Faith in Action

When God comes knocking

 Last night as we made dinner my husband and I had an interesting conversation about our children. They are each wonderful and unique people, but Josh is probably our greatest challenge. He is strong, intelligent and very willful, but he also has a sensitivity and a strong sense of conscience … at three. I could see him being a missionary priest, scaling mountains to take the word of God to people so remote the modern world has passed them by. I could see him doing this fearlessly and with total devotion. Which led us to wonder…”How do you foster that spirit in a child?”

After discussion I think we came to the conclusion that you can’t, only God can. As parents our job isn’t to order, decide or even discover our children’s vocations… it is only to give them the tools, the love and the encouragement they will need to follow the call God gives them. This means above all accepting that call ourselves, without reservation, judgment or fear.

In the past year or so the Bishop of the Diocese I grew up in wrote a wonderful piece about vocations in his diocese. The Diocese of Baker is a large area, sparely populated, with a serious shortage of priests…. especially priests from the area. Yet every parish wants a priest that is in touch with spiritual needs of this rural, working, proud and independent population. Bishop Vasa’s take on the problem? It boiled down to basically this: If you want more priests from Eastern Oregon then send me more young men for the seminary. Stop discouraging your son’s vocations.

This morning I was so pleased to see Roman Catholic Vocations  linking to Bishop Vasa’s latest comments on this topic.

So in lieu of any great essay on the topic here are my reflections in list form:

How can parents help the priesthood, the Church and further the work of heaven.

  1. Be open to life. If you have one child or even just one son there is much more pressure on that one child to be “successful” or at least come home with a wife and grandchildren.

  2. Be faithful. I think this is especially important for fathers. Pray, go to mass, go to confession lead your family in faith. Exercise your universal priesthood on behalf of your family.

  3. Pray for your children to be open to God’s call whatever that might be.

  4. As a family pray for vocations and be active in your parish’s efforts to encourage vocations.

  5. Be open to vocations to religious life even when your children are small. Don’t assume they will marry and have children. Encourage them to keep their hearts open to where God will call them.

  6. Treat your priest with respect. Show by example that you are glad we have priests. Thank your priests after mass. Not all priests are great men, some are even the very opposite. Don’t be afraid to discuss problems of personality or leadership style, but don’t blow them out of proportion either.

  7. Get to know your priests as the men they are. Invite them to dinner, send them cards on their birthdays and other small kindnesses.

  8. Write letters to seminarians, encourage your children to support those in religious life. Check out religious on the web, share these things with your children as age appropriate. Encourage them to encourage those studying to be priests and those entering religious life.

  9. Encourage your sons to be altar servers.

  10. Encourage your children to explore the religious life. Our Diocese has several events, camps, retreats, and the like every year. Encourage your children to attend such things as they become old enough.

 

But probably most important: If your child expresses a twinkling of vocation encourage it. The discernment process is usually long. There are plenty of people who will speak to your son or daughter about the pit falls of religious life. As your child embarks on the path they will have ample opportunity to think about life without spouse or children, material success, and worldly acclaim. Trust their intelligence that if God isn’t calling them they will know this. But when they come to you don’t start discouraging them before they even have a chance to think seriously on the topic.

 

 

 

 

Faith in Action · Simplicity

Simple Christian Living

It is hard to live a faithful life in a very materialistic and wealthy society. We have so much and there is so much to have. It becomes difficult to separate the needs from the need to have. Materialism seeps like a poison into all our plans and choices without our even seeing it because we are immersed in a culture which claims the pursuit of more stuff as a worthy goal.

 Others have eloquently spoken on the dangers of materialism so I will not belabor that point. What I want to share today is a hope. There is a practical hope that life doesn’t have to be owned by owning and filled with the acquisition of ever more stuff. This hope can become realty only with a dramatic mental shift, a conversion of our desires. The first part of this is difficult It is hard in a society that defines success in such a material fashion to let go of material desires. No one wants to feel that they are not successful and what is almost as bad, and to some no doubt worse, no one wants to feel as if the world looks down on them.

We need to introduce a new way of looking at our lives and looking at success. I would call this a dignified poverty that strives towards a holy poverty. The type of poverty of possession that is chosen, much like many religious take a vow of poverty but with the difference that we are responsible for the maintenance of our selves and our families without the community to support us financially. The goal, to draw closer to the divine remains the same. By freeing ourselves from the goal of owning more we can look at those things that really matter most. For the Christian this is undoubtedly attaining heaven and for the Christian parent educating our children in the faith so that heaven will be their end as well. Western culture, with its maddening race to own more leaves us exhausted, with little time for our families, our faith life or even sleep. This is extremely dangerous to the goals of Christian living and Christian parenting.

 Poverty, even a self willed poverty, itself is not a virtue it is only made virtuous by the motive that propels it. The scriptures don’t advocate poverty as much as they caution against the accumulation of wealth. This is where the concept of simplicity lives. Simplicity in the context of this essay and of this site in general means: living for God unencumbered with ease and modesty, lacking in affectation and pretense. There is a dignity implicit in this approach to living.

Faith in Action

Men of Christ take on The Pope and the Witch

One of the tenets of modernity is that art is supposed to be challenging. It is supposed to shock us an make us look at things in a new way… or something like that. I think that is a bunch of hooey actually. But it is hooey that is often used to allow the most pedantic, anti-religious, screeds imaginable get a firm voice in the public forum as long as they are directed against Christians and especially if they are aimed at the Catholic Church. This time the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities gets to display its incredible cultural sensitivity with a blasphemous play entitled The Pope and the Witch . “Tolerance” at its finest. At any rate, I am glad they got to put on their little play since it became the catalyst for a little bit of political action staring some very worthy men.

I wouldn’t care at all to see the play, but the play outside the play must have been worth watching. After reading about the topic on Open Book I clicked to Cathy_of_Alex at The Recovering Dissident Catholic to read her comments.

Drifting on the wind on this snowy evening, I thought I heard “O Sanctissima”. Huh? I rounded the corner and there’s a whole big crowd of 70-80 people in front of Rarig. Mostly men. 2 of them in surplices and holding a banner: “Men of Christ”, with the insignia of St. John Vianney, the college seminary at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.

I finally noticeed that the 4 young men who parked next to me had pullovers with the word Vianney on their right sleeves. We all moved in to support the crowd. They were really well organized. They had laminated sheets with the words to their hymns. They were reciting the Sorrowful Mysteries and alternating with hymns: “O Sanctissima”, “Immaculate Mary” I was so overcome I can’t still can’t remember what else. It doesn’t matter. The future of our priesthood was there and well represented. Men of Christ, indeed. 

The good men of Saint John Vianney College Seminary had come out in force. As Amy of Open Book pointed out Father William Baer of Saint John Vianney College Seminary’s comment on Stella Borealis:

Do we want Catholic men to sing? Give them a chance to fight for Christ, give them a chance to celebrate our victory in Christ, and then give them chants and anthems, ancient and new, whose words and melodies and spirit befit an unconquerable band of brothers in Christ.

Adoro te Devote picks up the tale with these comments

 

Just a few short moments after the police officer left, the Cavalry from SJV arrived and set up shop, so we crossed the street to join them. They held their banner, and let me tell you, these guys are HARD CORE! They wore cassocks and surplices, but no coats, not hats, no gloves. They stood with their banner and we all grouped behind them, now on the gathering area in front of the theatre.

It was beautiful; I have never before been surrounded so completely by male voices singing with such dedication and resonance. Usually, in church, in choirs, most of the singers are women, but tonight was different. We female voices added to the prayers and to the songs as a compliment, rounding out the tones raised in glory to God.

The prayers were powerful, they were bold, and above all, they were peaceful.

We stood out in that cold, shivering, protesting, and showing the world that we, as Catholics, have a living, vibrant faith that will not be quashed by the intentional misconstrual of our beliefs. By our prayers for the Pope, we displayed our solidarity to the Vicar of Christ, while behind our backs the Pontiff was being mocked in full theatrical glory to the amusement of those worshipping at the altar of secularity.

By the end, my fingers were so numb I could barely move them over the beads of my rosary and I thought my toes had been lost. Many were shivering, shuffling, but no one faltered, no one stopped, no one gave up.

 

I am glad to see these young people out there entering the fray. God bless each of you.

 

Hooray… even more blogs are picking up this story including one of my favorites:

Happy Catholic  — “It’s bad enough those folks outside are praying for me!”

 

Faith in Action

Parish opens its doors to parenting teens.

Sometimes the press’ take on thing relating to the Catholic Church amuses me to no end. Take for example this article in the New York Post.

Queen of Peace parish in Kew Gardens Hills has open the doors of its school building to the Ida B. Wells School for pregnant and parenting girls. The parish lost its school due to declining enrollment and the girls needed a refuge from the “dilapidated building in Jamaica”. The article’s author seems to be stuck in an “oh wow that is odd” mindset with clichés like “Strange bedfellows” and points to an “obvious clash of sensibilities”. But I see nothing odd or even remarkable about the arrangement. The parish lets the 80 students and 50 babies attend classes in its buildings with the provision that any course conflicting with Church teaching be given at a nearby public school and not on parish property. It all seems reasonable to me.

But… What a good thing to see. Not just that the secular press is reporting on the story, but that the girls have a place to go where they and their children can be safe and warm. Where they can receive and education and hope to improve their lives and the lives of their children. 

While I am not a huge fan of public education  I hope that they see much success.

Faith in Action

Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling

 

See also: Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling 2 for info about the hymn

A friend of mine once said “There must be something really powerful in feeling that you have discovered what God wants you to be doing with your life and living that life fully and unapologetically.” These are very powerful words. Satisfaction in life should boil down to one thing Vocation. God creates each of us to love and to serve him, He has laid out his “Golden Path” for us, each of us, having the courage to step onto that path and follow it to the end frees us to find honest joy.

 

This Lent I am reading St. Therese, Story of a Soul, for much of my life I have struggled with the idea that I should be successful in the world’s notion of success, that somehow I need to do more and be more. I am learning slowly and painfully that I need to trust more and be little and follow quietly in my path. I don’t care right now in this time and place if anyone outside the sphere of my family and friends knows my name or when I die if the world mourns my passing. I will be content if I raise godly men and women from the children I have been entrusted, if I do good work, if I love my husband. Those things are my vocation, my role and the end and beginning of my happiness. It is a small path, a little house, a simple garden, but it is crowded with joy and lovely things that Christ is waiting for me to take pleasure in.

Speaking of Vocation, The Anchoress has a link to something joyful. The Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist started ten years ago with four sisters. They now number seventy with an average age of twenty-eight. They made the television. I wish, on occasion, that I had that calling. Though it is not mine I respect it very much. As others before me have observed those Orders who have kept their habits, their poverty, the life of obedience are the ones that have survived. They are the ones currently growing. The “Elvis style nuns” are dieing off – quite literally. These nuns are cool, and traditional, and alive.