I wonder when I’ll get used to having anything delivered on Sunday. This time it was a used book: Purest of All Lilies: The Virgin Mary in the Spirituality of St. Faustina, by Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC. (Links at the end of this post.) The back cover reads that “the Virgin Mary is a spiritual mother of St. Faustina and us” and that the book is an “in-depth study of the very special relationship between the Virgin Mary and St. Faustina.”

“Before Holy Communion I saw the Blessed Mother inconceivably beautiful. Smiling at me She said to me: ‘My daughter, at God’s command I am to be in a special and exclusive way your Mother; but I desire that you, too, in a special way, be My child” (Diary, 1414).

Fr. George Kosicki, CSB, quoted on the back cover of Purest of All Lilies.
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A post in the Something About Mary Every Day in May series.

Mary is the antidote for the crisis of womanhood we find ourselves facing. The Marian Option is not like the many other options being written about now, based on saints and noble persons. Because Mary is not like any other saint or noble person. Mary is the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, Full of Grace, Mother of Mercy, the Queen Mother of the King of the Universe. Those are some pretty important titles. And Mary is a pretty important Woman. (Ahem. That’s a deliberate echo of the Woman in Genesis, the Gospel of John, and the Apocalypse, also by John, the Beloved Disciple. More on that in posts about another book, Jesus and the Jewish Roots of Mary.)

“God really sends the antidote to the problem of each era…What we’re really facing in the culture today is a crisis of womanhood, so in light of that it makes perfect sense that our Lady would be the antidote to that. Those who have devotion to her, who are striving to be like her, would be the ones that can renew the culture based on the kinds of destruction we’re seeing in western civilization.”

Carrie Gress on Women of Grace. (1) talking about her book, the Marian Option. (2)

Watch the video here on the blog for the rest of that interview. Other links follow the end of this post.

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Sacred Heart of Jesus, Immaculate Heart of MaryLonger ago than I want to admit a reader emailed me a suggestion to add to the resource section of the blog. I didn’t forget about her suggestion, but life got crazy, all my projects have been needing my attention–and mostly not getting any attention at all–and illness of one kind or another got in the way, too. But tonight I finally began the page. Healing, Hope and Encouragement is now live on the site. It’s just a beginning but at least it has begun. My sincere thanks to the reader who sent the suggestion and my sincere apologies for taking so long. May something on the list help you or someone you know somehow somewhere sometime. And may the Lord richly bless you and yours now and always. Amen.

Healing, Hope and Encouragement is a new page in the resource section of the blog. Because we’re living in a fallen world and we’re all in need of healing and hope and no small amount of encouragement. 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!

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.”

I wrote a post about the Year of Faith a few days ago. Tonight I added a page of resources, too, and I’ll be adding to the list there as I discover useful things. Got to tell you, so far I am really enjoying this. I’m taking my mass-market paperback copy to adoration, along with my Liturgy of the Hours for prayer and prayerful study. Not only am I learning more about my faith than I already knew, but I’m learning at a deeper level. And all of this is giving me more insight into the novel I’m writing. (Nope, don’t ask. Can’t tell you anything else about that. Yet.) ;) Year of Faith Resource Page.

EWTN has opened a website devoted to keeping the faithful and people of goodwill informed on the current issues concerning religious liberty, which liberty is under serious attack here in the U.S.A. I just found out about it and have only spent a few minutes looking over the contents of the site. A number of similar sites have opened up lately and I need to do a page of links devoted to this issue pretty soon.