Dynamic Catholic

DCHoliness

I’d like to recommend a source of encouragement during Lent.  It’s Dynamic Catholic’s Best Lent Ever series.  Matthew Kelly is a transplanted Australian who writes and encourages people to be “the best version of yourself;” the person God created you to be.  His series for Lent comes via e-mail and is usually a thoughtful quote or a short video.  Check it out!  You’ll be glad you did!

Embracing Change

Embrace Change

How are you doing with your New Year’s resolutions?  Did you make any?  Perhaps, like me, you lost the fascination with resolution-making a long time ago when the sense of failure began before the end of December 31st.  Perhaps it’s because I’ve made so many plans in my life that have either not gone as I’d hoped or just simply failed that I tend to avoid making resolutions.  However, having a “try it and see how it goes” perspective doesn’t really work either if a person desires lasting change.  So, this year, I’ve decided to try something different:  I’m embracing change, one month at a time, without getting hung up on making The Great Plan That Cannot Be Changed.  Here’s how it works for me:

Each month I’m choosing one thing I’d like to see changed or at least improved and moving in the right direction.  Whether I tick it off at the end of the month as accomplished really isn’t of great concern to me.  And I’m also leaving open the option to change it if it seems there is opportunity for a better direction.  After all, with twelve months in a year, I can always move a project to another month.

For example, January was supposed to be the month I finally got my old books on ebay to sell.  I’ve been dragging my feet on that project for a long time because I’m intimidated by the process and the unknowns of it.  Well, I did watch the ebay instruction videos in January on how to do this, but I haven’t listed anything yet.  Why?  Because in January Emily decided she didn’t want the big roll-top desk in her room anymore.

I’ve been desperate for some kind of office space for a long time with no success in getting anything to work long-term.  Here was the perfect opportunity–a desk large enough to handle my needs, attractive enough to be in the living room (the only practical spot in the house for an office for me), and has a beautiful roll-top that can be shut at a moment’s notice to hide any paper mess that needs to be hidden!  (As opposed to my kitchen counter that usually had the mountain of paper on it.)  So, January turned into “make me an office” month rather than “list books on ebay month.”  And, in truth, that’s what I’ve needed most.  It’s incredible how much headache that desk has eliminated for me (and my counter!).  A good start for the year.

February’s project has been to eat more healthfully and tone down the sugar intake.  That’s a big one for me!  I have completely eliminated sugar before and ended up gaining ten pounds the moment I started eating it again, so I know radical change like that is a definite “no.”  Besides, when God created food He said it was good, so I’m not going to argue! :-)  My problem is eating too much and eating to relieve stress, so eating healthfully means choosing better foods, smaller portions, and knowing why I’m eating.  Has this been a resounding success yet?  Nope.  However, I have come to realize how attached to food I am and see more clearly what it is going to take for me to turn food back into a pleasure rather than an obsession.  So, February isn’t a fail, it’s part of a long journey of healing.  I want food to become to me what coffee and wine are:  A pleasure to be enjoyed without “having” to have it.

When I started the New Year and got to thinking about resolutions, the only thing that came to my mind was “embrace change.”  I realized that change is often assumed to be scary.  But, I’m ready for change.  Perhaps it’s being in mid-life or perhaps it’s simply realizing that there’s nothing dignified about never changing and acting as though the way I am now and have been is just fine.  Matthew Kelly of Dynamic Catholic encourages people to “become the best version of yourself,” the version God had in mind when He created me.  To become that requires change, and change can be an adventure rather than a scary proposition.  So, that’s where I am, embracing change; one month at a time.

Nativity and Epiphany

The_Magi_Henry_Siddons_Mowbray_1915

One of the things I love about being Catholic is the liturgical calendar. Liturgical seasons were something completely unknown to me before except as a vague notion that some churches had them.  In our church we celebrated Christmas and Easter (and very beautifully, I might add!), but there weren’t any other officially recognized days to be celebrated.  However, in the Catholic Church, there are oodles of feast days, fast days, solemnities, and reasons to be reminded of the life of Our Lord and why He came to earth as a very human baby.

This past Sunday we celebrated the solemnity of the Holy Family and as we heard part of the account of the birth of Christ, I pondered on something I don’t think many people have considered.  Who told the Four Evangelists about Bethlehem?  About the shepherds?  And angels?  Joseph’s dreams?  Today we celebrate Epiphany–the visit of the Three Wise Men to the newborn King.  Who told about it?  After all, God doesn’t use miracles when normal means are available.

Who told about Gabriel’s visit to Zechariah and to Mary?  About John the Baptist leaping in his mother’s womb?  Or about Simeon’s prophecy and Anna’s joy?  Or about Jesus disappearing for three days in Jerusalem at the age of 12?  Who related what actually happened at Cana?  Even though the disciples were there, that doesn’t mean they were in on the conversation between Jesus and Mary or knew what instructions He gave the servants.

Often objections to the beliefs and teachings about Mary are raised because she doesn’t have a prominent place in Scripture, but perhaps that’s because we’ve missed the obvious.  Scripture tells us that Mary treasured, or hid, these things in her heart.  She didn’t tell anybody at the time, she simply kept them to herself.

However, Mary knew and was known by the disciples while they traveled with Jesus.  Can’t you just hear them around the fire some night asking her for stories about Jesus?

“Mary, your turn, tell us a story!”

“Yes, tell us one on Jesus this time!”

Smiling, she might have looked at Jesus and said, “Well, there was the time He gave His father and I the scare of our lives!”

Jesus would have chuckled, looking at His mother with tender love, but also a little embarrassment at the scare He had unwittingly given them at the tender age of twelve.

“Tell on, Mother!  At least you can smile over it now!”

“Well, it was the time of Passover the year Jesus was twelve and we were all in Jerusalem…”

Did they tease Jesus a little for scaring His mother?  And what wonder they must have felt when she told His explanation for His absence.

Since today is Epiphany, I wonder what their reaction was when she told about the Magi’s visit, the dreams of warning given to them and to Joseph about Herod, and their flight into Egypt?  What was the sense in the atmosphere when they realized that Jesus was born in Bethlehem–the only man his age who was born there?  Remember, all other male children were killed by Herod.  There were no other Bethlehemite men Jesus’ age.  What a sobering connection for the disciples to make when they heard it.  At what point was Mary finally able to quietly tell the story, realizing that her Child alone lived while the others died.  She and Joseph didn’t know all of Herod’s plan; they only knew he would search for Jesus.  They couldn’t warn the others in town because they never imagined what Herod would do.  What horror did she feel when she heard of it?  Did she weep as she recounted the story?

When I read the scriptures, these are things I think about.  After all, Jesus was a real man who lived a real life in a real town with real human emotions, experiences, troubles, joys, etc.  Mary reminds us that this is the reality.  In fact, I believe God put her in the scriptures, in history, in our own lives to remind us that Jesus was not an abstract idea or glorified super-person in history, but a real Man, a real Savior.  He is fully God and fully Man–a real Man, with a mother whom He loved deeply and who He shares with all of us who call Him our brother.  And, like any good mother, Mary told the stories of the family’s history and memories.  Just because no one gave her credit for it shouldn’t bother us.  After all, the apostles never name themselves as the authors of their books either except in indirect ways.  None of them were in it for the glory or the publishing credit, but to bring the Gospel to every person in the world.

As we celebrate these feast days, remember that this is the reason the Church reminds us every year of the life of our Lord and why He came:  To continue to share the Gospel with every person who still needs to know that there’s a Savior, come from Heaven above, born of a virgin, raised by parents, who lived as a man, and who died to pay for our sins and conquer death by rising from it, so that Heaven’s doors could be opened to all who will believe.  Let’s share the story as Mary did.

Computers Are Like Men…

IMG_0611

you can’t live with them and you can’t live without them!

Ah, WordPress, I only want to upload a photo for my gravatar from iPhone.  Why must you be so difficult?  My hope is by using it in a post, I can upload it for my profiles photo.  And then I can take my daughter uptown to get the watch she’s wanting to buy and pestering me all morning to take her to get.  {{sigh…}}

The Limits of Authority

Infallible–what a word to strike fear into the hearts of those accustomed to putting their own convictions above everyone else’s!  How dare someone suggest that “an old man in Rome” could know better than myself how to live!  When I first heard of the “infallibility of the pope,” I cringed at such audacity.  To think that some man would say he had the final say on all things here on earth!  What arrogance!  However, this kind of reaction often comes when we fail to ask basic questions:  What is meant by infallibility?  How far does it extend?  Upon what basis is it claimed?

First, to be infallible does not mean that the Pope is sinless.  There are only four humans who were sinless and only two who remained so:  Adam and Eve, Jesus and Mary.  Adam and Eve disobeyed God and were the first humans to sin.  Jesus was without sin because He is the Second Person of the Trinity.  Mary was sinless by a one-time-only act of God by which she was preserved from all sin in anticipation of her Son’s sacrifice. (This was done for her because she was to be the mother of God, Jesus Christ.)  No pope, from the first, St. Peter, to the present, Pope Francis, has been sinless.  They have been and are, most assuredly, fully human and sinners redeemed by grace who still suffer concupiscence, the tendency to sin.

Second, infallibility is not the same thing as omniscience.  The pope doesn’t know everything.  Not only does he not know everything, he can be wrong about some things the same as anyone else can.   Just today I read an article by Fr. Z about Pope Francis being mistaken in his assessment on why the poor are not being fed in the world today (see article here).  And he certainly cannot predict the future.  Pope Francis had to await the outcome of the World Cup just like every other rabid soccer fan in the world!

Third, the pope’s infallibility doesn’t extend to every area of life.

So, if infallibility doesn’t make him sinless, all-knowing, or an expert in everything, then what is it?  Quite simply, the pope is infallible in matters of faith and morals.  That’s it.  However, considering the extent to which faith and morals affect life here on planet Earth, that’s a lot.

Most of the time the popes do not make infallible declarations on their own.  Usually, a pope consults extensively with his bishops and any experts in the field with which he is concerned.  However, even with all voices saying, “Yea,” the pope has been known to say, “Nay” and vice versa.

One of the best examples of this is the release of the encyclical Humanae Vitae by Pope Paul VI in 1968.  This declaration created shock waves throughout the Western world because everyone thought the Catholic Church’s ban on birth control was going to be lifted just as every other church had since 1930 (no church approved prior to that).  Many experts, theologians, and even bishops urged the pope to approve it and he was personally inclined to do so for some time.  However, after much prayer and study, when the time came to write the document, what he released was the opposite of what had been expected:  The pope reaffirmed what had been long-held, that artificial forms of birth control were immoral means to use in family planning.

The shockwaves and repercussions were huge!  Many Catholics simply revolted and used ABC anyway with their priests and bishops supporting their decisions, even suggesting it.  In Canada, the bishops came out with their own response of rebellion against this teaching (the Winnipeg Statement).  However, when reading the document today, the pope’s warning of consequences is almost eerie.  How could any man have predicted what he did so accurately?  The following paragraphs are from the document, which is worth reading in its entirety.  It’s not long or hard to understand (Humane Vitae).  (boldface mine)

17. Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.

Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone. It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife.

Also, since 1968, science and medicine have advanced dramatically and we now know what we didn’t then:  ABC works about a third of the time by preventing implantation, not through preventing conception.  Science has now proven that life does, indeed, begin at conception.  Divorce rates, marital infidelity, premarital sex, domestic abuse, rape, abortion (necessary for failed contraception), China’s one-child policy, UN requirements that force “family planning” on poor countries needing aid, etc.  The list could go on and on.  Even the pope himself couldn’t foresee the tragedy that contraception would allow.

So, how could an old man in Rome possibly know this?  Because Jesus promised His disciples that they would be led into all truth by the Holy Spirit (John 14:26, 15:26, 16:12-14; Acts 15:28 gives example of proper application of these verses).  I’ve already written about Peter being given the Keys to the Kingdom, about the Church being built upon him, about Jesus giving him the authority to “bind and loose.”  Jesus gave His Church into the care of Peter by the Sea of Tiberias (John  21:15-19) and that care and authority was passed on to the next pope and the next and so on down through history so that the Church would be able to distinguish the truth amid all the voices claiming their own version of truth.

This is the gift that papal infallibility gives to all of us, especially in a time of such fast technological and scientific advances.  The Bible alone will not give us clear answers to questions about artificial contraception, in-vitro fertilization, women’s ordination and many other issues never imagined by our First Century brothers and sisters in Christ.  Jesus assured us that He would never leave us nor forsake us, even in 21st Century America.

Symmetrical or ??

I love miniature Christmas villages.  My parents had one when I was growing up and it was so pretty when lit up each night.  My own little village is more simple, in fact, only three buildings so far: lighthouse, church, and bakery.  I love that they use tea light candles in them instead of having to wrestle with wiring.  And, besides, scented candles add to the atmosphere! :-)

This year Emily set up the “village” on my old trunk with a beautiful tapestry table runner.  The one problem with this set-up is that placing the houses on the runner means that part of the picture is covered up.  So, the question is:  Do we set the houses symmetrically (which makes them sit correctly due to the strips of wood on the trunk’s top) or half-off the tapestry so the picture can be seen (but causes them to sit cockeyed)?  Emily’s decision was to set them symmetrically, but someone else in the house keeps moving the bakery.

All Advent this has been an ongoing tug-of-war:  symmetrical or cover the carolers’ faces?  Emily moves it over the carolers, someone else moves it off.  Since this sets in a hallway, each time she passed, it would be moved!/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/48d/18526156/files/2014/12/img_0609.jpg

Emily has been quietly exasperated with this contest of wills and assumed it was Mary Anne because the two of them had talked about it when Emily set it up.  Finally, on Christmas, the mystery was solved.

Emily, “Who has been moving the bakery?”

“Not me.”

“Not me.”

“Mary Anne, have you been moving it?”

“No!”

Mom, “Joshua, have you been moving the bakery?”

“What’s the bakery?”

Emily showed him.

“YES!  Someone keeps moving it over their faces!  You can’t put it over their faces; they can’t breathe!!!”

Needless to say, Emily couldn’t breathe for laughing!  Can’t beat 8-year-old logic!

So, for the record, we have chosen to let the carolers breathe!/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/48d/18526156/files/2014/12/img_0610.jpg

Additional Content

For some time I’ve been thinking about my struggle with this blog.  My intention was to write about our journey and I will still keep on with that, but I need to add some variety and put in some lighter stuff and the occasional rant.  So, I hope you still enjoy the blog, and lets hope I have more ambition to write when I can write about whatever crosses my fertile little mind!