An Ordination and four Gentle Giants

Three men, brave and determined men, took that
final leap into a new life; complete with new titles, responsibilities, and new homes today….never to be the same again. But they prepared for this over a  seven year-span, immersed in the spiritual, biblical, and examples of those around them. They definitely had the support from family and friends, and the diocese, the church was packed!

My family came to know then Deacon Ryan last summer after the bishop appointed the newly ordained temporary deacons to posts at different parishes around the diocese.  The good deacon filled in at different events and study groups over the next several weeks.  Lucky me, I was taking the current bible study offering of the parish, Exodus, and the deacon filled in as the facilitator for a couple of sessions.  We had a blast talking with him, asking him questions and gleaning from his knowledge of the bible and all things Catholic.  Being a younger man of 27, the teens of the parish also got to know him and felt a special bond with him. Our daughters and family friend Bryan decided that they were determined to attend the ordination of their new friend when the date was set.  I agreed, so when the day came, we all got up early and headed to the big, and certainly long awaited, day’s event.

This may sound very strange coming from me, if you are a long-time reader of the “Pillars”, but this was my first ordination.  Yes, yes, I know, where have I been, what is the matter with me for not taking the time to attend such an amazing and important event as this in my Church, I have no excuse, other than the fact that it never occurred to me to attend one.

Anyway enough of the confession, this has been an experience that I will never forget.  All the pomp and circumstance and ceremonial traditions were beautiful and very comforting to be perfectly honest.  Our bishop was overjoyed since he had not ordained as many as 3 new priests at one time before, just one a few years ago and then last year 2 young men.  Our prayers are being answered, we are growing more and more priests!

My heart skipped a beat as the procession came down the aisle lead by the acolytes carrying candles, incense, and the crucifix; followed the seminarians along side the priests of the diocese.  It was quite a showing, a presence, so dynamic and spiritual! 

During the ceremony there were two times when all the priests present are called to show their support for these three, the first time each priest came forward and laying hands on the men individually, prayed over them and the second time by giving them each a sign of peace. This was a beautiful sign of support and approval for the ordinates.  Of course their families and friends were present also, but there cannot be a more meaningful gesture than the support of those in the frontlines already.

We are not alone, not one of us, and watching these three new ordinates receive the support of the priests, the Holy Spirit, and the holy saints, prostrated in front of the altar while the church sang the litany saints; it was clear to me.  They made some solemn promises of obedience, received great gifts from the Holy Spirit, and accepted tall responsibilities as new shepherds during this ceremony, of which, without the help and support of the Church and all of those around them, their tasks could be unbearable, if not impossible.

The Catholic Church continues to grow and lead as Jesus Christ to the world and it is starkly obvious how important my role is, both as a mom and wife, but also as a parishioner of a parish, and a fellow Catholic Christian along side her priests and religious.  I have a responsibility to support and pray for these gentle giants in a world so cluttered with evil and darkness.  There is no other way to say this but, if WE don’t take care of these men and women, who will.  They are rarely thanked, ignored, and just simply taken for granted.  If we don’t have priests, we don’t have a Church!  If we don’t have a Church, we don’t have the support of the sacraments to keep us on the path to righteousness and glory.


Pray, and pray hard for all the priests in your diocese and around the world.  Bring them food, cards, and money.  Smile and shake their hands, give them a hug (if they allow that…ask first), and always, ALWAYS make sure they are happy, taken care of, and loved.

Our family felt so blessed to be a part of Fr. Ryan’s ordination and we look forward to getting to know Fr. Nick as he takes on the role of Spiritual Director for our high school students and our daughters.  They will remain in our prayers always along with the other priests in our diocese. 

We. Are. So. Blessed!

What is detachment in the Catholic spiritual life?

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Among Carmelite saints, John of the Cross, co-founder of the Discalced Carmelites with Teresa of Avila, is not the most popular. Why not? He insisted that detachment was necessary for holiness. Many Catholics, misunderstanding his teaching, think it too hard and too dull. On first reading his Ascent of Mt. Carmel, they might be tempted to settle for luke-warmness.

On the other hand, nearly everyone loves St. Therese of Lisieux. The irony is that Therese was a true daughter of John, embracing all that he taught. If we reject John, we implicitly reject Therese as well.

Misconceptions about attachment Let’s examine some of the misconceptions about detachment.

First of all, the detachment John of the Cross speaks of is not aloofness. We should have proper affection for our family and friends.  It’s nonsensical to be cold towards your spouse due to a supposed love for God.

Detachment doesn’t mean denying the good that is in the material world. Rather, it means viewing temporal goods as temporal, gifts from God meant to lead us to Him. Unlike some religions, where the physical world is seen as evil, Christianity does not teach asceticism for its own sake. We give up our desires for things in order to make room in our hearts for God.  Detachment is a means, not an end.

Continue reading about detachment.

Is love or fear the better motivator?

Last week’s post on the Final Judgment (and Mr. Darcy and St. Therese) reminded me of two opposing views I’ve read in books about homeschooling. Some authors say that loving your students is the best way to motivate them to learn. Others say a healthy fear of the teacher is more effective. Here’s my take on the love versus fear debate.

The Machiavellian argument Niccolo Machiavelli famously wrote in The Prince:

“Here a question arises: whether it is better to be loved than feared, or the reverse. The answer is, of course, that it would be best to be both loved and feared. But since the two rarely come together, anyone compelled to choose will find greater security in being feared than in being loved.”

Focus on a child’s fear of his parent(s)–whether it is called fear, respect, or discipline–seems to me to be particularly Protestant. I mean no disrespect to my non-Catholic fellow homeschoolers, but many conservative Protestants have a somber view of humanity. Calvin taught that man was totally depraved. Fundamentalist Christians generally believe that man’s nature is bad since the Fall. Thus a child has a naturally rebellious spirit that must be tamed.

Ruth Beechick was one of the early homeschooling experts among “Bible Christians.” I gleaned much from her book Heart & Mind:What the Bible Says About Learning.  However, her works have the typical Fundamentalist shortcomings, most based on an overly literal interpretation of Scripture.  Since “[t]he fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 3:12), she believes that education must start with discipline.  Without a healthy fear (she says), children won’t be motivated to learn anything.

Read more at Contemplative Homeschool.

God, Mr. Darcy, and St. Therese

 

Are you afraid of standing before God on Judgment Day? Does the thought of facing Him make you fear death? Even if you’ve committed mortal sin in your lifetime, you only have to fear God in one circumstance–if you die unrepentant, or with no intention of confessing your sin as soon as possible. Here’s how my husband, St. Therese, and Mr. Darcy taught me to think of the Final Judgment with peace.

My husband and I met through Single Catholics Online (now Ave Maria Singles). After emailing and talking on the phone for several weeks, we decided to meet in person. As I was preparing for our first date, my hands shook from nervousness. I told myself, “There’s nothing to worry about. It’s just Dan.” We had gotten along great in our conversations. We already knew a lot about each other. We were friends. We were old enough to have been completely genuine with each other, rather than acting a part. What did I have to fear? If it wasn’t God’s will for our relationship to deepen, it wouldn’t happen, but I knew Dan would not reject me as a person. Most (I’ll admit–not all) of my nervousness disappeared at these thoughts.

Continue reading at Contemplative Homeschool.

If God is willing…

” Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and get gain’; whereas you do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that'” (James 4:13-15).

This passage from James the Apostle can almost seem silly. Should we really preface every statement of intent with “God willing?” I used to ask myself this question. That changed in the summer of 2002.

 I was a new mom, struggling to adjust to sleepless nights and no time to myself, when it became clear that I would have to return to work. Never in my life had I considered being a working mother. In fact, I’d had many discussions in which I had said, “There is absolutely no way I would work when I had small kids.” But circumstances were against me. I had no other choice, if my family were not to starve or otherwise fall apart.

 Eating my words 
Going back to work was perhaps the most difficult thing I have ever done. What would people think? Would they call me a hypocrite? Would they think I was a closet feminist?

As I read Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence by Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade, I had to face the fact that God’s will–at least His permissive will–could be different from mine on such a major issue. I had to let go of my will. When I did, I found a measure of peace.

Continue reading.

Jacob and Esau contemplative homeschool unit

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I have been blogging lately about my method of contemplative homeschooling. Here is an example of a unit I did a few years ago with my boys on Jacob and Esau.

The best way to start these units is for you (the parent) to meditate on the Scripture passage you will study with your kids. In this case, prayerfully read Genesis 25:29-24, 27:1-40. Since this passage is long, you could spread your meditation over 2-3 days or choose a smaller portion of the text to meditate on.  Identify the main elements or themes of the story that speak to you and use them as part of your studies.

The themes I chose for this unit were twins, telling the truth, and comparing and contrasting. (I created this before I began starting each unit with my prayer time.)

Narration: Read “Esau and Jacob” from The Golden Children’s Bible aloud. If you have a different Bible, use only the parts of the story that correspond to the sections of Genesis noted above. Have your kids narrate it back and you write their narrations. Children 10 and up can write their own.

Copywork/memorization: “The Truth will set you free” (John 8:32).

Read the rest at Contemplative Homeschool.

Understanding the Ascension Through Art

Ascension Thursday is the close of the forty day celebration of Easter.  Some dioceses have moved marking this Solemnity of this feast to Sunday.   To better celebrate the wonder and mystery of this event of salvific history, we can turn to art.

The Seventeenth Century poet John Donne tended to take an intellectual approach to spirituality in La Coruna. (1618).  The section dedicated to the Ascension offers conceits which prepares the person for acting in faith:

Salute the last, and everlasting day,
Joy at the uprising of this Sun, and Son,
Ye whose true tears, or tribulation
Have purely wash’d, or burnt your drossy clay.
Behold, the Highest, parting hence away,
Lightens the dark clouds, which He treads upon;
Nor doth he by ascending show alone,
But first He, and He first enters the way.
O strong Ram, which hast batter’d heaven for me!
Mild lamb, which with Thy Blood hast mark’d the path!
Bright Torch, which shinest, that I the way may see!
O, with Thy own Blood quench Thy own just wrath;
And if Thy Holy Spirit my Muse did raise,
Deign at my hands this crown of prayer and praise.
While Donne was raised as a Catholic, he converted to Anglicanism in his adulthood.  The verses reflect this sentiment as it uses quitessential Catholic symbols,such as light and dark, as well as the sacrifice of the innocent lamb.  But the final verse emphasizes the personal rather than communal aspect of faith.

Another distinctive feature of Donne’s literary style are his metaphysical conceits. which uses imagery in an extended metaphor to combine vastly different ideas into a single notion.  Hence, the ascension is likened to both a strong Ram to break down the door of faith to heaven and as a mild lamb in a blood sacrifice to show the path.

Three hundred and fifty years later, Salvador Dali painted “The Ascension of Christ” (1958) as Jesus is rising toward an energized and electrified heaven.

Dali’s surreal style of juxtaposing images one would not ordinarily associate in order to create a deeper meaning requires going beyond a rational exposition of faith.  But Dali’s depiction is not devoid of reality, as the prominent feet would have been the last thing that the Apostles who witness the Ascension would have seen.

Dali attributes the inspiration for “The Ascension of Christ” to a cosmic dream that he had in 1950 full of vivid color where he saw the nucleus of an atom.  Dali was an ardent atheist but he later re-embraced his Catholic faith (perhaps after an exorcism) but Dali often fused his conceptions of Christianity  with science. Dali realized that the nucleus was the true representation of the unifying spirit of Christ.  This nuclear mysticism is meant to connect everyone.

Dali’s “Ascension of Christ” does have some incongruities.  Dali was inspired by the atom but it looks like a sunflower or perhaps a stylized depictions of the sun.  Dali was often intrigued with continuous circular patterns like a sunflower floret as it followed the law of logarithmic spiral, which Dali explained to  Mike Wallace in 1958 was associated with the force of spirit in chastity.

While the dove ready to descend from the clouds seems like an allusion to the Pentecost liturgically celebrated in 10 days.  But why is Gala (Dali’s wife and artistic muse) peering out from the clouds?  In other Dalian religiously inspired paintings, Gala represented the Virgin Mary. Historically, the dormition of the Theotokis happened long after Christ’s ascension into heaven.  However,  Mary is often considered the Queen Mother of Heaven and as the resurrection transcended time and space, it could show the Mother of God weeping at her son’s departure from the Earth from her prospective place in heaven.

Other  aspects to appreciate in Dali’s depiction of Christ’s glorified body ascending to heaven is his hands and feet.  Aside from the positioning of the foot, notice how the soles of his foot were soiled, as reminders that our Messiah walked among us.  Also the Jesus’ fingers are curled, which lends some visual drama to the painting but combined with with electrified heavens hints at power.

Whether we are spoken to by Donne’s metaphysical conceits or dazzled by Dali’s depictions of nuclear mysticism, the Ascension of Christ into heaven is a foretaste of what the faithful may expect in our eventual heavenly home.

h/t:  Salvador Dali Society

Jericho March

Today is an interdenominational Jericho March at a local abortion clinic in our city.
This “medical facility” has been closed for about a month now for remodeling.
Photo Credit

Please join us in prayer that the doctors, nurses and staff have a change of heart.
That the scales are removed from their eyes.
That they have a conviction of what they’re doing brings death
 to an innocent unborn baby and great harm to the mother.
“We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”   Romans 8:28
Blessings,
Noreen

National Day of Prayer — Praying for Amrerica

For the last 62 years, the first Thursday in May has marked the National Day of Prayer Observance designated by Congress when people are asked to turn to God in prayer and Meditation. With the help of 30,000 volunteers, there are tens of thousands of events held across the country to turn our attention to the eternal.

 The theme for the 2013 National Day of Prayer is “Praying for America”. The organizers for the National Day of Prayer have suggested several techniques to raise our prayers to heaven. Keeping with the Praying for America theme, it is suggested that prayerful people follow a 7×7 prayer for Americas seven centers of power seven times a week. Namely, Americans are encouraged to pray for: 1) the government; 2) the military; 3) the media; 4) business; 5) education; 6) church and 7) the family.

Father, we come to You to pray for our nation, the United States of America.      How You have blessed us through the years, Lord! We rightly sing, “America, America, God shed His grace on thee.” Yet we see trouble in our culture today. We see the breakdown of the family, crippling addictions, and random acts of horrific violence.

Lord, we need Your help in America. In recent days, we have done our best to remove Your Word and Your counsel from our courtrooms, classrooms and culture. It seems, as President Lincoln once said, that we have “forgotten God.” But Lord, You have not forgotten us! You can bless and help and revive our country again.
Scripture tells us that “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs14:34). Lord, in Your mercy, we ask that You would exalt our country again. We have had a number of great awakenings in America. We have experienced times of refreshing, and revivals that changed not only the spiritual but also the moral landscape. As the psalmist said, “Will You not revive us again, so that Your people may rejoice in You?” (Psalm 85:6)
That is our prayer for America today, Lord. Send a mighty spiritual awakening that will turn the hearts of men and women, boys and girls back to you. You have told us if we will humble ourselves and pray, and seek Your face and turn from our wicked ways, that You will forgive our sins and heal our land. (2 Chronicles7:14)
Forgive us today, Lord, and heal this troubled land that we love so much.

We ask all of this in the name of Jesus Christ.

But May 2nd is only the beginning of the ministry to Pray for America. During Memorial Day weekend, the organizers will launch the first Pray for America Rally Tour, with a specially decked out bus to promote fervent prayer in the communities where they will visit.

As an outreach to social media, the organizers of the National Day of Prayer are highlighting a video by Santus Real “Pray”.

In trying times like this, we need all the prayer that we can get.

h/t:  National Day of Prayer
      Pray for America

Why use a homily–not a sermon–format for homeschooling?

The Contemplative Homeschool helps children see all subjects as part of God's self-revelation.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote briefly about my faith-based method of homeschooling. To recap: I see methods such as Catholic Heritage Curricula, which bring the faith to individual subjects, as using a sermon format. In contrast, our Contemplative Homeschool starts with a Bible passage. I look for the themes in that passage, and add as many subjects as I can into the discussion of those themes. As my kids get older, I hope to make writings of the Church Fathers and official documents and creeds a starting place for our curriculum as well.

Here are some advantages to using the homily format.

1. Homilies promote meditation on Sacred Scripture. The Contemplative Homeschool is all about teaching our children to put prayer at the top of their priorities. It encourages a prayerful attitude and teaches methods of prayer, especially Christian meditation. As one blog commenter said, meditating on Scripture is like preaching a homily to oneself. My boys are forming the habit of looking for ways to connect Bible passages with their lives. I believe this will make it easier for them to create their own meditations as they grow older.

Read my other 4 reasons.