IT ISN’T GRAPE JUICE AND WONDER BREAD

“If angels could be jealous of men, they would be so for one reason: Holy Communion.” – St. Maximilian Kolbe

Over the weekend a photograph popped up on my Facebook feed.  The photo was of a young boy who was crying because his older brother had just made his First Holy Communion and he was upset that he, too, could not receive Holy Communion.  The fatherly, consoling embrace the little boy received was from none other than His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke.

The photo prompted me to consider how many adults would react the same way if they were denied the opportunity to receive Holy Communion and, alas, how many people receive Holy Communion not fully understanding what it is they’re doing.

“He remains among us until the end of the world. He dwells on so many altars, though so often offended and profaned.”
– St. Maximilian Kolbe

My parish, the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, is the mother church of the archdiocese.  It is also one of the largest collections of mosaics in the world, an absolutely breathtaking structure and is, therefore, also the “tourist parish” of our archdiocese.  As such, there are often people who have popped in to take a look and who stay for Mass—Catholics and non-Catholics alike.  My apologies to these tourists but they always get the blame when I see someone who, after receiving the Host, is stopped by an acolyte and asked to return the Host if they aren’t Catholic and aren’t going to consume it, or coming back from Communion slipping the Host into a pocket or purse, or still holding it in their hands as they walk back to their seat.  I just always assume these people are non-Catholic tourists who don’t know any better.  I have, on occasion, stopped people to request that they either consume the Eucharist if they are Catholic or give it to me so that I could consume it after I have seen them put the Host in a pocket or purse after receiving it.  It isn’t that I’ve named myself “Host Police” and am on a mission to interrupt the reception of the Blessed Sacrament; it’s that, as a Catholic, I know what they are so casually stuffing into a pocket isn’t simply a bit of pressed gluten.  It isn’t a “symbolic representation” of something.  It IS the Body of Christ and even if their intentions aren’t menacing and their actions are based on ignorance, it is my responsibility to prevent a grave error from being committed. Again, I assume these people aren’t Catholic and that they simply don’t understand the gravity of what they’ve done.

“Recognize in this bread what hung on the cross, and in this chalice what flowed from His side…”
– from the writings of St. Augustine, Sermon 3, 2; circa A.D. 410

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) states, “As Catholics, we fully participate in the celebration of the Eucharist when we receive Holy Communion. We are encouraged to receive Communion devoutly [emphasis mine] and frequently. In order to be properly disposed to receive Communion, participants should not be conscious of grave sin and normally should have fasted for one hour [emphasis mine]. A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord without prior sacramental confession except for a grave reason where there is no opportunity for confession. In this case, the person is to be mindful of the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, including the intention of confessing as soon as possible (canon 916). A frequent reception of the Sacrament of Penance is encouraged for all.”1

The Church, in Her instruction of how to prepare for Holy Communion conveys the importance of what we are preparing for.

As Catholics, we believe that, through transubstantiation, the bread and wine that appears on the altar becomes the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

What you are receiving each and every time you receive Holy Communion isn’t simply bread.  It isn’t simply wine.  It is the Divine.  It is God.  It is, in the truest sense of the word—awesome.

(*Side note: I am not going to get in to the discussion of “hand vs. tongue” because the Church allows for reception of Holy Communion in the hand, but states in the GIRM that, “When receiving in the hand, the communicant should be guided by the words of St. Cyril of Jerusalem: ‘When you approach, take care not to do so with your hand stretched out and your fingers open or apart, but rather place your left hand as a throne beneath your right, as befits one who is about to receive the King. Then receive him, taking care that nothing is lost’.”2

I prefer to receive Holy Communion on my tongue.  I would like to say that this habit began as an act of reverence; however, in full disclosure, I will admit to the fact that it began several years ago during cold and flu season.  The woman in front of me was obviously very, very sick with a cold and after shaking her hand at the sign of peace, I really didn’t want to then have my hand in my mouth.  It has, however, grown into a habit that I love. There are many reasons I prefer it; however, the greatest is the way it reminds me that I am not simply grabbing something that is owed me; when I receive Communion on my tongue I am, in a way, vulnerable and opening myself up to something that is a total and utter gift from God.  Marc Barnes at Patheos.com touched on this when he wrote in defense of receiving Holy Communion on the tongue, “As a baby bird lifts its head for food, or as an infant seeks its mother’s milk, so we open our mouths. There is no action between the administration of the Eucharist by the priest and my reception of the very same. In this posture of helpless receptivity we conform our bodies to the authority of God, and to the reality that we are dependent on his action — manifested in the Church — for our salvation.”)

“…you are approaching to become witnesses of the intimate union of your souls with Jesus Christ. Look at the angels of the altar, dear little girls. Look at them, they envy you. All heaven is present.” – Words of Msgr. Jara to Blessed Teresa of the Andes First Communion Class

At the end of my last blog, I threw in a brief post script regarding the fact that when you approach for Communion, it shouldn’t be something casual or taken for granted.  You shouldn’t act as though you’re simply sauntering up to be handed a piece of bubble gum you can simply pop in your mouth and chomp as you meander back to your pew or—God forbid, gentle reader—out to your car.

This isn’t how you should see Holy Communion:

 This is how you should see Holy Communion:

Because this is what it actually is:

So, before you go up to receive Holy Communion the next time, think of the little boy from the photo at the beginning of this blog, crying because he couldn’t receive the Body of Christ.  Think about Matthew 18:3, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”  Think about those two things, if nothing else, and then approach to receive your Lord, your God.

JESUS ISN’T YOUR HOMEBOY. IT’S CALLED “REVERENCE.” SHOW SOME. THE PERSONAL RANT OF ELIZABETH WESTHOFF

Aaah, summer.

I hate it.

I hate it even more so when I’m at Mass.

Last month I spent at week at my sister’s house.  My sister and her family live in the South and when you visit in the summer, it feels as though you’re vacationing in one of the outer rings of Hell.  The stereotype of the South as slow moving is true, because if it weren’t and the inhabitants of the South didn’t move at a glacial pace, they would all spontaneously combust.

On the Saturday of my visit, my sister and I decided we would go to the Vigil Mass at her parish.  As we stood up for the entrance procession, I realized that one of the members of the family in front of us was a young woman wearing shorts that were scandalously short.  Now, call me old fashioned, but I think your shorts should be longer than your underpants…even if it’s hot and you live in the South.  Keep in mind, gentle reader; she was wearing these shorts in Mass.

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe. (Heb. 12:28)

People don’t wear what they used to wear to certain events. Now, I am not of the opinion that hats, gloves, stockings, and heels should be the expected uniform of women today, (but didn’t they look lovely when it was?)  I do not think men should still wear jackets and ties to baseball games.  I do; however, think men should wear jackets and ties to weddings, baptisms, funerals and the like.  The fact that nowadays shorts, t-shirts, flip-flops, tank-tops and the like are all perceived as “appropriate clothing for church” bespeaks a larger problem we have in the Church today—not truly understanding what is happening each time the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is offered.  We’ll get to that in a minute.

“God doesn’t care what I’m wearing as long as I’m at church!”

Well, He might, actually.  In Exodus 3:5 we read that God said to Moses: “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”  Now, does that mean we should go to Mass barefoot?  No.  It means we are on holy ground when we are at Mass and should approach it with reverence.

Regardless, let’s say that God doesn’t care what you wear to church.  Others around you do.  Are these outfits okay to wear to church:

No?  Ridiculous you say? Not the same thing you say?  Why not?

Why?  Because those outfits are completely inappropriate for the occasion.

Picture this.  You’re sitting in your doctor’s office.  Your doctor comes in dressed like this:

Now he informs you that you have cancer.  It’s advanced.  The situation is dire.  He does, however, have one method of treatment which he will begin immediately.

Ridiculous, you say?  Not the same thing, you say?  Why not?  Oh yes…because it’s inappropriate for the occasion.

What’s the occasion?

Taken from the Catechism of the Catholic Church1385: To respond to this invitation we must prepare ourselves for so great and so holy a moment.  St. Paul urges us to examine our conscience: “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.  1387To prepare for worthy reception of this sacrament, the faithful should observe the fast required in their Church.  Bodily demeanor (gestures, clothing) ought to convey the respect, solemnity, and joy of this moment with Christ becomes our guest.  2144:  The sense of the sacred is part of the virtue of religion…

Lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi.

St. John Chrysostom, among others, stated that “When Mass is being celebrated; the Sanctuary is filled with countless angels who adore the Divine Victim immolated on the altar.”

It was revealed to St. Mechtilde that three thousand angels from the choir of thrones are always present at every Tabernacle where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved.

St. Bridget recounted: “One day when I was assisting at the Holy Sacrifice, I saw an immense number of holy angels descend and gather around the altar, contemplating the priest. They sang heavenly canticles that ravished my heart, Heaven itself seemed to be contemplating the great Sacrifice. And yet we poor mortals, blind and miserable creatures, assist at Mass with so little love, relish and respect!”

St.  Jean Vianney said, “If we really understood the Mass, we would die of joy.”

St. Padre Pio, said, “If we only knew how God regards this Sacrifice, we would risk our lives to be present at a single Mass.”

“Soooo, what you’re saying is that Mass isn’t just a social gathering that we fit in between everything else we’re going to do on Saturday/Sunday and that what we wear is a reflection of our reverence, attention, and devotion?”  Yes.  That is exactly what I’m saying.  Look, there’s nothing wrong with shorts, t-shirts, or flip-flops where appropriate.  There’s nothing wrong with ultra-casual in the right setting.  The Mass isn’t the right setting.

So, please, remember, when you are assisting in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, YOU ARE IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD, Jesus Christ, the Saints, the Angels, the Holy Martyrs, and your fellow worshippers. Dress appropriately.  Act appropriately.  Don’t go up to receive Holy Communion with your keys, wallet, or sunglasses in your hands, as if the Body of Christ is just one more thing you’re going to juggle in them. (P.S., If you have gum in your mouth [which you shouldn’t] for love of God DO NOT receive Holy Communion.)  You are in the presence of and receiving your Lord, your God and your Creator—act like it.  Yes, the important thing is that you are at Mass but why shouldn’t you just go ahead and step it up a notch?  Isn’t our Lord deserving of more?

DOMA, FACEBOOK, & FRIENDSHIP

In recent months, my younger sister and I have had occasion to discuss how Facebook has taken both the word and notion of friendship and turned it into something about which, it would seem, people are no longer completely clear.

My assertion is that the action of “friending” someone on Facebook and referring to those contacts as “friends” has, for many people, confused what actual friendship is, why people befriend one another, and what a friend actually is.

According to Merriam-Webster.com, the definition of “friend” is:

1 a: one attached to another by affection or esteem * b: acquaintance (*A note on the inclusion of “acquaintance”: M-W.com’s definition of “acquaintance” states, “a person whom one knows but who is not a particularly close friend.”) 2 a: one that is not hostile b: one that is of the same nation, party, or group.

For the purpose of this article, please keep in mind the two definitions under the second listing.

I believe what Facebook’s use of the term has caused is the confusion between a friend, an acquaintance, and someone you don’t actually even know, causing problems nowadays when discussing politics, religion, or other “touchy” subjects.

DOMA, Same Sex “Marriage,” and Moral & Legal Principles

On June 26th , in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down a decision the likes of which mankind has never before seen when it struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act.  The Court ruled that DOMA denied legally married same-sex couples equal protection under the law.  Justices John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito–all of whom are Catholic–were the four justices in the minority voting against the overturning of DOMA. Sadly, but not surprisingly, two justices who self identify as Catholics, Anthony Kennedy and Sonia Sotomayor, were in the supporting majority.

In the wake of the DOMA decision, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops stated it “was a tragic day for marriage and our nation” and that the Court had “dealt a profound injustice to the American people.”

What exactly are we talking about though when we say, “same sex ‘marriage’?”

Honestly, as a Catholic who agrees with the Church’s teachings on marriage—I have no idea.  Since marriage isn’t something that can be redefined simply for the sake of allowing one person access to another’s finances, health insurance, et cetera, the phrase “same sex marriage” makes no logical sense to me.  However, looking at it from a cultural standpoint, what would seem to be the matter at hand is whether or not consenting adults should be allowed to love whomever they wish and to do whatever they want with their own bodies.

And who could argue with that?  Why shouldn’t a person be able to do whatever he or she wants?  Why, if you oppose this ruling, shouldn’t you be considered an intolerant bigot?

*Well, consenting adults also engage in adultery, prostitution, polygamy, and incest.  Am I suggesting that homosexual relationships are the same as adultery, prostitution, polygamy, or incest? No.  However, should we endorse adultery, prostitution, polygamy, and incest with legislation; because consenting adults decide they want to do them?  No.  But, if whatever consenting adults decide to do with their bodies should be ruled in, then adultery, prostitution, polygamy and incest must be ruled in. If adultery, prostitution, polygamy and incest are ruled out, then we can’t automatically rule in whatever consenting adults decide to do with their bodies.  See?

Whenever someone says that same-sex marriage should be allowed, they invariably propose a reason why.  However, you must consider that reason as a moral and legal principle.  According to that standard, what else must be ruled in or out?

The comparison has been made between the issue of same-sex marriage and the civil rights movement of the 1960’s.  This is not an accurate comparison. 

The reason the issue of same-sex marriage is different from the rights for which people fought during the civil rights movement of the 1960’s—including many, many members of the Catholic Church—is that in the ‘60s, the argument was regarding the definition of what a person was, not what a person wanted.  It’s the difference between “being” and “doing,” and don’t be mistaken—we are a “doing” and “wanting” society.

Furthermore, the issue here is not whether a person should be allowed to marry whomever he or she wants, the issue is whether a man and a man or a woman and a woman can form the kind of union that is, marriage.  Whether or not men should be allowed to breastfeed isn’t a civil rights issue—they can’t.  Whether or not men should be allowed to be mothers isn’t a civil rights issue—they can’t.

If the marital union is simply a matter of love, affection, access to health insurance and other benefits, then yes, this is a matter of civil rights, and anyone can marry anyone whom he chooses.  However, if the marital union is also the kind of union from which children come—even if no children actually come from it—then no, they can’t.  The bodies of same-sex couples simply do not allow for it.  A word can arbitrarily redefined, but reality does not change.

On sexual difference:

“[I]n the seven days of creation, the animals are not presented as sexed beings. What characterizes them is not the difference between the sexes but the difference of orders and, within each order, the differences among species… sexuality is not mentioned except in the case of mankind… which includes the sexual act by which man and woman ‘become one flesh’.”
-Rabbi Gilles Bernheim

Chief Rabbi of France

I hear you asking, “But shouldn’t we be tolerant and non-judgmental toward people whose ideas are different from our own?”  Everyone makes judgments.  Those who claim that we should be non-judgmental are saying it is wrong to make judgments. But, isn’t that a judgment about people with different ideas?

Okay then, what would Jesus do? Was Jesus tolerant and non-judgmental toward people whose ideas differed from His own?  No.  Jesus loved people and drew moral lines.  He did both at the same time. We all need to follow His example.

Recalling the words of Archbishop Charles Chaput, “Tolerance is not a Christian virtue.  Charity, justice, mercy, prudence, honesty—these are Christian virtues.”

Facebook and Friendship—Real and Otherwise…

 

The issue of same-sex marriage has been heating up for some time in certain circles of the Catholic Church—not the least of which is the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

As a conservative, “professional Catholic,” and self-avowed “news junkie,” I have been following this issue, of course, with interest.  Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am one of the more impassioned Catholics they know.  I not only support the Church’s teachings, I am vocal in my support…very vocal.  I am not a shrinking violet with regard to my beliefs or opinions and everyone who knows me, knows that.

Up until June 26th; however, I had not said much about the same-sex marriage issue either in real life or on my social media outlets.  I’m not sure why, exactly.  Perhaps, it was because I find myself more impassioned about issues such as abortion and the inviolability of the right to life?  Maybe because I have gay friends—in real life, who are also friends of mine on Facebook—and I simply didn’t want them to perceive anything I stated as offensive or hurtful?  Maybe it was because I feel as though I am constantly engaged in a fight to defend my beliefs and just didn’t have the strength to take on one more fight.  Maybe it was because others were doing the heavy lifting on this issue for me?  Or, maybe, I was afraid…

Some of my “friends” on Facebook include people like Brian Brown.  Brian is the president of the National Organization for Marriage.  I met Brian earlier this year at the annual Catholic Leadership Conference in Charlotte, NC, where the “movers and shakers” in the world of Catholic communications come together and pow-wow.

Brian’s posts (and others with whom I am “friends” on Facebook) regarding the marriage issue have been spot-on with regard to the Church’s teachings on marriage.  None of them have been hostile.  None of them have been hateful.  However, I hadn’t reposted a single one prior to June 26th.

On June 26th, after the DOMA ruling was handed down, I began to “like” a few of the various posts that were popping up on my timeline from others who were posting regarding their disappointment, I “liked” the statement from Justice Antonin Scalia on the day’s ruling, and I shared the Archdiocese of St. Louis’ statement on the ruling.

I am embarrassed to say, that for all of my usual bravado regarding the Church and my support of Her, those were the first public shows of support for the same-sex marriage issue that I had expressed via social media.

I was visiting my sister and her family that week, and both she and I began to notice people who were both “friends” of ours on Facebook as well as friends in real life were dropping off of our friend list after we showed our commiseration with those who were feeling the same way about the ruling.

In response, I posted, “Wow. Voicing my beliefs today has resulted in some “unfriendings” here. As I’ve said numerous times, if my values/opinions cause you to “unfriend” me in virtual reality, we weren’t friends in actual reality.”  There were some great responses to that off the cuff remark.  There was also some silence, which, in a way, I also appreciated.

I’m not sure at what point in our culture having differing opinions, beliefs, or ideas immediately resulted in the label of “bigot,” “hate-monger,” or “intolerance.”  I do notice of late that all of those monikers are being applied to the Catholic Church and Her teachings—on just about everything.  I’m not surprised that we who hold to the Church’s teachings are being tagged as hateful religious zealots.  It’s always been that way and will, I fear, only get worse for us.  What does surprise me; however, is the vitriol being spewed by people who have called themselves my friend…just because I am “different.”

It’s okay though.  Again, to quote Archbishop Chaput, “We are Catholics before we are Americans.”  I would add that I am a Catholic before I am anything else.   This small experience has taught me something for which I am grateful—never again will I feel pressured to remain quiet about any issue that flies in the face of those teachings and traditions for which others have fought, for which others have died, and which I hold so dear.  I will not rely on others to carry the banner for me.  I will not let fatigue silence me.  I will not.  I cannot.

To paraphrase my favorite saint, Joan of Arc, as she was leaving Vaucouleurs to begin her mission to save France, “I am not afraid, for God is with me. I was born for this!”

joan-arc-03

*For a series of brochures on Same-Sex Marriage that includes content found here, please contact the Archdiocese of St. Louis Office of Marriage and Family Life at 314.792.7180.

MARCH FOR LIFE 2013: A REFLECTION

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The following is a reflection I wrote on the D.C. Metro after marching in the 2013 March For Life.

I’ve never seen anything like this. 500,000 (or MORE) human beings in the snow, bitter cold, etc. No one was fussy. No one was rude. No one was out of control. There was singing. Praying. Crying. Story telling. Prayerful silence.

FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND PEOPLE!!! THINK ABOUT THAT!!!! All united against against an evil that has been accepted as a norm, as a right of our society. Keep in mind, MANY of these people have come from far parts of the country, driven all night long, got off a bus and stepped out into the cold Washington DC morning and spent the day in public opposition of this horror, this enormity that has brutally taken the lives of so, so many.

Not a single news van in sight.

I was thinking this morning during Mass, that I don’t know if we who know right from wrong, moral from immoral, just from unjust, and infanticide as infanticide will ever actually see this law overturned because of anything we have done–evil, and evil of this size, is, perhaps, only really God-sized. Maybe all we’re really meant to do, the purpose we’re meant to serve, is to give a voice to those from whom a voice has been snatched. Maybe we’re just meant to be seen. Maybe we’re just meant to be that mirror that is held up to the world to reflect the evil that has been allowed to take hold. Whatever we are–I will go to my grave bring thankful I had the opportunity today to stand shoulder to shoulder with the 499,000 others who were with me.

The O Antiphons of Advent and Gaudete

Originally published: December 17, 2012

I think I’m finally getting Advent right this year.

O.png

Ask anyone who knows me, and they’ll attest to the fact that the two seasons of the Church calendar I love the most are Lent (and the Triduum) and Advent.  I love these two seasons, not only because I love the particular treatment of them by the Church, or because I believe some of the better sacred music is tied to them, but because they provide us with a real and significant period of time in which to consider the gravity and magnitude of the events up to which they are leading and for which we should be preparing ourselves and because we, as the Church, have been marking these periods of time, in one way or another, since the moment Christ was no longer with us on earth and we began looking toward and longing for the day when He will return to us.

December 17th marks the beginning of the O Antiphons of Advent. For most people, the only contact they have with these particular antiphons is the carol, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” and while it’s a pretty song and it covers the gist of the antiphons, I think it’s important that we as Catholics, as Christians, have a working knowledge of these antiphons.

The USCCB website provides a nice description of the O Antiphons:

The Roman Church has been singing the “O” Antiphons since at least the eighth century.  They are the antiphons that accompany the Magnificat canticle of Evening Prayer from December 17-23.  They are a magnificent theology that uses ancient biblical imagery drawn from the messianic hopes of the Old Testament to proclaim the coming Christ as the fulfillment not only of Old Testament hopes, but present ones as well.  Their repeated use of the imperative “Come!” embodies the longing of all for the Divine Messiah.

According to Fr. William Saunders in his article, “What Are the ‘O Antiphons’?”:

“The importance of “O Antiphons” is twofold: Each one highlights a title for the Messiah: O Sapientia (O Wisdom), O Adonai (O Lord), O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse), O Clavis David (O Key of David), O Oriens (O Rising Sun), O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations), and O Emmanuel. Also, each one refers to the prophecy of Isaiah of the coming of the Messiah. Let’s now look at each antiphon with just a sample of Isaiah’s related prophecies:

December 17: O Sapientia: “O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation.” Isaiah had prophesied, “The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord.” (11:2-3), and “Wonderful is His counsel and great is His wisdom.” (28:29).

December 18: O Adonai: “O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.” Isaiah had prophesied, “But He shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land’s afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.” (11:4-5); and “Indeed the Lord will be there with us, majestic; yes the Lord our judge, the Lord our lawgiver, the Lord our king, he it is who will save us.” (33:22).

December 19: O Radix Jesse: “O Flower of Jesse’s stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.” Isaiah had prophesied, “But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.” (11:1), and on that day, the root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, the Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious.” (11:10). Remember also that Jesse was the father of King David, and Micah had prophesied that the Messiah would be of the house and lineage of David and be born in David’s city, Bethlehem (Micah 5:1).

December 20: O Clavis David: “O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of Heaven: Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.” Isaiah had prophesied, I will place the Key of the House of David on His shoulder; when he opens, no one will shut, when he shuts, no one will open.” (22:22), and “His dominion is vast and forever peaceful, from David’s throne, and over His kingdom, which he confirms and sustains by judgment and justice, both now and forever.” (9:6).

December 21: O Oriens: “O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.” Isaiah had prophesied, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shown.” (9:1).

December 22: O Rex Gentium: “O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.” Isaiah had prophesied, “For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.” (9:5), and “He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.” (2:4).

December 23: O Emmanuel: “O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people, come and set us free, Lord our God.” Isaiah had prophesied, “The Lord himself will give you this sign: the Virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel’.”

According to Professor Robert Greenberg of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, the Benedictine monks arranged these antiphons with a definite purpose. If one starts with the last title and takes the first letter of each one – Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia – the Latin words ero cras are formed, meaning, “Tomorrow, I will come.” Therefore, the Lord Jesus, whose coming we have prepared for in Advent and whom we have addressed in these seven Messianic titles, now speaks to us, “Tomorrow, I will come.” So the “O Antiphons” not only bring intensity to our Advent preparation, but bring it to a joyful conclusion.

I have always loved the O Antiphons.  They are beautiful, they are a magnificent theology (lesson), and, to some degree, they are mournful as they recall the darkness in which mankind was shrouded prior to the arrival of Christ.  It’s the comparison to that darkness in which man lived that makes the contrasting light of Christ’s arrival an even more awesome and joyous event.  The antiphons remind us of our roots as a people of faith and they give us the hope and joy of the coming of Christ.

By the end of the antiphons, we are told to “REJOICE! REJOICE!” For the last week or so, I have had the Christmas carol, Gaudete stuck in my head.  I have a sneaking suspicion that this is not happening to too many other people.  If you’re not familiar with the carol, I highly recommend you have a listen here, as it is sung by the group, Mediæval Bæbes.

Gaudete (“rejoice” in Latin) is a sacred Christmas carol, thought to be from the 16th century, but might be even older. (*Interesting piece of Christmas music trivia: the first specifically Christmas hymns for Christians that we know of appear in fourth century Rome.)

The particular line I’ve had stuck is the refrain, “Gaudete, gaudete! Christus est natus Ex Maria virgine, gaudete!”

The full text of this carol is:

 

Latin English
Gaudete, gaudete! Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete!
Rejoice, rejoice! Christ is born
(Out) Of the Virgin Mary — rejoice!
Tempus adest gratiæ
Hoc quod optabamus,
Carmina lætitiæ
Devote reddamus.
The time of grace has come—
what we have wished for,
songs of joy
Let us give back faithfully.
Deus homo factus est
Natura mirante,
Mundus renovatus est
A Christo regnante.
God has become man,
To the wonderment of Nature,
The world has been renewed
By the reigning Christ.
Ezechielis porta
Clausa pertransitur,
Unde lux est orta
Salus invenitur.
The closed gate of Ezekiel
Is passed through,
Whence the light is born,
Salvation is found.
Ergo nostra contio
Psallat iam in lustro;
Benedicat Domino:
Salus Regi nostro.
Therefore let our gathering
Now sing in brightness
Let it give praise to the Lord:
Greeting to our King.

I’m thankful for two things regarding this seasonal earworm, 1. That the song stuck in my head is more respectable than, “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” and 2. That the line I have stuck is the one that repeats the idea of “Rejoice! Rejoice! Rejoice!”

From the moment our first parents ate that forbidden fruit, mankind longed for the arrival of the savior of the world.  Not only did He come, but He came and established Holy Mother Church so that each of us might find the means for the eternal salvation of our souls!  If there is any better reason for us to rejoice, I can’t bring it to mind.

So, for me, between the O Antiphons and Gaudete, I have been duly reminded of the importance of this season of Advent.  I have been reminded that I, a poor, wretched sinner, must make ready my mind, body, and soul before I can truly open my door to the Christ child.  I have been reminded that I need to make use of this time–this quiet, reflective, preparatory time, to make ready anything that is unbefitting the arrival of the Lord.

I recently heard someone say that if you’re tired of Christmas by December 24th, then you’re doing Advent wrong.

I think I’m finally getting Advent right this year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now Is the Time for All Good Men to Come To the Aid of Their Country

Originally published: September 27, 2012

fd1f839e82937bc1f51dbe0380bdb794Given my age, I will admit it is surprising I’m aware of the titular phrase I’ve used for this blog entry.  You see, the phrase, “Now Is the Time…” was once a typing drill taught by a teacher named Charles E. Weller (I really have no idea why I know the teacher’s name, but those who know me will vouch for the fact that I have millions of generally useless tidbits careening around in my brain.)  Mr. Weller used that particular phrase because it exactly fills out a 70-space line if you put a period at the end.  My use of the phrase is surprising though, because—I’ve never used a typewriter.  I have no idea of the relevance of a 70-space line.  I could no more set the tabs on a manual typewriter than rebuild a car engine, and yet, as an English major and communications professional, my entire academic and professional careers have both necessitated my ability to type—and to type well.  The thing is, my parents taught me the phrase, “Now Is the Time…” as a kid and today as a 38-year-old woman, it sticks with me still.

There are other things, of course, that my parents taught me that have stuck with me that are, perhaps, a bit more useful in my day-to-day life as a productive, responsible adult.  (I’m sure they’ll be happy to read that.)  Nothing they taught me, however, has proven more useful, more meaningful, more encouraging, and more important than what they taught me about my Catholic faith.

As a child of the 1980s, I am smack-dab in the middle of a generation of Catholics that, in my opinion, was provided with what I would describe as “less than robust” Catechesis in school.  My parents, understanding the importance of sending me to a Catholic school did so and, in their wisdom and with their responsibility as my Catholic parents who were passing along the faith to their children, took it upon themselves to see to it that my sister and I were both given what I would describe as a “particularly robust” amount of Catechesis in our home.

What is more, all matters of discussion were always on the table at my house growing up, and my sister and I were encouraged to participate in the many discussions around the kitchen table.  We grew up understanding politics, history, religion, and what my parents knew and thought about such topics.  We were always encouraged to read and learn as much as we could so that, as we grew into adults, we would be able to intellectually form our own opinions on matters that would be facing us.

I remember my dad relaying a story to us that included the notion that, no matter how bad things got in the world, no matter how confusing society and culture became, if we wanted the truth—we should “look to Rome.”  Of course, what he meant by this was that the Church would always point us in the right direction, regardless of what was coming at us from the rest of the world.

Here we are, now, in 2012, facing an issue that none of us, I think, ever thought we would have to face.  We are facing the issue of having to defend our right to religious liberty as Catholic, Christian Americans.  Despite how the media portrays the issue, despite what our friends, family or co-workers might think about this issue, despite what the culture at large would have us believe, the fact of the matter is—one of our most basic rights is being trampled upon.

I look at some of my fellow citizens—and even some of my fellow Catholics—and I am amazed that they seem to truly not understand the gravity of issue that is facing us and what is at stake.  Well, either they don’t understand, or they don’t care.  It’s easy to be apathetic about something you either don’t understand or about which you know nothing.

We are quickly approaching the start of the Year of Faith.  During that Year of Faith, the Holy Father has called upon us as Roman Catholics to both evangelize and catechize.  My only concern is that we are, perhaps, entering into this time of evangelization and catechesis a bit too late to make any real difference as far as our lives as Catholic Americans are concerned.

Irish philosopher, Edmund Burke once wrote, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”  Thankfully, my parents, and other parents of their ilk, did do something.  They provided us, their children, with an understanding of our history as Americans, the knowledge of what it means to be a faithful Catholic, and how, as an American Catholic one must always understand the issues and our responsibility as faithful, Catholic, American citizens to defend and uphold our beliefs.  Some issues of faith are non-negotiable and it is our responsibility as Catholics to not only know what they are but to defend them accordingly.

So, Mr. Weller’s typing exercise seems to have more importance to me now than just as a useless piece of trivia.  Now IS the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country, I just hope there are enough of them out there who truly understand what is at stake and who, at this critical and pivotal moment in our history as a country, are willing to do what is necessary to prevent the triumph of evil.

Think of What Saint Paul Could Have Accomplished If Only He’d Had a Twitter Account…

Originally published: July 3, 2012

Let’s begin with a brief—and not entirely

Apostle_Paul_Orthodox_Icon_2__27523.1409677466.1000.1200_large

accurate—history of communications in the Church…  We start with God touching the finger of Adam, we move on to a talking burning bush, then there’s Charlton Heston receiving the Ten Commandments (I told you, not entirely accurate), fast forward to an angel visiting Mary, then a star over the manger, the Sermon on the Mount, then we have a crudely formed fish drawn to identify one as a Christian, there’s the monks and their illuminated manuscripts, Papal bulls and encyclicals, the St. Louis Review, “Radio Replies” with Blessed Fulton Sheen, EWTN and Mother Angelica, and Pope Benedict XVI sending his first Tweet from an iPad.

Amazing what we’ve accomplished in several thousand years…

At the center and the heart of it all has been man’s need to communicate with God and about God.  Unfortunately for us, we live in a postlapsarian (that is, after the fall of mankind) world, and because of that fall, everything is tainted—including language.  So, we who are broken have attempted for millennia to communicate about that which is perfect—God—using language, intellect, and methods that are all tainted because of our fall into original sin…  A less resilient creature might throw up its hands and give up such a Sisyphean (look it up) task—but not man.

In 2010, at the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council of Culture, Pope Benedict XVI talked about what is offered to us in the new forms of communications and technology.  In his address, the Holy Father stated, “The problems seem sometimes to grow when the Church addresses men and women who are distant from or indifferent to an experience of faith, whom the evangelical message reaches in a way that has little effectiveness or attractiveness.”

So, in this age of unbridled secularism, what does that mean for those of us—and as Christians, that means each of us—who attempt to share the message of God’s love?  Are we just wasting our time?

Think of the early fathers of the Church, the first evangelists, and consider what they were able to accomplish with the tools they had at their disposal—they had their sandals, their voice, and the Gospel.

Now consider what is available to us, the new evangelists, and how or if we are using these tools to the best of their, and our, ability.  We have Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, and blogs; we can communicate in real time with someone on the other side of the planet and what do we see these miraculous and amazing tools being used for—sending photos of cats with helmets made of limes and videos of dogs with voiceovers by their owners.  It often makes me wonder if God looks at us and says aloud, “Really?”

Though the tools we have available to us are something the likes of which St. Paul couldn’t have imagined, we share with him two things: that undying need to share the love of God and the Gospel.  The Holy Father reminded us in 2010 that, “In the technological culture of today, the Gospel is the guide and the permanent paradigm of inculturation, purifying, healing and elevating the better elements of the new languages and new forms of communication.”  We simply must rely on the Word of God to be our guide.

Remember, the first evangelists were successful in spreading the Word of God because of their faith, their courage, and their perseverance. We have available to us all we need to be successful evangelists—but we need to act on the hackneyed adage we’ve all heard and “walk the walk as well as talking the talk.”  Again the Holy Father tells us, “We need men and women who speak with their lives, who know how to communicate the Gospel, with clarity and courage, with the transparency of their actions, with the passionate joy of charity.”

So, in this, our current age of evangelization, I say to you, “Become as St. Paul!  Take your tweets, status updates, and posts, root them in the truth of the Gospel, strap on your sandals, go bravely out into the world, and spread the Good News!”