The True Leisure of Divine Worship

4 May

  Perhaps some of you have seen the bumper sticker that reads, “The Labor Movement- The People Who Brought You the Weekend.” The point being that we have the Labor Movement of the late 19th century to thank when we take it easy on Saturday morning, sipping coffee in our pajamas while we watch cartoons, not worrying about what the boss would say. As great as this sounds, it is still tied to labor. The weekend is merely a break from work for the sake of returning to work refreshed. On Sunday, we devote our time to divine worship, which is pure leisure.

weekends and the sabbath - Ian Skemp

   Personal opinions on the labor movement notwithstanding, the bumper sticker has a point. If we adhere to the concept of the modern weekend, then perhaps we can thank the labor movement for the weekly break from work (as well as the shorter hours Monday through Friday). Once a week, we are allowed to rest, thus recharging our batteries for the inevitable return to work on Monday. I am, in fact, exceedingly grateful for that. Labor strains the mind and the body, and rest is much needed. As much as I enjoy a day off, however, I am far more thankful for the leisure of the Lord’s Day, which predates the Labor Movement by several millennia, at least.

   Sunday is not merely day off.  We, as human beings, are made for more than merely “working” and “not working.” We are not utilitarian beings made for practical ends, nor are we pointless creatures who work only to minimize the coldness, brutishness, and nastiness of our short lives. We are made in the image and likeness of God, and thus we are called to a higher plane. But what about the Lord’s Day sets it apart from any other day we don’t clock in? What is true leisure?

   Leisure is not simply laziness or inactivity. Celebrating Mass on Sunday reminds us that human totality extends beyond the world of work. Divine worship is not work, yet it is not idleness, either. Josef Pieper, a philosopher, wrote that leisure “lifts man out of himself, so that he is rapt to the heavens.” The weekend is a necessary interruption of our work, but mundane in and of itself. To freely engage in divine worship is to break on through the confines of the workaday world and all its practical needs, choosing instead to bask in the Good. It is, to put it simply, heavenly.

– Ian Skemp

Prayer for a Man’s Man

17 Apr Prayer for Men - Isaac Huss

The taste of orange juice right after you brushed your teeth. The sound of nails scratching a chalkboard. The feeling of getting kicked square in the crotch. All are things I’d sometimes prefer to spending an extended period of time in prayer. Okay, maybe not the last one, but you get the point. Prayer is often hard, really hard. From what I can tell, my struggles with prayer are pretty representative of what you might call a normal dude in America today. Men aren’t exactly pounding down the doors of the local parish church nowadays. The fact is, there are millions of things men would rather do than sit down and pray. I’m not saying men don’t want to pray or don’t understand the importance of prayer, although there are certainly plenty in both camps. I’m just saying the average Joe has a hard time with prayer in general, even if he would really actually like to pray.

Prayer for a Man's Man - Isaac Huss

When I was confirmed, I was told to ask God for a gift of the Holy Spirit. When piety was described to me as essentially a desire for doing holy things, I thought, “Sign me up! I’d love to actually enjoy going to Mass.” When the rubber hit the road, kneeling down and praying was not attractive to me at all. Ever. In hindsight, I was probably a wee bit naive about what it meant to receive the gift of piety. In other words, “Sure, God, I’ll pray, but what will I get out of it? Can you make it fun and exciting? Or at least a little bit enjoyable? Hell, I’d settle for tolerable! Oh, and sorry for swearing. Amen.”

Here’s the thing about prayer: it’s the exact opposite of self-centered. Prayer is a turning from self to God. It’s not self-seeking, it’s God-seeking. Not self-serving, but God-serving. Here’s where man’s struggle to pray becomes refreshingly counter-intuitive: when a man sits in prayer, whether it’s in Mass or by himself, and he starts to feel that familiar feeling of I’d-rather-be-doing-anything-else, that’s not him failing at prayer. In fact, it’s the opposite. It means he’s succeeding and the prayer is doing its work. Or, more properly speaking, God is doing His work.

When a weightlifter feels the burn while bench pressing, he doesn’t assume he’s failed, he realizes that the lifting is pushing him to his limits and making him stronger. Similarly, when we struggle in prayer, we are actually succeeding–pushing our spiritual capacity to its limit and making our love for God stronger. The goal of benching is not perfect form but a strong body. The goal of prayer is not perfect prayer, but love of God. I’m not saying that prayer can’t possibly be enjoyable or that the only way we grow in holiness is by gritting our teeth. I am saying that the measure of holiness does not necessarily mean that you’d rather participate in a 3-hour Latin high mass than watch the Vikings, or that a holy hour miraculously seems so much more appealing than a happy hour. Instead, holiness just might mean that you’d rather be doing something else, but you choose to pray anyway.

-Isaac Huss

Sinners Anonymous: the Cross of Christ

7 Apr

The Church sex abuse scandal exploded onto the front pages in 2001, right around the time I was confirmed. Since then, my adult life has been punctuated by this painful unfolding of the worst kinds of sins, which were sinfully covered up. The Church has been marred to the point that it causes one to ask: how one can be a member of this organization? Think of it: little ones exploited by some priests, who were then protected by bishops, including one who anointed my head at my confirmation.  Am I just holding onto faith from habit? How can I invite others into the Church? Why “rediscover Catholicism,” when some of our leaders who sheltered child rapists, seem to have never discovered Catholicism at all?

I love the Church like crazy. Her churches, her schools, the grumpy old men bringing up the collection, the crazy old lady muttering her rosary; every inch of Her, I love. I want bishops and priests to shepherd us. I believe in the Church as a spiritual communion and the hierarchy and laity working together are the bones and muscle of that spiritual body. I love the Church and I believe She is the surest way to the One who offers salvation to us all, when a new scandal breaks, it hurts me and engages me.

Christ Carrying the Cross - Hieronymus Bosch

Christ Carrying the Cross – Hieronymus Bosch

How do I justify staying and inviting others to return/join? Because, I am a sinner. I am grumpy, moody, arrogant, I drink too much, think about sex too much, and I would rather eat a burger than help the poor. I have never done what some bishops and priests did, but I do sin and I need a home with sinners. Jesus did not come to call the righteous; he came to call sinners and he did a really good job. Look at the people who surrounded Jesus at the beginning of the Church–apostles, prostitutes, tax collectors, Pharisees—all were sinners. And today? Priests, nuns, bishops, laity, and, me: all are sinners. We are like an AA group, a bunch of recovering addicts led by recovering addicts. Fr. Romano Guardini wrote “The Church is the Cross on which Christ is always crucified. One cannot separate Christ from his bloody, painful Church.” Our Sinner’s Anonymous group is carried on Christ’s back.

God calls us into this Sinners Anonymous group. He surrounds Himself with sinners because under all of our sins, God plants and nurtures the good in us. It is in the Church, the Sinners Anonymous, that God makes saints (recovered sinners). God calls some of these recovering sinners to have families, some to join monasteries, some to become priests, and some to wear funny hats and to bear the authority that comes with them. I am not excusing anyone, nor do I deny the need for reform in the Church. I am just trying to explain why I stay and why I am inviting you to join. We all need help, maybe not as much as the child rapists and those who protected them, but we too are called to humble ourselves, to see our addiction to sin, and to find the steps of recovery the Church proposes. I stay because I believe the Church is the best place for the recovering sinners who have always surrounded Christ, and will until the day when God recovers all His sinners and transforms us into saints.

– Terence Sweeney

The Freedom to Follow Christ

4 Apr The Freedom to Follow Christ - Catherine Huss

   I have been to more talks and read more books than I can remember about how non-Catholics (and non-practicing Catholics for that matter) find religion to be restrictive and oppressive, and that not following any religious teaching is freeing. Catholic authors and speakers counter this assertion with a different one: that in reality, following Christ brings you “true freedom.”

The Freedom to Follow Christ - Catherine Huss

The Calling of the Twelve John Mosiman

For most of my life I never understood that assertion. How could having to follow rules, strict rules, that forbid you to engage in fun, enjoyable activities be freeing? How is it “true freedom” when every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation the place I will be and the activity I will partake in is planned out for me? How is it “true freedom” when I am told how my sexual relationships and weekly tithing should look?

Lately, the Lord has revealed to me through small experiences (as He usually does) the ways in which I am truly free by following Him.

Drama: I have found that when I try my best to be kind to others, smile at people, don’t pick fights, give people the benefit of the doubt, and don’t talk about people in a derogatory manner, my life has become drama-free.

Peace and Patience: Stub a toe? Get cut off on the freeway? Get lost in an unfamiliar place? Order a plane ticket for the wrong day? By realizing and accepting God is in control, and that He allows everything to happen, I have peace and patience with a situation and am free from freaking out.

God’s Will: I can’t even tell you how many hours and days, weeks and months I have spent worrying, stressing and being anxious about events in my life. Whether it is getting a job, being accepted into a certain school/program, having food to eat and a roof over my head, it is incredibly freeing to know that ultimately it is all in God’s hands, and His Will will be done. It’s not entirely up to me. I do the best I can with what I am given, and He does the rest.

Just because I have decided to follow Christ and His teachings (which we all have the freedom to choose to do), doesn’t mean these freedoms will magically come. I still gossip, swear in frustrating situations and stress about jobs. But by following Christ, I am given the tools to work toward a drama-free, peaceful life according to God’s Will.

– Catherine Huss

Freedom Through Confession

3 Apr

Freedom Through Confession - Colleen Pesci

  The winter lies heavy on our backs. The morning sun rising long after we have started our days only to be blocked by the low grey sky, turning our strides into a trudge through soiled slush, with our minds solely concentrated on leaving one destination and arriving at another. I walk, clouded, up the large stone steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, positioned on bustling 5th Ave. Commuters hustle by me, heads down, scarves wrapped, looking for the shelter of their offices and the warmth of their cubicles. The stone of the church mimicking the condition of my heart: heavy and cold.

I head straight back to the confessionals feeling once again like a small fifth grader, heart pounding, palms sweating, mind racing, anxious to divulge my secrets and sins. As I kneel behind the screen I feel safe, tucked away in this small corner of the church, me and the priest, divided by a screen, identities unknown. In the opening prayer I am hit with a familiar voice, one that I have heard many times, yet one that sits in my memory as speaking to a crowd, to an audience. Here, however, there is a personable tone, it is Cardinal Archbishop Dolan.

After my initial shock of recognition and at the end of my sharing, he pauses with a sigh as he digests what I have given him, and he responds with these words:

“Remember, my dear friend, the story of St. Andrew. We, as Christians, focus on his yes to the Lord, his surrender and trust, his movement towards Christ. But with every movement towards something there is a leaving behind, with every ‘yes’ there lies countless ‘no’s.’ Fulton Sheen is buried feet away from us, under this very altar. He wrote once of a scene at the confessional. A line of people waiting to enter, backs arched with heavy burdens, yet as they leave, they walk with a freedom past piles and piles of people’s pain, sin, and sorrow that have been laid down, released from their possession. Leave here, and leave it behind. Leave it behind at the door. For all is forgiven.”

I walked out of the Cathedral, down the concrete steps, past the booming stone walls, and once again into the sharp winter wind, my heart no longer clouded by grayness. With the morning sun, I watched the streets become alive with steady steps, hands grasped around the steaming cups of morning coffee and I recognize the Promise. In our human weakness, there is redemption. My every choice and encounter not only is an opportunity for my yes but also my no. I stand in front of these encounters, not with a heart of fear but of Promise, because when shackled to my weakness there sits waiting for me, tucked away in a drafty church,  an opportunity to release my burdens and walk away, free.

-Colleen Pesci

Why Start Religion Early for Your Kid?

24 Mar Start Teaching our Children the Faith Early

Spirituality and religion are so profoundly personal.  And many of us are still on our journey of either/both/one.  Given that each person has a particular journey, why start religious instruction early for children?  Why not let them choose their own path when they are old enough to be interested in it?

We have opted to start religion for our kiddos from the get-go for a number of reasons: 1) being part of a larger spiritual community; 2) development of conscience; and 3) reinforcement of our parenting values.

Why Start Religion Early for Your Kid?

Why Start Religion Early for Your Kid?

Our son who is two and a half has a sweet love of Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary.  He doesn’t get the advanced concepts of the hypostatic union or transubstantiation.  He doesn’t need to.  He understands Jesus was once a little boy too.  He understands Mama Mary to be his heavenly mother, and Jesus’ mama, who is there to comfort him when he is alone and scared.  For him, the Saints are not only a great baseball team, but also a team of wonderful people who are dead and whose examples we strive to follow.

 When we consider how the Church can influence the development of conscience, we don’t see religion as a vehicle for shaming or guilt-tripping.  The shaping of a conscience is comprised of delineating desirable behavior from undesirable behavior, and empowering the child to internalize this distinction process.  All parents do this, regardless of creed.  Catholicism provides a blue print to make this go more smoothly.

But why start now when they are so little?  Because I cannot hope that our children come to embrace these values later on as they are not the natural values to embrace.  It is natural for children to be rude, selfish, and wild. Instead of shaping his behavior through punishment (all the time), an external force, we are trying to give him a rooting in the whys behind the don’t-do-that.  Following your base instincts will not bring you closer to a God of love, and will not make you happy.  You have to practice self-discipline, and develop it from the get go, based on something that is higher than your parents.  Someone you are accountable to when no one is looking. If you have surrounded your child with a culture that backs up what you have shown them, then they can see from their friends, their friends’ parents, their school, and their environment a mirroring of values you hold true.

In conclusion, why not have God as a part of their routine?  Even if you are more spiritual than religious, consider how as a parent you give your child parameters and boundaries on all other fronts.  Why not organize their exposure to a Higher Power in the form of organized religion? It’s up to you how you present the routine of the Divine, and which traditions you emphasize, and accordingly you could give your child a better or different or more complete version than what you yourself received.

-Nell Alt

Looking for the Kingdom at the Neighborhood Café

20 Mar The Neighborhood Cafe

   I have a fairly juvenile approach toward prayer. My own interpretations and perspective often turn a little ridiculous. For instance, my wife and I recently read Romans 14:17, “For the Kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” I thought, “man, that sounds tough.” I truly enjoy the happiness of indulging in food and drink. What if Saint Peter is more of a host waiting to show us to our reserved spot (upon condition)? Don’t  you think that we’ll be eating and drinking to our hearts’ content once through the big pearly gates up there?  

Looking for the Kingdom at the Neighborhood Café
 
  I’ve recently found my own little slice of heaven at my favorite neighborhood greasy-spoon diner, appropriately called The Neighborhood Café on Snelling Ave in St Paul. They continue to make improvements, such as offering breakfast hash that looks more homemade than what you would get out of a can, a small dinner menu with good appetizers, a great draft beer lineup that includes tasty local suds, and usually a wildly concocted special that never seems to make sense until it hits your taste buds. They have the gruff (but with a smirk) service that is essential in the greasy spoon category.

  A few weeks ago, friends and I were there for one of their first dinner offerings. As we watched the local football rivalry ensue on their single wall-mounted 17” TV, I noshed on a pulled pork Cubano sandwich. My wife enjoyed a deluxe grilled cheese complete with bacon and tomato while our friend practically inhaled the famous pot roast. Although our stomachs were stuffed we all willingly assisted in the take down of a caramel-drizzled, seared pear with ice cream in the middle. Before we walked in we knew a few of the wait staff and the owner, after we departed we knew most of the patrons as well.

  This is my heaven. This is where I find my peace, my joy. Is it reasonable to think that this experience is what eternity could be? I doubt it, because in my heart of hearts, or the heart of my stomach, I know that the evening could have included much less tasty fare and would still have been as enjoyable. The peace I find in these situations isn’t how seasoned the pork is or how perfectly proportioned the deluxe grilled cheese presents. It isn’t about the seared pears or local brews. It’s about the laughs, the jokes, and the hilarious remarks. That is what the Holy Spirit is in my juvenile world. That is the peace I seek. Although my conscious goal is to find my wife and I a delicious meal that will fill our bodies, the real seasoning I seek is seeing the Spirit in others. Smiles on faces and inside jokes with new friends is the righteousness I crave. Maybe my purgatory would be an empty Neighborhood Cafe… still sounds pretty tasty though.

– Joseph Olson

Caring for the Elderly

11 Mar Elderly

Imagine yourself in a room full of one hundred close family and friends, celebrating a life of an extraordinary woman. This remarkable woman was a tenacious fighter of Parkinson’s disease for twenty-six years, and you only knew her in the final months of her long fight. You are a stranger to nearly every person in the room, photographs appear on the slideshow of much healthier woman you barely recognize, and you sit next to a son you’ve only exchanged emails with regarding his mother’s care; yet you’ve never felt more at home. Completely welcomed in this room full of strangers, you are treated as if you were a life-long caregiver, because her final moments were as precious as her very first moments in this world. Sharing tears and stories of your work together, this hour brings a sense of closure and honor for the time spent caring for her.

Caring for the Elderly - Hannah Snyder
As a hospice social worker, I provide comfort to those nearing the end of life. And in all cases, I feel closer to Christ in my ministry. “We” in the hospice world often ask ourselves, “How can we not feel closer to God in the work that we do?” It is undeniable that death is a spiritual experience.

I see hospice work as a true vocation; our tender care is nourishment for the journey from this life to eternal life in Heaven. How much more humbling can a job get? As the blessing from the Order of Christian Funerals provides a strengthening anointing to those nearing end of life, so too does the hospice team give nourishment for the journey. We provide dignity, comfort, and compassion to our patients’ final days of their earthly life. Thérèse of Lisieux reminds us that at the time of death, we are not dying; we are in fact entering life! Through Christ’s death and resurrection, we are given the gift of Heaven. When families let go of their loved one to enter into death, the peace that comes of that moment reminds me of Thérèse’s words, as they are indeed entering a perfect life with the Most Holy Trinity.

“Live each day to the fullest, as if it were our last one,” is a phrase many of us use. This cliché phrase is often underappreciated. How often do we truly live each moment? If every thought and action were executed with anticipation for death, how different would we actually live each moment? Wouldn’t our consciences seem much quieter? Talk of death is never easy, as it is a topic close to each of our hearts. Death most often is scary and comes “like a thief at night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2). When we begin the conversation, let us remember that upon death, we are in fact entering new life in Heaven. Each person in my care is a gift, a reminder of my own mortality and the anticipation for the communion with God in Heaven.

-Hannah Snyder

Imago Dei

1 Mar Imago Dei - Kellen O'Grady

A new tradition caused a stir this past January in downtown Saint Paul.  Once again, as Christmas decorations began to slowly come down, the Red Bull Crashed Ice track began to slowly go up.  As I would drive by and watch the mixture of construction crews, church-goers, commuters, and passers-by, I was reminded that as a Christian, I am called to see God in all of His creation, especially in my fellow human beings.

Crashed Ice as an Imago Dei - Kellen O'Grady

Crashed Ice as an Imago Dei

The Latin phrase for this is “Imago Dei” or image of God.  Ideally a church community creates a large collective imago Dei, more fully portraying the Creator.  The more each person within the collective becomes like God, the more the whole community is built up into the imago Dei.

The imago Dei can be seen in other simpler ways as well.  Many easily see God in nature or in a work of art.  In the Eastern Churches, icons are seen as the very presence of God in an image.  For Minnesota, Red Bull’s Crashed Ice presented an exciting view of God alive and well in the Church  in the Twin Cities.  The Cathedral of Saint Paul is the focal point of the Saint Paul skyline.  Turn it purple and blue, build a speed track down the front steps, and you’ll grab anyone’s attention.  For a weekend, the Cathedral threw open its doors in a special way, welcoming guests to the Cities to experience the imago Dei: in athletics, in a communal event, and in the beauty of the Cathedral art and worship.

A faith that is dry and lifeless is no faith at all.  Christianity is built on the understanding that Jesus can be taken at His word: He is the Son of the living God who came to earth to redeem all mankind of their brokenness in the purest kind of love.  If this message is taken to heart, one’s life will change in unpredictable ways.  One becomes an imago Dei.  The Twin Cities are brimming with examples: love among families; service of the poor at the Dorothy Day Center; young adults giving their lives in service through priesthood, religious life, and marriage.  These images stand behind a Church which opens its doors in hospitality to a primarily secular event like Crashed Ice.  When I saw the Cathedral painted with colors, I saw the Church opening a portal to a weary world.  I saw the Church supporting what is good and holy in creation.  I saw her reaching with open arms to proclaim that even Red Bull Crashed Ice can become an imago Dei.

-Kellen O’grady

New Articles for Terence’s Corner

21 Feb
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

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Why I Call Myself A Gay Christian new!
by Joshua Gonnerman 

“Why would a Christian identify as gay?”

That was the question posed by many who read my previous piece for First Things, “Dan Savage Was Right.” Of course, there are many gay people who identify as Christian. But commenters were particularly confused because I am a gay man who accepts Christ’s teaching that sex is to be reserved for marriage, and that marriage is between a man and a woman.

This question has been addressed a few times, most recently by my friend Eve Tushnet. But identity questions are nuanced enough that every answer can only be to the question: Why do I identify as gay? Before I can touch on that, I will address some common objections—or rather, one objection that, on being answered, tends to shift its shape and come again.…More>>

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Dan Savage Was Right  
new!
By Joshua Gonnerman
Dan Savage spoke, and the Internet exploded.He rejected the Bible as “bullshit” in a keynote address to high-school journalists, and then described students who chose to walk away as “pansy-assed.” Since being uploaded to YouTube on April 27, the video of his speech has received over 600,000 views. In describing those who had the courage to take a stand as pansies, Savage flouted his prominent “It Gets Better” anti-bullying campaign (started in the wake of the suicides of Tyler Clementi and other gay or gay-seeming youth), as well as his less well-known stance against effeminophobia within the gay community. His hypocrisy is painfully evident.

And yet, in the rush to (rightly) condemn, conservative responses have often overlooked the fact that Savage was on to something. In the past year, commentators including Elizabeth Scalia, Melinda Selmys, and Mark Shea have written articles to present the gay community as something other than simply an enemy. Each made clear their adherence to orthodox sexual ethics, but each nonetheless received a venomous response from many of their Christian readers.…More>>

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Homosexuality: A Call to Otherness?  
new!
By Elizabeth Scalia
At this past weekend’s 65th Annual Tony Awards, the prize for “Best Revival of a Play” went to Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart about the early years of the AIDS epidemic. Upon receipt of the award, Kramer said, “To gay people everywhere, whom I love so dearly, The Normal Heart is our history. I could not have written it had not so many needlessly died. Learn from it and carry on the fight. Let them know that we are a very special people, an exceptional people, and that our day will come.”
Those of us who have lost loved ones and family members to AIDS certainly understand the note of sadness and regret. A childhood friend of mine, a boy who at age 5 was girlier than I ever thought of being—and who at even that tender age knew what it was to be rejected by a parent and regarded by his peers as an “other”—moved to San Francisco in the late 1970s, ostensibly to be a dancer; he became an early victim to what was then referred to as “the gay men’s cancer.”…More>>