Friday, February 6, 2015

Encountering Christ Through Praise

This week, our parish held a three-day Encounter.  There were speakers, filled with wisdom, who shared stories from the Bible and connected them to stories about real life. Their messages were funny, heartfelt, exciting, and jarring. They encouraged us to deepen our relationship with Jesus, either through opening ourselves to begin that relationship or to bring our current relationship to the next level. They laid out how simple that choice should be, and how hard it can be because of our fallen nature.

The most incredible gift was the praise, especially through music. It set the tone, and it definitely pleased God, because He sent His Spirit rushing through that church to bring His children closer to Him. And I deliberately use the term gift, because God doesn't need our praise. He's God. He doesn't need anything. Praise is His present to us, because we were made for worship. WE need to praise, and through it, we experience joy.

I'll admit that I have an aversion to what I call happy-clappy music, and this has come about from attending Masses where people become the audience, rather than participants. They like the music, but as entertainment.  Meanwhile, they wander in late, play on their cell phones (and I know some use devices to follow along as Scripture is read, and that's fantastic) or chat with each other, and they ignore Jesus and what's taking place on the altar. The lack of respect is a distraction I have to fight.

After my experience this week, I've determined that the problem lies not with the music, but with the misuse of the music. I just have to pray that those who don't get it will allow God to work in their hearts to convert them to a place where the music becomes praise.

Back to the Encounter. Every evening began with praise. Gifted musicians led the people through songs meant to open our minds and hearts to Jesus. There are always those who raise their hands and sway with the tempo. I'm the one tho folds her hands in front of her and stands at attention, but that doesn't keep the Holy Spirit out.

The first step in prayer, whether you're following the structure found in the Psalms or you're winging it in your own prayer, is giving God praise. There's a reason for this.  It's like activating His presence. With that praise, we glorify Him and put ourselves in communion with Him, and I believe He is pleased and responds by lifting us up to a place where we can hear His voice.

Only then will we have the clearest line, the best connection, that will enable us to pray with confidence for our requests, to hear His voice in Scripture, to receive guidance as to what He wants you specifically to do as His disciple.

And then we thank Him.

(But it all starts with the Praise!)

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Our Lady of All Nations: A Prayer for Peace

During her apparitions to Ida Peerdeman, a Dutch woman, from 1945 - 1959, under the title of Our Lady of All Nations, Mary gave her a prayer for peace.  She asked that it be prayed daily in front of the Cross.

Mary often predicts world secular events as a way to catch our attention, to get us to believe. In this instance, she predicted

- the return of the State of Israel
- the Korean War
- the communist revolution in China
- the "Arab Spring"

Our Lady asked people to write to the Holy Father and encourage a fifth Marian Dogma that declares her Mediatrix, Co-Redemptrix, and Advocate.  She put special emphasis on the "Co", and said that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will to send her, bearer of the Redeemer, into this world as Co-Redemptrix. She said that it would cause much controversy, but the more the Church fought for it, the stronger it would become.

Why does Our Lady ask for titles? Is it because she's gone egocentric? NO. It's because Mary's titles are her functions.

She also asked that we say this prayer daily in front of the Cross to end the degeneration, disaster and war in this world.

"Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Father, send now your Holy Spirit over the earth. Let the Holy Spirit live in the hearts of all nations, that they may be preserved from degeneration, disasters, and war. May the Lady of All Nations, the Blessed Virgin Mary, be our Advocate. Amen."

If you would like to write the Holy Father, you can do so at:

Pope Francis, 00120 Vatican City.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Do You Have a Relationship with the Church, or a Truce?

I heard an interesting comment the other day.

"50/50 is not a relationship; it is a truce." 

Photo from Wikimedia Commons
It really hit home, because most of us are looking for a truce, whether it be in our marriages, our jobs, our
relationships with family and friends, or our relationship with the Church.

Anyone who is happily married or has children will tell you that love is not give and take; it's give. Any time I've looked for my 50% or tried to divvy things up to make them fair, I've wound up miserable or angry or both.

Keeping score doesn't work for anything other than sports. That doesn't mean be a doormat, but our definition of doormat has narrowed to the point where the minute the balance is tipped in the favor of someone else, we cry foul.

How, you ask, can I have a relationship with the Church?  It's an organization. Well, that kind of thinking is the start of the problem.

The Church is the Body of Christ. It is comprised of members, individuals, human beings. Your relationships with those human beings, from your fellow volunteers to the parish office staff to your priest to your bishop to Pope Francis define your relationship with the Church.

Are you a minimalist? You've filled out a parish registration, dutifully check the Catholic box on surveys, and regularly put money in your donation envelope. What more do they want? Well, does your spouse require more of you than to bring home the paycheck and acknowledge that he/she is part of the family? I would hope so!

Are you confrontational?  Are your conversations about the Church a criticism of everything you don't agree with or understand? Just a suggestion: Have you ever tried to understand the Church's position? I've found they are usually well thought-out positions with valid reasons behind them. Get a Catechism. It's a great resource.

Do you write your pastor with complaints about the music, the altar server's tennis shoes, or parish leaders?  Have you ever offered a (workable/kind) solution? Sometimes your solution won't be accepted even though it's obviously the most brilliant idea since American cheese. Realize that there are others who don't agree with you and let it go.

If you feel as if nobody ever says hello, have you ever introduced yourself? They may be shy, new to the parish, or feel they are respecting your privacy.  Conversely, do you know the names of any of your fellow parishioners? Or do you approach them at Mass the same way you'd approach fellow audience members at the theater? You're all there for the same show, but no talking!

Relationships take effort. Sometimes you may be the one who has to go more than halfway, but life is rarely never 50/50.

There can be great peace in tearing up your scorecard.