Source of Scandal 3: Disrespectful Teens at Mass

Once upon a time I had lots of ideas about how things should be, especially when it came to the behavior of people in Church.

Then God helped me mess everything up.

Part I, Part II

. . .

I die a little inside when I see good adult Catholics judge teens at mass for not behaving in a way that the adult deems appropriate. I despised Sundays as a teen. The selfish adults who believe that church exists to serve as their well-ordered club did nothing to draw me toward God. How could they draw me to God when all they really cared about was church as their place of perfection?

These days I hold my breath just a little when I go to church, praying that I will be surrounded by people Christlike enough to know that teens must be welcomed rather than scolded.

If someone were to watch my teen sister as we walk in to mass, they would see her ignore the holy water and move into the pew as if it were a seat at a movie theater. They might notice her reading a book at times, or even taking a drink from her water bottle. When it came time for the sign of peace, they would find her smirking as she reluctantly shook hands.

That is what they would see. What they should know though, is that it does not matter what they think they see, it is impossible to ever really see what someone else is going through.

My sister is not Catholic. She is still figuring things out in terms of faith. She comes to church with me only because she has a medical issue which requires that she not be alone. Her genuine, shy smile just so happens to look like a smirk. She does not encounter Christ directly through the Eucharist at mass, but she does encounter God through each person who graciously chooses to welcome her presence at church.

It does not matter whether it is a teen’s first time in church, or if they were confirmed last week after growing up in the pews. What matters is that you never truly know what is going on inside someone else’s head. And in the case of a teen who would rather not be at mass, it is of utmost importance to pray for them and try to make church clearly a place of love.

You don’t know how much a teen may be encountering God at church, and the only thing that you can control is whether they encounter God through you.

Catholic Fights, Community , ,

Epilepsy And The Immaculate Conception

While looking for Catholic resources for celebrating National Epilepsy Awareness Month I found “Seizures Among Public Figures: Lessons Learned From the Epilepsy of Pope Pius IX.”

It is clear that Pius IX had partial epilepsy resulting from a combination of anoxia from an accident at a young age and developmental anomalies, as evidenced by hemiplegia and facial asymmetry apparent from his photographs. Epilepsy clearly affected Pius IX’s choice of vocation and could have had a role in the historical context of Catholic doctrine.

Epilepsy greatly influenced Pius IX’s career. Because of his seizures, Pius IX’s goal of becoming a Papal Noble Guard was abandoned. As a result, he entered into the priesthood, leading him to the pathway of church leadership. Interestingly, Pius IX had to be decreed seizure free before he could be anointed a priest.

…approval of dogma on the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary was inherently Pius IX’s thanks to the Virgin Mary for having cured him of his epilepsy.

Epilepsy is largely ignored in my little corner of the Catholic world and so I find it astounding to think of a future pope having limitations placed on his celebration of the mass due to the disease.

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John of Ávila on Strength From Heaven

It seems that I must return to reading the Saints daily. There are so many things that I’ve never known, and yet that mountain can barely be seen because it is blocked by the more immediate pile of truth that I once knew but have forgotten.

Many times [the Lord] leaves [his own] in situations of such danger that they find no place to stand and do not find within themselves one hair of strength on which to depend.  They are not able to benefit from favors they received from God in times past.  They remain as though naked and in deep darkness, handed over to the persecution of their enemies.  But suddenly, when they are not expecting it, the Lord visits and frees them.  He leaves them stronger than they were before and puts their enemies under their feet.

The soul, though naturally weaker than the demon, senses within itself strength so powerful that it seems to tear the demon to pieces, like something very weak and without resistance.  It would dear to fight with a great number of devils, not only with one.  Such is the strength that the soul feels has come to it anew from heaven, that not only defends itself, but it also says like David: “I will pursue my enemies and will overtake them, and I will not return until they are overcome.  I will break them and they shall not be able to stand, and they shall fall beneath my feet” (Ps 18:38-39).                                   -John of Ávila in Audi, filia



Where Is God When I Am In Pain?

Where are you when I am in pain? Are you in the pain? Are you inviting me into it, gently coaxing me to find you in the midst of it?

Where are you when I am in pain? Are you beyond the pain, urging me on to move past it to meet you on the other side?

Where are you when I am in pain? Are you in those dearest to me, those who need me, the same ones whom I am not helping today because I cannot even help myself?

How on earth should I live well in pain when I cannot even see where you are?

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Those Who Pray Never Lose Hope

For Rhonda:

I know well that the principal service I can render to the Church and to humanity is, precisely, prayer, for in praying I confidently place in the Lord’s hands the ministry that he himself has entrusted to me, together with the future of the entire ecclesial and civil communities.

Those who pray never lose hope, even when they find themselves in a difficult and even humanly hopeless plight. Sacred Scripture teaches us this and Church history bears witness to this.

In fact, how many examples we could cite of situations in which it was precisely prayer that sustained the journey of Saints and of the Christian people! (Source)

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Cyril, Monk, and Methodius, Bishop

You know the worst part about Ash Wednesday falling on February 13th?

It means that February 14th is totally overlooked, and with it, the great Saint Valentine Saints Cyril and Methodius.

Pope Leo XIII wrote of Cyril and Methodius that “As they began their journey through Bulgaria, which had already been converted to Christianity, they let pass no opportunity for increasing the faith. Upon reaching Moravia, they were met by a large crowd who had come with great desire and joy to greet them. Without delay the apostles strove to penetrate their minds with the doctrines of Christianity and to raise their hopes to heavenly things. They did this with so much force and with such energetic zeal that in a very short rime the Moravian people gave themselves to Jesus Christ.”

They let pass no opportunity for increasing the existing faith among those who already believed, and they raised the hopes of those who did not yet believe. If only half of that could be said of half of us who follow them!

Of course things never go too smoothly with Saints: “They were accused of acting in opposition to ancient customs and contrary to holy rites in making use of the Slavic language for religious matters. However, they pleaded their cause with such indisputable and noble reasoning that the pope and all the clergy praised them and approved their course of action.” Ah, how wonderful it is to be able to gloss over the struggles of our past as a Church and to celebrate what has been achieved!

I have no doubt that I would choose Cyril’s life over Methodius’ any day. Cyril got to die early, known to this day as a monk. Methodius had to watch his brother die, and end up in exile while trying to run a troubled young diocese, as it were. The story of his life reads as one unending battle to convert others and simultaneously defend himself against accusations that he violated tradition in his work of conversion.

And after all of that they are still ignored by so many!

Prayer of Saint Cyril from the Office of Readings:

O Lord, my God, you have created the choirs of angels and spiritual powers; you have stretched forth the heavens and established the earth, creating all that exists from nothing. You hear those who obey your will and keep your commands in holy fear. Hear my prayer and protect your faithful people, for you have established me as their unsuitable and unworthy servant.

Keep them free from harm and the worldly cunning of those who blaspheme you. Build up your Church and gather all into unity. Make your people known for the unity and profession of their faith. Inspire the hearts of your people with your word and your teaching. You called us to preach the Gospel of your Christ and to encourage them to lives and works pleasing to you.

I now return to you, your people, your gift to me. Direct them with your powerful right hand, and protect them under the shadow of your wings. May all praise and glorify your name, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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The Pope is the Pope (until he isn’t)

This is yet another entry in a set of posts about things that I tell my sisters. It may not make much sense to you if you do not come from the same place as my sisters and I do.

What I tell my sisters about Pope Benedict’s resignation.

Shortly after I walked in the door from work, one of my sisters announced that she and my other sister wanted me to tell them why the Pope quit. 

It is not so much that Pope Benedict is quitting, as he is dedicating himself to prayer and making space for someone else to lead the Church. The Pope is old and sick and tired. Before Pope Benedict was pope, he watched John Paul II get very sick. He saw, perhaps as closely as anyone possibly could, how the Church continued on without the Pope’s active leadership, even though there was technically a pope since John Paul II was still alive. Pope Benedict knows more than we ever could about how not only the Church as a  whole, but the Vatican itself works, and what it means to have a Pope who cannot fulfill his responsibilities due to deteriorating health.

In general, bishops resign at the age of 75, and cardinals over the age of 80 do not vote when it is time to choose the next pope. Pope Benedict is 85 years old. He is the bishop of Rome, and as such, he has special rights and responsibilities. But any other bishop would have been relieved of this tremendous burden years ago. The Catholic Church does not generally teach that leaders are to be crushed by the weight of their duties until they are dead.

Canon law holds that “A diocesan bishop who has become less able to fulfill his office because of ill health or some other grave cause is earnestly requested to present his resignation from office.”  No one can require the Bishop of Rome to resign. Everyone should accept with humility the decision of the Bishop of Rome to act with humility in declaring what is best for the Church due to the limitations of his health.

Lent is a time of penance and change as we make our way to the joys of Easter. The suffering involved with this transition is wonderfully timed for this season. It is a perfect time to thank God quietly for the gift of the papacy and of Joseph Ratzinger’s incredibly lengthy ministry.

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The Bishop Hat

What you see here, my friends, is a bishop. A bishop wearing a hat. Actually, I’m about 95% certain that he is a certain Archbishop, but I’d like to leave that to you to guess anyway.

You also see the seminarians wearing hats appropriate to their role (I know this is quite a controversial view, but I personally do not believe that seminarians must always be required to wear birettas on cold winter days ;-) ).

I believe that this bishop’s hat needs an official designation as a bishops’ hat, to be worn during specific liturgical functions (namely during works of mercy performed in the winter).

For some reason bishops love these hats, and it thus I was forced to do a double take during the March for Life whenever I saw said hat. It was incredibly confusing, not to mention disappointing, when a longer glance revealed that it was an impostor rather than a bishop!

In order to reduce such problems we need the Vatican to step in here. We may not be able to prevent everyone else from wearing them, but at least the March for Life will be one place where one can know that any man wearing such a hat is certainly a bishop.

There is a time and a place for everything, and sometimes a mitre or zucchetto just won’t cut it.


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March For All Life

One of the many complaints I have heard about the March for Life is that it is only about abortion, not really about the complete sanctity of life.

If you share this concern, then I urge you to join these women and march for every human life next year. If the march does not adequately reflect pro-life concerns, then perhaps those who are able to see the problem should do what they can to remedy the situation.

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The Un-Lost Son

I never understood the story of the Prodigal Son. Well, I understood the parable of the actual lost son and his father, but I live in certain circles, and in certain circles one comes quickly to think that the story of the story of the lost son is really about his older brother.

Now the older son had been out in the field and, on his way back, as he neared the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing. He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean.

The servant said to him, ‘Your brother has returned and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

He became angry, and when he refused to enter the house, his father came out and pleaded with him. He said to his father in reply, ‘Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends. But when your son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.’

He said to him, ‘My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’” (Luke 15)

Who thinks like that?

I did not grow up with the material wealth that makes inheritance a meaningful concept, but I did grow up with siblings whom I adored. I could not understand valuing anything more than my siblings, and I certainly could not imagine feeling entitled to get more from God than others who weren’t entirely perfect.

I have struggled to understand those who feel sincerely hurt by God because they believe that their good behavior entitles them to a spouse or health or a house or a child. I never knew what to say to one who thought herself cheated when people who have apparently lived less virtuously enjoy the blessings which she was denied. I knew firsthand that it can sometimes be a challenge to celebrate with those who have what we do not, but I simply could not grasp the suffering that comes from thinking that God owes one something.

But then a month or two ago I started thinking about how dreadfully unfair my husband’s life is. He has done everything right, and yet instead of getting the natural positive consequences of his choices, he spends his days paying for the sins of others.

One day I told him that I thought it was ridiculous that one person in particular was able to do the wrong thing with no consequences while my husband–who did the difficult, correct thing in that same area of his own life–now literally pays the bill for this other person’s selfish decisions. My husband told me that he believes that the other person does pay in another way. I told him that I understand in terms of eternal consequences, but it still seems absurd that reality here and now does not match up with are actions. He responded that he believes that the other person is suffering now, we just cannot know about it.

Perhaps even the person suffering does not realize that he is suffering, much less that he is suffering for his sins.

And suddenly, I got it. I understood it all.

My husband lives with God here and now. He truly believes that being “here with me always” in God’s presence is of utmost value, and that to choose anything else, even for a period of time, is to pay dreadfully for one’s choice. Because he lives with God, he does not notice the practical injustice of his life and the fact that he is virtuous without reward. He would vehemently insist that virtue is, in fact, its own reward. In fact, I know that when he reads this post he will think that I am making him look too holy, because this is just the way that he lives.

Somehow, I now understand. I see why people feel that the reality of goodness without reward is unfair. I also see why it does not matter at all for one who truly lives with God.

Catholic Fights