40 Reasons for Coming Home

A friend of mine recently challenged me and the other authors of this blog to set forth 40 reasons for coming home to the Catholic Church. Since there are forty days for Lent, we should set forth a new reason each day. Well, since Lent is seven days underway as of tomorrow you can see we have some catching up to do! So, to begin here are seven reasons briefly stated and described:

  1. No one can take your place.T his may seem an odd place to begin but the simple fact is that God has summoned you for your own sake. No one can pray like you do. No one can praise God like you. No one has the same combination of gifts, talent and personality. You are an unrepeatable, irreplaceable member of God’s family and all of us are impoverished by your absence. God misses you personally when you are not present at the the Mass and are absent from the life of his Body, the Church.
  2. You need to eat. Jesus says that his flesh is real food and his blood is real drink. He also says, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” (Jn 6:53) Simply put you and I starve if we do not regularly receive Holy Communion.
  3. Guidance– the Catholic Church offers over 2000 years of experience and wisdom to us. For these two millennia members of the Church have meditated on God’s Word, lived through life’s joys and difficulties, and, through it all, recorded a rich tradition and teaching that helps us navigate life’s unpredictable paths. There is a rich tradition of teaching, the examples of the saints, the catechism and the steady proclamation God’s word that are here to guide you and me on our journey. 
  4. Stability – St. Paul told Timothy to preach the Word, in season and out of season, whether popular or unpopular. The Catholic Church is sometimes criticized for being “out of step” with modern times. But in a way, this is a great compliment since it indicates that the Church is willing to preach God’s Word in terms of what we need not merely what we want. We don’t  always want to hear that we should turn away from sin but we need to hear this. Individual members of the Church may not always  live perfectly the teachings of Christ, but the Church has never failed to announce Jesus Christ and his teachings even at great cost. The Church is often hated today for insisting on God’s Moral Truth and the dignity of human life.
  5. Mercy – At the heart of Catholic practice is the “difficult” Sacrament, Confession. It is difficult because most of us struggle to really like going to confession. But truly there is great peace in hearing the Lord encourage us and absolve us through the words of the priest, “I absolve you of your sins in the Name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”  Great peace is experienced in those words and Confession well prepared and celebrated is a wondrous experience of mercy.
  6. Rich diversity – The Catholic Church extends not only back in time two thousand years, but also to every land, language and culture. The Church exists on every Continent and currently has more than 1 Billion members. This gives the Catholic Church a rich diversity. In this Archdiocese Mass is celebrated in 11 different languages. Latinos, Africans, African Americans, Asian and Europeans and many others of diverse background enrich this Archdiocese with rich liturgical experiences and a beautiful tapestry of Catholic life. United in one faith but diverse in the cultural expression of that faith your Catholic Home is filled with many and varied gifts.
  7. All Seven Sacraments. The Catholic Church celebrates all seven Sacraments of the Christian Tradition. Strangely, the majority of the Protestant denominations dropped many of the Sacraments such as Confirmation, Confession, Communion, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders etc. These sacraments were dropped by them despite the fact that they are well attested to in Scripture. The Catholic Church, (along with the Orthodox Churches), continue to celebrate all seven Sacraments. Maybe a way to think of this reason is that God has given us certain medicines to heal us. If I am going to the doctor I want to be sure that the Doctor makes use of all the helpful medicines necessary for my healing. The Catholic Church, like a good doctor and a good mother makes sure we get all our medicines. Life is much better, more spiritually healthy with all seven sacraments and this a very good reason to come home.

Please feel free to comment on these first seven reasons for coming home. You may have doubts, concerns, questions or even rebuttals to what I have written.  Please feel free to weigh in!

The Beauty of the Mass

The following video is a brief but beautiful tapestry of the Mass.

The video invites you to visit the website www.catholicmass.org, which contains inspriational and instructional material on the Holy Mass.  A full DVD can also be purchased, and it is a wonderful resource for those either returning to the Mass or wanting to learn more of the Sacred Liturgy.

Ask a Question

Some folks who have been away for a while have questions and concerns to express. (Even Catholics who have never been away have many questions!) Please feel free to use the comments section of this blog to ask questions and state concerns. All of us who contribute to this blog are pleased to answer your questions and address your concerns. Your questions will help this blog to get its wings and really fly. Ask and ye shall be answered!

More About Longing

One of the main themes of this blog is the subject of longing and desire. You and I desire infinitely—without limit—and this points to and proves that God exists and is calling us. The way C.S. Lewis put it is this: If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.

Along these lines, I would like to call to your attention a talk by Dr. Peter Kreeft on the Argument from Desire. A written summary of the talk is available HERE . There is an mp3 audio of both the talk and a question/answer session with the audience available HERE  Be aware that the talk is a scholarly one and was presented to a largely academic audience. But the fundamental point of his talk is clear enough.

  1. Every natural, innate desire in us corresponds to some real object in the world that can satisfy that desire.
  2. But there exists in us one desire that nothing in time, nothing on earth, and no creature can satisfy—a mysterious longing!
  3. Therefore there must exist something more than time, earth, and creatures that can satisfy this desire.
  4. This something is what people call “God” and “life with God forever.”

LONGING FOR SOMETHING? MAYBE IT’S GOD!

Among the apologists, philosophers, and theologians of our day, Dr. Peter Kreeft is one of the greatest.   One of my favorite of his books is Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Heaven But Never Dreamed of Asking . Other talks by Dr. Peter Kreeft are available HERE.

Discovering God in a Snowstorm

There is a heavy snow falling in Washington this March evening. Not every one likes snow but it is an amazing work of God. He takes a barren winter landscape and creates it anew. In the Book of Sirach there is a beautiful and poetic description of God and the majestic work he creates, even in the “dead” of Winter. Enjoy this excerpt from Sirach and reflect on the glory of winter.

 

God in Winter:

A word from God  drives on the north wind.

He scatters frost like so much salt;

It shines like blossoms on the thornbush.

Cold northern blasts he sends that turn the ponds to lumps of ice.

He freezes over every body of water,

And clothes each pool with a coat of mail.

He sprinkles the snow like fluttering birds.

Its shining whiteness blinds the eyes,

The mind is baffled by its steady fall. 

 Sirach 43, selected verses

Sermon for the 1st Sunday of Lent

If I may be so bold, I am posting my sermon online in two forms.

The mp3 recorded version is HERE.

The written outline summary in PDF is HERE.

Note that the sermon was preached at Holy Comforter–St. Cyprian Parish in Washington D.C.  We are a Catholic parish that is predominantly African-American. What this means in practical terms is that this sermon is LONGER (about 1/2 hour in duration) than the typical Catholic sermon. 

The Title of the Message is “Four Habits of Effective Evangelizers”. It is a meditation on the Gospel for Today’s Mass, the text of which can be found HERE.

Praying the Liturgy of the Hours

We received a question about how to pray the Liturgy of the Hours. It is a great opportunity to talk about this form of prayer that has been central to the Catholic prayer tradition for more than 1,000 years.  Praying the Liturgy of the Hours or the Divine Office as it is also called has its roots in Jewish prayer tradition and the tradition of Jesus to dedicate certain hours of the day to prayer. In the Acts of the Apostles we read “the apostles gathered at the third hour” (Acts 2:1-15). “Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour” (Acts 3:1).

 

What is the Liturgy of the Hours

The Liturgy of the Hours is prayer that is composed of hymns, psalms, Old and New Testament canticles, prayers, Scriptural and spiritual readings from the writings of the Church Fathers and Church documents. The hymns, psalms and canticles are designed to be chanted or recited. Many religious communities’ rule require they pray all seven hours(Office, Morning, Midmorning, Midday, Midafternoon, Evening and Night prayer). In recent years more and more lay people have discovered and are praying the Liturgy of the Hours either alone, with their family or as part of their parish’s prayer. It is a very important part of my and my husband’s prayer life, something we began while we were dating and have never stopped. A colleague shared that he prays the Hours while he is up in the middle of the night feeding a hungry baby or sitting with a restless child. It is such a celebration of the universal dimension of our Catholic faith that all over the world “the whole course of the day and night is made holy by the praises of God” (Constitution on Sacred Liturgy).

 

How to Pray the Liturgy of the Hours

The Liturgy of the Hours consists of a four-volume set. Within each volume there are four sections. The first section is particular to the day. The second section gives detailed instruction for each hour and contains the prayers that do not change from day to day. The third section includes a four-week cycle that complements the first section. The fourth section is devoted to the feast days of saints and feasts of the Church.

 

For people who may not pray all seven hours there is a volume called Christian Prayer or Shorter Christian Prayer that is composed of Morning, Evening and Night Prayer and designed with the lay person in mind. 

 

With the growing popularity of the Liturgy of the Hours as a practice of daily prayer, a modified version is called Magnificat. Magnificat  is a “pocket-sized” monthly booklet. It contains Morning, Evening, and Night Prayer, readings for the Mass of the Day and spiritual reflections, including a reflection on a piece of Christian art. See www.magnificat.com

 

Praying the Hours takes some practice, though all of the volumes mentioned have helpful instructions. Another way to learn is to see if a parish near your home or work prays Morning or Evening Prayer. I am sure that your pastor or another person on the pastoral staff would not mind taking a few minutes to walk you through the structure. Keep in mind there is really no wrong way of praying when your mind and heart are lifted to God.

 

Please post a comment and share how you have made the Liturgy of the Hours part of your prayer life.