Thursday, April 25, 2013

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Humble, Prayerful, Friendly, and above all Faithful

It wasn't easy, but it was important to me and to my children for all of us to attend the funeral Mass of our beloved friend from our very small Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic Parish.  He was 75 when he had a head on car crash coming home from church.  This man was more than any other place, coming or going to church.  He started feeling poorly on Good Friday evening, during the annual all-night vigil, and he left to go home.  He lost consciousness and had a head-on collision.

The last communication I had from him was an email reminder for our times to keep vigil.

Brothers and Sisters,
Attached is the vigil schedule for Good Friday/Holy Saturday that you volunteered for. We have covered all times from the end of Good Friday services to Holy Saturday Liturgy. What a wonderful time to spend time with Our Lord this Holy Week.
God bless you!

He was in ICU for two weeks before passing into eternal life on Divine Mercy Sunday.

My last memory of him in person was him shaking the hand of my 14 year old son after his Chrismation (Confirmation) on Palm Sunday (Pussy Willow Sunday in our church -- no palm trees in The Ukraine).  My son was the only one receiving the Sacrament and making the Faith Affirmation Commitment   This elder of our parish, who stood around 6'3" tall, was proud of him and gave him a warm smile and firm handshake to let him know he had done well.

I am crying a bit now remembering the funeral Mass.  I brought even my youngest.  I wanted him to have this memory of our friend from the Parish.  It wasn't easy getting them all to church, dressed up a bit from usual,  and then being a bit bombarded by the younger one throughout the Mass, with rather frequent questions and comments.  But it was important that they remember him, they wanted to go too, and they need to see how we say goodbye as a church community.

I want and pray that all four of my children and my husband and I live out our lives like this man.  Humble, prayerful, friendly, and above all faithful to adore, and spread adoration of the Lord.

Thank you Lord for the great good you did inside the soul and mind of your servant.  His is a light that will stay with us our whole lives.  The memory of the twinkle in his eyes, his Irish eyes, when he smiled, and the humble way he knelt and prayed, often alone in your presence, may it inspire us always.  Thank you for welcoming him home on your great feast of Divine Mercy.  Please comfort his widow and his children and grandchildren.  Thank you so much for creating and strengthening his faithful response and witness of devotion.

Thank you that he will be glorifying you now in heaven, with the veil removed, the magnitude of your glory no longer hidden in the form of bread, behind the golden door of a tabernacle in a church sanctuary.  Now he sees you, sees the hosts of angels and martyrs, and the great multitude, of which he is a member, who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

The Great Multitude in White Robes

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice:
“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”
11 All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying:
Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honor
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.
13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”
14 I answered, “Sir, you know.”
And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 Therefore,
“they are before the throne of God
    and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne
    will shelter them with his presence.
16 ‘Never again will they hunger;
    never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,’[a]
    nor any scorching heat.
17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne
    will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’[b]
    ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

We Are an Easter People

. . .  and Hallelujah is our song!

This was the caption on a poster in our hallway at home when I was growing up.  A quick google search for an image found this was within a quote from Pope John Paul II, but I am sure it pre-dated him.  That poster was bought at Zondervan's, I think, while Pope Paul VI was still alive.

It always made me smile, but more so in a silly way.  People don't go around talking that way, you know?

Well, maybe they do.  In my Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic Church during Easter season we say to each other, and many times during the Divine Liturgy, "Christ is Risen!"  "Indeed He is Risen!"

This is also coming across on the emails where we learned that one of our parishioners had a serious car accident and then subsequently passing to eternal life two weeks later on the Feast of Divine Mercy.  I loved this gentleman, an older Irish man that married a Ukrainian woman.  He coordinated the practice of daily Adoration and rosary in the presence of the Lord for an end to abortion, and for the intentions of our parish.  He would stand at the back of church and get signatures for people to take one or more days as their responsibility to pray.  He also arranged for the first parish trip to pray outside an abortion clinic.  That was the first of many trips I have participated in.  Was more than a little sad that he was gone so quickly and that due to him being in ICU, could not be visited for us to say goodbye and how much we loved him and how grateful we were for his leadership, prayers, and example in our parish.

Yesterday I did my parents' tax return.  It was ridiculously tricky at times for a return with a $0 balance - $0 to pay and $0 to refund.  It took a little Algebra to clear the error checks and ensure everything balanced in Turbo Tax.

When I was done with this little job of love for my parents, I looked up the Byzantine prayer for "After Work":

PRAYER AFTER WORK O Most sweet Jesus, You are the
fulfillment of all blessings. Fill my soul with joy and
gladness and save me. Grant that your Name be
glorified: for not to us, but to your Name are forever
due honor, glory, and adoration. Amen

As soon as I finished the part "Fill my soul with joy" I did feel some joy creep into my soul.  It wasn't just relief that the return had been filed and within the hour accepted by the IRS.  Instead it reminded me how odd it is that I could be so firm in my belief in the risen Lord, and in his constant presence, and his loving plan and hand in my life, and the lives of all his beloved children who love him, and not be filled with joy as more frequent condition.

Hope you have similar experience when you pray this prayer.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Fortitude - Virtue and Gift of the Holy Spirit

Three gifts of the Holy Spirit that stood out to me as my son was preparing for his Confirmation were:
  • Fortitude - is the strength to arise above adversity and cultivate virtues beyond the basic requirements of Christianity;
  • Fear of the Lord - this is akin to our respect for our parents and our desire to please and not to offend them. It is not to be frightened but to want to please God, be one with him and be holy.
  • Piety - "a supernatural communication conferred by the Holy Spirit" (Fr. John Hardon, S.J., Modern Catholic Dictionary) that instills in us to do what is pleasing to God and to those who serve him;
Fortitude stood out the most because when I look at myself, my friends, my children, even my children in a Christian school where the value of standing strong in your following of Christ is praised and valued, I see too often breakdowns in the practice of the gift of Fortitude.

Is it the practice of the gift that is when our soul is beautified with the virtue of Fortitude? 
Is it the practice of the gift of fortitude that enables our faith in Jesus Christ to be fruitful?

Certainly any faith that is repressed by personal fear for the reactions of others is weaker and less than the ideal, and less convincing to others. 

Certainly any faith that is not worth talking about, or explaining is more likely to convince others who are entertaining doubts or subscribing to secular society's indictment of Christianity and Catholicism that those doubts, uncertainties, or criticisms are valid and need to be expounded.

If, however, someone in lock-step with deriding Catholics, their beliefs, and the teachings of our Church is confronted with intelligent and sincere understanding, coupled with an unabashed love of Jesus, Our Savior and King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, it will give anyone of good will pause to maybe reconsider the validity of the opinions they were accepting as true.

John 12:36-43

36While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.’
After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them.37Although he had performed so many signs in their presence, they did not believe in him.38This was to fulfil the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah:
‘Lord, who has believed our message,
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’
39And so they could not believe, because Isaiah also said,
40 ‘He has blinded their eyes
and hardened their heart,
so that they might not look with their eyes,
and understand with their heart and turn—
and I would heal them.’
41Isaiah said this because* he saw his glory and spoke about him.42Nevertheless many, even of the authorities, believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they did not confess it, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue;43for they loved human glory more than the glory that comes from God.

I don't want to be among those that believed in Jesus, but did not confess it for fear they would be put out of the synagogue.  The scripture is clear this isn't just for Jews.  It is for anyone that loves human glory more than the glory that comes from God. 

I have received a beautiful necklace that is an icon of the face of the Mother of God.  Sometimes I go in to get my earrings and I see it there and I think, "I should wear that."  I also have a Celtic gold-plated cross - one tiny and one larger.  I could go for the softer approach and wear the cross that is not a crucifix, and even so tiny that it could be a knot necklace unless someone looked more closely.  But when it hits me, I should wear that, I have going through my mind the teaching from these verses:

Matthew 10:32-33

“Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven;but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven."

Mark 8:38

38Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Luke 9:26

26Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

Luke 12:8-9

“And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God;but whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God."

2 Timothy 2:12

12if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he will also deny us;

So I wear it.  Why not?  Why is it something that even takes fortitude?  Others wear little American Indian spiritual items.  Others wear crystals right out there for all to see harboring a belief that they increase their health or their appeal to others.

Why is there any hesitation to wear this beautiful icon that reflects my faith not just in the Mother of God that suffered so much grief watching her beloved Son suffer on hers and my behalf?  So I put it on.  Sometimes I see people I don't know catch it in the elevator.  They see it and there is something that I see in their facial expression.  Something like, "Wow that is really being out there."

Then to others who already know me, the first reaction of a female is, "That is really beautiful."

To others it does seem to embolden them to tell me about their faith. Especially other Catholics.  I find out that a man that I've been working with on a project once studied to be a priest, has a devotion to St. Anne.  I get asked questions like, "Don't Catholics believe that everyone else is going to hell?" and I have an opportunity to share what Catholics really believe.

What do I get out of that one moment deciding whether to wear or not wear this beautiful icon, this beautiful sign of what I believe and in my heart I know that by wearing it, I am not denying him, nor the mother whom he loves.  I am happy for the promise, that he will not deny me, but happier still that the Holy Spirit has given me the fortitude to not fear the reaction of others, especially when I wear it around Protestants that I know deride Catholics who pray to Mary.  I can feel how it would be easier to not wear this sign of my Catholicism, but I do it anyway.

I was especially praying that the Holy Spirit would give my son the gift of Fortitude. 

Fear of the Lord (rather than fear of men) is important too.  If he, we, I believe the words of Jesus, and are so grateful that the Lamb of God left his Body and Blood and absolution of sins in Baptism and in Confession, why would we fear the opinions and derision of men more than fearing to offend Our Lord whom we love, and desire to serve?

Piety is important because it helps to strengthen us. When we come to find joy in praying, in seeking after God in studying Scripture, in receiving His grace regularly in the Sacraments, despite the plentifold opportunity to engage in leisure activities that bring us pleasure, we are cooperating with the Holy Spirit transforming our souls, our child to Father to Savior love into that which is compassionate and strong in serving and witnessing, and confessing our faith to others.

John 6:51-58

51I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”52The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”53So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.54Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day;55for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.56Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.57Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me.58This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”

Philippians 1:6

I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.

May the Holy Spirit help all of us and our children and grandchildren to not be ashamed of Jesus or his words in this adulterous and sinful generation.

Make no mistake, when we listen to the teachings of our Church, as recorded for us in the Catechism, we listen to Jesus.  When we reject them, we reject Our Savior and the Father who sent Him.

Luke 10:16

16“Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”