25 December 2013

Venite adoremus...

"O felix culpa quae talem et tantum meruit habere redemptorem."
"O happy fault that merited such and so great a Redeemer."

While this quotation is part of the Easter Vigil Exsultet, it was one of the first things I thought about after the clock passed midnight and the day became Christmas.  Earlier, I wrote about this year's Lent--filled with impatience and yearning for Easter--and how it shares that feeling of anticipation with Advent leading to Christmas. In the same way, Felix culpa not only causes me to meditate on Christ's Crucifixion, but also reminds me of the Incarnation.

I am continually pleasantly surprised by the parallels between the birth and death of Jesus Christ. He was laid in a manger in the stable; He would later be bound to wood at death. He was brought fine perfumes by the wise men; these perfumes would be used for His funeral cloths. Our Lord suffered and died for our sin, but could do so only because He humbled Himself to be born of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is a beautiful cycle which makes me want to celebrate the liturgical year properly all the more.

"Oh happy fault that merited such and so great a redeemer." It is easy (in that the evidence is apparent) to look at the Crucifix above the altar and say, "This is how He loves us." However, the Incarnation seems less obvious. Perhaps we have become a bit desensitized to the Truth. The Nativity scene is as memorized as the Goldilocks and the Three Bears tale, yet if we really acknowledged the reality behind this Child, we would fall to our knees. He is not merely a child, but also God. He comes to us, not grandly announced or on a red carpet, but proclaimed to few and basically in a barn (as a Midwest girl, this application makes the story of Jesus' birth even more incomprehensible: He could have been born less than a few miles away from me surrounded by livestock and soybeans. That just sounds crazy to think, doesn't it?).

What kind of King chooses to enter the world in this way? What kind of King allows Himself to join our weary world, being denied by those who can help Him, in the poorest of conditions? The answer: a King who has come to redeem us. He comes to us vulnerable and in humble conditions because He understands. His mission isn't just to tell us that He is worthy of worship (which He does receive at His birth); His mission is to make us holy, to save us in the time and place that we are.

So He meets us in the simplest and purest way as a child. I am reminded of Pope Benedict XVI's Midnight Mass Homily of 2006:

"He asks for our love: so he makes himself a child. He wants nothing other from us than our love, through which we spontaneously learn to enter into his feelings, his thoughts and his will – we learn to live with him and to practice with him that humility of renunciation that belongs to the very essence of love. God made himself small so that we could understand him, welcome him, and love him."

Our Lord presents Himself to us in the most beautiful way, completely out of love for us. Over the next 12 days of Christmas, let us come to the Infant Jesus in the Nativity, not with a fleeting, "How cute," but in reverence for the great work He accomplishes by entering the world in the way He does.

"Come, let us adore him!"
"Venite adoremus!"

22 December 2013

Dear Friends,

This is a good/great/wonderful reminder right now:

Love you, Papa Benny.

21 December 2013

First Comes Lent, Then Comes Advent

When I left school and came home, I was looking through the program from Easter Vigil now near nine months ago. I remember waiting so eagerly for several months for the day to arrive, and it is still odd sometimes to think that it has been this long gone.

Going through the program I remember very specific scenes.

"Blessing of the Easter Fire. Blessing of the Candle. Lighting of the Candle."
I remember standing in the courtyard as these events took place. I remember our RCIA group gathering around, standing close together in the breeze and having amusing exchanges with the people around me about our friend and sacristan's potential pyromania. I remember walking up the stone incline to the steps before the church.

"The people re-enter the darkened church. The priest and ministers follow. The celebrant stops three times, proclaiming, "The Light of Christ." The people respond, "Thanks be to God" After the second acclamation, all light their candles from the Easter candle."
This was one of the most memorable and magical moments. The slow procession of the priests hiked up the anticipation I was already feeling dancing at the end of my nerves. Then the light began to spread in the darkened church, like "And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it." Except I so eagerly wanted to comprehend it, and seemed to be holding my breath as priests and candlelight got closer.

"First Reading, Second Reading, Third Reading,..."
These readings, songs and prayers seemed to go on forever (that happens when you have nine of them), but each reading was like the first time I'd heard them, each Psalm opening up understanding and agreement, each prayer faithfully offered. The history of salvation unfolded with each round, each one as one drop of water closer to refreshment that would come with the Gospel. But perhaps my favorite part was next.

"Gloria. The church bells are rung, the altar candles are lighted, and the church lights are turned on."
It seems like such a simple explanation, too simple an explanation, for what that moment was like. From near complete darkness, meditating on the Word and being led in prayer for the better par of an hour, the introduction of light was as brilliant as the organ jumping to life and voices filling the church with praises to and of and for God, God Who gave of himself so completely out of His love, Who rose again from His power, offered us His hand of friendship. Music filled the air and I swore I could hear the angels and saints along with us. With my sponsor beside me, others in RCIA surrounding me, the priests who inspired me before me and my family behind me, I felt this was a true moment of true community. This was the Church as She should be: brilliant, exultant, joyful. I was practically shaking with excitement as the last notes of "Amen" faded to the edges of the room.

The excitement at the Gloria must have been the excitement of the Resurrection. All was darkness before: the apostles were hidden away after their Lord and leader was put to death, we had endured forty days of penance and abstinence and prayer. The Gloria was like the tomb being opened, like the angels saying, "He is not here," like Mary Magdalene's realization, like Jesus walking through the wall to greet His friends. The Gloria was like the triumph over death, was like Satan being cast into Hell, was like the window to Heaven and eternity being opened above us.

The glory of the moment of our song melted into the glory which greeted us much later in the Eucharist. Bread and wine, now Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, raised into the air resounded just as loudly and shone just as brightly as the music from earlier. "Here I am," the Lord speaks from that altar. "Take and eat...take and drink," He shares himself with us, who have no business coming to Him in any form, because He asks us, because He has given us the grace required.

When I imagine Heaven, I imagine singing joyfully all day (what are days in Heaven?). I imagine finding all completeness and beauty in One Person, whom I will never be separated from again. I imagine reuniting with other faithful servants, linking my arms with theirs and being happy and more alive than we ever were on Earth. I imagine the brilliance of God being too much to bear as my imperfect human self, but in that moment I imagine being unable to do anything but stare at His radiance and splendor, just as I behold Him in the Eucharist. I imagine being truly awe-struck.

I am waiting now again as Advent continues. My reward at the end of the month will be the announcement of His birth and the celebration of it. As expected, it seems like Christmas time will never come. It reminds me, just as this Lent and Easter did, that though this life is a years-long wait, the wait is worth it. The reward will be beautiful.

17 December 2013

St. Therese on Human Judgment

"For my part, I prefer to be charged unjustly, because, having nothing to reproach myself with, I offer gladly this little injustice to God. Then, humbling myself, I think how easily I might have deserved the reproach. The more you advance, the fewer the combats; or rather, the more easy the victory, because the good side of things will be more visible. Then your soul will soar above creatures. As for me, I feel utterly indifferent to all accusations because I have learned the hollowness of human judgment.
When misunderstood and judged unfavorably, what benefit do we derive from defending ourselves? Leave things as they are, and say nothing. It is so sweet to allow ourselves to be judged anyhow, rightly or wrongly."
-St. Therese
Of course only the sweetest of the saints could say such a thing. When we are judged, when we feel personal insult, when we feel taken for granted, how do we react? "I must set them right!" may cross your mind. Or perhaps you bite your tongue and bitterly stew over their words/action for the next week (I'm guilty of this one). As contrary to intuition or common practice as her advice seems, St. Therese really knows the right course of action here and must have sent this page from her Story of a Soul to me at the right moment. Not a white rose, but just as good.

Such a passage strikes me in general for how unique and unusual it is. She does not only say, "Turn the other cheek," but also, "Have no resentment for either slap." How easy is it for anyone to take criticism? Add to that taking mis-attributed criticism without complaint, then humble yourself for how easily the criticism could have applied to you.

It sounds absolutely insane on the surface. However, it becomes simple and logical when one considers it longer. "Jesus answered: My kingdom is not of this world." (John 18:36) If we are to be like Christ, we cannot expect to be treated any kinder than He was. Further, the judgment which most matters is our Final Judgment by the One who truly knows us. I'm not saying God is going to cut us all a break and overlook every sin we've committed here; I mean that only He is capably of properly judging us. Any judgment from others is considerably less important by comparison. (I speak here of improper judgment; of course correcting the ignorant and admonishing sinners are spiritual works of mercy). "The hollowness of human judgment" shouldn't send us into hysterics.

The real trick is changing our state of mind from one of indignation and pride to one of obedience and humility. If someone negatively admonishes us for a fault which we do not possess, it is not always truly necessary to point out their error. It is much more simple to "leave things as they are." If it is a grave mistake which necessitates correction, you should point out the truth to the other person. That there is the point: in all we do we should strive for the Truth. If we retaliate based upon our pride and not guided by the Truth, we have only made our lives more difficult. We have caused further strife with another and have deviated from the path our energies should be focused upon.

When we believe we have been slighted in some way, let us first ask whether correction is needed: Is the Truth obstructed or poorly represented by the slight? Can it be done so also by our reaction? If not, let us accept it as a small suffering which we can offer to God for ourselves, the other party, the souls in Purgatory or sinners everywhere. Let us remember in the moments in which we are tempted to act most selfishly where our hearts ought always to be directed. Let us ask St. Therese for her assistance to teach us how to walk her Little Way.

14 December 2013

Feast! OR Why Don't You Have This Book Yet?

Are you a Catholic (or non-Catholic Christian as well!) looking for a way to celebrate the liturgical year? Do you enjoy cooking and living faithfully? Would you believe me if I told you there is an easy way to do these things? Then...

Check out Feast! Real Food, Reflections, and Simple Living for the Christian Year by fellow blogger Haley and her husband Daniel from Carrots for Michaelmas. (If you do not know them already, get your cursor and keister over there.) Haley, Daniel and their children Benjamin, Lucy and Gwen live in Florida, urban homesteading it up as gardeners, backyard chicken keepers and marathon runner. It doesn't hurt that the kids are the most adorable and most quotable in the world.

I was thrilled when I heard Haley and Daniel were working on this book, grabbed a PDF copy as soon as she said it was available and figuratively devoured it as quickly as possible (though, literal gobbling up would have occurred if her book came with recipe samples. Just an idea, Haley! ;) ). I am so pleased by this book because it offers so much of the information it promises in the title: twenty-three recipes (healthy and gluten-free, if you or your family are wary) and many reflections on liturgical seasons. The major selling point? It is all delivered to your eyes in super nice format and to your brain in super easy to incorporate into daily life format. Plus, who can resist the faces of her cute children? No one, that's who.

As a recent convert, I am so thankful that this book exists. I feel like it will be my go-to resource for ideas on how to celebrate the Christian Year, especially when it comes to cooking (honestly, is there a better way to celebrate?) with seasonal, quality food (Haley @Carrots is basically my soul sister). I look forward to using it more-so when I have children of my own to teach about the Saints, Advent, Feast days and the good of God's creation. I love the book for its all around practicality. With it, I can strive to live faithfully without stressing out.

If you are as eager as I am to dig in, you can purchase Feast! by several methods:
PDF at $7.99, print at $21.99 and 30% off (at least for now) at Amazon print at $15.52.

The Carrots family is so sweet and I congratulate them on the completion of this project. Well done!

08 December 2013

The Award for Most Selfish Article of the Year Goes To...

Yes. I believe I have found the most selfish article ever written.

Over at Buzzfeed, you can find 28 Reasons You're Better Off Never Having Kids.

I am finding it a little hard to believe I just wrote that sentence.

So the list counts up a wonderful set of twenty-eight reasons not having kids makes your life awesome. The first reason? "Your sleeping schedule won't revolve around when another tiny human feels sleepy." Okay, I'll be one of the first to admit my love of sleep. I don't always sleep as much as I should, so given the opportunity, more sleep would be fantastic. But read that sentence again. Your sleep schedule won't revolve around "another tiny human"'s feelings. I mean, how dare that tiny human feel sleepy, right? Doesn't he know I haven't had my beauty rest yet? How selfish of this week-old person!

With the second reason, we are brought much comfort in knowing that not having kids means we can sleep "without worrying a child is burning down the house." Because that kind of thing can't be prevented by shared naps, baby-proofing or good parenting.

The list continues on with reasons inconsequential ("I can't swear around those little jabberjays!") and exaggerated ("Your body basically explodes when you give birth," something I'm sure author Adam Ellis has to worry about). Other objections are completely avoidable ("What if I raise a monster?") or null ("I can't have a glass of wine at night!" What, is your toddler going to tell on you to the alcohol police?).

If you have kids, you can't have an ugly house like this.
Because it's the kid's fault he gouges himself with your pointy shelves.

The entire article is composed of typical materialistic objections. There will be less time for myself. I'll have to give up my hobbies. Children cost $241,080 to raise. Whoa, let's stop for a second. $241,080 to raise a child? How much crack is that author smoking? Not much, we'd admit, if we subscribe to spending thousands of dollars on clothing in the first years, spending $800 a month on groceries for a four-person family, purchasing the latest technological gadgets, giving each child a too-large room of their own, focusing on gifts and parties more than birthdays and holidays, buckling under the convincing "But everyone else has one!".... Not much, we'd admit, if we show love to our children by our purchases and by never saying "no."

What is it that makes it so acceptable to hate on the infants of the world? Agreeing with an article like this (which does occur, as a skim of the comments of the article unfortunately tells) is basically like saying, "Hey, thanks, Mom and Dad, for raising me and everything, but you would have been better off never having had to take care of me." Talk about ungrateful. This same attitude makes it easy for us to promote extreme pro-choice stances. It is better, this article and those stances say, for this nuisance of a child never to have existed to bother me so. After all, all that matters is my comfort, my possessions, my wealth and my "individuality as a person." That stuff is all eaten up when you bear children. You couldn't possibly gain anything from parenthood like love, hope, strength, cleverness, craftiness, thriftiness, a better sense of humor, deep human connections, selflessness or a brighter outlook on the world.... You couldn't possibly gain by learning to love someone else more than you love yourself.

And that's it right there: the reason we're better off not having kids is because then we won't be the center of our own universe anymore. For some reason, that frightens people more than anything else.

14 November 2013

I Stand With Thomas Peters

Today Thomas and Natalie Peters ask your help!

When Thom was in a swimming accident four months ago, he caused damage to his spine, specifically the were brae in his neck. His recovery has been difficult, but, by the grace of God, miraculous.

As the first six months after an accident like this are critical for telling of what recovery will be had, I join them in asking for your prayers and support for (and beyond) these next two months. Thom has already showed remarkable progress and wrote a message on his recovery blog at the start of the month (read here: http://tpetersrecovery.blogspot.com/2013/11/from-thomas-peters-reflections-on-my.html?m=1. **A proper link will be set up when I'm on a computer instead of my phone.).

Pray for further recovery for Thom, strengthening of his muscles again, strength and perseverance for Natalie, trust and faith for their marriage, a loving support system in their families and a continued smooth transition into their new house.

We are so thankful for you, Thom and Natalie. Your example of strength and love is inspiring.

12 November 2013

Pray for the Philippines

If you're anything like me (usually oblivious to the news) and haven't heard about the typhoon in the Philippines...I don't even know what to say to you.

Actually I do.

"It's like the end of the world," Nancy Chang said. This article at Sky News gets real--real fast. Looting, little government or military control, destroyed traveling routes, family separation, increasing casualty count.... The entire article is shocking, showing an image of two men dragging a corpse, quoting a pregnant woman who has lost track of her family, a count of 480,000 whose homes have been destroyed, no count but "hundreds" who wait in lines for food, continual counts that are impossible to imagine.

Stop and read that article. Maybe you'd like to breeze past it because it's easier to pretend it isn't happening, but it is.

If you can give (if you're reading this, you can give), please do. Cross Catholic Outreach is ones group which is aiding the Philippines right now (and it gives 95% of its donations to the actual cause, which is actually great compared to other relief groups).

In addition, there's nothing like the power of prayer at times like this. Anyone know if there are novenas or prayer-a-thons going on to St Joseph or St Rose of Lima for the Philippines? PFrancis is at it on Twitter as usual. :)

Things to pray for: family and friends reunited, travel routes to be opened (for transfer of food, medicine and other goods), priests to provide the gift of the Sacraments (especially Last Rites), comfort for those who mourn, conversion of the hardest hearts, respect for the dead, concrete aid, hope instead of despair, acts of charity instead of violence, a community of peace instead of chaos.

05 November 2013

The Problem of the Post-Grad

I have been trying to take up journaling again. The following was an earlier entry.

I'm worried that this is as good as it gets.
At some point you can't go back and I think that is what bothers me the most. I can't go back to save the boy. I can't go back to tell myself to just go home before I get into a bigger mess. I can't go back to relive the days friendship was strongest in order to revel in it. I can't go back to repeat each moment of glory and wonder and awe. 
It is a two-facet phenomena, in which I am first unable to alter the things I would prefer not to have happened and in which I am unable to hold to the moments which were so good I desire to experience them continually.
It is truly life-or-death tragic and it is nostalgic and melancholic tragic.
The good thing about Heaven is that the former will no longer matter and the latter will be forever. The bad thing about Hellwhich I most fearis the former will be my self-inflicted torture and the latter will be nevermore.
I'm worried that this is as good as it gets. And that isn't good enough.

This transitory phase I am experiencing post-university is stranger and more unsettling than the transitory phase I experienced going to university. It seems counter-intuitive: after school I am wiser, I have a better understanding of myself, I have friends I can rely upon, I have a miraculous gift in the Catholic Church. Yet it is as if a great understanding is evading me. College is supposed to give you the tools to face the world, but I don't think college taught me how to apply for jobs for which I am over-qualified or what to do when my major of study is no longer exhilarating or how to trust people, how to trust yourself, when they say it all works out.

I don't think this issue is particular to myself. Friends with whom I graduated seem to be going along the road of life as certainly as I. But this isn't like the Life board game. I haven't played it to know what curves life is going to throw at me. It isn't even a problem that life may will be difficult; it is that I don't know when. I don't know when I should slow down and savor the moment or when to exit the room as quickly as possible because one wrong stance or word or friendship that buds in the next ten seconds could throw my life off the tracks for the next ten years.

Would anyone believe me if I said that wasn't dramatic?

So what's the problem with post-grad? It's the same problem faced by anyone who looks up from his mundane routine to face questions of existence and purpose. Life is big with infinite variables and, as exciting as life can and should be, it is also terrifying and confusing and tragic. I think we need to acknowledge the scary parts of life more, and remind ourselves that it is natural to be concerned. The thing which saves us from the downward spiral is an ascensionwhether that manifests itself in friendship or art or laughter or God (Who of course provides all three).

The need for this ascension is probably why I buy wine and have dance parties (both at the simultaneously proper and unconventional times).

Dance party on, my friends. We'll make it.

16 September 2013

Encouragement from Psalms, Ezekiel and St. Cyprian

I have been feeling really discouraged lately and I'm fairly certain it comes from not knowing how to live out the Faith daily in a very good (and I hope, obvious) way. We can get into routines that may not be badthe Rosary, prayer for others, fasting and abstainingbut that we do not utilize enough to battle the evils of the world. I also want to know how I can arm myself externally to show the world the love I have for the Catholic Church. Is wearing my Miraculous Medal really that obvious? Isn't there something more I could be doing to show others the beauty and truth of the Church and bring them to it?

I have an app on my phone called Laudate. It is bursting with useful Catholic information: prayers, the Stations of the Cross, a virtual Rosary walk-through, daily readings, the Liturgy of Hours, a Confession guide, the Catechism...and it was free! Every Catholic with a smart phone should get it. I can easily access daily readings before work, read encyclicals when I have free time or double check which are the Luminous Mysteries (I always forget those!).

Today's Office provided just the encouragement that I need.
From the Psalms:
My flesh and heart are failing,
but it is God that I love:
God is my portion for ever.
Too often, with news of persecution and impending war, with new of more fatal injuries, with news of more words twisted by the media of the Holy Father, I begin to feel desolate. "What can I do, Lord? How can I make Your peace and love a reality here on Earth?" The psalmist feels my weakness too: my flesh and heart are failing. However, it is God that I love! It is He who loves more than I ever could, who brings about great conversions, who will wipe away every tear.

 From Ezekiel:
Then he said, 'Son of man, go to the House of Israel and tell them what I have said. You are not being sent to a nation that speaks a difficult foreign language; you are being sent to the House of Israel. Not to big nations that speak difficult foreign languages, and whose words you would not understandif I sent you to them, they would listen to you; but the House of Israel will not listen to you because it will not listen to me. The whole House of Israel is stubborn and obstinate. But now, I will make you as defiant as they are, and as obstinate as they are; I am going to make your resolution as hard as a diamond and diamond is harder than flint. So do not be afraid of them, do not be overawed by them for they are a set of rebels.'
Then he said, 'Son of man, remember everything I say to you, listen closely, and go to your exiled countrymen and talk to them. Tell them, "The Lord says this," whether they listen or not.'
This passage was so fitting, yet reminded me of the difficulty, to my preoccupations the last few days, weeks and months. (At least) Since announcing my conversion last June, I have struggled with how I can bring others to the Church of Christ. How can I show others what I see and know about the Church? How can I lead them to the beauty of her parishes and liturgy, to the aid of St. Michael and St. Therese, to the love of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to the unity of the universal Church?

Our own house may not listen to us, but we are not to be afraid. We are to be as resolute and firm in the faith as they are against it. We are to tell them the truth, whether they listen or not. Will it not be worth all the struggle and repeated trials in order to bring someone to the fountains of grace of Baptism, to the intoxicating flames of Confirmation, to heart-wrenching Good Friday and heart-swelling Easter, to the glorious and transcendent sacrifice of the Mass?
From the Closing Prayer:
Lord God, you gave Saint Cornelius and Saint Cyprian to your Church as faithful pastors and steadfast martyrs. Strengthen our faith and our courage by their prayers, so that we may strive with all our power for the unity of the Church. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever.
Pope Saint Cornelius and Saint Cyprian lived courageously, teaching and converting others and eventually becoming martyrs for the faith. "Thanks be to God!" Cyprian said to his death sentence. We must be as these men were in the faith: willing to fully live and fully die clinging to the truth. We must desire unity of the Church over division, and that means not being unaffected by the division among it. We should not celebrate the pop up of new sects as if they were open houses, but always call believers back to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

I do not have a Ten Easy Steps to Conversion program (though I wish I did at times!), but these readings reminded me that living the faith daily and fully is the best way to show others what the Catholic Church is really about. Trust that God can work in wonderful ways and work passionately for the good of the Church.

26 August 2013

Fortunate Fall : Audrey Assad

I must admit that I get most of my music from Spotify and have for the last two years or so. The low, low price of $9.99 a month to listen to and carry around any song I want? Worth it. (Spotify does have free options you can certainly use and be happy with. I just like to spend the $10 to bring playlists and radio wherever I want on my phone, even internationally if I have I have the playlist saved. It is worth it because I listen to music almost constantly if the situation allows. But this isn't a plug for Spotify...)

So when I actually purchase an album, it is not only because Spotify doesn't have it (well, it doesn't have this one, to be truthful), but also because I really, really like the album. This is definitely the case with Audrey Assad's Fortunate Fall, released 13 August 2013. After I'd seen enough thrown around about this album (friends on Twitter, Marc's review on Bad Catholic), I decided I really needed to check it out. I had listened to Assad's previous albums, finding a few songs here and there that I really liked, so I was familiar with her.

Here's a pretty pretty album picture
which I got from Christian Music Zine.
Fortunate Fall blows her previous albums, as well as the majority of contemporary albums, out of the water. Yes, I feel entitled to make that huge statement. The album is beautiful in lyrics and musicality, which seems to do no justice in description. Centered around this idea of the fortunate fall, felix culpa, "O happy fault that merited such and so great a Reedemer," this album weaves through an experience of the faith in a way which can truly be called universal and Catholic. I listen to it and see myself at a midnight Christmas Mass. I listen to it and see St. John standing at the foot of the cross. I listen to it and see the priest holding up the host, now become the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, at the altar.

One of the best parts about the album is how Catholic it is. The album could be split into three parts, separated by tracks 1 ("Fortunate Fall"), 4 ("O Happy Fault"), 8 ("Felix Culpa"), following one's faithful journey. The first section is the most desolate, remorseful for our our transgressions when we consider our sin, the mystery of the Incarnation and the power of the Cross. It us us staring at the Crucifix and realizing how beautiful it is. Interesting to note in the first track is the English lyrics (which becomes apparent later in the album) "O Happy Fault, Fortunate Fall." God meets us where we are.

I see the Mass in some way in each song. For example, in the second track Help My Unbelief, a bridge of repeated "My Lord and my God," calls to mind the transubstantiation--the changing of bread and wine to flesh and blood. I am reminded of the same in the next song, "Humble," at the lyrics: "We bow our knees / We must decrease / You must increase / We lift you high." and also of the stations of the cross, of Jesus who was "Humble and human, willing to bend.../ ...Not too proud to wear our skin / to know this weary world we're in."

Then, an impossibly beautiful melody of "O Felix Culpa" (4: "O Happy Fault") begins the next section, and suddenly we know Latin, because we are learning. The second section is our living the faith, despite sorrow, strife, adversaries, even our own desires. Reminiscent of St. Francis of Assisi's prayer, track 6 ("I Shall Not Want") asks, "From the need to be understood / From the need to be accepted / From the fear of being lonely / Deliver me, O God." These songs are our desperate moments before the Blessed Sacrament, struggling but determined, surrounded on all sides but coming out fighting.

The third section is begun by "Felix Culpa," which follows the melody of "O Happy Fault" but the track is purely instrumental. Perhaps the language progression from English to Latin to only music is a progression of purity: perhaps in the end, we will need no words, because the music of our hearts in union with the Love of God will be a language all its own. This idea of a progression continues throughout the album and through the third section which I think of as the final stages of the refining of one's life. It is as if the Saints have looked back upon their lives and told Assad that they are humans just as we are. It is as if souls in Purgatory can almost taste the Wedding Feast. The mystery of the descent of the Holy Spirit is at the forefront of my mind during "Spirit of the Living God," who is beseeched to "descend upon Thy Church once more and make it truly Thine." "Lead, Kindly Light" can only be the inspiration the Church Militant needs to persevere in the faith to the end, even to death, despite the darkness of the world. "You Speak" speaks of fulfillment and fullness, the old law passing away, the soul being refined each day as the faithful one presses on.

As the readings at Easter outline salvation history from the Old Testament to the Gospels, Fortunate Fall outlines the individual's salvation history. The wonderful thing is that all Saints go through this process: discovering the Truth, striving to live a faithful life, being refined and made holy at each step. The universality of this path adds yet another dimension to the album, because then the album isn't only a collection of songs which are only a collection of words and notes. Fortunate Fall becomes our story. Fortunate Fall is the story of all humanity.

I am not benefiting in any way from promoting Fortunate Fall. I just think it's that good and needs to be listened to by others. No lyrics, song titles or rewards are mine. You know I'm not getting money because I straight up pay for Spotify still. Go listen to this album. Go buy this album.

21 August 2013

Summer Lovin' (My Favorite Blogs)

People around the blogosphere are killing it these days. Who says Summer has to be lazy? Read on!

1. Steve Gershom. Or should I say Joey Prever? In this fantastic post Steve Joey (I still don't know what to call you, man) came out (pun?) with a couple weeks ago, he basically gives a run-down of his life as a Catholic, SSA individual committed to celibacy. It's basically a big deal. I applaud Joey for his courage and sincerity. I have been following his blog for nearly a year now and have really valued getting to read things from his perspective and prompted to think about how homosexuality fits into God's plan. And, no, I'm not going to start promoting SSM, but I do think we as the Church need to take extra care to treat people as people, not as labels. Okay, soap box done. I cannot wait to hear more from Joey and his journey.

2. The Catholic Gentleman. New to me with thanks to Facebook. I know I don't need "how to be a gentleman" lessons, but this blog and page is pretty legit and is so refreshing to read after nonsense like this. I particularly have liked this post on Confession and:

Karol Wojtyla, who would become Pope John Paul II, out on a camping trip, shaving in the woods. Can't get much more manly than that. ;)

3. Thomas Peters Recovery. Unless you've been sleeping under a rock for the last month, I'm sure this blog/story has floated across your screen if you're part of the Catholic blogging world (if not, sorry for making assumptions). Nearly five weeks ago, Thomas Peters from American Papist was involved in a swimming accident which left him with serious damage to vertebrae in his neck. However, his recovery has been remarkable. I've pretty much been checking my feed for updates when I get off of work and every update holds good, even incredible, news. Please add him to your prayer list. You can even join their novena here.

4. Carrots for Michaelmas. Need your daily dose of mothering help/aweseomeness? Haley to the rescue! Made a momma for the third time, by now 12-week old Gwen, Haley has been sharing great link-ups and wisdom that I am definitely bookmarking to make use of in the future. Katherine of Shouting Hallelujah shared 7 Books for New Moms. As someone who couldn't imagine going without reading for more than a couple hours, I will definitely be consulting this list. Haley also shared On Marrying Young, which I hope will also be a valuable in the upcoming years.

5. The Crescat. Oh lady. When I click on a new post from Katrina, I always prepare myself for hilarity and piercing observations. Her post earlier this week, A Church By Any Other Name Is A Worship Center, considers the prevalence of "worship communities," the names of which make them unidentifiable as a denomination and likely unidentifiable as a church. She writes,
"Funny how all these questionable sounding nondenominational worship communities make me think of everything but God. I get the human desire for community and companionship but I don’t go to church looking for human interaction. I go looking for interaction with the Divine. I think these community churches are what happens when people start looking for the parish to fill their social needs over spiritual ones."
And then she jokes that Journey Church with "Don't Stop Believin'" in the hymnal would be great. Except maybe she's not joking.

Last, but certainly not least, one of the best parts of Summer (and the only holiday in August!): the Assumption!

I adore this painting by Nicolas Poussin. The colors and light and clouds and flowers and billowing... So pretty and it strikes me as the perfect balance of majesty and soft femininity, completely fitting for the Blessed Mother.

That's all for now. What blogs/bloggers/posts are you loving?

I share more links/random thoughts on Twitter, and pictures of food experiments, pretty things and nail polish on Instagram. Hit me up and let's keep the sharing going!

18 August 2013

Set the World (and Our Hearts) on Fire

Today's Gospel Reading:
Jesus said to his disciples: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”

The first two things I thought of at this reading were (1) the lovely quotation from St. Catherine of Sienna:
“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” 
and (2)

just a very little bit.

Today's Gospel reading is all too appropriate for what is happening in the world today. The persecutionthe burning and attacking of churches and Christian institutionsin Egypt is front-page news. Dozens of buildings and thousands of people have been attacked in the last week. And while this is all occurring, our country's leader is saying little, our country's government is still providing the country with monetary aid.

I do not expect the world's actions to align with what I would do, but I think Christians need to be aware of how close our own country is coming to accepting these actions. Already religious freedom is being limited in grave matters like abortion, and while it is all advertised as supporting "choice," it is giving us no choice. No choice for hospitals and doctors forced to perform abortions; no choice for healthcare organizations forced to fund them (unless one wants to pay an extraordinary fine); no choice for young women who are now presented with only the encouragement and expectation of murder; no choice for men whose masculinity and rightful family leadership role is being taken from them in the name of "rights" they could never understand.

And as violence occurs on the other side of the world and our country soon forgetsif they even acknowledgeit, the same violence is all the sooner to happen in our own towns because of our ignorance and lack of action. Literal fires are being started and we are neglecting the nurturing of the fire of the Holy Spirit which should always engulf our hearts. We are forgetting the value of suffering, which is my only hope for all the attacks: that the suffering will create martyrs, that martyrs will inspire conversion, that conversion will strengthen the Church.

In his homily today, Father said that: "All must burn by fire until the only thing left standing is the cross of Jesus Christ." Our own fires must combat the aggressive fires of our adversaries. We must live our faith in a way which shows others the love of Christ, converts others to Catholicismthe one true Church of Christ, teaches and edifies Christians, and shows the world with unshakable certainty that Catholics are a force to be reckoned with. We must not be lukewarm in our faith. We must not back down when our liberties are limited. We must not turn a blind eye to our brothers and sisters who suffer. We must not be afraid when they revile and persecute us, as it says, "Blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for my sake: Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is very great in Heaven," for they did the same to Christ (we should expect nothing less), for He will be with us to the end of the age.

Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Heaven, and all the Saints of Heaven: pray for us.

17 August 2013

The Church That Brought Me Home

Listening to a certain music tonight, my mind flashed back to walking campus in the Fall, crossing through one of the buildings to cut down on time to get to the chapel. In my mind, I entered it in the brilliance of the morning, sunlight filtering through stained glass and reflecting off the marble. I thought instantly of the Crucifix where I gazed at Jesus, probably for days in total, at Mass and in free moments when I had the time to visit. My thoughts next drifted to the Pieta statue on the right side of the church, to which I felt particularly drawn when I first began attending Mass. Directly above this statue is a painting of the Holy Family, with Mary gazing fondly at the Child Jesus. The compassion in her face inspired many a prayer to be myself half as good a woman and mother one day.

Then I remembered the stand-out moments and Sacraments. The first night I stepped into the church with some nervousness and steeling of breath. I can never recapture the stillness of the moment. My mind did not wander. It is as if I were standing at the threshold of a secret door, with a light I could just make out at the edges of the frame. I feel as if I peered into the moment of that Mass as down a shadowy corridor. Four months later I would find myself drawn once again to the chapel in a back pew between classes "just wanting to pray in silence for a minute," but finding myself with tears streaming down my face, acknowledging all my neglect of God and worthwhile living. I think that was the first time I really acknowledged Christ's presence. I wouldn't be sitting too far from that seat when another year later, week after week, daily Mass made me (dizzy from incense) hungry for the Eucharist with a fierceness I never would have expected.

And then taking one brilliant step forward to kneel in the glimmering chapel in the early morning after my first Confession, breathless again, but this time nothing was still. Light, emotions, thoughts were bouncing brilliantly that morning in a way which only makes me look back now in near disbelief (near, because I know it was real; disbelief, because it was too real). It was as if the air had changed, as if I could see things differently and clearly. Then a light rain began and I imagined it a sign of the grace that I hoped had just fallen down on me.

And then the slow steps at Easter Vigil, being sealed with the Holy Spirit as Monsignor made the Sign of the Cross on my forehead in oil, breathless as always as I knelt and offered myself to Jesus' Church and Jesus offered Himself to me--body, blood, soul and divinity--and opening my eyes to see the Crucifix again, and always. The Eucharist was bitter and sweet, death and life, impossible and perfect at the same time.

Remembering that church fills me with longing. It was where everything began: the first time trying to really understand Catholicism, the first time the same readings of the day for everyone in the Church went from limiting/oppressive to unitive, the first time I felt drawn to a place because I felt God there, the first time I began to love a Mother I've never even seen, the first time Latin prayers fell from my tongue, the first time I confessed and felt truly forgiven....

My attachments grasp specific, ordinary objects like "that pew" or "this slant of light" or "the marble here" to keep the memory full, but each of these church-specific objects inspire my thoughts to holy actions and beliefs. My life changed, I became a different person, in that church. That church feels more like home to me than any other place because that church is where I started coming home to the Church. I will be thankful every day for that change, and for the prayers and work (though people probably didn't realize what work they were doing) that brought me to the chapel on a Winter night, and back on a Spring morning, and back every week; back dragging my feet with uncertainty, back in a rush, back nearly bounding to the altar; back and broken-hearted, back and joyful, back and torn, back and earnest; back and begging, back and praying, back and singing, back and proudly professing the Credo; back and forgiven, back and Confirmed, back and reunited with the Church. Back, always back home to Catholicism.

11 August 2013

If You're Waiting for the Catholic Church to Become "Church Me," You're Wasting Your Time

"The Church needs to get with the times. The Church needs to allow women's ordination (wymyn priests!) and contraception. The Church needs to change the nature of the sacraments [which is impossible], etc. etc."

Shut your mouth.

The only thing the Church NEEDS to do is guide you on the path to holiness. She is not going to do this by indulging your every fleeting desire like an overly permissive, push-over parent. The Church has rules because She knows what is good for you. Whining that the Catholic Church needs to welcome trendy changes is like a child begging to touch a hot stove. Mother will never say, "Yes, touch the stove because it is good for you." She says, "No. I know what will happen and am protecting you." Even if you do not know and understand every doctrine and discipline of the Church, you are expected to be obedient to it because God the Father, Who Himself first loved us, and Jesus Christ, Who Himself established it, and the Holy Spirit, Who Himself preserves it, give us the Church to raise ourselves to sainthood.

I know that this post is not going to convince the masses that the Catholic Church has good reasons about its beliefs and practices and that, no, it does not need to "get with the times" or "be realistic about contraception." But, my goodness!--this is a frustrating subject because it is often the case that many people who make such statements (1) do not actually know what the Church teaches and (2) would not even follow the Church if it did do things like support impossible marriages and ordinations.
This is how this subject makes me feel. Minus the glasses.
Faith is not a salad bar. "Those greens are looking good, but I'm totally not feeling like black olives today." (By the way, you should be, because black olives are delicious.) Your faith then becomes as ever-changing as a picky five-year-old's palate. You cannot simply pick and choose which doctrines you will follow and still be Catholic. You cannot be interested in finding the one true church and the love of God if you want a Church tailored to your specific whims and fancies. You are instead looking for "Church Me," with yourself as the God and authority of that Church.

So don't pretend, "If the Church only did such-and-such, I would join it." You wouldn't, because you would find another thing the Church does that makes you uncomfortable. Living the Faith shouldn't make you comfortable. It challenges you to find the truth. Living the Faith shouldn't be easy. It asks you to deny yourself constantly, to suffer and to live for God. Is it hard to shed selfishness and focus your efforts on glorifying God and edifying others? Yes, it is. Is it worth it? Yes, beyond measure.

"Then Jesus said to his disciples: If any man will come after me, let him deny himself,
and take up his cross, and follow me."
Matthew 16:24

10 August 2013

The Communion of Saints

One of my favorite memories from college took place on a Monday night. The church on campus had a Traditional Latin Mass, which, as I understand, had come together by the hard work of a small group. Ask and you shall receive....

At this Mass my sponsor's husband, H, served as a sacristan with our friend, L, and a few other men who had no previous experience serving. The Mass was great, of course, and many who heard it went to a meeting directly after where the visiting priest gave a short presentation on the Mass throughout history and answered questions. He also complimented the sacristans on their exceptional work and L laughed quite loudly because the group had practiced a bit last minute and wasn't sure how smoothly everything would go. My sponsor, M, looked up at her husband and laughed a little and I bit my lip because that was the only thing to keep my grin from becoming guffaws as well.

After the meeting, M, H, L and I went out to dinner with another server (whose name I cannot remember at the moment unfortunately, but he was a nice guy). H chose Buffalo Wild Wings, which I'm pretty sure M sometimes objected to, but decided he'd earned the celebration. We sat around the table talking about the Mass, Popes, M's pregnancy, music, beer....

Probably anyone else would have shrugged at the casual nature of our time, but perhaps because I was a recluse who often stayed at home or perhaps because this particular group was easy to get on with or perhaps because honey barbecue sauce was involved or perhaps because we weren't simply friends but brothers and sisters, this dinner became one of my happier and best memories of college. Watching L demonstrate different ways to make the sign of the cross, or M talk about the genius of the best movie score writers or all joking about the over-enthusiasm of sports spectators in the room... All of these little moments together build up one of the best moments I felt true communion with other people. I knew them and loved them and their company as siblings, and the night quenched my thirst for decent social interaction abundantly.

I think moments such as these remind me of the kind of person I am, namely a socially awkward kind. I choose to be alone not only out of frequent preference, but also out of ease. The number of truly good friendships I have is few and only after weeks without their presence do I realize that's the reason I feel unsettled and like something is missing. I believe this is the reason for my frequent nostalgic episodes. I'll spend hours thinking of the "good days," which more extroverted and gregarious people experience on a regular basis.

But this post isn't to lament my self-inflicted weirdness. It is to serve as a reminder of the good moments in my life, to remember L's studious pondering of the menu for the feast ahead, to remember M's acting out the songs she sang, to remember the ease of a new friend's inclusion to the group (or maybe I was the new one, now I think of it), to remember H's sense of pride and success at everything going smoothly. It's to remember friendship in one of its best forms, and to remind me that many more episodes of perfect friendship will occur in Paradise with all the Saints. "The communion of Saints" is more beautiful than I thought it would be.

(I wonder of St. Therese would like honey barbecue sauce.)

14 July 2013

The Necessity of Community

Discoveringand consequently spending a good hour or two reading Catholic blogs and pagesis like wading in a deep, cool pool on a sunny day. I discovered that a two people I know (not well) have blogs and it's making me partly excited, partly nostalgic (as they're connected to my university) and a good deal happy to have more reading material.

It seems like everyone has a blog these days. Sometimes it's brilliant because they're brilliant and actually have interesting things to say, hopefully compelling things to say that make you consider a new way to think about a topic or help you refine your thoughts on the topic. Other times, it isn't so much. But that hasn't been the case too much with people I've seen! Since I'm usually seeking other Catholic writers these days, this makes me particularly happy.

One of the worst parts about finishing school has been leaving what became my home parish, the church where I converted and was Confirmed and made friends and formed pretty good habits of daily Mass attendance. This year, the friends I made were in the same boat of leaving the area. My sponsor M and her husband H left quite early on, even. Then I was leaving nearly two months before I expected to and in an instant I saw daily Mass and walking and praying routines vanishing.

The next and last time I went to Mass I was as joyful as I usually am to be at Mass, but it
much was tinged with sorrow thinking that my next regular experience of Mass would be different and unknown. I was pleased that my favorite (it happens) priest of the parish was saying Mass that Friday. I took special note, as one should with any Mass, but especially thinking, "This may be the last time you hear the words of consecration here. Hear them? Can you hear them as you did the night you were Confirmed, the night the chapel was slowly illuminated from the back by the Easter candle into brilliance, the night you completely changed?" When Mass ended, I prayed and set about trying to memorize a few things, as I often do when I fear a "last" moment is coming up. The stained glass shining brilliantly in the early afternoon light, the altar, the pieta statue, the painting of the Holy Family with Mary's kind face, the crucifix...

I had gazed upon the crucifix more than any other spot in the chapel over the last two and a half years (the only thing that competes is the Eucharist, which would have a better literal gazing chance if I were there more frequently when the Blessed Sacrament were exposed; a metaphorical gazing on the real presence, on the other hand....). The constant reminder of Christ's death was at once wounding and beautiful. The statues of his Mother and disciples around him drew me in by their size and position at the base of the Cross.

I feel like I have become a completely new person in that church, and I have. I first entered the chapel on a dark evening, candles lighting the pews, with confusion at genuflection and pretty much every step of the Mass, very uncertain but largely aware of something very powerful going on. If only my ignorant self could have known back then. I would have fallen eagerly on bended knee, sung joyously with hymns, had my breath stolen at Communion. But those were the things that did happen in time. I learned about Mass and Faith, myself and others there. I did bend, sing and gape at the beauty I witnessed there, which culminated no better than at Easter Vigil. Easter Vigil, where I steeled myself with an excited breath as I turned from the pew to the altar in the Communion procession, where I at last heard, "The body of Christ," spoken to me, where I made the sign of the cross at the side of the altar, where for once in my life I was too happy to cry (wild, since I cry at anything, especially happy things).

With all I learned and all the community I had there, it has seemed much harder work to stay inspired and driven and diligent since coming home. I know it matters not as much the particular church as much as The Church, but that support is so helpful and necessary to everyone (I imagine not only newbies, though I feel they possibly need it the most). I need to be coming home to Catholicism every day. I desperately need the Church and Her members to stay strong in this race. We all need each other.

13 July 2013

Action Before Self-Exile

Because I get everything from Father Z (thanks, buddy!), here's another one...

To Which Super-Catholic Place Would You Go For Self-Exile? linked to a post at Catholic Vote, which lists five places around the world where Catholics might enjoy being and/or relocating: Andorra, San Marino, Malta, Wallis and Futuna, St. Pierre and Miquelon. Go read about them for fun. And originally I did view it as for fun. I love travel and love Catholicism, so what problem would I have in learning about these places?

San Marino. Source.

A comment jumped out at me from Therese at Laudamus Te (and I hope she won't mind too much that I'm sharing this here, but she made me reflect on this a lot). She wrote about what a nice idea it is to go somewhere, but that for practicality reasons sheand many others, of coursecan't [guess I shouldn't be packing my bags immediately]. She then mentioned that she and her husband had been discussing death and considered the less than ideal circumstances that could happen. "I fully expect to be murdered in a long-term 'care' unit and am trying to prepare for this now."

When I consider my death I often don't think it a big deal, usually because I am focused on what happens after I die. Any sort of last-minute torment seems inconsequential compared to what comes next. But as I sat reading this comment and this post I realized that the last moments before death are the most vital. Not only my death, but my life, may be full of a dangerous struggle. It really isn't such a surprising thought, given the modern climate in the US. Christians are facing moral dilemmas which the state approves at a seemingly increasing rate. The world is and always will be against the Church. Can we be as relentless in our faith in response?

I want to be part of the Church Militant in an obvious and powerful way. I know that this blog is a pretty good way to be able to express my thoughts and do so where friends and relatives will see it. I know I can volunteer service. I know I can pray for souls. In what way can I make a larger impact at a larger level? Will I make an affect on the country by voting and going to rallies? Will I travel intra- and internationally to reach the world? What can I do before self-exile seems the most practical option? I don't know what the future of the US is, or what my future will be, but I'm ready to work for the Kingdom now.

So what are your thoughts? How do you act now, every day, to spread the Gospel, help people and save souls? What groups are you members of? What saints do you rely on? Join me in making a commitment to act purposefully each day.

11 July 2013

Love in the Time of Persecution

Earlier today I was looking through Pinterest (as one does when they spend their day off being as lazy as possible) and came across this image that I pinned ages ago:


This image just goes so well with the time that has lapsed since my previous post. The best part is when your new way is now The Way. It also pairs with the Gospel reading from this past Sunday from St. Luke. In it, Jesus is sending out disciples to various towns He would later visit and telling them what their journeys will be like.
The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolvesCarry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way. Into whatever house you enter, first say, Peace to this household.’ If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you, for the laborer deserves his payment. Do not move about from one house to another. Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God is at hand for you.’ Whatever town you enter and they do not receive you, go out into the streets and say, ‘The dust of your town that clings to our feet, even that we shake off against you.’ Yet know this: the kingdom of God is at hand. I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom on that day than for that town.
—St. Luke 10:2-12
 Nothing rings truer in my ears these days than the promise of persecution. Jesus warned His disciples of it multiple times:
Then he said to them: Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.
And there shall be great earthquakes in divers places, and pestilences, and famines, and terrors from heaven; and there shall be great signs. But before all these things, they will lay their hands upon you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and into prisons, dragging you before kings and governors, for my name' s sake.
St. Luke 21:11-12
And you shall be betrayed by your parents and brethren, and kinsmen and friends; and some of you they will put to death. And you shall be hated by all men for my name' s sake. 
—St. Luke 10:16-17
If the world hate you, know ye, that it hath hated me before you. If you had been of the world, the world would love its own: but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember my word that I said to you: The servant is not greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you...  
St. John 15:19-20
There are three things I want to note, based upon these passages, especially the first one from Luke.

1. Christians will be persecuted.
"I am sending you like lambs among wolves." Jesus states it quite plainly. Family and friends may betray you, you may be brought forth before officials, you may be put to death because of your faith in Jesus Christ. (Just recently, a priest was beheaded in Syria. If that isn't persecution, what is?) He knows what the world is like. He knows what its reaction to Him is and will be. Christians are despised by the world because of Him.

Something that helped me really understand this was a revelation earlier in the week. Christ suffered and was hated by the world. As followers of Him, how can we expect not to experience the same suffering and hatred? (I'm pretty sure I got this from a much better worded quotation, perhaps of a saint, but I am having trouble finding it. If anyone knows, let me know in the comments!)

But there is a great deal of joy in this suffering. St. Peter writes, "But if also you suffer any thing for justice's sake, blessed are ye. And be not afraid of their fear, and be not troubled. But sanctify the Lord Christ in your hearts, being ready always to satisfy every one that asketh you a reason of that hope which is in you." (1 Peter 3:14-15) The saints suffered too. St. Bernadette is to have said, "The more I am crucified, the more I rejoice."

St. Therese (my Confirmation saint, for her clear awesomeness) wrote, "I understood that to become a saint one had to suffer much, seek out always the most perfect thing to do, and forget self. I understood, too, that there are many degrees of perfection and each soul was free to respond to the advances of Our Lord, to do little or much for Him, in a word, to choose among the sacrifices He was asking. Then, as in the days of my childhood, I cried out: "My God I choose all!" I do not want to be a saint by halves. I'm not afraid to suffer for You. I fear only one thing: to keep my own will, so take it, for I choose all that You will!" 

2. We should always continue the race, no matter how difficult.
"Peace to this household," the disciples were prompted to say to those they visited. As the Church Militant, our purpose on earth (aside from serving and loving God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength) is to bring more souls to Him. There will come a pointrather, several pointswhen people we try to reach will reject our thoughts, our words and us entirely. None of it is as personal as we initially take it. As my fiance reminded me, it is not our tone or our attitude which offends people; rather it is the truth. Christ was not rejected by the world for His tone, but for the Truth He preached, for His claiming to be the Son of God. It is not us persecutors reject, but Christ, which should motivate us even more to pray for their souls.

3. God, Justice, the Kingdom will prevail.
"[I]t will be more tolerable for Sodom on that day than for that town." Jesus' final promise in that passage is that justice will be had. Those who are presented with the Gospel and the Truth but reject it will be rejected. They will hear, "I never knew you." So even in our day-to-day struggles, in every conversation, in every time we are told that we have changed, in every negative article, in every further religious freedom restriction, in every hour thinking and praying and trying to find a new approach, we still have hope. The faithful are fighting a winning battle. Love wins.

That is the reality. But the reality also is that these three things go together. We should carry out the work that has been entrusted to us to make disciples. We should not expect to be exempt from suffering or mockery. And then, we should not despair at suffering, but take joy in it, because suffering refines our lives. Suffering makes us like Christ. As Jesus says, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For he that will save his life, shall lose it: and he that shall lose his life for my sake, shall find it." (St. Matthew 16:24-25) Being a Christian doesn't mean being (merely) nice or pleasant. It doesn't mean supporting certain social causes, though they may have merits. It doesn't mean, as the world often supposes, supporting our own bigoted agendas for the sake of making difficult the lives of others. Being a Christian means embracing the Cross every day, because it is beautiful; because it represents the redemptive work of Christ's suffering, Christ's blood, Christ's death; because it is Love.

Nothing is more important than Love. Without it, God would not have lowered himself down from Heaven to become man. Without it, we would have no redemption. Without it, we cannot hope to advance the Kingdom of God. Let us keep thisdrawing souls closer to the Love of Christat the front of our minds. Let us keep it at the front of our minds even as we face persecution.

30 June 2013

Brave New World

I had perhaps the most unsettling experience at Mass today (there's a sentence I never thought I'd say). During Communion there was a hymn sung and two songs just with music after that were America-themed. Then the song at the close of Mass was America-themed again. I can understand the reason for those songs since it will be the 4th of July this week, but with the recent HHS mandate text release and SSM rulings of the SCOTUS, it doesn't seem appropriate to celebrate our country and its liberty if it is moving against the Church so quickly and boldly.

I get it. This country didn't start out as a Catholic-friendly place, so how should I expect it even now to be Catholic-friendly? Still, I cannot stand and sing along with others at Mass about a country which is making every step away from and against the Church that they can. I cannot celebrate this country's independence this week if I do not believe it will defend my freedoms.

Father Z posted yesterday, citing from this post:
“People, myself included, lament the moral decline of America,” reflected Fr. Fessio, “Without this stunning intellectual decline—where one can claim that an unborn baby is not a human person and that man-to-man copulation is equivalent to marital union—we could not have sunk so low. With this decision we are about to sink even lower. God help us.” He said that he thinks it is clear that the rulings are “going to make it far more difficult for those who defend marriage.”Asked how the rulings will affect the Catholic Church in the United States, Fr. Fessio remarked that they “will call forth saints and scholars who will ‘shine like the stars in the midst of a wicked and perverse generation’. They will also be humiliated and very likely, in time, persecuted. Welcome to the Brave New World.”
Persecution and humiliation doesn't sound as bad as it once did to me. If it means I can "shine like the stars in the midst of a wicked and perverse generation," and that it will bring glory to God and His Church, I'll do it. Now is the time for prayer and fasting and returning to the Lord. "Be converted to me with all your heart, in fasting, and in weeping, and in mourning. And rend your hearts, and not your garments, and turn to the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, patient and rich in mercy, and ready to repent of the evil.... Between the porch and the altar the priests the Lord's ministers shall weep, and shall say: Spare, O Lord, spare thy people..."