Saturday, April 30, 2011

Blessed Octave of Easter!

There were many other signs that Jesus worked and the disciples saw, but they are not recorded in this book. These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you may have life through his name.
Illustration by Jennifer Bossert 4/29/11


Divine Mercy or Blessed Assurance?

The prayer is not what I was used to.

It is a not-very-evangelical-kind-of-prayer. I'm not 100% sure why that is so, but I think it is because it doesn't proclaim Blessed Assurance, Jesus is Mine, Oh what a foretaste of Glory Divine theology. The prayer is grounded in Divine Mercy.

Jesus, the merciful Son of God.

And my reliance on His mercy and His promises. Nothing less.

Yes, there's assurance in Divine Mercy and Divine Promises. It's different from presumption and an assurance that I know that I know that I know I'm heavenbound. That sense of "done-ness" is set aside and Lord, have mercy takes its place.

And that's not evangelical. It's Catholic. It's "2000 years" Catholic. But it's not evangelical theology at all.

Everything depends on the mercy of our God. Everything.

I trust in His mercy. I cling to His promises. But I have not forgotten how weak I am. How needy I am before the Throne of Grace.

No. I don't know that I will shoot to heaven like an arrow if I die tonight. And I wouldn't trade my adherence to trust for a take-it-to-the-bank-confidence that I'm as good as there already.

I think I am closer to salvation than I was yesterday. Or last year. Or twenty years ago.

Why? Because I have abandoned my assumptions and presumptions. I have exchanged them for the word Trust.

Jesus, I trust in You.

I don't trust in a prayer I said in second grade. I don't trust that Jesus simply made me appear holy before the Heavenly Father even though I'm not yet altogether holy.

Jesus, I trust You. I trust in your Divine Mercy. Your love. Your Precious Blood.

I believe that you are grafting me into Your Body. It's a present-progressive kind of transformation. Not a past-tense prayer that was said.

Jesus, I trust that You will not abandon me. That You will help me to run the race to the finish line. Because everything doesn't rest on what I did in the first lap of this race.

I cling to mercy. Merciful Father, Merciful Son. Merciful Spirit.

It's a promise of mercy. And promise is not the same thing as assurance. The Promise is from Christ. It requires trust. Hope. Faith. Grace. Things that come from God.

It does not assume that I am signed, sealed, and as-good-as delivered to the Gates of Heaven.

And so, I pray...

Oh, my Jesus, forgive me of my sins. Save me from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those most in need of your mercy.

Knowing all too well that I'm that one. Most in need of mercy.

Lord, have mercy.

(Divine Mercy, 2011)

Friday, April 29, 2011

Great Article on "Pope John Paul II Priests" by Archbishop Dolan

Entering into the Joy of Beatification

"There are people and nations, Mother, that I would like to say to you by name. I entrust them to you in silence, I entrust them to you in the way that you know best." -John Paul II

Thursday, April 28, 2011

St. Louis de Montfort - Today's His Feast Day!

True Devotion to Mary by St. Louis de Montfort was a spiritual culture shock. I think the only reason I was able to give St. Louis de Montfort the benefit of the doubt is because I knew that our beloved John Paul II had embraced this devotion.
The most difficult part was in learning how to say, “Mary, I give everything to you, and I trust that you will make it a good and perfect gift for your Son.” What, then, do I have to offer when I am called to stand before the Lord of all creation and give an accounting for my life? Will I be standing there empty-handed, I wondered.
But then I remembered the three Magi who offered their gifts of gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. I could see them in my mind, placing the gifts at Our Lady’s feet. They had no difficulty in believing that she would take those gifts and offer them to her Son at the right moment for the right purpose.
If the Magi could entrust their gifts to the mother of an infant king, then maybe I could entrust her with my gifts as well.  


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Facebook - to give it up or not to give it up... that is the question

Sometimes, I wonder if Facebook is more trouble than it's worth.

Young Woman with Laptop
by Petr Kratochvil
A few years ago, I was so saddened by the language two former students were using in status posts that I had to remove the poor things from my feed.

It balanced out a little when another former student shared her daily faith journey with FB friends. When I heard she was considering religious life, I couldn't help praising God and recognizing what a great grace it has been to watch and listen as she grew.

Facebook shows our full humanity. Weakness and strength. Disobedience and obedience. Sinfulness and sanctification.

I'm thinking today about St. Monica. Goodness, what would it have been like for her to have a Facebook page and a feed that listed all of Augustine's flaws and foibles before his conversion.

This "mother of so many tears" would have surely been tempted to despair.

I think of the Blessed Mother. I'm not schooled enough in apparitions to remember where and when She said it, but I do seem to remember that she practically begged us to repent and be spared whatever it was She saw coming. She knew what we were up to and She knew where it was all leading.

From Her seat in heaven, I can just about imagine the "feed" she has to endure.

It makes me want to cringe for Her.

But back to the Facebook cross... What do you do? We've been asked to get out there and enter the high speed highways and byways of the social media - that new mission field we call the digital continent.

What do you do when you ache like this? When you have a St. Monica moment and you down right hurt? When you long for your dear ones (children, students, friends) to choose blessings, not curses. Life, not death. Sanctification, not sin. Holy living, not hellbent pursuits.

It's a New Age alright.

It's a whole new view. Where there is nothing new under the sun, but all the old godless living is paraded and hailed.

As the St. Monicas of the world cry harder.

I'm still trying to decide if I want to go back to this thing I gave up for Lent. Facebook. Is it really worth it?

This little light of mine...I'm going to let it shine...this little light of mine...I'm going to let it shine...let it shine...

For now, anyway.

And I hope you are strong enough to do it too.

What Were They Singing in the 4th Century?

At the Lamb's high feast we sing.
Last Supper - public domain
Praise to our victorious King,
Who has washed us in the tide
Flowing from his pierced side;
Praise we him, whose love divine
Gives his sacred blood for wine,
Gives his body for the feast,
Christ the Victim, Christ the Priest.

Where the Paschal blood is poured,
Death's dark angel sheaths his sword;
Israel's hosts triumphant go
Through the wave that drowns the foe.
Praise we Christ, whose blood was shed,
Paschal Victim, Paschal Bread;
With sincerity and love
Eat we Manna from above.

(4th century hymn translated from Latin - public domain)

Even the music of the Early Church speaks of the Real Presence. Consider the words ... and believe.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Walk Down Memory Lane: Our Last Easter with JPII and Divine Mercy

I have a habit of hanging on to old emails - especially emails I've exchanged with the people who keep me going in the Faith. I was looking back through these emails. Way back. Back to Easter 2005. It was my first Easter Vigil, only I wasn't able to enter the Church that evening because I was still waiting on word from the Metropolitan Tribunal on the status of my first marriage. Valid or invalid? Sacramental or not. I didn't enter the Church until August 14, 2005 - when everything was ironed out with my "obstacle". But I went to Easter Vigil that year because my RCIA brothers and sisters were entering Mother Church, and I was thrilled for them.That night, I had a dream. The dream was captured in an email that I sent to my Spiritual Mentor. Here's what I wrote to Mary Beth Kremski:

Easter 2005

He is risen!

Last night’s Easter Vigil was holy and beautiful.  It was so affirming, even though I wasn’t able to receive.  I am so hungry to receive, but I sensed that I still am not ready.  The Lord has much to do in me. 

Last night I had a dream—clearly a grace—but I don’t know what it means.  A woman was dressed in a brown robe - like a nun's habit.  A priest lay on a bed, or table, or mat.  And she stretched across him.  It was something like Elisha laying across the widow's dead child.  Only, she was not giving.  She needed strength, an infusion of power to do something...

This is what I wrote a week later:

I have EWTN on and realized the connection between what I’m seeing and what I dreamed Easter Vigil night.  

I only know that the man on the (mat/table/bed) was John Paul II.  I knew it when I saw him on EWTN.  It was exactly the same—only in a small, private room.  He lay there, still, as though dead.  The garment she wore was important—brown.  It was very reminiscent of Elisha and the widow’s son—but in sort of a reverse order—the woman receiving life through the one laying as though dead.

In the years that have passed, I have wondered about this dream. This week, I'm thinking about it all once again.

And I'm excited. "The prayers of a righteous man availeth much" - Sacred Scripture tells us. And I believe that John Paul II is interceding.

For youth.
For the new evangelization.
For full and visible unity of all believers.
For the dignity of women and the feminine genius.
For the faithful witness of husbands and wives.
For the Church.

When I remember the dream, I always turn to John Paul II and ask for his intercession. This is a joy-filled week. Easter Resurrection. Anniversary of a Holy Father's passing. Beatification. Divine Mercy Sunday. All rolled up together. Honestly, how can we contain the joy? The Church is bursting with the joy of it all.

The news we've been waiting for.

He's going to be beatified. And we are the beneficiaries of a great gift: the prayers of a righteous man availeth much.

The Church, the woman dressed in brown, will receive an outpouring of God's Divine Power, through the intercession of a priest, a bishop, a blessed holy father. And, God willing, one day a saint.

John Paul II, pray for us!

This from Mary in STL: In response to your " JPII and Divine Mercy, I wanted to post:
The words from a song: "I scarce can take it in" apply.  :-) but not knowing how to sign up for an ID/URL,I couldn’t get it to post. For those of us who are computer-challenged... we need more help in order to sign up to post. Thanks Denise, love your columns in St Louis Review  and your program with Marcus on EWTN.


Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter People - and alleluia is our song!

Under the Old Covenant, God's People observed Passover each year - and fifty days later, they celebrated Pentecost. (50=Pente).

It is no coincidence that Good Friday coincides with Passover. As Jesus was dying on the cross, the sacrificial lambs were being slaughtered at the Temple in Jerusalem. (How's that for timing?!)

It is no coincidence that the Descent of the Holy Spirit (on Pentecost) coincides with the Jewish Feast of Seven Weeks - Pentecost. There were Jews from every country in Jerusalem that day, speaking different languages, and all celebrating the Old Covenant feast. (How's that for timing?!)

And so, the Early Church set aside fifty days between the Resurrection and Pentecost as a special liturgical season. This period of time is called the Easter Season.

In the Early Church, it was not a time of Penitential practice. It was a time to "exult in God's goodness" (according to the Little White Book published by the Diocese of Saginaw).

And so, here's the question I have for you...

How will you be spending the 50 days of Easter?

Live them deliberately.

Exult in the goodness of Our God.

He has turned death into New Life.

He has broken the chains of sin.

Go ahead. Celebrate.

As Pope John Paul II said, "We are an Easter people, and Alleluia is our song."

(It's okay to leave a note in the comment box, sharing how you are living out your 50 days of Easter.)


Sunday, April 24, 2011

He is Risen!

Women at the Tomb
William Bouguereau
public domain

He is risen, indeed!

Alleluia, Alleluia!


Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday and Catholic Things

(Reprinted from article in 2009)
It may not seem strange to you, but I am still getting used to it. On Good Friday, after the Liturgy of the Word, we go forward and venerate the Cross.
There aren't very many times when I still feel like a neophyte, but this night is one of them. I feel my Catholicity fully this night, as though for the first time ever.
I am glad to be part of this strange and unfamiliar faith tradition. It is an awesome thing to see each person kneel and kiss the Cross of Christ. The beautiful and youthful ones. The aged. The littlest child. My husband and daughter. The priest. The altar servers. My friend. A student from my confirmation class.
It is a sacred moment, and as far as I know, no other faith tradition does this. It is Catholic. So very Catholic.
Then, we receive the Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
I would imagine that this is a very special night for those who suffer, and most especially those with terminal illness. First, we venerate the Cross and then the Eucharist comes to us on this night, the night of his death.
All of us are on this journey to Easter promises, but we realize that Easter Morning only comes by way of the Cross.
It is almost too much. My heart is full, and when I see them all kneeling to kiss the Cross, then all moving as one to receive the Body of Christ on this night when He gave up His own Body, I am blessed to be Catholic – and to receive Christ, by way of the cross.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Where Mary Walks

Too long, I have imagined
an office, cluttered with books-
dedicated to my dear ones.
Or a gathering space where people wait to hear
words, forged in the soul-
expressing Easter Vigil joy.
But today,
right now in this holiest week of the year,
I have a thought
and it makes me smile a little
because I can almost imagine
saving those words
for the littlest sheep
on some ridge
where a school bell rings-
and bells & words echo over hills
where Mary walks.


Seinfeld Comedy & a Catholic Conversion

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me - the Anointing

Today, dioceses across the world will celebrate the Holy Thursday Mass of the Chrism.

The holy oils will be blessed. Three holy oils. The oil for anointing catechumens. The oil for anointing the sick. And the oil that confers the gift of the Holy Spirit in the Sacraments of Holy Orders and Confirmation.

I remember the Holy Chrism Oil. How it smelled when I was Confirmed. What it was like to be anointed. To sense the Presence of the Holy Spirit. To be sealed in Him, with Him, for Him.

I'm discerning things now. I'm at a bend in the road. Waiting for next things.

It's not unsettling, though. I know that God has ordered all things well. He has anointed me with the Holy Spirit and the calling on my life is for His glory.

Whether that is writing and speaking.

Or teaching.

Or mostly one and some of the other.

For there is one thing I know, one thing I sense deeply. I have been anointed with holy Chrism and Confirmed. Isaiah spoke of it. Luke repeats it. My soul demands it, and my spirit says yes to it.

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord."


Little Steps Along The Way: Sanctifying My Suffering, Holy Week

Little Steps Along The Way: Sanctifying My Suffering, Holy Week: "I had an opportunity to begin the way of the Cross with Jesus in my own little way. I had an arthrogram MRI, which means that first they inj..."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Facebook Ignited the Journey Home for This 51 yr-old Pentecostal Christian

At the very hour of darkness...

It is precisely in the Passion, when the mercy of Christ is about to vanquish it, that sin most clearly manifests its violence and its many forms: unbelief, murderous hatred, shunning and mockery by the leaders and the people, Pilate's cowardice and the cruelty of the soldiers, Judas' betrayal - so bitter to Jesus, Peter's denial and the disciples' flight. However, at the very hour of darkness, the hour of the prince of this world, The sacrifice of Christ secretly becomes the source from which the forgiveness of our sins will pour forth inexhaustibly. (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1851)


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Who said it?

"Keep me, O God, from pettiness. Let us be large in thought, word, and deed. Let us be done with faultfinding and self-seeking. May we put away all pretense and meet each other without self-pity. And, O Lord, let us not forget to be kind."

(You can find out who said it by clicking on the comment box.)

Monday, April 18, 2011

One of Many Entering the Catholic Church at Easter Vigil

Palm Sunday: Think on these things

Here's a beautiful image from Palm Sunday:

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Entering the Silence of Holy Week


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Tide is Turning: Pro-life Youth Movement Giving Voice to the Voiceless Unborn

Click on it. Watch it. LIKE it - because your voice matters in the fight for the voiceless unborn.


Jesus: Finding Him, Protecting Him, Dying for Him

Nobody dies for a symbol. Nobody.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

If I Should Die Before I Wake...

When I receive a contributor’s copy of one of my published articles, I usually read it over once and file it away in my office cabinet.  It will stay there, collecting dust, until I die and my children sort through the things I have left behind.
No, I don’t have a terminal illness.  And I’m not trying to be morbid.  But I think it is a safe bet to assume I will die one day, and when that happens, there’s something I want to leave behind for my children.  Like Elijah to Elisha, there is a mantle I want to pass on to them.
One day, my children will dig out everything I’ve ever written (which they didn’t have time to read when I was alive) and study it like it contains a directive from the Great Beyond.  They will do this in hope that something I have written at some point in the past will ease their pain and make the grief endurable.  I know they will do this, because it is what I did when my father passed away.
And when they open the drawer and pull out the file, I’m praying they find this article in the stack, because there is something I want them to know.  At this point in their lives, they just aren’t ready to embrace it, but one day that will change.
The year before the crucifixion, Jesus tried to tell the disciples about Holy Communion.  They weren’t ready to listen either.  Hundreds of followers left Jesus that day.  The remaining twelve didn’t really understand, but after His death, eleven of them would begin to make sense of that Most Holy Mystery.  They would remember Jesus’ words, and the divine epiphanies would come over them in great waves.  They would remember the night He was betrayed.  How Jesus had offered Himself to them at the Last Supper.  The Eucharistic Meal.   Take, eat.  This is my body.  Take, drink.  This is my blood.  And they would remember back to the moment a year earlier, when He promised to give them His Flesh and Blood (John 6).  Finally, it would begin to make sense.
Many non-Catholic Christians believe Communion is a symbolic meal.  I can no longer accept that theology.  When a dying person contemplates his final words to those he loves, he doesn’t usually think it’s a good time to play a game of let’s pretend.  It is time to be real.  It is time to give those who remain what they need to make it through the dark night.  And people of faith take that moment very seriously.
What we say when we are about to die has staying power.  There is a reason why people make deathbed requests.  There is a reason why survivors keep deathbed promises.  Final words are powerful.
When I die, if I have a moment or two with those I love, I want to convey something important, something that will help them through the sorrow and suffering they will face.  I want to leave them something that will bring us together again one day.  And the one thing that can do all this is Our Eucharistic Lord.  Unless you eat the Flesh there is no life in you.  That’s what I want to tell them.
While it is a safe bet to assume that I will die one day, it is not a safe bet to assume that I will have a few moments alone with my children to share this important message.  And so, I file away the articles.  And say a prayer.
Jesus Christ had that perfect moment with His followers.  As the Second Person of the Trinity, He’d had all eternity to plan what He would say at that Last Supper.  And the message He had to share was the most important message of all time.  It was time to usher in a New Covenant.  It was the last quiet moment that He would have with the disciples before they scattered and He made His way to the cross.  This was no joking matter. 
It was time to offer to them the Bread of Life.
Because I may not have that perfect moment with my children, I keep that powerful message safely tucked away.  My hope is that one day, when I can no longer share my faith by simply inhaling and speaking, when my fingers are still and my computer is in a landfill somewhere, when my life is just a memory to a handful of people, those dearest to me will pull a tattered article from the cabinet and the Catholic faith will begin to make sense to them.  And I pray that in that moment, they will understand what Jesus meant when He gave the disciples his Body and Blood.  And I pray that the Eucharist will call to them, speaking above their grief, and say come this way.  I pray that they will find their way home through the path of grief, to find Jesus Christ waiting for them in the Mass.
And by grace, I will meet them there as well.


Witness: An Unexpected Encounter

I just read this. It's not fiction, though it sounds like something out of a book. No. This is real. This is where the real world collides with the Real Presence. Like the blogger, I am convinced we'd all be like this poor woman, if not for Christ. There but for the grace of God go I... -Denise

Witness: An Unexpected Encounter: "At Eucharistic Adoration yesterday a woman approached me and started talking. She appeared to be crazy, as in clinically needy. I had been w..."


Twila Paris: Through Catholic Eyes... How Beautiful the Body of Christ


Monday, April 11, 2011

At the End of My Rope

There are some things that make my heart hurt. A real ache.

I sense it when I read John 17. And that's what we're covering this week in my Paul VI class.

My heart aches because I hear the words of Christ. I know what He prayed for in His fleeting moments with those He loved dearly, with those He was sending into the world.

He prayed that their unity would be made perfect.

We are nearing that Holy Thursday, that hour of Our Lord's priestly prayer.

And we are not one.

Not even close.

Lately, I have been contemplating the Communion of Saints. When I came into the Church, it was easier to embrace this teaching if I distilled it into something I fully understood. The Saints in heaven pray for us before the Altar of Our Lord, before His Holy Throne. They are alive in Christ, not dead. And they are grafted into the Body of Our Lord. Their prayers are efficacious. As Sacred Scripture says, the prayers of a righteous man availeth much. And so it is with the holy ones in heaven. They pray with more efficacy than we can, because they are perfectly holy and one with Christ.

But there's more to this Communion of Saints than can be extrapolated from the title: heavenly prayer partners. And I'm getting it, bit by bit.

I'd share it here, but I still don't quite know how to capture it in words. Because it's more than my words. Bigger than that. I have this sense that I'm held up by these holy ones, embraced by them, encouraged by them, surrounded by them - and that's more than being a prayer partner. It is mystery. It is the Mystical Body of Christ.

The frustrating thing about not being able to put something into words is that I'm at a complete loss to share it with non-Catholics. My soul demands something of me (do all I can to foster the full Christian unity that Jesus prayed we would have), but my intellect and writing ability are not up to the challenge.

I have crossed the Tiber. I am on the other side. And I turn around to look at those I love who are standing on the banks on the other side of the Tiber. They are happy over there. Having a little picnic. Little gatherings dot that side of the River. Blankets and quilts. Clusters here and there. And I see my family happily gathered together in one spot. They sometimes glance across the River and look at me - wishing that I hadn't left them - not understanding why I felt it necessary to get to the other side.

I look down at the rope I am holding. I have tried to toss it to them so many times. And on days like today, I see that it is too short. I cannot, no matter how hard I try, span the distance and help them to get across the River to Rome.

The rope I hold is made up of words. Ideas. Clever metaphors. Inspirations. Analogies.

But it is not the right rope for this job.

How will we ever be one? Is it possible for Our Lord's prayer on the night He was betrayed to become reality - ever? 

Yes. It is possible. Archangel Gabriel proclaimed it. For nothing is impossible with God.

But the rope that is most trustworthy is not one that is made up of my own words. It is made up of Christ's words.

It is a prayer.

Father, make them one, as we are one. I in you, and you in me. That the world may know that you have sent the Son. And I pray not only for these, but for the ones who hear of me through them. That they, too, will be one. -Jesus Christ, on the night of the Last Supper.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Catholic by Grace diocesan column for April 2011

When I was in my early twenties, I listened to a lot of evangelical Christian music. If a group was a Dove Award recipient, I had their CD. I went to as many concerts as I could afford. On Sunday mornings, our Protestant worship services loosely followed the pattern of a Christian concert. We judged our Sunday mornings by the special music performance and the pastor’s homiletics. We based our assessment of sermon and song on how closely they matched their professional counterparts in the big leagues: TV evangelists and Dove Award recipients.
One of the first things an outsider notices about the Catholic Mass is that there is nothing performance-based about it. It’s all about prayer. Everything is a prayer. By design, true prayer is God-focused.
Paragraph #2559 of the Catechism tells us that humility is the foundation of prayer. We come to God humbly, like the beggar. We do not come to Him from our own great heights. We come to Him out of need. We come to Him out of love.
Self is eclipsed by God - or perhaps more accurately, self is absorbed by God. Everything is rendered to God, for God.
Emptied of self, we are ready to receive all of Christ.
These truths are most sublimely actualized when we pray the Mass. Although the cantors are as gifted as any I encountered in my previous walk as an Evangelical, Catholic cantors don’t even try to play by the same rules as their Protestant counterparts. You don’t get the feeling that you are at a concert. You never feel like you should have paid for a ticket and surrendered it at the door.
The cantor is there for one reason: to help us pray the Mass with reverence and great devotion. And the homily doesn’t mimic the message of a self-help guru. The priest or deacon can’t just pick a text at random and run with it. He is called to help us enter into Sacred Scripture and come to a fuller understanding of 2000 years of Church teaching.
In a word, these cantors and musicians, servers and lectors, deacons and priests are all servants.
They are not performers.
One would think that a person might have to sacrifice a lot to be Catholic. One might expect the Mass to be extremely boring – stripped of all the hype. One might wonder why there aren’t more Catholics seeking out mega-churches and claiming their own seats in the auditorium.
For that matter, why would those born and raised beyond the embrace of Mother Church – those who believe they are free to choose any place of worship without guilt – why would they ever deliberately walk away from the performance-style worship of other faith communities and be content with the Catholic Mass?
The answer is almost the same for every convert. In the Mass, heaven touches earth, and we receive the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ.
The pinnacle moment of my year is the Liturgy of the Eucharist at Easter Vigil. I do not say this lightly. No kidding, it is the best Saturday night of the year. I wouldn’t be surprised if heaven itself opened up, and I could see angels turning toward the altar. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the saints weeping for joy right along with the rest of us.
And it isn’t just the priest praying the Mass that pierces my soul. I would willing trade all my albums, tapes, and CDs just to listen to the cantor’s voice as she sings the Litany of Saints on that same night.
But there’s more. Doesn’t it get to you when you see a little child hold the prayer book while the parish priest leads the faithful? Really, can you think of anything sweeter than how that little one looks up to the priest and waits for him to close the cover -  how the child quietly walks back to his seat and waits patiently for the moment he is needed next?
Even that little child knows that it isn’t about him. It is about helping the people to pray.
That’s powerful stuff. In moments like that I realize how the Church has preserved the proper meaning of worship. Even with all the changes in technology, all the big screens and sound systems, even with the stage-centered, entertainment-based Christianity that mimics some American Idol episode - for two thousand years, the Catholic Church has remained holy. Christ-centered.
This is the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
And there is no performance anywhere in this country of entertainers and gifted speakers that can match the beauty and glory of the Divine Liturgy.


Do we pray the Mass or do we celebrate the Mass?

I received an email from a woman who took issue with a few things in my last diocesan article. One of her points was that we do not pray the Mass. She said that we celebrate the Mass.

For those who may wonder what the answer is to the question, here's a Catechism reference and a quote by Pope Saint Pius X.

"The Eucharist contains and expresses all forms of prayer..." the Catechism #2643 (see also #2626-#2642 for an explanation on the forms of prayer that make up the Mass).

"The Holy Mass is a prayer itself, even the highest prayer that exists. It is the Sacrifice, dedicated by our Redeemer at the Cross, and repeated every day on the altar. If you wish to hear Mass as it should be heard, you must follow with eye, heart and mouth all that happens at the altar. Further, you must pray with the priest the holy words said by him in the Name of Christ and which Christ says by him. You have to associate your heart with the holy feelings which are contained in these words and in this manner you ought to follow all that happens at the altar. When acting in this way, you have prayed Holy Mass." - Pope Pius X

In reading the Catechism, we learn that we not only celebrate the Mass together, we do indeed pray the Mass.


Friday, April 8, 2011

In the Trenches: 40 Days For Life

So... last week, I gave this talk....

There's a group of ladies who were wrapping up their 8-week Bible study with an evening celebration. And I had the great joy and blessing of giving the talk that evening.

The main point to the talk? Our spiritual friendships begin as practical encounters that blossom into spiritual and mystical (mystery of Christ) encounters --- but they are not meant to stop there. No, the really amazing thing is they are meant to bless the Church, to become ecclesial. And when they become ecclesial, they become a blessing to the whole world. Spiritual friendships, centered on Christ...

...they are sacred, and almost Sacramental.

It was a great evening. But it gets better. The women "get" it. Check out the email I received last night. This is what they have been doing this week. I tried to read it to my husband, and I couldn't get through it without crying. Very moving.

Today a few of us went down to Planned Parenthood to pray and participate in the 40 days for Life program.  There was constant traffic in and out of Planned Parenthood as we held our signs, prayed, and walked the sidewalks.  Then around 10:00 two women walked out of the building and one of them started waving a piece of paper and yelling out to those of us that were on the sidewalk "I didn't do it" over and over. We of course were elated and started cheering for her. When they drove to go out of the parking lot we were gathered around the entrance and they stopped and she said again "I didn't do it". I walked over to the car and through her open window she showed me proudly the paper she had been waving was an ultrasound picture of "her baby" as she called it. We all cheered for her and told her how proud we were of her making the right decision. I handed her the resource booklet telling her there is help available for her and her baby.  It was such a wonderful moment...a life was spared this morning.  Praise be to God! 


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Because By Your Holy Cross You Have Redeemed The World

I have a San Damiano Cross. It is small - about three inches tall. My parish priest gave it to me the year I was chosen to participate in Holy Thursday foot washing ceremony. It hangs on the thumbtack that holds my desk calendar to the wall. When I switched the month from March to April a few days ago, it wouldn't stay on the thumbtack and kept falling to the floor. (Yes, I caught the symbolism that points to Our Lord falling three times on His way to Calvary.)

I didn't want to leave the cross on the floor, so I picked it up and set it on my office desk.

My grandson Jojo came into the office yesterday to see what I was up to. I picked him up and looked around for something to entertain him for a few minutes. He's just 15 months old and nothing holds his attention for very long. The nearest thing to us was the San Damiano Cross. He took it into his chubby little hands and I said, "Jesus. Jojo, that's Jesus."

I expected him to look at it, almost sure that he'd never seen one of these picture crosses (inhabited Saints' Cross). Instead, he looked at it briefly and then held it up to the calendar on my wall.

I was amazed. He not only knew what it was; he knew where it belonged. And I realized that he was far more aware of holy things than I ever imagined.

Jojo was baptized about a year ago. God is making good on His promise to Jojo - to whisper into his ears of the things of God, to begin to draw this little one to Himself in the deep mystery of sacramental grace, and to be a fountain of living water that bubbles up to salvation.

Lord, by your holy cross, you have redeemed the world.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Treasure Island: Mother Church!

This is the first Catholic by Grace article - published in 2005 in The St. Louis Review. Since then, Catholic by Grace articles have appeared in over 43 diocesan papers in the United States.

There is such wealth in the writings of both early and recent Church fathers.

I am the daughter of a Protestant minister, a recent convert to the Catholic faith, and it saddens me that the lives of these holy men and women never reach the eyes and ears of Protestant laity. I must ask myself why these treasures are kept hidden?

The only answer is that the Protestant founders wanted to close all doors that might lead Protestant laity back to the Catholic faith. Until 24 months ago, I had never been exposed to anything written by any saint – I didn’t even know their names!

Each of us is born into a faith culture; each of us inherits a pool of theology by the lottery of birth. Protestants are taught to be faith seekers – but within the limited pool of truth in which they are born. By limited, I mean not only within the Protestant branch of Christianity, but also within the denominational splinter to which their family clings.

How can we reach Protestants who are confident that their pool of faith is complete? Specifically, how can we get them to be willing to swim for a while in the pool of Catholic faith?

If we give them a day pass to Catholic waters – through the writings of such converts to Catholicism as G.K. Chesterton, David Currie, Marcus Grodi, Scott Hahn and Cardinal John Henry Newman (now Blessed John Henry Newman), among others – it is doubtful they would ever want to go back to their swimming hole. We may also suggest they read Confessions by St. Augustine as well as The Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross, writings that were especially meaningful in my conversion.

A year ago, a member of my parish invited me to accompany her to perpetual adoration. I found myself wondering what might have happened if a Catholic friend had invited me to pray in this manner years ago.

It may have broken through my Protestant self-righteousness. I might have realized that Protestants had no corner on the market in the area of prayer. Perhaps I would have questioned my own prejudice, realizing that Catholics do have a very personal relationship with the Lord.

Would I have asked myself if I was willing to give up the hour between 11 and midnight every Monday night in order to make my way to the church just to sit in the Lord’s Real Presence?

A few months later, my RCIA leader lent me a book, Father Elijah, by Michael D. O’Brien. It might be the best work of fiction I have ever read – no hyperbole intended. I have a master’s degree in literature, and prior to my conversion published an article on Christian fiction – of the Protestant variety. Nothing I’ve read in the past, secular or spiritual, compares with the treasure I found in Father Elijah. Consider lending it to a Protestant friend, and tell him it’s better than the Left Behind series – because it is.

An invitation to perpetual adoration and handing a Catholic book to your separated brethren might be two of the best ways to help your Protestant friend begin wading in Catholic waters. The true seeker, even though he was born into Protestantism, will naturally be drawn to the deep end of the pool of truth. He just needs to get his feet wet.

You can help.

(If you're Catholic and you've never told anyone how great it is to be Catholic, that's worse than having a closet full of new clothes and being unwilling to share one shirt with the poor. We have no right to keep the Good News to ourselves. Lent will be over in a couple of weeks. Make a point to tell just one person how blessed you are to be Catholic!)

Hoberman and the Transformable, Expandable Toy

This morning, I sat at the computer and sipped coffee. I do it every morning.

I was thinking about a toy that our daughter and her cousin loved to play with when they went to grandma and grandpa's house.

It is called the Hoberman Expandable Sphere.

I googled it and there it was. The article said that Hoberman's favorite time of the day is the morning - as he sips his coffee and thinks about the possibilities of the day.

Kinda cool, because that's exactly what I was doing.

I've been thinking about Hoberman's Sphere. And yes, I see something about the Faith in it. Well, actually, I think it reveals what the mind goes through as it begins to understand things of the Faith.

At first, the understanding is small; the subsections of faith matters are so small they let only a little bit of the faith pass through.

And that narrow gap of understanding in one area affects all the other areas, all the other subsections.

If I don't have room for one thing to grow in my heart and mind, then another area stays small too.

But here's the cool part. Here's the really great part of it all.

If I let even one area of my heart expand to receive more of the Faith, then all of the other areas expand as well.

And my Faith grows exponentially.

Right now, I'm growing in my understanding of the Body of Christ. We are incorporated into the Corpus Christi.

And the really goofy thing about how my mind works is that other areas of the Faith are expanding right along with that deeper understanding.

It affects my thinking about the Communion of Saints.

It changes my appreciation for the works of mercy. Charity. Seeing Christ in others.

It helps me to grasp the idea of purgatory, where we will be completely perfected and seamlessly grafted into the Body of Christ.

I see that there is more similarity between sancta and sancti - and it goes far beyond the linguistic similarities.

You get the idea.

Opening myself to one part of Truth means that my understanding of the full scope of Truth expands. The kind of scary thing is this... there is an expandable sphere for false-truth too. And if I open myself up to that, my self-deception grows exponentially. Two spheres. The same principles apply.


That's pretty amazing, I think, as I sip my morning coffee.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Who Says Catholics Don't Have a Sense of Humor

Definitely worth reading - especially if you are on Twitter. :)

Google the Good News

From today's Old Testament Reading:

Wherever the river flows, all living creatures teeming in it will live. Fish will be very plentiful, for wherever the water goes it brings health, and life teems wherever the river flows. Along the river, on either bank, will grow every kind of fruit tree with leaves that never wither and fruit that never fails; they will bear new fruit every month, because this water comes from the sanctuary. And their fruit will be good to eat and the leaves medicinal. 
Isaiah 47

When I read this today, I thought of the passage: "Rivers of Living Water will flow from him." Not remembering where it was from, I googled it, and John 7 came up. There is a lot there, especially for those who "come to do His will." Those who live the Good News; those who speak the Good News-- the key to it all is forgetting one's self and doing/sharing only that which comes from the One who sent you.

Lord, keep me planted near this River, a tree that bears fruit, a living creature teeming with life. It's not about me. It's not about me. It's not ever about me.


Monday, April 4, 2011

Begging - yes begging - for your prayers for this dear priest.

Please pray for Father Larkin, that he will have a happy death. I met Fr. Larkin when I spoke at his parish in Lawton, OK a few years ago. About a year ago, he was diagnosed with a stage four brain tumor. God gave us a wonderful, vibrant priest who loves Jesus Christ dearly, and it is certain that this same Jesus Christ who called Fr. Larkin to the priesthood is now calling him home. I am posting what his brother wrote last night on his CaringBridge page, because I'm begging you to enter into the gathering of prayer warriors who are praying for him now.

It's been a tough week in many ways, but a blessed week in many ways as well.

Kirk has entered into what the hospice nurse has described as the "little boy" segment of his journey in that his computational abilities are akin to someone in the 5-6 year old range.

Hence, the "tough" and the "blessed" aspects of our time together.  He remembers most folks quickly, but may forget they are there after a while. One afternoon, he spent nearly three hours just playing with a very nice wooden truck our cousin from CA had made for him. ( I have to admit, I spent some time playing with it too. Good job, Steve!) Yesterday, he seemed to be enthralled with a list of names mom had printed off (I think it was of folks who have sent something to Kirk) and he poured over that list with a pen for hours and hours.  We don't know exactly what he was gleaning from this scrutiny, but it was intense nonetheless.  As of late, he has been watching alot of EWTN, especially during the beautiful Masses celebrated down in Irondale, as well as the Golf Channel.  He also goes on tangents where he blesses just about everything in sight at times, and if you happen to be sitting at the table with him, you know sooner or later he is going to say "Ok, let's pray" and we say grace whether we are fixin to eat or not!  Today, he was very intent on praying his rosary, but as little boys are want to do, he would give it a good lasso spin in the air every once in a while I guess to keep the beads nice and cool (haha!). Every so often he will come up with a real zinger that tells us he still has more capacity than we know, and then again he will sometimes spend the better part of the morning or afternoon not communicating much  at all.

This has all been pretty hard on mom.  Even though everyone has been doing their part as best they can, (especially Louis and Casimira trekking up from Dallas each weekend and us three other local children) she is the "helper of last resort" and has to be aware of his needs 24/7.  This is where the tough parts and the blessings come together.  He is very, very sweet to mom and will tell her he loves her probably 5-10 times an hour, if not more, but then again, she has to direct his actions at times when he has different ideas.  She has the patience of Job!  She also knows alot of folks are praying for her so this helps keep her tank full in spite of the daily grind.  If it gets too tough on her, we know we always have hospice to fall back on for additional help and that will probably be something that figures in more prominently as time marches on.

Well, that's all I know to report.  We know how emotionally invested so many people are in Fr. Kirk's journey and our family feels a convivial and pleasant obligation to keep everyone informed.  By reading the posts, I think we are all becoming more and more of an extended family.  And Kirk would really like to know that is happening despite the sorrow of his illness.

We take the time to comment on the postings and he is always glad to know of them.  He especially likes to know how families have been affected by his ministry and really got a big kick out of the story about the dream of him blessing so many Boy Scouts.  Good stuff all!  


Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Priest Wore Pink

When the priest breaks out the rose vestment during Lent, the people rejoice. In the midst of our journey to Good Friday, it doesn't make much sense. I'm supposed to be happy? I'm supposed to rejoice in the middle of my Lenten sacrificing and meditating on the suffering Savior?

Yes. It is time to rejoice. We are almost there. More than half-way there! So pick up your chin. Look at how far we've journeyed with Christ. Reach out and grab His hand and keep walking. While the rest of the world seeks happiness in all the wrong places, we find our greatest joy in the midst of the difficult journey. Why? Because Christ walked this way first. And He is right beside us, walking the Way of the Cross with us each time we pass through Lent.

Today, the priest wore pink. 

This one who stands in persona Christi wore pink. It is to remind us that we can find joy even in the most difficult moments of life - because Jesus Christ is at our side. And He has all of the provisions we need for the journey - safely tucked away in His Most Sacred Heart.

(Here's an old Catholic by Grace article - go ahead, let yourself be happy today!)

Are some people just naturally happy? 
Like the Disney dwarf that bears the name, some people just always have a smile regardless of what comes along.  But even “Happy” could not preserve his happiness when Snow White lay dead.  Likewise, even the happiest dispositions seem to lose their joy when things around them go bad.  So what is the key to lasting happiness?
Is there any hope for those of us who are overly sensitive, irritable, or cynical?  If the naturally happy people can’t retain happiness, what hope is there for us?
In his Letter to the Philippians, St. Paul says that he has learned to be content whether he has much or little.  True happiness is not a product of our circumstances and it is not a genetic predisposition. In short, it is God who grants peace and joy.  The key to lasting happiness rests simply in knowing that God is in charge.
It is one thing to know what St. Paul is saying in a theoretical sense, but how can I find that contentment right here, right now?  Where is that fountain of joy?  I cannot will myself into a happy disposition.  I cannot click my heels three times and find it.   If it isn’t a question of calm days and prosperous years, what can I do or where can I go to find what St. Paul found? 
The ultimate source of happiness is not money or romance.  I know this from experience, for I have lived below the poverty line.   I have also known prosperity.  I have spent week-long vacations at expensive resorts and enjoyed fine dining.
I have known love.  I have received flowers, chocolates, jewelry, and mushy cards from lovers.  I have also known heartache.  I have been dumped, rejected, and divorced. 
I have given birth, and I have buried those I love.
When am I the happiest?  Was it in prosperity or poverty?  Was it when I knew love or loss?
The answer to the question is so easy.  I am happiest when I kneel after receiving Holy Communion.  When everything else, both good and bad, falls away and there is only my Lord and my God, that is when I am happiest.  I am happiest in that moment because He comes with mercy and grace and peace and quiets the storms (and parties) of my life.  I am happiest when He takes over and I just let Him do it.


Friday, April 1, 2011

The Feminine Genius

The Feminine Genius: What we can learn from The Visitation

That's the talk I'm giving tonight at St. Joseph's in Arnold, MO. 

  • practical help for our times of need
  • mystical bonds that are Christ-centered
  • ecclesial benefits for the Body of Christ
Who's your spiritual sister-in-Christ?

Don't have one? Begin asking Our Lord for a spiritual sister.