Monday, August 28, 2006

Mary, Our Mother

By Paul Dion, STL

I was sitting in church the other morning, half listening to the Sacred Scripture readings for the day and half thinking of the blog that has been an earworm for me for the last week when something happened. The homily began and after about two sentences I realized that I had missed something very interesting. The Spirit awakened me and here is the result.

Mt 20:20-23

”The mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus with her sons
and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something.
He said to her,
“What do you wish?”
She answered him,
“Command that these two sons of mine sit,
one at your right and the other at your left, in your Kingdom.”
Jesus said in reply,
“You do not know what you are asking.
Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?”
They said to him, “We can.”
He replied,
“My chalice you will indeed drink,
but to sit at my right and at my left, this is not mine to give
but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”

My mind sprang into action remembering so many women and mothers of biblical fame and some notoriety. It also came to me with a boom that Mary is our Jewish mother. She protects us. We are HER sons and nobody better touch us. She teaches us love. She knows how to get to our Older Brother. She knows how to get to Our Father.

The way we revere Mary, Our Mother sets us apart from other Christians and marks us as Catholic to the world . This is the way it should be. Under Jewish law, the mother is the one who imparts “jewishness” to the child. Under Catholic Tradition, Mary, our Mother imparts her feminine attributes to her Son and through Him, we get to know that she is the pinnacle of God’s revelation about His feminine side. This is the faith of us Catholics. We know our Mother.

God does not present us with a meek and pliable woman who allows herself to be exploited. He presents us with a serious woman who knows how to live her relationship with God within her religious community. He shows us a young woman who is not afraid to state her moral position to the Angel Gabriel.

Most of the time we hear all about Mary’s “FIAT” from the pulpit. I like to remember her “How can this happen since I do not know man?”

Doesn’t this sound like, “Look, Gabe, I’m not that kind of a girl!”

Gabriel is not put off by her. He explains the situation. She knows her Scripture. She knows Sarah, Hannah, Rebekah, Ruth, Esther, Delilah, The Pharaoh’s Daughter, the mother of Moses and the woman who made bread for the prophet for a whole year. Knowing all this and confronted by a Messenger of Yahweh, she offers her FIAT (“Let it be done to me according to thy word.”)

Since she was betrothed to Joseph, we know that she had to have some Courage to present him with her new condition. The bible tells us that Joseph was illumined by the angels in a vision concerning his fiancée's pregnancy. It also tells us that Mary had the great opportunity to get out of town and go away to help her older cousin Elizabeth who has miraculously also become pregnant. How convenient! God sure knows what He is doing.

I don’t know how many of you have read the story of Abraham. Those of you who haven’t yet done that, owe yourselves the “E-Ticket Ride.” The story of Mary is so close to the saga of Abraham, Hagar and Sarah that you have to read both to appreciate the action of God for our salvation. (Genesis, starting at chapter 12)

We Catholics love Mary because we see her strength. At twelve years old, Jesus slips away from Mary and Joseph during a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to visit with the elders of the Temple. Mary and Joseph finally locate Him and it's Mary, not Joseph, who speaks up and says, “Don’t you now that we have been looking for you with great apprehension for three days?” I don’t know too many women, but the one that I do know would have delegated that task to me.

Not Mary, she dives right in and lets Him have it.

A couple sentences later we are told that they went back to Nazareth and Jesus was docile and obedient and grew in age and in wisdom. It looks like we know who was in charge.

So He grows up and leaves home. We do know that she taught Him His religion. We know that He has the right to read and speak in the Temple. His mother took care of that. As an adult, He’s really good at doing God’s work. So good that He is able to attract some of His own followers from John the Baptist’s community.

A little while later He and His disciples are at a wedding at Cana and Mary gets involved again, fearlessly. “Psst, Jesus, they have run out of wine.”

Jesus, the adult Man responds with the equivalent of, “So what?”

Do you think that Mary is put off by that? No way. Hey, she’s "The Mom."

She tells the wine steward, “Do everything that He tells you.” That’s the last word. Jesus is putty in her hands. He tells the the servants what to do. He makes the water that they gather into wine and everyone is happy.

Surely, this woman is no wimp. She was well within the line of sight during the passion. She was at the Cross at the Hour of Truth. How can anyone not be proud to call Mary, “MOTHER?”

Yes, we live in a male dominated Church. The same Church that proudly calls itself “THE BRIDE OF CHRIST”. We live in the Kingdom of God that is proud to carry a feminine name. We live in the Kingdom that proudly proclaims that the Risen Christ appeared to His Mother and her friends before showing Himself to His male followers. We live in a Church that reveals God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in a male dominated way, balanced by the powerful spirit of a woman who was as tough as Her Son. She made Him what He turned out to be. If she could do it with Him, I assure you that she can do it with us.

I, for one, am proud to say that I am Catholic and that I love and revere Mary, my Mother. I know that she is constantly nagging Him about me, saying that I’m not as bad as He might think I am.

It’s taking a while. I’m not one of the “Good who die young”. But hey, with her on my side, I can stick it out a few more years to make it easier on her. She knows that I have no special comfort requests. Any dark, cold, left over cloud will do.

So now you know, with simple desires like that, you have absolutely no reason to cry at my funeral. Especially since you know that She will be able to convince Him to get me at least a nice warm blanket.


(Click here to view the many wonderful articles that await you in, America's Catholic Lifestyle Magazine. Be informed, be inspired, be blessed. )

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Mom and Pop Theology

Saint Christopher Parish
Rev. Fr. Romeo Seleccion, MS
Moreno Valley, CA 92553

August 24, 2006

St. Christopher parish is blazing a new Faith Formation Trail. This year for the first time in the history of the Diocese of San Bernardino the Faith Formation Process of a parish has begun its new season with sessions for the parents of the children who are registered in the Faith Formation process, both for sacramental preparation and Christian Pursuit of Holiness. The participants and the Catechist Faculty are actually working as one to make it succeed.

For quite some time now Dr. Isabel Dion, D.Min, Director of Faith Formation at St. Christopher has been seeking ways to implement the pastoral letter of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, "Our Hearts were Burning within Us."

She started by holding discussion meetings about the letter with the Adult Faith Formation team that she formed. One of the fruits of that effort was the organization and operation of a one week symposium of presentations of Catholic Teachings just for adults during the last week of January, 2006. The success of that event spawned new ideas and new events, not the least of which is the one that has just begun.

In order to make this "Mom and Pop Theology" season a success, Dr. Dion shopped around for a well organized, solidly logical, systematic and comprehensive program of adult theology 101 themes. She spent many months, supported by her able staff, reviewing samples of programs that caught her attention. Finally, she and her staff decided to invite the Southern California salesperson, Peter Poppleton, of the Harcourt Publishing Company which publishes the program that most appealed to them all.

They invited the key catechists from the English speaking and the Spanish speaking teams to the Facilitators' Training Session presented by the Harcourt Sales representatives of Southern California. Everyone saw the potential of the source material that was presented. Dr. Dion then ordered more training kits for the parish, set up training sessions with the preferred Catechist Facilitators, worked on the schedule and implemented the program with which everyone agreed.

You can perhaps imagine the reaction of the parents who came in to register their children for the Faith Formation Process when they heard that THEY had seven sessions of simple theology to experience before their children would start to attend.

Some were shocked. Many (anecdotally, most) were happy. Finally, someone was paying attention to them. Some had forgotten that just seven short months before, they had been told by their children, "Dr. Dion says that this week, you have to go to Faith Formation."

So now, we have begun. We have 1,400 children registered in the Faith Formation Program. We estimate that we have about 850 families represented in this number.

In the first week of these parents’ sessions, the program generated more than 400 parent attendees. Each day represents between 4 to 6 meetings, 20 to 60 people. Each session is 90 minutes. We start on time and we quit on time. Cookies and crackers and a simple beverage are available for strength restoration along the way.

We practice "Adultagogy" and the give-and-take is spirited. The source material that we have is conducive to interactivity. We have seven topics (one per week) which we tried to construct as an overview of what the children will be exposed to over the rest of the year. Some of the topics will be repeated during our January week of Adult Faith Formation sessions.

We thank the Lord for His initial blessings. We trust that He will continue to inspire the Chosen People of St. Christopher to continue their dedication to the Pursuit of Holiness that they have begun.

We are thankful to the Catechists who are faithful and dedicate and commit themselves to this Growing Faith Experience. We are also grateful to the Youth Community of the parish under the direction of Terry Rodriguez, Youth Coordinator, for providing the baby-sitting services.

Six more weeks to go. May God continue to bless us.

(Click here to view the many wonderful articles that await you in, America's Catholic Lifestyle Magazine. Be informed, be inspired, be blessed. )

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Call for Balance in Our Lives

Mt 19:16-22

A young man approached Jesus and said,
“Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?”
He answered him, “Why do you ask me about the good?
There is only One who is good.
If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
He asked him, “Which ones?”
And Jesus replied, “You shall not kill;
you shall not commit adultery;
you shall not steal;
you shall not bear false witness;
honor your father and your mother;
and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
The young man said to him,
“All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?”
Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go,
sell what you have and give to the poor,
and you will have treasure in heaven.
Then come, follow me.”
When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad,
for he had many possessions.

With the permission of Father Romeo Seleccion, MS, the presider at the Mass when this reading was presented to the community from the Gospel of Saint Matthew, I proceed to paraphrase the reflection that he gave.

First of all, the touching part of the meditation that Father Romy guided is that it is a personal witness coming from the depths of his conscience. It is fairly rare that we hear a priest say, "I was thinking about this last night and this morning as I was taking my walk. In fact I think of this passage a lot. This is what I get out of it."

"For me it is a question of balance. Our relationship with God and with people has to be balanced. The man who approached Jesus was not a bad person. In fact he was a very good person. Imagine, he observed all the commandments all his life. Yet he was not feeling fulfilled and didn't know why. So he asked Jesus what was left for him to do. What Jesus told him did not have so much to do with the fact that the man had to get rid of all his belongings but that he had to balance his life between taking care of his own spiritual life and helping other people to develop a spiritual life as well. Jesus was pointing out to him that obedience to the Law calls for sacrificing our own spiritual and material comfort in order to offer it to others who need it. It is only when we balance our interests with the interests of the mission of God that we can be happy and in the process make ourselves and others saintly inhabitants of the Kigdom."

"Balance in our lives is not easy to achieve. How comfortable we are when we pray the rosary quietly. How happy we feel during our prayer meeting with the support group that we attend. How generous we feel when we pray for the sick, the grieving and the poor. The reading that we have just heard tells us that this is not enough. It is one sided. To strive for perfection we still have to turn to the other side and start doing something to make the sick, the grieving and the poor feel the presence of God in us and in themselves. We have to bring them the happiness that we find in our prayer lives. When that happens, then we are in balance and at that point we are truly following Jesus, just as He has commanded us."

"Yes, there are some things that are hard for us to give up, or to give away. I personally do not need an expensive car to drive. I don't need to live in a palace. There is one thing that I can't do, I can't get rid of my laptop. Don't even dream of asking me to do that. Nevertheless, I still seek to live in balance."

Leaving the quotation marks aside, I can say that I was touched by this meditation. Fr. Romy is a missionary who has left everything and everyone that is dear to him behind to follow Jesus. He, of all people would seem to have a balanced attitude about the pursuit of perfection through the imitation of Christ. It was remarkable to hear his witness this morning. It was evident that Fr. Romy has taken some time to consider and reconsider this invitation of Jesus and has taken it to heart. I thank God for giving him the grace of inspiration to bring his intimate feelings to us before the altar of the Eucharist.

With a saintly attitude like he has, I don't have to remind him not to cry at my funeral.

(Click here to view the many wonderful articles that await you in, America's Catholic Lifestyle Magazine. Be informed, be inspired, be blessed. )

Monday, August 14, 2006

Roman Catholic Paper Chase

“All of Christ’s followers, therefore, are invited and bound to pursue holiness and the perfect fulfillment of their proper state. Hence, let them all see that they guide their affections rightly. Otherwise they will be thwarted in the search for perfect charity by the way that they use earthly possessions and by a fondness for riches which goes against the gospel…” (The Documents of Vatican 2, “The church”, chapter 3, Paragraph 42)

How many of us know that this is the commandment of Our Church to us… “we are bound to pursue holiness and …perfect fulfillment.”

Does anyone know what this means?
Does anyone know what it means to be a true Roman Catholic?
Very few indeed.

Listen to the questions that people throw at the staff of the parish office on a daily basis. I’m not making these up. None of them has anything to do with being a true seeker of holy perfection.

“What do I have to do to get my child baptized?”
“Are you taking registrations for first communion?”
“My child is 12 years old. Can I get her baptized?”
“I’m not married. Can I have my child baptized?”
“Can I have my son/daughter confirmed if I am not married by church?”
“Can my daughter be accepted to ‘Quinceañera if she has not made her first communion?
“My child already has made first communion. Why should I send him to CCD?”
“I’m not married yet, but I want to be baptized so I can get my children baptized.”
“How can I get first communion?” I know I’m baptized, but I never had any instruction.”
“Why is there so much red tape for people to get baptized?”
“How long does it take before I can receive confirmation?”
“How long does it take before my child can receive first communion?”
“My child already received first communion. Why do I have to send her to catechism any more?”
“If you don’t allow my daughter to wear a veil for her first communion, I’ll go talk to the bishop.”
“Why can’t I get married in church if I’m not confirmed yet?”
“Why can’t my Episcopalian sister-in-law be a god-mother of my child?”

I could go on and on.

We Catholics supposedly are attracted by the life, passion, death and resurrection of Jesus as well as the heroic lives of our saints. Yet, so few of us seem to be attracted to the life that would bring us to sainthood.

There are altogether too many of us who are total cultural minimalists on a pure paper chase.

We forget to ask ourselves the hard questions:
“Would St. Peter have been the first pope if he had stopped being faithful to Jesus after his first communion?”
“Do you suppose Jesus could argue with the Pharisees if he had stopped going to the Temple after His baptism by St. John?”

How about these hard questions:
“Why aren’t you married by the church?
“Why do you force your child to receive first communion even though you, yourself do not even attend Mass regularly?”
“Why do you want your child to receive first communion when you know that you will not attend Mass regularly?”
“Why is it more important for you to help your child achieve perfection on the athletic field than to help him/her to do the same in the presence of Christ?”
“Why do you force your child to receive confirmation, when you, yourself, along with your child, have not set foot inside the church for years?”
“Why do you expect your child to be married in church if he or she has not set foot in church for years?”
Why do you want a Catholic funeral if you haven’t set foot in church for years?
“Why do you bother to call yourself Catholic when as a matter of fact you do not live like one?”

Wait, wait, don’t tell me. I know.

“I believe in God”
“All my family is Catholic.”
“I went to Catholic school.”
“I pray the Hail Mary a lot.”
“I like Our Lady of Guadalupe.”
“My mom would die if I changed.”
“I have an uncle who’s a priest.”
“I donate $100.00 a year to the church at the festival.”
“I always send the Jehovah’s Witnesses away when they come to my door.”

The crowning glory to all this is to watch you pass the guilt on to the managers who are entrusted with the preparation process of the adults and the children for the sacraments. The excuses and the pretexts that you throw out on the table in an effort to make the officials make an exception for you go like these:

“I’m busy, I work a lot.”
“I have other children at home.”
“My spouse comes home later than I do.”
“We’ve been coming to this church for five years now.”
“I don’t have time to read the bulletin.”
“I have to drive for the soccer games on Saturday.”
“I can’t come in the evening because I volunteer at the school library.”
“Weekends are the only time I can see my mother.”
“I’m in real estate and weekends are real busy for me.”
“When Father so and so was here we didn’t have all this red tape.”
“I’m going to appeal to the pastor.”

Finally, if you were really Catholic, seeking the spiritual perfection of sanctity you would know that:

Forcing your child to receive communion against his/her will causes the sacrament to be invalid; Seeking a Quinceañera celebration for your daughter is not a true church sacramental celebration;
Forcing your child to receive confirmation against his/her will causes the sacrament to be invalid;
Forcing your child to be married by the sacrament of matrimony against his/her will causes the sacrament to be invalid.

I have some suggestions:

Get your marriage straightened out in line with the church sacramental requirement.
Make friends with church-goers who know what they are talking about.
Learn your prayers and say them as a family, at least at night.
Study the catechism that your children bring home from the church.
Take the bulletin home and read the Bible suggestions for the week.
Take advantage of the adult classes offered by the church a couple times per year.
Volunteer to help around the church, even just for a few hours per year.
Use your Bible as a source of ideas for meditation at least 10 minutes per day. Set aside a quiet corner of your dwelling for such a purpose.
Help someone who needs aid at least once per month.
If you have the Internet, read the stories of now and then during the week.

If you are reading this and it makes you angry, GOOD! Do something about it.

I guarantee, if you do something about it and you become a really, true blue Catholic because of your renewed effort under the inspiration of God, you’ll have absolutely no need to cry at my funeral.

(Click here to view the many wonderful articles that await you in, America's Catholic Lifestyle Magazine. Be informed, be inspired, be blessed. )

Friday, August 11, 2006

I remember when... I was Catholic

I am in a reminiscing mood tonight, so I am going to tell you what made me Catholic.

I was baptized eight days after coming home from the hospital with my mother. Those who did not keep that schedule usually got a very stern admonition from the pastor.
I was given St. Paul's name because my father would not have it any other way. He told me that he wanted to challenge me with the toughest patron saint that he could imagine.
Before I could speak, I was taught the sign of the cross. As I learned to speak, I was taught the words. I would kiss the cross first thing in the morning and last thing at night. My brothers and sisters were brought up the same way.
By the time I was brought to the kindergarten of the parochial school at six years and nine months, I knew the Hail Mary, Our Father, Glory Be and the Apostle's Creed which I recited every single night before bed time.
I had already started to memorize the catechism. We were given the book at school. My mother, father, grandfather and grandmother didn't need it. They new every question on every page by heart. By the time I graduated from the eighth grade, I knew it all by heart too.
I made my First Communion at the ripe old age of eight. I was in the second grade. My next goal was to be a serving altar boy. I had already joined the choir boys so that I could sit in the sanctuary. (At my height, where else could I have a view?) I had to wait until I was in the fourth grade before I could be an altar boy.
I was allowed to be an altar boy when I was promoted to the fourth grade. By then I knew all the Latin responses by heart.
These were the days when no one could eat meat on Friday. Even vegetable soup with a beef, pork or chicken base was forbidden.
These were the days when the Eucharistic fast started at 12:00 Midnight.
Rare was the brave soul who would receive communion after the eight o'clock Mass.
The first Mass on Sunday started at 5:00 AM.
The last one was at 11:00 AM and was a "high Mass" and was always filled with very professional music. The congregation of the faithful only sang in church during ceremonies that were not scheduled around the Mass.
You were told that it was a mortal sin to be a pall bearer, a witness of marriage or to participate in any other way in a non-Catholic service, no matter how close a relative had died or was getting married.
Nuns wore rather heavy habits and were almost all relegated to teaching school. Hardly none had an education beyond high school.
Priests of the parish made the rounds of the residences and visited all their parishioners once per year.
Catholics were very careful to participate in the sacraments of Penance and Eucharist once every year. The time to comply with this obligation was between Ash Wednesday and Pentecost Sunday. For many Catholics, this was the one time that they confessed and received Holy Communion every year.
The Lenten fast was very strict. No eating between meals. Meat only once per day. One main meal per day and the other two could not be equal in volume to the main meal. Sunday was not a day of penance.
The season of Lent ended at 12:00 Noon on Holy Saturday.
Holy days of Obligation were eight: Christmas, Circumcision of Jesus (January 1), Annunciation (March 25), Easter, Ascension Thursday, Assumption (August 15), All Saints Day (November 1), Immaculate Conception (December 8).
There were four times during the year at the change of the seasons when there were three days during the week of Fast and Abstinence. They were called Ember Days.
The day immediately preceding a Holy Day of Obligation was a day of fasting and abstinence.
After every Holy Mass there were prayers recited for the conversion of Russia. A pope (Pius X) had commanded this in the aftermath of the Fatima Apparitions. I received Confirmation during the time when the Bishop would give a slap to every young man and woman as a sign of spiritual bravery as befits a "soldier of Christ."
No public sinner was ever granted a Church funeral and burial in the blessed land of the church. These included alcoholics, divorced and remarried persons, gangsters and others who fell into the category of public sinner as determined by the judgement of the community and the pastor of the parish.
Children whose parents were not married in church and were not practicing Catholics were not baptized.
Non practicing Catholics were not allowed to have church weddings until they "converted".
Every pending marriage was announced publicly for three weeks so that if anyone had any objections to the marriage it could be reported to the pastor.
Most parishes had a weekly bingo night.
Families averaged 3 to 5 children. There was a strong feeling of pride if one of the boys decided to attend seminary.
My godfather was a homosexual and an alcoholic, but I never knew it until after he died. I was in my thirties. In fact, some of his siblings did not know it. My mother, for one.

Yes, those are my Catholic roots. I am still Catholic although I have gone through some interesting times. I have faced the dismay of my family, the .45 Colt of an angry mayor, the dishonesty of clergy, both high and low, the darkness of soul that took me away from prayer for a while and the frustration that comes from being impatient with the speed at which the church moves, or doesn't move, depending on your point of view. I do not miss the religion that I knew growing up. I do not live in the past. I remember when the Vatican (Pope Pius XII) declared that plain water did not break the eucharistic fast. My father thought that the world was coming to an end. I decided that I was not going to be more Catholic than the pope. That's always been my position. Now I wish I could be almost as Catholic as Benedict XVI!

As the years have advanced, I have enjoyed learning how to live the invitation of Jesus to be His evangelizing disciple rather than an avoider of sin. (Yes, there are still sins out there.) It is liberating to live a life of love focused on Christ. It is not easy. Prayer has to be a large part of such a life. It requires daily conversion, meditation and lots of listening to the whispers of the Spirit. I have left behind the memorizations of the catechism that were once my treasures. I have built a foundation of Sacred principles as found in the Daily Prayer of hours and the Sacred Scripture. I have inserted myself into the History of Salvation, hanging on to Christ's shirttail. I like being there. I like the stories, I like the prayers, I like the characters. I have a mind and a heart full of "Baseball Cards" of God's best "Athletes". Abraham, Moses, Job, Rachel, Judith, David, Isaiah, Peter, Thomas, the Blind Man from John, the Woman at the Well, Mary (all three of them), Paul, of course. With a team like this, who needs the ten commandments? Think of it a little bit: Who among us walks around afraid to break the laws of the United States to be a good citizen? We don't need that. Being good citizens is an intimate part of our lives. We don't play dodge-ball with the law, we live in virtue. Think of it a little bit more and remember what Jesus told the young man who bragged about having kept the Law all his life. "Now that you have done that, go, sell all that you have and give the proceeds to the poor. Then come and follow me." (Luke: 18 - 23) I am convinced that this is the moral conversion that is expected of all of us. PPsssttt... I ain't easy, but once you're good at it, it's like winning. You can't get enough of it.

The Catholic Religion is not now any easier than it ever was. It is more demanding in a much more intimate way. Today's Catholic religion demands that good Catholics are to be good disciples of Christ. A good disciple of Christ is not a devoted follower of the Law. A good disciple of Christ is a dedicated and loving missionary. (Matthew, 28; 16 - 20) It takes a complete person to know how to take chances for the sake of unconditional love. It takes a complete person who is not afraid to be harassed for the Kingdom and who is not afraid of what personal reaction will result from the harassment. After all, Jesus promised us that the Spirit would take care of our needs in the hour when we would be challenged by the authorities. The source and focus of our conduct as disciples are within us. They are the Theological virtues and the Cardinal virtues that we are given through the dynamic Grace of God. The guides of our conduct as disciples are not outside us, like the ten commandments or the Torah. When we read the 9th chapter of John every year ("The man born blind") we understand what it means to see the light of God and follow it. When we listen to the words of Jesus about the insufficiency of the Law, and even the insufficiency of the Pharisees and Sadducees, the Temple leaders of the day, we have to throw ourselves into His arms and surrender to His invitation to live in the Spirit of Zeal and Love.

You think that's easy? Don't kid yourself. What's easier to say, "I don't eat meat on Friday because that's what Catholics have to do," or to say, "I don't eat meat on Friday to join in the suffering of the homeless people." What's easier to say, "I go to Mass on Sunday because it's a Catholic obligation," or to say, "I go to Mass on Sunday to pray and exchange handshakes and hugs with people who need to feel loved in the presence of God?" You want to bet that it is more difficult to take an hour or two a week to go read for a blind person than to substitute meat on Friday with Shrimp and Lobster? You want to bet that it is more demanding to commit to driving a couple of old people to the market once a week than to be satisfied with dropping $5.00 in the collection basket now and then?

The church knows this. The pope knows this. That's why Benedict XVI is out in St. Peter's square every Wednesday teaching catechism to thousands of people. The Church is talking the same language as Jesus. What's the saying? "The Church and Jesus are singing out of the same hymnal." Many of us have had to learn the new hymns. Many of us have a lot of converting to do. Because of all that converting, some of us, like me, don't want anyone crying at our funeral. We want you to thank God that we don't have to get up and go to work on the following day!

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

I was born a Catholic and I'm going to die a Catholic

This was a great day. I met a very vocal and very articulate individual. It was a pleasure to listen to the life story of the quintessential example of a cultural Catholic.

“I was born a Catholic, was baptized, went to Catholic school and made my first communion. All my family is Catholic. My mother and father donated generously to the church. The priest came to the house and ate and drank with the members of the family. We provided the statue for the May block rosary and processions. There is no way that I am going to be anything but a Catholic. I was born a Catholic, brought up a Catholic and I’m going to die a Catholic.

“So, I tell you, I am in total shock that I have to go through so much red tape to get my husband into the Catholic Church. I mean, we have all the documents that we need to make this go smoothly. We have the divorce decrees, the death certificates, my baptismal certificate, my spouse’s baptismal certificate, I mean, what else could you possibly want? After all, we are not in any big hurry to get married in the Church, we’ve been married now for a number of years and we’re all right. We have a good marriage.

“The one thing that is uncomfortable is to have to sit there when communion time comes around. It’s a shame that we can’t get up with the children and go to communion. So that’s why my spouse really should be Catholic. I know my spouse has had a previous marriage, but the first partner has disappeared and no one knows where. Besides, we have all the documents that we can show you so we can get this thing done without involvingany other first spouse.”

When the talking machine stops for a breath, I inquire where this lifelong Catholic was born. I was told the name of the town and the country but not the exact broader political division (State / Province).

“I’ll have to ask my mother. Why do you have to know that? What does that have to do with my present spouse wanting to be a Catholic?”

“By the way, is this your first marriage?” I asked.


“Oh, fine. Was your first marriage blessed in the Catholic Church? Was your first spouse Catholic?”

“Yes, my first spouse was Catholic. No, we were not married in Church.”

“So you did not submit yourself to the Church’s sacrament of matrimony for your first marriage.”

“No, I did not.”

“So you realize that you could not go to communion then, either.”

“Yes, you’re right. Look, we’re going to have to talk this over together. I had no idea that this was going to be this complicated. I can’t understand why we have to endure all this red tape. All I want is that my spouse here should be Catholic. That’s the only goal. Besides, we have all the documents that we need.”

I went on to explain, “What you call red tape is your version of what Catholics call following the call of Jesus as expressed through His mission to His Church. The disciples of Jesus who follow Him through His Church accept the fact that they cannot be His disciples on their own terms. There are other religions that allow their members to relate to Jesus on their own terms, but not the Catholic Church. It appears to me that if you want to die a Catholic, you will have to experience a change of heart, a conversion, so to speak. "

I went further, “As to your spouse being admitted to the Catholic Church, I can tell you that it is going to take more than a pile of civil documents, and it is going to take longer than a month or two.”

“How long will it take?” she asked.

“I can’t begin to give you an estimate of that until I know the full story as contained in documents and testimony taken from both of you.”

“We’re going to have to talk this over. I never knew anything about this. I’ve been a Catholic all my life and I never knew anything about all this."

"All the more reason why you should come to the Sunday morning instructional meetings with your spouse. You'd get to know a lot about being a Catholic."

"Well, I'm very busy. Look, we’ll get back to you.”

“Talk it over and call me when you are ready. I am at your service when and where you want me.”

“All we want is for my spouse to be a Catholic. That shouldn’t be that hard.”

Now I know for sure that there is one more person in the world who will certainly not cry at my funeral.

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