He is Risen!

IMG_4015He is not here, for He has risen.  Come and see the place where He lay.   Matthew 28:6

Happy Easter!

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Highlights of our 12 Church Good Friday Drive/Walk

IMG_4009 IMG_3957  IMG_4016

IMG_3941 IMG_3962 IMG_3955 IMG_4008 IMG_3965  IMG_3938   IMG_4010  IMG_3967 IMG_3980   IMG_4012 IMG_4004                          IMG_3996  IMG_4013 IMG_3940    IMG_3980  IMG_4018       IMG_3978

My sweet baby boy closely examining the wounds in Jesus’ feet.  This statue of Jesus’ corpse is in the back of St. Alphonsus church has been recently (beautifully) restored.

IMG_3971 IMG_3961 IMG_3975 IMG_3972We are so blessed in the city of New Orleans to have so many beautiful churches!  They made for a wonderful Good Friday Pilgrimage!

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The Gift of the Holy Priesthood

Please read my latest post at NOLA Catholic Experience.  Thanks!

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Why do Catholic’s do that?

UnknownToday, I thought I’d address some things that Catholics do that may perplex people of other faiths.  For example, Why do Catholics make the sign of the cross to start and end a prayer? 

“In the Sign of the Cross, we profess the deepest mysteries of the Christian Faith: the Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – and the saving work of Christ on the Cross. The combination of the words and the action are a creed – a statement of belief.”  (catholicism.about.com)     Making the sign of the cross is a witness to our faith in the Trinity and in our redemption by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.  The sign of the cross can also be a prayer in and of itself.

Why do Catholic’s make the sign of the cross when passing a Catholic church/chapel?  We do so as a sign of reverence to the Blessed Sacrament inside the Church.  We believe that Jesus’ body is really, physically present in the tabernacle (gold box) on the altar.   I’ll address this separately in my next post.

Why do Catholics sit, stand and kneel over and over again in church?

I think that you will enjoy this video explanation.  It’s clever, informative and brief!  With regard to why we stand for the gospel reading, I was also taught that standing is a posture of action – being poised to act.  In the great commission (Matthew 28), Jesus tells the apostles to go and make disciples of all the nations… By virtue of our baptism, we are called to do the same.  We stand for the gospel poised for action – to go and share the good news!

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They have 6 kids – They must be “good Catholics.”

They have 6 kids – They must be “good Catholics…”  (snicker)  It really bugs me when people pass judgement on couples who have big families.  Who says that 2 children is the perfect number?  Who says one must have a boy and a girl to have the perfect family?

It is widely known that the Catholic Church teaches that any artificial means of birth control is not a good and moral choice for couples.  It shuts God out of the bedroom.  It says, “I trust you, God, to provide for my family, to watch over my children, with my eternal salvation…but NOT with my fertility.”

This is an excerpt from an apologetics article on http://www.catholic.com:

“Christians have always condemned contraceptive sex. Both forms mentioned in the Bible, coitus interruptus and sterilization, are condemned without exception (Gen. 38:9–10, Deut. 23:1). The early Fathers recognized that the purpose of sexual intercourse in natural law is procreation; contraceptive sex, which deliberately blocks that purpose, is a violation of natural law.

Every church in Christendom condemned contraception until 1930, when, at its decennial Lambeth Conference, Anglicanism gave permission for the use of contraception in a few cases.”

People often assume that some Catholic families have big families because they obey the pope and do not use birth control.   I would like to suggest that couples who put Christ at the center of their marriage, trusting God in all areas of their lives (including fertility) loving give their family planning over to God.  In some cases, this produces large families.  In others, it does not.  My husband and I have used it for the past 16 years, and have only had one (planned) pregnancy since then.  We have been married for nearly 25 years and have had 3 children (and one miscarried baby).

The Catholic Church teaches that Natural family planning – reading the signs of a woman’s fertility cycle including  temperature and cervical mucus – is an acceptable way to space children if there is a good, serious reason to do so.  A couple’s motivation for putting off pregnancy is something to be prayed about – something between them and God.  Sometimes there may be medical, mental or financial reasons to delay conception.  This does not mean avoiding pregnancy to keep a certain (high or even middle class) standard of living.

Natural family planning  is exactly as it sounds – natural.  It works in harmony with the beautiful way that God created a woman’s body – not against it.  It is just as effective as the birth control pill when used consistently and properly.

Think about this – in marriage, we give ourselves totally to our spouse.  If we contracept with artificial means – like a spermicide, we kill the sperm that came from our husband.   If we use a barrier method, our action says, ” I take all of you except your life-giving DNA.”  If we use birth control pills, patches or injections, we alter our own hormonal balance as women.  A woman gains weight because her body is tricked into thinking that it is in a constant state of pregnancy.  There is a risk of developing blood clots or cancer.  The worst consequence however, is that hormonal birth control acts as an abortifacient.  It makes the lining of the uterus hostile to implantation of the embryo.  A baby may be conceived, but unable to implant in the uterus to be nourished.  The result is the death of the embryo – a tiny human being already infused with a soul at the moment of conception.

Women think that they have been made “free” – sexually liberated with the invention of birth control.  Sadly, this could not be farther from the truth.  With the “risk” of pregnancy greatly diminished by artificial birth control methods, it has taken away responsibility and respect.  Women (and men!) are often seen simply as objects of pleasure rather than “the mother/father of my future children.”

“The consequences have been devastating in terms of skyrocketing marital infidelity and divorce.  Pope Paul VI’s predictions that an increase in contraceptive use would lead to men regarding women as objects of desire and would allow governments to wield technological and economic power in population-reduction programs have been overwhelmingly fulfilled.”  (onemoresoul.com)

NFP does involve the virtues of patience and temperance.  Couples who wish to avoid pregnancy must abstain from intercourse for a time.  It involves selflessness – putting another’s well-being before your own.  Isn’t that the kind of love we want in marriage?

My husband and I began our marriage contracepting, because we (mistakenly) thought that it was the responsible thing to do.  The world today scares us into believing the lies of overpopulation, and our right to luxury.  I feel so good about our switch to NFP.  I learned that God can be trusted with all the details of our lives – including our fertility!

 

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Why Do Catholics Pray to Saints?

UnknownI typed that question to get your attention.  We don’t actually pray to saints – we ask their intercession.  “Ah, but there is but one mediator between God and man, and that is Jesus,” you might say. (1 Timothy 2: 5-6)  You would be correct!  Jesus’ death on the cross was expiation for our sin.  “Expiation” means the healing of a broken relationship.  Without Christ’s mediation/interceding for us, there would be no expiation.  We would be unable to enter the kingdom of heaven.

Catholics consider the saints in heaven to be part of our big family, the Church.  There is the church militant – those of us on earth, the church suffering – those in purgatory, and the church triumphant – those who have made it to heaven.  Just as we would not hesitate to ask a friend here on earth to pray for us for a particular need, we don’t hesitate to ask our friends in purgatory or in heaven to pray for us either.

There are books and websites that help us to become familiar with the saints.  AmericanCatholic.org (Saint of the Day) is a good one.  I believe that there is an APP for iPhones as well.

Saints are recognized in the Church as role models – people who have traveled this earthly journey before us, and who have triumphed because of their great faith in Jesus.  I have many favorite saints, but my “go to guys”  for prayers are:  St. Anthony, Padre Pio, St. Therese’ and St. Theresa of Avila.  Of course, I ask Mary’s prayers daily, and often call upon the saints for whom my children were named to petition God to keep them on the right path – close to His heart!

Why not go directly to God, you might ask?  I do!  Quite often, I begin my prayers with “Dear God, or Dear Heavenly Father.”  I also often end with “In Jesus Name we pray.” (John 14:13-14)  I love the Lord’s prayer that Jesus taught us in Matthew Chapter 6. Do you notice that Jesus does not end that prayer “in Jesus name” or “in My name?”  Just thinking out loud.

My mother taught me to pray from the heart, and for that, I am so grateful. I think that there is a place for many forms of prayer – rote, heartfelt, meditation, song, etc. To help my students (who sometimes come to me only comfortable with memorized prayers), I teach them the ACTS acronym  – Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving and Supplication.  This helps them to make a well-rounded prayer from the heart when they are at a loss for words.

Speaking of that, I love the Christian Song, Just Say Jesus.  “…When you don’t know what to say, just say Jesus.  There is power in the name, the name of Jesus…”  You can listen to it here.  Sometimes, just saying Jesus’ beautiful name in reverence is all that is needed!

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Purgatory – Where is that in the Bible?

One of the things that differs between Catholics and other Christians is our belief in purgatory.  If you were to challenge a Catholic and say that purgatory is not in the bible, you would be partially correct.  The word “purgatory” is not found anywhere in there.  The concept of a place where one goes to be purified, however, is evident. The word “Trinity” is not in the bible, but most Christians agree upon the existence of one God in three divine persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

One of the most striking references to a “cleansing place” is in 2 Maccabees 12:43-45

” He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection.  For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead.  But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.”

During the Reformation, Martin Luther removed certain books and parts of books from his bible.   II Maccabees was one of those books he removed.  Regardless of whether Martin believed this book to be inspired, it does tell us about the practice of God’s people in Old Testament times.   They prayed for the dead.

In the New Testament, (Matthew 12:31-32) Jesus says that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, “will not be forgiven either in this age, or in the age to come.”  This implies that there are some sins that can be forgiven in the world to come.  In heaven, there is no more need of forgiveness, and in hell, there is no hope of forgiveness.

Catholics believe that once you’ve made it to purgatory, you are indeed “saved.”  We see it as being similar to a car wash for the soul.  It’s like a waiting room – and heaven is just on the other side of the door. A person in purgatory cannot “slip down” into hell.   Once the person has been made clean and has atoned for sin, he/she will rise to heaven to be with God for all eternity.  We believe that by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we have been redeemed.  Our sins are forgiven if we truly have a repentant heart, (and confess the big ones – that’s another post!!) however the consequences of sin remain.   That stain of sin is what is removed in purgatory as “nothing unclean will enter it.” (Revelation 21:27)

Think about it this way.  God is our Father.  What does a dad do when his son  asks for forgiveness for wrecking his dad’s car?  A good dad forgives his son because he loves him.  However, there are still consequences for the wreck.  The Father may have the son work to pay for repairs.  We believe that this is kind of how purgatory works.

The most fascinating thing I’ve heard on the subject of purgatory is the testimony Sondra Abrahams, a woman from Lake Charles, Louisiana who died in a hospital over thirty years ago, and was brought back to life by ER doctors.  She tells of her death experience and of talking to Jesus (like the little boy in Heaven is for Real!).  I’ve posted this before, but I’ll do it again in case you haven’t seen it.  If you just want to hear about purgatory, and not Sondra’s entire testimony, you can fast forward to 18:30.

Two interesting books on the subject are: “Get Us Out of Here,” and “The Mist of Mercy.”

I’ll admit that I have thought to myself, “What if there is no purgatory?”     Wouldn’t that be an ironic turn of events?  I figure that I’ll plan for it for myself,  and pray for those who might be there longing to get to heaven just in case.  For me, I suppose, it comes down to Church teaching.  I believe in the infallibility of the pope in matters of morals and Church teaching.  If he says it’s so, that’s good enough for me!  I’ll address that topic another time.

 

 

 

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Reflection on the Gospel for Sunday, March 30, 2014

Readings for Sunday, March 30

I  think that today’s gospel about the healing of the blind man is more about spiritual healing than about physical healing – at least as it applies to us, the modern-day readers.  Our world is in desperate need of spiritual healing.  People are looking for truth, love and happiness in all the wrong places.  Today’s gospel reading shows us the love and mercy of Jesus – it paints a very loving, empathetic picture of our God.  If only the world would come to believe and to trust in the one Healer.

I also thought of how we spend very little time thinking about our sinfulness.  We tend to think, “Hey, I don’t break any of the commandments, therefore I must be doing well.”  Some don’t even reflect that far.  Everything has become o.k. “as long as you’re not hurting anyone.”  As the body of Christ – His adopted children – when one part of the body hurts, we all suffer.  It would do us good to spend a bit of time meditating on the passion of Christ – how he suffered terribly for our sin.  Each time we sin, it’s like driving the nail into His tender hands.

This is an examination of conscience that I’ve used with my teens, based on the ten commandments.  Each is significantly more far-reaching than would originally appear:

  1. I am the Lord Your God. You shall not have any other gods besides me.

_____Do you put God first in your life? Do you love anyone or anything                                                 more than you love God?

_____Are you ever indifferent or lukewarm about your faith?                                                 _____Are you ever ungrateful for the gifts God has given you?

_____Do you make time for prayers everyday, a few times a day?

_____Do you show respect for the sacraments, and prepare yourself                                                 properly to receive Holy Communion?

_____Do you put God and church activities before social activities,                                                 parties, sports practices, etc.?

_____Do you idolize movie/rock stars/musicians?

_____Do you participate in superstitions and believe them?

_____ Do you play Ouija board, participate in séances, visit palm

readers or fortune tellers?

  1. Thou shall not take the name of the Lord in vain.

_____Do you use God’s name casually or in vain – not in prayer

or in praise? (Jesus’ name?)

_____Do you watch movies/plays/read books that use God’s name

in vain? (Jesus’ name?)

_____Have you swore, cursed or used crude/profane language?

_____Have you called anyone an unkind name?

  1. Keep holy the Sabbath.

                        _____ Do you attend mass on Sundays/the Saturday vigil?

_____Do you say negative things about the Church/your church,

your priests? Do you pray for them?

_____ Do you fast one hour before receiving Holy Communion?

_____Do you participate as best as you can in mass?

_____Do you try to avoid unnecessary work/shopping on the Sabbath?

  1. Honor thy Father and Mother.

_____Do you disrespect your parents/teachers/grandparents/people

in authority in your life?

_____Do you ignore your parents or grumble when they ask you to do

something?

_____Do you say negative things about your parents?

_____Do you try to be of help to them?

_____Do you pray for them?

  1. Thou shall not kill.

_____Do you ever wish that something bad would happen to someone?

_____Do you hate or despise anyone?

_____Do you tease/fight with others?

_____Have you intentionally hurt another physically/mentally                                                             (feelings)?

_____Do you take care of your body?

_____Do you pray for the unborn/the dead/the elderly? (respect for                                                 life)

  1. Thou shall not commit adultery.

            _____ Do you show respect for members of the opposite sex as                               being persons with equal dignity?

            _____Do you hang posters of immodestly dressed “stars” on your walls?

            _____Do you dress modestly?

            _____Do you listen to or tell suggestive jokes/stories?

  1. Thou shall not steal.

_____ Have you copied another’s homework/test answer?

_____Have you wasted time that you were supposed to be doing

a job, chore or homework?

_____Have you taken something from a store without paying?

_____Have you borrowed something, broken it and not replaced it?

_____Do you try to return lost things to their rightful owners?

_____If you receive allowance, do you give part of it to church, to the

poor box or to a charity?

_____Have you read someone’s diary or private writing without his/her                                                permission?

  1. Though shall not bear false witness against they neighbor.

_____Have you spread gossip about another person?

_____Have you listened to gossip without standing up for that person?

(the subject of the gossip)

_____ Do you judge other people by their physical appearances?

_____Do you assume things (the worst) about other people without                         knowing for sure?

_____Have you held a grudge against someone who has hurt you                         without trying to forgive?

_____Have you lied?

_____Have you exaggerated a story to make it more interesting?

_____Have you bragged about something to make others feel inferior?

IX.     Thou shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.

X.     Thou shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor.

            _____Are you jealous of anyone?

            _____Do you envy another’s possessions, gifts, talents, beauty, etc?

            _____Do you manipulate people to get something you want?

_____Are you content with the gifts God has given you, or do you                         always want more/better?

_____Do you give of your time and talent to help others?

 

 

To summarize: Ask yourself – How have you acted Christ-like? How have you failed to act as Christ would act in any given situation?

The great news is that there is spiritual healing for us.  Through reconciliation, we can live in the grace of God once again.

As we enter the final few weeks of lent, let us not only remember what we “gave up,”  but let us seek God’s healing in our lives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Why Are Catholic Bibles Longer that Other Christian Versions?

You may or may not know that Catholic bibles are slightly longer than other Christian bibles.  The Catholic Old Testament has 46 books in comparison to 39 in Protestant bibles. Both of our New Testaments contain 27 books.  How did this happen?  Do you know why it is so?

In about 367 AD, St. Athanasius came up with a list of 73 books for the Bible that he believed to be Divinely inspired. This list was approved by Pope Damasus I years later in 382 AD.  During the reformation, Martin Luther ( a former Catholic Augustinian monk) removed 7 books that did not agree with his personal theology or beliefs.

Basically, to simplify greatly, The Catholic Church accepts the divinely inspired scriptures written in the Greek and in Hebrew.  Protestants accept what was written in Hebrew only.  Have you ever heard of “The Septuagint?”  It was a Greek translation by translators of the Hebrew Word. The Septuagint includes the disputed 7 books that Protestants do not recognize as scriptural.

It’s interesting that in the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the books of Tobit and Sirach were found, ( 2 of the disputed books not accepted by Protestants)  The people back then must have thought them to be Divinely inspired, because they were found with the book of Isaiah and other Old Testament books.

This will be important to understand when I make my post tomorrow about purgatory.  Stay tuned.

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A Subtle Grace – Great Reading!

2226I have a friend in Canada who writes great fiction.  Ellen is particularly gifted at writing Catholic, historical ROMANTIC fiction!  If you are looking for a compelling Spring read, you should order her book!  Her long-awaited sequel to  In Name Only is now available on Amazon Kindle at this link:

http://www.amazon.com/Subtle-Grace-ODonovan-Family ebook/dp/B00J3XMWP6/

A Subtle Grace takes place in 1896, Philadelphia.  It is the continuation of the story of the wealthy and unconventional O’Donovan family as they approach the dawn of the new century.

At 19, Kathleen (the oldest daughter) is unmarried with no prospects. Fearing the lonely fate of an old maid, her impatience leads to an infatuation with the first man who shows interest. The suave, handsome son of the local police chief seems a perfect match. But will her impulsive manner prevent her from recognizing her true beloved? A disturbing turn of events brings a dark shadow that threatens the life-long happiness she desires.

Dr. Luke Peterson (the family’s new doctor) also makes quite an impression on Kathleen.  His affection for her leads him to startling revelations about Kathleen, about his practice, and most importantly about himself.

Will (the oldest son) believes that God may be calling him to a religious vocation.  Eventually, he discovers the hidden circumstances of his humble beginnings compelling him to embark on a pilgrimage to Rome.

This is definitely a book that you will not be able to put down!  If you haven’t read In Name Only, I highly recommend it, however, A Subtle Grace can be read and enjoyed solo – on its own merit as well.  As soon as the print version becomes available, I will post that link for you.

Here’s a brief biography of Ellen:

AUTHOR BIO: Ellen Gable (Hrkach) is a bestselling, award-winning author of five books. She is also a freelance writer, publisher, editor, book coach, NFP teacher and President of Catholic Writers Guild. When she’s not writing, Ellen enjoys spending time with her family, watching old movies, playing trivia games and reading on her Kindle. Originally born in New Jersey, USA, the author now calls Canada her home. She and her family reside in rural Pakenham, Ontario, Canada.

Amazon Author Page:http://www.amazon.com/Ellen-Gable/e/B002LFMXOI/

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