Tag Archives: Mass

This is a marathon, not a sprint.

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For the first time in recent memory, I ended a year on a Spiritual high note. I wasn’t running on fumes through Advent, I’ve enjoyed Christmas, and I’m excited to start 2012 and grow in our beautiful faith even more. So, as we’re less than a week into a new year, I thought I would share some ways to keep our spiritual “endurance” throughout the year.
What came to mind was a Homily that my husband and I heard while attending Saint William of York (Stafford, Virginia) in August. Father made some remarks about “Lapsed” Catholics, also called “C&E’s” (Christmas and Easter) sometimes. This (very large) group of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ are not the ones that we see every Sunday. We likely won’t see them while they’re vacationing, and we also most likely won’t have many conversations with them about our Catholic faith. However, it never fails that come Christmas and Easter, they all show up. The parking lot is full, the pews are full, the Church is very warm. Father Magot made us all chuckle when he said, “why chose the busiest Masses of the year to go to? I’d rather go in August. There’s plenty of parking spaces, room to sit. Communion lines are shorter.”
Obviously the point he was trying to drive home is that EVERY Sunday Mass and Holy Day of Obligation are important. We are obligated to attend them all. And without a serious excuse, we are committing a mortal sin if we do not go.
And so we have begun 2012.
About ten years ago, I had a gym membership. It was a 24 hour gym and my regular workouts began around 10 PM. The following January, I think I witnessed fifty “New Years resolutions” happen before my eyes. Tredmills were all of a sudden full, weight machines had lines, and the classes in the room off to the side were full of energy. To be honest, the sudden surge of people was someone of a distraction as well as annoying. Not because I didn’t want these people to get into shape or to be healthy, it was because they didn’t stick around.
Come February and March, the New Years resolution crowd dwindled out in numbers. Few were left to continue on their mission. The rest had given up.
And after sharing these two stories, I can’t help but think of the similarities between the two. Just as a journey towards becoming physically fit and healthy takes a lot of work and dedication, so does growth,in our faith. It cannot and does not happen overnight. Any surge in energy or bursts of the Holy Spirit may only seem temporary, unless they are nourished.
Through,our Baptism, we are initiated into the Church and given the gift of the Holy Spirit. Through the Eucharist, we are nourished and strengthened, and through our Confirmation, we are sealed in the gift of the Holy Spirit, thus completing our initiation into the Church.
As we continue in this year, let us keep in mind the promises we made through our Confirmation, to grow in our faith and to share our faith with others.
I would like to end with some suggestions to keep the flame burning:
1. Make it a duty to attend Mass regularly. Every Sunday and every Holy Day of Obligation. While daily Mass is not an obligation, attending regularly can only help us grow in our faith.
2. Make time for prayer. I was recently gifted a book on The Family Rosary. How cliche to hear, “A family that prays together, stays together.” Say bedtime prayers with your children. Say a prayer at meal times. Pray when you wake up. Prayer is simply conversation with God, and the more we’re talking to him, the less likely we are to fall into sinful behavior. Also, drive around with a CD of the Rosary being recited, or religious music playing. It’s hard to be in a bad mood while listening to “How Great thou Art.”
3. Go to Confession regularly. If you haven’t been in a while- go! It will give you,the grace to sustain you and keep your soul in good shape.
4. Join a Catholic group or look for a Spiritual Advisor. Having someone to guide us along the journey is imperative to our growth. For me, I have a lovely group of women who I have become very close to. We talk every day. All things Catholic, and sometimes not.
5. Do something within your parish. Whether it’s volunteering as a CCD teacher or singing in the choir, assisting in a number of ministries or on the parish board….. whichever interests you. When you’re accountable to others for something, you’re more likely to follow through.
6. Wear our beautiful faith on your sleeve, figuratively speaking. Mention to others in conversation that you are Catholic. Invite friends to go to Mass. Find or answer questions friends may have about our faith.

We have a whole long year ahead of us. There is no doubt that it will fly by. But our job is to come out on the other end stronger in our faith than when we started last week. So, I challenge you all. Make it count!

Heavenly Spam

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Man… it’s been one of those weeks on the back of a couple of those weeks. You know the kind, when a trip to the restroom- away from whiny children, all these dogs that always want to eat, and people who ask all manner of questions like, “Why did you plug the extension cord into itself, Andrea?”* (I don’t know, Margot!)- feels like a mini-vacation? Yeah. The last few weeks have been super hectic- my husband separated from the military, we moved across the country, I got a new job, my toddler is entering his Terrible Twos with no holds barred, and in an unfortunate, distracted eyebrow-grooming session, I turned myself into Vanilla Ice.

Did I mention I start back to school today? Thank God for makeup, amiright?

Lately, I’ve just been turning my gaze heavenward and yelling saying “Pray for us!”. I’m not even specifying who I’m asking at this point, just hoping that somebody (or a few somebodies) will take pity on me.

Anywho, whining aside, this prayerful desperation reminds me of when I first started going to Mass after a lifetime of Protestantism, and how one of the lines (which is still one of my favorite parts of the Mass by the way) stuck out to me in a surprising way.

Which line, you ask? Why, here we go. The Penitential Act:

I confess to almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do; and I ask blessed Mary, ever virgin, all the angels and saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.

Maybe I’m just spiritually greedy, but I want as many people praying for me as possible. Mary, the saints, the angels, all of you… I’ll take what I can get. Lord knows I need it. Seriously- He really does.

After nearly 24 years of the Protestant mindset, this Catholic view of prayer has been eye-opening, to say the least. At first, I was all:

“Wait wait wait… you ask everyone to pray for you? Like… even the angels? Not just people you know and are still alive? If you ask them to pray for you, do they like… have to?”

I was hooked almost immediately. I pictured all of the saints and angels stopping what they were doing to pray for me, because I asked. I was pretty sure that after a while, their prayers for me would turn into “Ugh, Father… it’s her again. Who told her that she could ask us for our prayers, and why didn’t they tell her that she didn’t have to do it all the time? Does she know there are other people who might need prayers, too?”

I had to learn to find the (for me) fine line of prayerful enthusiasm and Heavenly spam. “Did you get that forward from Andrea? I just don’t even open prayers from her anymore.”

I kid… mostly. I don’t spam Heaven. Maybe I say that part of the Penitential Act louder than the other parishioners, but outside of Mass I keep it low-key. Ya know… just the few saints I really love. So, at my confirmation, when you discover that I am now:

Andrea Lynn Mary Therese Faustina Paul Peter Ignatius Irenaeus Augustine Monica Edith Stein

Don’t be surprised.

And if I get to Heaven as I hope I do, and find all these people trying very hard not to make eye-contact with me and saying things like “Did I remember to present those bowls of incense to God? Better check!” when they see me approaching… I won’t be surprised, either.

 

 

*As much as I wish I could say I made this up for humorous effect, the extension cord thing really, actually happened. I offer you the following photographic proof. Yes, I took a picture of it, because when you do something this unbelievable, you save it for posterity… and blog readers.

Extension Cord Fail

When Precious Blood is Spilled

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This past Sunday, I attended Mass with my husband and 3-month old daughter as usual. And as usual, there were the reverent and irreverent parishioners, there were readings, there were songs, there was a homily, and there was a Consecration.

But unlike the usual Communion time, there was a commotion near the altar steps. At first I wondered if some poor elderly parishioner had fainted or if someone tripped down the steps. Indeed the latter might have happened, but it wasn’t the cause of the commotion:

An Extraordinary Minister of the Holy Eucharist had spilled Precious Blood. They quickly addressed the issue and moved on to completing the distribution of the Eucharist, but it certainly caused quite a stir.

So what do you do if you spill Precious Blood either on your clothing or on the floor?

I was curious as to the answer to this, so I Googled. Though I couldn’t find the physical Canon Law on the matter in my admittedly brief search, I did find this, this, and this. I thought I would share, though I urge you to talk to your priest should you encounter these situations before acting on it to prevent improper handling.

Normally, when disposing of Precious Blood after Mass, the Precious Blood must be consumed (this happens at the altar by the priest after the distribution of the Eucharist is complete), and the chalice may be rinsed with clean water. This water may be poured directly onto the ground (some parishes have a special drain that specifically drains into the ground called a Sacrarium) but should never be poured down a normal drain (no element of Christ, or something who touched him, should ever reach a sewer). Under no circumstance is the Precious Blood to be poured down the Sacrarium, but the water that rinses the chalice after consumption can be, though, again by no means down a normal drain. The idea is that, though the water has touched residual Precious Blood, the amount of Blood left is so tiny that Christ is no longer truly present in it and is the reason why it can be discarded, with reverence, on the ground. The purificators are soaked in water, with the water discarded in the Sacrarium as well.

Should Precious Blood be spilled on the ground, purificators should be used to soak it up, and soaked as normal with the water discarded in the Sacrarium.

Most of us will never deal with this on our own if we are never Extraordinary Ministers of the Holy Eucharist, and if you become an EM, you’ll almost assuredly be trained in how to handle such issues.

If Precious Blood spills on your clothing as a parishioner, one article I found has a priest who advised that soaking the article of clothing at your earliest convenience in a bowl of clean water to get as much of the Precious Blood out as possible and then taking that water and discarding it on the ground (again, not down a drain) before washing the clothing in a washing machine is sufficient.

I pray that no one reading this ever faces needing to handle spilled Precious Blood. Ideally we would have perfectly nimble hands and feet where there would be zero risk of this most grave issue, but obviously our fallen state includes unintended clumsiness, and it’s useful to know how you might proceed.

***As always, you should ask your priest before taking the advice from a blog should you encounter these issues, and it’s always a good idea to take the most conservative and reverential approach you can.***

Jesus loves the little children

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But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

Matthew 19:14

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Recently, I found myself in the midst of an interesting, yet sensitive, conversation among friends.  It was with a group of Catholic Army wives, whom I love dearly and we were discussing a few of their individual feelings of disappointment over the recent decision of the parish priest on post (which my family does not often attend, but many of these particular friends do every week) not to approve childcare services during mass times.  Parish budget reasons aside, Father’s opinion is that the children belong in mass.  And I happen to agree.

To make this particular topic an even more sensitive one, many of these friends currently have husbands that are deployed and the long year of bringing several children to mass alone has worn on them.  My heart aches for them and I can personally relate to their struggles as I have been there before myself.  But I still stand firm in my personal conviction that my children need to be in mass with me.

This lead to a fruitful discussion of “tactics”.   How do you get your kids to behave in mass?  Right now my children are 4 years and 21 months (with our third due to arrive in February) and as I shared my personal strategies, I became aware that depending on age and family size, many different things could (or would not) work for different families.  I love when God blesses me with unexpected conversations such as these, that encourage me and fill me with new ideas and perspective (and a glimpse of what life might be like when my husband and I are finally outnumbered).  So, I thought I would share some of our personal approaches here in the hopes that you dear readers, might do the same.

This is one of our four-year-olds favorite books to bring to mass

1. Quiet distracters.  For my family right now, these are books.  We have a special collection of books for our kids that illustrate the mass or that are filled with photos and stories about the Saints.  Allowing them to choose a few to bring along helps them to sit still and be engaged in something during the parts of mass where we are sitting and listening, especially during the homily.  Our little one (21 months) has a few soft books that we used to bring along when she was more likely to bang them around, but she has been doing better recently with regular books.

2. Practice.  Trying to make it to daily mass at least once during the week is a great way to help familiarize your kids with mass.  Daily masses are usually shorter and in many cases have a smaller, more intimate crowd, which allows us to sit a bit closer to the front so that the kids can really watch what is going on up on the altar.  Even something as simple as kneeling next to bed for nighttime prayers can also be practice for the act of kneeling and praying in mass.

3. Full tummies.  Snacks in mass are a big no-no for my family.  They create noise and mess in mass and although our children are not old enough to receive the Eucharist yet, much less fast, it is still not teaching the regularity of the concept that we are supposed to fast an hour before receiving.  We find it much easier to be sure that everyone has a good meal or at least a good protein-filled snack just before we start dressing for mass.  Avoiding bringing food and drinks along also helps us not to have to make bathroom trips during mass.

4.  Prepare little minds.  When our children know where we are going, how they are expected to behave and what the rewards and consequences of their behavior will be before hand (especially the four-year-old), they are much more likely to be on their best behavior.  The drive to mass always contains a quick “reminder” talk, just so it is fresh in their little minds.  The actual rewards and consequences for our four-year-old change and grow with him and with our family, but they have included things like going for a trip to the frozen yogurt shop as a family after mass full of great behavior or losing access to certain toys or the privilege of watching a movie that night after poor behavior.   Really poor behavior also earns him some quiet time spent with Jesus at the family altar when we return home, asking for forgiveness and saying a few extra prayers. Talking with him about these things before hand and reminding him that it is his choice really takes a burden off of us as parents, because it is easier to remain calm and remind him that he is making poor choices if redirection is needed.

5. Prepare little hearts.  It is equally, if not more important to prepare little hearts for mass.  Talk about what is going on in mass with your kids, explain the beauty of our traditions, prayers, and actions with them at home so that they when they hear them in mass they will be more interested and involved.  Practice saying the Our Father at bedtime each night.  Teach them the sign of the cross.  If possible, hold little ones during the Eucharistic prayers and direct their eyes towards Jesus.  I know it is nice to be able to have personal peace and focus during these prayers, but if you share these moments with your children, they will learn to love Jesus and to cherish Him in the Eucharist as you do.

I know this list sounds quite wonderful and idealistic, but trust me, most masses these days see one of us out pacing in the narthex with our lively 21-month old daughter.  Our strategies don’t always work, but I have confidence that they are still helping our children to learn and grow.  God created the spirit of a child beautifully wild – full of curiosity, adventure and movement and all we can really do is embrace them with love, patience and gratitude to teach them about this faith we so love.

So now it’s your turn to share.  What are some of your thoughts and strategies to encourage good behavior in your children during mass?

Commanded to Love Mary

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As Catholics, we wholly love our triune God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Every day  we attend mass we literally sit at the feet of our Lord Jesus, mystically united in time to the moment He gave His life for us on the cross.  Before the altar of the most Blessed Sacrament we are privileged to worship Him, thank Him, love Him, and depend on Him.  We are beside everyone that has ever attended the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, beside all of the angels, beside all of the saints, and beside everyone who was at the foot of His cross at Golgotha…  we are beside His Mother, Mary.

Jesus’s life was bookended with Mother Mary, she was present at His birth, and at His death.  Before God sent us our Savior, He first created the vessel by which that Savior would come.  Instead of celebrating Christmas each year, we could be celebrating the Descension of Jesus, or some other event by which God sent our Savior.  God’s plans are always perfect and always have more meaning than we can ever humanly fathom.  In all of His infinite wisdom and in His love for us, God included a mere human in His plan for our salvation.  Our Father gave Himself a human mother.

In the book of John it is recorded that during the Last Supper Jesus reminded his disciples, “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” In fact, He mentioned keeping the commandments many times.  The first three commandments all deal with how we are to have a relationship with our Lord.  Then, surprisingly, the fourth commandment, listed before don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t bear false witness… is to honor your father and mother.  This particular commandment is oddly out of place between the first three dictating proper worship of our Lord God and the latter six thou shall nots.  It must be important.

Jesus entrusts his mother to his disciple John.

We are commanded to honor our father and mother.  We are also called to follow Jesus as our example of Christian living.  Jesus lived a life perfectly without sin, He upheld every one of the ten commandments, daily.  He perfectly honored both His Father, our Lord God, and His Mother, Mary.  Isn’t it interesting that God created a commandment to honor our father and mother, then when He came down to Earth He provided Himself a mother which allowed Him to perfectly fulfill the fourth commandment?  In His plan for our salvation, God submitted Himself to honoring a human.  Jesus showed us how to perfectly follow the first commandment and all the while have the most perfect honor for His mother with the fourth commandment. At the wedding feast at Cana, Jesus performed His first miracle at the behest of Mother Mary (John 2), and while hanging on the cross He made sure not to expire before arranging proper care for her (John 19).  He did not shy away from loving His mother out of fear of offending His Father.  He did not ignore His mother or feel indifferent toward her.  Jesus was still submitting Himself to honoring His mother while dying to provide us eternal life, that is how important she is to Him.  He wholly and perfectly loves His mother out of His love for His Father.

So, how is your relationship with Mary?  Do you forget she’s even there?  Imagine a family in which, day after day, the children lovingly flock to the father while it is as if their adoring mother is not even in the room.  Imagine the pain God must feel when day after day we ignore or even actively reject the Mother He gave Himself, the Mother that He loves with a child-like love, the Mother that He commands us to love.  Your relationship with Mother Mary should be a proportionate indicator of your love for Our Father.

Don’t know how to begin a relationship with Our Lady?  Pray for God to assist you in beginning a relationship with His Mother.  Remember to talk with Mary at mass, as she is there beside you, at the foot of Her Son’s holy cross.  Ask for her prayers.  Ask her to pray for you to have a devotion to the Father like the devotion she is privileged to have.  Ask both Our Lady and Our Father for forgiveness for not including her in your life the way we are commanded to.

Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with you.  Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.  Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.  Amen.

Please share about your relationship with Our Lord’s most blessed Mother!

Who Am I?

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This past Saturday, my husband & I were sitting on the couch just having a general day. I can’t remember what started the conversation, except that I KNOW it was him (fist pump & bump from me to the Holy Spirit). He asked about when the Church started. Since I tend to blather on & on (& on & on & on…), I concentrated on brevity. I said, “Oh, somewhere in the New Testament before Easter, Jesus told Simon Peter that ‘… on this rock I shall build my Church…'” I further added that He (Jesus) also told Simon Peter that He (Jesus) would give Simon Peter the keys to Heaven and the Church. My husband’s reply was a simple “Oh” or grunt of acknowledgement. Regardless of his response, I was tremendously pleased that he broached the subject.

Imagine my absolute SHOCK when, at Mass Sunday, the Gospel was that *very* reading. Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do the people say that I am?” followed by “Who do *you* say that I am?” Simon Peter was the only one brave enough (or lacking the edit function of his brain like me) to say, “You’re the Christ”. Then followed my above mentioned quote from that same chapter. As the reading began I looked over and was dismayed to see that our children looked to be thoroughly distracting my baptized (but not confirmed) husband. I said a silent prayer to the Holy Spirit to allow him (my husband) to hear the words of the reading AND the homily. Then I tried to divide my attention between the children, Mass, & my husband’s demeanor; therefore I completely forgot about the revelation during Mass. Later at home, amid the chaos that is life with a 3 year old & 21 month old, my husband said something about it being funny that the reading at Mass was exactly what we’d talked about. Again, I internally fist pumped & bumped the Holy Spirit, but kept my answer non-chalant & brief.

That got me to thinking. Who am I that God should listen to my all-too brief prayers? Who am I that others should look at me & find encouragement, inspiration, and happiness? Who am I that God has blessed me with the family (and friends) I have? Who am I that God has given the struggles to overcome and therefore become an inspiration to others around me. The answer is, basically, I am who God made me.

It is often bandied about that God works in mysterious ways and that if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans. Well, I am the personification of the latter of these as well as the former (but mostly the latter). Too often I get caught up in the little things and forget or dismiss my prayer-life, the sacraments, or the blessings that I have been given. To be honest, sometimes the struggles God has given me are actually the biggest blessings I have. Obviously, I don’t see that at the time, but upon reflection later (sometimes MUCH MUCH MUCH later) my struggles have been times when I have developed certain traits that make me a better person. This better person  God is molding is who He wants me to be. The comfortable, vague-minded, obsessive, defiant, anxious person is the anthema of God’s plan for me.  It is up to me, and EVERYONE, to become the person God means us to be through His means, not our own.