Six Ways to Build Community in Your Parish November 6, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Christina M @ 11:00 am

We’re outgrowing our church … and it’s all Fr. Felipe’s fault. Well, not fault. Credit. The fact is, we’ve had our pastor only a short time but he’s awakened so much of the parish. Since he got here, we’ve had a phenomenal adult retreat, several great retreats for teens, small faith communities forming, numerous Bible study groups, a fellowship ministry, some truly inspiring guest speakers and parish missions… and I’m sure I must be forgetting some things. Now, we have so many people meeting at the parish almost every night that it’s getting hard to find room for all the groups to meet. People are getting to know each other’s names.

I’ve reached the point where I wouldn’t want to move, because I’d miss my parish. That’s big.

Not every pastor has the time or ability to plan so many things to bring the parish together. I realize we are incredibly fortunate. But I think most parishes could do some of these things, and that most pastors would bless these activities if they didn’t have to arrange them personally. So I’m going to list a few of the things our parish is doing or has done that have helped us to become far more of a community.

1. Friends of Fatima. This is a local ministry that I’m pretty sure this one was organized by lay people, with the pastor’s approval. It’s a group of people who have set about doing whatever they can to encourage fellowship. They serve donuts after morning Mass to get people sticking around and talking instead of rushing to their cars. They put on an annual harvest dinner (a real winner in a farming community). They help with other events throughout the year, and they have really brought a feeling of camaraderie to our little parish. If your parish doesn’t have a fellowship group and needs one, consider being the one to spark that fire.

2. COR retreats for teens. These are made available for young people in the parish, and have done a really good job of lighting a fire. The adult planners (as well as teens who have been through the retreat already) partner with new retreatants for a memorable experience. Our confirmation students are required to attend one retreat during their two year preparation; it can be this or another retreat, but I’ve never heard a kid regret attending COR. This is a larger movement, not just our parish, but unfortunately I don’t know where to get information about a program. My best suggestion would be to talk to someone at a parish hosting one in your area to find out what would be necessary to bring them to your parish.

3. Sacred Heart Evangelization Retreat. I haven’t been to a COR, but I have been to a Sacred Heart Evangelization retreat, and it was life changing. It brought enthusiasm and friendship to a whole new level at our parish, and had a long-lasting effect of helping us to build small faith communities that are strengthening our faith and giving us a study and support network that makes so much of the retreat’s effects more permanent.

4. Parish missions. If your parish is not having some sort of mission, I’m surprised. However, if you want a recommendation for one that really moved us, I suggest Brendan Case. He is a layman who leads parish missions, and has a gift for reaching different groups of people. Our parish was really buzzing after he came here, and I know that my teen daughter really felt that it changed her life for the better.

5. Bible Study. While it’s true that any group of people can get together and study the Bible together, you will get much more out of it if it is parish sponsored and has solid guidance. I highly — oh, SO highly — recommend Jeff Cavins’ Great Bible Adventure. Jeff Cavins is extraordinarily gifted both with knowledge of Scripture and with the ability to explain it. The program comes with CDs or DVDs of his talks, which are followed up with group discussion in your small group. I recommend a group of 8-16 participants. The DVD program is a bit of an expenditure; most families won’t be able to buy it. On a parish level, though, it is very much worth the cost of (if I recall correctly) around $300. It can be re-used with one bible study group after another.

6. Finally, there’s you and me. We Catholics are often not as good as we ought to be at fellowship. When you go into the church, look for someone you know but not well. Go up to them and smile, and say hello. Tell them it’s good to see them. No program in the world can ever replace genuine human kindness and friendliness. Even we can learn it, if we try.


St. Anthony to the Rescue October 2, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Christina M @ 7:13 pm

My Charming and Patient Husband has to carry a cell phone for his second job, driving dialysis patients to their appointments. Unfortunately, a month ago he lost the cell phone and we’ve struggled to find it, to no avail. This week, there were hints of threat from the boss regarding his finding it; it really is necessary, in case he gets a cancellation, or an extra client to drive.

Why didn’t I call on one of my favorite saints sooner? (I think sometimes it’s like I’m afraid I’m bothering him.)

I asked for his help, and then I looked in my e-mail. This seems to be a favorite way of his to give me help. Well, there was a notification that my niece had tagged me in a picture. I checked it, and it was a cartoony picture of an avatar of each of us, dancing together. Hers was wearing a Sailor-Moon-type costume.

I went to Drama Queen, and said “Do you know where there’s anything Sailor Moon related?’ “Well, Artgal has a sailor moon t-shirt in the dirty clothes,” she said.

Recently we had to clear out the laundry room to get to an electrical panel, and we had bagged up our laundry and put it on a couch that we weren’t using.  I dug through the pockets of all the pants. Then Hubbie looked in the cushions of that couch. Voila, there it was.

It could almost be a coincidence, if St. Anthony didn’t help in this same way so often. Almost.

Thank you, Dear Friend.


A short Bible reflection on suffering September 11, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Christina M @ 10:03 am

Monday’s reading this week was interesting. In it, we see the value of redemptive suffering.

Col 1:24–2:3

Brothers and sisters:
I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake,
and in my flesh I am filling up
what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ
on behalf of his Body, which is the Church,
of which I am a minister
in accordance with God’s stewardship given to me
to bring to completion for you the word of God,
the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past.
But now it has been manifested to his holy ones,
to whom God chose to make known the riches of the glory
of this mystery among the Gentiles;
it is Christ in you, the hope for glory.
It is he whom we proclaim,
admonishing everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom,
that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.
For this I labor and struggle,
in accord with the exercise of his power working within me.

For I want you to know how great a struggle I am having for you
and for those in Laodicea
and all who have not seen me face to face,
that their hearts may be encouraged
as they are brought together in love,
to have all the richness of assured understanding,
for the knowledge of the mystery of God, Christ,
in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

We often hear from people of some branches of Christianity that we should not suffer. Some take it to the extreme, saying that if we have faith God will give us whatever we ask, so if you suffer it means you are faithless. This philosophy, frequently referred to as the “prosperity gospel” is a popular one on TV. It attracts viewers, in part, because they are hungry for hope and the hope for material success and physical comfort is the easiest hope to appeal to.

However, it doesn’t work. When a person finds that God does not bless him the way that he has demanded, he may feel frustrated, even altogether hopeless, thinking that it means his faith is not real. Or he may feel that God has let him down. But as we see in Colossians, this “promise” is not a genuine Biblical understanding of Christ’s promises. The promise of the Beatitudes, in fact, is rather the opposite. Those who suffer in this life receive their reward in Heaven.

A less extreme view of suffering is that it is unnecessary and not redemptive. Many is the time I’ve heard people say that suffering cannot be redemptive because Christ’s sacrifice was complete. As we see in this writing of St. Paul, though, redemptive suffering is helpful to others. By offering suffering and sacrifice on behalf of others, we are “filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his Body, which is the Church…” In other words, we are not completing Christ’s sacrifice, but completing the suffering of others in the Church, and of the Church herself.

We do not attempt to “complete” the sacrifice of Jesus, which was, and is, perfect. Rather, we join in it in order to be a part of it. We begin this journey by baptism, through which we die and rise again with Him. Our joining in His death and resurrection are not for His sake, but to unite us with Him for our own sake.

Finally, we see in this reading that suffering for others is not an act of misery or to “buy” salvation, but rather an act of love.

Today is a good day to offer a sacrifice for someone you love.


What’s your pledge? September 4, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Christina M @ 11:23 am

I pledge to protect the innocent young from abuse, infanticide, and abortion.

I pledge to encourage my children to marry and have children. Lots of them.

I pledge to wash my hands frequently, after every toilet trip, before every meal, regardless of the water it wastes.

I pledge to fight for the rights of Catholic pharmacists and doctors to practice their faith.

I pledge to support and defend the constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

I pledge to replace my van with non-lead-based paint with one with lead-based paint that won’t chip and peel.

I pledge to discourage the dead from voting.

I pledge to oppose those who bully others for their votes.

I pledge to support the right to live and reproduce of all people, of all races, and to fight racism, genocide, and Planned Parenthood.

I pledge to love even those who hate me for my views.

I pledge to get more involved in the next election.

What do you pledge?


I’m a Little Angry… or Maybe it’s a Power Surge March 23, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Christina M @ 10:59 am

You know how we keep hearing that sex ed is really health education, right? They say that Planned Parenthood is about educating young people about their bodies because those mean Christians would keep them in the dark. It isn’t really about promoting sexual abandon, it’s just about letting them have enough information to make their own choices… right?

But if it were really about educating women so that they know their bodies and how they work, where is the information about menopause? We are bombarded with talk about pubic hair and menstruation and liberation from “outdated” morality; but when do we ever hear the realities of what happens to our bodies after menarche?

They tell us how to apply a condom, but they don’t tell us how to tell when we’re fertile. They tell us how to get body-altering hormone treatments when we are not sick, but they don’t tell us about the side effects. They tell us about “all” those changes of our bodies, but they don’t say word one about menopause. Let’s face it, Planned Parenthood and others like them are only interested in teen sexuality, not in the overall sexual health of females.

This is why, when I wanted to learn how to tell when I’m fertile, I had to go to Christian sources and alternative health sources. This is why my state repeatedly tells me they’ll pay for pills for me, but not for a thermometer and a class. And this is why it is darn near impossible to find any information at all about menopause.

When I wanted to find out when it typically happens, it took me months of research to find the answer. Learning about the phases of menopause (and perimenopause) was tougher. They all said “oh, you get hot flashes and mood swings.” But I couldn’t find out for how long, or what is happening inside the body when these things happen. And frankly, maybe it’s because I’m a perimenopausal bundle of hostilities, but it makes me mad that those who get so much credit for caring about women’s health and disseminating information are completely ignoring menopause. I guess there’s no money in those who aren’t getting unwanted pregnancies.

I did finally find my information, though. I finally realized I needed to stop searching for “menopause” and start searching for “menopause” and “nfp.” (That’s natural family planning.) Only then did I find real information beyond hot flashes. And surprise, surprise, most of those promoting NFP are Christians.

I recently bought a couple of books on menopause at a thrift store. I’ve begun reading one of them, and by the end of the first paragraph was already frustrated. That’s the first paragraph of the introduction, mind you. The author said that one of the consolations of menopause is the kids moving out. Please tell me she doesn’t mean I can expect this process to last the next 17 years, till my youngest reaches adulthood. Ok, I know that isn’t what she means. What she means is the same thing most people in the secular world seem to believe: that sex is not related to childbearing.

Let me explain. Sex, or actually fertile sex, is something that is perceived to last long after a woman might realistically have children. Any woman who hits menopause hasn’t had any babies for twenty years. Sure, she’s having sex; but what does that have to do with having babies? People like me, who believe that fertility and parenting go hand in hand, simply aren’t supposed to exist. We contradict the current thinking about the purpose of sex, so we just get ignored. Besides, I suspect we’re believed to be too ignorant to be reading books like this about sexual health, anyway.

I really hope the other book turns out to be better. I’m looking for information, not preconceived notions about the social aspects of middle aged sex and childbearing. (No pun intended.)

I guess I’m ranting more than offering a genuine insight; but I am extremely frustrated. Why is in-depth information so difficult to find? I want to know what to expect as I enter a new phase, as much now as I did when I was twelve. Maybe those who do have information should be a little more forthcoming, and less private about it. It’s just as well I don’t get my information from Planned Parenthood, all things considered. I probably wouldn’t trust it much. But I do wish that NFP and its perspectives on fertility and understanding what the female body is doing were not so closely guarded and reserved for people who can afford classes.


The Reason for the Season January 18, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Christina M @ 6:52 pm

It’s a phrase you didn’t expect to hear again for a while, isn’t it? We heard it again and again during Advent, and possibly even during Christmas season (for those non-Catholics here, I’m referring to the time between Christmas day — the Feast of the Nativity — and the Epiphany). And then, somewhere along the line, the phrase started fading.

But He is still the reason for the season. Not just the season of Advent or Christmas… He is the reason for every season. He is the reason for everything. Now that the local discount store is putting up Easter and Fourth of July decorations, let’s keep on remembering Jesus. Out of commercial sight shouldn’t mean out of mind.


Carmelite Final Promises December 18, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Christina M @ 10:03 am

You may have noticed I’ve been more absent than usual recently. I’m trying, in addition to holiday cleaning, to prepare spiritually for OCDS Final Promises. For those who don’t know, OCDS refers to the Secular branch of the Order of Carmelites, Discalced. A secular, sometimes referred to as “Third Order,” is a member of a religious order who is not a nun, friar, monk, sister, or brother. In other words, we are attached to our order by prayer, spirituality, study, work, and charism.

The Discalced branch of the Carmelites was founded by St. Teresa of Avila, with the help of St. John of the Cross, in response to a need for reform in the then lax attitude toward the Rule of Life of Carmelites. In a time of great religious upheaval, Teresa found herself heading a convent where benefits and privileges were granted based on family wealth and favoritism, and where the rules were practically ignored. One of the rules that she reinstituted was the traditional habit, which included sandals, not shoes. Her reform was originally known by many popular names, but the name “discalced,” meaning shoeless, was the one that stuck. St. John headed the male reform, at St. Teresa’s request.

Today, the original Carmelite order (OC) and the Discalced Carmelites (OCD) make up separate orders with separate lines of authority and slightly differing spirituality, but they share a history and charism, as well as maintaining mutual “authority” over the Brown Scapular. The Brown Scapular, the symbol of both Orders, represents a smaller version of the brown habit of Carmelites. Both Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross have been named Doctors of the Church, and recently so was St. Therese of Lisieux, another Carmelite saint.

My name in Carmel is Mary of the Feet of Jesus. Please pray for me as I prepare to make my promises permanent on Saturday.


Catechism Highlights October 9, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Christina M @ 10:36 am

Some teaching worth reflecting upon as those of us in the United States prepare to vote:

1867 The catechetical tradition also recalls that there are “sins that cry to heaven”: the blood of Abel,[139] the sin of the Sodomites,[140] the cry of the people oppressed in Egypt,[141] the cry of the foreigner, the widow, and the orphan,[142] injustice to the wage earner.[143]

1868 Sin is a personal act. Moreover, we have a responsibility for the sins committed by others when we cooperate in them:
– by participating directly and voluntarily in them;
– by ordering, advising, praising, or approving them;
– by not disclosing or not hindering them when we have an obligation to do so;
– by protecting evil-doers.


Daily Bread August 2, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Christina M @ 8:21 pm

A thought:
How often do I say “Give us this day our daily bread”?
How often do I go to daily Mass and receive Communion?

Hm. Maybe I need to work on that.


Two Scenes July 10, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Christina M @ 6:52 am

Picture, if you will, two scenes.

In the first, Jesus is invited to the home of a Pharisee, where a notorious sinner cries on his feet in repentence, wipes them with her hair, and anoints them with oil. The Pharisee says to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.”

In the second, a worshiper is at Mass and notices that the young woman in front of her is wearing skimpy clothing. Snide comments cross her mind, and she wonders why the priest doesn’t do something about the way people dress for Mass.

In the first scene, I bet most people see the sinner as representing us. We are sinners, we can’t deny it; and we want to repent as wholeheartedly as this woman. We love Jesus, and we know that the Pharisee is wrong to judge Jesus for loving this sinner.

But if you see yourself as the worshiper in the second scene then maybe, like me, you’ve been casting yourself as the wrong character in the first scene.