Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Abby Johnson, Former Planned Parenthood Director, To Enter #Catholic Church #prolife

Welcome home, Abby!

I still have not read her book, Unplanned, which is the story of how Abby, a Planned Parenthood director, had a soul-rocking revelation the day she was asked to help with an abortion. Before, Abby was passionately a pro-choice woman. But after witnessing an abortion (by watching it all unfold on the ultra-sound screen), Abby was sickened by what was truly happening.

Today Abby is one of the growing voices in the pro-life movement. I think it's interesting how many in the pro-life movement eventually convert to Catholicism if they weren't Catholic already. I know Norma McCorvey, the "Jane Roe" of the infamous Roe vs. Wade trial that led to legalized abortion, became a Christian and eventually converted to Catholicism. And Lila Rose (of the controversial Live Action group and fiery pro-life activist) converted to Catholicism in 2009. (Here's a link to a video that features Lila Rose sharing her story. Fast forward to the 1:57 mark.)

The Catholic Church is truly the defender of the defenseless. The pro-life stance is a testimony to Jesus Christ and a continuation of His command to "go out into the world and preach the gospel." God bless all who will be entering the Catholic Church this Easter Sunday. There are many spiritual treasures that await. :-)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Catholics Killed by Somali Pirates - R.I.P. #Catholic

I was greatly saddened to hear the news that the four Americans who were taken hostage by the Somalian pirates, had been killed.

After reading more about the story, I discovered that the married couple, Scott and Jean Adam, had been sailing around the world on their yacht, "Quest" and had been spreading the gospel everywhere they could. They had Bibles on board.

There were concerns when their friends and families found out they would be sailing near the Somali coast. The Adams and the other couple, Phyllis Macay and Robert Riggle, reassured everyone that they would be too far out from the dangerous coastline to be at risk. They were wrong.

My heart goes out to the families. It has raised serious questions within me regarding the wisdom of entering any area that is predominately Muslim. We are witnessing fiercer and more common attacks on Christians all throughout the world. Is it right to assume that "God will take care of us" and enter into a potentially life-threatening scenario?

All I know is that four people, who had intentions to bring God's love to the world, were senselessly killed. It made no sense to kill them if the pirates wanted money. The only reason I can see these two couples being killed was that the Bibles on board were discovered and proselytizing in an Islamic country is a huge "no-no." The penalty is often jail and sometimes, death.

O God, Whose property it is ever to have mercy and to spare, we beseech Thee on behalf of the soul of Thy servant whom Thou hast called out of this world; look upon him with pity and let him be conducted by the holy angels to paradise, her true country. Grant that he who believed in Thee and hoped in Thee may not be left to suffer the pains of the purgatorial fire, but may be admitted to eternal joys. Through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who with Thee and the Holy Ghost liveth and reigneth world without end. Amen.
Pray an Our Father followed by a Hail Mary.

Eternal rest give unto him, O Lord;

And let perpetual light shine upon them.

May they rest in peace. Amen.

Friday, February 18, 2011

My Pastor on EWTN with Fr. Mitch Pacwa! The Jubilee Museum #Catholic

I've been meaning to post this for awhile. I was so excited when I heard that Fr. Kevin Lutz, pastor of Holy Family, would be featured on EWTN Live to talk about the Jubilee Museum in Columbus, Ohio.

This museum really is inspirational on so many levels. For someone who was hungering for Catholic history and Catholic identity, this museum was the perfect way to nourish me! It is full of beautiful Catholic artifacts, altars, vestments, sacred vessels, and more. The video below is from the program and is almost an hour long.

If you'd like to learn more, please visit their website: Jubilee Museum and Catholic Cultural Center

Enjoy the video!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

My Husband's Video: "I Am a Cancer Survivor"

After my husband was declared cancer-free after the removal of a tumor in his colon, he told me he wanted to make a video about his experience. It's not long, but a good reminder to all of us as we grow older that certain medical tests and screenings really are a good idea.

When my husband turned 50, I remember asking him to get a colonoscopy. He brushed it off, saying he felt fine. I would have arguments with him over it. As much as he loves me, he would not go, even for me. It took a serious occurrence of rectal bleeding for him to finally relent and go the emergency room, where they kept him for observation, did a colonoscopy, and then, found a tumor.

We've been told that it was "lucky" that he bled, because usually this tumor was located was in a spot that typically didn't make itself known until it was much larger. I thank God because I know He showed mercy to us.

So, if you have a reluctant, stubborn man (or woman!) in your life who would rather sit through an entire season watching "Desperate Housewives" than visit a doctor and get a colonoscopy, please show him this video. I know my husband is really hoping it will change minds and save lives. God bless you. :-)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Something Is Going On: More on #Catholic Women and Head Coverings

The topic of women adopting the tradition of a head covering while attending church is always a controversial one. It was a long-held tradition in the Catholic Church until Vatican II. Then, with all of the changes, the custom of women wearing a veil to Mass was suddenly tossed out the window.

My last post directed you to Fr. Zuhlsdorf's blog, where he is taking a poll from both men and women regarding this tradition and if it should be a obligatory or voluntarily practiced.

Here is what I find fascinating: women all across the United States are being drawn to return to this tradition -- without any direction whatsoever from men.

That's huge.

In fact, some women who have returned to a head covering (whether it is wearing a hat or a lacy veil), have been confronted not by men, but by older women who think this custom is "throwing women back" 40 years, and dismantling all the victories of feminism. I find it fascinating that younger women are adopting this custom in spite of others trying to dissuade them.

I think this issue has a deeper implication than first meets the eye.

First, as American women, we live in the most liberating time in our history. It is culturally frowned upon for men to try to control women by either telling them how they should act or think. Feminism did indeed play a role in this. I only point it out to prove that the atmosphere now existing in churches across our country is much more free and yes -- liberal, than ever before. Many churches have ordained women as pastors and bishops. Many churches are sensitive to the needs of women and women's issues.

Secondly, men have looked at women as equal partners more so than not. Family decisions are weighed carefully and men have become more open to communication with their wives. (Chalk that up to all the Marriage Encounters that have flourished; saving many marriages from divorce.) In other words, very few men would tell their wife that she needs to put on a head covering for church.

So we have something mysterious going on. Something that hasn't been orchestrated by a central figure (Like the Pope.). Something akin to the Tea Party movement. Groups of women all across the nation are feeling pulled toward wearing a head covering to church and it has come about as a result of their own private prayer life.

Now if that isn't amazing, I don't know what is.

What does it mean? I am not saying I know the mind of God or His plan, but I will say I am someone who notices patterns. When you have younger women asking their mother if they can wear a veil to Mass (even though their mother does not), something in the spiritual world is afoot. When you have that same mother allow her daughters to do so, and then eventually joining them (so it didn't look like she "forced" them to do it) and then, being asked to leave the parish by a priest who didn't appreciate it, something in the spiritual world is afoot.

When you have women who tell a similar story -- how their spiritual life was expanded with a richer understanding of the relationship God has with His Church; something most definitely is happening and I am getting chills just typing that.

Just this past week, I met with my friend, Tara. (Hi, Tara!) The topic of head coverings came up. Tara attends the Traditional Latin Mass at my parish and also wears a veil. We talked about how our friends and family may not understand why we do it and how at times, we do feel like we stick out like a sore thumb, especially if we veil during a Novus Ordo Mass. (And especially if it's a parish that has a fondness for folk Masses.) We both agreed we weren't doing it for any other reason than reverencing the Lord.

I shared with her that the one ministry I was more involved with, and more consistently than any other ministry, was intercession. Intercession is basically praying for other people's needs and praying for the church as a whole. And all the intercession groups were predominantly comprised of women.

So how can a "culture of death" be turned around? How can families be restored? How can sexual purity and chastity be brought back into the Church? There are many ways this can happen but I guarantee you that women praying will be a part of it. And now, I am suspecting that women are being called, both individually and in small groups in their parishes in two's and three's, to drop the pebble in the water (which we know will have far-reaching effects) by doing something as simple and completely radical as wearing something on their head.

Some may think I'm making too much of it. Maybe. But all I know is that it only took one young woman to make the decision to submit to God and trust Him completely. She ended up bringing the Messiah into the world and crushed the head of the serpent who sought to destroy her and her offspring. One woman changed the history of the world. One woman endured the doubts of others around her and persevered. One woman, who today has inspired millions to follow her Son and yes, is a heavy-duty intercessor for the Church.

Is not our Blessed Mother the one who continually calls the Church into reverencing her Son in so many ways? Is she not the one who lovingly reminds us of chastity and modesty? Does she not call us to "do whatever Jesus says to do?"

I think something is going on with women in the Church. I do believe that God is calling all women to a deeper interior life, whether they wear a head covering or not. But I cannot help but think that a return by so many to this custom -- apart from anyone preaching it to them or telling them they "should" do it, has purpose.

What exactly that purpose is, may never be fully revealed here on earth. But I trust in God that all things work together for good, including this seemingly odd development of women suddenly wanting to wear a veil at Mass after it's been mostly absent for over forty years.

Meanwhile, here are some links on the topic. If you have time, read some of the comments. Those at The Catholic Knight's blog are especially interesting.

National Catholic Reporter: Chapel Veils? You've Got To Be Kidding (The story about the woman being asked to leave her parish because she and her daughters veiled is in the comment section. Look for the comment titled "I am so proud of you for." She was responding to the comment above that had a younger 18-year old woman say, "To the author's implication that veiling is submission to male dominance: I completely agree. It is humilty and respect for the greatest man of all time, Jesus Christ." Wow! Well done, young lady!)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Fr. Z's Poll: Should Women Wear Head Coverings In Church? #Catholic

Fr. Zuhlsdorf has a lively discussion going on regarding head coverings for women and has a poll asking what you think about it. Visit and vote! The comments in the combox are very interesting.

When I returned to the Catholic Church in 2008, I didn't intend on falling in love with the Traditional Latin Mass, but I did. The first time I attended, I was surprised to see how many women wore a mantilla (The lacy veil women wear in Spain.). Within a week, I found a veil at my local Catholic bookstore and bought it. That Sunday, I wore it and haven't attended our Extraordinary Form Mass without it.

There are a few reasons why I love the veil. Years before I returned to the Church, I was intrigued with Jewish prayer shawls. The tradition of men taking the prayer shawls and covering their head with it as they prayed, touched me deeply. I was reminded of Moses who went before God and covered his face to protect the sacred result of that meeting. Covering one's head signified reverence and an appreciation for the sacred.

I bought a prayer shawl from a woman who had visited Israel and brought some back. I remember at times using it as I prayed and really liked it. At the time, I had no idea about women's head coverings apart from the Amish. But I liked feeling as though I was entering into a sacred space for prayer and having something over my head accomplished that purpose.

The first time I wore the veil to Mass, I had that same feeling. I also knew of the verses from 1 Corinthians 11:3-7:

But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a woman is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. Any man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled dishonors her head--it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her wear a veil. For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man.

Wearing a head covering signified an understanding that there is a hierarchy of submission when we pray to God. What some may not understand is that Scripture says both men and women need to submit, not just the woman. The woman has an outward sign of that submission.

For me personally, I like it. I don't think it should be required because if it were, feminists would have a field day denouncing the Church and men for being controlling. I think what is happening now is that more women are starting to examine this practice and experience for themselves the way it affects their heart during worship. That to me is a very good thing.

For those who aren't sure, I'd say try it. Some are starting to veil for the Novus Ordo Mass, which is a little different, only because the tradition of wearing a head covering is not common at all. (In fact, I rarely see women wearing even a hat.) I've worn my mantilla at times within a Novus Ordo, and other times a hat. I know whenever I've done it, I've always felt as though I've entered a secret place with God. But that's me.

I'll be curious to see how Fr. Z's poll turns out. Remember to vote and check the comments if you have time!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The One Question a #Catholic Who Dissents With the Church Must Ask

This post is a result of the ongoing attacks on the Catholic Church by Anne Rice, a popular and very gifted writer, who returned to the Catholic Church in 1998. Before, she authored some of the most well-known series of vampire novels, several being made into movies. After her return to the Church, she wrote several fictional books about Jesus Christ, Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana and Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt.

Then, last summer (July 28, 2010 to be precise.), with great fanfare, she left the Church. But she didn't just leave, she had to explain her reasons:

"It was very painful," Rice tells NPR's Michele Norris. "But I've always been public about my beliefs, and I've always been public about wanting to make a difference."

Rice says although there were "last straws," there was no one event that caused her to reject organized religion.

"This is something that had been going on really almost from the beginning of my conversion in 1998," she says. "From the beginning, there were signs that the public face of Catholicism and the public face of Christianity were things that I found very, very difficult to accept."

Still, Rice says she tried her best to ignore the facets of Christianity she didn't support and concentrate on the ones she did. As time wore on, though — and as Rice continued to live and study as a Christian — "more and more social issues began to impinge on me," she says.

Rice says the final straw was when she realized the lengths that the church would go to prevent same-sex marriage.

"I didn't anticipate at the beginning that the U.S. bishops were going to come out against same-sex marriage," she says. "That they were actually going to donate money to defeat the civil rights of homosexuals in the secular society.

"... When that broke in the news, I felt an intense pressure. And I am a person who grew up with the saying that all that is needed for evil to prevail is for good people to do nothing, and I believe that statement."

Though the author's son Christopher is a gay rights activist — as well as a bestselling author in his own right — Rice says that his sexuality was not instrumental to her decision to forgo Catholicism.

From her original statement on The Huffington Post, Rice sums it up:

I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life.

I think Rice is being disingenuous when she claims that her son's sexuality was not instrumental in her decision to leave. Especially in light of her current crop of attacks on the Church where she focuses primarily on the Church's doctrine on homosexuality. (Link to her interview with her gay son, Christopher.) Fr. Longnecker provided an excellent observation of Rice's position with his post, Nice Anne Rice?

I will give credit to Rice for being honest. She has made it clear what doctrines of the Church she disagrees with, namely the refusal of ordaining women as priests and sanctioning same-sex marriage. Rice said something very important in the quote above: "From the beginning, there were signs that the public face of Catholicism and the public face of Christianity were things that I found very, very difficult to accept."

This can be said of almost every Catholic. There are doctrines that are hard doctrines and cause great struggle in our hearts and minds. We wrestle with these doctrines because we'd rather the Church didn't make such a fuss over it. We'd rather there not be such a clear delineation between beliefs we approve of (and the Church does not), and beliefs we do not approve of (But the Church does).

Rice is not alone in her questions. However, she, like many other dissenters I have observed, have not admitted to asking the one question that would make a huge difference.

It's a very simple question: Why?

Why does the Catholic Church believe the priesthood is only for men? Why does the Catholic Church not approve of same-sex marriage? Why does the Catholic Church reject contraception? Why does the Catholic Church condemn abortion?

Dissenters do not seem to be intellectually honest with their attacks on the Catholic Church, at least not that I know of. Too often, dissenters readily agree with modern culture and reject Catholic doctrine because it doesn't line up with popular political thought. I have to wonder how often someone questioning the Catholic Church really takes the time to understand why it believes what it believes; and, approach this inquiry with an open mind and heart, being willing to change if God shows them the truth.

It reminds me of high school. No young teen wants to stand out from her peers because she believes something different. No one wants to be ridiculed for being "uncool" by disagreeing with the majority.

And so it is with dissenters. Under the guise of "progress," they have quickly jumped on the bandwagon of other malcontents who ridicule the Church for being "backwards" and call her doctrines outdated. Somehow they believe that the issues that existed during Jesus' existence on earth were so far removed from our present-day concerns. It is as though some of them believe that Jesus Himself never presented difficult choices to His followers.

Here are a few:

"Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man's foes will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it." - Matt. 10:34-39

"Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few. "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit. A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits. - Matt. 7:13-20

I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh."

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever."

This he said in the synagogue, as he taught at Caper'na-um. Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?" But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at it, said to them, "Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of man ascending where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you that do not believe."

For Jesus knew from the first who those were that did not believe, and who it was that would betray him. And he said, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father." After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him. Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also wish to go away?" Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God." Jn 6:48:69

There are many, many more hard sayings of Jesus in the Gospels. Jesus constantly confronted the beliefs of the day and did things that were radically different from the status quo. He spoke to a Samaritan woman at the well when men didn't talk to women they didn't know, let alone a Jew speaking to a Samaritan. He supped with sinners and the unpopular tax collectors. He stepped in to save a woman from being stoned for adultery and forgave her. He praised the worship of an immoral woman while chastising the "righteous" men for not showing Him hospitality or compassion. (Notice how often He interacted with women? And praised them?)

There is story after story about Jesus loving people while condemning sin. He spoke in parables but the message is clear to those who will ask questions and listen. For every parable, every encounter with mankind, Jesus Christ preached forgiveness and freedom; forgiveness from sin, and the freedom that comes from obeying God and His commandments.

There is trust involved. Much trust. For the dissenters, that is a hard truth. Instead of trusting the Catholic Church that the doctrines she has passed down from generation to generation are the truths taught by Jesus Christ; they have chosen instead to believe that these doctrines were nothing more than the imaginings of powerful men who simply wanted to control everyone. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Accept Jesus Christ's teachings or reject them. But do not think that the Catholic Church has concocted beliefs that are contrary to His teaching. Jesus Christ's words are as powerful and radical today as they were over 2,000 years ago. And the crux of one's introduction to Him begins with the question He asked of Simon Peter: Who do you say I am?

Simon Peter's answer became the foundation for the Church. And it needs to be the foundation of any Catholic who has put their trust in Christ. Without it, He's relegated to "just another teacher" and the slide into secular humanism, will be a short one.

Monday, February 7, 2011

What I Love About Catholicism: Another Perspective on 'Coming Home' #Catholic

When I first started to inch my way back to the Catholic Church in 2007, I heard a phrase that was both charming and comforting. "Welcome home," many would say to those either converting to Catholicism or returning to the Church after being absent for years.

Welcome home.

"Home" has many connotations. The first definition, and probably most common, is the home one grew up in, a home with parents and siblings. Another definition is one's hometown. Thinking of "home" usually brings back good memories. I was blessed to have been raised in a good home, with two parents who loved my brother and I very much and provided both the material and emotional support a child needs. I have many fond memories of my upbringing.

After I grew up and moved out, returning home always gave me a sense of security and rooted me in what my parents instilled in me; which namely were traits such as self-sufficiency, resourcefulness, sharp reasoning skills, critical thinking, generosity, consideration, thoughtfulness, and relational skills. I have always thanked God for these gifts.

Recently, I've started to see that returning to the Catholic Church, a "coming home" experience, actually provides another perspective that I've not heard too often. It is a glimpse into our real home, for our true state of rest will not come in this life, but in heaven.

I thought of this recently as I attended Mass. I reflected on the amount of peace my soul experiences when I am at Mass. Just the other day, I thought, "Someday, we who love Jesus Christ and His Church will be in a place where there is no more weeping, no more sorrow, no dissension, no violence, no ugly words, no sin -- someday we will be in a place we were created to be in the first place, our true home with our heavenly Father and Creator."

Just imagine. Our world, growing more chaotic and dark by the minute, would be nothing more than a bad memory; if we remember it at all in heaven. All of the upheaval and unrest that the world is now experiencing would be gone. These sorts of topsy-turvey, fighting-for-the-flesh battles are not our calling. We as Christians are called to a higher plane, a spiritual place where we realize that we're not home yet, but someday will be.

This is what Mass has come to mean to me. It is not only a "coming home" time, but a preview of Things To Come. The peace and joy we feel when we gather together in unity to praise God, to thank Him for His blessings, to remember what the precious Body and Blood of His Son, Jesus Christ did to set us free from sin, and to partake of our Savior's Body and Blood so that life remains in us, is extraordinary and a miracle. Every Sunday, and even daily, we have the opportunity to experience a slice of heaven.

The Mass has become more and more my rock, my anchor, my support. When I attend it, indeed I feel like I am "home."

One morning, after seeing my husband off to work during the wee hours of the morning, I crawled back under the covers, but not until I re-made the bed, straightening the sheets and blankets. As I settled underneath the warm layers, I sighed with pleasure. A thought ran across my mind: order brings comfort.

I thought of how a child needs the rhythms and little rituals of a good home life. It provides that child a sense of security as they experience consistency and dependability in their world. Within the Catholic Church, the same can be said of our liturgy. It is consistent and has been for over 2,000 years. It is dependable, in spite of many kings and rulers attempting to destroy it. It provides comfort and strength to those with eyes to see and ears to hear. The liturgy, with it's rich order, brings comfort.

Some may kick against such order, preferring instead to worship in a freestyle method. Some may chafe against the liturgy, feeling as though it is cramped and doesn't allow individual expression. But no one can put a bridle on your soul. During Mass, entering the interior is difficult but very rewarding. Within ourselves, we can connect the dots of what is transpiring during the liturgy and connect with the Trinity. This does not require big screen TVs, professional worship bands, or liturgical dancing.

All that is required is the willingness to leave at the door the desire to be entertained and instead embrace a deeper spiritual drama that occurs within ourselves. And when we do click with what is happening, we experience home.

I am longing for my real home more and more. I hope to someday hear my Father say to me, "Well done, my good and faithful servant." Meanwhile, I think I have a ways to go in helping others get home, too.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Noteworthy Blogs: Seraphic Singles and Love the Tradition, Loathe the Traddies #Catholic

I came across two more interesting blogs, both grabbing me by my heart for different reasons.

Seraphic Singles is a delightful blog for singles that I found through visiting The Crescat's site. Most of us will spend all of our lives single. I've only been married for nine years. Before that, I was single until I was 39. Finding a lovely young woman who not only has embraced being single, but is passing the joy on to others was indeed a treasure. If you're single, especially a single woman, I highly recommend visiting her blog to experience encouragement and smiles. Oh, and she also wrote a book about being single. Very nice!

The second blog, Love the Tradition, Loathe the Traddies, may surprise those of you who know I'm a Traditional Latin Mass lover. But it's a blog written by a priest who has wise counsel for those of us who are "traddies." I don't think of myself as a "baddie traddie," but still, it's always good to be reminded of how not to act. He also has a recent post about how we as Catholic bloggers should be careful of using our blogs for good, and not fall into the trap of just regurgitating drama for the sake of traffic or thinking that is the only worthwhile purpose of keeping a blog.

Mantilla nod to my friend, Tom, for letting me know about Fr. Raven's blog and of course, to Carolina Cannonball at The Crescat for always having interesting things posted.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Loving Catholicism: I Came Back for the Whole Church #Catholic

This is why evangelization of the American Catholics in the pew is probably the most difficult task of all. They don't know what they don't know. For three generations now they have been given watered down milk and been told it was wine. They actually think that Catholic lite is what it's all about, and are astounded to think that there are some of us who think that they have actually been fed a version of Christianity that is scarcely Christianity at all. - Fr. Dwight Longnecker, The Smoke of Satan

When I read the excellent commentary of Fr. Longnecker, I was reminded of a "Welcome Home" program I attended at a parish when I returned to the Catholic Church in 2008.

The program was obviously trying to downplay any recognizable Catholic identity within our faith. In fact, there was a man attending who had no desire to return to the Catholic Church. (He was a "cradle Catholic" who left to join a Protestant church and was writing a book about it.) So he sat and listened most of the time. If I were him, I would have thought there really wasn't much difference between being a Catholic or a Protestant, from what was being taught.

There are differences. But what I found astounding is that those who were teaching the program seemed to know less than I did about Catholic identity -- and I had only been digging into the topic for about six months through my own self-study program, courtesy of my local library and the Internet.

I didn't come back to the Church for a watered-down version of Catholicism. I came back for the whole thing. The Real Thing. Catholicism Extreme.

And some may say, "Well, what is 'the whole thing' anyway?" I'll try to explain.

I came back for:

1) The wonderful, awesome, amazing, blessed event called The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (and we don't hear that phrase enough, in my opinion...) and the Holy Eucharist, the "source and summit" of the Christian life - the true Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

I was stunned when a nun tried to convince us that the Holy Eucharist was just "bread for the journey" and symbolic more than anything. She was around her late-fifties and I knew she was a product of the crazy 60's when the deconstruction of our Catholic beliefs was in high gear. I felt a mixture of emotions when she said that. Anger, sadness, disappointment - so much has been lost for generations of Catholics and you have to fight like a tiger to reclaim it because too few of our spiritual leaders will pass along the truth.

2) The Sacraments. Oh, the blessed Sacraments! The Sacraments of: Baptism, First Communion, Confirmation, Holy Orders, Marriage, Reconciliation, Last Rites. How I love all of them! Each one helps us live the Christian life. It places a marker upon each life-changing event with an implied spiritual "I've got your back..." message. When Jesus said He would not leave us orphans, He wasn't kidding. He left us a beautiful, wonderful Church that is committed to helping us through every stage of life. Every sacrament is meant to remind us that God is to be the center of our life and that everything we do, everything we receive, is for Him and from Him.

Recently, I attended one of the most amazing events of my life. It was a funeral for a police officer who was well-loved and respected. The funeral was a Solemn High Requiem Mass - yes, all in Latin, and it lasted two hours. (Note to self: I really want this type of Mass said for my own funeral.) Of course there was much ritual from the police force, and a group of men playing the bagpipes added an even more dramatic tone, but what really impacted me was that this was what the Catholic Church did for her people. No stingy little ceremony that only consisted of a short, little prayer and then off to the cemetery, no group recitation of some Internet poem and then a quick shuffle off to Aunt Melba's for lunch. Nope. The Catholic Church goes all out because when we pass on from this life to the next, it's A Big Deal. And that's what was communicated to everyone at that Mass as we said our final farewell's to a saint. Later I said to someone, "Only the Catholic Church takes care of us from beginning to end."

And speaking of saints, the reason I referred to him as that is because my pastor did. The police officer was shot in the back by a teen during the line of duty and was paralyzed from the waist down. He spent the next few decades as a police sketch artist. But through all of his physical struggles and health issues, he offered up his suffering for the conversion of the teen. In fact, he was praying that the teen would become a priest. As my pastor said, "We have saints who walk among us."

3) Tough, manly, uncompromising-on-the-truth priests. Is it any wonder that Fr. Corapi is so loved and so hated (sadly), by many in the Church? It's because he speaks the truth without fear. He refuses to water down the Gospel message or stray from the Magisterium because a few people are offended or accuse him of being politically incorrect. And why does the Church take their marching orders from the world, anyway? It's backwards. The Church is to be salt to the world, a beacon light that always proclaims the love and truth of Jesus Christ. The Church is not a political party, no matter how hard others have tried to change her into that.

Unfortunately, our society has made many men into wimps. Sorry if that's hard to hear but it's the truth. Men have been feminized by an overly-feminine culture. Now I'm not advocating that men should be brute cavemen who think a woman is only worth cranking out a few kids and fixing a pot roast. What I am saying is that I mourn the loss of masculinity in our culture. The kind of masculinity that would stand up for what's right, help a woman carry heavy luggage, and beat off the bad guys when they tried to attack the vulnerable. These men can usually be found in the military, police force, or firehouses. But there is a relentless battle going on to remove the "manliness" from the man.

Someone once said that the Catholic Church used to have such men, but in the past forty years they've been beaten down by feminism. I don't doubt it. Still, our need for real, manly priests has not been so dire as now. Think about the priestly saints in the past who were martyred, who gave up their life for someone or the Church. Men like St. Maximilian Kolbe and Servant of God, Fr. Vincent Capodanno. They, and many others like them, are real men.

One of my favorite memories of coming back to the Church was when a priest (who would become my priest) told me that yes, it was true -- I could not receive Communion until (and if) my husband's first marriage was annulled. Then he leaned over to me, smiled, and said, "But isn't it wonderful that the Catholic Church will tell you what you may not want to hear, but need to hear?"

I replied, "Yes. And you know what I feel? Cared for. Protected. Like someone cares enough to tell me the truth." We all need the truth and we need brave priests to tell it.

I remember those tough priests when I was a little girl. I say we need to bring them back. Pray for seminarians who won't compromise the truth, who will defend the Church at all costs, and who will lead their flock courageously through the battle between good and evil. If you're blessed enough to have one, send a card or give him a casserole. Whatever you do, let him know how much you appreciate him even if all he does is give a gruff thanks. I know he'll be grateful.

Another note: This may sound quirky or weird, but I like the gruffness and abrupt style of some of those priests from "the old school." It's a refreshing change from the "feel good" pastors who strive to be happy!happy!happy! all the time and bend over backward to try to please everyone in their congregation. I'm not saying I like rudeness. Far from it. But Catholic priests who exhibit some impatience and incredulity with the antics of their flock seem much more real. They're not trying to pretend anything. In fact, many will ask for your prayers. But orthodox Catholic priests seem to have far less time to stroke fragile egos because they're looking at a bigger picture, and it's usually trying to keep their parish running.

4) Calling sin, sin. I'm amazed that sin is not spoken about more often at modern churches. Maybe I shouldn't be surprised, especially when many of these churches are seeking to "relate" to the world and preach a message that won't scare them away. Pastors know preaching about sin is one of the quickest way to scare away folks and thus -- lose money in the offering. I love how Catholicism not only preaches about sin but really Makes It A Big Deal by focusing on the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Because it is A Big Deal. Sin separates us from God. Sin leads to going to hell. Sin is death. Sin kills. Sin is poison. Thank God that the Catholic Church doesn't mince words when it comes to sin.

In fact, Catholics narrow it down even more with the terms "venial sin" and "mortal sin." Who talks about mortal sin anymore except orthodox Catholics? And guess what? Ever since I've returned to the Catholic Church, I've gotten more serious about avoiding sin and the near occasion of sin. Gosh. Imagine that. Something that never really bothered me as much when I was attending my last non-denominational church. (NB: If you're attending a non-denominational church where they talk about sin and keeps you on the straight and narrow, then excellent! I'm very happy for you. Keep on truckin'.)

It's not comfortable to talk about sin or examine our own life for sin, but the Catholic Church I know and love firmly guides me into such areas. And then she firmly guides me into grace and forgiveness. Praise be to God.

This post has gone on long enough but I could actually list more. (And just may in a "Part II" post.) But the point is, these things are all part of the Catholic Church that has existed for many centuries. Only during the past 40+ years have these truths become watered-down or done away with altogether.

Here's the deal. Christians were never really liked by most of the world to begin with. The world hated Jesus Christ. I've mentioned how Jesus has said the world will hate us too. Now think about this: How on earth can anyone withstand the constant onslaught of hatred and viciousness unless they are grounded in faith? How can anyone survive the daily battle between good and evil unless they're rooted in the truth? It's pretty tough. Unless you've got a strong core, you're bound to give in eventually. This is why I believe we're seeing more churches cave to aggressive anti-man, anti-woman radical feminism and the relentless attacks on families and marriage. It's much easier to compromise and give in to the loud and the few.

For many, many years, I was part of a number of non-denominational churches that worked hard to present a palatable version of the Gospel to the world. It was diluted, and not nearly as powerful as the words of Jesus to His followers. Many of the messages I heard from the podium were little more than slick marketing messages aimed toward aging baby-boomers who wanted a pleasant faith that didn't rock their boat too much. It was the kind of faith that didn't want to get its hands dirty. Don't bother me with suffering, sin, or sacrifice. (I call them the Three S's.) All I want is to feel good about myself. So many churches comply with that request.

But the Catholic Church is remarkable for many reasons and one of them is that it doesn't allow you to drift into "comfortableness." There are a myriad of tough challenges that the Catholic Church brings to her people. Pro-life, rejection of the homosexual lifestyle, condemnation of anti-woman, anti-men feminism, chastity, pain with purpose, celibacy. We as Catholics are called to rise to these challenges and with God's grace, overcome the enemy's deceitful ways. Catholicism -- true Catholicism that hasn't been tainted by modernity, is a rich faith that makes no bones about whom she serves.

It isn't the government. It isn't the world. It isn't some talk show host or a famous Hollywood celebrity. It is God whom we serve and we need the strong meat of our Catholicism more than ever before.

Pray for brave chefs.