Category Archives: Catholicism

Bloomfield New Jersey

Are You a DeFacto Catholic Like Me?

Growing up as what you’d call a cradle Catholic, I lived in an area of the country where Catholic churches demarcated the boundaries within every town. In my hometown, there were three. Sacred Heart on the south-side, St. Thomas on the north-side and St. Valentine’s smack-dab in between. Each boasted a grammar school and your parish (as well as your allegiance) was dictated by your address.

Coming of age in that setting, I considered my faith a de facto component of who I was. Just like my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother before me, in the line of my great-uncle the priest and eldest aunt the Sister, I was a Catholic.

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Homosexuals Have Gifts to Offer: Why that Headline Isn’t Newsworthy

On first read I couldn’t quite figure out what it was about the headline that bothered me so much. Homosexuals Have Gifts and Qualities to Offer the Christian Community was the highlighted statement being used to draw readers into the newly released documents coming out of the Catholic Church’s Synod on the Family. Of course, as one could imagine a firestorm has been lit on social media and I wasn’t really planning to jump in. But once I recognized just what had me so unnerved by that title, I decided weighing in on the matter was worth the risk of getting singed.
Homosexuals, that’s the word that has me uneasy. Because why must we identify a group of people by their sexual preference? I mean, it goes without saying (or at least it should) that every person has gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community. Yes, Bob, who may happen to be attracted to Larry, can sing in the choir or minister to the home-bound just as well as Joe, who’s married to Linda. So what does homosexuality or heterosexuality have to do with it? Nothing. Well, nothing insomuch as every person is created in the image of God and he has the ability to reflect that image (or not).
In truth, a Christian church which is not welcoming to all people has ceased to be genuinelyChristian. Last Sunday’s gospel reading (Matthew 22:1-14) was a fitting reminder that God invites all of us, good and bad alike, to join His celebration.
Of course, there was a catch in that gospel parable of the wedding feast. When the host’s A-listers RSVP’d “No, thanks, we’ve got other plans”, he sent his servants to invite everyone they happened to find milling about in the streets. The catch was that everyone who came had to leave their street clothes at the door and don the provided wedding garments. Those new duds symbolized the putting on of Christ and repentance from sin.
Now in the gospel parable, the host specifically instructed his servants to invite the good and the bad alike. He knew they all had gifts and qualities to offer. But the catch meant those bad guests had to make a change in order to avoid being cast outside. Of special note was the fact that the errant guest had ample chance to correct his mistake, but he chose to cling to his old ways and that is why he was escorted to the curb.
What bugs me about the headline is that it labels one group of sinners as though the rest of the Christian community is sinless or perhaps less sinful. The headline could just as easily read “Adulterers or Fornicators or Drunks or Liars or Thieves or Murderers Have Gifts and Qualities to Offer”- because they do. And newsflash everybody,those sinners (all of us) are already offering those gifts in our Christian communities. So why the headline if nothing has really changed?
Before I tell you my opinion of why, I first think we need to own up to some realities.
Firstly, a person who has same-sex attractions is not a sinner because of his/her feelings. Feelings don’t equal sin and thank goodness because I’d be in deeper trouble if they did. It takes acting on those attractions (feelings) or willfully entertaining the thoughts of them to commit a sin.
Secondly, if Joe the choir guy is cheating on his wife then he is an adulterer and his sin is just as grievous as Bob’s should Bob be acting on his homosexual attractions. Yeah, and this applies to Joe’s porn habit, too.
Thirdly, as a teacher of Natural Family Planning (and a repentant sinner myself – who is still a work in progress), I’m going to let you in on a little secret. The majority of couples presenting for marriage in the Catholic Church are either already living together and/or are engaging in premarital sex. And nearly all of them will sterilize their sexual unions during part or throughout their married lives.
Huh? What’s the connection, you’re wondering. Well, the real issue here is sin and man’s propensity for it and enslavement to it. All those couples signed up for Pre-Cana who are cohabiting and/or engaging in sexual relations outside of the bonds of marriage, they are just as guilty as an adulterous Joe or a homosexually active Bob.
Focusing on sexual sin here, we need to acknowledge that homosexual acts are no more sinful than all of the other acts which violate the marriage covenant. Real love, true, Christ-like love has requirements just like the wedding feast did. In order for any sexual act to be rightly ordered according to God’s natural law it must be both unitive and potentially procreative. So, the homosexual act never has any chance of meeting those ends; therefore, it is a sin. But sex outside of the sacrament of marriage is also a violation of the requirements because the union, while physically present, isn’t sacramentally (or really even mentally) present. Sexual intimacy (given freely, faithfully and fruitfully) within a sacramental marriage is the physical expression of the marriage covenant made between one man, one woman and God. It is a reenactment, so to speak, of the vows and promises made to and before God. Couples who are sacramentally united, but who willfully choose to unnaturally thwart the procreative ends of the marital embrace, are also culpable of violating the requirements of sincere, Christ-like love.
How come then that headlines didn’t point out the gifts those sinners bring to the church? Is it because we’ve already recognized their potential and welcomed it, but we are only just now coming to the realization that homosexuals present no greater challenge than do every other type of sinner sitting in the pews? I think we have to concede that it was nothing more than a provocative label meant to incite more discussion, for the better or the worse.
I think the real point that needs to be made is that we are all sinners and we should all be striving to break our self-imposed chains. That label in the headline seems more like a proud proclamation of one particular sin. We are all invited guests (every lying, cheating, stealing, fornicating, in-law hating, drunken, drug addicted, gluttonous, vain, prideful one of us), but we have to strip off our worldliness (our brokenness) and put on the garment of Christ.
Indeed, if the sinner wasn’t welcomed, the Church would be a vacant building and the Body of Christ would be missing Its hands and feet. But if the sinner passes through the Church doors unchanged (happily clinging to his label/sin), then heaven could end up with one less invited guest in attendance.

A Light to Deliver Me from the Mire of Status Quo

Some refer to them as “lights,” those words or phrases that jump out at you in scripture. Perhaps you’re seeking direction or maybe you’re just listening or reading with no clear intent when the Holy Spirit speaks to you in particular. Lights illuminate your thoughts making clearer your path in faith. Being rather hard-headed and a bit simple, I sometimes require a light of the interrogation room variety.
Life in Brelinskyville had been drumming away as we transitioned to the addition of a new member along with all that that entailed. Typical of me, I was trying to preserve the status quo as much as was motherly possible. That status included returning to our year-round school schedule, balancing the household (precariously) and maintaining the appearance of normalcy (gracefully) all while functioning in a state of sleep-deprivation and hormonal shifting.
Sure I’d let a few things slide along the way, but no one would notice anyway. Really, who else was monitoring the full-time education of seven students around the dining room table with a nursling in her lap after having actually showered and dressed for the day? Comparing myself to my perception of others, I reasoned my household was doing pretty well. In fact, after watching ten minutes of the news, we were doing outstanding. I suppose that’s where I started to veer off the path, by making comparisons (okay, maybe my wheels were already slightly off-course and now I was just bearing a hard left).

Welcome The House Guest

Enter into my picture of household orderliness a house guest. A pious gentleman, whom we’d only had a one time previous meeting with, called and asked if he could take us up on an invitation to lodge here. “Of course,” I replied and then instantly began rearranging furniture in my head so as to provide adequate sleeping accommodations. So what that we were still adjusting to our four week old and my energy level was only slightly better than vegetative, my status quo maintenance skills were well honed.
Arriving late the first evening, the house guest was very soon witness to the

regular model of disciplinary action in our household (noses on the wall) when the four youngest refused to drift peacefully into dreamland. My husband ordered the punishments and left me in charge of releasing the offenders after ample rehabilitation time. Not wanting to drag out the wall time or risk our house guest having to listen to repeated “Can I get off now?-s” I dismissed the perpetrators soon after.

At rise and shine time, Mr. Guest questioned my four year old when he failed to giving thanks for his breakfast. Now it became glaringly obvious that I’d been lax in teaching my little ones to say grace before every meal. No problem, I’d attempt to remedy my omissions on the spot, to which my preschooler became downright obstinate. Moving passed that power-struggle moment with a composed grin, Guest and I reclined at the table for a short spell to chat. However, my littles found that to be the ideal time to whiz by us (repeatedly) like Road Runners as the dog gave barking chase in time with their “joyful” noise (yelling). Engaged in conversation with number eight slung around me, I made a few feeble attempts to garner their attention and quiet the disturbance, but all was ignored. Oh yeah and then there were the multiple rude attempts to interrupt the adult conversation.
Our guest’s slate full for the day, he hit the floor in the direction of an exit. Now to be perfectly clear and honest, he was a completely charitable gentleman and never once did he scowl or utter a negative evaluation of the chaos and he DID have appointments (he wasn’t just fleeing the scene). Then on his way out of the door, he dipped his hand into our holy water font only to come up dry (because even though we have supplies of holy water no one has remembered to fill that font in I’m not sure how long).
The status quo wasn’t looking so optimal by 10am.

Confession Bound

After an examination of conscience I determined that confession was my best destination and hope. While I was busy drawing self aggrandizing comparisons, I’d been blind to the plank in my eye. Sure I might reason that my mothering skills were hitting the mark more often than some, but what did that really matter if I was missing other necessary targets. God has plans for me, with that alone I should be concerned. And as for my status quo I guess that’s my comfort zone, the place to which I’ve become accustomed. It’s easier there, in my comfort zone, even if a bit chaotic.

Having made the cut in the confessional line, I’d resolved to do better even if I wasn’t quite sure what all that entailed. Then, Mass begun, I listened intently to the first reading Jeremiah 38:6 and CLICK a glaring light dilated my pupils.
So they took Jeremiahand put him into the storage-well of the king’s son Malchiah in the Court of the Guard, letting him down with ropes. There

was no water in the storage-well, only mud, and into the mud Jeremiahsank.
Into the mud” stuck for me like, well like, mud kicked up on your face when your four-wheelin’. I was stuck, stuck in my self-appointed routine, stuck in my comfort zone and God was gently coaxing me out of the mire.
Then the responsorial psalm, Psalms 40:2 reminded me that there was help. 

He pulled me up from the seething chasm, from the mud of the mire. He set my feet on rock, and made my footsteps firm.

But wait, there’s more…the second reading Hebrews 12:1-4 kept up the illuminating pressure
With so many witnesses in a great cloud all around us, we too, then, should

throw off everything that weighs us down and the sinthat clings so closely,

and with perseverance keep running in the race which lies ahead of us.Let

us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, who leads us in our faithand brings it to

perfection: for the sake of the joy which lay ahead of him, he endured the cross, disregarding the shame of it, and has taken his seat at the rightof God’s throne. Think of the way he persevered against such opposition from sinners and then you willnot lose heart and come to grief.In the fight against sin, you have not yet had to keep fighting to the point of bloodshed.
This light seemed to displace all shadows now. Sin was no doubt clinging to me, or maybe me to it. I have to keep running this race and not, like the hare, take a break because I suppose I’m at least faster than the worldly tortoise. My eyes need to remain on Jesus not on Jane or the Joneses. I have to forget the (self-perceived) shame that might be connected to my human failures and try harder, not just settle in the routine. Grief (and frustration) may be part of the package, but I can endure if all is for His glory.
Finally, the gospel Luke 12:51 proclaimed  

Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division

 At which point I nearly stood up, hands raised, crying out, “Amen and halleluiah, He’s talking to me! I hear ya, Jesus!” My ideal of peacefully muddling through the mire of my days without too much division on the part of my troops was a losing proposition.

Shirking off my responsibility to enforce my husband’s punishments taught my children that parents are not united and dismissed his rightful authority. Worrying about overall appearances while forgetting the little details in properly catechizing my students will add to the pool of misguided Catholics. Allowing my children to ignore my role as mother and tune out my admonitions sets them up for sorrow when they carry their lack of respect into adulthood. Privately, laying aside my prayer life too often and filling my time with secular distractions has left my font dry.
Indeed family life will never be perfectly harmonious nor will we all get everything right all of the time, but we must persevere in this race toward home Perhaps I need some side blinders to keep my focus facing forward (not sideways). Christ didn’t leave us an example of ease and comfort and certainly He wasn’t striving to maintain the status quo. I’ll admit this light caused some uncomfortable squinting on my part, but in time my eyes will adjust and my whole household will benefit from the clarity.

Catholic Air. Are We Breathing Catholicism?

Not long ago we had the pleasure of meeting Fr. Boquet of Human Life International  when he visited our parish. After Mass, he blessed us by sharing a potluck dinner and imparting some of his wisdom and spiritual guidance. The title of his evening talk was “Catholic Air.”

What better time than in this Holy Week to do an air quality check in our homes, our lives. No, I’m not suggesting we hire an HVAC specialist to sanitize our ducts. And I’m not referring to that odd odor that is emanating from under my teenaged son’s bed. The “Catholic air” to which Father was referring is the atmosphere we create in our homes.

We all recognize the need to breath clean air for optimal health. Anyone who has ever unwittingly sucked a cloud of smoke into his lungs knows the discomfort it can cause. Air pollution from factories and poorly maintained vehicles are blamed for all kinds of ills from environmental to health. So to, we must be mindful of the “air” we are breathing into our bodies, minds and souls.

When my journey into motherhood had just begun, I must admit that the airflow in our home was stifled. We surrounded ourselves with ordinary art and décor. Our frugal budget offered no means for a Picasso or Duncan Phyfe, but we did attempt to create a welcoming environment with hand-me-down furniture and thrift store paintings. 

Recollecting Those Habited Sisters, plastic rosaries…

But as our little ones grew and my home schooling career commenced I began to reflect on my Catholic grade school experience. Recollecting those habited Sisters, our plastic rosaries, statues of the Blessed Mother and the crucifixes that hung in every room, I realized that a big part of my education was scented with the aroma of Catholicism. That is to say, Catholic symbols, books and objects surrounded us and infused us with faith.

So, as I set about preparing to educate my own brood, I realized that our home would be the center of their whole educational sphere and that included their education in the faith. Pretty pictures and comfortable furnishings were useful, but those alone would do little to reflect the true lessons we hoped to impart on those young, innocent minds.

Our home needed to be a mirror of our priorities, a reflection of our inner selves (or at least an image that we were striving to reflect). I suppose I have my mother-in-law to thank for blessing us with our wedding icons and an individual icon for each of our older children. In doing so, she provided our home with its first visible symbols of the faith we were proclaiming.

Of course, if we were going to teach our children at home, than it would be a Catholic education; and how could we impart a truly faith-based education without choosing good, authentic Catholic curriculum. Those school books, filled with beautiful Catholic artwork and sainted characters, were hard to close until we began to add equally beautiful images to our walls and our refrigerator gallery.

Catholic symbols had a natural appeal to our children. When I started a little shrine to our Lady in the kitchen, the older boys followed suit by covering a corner table in their bedroom with rosaries, holy cards and little resin saints. The sweet scent of Catholicism wafted through our home like incense from a senser.

Jesus Welcomes Me Back

cultivating an air of Catholicism in our homeNot having stepped foot in my childhood parish since my family moved to the parish on the opposite side of my hometown, I was excited at the chance to revisit Sacred Heart just a couple of years ago. Walking in the side door, the one I’d walked through countless times before as a pony-tailed, freckle-faced girl, I was instantly attracted to the huge painting of Jesus in the narthex. I recognized His face and He spoke to me of the many times we’d met as I’d entered through that very door on my way into His house. I felt as though I’d just come home. That painting connected me to more than a building, it linked me to my childhood, the beginnings of my faith journey.

While to an outsider (especially an outsider to the faith) our home may now resemble a layman’s monastery, it is our refuge. Our refuge from a world that fills the air with visual and auditory pollution. Just as the signs and symbols of my grade school days are intertwined with my faith memories, so too, the Catholic décor we fill our home with tangibly connects us with our beliefs. I can speak to my children about the mercy of God. I can tell them about Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross, but how much more effective that lesson becomes when they can see and touch an image of Christ crucified.

modeling real heroes of the Catholic faithSome days I whisk passed the icons and statues in my home with barely a fleeting glance or consideration, but other times I am stopped in my tracks. The picture of my Blessed Mother hanging in my bedroom will cause me to take pause and pray for a need that’s weighing heavily on my mind. The holy oil on my kitchen shrine reminds me to bless the little one in my womb. The rosaries dangling beside the door offer my children ready access to a meditative tool. This is the Catholic air of which Father Bouquet spoke, the perceivable representations of our mysterious faith.

Are You Guilty Of Being Catholic?

There is a popular quote I’ve heard repeated, it asks, “If someone accused you of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” Would a stranger know you are a child of God just by looking at you? How about by speaking with you? What if he entered your home, would he know Whom you serve?

Children love to model their heroes, for that matter so do adults. They’ll wear Taylor Swift’s perfume, don a T-shirt labeled Sean John, or plaster their bedroom walls with Justin Bieber’s smirk. So, it is crucial that we reflect on the messages we are mimicking and ask ourselves if the air we are breathing (and emitting) is refreshing to the soul or simply adding to the already polluted worldly environment.