Monday, June 30, 2008

Modesty for Women

Jeff Miller, at The Curt Jester, touched upon a topic that is near and dear to my heart - modesty. His tongue-in-cheek Casual Sunday reminded me of the time I addressed this issue with my last non-Catholic church.

An older woman (maybe mid-forties) came to our Friday night worship service with a very short dress. I was behind her and as she raised her hands up high, her choice of undergarments became evident.

Later, while she left to go to restroom, I followed her. I waited until she came back into the lobby area and gently confronted her. I told her she may not have been aware of what was happening (I gave her the benefit of doubt) but it was something that could be a problem for men.

At the time, I was the church secretary. After the incident, I typed up a short piece of what it meant to be a woman of modesty. My boss (the administrative pastor) loved it but it really didn't go much further than that. He did tell me that although he had brought the issue to the senior pastor, there was the thought that he didn't want the church to be a place of "do's and don'ts." Sadly, too many women seemed to be wearing a lot of "don'ts" and weren't being reminded why that may be a problem.

If anything is seriously going to be done about this issue, I believe it will need to come from other women strongly encouraging their sisters to stop being so stupid. It's one thing to wear immodest attire outside the church - but quite another to bring it in.

When I brought up this issue to some other women, I would inevitably be met with defiance masked by a lack of sensitivity to how men are wired. I would think it goes without saying that men and women are different, but yet some of these ladies thought that if a man had a problem with seeing a woman with tight jeans and a halter top, then it was his problem, not hers.

This attitude has no place within the heart of a Christian. One of the changes that occurs within a believer's life is the realization that the flesh is weak and must be crucified. Thankfully, God does not expose all of our fleshly desires all at once, otherwise we'd be overwhelmed and despondent. But God uses Scripture to remind us of our calling, which is transformation into the likeness of Christ.

Throughout the New Testament, we are exhorted to place others above ourselves, to love our enemies, and to not cause others to stumble in their faith. (Rom. 14:13) In fact, in his letter to the Romans, St. Paul focused on self-denial on behalf of others.
We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves; let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to edify him. For Christ did not please himself; but, as it is written, "The reproaches of those who reproached thee fell on me." (Rom. 15:1-3 RSV)
The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to {its} lusts. (Rom. 13:12-14 NASB)

Jesus gave very strong words to His disciples when He said this:
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." (Matt. 5:27, 28 RSV)
Not only are women to consider how their behavior and words may affect others, they are called to godliness. Christian women have been encouraged to dress modestly and focus on her interior beauty. St. Paul instructed Timothy about the proper conduct of women in one of his letters:
Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments; but rather by means of good works, as befits women making a claim to godliness. (1 Tim 2:9, 10)
The Greek word used for "modestly" is aidōs. It means "modesty, bashfulness, reverence, regard for others, respect."

The "culture of death" already has instilled in many women the idea that their bodies are their own - with no consideration for the consequences of such a belief. This has also been translated into an attitude of selfishness - that my will trumps everyone else's, no matter how it may affect them.

Our local city just had a festival. I was appalled when I came across a program for the event. Right inside the cover was an ad showing two women sitting in lawn chairs, with their backs toward the camera. It was obvious both were topless. Underneath this photo was the inane admonition: It Is Up to Everyone to Maintain the Mellow. Why? Because our city has made it legal for women to be topless in public. The event coordinators wanted to remind everyone that any unwanted advances toward these women would not be tolerated. (Good grief!) I wish I was kidding.

We live in a fallen world. Women have the opportunity to be "counter-cultural" by obeying God and considering others before themselves. Dressing modestly doesn't have to be boring. Here is a great link to introduce you to some wonderful modest clothing sites: Modest Clothing Directory. Also, my new Facebook friend, Rebecca Christian, has a nice website, Modestia.

Finally, because I've been studying the topic of headcoverings, I found a great blog that discusses exactly that with regard to other orthodox religions that also practice headcovering. It is Lisa M's, Those Headcoverings, a fascinating blog that is very helpful to any woman examining the issue of the headcovering.

Just be thankful you don't have to attend confession with Padre Pio, who had this sign outside his confessional:

By Padre Pio’s explicit wish, women must enter the confessional wearing skirts
It is forbidden to borrow longer dresses in church and to wear them to confession.”

Poll Closed

There are only a few hours left to the poll but I'll post the results here (since I'm not sure if Blogger will delete the poll forever or not):

If You Got Hooked on the Tridentine Mass Right Away, Are You Also Into:

Medieval/Renaissance Art
13 (72%)
Castles and Old Cathedrals
13 (72%)
Knighthood and Chivalry
12 (66%)
Meditative Poetry
2 (11%)
5 (27%)
Other (and I'll leave a comment)
2 (11%)

Vote on this poll

18 people voted and the results were what I anticipated. I think the Tridentine Mass is a natural fit for people who love art and traditions from the Medieval and Renaissance period.

Some people look at the Tridentine (or as Pope Benedict XVI has referred to it, the Gregorian Rite) as a step backwards. I look at it as a reclamation of our faith.

Thanks to everyone who participated.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Catholic Church and Group Identity

"...the Catholic Church is not, and cannot be, a 'denomination' as the term is usually understood in America. A denomination is something with no fixed form, but rather a structure than can be changed at will by its membership; the Catholic Church has a form given to it by Christ, and that form involved certain truths (e.g., the sacraments) and certain structures (e.g. the office of bishop) that are not susceptible to change. The Christ-given "form" stands in judgment on the local embodiment of the Church; the local Church doesn't stand in judgment on it.

In a denomination, porous and shifting boundaries do not present serious problems because group-maintenance is the highest value and 'being non-judgmental' is crucial to keeping the group intact. In a denomination, effective moderation of the ongoing discussion about 'who we are' is the most sought-after quality in a leader. None of these attributes of the American denomination has very much to do with the Catholic Church as it has understood itself for almost two millennia. Yet the Church today often displays each of these characteristics in one degree or another."

- George Weigel, The Courage to be Catholic: Crisis, Reform, and the Future of the Church, p 99 (emphasis mine)

When I read the above paragraphs, I had to lay the book down in amazement and simply say, "Whoa. He nailed it."

Some of you may like George Weigel and some may not, but God is using his writing to clarify so many things that have concerned me about churches (non-denominational ones, in particular) but yet I didn't have the perspective needed to understand why these things concerned me. It took returning to the Catholic church and deeply examining it to recognize some of the key distinctions between Catholic and non-Catholic churches.

I am beginning to believe we have an identity crisis with not only non-Catholic churches, but many Catholic ones as well. I emphasized what Weigel said about group maintenance because I saw this time and time again with my own eyes. Heck, I was a part of that maintenance for many years. I was part of a church-planting team where we had many, many meetings about our "vision" and "mission." Our leader, though, was a man who was highly creative but yet as unpredictable as the wind. One week we would focus on one thing but the next week it would change as he sensed something "new" was revealed to him from the Lord. He is a dear man and I still love him like crazy - but the constant changing of plans may have been the cause of my going gray early.

When so much time is spent on defining a group's identity and purpose, it hampers true progress toward the mission. One of the unfortunate aspects of this approach is that it keeps church members in constant motion, preventing them from entering into the deeper truths of their faith. For many churches, there is the expectation that change is the only thing you can depend upon and you best be prepared to be in a constantly rocking boat.

When a church's main focus is on "who we are," then the group identity is vulnerable to the shifting prism of culture. What has truly bothered me is watching some churches conform to the world, not transform the world as we have been commissioned to do by Christ.

One of the "mega-churches" I was involved with used to pray for deliverances. These were often messy events. When I first witnessed one, I was slightly anxious but yet intrigued. I felt this was one area of ministry that had been neglected. I even participated in a few and was humbled when I saw the person we prayed for had experienced a real deliverance.

I moved away to attend a ministry school and months later, returned for a visit. I saw the woman who was the pastor of the prayer ministry. I chatted with her for a few minutes before asking about the deliverance part of the ministry.

"Oh," she said mildly. "We don't do that anymore."

"You don't? Why not?" I was both suprised and disappointed.

"Well, it got too complicated. Besides, it was making the newcomers feel uncomfortable." I thought I detected a small bit of relief in her voice.

That bothered me. Wasn't part of the church's mission to not only bring people the saving gospel of Jesus Christ, but to pray for a release from bondage? Now you may not agree with this type of ministry, which is fine. The point is, the "vision" of the church, the "group identity" was changed because it made people uncomfortable.

Whereas before it was believed to be a Biblical mandate, now because some of the newcomers weren't sure about it or it creeped them out - that "mandate" was forgotten.

When I was a member of a political message board, there was a lively and very funny debate on Capt. James T. Kirk vs. Capt. Jean-Luc Picard. Who was the best captain? Most of the men sided with Kirk and most of the women chose Picard. One man put it succinctly: leadership is not sitting around the table, asking what everyone wants and then going with the majority. It's not group consensus. When the rubber meets the road, someone has to be the heavy and as far as the men were concerned, Kirk was the perfect leader.

I think of this now when I look at the Catholic Church. It would seem that after Vatican II, many wanted to turn their priests and bishops into Capt. Picard. It is no surprise that as a result of all this "discussion" and trying to be "non-judgmental," we have squishy boundaries or no boundaries at all.

The shift from this type of group identity to a return of acknowledging Catholic identity is, I suspect, going to be fraught with many more debates. It will take divine wisdom to walk the fine line between loving the sinner as opposed to identifying with the sinner. Pope Benedict XVI declared last year that Roman Catholicism was the true church and Protestant churches were not "full churches." (And if you want a fun little excursion, try Googling this story and you'll see all kinds of spin on this story.)

The Catholic Church may have its problems but one thing it doesn't have is a case of multiple personalities. That does say something.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Noteworthy Blogs: Catholic in Film School and Modestia

Rebecca Christian is a Catholic woman who is navigating the very challenging waters of filmmaking in Hollywood. In a word - oy! I think most of us know that Hollywood isn't known for treating the issue of faith in a positive way in most of the films they produce. Her blog is Catholic in Film School.

I love films. Before I was married, I used to frequent the art house in my hometown and watch the latest foreign flicks. I found they often had complex characters without all the violence and sex that is predominant in most American movies. But I do love the optimism of many American productions and in my eyes, nothing beats a good Tracy-Hepburn film for the sharp witty repertoire.

Rebecca also has a blog on a subject near and dear to my heart - modesty. Her other blog, Modestia, has the subtitle: Because You Can Be Modest and Fab Too. I love it! After a constant barrage of low riders and plunging necklines, it is truly a breath of fresh air to see a young woman rejecting sexual objectification and reclaiming this virtue that honors God and oneself.

I know Rebecca isn't new to the blogging world, but I wanted to point out her very interesting blogs. Glad to meet you, Rebecca!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Madison, Wisconsin Church Nixes Altar Girls

I wanted to post my two cents on this topic here for the sake of future reference. (Mazomanie Church Nixes Altar Girls)

Recently, a church in Mazomanie has notified parents that girls will no longer be allowed to assist at the altar. Years ago, Pope John Paul II signed off on this issue but there are accounts that his signature may have been affected by his illness and a 104 degree temperature.

Nevertheless, I don't believe young girls should have ever been given this role. Aside from the fact that young boys have a tendency to shy away from anything that girls are doing, there is the issue of priesthood and vocation. The Catholic church could use a few more good men in the ranks and most priests started thinking about their vocation as they served as altar boys. When young girls are included, it sends a mixed signal. What would a little girl aspire to be if she is serving in this position? Ordination?

This is precisely what I believe many "progressive" Catholics want. They truly envision a day when women will be ordained as priests. And what would this do to convents and cloistered monasteries? Why can't we encourage our young daughters to consider the vocation of being a nun?

So, here is my response to the article:

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is not a political football field, awaiting those who disagree with it to make a strategic play.

1) The priest is an icon of Christ. Assisting the priest during the Mass has been done by acolytes, those who wished to become priests. They have always been male.

2) Jesus Christ could very well have named one of the women following Him to be a fully recognized Apostle. (Mary, His mother, Mary Magdalene, or Mary of Bethany to name a few.) He didn't. Women have no Biblical justification for demanding ordination.

3) Young boys need strong leadership and guidance at this age. Aside from the snide sexual remarks made - it is a fact that when young boys want to get together, the presence of a young girl seriously hampers any useful purpose for their growth.

4) The Catholic church is lacking in priestly vocations. Part of the reason is liberal spiritual formation and seminaries. Another part of this is because young boys have difficulty hearing the call to this vocation if young girls are included in this area. It's confusing.

The purpose of the Mass isn't to satisfy a longing to be recognized. It is to remember the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ and worship Him. It's not first about community - but about God.

Finally, if some don't like it, there are plenty of other churches: United Methodist, Unitarian, or even the Metropolitan Community Church. It's not that difficult in this day and age to find a church you can agree with.

Welcome, Guests from Pew Sitter!

If you read the article posted at Pew Sitter, the original blog entry is here: "What I Love About Catholicism: Catholic Women."

I just had a conversation with my non-Catholic husband about Catholic women and some of their traits. He said, "In other words, they're strong." I smiled.

"Yes," I said. "Very strong."

Shameless Plug: My Husband....

...has an eBook, Get Happy, Write Away. I contributed a chapter but really, it's his book. He still insisted on having my name as the co-author. Whatta guy!

The eBook is not a religious publication but falls within the "Self-Help" category. It's available through MobiPocket.

What I Love About Catholicism: Accomplished Catholics Are Some of the Nicest Folks

I may be guilty of oversimplifying things, but from my experience over the past two months with Catholics who could be considered "well-known" or even famous, I have found them all to be consistently polite, helpful, and overall very charitable.

I cannot help but compare this to the experiences I had within the non-Catholic churches. I do believe it is due to the "cult of personality" which exists in non-Catholic churches; and the reason it exists is because there is no liturgy. Specifically, there is no Mass. When no liturgy exists, something must fill the one to one and a half-hour time on a Sunday morning. And so, personality then becomes the focus.

When personality becomes the focus, there is the very real temptation to believe people are attending church to see you, not worship God. The pressure is heavy as pastors and associate pastors try to "razzle and dazzle" their audiences as much as possible.

The last ministry I served within was and is a worldwide global ministry. Since it has a certain level of recognition within the at-large Christian church, there is an accompanying attitude of "Oooh....who is he?" as special guest speakers would visit. If you approached some of these speakers, there was the polite acknowledgment, but really no connection. Talking with one of these teachers was usually a shallow exercise in an attempt to engage a fellow brother or sister in Christ.

Catholics are a different breed. Again, I truly believe it's because when we enter into a church to attend Mass, we are all on the same playing field. There is no "cult of personality" because it is implicitly understood that we are all sinners standing before the foot of the Cross, asking for forgiveness. Liturgy is such a grounding force for us and oh, how we desperately need it! It helps us keep on track as our focus is on He who most richly and completely deserves it - our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Out of the blue, I received a very nice email from Donna-Marie Cooper O'Doyle, who is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. She simply wanted to tell me she read my blog and liked it. After I checked her many websites, I was humbled. Not only did this lovely Catholic lady read my blog, she took the time out of what I know is a very busy schedule for her to let me know she read it and liked it. (With five children, a husband, and her traveling speaking engagements, it's amazing to think she found time to even surf the internet!)

I have never heard of such a contact happen before within all of the non-Catholic churches and ministries I have been involved with. It's one thing to write a letter to a Christian author you admire. It's quite another to have one contact you first.

Just one more reason why I love Catholics!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Raising Support: Sancta Missa Workshop for Laity on TLM

You may have noticed I added a Tip Jar on the left side. I am using all means possible in order to raise the funds needed to attend the Sancta Missa Workshop for Laity on The Latin Mass, held in Chicago, Illinois, August 25-29.

Chicago is about a six hour drive and an hour by air. I am asking around my parish if anyone is planning on attending. So far, no one else is going (and many have not heard of it).

Ever since I found out about this workshop a month ago, I knew I wanted to make every effort possible to attend. I have been extremely blessed to have nearby a parish which celebrates the "Gregorian Rite" several times a week. A Low Mass is offered Monday and Wednesday mornings at 9:00 AM, Thursday evening at 7:00 PM, the first Saturday of the month at 9:00 AM (Low Mass) and every Sunday at 9:00 AM (Solemn High Mass). I knew this was unusual when I started to notice that not only is the Gregorian Rite not offered in many dioceses, some are even actively blocking it. I realize I have in my own backyard an embarrassment of riches.

When I spoke to my parish priest about this workshop, he said, "I wish I had the time to give such a workshop myself!" He is very, very busy. Meanwhile, we have an active group of Una Voce and a solid group of people who cherish this beautiful Mass.

I am committed to not only attending, but taking copious notes (not to brag, but I take killer notes...), and then passing them onto my blog readers. For those who contribute, I want to do something extra special for them. I want to bring this information to both my family, my parish friends, my parish priest, my readers, and ultimately, my Castitas crew.

It is my goal to educate more young people about the Gregorian Rite. I'm not sure how God will work all of this out, but I know this burning desire in my heart is for a reason.

The registration price for the workshop is $600. I'm estimating that whether I drive or fly, it would be around $150. If you are able to contribute, mega-blessings be upon your head. Even if you're not able, please pray that I can attend this wonderful workshop. I think it's going to be an amazing time and I look forward to passing on everything I've learned to you. :-)

What I Love About Catholicism: Church Authority

In George Weigel's book,The Courage to be Catholic: Crisis, Reform, and the Future of the Church, he very succinctly describes what contributed to the breakdown of the spiritual formation of our priests which led to the sexual abuse crisis that broke in 2002.

For over thirty years, there was a worldliness that crept into our seminaries. Moral relativism replaced the hierarchical structure that had enabled the Roman Catholic church to stand strong for over two millennia. Instead of standing strong for Biblical truths, many theologians blurred the distinction between homosexual orientation and homosexual acts. Many of the ordained priests during that time were taught to publicly support Catholic teaching on homosexuality but yet privately question it. No wonder we had such a mess.

I am reminded of a truth I learned at an early age. The teachers who were, in my eyes, "mean" - were seen as such because they had high standards. Many students may have complained about "Mr. Smith" being mean, but it was in fact because Mr. Smith expected a great deal from his students. He knew they were capable of doing more and would frequently tell them this.

When you think about the people who have made the most impact in your life, who comes to mind? The teacher who sought to "understand" you and make allowances for your poor performance? Or was it the teacher who refused mediocrity and pushed you to try again because he knew you could do better?

I now look at the church with this perspective. I know that Pope Benedict was at first called "The Rottweiler." But I think this was from those who knew that Papa was not a pushover. In fact, Pope Benedict is lovingly corralling his flock toward a deeper understanding of the inheritance of their faith. I see him just like a diligent Shepherd who will rush to rescue a sheep who is in danger of falling off a cliff or heading in the wrong direction.

I suspect that many Catholics are unaware how very blessed they are to have the church that was instituted by Christ. After the reformation, there was an explosion of protest and dissent. From that explosion came much confusion and chaos.

Authority is a loving gift from God. As God has created laws and commandments to help us become holy, so He created the hierarchy of the church to help us stay on the right path. I think Pope Benedict XVI is the right man for the right time. The enemy of our souls is continually at war with us, to make us believe there is room for "dialogue." But when you get right down to it, there is no dialogue with it comes to obedience. We either trust in God, or we don't. The devil's favorite color is gray.

God has put into place the headship of man. From that, we have the wives and children who are to submit to the husband and father. Even if that father may be wrong some of the time (and of course he will be, because he is in the midst of being sanctified himself), does that excuse the children from obeying him? No. Would God penalize the children from obeying their father when their father is in fact, in error? No. God would hold the father accountable for leading his children astray, just as Jesus points out:

"Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea." - Matt. 9:42 (RSV)

More than ever, we need to pray for those who are in authority over us. Pray for the Pope and pray for the Bishops and priests, for our diocese - for all who have authority over the church. Pray for their souls, that they would seek humbly to obey God and follow Christ at all costs. Pray that our Blessed Virgin Mary would come to our aid and intercede for us.

Just as a train needs the rails to get a train to its destination, so we too need the authority of the church. Otherwise, we'd just be wandering in the desert for another forty years.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

No Gay Pride Prayer Service for Minneapolis St. Joan of Arc

Well done, Archbishop John Nienstedt!

I was very encouraged to read that Archbishop Nienstedt told the parish of St. Joan of Arc ("We Welcome You Wherever You Are In Your Journey") that they were to cancel the prayer service for the GLBT group. (Gays, Lesbians, Bi-Sexual, Transgendered) Of course, the GLBT folks and their supporters were outraged. (Emphasis and notes mine)

A Roman Catholic Church decision to prohibit a Minneapolis gay pride prayer service has many in the gay community up in arms, leading activists to call the action a troubling and telling sign from the Twin Cities' new archbishop.

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis recently told staff members at St. Joan of Arc Church they could not hold their annual gay pride prayer service planned for Wednesday — an event held for several years in conjunction with the annual Twin Cities Pride Celebration, parishioners said.

Instead, the archdiocese suggested a "peace" service with no mention of rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

"That descriptor (LGBT) was not possible on church property. We suggested they shift it, change the nature of it a little bit, and they did," said archdiocese spokesman Dennis McGrath.

"The reason is quite simply because it was a LGBT pride prayer service, and that is really inimical to the teachings of the Catholic Church." ("inimical" - now there's a word that would likely befuddle "Joe and Mary Catholic" as some U.S. Bishops would call them. You know, there's this wonderful book. It's called a dictionary. Most people know how to use it.) Here it is:

Main Entry: in·im·i·cal Listen to the pronunciation of inimical
Pronunciation: \i-ˈni-mi-kəl\
Function: adjective
Etymology: Late Latin inimicalis, from Latin inimicus enemy — more at enemy
Date: 1573
1: being adverse often by reason of hostility or malevolence inimical to democracy>2 a: having the disposition of an enemy : hostile <inimical factions> b: reflecting or indicating hostility : unfriendly inimical glare>

From a little digging, I can see that His Excellency is not a stranger to putting things in the right perspective when it comes to dealing with homosexuality within the Catholic church. I liked what he said in this article (emphasis mine). I also want to include his comments about groups such as "Courage":

The second to last point of that document was our collective resolve that Catholic churches, colleges and other institutions should not give "awards, honors or platforms" to persons who, whether Catholic or not, held public positions contrary to the church's defined teaching. To do so would cause scandal, leading Catholics to be confused about what is right and wrong according to the teachings of the church, prompting them to endorse or even to commit immoral behavior.

This is why it was not appropriate for Carol Curoe and her father to speak at the Church of St. Francis Cabrini in Minneapolis.

Those who actively encourage or promote homosexual acts or such activity within a homosexual lifestyle formally cooperate in a grave evil and, if they do so knowingly and willingly, are guilty of mortal sin. They have broken communion with the church and are prohibited from receiving holy Communion until they have had a conversion of heart, expressed sorrow for their action and received sacramental absolution from a priest.

Finally, while we can always do more to support persons with same-sex attractions to live chastely within the community of the church, there is much that is already being done but receives little attention.

Here in the archdiocese, we have, for 10 years now, had present the support groups, Faith in Action Courage and Encourage.

The former invites persons struggling with same-sex attractions into a regular support group of faith-filled individuals who are striving to live chastely according to the teachings of Jesus, by confronting their attractions, building healthy relationships and growing spiritually through the sacraments of penance and holy Eucharist. Much like the support groups of Alcoholics Anon­ymous, Courage seeks to foster a spirit of fellowship to ensure that a person knows he/she does not face personal difficulties alone.

Encourage is a similar support group for parents, family members and friends of those with same-sex attractions who want to grow spiritually themselves and to help their loved ones live chastely.

I had the privilege of initiating both chapters in the Archdiocese of Detroit 11 years ago. I have met many impressive and, I would say, heroic individuals through that movement.

Four Points on the Church's Teaching on Homosexuality

I am filled with hope as I see there are still some wonderful men within the priesthood who are courageously taking a very strong stand against sin and promoting obedience to the church on this issue. God bless Archbishop Nienstedt. He certainly needs our prayers as does St. Joan of Arc.

What I Love About Catholicism: Catholic Women

I didn't realize how much I missed Catholic women until I returned to the Catholic church.

How to put this into words... Bear with me because what I'm about to say may seem overly sentimental. Maybe it is. But time has a way of changing your perspective and now that I've been "around the block" a few times, I can see there is a distinct air about a Catholic woman that I've not seen within other Christian denominations.

Catholic women are real. They're full of grit and full of grace. "Grit" is one of my favorite words. I'll tell you what my definition is so you know what I mean when I say it.

The Mary Rose Dictionary:

Grit - noun: not caring about what others think of a position or idea; able to stand strong in the midst of life's trials and say, "God, give me the grace to bear what You have given to me." Identifying immorality or unethical behavior in society; understanding sin and its consequences and not being afraid to name it.

That's a start. Catholic women demonstrate a beautiful blend of common sense, sacrifice, wisdom, and strength. A good Catholic woman is not a whiner or a complainer. It isn't part of her vocabulary. She is persevering, especially when it comes to protecting her family and instilling in them Christian values. She makes sure her daughters are dressed modestly and her sons treat women with respect. She teaches both of them to pray for good marriages and not use the opposite sex as a plaything.

Catholic women understand sex. Do you know that from all the churches I attended, none talked about sex and how it is a gift from God? None talked about the sexual act as a beautiful mystery, reflected in Christ's relationship with the Church. I never heard sex being honestly discussed in the non-denominational church I attended.

I remember hearing quite a lot about sex during my Catholic schooling. I specifically remember a Catholic couple who shared with our youth group the joys of marriage. It made a deep impression on me.

Catholic women don't shy away from such topics but embrace them with enthusiasm that is reflective of their desire to understand God. Catholic women know there is a difference between self-serving pleasure and an honoring of the purpose of marriage. They are secure in knowing that as long as they pursue God in this area, they will be blessed.

There is something about the Catholic faith that purifies a woman. Catholicism talks about such things as sacrifice and suffering. This is the language of woman. They understand because it is in our nature to experience these two things. When a woman is called into marriage, she is required to sacrifice her own preferences in order to place her husband ahead of herself. That's submission. Catholicism instills submission automatically by its hierarchical structure. I realize there are dissenters but many times, dissension is the result of people who simply don't want to obey anything or anyone other than themselves.

I think Catholic women instinctively know that submission is required of them. A good Catholic woman not only accepts this, but rejoices in it. It is this joy that shines forth from them, and those who meet them realize something is different. It is because they're seeing the rare occurrence of a woman who is not fighting against God. That is powerful. There are lots of women fighting against God right now but many Catholic women stand apart.

There is a certain kind of undisciplined emotion that runs through some non-denominational churches. I think it's because there is no foundational teaching about suffering. When a woman runs up against a hard situation without any spiritual formation that explains hard situations are the norm for a Christian, she says things such as "The devil is really attacking me today!" Or "I must have a lack of faith because things aren't going well for me."

Jesus said that if the world hated Him, it would hate us:

"If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you."
John 15:18, 19 (RSV)

So the trials we go through are really nothing compared to what Jesus Christ went through. Catholic women know this like the back of their hand. Catholic women know that suffering is a part of life. I also think that revering Mary, Mother of our church, is a large factor. When you look at the life of Mary, you see how much suffering she experienced, the doubt and anxiety that plagued her. But through it all, she trusted God.

There is such strength in Catholic women, and to me - it's because they understand that they are weak. As our Blessed Virgin Mary said to the angel, "Let it be done to me according to your word." And good Catholic women everywhere echo her words.

Monday, June 23, 2008

My New Facebook Group: Castitas

The idea for this group has been developing within me for the past seven years. To be honest, I don't know if this is God's timing for it or if I'm still in a hurry to get something done. I'm pretty impatient, which is why I believe God taught me patience by waiting until I was 39 before allowing me to meet my husband. (!)

Today, I kicked off this new group on Facebook.

At any rate, I do think returning to the Catholic church was a key factor in order for things to fall into place. I do believe this ministry is to primarily be for Catholic single women between the ages of 18-35, although other Christian women within that age range may be interested.

I have been deeply touched by the amount of Catholic materials and resources for living a life of chastity. I believe we are witnesses to a wonderful turn of events in our society; which is - women who are beginning to recognize their calling in the world. As women, we are called to many things. For the married woman, she is called to a life of loving submission to her God and her husband. For the single woman, she is called to a life of loving submission to God alone.

There are many factors which contribute to such a submission. Submission can be seen in either two ways: as something to curse or something to praise. Our God has so much to give us as we embrace His commandments and seek to obey. Of course it isn't easy, but as I've often said - since when is finding treasure ever easy? If something was easy, we would not cherish it as much.

Which brings me to the topic of single women. I believe many single women have given themselves away too easily. Self-respect has plummeted, most recently seen in an awful "pact" that a group of high-school girls made with one another to get pregnant. Is their life so empty that they deliberately chose to have a baby outside of marriage in order to find fulfillment? There are many questions surrounding such an event. Needless to say, it broke my heart.

Women have such great influence in the world. This is not the raw political power that feminists pursue, but the kind of power that shapes and influences others. The kind of "power" that gives, not takes. It is this type of influence I would like to emphasize and examine with single Catholic women. Once a single woman understands her gifts and what is required of her by God, she is then in a most advantageous position to fully influence others as God has intended.

I have already met such beautiful women both within my parish and over the years in other churches. These women "get it" when it comes to understanding who they are in Christ. We have indeed been "fearfully and wonderfully made." I am hoping that as I facilitate the group, young single women will realize how precious they are in the sight of God and how He loves them so very much.

Understand God's love for you and you will change the world for Him. Glory be to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

More Digital Design Fun

I had some fun today with digital design. First, I couldn't resist the handsome helmet of the Swiss Guard.

Then I found a very awesome quote by Pope Benedict XVI about applause in church. I just loved it and created a little mini-poster of it. Is that quote too true, or what?

A word about applause: When I was a younger girl, I remember the rare times I heard applause during a Mass. It almost always was the response to someone getting baptized, receiving First Communion, or being received into the Catholic church. Still, it always felt weird to me; as though we shouldn't be doing it.

Now I understand why it felt strange. It is because we are in the midst of a very holy time and place. The re-presentation of the Holy Sacrifice of Jesus Christ is happening and it requires our full attention and deepest devotion. I think I'm understanding more that those who are more liberal in their views look at the Mass as simply a "celebration." It's light-hearted. It's supposed to be "fun." Viewing it through the lens of the ultimate sacrifice that both God the Father and God the Son made is "a drag."

They don't say it in so many words, but from all the liturgical dancing, the worship bands, and the homilies that sound like Southern Baptist sermons - it sure seems that way.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

What I Love About Catholicism: Preisthood and Celibacy

Again, George Weigel has me thinking. In his book, The Courage to Be Catholic: Crisis, Reform, and the Future of the Church, he talks about the priesthood and celibacy. He quotes St. Paul's letter to the Ephesians:

For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Eph. 5:23-27

After reading Weigel and then these verses, it suddenly dawned on me why celibacy for priests is a "win/win" for everyone.

There are some people who think priests ought to have a choice to get married. Without delving into the assumption that married priests would not molest, the proposal may not be as attractive when viewed in full.

Seven years ago, when I was serving within my last ministry as a single pastor, I had a conversation with one of our ministry students. He related a story about a pastor friend of his. He said that during the 23 years this man served as a senior pastor, he never took his family on vacation.

I stopped him. "Never?" I asked. He sadly echoed, "Never."

We then went on to discuss how difficult this was for the pastor's family and the stress a pastorate can put on them. "PK" ("Pastor's Kid") has become a byword for out-of-wedlock pregnancies, drug abuse, homosexuality, and an assortment of woundedness that causes many a PK to turn away from the church.

Being a pastor is not a Monday through Friday, 9-5 type of job. Most people realize this. But how often do people think of the countless dinners without dad, the missed soccer games or plays because dad is needed elsewhere, or the lonely nights his wife endures because her husband is busy preparing for either a sermon or some committee meeting?

Now tell me who's being selfish. Is it selfish to deny a priest the married life or is it selfish to give it to him but yet deny a family their father?

I was lucky. My dad was a traveling salesman.

When I look at Catholic priests, I realize this is the heart of their calling. They are married to the Church. As Christ loved the Church and gave up His life for Her - so, too, does our priests give up their choice to have a family in order to devote their life to the Church. Being single definitely has its advantages. I know. For 18 years, I lived such a life. Could I have done it as a married woman? Not likely.

Pray for our priests, especially for the loneliness they often experience. And ask God for more vocations. Here's a few I found:

Most gracious Heavenly Father,

We thank you for our for our faithful priests and bishops, whose spiritual fatherhood and example of fidelity, self-sacrifice, and devotion is so vital to the faith of your people.

May our spiritual fathers be guided by the examples of Saints Peter and Paul, all the Apostles and their saintly successors. Give them valiant faith in the face of confusion and conflict, hope in time of trouble and sorrow, and steadfast love for you, for their families, and for all your people throughout the world. May the light of your Truth shine through their lives and their good works.

Assist all spiritual fathers, that through your Grace they may steadily grow in holiness and in knowledge and understanding of your Truth. May they generously impart this knowledge to those who rely on them.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen. (Women for Faith and Family)

O Jesus, our great High Priest,
Hear my humble prayers on behalf of your priest, Father [N].
Give him a deep faith

a bright and firm hope
and a burning love
which will ever increase
in the course of his priestly life.

In his loneliness, comfort him
In his sorrows, strengthen him
In his frustrations, point out to him

that it is through suffering that the soul is purified,
and show him that he is needed by the Church,
he is needed by souls,
he is needed for the work of redemption.

O loving Mother Mary, Mother of Priests,

take to your heart your son who is close to you
because of his priestly ordination,
and because of the power which he has received
to carry on the work of Christ
in a world which needs him so much.

Be his comfort, be his joy, be his strength,

and especially help him
to live and to defend the ideals of consecrated celibacy. Amen.

(+John Joseph, Cardinal Carberry (d.1998)
Archbishop of St. Louis 1968-1979

Friday, June 20, 2008

Wrought's Going On?

Another creation.

I almost can't believe the "dumbing down" that went on at the US Bishops' Conference.

Bishop Donald Trautman, a longtime critic of the new translations, said the texts contain a number of "archaic and obscure" terms, pointing to words such as "wrought," "ineffable," and "gibbet." He further expressed concern that Joe and Mary Catholic could not understand such terms.
Wrought? They don't think most Catholics would understand the word wrought?

I think they'd be surprised.

I Am Rarely Ineffable...Except When I Saw This

I had seen this photograph almost a month ago when someone was mentioning one of the many liturgical abuses that have occurred in the church. I decided to have some fun with it.

Bishop Trautman thinks the word "ineffable" is too large for our walnut-sized brains to handle. But I think almost everyone would get the point after seeing this photograph.

(Inspiration from Orthometer)

New Blog Welcome Wagon: Levavi oculos

Maybe it was being introduced to Fr. Finigan's wonderful blog, The Hermeneutic of Continuity, but I've had my eyes trained across the pond and feeling the love for All Things British. In 1985 I had the privilege of visiting Oxford and simply loved it. (Tea and scones! Yum!)

I found a new blog through Fr. Zuhlsdorf's site, Levavi oculos. Since "Sacred Heart" seems to be just as enthusiastic toward the Gregorian Rite as I am, I wanted to give him a shout-out. Welcome to the Catholic blogosphere, Sacred Heart!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

"Yes, We Are Brothers But We Are Not Saved As Brothers. We Are Saved By the Sacrifice."

As those in "the 'hood" would say...

Whomp! There it is!

The above quote was Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos as he discussed with four British journalists why celebrating the Extraordinary Form Mass is so important and how Pope Benedict XVI wishes to introduce what His Holiness calls the "Gregorian Rite" to every parish in England and Wales. This little press conference is still emitting shock waves within the Catholic cognoscenti in England.

I was reading Fr. Z's entry on Elena Curti's article regarding the press conference, Ringing in the Old. As I read the quote I used as a title, this thought landed on my soul with full force - Worship of community has taken the place of adoring God through the sacrifice of His Son.

I value community. During my years away from the Catholic church, I enjoyed small groups and adult Bible studies. I was involved in prayer groups, mission trips, and a slew of ministries. All of them afforded the opportunity to become better acquainted with my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. We grew closer to one another as we served in the church. But the "growing closer to one another" worked in conjunction with our own understanding of God's truth.

The Catholic church is different. (As I keep realizing on oh-so-many levels.)

The Mass is THE preeminent glue that holds the church together. Or at least from my prior training, that's how I understood it. But the "glue" was not focusing on one another and how we "experienced" the Mass. The glue was focusing on the sacrifice of Jesus. Simple, yet profound. Bold, but yet nuanced. "The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass" is too often misunderstood by Protestants as "re-sacrificing Jesus." Nothing could be further from the truth.

The more I reacquaint myself with the Mass, the more I see it in all its beauty and truth - and I have seen this beauty and truth mainly through the prism of the Gregorian Rite. Jesus Christ was indeed sacrificed "once and for all":

For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. - Rom. 6:9, 10 (RSV)

However, we need to remember His sacrifice. We need to remember because there is so much in this world that can cause us to forget. There is so much self-indulgence in the world that leads our eyes toward our own preferences, our own wants, our own desires - that we believers can easily forget about the "I have been crucified with Christ" part. (Gal. 2:20)

It is this self-indulgence I've noticed the most. It isn't just in Catholic churches, but all churches. The focus went from adoring Christ to "getting my needs met." It went from reverencing God to "expressing myself." It evolved from confessing our sins to justifying politically-correct causes. The list could go on and on and on.

The Gregorian Rite is (in my mind), setting things "right" again. It's setting the broken bones. It provides grounding for those who have flown a little too far from their spiritual home and mistakenly believe they're under the "Shadow of His Wing" when in fact they're huddling under a garbage heap. Strong words, I know, from a recent "reclaimer." But I've already seen the trap in other churches. Pope Benedict is trying to lovingly corral his children back into the safe fold of our Heavenly Father's flock.

I know there will be many who will never, ever like "The Latin Mass." They'd rather chew glass than sit through an hour and a half of unintelligible Latin and the whole stand-kneel-sit-stand-bow-stand-kneel routine. I don't believe that the Gregorian Rite is for everyone to love. But I do believe it is for everyone to attend at least once and then re-examine the Mass through its lens. There is no reason why the Novus Ordo could not be transformed by such prayerful consideration.

What I think is happening right now is that many who love their "freedoms" realize their "ideological joyriding"* days are coming to an end and that Papa has taken back the keys to the car.

* From The Courage To Be Catholic: Crisis, Reform, and the Future of the Church by George Weigel, p 36

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

What I Love About Catholicism: Priests

Fr. Augustine Tolton, the first black U.S. priest

A part of me is still shaking her head in disbelief that I am having such thoughts. Only those who were fully involved with Evangelical/Non-denominational churches will understand what I'm saying.

For 25 years, I attended churches that did not have a clear hierarchy. Senior pastors obtained their roles by either having a vision to build a church (and built it from the ground up), succeeded another pastor by serving within the church and in essence being "promoted" to the senior position, or they were hired from the outside by some steering committee. (Which opens up a whole other discussion in itself.)

The Roman Catholic church is quite different. Men discern a calling from God to enter into a lifetime of service to the Church. It is a mysterious thing, a powerful thing, and a humbling thing - all rolled into one.

When I was involved in the non-Catholic churches, I developed a mild case of apathy toward priests, mixed with just a tad of doubt. (And okay, maybe some condescension.) I looked at the whole idea of the priesthood as passe, un-Scriptural, and a holdover from the Dark Ages. I thought priests (now don't hit me) were elitist; exercising spiritual authority that in reality was available to every Christian.

In fact, a few years ago, I could have had a great conversation with Elena Curti, who is the Deputy Editor of The Tablet, a British weekly Catholic paper. When she recently heard Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos announce that Pope Benedict XVI wanted to introduce the "Gregorian Rite" (also known as the Tridentine Rite) to every Western church, Ms. Curti was slightly horrified. Her response (emphasis mine):

Your Eminence, I think many Catholics are rather confused by this new emphasis on the Tridentine Rite, mainly because we were taught that the new Rite represented real progress, and many of us who have grown up with it see it as real progress, that there are Eucharistic ministers, women on the sanctuary, that we are all priests, prophets and kings. This new emphasis to many of us seems to deny that.

From the article "Traditional Mass for 'all the parishes'" by Damian Thompson, The Telegraph, June 15, 2008

I understand. In fact, Ms. Curti's description of the laity is almost identical to that of Evangelical churches. For years, I felt I was a part of "the priesthood." I felt as though we were all one body, with no real distinction between leadership and congregation. In fact, some churches emphasized "servant leadership" so much that there wasn't much deference given to leadership. Some would say they just got stuck with the job of doing the work. (Sad, but true.)

Catholics view priests much differently. I'm reading George Weigel's book, The Courage to be Catholic: Crisis, Reform and the Future of the Church. Whenever I read Weigel, I am confronted with what Catholicism is; which is many things but one that it is not is a denomination. It is not "an institution whose form is typically defined by the will of its members - but a Church - a community whose basic structure and boundaries are defined, once and for all, by the will of Christ. For the Church is the Body of Christ, and those who are ordained to act in persona Christi, "in the person of Christ," exercise headship in the Body, the Church." (p. 26)

Vatican II reaffirmed what the priesthood meant:
"...ordained priests are "living instruments of Christ the eternal priest." At his ordination, every priest "assumes the person of Christ." The Catholic priest, in other words, is not simply a religious functionary, a man licensed to do certain kinds of ecclesiastical business. A Catholic priest is an icon, a living re-presentation, of the eternal priesthood of Jesus Christ. He makes Christ present in the Church in a singular way, by acting in persona Christi, "in the person of Christ," at the altar and in administering the sacraments."

The Courage to be Catholic: Crisis, Reform and the Future of the Church, George Weigel, p 23

As the lines blurred between the priesthood and the laity, it eroded the understanding that the priesthood is unique and set apart. The respect and reverence that used to be accorded to such men was lost. Could this have been a factor in the sexual abuse scandals of some priests? Perhaps. If a priest was not fully aware of his role as an icon of Christ, then I would think it made it easier to see himself as an individual with no connection or responsibility to the church at large.

I heard a recorded interview of Pope Benedict but it may have been was when he was a Cardinal. I wish I had particulars, but I don't. At one point, the interviewer asked Pope Benedict what he thought about priests who had been involved in sexual abuse. Pope Benedict was very concise. He said he didn't think they took their faith seriously. If they did take their faith seriously, there was no way they could harm a child or a teenager.

In spite of this, I have begun to love priests more and more, especially the younger ones. I know of the earnest devotion that is often the earmark of young adults. It is natural. When one is younger, they are thankfully free of the emotional baggage that often comes in time with years of service. They are hopeful and optimistic. They are to be held in prayer as God sets them upon firmer footing, for their faith will begin to strengthen as they witness God delivering them time and time again from evil.

They have made sacrifices that I can't begin to know. They seek to serve in a culture that no longer acknowledges their role and all too often, denigrates them for it. I believe those who are called into the priesthood during this time will be required to step up to the plate in a more substantial way than their twentieth-century predecessors.

But still, priests are with us and they've been given spiritual authority from God to do the job of leading His Church by submitting to the Head, who is Christ Jesus.

I am more in awe of them than ever.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Powerful Testimony of a Woman Who Lost What Meant the Most to Her, and Lived to Tell the Tale

I'm listening to Teresa Tomeo's radio show and hearing the touching story of Marian Hammaran and her return to the Catholic church and journey toward understanding suffering.

She and her husband experienced one of the most tragic losses a parent can experience - the murder of their only child. Caitlin Hammeren was one of the 32 people who were slain by a disturbed gunman on the campus of Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007. (Mantilla nod to Et Tu)

On Teresa's show, Marian talks about how a book so deeply touched her that it lifted her out of her self-imposed prison of anger toward God and placed her on the path of acceptance. The book is Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To by Anthony DeStafano.

It sounds like a wonderful book and one that can minister to those who are hurt and don't know where to turn.

God bless Anthony DeStafano and may God use this book to draw many to His loving heart.

I Guess Hillary Can Forget About the V.P. Nomination

Whoa. I just caught this online.

Obama hires Patti Solis-Doyle as the chief-of-staff to the Vice Presidential candidate.

For those who follow politics, Solis-Doyle was Senator Clinton's campaign manager until she was fired for poor management. The story says Clinton and Solis-Doyle haven't spoken since the firing. This move on Obama's part effectively closes the door to Clinton's chances of being chosen as the V.P. nominee.

All I can say is as much as Team Clinton keeps track of who "betrayed" her, there is also those who seem to somehow land on their feet after a close encounter with She Who Must Be Obeyed.

(Note: The Huffington Post site is often filled with raw language, including a comment in the story. Just an FYI.)

Looking for a Catholic Bible Study Group?

Steve Ray just posted a way to find Catholic Scripture Study in your area.

The Study Groups will use guides developed by Steve Ray and a group of carefully chosen priests, authors and editors who stay true to the Magisterium.

From Catholic Scripture Study's website:

CSS is an organization committed to helping Catholics deepen their understanding and love of our Lord Jesus Christ and His Church. We are dedicated to producing Catholic study materials that are always faithful to the teachings of the Holy Catholic Church. Our studies incorporate Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and Magisterial Teaching. This is because, as Catholics, we know that God has given us three gifts so that we may know Him and His plan for us. These gifts are Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, which together, make up a single deposit of the Word of God, and the Magisterium of the Catholic Church which listens devotedly, guards with dedication and interprets faithfully God's Word.

Check it out to discover if a parish near you already has a study group. If not, why not start one?

This is just a fantastic find! When I left the Catholic church at age 20, one of the major reasons was because there wasn't a Bible study group available. I was starting to ask deeper questions about my faith but at the time, felt there were few places I could go for answers.

Scripture study shouldn't stop after high school or college. I know I'm going to definitely be checking into Steve Ray's series which explores the documents of Vatican II. Sounds fascinating!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Gay Activists Are Headed for the Churches

I wasn't surprised to read the following:
The next two Sundays, a coalition of radical gay groups comprised of SoulForce, The National Black Justice Coalition, and Equality Riders have coerced two of the nation’s most influential leaders into a closed-door showdown. Two of these groups (Soulforce and Equality Riders) are known for civil disobedience - even getting arrested in the name of GLBT justice. Bill Hybels at Willow Creek Community Church and Rick Warren at Saddleback Community Church will meet with these folks on June 8 and 15, respectively. Although Hybels and Warren will undoubtedly defend the faith boldly, SoulForce and company have set up a symbolic media campaign designed to suggest that conservative churches are bending on their gay relationships and marriage prohibitions.

The Gay Activists Are Headed For The Churches

Before I express an opinion, I do want to state that several of my uncles and one first cousin are gay. I've had gay friends in the past and even studied the Gay/Lesbian group's communication at my university as part of a group project requirement. I have a very deep empathy for gays and lesbians. However, I do not believe the lifestyle is what God intended when He instituted marriage. From my experience of friendship with especially gays, I was often touched by the deep hurt and pain they carried from their families of origin. Some had been molested as young boys which became a defining force for their identity.

Not all gays are activists. Not all gays want the states to recognize gay marriage. But gay activists are bulldozing their way over the "will of the people" to accomplish their agenda.

I have never understood this desire of gays wanting marriage. (Especially gay activists, who never seem to be satisfied.) Here are a few reasons:

1) Loud & Proud Gays have usually boasted how they "push the envelope" on what is acceptable behavior in society. It used to be that if you were gay, you weren't "out" about it, but discreet. Most people respect discreet.

2) Loud & Proud Gays have mocked traditional institutions for decades.

If activist gays have spent years minimizing the importance of such traditional institutions such as church and family, then why is it so important to be recognized by them? Well, as you may imagine, I have an idea.


Deconstruction is happening all around us. Those who don't like things as they are want to change them into their own liking. It isn't enough to say, "Well. Heterosexuality isn't my cup of tea. I'm gay and I'll live my own life as I please." No, the radical gay activists have much more in mind.

Have you noticed how things have changed over the past thirty years? At first being gay was a "choice." Then that became un-politically correct to say. It then became a "lifestyle." Again, that was eschewed as gays insisted there was no choice attached to their sexual identity. Now, we are expected to not only accept their choice, but celebrate it in marriage. The next step will be full adoration.

I know that may sound extreme, but we are talking about a certain group who want validation at all costs. They have no qualms about destroying tradition because as far as they see it, tradition has condemned them and they're not about to put up with it any longer. Listen to any strident cry from the activist crowd and you'll hear their indignant anger that for some, is pure rage. They are out to destroy anything that does not agree with their world view.

It is that intent to destroy that is key.

Homosexuality is simply one issue that churches confront. This is amid a variety of issues that include: abortion, pornography, child abuse, greed, to name a few.

Those who are not Christian aren't expected to obey Biblical precepts. If anything, they need our love and prayers. But for those who call themselves Christian, they need to seriously consider the words of St. Paul (emphasis mine):

"All things are lawful for me," but not all things are helpful. "All things are lawful for me," but I will not be enslaved by anything. "Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food"--and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who joins himself to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, "The two shall become one flesh." But he who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Shun immorality. Every other sin which a man commits is outside the body; but the immoral man sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

1 Cor. 6:12-20 (RSV)

These verses are powerful. St. Paul is reminding us that we have been bought at a price. It is not just our flesh that is running the show - we've been joined together with the Spirit of Christ. We belong to Him, not ourselves. Which means that we are shun immorality, to pursue God at all costs and glorify Him in our body.

This applies to both heterosexuals and homosexuals. We are called to live lives of holiness; which includes celibacy for unmarried people and chastity for everyone. Even if we're married, we're not allowed to insist upon our own pleasure. For those who struggle with homosexual desire, they are required to crucify those desires and seek grace and strength from God.

Who is to say what someone's "cross" may be to bear? In 1 Cor. 12:7, St. Paul shared his own struggle: "
And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated." He never mentioned this "thorn of the flesh" ever being removed.

I'll be interested to see how Willow Creek and Saddleback will respond to this type of bullying. The gay activists are well aware that the Christian church is their biggest obstacle from fulfilling their agenda. They wrongly think they can force their will upon a group of people who have been known to die for their faith.

When you're dealing with such a group, no amount of bullying is going to get you anywhere.

ETA: After giving this more thought, I realized what truly bothers me is that these two churches have granted legitimacy to these gay activists. By agreeing to meet with them, there is the implication that something may be negotiated. I cannot help but wonder, what?

Not only has the Catholic church taken a strong stand on recognizing that "homosexuality acts are intrinsically
disordered," (CCC 2357), but other Bible-based Christian churches agree. If a gay person is coming to the church for support to help them live a holy and celibate life, there is forgiveness and redemption available. If, however, a gay is coming to the church with no remorse for engaging in acts clearly condemned by Scripture, then there is nothing to say except reconsider your position and pray for a repentant heart.

I do not get the impression these activists are repentant. Instead, they are looking for more validation for living a life apart from God. May God help us all to stand strong for His truth and give grace and strength to repentant gays "to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition," (CCC2358)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

What I Love About Catholicism: Fatherly Love

I may elaborate on this topic more, but today my mind was filled with thoughts of fathering and in particular, the fathering that goes on within the Catholic faith.

Part of what contributed to my musings was Fr. Z's entry on Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos declaration that the Latin Mass is to be reintroduced to every Roman Catholic parish in England and Wales. This is amazing in itself. The Latin Mass, from the featured article, was effectively banned from both countries for 40 years. The liberals do not want the Latin Mass to experience anything short of a final death, so suffice it to say they're not too happy with this development.

As I pondered this information, (and the lively discussion going on in the combox) I realized what we are experiencing is a father's love through our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI.

Many times, fathers make unpopular decisions in the family. They are often the ones who have to not only set the rules, but enforce them. Fathers direct, guide, and discipline. Mothers do this also but I would humbly submit there is a different way she goes about it. How many mothers have said, "Just wait until your father gets home..." Which of course made most children eager to redeem themselves.

There has been a great deal of doctrinal error, rebellion, and abuse (both liturgically and on a personal level) within the Catholic church over the past 40 years. For 25 of those years, I was absent. But I remember the blandness of my local parishes and realize it was no wonder I left. There was no "defense of the faith" then or a passion for the Catholic faith. My spiritual formation was weak and although I had a hunger to learn, I admit I did not turn that hunger toward the Catholic church. I thought at the time that there were better churches than the Catholic church.

Pope Benedict XVI is doing something very brave and to me, very right. He's bringing the Latin Mass back into the spotlight for a reason. Because on a certain scale, the Catholic church has lost its way. Over the past few decades, the world has had its way with the church. Every social issue has been brought up but yet topics such as sin and holy living have been kicked to the curb. I read today a fascinating testimony of a young woman who almost abandoned her Catholic faith for an evangelical church but was rescued by the wise words of her mother. (Her story has been preserved on the blog, "A Quiet Catholic." The story is "I Was Robbed.")

The Tridentine Mass (also called the Extraordinary Form or Latin Mass) leaves no room for that. As a matter of fact, just reading the 1962 Missal's portion of what to contemplate before going to confession (A very clear "Examination of Conscience") proves that whoever put it together was taking sin very seriously.

How seriously do we take sin today?

A good father won't allow his children to run roughshod over him or his wife. He will not allow his children to act selfishly or throw noisy tantrums when they don't get their way. A good father will confront his children and challenge them to consider their ways. My own father did this and I am so thankful I had such a dad. Did I like to be disciplined as it was happening? No, of course not. But I realized my father only did it because he loved me enough to withstand my momentary resentment so I could be set on the right path.

I'm loving Pope Benedict XVI more and more. I believe he is a true Father in relation to bringing the Latin Mass to the forefront. It is for a "teachable moment" that we, as the Catholic church, so desperately need.

Boy, Would My Brother Be Surprised

I joined the choir. (or the Schola Cantorum, if you're speaking Latin. Which I am trying to do ...hence my involvement.)

When I met with the parish priest weeks ago, I mentioned how I was really enjoying the Latin and starting to even keep up with it throughout the Mass. He responded by saying the best way to learn Latin was to join the choir. I laughed and said I didn't think I had that good of a voice. He quickly said, "Doesn't matter. Just join and you'll learn Latin faster."

So, that's how I came to be at an 8:00 AM rehearsal and then joining the rest of the group in the choir loft.

I am so thankful for one singer, Rhonda, who is one of the sweetest women I've met. She is also an alto. By standing next to her, I could make out her part of the harmony. I really loved being near everyone as they sang the various responses. During the past few weeks, I've recognized the words and phrasing more and more but yet didn't hear too many around me sing. I really want to learn so I do think this is the best way to do it. I'm looking forward to the day where I can sing more confidently.

My brother would be surprised because he always teased me about my singing voice. He has sung in a few bands, so of course this makes him an expert on singing. (He good-naturedly has ribbed me about it, nothing thankfully, vicious.) My father used to sing in a choir and also was a musician/singer. He's proud of me for trying. Thank God for fathers. (especially today!)

If I get bold enough, someday I may record the schola and put it on YouTube. I'll just make sure my brother doesn't get wind of it.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

And All I Got From Today Was Silly Photoshopping...

Well, today wasn't too productive. First, I got hooked on creating "flair" on Facebook.

"Flair" is a term best known from the movie, "Office Space." My husband and I own the movie and cannot honestly say how many times we've watched it. Let's say alot.

Anyway, in the movie, the hero, Peter, falls in love with a waitress, Joanna. Joanna works in a "TGIF"-style restaurant where she is required to wear stupid buttons to show how excited she is to be working there. The buttons are called "flair." She eventually has a meltdown with her boss when he told her she just wasn't wearing enough "flair." (I love that..."Don't you want to express yourself?")

So I created two buttons today. They're available on my Facebook page if anyone wants them.

But after reading Fr. Z's latest entry on Cardinal Hoyos assertion that not "many parishes, but all" would be celebrating at some point the Latin Mass, I was inspired to create a fun photo. Pope Benedict XVI is reintroducing the old rite as the Gregorian Rite. So here's my latest:


I also spent a little over two hours in a theological discussion with my husband over the authority of Peter and what did it mean when Jesus Christ said He was giving Peter the "keys of the kingdom." My husband claimed that the offer was made to all the disciples. I challenged him. Between the both of us, we have a small Biblical resource library of concordances, an interlinear Bible, a Greek Bible, and of course, online Bibles and concordances.

He realized that "you" meant "you." Not "all of you." Singular pronoun. Then he was jumping around all over about how Peter wasn't any more special than the other disciples. I pointed to Acts and how Peter was predominant in the description of the early church. He still didn't see it.

So. I've been trying very hard not to inundate him with things I'm learning about the Catholic church. If you remember, I'd certainly appreciate prayers that God would give me wisdom. I never want to be accused of "pushing" anything. But how to contain my excitement about what I'm learning? This is a most difficult thing. I realize that this may be part of my suffering but I am believing it has a purpose. May He give me grace and strength to bear what He has called me to do.

Off to bed...I need to get up early tomorrow morning.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Naked Liturgist

Or as we say in some parts of the United States - The Nekkid Liturgist.

Rev. Bosco Peters was kind enough to send me his YouTube video which explains the liturgy's history. And here I thought reading the announcements was a relatively new thing! Be sure to visit the site, Liturgy. I loved the addition of Rev. Peters' face and Roman Collar on the body of Adam in the intro to the video. :-)

My parish's priest reads the notices before his sermon. However, during a Tridentine Mass, there really is no other time to do it.