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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Sister of Perpetual Discernment

I don't know where I saw that phrase, but I like it. It's so true, for too many.

Just when I think I had it all figured out, I must, in all humility, admit that I DON'T. I don't have a clue. I have no idea what's going to happen next and I'm not even willing to hazard a guess anymore. And humility is not my strong suit.

Even further, I can't believe I'm writing this post. A certain Sister I know is likely falling out of her chair 'bout now, reading this, ready to dash off an email to me.

I had ruled out religious life. I hadn't ruled in married life (no one on the horizon), and had just come to be comfortable with the idea of perpetual single life...although truth be told, that "comfort level" is just a sham. I made it up.

Tonight, EWTN had a few Brothers on, and as usual, when I watch these shows, I think, "I could do that. I like that MUCH better than what I'm doing NOW!".

I like prayer, although I'm often distracted, and I get bored with the Rosary (There! I said it!), I don’t like praying the rosary with a large group, I'm lazy and most of the time I think I'm entirely useless to God or anyone else, but here I am. My regular, willful, confused, train-wreck of myself, wondering if I should open that door I already closed. Does anyone really WANT me to open that door?

I don't think I'm called to religious life, but I'm going to admit that I haven't fully let it go. Or rather, it hasn't let me go. I had a terrible family life; I can't see myself in a community setting and able to deal with it. Then again, it's not as if I'm a stranger to dysfunction, but that's why I crave stability, and is stability really an option in community living? I mean, really. Let's be honest. People are human all over the place and all of us have our various disorders. We're all disordered in some way. It's called "the effect of original sin." Yup.

But then I watch these shows and I start wondering again. God knows I haven't found success in the professional world. On the surface, maybe. On the surface, it looks like I'm making decent money, I own a house, a car, dogs, I have good credit, I'm heading off to grad school (maybe), and man, I'm "livin' the dream!"

Yeah. Some dream. I'm miserable. Completely miserable. My joy is in my faith, my joy is in the gift of life God gave me, my joy is in the Lord. But when I take a step back in the midst of that joy, I know I'm completely wretched, because I haven't figured out where I belong. I so envy people who know where they belong, even with all their own trials. I don't want their lives, don't get me wrong. I just want their secure knowledge of Vocation. I don't have that, and some days I wonder if I'll ever have it. I’m completely adrift, being pulled by different currents, sometimes left to float, abandoned, always trying to keep my eyes on the cross. Unfortunately, the crucified Jesus does not speak from the cross in ways that give obvious direction. “Offer it up” isn’t going far enough these days.

There's a big piece missing somewhere, and some mornings I wake up in complete terror, thinking I've lost it forever. Except that I know God is faithful and He remembers the location of whatever I've misplaced, or whatever someone else has hidden from me.

Back in high school, when I revealed to people that I wanted to be a cop, they laughed at me. Some of them, anyway. The cops I knew didn't and took me under their wings. I'll be eternally grateful because it was their support that fueled me through the difficult training (all the more difficult being a woman). In High School, I was quiet, I was "a brain", and I was a troubled kid. Of course, the school didn't know it because the troubles were kept under the surface. No one knew of my suicidal leanings, few knew of my days as a runaway, but every time I jumped, God was there for me.

I remember one day, having dodged flying objects all night due to one of Mom's psychotic rampages (bipolar), I had packed a few things and fled to school, praying that my best friend's family would take me in for the night. I didn't care if I had to sleep in a box. In my hand I gripped a permission form Mom had refused to sign because she thought it was a commitment order or a death order or some such thing. I was 17 years old, and Mom wouldn't let me go on a class field trip. And it wasn't so much the field trip as the helpless of my situation. I spoke with the guidance counselor that day, some to do with upcoming college admission, and he suggested I look into Minor Emancipation, and sent me to the Principal. I ended up presenting myself before a surprised Principal, in whose office I had never been, in tears, in panic, and explaining my Mom's illness. I explained that the GC had sent me to him for info on a Minor Emancipation. He was surprised to see me; I'd never been in trouble, I was one of the "bright" kids, and it was so rare for one of the top students to come from such a position with such a request.

He had a file in front of him, I remember, and he told me that he didn't think such a court proceeding was the way to go. I learned that day that our Principal was a compassionate man ruled by a great deal of common sense; he suggested that in the event, throughout what remained of the year, if a permission slip was needed he would accept the signature of another adult (I had to give him some names; that of my best friend's parents, and he knew them as they were affiliated with the schools, and of my aunt and uncle), or I could simply bring the issue to him and he would assist.

I left the office, still in tears, but this time, with hope. Just one of the times God caught me before I went off the deep end. God is faithful.

Skip ahead...I worked hard to do what I thought I was called to do, only to fail. Again and again, I have failed. God has given me what I needed, and he's made me rip through thorns both natural and those of my own choosing, but he's provided results.

I used to have my life planned out. I was going to be on the SWAT team. I was going to be a canine officer. (Um...I DO have a German Shepherd). I was going to own horses. I was going to be married, maybe have a family, I didn't know about that. Well, law enforcement lead to disaster, other trials lead to other trials while outside of work, my volunteer work in ski patrol (training) and working in probation as a volunteer exceeded my wildest expectations. On paper, I was the stuff.

In reality, I was lost. So lost.

Then I met my boyfriend, a firefighter, who lead me into another childhood dream I hadn't wanted to admit; to be a firefighter. He thought I could do it, I at first argued, then let him talk me into it. He helped me train, he introduced me to some of his friends who were likewise enthused at the idea, and once I got into training for the test, I had the scent and I went after it.

I ended up being hired...over 3,000 applied for that job, not many got it. I was in the second class. I kicked butt in the physical test, but I'd trained hard for it. The interview seemed tailor made for my experience.

But my judgment proved to be just as bad there, as once I was well into training, 4 months of academic training, 3 weeks into the meat of the job (the Tower), I realized I didn't belong there. I wasn't cut out for the job. I didn't want to be there. That's when God got me out of it via an injury, and I left a piece of cartilage on the apron at the base of that tower. It cost me more to get out than it did to get in.

Admittedly, though, I'd drawn closer to God in the process.

I ended up where I am now, but that's a boring story. 'Nuff said that I'm in corporate America, working for a company based out of Cleveland, OH (the only place I haven't been sent for training), hate my job and found that I've committed professional suicide by accepting this position.

I'm stuck. But life isn't about a career...there's something more, and I'm missing it.

I'm God's wayward daughter, the one who looks good on paper but happens to be really messed up. And in reality, I have to wonder how many of us (esp. singles) feel the same way?

The world teaches us only to look good on paper. It was always about the resume, the expensive parchment with the academic degree, the money to be earned, the career to love, the children never to have. It was about the stuff.

I don't care about the stuff. If my house disappeared overnight, I don't think I'd care, as long as the mortgage went away with it. If my car disintegrated (not likely, it's plastic), I'd be thrilled. One less bill to pay...and opportunity to just get a horse. (They generate their own gas).

Most of the stuff in my house...well, there's many sentimental items, and the computer aids me in my true love (writing), and the art I've bought to grace my walls, I'd miss. But I'd get over it.

My dogs...that's the hardest; lives for which I'm responsible. But God can have them, too.

It's been a rough road, and I don't expect it to get any easier. It seems I'm only going in circles. Again and again, I'm stuck in this rut I can't seem to climb out of, and it keeps bringing me back to Vocation discernment.

It had been hard to tell my friends that I was considering a Vocation a couple years ago. I expected them to laugh at me, but they didn't. They told me they'd considered it, too, or at least thought that I should. Some had come to me independently and suggested I consider it. Telling my family was torture, and Mom, in her style, assumed I'd disappear off the face of the earth into a cloister. I had to explain to her that this is not how it works. And she admitted she knew that; she'd wanted to become a nun, and they thought her too "worldly". (This shocks mother is naive as they come). She didn't regret her decision to marry and have children. But she understood what I was seeking. My brother wasn't shocked, but his girlfriend, seeking Buddhism, was amazed, but supportive.

But it was hardest to tell my then Spiritual Director (SD). Out of everyone, HE was the most difficult, I told him over the phone after much hemming and hawing, and almost died in the silence after my revelation. But he didn't condemn me, either, and he didn't laugh at me.

Of course, after everything I'd done up to that point, people had learned not to laugh at me...I usually did exactly what I told them I was going to do. Even my SD knew that and understood that if I was saying this, it was for real. And of course, he realized how hard it was for me to tell him. But this had a different element to it, something new, something that didn't originate with me like everything else had.

When I "discerned" that I wasn't Called, my friends revealed immediately that they agreed; but they had never before wanted to say so because it's a journey and they did not in any way want to discourage me. I wasn't surprised they didn't think I was called...I had gleaned from some of their reactions that they didn't think so, but then again, I'd seen that reaction before.

But as we all know, God has a sense of humor. A really big sense of humor. I still don't think I'm called, but my curiosity is back, and that door is nearly irresistible. I'm a writer...and I have not written of religious life from the inside. That's a challenge....but is it a challenge from God to attempt such a thing and remain aloof...or is it a challenge to answer a Call, created just for me, to appeal to me as He created me?

The Call is unique to the individual, and God, in his great wisdom and great humor, just LOVES to contrive ways to entice us into our Vocations.

I don't think I'm called, but somehow, that door doesn't seem to be entirely closed......

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

It's a Double Header!

Just thought I'd put up a misc. post tonight, sort of to offset the heavier topics, and because I'm not ready to go to sleep. I'll pay for that tomorrow, believe you me.

Today I started out working from home then headed into the office around 10; we were all leaving for a team outing at 11.

Now, this set the stage for a small Divine Intervention. Allow me to explain.

This morning, I got up at 5:20 or so since I wouldn't have my regular commute from home to be there by 8, but I couldn't bring myself to sleep too much later. So it was already weird, and of course, I was all ready to go to work by 7 am. I had planned to start work early, at 7:30, to make up for my commute time in the "middle" of my shortened work day. But "something" told me to take a quick run to my church...I'm a few blocks away, and we have Perpetual Adoration. I was tempted to hit the 8 am Mass, but by then, I needed to be connected to the network and working, so, unable to ignore the promptings of the Holy Spirit, I quickly locked the house and drove to the chapel, where I spent some wonderful time with Jesus. I left and had to run a quick errand, then was back home before 8 so I could connect to the network from home. Instead of pulling into the garage, as I'd be leaving shortly, I parked my car in one of our townhome "extra" spaces.

When I tried to leave, I realized I'd forgotten something and planned to run inside. I got in, having some trouble with the deadbolt lock, but I attributed it to today's humidity, and got in. I grabbed what I needed, locked knob lock, and after I pulled the door closed, I stuck my key into the deadbolt, turned it to lock it...and it didn't quite do what I wanted to do. So I twisted it back to the "unlocked" position and back to "lock" and the key was stuck. I couldn't move it. I needed to leave for work RIGHT NOW and my key was stuck in my lock.

Quite the dilemma. On one hand...the key was stuck and was not going to move. I could technically go as long as I took it off the ring with all my other keys. But then I'd have a key for my house, my unnattended house (but for the dogs) stuck there in the lock for anyone to find. Yeah, it was stuck...but what if someone knew how to "fix" it? That's a problem.

I took a deep breath. This must be God's will. What was God trying to tell me? Was he preventing a disaster through some sort of delay? Was this just an incidental? Or was I simply supposed to call a locksmith to help me?

Instead I opted for my next-door neighbor. They have often been helpful and they have hearts of gold. They're a little odd, but easy to overlook oddities when you know who they really are. So I ran the bell, begging God that they'd be home and have WD-40 on hand.

Well, the dad came to the door (just the person I needed) and he didn't have any WD-40. I explained my key was stuck, and as he went to try to worry it from the lock, I realized that as I'd parked outside, and my garage door opener was still in the car. I had a way in, and access to some kind of lubricant. So I ran to my car, hit the button, and found the oil. While my neighbor oiled the key and the lock, I was able to get inside (attached garage) and opened the interior door.

The lock is shot. I have to replace it.

And there's the thing: I just now realized that had I not obeyed that prompt to visit the adoration chapel this morning, my car would still have been in my garage!

You might be thinking that there would then not be a problem...but here's the reality; I go in and out of my front door all the time, and I usually lock both the knob and the deadbolt. Had I not gone to the chapel this morning, and therefore parked my car outside, I would not be aware of the problem, and there's a good chance I would have found myself locked out of my house and in need of a locksmith, which can be time consuming and expensive.

Incidentally, I don't have a cell phone, so in the middle of the day...if no one's home, it can be difficult to find someone to call a locksmith for me. I know some of my neighbors, but not all, and sad to say...I don't want to know all of my neighbors.

Anyway, things worked out and as of this evening, if I go pick up the new locks, my neighbor offered to replace them for me. I am bessed. Oh, and the lock works from the inside, so I am secure.

So! For our team outing, we went to the Twins vs. White Sox game at the Metrodome today. We all caravaned to one of the park and rides, ended up parking in the street, and took the Light Rail to the 'Dome. For most of us, it was the first time on Light Rail.

So, for those of you who are local, I'll offer a tutorial:

* You buy your tickets from a machine in the station on the lower level. It appears there's also one on the upper level at the train itself, apparently in case someone misses the lower level one.
* First select what you need - there is a menu for different options. You can buy one-way or round-trip, which might be good for X. number of hours.
* You must select your choice before you offer your money, which may be in the form of cash, credit, or debit. The machine only allows a certain amount of change, and gives change in coin form (ie dollar coins as applicable).
* Take your ticket and read both front and back. It doubles as a bus ticket. The light rail ticket is not "run" through anything but you do need it available to be checked.

Anyway, we got to the 'Dome, found our seats, and found them inhabited by a bunch of middle-school kids. We spoke with one of their teachers, our Manager showed her our tickets and first questioned whether were in the wrong place? We weren't. They'd bought a section of tickets. Apparently either the adult groups spread throughout either bought theirs first, or the ticket office messed up and scattered random people throughout a group of rowdy middle school kids. (For those outside the U.S. middle school is 6 - 9th grades, ages of apx 11-15)

Either I have more patience than I used to, or those kids weren't that bad. Their teachers did correct behavior that started to get out of hand, while allowing a range of "normal" for them.

The game was good, not a ton of action and I'm not a huge baseball fan anyway, but when in a game in person, it does a lot to inspire interest. The 9th inning was exciting. At the bottom of the 9th, the teams were tied. I began to wonder if it would go into extra innings.

The bases were loaded, 1 out. Tory Hunter was up to bat. The crowd was on its feet, roaring, screaming, whistling, waving, the scent of blood...uh...a the air. The atmosphere was charged.

He walked.

The White Sox walked him.

The man from 3rd ran home, the game was won, the teams rushed onto the field...and while the fans rejoiced, it wasn't the "kill" of a grand slam. It was a lackluster win, but a win nonetheless, and we'll take it.

If I went to these games all the time, I'd likely be a baseball fan. But as I usually only see it on TV, I just don't care. I enjoyed today's game and have been to other Twins' games, but like many other fans, if I'm not really there, it isn't real.

My perspective is different with regard to horseracing and skiing, where the best action is on camera. I like to be at those sports in person (never been at a Word Cup Ski event in person, but would like to), but in reality, it doesn't happen much.


Been a good day. Back to the grind tomorrow, busy day to make up from the last couple.

Thank God we have only two days left this week.

I really need another job.

More on Prayer and Contemplation

I am not going to summarize anything or write an article. Rather, I am going to allow an expert, Father Thomas Dubay to speak out of his own expertise and synthesis of the Saints, St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross.

On infused contemplation:

Note: {The bracketed text is mine}

"Infused contemplation is by no means a dry or sterile intellectualism, a platonic gazing upon abstract essences. or is it an oriental, impersonal awareness. {Centering Prayer} Rather, it is a 'loving awareness of God...a loving contemplation...a loving wisdom'. When we put these traits together, a yearning or delightful loving with a cognitive contact touching the divine, we have, as John {of the Cross} so well puts it, an inflow of God Himself. Contemplation is a deepending self-communication of the Trinity, a self-communication that we are given to experience. (p. 63)

Thought we have said it already, the point must be made explicitly and with some development: the prayer of which we are speaking can in no way be originated, intensified, or prolongued by anything we can do. It is divinely given in its entirety. This is the literal meaning of infused, a word stemming from the Latin infudere, infusum, to pour in, that which is poured in. John therefore writes of a 'tranquil reception of this loving inflow...the touch of burning in the will...the touch of understanding int he inflaming of love'. These experessions make it clear that the prayer is not a result of our efforts, our reading, imagining, or reasoning. It is not of human origin." (63)


Now, on to Fr. Dubay's synthesis of what St. Therese of Avila had to teach us about infused contemplation:


"Anyone who studies carefully our two masters of contemplation and then turns to lesser luminaries, the popular writers and speakers of our day, {Keating, Pennington} will find a number of important differences in outlook and approach...We find here one of the concretizations of the Isaian statement that God's thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways not our ways (Is 55:8-9). It is likewise a predictable consequence of getting one's ideas about prayer from the atmosphere of the day rather than from the purity of the biblical word and the people who live that word best, the saints.

"Living as we do in a consumerist age that looks to technology to solve most of its problems, we will, unless immersed in a serious prayer life ourselves, assume as obvious that prayer is mainly something produced in a human manner. This is partially true of beginning discursive meditation, but the trouble begins when the assumption is unclear when one reads books and articles on the subject of contemplation, or if one simply reads advertisements to see what is being sold. The literary and audio markets are replete with techniques and methodologies, oriental and occidental: methods, ways, mantras, centering, ashrams, gurus, koan exercises, yoga techniques, discursive procedures...While some of this is good for some people at some times, the extension of it to most people at most times is more than misleading. Extended blocks real prayer growth.

What we find in Ss. Teresa and John and in Scripture is a very different message. Though I shall detail this statement as we go along, we may note at the moment that the inspired pages have, as far as I can find, not a single sentence that speaks of metholology as a means to deep communion with the God of revelation. Contemporaries rarely recognize this obvious fact, which is in itself indicative of inattention to Scripture and the lives of those who do in fact enjoy profound contemplative prayer." (p. 111)

~ Dubay, Thomas, S.M., "Fire Within", Ignatius Press, 1989

Monday, May 28, 2007

Centering Prayer vs. Contemplative Prayer

This is a hot topic in the Church these days, and unfortunately, the former is being touted as being the same as the latter, however, even a slight amount of research helps those who are discerning the Truth realize that they can't even be compared.

It was Fr. Keating who first developed and introduced Centering Prayer. His intentions were good; he was looking for similarities in the practices of Hindu/Buddhism to Christian prayer as a way of assisting converts to the Christian faith. (1.) Unfortunately, through his dabbling in the Eastern Meditative arts, he was drawn in and deceived, and introduced an insipient poison into the Church; a poison people are all too ready to consume and perpetuate.

"Prayer" is a conversation with God, involving the entire person, body and soul, during which we interact with God from the center of our souls...not within our souls.

"Centering Prayer" is a practice whereby the individual uses a technique, involving breathing exercises and/or a "mantra" of some sort to aid in emptying the mind, in an act to create an interaction with God WITHIN the center of ourselves.

"Contemplative Prayer" is a gift from God, pure and simple. It cannot be enforced or manipulated. It cannot be created, for God alone initiates this experience to the souls that are ready for such union.

In the Church, we have a wealth of experience involving commune with God, and Saints from all ages have written of it, most prominently St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross, but by far they are not the only ones to experience contemplative prayer.

Unfortunately, all too often Centering Prayer is being compared to and being marketed as Contemplative prayer, but as you can see by definition alone, they are not the same.

In Centering prayer, the individual is instructed to empty their minds of anything, using a sort of mantra (which is a pagan practice), focusing on the word while breathing in a certain manner. It is actually a form of self-hypnosis; common sense alone tells us that such acts can lead to an altered state of consciousness. (2) The problem continues when the individual, thus impaired, is open not to God, but to whatever type of entity happens by. Apparently when Fr. Keating began this practice, the monastery began to be "haunted" and strange occurrences happened; things that had never manifested prior to this, and they were so caught up that they did not discern the origin of the disturbances!

My friends, you will know the tree by the fruit.

Contemplative prayer, by contrast, cannot be created. God is familiar with each and every one of us, whether we are beginners in prayer, whether we are experienced, whether we are "dry", whether we are reluctant, in mortal sin, in a state of grace...what have you. God knows us far more intimately than we know ourselves, thus He and He ALONE is in a position to grant a soul the gift of Infused Prayer. We cannot do anything to create this experience.

I've seen it argued that the Rosary is a form of centering prayer, however, such an assertion only betrays the ignorance of one who makes such a claim. The Rosary is a "Meditative" prayer, which can be an aid to contemplation. However, there are those who have trouble meditating on a particular idea, but who have a certain relationship with God allowing them to enter into Contemplation. In the Rosary, we are asked to consider something specific: for example, in the Sorrowful mysteries we are asked to consider Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. What was he praying about? What was his "agony"? Can we enter into the sorrow for the sin of the world he was experiencing at that time? Can we travel with him to his scourging? If we use Ignatian exercises, can we see ourselves there as a character, whether as an Apostle or simply a bystander? This involves active thought...not contemplation or centering prayer.

Meditation CAN lead to Contemplation, but as these things are according to God's will, it is up to God to provide the proper union with the soul in question.

I have often seen Father Thomas Dubay, Priest, Author, and Spiritual Director to cloistered contemplatives cited in reference to centering prayer, which is simply ridiculous for he spoke against it.

In "Prayer Primer, Igniting a Fire Within", he makes three points:

1. "One should beware of techniques of emptying the mind to prepare it for contemplation. This is unnatural. Our minds are made to be filled, not emptied. Nowhere does scripture advise this. Rather the beginner is told to fill his mind by pondering the Word of God day and night. (Ps 1:1-2)This is meditation, not emptying our minds. St. Teresa rightly said that when we are ready, God gives us something better than our efforts can produce, namely infused communing with himself."

2. "Secondly, it is an illusion to think that techniques can produce an immersion in God. he is not one to be manipulated as one can manipulate a machine or appliance."

3. "And thirdly, emptying methods can frustrate both the beginner who needs input on which to reflect and the advanced person who needs freedom from human efforts to be able to receive the light and love God wishes to communicate." (3)

Let's consider this; prayer is a conversation with God. Throughout history, although it has been Man who ruptured the union with God, it has always been God who sought to restore that intended union, even unto the death of His only beloved Son, sent to heal that rupture. And it is always Man who questions God and does not trust God.

Centering prayer is a form of questioning God and His methods, insisting, as always, that Man can do it better. How arrogant!

God is faithful! He seeks for our reunification with Him, but we cannot enforce it for all too often we are not ready for such union. We would be destroyed completely if God gave us the gifts he has given to souls such as St. Therese of Avila!

So He waits, and he grants what it needed and ready when the time is right. We cannot force this gift. We cannot rob God.

As Father Dubay pointed out, our minds are made to be filled. The point of prayer is communication with God, whether done at a very basic level or in mystical contemplation. God comes to us on human terms; only look to Jesus for this reality, and look to the Sacraments, as each of them involve a physical act. When we speak to one another, our minds are full of what we want to say or in processing what is being said by the other person.

God comes to us in the same way, but so often we miss it because we are so caught up in our own problems that we forget to listen. In prayer, our minds should not be empty; we should not be using a "mantra", which is a pagan act, but rather, we should pray to the Lord for protection from USELESS distractions, leaving our minds and hearts open to the "distractions" He wants to give us.

For example: have you ever prayed the Rosary, finding your mind wandering instead to an incident of the previous night in which you had a falling-out with a friend or relative? And no matter how hard you try to think about Mary's fiat in the first Joyful Mystery, instead you are meditating on your own harsh words you wish you could take back?

HELLO!? This is God assisting you in reconciliation! This is God speaking to you, forming your conscience, reminding you that you are not so pious as you think, you are not Godly, you are not fact, He is reminding you that it is necessary to go to Confession and perhaps seek advice as to how to heal the rift created by the cited argument.

"Scripture says not a word about techniques for prayer, not a word about oriental or centering ways to empty the mind. Rather our Christian meditation aims at filling our minds and hearts with pondering God's word in the books of creation and revelation. It is meant gradually to lead the beginner to something better, namely, to drinking the goodness and beauty of God in wordless way. We are to grow to a radiant absorption in him farther down the road. Meditation prepares the novice for contemplative communion with the indwelling Trinity." (4.)

We have 2,000 years of history in the Church, history involving real communion with God in the form of authentic prayer. Why, then, are people seeking a cheap copy of prayer? It seems to me that this is just another manifestation of Original Sin, seeking to control as opposed to allowing God to enter into our lives and into our souls on his time, not our own.

We have verified Saints to emulate to from whom to learn; why are people grasping new forms of "theology" that are untested, untried, and clearly contradictory to authentic Catholic spirituality?

Centering prayer is naught but a lie; if you are seeking true union with God, expect to work for it for His process is to test us in fire and hold us to the flames before He considers us worthy for such discourse. If you want union with God, go to Daily Mass (there is no greater form of prayer), go to frequent Confession, admit you are unworthy, and study the Scriptures. And take time to be silent in the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, whether exposed for Adoration or hidden in the Tabernacle. Come to the Lord in humility, and let Him choose the time, let Him choose the gift, and let Him love you in the way He chooses. None of us has control over God; if we are seeking this control, we are doing nothing more than imitating Adam and Eve's rejection of God's love.


1. Dreher, John D., "This Rock", The Danger of Centering Prayer Catholic Answers, 1997, Vol. 8, Issue 11
2. Ibid
3. Dubay, Thomas, S.M., "Prayer Primer", Ignatius Press 2002, p. 155-156
4. Dubay, Thomas, S.M., "Prayer Primer", Ignatius Press 2002, p. 73

The Priesthood is not about Power

Jesus came to serve, not to be served. Priests, in walking in his footsteps, standing in persona Christi during the Consecration and during the Sacrament of Penance, have likewise been sent forth to serve, not to be served. Their lives are about sacrifice, not about power.

Yet there are groups of mislead women and a few brainwashed men who are claiming to have been "ordained" by a female Roman Catholic bishop, in a "secret" ceremony.

Let's be very clear on this; this group is NOT recognized by the Magisterium of the Holy Roman Catholic Church. This group has made up its own religion and they are peddaling it as authentic Catholicism, claiming apostolic succession, etc. In other words, they are Protestant but they lack the intellectual integrity to admit it. They do not believe what the Church teaches and they are not obedient to Church directives. Exactly, then, how can they claim to be Catholic?

Any valid Call is not discerned alone by the individual, but must be affirmed by the Church; in other words, it has to be affirmed by someone with VALID authority in the Church. For men being ordained to the diocesan Priesthood, their call is affirmed throughout the seminary, and finally, in a very PUBLIC ceremony, by the Archbishop.

Lest someone else be mislead, make no mistake; those who are participating in, supporting, and becoming "ordained" in these invalid ceremonies have chosen to leave the Catholic Church. They are not Catholic; they are not even a cheap copy.

Pray for them; they're so lost they think they're home, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Pentecost ~ Veni Sancti Spiritus

Veni, Sancte Spiritus,
et emitte caelitus
lucis tuae radium.

Veni, pater pauperum,
veni, dator munerum
veni, lumen cordium.

Consolator optime,
dulcis hospes animae,
dulce refrigerium.

In labore requies,
in aestu temperies
in fletu solatium.

O lux beatissima,
reple cordis intima
tuorum fidelium.

Sine tuo numine,
nihil est in homine,
nihil est innoxium.

Lava quod est sordidum,
riga quod est aridum,
sana quod est saucium.

Flecte quod est rigidum,
fove quod est frigidum,
rege quod est devium.

Da tuis fidelibus,
in te confidentibus,
sacrum septenarium.

Da virtutis meritum,
da salutis exitum,
da perenne gaudium, Amen, Alleluia.

Credit - includes link to English translation

Full Moon

It's been an interesting weekend. We weren't able to take our Mom out on Mother's Day due to my brother's schedule, so our plan was to get together this weekend. So Mom, my brother, and his girlfriend all came up yesterday afternoon, planning to spend the night.

I think it's really important that you all have a little background on my Mom; she is a very devout Catholic, and by devout, I mean she is a rosary-praying, taught-by-nuns-in-habit, don't-use-bad-language-EVER, lives a holy life, MOTHER. To this day, my brother and I watch our P's and Q's around Mom. If the slightest bad word slips out, we both cringe. She actually takes things in stride, but we know how to be respectful around her and as she's getting older, this sense is even more heightened as we feel she is in need of being sheltered from the world around her. I don't know how, but my Mom has managed to maintain a level of naivate' that is lacking in most people, even of her age, and we try to protect her from big shocks.

So, anyway, keep that image of her in your mind.

For them, the fun started even before they left my brother's house. The SUV was mostly packed for their overnight trip to my house, Mom seated in the back seat behind tinted glass windows. My brother's girlfriend was in the front seat, window down, and my brother had run into the house for one last item. While he was gone, their neighbor and friend, let's call him "Tony", made a joking but very suggestive comment to my brother's girlfriend. It wasn't that bad, but not something that would be appropriate in Mom's presence. It was a cringing moment.

Then as they were pulling away down the road, they saw "Tony" and his friend turn their backs in unison and drop trou to expose their backsides, not likely aware that there was a passenger in the back seat - Mom - who saw it all!

I still can't believe my Mom got MOONED!

My brother, fighting to maintain his composure, afraid to see Mom's reaction, just shook his head and commented, "That's just great, guys." He considered rolling down the rear window so they could see Mom sitting back there but decided against it.

As it turned out, Mom wasn't so shocked, and took it all in stride. In fact, she was cracking jokes about it all night! (I apologize for the pun, but the word fits).

They told me the story right after dinner, as we were heading home. None of us could stop laughing, and it was even funnier when mom wise-cracked, "One of those moons was fuller than the other."

There were a few other comments made by Mom in the peanut gallery, keeping us in gales of laughter. I have no idea if any of you think it's funny as you read this and I fear my description will never do the story justice. I completely look forward to meeting this "Tony" guy, however, because my greeting to him will be along the lines of, "DUDE! YOU'RE the guy who mooned my MOM!"

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Catholic "War of the Worlds!"

I need to make this announcement, and I think it's REALLY important because if someone doesn't say it, people are going to start calling the good Archbishop in Knoxville, TN, and he's not going to have ANY IDEA what they are talking about.


There are people stopping by and commenting as though they either think the blog is made up of anti-Catholics who don't know very much about the Church, or they are people who truly are taking it seriously.

It's "War of the Worlds" in the Catholic world, and while I think it's hysterically funny that people think it's real, such things can had bad repurcussions.

It is a PARODY. It's NOT REAL. There is no "Spirit of Vatican 2" parish ANYWHERE.

Unfortunately, parishes similar to this parody do exists, thus the inspiration by the blog's creators (I'm not one of them) to start this up. Go visit the blog. Be entertained. Comment. But do not think for ONE MOMENT that it is for real.

This PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT has been brought to you in the interest of preserving public sanity.

Story of my LIFE!

Mantilla twitch to Father Joe:

I'm not a huge baseball fan, although like everyone, I know the big names, and Yogi Berra is one of them. I just didn't realize he had such a way with words:

“I never said most of the things I said.”

“It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.”

“You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going because you might not get there.”

“We made too many wrong mistakes.”

“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

* * *

What's not clear about all that?

Friday, May 25, 2007

Ordination Day!

Tomorrow is a blessed day for us all. Tomorrow several men will be ordained to the priesthood, and we thank God for them every day. Please keep them in your prayers and please continue to pray that more men answer the Call!

Take some time to read about our new priests in the current issue of the Catholic Spirit.

All of them have a story to tell, but no two are the same.

For the last couple years, I have listened to the Mass on Relevant Radio, and hopefully will be able to do so tomorrow as well. I never fail to tear up during the Litany of the Saints.

If you are local, (Twin Cities area, MN), you can listen to tomorrow's ceremony and tear up with me, wherever you are. The Catholic Spirit reports:

Relevant Radio, 1330 AM, will broadcast the May 26 ordination ceremony. Paul Sadek, station manager, along with Father John Owens, a retired priest from the Diocese of Bismarck, N.D., will provide commentary for the event live from the Cathedral of St. Paul. The program will start at 10 a.m. and last until noon.

The sad thing is, I'll have to get my butt up early so I can run my errands and be home or at least en route home in time to pray with the entire Mass.

The cool thing is that IT'S SO WORTH IT!

I'm a big fan of priests. They provide the Sacraments to us. What's not to love?

Worst. Translation. Ever.

I came across this website the other day when doing a simple search for the latin lyrics to the Ave Maria. This site actually claims that the words below are the "Original Latin" and the "English Translation", as noted. Click the link to go to the cited web page.

The Ave Maria, in Latin:

Original Latin:

Ave Maria
Gratia plena
Maria, gratia plena
Maria, gratia plena
Ave, ave dominus
Dominus tecum
Benedicta tu in mulieribus
Et benedictus
Et benedictus fructus ventris
Ventris tuae, Jesus

Ave Maria, gratia plena
Maria, gratia plena
Maria, gratia plena
Ave, ave dominus
Dominus tecum Ave Maria, gratia plena
Maria, gratia plena
Maria, gratia plena
Ave, ave dominus
Dominus tecum

Ave Maria
Mater Dei
Ora pro nobis peccatoribus
Ora pro nobis
Ora, ora pro nobis peccatoribus
Nunc et in hora mortis
Et in hora mortis nostrae
Et in hora mortis nostrae
Et in hora mortis nostrae
Ave Maria

English Translation:

Ave Maria Ave Maria! Maiden mild
Oh! listen to a maiden's pray'r
For thou canst hear 'em in the wild
'Tis Thou, 'Tis thou canst save amid despair
We slumber safely 'till the 'morrow
Though we by men outcast, revil'd
O Maiden, see a maiden's sorrow
Oh Mother, hear a suppliant child!
Ave Maria...

The murky cavern's air so heavy
Shall breathe of balm if Thou hast smil'd
Oh Maiden, hear a maiden pleading
Oh Mother, hear a suppliant child!
Ave Maria...
Ave Maria...

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Blogs of our Lives ~ Episode 3 - As the Blog Turns

When we last left the Recovering Catholic she was lamenting the loss of her childhood home. But tonight...tonight she is red in the face and setting the blogosphere ablaze with her wrath! This woman is a force to be reckoned with, and she will NOT stand down! And if you ever go to Mass with her, prepare to dress in reverence for God or she will "dress" you upside the head!

Our suspected double agent, Ironic Catholic, seems to be back home and comfortably addressing the needs of mothers everywhere. What can this mean? And what's with the picture at the top of her blog? Is that where she lives, or is that where the Unibomber hid?

Back in Fr. V.'s corner of St. Blog's, he's been making recommendations for summer reading, and has a guest poster, a Sister of Life about to take the habit. She expresses her agonizing discernment in powerful terms, leaving us to ask....who will be influenced to follow in hers or Fr. V's footsteps into dedicated service to Jesus Christ?

One of Fr. V's neighbors, a certain Sarah who had gone missing but now returned, wonders about who was wondering about her so recently, and why that person was wondering? Who is this mysterious person who seems to be after her and taking notes? Is Sarah being STALKED? Who IS that masked woman, anyway?

Meanwhile, back at Spirit of Vatican 2, all hell has broken loose as Keith was arrested and his green tea leaves were taken from him. The faith community there is leaping up in solidarity and promising drum circles and protests until he is freed. They've also created a blog rating system and recently discovered a particularly problematic blog...that of none other than the Pyromaniac Priest, the good Fr. Reichtsteig! And the head of the Singles Ministry there, Britnee, has made it very clear that she doesn't like him at all and finds his seeming Republican leanings quite abhorrent and very adversse to the spirit of the times. What's a girl to do? And it doesn't help that Keith also happened to have some of her 'shrooms on him, so she's hoping the police will realize they were just for making pizza.

And would you believe that His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI HIMSELF dropped by to call this parish to conversion!? What a great blessing for this parish, to be noticed by the POPE!

And Catholicism's favorite funny guy, the Curt Jester, thinks that we should be making felt banners again so that students can learn math in the same way they learned their faith when many of us were growing up.

Back in Minnesota, we go to Terry, who has seen the flying Pope. I wonder if his vision has anything to do with being Fortune's Fool the other day?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Living in the Moment

I spent a little time in Adoration this evening, just feeling the need to be with Jesus. My brain has been full of so much, my life is naught but clutter, and I'm terrified of what's just around the bend. I'm going to start Grad school in August, but all that's covered by the scholarship is 1/3 of the 5 credits I'll be taking. What about the other 2/3's and the cost of books? Where's the money coming from?

What of my job? I didn't get the job I thought I wanted, which is fine...God knows best, but now what? I don't even know where to look. Accepting my current position almost 5 years ago has proven to be professional suicide; the last few years has rendered my work and experience completely invalid because I've been off my career path for so long on this useless tangent.

As my current Manager and my immediate Supervisor observed in a recent meeting, my life is taking a very different turn, it's recognized by people around me....but what they don't realize is that I have nowhere to go. I am completely at God's mercy because I can't get myself out of this grave I've dug so deeply.

And then there's this upcoming weekend...I just learned that my brother, his girlfriend, and my Mom are going to spend the night at my house on Saturday, and this place is a complete catastrophe! The spare bedroom doubles as a storage room and some time ago I began a "cleanup" project with the goal of getting rid of stuff. All I did was shuffle it around and discover some of the plastic totes I store it all in is not completely full, and I have paper records that go back about 10 years. I can't just throw it away because it has identifying info on it, and last summer I didn't get a chance to burn it in my friends' fire pit...and shredding this stuff in my shredder would take years of tedium.

I deal with enough filing and tedium at work, thank you. (I'm horrible with inbox is usually stacked to the ceiling. I "file" by mentally indexing what comes in every day and pulling it out when it's needed...THEN it goes into the file.)

As you can see, I have a problem with living in the present. I'm always off to the next thing. I'm always looking ahead.

I began doing this many moons ago when I was looking to escape the chaos of our home, knowing that salvation laid in planning for the future, having goals, and working hard to reach them. I learned early that I couldn't depend on anyone, and unfortunately, in those years, I really didn't understand that God was there asking me to depend upon HIM, and in spite of everything I did, God still came through for me when it was needed, although I didn't realize it at the time.

I've always been very "driven" and very "goal oriented" and it's so hard for me to take a step back and let God handle things. And where to draw the line between actively carrying out the tasks to reach the unknown goal God has in mind, separating trust in God from the sins of complacence and sloth?

Tonight at Adoration, I came to realize that we are all in a culture of "tomorrow" without learning to have an appreciation for "today" much less "this very moment".

As Mother Angelica has said, Jesus wants us to ask what he wants of us in this very moment, RIGHT NOW, wherever we are and whatever we are doing.

I have such a hard time with this. It's so simple, but I can't seem to handle the present. I'm so attached to the future that I'm tripping over my own feet to get there. Perhaps if I could pay attention to NOW I would see the obstacles in my way.

My thoughts turned to my childhood. I remember those years before school started, or those long summer days when school was out. I remember how the time seemed endless, the moments blissful, even in our boredom, we didn't worry about tomorrow. Certainly, we considered exciting events in the future, but our excitement didn't take us out of fullness of the present. We knew all about stopping to smell the roses.

It didn't matter what time the sun set and rose. I didn't care what the weather was going to be like in five days (unless a big storm was predicted...that's another story). I didn't care about TIME or what was going to happen in the future. I knew that all that was in Mom and Dad's hands, and if there was something I was supposed to do, they would tell me about it. I didn't have to set the alarm to get up in the morning...Mom would get us up. Mom would make dinner, and if she wasn't there, Dad would cook Spam and junket, or pizza and junket, and if Mom and Dad couldn't be there, then there would be a relative or a neighbor or someone else to provide for us. We didn't have to question anything. We could just live and do what we were told and all was well (mostly).

I really wish I could find this kind of faith in the Father in Heaven. I really wish I could learn how to be a child again, and not worry to much. Yes, the tasks I've been given are far more complicated and are time-bound, but within those times, there are many moments...why can't I just live those moments and TRUST in God to provide any additional direction?

I'm still worried about paying for Grad school. (Incidentally, I got the grade on my last paper today...a 98! God is so good, and John Paul II is my patron saint!). With this success under my belt, I am looking forward to further education, knowing I can do this, even if not to that level if carry a greater course load. I'm still worried about where to look for my next job because everything I worked so hard to know is useless.

So for now, the only thing I can focus upon is living in the moment, taking life one second, one minute at a time...because that's the only place where any of us can find Jesus. That's the only place we can come to understand our purpose, by asking constantly, "What is Jesus asking of me RIGHT NOW?"

Tomorrow will take care of itself...the Gospel makes this so clear, but how many of us heed those words?

Interactive Parody!

If you haven't already, stop on in and greet the newest blog on the block, Spirit of Vatican II parish.

It's a laugh a second, and you MUST read the comments sections for each post. Add your own comments.

And yes, people, it is a parody.

Just last night they put up a blog rating guide:

PH - Phariseeism
C - Clericalism
T - Traditionalism
F - Funny Languages
O - Offensive (anti-womyn, anti-GLBTNA, etc)
R - Republican
PI - Progressive Level 1 (they get it)
PII - Progressive Level 2 (bookmark it)
PIII - Progressive Level 3 (it'll be in my homily)

I'm already rated as a PH,O, and I complained that they didn't rate me an F. Fr. Tim graciously apologized for the omission (he thouht my name was Italian), but then pointed out that the ratings I have are BAD and I should aspire to be PIII.

Go check this blog out! And just for the background info to date, be sure to go back to the beginning and read the posts and comments so you get a better idea as to what's going on. It's a new blog so there's not a lot to read but you'll enjoy it more if you can watch it grow from their beginnings.

Personally, I'm DYING to know who the creators are of this blog.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Blogs of Our Lives ~ Episode 2 - One Blog to Live

The mystery deepens....

Ironic Catholic is still missing. It's Monday and she's nowhere to be seen. Clearly, the message left on her blog was designed to delay our response. Where are the Catholic Cyber Cops? Does anyone care that a professor of theology has gone missing?

Or is that, too all part of the Plan?!

Does Ironic Catholic's wherebouts have anything to do with what's happening in Angela Messenger's parish? Is Ironic actually a DOUBLE AGENT?

Sarah the Snoring Scholar seems to be back....hmmmmm.....

Take note of her name. Right there at the top in the URL, "" She's a SCHOLAR! And Ironic is a missing Theology Professor!

And Sarah isn't missing anymore. She has a list, sort of a pre-emptive alibi as to what she did this weekend, but it seems something more sinister is afoot.

Or, could Sarah be innocent of any wrongdoing? We must wait and watch.....

{{ Crecendo of music with dischordant trumpets, ala circa 1974 }}}

We go now to see what Fr. Richtsteig the Pyromaniac Priest is up to, but he seems to be MIA as well. His last post was an expose' on bad ideas being used to obtain Vocations, and he hasn't been seen in St. Blog's since that post went up on Friday. Has anyone checked the fire pit?

Meanwhile, back in the MN 'hood....

Desperate Irish Housewife is more desperate than ever, what with the new puppy, and Michael Moore's complete offense against her dignity (more so against his own), a contemplation of the bad health care our Canadian brothers and sisters are subject to, and still recovering her readership from the hostile porn site takeover of her blog a few months ago, DIH is at her wit's end.

Ray is back on the job, having taken a weekend to watch storks in Poland, and now wants to draw attention not only to the wonders of the birds, but also to the fact that an ultra-liberal Oregon college campus is being taken over by Catholics with an attitude.

Terry Nelson is having a REALLY rough day, apparently having made his first mistake in the selection of his wardrobe. He should know better than to dress like that in Minneapolis, MN, the place that rivals L.A. and Atlanta for a certain population (of the "Rainbow Sash" mindset). They must have taken him for a Vatican Spy and let him experience the fullness of their Tolerance.

We pan over now to Salve Regina, who also went missing for a few days. Salve Regina is a warm and fuzzy Trad who identifies herself as a "rural paramedic".

Could she, as a fellow Canadian, have had something to do with Angela Messenger's disappearance?

And what should we make of Salve's current post with regard to whether we have ever seen our Guardian Angels?

Is this a secret signal? She says she was "fishing" this weekend, but she didn't have any evidence to provide that she had, in fact, been fishing. Canada is a HUGE fishing/hunting venue, and I find it hard to believe that a native Canadian would claim to go fishing and not return with a glorious photo of the grandaddy Walleye Pike caught on the trip.

Is Salve a double agent, too, like Ironic, or is Salve the one really responsible for the disappearance of her Canadian sister who happens to be involved in the Adoration dispute?

We switch extremes, and visit the Spirit of Vatican II parish somewhere so deep in Tennessee even their own bishop won't acknowledge them on the Archdiocesan web page.

Adoro stopped by during her regular rounds the other day and inquired (oh-so-innocently) of Fr. Tim whether he gets the inspiration for his homilies from the "green tea leaves" found by Fr. Juno in Keith's red backpack. Fr. Tim gave a gracious (if clueless) response to the question, and it seems that now Che' the Social Justice Minister of SOVII is going to petetion Fr. Time to use the "green tea leaves" Keith grows in his basement under flourescent lights and sell it after every Mass as a fundraiser! Keith even graciously offered to acquire a much larger stash...uh...quantity...that he could obtain from a friend who grows it in the hills. You see, Che' had forgotten to deposit the collection one Sunday and saw all the interest in the green tea leaves as a way to make up for his error. Then they're going to rent a bus and go down to Oak Ridge with all the green tea leaves and protest the weapons plant there.

Back in Rome, Father Zuhlsdorf, or "Fr. Z.", as he's affectionately known, is still lamenting the delay in the release of the Motu Propio. (It was actually the humble Crescat who drew attention to the caption and Fr. Z. gave her full credit for her humor.)

Cathy, the Recovering Dissident, who was recently quoted by Fr. Z., is lamenting herself the Gang Colors being shown at Mass, especially on Pentecost (this upcoming Sunday). If you DARE to wear a rainbow to Mass this weekend, prepare to meet the wrath of Crabby Cathy!

We return to the Saga at SOV2 and learn that Keith has been taken to a special retreat in Canada, but he's asked Che' to bring him a gift of tea leaves so he can make good on his promise to provide brownies.

Back at St. Cantius' parish wing of St. Blog's, Ma Beck rails against the idiocy of the lazy who put a class before though it isn't God who is letting them go to Rome in the first place!

Down Under, in the land of the Kangaroo and the Sydney Opera House, Kiwi Nomad is still wandering around, taking great photos of places most of us will never see (not necessarily in Australia), making random appearances in comboxes around. St. Blog's parish. What corner of the wilderness is she off to next?

Come back next time to see what happens in the lives of the Catholic bloggers..

((( Ending credits/ music ...

Ave, Maria....... )))))

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Discernment Dilemma

My parish is a full-stewardship parish, meaning that we are fully self-supporting financially and in practice. This is a new status for our parish and somewhat experimental in our area, but we are a large church and really the ideal place to start such a calling.

With that, our leadership structure has become much different than the basic parish-council model.

We have a Parish Council, to be sure, and our Pastor has complete The-Buck-Stops-Here authority over all decisions. The council is made up of the chairpersons of all of the various Commissions...Finance, Liturgy, Education, etc.

Our leadership follows a discernment process, as opposed to a "nomination" process, so what happens is that the parish prayerfully discerns those who should be called to leadership and nominates them. The nominees, if they accept their nominations, attend two informational sessions to aid in their own discernment in order to determine whether or not they are indeed called to this service. The last disernment meeting is a regular Commission meeting (in June) during which the Commission of interest explains their role, learns about those discerning and they, in turn, learn about the commission and what is expected.

Last year, I was discerned onto the Liturgy Commission at my parish, beginning with 5 nominations. (I still have no idea who 3 of my nominators are). This involves a three year term, and I felt I could give that type of committment.

I remember thinking about grad school, was surprised by the thought, and figured, way back last May, that it was a done dream...I was dismissing the very idea, thinking it would never happen. So I stepped up to the plate and offered myself for the service of my parish.

It's been an interesting year, and I have come to understand that each and every meeting is one hour of my time served in Purgatory. As Father Corapi says, "Pay now or pay later!" I see my Commission service as "pay now!".

I'm not a "meeting" type of person. I hate politics. I'm developing a severe distaste for committees. My typical desire is to stand up and say, "LET'S MAKE A DECISION AND JUST DO IT!"

I'm ready to head out and carry out the decision.

Apparently I'm not a visionary...I'm a doer. I'd rather be given an assignment and take to it and see results, whereas a Commission involves discussing the obvious and considering the inane as though the inane were valid, define our role in the inanity, whether we should get involved in the inane and the obvious, and whether we have the authority to carry out the inane, and whether if we don't have the authority, who the proper authority should be and how it should be addressed and which authorities are actually qualified to carry out the decision on the act.

I don't think I can take this, but I have submitted so far for a year.

It's not all bad...I've met some great people through this service and I have learned a great deal from them. But I hold with my own initial feeling for my pre-nomination days: I can't "lead" my way out of a wet paper bag. What am I doing in "parish leadership"?

I actually attended a couple Parish Council meetings, and was seated next to one of our Associate Pastors (we had 4 priests at the we have 3. We're a "mega-church", over 5200 registered families/individuals). I commented to him my above observation about this being Purgatory, and I'm not the first to say it. Actually, I think I asked him if the Council meeting alone counted for time off in Purgatory?

He laughed at me. I can't figure out why.

Then enter my Graduate School process. A year ago, it wasn't even on the radar screen; I'd actually given up on it but thanks to a friend, I considered it again and went seeking info, and now, I've been accepted to both the University of St. Thomas for an MA in Catholic Studies, and to Ave Maria University for an MTS (Masters in Theological Studies) in Pastoral Theology. I've accepted the latter, and look forward to goign through a 5 credit regimen beginning in late August.

I know what kind of committment this is going to take, and I don't plan to drop my involvement in RCIA. My level of committment to RCIA is likely to grow because our team has shrunk and our RCIA Coordinators have stepped down. I think our Faith Formation director is taking the brunt of that loss, but it will involve a higher level of committment from the two of us that remain.

I know I am called to serve in this ministry so I can't eliminate it even for Grad school.

So I thought to step down from the Liturgy Commission. I gave a committment for three years, but each year we discern on new members. The process allows for life changes, and I think that there is one happening for me, and whoever takes my place would be giving a 2 year committment.

I sent an email to our Chair to advise him of my discernment to step down. We had a brief discussion at our meeting this month, and today I happened to run into him after Mass.

Funny...just as I had been contemplating my status in the parish, the status as a single woman and where I am called to be.

My "resignation" is not being accepted. I explained to him the reason for stepping down; because I know the level of committment needed for my grad studies, and I can't guarantee I can be there for the Commission or dedicate myself to our work outside of the meetings as I will need that time to study and to deal with other life issues that arise for all of us.

He informed me that he understands, but for now, my name will remain on the roster and if I can't make it, they're willing to deal with that.

So I accepted this...since the terms are out there and they still want me to serve, I will serve.

We do have some things in the works that I helped to a possible Latin Norvus Ordo Mass, maybe a Tridentine Mass (for both, a one-time thing as a type of experiment), introducing Latin back into the Mass, little by little, etc. Bringing back the statuary and art so that we don't look so darned Protestant, giving better suggestions to break the dictatorship of the Environment committee (not a Commission) to be certain our decorations look liturgical and not like an Easter Basker exploded in the Gathering Space, etc.

I am still entertaining thoughts of stepping down, but I know that every valid call within the Church has to be affirmed by the Church, and since my resignation is not being accepted, and in fact, I'm being called to MORE service, in spite of my possible Grad classes and less time available, I'm thinking that my service is a Call.

I've been wondering all year what I'm doing serving on a Commission, wondering if the disernment process is broken for having placed me there.

But God works in mysterious ways, and sometimes He asks us to do things we would not otherwise do, and He uses others to bring us into His service.

I'm not sure what's going to happen, but I pray that whatever it is is God's will and that if I do remain on the Commission, that I am able to fulfill my obligations, and I am able to do all I need to do with RCIA, and I am able to do well in Grad school, if God does choose to pay for it for me. (My only obstacle to Grad school is funding, at this point...I still have no idea where the money is coming from as they are not accredited so I can't get tax breaks or regular student loans.)

As St. Therese of Avila once said to the Lord, "If this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you don't have very many!"

Book Meme

Rob at Back to Catholicism tagged me this weekend for this book meme.


1) He Leadeth Me, by Fr. Walter Ciszek, S.J.

Fr. Ciszek was convicted without trial of being a "Vatican Spy" back in the age of Stalin and faithful Jesuits, and spent 23 years in Soviet work camps. This book is his spiritual testament, his journey of faith in God, and service to the Lord's people even in the most God-forsaken places on Earth. This book has changed the lives of those who have read it.

2) The Theology of the Body, by Pope John Paul II (in a series of Wednesday audiences)

I believe it was George Weigel (another recommended author) who stated that TOB is a spiritual timb bomb set to go any moment now. I think the explosion is happening as we speak. I have only just begun this book however due to teachings on this from various venues (radio, church, CD's, EWTN, etc.) I am familiar with the concepts and look forwad to letting John Paul II speak to me for himself on this topic. This is another book that will change your life, but does require intellectual fortitude and perseverence to get through it. I actually picked up a companion book, "Men and Women are from Venus" by Dr. Mary Healy, as a study guide to go along with it.

3) Four Witnesses, the Early Church in Her Own Words, by Rod Bennett

Rod Bennett set out to prove that the Catholic Church is wrong when he began researching the early Church Fathers. He set out to prove that the word "Catholic" wasn't even used in the early days. The result was that he was convicted and he converted to Catholicism in the process of his research. This book tells the stories of and provides some of the writings of Clement of Rome, St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Justin Martyr, and St. Irenaeus of Lyons. Some people are familiar with the writings of Jeff Cavins, who happens to hail from my general neck of the woods here in Minnesota. His wife, Emily Cavins resisted conversion to the Catholic Church...until she read this book. My friends who own St. George Books explained this to me on the day I bought this book, and I can understand how this particular title can effect conversions. I read it during my weekly Adoration hour and rediscovered that sense of being a part of something ancient and even a greater renewal in dedication to the Blessed Sacrament. There came with that also an amazement and sense of gratitude for the holy martyrs (many of whom have never been identified), those holy men and women who voluntarily stood in solidarity and claimed to be Christians as their leaders were being sentenced to death for following Christ. They knew what would happen and how their horrible deaths would be torturous and put on for the entertainment of others...and still, they stood up and proclaimed allegiance to Christ in the very face of the lions set to devour them.

Read this book. Please.


1) Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis

This book captured me as a child, and when I reread it as an adult, I was still just as enraptured and embarassed to realize I still had the impulse to go to the back of my walk-in closet to see if the back wall was still there...or was there an entryway into Narnia? Also as an adult I was able to better see the Christian themes woven throughout, and by the end, I was "ready" to go to Heaven. (Those who have read "The Last Battle" will know what I mean.)

2) Father Elijah, Michael D. O'Brien

This is an incredible story of a monastic priest called to Rome for a specific purpose. The descriptions of society and government are a little too apt. O'Brien captures the essence of our current days in such a way that, while this book is fiction, you cannot help but question the truth portrayed in his words and realize how easily the "end times" could be upon us, even as we sleep in everyday complacence thinking, "everything is as it should be."

3) To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

I read this in Jr. High, I think, and have read it over and over since then. Most people know about this story, and for those of you who don't....go get it now and read it!


1) C.S. Lewis
2) John Paul II
3) St. Francis de Sales


1) Roman Catholicism, Lorraine Boettner.

Complete disregard for the facts in favor or pushing an anti-Catholic agenda. Flagrant display of a lack of moral and intellectual integrity on the part of the author. The work most frequently cited by anti-Catholics who sincerely believe the lies in that book.

2) DaVinci Code, Dan Brown

You'll never get all those hours of your life back.

3) Left Behind, Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye.

While this book actually was a factor in my reversion to the Church because it called my attention to the fact that I really needed to have a relationship with God, and the outright anti-Catholicism was so obvious to offend me back into the fold, this book is complete tripe wrought with bad pop theology.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Blogs of Our Lives - Pilot Episode

The Characters:

We begin in a small corner of St. Blog's Parish, a thriving city community in Minnesota, where Ray, the local Catholic "scoop", is hard at work perusing headlines to bring to the Catholic Faithful who read his blog. He is also alert to forward on the latest offense against the Church to the local Catholic Defense League. Ray is a lifelong Catholic with his own past he shares only with his closest Catholic friends, and anyone else he cares to share it with, and has found a home by parish-hopping and featuring articles on "Great Parishes!". He used to be a combox jockey but finally started a blog at the urging of his good friends Adoro and Cathy. Now the local St. Blogs residents wouldn't be able to do without his information or his humor.

Ray's most recent story points to Cathy, the Recovering Dissident Catholic who is apparently still sporting the Chrism from her annointing on the Easter Vigil, during which she was Confirmed. The Holy Spirit has a good hold of her and she is calling us all to be committed Catholics and wear our beliefs as a badge of honor, for that is what it is! Keep an eye on Cathy to see where her always entertaining and informative observations will take us next! Of note in her ongoing saga, her family manse, as she calls it, recently sold, and while she has happy memories of the home, she has come to reaize that it's not really home if her loved ones aren't in it.

After all, a house is just a box you keep your stuff in while you hang out with the people you love the most.

More on Cathy...she used to attend the local black eye parish, the dissident of all dissident locales but clawed her way out of the pit through a grueling regimen lead by the Holy Spirit and a healthy dose of Truth to bolster her upwards. Now she's one of the strongest Catholics on the block.

Let's switch scenes now and pan over to the ever elusive Terry Nelson at Abbey Roads. . Terry has a past occassionally alluded to but never fully shared; a past to include residence at different monasteries, and a history akin to that of St. Augustine (who doesn't have that kind of history?), but found his way home to Mother Mary's arms. Unfortunately the road lead to a terrible position in a poisonous atmosphere of an allegedly Catholic business which he recently left. What is he going to do? The drama is ongoing, and in order to escape the notice of whatever powers that be, Terry takes on a new identity on a daily basis.

Terry has yet another informative post up today, lamenting the damage done by calumny and the care we all need to take to avoid gossip. Terry often gives moral voice to the failings we all seem to fall into on a regular basis. It's always good to go check out Terry's blogs, because one never knows what he's going to look like from day to day. What will Terry look like tomorrow?

Meanwhile, in another corner of St. Blog's Parish, Happy Catholic and her husband are celebrating their 23rd Wedding Anniversary. Congratulations to the happy couple and may they have many more!

Happy Catholic (Julie D.) is a staple in St. Blog's, perhaps the heart and soul of all those who know and read her work. She provides the wisdom of the sages in her daily pages, ever leading those who seek such wisdom closer to the Lord they seek. Whenever she is not sharing her faith she's sharing her recipes and working on her latest knitting project. If St. Blog's were a real parish, it would be wealthy indeed for people would come from near and far to experience her home-grown version of Catholic hospitality.

And Father V. over in the Cleveland area of St. Blog's is offering a challenge to his extended parish family - can YOU give all the responses to these common calls used during the Mass? Check in tomorrow over at Adam's Ale for the answers!

Fr. V. has been sharing his story little by little, leading from theater to seminary, finding humor in the every day and explaining the art around us that has nearly been lost by the extreme confusion that happened after the "reforms" of the Second Vatican Council. Fr. V. is a fan of people, parishioners, art, symbolism in liturgical art, education for the laity, holiness, the Pope, and "The Princess Bride." While he hasn't been "assigned" to St. Blog's for long, he's already a beloved spiritual leader among us and has experienced all the battles waged at the real life parish level, if subdued by the cybercharacter of the internet.

And what's a story without the mysterious MIA's?

Angela Messenger, one of the resident Canadians, RCIA instructor at a circular-in-architecture parish, has taken holiday to places unknown. Word on the street is that she's informed a few people as to how she can be reached, but the info is top secret and can't be shared among the general St. Blog's audience. A hush falls over the parish as everyone wonders if someone will leak her wherebouts...and if so, will she be in danger?

Or is she only visiting her family?

At Angela's parish, there is a broiling controversy surrounding the imminent destrction of a building that now houses the Adoration Chapel. Where to move it? What will this mean? And will her Pastor's attempts to place the altar and tabernacle in a place of reverence in spite of the poor "Spirit of Vatican 2" wreckovation architecture cause people to take their families and flee...or will moving Adoration to the main Sanctuary bring people flocking in worship of our Lord and foster Vocations for years to come?

The other missing woman is Ironic Catholic. All she left was a mysterious message:

Out of town
...until Monday. Have a good weekend, all!

What can this mean? Ironic's true identity is unknown. We know (because she says so on her blog) that she is a professor of Theology somewhere, she has been grading papers, and she is a fan of satire and caption cotests. Now she's on a secret retreat of some sort, and, unlike Angela, she didn't forward any contact information.

Hmm....time to get out the magnifying glass.

Sarah is another missing blogger. She's a farm wife and mother from Ohio with a wee little one and another on the way, and her voice has been absent, although she commented on the recent Catholic Carnival for last week. Did she run away when she heard the lambs screaming? Did she get lost in the pasture, or did she simply step in a cow pie and has been spending the week prying the damage from her shoe treads?

Is it significant that THREE women and no men from St. Blog's is missing? Are they in cahoots? Are they planning a takover of dissident parishes? Are they ringleaders?

Or have they really been kidnapped?

And what is the Catholic Church without a black eye somewhere?

This parish has all the doings and human failings of a regular church, coupled with the extreme confusion and even outright disobedience of your favorite dissidents! Check out the antics of Che' (not his real name - it really starts with a "B") the Music Minister, and Todd, the Music Director as they go at each other's throats. And will Che' find his missing red backback? And will the mysterious Keith, (whose marijuana-stuffed red backpack was found by the hapless and cluless Fr. Juno) get his weed back? And what's going to happen with Che's banners or the Myn's or Wymyn's groups?

Meanwhile, in West St. Blog's, Father Reichtsteig, the pyromniac priest, is up at arms about Ascension Thursday having been moved to Sunday, thus depriving the faithful of a Holy Day which is truly still in existence. He also, grasping reality, cautions the faithful that the current "advertisement" for priests is none other than a couple of antisocial losers promulgated by MTV in the 90' can this possibly be a good thing?

Stay tuned for the next episode and additional characters from....BLOGS OF OUR LIVES....


(music playing...)

Ave....Maria........gratia plena.....

Friday, May 18, 2007

Unknown Saints

I have sensed for a long time that we need to recognize the unknown Saints.

Indeed, on All Saints' Day, we do recognize all the Saints, "known and unknown", but when do we really consider the unknown? During the month of October, we pray especially for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, but they are not yet the unknown Saints.

For your consideration:

There are the known saints...those that were recognized for their sanctity before their deaths: St. Padre Pio (the patron of my family), Bl. Mother Theresa, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Francis de Sales, etc. There are so many!

There have been many Saints beatified and canonized in our time or in recent times, to include priests, religious, and the laity. From every generation arises spiritual giants that somehow obtain notice, perhaps through a certain act or contact with the general population, and are recognized for their inherent holiness. For some, such as Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, his acts and holiness were not recognized fully until his very funeral, when his deeds were revealed.

But what of the men and women in cloisters? There may be many who have attained a level of holiness warranting canonization, but for one reason or another are not recognized by the proper authorities as such. That does not mean that God does not recognize them, for as Scripture reveals, God honors what is done in private...while we see what is outward, God sees what is interior, in the heart, and what is hidden has far greater merit than that which is expressed externally.

That doesn't just apply to those who have been chosen to enter a papal enclosure; there are men and women all over the world who live lives of holiness every day, lives of quiet sainthood, asking nothing, giving everything, all for the glory of God.

Isn't it feasible that some of these souls are not recognized, for God has designs for them? For He desires that their works be hidden, part of the mystery of the wonder of Man, of the amazement of humanity, of the holiness of God's divine plan for salvation?

For those who may be skeptical, let me offer a worldly view of what I am saying.

Have you ever watched the Winter Olympics? As I am American, I must focus on the American team, although what I have to say may apply to Canadians as well (mantilla twitch to my Canadian readers out there, ski fans or not).

Have you ever paid attention to where the elite athletes come from? Denver, CO, Park City Utah, Tao, CA, etc. They come from SKI TOWNS. They are raised on the slopes, no wonder they're elite! Then consider a few others...Kristina Kosnik from my backyard, (literally for a year, it was my back yard - Buck Hill, called locally "Buck Bump"), a World Cup winner from Burnsville MN, and her friend from the same area, Tasha Nelson. Both Olympic competitors. But do you know what the latter two had? Great instruction from a skiing great.

This is something MOST people never have access to. When you watch the elite in these sports, you are seeing the privileged. Picabo Street, my skiing hero (not in person, but in ability) had a hippie family that sacrificed greatly upon recognition of her talent, she nearly threw it all away, had a "conversion" and went on to win Olympic medals...grew up in the mountains. The Mahr brothers...grew up in the mountains.

Yes, God placed them there, and yes, free will is always involved, but I have dreamed since I was a child of becoming a world-class skier. Ever since I saw my first race on TV, that's where I knew I wanted to be, but it was not to happen. When I did finally learn to ski, really ski, well into adulthood, I found out I had a certain natural ability, and it took me completely by surprise. While I joked that I was the next Picabo Street, we all knew that was nothing more than a joke, but the sport came so easily, I had to wonder about "what if...?"

As usual, you may be asking what my point is. Be patient. I'm getting to it, but my thought process is much like John Paul II's...we like to take the scenic route. Yeah, it takes longer and causes an increase in perseverance and fortitude just to get through it, but when we're done, we're that much wiser.

Yeah, so I'm not called to be an Olympic Skier. I'll get over it. Really. But in my time on the Ski Patrol here in MN, I've seen many stellar skiers, kids who could be the next big thing...if they are but given the chance. If they lived in the right place. I do think that for some of them, if they were in Colorado or Vermont or California and not Minnesota, they'd be there.

Those, my friends, are the unknowns. Maybe they become great locally, and have the talent, the drive, the ability...but don't get the breaks that take them where they need to go. I agree...all in God's plan, for if He wants them there, they will get there. But maybe God wants them to be REALLY GOOD where they are, ski their hearts out, and find their happiness at Buck Bump in Burnsville, or Wild Mountain in St. Croix Falls, or Welch Village in Red Wing. Maybe they have the talent, and they practice and continue to get better, and if they were to finally get the opportunity to compete at the elite level, this "unknown" would blow everybody away, surprising themselves as well as the world...well...those are the equivalent of the Unknown Saints.

The Unknown Saints are those chosen by God specially to be the hidden firepower of the Church. Yes, the cloistered contemplatives are the backbone of the Church, but the Unknown Saints bolster the backbone and spread out to the hands...the Unknowns are the nervous system of the Church, and we hardly recognize their presence. They walk among us. They live lives like ours. They go to work, they raise families, they live alone as singles...but their hearts are elevated to God alone. They do not live for recognition, but simply live in humility of the Glory of God...and they die like everyone else, have funerals like everyone else, and no one realizes that they are interceding and prayers are being answered because of the unknown Saint.

The Church has a process for formally recognizing Sainthood through a painstaking process. This process does not negate Sainthood, only makes it clear which IDENTIFIED persons have met certain criteria such that they can be declared to be formal residents of Heaven, as opposed to Purgatory. There is still a clause for the Unknown Saints, for they are already recognized by God, or souls released from Purgatory into eternal union with God, or perhaps they are Saints in the early process of canonization. Or they are Saints who walk among us, such as Sister Faustina who experienced the prayers of others while still walking the earth.

For those of you who are still skeptical of the Unknown Saints, I ask you to consider the early Church, and the blood that provided the seed of the Church. The martyrs. Never forget the holy martyrs who died for the faith long before the rhetoric of our current culture of death. I have read accounts of regular men and women, who, in the face of death, stood proudly and claimed themselves to be Christian...even as the Lions drooled. The story of St. Iraneaus comes to mind. St. Justin Martyr. Their deaths were accompanied in that time period with countless others, and we shall never know their names. They are the unknown Saints, and on All Saints' Day, during the Litany of the Saints, and at the Easter Vigil, we recognize them, not by name but by grouping.

What Unknown Saints walk among us?

This weekend, I am going to find a vigil candle to light in honor of the Unknown Saints. I can't seem to find a novena to them so I'll see if the Lord inspires me to pen one of my own. If you know of an existing novena specific to the Unknown Saints, please let me know.

All you unknown Saints of God....pray for us!