast session with the Nun-Who-Also-Is-A-Minister.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

A Nun Apologizes - Tonight's "Coming Home" Program

Whew. I'm not sure where to start.

Tonight our topic was "Informed Conscience" and the speaker is a nun. She was in her sixties and dressed in the typical dark, hum-drum outfits that have become common for modern nuns. It sounded like she lived alone. As soon as she said that she was "pleasantly surprised" by how good today's Mass was, led by Pope Benedict, I knew she was likely a liberal. As she pontificated about how one makes a moral choice, I couldn't help but feel as though I was on the moss-covered rocks of Slippery Rock in Arizona, and there was nothing left but to keep falling back into the stream.

She admitted she didn't subscribe to our diocese Catholic newspaper because she thought they showed "poor journalism." I've not had the chance myself to read this newspaper, but I suspect they lean right. She sang the praises of another publication that I've seen referred to as liberal. She said they were but she liked their perspective.

She also said something to a man who is my age that I found surprising. She apologized for her generation's role in not being more thorough with their religious formation. Gee. Ya think?

I couldn't help but ask the question about Catholic identity. If this person is choosing whatever according to their conscience and that one over there chooses differently - then what does it mean to be Catholic? Are there any standards at all or is it still "anything goes?"

She admitted that the Roman Catholic church is comprised of a diverse group of people. What makes us Catholic (in her eyes) is the fact we have a Pope. But it sounded as though even some church teachings (that reflect the Catechism) are still up for grabs.

I'm still trying to figure out some things. I find it sad that those who want to stick to their "Informed Conscience" guns are muddying the waters for those who are trying to return to the church but finding no net.

I can't wait for Sunday. I'm going to attend my first Latin Mass ever and am really looking forward to it. I think I need a good dose of Latin.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

"The Father Factor" of Catholicism

One of the aspects of Catholicism that I had forgotten about is what I call "The Father Factor."

Catholicism isn't for wimps. Don't expect to be a whiner and get away with it for long, especially if you're around a Mother Angelica type. I was raised by a bunch of those types. I remember a nun watching impassively as a fellow student slammed me in the face with her notebook. It was as though she was saying, Look, kid. It doesn't get any easier in the real world. In fact, this is your real world. You have a choice but I'm not gonna be the one to save your sorry little butt...

I learned self-sufficiency from that nun and many others. Yes, we are to entreat the throne, yada, yada - but we also were taught that we were accountable and responsible for our choices in life. God forgives but God also requires penance. And somehow, we instinctively know this is just and right.

I've been softened from the years I was involved in non-Catholic churches. Many of those churches have very low standards regarding the Christian life. "Feeling led by the Spirit" to do certain things often were thinly veiled attempts to justify fleshly desires. Complaining about suffering was often rationalized as "the devil's" attempts to steal our joy. And what of Christ, who suffered and rose again? That suffering wasn't a main topic - not amid all the cultural flotsam and jetsam floating against my mind during many a Sunday sermon.

Catholicism makes you work for it. It makes you work for your growth, your depth, and the salvation of your soul. It isn't easy but as our wise Sisters and Brothers have told us, neither was it easy lugging a cross on your back. Catholicism does this because it ultimately knows that the deeper you die to your own will, the more deeply you will share in the joy of Christ. There is a purification process and Catholicism is the only religion I know of that not only submits to it, but eagerly embraces it. That's saying something, especially in the midst of a self-serving attitude that has slipped into many, many churches.

If you're Catholic and have been faithful since you've been a child, you are more blessed than you can possibly realize. You've been Fathered. And for those who kick against the goads of that fathering, may you be led into an understanding that it's all for our good. Because our Heavenly Father loves us more than we will ever be able to comprehend.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Thoughts on Chastity

A few nights ago, I shared with my husband a desire to reach out to younger women regarding relationships with the opposite sex. I have ideas, as usual, and am trying to find God's direction in all of it. I know there was a reason He has led me back to the Catholic faith. And it just may be to encourage and support young women in their search for love and the connection in loving and respecting themselves.

Years ago, I was a relationship/dating coach for single women over forty. Once you turn 35, it becomes more difficult to meet singles of the opposite sex. My own experience of navigating those waters helped as I encouraged women to first love themselves and understand what they wanted. Then they could make the necessary changes in their life to provide more opportunities for love to happen.

I believe firmly that God is the sine quo non of love. Without Him, love is fleshly and soon turns sour; which to me is not love at all. When I gave my workshops, I was quick to tell my audience that I was a Christian and that my husband was a gift from God, one who came after years of prayer. Not only did I pray about my darling man - I prayed for him. And when I say I prayed for him, I mean both praying that God would bring me to a man who would love me as He wanted me to be loved and praying specific prayer needs for my future husband. (Which was a wild experience. When you pray for someone's needs whom you've never met, it does tend to make them more real...)

Many single women have not yet drunk the Water of Life. If the single woman seeks fulfillment outside of herself before approaching God - she will quickly be disappointed. Believe me, I know. A consecrated life far outweighs the deceptive thrills of an unconsecrated one. I am forever grateful to my Lord that He got me at such a young age. However, the current younger generation have much more to overcome.

Although the issue of sex was evident in some movies and magazines, it did not permeate our society as thoroughly as it does now. Our poor young men and women are just inundated with sex from every angle - and now we have the internet to help it reach even more.

For a woman to remain chaste until either she marries or dies is of vital importance for our world. That may sound grandiose, but I think not. Over the years, I've observed what happens when a woman loses respect for herself. It all begins with the understanding that as women, we were created with reverence and created to be cherished. Women desire security and it often is played out in the bedroom, which is unfortunate. It should first be played out on our knees as we seek our Heavenly Father who loves us so much and requires our obedience.

I am finding something I never thought I'd feel for Catholicism - pride. Yes, pride. Pride is a good thing when it is ascribed to a worthy person, group or ideal. Throughout my years serving within non-Catholic churches, there were very few times when sex was discussed in a real way. Over the past few years, though, we've seen the popularity of movements such as "True Love Waits" or the Catholic "purity" programs. This is good.

But within the Catholic church, none of that type of teaching is new. I can remember as a little girl being taught about abstinence and chastity. We also had the towering figure of the Virgin Mary to make sure we really got it. The ideal of chastity and purity was part and parcel of being Catholic. And I'm not oblivious to the attempts by secular society to thwart such things because there is an undeniable attraction that men have toward women who won't let them act upon their impulses.

St. Augustine of Hippo said something that I'd like to have printed on a t-shirt. (Honestly, wouldn't that be a hoot for a middle-aged woman to wear?!!)

Women preserve chastity, which men will not preserve...

This is why it is so important for women to hold this standard. It was given to us. It is ours to preserve.

Because when it comes down to it, no one else is responsible for our own choices and our bodies - except us.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Latin Mass

I've been battling a cold for the past few days, which usually consists of drinking lots of water, sleeping more than usual, and watching TV, which in this case, was online reruns of the series, "Heroes." (Which I ended up liking.)

So, now I'm feeling better and up and running with thoughts on Catholicism.

I wasn't raised with the Latin Mass. I was born when Vatican II came along. But I'm really starting to investigate this ancient rite and curious about why others are attracted to it. Fr. Z's blog often talks about the Latin Mass and all the minutiae details involved. (I have no idea why it's important for the priest to hold the chalice with his forefinger and thumb pressed together.)

I'm so glad he mentioned the group, Una Voce. This is an organization that supports and promotes the Latin Mass, or Tridentine Mass. I've also heard it referred to as the Extraordinary Form. I think there are a few reasons why it's become popular again. First, there seems to be a great number of parishes who celebrate Mass in a very weird way. I've seen some things on YouTube that look like an old episode of "The Gong Show." Anything goes, it seems, as long as you have a priest willing to allow a few dance numbers into the processional. Why not?

Secondly, because there is such a hodge-podge of weirdness, the Latin Mass is a potent centralizing force. It seems to be helping people get centered on what has always been vital within the Mass - adoration of the Paschal sacrifice.

My large, metropolitan city has only has one church that celebrates the Latin Mass. So, for a city that has almost 700,000 folks, we have at least one place they can go to hear one. We also have an SSPX church but from what I've gathered, those guys aren't recognized by the Vatican.

If you'd like to leave a comment about why you love the Latin Mass so much, I would truly appreciate it. I'm still in my learning curve, here, and am honestly curious about the love for this type of Mass. I think I'm starting to get it, but I know I won't really know until I attend one for myself.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Joys of Orthodoxy

I'm just jotting down this thought to explore later. Still reading Colleen Carroll's book on how Gen X'ers are attracted to orthodoxy as opposed to a more liberal approach to the faith.

One woman said, "Why do I feel so full? Because I have found something that demanded everything from me."

The soul triumphs over the flesh, by the grace of God. That is beautiful stuff.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Rational Smashin' All

That WaPo article that I blogged about below has stayed with me, particularly the comments that spoke about being "rational." As though a devotional religious life is anything but rational.

They may have a point, but as someone else said - who cares? Here's what I find ironic:

Many people who accuse devout Catholics as being "irrational" with their beliefs have no trouble chasing after all the other Eastern mysticism that is out there. (Buddhism, Eastern meditation, Yoga, etc., etc.)

There is, for sure, a love of the mind in our world. We look at those who have alphabet letters after their names as being somewhat ahead of the game. We assume they're so much smarter and as a result, so much more spiritually mature. Some of us already know this isn't true, but still - others will sneer at a poor woman's simple faith while lauding a professor.

You know, the more I think of it, the more I realize that all of my heroes are or were simple people. Simple people who loved the Lord and served Him with all of the heart. Does that mean we need to check our brains at the door? Of course not - but tell me, why such a focus on the rational to begin with?

Since I'm an analytical gal anyway, I'll bite. ;-)

I think people feel comfortable when they think they've got God figured out. The scary thing is when they realize He is much, much bigger than they ever thought. It's an awesome experience when you realize that He is big. So monumentally huge. And yet He in His infinite love gave us His only Son so that we may have full communion with Him now and forever. He also loves us so much that He's willing to allow us to play in our brains for a bit, trying to understand concepts like eternity and sacrifice. But then through the Holy Spirit, He will swoop in and leave us totally cuckoo with love and adoration for Him. Just ask St. Teresa of Avila. That woman was mad with love for Him.

But we're so afraid of looking too religious, too devout. What will people think? She's lost her mind for sure...try to keep her away from sharp objects... Yah, yah.

The older I get, the more I am prefering devout over someone thinking I'm so rational. Come to think of it, rational can get real boring, real fast.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

My Two Pennies on WaPo Story

I try not to duplicate what others are talking about, but cannot help but comment on the WaPo article on younger people finding contentment with an orthodox Catholic faith.

We Live It Everyday

Carolina of The Crescat pointed out the nasty comments regarding the article. My, goodness. Someone (or some One) seems to have poked a few too hard. One of my favorite responses:

RedMeg wrote:
I'm floored by some of the comments on this thread. Has it ever occurred to you nay-sayers that those of us who joyfully embrace the teachings of the Catholic Church did so after much THOUGHT and RESEARCH? That it is *not* necessary to check one's brain at the door to believe and live out what the Church teaches?? Good grief, my husband would be the first to attest that I am not a meek, unquestioning little sheep. I have tested and tried the Faith, and rather than finding it lacking, I have found it very, very good. It is the truth, and that is a very compelling and attractive thing.

And while we're at it, most of the Catholics have large families are doing *that* thoughtfully, too. We have mortgages and grocery bills like everyone else, and we do take those into account when deciding (yes, deciding!) when/if to have that next baby. The fact that we do so without rupturing the God-designed connection between sex and fertility doesn't somehow make us irresponsible breeders. Sheesh.

Amen, RedMeg, whoever you are.

I cannot tell you how all of this amuses me to no end. I can't help but laugh at the seriousness of some of these people as they try in vain to defend their lackluster faith.

If it hasn't been evident before now, I am a conservative through and through. That means I'm into: modesty, personal responsibility, no freeloading from the government, (while we're at it, small government), absolute truth, hard work, marriage between a husband and wife, pro-life, family, chastity, celibacy before marriage, respecting authority, and last but not least - benchmarks from the church.

I mentioned on Fr. Z's blog that I was reading Colleen Carroll's book, The New Faithful: Why Young Adults are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy. You know why there's an attraction? Because more and more younger people are tired of the soft religion that demands nothing from them. Sliding into a church "when you feel like it" and doing good "when you feel like it" is nothing more than selfish humanism with a religious sticker slapped on it. You're not doing God any favors. In fact, you're doing yourself a grave disservice with such a lazy attitude toward things that are holy and divine.

I can't help but wonder if some of the commenters on that article have the slightest clue about holiness. I daresay that when one is truly in the presence of Jesus Christ - The Way, The Truth, and The Life - you can't afford to be blithe and laissez-faire about such a thing. Nope.

Believe me, you'll be wrapping your forehead against the pew and asking for forgiveness over, and over again...

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Sacred Music

This is just gorgeous. Loved the huge stained glass window in the background.

Tchaikovsky's "Hymn to the Trinity" at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis

And another...

Rossini's "Domine Deus" sung by Scott Kennebeck

And finally, if this isn't a perfect benediction for the day, I don't know what is...

Otche Nash (Our Father) - Bulgarian National Choir

Prayer Request: For my Stepson in the Army

My stepson is stationed in Iraq. I can't imagine the situations he has already endured but I do know he has recently seen things that has truly bothered him. He didn't go into detail and my husband didn't ask.

War is a very hard issue. I can't imagine the difficulty that many Christians have with participating in it, wondering if they are in the right or not. I do believe there are times when war is necessary to overcome evil.

My stepson is not Catholic but attended a non-denominational church when he was here in the States. If you could send up a prayer for my dear stepson who is struggling with what he is experiencing, I would appreciate it. It's also probably a good prayer for all of our men and women in service, especially our Christian brothers and sisters. Greater is He in us than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)

Monday, April 7, 2008

Magnificent Churches

Fr. Dwight Longenecker continues his observations on wondrous church architecture. Start at his entry on April 5 (My Favorite Churches) and work your way up. Just stunning.

Basilica de Sacre Coeur, Montmartre, France

A Spiritual De-Militarized Zone

In 1991, my family was able to visit my brother and his family in Seoul, Korea for Christmas. My brother was serving in the Army and they had a special program to bring families together during the holiday. We had a wonderful tour of the country and had the opportunity to visit the DMZ, otherwise known as the Korean De-Militarized Zone.

The border between North and South Korea is approximately 2.5 miles long and is the heaviest armed border in the world. It is serious stuff. When we approached the area, my brother told us, "The most 'gung-ho' of the gung-ho in the Army serve here. They live, breathe, and sleep Army." After being there, I understood why. There is an agreement between the North and South that they may have their guards patrol within the DMZ but they cannot cross the MDL (Military Demarcation Line). We visited a building that housed meetings between the two countries, the Joint Security Area. This was considered neutral ground for the two governments although witness to many attempts by both to tangle in the brinkmanship that often occurs between warring factions.

Why bring up the DMZ? Because I am starting to see a relationship between the "warring factions" of our world and the need for a separation to enter into the Holy and Mysterious. I am realizing that there is a growing thirst for assigning the proper reverence to things that are Holy. There is a desire to acknowledge that Jesus Christ is more than the next "Feel Good Guy" but that He is God Incarnate, the Light of the World, the Living Sacrifice, and the Word Made Flesh.

After years of being involved with casual worship and even more casual teaching, I understand the desire. We live in a secular world and much of this humanistic secularism has crept into our churches. Within most churches, there is no acknowledgment of the Holy or Divine. I say this to not so much condemn these churches but to remind them that something very, very precious was lost. When we lose sight of the Holy and Divine, our spiritual eyes grow dim. When we cannot see the Truth of what God has given to us, we cannot consume and imbibe it. And when we cannot receive the Bread of Life, we starve our souls.

We need to eat but eat with understanding.

In light of some of the issues I've been studying with our Catholic faith, I am amazed (although I shouldn't be) by the yearning to return to a more traditional celebration of the Mass. Latin Mass has become popular again. (Who knew?) And now, taking communion while kneeling is is being seriously discussed.

On Fr. Z's site (yes, this man is definitely required reading for me), he says the following regarding kneeling for communion. I've added a few comments and emphasized parts I wholeheartedly agree with. His entire entry is so good that I hope I can find a more thorough exposition of it in other areas on his blog.

A note about Communion rails and definition of the liturgical space of a church.

St. Augustine of Hippo (+430) explained that Christ speaks in every word of Scripture. Sometime Christ is speaking with the voice of the Head of the Body which is the Church, sometimes He speaks as the Body. At times He speaks as Christus Totus, the Body with the Head, together.

This is a useful way to understand in a healthy way something about the outward expression of "active participation" during Holy Mass.

As we have said on WDTPRS a zillion times, true "active participation" begins with our baptism, which places a new character on our soul and makes us members of the Church. As John Paul II expressed in his letter on St. Augustine, the Church is not just Christ’s Mystical Body, it is Christ’s Mystical Person. (So much for the boring, impersonal modern-day architecture...)

Moreover, the true Actor of the sacred action of Holy Mass is Jesus Christ the High Priests, raising words and deeds to the Father. Sometimes He acts and speaks in the person of the alter Christus the priest (Head), sometimes in the words and actions of the congregation (Body), sometimes when the priest and people act and speak together (Christus totus). Christ makes our hands and voices His own in the sacred action, but He is the actor and speaker. (Alleluia! And if I may add, His Body is indeed "broken" when they come before Him. By His Sacrifice are we made whole.)

It may be that the Novus Ordo manifests this reality somewhat more clearly. The older form of Mass may demonstrate more clearly how the priest as the head of the liturgical body can himself alone speak for the whole.

However, the building of the church itself (which is a sacramental building, a sacred and consecrated place) also manifests this three-fold distinction. (Amen and amen. He beautifully explains why this is vital. If indeed there is a Holy Communion, a true divine exchange between the believer and Christ - then should it not be represented in a sacramental building?)

This was such a joy to read this morning! Very exciting!

It isn't so much a surprise to me to discover that more people want (or should I say demand?) a more serious approach to celebrating the Lord's Supper. I think people know instinctively that there needs to be a veil of separation, that there was a Holy of Holies. Who are we to say that because we now have computers and Lear jets, we don't need such things?

After deeper consideration of these issues, I daresay we need such things more than ever.

Sunday, April 6, 2008


It didn't take long for God to test me.

Today has been a very emotional day. On one hand, I was able to meet with my father for the first time in almost three months to share with him face-to-face my decision to "come home" to the Catholic church. I excitedly shared with him my latest discoveries, the books I've found and also the many helpful internet sites. He was very happy and we fell into our usual conversation on church doctrine and current controversies. We even touched upon the topic of forgiveness.

Little did I know I would be required by God to give it to my father in a very short amount of time.

My father has either misplaced or thrown out something that was very, very precious to me. Something connected with my deceased mother and I immediately was thrown into a tizzy over it. This object was something I planned on retrieving on my next visit and he had assured me during our last visit months ago that he would keep it and promised not to throw anything away before consulting me.

The scenario was a perfect set-up by our Heavenly Father. He does this, you know. He will take whatever you hold near and dear and then ask you to lay it on the altar. To paraphrase Eleanor Roosevelt, the thing you think you cannot do is exactly what you cannot do - apart from the grace of God.

I heard, for instance, that Corrie Ten Boom was given the opportunity to extend forgiveness - in person, to one of the guards of the concentration camp where she had been imprisoned, and she did. The guard, stunned that someone who had suffered so much evil (and his part in it), was humbled beyond words. She said it was nothing less than the grace of God flowing through her. He eagerly accepted the grace as he poured out his heart, telling her he was now a believer in Christ. They embraced.

I thought of Peter as he denied Christ. I thought of Jesus Christ and how He must have felt when he heard the vehement denials by Peter. After all they had been through together and yet Peter did not want to be associated with Him.

Little did I realize I was prophesying to myself when I said this to my father regarding forgiveness:

"When people jump from church to church because they are offended, they are refusing Jesus' command to forgive. That offense is nothing less than the flesh's refusal to die. 'I have been crucified in Christ and it is no longer I who live...' When we insist on holding onto our grudges, we are in essence saying that the vindication of our flesh is of greater importance than obeying the words and example of Jesus Christ."

We must forgive if we are to be called children of God. There is no alternative.

And so I cried on the way home from my visit as I died to the flesh once again. I prayed the Rosary and asked Mary if she'd put in a good word for me and bestow grace. That which was so precious to me may be gone forever but the lesson perhaps was much more important.

His love for me and you is an everlasting love and He will do what it takes to remove any obstacles from receiving it - as long as we submit to His purification process. Amen and amen.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Priest-Knight, Warrior-Poet?

As I voyage deeper into the wide world of Catholic blogs, I started to hear about a Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, or as he's affectionately called, "Father Z." He is the moderator of the Catholic Online Forum and the ASK FATHER Question Box. (The all-caps are from his own site. I was tempted to add "OR ELSE!" afterward but thought better of it. He might be keeping records and I need all the help I can get at this point.)

I can see why he is so popular. First, he's a smart guy. A really, really smart guy. Second, he knows his stuff regarding All Things Catholic. The blog Sancte Pater had a recent entry on why Father Z's blog is required reading.

I'm starting to get it.

One of the things I remembered from my childhood was the almost other-worldliness of priests. I didn't understand the celibacy thing and wondered what they did with all their time if they didn't have kids to correct. Little did I know. Most of the priests I knew then would visit occasionally our little classrooms and we would immediately snap to attention. It wasn't until I was older that I started to understand the rigorous training they must complete in order to wear the collar.

And so it was with great enjoyment that I read one of Fr. Z's most recent entries:

An Interesting Evening

As I read it, I thought about the Priest as modern-day knight. The Samurai had to master Ikebana, the art of flower arrangement, as well as the art of the sword. The Samurai, fierce warriors that they were, brought culture to Japan during the Kamakura period (1192 - 1333). Isn't it interesting that during that time, the Knights of Malta were gearing up for battle? The Knights were first known as the Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem. They were a unique blend of mercy and judgement, defending the defenseless, aiding those who were in need of medical help, and becoming a military group fighting the encroaching threat of the Ottoman Empire.

Although the vocation for priesthood has taken some major hits, I'm happy to see that many young men are still responding to the call of God for this service. And in a perfect world, they'd be taught how to handle a sword.

Love Gregorian Chants

These monks are amazing.

And yet another one.

Friday, April 4, 2008

"Call No Man Father"

This man was definitely a Father... (the late Fr. Jim Willig, 1951-2001)

I know what Catholic Answers has to say about this oft-asked question. It was one of the first issues tackled when I was with a Christian college ministry and they felt they needed to rid some of us Catholics of our erroneous beliefs.

I've been giving this one a bit of thought. I admit when I met with the associate pastor of the parish I'm now attending, it felt weird to address someone as "Father" again. Is it offensive to God? What to do?

So I prayed about it and gave it over to Him. I think I received an answer last night.

In the Bible, some of the more influential, obedient men in the Old Testament are called "Fathers in the Faith." They were men who went through extraordinary experiences while their faith was tested and purified. Abraham and Moses were two such men.

I suddenly saw the priests as being "fathers in the faith." They, too, are imperfect and battling sin each day. But they have made a commitment to follow God with all of their heart, mind, soul, and strength. They have applied themselves to rigorous training in order to bear the awesome responsibility of leading believers in the faith. They deserve my respect and submission as long as it is not directly contradicting Scripture. (Canon Law is something I have to tackle another time. Baby steps, steps...)

I call a male believer in Christ "Brother" and a female believer, "Sister." We are a family. In a family, there are roles of authority. Would it not then to make sense to have "Fathers" and "Mothers?" Of course. At least this makes perfect sense to me.

I also thought about the attitude of the heart which Jesus confronted in Matthew 23:2-8. Jesus said:

"But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels {of their garments.} They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men." (Matt. 23: 5-7)

If that is the definition of someone who is addressed by the name "Father," then I can tell you in all certainty there are plenty of Protestant and non-denominational leaders who have this exact attitude when dealing with people. They demand an acquiescence from those around them and I've personally seen some carry the "Do-You-Know-Who-I-Am?" card and flash it as often as possible. I know this is not what our Lord is desiring in His followers.

So although some non-Catholic pastors may criticize the Catholic faith for having "Fathers" and such, I do not see much of a difference in the way they act, either.

I have seen some priests act more egocentric than Madonna. But I've also known plenty who have been humble and contrite before God, taking seriously their vocation. I know there are plenty of Fr. Jim's in the world.

This Made Me Freakin' Cry

I found an amazing website through "The Crescat" blog:

Catholics Come Home

Okay. The guy who "welcomes" visitors to the page is entirely too handsome, but aside from that - what genius! Very easy to navigate and the "commercials" just blew me away. It was the "Movie" one that made me cry - and convicted me.

Scroll down to see the new commercials.

Coming Home Program & Thoughts

Last night was good. We have six people in the group, all coming back to the Catholic faith for various reasons. I was the most excited, of course. Since we agreed that what we spoke about was confidential, I can't name specifics. But I am very happy to be in a place where it's okay to ask questions and admit you're unsure about the Church's teachings on a specific issue.

I think the issue I most struggle with is the whole thing with Mary. I left the Catholic church when I was 20. I had joined an Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship group in college and one of the leaders challenged me in my faith.

Although I was raised Catholic, I never made a real connection that Jesus Christ truly died for my sins and that it was a personal call to me to admit I was a sinner and ask for His forgiveness that was freely offered. And so I found myself having dinner with the leader one night and afterward, praying the "Sinner's Prayer." A raging fire was lit within my soul that was further flamed by all of the wonderful books I found on the Christian life.

In the midst of the Evangelical training I was receiving, I developed a strong suspicion toward anything that looked like Marian worship. I am still unsure how to reconcile my belief that Mary was not born without sin and was not conceived in some special way.

I do agree that many Protestants don't think of Mary enough. Non-denoms do it even less. I also am believing more in God's holiness being imparted and if He chose Mary as the vessel to carry the Word Made Flesh into the world, wouldn't she be sanctified also in a very unique way?

If anyone who has an understanding of Marian theology is reading this - pray that I somehow get it. I want to "get it" if there is something I'm missing. I'm just not fully seeing the picture at this point.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Okay. So I'm Manic.

I swear I'm like a cocaine addict in the middle of a Hollywood party. I can't get enough of these blogs and I know doggone well I have other things I should be doing but at least my taxes are done.

I'm just totally blown away by the blogs. Here are a few things I'm noticing:

1) Ornate photographs showing priestly robes is in.
2) Photographs of nuns and priests are in.
3) The Latin "Ora Pro Nobis" (Pray For Us) underneath a photo of a saint is in.
4) Poking fun at ugly modern church architecture is in.
5) Celebrating the Catholic faith is in.

At the risk of sounding all "when-I-was-your-age" sentimental, I am amazed by the humor, insight, and devotion these bloggers have toward being Catholic and loving (almost) all things Catholic.

Yes, I was not brought up on the internet. So I'll just get that out of the way. However, I do consider myself a lite Geek with a few self-created websites under my belt. I love how the web has linked so many people together. I know I've met my fair share on political and religious blogs and the frequent arts/creative-type online communities.

That last word is key for me right now. I am pretty isolated right now in my journey, which is why the blogs are luring me left and right. But tonight I hope to meet others who are in the same boat. I'm attending a "Coming Home" series for Catholics who are thinking of returning to their faith.

Well, I've already returned, really. I can just see me tonight (jumping around in my seat) - "Yes, I've 'come home' a few weeks ago, been praying the rosary, studying the catechism again, and I already have a blog about it!"

Can anyone say "Type A" personality?

"Come As You Are"

I remember years ago, when I was involved with a non-denominational church, embracing fully their welcoming motto: Come As You Are.

I remember the underlying thoughts behind that phrase. Come as you are, dressed casually in your torn jeans and Depeche Mode t-shirt. Come as you are and be unafraid of any talk of damnation or sin. Come as you are and be comfortable with the popular and talented worship team, the small groups of sci-fi geeks and serious cyclists, the big screen TV's lighting up an impersonal huge auditorium. Settle in for an intelligent discussion of faith and hey! Don't forget to bring your customized cup o' joe in here with you!

Is it just me or have we lost an appreciation for the sacred? Or perhaps lost an appreciation for "scared?"

I remember a class at a Presbyterian church where we watched the video series by R.C. Sprouls called "The Holiness of God." It was scary. God in all His Might and Power. Confronting us. Challenging us. Humbling us. Yep. Scary.

I don't think we're being scared by the right things. I've heard plenty about terrorists and the vile, brutal acts they perpetrate upon society, but what about our Holy God? His Son? The Seraphim? When the Holiness of God is touched, people die. When the Holiness of God passes by, the body can turn to stone. When the Holiness of God comes, the "you are" is left shaking in its boots.

I am filled with joy and not a little terror by the thoughts of where I am being led on my journey. I know I hunger for God once again but this time, it isn't an attempt to bring Him down to my level, but to be lifted up to His.

And that, I know, will be an awesome, terror/joy-filled experience indeed.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Standards, Traditions, and Rituals

I am recognizing that there is a division within the Roman Catholic Church - particularly with the American Catholic Church. The division seems to be between those who think the Church needs to modernize itself and those who think too much modernization is an unacceptable compromise.

I am rooting for the conservatives.

My perspective is colored by many years involved with both Evangelical and non-denominational churches. I can vouch for the fact that their attempts to "relate to the culture" have, in my eyes, failed miserably in bringing the Gospel to the lost. Jesus Christ didn't seem to mind that He was unpopular in His day. Some people mistakenly think that because Jesus Christ chowed down with tax collectors and sinners, He was thumbing His nose at "The Establishment." I strongly disagree.

I believe Jesus Christ was teaching the religious authorities of that day that they needed to recognize that although a sinner is a sinner, that simply judging them and leaving it at that really isn't helping them. He showed how compassion and love pulled them into His Kingdom and then He challenged them to repent and seek to build a relationship with their Heavenly Father.

Jesus' heart was to reach the lost first, not tangle with "The Establishment." But in doing so, He never compromised on The Truth. He presented them with who He was and asked them to follow Him.

The simplicity of the Gospel too often has its foes. St. Paul chastened the Corinthians, "But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity {of devotion} to Christ. (2 Cor. 11:3) However, the words of Jesus Christ are also not easy to hear. There is always the temptation to profane the holy with our own fleshly desires. It is much easier to wrestle with the peripheral than focus on the heart of the matter. It is much easier to ask how one can make a sinner comfortable than challenge he or she on the condition of their soul.

I've noticed over the past few years how many churches have compromised the Gospel. There really is no other way to say it. They've been more concerned with creating a multi-media showroom where Jesus Christ is presented as the New Self-Help Guy instead of adoring Him as the Holy Savior that He is. As a matter of fact, there is very little space given for adoration in many of these churches who are so afraid of offending people.

Which brings me to another book I just picked up: The New Faithful: Why Young Adults are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy by Colleen Carroll. Picture this: sixty college students staying after a church service so a priest could hear their confession. They didn't care how long it would take to wait, they wanted absolution. The book delves into the growing attraction young people have for tradition. And is it any wonder when they've been raised in a culture of moral relativism? They are hungering for absolute truth and praise be to God - The Way, The Truth, and The Life is waiting for them.

They hunger for the Sacraments. The Roman Catholic Church is in such an ideal position to reach out to these young adults. I am realizing that although Vatican II brought about many changes, I don't think the purpose was to so thoroughly modernize the RC Church so it's barely recognizable apart from a Wiccan ceremony. (Forgive me if that is too offensive.) People are hungering for the Sacramental life, for the Incarnate Word of the Living God.

I also was thrilled to find in my library today the book by Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth. I am just becoming acquainted once again with thinking seriously about the Pope and what he has to say. I think it is very profound that the leader of the largest church in the world would choose to write about Jesus Christ for his first book as the Pope. I pray that Pope Benedict XVI has a very long life because I'm sensing that he is just what is needed for the church today.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


After writing the entry below, I realized that a sentence spawned another grouping of thoughts. It has to do with my prayer life.

My prayer life as a young girl was earnest. Attending Catholic schools will do at least one thing and that is instill in the young mind that prayer is necessary. There are Catholic prayers for almost anything and a patron saint usually assigned for almost every human frailty imaginable. However, after years of indoctrination, the truth of these prayers had lost their freshness, their life. They seemed dead to me, which was the beginning of my search for something more.

When I started to attend a Presbyterian Church, I remember hungering for books on developing a strong prayer life. A.W. Tozer, C.S. Lewis, and Jerry Bridges were just a few who immediately whetted my appetite. The more I studied God's Word, the more I hungered for communion with Him. I started to learn about different types of prayers: praise and thanksgiving, petition, intercession, confession, and forgiveness. I pursued all of them with the passion of a hunter searching for his prey. I was doggedly determined to unearth any truths I felt I had missed during my years in the Catholic Church.

I have prayed with pastors for evangelization efforts, couples for their marriages, young people for spiritual direction. I have interceded numerous times and led many intercessory prayer sessions. I participated in countless others. But after all those years of prayer, my prayer life eventually dwindled to almost non-existence after my last ministerial position. I can honestly confess that there were hard feelings I had to deal with. After 18 years of serving the Lord within the ministry, at the end of 2000, I was done. I tried to keep going, but found I couldn't. If the writer of Hebrews was exhorting us to run the race with perseverance, then I had simply collapsed on the track. I'm sure some wonderful saints carried me out on a stretcher.

I married in 2001. Although I had tried to restart my prayer life with a variety of tools, nothing seemed to click. The engine just wouldn't turn. I finally gave up and would send up prayers occasionally, begging God to please ignite my heart once again.

So I say all that to say this: it's taken seven years for my heart to be touched again by the flame of God. The light is small, but it has been lit. And I'm just as surprised as anyone that it began with praying the Rosary.

Amazing Mary, Full of Grace

It was Thursday, March 6 when I heard the news that my sister-in-law's father had passed away. My prayers were immediately with her, knowing the pain and sorrow she was feeling since my own mother had passed away a year ago. I headed to a store to buy a condolence card, not sure if I was going to be able to make the two-hour drive in for the funeral, especially with a large snow storm heading in our direction. But I wanted her to know I was thinking of her.

On Friday, March 7, a door opened. I didn't know a door was opening at that moment; which is usually the case when something that we don't understand is born anew in our life. It is only in reflection that we realize with surprise, Oh, that's when it began...

On Friday, March 7, 2008, I prayed the Rosary for the first time in almost thirty years.

When I look at it, I can attribute it to nothing less than the grace of God. I remembered sitting at my desk with this overwhelming need to pray the Rosary for my sister-in-law and just being stunned. Stunned. Why am I feeling impressed to pray through a bunch of beads repetitively when I had renounced such a ritual back when I was 20? Why was I feeling this urge when I had decided that such rituals were close to idolatry decades ago?

All I knew at that moment was that I felt I should do it. I felt "prompted by the Spirit" as some of my Christian brothers and sisters would say. And aside from the fact that some may question the validity of praying the Rosary, the bottom line was that I was feeling prompted and my spirit knew better than to ignore it. And that was how I ended up kneeling at the bed, holding the rose-scented beads of a rosary given to my mother from her niece who brought them back from the Vatican; murmuring the ancient prayers.

I will honestly tell you that although I was praying the Rosary, I wasn't involved with it wholeheartedly. I was praying with a "I-hope-this-is-actually-accomplishing-something" attitude. I was uncertain, full of both doubt and incredulity. How on earth did a woman who had led so many Bible studies within a non-denominational church and involved in so many ministries, come to this?

She came to it by grace. She came to it by trust.

After I prayed it, I felt as though I had obeyed something but not quite comprehending what it could be.

Not too long after that, I received a call from one of my first cousins, who is just incredibly smart but incredibly full of anxiety. Much too much for her age. After talking to her, I ended up doing an internet search for Catholic sites that could help her. Now mind you, at this time I was in the midst of my own private resistence against the pull toward coming home. Still, I found a few good sites that I thought would encourage her and sent them on. Then I felt it again, a prompting to pray the Rosary for my cousin. This time, I went to a local parish and entered the sanctuary. I pulled down the kneeler and began to pray.

I was surprised at how quickly praying the Rosary went for me. It felt good after I finished. The silence of the church seemed to affirm that what was done, was done. Prayers had been heard. Petitions granted. Strength and courage released.

This was the beginning of my praying the Rosary, which I am now doing almost everyday. We have a radio station in town that broadcasts Mother Angelica praying the Rosary with her sisters from 7:30-8:00 AM. Before, my mornings were rather meandering and unorganized. Now I get up easily and look forward to starting my day with prayer. I am still uncertain of where my spirit is in this whole process, but I am trusting that God has led me here and given me the grace to pray something that my mind does not fully understand.

And I'm starting to suspect more and more, that the Virgin Mary is behind all of it. :-)