Friday, April 30, 2010

Because the Vocation You Pray For May Be Your Own

A few days ago, I wrote a post where I said that as a father and husband, I can't literally go "to the Desert." I quipped "maybe in the future." Sure you will, I thought to myself. And then I found this story of a saint who did just that. Her name is Marie of the Incarnation and her Feast Day is April 18th.

Allison wrote a post on the same day about praying for vocations. Keep this in mind as you pray, because it just might turn out that the prayer may well be answered by an opened door. Who is to say what lies ahead for us? God knows. Barbara Avrillot was a mother of six, but her babies grew up and her husband passed away, opening the door to a life she had always admired. Let's take a look.

Because of First Communions

 Over the course of three Saturday mornings this spring, nearly 250 second graders at Saint Patrick's Parish in Yorktown Heights, NY, will be making their First Communion. A niece of mine is one of these blessed children and I was privileged to witness this special moment in her spiritual life. We Catholics make a big fuss over First Communions and this one was no exception.  Four priests celebrated the Mass and hundreds of family members and friends crowded the sanctuary. Wedged among my own extended family, I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit move through the church and through me during the Mass.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

To See the Face of Christ

As our sons enter their teenage years, the challenge of imbuing them with Catholic Christian values is becoming more difficult. How do I live in the world as a Christian when my tendency as a Christian is to protect my sons by running and hiding with them? I just got off the phone with one of my dearest friends. As usual, talking with Martha illuminated me. Today's hour-long chat included mention of a tattooed, pierced truck driver. Not the one at left, but someone like him.

For All the Saints: Catherine of Siena

Fearless. Bold. Doctor of the Church. Poet. Mystic. Stigmatic. Correspondent of Popes and Royalty. Correspondent to the Faithful. Action-oriented contemplative. Saint Catherine of Siena was all these and more.

She had a vision at age 6, and decided that she would become a virgin and bride of Christ by age 7. Her parents weren't very enthused at the idea, but eventually they relented. She died on this day in 1380 at 33 years of age.  Her body was exhumed in 1430 and found to be incorrupt. She was canonized in 1461 by Pope Pius II.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

“Death Be Not Proud” (A Few Words for Wednesday)

I interviewed a devoutly Catholic man yesterday for non-Catholic reasons. He told me that for people like him and me, both nearer 60 than 50, each day boils down to "a choice between Dunkirk and the Alamo." When you get into a situation, there are two outcomes: You get your boats off the beach and live to fight another day, as at Dunkirk; or you make your last stand, as at the Alamo. Meaning, we're getting near the end of the line, and now it's only a question of, How long?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

To Pray for Vocations

In 1964, Pope Paul VI launched the World Day of Prayer for Vocations with this prayer: “O Jesus, divine Shepherd of the spirit, you have called the Apostles in order to make them fishermen of men, you still attract to you burning spirits and generous young people, in order to render them your followers and ministers to us."  Since then, Catholic parishes around the world have been praying for vocations every fourth Sunday of Easter. Despite the prayers of faithful Catholics, the number of religious priests, brothers and sisters has relentlessly declined in the United States. But lately: signs of hope.

To Cultivate the Desert in this Jungle of Words

Words can be tricky things. Words spoken. Words written. Words thought of. Words acted upon. Words seemingly written in clarity. Words being read in a fog of misunderstanding. Words with only one meaning. Words with many meanings. A writer's or blogger's stock-in-trade is words. And words are the ultimate double-edged swords. It's funny that, as I am writing this, I only now notice that one letter separates word from sword. St. James knew this well. Read chapter three of his letter for his cautionary tale on words and the responsibility of their use.

Monday, April 26, 2010

To Learn How to be Merciful

When someone wrongs me, it's easy to be right. Being merciful, however, is hard and necessary. What it takes for me to be merciful is to try my best to contemplate that person, who for the moment I consider my enemy, from more than my own perspective. I know I never will be able to behold a fellow human being as God does, because He exists beyond the limited dimension of time and offers us immeasurable love. But I can try to recognize more dimensions of my enemy than I already do.

Thanks to Arvo Pärt (Music for Monday)

The beautiful thing about Catholic life, if you love it, is that everything streams into it: literature, music, theater and art, politics, science. Everything can remind one of the beauty of creation. Everything can be a sign of Christ's presence. Even music you know nothing about.

For All the Saints: Popes Cletus and Marcellinus

Two Popes of the early Church sit on opposite corners of the portico ceiling of Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome. Today, we celebrate their feast days. The two men served as Popes two centuries apart. What they share is that their pontificates occurred during times of great torture and persecution for professing Christians under Roman rule. Reflecting on the lives of Popes Cletus and Marcellinus puts into perspective the trials the faithful now are facing.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

For the Joys of Prayerful Silence

Guest Post by Warren Jewell
The general quiet and often hushed silence of my solitude is a remedy, consolation, comfort, and luxury, like an unspoken call to prayer a hundred times a day. My effective muezzin is my own heartbeat, you see. I have forsworn TV all my adult life; I own no radio; I long ago gave away my sound equipment. Life can sound so much like the crash and the fury and the cry. And, when my littlest grandchild has Mommy call Grandpa to 'talk,' her gentle gurgles and attempts to convey her blossoming feelings can mean something to one more and more acculturated to hear God in every little natural sound. As yet, no words: just an angel's innocence.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Because He Works Through Us

Today we have another reflection from our guest Julie Cragon of Nashville, Tennessee.  It is a powerful example of how Christ works through His children and allows us to be His partners in the "ministry of reconciliation" as "we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us." (2 Corinthians 5:18-20)

Guest post by
Julie Cragon
I was gently reminded today of one of my favorite prayers by St. Teresa of Avila
Christ has no body now, but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth, but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which
Christ looks compassion into the world.
Yours are the feet
with which Christ walks to do good.
Yours are the hands
with which Christ blesses the world."

Friday, April 23, 2010

To Recapture the Faith of My Youth

The joint was jumping as I entered the Cathedral of the Holy Cross last Saturday, April 17. The nave was filling for the 2010 Boston Catholic Men's Conference, and I was attending for the first time. I didn't expect a rockish sort of band singing faith songs in front of a video screen that flashed the lyrics or hundreds of men on their feet, sort of swaying, sort of clapping, depending on their age and level of inhibition. I certainly didn't expect to find myself beside Dick from Foxboro and wonder what had happened to my faith when I turned fifteen.

For All the Saints: George

I live in a time and a country where many Christians take their faith for granted. If it hadn't been for brave souls such as St. George throughout history, however, despots might have  destroyed that faith.

When  I was a child, my parents had a small print in their study of Saint George slaying a dragon whose tail wrapped around the edges of the print. In deep blues and greens, the print hung on a corner wall  near my parents' dictionary stand and our set of World Book encyclopedias. I knew, of course, that St. George was the stuff of British folklore and no more real than Robin Hood. I was wrong. 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Because Sorrow Enriches Us

More than once, I've had my heart shattered. In my late teens, my first love left me without warning. In my late twenties, I lost my former college boyfriend to a drug overdose. In my late thirties, I nearly lost my beloved husband to a terror attack. Since then, until most recently, I have been haunted by a recurring dream that my wonderful, loyal Greg would not marry me, despite the life we've built together. The shock of nearly losing my husband has echoed in my heart. Only now, in my late forties, do I realize that the sorrows I've carried have woven themselves into the tapestry that is me. A recent encounter with my teen-aged self taught me that my sorrow has been a helpful companion.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

John Milton, “On His Blindness” (A Few Words for Wednesday)

At the Boston Catholic Men's Conference on Saturday, 1,000 men seated in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross were challenged to "go all in" in the great poker game with Jesus Christ. This challenge applies to you and me, whether we have a huge stack of chips in front of us or just a pair of white ones, like the widow with her mite. English poet John Milton (1608–1674) was completely blind by the age of 44—not as serious a calamity as Beethoven's deafness but certainly a handicap to the author of Paradise Lost. His chips were depleted.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Because of Divine Frivolity

Times are tough all over. First we had the economic meltdown to contend with. Now we Catholics are watching our Church and our Pope get attacked by the same people who were attacking Goldman Sachs two years ago, and Tiger Woods a few months ago. Are the attacks justified? Where you sit is probably where you stand. But the fact of the matter is, the storm has been raging since day one on planet Earth.

To Sing My Part

Our oldest son told me once: "Mom, life is not an opera." Oh, I don't know about that. My older sisters and I called ourselves "The Singing Salerno Sisters" when we were growing up. We sang constantly: pop songs, church pieces and folk music. When I became a mother, singing my babies to sleep was merely the end of a day spent singing to them. Now, I sing while schlepping our boys to their activities. I sing (not too loudly) to relieve my stress in the grocery store line. I sing while waiting for the tank to fill up at the gas station. All my singing, however, largely has been done in private. I hadn't sung in any kind of group for at least a decade until I joined our church choir this fall. Because the choir is so small—two voices to a part—I've had to rethink the way I sing and the way I live.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Gettin’ Twangy, Sister (Music for Mondays)

Frank and I have so much fun with this regular feature we might have to make it a daily affair. Well, maybe not. We've had chants, polyphony, Christian rockers, and just plain rockers in recent weeks. It's time to get twangy with some of America's top country and bluegrass ladies, each of whom has something to say to the spirit. Last week, I did a post on Mary Gauthier's lovely tune "Mercy Now," recorded at the Grand Old Opry. Here's a quartet of tunes that make good company for that one and may just rain a little more mercy down on us all.

For Practical Advice Like This from Benedict Baur

Webster was kind enough earlier this year to send me a gem of a book about developing one's interior spiritual life. This is one of those books, like St. Teresa of Avila's The Interior Castle, that is so deep, so lovely and so helpful that one certainly cannot read it in one sitting, or even a chapter at a time. In fact, I have been reading it sentence by sentence, pausing to take notes and meditate on how the book's message speaks to my own circuitous pilgrim path.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Because of Bishops Like This II (A Letter to Parishioners)

A few days ago I shared a post about an allegation of sexual abuse that occurred on April 14th in the diocese my family resides in. I posted the press release of Bishop Richard F. Stika along with the 27-minute-long video of the press conference held the day after the allegation came to light.

Thanks to the Support of Other Catholic Men

I spent Saturday morning at the Boston Catholic Men's Conference in the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in the South End. No, that's not me at left. That's Danny Abramowicz, former NFL tight end for the New Orleans Saints, author of Spiritual Workout of a Former Saint, and creator of the EWTN show "Crossing the Goal." "Coach Danny" and his "teammates" were the featured speakers at the conference. What follows are my notes from their talks.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

To Find Christ in the Grid

I seldom travel on business but Wednesday I did, a one-day round trip to Nashville. I had about twenty minutes to speak at a sales conference, and eighteen hours to think. Flying above the southern Connecticut coast in the early east light, I marveled at the land and river waters undulating away from the plane to the left, toward Long Island Sound. I turned from the view to my reading, the Easter edition of Traces, worldwide journal of Communion and Liberation (CL).

Friday, April 16, 2010

Because of Bishops Like This

Yesterday in my hometown, the Bishop held a press conference. There was an allegation of sexual abuse from years past that just came to light.  No doubt the recent events in our Church are giving some victims the courage to speak out about the harm that unfortunately came to them from the most unexpected of places.

What follows are the opening comments of Bishop Richard F. Stika's announcement to the press. If you have the time (27 minutes approx.) please listen to Bishop Stika as he fields questions from the local press corps. He very candidly and openly discusses the problem of sexual abuse and how these cases are being handled.  If anything, his remarks are an example of the beatitudes in action, justice coupled with mercy woven through and through with Christian charity.

Because We Could All Use a Little Mercy Now

I was in Nashville Wednesday, but I did not stop by the Grand Old Opry, or I might have heard Mary Gauthier offer this beautiful prescription for what ails us. I offer this in response to Frank's posts about the abuse scandal, including yesterday's "conversation" with Gen. George Washington. I don't know the answer to the current situation, but I'm sure mercy is part of the recipe.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

An Interview with President George Washington on the Scandal

I've seen some weird stuff recently regarding the current scandal embroiling our beloved Church. This for example. And this. Hunter S. Thompson said that "when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." Keep that in mind as you read on.

What follows are all quotes from the first President of the United States, George Washington. I wondered today what his thoughts would be regarding the current crisis facing our Church. Below are my questions (Joe Sixpack, USMC) and  President Washington's "thoughts" on the subject, as I have arranged them. 

For simplicity's sake, my questions are in plain script and the President's responses are in italics. Here goes.

Because of the Answer to Question 108 of the Baltimore Catechism

Sometimes, my faith lets me roll with what life presents to me. At my college teaching job yesterday, one of my students approached me at my desk in the middle of class as students were revising their work. It was clear he wanted to talk, and he didn't need privacy. Several other students listened in on the conversation.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Thanks to Walt Whitman (A Few Words for Wednesday)

My sojourn in the wilderness lasted forty years, from 1967, when I left the Episcopal Church, until 2007, when I wandered into a Catholic one. Many things tried to pull me apart during those years, and many meanwhile sustained me. One of the latter was the poetry of Walt Whitman, which I used to memorize and recite while out walking, striding along much as he did 150 years ago.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Because We Need to Believe in Goodness

Today my heart is heavy. I was daunted to discover over the weekend what happens when parents are too busy, too distracted, too "successful" to bother rearing their children. The details are immaterial, but the consequences are clear: some children whom I have known since they were in diapers have lost their innocence far too soon.

Monday, April 12, 2010

It's Only Rock ’n Roll (Music for Mondays)

What does this morning's music have in common? Basically it's only rock n' roll, but I like it. Heck, maybe I just feel like playing air-guitar and singing some of my favorite secular tunes. Follow along with me and see if we can pull some Catholic perspective out of the following songs. Keeping in mind, of course, that these are just one person's impressions. As Allison says, your mileage may vary.

To Be an Old Man Who Goes to Mass Every Day

I'll be 59 this summer, the last age at which I reasonably can say that I'm not an old man. You may say that 60 is the new 40, but if you ask my 20-ish daughters about 40, they'll say it's the age to start shopping for caskets. As a Catholic, though, I'll be happy to be 60, happier still to be 70 and 80, if I'm even destined to get there. As long as I'm going to Mass every day, I'll be the happiest old man in town.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

For Thoughts Like These on Divine Mercy Sunday

It is the first Sunday after Easter, now known as Divine Mercy Sunday.  For the previous nine days we have been praying a novena for the Divine Mercy in preparation for this day. Today there will be services honoring the Divine Mercy image, special penance services, indulgences, etc. Why? All because some nun had visions and heard voices? Well yes, but only because the visions and voices were true to Christ and His Church. If it had been otherwise, we wouldn't be commemorating this day with such vigor and passion.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Because of Ferrell, My Guardian Angel

I "met" Julie Cragon a few weeks ago when I stumbled onto her blog, Hand Me Down Heaven. She is a married mother of six and runs a large Catholic bookstore in Nashville, the same store her parents ran when she was in college. We talked about her writing a guest post for YIM Catholic. When she discovered after she'd  finished her post that I, too, had just written about Guardian Angels, Julie worried we'd have to postpone hers. To me, this is just another way God makes connections.

Guest Post by Julie Cragon
A couple of years ago, a few of us at the bookstore were having a conversation a couple about Guardian Angels. Catholic bookstore, spiritual conversations, pretty normal.  I recounted something my mother had passed on to her eight children. She had told us if we said the Guardian Angel Prayer five times before going to sleep, our protector's name would come to us the next day. The employees and I laughed about the idea, but thought we would give it a try.

For The Divine Mercy: A Novena (Day 9, Easter Saturday)

This is the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday and we are back to where we started. On this, the final day, we pray for lukewarm Christians.

"Today bring to Me the Souls who have become Lukewarm, and immerse them in the abyss of My mercy. These souls wound My Heart most painfully. My soul suffered the most dreadful loathing in the Garden of Olives because of lukewarm souls. They were the reason I cried out: 'Father, take this cup away from Me, if it be Your will.' For them, the last hope of salvation is to run to My mercy."

Friday, April 9, 2010

For The Divine Mercy: A Novena (Day 8, Easter Friday)

For lifelong Catholics, the doctrine of Purgatory is probably no big deal. Then again, what do I know? I'll be frank, I don't know much. Which actually is just another reason why I am Catholic. When I became a Catholic I took an oath to believe everything the Church believes, and I do.

A few days ago we prayed for children and the childlike. In the gospel of Matthew, Our Lord said, "Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." I have no problem following this prayer request now.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

To Suffer with the Church, with Christ

I used to think how lucky I was not to have been a Catholic early in this decade, as the abuse scandal was first coming to light in Boston. Only now, it's worse, and I realize how shallow that so-called luck of mine is. Now, the daily, weekly drip, drip, drip of revelations—two months ago Ireland, last month Germany, yesterday Norway—is just exactly torture. And my Pope, about whom I have written so often with admiration, is right under the drain spout. What to do?

Because Worshiping God is Important, Even If It Takes an Electronic Sign

Sometimes, I think of Catholics as a billion introverts. We Catholics are not known for proselytizing on street corners.We don't tend to feature stereo speakers or percussion sections at our Masses. In general, our church bulletins are modest affairs featuring outdated fonts. Many practicing Catholics have rich interior lives but are tight-lipped about their beliefs. We tend to follow advice widely attributed to St. Francis: "Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words." So I was stunned to drive past an LED sign advertising Eucharistic Adoration at Saint Thomas the Apostle Church in Old Bridge, New Jersey. My first thought? Whoa. That's in really poor taste.

For The Divine Mercy: A Novena (Day 7, Easter Thursday)

We are only three days away from Divine Mercy Sunday and our novena will conclude this Saturday. So far, we have prayed for all mankind, priests and religious, the devout and faithful, unbelievers, separated Christendom, and the childlike and children. That is quite a list so far. Just when you thought there could be nothing else, today Our Lord has a special request:

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

“Pied Beauty” (A Few Words for Wednesday)

I'm not sure. This might have been the first poem I ever loved. And it was a Catholic poem, 40 years before I became a Catholic. William Merriss was the English teacher of all English teachers at my junior high school, and he, though probably not a Catholic (I don't know) taught me Gerard Manley Hopkins, a poet and, it turns out, a Jesuit. God bless Mr. Merriss.

For The Divine Mercy: A Novena (Day 6, Easter Wednesday)

Pride. My old nemesis. One of the seven deadly sins. Marines and pride go together like peas and carrots. In fact, the sin of pride can warp virtually anything it touches. Maybe even space and time; just ask Lucifer.

C. S. Lewis expounded on this silent killer in Mere Christianity. This is the definition of pride: it is not humble, nor is it childlike in its innocence. Which brings us to Our Lord's request for our prayers today,

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Because of the Ripples

My daughter Marian was received into the Catholic Church at Saturday's Easter Vigil. I have been incommunicado since we left for Chapel Hill, NC, early Friday, and this is why. At times like these, words fail. I snapped three quick pictures of the confirmation rite and the camera failed too: only one picture came close to coming out. In the shot below, Marian is the blond woman directly behind Msgr. John Wall, pastor of the Newman Center at UNC.

For The Divine Mercy: A Novena (Day 5, Easter Tuesday)

It is the fifth day that we are praying the Divine Mercy novena.  And it is being prayed worldwide, not only by we few (we happy few) YIM Catholic readers and writers, but by other Catholic Christians as well. They hail from every clime and place, to borrow a phrase from the Marine Corps hymn. And on this day from all of us around the globe, Our Lord asks us to pray for the unity of His Church.

Monday, April 5, 2010

For All the Saints: Isidore of Seville

Not until I read Julie Cragon's blog Hand Me Down Heaven Sunday afternoon did I realize Easter Sunday was also the feast day of Saint Isidore of Seville. The twinning of Saint Isidore's feast day, April 4, and Easter Sunday this year is fortuitous. This learned archbishop, who died on April 4, 656, succeeded his brother Leander as Metropolitan See of Seville at a time when Spain was in disarray and awash in heresies. His life story lets us know that for centuries Christian witnesses have helped to restore the Church by synthesizing contemplation and action.

Because of the Litany of the Saints

At the Great Vigil of Easter this year, I teared up during the Litany of the Saints. Standing in the choir loft, I could see the entire parish, many of whom are dear friends, as we all pleaded with our heavenly companions to pray for us. At this time of immense crisis in our beloved Church, never has this plea for heavenly help felt more powerful and necessary.

Easter Chants and the Gloria is Back! (Music for Mondays)

Though it says "Posted by Webster," this post was written by Frank. We're having technical issues. . . .

Here at YIM Catholic, we hope you had a Blessed Easter! I found a few chants that even a hillbilly like me can even understand. I hope you enjoy them.

For The Divine Mercy: A Novena (Day 4, Easter Monday)

It's Monday morning and many of us head back to work or school following the Feast Day of Easter.  This past weekend, many catechumens and candidates were brought into union with the Church. Joyful news! Now Our Lord requests that in our prayers we remember the many who do not yet know him,

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Because of the Thurifers

You might have noticed during the three days of the Easter Triduum, the fragrance of incense came and disappeared and then returned, hewing closely to the story of Our Lord's Death and His Resurrection. We Roman Catholics have been using incense for more than a dozen centuries. We use incense as a symbol of our prayers rising to heaven. We imagine the fragrant scent rising and pleasing the nostrils of God. I love that our Church cares enough about sanctification that it has a special name for the people who incense a church: thurifers.

For The Divine Mercy: A Novena (Day 3, Easter Sunday)

A glorious Easter morning to you! The tomb is empty! Our Lord and Savior is alive! In the midst of this joyous celebration, Our Lord has a request for us,

Today bring to Me all Devout and Faithful Souls, and immerse them in the ocean of My mercy. These souls brought me consolation on the Way of the Cross. They were a drop of consolation in the midst of an ocean of bitterness.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

For The Divine Mercy: A Novena (Day 2, Holy Saturday)

Admittedly, I jumped into this novena at the last minute. But do you see the words at the bottom of the Divine Mercy portrait? Jesus I Trust in You. Just so, I trust that suitable complementary material on the Divine Mercy will be forthcoming to share with you.

Because Death Catches Up to All of Us, Even Thomas Alva Edison

Before Thomas Alva Edison graced the world with his gifts, the only way to record a human being's voice was in one's memory. There was no way to preserve a moving image. Despite his intensive efforts to record his own life and the lives of others through his development of sound recordings and moving pictures, Edison met the same end we all will: he died. A visit to the Thomas Edison National Historical Park in West Orange, New Jersey, Thursday morning made me grateful for the man and also for my faith in a world beyond this one—a faith that Edison, for all of his brilliance, lacked.