FAITH

The Annoying "Yes" Lady at Mass

Pentecostal WomanDue to many scheduling conflicts a few Sundays back, I went to Mass by myself without the wife and kids. Over the past month or so we began to notice a curious and regular disruption at the 9:30 a.m. Mass. The weird part was, I began to take a strange pleasure in it. It went something like this:

Priest prays out loud, "May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your ha-"

"YES LORD," interjects the affirmation from what sounds like an old African-American woman somewhere in the pews to the far back and right.

And it continues...

"For the praise and glory of your name..."

"YES LORD."

"For our-"

"YES."

"-good and the good-"

"YES."

"-of all our Church."

"YES LORD."

And it goes on and on like that, with the older lady interceding between every ten or so words from the Priest. Heads everywhere are trying to make clandestine surveillance of the pews around them without making it obvious that they are clearly distracted and pissed off.

Now I'm not going to lie, the first time my wife and I heard the Yes Lady we did what every other couple did. We looked at each other with faces of smirky inconvenience and gossiped after Mass about how obnoxious and distracting this woman was being, resolving that SOMEONE had to do SOMETHING.

I mean holy righteous anger batman! We are trying to PRAY here!

But this Sunday was different. Right around the Eucharistic prayer I noticed a small but steaming pile of self-righteous indignation in my pew. Curious, I kicked it up under the pew in front of me and listened again to the Yes Lady.

"Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall, so that they may become for us the Body and Blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ."

"YES."

A quick burst of willful naivete shot through my brain and I asked a question based on giving the Yes Lady the benefit of the doubt:

What if she really believes she is doing something important?

Suddenly I felt angry. I was angry at anyone who was angry at the Yes Lady. I was angry at the 59% of U.S. Catholics who don't attend Mass weekly. I was angry at the 62% of U.S. Catholics who don't claim a strong religious identity. I was angry at the 29% of U.S. Catholics who don't believe in a personal God. But most of the anger was aimed at myself, because I suddenly became ashamed that I felt so entitled to a distraction free Mass.

What do Catholics who leave the Church to join a Protestant denomination say one of their biggest reasons for leaving is? "My spiritual needs are not being met."

DISCLAIMER: There is a big conversation we could have about the discrepancy between a person's perception of not being spiritually fed, and the actual reality of the depth of spiritual fullness made available in the Catholic Church. And I could fill a hard drive with reasons why I don't think anyone should be constantly giving their public verbal consent to the Eucharistic Prayer. I'm not saying active participation must be busy participation.

But do we, who know the sublime reality of Mass, worship like we are being spiritually fed?

As I honestly examined my frustration with the Yes Lady, I realized I was really just frustrated by the notion of anything "happening" at Mass.

I watched the Priest raising up our gifts and the work of our hands - the bread, the wine, and all intentions we lay at the altar - but part of me didn't really expect God to accept them. I heard the Priest calling the Holy Spirit down on the altar with the conviction of Elijah, but part of me would have been inconvenienced by a rush of wind and tongues of fire. I heard the Priest imploring the help and intercession of an army of Saints, but part of me didn't really want them to show up. I cried aloud telling the Lord I'm not worthy for him to enter under my roof, begging Him to only say the word and heal me, but part of me didn't believe He could actually deny me. I waited mere minutes as we shuffled to the front of the Church to hold the endless, to consume the unconsumable, to swallow the sea, to insert infinite love into my size 34 waist, like a candle trying to hold the Sun, but part of me would be impatient if anyone took longer than seconds to take their wafer and move on.

Who is really being inconvenienced here anyways? Me? The guy who wanted a woman with expectant faith to shutup so I could go back to thinking my own thoughts during Mass?

Or God, who sits through Mass revealing Himself lovingly through His Son, humbly through bread and wine, vulnerably through His death on a Cross, and intimately through bodily communion, only for people like me to look on with blank stares like we're checking email? I've sent prayers to God soaked in tears asking Him to stop being so distant, and the next day been so impatient with a Priest who fumbled slowly through the Mass you would have thought if God himself showed up I'd tell Him to keep His homily short.

Thank God for the Yes Lady. I think only Yes Ladies get healed by Jesus. I think Yes Ladies walk out to Jesus on the water. I think the upper room was full of Yes Ladies at Pentecost. I think Yes Ladies' prayers heal the sick. I think Yes Ladies convert cities. I think only Yes Ladies can be tortured and martyred for Christ.

Is this a call for everyone to go all Southern Baptist this Sunday at their local parish? No. Please no.

But lets smile at the Yes Lady.

Because thanks to her, I pray more often for God to show up.

I pray more often for liturgical inconveniences.

(Photo by Cameron Zohoori)

New Resource: Pray the Catechism [Print Out]

PrayingCCCthumb

“…this book can be transformed from a silent instrument, like a valuable violin resting on a velvet cloth, into an instrument that sounds and rouses hearts.” Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa 1st Advent Sermon to the Papal Household

I want to share a one page pdf describing the "Brief Way" to pray the Catechism of the Catholic Church which I created not too long ago. My wife and I have tried praying with the Catechism this way, and we love it. It takes about five minutes.  Download the pdf here.

Breathe the Faith

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, our Catholic faith entrusted to the Church by Jesus Christ, is not a salad - you don’t  at as much as possible as quickly as possible hoping to finish full and soon.

The Catechism is more like a fine wine - sip it slowly, breathe it in, and let it marinate your palate.

Cardinal Arinze prayerfully reads one page from the Catechism every day during his time of prayer. If a Cardinal is praying with the Catechism on a regular basis, why shouldn’t you? Praying with the Catechism instead of reading right through it allows the precious faith of the Church to seep into our bones and water our soul. Feel free to adapt this or work it into your own pattern of prayer. This method of praying the catechism can be used for private prayer or for praying with others.

How to Pray the Catechism

This way of praying begins with the Sign of the Cross the source and summit of our faith, followed by the Apostle's Creed, a summary of our faith handed down to us through the centuries and the foundation of the first pillar of the Catechism. We then pray the Our Father, which Jesus teaches us as the disciples ask "Lord, teach us how to pray" and which is the basis of the fourth pillar of the Catechism. We then prayerfully read and meditate on one In Brief paragraph from the Catechism (if you aren't sure what those are, see my post on How to Use the Catechism) and then pray one Hail Mary, honoring and asking for the intercession of Mary Mother of the Church and our Faith.  We wrap up this time of prayer by giving praying Glory Be to God, the Blessed Trinity and heart of the Catechism.

Some Deets

We read one In Brief and pray one Hail Mary a total of 5 times, which I found is just the right amount. But if you are feeling sassy, by all means don't let me stop you from praying all of them.

Why the In Briefs? For one thing they are on average shorter than the rest of the paragraphs in the Catechism. I found they are more succinct and easier to digest and meditate on. But if you are feeling doubly sassy, go ahead and pray with the rest of the catechism this way. You might want to cut down how many paragraphs you pray in one sitting though.

Download the pdf here and print out 700 copies to give to all dem Catholics you know, to stuff your Parish narthex with, and to slip inside all those Catechisms you bought recently graduated high school kiddos. Its completely free, just let people know where you got it from!

If you try praying the Catechism this way, let me know what you think. Its still a work in progress, and I would love to hear your feedback or suggestions about how to make it better.

"This Catechism is of historic importance. Depending on how seriously we take it, the future of the Catholic Church will be shaped accordingly." Fr. John Hardon

Pope Benedict's Final General Audience

pope_bxvi Pope Benedict XVI addressed the Church for the last time as Pope in the  final General Audience of his pontificate today in St Peter's Square.

Here is an excerpt from his remarks:

At this point I would like to offer heartfelt thanks to all the many people throughout the whole world, who, in recent weeks have sent me moving tokens of concern, friendship and prayer. Yes, the Pope is never alone: now I experience this [truth] again in a way so great as to touch my very heart. The Pope belongs to everyone, and so many people feel very close to him. It’s true that I receive letters from the world's greatest figures - from the Heads of State, religious leaders, representatives of the world of culture and so on. I also receive many letters from ordinary people who write to me simply from their heart and let me feel their affection, which is born of our being together in Christ Jesus, in the Church. These people do not write me as one might write, for example, to a prince or a great figure one does not know. They write as brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, with the sense of very affectionate family ties. Here, one can touch what the Church is – not an organization, not an association for religious or humanitarian purposes, but a living body, a community of brothers and sisters in the Body of Jesus Christ, who unites us all. To experience the Church in this way and almost be able to touch with one’s hands the power of His truth and His love, is a source of joy, in a time in which many speak of its decline.

Read the full text of Pope Benedict's message here.

We love you Papa B!

The Girl Who Made it Rain

girlUmbrella In June a desperate urgency hung over a hot rural town in western Ohio.  In the 1920's rain was a sensitive friend to the farmers in this town who relied on the growth of their crops to support their families.  If there is too much rain, the corn and tomatoes could be washed out.  If not enough rain fell, then few crops would survive the heat and make it to harvesting season.  So far this season you could count on one hand how many times it had rained.

By the end of June it seemed the whole town took on the temperament of the fields: hot, grumpy, and thirsty for rain.  After hearing an ear full of complaining for the past six weeks, the old Priest of the town took action.  At the end of a particularly arid Sunday Mass Father announced a special Mass to be held the following Friday offering up the intentions of all farmers and to ask God to send rain.

"Jesus tells us not to worry.  The daisies never worry and yet they are clothed with more splendor than King Solomon." The kind old Priest smiled, "How much more will God take care of you, whom He loves much more than daisies."

Not a few in the pews thought even daisies would not hold up much longer in such a scorcher and wondered if the Priest could not have chosen a better example from the Bible.  Even so, they were all a little hopeful and at least determined to pray with all their hearts at next Friday's Mass.

That Friday, the kindly old Priest looked out on the small congregation of winnowing fans in stuffy dresses and brow-wipers in cotton shirts.  All the windows were ajar and even the doors to the Church were left open to gasp for air.  Every now and then the sighs of uncomfortable horses could be heard, tied up on the shady side of the Church near the doors.  Other than this there was no movement nor even the faintest breeze outside.

The worn Priest nervously patted his neck with a handkerchief and wiped his mouth as eyes persisted on him, waiting for the homily.  The dry heat was everywhere and on everything.  He smirked as he made a silent joke to himself about the effect this Mass might have on the next month's collection if rain did not come soon.

The Priest began to speak, starting the homily on faith he had given every year around this time for decades, when an object in the sea of warm bodies caught his breath.  It was small, short, and brightly colored; clutched firmly in the grasp of a small bright girl whose feet hardly touched the ground where she sat.  Such an object was unique in the Church and one of its kind on that day.  The Priest had not seen one in almost two months.

A familiar feeling of conviction, hope, and reckless abandon stirred anew in the Priest's soul.  And the stooped Priest of God stood tall and pointed to the girl and gave a homily that made everyone who heard it forget about the heat and see themselves and God for the first time in months.

No one who retold this story in the years to come could ever remember if rain came that year.  Either way wouldn't change the transformation that happened to the eyes of everyone present that day.

But if it did rain, it was because of the faith of the girl with the umbrella.

"Year of Faith" - 5 Things You Should Know

Faith is the fundamental act of Christian existence. Pope Benedict XVI (Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures, Pg. 77)

Fifty years ago on October 11th a seismic shift occurred in Rome, sending shock waves throughout the worldwide Church that have been magnified up to this very day.

This Year Just Got a Whole Lot Faithy-er

On this fiftieth anniversary of Vatican II and the twentieth anniversary of the writing of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Pope has inaugurated a "Year of Faith", calling the faithful to focus on knowing, living, and sharing their faith better for the next year.

Here are 5 things you need to know about the Year of Faith:

1. What is the Year of Faith?

Several times in the recent history of the Church Popes have challenged the faithful to dive deeper by announcing a year long focus on a specific aspect of the faith.  I did some research and found these past "Years of"...

2009-2010 Year of Priests and St. John Vianny 2008-2009 Year of St. Paul 2004-2005 Year of the Eucharist 1983-1984 Holy Year of Redemption 1967-1968 First Year of Faith Announced by Pope Paul VI

Pope Benedict XVI announced this Year of Faith in an Apostolic Letter titled "Porta Fedei" (Door of Faith) in which he explains "The Year of Faith ... is a summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Saviour of the world."

"If today the Church proposes a new Year of Faith and a new evangelization," Pope Benedict explained in a homily at the Opening Mass for the Year of Faith "it is not to honor an anniversary, but because there is more need of it, even more than there was fifty years ago! And the reply to be given to this need is the one desired by the Popes, by the Council Fathers, and contained in its documents."

2. Resources for the Year of Faith

3. Official Prayer for the Year of Faith

What could be better for the Year of Faith than a prayer that encapsulates our faith, a prayer of faith said around the world, and established in the fourth century?  None other than that oldie-but-goodie: The Nicene Creed.

That's right folks, the Nicene Creed is the official prayer for the Year of Faith.  Pray it often, learn it, memorize it, share it, write it on your stuff, spray paint it, love it - many martyrs shed their blood to ensure that this creed of faith would be passed on to you.

It is by believing with the heart that you are justified, and by making the declaration with your lips that you are saved. May the year of faith lead all believers to learn by heart the creed and to say it every day as a prayer, so that the breathing agrees with the faith. --From the Pastoral Aid for the Year of Faith

4. Plenary Indulgence for the Year of Faith

Everyone loves indulgences.  Get rid of some temporal punishment for your sins, or offer it up for someone else (I could use it!).  Here are the requirements as explained from the Year of Faith website.

During the Year of Faith, which will last from 11 October 2012 to 24 November 2013, Plenary Indulgence for the temporal punishment of sins, imparted by the mercy of God and applicable also to the souls of deceased faithful, may be obtained by all faithful who, truly penitent, take Sacramental Confession and the Eucharist and pray in accordance with the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff.

(A) Each time they attend at least three sermons during the Holy Missions, or at least three lessons on the Acts of the Council or the articles of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in church or any other suitable location.

(B) Each time they visit, in the course of a pilgrimage, a papal basilica, a Christian catacomb, a cathedral church or a holy site designated by the local ordinary for the Year of Faith (for example, minor basilicas and shrines dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Apostles or patron saints), and there participate in a sacred celebration, or at least remain for a congruous period of time in prayer and pious meditation, concluding with the recitation of the Our Father, the Profession of Faith in any legitimate form, and invocations to the Blessed Virgin Mary and, depending on the circumstances, to the Holy Apostles and patron saints.

(C) Each time that, on the days designated by the local ordinary for the Year of Faith, ... in any sacred place, they participate in a solemn celebration of the Eucharist or the Liturgy of the Hours, adding thereto the Profession of Faith in any legitimate form.

(D) On any day they chose, during the Year of Faith, if they make a pious visit to the baptistery, or other place in which they received the Sacrament of Baptism, and there renew their baptismal promises in any legitimate form.

... faithful who, due to illness or other legitimate cause, are unable to leave their place of adobe, may still obtain Plenary Indulgence "if, united in spirit and thought with other faithful, and especially at the times when the words of the Supreme Pontiff and diocesan bishops are transmitted by television or radio, they recite ... the Our Father, the Profession of Faith in any legitimate form, and other prayers that concord with the objectives of the Year of Faith, offering up the suffering and discomfort of their lives".

5. Year of Faith Website

The Church went all edgy and created a website for the Year of Faith.

It's got it all: the Catechism, the Compendium to the Catechism, the official hymn for the Year of Faith, a Mass for the Year of Faith, a collection of homilies by the Pope on Church Fathers, Apostles and medieval theologians, news for the Year of Faith, a worldwide calendar of events, a publication on the New Evangelization, how to obtain a plenary indulgence for the Year of Faith, and lots more.

So Get Out There and Grow In Faith!

[youtube=http://youtu.be/NtoeRHsmNHY]