Saturday, March 29, 2014

Leading by Example - Pope Francis Goes to Confession

In an amazing of act of leading by action, Pope Francis recently stunned parishioners and clergy by an unexpected act. After giving a sermon about the vital importance of the sacrament of confession, the Holy Father deviated from protocol and went to confession to an ordinary priest before taking his post as confessor. I can only imagine how the humble priest-confessor must have felt to come face to face with the Vicar of Christ at such an unexpected time. From the photos published about the event, we can see the confession was public and not the private confession customary for popes.  In his sermon before this act of humility, Pope Francis had said,

"Who can say he is not a sinner? Nobody. We all are.” 

His action showed that he is more than willing to lead by word and example. Now, who among us should not run, not walk, to the confessional? Lent is the perfect time to take on new, positive habits. Wouldn't we all be better off if we habitually examined our consciences and frequently confessed our sins? That is what I took away from this action on the part of our Holy Father. He is saying, by his actions, that we should do as he says and as he does.

For more on the story click here. To share the meme below on Facebook, click here.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Lifting the Veil...

onto my head

Note: I'm sharing this post of veiling discernment for Wear the Veil Day 2014 - in honor of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. 

I have been contemplating wearing a chapel veil to Mass for a while now. At 54, I am just old enough to remember going to Catholic school and being instructed to cover my head by the religious sisters who taught us. My mother, sister and I also wore veils on Sundays. As with other traditions of our beautiful Catholic faith, this sign of reverence and humility was cast aside, however, when Vatican II was introduced to the people in the pew. While there were quite a number of good things that came from properly implementing this Church council, there were also some abuses from those who were attracted to the novelty of making changes for the sake of change. Some practices were mistakenly altered or eliminated while others were mistakenly (or blatantly) introduced. Examples of the former: some religious sisters stopped wearing their habits (and women their chapel veils) although there had been no official instruction to do so. Another was the total abandonment of abstaining from meat, without the substitution of another act of piety, on Fridays outside of the Lenten Season. The latter could be illustrated by 'feel good' homilies instead of firmly instructional ones and the introduction of holding hands during the Our Father - which is not in the Rubrics...ah, a topic for another time!

Similar to the calling I received from God before making the decision to homeschool, this latest whisper has been persistent even as it has been subtle. Little nudges in the form of blog posts, such as this one over at Catholic Sistas, brought that little niggling thought back to my consciousness time and time again. My adult daughter and I had casual conversations about veiling but still, I never felt strongly enough to commit. The final pull came from a very dear friend of mine with whom I had lost touch. We spent years together in the pro-life trenches. Poor health on her part forced a sort of 'retirement' from active duty. Her carefully researched and thought-out articles for newspapers and pro-life publications were treasure troves of information. Before Mary Lou says anything, she studiously pauses and makes sure only well thought out words come from her lips. I have tremendous respect for both her opinion and her research. When we ran into her at the 65th anniversary Mass of one of our priests, I commented about the chapel veil she was wearing. Her reply, simply stated, gave me the courage to strengthen my resolve.

Mary, the mother of God, covered her head as did many pious women throughout history. We are warned time and again by scripture about 1) prideful actions 2) blurring of lines between the genders 3) immodest attire and actions 4) submission to the Will of God. Armed with this re-enlightenment and after careful consideration, I gratefully accepted her offer of borrowing a veil from her and giving it a try. She told me that, once I began to veil, I would feel bare without it. My creative side won out, though, and so I found myself at the fabric store one day, purchasing lace and thread to make my own. On the ride home, my husband and I discussed the idea and challenged my reasoning. In the end, the decision was made. Along with my daughter and her two year old, I would begin to explore this tradition on Mother's Day.

Although I am still getting used to the practice, I find it unexpectedly calming. I feel more 'in tune' with what is happening at Mass. His presence is more vivid with this outward demonstration of my intent to 'let go and let God'. It will take a few more weeks for veiling to become a deeply entrenched habit but I am seeing the benefits. As for my little two-year old granddaughter, she is a natural. Quite an energetic and precocious little girl, it is surprising how she eagerly keeps her little veil in place. One Sunday, she actually resisted removing it after we left church. All in all, I am confident that the correct decision (for me) was made. I find veiling both humbling and comforting, each of which are welcome feelings. So from now on, I will lift the veil onto my head before I enter His house!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Scripture, a Priest, and Rush Limbaugh

Something a guest on the Rush Limbaugh program said yesterday resonated with me. To paraphrase, he opined that schools today seem to teach history in an emotional context rather than based on solid facts. Our children are fed the politically correct narrative of the day by appealing to their emotions rather than giving them the basic facts of what really happened. Of course, this is yet another effort at indoctrination and the reason more and more parents are taking the home education route.

I can see a correlation between this exchange and what often happens in our faith life. We, as humans, tend to be emotional creatures. Our feelings rank significantly in our decision making process and resulting actions. A wise priest once told me, ‘love is an act of Will, not a feeling’, and his simple, yet profound wisdom has stuck with me during times of confusion.

When I have trouble relating to the saints or our Blessed Mother, because they are out of sight in their heavenly glory, I remember those words. I turn my thoughts to the tangible example they have given us instead of waiting for an emotional rush of feelings. In my human weakness, it’s sometimes easier to smile at and hug every nun I run across, rather than love those who have gone before us – because in the nun’s appearance (habit) I see visual evidence of her spiritual path, while the saints are physically removed from this world.

If love is an act of Will, then it follows that faith can be as well. Turning to the Gospel of Mark, we see the story of the father of an afflicted son. He addresses, not a lack of faith, but a weakness of faith in his exchange with Jesus.

“And immediately the father of the boy crying out, with tears said: I do believe, Lord: help my unbelief.” Mark 9:24

Again and again we find those following Jesus asking for a tangible increase in faith.

“And the apostles said to the Lord: Increase our faith.” Luke 17:5
We find then, that there are substantial benefits to looking to those who came before us and sacred scripture gives us steadfast guidance as well. If we are to follow the example of the saints and strengthen our faith (and love), we must make an act of Will. Relying on emotion when pursuing our eternal destination would only serve to belittle both the goal and the journey.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

5 Fabulous Meatless Meals for Lent

As Lent begins, I'm reaching back into past Meatless Friday Posts, to share 5 of the my popular recipes. Follow the links below to get the details. Happy Lent, happy eating!

Garlic Alfredo Shrimp - An easy, creamy Alfredo sauce creates a tasty addition to seafood and broccoli. Bonus - this dish is also low carb!

Hearty Crock Pot Potato Soup - This crock pot recipe can be prepared ahead of time, yet accommodate busy families with varied schedules and eating times. Comfort food at its finest!

Quick 3 Ingredient Pasta Meal -'s Friday and the troops are hungry, but I've simply been too busy to worry about cooking...that is until the rumbling bellies begin to sound! Here's a quick solution, using only have three ingredients.

Tantalizingly Tasty Tuna Salad - an easy, rich tuna salad that lends itself well to sandwiches or scooped onto a bed of lettuce. Packed full of veggies and other good things, this is kid friendly and healthy. It's also low carb, if served without bread.

Meatless Pierogies Stroganoff -  This recipe can be served over pasta, potatoes, or rice as well. Another tasty comfort food recipe sure to be a family favorite!

Check out another post about Lenten Devotion Projects for you and your kids.

Lent: Word of the Day - Distance

Our Ash Wednesday Mass and distribution of ashes was presided over by our bishop. Standing room only, it was a strong statement of commitment made by the people of our town. The customarily 30 minute noon/lunch Mass took almost an hour and a half, yet I didn't notice.

The beginning of Lent is usually like that for me - I get lost in the moment, inspired to take up this span of time in better service of Our Lord and His people. Some years, however, it begins to wear thin - sometimes quickly, sometimes half way in or toward the end. I pray for the grace to complete the race this year - it's a marathon, not a sprint. In realizing this, I hope to have the endurance to finish well.

During his homily, Bishop Medley reflected on two prominent words our Holy Father, Pope Francis seems to be bringing up most often. One of them is poverty. It's not just the material poverty of others, to whom we owe alms, it's the poverty we must take up when following Christ. Putting distance between ourselves and things of the world can be a very difficult thing to do. It may even seem impossible. Yet to strive for this distance, this poverty, is to live according to the teaching of Holy Mother Church.

We are often reminded we are in this world, not of this world. In order to find the motivation and longevity to endure through the Lenten Season, this will be a valuable theme. If we are able to distance ourselves from our wants, needs, temptations - we will find the poverty needed to die to self. This will be highly instrumental in our efforts to serve Our Lord and others on His behalf. In keeping with this purpose then, our ability to go the distance in our Lenten efforts relies on the distance we are able to put between ourselves and things of this world.

Happy 2nd day of Lent! May our journeys be fruitful!

Here are some useful links for your Lent:

Study the Gospel of Mark with Fr. Longnecker

Why I'm Not Leaving Facebook for Lent

Meatless Friday - 3 Ingredient Meal Your Family Will Love

I'd also like to share these Lenten devotional crafts for you and your family:

Stations of the Cross Craft

Easter Egg Rosary

My Lenten Journey