Saturday, May 31, 2008

A Shout-Out to Timothy at Christian Apologetics Society

You disabled the comments on your site, so consider this my comment. Well done! Saur♥Kraut has her work cut out for her!

For anyone else reading, Timothy is "fisking" another blogger's entry regarding Papal Infallibility. His entry/response is here. (A link to her site is included)

I also added Timothy's blog to my blogroll. I'm hoping he enables comments again. His entries are well worth the time to absorb, especially if you're into apologetics. If his response to Saur♥Kraut is any indication, his arguments are well-grounded, respectful (even when an undercurrent of presumption and attitude were thrown in at him), and good-natured. Rare finds when you get into either politics or religion on the internet.

I'm looking forward to reading more!

The Reclamation of Holiness

Since returning to the Catholic church, I've been noticing a new desire for holiness. Or perhaps a better way to put it would be a new recognition of holiness.

The Hebrew word for "holy" is qodesh, a noun. It means apartness, holiness, sacredness, separateness, set-apartness. I have been seeing this distinction grow within the Roman Catholic church, even within the past two months. Everywhere I look, I see a return to holiness or a desire to learn more.

There is Pope Benedict XVI who gave the Holy Eucharist to people who knelt before him and received communion on the tongue for the Feast of Corpus Christi. There was the recent broadcast of Card. Castrillon Hoyos ordaining priests for the FSSP in Lincoln, Nebraska during the Extraordinary Rite. (Fr. Z has some gorgeous photos) There is the recent book by Colleen Carroll called The New Faithful:Why Young Adults Are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy. Finally, I see it with my own eyes as I attend the Tridentine Mass and notice how many people are in attendance, including a good number of younger people.

Recently, I listened to an archived broadcast of the radio program "The Journey Home" with host and founder, Marcus Grodi. He was interviewing Rosalind Moss. I had never heard of her before but was immediately captured by her story. Born and raised in a Jewish home, Rosalind ended up joining the Evangelical church, and then finally became a Catholic in 1995. What touched me was something she said about nuns.

She said she remembered clearly the day she heard that nuns were allowed to shorten their habits from the ground to shoulder-length. She felt a pang of loss. Even though she was Jewish, she thought, "They are here to change the world for God and now the world has changed them."

Recently, Rosalind Moss announced that she received permission from the Archbishop of St. Louis, Raymond L. Burke, to start a new community of sisters with a focus on evangelism. And they will be wearing floor length habits.

I've been wearing a head covering now to Mass for a little over a month. I know that it has helped me in many ways. First, I do believe in the Biblical foundation for it established by 1 Corinthians 11. Secondly, I like how it distinguishes a demarcation between my secular life and worship. I know that for many years, I believed that my whole day should be a prayer to God. I certainly pray to Him throughout the day, but in coming together with a community of believers, I now realize I need touchstones to settle my spirit, to allow me to realize I am in a holy place that requires a different approach.

So much of our culture is casual. "Casual Fridays" for many workplaces have become normal attire throughout the rest of the week. Children more often will address adults by their first names. Lack of manners and etiquette is, sadly, too common. There's even been a decline in respecting those in authority such as law enforcement officials.

Recognizing that there is a time and a place for everything, I believe more people crave an obvious embrace of ritual that sets apart that which is special, uncommon, and important. We set aside time to celebrate special holidays. Annual traditions knit together families and provide beautiful memories that reconnect us with our loved ones. We look forward to such events and mark them by doing something different.

I feel this when I now attend church. Before, I attended churches in large, dull rooms that could be used for a variety of purposes. Need a spot to have the kids play indoor dodge ball? Or how about a graduation party? Just make sure the room is back in place for Sunday worship. Now I attend church in a building that is specifically used for worship. There is a specific way I enter into the building and a specific position I take. I sit in many places but in church, sitting is imbued with my focus on God. And I don't kneel in too many places but do so on Sunday morning.

Holiness is acknowledged by certain articles such as a nun's habit. What bothered me when nuns no longer wore their habits was that I couldn't tell who was a nun and who wasn't. I didn't know how to address them since there were no visual clues. This disappointed me and caused me a certain amount of distress. My parents raised me to respect my elders and address them by their proper titles, but how could I do so if I didn't know they were either a nun or a priest?

We need the outward symbols because they remind us there are places and times for holiness to be acknowledged. This is why I was thrilled when I heard Rosalind Moss explain why her sisters were going to be wearing a full habit. It's what thrills me when I see Mother Angelica and her sisters wearing the full habit. I can give them respect and rejoice in knowing that they have recognized our need for holiness.

Because it's tough to get to any destination without the signs.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Roman Catholic Womenpriests Movement Claim Bogus Support

I caught this recent entry on Fr. Z's blog. (Get out your bells, books, and candles! Canada: another attempted ordination) I commented a few times before realizing I should just head on over to my own neck o' the woods and continue my thoughts.

The group is Roman Catholic Womenpriests and they're mighty agitated by the latest Vatican decree that any bishop ordaining women as priests would be excommunicated along with the women. If you read this group's response, you'd see a multitude of presumptions and failed reasoning. One of the erroneous conclusions in this press release has to do with the percentage of Catholics they claim as supporting ordaining women.

Here is the excerpt in question:

In obedience to Jesus, we are disobeying an unjust law. The Catholic Church teaches that a teaching or law of the church is authoritative only if it is “received” by the sensus fidelium, the community of faith. If the community of faith does not accept the law, it has no effect on us. All people have a moral obligation to disobey an unjust law. St. Augustine taught that an unjust law is no law at all. Since 70% of U.S. Catholics favor women’s ordination and a growing majority of Catholics worldwide also favors women’s ordination, we do not “receive” or accept the Church's prohibition against the ordination of women and the church’s continued reliance on sexist metaphors, beliefs and assumptions for denying ordination to women.

I wondered how they arrived at that number - 70%. That's a lot of people. It's enough to make any conservative say, "Hmmm. I suppose I'm in the minority." However, before you go down that road, let's investigate.

Because I rarely trust poll numbers and because I want substantial reasoning for such a bold claim, I hunted for proof. And, I found it in a not-too-surprising place.

The "70%" refers to a poll taken in Boston among Catholics:

Large majorities of Boston-area Catholics say the church should open up the ranks of clergy to women and to noncelibate men, according to a Boston Globe/WBZ-TV poll.

The archdiocese-wide survey of 800 adult Catholics was taken Feb. 4-6 by KRC/Communications Research. The poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

So in other words, the RCW group is trying to pass off 560 Boston Catholics as the entirety of U.S. Catholics to show a majority. Which is preposterous but there you have it.

I may be mistaken, but I get the impression that The Boston Herald leans left when it comes to reporting Catholic news (or is it they bash Catholicism? I often get the two confused.). But at best, the RCW group is being disingenuous with their quote and at worst, diabolically deceptive.

One of the comments on Fr. Z's blog entry asked if these women were so upset by the Roman Catholic Church's position on women in the priesthood, why don't they leave? Good question. Unfortunately, instead of heading over to the nearest Methodist congregation, they've decided to try to be a thorn in the side of Rome.

I wonder when they'll realize that Rome is clothed in armor and their thorns won't do much damage. If only their energy could be channeled toward more productive things for the Kingdom.

What I Love About Catholicism: Recited Prayer

There was a time when I thought recited prayer was a canned response to the grandeur of God. I would dutifully recite The Lord's Prayer in schools and the occasional Hail Mary, but I thought they weren't as good as heartfelt personalized prayer.

Now I can see how my old beliefs were snobbish. I am more grateful than ever for recited prayer. Heartfelt prayer is good, but recitation is also good in another way. With heartfelt prayer, one can easily go off on tangents, and believe me, I'm the Queen of Tangents. I can be talking to someone about a particular topic and then another thought connected to what I was saying will pop into my mind and I'm off and running like an Olympic sprinter.

I recently purchased the 1962 Roman Missal. Inside is a glorious storehouse of prayers. There are prayers for the morning, the evening, and devotions for Communion and Confession. There are blessings for a journey, for bread, candles and eggs. It is just a treasury of recited prayer that has been lifted up to God throughout the decades. They are simply beautiful.

Over the past six years, I have been in a spiritual drought. Although I had both led and taught prayer groups, I found myself in a place where my usual heartfelt prayer could not come forth. I still was digesting my last experience with a ministry, still sifting through my doubts and disappointments. I didn't want to continue to complain to God. He knew my heart. I only continued to ask for His grace to love and forgive, which He has done. But after that, there was nothing. No desire in me to actually pursue prayer which was a bit of a shock to someone who had passionately been involved with prayer for 18 years.

When I prayed the Rosary, I felt as though those beads were a lifeline for me. They were sure and strong, reliable. I felt as though God was using the Rosary at that point to pull me from the confusing waters of worldly thought to His Divine Presence. I was so humbled that all I could do was praise Him over and over again for His mercy.

For many of us, recited prayer is much like the tail of a kite. The kite is my heart, yearning for communion with my God but yet how to reach Him? The recited prayers are like the string. Stirred by the winds of the Holy Spirit, my prayers start short, and then lengthen as my heart-kite sails toward heaven. The string provides a grounding and directs the ascent of my heart.

For those such as myself, this grounding is profound when you have no words to say, when you are weary of trying, when you are so filled with the worries of the world that your mind is racing and you don't know how to stop. Recited prayer gives you a ladder on which to climb. Grabbing one rung at a time, the recited prayers prove to be sturdy, and able to hold your weight while giving you balance.

That's why I love recited prayer.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

So Who Are These Bishops? Vatican Says No to Bishops Ordaining Women As Priests

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican issued its most explicit decree so far against the ordination of women priests on Thursday, punishing them and the bishops who try to ordain them with automatic excommunication.
So who are these bishops who insist on defying Rome? What do they know that I don't know?

At the risk of sounding presumptuous, I cannot help but wonder how much of the Sacrament of Holy Orders they understand (or not). Being called to the priesthood is not a political act. It has nothing to do with the "social norms of the times." It is all about Christ and His Headship over His Church, which is His Body.

There is a hierarchal order that makes up the church. God is immutable and the typography of headship is seen from the very beginning with Adam all the way to Jesus Christ as King of King and Lord of Lords.

It is amazing to me how some of these women who think they should be ordained don't consider that Jesus Christ could have chosen women as some of the twelve apostles if it had been the will of God. Jesus was more than willing to break societal norms during that time. He spoke to a Samaritan woman, He defended a woman who was caught in adultery instead of allowing her to be stoned to death, and He allowed a woman who had a questionable background to touch His feet in adoration.

I don't think Jesus Christ was all that concerned with the "political-correctness" of the day. So I've never bought into that as a reason to ordain women.

In the Old Testament, the High Priest went before God as a mediator between Israel and God. He was making atonement for their sins. Men were chosen for this role. It didn't mean that women had no place in the worship of God. They did and the prayers of many of the Old Testament women changed the course of history. But in my opinion, women were created to conceive and nurture; men were given the authority to govern. Later, Jesus Christ was another High Priest, acting as both mediator and the sacrificial Lamb to be slain.

This isn't to say that women cannot be leaders. I've met some phenomenal women leaders in the church. But the ones that truly impressed me were those who looked at themselves as humble servants, passionately embracing God's plan for their life. They weren't demanding to be acknowledged as a leader. They weren't making lots of noise to gain attention. They simply prayed, recognized God's direction, and followed Him.

I've run into plenty of these type of women who want to be noticed. They often masquerade it as being "progressive" or a desire to bring "justice" into the church. Scratch the surface just a little and you'll often see a woman who is, in her most hidden moments, insecure. A secure woman doesn't need to chase after ordinations or fancy titles in order to be "taken seriously." She knows she is already taken seriously by God. Look at what He has done for women! Such mercy! Such generosity! Such lovingkindness! My heart sings with His praises when I look at what He has done for women and with women throughout the ages.

One of my favorite passages of Scripture is Luke 8:1-3 (ASV) where it says:

"And it came to pass soon afterwards, that he went about through cities and villages, preaching and bringing the good tidings of the kingdom of God, and with him the twelve, and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary that was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out,,and Joanna the wife of Chuzas Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others, who ministered unto them of their substance."
These were women of substance in more ways than one. They had the monetary means to support Jesus Christ and His twelve and followed Him unconditionally. They were just thrilled to be near Him and did everything they could to make His life a little smoother.

This may be why this issue grates on my nerves. Because every time I see a woman insisting that women should be ordained, I think of Mary Magdelene, Joanna, Susanna, and the "many others" who unselfishly ministered to Him without any thought of themselves.

Oh, to have the heart of these women!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Need a Feed?

If you look to the left, you'll see I added an RSS Feed to the site. You should be able to subscribe with whichever Feed management provider you use.

I am thanking The Curt Jester for this after he posted a recent entry about his updated blog design. After he admitted he never visited a blog again if they didn't have a feed, I figured it was time to bite the bullet and add one. I've known about them for years, I just didn't take the time to learn how to do it.

So, all I can say is thank God for Blogger and the relationship FeedBurner has with it. However, I use FeedDemon to keep track of my growing list of subscriptions. Now that I'm checking into it and building my own personalized news feed, I'm thinking, "What the heck took you so long, Mary Rose?!!"

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

"Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier"

Wow. Don't those names just make you feel warm and snuggly inside? Doesn't your spirit yearn to be filled with the Sanctifier? Egads. Just that last sentence made me feel like an automobile that needed to be filled with another quart of Pennzoil.

This is old news but I just learned about it. The Vatican has determined that any baptisms prayed in the name of the "Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier" (or "Creator, Liberator, and Sustainer") are invalid.

When I read these specific terms used for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; I suspected it was to remove any sense of gender from God, His Son, and His Holy Spirit. Make way for the "Gender-Neutral" crowd who is intent on making us all automatons, ready to obey their totalitarian ways. Some believe this type of nonsense is going from "non-inclusive" language to "inclusive." Who do you think is so annoyed by gender-specific names? I don't think it's men. Women have such power to influence but militant feminists keep getting it wrong. They often focus on picking apart an acorn instead of looking forward to a full forest of strong oak trees. Sometimes I think they forget that through the Blessed Virgin Mary, woman was used to bring into the world the most incredible, amazing, no-words-for, revolutionary event that mankind has ever witnessed.

I was thrilled to read what the Vatican said. Even before I read their reasoning, I came to the very same conclusion: removing personal pronouns removes the inherent relationship that our Heavenly Father has with His Son and His Holy Spirit. It dilutes the power of the Holy Trinity. It destroys the eternal interdependent conversation that has, is, and will occur between all three. It is a mystery and not one I totally understand, but I do know there are three distinct aspects of God and relegating Him to gender-free nouns removes the power and mystery of the Holy Trinity.

Quite simply, we were created for relationship. What is so beautiful to me is how we are a reflection of God and His relationship with mankind. God first created Adam, the man. It is the man's DNA that determines the sex of a baby, not the woman's. So right there, God makes it clear that man is the initiator of life, as God is the initiator of creating man.

The son is raised by the father and mother to honor them and grow in maturity, eventually bearing children of his own, thereby imitating what the parents have done. It's a beautiful picture of a healthy family, which leads to healthy communities and a healthy society. It all starts with the family.

Oftentimes, families are identified by their "spirit." I have one from my father's side, although it probably isn't a good one. When I define myself by my father's surname, I'm saying that I'm feisty, stubborn, and quick to leap to the defense of someone. This is a trait that runs in my father's family. It is, to a degree, a "spirit." I was raised by my father and saw this spirit in him, which existed in his own family. With my Italian mother, I received a spirit of compassion and talkativeness. (Yes, talkativeness!) Almost everyone in my mother's family had this spirit.

So the Holy Spirit is a gift that has been given to us, but carries within Him the unique fingerprints of our Heavenly Father and His Son. Through the Holy Spirit, we are able to love as They would have us love.

So to me, it's all in the genes and in my humble opinion, the three words "Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier" only tell of a portion of the the roles God has in our life - but leaves out the most important. Relationship.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day: Thank Our Men and Women Serving Our Country

I lifted this from the site American Treasuries of the Library of Congress:

Joe Rosenthal's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph taken on the Pacific island of Iwo Jima is one of the best-known war images ever made. The Allies invaded the island, more than six hundred miles off the coast of Japan, on February 19, 1945, hoping to establish a staging area for bombers. Rosenthal, a photographer for the Associated Press, landed under gunfire three hours after the invasion began. The Marines fought their way to the top of Mount Suribachi on February 23 and raised a small flag. Later that same day, five Marines and a naval medicine corpsman raised this second, larger flag at the summit and were recorded by Rosenthal. Contrary to popular belief, the moment was not staged. In thirty-one days of brutal fighting, 6,821 Americans died, including three of the flag-raisers. Rosenthal inscribed this print to Wyoming Democratic Senator Joseph O'Mahoney.

I visited my father this past weekend and we had a lovely Sunday together. We attended a Latin Mass at a very old and distinguished landmark church (however, it was a Low Mass since they were going to have a processional following the Mass. Which was slightly disappointing. I was looking forward to hearing chant echoing from the gorgeous balcony above. My dad said next time we visit, we'll be able to hear it. Good ol' dad!)

Afterward, we visited my mother's grave and I placed my silk flowers in the vase. Near my mother is buried Cpl. Timothy Roos, a young Marine who was killed in action while serving in Iraq. He is buried in an outdoor mausoleum structure and his block was decorated with homemade cards, signs, and somehow had his Marine helmet hanging from it, filled with memorabilia such as his cell phone and other accessories. I happened to notice that a Purple Heart was hanging from the helmet.

As we were leaving, a man came by and ended up sitting on this gorgeous commemorative granite bench they had placed before Cpl. Roos's spot. I stopped to talk to the man. I am not sure, but I think this was his father. I asked if that was really a Purple Heart medal. He said it was, and that his buddies had placed it there for him. So I don't know if he was actually awarded the Purple Heart or if it was someone giving it to him, but the whole thing made me cry. I thanked this man for Cpl. Roos's ultimate sacrifice. The man also had been a Marine and I thanked him for his service.

We can't thank these type of people enough for what they do. Let us all remember them today.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

What I Love About Catholicism: The Sacrament of Reconciliation

For those of us old enough, we remember when it was called the Sacrament of Penance, or "going to Confession." I was raised with the thinking that if you didn't go to confession, you shouldn't be receiving communion. One priest I recently spoke with (who is part of an average parish with a very modern church sanctuary) said that a Catholic can go once every three months. He said that for many people, going every week became rote and almost meaningless.

I don't know about that, but I do believe confession is not only good for the soul, but necessary for the conscience. Last night, I had a challenging conversation with my brother, who also left the Catholic church and is now attending a Church of Christ with his wife and family. I feel partly responsible for this because he is my younger brother and it was I who first left the Catholic church many years ago. I know for quite some time, my parents would console themselves by saying, "well, at least he's still attending Mass..."

My brother has a huge issue with this sacrament. He thinks it's highly arrogant for priests to think they have the power to forgive anyone's sins. Instead of getting into a theological debate with him for which I was ill-equipped; I focused on another aspect.

I reminded him of the Biblical verse that speaks of us confessing our faults to one another(James 5:16). He agreed this is important. Then I said, "You know, as many churches and Christian groups I've been a part of, none have systematically followed this directive like the Roman Catholic church." I shared with him how often it would instead look like this:

Person A confesses a fault to Person B, or as usually was the case, to their Bible study group. Person B or someone in the Bible study group would then share this information under the guise of "a prayer concern" to others and before you knew it, a gossip chain was formed. I've seen people wounded by this over and over again. It's so bad that very rarely will a Christian church leader confess any struggles he or she has with anyone because they're afraid it will become gossip that will hurt them and damage the church.

I believe that Jerry Falwell experienced a part of this. Leadership is a very heavy burden. There is much pressure to "be perfect" and when one feels as though they're starting to crumble, to whom can they turn? It's well and good to turn to God, but we were created for relationship, and that to me is where confessing our faults to one another comes in.

Now a priest provides a true gift in living out James 5:16. When we confess to a priest, it stays with the priest. He doesn't share it with his housekeeper, his secretary, his servers, his deacons - anyone. He keeps the confidentiality. This is such a blessing.

I know the power of confession. There were times that I held something deep inside and was afraid to release it in the open. But you know what happens when we hold on to such things? The enemy of our souls has free rein over our emotions and will play mind games with us. The enemy will shower shame, guilt, and condemnation upon us. When we confess, we are basically giving him no quarter. The enemy no longer has a foothold in our souls as we confess our sins and repent wholeheartedly to the Lord.

I'm going to be studying this sacrament more fully, but as far as I can see, the priest is both a witness to this and able to provide comfort and grace to us through the power of the Holy Spirit. I think after I was finished, I gave my brother something to think about. The power of confession is monumental and one I think is often overlooked by not just some Catholics, but many, many Christians of other churches.

Thank God for confession!

Friday, May 23, 2008

For Singles: Trust in the Lord With All Your Heart

When I was a little girl, I envisioned a future for myself that included marrying, like my mother, while in my early twenties. I imagined I would meet a good man, marry early, have babies early, and enjoy seeing them skip off to college while I was just entering in my forties.

While in college, I joined Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship. This was when I did a 180 degree turn from the Catholic church and toward Protestantism and non-denominationalism. I also was about to get an education on Christian "dating." First, the dating wasn't happening the way it did in my all-girls Catholic high school. I dated plenty of boys back then and assumed it would be the same after I joined a Christian group. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It was as though God had turned off the Fun and Frivolous Dating Faucet. No Christian young man gave me a second glance. I tried almost everything. (Save a plunging neckline. My Catholic upbringing did teach me something.) I realized that my usual tactic of boldly talking to a man and then suggesting a date just wasn't going to fly. (When I was 16 years old and returning from a date, I confronted my shy escort with the challenge, "So. Are you going to kiss me or what?" Yeah. I was definitely not from in the Shrinking Violet part of the garden. More like the Venus-Fly-Trap area.)

Although I can be thick-headed at times, it didn't take me long to realize God was up to something, and it didn't look like He was going to be bringing my knight in shining armor anytime soon.

So I plunged myself into my faith and pursuing God with every iota of my being. This went on from the time I was 20 until I was 27. At 27, my younger brother married his long-time sweetheart. That was pivotal for me. I remember sinking into a depression as I realized that not only was I probably not going to get married anytime soon, I wasn't even sure if I'd date again. I was tired of being lonely and felt I had done my part for God long enough. Why couldn't He give me the greatest desire of my heart? To find a good man to love and be loved by him?

And so, in typical childish fashion, I pouted my way back into the world and started to date non-Christian men. They were paying attention to me and I kidded myself by thinking that I could be a witness to them. (A pitfall for many faithful women...) I dated a single father for almost a year. Even while dating, I knew it wasn't the way I should be going. I finally stopped my temper-tantrum, repented, and returned to God.

Soon after, I had a epiphany. I called in sick one day during the week because I was in such great anguish over my singleness. I said to God, "Alright, God. We're going to have it out. I'm ready to wrestle and if I get a hip out of joint, so be it. But I need peace in my heart and I have no idea how to get there."

All day I prayed, cried, and read the Bible. This went on for hours and hours. Finally, at the end of it, I prayed, "Lord, being single isn't my choice. But if it's your choice, then I know in my heart it is the best path for me. I know You love me and only want the best for me. So, I'm going to trust You even more with this area. If this is indeed Your choice, then it must be the very best choice, and for that I rejoice. It's going to be an adventure because I know life with You is never boring! I accept Your will, Lord. Give me the grace to accept it in ways I can't comprehend right now." In acceptance lieth peace. (A beautiful poem by the Scottish missionary, Amy Carmichael, who was a huge influence upon another missionary, Elisabeth Elliot.)

And immediately, I felt enveloped by a wonderful peace, the peace that passes all understanding. I knew I was in a good place right then and there.

Throughout the next 12 years, I was involved in church almost 24/7. Since I was single, I felt I was able to do much more for God and it was true. I led Bible studies for women's groups, I taught about prayer and was involved in both training and implementing intercessory prayer teams. I was involved in evangelism and even a little preaching. I eventually attended a ministry school where months later, I was hired on staff. All of it gave me great joy as the Lord shaved off more of the flesh and replaced it with His Divine Love.

Still, my heart secretly longed for a good Christian man.

In 2000, I was struck by how often Jesus would say to those approaching Him, "What do you want?" He challenged them to define what they wanted. He knew exactly what they wanted, but yet it was important to have the person know and able to clearly articulate it. I realized that as many times I sent up prayers for a husband, I never clearly defined what I wanted.

Now I wasn't sure if I could be trusted with what I wanted. I might ask for something stupid. (Which wouldn't have been the first time.) Still, I sensed that God was saying to me, "What do you want? What do you really want?" I prayed and then took out a sheet of paper. Before I started to write, I said, "Okay, God. If I could have any kind of man, this is what he'd look like." And I started to write. A friend had mailed me a copy of a non-Christian book on dating and in it, the author suggested making a list of all the different preferences and traits desired in a future mate.

By the time I was finished, The List filled a typed page with 8 pt. font. I had written very specifically and felt satisfied.

After much prayer and discussion with family and friends, I decided that God had another place for me and I left the ministry I was involved with in North Carolina and headed back to my hometown. I was planning on returning to college to obtain a Masters degree. However, once again, God had other plans. I visited an online Christian chat room and spied a handsome man. I treated this online activity as a way to unwind after a day's work, certainly not as a serious place to meet someone. But after getting to know this man through chat, I knew I wanted to get to know him more. We ended up exchanging over 70 emails before we finally met for a date.

Note: I waited until he asked me out. I was determined not to return to my old assertive ways and trust that God would answer my prayer in this way - which was for the man to take the initiative. Granted, I did leave a few hints but I didn't ask my future husband for a date. He did ask me and we met at a half-way point for dinner and a night of sky-gazing.

Long story short - he fulfilled everything on The List. It was both scary and amazing. We married a few months later. I was 39 years old and he was 43. We've now been happily married for over six years.

I now know that God isn't finished with us by a long shot. When we married, it was outside of the Catholic church. I never thought I'd ever seriously attend a Mass again, so it was not even a consideration to contact a priest. But now I am pursuing the annulment process because my husband was previously married and obtained a civil divorce. In order for me to receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist again, I need to have the marriage blessed by a priest. In order for that to happen, the previous marriage has to be annulled.

I know that God has a reason for all of this. I could have returned to the Catholic church before I met my husband, but it didn't happen that way. My husband, who is a Christian, was brought up in the Lutheran church but at this point calls no church home. I bet you know already what I am offering up in prayer.

I've been blessed with an amazing husband whom I love in so many ways. He loves me like crazy and treats me like a queen. He was worth every minute of waiting. I believe God brought us together for a reason and continue to trust in Him with all my heart.

If you're single, this is the best thing to do. Place your desire on the altar and allow Him to receive it and bless you, because no matter what we give to Him, He will always give us back more than we expect.

We always get the better end of the deal. :-)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Holiness Is Back In Town!

I have to say, I'm loving on Papa Benedict XVI more and more.

On Thursday, May 22, he celebrated the Mass for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi. There was of course a processional with the Pontiff kneeling before the monstrance as a truck with the canopy made its way through Rome.

What is now Big News is the fact that Papa Benedict only gave the Eucharist to those kneeling. I like what he said about the Eucharist:

...the Eucharistic celebration "can never be a private act." The Mass brings Christ into the world, he said, and the annual procession underlines that truth. Jesus never leaves his followers alone, the Holy Father continued, and the presence of the Eucharist is a reminder of God's love for all his people. (Catholic World News)

I think this is a very clear wake-up call to many American Bishops who have made such a stink about those who wish to receive the Holy Eucharist while kneeling. I'm sensing a huge sigh of relief from those who were shocked to see Communion reduced to this, during the infamous "Halloween Mass of 2006."

Go, Pope Benedict!

Do You Know of Any Good Catholic Newpapers, Magazines,and Journals?

I was browsing online and came across The Latin Mass, The Journal of Catholic Culture and Tradition. It looks good to me so far. Do you have any favorites?

As you might have guessed, I'm not interested in any publications that are heavily liberal or are not in agreement with the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What I Love About Catholicism: Ecumenical Unity and Episcopal Polity

In George Weigel's book, The Truth of Catholicism: Inside the Essential Teachings and Controversies of the Church Today, he talks about the Roman Catholic's church commitment to ecumenical unity. He states (emphasis mine):
Whether other Christians think of Catholics as brothers and sisters in Christ, Catholics have no choice but to think of other Christians that way. The Catholic Church has a unique position in world Christianity; it is the only Christian communion whose self-understanding demands that it be in ecumenical conversation with everybody else, without exception.
(Chapter 8 "What About the Rest of the World" p 136)
After the promised wedded bliss of Vatican II and the failure of the World Council of Churches to stay faithful to its mission of "the reconstitution of Christian unity through common doctrine and a mutual recognition of ministries," the Roman Catholic church was left standing alone at the altar.

This truth is amazing to me. I cannot help but think of the Roman Catholic church as a loving parent, beckoning the children to stop this nonsense and come home. And I suspect that secretly (and for some, perhaps not so secretly), there is still the rebellious spirit within that says, "No. I am independent from you and will remain so because really - in the vast scheme of things, your ideas are outdated and stodgy."

Whenever any Christian public figure has a beef with the Catholic church and makes a point of publicly saying so (John Hagee, for instance); who takes the first step toward smoothing out misunderstandings? Not usually the accusers, for sure. I started to remember all the times that the Roman Catholic church made the first move in conciliatory relations. It warmed my peace-loving heart as I realized that the Roman Catholic church isn't the Big Bad Wolf as some would suggest. Instead, if anything, our Mother Church is indeed a mother - consoling and persuading while trying to apply balm to wounds.

When I was involved in my last non-denominational church ministry in 1999, I remember clearly a very painful event. I was part of church leadership and one of my responsibilities was to counsel women. I was invited to "sit in" during a meeting which included two of the male leaders and one church member who was female. The woman, who was a new member, had evidently written a letter to one of the male leaders with concerns about his behavior.

I was not to intervene but to simply sit there as a witness. How difficult this proved to be! During the course of the meeting, this poor woman was ripped up one side and down the other for her arrogant assumption that she had any "right" to question them. None of the Biblical directives for discussing spiritual differences were followed. There was no attempt on the part of the leaders to understand why this woman had her concerns. There was only an immediate attack which eventually resulted in expelling her from the church by the end of the meeting. All I could do is look at her. As she looked at me (and I'm sure she thought, "Can't you say something?"), I could only return her gaze with love in my eyes while praying furiously inside, Please, Lord. Heal quickly whatever brokenness she is now experiencing. Help her to forgive. Help her to love. I also pray that for all of us, we learn to handle these situations more lovingly...

Scott Hahn, in his book Reasons to Believe: How to Understand, Explain, and Defend the Catholic Faith, tells the story of a Baptist preacher who had issues with his congregation. The preacher had been successful with his evangelization efforts to the poor in their community and the poor were now attending church. However, this didn't sit well with the more established members who decided to have him fired. The Baptist preacher appealed to the church's regional office but was told that basically, there existed no court of appeal beyond the congregation. The preacher rightly asserted this was not the Biblical approach. Apostles were not to be disciplined by their congregations nor take orders from them. The regional representative agreed but said the only church who really still followed this was the Roman Catholic church. (pp 90-91)

The Baptist preacher converted to Catholicism.

As I read that story, I thought of the woman in that meeting. What course of action did she have after such treatment? None.There was no higher authority to appeal, no advocate who would mediate on her behalf. And this is the reality for many churches. They operate according to their own understanding of Scripture no matter if they understand it correctly or not.

When I was younger, I found such lack of accountability liberating (as the young often do). I thought many of the denominational churches were stuck in the past and the older leaders were on a power trip that didn't include any input from their youthful members. I had the attitude of a typical Gen X'er toward the Baby Boomers: Get out the way, we're coming through. Little did I realize at the time that what I was fighting wasn't so much against authority but against anything that thwarted my will. If things didn't go the way I wanted, the blame was put on the authority of the church. Never upon my own self-serving ways.

The Roman Catholic church cares more deeply about her members than I suspected. A big part of this "caring for the flock" is seen in all the laws. Rules are boundaries erected by a loving parent. As a child feels safe and comforted by the parent who establishes such boundaries, so I am realizing that as a Christian, I feel better about a church that cares enough to say "no" as well as a church that has some checks to balance power. The New Testament is filled with governing directives and at this point, I'm seeing how Catholicism is faithful to the call.

Monday, May 19, 2008

What I Love About Catholicism: Our Worldwide Family

I recently read an article which reported that for the first time in thirteen years, Catholicism was being openly practiced in Arabia. I found my reaction to this substantial. I felt happy and connected to my fellow believers. I also wondered if my reaction was similar to American Jews understanding they are connected to a larger worldwide group.

When I was attending non-denominational churches, I knew there were Christians around the world who took their faith very seriously. Many were martyred for their faith. But I also discovered that there were differences in the various Christian churches. Some were founded by American Christian missionaries and as a result, bore a distinctive American mark on their worship. Others were more native in their approach and were helped by translators (such as the Wycliffe Bible Translators) who worked hard to bring the New Testament to their village.

But Catholicism is different by keeping the same standard - the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

I know there are slight differences throughout the world with how Masses are celebrated. In Africa, they dance because that's what Africans do. However, even though they may be doing a jubilant dance as they bring up the offering, they are still bringing the offering. I find it humbling and inspiring that when I attend Mass, I am joining hundreds of thousands all over the world who are doing the same thing. These are my brothers and sisters in Christ and through the sacraments, we are bound.

My desire is to someday attend Mass in many different countries. How awesome it would be to pray the Rosary with these Catholic believers. I have been noticing I've had visitors from Europe, Korea, and the Philippines. I was especially happy to see someone visit me from Albania! We are connected through the mysteries of our faith. I need to remember our Catholic brothers and sisters in other parts of the world more often in my prayers, especially those in the Middle Eastern countries.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

What I Love About Catholicism: First Communion

It's First Communion season and today, two boys and two girls received for the first time the Sacrament of Holy Communion. I smiled as I watched them walk slowly toward the altar during the processional, tender and serious, trying not to make any mistakes.

It brought back memories of my own First Communion. For little girls, it's especially beautiful as they don their white dresses, white anklet socks with patent leather shoes, and if that wasn't bliss enough - a white veil and white gloves! We were told that our dress was symbolic of being "brides" of Christ, and there would be some who would ultimately become this by becoming a nun. I just remember it being a Very Special Occasion and that meant lots of relatives invited to our home and lots of good food. The gifts to me were a nice surprise but what I remember the most was understanding that taking First Communion was a big deal in church. Very big.

What I love about Catholicism is that it takes such things seriously. In a non-denominational church, there is no pomp and circumstance surrounding communion. I know that other churches do not believe in transubstantiation, where the bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. They believe that it is symbolic. Even some Catholics believe it is more symbolic than anything.

But for Catholic boys and girls, they are being introduced to a mystery. They know it is a mystery precisely because of the pomp and circumstance. There was an unmistakable sense of awe as these little ones knelt at the communion rail to receive for the first time the Body of Christ. I was so happy to see that their first experience included receiving communion on the tongue with the golden paten held beneath their chins.

What was also touching was Fr. L's homily. He addressed the children and told them how important it was to receive Jesus Christ in this way. I was touched as he told them to even utter the holy name of Jesus meant he needed to take off his biretta. As he removed it, he told them that at the end of days, every knee will bow and every tongue proclaim Jesus Christ is Lord. I could just hear their little minds turning with that thought!

It is markers such as this that builds our faith. They are reminders that our faith is to be taken seriously. Holiness demands a different approach. Today, those children got the message as their proud families looked on.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

What I Love About Catholicism: Written Prayer

Adorable Jesus! Divine Pattern of that perfection to which we should all aspire, I will endeavour this day to follow Thine examples; to be mild, humble, chaste, zealous, patient, charitable and resigned. Incline my heart to keep Thy commandments. I am resolved to watch over myself with the greatest diligence, and to live soberly, justly and piously, for the time to come. I will take care of my words, that I may not offend with my tongue. I will turn away my eyes, that they may not see vanity; and I will be particularly attentive not to relapse this day into my accustomed failings, but to struggle against them with They gracious assistance. Enlighten my mind, purify my heart, and guide my steps, that I may pass all my life in Thy divine service. Amen.
- From The Roman Missal 1962, Morning Prayers, p 59

When I was a young girl, written prayer was boring. My young spirit was racing with thoughts of school, relationships, and childhood pleasures. I did want to pray to God but formal written prayer was like a huge overcoat that didn't quite fit. It was roomy and cumbersome, forming a somber enclave to my more boistrous temperment.

When I was twenty, I looked upon liturgy and the written prayers as a constraint. My spirit, I felt, wanted to soar and these heavy structures were weighing me down. I wanted to dance! To sing loudly! I wanted to whirl around in sheer delight, rejoicing in the love of my Lord. And I did. For many, many years.

Dance has been a part of me for as long as I can remember. I danced as a little girl. Later, I was part of an Italian dance group and we'd perform at festivals. I also regularly frequented the dance clubs at night, exerting myself so much that I would leave soaked with perspiration. I usually drank one beer and then water the rest of the night because I considered it mostly exercise.

Within the church I attended, dancing was an acceptable form of worship. I remember so much movement! Like leaves blowing across the surface of a pond, we would dance and twirl and bend. So much movement. But it was on the surface. With so much movement, the body can only allow the expressions of the heart to rise quickly and then be flung to the heavens, like laughter or a gasp of surprise.

But there is something to be said about being still. As much as I love movement and expressing my joy for my Lord, I knew that it only went so far. Praise is good but only one part of worship. Praise is the exuberant laughter of a child. Meditation and contemplation is the heartcry of an adult.

I've started to ponder more the maturity of the Catholic faith. I can't help but compare it to the many years I spent within a non-denominational church, with leadership that flew by the seat of its pants. There were no benchmarks, no lines tethered to our souls to keep us from floating away. There were only a never-ending processional of trends that were ushered in by whomever had the brightest personality or better publicist.

But now? Now I hunger for the formal, the written, the ritual. I hunger for that which will keep me tethered and intentional. I have a wild spirit, one that I now know can lead me just about anywhere but home. And I know God has called me back to the Catholic church for many reasons. I believe one reason is to become grounded in the faith.

I have the Roman Missal from 1962 and also a book called the Catholic Book of Prayers. I've been reading these prayers in the morning and evening and sometimes throughout the day. I've been reminded through these written prayers of our need to "make reparation to Him as far as possible for the sinful ingratitude of mankind." (The 1962 Roman Missal, Exposition and Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament, p 123) There is a enduring humility to these prayers. They stand in stark contrast to the self-absorbed practices that take place in many churches today.

The written prayers, the really good ones - take no prisoners. I have no idea who wrote them. I suspect they were written by nameless priests, monks, and nuns who offered up their words with contrite hearts. But their words cut to the heart of the matter. We are sinners and in constant need of saving. No masquarading our faults or painting a smiley face over our wounds. No, these written prayers leave no place to hide. Naked, I come before my Lord with these prayers, asking for mercy and forgiveness.

The prayer above is one of my favorite morning prayers. It acknowledges first the superior Way of my desire - Jesus Christ. It then perfectly joins together my responsibilities to do my best. Just that says volumes about the Catholic tradition of written prayer. The focus is always first on our Savior, and then on my response. How should I answer to the love and sacrifice of my Lord? With humility, chasteness, zeal, patience, charity and resignation.

That is why I love Catholic prayers. They are solid.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Why It's a Good Thing To Ask If He's a CATHOLIC Priest

I almost don't have words for what I just discovered.

Sometimes, while I'm investigating something on the internet, I'll bump into something interesting and follow a rabbit trail before realizing I'm wasting time. One of the pitfalls of the immediacy of the internet.

I was looking at sites devoted to Mary as the Mystical Rose. One site was a MeetUp group dedicated to meditation and one of the meditation meetings focused on Mary as the Mystical Rose.

Except she was referred to as Mary Sophia. And the organizer was a woman. Wearing the Roman collar. With a big Cross hanging from her neck.

What the....heck?!!

So is this what some women want? To look like men? I was tempted to include the photo but I found it so irritating that I thought it best to just not include it. The link to the site is below.

I am a mix of emotions right now. Mostly anger. I found out that this woman was ordained through a group who call themselves the Order of Christ Sophia. This may be old news to some of you. It's almost laughable if these people weren't so earnest. They seem to focus on attracting wounded people so they can sweet-talk them into heresy. It is just staggering what this group proclaims.

The tip-off was when I viewed the front page of the site and immediately saw a woman wearing a Roman clerical collar. Here is how it opened:

The Order of Christ Sophia is a non-denominational Order of women and men who strive to live by the Mystical Christian teachings.

Notice that "women" are placed before "men." I think that is very telling.

Here are a few of their twelve purposes. My comments are added:

  • To continue the Apostolic work of Christ Jesus and Mother Mary by giving form to the Reality of the Father/Mother God through the Priesthood of Jesus Christ, under the Order of the Golden Cross.
  • To empower and ordain Priests and Deacons after the Order of Melchizedek under the mantles of Jesus Christ and Mother Mary, the Sovereigns of Earth. Mary was never involved in the priesthood.
  • To let the power, force and energy of God move through the Sacraments of Baptism, Confession, Communion, Illumination (what the heck? No confirmation? Do they pray over a group of candles and hand them out or what?), Marriage, Holy Orders and Last Rites so that all people may be transformed and made whole. The whole "sacrament" claim is directly from the Catholic church. It's unbelievable that these people think they can slap a collar on themselves and suddenly be valid as priests and ministers of the Holy Eucharist.
  • To speak the Word of life to all people so that all may know the love of their Creator and the reality of their divinity.
  • To preserve and disseminate the Christian Mysteries and the ancient Wisdom Teachings as embodied by Jesus Christ and Mary, thereby demonstrating to humanity the Christ Consciousness and the Way of Return to the Creator. They deny being "New Age" but brothers and sisters, this is straight outta the New Age how-to manual. "Sophia" is the Greek word for wisdom and many Christian women in some of the mainline denominations had a conference years ago to "re-imagine" Christianity. Using the Greek word for wisdom was their way of foisting the feminine into a goddess. They had prayers to "Sophia." It's Goddess theology, plain and simple.

And of course, the $64,000 question...
Why do you wear robes and clerics (the collars)?

We wear robes on Sundays and some other occasions to remind ourselves that, as Jesus’ and Mary’s ministers and priests, we are standing in for Them as we serve at the altar. It is humbling and inspiring to keep in mind Whom we serve in this way. Ignorant bowls of mush! The Mass (at least they had the decency to not refer to their church service as a Mass.) is a sacrifice. The priest stands in as an icon of Christ. Not Mary. Mary wasn't the one being nailed to a cross. The Mass is a re-presentation of the Sacrifice. And newsflash - since Jesus is male, a priest can only be a male. He called twelve men to be His disciples. If He had wanted a woman to be one, there were plenty to choose from. Women have another role to play but not as priest.

The ministers of OCS also wear clerics (black clothes, clerical collars and crosses) to allow themselves to be identified by those who would like to speak with a minister. (or confuse the heck out of someone who may think they're either talking to a Roman Catholic priest or that the Pope finally dictated that women should be ordained.) It is much like a cop wearing a uniform: you know they are on the job and you can ask them for help. Our ministers consider themselves on-the-job all the time, so they usually wear clerics, except when working at their site of employment, or in other situations in which clerics would be inappropriate. (If someone is working at another site of employment, then where are the Holy Orders to sustain them in their vocation? Oh, that's right. There aren't any because this is a renegade group.)

So in other words, whoever started this group was ticked off because women weren't being ordained. So they started their own heretical group and are trying to paint a Catholic image on top of it.

Which just goes to show you that when you see a young man with a Roman collar, don't assume he's a Roman Catholic priest. I'm going to start asking straight out anymore this question if I happen to see a priest in a social setting. If you see a woman wearing it,'s a safe bet she's not in communion with Rome.

Voices From the Couch

From surfing the blogs, I came upon one of Carolina Cannonball's recent entries by the title's name. She got it from another blogger who I've read through The Crescat, Terry Nelson.

The rules: write whatever comes to mind about yourself.

Blogging - Well, that's pretty much what I've been doing. This blog is my third one and the only blog thus far that I've updated more regularly than any of the others. My other blog is about communication topics (which I will not bore you by telling you where it is. Honestly. The site has cobwebs hanging in the corner.) My second blog is an anonymous blog about scrapbooking which is actually a pretty hilarious hobby. I basically poke fun at those who take it waaaay too seriously.

Scrapbooking - I love it but I don't have enough time for it. It's the only way my creativity is still breathing, if even in short gasps. I love color, photography, fonts...(oy...fonts...) and title work. I just love it all. I do however wonder what some of our relatives will think when in the future they look at some nameless/dateless photo of an adorable kid that just has the words, "live. love. laugh." below it and think, what in the world...??

Coming Home - It has made a big difference in my language. Seriously. I used to have quite a sailor's mouth. Now I think of the Virgin Mary looking down at me and saying, "You're going to say the Rosary to me with that mouth?" Eek. No, my Lady...but please forgive my husband. He's worse. (But then again, he's not Catholic and doesn't even feel an iota of the hairy-eyeball feeling I get when I know I'm dangerously close to sinning.)

Mom - The death of my mother has affected me in ways I never expected. I do know coming back to the Catholic church is part of it. But after she passed away last year, I had this huge ginormous combo of both middle-age angst and grief. I realized I simply could not work in an office anymore. Or a 9-5 type of job, which I had at that time. I was working in a warehouse, which was a first for me. I do have a college degree but then so did some of my co-workers in the warehouse. I took the job at the warehouse about three years ago to get away from the office. I thought my dream of self-employment was just around the corner and I basically wanted a job where I clocked in and out...on. No more staying after 6:00 PM to "get caught up." Yeesh...I loathed that.

I had been wanting to quit, hoping I had my ducks in order, but two years went by and nothing. Then, my mom passed away in March. Suddenly, everything changed. I asked my husband what he thought of me working several part-time jobs doing what I loved if it brought us the income we needed. He was good with it. And he's been a treasure, even when things were a little tight for some months. But so far, it's working.

My jobs - Yes, I have several . One is cleaning homes. My brother and father think I'm a bit mad to do something like this. They think I'm wasting my talents. But I'm not. Cleaning is almost like meditation for me. No one bothers me. I get in. I get out. And my mind has time to absorb whatever it wants during that time, which are often ideas for writing. I also have time to pray as I clean. My other job is working at a craft store so I can get a discount on my art supplies and interact with creative people. I just love creative people. Then I do some professional speaking on the side (on communication). And I teach digital scrapbooking. And occasionally sell Pampered Chef because I love to cook and I love their products and recipes. All I can say is that all of it gives me joy in one respect or the other and it sure as heck (heh) beats working in an office.

Punk Girl - I was a punk before punk was cool. Ha! Not quite. I was a mish-mash of punk/alternative but yet waaaay to happy to be taken seriously by the tragically hip crowd. However, I did bemuse many on occasion and burned the dance floors like few could.

Fonts - I'm returning to this because fonts are very important to me. I have over 1,000 on my laptop and desktop. My husband thinks I'm insane and should delete some of them. I say no, they're like my babies. I can't part with "A Year's Supply of Fairy Cakes" because I just know someday I'm going to use it again on a layout! Fonts are the heart of my eye's expressions. I've been known to fret for an hour over the choice of font for my layout.

Did I say I make fun of people like me? Yes, I believe I did...

Comedy - I've always secretly wished I could be a comedian but know this will never be because 1) I always mess up the punchlines and 2) I laugh at my own jokes and 3) I'm usually only funny by accident or when everyone else was either drunk or stoned enough to laugh at my lame antics. Still, I dream.

What Catholics Don't Have: Megastars

I happened to click on a video this morning that showed a video clip of a well-known preacher who has become quite popular. His services are overflowing with attendance, his books have topped the New York Times Books Best Sellers List. He is a charismatic man, preaching a message of hope.

On the surface, this seems fine and for many people, it is just what the doctor ordered. But the more I thought about it, I realized that once again, this is a difference between Catholicism and the rest of the Christian churches. We don't have megastars.

What I mean is that within Catholicism, there aren't these towering personalities that eclipse everything and everyone around them. Some will say, "Oh, yes you do. You have the Pope!" The Pope, to me, does not fit what I call a "megastar." A megastar is someone who for various reasons, has risen to the forefront of a ministry. They've written books, spoken to thousands, and maybe have a TV or radio show. The focus is on their personality and their teaching.

The Pope is well known, to be sure. His speeches are televised across the world and his books are eagerly awaited by faithful Catholics everywhere. However, the focus is on the Catholic church. He has a very specific and strategic role within the government of the church and that must take precedence over everything else.

Never have I felt that a Pope was grandstanding. Instead, I have been touched by the humility I have seen in Pope Benedict XVI. There is a somber respect I also sense as he walks out his immense responsibility for leading the worldwide Catholic church.

Here's another thing I've noticed: Megastars usually don't talk about sin. They'll talk about God's love, or God's desire to see us healthy and wealthy; but rarely does a megastar become a megastar by talking primarily about sin and suffering. I suspect it's because they realize they wouldn't have much of an audience. I'm not denying the importance of sharing with the world God's love but I do have reservations about sharing only one side of it. God's love is shown to us through His mercy but it is also shown through His judgement of sin. We could never have rejoiced in the resurrection if we had not first admitted we were sinners in need of saving. When we realize the depths of our sin, we are able to celebrate even more fully God's great love for us and the sacrifice of His Precious Son, Jesus Christ.

Here's another thing about megastars: There are Catholic megastars but the Mass levels the playing field. There are Catholic politicians, authors, radio show hosts, actors and actresses, athletes, and musicians. There are many well-known Catholics but yet when they attend Mass, the ultimate sacrifice of Christ is preeminent. The Eucharist is predominant and takes a back seat to no one.

But within a non-Catholic church, if, say, a famous Christian is present, they're usually invited to the pulpit to speak. Why is this a concern for me? Because the focus of the service is transferred to a personality which to me doesn't seem to fulfill the purpose of a church service. I believe that when Jesus Christ instituted the Eucharist as a sacrifice, He gave His Church a wonderfully indescribable gift. One of the aspects of this gift is that it centers us on Jesus Christ. He is the One.

I used to get weary from the constant adoration many had for the "megastar of the month." Some people would elevate these people to a level I felt was idolatrous. I'm finding that as I attend Mass, I'm being reminded again of where my focus should be - not on charismatic personalities or famous individuals if they happen to be visiting, but upon what my Lord and Savior has done for me, and for which I am eternally indebted to Him.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Do Catholics Try Harder?

This question has been rolling around the back of my mind for the past three months. When I started to take seriously this desire to come back to the Catholic church, I kept thinking of all the years I spent in a non-denominational church. In fact, I was a part of a rather well-known mega-church, complete with large conferences and its own selection of professionally recorded worship music.

I have many good memories of meeting fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, praying with them, serving with them, and growing with them. There were also moments of discord, which is typical for any church out there. But overall, God blessed me with some wonderful fellowship.

However, there has been a Scripture verse that has kept coming to mind. It's from the letter to the Philippians:

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for {His} good pleasure. - Phil. 2:12, 13

I remember when I "became a Christian" (and I'll explain the quotes later), I was taught that my upbringing in the Catholic church was full of "works" that were unnecessary since Jesus Christ's death and resurrection did everything for us. Our salvation, I was told, was by grace alone. Anything added to it was as though I was trying to say I could add something to Christ's perfect sacrifice.

I believed that for a very, very long time. Now, I'm not so sure. In fact, I am sensing that the verse to the Philippians was meant to tell believers that their salvation was not something to be taken for granted but something to seriously ponder each day. That all of their choices in life, their attitude, and whatever they put their hand to do is to be done with the mind of Christ.

It has struck me that my life in the Catholic church, before I went off to college and decided I needed "something more," was already set up to help me live a good Christian life. I already was a Christian. I had been baptized, confirmed, given first Communion, and kept up with my confessions. I had been given a blueprint that would help me stay on course. Perhaps I had grown numb to the saving works of the Catholic church. Or maybe it was a youthful rebellion against the religion of my childhood. At any rate, I spent a good number of years trying to relearn in another way what I had already been taught from all the years in Catholic education.

You know what I've missed the most from the Catholic church? The focus and adoration of Jesus Christ. Walk into most churches today and listen to the sermons. You'll hear anything from requests for more money to build a new fellowship center to thoughts on how spouses should treat one another. There will be some sermons devoted to the men and women of the Old Testament, and some will devote a sermon to the New Testament. But yet it's a hit-and-miss on whether you'll hear much about Jesus Christ.

The adoration of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist is something that happens at every Mass.

Every. Mass.

The focus of the Mass is Jesus Christ. Not the latest building report. Not David and Bathsheba. Not even Peter and the acts of the apostles. Nope. It's pure Jesus, every time.

There is something I can't quite articulate at the moment, but I know it's there. It's a passion for focusing on Jesus Christ that translates into a much different Christian life than what I saw in the non-denom church. More reverent? Yes, that might be it. But it was more like the Catholic church seemed to be the older sibling, who already had figured out what pleased the parents the most. Meanwhile, the rest of the children were running around, demanding to be fed and entertained. There's a maturity level of the faith that exists within Catholicism that I just had not seen until now.

So, do Catholics try harder? I'd say yes and now I'm going to be one more; giving it everything I've got.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Happy Belated Mother's Day

I'm still battling a weird cold. I wanted to go visit my mother's grave on Saturday but decided I'd wait until I felt better since I would have a two hour drive and a visit with my father. I'm trying very hard not to give it to too many people!

Mother's are so important but in ways I never realized until my own dear mama was gone. She passed away last year and as I've mentioned in my very first post for the blog, was a big factor in my coming home to the Catholic church.

It was my mother who bought me little children books and especially the religious ones that used to be held in a special rack in our parish's vestibule. It was she who encouraged me to read and brought me to the library when I was a little girl. And it was also my mom who was very upset with me after I told her I'd be attending another non-Catholic church. I'll never forget her chastising me for it, saying that all those years spent in private Catholic schools were then "wasted."

I would give anything in the world to be able to tell her that no, all those years weren't wasted. For some reason, they were seeds that were simply growing deep roots, unbeknownst to me. I know she would be thrilled to see where I am today. I know she'd be happy.

So if you have a mother who has been put through the ringer on your behalf, I hope you had the opportunity to spend some time with her and tell her just how much you appreciate her. I know she'll love hearing it. :-)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Thoughts on Art

One of the sites that truly has some of the best eye candy in the Catholic blogosphere is The Crescat. The owner, "Carolina Cannonball", obviously has a highly developed appreciation for good art and little patience for bad art. Such is the case in a recent entry, Contemporary art which is not art.

About a hundred years ago, I was an art major in college. Ever since I was a little girl, I had spent time drawing. In school, my talent was encouraged by both my teachers and my parents. When people asked me what I wanted to be when I "grew up," my answer was always the same - an artist.

I declared a Graphic Arts major when I first started college. However, after a year and a half, I ended up switching majors because I was intimidated into doing so from a bitter advisor who pretty much assumed it was his job to weed out those, who in his estimation, didn't have the cajones to hang with the big boys. In hindsight, I wished I had switched to Fine Arts, which was probably more suitable for my talent, but alas, I didn't.

Art has never been far from my life, though. My favorite medium is graphite pencil. Years after I left college, I found an art teacher and took a few lessons to get myself back into drawing. (I've never posted my art online but do so to establish to an extent my love and respect for art. I suspect I'm going to be talking more about it in the future.) When I first started, it was such a battle to still myself for two hours and sketch. My mind would be racing with various ideas and it was very hard to focus again on drawing. My art teacher would place various objects before me to sketch. Such as a clay bust of a young woman. I added a long neck to her, which is my own preference. I just love long necks but believe me, I have no idea if she had such a neck. Most likely not...

During this time, I rented a small studio space and tried to get back into the local art scene. I confess I never felt as though I connected with many other artists precisely because of my faith. Most artists I have met have either been atheists or adopted a mix of various belief systems that they formed into some type of faith but usually struck me as confused and hazy. Clarity is very important to me. I'd rather meet someone who would passionately declare their beliefs rather than someone who was wishy-washy about admitting to belief in anything or anyone.

(Below are some of my pieces. My favorite is the portrait of my nephew with the cute little cap on his head. This boy now towers over me at the age of sixteen.)

As I've looked at the various images on The Crescat, I've realized more than ever the enormous legacy that sacred art has bestowed. Centuries ago, the only kind of art that existed was sacred art. Most of those who had any drop of artistic talent would try their hand at a triptych or a painting that would reflect the divinity of Christ. And what gorgeous pieces they created.

Cologne School c.1510-20 Triptych of the Virgin and Child with Saints oil on panel: 126.5 x 350.5 x 6.0 cm
National Gallery of Australia purchased with the assistance of James O. Fairfax AO and the Nerissa Johnson bequest 2001

When I was younger, I remember noticing how art within many Catholic churches took a sharp turn into modernity. I think I had more patience for modern art when I was younger. Now not so much. I think most of it is self-indulgent slop. It's one thing to attempt a certain conceptual design that expresses the artist's vision. But it's another thing to masquerade a sloppy design as art, which has been a sticking point with me for over twenty years. I suppose one could say I'm a hardkore traditionalist when it comes to art.

I believe we do need art, but the kind that elevates our spirit. I've never been too keen on artists 'exposing' or 'revealing' the sins of the culture. I mean, really. Do we truly need to be reminded by an artist who most likely doesn't believe in God that we live in a fallen world?

So I'm speaking from a very specific perspective and one I know is not shared by everyone. Which is fine. We all have our preferences when it comes to art. I have been known to enjoy some pieces of modern art, especially glass sculpture and stained glass. Anything that captures or filters light is fabulous, in my opinion.

When I look at art, I want to first, understand the design. Secondly, I do hope to be inspired first and challenged second. If I can't walk away from an art piece wondering about it, there is no point. This is why I was so disappointed years ago when I saw how boring art had become the trend. A woman gnawing on a huge cube of lard, and then spitting it out in order to eventually create lipsticks to show the consumption of beauty in society was not the least bit intriguing to me. In fact, it was downright revolting. But that's the kind of slop that had the writers at Art in America sit up and take notice. Yeesh. Not surprisingly, I didn't renew my subscription after it ran out.

So. I can appreciate Carolina Cannonball poking fun at some of these modern art pieces that to me, have no soul.

And maybe I'll start noticing again sacred art created by today's devout artists who want to inspire. Not bore.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Sacramental Imagination

Don't you just love the sound of that? Sacramental Imagination... As though I'm standing at the doorway between this world and the spiritual world, and the door opens, beckoning me to a wonder that is beyond my wildest dreams and most fervent hope.

This is not too far from the description given by George Weigel, author of the book The Truth of Catholicism: Inside the Essential Teachings and Controversies of the Church Today. . It's one of the many books I'm trying to read all at once. I really like this book by George Weigel, especially since he mentions the Priest-Poet Gerald Manley Hopkins. Anytime someone talks about creativity, my heart sits up and takes notice. If anyone talks about the sacred within creativity, I start purring like a cat who just had a quart of pure cream.

From Weigel's book:
In the Catholic imagination, the extraordinary lies just at the far side of the ordinary. Through the ordinary things of this world - "outward sings," an old catechism called them - God makes himself and his grace available to us in what Catholics call "sacraments." As Guy Crouchback [a character from the Evelyn Waugh novel, Men at Arms Weigel references] knew even in his cups, the "Catholic imagination," the Catholic way of looking at things, is a sacramental imagination. Inside that distinctive way of looking at things, what the world often thinks of as ordinary and mundane becomes an experience of the extraordinary and divine.

That sacramental imagination is the only context in which debates about the shape of the Church's worship and the character of the Church's priesthood make sense. [pp 55-56]

Weigel talked about how most influential Catholic thinkers would agree that what we call the supernatural is in fact the most "real of real things." [p 55]

This was so good to read and just chew on for bit. After I read the sentence about context, I just stopped and said to the heavens, "That is good. That is really good."

For Weigel was making a point about all these debates that rage around us regarding Church, the liturgy, and the various issues that surround them such as ordaining women into the priesthood. It is so easy to get caught up with those debates but if one looks deeper, one can truly see that our focus should be on transcending this world and its pattern of power and entering into the Sacramental Imagination with it's holy pattern aimed in only one direction - toward God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.

I'll end with what Weigel said at the end of his previous chapter:
Doctrine is not excess baggage weighing Catholics down on the journey of faith. Doctrine is the vehicle that enables the journey to take place.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

What IS It About the Latin Mass?

I really like The Lair of the Catholic Caveman blog. Whoever they are, they are spirited, passionate, and loyal to the Catholic faith. Good stuff, in my humble opinion.

Recently, the blogger named Vir Speluncae Catholicus posted this entry about the Latin Mass.

I loved this:

As Sis and I walked in, I saw that the altar was configured in it's usual, Traditional form; the only talking in the chapel was The Rosary being recited; there was the usual long line for Confession; men were in coat and tie, ladies wearing dresses and mantillas; the priest was dignified and actually conducted himself like a Catholic priest. And of course, the unmistakable awareness that Christ was physically present. Pretty standard stuff.

No Novus Ordo "it's all about me" attitude that was pervasive. No avalanche of noise that's the norm at St. Bozo's. No presider trying his damnedest to come across like Shecky Greene.

Anyhow, for some strange reason about 10 minutes into the Mass, it hit me.

For an hour and a half, once a week, this REALLY IS the most beautiful thing this side of heaven. I'll admit it... I was almost moved to tears.

I am so intrigued about the reasons why this Mass touches people so deeply. Could it be that after years of personalized liturgy based on the whims of others has finally taken its toll on the soul? Could it be that people are finally tired of the self-absorption that is evident in many of the newer Masses?

I will say I wholeheartedly agree with Fr. Z when he talks about a cross-pollination between the EFM and the NO. I believe as we start to return to some basics, we'll see a new appreciation for the old rite reflected in the NO.

At least I hope. I don't doubt it could happen. It's just been a while since I've seen a NOM celebrated with an understanding of penitence and the Sacrifice of the Mass, but actually, that was what I was raised in. I clearly remember as a little girl attending Mass and it was almost a literal translation of the Latin into English. It was good.

I'm Here, Just Sick

Blech. I'm so ticked off. I had a bad cold toward the end of March and it lasted about one week. My voice sounded like a frog's and I went through an entire box of tissues in a few days. Once it was gone, I thought that was the end of it.

Well, surprise, surprise - it's back! So, I'm back to a froggy voice and too much congestion. I've been busy with my various jobs so I'm going to have to call in sick today. Last night, I was storming Heaven's Gates for all the saints who have anything to do with throat ailments.

St. Blaise, St. Lucy, St. Etheldreda, St. Godelieve, pray for me!