Monday, June 29, 2009

When Was the Last Time You Had a Long Line for Confession?

And missed being able to receive the Eucharist as a result?

That's what happened to me yesterday. I knew on Saturday that I needed to go to Confession but missed a nearby parish opportunity at 4:00 PM. As I drove to church yesterday morning, I thought I would be arriving early enough to go to Confession before Mass. Confession starts at 8:30 AM and continues until 8:55 AM.

When I walked in at 8:40 AM, I saw ten people standing in line for one priest. Egads. I realized I probably wouldn't make it. I spent the rest of the time in prayer and repentance. However, on the other hand, I thought, "What a fantastic 'problem' to have at a parish! Too many people in a confession line!"

I think the Sacrament of Reconciliation is going to experience an increase of participation. I believe the Holy Spirit is going to pour onto us conviction in great measure, so much that we will truly feel sorrow in our hearts for our sins. Repentance is such a gift. Only those with hardened hearts fail to recognize sin in their own lives. Only by the grace of God are we given eyes to see how far we have fallen from God's desires for our lives. Without this grace, we continue along our merry way, thinking our sin is "no big deal."

What will we, as a church, look like when we start taking this Sacrament seriously? I think of how going to confession transforms us, absolves us, and how we agree to keep from sinning again. As we are transformed, so then we transform those around us. Jesus Christ affected everyone around Him. Whether they fell at His feet in adoration or hurled insults and crucified Him - people were affected. When we pursue God more deeply, we become increasingly aware of our sin and how this affects our relationship with Him. And so, going to confession on a regular basis is not only desirable but absolutely necessary in order to retain a healthy, maturing spiritual life with our Heavenly Father.

Saying, "I'm sorry, I messed up." is never easy for any of us. I can speak for myself by saying I can turn and twist anything into justifying my sinful actions. This is why I need confession. It keeps me honest and on the right path.

Pope Benedict XVI opened the "Year for Priests" in this way:

In opening the Year for Priests that he personally conceived and orchestrated, Benedict XVI has said that his aim is that of demonstrating "how important the holiness of priests is for the life and mission of the Church." And as a model of this sanctity, he offered the Curé of Ars and Padre Pio.

...Prayer, the Eucharist, the sacrament of penance: these were the three shining lights of their sanctity. The third of these is especially striking, in an age like the present when the sacrament of penance is hardly received at all, having fallen into neglect partly through the carelessness of many priests.Benedict XVI has particularly insisted on the necessity of revitalizing this sacrament, in opening the Year for Priests.

Reviving Confession: Curé of Ars and Padre Pio

It's a good article and I hope you read it. Where are those priests who challenge us to lead a holier life? And where are the people who will respond? Let us together answer that call.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Pilgrimage to Chartres: Tradition Blooms

I just discovered this very fine video that captures the spirit and dedication of Catholics from around the world as they make the annual pilgrimage from Notre Dame in Paris, France to the cathedral in Chartres. I cried during part of it because I was so touched, so moved by so many Catholics who set aside their lives in order to make this very special pilgrimage.

To be with 10,000 - 15,000 Catholics who are committed to the Traditional Latin Mass would be amazing.

And yet most of the pilgrims were young people. Young people in their twenties made up about 70% of the group. My heart is lifted by this. It tells me that young people hunger for something beyond their reach, that they somehow understand that focus on self is not the path to true spirituality, but instead embracing the sacred unknown holds the key.

Chartres is considered one of the most beautiful cathedral in the world, dedication to the Virgin Mary. It's history is impressive, with Charlemagne presenting the chemise or veil of the Blessed Virgin Mary as a relic for preservation to be kept within it. During this video, Dr. John Rao, Associate Professor of History, St. John’s University, New York, narrates the story of this past year's pilgrimage. A three day, 72-mile pilgrimage from Paris to Chartres, Dr. Rao talks about the essence of a pilgrimage, and the people who participated. It is amazing.

Here is the story, with the video and transcript on PBS's site. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

My Crazy Day Yesterday: And A Word on Finding Your Passion

Yesterday was crazy.

I realized as I was ready to log off the computer last night that I had forgotten to post a Wednesday blog entry. Too tired to even think, I collapsed in bed, my mind filled with the events of the day.

I got up and took my shower a little earlier than usual because I was meeting someone at 6:45 AM for a "mentoring session." I met this man through a networking event and enjoyed his direct style of communication. Last week he called and wondered if I'd consider allowing him to use me as a "guinea pig"for his coaching ideas. I agreed. His three stipulations: 1) He got to pick the location 2) I pay for the coffee and 3) I agree to be on time.

Since he lives halfway across the city from me, I realized I'd be in for a drive. So I agreed to drive 35 minutes to meet him. We agreed on a Starbuck's location and I had my map ready, printed the day before. I meant to leave the house at 6 AM but forgot something, headed back inside and then took off. It was 6:09 AM. I still figured I had enough time to get to where I needed to be.

Long story short, I got confused with the location since the Starbuck's we agreed upon was inside of a Kroger's and I thought I was looking for an independent address. I ended up driving an extra mile or so down the road, putting me perilously close to our agreed meeting time. I finally called him at 6:45 AM to let him know what had happened. We agreed upon a McDonald's and after I turned around, was there within 5 minutes.

"Bob" is charismatic and a stellar salesman. He is out on his own and desires to help coach small businesses on the art of salesmanship. His communication style is very direct to the point of almost being intimidating, but I'm the sort who appreciates that type of approach. (I know it's not for everyone.) Bob spent most of the time, though, talking about himself so I knew more "about him." I agree that the person being coached needs to know the perspective of the coach, but a few minutes will suffice. Not almost 20 minutes. But still, I like Bob and understood that it was important to him that he shared the information.

After reflecting upon the morning's "mentoring session," I made the decision that I wasn't going to be his guinea pig, after all. There are a few reasons for this. First, I have a day job that I need to focus upon and simply enjoy. God gave me a great job that allows me to use my creativity. It's an answer to prayers I have prayed for years. Yes, I want to be on my own and be self-employed, but I still have lots of work to do to prepare myself for it.

Second, I am already engaged in preparation. I am "doing" it. I borrowed books from the library on graphic design, I have found websites that talk about being a freelance graphic designer and reading their content, and I even found a podcast for graphic designers that I will be listening to on a regular basis. In other words, I'm gleaning from those already in the industry I hope to eventually work within.

Third, and it goes along with the second point - I'm in the stage where I need mentoring first on honing my craft, not selling it. I don't really have anything to "sell" yet. This is Bob's specialty. In his view, everyone is a salesperson. I agree to a point. If you want to make money doing what you love, eventually you're going to have to get someone who is willing to either buy your product or hire you. My father was an outstanding salesman for many years and I learned many excellent sales techniques from him, but he sold products that he knew inside and out. He understood his target market. He did his homework and then connected with the decision makers.

I'm still at the drafting table, figuring out what my "product" will be, let alone my target market.

So. I say all this to tell you this: If you are seeking to be self-employed yourself, understand where you are in the process and get the right kind of help. If you're in the beginning, like me, gather as many resources as you can to guide you. I was elated, for instance, when I discovered that an online graphic design article I was reading was written by none other than a good friend's husband! I had brunch with her that very weekend and happened to see him. I mentioned that I enjoyed his article and wondered if I could "ping" him with questions sometime. He said he'd be happy to help. Believe me, he's a valuable resource.

Sometimes when we want something so badly, we can switch into panic mode, which isn't tough to do in these trying economic times. I network extensively for my job and I can't tell you how many "social media experts" I meet. There are trends and fads and those who would like to call themselves "Rockstars." But after all the glitter comes off, are they really making money doing what they love to do? Or did they rush through the process of getting to where they'd like to be by taking shortcuts, which didn't help?

A spoke to a colleague who told me that a recent event featured a panel of "experts" on social media. Two, he said, were unemployed. I had to laugh. If I'm to take advice from anyone who is an "expert," you better darn well be successful at it and to me, this includes having clients.

Bob isn't a graphic artist. He's a salesman. For me, I need to become the best graphic artist I can be first - before I sell anything. Otherwise, I'll be just like those empty suits sitting on a panel, calling myself an "expert" when in fact, it's all just smoke and mirrors.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Priests, Spiritual Authority, and Culture

When I was a younger girl, my father would often critique television shows, complaining about their subtle (and not so subtle) attacks on authority figures. At first I thought he was exaggerating. Now I know he wasn't. He was right. During the 60's and 70's, Hollywood jumped on the bandwagon of the "Woodstock Generation" to mock or belittle authoritative figures. Police officers, priests, and even the role of a husband were often castigated as being too domineering or totalitarian. If the young people were rebelling against any type of authority, why not bring the whole country along with them?

Feminism played no small part. As children, I remember watching cartoon Wilma constantly berate Fred for being stupid on "The Flintstones." Darin, the hapless husband was a dope on "Bewitched." Ralph was going to send Alice "to the moon" in "The Honeymooners." The television sitcoms were slowing showing women who were smarter and stronger than men. It was a relentless erosion of the roles of men and women in our society until today, where we often have female heroines kicking a bad guy's rear end from here to eternity, and saving the clueless man.

This wacky pop-psychology soup has brought about two interesting things: 1) The traditional role of men as having any authority was attacked and crushed wherever and whenever possible and 2) Authority was seized by feminism.

So it seemed that if authority was bad or misused, then it was to be rejected. But this didn't happen. Authority, once wrested from the stereotypes, was then claimed by those who supposedly "didn't believe in authority." In other words, the godless declared themselves God. (This kind of behavior has always baffled me. We see it in the militant atheists of today. If a person 'hates' or rejects a certain belief system or trait - then why pursue it? If one doesn't believe in God, why attack those who do? If one rejects the Bible and the institution of the church, why is it so important to be recognized by it? Strange.)

All of the cultural upheavals of the 60's and 70's have left their mark upon the Catholic Church. We've already witnessed the damages done in the name of Vatican II. But what has been truly regrettable has been the minimization of a priest's spiritual authority. The philosophy of egalitarianism has infiltrated the church, where proponents of it want "everyone on a level playing field," asserting that in the church, "we are all priests."

This is totally un-Biblical. There was a pattern of authority in the Old Testament which was continued in the New Testament. In the Old Testament, there was the Levitical priesthood, which was the bridge between God and man. In the New Testament, Jesus Christ is our High Priest, going before His Father and offering Himself as the ultimate sacrifice, to atone for the sin of Adam. The priesthood was continued in the New Testament and clear definitions for who could be a priest and who couldn't followed.

Today we see a lack of distinction and respect for the spiritual authority of a Catholic priest. The lackadaisical, laid-back attitude of the 60's and 70's now permeates our churches, both Catholic and Protestant. High standards have been replaced by "feel good" theology. The understanding of suffering and sacrifice has been replaced by a focus on "saving" others from suffering; instead of encouraging them to view their situation as an opportunity for God's purification to complete its purpose.

An ongoing process has been taking place over these past 40 years to recreate a priest into a therapist instead of acknowledging his role for what it truly is, in persona Christi: Acting in place of Christ to distribute the Sacraments, and to guide and challenge us to become saints.

The sexual abuse, women ordained as priests, acceptance and celebration of homosexuality, an elevation of laity over the priesthood - all have been attacks of the enemy to destroy the Church of Jesus Christ. If you can weaken the understanding of authority within a structure, then half the battle is won.

I am greatly encouraged, though, by some of our younger people. They have been raised in the squishy 'feel good' era and know that something greater exists. They are now exploring orthodoxy and finding it surprisingly satisfying. They understand that in order to reach the level of spiritual excellence God asks of all of His children, they need a strong teacher. A liberal priest isn't going to cut it. Many of us already know the enemy plays for keeps and is intent upon eradicating Christianity any way he can. This is no time for unnecessary coddling. We need to be 'toughened up.'

Babies love to be held close and nuzzled by their mothers. But they also seem to enjoy being thrown into the air by their fathers. I've likened this to the church. We need our "spiritual mothers" to nurture us, but we also need our "spiritual fathers," priests - to help us embrace uncertainty and risk. A healthy child needs the love and guidance of both parents. Emphasis on one or the other can result in a child that ends up being spoiled by an indulgent mother or a child who becomes harsh by a demanding father.

One of the things that surprised me when I returned to the Catholic Church was a feeling of balance. For years, I had been a member of a non-denominational church that was extremely nurturing. Then I transferred to a more demanding non-denominational church that I called more "fatherly." But when I returned to Catholicism, I realized it had the best of both: nurturing and discipline.

I am hoping that this "Year for Priests" will remind us to honor and respect our priests for who God called them to be. I anticipate the enemy's attacks and unfortunately, they will come from within the Catholic Church from our more "progressive" brothers and sisters. I pray the Holy Spirit will guide them, as well as I, into truth.

Friday, June 19, 2009

My New Ning Site: The Catholic Priest Appreciation Network

Well, today is the kick-off for "The Year for Priests" as ordained by our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. How exciting!

I've had many thoughts about what I'd like to do for this upcoming year to honor priests. I decided to do something rather unplanned, and I'm releasing it pronto. It will be a community devoted to celebrating this very special year. I would like to build a community of Catholics who are faithful to the Magisterium and interested in encouraging priests around the world.

Last Sunday, a Vietnamese priest spoke about missions. This young Vietnamese priest had gone through much suffering and sacrifice in his country, but still, managed to hear the call of God upon his life. He spoke broken English, but yet was so filled with awe that God was using him to complete His purposes on earth. It was simply wonderful and humbling to witness.

I'd like for people to share stories about how priests affected their life in a positive way. I am hoping these stories will encourage priests that yes, they are making a difference. And in the midst of criticism, mockery, ingratiation, attempts to blur the line between the laity and the priesthood - may God give strength and comfort to our priests, for we do indeed need them. The life of a priest is very demanding and he has sacrificed much in order to serve God. This is my very small way of thanking them.

If you want to be a member of this community, you must send me an email address so I can invite you. It is a private community because I have no intention of seeing "trolls" come in and badmouth our priests. I'll moderate slightly, but will be looking for others to eventually do so. I'm hoping all can be respectful and that we will all rejoice in finding like-minded and "like-hearted" Catholics who love their priests.

My email is on the side. Sorry for not having a direct link but I'm trying to avoid getting nailed by the spam-bots. Thanks!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Thoughts on Priests and Spiritual Authority

If you read the Bible enough, you start to pick up on certain patterns. One major pattern is how God chose His representatives on earth. Often, the most unlikely candidate would be set aside and tasked to do major things such as leading Israel out of Egyptian captivity or building a temple. I've been humbled to realize that God uses at times the most frail human beings to accomplish the most fantastic things for His Kingdom.

If you look at the apostles of Jesus Christ, you couldn't have been blamed for thinking, "They are going to change the world?" We're talking very normal, and if you will, "blue-collar" types, here. They were fishermen. A bunch of smelly, sweaty men who probably felt more comfortable puttering around a boat than standing up in front of a bunch of strangers and preaching the Gospel. They were not Harvard grads. They were hard workers, laboring with their hands, being faithful in their daily duties, never imagining, I'm sure, that they would be the first in the line of a multitude of "fishermen." The same could be said for tax collectors, who were considered the scum of the earth. All of them had been transformed from an earthly role into a heavenly one - God's representatives on earth.

I've been examining my understanding of the priesthood more thoroughly since my return to the Catholic Church. I cannot help but compare the definition of spiritual authority from my non-denominational days with that of the Catholic Church. I will freely admit I still have a long way to go, but will share a few thoughts I've had so far.

Spiritual hierarchy and church government are Biblical. This may sound like a "duh" moment for those of you who have been in the Catholic Church all your lives, but for those of us who have experienced other types of churches, it isn't a given. But what was interesting to me was all the ways a non-denominational church tried to implement hierarchy and government. Many churches have tried to imitate Rome but if you told them that, would vehemently deny it. Yet many non-Catholic churches have their own Bishops and Reverends, some even designing their own catechism.

Stepping away from Protestant denominations (which often have a direct correlation of Catholic practices), the non-denominational church struggles to put their understanding of Biblical government and spiritual authority into practice. Unfortunately, there are many immature Christians who are given authority that they are either unwilling or unable to handle. And who gives this authority? Larger "mega-churches" rely on delegating authority, which often means that the senior pastor has no idea who is suddenly being tapped for leadership.

Many churches have a training program, which is to discipline a person who is being groomed for leadership. However, a non-denominational church's understanding of "leadership" is often anyone willing to take the time to do a job no one else either wants to do. The understanding of spiritual responsibility is rarely emphasized, but instead, a "facilitator" approach is embraced. Small groups may have a leader but too often, that leader is really just a facilitator. The training programs often last a year, not years.

Since returning to the Catholic Church, I've noticed so many things, especially anything having to do with church government. Good brothers and sisters of Christ who aren't Catholic or aware of Catholicism, may not understand the differences. I used to think the hierarchy of Catholic church government was unnecessarily mired in the past, cumbersome and unrealistic. When I was younger, I enjoyed the feeling of "freedom" from attending a church without the complex, internal structure of the Catholic Church. I thought such freedom allowed the Holy Spirit to work more broadly, as though having consistently enforced doctrine was hampering Him.

How different everything seems, now. As much as "organized religion" is bashed, I now appreciate it. I've seen the chaos. I've witnessed the hurt and disillusionment that comes with sloppy leadership. Yes, the Catholic Church has its failings, but the failings have been of a few priests who have fallen - not an overall failing of church government. If we were all touched by God's Spirit to accept Jesus Christ as His Son, and then automatically lived the life of a saint, perhaps government wouldn't be an issue. But God is a God of order (1 Cor. 14:40). If we look at how God ordained worship for the Israelites, we realize there is purpose and intent in everything He has created. The Church is the Body of Christ and we know our physical bodies operate in an orderly fashion. Our church should be no different.

Spiritual authority was given from Jesus Christ to His disciples. His disciples were able to confirm a God-ordained authority upon their successors. This process was not taken lightly, but prayed upon and seriously considered.

At my the last non-denominational church I attended, the service was filled with young people. Now I have nothing against young people, in fact, I love them. I love their energy and zeal. However, many are still immature and few are ready for spiritual leadership, at least on a larger scale. I remember one young man in particular, who was chosen by the "second-in-command" pastor to lead a prayer team. He may have been seen as having "spiritual gifting" but he lacked wisdom. He would often admonish people just to prove he was in charge. This is not leadership and I wondered how wise it was to place young people in charge of older believers.

Spiritual authority is serious because anyone in authority realizes they are responsible. Responsible for leading a spiritual life of excellence and responsible for helping others attain salvation. It's not to be taken lightly and finally, I can appreciate all that the Catholic Church does to ensure we have solid leaders.

We are very, very blessed.

Monday, June 15, 2009

What I Love About Catholicism: Gregorian Chant

Some of you already know that I have a thing for Gregorian Chant. Part of the reason is its enduring ability to touch the hearts of worshipers throughout the world. Another reason is that Latin is a very, very old language and I tend to like very old things. And finally, it just sounds cool.

I found this description online at a site called

The history of Gregorian Chant begins before the birth of Christ. Chant is based upon the songs sung in the synagogues and Middle Eastern countries. It’s fascinating to know that some of today’s chants are based upon the actual songs which Jesus sang when he was living in Jerusalem.

Gregorian Chant was adopted by the Christian Church in about the 6th Century and it quickly became an essential part of Christian worship. It was named after Pope Gregory the Great who unified all the chants into one collection. This soon became an essential part of monastic worship and monks would write new chants and take them from monastery to monastery.

Eventually there was sufficient Gregorian Chant for all the services – approximately nine a day, seven days a week and even more on great feast days. In the early days the chant wasn't copied into books. It had to be memorised and it would take monks many years to learn all the different songs. Eventually they worked out a way to write music down, and words and notes were copied into one large book which all the choir monks would gather round and sing from.

After many centuries plainchant became very complex, and people would even sing bawdy lyrics to the chants. By the way, the name "plainchant" doesn't mean the music is boring! Quite the reverse - it's from the old French "plein chant" meaning "full singing".

Many different styles of performance came into being and it wasn't until the 19th century that the monks, like Gregory the Great, began to seek a single method of performance which reflected what was known about early methods of chant singing.

There's a famous monastery in France at Solesmes, and its monks became responsible for the restoration of Gregorian Chant as you hear it today - on CDs and radio. They worked out a very artistic method of singing it and a new method of writing it down. They then produced books which contained the fruits of their scholarship. Their theories were adopted by monasteries throughout the world.

Gregorian Chant was a perfect fit for the monastic life. Chant is unhurried, serene, and full of intent. It brings a sense of peace and encourages meditation. In our present age of over-the-top musical productions, it especially stands out for its simplicity. There is nothing "trendy" about it. It has been around for a long time and I suspect will be around for many more years.

There are few solos in Gregorian Chant. And when there are, the worshiper gets the distinct impression that what they are hearing is not only worship, but Holy Scriptures sung aloud. There is no focus on self, only on God. There is a holiness about Chant because we know that its only purpose is to worship God. Chant never became a pub drinking song in Medieval times. No one had to "reclaim" Chant from worldly use because the world never knew what to do with it. Even a few monks singing popular tunes does not take away from the Gregorian Chant, because having a schola sing something in the style of Chant does not even come close to the true purpose of it.

Gregorian Chant transcends the earthly realm. It immediately places us above the cares of the world and focuses us on the eternal. It is beautiful and transformative in its power to connect. It is timeless, as our Heavenly Father is timeless.

In an hour, I'll be getting ready to retire for the night. Meanwhile, I am listening to Gregorian Chant, as my day comes to an end. It reminds me that my life begins and ends, with Him.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Welcome! I'm Glad You're Here!

This post will be for new visitors (and old ones, if you'd like to add more information about yourself). During the past year that I've kept this blog, I've been deeply touched by my visitors. Many have introduced me to new ideas, websites, blogs, etc. that has helped me in my journey. Some have prayed for me and I really appreciate it. We all can use prayer!

So introduce yourself if you'd like. What do you love about Catholicism? Are you a "reclaimer" who has been away for awhile? I enjoy hearing other people's experiences and our stories encourage one another. I hope you enjoy the blog. Also, if you have a blog of your own, let me know so we can all visit. :-)

Adrienne of Adrienne's Catholic Corner and Angela of Where Angels Go were two of my early online Catholic friends who helped make me feel welcome. I highly recommend reading both blogs. They are full of warmth, encouragement, and many times just plain silly fun. Who said Catholics are stuffy?!!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What I Love About Catholicism: It's Not Based On Feelings

Recently, Archbishop Jose Guadalupe Martin Rabago of Leon, Mexico had this to say about the priesthood (emphasis mine):
“It is not easy to appreciate the true meaning of the priesthood in a cultural context that only exalts whatever is based on feelings or emotions, that tells us to do only what we like and not what we should, that exalts what is fleeting and not what is eternal.”

“How much we need this year of priestly grace in a time in which we are experiencing the brunt of a culture that has no sensibility or appreciation for what is definitive, for what appeals to the truths that are founded upon divine plans,” he exclaimed.

Mexican Archbishop: Priesthood Not Based On Feelings

As I read those words, it occurred to me that the same could be said of Catholicism as a whole. Catholicism is definitive, it does not exalt what is fleeting but what is eternal. The obligation to attend weekly Mass confronts a self-absorbed culture that says "If it feels good, do it." I don't attend Mass just when I "feel like it." I attend because I know as a Christian I am called to worship my God and to encourage and comfort the Body of Christ. But I don't even worship God because I think or feel a certain way - I worship God because He deserves all the worship I can give. The point of Mass isn't to make me feel good for attending but to fulfill the call upon my life as one who has died to the flesh, to remember what God's Son did for me and partake of His Body and Blood.

This is definitive. This is a truth founded upon a divine plan. The liturgy, when embraced, runs counter to the whole "feel-good" movement. It is a battle that now rages in many parishes, between those who want to follow the soft, self-indulgent ways of many non-denominational churches and those who know we are called to a higher place.

I continue to think upon all the different types of Masses I've attended over a year's time. Like a stranger in a foreign land, I visited everything from the most liberal Mass to the most orthodox. I observed the responses of the congregations, the tone, and yes, the "feel" of liturgy. I noticed if people were engaged or not. I suspected many were there out of obligation, which is not a bad thing in and of itself, but yet felt a twinge of sadness when I realized so much more was available to them if they only put forth some effort to understand what they were doing.

When I was a younger girl, before I left the Catholic Church, I would say I was in that exact same place. I attended out of obligation but I really didn't "own" my experience. Now I do. When I attend Mass, I know what is going on and why. I am studying the liturgy, loving its rich tapestry of meaning that wraps around me each week but yet is different. I love the liturgical season, celebrating the various points of our Lord Jesus' life, and remembering His followers.

During the years I was attending non-Catholic churches, I was in a different place emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. Combined with a culture that emphasizes the indulgent "feel-good" mentality, I was hungry to find meaning, which I erroneously thought was missing from the Mass. It wasn't that the Mass had no meaning. It was my perspective that didn't allow me to discover the meaning and purpose of Mass. It was a perspective that, not surprisingly, was focused on my feelings.

I don't know who said this, but I think it was a priest. He said it didn't matter if a priest celebrating Mass was a great homilist or even if his personal life was a mess - what mattered was what the priest was engaged in doing during the liturgy and how the focus drew us to the One who saves us, sanctifies us, and nourishes us. I thought that was very profound.

As Catholics, we have a faith that tells us to do what we should, not just what we like. Jesus Christ preached hard truths to His disciples and followers. He didn't cater to the whims of man but to the will of His Father. It is a tough road to follow, but the most exhilarating, fulfilling one we could ever find. We were built for this tough road, to pursue relationship with our Holy Creator, His Son, and His Holy Spirit. Nothing else will satisfy and nothing else will redeem.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Prodigal Sons and Daughters

Recently, I met @mcProdigal (Richard) on Twitter who also is a prodigal. One of his comments:

@CathPrdDaughter What Catholics have on most others: Understanding the mystery of God

He then asked what I thought were the "pluses" and "minuses" of non-denominational churches vs. Catholicism. Oy veh, right?! Yes, I've seen a few (and posted many of them on this blog), but it made me realize that I'm going to need God's grace more than ever to walk this fine line between pointing out the differences in love while gently challenging ex-Catholics who are now involved in non-denominational churches to reconsider and return home. And my brother is just one of them.

I'm not sure if anyone will ever "understand" the mystery of God. Perhaps more accurate would be that Catholics pursue the mystery of God and embrace this pursuit in many ways. Our Mass is a huge part of this. A Catholic Mass differs from Protestant churches in this way: Catholics believe the Eucharist becomes the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. It is not symbolic.

I think many non-Catholic Christians would be surprised to see how much of the Bible Catholics do know. Not only is the Mass filled with Scripture from beginning to end, but there has been a growing number of Bible studies and resources. This has brought me great joy.

However, I do see one area that non-denominational churches are more successful than Catholic churches. Relationship. Many parishes will see familiar faces, but there are few that provide small groups for connecting. I happen to attend a wonderful parish that has a "Coffee and Doughnuts" after Mass and it's a great way to meet other parishioners. We also have an informal "Ladies Group" that meets once a month. But I don't think most parishes are like this. I hear bits and pieces about small groups forming, and it's good, but definitely not the norm.

Meanwhile, I'm currently reading Where Is That In the Bible? by Patrick Madrid, a well-known apologist. I am trying to learn more apologetics because many of the questions a non-Catholic (or poorly catechized Catholic) has, I have had. Pray for me, if you think of it, that I'll walk in the ways of the Lord.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Congratulations, Dad & Janie!

Well, today is a special day. My father has remarried a lovely Catholic woman and most likely they're both trying to keep dry in the humidity of Southern Florida. Both are a widower and widow respectively and found love through There are many changes ahead for both of them, but it is proof that one is never too old for love. My father is 72 years old.

May God grant both of you many days filled with loving Him first, and each other second. Congratulations!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Vatican: Confession Is Not Therapy

Hooray for the Vatican! Today they warned how this precious sacrament has been misinterpreted for Catholics:
Confessing in the Catholic church has long provided material for Hollywood screen-writers, with a dark wooden booth, a priest's stern silhouette glimpsed through a screen and the uttered phrase "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned."

But, according to the Vatican, real life confessions are in danger of turning into cosy counselling sessions, which is why priests are to be issued with a handbook instructing them to give their flocks a sharp reminder of what sin is all about.

Catholic Confession Is Not Therapy, Vatican Warns

Last year, when I discussed with my brother the various reasons for why I was returning to the Catholic Church, he brought up confession. "I see no reason why I should have to confess my sins to a priest. Who's he, anyway?!" He fumed.

Unfortunately, my brother is away from the Catholic Church due to a series of missteps by a local parish and the stonewalling of a Boston Bishop regarding a sexual abuse case. He, like me, did not receive a solid catechesis and so does not understand the authority that has been given by Jesus Christ to His apostles throughout the ages.

I asked him, "So. In your church [non-denominational], how often do you confess your sins to anyone?" He didn't see the value in it. He, like many, think that confessing is between oneself and God. Of course we confess to God, but something profound happens when we name our sins aloud and confess them to someone. It is a humbling experience and one that should bring us to full repentance.

Sadly, many Catholic churches have relegated this sacrament to a "feel good therapy session" where a person is facing the priest in a comfortable chair, pouring out their woes. This is not what confession is meant to be.

A thorough examination of conscience is strongly recommended. It is a time to evaluate how far we have fallen from the life Christ has called us to live. Too often, I think some view confession as a time to be mollified instead of convicted. If a good Catholic priest isn't going to knock me upside the head and say, "Straighten up!" Who will?

I pointed out to my brother that the Bible says we are to confess our sins to one another but rarely does this happen. I've been a member of countless Bible study groups and even in those with consistent prayer time (where the group prays for a member's needs), I never saw consistent confession. And I humbly submit a big reason for this was because of fear.

What are we, as Christians, afraid of? Judgement. We know we did something wrong. We would like to maintain the flimsy sense of "I'm Okay, You're Okay" in our fragile psyche. Our egos like to live in this comfy world where someone would pat us on the shoulder and say, "Now, now. It's all good. So you coveted your neighbor's new car. It's understandable given that you have a lousy job and just took out a second mortgage to pay for your kid's college tuition."

Worse, when we confess to someone who is not living under a vow of secrecy, we know there's a chance of it becoming grist for the rumor mill. Unfortunately, I've been a part of this myself. By listening to someone share a personal part of a brother or sister's struggle with sin, I assured myself it was "a prayer concern" and then passed it on to someone else. This is why I love it when a Catholic asks prayer for "a personal intention." I truly don't need to know the details. If someone is struggling with a sin, I'd rather have them say just that and I'll pray accordingly.

And that type of prayer is only part of the equation. If a person has sinned, they need to be forgiven. Jesus Christ forgives us, but who did He choose to be representative of Him while on earth? His apostles. So not only do we need prayer from our fellow brothers and sisters to help keep us from the temptation of sin, once we've fallen into sin - we then need forgiveness. The Bible is clear on the authority that Jesus Christ gave to His disciples to do this.

Sin is ugly, evil, and deadly to our soul. I praise God for our priests who have the authority to bestow this sacrament. And I can't help but wonder if the attempt to make the Sacrament of Reconciliation more of a "therapy session" was initiated by those who promote a blurred line of distinction between the laity and the priesthood. After all, if this sacrament is nothing more than a time to pour out your woes, anyone could listen.

But only the priest has the Biblical authority to forgive sin. Confidentially. Good for the Vatican for reminding us.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Pope2You Web Portal

Well, what do you know. We have a Pope who is embracing Web 2.0 with the web portal, Pope2You! For those who may be unfamiliar with the term, "Web 2.0" is a phrase to describe all the web application advancements that many have come to love - such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr, just to name a few.

I've admired our Holy Father for many reasons, but now I admire him for being open to new technology. Some Catholics may be either unaware or uncaring about the internet, but for those of us who enter into the "Catholic Cybersphere," we understand its potential. Personally, I have grown tremendously in my return to the Catholic Church by visiting a variety of blogs, Catholic online TV and radio shows, and message boards. To have so much information at my fingertips is a huge blessing.

I've been busy this past weekend tweaking my newly redesigned digital scrapbooking site. (ScrapShot Magazine & Designs) I'm also in the beginning stages of "screencasting" a tutorial for my digital scrapbooking website. Screencasting is when you record what you do on the screen and include audio, which is often a explanation of what you're doing on the screen. It's a perfect approach to help people learn a software tip or trick. I love doing this stuff!

On another note (and not a very smooth segue), I was saddened by yesterday's murder of the notorious late-term abortion doctor, George Tiller. If anyone believes in the sanctity of life for the unborn, it must be extended beyond to everyone. It becomes a difficult moral choice to decide who should live and who shouldn't. The Holocaust and other "ethnic cleansings" around the world proved that to systematically annihilate anyone according to their beliefs or race is abhorrent and at its core, evil.

My concern, which I'm sure is any pro-lifer's concern, is how this will affect the movement and the backlash that already has begun. Then again, it would seem the pro-abortion folks will find anything they can to attack the pro-life movement. So, I'm going to stand strong today. If anyone mentions the story, I will say it is wrong, period. We still don't know who did it, so I won't speculate. But I'll stick to the basics. Taking a life, whether it is murdering a defenseless unborn baby in the womb or murdering a defenseless man in broad daylight - is wrong.