Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Mass Is Also For the Faithful

The other day I quoted from the book Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis, by Peter Kwasniewski, to make the point that the Mass is celebrated for God, as an act of worship that is due Him, and that it doesn’t matter how many people attend the Mass.

But, reading on in Kwasniewski’s book, I see that he also makes the point that there is a two-fold purpose to the Mass. He writes:

The liturgy has two purposes: to worship God with all due reverence and love, and to feed, nurture, shape, and perfect the worshiper. God is not changed or moved for the worse by our bad liturgies; it is we, the Christian people, who are deformed by the Novus Ordo Missae as it is celebrated in most of our churches. God does not suffer if we refrain from attending a superficial ceremony that verges on mockery of his Son and does violence to Catholic worship as it has always been known.

This almost sounds as if he is advocating not attending Mass if the choice is one full of liturgical abuses. But I don’t think that’s what he is saying, exactly. He goes on:

It is true that there are times when it is necessary to attend even a most disgracefully celebrated liturgy in order to fulfill one’s obligation to the Lord, and at this time one ought to go with the express purpose of suffering for one’s own sins. 

This is the conclusion I have come to, and that is the frame of mind in which I try to attend Mass. I also take along my little Latin Mass missal booklet to pray the prayers that more fully reflect a truly Catholic liturgy. But Kwasniewski makes more good points:

It is true, too, that we can and must seek our consolation in the wondrous presence of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, a presence so much beyond all that we can deserve no matter how beautifully and reverently we sing the songs of Sion. Still, there is far more to the substance of liturgical cultus than merely the provision of a moment’s adoration in the midst of an ocean of banality and noise; the liturgy, both as a whole and in each of its parts, is not itself supposed to be a mortification, a cause of pain, but a consolation, a reservoir of peace and joy for building up the inner man.

In this sense, then, the Mass is for the people, as well as the worthy worship of God. The Mass should form us and teach us how to worship, and why to worship. Alas, it is too often simply a mortification, though, in my experience! Sometimes I see that the priest and the ministers are doing their best to be reverent, but the Novus Ordo Mass simply does not lend itself to that supreme reverence and piety to which we should aspire.

Continuing with the excerpt:

The purpose of the liturgy is to form our souls in the beauty of holiness; and if the human elements of the liturgy are, on the contrary, deforming our souls, then we must not allow it habitually to do so unless, as was just said, we have no choice in a given situation.

He inserts an interesting footnote here, stating that if a family finds itself in a situation where the only available liturgy is so poorly celebrated that it fosters bad religious habits, and if the family has little chance of contributing to a positive change in the situation, then the family should move to a different parish or even diocese where there are better options available. Ah! I agree! But how difficult that can be! And how “bad” does the liturgy have to be before one becomes aware of the bad habits being formed? Once, when my husband and I were in charge of the music at a local parish (very small “mission” church) I had a sudden awareness of the bad habits inculcated by the casual atmosphere of the Novus Ordo; the three of us who were doing the singing found ourselves making a little joke to each other…in the middle of Mass! I suddenly was aware that I was engaged in this, and was appalled at myself.

Finally, Kwasniewski adds this thought:

By attending poor liturgy one implicitly accepts it – that is, one says to it: “Shape me, shape my soul, form my spirit. Make me like yourself.” But this is what one must not allow to occur with experimental, horizontal, anti-sacral liturgy; its habits, as it were, must not become my habits.

There are no easy answers in this. I would love to move to a place where there is an FSSP parish nearby; but this is not really feasible for us, for several reasons. And there is little hope of a traditional Latin Mass becoming available close to our home – though God does have a way of surprising us at times! So I continue to pray the traditional prayers at the Novus Ordo Mass, while ignoring the mundane, watered-down prayers the priest is required to say (and frankly, I find this much easier to do at the Spanish Mass, since I don’t understand Spanish all that well, and so the words don’t interfere with my meditation on the old prayers).

But after reading what Peter Kwasniewski has to say, I now have a better understanding of why I generally do not receive Holy Communion at the Novus Ordo Mass. It has everything to do with what he has said in the excerpts above – the knowledge that something is just not right about the theology of the Novus Ordo, and the feeling that I should resist making myself a part of it by receiving Holy Communion (I am not saying that I think the NO Mass is invalid; just that, as Kwasniewski puts it, I am not willing to have it shape my soul and form my spirit). Thanks be to God I am able to attend the TLM elsewhere while on retreat every couple of months.  And I make an effort to make a spiritual communion in the context of the Mass prayers at home on a daily basis. Still…

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Mass is For God

Here’s another excerpt from Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis, by Peter Kwasniewski:

The Traditional Latin Mass is celebrated for God, on his account, as an act of profound worship directed to Him.  The new Mass, as it has been allowed to be celebrated around the world, often looks like an exercise mainly for the sake of the people – almost as if the people are the point of the Mass, and not God. (p. 67)

At our local parish, there was no midnight Mass at Christmas last year. This year, an announcement in the bulletin a week or so prior to Christmas noted that there was a “renewed interest” in having  midnight Mass, and that if 75 people put their names on a list saying they would attend, then there would in fact be a midnight Mass.

This struck me in two ways: first, that it was a sign of life, perhaps, that people did actually seem to want the midnight Mass (though who knows the motivation behind each individual?); second, that the priest himself should have a desire to celebrate that Mass – one of the three Masses that the priest is privileged to say on the solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Ideally, a properly formed priest, it seems to me, would desire to say all three Masses, and would do so whether or not there were a certain number of people present. I even commented on this to my husband, saying, “Isn’t the Mass for God? It’s not about how many people show up; it’s not really for them. The Mass is an act of worship directed to God.” It’s so nice to find that same thought expressed so much more eloquently and clearly by Mr. Kwasniewski!

A little farther on, Kwasniewski says:

Recall how vehemently the reformers both of the sixteenth century and of the twentieth attacked the idea of a “private Mass,” where a priest and server offer the sacrifice without a congregation. And yet, if the essence of the Mass is an act of profound adoration of the Holy Trinity, in the shadow of Whose wings the priest then intercedes for the good of the entire Church and the conversion of the world, nothing could be better than the multiplication of such Masses devoutly offered. The critique of the private Mass runs parallel with the demise of the contemplative religious life: a nun or monk in a cell seems useless “for the people,” even though in reality such a person’s prayers are the only reason the Church does not collapse in a minute, the blood of martyrs run dry, or the world vanish in a flash of fire.

How refreshing to see someone express that last thought! I find that I am often in need of reminders that my prayers mean something to God, that they are efficacious, that God desires them, and that the Holy Spirit prompts us all to pray in certain ways for certain things (it is our discernment that is lacking!).

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

It was a good Advent for me...more "productive" than usual, I think. In part that was because for the first time EVER, we didn't have Christmas decorations up starting the day after Thanksgiving. I would have had it this way for the last 10 years, but was outvoted by past, pre-traditional-Catholic traditions... But this year, my daughter was too busy with work and other things to push the decorating, and it ended up that we decorated the tree just yesterday afternoon. 

In the meantime, we were besieged by rain. It's a necessary evil, I know, but I don't like rain, and we don't get much of it here, comparatively speaking. We had a number of days like this:

Gray. Somewhat oppressive, especially after several days. Then, we had this:


Then there were more clouds, but they brought snow this time, and that is better than rain, most of the time! Plus, it gave us a white Christmas. There's not much snow, but there's enough to qualify!

And now, Christmas is here, and the chapel has a new gold antependium and tabernacle veil:

The photo really doesn't do it justice, so just use your imagination to enhance it!

Merry Christmas to all!

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Monday, December 22, 2014

More on Emptiness and Silence in the Mass

Here’s another quote from Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis: Sacred Liturgy, the Traditional Latin Mass, and Renewal in the Church, by Peter Kwasniewski:

In the old structure of the sanctuary, everything leads the eyes and the soul up to the majestic altar of God, where our youth is replenished where the Lion of Judah, with all the roaring of silence, descends in a flash of invisible light. There, in the empty and silent sanctuary, is the symbol of the soul thirsting for God, the soul which lacks and knows where to find its plenitude. In the space, the very space is a home for the homeless God who dwells everywhere and nowhere, who dwells in inaccessible light.

I have noted more and more just how much noise we experience in the novus ordo Mass. Sometimes I think to myself, as I listen to the priest recite every word aloud, “could you please just stop talking for a minute and let me focus?!” In the Traditional Latin Mass, so much of what the priest prays is silent. I follow along with the prayers in the missal; I don’t need to hear them all said aloud. Also, sometimes, I don’t follow along! I let the priest do his “job” of taking the prayers to God for me; I know what he’s saying, and I rest in a more contemplative mental silence while he prays silently.

The paragraph goes on to describe the role of the priest. This description, when I really think about it, actually gives me chills. This is what I experience at the extraordinary form of the Mass, though I could never have articulated it in this way:

 Moreover, the priest standing at the altar, the small priest swallowed in the empty space and in the silence, his arms raised in a solemnly hushed prayer of sacrifice, represents the ultimate smallness, one might even say the nothingness, and yet the infinite dignity and incomparable glory of man incorporated into the Mystical Body of Christ, offering the very sacrifice of Jesus Christ (per ipsum, et cum ipso, et in ipso…) – he is a true participant in the cosmic liturgy, where earth and heaven unite in the person of Jesus Christ, the Eternal High Priest. This one lowly man, ordained to mediate as a living sign of the sole Mediator, stands there at the juncture of every ontological axis. He is, for a moment, the centermost point of the cosmos, in imitation of Christ, the Word through whom all things live and move and have their being.

Does that describe the priest at a novus ordo Mass? Certainly not in my experience! Even the most reverent priest saying the new Mass in the vernacular while facing the people has an air of the mundane about him. It’s just not the same.

No wonder the old Mass has converted people to Catholicism! I don’t think the new Mass does so; in fact, I have always maintained that I came into the Church in spite of the way Mass was celebrated, rather than because of it!

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Emptiness and Silence

I’m reading a book entitled Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis: Sacred Liturgy, the Traditional Latin Mass, and Renewal in the Church, by Peter Kwasniewski. I highly recommend it. This author not only knows the Mass, he obviously understands it, he obviously prays it, and he obviously lives it. He is very articulate, and at times eloquent; you can almost pick a paragraph and random and then meditate on it.

Here’s an example, where he talks about the fact that traditionally, “there was a large open space between the communion rail and the high altar, a space in which the priest and ministers could freely move…This open area accentuates the magnitude of the mystery, not by putting it at a distance, but by giving it ample room, so to speak, to descend into our midst.” [Emphases in original.]

He comments that this abundance of space suggests the divine Presence, and that adding chairs, tables, pedestals, a lectern, etc., simply fill the space and bring it down to human level. He concludes:

In many new or renovated churches, gone is that awaiting emptiness of the stable of Bethlehem, the emptiness of the wounds in Mary’s heart, the emptiness of conceptual understanding in Joseph’s mind, the emptiness of the world awaiting its longed-for Savior – this pregnant and richly-decorated emptiness is gone, filled instead with clutter.

Emptiness. Silence. These two indispensable characteristics of the spiritual life are sorely lacking in the way the novus ordo Mass is celebrated in many (most?) parishes.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The View Along the Way

I've been away since last Saturday - off on retreat to my favorite place. I was there both for Mass on Sunday and for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on Monday. It's nice to be able to socialize after Mass with people who are like-minded on traditional Catholic topics!

The drive on Saturday was quite beautiful; at home we'd been having a lot of cloudy, gloomy days, but once over the pass, the sunshine was bright and cheery.

The drive home was overcast, but it didn't rain - that was a plus. And the cloudy skies made for a certain beauty all its own:

Our spiritual journey is like that, too; isn't it? There are the bright, sunny, consoling times, but the gray times can be edifying as well. And through it all, we learn that God is there, no matter what "weather" might be.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Thoughts from Anne Catherine Emmerich

Here are some quotes that have caught my attention as I continue to read The Life and Revelations of Anne Catherine Emmerich:

“How sad that the priests of our day are so neglectful of their power, we might even say ignorant of what the sacerdotal benediction is! Many of them hardly believe in it. They blush at a blessing as if it were a superstitious and antiquated ceremony, whilst some never reflect upon the power given them by Jesus Christ.”

And if that was true then, think how much more so it is true today! I think it is sad that so many priests today have probably never been taught about the power they have. They don’t know the power of Latin, for the most part, either. So many have not experienced the extraordinary form of the Mass; I find that particularly sad, because my own experience of the Old Mass is that it allows the priest to be a priest, rather than a talk-show host.  Not only that, but the current English version of the Book of Blessings has been watered down so much that it seems to be (in the words of my spiritual director) nothing more than a “book of good wishes”.

Blessed Sister Emmerich understood the power of a priest’s blessing. The quote above continues:

When they neglect to give me a blessing, I receive it sometimes from God Himself; but as Our Lord has instituted the priesthood and imparted to it the power to bless, I languish with the desire for it. The whole church is but one body. All must be deprived of what one member refused to bestow.”

She knew the value of holy water, and sought to make that her only drink. She knew the value of blessed bells, too:

“The sound of blessed bells has always been to me like a ray of benediction which banishes hurtful influences wherever it reaches. I think such sounds terrify Satan.”

We seem to have lost so much of our understanding of these things in the Church today. That is why it is important to truly know the faith – the way it was taught “in the old days” before the bishops started making it politically correct and inoffensive.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Crisis in the Church, Then and Now

I guess I tend to think of the crisis in the Church as a recent problem, largely brought on by a watering-down of the teaching of the faith in the post-Vatican II era.  Yes, I do know that there have been problems and issues in the Church always and ever, because of our fallen human nature, and because satan roams around seeking to exploit our weaknesses. But consider this, from The Life and Revelations of Anne Catherine Emmerich:

We are shocked at the small number of those who then comprehended these words of St. Peter: “Scientes quod non corruptibilibus auro vel argento redempti estis, sed pretioso sanguine quasi agni immaculate Christi.”[1] It was a period in which perfect silence was kept, both in the pulpit and schools of theology, on the mystery of Redemption, sacrifice and satisfaction, merit and sin; a period in which good works and miracles had to yield to hollow “theories of revelation”; a period in which the Man-God, to be at all endurable, had to be presented as the “Friend of men, the Friend of sinners, the children’s Friend.” His life was, as they said, “a lesson”; His Passion, “an example of fortitude”; His death, “fruitless love.” The catechism was taken from the hands of the faithful and replaced by “Bible Histories,” in which the absolute want of doctrine was veiled under “simple language adapted to the understanding of all.” The books of piety, the ancient formulas of prayer, the time-honored canticles of praise, were exchanged for modern productions as miserable and impious as were those by which the Missal, the Breviary, and the Ritual were replaced.

This intellectual debasement might pass at first sight for a transient aberration, a false direction of the spirit of the age; but before God it was a direct attack on the Fatih, imperiling the salvation of numberless souls, an expression of the deepest contempt for His love and justice. All this had to be expieated by an innocent victim who was to be treated not otherwise than Jesus Himself and His work of redemption.  
The startling grandeur of His bloody sacrifice and His rigorous satisfaction for sin are a stumbling block to many; in like manner Sister Emmerich was a cause of offense by reason of her mysterious signs and, even for her nearest friends, she was an insupportable burden [largely having do with the supernatural implications of her stigmata and the reactions of the world to her.]

These words could be written (and practically have been) about the state of our poor Church today! Yet, Sister Emmerich died in 1824, so clearly there was a crisis then, as well; I think the problems underlying and emerging from Vatican II were a culmination of prior crises. (That is not to say that I don’t think the current crisis is unprecedented: I do, and that is largely due to the internet and the ready availability of Church documents, news reports on current papal and episcopal announcements, etc.)

But today, who do we have bearing the brunt of the sins of the world as Sister Emmerich did? I think that in the world today, people would not even believe that a person such as she could even exist; it would be seen as fraud by most (as it was in Blessed Anne Catherine’s time).

And so, who will do penance for the evils of our Church leaders, and for the sins of the laity, and for our own grievous sins? I guess it is up to each of us to do our best to live our lives in prayer and penance, to the extent that our state in life allows.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

[1] “Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things as gold or silver…but with the Precious Blood of Christ, as of a lamb unspotted and undefiled.” (1Peter 1:18,19)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Mending the Torn Cloak

From The Sayings of the Desert Father:

A soldier asked Abba Mius if God accepted repentance. After the old man had taught 
him many things, he said, “Tell me, my dear, if your cloak is torn, do you throw it away?”

He replied, “No, I mend it and use it again.”

The old man said to him, “If you are so careful about your cloak, will not God be equally careful about his creature?”

I read this soon after our return from Florida, and as the situation with my daughter’s friend weighs on my mind and heart, I thought of him. I even showed this “saying” to my daughter (and as a sign of the times we live in, she whipped out her phone and took a picture of it, presumably so she could either refer back to it later, and/or so she could share it with others).

I thought it was a good way to think about others, not just ourselves in relation to God and our own sinfulness. My daughter’s friend seems to me to suffer much from “survivor guilt”, and my limited experience with people with that issue suggests that they need to believe that God accepts their repentance, and they also need to forgive themselves.  But I’m afraid too few get the help they need along those lines; usually, they will just hear a constant chorus of “well, it wasn’t really your fault.” It seems to me that it might be a greater help to have the person examine just exactly what fault they think they have in the matter, then have them confess it (if it is a sin, or maybe even if it’s not, so that a priest can clarify it for them), and then have them do penance for their fault.

Instead, what I have seen is that people don’t get that kind of advice or help (or don’t take advantage of it), and they end up feeling that they are a torn cloak that should be thrown away rather than mended.

I’m pleased that my daughter wants to see her friend “mended”, and that she is praying for that to happen, and giving him as much support as she can. And I pray that through her actions and words, he gets the message that he is indeed worth “mending”. 

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Spiritual Journey to Florida

The trip to Florida was odd in many ways.

I haven’t traveled like that in years; I think it has been 10 years since I was last on a plane. I don’t like even the thought of the security lines and all that. But lo and behold, while my daughter was subjected to the usual take-off-the-shoes-and-everything-else-including-the-kitchen-sink routine, I had been identified as “precheck” or some such thing. I went through the express lane. I kept my shoes on, sent my carry-on bag through the scanner, and stepped through the metal detector in record time.

I have written before about being away from home and my chapel and feeling lost because I am unable to stick to my usual schedule for the Divine Office. I was expecting this trip to be even worse on that front, because we would be gone for a full week. My spiritual director helped by dispensing me from my usual schedule and offering some advice which consisted mostly of “pray the Rosary”. And so, though I took a couple of prayer books and prayed Laudes and Vespers a couple of times, I let go of the rest of it and prayed as I could. And I did not feel lost or discombobulated in any way.

While we were in Florida, it seemed as if time stood still. It was forever, but it was only a moment. It was like being in the Twilight Zone. I enjoyed the time there, though it was not without stress. I was happy to be there with my daughter, and to have her help in navigating through the busy highways. When we arrived home, instead of being disoriented and feeling like I had a lot of catching up to do, I felt as if I hadn’t been gone at all.

...except that we came home to sub-freezing temps and snow...
Generally, I have never felt so much as if I were in the right place at the right time, and participating fully in God’s perfect will.

But it wasn’t all sunshine and roses. The main purpose of the trip, if you recall, was for my daughter to meet the young man with whom she had been corresponding via CatholicMatch.com. This is where the story becomes complicated.

The first couple of days were great; but then satan threw in his monkey wrench: the young man abruptly became emotionally distant and less available to spend time with my daughter. At first, we were both dumbfounded and completely confused; but then he explained some things to her and it all became clear.

This young man suffers from PTSD, for one thing, and a critical factor in his emotional withdrawal was the fact that the anniversary of the main precipitating incident of the disorder occurred while we were there. He explained the circumstances to my daughter, and she explained them to me. Ahh…it is such a sad, sad story. He is under such a horrible attack through this disorder and through the situations he experienced that led to it!

I have never felt so compelled to pray for anyone as I am for this young man. And my daughter has had the same reaction. The young man feels he is not fit for a committed relationship now, given his reaction to the anniversary etc. But my daughter feels more committed to him than ever. She is willing to wait for him to make some progress in dealing with all of this, and has told him that.

I think that a lot of people would tell her that he is pretty much a lost cause; she might as well move on and find a healthy man. But my daughter told me, “Even messed up people deserve love.” Yes, they do, and I am proud of her. She sees who he is under the “messed up” part, and I saw that, too.  Of course, that doesn’t mean she has to marry him. She can help him and support him as a friend. The thing is, she wants to marry him, and hopes he comes to the same thought. Even though I warned her that he won’t be “healed” overnight, and that likely there will be issues for him (and her) to deal with for the rest of their lives together, she is willing (perhaps with the naivete of youth!) to commit to that.

I cannot discourage her, because I think God gave me an insight into the whole plan – the amazing providence that led me to suggest CatholicMatch to her, that led his mother to do the same for him, that brought them together online, that sent us on an outlandish trip from one corner of the country to the other, that led to a “crisis” in his PTSD, that led to…what? A renewed commitment on her part, and a compulsion to pray for him on mine. I can’t explain exactly what I “saw” as I prayed one night, but it was definitely a dim picture of God’s plan. I saw the plan for my daughter, and for the young man, and even for the way I myself fit into the whole picture of their relationship. I think there is some small part for my prayers to play in the redemption of this young man.

My Miraculous Medal rosary;
each bead is a little
Miraculous Medal.
And even if what I “saw” was something I created out of my imagination, I know that there is nothing wrong with my daughter “waiting” for this young man, at least for a while. And there is nothing wrong with praying for him, of course! And he CAN be healed in an extraordinary way if God desires and if the young man himself cooperates to some extent. 

How long should my daughter wait? I don’t know. But God does. And I believe God will make it clear to her when and if she should stop waiting and “move on”.

There is more to all of this than I can tell you here; but you get the big picture, I think. In your charity, will you also pray for this young man? I don’t want to mention his identity here, but God knows his name and I’m sure He will honor your prayers.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

St. Raphael, pray for us.

Monday, November 10, 2014

A Few More Florida Photos

I want to write about the spiritual aspects of our trip to Florida, but that will take a little time. Meanwhile, here are a few more photos from our little trek to Mt. Dora. There is a lovely city park there on the shores of Lake Harris (I think that was the name of it!), with a long, sturdy boardwalk. Apparently, alligators are often seen there, though we only saw one small one.

It was a beautiful park, though! Here are the photos:

The alligator! It was hard to get a photo, but you can probably see it.


Not sure what it is, but it's pretty!

We also went to Clearwater Beach:

Looks like a postcard, doesn't it?! 

This is the church where we went to Mass on Saturday night. They had two kneelers to serve as a communion rail for those who desired it. There were lots of statues in this little church! They also had a choir loft with an organ - and a good organist! Not sure why there was no veil on the tabernacle.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Florida Photos

My daughter and I are still in Florida...I haven't been away from home this long in just about forever.

We had a fun little adventure the other day, though: we visited a little state park and went on a short hike. As we paid the entrance fee, I said to the attendant, "Let me ask you a tourist-y question: Are there alligators in this park?" He assured me that there were, and we did see this warning sign. However, we did not see any alligators on our walk.

We did see other creatures, though. There were some very healthy-looking squirrels; I suspect they have been fed by human visitors to the park despite the admonitions not to do so. 

And we also saw armadillos! I had never seen one "in the wild" before, and since we didn't even know we might see them, my daughter and I were both surprised. Later, when we stopped at an ice cream parlor, and the server asked if we'd been doing anything interesting, I said, "We saw armadillos!" My daughter quickly clarified that we are from Oregon; the waitress said, "No armadillos in Oregon?!" She was surprised we don't have alligators too...hmm. Anyway, apparently armadillos are not viewed by native Floridians with the same sense of surprise and wonder we experienced.

"They walk across the road and get run over a lot," said our waitress.

We saw a lot of little lizards, too, and a kind of butterfly I've never seen before:

Here are a few more pretty pictures of our hike. God's creation is so grand!

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

With St. Raphael As My Guide

The view from the window of the plane.
I have never had the slightest desire to visit Florida…and yet here I am, in the “Sunshine State”, for a week-long stay. The things I do for my daughter!

I mentioned previously that my daughter “signed up” for CatholicMatch.com, in search of a good Catholic husband. Well, she has been communicating with a young man who lives in Florida, and they were so enamored with each other in their virtual relationship, it seemed appropriate to make this trip to see how the “in person” reality would unfold. (The young man is a student with a rather inflexible schedule, while my daughter has a lot more leeway in her work schedule; that is why we are making the trip to Florida instead of the young man coming to our neck of the woods.)

So here we are. Things seem to be moving in a positive direction, but Satan is having his hand in it. My daughter has been sick with a cold for a week, and is still not feeling her best. Moreover, even though most of her friends are unaware of this developing long distance relationship, she was contacted by 2 former boyfriends just before we embarked on the trip! Plus, we left at the end of her graveyard shift at work, which meant she had had no sleep.  
For my part, I was also unable to sleep that night, and got about 45 minutes of  not-so-peaceful slumber before having to arise, pick up my daughter, and drive 2 hours to the airport.

My main concerns have been about the driving portion of the trip once we arrived in Florida. We rented a car at the airport, and then I had to drive it to our motel, a half-hour’s drive away…on a busy freeway. I hate busy freeway driving on a good day! I was a bit stressed about the prospect.

The view out the motel room window.
But everything went very well. I thank my guardian angel and the Archangel Raphael for that! I have been beseeching them for help since we planned the trip a few weeks ago. They have come through with flying colors. Despite the fact that I had not been able to sleep the night before, I was not nearly as nervous about the driving as I have been other times. And the driving itself ended up being much less stressful than I anticipated, because we beat the rush hour traffic.

Every time I sort of stepped back and observed how well things were going and my relative lack of stress, I was struck by the fact that my prayers had been answered and that I was being well-l00ked-after by my angels and saints! What a comfort and consolation this has been!

And so I trust St. Raphael also to guide my daughter and this young man in their discernment process as they get to know each other “up close and personal”. I have a positive impression of him, so that’s good for starters!

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!
St. Raphael the Archangel, pray for us!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Impoverished Prayers

I am dismayed sometimes (okay, oftentimes!) at the poverty of spiritual development that seems to be displayed in my glimpses of parish life. The particular parish where I attend Mass weekly does have a good priest who is more traditional in his outlook than most of the priests in this diocese, but he is timid in expressing it.

So it was with his homily last night. The Mass was billed as the “vigil” of the Commemoration of All Souls (that parishes call their Saturday-evening-instead-of-Sunday-morning Mass a “vigil Mass” is a pet peeve of mine, but…moving on…), and so the pastor addressed All Souls. But since it was the end of a day in which he had celebrated Mass for the Solemnity of All Saints, he wanted to talk about that, too. Every year there is this kind of confusion on many levels regarding the two feasts, and so I think that in the Novus Ordo it should just be called “All Sails”.

Father gave a decent homily; I mean, he mentioned purgatory! He said those souls in purgatory need our prayers, but he didn’t really give a very strong reasons why. He didn’t mention that they can no longer do any works for their own salvation, and that they are being purged of sin, and that they are suffering even if they do know that Heaven is on the horizon. And he kept coming back to the notion that “we’ll see them again in Heaven some day”. Well…not if we don’t strive to be saints!

Once upon a time, I was the secretary at this parish, and I remember well scheduling Mass intentions. Every day was filled with an intention for the repose of the soul of a deceased loved one, or with “special intentions” for the living. That was then, and this is now: although the parish bulletin lists the Mass intentions for each Mass, there are more blank lines than filled ones. People are not offering Masses for the dead. Why not? I was hoping Father would talk about that a bit, but he didn’t; although there is a message in the bulletin about offering Masses for the dead during November. They can use them all through the year, though.

I wish every priest would read and recommend the book Hungry Souls to help people better understand the dire straits of the souls in purgatory! I wish they would talk more about the fact that those people we love who have died are probably not in Heaven, and that they probably were not the “saints” we declare them to be in their absence, and that we will meet the same fate!  I wish people would just wake up!

Finally, there was a prayer in the bulletin that kind of sums up the childish level of faith I see here – granted, it is in the “Religious Education” section, so it is geared toward children, but still, what are we teaching them? The suggested prayer is this:

O God, we miss family members and friends who have died. We know that they are happy with you, but sometimes it is difficult to remember that when we think about them. We pray today for all people who miss someone who has died. May we all one day be united with you. Amen.

Well, for one thing, we don’t know that they are happy with God in Heaven, and that’s why we pray for them! We WANT them to be happy with God, but are we so sure they are saints already? And if we pray for their souls and they are already in Heaven, the merits of those prayers will be applied to a soul that needs them. So, better safe than sorry! I still pray for the souls of people who died many years ago.

Also, the above prayer seems more like a prayer for the living than the dead. It’s “all about me” – that pray is for “me” because I’m sad that people I love have died; it’s for other living people who are also missing their loved ones. What about the souls of the dead? Sure, it’s meant for kids, but let’s teach them a Catholic view of death and purgatory and hell. Will it scare them? Maybe, a little. Maybe enough to think about living a virtuous life!

I pray our Church leaders come to their senses soon and start teaching the faith. I also pray that people will be motivated to learn the faith despite the lack of sound catechesis in many parishes.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.