Posts tagged ‘Catholic’

November 28, 2011

Purple is Back!

And no, I’m not talking about J. Beib and his fav color. I AM talking about the start of Advent and a happy, exciting New Year for the Church! Happy New Year, yall!!

Raise your hand if you were as excited about the first Mass with the New Roman Missal changes as you will be about Christmas morning…

Yeah, you better believe I was! — AM! I love the new prayers. I love how the whole church was a little vulnerable, a little unsure, laughing under their breath at themselves, trying to do their best through the whole Mass. That’s how it ought to be! That’s who we are — just trying to figure it out as we go, not taking ourselves too seriously, but doing our very best to find our place in the prayer of the Church. The new changes rock. The Church rocks!

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about the color purple and the penitential aspects of Advent lately. I suppose I haven’t given the purple/penance part a huge amount of thought before, but my friend Sean over at The Passionate Papist offered seven great tips for observing Advent and made me think twice. Number 5 totally hooked me, and I’m going to dive into that this year.

I’m giving up Christmas desserts for Advent. Cakes, cookies, candy, brownies, etc… oh, they look soooo good!!

:O

Sometimes, I think I’m crazy… but it will be worth it. Giving up something that seems “necessary” to the season is going to be my way of thinking counter-culturally this year. Desserts have become just about as essential to the holidays as shopping and gifting… and I’m not sure it’s helping me focus! You see, the Christmas season is really after Christmas gets here. We should spend these four weeks in preparation, in waiting, and in repentance and sacrifice. I think we can be so consumed with the celebratory parts of the holidays that we forget that purple is for penance, in honor of the King. The celebration begins with His birth, and it is preceded by time to reflect on our humility and how much we need Him to come and save us.

We know that life begins at conception. Christ took on human flesh when He was conceived at the Annunciation — March 25. He is already with us, He has already come to us, yet we wait for Christmas to mark His triumphant arrival. Mary and Joseph knew and waited for nine months. We hold our breath for only a few weeks. Our time of preparation and patience is short compared to theirs, and shorter still compared to the waiting of generations of God’s people.

We may wait until Christmas, but He is already here. He has taken on flesh, and He chose Mary as the means to come to us. What great humility we should have in realizing that even when we were unaware, He came to us! Before angels sang or stars appeared in the sky or kings traveled to bow down, He was among us.

This Advent, I’m waiting for Him to be revealed. I’m waiting for Him to be revealed in the Church, in the world, and in my heart. I’m waiting for Him to be revealed by His Mother. Mary holds Him, carries Him, and bears Him… and at Christmas, she will bring Him into the world. She will reveal what she has known since Gabriel appeared — He has come. If we can open our hearts to her, even in the least of ways, Mary will reveal Him to us. She is the only one who can! If we spend this time with her in prayer and waiting, she will beckon us close to feel Him kicking, know her patient hope, and wait with her until His glory is made known.

Is there something you can sacrifice or add to help you focus your prayer? What will you do this season to prepare your heart?

November 10, 2011

Evangelizing Our Youth

“I think in particular of our need to speak to the hearts of young people, who, despite their constant exposure to messages contrary to the Gospel, continue to thirst for authenticity, goodness and truth. Much remains to be done, particularly on the level of preaching and catechesis in parishes and schools, if the New Evangelization is to bear fruit for the renewal of ecclesial life in America.”
— Pope Benedict XVI

I had the privilege of watching and listening to a friend and youth minister share the Gospel with half a dozen teenagers in the RCIT program tonight.

I’m still sort of in shock — not because I was surprised by how authentically and passionately he delivered his message, but by how blown away the teens seemed to be! They were intensely engaged in what he was describing… as if the story of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ was a new story. They had admitted less than five minutes before that it was a story they all knew, yet here they were: leaning forward in anticipation, mouths slightly open, and brows furrowed in deep thought.

We broke open Scripture — John 3:16. We discussed the four reasons for the Incarnation (CCC 457-460). He told the story — he shared the Gospel. Then, the real Truth: this is what it’s all about. There is nothing else, this is what matters. He spoke to their hearts, he spoke with authority, and he catechized.

“Authentic catechesis is always an orderly and systematic initiation into the revelation that God has given of Himself to humanity in Christ Jesus, a revelation stored in the depths of the Church’s memory and in Sacred Scripture, and constantly communicated from one generation to the next by a living, active traditio.” (Catechesi Tradendae 22)

I have never seen the faces or heard the almost inaudible gasps as people have heard such a solid Christian witness. I heard their questions and understood their desire to know indisputable Truths, the credibility of our faith, the greatness of Mysteries, and the beauty of the Passion and the Cross. They continue to thirst for authenticity, goodness, and truth.

It’s so beautiful, to see how God can open hearts. Pray that our youth will be open to hearing the Gospel anew, and that the Spirit will give us the words to share what we have been privileged to know!

Our teens are living in darkness. We’ve got work to do. Let’s go, people!!

May 14, 2011

Conformed and Confirmed

Recently, I was reading someone’s perspective on Confirmation and the preparation for the sacrament… all the classes, catechesis, training, retreats, and completion of requirements. Before I could even absorb anything, I was thinking about our class of sophomore candidates and everything that still needed to be done or put in motion. I wondered about where they are, if they are ready, if they are sincerely willing. I thought of things that need to change, ways to reach them better, and on and on and on. I wasn’t really reading; I was skimming and thinking with far too much on my mind — until a single misspelling made me stop where I was and reconsider everything.

Conformation.

The world tells us that conformity is a terrible thing. Maybe the most despicable thing there is! Conforming means someone else has power, not you! Conforming means you have to sacrifice being true to yourself! You are brainwashed, controlled, and manipulated. So the world screams, increasingly louder: Don’t be conformed! Don’t let anyone tell you what to do! Freedom means doing what YOU think is right and necessary. The greatest evil is to let someone else control you. 

It is a self-absorbed and hedonistic battle cry. Eventually, we realize that this battle is exhausting, never-ending, and will ultimately be devastatingly fatal. We begin to search for greater truth.

For our teens, this is the last step of initiation into the Catholic Church. This is the opportunity to take ownership, stand up, and claim the faith as Truth. It is the time to utter a final “yes” to be conformed to the Catholic Church, her teaching and tradition, and to Christ.

Conform. Conformation. 

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April 19, 2011

Chrism Mass

Still, I am nearly speechless and in awe.

I attended the Chrism Mass at the Cathedral Basilica here at my home diocese, for the first time. It was absolutely beautiful.

Without saying too much (still guarding my heart as the Triduum approaches), I didn’t really expect to feel much at all during the Mass. I wanted to go, I had promised myself and God that as part of my Lenten journey that I would, and the Cathedral is one of my favorite places in Beaumont. However, Lent has been pretty dry and difficult, and I didn’t expect it to bear fruit so soon!

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April 18, 2011

Palm Sunday

Last summer, I really fell in love with the word, “Hosanna.” There is something so beautiful about a word that can proclaim so simply an adulation that is so profound. Reserved for a king — THE King and the Master! We would be in the chapel, praying and singing, and that was the only word I wanted to sing. Even still, in adoration, if I could cry out, “Hosanna!!!” my heart would be happy. Somehow, a whisper seems to make do… I always imagine the Lord to know how I desire to act, even when it’s not really appropriate.

Suffice it to say, I’ve been anticipating Palm Sunday for MONTHS. I was so antsy in the church, ready to go out and come back in, to hold my palm and sing Hosanna, to follow the Cross back in, and celebrate. As a Catholic and an artist, I treasure symbolism and deeper meaning. I love the idea of a palm branch being representative of something that reaches up and out, or thinking about how it was used to fan royalty as they reclined. Then, I learned from Matt Maher’s reflection on Palm Sunday that palms were symbols of rebellion.

A word and a symbol, and even still, they didn’t truly understand. I hope I am able to learn to hail the Lord as a King, not a rebellious leader. That I will adore Him because He loves more than anyone I have ever encountered, not because He has the power to perform great signs. I want to follow Him because He desires for me to be with Him, not because I want to see His victorious conquest over those with whom I disagree.

But when I DO see His victory — as we all will, this week — I pray that I remember that He is greater than anything I could ever imagine, His plans far exceed anything I could dream, and His victory means more than I will ever understand.

February 17, 2011

Rediscovering Catholicism

I just finished reading Rediscovering Catholicism by Matthew Kelly. I’m not writing a book review. I love reading, but that’s totally not my thing… so I won’t even try. What I WILL do is comment on some of the awesome things I picked up the first time through! I didn’t know you could get a free copy here, but I’m glad that if you can’t afford to purchase a copy, you can still get your hands on it.

This book is full of questions and challenges for WHY we aren’t the people we ought to be. Of course, that’s a question we’re always trying to answer. But especially as the Catholic Church, where is our vigor? Our zeal? Our passion? It’s something that I have been struggling with for almost 9 months now.

Sometimes, I felt like Matthew Kelly was taking thoughts right out of my head… as if we had just spoken and he had recorded what I said on paper. Sometimes, his perspective is something I wasn’t seeing.

“Holiness brings us to life… it elevates our emotions. Holiness doesn’t stifle us, it sets us free. Holiness is to allow each moment to be all it can be.”

“The surest signs of holiness are an insatiable desire to improve oneself and an unquenchable concern for unholy people.”

“There is nothing more attractive than holiness.”

Wow. Maybe that’s old news for you, but in my journey… coming from the the community where I grew up and the Church as she interacted with me up until last summer, this is big news. I have said it a billion times since moving back home: I don’t feel like anyone ever called me to holiness here. No one called me to be the “best version of myself,” as Kelly puts it. No one made it so simple!!

“If you went into an ice cream store and there was no ice cream, you’d say, “There’s a problem!” If you went into a chocolate store and there was no chocolate, you’d say, “There’s a problem!” The mission of the Church is to share the Gospel, and to teach, challenge, and encourage people to become more like Jesus Christ. So how is it that we can belong to a local church community that goes on year after year with almost no outreach to the unchurched in the area, and with very few people really becoming more Christ-like (i.e. working to be holy!), and yet think there is no problem?! Let me tell you, if this describes your church community, “There’s a problem!!”

I suppose what it really comes down to is whether or not we sincerely believe that knowing and following Christ is the best way to live. I suspect that, on some level, most Catholics don’t. Because if we did, we would most likely be more excited to share it.

What an achievable, easy thing to do. It’s not new age. It’s not complicated. It is exactly what the mission has been from the beginning. Be holy, as Christ was holy! Then WHY is it so difficult? Why have our communities forgotten to keep working towards holiness?

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