Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Second Sunday of Lent



Why in the world was I thinking Second Sunday of Advent as I typed the title of the blog is beyond me, perhaps I want to go back in time. Here's the link to the readings. 

So the first reading is where Abraham is told to sacrifice his son Isaac.  We just studied in my Biblical Call Narratives class and some interesting points were made.  When we think of this story we often pictures Isaac as a teenager, but it is possible that he was an adult, say in his thirties when this happened.  I guess part of our imagining Isaac as a teen comes from the use of the word boy. Another point that was made is that this may not have been a command of God to sacrifice Isaac but rather question put to Abraham. Again our take on it could come from the words that are used in the translation.

We so often see what we deem an angry God in the Old Testament.  Really who commands someone to give up their son, oh wait, God, Himself does that out of love for us.  We take more notice over the idea of Abraham almost killing Isaac that we completely forget that Abraham is actually talking with God and God is responding back.  How we all long for that type of relationship with God, where we actually hear what He has to say and Abraham has it, yet we never talk about it.

I'm always amused with how easily the characters in the Old Testament responded with, "here I am." As if God didn't know where they were, of course He knew; He's just waiting for us to acknowledge Him.  We skip over Isaac questioning his father. Isaac wasn't stupid, he realized there was no animal for the sacrifice. Abraham does a nice bit of not answering the question with the whole God will provide answer.  We also leave out the fact that Abraham tied Isaac up to be sacrificed and we go right to the "don't do it" answer from God.  Put yourself in Isaac's shoes, well sandals, I'd be saying, what the hell dad, what's going on, which he did and rightfully so.  God deals with what we give Him, so maybe He did ask Abraham to sacrifice Isaac or maybe God just posed a question either way, we find out that Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son.   Abraham is promised descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand in the desert.  That's a lot of kids.  There's a theory out there about this as well. We often assume that God and Abraham were talking at night so you'd see a ton of starts, but what if they were really talking during the day and the only star you could see was the sun. Anyway, what matters is that God and Abraham entered into a covenant of sorts and we are Abraham's descendants, so yes God kept His promise, like He always does.

I have a feeling this will not be the psalm that I hear at Mass, as I will be at our 6pm Mass and they tend to not stick with the given psalm of the say, but use one of the alternative ones, but we shall see.

*update* it wasn't the Psalm used at Mass, we sung "If today your hear God's voice; harden not your hearts."

The refrain is "I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living."   What strikes me is the idea of walking before God.  This harkens back to the idea of being able to talk to God, yes, prayer is our way way of talking to God, but the idea of walking with God makes it that much more personal.  So often we act like like having a personal relationship with God is unattainable.  In the verses of the Psalm we see that even though we are afflicted, that we are precious in God's eyes, that we are His servants, not the sweep the floor and looked down upon type, but the I love what I do type,  and we say that we will show God to others.  Well, that's my take on the Psalm, doesn't have to be everyone's and I am by far not a Biblical scholar despite studying it in college.  The Psalms rarely are preached on and it can be difficult to see what each verse it, but I think this Psalm is reminding that we are God's children and that we should do what He is telling us to do.

The Second reading, is actually one of my favorite readings.  I'm always reminded of Fr. Bill when I hear and use the line, "If God is for us, who can be against us?"  It happens to be Fr. Bill's favorite verse, or it was when I was in college, we all know things can change.  This is a line that I should listen to and pay attention to more often. So many times we fall into temptation forget that God is there for us no matter what, and that if what we are doing is what He wants, then no one can be against us.  St. Paul once again reminds us that God the Father did not spare His own son, but rather handed him over.  This ties in nicely with the first reading with the whole giving up your only child.

The Gospel is the Transfiguration, which we are all familiar with.  We all know the story Jesus takes Peter, James and John up to a mountain and Jesus appears with Moses, Elijah and He and His clothes become a dazzling white.  Peter excitedly, or at least I think he was excited, asks Jesus if he can set up some tents.  We're told that they were terrified as they should have been, imagine how you would be if you actually saw Jesus appear in His full glory and then a voice from the Heavens says, "This is my beloved son. Listen to him."  I'd be terrified too.  I'm always amused that Jesus tells them to tell n one about what happens.  I know it says that they are to wait until after Jesus dies and rises from the dead, but I still only hear the don't tell anyone about this comment.  I guess Jesus was preparing these three for what they would eventually do.  I read and I think it was Fr. Barron who mentioned it in his lenten reflection, that this is in a way a physical version of the Old Testament being fulfilled in the New Testament.

My Sunday was spent watching the freshman in our confirmation program be on retreat, which was great to watch as they actually got something out of it, but I was done by the time we got to Mass so I don't remember much of the homily except that Fr. Ray preached mainly on the first reading and slightly on the Gospel.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

bus stations, train stations, Stations of the Cross part deux

So I am slacking in my saying the Stations of the Cross, daily but it's still early in this Lenten season.

I decided to walk to daily Mass and today was no different except it was snowing but I don't mind walking in the snow, I rather enjoy it.  I decided to walk "the back roads" aka the not main road that runs through town as I figured if I have to walk out in the street it's better to do it on a street where there's not at much traffic.  So I walked along my way, using mainly sidewalks as they were clear despite the dusting of snow on the ground.  I was listening to Jars of Clay's version of I Need You when all of a sudden my ass was on the cold ground and thought, ouch.  I have enough padding to just be slightly bruised if I am at all.  I bounced up as quickly as I went down.  I was thinking about a friend who had basically posted her goodbye to us on Facebook, as she's entering the final stages of her battle with cancer, so my mind was not on watching where I was walking.

The ice I slipped on was hidden by the dusting of snow and dare I say my ego was bruised more than my body.  I do have a nice little "cut" on my hand from where I placed it to break my fall, but again the whole thing happened in about 5 seconds.  I got up thinking, well grumbling, I should have just walked in the street and then I noticed that my hand hurt.  I took off my glove and looked at my left hand and said, oh that hurts, but it's barely skinned, I wonder if my ass will bruise.  As I kept walking I started to think about Stations of the Cross and I of course thought of the Jesus falls ones.  I looked at my hand and said, this tiny cut hurts more than anything, I can only imagine what type of pain Jesus was in when He carried the cross.



Here's my tiny little flesh wound that still hurts hours later.  Something that 
small shouldn't hurt as much as it does.  I have always been one who realized that the traditional beatings Jesus got in the movies was nothing like what really happened.  Call it God's grace or my vivid imagination.  So of course I think of The Passion of the Christ when ever I think of Jesus's Passion and death.  I chose a not so graphic image from the movie.  I have in the past looked to Our Lady of Sorrows for consolation and for some reason she came to mind this Lent.  Maybe it's because of the death of one of the parish's young adults and watching the family she left behind suffer and not knowing what to do for them or watching my friends suffer and not knowing what to do for them either but suffering has come back as a topic.  



Yesterday I learned that a priest I knew and has as a professor at Seton Hall died suddenly.  Not an Ash Wednesday goes by that I don't think of him and the giant crosses he would place on our heads.  Anyway, I started to think of all the memories from Seton Hall and I thought where's the book we used in class. I remember he commented that it was such a small book despite the class being on Christian Spirituality.  The book is 144 pages long and covers some of the classics of Catholic Spirituality actually that's it's name too.  I went searching for it just because and found it and thought, oh I need to get a bunch of these classics.  While searching for the book, I found books that I used for my senior thesis.  One of those books is called At the Foot of the Cross The Seven Lessons of Mary for the Sorrowing Heart, the other one I found is Archbishop Sheen's Seven Words of Jesus and Mary Lessons on Cana and Calvary.  I don't want to take any of my proposed books out of my book a week challenge  but I might have to add these two in.  Again I see a theme appearing or should I say reappearing as I have read these books before.  

I had originally planned on this particular blog to be about Stations of the Cross again, but when I fell today it got me thinking about how we can daily live out the stations of the cross.  I have an all day retreat with our high school freshman in our confirmation program on Sunday, and I know that right about now is when the spiritual, physical and mental battles come to a front.  I'm reminded of a quote I saw on Facebook, of course it happens to be from Mark Hart. "Don't be surprised when attacks come - if you're living for Christ they'll come constantly. It probably means you're doing it right... 'When you seek to do good, evil will be at hand.' - Rom 7:21" 

Who would have thought that a tiny cut on my hand would make me think about how to daily live out the Stations of the Cross and to look back into our Lady of Sorrows.  We are not suffering along, Jesus knows what we are going through as does God the Father, and our Blessed Mother. 

Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us.  

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

homework: what type of student would I be if I didn't do my homework

I admit that I am very lazy when it comes to homework, I was as a high school student, college student and as a graduate student.  The less work I have to do the better.

Last week Bishop Serratelli was our guest lecturer and he's back at it this week. I love my bishop dearly and will defend him pretty much all the time as I don't like people complaining about who he happens to send us as pastor or vicar, but his homilies can be boring.  Bishop is a Scripture scholar and a pretty good one at that too so you would expect his homilies to be good, which they normally are, he just delivers them far differently than he teaches.  I had the priviledge of having then Father Serratelli for a class while I was an undergraduate at Seton Hall.  I was looking to be a senior so I took a class at the graduate level to get my credits. So I knew what we were in for when Bishop came to teach and I have to say I will miss him after these two classes.  Our regular professor, who is brilliant and full of knowledge, just seems scattered.  Bishop came in with a plan, stuck to it and we covered everything he wanted to cover.  There is a difference in how Bishop interacts outside of his homilies, he's completely different.  Bishop Serratelli, the teacher, is the man I see preach at the Chrism Mass and who at the end of Confirmation and regular Sunday Masses, but this person seems to disappear when he preaches.  Any way at the end of class last week the comment, "What type of teacher would I be if I didn't assign homework: read 1 Kings 22:13-28 and tie it into tonight's class." That last part might be my paraphrasing of it, but that is our assignment. To read the following passage and tie it into what we spoke about in class.  

Meanwhile, the messenger who had gone to call Micaiah said to him, “Look now, the prophets are unanimously predicting good for the king. Let your word be the same as any of theirs; speak a good word." Micaiah said, “As the LORD lives, I shall speak whatever the LORD tells me.” When he came to the king, the king said to him, “Micaiah, shall we go to fight at Ramoth-gilead, or shall we refrain?” He said, “Attack and conquer! The LORD will give it into the power of the king.” But the king answered him, “How many times must I adjure you to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD?”So Micaiah said: “I see all Israel scattered on the mountains, like sheep without a shepherd, And the LORD saying, These have no master! Let each of them go back home in peace.” The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “Did I not tell you, he does not prophesy good about me, but only evil?” Micaiah continued: “Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD seated on his throne, with the whole host of heaven standing to his right and to his left. The LORD asked: Who will deceive Ahab, so that he will go up and fall on Ramoth-gilead And one said this, another that, until this spirit came forth and stood before the LORD, saying, ‘I will deceive him.’ The LORD asked: How? He answered, ‘I will go forth and become a lying spirit in the mouths of all his prophets.’ The LORD replied: You shall succeed in deceiving him. Go forth and do this. So now, the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours; the LORD himself has decreed evil against you.” Thereupon Zedekiah, son of Chenaanah, came up and struck Micaiah on the cheek, saying, “Has the spirit of the LORD, then, left me to speak with you?” Micaiah said, “You shall find out on the day you go into an inner room to hide.” The king of Israel then said, “Seize Micaiah and take him back to Amon, prefect of the city, and to Joash, the king’s son, and say, ‘This is the king’s order: Put this man in prison and feed him scanty rations of bread and water until I come back in safety.’” But Micaiah said, “If you return in safety, the LORD has not spoken through me.” (He also said, “Hear, O peoples, all of you.”)

The lines that stuck out to me are the ones that I bolded.  Our class is on Biblical Call Narratives and let me tell you there are a lot of callings in the Bible.  We've studied mainly old testament calls and of course both Scripture scholars, Bishop Serratelli and Dr. Glazov, have talked about the calls of the prophets.  I guess it's a good thing when both men give you the same basic overview of a call narrative.  In all the calls we have discussed we talk about the divine confrontation, the introductory word, the commission, the objection, the reassurance, and a sign and how these will appear in most call narratives.  This passage doesn't seem to be a call narrative so how does this tie into what we talked about.  

Well we've covered a lot of stuff in our classes but one of my notes from Bishop's class seems to stick out, the prophet will speak how God wants him to speak" Which agrees with the first statement I bolded, where Micaiah is saying I will speak how the Lord wants me to speak.   Micaiah speaks of how Israel is scattered on the mountains like a sheep without a shepherd; this makes me think of the Gospels when it's said "I will strike the shepherd and sheep will disperse" (What I'm Catholic I know the story, the line, just not which Gospel and the exact number of the verse) Maybe it's because it's Lent and the Passion Gospels tend to stick out more, but that's what I thought of.  It shows that the New Testament and Old Testament do work with each other.  The last line that I bolded is the one about seeing God seated on the His throne.  This image we did talk about with the call of Isaiah and how he sees God upon a throne.  It's an image of Heaven, which we get to see at every Mass, well not actually see, but to be close to at every Mass.  

Not sure how much I am supposed to read into the passage but these are the three lines that stuck out to me.



Monday, February 23, 2015

Confessions of a newbie veiler

J.M.J 


Any one who has read this blog or who knows me should know by now that I am a fan of traditional Catholicism.  I'm old school when it comes to many things; dare I say I would enjoy a Latin Mass once in a while, if only for the simple fact that I wouldn't have to do anything other than sit in the pew. Don't get me wrong I love being Catholic and I love serving, but when it's a weekly or daily thing it gets  monotonous and well annoying.  Again I love serving, I'm just tired of always having to be the one to get up and do it.

I've been following Veils by Lily on Facebook and Twitter for a while and I keep looking at the veils saying, "oh those are pretty," or "oh I like that one."  I also felt the urge or shall we say nudge to actually wear one to Mass.  My friends go to a Latin Mass chapel run by the Fraternity of St. Peter so my initial thought was, "it would be nice to have an actual veil for the sacraments that I would be attending there verses my finding of a huge shawl that I have worn in the past."  I followed links and read about it and kept thinking I want one and I should do it.

I finally bit the bullet and purchased one at Christmas time.  Oddly the veil came the day before the March for Life and a neighboring parish happened to be having a holy hour that evening so I thought this is perfect and I brought my veil with me.  As I took the veil out my mother looked at me and said, what is that a veil, that's old fashioned.  To which I said no it's not and proceeded to tweet something about it via my phone.    I admit I was nervous and still am about wearing it.  I didn't clip it in my hair that night so I was worried it would fall off and I put it on as the holy hour began and took it off right as the holy hour ended.  I put the veil back in the nice little bag I purchased for it and left it in my pocketbook that I carried with me everywhere.  I wasn't comfortable enough to wear it at my home parish, yet.

The original date the veil was supposed to arrive was right around the time of our youth ministry retreat and I thought what a great way to start veiling.  I didn't do it, I had it with me in my bag, but the fact that I was in a sweatshirt, jeans and sneakers caused me to say and think, I can put that gorgeous veil on my head dressed liked this and I wasn't ready to answer any questions I might have gotten.  I decided then that I would start veiling for Lent.  Why not as it seemed the perfect time to start something.  So I did, I walked to Mass on Ash Wednesday (you can see my thoughts on that Mass here), found a spot, sat down, prayed, took out the bag the veil was in and eventually put the veil,  on my head.

I feel like a million thoughts went through my head before I did put the veil on my head. Do I really want to do this, Does God really want me to do it, I'll be the only one, everyone will be looking at me wondering what is she doing.   As I said in the Ash Wednesday blog, it dawned on me that the older generation would know of the custom and the younger generation could care less.  I keep telling myself every time I place the veil on my head, "it's not about you, it's not about you, the world is so self centered, they probably don't even notice it."  Granted I've only veiled a total of five times since this started so yes I am new to it and I will keep thinking about how I'm the only one doing it but I have to remember it's not about me.

I've noticed that based on where the veil falls around my face, that instead of hiding behind my hair, I used to let my hair fall as it would cover my face, I actually move my hair behind my ears thus exposing my face.  I've also become more aware of what I wear to Mass.  I usually try to dress up for Sunday Mass or at the very least dress nicely.  Yes I have worn jeans, usually they are the designer brand jeans and an nice sweater or top.  I always laugh at the idea of me packing a dress for Sunday Mass when I go to a conference at Franciscan University, but when I'm home it's oh jeans work.

My mother ingrained in me the whole idea of Sunday best and I fought in high school to wear shorts and sneakers to Mass and I did one day just because I could, but the idea of Sunday best never left me.  I don't always follow it, I have worn jeans to Sunday Mass, usually it's when I have all day meetings with youth group or if I was teaching confirmation or if I'm going to our evening Mass and I don't feel like changing.  Now as I mentioned above so many times I end up having to serve at Mass, so the nudge to dress better has been there, but when it snows and it's nasty out and you typically walk to church you tend to not wear a dress or skirt.  As I walked to Mass this past Sunday I thought, well I don't really have anything to wear these sweaters with other than pants, I was wearing corduroy pants, and the Holy Spirit nudged me with, umm you have a black skirt or other skirts in the house.  I think I actually laughed out loud at the fact that yes, God was right, I do have other bottoms at home.

Veiling has changed how I dress for Mass, well somewhat changed.  I'm still with the idea that daily Mass gets whatever I happen to be wearing that day, but I will admit that I put on a sweater instead of a sweatshirt.  I do tend to wear the nicer jeans during the week.  As I place this gorgeous piece of lace on my head, I start to think about what I am wearing.  I've been searching the inter-webs for blogs or other resources on veiling and I found this and this. I have to admit the second one made me laugh because that is exactly what went through my brain.  The first one made me think about how I do actually think about what I wear to Mass now, not that I didn't I just make more of an effort to be dressed and covered, though me being covered wasn't much of an issue.

I have to admit that veiling this past Sunday was the hardest.  The daily Masses are easy as I'm usually alone and I can do my own thing, but Sundays that's when I sit with my friends, and seriously what would they think.  I actually thought about not veiling and then said, if you don't do it now you never will, so on it went.  Yes I spent a good portion of Mass thinking is someone going to say something or what are they thinking and I kept telling myself it's not about you, it's about God and reminding myself that our culture is so self absorbed that they wouldn't even notice that I had this thing on my head.  I was rather happy that I had counted enough Extraordinary Ministers of Communion and would not have to serve. I was wrong as one person decided that even though she was needed that she wasn't needed, so I ended up serving, so everyone saw my veil as I stood in the sanctuary.  I didn't really spend all of Mass thinking about the veil, I actually spent a good portion of it thinking about what Mark Hart had written in Behold the Mystery.  I made it through my first Sunday Mass veiled and I did get a comment, but not the one I was expecting.

I placed my veil down on the pew (I know technically I should be wearing it as soon as I set foot in Church, but we're getting there) and was folding it to place it back in the carrying bag when this old man came up to me.  He said with an Italian accent, "every lady should wear one of those"(as he picked up my veil and I thought don't touch it I just want to fold it and put it away so I don't ruin it.) I missed the next part, but I gathered after reflecting on it that he was telling me to get the other women to wear a veil as well.  I thought, that's not how it works, you have to be called to veil, and if you want to do it, do it, if not don't; that's the beauty of being Catholic. Those of us who veil, veil and those who don't, don't.  I did thank God as I walked home and thought, well that was a nice sign that I am doing what God wants me too. I keep expecting to hear the why are you doing that comments and I am very surprised that my pastor hasn't said anything to me yet because he's the type to say something to me no matter what.

I am new to veiling, but it is a growing trend and custom among my generation.  We were never thought why we covered our heads at Mass and I will still troll the internet looking for the perfect answer. I'm sure it will get easier each time I place the veil on my head, I've already started to notice how empty my head feels when I take the veil off and I stay in Church for stations, eventually I'll leave it on, once I work up to it.  I'm slowly learning and growing in this.

Why am I veiling, the simple answer is I felt called to it.  I've always been a big believer in feelings and knowing what God has wanted me to do.  I did pray about it, I didn't ask anyone about it, because my family already thinks I'm nuts, I don't need to add any fuel to that fire. I'm sure I'll have more to say on this topic later but for now I'm okay with I'm new to this and still learning.  God calls us to do many things, this is just one of the ways He's calling me.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

SCC the digital version or my "homily" for the 1st Sunday of Lent.

J.M.J. 


I decided to start my Lenten book challenge off easy, I was already reading Mark Hart's Behold the Mystery and have most of Cardinal Dolan's Doers of the Word read so I decided that they counted as one book and would be read on Ash Wednesday and the days that followed.  I did finish both of them, but they were easy reads.  In Behold the Mystery Mark Hart suggests spending time with all four readings for Sunday's Mass.  I always think of Small Christian Communities (SCC) at Seton Hall when I think of this, because that's exactly what we did.  A bunch of us met each week with Fr. Bill to discuss the readings for the upcoming Sunday.  I know we inspired a bunch of homilies for him and it was fun and interesting to discuss the readings for Sunday.  We typically came up with about 4 or five questions to go over, and by we I really mean me. No, it was mainly Fr. Bill until one day I heard "hey, Mar, my newest, bestest, best bud, do you want to write the questions for SCC tonight."  I know I had some sort of smart ass response but I can't remember it, but I do remember him saying, "but your's are good and better than mine" or something along those lines to me.

I've decided to do a digital version of SCC though it's more of a Lectio, which now that I think about it is what SCC was, but we never treated it that way.  Now, I know why Fr. Bill suggested Lectio Divina years later, and that's what makes him one of the best priests I know.  This also makes me laugh at how God works.

Any way I figured I might as well spend time with the readings and what better place to "talk" about it but the almighty inter-webs.  I know that a lot of people don't read this and it's mostly for me, but hey you never know who might find it and learn something.  Here's the link to Sunday, February 22, 2015 Mass readings  .  The USCCB page was giving me issues before, so I'm not sure if it will load correctly or not, but they should have an interactive calendar on the home page if the link doesn't work.

So the first reading comes from the Book of Genesis and it involves Noah and we can assume that the ark was involved too.  The daily readings link doesn't give you the footnotes like the actual Bible pages do; the New American Bible Revised Edition aka the NABRE is on the site. I have to give credit to said Bible as my bishop, Bishop Arthur Serratelli, spent "7 years of his life" working on it. It's also the Bible we hear at Mass.  I was going to look for the footnotes, but the website is not loading on Chrome anyway, not sure about other browsers.

Anyway, back to the first reading. Most of us know the story of Noah, the ark and the flood.  In the first reading we get the promise from God to Noah that the world will not be destroyed by water again.  God saved the world because of one righteous person, Noah, well eight people if we count Noah's wife, sons and daughters-in-law. God promised that He wouldn't use water to destroy the Earth again.  I'm currently sitting through a Biblical Call Narratives class for my Masters and Certificate program, so we've been discussing the Old Testament far more than the New Testament and I'm fine with that because we so often skip over the Old Testament that we don't look to it for wisdom, even though it is one of the books of the Old Testament.  God made a covenant with Noah and his family and the sign He gave them was a rainbow, or so we traditionally say it is.  Even today we are always in awe when we see a rainbow in the sky.  I remember a few times when my family was in Ireland that I was told, "get you're camera, there's a rainbow; oh it's a double rainbow; quick before it goes away."  I happily oblige as there is something special about rainbows precisely because we don't see them that often.  I usually think of pots of gold at the end of a rainbow long before I think of God's promise to Noah.  I don't think oh that's a reminder that God will take care of His family, I think oh that's pretty.

We have a glorified idea of Noah and the Ark, that thing had to stink to high holy hell with all those animals on it; yeah think about that, gross isn't it.  The stench didn't stop Noah or his family from doing what God told him and that ark wasn't small, it did have to fit two of each animal and 8 humans on it; so the hard work didn't stop Noah either.  Noah trusted God and was rewarded for it; God saved the world because of Noah's faith and actions.  One person saved the world, that sounds familiar doesn't it.  As my pastor reminded us at his Lenten Friday Night Lights aka his seasonal sessions on Catholic things, we, the younger generation often look at the Old Testament as some nice stories that we hear but don't really pay attention too. It's true we look at a rainbow and think, oh that's pretty, we don't think oh God's reminding us about how He saved us all those years ago with Noah.


I was about to jump to the second reading when I read the psalm. So often the psalm is forgotten or not preached on.  A few weeks ago Fr. Ray spoke of the psalm because it happened to be his favorite and the music ministry happened to play his favorite setting of it.  I don't remember what psalm it was but it reminds me that as Mark Hart said in Behold the Mystery we so often forget about the psalm.

The refrain of the psalm is "Your ways, O Lord, are love and truth to those who keep your covenant." My initial thought as I read it in church was, how the heck are we doing to sing this one.  It's interesting that the psalm uses the work covenant.  Today we don't think of covenants, we think of contracts which is sort of what a covenant with God is.  I try to say Liturgy of the Hours every day, there are plenty of days where I don't say one or any of the hours, but it has allowed me to get to know the psalms better or least notice which ones they use all the time.  The first verse of the psalm has us asking God to teach us His ways.  The second verse has us asking God to be kind to us and to remember us in His compassion.  The third and final verse reminds that God guides us, teaches us and shows us the way.  When we pay attention to the readings we see how they are linked together. Noah followed God's ways and kept the covenant and therefore passed on the faith to the generations that followed him.

The second reading is from St. Peter's letter.  It's rare that the second reading is not from one of St. Paul's readings just because he takes up the majority of the New Testament.  When I went to type the blog at first I kept thinking where did I hear "prefigured baptism" it must have been in one of the books I read, no it was from the second reading as I realized as I sat in Church. I think my mind had wondered during this reading, and I laughed to myself as I thought of Mark Hart's comment of well, at least you will have gone over the readings in case you start to not pay attention at Mass.  In this reading we are reminded that Jesus suffered for sins once, that righteous one suffered for the unrighteous.  Here we have that righteous man saving the world again.  Yes, that righteous man from the first reading is in essence a prefiguring of Jesus for one man saved the world.  Rarely do we have the readings so connected, or at least it seems that it's rarely that the first and second readings connect; let alone mention the other.  Noah was a prefiguring for our baptism, though the water of Baptism we are saved, but we can't forget about Jesus and how His saving act is what truly saved us. St. Peter reminds of that at the end of the reading.  Our salvation is not about being physically clean but about having a clean and clear conscience.

The Gospel is one of the shortest ones I can remember. It's literally three verses long. It's five sentences from the looks of it.  Of course on the first Sunday of Lent we are reminded that Jesus was in the desert fasting and was tempted by Satan.  This reminds that Jesus knows exactly what we go through each Lenten season.  Jesus knows that we are going to be tempted to eat what we gave up or tempted to not pray because I'm tired or some other excuse. In this short Gospel we get the idea that Lent will not be easy and that we will be tempted.  In the second portion of the Gospel we hear the words that we also hear on Ash Wednesday, depending on what saying the person who is placing ashes on your forehead uses.  "Repent and believe in the Gospel."  The gospel is the good news that Jesus came to save us all but we are so far removed from it that we often forget it.

I always try to get one thing out of the homily and while Fr. Ray actually preached on the first reading, using a great example of the Benedictine Abbey in Newark and how they because the ark for young men in Newark it was his preaching on the Gospel that stuck with me.  Fr. Ray mentioned the idea that we are obsessed with survival shows.  It got me thinking of Naked and Afraid, Bear Grylls' shows, the one with the military guy and the hippie guy and of course Survivor.   The line that got everyone to laugh was, "Survivor: they send people out to a remote island for 40 days and have all these tests and rituals they have to go through; we've been doing that for 2,000 years it's called Lent."

It's so true we are throwing ourselves out into the dessert to hopefully be drawn closer to God by giving something up or whatever we planned on doing for Lent.  It won't be easy as we will be tempted, but at least we've not voted off the island.



In cause you were wondering why the J.M.J. (Jesus, Mary and Joseph) randomly appeared; I've been writing it on my handwritten notes since college and after seeing another blog with it and Cardinal Dolan post a homily with the letters at the top I figured if they can do it so can I.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Bus Station, Train Station, Stations of the Cross... part one

I realize that I have a love/hate relationship with Stations of the Cross much like my relationship with Ash Wednesday.  I love the devotion but I am very particular about how it should be done, yeah I know there's that whole judgemental thing appearing again.  

I've recently become a huge fan of LifeTeen and their ministry; if you had asked me a few years ago I would have told you to stay away from them, mainly for personal reasons, but I was not a fan. How God works in mysterious ways, as I now love them.  Anyway, last year I had managed to find little guide books from LifeTeen on Confession, prayer, Adoration, and the Rosary. I used the Rosary book last year when I tried to say a Rosary daily during Lent, this year I'm opting to use their guide to Stations of the Cross, Come Walk.  I managed to find it last year on Amazon and quickly ordered it based on their other "guide" books and I do love it.  

In cause you can't tell I am very traditional when it comes to Mass and other religious events.  Does this mean I disapprove of "hands in the air" chari-spastics, I mean charismatics, no. I lovingly and joking call them chari-spastics but that's because that's not my style; it appears every so often on a retreat or at a conference.  I am very European in how I do things, I am Irish-American Catholic after all.  So this spills over into how I like Stations of the Cross to be done; traditionally with no added flare.  My parish offers Stations on Fridays after the 12:05pm Mass, so it's been my Lenten devotion for the past few years as my day off was Friday and I could easily go to Mass and Stations.  There is a book that the parish uses and has used for years, that I just can't stand.  Here's where my holier-than-thou persona seems to come out, I hate when we dumb down prayers and teachings of the Church.  This issue of mine really shows true when it comes to Stations of the Cross.  I am aware that the traditional Stations comes from Scripture and Tradition and that St. John Paul the Second, made new stations that are more Scriptural  than the traditional ones, more on those later, but I'm old school in what I do, so I like the traditional ones. 

I was slightly excited when I saw my pastor saying daily Mass today, because I was hoping he would lead us in the Stations afterwards.  This is where my respect and awe for the man shows.  The first time he ever lead the parish in Stations I was floored, as there was no book, no guide in his hand; he just knew them and what he was going to say by heart.  The scary part is he rarely deviates from his script when he says them and after forty plus years as a priest I can see how one could and would memorize a version of Stations to use but it's still impressive.  His comments are modern enough, but not dumbed down or rhyming.  The LifeTeen book offers reflections and questions that allow you to look in on yourself and see how you can better yourself and I think my pastor's version/comments of Stations does the same.  So when I saw the stack of books, I thought "oh no Deacon Tony's going to do stations" but then I didn't see our deacon at Mass, so I was still slightly hopeful that our pastor would be leading them until the final blessing.  I know how crafty my pastor is, he gives the final blessing at the end of stations when he leads them, today he ended Mass normally and I thought "oh it is the Deacon."  

I stayed to say Stations and tried my best to not complain or read my lifeteen book, this part I failed at, but I didn't complain as much as could have.  I don't know why I don't like the book, okay yes I do, the prayers rhyme and they seem so dumbed down.  I know my years of studying religion, and theology come in to play here when I want something to go deeper.  Are there parts of these stations that speak to me, yes, but that's God's grace working through what we give Him.  I know by the end of Lent I will probably have the LifeTeen book memorized as I plan on saying/doing Stations of the Cross daily and something will come from it, because that's how God works.  I love Deacon Tony dearly, but I don't like the way he does Stations. I am the type that likes to be left alone when praying and that's hard at my parish because everyone knows me and wants to say hi and all of that fun stuff and usually I am fine with it.  I made a decision that if Deacon Tony is leading stations or I see that stack of books out, I will come back before Fr. Ray's Lenten teaching sessions on Friday nights and say my own version of Stations because I don't want to be uncharitable or complaining while I'm saying Stations as a group.  

I remember a book we used while I was a student at Seton Hall and I wish I could find it, it's probably in this house somewhere as my mom and I don't throw stuff like that out.  I liked this book because it was traditional, you announced the station, said "we adore You oh Christ and we praise You, because by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world", had a reading/reflection on the station, and then finished with an Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be.  I remember this simply because my friends would make fun of me by pointing out that when I said the prayers my Irishness appeared via accent and speed of the prayers.  I don't know if I'm looking for how I felt when I did Stations at Seton Hall or for something to speak to me.  Fr. Ray's or Fr. Roberto's stations are not like those I said at Seton Hall, but they speak to me in a way that Deacon Tony's don't.  I know this is all me and not the deacon's fault, but I just feel like something is missing.  

We'll see how I feel about Stations after I have said them for 40 some odd days.  Who knows maybe I'll write my own reflections as I felt called to do for awhile and most especially when the Deacon is leading the Stations.  Oh well I'm off to read Behold the Mystery and learn more about the Mass, maybe in reading that it will remind me of why we do what we do and open my eyes to other devotions as well.  

Expect more on Stations as Lent continues.  ;-) 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Why I have a love/hate relationship with Ash Wednesday

I love being Catholic, there is no denying that.  It is who I am, I am Catholic and damn proud of it.

I love the Church so much that is actually pains me that people only show up on certain days and well today is one of them.  So many people think that Ash Wednesday is a Holy Day of Obligation but it's not, we don't need to go and get dirt placed on our foreheads but we choose to. It makes me wonder why people show up today but not on a Sunday.

As I am currently unemployed it makes my schedule for Ash Wednesday different from years past. For the past five years the only Masses I could go to where the 7am (oh dear God that's early) or the 7:30pm (much nicer of a time, and it has music) Mass, so I usually went to the evening Mass. Today I decided to go the 12:05pm Mass, as that's the time of the daily Mass I'll be going to and honestly I didn't expect it to be as packed at it was and I figured I could sacrifice the music part.  By chance my Pastor was saying Mass and I could tell that he was just as cranky as I was by some of the little things he did.

Side note of sorts: I got a Fitbit charge for Christmas from my brother and sister-in-law so I make more of an effort to walk to church every Sunday and my parents don't question it anymore as it's healthy vs me just being crazy.  It's only about half a mile to the church, so it's really not that big of a deal.  I try to listen to Christian music, most of the time it's Matt Maher, because he's my favorite Catholic- Christian artist, but I do it so I don't have a song along the lines of I'm Sexy and I Know It stuck in my head for Mass.  Today's songs were Jeremy Camp's Christ In Me and by chance Matt Maher's Because of You and both songs were perfect looking back on it.

The refrain of Christ In Me is "So come and empty me, So that it's you I breathe, I want my life to be, Only Christ in me, So I will fix my eyes, 'Cause you're my source of life , I need the world to see, That it's Christ in me, That it's Christ in me" As I walked along I kept thinking, Christ in me, that's an interesting concept.  A few other songs came on but I didn't really want to hear them, so I stopped it on Because of You. The refrain of Because of You is "If I shine it's because of You, if I love it's because of You, if I'm strong it's because of you, if I'm right it's because of You, it's all because of You."  I love this song as it reminds that I am nothing without God, which is a decent thought on Ash Wednesday when you hear, "remember you are dust and to dust you shall return" or remember, man, you are dust and to dust you shall return" if you went to our pastor. As Because of You ended I saw people walking from the parking lot towards the church and I said to myself, "oh yeah the public schools are off this week", then I saw a car illegally park by the yellow don't park here line and it went down hill from there.  It really didn't, but my immediate thought when I entered church was, where the heck did you all come from.

I am a regular Mass goer meaning I have my set area to sit in, I even have what I deem my daily Mass spot and all of those spots were taken, granted it was 5 minutes before Mass was supposed to start, but I was expecting the normal middle of the week daily Mass group and then remembered it was get something for free at Church day.  So I went to one of my normal pews but sat in the middle of the pew as those were open. Usually I sit on the end because I almost always end up having to serve in some sort of capacity, oddly today I didn't but I was very close.

I decided to start veiling at Mass as I have felt called to do it for awhile now and figured what better time to start than Lent.  So I probably spent most of my time thinking, I wonder who's thinking why is this thing is on her head; then I remembered that the older generation would know the custom  and my generation and younger would have no idea what it was that was on my head.  So with that thought out of my head, I started to notice the little things.

This Mass had no music, so that throws people off and to aid in the washing ashes off, we take the collection up before the prayers of the faithful, which is completely different from Sunday so it confuses the hell out of people.  From the beginning of the Mass, I noticed things that just showed how annoyed our pastor was.  Let me set the record straight, he's a wonderful man and priest, but let's just say some of the ways he says things don't go so well with those in the parish who don't know him well. I think I approached this Mass slightly differently, I wasn't expecting the usual annoyances of Ash Wednesday, but they slowly appeared.  By chance one of our youth ministry teens found me and sat with me, so let's just say we shared our annoyances.  So in my normal spot where families with little noisy children, which I kept thinking each time I head a noise, at least they are here and kids will be kids.  See, I'm not always judgemental, but usually I am.

Fr. Ray's homily was decent, I remember thinking, what is he doing to talk about this year.  The homily reminded us that Lent come about as a way for people to finish the walk/race with those preparing for baptism and to receive their sacraments at Easter.  I do remember him commenting on how fasting and giving something up isn't so that we can fit into our bathing suit in the summer or to loose a few pounds.  That's the added benefit of giving something up or so I think.  He went on to comment on how he knows we've all been complaining about the snow and how it's messy, a pain, packed down and just annoying and likened it to one of the best images of Lent we have because by the time Easter gets here, the snow will have melted, and like wise hopefully a hardened part of us has softened and melted at well.  Those are not his exact words, but the basic idea.

Mass continued as normal, with the blessing and distribution of ashes following the homily, and here's where the small little things started to appear.  We had five people distributing the ashes, so Fr. Ray happened to be smack in the middle as they were all up in the front of the church.  I know how he gets, so when I saw one of the two lay people free up, I jumped the line and went to them, as I knew those in front of me wouldn't, of course the young lady sitting next to me did the same.  Many times during the distribution we heard "move to your right, there are ministers over there."  Now I know why he said it and he was right, all of  a sudden there was a line for just the priest and in all honestly it doesn't matter who places the ashes on your forehead, and they are certainly not better if you happen to get them from a priest.  I sat there thinking "this is why they don't like you." as I head, "use the other side" repeated, but I also see his point and understand his frustration with the parish.  The rest of the Mass went on normally, there was no music so the responses were said.  People forget to sit after the prayers of the faithful until there was a motion to sit down.  I had already sat down, as well I do pride myself on knowing what to do.  I know how prideful that sounds, but it's true, I do know what to do and when to do it.  It was time to receive Communion and one of the kids in front of me seemed to not know how to place his hands to receive Communion so I thought "if you don't know how your hands are supposed to go, why are you receiving" and then I thought, "I offer this reception of Communion for all these who are here just because and that the graces they need are poured out on them."  I'm trying to do better with the whole judging people thing.

Mass ends, and before Fr. Ray could even kiss the altar and leave the sanctuary people started to bolt out the doors. So from the pastor we hear "You know usually we wait for the priest to leave before you do... it's kind of a Catholic thing."  I nearly said out loud, "this is why they don't like you," but instead I turned to the teen who was next to me and the two of us started laughing because we completely understood why he said it.  I get the whole lunch hour thing, but at least have the decency to wait until he's off the sanctuary. The thirty seconds it takes him to walk to the back of the Church won't make much of a difference.  

I love Ash Wednesday because it's when Lent begins and allows to stop and think about what I need to improve in my life, but I hate it because the judgemental bitch in me appears.  I take the time to go to Mass each week, to know the responses and to participate at Mass so yes it does annoy me when I have to deal with little annoyances.  I honestly don't mind kids making noise at Mass, they are allowed to talk to God as they can and I know from personal experience that you can't always get a kid to stay quiet no matter how hard you try; sometimes they sing "Mary had a baby boy and she named him Jesus" when the entire church is quiet and you just have to let it happen.  Worse things could have happened.  I'm trying to be more aware of how mean I can seem at Mass in the idea that I think, you should know what to do and if you actually came to Mass, you would know what to do.

In reading books on the Mass, I am aware that I have more insight into what the Mass is and I wish I had more than 4 Sundays a year to be able to pass that on to the majority of people who call themselves Catholic, but that's where grace and God come in.  God works in ways I obviously can't all I can do is pray for those that cause me have the hate portion of the relationship with Ash Wednesday.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

GIVE UP, GIVE UP, GIVE UP

So it's that time of year again.  The Lenten season is upon us. Which means it's time to figure out what to give up for 40 days.  Lifeteen has a great list of 102 things to give up for Lent. Now some of them are silly as it's geared towards teens and we all know how crazy any of us who work in ministry with teens are.  I have to say that some of these got me thinking.

some being #14 wishing for someone else's life, relationship or possessions, #15 complaining, #23 Laziness. Give up TV and commit to going to a walk every day and praying the rosary, #38 If you're judgemental, pray for every person you see. #73 Thinking about food all during daily Mass, #80 Buying spiritual books and not reading them, #97 Pretending you don't have time to go to Adoration and #98 Pretending you don't have time to pray at home.

These are the ones that stuck out to me because, well, they are me.  I do complain all the time, albeit to myself, but I do complain.  I know I am lazy which is why I try every Lent to do a couch to 5k or something similar, because the Catholic guilt ingrained in me, says I'll do it more if I make it a Lenten discipline.  I actually sat on the bed before thinking, "I should go for a walk, but it's so cold out, but I should go for a walk, but it will be dark soon and it's snowy and messy out there."  See, lazy and complaining, so yeah I might want to try and give them up for Lent.

 I am a judgemental bitch, I won't lie my first thought at Mass today was, "where the hell do did you all come from" followed quickly by "at least there are here, may God's grace fill them to return on Sunday."  I think my pastor shared my sentiments, but that's for another blog.  So I'm kinda doing that, in trying to quickly turn my judgement into a prayer of some sort.

Let's face it, today's a day of fast which means one large meal and two smaller meals with no snacks in between, but that's honestly what I do pretty much everyday and I'm still young enough where I can do a full fast, though that didn't work today, as I caved and had an English muffin, but I didn't fall to the temptation to keep eating because it would be my one meal of the day. I've left that up to dinner, which will be some sort of frozen fish and vegetables, I ain't gonna complain when my mom decides to cook.  I might be a grown (I just typed groan, instead, I wonder what my subconscience is trying to tell me.) but I am still a lazy one see the above entry on not wanting to go out an walk. Though I did walk to Mass, so at least I got out and did something not so lazy.  Anyway back to the point, it's easy to think about food at Mass when you haven't had anything to eat yet. I want to turn this into not thinking about any outside things at Mass.  I tried to not think of all the annoyances of an Ash Wednesday Mass, people there just to be there, who don't know what to do.  I know it's great that they are inside the doors and I hope and pray they return each Sunday, but that's up to them not me. I'm trying not to be judgemental, but I totally fail when it comes to Mass and people not knowing what to do, again that's another blog.

During Lent I will go to Mass daily , except Saturdays, and here's the lazy part of me, as 7:30am is too early for me, I like the ease of 12:05pm and I have my routine of walking to Mass set from the past few years.  So I'll try not to think about food or something else that's bothering me and we'll see how it goes.  This was the idea that came into my head today while at Mass, so I'm going to take that as a prompting of the Holy Spirit.

I own so many books that I have purchased at conferences and I really, really, really want to sit down and read them, but I go on facebook or twitter or start playing a game on my iPad or phone and well time just quickly passes by and I haven't read my books. So yesterday it hit me, that I try to read a Lenten reflection book, so I decided to turn that into a read a book a week challenge.  I have books of all sizes and all by different authors.  Oddly the majority of them are books I started to read and stopped for some reason, they literally have bookmarks in them.  As this is a partial week I opted to finish Doers of the Word by Cardinal Dolan and Behold the Mystery by Mark Hart.  Both are "easy" reads and I should be able to get through them quickly and both are short compared to the others I have picked.  I will probably fail at this one, but it's all good, as I'm doing something other than staring at a computer or TV screen and I'm doing what I intended with the books by actually reading them.

The last two are ones that I should do year round and stop telling myself that I don't have time to sit in a Catholic Church with Jesus in the tabernacle or that I don't have time to pray when I'm at home. I do plan on daily Mass so if I'm not in the "I don't want to serve at Mass" mood I will try to go early and spend time with the Blessed Sacrament, but the judgemental person in me will be complaining that people are talking while others are trying to pray.  (I sound just like my pastor, so it shouldn't surprise anyone that he and I get along for the most part.)  As for praying at home, I'm going to turn Come Walk last year and actually liked their reflections on the Stations of the Cross, so I'm thinking I could do that after Mass.


So basically I'm giving up being lazy in many aspects of my life by actually getting out and walking to Mass and most likely a longer walk (where I can say a Rosary or some other prayer, or just have a conversation with God.), by spending time reading books, and trying to not be judgemental.

I of course will do my usual, daily Mass and Liturgy of the Hours as that's just something I like to do and have done the past few years. As I typed this up it seemed like I was thinking about doing a lot for Lent, but really these are things I should be doing year round.  I should be reading a book or two a month, and I should be praying daily, so if Lent is the excuse I need so be it.

There are many great recources out there too for Lenten ideas FOCUS offers a great app for Lent and it will remind you to not eat meat on Fridays. Busted Halo has great resources too. Busted Halo even offers an Instagram contest and does Catholic Sistas, so I will be participating in both of those. The links are to their respective Instagram accounts, but Busted Halo also has it on their Lent page.  Here's Catholic Sista's site and rules for their challenge.


It's a little late but you know what Lent just started and we have 40 days on this journey so here's what I plan on doing, hopefully I get to accomplish a bunch of things, but what I really want to do is bring myself closer to God.

I hope that whoever randomly reads this has a wonderful and blessed Lent.


Friday, January 23, 2015

Does the Catholic Church have a man problem?

I had the majority of this blog typed and ready to go and I thought saved and then I accidentally closed out the window and lost a good portion of it so I had to rewrite some portions of the blog.  


It would seem that Cardinal Raymond Burke hates women if you listened to some people and their comments on the Cardinal's most recent interview with "The New eMANgelization" which is a part of the new Evangelization.  So I was at a meeting at my parish and was told, "did you hear what that Cardinal said about boys not wanting to do things with girls."  Of course when it's presented this way, one thinks, what, who would say that.  As I am of the opinion of trying to read the actual interview, I was pleasantly surprised when I actually read the interview 

I came home and searched the almighty Google for Cardinal Burke and the few sites that did come up led me to think, I wonder what he really said.  I tend to be skeptic of the media when they talk about the Catholic Church because, well they usually don't get it right.  I could not find what I deem a Catholic site that I trust to have the interview, until I found a link to the interview on Patheos When I saw this I thought ok, good a site I can trust.  So I went ahead and read the interview, and you should too as it's packed full of wonderful comments and that one comment that everyone is talking about is par for the course taken out of context.  

When I went to read the interview I was thinking "I usually agree with Cardinal Burke, what possible could he have said" as the way it was presented was as if the Cardinal had denounced all women and declared us unworthy and useless.  I did have my pastor's comment of "it's just a piece of it" deeply in the back of my mind, again I usually agree with Cardinal Burke.  So I went and read the whole article and decided that after I was ready to cut and paste sections that this was much longer than a tweet or facebook post would allow.  Thus this blog post was born.   


What follows below are the parts of the article that I cut and pasted in the italics and blue with my comments following.

"Everyone understands that women have and can be abused by men. Men who abuse women are not true men, but false men who have violated their own manly character by being abusive to women." 

As I read these lines I thought, why isn't this the line that's being reported, this interview isn't about women, but about men and how they can be much better than we let them be.  Yes, men can be abusive, as can women, but this statement packs so much more than "boys don't like to do things with girls."  

I kept reading and the next section to stick out was:  "The crisis between man and woman has been made much worse by a complete collapse of catechesis in the Church. Young men grew up without proper instruction with regard to their faith and to the knowledge of their vocation. Young men were not being taught that they are made in the image of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. These young men were not taught to know all those virtues that are necessary in order to be a man and to fulfill the particular gifts of being male.

Making things worse, there was a very fluffy, superficial kind of catechetical approach to the question of human sexuality and the nature of the marital relationship."

I could not agree more with Cardinal Burke.  As a catechist, youth minister, evangelization person, and regular Mass goer I see this all the time.  It's not just men, but women too.  I am a product of a Catholic elementary school so my religious education came every day in school and at home.  Vocations are so important to the Catholic Church, but we no longer teach or say "yay, my son wants to be a priest" but instead, "what is wrong with you, are you sure that's what you want to do?"  At the Defending the Faith Conference at Franciscan University this past summer I heard the comment "As the father goes so does the family."  It was in reference to conversation to Catholicism but it is true on many levels for many things. 

We are afraid to teach that we are all made in God's image and likeness and that God created us male and female.  There is so much confusion about "I want to be this gender not the one I am."  God made us who we are and yet we are afraid to teach that, we are even more afraid to teach that evil and Satan exist.   Human sexuality is something that is no longer sacred or special, but something to be thrown around.  So many people are applauding decisions that basically tell God, sorry I don't like what you gave me, so I'm going to change it.  

We are afraid to teach many things but one of the ones that comes to mind is Marriage.  Marriage is a sacrament, a covenant between a man and a woman.  We tend to forget about Sodom and Gomorrah and that God destroyed them.  We are so afraid that we are going to hurt someone's feelings that we no longer teach the truth.  Yes it is a difficult topic to teach on but that's because the media has already blasted our children with what it thinks sexuality is.  Sexuality is much more than a person's gender, what a person wears, how they wear it, and how they act.  It breaks my heart that I come across as the mean and evil one because I am the one to say "gay 'marriage' is not marriage" I have to qualify the statement by restating Church teaching on how everyone is created in the image and likeness of God, and how we are all called to live celibate and chaste lifestyles if we are not married.  At least I know I am giving the teens actual Church teaching and I pray and hope that it sinks in or that eventually they will get it.  

The next comment that stuck out was this, which goes along with the above comments.  "We have gravely wounded the current generations. As a bishop, young people complained bitterly to me, “Why we were not taught these things. Why we were not more clearly taught about the Mass, Confession and traditional devotions?” These things matter for they form a spiritual life and a man’s character." 

I often look back on my childhood, which I am keenly aware wasn't all that long ago, and I see that my parents and teachers did teach me about devotions and other things in the Church.  I think, actually I know, God gave me graces as a child.  I often felt like I knew more about Mass than my peers and that could simply be because my parents took me to Mass every Sunday, no matter the weather. Seriously, we were like the post office, still are.  We do not teach devotions such as Adoration, novenas, the Rosary, Stations of the Cross and other Lenten devotions.  Christmas is all about how many presents we get and it's over in a day. We barely teach no meat on Fridays and why we do it and that it really should be all year long not just during Lent.

Mass is simply something we do when we feel like it, it's Christmas or Easter I have to go, it's what my parents want.  Confession is all but lost, no one feels or thinks they sin any more, but more on that later.  The comment "as the father goes, so does the family" comes to mind again.  I look at my parents, both Irish immigrants who attend Mass daily; they are far better than their daughter.  Dad doesn't or rarely misses a day, Mom is slightly more relaxed about it.  We have gravely wounded the current generations, my generation and the one that follows are so lost it's not even funny.  People don't ask me why I am Catholic, but anyone who knows me or gets to know me can tell that I wear my Catholicism on my sleeve.  I came to know and love my Catholic faith because of those that lived it out around me, and the majority of those people were priests that I met along the way.  We need to do more to teach the younger generation the devotions and traditions of the Catholic Church and how we do that is all part of the new evangelization movement.  

Here's the line that the media latched on to, but as normal have taken out of context.  
"The introduction of girl servers also led many boys to abandon altar service. Young boys don’t want to do things with girls. It’s just natural. The girls were also very good at altar service. So many boys drifted away over time. I want to emphasize that the practice of having exclusively boys as altar servers has nothing to do with inequality of women in the Church."  

I read this line and thought, "oh this actually makes sense."  My nephew plays with my niece, but they don't do the same things. They like to hang out with their friends, my niece with the girls and my nephew with the boys.  It is natural, boys and girls are different and we no longer teach that.  Society as a whole is completely into the whole let them explore themselves instead of saying, boys are boys and girls are girls.  We live in such an overtly sexual world that innocent comments are often taken out of context and misconstrued.

When we first moved to New Jersey, all the way from the Bronx, New York and I saw girls altar serving I was confused as I always thought and still do that it was a boy who served Mass.  I understand that there was an altar server shortage and girls were brought it, but it still seems strange to me. I am not a fan of girls as altar servers, but I understand that most masses would not be covered without the girls.  Some of my friends, boys and girls have altar served and I have no problem with it.  I have heard so many priests say my vocation began when I was an altar server, and I feel that altar serving is a door way to the priesthood.  Burke's comments seem so insignificant when compared to the rest of the interview.

I actually found an article written by a former altar girl who says it far better than I could or can.  Go read it.


The question asked of Cardinal Burke was "Your Eminence, what has been the impact of this Catholic “man-crisis” on the Church?"  Burke's immediate response was "The Church becomes very feminized. Women are wonderful, of course. They respond very naturally to the invitation to be active in the Church. Apart from the priest, the sanctuary has become full of women. The activities in the parish and even the liturgy have been influenced by women and have become so feminine in many places that men do not want to get involved." 

He then gives examples and then launches into the girls as altar servers thing.  He's right on any given Sunday, at least in my parish, the cantor is female, the lector is female and most often the altar servers are female, not to mention that the majority of the extraordinary Communion ministers are also female, thus leaving the priest as the loan male in the sanctuary.  My pastor knows that I will jump to help out as needed, and yes that part of me comes from my mom more than my dad, but dad gives of his time too.  Burke goes on to say that if it seems easy men won't do it, which I can see and honestly he would know better than I would on that one.  

A lot of what Cardinal Burke said could be said for men and/or women especially the next part that stuck out.  "We have to be very clear with men about purity, chastity, modesty and even the way men dress and present themselves. Men’s behaviors and dress matter, for it affects how they relate to the world and it affects the culture. Men need to dress and act like men in a way that is respectful to themselves, to women and to children."

Often when we think of purity, chastity and modesty we put it all on the female population. Very rarely do we hear that men need to dress modestly, now granted a man typically wears a shirt and pants no matter what, so it's easy to lay the blame on the female population as our clothing options are far more extensive and cover far less than male clothing.

Each individual is responsible for how they dress and for how they think and act.  Now there are some females and males who leave nothing to your imagination when they get dressed. As I tell my confirmation students when asked what to wear for the sacrament of Confirmation, "no popping out of your tops or bottoms" and granted it is usually said to the girls as the boys are told to wear a suit or pants, dress shirt and tie at the very least.  The sponsors are told the same thing too, but I don't have much control over them.

We have let our idea of purity go from something that was good and wholesome to something that it now considered old fashioned and not wanted; the same goes for chastity and modesty.  Trying to teach teens about either of those is like taking down a brick wall with only a regular hammer.  Chastity is yet another old fashioned idea that they don't want but desperately need.  Chastity is not the same thing as celibacy, but so many people think it is.  We are called to live chaste lifestyles and if we're not married that means we're supposed to be living a celibate lifestyle.

Society tells us the less clothing we wear, the sexier we are. Some people will say that a women wearing any type of shirt that has writing that happens to align or go across her chest is not modest.  So does that mean that a guy wearing a shirt with writing on it is being immodest.  There is a double standard here mainly because of the media and what they portray as being sexy.  We need to find a middle ground between the two extremes and explain why we should dress modestly.

If men dress better and more carefully and allow women to do the same society will change.  Men need to acknowledge the woman who dresses modestly as sexy not the woman who's showing off everything God gave her.  I was recently watching a show, granted it was a reality tv show but it still proves the point, where a husband was disheartened by his wife using her body, by posting pictures of her half naked, to make money for the family.  There has got to be something better than that for men and women.

It was them mentioned that  "One of the frequent themes in the New Emangelization Project research is that large numbers of men do not understand the Mass. Men think that the Mass is feminized and they don’t really understand the powerful manliness of the Mass. This is particularly true of a majority of Catholic men who are Casual Catholic Men, men who are casual about their faith. This is critical because if a man doesn’t understand the Mass he can’t tap into the supernatural graces that occur in the Mass. A man who doesn’t understand the Mass himself certainly can’t teach his children about the Mass."  

Cardinal Burke responded with "Yes. One way to re-engage men is to restore the dignity of the liturgy. Men will respond when they see a priest reverently acting in the name of Christ. Men will not respond when the priest is putting on a show about himself. Offering the Mass in a reverent way has always attracted men throughout the history of the Church. It does today. We need to catechize men about the profound realities of the Mass. As I mentioned, catechesis has been poor, especially the catechesis of men. Catechizing men and celebrating the Mass in a reverent way will make a big difference. It is also clear that many men will respond to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, the rite celebrated before the Vatican II Council reforms." 

I know Cardinal Burke is a fan of the Extraordinary Form he does say that neither form is better than the other, they are equal.  I have been to both forms of the Mass with the Novus Ordo, the ordinary from of the Mass in the vernacular, being the one I normally go to.  My experiences with the Extraordinary form have been special occasions, a wedding, a Church's anniversary, and a baptism, all wonderful in their own rights, but I'm more comfortable with the Novus Ordo, but that doesn't mean I'm against the Extraordinary form nor should any of us be, it is a beautiful liturgy.

Cardinal Burke is right, when anyone not just a man sees a priest reverently saying the Mass or acting in the Name of Christ they react differently.  I love my pastor dearly, but if you only see or focus on the one side that he seems to alway portray you'd really dislike him, hate is such a strong term, but I'm sure there are members of the parish that do hate him.  However if you watch our pastor say Mass or go to him for Confession, you see a completely different side of him.  The liturgist comes out at Mass, the human comes out at Confession but sides that he shows all the time to certain people.  When I watch him say the high holy Masses, Christmas, Easter, most especially the Triduum, it makes me fall in love with the priesthood and Catholicism all over again, every time.  This has nothing to do with him or me, but with God bestowing His graces on us.

I had to teach our parish RCIA program about the Mass a few weeks ago and I realized that those of us who go week after week so often simply go through the motions and don't understand and most often forget what it is that we are doing. There is so much in the Mass. I keep seeing this quote attributed to St. John Vianney "If we really understood the Mass, we would die of joy." This is quite true, if we truly understood the Mass, we'd realize that we are watching Heaven kiss Earth and that Heaven will be one very long and happy Mass.  I read Dr. Scott Hahn's The Lamb's Supper and it truly changed the way I saw Mass.  I was able to see how Biblical the Mass truly is.  I also started reading Mark Hart's Behold the Mystery: A Deeper Understanding of the Catholic Mass and while I'm only four chapters in but I love it.  Both books bring the Mass to a different level, both bring high theology to a low theology level.

We're back to the whole lack of catechizes in general not just to men.  We no longer teach what Mass is and why we need to God.  Mark Hart in his book constantly reminds us that Mass is not for God for but for us.  We no longer teach that missing Mass is a mortal sin. We need better ways to catechize the flock, those that are in the pews and those that are not in the pews.


Now the joy of being Catholic is that we have the sacrament of Confession, but we're lacking in that department too.  The comment and question was proposed "The Sacrament of Reconciliation has also been abandoned by the vast majority of Catholic men. Only 1 in 50 men go to Confession on a monthly basis. Some 80 percent of men don’t get to Confession even once a year. Combined with the epidemic of pornography, especially among young men, large numbers of Catholic men are in mortal sin. How can the Church reintroduce and emphasize the need for men to go to Confession?" 


The line that stuck out the most in that was "Some 80 percent of men don’t get to Confession even once a year." This is shocking, but not surprising.  Cardinal Burke's answer begins,  "Until men understand that there is Sin, and what Sin is, and that Sin offends God gravely, they will not go to Confession. Men need to have an encounter with God, with our Lord in the Sacrament of Penance to confess their Sins, express their sorrow, and receive His forgiveness. Men are not going to Confession today because there has been a denial of Sin. There was a period after Vatican II where many were promoting the idea that there weren’t any serious sins."

We no longer teach sin, so it's not a surprise that my generation and the one that follows think that sin doesn't exist or that it's okay to not go to Mass for any reason.  Very few realize that missing/skipping Mass puts them in a state of mortal sin, meaning they have completely cut themselves off from God.  We fail to teach about one's eternal soul, Heaven and Hell and where we can end up.   People are not going to Confession because we have failed in catechizing them.  Society has told people that sin and evil do not exist so it's no surprise that people think they don't need confession. We've been taught that we can just confess directly to God and now have to worry about it.  Much like the Mass, the Sacrament of Confession is not for God but for us.  Randomly on my facebook feed an article called Inside the Confessional: What's Is It Like for a Priest? so I read it and it like the books I read on the Mass allowed to see Confession differently.  I know that I don't go to Confession nearly as much as I should, but I do try to fulfill my "requirement" of once a year.  I was lucky that in college there was a retreat offered each semester, along with Penance services offered during Advent and Lent.  When I graduated I was lucky that my parish offered Penance services during Advent and Lent, the parish has sense taken the Lenten Penance service away as the Diocese offers the Sacrament of Confession every Monday during Lent.
So we can't say that the sacrament isn't offered.  Society still tells us that there are no serious sins.  Again I often become the bad guy for trying to teach actual Church teaching. Again, my hope is that something sinks in to the teens and adults that I teach.

The last question that was asked was "What concrete advice would you give to a priest to help him evangelize men and dramatically increase the involvement of men in a parish?" 

Cardinal Burke answered with, "First of all, be manly yourself. In other words, cultivate your own manly qualities, because the priest is first and foremost the spiritual father; he is a man. You need to have manly qualities of selflessness, chivalry and discipline to avoid situations improper for a priest. A priest must have the manly confidence and credibility to be a spiritual father to his flock, giving clear firm guidance with kindness and charity.  Secondly, I’d advise priests to give special attention to men and to look for ways to draw men into the life of the Church. It is easier to engage women because our sisters tend to be very generous and talented.   But the Church and each priest needs to make a determined effort to draw good Catholic men into whatever activities there are in the Church. It is essential to the New Evangelization." 

We tend to forget that our priests are human, just like us, they are not perfect.  At an evangelization directors meeting, the priest who was the Vicar of Evangelization at the time said that when he told pastors that "they were responsible for all the souls in their town not just the Catholics ones," that they would look at him like he was crazy.  What is said is true of all us, we're all responsible for each other, we should be worried about one another's souls.  In reading The Lamb's Supper I can across the line "Now, we can understand why we call priests "Father" and the pope our "Holy Father" - because they are other Christs, and Christ is the perfect image of the Father."  If we remember that our priests are our spiritual fathers, we might treat them differently.  So often I hear people complain about our priests in ways that one would never complain about their biological father.

I can hear the complaints now that the priests are paying more attention to men than to women, but Cardinal Burke brings up many great points in that while women are great for the Church and without our biological and spiritual mothers we would be lost.  We have lost our biological and spiritual fathers and we need to get them back.  So many times I can look back on my life and spiritual journey and see that yes, the sisters that taught me were wonderful and a great image for vocations, but more often it was the priests that I met that truly helped form me.

The Church not only has a man problem, but also a women problem, a people problem, and a secular media problem.  Cardinal Burke's comments are not in anyway offensive to women, but men should take note as should the women in the Church.

As the Father goes, so does the family; it would do us well to educate our young men and remind the rest of us of what Catholicism is really about.






Sunday, September 14, 2014

What are my gifts?

So as part of our Evangelization Certificate program and eventual Masters of Theology we have Saturday sessions and this past weekend we talked about what our Spiritual gifts are and what ministries we might be suited for.  As a part of this we took a spiritual inventory and took a look at the answers.  Oddly I wasn't surprised by my answers, well order of gifts and when I read the ministries that are afflicted with my top three (five as three of them tied) I was pleasantly surprised to see me described to a tee.


Here are how my Spiritual gifts ranked:
Serving
Faith
Craftsmanship/Pastor/Teacher
Apostle/Giving/Deeds of Power
Evangelization/Exhortation, Encouragement/Hospitality/Knowledge/Prophet
Discernment/Musician/
Intercession
Mercy
Tongues
Caregiver
Healing/Wisdom
Administration
Missionary

I found it interesting that serving ended up on top, but I'm not surprised by it as I do tend to lean towards serving people and the Church.  I was sort of surprised to see faith up there as high as it was because I haven't felt like my faith was strong at least not as strong as it was in college.  The ministries that use my tops gifts also fit me, I do volunteer with social ministries, I have no problem doing mundane tasks.  I am a lector, greeter, and Eucharistic minister and I would totally run and participate in Bible studies and take pictures of the events in the parish.  CCD teacher, youth leader and teaching are stuff I do already and I've often said I would love to teach the teachers, so it was nice to have my gifts and ministries reaffirmed.  I would love to find a way to get paid to do all this stuff, but that will come I guess.

Hopefully there will be more to come on this later but for now I am off to read for class ;)