Monday, July 27, 2009

Reflection: Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Once again, I bring you the weekly Following the Message question/reflection on the Gospel. This week we moved from Mark, which we had been reading most of this year, to John. And even better, from one of my favorite chapters in John's Gospel!! So here we go:

For all the readings for this Sunday follow this link to the USCCB page.

The question: How have I experienced the superabundant generosity of God?

Alternate questions for kids: When was I overwhelmed by a great gift?

Jesus' miraculous multiplication of the loaves and fish not only fed the vast crowd, but it far exceeded their desires. This miracle, prefiguring Jesus' offering of himself in the Eucharist, illustrates that God's generosity is boundless. Indeed, God's generosity is at the very root of creation itself. "St. Bonaventure explains that God created all things not to increase his glory, but to show it forth and to communicate it, for God has no other reason for creating than his love and goodness" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 293). "We believe that (creation) proceeds from God's free will; he wanted to make his creatures share in his being, wisdom, and goodness (CCC 295). We offer "a sacrifice of praise in thanksgiving" for creation at every Eucharist. "In the Eucharistic sacrifice the whole of creation loved by God is presented to the Father through the death and the Resurrection of Christ" (CCC 1359). Through the Eucharist, "the Church expresses her gratitude to God for all of his benefits, for all that he has accomplished through creation, redemption, and sanctification. Eucharist means first of all 'thanksgiving'" (CCC 1360).

Reflecting on the Gospel passage of the feeding of the 5,000 and this question of how I have experienced the superabundant generosity of God, I realize that I could go a number of ways with this. Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of time, since it's already late and I'm leaving town tomorrow. But I want to try and at least offer a small reflection on this.

First there is the obvious answer to this question. Of course, the most amazing gift ever would be Christ dying on the cross for our sins. Every Christian would agree with this. But as is revealed in the Catechism passages quoted above, there is this and much more in the Eucharist, which this Gospel passage prefigures (we're close, just need to go deeper into John 6). The Eucharist is such an amazing gift!! To be able to actually consume the flesh and blood of our savior is an extraordinary miracle!! And we can experience this every Sunday ... every day actually. As I mentioned in a previous post, I have started attending daily mass and one of the best parts about doing that is being able to participate in the Eucharistic celebration every day! Every day!! How extraordinary!

There is one other way I see the generosity of God. I hesitate to go do this direction, but I'm being brave (picture a brave face, please) and I'm going there. I read the question and I read the paragraph of CCC quotes and I think about life, namely children. God creates life: He does it out of love, He gives us free will so that we will freely choose to love Him. And this is His amazing, superabundant, generous gift to us. Life! And so many people I know (soooooo many) see that every day when they look at their children. They see God's gift of life to their children and it reminds them that God gave them this gift as well, and those children are placed in their lives to form as His people. It's an amazing responsibility and an amazing gift. It's something I'm constantly reminded of (what's the count up to now for 2009?? Anyone know? I think I lost count, must be about 15-20 babies born to family and friends of mine just this year), it hurts a lot, but I am still happy for those who get to experience this life-giving gift everyday.

It also reminds me of a discussion I got into online recently. The discussion had to do with suicide, in particular the pros and cons of assisted suicide. I feel that it is wrong and most of the others within this discussion felt that it wasn't. For me, my world view is formed based on my morals and values. If I value life as a gift from our Father in heaven, than suidcie would be like throwing that gift away. You are basically telling God that you don't care for this gift of life He has given you and you're thowing it back at Him.

Life is a gift!! I see the generosity of God in my life, in the fact that He gave me life and just in everyday things that are a part of my life; I see it in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross; and I see it in the Eucharist, the source and summit of our faith. I felt it too, when I was pregnant, particularly the second time. I felt that gift of life in me, that developing baby that would one day be in my arms. And I would sit in front of the Eucharist in adoration every Monday with that life growing inside of me and I would be overwhelmed. It is overwhelming, plain and simple.

Your turn: How have you experienced the superabundant generosity of God? All comments are welcome (just don't expect me to respond this week, I'm leaving town and will be sans Internet!).

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Reflection: 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The readings for this Sunday were great!! I think, for me, some of my reaction also had to do with attending daily mass this past week and hearing readings from the Book of Exodus each day. Monday was about the Hebrew woman who hid her baby for three months, then put it in a basket in the river and Pharoah's daughter found it and named the baby Moses. From there, the rest of the week was about Moses' life, ending on Friday with God telling him to lead the Isrealites out of Egypt. After listening to that all week, to then get these readings today with the overall theme of the shepherd was really amazing. I'm so glad I've decided to start attending daily mass again, it's been years and I was really missing it!

So, the readings can be found here: Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time. These are a great combination of readings!

The question for the week: When have I freely given up my time to help someone in need?

This Gospel passage calls to mind our own shepherds, our priests. "Called to consecrate themselves with undivided heart to the Lord and to the affairs of the Lord, they give themselves entirely to God and to (us)" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1579). The sacrament of Holy Orders configures the priest to Christ and confers upon him an "indelible spiritual character" (CCC 1581-82). Therefore, through the priest, "it is Christ himself who is present to his Church as Head of his Body, Shepherd of his flock, high priest of the redemptive sacrifice, Teacher of Truth" (CCC 1548). Because the priest acts in the person of Christ, Pope Benedict XVI has spoken of the "necessary, indeed indispensable, aspiration to moral perfection that must dwell in every authentically priestly heart. Precisely to encourage priests in this striving for spiritual perfection on which, above all, the effectiveness of their ministry depends, I have decided to establish a special 'Year for Priests' that will begin on 19 June and last until 19 June 2010. In fact, it is the 150th anniversary of the death of the Holy Cure' d'Ars, John Mary Vianney, a true example of a pastor at the service of Christ's flock." Let us observe this year by praying in a special way for our priests, who dedicate their lives to minister to us. For more information on the Year for Priests, visit the USCCB's Year for Priests page.

There are two things I want to do in this post and one thing I won't do. I am not going to discuss the Year for Priests here because I have done so already in some earlier posts. What I am planning on doing is first answering this week's Following the Message question and then, second, I want to share some thoughts I had regarding this combination of readings from Jeremiah, Ephesians, the Gospel of Mark and the famous Psalm 23.

When I started contemplating this question regarding when I've given up my time to help someone else in need, I couldn't really think of anything I've done lately. I have done some small things in the past like assisting to serve a meal to the homeless at the Catholic Action Center, assisting with some event or other at Church, helping to fix up a playground that was falling apart at a school when I was in college, and other similar things. There are a number of small things we do every day as well. Most of these don't take any great amount of time, but I do find that sometimes you do have to take a moment you might not have used before to help someone else. For example, stopping to hold a door open for an elderly person or a mother dragging a toddler and pushing a baby in a stroller, or stopping to pick something up that a stranger dropped and getting it back to them. I'm sure we could all think of small things like this that we have done to help those around us.

One time I witnessed a car accident when I was in a hurry and running late for something. But regardless of what I was running late for I knew instantly that it could wait. I stopped, checked one those who were involved, called 911 and talked to the dispatcher, and waited for the police to arrive. Luckily no one was seriously hurt, but it was scary nonetheless. It was clear who was at fault and once the police were there and decided they didn't need my statement (though I gave my number to the guy who was hit just in case) I was able to leave.

I sometimes wish I could do more. I have wanted to help out in many ways, but I often can't actually be present for things. I have donated items to pregnancy help centers on several occasions, which I know is a way of helping those in need, and Chris and I do contribute financially to a number of charities we believe in. But I often feel that I lack in "action" or "works." The Catholic radio station in town has a short spot each week from the Bishop that plays during commercial breaks. In them he always mentions something about the readings, usually the Gospel reading, and invites listeners to come to church on Sunday. So this past week, his spot kind of hit struck me as relevant to my own recent thoughts. He said something about how Jesus invites us this to week to come rest in him and by resting in him our faith leads us to action and our actions lead us to deeper prayer. Or something like that! I only caught it once or twice and my memory isn't good. Regardless, it was an interesting message (plus I remember thinking that it sounds a lot like what I learned in Cursillo, and the Bishop is also a Cursillista).

My conclusion for this part of my post, I need to be more aware of my actions. I need to recognize when people around me are in need and I need to be willing to give of my time to help them.

This goes well with my second thought about this Sunday's readings, namely the idea of social justice. For several years I participated in a group that met weekly to read and discuss the readings for the upcoming Sunday (I met my husband at this group too!). Participating in that group for several years gave me a new understanding for the combination of readings we have each Sunday. They are not randomly selected and they usually all relate to each other in some way. Not only that but we read a good chunck of several parts of the Bible over the course of a year within the Liturgy of the Word at Mass each week. This week's readings are a great example of that.

In Jeremiah we hear about the Shepherd who will bring the scattered flocks back together again. The one who will do this will bring Israel security and will be the "Lord of Justice." Then we sing Psalm 23: "The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want." What a great reminder about how the Lord will always provide for us just as a shepherd provides for his sheep! The second reading from the letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians really spoke to me. Paul tells the Ephesians about peace, several times. In the Lord our God we find peace, and really when we know the Lord takes care of our every need (like a shepherd) why wouldn't we feel at peace. Finally in Mark's Gospel we see the apostles returning from their journies of preaching and healing (see last week's Gospel) and Jesus invites them to come and rest from their hard work. But the people are desperate to hear more from Jesus and they follow them. Jesus is moved by pity and teaches them. I love the line that says "for they were like sheep without a shepherd," which is a great reminder of the first reading.

Why do I see a theme of social justice in this? I think it's a combination of things. We have these readings with the shepherd theme coming out all over the place and the idea of the Lord of Justice and Peace, plus our Pope recently released his latest encyclical which has been called in a few places his social justice encyclical. On top of that, thinking about how our belief in Jesus Christ, the shepherd of all peoples, leads us to action makes me reflect on how we should be acting to bring about good in this world because of our faith.

I haven't yet read the new ecyclical, but I do hope to soon (although this is his third and I haven't read the second one yet either). I have, though, heard it discussed and heard small portions of it quoted. And from what little I have heard the spirit of it seems to reflect very much this idea of action and works because of our faith. The readings on this sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time seem to go alone well with this theme.

I think I have a lot to reflect on for the rest of the week!

How about you?? Any thoughts on these readings or on the question? When have you freely given up your time to help someone in need?

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Reflection: Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

We've had a very busy last couple of days, so this reflection is a little delayed. At long last, here we go!

This past Sunday was the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time. The readings can be found here: Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time. I love the connection between the first reading in Amos where Amos tells the priest that he's just a shepherd doing what the Lord asked of him and the Gospel from Mark where Jesus sends the Twelve apostles out to preach and heal and cast out demons. I love how the readings are always so well put together!!

This week's question: In what ways do I help to spread the Gospel?

"The whole Church is apostolic, in that she remains, through the successors of St. Peter and the other apostles, in communion of faith and life with her origin: and in that she is 'sent out' into the world. All members of the Church share in this mission, though in various ways" (Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 863). Because we "are entrusted by God with the apostolate by virtue of (our) Baptism and Confirmation, (we) have the right and duty, individually or grouped in associations, to work so that the divine message of salvation may be known and accepted by all men throughout the earth" (CCC 900). "It is from God's love for all men that the Church in every age receives both the obligation and the vigor of her missionary dynamism, for the love of Christ urges us on" (CCC 851).

The above excerpts reminded me of part of a lecture we recently went to where the Bishop was the speaker. The lecture was part of a series of lectures with the overriding theme of the sacraments. This last lecture was on the two service sacraments: Holy Orders and Marriage. It was a really great lecture; our Bishop is a wonderful speaker and I always learn something when I attend a lecture of his. During the talk, while he was on the topic of Holy Orders he mentioned that we are all, as a community of baptised Catholics, a priestly people. He had a lot more to say in a much more eloquent way that I do, but essentially we all are called to evangelize the faith in some way, whether we are ordained priests or not. It's a thought-provoking concept if you've never thought of it that way before.

Back to the question, how do I help to spread the Gospel? Well, for one thing, posting on this blog my reflections on the Gospel each week is one way. In addition, I am being more bold in being a voice of the morals and values I believe in as a result of my Catholic faith. I have become engaged in conversations on a variety of posts I've seen on Facebook and some message boards I belong to. I've gotten into debates on abortion, contraception, and suicide, to name a few. In some of these cases I am speaking with people who have completely opposite views from me and in others I am speaking with other Catholics who are questioning things in our common faith. Either way, I hope that when I speak I am allowing the Holy Spirit to guide me in choosing my words well.

Those sorts of things are great to do, but I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes from St. Francis of Assisi: "Always preach the Gospel and, only when necessary, use words." These are powerful words from that great Saint! I love them and try to remind myself of this whenever possible. I remember leaving Church on Sundays as a kid and we'd be in the car trying to get out of the parking lot (we went to a huge church and the parking lot was always packed!) and someone wouldn't let us out, or into a line of exiting traffic, or cut us off or something and my mother would always wonder aloud how people can leave church and then be so rude in the parking lot. What a great image!! (And this would really make sense to you if you could have seen the maze of cars and how they packed them all into this parking lot!). It's so true that we see people all the time who claim to be Christian but don't act it. How much different the world would be if more people actually acted in a way that conformed more with the faith they claim to profess. I know I'm not perfect and, like everyone else, I make mistakes and I slip up (insert plug for the Sacrament of Reconciliation here!), but I hope that I do act, more often than not, in a way that reflects to others that I am a moral, Christian person. I strongly believe that our actions often do speak louder than our words.

Interestingly enough, Theology on Tap started this past Monday and the Bishop was our first speaker. The theme for this 6-week series is "Beyond Sunday" and his topic was evangelization. How funny that we have this reading about Jesus sending the apostles out to evangelize and the very next day we begin a series of talks on how we can better live our faith in our everyday lives! The wisdom of the Holy Spirit never ceases to amaze!!

(Quick advertisement.) If you're in Lexington (or close enough to get here for an evening) stop by and check out Theology on Tap. Have a beer, some food and fellowship, and enjoy a talk from an engaging speaker. We meet at Shooters on Southland Dr. about 6:30, talk is at 7:00pm. Every Monday through August 17.

One last thing. I look forward to one day sharing the faith and the Gospel with my children. I am so looking forward to one day sharing the joy of the Catholic faith with my own children and being an example for them of how to live the faith. I think any parent that works at doing this is truly doing the work of God in abundant ways. So for all you parents out there: keep working at it! I hope to join your ranks one day myself.

So now it's your turn. In what ways do you help to spread the Gospel? I look forward to seeing your comments!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Adoring Christ: Heaven on Earth

Ever heard someone refer to something as like "heaven on Earth"? People may say this about some awesome dessert or a beautiful view from atop a mountain after a long hike, or any number of things. So many amazing things can be described this way and I'm sure I've used that phrase myself once or twice. But lately I've had that experience at times when people would probably not normally think of it: during Mass or in front of the Eucharist in adoration.

Last night we attended a young adult event at a nearby Catholic Church. The event had a social time a wonderful talk by one of our wonderful priests, and some praise and worship music, but at the core of the evening was adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. I had a very moving experience during part of the evening, but to understand why it was so moving for me I have to give a little background.

After we lost our first baby, Casey in March 2008, going to Mass was really hard for me. I cried a lot and particularly during some of the Eucharistic prayers the priest would say. Eventually this subsided and I could sing again and get through mass without the tears. Then we lost the second baby, Zachary in January 2009. All those emotions came back again. I couldn't sing in Church and certian prayers would set me off. Sometimes things said in a homily would bring me to tears as well. In particular I found that when the priest used the Prayer before we sing the "Holy, holy, holy" that says something like, "and we join with the choirs of angels and all the saints as we sing ..." that would really move me (I think it's in the Eucharistic Prayer II, but I'm not sure). This prayer leads into the "Holy, holy, holy" and at times I could even feel my arms aching, like they would if you were holding a child. Eventually this got easier as well and I didn't cry at Mass nearly as much.

Part of the reason that really moved me was that I could envision tons of angels and tons of saints (including my two children) surrounding the altar at those moments, kneeling in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on the altar. And our church has a big, huge open altar with lots of room around the Eucharistic Table. I would just get overwhelmed! We learn that heaven and earth come together during the Mass and particularly during the Eucharistic celebration we get a taste for heaven.

When I attended the Cursillo retreat in May, and in Cursillo meetings I've attended since, I have started focusing more on when I have "close moments" with God. In addition I recently finished reading the book The Lamb's Supper by Scott Hahn, and he talks a lot about the "Holy, holy, holy" and how the Mass is a reflection of the Book of Revelation which is a reflection of Heaven. All those things combined have really made the Mass very meaningful for me.

So last night at this Young Adult thing called The Summit we had Adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament, the Real Presence of Christ. The first half of adoration was silent reflection but during the second half they played and we sang some praise music. The words of one of the songs had a lot of "holy, holy"'s in it and I really felt that "close moment" again. I also felt that presence again of tons of angels and saints also adoring Christ in the Eucharist. When I get that feeling I feel that my children are also there amongst the saints. It's an awesome feeling. So awesome, in fact, that it moves me to tears.

So last night, and more and more often during Mass, I have these close moments and at those moments I feel that Heaven and Earth are coming together. Particularly during the consecration of the host when it becomes the body and blood of Jesus Christ, because it is usually during those moments when I am reminded that the angels and saints in heaven are also adoring Christ at that very same moment. This is not something I feel at every mass nor at each time I attend adoration, and I know that it won't always be there.

But I love it when it is there and when that presence can be felt surrounding us. Feeling that presence is so awesome. For me, that is truly Heaven on Earth.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

This Sunday's "Following the Message" question has been a tough one for me. The Gospel passage is from Mark 6:1-6. Although the "Following the Message" exercise is specifically related to the Gospel passage, I found the first reading to have some interesting parallels, which is often the case (for some reason the second reading is often harder to relate to the others, at least for me). Sunday's first reading was from Ezekiel 2:2-5.

Question: When have I been surprised to find holiness in everyday life?
Alternate question for kids: When have I misjudged someone?

From the bulletin:
Jesus is amazed at the lack of faith among the people of his own town of Nazareth, who take offense at him. Having known him and his family for years, they cannot reconcile the ordinariness of Jesus' life with his profound teaching and his performing mighty deeds. "During the greater part of his life, Jesus shared the condition of the vast majority of human beings: a daily life spent without evident greatness, a life of manual labor" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 531). "The obedience of Christ in the daily routine of his hidden life was already inaugurating his work of restoring what the disobedience of Adam had destroyed. The hidden life at Nazareth allows everyone to enter into fellowship with Jesus by the most ordinary events of daily life" (CCC 532-33). "For all (our) works, prayers, and apostolic undertakings, family and married life, daily work, relaxation of mind and body, if they are accomplished in the Spirit -- indeed even the hardships of life if patiently borne -- all these become spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (CCC 901).

Reading the excerpts from the Catechism in the above paragraph gets me thinking about the concept of redemptive suffering. I attended a lecture not too long ago on this topic and it is probably one of the hardest concepts to fully grasp. But each time I read about it or hear a talk about it I feel that I come away with a bit more understanding. The idea of suffering being a part of our everyday lives here on Earth is a difficult one. No one wants to hear that to be holy you will have to suffer. More and more in this day and age, people want things to be easy. It's just not so.

I said above that I found this question very difficult to reflect on. For me this is probably because I know that I am not very good at seeing holiness is everyday things. But there is so much holiness around us! It's in the chores we do, our work, loving our family (especially when they are not being very lovable), and in the strangers around us. And as I type I realize that I do have one example I can share from my life.

My husband and I both knew, without even discussing it, that we would follow the teachings of the Catholic Church on contraception in our marriage. In other words, we would not use any artificial means of birth control. The Church teaches that it is wrong and we both knew that we wanted to uphold the teachings of the Church in our sacramental marriage. This was a big step for me because I was very much ingrained in a culture with a contraceptive mentality. This step took faith, trust in God, and quite a bit of suffering. We decided to learn a method of Natural Family Planning to help us understand my fertility better and to be able to help us plan for our family in cooperation with God.

In our culture, there is this idea that two people (any two people) can have sex anytime they want. But that is not how God designed it. Sex is intended for marriage only, and I encountered a lot of amazement that both my husband and I had never had sex prior to our marriage, especially because we were both already in our thirties! Oh the horrors!! Not only that, but when people find out that you aren't using any form of artificial birth control they think you are nuts. Why? Because it would be too hard!! Or, you'll have a dozen children. I want to expound on the aspect of suffering in regard to the practice of NFP.

By the way, a bit of a side note: NFP is a generic term for a host of methods. All are natural, no chemicals in your body, no side-effects, no long-term effects that will cause you problems later in life. The most commonly thought of method is the Rhythm Method, but this is an old-fashioned method that I don't hear of anyone using any more. We use the sympto-thermal method (STM) as taught by the Couple to Couple League. There is also Creighton, Billings, Marquette, and many others.

The thing that people find so "hard" about the thought of using NFP is that if you have reason to avoid a pregnancy, there is some abstaining that has to happen. My doctor actually said to me once, "You have to have quite a strong will for that!" I was a little taken-aback by her comment, but I let it go, knowing that the medical establishment feels more comfortable putting chemicals into your body to prevent pregnancy than actually taking the time to learn and understand your fertility signs. I don't understand the problem with abstinence. Yes, it can be difficult, but don't people abstain when their spouse is out of town, or when one of you is sick for a week or more, or what about for 6 weeks after the birth of a baby (or however long you're told to abstain after going through childbirth). Abstaining is part of marriage, even for those using birth control. So what is the difference?

For us, we have suffered in a variety of ways, but through it all we grow in holiness. I've learned that after a pregnancy loss, we have to abstain for a time, and then I've learned that my cycles are completely out of whack. And that gets frustrating when we want to start to try again and my cycles disrupt our efforts every two weeks. My fertility signs are kind of all over the place, but despite the difficulties, we know we are doing the right thing.

It's difficult at times, but we are following what we believe to be God's will for us. We have to trust in Him and we have to suffer the rejection from the culture around us. But in the end it will all be worth it. Christianity is hard, and for us, this is part of being a Christian. It may be difficult at times to completely trust God and it might be frustrating to not get the results we want, but God knows what He is doing. I have to keep reminding myself of that. And I know that we are growing in holiness through our perseverance.

I do want to say that I found it interesting in this Gospel passage from Mark that we see Jesus hurt by the rejection of his family and friends. We are used to seeing Jesus as suffering for us all through His dying for us on the cross. That is an extraordinary act of suffering! But to see Him suffer in a way that many of us can relate to in a much more human way is also amazing. It's too easy (at least for me) to forget that Jesus is both divine AND human. This passage illustrates that well. It also shows that He persevered, a good lesson for us all.

So tell me: When have you been surprised to find holiness in everyday life? What are your thoughts on this question?

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Activities for the Year of the Priest

On June 19, Pope Benedict proclaimed the beginning of the Year of the Priest. With all the difficulties our wonderful priests have had to face during the last decade (and really for centuries, from Peter and the Apostles all the way to today) this is a good time for us to remember how important our priests are.

This morning our newest priest presided over the Mass that my husband and I attended. It was this priest's first Sunday Mass as an associate pastor at the Cathedral parish. In his rather short homily he said some wonderful things, but there was one thing that stuck out for me as I think about the Year of the Priest. He said his job is to get us to Heaven, even if he has to drag us there kicking and screaming, he just wants us there. His statement summed up for me just how important our priests are.

Our priests have jobs that never end. They are called in the middle of the night, anytime during the day, in the wee hours of the morning, and they respond. They look after the church building, the church community, administer the sacraments, in some cases daily, and offer up the Mass every day. And the most important sacrament of all is the Eucharist. Without the Eucharist we are not the Catholic Church. And without the priest we can not have the Eucharist. And the devil knows this. The attacks on our priests that we have seen over the last decade, in particular, are a testament to the fact that the devil does exist.

So during this Year of the Priest, please pray for our priests! Also, pray for vocations to the priesthood. Priests are desperately needed, there is a shortage everywhere. Again, the devil is hard at work.

As for me, I am going to try to remember our priests in my prayers and to pray for vocations to the priesthood. In my own vocation as a married person I also pray that I may be blessed with a son one day who would consider a priestly vocation. In addition to prayer, my Cursillo small group has agreed that we would read the book 101 Inspirational Stories of the Priesthood together. Later in the year we hope to read a biography of St. John Vianney as well (the patron saint of parish priests, who will be named the patron saint of all priests at the conclusion of the Year of the Priest). Finally, my church has started a vocations prayer in our parish. They have a crucifix and a paper with some suggested prayers. Each Sunday they ask for a volunteer to take it for the week and pray for vocations as a family that week. Then you bring it back the next Sunday and another volunteer is found. At some point over the course of the year, I imagine that I'll volunteer Chris and I for this.

Also, this coming Tuesday, the Bishop will be closing the Second Annual Bishop's Cathedral Lecture Series with a talk on the two service sacraments: Marriage and Holy Orders. If you're in Lexington and want to hear more about the Priesthood, this would be a good lecture to attend. Reception at 6:30, lecture 7-9, at the Cathedral in Hehman Hall.

Those are my plans for the year. Anyone else thought about anything special you can do during this Year of the Priest??

In closing, I found this quote that illustrates so clearly the importance of our priests in our Catholic Faith:

"In awe should all men tremble,
the whole earth quake,
and the heavens shout for joy,
when Christ, the Son of the Living God,
is present upon the Altar
in the consecrated hands of a Priest."
--St. Francis of Assisi

My reflection on this Sunday's Gospel will be coming shortly. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

We were out of town this past weekend and went to church on Sunday at the parish in Little Rock, AR where my husband had gone to school for 1st-8th grades. It was a nice church and the priest that is currently there gave a very nice homily about the end of the Year of St. Paul (ended June 29) and the beginning of the Year of the Priest (started June 19). He used that opportunity to ask the congregation to pray for all priests. I enjoyed his homily, unfortunately he didn't really talk about the Gospel much. So my reflection below is entirely my own with no influence from the homily I heard following the proclamation of the Gospel on Sunday.

As a result of our travels, I didn't pick up a bulletin from my church until Monday morning when I was there for my Adoration hour and it has taken me until now to sit down with it and think about the "Following the Message" question for this week. The gospel reading for this past Sunday was Mark 5:21-43. In this passage we see Jesus and the apostles being approached by a man who's daughter is very sick. On the way to his house a crowd gathers and a woman who has been suffering for 12 years from hemorrhaging touches Jesus' cloak and is cured. Jesus also raises the young girl up (she had died by the time He arrived). Read the passage in Mark for the fuller story, that's just my quick summary.

The question this week: When have I stepped out boldly in faith?
(Sorry, no alternate question for kids this time.)

Along with the question, our bulletin provides some additional food for thought. Here is that text:
This Gospel passage highlights the crucial importance of having faith, and acting upon it. "Faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by him" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 153). "Believing is possible only by grace and the interior helps of the Holy Spirit. But it is no less true that believing is an authentically human act," wherein our intellect and will are actively engaged in "trusting in God and cleaving to the truths he has revealed" (CCC 154). "To live, grow, and persevere in the faith until the end, we must nourish it with the word of God; we must beg the Lord to increase our faith; it must be working through charity, abounding in hope, and rooted in the faith of the Church" (CCC 162). "The disciple of Christ must not only keep the faith and live on it, but also profess it, confidently bear witness to it, and spread it" (CCC 1816).

When I first read the question the only thing that came to mind was defending the faith, but I don't think that's what the question is really getting at. Given the Gospel reading for this past Sunday, I keep thinking about the woman who was seeking healing. She had great faith!! She knew that she would be healed if she could only just touch Him. She knew this because of her faith. That got me thinking more about just how strong my faith is. Am I that confident that I can just know without a doubt that Jesus could also do something for me the same as this woman. It's hard to admit, but I'm not sure I am that strong. It is human to have doubts and to be a bit sceptical. I have been contemplating this Gospel reading since I first heard it during Mass on Sunday (mostly because I know I was going to be writing about it) and the more and more I think about it the more I admire the woman in the passage. What an amazing faith!!

Then I read the excerpts from the Catechism that I quoted above and that got me thinking more. (That is the whole point of this, isn't it?) Those excerpts really help me put it into perspective. Faith is something that has to grow in us and doesn't happen all at once. It develops over our lifetime and the whole time we have the help of the Holy Spirit in us to help us along the way. I am only starting to learn to listen to the Holy Spirit more and more in my life. The HS is the one part of the Holy Trinity I always tend to overlook. But I am starting to get better about recognizing the importance of It and over time will hopefully learn to listen more.

But back to the question itself: have I ever stepped out boldly in faith? I keep getting stuck on the word "boldly." And I keep coming back to defending the faith. I have stepped out a number of times in defensive of some misunderstanding in regard to the Catholic faith. I have stepped out boldly at times to speak up on pro-life issues when I have had the opportunity. And posting on this blog about my faith is a huge step at times as well. But have I acted boldly?? That's what I'm not sure about. I'm not always the best example of a Christian (I imagine few of us are all the time) but I try. Lately I've been trying harder. Part of the reason is my recent involvement in Cursillo. Through Cursillo I am gaining a deeper understanding and appreciation for Catholicism and I love the regular weekly discussions of our faith to help us stay on track as we continue to grow in our faith over a lifetime.

There is one "action" I can think of that might answer the question. Last summer about this time I was getting frustrated with my cycles. I had had a miscarriage in March and it had been over four months and my cycles were not getting back to normal. It was frustrating knowing that we wanted children and nothing was happening. About that time I started running into a saint I had never heard of before. Finally, after this happened a couple times I decided that maybe I needed to find out more about her. So I looked up St. Philomena and then decided to ask her for her help. I had never really done this before but decided it was time. So I prayed for healing. I asked for her to intercede and I did a nine day novena for her. I finished the novena on a Monday, had a doctor appointment on Tuesday to see if my doctor had any recommendations, then on Wednesday my chart finally indicated a thermal shift! I was amazed. Sure enough we got pregnant too! I was stunned!! I had faith that St. Philomena was close to God and that she too would ask Him to heal me and He did. Is this stepping out boldly in faith?? It was certainly a leap for me.

So I ask you (anyone reading this): what about you? Does that reading speak to you? Can you think of a time when you have stepped out boldly in faith? What other thoughts do you have on this question and/or Gospel passage?