Ascension Thursday

Jesus Ascension(Image in Public domain)

“When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight. While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.” Acts 1:9-11

Today is the beautiful feast day of the Ascension. It is the day we celebrate when Jesus took his rightful place – Ascending into heaven of His own power – at the right hand of the Father. It is also a reminder for us that someday, after the final judgement, will be reunited into our glorified body and live forever with Jesus in heaven (or eternally separated from Him in hell.)

Because of its significance, the feast of the Ascension is a holy day of obligation. From what I have read on about.com, all the dioceses of the US – except Boston, New York, Hartford, Newark, Omaha, and Philadelphia – have transferred the obligation to the following Sunday, June 1. HOWEVER, here in NJ,  the Metuchen and Trenton Dioceses are maintaining the obligation for today, the actual feast day, and so may many others. Therefore, if you are not certain if the feast is celebrated today or Sunday in your church, I encourage you to contact your local parish office.

To read more about this glorious feast go here, here and here.

Ancient Catholic Prayer for the Ascension

Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God,
that we who believe
Thine only-begotten Son our Redeemer,
to have ascended this day into heaven,
may ourselves dwell in spirit amid heavenly things. Amen.

(From the Roman Missal [6th-8th Century]. Found this beautiful prayer here.)

 

How to “Get Something” Out of Mass (Practical Steps)

In the previous installment of “How to ‘Get Something’ Out of Mass” I said I would share some practical tips and ideas for getting the most out of the Mass. Pick a few and them give them a try for a few weeks. If they work, great keep doing them and add a couple more. If not, scrap them, pick a couple different ones and try those.

Eucharist

(photo credit: Lawrence OP via photopin cc)

Before Mass:

1. Pray the Scriptures.

Sometime during the week, spend a few minutes reading  and praying over the Scripture readings for the coming Sunday. If you can read them on Saturday, that would be best that way they will be fresh on your mind come Sunday morning.

2. Get ready the night before.

Lay out the clothes and shoes for you and your family. Set the table for breakfast if you will be eating before the one-hour fast kicks in. Do whatever you can the night before that will make the morning go smoother and easier to get out the door in time for Mass.

3. Arrive 5-10 minutes early.

I know that sounds impossible, but if you can get to church early it will give you time to take the kids coats off (in winter), settle them down and do any last minute runs to the bathroom before Mass starts. It will also give you time do do #4.

4) Spend a few minutes in prayer.

Give your heart and mind a few minutes to quiet down and settle your heart. Re-read the scriptures for the Mass and give yourself to enter into the mystery that is about to begin.

During Mass:

5. Minimize distractions.

Getting rid of distractions all together is impossible. Well, it’s impossible for me, at least. But you can do things like avoid looking around the church, talking or whispering to those around you and such to minimize them. (One of the reasons I where a mantilla, or chapel veil is because it helps me to keep focused on what’s happening in front of me, not around me – but chapel veils is for a whole other topic of discussion!)

6. Stick to the missal.

This is actually a technique for avoiding distractions. Since the changes to the mass came out over a year ago we all went back to the missal to learn the new wordings. But whether you have all the responses memorized or not, reading along is a great way to keep focused. It also gives a whole new perspective. Sometimes when I’m following along with the priest by reading I’ll see something that I never noticed before.

7. Answer the responses.

A huge part of Mass is the communal participation of the faithful in the liturgy. We are supposed to respond at the appropriate places and sing along with the various songs at Mass. I don’t know about where you live, but where I live in NJ, the communal participation is sorely lacking. Very often the only people I hear singing along with the choir is myself (which is rather scary!) and my family.

After Mass:

8. Make your thanksgiving.

Years ago it was the norm that people would say for few minutes to thank the Lord after receiving communion. Nowadays, the priest is barely off the altar before people are rushing out of church. Resist that urge. Try and take a few minutes (or even one or two minutes) to make your thanksgiving and thank the Lord for coming to you. I remember being told by the sisters when I was with them that the body and blood of our Lord remain undigested for about 10 minutes after you receive communion. I don’t know for sure if that is true or not, but it’s certainly something being mindful of.

9. Discuss the Mass with your family.

On the car ride home or during lunch or dinner talk about the mass as a family. What was their favorite (or worst) part of the homily? What did the priest mean when he said such and such? How can we practically live out something that we heard at Mass today?

10. Prepare for next week.

The Mass is the most central part of our lives as Catholics. We are called to live out the liturgy in our lives and live for the liturgy (figuratively speaking.) Look forward to going to Mass each week. Go to daily Mass when you can. Read different books about what the saints say about the Mass. Read the Catechism of the Catholic Church about the Mass. The more you live your life within the liturgy the more the liturgy will live within you. (<–Tweetable!)

What about you? What are your favorite tips for getting the most out of Mass? If you feel like you don’t get anything out of Mass, why? We can all use a little help in getting the most out of the Mass so let’s get a conversation going about this.

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P.S. If you want support and accountability in living out your spiritual life, including getting the most out of Mass and prayer, I encourage you to get on a free clarity call with me. Together we can explore the possibility of working together in a way that further supports you and help you go deeper into your relationship with God.

 

How to “Get Something” out of Mass

Over the years people have told me (usually in explaining why they don’t bother with church anymore), “I don’t get anything out of the Mass.” I’ve been hearing it again recently by several different people. This is a sad statement. It tells me that the person saying this doesn’t understand what the Mass is all about and that’s a shame. It is a sorry testament of how little many of us, even many of us faithful Catholics, really know what our own faith.*

Eucharist

(photo credit: Lawrence OP via photopin cc)

The statement “I don’t get anything out of the Mass” also brings me to ask at least two questions. 1) “What are you looking to get out of Mass?” and 2) “What are you putting into the Mass?”

“What are you looking to get out of Mass?

If you are looking for good music, a great preacher and being filled with fluffy feelings, you aren’t always going to get it. That’s not what mass is about. Sure it helps if the music is beautiful and uplifting but that won’t always be the case. Sometimes the singing stinks. Sometimes there isn’t any music at all. Sometimes the priest is a good speaker that gets everyone fired up; however, the reality is that most priests do the best they can but they aren’t good speakers. Who hasn’t fallen asleep (or almost fallen asleep) listening to a priest who is monotone and uninspiring? And most times when you go to mass you aren’t going to have fluffy feelings. Sure, once in a while you’ll get an overwhelming emotional “something” when yo go to mass but more often you won’t. But here’s the thing, Mass isn’t about good music, good preaching or good feelings.

“What are you putting into the Mass?”

Do you show up for mass at the last second or late? Do you leave right after communion? Do you spend time talking with the Lord or chatting up the people around you? Do you let yourself get distracted or caught up in whatever is going through your mind? Is your heart and mind open to what the Lord wants to do or say to you during Mass? If so, how do you expect to get anything out of Mass if you aren’t willing to put any effort into it? I think it is safe to say that most of us know that the more we put ourselves into something the more we get out of it. This is true even with the Mass. Don’t get me wrong. We all have things that distract us. We all have crosses to bear and life can push its way into our minds, distracting us. But are you trying to make an effort? There are things we can do to prepare ourselves so that we can get more out of mass. I’ll talk about those things tomorrow.

What DO you get out of Mass?

JESUS! We get the honor and privilege of participating in the un-bloody sacrifice of the Lord. Jesus gives himself, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, completely to us in the Eucharist. He does this, not for Himself, but for us. God doesn’t need our worship, but we have a deep desire and need to worship HIM. We need to receive Him and be united to Him.

Another thing we get out of Mass is grace. We get God’s grace to help us and strengthen us in our daily lives, to help us avoid and overcome sin, and to live the life we have been called to live.

The secret to getting “something” out of Mass.

Want to know the secret to getting something out of Mass? Forget yourself. Just drop the idea that you are supposed to get something out of Mass. Refocus your attention to where it belongs – on Jesus. I promise you, if you shift your mindset and focus on Jesus, if you keep your heart and mind open, looking for Him to speak to you, He will.

Don’t get me wrong, if you have children, don’t ignore them if they need something or have to be settled down. If you have elderly parents, don’t pretend they aren’t there! What I’m saying here is do your best to focus on what is happening at the Altar, expecting God to touch you. Every time we receive the Eucharist Jesus comes to us. Let’s be ready to receive him. In tomorrow’s post I will offer some practical tips and ideas to help you do this.

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Moderation is Key: A Catholic View of Alcohol

Red WineLate last week a non-Catholic Facebook friend posed this question: “Is it right or wrong to drink, scriptorially? Is it ok to drink sometime or not at all?”

Apparently, she was getting conflicting opinions from her church and wanted to know what the Bible said about drinking. From this question, an interesting discussion ensued. One comment particularly stood out for me (copied exactly as stated in FB):

The Holy Spirit don’t stand alcohol. Let’s be not only believer’s, but let’s repent to get the promise for US and our children (act.2:38-40) to get the H.S in hearts. A simple believer without the H.S is not yet a confirmed child (son) of God. Rememeber what is said in Roman 8. The only way wine is allowed is to take communion. This truth is available only for the new Covenant. In the Old Covenant, only Nazareane couldn’t drink wine. They are the Equivalent of man (woman) filled with the Holy Spirit in the New Covenant. Without the H.S in heart, we are not sons or daughters of God. Do you see?

What gets me about this comment is, that this person is basically saying that if a person drinks alcohol, he or she doesn’t have the Holy Spirit in his or her heart. That’s rubbish. This person doesn’t have some special view into a person’s heart. Only God can read our hearts. Only God knows our intentions. Only God knows where our hearts lie and whether or not the Holy Spirit is living in us. Alcohol has nothing to do with that.

On top of that,  how does this person know that the Holy Spirit “don’t stand alcohol”? No where in the Bible does it expressly say that alcohol is intrinsically evil. We are often warned not to live in excess, but that concerned eating, drinking, etc. but no where does it say that alcohol is evil. (If I’m wrong, do please point out the verse to me, and I will take this back!)

Concerning Romans 8, which is cited by this person, doesn’t say that the Holy Spirit is against alcohol. What it does say in verse 5 is this:

For those who live according to the flesh are concerned with the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the spirit with the things of the spirit.

Throughout the chapter, it talks about living in Christ and being a new creation and that we are adopted sons and daughters of the Father, through Christ. In verse 10 it says:

But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is alive because of righteousness.”

Maybe it’s me, but I don’t think any of these verse are intended to categorically say that alcohol is evil. I encourage you to read Romans 8 and decide for yourself.

I also spent a little time in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. There isn’t anything explicit about alcohol, but under the section of the section dealing with the 5th Commandment – when it talks about the dignity of the human person – there is a part dealing with “respect for health”  it says this (Article 2290):

The virtue of temperance disposes us to avoid every kind of excess: the abuse of food, alcohol, tobacco, or medicine. Those incur grave guilt who, by drunkenness or a love of speed, endanger their own and others’ safety on the road, at sea, or in the air.

See, it is the virtue of temperance that must guide our choices. Any abuse or excess of ANYTHING is wrong; however, that doesn’t necessarily make the thing itself intrinsically evil or wrong. (Although, one could make a case for tobacco!)

In conclusion, let me sum up my view using the comment (in response to the person mentioned above) I left for my friend:

“Jesus ate and drank with his apostles and turned water into wine. Wine is made from grapes, which was made from God and all that God has made is good. The key is moderation. The bible says to stay sober and not get drunk and carousing, but no where in the bible does it say that alcohol in itself is evil. It’s us humans that make it evil by giving into drunkenness and excess. Or anything else that is good for that matter; alcohol, food, sex are all good. We are the ones that distort that goodness by not using them as God intended. Everyone of us are responsible before the Lord for our actions, so if we know that we “can’t hold our drink” then we have a responsibility not to drink, but having a glass of wine with dinner or on a special occasion is not against the Holy Spirit or wrong.

I’d love your opinion. Do you agree with me? Or take a different position? What are your thoughts on this?

Further Reading:

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Biblical Evidence for Catholicism

(Photo Credit)

 

What the Catholic Church Teaches about Marriage

The Lord has been putting it in my heart to do a little series on marriage* for a while, and since February is the ‘month of love’ with St. Valentine’s Day and all, I figured now would be a good as time as any to get it going. 🙂

In this first installment, I am going to talk about marriage as a sacrament based on Scripture and the Catechism. Then over the next couple of weeks I’ll talk about what makes a good marriage, loving your spouse and finally a post on submission (which always seems to be a hot topic!). So let’s get started:

Marriage as a Sacrament

Before we talk about marriage as a sacrament, let’s remind ourselves what a sacrament is. According to the Baltimore Catechism, a Sacrament is “an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace.” The New Catechism states this a bit differently, a Sacrament is “an outward sign of an inward reality instituted by Christ to give grace.”

In the case of marriage, the outward sign would be the couple – husband and wife – itself. The inward reality, of course, would be Christ’s love for the Church.

As married people, we are a sign to the world of Christ’s abiding love for all people, the people whom He lived, suffered, died and rose again. We are a sign of the unseen heavenly realities of which our lives are directed. This is an incredible truth of our faith!

The Scriptural basis for marriage

You are probably familiar with many of the Scripture verses that relate to marriage, but let me remind you of one of them again. If you can, it may be nice to spend some time praying over this and the other verses during the month.

Genesis 2:21-24So the Lord God cast a deep sleep on the man and while he was asleep, he took out one of his ribs, and closed up its place with flesh. the Lord God then built up into a woman the rib that he had taken from the man. When he brought her to the man, the man said: ‘This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; This one shall be called ‘woman,’ for out of ‘her man’ this one has been taken.’ That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body.

This is one of several Scriptures. I encourage you to read Matthew 19:4-7, Mark 10:7-12, 1 Corinthians 7: 3-5, 2 Corinthians 11:2, Ephesians 5: 22-32, Revelation 19:6-8 for more verses, especially the ones pertaining to Christ and His Church.

What the catechism says about marriage

The catechism (articles 1601-1666) has some beautiful passages about the sacrament of marriage and I hope you will read them. There are a couple of powerful passages, however, that I want to point out:

“”The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.” (article 1601)

“”By reason of their state in life and of their order, [Christian spouses] have their own special gifts in the People of God.” This grace proper to the sacrament of Matrimony is intended to perfect the couple’s love and to strengthen their indissoluble unity. By this grace they “help one another to attain holiness in their married life and in welcoming and educating their children.” (article 1641)

The word covenant is worth noting here. Remember God’s covenant to Abraham? God made an everlasting promise to Abraham. In marriage, a couple makes an everlasting (until death) covenant to each other, before God, which in turn grants them their “own special gifts in the people of God.”

The Purpose of the Sacrament of Marriage

The church teaches us that the purpose of the sacrament of marriage is twofold: to help each spouse to grow in holiness and the “procreation and education of offspring (1601).”

Simple words, yet they aren’t always easy live out! I think that’s why we need the special graces afforded to us in the Sacrament of Matrimony. In the day in and day out of living, we can forget the gift and the grace of our marriage state. It’s worth taking time time to reflect on our special calling once in a while. We need the reminder that marriage, Catholic marriage particularly, is so much more than what the world view of marriage shows us.

Next week I’ll get more practical and will share my thoughts on what makes a good marriage. 🙂

(Linked to Saints and Scripture Sunday)

*Just for your information, I will not be touching on topics such as divorce, marriage vs civil unions, birth control or other “hot” topics related to marriage in this series. I may in the future, but for now, I want to use this series to be an encouragement and support for those who are discerning marriage or who already married and looking to deepen their relationship with their spouse. 🙂

Advent Meditation

Advent Wreath

My friend Anne is starting an in-depth Advent meditation series that I thought you all may like to check out. Here’s a snippet from her first post:

What is Advent?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us:

[It’s the] Liturgical Season of four weeks devoted to the preparation for the coming of Christ at Christmas. ~Glossary Terms

When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for His second coming (cf. Rev22:17). By celebrating the precursor’s birth and martyrdom, the Church unites herself to His desire: “He must increase, but I must decrease,”(cf. Jn 3:30) ~CCC§524

To me it seems more than adequate to say, this Advent is unlike any other we have experienced in that so much is going on in our world today, that I feel it very necessary to pack as much ‘spiritual meat’ into the upcoming reflections as I can. Time being of the essence I will republish writings I did called “As Seen Through Mary’s Eyes”, and add to them as much reference as I can to the Catechism and Sacred Scripture.

So many people have missed the significance of God’s decision to come among us, first as an infant and then as a child and so forth, through His chosen vessel – that is Mary”… Continue here.

(photo credit)

Angels Among Us: A Personal Witness

“For God commands the angels to guard you in all your ways.” Psalm 91:11

With Autumn comes two excellent feast days. On September 29 we celebrate the feast of the Archangels and on October 2 we celebrate the obligatory memorial of the Guardian Angels.

Image by Alexas_Fotos (2015) via Pixabay, CCO Public domain

I love these celebrations of the angels and I love knowing that God has given each of us our own angel to watch over us and protect us. (Between you and me, I am convinced that God gives little boys more than one guardian angel – at least to my physical, somewhat clumsy son! LOL!)

Devotion to the Holy Angels was something that was taught to me much of my life. I was taught to give my guardian angel a name and to pray to him (and all the angels) daily. I was also taught say the prayer to Saint Michael every day. To this day, I still pray to the angels and am trying to teach my son to do so too.

So, in honor of the Guardian Angels, I want to share a couple of real life examples of encounters with Angels. They may sound crazy, but I promise you, they are absolutely true.

This first event happened way back in the dark ages, when I was seventeen. {smile}

One night, when it was already dark, I was driving with a guy-friend. My friend was making a left-hand turn when his car stalled: Right in the middle of the street. In the meantime, there was another car barreling toward us from the opposite direction at full speed. I don’t know if that person saw us or not because he/she never slowed down, not even a little. Can you say panic?!

All of a sudden, when the other car was only a few feet away, our car was lifted up and out of the way! It wasn’t lifted up very high; just high enough to get across the intersection. There was no one around, our car hadn’t started, nor did that person coming toward us stop at all. It just continued speeding down the road as if we weren’t even there. It was the craziest thing!

Needless to say, both of us were quite shaken up. At the time of the incident, my friend didn’t have much of a relationship with the Lord and I was just re-discovering my faith. And I can tell you, that incident left a deep impression on me and my faith. I have never forgotten that night and I don’t think I ever will.

Another “encounter” with an angel that happened to me was in 2004. I was on a pilgrimage with my husband and some others to Medjugorje*. On the bus ride from the airport to the village Medjugorje, I saw a warrior angel in the sky. I am not sure how I knew it was a warrior angel but I had the distinct impression that this angel was protecting us during the course of our trip. And, that sense of protection stayed with me the whole time we were in the Village and surrounding areas.

I believe that there have been dozens of little ways the angels have protected us over the years; many of which, I’m sure, I never even noticed or recognized. These two events, however, have been permanently embedded in my mind and heart! It is comforting to know that God “has our backs” and sends His Angels to watch over us and protect us. Isn’t it?

What about you? Have you ever had an encounter with an angel or felt his/her protection in your life? Please, do share them with us in the comments.

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*Although my experience at Medjugorje was positive, and I personally believe they are true, the jury is still out in regards to the apparitions of Medjugorje and they have not yet been officially approved by the Church. I will submit completely to the decision of the Church regarding these apparitions, whatever that decision may be.

(If you want to learn more about our Catholic belief in the angels check out the Catechism of the Catholic Church numbers 328-349.)