Monday, May 30, 2011

Don't Forget Your Catholic VItamins - Vitamin B for Blessing

Dear Catholic by Grace visitors, I want to let you know about Catholic Vitamins and to encourage you to check out their blog and podcasts. This month, CV will be featuring a segment I recorded for them on the vitamin B for Blessing.

Just go to Catholic Vitamins and click on the image. Here's your link:

In Memory

I had never posted anything my father wrote until last year on Memorial Day. I suppose that is odd, considering that I inherited my love for writing from him. So, in honor of Memorial Day Weekend (and in loving memory of my dad), I offer you one of his pieces - again.

Scripture: But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:31)

I love ships. I don't get nearly enough exposure to them by living in landlocked Illinois. That's why I tour every historic ship in every port every chance I get. Last summer, I had my itinerary planned; I could hardly wait to step aboard. She was a thing of glory, had never known a losing conflict. But, after the War of 1812, outdated and outclassed, she was replaced by the new breed of steam-powered vessels. While the debate to scrap her heated up, Oliver Wendell Holmes asked the question, "Shall the harpies of the shore pluck the Eagle of the Sea?"

Old Ironsides.

Her name said it all. But, when I saw her, she certainly looked as though the harpies had been at her. All of her masts were gone, along with miles of rigging. The cannons which had studded her decks were no longer there. Her rudder lay on the edge of the pier like a large bronze whale, as if some denizen of the deep had tossed it ashore. All that remained was the hull, picked clean. She quietly rested now in dry-dock in the midst of refitting and refurbishing. It saddened me to look at her, the oldest commissioned warship in the world. Disappointed, I walked away.

Warships, war horses, or warriors all need a respite from the battles of life. As a matter of fact, that's why I happened to be in Boston. In a sense, I was in dry-dock. That realization hit me hard. Our ideal is to be at our fighting b est every second, never give up, burn out, or rust. Aren't we supposed to be like eagles, mounting up on our wings, never growing wear? But Isaiah tells us to "wait on the Lord." We don't always have to be strong. Sometimes we need to be stripped down to the water line of our soul and be renewed. That's true whether we are an "Eagle of the Sea" or an eagle just like me. Then, we can be made to soar again.
-Dennis Johnson

Artwork by Jennifer Bossert 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A great quote by St. Philip Neri on his feast day

We are not saints yet, but we, too, should beware. Uprightness and virtue do have their rewards, in self-respect and in respect from others, and it is easy to find ourselves aiming for the result rather than the cause. Let us aim for joy, rather than respectability. Let us make fools of ourselves from time to time, and thus see ourselves, for a moment, as the all-wise God sees us.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

That was then. This is now.

The marriage had crumbled, and I had to bear it in public, which made it even worse. I remember the day the senior pastor of our large United Methodist church invited parishioners to go to the altar railing and kneel in prayer. I had planned to just go and pray, but when I knelt, the anguish consumed me.

I cried and cried. I couldn’t stop. I willed myself to stand up and go back to my seat. I wanted to hide.

After the morning services, a woman walked up to me and handed me a small piece of paper. I read what it said. Jeremiah 29:11. Just the citation. The verse wasn’t even written down.

I should have known the verse. I was the wife of the associate pastor – or rather was the wife of the associate pastor. I had also grown up in a pastor’s home. But, I had no idea what this passage from Sacred Scripture said and I didn’t know why this parishioner had passed the verse on to me.

For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, a plan of hope for the future. Seek me and you will find me when you seek me with all of your heart.

It was a lifeline.

It’s not what I expected. Many of the parishioners had interpreted my silence during the ten-month separation as culpability. Many believed I was at fault.

I hadn’t wanted to go back there – to that church or the community – where I was under a microscope. But time had passed, and it was obvious that the marriage was done. I had to drive from Illinois to Atlanta one more time. I had to go back to our house and gather my things. My children’s things. Pictures. The wedding dress. The memories.

I didn’t have a choice.

So, I spent that Thanksgiving break back in our house. I suppose I had passed my husband on the road. He was spending Thanksgiving in Illinois with the children – while I packed my life up so that we could all get on with the moving on.

The senior pastor and his wife were my quiet champions. They knew the story. And I think they appreciated the fact that I had not wanted our marital mess to destroy the good they were doing at Mountain View United Methodist church.

Becky, the senior pastor’s wife, begged me to go to church with her on Sunday. She told me she would be right beside me. I could sit with her and hear Stuart’s sermon one last time. I was torn between wanting to hide and wanting to be in that sanctuary one last time.

I don’t remember very much about that Sunday morning. I sat with Becky. And when her husband welcomed us to come forward and pray, I wanted to pray. I needed to go.

But I should have stayed where I was.

I shouldn’t have gone to church that morning at all.

Because the entire fa├žade crumbled. And I couldn’t stop crying.

Nothing made sense to me. I felt rejected by my husband and misjudged by many who adored my husband, the associate pastor.

And I had no choice but to remain silent and cling to whatever faith I had left. Jeremiah 29:11. Denise, I do have a plan for you. Hope for a future. Seek me. And if you seek me with all of your heart, I promise, dear one, that you will find Me.

That’s what I found when I held the little paper in my left hand and thumbed through my Bible with my right hand a few hours after that worship service. That’s what the verse meant to me that Thanksgiving weekend of 1995.

In 2005, I entered the Catholic Church. The story of my conversion is here on this blog. If you’re interested, you are welcome to read it. In 2005, I realized Jesus Christ really did have a plan for me – and I was only just beginning to comprehend it.

Hope for a future.

A place where I could find Him.

He was waiting for me. And I would walk another aisle in another church in another state after a decade passed…

And I would find Him, after seeking Him with all of my heart. Jeremiah 29:11-13 would come to pass after all.

If you know anything about me, you know that I am a Catholic writer, speaker and teacher. You know that I experienced a failed non-Sacramental marriage to a United Methodist associate pastor. You know that I am Catholic now and that my greatest joy is the Eucharist.

My strength.

My hope.

The Source and Summit of my faith.

The other day, I turned back to Jeremiah 29:11-13 and I had to smile. I’m still learning. God is still teaching me. And a few days ago, He taught me a lesson on how to read Sacred Scripture.

As a former evangelical, I read passages (like this one from Jeremiah) from a personal point of view. God was talking to me. Only to me.

And that’s not wrong. It’s just not all there is to it.

The other day, I read the passage again from an ecclesial perspective. Just as God had spoken to Jeremiah of old, while having the entire People of God in mind as the audience, I realized that the Lord had spoken to me in 1995 – while having the entire ecclesial Body of Christ in mind!

It was a new thought for me.

How many verses had I read with only me in mind? How many verses could I reread and see that the Lord had His entire Body in mind?

Every promise, every blessing, every teaching, every encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ in Sacred Scripture is for the Body of Christ.

I suppose that former evangelicals like me don’t realize that right away. We were taught to experience Sacred Scripture on a personal level – and that is true and good.

But we former evangelicals need to realize that Jesus Christ speaks to the whole Body. We can learn a thing or two about being ecclesial by reading the familiar verses with a new perspective.

And, I suppose that cradle Catholics can learn from us. Sacred Scripture is for the Body of Christ, the Church, but it is also for you, dear one. Yes, the Lord speaks to you.

Maybe we could exchange glasses for a while.

I need to see what you have always seen when you read the Bible.

And maybe, just maybe, you need to see what I have seen. He has a plan for you. A plan of hope. A plan with a future that is good. Seek Him for yourself, with all of your heart. And He will come to you… personally.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Three Favorite Verses

Thank you, Amanda Rose at Little Steps Along the Way for tagging me in my first ever blogging meme. A meme (rhymes with dream) is a blog post topic that is passed around, shared. This time around the theme is:

 "Three Favorite Scripture Verses." 

The rules are:

1.Write a post on your three favorite verses from the Bible and why you like them.
2. Link back to this post.
3. In your post tag three other bloggers to carry this theme forward, link to you and tag additional bloggers.

My Three Favorite Verses:

John 6:54-55 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.

The Eucharist has become the center of my life. My greatest joy. My strength. My source of wisdom and guide for discernment. Life now, and hope for life eternal.

John 17:20-21 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.

When Our Lord prayed on the night He was betrayed, the night before His death on my behalf, He prayed that we would be one. This prayer haunts me. It is becoming my life's prayer. If I stand before His Throne one day, this will be my prayer at Heaven's Altar. May we be one, with a unity that exists between the divine Father and divine Son - so that the world may know Jesus Christ - and believe. True, holy, perfect and visible unity among Christians throughout the world.

Jeremiah 29:11-13 For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare, not for woe! plans to give you a future full of hope. When you call me, when you go to pray to me, I will listen to you. When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart...

This third "favorite" verse changes for me, depending on what God is saying to me. Today, Jeremiah 29:11 is on my heart. It has always been a favorite verse, but lately, I am seeing this passage through ecclesial eyes - and not simply through my own lens. The promise remains true for me personally, but I am beginning to see this (and other verses) through the view of the Church. And this shift in vision is helping me to see how I fit into that ecclesial body, that organic whole -just as the Lord was speaking to all of Israel (and also speaking to Jeremiah personally). Likewise, the Lord speaks to me personally, but I cannot limit this message of hope (and its promise) in my life only. It also matters to me in the context of the whole Body of Christ.

You are invited to share your favorite verse (or two or three) below in the combox, but be sure to say WHY you love it, too!

I tag bloggers:

Sharon at Holy Writing
Jennifer at A Catholic Mom after God's Own Heart
Celeste at A Perpetual Jubilee

Friday, May 20, 2011

Please Pray for Olivia and her family.

Olivia is one of our Confirmation students. Her father passed away today - unexpectedly. Olivia was Confirmed just two days ago. It is difficult to know that one of your students is facing something so tragic - so soon after the Sacrament of Confirmation. I find myself telling God that she's barely gotten used to walking with the Holy Spirit. My heart aches for my student. Pray that she will sense the Holy Spirit's presence. Come, Holy Spirit. Send your Spirit upon Olivia to be her helper and guide. Give her the gifts you promised just two days ago, especially courage. Give her courage.


What You Can Learn When You're Choking to Death

So Stephen Hawking says Heaven is a fairy tale. And there's some group who believes the world will end tomorrow. 

On 3/21/04, I almost choked to death on some salad while eating in a Ryans restaurant in O'Fallon, Illinois. The trusty-Heimlich Manuever failed to do the job - until the seventh or eighth attempt. In that moment, I knew that there was more. I had always believed there was more. But in that moment, I KNEW it. I suspect most people know God is real and eternity comes next - when death is imminent.

Yes, the world will end. God only knows when. And there is an eternity waiting, though the brilliant Stephen Hawking says there isn't (keep in mind that the brilliant Blaise Pascal came to the conclusion that the Stephen Hawkings of the world were making a terrible bet in letting everything ride on their no-God, no-Heaven position.) Really, though, it all comes down to this.

Everything ends.

The only one who beat the death-trap is Jesus. So His life/death/resurrection is the real question on the table. I'm with Pascal. Everyone has to enter a bet. The only wise bet is to let it ride on Eternity's existence rather than nothingness. As for the end of the world predictions, they are a waste of time. We don't know when it will be over any more than we know when we will take that last breath. And we're not meant to know. Probably because we'd get too busy with holding up signs and driving cars that say the world is ending, and we would forget to feed the hungry, nurse the sick, clothe the naked, and so on. We have work to do. Heavens, do we ever have work to do! You simply never know when a piece of lettuce will get stuck in your throat. In that moment, you know that the world (for you) is done and that eternity is well on its way. And that's all that matters right about then.

Until then, we need to stay on-task. And the key to that job is also found in this same Jesus Christ.


Lessons from The Little Red Hen

The Little Red Hen had a strong work ethic.

She is not to be confused with Chicken Little, who thought the world was ending because an acorn fell on her head. That poultry-character ran up and down the roads telling everyone that the sky was falling.

No, I'm talking about the Little Red Hen. She was in the mood for some bread. She asked all of the farm animals if they would be willing to help her to make it happen. Gather wheat. Grind the wheat. Mix the dough. Knead the dough. Shape and bake the dough. Nobody was interested in helping.

But when the bread began to bake, the aroma of fresh warm bread filling the air, suddenly there were animals everywhere. Who would like to help me eat this bread, the Little Red Hen asked. Suddenly, she had takers. Everyone wanted a piece of the bread.

I always thought The Little Red Hen seemed a bit bitter. She told the lazy animals that they had not helped prepare the bread. And now, they could not eat the bread.

I thought she could have given them a lecture and then cut them a slice anyway. Make it a teachable moment. But that's just my opinion.

The whole story of The Little Red Hen got me to thinking.

In almost every parish, there are a handful of people who do 90% of the work. But the priest doesn't say, only those of you who helped me in this work may partake of the Eucharist. No. He holds up the Lord Jesus Christ and tells us to come. Eat. Taste and see. The Lord is good.

And sometimes, he reminds us that we are to do better next time. We are to remember that this moment of nourishment is so that we can have all that we need to do the work of God. To plant the seed. To harvest the crop. To offer back the fruit of our labor. And then to come to the table and share in the Bread once more.

So that it can keep going like that. So that we can keep growing like that.

It reminds me of two verses. Together, they make up the teachable-moment lecture. Proverbs 10:5 says A son who fills the granaries in summer is a credit; a son who slumbers during harvest, a disgrace. Luke 10:2 tells us that The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.

There is so much to be done.

Many will say that they are doing the work. They write and speak and blog and twitter. I, too, have said this to myself - and to God. Lately, I am realizing that a lot of people want to work in this corner of the field. This is the primo job in the minds of many on-fire Catholics. And that is good. But it is not good if that same writer, speaker, blogger, tweeter is unwilling to work in the other areas of the field. In the U.S. (unlike many other places in the world), there is something very appealing about sharing the Gospel with the masses. Americans like the platform. (In some countries, the platform gets you killed. Suddenly the primo job is not quite as appealing.)

I'm no different from other Americans. I like having articles out there. I like getting reader feedback. And a handshake after a talk. And an invitation to come back next year. But things are shifting for me lately. I still feel that God has a work for me in this corner of the field, but more and more I am realizing that it is not at the exclusion of other parts of the field. Other rows. Other fields. And perhaps even other seasons and crops.

It's time to expand the work. Share more of me. Use muscles I haven't used in a while. It's time to do the tough work, the behind-the-scenes work.

Who would like to help? The Little Red Hen asks.

Send me.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Well, don't come back to us saying you've figured out the Trinity!

I'm taking a class this summer on the Blessed Trinity. I shared that with a priest in an interview a few weeks ago. I recently signed contract and will be teaching there in the fall.

The priest leaned back in his seat and chuckled. "Well don't come back to us saying that you've figured out the Trinity!"

I laughed. I knew where the priest was coming from. The Trinity is a mystery. And with all of the mysteries of God, we study, we ponder, we get it in dribs and drabs, and then we sit back and marvel at the mystery that remains mysterious. And we are filled with a desire to study and ponder even more - though, ironically, we realize with more certainty that we will never fully understand.

There is a story about St. Augustine and the Trinity. It's worth retelling.

The story is told of St Augustine of Hippo, a great philosopher and theologian. He was preoccupied with the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity. He wanted so much to understand the doctrine of one God in three persons and to be able to explain it logically. One day he was walking along the sea shore and reflecting on this matter. Suddenly, he saw a little child all alone on the shore. The child made a hole in the sand, ran to the sea with a little cup, filled her cup with sea water, ran up and emptied the cup into the hole she had made in the sand. Back and forth she went to the sea, filled her cup and came and poured it into the hole. Augustine drew up and said to her, “Little child, what are you doing?” 
She replied, “I am trying to empty the sea into this hole.” 
“How do you think,” Augustine asked her, “that you can empty this immense sea into this tiny hole and with this tiny cup?” 
She answered back, “And you, how do you suppose that with your small head you can comprehend the immensity of God?” With that the child disappeared.

About a year ago, I had a dream. I dreamed that Jesus told me that the Trinity was like the number one to the third power.

1x1x1 still equals 1.

It is the closest I've come to getting it. One God. Three Persons. 
Father. Son. Holy Spirit. >God

Monday, May 16, 2011

Waiting for Pentecost

I've been thinking about Pentecost Sunday and the Descent of the Holy Spirit. Jane Mellinger writes of Ives Congar: "he insisted that the role of the Spirit is to unify these diverse individuals and gifts into one ecclesial body." I've been toying with the thought: Christian unity once again depends on the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Do you ever feel like you are standing in front of a door, and you've expended a crazy amount of energy trying to get the door to open. Your intellect is spent trying to figure out what's wrong with the thing. Your energy is used up trying to turn the knob and push the door in and out.

And the really horrible thing of it is this. You are meant to get into that room. You have to get into that room.

The problem is, you've tried everything. So you sit down and cry for awhile.

I pray for Christian unity. A lot. And this year, something clicked. I didn't come up with it. I figured it out while reading something by Ives Congar.

There is only one way that Christian unity will ever happen. By the Power of the Holy Spirit. So simple. The key was in the story of Pentecost. The whole thing is waiting for the new outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

I have prayed the prayer Come Holy Spirit. I have prayed it many times. But I have always prayed it for myself.

Or for my Confirmation students.

What if I began praying this prayer with one petition in my heart? What if I waited on the Holy Spirit, as those first disciples did? Come to us. Create and renew.

Ives Congar, I don't know you very well, but perhaps you would pray with me.
Blessed John Paul II, please pray as well. I suspect you're already doing it. But it doesn't hurt to ask again.
And all who truly wish to see the Body of Christ restored to full, visible unity, please pray.

Come, Holy Spirit.
Fill the hearts of the faithful.
Enkindle in them the fire of Your love.
Send forth Your Spirit,
and we shall be created,
and You shall renew the face of the earth.

A Lesson on "Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep"

I got to thinking about that little prayer: "Now I lay me down to sleep."

I did a some research, and it seems that the prayer was included in a 18th Century New England Primer, which became the foundation for education prior to 1790. The New England Primer was published between 1687 and 1690 and was based on the The Protestant Tutor (published in England).

Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
if I should die before I wake
I pray the Lord my soul to take.

The underlying theology of the prayer reveals that the Evangelical-assurance-of-heaven is a relatively new theology. The question posed to many Catholics today by Evangelicals is this: "If you die tonight, do you know that you'll go to heaven?"

Most Catholics would say (rightly so) that they entrust their souls to the mercy of God. Jesus is the guardian of the soul. I entrust myself to His mercy. But no, I don't know I'll be saved in a take-it-to-the-bank kind of way. Who does? I have to keep going and growing. I have to run the race well. And even then, I plan on hitting my knees when I enter eternity. I will cry out, "Lord, have mercy." Kyrie Eleison.

"But don't you want to know for sure" the Evangelical replies.

Here's the thing, Protestants in the 18th Century didn't even believe in those kind of absolute assurances. If they did, the prayer wouldn't make any sense, would it? The prayer wouldn't have been written and it certainly wouldn't have been included in a primer for students. Instead, there would have been a prayer that followed more closely the Evangelical prayer of salvation. And it wouldn't have to be prayed every night. Interesting.

Truth doesn't change. What prayer is your best bet? Kyrie Eleison. And that prayer is timeless and trustworthy.

May 2011 Catholic by Grace Article

It was 1979. Bruce Jenner had won the gold medal almost three years earlier, and now he had everyone running. He smiled for the Wheaties cereal box and promoted the concept of jog-a-thons as a fundraiser idea. I was the class treasurer that year. Junior prom was two years away, and the fundraiser sounded like a good way to generate some cash so we would be able to put on a prom for the seniors that would really wow them.
So, we sent away for a jog-a-thon kit and passed out forms. The whole class was going to participate, and we begged family and friends to pledge a couple of bucks for every mile we successfully completed. Our class moderator, Mr. Canterbury, set aside a three-mile route through our home town and marked off the area with orange cones. The traffic was diverted in order to keep the runners safe. Sixty kids showed up in shorts and tennis shoes, ready to run, jog or walk. Three miles into it, I was done.
Some managed to run five or ten miles, repeating the three-mile route over and over again.
Darrin Ripley decided it was a good day to run his first marathon. We were in awe of him.
The folks who had made a per-mile pledge were not as thrilled with Darrin. Five dollars per mile adds up, especially when a freshman boy is trying to prove something to a bunch of freshmen girls – or maybe just trying to prove something to himself.
On Monday morning, the students turned in their earnings. I counted out the money. Darrin’s supporters had paid up. They probably swallowed hard as they did it, but Iowans know how to keep a promise.
I think it must be like that for some parents when their son or daughter discerns a call to religious life. The promise to raise one’s children in the faith suddenly has a higher price than expected. It makes eight years of parish religion classes or twelve years of Catholic education seem like a small sacrifice in comparison.
Some parents probably swallow hard as they dig deeply into their souls and promise to give their full support to a child who has discerned a call to the priesthood or religious life.
But I also think that there are some parents like Darrin’s dad. Mr. Ripley didn’t blink an eye when Darrin said that he’d run over twenty-six miles. Mr. Ripley was a coach – and he probably understood his son more in that moment than he ever had.
He probably smiled when he wrote that check to his son’s class at Riceville Community High School. Darrin turned the money in promptly that Monday morning, and we were in awe once again. The newspaper photographer came out to take our picture. I got to be in the picture because I was the treasurer. Darrin got to be in the picture because nobody else had even come close to running as far as he had. We’d won an award from Bruce Jenner and Wheaties. Our class of sixty students had come in third in the nation for Jog-a-thons that year.
And we gave the seniors one fantastic prom the year we were juniors.
In reality, though, the people who made good on their promise to pay had something to do with it. No matter how much we ran that day, we needed the support of those who signed our pledge cards.
And there’s a lesson in that as well. The faithful pray that God will send Mother Church more vocations to the priesthood and religious life. We make a pledge to support them, encourage them, and respect them for giving themselves so fully to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Moms and Dads, it’s time to encourage our children to follow God completely, even if the price is high. Even if the marathon ends with the Sacrament of Holy Orders.
It’s time for the faithful to sign their pledge cards and give their support. We do this when we remember to pray for vocations and when we make good on our promise to hold our religious up through prayer. We do this when we make good on our promise to respect them as one standing in the place of Our Lord. In persona Christi.
We aren’t investing in a junior prom. No, our celebration trumps all celebrations. We are investing in the future of Mother Church. We are doing all that we can to make sure the Mass is celebrated throughout the world and that the laity has access to the Sacramental life.
This is the eternal celebration. And it is worth every sacrifice.
God, Our Father, send us holy priests and more vocations to religious life – all for the Sacred and Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, all for the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, in union with Saint Joseph. Amen.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Presbyterian Pastors Who Are Ready to Change Denominations: this one is for you


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I lived to see it happen.

Today, from Catholic Culture...

Following ratification by the majority of the nation’s 173 regional presbyteries, the Presbyterian Church USA has officially approved the ordination of active homosexuals to its clergy. In doing so, the denomination, which has 2.8 million members, abolished a policy that had required candidates for ordination to live “in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness.”

(Reprint of a Catholic by Grace article from 2009.)

(Not) By Popular Demand

It happened when I was in middle school. The Presbyterian Church held its annual General Assembly in Baltimore one year (1977) and Philadelphia the next (1978). My father was selected to be a delegate from his presbytery, the first year as a seminary student and the second year as a member of the clergy. It was my first encounter with the clash between conservatives and liberals within a faith community. I remember seeing picketers in front of the convention center where the delegates gathered to make decisions regarding the denomination and its trajectory. I asked my dad why the picketers were there.

They wanted the denomination to approve the ordination of practicing homosexual clergymen and women, he said. “They might do that?” I asked in disbelief.

“Most of the delegates are against it. It’s not going to be approved.” And the measure wasn’t approved – not that year.

But, like many denominations, the Presbyterian delegates decided things by vote, and the gap between the “conservative” and “liberal” delegates narrowed every year. The views of the culture were changing, and soon it would affect the stance of the denomination.

In 2008, the Presbyterian Church (USA) lifted a ban on ordaining gay and lesbian clergy. They passed the final decision on to individual presbyteries for local approval. To date, 80 presbyteries have voted against the measure and 56 have voted for it.

It is a story that is told and retold in every faith community but one. Truth changes with popular opinion. It not only affects denominational teaching on gay marriage and ordination, but it has affected denominational stances on women’s ordination, artificial contraception, and abortion.

I grew up in faith communities that viewed artificial contraception as practical and necessary, but a mere forty years earlier, no denomination supported it.

In my formative years, I didn’t know any denominations that ordained women. Then my dad switched denominations (Wesleyan to Presbyterian), and it was suddenly in vogue. Today, many of the most conservative denominations ordain women.

Likewise, abortion is up for debate in almost every faith community, with some viewing it as a fundamental right, some adamantly opposing it, and some refusing to take sides.

Change comes slowly in these faith communities, over the course of generations. But it does come. I suppose it is inevitable that the culture will impact the faith, but it should never change the essence of right and wrong. Truth is unchangeable.

There is only one Church that has withstood the changing tides of time. One Church that teaches the tenets of the Faith and never changes them once they are laid down as official Church teaching. It isn’t about being conservative or liberal, Midwestern or cosmopolitan. It is about truth. What is the name of this Church that holds her ground and will not be swayed by popular vote?

The Catholic Church. She alone is a solid rock.

You may say, that can’t be right – my senses told me that truth was over here or over there. Like St. Peter, there are times when we all say, this is a difficult teaching, Lord. But, with grace, we can say with St. Peter, you have the words of eternal life, where else can we go?


You're Good to Go

The note my husband left for me this morning had one word written on it.

He had gently patted my side and told me to keep sleeping. He'd get our daughter on the bus this morning before heading to the office. I sighed my sleepy thanks and rolled over.

Before he left, he quickly jotted the word on a piece of paper and placed it on the counter in front of the coffee pot.


Yes! Coffee. He made me coffee! He knows my routine, how I walk straight to the coffee pot every morning and get it going because it gets me going.

He knows me.
He knows what I need.
And he made sure that it would be ready and waiting for me the moment I needed it.

How much more does God the Father know you.
He knows what you need.
And He has ensured that everything you need will be ready and waiting for you the moment that you need it.

It's ready.

Don't worry about not seeing it the second your feet hit the ground and you know the day (or hour) is approaching. By the time you get there, you'll see the writing on the wall. Ready.

Jesus, I trust in you.


Sunday, May 8, 2011

You can do far more than you think you can!

It's Mother's Day. In the United States, that's supposed to be a day when mothers are pampered. They get a break because they deserve it.

I had a present waiting for me this morning. A new NAB Bible. I have a tattered copy, one I bought for five dollars when the Marian Council was clearing inventory. It was paperback and bulky and I'd taken scores of notes as I made my way through those first few years as a Catholic convert.

It was about time for the new Bible.

And there were other perks this Mother's Day, but quiet rest wasn't part of it.

This year, my grown daughter moved back home with her two little boys. Five months and seventeen months. The house is rarely quiet. There's always a baby that wants grandma. There's always a dishwasher that is clean and a backlog of dirty ones to go in it. There's always a floor to clean, trash to take out, a meal to cook, and laundry. Lord, have mercy. The laundry!

She brought home her standard poodle. That makes three dogs in the house. If a bird flies past the patio doors, they bark.

And my husband still works from home. He hits the mute button to yell QUIET! and I do my best to silence dogs who, through years of ingrained instinct, simply must bark. A canine warning system of sorts.

And as I'm wading through all of this, I'm still trying to keep track of Jen. The tender-aged middle schooler. Clothes. Lunch money. Homework. Friends. Religion classes. Piano.

In between all of this, I'm wrapping up religion classes as well. Next year, I will probably be teaching and speaking and writing.

Yes, I hear the Holy Spirit calling. And He's saying, "You can do far more than you think you can."

Stop coasting. You know you've been doing that a bit. You think you need quiet time and deserve some peace. Well, you'll still get it. I'll always be waiting for you in the Adoration Chapel.

But right now, I have a lot for you to do. And you're ready. You are more ready than you realize.

You can do far more than you think you can do. Hold on tight. Grab my hand. I'll show you what I mean.

It is crazy how exciting this all is. I can't wait for this week. For this summer. For next fall. I mean it. I can hardly wait!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Open Letter to Kathleen Turner

So I get this email today from someone who tells me that I'm to contact Kathleen Turner. He knows it, like Abraham knew he was supposed to leave Ur of the Chaldees, like Joshua knew how many times to walk around Jericho, like John the Baptist knew that his cousin was the Lamb of God. He was that sure.

He didn't know how I was to find her contact information or what I was to say, exactly. He simply knew that I was supposed to do it.

There are some who would have deleted that email tout de suite.

But my friend had me thinking. How hard could it be to find Kathleen Turner's email address. After a few googles, I realized that it is harder than one might think.

Then I wondered, what's her story. Is there a possibility that I have anything to say to this woman I only know from the big screen? Ms. Turner, I liked Peggy Sue Got Married. I'm like that about high school memories. Rather sentimental myself.

I saw Romancing the Stone. We still watch it when we see it listed on the Direct TV movie list.

That about sums up what I know about Kathleen Turner. So I did a little research. What, if anything, would I have to say to this star?

Kathleen Turner, the celeb spokesperson for Planned Parenthood. Well, I didn't know that.

Still working. Still on stage. Still travels and speaks. Good for you.

And then I hit the quote. Kathleen Turner has been in two shows in 2011, playing a Catholic mother in one and a foul-mouthed nun in the other. She calls this year her "Year of Catholicism".

Okay. Now I have a lot to say. Is it possible, Ms. Turner, that grace is trying to knock at your door? Is there a chance that you might be stumbling - even fumbling - along the journey of grace.

Because, if so, I do have something to tell you. It is the best Yes you will give. It beats every Yes you've ever given to anyone. To any thing. It's a do-over moment.

A Peggy Sue moment.

A chance to encounter the greatest Mystery humankind has ever encountered this side of eternity. The Eucharist.

So, Kathleen, if you're out there, pick up a Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Paragraph 30.

God has made us for Himself... and we are restless until our hearts rest in Him.

The greatest love story. The greatest Romance. God's love for the Church, built on the rock.

Romancing the Petra. I have found the rock. Kepha.


All things work together for the good of those who love the Lord

The verse has been going around in my head a lot lately. All things work together for the good of those who love the Lord and are called according to His purposes.

And I've been thinking about the things I wanted - the things I begged God for - but never seemed to happen.

Dad died anyway.

I didn't get either of the positions I dearly wanted last year.

The one I've prayed for still hasn't returned to God.

I suppose this verse is in my head because I'm living a deja vu. What I wanted last spring is again in play. A maybe. A prayer. A hope.

But I know that it didn't happen last spring and it isn't likely to happen this spring either.

All things work together for the good of those who love the Lord...

If God had given me what I wanted last spring, I would not have been available to do the Women of Grace program or the Journey Home program. I would not have been available to do all the radio interviews that have come along this year. What has it been? Ten? Fifteen?

That's when I began thinking that God had kept me free for these things. That all things really have worked out for my good.

But then, I realized something. I stepped out of my narcissistic view and thought about the verse from an ecclesial point of view.

I am not the only one who loves the Lord and not the only one who is called to serve Him

This verse is about me - but it is (more importantly) about all those who love the Lord, will love the Lord. It is about all those who are called according to His purposes, will be called according to His purposes.

And suddenly, I can see that it is possible - very probable - that even the worst things that could happen to me might just be the best thing to happen for another one who loves the Lord, who is called or is being called.

Maybe I'll be passed over for the very job I want. Maybe I'll suddenly drop from favor and nobody will read anything I write. Maybe I will be put on a shelf - and set aside for awhile. Maybe I will get a terrible diagnosis. Maybe I will not live to old age, or I'll lose all my money, or I'll be abandoned by those I love...

And maybe any one of these things that seem to render the principle null and void - the one that says that all things work together for the good of those who love the Lord - really is activating the principle most completely and perfectly.

Because it might still be for my good - this thing that seems so terrible.

Moreover, it might be good for another - for many others - who are also called according to His purposes and love Him as much as I do. Maybe even more than I do.

We are an ecclesial people.

One Body.

And the narcissistic glasses must come off. For the good of the Church. For the good of the whole world.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

May & Mother

You know you're Catholic when...

I have a million of these sayings running through my head. But in the month of May, the one that plays most often is this: You know you're Catholic when you can truly say, "Blessed are you among women" to Mary (and about Mary) and not choke on it.

It's in the Bible. Yes, it really is. (Luke 1:42,48)

If you cannot say that Mary is blessed above all women and that all generations should rise up and call her blessed, then you are deliberately purging part of the Bible because it does not match your theology.

But here's the thing. It's not hard at all to say it. If you love the Bridegroom, you'll love the Mother.

It's May. You are probably planning to call your mom or send her a card this Mother's Day. Go ahead... you can say it... Mary, I'm just doing what all generations have done, you are blessed among women and you are the Mother of my Lord.

So you're not Catholic, and you don't consider Mary to be your Mother. If you tell your mother-in-law Happy Mother's Day, then you can tell the Mother of Our Lord (the Bridegroom) that she is truly blessed among women. If you think of it like that, you can wrap your mind around it.

But you're thinking she's not here. Mary's in heaven, you say. You feel a little silly saying anything to someone in heaven. That's too Catholic for you.

Do you know what I've noticed? My Facebook friends - who are mostly not Catholic - always post something on their wall when it's their father's birthday or their mother's birthday - or when it's Father's Day or Mother's Day - especially when that mother or father isn't here in the flesh. They still say it. They still post it. And they still hope and pray Mom or Dad will hear it. They say it (post it) because their heart demands that they do it. They ache to do it. It's just how it is.

Go ahead. Tell her she's blessed.

Because she is, you know. And every generation that came before this one has known it too.

It's the very Mary month of May. Honor the Mother of Our Lord.

My Favorite Podcaster - Fr. Leo Clifford O.F.M. (the collection found here)

It's May - Mary's month - so I encourage you to listen to this podcast by Fr. Leo Clifford on Mary:

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Amen, Amen I say to you...

I read the following definition of the word "Amen" today. If you think of it in the context of Holy Communion - that moment when we bow and say "Amen" as we receive Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament - then the definition is so profound the mind can hardly grasp it.


The word ‘mn (amen) embraces a variety of meanings…It includes the meanings truth, firmness, firm ground, ground, and furthermore the meanings loyalty, to trust, entrust oneself, take one’s stand on something, believe in something; thus faith in God appears as a holding on to God through which man gains a firm foothold for his life.  Faith is thereby defined as taking up a position, as taking a stand trustfully on the ground of the word of God.
- Pope Benedict XVI


What Catholic Bloggers Don't Usually Write

I don't know very many Catholic bloggers who would write what I am about to write. We like to share how much we grew spiritually after we have come through the muckiness of this world and been victors through sacramental grace.

Right now, I'm not there. Right now, I'm doing a Google search for a Tuesday night confessional in the Archdiocese because I am already in need of Divine Mercy and the Feast was just two days ago.

I don't like myself right now.

You know what? This world, this secular world we live in, has it all backwards. We are told to love ourselves. Love others, but first love yourself. That's what the world says.

But the world is wrong.

If you are in need of the confessional, you don't love yourself much at all.

But the world is right about one thing. We can love ourselves. And we should love ourselves.

There is a time when I can look at myself and really, truly love me. It happens when I look most like Jesus. When I see Jesus in me. When I look at my hands - and they're His hands. When I look at my feet - and they're His feet. When I look deep into my heart and I can hear His heart beating there.

When I look in my soul - and it is clean. Rightly ordered. Ready for company. Divine company.

That's when I love myself.

Because, really, that's when I love Christ in me.

That's how it is for those of us who believe we really can be made holy, we really can become sanctified; we know that Christ can live in us - as we live in and through Him.

If you are clean right now, thank God for His forgiveness. Go ahead and love God. Love your neighbor. And love yourself.

You have not conformed to this world. You are being transformed into the Body of Christ. It's worth rejoicing over!

And it is good and right to love Christ when you see Him living in and through you.

But if you are like me right now. If you see that the room of your soul is not clean. There's something that really must be taken to the confessional, then don't delay. Don't despair... but don't delay.

Google Confession times for you diocese. Don't wait or put it off any longer. Love yourself enough to get to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. You can love yourself that much... can't you?

Divine Mercy is waiting for you.

In a little room.

Very near.

Love is waiting for you to step over the threshold and kneel before the Lord. Lord, have mercy.

P.S. Tonight, I visited a parish that is nestled in the hills of Missouri wine country. And I found healing in the words of Absolution. I found new strength in the Food for the journey in the Mass that followed. On nights like this, I sense just how deep the phrase "Catholic by Grace" really goes. I have been to the mercy seat. And it was good. It was very, very good.

A note from John via email:
Denise:  I read the following at the beginning of your post and got a little nervous:

‘If you are in need of the confessional, you don't love yourself much at all.’

I love the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  It is practical.  It is about telling the truth, and that is always a good thing.  It is an act of extreme humility (humiliation) to say things about myself that I don’t like.  It makes me uncomfortable when I am not clean and know I need to go.  I resist.  But I love the genius of Catholicism’s provision through this sacrament of a way back to the Lord.  I go about once a month.  I go, in no small part, because I love myself enough to do what I know I should do. 

Then, at the end, you said it:

‘Love yourself enough to get to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. You can love yourself that much... can't you?’

Good stuff.  Blessings, John

My response:

John, thanks for the email. It’s really the difference between Judas and St. Peter, isn’t it? One was lost in self-loathing and the other loved Jesus so much that he raced (or rather swam) fast and furiously back to Jesus. The reality is that we don’t love ourselves very much when we are in a state of sin. But there needs to be enough love in there somewhere to send us to the Confessional, back to Jesus.

Thanks for reading with discerning eyes. Pray that those who are tempted to despair will read and find a way back to Jesus Christ.