Sunday, December 22, 2013

Catholics and the song "Mary, Did You Know"

Today, a woman on Twitter posted that she knows a lot of Evangelicals, and they all love the song Mary, Did You Know.

Then, she said that most Catholics – herself included – loathe the song.

A few years back, our entire family attended an Amy Grant Christmas concert. Some priests were seated beside us. When Amy sang Mary, Did You Know, one priest wept silently. My twenty-something daughter still talks about how much love she saw in that priest.

Back then, nobody in the family was Catholic. Not even me.

So when I saw the Tweet today, it kind of surprised me. I suppose the woman's loathing is because the song's fundamental question has to do with whether or not Mary was oblivious to the full reality of the One within her womb. How much did she know about the One she bore, the One she held, the One she nursed?

As Catholics, our sense of wonder goes deeper. It goes to the heart of Mary’s yes.  Mary is God’s most perfect creation, and she has given us a Savior.

She wasn’t stewing over whether Jesus would be able to walk on water or heal a blind man. She was marveling at the power of God. As Catholics, we enter into that moment so deeply that a songwriter’s words can’t contain it.

Only Mary’s own words, her own song – the Magnificat – will suffice.

But what I loved about the priest at that Amy Grant concert is that he didn’t loathe an Evangelical’s rendering of Mary. He didn’t critique Mark Lowry's lyrics, though the priest's understanding of Mary went far deeper than the song ever could. When he thought of Mary, he thought of the Immaculate Conception, the Mother of God, the perfect creation, Our Lady of Grace.

And he wept as he listened. Someone was singing about his greatest love – the miracle at Bethlehem. A virgin and the Son of God.

The priest knew that God places questions in our hearts.

The simple questions, like Mary did you know . . .

The profound questions, like Mary are you the Immaculate Conception?

The deep, troubling questions.

The questions-that-shake-the soul.

And all the questions are answered right here – where a woman’s fiat to God ushers in the greatest gift. For unto us, a Son is born.

She is the sign. She is the one we read about today at Mass. The priest at the Amy Grant concert fully understood who Mary is. He also understood that most evangelization begins with a question – and the evangelizing bears fruit when we welcome the question and respond—not with loathing because we have it all figured out, but when we respond with love.

Perhaps even with tears.

With wonder and awe.

What did Mary know? I think she knew a lot – far more than we can imagine. But the one thing that matters most is not what she knew.

It’s what she did.

Let it be done unto me according to your word – for I am the handmaid of the Lord. All generations will call me blessed – for the Almighty has done great things for me.

And holy is His name.

Let us lose the arrogance. Yes, we know Mary in a way Evangelicals do not. What matters is not how much more we know. What matters is how much we love. How much we share. We must become like that priest. Our love must fill us and spill over.

We let that transform us until the tears run down our cheeks – and the people sitting in our row begin to grasp something more.

We have been given a sign. There is enough for everyone to contemplate. And that is something we should encourage.

“The Lord himself, therefore,
will give you a sign.

It is this: the maiden is with child
and will soon give birth to a son
whom she will call Immanuel,
a name which means “God-is-with-us.” – Isaiah 7:14

Monday, December 9, 2013

Both the resume and the pedigree would have to resemble Christ - and they do.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about why I'm Catholic. My shortest answer is simply that it is a
St. John Lateran, Rome -Consecrated in 324 A.D
result of grace moving in my life (hence the name of my column, podcasts and blog).

But I haven't spent much time thinking (or writing) about the reason why most serious fundamentalists and evangelicals are NOT Catholic--
 --and why they do not even consider it a viable option or even a possible choice among many choices.
 It comes down to this. The Catholic Church does not see herself as a possible choice among many choices. The fact that the Church states that She is the Church Christ founded makes most (if not all) evangelicals dismiss her completely.
It sounds too much like a cult.
Cults believe they are the Church. The Way. Chosen. Established by God Himself.
So, Catholicism is lumped in with the groups that make this claim. You say that you are the Church Jesus Christ founded. Enough said. I'm out of here.
There is a problem with that generalization. What if there really is a Church that was founded by Jesus?
She would have to be present from the moment of Pentecost forward. She would have weathered the gates of hell and still be standing. She would have to be able to point to a line of holy people that were made holy while in the embrace of this Church. She would have to have a message that touches hearts of people in every culture and time. She would have to transcend time, politics, history, culture, trends, whims, and the theoretical. She would have to be able to set up shop in Calcutta, India and be as valid there as she is in Des Moines, Iowa or New York City or La Paz, Bolivia.
She would have to have a resume.
She would have to have a pedigree.
Both the resume and the pedigree would have to resemble Christ.
History would have to affirm her claim and Christ would have to be present there. Really and truly.
One, holy, catholic, apostolic.
There is only one antidote to the fear that says, "You can't say that! You can't say that you are the Church! Come on. You're sounding like a cult now."
The only antidote to that kind of fear is Jesus Christ Himself.
He is here.
His Body is here, for you.
His Blood is here, poured out for you.
The same Christ.
A perfect love.
And perfect love casts out fear.
Yes, it is a radical claim. It is an absurd claim - unless it is true. John 6. It's true.
Come home. He's waiting for you. In the Eucharist.


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Advent is a polite guest.

I have dipped my toes in the chaos of the Christmas-before-Advent scene. I’ve been to the mall once.

I’ve landed on radio stations that play Christmas music around the clock – and quickly popped in my Rosary CD to escape the noise. I’ve seen enough of commercialized Christmas even though I have actively avoided it this year.

Advent is the only antidote.

But Advent only comes to those who know how to get quiet. It hides from those who have to hurry. It will never be found in the crowded places and packed spaces of shopping aisles and city crosswalks.

Advent waits to be invited to your December. It will not show up on its own. It is a polite guest. It will not crash your party.

Christmas-without-Advent is a fake. An imposter. We all know it.

The Christmas we all need – the one we long for – the one we can imagine so clearly . . . it only comes to those who walk alongside Mary.

In the quiet.

Away from the crowds.

Where Sacred Scripture comes alive and holiness is real.

It’s no mirage – this Advent journey. It’s necessary. It’s the way to Christmas. The only road to Bethlehem.

The journey that leads to Christ.

Monday, December 2, 2013

December 2013 Catholic by Grace Column

My due date was the 26th of December, but by Christmas Eve 1985, I was ready to be done with it.

I stretched out on the bed and reluctantly prepared for another night of leg cramps and propped pillows. The Christmas presents were wrapped and ready. The Christmas cookies decorated. The overnight hospital bag was packed and waiting in the corner. My sister had arrived and was ready to look after my daughter.

Still, nothing happened.

The first pain hit at 9:30 PM. I knew immediately that I had skipped early labor and entered active labor. At the hospital, the nurse called it precipitate delivery. There would be no time for pain medicine. I was disappointed, but at least something was happening. I wouldn’t be pregnant forever.

I looked at the clock and wondered if our baby’s birthday would be Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

Then the nurse checked the heartbeat and the questions about pain medicine and possible arrival time turned into terrible silence.

Something was wrong. The nurse wasn’t smiling. She just kept moving the obstetrical stethoscope from one spot to another.

“I’m having trouble finding the heartbeat.” After a few more attempts, she muttered something about getting the doctor, and I was left alone in the small examination room

The wait was excruciating. I knew what labor was like. I’d been through it two years earlier. I couldn’t imagine giving birth while overcome by grief.

Sometimes, waiting is like a game. It’s fun. Exciting.

Sometimes, waiting is a chore. It’s demanding. Requires effort.

Sometimes, waiting is agonizing. Terrifying. Earth-shattering.

This pregnancy had been all of these.

Before I became Catholic, every day between Halloween and December 25th was Christmas, not Advent. I focused on making sure the food was ready, the cards were sent, and the presents were wrapped. I prepared the house for Christmas, but I did not stop to think about how to prepare myself for Christmas.

Bottom line, I did not know how to wait.

As Catholics, we know that Advent is about waiting. Preparing. Journeying with Israel through Salvation History. A man grows into a family. Twelve sons become twelve tribes. The tribes become a nation. Prophets, judges and kings lead them. Everything presses on to one great event.

A young woman steps into the center of all things and says yes to the most incredible proposition of all time. God has chosen you, Mary. And all creation waits for an answer.

As that final week of Advent arrives, we see clearly. This is more than a journey through time. This is a journey to a person.

To the God-man. Messiah. Mary’s child.  God’s own Son.

At times, the wait was exciting. Seas parted. Angels visited. Walls tumbled. A donkey talked.

At times, the wait was difficult. Brothers argued. Kings failed. Generations were exiled.

At times, the wait was terrifying. People died. Nations fought. God was silent.

And then, He spoke.

With one word, the waiting was over. Unto us a child is born. Unto us a son is given. And upon his shoulders, dominion rests. (Isaiah 9:6).

Advent quietly passes. A baby cries. The wait is over.

On Christmas Eve 1985, a doctor stepped into the examination room and heard a heartbeat. My son was born at 11:53 PM. The wait was over.

Every year, we pass through Advent and enter Christmas. The changing liturgical seasons are always fresh and new, like it is all happening right now – the waiting, the expectation, the fulfillment. And so it is.



Sunday, December 1, 2013

Advent - and an epiphany with a lowercase e

Advent has begun.

During morning prayers, I thought of something that has never dawned on me before.

I was raised in a Christian home, so I suppose I have always known that my heart must be open to receive the Lord. I must say there is room in my life, my heart, my thoughts, my work, my play and my all for you, O Lord.

And then I saw Mary and Joseph in my mind, rushing toward the stable, for there was no room for them in the inn. Hurrying, for labor had begun. It was time for Mary to deliver God’s Son.

And there was room in the stable, not only for Jesus Christ to be born, but for Mary, and Joseph, and shepherds, and a little later, the Magi. There was room for animals and starlight and rejoicing. For heavy labor. For quiet rest.

And it must be this way in our lives, our hearts, our thoughts.

We must make room for Jesus – and also for Mary, and Joseph, and the Saints, and the shepherds who are the poor among us, and the Magi who are the rich. Those who come from places near to us – and places we will never see.

We must have room for the animals – room in our hearts like St. Francis had.

We must stand in the starlight of that celestial proclamation.

We must let all of this come into our lives, in times of rejoicing, or labor, or quiet rest.

Let us begin Advent, with open hearts and minds and lives.

Come, let us prepare and be ready to receive. Let our lives become humble stables welcoming all in the name of Christ.

It has begun.

Mary's Touch Interview with Denise Bossert: Listen December 6th, 7th, and 8th

The weekend of December 6th is the air date of my interview with Mary’s Touch. They will be receiving the download by noon on December 6th.

Join Cheri Lomonte and me--

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