What is Catholic life like?

June 20, 2008 § Leave a comment

This question interests me in that it is so very difficult to answer.  Being Catholic can mean living in any country, any culture and anywhere in the world.  The answer could take a lifetime to explain and your personal answer would still be unique.  So I think I might start answering it one aspect at a time.  Today’s answer: Living a Catholic life means following the precepts of the Church.

The precepts of the Church: 
While the Church doesn’t lay down a firm “one-size-fits-all” mentality for being Catholic but the catechism has distill the most important elements into a short list called the Precepts of the Church:

1. You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor.
2. You shall confess your sins at least once a year.
3.
You shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season.
4. You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church.
5. You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church.

Now of course this isn’t an all encompassing list of what Catholic should do.  It is just the short list, the absolute minimum that one should doing.
 

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“. 

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