Monday, April 30, 2012

Want to start a revolution?

This is my suggestion for starting a revolution in the Church: Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CSG).

CSG was accidentally started by Sofia Cavelletti in Rome in 1959.  She was a scripture scholar and a friend asked her to teach her child "something."  Long story cut very short: the child were enthralled and they spent a couple of hours just on the first chapter of Genesis.  Sofia knew there was something that children needed to hear - and something the children could teach the Church.  After years of working with children it was discovered that the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd was the one that children around the world gravitated towards.  

The Good Shepherd knows you by name, calls you by name, lays down his life for you.  The Good Shepherd is the embodiment of love - and even three year olds know that when they hear the story.  I loved when I presented the Good Shepherd lesson to three year olds.  Kids who were quite literally bouncing off the walls when they arrived, would sit quietly and listen to the story of the Good Shepherd.  

There is a lesson on baptism that builds on the lesson of the Good Shepherd where the children are called by name and given a candle.  They are told that Jesus wants to share his light with every person in the world.  The children were filled with delight and happiness and then they went home and taught their families.  

The revolution has already started, but it can continue to grow so that every child in the Church will know the love of the Good Shepherd.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Not a like to be found

The last couple days the Gospel readings have come from last part of John 6, otherwise known as the Bread of Life Discourse.  Jesus speaks the truth all the time, but this is where the rubber hits the road.  This short section separates the true believers from the hangers on.

Jesus repeatedly says that he is the Bread of Life, you must eat his Flesh and drink his Blood to attain eternal life.  Jesus never said that he is "like the Bread of Life."  No, he IS the Bread of Life.  This sounded like cannibalism to many of his disciples.  Jesus' words were so hard to accept that they turned back to their old lives and no longer followed Jesus (see verse 66).  

There's another reason why this teaching was hard for many to hear.  Jesus didn't simply say, "I am the Bread of Life."  He said, "I AM the Bread of Life."  The same I AM that speaks to Moses in the Book of Exodus - I AM THAT AM.  To many ears it sounded like Jesus was blaspheming!  But what it means is that Jesus isn't some cool dude, or simply a prophet, or even the messiah-king.  Jesus IS God.  This is Immanuel, God with us, telling us that we must eat his Flesh and drink his Blood.  In other words, welcome to the Mass.

Happy Easter!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

One of those days

You know it's going to be a rough day when your 2 1/2 year old has four "time-outs" in the about 20 minutes and all before his regular wake up time.  

It looks like it might be one of those days...ugh!

I'm not a morning person and I become a cranky morning person when my little guy is poised to throw temper tantrums over every...little...thing.  I realize it's all part of Mommydom, but it can be hard to keep my cool when my child is flailing about, or my personal favorite, goes completely limp from head to toe as I pick him up.  While waiting for a time out to end, I was praying up a storm this morning.  

God, I don't want to start the day this way.  I don't want to start the day screaming at him.   I need some serious help.

This prayer was probably uttered many times this morning by millions of mommies around the world.  Sometimes prayers like this seem like whining compared to world problems, but then I remember that being a mom is the most important job in the world...and today it sure does seem like the hardest!

Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Martyrdom is so 2nd Century

I have often wondered how far I would go for my faith.  If tomorrow it was illegal to have a Catholic blog, would I blog anyway?  If in a year it was illegal to be Catholic, would I offer my house for Mass?  If in a decade it was illegal to say the name of Jesus in public, would I stand up in the grocery store or the mall and shout out, "I believe in Jesus Christ, savior of the world."?  If at some point in my life it was a capital crime to be Catholic, would I die for my faith?  I would like to think that I have the courage to defend the Cross.

Today's first reading, from the Acts of the Apostles (7:51-8:1a), tells of the martyrdom of Stephen.  St. Stephen proclaimed the truth about Jesus and the Jewish establishment in Jerusalem didn't like it.  They did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah, the long awaited savior of Israel, and they thought Stephen was a blasphemer, so they stoned him.  

Imagine someone throwing a large stone at you with the intent to kill you.  OUCH!  After one stone I might keep on proclaiming the Good News, but after the third or fourth I think I might be tempted to say, "Okay, stop, I was only kidding!"  Stephen kept proclaiming the Risen Lord until his final breath.  

The people of God need to learn from St. Stephen's example.  Martyrs are not simply people from the early Church.  Martyrdom occurs everyday; Christians die everyday on this planet because they will not renounce the name of Jesus Christ.  A friend of my always reminds me to pray for persecuted Christians.  Her husband's family fled from the Armenian genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Turks in 1915.  Every night she prays for Christians fleeing and those who are persecuted.  

Right now there is a Christian somewhere being executed because she has faith like St. Stephan.  

Holy Martyrs, pray that I may have your courage.

Friday, April 20, 2012

What's wrong with miracles?

I remember going to see a Jesus movie when I was young.  There are two scenes I distinctly remember from the movie: the Crucifixion which really upset me and I climbed into my mom's lap crying and asked, "Why are they hurting Jesus?  Why are they killing him?"  The second scene I remember was the Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes.  I was about 4 years old when I saw the movie and what stood out for me was that Jesus prayed and miracles happened.  It was that simple; because Jesus is God he can do anything.  I carried that with me for a long time...and then I went to college.

Today's Gospel reading is the opening of John 6 (verses 1-15).  If you've never read chapter 6 from John's Gospel, do it now.  The chapter begins with the Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes.  In college, a professor was flabbergasted that I actually believed in miracles.  This prof continued to grill me about whether or not I was a biblical literalist.  I'm not, but I said, "When it comes to Jesus, if it's in there, I think it happened just as it's written."  Well, I might as well have stamped CRAZY on my forehead!  

The prof then said, "Jesus created a situation in which people learned to share.  There was no miracle.  What happened was that people who had food shared with the people who didn't have food."

I realized this person had an agenda and trying to defend myself would have been futile.  I smiled and said, "Interesting.  The miracle version is cooler." Then I walked away before the prof could lower my grade.  

What I really wanted to say was: "Really?  Why would the Gospel writers make sure to record this story multiple times?  What's so great about sharing?  Heck, I learned that in kindergarten!  Are you telling me that people didn't know how to share until Jesus showed them?  You've got to be kidding me!"  

This is what happens when Jesus is stripped of his divinity and made into a man.  When Jesus is ONLY a man,  then it's just a story about sharing.  When Jesus is ONLY a man, then there isn't God.  When Jesus is ONLY a man, then you are up a creek without a paddle when life gets hard.

No! No! NO!  Jesus preformed a miracle, in fact, he preformed many miracles.  These miracles still happen today through the work of the Holy Spirit and the intercession of the Saints.  Want to see a really cool miracle this weekend?  Go to Mass and see what happens on the altar - little round wafers become the actually Body and Blood of Christ.  

I know a crazy miracle that probably really irked my prof: the Resurrection.  

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Rationing the Spirit

He does not ration his gift of the Spirit.  John 3:34b

This verse from today's Gospel reading reminded me of Mary's message to St. Catherine LabourĂ© during the second apparition at Rue de Bac, Paris in 1830.  I've blogged about this same theme a couple months ago, but obviously we can't hear it enough because God keeps telling us over and over and over again.  

God does not ration the gift of the Spirit...I do.  
I choose to not pray for God's graces, blessings, or help from the Holy Spirit.  I think that I can go it alone or that I'll figure out how to do it best.  Mary told St. Catherine that there are many graces that God wants to bestow on the world and yet people do not ask for them.  It's a simple message: pray about everything and ask for God's blessings and graces to guide you.  

Say for instance, you're two year old is driving you crazy, then ask for the grace to be a good parent.  Here's another example: your spouse is looking for a job out of state, you have no idea where you will live or how you'll support your family in a couple months, then pray to trust in God's plan and courage to step out in faith.

And, the next time you find yourself in a jam, pray for a double portion of the Holy Spirit.  It's another gem from Fr. Simon, O.P. and it really works.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Bugs in the dark

Have you ever picked up a rock in a garden or in the woods and watched the creepy-crawlies scatter?  Today's Gospel reading from John 3:16-21 lifts up the rocks in my heart, but can I handle the intensity of the light?

Today's reading opens with the verse often seen on signs at sporting events: "For God so loved the world that he gave is only-begotten son so that everyone who believes might not perish but might have eternal life."  This is a 
quick break down of the first part of the reading: God loves us, God gave us Jesus, God wants us to have eternal life, Jesus did not come to condemn us, some will choose to not believe in Jesus and they condemn themselves. It's the basics of what it means to be a Christian.

Continue reading to verse 20, "For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not want to come towards the light, so that his works might not be exposed."  What wicked things reside in your heart?  Does anyone know about it?  Could you possibly bring it to the Sacrament of Confession?  Whenever I keep something (purposefully) out of my confession or confess in a round about way then I am not allowing the Light to drive out the wickedness in my heart.  

Do you prefer the light or the dark?  

Monday, April 16, 2012

Do you have pizzazz?

"Amen, amen, I say to you, unless one is born from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of God." John 3:3

This verse from the Gospel of John is often used against Catholics because we don't use the terminology "born again" when we talk about a relationship with God.  

Here's the 411 on the above some point I need to have the great big "A-ha!" moment where I "get" what Jesus, the Incarnation, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, the Ascension, the lives of the saints, etc. is all about.  If I simply go to Mass every Sunday but I don't invest myself into the faith, then I've missed the point.  There is an idea from the theologian Jeroslav Pelikan that I love: the living faith of the dead versus the dead faith of the living.  

The living faith of the dead looks like this: I live out the faith of the Catholic Church with pizzazz!  That's right, pizzazz.  That doesn't mean that I have I to stand on the street corner and preach, but it does mean that my faith infects every moment of my life.  People should see Jesus when they look at me.  Or, at the very least, they should wonder 'why is she the way she is?'  Sure, there are going to be times I totally mess it up, but then that is when I seek forgiveness with pizzazz; forgiveness with my whole heart and soul.  This faith is like the famous quote of St. Francis of Assisi, "Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words."

Dead faith of the living looks like this: I go to church on Sunday because that is what I'm supposed to do because it's what my parents do.  Once I leave I don't think about church or God or others until the following Sunday when I begrudgingly get out of bed to go to church again.  This is dead faith that simply imitates what was done by others before me.  

Which camp are you in?  Are you in the dead faith camp?  Or do you have pizzazz?  

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Promises of the Resurrection

The doctrine of resurrection was never a problem for me until my daughter, Keenan, was stillborn.   Maybe it’s because I was raised Catholic, but life after death in a resurrected body isn’t a mind-bender.  The details of how it will happen is the mind-bender.  Jesus rising from the dead is the perfect ending to his epic life.  Christ conquers death.  Death is no more.  The final evil, death, is defeated.  All who believe in Christ will also rise again.  

Being from a big Irish Catholic family meant I went to a lot of wakes and funerals growing up and I never once questioned bodily resurrection.  After I held my little girl in my arms, her cold, lifeless body, that is when the Resurrection became hard.  It is not that I suddenly didn’t believe in the Resurrection.  It was the first time in my life that I needed the Resurrection to be true.  I hadn’t needed something to be true so badly in my life.  

People might ask, “How can you believe in the the Sacrament of Reconciliation?  How do you know that you’re actually forgiven.”  There are two answers: first, God promises that I am forgiven; second, I know what it feels like to be forgiven.  When it comes to bodily resurrection, all I’ve got is a promise.  I haven’t been resurrected, I haven’t met any resurrected people, and no one can tell me what it feels like.  A promise from God is all I’ve got to go on.  Grief can be very intense some days, and no offense God, but a promise doesn’t always cut it.  Some days I need the Resurrection to be true so badly, it brings me to tears.  

The first Good Friday after Keenan died was one of those days.  It was not a pretty day.  I think it was the first time I really allowed myself to contemplate the promise of the Resurrection.  What if it is just a story?  What if Jesus wasn’t actually resurrected?  What would that mean?  

Turns out, I am a very big proponent of bodily resurrection.  It’s a non-negotiable.  Other things like: what did Jesus look like?  was he really born on December 25th?  What about the “missing years?”  The answers to these questions do not matter when it comes to my faith.  However, if the Resurrection isn’t true, then doesn’t all of Christ’s other promises fall?  Thankfully, though, I have seen enough of God in my life to know that God would not lie about something as big as Jesus rising from the dead.   

I firmly believe that Jesus is the Christ and was resurrected from the dead.  Good, that is covered.  But, what about me?  what about my grandparents?  what about Keenan?  Keenan is the one person for whom I need bodily resurrection to be true.  And, then, as I thought about it, I realized that I needed bodily resurrection to be true for me too.

Why?  Why do I need it to be true?  Because I want to hold Keenan again, even if it is in a new resurrected form that I can’t possibly understand.  I want to see her eyes open and discover if she has blue eyes like her little brother.  I don’t even care what age she is in her resurrected body.  I just want to look on her beautiful face again, not a picture, and the next time I see her face I want it animated with life.  I didn’t get a chance to experience these things with Keenan in this life and I want to experience them in the next life.  

Perhaps this is the wrong reason to want bodily resurrection, but I think God understands.  I should hope God understands.  God has heard all my questions about this and he already knows what I think, so I’m just going to be honest and put it out there.  Perhaps only parents who have buried a baby think this way.  When you bury a child before you get a chance to meet her, you not only bury a tiny casket, but all the hopes and dreams and questions and wonderings about her as well.  That is a lot to bury.  At the end of time when all believers are resurrected I hope that my hopes and dreams and questions and wonderings will be resurrected too.  I hope that my little family will all be reunited in the next life and we’ll spend eternity worshipping at the Throne of the Lord and get to do a little hiking as well.  

Monday, April 9, 2012

Face to Face

A couple times during Lent I posted mini-meditations on meeting Jesus face to face (Hangin' with Jesus and Hangin' with Jesus - Part Deux).  My somewhat irreverent meditations aside, what would it really be like to meet Jesus face to face?

Today's Gospel reading from Matthew 28 gives us a look at what it was like to meet the Risen Lord.  The NAB translation of verse 9 is a little weak, it simply states that Jesus greeted Mary Magdalene and the other Mary.  Other translations suggest actual greetings such as, "Greetings" or "Peace be to you".  Then the women fell at his feet, hugged his lower legs, and worshipped him.  Although the women knew it was Jesus, there must have been something very different about his resurrected nature because Jesus says to them, "Do not be afraid."  

What if, when you walk out of your house tomorrow morning, Jesus is standing there and uses a modern greeting such as "Hi" or "Hey, howyadoin'?"  How would you respond?  Would you fall at his feet or would you fall into his arms?  Or would you want to start a fist fight? 

What would you say?  Or would you be unable to speak?  Or at seeing the Risen Lord face to face would all of your questions and demands and prayers simply fade away?  

What would Jesus say to you?  What message do you need from him right now?  How would you feel when you hear him say the words: do not be afraid?  Why do you need to hear Jesus speak those words?

The Risen Lord has a different message for each of us, but one message is the same: Do not be afraid.  Take time to rest in those words and know the peace that Jesus wants you to have deep inside.

Happy Easter!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Easter Vigil

Last night my husband and I attended the Easter Vigil.  If you've never been to the Vigil, then mark your calendars now for next year.  Easter Vigil occurs in the evening of Holy Saturday and is usually 2-3 hours long (and sometimes even longer).  For Catholics who get antsy if Father goes fives minutes long, 3 hours at a single Mass might seem like forever but it is worth your time.
Not only do we listen to the story of salvation history, God's plan for saving us from ourselves, we also get to see new Catholics enter into the fold.  I am always awed when adults want to join the Catholic Church.  I love the Church and think everyone should join us, however we don't always get the best press.  I am inspired when someone is willing to look past the surface "stuff" and examine the Church on a deeper level.  Watching an adult be baptized or listening to the Profession of the Candidates causes me to pause and examine my faith.  
If I was not already Catholic, would I choose to be Catholic?
The Candidates profess the following: "I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God."  WOW!  As a cradle Catholic I never have to stand up and say that in front of people.  Could I do it if I had to?
After a not-so-great Lent, the Easter Vigil is a great way to start the Easter Season.

Jesus Christ is risen today!  Alleluia!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

I've got nothing...

"Sometimes all we have to offer is our struggles..."  Great words from my friend, Fr. Simon (O.P.).  

Lent started off great for me, but then I went off the rails.  I had great plans for this Lent; it would be prayerful, a time of renewal and by the time Holy Week came around I'd be ready.'s been none of those things.  In fact, it's just been one thing after another.  

Right before Lent started we found out that my husband wouldn't have a job after next school year (2012-3).  Not the news you want to hear, but we were okay; we have time to deal with it.  Then, we found out that he will be let go at the end of this school year due to budget cuts.  That's in eight weeks...yikes!  For various reasons, we have decided to leave Mississippi and move somewhere else.  Lent has turned into a job hunting/house hunting/where the heck are we going misadventure.  

So here I am, Holy Week is under way and I am going house hunting out of town, again.  Like many things in life, Lent has not turned out the way I wanted it to.  I was hoping to have "something" at the end of Lent, but I have nothing.  All I can offer God is all the stress and worry over our situation.  All I can offer Him is my struggle.  

Someday, I hope I can actually give God something in return.