Monday, June 29, 2020

The Mass: The Holy Food

This is the hard one.  This is the one teaching that Christians have the most trouble with.  However, I am here to, at least explain how I came to believe.  

As a cradle Catholic, one would think that my faith was simply drummed into my head and that today I robotically attend, pray, and receive this bread offered in the Mass as I should.  One would understandably think this.  Well, that's not the case any more.  As a young Catholic, I never thought anything about it, it was the thing we did and I didn't question it.  As a young Catholic mother, it was important to me to make sure my children received their sacraments, including First Communion, so that they could be part of our thing we did together.  Well, not really, I made sure they made their sacraments because that was what was expected of us....and that was the thing we did together.  Well, no, it was because I believed in the Holy Roman Catholic Church, her teachings, and that Jesus Christ was our redeemer who came down and humbled himself and took the role of a human to teach us about love and forgiveness and bring us to our eternal reward undeservedly.    Yes, all three reasons!  That's why, and seriously speaking, after marrying my husband, who is not Catholic, I realized that if I don't know my faith well enough to answer his questions, I won't be doing my best to lead my family to God.  After a few years of taking local and online courses, I became a master catechist.  So, yes, I do believe in the real presence in the Eucharist not because I am supposed to, or that it was drummed into my head, but because I took the time to do my own research and learning.

But here's another take, from a master mind who never became a Catholic, but respected it and probably believed in her.

"And let me make it quite clear that when Christians say the Christ-life is in them, they do not mean simply something mental or moral.  When they speak of being "in Christ" or of Christ being "in them," this is not simply a way of saying that they are thinking about Christ or copying Him.  They mean that Christ is actually operating through them; that the whole mass of Christians are the physical organism through which Christ acts--that we are His fingers and muscles, the cells of His body.  And perhaps that explains one or two things.  It explains why this new life is spread not only by purely mental acts like belief, but by bodily acts like baptism and Holy Communion.  It is not merely the spreading of an idea; it is more like evolution--a biological or superbiological fact,  There is no good trying to be more spiritual than God.  God never meant man to be a purely spiritual creature.  That is why He uses material things like bread and wine to put the new life into us.  We may think this rather crude and unspiritual.  God does not:  He invented eating.  He likes matter.  He invented it."
           CS Lewis, Mere Christianity 

Wow, talk about putting it down!  Our humanness cannot explain our Creator and Heavenly Father.  We cannot and were not consulted in how he was to come down to meet us where we are and bring us up to where he is.  BUT, he gives us a way to be changed, forgiven, and loved.   Loved enough to then, in turn, desire to be wanted.  The desire to be wanted by Christ, to have him "in us" and dwell in our hearts as we live our lives here as militant people fighting against the dark one.  Through this  holy food that God has given us to nourish our souls and empower our hearts we can be Christ in this world around us.

This is what Holy Communion is, this is what saves humanity.  By realizing that God designed the Eucharist to be physical food that we receive in our mouths and are nourished within our mortal bodies, God gets in close and is able to inspire us.  Only if we accept this sacrificial grace in the Eucharist can we take it to the streets, only if we realize that not only is it what we do as the body of Christ, but what we do for Christ, enabling to be his fingers and muscles, the cells of his body in the world.  No change is ever easy to be sure, perhaps if we took a second look at what we do during Mass and listened carefully to the prayers can we then appreciate this sacrament of communion so much more for what it truly is:      The Holy Food.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

The Mass: The RITE to Have Peace!

The Rite of Peace

Otherwise called the sign of peace, by which the people turn toward each other and offer a sign of unity and charity.  Biblically speaking, this is where we symbolically show what Jesus told the apostles in Matthew 5:23-24 which says, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave  your gift there before the altar and go first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”

The GIRM describes it this way:

The Rite of Peace

82. There follows the Rite of Peace, by which the Church entreats peace and unity for herself and for the whole human family, and the faithful express to each other their ecclesial communion and mutual charity before communicating in the Sacrament."

The sign of peace is a rite that is and always has been included in the Mass prior to the Eucharist being distributed to the faithful.  The reason this is, is because we must be prepared in good faith and spiritually to receive the body of Christ, the most sacred and holy food.  

When the resurrected Jesus appeared to the apostles, the first thing he said was “Peace be with you.”  In the introduction to this rite within the liturgy of the Mass, the priest says, “Lord Jesus Christ, who said to your Apostles:  Peace I leave you, my peace I give you, look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church, and graciously grant her peace and unity in accordance with your will.  Who live and reign for ever and ever. Amen.”  So it is during this rite that we the people of the Church, the Body of the Christ, share in the passing of the peace which is from Christ himself.

In preparation for receiving the Eucharist, we must be aware of our sinfulness and the need for forgiveness. So in the Introductory Rites, we pray the penitential Act where we confess our sinfulness and ask for prayers, then pray for mercy in the Kyrie.  During the Communion Rite we pray the Lord’s Prayer as our Savior commanded to reach out to our Heavenly Father.  Within this prayer, we tell God that we will forgive each other as we are forgiven.  This is where the sign of peace comes in.  In the next moment, we turn to one another in a peace that can only come from forgiveness and extend it to each other.  Again also, going back to Matthew 5:23-24 where we must reconcile with our brother before offering our gifts to God.

The sign of peace is an important part of the Mass, it is part of the process of preparation for receiving the holy Eucharist.  Preparing our hearts to receive the holy food of salvation.  So we must fully be aware of all that needs to take place in order to receive the sacramental graces that accompany the heavenly food.

There are times, I must admit that I will be sitting next to someone I don’t want to shake hands with, or times when I have been sick, not sick enough to not attend Mass, and refuse an extended hand with a kind word that I have a cold.  Still that kind word is the peace I wish to give anyway without the consequence of giving them the cold.  There are times, when I make the effort to shake someone’s hand that I am not necessarily keen on or had words with.  This is another way to share peace that otherwise would not be extended. The sign of peace gives us the opportunity to soften our hearts and desire peace for others in our community that otherwise would not be given.

So if we are attending Mass, offering our gifts of thanksgiving and praise to our Heavenly Father, we must also be peaceful people, forgiving people, wishing each other, as Christ commanded, peace.  We must reconcile with each other during before, and after Mass the peace of Christ.

Friday, April 24, 2020

A Morphed Sunday

So we are not able to attend our churches.  The doors are literally closed to the public with no end in sight at the moment.  What a queer thing this whole situation is to be sure. I don't really know what to make of it either.  Lately I had kind of taken on a new style of thinking....positive!  How novel a thought!  To take a situation or event that happens and instead of thinking how awful and why did it happen to me!  I take a moment to evaluate it and see that maybe there is something I need to learn from this.  I am trying here...really trying to see the positive of not being able to attend Mass.  Really trying. In my whole entire life I have never been unable to attend Mass because is was closed!  Reminiscing about the days of old, when we were able to attend Mass in the actual thoughts trail away like this.....

Now a typical Sunday morning for my family went something like this:

Rising and shining....  need that coffee first...then I'll shine.

Sitting in the morning with my husband, drinking coffee and reading the readings for the day as we usually do during the week.  I especially like readings for Sunday because we get to hear a different take on the Word than the meditation that follows the readings.  We read from The Word Among Us.  My husband really likes their publication.  I don't eat breakfast, and then we march off to Mass.

As we drive to Mass we talk about the day, sometimes we talk about the readings, sometimes we talk about what we will do later after Mass.  Anyway, walking into Church we see friends and acquaintances and say hello, smiling faces, and seemingly good vibes.  We find our seat, sit and greet quietly those around us and I kneel and prepare for the celebration.  Several times during Mass I will look over at my husband and give him a smile and he returns it.  We usually sit close and during the Liturgy of the Word, I have my arm in his arm and it's nice.  If I don't put my arm in his arm right away, he reminds me by lifting his arm for me to so. We both sing the songs and say the prayers, even though he is not a Catholic, he takes seriously the prayers and what is going on.  Through the years, we have been married 27 years now, I have answered his questions, explained things, and I think he has a good understanding about the Mass.  I stopped holding out for him to convert years ago and just love him where he is.

At communion, he  usually comes out of the pew and stands aside to let everyone out, sometimes, if the priest he knows and is comfortable with, he will go with me for a blessing, but mostly not.  I return to the pew and get a big smile from him.  He crosses himself at the final blessing with me and everyone else and we sing the closing song.  He usually is in charge of getting the bulletin as we walk out and he knows the head usher and they exchange a quick word.  My husband is a homebrewer and found out that our priests like beer, so he usually has a beer update with the pastor as we shake hands and leave.  I think that's husband is usually a quiet sort, but when it comes to beer, he will talk.  Over the past couple of years, he has been the "milkman" of beer, leaving a 4 pack at the back door of the rectory and after Mass, waits to hear the review from the taste-tester priest.

Nowadays, all this has changed.  Our Sunday mornings look a bit different.

We still rise and shine....after coffee that is.

We eat breakfast and maybe read the readings, but usually my husband goes out to the garden and tells me to let him know what Mass I want to watch and he will watch with me.

I'll get on the computer and decide who I want to watch, usually it's been Bishop Barron's Mass, at first I was following one of our priests who is the chaplain for the college Newman Center.  He isn't as casual as many are and he has great messages.  Also, he gave us updates on what was happening around the parish community.

At first I was watching the Mass offered throughout the week, lately, I haven't even looked for on in days.  I don't know, just getting lazy and subdued over the whole thing.  Sundays were family days and slow days, and days that I looked forward to attending Mass and now without the ability to even go to the Church to sit in adoration....I don't know how I feel...just numb, maybe.

My Sundays have morphed into a very weird unsettled worship day....really.

Praying everyday that this "stay at home" order ends soon and that businesses and churches can reopen their doors.  But I don't even know what that will look the beginning.

Anyway, it is my prayer for all involved in the care and medical needs of patients, for government officials to make the right choices, for those out of work, closing their businesses, and just being alone.  I am praying for you.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Not just this, but that too!

"Oh, come in, come in, come in
Oh the door is open wide Jesus is expecting you
Won't you come inside
I know you're heart is burdened and your mind is filled with doubt
But you're not too bad to come in
But you're not too good to stay out....."

An old traditional music song from who knows when, by who knows who, but the message is spot on.  Oh, I'm just a homebody and today is just like any other day....sort of.  I have lots to do in the home of ours, my sewing, writing, studying, reading, cooking, cleaning and laundry.  We have 4 cats that constantly need referee-ing, lap time, feeding, or just some playtime...along with de-hairing the furniture and our clothing.

Now the song I introduced this post with has a new meaning recently...since we cannot "come in" at any church at all now.  Now we must find our own way to find worship moments and be disciplined to do so.  We get to make up our minds if we "attend" Mass or one will know if we skipped or showed up.  We must find our own resources of scripture, reflections, and conscience healing.  Depending upon where you are and how your parish is handling these times of quarantine, you may not have much to go on.

So I would like to give you some resources that I have been using.

Bishop Barron's Word on Fire
Fr. Ian VanHeusen's website:  The Art of Living Well,
Ascension Press

Just for starters.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Something occurred to me while praying the rosary today.  Meditating on the joyful mysteries (54-day novena) I thought of Mary's parents, Anne and Joachim.  What did they think about their young daughter, suddenly pregnant, engaged to be married, but not married yet.  What did they know, believe, or trust in at her story of how this came to be?  I wonder how that all went down and then having their young daughter race "in haste" miles away to another town to a cousin who is expecting miraculously to the next 3 months.  Did Anne go with her?  Did Joachim allow this?  But wait!  What about Joseph?  Where did he figure in all this?  The bible doesn't fill in these blanks.  All we do know is that Joseph is wondering what do to about Mary and considering divorcing her quietly.  He must have loved her very much and a tender heart to begin with to want to care for her still and protect her from public humiliation and possible brutal treatment.

History aside, in modern times, the scenario would be much different, her parents would be disbelieving of the "tale" their young daughter tells them about how she got pregnant and would want to know the name of the young man.  Nowadays, there would be no 'shotgun marriage" because we know that they don't work out, so we would demand that the man take responsibility for the medical costs and possible raising of the child....or not.

As for the sudden trip away for 3 months to serve a cousin who is married and pregnant at an older age, well, doesn't' Mary have a job?  Shouldn't she be even more serious about her job now that she will have another mouth to feed?  Three months is a long time to be away from home and the responsibilities she should be more concerned with.  Besides her responsibilities, she also had maternity checkups that she needs to have each month to make sure all is well with the baby.  A visit like this is not necessary in modern times as this cousin will have her own doctor appointments and responsibilities to take care of on her own.  Facetime, Facebook, and the cellphone would be enough for them to connect and be sisters-in-the-mission together.  Person to person, isn't how we do things now, unfortunately.

It seems hard to believe now that some of the things that happened in biblical times actually were ok to do.  It seems hard to image that some of the things that the ancients did made sense.  But it did, things were different then, life was so much simpler then.

Anyway, I just had some ramblings to share.  Blessings!

Friday, March 13, 2020

The 54-day Rosary Novena

When I first heard of this novena, I thought to myself "who does that?"  At that time, I don't think I had all my children yet.

Fast film forward

Three grown children, a 27 year marriage, and aging parents and I have already completed 3 54-day rosary novenas.

I'm actually surprised that I haven't completed 10 more!!

Thursday, February 27, 2020

How have I stayed Catholic?

Why am I Catholic?

How have I survived, literally survived being Catholic all these years?  At my age, I have seen quite a few changes in our Churches, from Latin and veiling to the return of the original wording a few years ago.  Second Vatican, the deaths of popes and the rise of sexual abuse among the clergy and believers.  

My upbringing was in a Catholic home, I attended Catholic schools off and on, and received my sacraments.  As I got older and began my own family, my faith waned a bit, but never went away.  As my husband and children grew in curiosity about the Catholic faith, I found myself seeking more about my faith.  I began taking courses through my parish in Texas.  When we moved to NC, I continued taking courses, this time through the diocese and at Notre Dame STEP program and University of Dayton VLCFF program.  I took courses like, Bible History, Jesus, Old Testament, New Testament, Sacraments, Catholic Social Teaching, World Religions, etc.  I found out that I had taken enough classes and was able to be certified as a Catechist!  I learned a great deal during that time. I learned a great deal about other religions and then looked further into some I questioned.  I know why the Catholic Church is the Church of Christ and that within her, she gives us all that we need to get through out daily lives here on earth.  This is the fullness of truth.

Also during that time I spoke to a priest at the parish I was attending with our children, my husband was not Catholic and was attending the church of his childhood with his parents.  It was difficult to part ways to worship the same God.  He basically advised me to stay Catholic as long as I can......what??  Perhaps he was right, nowadays, its hard to be anything religious or spiritually.

Not backing down, I like being a Catholic.  Yes, I have been a Catholic all my life, but in my early 30's, I began to look at my faith and the Church differently....more like, "are you mine?"  Am I here because of me or my parents?"  When I began to think like this, I realized that I needed to own my faith and know why I believe what I believe and how do I pass it to my children?

Over the course of a few years, I read a lot and learned a lot and met a few pivotal people that helped my journey.  One friend introduced me to Dr. Scott Hahn...I watch a few of his tapes and was hooked, bought his "Rome Sweet Home" book of conversion and was committed to my faith.  I guess you could say, I became a revert even though I never left.

Anyway, I am here as a Catholic despite the corruption, I'm not here because of the priests, deacons, cardinals, or the POPE!!   I am here because of Jesus!!  WE are all fallen, sinners, stupid and idiotic, we all have our faults and failures, even the top people of the world put their underwear on the same way, so I am NOT here because of any of them.  I am here standing tall and committed as a Roman Catholic because I believe in Jesus Christ and the Triune God that loves me and offered himself up as the sacrificial lamb for me and you, and the people of the world.

Totus tuus!!