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Preview: La Vie Catholique - The Catholic Life

La Vie Catholique - The Catholic Life

A Catholic housewife's musings on life, theology, philosophy...and the daily monotonous tasks of homekeeping.

Updated: 2016-10-17T14:29:21.872-05:00


In Honor of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception


A nicely done video looking at scriptural references and parallels to Mary.

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Very Cool!


(image) So I was browsing around on Etsy and much to my surprise, saw an article about Trappist monks who make funeral caskets!

"The Trappists‘ mandate is to live by the labor of their hands,” says Mulgrew. “They don’t fundraise or run schools or hospitals. They live a self-contained life of prayer. Making caskets is a good psychological and spiritual fit. Death is about moving on, going to a different place, and the monks spend a lot of time thinking about these things. These caskets reflect the quiet, simple life led by the monks and allows them to offer a part of their lives symbolically.

I especially loved this aspect of what they do:

The monks pray over each casket and urn before they are shipped, and for each one sold a tree is planted in the carefully managed monastery forest. The monks conduct a mass in remembrance of the deceased and each name is entered in a memorial prayer book.

Isn't that just beautiful? Read the whole article here.

New Blogging Convert


A little bird told me about a convert friend who recently started a blog of his own, so I'm sharing in hopes of supporting a fellow convert. :-) It's called Pure Catholic.

As I browsed his shiny new blog, this part jumped out at me:

The fact is, I was pretty much horrified at the prospect of becoming Catholic despite everything pointing toward that being the right thing to do. Since the decision, my life is improved in every respect.

Ha, sound familiar? ;-)

As the name of his blog suggests, he is primarily interested in promoting chastity, a noble endeavor indeed. Go check it out when you can!

New Series from Fr. Barron - Catholicism


I just wanted to share this because it looks so cool! I think this would be a great series to watch with various groups at the parish level, I could definitely see having a series of movie nights to watch this at our little home theater. :-)

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From the website:
"Catholicism" comes to U.S. public television stations this fall, with the first broadcast set for Thursday, September 22, 2011 from 8-10 p.m. EST in Washington, D.C. and Maryland.

WTTW-11 (PBS) in Chicago is the presenting station for the "Catholicism" series and will air four episodes on consecutive Thursdays from 8-9 p.m. CST beginning October 13th. PBS affiliates in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta and over 75 other public television stations plan to broadcast "Catholicism."

I'll be keeping an eye out for sure!

This one is a longer version, almost 10 minutes. Looks fascinating!

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A Reader Asks - Part 3: Taking it on Faith


The Ecstasy of St. Paul - Poussin This is the third and final question I was asked by a reader about my conversion. A reader asks: [I was wondering] what things, if any, you still wrestled with when you decided to take the plunge, and just entrusted to faith and time.I think I have a boring and very typical-of-converts answer to this one, lol. I definitely still had some Mary-and-the-saints type issues (mostly just those residual feelings). As I said in answer to the first question, intellectually the theological and doctrinal arguments made total sense to me. They lined up with history and scripture when explained well, they even made a lot more sense of some parts of scripture! But...well...still some of the prayers just frankly rubbed me the wrong way. I'd bristle upon hearing such prayers, and that little voice in my head would say, "Um...are you sure about this?" Lol! But, with time and exposure to people who prayed these prayers devoutly, it became obvious that these prayers were somehow bringing them closer to Christ, through Mary. The Mother points us to the Son, always, and really what are the chances you're going to start loving Jesus' mom more than He does? I'd wager they're pretty slim! Other than that, a fairly big issue for me was interpretation of scripture. I'd been raised with a strictly literal interpretation of scripture, being told our "interpretation" was so literal that it wasn't even an interpretation...we were just reading the words on the page and taking them at face value, no interpretation necessary! I saw scripture mainly as a blueprint, a rulebook, dictated by God and meant to be read as a manual, memorizing scriptural bullet points for each potential life issue to be spewed whenever necessary. So, it was difficult at times to readjust my understanding of scripture, to acknowledge the human element of the authors, to realize that while they were inspired and always wrote truth and while the Church maintains that scripture is inerrant, they still wrote it through the lens of their own human time and culture. I came to understand that they did not write history then the way we tend to write history now, and that the Bible is not one book, but a library which includes poetry, allegory, parable, history, theology, etc. I had to come to terms with the fact that "true" is not limited to "strictly literal." Once again, I was wrongly associating two ideas and it was difficult for me to separate them in my mind. Now, don't misunderstand, there are some scholars who go so far as to say Jesus didn't really perform miracles and they basically want to take the supernatural out of the scriptures. That's not what I was trying to believe myself. I was just so extremely literally-minded that even the idea that the Great Flood may not have actually covered the entire world, but just the entire part of the world the writers knew of was difficult to wrap my head around, just because of my flawed association of "strictly literal" with "true." But, at the end of the day I was convinced that the Church was our Teaching Authority, that she compiled scripture, and thus she was the best interpreter of scripture, and I acknowledged that much of my approach to scripture had been flawed. So even though at first I still bristled and creased my brow at some new-to-me interpretations, over time I've come to appreciate the Church's explanations of scripture, especially those times when she acknowledges there is more than one way to understand many things in scripture. I do not feel the veracity or inerrancy of scripture is in any way threatened by this more flexible approach, in fact I see now that it is strengthened by it the way a large flexible branch is stronger than a rigid twig ready to snap. One thing I have seen over and over again from converts who struggled with something and yet took it on faith is how great the virtue of obedience makes humility grow! I often find myself in awe of the humility I se[...]

A Reader Asks - Part 2: Eye-Openers


The Conversion of St. Paul - Parmigianino We'll continue on with the next question I received about my conversion from a reader, concerning ways in which I was helped to come to a better understanding of the faith. The reader asks: [I was wondering] what things in particular (of course, prayer and faith are givens!) you found to be the key to an "aha!" moment?I think there are several different phases within my faith journey, and the answer probably changes depending on where I was. At the earliest and very initial stages, the biggest aha moments I had - and this is going to probably sound ridiculously obvious - were when I truly listened to and considered the other side's argument. Prior to this I had the awful habit of what I'd call offensive listening. I wasn't really listening to hear what the other person was saying, I was listening only to find my next point of attack. There wasn't really any need to genuinely understand the point, because, very simply, I already knew they were wrong. But something - undoubtedly God's grace - nudged me to actually listen to and consider the other points. To me, it was like taking off the CoC pair of glasses through which I'd always viewed the world, and tentatively peeking through Catholic glasses. It was playing "What If" and in doing so, being suddenly able to see pieces of the puzzle falling into place all around me which hadn't made sense in my former world view. Once I made this more of a habit, and really began considering views other than my own, most of my aha moments came just from reading well-written books about the faith. So often, some basic point would be made, some simple reference to scripture tied to some Catholic belief, the simplicity and clarity of which would almost make me gasp in awe. Yet another way my eyes were opened suddenly was through looking at history. Seeing descriptions from the earliest centuries of mass, and especially discussions about the Eucharist made me understand very clearly Bl. John Cardinal Newman's wise words, "To be steeped in history is to cease to be protestant." As I progressed and began tentatively participating in Catholic life, seeing the beliefs I'd been devouring through the written word actually come to life around me in the mass and other devotions was very often an eye-opening experience. It helped me realize that there really is something humanly necessary about incarnating our beliefs in action, about doing rather than just mentally assenting to or holding a belief. Even more poignant than seeing others do such things around me was doing them myself. Talking about kneeling if Jesus were here in front of you is nice, but actually lowering yourself to kneel in front of Jesus in the Eucharist is humbling in a way like no other. Sometimes, when you don't understand something from the outside, you have to just jump in and DO, and then no words are necessary, understanding comes. Even now, I continue to have such moments where things just click and I understand a long-held belief in a new way, and most of these probably happen through either participating in some liturgical action or through reading since that is my preferred way of learning new things! But yes, constant prayer is certainly important as well, specifically asking for guidance from the Holy Spirit. I think that's probably one of those prayers God always says yes to. ;-) Was there anything in particular that helped to give you sudden clarity? Do share! We'll cover the final question in the next post, so come back soon! [...]

A Reader Asks - Part 1: Difficulties


Conversion of St. Paul - Murillo I always find hearing about other people's faith journeys extremely fascinating. I love hearing about the similarities in thought processes, and also noting the differences. What one person found difficult to understand or accept along the way, another person may not have had a problem with at all. But, more often than not, especially when people are coming from similar backgrounds, there are striking similarities. As such, it can be helpful for those potential converts still in the midst of muddling through Catholic beliefs, trying to make heads and tails of so much new information, to know what it is others struggled with, what helped them and gave clarity along the way, and what they had to just take on faith. I was recently asked just this by a reader of my blog and forum with whom I've enjoyed a bit of correspondence, and thought it would be a great chance to share it on my blog as well. :-) I'll cover each question in a different post, starting with the first. The reader writes: I was wondering what in particular you found the hardest to accept about the catholic faith during that long processMy answer to this probably stems from my "thinking" style personality, because as far as Church teachings went, all the arguments I read were so convincing to me that I simply can't recall being completely unconvinced on any one teaching or struggling to accept it. Once I had been convinced of the huge foundational matter of Magisterial authority, once I accepted that God didn't just write down rules for us to follow but actually gave us a living authority to guide and teach us, accepting what that authority taught almost came with a sense of relief. I didn't have to figure everything out on my own, Christ instituted and left us a guide, protected by the Holy Spirit! Hooray! Even more than that, what this authority taught sounded logical and was clearly steeped in wisdom, and further it opened up scripture to me in ways I'd never dreamt possible. But, that didn't mean my feelings kept up with my head! For me the hardest part was grappling with residual feelings and gut reactions which I'd had all my life. For instance, one minor belief in the grand scheme of things but one which sticks in my mind as being particularly difficult was the matter of drinking alcohol. I'd been taught my whole life that it was poison, inherently and intrinsically evil. Daily evidence on the news of drunk drivers killing innocent people, drunk husbands beating wives, and college kids dying of alcohol poisoning at parties made it easy to accept that alcohol was indeed an evil, with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I can honestly say I was never tempted by friends or circumstance to drink, because it just wasn't a part of my life and from where I stood it was only ever associated with negative outcomes. Because of this, during the course of my conversion, while I did find the historical, biblical, and theological arguments in favor of alcohol to be logical and convincing, I still just had a mental hangup with it. I mean, obviously I knew that accepting that alcohol wasn't intrinsically evil didn't mean I had to start drinking myself, but it made my stomach churn to even think of having a husband who drank! I just didn't want to be anywhere near the stuff! What finally helped me move past this knee-jerk reaction was realizing that alcohol ≠ drunkenness. I was able to see responsible drinking modeled, especially in my not-yet-husband's French family. I could see that for them, appreciating a good wine was just a part of being thankful for God's many gifts, the way they were for the delicious food on the table as well. To this day, I can't say that I've ever seen my husband drunk, and while I generally don't drink much myself (unless something is sugary sweet, I just can't abide the taste, lol), I no longer have those knee jerk reactions. As with anyth[...]

Confirmation Before Communion?


Bishop Aquila of Fargo recently explained why he feels it would be better to move confirmation to an earlier age, and to be done before First Communion. I thought he made some excellent points:

Should the gift and strengthening of the Holy Spirit be denied young persons in their most formative years?” he asked.

Bishop Aquila also wondered whether the special attention and length of preparation given to confirmation makes many perceive it to be more important than baptism and the Eucharist.

The view that confirmation is a way for young people to make a personal commitment to their faith “distorts” the sacrament, he said.

“Confirmation is not marked by a choice to believe or not believe in the Catholic faith. Rather, as disciples, we are chosen by God to receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit, to be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit generously bestowed by God, and we are called to cooperate with that grace,” he explained.

Confirmation confers a gift of the Holy Spirit that is ordered to “the life of worship,” the bishop said while summarizing Catholic thought. It helps the person achieve a “more perfect integration” into the body of Christ. This helps us understand how confirmation is ordered to the Eucharist.

In this light, it appears “odd” to have someone participate in the Eucharistic life of the Church if he or she has not received “the seal of the Holy Spirit, which perfects the personal bond with the community.”

I think he makes an excellent case, personally. I was first made aware of this perspective through some of the ladies on the NFP board, and since then it has seemed to me that the way things are set up now, Confirmation is often seen as "Catholic graduation." The problem with this is first, that it sends the message that confirmation refers to the teen growing up, maturing, and "confirming" their faith as their own choice, when in fact confirmation is Christ confirming US, it's a gift to us and not something we are doing ourselves. Secondly, as "Catholic graduation" it gives the impression that once you are confirmed, you're done learning about the faith, the way you're done with school when you graduate. In fact, confirmation should be the very beginning of a more involved faith life.

I also agree with the Bishop that typically, 7-8 year olds are much more likely to be receptive to faith, to the Holy Spirit, to learning about God and loving God than teenagers who often tend to be in a rebellious stage of life. Not only that, but why not send our young people out into the world with the best possible and most complete protection we have? The more grace they are armed with, the better chance they will be able to conquer the many temptations of the world. Children are being confronted with worldly temptations earlier than ever, I think. Waiting until the later teens to confirm someone seems like completely missing an opportunity to help them live a more virtuous life in a world which makes it extremely difficult to begin with. The more grace, the earlier, the better!

It makes sense to me, anyway! I think the bishop makes a great case, and I, for one, would love to see a trend towards earlier confirmation. What do you think?

Help Me Blog!


Hello friends! I know it has been a long while since I've posted here, as usual life happens and distractions keep me from fulfilling my intentions. Recently, I've been blogging quite regularly, but on my sewing blog. What has helped me keep this up is having a series and a weekly goal, knowing what is coming up next and what I'm going to be blogging about before I do it.

Originally, I started this blog as a way to work through and set to "paper" the many issues I dealt with upon my conversion. It was a great help and I didn't have many problems finding topics to write about or just being randomly inspired by some subject. But because I relied on sporadic inspiration, when that didn't come I just didn't write.

Part of the reason, as well, is that as the years have gone by and as I've lived the Catholic life more and more, the need I felt to write about my former beliefs has diminished. I love my Catholic faith more than ever, I'm convinced of its truth more than ever, and I'm just generally content! This is a great thing, but it also means there's nothing pressing me to write, lol.

With that being said, I do still want this to be an active blog! I've recently been feeling nudges and seeing signs out of the blue pointing me here, making me think I need to make this blog a priority and keep at it.

So, with that in mind I'm asking you, my dear readers, to help me out! I'd like to start making a deliberate effort to plan posts and write about subjects you will find interesting. While I do like to follow generally Catholic issues and topics, I do still want to keep my niche of seeings these things through the unique lens of having a CoC background. There are a million and a half just generally Catholic blogs, but only a handful with that unique viewpoint. So, what would you like to read about? I'll consider anything and everything related to the faith somehow. I particularly like the idea of having series of posts, because I'm much more likely to have a plan and stick with it! (That's what has helped me on the sewing blog.) Any ideas for a series of posts you'd like to read? (For instance, the last one I did here was The Church's Toolbox for Lent a couple years back.)

Thank you so much for sharing this little corner of the internet with me, I can't tell you how much it means to me when people find anything I write worth spending the time to read. I'm sorry I've been such a slacker, but with your help I hope to remedy that! Looking forward to hearing your suggestions. :-)

Just Because...


Just wanted to share this video with some lovely images of prayer cards, set to the music of the film Les Choristes by Bruno Coulais. If you haven't seen this film, go rent it and watch it! It's a beautiful story and the music is divine. :-)

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Their Eyes Were Opened


A blessed and happy Easter to all!! It seems like forever since I've sat down to blog about anything faith-related, but as I've been busy writing lately on the topic, I felt inspired to do some blogging here. I'm going to try to post more regularly than I have doing been the past year or so.I wanted to share something that I heard related to yesterday's gospel. I was listening to our local Catholic radio station yesterday and was struck by one priest's explanation of the gospel, the story of Jesus meeting the men on the road to Emmaus, as including a kind of description of the mass. "The mass?" I thought, "How so?" I waited eagerly to hear the connection. The text of the gospel was Luke 24:13-35:That very day, the first day of the week, two of Jesus’ disciples were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred.And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him. He asked them, “What are you discussing as you walk along?”They stopped, looking downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?”And he replied to them, “What sort of things?”They said to him, “The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him.But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel; and besides all this, it is now the third day since this took place. Some women from our group, however, have astounded us: they were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his Body; they came back and reported that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who announced that he was alive.Then some of those with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women had described, but him they did not see.”And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures.As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther. But they urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight.Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the Eleven and those with them who were saying, “The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!” Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.In the mass, we begin with the Liturgy of the Word, in which we usually read something from the Old Testament, a Psalm, something from the New Testament, and then a reading from one of the four Gospels. These readings are all connected in some way, they have a common theme or message. Sometimes, it's not so clear how they are connected, and in the homily the common thread is, hopefully, explained to us. In the Liturgy of the Word, we receive Jesus, the Word, in scripture.But our reception of the Word doesn't[...]

Overdue House Pics!


So we've been moved in and unpacked for a few months now, loving the new house! I'm finally getting around to posting some pics here, better late than never. :-)[...]

Sneak Peek!


Here are a couple rooms I've painted.

Craft room is an olive green, will have black and white damask accents, with pops of pink. :-) I stenciled the door with a damask pattern...



Guest room, faux paneling took FOREVER, but it's done! It will be decorated with red toile accents, my favorite!




We Have a House!


Thought I'd put an update here on the blog to mention the fact that we recently made an offer on a house and it was accepted. :-) Closing should be at the beginning of October.I am, of course, already mentally decorating the rooms, haha, and there are plenty of them. It's a 4 bedroom house, with 2 1/2 bathrooms, and 3 separate living areas. I'm going to be doing a lot of painting!Here are some pics! Entryway/Front room Living room Dining area Kitchen Walk-in pantry! Upstairs loft area (future home theater area!) Upstairs Hallway Master Bedroom Bedroom #2 Bedroom #3 Bedroom #4 Back of house Backyard (yes, that's a cactus in the corner) We're super excited, can't wait to move in! :-)[...]

Found Difficult and Left Untried


In a recent online discussion on premarital sex and attempting to remain chaste, I was struck by how often I heard the term "unrealistic." I understand this coming from non-Christians and non-believers in general, since in our current secular world there aren't many voices strong enough to compete with the blaring sex-crazed culture, but I often encounter this idea among fellow Christians and specifically Catholics. It seems a lot of people have good intentions, they know what the "ideal" is, but, they seem to say, let's be realistic, pretty much everyone has premarital sex, so to expect otherwise is just being naive.For some reason, this outlook has been weighing on me heavily. I can't seem to shake a certain feeling of dread and despair when I encounter it from Christians, and especially Catholics. It reminds me of the well known quote from G.K. Chesterton, that "Christianity has not been tried and found wanting, it has been found difficult and left untried." Perhaps in this instance we could replace "Christianity" with "chastity," and it would be quite a good synopsis for what seems to be happening in our world. Chastity in all areas of life is hard, it's difficult, it takes effort, it takes self-control, it takes self-discipline and patience and respect and selflessness, all things extremely undervalued and avoided in our society. And again, I understand when highly secular people find the notion unrealistic, and unnecessary besides. All it takes is a quick look around to see how often humanity falls short when it comes to difficult tasks.But I suppose I'm conditioned to imagine that when humans find something difficult, this will inspire them to encourage their children to work even harder at it, so that the children can have the benefit of learning from the parents' mistakes and go even farther in life. And yet, for some odd reason, there seems to be this notion among many now that when something has been found difficult, it's better not to put their children through the trouble of trying it at all, especially concerning issues of chastity.When it comes to fellow Christians with this attitude, though, I have to wonder where the belief in the transforming power of Christ and His grace is? What of our belief that, in Christ, all things are possible? Are these mere platitudes we drag out when encouraging our children to go for that scholarship or try out for that team, but conveniently fail to mention when talking about something vastly more important in the grand scheme of things - the state of their souls and the importance of chastity? Yes, we humans are weak. Yes, we fail. Yes, we should practice mercy and forgiveness when we do fail. But knowing that we are likely at some point to fall short, practically speaking doesn't it make sense, then, to reach even higher, to reach for the ideal in hopes that we go as far as possible towards it? If we shrug and proclaim it "too difficult" or "unrealistic," will we even try, then, to reach for any worthy goal?The wonderful thing is we Catholics have available to us a treasure chest full of realistic ways to actually strive for the best and practice chastity, for people married and unmarried. We have abundant grace available to us in the Eucharist, in confession, just waiting for us to boldly ask God, not just to help keep us from sin, but to make us holy. It takes a deliberate willingness, yes, but that willingness isn't going to be inspired by a half-hearted rattling off of chastity rules that you know your children *should* practice, but deep down don't have any confidence they *will* practice. And why should they? What child will believe he can do something his own parents don't believe he can [...]

The Bread of Life


The last tool of the series I hesitate to even call a "tool," because it is so much more, a "hard saying" that sets Catholics apart, the most blessed of all the sacraments, and the core of our very faith - the Eucharist. There is so much to be said about Christ in the Eucharist, Christ who humbles Himself to appear before us under the appearance of bread and wine. This is the reason for every mass, the source of our strength, the most precious gift on earth. There is so much to be said that I feel overwhelmed at even attempting to encapsulate what the Eucharist means to us as Catholics, and compelled simply to let scripture do the talking for me. While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, "Take and eat; this is my body." Then he took a cup, gave thanks, 16 and gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins. (Matt 26:26-28)Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst. But I told you that although you have seen (me), you do not believe.The Jews murmured about him because he said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven," and they said, "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, 'I have come down from heaven'?" Jesus answered and said to them, "Stop murmuring among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day.Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world." The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?" Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever." Then many of his disciples who were listening said, "This is a hard saying; who can accept it?" Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, "Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe." Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he said, "For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father." As a result of this, many (of) his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, "Do you also want to leave?" Simon Peter answered him, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. (John 6:35-36, 41-44, 47-58, 60-68)The followin[...]

The Emblem of True Love


We're going to take a slight detour away from sacraments for a moment, and return to a certain sacramental, something that is above all others associated with Catholicism...that is, the crucifix.Today is Good Friday, one of the most solemn days of the year. Christ has died, and we await His resurrection. There are no masses today, the only day of the year on which mass is not said. Holy water fonts are dry, tabernacle doors in churches all over the world are left open, revealing their hauntingly empty interiors. The altar lamp signifying Christ's presence in the tabernacle is extinguished. In many churches, statues are covered with violet cloths. In Catholic Churches everywhere today, there is a tangible emptiness, a somberness, a heaviness of heart. Christ has died.His passion is recalled with special emphasis in the stations of the cross today. It's a day of both fasting and abstinence from meat, and as mentioned before, when there is fasting there is prayer alongside it. Today above all days, we strive to unite our sufferings with Christ on the cross. And Christ on the cross is the focus of this whole day. All year long Catholics see crucifixes in their churches, in their homes, many wear one around their necks at all times. The crucifix is a constant reminder of Christ's love for us. I once heard a wise priest say something in a homily that struck me and has remained with me since. He said, very simply, there is no true love without sacrifice. God is love, and he proved it with the ultimate sacrifice, and that is what the cross, and especially the crucifix bearing the corpus of Christ, reminds us of constantly. Today in many churches, crucifixes are taken down from their central location and a tradition from the early centuries is practiced called the veneration of the cross. Catholics come and kiss the foot of the cross, both honoring Christ's immeasurable sacrifice, and reminding ourselves in a very tangible way that as Christ embraced His cross, so, too, are we to embrace our lesser crosses and in this way unite our suffering with His. It is in this way that we proclaim the true love of Christ. We adore You, 0 Christ, and we praise You.Because by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up... (Jn 3:14)O stupid Galatians! Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?(Gal 3:1)But may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Gal 6:14)but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles (1 Cor 1:23)For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.(1 Cor 2:2)[...]

Till Death Do Us Part


The next sacrament we'll be looking at is the sacrament of matrimony. Catholics believe that God actually grants a special grace to couples getting married, to help them live out their lives in service to Him, to have a fruitful union. Marriage is such an important institution in the Church that it was raised by Christ himself to the level of a sacrament, and it is a sign of Christ and His Bride the Church. It was at a wedding that Christ's public ministry began with his first miracle. The family unit plays a central role in the life of the Church, as well as in society at large. As is the case with all sacraments, once validly done it cannot be undone. One interesting thing to note about the sacrament of matrimony is that, while most sacraments are conferred by the priest, in the West matrimony is understood to be conferred by the spouses themselves.1623 In the Latin Church, it is ordinarily understood that the spouses, as ministers of Christ's grace, mutually confer upon each other the sacrament of Matrimony by expressing their consent before the Church. More from the catechism on this sacrament:1601 "The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament."1638 "From a valid marriage arises a bond between the spouses which by its very nature is perpetual and exclusive; furthermore, in a Christian marriage the spouses are strengthened and, as it were, consecrated for the duties and the dignity of their state by a special sacrament." The marriage bond 1639 The consent by which the spouses mutually give and receive one another is sealed by God himself. From their covenant arises "an institution, confirmed by the divine law, . . . even in the eyes of society." The covenant between the spouses is integrated into God's covenant with man: "Authentic married love is caught up into divine love." 1640 Thus the marriage bond has been established by God himself in such a way that a marriage concluded and consummated between baptized persons can never be dissolved. This bond, which results from the free human act of the spouses and their consummation of the marriage, is a reality, henceforth irrevocable, and gives rise to a covenant guaranteed by God's fidelity. The Church does not have the power to contravene this disposition of divine wisdom.The grace of the sacrament of Matrimony 1641 "By reason of their state in life and of their order, [Christian spouses] have their own special gifts in the People of God."[145] This grace proper to the sacrament of Matrimony is intended to perfect the couple's love and to strengthen their indissoluble unity. By this grace they "help one another to attain holiness in their married life and in welcoming and educating their children." 1642 Christ is the source of this grace. "Just as of old God encountered his people with a covenant of love and fidelity, so our Savior, the spouse of the Church, now encounters Christian spouses through the sacrament of Matrimony." Christ dwells with them, gives them the strength to take up their crosses and so follow him, to rise again after they have fallen, to forgive one another, to bear one another's burdens, to "be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ," and to love one another with supernatural, tender, and fruitful love. In the joys of their love and family life he gives them here on earth a foretaste of the wedding feast [...]

The Laying on of Hands


During Holy Thursday mass, one of the things we celebrate is the institution of the Priesthood, which happened at the Last Supper along with the institution of the Eucharist. So in honor of the institution of the priesthood which we celebrate on this day, the next sacrament we'll examine is that of Holy Orders. 1536 Holy Orders is the sacrament through which the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time: thus it is the sacrament of apostolic ministry. It includes three degrees: episcopate, presbyterate, and diaconate.1544 Everything that the priesthood of the Old Covenant prefigured finds its fulfillment in Christ Jesus, the "one mediator between God and men." The Christian tradition considers Melchizedek, "priest of God Most High," as a prefiguration of the priesthood of Christ, the unique "high priest after the order of Melchizedek"; "holy, blameless, unstained," "by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified," that is, by the unique sacrifice of the cross. 1545 The redemptive sacrifice of Christ is unique, accomplished once for all; yet it is made present in the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Church. The same is true of the one priesthood of Christ; it is made present through the ministerial priesthood without diminishing the uniqueness of Christ's priesthood: "Only Christ is the true priest, the others being only his ministers."1548 Christ is the source of all priesthood: the priest of the old law was a figure of Christ, and the priest of the new law acts in the person of Christ.1554 "The divinely instituted ecclesiastical ministry is exercised in different degrees by those who even from ancient times have been called bishops, priests, and deacons." Catholic doctrine, expressed in the liturgy, the Magisterium, and the constant practice of the Church, recognizes that there are two degrees of ministerial participation in the priesthood of Christ: the episcopacy and the presbyterate . The diaconate is intended to help and serve them. For this reason the term sacerdos in current usage denotes bishops and priests but not deacons. Yet Catholic doctrine teaches that the degrees of priestly participation (episcopate and presbyterate) and the degree of service (diaconate) are all three conferred by a sacramental act called "ordination," that is, by the sacrament of Holy Orders: Let everyone revere the deacons as Jesus Christ, the bishop as the image of the Father, and the presbyters as the senate of God and the assembly of the apostles. For without them one cannot speak of the Church.1581 This sacrament configures the recipient to Christ by a special grace of the Holy Spirit, so that he may serve as Christ's instrument for his Church. By ordination one is enabled to act as a representative of Christ, Head of the Church, in his triple office of priest, prophet, and king. 1582 As in the case of Baptism and Confirmation this share in Christ's office is granted once for all. The sacrament of Holy Orders, like the other two, confers an indelible spiritual character and cannot be repeated or conferred temporarily.1584 Since it is ultimately Christ who acts and effects salvation through the ordained minister, the unworthiness of the latter does not prevent Christ from acting. St. Augustine states this forcefully: As for the proud minister, he is to be ranked with the devil. Christ's gift is not thereby profaned: what flows through him keeps its purity, and what passes through him remains dear and reaches the fertile earth.... The spiritual power of the sacrame[...]

I have given you a model to follow



Today is Holy Thursday, the first day of that most powerful of times, the triduum, the pinnacle of Lent and of the entire liturgical year. One of the special things that happens during Holy Thursday mass is the washing of the feet, following the example Christ himself gave. This beautiful tradition reminds us of our baptismal commitment to be servants to one another. It is truly an act of humility, and it's deeply touching to see priests and bishops worldwide humbling themselves as Christ did, kneeling down and washing the feet of members of their flock. May we take this message of humility to heart and strive to follow Christ's example of deepest humility!

So, during supper, fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God, he rose from supper and took off his outer garments. He took a towel and tied it around his waist.
Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and dry them with the towel around his waist. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Master, are you going to wash my feet?" Jesus answered and said to him, "What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later." Peter said to him, "You will never wash my feet." Jesus answered him, "Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me." Simon Peter said to him, "Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well."
Jesus said to him, "Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed, for he is clean all over; so you are clean, but not all." For he knew who would betray him; for this reason, he said, "Not all of you are clean."
So when he had washed their feet (and) put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, "Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me 'teacher' and 'master,' and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another's feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.
(Jn 13:2-15)

Is Anyone Among You Sick?


The second sacrament of healing is the annointing of the sick. The catechism tells us:1511 The Church believes and confesses that among the seven sacraments there is one especially intended to strengthen those who are being tried by illness, the Anointing of the Sick: This sacred anointing of the sick was instituted by Christ our Lord as a true and proper sacrament of the New Testament. It is alluded to indeed by Mark, but is recommended to the faithful and promulgated by James the apostle and brother of the Lord. 1512 From ancient times in the liturgical traditions of both East and West, we have testimonies to the practice of anointings of the sick with blessed oil. Over the centuries the Anointing of the Sick was conferred more and more exclusively on those at the point of death. Because of this it received the name "Extreme Unction." Notwithstanding this evolution the liturgy has never failed to beg the Lord that the sick person may recover his health if it would be conducive to his salvation.The type of miracle we see most often in scripture is the healing of the sick. We don't expect, of course, that today the annointing of the sick will necessarily heal people physically. The primary purpose of the sacrament is to heal and prepare the soul for possible death, but we may also hope for physical healing. 1508 The Holy Spirit gives to some a special charism of healing so as to make manifest the power of the grace of the risen Lord. But even the most intense prayers do not always obtain the healing of all illnesses. Thus St. Paul must learn from the Lord that "my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness," (2 Cor 12:9) and that the sufferings to be endured can mean that "in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his Body, that is, the Church." (Col 1:24)Christ the physician came to earth and showed us physically what he would be doing for us spiritually...healing us and making us whole. Even beyond that, he took on our suffering, and made it possible for us to join our own suffering with his so that it can become valuable as redemptive suffering. 1499 "By the sacred anointing of the sick and the prayer of the priests the whole Church commends those who are ill to the suffering and glorified Lord, that he may raise them up and save them. And indeed she exhorts them to contribute to the good of the People of God by freely uniting themselves to the Passion and death of Christ."They drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them. (Mark 6:13)Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint (him) with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven. (James 5:14-5)[...]

Forgive Me, Father


The next sacrament is confession, a beautiful and healing balm for the soul. I'll let this episode of That Catholic Show do most of the talking for this one!

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And there people brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Courage, child, your sins are forgiven." At that, some of the scribes said to themselves, "This man is blaspheming." Jesus knew what they were thinking, and said, "Why do you harbor evil thoughts? Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" --he then said to the paralytic, "Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home." He rose and went home. When the crowds saw this they were struck with awe and glorified God who had given such authority to human beings. (Matt 9:2-8)

(Jesus) said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained." (Jn 20:21-23)

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. (James 5:16)

Anointed with the Holy Spirit


The next sacrament is that of confirmation, it is a further pouring out of the Holy Spirit on us, a completion of the grace we receive in baptism. The Second Vatican Council document Lumen Gentium states that Catholics “are more perfectly bound to the Church by the Sacrament of Confirmation and the Holy Spirit endows them with special strength so that they are more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith, both by word and deed, as true witnessesof Christ” (Par. 11).The catechism explains further:1285 Baptism, the Eucharist, and the sacrament of Confirmation together constitute the "sacraments of Christian initiation," whose unity must be safeguarded. It must be explained to the faithful that the reception of the sacrament of Confirmation is necessary for the completion of baptismal grace. 89 For "by the sacrament of Confirmation, [the baptized] are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed." 1287 This fullness of the Spirit was not to remain uniquely the Messiah's, but was to be communicated to the whole messianic people. On several occasions Christ promised this outpouring of the Spirit, a promise which he fulfilled first on Easter Sunday and then more strikingly at Pentecost. Filled with the Holy Spirit the apostles began to proclaim "the mighty works of God," and Peter declared this outpouring of the Spirit to be the sign of the messianic age. Those who believed in the apostolic preaching and were baptized received the gift of the Holy Spirit in their turn.1288 "From that time on the apostles, in fulfillment of Christ's will, imparted to the newly baptized by the laying on of hands the gift of the Spirit that completes the grace of Baptism. For this reason in the Letter to the Hebrews the doctrine concerning Baptism and the laying on of hands is listed among the first elements of Christian instruction. The imposition of hands is rightly recognized by the Catholic tradition as the origin of the sacrament of Confirmation, which in a certain way perpetuates the grace of Pentecost in the Church."1289 Very early, the better to signify the gift of the Holy Spirit, an anointing with perfumed oil ( chrism ) was added to the laying on of hands. This anointing highlights the name "Christian," which means "anointed" and derives from that of Christ himself whom God "anointed with the Holy Spirit." 100 This rite of anointing has continued ever since, in both East and West. For this reason the Eastern Churches call this sacrament Chrismation , anointing with chrism, or myron which means "chrism." In the West, the term Confirmation suggests that this sacrament both confirms and strengthens baptismal grace.Confirmation is the sacrament of spiritual maturity, and once we have received it we are called in a special way to be witnesses for Christ. I will pour out water upon the thirsty ground, and streams upon the dry land; I will pour out my spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing upon your descendants. (Is 44:3)And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you. (Jn 14:16)And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enab[...]

The Door of the Church


During the last stretch of Lent, Holy Week, we'll be taking a look at those most precious instruments of grace, the sacraments. There is enough information out there to write volumes on each sacrament, but I'm going to try to keep it short by hitting the highlights.The first sacrament, the one which opens the door to all the others, is baptism. The effects of baptism are as follows (taken from the Catechism):We enjoy the remission of all sin, original and actual, as well as the remission of all temporal punishment. 1263 By Baptism all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin. In those who have been reborn nothing remains that would impede their entry into the Kingdom of God, neither Adam's sin, nor personal sin, nor the consequences of sin, the gravest of which is separation from God. We become New Creatures1265Baptism not only purifies from all sins, but also makes the neophyte "a new creature," an adopted son of God, who has become a "partaker of the divine nature," member of Christ and co-heir with him, and a temple of the Holy Spirit. 1266 The Most Holy Trinity gives the baptized sanctifying grace, the grace of justification: - enabling them to believe in God, to hope in him, and to love him through the theological virtues; - giving them the power to live and act under the prompting of the Holy Spirit through the gifts of the Holy Spirit; - allowing them to grow in goodness through the moral virtues. Thus the whole organism of the Christian's supernatural life has its roots in Baptism.We are incorporated into the Church, the Body of Christ 1267 Baptism makes us members of the Body of Christ: "Therefore . . . we are members one of another." Baptism incorporates us into the Church. From the baptismal fonts is born the one People of God of the New Covenant, which transcends all the natural or human limits of nations, cultures, races, and sexes: "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body." It creates a bond of unity among all Christians1271 Baptism constitutes the foundation of communion among all Christians, including those who are not yet in full communion with the Catholic Church: "For men who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in some, though imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church. Justified by faith in Baptism, [they] are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church." "Baptism therefore constitutes the sacramental bond of unity existing among all who through it are reborn."It leaves an indelible mark on the soul1272 Incorporated into Christ by Baptism, the person baptized is configured to Christ. Baptism seals the Christian with the indelible spiritual mark (character) of his belonging to Christ. No sin can erase this mark, even if sin prevents Baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation. Given once for all, Baptism cannot be repeated.Catholics accept various forms of baptism, including baptism by immersion and baptism by infusion, and has done so since the Early Church as evidenced by the Didache which dates to the last half of the first century:7:1But concerning baptism, thus baptize ye: having first recited all these precepts, baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in running water;7:2 but if thou hast not running water, baptize in some other water, and if[...]



(image) Palm Sunday is upon us! It's the first day of Holy Week, and the countdown begins for Easter. I started this Lenten series off with a look at a certain sacramental we receive at the beginning of Lent - Ashes. Rounding out the season of Lent, on Palm Sunday we receive another sacramental - Palms. We remember, of course, Christ riding in on a donkey and the people placing palms before him, celebrating his triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. Palms are a symbol of victory and triumph.

The Catholic Encyclopedia says the following:

Palm branches have been used by all nations as an emblem of joy and victory over enemies; in Christianity as a sign of victory over the flesh and the world according to Psalm 92:13, "Justus ut palma florebit "; hence especially associated with the memory of the martyrs. The palms blessed on Palm Sunday were used in the procession of the day, then taken home by the faithful and used as a sacramental. They were preserved in prominent places in the house, in the barns, and in the fields, and thrown into the fire during storms. On the Lower Rhine the custom exists of decorating the grave with blessed palms. From the blessed palms the ashes are procured for Ash Wednesday.

(image) It's a common custom for people to braid their palms or shape them into crosses, and then keep them in their homes through the year. (Being blessed, they shouldn't be just thrown in the trash.) These palms can help us recall Christ's victory year round.

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The just shall flourish like the palm tree, shall grow like a cedar of Lebanon. (Ps 92:13)

On the next day, when the great crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, they took palm branches and went out to meet him, and cried out: "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, (even) the king of Israel." (Jn 12:12-3)