Monday, August 22, 2011

I Don't Get Anything out of Mass!

A homily that I heard once and some wisdom from an old friend I think really put the Mass and our participation in the Mass into perspective. I remember the homily began by the priest telling us that our parish had lost a family to a non-denominational church down the road. He said that this family actually came to him and said they were leaving and going to this other church for two reasons. The first was that the music was better. The second reason was because they didn't feel like they got anything out of Mass.

At this point I remembered something a friend once said that made a lasting impact on me. She said essentially, "I don't come to Mass for the music or for the homily or for anything other than Jesus. I come because Jesus is here in the Eucharist." I wish that those people had known my friend. Because there is no where that you can go to be so close to our Lord as you are when you receive Holy Communion at Mass.

The priest reiterated this sentiment and then he added that we shouldn't look at Mass as some form of entertainment. Worrying if it  lives up to our standards for keeping us excited. He said that we should not worry about what we get out of Mass because God will provide what we need from Mass if we let Him. Instead we should worry about what we bring to Mass. That we should bring everything, all of our hopes, all of our plans, all of our anxieties, all of our problems, our very lives to the alter at Mass and offer them up with the prayers of the Church and watch what God will do with them.

Isn't this really at the heart of being a Catholic? To offer up every part of our lives in union with the whole Church and in union with Christ's sacrifice on Calvary. And really, what more could you ask to get out of Mass than receiving our Eucharistic Lord and a participation in His Eternal Sacrifice in union with His Holy Church!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sorrowful Mysteries, 5th, The Crucifixion

 Luke 23:33-34
When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him and the criminals there, one on his right, the other on his left.[Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”] They divided his garments by casting lots.

One thing I have learned about praying the Rosary regularly is that you always have the chance of stumbling onto something so profound that it makes you think "Man, I really have to reassess my life with this in mind."

As I learned again the other night, sometimes this thing that you find that is so profound is something you have always heard, something you have know as long as you have known your own name. It is ingrained in you, you know that it is part of the faith. The problem is, it is so comfortable to you, it is so much a part of the landscape of your faith that you actually quit seeing it. You know it, but at the same time it is foreign and you never even think to apply it to your own life.

I say the Rosary daily. That being the case I have prayed the sorrowful mysteries countless time. I have bowed my head a little deeper on the 5th sorrowful mystery many times. If I have watched the crucifixion scene play out once, I have watched it a million times.

Still, the other night while praying the 5th Sorrowful mystery when the words "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do" ran through my mind, I just about fell over. It was almost like it was brand new to me. It finally hit me. Here is Innocence itself, Perfection, the most undeserving Victim. Here is our Lord being nailed to a cross to die a humiliating and most painful death. What does he say? "Forgive them."

All the while I have the audacity to hold a grudge against anyone for anything. All the while I can "hope they get whats coming to them". But I have never been treated anywhere near as unjust as He was treated. Still, I have the gall to hold it against someone when I think they have wronged me!

It is kind of hard to articulate these things. Like I said, the concept, the words themselves were not foreign to me. I know they aren't foreign to you either. The thing is, praying the Rosary gives me the time to come back to these fundamentals and see how much I am not practicing my faith. Praying the Rosary gives me the chance to rediscover these things that are so important in our faith and see where I need to apply them in my own life.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Catholic Home Coming

St. Joan of Arc in Kokomo, IN will be beginning another Catholic home coming program soon. Here is a link to info about the program including schedule, contact info etc. If you have been away for a while, the program will give you an opportunity to ask questions. You will get a refresher on the sacramental Catholic life. And you will get a walk through the Mass. You won't need to feel self conscience because you haven't been to Mass in so long and you won't have to wonder “should I go to communion”. In other words, you are not expected to just walk in and pick up where you left off 10, 20, or 30 years ago.

Having been a “fallen away” Catholic myself, I think this is a great thing. I was away from the church for about 15 years. There was no formal program when I came home. But my children went to the local Catholic school and so I had somewhat of a connection. As students, they went to Mass twice a week and knew all of the “rules”. Even still, it was hard to go back. I can't imagine not having had my children to ease the transition. Without this and without a formal program, I don't know what would have happened. So I am very happy to see our parish is running this program.

I have no official part of the program. I have no official position to speak for the parish. I am but a parishioner who went through coming back on my own. I am just a man who has felt the call to come back to the church. It was uncomfortable and I thank God for giving me the grace to get through it

I just think this program is great and I wanted to share it. I'll go even further, if you are in Kokomo and want to come back to the church and having someone come with you to the program will make you more comfortable, contact me and I will be happy to come with you. If you are not in Kokomo and just having someone just to communicate with and help you get back to your own parish would be beneficial, contact me and I will do whatever I can to help you. It is that important.

Above all, during this time in particular, if you are a “fallen away” Catholic, know that the people and priests of St. Joan of Arc parish in the Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana are praying for you!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Frequent Confession: My Hesitations

About a year ago I made a commitment to receive the the sacrament of reconciliation on a monthly basis as a way to grow closer to God. I didn't make this commitment without some hesitation however. One thing in particular kept me from it for a while; it felt silly. What I mean by that is that I don't go around breaking commandments in big ways anymore. That being the case, I was afraid that I would sound like a second grader to the priest and instead of making a good confession and feeling the Mercy of God that I would merely be reciting a list of the various and unexciting ways that I had "sinned". There are a couple of things that have gotten me past this.

First, I spoke to a priest and told the him that I wanted to receive reconciliation monthly but that I felt like I would sound like a child with "small and petty" sins. His response was two-fold. First, he said that if a person wishes to truly be close to God than no matter how "small" a sin may be it should seem as a great blight to that person. This put my "small and petty" sins into perspective. The second part of his response was to tell me that nuns go to confession every other week. In other words, women who have dedicated their lives to being holy find reason to frequent the sacrament even more than I wished to. So if the nuns can be holy women and not sound childish in the confessional then surely I will be alright.

Another thing I have found is that a long and through examination of conscience really helps me to prepare myself for a confession that is anything but childish. When I move beyond "I lied twice, I didn't pray enough, I lost my temper once", to truly examining what separates me from God, my sins no longer sound or seem childish. For instance, with a thorough examination "I lied" becomes "I lied out of pride to make myself seem better and superior to another. This is in direct violation of the command to love my neighbor as myself because I wanted to make him feel inferior to me." Now instead of sounding childish, I have gotten to the root of my sin. Now I and the priest can see it for what it is and what it is is the illnesses in a dying man. What it is is something that needs to be cured! And that is exactly what confession is for!

Sometimes even a year later I still have these hesitations. When it is coming up on the time of the month that I go to confession, I will being thinking that surely this time my confession will sound silly. However, I have never once left the confessional anything but very happy that I was there.

The very incident that prompted this post however happens to be that I was really struggling with these hesitations before my last confession. Even though I have been through this at least 12 times, it was happening again. I will leave you with a link to the chapter in "An Introduction to the Devout Life" which solved this problem for me for what I feel like may be the final time. Happy reading.