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Sunday Snippets–A Catholic Carnival

Easter Sunday.  The Liturgy of Creation.  John’s vision in Revelation describes heavenly worship.  How can I reflect that worship in my actions?

Easter Monday.  Faith in Invisible Realities.  We renewed our Baptismal promises yesterday at Mass.  How do I live this shared faith?

Tuesday of Easter Week.  With Our Whole Being.  With a Creator who loves us so completely, how can I do love Him with any less than my whole being?

Wednesday of Easter Week.  A Lamb Who Was Slain—A Lion Who Reigns.  The Mass is a universal celebration that unites us with Christ at the Last Supper and with the angels and saints in Heaven.  Do I appreciate the privilege of participating in Mass?

Thursday of Easter Week.  The Beautiful Bride of Christ.  If Christ is the bridegroom of the Church, I am part of that intimate relationship.  How do I allow myself to draw closer to Christ?

Friday of Easter Week.  Union With God.  Christ’s love for the Church is the model for a husband love for his wife.  How does my marriage reflect this?  How do I strive for this perfection?

Saturday of Easter Week.  The Dwelling of God.  How real is Heaven to me?

Divine Mercy Sunday.  Becoming Saints.  Today, I am reminded of the inexhaustible Mercy God offers me as He calls me to sainthood.


Becoming Saints

Happy Easter!  This Divine Mercy Sunday I continue my journey through Scott Hahn’s book, Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promises.  This is the last day of this series.

Today is the Feast of Divine Mercy, which we celebrate because Christ Himself requested this in His appearances to St. Faustina Kowalska.   During His visits, Christ instructed St. Faustina on His Divine Mercy and introduced the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, which He asks that we pray for for three purposes:  to obtain mercy, to trust in Christ’s mercy, and to show mercy to others.

The Chaplet—a series of prayers much like the Rosary—calls for the use of Rosary beads.  On the decades used to pray the ten Hail Marys, the Chaplet has us pray:  “For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”

I can’t say that I fully understand the Chaplet.  I don’t know the reason behind the prayers or their efficacy.  When I pray the Rosary, at least I have some concept of the Mysteries I am meditating on and I am familiar with the component prayers.  But the Chaplet is more difficult for me.  So I am reminded by Christ’s statement to St. Faustina:

“My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity.”

This helps me understand that I am human, of limited comprehension skills, and may not always understand.  Even when I don’t understand, I pray that I am doing His will.  I am reminded of my favorite Psalm:  “Be still and know that I am God.”  Ps. 46:11.

The Psalm helps me to trust that He is God and will sustain me if I but trust in Him and His mercy.  And then, with this trust in my heart, I will strive to “walk by faith and not by sight.”  2 Cor. 5:7.

Thomas Merton expressed this surrender succinctly in prayer:

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

I am comforted knowing that, as long as I try to please Him and seek to live a life in humble submission to His will as He expresses it in His Church, I’m golden!

It is worth noting, as Scott Hahn does, that at times the earthly Church seems to work against the values it purports to espouse.  “We see scandal and hypocrisy, bland liturgies, false teaching, broken families, sin and sinners everywhere.”  But Scott also reminds us that the Church is the chosen bride of Christ.  He tells us that when we focus on these shortfalls of human members of the Church and use them as an excuse for leaving the Church, we are spurning the Bride of Christ.

Instead, I need to remember that I am called to be a saint for the Church.  And, knowing I can’t do it of my own, I lean on Him who sustains me.  “I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me”.  Phil 4:13.

And so, while I am called to sainthood, as we all are, I know that I cannot do this on my own.

Day 54-1 There are times—more often than I care to admit—that I would rather NOT be a saint, when I would rather enjoy the immediate pleasures of this world instead of sacrificing for the long term gain He offers.  In those moments I need to “immerse [myself] in the ocean of [His] Mercy.Day 54-2

 This was the last day of the reflections on Scott Hahn’s book, but not my last blog entry.  Although I will not be blogging as regularly, I hope to continue to grow in faith and share in my journey.  And, as always, “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen.”

The Dwelling of God

Happy Easter!  This Saturday of Easter Week I continue my journey through Scott Hahn’s book, Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promises.

In 23 years of wedded bliss, my wife and I have lived in four different houses that we owned, five different apartments we rented and various other transient housing arrangements.  By far the tensest transitions involved the more recent moves from one house to another.  I think a number of factors contributed to the tension in the last couple of moves.  Each one involved many changes:  new communities, new schools, new parish, new jobs.  Each move required significant adjustments.

In a sense, death is the ultimate household move.  It is the most significant transition, and is irreversible.  Maybe this is why many have great anxiety when contemplating death.  There is much uncertainty.  We will be “moving” to unfamiliar territories.  There is so much we do not now know about our ultimate destination.

Jesus gives us some comforting words to ease our minds:

In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.  John 4:2-3.

Not only is He telling us that He is preparing our homes, but He will be our escort, taking us to our new abodes to live with us.

When we were house-hunting, it was easy to imagine the home we would end up in.  But my imagination was never accurate because, until we actually identified the house, put in a bid and came to an agreement with the homeowner, it was only imaginary—it was not real.

Some notions of Heaven are not all that appealing.  Angels playing harps, floating on clouds.  For eternity.  Ugh!  Maybe that’s because the idea of Heaven does not seem very real and we each have to comprehend it in our imperfect ways.

The concept of Heaven is not easy for me to grasp.  But when I think of all the people I will get to see again in the afterlife—my Mom, grandparents, old friends—it makes the concept seem more real. Day 53-1If my relationships with my Mom, friends and loved ones pale in comparison with the love Christ has for me, how much more does that magnify the promises of Heaven? Day 53-2

Union With God

Happy Easter!  This Friday of Easter Week I continue my journey through Scott Hahn’s book, Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promises.

 During these last 50+ days of blogging my reflections on Scott Hahn’s book, I would occasional read an entry that would stop me in my tracks, making me wonder what I had committed to.  These were the entries that would really challenge me, forcing me to look deep inside myself, focus on my flaws, and risk an admission I wasn’t sure I was ready for.  Today is one of those.

I thought I dodged the bullet yesterday.  In fact, I sorta jumped the gun with yesterday’s reflection.  When I read yesterday’s entry in Scott’s book, I began to sweat, thinking it was one of those days that would require a frank reflection.  But then—epiphany!—I escaped relatively unscathed with the evasive Shrek defense.


”Onions have layers. Ogres have layers! Onions have layers. You get it? We both have layers.”

I escaped!  Or so I thought.  Until today, when I read the reading.

You see, I’m not the best husband.  I know it.  My beautiful wife knows it.  I’m sure my kids even know it.  And while I know it, I don’t want to be confronted with that fact.  Which makes today’s reflection all that much more difficult.

Twenty-three years, three months and six days ago, my bride and I exchanged our vows, entered into the Sacrament of Marriage and uttered those fateful words, “I do.”  On that day, I ceased being me and—joining with my bride—became us.

Unfortunately, my behavior, choices and actions have not always reflected this unity of person.  I did not immediately cease acting as an individual.  At times (too often) I have been selfish.  And my selfishness has hurt my wife.

Scott Hahn reflects that Christ’s love for the Church is the model we should look to in marriage:

“Just as God’s Fatherhood is the perfect reality that human fatherhood portrayed, through imperfectly, so the marriage of Christ and the Church is the perfect reality portrayed by human marriage.”

It’s not an original thought.  Paul said as much in his letter to the Ephesians:

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.  So [also] husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.  Eph. 5:25-28.

Wow!  Tough standard to live up to!  How can I give myself so completely to my wife to the degree and in the quality that Christ gives of Himself?!

When I stand at the foot of this Mt. Everest, ill-equipped for the climb, I even ask myself:  “Why even try?”

And then I remember two things:

Because she is worth it.


Progress, not perfection.

She is definitely worth the effort of drawing closer, of growing and maturing in our relationship.  To paraphrase Jack Nicholson, she makes me want to be a better man.

And I have to remember that, while the peak of Mt. Everest is still so far above me, and still appears unreachable, if I am to be honest with myself I also have to look back and realize that I have advanced up the slope.  I may not be perfect yet, but I’ve made progress.  To steal from Philip Morris, I’ve come a long way, baby!

Not that I deserve a pat on the back.  I’m not sure I deserve a kick in the butt, either.  But I have to keep my eye on the model that Christ gives me in His love for the Church.

Day 52-1

Sometimes bronze seems so shiny until it is placed next to well-polished gold.  Sometimes a flashlight seems to be bright until it is brought into the sunlight.  And sometimes, my relationships seem to be perfect until contrasted with the perfection of God’s love.  When confronted with this contrast, I need to see it as a reminder of what can be, not as a criticism of what is not yet, and use it as motivation to keep striving. Day 52-2

The Beautiful Bride of Christ

Happy Easter!  This Thursday of Easter Week I continue my journey through Scott Hahn’s book, Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promises.

Jesus, in welcoming us into His family, gives us His human mother as ours:

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.”  Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.”  John 19:26-27.

In one sense she is our mother-in-law, as Christ is the bridegroom of the Church.

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul uses the description of Christ as bridegroom:

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.  So [also] husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.  Eph. 5:25-28.

If Christ is the bridegroom of the Church, then we—His Church—are the bride of Christ.

So I ask myself—what does this mean to me?  How am I, a member of this Church—His bride, to behave?

I remember that my wife and I—as newlyweds—were told of a lollipop rule of marriage.  It goes like this:  for the first year of marriage, put a lollipop into a bowl for each time you have “intimacy” with each other.  After the first year, take a lollipop out for each act of “intimacy”.  Your bowl will never be empty.

I place intimacy in quotes for this reason:  the physical act of love-making is often identified as the sole—or highest—form of intimacy.  But as I grow older, I understand this physical form of intimate interaction is only a manifestation of true intimacy, an outward sign of an intimate relationship.

What, then, is intimacy?  Is it enough to describe it, as one resource does, as “a close, familiar, and usually affectionate or loving personal relationship with another person or group”?

To me, that definition is inadequate.  It lacks the requisite sense of vulnerability, of trust, of hope and mutuality.

So I did some digging and discovered that “intimacy” has as its root the Latin word “intimus“, which means “inmost“.  Huh?!

And then it hit me:  Shrek!

You know:  “Onions have layers. Ogres have layers! Onions have layers. You get it? We both have layers.”

So, am I saying ogres are intimate?  Because if that’s true, I am VERY intimate!  As in Oscar the Grouch intimate!

Not quite.

My point is this: who do I allow into my inmost layers?  To whom do I expose my inner self, under the protective layers, veneers and plies?

And, as a member of the Church, the bride of Christ, how do I let Jesus into my innermost layers to the very core of me?

Day 51-1

As Paul in his letter to the Ephesians describes marriage, it requires the self-sacrificing intimacy that Christ pours Himself into with us, His Church.  This model is difficult, as hard as Christ’s admonition:  “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.

Day 51-2

A Lamb Who Was Slain—A Lion Who Reigns

Happy Easter!  This Wednesday of Easter Week I continue my journey through Scott Hahn’s book, Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promises.

Sagrada Familia

My wife and I were recently on vacation in Mexico with our two sons (the girls being in school) and my Dad and Step-Mom.  We attended Palm Sunday Mass at a local parish.  It was in Spanish and, alas, we are not fluent in the language!

No worries!  I knew that the Mass would follow the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, albeit in Spanish.  I am familiar enough with the structure of Mass to recognize the various parts.  When I recognized a specific prayer (e.g., Nicene Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, etc.), I did my best to follow along in English (not too loudly as to disrupt my Spanish-speaking brethren).

More importantly, I could tell the precise moment when the bread became Christ’s body because I recognized the priest’s gestures.  Likewise, I knew exactly when the wine became His blood.  Because of this, I could participate in this Mass, which is the same Mass celebrated throughout the world.

I understand that when the priest—acting in the person of Christ—lifts the host and utters the words, “this is my Body” and “this is the chalice of my Blood“, regardless of the language, he is united with priests throughout time and space—with Christ Himself at the Last Supper!   And the alter at la Iglesia de la Sagrada Familia becomes the table in the Upper Room, in union with every other alter!

Scott Hahn tells us that “the Mass ushers us into the presence of the Father and the Lamb, and into worship with the four living creatures, the elders, the saints, and the myriad of angels.”  So, when my family joined in communion with the Spanish-speaking congregation, our illiteracy was no obstacle to our participation in Mass.

All too often, I hear complaints about Mass:  “I just don’t get anything out of it!”

Sometimes the complaints target the priest:  “he’s so boring! His homilies are too long!” (Or too intellectual, or too . . . you get the point!)  Sometimes the complaints target the music (I’m guilty of this):  “I hate the guitar!” “That was too folksy!” “The choir was too stiff!”  Maybe the incense was too strong, or the AC was too cold.

All these elements are important in contributing to a proper celebration attitude and atmosphere.  But they shouldn’t detract from the importance of the Mass itself.

Participating in the celebration of Mass in a foreign tongue has allowed me to focus on the truly important aspects of the Mass in the Universal Church.
Day 50-1 Admittedly, in my arrogance I sometimes keep track of moments when a celebrant seems to stray from the GIRM.  The Spanish Mass helped me on this, too, keeping my focus on the sacrifice and celebration at hand.Day 50-2

With Our Whole Being

Happy Easter!  This Tuesday of Easter Week I continue my journey through Scott Hahn’s book, Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promises.

On Easter Sunday, I wrote about the Heavenly Worship described in Revelation Chapter 4.  Today, Scott Hahn again discusses this Heavenly Worship and couples it with the worship of the Lamb described in Chapter 5.  Scott reflects on the union of divinity and humanity in Christ, and then reflects on the unity of our worship of creator (Chapter 4) and redeemer (Chapter 5):  “This is a unified liturgy with two distinct parts:  One celebrates God for making us, while the other Celebrates Christ for saving us.”

This dual nature of worship reminds me of God’s love:  ours is not a Creator who makes us and then sets us adrift!  He always provides!

Until recently we lived with a seasonal stream that was often very dry, but when it rained would be swollen with runoff.  My boys and I invented a game that we would play when the stream was full.  We would create little boats out of wood scraps from my workbench (a word I use loosely here for fear it implies any woodworking skill on my part).

Once we crafted these little boats, we would march off to a point upstream from our house and set our wood adrift in the swift current.  But that wasn’t the end of the game.  We would follow the boats, slogging through mud and undergrowth, keenly observing the progress of our imaginary crew, even ad-libbing conversations and helm orders on the decks of our boats.

At times progress would stop when the wood hit a shallow “shoal” or snagged on a low branch.  At those points we—their creators—would step in to rescue our crews from their hazards.

I think that God is like this.  He didn’t just create us to set adrift without a second thought.  He watches us constantly with keen interest and is always available to help when we cry out from our hazards.

With such a wonderful loving Creator—who loved us so much He gave His only Son “so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life”—how can I do anything less than love Him completely?

And yet I still need to be reminded. Often.  
Day 49-2
The first of the Greatest Commandments is to “love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”  Matt. 22:37.Day 49-1

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