Sunday, February 28, 2010

For A Big Maybe . . . let us pray to the Lord

So, I'm sitting in Mass today. I see this high school student who was in my 8th grade English class a couple of years ago. I'm surprised by how grown up he looks. Almost overnight, he has become an adult.

He's alone. Usually, he's with his family. But today, he sits by himself.

He follows along with every reading. He marks his forehead and lips and heart with a cross before the Gospel reading. He opens the book and finds each song - and actually sings. He genuflects at the end of the Mass.

He's wearing these glasses today, the kind of glasses that make him look like he came out of my father's era . . . early 1960s or something.

And I think just what I've always thought when I see this kid-who-isn't-a-kid-anymore: I wonder if he's being called to the priesthood. Maybe.

Today's Rosary is for him.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

February Catholic By Grace Diocesan Article

Non-Catholics don’t always understand Catholic faith practices. One Catholic tradition that sometimes perplexes non-Catholics is our Lenten sacrifices. Many years ago, I worked in a restaurant. The owner and all the waitresses were Catholic. My sister and I were the only non-Catholic employees – and we were both the daughters of a Protestant minister. For us, Lent was a time of watching Catholics . . . and wondering.

We served a fair amount of fish during Lent, rather than our usual orders of sandwiches and fried chicken. And our boss and the other waitresses ate the perch, pike and shell fish on Fridays - as did the patrons.

The topic of Lenten sacrifice came up every shift I worked. The other waitresses would poll one another. “What did you give up for Lent?” The answers varied. Some said candy, or Pauline’s homemade pies, or soda.

I have to say, I didn’t get it back then. I thought that Catholics did those things so that they would feel holy. I used to think it was a waste of time and effort. I knew there was little gained from feeling holy. One had to be holy.

I didn’t realize that faithful Catholics have a simple reason for everything that they do. They know they are not yet holy, but they want to become holy. Their number one desire is to be a saint.

And that’s what Lent is all about.

We die to ourselves, remembering our baptismal promises, and we hope to rise with Jesus Christ when Lent comes to an end. Every prayer, sacrifice, Mass, devotion and offering we make is to embrace the journey of faith that leads to holiness.

These things that we do as Catholics change us – or more accurately stated, the things that we do become a venue for God to change us. And I realize now that it does work, sometimes so slowly that others can’t detect the changes in the few short weeks of Lent. But it does work . . . in time. And so, Catholics keep at it.

There is a reason why Catholic schools and hospitals have a crucifix in every room. They help young students to learn to follow Christ in his living; they help the sick and dying to become like Christ in his dying.

There is a reason why the Catholic calendar takes us from Advent and then into Christmas, from Lent and then into Easter. The faithful want to journey with Christ – in order to rise with Him when it is all said and done.

Your non-Catholic family and friends may ask you what you gave up this year. It is possible, likely even, that they are really asking a far different question.

Why do you do all this stuff?

Make sure they know that you do it because you are not yet a saint . . . but if you walk in the footsteps of Our Lord long enough, He will change you. In time, they will see the change in you and begin to understand.

May you find that you are walking in step with Him as you journey to the cross. And may the bystanders see you at the side of Christ and begin to put it together. We are not yet holy, but we are opening every part of our lives to the One who can make us holy.

Blessed Lent!


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

This is where it begins . . . Blessed Ash Wednesday


Friday, February 12, 2010

Once Upon A Time . . . there were two snakes

A few years ago, I had a nonsensical dream. For some reason, the memory of that dream resurfaced today.

And I realized that it applies to my pre-Lent ponderings.

In the dream, I'd called the exterminator to pay a house call. We had two snakes loose in the house.

The first snake was coal black. He could move fast and always scared the living daylights out of me when he slipped from one dark corner to another. He was creepy, really creepy. I hated that snake . . . wanted him gone . . . Now!

The second snake was fat. He moved slowly. We'd almost grown accustomed to his presence in the house. He didn't scare us. He was a lovely shade of aqua-blue, with little designs on his body - in fact, his markings matched a security blanket one of my children had when he was young. It all made the snake rather likable.

Today, I was thinking about the dream. As we approach Lent, there are certain things we want to evict from our lives, certain "snakes" that are repulsive to us. Ugly. Perhaps, even evil.

But what about the other things that should go. The fat snake with his more likable markings, those things that have become a little bit of a security blanket in our lives, but are really still snakes when you get right down to it? What are we overlooking because we've grown accustomed to having it hang around?

It's time for housecleaning of the soul. Lent is almost here.

I know what the "pretty" snake is in my life. In fact, I've indulged him so much that he has grown and grown and grown. I haven't minded him being around, because, well, he was a little bit of a security blanket. What's his name?

His name is Credit Card.

And the sinister over-indulged fellow has been evicted, along with the readily recognizable "snakes" that I find instantly offensive.

Is it time you called upon the exterminator to remove some snakes in your house?

Turn from Sin.

Embrace Lent.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

What are you giving your wife for Valentine's Day this year?

'Tis the Season . . . husbands asking wives what do you want for Valentine's Day? (Subtitled: I want to give you what you want so that you aren't disappointed when the day is over.)

Of course, there's a greater motivation, one we hope is at the bedrock of our husband's heart. I want to give you your heart's desire because I love you with all of my heart . . . and not merely to keep you from becoming disappointed or angry.

We should approach Lent in a similar way.

The Adequate: What should I give you this year, Lord? I want to give you what you want from me so that you aren't disappointed when the season comes to a close.

The Greater: What can I give you, Lord, that will show you that I love you with all of my heart . . . and I am not merely trying to keep from disappointing you?

We are kind of like those husbands who ask one another the question, "Hey, what are you giving your wife this year?" We ask each other, "Hey, what are you giving up for Lent this year?" And we do a gut-check when we hear the answer.

Am I doing at least that much? Will Our Lord be pleased with me? Wow, that's a great Lenten Sacrifice. I can do better than what I had planned. What would be a good offering? What would show my love the best?

As we approach Valentine's Day, putting great thought into getting that holiday right, let us consider even more seriously what we will give to Our Lord this Lent.

Valentine's Day is a pale reflection of what we hope to do during Lent. One expresses our earthly love to our spouse. One expresses our eternal love to Our Lord.

What are you giving Him this year?


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Lessons in Solidarity - CRS helping us to say yes to this important part of our faith

I'm new at living this Catholic faith. Four-and-a-half years is not nearly enough time to get it all. But, I'm trying.

Probably the newest lesson for me is the concept of solidarity.

What is solidarity?

Solidarity is a principle of Catholic Social Teaching and a Christian virtue articulated by Pope John Paul II which amplifies the concept of the common good and holds that for Christians it is essential to act in favor of the well being of all, particularly those who are most poor and marginalized from political influence. (according to Wikipedia)

Today, I received a message from Catholic Relief Services. There is growing concern for Sudan. CRS is urging faithful Catholics to contact their Senators. Here's a portion of their message:

Take Action Now! Contact your Senators now and urge them to co-sponsor the bipartisan Senate Resolution 404 that supports full implementation of the Sudan Comprehensive Peace Agreement and efforts to promote peace and stability in Sudan.
Send a message to your Senators now!
Why is action important now? The volatile situation in Sudan – not just in the Darfur region, but also the tenuous peace between the North and South brought about by the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) – is becoming more serious. The country is bracing for national elections in April 2010 and a referendum on whether the South should secede from the North in January 2011. The potential for increased violence, death, and displacement at the hands of a renewed North-South war is real. Therefore, significant steps must be taken to avert such a disaster.

To join with our Catholic community in its ongoing efforts to practice solidarity and bring peace and justice to all people, click here. They have made it easy for you to get the message to your Senators. It's up to you to respond.

Those of you who visit this blog often know that this site does not promote any political party. We are not pro-life because we are conservatives. We are pro-life because we are Catholic. We do not promote social justice and solidarity because we are liberals. We promote social justice and solidarity because we are Catholic. Transcend politics: Be Catholic.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Not Quittin' Time Just Yet

We heard it today at Mass. The priest or deacon read from the Gospel of Luke:

Jesus got into one of the boats – it was Simon’s – and asked him to put out a little from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.
When he had finished speaking he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water and pay out your nets for a catch.’ ‘Master,’ Simon replied, ‘we worked hard all night long and caught nothing, but if you say so, I will pay out the nets.’ And when they had done this they netted such a huge number of fish that their nets began to tear, so they signalled to their companions in the other boat to come and help them; when these came, they filled the two boats to sinking point.
When Simon Peter saw this he fell at the knees of Jesus . . .

I was thinking today, as I listened to this reading, and what I realized is this. Simon Peter must have thought the night of fishing was over. Done. Terminado. Tomorrow is another day.

Maybe he watched with fascination as the Teacher climbed into his boat. Maybe he listened patiently - perhaps even with a bit of curiosity - to the message.

But when the Lord said, Simon, head out to the deep waters and drop those nets again, Simon Peter had to be thinking, How about you stick with teaching and I'll stick with fishing.

But he just said, Master, we already did that. The night is over. It's quittin' time.

Two days ago, I was thinking about last year's Lenten petition - and how it looks like it might be over. The time for answered prayer is just about done. And no answer. Not a glimmer of an answer. Nada. Nothing. Cero. Zip.

It feels like I prayed all night long.

It feels like now, all I'm doing, is listening to unlikely words of hope. My soul sort of feels like saying, Lord, that all sounds nice, and thanks for those good words, but maybe I should move on to other petitions this Lent. Put the night behind me. On to something else.

Put out into the deep.

Drop the nets again.

Let's do it one more time.


Friday, February 5, 2010

Pondering Lent? Here's some food for thought from Pope Benedict XVI

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Conversion to Christ gives people the strength to break the bonds of selfishness and work for justice in the world, Pope Benedict XVI said in his message for Lent 2010. "The Christian is moved to contribute to creating just societies where all receive what is necessary to live according to the dignity proper to the human person and where justice is enlivened by love," the pope said in the message released Feb. 4 at the Vatican.

Story found at Catholic Courier by Cindy Wooden


Thursday, February 4, 2010

What About Indulgences - a friend writes . . .

Here's my friend's question:

The only thing so far not covered by RCIA is indulgences. I seem to have got the idea from the past that indulgences are bad - but it was the selling of them that is wrong - not the actual indulgence in itself. I know you have told me before about the double consequence of sin - when you wrote about purgatory. It seems the indulgence removes that either in part or in full.

Part of me just rebels against this whole indulgence thing. I think- I can just leave it all up to God's grace and mercy, but I suppose if an indulgence is going to be offered I may as well get it.

I wonder what your thoughts on indulgences were as you came into the Church.

My reply:

Yes, it is a tough one because we (former Protestants) have baggage. And that is all we were given with regard to Indulgences. You have a good memory - that there are two aspects to sin - forgiveness/reconciliation and the fulfillment of the temporal punishment attached to a specific sin. And yes, temporal punishment remains. Like when you broke something in anger as a child and your mother forgave you when you were sorry (true contrition with the Sacrament of Confession), but there was still something more needed. Something more to make it right. The temporal part had to be addressed.

What we struggle with is the scandal of selling Indulgences - that baggage that sticks with us and lingers in the form of uneasiness. Somehow, cradle Catholics find it easier to see the good and true and right even as they recognize the part that was wrong (selling what should be offered without money and received in acts of love and devotion). Sometimes, the Church has had to reform practices that are not in keeping with what the Church teaches. And this is one of them. Selling Indulgences was a scandal, and it was not in keeping with Church teaching -- in fact, it scandalized the true teachings of the Church (and scandal always brings harm to the Body of Christ and the Unity of the Church). As an aside, that should be a lesson to all of us to never bring scandal to Mother Church. We must strive in all things and in all ways to share the true teachings. It should also give us joy to know that God will never let the gates of hell prevail - even in scandal - and that Mother Church will make it through every storm. Okay, back to the topic.

Indulgences (as something the Church offers to us for the remission of temporal punishment) is a blessed opportunity. It is usually offered to the Faithful as an opportunity to embrace acts of love and devotion - things that build up the Kingdom of God through prayer and pilgrimages and the special and unique "yes" that we give to Mother Church and Our Lord Jesus Christ.

As with all things Catholic, there is order and rhyme to this teaching. And the venues for Indulgences are rightly ordered too. Here's the thing. You don't have to say yes to a single Indulgence. You are given the choice. It is not required, though the temporal payment for sin will one day be required, and Our Lord will provide you with a way, even if it is during that preparation when all that remains is purged (purgatory) so that you can stand before a Living and Holy God and not be destroyed upon seeing Him face-to-face.

But the Church is offering the Faithful venues for love and devotion, special ways to seek remission for what remains.

When I was a child, my mother asked me to go downstairs and move the clean laundry from the washing machine and put it into the dryer. I didn't want to do it. I was angry because she had interrupted my free time. I went downstairs and moved the laundry and I slammed the dryer door so hard (in anger) that a piece of the latch broke off. I took that broken part up and had to tell Mom what I had done. She forgave me. But she said that I still had to pay for the repair. I remember that all was righted (though I was already forgiven) when I paid for the part and gave the new part to Mom. Strange how this fits, isn't it? Even the allowance which I used to buy the part came from Mom. She simply gave me the idea, the venue, for making amends.

And that is how it is with Indulgences. She (Mother Church) gives us the opportunity to say yes to an Indulgence, and we can give it back in the form of love and devotion -- so that all will be made right. I know it isn't a perfect metaphor, but I was still forgiven by Mom; I still had a place at the table; I still had a home in my parents' home. But something more was required for all to be set aside.

And we, though forgiven, still have a place at the Table and a home in the Home.

Soon, you will be fully Home. You are about to begin that final journey, through Lent, to Holy Saturday. This is the holiest journey we make this side of eternity. My heart swells with joy for you, dear one. Soon, you will walk the aisle and make your way to the Table of Our Lord. May your journey continue to be a season of many graces. I am still here for you. Always, here.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Wanting to See Jesus

He'd waited - almost forever - to see the face of God.

I wonder how he knew it would happen? When did he first realize that one day - someday - the Lord of Life would come through the Temple doors? Did he have some idea of what God would look like? Did the Holy Spirit give him some clues? Or was it all so other-worldly that Simeon just knew that it would happen and he just knew that he would know when it did?

And then, when he had lived many years, when he had seen many days come and go in God's holy place, it did happen.

Mary entered the Temple.

And Simeon just knew.

He knew that the Lord of Life, the Messiah, the long-awaited King . . . God's son . . . was right there in front of him.

And Simeon received Jesus into his own hands. And he spoke words to Mary . . . I know who this is. I know this is the One. Your son. God's son. I know!

[Simeon] took [Jesus] into his arms and blessed God; and he said:
‘Now, Master, you can let your servant go in peace,
just as you promised;
because my eyes have seen the salvation
which you have prepared for all the nations to see,
a light to enlighten the pagans
and the glory of your people Israel.’
As the child’s father and mother stood there wondering at the things that were being said about him, Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘You see this child: he is destined for the fall and for the rising of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is rejected – and a sword will pierce your own soul too – so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare.’

Today at Mass, I heard this reading from the Gospel of Luke. And I had a glimpse into how Simeon must have felt.

You see, Mary walked into my life, too. She walked in with grace and quiet joy and threw open the doors of my heart. I had loved the Lord for as long as I could remember - as a Protestant, the daughter of a preacher. And I had always wondered what it would be like to see Him, to look upon Him and know that what I saw was Jesus. And on the Feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe, in the year 2005, the Mother of Our Lord shared her Son with me.

In the years that have passed since that First Holy Communion, Our Lord and Our Lady have done for me what Simeon promised. Many things which were once buried in my heart have been laid bare. This walk to holiness is not easy. Change is not always immediate. But, if we long to see Jesus with all of our hearts, Our Lady will bring Him to us. And He will change us.

I am not all that I will be . . . but I am not who I was. I am changing. I am being changed. And God willing, I will be among the ranks of the saints . . . on that day when I can say, like Simeon, Now Master, let your servant go in peace, just as you promised.


Monday, February 1, 2010

Bloggers - Here's a Great Widget!

Promote prayer for our Bishops and the Holy Father -- by clicking on the image at right. You can sign up to pray the Rosary for your Bishop and the Holy Father! You will receive a monthly reminder via email (tailored to your specification/day of the month/frequency).

And, you can post the badge to your blog or promote the Rosary through Facebook or other social media.

What's a badge? A badge is a small box you can paste into your website or blog which will display current statistics for your bishop, diocese, or parish.
Get clicking, and get praying!