Saturday, April 25, 2009

Prayer request

I ask for your prayers for my friend Adrienne's baby girl. She's been diagnosed with a rare and very serious heart defect. As soon as she's born, she'll be taken into surgery - the first of many operations to come. Please pray for Adrienne, her husband Tomas and their baby. St. John of God, pray for us!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Happy Anniversary Pope Benedict XVI!

Four years ago today, a Mormon coworker ran up to me (I was Episcopalian at the time) and exclaimed "Habemus Papam!" I replied, "I don't have a Pope, and you certainly don't have a Pope." In my head, I smugly thought "Stupid Catholics, they've got this old white guy who tells them what to do, and they actually listen! Not me! I love being Episcopalian because I get to decide what's true for me." Over the next year or so, I watched Pope Benedict's papacy unfold, and I ranted over and over again about how uncompromising I thought he was. The Holy Father's stance on issues like women's ordination or homosexuality could send me into an ironic tirade about "just being nice." At the time, I thought that's what Christianity boiled down to - just being nice. And of course, at this point I had only read what the media wrote about the Pope, not anything he'd written himself.

Four years later, I'm grateful and proud to be included in the "we" of "Habemus Papam!" What changed? At some point, I realized that truth is objective - it's not about what's right for me or right for you, it's about what's true. I came to understand that Christianity is about love (not simply being nice) and when you truly love someone, you're willing to call them out on the things they think and say and do that aren't good for them - even if it means that they don't like you anymore, even when the popular culture turns against you, even (and especially) when it means suffering with someone that you love when it would be so much easier and less painful to just let them do whatever they want to do. I started reading what Pope Benedict had to say about controversial issues, and it made sense - rational, logical sense! I had spent so much time trying to justify what I wanted to be true that I'd started to confuse argument with discernment. The idea of starting at Truth and building my life - our life - around it (instead of deciding what I wanted to do and then contorting and reducing Truth to fit it where it was convenient) was revolutionary to me. I'd never thought this way before, and I'd certainly never lived this way.

I wanted to though. When I thought about what had brought me to Christianity in the first place, I realized that this is the only rational way to live. I had had a sense that there was more to life and more to me than what I could comprehend. That sense led me to seek this "More." Although I didn't realize it at the time, that seeking was mostly in inner process of opening myself to a Presence that was right in front of me (actually, at the deepest part of me) the whole time. When I encountered this Presence I knew right away that This is what I had been longing for, This is why nothing else had ever satisfied me. So why did I almost immediately start twisting my new faith into something that fit into my old life? Original sin? Selfishness? The need to control my life even if that means forcefully reducing it to something tiny enough to hold when it should be bigger than I can grasp and that's part of what makes it so beautiful? Probably a combination of those things and many others. My anger at Pope Benedict was one of the major factors that shook me out of that closed, distorted complacency. It opened me to the idea that maybe there was more to God than what I thought I understood. The Pope is uncompromising on matters of Truth because Truth cannot be compromised - any attempt to do so ends badly for everyone involved. If God is Truth and God is Love, then Love and Truth are one and the same. Reducing Truth means reducing Love - why did I ever think that was a good idea? What I came to to understand and am now trying to put into practice is that it's me that has to conform to Truth and that in doing so I become my true self - the person God created me to be, sharing His divine life of love.

Holy Father, thank you for your witness! Thank you for loving us (like any good parent) enough to not diminish the Truth that we are called to know! Alles Gute zum Jubilaum!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Divine Mercy Novena - Day Four!

"Today bring to Me those who do not believe in God and those who do not know Me,

I was thinking also of them during My bitter Passion, and their future zeal comforted My Heart. Immerse them in the ocean of My mercy."

Most compassionate Jesus, You are the Light of the whole world. Receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls of those who do not believe in God and of those who as yet do not know You. Let the rays of Your grace enlighten them that they, too, together with us, may extol Your wonderful mercy; and do not let them escape from the abode which is Your Most Compassionate Heart.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls of those who do not believe in You, and of those who as yet do not know You, but who are enclosed in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. Draw them to the light of the Gospel. These souls do not know what great happiness it is to love You. Grant that they, too, may extol the generosity of Your mercy for endless ages. Amen.

*Our Lord's original words here were "the pagans." Since the pontificate of Pope John XXIII, the Church has seen fit to replace this term with clearer and more appropriate terminology.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Tell us Mary...

To the Paschal Victim, Christians, offer a sacrifice of praise. The Lamb has ransomed His sheep; the innocent Christ has reconciled sinners with the Father. Death and Life confronted each other in a prodigious battle; the Prince of Life who died, now lives and reigns.
"Tell us, Mary, what did you see upon the way?"
"I saw the sepulchre of the living Christ; I saw the glory of the Risen One. I saw the angels, His witnesses, the shroud and the garments. Christ, my hope, is risen; He will go before His own into Galilee."
We know that Christ is truly risen from the dead; O Victorious King, have mercy on us.
- The Easter Sequence

Saturday, April 11, 2009

From an ancient homily for Holy Saturday:

Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.
He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”
I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated. For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.
See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.
I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.
Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.

Divine Mercy novena days two and three

Friday, April 10, 2009

If we wish to understand the power of Christ’s blood, we should go back to the ancient account of its prefiguration in Egypt. “Sacrifice a lamb without blemish,” commanded Moses, “and sprinkle its blood on your doors.” If we were to ask him what he meant, and how the blood of an irrational beast could possibly save men endowed with reason, his answer would be that the saving power lies not in the blood itself, but in the fact that it is a sign of the Lord’s blood. In those days, when the destroying angel saw the blood on the doors he did not dare to enter, so how much less will the devil approach now when he sees, not that figurative blood on the doors, but the true blood on the lips of believers, the doors of the temple of Christ.
If you desire further proof of the power of this blood, remember where it came from, how it ran down from the cross, flowing from the Master’s side. The gospel records that when Christ was dead, but still hung on the cross, a soldier came and pierced his side with a lance and immediately there poured out water and blood. Now the water was a symbol of baptism and the blood, of the holy Eucharist. The soldier pierced the Lord’s side, he breached the wall of the sacred temple, and I have found the treasure and made it my own. So also with the lamb: the Jews sacrificed the victim and I have been saved by it.
“There flowed from his side water and blood.” Beloved, do not pass over this mystery without thought; it has yet another hidden meaning, which I will explain to you. I said that water and blood symbolized baptism and the holy Eucharist. From these two sacraments the Church is born: from baptism, “the cleansing water that gives rebirth and renewal through the Holy Spirit,” and from the holy Eucharist. Since the symbols of baptism and the Eucharist flowed from his side, it was from his side that Christ fashioned the Church, as he had fashioned Eve from the side of Adam Moses gives a hint of this when he tells the story of the first man and makes him exclaim: “Bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh!” As God then took a rib from Adam’s side to fashion a woman, so Christ has given us blood and water from his side to fashion the Church. God took the rib when Adam was in a deep sleep, and in the same way Christ gave us the blood and the water after his own death.
Do you understand, then, how Christ has united his bride to himself and what food he gives us all to eat? By one and the same food we are both brought into being and nourished. As a woman nourishes her child with her own blood and milk, so does Christ unceasingly nourish with his own blood those to whom he himself has given life.
- Saint John Chrysostom
We're praying a Divine Mercy novena. It starts today. Pray with us!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Should I be in bed?

Yes! But I'm going to write a quick note in response to a comment left on my last post because I've been thinking this very thing. Rachel says "I don't understand why I keep forgetting." I don't understand either. I'm always encountering situations that show me just how little I really know. Reflecting on these situations, I always think "didn't I know better?" But in each of these episodes I do learn something - even if it's something small or something that seems small at the time. And I'm drawn just a little deeper into the Mystery that is our God. And I'm reminded that I NEED Jesus Christ; I cannot perfect myself. Our victory is in Him so maybe when we forget, it's Him that we're forgetting. When we remember Christ - seek His presence which, through Faith, we know is a constant reality - we remember all we need to know. Everything comes together in Him. (Side note: everything comes together in Him, and I'm going to be His spouse! I'm floored by this! Absolutely floored! And very, very grateful.)

What I love about Faith is the exact this that used to frustrate me about it when I was an atheist: every answer leads to another question! It wasn't until I encountered God and came to know Him that I understood why this is so: it's because the answer to all our questions is a Who, not a what. Things can be known thoroughly and absolutely. People can't. Can you ever fully know another person? I don't think so. You can know them better and better and better, but never completely. God is a divine, infinite, eternal Person so it would be ever more impossible to know Him completely. At first this may seem sad, but it's actually beautiful because it means that we get to spend the rest of eternity being drawn deeper and deeper into communion with Love Himself! There's always more!

And now I really must go because it's 10:30 and I have to be up at 5:00 and I haven't even prayed evening prayer yet!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Holy Week is here! The time of our redemption is at hand!

I've been thinking about Palm/Passion Sunday. I like that way of writing it because it satisfies the new school and the old school, and because it encompasses the two main events that we encounter on this day - the triumphal entry and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Without fail, I always find myself meditating on the fickleness of people. Some years I've thought of this subject in a smug, superior sort of way, "How could the Children of Israel welcome Christ and hail Him as their King and then scream for His crucifixion a few days later?" Other years, I reflect on my own life and see how I do the same thing - professing my love for Christ at daily Mass and then bitching out one of my coworkers a few hours later. I'd like to jump in here and tell myself that it's not really the same thing, but the Bible reminds us over and over again that loving God and loving other people are inseparable.

This year, I asked myself "why?" Why do I say that I love God above all things and then fail to live that out in my life outside of Mass? Here's what I've got so far. I don't understand the meaning of love. Almost every time I tell God I love Him, it's a warm fuzzy feeling that I'm talking about. This is not love. It's consolation - nothing more or less. Consolations remind us that we are loved - they are not love in and of themselves. If I never felt another consolation, if for the rest of my life I felt nothing while I prayed, felt nothing at Mass, felt nothing after receiving Christ in the Eucharist, does that mean that God doesn't love me? No! I should be reminded of His love every time I look at a crucifix. True love is an act of will. True love intentionally places another's good before my own, even when it's difficult, even if it means a total emptying of myself.

This is why we cannot love without God. This is how the death of Christ gives life to us. In a broken world, love and suffering can't be separated. Pouring ourselves out for others often feels like pouring water into a broken jar - pointless and never ending. We need God, who is Love Himself, inside of our souls. We love because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19) We need to remain in the source of love and we need Him to remain in us. In the person of Jesus Christ, true Love and eternal Life entered this world as one of us, fully embraced suffering and death, and rose to show Himself victorious. United to Him in baptism, confirmed by Him in our identity as children of God and members of His Body, continuously nourished by Him in the Eucharist, healed by Him in reconciliation, we are victorious too!

The Jewish people wanted a Messiah and King to come in and set everything right, and they had a certain idea of what that would look like. We also have many ideas about what God should be doing to set things right in the world - no more war, poverty, abortion, pollution, whatever. What we all fail to see is that none of these things will be fixed until we are fixed, and that is what Christ's life, death and resurrection is accomplishing - to the degree that each of us allows in our own hearts and lives. I think, for the rest of Holy Week, when I feel a consolation, I'll offer it back to God and ask for the grace to love as He loves.

P.S. Back in January, Suzanne of Come to See wrote this post. It moved me deeply and I've been wanting to link to it ever since. Now is the time - it's a beautiful reflection for Holy Week.