Under My Roof

Months ago, I was asked to give a talk during Lent at my parish. The title of the talk was to be “Disagree with the Church?” As many of us know from experience, speaking in front of friends can be more challenging than talking with people you may never see again. By the time I gave my talk last Friday, there was an extra challenge: For weeks, there had been much public debate, within the Church and society, about several teachings of the Church. I approached the question as an invitation to grow.

I can testify first-hand that it is reasonable, and to be expected, to find ourselves asking questions about a teaching of the Church. In all areas of our lives, we mature and better understand when we ask questions and seek answers. Christian faith is also a revealed faith. We do not decide what to believe. We do not construct a faith. We receive a faith. God reveals it to us and fulfills it in the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus. The Lord has entrusted the Church with the work of articulating the gift of the faith, in every age, in every time. If we believe that God desires all that is best for us, then one way to examine and work through a question or disagreement is to think of the parent-child relationship: A parent insists on certain things for the good of a child, because at some stages of development, the child simply cannot grasp why the rule or parental guidance is wise, right, best, and prevents harm, for the child. Perhaps you remember, as I do, your parents saying “As long as you live under my roof, it will be done like this.” God desires we live under His roof, and as the new translation of the Roman Missal makes clear, we welcome Him under our roof. Our relationship with God is not between a parent and an immature child. As children of God, we desire to build a harmonious relationship with the One who desires that we grasp all the good He has to offer us. Psalm 19 captures the beauty of living under God’s roof.

Blessed those whose way is blameless, who walk by the law of the Lord. Blessed those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with all their heart. They do no wrong; they walk in his ways. You have given them the command to observe your precepts with care. May my ways be firm in the observance of your statutes! Then I will not be ashamed to ponder all your commandments. I will praise you with sincere heart as I study your righteous judgments….With all my heart I seek you; do not let me stray from your commandments…. In your statutes I take delight; I will never forget your word.

When you find yourself disagreeing with what the Church is teaching, God calls you to a deeper conversion and to mature in the faith. We believe in a faith that cultivates the intellect and nurtures reason. Questions are welcome! Struggling with the Church can be part of conforming our minds and heart to Jesus and to the faith He gave us. It is committing ourselves to practicing a grown-up obedience that discovers the meaning of the Latin root of obedience, obedire– to listen. We commit to take up the issue in a spirit of humility, to pray that we will listen to God’s word, to study the teaching of the Church, to discern the path toward truth. For many of us, this may be the work of a lifetime. Often it is the work of conversion, of configuring our minds and hearts more and more to the mind and heart of Jesus, Our Lord. The fundamental principle for the Catholic is that one cannot separate love of Jesus, and the teachings of Jesus, from the teaching and love of the Church. We affirm this whenever we pray in the Creed “I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.” The Church is the sacrament of salvation, it is the place we enter most fully into the life of the Risen Lord.

Asking the foundational Question

I came of age in a time in the Church during which the question of women’s ordination was being actively discussed and debated. I wondered as a lay woman “Am I crazy for wanting to work for the Church?” “Will I be able to speak honestly and credibly about the role of women in Church and society?” “Is the Church inherently sexist?” The question that seemed most popular, the question that seemed to get the most attention, was related to ordination and the role of leadership and power in the Church. The most popular question though is not always the most fundamental question. We need to go to the beginning, where we will find questions, and answers, that help us ask and get answers to the later questions. The foundational question is “What is the role of women in the Church, when women are created in the image and likeness of God, and yet the sin of sexism has persisted since the Original Sin?” Jesus has always called women to holiness, to be full and active participants in building of the Kingdom of God. In every age, the Church has honored women who have fully and perfectly lived the Gospel in their lives and are models for women and men in all ages. As Blessed John Paul II said in Mulieris Dignitatem, although the Church is not inherently sexist, she has at times failed to fully recognize and appreciate the “feminine genius” and call forth the gifts of women. This failure has been a loss for the Church. Understanding sexism, and differentiating it from the vocation of priesthood, helped me appreciate the Church’s teaching that women and men are equal, different in some ways, and complement each other. Today is an age when society is questioning the role of gender, suggesting it is something we can choose, something we can change. Society is skeptical that gender is something that God gives us, when He creates us, to express who and what each of us is fundamentally. In fact, it is impossible to separate me from being women or to understand me without understanding me as a woman. I believe the Church’s teaching offers a model of preserving the unique gift of male and female, and their relationship, to what it means to be made in the image and likeness of God.

Embracing Mystery

Often, areas of possible disagreement with the Church grow from facing the limitations of the human experience. One effect of Original Sin is that we have an impulse to want it all and to want things our way. Sometimes, we can’t see that “our way” ultimately may harm us. The Church’s teaching can feel like it is impinging on our human freedom, rather than freeing us for God. Trusting what we can’t always see or understand is another cost of discipleship.

My husband and I came face-to-face with this before we met and after we married: We were single longer, and met and married later, than many others. For the years we were single, we had to trust that whatever vocation God had created us for and called us to, He would reveal it and give us everything we needed to live it. Being single was sometimes especially challenging for me as a woman, because I had always wanted to have biological children, to be a mother. We had to trust again, when we received the devastating diagnosis of infertility and wanted to remain faithful to the teaching of the Church – some of her most beautiful teachings – on life, marriage, family, and sexuality. In our loss, we have received some priceless gifts. First and most importantly, we were reminded that with God all things are possible. If God intended us to have children, then it would happen in some way that was consistent with the eternal truths He has entrusted to the Church and written on every human heart. If God had not called us to this vocation, then we wanted to trust we would discover what God had in mind. Our prayer life became stronger and richer, because we had placed ourselves in God’s hands and committed ourselves to discerning His will for us and our marriage. We have discovered that we share in people’s lives in a way that we would be unable to if we had children. We have opportunities to serve the Church in ways that have been unexpected and wonderful. None of this fully takes away the sorrow of what cannot be or our sense of loss. However, turning loss into new life, and seeking solace for sorrow, has turned us toward the loving, always-present embrace of God. A friend, realizing that she is not called to have biological children, “I look forward to Heaven, to seeing with God’s eyes the fruit of why He called me to this vocation.” I love that sense of hope and confidence in living with the mystery of the unfolding of God’s plan.

The Thinking Disciple

Is it wrong to question the teaching of the Church? No. Questioning is the practice of faith seeking understanding. Is it wrong to disagree with the Church? It depends! If disagreement is one stage in the process of ongoing conversion, then it is just that. Like Jacob wrestling with the angel in Genesis 32, it is the age-old story of the child tussling, questioning, stretching with the parent. I think God welcomes and enjoys the match and your maturing. If disagreeing is the easy way out of praying, studying, discerning, discussing, and receiving the Sacraments, then you are cutting yourself off from growth, Grace, and God. God invites you into the closest possible relationship with Him, so that you can be with Him forever in Heaven. Will you say “yes?”

40 Reasons For Coming Home – Reason # 40 – God is Worthy

Reason # 40 God is Worthy – OK, so I admit that it took me a little longer to get here than I thought. I’m about a week past my deadline but blogging is tough 🙂 Now here in this 40th reason we come to the one reason that trumps all other reasons: God is worthy. It is possible for us to think in a very ego-centric way to the effect that all we ever ask is some version of “What’s in it for me?”  This question is not wholly inappropriate but we have to be willing to accept the answer that even if there is NOTHING in it for you, you still ought to be in God’s house every Sunday. Now, as I have tried to show in the other reasons, there is ALOT in it for you. But it remains true that our primary reason for being at Mass on Sunday is that God is worthy of our praise.

Every now and then people tell me that they don’t come to Mass because they “don’t get anything out it.” or “it is boring” to them etc. Well, truth be told, it’s not about you. Somewhere in our journey we all have to learn that world doesn’t just revolve around me and my preferences; that the job of the Church or the world isn’t just to peal me a grape and entertain me. Somewhere we have to discover that there are great things beyond my limited scope of interests and that it is possible for me to grow beyond my comfort zone. The Mass and all liturgy is about God. There is an old song that advises the following: Just forget about yourself and Concentrate on Him and worship Him. In the end, I hope you get a lot out Mass and life in the Church and I know you can and you will. But there is something very healing and freeing to remember that your life isn’t about you and the world doesn’t revolve around you. There is something sanctifying about recognizing that God is at the center, not me.

It’s a good place to conclude this 40 Reasons feature of the blog by simply stating that you and I ought to be at home in God’s house every Sunday simply because God is worthy of our time, our worship and our attention. Everything you have and are is God’s work and God’s gift. Even your sufferings are a mysterious gift from God to help perfect you. God is good and God is worthy. God’s been too good for me not to enter into the great thanksgiving (Eucharist) every Sunday. If I don’t praise him the rocks will cry out!  Come home to God’s house, to the Church which he founded. God deserves your presence. God is worthy of your praise.

All 40 Reasons can be viewed here: http://blog.adw.org/category/40-reasons-to-come-back-to-church/

40 Reasons to Come Home – Reason # 39 – I’ll Hasten to His Throne

  Reason # 39 – I’ll Hasten to His Throne.  There is an Old Gospel Music classic called, “I Love the Lord.” and it is derived from an old Spiritual. The words are very moving and based on a Psalm:

I love the Lord. He heard my cry and pitied every groan. Long as I live and troubles rise, I’ll hasten to His throne.

What better advice in facing the troubles of life: hasten to God’s throne. We hasten there by prayer to be sure but also to our parish churches where Jesus Christ dwells: in the tabernacle. This is His special dwelling among us. To be sure God is everywhere but it is our Catholic belief that no presence is more real and more substantial that in the Blessed Sacrament. Nowhere will you be closer to God on earth than in your nearby Catholic parish. It is most truly his throne room, the Holy of Holies. Hasten, that is run, get there fast, hasten to God’s throne. A very fine reason to come Home.

Here is the Old Classic: “I Love the Lord” as sung by Whitney Houston.

40 Reasons for Coming Home – Reason # 38 – Love

Reason # 38 – Love — When you really love some one you want to be with them! A young man who loves a young woman doesn’t have to be told to ask her out, to seek to be near her. He just wants that automatically. Love craves union. And yet, to hear many people talk, people who say they love God, you’d be surprised at some of the things they say: “Do I have to go to Church?” …”Do I have to go to confession?”…..”Do I have to pray? How long and how often?”  When a young man loves a young lady he is eager to please her. If she asks help in something he is excited to be asked. And yet when God asks us to help the poor, or his Church, or to keep his commandments rather than be eager to do so it is too easy for many to be resentful and avoidant.

Now I know that our love for God is not some sort of romantic love like the examples I gave above. But really, if I love God then I want to be with him, I want to love the people he loves (even my enemy) and I want to love what he loves (justice, mercy, chastity, and so forth). This is what true love does. Many years ago in High School I dated a young lady who loved square dancing. In my mid teens I was a rock’n’roll fan and square dancing seemed  hokey! Well guess what, my girl liked it so I began to like it! You see, love changes everything! I even became the treasurer for the local square dance club. Yes, love changes you. I looked forward to every Saturday night:  me and my girl and a “left allemand, a dosado  and a right-and-left-grand!”

Well now what’s all this got to do with coming home? The bottom line is this you have got to keep the home fires burning. You see, love, can grow cold. The “I Do” becomes “You’d Better!&*@” And the Lord warns us about this. Remember what he said to the Church at Ephesus? I hold this against you: you have lost the love you had at first. Realize how far you have fallen. Repent, and do the works you did at first.  Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lamp stand from its place, unless you repent (Rev 2:4-5)

God wants your love. Not lip service Love but a real love that finds its way to his house each Sunday, a love that means daily prayer and Scripture reading. And God wants your love to mean that you begin to love what he loves. Now don’t think that just some tepid, lukewarm love is sufficient. God wants us to fan into flame the love we saywe have. Here is another warning from the Book of Revelation, this time to the Church at Laodicea: I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot.  So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! (Rev 3:14ff) Ever try drinking cold coffee? I can’t stand the stuff, I run to the sink and spit it out. Can’t even swallow it. Well, don’ t make God run to the sink. He likes hot Coffee and hot Christians. And hot Christians are passionate about being with God on Sunday. They look forward to being with God and let his love grow hot in them through the sacraments and the ministry of the Word. Fiery Christians keep the home fires burning and are passionate about their relationship with God. Come home now. Be careful about justifying “being away” from Church. Passionate lovers seek union with the beloved. No doubt, if you Love God you’ll look forward to every Sunday with him. He’s here people, right here at home.

Here’s a well known about love and it’s capacity to change everything. If human love could make even me love Square Dancing, then God’s love can totally change you. You will begin to love what and who God loves, see like God, act like God be like God. Understand this song in a fresh spiritual way. 

40 Reasons for Coming Home – Reason # 37 – Set Your House in Order

Reason # 37 – Set Your House in Order. There’s a Gospel Song written back in the 1950’s called “Jesus Hits Like an Atom Bomb!” It is a warning to be prepared for death. Here are a few of the lyrics:

Every body’s worried ’bout that Atom Bomb. No one seems worried about the Day my Lord shall come! Better set your house in order, He may be coming soon, and He’ll hit like an Atom Bomb when He comes!

Getting to Mass every Sunday is an essential component of having our house, our soul, in order. Honestly, life is about getting ready to die. Are you ready? Death may come in an instant. Are you ready? Mass is a wonderful way to prepare ourselves for that day for several reasons.

  1. Jesus makes a promise in John 6:40  that Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I will raise him up on the last day. That’s quite a promise in terms of being ready! Jesus is saying that frequent reception of the Eucharist is essential preparation for the Last Day.
  2. The Commandment is clear: Keep holy the Sabbath.  It doesn’t make sense to think that we can disregard one of the Ten Commandments and then be ready for the Last Day. Some argue that this commandment does not mean we should be in Church necessarily but Leviticus 23:3 says regarding this Commandment, “You shall do no work and you shall keep sacred assembly, it is the Sabbath of the Lord.” Sacred assembly is “Church,” y’all. No way around it. God expects us to be in his house on our Sabbath which is Sunday. Gotta be there regularly  to be ready!
  3. The Book of Hebrews says, “And let us not neglect to meet together regularly and to encourage one another, all the more since the Day draws near.”  See here how the Last “Day” and being prepared for it is linked to “meeting together regularly.” Gotta be there regularly to be ready!
  4. Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life in you (Jn 6:53). Without Holy Communion we’re not going to make it. Gotta receive regularly to be ready!

OK so here is an important reason to come home and to get there fast: Better Set your house in order, He may be coming soon and he’ll hit like an atom bomb when he comes.

Enjoy this video. Observe in it all the readiness preparations for the nuclear bombs that some of us who are older may remember. In a way all the preparations you see in the video are a little silly since diving under a desk wouldn’t  help much if an atomb really hit! But the preparations I have mentioned above ARE helpful since God gives them to us. If the people in this video we’re getting ready with measures that probably wouln’t help much, how much more so for us who DO stand a chance since God himself instructs us!  Set your house in order!

Humble Pie

I had thought I’d be prolific and come up with 40 reasons for coming home to the Catholic Church, one for each day of Lent. Well, Lent is over and you can see I haven’t quite finished (but will!). And I experienced more humility when I found this:

 150 Reasons Why I am Catholic (and you should be too)

So here I am left in the dust! If you visit the site the author, Dave Armstrong, lists all these many reasons. They are primarily in an apologetical vein distinguishing Catholicism from Protestantism. That is  related to my work here but a little more doctrinally specific that I have chosen to be. Nevertheless, a hat tip to Dave Armstrong for his work!

40 Reasons for Coming Home – Reason # 35 – A Fitting Thanksgiving

Reason # 35 – A Fitting Thanksgiving – In the Book of Psalms the psalm writer asks, “What return can I ever make to the Lord for all the good He has done for me?” The very next verse of the psalm answers the question: “The cup of salvation I will lift up and I will call on the name of the Lord (Psalm 116:12-13). So God has already indicated the way in which he would like to be thanked.

For a Catholic this request of the Lord ought to seem pretty stright-forward when we think of the Cahlice being elevated at every Mass and we make our act of faith in the true presence of Jesus. As a proper thanksgiving  God wants us to participate in the Holy Eucharist.

As you may know, the Eucharist means, “Thanksgiving.” It is the perfect act of praise, thanksgiving and worship of the Father by Jesus. We as members of his body participate in that perfect thanksgiving every time we particiapte in Mass. We “take up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord” just as God asks in Psalm 116.

So here is another reason to come home. You owe great thanks to God, you owe infinite thanks to God! How can you ever render your debt? He has told you how: take up the cup of salvation, attend Mass.

40 Reasons for Coming Home – Reason # 34 – Mary

Reason # 34 – Mary. We could go on for a long time about Mary the Mother of Jesus and I could spend pages refuting claims that we worship Mary (we do not – that would be a very serious sin!) or that it takes away from honor due to Jesus (It does not since true devotion to Mary leads us to a better relationship with Jesus). On and on we could go.

But here is the essence of what I want to say as a reason to come home: The Scriptures indicate that every generation would call Mary blessed. Luke 1:48 says of Mary: Henceforth every generation will call me blessed, for God who is mighty has done great things for me.”  Now the last time I checked we’re supposed to fulfill Scripture, not ignore it or oppose it. Thus to those who criticise the Church I can only say that we are following what Scripture says when we call Mary blessed and honor her. And then comes my question for my worthy opponent:

“Why aren’t you fulfilling Scripture in this regard? Don’t you think you ought to honor Mary?Scripture calls her “Blessed,” full of grace,” says “the Lord is with her.” Scripture says she is blessed above all women and calls her the “Mother of my Lord.” Shouldn’t a few of these phrases occasionally escape your lips? Isn’t it a good thing to fulfill Scripture and quote Scripture?”

So here is another reason to come home to the Catholic Church: We are fulfilling Scripture in regard to Mother Mary. We are obeying  and repeating what Scripture says. Almost every other denomination outright refuses such fulfillment. But Scripture says we would and should call Mary blessed. Now don’t listen to all that stuff about Catholics worshipping Mary. We do not do that, it would be a terrible sin of idolatry to do so. But we DO honor Mary and we DO fulfill Scripture. Come home, it’s always good to fulfill Scripture isn’t it?