Saturday, December 11, 2010

12 Days of Christmas

I've seen a couple of instances where the "12 days of Christmas" were thought to start in the weeks leading up to Dec. 25. Well, all right, one friend claimed that he knew what it really was but chose to observe his own twelve days beforehand with special Facebook posts. "Really," he wanted to know, "who sings those songs after Christmas?"

The answer is: Catholics do, of course. Well, not sleigh ride songs or "Frosty the Snowman." But for a couple of weeks afterward when we go to church we sing the ones about Jesus. Being Catholic means living two different calendars, ones that don't always quite coincide. I don't know how many are so countercultural as to refuse to put up a tree or lights until the actual day. But in some Catholic homes you will find less of a rush to decorate to the hilt a month or more ahead. I like a gradual adding of decorations leading through Advent to the Feast of the Nativity.

And in some Catholic homes you will find things like Advent wreaths, Advent calendars, Jesse trees, and reflection booklets centered on Advent themes. Yes, it's Advent now, and Christmas, all twelve days and then some getting us to the Baptism of the Lord -- starts the evening of December 24.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

All Souls

Both in the school where I teach and in my church, there is a book of the dead, a place to record names of loved ones who have died and whom we wish to remember in prayer. In addition, my parish always has a special Mass to which are invited the families of all those who have been buried from the parish in the last year. They bring a Christmas ornament that in some way is a remembrance of the person, and those ornaments are hung on one of the Christmas trees that will decorate the church in a few weeks. At the Mass, family members light candles as the names of the dead are read aloud.

I think that these rituals bring a degree of comfort, that they impart an element of strength. Their purpose is to help us remember, but also to offer hope. Our faith is one of hope that death is not the end.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The pastor

It's Thursday and I'm still thinking back to the last Sunday when we had the installation Mass for our new pastor. When the bishop made his first remarks about Fr. S., there was applause that seemed as though it would never end. This for a priest whom we barely know.

Fr. S. came to us from another state in July, but he is originally from India, and visa problems meant that he had to go back home after about two weeks in our parish, not to return until just a few days before the October installation Mass. The fact that we were all so happy to see him return says some things about the man. Though I have met him we have yet to have a conversation, and I have been to perhaps two or three Masses at which he has presided; but it seems clear that he is a man of humility and serenity and faith.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Another Sunday

What we surround ourselves with has an impact on who we are. I go to church each week, and we pray, and we hear Scripture and the homilist breaks open the Word, and we share Eucharist, and I am with a community I see week after week. How can this not have affected the person that I have become after all this time? Today the homily was about faith, and perhaps it will make a difference in my prayer life in the days to come. But I'm still pondering snippets of earlier homilies, too. And though it has taken me a while, I have gradually been acting on resolutions I made weeks earlier.

There are things I do that lead directly from the nudging I get from my contact with the Church in this way.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Model of mercy

Today is Mercy Day, where we remembered in our school (along with sister schools throughout the U.S. and in other countries), that on this day in 1827 on the feast of Our Lady of Mercy, Venerable Catherine McAuley opened her house on Baggot Street in Dublin.

Catholic schools do things like take time out of an already-shortened day to celebrate Eucharist as a community. Catholic schools have people to look to, models of mercy like Catherine MacAuley, to inspire us to, to show us how one goes about living a life of bold compassion.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Voices that Challenge

I have read that some people have objected to the David Haas' song that says that "we are the voice of God." But I believe that God can indeed speak to us through others, and I find the song to be very in tune with the times and indeed challenging, as it names group after group of people in need of care and concern. And justice. And action.

The question is, what am I doing? Practicing the song on a Wednesday night has caused thoughts that overflow into Thursday.

It was because the song was fresh in our minds that Paul suggested this morning that the student who noticed my lack of no-complaint bracelet and asked if I was giving up (yep, I have been considering doing just that) was one of the "voices that challenge." Maybe I can do this. And maybe I should.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Reminders

Someone called his mother today. Hadn't talked to her for a while, and the homily today was a reminder. I have a couple of people that I've been keeping in prayer but have not been in contact with and have been meaning to do just that. Today was a reminder of that, and I hope I will make that effort this week.

Sometimes we need a nudge from the Holy Spirit to be better people, and sometimes Mass is where we get it.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sundays

Here's one way that Catholicism affects my life. It takes up a good portion of my Sundays. I'm in church for between two and three hours, setting up for music, taking down, and generally a good deal of talking to people before and/or after.

It's worth it.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Words

When I talk about the "impact of Catholicism on my life," I am looking at everything about being Catholic that has some influence on the way I think or act. That influence is felt even in my Internet pursuits. A particular blog that recently I have latched onto is that of Sr. Joyce Rupp on the National Catholic Reporter site, because often her words are ones that resonate with my own experience, ones that I find nourishing to my faith. Rather than say more, I'll simply include a link for the latest reflection.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Intercessory prayer

At Mass we have our "general intercessions" which include prayers for people who are sick and who have died along with other needs in the world. I have some friends and relatives, struggling for various reasons, who recently have asked for prayer. At the beginning of classes I often ask students if they have people they would like to bring to prayer. I know it's not just a Catholic thing, but it seems like we pray for one another quite a bit. Even a friend of mine who does not pray is asking for prayers for someone on Facebook. He has a lot of Catholic friends. He knows they'll be praying. And somehow, he must find some comfort in that.

Belief in the power of prayer varies from person to person, but I think that overall there is a confidence that in some way it is going to make a difference. It nourishes our faith, too, to entrust God with these problems that are beyond us. At the very least, my promise to pray for people brings them to mind more frequently than might happen otherwise. And in some cases, the prayer is this: how can I be an instrument of God to bring some kind of comfort or blessing to those who enter into my prayer?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Prayer time

It's a holiday. I wake up later than usual, but earlier than the husband. I think, "okay, I'll get up and pray now." Then I get drawn to the computer. I'll just check a couple of things there, first. Oh, look, Blogger gives stats now! Apparently that's been going on since June, but I just noticed. So I muck around in there for a while, looking at charts and numbers for my various blogs. Guess I'll read a bit of the newspaper here, too, since it's not delivered on Mondays. Next thing I know, my "quiet time" has been all used up and I didn't get to that serious prayer time.

I hate when that happens.

This is not to say that I haven't an awareness of God through my day. That is an impact of Catholicism on my life, but so is a desire for some focused God-and-me time. Every once in a while, I have to re-set my schedule when the rest of my life changes (like for a new school year when my husband has a different schedule, so bathroom times change!). And every once in a while I have to re-set my priorities.

Monday, September 6, 2010

23rd Sunday

Yesterday's gospel seems like an argument against infant baptism. Count the cost ahead of time, Jesus says. Can you really do this? Being a disciple of his, that is. And infants can't analyze the situation, of course. Students sometimes bring that up, how babies have baptism "done to them" at a time they lack the freedom to choose it. I tell them that each of us has to renew the commitment daily, so babies who grow up can decide, if not, "will I be baptized?" then at least, "will I live out my baptism?"

Even as adults, I don't think we always understand what that commitment means, but I hope that with the sacraments and with Scripture and homilies and prayer and other ways that we engage in the topic of our faith, we can grow to understand more and more.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

In every age

My thanks to Timothy R. Smith, a composer of liturgical music who coincidentally lives not so far from me and whom I happen to have met once. It is his marvelous setting of the psalm for this week that my ensemble leader husband chose for us to sing. Since it's new to us and I was around the house (an advantage of living with the director) Paul taught it to me and I get to sing it on Sunday. I was feeling a little bad about that since there are others in the group who are much more capable singers and would do a better job with it, but as it turns out, I am the only singer other than my husband who can make the Mass on Sunday (a very rare occurrence).

It's not the easiest and I need to practice the verses more, but it is beautiful, and it was a prayer for me in practicing it this evening. The words of the psalm are comforting: "In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge." I was reminded of how often in my life I have turned to God in times of sadness or doubt or confusion or illness or fear. God has indeed been my refuge.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Courtney and the Feast of the Assumption

The daughter of a good friend died on this date 32 years ago. Since I have been aware of this, her death and the feast of the Assumption have been for me inextricably linked. Fr. Tim today spoke of the hope and trust that we can have that what God did for Mary through her son, he will do for us through that same son.

And it is indeed my belief that an innocent nine-year-old girl has, like Mary, entered into all joy, and will at a point outside of time, be reunited with the dad who misses her still.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A walk

This morning's walk around the park was not unusual, really, but there did seem more things than usual that caught my attention: The delicately colored sunrise with edges of clouds gleaming and rays of light pouring forth; the pale female cardinal, the first I've spotted in weeks; the horde of ants, thousands maybe, crossing at a point in the park path with an unknown purpose; the entire flock of sparrows, startled by me, who with a whooshing sound flew out of the huge bush in someone's backyard.

These things reminded me, in one way or another, of God. The park is sometimes my church, and these things today were my sacramentals. And it's the Catholic church that has taught me to see the world in this way.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The world is about to turn.

Last night I took my Catholic self over to church once again to rehearse the songs that eventually get stuck in my subconsciousness. In his planning Paul had worried about whether two different settings of the Gospel text were overkill. Nah. How can you go wrong with the Magnificat, especially when both versions with their Irish melodies are a joy to sing? It's questionable whether Mary actually prayed the canticle that echo Hannah's song. But even if the evangelist gave them to her, the words are no less a marvelous expression of the confidence in God to make things right and to bring justice to the world.

And so in the singing, my own confidence was strengthened, something needed after days of news reports of the world's maladies, including the dire consequences of severe flooding in various places.

It is my Catholic upbringing that causes me to ask, no longer if, but how I am called to be an instrument of God in effecting needed change in the world.  As one small step in trying to answer that question, my next stop will be the Catholic Relief Services website.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Song

Very often for no particular reason, my head will be filled with snippets of song. Most often it turns out to be liturgical music, maybe because I am so much engaged with it twice a week. It's the intersection between music and prayer, I guess.

Today as I walked around the park, what came to me was the Gospel Acclamation we've used most recently. Maybe it said something about my frame of mind early today that the song that came to mind was, "Alleluia."

Sunday, August 8, 2010

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today's gospel and homily got me wondering about how much I really trust God.

Another thought still with me as the sun is in the process of setting has to do with the global aspect of this church I belong to. For one thing, our parish is currently served by Indian Pallottines. I became a tiny bit more acquainted with a culture very foreign to me with the three years Fr. Ralph spent here as our pastor.

And this morning, as happens each year, the preaching (and presiding today as well) were entrusted to a missionary priest. This guy was from Ohio but belongs to an order serving in twelve countries. In addition to making some good connections with the Scripture, he spoke of the good work of his congregation and of their needs in furthering that ministry. I hope that our parish responded well in helping our brothers and sisters in other lands.

As for us, we had not brought money to church, but we can fill an envelope next week. And how much will we decide we can part with? Sometimes I think that question has a lot to do with how much we trust God.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Discernment

The other day my daughter was talking to me about decisions she needs to make regarding what she will do immediately after her college graduation next spring. Among other words, I encouraged her to listen to her feelings in trying to determine a direction. I also added TMI about St. Ignatius of Loyola.

It is St. Ignatius, another Catholic guy, who has most influenced the way I look at how to go about deciding important things.

The bombings

The anniversaries of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are coming up. I know this because of a couple of e-mails with background information and action suggestions sitting in my inbox, and because I received an invitation to an observance. Members of a local Pax Christi group are going to fast today, and this evening get together for Mass, a renewal of their vow of nonviolence and then a meal together.

I can't attend, but I said I might fast to join them in that way. I don't know how it will work out with food, but I think that I will do this: I will fast from Facebook for the rest of the day. It's been taking hold of me somewhat lately! And at some point during the day I will pay some attention to those e-mails.

So my reflection about war and peace today will come about through Catholic sources because of a once-Catholic person that I met almost a year ago when a Catholic organization planned a conference at my Catholic place of work.

Tuesday of the 18th week

I went to Mass yesterday, something I do occasionally in the summer. On Tuesdays the summer rotation of the local parishes brings it to my church, the church around the corner. Sr. Margretta caught me going in about two minutes before Mass was to start and asked me to read, so that she could get on to the conference she is attending this week. I usually like to prepare readings a bit! But I'm fairly experienced and I think it was okay.

At this particular Mass I was moved more than usual, for reasons that to a certain extent are known only to God, I think! It had to do with a confluence of events, recent reading, the state of my spiritual life, and my presence at this particular liturgy.

The Gospel was about Peter walking on water. "Keep your eyes on Jesus," is what the homilist had to say to me.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

18th Sunday

Of course, a very big influence of being Catholic happens every Sunday when we gather for the Eucharistic liturgy. Perhaps I will have some thoughts about that each week. There is actually a lot I could say about today, but I'll try to pick out one thing. The homily reminded me that we should not let possessions "own us," but should own them and use them to build the Kingdom of God. The presider also mentioned the poor, and how when we get wrapped up in taking care of our stuff, we can neglect those who don't have the stuff they need (well, I am paraphrasing).

So, those are thoughts to carry with me into the week. I like when the poor are spoken of. I like when a homily challenges me. If I get challenged enough, I might act. A person responding to the post on my first blog wondered why we needed "a vengeful, judging creature" to tell us what to do when we should just do it because it's the right thing. Of course, that is not how I see God. And I won't speak for any other person but myself: I know my selfish tendencies, and that I need some help, and quite a lot of it at times, to both see what the right thing is, and to do it.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Hail Mary

This morning even before I got out of bed, my thoughts turned for some reason to the "Hail Mary." Not typical for me to start the day with that particular prayer, but not unusual in the least, since it's one of the two most-recited prayers for Catholics.

I know some people have problems with the whole "Mary thing" in our faith. But really, anyone who has ever asked a friend to pray for him or her, and who believes in life after death, has what they need to understand why Catholics would ask Mary to "pray for us sinners." We've got a friend in the mother of Jesus.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ensemble rehearsal

Our group takes off for the month of July, but now we are back in business since the Sunday coming up falls in August. It's a small ensemble this week; the summer is not over and some folks have other places to be. As we plowed through a new song we are learning, I noticed a young woman with long blond hair sitting in the back of church, praying with elbows propped on the pew in front of her. Now, in most cases, if someone I don't know has entered the church, I am going to want to go over and say hi, and help that person find the meeting they are looking for in another building.

But she was praying. A little while later, a young man joined her, and prayed, and then they both left. A thought came to me about having seen a notice of some event that overlapped with our practice, so maybe they were passing time before or afterward. Got a little extra time? Let's go pray.

A while later, a married couple that I know entered the church. So many visits during one practice? Highly unusual. Now, in most cases, when someone I know has entered the church, I'm going to want to go over and say hi, and "Liz, I saw on Facebook that you were power-washing your deck. How did that go?"

But they were praying. (Well, and I was rehearsing, too). That conversation can wait.

So, there's a thing about being Catholic. An unlocked church is an invitation to pray.

ER

Two days ago (but at night) I was sitting with my mom in a hospital ER cubicle. She has a rather large bruise, or what the hospital calls "contusion" on her side, the pain of which was what drove us both to be there. Minutes after my arrival, before the first of the cheerful swarm of caregivers entered the area to ask questions and probe possibilities, the hospital P.A. came and someone announced the end of visiting hours. But that was followed by something I did not expect: she announced that we would end the evening in prayer, continuing with words directed to God, none of which I can recall now. Immediately afterward my thought was, "oh, this is a Catholic hospital" (and then, "duh, Ann, St. John"). It was a moment of calm after my trip across town, and a reminder that the events of the evening were not unfolding without the notice of God.