Where’s My High Five?

I taught CCD today (2nd graders) and the lesson was on the Last Supper and the Eucharist –very important as the children prepare for First Communion in the Catholic Church.  The lesson was… fine.

I didn’t want fine. I went to some trouble and wanted a ‘wow!’  I rearranged the room to set it up like the Last Supper, brought in a chalice, paten, candles, pictures of the Last Supper, and even sticker sets for each child to create their own Last Supper.  We didn’t get to the sticker sets—yes, the fun bit.  Ran out of time. Sigh.

Of course we’ll use it next week.  The children were fairly attentive and responsive.  It just left me a little flat.   This, on top of some other writing-related frustrations, left me low.

In other words: c’mon God!  High five me or something!  I’ve been praying.  I’ve been asking.

I was given insight, if not direct messages today.  Here is what I heard at Mass based on some excerpts from the readings:

In the Responsorial Psalm 27: 7-8,13-14

 “Hear O LORD, the sound of my call;

have pity on me, and answer me.

Of you my heart speaks; you my glance seeks.”

I’m calling, but is my heart speaking of God or looking for glory?  Hmmm. Do I want God to look good, or am I more worried about me?  Guess.

  “Wait for the LORD with courage;

 be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD.”

 I am waiting…   Sigh.  I know.  I’m really just being impatient.  And selfish.  It’s not about me.  And God, I do know you’re not on my time.  Though I do keep forgetting that.

Then Paul’s letter to the Philippians 3:17-4:1

“…many…conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ.

…Their minds are occupied with earthly things.”

 Like recognition?  Reward?  Achievement?  (You talkin’ ta me God?)

  “But our citizenship is in heaven

 and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

…stand firm in the Lord, beloved.”

Enough said.

Boy, I’m glad you speak to me Lord.  Thank you for reminding me what is important and loving me even though I forget, often.  Strengthen my faith so that I may stand firm in your ways and live humbly in your name. Amen.

 

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Tweets of Wisdom from the Pope

Nice to Tweet You:  From Pope Benedict XVI

https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/a4/Benedykt_XVI_%282010-10-17%29_4.jpg/166px-Benedykt_XVI_%282010-10-17%29_4.jpgCan you just imagine the Pope after a deep theological discussion:  hey, can I tweet that?  Now he may.

Follow Pope Benedict XVI on twitter at @Pontifex, a handle chosen because it means pope in Latin, as well as bridge builder, lending a suggestion of unity.

Tweets will start on December 12 and the Pope will tweet ‘as often as he wants’ said Greg Burke, the Vatican communications  adviser. Good to see the Church taking advantage of current communication tools.  Read more from the AP.

On the Front Page

Although she died in 1980, Dorothy Day made the front page of  The New York Times yesterday.   Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbiship of the New York Diocese, has been talking about this divorced mother, journalist and social activist.

How did a woman with a “bohemian” youth,  including an abortion, who rejected religion find her way to God? And possibly sainthood?

“She completely trusted God’s love for her and did not wallow in guilt over the mistakes of the past”. (Stephen J. Krupa, S.J., America Magazine)  Her path to God is one of joy and love, chronicled in her autobiography, From Union Square to Rome.

The birth of her daughter, Tamar Teresa, catapulted Day into God’s arms.

Day could think of nothing better to do with the gratitude that overwhelmed her than arrange Tamar’s baptism in the Catholic Church.  “I did not want my child to flounder as I had often floundered. I wanted to believe, and I wanted my child to believe, and if belonging to a Church would give her so inestimable a grace as faith in God, and the companionable love of the Saints, then the thing to do was to have her baptized a Catholic.”

(from A Biography of  Dorothy Day, by Jim Forest)

Day was already committed to causes of social justice, labor rights, and poverty.  This experience offered her another path into God.   Day so identified with the poor that she co-founded the Catholic Worker Movement, and voluntarily spent her life in poverty, operating ‘houses of hospitality’ for the needy.

The mystery of poverty is that by sharing in it, making ourselves poor in giving to others, we increase our knowledge of and belief in love.” (Dorothy Day)

A post-election political angle was picked up by the NY Times.  Day is of interest to both poverty-motivated (left-wing) and right-to-life driven (right-wing) Catholics.  Cardinal Dolan calls her a “saint for our time”, and a woman whose journey inspires.

For us, her faith journey is very well documented, and an inspiration to those of us, who, like her, live in a modern world.  Her faith was the basis for her life, and her life is a testament to God.  

“Your love for God is only as great as the love you have for the person you love the least.”

Whether she ends up titled ‘Saint’, or not, Dorothy Day is a model of strength and justice, especially in this Year of Faith.   Most of us will never make the front page for our spiritual journey or charitable efforts.  No need to.  Our job is to keep God on the front page of our lives.

Beautiful Bells and an Imperfect Beginning

My year of faith is off to a beautiful, if imperfect start.

For three-minutes at noon on Oct. 11 (the first day of the Year of Faith), my children’s school rang bells and said the Angelus (a Catholic prayer of devotion to Mary and Jesus).  Every child in the school – about 400 students ages 4 to 12 – encircled the entrance standing in glorious sunshine along the stone steps of the church.  Together with our priest, teachers, and a few parents and parishioners, we recited the prayers.  Then, with most children having brought bells to school, the student body joyously joined the three minutes of church bells.  The deep resonance from the church tower echoed with sweet jingle bells, clanging teacher bells, petite dinner bells, and the giggles and jumping feet of children.  What a beautiful and inspiring few moments.  I can only imagine God smiling at the sight.

We were reminded that our symbolic celebration was connected to the start of the Vatican II council, in which bishops paraded in to St. Peter’s under the musical might of bells ringing in churches all over Rome.

In a less personally lifting experience later in the evening, my husband and I headed to a liturgy of Adoration.  We thought we’d go to the service first, then out for a quick drink to celebrate a big work success of my husband’s.

After struggling to settle our children, we arrived a few minutes late for the service.   We snuck in through a rear side entrance, and sat quietly. We couldn’t find the program (which everyone else seemed to have), and were not near enough to peek at anyone else’s.

The music was spiritual and beautiful, and my husband happily recognized one hymn from childhood.  However, we couldn’t join in the recitation of the unfamiliar prayers.  And as a creature of routine, not having a sense of the timing and process of the liturgy unsettled me, and I had trouble concentrating.

A brief moment of awe descended on me as the congregation knelt in silence, reverently praying and looking towards the Eucharist.  For a minute or two I could imagine God on the altar, here in the church, truly really with me and the power of that overwhelmed me.

And then I lost it.  Staring at an ornate golden structure, like a sun, on the altar (I have no idea of the proper name) I reflected that the service seemed very traditional, a bit ‘old-school’.  So while I enjoyed the service, it wasn’t as helpful for me as the bells.

Maybe I was distracted by my plans to go out afterwards.  Maybe I shouldn’t have been late.  Ah, well.  If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.  I’ll keep you posted. Today I get my ‘Year of Faith guide’… Maybe that will help.

Have you done anything to strengthen your faith?  Has it helped?  Keep at it!

Let the Year of Faith Begin

Bamboo CathedralToday begins the Year of Faith, as declared by Pope Benedict XVI of the Catholic Church.  It is also the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II, the event which prompted the Pope’s decision to call for a renewed commitment to faith.

This invitation does not apply to Catholics only.  Regardless of your religion, or what you might think of religion, God is real.  Faith is God’s gift to us – to see beyond the seen, to glimpse a world of purity, of beauty, perfection, and most of all love:  complete, total and unconditional love.   Personally I am taking the Year of Faith as a challenge and an opportunity.

So, what to do in the Year of Faith?

Keep a diary of your faith journey, or a prayer journal (just call it a diary if you are more comfortable with this).  When you look back week to week or month to month, you can more easily see what is often unseen:  where your faith has come, how your prayers may have been answered (heck, for me, I sometimes have to remember what I was praying for), and God at work in your life.

Pray.  Ask God for the gift of faith.  Ask him to strengthen and renew your faith and to lead you on the right path for your life.

  • If you are new to this, start simple.  Say the Glory Be. Or the Our Father.  Or the Hail Mary.  If you don’t know the words, make it up as you go along—God doesn’t mind.  He’s just happy to hear from you.
  • If you know and practice these prayers, take your prayer up a notch.  Try Grace before Meals (or a meal).  Check out the site Sacred Space.  Read and reflect on the Catholic Daily Devotions guide.  Join a prayer group that meets weekly or monthly.

Go to Church.

  • For newbies (or used-to-be’s) who might feel strange about this:  just go!  Catholic churches can be an easy start because they tend to be anonymous (for better and for worse – but you can always introduce yourself if you want.).  Go to Mass, sit and listen.  At a minimum, as you pass a church, pop inside for a quick prayer and look around.  Listen to your inner voice and try to hear God talking to you.  God is always talking to us, encouraging us.  And remember this:  God is never discouraging.  Never.
  • For all you church goers out there:  go more!  Are you a Sunday duty attender?  That’s okay, but to deepen your faith, find another Mass or service that calls to you.  It might be a weekday morning (they tend to be shorter – everyone is on their way to work.)  It might be an evening prayer liturgy, or the Catholic Adoration service.  You know.  It will come to you.  Just try it at least once, and see what gifts your receive.

Read the Scripture. Yes – the Bible.  It is the basis for Christian faith.  The wisdom from the words of this book are beyond compare.  The Bible is chock full of guidance and grounding.  It is also a history of our civilization, and the source of many phrases we commonly use today (‘Go the extra mile’, ‘for everything there is a season’, ‘labour of love’…).  And simply, the stories are great stories.

  • Personally I find the New Testament much easier to understand, so you might want to start here, with the life of Jesus.
  • To deepen your understanding, take a scripture study class.  These are becoming much more common in Catholic communities these days (check on-line or in the bulletin), and are often abundant in other Christian churches.

Do Service. Put perspective in your life, and reach out to those who have less, physically, materially, or spiritually.  This is as much for your good as for those you serve. Volunteer opportunities abound – do the one you’ve been thinking about.  Feel free to start small.

For me today, I am attending the Angelus at my children’s Catholic school this afternoon. (The Angelus is a short prayer honoring Jesus and Mary.)  The Church has been asked to ring their bells for three minutes to celebrate and witness our faith, our belief in God, and the beginning of this great year of renewal.

Our church is also celebrating with a liturgy and Adoration of the Eucharist this evening, which I plan on attending.  I have never been to Adoration before, find the name a little hard to get used to, and don’t quite know what I’m getting myself into.  But I am looking forward to it!  I always grow in my faith through these services, traditions and the Sacraments.  I love that about the Catholic Church.  Fear not – whether Catholic, lapsed, not Catholic, etc. you can renew your faith – just ask God to help you.