Tag Archives: the heart of the matter

What are you Waiting For?

19 Oct The Waiting Place – Dr Seauss
The Waiting Place – Dr Seauss

The Waiting Place – Dr Seauss

 

  Something feels off, not quite right? You must be in a bout of sadness. If so, what would lift you out the unwelcomed sullenness? Get home and grab a glass of Shiraz. It has worked before. Maybe start that book that you set on the edge of the dresser weeks ago and have passed in between the last duty and the next obligation. Fine. But, the words are uninteresting. Flip through photos to remember spring or munch on candy corn from the freezer and think of upcoming autumn. Uneventful. Sun always does the trick, so bike down to the park. Ride quick across the bridge, too. There is nothing in the Twin Cities that can revive a torpid soul like flying over the Mississippi. And so you do.

   But this time it seems to be only a river to get over. How was it before? The fishing spot, the place for a long run. It was a shoreline wondering with a cigar hanging from your lip mid good conversation: like that one on the nature of space travel or whether your friends were for or against gardens inside the house. The river has been the reason for sitting all evening to watch the sinking sun. How once you were flabbergasted for a whole afternoon by the fact that this section of water somehow makes it to Memphis and Baton Rouge, and then may someday splash a Cuban kid or rain on Mongolia. Now you cross the bridge with some appreciation, of course, but in no way are you elated to sing into the wind or ride without hands.  It is a bunch of water and you are entering busy traffic driven by the overworked and unaware.

   It is as if there was once a kind of life to be experienced inside the kayaking or homemade Juicy Lucy’s on the grill. However, in sadness, the components are still there: trees, friends, evening time, but the crucial component is missing – that hidden life within it all. The stuff that presses itself into memory and catches you from falling asleep to the world has left your surroundings.

   So what to do to get it back? Two options: fill the day with more activity and as many short thrills as one can manage. Or wait. Wait until that life comes again, and get ready for its coming. For the Christian, this life, or liveliness, is from God and can only be seen as an unachievable gift. And according to a saint, Bernard of Clairvaux, waiting is a kind of active searching: “let us wait for the Lord, let us seek after Him.” It is a brave way to remain tied to what you wait for. Waiting is not a giving up, but a realization that we cannot create our happiness, but to be ready for when it is given.

– Laura Eusterman

 

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The Sacrifices of Fatherhood

24 Sep Saint Joseph with Infant Jesus - Guido Reni

Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 4.14.30 PM

   Today, I am a lucky man. Not because I have a lovely wife, a son, and enough work to support them. Those are all blessings, but last night I slept for seven straight hours. I closed my eyes at 11:00 PM and did not open them until 6:00 AM. I have not enjoyed such a peaceful slumber since June 1st of this year, the day my son was born. Parenthood requires a lot more sacrifice than a few hours of sleep, though, but it is all worth it for numerous reasons. For one thing, being a parent makes you a better person by promoting Christ-like humility, for it requires a constant emptying of one’s self (Philippians 2:5-8).

The son that keeps me up at night is not actually my first child, only my first-born child. In February of 2012, my wife miscarried. We did nothing to cause this child’s death, but it happened anyway. We wanted control, but had none. We were excited to welcome this new child by losing sleep, spending less money on luxury, and diminishing our social lives, but we never got the chance to empty ourselves in such a manner. Rather, we faced the difficult task of accepting our loss. Like so many couples, we know now that we are not immune to tragedy, and that what happens is not entirely up to us.

This time, we got what we wanted. We have a beautiful, healthy little boy with blue eyes, lots of hair, and a propensity to give people the stink eye. We also have a new lifestyle as parents that requires a lot of sacrifice. The usual sacrifices a parent must make are conducive to the family’s material welfare, but there is more to parenting than raising a healthy child. As a father, it is my duty to be a spiritual guide to my son. Every sane father would admit to being horribly under qualified for this job, but we have to do it anyway. We must empty ourselves to Christ through obedience, thus becoming “children of God” so that our children may know Him (Phil 2:15).

It is worth noting that parenting is not all about the child. People often forget that parents need attention, too. Mothers must help fathers, and fathers must help mothers. If the parents don’t take care of each other’s material and spiritual needs, the family will suffer. I want my family to be healthy and safe, but I also want everyone to know and love Christ. In order to help them along, I need to know, love, and serve Christ. As a boy, Karol Wojtyla learned to pray by watching his father. Something as simple as witnessing his father in prayer helped young Karol grow up to be a child of God in a “crooked and perverse generation” (Phil 2:15). My greatest joy would be knowing that I helped bring my family to Christ.

 

– Ian Skemp

Christian Spirituality

24 Jul

    Every once in a while, someone will ask me if I consider myself a spiritual person. It is a strange and challenging question. I am a Christian. But am I spiritual? What does that even mean for a Christian? There are all kinds of spiritualities out there today, what is Christian spirituality?

Terence Sweeney - The Pentecost Sadeo Watanabe

The Pentecost Sadeo Watanabe

The general understanding of what it means to be a Christian is to be a follower of Christ. This is true (or at least should be true). There is another meaning to the word Christian. Christ means ‘the anointed;’ Jesus was the Christ because he was the anointed One. The Holy Spirit descended on him when he was baptized in the Jordan and anointed him the Christ. A few years later, the same Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles and Mary on Pentecost, anointing them too.

This is all good and nice, but how does this relate to being spiritual? In baptism and confirmation, Christians are anointed with the Holy Spirit. We become christs. What does this mean? It means the Holy Spirit lives in our hearts. In calling ourselves Christians, we are not just saying we try to follow Christ, we mean we have been anointed as follower of and witness for Christ. For a Christian, to be spiritual primarily means that the Holy Spirit lives in our heart. The Spirit fills us to overflowing giving us the gifts we need to follow Jesus and to be christs to our brothers and sisters.

This is the heart of Christian spirituality. It isn’t something we do, it is something that God gives us and that we must be receptive to it. We must allow the Spirit to totally transform us as the Spirit transformed Jesus, the Son of God, from a carpenter to the Messiah. Of course, as our Christian and non-Christian readers will clearly recognize, many Christians are often not very Christ-like. We block the Holy Spirit’s actions in our hearts; we are not spiritual because we do not follow the Spirit. Nonetheless, to be a Christian is a calling from God which can only be fulfilled if we allow the Spirit to overflow out of us in acts of love.

Am I saying that only Christians are spiritual? You mean to tell me that a Buddhist monk spending years in meditation is not spiritual? No. The Holy Spirit moves where it wills. The Holy Spirit is alive in spiritualties that are oriented to the good. However, it is in and through baptism, confirmation, and the prayers of the Catholic Church, that the Spirit is especially at work. The Spirit is at work in the hearts of all people: leading all people to Christ; calling us into relationship with God; calling us into relationship with each other; calling us all into the spiritual communion of the Church. So let the Spirit fill her heart, let the Spirit draw you into the communion, into the Church whose very soul is the Holy Spirit.

– Terence Sweeney

The Gospel is Peace, and we are its Peacemakers

16 Jul Tim DeCelle

“Neither are any wars so furious and bloody, or of so long a continuance, as those occasioned by difference in opinion, especially if it be in things indifferent.” – Jonathan Swift

I have struggled of late to grasp, to strain, to keep what is mysterious and transcendent. I have a bad habit of reading too much. Not too much of just anything, but too much of the dour and polemical pieces that I find too often and easily published online. Such works bring me always crashing back down to earth, back to the cold and brute facts of human ego and violence. I am, unfortunately, thinking of some Christian and Catholic writers.

Peacemakers - Tim DeCelle

Certainly, this is not true of all or even most of those writing about their faith. But a vocal minority has made dominant an oppositional, warfare style of writing. It is all doom and gloom: we are living in perilous times, we must fight the enemy. I am incessantly reminded that we are in a culture war, that we must wage war and win.

   I thought I read something in the Gospels about peacemaking?

If you are reading this, I want to assure you: YOU are not the enemy. Whatever you might read about the battle for values or a clash of cultures, I assure you that you are not the barbarian at the gates of civilization. This kind of language always attempts to draw lines between people, an attempt that falsely divides what should be united.  In fact, the only battle that we should ever speak of is the battle between good and evil, between all of humanity and the forces of darkness. We must resist the temptation to see evil as somehow incarnated in another.

We are in this together. We are made to work together, to live in peace, and to be peacemakers. We are called to transcend the petty bickering and grandstanding about the “valueless” enemy. Before his crucifixion, Jesus prayed that all would be made “one.” This is a “one” united in and through Christ.

It is not a political unity. It is not a unity about who holds what ideology. Socialists and libertarians, liberals and conservatives and everyone in between and beyond—all will be made new in Christ, and not through ideology.

We have and will still have differences of opinions, of ideals, and yes, even values. We are not to abandon truth but rather to live in the image of Jesus is to live as a peacemaker. We are not called to fight for culture but for people. We are their defenders. Through this self-gift, the actual lives and souls of people will be transformed and, from it, the whole world.
– Tim DeCelle

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

Lipstick, Tattoos, and Embodied Souls

18 May Catholic Tattoo - The Heart of the Matter

Saturday night, downtown Minneapolis is one big Minnesotan hot dish. You are guaranteed to see all sorts of things, from the bachelorette party walking bar to bar, and “that one girl who just shouldn’t have worn that,” to the 55 year old couple leaving the Orpheum all dressed up, to the mentally ill elderly man trying to feed his dog newspaper.

Lipstick, Tattoos, and Embodied Souls - Kari Elsen - The Heart of the Matter

What would this scene look like in Heaven? What we are is much more than what we can see with our eyes; each body walking the streets has within it a soul. We are more than our blond highlights and our “Semper Fi” tattoo, so how do we embrace the fact that we are both body and soul? The truth is that our body is mortal, but our soul is immortal, and what we do with our body affects our soul. In his encyclical, Deus Caritas est (God is Love), Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI says that “Man is truly himself when his body and soul are intimately united…Should he aspire to be pure spirit and to reject the flesh as pertaining to his animal nature alone, then spirit and body would both lose their dignity. On the other hand, should he deny the spirit and consider matter, the body, as the only reality, he would likewise lose his greatness.” This being that both body and soul are good and we need both!

We are physical people; we learn through our five senses and do what we can to “feel good.” Our Catholic faith recognizes this, and this is why we can experience God through the smells of incense, the feeling of chrism oil on our heads, and the taste of the Eucharist. What we do with our bodies affects our souls; we drink too much: we affect our soul, we are promiscuous: we affect our souls. Because we are physical beings, the sins of the flesh are sometimes the hardest to gain control of. In reconciliation we use our bodies to speak words out loud so God can purify our souls, and in this sacrament we experience God’s forgiveness in a physical, bodily manner as well as on the level of the soul.

The next time you find yourself critiquing yourself or others based on the state of the body; remember that you are much more than your body: you are an embodied soul, that is, a soul within a body. Go to reconciliation, gain some new perspective. Because a clean soul is so much more beautiful than the perfected body and you may just find that the state of your soul can radiate more beauty than you could ever know.

– Kari Elsen

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

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>>

Ash Wednesday: From Dust to Joy

13 Feb Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday: From Dust to Joy

On Ash Wednesday, Catholics all over the Twin Cities will receive ashes on our heads and hear this message: “you are dust and to dust you shall return.” More Catholics go to Mass on Ash Wednesday than on most Sundays or Holy Days. I have heard both Catholics and non-Catholics complain about this. Both seem to be pointing to hypocrisy and self righteousness amongst people who return once a year to this Mass. I wonder if either group understands the real mystery going to Mass on Ash Wednesday.

Ash Wednesday is, in many ways, the saddest day of the year. The message: we are sinners and we are going to die. We try to keep death far from us by medication, exercise, and products to make us look younger, yet we gather to be reminded of something everyone already knows. Not only are we reminded of our sorry state, someone smears dirt on our foreheads while telling us. The day begins 40 days of fasting, based off of Jesus’ time in the wilderness and his rejection of Satan. Is this reason we fill churches, death, fasting, and fighting Satan?

In part, this is why. We all know that something is wrong not just with the world, not just with politics, but with us, with me. On Ash Wednesday, we finally recognize the time we did not help an elderly woman because we were in a rush. We remember the times when we have thought of a human person as a means to our own sexual gratification. We apologize for ignoring the poor and helpless. Above all we repent for the pride that keeps us from loving each other and God. We do this because we are reminded we are going to die.

But the truth is that despite the sorrow of Ash Wednesday, it is still a joyful day. Why are ashes on our foreheads and skipped meals a cause for happiness? Why should the thought of death and sin leave space for hope? Because, the Church offers us the truth that Ash Wednesday does not have the final word; that God does not leave us to the dust. On this penitential day, we still look to Easter and we know that our sins have been washed away, that death has been defeated, that the alleluia of the Church will never fail.

What should we do with this hope? Offer this season to Christ by fasting, praying, and almsgiving. Come back to Church for all of Lent. If you are already a churchgoer, invite others to join you. Don’t judge the people next to you at Mass; love them. Don’t be crushed by guilt; be freed by grace. This is Lent and this is our season of joy. It may hurt at times to think of death and sin, it may be painful to turn from sin and embrace those around us, but in the end the freedom of Jesus’ love is greater than dust and sin. We at The Heart of the Matter sincerely invite you to join us in repentance and grace. For truly, “the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” We look forward to seeing you during Lent and to sharing the alleluia of Easter in 40 days.

-The Heart of the Matter