Thursday, October 30, 2008

Taking the Monastery Into the World

I've been catching snippets of the wonderful documentary, Into Great Silence, which chronicles the daily life inside a Carthusian monastery, the Grand Chartreuse. The dramatic backdrop of the French Alps is a stunning canvas for the artistry of the monks' beautifully simple devotional life. The ordinary becomes sacred as each monk lives out his day in silence and obedience to God.

I had already planned on buying the two-disc film. I'm looking forward to finally owning the complete version. My expectations of what this documentary would show, were met and exceeded, leaving me completely humbled and captivated at the same time. What I've taken from it is the great importance of living in the moment and being grateful to God for that moment. So many times, we live life at breakneck speed, always thinking of "the next." We live in the future so much that we don't fully appreciate the present. We often don't take enough time to sit and reflect, or kneel and pray.

I think this is why I loved "The Simple Woman's Daybook idea. It gave women an opportunity to just sit and reflect on their day and upcoming week. Found in those reflections were surprising pockets of joy as a woman realized how deeply she was blessed. It does take time and silence to appreciate what is most precious. After watching this film, it becomes clear why Jesus spent so much time seeking solace and prayer.

I realized I can take some of the monastic experience into the world. I don't have to be so rushed. If I do things with deliberate awareness, I can capture some of the thoughtful intent that defines monastic life. Just being aware of my breathing, or how my hand holds a steering wheel, or leaning back into my chair can all be sacred moments if I take those opportunities to connect with God and give thanks.

Peace and serenity can be had outside the monastery walls. We just have to give a little more thought to it...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Be Not Afraid

Carolina Cannonball over at The Crescat has some wise words to say regarding our current state of affairs. There is much turbulence in the world, but we can rest in knowing Jesus. How often did He say, "Peace be with you..." Very often.

Do a search on the word peace and you'll get some wonderful results. Jesus Christ was our "peace offering" and by His life, death, and resurrection - He brought peace between man and his Heavenly Father. Praise God that we have been given such a precious gift!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

In Praise of Parenting: It's the Big Things That Count

This entry is dedicated to my parish friend, Kimberly of Catholic Family Vignettes. Kimberly and her wonderful husband have a great, big Catholic family of nine children. Several no longer live at home, but most of her crew do and from observing them over the past few months, I can honestly say it's one big happy family.

I am always blessed to see families. I don't have children of my own, but yet I adore kids and feel the pang of childlessness on occasion. Still, what I do is love my niece and nephew and spend as much time as possible with them, and simply "love on" any kid that comes near enough to be hugged. Children are such a blessing in many ways. They allow us to view the world through their eyes, teach us patience, and give us opportunities to love, learn, and rejoice.

On Sunday, I told Kimberly something that's been on my mind regarding children and decided to share it with you. Some of you are parents and may feel saddened that you can't provide the glossy material stuff this culture craves. "But all my girlfriends have a Blackberry!" your thirteen-year old daughter may say. However, what your daughter may not know is how hard you work to make sure there's enough food on the table and splurging on expensive technology isn't on your list of "must have's."

Awhile ago, Kimberly had one of the best posts I had read in some time regarding poverty. What is poverty, really, for the average American? Is it truly not having enough food to eat or is it not having all the tech toys you want? She explains her answer to her son when he asked, "Mom, are we poor?" here.

On Sunday, I told her this: I was raised in a middle-class neighborhood with a father who made a very decent living. My mother was able to stay home with us while growing up. The only thing I really remembered wanting that "all the other kids had" was a jean jacket. But I don't remember any particular toys that I was crushed by not receiving. I don't remember all the "things" that didn't come through for my brother and I.

What I do remember is the love. I remember my mother stretching herself out on the floor while my brother and I took our naps during a particularly scary thunderstorm because we were afraid. She figured if both of us could see her, we'd feel safer. So my brother saw her head during a few minutes and I saw her legs. Then she'd switch so I saw her head and my brother had a view of her legs. It worked. We both fell asleep quickly.

I remember my father attending our sports events when he could. I remember both our parents telling us constantly how much they loved us, how they believed in us, and how they encouraged us to not give up, to not allow the bullies to get us down, and to strive to be the best we could be. I remember knowing that no matter what, my parents were in our corner.

Those are the big things. All the other "stuff" that this culture says is so important - isn't. It doesn't matter if you live in an apartment, a trailer, or a spacious home. It doesn't matter if you drive an old 1995 Chevrolet or a 2008 Lexus. It doesn't matter if you clothe your children with Abercrombie & Fitch or WalMart. What does matter is if you tell them you love them, listen to their hopes, dreams, and fears - and you're there not just when they need you, but when they want you. What matters is being there but allowing them to fall, knowing it's a part of life and you'll be there to help dust them off and try again. What matters is that you believe in them.

I know my brother and I have been incredibly blessed to have received what every child yearns to have: not only our physical needs, but our spiritual and emotional needs met as well. So if you're wondering "what more" you can do for your child, there's a pretty good chance that what they really need can't be ordered online or through a catalog. It's right there, in your heart.

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Simple Woman's Daybook

Thanks to Peggy at The Simple Woman for her daybook! To read more, check her entry today. To join in, first read her instructions here. Have a beautiful day!

FOR TODAY Monday, October 27

Outside My Window... The sky is dark blue velvet. Only a few lights from the nearby high school are lighting up the night. I'm getting up earlier and dawn won't be for another hour.

I am thinking... about marketing issues. All weekend. My mind is buzzing with ideas for my new job. Not very interesting to most people but I love it!

I am thankful for... Priests. I've come to appreciate them more than ever. They have a tough row to hoe.

From the kitchen... Coffee, which I'm drinking with CoffeeMate's "Cinnamon Bun" creamer. I need to get bagels and cereal. I still haven't gotten into a "groove" yet of planning dinners with my new schedule. Last night we had Chinese takeout. My leftovers may be my lunch, Chicken Jalepeno, which was very yummy!

I am wearing... my long-sleeved pink cotton nightgown with tiny pink flowers. I'm rather cold, even though the heat just kicked on. Barefoot.

I am creating...a digital page - finally! There are these two guys at the Renaissance Festival who perform each year, "Dirk and Guido." They are hysterically funny and Mickey was able to get some great shots of them.

I am going... to be taking my shower soon and heading into work. I'm trying to establish an "early to work, early to leave" routine!

I am reading... Seth Godin's Meatball Sundae. A very fascinating book about the New Media and how it is affecting marketing for companies across the world.

I am hoping... I can figure out our client relationship management software today. That thing is driving me nuts...

I am hearing... the soft blowing of heated air from the vents. Other than that, silence.

Around the house... I know I'm getting tired of saying boxes, but there are still boxes. I did fill another one with unneeded clothing and gave it to charity.

One of my favorite things... Sundays and attending Solemn High Mass and then sharing donuts and fellowship with my new friends after church.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week: Checking with a guy tonight to get an estimate for painting my car (it's looking rather ratty), my first full work week, figuring out Apple's movie and podcasting capabilities.

Here is picture thought I am sharing..."Dirk and Guido" They are truly two very funny guys!

What I Love About Catholicism: Priests

I have really started to love priests again. And it wasn't as though I "hated" them at any point in my life. Even in the midst of the sexual abuse cases, I never looked at the whole lot of them and said, "Oooohhh, those priests....they should be done away with!" I knew there were some very disturbed men but as soon as I heard Pope Benedict's thoughts about it, my opinion was beautifully crystallized: The priests who did such horrible things never loved Jesus Christ enough to allow Him Lordship over every part of their life.

My feelings about priests dissolved shortly after I left the Catholic church. They became irrelevant to me and I admit I thought they were a bit backward. Not as "aware" as my newly discovered non-denominational leaders. Then there were a few Jesuit intellectuals I knew, whom I thought of as "fake" priests. They were all about philosophy but their disdain for the average man struck me as snobbish and small-hearted. They didn't even remotely remind me of Jesus.

There are good priests and bad priests, just as there are good doctors and bad doctors. When someone runs across a bad doctor, it doesn't mean they suddenly think they'll never use another one again. We all know there are times in our lives when we need doctors. We need priests and perhaps more so than ever before. We live in a very turbulent world. Priests help by not only guiding people to the truth but by providing a firm dependability that is not seen in any other Christian denomination. There are many pastors but very few stay within the same framework of leadership, serving a congregation day and and day out - for decades. Priests do.

There are different kinds of priests. I don't think I realized how many "types" there were until I came back. Not all priests have the pastoral gift. (And some of you may be reading this while saying, "Boy...she's got that right. Take my priest, for example. Please. Take him.") Some priests are called to travel and speak, such as Fr. John Corapi. Some are called to teach within schools. Some are called to minister within government and law. Some are called to close themselves off to the world and lead a contemplative life.

The ones who are called to serve within a parish are, in my opinion, those who need our prayers the most. It is a very exhausting thing to provide spiritual leadership. Many church members refuse to grow up and constantly badger a priest over every possible infraction they see occurring in mostly inconsequential issues. Then there are the needy women who have no men who will listen to them so they cry on the shoulder of a priest. There are the small cliques (often called committees) who feel it is their duty to make sure the priest is going in the right direction and will tighten their leash if he strays. And there are the naysayers, who critically evaluate every church service in order to write lengthy letters to "straighten out" their priest.

I didn't even include the myriad of duties a priest has such as entertaining visitors, teaching in the parish's school, visiting the sick and praying over them, conducting weddings and funerals, overseeing the budget, attending meetings, and - oh, yes, celebrating Mass each day. I know I left out some things.

When I returned, I realized there was a divide between priests who disagreed with the Pope on almost every major issue and those who trusted His Holiness, for the most part, implicitly. I knew there were priests who supported the ordination of women as priests and those who did not. But still, in the midst of all these disagreements, I started to grow in my respect for them. You can take the most liberal priest out there, but I will still admire him for one thing: he has dedicated his life to serving others. The way they serve may give me pause, but they are serving nonetheless.

Yesterday was "Priesthood Appreciation Sunday." We had a cake for our parish priest and I was touched by the wording of the plaque he received:

In recognition of your dedication, enthusiasm, and commitment of excellence in living out your priestly ministry to serve the people of the Catholic Church, the poor and neglected, and all those who come to you with a heart filled with the life of Christ or those desiring to give their hearts to our Lord Jesus Christ.

Some priests are gruff. Some are kind. Some are generous with their time. Some are not. But before we quickly judge, think about all they have given up in order to be available to you. It's an amazing sacrifice. I know I don't think of it often enough but I will seek to do so more. The least we can do is pray for them. It's a tough job and they need God to do it.

Thank you, if you are a priest and happen to be reading. Thank you for being there for the sick and dying, those who are lost, and those like me - who left home and finally returned. God bless you richly over, and over, and over again.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

New "Castitas" Video: Words

Short and sweet! Yes, I will be able to do a video within 5 minutes!

Let Your Voice Be Heard

Sometimes it's easy to think you can't make much of a difference. One voice in the midst of millions? Sure. Like that's going to be heard.

But you are one voice and together we create millions. Think about it as you read this.

The God of Yes and No

I have been feeling extremely blessed as of late for a variety of reasons; but mostly because of my new job. I'm almost embarrassed to say that it's taken me this long in life to find something I really enjoy doing while getting paid for it, but as my father said, some people go throughout their entire lives working and never finding any satisfaction in doing it.

All of us have been created with a special and unique combination of skills and talents. For those who are creative (raising my hand and wildly waving), finding contentment in our work is no small task. My brother, who is a lawyer, seemed to know at the age of five that he wanted to be one. (How this happened is still a mystery to me since we had no lawyers in our family. I chalk it up to Perry Mason on TV.)

For me, I declared I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. There were few things I loved more than losing myself in drawing or painting. A second passion was reading, which spawned it's first-cousin - writing. Being a reflective type, I immediately began my first diary at age nine with such ambitious ideas as creating an icon guide of faces to describe the mood of the day and placing that key prominently just inside the front cover. I was always trying to define something, including my own emotional temperature for the day.

When I started to seriously pursue God (and He always pursues us first), I realized my skills and talents were gifts from Him. It seemed logical to ask Him to guide me and give me the opportunities to use what He had given to me. Thus began a lifelong quest to discover what He had in mind.

Whenever we pray to God about such things, of course we hope to see an answer immediately. We are impatient people and our impatience has been further compounded by what I call a "microwave culture." Everything has to be "instant" or we become bored and move on. Cultivating anything is seen as a bother as we try to find shortcuts to achieve what we want. However, those who are gardeners will know that growth and development do not happen overnight and living things must be nurtured consistently to see any fruit.

God is the ultimate Gardener, tending to us patiently, adding water when we need it, His "Son" always shining upon us, and the nourishment of good soil - which is His truth through the Scripture - feeds us. Cultivation is His language.

My husband captured my heart entirely during our first date. We were leaning against our respective cars at a park during a cool August night, drinking tepid coffee and talking about a wide variety of topics. We started to talk about relationships in general. "Relationships should be cultivated," He said. "They don't just happen overnight."

I remember thinking, "Cultivate! He used my word! He gets it!" I was so excited inside by kept myself in check because I really didn't want to fall so easily for this handsome, slender, brainy guy - but it was already too late. I had because he had already "cultivated" a relationship with me through weeks of writing to each other. Our love for words and expression naturally provided the perfect environment for intimacy to grow.

In the course of our spiritual growth, there are times when God says "no" to our requests, but only so He can provide a better "yes." He said "no" to His Son's request that the cup of suffering be withheld from His lips because there was a better "yes" coming. The better answer glorified the Father and the Son while bringing us eternal life. I'd say that's the best "yes" we have ever been given! God said "no" to preventing Lazarus from dying so He could give His Son the better "yes" by raising Lazarus from the dead.

God said "no" to me during the past few months as I searched for a suitable job. There were a few positions that I really hoped to get but didn't. I remember feeling discouraged but I pressed on, trusting He had a better "yes." He did and it is far better than I imagined. It was the same with my husband. I was single for many years, desiring with all my heart to be married. He said "no" to other possible matches because He had something better in mind. He had other things He wanted me to accomplish first before bringing me to my future husband, and so I trusted in Him, believing my desire would one day be fulfilled.

When I look at my husband as we share a cup of coffee in bed while snuggling under the covers, or cycling with him, or whatever we find to do together - I am reminded of how deeply blessed I have been that God said "no" for all those years so I could thoroughly enjoy His "yes" at the right time.

So in the midst of our attention spans becoming shorter and shorter, waiting upon God is more important than ever. He hears our prayers and is working for our good. And His "yes''" are very, very, very much worth all the "no's" you'll receive.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

What I Love About Catholicism: The Parish Bulletin

At first glance, you may be thinking, "The parish bulletin? Why?" Well, the parish bulletin holds some good memories for me. As I started to think about this humble little 11x17 piece of folded paper handed out to us every Sunday, I realized all the reasons why I like it.

My fondest memory comes from my mother. She always wanted to see the bulletin and would often pick it up before entering church if it was available. She'd scan the church happenings and announcements. "Ah, guess who's getting married?" She'd sometimes ask. Or, "Oh, Mr. X has passed away. I wonder if that's so-and-so's grandfather?" She'd always zero in on the people because that is how she was. Both of my parents were avid readers of the obituaries. It's one of those things that distinguishes them to me because it shows they care. When my mom passed away and our neighbors across the street didn't know, my father gruffly quipped, "What's the matter with them? Don't they read the obituaries?!"

The parish bulletin is more complete than the obituary page. It chronicles the life of a parish; noting the births, weddings, those who are ill, and those who have passed on. It announces special events and the occasional request for help. It is short and sweet. The editor, who most likely is the church secretary, has only so much room to fit everything in so brevity is best.

It is the Catholic church's way to keep up-to-date with our faith community. It is also a way to remind us to pray for one another, that real people with real challenges are sitting next to us in the pews and even though we may not be able to talk to them, we can keep them in prayer.

For those huge non-denominational churches, a weekly bulletin would be almost impossible to create. Most of them publish a very slick brochure, but it strikes me as impersonal. And I know that some denominations have a weekly bulletin, but to me, there will always be something special about a Catholic parish's bulletin, complete with the little ads on the back and exhortation, "Please Support Our Advertisers!" It is wonderfully "homey" and let's visitors know that we really are a family.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Proud of the U.S. Bishops

I came across this piece:

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) has suspended funding of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) following reports of embezzlement, according to CCHD executive director Ralph McCloud. The CCHD has given over $7.3 million to ACORN projects in the past decade despite concerns raised over the years by the Wanderer Forum Foundation, the Capital Research Center, and others.

US bishops’ agency suspends ACORN funding

Good for CCHD. I've been appalled by ACORN's brute thuggery as of late, hammering poor people into multiple voter registrations with promises of cash and cigarettes. It's outrageous. Whether the Bishops are trying to distance themselves from ACORN's highly suspicious activities or if a straw finally broke the proverbial camel's back, I don't know. I just am happy they've washed their hands of ACORN.

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Simple Woman's Daybook

Thank you, Peggy at The Simple Woman for the daybook! If you're interested in learning how to add your own daybook to her blog, go here. For more entries, check out her page later today. Enjoy and Happy Monday!

FOR TODAY, Monday, October 20, 2008

Outside My Window... It is light with a soft pink around the edge of the horizon. Frost is on the roof!

I am thinking... of how grateful I am to God for His mercy.

I am thankful faith.

From the kitchen... Nothing. I'm getting ready to head out the door to work. Later this evening, I'll have to figure out something to make, something quick and easy. Suggestions? :-)

I am wearing...beige chinos, an oatmeal-colored mock turtleneck, white socks and slip-ons.

I am creating...more video experiments and now podcasts. I'm learning more about Apple and it's very impressive software.

I am try to wake up earlier so I can do this, plus get in to work at an earlier time!

I am reading...C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity. A wonderfully brilliant book that explains why a Christian believes what he believes.

I am hoping...the Holy Spirit opens the eyes of those who want to see, but for whatever reason, can not.

I am hearing... Mother Angelica reciting the Rosary. I'm sort of multi-tasking right now which isn't my preference when it comes to prayer. I'm going to pray the Rosary again later today.

Around the house... is one less box. I bought a nice armoire over the weekend and stocked it with some of the contents from one particular box.

One of my favorite things... looking around a room that isn't cluttered!

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week: Teaching digital scrapbooking to the ladies from church, a little more organization around the home, relaxing with my husband, creating layouts from our day at the Renaissance Festival.

Here is picture thought I am sharing... This has a little bit of a story to it. My mother loved perfume. Especially anything created by Estee Lauder. When she passed away, my father gave me all of her perfume, which was a considerable amount. The bottles were in a small box and I knew I wanted to display them but really didn't have room on the dresser. I placed what I could on the dresser but it looked "cluttery." Finally, after paging through a Better Homes & Garden special edition of "100 Decorating Ideas for Under $100," I stumbled upon a white wooden armoire from Target. It was perfect! So this past weekend, my husband and I found a Target that had them in stock (I think word is getting around!) and brought one home. He was kind enough to put it together (even though I've done the whole DIY furniture before and said I'd do it...) and voila! The perfect home for all those bottles, plus my dresser looks so much better!

So, thank you Dad and thank you, Mom. The display is a tribute of sorts to my mother, who loved more than anything, all things feminine. :-)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Dear Atheist...

I decided to write an "open letter" to you since I have no idea how many of you have visited this blog since my YouTube challenge and response to "FSMDude", and my ongoing responses in the YouTube comment box.

First, my blog is primarily about my return to the Catholic church after being away for 25 years. I was involved in other churches during that time, but either didn't agree or didn't understand Catholicism even though I was raised in the Catholic church. It took the death of my mother in 2007 to bring me back and forced me to re-examine Catholicism's beliefs. I am both surprised and thrilled by how rich and satisfying Catholicism is, once I took the time to learn the reasons for her doctrines.

I say that to say this: I'm not going to allow my blog to be turned into a stomping ground for you to trod upon other people's beliefs. If you want to consider Catholicism or are seeking Jesus Christ, you are most welcome. But if you simply want to further elevate your own sense of self-importance by mocking Catholicism or it's beliefs, you're in the wrong spot.

I decided to delete a comment from an anonymous person, "Samuel Skinner" (who commented on "The New Breed of Atheism") because he (or she) did not have any contact information. Expressing your opinion is one thing, but "fisking" someone online while hiding behind a screen name is cowardly. Own up to your opinions by either having your own blog where people can respond to you or an email if someone wanted to ask you a personal question. I think the excuse of "oh, I don't want to be bothered with 'hate mail'..." is feeble.

If you have the boldness to challenge people on their beliefs, you should have the courage to handle the criticism when you receive it. As I told my husband, I give as good as I get. I knew what I was walking into when I challenged FSMDude. But it would seem that some atheists can't take the same challenges they so blithely dish out to Christians. As I said to Dom, be intellectually honest and I see no problem in debating these issues.

With "Samuel's" questions, I at first thought about responding to him in the same fashion, by answering each statement separately. However, after I copied and pasted his comments to a regular Word document, and noticing that his comments spanned two and a half pages, I decided against it. Instead, I will say this:

You, as an atheist and I, as a Catholic - are speaking two different languages. You need an Interpreter for what I'm saying because there is no way you can understand it. That Interpreter is the Holy Spirit. God is a triune God - God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Just as the sun has three attributes (light, energy, heat) and water has three forms (water, vapor, ice), so God has three sides to Him. The Holy Spirit is God's communicator. He leads those who are seeking truth, to understanding. I can debate until I'm blue in the face, but ultimately, it will not be by my attempts that you come to any level of belief in Christianity. I am so ill-equipped for such a job that my part is almost inconsequential. All I can do is point to the Truth. You getting there is dependent upon two things:
1) An openness and willingness to discovering truth even when it conflicts with your ego and/or preferences. An honest vulnerability to God that includes the raw "If You are who they say You are, lead me to the truth" question.

2) God's choice in allowing you to see the truth through the power of the Holy Spirit.

There is nothing new to atheism. It was born in the Garden of Eden when the evil serpent said to Eve, "You certainly won't die if you eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil! In fact, God knows that if you do eat from it, you will be like Him, knowing good from evil." (Gen. 3:4,5) Atheism attempts to know good and evil apart from God. Man has forever tried to direct his own life without submitting to some unknown "high power" that could possibly require things that would make life rather a drag. And besides, you can't put God on a scale to weigh Him so He must not exist. (In my opinion, if I could weigh God, He wouldn't be much of a God. If I could understand Him in all His totality, He wouldn't be that great of a divinity.)

There are many questions and objections that you may have as an atheist. I understand. However, it's not as though atheists have cornered the market on critical thinking. Contrary to what some of you believe, Christians do not check their brains at the door when they enter church. In fact, some of the brightest, most intellectual people I've met have been Christians. As a matter of fact, our Pope Benedict XVI is no slouch in the thinking department. I dare you to read his Jesus of Nazareth. If you can slog through that book, you will at least have a head start toward understanding faith in God.

The first step will always be yours to take. God has been calling you ever since you were born to recognize His love for you. He entered our world as a baby in order to live the "human experience." Nothing in your life is foreign to Him since He both created you and lived through the same hardships. Jesus Christ came for one reason - to atone for your sin so you may approach the Almighty God and have eternal life.

There are many people praying that God would have mercy upon you and give you spiritual sight. Cloistered monks and nuns do just that. They have devoted their lives to praying for you while forsaking the world. I also pray with great fervor that you will know what it is like to be loved and cherished by the Source of All Love - God, through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ, and through the power of His Holy Spirit. May you know the Truth, Jesus Christ, for He will indeed set you free.

More Thoughts on Atheism

It's interesting that I've met a small group of atheists online at this point in my life. Because I've been going back and forth with a few of them for a little over a week, now, it has caused me to look more deeply at my own faith. I like to do this frequently because I do like to define the reasons for my belief.

St. Paul in his instructive letters to Timothy said to "preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching." (2 Tim. 4:2) The atheists are searching, whether they want to admit it or not. They are searching for a reason to believe. Many try to defend their position by saying logically or rationally, faith is meaningless. Because it can't be "proved" on their terms, they think it's non-existent. However, praise be to God that He can break through such gobble-de-gook! Only by His grace can we see the truth. It encourages my heart greatly when I hear stories of how atheists finally abandoned their empty rhetoric and embraced Jesus Christ. The angels in heaven rejoice!

I believe we're going to see a rise in atheism if Sen. Obama is elected as President. The whole belief in Self is going to reach a new level. I pray that all of us who believe in Jesus Christ keep our eyes on the prize and never weary of telling others the truth. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life! The saints of old worshiped Him and pressed on to become like Him. Jesus said that the world would know His followers by the love they have for one another.

May God's light illuminate a path for those still in darkness.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Obama Is Bad News for Small Businesses

I suspected as much, but now we have the proof from Obama's own words. He intends to tax the small businesses more so that he can redistribute the wealth. During a conversation with Joe the Plumber (I was wondering why McCain was talking to a "Joe" last night!), Obama said this:
"It's not that I want to punish your success," Obama told him. "I want to make sure that everybody who is behind you, that they've got a chance for success, too."

For the love of pete...

First, Obama's statement reveals how he views capitalism. He doesn't seem to either understand or accept that we already have a country that provides more opportunities for success than any other country in the world. Every immigrant who has made the Unites States their home can attest to this fact. Where else but in America can an immigrant come with only a few dollars in their pocket and then end up owning their own business within a few years? This country was built on small businesses with many becoming big business.

Secondly, Obama made a statement in the video attributing his success to yes - hard work, but also "luck." Oh, yeesh...LUCK? Are you kidding me? We make our own luck! By Obama saying that, he immediately nullified the impact of his words of "hard work" by providing a nice loophole for those who don't succeed. "Oh, well..." says Sam the Sluggard, "I guess I'm not successful because I just don't have good luck." And off he goes slurping down another beer while catching up on the soaps and drawing unemployment for most of his life.

Enough. Obama is dangerous and small businesses certainly don't need him in the Oval Office. Here's the video:

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The New Breed of Atheism

When I responded to FSMDude on YouTube, I had the very simple intention of challenging him and then quickly moving on. I doubted FSMDude would take the challenge seriously, and I was right. What I didn't anticipate was the passionate response from a small group of atheists, who, I imagine, find nothing more satisfying than trying to crush the faith of a religious person. (Muslims seemed to be of particular interest to one.)

I've crossed paths and swords before with atheists, but this is a new breed of atheism I've encountered. Coupled with the nihilistic environment of our society, the younger atheists are belligerent, rude, and quite frankly, kill-joys as they set out to mock something as harmless as a smile. (Yes. FSMDude called my smile in one of my videos as "creepy" because I ended a statement with one. As in, "Faith is a personal issue." Smile.)

This is the current crop of atheists we now have, thanks to a lackluster public school system and an embarrassingly impoverished slew of supposed "higher learning" institutions called universities. These young atheists have not been taught to be critical thinkers. They've just been taught to be critical with no substance. The arguments are generally the same - you can't 'prove' God and they'll never be satisfied because as far as they're concerned, one will never be able to prove God according to their standards.

They seem to have more energy invested in defending their unbelief than they do in honestly pursuing truth. Atheism has always been rather stupid to me because you are operating on a negative. God can't be proven thus, God does not exist. They always assume the absence. I would have a greater respect for someone who would just say, "You know, I don't believe in a god because I don't want to." That's pretty much where most atheists stand. Do you ever notice they demand that Christians jump through philosophical hoops in order to answer their relentless questions but rarely, if ever, do they define what it would take for them to believe in God's existence?

It's because they don't care and that's the point. All they care about is destroying faith.

I had a friend years ago who was fairly intellectual. She attended church with me several times but was starting to question God's existence. She would pepper me with questions, challenging my faith. Before I could address one question, she would quickly ask another. Then another. And another.

Finally, I said to her, "Look, Beth. I know you have questions and they are good ones. However, are you really interested in finding an answer to them? Or are you caught up with your own sense of reasoning and logic, thinking you're outsmarting God?" She simmered down a little and we started to have some interesting conversations.

But this is the exact feeling I get with these younger atheists. They aren't interested in answers, only in their bloated attempts to dazzle someone with their intellectual prowess. It all boils down to a glorification of self, puffing themselves up by minimizing God's place in their lives. As Christians, we know it is a futile exercise but yet also realize they are blind. Only through the power of the Holy Spirit can we see the truth but yet an atheist is caught in his own trap.

He not only refuses to acknowledge he is blind, but insists on trying to "open" the eyes of those who see. It's the blind trying to blind the seeing.

When I tried to describe to an atheist what constituted as "seeing" or "hearing" God, I pointed out that he had already decided that God was invisible and thus, could not be proven by the senses. I pondered that if we have an invisible God, then He must choose invisible methods to communicate with us. Anyone who says they "hear" God is usually labeled a lunatic. (Especially my St. Joan and her 'voices'...) Christians can attest to the fact that we do not hear an audible voice when we pray, but we know when we sense what I call the "otherness" of God as He speaks to our heart. We know when thoughts - fantastical, wise thoughts - pass through our minds and know we are not the author of such thoughts. We can recognize truth and wisdom because of the Bible and the grace of God. The Holy Spirit guides us. The sheep know the voice of the Shepherd.

As I laid in bed a few nights ago, an enormous weight of compassion settled upon my heart. I remembered the verses in Scripture when Jesus looked out upon the multitude following Him and saw they were like sheep without a shepherd. I think I felt just the tiniest fraction of what Jesus felt when He gazed upon that crowd. These young atheists are lost. So very, very lost. You can almost taste the restlessness of their souls. They jump from one demand to the other, one leap of faulty logic to the other; desperately trying to build a strong fortress with a deck of cards. One gust of strong wind and it's all gone but they just refuse to see the toppling and scurry to another area and start building again.

It's a sad existence.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What I Love About Catholicism: The Family

Yesterday morning, I attended a special conference at my parish. It began with a Low Mass in Latin and then had several sessions with a visiting priest talking about the importance of Eucharistic Adoration and the relationship with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. I was only able to be present for part of it, but what I heard was good.

Before Mass started in the morning, a family passed by and quietly genuflected before entering a pew. The couple looked to be in their mid-thirties and were shuffling a small boy while the wife was holding a young baby boy in her arms. I watched as the father knelt and prayed while the mother tended to the baby. Something about this image of a family attending church together struck me as profound but I wasn't sure why.

It occurred to me then how rarely those who attend non-denominational churches do so as a complete family. First, many people who attend a non-denominational church are either divorced or young and unmarried. There are very few older people present, the bulk of the congregation mostly being comprised of those between the ages of 20-50.

Non-denominational churches will separate families so that children receive a church experience more suited to their needs. At least, that's the common story. After worship, children are usually dismissed so the adults can hear the sermon without distraction. Still, the families are apart.

Catholicism is remarkably different in its strong dedication to continuity in its beliefs. Catholicism is world-renowned for being pro-life. Not only do Catholics fight for the rights of the unborn, but for the rights of older people to continue to live, even in the midst of failing health. And Catholicism defends the sanctity of the family like no other church I've ever seen. This battle to protect the family is reflected in its respect and encouragement to keep families together during a church service.

I remember when I was a little girl and wasn't particularly keen about attending Mass. However, my father insisted we all attend church and my brother and I wouldn't think of trying to avoid going to church as long as we were living with our parents. Although my brother is estranged from Catholicism, he does attend church and brings his family. I give credit to my father for this. He set the example by showing us there is value in weekly church attendance.

There was something very holy about that family I saw yesterday morning. I know they are setting the same example my father and mother did when we were young. I was reminded of Scripture that says to raise children to respect others, most especially God. I am so grateful to Catholicism for acknowledging that the family is where the Christian soldier starts their training.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Simple Woman's Daybook

Thanks to Peggy at The Simple Woman for creating this idea. If you'd like to join in, go here. Check her page later today for more Daybook entries. Enjoy!

For Today, October 13, 2008 ...

Outside My Window...
it is dark. At 6:25 AM, the sun hasn't risen yet. I have the window open just slightly to feel the cool air. No birds are singing, either.

I am thinking... about people who have no faith whatsoever and choose to mock those who do. My heart has been saddened these past few days.

I am thankful for... God's great mercy and how He has revealed to me and my family His existence. I can't imagine life without God. I love Him so much.

From the kitchen... Cinnamon-Raisin toast, cereal, and maybe a slice of almond cake - a treat I bought to celebrate getting a new job.

I am wearing... my gray striped cotton nightshirt with roses embroidered near the top with little pearls. I just noticed it says "Autumn Bloom" on the front. Ha! Barefoot. I'm thinking I'm going to get my robe, though. It is chilly near the window but I like having it open.

I am creating... my latest YouTube video response to a young, Canadian man who has no faith at all. He is enjoying himself as he makes silly videos mocking other people's faith. It only reminds me of the truth of John's gospel - the world hates the light.

I am going... to attend Latin Mass today and a special conference following it. We have a German priest visiting (he's young!) who will be teaching about the Euchrist and the connection between Eucharistic devotion and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Sounds very interesting.

I am reading... "100 Decorating Ideas Under $100" by Better Homes & Garden. I have so many little projects I want to do.

I am hoping... I can find a good, used bookcase.

I am hearing... the very faint sound of traffic from the window. Silence, otherwise.

Around the house... are a few more framed piotures that need to be hung. If you want to hang pictures grouped together with similar spacing, it is quite a challenge! Measuring helped a little, but just a little. I certainly don't want our new home to look like a scene from a mafia hit for all the holes in the walls. Egads. The magazines make it look so easy!

One of my favorite things... is watching the sun rise and thanking God for a new day.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week: I start my new job! Yes, I was hired permanently. Now I have to let my other two part-time jobs know I'm "letting them go." I also have to create a new proposal for another digital scrapbooking class. I'd like to scrap the photos from visiting the Renaissance Festival on Saturday. We had such a beautiful day and Mickey got some outstanding photos of the jousting contest!

Here is picture thought I am sharing... The view from my window as the sun rises:

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Great Article On Photographing Jousting Contests!

Yes, a shameless self-promotion of my husband's article on photographing jousting contests. We went to visit the Ohio Renaissance Festival yesterday and he got some outstanding shots. He wrote an article about it and if you're interested, you can read it here.

We had a perfect day and enjoyed ourselves very much. Plus, we got some really cool coffee mugs! Here are a few photos. Fun!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Grrrrrr.... Haven't Even Won and They're Already Planning on Spending More of My Money

For pete's sake...

We're less than a month away from the election but Nancy Pelosi isn't letting that stop her from already planning her coup on the American taxpayer. They're assuming Obama will win and then call the Democrats back to Congress where they'll be working on passing legislation that includes extended jobless benefits, money for food stamps, and a possible tax rebate.

Here's a thought, Pelosi. How about giving some money toward finishing our fence on the border and increase the Border Patrol staff? How about cutting the pork before expecting the American taxpayer to not only swallow the bitter pill of paying for a bailout, but shouldering every conceivable need for those who are in our country illegally but gosh darn - lost their job and still don't want to go home?

Seriously. I keep telling my husband that when the day comes for me to head for those pearly gates, it won't be too soon for me. I'm way beyond being weary of this crap.

Faith and Reason

I am really enjoying myself at YouTube! Although FSMDude hasn't responded, other viewers have left some very thought-provoking comments and challenges of their own. I welcome them because I always have the highest regard for truth-seekers. If someone isn't asking questions about their purpose, how life began, if God indeed exists and if He does, how it affects them - then they're living a very shallow life, indeed. I love thinkers!

A common thread in these challenges is how faith really can't be "proved." For those of us who are Christians, we know our faith is tried and tested by God in many ways. We are enriched by these experiences. But trying to explain this to an unbeliever is like trying to describe the color blue to a person who was blind since birth.

It occurred to me last night that there is a transition that we all take when we are "born again" into the Kingdom of God. We don't think of it as a complete rebirth because so many other things are occupying our mind. We recognize there is a complete shift of priorities, a new sensitivity to the things of God, a deep and unfamiliar desire to avoid sin. But what has really happened is that we stopped living as a citizen of the world and became a citizen of heaven. This is huge. Very, very huge.

(Caveat: Those who are Catholics are "born again" into the Church when they are baptized as babies. They are raised within the Church along with all of the instruction from Tradition and the Scriptures. However, many do stray from those teachings. In that case, when they return to the Church, it is seen as a re-dedication of their faith but still carefully pursued and not taken for granted.)

Those who are still in the world, who order their lives solely by the evidence of things they can see and completely explain - are separated and will never, ever understand our faith. It is alien to them and for most, almost repugnant. They can't imagine living by faith, surrendering their imagined control over their lives and embracing a "not-knowingness." This not-knowingness is what we as Christians have to accept fairly quickly. God doesn't give us a blueprint for life. He gives us precepts and guidelines. As we follow those, He unrolls the blueprint, one step at a time. With each step we take, we are trusting in Him.

The words of my father keep echoing in my mind - that faith is a gift. This is so true and I see the "evidence" of it the older I get. Only by the grace of God, given through the power of the Holy Spirit, can we see Him. Only by His grace can we understand His love. Only by His grace can we know His Son, Jesus Christ. It is a gift and not everyone has been given it.

This little experiment of mine, challenging an unknown young Canadian man to pursue truth - has enlightened me on how I must pray. Saul of Tarsus persecuted the Church and had scales on his eyes. How appropriate! Is it not amazing that God placed such a strong image of spiritual blindness within Scripture so we know what must happen in order to become a citizen of heaven? Of course... one must have their eyes "opened" to the truth.

So I do love to debate and discuss such things as faith and reason and love to delve into reason and logic and the relationship they have with faith - but when it really comes right down to it; faith is an issue of the heart, not the mind. For those who love their thinking, this becomes a very formidable challenge.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

What I Love About Catholicism: The Holy Eucharist

For those who have kept track of my entries (and of course, my father!), you know that it has been a particularly interesting journey toward understanding and receiving the truth of the Holy Eucharist. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

1324 The Eucharist is "the source and summit of the Christian life."134 "The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch."135

1325 "The Eucharist is the efficacious sign and sublime cause of that communion in the divine life and that unity of the People of God by which the Church is kept in being. It is the culmination both of God's action sanctifying the world in Christ and of the worship men offer to Christ and through him to the Father in the Holy Spirit."136

1326 Finally, by the Eucharistic celebration we already unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy and anticipate eternal life, when God will be all in all.137

1327 In brief, the Eucharist is the sum and summary of our faith: "Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking."138

(The Catechism of the Catholic Church)

Further, it says:

1374 The mode of Christ's presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as "the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend."199 In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist "the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained."200 "This presence is called 'real' - by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be 'real' too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present."201

1375 It is by the conversion of the bread and wine into Christ's body and blood that Christ becomes present in this sacrament. The Church Fathers strongly affirmed the faith of the Church in the efficacy of the Word of Christ and of the action of the Holy Spirit to bring about this conversion. Thus St. John Chrysostom declares:

It is not man that causes the things offered to become the Body and Blood of Christ, but he who was crucified for us, Christ himself. The priest, in the role of Christ, pronounces these words, but their power and grace are God's. This is my body, he says. This word transforms the things offered.202

And St. Ambrose says about this conversion:

Be convinced that this is not what nature has formed, but what the blessing has consecrated. The power of the blessing prevails over that of nature, because by the blessing nature itself is changed. . . . Could not Christ's word, which can make from nothing what did not exist, change existing things into what they were not before? It is no less a feat to give things their original nature than to change their nature.203

I don't think it was by accident that I came across the videos by FSMDude. I don't think it's by accident that suddenly, there is a rash of ignorant individuals who are desecrating the Holy Eucharist. These acts, which are meant to mock and ridicule the Catholic faith - are only serving as fuel to further my journey toward the Roman Catholic Church. I have a feeling I'm not the only one.

By the attempts of such people as FSMDude and Professor Meyers, not only Catholics but Christians everywhere are being given the opportunity to think upon the Holy Eucharist and their beliefs about it. We are faced with our own convictions and have been given an evangelistic opportunity to educate others about the Real Presence and why we believe it is true.

The Holy Eucharist is something I have always struggled with as far as accepting it as the Real Presence of Jesus Christ. I am now seeing that the reason for this is because I kept looking at it from the surface. I kept looking at the elements - the bread, the wine, the water - instead of of the command and promise of Jesus Christ. "Do this in memory of Me" and the promise that His sacrifice was to deliver us from the bondage of sin.

Here's what just occurred to me: Jesus said "... For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them."" (Matt. 18:20) If Jesus Christ promised His presence through a gathering of two or three people who believed in Him, why not the Eucharist? He is present and real, beckoning to all who can receive Him to come and follow Him.

My longing for Him in the Eucharist has been increasing and I know this is a grace gift. As my father said, not everyone has been given the grace to believe. I am more deeply thankful than words could express that God has poured out His grace upon me. Meanwhile, I continue to hold in prayer such people as Dom and Professor Meyers that they too, would be given this same grace.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

My First YouTube Video Response: To FSMDude and his desecration of the Eucharist

Well, another first for me. I've watched YouTube videos on occasion and even have started to create my own. I've noticed at times that people post video response instead of just typing a comment. I decided to do just that as a response to a young man who has spent an inordinate amount of time obtaining communion wafers in order to desecrate them.

The boy has already desecrated 35 hosts. And. Videotaped. Every. One. Of. Them.

Yes, I mention in my video that he already made his point once and the rest was just repetition. But I couldn't help but challenge him. He said in one video that he was "concerned about truth" and "concerned that people believe in the Eucharist." He also claimed that a belief in the Holy Eucharist was a "lie."

I challenged him to basically put his money where his mouth is. If he is so concerned about truth, then what is he doing about it other than taking potshots at those who have faith? I'm not sure if he will respond to my video or even respond to it in a civil manner. It would be nice to have an honest intellectual dialog, but I'm not sure if he's either willing or capable of doing so.

So, below are the videos. We'll see if anything happens next:

Part One

Part Two

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI Nails It - and So Does a Fellow Blogger, LarryD

There is much turmoil right now in the world regarding the financial market. Stocks are plummeting and people are becoming more fearful about what the future holds. Pope Benedict XVI pointed out that the world's financial system is built on sand. How true. Sands shift with time and can never offer the security that only God can provide.

A fellow Catholic blogger, LarryD (Acts of the Apostasy), said recently on his blog:

But if we keep Christ at the center of our lives, clinging to him through all this chaos and confusion, we will have peace in our hearts. The Church has provided us with great examples of how to do this. Holy saints to emulate. Incredible devotions to embrace. Powerful prayers to meditate on. Not as an escape from the responsibilities we have towards our families, our jobs, our neighbors. Not as a psychological refuge from suffering or even as a refusal to admit that our country is undergoing a time of crisis.

That is just so beautifully said. LarryD's entry, "The Real Rescue Plan" is here and well worth at least one reading. In fact, I plan to read it later tonight and just savor the different Feast Days in October that bring a whole new perspective to our existence at this time in the world's history. Absolutely excellent entry, Larry!

Thank you, Pope Benedict, for directing our eyes toward that which is most important; and thank you, LarryD, for reminding us of our priorities. I feel as hopeful as ever in God and am not filled with fear. God is in control.

Monday, October 6, 2008

God Bless Una Voce: Yes, There IS a TLM in Cincinnati!

I wanted to post this just in case there were folks in the area who wondered if there was a Traditional Latin Mass in Cincinnati. I was afraid there wasn't, but thanks to this Una Voce site (found through our own local chapter in Columbus), I saw there was one at the Sacred Heart Parish in Camp Washington.

When I travel to Cincinnati to visit my family, I like to attend Mass with my father, if possible. At first, we visited Old St. Mary's in downtown Cincinnati, which is a historical landmark. It is a gorgeous church, with fresco paintings and a beautiful altar. However, the Mass is a Novus Ordo ("New Mass") said in Latin, which isn't the same thing as a Traditional Latin Mass.

Old St. Mary's, Cincinnati, Ohio

acred Heart is another beautiful old church. I was grateful when we entered to be greeted by the sound of the parishioners reciting the Rosary and most of the women wearing mantillas. The choir was just beautiful, filled with mostly female voices but sounding very angelic. Their style of chants was different than what I was used to hearing but yet very light and sweet. I especially liked how they sang the Sanctus and the Agnus Dei. I could tell my father was very touched, too. I know he prefers to receive communion on the tongue and Sacred Heart of course had the communion rail.

It was a good group in attendance. I'd say there were around 200 people there. I also found it interesting that the highest attendance at Old St. Mary's is for the Latin Mass. Interesting, no?

So if you're looking for a Traditional Latin Mass in Cincinnati, Sacred Heart on Sunday mornings at 11:30 AM is the place to go. My only regret was that there was no incensing of the offering. Sigh. But still, overall it was a much more preferred experience for me than a N.O. in Latin. But I'll take Latin any way I can get it. I really think it is the train that delivers reverence.

A Simple Woman's Daybook

Thanks to Peggy at The Simple Woman for her wonderful blog and great idea for sharing a slice of our lives. For more information on how you can join in, click here.

For Today, October 6, 2008

Outside My Window...
is a bird warbling a song. A few other birds are twittering, which makes it sound almost like an early Spring morning if I didn't know better. I have the window open just to enjoy the last days of any warmth. The air is a cool 52 degrees.

I am thinking...
how excited I am to know there is a Traditional Latin Mass in Cincinnati!

I am thankful for...
my Dad, who encourages me in so many ways and now, is my Catholic conversation partner! We pretty much yak about All Things Catholic almost all the time, now!

From the kitchen... is coffee with flavored "Cinnamon Bun" creamer, and maybe later some bacon, eggs, and toast. Tonight will have to be an easy dinner for hubby since I'm going to be at work.

I am wearing...
my light mint green nightgown and an emerald green polar fleece robe. Still barefoot but my arms are warm!

I am creating...
digital scrapbooking ideas and will need to start my new project soon - a digitally designed wedding album for my stepson and new daughter-in-law. I want it to look so nice and be a special keepsake for them.

I am going... to be relaxing a little bit today after my visit to Cincinnati, then head off to work at the contracted job, then off to Michaels for the evening shift. Busy day!

I am reading...
Getting Things Done by David Allen. I've slowed reading this one but still want to finish it. It has so many helpful strategies for organizing my work life. I'm also reading "Computer Tricks For Scrapbooking 2" by Jessica Sprague, which is slightly deceptive. I thought it was going to be a straight-up book on digital scrapbooking. No. It's more about manipulating the photograph or creating a journaling block - and printing out everything to put on a paper layout. Still, I'll take some of the ideas and use them for digital scrapbooking.

I am hoping... I will find out this week if the contract job wants me full-time permanently. I am quite ready to chuck my other two part-time jobs so I can have a consistent full-time one. I am a little sad, knowing I won't have the same amount of flexibility, but my desire to be self-employed may have to wait a little longer until I can figure out how to bring in more of a consistent income with my talents.

I am hearing... the muffled sound of traffic from the highway, the birds singing their songs, and silence from within our home.

Around the house...
is a box waiting to be filled with clothing that no longer fits. It's half-way filled and I hope to fill it more. I'm trying my best to "de-clutter" this place. I'm also hoping to find some reasonably priced bookcases and containers to store what I do have.

One of my favorite things...
snuggling with my husband and sharing thoughts about our days.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week:
Working at the contracted job tomorrow all day, then my other part-time jobs for the rest of the week. I will be teaching my second digital scrapbooking class Wednesday night and realize I really need to create a visual "how-to" from soup-to-nuts for the students. I've relied on showing too much. I need to formalize the lesson more, even though I have basic notes.

Here is picture thought I am sharing...
Last year during October, we had the most gorgeous, golden tree near us and I absolutely adored how it looked against the vivid blue sky. So far, we're not seeing any bold colors but I'm hoping the leaves start to turn more this week.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Catholicism and the Holiness of God

Long ago, I was blessed to take a class at a Presbyterian church who at one point, had R.C. Sproul on staff. Dr. Sproul is a brilliant theologian, and gave one of the most powerful teachings I had ever heard on the holiness of God. By the time I was finished with the class, I was in awe that God hadn't completely obliterated the human race. (Since then, I've become aware of Dr. Sproul's position on the Reformation, Calvinism, and his criticism of the Roman Catholic church. In spite of theological differences, I still like his teaching on this particular subject.)

I know there are non-Catholic churches that have focused on the holiness of God during their services. However, their services aren't quite built to hold such meditation. A typical non-Catholic church service has about 15 minutes of worship music and 30-45 minutes worth of a teaching. Some churches who celebrate communion or the occasional baptism will fit those within the two basic components. But the recognition of God's holiness either comes as a result of a lengthy worship time or a specific teaching from the pastor, reminding the congregation of this truth.

I have begun to believe that the Catholic Church is the only church that consistently promotes a place to cultivate meditating upon God's holiness. The Mass is built for such an awesome endeavor. It takes quiet reflection to ponder God's absolute and supreme character and an environment that is conducive for this type of exercise. People getting up to get some coffee, muffled conversations from those around you, and humorous sermons does not create the environment needed to honor and surrender to God Almighty.

There is such an enormity to God. He is so much "other" than we could ever hope to comprehend. His love is expansive, eternal, and overwhelming when viewed through the prism of the Cross. His mercy is deep, causing us to shed tears of joy when we understand the depth of our sinfulness. His judgement is fierce, and like a hungry fire, purges us of our rationalization and shallow justifications. And His chastisement is always filled with a desire to draw us closer to Him.

I was waiting for the day when I would really feel a conviction regarding my mortal soul. It came today as I attended Mass with my father. There was an awareness that during the Mass, I was on holy ground and what that meant for my thoughts, my deeds, my words, my actions, my attitudes, my opinions. We listened to the parable of the Unforgiving Servant and I was struck by a realization that I'd never had before. As many times as I had heard this parable, (and understanding it was talking about us as believers) I realized the servant, who had just been forgiven an impossible debt, was still trying to save himself.

The price for our sin has been paid by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It is a debt we never, ever could have paid. Like the servant, we were forgiven and released from this debt. But the servant was still focused on trying to repay his debt by his own will. I think this was why he throttled the poor guy who owed him 100 denarii. He figured if he could get at least 100 denari, he'd be able to go back to the king and give him something. It would seem that he could not forgive a man for owing him 100 denarii, even if that money didn't even come close to helping him repay his own astronomical debt.

The seriousness of that unforgiving heart was seen from the response of the king. The unforgiving servant was promptly thrown in jail until he could repay what he owed. The lesson is that we are to forgive from our heart and understand that whatever someone owes, it will never exceed what we truly owe our heavenly Father.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Noteworthy Blogs - Catholic Writer Chick At Large

I've discovered another great blog and it's by Janny at Catholic Writer Chick At Large. Any time I can read something that will help me as a writer, I'll bite. Janny has a great sense of humor, loves sports (Cubs, Bears, Bulls, Wolverines...hmmm, it sounds like a zoo...;-) ), being Catholic, but truly loves to blog about writing.

She wrote something that resonated with me on the topic of creativity. I agree wholeheartedly with her - our creative spirits need room to breathe and think. A constant flow of information from the world can quickly clog up our interior soul because when the mind is busy processing information, it has little time to dream.

Read her wonderful entry, "Breathe...Focus...Write...Repeat." here. I just loved it!

What I Love About Catholicism: The Focus on Jesus & Discomfort

I find it slightly ironic that after all the years I spent in non-denominational churches, I have found the Catholic Mass more focused on Jesus Christ than I originally thought. I have sat through many, many church services that were proceeded by worship songs such as, "I Love You, Lord" and "Jesus, Jesus," but yet after worship, the service would shift to another topic.

Most non-denominational churches have so much going on that it's difficult to slow the hectic pace in order to really meditate upon Jesus Christ. There is the children's ministry (that is in perpetual need of adult volunteers), the evangelism ministry, "mercy" ministries, prayer ministry, women's ministry, men's ministry, singles ministry, young married couples ministry, separated and divorced ministry, grief ministry, recovery ministry, hospitality ministry - I'm sure there are a few I've left out. Often, the church service would become a lengthy commercial for one of those ministries.

As I've said before, I have no problem with ministry. I only have a problem when it becomes the root instead of the fruit. Our love and devotion to our Lord Jesus Christ is what grounds us and enables us to bear fruit for the Kingdom of God. Focusing on the fruit will not bring fruit. However, giving the roots of the trees the nourishment they need to bear fruit will give us the desired result.

Throughout all those years, I clearly remember feeling that something was missing during those services. Sure, there was the very enjoyable worship teams, the upbeat music, the fun socializing that happened after the service, but it felt incomplete. After I'd leave, I'd occasionally wondered what had transpired during the service. Did I have an encounter with God or a just a nice time sipping coffee while watching well-produced multi-media presentations?

I suspect this next thought was a part of my Catholic upbringing, but I would also wonder about the "comfort zone" of a Sunday service. Everything was so nice and cozy, and of course I enjoyed it. But was "nice and cozy" what we as Christians were to experience during a church service? I had a comfy chair, the ability to sip a gourmet coffee in my seat, savoring a well-crafted presentation both with worship and the sermon. I heard many sermons that were "uplifting" or "encouraging" but rarely challenging. My flesh was swathed in teachings that spoke of how God loved me and wanted to hug me like a child.

Certainly God loves us and does hold us close to Him. " ...he will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler." (Ps. 91:4) But are we to forever seek shelter and expect to be hidden by God or are we called to something much bolder? Are we called to light up this darkened world like a great fire, consuming mediocrity and apathy by the power of the Holy Spirit? I think you know my answer. Yes and yes!

How is such a passion born? How are we to be changed from the self-absorbed mob of flesh into One Body that beats with His Heart and reaches out with His Mind? I think I'm safe in saying it won't come from focusing on a "What-Have-You-Done-For-Me-Lately" type of sermon and it won't come from constant chattering activity within a multi-purpose building.

It comes from a quiet focus upon Jesus Christ and what He did for us by His sacrificial death and resurrection. It isn't a one-time deal, either. My goodness, if all of us could have absorbed the profound reality of the Truth of Him in one fell swoop, there would be no need to attend church. But yet God created it so that our sanctification takes time. In fact, it takes our whole lives and still there would be more opportunities if we lived thousands of years. Our flesh is both our curse but yet triumphant blessing, because when we overcome the flesh, by the grace of God, we are living testimonials to His redemptive power.

This power exists within the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Each time a Mass is said, it is a revolutionary act against a world that has rejected the Light and the Truth. With each word said during the Mass, a declaration is made against Hell that death has no hold upon us, that we have been set free by Jesus Christ in order to be joined with our Heavenly Father for all of eternity. No matter how fierce the demons may cry, no matter how many arrows they send our way, no matter how many temptations and traps they set for us - it's already done. Finished. Jesus Christ made it so and it is during the Mass that we are reminded of this, each week and for many who attend daily Mass, each day.

Non-denominational churches are well-known for their "outreach" programs. But their focus continues to be on the culture, the world first - and not upon Jesus Christ. Jesus said many hard things when He was on this earth. He did not come with a "nice and cozy" message. He spoke of suffering, sacrifice, dying to self, forgiveness, and loving our enemies. These are the hard truths of our faith, the truths that are often pushed to the side for a more palatable teaching. But Catholicism isn't known for pushing aside hard truths. In fact, Catholicism pushes the hard truths by reminding the Body of Christ what we were built to do. And it isn't to become "cozy chair potatoes."

We are to get up and exercise, walk in the power of the Holy Spirit, take risks of faith, and bring the Good News into a lost and dying world. Whenever I pray the Rosary, I think of how Jesus entered this world - through a young single woman, who was feeling very anxious about her predicament. Mary trusted the angel, Gabriel's message. She trusted that God knew what He was doing when He chose her. Even in the midst of great physical, emotional, and spiritual discomfort - she trusted and obeyed. We are so blessed by her response. She is the perfect example of setting our sights on Jesus and enduring pain. May we be given the same grace each day in order to bring Him the greater glory.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

What I Love About Catholicism: Catholicism and Self-Indulgence

Can you tell I'm still on a "sacrifice" kick? This topic fascinates me so much because when I was attending a non-denominational church, so little was said about sacrifice. In fact, I can't remember when I ever heard a sermon talk about denying self and taking up the cross.

Instead, what I heard was:

  • Growing in "spiritual authority"
  • Servant evangelism
  • Claiming our identity in Christ
  • Living the "abundant life"
  • Building a powerful prayer life
  • Grace and forgiveness
  • "Mercy ministries"

These are all good things, but to me, are the natural fruit of a Christian who has died to self. When you sacrifice your preferences and embrace the possibility of whatever God has planned for you, doors will be thrown wide open for ministry.

I don't know why I keep hammering on the "dying to self" message. I may need to hear it myself more than anyone. I just know that powerful things happen when we lay down our lives for the cause of Jesus Christ. Love - the way God intended for us to love - is a sacrifice. Every time we place someone at the head of our "to do" list, we are loving them and dying to self. Every time we say, "How can I help you," we are dying to self, sacrificing our preference to move along to whatever we want to do so we may be available to someone else's need.

Catholicism seems to have understood this for many, many centuries. It is why they embrace martyred saints and remember them. Those martyrs are a clear reminder of what a sacrificial life looks like. It is in stark contrast to the "me-first" culture we now currently live in. Catholicism reminds believers every time they attend Mass that this life isn't about pursuing happiness at all cost, it is about meditating upon what Jesus Christ did for the world in order to bring us into relationship with God our Father.

I think this is why I have an almost knee-jerk reaction to my fellow Catholic "progressives." I don't see the sacrifice. I see an insistence upon "rights" which, when you really get down to it, are self-indulgent in nature. Why should a woman become a priest? I mean, really. Why? So that she can celebrate the Mass... okay. Got that. But why is it so important for a woman to be allowed to celebrate Mass? Why does it matter so much?

It would seem the reason why it matters so much to them is because they are pursuing a self-indulgent path. I don't buy into the whole "But I am 'called' by God to do this..." No. God doesn't call us to promote ourselves. He calls us to serve. Within the Roman Catholic Rite, the priest serves as an icon of Jesus Christ. It is a mystery. But to clarify a point - God made man first, not woman. Man was not made for woman, but woman for man. If this is an accepted truth, then to me it is the height of presumption on the part of a woman to believe she should be the one to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

A woman is not an initiator - both physically and spiritually. She is built to receive. It is why women are, for the most part, much more receptive to things of the Spirit. She is able to comprehend spiritual things more easily than men. Men are the "doers" in life. They initiate. They take action. They pursue.

This may sound like basic Dating 101, but I feel it has a place in the Mass. Going back to self-indulgence, women who desire to present the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass are stepping outside of their created roles. It isn't a matter of "becoming relevant to society" or adhering to newer cultural mores. It is a matter of God's purpose.

God desires for us to die to ourselves in many ways. Only Catholicism has spoken this truth in a clear and consistent way. From the priests and nuns, and various orders taking their vows of self-denial, so we also have periods in the liturgical year that promote abstaining from various pleasures. I remember when I started to realize I was no longer around Catholics during the weeks preceding Easter. No one was talking about giving anything up because Lent wasn't a reality for them.

Know that when we give up anything, God always has something much better to give to us. Precious metals of faith and diamonds of grace will fill our souls. And the light that shines forth from such treasure is what the world really needs to see most. I'll be praying that we all will shine brightly with His love for a fallen world.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Marriage, Sacrifice, and Mother Angelica

I can't tell you how much I love Mother Angelica. She is so full of spunk and wisdom. I know she is not doing very well health-wise, but I listen to her old broadcasts, "Mornings With Mother Angelica" when I'm able and enjoy her teachings immensely.

Today, I heard her speak about marriage and sacrifice. She observed that not many people seem to stay married anymore because they haven't understood what sacrifice means for their relationship. I know that may sound a little too "black and white" for some, but it reminded me of why I was frustrated when I'd learn about a well-known Christian's divorce. It would cause me to think of Catholicism and sacrifice.

After I left the Catholic church, I remember relishing the variety of teachings I'd hear. No more stories about suffering or sacrifice. No one admonished me to "offer it up" when things got rough. Instead I heard sermons on following Christ so that I could enjoy an "abundant life." Abundant seemed a pretty good alternative to suffering!

I know we are offered abundant life through Jesus Christ, but has non-Catholic churches so focused on this that they've lost sight of what sacrifice really means? Sacrifice means you have the opportunity to deny yourself and place someone or something as a priority. Then Jesus told his disciples, 'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." (Matt. 16:24)

Marriage can be used by God as a cross to purify us. If a Christian is running away from that, there will be another cross to be carried. God's purpose is to sanctify us and make us holy. That doesn't come easily and only by His grace can we be aware of the countless opportunities He gives us.

Maybe this is why I'm saddened by divorce. Marriage is one of the best ways God can confront us with our own selfish nature. Parenting is another way. When we seek someone else's happiness above our own, we are expressing an agape kind of love, the kind of love that does not seek its own satisfaction.

I pray that I can be a good example of this to my own husband. When Christians walk in this type of sacrificial love, it is a powerful witness to the world that seeking one's own happiness isn't the best path. When this doesn't happen, the Gospel loses. I want to see the Gospel win, both in my life and in the lives of my fellow brothers and sisters. May God give us the grace we need to carry our cross.