Friday, July 31, 2009

Where It All Began

As Evangelical Protestants, we loved the read-the-Bible-in-a-year schedules. Only problem, when we got to Leviticus, it was almost intolerable to keep up with daily readings. So many rules. Rules upon rules. Rules for everything.

Today's Old Testament Reading is from the Book of Leviticus. One could become bogged down by the details, but I find a sense of rightness in it. One can almost see how the Old Covenant segued into the New Covenant. Certain things that we find very familiar (as Catholics) came from these passages, though they find their ultimate meaning when viewed with the backdrop of Mother Church, the sacramental life, and apostolic succession. Skim the following passage. You will see hints of the messianic era we now enjoy, the first glimmers of feast days and holy days, days of penance, opportunities for reconciliation and forgiveness, the Eucharist, the Tabernacle, burning of incense, offerings and giving God the first (and best) fruit of our labor, the Lord's Day and all that we readily equate with being Catholic. Yes, we can see the first hints of the Church we love so very much and Our Lord . . . by glancing back for just a moment in time. . .



Leviticus 23:1,4-11,15-16,27,34-37
The Lord spoke to Moses. He said:
‘These are the Lord’s solemn festivals, the sacred assemblies to which you are to summon the sons of Israel on the appointed day.
‘The fourteenth day of the first month, between the two evenings, is the Passover of the Lord; and the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of Unleavened Bread for the Lord. For seven days you shall eat bread without leaven. On the first day you are to hold a sacred assembly; you must do no heavy work. For seven days you shall offer a burnt offering to the Lord. The seventh day is to be a day of sacred assembly; you must do no work.’
The Lord spoke to Moses. He said:
‘Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them:
‘“When you enter the land that I give you, and gather in the harvest there, you must bring the first sheaf of your harvest to the priest, and he is to present it to the Lord with the gesture of offering, so that you may be acceptable. The priest shall make this offering on the day after the sabbath.
‘“From the day after the sabbath, the day on which you bring the sheaf of offering, you are to count seven full weeks. You are to count fifty days, to the day after the seventh sabbath, and then you are to offer the Lord a new oblation.
‘“The tenth day of the seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. You are to hold a sacred assembly. You must fast, and you must offer a burnt offering to the Lord.
‘“The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the feast of Tabernacles for the Lord, lasting seven days. The first day is a day of sacred assembly; you must do no heavy work. For seven days you must offer a burnt offering to the Lord. On the eighth day you are to hold a sacred assembly, you must offer a burnt offering to the Lord. It is a day of solemn meeting; you must do no heavy work.
‘“These are the solemn festivals of the Lord to which you are to summon the children of Israel, sacred assemblies for the purpose of offering burnt offerings, holocausts, oblations, sacrifices and libations to the Lord, according to the ritual of each day.”’


While one might become bogged down by all the rules, these passages are very important - even for those of us who are blessed to live under the New Covenant. We can readily see that God was preparing humanity for Jesus Christ and the Church He founded.
Even our practice of a Saturday Vigil Mass comes out of Jewish tradition. I am referring specifically to the practice of marking a twenty-four hour day beginning with sundown on the previous evening.


And so, one final thought. It may seem a non sequitur, but it makes sense to me. I have begun a new practice in my house. We try to avoid work, especially hard labor, from sundown on Saturday evening (beginning the hour of Saturday Vigil) and lasting until sundown on Sunday evening.


It is a blessed time.


Moreover, it is a blessing to be Catholic and to know that our beloved Church was founded by Jesus Christ, established upon the rock of Peter, sustained by the power of the Holy Spirit, passed on through apostolic succession, with a heritage that reaches all the way back to Abraham and his descendants.


Indeed, we are richly blessed.

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Blessed Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556)

Ignatius was a soldier, but eventually discovered that his true vocation was to live his life wholly for God. He had a heart for healing the wounds caused by the Protestant Reformation and was known to have the approach of sharing the Truth “without hard words or contempt for people’s errors”.

Ignatius was the recipient of deep spiritual insight. He wrote the Spiritual Exercises, a retreat that has been followed by many, both Catholics and non-Catholics.


You can make this retreat in the quiet of your own home by going to this site: http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/cmo-retreat.html
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Overland Park Kansas - this weekend!

Sunday's final Novena posting will come a little late in the day.

We are hitting the road this weekend. The house/dog sitter will hold down the fort. And we will be attending a music competition in Overland Park, Kansas.

Thanks to http://www.thecatholicdirectory.com/ we have located two Catholic parishes in the area.

Still not sure if we will be at Ascension or Holy Cross Parish for 5:00 Mass on Saturday. But we will be looking up one of these parishes when we arrive on Saturday.

Looking forward to Mass in Overland Park . . .

So, expect the final Novena posting a little later in the day on Sunday. God Bless--
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Day Seven - Novena to St. Monica for Conversions

Day Seven: Novena To Saint Monica

Exemplary Mother of the Great Augustine,
You perserveringly pursued your wayward son
Not with wild threats
But with prayerful cries to heaven.

Intercede for all mothers in our day
So that they may learn
To draw their children to God.

Teach them how to remain
Close to their children,
Even the prodigal sons and daughters
Who have sadly gone astray.

Dear St Monica, troubled wife and mother,
Many sorrows pierced your heart
During your lifetime.
Yet you never despaired or lost faith.
With confidence, persistence and profound faith,
You prayed daily for the conversion
Of your beloved husband, Patricius
And your beloved son, Augustine.

Grant me that same fortitude,
Patience and trust in the Lord.
Intercede for me, dear St. Monica,
That God may favorably hear my plea
For

(mention your petition here)

And grant me the grace
To accept his will in all things,
Through Jesus Christ, our Lord,
In the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God forever and ever. Amen.

http://www.mycatholictradition.com/saint-monica.html
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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Mothers and Sons

I suppose my family is an odd bunch. We discuss faith matters like other people discuss the weather or politics. It has been like this for generations. Preachers and missionaries. Preachers' kids and missionaries' kids.

And the tradition continues. My son and his wife went on a mission trip this summer, and they returned today. Obviously, much of our talk - from the airport to home - was about their work over the summer.

I have learned to wait for open doors in these conversations, because God almost always provides an "in" for Catholic teaching.

I took my son and daughter-in-law to lunch and then to our home, where they had stored their vehicle over the summer. They came inside and relaxed for a few hours before heading home to Cape Girardeau, Missouri. My son manned the remote and stopped on the Gaither Gospel Quartet while my daughter-in-law and I watched with him. The Gaithers are an old family favorite. We listened to Mark Lowry as he did his stand-up routine before breaking into "Mary, Did You Know".

Part of the routine included Lowry's version of what Our Lord meant when He told Our Lady, "Woman, what is this to me? My hour has not yet come."

Aha. There's my moment. This was a bright and shining Catholic moment if there ever was one.

I asked my son if he had ever heard the "Catholic take" on this interchange. He said no and politely waited for his Catholic mother to do what she does best. Share Catholic gems with her non-Catholic family.

I explained that it was almost certainly a reference to Genesis. That this is one of two times when Jesus refers to His mother as Woman. At the beginning of His public ministry (at the Wedding at Cana) and again from the cross (as He gives His mother as the Mother to St. John and all Christian disciples until the end of time).

Our Lord deliberately calls His mother "woman" to express a beautiful truth. While Sacred Scripture tells us that Jesus is the New Adam, in these passages, Jesus announces that Mary is the New Eve:

The woman whose offspring would crush the head of the serpent. The woman in the Book of Revelation. A moon under her feet. Twelve stars surrounding her. A woman in travail. Doing battle with the enemy.

The New Eve, just as Jesus is the New Adam.

And because I know these moments don't come the same way twice, I continued to speak with passion to my son, trying to get all of it in.

In the garden, a fallen angel announces to Eve that this fruit is hers to freely eat, and she takes the fruit from the tree, and eats and gives it to Adam, and sin enters the world.

Another angel comes to the New Eve many years later and announces that she will bear fruit, and this fruit will give himself over to hang from that tree, and he will be the New Adam, and with his death, the stronghold of sin will be broken.

The New Adam and the New Eve bring life to the world through obedience, breaking the death curse which resulted because of the disobedience of the first Adam and Eve.

So, while it seems like Our Lord is reprimanding His own mother by saying "Woman, what is this to me", He was actually sharing a very special moment with His mother.

He was asking her, do you know what you are saying here? Do you know what this will mean, New Eve. If I do this, if I perform this miracle that we both know I can perform, it will be the beginning.

It will be the beginning of our journey to Calvary. Where I will die. And your heart will be pierced.

Woman, are you ready for this? Are you ready to be the New Eve? Are you ready for me to be the New Adam?

I think she must have smiled at her son then. Perhaps, she blinked back tears.

"Do whatever He tells you to do." She says this to His disciples. It is her second fiat. Her second yes to God. In this moment, she says once again, may it be done unto me . . . and unto you . . . as you say.

It was a beautiful moment with my son. I had been given the chance to tell him what I have learned about Our Lady and Her Son.

My son and I have a special bond. It began many years ago, when I went into labor on a Christmas Eve. As I watched the doctor sitting in a chair outside the door of my labor room, as I watched him drink coffee to wake up sufficiently to bring a baby into the world in the middle of the night, I thought of a baby born almost 2000 years earlier. Not in a hospital, not with a doctor. But a woman who gave the world God's Son and laid him in a manger.

Just minutes before the midnight hour on Christmas Eve 1985, I gave birth to a son.

And today, I was given the chance to share with him more fully the story of the Woman and the Son.

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simple prayers, simply answered

Do you ever have a day that goes so much better than you could have ever imagined? And you just know that grace was planted throughout that day? That God did what He promised to do? He went before you every step of the way and ordered all things well.


Thank you, God, for this day. I asked You to be in it.


And You were. . .

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Today's Feast Day: St Peter Chrysologus (380 - 450)


"Why do you ask how you were created and do not seek to know why you were made?"


"He has made you in his image that you might in your person make the invisible Creator present on earth; he has made you his legate, so that the vast empire of the world might have the Lord’s representative."


(From a sermon by Saint Peter Chrysologus, bishop)



A Prayer for Today


Lord, make us strong. Equip us to be your representative to those we encounter this day. Amen

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Day Six - Novena to St. Monica for Conversions

Day Six: Novena To Saint Monica

Exemplary Mother of the Great Augustine,
You perserveringly pursued your wayward son
Not with wild threats
But with prayerful cries to heaven.

Intercede for all mothers in our day
So that they may learn
To draw their children to God.

Teach them how to remain
Close to their children,
Even the prodigal sons and daughters
Who have sadly gone astray.

Dear St Monica, troubled wife and mother,
Many sorrows pierced your heart
During your lifetime.
Yet you never despaired or lost faith.
With confidence, persistence and profound faith,
You prayed daily for the conversion
Of your beloved husband, Patricius
And your beloved son, Augustine.

Grant me that same fortitude,
Patience and trust in the Lord.
Intercede for me, dear St. Monica,
That God may favorably hear my plea
For

(mention your petition here)

And grant me the grace
To accept his will in all things,
Through Jesus Christ, our Lord,
In the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God forever and ever. Amen.

http://www.mycatholictradition.com/saint-monica.html
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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

101 Things You Must Never Do - #25

101 Things You Must Never Do- If You Want to Remain Protestant



Number Twenty-five: You must never analyze the similarity between the Ark of the Covenant and Mary (the New Ark of the Covenant). You may start to fall in love with Mary in ways that are more Catholic than Protestant - and you might find it an incredible irony that Scripture lays the foundation for a proper understanding of just how special Our Lord's Mother really is.

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Reclaiming Childhood

I was in fourth grade when I stopped being a little child and started thinking more like an adult. And it is not easy to find my way back to the child within.


It happened during the year my father was a farmer. It was a transition year for Dad as well. He had been a Wesleyan minister until my grandfather’s tragic death in a farming accident. So Dad stepped away from pastoral ministry for a season (later to become a Presbyterian minister) and tried farming for awhile.


We attended Sunday worship at my grandmother’s church. It was United Methodist, and they had a moment for children during the service. One Sunday, the pastor asked all of the children to write a poem and bring it along the following week. I don’t remember anything else about the assignment. I simply remember being excited to share my poem as the following Sunday rolled around.


And then I overheard Mom talking to Grandma. She told Grandma that I didn’t seem self-conscious at all. No fear in me. I overheard her say that I had that poem ready, and Sunday couldn’t come fast enough for me to read it – in front of all those people.


Immediately, self-doubt replaced my childlike oblivion. I went from being unaware of self to being completely aware of self.


When Sunday morning came, I looked at my poem. I still liked it, but I felt terrible dread at the thought of the attention it would cause me. Everyone would be looking at me. Everyone would be listening to me. It felt like I would never be blissfully unaware again.


I picked up that poem and considered my next move carefully. Then, I set the poem back down and walked out the door of my bedroom.


After church that Sunday, my mother asked me why I hadn’t shared the poem that I had so proudly shown her a few days earlier. “I forgot it at home,” I lied. And that was that.


While the incident faded into the fabric of my memory, the fear remained. And I struggle with it even today.


But I know that perfect love casts out fear. The love of God is that perfect love. And I know that He can take fear – even the fear of attention and the fear of rejection – and completely snuff it out . . . when He so wills.


And so, I keep the part I enjoy . . . the writing part . . . even as I open myself up to the difficult part . . . the public witness. In those moments, I still stand vulnerable and afraid, and I trust that God’s perfect love will come, and cast out fear, and use my weakness to advance the Kingdom.


I would prefer to hide behind the pen. Let me tell you why I’m Catholic, by writing it down and then hiding behind closed doors . . . but there are times when I must speak one-on-one . . . there are times when I must speak to the crowds. In those moments, I remember what it was like to be a little child. One unashamed of shining brightly. Where joy eclipses fear. And God walks freely.


And I say, even so, Lord send me.
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Don't say it. . .

Sometimes we get going on a prayer, and it seems that we have submitted our tongue to the process, but we haven't submitted our soul.

Next time you pray, don't say it; pray it. Touch God . Touch the Communion of Saints.

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Day Five - Novena Prayer to St. Monica for Conversions

Day Five: Novena To Saint Monica

Exemplary Mother of the Great Augustine,
You perserveringly pursued your wayward son
Not with wild threats
But with prayerful cries to heaven.

Intercede for all mothers in our day
So that they may learn
To draw their children to God.

Teach them how to remain
Close to their children,
Even the prodigal sons and daughters
Who have sadly gone astray.

Dear St Monica, troubled wife and mother,
Many sorrows pierced your heart
During your lifetime.
Yet you never despaired or lost faith.
With confidence, persistence and profound faith,
You prayed daily for the conversion
Of your beloved husband, Patricius
And your beloved son, Augustine.

Grant me that same fortitude,
Patience and trust in the Lord.
Intercede for me, dear St. Monica,
That God may favorably hear my plea
For

(mention your petition here)

And grant me the grace
To accept his will in all things,
Through Jesus Christ, our Lord,
In the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God forever and ever. Amen.


http://www.mycatholictradition.com/saint-monica.html


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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

Many Protestant ministers dedicate a few minutes of Sunday services to the children. My dad was one of those ministers. He called it the Children's Sermon.

One Sunday, while pastoring a small congregation near Carroll, Iowa, Dad asked the youngsters to come up for the Children's Sermon. They sat all around him, with upturned faces.

The question of the day was this: "What do you want to be when you grow up?"

One little boy had the answer. He waved his hand excitedly. Finally, Dad called on him. Would he say a fireman? Or a policeman? Or a doctor?

No. None of these.

"I wanna be a gwoan-up."

Everybody laughed. "And I bet that's what your mother is hoping you'll be, I'm sure."

But the truth is, we are not asked to be grown-ups when we get all grown up. Our Lord says we must become as little children in order to inherit the Kingdom.

Children love with innocent hearts, fully and deeply. Completely. We must learn to love God and each other like this.

But children also have the same capacity to trust their fathers and mothers. Fully and deeply. Competely.

And we must learn to trust God that much.

I think it is easier to love like a child. It is much more difficult to trust like a child.

No matter what happens today (or tonight or tomorrow or next week), I trust that You, Oh Lord, are ordering all things well.

Even when others let me down - especially when others let me down - I will remember that you are still fully in control and working all things for my good . . . and the good of the Church.

What do I want to be when I grow up? Not a gwoan-up. I want to be a little child.

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To a reader. . .

. . . to Diana who writes from Wichita, requesting permission to use the August article in her RCIA class.


Catholic by Grace diocesan articles may be used without permission in Catholic venues and for evangelism/RCIA classes.


May God richly bless your work.

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Day Four - Novena Prayer to St. Monica for Conversions

Day Four: Novena To Saint Monica

Exemplary Mother of the Great Augustine,
You perserveringly pursued your wayward son
Not with wild threats
But with prayerful cries to heaven.

Intercede for all mothers in our day
So that they may learn
To draw their children to God.

Teach them how to remain
Close to their children,
Even the prodigal sons and daughters
Who have sadly gone astray.

Dear St Monica, troubled wife and mother,
Many sorrows pierced your heart
During your lifetime.
Yet you never despaired or lost faith.
With confidence, persistence and profound faith,
You prayed daily for the conversion
Of your beloved husband, Patricius
And your beloved son, Augustine.

Grant me that same fortitude,
Patience and trust in the Lord.
Intercede for me, dear St. Monica,
That God may favorably hear my plea
For

(mention your petition here)

And grant me the grace
To accept his will in all things,
Through Jesus Christ, our Lord,
In the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God forever and ever. Amen.


http://www.mycatholictradition.com/saint-monica.html
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Monday, July 27, 2009

From the Rising of the Sun

This morning I sat down at my computer to post today's Novena, and I looked out the window. A little sparrow was sitting on the edge of the gutters along the garage, his little face turned fully into the rising sun.

Immediately, I had the thought, from the rising of the sun until the setting of the same, the Lord's name is to be praised.


And then, what a wonderful thought, I said to myself and turned my attention back to the computer.


And then another thought came to me. The Lord just called you to praise Him. And you are congratulating yourself as though the thought were your own. No. The Holy Spirit put this thought into your spirit. So now, maybe you should take the time to praise Him and not merely think "what a great idea".


And so, I did.


His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me. . . Let all that hath breath, praise the Lord.

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Day Three - Novena to St. Monica for Conversions

Day Three: Novena To Saint Monica

Exemplary Mother of the Great Augustine,
You perserveringly pursued your wayward son
Not with wild threats
But with prayerful cries to heaven.

Intercede for all mothers in our day
So that they may learn
To draw their children to God.

Teach them how to remain
Close to their children,
Even the prodigal sons and daughters
Who have sadly gone astray.

Dear St Monica, troubled wife and mother,
Many sorrows pierced your heart
During your lifetime.
Yet you never despaired or lost faith.
With confidence, persistence and profound faith,
You prayed daily for the conversion
Of your beloved husband, Patricius
And your beloved son, Augustine.

Grant me that same fortitude,
Patience and trust in the Lord.
Intercede for me, dear St. Monica,
That God may favorably hear my plea
For

(mention your petition here)

And grant me the grace
To accept his will in all things,
Through Jesus Christ, our Lord,
In the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God forever and ever. Amen.

http://www.mycatholictradition.com/saint-monica.html


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Sunday, July 26, 2009

There's bread and there's Bread

The verse comes from Psalm 37:25 - I have been young and now I am old, Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken Or his descendants begging bread.


In a phone conversation recently, my mom told me about their latest concern. My sister and mother are both professors at the same private college. Enrollment is down, way down, because of the economy. Many families had their children's college tuition tied up in the stock market, and they simply don't have enough money to send their children to private colleges. Their college, like many others, is letting some staff members go. My mother and sister hope they are not next to receive pink slips.


My mother sighed, and said, "Well, at least Scripture tells us the righteous never go without bread." There was a moment of silence on both ends. I don't know what Mom was thinking, but I was wondering if that passage means what she thinks it means.


Does it, for example, really mean that righteous ones never go without food? I thought for a second about the poor and destitute in third world countries. Certainly many of them lead holy lives. Yet, they sometimes go to bed hungry.
Or does it mean that the righteous ones will always have access to the Bread of Life, the Eucharist, our food-for-the-journey?


Then, too, there is the question of what it means to be righteous. I'm not sure if Mom or I qualify as righteous. Trying, certainly. But there? No, not yet.


So what does the passage mean?


As Catholics, we believe that venial sins are removed when we go to Mass. And just a few minutes later, when we receive Our Lord, we can say that we have been forgiven, made clean and free of personal sin, ready to receive. The righteous are not foresaken and their children do not go without the Bread of Life.


Today's readings at Mass, both the Old Testament Reading and the Gospel Reading prove that God cares for physical needs. So, on the one hand, my mom is right. Food is multiplied. There is enough for all to eat.


But we, as Catholics, know that these passages point to another reality - a spiritual reality. While we may sometimes be without bread, we are never without the Bread of Life.


When we see references to bread . . . especially when it comes around the time of the Passover (as in the Gospel Reading), we know it is speaking to something more than a loaf of bread.


I wanted to say to my mom, I don't think that means what you think it means . . . or at least I don't think that means only what you think it means. But I sensed, from the pregnant pause that followed, that my mom knew what I was thinking. I could sense her relief when I didn't break into Catholic teaching . . . but the deeper truth is this . . .


Even though my bread basket may one day be empty, I will never be without the Bread of Life.


For we know, just a short time after the multiplying of bread and fish, Our Lord said, "You must eat my flesh and drink my blood, or there can be no life in you." In Sacred Scripture, bread and wine rarely mean just bread and wine. They mean that - but they also mean something far greater. The righteous and their children will always have access to the Bread of Life.

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Day Two - Novena to St. Monica for Conversions

Day Two: Novena To Saint Monica

Exemplary Mother of the Great Augustine,
You perserveringly pursued your wayward son
Not with wild threats
But with prayerful cries to heaven.

Intercede for all mothers in our day
So that they may learn
To draw their children to God.

Teach them how to remain
Close to their children,
Even the prodigal sons and daughters
Who have sadly gone astray.

Dear St Monica, troubled wife and mother,
Many sorrows pierced your heart
During your lifetime.
Yet you never despaired or lost faith.
With confidence, persistence and profound faith,
You prayed daily for the conversion
Of your beloved husband, Patricius
And your beloved son, Augustine.

Grant me that same fortitude,
Patience and trust in the Lord.
Intercede for me, dear St. Monica,
That God may favorably hear my plea
For

(mention your petition here)

And grant me the grace
To accept his will in all things,
Through Jesus Christ, our Lord,
In the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God forever and ever. Amen.


http://www.mycatholictradition.com/saint-monica.html
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Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Right Bait

Doug Kephart had our admiration. In elementary school, Doug and his little sister spent the spring and summer digging for nightcrawlers after dark. They had a sign in their yard. Nightcrawlers for sale. And all the local fishermen would stop on their way to Lake Hendricks to get their bait.

I remember the teachers asking Doug, “How’s business?” Evidently, he was a pretty good entrepreneur. He was the first one in our little class of sixty-some students to have a car. Paid for by nightcrawler money. Years and years of nightcrawler money.


I’m thinking a lot about bait lately. Oh, not the kind that attracts fish. The kind that attracts men and women. The right bait for fishers of men, as Jesus called the disciples.


Because you and I - and all of the laity - are really in charge of bait. We live near the lake. We know what the fish (our family and friends) like. With a little effort, we can help the fishers of men (our bishops and priests) to have success.


Consider joining us in a novena for conversions, and ask God for His help in discerning the right bait – the right bait to catch lost souls.
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No Coasting Catholics

Some days, I feel like coasting along. Get myself to weekend Mass and skate through the week. That should do it. Right?
But that's not what we're about. The Eucharist feeds us, and then we are sent out.
To raise families.
To serve.
To die to self.
To love.
To live the Truth.
To give.
To be Christ to the world.
To share what we have.
To spread the Gospel.
To bring others to Christ, Our Eucharistic Lord.
Not to coast.

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Day One - Novena to St. Monica for Conversions

Day One: Novena Prayer To Saint Monica


Exemplary Mother of the Great Augustine,
You perserveringly pursued your wayward son
Not with wild threats
But with prayerful cries to heaven.


Intercede for all mothers in our day
So that they may learn
To draw their children to God.


Teach them how to remain
Close to their children,
Even the prodigal sons and daughters
Who have sadly gone astray.


Dear St Monica, troubled wife and mother,
Many sorrows pierced your heart
During your lifetime.
Yet you never despaired or lost faith.
With confidence, persistence and profound faith,
You prayed daily for the conversion
Of your beloved husband, Patricius
And your beloved son, Augustine.


Grant me that same fortitude,
Patience and trust in the Lord.
Intercede for me, dear St. Monica,
That God may favorably hear my plea
For


(mention your petition here)


And grant me the grace
To accept his will in all things,
Through Jesus Christ, our Lord,
In the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God forever and ever. Amen.


http://www.mycatholictradition.com/saint-monica.html
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Friday, July 24, 2009

All Things "Mom"

This morning, I took our labradoodle to the groomer. He was very good, until we walked through the door and stood at the counter to get him signed in. Then, he started shaking all over.

I was still feeling guilty when I saw my husband some time later and described how anxious our dog Max was when I dropped him off.

"Does it make you want to go and rescue him even though the groomers haven't called yet to say he's done."

I smiled at my husband, and said, "It does! It's like when we were kids back in elementary school. Do you remember getting sick and just wanting to go home? You wanted to be nowhere else, but home. And then your mom walks through the door, and you have that sense of relief, that sense that your mom personifies everything you equate with being home."

We talked about how excited our dog will be when I show up later today to retrieve him.

Coming home to the Catholic Church was like this for me. I was that little girl again, unwell and sitting in the nurse's office at school, waiting for my mother . . . sensing the longing to be home.

To just be home.

To know that everything will be fine, if I can just get home.

And Mother Church shows up and you realize she personifies all that is meant by going home. And your spirit sighs deeply, knowing that "all will be well, and all manner of things will be well" (as Julian of Norwich says) because you are home once again.
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Sneak Peek at August Catholic-By-Grace Article

Although it's still July, a few diocesan papers have run the August Catholic by Grace article. Since it deals with the subject of evangelization and RCIA class formation, I'm giving you a sneak peek.
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Novena for Conversions Coming Soon

August is a very important month. It is the month in which many Catholic parishes are putting together their RCIA classes. RCIA students begin studying the true teaching of Mother Church, and misconceptions and ignorance fall away. Many of these students journey all the way to Easter Vigil when they will be received into the Church.

Perhaps you are wondering if there are people in your life who are ready to take a closer look at Mother Church. I invite you to pray a novena to St. Monica for the conversion of someone in your life.

Novena coming soon. . .
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Thursday, July 23, 2009

We Need a Catholic-Protestant Dictionary

(from a 2007 Catholic by Grace article)

Even when we speak the same language, we sometimes have difficulty communicating with one another. You don’t have to travel to England to experience this. There are regional anomalies right here in the United States.

It happened to me while walking out of a grocery store in Atlanta a number of years ago. A lady entered Winn Dixie and asked me, “Are you finished with that buggy?” I stared blankly for a moment and realized she was referring to my grocery cart.

“Oh, yes. Sorry. It’s all yours,” I mumbled, as I quickly added another definition to the word buggy. From henceforth, it could refer to a piece of baby equipment, a prop for an old west movie, or (in Atlanta) a grocery cart.

Likewise, one of the more frustrating aspects of sharing the Gospel with others is that we do not always share the same dictionary. A few years back, a woman on the reality show Survivor proved the point. The host asked her about being religious. She bristled and explained that she is not religious but that she has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Catholic viewers scratch their heads and think, she sure sounds religious to us. The problem is that Evangelicals and Catholics mean different things when they use certain words or phrases.

Take the word religious. To the Catholic, it means to be counted among the faithful. One who is devout. Baptismal vows shape how they live, and they are fully engaged in this journey to God.

To Evangelicals, the word religious means almost the opposite. They believe a religious person concentrates on rituals and formulas at the expense of a meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ.

That is why Evangelicals will not ask a stranger if he is religious. Rather, they will ask him if he has a personal relationship with the Lord. And it’s a valid question. To answer it appropriately, though, we need to consider what the person really wants to know. Like the woman who asked if I was finished with the buggy, you may not be able to answer the question if you do not know what the question is really asking.

In short, how real is Jesus to you? To what extent has He impacted your life? Do you invite Him to go with you into your week? Do you talk to Him before you fall asleep? Is He the first one you speak to when you wake in the morning? Do you see Him in the face of the homeless? The poor? Your aging parents?

When things go really well, is He the first one you tell? When things are spinning out of control, do you reach out for His hand, like Peter walking on the water to Jesus?


Being religious does not mean (or should not mean) that we cling to external rituals that are void of meaning. On the contrary, it should mean that our faith impacts everything that we do. It redefines our calendar, it gives framework to the way we worship God, it instills reverence and a proper fear of the Lord, and it brings order, balance, depth, fullness and unwavering faithfulness to our walk with God. This kind of faith is very personal.




Moreover, every Catholic who receives the Most Blessed Sacrament receives Jesus Christ in the most intimate way possible. You can’t get more personal than having Jesus Christ on your tongue. His Real Presence meeting you at the cellular level. Overwhelming you. Changing you. Think about it, when you went forward to receive Our Eucharistic Lord at Mass last time, you experienced the most personal touch we can experience on this earth. The One who created you, the One who flung the stars into space and formed every valley and mountain, the One who holds all things in His Hands – He became so small and humble that you have been given the opportunity to rise from your knees, walk the aisle, bow, and put out your hands and take Jesus into your own body!




It is too miraculous, too mysterious to comprehend. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t true. And it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to contemplate such profound love. Spend the distance from your seat at Mass to the raised Eucharist contemplating with awe and wonder who it is that comes to you – so intimately, so personally.


How is it possible that He should come inside me, and I not cease to breathe, to think, to exist? Such love, it is almost too much to grasp. And yet, we do grasp it enough to say, “Amen” when we come face to face with God the Son. The next time someone asks you if you know Jesus personally, the answer must be one resounding yes.
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Care Packages From Mother Church

Do you have semi-grown children like I do?
If so, you probably send care packages to them. Sweet treats. Toiletry items. Good things they might not think to buy. And of course, home made goodies.

Mother Church does the same thing for us.
When we leave Mass, we aren't on our own. Grace goes with us. It shows up when we need it most. When we are having a tough day. When we are at work. At home with family. Or when we feel as alone as a grown kid on his first day in the dormitories.
I thought about this today when I mailed a care package off to my daughter. I smiled, thinking about how excited she will be when it arrives. What she will think of each thing in the box.
How it might prompt her to call home - just to say thanks.
And that is how it is for us - when the Blessed Mother pours grace upon grace into our lives, in moments we least expect it.
Kind of makes you want to pick up the phone (or a Rosary) and say thanks, the care package arrived safely - and you know what, it made my day.
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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Farm Town Games and St. Teresa's Gardening Tips

One of my Facebook friends is into the myFarm game. It's not a real farm. Your Facebook friends can send you not-real plants and animals as gifts for your not-real farm.

Yes, it is for people who have far too much time on their hands. Or maybe it's for people who would like to grow a real garden, but don't have that much time - or land.

I have forty-some myFarm gifts waiting for me to get started on virtual farming. Can't imagine I will get around to it, but I hang onto the plum trees and mango trees, my cat and my bunny and my cow, all those Farm Town gifts, just in case.

It reminds me of a passage in The Life of Saint Teresa of Avila. She talks at length about a garden for God. How we can draw water from the well to care for God's garden.

The water comes from prayers, from tears, from great devotion. At times, God is doing the watering, when we enter seasons of dryness. Even then, the rain comes. God takes over and does the watering.

The plants are virtues which the Lord (with our cooperation) causes to grow and to produce a harvest.

"If it be His will that these plants and flowers shall grow, some of them with water drawn from this well and some without it, what is that to me? Do as You will, O Lord, and let me not offend You. If You have, of Your kindness alone, given me any virtues, do not let them perish. . . Fulfill Your will in me" (80-81). "What shall the gardener do now? He shall be glad and take comfort, and consider it the greatest favour that he is working in the garden of so mighty an Emperor" (79). -St. Teresa of Avila

This is a garden that I can (and must) tend. This is a garden (though it remains invisible to the eye) which requires and merits my effort. This is a garden that some will consider to be as silly as a Farm Town game. As imaginary. Something akin to a child's game.

But no, this garden has another name. This garden is the soul. And there is no greater joy than that of having the Lord of the garden pass through and find all things rightly ordered. To have Him reach out and pluck a plum or mango from this orchard. There is no greater joy.

This is no imaginary place. It is real. I am the gardener. And the Lord is the Lord of the harvest.
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Tons of Tomatoes

I have never had success at growing anything - until this year.

The green beans grew well. The green onions - quite well. But the roma tomatoes grew like kudzu in Atlanta.


I've got tomatoes in the refrigerator, tomatoes up and down the countertop, and even more tomatoes ripe and ready to be picked, still on the vine. I can see them from the house. Little bright red balls in a mass of green leaves.


For once, I understand the verse, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Pray that the Lord of the harvest will send workers into the field."


If souls are as ripe and ready as my tomato plants, then the Lord of the harvest must be really frustrated by lack of workers.


The worst thing I can imagine is for those tomatoes to sit out there and rot on the vine.


And so, this morning, I gathered up as many as I could, even went outside and picked more, and I put them in ziploc bags and gave them away.


What a sense of accomplishment. This is how it should be. Every tomato has a home.


You are the worker in God's fields. The Lord of the harvest needs you to help harvest the souls that are ripe and ready, the souls that are waiting, the souls that just might rot on the vine if the workers don't answer the call to go and bring them into the House.

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Turning of Time . . . and grace

I woke up this morning and checked my email as I always do. Sitting in my inbox were two suggestions for Facebook friends, both friends from high school.

It is strange to reconnect with people who knew me when I was Denise Johnson. I barely remember that girl.


I always wonder what they will think when they discover that the preacher's daughter they once knew is now a Catholic writer - and vocal about her love for the Catholic Church.


I probably overestimate what they will think. Maybe I'm the only one who is surprised by such a turn of grace.


Even so, I live my life, both private and public, the same way. I am Catholic first. And it shows. Or at least, I pray it shows. I don't talk about it with every breath, but I do talk about it. And I try to say yes to every opportunity to share the story of grace.


Because I never know who God is after. Maybe He is working in the lives of someone I know and love. Maybe one of these Facebook friends will be next in line to be surprised by a turn of grace.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

It Didn't Kill Me


Well, it didn't kill me. I said it, and I'm still standing. Amazing.


I talked on the phone with my brother last night, and when conversation turned toward finding a "church home" in his new community, I casually suggested they check out the local Catholic parish.


Gutsy. My sister-in-law was raised Catholic, and my brother even considered the Catholic Church when they married (in the Church). But, as sometimes happens, my brother couldn't quite jump over the obstacle in the road. The Mary thing.


I can't blame him. It almost cost me a conversion.


So, I casually made the suggestion last night. And he shot it down. Kindly, of course. "We want to find a church that has an active youth program," he said.


I'm praying that the Catholic Church in his town has the best youth program around. Though I suspect they won't stop there to check it out. They will probably pop in and out of the evangelical churches for about six months and decide on something around Christmas.


So, it's a gutsy move to suggest the Catholic parish in town. Almost a waste of breath. What's a sister to do? Talk about it anyway, for starters.


Then, leave it to the Holy Spirit.


I'm not stupid. I can't change anyone's mind - especially my brother's mind. Sometimes, family members make the worst evangelizers. Too much shared history to get in the way. He's seen me make a lot of bad decisions. He's seen me marry and divorce. He's seen me at my worst. Who am I to make a case for the Church?


But the Holy Spirit can do far more than I can.


And so, I mostly put it to prayer. But when the subject comes up, when the Holy Spirit opens that door, I walk through it.


I realize, afterwards, that it didn't kill me to speak up. In fact, it wasn't hard at all.


Share our Faith with someone in your life. It probably won't kill you either.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

St. Teresa of Avila - plans for the birthday celebration in the works



It's not the big 5-0.

It's the fabulous
5-0-0.

That's right . . . St. Teresa of Avila is having a birthday!





The Church is already getting ready for the big event, though it won't occur until 2015. A commission of Discalced Carmelites is already preparing for the celebration of the 5th centenary of the birth of St. Teresa of Jesus. (Zenit News Agency)



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From Treading Water on Infant Baptism to Fully Embracing Church Teaching

(from 2006 Catholic by Grace diocesan article)


I’ve spent most of my life conflicted over baptism, not about whether or not one should be baptized, but about the proper age for baptism.



My parents dedicated me when I was an infant. Back then, Dad pastored a Wesleyan church and the denomination believed that baptism was for those who had reached the age of accountability and could personally choose to be baptized. They believed that dedication is something parents do for their child and that baptism is something the individual chooses for himself. The denomination based its theology on the fact that the New Testament seemed to indicate that baptism was for adults who decided to follow Jesus Christ.



When I was about thirteen, my father was ordained as a Presbyterian minister. During the years preceding his ordination, he had revisited the question of infant baptism and found something interesting in a particular passage in the New Testament in which it states that entire households were baptized and not simply the adults (Acts 18:8). Dad showed the passage to my mother and indicated to her that they might be wrong in their rejection of infant baptism. From that point forward, they embraced infant baptism, but as an adult, I continued to flip flop in my beliefs.


After years of vacillation, I decided it didn’t really matter whether couples baptized or dedicated their babies. To each his own – that was my philosophy. For the most part, I thought everything was fine as long as the child eventually embraced the faith.



And then I began attending RCIA classes.


For me, the single most persuasive argument for infant baptism came from the Old Testament. Abraham obeyed God, and all infant males were circumcised on the eighth day – without their choosing it for themselves because that was how one was marked as being a member of the chosen people. When circumcision was instituted, there were many adult males who had never been circumcised. These grown men made up the majority of those circumcised – at first. I realized that this is how it would have been when Jesus instituted the sacrament of baptism. Initially, the majority of those to follow the Lord in this sacrament would have been adults – but once the sacrament was embraced by a people, the majority of those presented for baptism would be infants. It just made sense. Further study of Old Testament prefigurements (baby Moses floating on the Nile, Noah’s entire family saved in the flood, the saving of the first born male through the Passover lamb) seemed to create a beautiful case for infant baptism.


Finally, I thought about Jesus’ words in the Gospel of John (3:5), I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. And a passage in the first book of Peter tells us that, just as the eight (Noah and his family) were saved through water, so too we are saved through the waters of baptism (3:20-21).


It seemed that Jesus Christ wanted adults, children and babies of all ages to come to Him (with no age restriction), and that it was important to call the sacrament by the name Jesus gave it: Baptism. I thought I had more than enough to settle the question, but Our Lord has continued to underscore this teaching for me.



Denominations that hold to adult baptism do so because they believe an individual should choose for himself to follow Christ. So, the key point for some Protestants is that baptism should be meaningful to the one being baptized.


Here’s what I’ve learned in the last year. Every time a Catholic dips his fingers into the font and crosses himself, he remembers and embraces his baptismal vows for himself. Every time he enters the season of Lent and asks for sufficient grace to die to self, he embraces the vows of baptism for himself. Every time he picks up the cross – through suffering or death – he embraces the vows of baptism for himself. In fact, everything we do as Catholics from cradle to grave is done because we have been baptized into Christ Jesus.


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Saved by Water and the Spirit

from Exodus and Today's Mass Reading:


Moses answered the people, ‘Have no fear! Stand firm, and you will see what the Lord will do to save you today. . .The Lord will do the fighting for you: you have only to keep still.


The Lord said to Moses,". . . Tell [them] to march on. For yourself, raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and part it for [them] to walk through the sea on dry ground."


* * *
Early Church Fathers on Baptism:


St. Justin Martyr (c. 100-c. 165), “Then they are brought by us where there is water, and are regenerated in the same manner in which we were ourselves regenerated [reborn]: in the name of God the Father . . . and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing of water. For Christ said, ‘Except you be born again, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven’ . . . The reason for doing this, we have learned from the Apostles” (The First Apology 1, 61) (Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1985],1:183).


St. Theophilus of Antioch (died c. 185 A.D.), who first coined the word “Trinity,” writes, “Those things which were created from the waters [Gen 1] were blessed by God, so that this might also be a sign that men would at a future time receive repentance and remission of sins through water and the bath of regeneration” (To Autolycus 2, 16) (William Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers [Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1970], 1:75).


Origen (c. 185-c. 254) “The Church received from the Apostles the tradition [custom] of giving Baptism even to infants. For the Apostles, to whom were committed the secrets of divine mysteries, knew that there is in everyone the innate stains of sin, which must be washed away through water and the Spirit” (Commentary on Romans 5, 9) (Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, 1:209).

St. Augustine (AD 354-430) “Who is so wicked as to want to exclude infants from the kingdom of heaven by prohibiting their being baptized and born again in Christ?” (Pecc. merit. 3, 6, 12) (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, ed. Philip Schaff [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publ., 1971], 5:244). “This [infant baptism] the Church always had, always held; this she received from the faith of our ancestors; this she perseveringly guards even to the end” (Sermon 11, De Verb Apost) (Catholic Encyclopedia, ed. Charles Herbermann, et al, [New York: Robert Appleton, 1907], 2:270).

more at: http://blog.catholic-convert.com/?p=239=1

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

My Present - from my husband


This is my birthday present. You can buy your own from the St. Lawrence Catholic Center (KU campus).

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Having a Great Birthday Today!


Yes, it's my birthday. I'm having a great one - wait until you see what I got!
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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Poetry for the Catholic Writer

Alas, it is so. George Herbert wasn't Catholic. I still like his poetry, especially "The Flower" - and I'm thinking of it this weekend in particular. I'm another year older - and I think 45 is a great age to renew my desire to serve God through writing. Catholic first. Writer second. And so, we write of faith, moving always onward and upward. . .

lines from "The Flower"

How Fresh, O Lord, how sweet and clean
Are thy returns! ev’n as the flowers in spring;
To which, besides their own demean,
The late-past frosts tributes of pleasure bring.
Grief melts away
Like snow in May,
As if there were no such cold thing.
Who would have thought my shrivel’d
heart
Could have recover’d greennesse?



And now in age I bud again,
After so many deaths I live and write;
I once more smell the dew and rain,
And relish
versing: O my onely light,
It cannot be
That I am he
On whom thy
tempests fell all night.
These are thy wonders, Lord of
love,
To make us see we are but flowers that glide:
Which when we once can finde and prove,
Thou hast a garden for us, where to bide.


(1633) George Herbert

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Do We All Really Have to Agree on EVERYTHING?


If you have been reading the CBG blog this week, you know that I hit an enormous obstacle in my journey to the Catholic Church when I was introduced to the teaching on the Immaculate Conception.


Why did it matter to me? Why didn't I just say, well, that one doesn't make much sense, but I'll come on in anyway. I'm sure we don't all believe the same stuff anyway. Let's agree to disagree and leave it at that.


One reason. John 17


Our Lord's words needled at me, and I could not escape them. There can be no difference in what we believe. It is the reason the Early Fathers gave us the Creed. It is the reason for the Church Councils. It is the reason for the Encyclicals. It is the message in the Priestly Prayer in John 17. Read it again, and ask yourself, Do we really have to agree on everything? Jesus, in his own words to His Father:


I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me. John 17: 20-23

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Is the Communion of Saints the same as necromancy?

One writer posted a comment on the Communion of Saints and voiced her concern that it is necromancy. I responded briefly in the comments section, but promised to write more as time permitted. Because there is such a stark and serious difference between these two practices (one a practice being holy, sacred to Christians, and thoroughly supported by Sacred Scripture and Catholic Teaching; and the other being a serious and grave sin and rooted in a desire to be God, to know what God knows, but devoid of living the life of grace), I have posted some passages from Catholics United for the Faith which are excellent and a trustworthy response to the writer's questions. I encourage readers to check out CUF for more information on Catholic apologetics. God bless you, Maidei, and God bless all who sincerely come to Him with the heart of a true seeker.


First, a definition on the Communion of Saints and then some comments from Catholics United for the Faith on necromancy.



The communion of saints is the intimate union that exists among all the disciples of Christ. This communion is known as the Mystical Body of Christ: the Family of God consisting of the faithful on earth (the Church Militant or pilgrim Church), the holy souls in purgatory undergoing spiritual cleansing (the Church Suffering), and the saints in heaven (the Church Triumphant). This union of believers joins us in Christ, our source of grace and life, and calls us to love and pray for one another as members of His body. Therefore, we can ask for the prayers of the saints in heaven, and we can also pray for people on earth and those in purgatory (Catechism, nos. 946-62).

The doctrine of the communion of saints was taught by the apostles, both in the Scriptures and the Tradition they handed down in words and practice. It is explicitly contained in the Apostles’ Creed. The Church reaffirmed this teaching at the Second Council of Nicea (787) and further addressed it at the Councils of Florence (1438-45), Trent (1545-63), and Vatican II (1962-65).

This communion refers to the bond of unity among the followers of Christ. Such a bond is possible because, as believers in Christ, we become children of God (1 Jn. 3:1), members of His family (Rom. 8:14-17), with divine life bestowed on us through Baptism (Jn. 3:3-5). The apostles teach us that through Baptism we become “fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17) and “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4). Saint Paul states that this union of the faithful, brought about by the Holy Spirit in Baptism, is so complete that we are actually members of a single body, Christ’s own body (cf. 1 Cor. 12:12-27).


Some object that the Catholic position on intercessory prayer is the same as necromancy, that is, calling upon the spirits of the dead to find out the future or obtain other information. Necromancy is a grave sin that, far from fostering communion, shows a lack of faith and trust in God. Necromancy was punishable by death under the Mosaic law (Lev. 19:31, 20:6). Some of the early Israelites practiced necromancy, including Saul (1 Sam. 28:3, 8-14), and they were punished severely for doing so (1 Sam. 28:17-19). This practice offended God (2 Kings 21:6) and led to the destruction of Israel.

Catholics do not practice necromancy, which is explicitly forbidden by the Church (cf. Catechism, nos. 2115-17). Rather, they ask for the prayers of the saints to foster communion in the Family of God.

Seeking the intercession of the saints is not necromancy for two reasons. First, necromancers are usually trying to receive information that they do not have, such as what will happen in the future. Asking the saints to pray for us, however, is not a form of divination or fortune telling.

Second, necromancers are also trying to bring back and control the souls of dead people. Catholics, on the contrary, believe that those who have died in God’s grace are not dead but truly alive, and are able to help us by their prayers. As Jesus says, “[Moses] calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is not the God of the dead, but of the living; for all live to him” (Lk. 20:37-38).

According to Jesus, death cannot separate the faithful—such as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—from God. And, if they are alive to God, they must be alive to us through Him as members of His one body. Otherwise, contrary to what Saint Paul says, Christ’s victory over death was incomplete, and His body is not truly one (cf. Jn.17:21; 1 Cor. 12: 12,13; 15:14 et al).

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Friday, July 17, 2009

I'll Never Marry Unless - The List

When I was dating my husband, I told him I had a secret list. I told him that I had created it during a time when I wasn't dating anyone (so I wouldn't be tempted to make a list around a specific person). And I told him, I had a plan. I wouldn't marry anyone that didn't fit "The List" - of course, he wanted to see the list. Ah, I said, that would mess everything up. How would I know if he was the right one? How could I be sure he was sincere - or putting on an act? No, the only way I would know if he was right for me would be for me to keep the list to myself - until I was sure. When he asked me to marry him and I said yes, I gave him the list.


If I were going about it all today, I would add that he must be a solid Catholic man. Back then, I wasn't Catholic myself - so Catholic didn't hit the list. But God took care of those important things in His timing.



Anyway, I ran across my list this evening as I was sorting and deleting old files. And I thought, there just might be someone out there who is going through the dating process. Making a list is a very good way to get started on the right foot. And so, here is my dear old list:



Puts God and faith first.
Puts spouse and family second.
At the most fundamental level, he is a giver and not a taker.
Wants to have children.
Does things in moderation. Is a planner.
Likes to do the same kinds of things I like to do – but has a couple of hobbies that make him unique from me.
Willing to put off immediate gratification for the greater good of the family and God.
Trustworthy.
Likes music – and has similar music preferences to my own.
Likes dogs, not cats.
Wants me to be a stay-at-home mother through our children’s formative years but encourages my professional development and likes to see me use the talents God has given me.
Likes nice things, knows how to take care of them, put isn’t set on having them in his life – basically happy without “the stuff”.
A listener.
Willing to share – knows how to communicate his thoughts.
Age not important.
Physical qualities not important, but I must find him attractive.
Respects my thoughts and opinions and encourages them even when they don’t match his own.
Not a smoker.
Not a drinker.
Not fake and doesn’t expect me to be fake either.
Knows how to let me know he thinks I’m beautiful. Even when I’m not wearing make-up.
Financially stable and employable.
No previous marriages. No other children.
Likes a lived-in house.
An encourager, a shoulder to cry on, a rock.
Thinks there are a number of things that I do that nobody else on the planet does better.
Has a sense of humor and knows when to use it to keep things light.
Admits he doesn’t know everything – but I suspect he’s pretty close to knowing most things.
Makes wise decisions.
Realizes that life is an ebb and flow – and that the down times don’t define us.
Sees marriage as a covenant, a forever-thing. Period. (Today I would write this one differently - "Knows this is a Sacrament - and it's forever.)


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Did You Enjoy Your Big Mac Today? Here's what you should know

It's Friday.

Time to review what Our Faith teaches about Fridays outside of Lent:


"Friday itself remains a special day of penitential observance throughout the year…For this reason we urge all to prepare for that weekly Easter that comes with each Sunday by freely making of every Friday a day of self-denial and mortification in prayerful remembrance of the passion of Jesus Christ.


Among the works of voluntary self-denial and personal penance which we especially commend to our people for the future observance of Friday, even though we hereby terminate the traditional law of abstinence binding under pain of sin, as the sole prescribed means of observing Friday, we give first place to abstinence from flesh meat. We do so in the hope that the Catholic community will ordinarily continue to abstain from meat by free choice as formerly we did in obedience to Church law… (Nos. 19-24 Pastoral Statement on Penitence and Abstinence )."


-more on this from Catholic Exchange:
"In other words, the US bishops encourage all American Catholics to abstain from meat on Fridays — but if we can find a more effective type of penance to perform on Fridays, we are invited to do so. Our bishops have given each of us the green light to decide for ourselves how best to make our Fridays penitential. How sad, therefore, that most Catholics have wrongly interpreted this as meaning simply that “we don’t need to abstain from meat on Fridays anymore,” without replacing that abstinence with another form of penance!"



And now, you know. . .
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Praying for Pope Benedict XVI - fracture wrist


Vacationing pope undergoes procedure to set wrist fractured in fall - full story at CNS.

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Snakes and Honey Bees and extra helpings of grace

We have a four-acre yard. This time of year, we spend hours cutting it. Well, actually, my husband spends hours cutting it.

Yesterday, I decided to be a good wife and take him a glass of ice water. I started my trek across the back yard. He saw me coming and stopped to wait. I handed him the water and told him I don't like walking in tall grass. . . I'm always looking for snakes.

He laughed. John knows my phobia. It is unusual for me to strike out across the yard, my feet bare. But, there I was, feet unshod.

As I walked back to the house, I kept my eyes on the grass two feet ahead of me - just to be sure no wiggly-thing was waiting for me.

And that's when I felt it. The stinging in the arch of my foot. I had been so worried about an unlikely thing that I completely forgot about the thousands of honey bees that are enjoying our clover-covered back yard.

To add irony upon irony. . . as my foot hurt like blue blazes, the line of a song kept going through my head. The song was stuck there - had been stuck there for some time. But now it seemed incongruous with the stinging pain in my foot.

The song?

A line from a responsorial psalm from Mass, one of the familiar ones the cantors call us to sing between the readings of Sacred Scripture.

I will sing your praise, my King and my God. I will sing your praise, my King and my God.

I smiled to myself. I am not a strong Christian. Sure, I'm working at it, but there are many things yet to perfect. And one of them is how I respond to pain. I usually complain. Sometimes I get angry.

I rarely praise God.

Yet, there I was. Praising Him. And I realized, as I so often do, that everything really is a moment of grace - if we (I) would have eyes to see.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Didn't See That One Coming

I don't like surprises. I like to know how things will go. I need to know what to expect. Sure, it is just an illusion, but I like to think I control some aspects of my life.

And so, I plan.

My children have a way of shattering my imaginary world. They started doing that even before they were born. My third child wins the prize. Her very existence was a surprise - some twenty-two years ago.

A birthright counselor told me the good news. I cried.

I didn't feel all that blessed. Two small children at home, an unfinished college degree, a husband who wasn't sure he wanted to be married anymore.

No, you really aren't supposed to get pregnant the month after a trial separation. Not a great idea. Certainly not my idea.

Nothing has been predictable in these past two decades.

I have two grown children who are married. I thought one of them would make me a grandmother at some point. But no, that would be too predictable. It's the third one. The one not yet married. She's the one who will make me a grandma.

At first, the doctor told her the baby would arrive in December. Then November. It's back to December again.

My daughter called last weekend to say that the ultrasound showed that it's a girl. She called again today. Nope. They had to have a second ultrasound - to check on a couple of things - and lo and behold. It's a boy.

Didn't see that one coming.

I'm getting pretty good at this game. Not good enough - I guess I can still be surprised.

Interestingly enough, when the Year for Priests began, I knelt in the Adoration Chapel and asked God to give me a grandson with a vocation to the priesthood.

So, when my daughter called today to tell me it's a boy, I laughed and told her that he just might be a priest.

My daughter reminded me that she wasn't Catholic (my older children didn't convert with me). Might be hard for him to become a priest, not having a Catholic mother, she said.

I laughed and reminded her that our children are full of surprises. Now, she will be the one to say, "Gee, I didn't see that one coming."

And it's my turn to laugh.

(I need to plan a trip to the baby store. I have about ten pink outfits to return. Oh well. I'm getting used to rolling with the curve balls. After 22 years, I'd better.)

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Blessed Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel


Carmelites see in the Virgin Mary, Mother of God and archetype of the Church, the perfect image of all that they want and hope to be.

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When They Doubt The Immaculate Conception


Have you ever watched a television program that changed your life? Well, that’s what happened to me – but it took more than five months for the full impact to hit me. It began on July 16, 2004 – five years ago today. I caught the tail-end of a Journey Home program (EWTN), and I was immediately drawn to that night’s guest. On a whim, I wrote Mary Beth Kremski and attempted to explain something that I didn’t completely understand myself – my growing desire to enter the Catholic Church.


I had been fascinated by Mrs. Kremski because she was a Third Order Carmelite – or at least that’s what the tag line at the bottom of the television screen said. I didn’t know what Third Order meant, but I knew that the authors of the books I had recently read were Carmelites. St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila – only they lived in the 1500s. I had no idea that there were Carmelites living and breathing today! What luck! I had to write her. I had so many questions.


We exchanged just one set of letters in August, and then the communication ended. I turned my attention to the local Catholic Church and decided to try RCIA class and see what would happen from there.



In December of 2004, the RCIA leader at my parish introduced the class to the Church’s teaching on the Immaculate Conception. I’ve come to the conclusion that our Blessed Mother was gently guiding me through this part of my journey, but at that moment in time, she seemed to be nothing more than one major stumbling block for me.


I announced to the entire class that I couldn’t accept that Mary was conceived without sin. I was willing to admit that Protestants had let the pendulum swing too far in the opposite direction, relegating Mary to a minor role in the Christmas story, but I felt that was in response to excessive Catholic Mariology. I explained that, while I believed the Lord could do that for Mary, I was convinced it was highly unlikely that he did do it. At that moment, I didn’t even have enough faith to say, I believe, Lord help my unbelief.


The terrible thought hit me then. Where does one go when she believes in Apostolic Succession, the Papacy, Purgatory, the Communion of Saints, and all Catholic Teaching, except the Immaculate Conception? What was the name of that denomination? I felt like Peter when he said, where else can we go? This is a difficult teaching, Lord, but I’ve nowhere else to turn.


After many attempts to help me understand, my RCIA instructor mentioned that I had the option of placing a petition before the Blessed Mother. If I had sincerely given myself to the task of understanding and I still couldn’t embrace this teaching, he told me that I could always ask Mary to show me the Truth.


As an Evangelical, I had placed many petitions before the Lord. That was not a new concept. And I didn’t have a problem with asking Mary to answer my petition. I just didn’t think she would do it.



I knew a lot was riding on this petition. The Immaculate Conception was the one obstacle that stood between my father (a Presbyterian minister) and the Catholic Church. In fact, if he could have resolved this issue, I’m convinced he would have converted to the Catholic Church thirty years ago. Before I made my petition to Mary, I prayed, “Lord, I will follow you wherever you lead, even if it is down a road my father could not take. I just want to get this right. And so, I beg You NOT to answer the petition I place before Your Mother if this teaching shouldn’t be embraced.” Then I turned my heart to Mary and laid it on the line:


Mary,
If you are as the Catholic Church says and if you love me, please answer this petition. I want someone to communicate with me by your inspiration. I need the communication to encourage me in the faith, and I don’t want it to be from Catholic friends at the school where I used to teach or my Catholic in-laws. I don’t want it to be from anyone in my parish. All of them—well, I have shared this struggle with some of them, and they may know through earthly tongues that I need to be propped up. Mary, I want the message to come from you to the ears of one who could know no other way. Please choose someone who, for me, would represent the Universal Catholic Church. Then I will know I am right where I am supposed to be and that the Church’s Teachings are ALL correct, terra firma, especially the Teachings about you. Please answer my petition before the end of the year—I know, that’s just two weeks.


This petition is rewritten word-for-word from my journal entry for December 12, 2004, the day I said the prayer. I knew it was unlikely I would receive a response. Almost as unlikely as the Immaculate Conception, I thought.


Our Lady didn’t make me wait very long. In the mailbox the next day was a letter from the woman who had appeared on The Journey Home the previous July. I had not heard from her since August when her one and only letter arrived. BUT, in December of 2004 she decided to write me a second time to encourage me in the Faith and let me know she was praying for me. Her letter was dated December 8, 2004. Above the date, she had hand-written The Feast of the Immaculate Conception. With tears streaming down my face, I read her two-page, single-spaced letter.


I had been ready to abandon the journey. I knew it would drive me crazy to teeter on the fence for very long. That’s why I had put a time restriction on the Blessed Virgin. That letter sealed everything for me. Like Thomas when he touched the wounds of Our Lord, all my doubts were gone instantly.


Mary is my Mother! And like the truest mother, she loves me and knows me better than I know myself. After all, she knew the very thing I would ask of her before I even asked it. Mary Beth Kremski’s letter had been dated four days before I made the petition, arriving less than twenty-four hours after my request for help. Our Lady proved herself to be the Immaculate Conception and a Mother with impeccable timing.

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Day Nine: Novena Prayer to the Immaculate Heart of Mary


Day Nine: Novena Prayer to the Immaculate Heart of Mary

O Most Blessed Mother, heart of love, heart of mercy, ever listening, caring, consoling, hear our prayer. As your children, we implore your intercession with Jesus your Son. Receive with understanding and compassion the petitions we place before you today, especially ...(special intention).

We are comforted in knowing your heart is ever open to those who ask for your prayer. We trust to your gentle care and intercession, those whom we love and who are sick or lonely or hurting. Help all of us, Holy Mother, to bear our burdens in this life until we may share eternal life and peace with God forever.

Amen.

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