Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Don't Be a Minimalist with God

Too often I hear excuses for why people don't attend Mass on Sunday. Their teen was sleepy. They had a soccer game to attend. It wasn't convenient.

The world has been taken over by Minimalists. Far beyond an art form or political theory, Minimalism is the mentality that seeks to do the bare minimum. It's that customer service rep who will only answer your direct question instead of helping you solve the problem. It's the store clerk who goes on break while a long line of customers wait. It's those people who show up twenty minutes late for Mass and leave right after Communion.

While we're reluctantly giving the God of the universe the barest possible thanks, I wondered how well that scenario would play out at home.

Wife:            I recognize the birthday card you got me.
Hubby:       That's because I pulled it out of the box of bulk all-occasion cards you got at Costco.
Wife:            Hmmmm. You didn't sign it.
Hubby:      You wanted it signed? (sigh) Give me a pen.
Wife:            I don't suppose I can expect a present.
Hubby:       I just figured if you wanted something you'd buy it yourself.
Wife:           Thanks for the thought.
Hubby:       Hey.
Wife:          (snarling) What?
Hubby:      I love you.

How many of you would get butterflies in your tummy over this demonstration of love?

The Mass is a huge part of a Catholic's relationship with God. It's a time for us to go and offer Him thanks for everything He's given us--literally everything we have--and to partake in the Eucharist, which has been the soul and summit of the Catholic Church since since Christ founded it. To actually receive the body, blood, soul and divinity of the God of the universe is an HUGE honor. Why would you look for an excuse to get out of it????

Lets not beat around the bush. If you say Christ is first in your life but it's too much trouble to go to Mass, then you're a liar. If you can find things more important than going to Mass for approximately one hour per week to worship and praise the Lord, then God is not first in your life, and whatever IS first is where your true devotion lies.

Just for the record, choosing to skip Mass without a legitimate reason (and common sense should tell you what those are) is a mortal sin. Die with a mortal sin on your soul? BOOM. Hell. That's because justification for Catholics is an ongoing state of grace, and that relationship with God can be broken by sin. Confession is the only remedy.

But don't go to Mass out of fear. God doesn't want your fear. He wants your love. He wants a relationship. He sent His only Son to die on a cross for you, just so you could be with Him forever. Don't you think He's worth an hour of your time?

And that's still the minimum.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Best of Women at a Women's Retreat

Samaritan Woman at the Well by Giacomo Franceschini

This past weekend, I attended the women's retreat at Saint Kateri parish in Saugus. Six hours of all girls, all day.  What an excellent time!

Women, when they are being authentic to their femininity, are the coolest...creation...ever.  When God gave Adam a mate, He covered every scenario.  Compassion to sense the needs of others, whether physical, spiritual, or emotional as well as the generosity to do something about it without taking measure to make certain things are "fair".  Unbreakable loyalty. An instinct to lift people up. And on and on.  

We should already know this from looking to our role model, Mary.  Mary was a tough Jewish cookie who risked it all to say "Yes" to God. She carried heavy buckets of water from the well and stepped in mud and animal droppings to do it.  She made a long journey on a donkey while pregnant and gave birth in a cold, smelly stable. What a woman. And I met so many women at the retreat who shared her attributes: tough, feminine, generous, and filled with love for their fellow woman and for Jesus.

We enjoyed scripture readings (this retreat focused on Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the Well) and meditations (the Christian kind, where you fill your head with God instead of emptying it out) and the day included plenty of singing and praising God with the help of a local family band.  I especially enjoyed those moments when we talked in small groups.

I was lucky enough to sit at a table made up mostly of women I didn't know, so I had a chance to meet new friends and hear new stories about how God touches lives.

The first to arrive was a friend, the mother of two beautiful daughters who will someday grow up to be as special as their mother. There was an older lady who graduated from a music conservatory and then went on to raise five children, who then gave her ten grandchildren.  Three sisters sat next to each other (literal sisters, not just Sisters in Christ). The older two had boys who were playing a football game that day, while the youngest was an artist. They loved to attend retreats together and were so close, sharing jokes and finishing each other's sentences. Their friend joined us. A photographer by trade, she could have been her own model.

The great thing about us gals is that we don't mind crying in front of strangers. While I didn't actually sob, I did tear up as I listed to one table mate's story about the near-drowning of her daughter. She held the hands of her two sisters and cried tears of gratitude as she related the fear as well as the loving support offered by her family during the crises. A local church who saw the helicopter transport her daughter to the hospital contacted the family and offered their prayers and support. They now attend that church. That's the best conduit for the Good News--acts of love and kindness in His name.

The photographer related a terrible childbirth experience and poured out the guilt she felt because she stopped pushing during delivery and had to submit to a c-section.  If she had watched more television dramas, she would have known this exhaustion was not unusual. Recently, she has come to understand that she didn't give up; she surrendered to God.

I hope to meet these women again.  I have the photographer's business card for that moment when I'm ready to update my head shot. One sister invited me to attend the next Fish Fest (a music festival), and if Stephen Curtis Chapman is going to make an appearance, I'm there!

Women were made for a supporting role. Literally. Look at Mary. She mothered the Savior, she supported the early Church, and she lent her loving presence to those early Christians (known as The Way) to help them understand and keep them pointed toward Jesus. I can imagine what a comfort she was to those early Church members.

Women have such an abundance of warmth and understanding and they overflow with available hugs.  They can't help swooping in to lift up those who are experiencing sadness or pain. It's a gift.

Women weren't made to tear each other down. That's an affliction emphasized by the current "it's all about me" environment. They weren't made to sacrifice children and husbands to the gods of wealth and ego.

They were made to form the very foundation of society. To be the rich soil necessary to grow decent children, families and communities. To be a positive influence on their family members, younger women, schools, neighborhoods and even politicians and the press. To be role models.

Women are the coolest...creation...ever.


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Rosary--A Christocentric Prayer

The month of October is dedicated the the most holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary. At first look, the Rosary is all about Mary, right? 10 Hail Mary's for every 1 Our Father and Glory Be. The odds are in her favor.  But that would be looking at this powerful prayer through the wrong lenses.

The Rosary is Christ centered, from beginning to end, and the first place to find Christ is in that prayer, the Hail Mary. 

Hail Mary, full of Grace
the Lord is with you
Blessed are you among women
And blessed is the fruit of your womb,

Holy Mary, Mother of God
pray for us sinners
now and at the hour of our death.

The first stanza, if you will, comes from Luke 1:28.  Here's the KJ version.

"And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women."

Was the angel complimenting her on her outfit? What a good housekeeper she was? No!  She was prepared by God, filled with grace and without original sin, to be the vessel for the Christ.  She was chosen among women to give birth to the Savior, and he was greeting the one who would shortly, upon her Fiat, become the mother of God.  It's all about Jesus

The second stanza comes from Luke 1:42

"And she (Elisabeth) spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb."

Elisabeth was responding to her son, John's, sanctification in her womb upon beholding the Son of God in Mary's womb. Did Elisabeth have x-ray vision? No. God revealed to her that the baby carried by Mary was the Savior of the world. Her response to her cousin was all about Jesus

Holy Mary, Mother of God

That's who she was. 

Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. 

We ask for her powerful intercession, just as she interceded for the wedding couple at Cana. We are asking her to pray for us. Jesus is our only intercessor to the Father, but Mary and the saints are intercessors to Jesus. (And that doesn't mean you should not pray directly to Jesus!)

This isn't an original idea of mine. Pope John Paul II laid it out in his apostolic letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae

God reveals tools that Christians can use on their path to holiness, and the Rosary is one of my favorites. And I have to believe that God favors it as well, since the purpose is to focus on the Mysteries of His life.