Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Take Heart: He Who Is In You Is Greater Than He Who Is In The World

Little children, you are of God, and have overcome them; for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world, therefore what they say is of the world, and the world listens to them. We are of God. Whoever knows God listens to us, and he who is not of God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. – 1 John 4:4-7

(Photo from Fr. Zuhlsdorf's blog)

I just posted these verses on Fr. Zuhlsdorf's blog to encourage him and a priest in need of prayer. I felt that perhaps someone reading my own blog may need to hear this.

We saw from the protests in Madrid regarding World Youth Day that the world is becoming more vocal regarding their hatred for the Church and anything having to do with God. The violence is escalating. No longer satisfied with hurling insults, some went so far as to physically attack these young pilgrims who came to Madrid to hear our Holy Father and partake of the Youth Day events.

I have a problem with violence but especially, violence against children and young people. The radical, fascist left, though -- has no problem attacking young people who are gathered together to celebrate their faith. Those of us who are Christian should not be surprised though, by the ugly vitriol that is coming at us with increased frequency. Although we are not outright condemning their sin, we are standing strong for Biblical truth. That in itself is cause for these types of attacks.

We stand for absolute truth in a world obsessed with moral relativism. We stand for purity in a world full of impurity and sexual recklessness. We stand for fidelity to God's commandments in a world hell-bent on destroying them. Because we stand, because we refuse to compromise on issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage, we are reviled.

So was Jesus Christ. So were the Apostles. So were all the saints. Folks, we're in good company! That God would choose us to be alive in this time so that we may glorify His name above ALL names is the highest honor He has given to our generation. We have been called out of the world in order to be a witness to it that God is in control, He reigns, and His mercy endures forever!

This world is a passing mist. What lies beyond our mortal coil is more beautiful and true than we could ever imagine.

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. - 1 Corinthians 13:11-13

Above all, forgive. And love.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Phoenix Diocesan Cathedral: No Altar Girls (And the Liberals Go Wild)

Poor Fr. John Lankeit. He has quickly become persona non grata within his diocese after making the decidedly unpopular decision (with certain segments of the parish) to stop the practice of using young girls as altar servers.

It's a strange-looking equation, I know, but another priest has used it to justify his decision to ban girls from serving at Mass. Father John Lankeit, rector of the Phoenix diocesan cathedral, SS. Simon and Jude, argued, "The connection between serving at the altar and priesthood is historic. It is part of the differentiation between boys and girls, as Christ established the priesthood by choosing men. Serving at the altar is a specifically priestly act," according to the Arizona Republic. Girls will be allowed to be sacristans, preparing things for Mass like the altar societies of old.

Lankeit points out that not permitting girls to serve is part of the pastor's prerogative, but I wonder what would happen if he started restricting the ministry of lector to men, since that office, like the instituted ministry of acolyte, was also formerly part of preparation for priesthood. For that matter, "porter" was once the first step to holy orders, so by that logic hospitality ministers should all be men, too.

Those who took this practice too seriously for their own good are of course, going crazy (or as Fr. Zuhlsdorf likes to say, "throwing a nutty") over it. Before I respond, I always like to check the history of a situation. What has the Vatican said regarding altar girls to serving Mass? When did it happen? Why did it happen?

I found a few things. First, a helpful explanation on EWTN's website:

Many Catholics are perplexed by the authorization of girl altar servers by the Pope. They are uncertain about the pastoral wisdom of this decision given 1) the shortage of vocations to the priesthood, 2) the traditional place of altar boys as a source of vocations, 3) the tendency of some younger boys to not want to share activities with girls and 4) the natural religiosity of the female sex which results in their saturating non-ordained offices in the Church. Yet, it is a decision which has been made by the highest authority in the Church and to which Catholics must defer and make their peace.

See: [/library/curia/cdwcomm.htm]*

It is important to make some theological distinctions, too. This is not a matter of faith but of Church discipline. While having boys serve at the altar is a long-standing ecclesiastical tradition it is nonetheless a human institution, NOT divine, and therefore capable of change for sufficient reason. The judgment about what is sufficient rests with the Holy See.

What MIGHT have been those reasons? Since the Church had already opened other non-ordained offices to women (Reader, Extraordinary Eucharistic Minister, chancellor, marriage tribunal official and so on), all of which were previously excluded to women, and in some cases lay men also), the exclusion of girls from the unofficial office of "altar server" was something of an anomaly. In fact, it was on canonical grounds which the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts proposed ending this exclusion. For his part, the Pope may have been looking ahead to the publication only a few weeks later of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, his letter affirming the male only priesthood. The two decisions taken together amount to drawing precise theological lines between what is Church tradition and what is Apostolic Tradition, allowing women all offices in the Church not excluded by Divine Law (such as the priesthood).

* The letter to Catholic Dioceses from the Congregation for Divine Worship was released March 15, 1994.

Then I found on the Vatican's website, the Congregation for Divine Worship And The Discipline Of The Sacrament Instruction index, which included this section (Chapter II, The Participation of the Lay Christian Faithful In the Eucharistic Celebration, 2. The Ministries of the Lay Christian Faithful In the Celebration of the Holy Mass) Emphasis mine:

[47.] It is altogether laudable to maintain the noble custom by which boys or youths, customarily termed servers, provide service of the altar after the manner of acolytes, and receive catechesis regarding their function in accordance with their power of comprehension.[119] Nor should it be forgotten that a great number of sacred ministers over the course of the centuries have come from among boys such as these.[120] Associations for them, including also the participation and assistance of their parents, should be established or promoted, and in such a way greater pastoral care will be provided for the ministers. Whenever such associations are international in nature, it pertains to the competence of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments to establish them or to approve and revise their statutes.[121] Girls or women may also be admitted to this service of the altar, at the discretion of the diocesan Bishop and in observance of the established norms.[122]

What I find interesting in section 47 is that the entire section speaks mostly of using boys or youth as servers because it bears the fruit of sacred ministers. This is the focus of Fr. Lankeit. In an age of dwindling vocations, he simply wants to create an environment in which a young boy has the opportunity to experience service at the altar, which may allow him more opportunities to discern a vocation to the priesthood or diaconate.

Here is where presumption entered: Many parishes looked at this new practice of using altar girls as a right, as though young girls were entitled to it; evidently under the guise of "fairness." But it was never to be received in that way from the very beginning. The Congregation for Divine Worship made it clear from the start that this practice was under the authority of the Bishop and he was to use discretion whether to make it available or not.

Furthermore, the practice was to be done in observance of the established norms. What are those "norms?" The Traditional Latin Mass is a good example. Just recently, the Vatican came out and said that female servers were not allowed to serve at the Extraordinary Mass.

Permission for female altar servers came with the Circular Letter of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments of 1994. However, the rubrics of the 1962 Missal did not allow for females on the sanctuary during Mass.

The letter, signed by Mgr Guido Pozzo, Secretary of Ecclesia Dei, said that "permitting female altar servers does not apply to the Extraordinary Form".

All I know is that the young boys at our local Traditional Latin Mass loathe putting on their long black cassocks and smelling perfume, obviously from when a girl wore them when serving the Ordinary Form Mass.

Do I blame them? Of course not. I can also say from observation the results of allowing young girls to serve at Mass are telling. Whenever I attend an OFM, and girls are serving, they are either the majority of the servers or the entirety of them. Boys at that age typically don't want to be involved if girls are doing it.

On the other hand, I observe my local EFM, where we have a large processional. In fact, there are usually no less than 14 boys and young men serving at the altar. We have boys as young as 6, high school boys, and a few in their late twenties and early thirties who serve. When the seminarians show up, it gets pretty crowded!

Does this exclude girls from contributing to the parish? No. There are other areas of service available but since they're not as prominent as serving at the altar, often they're overlooked or minimized. These services can be within the sacristy or outside of it within the many activities of a parish. It can be involvement with CCD or a ministry to the poor and invalid. We have a hurting world that is desperate need of the saving graces of our loving heavenly Father and there are a myriad of ways to respond. Serving the altar during Mass is just one part of it.

However, I will say this: our parish that celebrates the Traditional Latin Mass has produced more vocations than I've ever seen in my life from any other parish. These young men are responding to the more traditional expression of our Catholic faith and the proof is in the numbers.

I would love to learn how much the vocations have increased since 1994, in the parishes that have used altar girls. I'm suspecting -- not much. But such logic seems to fall upon deaf ears for those who insist upon "fairness" but have no understanding of the larger issue at stake; I'm sure such a statistic will never be shared.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Prayer Request

I just found out that the 38-year old son of a parishioner has died due to drowning. The parishioner and his wife are very active supporters and promoters of my parish's Traditional Latin Mass and a Solemn Requiem Mass will be offered for the funeral on Friday.

Prayers for the family would be very much appreciated.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Detoxificaton: Juice Fasting and Perhaps Fasting For The Mind?

One week ago, I sat in our hustling, bustling undercroft after Mass with my friend, Kimberly, as she excitedly shared her discovery of juicing, and in particular, juice fasting. She had watched the documentary, Fat, Sick, And Nearly Dead; and was convicted. She found a juicer on Amazon reasonably priced, and ordered one.

She and her family live in a rural area, around farmers. So she already has a lovely garden bursting with fresh produce. (And yes, I'm envious!) But as she shared with me her story of experiencing what could be the beginning of rheumatoid arthritis, I realized she may have been on to something. Kimberly is younger than me but has undergone surgeries and various health issues during the past year. This is a busy mother with six children who homeschools. As you can imagine, she doesn't have time for such things! After doing a ten-day juice fast, Kimberly says she feels amazing and the aches around her joints have decreased considerably. She has lost 16 lbs. and feels that her health has significantly improved.

However, after talking with her, I was also convicted and because we're also Netflix customers and this documentary was in the "instant view" section, we were able to stream it to our TV and watch it. My husband and I were amazed by the story of Joe Cross, an Australian, and his journey toward health. Along the way, he traveled to the United States and started to talk to people about what they ate. When you hear one person say they'll eat whatever they want, it sounds normal. But when you hear one person after another talk about the junk food they eat, you get a clearer picture of how far we've fallen from enjoying the wonderful bounty of delicious food God has created for us.

I remembered that years ago, my grandmother (RIP, Grandma C), had given me a juicer. I didn't know what to do with it and couldn't imagine using it. But I thanked her for the very nice gift and put it away in one of my cabinets. This juicer has moved with me over the past 15 years, give or take a few. Seriously. I never thought to give it away and now am so glad I didn't. After watching the documentary, I found it and took a closer look. Sure enough, it's a centrifugal juicer and could do the job of juicing vegetables and fruits. Thanks, Grandma!

At the moment, I'm drinking a delicious fruit juice breakfast drink of strawberries, blueberries, grapes, and a banana. I juiced the first three and then placed the fresh juice in a blender with some ice and the banana. I add pineapple when I have it. (And I do have one in the fridge, I just haven't peeled it, yet.)

In one word: heavenly!

I've been doing an intermittent juice fast for six days. I juice for breakfast and lunch or breakfast and dinner, and then eat a healthy meal for my third meal. (2/3rds of the meal is vegetables and 1/3 meat.) I'm now going to enter a full fast (all three meals will be juiced vegetables and fruits) for 10 days to give my system a "re-boot" and detoxify it. I've already weaned myself off sugar, caffeine, and wheat products. So it's going to be interesting to see the effects of the full fast.

I've already seen results. I've lost six pounds, and gained more energy. I'm starting to sleep better, too. I used to have puffiness around my lower legs and ankles and I'm amazed to see that I no longer have that. And yesterday during the Latin Mass (where there is plenty of kneeling), I noticed my knees weren't aching as much. Very interesting!

I also got the book, Total Juicing: Over 125 Healthful and Delicious Ways to Use Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Juices and Pulp by Elaine LaLanne, widow of Jack LaLanne. I'm finding some recipes I can't wait to try. I think it's really interesting, mixing different vegetable and fruit juices together to make something delicious. (Note: some of these drinks can taste intense, though! Especially anything using kale.)

As I experience a fast, I'm thinking it may be good to fast from the gloom and doom news, too. Instead, I'll be listening to good music and praying more than I have been. I've been wanting to do this fast but was looking at it from a "lack" perspective, such as "I won't be eating food" and then I focused on all the ramifications of that. Now I'm looking at it with an abundance perspective, such as "I have more time to pray, to enjoy other things, to get things done." With the "fasting" of my mind from the negativity of the news, I think I'll also reap some benefits.

Who knows? Maybe it will jump-start some blogging topics! :-)

Friday, August 5, 2011

John Corapi and Why I'm More Anti-Super Hero Than Ever

I found this in my comment section:

As much as I would like to agree with you I can not. The situation with John Corapi is horrible, BUT the response of Fr. Corapi is wrong. He is choosing to not be obedient!He took a vow of obedience. Right, wrong or indifferent he abandoned his priestly life and has turned his back on the Church he proclaimed to love! - By bgualteros on "My Heart Is Saddened, But I Understand: Fr. Corapi Leaving Priesthood"

"bgualteros," I now stand with you.

At first, I (like many others), thought Fr. John Corapi was being deliberately targeted by those who were his fiercest critics. And in my eyes, those were the liberal Catholics who believe in things such as same-sex marriage, abortion, and the ordination of women as priests. When I returned to the Catholic Church, I was appalled by the level of worldly thought in it. Instead of preserving the truth that had been lovingly given to the Church, parts of her now seemed to be selling herself out to the highest bidder; which in the world, ends up being whomever has the power. And to me, the leftists have always been about power.

But back to Fr. Corapi. When I first heard him, I was deeply touched. I thought, "Here's a man who is unapologetically Catholic, who speaks the truth without fear, who encourages Catholics everywhere that we have a purpose and a mission to become saints. And in order to do that, we need our priests to tell us the truth and exhort us to run the race faithfully." I really did think he was an amazing priest.

But then, as we all know, accusations started to fly. We also know that false accusations have been flung at good people ever since Adam committed original sin. The moment Adam and Eve disobeyed God was the moment mankind entered into blame-shifting and false accusations.

Many have compared Fr. Corapi's situation to Padre Pio or even Jesus. They have rightly reminded others that even though someone is falsely accused, the response -- if we are to pursue holiness -- is to accept it as God's will for a higher purpose.

Within a church, there is a hierarchy of leadership. Even the smallest rural church usually has a small board of trustees or group of elders who help the leader with church operations. The pastor is accountable to that group. When a leader falls, it offers an opportunity to that church to either restore him or reject him. Many usually show the pastor the door. But in the Roman Catholic Church, it is a bit more complicated.

When Fr. Corapi was accused, he had the opportunity to be restored within his community. This is how the Catholic Church works. They don't want to laicize a priest but instead, restore him so that he can spiritually, mentally, and emotionally return to the calling upon his life.

However, Fr. Corapi chose not to do that. And that is what made all the difference to many of his followers. I still don't know what is true regarding his circumstances. But I will say that how he has responded in the face of these criticisms has told me more than words ever could.

He opened a blog called "Black Sheep Dog." (Strange title. On one hand he wants to be seen as a shepherd but on the other, an outcast.) He has painted himself as a victim, which to me runs completely counter to his past teachings about suffering and spiritual warfare. Life is tough. It certainly isn't fair. But according to God's word, we are promised that God will judge and bring justice according to His purpose. We can take that to the bank and for me, that is what gives me hope to live out each day.

I think this is what disappointed many of his followers. Instead of embracing suffering, as he has taught in the past -- he rejected it. So in essence, his credibility shattered as his new message became, "When the going gets tough and I can see no way around it, I'm quitting. I'm not ready to lay down and die!"

This mindset troubles me greatly. I emphasized the "I" because it reveals how often we can go off track when we rely solely upon our own perspective of a situation. None of us goes through life alone, even though we may be alone much of the time. If you're a Christian, you're never alone. We have been told by Jesus that He would not leave us orphans and He hasn't. He has given us the Church and the Scripture. Together, they both nourish and strengthen the believer as he makes his journey from birth to death.

Priests and all those who have taken vows may not be married but they still have plenty of support to help them when they need it. Instead of returning to live within his religious community, Fr. Corapi chose to "go it alone." Black Sheep Dog? I'd say he's more of a Lone Wolf. And believe me, I've seen plenty of them within the non-denominational church. In fact, perhaps the reason I empathize with his predicament is because to a certain extent, I'm one, too.

It is easy in our busy lives to isolate ourselves. It takes extra effort to make time to meet with friends and family. However, it is vital we do so if for nothing else than to allow ourselves to be transparent with those who love us and receive counsel and direction.

Fr. Corapi's bewildering choice was the beginning of several disappointments I experienced with others I had admired. I love to be around people who are positive and it's no surprise I gravitate toward leaders who seem to emulate that. I like people who are big thinkers, who are risk-takers and reject naysayers who claim something can't be done. Those are the type of people who bring progress to the world and growth to human development.

But too often, such people start to believe their own hype. They begin to expect special treatment -- then demand it from their followers. Just recently, I learned of James Arthur Ray's conviction in a trial that held him responsible for three deaths in a sweat lodge ceremony. Ray, for those unfamiliar with him, was a popular self-help guru who made millions through speaking and selling his books. He was someone many looked up to but in the aftermath of the tragedy, ended up being another flim-flam artist who deliberately preyed on the wealthy, played upon their insecurities, and manipulated them. A woman who worked at his events for years finally became disillusioned enough to write a book about the tragedy in Sedona, Arizona although still tries to salvage her beliefs by claiming she still learned some things.

Well, I've learned some things, too. I've learned to stop focusing on those who seem to be "celebrities" and instead focus on God. I fear that for many, such personalities become an idol of sorts. Instead of looking to the Bible and our Church for guidance and instruction; they follow some charismatic leader, swallowing every word without question.

After my experience with the last non-denominational church I'd ever be involved with; I can say I was disillusioned on a major level. In fact, I was so disillusioned that it would be years before I felt comfortable in a church again. And when I found that comfort, of all places, I found it sitting in a pew attending Mass the day after we buried my mother.

I still admire people, but no longer am in awe of them. I thought I had given that up but yet again, recently, discovered another leader I admired in the business world also proved to be an opportunist. The "authenticity" I thought I was seeing seemed to be a facade. Guy Kawasaki, a venture capitalist, author, and Apple Fellow, was someone I admired because of his business moxie. He has written several books about start-ups and being an entrepreneur.

I followed him on Twitter. He even responded to a few of my tweets which of course, made me feel good. I thought it was amazing that a man who had so many "followers" was genuinely trying to engage people. Then came Google+ and I received an invite from a co-worker for the newest addition to social media. I started to look for familiar faces to follow and found Guy Kawasaki. I added him to my "circle" and soon my "stream" (a stream of posted updates from people you follow) was filled with Guy's endless promotions.

His recent promotion was to push his latest book, Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, And Actions. What an ironic title, given that his behavior was soon going to change my mind about him and not in a positive way.

One day, I saw an update from him that featured a cover of Newsweek Magazine with Sarah Palin on it, and under her photo, her quote "I Can Win." He said that the best caption for the cover would win a free copy of his book. Then added his own caption that said something like, "If you do, I'm moving to Canada." The rest of the comment/entries were 97% anti-Palin.

I quickly typed a comment: "I am sorry to see this. I was hoping Google+ would be a place where I'd see big ideas discussed and new opportunities discovered."

Kawasaki's comment? "Well then maybe you shouldn't follow me because with me, nothing is sacred."

Really? Nothing is sacred? At that point I was tempted to say, "Nothing is sacred to you, perhaps, but the almighty dollar." Here was a popular speaker and respected businessman, who just wrote a book about enchanting people; totally going against the concept by deliberately polarizing people, let alone offending those who like Sarah Palin. It was at that moment I realized Guy Kawasaki wasn't that different than any opportunist who takes his gold wherever he can find it.

When someone who claims to "enchant people" uses popular politics to advance their agenda, it's time to say goodbye.

So pray for John Corapi. Pray for those who follow him. In fact, I'd say pray more for those who followed him, that they may discover Who truly is the Bread of Life, the Water of Life, and Who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Because no matter what the world does, Our precious Lord Jesus Christ is with us, and will never let us down.