Happy birthday, Church!
I chose to spend Mass this morning at Holy Child Parish. As a seasoned parish-hopper, I was glad for the opportunity to see this one decked out and ready to celebrate the day Christ fulfilled His promise to send the Holy Spirit to guide us in His Ways.
I made a great choice!
This parish boasts several priests and deacons. Though not a "rich" parish, it's very obvious that these parishioners spare no expense when it comes to lavishing beauty upon the Lord's House.
St. Teresa Church (part of Holy Child Parish), is just... it's beautiful in a very simple, quiet way. There aren't thirty thousand statues / icons along the walls... there aren't flowers and banners hanging from every rafter, and there's not an over-abundance of linens or fixtures.
They do, however, have some beautiful statues, beautiful (and VERY educational) stained glass windows, and some of the most magnificent wood-work I've seen in a while. They are also one of the cleanest churches I've ever been in which is just more proof that the parishioners take pride in keeping the Lord's House meticulous.
The way they have set everything up, it seems that the true focus of the entire parish is not on wowing folks with artwork or finery but impressing upon them the real beauty of Who is hidden within the tabernacle. I love that!
The priests at this parish are ALL wonderful. I've heard homilies from each and they all have an intense love for Christ and His Church. They also went out of their way to really teach the parish about the changes that were made to the liturgy as the new wording was being introduced. One, in particular, is a real stickler for "saying the black, doing the red" and I'm always tickled when he points it out. :)
They're also fantastic with children. When I attend Mass here, I tend to go to the 11 o'clock which is right before Vince's bedtime. That typically means Vince is in rare form, and I've never had them shoot me angry laser beams. In fact, a couple weeks ago Fr. Chris caught us in the vestibule with Vince crying his head off and instead of scurrying out of a potentially awkward situation, he tried to soothe both Vince and myself and assured us of his prayers en route to the altar. How sweet is that?
You guys have heard me write of these stellar priests several times, especially when their homilies give me new insights into Bible readings or Church Traditions. I just love that we've still been so blessed to have such faithful, intelligent and charitable priests in our community.
Anyway, I took some photos to share with you lovely readers. This parish JUST attached a new adoration chapel that's opened Monday thru Friday until 8pm. How amazing is that??? So now, in addition to St. Rita's, I have St. Teresa's as well to visit Christ in the Blessed Sacrament!
That means any of you fine folks in the S. Jersey area also have another place to pray with the Lord. Yay!
But yes - St. Teresa Parish is truly a wonderful community. Their parishioners are so very welcoming, thoughtful and generous. I always feel at home in their parish. Their priests are incredible representatives of Christ, and their church is a very serene, clean and simple beauty that I have no doubt pleases God greatly.
May He continue to bless these folks immensely. <3
For more gorgeous parish artwork from my local churches, feel free to follow my "Churches" page.
This is where I attended Mass on Ascension Thursday.
For those of you who are unaware, St. John Neumann was a bishop of Philadelphia and brought us some incredibly wonderful treasures in his tenure as Archbishop. He opened the door to many religious communities, founded orphanages and schools, and did his best to provide a proper education, healthcare and basic necessities to the many immigrants that made their way through our fair city.
For his great love of Christ and His Church, God bestowed upon this servant the title of Saint. Even more glorious, God worked His grace through St. John by blessing him to be among the Incorruptibles.
St. Peter the Apostle houses a shrine built in his honor. This shrine boasts a small museum of his artifacts and relics, but most importantly, this shrine houses St. John's body beneath an altar.
Enjoy the photos.
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.
You fine readers know I've been having a rough go of spiritual things lately.
I'm honestly feeling much better. After writing things out, reading your comments / messages, and praying, I'm feeling on the up and up.
In fact, I feel as though I've done a bit of a 180.
In my quest to "work through the muck" I tried a variety of ways to kick the darkness away. What I think ended up working best was focus on Jesus' crucifixion. I went back to Maria Valtorta's writings and found my solace there. I couldn't pray to Jesus, so I read about Him. I found that the more I read of His Sacrifice, the more my heart melted. After all, how can you not love Him upon learning the lengths He went to re-establish our right to Heaven?
So I read - a lot. And I finally decided that I needed to go to Confession again. Since the first round found me more grumpy and agitated than humble and sorry, I figured I should get myself in order and try again without the attitude.
I went in for Confession and explained my situation to the priest. This time, upon receiving absolution, I felt truly reconciled. I attended Mass immediately afterwards and have been back in the saddle (so to speak) ever since.
I guess the moral of that story is: if at first you don't succeed, go to Confession until you get it right. *Grin*
The last few days had me on a huge pro-Pope Francis kick. His support of pro-traditional marriage rallies in the US, his strong statements defending life in the womb, and his suggestion that the Eucharist be received while kneeling - all of this had me going "WOO HOO! I was wrong! Pope Francis is actually EXACTLY what I was hoping he'd be!"Then this...
I read it, and then I re-read it. I e-mailed it to myself (and a friend), and then I re-read it again.
The premise is that Pope Francis doesn't give out Communion because he's basically afraid of being caught passing along the Eucharist to a sinner vying for a photo-op.
Am I the only one who has inner alarm bells going:
All popes are priests, right? The MAIN JOB of a priest, regardless of if he's called to be a pastor, cardinal or even Bishop of Rome is to "feed the sheep."
Remember that whole "Hey Peter, you're gonna feed My sheep, right?" business back in John 21:17?
Jesus stressed the importance of feeding His flock - the Church. Feeding and tending the flock is ensuring that we, the Church, are given Jesus in both Body and Spirit. The Eucharist is Christ, fully incarnate (that's what "Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity" means!). Priests were SPECIFICALLY created in order to consecrate and distribute this sacred Sacrament, and Pope Francis shirks this responsibility because he's afraid he might accidentally give the Eucharist to someone unworthy?!
By that rationale, I guess I should stop giving money to homeless people because one of them might use it for drugs!
Maybe I shouldn't donate money to the Starving Children fund, either, because I'm suspicious the administrators of that program are just using poor children as a front for their own greedy ends...Do you see my issue with this terribly poor rationale?I get that he doesn't want to be connected with distributing the Eucharist to those who would cause scandal by their reception. However, giving up his priestly duty is, in my mind, a very cowardly way to go about handling this situation.He just urged his brother bishops in Argentina to withhold the Eucharist from known pro-abortion candidates. When I saw that, I again rejoiced thinking, "Right on, Pope Francis!"So imagine my surprise when I see that instead of taking his own advice, he bypasses the entire problem by allowing others to preside over the issue for him. Is he saying that it's okay for other priests to distribute Communion to scandalous folks because they're not as important as him?Look... no one is really worthy to receive the Eucharist. No one. By some extreme grace, God humbles Himself and allows us avenues with which we can use to prepare ourselves for this gift. Some of us make use of these avenues, some of us don't. As the pontiff has expressed, there's really no way of knowing who has prepared himself and who has not. It's not the priest's job to attempt sorting out the sinners from the saints. His job is simply to distribute the Eucharist in good faith to those who present themselves. However, if he DOES know that a person is in the state of mortal sin and is presenting himself/herself for Communion, he's got a moral obligation to refuse for several reasons:
- 1) He'd be committing sacrilege by allowing the Eucharist to be consumed by someone not in communion with the Church.
- 2) He'd be helping another person (the one receiving) commit a sacrilege and, in effect, blasphemy.
- 3) He'd be scandalizing the faithful. Let's face it - we've got so many confused Catholics as it is. Distributing the Eucharist to someone obviously not in communion with the Church is akin to handing the car keys to your reprobate child after he spent a week joyriding. You other children see their sibling getting off without so much as a slap on the wrist. Do you think they're going to have any second thought about joyriding, themselves? Not so much.
Yes, it takes a lot of guts to refuse Communion to folks like this. Obviously it's going to create an uproar, and yes, you're definitely going to take some serious heat for it.
But ya know what? That's exactly what we need right now.
We need priests like this to highlight the gift that is our Eucharist. Too often we turn a blind eye and allow the Eucharist to be sullied because we're not brave enough to stand up and say "No!"
Instead, we timidly hand over Christ to the wretched soul who abuses His purity and all for what? To spare ourselves the awkward moment of reflection? To spare ourselves the spotlight of social reproach?
For shame. Pope Francis, feed your sheep. Feed us with the Bread of Life, and feed us by your example. You're doing and saying some really wonderful things, but if you're not doing this most basic responsibility as our shepherd, there is something severely wrong.
My prayers, holy pontiff, and the prayers of all the faithful... may they surround you and lift you to the Throne of God.
Forgive me in advance if this seems ridiculous and incredibly superstitious of me to post. I'm going to post it, anyway, because it unsettled me enough that I figured I'd pass along the lesson I learned from it.
The below photo is of my son's dresser-top. He's got St. Michael defeating Satan, a crucifix, Our Lady, and a guardian angel statue that my mother had given him when he was a baby. He's also got the little elephant bank I made for him before I'd even known I was having a little boy.
Anyway, the last few days I've noticed that my statues were turned funny. At first I didn't think anything of it. John sometimes uses the dresser to hold Vince's clothes, so if the statues got moved around a bit, it was likely because John had pushed them aside to make room for clothes or toys or something.
So I've been putting them back in their proper places almost daily. I haven't, however, been putting the crucifix back up.
Actually, the crucifix doesn't belong on the dresser at all. I've been meaning to hang it up in Vince's room, but I just haven't gotten around to it. So, since it's temporarily homeless, I've just laid it flat on the dresser. Here's why I'm posting this:
I found the blessed statues - AGAIN - in the same exact position before I put Vince to bed. I was so unsettled by their placement because it looked as if they'd been positioned deliberately.
St. Michael was exactly where I'd left him, but Our Lady and the guardian angel statues were looking directly at the crucifix. DIRECTLY. It was as if someone had turned them both to face the crucifix. Since St. Michael already does face it, I guess he didn't need to be moved.
My recreation, mind you.
This is exactly how I'd been finding them recently, but when I found them again, I had this feeling of purpose... someone moved them for a reason.
At first I thought it was John playing a trick on me. I called downstairs and asked if he was trying to mess with my head. He actually made fun of me and suggested we had a ghost.
He then suggested that Vince was moving them because he might be scared of statues looking at him in the night.
Vince can't move them. First, they're up too high. Second, I'm typically in the room with him until he falls asleep, and when he wakes up, he immediately comes into our room. There's no time for him to move them. Plus, why would Vince move them in the same exact manner over and over again?
So my conclusion is an angel. Since the statues were arranged to repeatedly look at the crucifix that I'd had lying down (as opposed to propped up or hanging on a wall like it should be), I figured that one of our spiritual friends wasn't too happy that I was treating the symbol of our salvation in so careless a manner. If the statues, themselves, were able to adore the Crucified Savior, then I'd better get my butt in gear and do the same.
So, no more crucifix lying down on the dresser. I don't have the hanging material to make sure it's up tonight, but I'll be getting a proper setting for it so it goes up on the wall as it should. It's propped just as you see in the above photo.
I think that will take care of my statues surprising me henceforth.
Thus, my lesson. I don't think crucifixes should ever be lying down anywhere. I don't know if there's a rule against it or anything, but given my recent experience, I certainly won't be letting them lie flat anymore.
I don't have writer's block. In fact, I've been banging out all sorts of written messages for the last few weeks.
I feel like I've got Jesus-block.
Every time I try to write a blog topic regarding religion, every time I try to read a religious based book, every time I try to work up the desire to trek over to the church I've been meaning to post on for a while because of all their gorgeous artwork... I just can't do it. It's not like I'm repulsed by the idea. I WANT to do all of these things. I just can't get passed this overwhelming sense of "blah" about it.
I realize like that makes me sound like a terrible person, but it gets worse.
For the last three weeks, I've had to force myself to go to Mass. Truth be told, my guardian angel was likely the one doing the forcing. If you could see the inner-workings of my struggle, you'd've seen me as a tantrum-throwing child being ear-pulled by her guardian angel to Mass.
The same is true for prayer. I just don't want to do it. Even my random conversations that I have throughout the day with God and Mary. Poof - gone. The thought of doing it actually makes my eyes roll.
That's TERRIBLE to admit, right?
But I'm admitting it because I'm at a loss. I get that sometimes we go through periods of spiritual dryness and all, but I almost feel like a pregnant woman who can't stand to be in the same room as a pork roast because the smell makes her want to vomit.
Even now I'm rolling my eyes. I don't know what to do with myself. I don't know what else to do other than own up to the fact that I've got a slight aversion to all things religious and I need to own it and move on.
A friend of mine suggested that my fervor has finally run its course. Even my husband suggested that I'm religion-ed out given that I now work for the Archdiocese and have a regular outlet for religion.
I refuse to accept that, though. I don't dislike my faith. I don't feel less Catholic. I don't feel bored about Catholicism or find it any less exciting to share with others I just...
Man, I really don't know how to explain this, and I sorta want to delete this entry since anyone reading it is likely going "Whoa there, Gina... you've got a bit of ADHD going on with all the jumping around."
I apologize. I really do. I'm just trying to get this all out there because maybe it's the first step in sorting myself out. I do tend to find writing therapeutic.
Actually, the first step in sorting myself out was Confession. I did go last night. I did NOT want to. In fact, as soon as I walked into the church, I saw that the priest wasn't doing Confession and was instead praying the rosary with the congregation.
I actually thought to myself, Sweet. Maybe God didn't think I needed Confession afterall. I'll just pray a few Hail Marys with everyone and then I'll sneak back out before the Vigil begins.
God had other plans.
It was as if someone tapped the priest on the shoulder. I kid you not, the man did NOT see me come in and kneel all the way in back of the church. How could he? He was all the way up in the front praying the rosary.
But his guardian angel must've gotten the nod from my guardian angel, because Father looked up as if someone tapped him, turned his head and looked DIRECTLY AT ME and then motioned for me to come see him.
I actually pretended not to see him. I'm not a regular parishioner in the slightest, so I just ducked my head and ignored him. Isn't that terrible?! Again, forgive me, but it's true. I just hoped he'd ignore whatever impulse had beckoned him to seek me out.
Again, God had other plans.
A few moments later, one of the ushers tapped me on the shoulder. He said, "Miss, if you're here for Confession, Father said he'd take you now. He still has time before Mass."
UGHHHHH - Seriously, God? C'mon now. But alright. Fine. Obviously You do think I need some 1:1 time in the box.
So I detached myself from the pew that I was firmly rooted in. I think the only thing that got me walking towards the Confessional was the fact that I was embarrassed for having been singled out - twice - and I was afraid that if God had to single me out again, He'd be going Old Testament style with fire and lightning.
I went and made my confession, but the entire time I was thinking I don't want to be here, I don't want to be doing this, I really hate this, why am I doing this?
I even said to Father that I was having a really tough time wanting to pray. I felt like my feelings were shameful and terrible because all God asks is for me to talk to Him now and again. It's not like He's looking for animal sacrifices or these huge shows of affection. He just wants me to love Him as best I can because He loves me so much. So for me to not even want to talk to Him... that's just really, really mean, right?
Father made some suggestions, and I'd like to say that with absolution everything was instantly better.
Obviously I'm still struggling with my own spirituality right now. I'm sure it'll work itself out, but I haven't felt this distant from God since I've actively worked against Him in college.
What I do know, though, is that this little test of faith, endurance, patience or whatever can't last forever (right?). So I guess I just have to suck it up and offer it back to God for whatever it is He's got in mind.
I don't like it. I really don't like it. But man if He isn't persistent.
So many of my friends have been posting articles about a couple who lost their 2nd child because they believe medical science is unnecessary. I support their feelings of frustration, confusion and heartbreak that two children are needlessly dead because their parents have not taken every available avenue to ensure the care and survival of innocent children.
However, these same friends who have posted vitriol about how disgusted they are with this couple... how this couple should burn in hell for their neglect... how folks like this should be sterilized / mutilated, etc...
Not a one of them has said two words about the gruesome infanticide that has been committed by Dr. Kermit Gosnell. The same infanticide that occurs daily all around the country at the hands of Planned Parenthood and abortion mills just like it...
Forgive me, but if you're gonna go ahead and condemn the neglect of two parents in the deaths of two children, you'd better damn right well condemn abortionists and supposed nurses / staff who allow millions of children to routinely die in painful, scary and terrible ways ON PURPOSE.
If you're gonna get preachy because two innocent children are dead due to neglect, you'd better go Billy freakin' Graham due to the neglect of an entire nation that refuses to acknowledge the snuffed out lives of millions upon millions of innocent babies on a daily basis.
If you cannot or will not, you are a hypocrite of a most vile degree.
Okay, so the picture to the right isn't exactly of a prom. It's me checking out the homemade boutonniere he had for his wedding last December.
It's prom-ish, though, so give me a break.
Anyway, this story comes from a friend of mine who witnessed a sparkle of awesome in her home parish Saturday night at her vigil mass.
As folks made their way up for Communion, she noticed that many in line were decked out in prom attire.
Gowns, tuxes, suits with the jazzy colored vests - senior prom students were attending the vigil!!!
That's right, folks - these wonderful young men and women were witnessing their faith on the very night that most teens throw common sense to the wind. How awesome is that?
Apparently the priest closed the Mass by saying, "God bless your evening, and don't do anything against the teachings of the Church."
When my friend heard these things after witnessing the prom-goers in their pews, she got teary-eyed. Why wouldn't she? My heart swelled by three sizes as I thanked the Lord for their steadfast faith. May their parents be blessed for instilling their children with such reverence. May the entire community be blessed for supporting them in their walk of faith! Well done!
I wanted to share that with you folks. I really hope my son is still holding fast to his faith when he's prom-going age. God-willing, he doesn't shy away from inviting his date to Mass as a pre-game to the prom! Ha ha ha!
Working in my particular branch of the Archdiocese means I typically handle calls from cranky people.
This past week I had felt incredibly bogged down with an overload of work and a litany of agitated callers. I would love to say I responded charitably and patiently with each person, but I'd be lying.
God forgive me, but Friday morning found me in an awfully foul mood. My very first caller of the day (before I'd even sat down at my desk!) was an angry person demanding to know why we were such evil, evil people. Le sigh.
I handled the call as politely as possible, but I could feel my entire mindset shift from "Good morning, world!" to "Gah, let me survive today without stabbing anyone with my letter opener."
As the day dragged on with more of the same, I actually looked up at the ceiling and said outloud, "Alright, God, what did I do? Not really sure where You're going with all of this, but You need to do something about these folks [calling in]."
No sooner did I mouth that frustration than did the Archbishop's secretary come down and request my boss. Since he was in a meeting, I asked if I could help with anything.
Turns out there was a very unhappy couple downstairs making a scene and demanding an audience with the Archbishop. Security was refusing to let them up and his secretary had no idea what else to do with them. I contemplated passing the baton to one of three directors in my office, but honestly, I knew they were all super busy and just didn't have the time to spend soothing the ire out of anyone. So, I bit the bullet and followed the Archbishop's secretary to the security desk.
It wasn't pretty when I went downstairs. They weren't just angry... they were livid. Security didn't want to let them into the building, but shoving them into the street wasn't going to help. Since our office was relatively quiet that afternoon, I agreed to have them voice their complaints upstairs and away from the gawkers who had gathered to see the spat.
The Archbishop's secretary gratefully bid us farewell as I led the couple upstairs and into our conference room. I braced myself for the onslaught of ire that had obviously welled up inside of them. I'd endured an entire week of super-charged anger. I viewed them as my last epic hurdle until my weekend which would be free from folks like this. So on the surface I treated them with careful respect and a soothing, caring manner. On the inside, though, I was recoiling from the wave of vitriol I had accepted from the Archbishop's secretary.
Oh, how I cringe at my callous heart!
This couple is middle-aged and closing in fast on retirement. The wife was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011 and her husband had been out of work due to a severe injury. They've been struggling for several years due to the mounting medical bills and lack of work. They had looked for help everywhere and found nothing. The husband pulled stacks of business cards and letters from his bag to show me regarding his efforts in securing a livelihood and subsequent help for he and his wife. The desperation and frustration were evident.
What was more evident, however, was their love and faith.
As both of them spoke over one another in their attempt to tell me why they were so frustrated and upset, I noticed how very caring they were of one another. Their body language was endearing. She kept grasping his arm and he kept patting her hand. She would sometimes hug him close when she fumbled for words and he would quickly pick up for her and explain the feelings for which she had no words.
It was a beautiful thing to witness.
And on top of that, this struggling couple did not express anger at me or at the Archdiocese. They weren't cursing God for allowing them to be in the situation they found themselves. In fact, the wife said "My breast cancer is God's will and I accept that. If He wishes to heal me, He'll heal me. If not, then I shall go with Him and that is that."
Instead, their frustration came from a simple miscommunication that served to bring them to our very doorstep. They acknowledged that had it not been for our mailing, they wouldn't have come to us and learned that we do, in fact, offer the very services they need to get back on their feet again. God used their anger and frustration as the bait to lead them into the trap of His Love. Doesn't that sound silly? But it's true. God knows what motivates us, and sometimes it's as basic as our human frustration.
Anyway, this couple vented all of their issues to me... personal, private matters that they just longed to share with another human person. They'd been kicked around so many systems, taken advantage of by so many groups that are supposed to help... they just didn't know where else to turn. So, God led them to the Archdiocesan center... specifically to me.
And I think I got more from their visit more than they did.
Seeing how much they loved each other... how willing they were to sacrifice for the other's benefit... it was almost too much for me!
In order to survive on the $16 welfare food stipend they receive, they will eat every other day. So the wife will eat one day, the husband will eat the next, etc, etc, etc. They acknowledged this as if it were perfectly normal - that anyone would do this if faced with a similar situation. The husband kept saying, "But she is my wife. Of course I will do this."
I must've had the most stupified look on my face. It was all I could do to keep from crying. How shameful I must be in the Eyes of the Lord. I'm going about my day frustrated with the very people I work to serve. To put me in my place... to show me how arrogant and thoughtless I'd become, He brought two of these very people to look me in the eye and express to me the depth of their pain.
It was like a challenge from God.
Can you dare to open your mouth against these children of Mine? To whine, complain and roll your eyes when tasked with answering their call? I put you into this position specifically so you could help my people, and what do I get from you in return? Scorn? Disdain? Arrogance? You act shameful and thus shame that which I have done for you!
Ugh - my heart must have broken into a thousand pieces. I felt so inadequate... so unworthy... so terrible. God had answered my prayer, but He had answered in a way that far exceeded what my original intention had anticipated. Forgive me my folly, Lord. Oh, forgive me my folly...
My coworkers, by this time, were growing agitated that this couple had spent so much of my time in the conference room. After all, phones needed to be answered, envelopes stuffed, and paperwork filed. The longer I was away from my desk, the less work was getting done. Thus, I guided the conversation to a close as quickly as possible with the promise of engaging all the proper channels to help them get situated.
After I escorted them out of the building, security apologized up and down for handing over what they assumed (what I had assumed!) were a couple of nut jobs. I assured them that everything was fine and the couple was actually a great gift to me. I tried to explain that to my coworkers, too. They, though, had about a thousand jokes at the ready aimed at me and my bleeding heart for allowing them to torment my patience for the better part of an hour.
I don't care, though. I recognized what that couple was. They were my stark reprimand as well as my chance for mercy. God made it so that I'd have the proper avenues at the ready to answer their needs. So not only was I reminded of the blessing it was to serve these people, God granted me the satisfaction of actually being able to do it.
It was a much needed reminder that I'm shamed to say I needed. So I hope you guys take heart in this as well. Sometimes in life there are going to be lots of angry people who want to vent at you. The best you can do is accept that God placed you there to return their anger and frustration with love and kindness as best you can, because even these folks (maybe even especially these folks) are in need of God's mercy. Be that mercy for them.
***And please, please, please keep this couple in your prayers. They deserve to be lifted to the Lord in a very special way given their overwhelming needs. Truly these folks need as many prayers as possible. Thanks!***