A blessed Mother's Day to mothers everywhere.
From the moment of conception, we strive to make all the best choices to nurture our children's growth - what we eat, if we'll take medicine, what we will and won't drink...
Motherhood does not begin with the birth of a child. It begins the moment a woman opens her heart up to the possibility of life taking refuge in her heart.
So again, to all mothers out there... natural mothers, pregnant mothers, adoptive mothers, godmothers, grandmothers and mothers yearning to meet their little saints in Heaven...
Be blessed. May we be granted the grace to walk our paths with love through the intercession of our Most Holy Mother.
When I was a younger teenager, I worked as a sacristan for my old parish of Incarnation. I loved that church, especially when it was done up in all its Christmas splendor. We had elderly ladies who volunteered their time arranging flowers, altar linens and various greenery all over the sanctuary. Being a sacristan, I was kept out of this work as my job consisted of cleaning and replacing candles / candle holders, making sure chalices and cruets were sparkling, and ensuring we had ample supplies of unconsecrated hosts and wine for whichever Masses were coming up.
However, I always fancied the idea of being part of the troop that made the sanctuary explode with color to celebrate the birth of Christ.
This year, I got my wish in a very odd, but super "God knows all" way.
A friend of mine solicited nursery advice from me now that she's expecting her first little boy. I happily shared fun little things I did with Vince's nursery. After the conversation, though, I felt a sadness due to the fact I will likely never decorate a nursery for my own little one ever again.
I went through a brief couple days of sadness because of this. It wasn't just the conversation I had with her. It was just that our conversation had capped a string of similar conversations that added up to me longing for a little baby to decorate for.
Well, God saw my sad little heart and sent my friend, Steve, to give me a boost. Steve is our parish Superman (arranging liturgies, directing music, directing pretty much everything that goes on in regards to the church in general - ha). Anyway, he sent me an e-mail inviting me to take part in decorating the church for Christmas.
I was delighted! Would I like to help decorate the church? YES! A thousand times yes! How exciting would that be?
So at the appointed time, I arrived ready to move some poinsettias, hang some garland, and swap out the purple for gold.
The first task at hand was the altar linens. At first I didn't want to step foot into the sanctuary. I don't believe it's proper for a woman to enter the sanctuary, but I realized it was a foolish notion on my part. How was I going to help if I couldn't enter the very place that needed dressing?
The next problem I ran into was the altar. I was asked to change the altar cloths, themselves, and I really didn't like that idea. Steve wasn't going to make me do it because he could see that I was uncomfortable, but I figured if I maneuvered everything just right, I wouldn't have to touch the altar, itself, and would only adjust the linens over it as respectfully as I possibly could.
It was then that I realized I was preparing Jesus' nursery.
I mean, there we were, this troop of volunteers running to and fro getting linens in order, flowers in place, and decorations just right. We were just like nesting mothers driven to perfect the nurseries of our little newborns.
And that really is what we were doing. We were preparing the dwelling of the Christ Child who come to us in a very special way at Consecration. The thought was so moving to me. I was so grateful, then, to be given this chance to dress up the King's nursery. I imagined how Mary must have felt as she made certain the garments she wove were lined up and ready for His arrival... how she must have straightened and restraightened the meager belongings she and Joseph had taken on their impromptu trek to a cave on the outskirts of Bethlehem, all the while singing songs of praise to the God who took refuge in her sacred womb.
I was so happy, then, to realize that God was kissing my broken little heart by letting me make ready His nursery in lieu of one of my own. I was almost thankful for the sadness I felt earlier since it made me that much more aware and appreciative of my part in decorating the church.
God is good. He really does see all, and if you patiently offer even your tiny, silent sadness, He'll return it to you as a gift.
Waiting for the Christ Child
Little Mary with her parents, Sts. Joachim and Anne.
One of my new favorite people in the world asked me a great question this morning.
We had been talking about using three fingers for the Sign of the Cross about a week ago. It's something a lot of people either don't know or have simply forgotten over time.
However, after talking about it, he's more aware. I told him to look out for the priest at the end of Mass to bless with his three fingers raised because the priest acknowledges that the blessing is actually coming from the Trinity (God) and he is simply an instrument of His Blessing.My friend then said, "Well why do they use their whole hand when they bless the bread and wine at Mass?"
I said, "That's a great question! They use their whole hand because they aren't really blessing the bread and wine; Christ is."
Since the priest acts in persona Christi, we understand (as faithful Catholics) that the priest, though present, is simply a vessel through which Jesus, Himself, comes to Consecrate.
The priest calls Christ from Heaven to consecrate. Only God can make God. Thus, the priest, being endowed with the privilege and responsibility to call forth Christ from Heaven, doesn't create God from bread and wine. He calls forth Christ and gives himself over to Him for the benefit of his people. Thus, when the priest blesses using all of his fingers, we understand that it is really Christ doing the consecration. It is Jesus who creates Himself in place of the bread and wine.
And that, my friends, is why the hand gesture is different during consecration. THAT is why the priest uses his whole hand. It's because he's allowing Christ to utilize the physical form of his body to enable Christ to pass along His Sacred Blessing.
Ah - to be a priest is to consent to a daily form of the Annunciation. Each time he says Mass, he briefly contains within himself a bit of the divinity that Mary must have acknowledged when she said "Fiat" and opened herself to the mystery of the Incarnation. Her consent to allow God to use her physical body for His greatest blessing parallels nicely with that of the priest sacrificing his physical body to allow God to manifest the mystery of the Eucharist.
And upon completion of this mystery, he (again, in persona Christi) offers this Sacrifice up to God the Father to bear forth salvation (or more rightly, bear us forth to the gift of Salvation). This is why the priest lifts the chalice and patten (or ciborium, I guess). Christ, in the person of the priest, offers Himself to His Father at the Last Supper. It's why the priest suddenly changes to first-person pronouns, too.
Our theology is so deep - so beautiful - that I could happily meditate on it for hours. EVERYTHING is meaningful. EVERYTHING is a reflection of our faith.
Never forget that.
I feel like at one point in time, we've all been guilty of this.
Or maybe you're all just way better people than I am, and I'm the only one who has ever decided to go the route of lazy and cut corners during prayer.
Ever hear the story of the Fatima children who would say their rosaries every day by simply saying the first two words of every prayer down the line? "Our Father, Hail Mary, Hail Mary, Hail Mary, Hail Mary..." and so on.
I remember reading that story when I was very young and thinking to myself, What a great idea! only to realize a few pages later that Our Lady didn't look too kindly on such half-hearted lip service. I remember then simply feeling like a jerk for having applauded their misguided 'brilliance.'
Anyway, I try to pray one rosary and one Divine Mercy chaplet every day. When I know I'm going to be particularly busy, I've said both Apostle's Creeds (one for the rosary, and one for the chaplet) together, then said 2 Our Fathers and 4 Hail Marys plus another 2 Glory Bes in order to "get them out of the way" so I'm able to focus on the "meat" of the rosary and chaplet later on.
And I wondered... should I be cutting up and reorganizing my prayers like that? After all, we were given them in a certain format for a reason, right?
The way we say our prayers and the order we say them in are significant. As I've always taught my class, EVERYTHING we do as Catholics (from how we position ourselves during prayer to the format and wording of those prayers) has significance.
So lumping stuff together isn't ideal... nor is it proper.
Think about it. Would you want the priest to lump together the Intercessions with the Penitential Rite just because he thought the Mass might go a little quicker that way? Or maybe on his way up during the Procession, he just swiped the bread and wine from the credence table instead of waiting around for the Offertory?
Of course not. We'd be losing some very key expressions of faith should he do any of these things. The same is true when we pray our rosaries and chaplets out of order. I know I've touched on this briefly in Part 3 of my Rosary series, but it fits today's topic. The ordering of our prayers is another expression - another deepening - of our faith and our understanding of that faith. The ordering calls us to contemplate and rejoice in a rhythmic fashion. Each decade serves to draw us deeper into the picture of God's plan for our personal salvation. Saying the prayers as they're meant to be said is like taking a stethoscope to God's Heart as it beats lovingly for each and every one of us.
Sign of the Cross - As always, be begin our prayers by marking ourselves with the sign of His Victory... His Passion of mercy and love.
Apostle's Creed - We remind ourselves of our faith and renew the promises of our baptism.
Our Father - Using the words of Christ, we call upon God the Father to "give us this day our daily bread." Being in the 'eternal now,' though we are praying within the confines of a finite sphere of time, God is able to know and see these prayers throughout eternity. Thus, though we ask Him for our daily bread on a Thursday in September of 2012, God has foreseen this prayer from eternity. As we pray this before each decade, we unwittingly ask for the gifts each mystery reminds us that He has already bestowed.Hail Mary - This blessed prayer is Christ-centric. Glory Be - Again, remembering that God is in the eternal now, when we say this prayer of praise and thanksgiving, we are supposed to be thanking Him for the decade's particular mystery and whatever intentions we had going into that decade.
See the cycle?
Placing ourselves before God, the Sign of the Cross is like us putting the stethoscope to our ears in anticipation of listening to His Heart.
The Apostle's Creed is the tell-tale sign of His Love.
As we motion through the decades, the steady rhythm of petitioning for salvation (Our Father), God's answer to our petition through the various mysteries (Hail Mary) and our subsequent praise and thanksgiving for His active mercy through history (Glory Be) are like the gentle vibrations of Divine Love. Our God is a living God, and His movements are eternally present. Thus, our prayers are eternally present as well.
We'll never know just how far-reaching our prayers are until we get to Heaven and see the 10 or 20 forgotten Purgatory souls we've helped reach the Gates... or the 5 lost souls who would have continued along the path of perdition had you not done a daily offering... or maybe even the terrible accident you helped to mitigate for your great, great, great, great grand-daughter because you piously recited the Divine Mercy chaplet for all sinners past, present and future.
Never underestimate the power of prayer... especially prayers given to us by Heaven in a specific format. These formats are given to us for the holy purpose of helping us to better understand God's Love and Mercy.
So I've been making a much more concerted effort to recite my prayers in their proper order, but I figured I'd post this in the event that anyone else was like me and had attempted to "cut corners" every once in a while.
Our Lady cradles Jesus
I just got back from picking up lunch on my break. While I was waiting in line, a father came over to the condiment counter for napkins in order to wipe his son's face. The little boy was about Vincent's age. I smiled at him, and he smiled back with this huge, "the world is amazing" grin. I laughed to myself and gave his father an appreciative nod - he's raising a beautiful little boy.
The little boy's older brother came over and "nuggied" his head. The younger brother giggled as the older tousled his hair, then they both ran off to play. Their father called after them, "Vince, make sure you look after Luca."
And even remembering him calling that out makes me choke up.
I understand why I immediately felt like a ton of bricks smashed against my chest, but it still catches me off-guard.
Those little moments when I become so overcome with jealousy and grief that I don't think I can resume breathing... they give no warning. They spring upon me with no sympathy for where I am or who might see my heart break.
Luca. It wasn't even Vince's name as the older brother that knifed me to my core. It was Luca's... the little one who is about Vince's age. As soon as I heard his name, my heart first melted. What a beautiful name, I thought. I'd love to have a little Luca.
That tender appreciation for such a simple, eloquent name quickly turned into intense longing and grief. Yes, I admit there was jealousy there. But it isn't as if I wanted to snatch the child away from his father and run home. It wasn't as if I was envious to the point of wishing he were mine instead of belonging to that family. I was just a little jealous that they got to have a Luca and I did not.
Then I tried to console myself with the fact that my next little one wouldn't have been a Luca anyway. If we were to have another boy, he'd've been a Nathan. But Luca... something about that little boy's name was like a fire-brand to my heart. It just made me long for a newborn and painfully aware of my inability to have one.
And then came all the familiar self-assaults: You're cheating Vincent out of siblings. You're disappointing your parents (in-laws, too) because they deserve to have the grandkids they, too, long for. You're with-holding playmates from Arianna and Alliya. You're cheating yourself out of the fullness of your motherhood. You're... you're... you're!!!
So for those of you who ask me how I do it... or say I'm a saint for dealing with John, I assure you... I'm no saint. This is a daily struggle that sometimes becomes almost impossible. It attacks when you least expect it, and it's a daunting challenge to contain the interior emotions that threaten to suffocate you. My only advice to those of you (men and women alike) who are struggling with this cross - immediately call out to Our Lady. Offer it and just accept those sudden moments of unbearable emotional lashing as atonement for someone on the brink of mortal sin.
That thought gives me solace.
Maybe, just maybe, God allows us those tiny moments of sacrifice for someone half-way around the globe in need of spiritual assistance. I imagine that's what Christ clung to as He stumbled under the weight of the Cross along Calvary.
Hang on... call out for assistance. Those are the moments in which we are closest to Him. As such, hand over those moments immediately for whatever uses He needs them for. In return, He will promptly give you the graces necessary to prop yourself back up again.
You might not feel it right away... but in time, peace will settle back into your heart.
Just suppose that you could have pre-existed your own mother, in much the same way that an artist pre-exists his painting. Furthermore, suppose that you had an infinite power to make your mother anything that you pleased, just as a great artist like Raphael has the power of realizing his artistic ideals. Suppose you had this double power, what kind of mother would you have made for yourself?
Would you have made her of such a type that would make you blush because of her un-womanly and un-motherlike actions? Would you have in any way stained and soiled her with the selfishness that would make her unattractive not only to you, but to your fellow-man? Would you have made her exteriorly and interiorly of such a character as to make you ashamed of her, or would you have made her, so far as human beauty goes, the most beautiful woman in the world; and so far as beauty of the soul goes, one who would radiate every virtue, every manner of kindness and charity and loveliness; one who by the purity of her life and her mind and her heart would be an inspiration not only to you, but even to your fellow-men, so that all would look up to her as the very incarnation of what is best in motherhood?
Now if you who are an imperfect being and who have not the most delicate conception of all that is fine in life would have wished for the loveliest of mothers, do you think that our Blessed Lord, who not only pre-existed His own mother but who had an infinite power to make her just what He chose, would in virtue of all the infinite delicacy of His spirit make her any less pure and loving and beautiful than you would have made your own mother? If you who hate selfishness would have made her selfless and you who hate ugliness would have made her beautiful, do you not think that the Son of God, who hates sin, would have made His own mother sinless and He who hates moral ugliness would have made her immaculately beautiful?
Today's blog entry today brought to you by the Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen. :)
Enjoy some more of his love for Christ's Church:
Long time readers of this blog are familiar with Fr. Trad (short for Traditional). You may remember him from such entertaining posts as "An Impromptu Confession Sans-Stole" and my very first memory of him (and his parish) in "New Church."Well, you are in for a real treat today!!! Not only am I going to reveal Fr. Trad's identity, I'm going to give you a sneak peek into his beautiful church and tell you how you can experience Fr. Trad in the comfort of your own home!
As is typical for Holy Days of Obligation, I attended this parish for their evening mass (my parish doesn't offer evening mass unless it's a vigil). This is also the parish with the beautiful Adoration Chapel that I usually attend.
Anyway, as soon as I stepped foot through the doors, I was overcome with awe. Everything - and I mean EVERYTHING - was meticulous. Flowers were everywhere, banners for Our Lady were hung high, her gorgeous statue was bathed in candlelight, and Father was already busy censing the church.I know I've said this about a bazillion times, but I LOVE THIS PRIEST! He's traditional and he's super Marian. He spares no expense attending to Our Lady, and it shows in everything he does. It shows in everything that the parishioners do as a result.
There's an anonymous saying that this blessed priest reminds me of. It goes:
If the priest is a saint, his people will be holy. If the priest is holy, his people will be good. If the priest is good, his people will be fair. If the priest is fair, his people will be mediocre. If the priest is mediocre, his people will be bad.
Priests are meant to be a step above us in their example of holiness. They're meant to draw us closer to God by, in fact, being closer to God through purity of heart. This man exemplifies this for me, and it shows in how reverent his flock acts during Mass.
I'm always struck by how in-sync the lectors / ministers are... how attentive the altar servers are... how unassuming even the choir is (though their music is phenomenal). Considering how many parishes I've been to that have lectors brassly refusing to reverence the Blessed Sacrament, that have Extraordinary Ministers acting like the Communion line is some sort of popularity test, etc, I fully appreciate a cohesive parishioner base that understands the Mass is a prayer meant to worship God... not a place to showcase their presumed skill-set.
Anyway, I decided after Mass that I needed to come back and finally snap some photos of this church to share with you. One day I might do the same for my current home parish, but for issues of privacy I'd rather not at this point.
The reason I'm brazenly posting all of this knowing it will "out" Fr. Trad's identity is because I just learned that he is on YouTube! All of his homilies are there, so I emphatically suggest you check out his page! His real name is Fr. Carmel, and though he uses a cane to get around, he is a true warrior for Christ. I imagine he might try to politely shove St. Michael out of the way when he gets to Heaven so he could serve as Our Lady's personal bodyguard. Ha ha!
I wanted to give you this fuller appreciation for Fr. Carmel before I showcase his beautiful church. Why? Because a beautiful church is just a building. The REAL Church is made up of the priests and parishioners that work to make that building beautiful and holy. So with that in mind, enjoy the slideshow. Keep this priest in your prayers. Keep all priests in your prayers. May they all strive to live their vows faithfully, and may they all rely on the intercession of Our Lady in so gracious and attentive a manner. Bless them.
Art from the Church Proper
Art from Outside and in the Rectory
The Adoration Chapel
A very special thank you to Janet, the parish secretary, who kindly took me on this mini-excursion yesterday. Bless her a thousand-fold for such generosity.
Another very special thank you to Fr. Carmel, himself, for revitalizing this parish. He has very obviously put his entire heart and soul into this place! Bless him!
Finally, a very special thank you to all the parishioners of this beautiful, holy place. I've always felt very welcome here, and due to their deligence in following Fr. Carmel's example, the services have always pulled me closer to Christ. Bless them!
Jacques Stella's "Jesus Christ Receiving the Virgin in Heaven"
I know I wrote on this last year, but the visions of Maria Valtorta are what I always think of while reflecting on the Assumption of Our Lady. I always imagine her to be so incredibly enthused... so incomprehensibly overjoyed to throw her arms around Our Lord and grasp Him to herself.
And this statue... I have no idea where it is, but if someone knows, please tell me! I love how the statue is set up under a golden dome as if Heaven is opening to allow her now glorious body entry. Wow. Love it!
I've included this icon of Our Lady's Dormition (her "sleep") because a friend of mine wanted to use it for her Assumption Blog. However, she was confused by Jesus because He's holding what appears to be a mummy child.
For anyone else who has seen this image (or others like it) today, it's not a mummy-child. Ha ha. The tiny figure is symbolic of Our Lady's soul. She is depicted as wrapped in white - the symbol of purity and holiness. She is depicted child-like because of her child-like trust, faith and love. Finally, she is depicted in the arms of her Son, close to His Heart - no doubt exactly where she was upon leaving her body for Heaven before the Assumption.
So no worries in enjoying these icons! They're not blasphemous or scandalous in any way. They just depict the Blessed Mother twice. Once corporally as her mortal body reclines in "dormition" and once spiritually as the childlike and holy soul she was destined from all eternity to be.
Finally, I just really like this one. She's again dressed in white (and gold stars!) and is seen sitting on the lap of Jesus. This is indicative of her childlike faith. I love how comforting this image is. I wonder what the scrolls say. Anyone have any idea?
This series deals with visionaries not yet approved by the Church. Under the umbrella of private revelation, it is up to each individual to decide for him/herself the truth of these claims. I am not suggesting you believe or disbelieve. I'm suggesting that the messages contained within are important enough to warrant an open and honest discussion. Above all, these messages deserve to be looked into with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. So please read this prayer before moving on:
O Holy Ghost, divine Spirit of light and love, I consecrate to Thee my understanding, my heart and my will, my whole being for time and for eternity. May my understanding be always obedient to Thy heavenly inspirations and the teachings of the holy Catholic Church, of which Thou art the infallible Guide; may my heart be ever inflamed with love of God and of my neighbor; may my will be ever conformed to the divine will, and may my whole life be a faithful following of the life and virtues of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to whom with the Father and Thee be honor and glory for ever. Amen.
Prophecies III - A Clue
The biggest clue, for me, as to the urgency of these messages is the story of a man named Joey Lomangino.
Joey is blind. There is nothing doctors can do to rectify his blindness. However, Our Lady has promised through the visionaries of Garabandal that Joey will miraculously gain his sight at the Miracle which is to occur within a year of the Warning.
We'll get to the Miracle in a later post. What I want to focus on right now is Joey's story, because Joey - for me - is the key to Our Lady's urgency.
The Blessed Mother promised that the very first thing Joey will see upon being healed will be the Great Miracle. Why is this so important?
Well, Joey is now 82 years old. Our Lady keeps her promises, so if Joey is now 82 years old, we can be assured that we are living during the time of the Worldwide Illumination (as the Great Miracle can only happen within a year AFTER the Illumination).
To be continued in Prophecies IV - The Miracle
Father Carlos began with a presentation regarding the Biblical history of relics, how they are used, and how we can properly venerate these proofs of God's grace among us.
It was - verbatim - the same presentation he gave last time (which makes perfect sense considering he's given this about a bazillion times at this point). Regardless, I still learned something from it and felt completely uplifted upon its completion.
There had to be about 800-1000 of us in attendance. Three times, Father asked us to sardine ourselves further and further into the pews so more people could fit. Even with our sandwiching, it was standing-room only. For our part, no one complained and everyone was happy to suffer the invasion of personal space for a brief half-hour.
At the close of his presentation, Father directed the massive throng of people to the gymnasium of the parish school. The relics had been set up there so people would have more room to mill about.
This was new for me as the last time I'd attended veneration, it was held in the church. Granted, St. Agnes is a much, MUCH larger church, so there wasn't a question of space. However, I have to say that I truly feel as though something was lost from this experience because we had removed ourselves from the sacred space of the church.
Within moments of stepping outside the church to move ourselves to the gymnasium, folks were lighting up cigarettes and pulling out their cell phones. I admit that I, too, began talking with my friends from Philly. However, it was a subdued chatter at this point. Folks were still being respectful of one another, and the excitement from what we were about to experience was fresh.
Unfortunately, all that was checked at the door as we slowly filed into the gym. This is where I started to cringe.
Being a gymnasium packed with several hundred people, it got very hot very fast. Also, since there were only 168 relics for the several hundred of us to share, the lines weren't exactly the speediest. There was also a lack of organization regarding line direction which led to some folks accidentally "butting" in front of others.
Slowly, the nasty remarks began trickling in. I honestly believe that had we been in a church, this wouldn't have happened.
Why is it so hot in here?
This is horribly organized.
Can't they get fans set up?
Why is no one directing traffic?
Hey, the line starts back THERE, buddy.
Can you hurry it up a little, lady?
Again, had we been in a church, I doubt these comments would have surfaced (or at least wouldn't have surfaced so loudly and so angrily).
Being in front of the Blessed Sacrament (even while enclosed in the tabernacle) seems to remind us that we are in the Presence of the Divine. Relics, while not divine, are instruments of Divine Power. Though nothing of themselves, God has chosen to utilize relics in a way that highlights the lives of His elect so that we may better follow their example.
Anyway, I feel as though we lost sight of that due to our environment (a lackluster gymnasium). Thus, idle chatter and rather rude statements spread like wildfire.
I realized that I, too, was beginning to take part in the chatter. So, to distance myself from the behavior, I left the group of friends I'd arrived with in order to remove myself from the temptation. Mind you, this was through no fault of my friends. I was the one instigating most of the chatter, so I figured it'd be best for both myself and them for me to meet up with them after they'd been able to experience everything for themselves.
I was able to read Conchita's Diary in full while in line to venerate the "Biggies" of the exposition. They included:
There was also a piece of Our Lady's veil, but I forgot to take a photo of it as I was too busy praying. *Blush* I remembered in time for the True Cross, though, because I knew folks would want to see that one!
Anyway, I went from table to table, touching my medals / rosary to the various reliquaries in order to create 3rd Class relics for a few family and friends who were unable to attend. I snapped a few photos of the exposition for the rest of you in an effort to coax you into requesting one for your own parish. Even though this experience wasn't as favorable as my original one, it was still extremely worthwhile and beautiful. I still learned so much, and I'm sure the graces I gained from being present with so many of God's elect steeled my soul and gifted me a deeper appreciation and love for all His many blessings.
Enjoy the slideshow!