Posts Tagged With: catholicism

Good Friday

This is my third Good Friday at this duty station.

This year I spent on the couch with my husband, watching the EWTN broadcast of the Celebration of Our Lord’s Passion from the National Shrine of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. The stream cut out in the middle of the intercessions, which coincidentally was at 3 PM, so we went ahead and prayed today’s Divine Mercy Novena. The broadcast was beautifully full of silence, and so even if we couldn’t be there or at our own little church here, at least we were able to fill our living room with prayerful sounds.
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I was thinking…about Mary

I’ve been writing (almost) every day for about a month now, so I feel like I (sort of) have a routine, and so it’s time to revisit this blog thing. With an “I was thinking…” post, because baby steps.

  • Last night in his homily our priest took pains to point out that the Immaculate Conception isn’t directly tied to Mary’s Perpetual Virginity–that is to say, if God had willed she not be a virgin but that she live out that part of her marital vows with Joseph, she still would have been doing her will and still would have been sinless. Sex in its proper context is not a sin. Tension in the congregation of the “there are kids out here, Father” variety aside, I thought it was a beautiful and well-made point.
  • I was praying a decade of the Rosary last week, I think to keep myself awake while nursing, and I realized something that made me laugh. Every Ave starts with “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee,” right? But Scripture tells us “But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.”

    I mean obviously, now up in heaven, she knows perfectly well what sort of greeting it was, and the songs of the angels are a comfort rather than a fright. But I still imagine a gentle sort of ironic smile on her face as we petition her using words that once scared her out of her wits. It’s natural to us to say these things to her; when she first heard them, they were remarkable, and new, and terrifying.

  • I think I felt closer to the Christmas story last year, when I was pregnant, than I do this year, chasing after an almost-eight-month-old. But then I was thinking about Christ on the cross, and how the Eucharist is Christ crucified, and how the flesh we eat was once soft little baby skin stretched over tiny little baby bones and chubby little baby fat. I pray I never have to experience Mary’s grief, but it makes her all the more incredible that she endured it.

I had another thought, but I’ve slept since then. Happy Advent, all.

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Corpus Christi

I ate my slice of humble pie alongside a heaping serving of God-is-good this morning: our community on post just switched their Mass time to 10 AM, and since baby girl had my husband and I up at 6:30, an hour later we decided to drive the extra fifteen minutes to the off-post parish for Mass at 8, since our day had already started.

We walked in at the psalm and bless her heart the cantor’s voice was wavery and she was having some trouble reading the verses, and my heart sank a bit. Music is generally the most important part of Mass to me (as a choir member myself), and while I sometimes try not to be exacting in my judgments (sometimes), I’m usually easily influenced by the hymns and quality of music when I’m at Mass. I snuck a peak at the rest of the hymns for the day and was equally disheartened (nooooo not “I Received the Living God”). And looking up at the altar, I saw an elderly-looking priest and a not-young deacon and readers, I confess, I was wondering if we hadn’t made a huge mistake in rushing out the door to this Mass.

We made it through the Alleluia and the deacon did a lovely job of reading the Gospel and then the priest tottered his way to the ambo and I braced myself–

and was treated to the. most. AWESOME. homily.

He started off talking about the great love God has for us, and the Incarnation, and what the Eucharist is (Jesus Christ, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity), and then–he started riffing on the Presentation of Gifts, that part of Mass where we’re all digging for our checkbooks and wallets and ushers are walking around and we’re singing a hymn and not necessarily paying attention to the procession coming up the aisle to the altar, or the handing over of the bread and wine. He pointed out that Eucharistic prayer starts with the priest saying, “Pray, brothers and sisters, that my sacrifice AND YOURS be acceptable to God, the Almighty Father,” that the bread and wine brought forward are gifts that we offer. That gifts reflect the giver, that really what we are doing is offering ourselves in that bread and wine, and that the miracle is that Christ comes down and becomes part of our gift, offers himself with us and for us, sanctifying our offering, and that then God takes that offering and GIVES IT BACK TO US, now holy and living, so that we might have grace.

This is an abbreviated version, obviously, and the written word can only do so much to convey the effects of it spoken (especially when done so by someone with such experience). But I was sitting in the pew crying, and God gently laughed at me as I sat there listening and reflecting on how appearances and accidents are nothing compared to the substance of a thing, and reminding me how when I think of something spur-of-the-moment and feel compelled–that He is guiding me, and He will see me safely through. And at the end I just wanted to jump up and clap or shout or dance and sing AMEN.

Instead I prayed that I may be a worthy offering–be made worthy, since we are never worthy on our own–and in the Mass Christ always, always hears and answers that prayer. And that, too, is grace. The Presentation of Gifts hymn had a line about God helping us and restoring us even in the face of the “grace we wasted,” and isn’t that just–exactly what happens, again and again, and always grace is the end, not the waste.

And “I Received the Living God [and my heart is full of joy]” was, for once (having been overplayed at the Basilica at ND), perfect.

Afterwards there was a Eucharistic procession, and as we walked around the block I thought about how lovely it was to have the chance to literally follow Jesus with my steps, to follow his Way, silly and a little awkward as it can feel–to have his glory displayed in earthly things, for the sake of those who do not see and yet believe but still need reminders, to have the chance to witness by doing little more than taking one step at a time.

Life is hard. Life with a newborn is hard. Trying to remember to set others first, to still be giving when it seems like every gift I have has to go straight into the baby, to take the time to be generous for my husband as well–is hard. And God knows that, and is living within me, trying to help me remember to walk where He would guide me, that the gift of self is the only gift He wants, the best gift there is, that the opportunity to make the gift is as much a blessing as the grace I receive in making it, even when it’s hard. He gives us Himself in the Eucharist, so that we might see the model of the giving, so that we might have the grace and strength to be the gift–and not just any gift, but the gift of His Body, given to others as it was given to us.

Happy Feast of Corpus Christi, y’all.

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Grace

I’ve been meaning to write a post about nursing, but obviously that requires two hands and lately those have been in short supply. Though it’s getter better! But I have five minutes and I need to remember–

last night was rough, starting with both my husband and I forgetting our ID cards and having to drive to the literal other end of post and then pray I could get on (as I forgot my license as well–I know, rookie mistake). It started looking up when baby girl (I have a baby girl! have I mentioned that? she is six weeks old as of yesterday) went a full four hours between nursing sessions, thus allowing me about three and a half hours of sleep! But then she latched on poorly and all my attempts to fix it were in vain, so I gave up and played Candy Crush, figuring it couldn’t possibly be that bad–

and then I lay in bed for an hour and a half in agony, unable to sleep, miserable–

so finally I took a shower and then fed her again and passed her off to my husband and got about thirty minutes of glorious repose–

only to be rudely awakened when he set the baby down to get ready for PT and she woke up–

and reader, I cried.

(Not one of my better moments, but I was exhausted.) (Hysterical.) (There’s nothing like dripping tears onto your baby’s head to make you feel like a winner.) (Also when you’re kicking your heels like a toddler when your husband tries to hand you your child.) (It was Not Pretty.)

And then it was time to feed her again anyway, so at six-thirty-ish I latched her on (better this time)

(my husband is snort-laughing at the baby right now I assume everything is okay)

and then I considered playing Candy Crush, but decided it was the source of my problems

(ah he was squishing her cheeks)

and so instead I turned on the podcast of this morning’s Morning Prayer, so I could at least lightly pray while nursing.
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Categories: family, motherhood, Scripture | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Lent: The Halfway Point

I’ll admit it–this year has not been my best Lent.

Sure, I’m pregnant, and hitting the very pregnant stage, and we’ve had two snowstorms trapping us in the house, so we’ve missed Stations twice and haven’t made it to Adoration at all. But for Lent I said I would make a point of spending half an hour in prayer every day, and last week I think the longest I made it was ten minutes.

See, we’re doing this study called Oremus in the CWOC group that I joined, which is all about deepening and enriching your prayer life, right? I came in on week three, so I had to do a bit of catch-up with the exercises, but the general idea is that every week has a set of readings and every day you do the lectio divina, and then once a week you gather with your group to watch a DVD talking about the next week’s focus and then discuss how the previous week has gone. It’s a pretty darn good study, and to me the most valuable aspect is that it a) sets forth a reading plan and b) provides accountability in the form of my fellow ladies. (More on that latter point in another post.)

And then we hit the most recent week, where Day 2 invites you to get up at sunrise and contemplating Genesis 1–not in a lectio divina sense, just in a communining with God in the beauty of his creation sense. Which would be great if a) I could motivate myself to get up at/before sunrise (hahahahahahahaha) (ah ha) (ha) (ha) or b) there had been a morning in the past week that wasn’t so cloudy as to obscure said sunrise. One day I tried to say screw it and just meditate on Genesis 1, but I was so tired I almost fell asleep as soon as I finished reading it, and anyway I feel guilty for not following ALL THE INSTRUCTIONS lest I somehow fail to get out of the program what I’m supposed to be getting out of it. And then our meeting for last week was canceled due to snow, and this week’s meeting was canceled due to Spring Break. So the two things that have been motivating me–the reading plan and the accountability–both fell apart.

And I let them.
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The Church Militant

We’ve found our parish, our lovely on-post chapel, and I will fully admit that one of the things drawing us to it is one of the chaplains (there are three–three!–though one is currently deployed but will probably be coming back in a month or so), as he is an excellent homilist and I do so love a good homily.

So of course his homily today (the readings for your benefit) made, among others, the very real and salient point that Catholic liturgy is not centered around how it makes us feel or how we want it to make us feel or on ticking off a list of things that seem cool or relevant–it is ultimately centered around Christ, in the Eucharist, and our need to commune with him in order to receive the grace necessary to make it through this life[1]. In today’s Gospel, he pointed out, everyone goes to Peter’s house because that’s where Jesus is, and there, Jesus heals. And so we go to Mass, even when we are feeling like Job, because God wants us to keep talking to Him and to keep coming so that He may work his healing in us, even if we are having difficulty seeing it.

He compared it to going to school, where you might like recess but not the actual learning portions, or to being in the Army, where there is always something to complain about, despite the positive notes. But he also pointed out that these are all things we do in community, that we have classmates and spouses and battle buddies to uplift and support us (to be Paul in his second reading, as we are called to preach the Gospel to each other)–and then, this being a military chapel, he reminded us that we are engaged in spiritual warfare, that we are under attack and need the support of our battle buddies, the communication from our commander, and that also we need to be aware that the little it may feel like we’re accomplishing is part of the much bigger, longer fight that we will eventually win–though that victory, like Job’s reward, doesn’t come until the end, until we’ve passed through all the trials. And the Church is the Body of which we are all members, the army to which we all belong, and those rules and rituals she provides for us come from Him Who is her Head. And so we come to a Mass which was given to us on Christ’s terms, not perhaps the ones we would like for him to maybe set forth because they’d be easier or more accessible or entertaining or immediately emotionally gratifying.[2]
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FRIDAY LINK SPAM RETURNS

This week was derailed by my husband having a root canal done (and handling it better than really anyone has a right to, I think, though I am very grateful that he’s doing so well), and so in lieu of a second post (which let’s be honest would probably still have been about potage, as I made a triple batch yesterday in order to get us through Soft Diet Only week), here is a small collection of links. Small, but all of the highest caliber.

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT
Hank Green with a brilliant and scathing analysis of how and why the mainstream media has lost millenials.

An outline of seven steps towards achieving financial stability despite a variable income.

A retired Army general in favor of making a year of service more available, if not straight-up mandatory? Yes please.

A brief reflection on suffering and death, or, why we don’t euthanize people.

An article that summarizes key differences between Christianity and Islam, with the aim of arguing that the latter is more violent than the former. On the one hand, it’s a nice narrative; on the other, I feel sure there are some gaps, but don’t know enough to say one way or another.

An excellent breakdown of allegedly gendered things you can do and still be a feminist.

THINGS TO ENJOY
My friend Katherine has turned her blog into a let’s-make-period-recipes-as-close-to-the-original-as-possible blog, and it looks like it should be a lot of fun.

A helpful illustrated guide of 27 things you should never do to a baby.

And finally, Two minutes of babies going through tunnels and freaking the crap out.

See y’all next week!

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Hearing and Answering

Sunday morning I was all ready to make a post talking about how since the new translation I’ve noticed a trend in churches to just do whatever psalm setting is in the missalette for the day rather than incorporating the wide variety of psalm settings available, but then I went to Mass and lo and behold they did Rory Cooney’s setting of Psalm 40, which happens to be exactly the psalm and setting we used at our wedding, so! I tried to find you a version to listen to, but as is so often the case with church music finding a recording that matches what you actually hear at Mass (as opposed to a talented-if-sometimes-trying-too-hard soloist with a backup band) is downright impossible, ESPECIALLY if you’re also looking for one that actually has the harmony parts. (It’s four-part. It’s gorgeous. It’s not on Youtube. I looked.)

Anyway.

Recently, Meg over at Pierced Hands confirmed something I was aware of but had never articulated: on Sunday, while the first reading and the Gospel almost always correspond, the second reading follows its own track. This caused me no little amount of grief as a teen lector, when I would spend hours practicing to proclaim the epistle only to have it ignored in the homily because it didn’t quite fit with the other themes. This past Sunday’s readings followed the same pattern, but all the homilies I saw floating around focused on the second reading, the “Don’t you know your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit?” one. Which, I mean, okay, March for Life is this week, it’s an important message anyway, that’s fine. So today I wanted to talk a little bit about the other two readings.
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Finding a Parish

Part of “being military,” or at least being part of a marriage whose employment rests on transience, is learning to settle yourself in a new place as quickly as possible. You get a good head for how to adapt your furniture to your new rooms so that you can start unpacking right away; you have a couple of boxes of those little trinkets that are yours, and you set them up and hang up a few pictures so that the walls are a little more your house and instead of new house. You spend hours digging through boxes labeled “kitchen” and cram as much into the dishwasher at one time as you can so that you can have real plates to eat off, even if the dining room table is still covered in, say, your liquor collection. (We really need to find a place for those, come to think of it.) You make yourself go to the non-mandatory welcome events and pick up all the brochures and calendars (and free swag at the information fairs) and write the more interesting opportunities down on the calendar in an effort to remind you to make the effort to get out and start getting involved.

And, for us at least, you try to find a church.
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Motherhood (Impending)

I stopped updating this blog, and I stopped updating because in September I came down with something called “the first trimester of pregnancy,” which affects women in various ways and me in particular by giving me a severe case of “incapable of leaving the couch.”

It was, in a word, pathetic. And by that I clearly mean “full of pathos,” because what is more moving than the sight of a woman furiously in the throes of setting up her internal baby-growing infrastructure? What could inspire a greater sense of the commonality of the human race than witnessing a woman as she participates in its propagation?
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