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:
Apostle/Giving/Deeds of Power
Evangelization/Exhortation, Encouragement/Hospitality/Knowledge/Prophet

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 ;)

Go to your room!

"But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you."

So this week's reading is from Matthew's Gospel.  What comes to mind is the idea of praying in "secret" or alone giving the fact that the highest form of Catholic prayer is public it amuses me that we are told to pray alone.  The word prayer jumps out too as in I need to pray more.  Oddly or not oddly I do tend to pray alone either in the car or in a room away from my family so that I don't get any questions about what I am doing.

My favorite form of prayer is and has been Eucharistic Adoration mainly as I can be by myself.  I've always been the leave me alone type of person not because I don't like people but I just like being by myself.  So I guess I have always found a way to go to my room and pray.  We were given an assignment of doing an Examen prayer in the style of St. Ignatius Loyola.  We're supposed to do it daily at the end of the day so we can look over our day.  I don't mind doing it, I just don't want to look at my life that way as I'll see how imperfect I am.  I mean really who wants to see what they are really made of.

Grad School and Scripture

I have to spend time with Scripture passages for grad school so why not blog about them.  Hey why not right.

So our first reading assignment was Luke 5:1-11

"While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God, he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret. He saw two boats there alongside the lake; the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that they were in danger of sinking. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him, and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners of Simon. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him." 

We were asked to spend time with the scripture passage so of course my mind went straight to doing Lectio Divina with the passage.  You know read it, think about it, read it again, think about it again and pray with it.  Yeah, easier said than done. I read it and attempted to do Lectio but it wasn't the best effort.  My thoughts alway turn to how human St. Peter is.  Of course we discussed it in class and each person thought of something different.  As I was reading the passage I thought of my past trip to Ireland specifically our tour of Donegal, especially the fishing village of Killybegs because when I saw the picture that is below, I thought of this Scripture passage.  What, I am a theology major it makes sense.  What came to mind as I read the passage was the stench of the net; it was nasty.  So I went on to think well ministry can be smelly as it's not always easy and well dealing with teenagers does mean getting dirty literally and figuratively when you discuss the heavy hitting issues.

I always think of the USCCB Vocations video when I read this passage as well, it is called Fishers of Men after all.

The beginning of the film is pretty much this scene from Luke's gospel or is at least meant to make you think of it.  While the video is strictly for priestly vocations it doesn't mean that they are the only ones who can catch the fish.  

In class we discussed Peter's progression of seeing Jesus, listening to Jesus, stopping what he was doing, getting in the boat, which Jesus was already in, listening to Jesus again and finally acting on Jesus' words and asking for help from others.   I wonder how Andrew, James and John feel being in the backseat to Peter.  We know they become Apostles and followers of Jesus, but while they are always around they often take a backseat to Peter. Maybe it's because  we can so easily relate to St. Peter in his ways of really getting it one day and the next falling flat on his face.  However Jesus doesn't care how long it takes us to get it or how often He has to speak to us to get it.  

Ministry is something I have been doing for the majority of my life and so often I wonder am I doing what God wants me to do.  Peter, Andrew, James and John literally drop everything and leave it all behind to follow Jesus.  Do I trust God enough to leave what is comfortable and a pay check behind to do His will?  I honestly don't know and that's been the question on and in my mind since I returned from the Defending the Faith Conference at the end of July.  

We had a session on spiritual gifts and charisms trying to figure out what our individual gifts are.  It was an interesting session which I will get into in another blog  but the session ended with us getting an assignment of spending time in prayer so the next Scripture passage is quite appropriate.

Our second reading assignment is Matthew 6:6

"But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you."

More to come on this later after I sleep and after I actually spend time with it in prayer.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Grad School

So like most students I returned to school this past week.  I'm finally on my way to earning that Master's in Theology along with a Certificate in Catholic Evangelization.

This is what I will be up to for the next three years.  I got a new laptop so I might actually be blogging more :)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Lent 2014

So begins Lent 2014. This year I'm giving up junk food aka actually sticking to my weight watchers program and giving up the idea of drinking just for the hell of it which is really drinking to forget how crappy life can be at times.  As usual I will add in Liturgy of the Hours and reading books. This year's books are Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promise by Scott Hahn and Lent With Pope Benedict VI: meditations for every day.  This also means I might attempt to read the book that Scott Hahn's reflections are taken from but I might read any one of the books I have sitting in my room.  I know it's a lot to add in but it's stuff I should be doing anyway.  Of course there will be my Friday daily Mass and stations of the cross to follow that Mass. Our parish is offering Theology Tuesdays so I'll go to those and also attempt to to to Mass and the Lenten presentations at St. Paul's.  Most of this is stuff I would and should be doing anyway so it's a lot of getting back to where I was.  Mainly this Lent I want the dark cloud that seems to have a hold on my soul to go away but I know that's easier said than done. I also know that I have opened myself up to fail and I am fine with that as I know that Jesus fell while carrying the Cross but He got up and kept going so that's what I will do should I not be perfect at what I plan in doing. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The tale of two, I mean three Popes

This was initially written when Francis was elected, but I never got around to finishing it. I am not updating the first paragraph as I am lazy. The last update comes after an interesting comment was made a parish meeting I was at.  

 I wanted to write/type this shortly after Benedict abdicated from office, but never got around to it and today with the election of Pope Francis I can't help but think of all three of them, because I can't not think of JP2 when I think of pope.  One of my co-workers is wondering when my next trip to Rome is, because as you know I have to go see the Pope.

I am the JP2 generation, people forget that Pope Francis is only the third pope I have ever known and the conclave that elected him is only the second of my lifetime.  There were marked differences between my reaction to the last papal election and this one.  When John Paul the second died, I didn't know what to do or think.  The man that had been Pope for 28 years was gone, the only Pope I had known was gone.  The man I had been to three World Youth Days with and seen on a trip to Rome was gone.  There would be nothing that could compare to him or take his place.  Then along came Pope Benedict and I cried tears of joy when I heard Joseph Cardinal.... I knew my Church was save and that nothing would change.

When I head  "Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum; habemus Papam: Eminentissimum ac Reverendissimum Dominum, Dominum Georgium Marium Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalem Bergoglio qui sibi nomen imposuit Franciscum" and while translating the Latin in my head I thought, who, who did they elect.  At first I thought oh Francis, they elected a Franciscan and I thought, no I would have heard "Ioannes" and known it was O'Malley, so until EWTN said who it was I was still wondering who the heck is our Pope.  I didn't have tears of joy in eyes as I watched this at work, later that night when the sound was on and I could hear and see everything I cried just like I did when Benedict was elected. Why, because now I know that my Church will always be the same, because God's in charge.

Fr. Derek, whom I met on my last trip to Rome and who has quickly become one of my favorite priests spoke of his reaction to being in Rome for Benedict's election and how he didn't know what to do with out John Paul the Second, but all of a sudden it hit him, that this is Jesus' Church, that God is in charge, and that He will take care of it.  Thanks to this homily from Fr. Derek and the grace of God, I can now say the same thing.  What, Fr. Derek does have a few years and an extra degree on me, lol.

The above picture is from my second trip to Rome and it is one of my favorite JP2 memories because it was here that I felt the love and peace that came from this man. Nothing seemed to stop him especially when it came to the youth and for that I will forever be grateful as I was one of those youths that he brought closer into the Church.  My favorite JP2 memories have to do with me seeing him and the overwhelming feeling of joy that came over me when I saw him.  

This picture is from my favorite Pope Benedict memory.  I consider myself a papal event veteran aka a snob, I know what I'm doing and I know how to do it.  There was something about this Mass that just spoke to my heart.  It was a Sunday Mass in the den of the devil,  I mean Yankee Stadium (I'm a Mets fan in cause you couldn't tell) and it felt like a Sunday Mass it didn't feel like the crazy massively large World Youth Day Masses.  I guess this was were my love of Pope Benedict was fostered, see I never saw the man as this hard hitting teacher, just a man who loved his church and the liturgy that went with it.  I admit that I am a liturgy snob and if the slightest thing is off it irks me, yes I am a traditionalist aka a don't mess with the Roman Missal type Catholic.  I saw Benedict when I was in Rome  as you can see below.  In Rome I looked for the same feelings I got with JP2 and didn't get them and I wondered why; what was  different.  See in Rome this time I did something I have never done before I put my camera down and away in my bag and watched Pope Benedict drive within touching distance of me.  While the felling of "stupid Asian woman with the damn flag" was the most present thought it wasn't until later that I realized what a blessing this trip was.  Seeing Benedict many not have given the same feelings as when I saw JP2, but now looking back on both events that took place in the Eternal City, well technically it was the Vatican, the same ear to ear grin comes to my face and a sense of peace comes over me and a few tears come to my eyes too.  

I love both of these men, JP2 make the Church young and friendly to me, ok the priests I met and got to know along the way have helped with that too.  Benedict helped to love the traditions of the Church and kept the liturgist and traditionalist in me happy.  

I've watched with joy and trepidation what Pope Francis is doing.  I know that he's teachings are what the Church teaches, but I can't help but wonder as my pastor put it, does he know what he's doing.  There are so many aspects of Pope Francis that I love, but there are aspects that I don't like as well.  The media seems to love him like they have loved no Pope before and that scares me because I don't trust the media. 

 Everything that Pope Francis says and I mean everything is being published via the internet or some other thing. The most recent comment directed towards the pro-life movement or the heavy focus on abortion; bothers me.  I don't like hearing people say "abortion is not a litmus test to being Catholic."  They are right it's not a litmus test but I can not comprehend how someone can say they are Catholic and support anything that claims killing an innocent child is ok.  I get that we need to think about the teaching of the Church and we are allowed to question them but I can't help but wonder what is Francis' plan here.  I am in a country that is now forcing me to pay taxes under the guise of universal healthcare where I have to pay for something that I am morally opposed to.  I am called a hater and a bigot because I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.  I am now hearing the media say that my Pope is telling me to stop focusing on abortion, and marriage, but I can't as those are my issues.  I am Catholic and I have no other church to run to because I am not leaving the Eucharist or the Church that Jesus Himself started but I can't help but wonder what will happen the moment the leader of said Church finally says something ex-cathedra.

My bishop puts it this way, "He is reforming the way the world sees Catholicism." For everyone's sake I hope my bishop is correct.  Francis is reforming the way the media sees Catholicism, but I can't help but wonder if that's a bad thing.  Fulton Sheen said something along these lines, "There are not a hundred people in America who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions of people who hate what they wrongly believeto be the Catholic Church — which is, of course, quite a different thing."  As I thought before, the Church does not kick people out or turn people away; those that leave the Catholic Church have done so on their own because there is something that they don't agree with it.  Those doors are always open as they always have been.  Our first vocation is to love one another and maybe that is what Francis is getting at.  God has a plan and I know everything will work out but I am left here wondering what is the plan.  

Friday, February 15, 2013

Lent 2013

I was initially going to blog about the tale of two popes and that will come later but for now I'm going down the "oh it's Lent, let me blog about it" road.

Every one seems to ask me "What did you give up for Lent?" or "What are you giving up for Lent?" I usually answer with a I don't know yet, because I don't normally give something up. I did give up candy and sweets as a child, and I often gave up something like soda during college. It worked I don't drink as much soda or eat at much candy as I have, but when it boils down to it, I go right back to that which I gave up on Easter Sunday. As in years past I looked to add something this year. I will once again try to say liturgy of the hours every day, I did try this as a New Year's resolution as well and it worked well, until I got lazy and stopped for a week and then Lent came so I added it back in. This year's Lenten promise to myself and to God is to get back to Adoration of sorts. Not in the formal way, which I would love, but in the informal way of just walking into a Catholic Church and sitting there with the Blessed Sacrament in the Tabernacle. As my bishop, Bishop Serratelli, says, "just walk in and spend five minutes with the Blessed Sacrament." 

Recently I spent 3 wonderful days on retreat with the parish youth group teens and told them that this is what I plan on doing for Lent, walking into the church and spending time with the Blessed Sacrament.  Easier said than done, but I've decided that I will just show up early for Mass, or Fr. Ray's presentations and spend time with Jesus that way.  Then again going to daily Mass is also something I add in each year.  Yes I take the easy way out and go on my days off, but I'll make more of an effort to actually get to St. Paul Inside the Walls for daily Mass on the days that I have something down there.  

I also plan on the eating better thing, but I've been doing that for a few weeks now; mainly actually watching what I eat and how much I eat.  I do plan on starting Couch to 5k again and I'm usually pretty good at it when Lent is involved.  I feel as if there is something else pushing me to do it as well. Granted the idea of adding extra point to eat (I'm doing Weight Watchers) is almost enough to get me running again.  

I've also decided to re-read The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis and to read The Gargoyle Code by Fr. Dwight Longnecker.  I've wanted to read Father's book and found the digital version of it, so it is now on the iPad and I read a "letter" a day as it's set for Lent.  I'm enjoying both books and watching both men make fun of the Devil and his evil spirits.  It also opens my eyes to how Evil works in the world and makes me more aware of what I an doing and what might be influencing me. 

So I guess for Lent I am giving up being lazy and adding more in spiritually.  I'm often reminded of Fr. Bill telling us while at Seton Hall about his nephew who would ask "Uncle Billy, did you give up yet?" instead of what did you give up, granted this nephew is probably now in college or out of it. Not an Ash Wednesday goes by where I don't think of this comment.  As Fr. Bill said, "no I haven't given up yet."  I'm also reminded of something else Fr. Bill said to me years later.  "Mar, we're not perfect, do something extra for Holy Week, just make an extra effort to do it."  

We're not perfect and I don't expect my Lent to be perfect nor should I.  I know I will probably fall and fail at what I plan as now that I look at it I've opted for a lot of things to do.  I didn't give up anything but I am adding in more to better me as a Christian and most especially a Catholic. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Is there really a "choice"

As a way to start blogging again, I decided to partake in Ask Them What They Mean by Choice Day. It seems the pro-abortion side while trying to move away from using the work choice is laying claim to it today. I guess the pro-lifers have gotten to them over the past 40 years. I mean nothing, nothing stops the pro-life side from marching on DC even if it means moving the March for Life to another day because of the Presidential Inraguation.

Before I get into the whole why am I pro-life story, I want to share the wisdom of my 8 year old nephew and 10 year neice. They happened to stay over a few days ago and when it was time to go to bed they asked me to pray with them as is our little tradition. So I lead them, well my niece joined in, in the traditional prayers of the Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, and Angel of God. I follow those up with the "who do we want to pray for question and my niece responds with "everyone and everything, that should cover everybody." I said, "ok, and added in "for safe travels for those going to DC this week." Of course that illicted the "What's in DC this week?" question. They knew about the inraguation or I just skipped over it and I said the March for Life. Of course "what's that?" was asked. I explained it as "that is when thousands of people who think abortion is wrong get together in DC." Yes, "what's abortion?" was asked and I said "the killing of an innocent pre-born child." Both my niece and nephew were confused by this and I tried to explain that sometimes someone doesn't want a baby. Then came the words of wisdom from the 8 year old, "who wouldn't want a baby?"

I took the lazy way out and said I'll explain what it is when you are older, but I realize that they both understood what I meant and that it was the idea of someone not wanting a baby that confused them. Granted I said "well mommy and I made it, others didin't it." They asked why are we here, I answered with because your mom chose life and because we love you.

What I don't understand is how a young child can get it, "who wouldn't want a baby" and a grown adult claims there is a choice in the matter. Well yes, there's a choice to have sex, there is no choice in killing your child.

I will chose to march on DC this Friday, along with two teens and two adults from my parish. The two teens have become my pride and joy this year. Both are so strongly Catholic and pro-life that it makes me burst and I can't wait to experieine the March with them.

We are chosing to be a voice for the voiceless, we are chosing to take a trip to DC. Those are choices, killing your child is not a "choice."

I continue to pray for those affected and tramuatized by abortion. I will also contine to pray for an end to abortion and a respect of life in all stages.

March for life 2013, here we come.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

I haven't disappeared, I'm still around

Fr. Jim's most recent homily ( sparked in me part of why I've been away from my blog for so long.  I know that not many out there read it and those that do I probably don't even know, however one of these that used to read it along with most of her family have "unfriended" me and they honestly made up most of the audience who actually read it. Long story short I went to a wedding that the former best friend had decided that I didn't need to or should go to so she and half of her family no longer talk to me, some do and they probably hear about it all the time, but whatever.  I'm no longer hiding behind what happened.  Yes, most of the fault probably does fall with me, but I do no regret what I did.  I was the bigger person.

Fr. Jim's right it's a shock to find that you've been unfriended especially when it was left that you might actually be able to talk to the person and they just up and click a button and end a friendship.  Fr. Jim's homily adds to Fr. Derek's comment of God gives and He takes away what isn't good for us.  See I was such a horrible friend by going to the wedding that the countless trips and sleepovers and free babysitting I did for the former best friend was all forgotten.  Being there for her at her wedding and the insanity that surrounded it, doesn't matter anymore.  The 13 years or whatever it was wasn't matter because I disagreed with her on something for the first time in what was a best friendship.

I've had a lot of priests be a part of my life.  Fr. Jim's is mainly an internet friendship as it's on Facebook and blogs that we interact however I've come to realize that the world between Diocese of Paterson and Archdiocese of Newark is quite small and Fr. Jim and I have many mutual friendships as Facebook calls them.  Oddly Fr. Geno makes that an international world now as he's working on the Council for Evangelization.  Fr. Geno is one of these priests that no matter how hard one tries to shake they can't.  I will forever "blame" Fr. Geno aka FG for who and what I am.

FG started the youth ministry program that I was a part of in high school and am now proudly helping to run at the parish.  When he left the parish I was at Seton Hall, so I wasn't overly attached to the home parish, but I still looked forward to FG's homilies and masses when I came home on the weekends.  We in essence went our separate ways after my freshman years at SHU until our worlds reconnected a few years ago at a "small" place known as St. Paul's Inside the Walls.

Bishop Serratelli tasked FG with building an Evangelization Center, and that they did.  Through St. Paul's I got to see the crazy priest that I knew in high school acting in much the same way as he did back then.  Before he left for Rome and the Vatican FG had an overnight retreat for certain young adults that were hand picked to be there.  The topic was friendships in Christ and how they affect our lives.

During the retreat Fr. Geno talked about trust, friendships, prayer, and of course God.  Looking back on it, God was giving the grace to finally say goodbye to the 13 year friendship that maybe one day will return but for now it won't.  Fr. Derek in one of our "classes" on catechesis as Evangelization talked about the Dark Night of the Soul and how the further away God seems the closer we are to Him.  During one of these sessions he said something along the lines of "God gives us friendships and sometimes He takes them away.  God takes away things that might seem good for us but may not be."  I thought of the former best friend and said yes yes He does.  Fr. Derek's comment came before Fr. Geno's retreat, but they all tie into me reading Fr. Jim's blog and saying, yes it is odd and a shock when you get de/unfrieneded on Facebook.

I've been busy with St. Paul's and learning more about Evangelization and ways to get people back to and into the Catholic Church.  I'm spending my Sunday evening with the greatest joys in my life, the parish teens, showing them that being Catholic is serious but it's also alot of fun.  I'm one again teaching in the Confirmation program, I'm still an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion and active at the parish on a few committees, so yes I'm busy and don't usually have time to sit and blog. Work is work and keeps me busy from 9am-7pm.

I'm still around but when I'm not in front of the computer (or iPad and wireless keyboard) I'm at work, or at the parish or at St. Paul's sharing and learning more about the Catholic faith.

So with the drama of the last year and a half finally out on the internet I hope to return to blogging but I know it won't be conssistent.