I had planned to mark some of my CCD tests at lunch today, so I brought my CCD bag into work with me. I still had the Agonizing Crucifix with me, and one of my coworkers saw Jesus' head popping over the top.
He sorta recoiled while asking "What kind of cross is that?"
I pulled him out, happy to share one of my prized crucifixes. I said, "This is an Agonizing Crucifix. It portrays Jesus more realistically than the clean, pristine corpus models you see on most crucifixes."
I hadn't really thought anything of it, but he was legitimately disturbed by it. I left him to ponder the crucifix while I made my coffee. When I got back, the crucifix was on my desk and I thought nothing more of it as I got to work answering the thousand e-mails in my folder.
A few moments later, a mini crowd had gathered at my desk. Everyone wanted to see the "controversial crucifix" I had brought in that was apparently "too much," "distasteful" or "unnecessary."
I tried to explain the reason such a crucifix is a great reminder to have handy - ESPECIALLY during Lent. It's important to remember all that went into Christ's Sacrifice, but my coworkers unanimously agreed that such a graphic display of torture was pointless and horrid. One went so far as to cut out a robe for Christ to drape over His Wounds.
I took no offense to their reaction, mind you. In fact, I pointed out that their reaction is exactly what it should have been. We SHOULD be unsettled by such a visual. We SHOULD be uncomfortable to witness the agony His Body endured for us. To witness the effects of our personal sins on the One Who came to save us... it should be an experience from which your eyes wish to turn away from.
Your soul, however, should be what pulls you back. Your heart should be what directs your eyes back to His Sacrifice because your heart and soul, both lovingly created by the Father of all, beckons them with His Love that pours out unceasingly from the Body of His Son.
His Sacrifice was not pretty - it was not easy - and it was not the beatific scenes imagined by our Renaissance masters. His Sacrifice was gritty, dirty, painful and evil... and it was completely borne faithfully with unimaginable Love.
Blessed be the Lord.
And if anyone is curious like my coworkers were about my willingness to show this to my own son, Vincent has already seen it. He knows Jesus had "lots of boo boos" because He fought the bad guy and He won so we can be together in Heaven one day. Jesus is our hero.
I don't have it hanging in Vincent's nursery, but I don't hide from him Christ's sacrifice, either. As he gets older, I'll obviously explain more, but I think he's got a pretty good handle on the reason for Jesus' boo boos.
I have this question I ask my CCD students every year as we begin to study the Stations of the Cross / Sorrowful Mysteries:
How many wounds did Jesus have while hanging on the Cross?
Without fail I always get the same few answers.
"Four" (Two Hands / Feet)
"Five" (Hands, Feet + Side)
"Like ten or twenty" (Hands, Feet, Side + pricks from the crown of thorns)
After they exhaust the answers above, I pull out this crucifix:
Without fail, the class recoils. Faces scrunch up in horror, disbelief and disgust. Almost immediately their hands begin to shoot into the air, all signaling the same exact question:
"Miss G, why is He all covered in Blood?!"
I then remind my students that Jesus' Passion did not begin and end on the Cross. Jesus endured so much more than being nailed to a cross for our Salvation. He was beaten, scourged, kicked, punched, spat upon, bullied and whipped well before He even saw the Cross.
You see, the crucifixes we display in churches and homes are not typically graphic. As a result, we tend to "pretty up" the garish Sacrifice God made for us. We lose sight of the reality of what His Sacrifice really meant. I didn't show my children this crucifix to get a reaction from them - I showed it to them as a stark visual reminder of the suffering that went into Christ's physical sacrifice. Too frequently we speak about His Death with a twinge of sadness and then move on to say "But hey, that's over now because He rose and now none of that horrible stuff matters! Jesus suffered so you don't have to!"
No. This crucifix reminds us that Christ's Sacrifice was VERY real, VERY graphic, VERY inhuman, and VERY necessary.
Our sin is what disfigured Our Lord in this manner. Our sin is what caused the strips of flesh to be scourged from His bones. Our sin is what pressed the Crown of Thorns onto His Precious Head. Our sin is what kicked, whipped and spat upon Him as He made His Way along the Via Dolorosa.
This crucifix brought all of that front and center for my class, and suddenly the Stations of the Cross became a lot more meaningful for them as a result.
They understood why He fell so many times. They understood why Simon was needed to help Him carry His Cross along. They understood, then, why Our Lady's heart must have broken a thousand times over seeing Her Son disfigured in such a cruel manner... and why St. Veronica was doing such a service to Him by cleaning His Face with her veil.
Seeing this crucifix colored their meditation more than any amount of explanation I could've done.
For those of you who do not know this crucifix's origins, a seer by the name of Barnabas Nowye of Nigeria was commissioned by Christ to create a crucifix that would remind this generation of the reality of His Sacrifice. The Lord lamented to Barnabas that we as a people have forgotten just how much He spent Himself in gaining for us the gift of Salvation. We no longer reflect with true solemnity because we cannot envision all that His Love called forth for us.
So He showed Himself to Barnabas and Barnabas recreated as best he could what he saw. Jesus then asked him to write the words "I am the agonizing Jesus Christ who loves you" on the cross, itself. Indeed, He is the agonizing messiah. Christ came for one reason and for one reason only - to suffer, die and rise for our Salvation. Each step He took was a movement towards that terrifying, torturous Sacrifice. In order for us to fully appreciate His Gift, we need to fully understand what went into securing it.
So I did the normal fast today. Salad for lunch, fish and rice for dinner, nothing in between. Didn't complain, didn't reach for all the goodies around me.
But ya know what? In my mind, I was counting down the hours (then the minutes and eventually the seconds) until midnight rolled around so I could gorge myself stupid on leftover Chinese food.
It's quarter after midnight, the plate is empty, and I feel like a cheat.
Does it really count as a proper fast when you're counting down like that? I can't imagine Jesus was going "Okay, just a few more minutes of this crucifixion business before I can finally call it quits."
That realization makes me feel like such a wimp. It's not like He asked me to give up food for a week. He didn't even ask me to give it up for a whole day. So why am I shuffling around as the last seconds tick by on Friday so I can devour the pork fried rice on a technicality?
This fasting stuff is just not for me. I'm terrible at it. Gluttony and I? We get along so well - especially when she's dressed up in Chinese takeout. And pizza.
But I digress.
Lent is about penance, prayer and almsgiving. As Archbishop Chaput said, prayer is the center of this Lenten chain since prayer reorders us properly to the Light of God. Penance and almsgiving (a proper reordering of our relationship to self and others) comes naturally from a prayerful attitude.
My shuffling around in anticipation of midnight isn't what I'd call prayerful.
So I guess I need to focus a little more on the prayer aspect of Lent. I can't do the penance / almsgiving portion right if I don't have that centerpiece in place, can I?
I need to work on this whole "dying to self" business. May we all reach the end of Lent as professionals. ;)
Remember who our priests represent!
Some of you know from my other posts that I'm a huge fan of the Franciscan Missions. However, instead of pushing them this go-around, I'd like to draw attention to another incredible organization. I originally heard of them through a recent post on Father Z's WDTPRS and I wanted to pass it along here as well.
The organization is called Opus Bono Sacerdotii, and their mission is to "Work for the Good of the Priesthood."They are a lay organization that seeks to provide financial, emotional, psychological and legal support to thousands of priests all over the United States. There really isn't any other organization quite like it. As I was reading through their site, a lot of what they said really struck me. So many priests, as they get older, simply don't have the family (wife, children, grandchildren) that the rest of us rely on as we age. Also, with all the issues surrounding the nation-wide scandal, many are being unjustly turned out or taken advantage of by a system that is cruel and lop-sided. These priests... these vicars of Christ... they need our support. They provide us a vital service, and yet they are being cast aside as if uncared for, unloved, or unworthy of basic necessities. If at all possible, please offer financial assistance to this worthy organization as a Lenten offering. If that isn't possible, please offer prayers for these priests and those who support them. This is truly a wonderful organization that I hope to get to know better!
This image is incredible!
I'm sorry, I'm sorry! I know I promised to answer Laura's question yesterday, but as soon as I buckled down to write, I got a call from Vincent's daycare. Poor little guy has a tummy bug, so I needed to pick him up and take him home.Today, however, Daddy's with him. That means Mommy can answer Laura in peace!Anyway, in order to understand the answer, I must first explain what the Triduum is. For Catholics, the Triduum is the holiest time in our Liturgical Calendar. It is the most important part of Salvation History as Christ, in those three days, fulfilled the promise of God when He said He would send a Savior who would reconcile humanity to Himself.The Triduum, thus, becomes Holy Thursday Mass (when we remember the Last Supper), Holy Saturday (when we remember Christ's descent into Hell), through the Easter Vigil and Easter celebrations (when we remember His Glorious Resurrection and triumph over Death). Anyway, since this is the most sacred part of the year for the Church - the finite point in linear history that somehow encapsulates the timeless Sacrifice of Christ - our Liturgy reflects our solemn, adoring and anguished spirit. We see ourselves, the Church, as dying WITH Christ. This is also why throughout Lent, things are slowly removed from our Masses. Statues are draped (or even removed), fewer candles are lit, our beautiful "Alleluia" is laid to rest, and floral arrangements are typically absent.As I explained to my children, something very special happens after Holy Thursday Mass. The priest removes Christ from the tabernacle and processes with Him to a place of repose. This signifies that Christ has begun His Sacrifice (which truly did begin with the moment of Consecration at the Last Supper - more on that in a bit). The Mass on Holy Thursday does not "end." There is no "Go forth" or "Thanks be to God." There is only the procession of Christ to His place of repose and the silent, prayerful adoration of the faithful that stay watch with Him as He endures His Passion (akin to the Apostles as Christ led them to the Garden of Gethsemane to keep watch as He began His Agony in the Garden).In fact, to further this point, after the Procession, the Church is stripped bare. Linens are removed from the pulpit, altar, tabernacle, etc. Furniture (like chairs, microphones, lecterns, etc) are taken into the sacristy. Candles aren't just snuffed out - they are removed entirely. Carpets are rolled away. Remaining statues may be taken down. Every movable object is taken away from our sanctuary and all lights (be they candles, spot-lights or chandeliers) are deadened. Our Church, symbolic of the spirit of all the faithful who create Her, dies with Her Master. He who is the Light of the World is consenting to become obscured and entombed.As His faithful Spouse, we acknowledge our desolation... our mourning... our grief. On Good Friday, there is "no Mass." Again, this is because technically, the Mass from Holy Thursday has not ended - nor will it until the close of the Vigil on Holy Saturday. Instead, we continue the Mass through Stations of the Cross, Adoration, communal and private meditation, recitation of the Rosary (specifically the Sorrowful Mysteries), Tenebrae etc. This is to signify that we, the Church, the faithful Bride of Christ, follow Him on His Path towards Salvation. We consent to die with Him in order to take part in His Resurrection.This moves us to Holy Saturday. On Holy Saturday, we remember in a special way Christ's descent into Hell, Limbo and Purgatory. We remember His Triumphant opening of the Gates of Heaven that were closed against us as a result of Original Sin. There is actually no "liturgy" for Holy Saturday until the vigil. This is a continuation of Christ's Sacrifice which began during Holy Thursday.Finally, we arrive at our Easter Vigil. This special vigil is held after sundown. This is significant because this darkness is indicative of the spiritual darkness we are experiencing as we await the Light of the World. Again, this vigil does not start with the typical "opening Mass prayers" we're used to. Instead, the priest blesses a special fire which is typically made of Holy Oils from the previous year, salt, and twigs. This special fire is the first light we see and is symbolic of the Resurrection. This light is what's used to light our brand new Paschal Candle (the Christ Candle), and after the Candle is lit, the light begins to spread throughout the Church, from member to member, as a flame is passed between individual candles all are given at the opening of Mass.As a sacristan who has been at the front of the Church awaiting the Exsultet (when we flip on all the lights, light all the candles, and bust out all the finery we've got to offer), seeing this light slowly spread throughout the entire Church... it's incredible.Anyway, this is the point in the Liturgical Calendar in which we celebrate and acknowledge Christ's Triumph over Death. The Sacrifice has been complete and Salvation has been granted to us. Through His Offering, we have become reconciled and all the promises of God the Father to His Creation regarding the Messiah have been fulfilled. We rejoice in being reborn through His Death and Resurrection.As THIS VIGIL MASS commences, we finally are able to hear again the priest's command to "Go Forth" and respond with a jubilant "Thanks be to God!" We acknowledge that the sacred Triduum that marks Christ's Sacrifice has reached its fulfillment, and we take our charge to "Go Forth" with zeal. We are charged to take the message of Salvation to all people who still "live in darkness."So that, dear Laura, is why the answer to number 11 on the test was "One." There is but one Mass celebrated over 3 days during the Triduum. As these three days recall the three long days of Christ's consummation by the Fire of His Love, we, too, offer these three days in solidarity with Him.
I wasn't able to attend Mass early in the morning like I'd hoped. Instead, I had to wait until evening to go, and I had Vince with me as a result. I didn't mind - he was actually being phenomenal. Thank goodness, too, because there wasn't any room for us in our normal spot on account of the PACERS who dropped by to collect their yearly ashes.
The Mass itself was nice. I noticed, however, that we went from being an over-packed house before the Distribution of Ashes to being about 2/3 full as folks simply exited the Church upon reception of the ashes.
I couldn't believe it!
Folks were willing to wait come for ashes, but completely neglected to stick around for JESUS in the Eucharist?
I have to admit being ashamed for them. I just felt awful that Jesus was witnessing this sort of callousness in His people. Ugh. Makes me feel like a jerk for not shaking them all and shouting "You'll wait for ashes, but not GOD? What is WRONG with you?!"
May God forgive us our foolishness...
Vincent was surprised by the ashes. He's used to Father Piotr blessing him, but when he saw Father bless me, too, he whipped his little head around in amazement. His eyes then did a double take when he saw the cross smudged onto my forehead. He quickly realized that he, too, must've had a cross on his head because he immediately tried to feel around for one. Ha ha.
For the rest of the Mass, Vincent kept looking up at my cross as if trying to figure out what it was for. He only tried to touch it once or twice, but after correcting him, he was content to steal glances and smile at it. He again stooped down as I knelt to receive the Eucharist. His newest thing is to dip his little hands into the Holy Water font on the way out the door. Since I always bless him with a little cross on his forehead when we come in, he tries to dip his fingers into the font to then thumb my face.
Instead, I'm trying to teach him to "flick" the water from his hands onto the floor while saying "for the souls in Purgatory." Obviously he doesn't have those words down just yet, but it's never too early to teach them to use sacramentals for others! :)
Do you struggle with diocese envy? Do you wish your diocese (or Archdiocese!) would step up and do something as brazen as purchase prime-time airspace to get this message of healing to the faithful? To those fallen away? To those looking for a way back in?
I do - but no worries... Confession isn't just for Floridian Catholics! :) We've got ourselves regular Confessions up in Jersey, too. Actually, we've got confessions anywhere there is a priest! So take advantage, folks! Jesus is waiting to embrace that soul of yours with His Divinity!
Again... I love me some Confession!
It's that time of year that faithful Catholics feel the scramble of trying to figure out last minute gift-ideas for the Guy who not only has everything, but MADE it all, too.
What to sacrifice in love for God?
Well, the regular litany of "candy, soda, movies, fast food, Facebook" wasn't cutting it this year. As my first "technical" year back, I want to do something extra special. I was at a loss trying to figure out what would be a real sacrifice. Out of nowhere, a little voice in my head suggested "Take Vince in the mornings."My heart actually stopped at the thought.NO!!! I'm a night owl. I hate, hate, hate, hate, HATE taking Vince in the mornings. Call me a bad mother, consider me a selfish oaf. I speak the truth, though. I abhor anything and everything that concerns getting out of bed in the morning - ESPECIALLY anything that has me dragging myself from bed earlier than 8 am. Since Vince typically wakes up around 6-6:30, I sleepily yank myself from bed, change his morning diaper, and deposit him onto my husband's lap (the husband that somehow thinks 6 am or earlier is a perfect time to start the day - Ew). I'll then crawl back into bed and sleep until John has to leave for work (if I'm dropping Vince off), or until I have to go to work (on those joyous days that John drops him off). Anyway, getting up early and doing it with a smile would certainly fit the bill for sacrifice. Plus, as all good Lenten sacrifices are meant to do, it fosters a good habit that is supposed to "stick" after Lent is through. I think I may have found my daily offering.Also, something I always try to keep in mind with my offerings is this:Jesus doesn't "need" any material goods from us. However, there IS something He does want, and that's souls. Jesus wants souls, and souls can be gifted back to Him through prayer. Prayers like St. Gertrude's Purgatory Prayer free souls to fly into the Arms of Jesus. Our prayers are Divine Providence in action, so agreeing to take part in this plan for blessing certainly makes Jesus happy. Thus, the more we offer up in prayer, especially for those hardened of heart who refuse to look upon Christ with anything but contempt, the more we fill His Heart with joy.So whenever I am blessed with something special, I always say three Purgatory Prayers in honor of the Trinity who no doubt ensured a happy outcome for whatever my intention was.
I was lucky enough to have my CCD class on St. Valentine's Day! How exciting that I was able to share the history of St. Valentine!
I planned a special craft to get them into both the Lenten spirit and help them understand what Valentine's Day is really about.
I was sure to wear red and I asked the class why I was wearing red for St. Valentine's Day. They all answered "Love." Now, we had JUST finished discussing liturgical colors last week, so I asked them to pull out their notes and see if they couldn't figure out why I might choose to wear red on SAINT Valentine's Day.
One of their hands shot up and she answered, "It's the color of blood. Did he give his blood?"
Slowly but surely it began dawning on them. One of my boys proudly said, "He was killed!"
I confirmed his deduction and taught them the word "martyr." I explained that martyrs are a special group of saints who died because they loved Jesus so much. I explained that in St. Valentine's time, it was illegal to be a Christian. In some parts of the world, it's still illegal, even today! The kids were floored. One chimed in "That's stupid! What if you only say good stuff about Jesus?"
From the mouths of babes...
I said that in some parts of the world, it's illegal to even mention Jesus' name because people believe that even the name of Jesus offends their god. The people in charge don't want everyone believing in Jesus when they believe only their god is important.
It was like that back in St. Valentine's period as well, but instead of an invisible god, they believed that the emperor was god (or the son of god depending on which emperor we're discussing). I likened it to everyone in the United States thinking that President Obama was a god. They shook their heads in disbelief that anything so preposterous could ever have been true.
Ah, but so it was! And in some places, so it still is! May we keep these persecuted Christians in our prayers.
With that, I told them the story of St. Valentinus (now known as St. Valentine) and why we send "Valentines" to one another. Not one of them had ever heard the history behind this feast! Can you imagine?
Anyway, as a special craft, I had them create little "Valentines for Jesus." These were half Valentine - half Lenten preparation. On each foam "heart" (they were given 10 each), I requested that they draw a picture / write a prayer or good act they could do to offer to Jesus as a show of love. After all, we are all the "hands of Christ" and what we do unto others, we do unto Christ. My class really did an amazing job exemplifying this through the choice of their offerings:
Originally I had intended them all to glue the hearts into a wreath (as you see in the original picture), but their words / pictures extended too far in some instances, so I came up with the idea of a ladder. I had them poke holes into the tops and bottoms of their hearts and they laced them together that way for a cute chain:
All in all, they turned out really nicely, and I'm really glad the kids had so much fun coming up with ways they could show Jesus they loved Him. Now they've got ideas for Lent which was a great prep for next week's Ash Wednesday lesson! Woo hoo!
Seriously - I love teaching these kids. I'm so blessed!