spirituality

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)

"One Body, Many Blogs" - Review

I love the elegance of this little ebook compiled by TJ Burdick who is also one of the many contributors.  TJ asked several successful Catholic bloggers one question "In your opinion, what are the 'ten commandments' that Christian bloggers should keep in mind while pressing on in their digital mission?"  This question combined with a diverse group of Catholic bloggers creates a broad range of blogging advice ranging from profound to profoundly hilarious.

The contributors include T.J. Burdick (TJBurdick.com), Deacon Greg Kandra (The Deacon’s Bench), Lisa Hendey (CatholicMom.com), Devin Rose (St. Joseph’s Vanguard), Kevin Knight (New Advent), Frank Weathers (Why I Am Catholic), Jeff Miller (The Curt Jester), Katrina R. Fernandez (The Crescat), Brandon Vogt (BrandonVogt.com), Marc Barnes (BadCatholic and 1flesh.org), and Susan Windley-Daoust (Ironic Catholic).

If you are a Catholic blogger this ebook will give you some good food for thought, and if you are considering starting a blog this ebook will give you a good foundation of blogging principles to start from.

So check out the One Body, Many Blogs website and buy the book here.  All the proceeds go to support the San Jaun Diego Academy, a Catholic immigrant school in Michigan.

My Favorite Commandments from the Ebook

TJ Burdick 5. Jesus should be your only focus Think of your blog as a way to portray your relationship with Christ so that society can understand that relationship. People are looking for truth and the best way they can find it is by living it vicariously through your blog. In order to do that, they must be able to connect with your writing. Make your posts relatable and the truth seekers on the web will find the Truth of Christ in your words. If He is interested, Jesus will make your work known. If not, then know that He is content with having it for Himself.

Deacon Greg Kandra VIII. Pray. Before any post, any comment, any reaction, take a moment and take a deep breath and offer a quick prayer for heavenly intercession and guidance. The act of blogging can really be a kind of prayer, if we work at it. And: I think we should.

Marc Barnes 1. Don’t suck. There is a tendency within the Christian world to think the work we do will be good work, if only we do it for God. This is not true. Whatever work we do will be good work if and only if we do it well. Truly “writing for God” is not something lackadaisical. It does not come with holy feelings. Writing for God means harnessing the intellect, making full use of the talents He endows us with, seeking inspiration in Him, and producing excellent writing, in both style and content. Anything less is no service to God, no matter how well we think we are witnessing, giving testimony, or whatever Christian euphemism we want to use to disguise the fact that we can’t be bothered to make something awesome.

The Vatican 1. Silence and word: two aspects of communication which need to be kept in balance When word and silence become mutually exclusive, communication breaks down, either because it gives rise to confusion or because, on the contrary, it creates an atmosphere of coldness; when they complement one another, however, communication acquires value and meaning... In speaking of God’s grandeur, our language will always prove inadequate and must make space for silent contemplation. Out of such contemplation springs forth, with all its inner power, the urgent sense of mission, the compelling obligation “to communicate that which we have seen and heard” so that all may be in communion with God (1 Jn 1:3). Silent contemplation immerses us in the source of that Love who directs us towards our neighbours so that we may feel their suffering and offer them the light of Christ, his message of life and his saving gift of the fullness of love.

From Pope Benedict XVI, Message of His Holiness for the 46th World Communications Day, Silence and Word: Path of Evangelization. May 20, 2012

Devin Rose 1. Pray before writing each post. Is this a good post? Are you trying to just be sensational or jump on the latest Catholic blogosphere buzz to get more visitors? Discern whether what you are planning to write about is helpful or not.

Susan Windley-Daoust 2. Don't take it too seriously. It's just a blog. Really, it's your scribbles on whatever came to mind that you self-published on a computer. That's it. Any thoughts of how you will change the face of the culture or Catholicism or liturgy or politics is probably prideful wish-fulfillment. Humility is the queen of the virtues, right? It's a BLOG, not Homer's Odyssey.

Mother Teresa and God's Thirst

15 years ago today Blessed Mother Teresa died, but the impact of her life still echoes throughout the darkness of our world.  In honor of this saint's relentless mission to embody the love of Christ to the poor and needy, I wanted to share her guided meditation on God's intense love for us that might only be described as a thirst.  In every chapel of the order she founded, the Missionaries of Charity, the words “I thirst” can be found next to the crucifix.  Take some time in front of a crucifix to pray through this letter from God's heart and realize God's infinite thirst - for you.

I Thirst for You

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock… (Rev. 3, 20)

It is true. I stand at the door of your heart, day and night. Even when you are not listening, even when you doubt it could be Me, I am there. I await even the smallest sign of your response, even the least whispered invitation that will allow Me to enter.

And I want you to know that whenever you invite Me, I do come – always, without fail. Silent and unseen I come, but with infinite power and love, and bringing the many gifts of My Spirit. I come with My mercy, with My desire to forgive and heal you, and with a love for you beyond your comprehension – a love every bit as great as the love I have received from the Father ("As much as the Father has loved me, I have loved you…" (Jn. 15:10) I come - longing to console you and give you strength, to lift you up and bind all your wounds. I bring you My light, to dispel your darkness and all your doubts. I come with My power, that I might carry you and all your burdens; with My grace, to touch your heart and transform your life; and My peace I give to still your soul.

I know you through and through. I know everything about you. The very hairs of your head I have numbered. Nothing in your life is unimportant to Me. I have followed you through the years, and I have always loved you – even in your wanderings. I know every one of your problems. I know your needs and your worries. And yes, I know all your sins. But I tell you again that I love you – not for what you have or haven’t done – I love you for you, for the beauty and dignity My Father gave you by creating you in His own image. It is a dignity you have often forgotten, a beauty you have tarnished by sin. But I love you as you are, and I have shed My Blood to win you back. If you only ask Me with faith, My grace will touch all that needs changing in your life, and I will give you the strength to free yourself from sin and all its destructive power.

I know what is in your heart – I know your loneliness and all your hurts – the rejections, the judgments, the humiliations, I carried it all before you. And I carried it all for you, so you might share My strength and victory. I know especially your need for love – how you are thirsting to be loved and cherished. But how often have you thirsted in vain, by seeking that love selfishly, striving to fill the emptiness inside you with passing pleasures – with the even greater emptiness of sin. Do you thirst for love? "Come to Me all you who thirst…" (Jn. 7: 37). I will satisfy you and fill you. Do you thirst to be cherished? I cherish you more than you can imagine – to the point of dying on a cross for you.

I Thirst for You. Yes, that is the only way to even begin to describe My love for you. I THIRST FOR YOU. I thirst to love you and to be loved by you – that is how precious you are to Me. I THIRST FOR YOU. Come to Me, and I will fill your heart and heal your wounds. I will make you a new creation, and give you peace, even in all your trials I THIRST FOR YOU. You must never doubt My mercy, My acceptance of you, My desire to forgive, My longing to bless you and live My life in you. I THIRST FOR YOU. If you feel unimportant in the eyes of the world, that matters not at all. For Me, there is no one any more important in the entire world than you. I THIRST FOR YOU. Open to Me, come to Me, thirst for Me, give me your life – and I will prove to you how important you are to My Heart.

Don’t you realize that My Father already has a perfect plan to transform your life, beginning from this moment? Trust in Me. Ask Me every day to enter and take charge of your life. – and I will. I promise you before My Father in heaven that I will work miracles in your life. Why would I do this? Because I THIRST FOR YOU. All I ask of you is that you entrust yourself to Me completely. I will do all the rest.

Even now I behold the place My Father has prepared for you in My Kingdom. Remember that you are a pilgrim in this life, on a journey home. Sin can never satisfy you, or bring the peace you seek. All that you have sought outside of Me has only left you more empty, so do not cling to the things of this life. Above all, do not run from Me when you fall. Come to Me without delay. When you give Me your sins, you gave Me the joy of being your Savior. There is nothing I cannot forgive and heal; so come now, and unburden your soul.

No matter how far you may wander, no matter how often you forget Me, no matter how many crosses you may bear in this life; there is one thing I want you to always remember, one thing that will never change. I THIRST FOR YOU – just as you are. You don’t need to change to believe in My love, for it will be your belief in My love that will change you. You forget Me, and yet I am seeking you every moment of the day – standing at the door of your heart and knocking. Do you find this hard to believe? Then look at the cross, look at My Heart that was pierced for you. Have you not understood My cross? Then listen again to the words I spoke there – for they tell you clearly why I endured all this for you: "I THIRST…"(Jn 19: 28). Yes, I thirst for you – as the rest of the psalm – verse I was praying says of Me: "I looked for love, and I found none…" (Ps. 69: 20). All your life I have been looking for your love – I have never stopped seeking to love you and be loved by you. You have tried many other things in your search for happiness; why not try opening your heart to Me, right now, more than you ever have before.

Whenever you do open the door of your heart, whenever you come close enough, you will hear Me say to you again and again, not in mere human words but in spirit. "No matter what you have done, I love you for your own sake Come to Me with your misery and your sins, with your troubles and needs, and with all your longing to be loved. I stand at the door of your heart and knock. Open to Me, for I THIRST FOR YOU…"


"Jesus is God, therefore His love, His Thirst, is infinite. He the creator of the universe, asked for the love of His creatures. He thirsts for our love… These words: ‘I Thirst’ – Do they echo in our souls?”

Mother Teresa

Imprimatur Mons. G. Sergio De la Cerda Z. Vicar General Tijuana, B. C. México.