Just a quick note, but tonight was my first CCD class of the year.
Over half of the students didn't know that Jesus was God. Not one knew how to make the Sign of the Cross properly, and everyone gave me blank stares when I asked who Moses was.
At least they knew Mary's the Mother of Jesus! :)
I love a challenge, but starts like this really make me wonder what is being taught in the lower levels (or at home!).
Ah well. Last year's class was similar, but by the end, they were mini Catholic gurus. Ha. Here's to a new year of education, blessings and fun!
I've had a large crowd of folks come through this particular entry this month. If you'd be so kind, please let me know where the traffic is being directed from - I'd greatly appreciate it!
On the heels of my last post comes this one on genuflection.
Since we were asked to ensure our children understood both the Sign of the Cross and how to properly genuflect, I’m once more utilizing you wonderful readers as my guinea pigs. Many thanks.
Last year, one of my students had slipped a “Why do people stoop when they come into church” question into the Question Box. This had tied in pretty well to a lesson on the Real Presence of Christ within the Blessed Sacrament which we had covered about two weeks prior. So to answer his question, I simply pointed out that the “stooping” motion was really a person touching his or her right knee to the ground in a show of reverence to God who is truly, fully present in the tabernacle.
I then had them practice genuflection as I noticed so many people (adults, too!) who did “stoop” which is probably what solicited the confused question from my student.
Anyway, why do we genuflect?
Most people understand that we’re reverencing God, but why is the act of genuflection an act of reverence to begin with?
Well, let’s take a look at this history of genuflection, shall we?
Even in the animal world, lowering your gaze signifies humility in the presence of someone superior. To conform your entire body to reflect the downward cast of your eyes highlights the significance of your humility that much more. Thus, high-ranking leaders like kings, emperors and dignitaries required (by custom and law) that their subjects genuflect or kneel in their presence.
This reverence translated well into Christianity which was already rich in the tradition of showing humility courtesy of its Jewish roots.
It was (and still is in some customs) Jewish tradition to kneel before the Word of God to kiss the scrolls in order to show reverence to the Divine. The Levites were also known to “fall on their faces” before God in the Holy of Holies in order to show humility and reverence while asking God for His mercy and blessings. To this day there are some Orthodox Jews who hold fast to the practice of full prostration in prayer to order their bodies after their hearts so that they can reflect the utmost humility before the Throne of God.
Thus, this practice translated into the first Christians kneeling to kiss the epistles of the apostles before they were read… to kissing relics… to kissing the rings of the bishops and popes in authority. We Catholics do not simply stoop. We are ordering our bodies after the humility in our hearts so that we can properly pay homage to the God of the Universe.
At least that’s what we should be doing, anyway.
Also, this sign of humility is a sign of subjugation.
For example, way back when, high ranking officials in armies were given foot soldiers who served as human stools (for lack of a better term). They would genuflect before their leader’s horse to allow themselves to be used as a stepping stool so their commanding officer could easily take to the saddle and lead a charge.
When we genuflect before Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, we not only order our bodies after what’s in our hearts… we’re also offering ourselves to Him for whatever services He may ask of us.
So that, my friends, is why we genuflect upon entrance into a church. That is why we kneel before the Blessed Sacrament during Adoration. That is why the priest and ministers genuflect (or deeply bow) when crossing the front of the tabernacle.
And that’s why you should, too! Please don’t half it. It confuses others (especially children) who see it as stooping. If you’re going to order your bodies after the faith that’s in your heart, make sure your body reflects the true and deep humility that our faith encourages (if you’re able). If a genuflection is simply impossible due to age, illness, etc, refrain from stooping and simply give a deep bow. Even a head nod is better than a lackluster stoop.
The point is to pay reverence and humility to the God of Creation.
I’m getting back to my educational roots on this post, and it’s refreshing as I feel the last few have been haphazard “catch-ups” or “Mom” entries that most people probably find pointless.
Tomorrow night is my first CCD lesson of the season. I’m so excited to meet my kids and get back into the swing of teaching the Faith. One of the things I’ll be tackling tomorrow night is the Sign of the Cross.
Our Director specifically requested that we teach our children the Sign of the Cross because our visiting priest (Fr. Eucharist!) had mentioned it seemed to him that no one did it properly. Embarrassed, she made sure at our catechetical meeting that the teachers made this prayer a priority (along with genuflection) so that the next time Fr. Eucharist visited, we wouldn’t be embarrassed by our improper prayer movements at Mass.
I happily agreed to this since the Sign of the Cross and genuflection are two of the biggest things I harped on last year. I noticed right off the bat that my students were doing it improperly, plus it tied nicely into my lesson on the Trinity being One God in Three Divine Persons. So, here’s my little lesson on the Sign of the Cross for anyone who would like to know why we use this motion to open and close our prayers.
The Sign of the Cross
Using our thumb together with our fore and middle fingers, we touch our forehead while saying “In the Name of the Father.” Then, we use those same fingers to touch our abdomen while saying “and of the Son.” Finally, we touch both shoulders while saying, “and of the Holy Spirit.” Some traditions have you kiss those three fingers while saying “Amen.” Otherwise, you can fold your hands while saying “Amen.”
Now, why do we say / do these things?
Well, we open and close all of our prayers with the Sign of the Cross because we understand that God’s Sacrifice is the one and only offering we can make that bridges the divide caused by sin. In offering the infinitely meritorious Sacrifice of Christ’s Passion, we acknowledge that without God’s Love and Mercy, we are nothing. Thus, we begin and end our prayers with this acknowledgement in supplication and thanks for such love.
Plus, in marking ourselves with the Throne of His Sacrifice (the Cross) we are reminding ourselves (and others) to always unite our joys, sufferings and thanksgiving to Christ.
I have this, and I love it.
Finally, these words - when prayed with the fluid motion of the cross – remind us that God is triune – Three distinct Persons in One God.
This is a concept I’ve described to my class repeatedly as it’s so difficult to grasp… even amongst theologians. Our humanity cannot understand the depth of Their Unity, but we try! During the Crucifixion, we weren’t just crucifying Christ. Father and Holy Spirit were present as well, which is why I love the Trinitarian Crucifix. It reminds us that though distinct, each Person was fully present and actively participating in the Crucifixion of the Son. Our most simplistic prayer is so rich in context!!! It is the backbone of our Catholicism and the truest, strongest root of our Faith.
I could happily write on this prayer for days on end.
Anyway, moving on to the separate motions of forehead, abdomen and shoulders, we have reasons for placing each Person of the Trinity in these various spots. Everything we do and say as Catholics carries incredible meaning… never forget that!
For example, the three fingers we touch to ourselves are indicative of the Trinity. The remaining two (ring and pinkie) remind us of Christ’s two-fold nature – human and Divine.
We touch our heads for the Father because He is the Source of all Wisdom. We touch our abdomen for the Son to remind us that He, springing forth from the Father of Wisdom, became Incarnate in the womb of the Virgin. Finally, we touch both shoulders for the Holy Spirit to remind ourselves that He, having been sent by the Son, surrounds and protects the Church. Finally, we kiss the three fingers that marked us in the Cross as a sign of love and reverence. We also acknowledge it as a sort of “mini-kiss” of thanksgiving to the Trinity (at least that’s what I view it as).
So the next time you make the Sign of the Cross, meditate a bit on the deeper and beautiful manifestations of our Faith that are proclaimed through our simplest form of prayer.
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:
So I've seen a lot of my blogger friends take part in Conversion Diary's Quick Take Fridays. I've also been an avid follower of Jennifer Fulwiler's for a while. I'd considered taking part in the past, but my life is honestly not interesting enough to do a weekly "catch-all." Maybe a quarterly one.
Anyway, today I lucked upon some great articles that totaled seven in number. I thought Hey now! That's just enough to make an actual Quick Take Friday post! Then I wondered, Is it cheating to use articles for my quick takes as opposed to using items about my actual life?
The answer I arrived at was "Yes. Yes, it's cheating, but who cares? Doubtful anyone's gonna come after me with some sort of blogging demerits."
So, my 7 Quick Takes:
From Esquire Magazine comes an open letter to the world from a Christian who aims to correct the negative perceptions of an anti-Christian world. My favorite quote:
"... at one point God even speaks to a guy named Balaam through his donkey. Some say God spoke to Balaam through his ass and has been speaking through asses ever since. So if God should choose to use us, then we should be grateful but not think too highly of ourselves. And if upon meeting someone we think God could never use, we should think again."
NBC reports that some yahoo decided to drop raw bacon in the field where Muslims were celebrating the close of Ramadan. This person (people?) also left a note and police are investigating it as a hate crime.
I'm all for investigating this as a hate crime because it's obvious this person (or these people) was attempting to bully others on the grounds of their religion, but I find it interesting that this had no effect on their celebrations and this wasn't even done on sacred grounds / with sacred objects. It's rightly being investigated as a hate crime, but folks are still indignant that the Russian women - who desecrated the main altar of a Cathedral - were convicted of religious intolerance. Color me incredulous.
A high school valedictorian has been denied her diploma by her school because of the use of "Hell" in her speech. They haven't denied her transcripts (which she needs for college), but the diploma is symbolic of her achievements.
I think the approach is heavy-handed, but I do believe she owes the school the written apology it asked for in punishment for her misstep. Her reaction and continued "I'm right, I'm right, I'm right" when she is CLEARLY in the wrong only serves to show how arrogant she is. She provided them with an approved speech, then she decided to throw unnecessary vulgarity in there. As punishment, they with-held the diploma and simply asked for an apology.
I'm sorta bothered by everyone coming to her defense in saying this is an attack of freedom of speech. It's a SCHOOL SPEECH that everyone knows must be approved first by the board (or whoever is in charge of the ceremony). It's to both protect the school and the student from embarrassment. This girl simply thought she was above the rules because of her intelligence and achievements.
Sorry, honey, but you've still gotta play by the rules. This has nothing to do with freedom of speech. It has everything to do with following procedure during a solemn ceremony. Get over yourself. If this is how you respond to situations that call you out for trying to place yourself above authority, you're in for a rude awakening when you make it to the real world.
Fr. Levi over at The Way Out There came across the last words of St. David Lewis, a martyred priest whose story is incredibly touching.
After reading both his life overview and then his final address, I couldn't help but thank God for granting us so brave and faithful witnesses to His Love. Bless our priests.
God certainly knows how to choose them!
This is for all my fellow educators out there. In a special way, it's for those who are part of the unique group of people who work with children who have speech delays (my son being one of those children!).
I have no words to properly express the appreciation I have for your dedication and your love. Michelle at Liturgical Time does a fabulous job of expressing so well just how much we love the children we're blessed to work with, and I think being an educator myself, knowing that love on a personal level and seeing it doled out to my son just makes me that much more appreciative and awe-struck. Those who work with children are special, special people.
By Erika V of CS!
This is almost another cheat, but CatholicSistas has absolutely been on a roll this week. It's like someone swapped their coffee for Red Bull and they've been hammering out gold on a daily basis. Two of their articles REALLY touched me this week and I wanted to highlight them for you.
The first is Infant Death and Scared Parenting. A perinatal loss nurse is interviewed and she gives an inside look into this oft-overlooked area of holistic medicine. Incredibly inspiring and moving.
The second is titled The Trauma and Pain of Abortion After Rape and is written by a woman who conceived through rape. Exceedingly well-written, honest and poignant.
Finally, and maybe this isn't an article so much as a Book Release, but a mystic I've been following for a while, Maria Divine Mercy, has finally had the messages bundled into a book.
However, you don't need to purchase the book to read the messages. You can simply go to the website dedicated to collecting them all and download the PDF.
Again, typical warning goes into effect with mystics. Ask the Holy Spirit for guidance as these are all considered personal revelations. Also, try to forgive the horrific formatting of the website. It's set up very much like a yellow-journalism rag and whoever is in charge of it is definitely trying to capitalize off fear and panic. I don't approve of that. Ignore the terrible formatting and focus on the messages and the Crusade Prayers. I promise you'll thank me later for it.
For more Quick Takes, check out Conversion Diary (who hosts this entertaining weekly blogroll!
Fr. Sweet and I after his ordination
A friend of mine from HS was talking to me about a mutual friend of ours who was blessed to be given the vocation of priesthood a few years back.
Every now and again he'll come up in conversation, and without fail, I refer to him as "Father Sweet" (replacing "Sweet" with his actual name, mind you).
Our mutual friend, however, consistently refers to this priest by his high school nickname.
I understand that due to our high school relationships, it's assumed that we continue to utilize the same familiarity we've espoused in the past. Fr. Sweet, I think, expects that, too, since on two separate occasions (when he and I spoke in prep for my wedding), he laughed off my attempts to call him "Deacon" (he was transitory at that point).
For this reason, I've never questioned our mutual high school friends when they've called Father Sweet by his first name / nickname. I, however, cannot bring myself to do that. I don't expect others to follow suit, but I was pretty surprised when our mutual friend came down kinda hard on me for "insisting on calling him 'Father' when he is the same as the rest of us except he has a collar around his neck."
Color me stupified. My view is this:
Jesus called Simon to become a disciple. He spent a couple years forming him, teaching him, and revealing to him the Truths of God's plan for salvation. Upon testing Simon with the question of "Who do YOU say that I am?" Simon was found to be inspired with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. This inspiration was a sign from God the Father that Simon was ready to be christened with the name of Peter... "Cephas" (which means "rock") in Greek. Interestingly, this same word translates to "firstborn" in Aramaic.
Thus, Peter became the first-born Christian... the first to declare Jesus' Divinity through His Sonship of the One, True God. Already christened with the Holy Spirit (signified by his Divine knowledge), Christ took it a step further and christened Simon (meaning "reed") with the dignified name of "Peter," the rock upon which Christianity would be built.
Name changes throughout the Bible are significant. Name changes signify not a physical alteration, but a spiritual one. God changes a person by marking their souls with His Promise. For Abram (who became Abraham) it was the promise of a family (not just physical, but spiritual). For Jacob (who became Israel) it was the promise of a nation. For Saul (who became Paul) it was the promise of salvation and a share in the kingship of Christ.
With the importance that God places on names, I sorta feel as though I, too, should pay attention when God, Himself, deems a person worthy of a name change. Priests, in my eyes, fall into this category.
Priests are called, just like St. Peter, to be marked by the Holy Spirit. They are marked as representatives of Christ. They are called to shepherd God's people back to Heaven. As such, upon ordination, they receive the title of "Father."
That title is GOD-GIVEN. He was blessed to be called by God to be a "Father" to His people. Far be it from me to call Father Sweet by any other name. It isn't just my respect for him that solicits my "formality." It's actually my familiarity with and respect for God that solicits the "Father."
It's not just my high school priest friend that seems to get this treatment anymore. I know of several people who think nothing of calling priests by their first name (sans title). I admit that it's always unsettling to me, but I've never said anything one way or another about it to those who do it because I do not know their relationship with the priest in question. Who knows? Maybe the particular priest WISHES to be called by his first name. I don't know, thus, I don't cast judgement.
However, I was very surprised to have judgement cast upon me. Even after explaining my stance, this person thought I was just being "stupid."
Eh, I'll take "stupid" over "disrespectful" any day of the week.
A priest isn't just "us with a collar." A priest is marked soul-deep in a way that none of us can imagine. They are set apart from us. They are fundamentally different. They are endowed with the power of God, Himself. Thus, I willingly - JOYFULLY - acknowledge that grace with the humble term "Father."
No amount of name-calling, scorn or ridicule will change my mind.
Brace yourselves for one of the nerdiest "fan-girl" type entries ever.
And yes, it's about a homily.
I'm not even sure where to begin as I'm so giddy over the brilliance and no-nonsense approach this retired priest (who is filling in for Fr. Atlas while he's away). It was his mission to defend the Eucharist and educate parishioners on the importance we should place on the Real Presence of Christ - what a gem! If I didn't have Vince on my lap, I would've taken a pen and paper out for notes!
To begin, this weekend's readings were very much Eucharistic in nature. The first reading dealt with the manna from Heaven that nourished the Israelites as they wandered through the desert. The psalm was a reflection of this reading and also foreshadowed the joyful thanksgiving we ought to sing in praise of His gracious institution of the Holy Eucharist.
The second reading reminds us that the bread that nourishes us it not only physical but spiritual. Christ, the Word, is our sustenance. His teachings and example are the gateway to Heaven.
Finally, in the gospel, we hear Jesus, Himself, affirm that He is the Bread of Life. This is not some spiritual manner of speaking. He is affirming His Presence in the Holy Eucharist - the greatest of all Sacraments. He is preparing His followers to understand and accept this unfathomable mercy.
Upon walking out amongst the congregation, Fr. Eucharist (as I'll call him henceforth) spoke of several mystics who lived solely on the Body of Christ in the Eucharist.
He didn't specify a particular mystic, but considering the scientific evidence he spoke of regarding the validity of these miraculous signs, my mind jumped to Blessed Alexandrina who subsisted on nothing but the Holy Eucharist for 13 years (to the astonishment of the many doctors and scientists who examined her).
Fr. Eucharist wanted to highlight that the Blessed Sacrament is not just symbol of Christ. This Sacrament of Love is the fullness of Christ's Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. When we say "Amen" in response to the priest's offering, we are saying "Yes, I believe!" that the consecrated Host we receive is, in fact, God. He has chosen to use some of His saints to hit home this point through allowing them the grace of existing solely on His Body. As He said, "My Flesh is true food, and My Blood is true drink." Amen, indeed.
As such, the Eucharist is to be the most important thing in our lives. It is the banquet that supercedes all other banquets.
Upon this reflection, Father Eucharist then went on to describe some key elements that build up our Mass towards this miraculous banquet.
The procession and readings - our Liturgy of the Word - is like a cocktail hour. I loved that comparison! At a wedding cocktail, for example, we gather together with joy to catch up with family and friends we haven't seen in a while. We see how the kids are doing, we find out what so-and-so's been up to, and we bask in the filial love present amongst us all.
During the cocktail hour, we also get tiny samples of the greater meal awaiting us at the main banquet. For us, those morsels are the various readings and responses. As Catholics, we believe that Christ is the Word, so we are blessed to receive Him with our ears before we partake of the "main course" of the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
And oh... the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Pardon me as I 'squee' ridiculously for a few moments. He really took off running as he reflected on the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
Once again he discussed the spiritual reality of our physical presence at Mass.
As St. John Chrysostom once said, "When Mass is being celebrated, the sanctuary is filled with countless angels who adore the divine victim
immolated on the altar."
Amen, St. John!
Fr. Eucharist reminded of this in such a reverent, direct way that I could have stood up to applaud him. He said, "Yes! There is truth beyond what we can see with our physical eyes. At the words of consecration, Jesus is standing behind the priest! God the Father and Holy Spirit are with Him. Mary, His mother, is there with St. Joseph. And filling the sanctuary are the angels and saints who, together with us, adore and praise Him."
How I managed to stay in my seat and not jump up to hug him is truly beyond me. I felt as if my heart had doubled in size just so it could sprout arms and embrace him.
Yes, Fr. Eucharist, yes! TELL US! TEACH US! REMIND US THAT THE EUCHARIST IS GOD TRULY PRESENT! Shine as an example to all other priests that THIS is the type of truth so desperately needed in the world today. THIS is what Catholics must be reminded of so that we can properly appreciate the gift that is the Eucharist.
Did he stop there? No no, folks. My giddiness erupted as he went on.
Catholics, when they present themselves for the Eucharist, must make a throne with their hands with which to accept the Body of Christ. Not with one hand. Not with two haphazardly placed together. Reverently accept Him as the King He is!
*He then proceeded to show us what that would look like.*
And, bless him, he also gave a nod to acceptance on the tongue (which is how I receive anyway).
And to boot, he called out folks who leave after receiving the Eucharist. He said, "And to those of you who leave after Communion, you're missing a lot of stuff! From Consecration until the Recessional, the Blood of Christ covers the congregation, filling us with untold graces!"
He again didn't mention a specific mystic, but I'm about 99.9% sure he was referring to the revelations made by the Blessed Mother to Catalina Revas of Bolivia. I'd only recently learned of her (I would guess in the last 8 months or so), but the insights and revelations made to her by Christ and Our Lady have forever changed my participation in the Mass. I would encourage all of you to read more about her! But again, use the typical caution regarding private revelations. Though not forbidden / approved by the Church, it us up to the individual to request guidance and discernment from the Holy Spirit.
Back to the wonderful priest, however, he closed his homily with a reminder that after reception of the Eucharist, we would do well to remember that God, Himself, dwells within us. So as we walk back to our seats, it's not the time for saying "Hi" to friends, nor is it the time to get one's self ready to leave. The time after Communion is meant for prayful reflection... a true and intimate conversation between us and God.
And don't you know after Communion, he graciously allowed us time to sit in silent contempation.
Hmmmm... I've got a big old stupid smile on my face, and it's all because of this wonderful representative of Christ. My prayers are with him and with all priests. May they all have such ardent love for Him, and may they all seek to spread that love and understanding to others. Bless him, and bless them!
Yesterday was Sunday. After getting myself and Vincent dressed for Mass, I put my chapel veil on. As soon as Vincent saw it, he started saying - quite loudly - "NO JESUS!"
At first, I ignored him. This is par for the course with him anymore. I could've been setting up to go to the beach, and he'd be yelling "NO BEACH!"
Anyway, I ignored him until I heard his father (who was upstairs in the bathroom) laugh. He asked, "Is he saying what I think he's saying?"
I immediately felt myself go into defense mode. Remember, John's a proud atheist who takes slight issue with me raising Vincent as a Catholic. So any sort of "Boooooo Religion!" utterance is a victory for him.
Anyway, I pointed out that Vince does this every week and is perfectly fine by the time we get into the pew. He does the same thing regardless of where we're going, so I reminded him not to get too excited that our son was rejecting Jesus.
John swore he wasn't giddy about Vincent's outburst against Mass... but I still have my doubts. Ha ha.
Luckily, as I pulled into the church lot, Vince had simmered down. Since he loves counting so much, I had him count the different windows that frame our doors as we entered. That made him happy. The next hour made ME super happy.
As soon as we entered the church, Vincent was a model little munchkin! He said "Hi" to our usher and pointed to Jesus in the tabernacle. He genuflected - actually GENUFLECTED - for the very first time and said, "Hi Jesus!"
I was so proud!
We placed our bag in the cry room and since we were so early, I took him to the various statues to "run out some energy."
Besides, it's a good learning experience for him, too.
We started with the Blessed Mother - Our Lady of Grace. When we got before her statue, he tried to genuflect again. I picked him up and said, "No no, Vincent. You only genuflect to Jesus." So he looked at the tabernacle (which was only a couple yards away) and said, "Hi Jesus!" again.
I said, "Remember, this is Mary. She's Jesus' Mommy." So he looked back at Our Lady and said, "Hi Mary!" I said, "Blow kisses!" He happily complied, but then wanted to follow it up with a hug. I had to stop him from hopping the altar rail and climbing up her feet. I half apologized to her as we turned to see the other statues because I think she'd've enjoyed having Vincent climb up to give her a hug. :)
We made our way to the mini Lourdes grotto in the back. I pointed out St. Bernadette and Mary. He didn't really care about them because he was looking at the Infant of Prague. So I tried to show him "Baby Jesus." I was unsuccessful because just under that statue were the vigil candles. Vince wanted to push all the buttons (our are electric), and when I wouldn't let him, he got slightly confused. They were buttons, after all. Weren't they made to be pushed???
Instead, I took him to see St. Michael the Archangel. He usually likes St. Michael (what with his awesome sword and soldier gear). He said "Hi" but again, he wasn't too interested. His eye had caught St. Joseph all the way on the other side of the church. So off we went to say "Hi" to St. Joseph.
Our Sacred Heart statue
Along the way, however, we stopped at the gorgeous Sacred Heart of Jesus statue. I might be a little biased when I say this, but we've got the most beautiful Sacred Heart of Jesus statue I've ever seen.
I let him touch the Sacred Heart. Vincent said, "Heart!" And I said, "That's Jesus' Heart. He loves you SOOOOO much!"
Vincent smiled and said, "Jesus love."
Vincent then saw Christ's fingers raised in blessing, so he counted them.
"One, two, three!"
I pointed at them, one at a time, and said, "Father, Son..."
I waited and Vince chimed in with "Holy Spirit!"
Not only was I super impressed, but the group of ladies chatting in the narthex applauded him, too! I was incredulous. This same little boy had been yelling "No Jesus! No Jesus!" only to be "Yay Jesus!" two seconds later.
We finally made our way over to the St. Joseph statue, but we couldn't stay long because Father was processing to the back for the start of Mass. Vincent, however, didn't want to leave his friends and said, "No room! Jesus stay!"
That's Vincent-speak for "I don't want to go into the cry room. I want to stay and play with Jesus!"
I told him that Jesus was coming soon, so we'd have to read some books until we could go back up to see Him.
That contented him. He was fine throughout Mass, reading his little Stations booklet. After reception of the Eucharist, Vincent raised his hands up to kiss me. After Mass, he didn't want to leave! I really wish John could've seen him then. Quite the change from "No Jesus! No Jesus!"
Ah well. When we got back home, John asked me how he was. I told him the truth. That was probably the best Vincent's ever was for me.
And I can't help but wonder if that wasn't God's way of letting me know He understood that Vince was just being a child. All of my prayers of "Please, God, don't let Catholicism become boring or uncool for him" will eventually work themselves out... even if I must deal with the heartbreak of seeing him favor sports or video games over Him for a time. In the end, though John might have his "mini-victories," I trust that God's Love will triumph in Vincent's heart.
Why do you know so much about the Jews? Did you convert from Judaism?
The answer to this is simple - yet extremely important.
I did not convert from Judaism. Rather, I was blessed to be born into the faith that FULFILLS Judaism.
You see, Judaism and Catholicism are two sides of the same coin. You cannot have one side without the other.
In the Old Testament, God unfolds His plans for humanity. We were created by Him to be part of His family. Much like parents long for children to love and be loved by, God desired a family to love and be loved by. Humanity was the crowning answer to His Love.
The Old Testament gives us our history - our FAMILY history. We come to understand God as Father through its books. Once we understand God as Father, we cannot help but understand the whole of humanity as our brothers and sisters.
Most people view the God of the Old Testament as an angry Zeus-like figure (hurling fireballs at cities or smiting folks for laughs). However, when you really sit down and read through the pages of the OT, you come to learn that far from being an irate and venomous bully, God is a loving, patient Father who repeatedly sets his wayward children back on the path towards their inheritance with Him in Heaven.
Israel, being His "firstborn" (in that the Jews are who He revealed Himself as Father to before any other nation), tended to get the brunt of the "tough love" in an effort to prepare them to act as "big brother" to the other nations who would come to know the Father through them.
However, no one was going to learn about God the Father if the Israelites weren't acting in accordance with God's Will. This is why God punished the Israelites each time they broke their end of the Covenant. God was trying to uphold them as the model of what humanity was supposed to be, but they kept rejecting His Way in lieu of the debauchery that served as the way for their brother nations.
Thus the need for God to constantly step in to remind them, "Hey, Israel... you're supposed to be My Firstborn - My High Priest. You're supposed to be leading people to me through your holy example, not hopping aboard the Sin-Train with them on the way to perdition!"
And if you note His method of punishment, each completely fits the crime. Nothing more, nothing less. Divine Justice is merciful like that. :)
So fast-forward through the centuries. God is always making promises to Israel, reminding them that they've been called to be the gate of graces for the whole of humanity. Through their nation, salvation would be granted to the world in the form of the Messiah. One day, a Christ would come who would fulfill ALL the promises God made to His people in the Old Testament.
The New Testament tells the story of the promised Messiah - a Man called Jesus.
The New Testament is not the foundation for Catholicism... it is the FLOWERING of Judasim (which, in fact, is the foundation of Catholicism).
Look upon the whole of our theology as a tree. The seed was planted by God, Himself, through His covenant with Adam. He nurtured this tree, allowing the roots to take shape through Abraham. The trunk of Israel grew strong, eventually supporting the flowering branches of Christianity. Catholicism, however, is the FRUIT of the tree.
We have been blessed to understand that Christ fulfilled the promises made in the Old Testament. We have been blessed to see that Christ has offered salvation through the new and everlasting Church He set upon the rock of St. Peter. And yes, this salvation (as promised) came through Israel. Jesus was a Jew, and the first Christians were Jews. The evangelists were Jewish. The crux of our heritage was found in Jerusalem (where Christ preached and eventually offered Himself as Sacrifice, obtaining our salvation).
So while I'm not exactly Jewish, I am a sister to the Jews. If not for their millenia of working the theological fields, if not for their many centuries of trying to follow the Will of God, I would not have my Catholicism. I am indebted to the firstborn of God!
Thus, upon my "coming back" to the faith, I made a real attempt to delve into Judaic theology. Only in understanding the Jewish religion can I ever hope to understand my own.
So I hope that answers the question. And as a personal note (because I know you're not Catholic, but some version of Protestant - my apologies for forgetting which), this is true of your faith as well. Christianity stems from Judaism. It's why all Christians keep the Old Testament as well as the New. So understanding Judaism would be beneficial to you just as much (if not more so!).
In light of the last "But What About," a friend asked:
Why DID God constantly demand animal sacrifices in the OT? He's always asking for burnt offerings around the clock. That never sat well with me. It doesn't make sense. I don't see God wanting me to go out back and kill a bunch of His creatures. Why did He demand it back then?
What a great question!!! It has a logical answer, as well, I promise.
For one, let me start by saying that God loves His Creation. He loves the creepy crawly spider, the gross and slimy eel, and yes, He even loves the sheep, goats and bulls that He demanded Israel hand over day after day, night after night.
Why, then, would He wish them to be slaughtered in such droves in a seemingly barbaric fashion? You don't thoughtlessly slaughter cute, cuddly creatures simply to make yummy-smelling smoke that somehow glorifies God, right?
Right. Sort of.
You see, God never demanded animal slaughter from the Israelites as a people until they got sucked into the social constructs of Egypt. While they were slaving away under Pharoah for 400 years, they picked up some nasty habits from their overlords - chief among them the worship of cattle as gods.
God, having made a covenant with the Israelites that He would be their God and they would be His people, didn't take too kindly to His family suddenly forgetting about Him in lieu of thoughtless beasts. Thus, in order to remind them that these animals were not, in fact, worthy of adoration, God demanded that the Jews prove their loyalty (not to Him, but to themselves) by burning the objects of their idolatry.
Did God WANT to hurt the cattle? Of course not. Did He want to see them slaughtered and burned? No. However, God understood that in order for His wayward family to make a clean break with the unholy practices of the Egyptians, they'd need to rebel against the ingrained customs that had caused them to turn from His Love.
Basically, God was asking a drug addict to flush his stash down the toilet to prove he was really through with meth.
And at first, the Israelites said, "Sure, God, we'll totally do this! No problem!"
They offered the requested sacrifices (which were, unsurprisingly, the same animals most revered by the Egyptians) amidst joy and celebration. Why? Because God had just rescued them from Pharoah. In their joy and feelings of euphoria, they probably thought they could do anything God requested of them at that point.
Unfortunately, their break from Egyptian tradition was short-lived.
While Moses was up on Mt. Sinai receiving the 10 Commandments from God, the restless Israelites decided they wanted to throw a party. With 400 years of Egyptian partying under their belts, they knew they couldn't have a proper party without erecting a ginormous golden statue of Apis (yes, that's an Egyptian god). So what did these Israelites do? They collected as much gold as they could and crafted it into a big old idol.
And to make matters worse, the Israelites attempted to cover up their sin of idolatry by proclaiming that the Calf of Apis was really just a representation of the God of Israel. Any and all resemblance of this idol to the idol they just swore never to worship again was PURELY coincidental.
And just like you don't buy that, God didn't, either.
So in order to ensure they broke up with idolatry for good, He commanded them to burn (day AND night) the objects of their folly. This sacrifice was not to promote animal cruelty, but to remind the Israelites that animal worship was a rupture to their covenant with God.
And none of the animal was wasted through sacrifice. After the Levites offered the sacrifice in accordance with the Law (which is the slaughter of these animals in as painless a way as possible), the carcass was distributed back for the purpose of utilizing it practically (meat for food, hide for clothing / tents, etc).
So yes, animal sacrifice was demanded by God in the Old Testament. However, it wasn't demanded because God enjoys inflicting pain upon animals. It was demanded because God needed to correct the erroneous idolatry of His children.
The Original "Hulk"
So a friend of mine brought up a good question while we were discussing theology yesterday. Mind you, this friend is an atheist (I wonder, sometimes, if I have any other variety), so the typical atheist "But What Abouts" came up.
But What Abouts (BWA) is my shorthand for any of the typical "But what about God telling you it's OK to kill a slave" or "But what about God allowing for rape so long as you pay the virgin's father a few shekels" arguments that arise when folks try to change a faithful person's belief in the truth of the Bible.
Anyway, the BWA that came up yesterday revolved around good old Samson. Many non-Christians are familiar with his story because he's typically portrayed as a Conan-like warrior with long, flowing locks that magically give him power to topple entire buildings with the flex of his biceps. The implication was that Christians believe in magic hair.
Unfortunately, what's typically left out of these childhood stories of Samson is anything of substance.
Samson wasn't just some Hulk-figure who had "magic hair." He was one of the Judges of the Old Testament.
Judges were God's answer to the constant failings of the Israelites during their 40 year punishment outside of the Promised Land. In the 40 year time span between Israel coming upon the Promised Land and finally inhabiting it, the Israelites went through a well documented cycle of:
"Hey, everyone, let's sin - it's fun!"
"Uh oh - now that we've sinned, we're being punished with the effects of our sin!"
"Aw, man! God, we're really sorry for disobeying Your Law again, can you please help us out by sending someone who will lead us to justice?"
God sends someone termed a "judge" to restore balance to the Israelites.
Everyone says, "Yay, God! Thanks for being awesome and saving us! We'll abide by Your Convenant forever."
A few years pass and then sin starts looking super fun again.
Repeat. A lot.
Samson was one of these judges that God raised up from amongst the Israelites to restore balance and justice to His people.
Not many people realize this, but Samson had an annunciation similar to John the Baptist. An angel appeared to his parents, too, and affirmed that, though they were barren, they'd bear a son who would save Israel from the Philistines. As such, the angel instructed his parents to raise him as a nazirite.
Now, what the heck is a nazirite?
Well, since the tribes forked over their right to perform priestly duties at both the Golden Calf incident and then again at the 1st attempt to enter Canaan, the Levites became the new priests of Israel. However, there were some "layfolk" who were permitted to help with priestly duties if they took special vows that set them apart from the general population. These were the nazirites.
One of the vows a nazirite took was the refusal to cut one's hair. Sound familiar?
Samson never cut his hair because he made a special vow to the Lord never to do so. It was this unwavering faith in God that gave Samson his strength. His hair was simply the symbol of his personal covenant with God. Samson handed over his life in service of the Lord, and in return, the Lord protected him and granted him the grace to deliver justice to the Israelites.
So to answer my friend's question regarding the "magic" of Samson's hair, I responded that no, Samson's hair wasn't magic. It was the symbol of his adherence to God's Will. It was only after Samson turned away from God's Will that his hair ended up being cut (the symbolic severance of their covenant) .
You see, Samson went and married a Philistine - TWICE - after God had specifically told the Israelites not to intermarry with them. Samson, unfortunately, allowed his personal desires to trump his duty as servant of the Lord. So he took two Philistine wives (Delilah came after his first wife was killed by her Philistine kin). In both instances, he chose to trust his wife before trusting the Will of God. Because of this disordered hierarchy of trust, Samson lost his first wife. For failing to learn this lesson the first time, Samson lost his eyes as well as his life the second time.
Hippie Justice League!
So no - Samson's hair did not hold any magical powers. His hair was a sign, however, of his adherence to God's Will. As soon as he turned away from God's Will by placing his desires above God's, he suffered the consequences.
Having his hair shorn was simply the physical desecration of the spiritual desecration that had already taken place the moment Samson committed mortal sin.
Good thing, too. Can you imagine the Hulk-smashing that would've occurred in the 60's had magic hair been the source of Samson's strength?! Yipes!
In the end, as Samson spent many sleepless, pain-filled nights begging the forgiveness of God, he made reparation for his sins. Each day of reparation drew him closer to the eventual destruction of the temple that would garner justice for himself and Israel. He spent many, many nights in atonement for his sin, so when he was finally brought to the temple as "entertainment" for the Philistines, his hair had grown back in. Again, this isn't pointing to Samson having magic hair... it's highlighting that Samson had spent time reflecting on and atoning for his sins against God. God then gifted Mercy to Samson through blessing him with the strength to dole out justice to the Philistines.
His hair was simply a symbolic manifestation of the blessing God bestowed in return for Samson's faithful service.
I attended St. William's in NE Philadelphia yesterday. They have a unique 8pm evening mass on Sunday which is thoroughly helpful when someone like me has a wedding the night before and can't drag herself out of bed in time for her usual 10am service.
Anyway, I attend St. William's once every other month or so. I'm regular enough that folks sorta-kinda recognize me (especially as I'm the only veiled one present), but irregular enough to where no one really knows my name.
Color me ridiculously surprised, then, when I bumped into several people that I knew from Incarnation (my old home parish) last night.
One scooched in next to me during the Penitential Rite. Neither of us were aware of who the other was until the 1st Reading. She nudged me and said, "Gina?" I turned, surprised to see my old friend. It was a pleasant surprise. She made a motion with her hand regarding my veil. It was a question... a confused, "What's with the veil?" I just smiled and returned my attention back to the Mass.
I could feel her eying me curiously for the rest of Mass. At the end of Mass, after moving to the narthex, I opened the door for the questions I knew she had.
Inevitably, the first one was, "So, what's with the veil?"
I explained, briefly, that I'd had a rekindling of faith and spent over a year returning to my Catholic roots. One of the things I discovered on my journey back to Christ was the custom of veiling. I explained that since the Blessed Mother is my example for all things Catholic, far be it from me to place myself above her example when in the Presence of Christ. If she wears a veil when with her Beloved Son, I feel I, too, should present myself in a similar fashion when accepting Him in the Eucharist.
Then she said, "I saw you cross yourself and mumble something during the Gospel. What was that all about?"
I couldn't figure out what she was talking about at first. It took several moments of her miming an interpretation of what I looked like at the beginning of the Gospel for me to understand what she was referring to.
When the priest said, "A reading from the Gospel of Mark" I made a tiny cross with my thumb over my forehead, my lips and my heart. The mumbling she heard was a prayer I learned in 5th grade to go along with the motion I learned that same day:
"Lord, be ever on my mind, on my lips, and in my heart."
During the Gospel, we are hearing the Word of God. We, as Catholics, should strive always to keep His Word in mind so that we may act charitably towards one another. We also wish to bear forth the Word of Christ to others, either through praise and thanksgiving, or through evangelization. Finally, above all, we wish to love Him with our whole heart by keeping His Word enclosed within.
Thus, the small crosses signifying His Gospel upon mind, lips and heart.
I've done it since learning it in 5th grade, and I've always assumed it's part of the proper movements of Mass. Kind of like "sit, stand, kneel, 'Amen,'" I thought this particular motion and prayer were part of the expected and "everybody knows you're supposed to do that" knowledge that goes along with being Catholic.
However, if you did not know this before, you do now! :)
Judge a tree by it's fruits, man!
I got an e-mail last night from a friend of mine. We had been discussing the current LCWR review. He was under the impression (as so many are) that the Vatican was trying to stamp out the personal freedoms of poor, innocent nuns just trying to live our their vocation serving their communities.
I admit I got rather heated at the thought of these women being pitied as a result of the media's false stories of heroism in the face of the big, bad Vatican. These women should never - EVER - be held up as the gold standard for Catholicism. The women in question shouldn't even be held up as a bad example of Catholicism. Many have given up being Catholic long, long ago and just haven't 'fessed up to it yet. Thus, use them as a bad example of Protestantism. Please leave the word "Catholic" out of their mess.
Anyway, this friend chided me for my harsh words. He quoted the oft repeated (and incredibly misunderstood) line from Matthew 7: "Judge not lest you be judged."
I've already sent this friend an e-mail detailing my feelings on the matter (candidly as I'm apt to do). However, I felt this a topic very necessary to broach with the general population as this quote is so often used by people in an attempt to bow out to political correctness.
In my opinion, it's nothing more than an excuse to hide one's insecurities behind a veil of false nicety.
Let's say my mother is driving a car. We're about to take a curve too harshly. Considering there's a canyon to the left of us, if she continues speeding, we're likely to tumble into the abyss.
Do I refrain from telling her to slow down because I'm afraid I might hurt her feelings for criticizing her driving?
No. I like my life.
Instead, I'd say, "Hey Mom, you need to apply the brakes because if you don't, we're likely to take a tumble neither one of us will enjoy."
Would I be judging my mother to be a bad driver? No.
Would I be judging her behavior to be bad? Yes.
Might she feel as though I'd judged her to be a bad driver? Yes, it's a possibility.
If she feels as though I've passed a negative judgement on her, does that mean I have? No.
Even knowing that she might have her feelings hurt as a result of my criticism, should I refrain from suggesting she slow down? NO.
As I've said in previous entries, I simply do not have the personality to sit on the sidelines while someone is acting in a way that is either harmful to self or others. I can't. I automatically put a familiar face on these folks and my decision is made - political correctness be damned.
That is exactly what we are asked to do as Catholics. The quote "Judge not, lest ye be judged" is often given as a means to stifle this responsibility. However, if we read juuust a little bit further, we'll come to understand that this misrepresented quote (found on everything from billboards to memes to T-shirts) means something much different than the sound byte it's utilized as.
Here is the quote in its entirety (from the New American Bible, so the wording is slightly changed):
Jesus said to His disciples: “Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.” Matt 7:1-5
In other words, use your God-given intellect to discern judgement. It isn't necessarily meaning we should condemn, but it's certainly charging us with the responsibility of properly judging all things with equality.
In fact, there are quotes all over the Bible specifically commanding this of us.
In the gospels, Luke echoes Matthew in Chapter 6 with "Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven... For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you."
John (7:24) relays Jesus saying "Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteously."
In Proverbs (3:21), "Preserve sound judgement and discernment."
In the Letter of St. Paul to the Phillipians (1:9-11), "And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God."
And my favorite (also from Luke 6) stating, "A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For people do not pick figs from thorn bushes, nor do they gather grapes from brambles. A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil; for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks."
"See the good that we do and give glory to God."
That being said, we have a Christian responsibility to judge that which is presented to us in this world... ESPECIALLY when that which is presented wreaks of evil. We must not allow such evil to continue spreading as a cancer. The Body of Christ - OUR spiritual body - must be protected. If we remain silent as these "religious" continue to misinform, polarize and confuse the general population, we commit a sin of commission. We allow a greater evil to exist both within our ranks, and within ourselves through our silence.
This is exactly how the atrocities of WWII were accomplished. Sure there were plenty of folks who disagreed with the Nazi ideals. However, too many were silent for too long.
First they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.
I, for one, cannot endure such silence. I cannot wither away behind a false veil of "live and let live" when that includes allowing misinformation to fester and spread to my friends, family and children. No. It is my duty as a Christian to call evil out where it is and shed the light of truth upon the dishonesty and willful desecration of the Faith.
And those Christians among you who read this (be you Catholic or otherwise), this is your duty as well. We must work together to bring the light of Truth to others. We must not allow the lies, the half-truths, the confusion to tear souls away from Christ.
A recent comment from a friend of mine has led me to this entry. He chooses to use a feminine pronoun for God. That's well and good. Considering his reasoning, it makes sense. God is tender, compassionate and merciful, and he feels as though these attributes have a feminine ring to them. Plus, considering that pronouns do little justice to the all-encompassing Spirit that is God, why not give some air-time to an under-utilized pronoun such as "she."
That's fair. I'm not writing this to alter his opinion on the matter. I thought it an interesting topic to delve into, so here I go!
Why do I choose to use "He" when referencing God?
For one, Christ is male. He (and all His Jewish ancestors before Him) referred to God using masculine words, and all parables which describe God use male persons as corresponding symbols: father, bridegroom, rabbi, king, judge.
Why might that be? After all, in Genesis, it does say God made humans "male and female" after His own image, right? Does that mean God is a hermaphrodite?
Not so much.
We humans tend to think of everything on a physical realm because we're physical beings. However, we're also spiritual beings, having been gifted souls that are intrinsically united to our bodies. Our souls contain the neshama of God. THAT is the the part of God that makes us "like unto Him." That's the part that separates us from the rest of creation.
Since God's neshama is neither male nor female (it is simply a gift of His Being - specifically His Wisdom and Power to understand and choose good over evil), that phrase in Genesis isn't referring to a physical likeness of God. It's referring to a spiritual likeness in which humans are granted a very specific dignity.
The best way of explaining this that I've seen comes from the Catholic Patriot. He wrote:
I might not agree with all that Catholic Patriot has to say on this subject, but I think the above succinctly captures my thoughts in a better way than I could. :)
Try as we might to label God, we can't do Him justice because our minds are simply not equipped with handling it. However, we've been given little glimpses here and there of what our God deems Himself to be, so far be it from me to go against the examples He laid forth through that of His Son - and His Son's reciprocal teachings of His "Father."
In a nutshell, that is why I choose masculine pronouns.
I mean, there's also things like the Blessed Mother being daughter, spouse and mother of God as well, but that's another conversation for another time. :)
In response to Lori Ann's question, this is a sample list that I use to do a quick inventory. It took me about 30 minutes to do this the first time. Now I'm able to do a pretty quick tally in under 10... five if I'm in a pickle. I still feel better if I write it all out, but that's just me. This is a basic list to go from, and once you've got the subheading suggestions down, you can come up with your own.
Sample Examination Guide:
1st Commandment: I am the LORD your God: you shall not have strange Gods before me.
Do I prioritize material objects (money, clothes, food or television shows) over God?
Do I put other people (family, friends, celebrities, etc) ahead of God in my life?
Do I ignore God altogether?
2nd Commandment: You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
Do I say things like "I swear to God" when I'm not being fully honest?
Do I use God's name as part of curses (ex: Goddamn it)
Do I listen to music that takes God's name in vain?
Do I consent to conversations that take God's name in vain?
3rd Commandment: Keep holy the Sabbath.
Do I attend Sunday Mass and all holy days of obligation?
Do I rest in accordance with God's Divine example?
Do I do anything to profane the day set aside for special honor and appreciation of God's blessings?
4th Commandment: Honor thy father and mother.
Do I obey my parents?
Do I obey my superiors and those who have authority over me?
Do I reflect the morals and teachings they've worked to instill in me?
5th Commandment: You shall not kill.
Have I been a party to murder (abortion counts on this one, folks)?
Have I caused spiritual death through scandal or intimidation?
Have I contributed to the emotional scarring of an individual through taunts,
humiliation or bullying?
6th Commandment: You shall not commit adultery.
Have I sought marital satisfaction (emotionally, physically, psychologically) outside the
bonds of my own marriage?
Have I remained chaste in my thoughts and actions (pornography, lewd thoughts, etc).
Have I put another person / thing above my spouse?
Have I intentionally dressed in an overtly sexual manner, thus giving away the
modesty meant only for my spouse?
Have I shared emotions and desires with another person and not my husband, thus
taking from him / her the opportunity to connect and understand me on a deeper
7th Commandment: You shall not steal.
Have I taken anything that doesn't belong to me without first asking?
Have I borrowed something with no intent to return it?
8th Commandment: You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
Do I participate in gossip?
Do I spread lies about someone?
Do I say nothing as others spread fallacious information about someone?
Do I not strive for truth and honesty in my actions, thoughts and words?
9th Commandment: You shall not covet your neighbor's wife.
Do I lust after anyone?
Do I watch pornography or read lewd materials?
Do I listen to suggestive music or take enjoyment in watching suggestive videos?
Do I seek fulfillment outside of my own marital relationship instead of working to
nurture and solidify it?
10th Commandment: You shall not covet your neighbor's goods.
Have I gotten jealous of someone because of the blessings they have in life?
Instead of being grateful for my own blessings, have I grumbled and demanded more than my fair share on the basis of what I perceive others to have?
Have I lost faith in Divine Providence?
Pride: Have I placed myself above others in life? Have I expected things of others that I don't expect of myself? Have I made excuses for my failings?
Gluttony: Akin to Commandment 1, have I over-indulged on food, clothing or entertainment? Have I ignored my duties as a parent / wife / friend because I've prioritized gluttonous tendencies over my vocation?
Wrath: Have I reacted with hatred or anger? Have I wished ill on someone? Have I allowed anger to boil up inside of me to flood out my love and patience?
Envy: Akin to Commandment 10, have I been envious of others? Have I become ungrateful for my own blessings while comparing them to the perceived blessings of others?
Sloth: Have I been lazy? Have I spent more time on Facebook than I have on the "big project" at work? Have I watched three movies in a row while I push off laundry and dishes for the 5th straight night? Have I said my prayers in bed instead of kneeling beside it because I was simply "too tired" to move? Have I pushed off prayer altogether (be it Mass, daily offerings, etc) because I just "didn't feel like" praying that day?
Greed: Also akin to Commandment 10, have I taken more than my fair share of resources? Have I hungrily worked around the clock to amass food / money / materials for myself without thought to those who are also struggling to get by? Have I been willing to share my resources with others through Divine Providence?
Lust: Akin to Commandment 9, have I lusted after a person or thing? Have I allowed myself to watch pornographic materials, listen to overtly sexual music, or partake in sexual activity that is outside the bonds of marriage?
One of the things I've tried to do better with is Confession. Ever since my reversion, I've sorta made inconsistent progress with this. Some months I'll amass a hefty "sin log" after doing a thorough examination of conscience. Other times I'll rush myself to the nearest confessional to hastily spout off a list of sins I've "probably" committed since my last trip to the box.
Obviously you get out of Confession what you put into it. In my latter example, I wasn't getting much out of the experience, and I doubt highly that Jesus was thrilled with my half-baked effort.
So how does one become better at Confession, anyway?
For me, I went to a source that seems to have usurped Confession as his life's mission - Fr. Z.
You folks have heard me prattle on and on about him in the past. I can't help it. I really have learned so much from following his blog. He talks about Confession - a lot - so I knew that a good breeding ground for knowledge would be his archives.
The most helpful thing for me has been Father Z's insistence on completing a thorough examination of conscience using one (or more) "checklists." He even said if you're in a total pickle and don't have access to a specific list, run through the 10 Commandments in your mind.
I've found that the easiest way for me to complete a thorough exam is to list all 10 Commandments and then the 7 Deadly Sins. And yes, I write them all out with my matching offenses underneath the various categories. I feel like those cover just about every dirty little deed I could possibly do, so taking inventory with those as my guide ensures I don't miss anything. The most helpful, in my opinion, are those 7 deadly sins, though.
In compiling this guide for myself, I realized I needed to delve into a few that I hadn't really thought about before. Gluttony, for example.
Oh, Lord... gluttony.
I admit it. I had no idea that gluttony could be considered a mortal sin. Looking it up in the Catechism, though, I found that gluttony is most certainly a mortal sin (and with good reason). And oh, how gluttonous I am!!!
Wrath, as well. I always assumed wrath looked like this:
After doing some more research into what constituted wrath, I learned that it could also look very much like me when I angrily react towards Vincent after a string of sleepless nights. Upon understanding the Church's definition of wrath, I came to understand that it was something I struggled with intensely. A mortal sin I'm most ashamed of as it not only hurts Christ, but my sweet little angel baby. A sin that hurts my husband when I verbally tear into him for a perceived insult or a forgotten pile of dirty dishes. A sin that hurts me because it destroys my relationship with God and those around me through severing trust, love and peace.
You see, I always thought mortal sin was relegated to things like murder, torture and stealing stuff from poor people. Eating a box of popsicles, reactionary punishments and even withholding forgiveness to satiate prideful arrogance never entered the realm of mortal sin thought because I simply didn't think of them as mortally sinful. In light of Church teaching, however, I really have come away with a much better understanding of these particular "dirty deeds" and as a result, I've been able to work on reigning them in.
So yes. Mortal sin is definitely something that I've been thinking a lot more about in recent months. Instead of running around thinking it was darn near impossible for me to commit one, I've come to realize that it's a lot easier than I once thought.
This understanding, I think, wasn't given to me to have me freak out over every failure I have as a mother, wife and friend. I do, however, think this in-depth reflection has been granted so I could pull myself closer to Christ. It's almost as if He threw out a rope to me to begin yanking myself up out of the muck. All the while I've been putting one hand over the other, struggling against the weight of myself, He's not only been holding up the rope, He's been pulling it steadily towards Himself, and with it, me.
Again, the process isn't fun, but the reward is well worth the struggle.
For as much as I'm against using Wiki as a reference, explanations for the Deadly Sins are actually pretty spot on, so it's a good place to start if you're interested in learning more.
A few months ago, as my class and I were discussing the 10 plagues God sent to force the pharaoh to give the Israelites their freedom, the topic of the Angel of Death came up. This same discussion ended up finding its way into my inbox this morning from a friend of mine who is trying to decide if Catholicism is right for him.
The tenth and final plague, the death of the firstborns, was a punishment doled out specifically by the Angel of Death. My class had a really hard time wrapping their heads around the image of the angel pictured in the book. He was wielding a sickle (much like the one pictured), and left a trail of death and lamentation in his wake. Not one of the kids could believe that God would intentionally "murder" children like that.
I had to reel them back in for a bit. I explained that God never "murders" anyone. The picture they saw wasn't a recreation of that night... it was an artist's choice of symbols and images to tell a story. In the book, we saw a mighty angel holding a sickle. Around him were crying mothers and lifeless children. The artist chose these things for a reason.
First, the Angel of Death didn't bring God's punishment to the firstborns... punishment was meant for those left behind who would feel the pain on an emotional level (considering that months of physical punishment did nothing to deter them).
This angel carried a sickle to symbolize the "harvesting" of souls. The sickle is an agricultural tool that is specifically used to remove the most desirable parts of grain. In ancient Egypt, that's exactly what the firstborns would have been considered. The souls that this angel harvested (firstborns) were the most desirable and respected family members in Egyptian times. The fact that God demanded that the souls makes the punishment that much more severe.
Finally, the crumpled, broken parents who clutched the lifeless bodies of their children were meant to evoke strong emotions - the artist wanted to REALLY hit home how devastating this plague was in its emotional severity, so he used young children to symbolize all firstborns.
Firstborn didn't just mean babies. It didn't just mean toddlers. Firstborn meant everyone from child straight on through adult. It meant everything from calf to chicken to donkey. God harvested the most revered of Egyptian lives for Himself as proof that He was God over all - even the best protected. He controlled Life and Death (not just over base nature and animals, but over humanity as well - something Pharaoh never accepted as true until this final plague).
However, my class was still having a really tough time reconciling God taking these innocent lives with their image of a pure, holy, and loving Being. This is very understandable considering we, as humans, many times see death as a horrible, evil thing (especially when it is the death of an innocent... someone who did nothing to cause or solicit an untimely end).
One student asked me, "Do you think they [the firstborns] were scared?"
I paused for a second, because I realized then that my poor class had in their minds this image of a massive weapon-wielding warrior with wings blazing a trail through Egypt slaughtering unsuspecting children. Their collective looks of horror and disbelief challenged me to break down the Angel of Death for them a bit... into one who looked a little more like this:
The Angel of Death wasn't running around slashing throats. In fact, I doubt the people who were chosen to die that night even felt pain. Though I never thought about it before, when she asked me that, I immediately pictured one of those children, soundly sleeping, engulfed in a brilliant light. The Angel of Death was present, and he showed this tiny soul something of Heaven. He gently said, "Come, little one. God is calling you home." He reached out his angelic hand and without thought or hesitation, the soul - immeasurably joyous and willing - leapt from its body and consented to be carried along to meet the Source of such radiating, all-encompassing Love.
Instead of punishment or pain, these souls were met with joy and love... comfort and beauty. The Angel of Death is not this menacing monstrosity that humans should fear. Instead, he is the herald of our Heavenly welcome - the one tasked with the joy of bringing us home after our earthly sojourn.
Mattie, a reader, started an avalanche of thought for me last week. Ever since, I've kinda been on the hunt for answers to the many questions that've come from her simple, "Can ya just go get IVF?"
The short answer is No - for a variety of reasons.
IVF is considered immoral by the Church. Every child deserves the right to begin life at conception through the loving embrace of both parents who are in a stable, dignified and ordered marriage. In fact, a beautiful quote from the Church in Her DONUM VITAE states as much:
The child has the right to be conceived... to be the fruit of the specific act of the conjugal love of his parents; and he also has the right to be respected as a person from the moment of his conception.
That, my friends, is true respect. That is dignity. To acknowledge the right exists, even before this tiny person comes into existence, for a loving, sacred and nurturing place of refuge proves the respect and care Catholics take in our role as stewards of life.
This is why the Church so staunchly defends marriage and sexuality. These two unalienable gifts from God are the building blocks of healthy procreation. It is through the ordered marriage relationship that true sexuality reaches fulfillment - that fulfillment being the union of husband and wife and thus the creation of the physical, living sign of their love - children.
These children, having been created in the ordered and sacred manner in which God decreed, will be blessed to grow up in an ordered, loving household in which their own development can best be discovered, ordered and reach fulfillment.
This is not to say, however, that children from single-parent households, children of rape, children of adoption, etc cannot grow up to reach their full, ordered potential. Through the grace of God, anything is possible, and He certainly loves these cherished souls as much as those co-created in the marriage embrace. However, He desired that we order ourselves in the aforementioned manner because it is through this ordering that we afford our children the best chance for emotional, psychological and spiritual stability.
Thus, IVF (specifically the act of joining a sperm and an egg in a laboratory setting) is considered immoral because it removes this dignity and order from the person(s) created.
Credit: Glassanos - Click image for info
However, this leaves a really big question wide open, and the Church has yet to get entrenched in the details.
After answering the above question for Mattie, my mind traveled down the rabbit hole a bit farther. Since IVF has already been utilized countless times by infertile couples looking to have children, what happens to all the embryos created that are simply frozen in time?
There's no easy answer for this - and I've looked!
I've taken several key folks to task over this. Priests, two professional theologians, an incredibly smart and spiritually sound couple, and a smattering of ordinary lay-Catholics who have been touched by issues of infertility, adoption and even eugenics. None were able to provide a concrete answer because as of yet, there simply isn't one.
The married couple, however, provided the best resource I've yet seen on this! My special thanks to them for their incomparable knowledge and willingness to share that knowledge with others. I link it here for your own illumination.
In it, you will find two heavy-weight Catholic ethicists duke the issue out at a bioethics conference late last year.
Though I take issue with the attempt of Father Pacholczyk to denigrate the discussion into one of spousal rights (since this isn't so much about fertilization so much as adoption of a life that's already been created), what he says about causing us to tumble down a slippery slope is certainly a concern I agree with.
However, most of what Dr. Smith relays (comparing this to adoption / breastfeeding) falls right in line with my own views.
As a person who believes that God opens a window every time we close the door on ourselves through sin, I can't help but wonder if embryo adoption is God's way of answering the problem we created through the sin of IVF.
This is a question that, as of yet, has no real answers. As one of the women I talked to put it, though, I'd be hard-pressed to condemn a married couple who bore a child in this manner. Granted, I'd be hard-pressed to condemn anyone for anything, but I digress.
I can't help but wonder if God allowed infertile married couples to exist specifically so they could answer the call of these poor children stuck in a frozen limbo.
So this question came up both in my CCD class and in an open forum for adults last week.
I wasn't surprised to see it in my CCD class. They're sixth grades. However, I was surprised that it cropped up in the forum from a well-versed Catholic adult!
So I figured I'd share my answer here since it's a more prevalent question than I'd realized.
We technically have the Romans to thank for the title of "Good Friday."
See, back when the St. Paul started preaching the "good news" of Jesus Christ, there was another word you might be familiar with in constant use... "gospel."
Before us Christians usurped it as our own, the word "gospel" had a very specific connotation. Since Rome enjoyed conquering every community known to man, they were frequently in far-off places fighting a variety of different people. As a result, they needed fast couriers to let the various generals (and Caesar) know if they were winning or needed backup.
When these couriers skitted back to the capital with news of a victory, they called it the "euangelion" (which is actually the Greek word for evangelization or "bringing good news"). The good news was victory for the people. Oddly enough, it also referenced the official laws and privileges that these new Roman citizens could be assured of if they played nice and followed Roman authority. That, in turn, was the actual "gospel."
So apply this knowledge to what our Christian gospel actually is. St. Paul describes it best as the death and resurrection of Jesus. From the Throne of the Cross, Christ defeated the enemy and assured salvation for those who would accept His Authority. It makes perfect sense, then, why we would consider that first Good Friday to be "Good." It was the true trumpet of humanity's "gospel." That act secured for us victory in addition to the privileges that come with being a child of God.
As the years went on, this word was picked up and converted into "Godspel." It was a Germanic combination of "God / good" and "story / message." That's why most of us today understand the word to mean "Good News." Originally, however, it meant an entire group of people were welcomed into the fold with privileges and rewards so long as they agreed to abide by the authority of the one who conquered their territory.
In other words, Jesus came to earth, conquered it through His Passion, Death and Resurrection, and gained for us the inheritance of eternal life so long as we submit to His Will (which is nothing more than loving one another as He, Himself, has loved).
Geez, I'm on a roll today.
Just stumbled across this article summarizing one man's journey through a whirlwind taste-test of 12 different faiths.
He and his wife suffered the trauma of miscarriage. Wife, Heather, finds solace in the Baptist Christianity and husband, Andrew, spends a few years hating the idea of a god who could so cruelly take away the miracle of life they'd participated in creating.
When Andrew finally hits a wall where his hatred threatens to destroy him, he develops the idea for what he calls Project Conversion (complete with its own Facebook page). He took it upon himself to follow 12 different faiths for 12 months, spending half the month learning and half the month practicing these new faiths.
In theory, this is a fairly decent idea. He was reaching out to God in the only way he knew how - to sample the various faiths and see which one fit him the best. I know a lot of hard-line Catholics will razz me for that (considering that faith should not conform to you, but you to the Truth), but I think it's very important for someone with no real religious background to do a bit of digging. It's important for cradle Catholics (or cradle Buddhists, Muslims, etc) to broaden their perspectives, too.
I'm not advocating trying to practice other religions, mind you. I'm suggesting learning about these different theologies and cultures because, as Andrew Bowen found out, there truly is something to be gained from each.
I've always believed the idea of God to be similar to a mountain. God is at the top of the mountain, and our journey to Him can take us through many paths. Some may find their way to Him through Islam. Others may find their way to Him through non-denominational Christianity. Others, still, might find their way to Him by virtue of their defense of all that is good in the world. I believe Catholicism offers the straightest path to God, but I don't discount the virtues in other faiths.
I think that's what this guy was trying to get at as he made his way through the cycle of religions.
However, I wish the author of the article pointed out that it is impossible to even skim the surface of these religions - many (though not all) of which date back thousands of years.
I also take the statement "But this was no reality TV stunt" with a grain of salt. Considering the pictures that accompanied the article, it was obvious that from the start he was looking to do something with this "Project Conversion." Also, you don't start calling something a "Project" unless you've got an idea in mind of what you plan to accomplish. Ha ha ha.
But that's fine. He's now looking to write a book about his experiences, and more power to him if he cashes in. It's a great idea that could very well have a very positive impact!
However, I still wish that you can't "immerse" yourself in any religion within the confines of one month. There simply isn't enough time, and no mentor (no matter how brilliant) could possibly cover the nuances of the various faith sets.
Regardless, it's an interesting experiment, and I'm curious to see where it will lead. Thought you folks might be interested, too! :)
Special thanks to my buddy Frank for cluing me into this gem today.
Father James Martin has apparently been the victim of an entertaining (and absurd) trend that, at some point in time, we've all been both victim and perpetrator of. Interestingly, this is a post specifically geared towards Catholics attacking other Catholics, because this really is a struggle many of us are familiar with (yet seldom do we talk about it).
Father Martin paints a picture of how foolish and nit-picky we can get regarding what is, in essence, nothing.
Read all about it here! Bust out the popcorn for this one... it really is entertaining.
I sometimes go home for lunch and today I lucked upon some leftover Indian food John had shared with Faith. That meant I also got to see Faith for all of two seconds before she ran off to complete some errands. Yay on both counts.
However, after I finished lunch and started the 2 minutes drive back to work, I saw a couple of kids on the side of the road, one hunched over the other one. I slowed down to make sure they were okay when I realized I recognized one of the kids as a student in my CCD class.
I stopped the car and rolled down my window, calling his name and asking if everything was alright. Apparently his buddy took a turn too harshly, and since there isn't any pavement over that area (it's a grassy mess), his bike must've come out from under him and he went careening into the curb.I put the car in park, turned on my flashers and went around to check on him. He wasn't crying, but he was definitely in some pain.
I'm not a nurse or anything, so I wasn't really sure what to "check." So I said, "How far are you two from home?" My student told me they were about 10 minutes off from his friend's house (he was staying there while his mom was at work during break). I cautioned his friend against driving his bike for the 10 minute trek home, but when I asked if he'd called his mother to pick them up, he said she wasn't answering her phone.
So I said, "Alright, we should be able to get your bikes into my car. Just get in and I'll take you home."
As soon as it was out of my mouth, my heart dropped. I remembered the orientation class I'd had specifically instructing CCD teachers never to offer rides home to their students because of child-abuse allegations. Then, when I realized that I felt guilty for offering a ride to these kids, I got angry with myself for even thinking that leaving them there was an option. Then I got doubly irritated that society has become a place that makes this inner struggle a reality.
This thought-process took less than a half-second to run its course, but I'm still grumbling about it. I dropped the boys off after making sure the injured boy's mother was aware of the situation. She was thankfully very nice and it's doubtful she had any concern about me taking them home, especially after my student explained I was his CCD teacher (so not a total stranger). But still... I've now got this nagging worry that I'm going to be either reprimanded or, God forbid, accused of something.
I realize this is the stupidest worry ever, but is it really all that far-fetched? How horrible are we as a society that good samaritans can no longer feel free to help a child on the side of the road? How horrible is it that children must fear every single person they come across?
I should honestly be happy that I got to help a kid out today. I should be doubly happy that my student was there to witness what it means to be Christ's Hands, and how he helped Divine Providence along (a theme we've talked a lot about this year). Instead, I'm worried that me helping the kid into my car could be misconstrued as touching him inappropriately. I'm worried that the Director of Religious Education is going to find out and chide me for being negligent. I'm worried that if my student recounts this story to his parents that they're going to wonder if I'm stalking him or something.
Seriously - how the heck did our world get so messed up that anyone should end up thinking this way about the simple act of helping a kid?
What the heck?
And how many teachers / priests / coaches go through this thought-process on a daily basis regarding things like hugging a student, having students after hours in their office / room going over a project or paper, even offering a student a quick ride home on a rainy day when you know the kid walks a mile and forgot an umbrella?
And I wonder how much easier I must have it being a woman. I wonder if that boy's mother would've been just as grateful if it were a male teacher bringing her son home...
I took Vincent with me to the Mass of the Lord's Supper. I'm so glad I did. My mom had originally wanted to watch him for me, but I declined because I really wanted him to witness such a special Mass.
I know some people think it's silly to take young kids to Mass. The argument is that they don't really understand what's going on and are more of a distraction than anything else to others who are attending. I get that. I used to leave Vincent at home for those same reasons. However, after coming to understand what a benefit it is bringing him with me (religious education and formation, exercising patience, and being in the Presence of Jesus), I couldn't imagine leaving him home for the celebration of the Mass from which all other Masses would follow, emulate and unite with.
When he realized where we were going, he pitched a fit, of course. However, as soon as we got into the family room, he nestled against me and relaxed quietly for the rest of the Mass. He was content to stay on my lap, which amazed the elderly couple in the room with us (sparse crowd - *sigh*).
Anyway, as Father knelt to clean the feet of the 12, I wondered how each one of them felt as he approached them. I wondered what the Apostles had thought and felt as Christ approached them, considering that the act of washing feet was considered beneath even a Jewish slave's dignity. Obviously St. Peter recoiled in horror at the thought, and no doubt the other apostles probably tried to get Christ off His Knees, but that act of Ordination must have been completed to prepare them for the serving role they'd take on as priests.
Yet they wouldn't understand that until Pentecost. Not until the grace of the Holy Spirit removed the veil from their eyes would they realize what this act meant for them.
So as Father Piotr put his chausable back on, I choked back tears, realizing that Christ must've put on his outer garments in much the same manner - what were the Apostles thinking at that moment?
Anyway, after the Eucharistic celebration, as the lights were dimmed and the Procession towards the place of repose completed, people started shuffling out of the Church. As the lights went out, one by one, and the sanctuary was emptied of its candles, furniture and linens, Vincent's little voice asked, "What happened?"
Actually, it sounds more like "Bah bappened?" but the point is, he understood that something very special was taking place and wanted to know why it was happening.
All I could think to answer in a hushed whisper was, "Jesus sacrificed Himself. He died so we could live."
May the rest of your Triduum be blessed.
He's not gone - he's in Canada!
Many of you are aware of the situation in Philadelphia's Archdiocese regarding the closure of schools. Surprisingly, this post won't be about them (though you can add that as yet another symptom of our increasingly-ill system of education). This is about Canada's battle with the homosexual agenda and how it's poised to affect their Catholic schools.
Parliament member Glen Murray (a homosexual himself), said in a public comment to Canadian bishops, "You can't teach that anymore" (meaning Catholic doctrine regarding homosexuality).
He then went on to say "...can you imagine me describing a husband-and-wife relationship as inherently depraved?"
Sure I could imagine you saying it, Mr. Murray... same as I could imagine me telling you that the sky is yellow with pink polka-dots and that I cured 30 types of cancer while blindfolded with both hands tied behind my back.
All are ridiculous statements, and you're free to believe or not believe them to your heart's content.
Catholic teaching is one of those things you kinda KNOW you're getting when you enroll in a Catholic school. Parents who send their children to Catholic schools WANT the education that goes with it. They should all be very aware by now of what the Church teaches regarding abortion, contraception, the death penalty, and yes, even homosexuality.
Thus, your attempt to stick your nose into Catholic lesson plans is a gross injustice. How dare you attempt to stifle the religious liberty of your people? How dare you attempt to tell Catholics what they can and cannot teach?
I wonder if there'd be any confusion as to how wrong this is if the government were attempting to force Catholic schools to allow pro-abortion or pro-slavery clubs?
You can't force a religious institution (regardless of government funds received) to do something that goes directly against a well-documented set of beliefs, even if you find those beliefs to be contrary to your opinion on the matter.
That's the whole point of religious freedom - something folks tend to forget, especially when dealing with homosexuality.
Anyway, as this thread (which is on Facebook) stretched out a bit, I was reminded of a professor I had back in college. She was one of the most brilliant literature professors I've ever had, and I always walked away from her class feeling as though I'd learned something.
I took this professor twice. That first, basic Literature class was wonderful. I learned a lot, read a lot, and contributed a lot. I was very excited when I saw this same professor was offering a Women's Literature class. I thought, Wow! This is gonna be great!
Turns out she was a die-hard, ultra-liberal feminist who fully supported utilizing her required reading lists to advance an agenda in-line with her belief system, and Women's Literature was the perfect place to do that. Woe to anyone who sought to speak out against what she felt to be gospel.
It all kinda went downhill after she had us read The Vagina Monologues.
Now at this point, I was nowhere near my reversion to the faith. I was dating a bisexual man, my two close friends were in a lesbian relationship, I rarely went to Mass, and I was railing against what I decried as an inept, morally suspect government.
However, even being that far from identifying myself as a proper "Catholic," I cringed while reading the garbage that is TVM. Seriously - I'm not even going to bother linking that trash here. Suffice to say it actually sets the women's movement back about 20 years as the women portrayed routinely rely solely on sex and men to validate who they are as individuals. Bleck.
Anyway, the intro really irritated me. I forget who wrote the forward, but she attempted to compare a woman's vagina to a Catholic church. I tore apart her incredibly offensive (and shallow) analogy through the online discussion forum we were obliged to utilize. I thus found myself on the front line of a "The Catholic Church is evil" war in which I was the only soldier.
Several students responded, one who dragged Our Lady through the mud. I was so taken aback that I fired off a pointed response, effectively proving their misleading statements to be incorrect representations of Catholic teaching. This went on for about a week. Through it all, our professor remained absolutely silent.
Now for each class, she'd print off the responses and grade us on them. I'd get mine back with a check and no commentary. I honestly assumed that's how everyone got theirs back. Foolish, naive little Gina. I got mine back blank because she had nothing to say to me. Others in the class (two being friends of mine) showed me they would get responses all the time. Their responses typically fell in line with her opinions in class, so they were given all sorts of praise for their intelligence.
Me, on the other hand... probably the only person to actually quote from the prime source, the only one to seek outside support for my discussions, the only one to dissent from that which she set forth... I was met with silence.
And what's worse, I found out from one of my friends that she was reading my entries aloud to the class to mock me before I arrived. (I had to come from the South side of campus, so it took me the entire 10 minutes to walk from one end to the other.) It was then she confided to me that she understood through that mockery not to contradict this professor. She'd much rather regurgitate lies than speak the truth and be treated like me.
While I understood her sentiments, I really felt very alone and unsupported.
Yet I was undeterred. I continued to speak out against the vicious rhetoric directed against Catholicism (because no one could let up on beating the Church down). After all, much of what she chose as reading specifically brought up the Church as an example of all that's wrong in society, so it was a little hard to steer clear from the discussion. Finally I was called into her office. She basically told me to stop talking about Catholicism because it was offensive to other students.
I pointed at the Crucifix which hung in her office (why it was there, I honestly don't know because she had stated several times that she finds the Catholic Church to be full of deceit and hypocrisy). I said, "You do realize you teach in a Catholic University, right?"
I walked away absolutely disgusted.
I went to seek out the student with whom I'd had the bulk of my discussions with regarding Catholicism. She's the one who had attacked the Blessed Mother. I wanted to know if this professor had contacted her in regards to how often she brought up religion (since I only ever spoke about it to defend it - never to just start a Catholic conversation in the middle of a Literature class - ESPECIALLY considering I was always the odd man out).
Imagine my complete surprise when I learned that she had no idea what I was talking about.
Of COURSE the professor didn't contact her. Why would she? This student was not only falling in perfect step with her belief system, she was actively advocating them. Me, on the other hand... my Catholic viewpoint was creating trouble and took precious time away from decrying how unfair it was for the patriarchal Church to ordain women priests or allow them administrative duties, or to utilize birth control / abortion.
The surprise was short-lived. It was my first taste of anti-Catholicism. I honestly didn't understand it well at the time, but I DID understand that what had happened to me was not only unjust; it was unconscionable. A respected professor at a Catholic institution was reprimanding a student for speaking out in defense of Catholic doctrine...
Incredible. Absolutely incredible.
And we wonder why Catholic education is suffering? We wonder why the government thinks it can dictate what we teach?
We've made quite the mess of things, haven't we, Lord?
Over at Why I am Catholic, someone asked how to deal with the confusion regarding Christ's "less than 3 days" resurrection. Basically folks who bring this up make the argument that the Resurrection of Christ is contrary to the Bible in that Jesus died on Good Friday and rose on Sunday morning - not 3 days like "He was supposed to."
People tend to forget that Christ's actual Passion began on Holy Thursday. At the moment of Consecration, Jesus gave His consent to the Father regarding the sacrificial role He was about to embark upon. That moment is the spark that began His Passion.
His Agony in the Garden followed in which He prayed for the full repentance of ALL sinners, most especially Judas, I bet.
From there He felt the betrayal of Judas and the violence of the guards who shackled Him and bullied Him along the path towards Caiaphas. He was spat upon, kicked, beaten and humiliated every step of the way. Each blow that fell upon Him, each indignity, He offered up in atonement for our sins. The trials (both the midnight one and the ones before Pilate / Herod) were also full of beatings, spittal, indignations and brutality.
People always forget that Holy Thursday was very much a part of Christ's Passion, not just the horror of Good Friday. Christ suffered so much more than we can ever fully realize, and lopping off Holy Thursday tends to make that even easier for us.
And if anyone tries to argue against that, just remind them that Christ gave us the Mass that night through the Institution of both the Eucharist and the Priesthood. We can't have the Eucharist without the death / resurrection of Christ (which is what the Eucharist celebrates). Since Christ is God - timeless and unconstrained by that 4th dimensional reality - His Sacrifice was already fully present through His consent to God the Father.
Just as the Mass today brings us front and center to the true foot of the Cross, that first Mass then also brought the Apostles to the Cross before they even understood they'd be fleeing from it in fear.
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