The whole Church is present at the Mass, where Heaven and Earth meet. (I don’t know where this image comes from, it’s all over the web with some variations.)

Today was Memorial Day. Too often we hear words without really hearing them. We think “memorial” has to do with simple memory, as when we remember to call a friend or we remember to pick up dog food on the way home from work. But there is a deeper meaning. In the Bible the word is used in this deeper way, in a technical sense. I suppose one disadvantage to reading the Bible in the vernacular (which is the only way I can read it) is that we take for granted that we understand it when all we grasp is the surface, most often not suspecting that there is anything deeper.

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What They PromisedJust taking a break from NaNoWriMo to say a quick howdy, y’all. Howdy, ya’ll! :D

The writing is going well, I’m really loving it. Yes, it’s work, yes, the dogs are driving me crazy. Yes, I’ve had to deal with home maintenance and “improvement” and “handy” men. Yes, it makes me wanna say ARGH and GROAN and other things not quite so nice. Oy! But the writing is coming along and I really am enjoying it. And only partly because I’m doing NaNo on a 13″ MacBook Air with backlit keyboard but that certainly does help. ;)

What I GotOkay, diving back into the story now or I may dive into my bed instead. Oh, that is tempting. To sleep, perchance to dream, to dream some NaNoWriMo scenes, aye, that’s the stuff! ;)

Oh, my word count! Promised an update, didn’t I? Drum roll, please! Word count on the sixth day of noveling insanity is (envelope, please): 11,908 exceedingly excellent and oh-so-exquisite words! Woohoo! Yeah, that’s what I’m talkin’ about! Well, yes, it is what I’m talking about, of course it is. This is a word count update, after all. (Okay, perhaps I don’t need that third pot of coffee after all. Ahem. But I do have two pies in the kitchen. What am I thinking, I can’t eat pie this late at night! But…it’s pie! Is it ever really too late for pie?)

And lest you think that I’ve yammered on all this time and not said one thing about Catholicism on this supposedly Catholic blog, lemme lay this on ya: Jeff Cavins has been posting a series of short videos for the Year of Faith entitled, “The Rabbi-Disciple Relationship. There will be 5 parts, 3 are up so far as of tonight. View them on the Catholic Year of Faith website or sign up on that site to receive the videos in your email inbox. These are quite good. Highly recommended! Good night, y’all! Peace!

Just saw this on EWTN Live: the bishops of the USCCB have called for a simple novena, “Nine Days of Prayer, Penance and Pilgrimage” toward a culture of life. The novena will be from January 19-27, 2013. You can sign up for e-mail or text updates and get more information at the USCCB website. I think it’s a great idea. The battle we are in must be waged at the spiritual level and we need to pray together to defeat our common ancient enemy.

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St. Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

God bless you.

I posted a brief version of my conversion story on the About Me page a while back. But during a conversation here on the blog someone (Hi, Lauretta!) asked me what drew me to Catholicism. I don’t know if she knew what she was letting herself in for, but I wrote a few paragraphs by way of reply and thought I’d share that reply in a post of its own (slightly edited because I can’t ever just copy/paste anything without editing it and because it’s a post now and not a reply). Bear in mind that even though this goes into more detail than the About Me page does, I’m still leaving out a lot. I didn’t go into all the various false paths and blind alleys and dead ends I wandered into along the way before I found Him Who is The Way, the Truth and the Life. So without further ado, here’s the story of my conversion, take two.

My Conversion Story: What Drew Me to Catholicism

Scott Hahn played a large part in my conversion (and I got to tell him that when I met him at Samford University a while back). His conversion story was out on cassette tape then and somebody gave me a copy of it or we had it at the Catholic bookstore where I was working. While I was a Buddhist, I might add. Yes, you heard that right. While I was still a Buddhist. Had been for many years, though I was raised Methodist. But I had many questions as a child and young adult and I never heard answers that were satisfying to my heart or my mind, so I went on a long journey of exploration and experimentation. And when I say long, I mean long! Forty years (counting my whole life up until I finally heard the call) of searching for truth and finding glimmers and tantalizing hints here and there and yet I knew that I had not found IT and I didn’t even know what IT was, only that I had not found it.

In the meantime a close friend of mine had decided to get serious about her faith or, rather, the faith of her grandfather who was Catholic. She went through the RCIA and got very active in the Church. And since we did everything together back then, I got very active in the Church right along with her, helping with the music side of things, playing guitar for the youth group when they sang at Mass, washing dishes and cleaning up after Lenten meals, things like that.

On the way home from work one day I happened to spot a little Catholic bookstore. Aha, I thought, I’ll have to tell my friend! I dropped in to explore a few days later and fell headlong into an entire world that I had not even suspected existed.

I started working there as a volunteer without any thought of converting, mind you. But I had volunteered to put the books in order (they were just placed any old way on the shelves and that drove me crazy!), and to put the books in order I had to at least read a little bit of them to see what kind of books they were. So I read a little of this kind of theology and that (who knew there were different kinds?), a little Church history, the lives of a few saints, a few of the great spiritual writers, some Fathers of the Church, some apologists and some Bible studies. Then I discovered Scott Hahn’s tape sets. I was hooked! Fascinated! When I became the buyer for the store, I started stocking every tape set of his I could get hold of. And listening to them over and over. Thrilling stuff!

And then my friend and I got into an argument. She said that I should be Catholic and I was perfectly happy as a Buddhist. Even though I was still searching for the ultimate truth and was beginning to suspect that the Church might have at least some of that truth. (Oy, how hard-headed could I be?) Then the new Catechism was published and we started carrying stacks of them at the store. Couldn’t keep them in stock. And everywhere study groups were popping up and my friend mentioned that her parish was holding study classes on the Catechism. And I shocked her by asking if I could attend the classes with her. Well, why not, I said, I’ll just collect another religion if nothing else. That was what I was thinking but God had different plans.

The class was led by a facilitator who somehow somewhere sustained an injury early on and the parish priest took up where she left off. And the class really took off, too. How mysterious are the ways of the Lord! The priest was from Ireland and had been in this country for many years, a good faithful devout knowledgeable priest. And he made Catholicism come alive for us! That was one of the best summers of my life and by summer’s end I went to the priest to ask for instruction. Our instruction class only had four people in it, we didn’t do the RCIA, just a simple talking about the teachings of the Church and what it means to be, to live as a Catholic.

I was received into Holy Mother Church at the Easter Vigil in 1996. I was on fire then. I’m on fire now. I have my struggles but the good Lord and His Church help me through them. My struggles are not with the Church but with myself. I accept all that the Church teaches and I wouldn’t change a thing even if I could. Would that more Catholics would embrace their faith and live it! But I know many who do. Sometimes I wish I had grown up Catholic but I realize that God can use even the stupid things I did to bring good out of them.

So, in answer to the question, what drew me to Catholicism, I’d have to say: Truth. And He Who is the Truth. In Catholicism I discovered the Church and the Church led me to Christ. I also discovered the Blessed Mother and she also led me to Christ. I discovered the Catholic interpretation of Scripture and Scripture, read in the Church at Mass and interpreted by the Church, also led me to Christ. The Rosary led me to Christ. The Divine Mercy devotion and teachings led me to Christ. Devout Catholics led me to Christ. Thanks be to God! May nothing ever separate me from Him or His Holy Church as long as I live! Amen!

(A post for the Year of Faith) Several people have asked this question: Why does the Year of Faith last 410 days instead of 365?

Answer: Part of being Catholic is learning to think with the mind of the Church. She thinks liturgically about time, which differs from the civil (as in secular, not as in polite) measuring of time. The Church measures time from one liturgical or spiritually or historically important event (historically important to the Church, that is) to another, not a mere length of 365 days that carries no meaning beyond the amount of time it takes the earth to revolve once around the sun.

Looking further I found this quote at Catholic Culture.

“The opening and closing dates of the Year of Faith carry special significance. October 11, 2012, will mark the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II, and the Vatican notes that the special year should be “a propitious occasion to make Vatican Council II and the Catechism of the Catholic Church more widely and deeply known.” November 24, 2013, will be the feast of Christ the King, and the CDF underlines the importance of using the year to encourage Catholics to share the precious belief in Christ as the redeemer of the mankind.”

The dates of liturgical celebrations, even the release of documents, generally correspond to a significant date on the Church calendar or in her history. Look at a few encyclicals and other publications and you’ll see what I mean. For example, here’s what you’ll find at the end of Pope John Paul II’s encyclical, the Gospel of Life:

Given in Rome, at Saint Peter’s, on 25 March, the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, in the year 1995, the seventeenth of my Pontificate.

Only Five Precepts of the Church(A post for the Year of Faith.) There are only five precepts of the Church and every Catholic should know them. Let’s take a look at them as found in the Catechism, second edition, Part 3, Section 1, Chapter 3, Article 3, starting with paragraph 2042, without the commentary, just the precepts. And notice that the subtitle of Article 3 is: The Church, Mother and Teacher. The Church is your Mother. She has something to say to you. Listen up!

  • You shall attend Mass on Sundays and on holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor.
  • You shall confess your sins at least once a year.
  • You shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season.
  • You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church.
  • You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church.

There. Now that wasn’t so bad, was it? Only five precepts and they’re brief, too. Blessedly. (Heh. A little Church humor. Very little. Ahem.)

Now why do you suppose the Church wants you to attend Mass on Sundays or to confess and receive the Eucharist at least once a year? Because, like any good mother, she just wants you to drop in once in a while so she can see your face before she forgets what you look like? Well, maybe. But mostly to keep you spiritually alive! Read these words in paragraph 2041 right before the list of precepts.

“The precepts of the Church are set in the context of a moral life bound to and nourished by liturgical life. The obligatory character of these positive laws decreed by the pastoral authorities is meant to guarantee to the faithful the very necessary minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth in love of God and neighbor…”

You see, to keep alive spiritually you must attend Mass every Sunday, confess and receive the Eucharist at least once a year. (Notice that you can attend Mass without receiving. This is important. If you’re not in a state of grace, you should not even think about presenting yourself for Communion. But you still must attend Mass!) You must also observe the days of fasting and abstaining, and help provide for the needs of the Church. This is the bare minimum for your interior, spiritual self to stay alive. If you are not meeting this bare minimum in your life, you may be in danger of dying spiritually. And if all you do is the bare minimum, then you’ll be barely alive spiritually, too.

When someone says, “Oh, I’m not religious at all but I’m very spiritual,” I have to say, “Oh, really?” Because I know that person is probably not spiritual at all. Most of the people who say things like that to me only concern themselves with things of the world and the body and the body’s appetites. They don’t go to church, don’t see why they should; don’t mortify their appetites, again, they don’t see why they should; they don’t practice self-control; they don’t confess their sins and they don’t receive the Eucharist. And, of course, they don’t give anything to their church because they don’t even have a church. Because…they’re “spiritual, not religious!”

Oy ve! Tell me how they can be spiritual! What do they even mean when they say it? Do they mean they believe in spirits? What kind of spirits? Spirits of good or spirits of evil? Do they mean that they practice spiritualism? Play with Ouija boards? (And why does that word end in an “a” instead of an “i” or an “ie” or “ee” or something? I never hear anyone pronounce it “Wee-ja”, it’s always “Wee-jee” board.)

Oh, they’re very spiritual. So spiritual that they will go to almost any lengths to avoid suffering. Mortification? Why, they’re mortified at the thought of it! And not in a good way!

He is the Vine, we are the branchesChrist said that He is the Vine and we are the branches. If we cut ourselves off from the Vine, we will shrivel and dry up. If we cut ourselves off from the Eucharist, we have no life in us. If we turn away from the ordinary means of grace in the sacraments, how do we expect to receive grace? If we don’t mortify our appetites, how do we expect to preserve or increase in grace? If we don’t confess our sins after sinning, how do we expect to get back into a state of grace so we can continue to grow and have a real and not imaginary spiritual life?

And that, I think, is all too often the problem: People imagine that they are spiritual and that they have a spiritual life when they don’t know the first thing about spirituality at all.

So stop imagining that you’re a very spiritual person and go to confession and get into a state of grace and get to Mass and and control your appetites and stay in the Vine and really be spiritual! Because your Momma says so. Momma Church, that is!

The full text of paragraphs on the precepts can be found online, paragraphs 2041 – 2043.

Vine passage from Gospel of John 15:5:

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.”