Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Is Holy Week a Winding Down or a Beginning?

Having entered Holy Week we begin to anticipate the ending of the Lenten strictures that we have placed on ourselves since Ash Wednesday and to the culmination of our spiritual freedom gained for us by Christ on Easter Sunday and the Resurrection. Hopefully everything that we have practiced for the past several weeks (prayer, almsgiving and fasting) has helped us to prepare for the greatest feast of the Church year. But is Lent only a time to prepare for Easter or for the beginning of a new, more full, spiritual life as a Catholic as the year continues on past Easter?

Christ's 40 days in the desert prepared him for his mission of salvation for mankind. It was not a preparation for one particular day after the 40 days as Easter is for us, but a preparation  for living the rest of his life. For Christ, almsgiving, fasting and prayer were constants in his life even after having left his own lenten desert. We need to ask ourselves whether Easter Sunday will end our Lenten practices for spiritual renewal or will it continue  past our own time in the desert, past Easter, until we come face to face with our Father?

Happy Holy Week

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

His Mercy Endures Forever

This is the first time in memory where I can truly say I have found joy in Christ. To be honest, I never understood the concept of joy and even now I am not sure I can even convey exactly what it is, but I now know what it means to have it and to experience it.  If Lent is a time meant to reflect on our lives, our relationship with our Lord, our admission of imperfection and our repentance, then I have experienced it in a way that I have never have before. I have stared in the eyes of His enduring mercy this Lent and the joy is indescribable.

Since Ash Wednesday I have gone to confession twice with the goal of making a biweekly confession a habit beyond Lent. It is a practice I have fallen out of and I mean to rectify that. As much as I look forward to Easter every year, it is the Sunday of Divine Mercy that my eyes and soul are set upon. Imagine all temporal punishment due to sin wiped out in one fell swoop. That is what awaits those that seek His mercy on this Sunday. For more information visit Divine Mercy Sunday  website.

Have you ever gone to confession greatly troubled because of serious sins committed and in making your confession other grievous sins were not remembered because your mind goes blank? In Father Z's website WDTPRS , he discusses this at length, but the upshot is as written in his excerpt:

 "Keep in mind that when you make a good confession, to the best of your ability, even the sins that you have forgotten are forgiven.  If you remember them later, include them in your confession, by all means.  But don’t worry that you have to have a perfect, machine-like memory.  Just do your best and all your sins are forgiven."

Though I have known that truly forgotten sins are forgiven my memory sought to keep accusing me of these sins committed decades ago. I could not shake these memories even though I had no doubt that I had been forgiven for these sins, yet the accusing finger of my memories refused to relent. I felt alienated from God, His love and His mercy in particular and could not get past these 'accusations' and progress in my relationship to God was severely hampered.

I have always found confession difficult because of the shame, humiliation and the guilt associated with my sins. Now remembering these past, forgotten sins filled me with dread even though I had been previously absolved. Since I went to confession for the first time this Lent I have walked around everyday considering what to do about my memories. The thought of going back to confession and confessing the forgotten sins of long ago all but killed me with shame. I also knew however that if I didn't go back and talk to my confessor about them that I would not have any peace whatsoever. Last Saturday I finally got up the courage to face my fears and went back to confession.

I cannot describe to you  the terror I felt waiting for my turn in the confessional. I began by confessing the sins I had committed since my last confession two weeks ago and then told my confessor what I was about to do. After explaining to him of my memories I told him I wanted to tell him of  the forgotten sins that wracked me to no end. I broke down. Completely. The first thing I blurted out was "Please Father! Please do not judge me for what I am about to tell you!". He calmly answered that he was not here to pass judgement on me and prodded me to go on. That is all I needed. I emptied myself completely. Once I started there was no stopping me. While I had been waiting to enter the confessional I had fervently prayed to our Blessed Mother for strength to overcome my fear and I can tell you this without a doubt, that she was there with me while I poured my heart out with countless tears. I could hardly speak yet my guilt poured out. Then I listened quietly.

The first and the most beautiful thing I heard coming from this priest of God after confessing my horrid acts of the past was: "Have no doubt of God's love for you and His love for His children is beyond all comprehension and that His mercy is poured out on you. You are so loved my Him at this moment that God cannot refuse you His mercy." He then went on and explained that sometimes our memories bring temptations and that they are NOT from God but from Satan. These temptations are meant to bring us to despair and lose sight of God's love. As he said, there is no confessed sin that God's love and mercy cannot forgive and to be glad in this knowledge and have no doubt of it. I was glad but more than that, a joy settled on me and a peace I don't believe I have ever felt in my life. Such a weight has been lifted that I cannot understand how I could have borne it all this time without my soul and spirit being crushed.

It is true of what is said that only the greatest of sinners know the the extent of God's mercy. I know it is true for I have received it. Beyond all measure. The joy I feel today is such that no matter what happens in our world or in my little life I know I belong to God and nothing can take me from Him. Take my advice and do not ever allow fear, shame and humiliation keep you from His loving presence in the sacrament of Penance. You cannot live with your guilt no matter how strong you think you are. Perhaps Satan did try to make me despair by forcing these memories to come to the forefront but it didn't work out the way he wanted. I am free today. Truly free.  Go to confession and let Him remove your guilt so that you may truly live and have real joy in our Lord.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

About Those Catholics....

It's been years since I went to a Christmas morning mass. I prefer one of the masses offered on the Eve and usually the one with where a traditional choir sings. The other Christmas Eve mass is the one they call the children's mass with contemporary music...but I shan't go into that right now because the visions I have dancing in my head concerning children's masses are not of sugar plums.

Normally on Christmas Eve all is planned and that includes mass but this year things turned out a bit different making it impossible for me to attend until the Christmas morning. We had last minute changes in plans for the Eve but no matter, as long as I was able to attend mass on Christmas morning I could go with the flow.

It was apparent that most parishioners had gone to mass the night before since the pews were more empty than not at the 10 A.M. mass. There were many unfamiliar faces at the mass and sometimes it's too easy to see these people as Catholics who only go to mass on Christmas and Easter. Were they all CE Catholics? I have no idea and quite simply I don't even know if any of them were CE Catholics at all. One thing I noticed about a lot of the strange faces is that they were sitting alone in the pew with no one around them. I include myself in this. Without going into it, I have been attending mass by myself for several years now. I wish it wasn't so but it is.

The priest mentioned at the start of his homily that he was very pleased that we had taken the time out of our morning to see the importance of celebrating the birth of our Savior by our attendance at mass. When I looked around again and saw those people sitting alone a thought came to me. Yes, some Catholics only attend Christmas and Easter masses without bothering with all the other Sundays and Holy Days of the year, yet if some of the strange faces I saw this morning were CE Catholics then something didn't make sense.

Why did they bother coming if they were in fact CEC's? They were sitting alone with strangers around them so there was no one to impress with their attendance. Obviously attending mass on Christmas wasn't a family tradition for them since they had no family member sitting with them. They could have told their families they were going to mass and skipped out for an hour to go have breakfast and return home pretending to have been a good dooby by going to mass. Could it be we assume to much by what we see without knowing the full story?

It became obvious to me that these solitary worshipers were probably not the CEC's I assumed they were, since someone else seeing me alone in the pew could have come to the same conclusion that Christmas mass would be my last mass until Easter and it would not have been true. Yes, we sat alone and worshiped with strangers that morning because we made worshiping God in the Eucharist a priority, the priority this morning. As I said, they and myself included were not there impressing anyone with our Christmas attendance for no one would have known otherwise if we had not come. Did we all attend mass every Sunday? I have no idea but one thing I found is that they deemed it important enough to be there that morning.

Perhaps this was the day they decided to turn over a new leaf of repentance by attending mass. Perhaps it was the last vestige, the last thread from their conscience telling them to come. Perhaps they were there alone because they were visiting family and friends for Christmas and they made a point of seeking out a parish to make sure they attended mass even if no one came with them as part of their Christmas celebration as practicing Catholics. The point is we don't know their whole story and should give them the benefit of the doubt. Yes, we all know CEC's and yes, we see them going up to communion, but assuming that most of the ones we do not recognize, especially at Christmas mass, are CEC's is not being charitable. As a matter of fact we should all be kneeling there beating our breasts asking God to "...have mercy on me Lord, a sinner." instead of assuming the worse of those around us. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Shopping for Christmas and Being Pleasantly Surpised

Like many others I found myself at the department store this weekend looking to buy some gifts for the family. It was so packed with people that I considered turning around and going back home before I even parked the car. I think I lost three pounds just walking from my parking space to the store entrance just from the distance. This was my third stop of the day on my shopping excursion and my last. I walked around erratically about the store with no clue as to what to get anyone. Once in a while I would eye an equally lost shopper and our gazes would meet and acknowledge silently our futile attempts to find that perfect gift. We would smile a bit and shake our heads as we continued forging new ground in the hunt.

I expected to be jostled around carelessly in this throng of people as someone reached for this and that unaware that someone was at their elbow. Not this time. People seemed to be more considerate of those around them this year so as not to be offensive in act or word. Actually the shoppers seemed subdued, not with the fatigue of shopping, but from some underlying feeling that things were different this year. I can't put my finger on it as to why it seemed like this, but it was.

More often than not a 'Merry Christmas' was heard from one shopper to the next. I helped one woman get an item she could not reach and as we parted she said 'Happy Holidays' to me and I replied with a smile 'Happy Holy Days'. She looked at me for a moment and replied 'Merry Christmas', also with a grand smile. This was turning out to be a day I hadn't expected. No frenzy, no dour faces and above all a seeming gentleness towards other shoppers.

I've made a point of saying Merry Christmas to people even if they wish me Happy Holidays and I find that there is a kind of sigh of relief when they hear it and repeat it to me, especially if they are employees of the department store. I'm sure they've been made aware to wish people a Happy Holiday rather than Merry Christmas for fear of offending shoppers. Maybe that's it. Perhaps people are tired, but not from the shopping but the fear of offending others with their own belief and celebration of Christmas.

I look at it this way. People are offended by all kinds of things, legitimate or not, and I will not let my life be controlled by overly sensitive people simply because they do not believe as I do. If in wishing someone Merry Christmas I encounter someone who tells me that they do not believe in Christmas I have a ready answer. I will tell them that I DO believe in Christmas and what it means to me and I wish them the peace that I have found in this celebration of His birth. If they are still offended by that then there is nothing I could ever say that will please them. I move on.

If we are to evangelize then Christmas shopping is the perfect place to start. After all, we are buying gifts not just to reciprocate with another for buying one for us but to represent the gift of His son to us and this ultimate gift can be given to others with a kind act or word said with a smile. We are being coerced to keep silent in our faith. That is the PC thing to do we are told. God tells us to go out and teach all nations. He never said it would be easy or that we would have an attentive audience but just go out and teach the Good News. I did that yesterday.

Merry Christmas

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

How Much Trust Did We Place In The Holy Spirit?

Last spring I posted here , a warning of sorts for all Catholics who were highly critical of Francis the new Pope. At the time I sensed a lot of anger and bewilderment over Pope Benedict's abdication of the Seat of Peter and much of this anger seemed to had spilled out and targeted the new Pope Francis. All undeserved in my opinion. There were rash judgements and condemnations of the new pope that made me squirm so uncomfortably as a practicing Catholic. Many traditionists were quick to write and blog their resentment and made no bones about what they saw in Francis. In a nutshell some of us loved the new Pope Francis. Others, such as myself, eyed and listened in quiet concern at some of the things he did and said while making no judgements about him, but keeping a wary and discerning ear to the ground. And others, to whom my warning went out to, were ready to hang him from the highest pulpit for being a liberal cleric.

My questions to all of us and in particular, to the less than diplomatic critics who in my opinion disrespected not only Pope Francis the person, but the very head of the Church who now sits on the Seat of Peter itself with their bombastic, kneejerk criticisms are these: Did you not trust the Holy Spirit to protect our Church? Do you still not trust the Holy Spirit to keep us safe in allowing Francis to be elevated to his office, or even perhaps personally choosing Francis Himself?

What is it about the "powers of hell shall never prevail" do you not understand? We've had bad popes and anti-popes before. How many of them officially changed Church doctrine and allowed errors to enter the Church? How many? Why did you or do you continually vilify this Pope? I'm sure that all of you who are so knowledgeable would have been a shoe in and fully trained in being a pope of over one billion Catholics in just a couple of days correct? The man could not even begin get his sea legs under him as leader of our great Catholic Church and people were ready to keel haul him. This man Francis who is Pope has said things in the last several weeks to even a few days ago that does not sound even remotedly heretical as some of you critics proclaim but extremely orthodox in nature to our Faith. Why did you not give him time to adjust, exercise patience and even a bit of humility before slinging your arrows at him?

Are we now going to hear any apologies or are those beneath you? Oh Ye of little faith. If Francis turns out to be the bad man you've made him out to be, then deal with it. If the Spirit saw fit to allow him to be Pope, then we deserved it and it is part of our healing. If you were all wrong about this man what say you then? Why don't you trust the Holy Spirit to do what our Lord has promised?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Miracle In This Culture of Death

Yesterday morning I received a text from my eldest son. It was 4:50 A.M. and all the text said was, "Up?". Immediately I shot off a reply telling him yes, I was awake but also asking him "Whats wrong???". It was too early in the morning to receive such a text with having some concern as to why he would be texting me at that hour.  Of course all kinds of scenarios, mostly bad, were working through my mind as I awaited his reply. It came in short order. His wife was about to give birth. This is not unusual in itself but she was a month early! His texts came in a staccato like fashion, unable to write out full sentences because of the time limitations he had between letting me know what was going on and being there for his wife.

In that second text, he not only told me about the imminent birth but with the request of one thing: pray. I replied that of course I would and told him when he was able to, to send me an update. For an hour I waited for the news when it finally came. It was a boy. He was healthy as the dickens with no complications and Mama was doing just fine though exhausted. I thanked him for the information and asked him to call me when he had the chance later that morning.

I've had 5 children so a birth is something I am very familiar with but at the news of my new grandson I felt my eyes welling with tears off and on for the next hour or so. It wasn't because this new life was my son's first, or even that it was my fourth grandchild that caused my eyes to tear up though that would be very normal for me in these cirucumstances. No, it was something else that brought these tears of joy.

It was the fact that in this world where human lives are so easily snuffed out especially for the unborn, a new life was allowed to emerge. Though I never thought my son and daughter-in law would ever abort their unborn child the choice had been given to them and sanctioned by the government. To them, choosing anything but life never entered their minds, but to many others having the right to choose to kill their own unborn child  is sacrosanct. The government says so. The government gave them that right.

I hear much about how a decision to abort is heart rendering for a woman and I've always wondered why it would be so if the unborn were only a mass of tissue as they are told and not a little human baby. A person. No. It is heart rendering for many because they know, deep down, even when they are told differently by a medical "professional", what it is they are killing. Terminating. Snuffing out. They know.

Today my daughter-in law is holding her little bundle of tissue and loving it more than her own life. Giving birth to a new life is more of a miracle today in this battlefield we find ourselves in than it ever was. God touched my family yesterday morning at 6 A.M. and I thank Him for that.

Monday, June 10, 2013

What did St.Joseph think about?

I've not had much inspiration to blog for a few weeks. Oh, I've got more than enough to write about but the things going through my mind lately with all the news (mostly bad), scandals rocking D.C. and the perilous position our Freedom of Religion seems to find itself in sickens me. I've let other bloggers do the job of posting their thoughts on these issues because what I would write would not be positive nor helpful.

So what I thought I would do is post about my hobby of furniture building. To be honest, I've not had much time in building anything lately but now I've got the itch. It's come back. I think my next project will be a pantry for the kitchen. I've wanted one for such a long time to put my canned and dry goods in and free up some space in my kitchen cabinets. Besides, the cabinet shelves have always been too high for me. You see, I'm like Zacchaeus. I would have to climb a tree to see Jesus coming down the road just as he did. Which brings me to St. Joseph. Just for kicks I've asked myself if St. Joseph would have blogged if he had had the chance as well as being a woodworker. Personally I don't think he would . Blogging takes time and woodworking takes time, but unlike me St. Joseph built things to earn a living and support his family.

Did he speak his mind? Was he a passionate man in matters that affected him and his family? Yes he was and Egypt was an instant of that passion to protect but I would think he went the opposite way as far as expressing himself. I sense that he was a quiet man, always in thought and with a deep faith and confidence that God would look after his family. I do know that while building a piece of furniture it frees your mind as your hands move to do their work. You think of all kinds of things, profound things and that's where I think St. Joseph found himself. It is there God would speak to him. St. Joseph experienced strange and marvelous things once he was betrothed to his little love: Mary. So...

What is it like to create something from scratch and see it grow from an idea to reality? Very satisfying. I can see God looking at his creation and saying, "It is good." With this in mind, I will share with you pieces that I felt very satisfied with at their completion. Enough so that I can say "It is good."

The above piece is a kitchen island that my son had me build for his wife for Christmas one year. He gave me the dimensions that he wanted and the colors he thought would go well with their decor. This is what she got.

Below is a wine cabinet that again I built for my son at his request. It was actually one of the very first pieces of furniture that I ever built on my own.

Next up are two buffets that are very similar except for the legs, a few changes to the doors, and the interior shelving which unfortunately cannot be seen in these two pics.

I don't build built-in kitchen cabinets nor do I install them, but I do build free standing cabinets for kitchens such as the ones below that I built for a customer. They owned a Victorian house with a lot of bead board wainscoting and wanted two custom made bottom cabinets to match the bead board. They supplied the counter tops. The cabinet on the right is interesting in that I built a trash receptical in the unit. This was my first. I checked out Home Depot's cabinets to get an idea of how to go about it. It's not a very good picture but then again, I'm not a very good photographer :)

Here is the toy box I built for my grandson Drake. It has the safety hinges so the top doesn't slam shut on his wee finners. I forgot to take a pic after it was finished but here it is unfinished just to get an idea.

When my oldest daughter got married all she asked for was a cabinet similar to the one pictured below but with out the images on the doors.

This next picture is what the final product looked like. I had a piece of antique pine board that I used for the top. It is exquisite. Antique pine is totally dry, free from all resin and holds a stain like nothing else. It came out so rich that I almost kept it for myself! I also "antiqued" the hinges to give them a more authentic, old, country style. You can see the "antiqued" hinge compared to another piece of hardware that is brand new. Funny what a propane torch and flux will do to shiny stuff eh?