The Man Behind the Collar

January 13, 2010 § 1 Comment

This is really worth sharing.

Fr “This short series follows three priests from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati in their daily priestly duties and offers a glimpse into the diverse ways that priests serve others and relax through their own hobbies. It shows The Man Behind the Collar.”

My most recent interaction with the priesthood outside of mass was knowing that at almost midnight a priest came to the hospital to give last rites to my grandmother and another patient in the hospital.  24 hour job.

I also love the idea of asking “Lord, what do you want me to do?”.   When I was working with the youth in my parish I told them to pray every morning “What do you want for me to do today?” and if they would be bold enough to listen and act on God’s will they would live extraordinary lives of purpose and joy in Christ.  I really believe this, though I forget all too often to do it myself.

Inauguration Day Mass Intentions Update

January 7, 2009 § 1 Comment

obama

no cause is lost until we surrender

This is from Barbara who is corridinating this great effort:

January 6, 2009

Greetings on the Feast of Blessed Andre Bessette. May his example of doing little things for the greater glory of God be our inspiration for our Mass Intention efforts this day.

We currently have 109 Masses being offered in 31 States and Washington, DC. We also have six more Masses secured in Italy, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, India, Portugal and Canada.

It has been exciting to see the Mass list grow and encouraging to read the enthusiastic responses from people throughout the country. Some people have evan been able to secure Masses in several parishes in their cities.

Next week, we will send out an e-mail inviting Catholics around the country to attend a Mass in their local area. So, it would be great to secure more Masses in all states so that more people would have the opportunity to attend a Mass locally.

Time is of the essence. It is getting more difficult to secure Mass Intentions for the specific date: 1/20/09. But there are still options. You can either ask for the closest date available or if you know your pastor to be zealously pro-life, you can talk to him directly and he may be willing to change the intention schedule, if at all possible.

Also, consider that the following places are not booked as early: convents, abbeys, monasteries, retirement homes for priests and nuns, hospitals, nursing homes, and college campuses. (The main campus churches are probably already booked, but the dorm Mass intentions are generally more available and flexible.). But even parishes are still making room for our intention in their schedules, so don’t hesitate to ask. Again, I have had good success sending out e-mails to specific priests that I know to be ardently pro-life. I also have had wonderful responses from convents this past week.

We are still missing the following states, so if you have contacts in these states, please let them know about this project:

Alaska (AK)
Colorado (CO)
Connecticut (CT)
Delaware (DE)
Idaho (ID)
Louisiana (LA)
Maine (ME)
Massachusetts (MA)
Mississippi (MS)
Missouri (MO)
Nevada (NV)
New Hampshire (NH)
New Jersey (NJ)  
New York (NY)
North Carolina (NC)
Oklahoma (OK)
Tennessee (TN)
Virginia (VA)
West Virginia (WV)

May God bless our efforts, may He hear and answer our prayers according to His Divine Will, and may we hear good news in the coming year for the sake of the unborn and most vulnerable among us.

Can my autistic child receive communion?

April 24, 2008 § 8 Comments

Rachel dressed for mass
Rachel all ready for mass

 The answer is a qualified yes.  From Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities

Eucharist

19. The eucharist is the most august sacrament, in which Christ the Lord himself is contained, offered, and received, and by which the Church constantly lives and grows. It is the summit and the source of all Christian worship and life, signifying and effecting the unity of the people of God, providing spiritual nourishment for the recipient, and achieving the building up of the Body of Christ. The celebration of the eucharist is the center of the entire Christian life (Canon 897).

20. Parents, those who take the place of parents, and pastors are to see to it that children who have reached the use of reason are correctly prepared and are nourished by the eucharist as early as possible. Pastors are to be vigilant lest any children come to the Holy Banquet who have not reached the use of reason or whom they judge are not sufficiently disposed (Canon 914). It is important to note, however, that the criterion for reception of holy communion is the same for persons with developmental and mental disabilities as for all persons, namely, that the person be able to distinguish the Body of Christ from ordinary food, even if this recognition is evidenced through manner, gesture, or reverential silence rather than verbally. Pastors are encouraged to consult with parents, those who take the place of parents, diocesan personnel involved with disability issues, psychologists, religious educators, and other experts in making their judgment. If it is determined that a parishioner who is disabled is not ready to receive the sacrament, great care is to be taken in explaining the reasons for this decision. Cases of doubt should be resolved in favor of the right of the baptized person to receive the sacrament. The existence of a disability is not considered in and of itself as disqualifying a person from receiving the eucharist.

21. Eucharistic celebrations are often enhanced by the exercise of the diverse forms of ministry open to the laity. In choosing those who will be invited to use their gifts in service to the parish community, the parish pastoral staff should be mindful of extending Christ’s welcoming invitation to qualified parishioners with disabilities.

When we were looking into First Communion for Rachel we wanted two things.  We wanted to follow the teaching of the Church as hard as it can be sometimes when your child is disable there are things that won’t work for them, if it was determined that Rachel lacked sufficient understanding or was unable to receive reverently we would have accepted that and trusted that God would bless her life in other ways. But we wanted our child to be able to participate as fully as possible in the life of the Church. 

I was really sadded by the story of an eight-year-old girl who was intolerant of wheat and the way her mother decided to deal with the issue of her daughter receiving communion.  The only valid medium for the Eucharistic bread is wheat.  For those who can’t consume wheat they may receive the wine only and that is valid, every bit as much as the reception of bread alone.  What bothered me so much about the above news story was how the mother acknowledged that she knew that her daughter could receive the wine, but in her opinion an eight-year-old shouldn’t ingest any alcohol and so the entire Church would have to change the dogma of two-thousand years because she didn’t want her daughter to have a miniscule taste of wine.  “It’s not appropriate for children to drink alcohol,” she said. “Even a sip.”   The last thing I wanted to do when looking at this sacrament for my own child was to become so caught up in what I wanted that I missed what was resonable and right.  So the question of Rachel understanding that the host was not just a little snack weighed on me heavily.

There were some signs that Rachel did understand.  She had always been very caught up with food.  One cookie was never enough.  It was always surprising to me that she had never reached for or grabbed a host when I went to receive Communion.  But reason suggested that since she never had one she might not see them as food.  I was somewhat comforted by the idea that in “Cases of doubt should be resolved in favor of the right of the baptized person to receive the sacrament”.  I talked to my priest, to our Diocese director of the Office for People with Disabilities and to the Lord in prayer.  But in the end it was God, through Rachel, who let us know that she understood enough to receive.

 My small bits of advice gleaned from what I have read and my own experience:

  1. As your child approaches the age typical in your parish for First Communion speak with your priest and/or the person responsible for religious instruction in your parish.  Go in with an open mind and heart and explain your child’s situation as fully and objectively as you can.   Listen to what they say and consider it thoughtfully.The vast majority of priests want to serve their parishioner and they want to serve the Church and to do both faithfully. In my experience it has actually been the more liberal priests who are the ones most likely to say that your child shouldn’t participate in the Sacraments at all.  I have heard several mothers say that they went to Fr.             and he said their child didn’t need the Eucharist (or reconcilliation).  Sometimes going back with Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities in hand is helpful.  Generally their reason for refusing is some idiotic banality about how “your child is so close to God already because their are disabled they don’t need to receive Communion.”   Don’t buy this, we all need grace.   It is one thing if your child really doesn’t understand that this is a special thing, a holy thing, and would not approach the sacrament with reverence, but not some fluffiness about not needing it.
  2. If you can not come to some agreement at the parish level don’t be afraid to go to the diocese.  I wouldn’t say just go straight to the Bishop, but if you need to you need to.
  3. When it is decided that your child is capable of receiving the Eucharist there are some wonderful resources for helping your child prepare. Meyer Johnson has communion symbols available for their products.  We used these to help create a social story for Rachel.  There are also some good books available for First Communion with colorful pictures and simple explanations.
  4. Test drive with an unconsecrated host if you think there is ANY chance that your child will spit it out or not eat it.  Reverence for the Body of Christ has to come above all else.  I know there are a few people who might think that sounds harsh, but if we don’t believe in the Eucharistic miracle what is the point?  I know personally the hurt that pulls at your heart when you realise that your child can do something because of their disability and how much worse it is with those lovely rites of passage like First Communion, but we are talking about the actual presence of Christ and the reverence that demands must trump parental sentiment.  When we were preparing Rachel for her first communion we brought home a half a dozen unconsecrated hosts and she was happy to eat it and seems to like the flat, tasteless breads.   I know that for some people with autism the texture is off-putting.  Be sure to let your priest know if a smaller bit is better.  For the rite to be valid only the smallest bit is needed so be sure to explore that option before the day if that seems appropriate. 
  5. You can also validly receive the wine alone.  The same caveat applies.  Be sure that your child won’t just spit it out, but if the bread is not working for you that could be an option to explore.  Your priest will most likely be happy to work with you on this.  Most parishes that I have been in have allowed the children to try a tiny sip of the unconsecrated wine before they experienced it in mass.  Some children really don’t like the taste and no priest wants to risk desecrating the host.
  6. If a packed First Communion mass would spell disaster for you First Communicant talk to your priest about about your child either receiving their First Communion as part of a regular mass or communion service.  Sometimes a small weekday mass works better.  Or see if your Diocese has masses for people with disabilities that might serve your families needs.

 

Finally, the Church wants to serve your family and your child, each individual member of the Body of Christ.  At the same time She is also trusted with safeguarding the sacraments and traditions of the Church.  Most priests, the US Bishops and Rome all echo that every being, no matter their state in life or their disability is of infinite worth, a full person of dignity and worthy of the utmost respect and they want each soul to participate in the sacramental life as much as they able to within the limits of their understanding and capabilities.

 

More on Confession

March 14, 2008 § 1 Comment

There has been a lot in the news the past week and even more in blogs written about confession, both the Sacrament and the basic concept.  In the news there have been two stories which have caught my eye.  The first was that horrible misreporting of the Vatican announcing new, more culturally relevant sins and the second was a report on the trend to confess sins online.  The Catholic Blog world has been much more rich with a variety of articles being written about Confession, first confession, the practice of the Sacrament, the renewed interest so many people are having with the act of just going in reciting  sins and receiving absolution.  

 Now as most Catholics have picked up by now the main-stream news media is horribly out of touch when it comes to reporting on anything having to do with the Catholic Church.  When it is the British Press just triple that.  Amy Welbourn and Deacon Kandra   had insightful things to say about this crossing of bad reporting and the secular media’s natural inclination to get fuzzy headed, silly, giddy any time they think they found something interesting to say about the Catholic faith.  Dullards. 

 Almost as stupid is the CNN.com report on online “confession”.   I wish I could say I was surprised that a national news source reported on the trend of “true confession” sites with such a religious sounding angle but at the same time showed little respect or understanding of the significance of confession in religion.  It isn’t shocking simply because the press so often gets religion wrong.  At least in this article they bother to actually talk to religious leaders about the sacrament vrs the online confession fad.

Around the blogs I read there has been a trend of some very fine writing about Confession in the Sacramental sense.  Julie at Happy Catholic has a wonderful post and round-up of some of the best of these articles.  I really encourage everyone to read them. 

Autism and Catholic Life

March 5, 2008 § 8 Comments

Being Catholic and the parent of an Autistic child has led to many questions that are unique to the parents of children with disabilities.  “Should my child receive communion?”,  “Does my child need Confession?”, “Is it a sin for us to miss Mass because of my child’s possible behavior?”, “Does the Church have any direction, programs, help for us?”.   In order to help anyone out there also searching for answers I am sharing what we have learned over the years.

Going to Mass

It is not uncommon to hear: “I feel uncomfortable bringing my son to Mass.  I know he is going to make sounds, he might get upset, it would be one thing if he was a baby, but at seven people stare.  The stares are unbearable.”  Parents all too often stop coming to Mass with their child with an emotional/behavioral disability out of concern that they will be disruptive.  In some cases I think this can be warranted.   But in general,  most parishes will be very welcoming to a family if they know what is going on.

When we moved parishes after purchasing a new house we were very nervous about how Rachel would be perceived, what other people would think as she started hooting at the ceiling fan, what if she had one of her melt-downs?  When we took our pew we were delighted to see another large family with a child who had those tell-tale signs.  Instantly there was a bond, we became friends.  The small parish was very open to its two little angles with the odd behavior quirks.  The priest was accommodating and loving to the girls and we were relieved and happy to find an accepting place.   You never know when you will be the family that gives hope of acceptance to someone else.

Don’t be afraid to call your local parish and schedule an appointment with the priest to talk about your disabled child.  While there are always the few priests who give horrendous advice most priests are open and caring people who want the best for your child and your family.  You may find there is one or another mass that is shorter, or the music more to your child’s liking, or even one where a family with a disabled child is already in attendance.

In some dioceses there are special programs for disabled people and their families.  In Oregon there is  The Office for People with Disabilities.  They sponsor “adapted liturgy” which accommodates those who need something other than the usual mass.  Pretty much anything is accepted there because everyone  is in a similar situation.

If mass is simply too over-whelming for your disabled child you might have to miss mass.  It is a valid exception to the weekly obligation to be caring for a child who can not attend mass.  Most priests will be understanding of this, some will let you receive communion for the home-bound especially if you are a single parent.  You also might get creative with your mass attendance: consider alternating parents staying home with one child while the other attends mass with the rest of the children, one parent attending a different mass, attending mass during the week while the disabled child is in school, or scheduling respite care so that the rest of the family can attend mass together.

The Sacraments

note: I am not a cannon lawyer, I am sharing what I have read and been told as a starting point.  Please talk to your local priest and diocese about the exact procedures in your community. You also might read Welcome and Justice
for Persons with Disabilities
from the USCCB and “Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities“.  I have pulled some quotes from “Guidelines” and added my comments below.

Baptism: Every child, no matter their disability is entitled to baptism.

Communion: This is the one that was very difficult for us.  “It is important to note, however, that the criterion for reception of holy communion is the same for persons with developmental and mental disabilities as for all persons, namely, that the person be able to distinguish the Body of Christ from ordinary food, even if this recognition is evidenced through manner, gesture, or reverential silence rather than verbally.”  For Rachel this was a hard thing to tell, she is almost non-verbal and finally it took a small miracle for us to see that she did have some understanding of the sacrament.

I have added two posts that more fully explain some of what we have done for First communion:

Can my autistic child receive communion

and

First communion Social Story

Confirmation: “To receive confirmation a Persons who because of developmental or mental disabilities may never attain the use of reason are to be encouraged either directly or, if necessary, through their parents or guardian, to receive the sacrament of confirmation at the appropriate time.”

Confession: “Only those who have the use of reason are capable of committing serious sin. Nevertheless, even young children and persons with mental disabilities often are conscious of committing acts that are sinful to some degree and may experience a sense of guilt and sorrow. As long as the individual is capable of having a sense of contrition for having committed sin, even if he or she cannot describe the sin precisely in words, the person may receive sacramental absolution. Those with profound mental disabilities, who cannot experience even minimal contrition, may be invited to participate in penitential services with the rest of the community to the extent of their ability.”

Anointing of the Sick: “Since disability does not necessarily indicate an illness, Catholics with disabilities should receive the sacrament of anointing on the same basis and under the same circumstances as any other member of the Christian faithful”

Community and Parish Resources: Don’t be afraid to ask.  You might discover there are many resources in your community for your family.  Even ask at your child’s school or pediatrician and don’t be afraid to share with them what you are doing for your child’s faith life.  We found that our daughter’s teachers have often been very helpful in finding resources for helping Rachel in mass (social stories, board maker pictures, sharing what they know other families are doing).

Your Dioceses website should have links to any special ministries they offer, and as more families request these things more of them are developed.  You may find your parish or a neighboring parish has a support group or would like to form one.

Last thoughts:Having a child with a disability can be a blessing and a cross.  Keeping your own faith-life alive, finding time for prayer, time for mass, time for anything can be a struggle  but the grace and peace of God can be that one thing that keeps you going.  I hope that anyone who has read this will keep us in your prayers as I will prayer for those who read it.

Bless me Father….

March 3, 2008 § 2 Comments

confession.jpg

As a convert to the Catholic faith I wasn’t raised with all the practices and habit of Catholic life.   I didn’t grow up with table blessings and rosaries and mass every Sunday.  In my RCIA we learned about many of these but there is a difference between the abstract knowledge of something and the actual doing it.

The one thing I have been struggling with the most is Confession.  I could probably write a book about the “hows” and “whys” of Confession, in theory it is a wonderful, spiritual and useful practice.  But in theory, oh my, how difficult it is to start.  It took me eight years to start going to confession. 

My priest is someone very easy for me to talk to.  So we had a very good “pre-confession” meeting where I explained my situation.  Going through RCIA I was preparing for Baptism so I didn’t have to “do” Confession as some of my classmates did.  Those who were coming in for Confirmation met all together during Lent and made a confession.  My sins, being washed away at Baptism, didn’t ‘count’.  I suppose I could have gone to Confession at that point, but it wasn’t required so I didn’t.  After our Baptism we were left to our own path.  Mine avoided the confessional all together.  And it has eaten at me all this time.

 I longed for Confession; I needed it.  I could feel the block working against me and keeping me from progressing in my walk with Christ as completely as I should be.  So finally I screwed up my courage and took the plunge and met with my priest and just did it.  Yeah me.

The part I found the worst and best was the examination of conscience.  This is by far the most difficult thing to do.   I found it helpful to have the printed “help” so I could look at it, think about it.  Sin isn’t about feeling guilty.  It is perfectly possible to sin and feel no guilt at all.  Feelings are not a good indicator of guilt.  The human conscience is a malleable thing and I know that if I allow myself to do certain things or think certain ways those things begin to seem justified and eventually right no matter how objectively wrong they are.  I need to compare my actions not against what I feel to be correct but to what is objectively right.

One of the saddest losses in the Post Vat II era has been Confession.  My priest expressed it very aptly when he said that the “face to face” confession has been disastrous experiment.  The confession is not supposed to be a heartfelt talk with a friend nor is it a counselling sessions, though I suppose it can have aspects of both.  The confession should be the opportunity to reconcile oneself with God and with your own soul, your own better self. 

 In retrospect I really wish that my RCIA program had met longer after we were Baptised.  I think I would have been helpful to have had a “First Confession” meeting about a month later.   This would seem to me to be helpful for the newly Baptised Catholic.  But I suppose that Reconciliation is one of those things that really isn’t in favor in the American Catholic Church.  I have read several articles this year about how Confession is coming back into “fashion”.   Some Dioceses are encouraging the laity to come back to the confessional  with formal programs such as The Archdiocese of Washington’s program “The Light is on for You“. 

Make the faith important

February 11, 2008 § Leave a comment

At “Called by Name” Fr Kyle has this really great bit of thought: “One line that sticks out to me from the Fishers of Men DVD: ‘Where the faith is important, the kids pick it up, just like they do with the language.’ Make the faith important in your lives, a priority, and it will pass down to your children, whether biological or spiritual.”

 My husband and I were talking about this Saturday when we drove by the synagogue.  He wondered at what age boys were supposed to start covering their heads.  I really don’t know.  I remember seeing Jewish families with even the youngest boys wearing yarmulke tied under their chins with ribbons.  What better way to form a Jewish identity than including something so culturally indicative in a child’s early life?

My two thoughts on this almost seem contradictory.  Families should include their children in faith life.  It should be a living, serious, important part of their lives.  They should understand from the earliest years the important truths of the faith and practice in family religious activity should be expected and not optional.  The second thought is that adults should stringently avoid bringing the  faith down to a child’s level.  Even with the laudable idea of bringing the children to greater early understanding of the faith. 

Catholic by its very nature of being universal lacks a single cultural identity.  But there are things that set us apart.  The liturgical calendar is one.  While the rest of the western world is twirling at breakneck speed in the Christmas Rush we are (ideally) sitting around lighting Advent Candles.  Lent, an amusing arcane tradition amidst our neighbors, has real impact on us.   Our Sacraments and prayer life are other distinctly Catholic things.  We have the right and duty to live out our lives in a way that our children can see so they become a part of the day in and day out rhythm of life.

The other thing might just be a matter of personal taste, but I dislike the “Children’s Liturgy” thing.  Children do not need to be taken away from the “big” Catholic mass to experience coloring sheets and musical skits.  And while instruction in the faith needs to take place at the child’s level this is something that needs to be taking place in the home and in CCD.  Essential truths should never be watered down.  Certainly taught to the child’s level of emotional and intellectual development, but not skirted.  Children need to see the faith as something for adults that they are encouraged to learn about and participate in, but not something that anyone expects them to completely get as a child.  Something they can look forward into growing into a full understanding of – something important.

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