Thursday, November 8, 2018

Reason no. 27 why I remain Catholic: Mission

What is mission? 

Most people conjure images of people in the jungles of Africa or in the deep rainforests of the Amazon trying to communicate the Word of God to the natives. Yes, that is one form of mission. The Church has gone to the ends of the earth, from the time Jesus ascended into heaven, preaching the Good News.

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you,g and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight. Acts 1:8-9

Mission, in its essence, is preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ to everyone we meet in our everyday lives. Not everyone can drop everything and go to the "ends of the earth" so we tell others of Jesus Christ and what he did for us personally in the market, on the street, in our schools and workplace.

This is more doable!

But how do I preach if I do not really know what to say?

This is where prayer and formation come in. You do not have to become a theologian. In fact, the best way to evangelize others and live "the mission" is to simply give witness as to what God has done in our own lives. We do not have to complicate things. In fact, Pope Paul VI said it best when he wrote in his Apostolic Exhortation "Evangelii Nuntiaandi" "Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses."

This is our mission, to give witness and to do it where we are using our gifts and talents.

Yes. You need to know about your faith. Read Scripture. Take a Bible Study course at your parish. Pray. Pray. Pray. Go to Adoration. Watch movies or read books about the Saints. Listen to podcasts. There are numerous ways to acquire knowledge about God, just consider your sources.

But friendship and testimony are probably the most important and the most valuable ways we can go on mission. This only requires our story and our relationship and love for others.

Photo courtesy of RCheaib @pixabay

Reason no. 26 why I remain Catholic: praying for the dead

To pray for the dead is based on Scripture and Tradition. We pray for those who have gone from this world because although they are physically gone, we understand that there is still a communion of souls.

Once a person dies and is in a state of grace, they can go to heaven. If they have rejected God, they go to hell and if they have lived a life of charity and believe in God, but are not in a state of grace when they die, they can enter purgatory.

What is purgatory? 

It is the place people go, who believe in God but need to be purified in order to enter heaven. We are purified in order to prepare ourselves to see God face-to-face but also to undo the damage that we have done through sin. God forgives as soon as we ask Him, with a contrite heart through the Sacrament of Confession, but the consequences of our sinful choices remain. Our fallen state is still there, even if we are forgiven.

Why do we need to be purified? In simple terms, when we are about to "meet the King of Kings" we need to be at our best-perfect. Our sinfulness does not allow us to stand before God so purgatory is the place we go where we can get "cleaned up" and ready for the big event.

How are we purified?

We are purified through Christ's burning and purifying love. We enter into the "anteroom" of heaven and there Jesus Christ purifies us as only the Son of God can. His burning love is like the fire that removes the impurities from gold and silver.

But there is another way we are purified in purgatory that is important to know and a great tradition fo the Catholic Church: praying for the dead. Through our prayers specifically for "the dead" and acts of mercy and charity that we perform for the intention of the "souls in purgatory," we can help to speed up their purification process. No prayer is left unanswered and no act of charity is left unnoticed in the eyes of God.

Through our rosaries, good works, the way of the Cross, pilgrimages, adoration and other devotions we can help a soul or souls be released from purgatory. It is amazing how closely we are connected with those in the next world. We are all in communion as the Church Militant (earth), Church penitent (purgatory) and Church Triumphant (Heaven). We are all in communion through Christ who spans all these places with His love and mercy.

But the greatest thing we can offer up for the holy souls of purgatory is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. If you do not know of this tradition you can simply go to your local parish office and ask that a Mass be said for the soul of a deceased relative/friend. A small donation should be given. No, you are not paying for the Mass, you are simply helping to support the parish who lives off the faithful's donations.

If you want to know more about this beautiful topic of praying for the holy souls in purgatory you can visit 9 truths about purgatory

Photo courtesy of R. Cheaib @pixabay

Friday, November 2, 2018

Reason no. 25 why I remain Catholic: Spiritual Retreats

So I obviously did not make my deadline, however, I had a pretty good reason. My husband and I were on a spiritual retreat this past weekend.

Retreats, spiritual retreats, are a time to get away from the daily grind and literally retreat. In this case, we retreated to a place surrounded by brothers and sisters of our Catholic community to go deeper into the Word of God, prayer and community life. It is really such a blessing to be able to do this from time to time. I would say, in the faith journey, it is practically impossible to survive without a retreat, at least once a year.

This is a gift from our Catholic faith that can be seen even in Scripture when Jesus would take the time to retreat into the desert to pray and be alone: "but he would withdraw to deserted places to pray."  Luke 5:16

If Jesus, who was God made man, had to retreat and take time to pray, how much more do we need to do this, being imperfect and in need of His grace.

Retreats are essential. Now that I have had my batteries recharged and have caught up on everything since we've been back (life goes on even when you're on retreat) I can set to finish this 30-day challenge.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Reason no. 24 why I remain Catholic: The Holy Spirit

Just a reminder that my posts on why I remain Catholic are not written in any particular order.

Who is the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity?

The Holy Spirit is the love of the Father and the Son. The Father who begets (not made) the Son gives His eternal love to His Son and then the Son gives it back in return; this life-giving love that is eternally exchanged, that is the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is the life and the love that comes forth from the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit "proceeds from the Father and the Son."

So how exactly does the Holy Spirit, the love of the Father and the Son, help us in our everyday? The Son, Jesus Christ, promised us a helper, the Paraclete. (John 14:16). The Holy Spirit is here to help us and to guide us towards the Son. We cannot even say Jesus is Lord (1 Corinthians 12:3) without the aid of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit truly helps us to live the life that Jesus has called us to live so that ultimately we can dwell in heaven with the Father.

We receive the Holy Spirit at Baptism and this grace is deepened through the Sacrament of Confirmation. For "by the sacrament of Confirmation [the baptized] are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed."  (CCC 1285)

It is truly the Holy Spirit, like at the time of Pentecost, that comes to dwell in us. It is this love, this life that is from the Father and the Son, that comes to dwell in our hearts. It is only then that we can proclaim that Jesus is indeed Lord, furthermore, He gives us the courage to go out and proclaim to the all the nations this truth that transforms us from within.

It takes courage to tell others of Christ. With the many martyrs we are witnessing in today's age, we should but ask the Holy Spirit to give us this courage. It is by the Holy Spirit that we are brought to the realization that we are made new in Christ and so it is by the Holy Spirit that we can make known to others that they too can be made new in Christ.

Ask the Holy Spirit to come into your heart and renew your life. We receive Him at Baptism but we can continuously receive Him again and again and have Him renew us from within. Do not be afraid of the Holy Spirit for He is only love and life, sent from the Father through the Son.

More reading on the Holy Spirit? Go here.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Reason no. 23 why I remain Catholic: Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati

This post will not do justice to this saint. He was a young man, from a wealthy family in Turin, Italy. He was involved in many activities both within and outside the Church. He was a normal young man to most: loved skiing, study at the Politecnico. But no one knew that he was living a virtuous life helping the poor.

What I love about Pier Giorgio is the fact that he lived a life like most young people. He was very active in the things of his time. Yet, he was a pious young man who attended daily mass. He would even make time to attend daily Mass before taking the train out to go skiing. He would take his allowance and purchase medicine or food for the poor of Turin.

I remember the first day of teaching at a local high school in Miami. I had placed a poster of Pier Giorgio in my classroom and many of the young people who walked in would inquire as to who this young guy was. He was good looking and just had a look about him that he would be a good friend.

When I told them that he was beatified by St. John Paul II, they did not believe me. It is really beautiful to see holiness in such a real way. This young man made holiness achievable. He made holiness look "cool".

There is so much more to say about Pier Giorgio Frassati but the best way to describe his life and his love for Jesus was something he liked to say: "Verso l'alto" which translates from Italian to "To the heights" and that is exactly the way he lived. He lived his life, despite his circumstances of wealth and a cold upbringing, always striving for the heights of holiness and love of his neighbor because he loved Jesus.

The proof to this was the day of his funeral procession, the poor from all over Turin gathered to pay homage to this great young man. His parents expected his friends and all of the elite of Turin and to their surprise, they say hundreds of poor gather for the sake of their friend Pier Giorgio.

To learn more about Pier Giorgio, go here.

"Heavenly Father,
Give me the courage to strive for the highest goals,
to flee every temptation to be mediocre.
Enable me to aspire to greatness, as Pier Giorgio did,
and to open my heart with joy to Your call to holiness.
Free me from the fear of failure.
I want to be, Lord, firmly and forever united to You.
Grant me the graces I ask You through Pier Giorgio's intercession,
by the merits of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Disclaimer: photo and prayer courtesy of Frassati USA

Reason no. 22 why I remain Catholic: St. Teresa of Avila

So today I have a woman to introduce to you. Perhaps you know her. Perhaps you don't. My little take on her here will do no justice as you can read a plethora of books/biographies based on her life. Even still you would only scratch the surface of this woman's impact on the Church [Catholic], on Christianity and for women in general. She was a woman ahead of her time. I am writing about St. Teresa of Avila also known as Saint Teresa of Jesus. Today is her feast day.

St. Teresa, was baptized as Teresa Sánchez de Cepeda y Ahumada. She lived between 1515 and 1582 in Avila, Spain. Avila is a town just North-West of Madrid in the region of Castilla-Leon. She was born into a pious Catholic family. Her upbringing made her into a prayerful young woman from a very early age. But it wasn't until later that we see Teresa's true colors surface; the characteristics that will shape her and her future as a reformer of the Carmelite order.

Like many teenagers, Teresa also lost some of her earlier more devout ways. She began to yearn for more worldly things and this was reflected in her enjoyment of social gatherings and parties. She was naturally charming and became a kind of social butterfly within her social circles. She loved fashion and reading lots of fiction, just like any other teenage girl. This would set off concern in her father. Soon after her mother died her strict father decided to send her to an Augustinian convent school. Off she went at the age of 16. Although this experience reignited her zeal for the Lord, she soon fell ill and returned home.

To read more, please click here.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Reason no. 21 why I remain Catholic: St. John Paul II

Today is the feast day of St. John Paul II. Here is an article I wrote for Aleteia on-line publication back in April of 2017.

On, April 2, 2005, I was standing in St. Peter’s Square praying for our very frail Pope John Paul II.

Along with thousands of others, I had gathered to pray a Rosary led by a few cardinals. The prayers reverberating across the Square were a testimony from the throngs that had come to keep vigil, as we anticipated that our Papa was about to depart for his heavenly home.

He had a great love for the youth and his last words to us that evening were, “I have looked for you. Now you have come to me. And I thank you.”

We indeed had come to look for him, to say goodbye.

At 9:37 p.m. the light in his papal apartments went dark. The light that had always shined until the late hours of the night, had finally been extinguished.

The bells of St. Peter’s began to toll: 84 times for the years he had spent as a pilgrim on this earth. He had finally returned to “the Father’s house.”

Six days later I found myself looking across St. Peter’s again. The ocean of people stretched all the way down Via della Conciliazione and passed the Tiber. The people joyfully exclaimed, as their many signs read, Santo Subito! Sainthood Now!

To read more click here.

Disclaimer: photo courtesy of uroburos @ pixabay

Reason no. 20 why I remain Catholic: The Saints

Sorry, forgot to publish this yesterday!
Two for Monday :)

Do you have friends that you can look up to and rely on? Do you have friends that pray for you, especially when you are going through a difficult time? I really hope so.

If you feel you do not have friends like this, I have great news. One of the beautiful things about being Catholic is that we gain a multitude of friends in heaven that can intercede for us at all times. From the heights of heaven and through their proximity to our Lord, they are able to help us receive God's graces and become are signposts towards heaven.

Saints are not canonized for their own benefit. The only reason the Catholic Church is in the business of making saints is for us!

Saints are supernatural heroes that show us the way towards our ultimate goal: heaven!

They have literally "been there and done that" when it comes to everything that involves trying to be Christ-like and even failing on the journey. There is a saint for every example under the sun of what it is like to strive for sanctity, a vocation that each and every person on the face of the earth is called to.

The beauty of the Catholic Church is our faith and friendship is not limited to this earth.

We have the  Church Militant which refers to us Christians here on earth who are like soldiers. We battle against the enemy who is always "seeking to ruin our soul".

Then there is the Church Penitent which is the Christians in purgatory who await their entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven.

And finally, there is the Church Triumphant which consists of this cohort of saints along with Mary who dwells in the beatific vision and resides in Paradise (aka Heaven).

Church Militant pray for Church Penitent but asks for prayers from Church Triumphant.

We are all connected by the desire to see God.

The saints are our friends and for the next few days, I will take the time to write about a few of my favorite friends whom I call upon often.

Disclaimer: photo courtesy of pixabay

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Reason no. 19 why I remain Catholic: The Sacred Heart of Jesus

Imagine if you will, being wrapped in complete love. A love so deep and so profound that you want for nothing. This is the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Our Lord came to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in a series of apparitions beginning in 1673. "In them, Christ informed her that she was His chosen instrument to spread devotion to His Sacred Heart, instructed her in a devotion that was to become known as the Nine Fridays and the Holy Hour, and asked that the feast of the Sacred Heart be established."

This is where the devotion of the Sacred Heart began, in a little town of Bourgogne, France called Paray-Le-Monial.

Our Lord said to St. Margaret: “Behold this Heart which has so loved men that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming itself, in order to testify its love. In return, I receive from the greater part only ingratitude, by their irreverence and sacrileges, and by the coldness and contempt, they have for me in this sacrament of love…. I come into the heart I have given you in order that through your fervor you may atone for the offenses which I have received from lukewarm and slothful hearts that dishonor me in the Blessed Sacrament.”

It was in discovering the gift of the Sacred Heart of Jesus that I came to know this message. This allowed me to reflect on all of the love Jesus has given to me and how ungrateful I have been in my own lukewarmness towards Him.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus to me is a sign of God's everlasting love. That he would allow himself to be hung on a cross, pierced in His side so that we may have life. This heart that to this day gives of itself over and over and receives so little love in return.

This heart is like a furnace, burning with a fire of love so powerful it will consume anything that comes towards it. This fire consumes not in the way of obliteration, but to consume with love. This is the heart where we can be wrapped completely in a love that is so intense, so all-encompassing that we can only give in to its intensity and give love for love. 

The Sacred Heart of Jesus is the love of God poured out for every human being to accept or reject. Because God is love, He can only love and wait for us to reciprocate.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Disclaimer: photo courtesy of pixabay

Friday, October 19, 2018

Reason no. 18 why I remain Catholic: Sacramentals

The Catholic faith is a very tangible faith. Where ever you turn there is something to touch, hear, smell, taste or see in our faith. 

I can touch the ground upon which Jesus walked on in Jerusalem. I can touch the ground upon which the Saints tread in Rome and elsewhere. 

I can see the first-century streets in Rome where Peter and Paul walked to their deaths. 

I can see the place where Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. 

I can hear the bells toll during the consecration of the Eucharist. 

I can hear the bells toll when it is time for Mass. 

I can hear the words of absolution when the priest, acting in the person of Christ (in persona Christi) says "...through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

I can smell the perfume of incense when the priest incenses the altar before the Liturgy of the Word.

I can smell the scent of fresh flowers as they are offered before a statue of Our Lady.

I can taste the bread that now through the words of Consecration has turned into the body of Christ. 

I can taste the wine that now, through the words of consecration, has turned into the blood of Christ.

Our faith is concrete!

The Lord God has regard for our sensitivities. He knew as he created us, that we perceive the world through our sense of touch, taste, sound, sight, and smell. He knew that in order to get to our hearts he had to go through our hands, our mouth, our ears, our eyes, and our nose. And so he has and he continues to do so through the Sacraments. 

But we also have what the Church refers to as sacramentals. Sacramentals “are sacred signs which bear a resemblance to the sacraments. They signify effects, particularly of a spiritual nature, which are obtained through the intercession of the Church. By them, men are disposed to receive the chief effect of the sacraments, and various occasions in life are rendered holy” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1667).

Once a priest or bishop blesses a certain object: such as a rosary or statute, it becomes a sacramental. But the first of all sacramentals are blessings. Blessings of peoples, food or things are the most important type of sacramentals. 

And why do we need sacramentals? Because we are people of flesh who function through our senses and things, material things can help us come into contact with spiritual things. 

For instance, we may carry a picture of our late grandmother that we often look at or share with others when we speak of her. Of course, this picture does not bring her back to life and it is not a replacement of our deceased grandmother, but it helps to remind us of her when she was alive and all the memories we shared with her.  This is a concrete object (the picture) that allows us to connect with something spiritual,  (our deceased grandmother.) This is not a sacramental but it explains the way sacramentals work. 

The sacramental should lead us to the sacraments that in turn reveal to us, Christ. 

Probably the most well known sacramental is the rosary. The rosary is a concrete object we use in order to pray and reflect on the mysteries of Christ's life and ministry. The rosary then helps us to reflect on all that the Lord did for us and hence it spurs in us a deep desire to unite ourselves to Christ in the Eucharist. 

These are beautiful instruments of faith. God is so practical!