Sunday, January 31, 2010

Open Letter to USCCB Regarding Postcard Campaign on Immigration Reform #tcot #sgp #Catholic

Dear USCCB (and Justice for Immigration),

You surely have chosen one of the most divisive issues of this country to support.

I understand your position - to an extent. The Catholic Church has a long history in the United States with immigrants. Many parishes were the anchor in immigrant neighborhoods. German, Italian, and Polish Masses were commonly heard in the Eastern portion of the country. For decades, these hard-working immigrants became the backbone of their communities as they wove their Catholic faith with their fresh love for their new country. They assimilated. Their children and grandchildren ended up moving to the suburbs and Catholic high schools and universities began to dot the landscape of cities throughout the nation.

Assimilate is the key word.

President Roosevelt had this to say about immigration (emphasis mine):

"Let us say to the immigrant not that we hope he will learn English, but that he has got to learn it. Let the immigrant who does not learn it go back. He has got to consider the interest of the United States or he should not stay here. He must be made to see that his opportunities in this country depend upon his knowing English and observing American standards. The employer cannot be permitted to regard him only as an industrial asset.

"We must in every way possible encourage the immigrant to rise, help him up, give him a chance to help himself. If we try to carry him he may well prove not well worth carrying. We must in turn insist upon his showing the same standard of fealty to this country and to join with us in raising the level of our common American citizenship."


"In the first place we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here does in good faith become an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with every one else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed or birthplace or origin. But this is predicated upon the man’s becoming in very fact an American and nothing but an American.

"If he tries to keep segregated with men of his own origin and separated from the rest of America, then he isn't doing his part as an American.

"We have room for but one flag, the American flag, and this excludes the red flag which symbolizes all wars against liberty and civilization just as much as it excludes any foreign flag of a nation to which we are hostile. We have room for but one language here and that is the English language, for we intend to see that the crucible turns our people out as Americans, and American nationality, and not as dwellers in a polyglot boarding house; and we have room for but one soul [sic] loyalty, and that is loyalty to the American people."

Source: Snopes
A copy of this letter, obtained from the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress, can be viewed here.

This past Sunday, at Mass, our pastor delivered a homily that presented the postcard campaign and encouraged everyone to fill one out next week so it can be sent to Congress. The pastor's reasoning called up the Church's commitment to social justice and how everyone has the right to find work within their own country. He then emphasized the Church's desire to see families kept together.

I felt myself grow angry as he continued. I heard the man behind me whispering to his wife. Finally, he couldn't take it anymore. For the first time in my life, I watched as a man and his wife left church in the middle of a homily. That's how angry people are regarding this issue.

Is it a wise choice to deliberately withhold ourselves from the blessing of the Holy Eucharist - over a political issue? Even if this issue does have a human rights component, it is not appropriate to first, insist that everyone in the Church jump on the bandwagon with the liberal mindset and second, drive home the point during a homily.

Before I returned to the Catholic Church in 2008, I noticed the trend of its leaders to embrace "immigration reform." Do you know what most people hear when they hear that phrase? They hear the word "amnesty." Do you know who these people are - these faithful Catholics sitting in the pews? They are the great-grandsons and great-granddaughters of those German, Italian, Polish, and Irish immigrants. Those very same immigrants who, when entering the United States at Ellis Island 1) Did it legally 2) Did not experience any "extra" help from the government to start their new life in the U.S. and 3) Worked hard and joyfully embraced their citizenship in their new country.

You are talking to people who understand it is no one else's responsibility to help them succeed but their own. People who understand the importance and power of hard work. No one - not the government, nor their former country, gave their ancestors anything. My great-grandfather from Italy came here with a few dollars in his pocket. Same with his 19 year old Italian bride. They both were migrant workers until he saved enough to start his own produce company, which still operates today.

That was the kind of spirit that built this country and built the many Catholic parishes across this nation.

Now we have a different type of immigrant. One who isn't as interested in becoming a U.S. citizen. One whose allegiance is not to this country but to the one they left. This larger group of illegal immigrants are primarily from the South, with Mexico and Guatemala being more common. They've been organized by powerful corporations that want to exploit them for cheap labor. They have well-connected lobbyists and advocacy groups representing them. They "demand" much from U.S. citizens but yet refuse to learn our language and quite often, call Americans derogatory names while thrusting an attitude of entitlement in their faces.

This is what you, the USCCB, is supporting. This is what you are pressuring your fellow Catholic brothers and sisters to embrace.

We have now reached 10% unemployment. Loyal citizens of our country are without jobs and many are losing hope. These are the same citizens who often fill the pews on Sundays. Why would they be more concerned about an illegal immigrant - one who most likely has taken a job away from a legal citizen - gaining amnesty?

It is not right and it is definitely not right for the USCCB to expect its parishioners to support this.

I understand the USCCB's desire to promote justice and family integrity. However, we do have laws in this country and they have not been obeyed. Should there not be laws pertaining to the citizenship of this great country? Is it realistic to expect us to welcome every immigrant, no matter what the capability is of our society to receive them? If that is the case, most of the world would love to live in the United States but the United States cannot accommodate the whole world.

Then there is the issue of national identity. Perhaps it's not so surprising that a group who has struggled with its own Catholic identity would so eagerly pursue an issue that refuses to consider seriously whether such a thing as national identity should guide our laws and policies.

I will not be filling out a postcard. I resent being asked during a time when my mind, heart, and soul were to be focused on God. I ended up praying during the homily, asking God for grace. I was able to see the point of view of the USCCB, and understand they are committed to defending the defenseless and seeking justice for those who are exploited. But those of us who are the great-grandchildren of legal immigrants understand this: Our country is great because of its people, and its laws. Take away either, and we will no longer be the country that attracts so many who desire to live within it. Ignoring our laws will not improve this situation. Being realistic, will.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Culture of Death vs. Tim Tebow #tcot #Catholic #sgp #prolife

Hat tip to the Lair of the Catholic Caveman (thanks, Vir Speluncae Catholicus!) for letting us know about the video below. It highlights the cold-hearted (and misnamed) Joy Behar discussing the controversial Super Bowl ad which will show college football Heisman Trophy winner, Tim Tebow, and his mother. The ad is sponsored by Focus on the Family and reveals that Tim's mother, experiencing a difficult pregnancy, was encouraged by her doctor to abort the baby, which ended up becoming one of the greatest college quarterbacks and the first sophomore to win the coveted Heisman. (Image by Miralle/Getty)

I applaud CBS for not backing down on such a controversial issue and keeping the ad. (I'm also well-aware they want the money.) But the video below really speaks volumes. Behar exposes the faulty sense of logic that defines the pro-choice crowd.

Here is how the reasoning works: If the person escaped abortion but ended up becoming a pedophile rapist, then the mother obviously didn't make such a great decision. It just was lucky her son became one of the country's most talented football players.

The culture of death crowd always places an emphasis on what a person does - what they can produce, not the intrinsic value each human being has in simply existing (and being created by God).

This is how they justify murder.

This is how they justify aborting a baby that resulted from a rape. They seem incapable of separating the act of rape, and the miracle of life that happened. They lump everything together.

This is how they justify killing Terry Schiavo. It is how they rationalize killing any member of society that doesn't meet their ever-changing qualifications to justify their existence. Such thinking led to death camps.

When we start qualifying a person's worth by what she can or cannot do, we embark upon that hideous path that leads to killing those who are a "burden" on society. We've already seen this faulty logic enter into the debate about health care and "death panels." I've been stunned by how many people came right out and said that if an elderly person was in the hospital, needing expensive medical care, that perhaps it was "about time" to allow that person to die. And who qualifies such a decision? You can toss a coin and get all sorts of answers on that one. In the "culture of death" crowd - life is a burden unless enjoyed by the enlightened segment of society.

Joy Behar's comment was completely ignorant and revealed how nasty she really is. Her attempt to undermine the choice by Tim Tebow's mother shows how far she will go to defend her Culture of Death membership card. To be honest, if you placed a pedophile rapist next to someone who believed in murdering a defenseless baby in the womb - I'd have to ask: Who is really the worst, unethical person in this picture? Think about that one, Behar.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

What I Love About the TLM: Wearing a Mantilla #Catholic

It will be two years this May since I started to attend the Traditional Latin Mass. When I first visited, I didn't wear a head covering. But I've always been fascinated by it. When I was in North Carolina, I attended a Messianic Jewish congregation for a short period. During the service, a woman would light candles and recite a prayer in Hebrew. Every woman who did this had a veil on her head.

I knew the reason for head coverings according to St. Paul's writings to the Corinthians. (1 Cor. 11:5-15) When I was in my twenties, the Lord had quite a bit of work to do with my heart regarding submission. It is an area of contention for many women, and unfortunately, not too many churches teach it. Elisabeth Elliott is one of my favorite writers and Christian thinkers. (I could say, "One of the ones I turn to most..." ala Anita Dunn. Heh.) Elisabeth is one of the few Christian women who consistently taught about submission through her radio program.

There are so many misunderstandings about submission. Some women equate it with being a doormat. I have a pretty strong personality, myself, and nothing grates my nerves faster than someone thinking they can push me around. However, submission is what I am called to embrace although I admit I've questioned how this works at times.

When I started to wear the mantilla to Mass, I felt a little conspicuous. Even with others around me doing the same, I felt that at one point, someone would say, "Oh, who are you kidding?!" But soon I forgot about what others would think and instead focused on God. I believe the covering for women is yet another opportunity to die to ourselves. It's an opportunity to demonstrate visibly that we belong to God first. It is an act of submission and one that is what I call a beautiful "reverse defiance" toward the enemy of our souls who has tricked women for centuries, going all the way back to Eve.

I have to admit I like that. I like reclaiming the holy ground that was lost during the 60's and 70's when feminists convinced church-going women that they could lose their head coverings because it was just a symbol of man's oppression. How wrong they were. It isn't a symbol of oppression but a beautiful symbol of our willingness to trust in God for all things and give glory to Him for His divine order of authority in our lives. It is an outward expression of a pliant spirit, much like a tender tree bends to the wind. As a woman, I believe I should be that fluid to God's touch, so that His hand would not have to push me but the slightest whisper of His Spirit into my heart would turn me where He wants me to go.

This type of pliant heart doesn't happen overnight. And with the hardheaded, rebellious attitudes in our culture, it only makes it more challenging. However, small things such as wearing a chapel veil for a little over an hour can be an exercise in humility. Both men and women are called to humility but I believe God uses different approaches to humble us. For the woman, in this age, I believe it is the head covering.

But lest I sound as though wearing a mantilla is a chore or that I feel chastened by it - the exact opposite is true. I feel that it is a joy, a privilege, a gift. I feel cherished. These feelings only came to me after submitting to God and laying aside any desire to usurp authority. This has been a lifelong journey for me, and it has taken me years to arrive at this point. At one time, not too long ago, I believed that women should have equal opportunity within the church to be advanced to leadership. I was a pastor and was on the brink of being admitted to the exclusive circle of our church's leadership team. But something happened along the way. I was convicted by the Holy Spirit that this was not the way for me. After much prayer and Scripture study, I started to see church leadership and authority in a different light. I also started to see what happens when women have a misconception of their role within the church. (And yes, we have very important roles.)

The head covering is an ancient practice. Women of faith throughout the world wear a head covering. I feel that the feminist movement stole something precious from women when they convinced some that the head covering was a bad thing. Think about what we cover: valuable objects, our loved ones like the baby swaddled in blankets, things that are meant to be secret or mysterious, things that are protected.

This is how I feel when I wear the mantilla. Protected. Loved. Valuable. God loves us with an everlasting love. To run to the embrace of a loving Father is a joy-filled event. As I wear the mantilla, I feel embraced by His love as I lay aside the world. Amen and amen.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

German Mass Turned Into a Carnival

If you're a Glenn Beck fan, get some duct-tape before viewing this one. Even my non-denominational services weren't this goofy.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Could Sarah Palin's Faith Be the Cause of the Hatred? #tcot #sgp #Catholic

I'm still in the midst of reading Sarah Palin's new book, Going Rogue. I knew I was reading the story of an authentic American heroine (yes, heroine) when I read about her early family life. She came from a close-knit family; with a father who challenged his children to excel and a mother who shaped her faith by taking her to church.

A parent's attitude and consistent training of their children cannot be overestimated. Parents are preparing their children for their future and those who are wise will help their children overcome obstacles and learn how to handle failure and disappointment. Both of Sarah's parents did this. But what has struck me is the depth of faith Sarah has cultivated in her life, even recently admitting in an interview with Glenn Beck, “There is nothing more important in my life than my relationship with God and my faith.” She added:
“In this past year especially -- past year and a half -- I have been so driven to my knees to pray for His guidance, for His wisdom, for His grace and for His Strength.”

The former Alaska governor called on fellow Americans to embrace Christianity, while pointing out its importance to America's foundation. “I sure would like to see more Americans give it a try,” she said, “and seek the guidance that our Founding Fathers sought and were able to [then] craft documents that allowed America to become the greatest, strongest, healthiest, most prosperous nation on earth.”

“I believe that there are eternal ramifications based on what we do here,” she said, further. “It allows me to know that what I do, it's not about me, it's not even about my children's future; it's longer lasting than that.”

Sarah Palin: Relationship with God is Most Important

I remember when I started working in my new job, my boss made a few negative comments about Sarah Palin. He said he just didn't like anyone who was a "Creationist." (He is a die-hard "Evolutionist.") I quickly said, "Can you be both?" It seemed to take him by surprise and he impatiently shrugged his shoulders, saying, "I guess." But I could tell the thought of Sarah Palin bothered him.

Since then, it has astounded me the level of hatred aimed at this woman. It's not that people just disagree with her. They loathe her with a vengeance that borders on psychosis. I've been intrigued and like many others, have developed my own theories. One is that leftists (especially radical leftist women) often seem to hate a conservative woman - especially a beautiful conservative woman. (Some radical feminists have been known to attack beauty as a tool of oppression. Yes, really.)

I chalk all of that negativity as pure jealousy. Sarah Palin was a high-school athelete and an avid runner. She's worked hard to keep herself fit. But instead of lauding such dedication (as the press often does with Obama's exercise regime), she gets bashed.

Many people point to Sarah Palin's relinquishing of her Governor's seat as proof that she's not cut out to be the President. First, I doubt she'll be tapped by the GOP for the position. (She simply isn't a blue-blood, country club type.) However, even before that she was "dumb," "ill-informed," "lacks political mojo," etc., etc. Even when she proved her knowledge on energy or her "take-no-prisoners" approach to Big Oil, it was shuffled under the rug as though it didn't matter.

I've been around enough devout Christians to recognize a serious contender for the faith when I see one. Palin is the real deal. In my opinion, only someone who has died to their own sense of self and embraced Christ, could enter into the highly competitive arena of politics and not be beholden to the political power machine. Someone has to have a rock-solid inner fortitude to do it and Sarah has done it.

Which brings me back to my ponder: Could it be that Sarah's faith in God is the true reason some people hate her with a passion? She isn't courting anyone's opinion. Her point of reference isn't The New York Times, Katie Couric, Chris Matthews, Andrew Sullivan, Joy Behar, or Oprah. It's God. She doesn't try to manipulate the press to her advantage because she isn't trying to connect to the press first. She's focused on connecting with the electorate.

Another accusation I've heard is that Palin doesn't "sound professional." They're absolutely right. She doesn't sound like a smooth-talking snake-oil salesman. She doesn't try to prove herself as the smartest person in the room. (And I know her detractors would say that would be impossible, anyway...) In fact, she doesn't come across to me as trying to "prove" anything except that she loves God, her family, and her country. It's a refreshingly simple approach to life that in reality was the backbone of building this country centuries ago. In fact, Sarah's approach hearkens back to the pre-politically correct days when people weren't so much focused on who they offended but rather, who they loved. And those of us who are Christian know what happens when people make love their aim. You get clobbered.

We live in a world that is increasingly hostile to faith, especially if that faith excludes anyone. Sarah Palin's faith is as much a part of her as her skin. She walks with the humility and grace that only a woman who has consistently been on her knees can exemplify. Those who have an irrational hatred toward her need to step back and ask themselves this question.

If Sarah Palin was not a Christian and did not publicly express her faith, would you hate her as much?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Spiritual Discipline of Being a Homebody #Catholic #tcot

My husband and I are unapologetic homebodies. Few things please us more than being together at home, engrossed in one of our hobbies or discussing all matters of life, both profound and mundane. We enjoy one another's company immensely but I recently realized the true secret of being a homebody.

You have to enjoy your own company.

This may sound basic. It may even sound simplistic. But I am beginning to think that enjoying the solitude of one's own company is a discipline and a spiritual one at that. The great Catholic saints often spent long periods of time in solitude. Monasteries are famous for transforming menial tasks into opportunities for prayer and mediation. Everything holds meaning when you slow down and take the time to recognize it.

A few weeks ago, I attended my "nearby parish" where the priest admitted in his homily that he avoided "silent retreats" for years and instead, sought retreats that included other people and conversation. He realized that the reason was because he didn't like himself very much. When all was quiet, and he was alone - he could not escape the fact that he did not enjoy his own company.

My husband and I discussed how our society is often obsessed with a frantic pace; hurrying from work to a social group or event. How often do people feel like a loser if they spend a Friday or Saturday night home alone? Yet our body, mind, and spirit desperately need these times of solitude not only to recharge our batteries, but for times of reflection on matters of faith. When a person is rushing from one social event to the other, to be "seen by the right people in the right places," it reveals a life lived by the shallow demand of other people's opinions. There are some people who consider it a major failure in their life if they don't get invited to an exclusive party.

When I was living in Charlotte, North Carolina, serving at the time as the church administrative assistant, there was such a party. It seemed as though almost all of the staff was invited to the home of the couple who were the children's ministry pastors. The ministry staff was a fairly close-knit group. When I found out everyone in my building had been invited but me, I was surprised and slightly disappointed. To be honest, I didn't have that much in common with the children's pastors, but it was the principle of the matter - that I was snubbed.

My old childhood demon of rejection tried to haunt me that night. But it was in for a surprise. Because over the years, I had met this particular "demon" in battle and finally gained victory by a divine revelation. No matter who rejected me on this earth, God never would. No matter how many times other people would condescend and patronize me, Jesus never would. In fact, the world often treated Jesus Christ with contempt and hatred, but He never allowed it to deviate Him from His mission. And He always answered with love and re-framed the conversation to shine upon God, His father.

So on that Saturday night, rejection tried to gain entry but found the door firmly shut. Instead, I spent the night with God in prayer and scripture reading. I rejoiced in God's love for me and how perfect His will was for my life. I knew there was a purpose for all things, including my exclusion from a social event that I wasn't sure I really wanted to attend, anyway. I ended up falling asleep in my bed with a smile on my face.

Later I discovered one of my prayer partners (and a wonderfully wise woman) was also not invited. She mentioned that there was alcohol there and probably a good thing neither of us were present. It was a gossipy group and adding alcohol to the mix could only have made the situation worse.

Because I was single for many years (not marrying until I was 39), I had plenty of those "nights in solitude." When you're alone, you're faced with all of your weaknesses and foibles. Those times of showing the world a stronger facade fades quickly when no one is around. It is during those times that we are given a valuable treasure: Turn to God. As one approaches God in all their nakedness and vulnerability, he or she is met with a surprise. God embraces us. But in that embrace is also truth. As we allow ourselves to enter into such intimacy with God, our sin is revealed. It is at that moment that I am given a profound choice: ignore it at my own peril or repent and receive God's grace.

These moments do not happen when I'm rushing from the car to work, or when I need to visit a store. My mind is on the moment and what I need to do, not who I need to be. But when I'm at home, being a "homebody," those wide slices of silence find me and beckon me to an authentic faith, a transformative relationship with God that needs to be fed within the interior stillness of a soul at rest.

I am so thankful for these times and remind myself to slow down and savor them. For within these times of solitude and reflection is the fuel that will keep my spiritual fire burning bright. But first, I have to allow myself to be in an environment that will be conducive for such bountiful spiritual transactions and for me, that is in my home.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Boycotting James Cameron's Film, "Avatar" #tcot #sgp

If Hollywood producers, directors, writers, and actors have decided it's their "right" to wage war on American values, then it is certainly my right to withhold my money at the box office.

Case in point: James Cameron's new film, Avatar.

I'm a huge sci-fi/fantasy film buff. Almost every movie that has been made during the past 25 years that fell in this category, I've seen. My husband also enjoys many of these films, with our ultimate favorite being Peter Jackson's Fellowship of the Ring trilogy. (We have watched all three extended versions too many times to count.) I also enjoyed The Matrix, The Island, Gattaca, anything Star Trek or Star Wars, and faithfully followed all of the Star Trek spin-offs for many years. (With the exception of Voyager. Janeway just got on my nerves.) I also loved Babylon 5.

So when I heard about Avatar and how long it took to create, with all the bells and whistles of a revolutionary filming method - I was excited. I found out about the film in October and couldn't wait until its release in December.

Then I started to learn more about the plot. It's a story not totally unknown to moviegoers. Disillusioned man meets honorable tribe. Man falls in love with tribal daughter of chief. Man realizes the dirtball kind of group he belongs to. Man renounces membership in such group, embraces the woman and joins the tribe. Dances With Wolves did it poetically and to an extent, Disney's animated Pocahontas.

However, Cameron used this film to vent his hatred toward the American military. In the film, there is a group of mercenaries who are ex-Marines. They wear uniforms and their leader is referred to as "Colonel." The group is assigned to planet Pandora to help mine a vital mineral that will bring energy to a dying Earth. The only problem is the native population, the Na'vi, aren't too keen on the plan. They're fierce warriors and in the words of the Colonel, "hard to kill."

The rest of the movie focuses on waging war on the Na'vi, who are portrayed as tribal nature-lovers who worship a mother-goddess called "Eywa." Jake Sully, a former-Marine who was disillusioned by fighting a previous war he didn't believe in, is sent in to help convince the Na'vi to just move aside and allow the Earthlings to harvest their mineral. Because the planet's air is un-breatheable, the Earth folk created an "avatar," inhabiting a body of a Na'vi by the thoughts of a human while the human is in a scientifically-induced unconscious state.

The problem is Cameron's vision for this film includes painting the American ex-Marines as "the bad guys" and the warring tribal Na'vi as the good guys. It astounded me when I read reviews that said the audiences were cheering the deaths of the ex-Marines. From Big Hollywood:

Okay, let’s grant Cameron this: Everyone’s entitled to his own definition of what is and is not anti-American. You can set the bar wherever you want. Why? Because thanks to the military Cameron smeared in his blockbuster where around the world, and maybe for the first time, audiences are wildly cheering the death of American Marines (NOTE to leftist hair-splitters: former Marines), this is a free country. As far as my personal definition of anti-Amer– wait.

What? What did Cameron say…?

What is this supposed to mean?

“I’ve heard people say this film is un-American, while part of being an American is having the freedom to have dissenting ideas,” Cameron said, prompting loud applause from a capacity crowd at the ArcLight Hollywood.

Of course the audience applauded. Someone went after conservatives during an industry screening at the ArcLight. That’s the kind of environment where you could get a standing ovation while holding a puppy under water as long as you’re sticking it to the right. But what does this nonsense mean?

“…part of being an American is having the freedom to have dissenting ideas.”
The argument is that his film is stridently anti-American and savagely anti-military. But does he answer those charges? Does he explain away his artistic decision to have genocide-happy U.S. Marines (NOTE for leftist hair-splitters: former Marines) on behalf of an American corporation (come on Cameron apologists, it’s not like “Avatar” had a rainbow coalition of evildoers. I didn’t even hear an Australian accent) commit a terrorist atrocity against innocents?

But it’s worse than that…

These Marines are in uniform and you leftist hair-splitters who excuse Cameron’s trashing of our best and brightest because one line of exposition tells us they’re former Marines, had best remember that Quaritch, the top genocide-happy psycho, is referred to throughout the film as “Colonel” — and not because he’s selling chicken.

Ironically, Cameron isn't American. He's Canadian. Still, he couldn't seem to help himself from painting the military with a wide brush, marking them as selfish, brutal, and ruthless.

Read the excellent review of the film on Andrew Breitbart's "Big Hollywood" here. Cameron tried to say his movie wasn't "anti-American" but then says “As an artist, I felt a need to say something about what I saw around me.” Too bad he acted upon that need. What resulted was a full-on attack that claims America is just interested in stealing from other countries - supporting the liberal's belief that America is only motivated to enter into wars because of self-interest.

These idiots conveniently forget how many times our military has bravely laid down their lives for the freedom of others in the countries they served. They conveniently forget how many times our military worked tirelessly to build schools and strengthen communities. They conveniently forget these things for what I say is one reason: They don't have the mettle to do the same thing. They are cowards, comfortably sitting from their plush armchairs and casting judgement on others who dare to show courage and sacrifice.

If that's the game Cameron wants to play, fine. I saw Titantic and a few of his other films but I'm finished with him. I'm finding myself perusing the classics at Netflix more and more. Give me the 1953 War of the Worlds, any day.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Nothing Makes Me Happier Than New Creative Software

Yes, I suppose I'm "kinda sorta" a geek. One year, my husband gave me an 80 GB secondary hard drive for a birthday present and I was thrilled. (It would seem creating tons of digital scrapbooking 12x12 pages has a way of filling up disk storage.) I love pretty much anything digital. Since technically (ha) I'm not a "native" of tech (I didn't grow up with it like most of the "millennials" of Generation Y), I still find all of it fascinating; especially when it deals with creativity tools.

So yesterday, I received my graphic studio software. (No, not Adobe Illustrator. Someday...) It will allow me to create animated web banners among other things. Eventually I'll post some of my creations here. I seriously want to use whatever skill set I have to promote Catholicism on the web. I've offered to create blog banners for a few people and some have taken me up on it. I need to also find some good Catholic stock photos.

I always have projects going on, many times, more than I really can handle. One of them will be to increase my ScrapShot Magazine website and create an honest-to-goodness electronic magazine. (If my dad is reading this, I'm sure he's 'tsk-tsking,' "Where will you find time to do this?") Well, I don't have children, so that should explain quite a lot.

Maybe my computer is my "child." I sure do spend enough money and time on it. ;-)

Monday, January 11, 2010

The #Catholic Liturgy: "A Standard of Measure"

The liturgy has been an ongoing passion of mine ever since returning to the Catholic Church. When I was a young girl, the liturgy was not as exciting. In fact, I was often bored and inactive during much of it. As I learn more about the liturgy, I think my boredom was the result of a few developments. Vatican II and the "personalization" of the liturgy was one. Another was what I suspect was a deviation from "a standard of measure." I take that quote from one of Fr. Zuhlsdorf's blog posts today, Feedback: "I am 59 years old and like the current liturgy."

In this post, Fr. Zuhlsdorf relates the feedback of a person who likes the modern liturgy and has no desire to attend a more traditional Mass. Fr. Z says (emphasis mine):

First, I note that this has more to do with what his preferences and likes are concerned than perhaps about what the Church’s liturgy requires. It is perfectly okay to like some things more than others. But out liturgical choices are not to be grounded solely in our likes, which are not only subjective, but shifting. Thus, it is nice that he is "okay" with chants. The Church says that Gregorian chant has pride of place.

It is great that the writer "likes" the current liturgy. His liking it, however, is not our standard of measure. There are those who don’t like it, to one degree or another.

The "standard of measure" caught my eye. Just earlier, I had read an entry from Larry D. at his blog, "Acts of the Apostasy" about an unfortunate Mass he attended that seemed more like a talk show than a Mass. He was concerned and wrote to the pastor about it. Today he posted the response, which both shocked and saddened me, yet not a surprise. (It is worth reading his account of the Mass that concerned him and his letter, which is linked in this entry.)

If anyone knows about the "personalization" and "personal expression" of church, it is a non-denominational church member. I both witnessed and participated in some wild stuff. Although I now look back on those days with a certain sense of embarrassment - it was where I was spiritually. The upside is that it has given me an even greater appreciation for the liturgy now that I've returned.

It has been no small source of astonishment to me that many Catholic Churches have tried to emulate the crazy-quilt approach to church by non-denominational churches. A little piece of "liturgical dance" here, a bit of clapping there - all to somehow communicate a sense of ownership to what is occurring. Clapping is a response to what? It is a response to entertainment - a performance, the recognition of man's accomplishment, or an agreement with what just transpired. In either case, it is a pause to allow a congregation to leave the interior room of intimacy with God and instead, retreat to the outer courts of noise and shallow thought.

So why a standard? Why is it so important to have the rubrics of the Catholic liturgy followed? I don't have a clear answer but do have some thoughts at this point. I may appreciate standards more because I was raised by two parents who disciplined me. Any child will initially resist discipline because it is in their nature to be selfish. Selfishness needs to be routed out; but with love and consistent correction. If left to their own childish desires, a young girl or boy would grow up thinking the whole world revolved around them. Believe me, working with adults that have this worldview is no picnic. (Out of a warped sense of justification, I've led the conversation with such adults toward their upbringing. All of them came from permissive parenting.)

I have brought this viewpoint to the liturgy, and looked at the rubrics as spiritual discipline. If this is true, then the rubrics are meant to correct my more selfish desires (which wants to be the center of attention) and discipline me toward thinking of something outside of self - which is God. This leads me to wonder if there is any place within Catholicism for the need for self-expression. Music comes to mind, although most of that which was written in the 60's and 70's smacks too much of "me-me-me" and too little of "Him-Him-Him." Art, of course, is my favorite. There is some glorious Catholic art that is still being created as well as the historical pieces. But is the role of the Church to satisfy some deep-desire of ours to be recognized and awarded? I think not.

In fact, the more I attend the Holy Sacrifice of Mass, the more I am convinced of its perfection. Everything is included to connect me to God, to remind me of my responsibilities as a Christian, and to exhort me to go forward into the world and be a channel of God's love. All of this happens within a Mass according to the rubrics without one iota of "personalization" or self-expression involved. If one is aware of the liturgy and prayerfully enters into it - much awaits them on the other side.

But every time a deviation from the rubrics occurs, a person or persons become disconnected from the mystery of what is occurring and are reminded more of self than God. In Larry D's post today, there were some interesting comments. One was from Adrienne who wisely pointed out:

I have finally discovered that becoming involved in these matters becomes a real danger to a person's spiritual life.

When we realized that all we did on the drive home after Mass was to b*tch, it was time to move on.

How true. I still have a difficult time knowing when it's the right time to confront and when to simply lay the sword down and walk away. I believe we're to fight for what's right, but there is also a time when the fight only makes it worse, not better. Loving one another and reconciling our differences is what God calls us to do. And nothing can tear apart a church faster than people thinking they're doing "the right thing."

So. I'm left with hoping that Pope Benedict XVI and his Papal Master of Ceremonies, Msgr. Guido Marini will put the liturgy back on track toward what it intended to do. Not as an instrument of self-expression but a vehicle to transport us all beyond ourselves and into the mysteries of heaven.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Take Two! "Treasures: Stories of the Traditional Latin Mass" mp3 version #Catholic

My apologies for those who were unable to access my previous podcast. My first attempt at uploading the podcast did not seem to succeed. It was an m4a file format, which was the only way to save it with the chapters intact. However, people were having trouble downloading it. If you want to see the chapters, go here for the original post.

Below is the mp3 and it will also eventually show up in iTunes under the podcast "Catholic Prodigal Daughter." (Just do a search in the podcast library for that name and you'll find it.)

Hopefully this time, it will work! Just remember this is a long podcast, a little over 1 hour long.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

#Catholic Women Who Love the Magisterium: 2010 Investiture of Four Women to the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles

How thrilled I was to see this featured on Fr. Z's blog. It was a story and photographs of four young women undergoing investiture in the Benedictine Habit. As I looked at these photographs, I was touched by the obvious devotion and humility in each young woman's face. How filled with joy they are at the prospect of being joined with their Beloved Spouse! I never thought of this ceremony as being so "bridal" but there you have it. It perfectly explains the relationship a consecrated woman is entering when she enters into her vocation within a religious community.

When I see these beautiful women, filled with such love for our Saviour and Lord, I cannot help but think of the differences between such women and those who are in dissent with Rome. But when it comes down to it, it really boils down to one thing.


Those who embrace the traditions, who wear the habit and who desire to submit themselves on a daily basis to a greater calling - are filled with love and seek to give it generously. There is a softness about them. A pliant, willingness that reaches out with open arms, drawing people in. These are clear, pure channels - which our heavenly Father can so completely pour His Holy Spirit, touching the world with His love and mercy.

Can anyone look at such women and not be drawn to them?

I think you know what I think of the opposite choice. Those who seek power and control, who desire nothing less than a capitulation to their demands and who constantly confront and struggle with those who have authority over them - leave coldness in their path. Even in disagreements, we can disagree in love.

However, it occurred to me how little love there is with dissenters. On the other hand, we have these faces to look upon, who remind us of the holy relationship we are called to pursue. God bless them! To read more about this happy event, and to see more photographs, please visit Kansas Catholic.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

National #Catholic Reporter's Series on Women Religious - Who Doesn't "Get It?"

I was unaware of this series until today. Sr. Sandra Schneiders from the Immaculate Heart of Mary, reflects on the meaning of religious life today. Schneiders, professor of New Testament Studies and Christian Spirituality at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, sets the context for “Religious Life as Prophetic Life Form.” The installments run from Jan. 4 through Jan. 8.

I read the first installment and was completely flummoxed. Just astonished. Below is an excerpt and my comments are in red, emphasis mine.

Little by little pressure from a variety of sources seems to have uncovered the answers to those two questions. The “charges” are that LCWR (Leadership Conference of Women Religious)-type Congregations (the vast majority of Religious in the country) have implemented in their lives and in their ministries changes called for by Vatican II to the detriment (manifested in the decline in numbers of vocations) of religious life itself. (First, I don't agree with the approach Sr. Schneiders is taking. To frame this investigation as "criminal" misses the point. The Vatican is concerned about declining numbers of women religious. They want to evaluate the situation. How anyone can deny the fact that these communities are not receiving new vocations as a valid concern, is beyond me. It seems as though some women religious are looking at the issue from only one perspective. Is it because the Vatican is backward or hasn't allowed women to be priests? But if that is the case, how is it that the more traditional communities are increasing?) Cardinal Rodé (the highest officer in Rome on religious life) believes, in his own words, that the council precipitated the first “world-wide crisis” in the history of the church and women religious, in his view, are primary promoters of that crisis in the United States.

The “accusers” are a small group of extremely conservative women religious who, in September 2008, held a conference at Stonehill College in Massachusetts on consecrated life as they understand it, to which they invited Cardinal Rodé. (From everything I've read, this does not seem to be true. There are many Catholics who have been concerned.) At this conference, which included no presentation of positions at variance with their own, they put contemporary ministerial religious Life on trial in absentia, found it seriously wanting, and raised the cry, “Investigate them!”

Cardinal Rodé, having heard what he apparently thought was a widely held consensus that U.S. women’s apostolic religious life was in serious decline concluded, (Again, numbers do not lie. Losing 49% of women religious within 30 years obviously is going to send up a red flag.) “We have no further need of witnesses.” (Does anyone read statistics?) Unfortunately, he failed to consult the many thousands of Catholic laity who have received from women religious their formation in the faith, ongoing spiritual support, pastoral care in times of need, and colleagueship in ministry and who are now expressing their solidarity with the sisters by petitions and personal letters of protest to the Cardinal, the Visitator, the Apostolic Delegate, and local ordinaries as well as by individual and collective testimonies to and about the sisters (see, e.g., U.S. Catholic, “Entered into Evidence [75:1, Jan. 2010]).

He failed to consult moderate bishops, like those in California, who have publicly testified that without women religious their dioceses would not have become what they are and would not be functioning as well as they are today. (I could be really snarky here, but I'll refrain. Proof is in the pudding.) He failed to consult significant groups of religious outside the United States, such as AMOR (conference of women Religious in Asia and Oceania) and UISG (International Union of Superiors General in Rome), which have expressed in public statements their appreciation of, support for, and solidarity with U.S. religious. (Wasn't this investigation about the communities within the U.S.? If so, how would it make any difference to consult with those overseas? Makes no sense unless she's angling for a defense team, which she is.) He failed to consult the sisters themselves who could have enlightened him on the size and ideological commitments of the one small group of religious he did consult and the few rightist bishops, in this country and in Rome, to whom he listened.

Many people, including many religious, think this investigation is an unprecedented assault on religious. ("Assault" - Here we go again with the criminal language. This is a sly tactic of the left. Frame an argument by using certain language and you can change someone's perspective in time. Her choice of comparative language only gets better, as you'll soon see.) Its scope may be unprecedented but its content certainly is not. Many, perhaps most, religious congregations in this country have in their archives documents and correspondence chronicling equally or even more serious confrontations between their order and the local ecclesiastical authorities. (Confrontation seems to be common with them. Is this the role of women religious?)

These records, going back decades or even centuries, tell of threats and intimidation to enforce conscience-violating policies or practices (such as racial discrimination) instigated by members of the hierarchy, drastic sanctions for non-subordination to clergy in matters over which the clerics had no jurisdiction, demotion and even permanent exile without due process of lawfully elected and even revered superiors (including founders), appointment without election of compliant puppet governments, interference in appointments of sisters, unilateral closing of institutions, forced acceptance of apostolates not appropriate to the congregation, and even outright theft of financial assets, to name only the most egregious examples. (I am not saying that the Catholic hierarchy has been 100% fair or perfect. I don't have all the facts. But Sr. Schneiders is trotting all this out as though not one circumstance of an investigation was warranted. So the hierarchy is painted as "The Big Bad Wolf" and the women religious were nothing more than Little Red Riding Hood on her way to her grandmother's house. Nice victimization zing. By the way, Sister - I don't know if you really want to go down the road of "outright theft of financial assets" when a small group of women religious effectively left the Catholic Church but managed to steal the property.)

Many sisters, until very recently, did not know this part of their congregational histories. These often protracted and traumatic struggles were dark pages that, like many abuse victims, (See how sly she was with this? Now the women religious are "abuse victims" because they were confronted. How is asking questions or calling someone into accountability, "abuse?" Note: feminists cannot have it both ways. If you want to say you're strong, fine. But you can't be "strong" and then claim that you're an "abuse victim.") the corporate victims (the congregations) tried to bury or forget. (Forget? Are you kidding me? Even as someone who has just returned to the Church has noticed a consistent call for justice regarding the sexual abuse cases. And I think that the National Catholic Reporter did its share of exposing this evil, which was right.) Even when the abused know rationally that they are not to blame for what happened to them there is often a sense of deep shame, of being somehow responsible for inciting the abuse, of being “damaged goods” because of what one has undergone (especially if there is wide disparity of power and/or status between abuser and abused), of just wanting it to go away in hopes it will never happen again. (Who is the abused? According to Sister, the women religious. How can there be a "sense of deep shame" when many of these women, according to Sister, were unaware of their past, full of what she claims were "traumatic struggles?")

Of course, it is still happening. The forced dispensation from vows of most of the members of the Los Angeles IHMs in the late 1960’s by a furious Cardinal James F. McIntyre, who could not force these women to submit to his will; (Big Bad Wolf, again. Although I am loathe to reference Wikipedia, in this case, it was the quickest sketch I could find of his Eminence. It was no surprise to find Cardinal McIntyre was a staunch conservative, a promoter of Pope Paul VI's re-emphasization of the Church's stance on contraception [Humanae Vitae], and warned about the ramifications of a liturgical free-for-all from Vatican II. I'm sure the liberal women religious couldn't stand this man.) the years of struggle by superiors who refused to violate the consciences of the twenty-four women Religious who, in 1984, signed a New York Times statement asking for honest discussion (not a change of doctrine or even practice) of the issue of abortion that was seriously dividing the country and the church; (Then why discuss it? The Catholic Church abhors abortion and rightly names it as evil. What's to discuss?) attempts, some successful and some not, to force the dismissal of Sisters legitimately appointed by their superiors to certain ministries, and so on, are within the memory of most religious alive today. In other words, there is nothing new (except perhaps the comprehensive scope of the present investigation) in the struggle between some elements of the hierarchy and women Religious. (Nothing new? So Rome shouldn't be concerned about a bunch of women religious who want "to discuss" abortion? Really?)

One of the most pernicious and characteristic aspects of these episodes is the pervasive appeal to a supposed obligation to “blind obedience to hierarchical authority” as the legitimation for clerical control, and even abuse, of women Religious. (Ah, geez. The "abuse" word, again. I'd also like to point out something. I have not capitalized "religious" as in "women religious" because I'm not sure this is proper. But I find it interesting that Sr. Schneiders capitalizes this word but yet cannot bring herself to capitalize the pronoun "he" for Jesus Christ.) This neuralgic (??) issue of the meaning of obedience is central to the current investigation and it is important to realize that it is not new, not precipitated by late 20th century developments in American society or the post-conciliar church, and not likely to be settled by heavy-handed exercises of coercive power. (The issue of obedience is now compared to Master/Slave. If I'm not mistaken, no women religious was kept in the dark about which Church had authority. It's not like someone put a blindfold on them and told them they were joining the Ladies Garden Club.) The issue goes back to the Gospel and the life of Jesus in his religious and social setting and it will only be clarified by faithful meditation on the Scriptures, prayer, and courageous action.

There is an instructive parallel between the questions religious are asking about the Vatican investigation (and which they have asked before, many times, in similar situations) and the questions scholars (and many ordinary believers) ask about the trial and execution of Jesus. There is a tendency to ask and to stop with, the questions “Who is responsible for the death of Jesus?” and “Why was Jesus executed?” (Like who is responsible for this investigation and what are the charges?)

(This next section is simply breathtaking.)

At one level the answers are fairly easily available to a careful study of the Gospel texts. Jesus was executed by the collusion of the political (Roman Empire) and religious (Jerusalem hierarchy) power elites in first century Palestine. He was executed because his ministry threatened to cause an uprising of the Palestinian peasantry. This would have been fatal to the career of Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor whose job was to keep the Jewish province under control. It would have been even more disastrous for the Jewish leadership who retained what little authority they had over their own religious affairs and population only as long as the Jewish populace did not become problematic for the Empire.

But this basically political-religious motivation is only a first level answer to the questions of “who” and “why”. It does not get at what we really need to know about Jesus and his mission if we want to understand the human predicament from which he came to save us and the radicality of the solution to that predicament that God offered us in Jesus. Until we realize that it is really the human race, including me/us, rather than a few historical figures in first century Palestine, who crucified Jesus we do not yet “get it.” Until we realize that the reason for his execution is anthropological, theological, soteriological, rather than merely regionally political or religious, and that those factors permeate the experience of the whole human race, we have not begun to plumb the real meaning of the paschal mystery or our own implication in it.

Jesus’ prophetic ministry of word and work was not merely a threat to the particular domination systems of Rome and Jerusalem. It was a fundamental subversion of domination itself as the demonic structure operative in human history. (Wow. I am almost speechless. Where is sin mentioned here? If any "demonic structure" exists, it is the one that holds mankind in the bondage of sin. If there is any domination, it is the Original Sin born in the Garden of Eden when the devil convinced Eve that she didn't need God and could figure out life without Him. The domination of the flesh is the most cunning type of domination and the devil excels at encouraging it.) The incarnation was God’s revelation in Jesus that God is not a supreme power controlling humanity through fear of damnation or extinction, (Does not the justice of God have a place within our faith?) nor the legitimator of human domination systems, (What exactly is she talking about? What is a "human domination system?" Political ideology? Or the Catholic Church?) but One who has chosen loving solidarity unto death with us to free us from all fear and bring us into the “liberty of the children of God.”

In this new creation those who held power, Rome and Jerusalem, males and masters, strong and rich, were finished. (If that's not a clear indictment of the Vatican, I don't know what is.) This is why he had to be killed. The historical reasons were real. But they were the local, even surface, manifestation of the deeper reason which involved the re-orientation of the entirety of human history. (Hoo, boy. Nothing said here about the punitive demand of sin. Nothing said about man being unable to save himself and never being able to meet the requirements for absolution. Redemption through the sacrificial blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and the sacrifice of our Blessed Mother, seem to have no place within this perspective.)

Analogously, it is not very complicated, or illuminating, to figure out that women’s religious Life is being used as a symbolic scapegoat in the power struggle in the contemporary church between the promoters of the renewal initiated by Vatican II and a program of tridentine restoration. (Guess she's referring to the Traditional Latin Mass. Oh, the humanity!) Nor is it difficult to identify who have vested interests in the outcome of that struggle. (This is not to suggest that the stakes in this struggle are not very high or that we should be naïve about the extent of damage that could result.) (Want to know who will benefit from the outcome? The future of our Bride, the Church of Jesus Christ. Our children will benefit when they are blessed to have women religious who love the Church, support the Magisterium, and yes, submit to the high calling of being Catholic. Praise God.)

As empire and temple were threatened by the growing sense of empowerment among the oppressed in Palestine, so the absolutist power structure of the institutional church is threatened by the growing consciousness of the People of God of their identity and mission as the Body of Christ. As Jesus was an agent of empowerment (I must have missed this title in the Bible. I keep thinking of Him as being my Lord and Messiah.) who had to be eliminated before he “stirred up the people” and brought down the wrath of the empire on the nation, so those in the church, lay leaders, pastors, bishops, or others -- but especially sisters -- who are fostering the conciliar renewal must be brought under control lest the “crisis” Cardinal Rodé has named explode and bring about a radical claiming of their identity as the People of God and their mission to and in solidarity with the world God so loved.

But why the sisters? We must not overlook the crushing of lay initiatives, the banning of progressive bishops from traditionalist bishops’ dioceses, the brandishing of excommunications, refusal of the sacraments or Christian burial, and public condemnations of Catholic politicians and theologians, etc. as we examine the investigation of Religious. (This really goes beyond the pale. Who is she kidding? I think it's the other way around. There has been a systematic purging from seminaries, dioceses, and Catholic institutions of traditional Catholics and it's been going on for decades. I have heard of Catholic instructors being fired from their positions at a Catholic school for being pro-life or attending the Traditional Latin Mass.) This is not a historically unique occurrence and Religious women are not alone as its objects.

But sisters are a particularly important target for several reasons. First, their sheer numbers and influence. (which Deo Gratias, are waning...) Women religious are not only people who are voluntarily engaged in the life they lead because they are passionately committed to its spiritual and ministerial goals and to Jesus Christ who called them to this life. They are also the largest, best organized, most geographically ubiquitous, most ministerially diversified, and therefore probably most effective promoters of the vision of Vatican II. In some eyes, of course, this means that, as so many lay Catholics have testified, religious are the greatest source of hope for the contemporary church. In other eyes, this means that they are the most serious danger to the “real (that is, pre-conciliar) Church” which these people are trying to restore.

The rest of the article expresses the same whine: Vatican II meant we can do what we want. Big, Bad Rome won't let us become priests. Yada, yada, yada.

The bottom line is that liberalism's lie has been exposed. The interpretation of Vatican II by these "dissenters" has done more harm than good. Their communities are dying out and at least one generation left the Catholic Church over their divisive bickering and weak spiritual formation. But things are changing. How ironic that those who heralded the changes of Vatican II with a sharp "get over it" to the faithful who questioned it, are now resisting change because it wears a biretta.

I know, Sister. Change is hard.

Monday, January 4, 2010

New Podcast Series: "Treasures: Stories of the Traditional Latin Mass" #Catholic

I'm excited to announce a new podcast series, "Treasures: Stories of the Traditional Latin Mass." This has been on my heart for awhile. Although I am not advocating that everyone attend the TLM, I do believe it has gifts to give to the Church, if we can be open to it. When I returned to the Catholic Church, and first discovered the Traditional Latin Mass, I was greatly encouraged by Pope Benedict's re-emphasizing the beauty of this rite.

What I hope to do with this series is both introduce the Traditional Latin Mass to those who are unfamiliar with it, and also break down some misconceptions and stereotypes. I'll especially explore why people love it so much and how it has affected their sense of Catholic identity.

My first guest is Kevin, otherwise known as "Vir Speluncae Catholicus" (Catholic Caveman), the original "caveman" of his blog, "Lair of the Catholic Cavemen." Kevin was a joy to interview and is quite funny. It is evident that he has a strong appreciation of the TLM and has great points to make about the traditions of the Church.

I did create "chapters" to this podcast because it is long. (1 hour and 12 minutes!) I tried to edit as much as I could but wanted to retain the heart of the conversation. If you go to iTunes, and so a search for "Catholic Prodigal Daughter" in the podcast section, you'll find this episode and the chapters will show under "Chapters" in the toolbar. Below are the chapter markers:

0.00.00 - 0.09.55 : Introduction
0.09.56 - 0.20.01 : Why Men Like the TLM
0.20.02 - 0.30.13 : Conscience and Spiritual Formation
0.30.14 - 0.39.27 : Active Participation
0.39.28 - 0.49.48 : A Connection to the Past
0.49.49 - 1.12.00 : To Those Who Don't Like the TLM

Hope you like it. I'm on the lookout for others who would like to share their story. If this sounds like something you'd like to do, contact me at zinkpoe"at"gmail"dot"com. Many blessings to you!

Because the embeddable player from Podbean was not working, here is a direct link to the recording:

Treasures: Stories of the Traditional Latin Mass

Saturday, January 2, 2010

What I Love About Catholicism: Liturgy's Gift - Connectivity #Catholic

I was going through some old boxes of my belongings, purging items that no longer were useful or held little meaning. Suddenly, I came upon a postcard I had saved from a couple who used to attend one of my non-denominational churches. I remembered fondly the times we had shared in fellowship. As I read the postcard, which was filled with love and genuine excitement for a new chapter in their lives, I was reminded of a time when such friendships seemed so solid. I briefly wondered what they were up to before moving on to my next task.

Not for the first time did I ponder the transient state of modern-day relationships. Of all the churches I have been a member of, and the various leadership positions I have held - no one continued their friendship with me after I left that church. From the Vineyard, I was "sent" to become a part of a church plant. Since it was in the same town, I still saw several members of the larger congregation when we'd visit each other's church. From the church plant, I moved to another state to attend a ministry school. Again, some kept in touch with me for a few months and then disappeared over time.

When I moved from North Carolina to my hometown, again, a few kept in touch with me but within months, were non-existent. Although I experienced disappointment, I reminded myself that church was a very focused community and if I was no longer part of that community, it only made sense for the relationship to end. But because I'm a sentimental sap, I admitted there was always a part of me that wanted relationships to last forever.

As I looked at the postcard today, it dawned on me that what I hungered for - and what I believe many people desire - is connection. I love that feeling of "belonging." I am currently experiencing an upheaval in my life as I realize family members do not remain with us forever and things are constantly changing. Uncles die. Cousins marry and move away. Sons and daughters develop their own circle of friends and bonds that seemed to have been set in stone are suddenly fluid and uncertain.

It is why friendships are even more precious to us as we age. We know that life becomes more uncertain as time takes its toll. Just today, my husband found out a good friend of his passed away in his sleep on December 26. Somewhere between Christmas Day and the day after, his soul left this world. He was only 50 years old.

He helped us move to our current home. He was quiet, a bit of a loner. Unmarried, he found his connection through visiting us on occasion with another one of my husband's high school friend. Of course when someone you know passes away, it causes you to re-examine things.

These thoughts led me to the Catholic Church and its wonderful liturgy. I also thought about our more progressive brethren who seek to "modernize" the Church by changing the liturgy. If I could gather the lot of them into a big room, I'd say this: "I have been to the mountain you seek and the other side. Guess what? It's really a brick wall."

I find it amazing that many Catholics are seeking what non-denominational churches have; but yet the non-denoms lack the connectivity that Catholics already possess.

Is there freedom in a non-denominational church's worship service? Yes. But is there connectivity? If so, what is one being connected to? For most non-denominational churches, each Sunday is a solo act of singing and then listening to someone talk. Within the Catholic Church, something more profound occurs. Those who attend Mass are in the same moment, connected with one another as they behold the consecration of the Eucharist. The sacraments of the Church also connect us, as does the teachings and the continuity of papal leadership.

There is much that connects us together as Catholics. Since I've been "on the other side," I can truthfully say that the connectivity I've sought for so many years in the non-denominational church, simply doesn't exist. I don't think it exists for anyone. If you attend a non-denom church and then move to another one, the general pattern of a worship service may remain but its ability to satisfy the yearning for connection is very shallow. However, within the Catholic Church, there are traditions that not only satisfy, but sustain one's soul. It is during trials and sufferings that the riches of these traditions shine the brightest. Faced with the fading glory of this world, a Catholic understands that far greater glories await through God's provision and protection.

The connection I am speaking of goes far beyond human friendship. It is a connection to God, who holds all things together. I believe that when we, as a community, connect to God through the liturgy of the Church, we are bonded together and strengthened as Christians. The liturgy of the Church is a gift to us on so many levels. I can go anywhere in the world, attend a Mass, and instantly feel connected to both my fellow Catholics and the history of my faith as a Christian. It is a consistent, dependable occurrence whereas within the non-denominational church, I rarely felt such continuity.

Today I praise God for the liturgy that has sustained the saints and now sustains me, who is seeking to become one. No matter what anyone says, no man can be an island for long. We need each other but truly, we need God even more. The Catholic liturgy gives us both.