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Saints: Even More Reasons to Celebrate

28 Jul

Minnesota loves to party. As soon as the our frigid winters disappear, we look for any reason to be out of doors. Even the palest Scandinavian will risk sunburn to enjoy all the beautiful things our state offers. Perhaps it’s the length of the cold which drives us to have a good time like there’s no tomorrow. (Honestly, who really knows what the weather forecast will bring?) From Grand Old Day to the Minnesota State Fair, from the Basilica Block party to weekends at the cabin, each weekend has something unique and something to celebrate. We get together with friends, drink great beer, listen to extraordinary music, and do that which brings us out of ourselves and into the beauty of whatever we may be celebrating. We celebrate what means the most. We honor what has been sacrificed. We recognize accomplishments and we, through the sacramental and physical world, begin to meditate and experience what the Heavenly vision of God, our true home and ultimate goal, will be like.

Saint Norbert by Martin Pepijn

Saint Norbert by Martin Pepijn

Earlier this month, I was able to create my own celebration for what I value deeply in my life. The Catholic Church, in her diversity, recognizes those whom she elevates to sainthood with recognition on a particular day of the year. If a parish or ethnic group holds the values of a saint or feast in high honor, they are permitted to celebrate the saint’s day with greater festivity than other members of the Church. They host a celebration proudly showing what makes their community special and how God speaks to them while still coming together to create the whole Church on the highest festivals like Easter or Christmas. For instance, in Catholic Mexico, May 1 is the feast day of St. Joseph the Worker and is celebrated widely. The Irish celebrate St. Patrick on March 17. Native Americans may celebrate St. Kateri Tekakwitha on July 14. Individually, people celebrate their namesake’s feast day, or their confirmation saint’s feast.

I have a particular devotion to St. Norbert. When I celebrated my saint’s day it felt to me like a great holiday! I was able to mark the day not only with special prayer but also shared my joy with friends who celebrated with me (whether they expected to or not) at the Muddy Pig. God spoke to me. He knew the day meant a lot to me and He showed me His love in a very deep and personal way. This love must be tried and experienced. No description could ever do skydiving justice: how much greater the experience of the love of God!

All God created is good and it ought to be celebrated! Explore the great festivals of the Church and learn all the reasons to raise a glass and party! There are many ways to become holy. You may find a saint or two who resonates with your spirituality. If so, toast to them!

Link to learn more about St. Norbert: http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/lots/lots181.htm

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Catholic Devotion to Mary

12 Jul

Growing up, my mom made us partake in a lot of Marian devotions. We were interrupted to pray the Angelus while watching cartoons, sing Marian hymns at home and special occasions at church, and our house was decked with a plethora of images of Our Lady. The worst imposition was when my mom would pray a rosary with us late at night if we couldn’t sleep. No doubt sleep would come over us within five minutes. For most of my life, I didn’t understand why she and the Catholic Church put so much value on the Blessed Mother.

Virgin Mary Annuticiate Fra Angelico

Virgin Mary Annuticiate Fra Angelico

I questioned: Why do you stand when you pray the Hail Holy Queen? Why does she get an entire five decades of prayers dedicated to her? Why does she get multiple feast days for her honor? Why do some Catholics seem to worship her and treat her like the fourth person of the Trinity? All of this questioning turned me off to hearing and learning about various Marian devotions. I struggled a lot with the idea of asking for help from the Virgin Mary instead of going straight to God.

One realization I have come to is that God made us human with physical needs. He sent His only Son to come to earth as a man to experience what we experience and be able to relate to us. God became man and was born of a woman so that we would be able to understand and relate. A divine being made up of three in one persons? That doesn’t make any sense…but a baby boy born to a young girl and a carpenter? Now, that is something I can wrap my head around! We all have a mother and a father, even Jesus. The month of May is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. We honor her and remember the great sacrifice and love she experienced bringing Christ into the world.

How many times do we honor our own mother throughout the year? On her birthday and Mother’s Day, we spend time and money on her, write cards and give flowers. On these days and many other days throughout the year, we take time to thank our moms for giving us life, and for all they have sacrificed and given to and for us. And rightly so, these beautiful women have done so much for us, and we are literally here because of their love and sacrifice. How much more, then, should we love, honor, appreciate and thank the Mother of God. Christ would have never come as a man, suffered death and rose again if Mary hadn’t said “yes.”

During the month of May, and specifically around Mother’s Day when we honor our own mothers, I challenge you to take some time to honor and thank Our Lord’s mother. After all, she is our mom too: “Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home” (John 19:27).

 

– Catherine Huss

Leaving and the Return

4 Jan

  My family loves to sit in the front of the church for midnight Christmas Mass, and every year other parishioners get audibly annoyed with us for saving an entire row up until the minute before Mass starts. My father has made it a habit, most likely developed in his bell-bottom bachelor days, which he can’t seem to grow out of completely, to be late for everything. After a few years of enduring the embarrassment I agreed to take the yearly duty of saving seats if and only if the rest of the family promised to arrive well before the altar boys processed down the aisle.

Leaving and the Return - Laura Eusterman

  Last year, I remember waiting such an uncomfortably long time for my family to arrive that I thought it best to kneel and pray before anyone could tell me that they wanted to take those seats. Everyone around me was chatting. I could not concentrate on the simplest Hail Mary, let alone any kind of heart to heart with God. He had seemed distant lately anyway. I hadn’t been able to hear Him even in the silent moments and purposeful prayer time in the past weeks, maybe months.

  Closing my eyes and bowing my head seemed to amplify the conversations around me. Why would He reach me in this echoing church if He hadn’t been speaking when I had been ready to listen? This frustration may have been as bad as showing up with my tardy family.

Trying to drown out the noise with my own thoughts and seeking mental escape only turned into criticism. “Some ‘house of prayer!’…Now I understand why natives don’t like tourists…If I see one more person texting in here I’m going to freak out.” It was the self-righteousness talking, not me. “This is not helping.”

I gave up, sat back, and picked up the Christmas program. The top of the page had a quote by the pope. It was something like: “Christ leaves so that He may come back again.” It struck me, not in the way of an answered prayer, but more like a surprise. God left His friends all the time! He came into the world as a man, He slept when the apostles were in a storm, He died, came back, ascended, and descended. He even showed up to two travelers only to vanish when they recognized Him.

This is exactly what Advent and Christmas, and my distraction in prayer, is about: recognizing that He is not here but that He will come. It may be true that He is always present, but we don’t always perceive Him. Some of the time it feels like he is uninvolved. He comes. He leaves. He does as He wishes, not as we want. I think He leaves to make His return that much more potent. I think He wants us to miss Him so that we fully embrace Him when He comes back. Needless to say, my family showed up, a little before right on time.

-Laura Eusterman

Finding Stillness this Advent

1 Dec
Advent Wreath

Advent Wreath

  The lead up to Christmas is here so it is time to get busy. You know what I am talking about: the shopping, Christmas carols from thanksgiving until the 25th, that annoying habit of people referring to Christmas trees as ‘holiday’ trees, etc. The way most people ‘celebrate’ Christmas is by shopping for a month and then having a one day gift giving extravaganza. I don’t object to all this (I like gifts) but something gets lost. What is missing? Well it has something to do with a forgotten season, Advent.

  You see Catholics don’t just live with your standard 12 month calendar; we have a liturgical year with its own calendar. This Sunday marks the beginning of the Advent and therefore the beginning of the Catholic New Year. And what is one supposed to do doing Advent? Wait. That is right: just wait.

Hang on a sec, waiting is boring, pointless, and passive. We all get stuck waiting in lines to buy gifts (10-15 minutes) to be x-rayed at the airport (an hour unless you are in the rich people line), to download the newest app (.2 seconds). I mean, we all read Oh the Places You’ll Go; the waiting place is the bad place. We are Americans, in the 21st century, during the “Holiday Season” (which holiday? No one knows.) There is no time for waiting, which is why I buy gifts while in line to buy gifts at the Mall of America using my newest app that took a long .2 seconds to download.

So why wait? John Milton once wondered about that as a young man trying to write poetry. And then he suddenly realized something “they also serve who stand and wait.” We think that we have to do everything, buy everything, go everywhere. But God invites us to realize, that our value isn’t in what we do but who we are, His beloved creation. He doesn’t need us to run around, the He wants to offer us peace and goodwill.

In Psalm 46, God tells us to “be still and know that I am God.” Advent is about living this gift of stillness and recognizing that it is God who makes all things possible. So what are we waiting for? For something that already happened, for something that happens, and for something that will happen. We wait to celebrate a baby being born to illiterate peasants in a dirty hovel. Why? Because that baby is the Prince of Peace (stillness) and his mother is the virgin mother of Emanuel (God with us) and his father is Joseph (the righteous man) and because that donkey and cow look so cute in my Mom’s crèche. We wait in stillness now because Jesus was not born once but is born in our hearts when we make room for Him. What does this room look like: a still waiting. And what is going to happen? In the fullness of time, Jesus will come for us all offering us room in the eternal Inn, the Kingdom of God.

This is the heart of advent, waiting with the shepherds, the Magi, the angels, Mary and Joseph and even with the donkey and cow. We are called to set aside all our projects and to be still, to stand and wait. We may still have to run around and buy gifts and go to “holiday” parties but amidst all that, let’s all try to sit in silence a little this season. Pray, go to Church, get an advent wreath or calendar, say the rosary. Make some room in your hearts in this busy season so the Holy Family can dwell in us. Be still and know that God is God and He is with us.

– Terence Sweeney

The Bible and the Everyday

14 Nov St John’s Illuminated Bible – Collegeville MN
St John’s Illuminated Bible – Collegeville MN

St John’s Illuminated Bible – Collegeville MN

It was my anxiety that did the trick. My anxiety was ramping up and starting to verge on panic. I was waking up at 3am worried about a myriad of things: people, tasks, to-do lists. My internal engine was revving at high speed and I couldn’t get it to slow down. To make matters worse, I am a psychologist. I’m supposed to know how to treat anxiety. But I couldn’t successfully treat it in myself. I prayed diligently for help and inner peace, but began to feel that God was not responding.

Then, I met two Christian psychologists, Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend. I attended a seminar to learn how to be a better therapist; I ended up learning a lot more about how to improve my own life. I have found profound relief from my internal suffering and I believe that relief is available (this side of heaven) to anyone who is willing to walk the path God has laid out for us. Those psychologists taught me that the Bible is relevant for me (and every person) and that it even talks about my anxiety and what to do about it.

I began to learn that the Bible is not just a collection of old, strange stories that have nothing to do with me and my daily struggles, but rather that it is a guide book written to help me every step of the way in my daily walk (Psalm 119:105) and it can help you too. I was led to several passages that speak about anxiety and I learned that through prayer and petition, I was promised a peace that transcends all understanding (Philippians 4:6-7). THAT grabs my attention and sounds good to me! God wants me to put my anxiety on Him, because He loves me (1 Peter 5:7). God encourages me to reach out to other humans for help (James 5:16). I don’t have to lie awake at 3am worrying about tomorrow because tomorrow will worry about itself (Matthew 6:34). God will look out for me and will even bring good out of the problems (Romans 8:28).

It shocked me that God’s word, written so very many years ago, could speak to me and could be a balm to my suffering soul, but it has been and continues to be every single day. I began to develop the practice of memorizing these verses so that I could recall them during times of struggle (Psalm 119:11). God’s time is not our time and that has been true in this process of discovery for me as well. I am coming to see incredible, miraculous fruits of the labor of the past year, but it was not a quick fix. I encourage you to open the Bible’s pages, read it, study it, give it time, and get ready for it to change your life.

– Alice Benton

In whom do you have faith?

5 Nov

Faith has kind of gone out of style lately. For many, belief in God is about the same as belief in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. Prayers and devotionals seem to be nothing more than superstition. As for believing in an afterlife, it’s a nice way to help kids feel better about death, but not much more. For those who don’t believe, faith in a higher power could be seen as anything from a harmless personality trait to a naïve, unintelligent worldview to a dangerous ideology. Some might even be convinced it’s a sign of mental illness.

I pity those who think faith is in vain. Not because I think that their lives would be so much better if they believed in God (although I do think that). I pity them not because they do not have faith, but because they actually do have faith. However, they either don’t realize this and/or they simply think they are above such a thing as faith.

St Paul explains that faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” The Catholic Catechism, while explaining this statement, goes on to say that faith is an authentically human act, contrary neither to human freedom nor to human reason. In other words, someone would have a hard time doing anything human without faith.

Marriage, even love itself, is impossible without trusting the promises of the beloved. Promises which cannot be proven ahead of time. Promises that offer no tangible assurance of the thing hoped for, that is, lifelong love and fidelity. In fact, any human interaction whatsoever, from simple conversation to purchases to employment contracts require something called “good faith.” You trust what the person says or represents to be true, even if you can’t be totally sure. And if you can’t do that, well, then you can’t really function in the world as we know it.

There is another way “non-believers” share the experience of faith with those who actually do admit to a life of faith that’s much more profoundly comparable. And that’s the faith they put, not in their fellow man, but in themselves and their own ability to understand the world around them, indeed reality itself.

The Christian believes in God and a world created by Him, and seeks to live accordingly. The one who lives as if there is no God has to live according to his own, yes, beliefs, as well. And he is also left, again, to believe that both his beliefs correspond to reality and that those beliefs will end up making him happy and satisfied throughout his life. He has no guarantees of either.

So really, the choice is not whether to have faith or not, but in what (or whom) to believe: God or yourself, the Church or a secularist culture, etc. Faith in God, or in anything unseen or hoped for, but not obvious, doesn’t make you naïve, unintelligent, or dangerous. It just makes you human.

– Isaac Huss

I Do in Action: a Christian Vision of Marriage

2 Nov I Do in Action: a Christian Vision of Marriage

I Do in Action: a Christian Vision of Marriage

I’ve moved a lot over the last fifteen years. Between several cross-country moves from Minnesota to St. Louis, Washington, DC, and even Rome, I’ve become incredibly weary of it all. When I met my husband Burton, one of the first things I thought was, “Finally, I meet someone who’s actually from Minnesota! I’ll never have to move again!” So it came as something of a blow when Burton came to me last winter and said he wanted to pursue medical school—out of state, no less. Initially, all I could think was that this wasn’t what I signed up for on our wedding day. I could have put my foot down and said no. Burton would have accepted it and still loved me. Yet, even through a lot of tears and heartache, I knew without any hesitancy that I was called to say yes.

The truth is, this is exactly what I signed up for. Sacrificing yourself, your own wants, your own needs to your spouse’s wants and needs—that’s “I do” in action. If relationships were all about easy love and good times, we wouldn’t need the grace we get from the sacrament of marriage. When the angel came to Mary, Mary didn’t respond, “Yes—because this is what I already wanted and hoped would happen.” Mary’s “Yes” came despite any fear, worry, and dreams she may have already have had for her life. She needed grace to give her answer, and even more grace to live it.

My husband and I have been settled in our new home in Philadelphia for a month now. Every day that I wake up, I have to say “I do” to our marriage and “yes” to the new path that we’re on all over again. This doesn’t mean I have to pretend that everything is fine. Life isn’t easy for me here. He’s invigorated by his studies, but I spend my days looking for a job. I’m homesick, stressed about being unemployed, and feel lonely in a city where I don’t know anyone. But we talk about it, he listens and sympathizes and spends every free moment trying to make the transition easier. We’ve traveled in the area, walked through the whole city, and been on more dates than we ever had before. I feel the grace from our mutual “I do” to be more active in our life than ever before.

In a way, I’m actually treasuring this time of difficulty and sacrifice. That seems so backwards, doesn’t it? Certainly people have gotten divorced over less. But these are the times when I cling to the Lord. The Lord, in turn, calls me to trust Burton completely, and for him to trust me. Our future is without certainty, but we have hope and an understanding that our love means a willingness to sacrifice for each other.

-Allison Hendrickson

2 Great articles: Faith and Science – How Silence Works

12 Oct
Here at Terence’s Corner we are keeping a fresh revolving group of artcles that we find interesting in our continual search to define and rediscover our Catholic Faith.  These are helping us in our search and we thought they may touch on issues, questions, or fresh Catholic topics that you may be thinking about as well.

Have some articles you found interesting and you’d like to share them here as well? Send them over and we’d love to start up a conversation and maybe post them here too! Email us theheartofthematterblog@gmail.com

A review of Alvin Plantinga’s new book on faith and science.
by  Thomas Nagel 
new!
The gulf in outlook between atheists and adherents of the monotheistic religions is profound. We are fortunate to live under a constitutional system and a code of manners that by and large keep it from disturbing the social peace; usually the parties ignore each other. But sometimes the conflict surfaces and heats up into a public debate. The present is such a time.

One of the things atheists tend to believe is that modern science is on their side, whereas theism is in conflict with science: that, for example, belief in miracles is inconsistent with the scientific conception of natural law…More>>


How Silence Works: Emailed Conversations with Four Trappist Monks
by Jeremy Mesiano-Crookston 
new!

About two months ago I started reaching out by email to a group of people whose lives I wanted to know about and understand: The Trappist monks of Oka Abbey, in Quebec. Oka Abbey is the oldest Trappist monastery in North America. A century ago, it was a powerhouse; but in recent decades, the community had dwindled to a fraction of what it used to be. After leaving the Abbey to a heritage group, to be preserved as an historical site, the remaining monks relocated to a smaller retreat in the mountains north of Montreal.

Even if you’re not Catholic, you may have heard of the Trappists. They’re the monks that make those impeccably crafted beers. And the Trappist monks of Oka created a cheese worth drooling over that’s still widely sold today (though now it’s made by a Quebec dairy company). The Trappists are known for one other thing as well: they’re the only Western-based monastic order that still actively practices the “vow” of silence. (I put quotes there because neither the Rule of St. Benedict nor the practice of the Order actually contains a specific vow of silence. As I understand it, it’s an edict, a practice that’s a part of their lives that the monks happily follow.) It was this element of their lives, their dedication to the enshrinement of silence, that drew me to them. Not really knowing how one goes about approaching monks, I located list of monasteries in addition to the former Oka group and started emailing. It took a few weeks of very slow introductions to find the right people, but I ended up in conversation with four monks, two in America and two in Canada..…More>>

One Day’s Pilgrimage

4 Oct The Interior of Our Lady Queen of Angels
The Interior of Our Lady Queen of Angels

The Interior of Our Lady Queen of Angels

I just moved to Los Angeles, California. When I move to a new place, I try to get to know the place, let my roots start to grow. This means finding a local bar, a coffee shop, and a church to attend. I also make a special point to get to the cathedral. I figure the cathedral is the true heart of the city, its epicenter, the most important building. It is there that the diocese gathers, where the bishop has his seat. My architectural inclinations tell me that buildings matter. Just consider the difference between a house and a home. The cathedral is the central place for prayer; the home of the archdiocese. It is where two or three (or a few thousand) gather: bishops, priests, deacons, lay people, and me. So this past Saturday, I decided to go on a little pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown LA.

I figured out directions, and timing. It would be 12.2 miles in 1 hour and 23 minutes. I hopped on my Schwinn, which was recently shipped from St Paul by a friend. I headed down Florence, north on Hyde, through Inglewood, past bodegas, and run down houses. Then I took a right on Broadway. Not a left like I was supposed to. I did not realize my error until I saw signs for Watts. Watts? That didn’t sound right. So I biked around and around, and back and forth. Suddenly an hour and twenty minute bike ride was two hours. My legs were getting tired, my dress shirt damp, and my patience thin.

“Stupid LA! I should have stayed in St Paul!” Finally, I found a little pink Catholic Church. “Excuse me, which way to downtown LA?” Laughter. “Son, we aren’t near downtown. Ya head up Main St. that way.” So, a little humbled, I creaked up to and then through Downtown. I was an hour late for Mass, which by my normal math means I missed mass. But I went in anyhow. And there was a Church full of Catholics, an altar full of priests, and the Eucharist elevated by my Archbishop, Jose Gomez. I felt the words of the Psalmist “I rejoiced when they said ‘let us go onto the house of the Lord.’ And now our feet are within your gates Jerusalem.” I knelt down behind a Hispanic family, next to a Korean couple, and I cried, from exhaustion yes, but more truly, for rejoicing.

You see, sometimes, it takes a long time to get home, but I was there with my new pastor and my new flock. Through God’s grace, and on a vintage bike, I had finished my little pilgrimage within the bigger pilgrimage of life. It is a long road to the Kingdom, with a lot of wrong turns, but I’ll keep peddling on the way, and keep finding my cathedrals whether on Summit Ave, Hennepin Ave, or in downtown LA. At the end of mass, I joined a line of Catholics processing to a crucifix. Each of us embraced the statue’s feet. This is the end of all our pilgrimages. We, with sore feet, embrace His pierced feet, surrounded by the People of God, and He lifts us up to our true home.

– Terence Sweeney

Catholic: a Calling to Sacrifice and Obedience

1 Oct

Catholic Marriage

Catholics have this funny thing about sacrifice, and Catholic marriage is no exception. I was the happy attendee at my brother’s wedding recently and they had chosen a beautiful and misunderstood passage from the New Testament as one of the readings: Ephesians 5. Yup, that’s the one about wives being subject to their husbands written by Saint Paul to the Christians in Ephesus. Controversial on the surface, this passage really says simply that marriage is about sacrifice and overcoming our self-centered inclinations to be bossy (women) and tuned out (men).

First, a moment on the sacrifice angle: husbands’ relationship with their wives mirrors what we Catholics talk about as Christ’s relationship to His Bride, the Church. That sounds a little weird if you haven’t had a catechism lesson, so here’s my quick explanation (without a degree in theology). God sends His Son down to Earth to bring redemption to a fallen people, Christ institutes a physical and spiritual thing “the Church” to act as His proxy in giving out graces and helping people, and He heads back up to Heaven after He dies. His relationship with the Church is like a bridegroom to a bride: He sacrificed His life for her, and she reciprocates by sharing life, love, and His grace (God’s life within us) to the world.

Second, the obedience angle: are women considered second-class citizens? Saint Paul writes that wives should be subject to their husbands, and husbands should love their wives as themselves and sacrifice their lives for them. This always rubbed my inner feminist wrong. What does “subject to” mean anyway? So women are supposed to be obedient and men just sacrificial? Come on! What are we, chattel?

Now that I’ve been married a few years, I see that these two instructions correlate to basic human nature and the psychological make-up of both sexes. It resonates that men need to feel respected and listened to by their women who, in general, are far more verbal and can run roughshod over their men at any given opportunity (um, me). And women need to feel totally cared for, monogamously devoted to, and the center of their husband’s worlds because, in general, men aren’t attuned to the constant affirmation we need (constant? Um, yes.).

Marriage is a special calling because it mirrors this relationship Christ has with His church. It also brings out the best of both gender’s strengths, and help work on their weaknesses, i.e., being self-centered. Sacrifice and respect are imperative ingredients to a healthy marriage, and all relationships. Thanks, Saint Paul, for pointing out the difficult and the obvious.

-Nell Alt