Monday, November 30, 2009

Restless Heart

Life is hard. Joyful, but hard. Even some of the things you enjoy the most, like holidays, can often be difficult. Traditions are broken, people change, expectations are left unmet. Everyone grows up, including all your siblings, and the magical holidays of your childhood are suddenly only a memory.

Why does it have to be like that? Why do we get frustrated and hurt and saddened when things don't go exactly the way we had planned? Someone in the family decides they want to spend more time with another cousin instead of you. A married sister intends to go with her husband's family rather than your own. Your husband has a tiff with his father. Your own mother forgets to call.

We're not perfect. We're human. We're fallen. Often we look to our family as the greatest source of happiness in our lives, the people who are supposed to make us feel good about ourselves, the people who love us the most. We have expectations of them. They're family, we say, of course they will do all they can to love us and take care of us.

But they are not God. God alone can fill the void in our hearts. God alone is what we were created for. Family certainly brings us closer to God, but it is not the end all. God is our Father; God is our Family. We were created to live in Him. He alone will never disappoint. As Saint Augustine would say, "You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts is restless until it rests in you."

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The King

I'm sorry it has been so long since I last posted. The truth is, we have not had internet for the past ten days. We live outside the city so we can't get cable out here, and my husband is a bit of a gamer and can't use satellite internet to run his games properly, so we decided to use the Verizon wireless internet service. It works pretty well but, unfortunately, it has a strong limit on how much bandwidth we are allowed to use. The prices for going over are very steep. Somehow we managed to nearly meet our limit with ten days left in the billing month. I tried to write a bit and post it during lunch at work, but posting at my work is fire-walled. I can read posts, but can't create or edit them.

So, here I am twelve days later, finally posting.

Today is the feast of Christ the King. It's really a beautiful feast. Every reading at Mass today declared the glory of Christ and proclaimed him our great and powerful leader--the King of all kings. I was captured by our first reading from the Book of Daniel that described the Son of Man coming on a cloud to the Ancient One where he was blessed and given power, authority, and rule over all. Isn't that a beautiful picture: Christ being taken before God His Father and crowned in His glory? It is an image that has stuck with me. It reminds me of popular movies and stories of medieval kings. In most of them you have a young man who may or may not be a nobleman, but he fights for his people and defeats the evil ruler or oppressive tyrant to save lives. He risks his live to save the lives of those who rely on him to protect them. Then, after proving himself a true hero and leader, he kneels before the bishop and is crowned king. (In modern stories we have a similar archetype; for example: The Matrix--the One, Neo, follows this pattern. Wasn't Christ called the One in the reading from David? How much older is the Bible than the story of the Matrix? Hmmm... I wonder how many story-telling archetypes we find in the Bible? The greatest story ever told... and it's all true...)

This is Christ who stands before our Father and is granted the kingdom. He is the great hero, the powerful leader, who fights the Evil One and grants us our freedom. The feeling of joy and pride we have for our handsome movie heroes (whether is be Arthur, Aragon, Peter, or the like) is nothing compared to the passion and love we should feel for Christ as our King. The great kings of long told legends are mere shadows of our Christ. If we can fall in love with them, how much more should we fall in love with Christ the King.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

You can't see me

You can't see me
You can't hear me
But you can feel me.

And I can feel, like you.
I am a part of you
an individual.

You don't know me,
not yet,
But you will
That is,
If I survive.

I've never done anything wrong
I've never tried to harm you
I just am.
You participated in my coming to be.

There are bits of you in me
I will have your hair, your eyes, your smile.
It's all recorded in my little body.
I am a lot like you
A piece of you was used to create me.

But I am small
I am vulnerable
I need you.

You were small once,
You understand.

But now you are grown,
Maybe one day I will be loved
Or do you love me now?

Someone does.
Someone created me.
I am no accident.
I am valuable.

Please don't forget about me.
Even if you try
You won't forget.
I am a part of you
an individual.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Learning from Protestants

So, I feel like I was a little harsh on our Protestant brothers and sisters last time, so I decided to take a moment to share a few things I think we Catholics could certainly learn from them:

1. It's not about following rules.

Sometimes I think that Catholics tend to go through the motions.
We think that if we just follow a set of rules and obligations then we will be okay. Often we get lost in a pattern of going to church and saying the prayers and tend to forget why we are really there. We are there to give glory to God and fall more in love with Christ. I’m not saying that the rules and obligations are bad—they are necessary to give us guidance and stability in our rather messy lives. Many graces come from going to church every Sunday even if we do it only out of obligation. Even our repetitious and pre-determined prayers can give us comfort in times when we don’t know what to say. But we can achieve a much greater relationship with God if we search for the truth behind the repetitious prayers we recite and the obligations we follow. There is so much we can learn about God and His love for us just by learning about the Mass, but often we are too bored in Mass to even pay attention. Let’s learn a little something from our Protestant friends who proclaim a relationship with God that allows them to want to go to church and listen to His Word.

2. The Bible is worth the read

It’s cliché, I know, but I know you’ve heard the joke at Catholic conferences:
“If you forgot your Bible, just look over the shoulder of your Protestant friend next to you…” We Catholics don’t read our Bibles nearly enough. We take it for granted that it will be read to us on Sundays, or we think that it’s only for those priests, much holier than us, to read. It’s only the most beautiful love story ever written. If we would just take a minute to sit down with the Great Book or maybe attend a Bible study, then our faith could grow so much. Maybe we could take the readings every day and meditate on them, or read what a theologian has to say about them. We can even take a minute to memorize a few verses that might help us when discussing theology with our fellow Protestants. (I suggest 150 Bible Verses Every Catholic Should Know, Patrick Madrid) Protestants are like walking Bibles themselves, so why should we stand there dumbfounded? After all, it was members of our Church who wrote the New Testament (along with the Holy Spirit of course). So if we follow the Catholic Church today, why not read what they wrote nearly 2,000 years ago? There might be something of value in there.

3. It’s not that scary to share your faith

Why is it that many Catholics don’t like to talk about being Catholic? It’s as if they think it’s some sad condition they have that no one else wants to hear about. Surely not. We should be joyful about our faith. It’s the most important thing we’ve got. Without God we are nothing, so why wouldn’t we want to share our joy in Him with everyone we know? It is so easy for many Protestants to praise God in the presence of anyone and talk about Christ as if they just spoke to him that morning (which they probably did…). Faith is normal to them—a part of everyday life. That how it should be for all of us. We should be unafraid to talk about what the priest said last Sunday, or what the Catholic Bishops say about health care, or just about God our Creator. If we really care about our neighbor, then we should care about their faith as well. Let’s not be selfish—share the faith.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Communion for All? Who wants it?

I heard one of the best arguments against open communion the other day. I was listening to Catholic Answers Live on the radio (great show by the way--comes on from 5-7 pm central time on EWTN Global Catholic Radio Network), and this person called in wondering why the Church did not allow open communion with other Christians. His point (which was a very good one) was that the Church was always saying how it desired there to be one church and all Christians to be united, yet it was very exclusive in the distribution of communion. Only practicing Catholics are allowed to take the Eucharist.

Well, there are the standard reasons we say in response to this question: you should not receive the true Body and Blood of Christ unless you truly believe and understand (to human capacity) the mystery that it is the Real Presence of Christ Himself, otherwise you eat and drink unworthily and are guilty of Christs body and blood (which Paul warns against in 1 Corinthians 11:27); and when we go to Communion we are proclaiming that we are in union with the Catholic Church and believe what it teaches, so, for a Protestant to receive would be a lie. So the apologist gave the caller these standard responses and the caller's rebuttal (also a good one) was that it seems we are actually working against striving for this union of the church because we are not allowing others to partake in our Eucharist--we are pointing them out as divided against us.

So, the great response that this apologist (and I regret not remembering his name) gave was simple. He said that we would LOVE to have everyone come to our communion, but that does not mean we should pretend there is a union there that doesn't exist. In other words, we should not assume that these people are in communion with us just so they won't feel left out. There is a separation that needs healing, and we can't act like it isn't there, otherwise it would never heal. That would be like trying to cure cancer by pretending you don't have it. It doesn't work that way. If we allowed everyone to receive communion in our church we would be saying that it is okay that they don't believe what the Catholic Church teaches and the divide would continue. The reality is it's not okay that many do not believe in the Catholic Church. It is absolutely not okay.

I'm not saying that Protestants are all bad or that they don't have the truth--after all, they are Christian--but they are missing some important parts of the whole Truth that can only be found in the Catholic Church. I believe in the Catholic Church because I believe its the whole TRUTH. If I didn't believe that, then why would I even be Catholic at all? I would have no true faith because it would be okay to believe whatever was convenient. There are over 33,000 Protestant denominations (World Christian Encyclopedia, 2nd edition, David Barrett, 2001), each believing something different, and many of them think that doesn't matter as long as you're Christian. What kind of faith is that? If you believe one set of doctrines and someone else believes another and you're fine with that, then how can you say that you believe in the Truth? That's relativism.

The fact that the Catholic Church says it's NOT OKAY that we are divided and makes a point that you must be united with the Catholic Church in order to receive the Eucharist (the greatest Sacrament), says a lot about the faith of the people. We believe that we are the Church that Christ instituted and He never ever intended it to be divided (John 17:20-23). We want to heal the divide; open communion would only make it worse by saying it's okay to believe what you want. Instead, we must evangelize to our Protestant brethren and draw people into the faith. The Eucharist is for everyone, but you must have true faith in it. We would LOVE to have EVERYONE participate in our communion, but that doesn't mean we are going to compromise. Communion is for All, but if you truly want it, you must come to believe in the Truth, passed on to us by the Church established by Jesus Christ--the Catholic Church.