Completely Unplanned Thoughts About Running and Spirituality and Writing

I haven’t really been much in the mood for blogging lately. I don’t know why. My head seems full of lots of ideas of things to write about, but then I come to type them out, and I’ve got nothing. Or I just choose to do other things instead of even sitting down here with my fingers on the keys.

So, I’m sorry I’ve been absent a bit lately. I decided this morning that I just had to sit down and start writing something, and I’m not entirely sure what this post is even going to be about at this stage of the process. But you have to start somewhere, and frankly, I miss blogging when I don’t do it enough, so typing, typing. . .

We had a wonderful week at my parents’ house. I haven’t mentioned it here, but my husband and I have signed up to run a half marathon at the end of May, which means I’ve been spending a lot of time on my treadmill lately. It’s a little strange, because for my past marathons (the last one was in 2008), I did all of my training outside. We lived in North Carolina and had mild winters and a few nice trails to run on near our home. And we didn’t have any kids, so it was easy.

I obviously can’t just pop out and run in the great outdoors whenever I feel like it anymore, so the treadmill during nap time it is. I’ve found an appreciation for the treadmill. I don’t hate it (anymore). I’ve found that I enjoy praying the rosary while running, or listening to audio recordings from Lighthouse Catholic Media. These things help me to not focus on the drudgery of being on the treadmill or the tiredness of my body. And of course they’re good for my soul too, so that’s a bonus ūüôā

But really there’s nothing like going for a run in the great out of doors.

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I got to take my first long outdoor run while visiting my Mom and Dad last week, and it was so lovely. The Rosary (counted on my fingers) and an audio CD still accompanied me, but this time they were enhanced by the backdrop of God’s creation.

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I got chased a bit by some enormous dogs, and met a friendly donkey and a few horses.

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And I found myself even appreciating the hilliness of the road. It is utterly flat here, and I tend to only run flat on the treadmill (because the treadmill doesn’t have downhill!). But this run was wonderfully hilly. I never used to be grateful for¬†the hills when I ran in North Carolina. I mean, who likes running uphill? But my husband mentioned how much he enjoyed running the hills in Kentucky, because without the uphills, there are no downhills. And I realized he’s right.

I don’t love running uphill. Often¬†I walk up the hills, to be honest. But really, the uphill¬†is so worth it to have the downhill. Running downhill is so fabulous. It feels like you’re flying! The ups and downs are way better than always staying flat.

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I think this is kind of the way I feel about life in general and spirituality too. I wrote this post a few months back about feeling frustrated by a spell of spiritual blahs. I think those times of dryness are like the uphills. I don’t like them. I tend to trudge through them without much excitement.

But when I get to the other side, when, through my effort and persistence I get myself to the end of the hard part, the reward is so awesome and so worth it and so much more appreciated.

The ups and downs have to happen.

I think it would become painful to always be running downhill. And I’m not sure if it is possible to maintain a constant state of being spiritually “on fire,” either. The fabulous cannot be kept up indefinitely.

But I would rather have the uphills and downhills than run flat all the time. I’d rather have some spiritual lows and wonderful highs than be in the middle and humdrum all the time.

Maybe blogging is like that too. Maybe I’ve been in a bit of a low, working my way uphill, only to come back with a renewed love and appreciation for blogging. Maybe.

Embrace the Ordinary – Holy Week

Holy week is anything but ordinary. It is the most beautiful and powerful week of the year.

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‚Äú‚Ķthere is something holy, something divine hidden in the most ordinary situations, and it is up to each one of you to discover it.‚ÄĚ St. Josemaria Escriva, Passionately Loving the World

I found myself trying to explain its magnitude to my children so many times, hoping that they are understanding at least a little bit of it. I think they do. We went to the Good Friday Mass last night for the first time, which was haunting and lovely. At¬†the point of the Mass when we kneel and stand repeatedly during prayers for various people and groups, the deacon chanted “Let us kneel” for the third or fourth time, and Sis loudly said, “He keeps doing that!” I quickly shushed her while trying not to chuckle, and found myself smiling at this shot of ordinary mothering in the midst of an extraordinary ritual.

Then my girls all took off their shoes as we went up together to reverence the cross. Touching that cross and seeing their little hands on it. . . It was impossible to hold back all of the tears in those short moments and after we returned to our seats to wait and watch the rest of the parishioners do the same.

As we waited solemnly, my girls saw some of their friends coming up to reverence the cross themselves, and they started jumping up and down and waving and trying to update them on the news that Miss’s first tooth is loose (my husband told me later that Miss was attempting to solicit a dental consult from our oral surgeon friend). Again we shushed them, but I was reminded that they are small and they cannot possibly fully comprehend the significance of the service and the day.

They get it, but they are little. Loose teeth and fairy houses are important too. Those are the things that make up the ordinary amidst the extraordinary in these mothering days.

Ordinary moments in the middle of this amazing week.

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Today is Holy Saturday, the day of the Easter Vigil Mass. Naturally I am thinking back to last year, when I was baptized and confirmed, and received Holy Communion for the first time.

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I’m sponsoring another woman who is entering the Church tonight. I’m so excited for her and for all those who will do the same this evening.

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Today I’m focusing on waiting and on praying for all the new members of our Church.

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And on enjoying all the little moments with my family.

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I hope you all have a happy and blessed Easter.

Thanks to Gina for the opportunity to host this link up during Lent. This will be my last time hosting, and next week you can find the link up back on her blog.

Share your ordinary moments below!

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Finding My Mission

Lent is almost over.

I mentioned before that one of my Lenten penances was to not spend money. I’ve experienced an unintended benefit of this in that, instead of going to Target on Wednesdays when I have a babysitter for a couple of hours, I go to Adoration. It’s been wonderful.

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This Lent I’ve also been listening to lots of lectures, in person and recorded, and reading and journaling a lot. One common theme I’ve been hearing/reading during Lent this year is, “Don’t miss out on what God is calling you to do!” and “What is God’s mission for you? Are you embracing it?” and “What is it that God wants you to do that you are resistant to?

This has all made me feel just a bit self-conscious, as though there’s some grander plan that God has for me and I’m somehow not grasping it. I’ve been wondering what it is.

I’ve always felt like I’m embracing my mission pretty well, actually. I have been pretty sure that my mission, my vocation, is to be a wife and mother and a teacher to my children. Sometimes I’m not very good at it. I yell at my kids, and I slack off on homeschooling stuff, and my house is a disaster. But I’ve still been pretty certain that¬†this is my thing. That I’m doing just what God wants me to do.

BUT, during this Lent, I have repeatedly I felt like maybe I’m missing something. Every time I hear a priest or other speaker talk about making sure that we say “yes” to what God is calling us to do. . . I feel a bit of panic, like I’m not hearing or not heeding my call. I search my brain to try to figure out what I’m missing. “Am I following God’s plan? Am I obeying Him? Am I blocking out His call??? What if I’m missing the whole point of what He wants me to do?”

I’ve been praying a lot for God to help me know what He wants from me. Yesterday was the completion of my 33 Days to Morning Glory Marian consecration, and I’ve been asking Mary to pray for me to “get it” too. I’ve been praying to be a better wife and a better mother. I’ve resolved to not yell at my girls. I really want to do a better job of juggling homeschooling and housekeeping and preparing our house to sell (and I’m failing miserably at this, but that could probably be another whole blog post).

I’ve been praying and praying all this stuff, and though Lent has been nice, and centering, and productive in certain ways for me, it has seemed like I’ve still been waiting on. . . something.

Let’s circle back around to the first part of this post, where I mentioned that I have been going to Adoration every Wednesday. Yesterday was the Solemnity of the Annunciation and the day I completed my Marian consecration. I went to Mass in the morning. I went to Adoration in the afternoon. As I drove there I prayed the joyful mysteries of the Rosary. I thought about Mary’s “Yes” to God.

When I got there, I got down on the kneeler and began to pray as usual, and then I tried to just listen.

I got my answer – the answer to all of my prayers of “What am I missing? What do You want me to do?” In the stillness of my heart I felt/heard one word.

Joy.

That might seem very anticlimactic, but I swear in that moment, a smile lit up my face and I felt like I had been given the answer to everything.

I try really hard to be a good wife and mom. I focus on getting things done and the results of my labors.

“Do my kids have good manners?”

“Are they eating good food?”

“Do they know their letters and numbers?”

“Did I get my husband’s laundry done?”

Check. Check. Check. And so on.

This is what I do. But I have been missing a huge part of my job, and that is they joy in it. I get so caught up in all the things I need to get done, that I forget to have fun with my kids. When they complain about a school lesson, I put my head down and focus on getting it done instead of trying to find a way to make it fun. I often clean dishes and fold laundry instead of playing with my kids. When they whine or misbehave in small ways, I bring the hammer down instead of calmly correcting or redirecting. Not always, but these examples are more the rule than the exception.

Yesterday I got it. God doesn’t just want me to be a good mom. He doesn’t need me to be a perfect mom. He wants me to be a joyful mom.

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As I knelt there in Adoration, my mind was filled with so many ways I can make my mothering more joyful, in chores, and homeschooling, and even (especially?) discipline of my girls. Most of this was stuff I’ve thought of in passing before, but it suddenly seemed so clear and so obvious and so necessary.

For weeks,¬†I have wondered about what God wants me to do. All of these big, crazy ideas have crossed my mind. “Does He want me to write a book? Look into adoption? Start something at our parish?” None of these seemed quite right, and in fact when I prayed specifically about some of them, I got a definitive answer of “No.”

Yesterday, I didn’t ask God specifically, “Do you want me to have more fun?” I just listened, and He told me.

Be joyful.

Kid-Made Stations of the Cross Box

Last year I made a Stations of the Cross box for my girls, inspired by the one Bonnie made and shared in this post.

The girls really enjoyed doing Stations last year using the box. It was fun for them to have something tangible to look at and touch while we read the book and prayers.

We had been doing it every Friday during this Lent too. They seemed to like doing the Stations and talking about them, just like last year. Last Saturday however, my kids’ love for doing the Stations went through the roof, and I had nothing to do with it.

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I wasn’t even home, but my oldest daughter decided she wanted to make her own Stations of the Cross box with the babysitter. All by herself, she came up with a way to make each of the items in the box or to substitute with something else if she couldn’t get or make what we had used before.

My babysitter texted me this picture while I was at the Catholic Women’s Conference on Saturday:

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At first I had no idea what it was, but¬†I thought for sure Lass had made it, because she has been into making small figures out of paper lately. I texted, “Is that Jesus?” The babysitter texted me back that yes, it was, and that Miss had made all the items and they had been sitting around doing the Stations.

Yes. My kids did the Stations of the Cross with my babysitter on Saturday, with no prompting from me. Twice. Then they requested to do it again when I got home. And we did it again before bed.

We’ve done it at bedtime every night since then, at their request.

How do we do it? We use both boxes (the one I made last year and the one Miss made) and take all the items out. We distribute the items among the girls, and each of them also gets a small pocket Stations book to follow along with the pictures. We use this book to read the prayers and the descriptions of the Stations (and BTW, what a rip off, Amazon, the book was $2 at our local Catholic store!). As we read about each station, the girls with the items relating to it put the items in the boxes. Some of the prayers we all say out loud together. That’s it.

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Sometimes they ask questions about the Stations and we talk about what it must have been like for Jesus.

Sometimes they argue about who gets to put which item in which box. Whatever. We (or they) have read through the Stations 10 times since last Friday. (!!)

Miss used craft foam (my girls’ favorite) to make most of the items in her box. I love that she got creative with a few of the things she couldn’t duplicate from the box I made. She didn’t have a rosary, which is what I used to symbolize Mary, so she cut a piece of blue foam, knowing that blue is a color often associated with Mary. She didn’t have a rock, so she made Jesus and wrapped Him in tape to show that He was in the tomb. She could have easily gone upstairs and gotten her rosary from her room or outside and gotten a rock, but she chose to make all of the items instead (except the tissue).

The cross shapes aren’t perfect. The hand (symbolizing Simon helping Jesus) is missing a thumb. But she made it all by herself. And that has made her want to pray the Stations of the Cross and look at the items symbolizing each station every day. And because she’s the oldest, her sisters want to do it too.

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I had thought I might make this a how-to-type post, but then I realized I really couldn’t. In this case, the complete independence of the project, and the creativity and satisfaction¬†that resulted from the process, made it so much better than if I had set out all the materials and had a planned way for Miss¬†to make each item.

Obviously, I think it would be great to give¬†your kids the idea to do this along with some suggestions on how to make it happen (I wish I had thought of it!), but I don’t really have those suggestions other than to show you another photo of Miss’s finished product and say, “Let them go for it”:

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By rows, top top bottom, left to right:

  1. Jesus is condemned to death (rope)
  2. Jesus takes up his cross
  3. Jesus falls for the first time (that’s supposed to be a BandAid, it has a 1 written on it)
  4. Jesus meets his mother
  5. Simon helps Jesus
  6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
  7. Jesus falls for the second time
  8. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem (they are crying, thus a tissue)
  9. Jesus falls for the third time
  10. The soldiers tear off Jesus’s clothes (that is a piece of paper folded and taped to represent a tunic)
  11. Jesus is nailed to the cross
  12. Jesus dies on the cross
  13. Jesus is taken down from the cross (Miss said that this is the “Jesus outside the tomb”)
  14. Jesus is placed in the tomb (Jesus wrapped in tape = “Jesus inside the tomb”)

All kept together in a nice shoebox she found in her closet.

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If you try this with your kids, please let me know how it goes!

Baby Catholic Answers All the Things, Volume 9 – Purgatory and Limbo

I am working through¬†reading Dante’s Divine Comedy. I just finished Purgatorio, and¬†was thinking about how someone (a couple of Catholic someones, in fact) recently told me that the Catholic Church no longer believes in or teaches the doctrine¬†of Purgatory. I was really confused by this, because we still pray for the dead during every Mass, and we still have a Mass dedicated to our departed souls every November. I wasn’t sure why this would be the case if the Church was now teaching that all those who die as believers go straight to Heaven. If that was the case, they certainly wouldn’t need our prayers, right?

Honestly, I only had a vague understanding of the idea of Purgatory before reading Purgatorio and thinking about the comments I recently heard about it. So, I decided I needed to learn more, and to write this post. Thanks goes out to Super Friend for talking to me about some of my confusion around the issue, too.

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So, what is Purgatory, and what does the Catholic Church say about it?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says this:

All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness to enter the joy of heaven.¬†(CCC 1030).

The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect (CCC 1031).

When I was still an atheist and working in prison, I always thought it was absurd that so many¬†inmates would come to prison, decide to accept Jesus and their personal Lord and Savior, and then feel certain that they would go straight to Heaven when they die, although they continued to obviously live their lives in a criminal way (yes, there is tons of criminal activity in prison). I think plenty of Christians would even agree with this without concern. What I was always taught as a child was that, as long as you believed in Jesus, you got to go to Heaven, no matter what you did while living on Earth. I couldn’t stomach the hypocrisy of that while I was an atheist, and even now, that just doesn’t seem right to me.

The Catholic Church has a solution to this problem I had with Christianity – Purgatory. It makes sense to me that people will need to undergo a process of purification before being allowed to be in the presence of God in Heaven. The Bible even says, “nothing unclean will enter it [Heaven]” (Revelation 22:27).

But where does the idea of Purgatory come from?

The Church formulated the doctrine on Purgatory mostly during the Councils of Florence and Trent. However, this doesn’t mean that the Church invented the idea of Purgatory at that time. There is a reference to the tradition of praying for the dead in the Bible, “Thus [Judas] made atonement for the dead that they might be absolved from their sin” (2Maccabees 12:46). There is also evidence of Christians praying for the dead from the very earliest time of our Faith. In the catacombs where Christians gathered during the persecutions of the first three centuries A.D., prayers for the dead are graffitied on the walls. There are references to prayer for the dead in the earliest Christian writings as well. If the first Christians did not believe in Purgatory (even if they didn’t use that name for it), then why would they pray for the dead? Souls in Heaven don’t need prayers, and those in Hell are beyond the help of prayer.

What about Limbo?

“Limbo” is a theological speculation¬†that has been taught in the history of Catholic tradition to refer to a place where the the souls of some who have died were held. This was thought to be a temporary place for those who died before Christ’s ascension into Heaven, and a permanent place for those who could not go to Heaven because of original sin but were not deserving of Hell because of no personal sin. This would include those who lived virtuous lives but were never exposed to Christian teachings and could therefore not be believers, and also babies who died before they could be baptized.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church does not include any reference to Limbo. The concept of Limbo is not an official doctrine of the Catholic Church and in fact, never has been, even if members of the Church may have mentioned it in ordinary teaching in the past. From what I can tell¬†it certainly isn’t actively taught by anyone (or at least hardly anyone) in the Church now.

It seems that, in reference to the question of babies and children who die without being baptized, the official stance of the Church is sort of, “We don’t know for sure, but we have hope.” At least that how it sounds to me from what the Catechism says:

As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God. . . . Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children. . . allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism (CCC 1261).

I have read statements from many priests, including Saint John Paul II, that express the belief that babies who die before birth or are unable to be baptized before they die do go to Heaven. I certainly believe that to be the case.

So, contrary to what I have heard, Purgatory is still a part of the  doctrine of the Catholic Church, while Limbo is not, and never has been.

Lent, Two Weeks In

This year is my second Lent. I love Lent.

It helps me learn about myself. It intensifies my faith. It makes me more humble.

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So far his year, I’m doing a lot of reading and reflecting¬†and praying every morning.

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I gave up Facebook, which has been surprisingly not hard. I don’t really miss it, except for the interactions with blog readers. I suspect a lot of people come to this little site from my Facebook page, and I like getting comments over there. I also like seeing other bloggers’ Facebook comments and interacting that way. I miss the occasional fun updates from friends and family, but other than that, I think I just wasted a lot of time on Facebook. I tended to look at it out of habit or boredom more than anything, so I don’t really mind not having it.

That said, I’d like to add that Facebook is a wily temptress. I logged out of my account on Ash Wednesday eve, but I did not think to turn off notifications. So I keep getting emails with subject lines like, “Motherhood and Miscellany fans want to hear from you!” or “You have 39 notifications, 27 friend updates, 12 messages, and 2 pokes.” (What in the world is a “poke”?) I haven’t opened any of the emails, but they keep on coming, almost every day. Dear Facebook,¬†I will not be led astray.

My other big penance is that I am not spending money on things other than food and gas (and babysitting). This seems so simple, but I have learned that I have a tendency to spend way more money than what is necessary, on a regular basis. For example, the first time I went to Target after¬†the start of Lent, I got the things on my list (all grocery/pharmacy¬†items), and then I noticed myself beginning to veer off to something else, probably in the crafting, school supplies, or kid’s clothing sections. I didn’t need anything else, but it is such a habit to just grab other things that would be nice to have or that I might need later. I do the same thing on Amazon and at places like Hobby Lobby.¬†I’m really quite¬†embarrassed about this now that I realize I was doing it (talk about a large dose of humility!).

Another part of my not spending money unnecessarily and trying to simplify things during Lent is that I have been making myself clean out the foods in my pantry and freezer whenever possible, instead of buying other pantry foods at the store. My kids are eating whatever is in the cupboards for snacks and lunch side items. I made chili last week and we were out of saltines. I started to go down the cracker aisle at the grocery store when I remembered that we had lots of other kinds of crackers in the pantry. So I served chili with Cheez-Its, Breton whole grain, and round sesame crackers. No one even seemed to care. Check out the before and two-week shots of my pantry:

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So far Lent has been so beneficial for me. I’m paying more attention to the ways I have tended to spend my time and money, and why. It’s been quite a learning experience, and I’m able to invest my efforts¬†on more important things instead, like prayer and service and almsgiving.

How has Lent been for you??

 

 

 

 

A Sacramental Blessing – Thoughts on What Was Missing from My Marriage

When my husband and I first got married, we did it in the most secular way possible. We were outside, we had a judge officiating, and I specifically requested no references to religion in the ceremony.

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It was really wonderful, and remains one of the best days of my life. At the time, I didn’t think for a moment that there was anything missing.

Indeed!

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When I decided to convert to Catholicism, I realized that I really wanted for my husband and I to have our marriage validated in the Church. It took us a while to make it happen, but a few weeks ago, we finally had our sacramental blessing. A Catholic wedding, complete with full Mass.

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While we were receiving communion, Lass asked the priest, “Why don’t the little people get to have any of the good stuff?”

It wasn’t a big, fancy affair. Just us, our girls, our priest, Super Friend and Super Husband, and The Godmother (plus our babysitter and photographer).

We did the whole thing. We selected readings, and the priest gave a homily. We said vows and had our rings blessed. The priest said a blessing over us and we received communion, all standing around the altar. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced.

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Our first wedding was also beautiful. It was wonderful and meaningful. It was a big celebration of our marriage with most¬†of our friends and family. It wasn’t fussy, and it was fun. It was exactly what I wanted it to be at that time.

This time was so much the same and yet so, so¬†different. Our first wedding was obviously important. But this time, this ceremony,¬†felt sacred. I looked at my husband while saying our vows and there was so much more. We’ve been married over six years and have three children. We’ve experienced wonderful joys and terrible grief.¬†“In good times and bad, in sickness and in health” took on a whole new meaning as I said those words again. It was different, because this time I felt the presence of God watching over us, blessing us, embracing us. I know now that He was there the first time too, but I didn’t bother to notice. This time, He took center stage, and it made everything so. much. more.

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There was even more joy. More love. More beauty. More grace.

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I used to think¬†I knew a lot about marriage. I thought I was really good at being married. I thought my husband and I had a fabulous marriage. Here’s what I know now: I knew some. I was pretty good. We did have one.

BUT,

Since converting to Catholicism, since beginning to go to church with my husband every week, since instituting prayer in our home and faithful practices in our family, my marriage has improved in so many ways.

I’m a better wife and a better mom. I am less prideful and less selfish. I still have so much¬†to learn. I am still striving and praying¬†to get rid of all the yucky parts of myself: my pride and anger and selfish tendencies. But the love of God helps me to love my husband better. And just as He was the thing missing from our first wedding, God was what was missing from our marriage for the first five years. I didn’t even realize there was¬†anything was missing back then. But now I do. Our marriage is so much better with Jesus.

Baby Catholic Answers All the Things, Volume 8 – Orthodoxy

Wow. It has been a very long time since I wrote my last Baby Catholic Answers All the Things post. This was supposed to be a regular feature! I’m sorry.

Here’s what happened: I got a question from my friend Liz that threw me for a loop a bit (back in, *ahem*, August). I kind of knew the answer, but I wasn’t sure if my answer was the whole answer, and Google was not helping me find the whole answer very easily, and then once I did find the whole answer, I couldn’t manage to get the post written in a way that I liked. And I didn’t want to write it wrong, because referring to myself as the Baby Catholic who Answers All The Things is a lot of pressure!

So I didn’t write it at all.

And even though I sent a message to my friend Liz giving her the answer, I felt like I shouldn’t just skip it and keep doing¬†other BCAATT posts without answering it here too (though I did do a few posts after getting THE QUESTION). So. Radio silence from Baby Catholic for (*gulp*) four months.

How’s that for a lengthy explanation?

Anyway. In spite of how long it took me to finally get around to it, I am not one to shy away from a challenge. This question and this post have been in the back of my mind for months. Today, I shall answer the question that derailed me for a while, but will not defeat me.

What was it you ask? This:

“What is the difference between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox? Or, when people refer to Orthodox Catholics are they simply implying more devout Catholics (like Orthodox Jews)?”

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Now, you may wonder why this stumped me. I think most Catholics, including me, know that the Orthodox Church is a different thing, separate from the Roman Catholic Church but similar. Often referred to as the Eastern Orthodox Church, though it is also called the Orthodox Catholic Church, it split away from Roman Catholicism in the East-West Schism of 1054. I learned about this in RCIA last year and also by reading Catholicism for Dummies.

Easy answer, right? So why in the world did this fluster me so much?

Well, I thought I remembered reading something in Jennifer Fulwiler’s memoir, Something Other Than God about how she and her family had found an orthodox Catholic church to attend that they felt was a good fit for their family. I looked¬†through the book, but I couldn’t find the page to reference. However, she mentions in this post her comment to her husband during one Mass, “I think we’re orthodox,” and then she received help from a reader to find an “orthodox parish” to attend. Anyway, because of all this, I was pretty sure that the answer to Liz’s¬†question was “The Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church are separate but similar, AND¬†“orthodox” is also a way of referring to more strict Catholics.”

However, when I tried to learn more about orthodox Catholicism, I came across the Orthodox Catholic Church of America, which is a whole different thing, not affiliated with the Roman Catholic or the Eastern Orthodox Churches. I couldn’t find much about orthodox Roman Catholic practices. I was frustrated.

Finally, I managed to string together the right phrase in a Google search to find some of¬†what I was looking for. From my results, I read about the Orthodox Roman Catholic Movement, led by some priests who didn’t agree with the changes made to the Mass and the Church after Vatican II. There were many changes that came after Vatican II, and I don’t know all of them, but a big one was the way the Mass was celebrated. Before Vatican II, the Mass was almost always celebrated in Latin, and the priest stood between the congregation and the altar, consecrating¬†the bread and wine with his back to the people of the parish. This is called the Tridentine Mass or often just the Latin Mass.

Now, here’s where I get a little unsure. As I understand it, the powers that be in the Roman Catholic Church say that it’s fine¬†to still perform this Latin version of the Mass, and I assume this is considered an orthodox practice. I’m not sure if there are other Roman Catholic parishes that would be considered “orthodox” but don’t conduct the Mass in Latin. My guess is yes, but I could not find any definitive information about just what makes a parish “orthodox,” or if there even are any rules. It seems as though this is not an official label placed on any segment of the Catholic Church. I suspect that orthodox parishes are more conservative and hold more strictly¬†to the laws of the Church.

Just thinking about the parishes in my town, I can say that there are some that are likely considered more orthodox than others. Our parish for example sometimes includes more modern music in our liturgy, especially at the teen Mass. And up until a few weeks ago, we did not have a tabernacle in the main sanctuary of the church (it was in a small side chapel). Our church¬†also¬†looks more modern, and sometimes at the end of Mass the people involved in planning parish activities come up to the front and do silly skits or wear costumes while making announcements. Probably not terribly orthodox, but lots of fun for our family, and never¬†going against any Church rules. I’ve never been to a Mass at a different parish in our town (other than Miss’s school Mass), so I can’t say for sure, but I’ve heard that some of the other parishes tend toward being more old school, though I don’t know if¬†that’s orthodox or not.

So, what I’ve come up with for a final answer is this:

1. The Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox (or Eastern Orthodox) Churches are similar but separate.

AND

2. There are also some Roman Catholic churches that are more orthodox in their practices, though I am not sure exactly what would constitute calling a given parish “orthodox.” Perhaps they have the Mass in the Latin Rite. Probably their music mostly consists of traditional hymns, sung by a choir. Maybe parish members dress more conservatively and some might even wear chapel veils for Mass. Most likely they didn’t have a woman dressed in Mardi Gras garb dance up to the front of the church to announce the parish’s Mardi Gras dinner event next Tuesday in a weird accent (intended to sound Cajun?). Or maybe it isn’t really any of these things but simply a more firm adherence to all the teachings and rules of the Church and the pope (if anyone knows a better answer to this part, please share it!).

In my opinion, we are all part of the same church family, whether we attend an orthodox parish or not, whether we prefer the Mass in Latin or English. I love being Catholic, and I like seeing all the ways our Faith is practiced in accordance with the laws of the Church and under the guidance of our pope.

I’m sorry it took me so long to write this post. Send me more questions, and I promise I won’t take so long next time!

 

A Spiritual Funk

We are about 5 months into RCIA this year, with a little over two months until the big day (Easter Vigil).

Monday¬†night at our weekly meeting, this question was asked by the instructor: “Where are you in your faith journey compared to where you started this process?”

She went around and many of the candidates answered the question. Then she turned to me and one other woman, as the new sponsors who just went through the process last year, and posed the question, “Where are you in your journey now compared to where you were at this time last year?”

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^^ Me. Last year. ^^

Though I didn’t want to admit it out loud, my response was basically to say that I’m floundering a little bit this year. Right now, I’m not living my faith as zealously as I would like to. I told the group something like this:

“Last year at this time, I was on fire. I was devouring all the Catholic reading I could get my hands on, I was spending lots of time in prayer and reading my Bible. I was learning so much and loving every minute of it. This year, though my faith hasn’t declined, my fire seems to have.”

I hate to admit this. I hate that this is so. I’m striving to get back to the place where I was. Or maybe even to a new place that’s even better. But I don’t quite know how.

One of the things I have struggled with in particular is prayer (this is not a new struggle for me).¬†I feel like my prayers are boring and repetitive. Though I don’t say the exact same things every day, and I do add in new things or people to pray for as they come up, I am almost always praying for many of the same intentions, day after day. I’m asking for forgiveness of the same sins, day after day. I pray for my husband, and my children, and my godson, and my family, and my friends, and people I know who are pregnant, and people I know who are trying to get pregnant, and people I know who are sick, and the pope, and so on and so on. There are more things, and they’re all things that are important to me, but I feel like I just keep saying the same things over and over. My prayers are heartfelt, truly, but they also kind of bore me.

Ugh. What a horrible thing to write! But it’s true, and as a result my prayer time has diminished. This makes me feel so sad and a little lost.

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Monday¬†in our RCIA meeting, our young Associate Priest happened to be sitting in on our class. After my admission, someone asked him of how he deals with the ebb and flow of faith and zeal and energy for his vocation. For me, his response boiled down to one statement, “We are not the same today as we were yesterday. Things are not the same today as they were yesterday.”

I thought about those words¬†all the way home and how they relate to my troubles with prayer. I realized that, no matter how much my prayers seem to be repetitive, to be the same day after day, they aren’t. They can’t be.

When I said my prayers this morning, I was not quite the same as I was yesterday, or the day before. I was a little bit different. My prayers were a little bit different. And the situations and people that I prayed for were a little bit different.

Although I pray often for the same intentions day after day, it is not the same prayer every time. It is a new prayer. It is a new conversation with Jesus. How can that ever be boring?

I am actively working to pull myself out of my little spiritual funk. To reignite my zeal. To spend more time in prayer and study again. Everything is definitely better when I pray more.

I think maybe it’s normal to have periods of being relatively less “on fire.” But I want to be on fire again. I do not want to be lazy about my faith and my relationship with Jesus.

I need to remind myself of this:

Prayer is an aspiration of the heart, it is a simple glance directed toward Heaven, it is a cry of gratitude and love in the midst of trial as well as joy; finally, it is something great, supernatural, which expands my soul and unites me to Jesus.” – St. Therese of Lisieux

Amen

Baby Catholic Answers All the Things, Volume 7 – The Rosary

Today is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, and October is the month dedicated to the Holy Rosary. When I was chatting with a friend of mine the other day, who is in the process of reversion to the Catholic Faith, she mentioned that she is eager to learn about the rosary so that she can begin praying it¬†herself. So I’m bringing back Baby Catholic Answers All the Things (sorry, it’s been a while!) with a post all about this beautiful devotion.

Rosary

The rosary has a long tradition in the Catholic Church. You can read a history of the devotion here. It is made up of five decades of repeated prayers, Hail Marys separated by Our Fathers, used to meditate on sets of mysteries.

So, what does that actually mean? Using sets of prayers, called decades, to meditate on sets of mysteries? Wha?? Why the repetitive, memorized prayers? Why the devotion to Mary?

Let me break it down. First of all, you can read my Baby Catholic Answers post on Marian devotion here. In a nutshell: Catholics don’t’ worship Mary. The rosary is not a way to worship Mary. One of the people in my RCIA class from last year had been¬†staunchly anti-Catholic before converting from Protestantism. She began praying the rosary during Lent and asked during class one week, “What is the deal with all these prayers to Mary? Why am I praying to Mary??” My answer to her was something like this, “The rosary is not so much about praying to Mary as it is about growing in our understanding of and faith in Jesus. The mysteries are almost all about Jesus, not Mary. Mary always leads us closer to her Son.”

Let me back up just a bit more here to explain how the rosary works and what a “mystery” is in this context. First, how the rosary works:

If you pick up a rosary, you will see a loop of beads with a tail coming out from it. At the end of the tail is a crucifix.

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Above the crucifix, on the tail, there are five beads.¬†First is an “Our Father bead.” Our Father beads are¬†sometimes different from most of the beads on the rosary, and sometimes they’re just separated by more chain. The next three beads¬†are ¬†“Hail Mary beads.” Then there’s a space and another¬†Our Father bead, followed by the joiner (I think that’s what it’s called). The joiner¬†can differ from rosary to rosary. One of mine has a Holy Family medal, another has an Ave Maria thingy (see below).

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^ This one is an example of a rosary where the beads are all the same but the Our Father beads are separated from the Hail Mary beads by more chain.

Looking more closely at the beads on the loop of the rosary, you can see that there are groups of ten Hail Mary beads, called “decades,” that are separated from each other by Our Father beads.

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So to pray the rosary, you start on the crucifix and say the Apostles Creed. Then you move to the first Our Father bead and say. . . an Our Father. Then three Hail Marys on the Hail Mary beads. On the the chain between the last Hail Mary and the next Our Father bead, you say a Glory Be. Then on the final Our Father bead, announce the first mystery, then say the Our Father.

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Then you move to the first set of ten Hail Mary beads and say ten Hail Marys. When you get to chain before the second Our Father bead, say the Glory Be and the Fatima Prayer (I’m not sure if some people maybe¬†don’t do this last one?), then move to the next Our Father bead, announce the second mystery and say the Our Father, then pray the next decade of Hail Marys. And it goes the same way through all five mysteries and five decades until you get to the last Fatima Prayer. After the last Fatima Prayer, on the joiner, pray the Hail Holy Queen. Then to conclude there is another prayer, but I’m not sure what it’s called. Most sites I looked at included it at the end of the rosary, but I haven’t seen¬†a name for it. It goes like this:

Oh God, whose only begotten Son, by his life, death, and resurrection, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life, grant we beseech Thee that, meditating upon these mysteries of the most Holy rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may imitate what they contain, and obtain what they promise, through the same Christ our Lord, Amen.

So that’s the sequence of praying the rosary. But you may be wondering what in the world are these mysteries I keep referring to, and why so many prayers repeated over and over?

The answer is meditation.

The rosary isn’t so much about the prayers, as it is about meditation. The prayers are repeated over and over because most Catholics can say Our Fathers and Hail Marys and Glory Bes without needing to think about them, freeing their minds to meditate on the mysteries. The rhythmic nature of the prayers actually facilitates the meditation. And what we meditate on are the 20 mysteries of faith.

For centuries, there were 15 mysteries included in the rosary, grouped into three sets of five.

The Joyful Mysteries (prayed on Mondays and Saturdays):

  • The Annunciation
  • The Visitation
  • The Nativity of Jesus
  • The presentation of Jesus
  • The finding of Jesus in the Temple

The Glorious Mysteries (prayed on Sundays and Wednesdays)

  • The Resurrection
  • The Ascension
  • The descent of the Holy Spirit
  • The Assumption of Mary
  • The crowning of Mary as Queen of Heaven

The Sorrowful Mysteries (prayed on Tuesdays and Fridays)

  • The agony in the garden
  • The scourging at the pillar
  • The crowning with thorns
  • Jesus carries the cross
  • Jesus is crucified

In October 2002 Saint John Paul II (is he referred to as Saint John Paul the Great now?) added the Luminous Mysteries (prayed on Thursdays):

  • The baptism of Jesus
  • The wedding at Cana
  • The proclamation of the Kingdom
  • The transfiguration
  • The institution of the Eucharist

When you pray the rosary, you meditate on the days’ mysteries, each for the duration of a decade.

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^ Someone else around here really likes my rosaries and chaplets.

To sum it all up, when I pray the rosary today, it will go like this:

  1. I will make the Sign of the Cross
  2. I’ll say a short prayer stating my intentions for the rosary (i.e. I offer the rosary for the intention of my children, my husband, my godson, a sick friend, etc.)
  3. The¬†Apostles’ Creed
  4. The Our Father
  5. Three Hail Marys
  6. The Glory Be
  7. Since today is Tuesday, I will then say, “The first Sorrowful Mystery – The agony in the garden.”
  8. Then I will pray the Our Father
  9. Ten Hail Marys
  10. The Glory Be
  11. The Fatima Prayer
  12. I will do 8-11 all while focusing my thoughts on Jesus’s agony in the garden. This is the meditation part. I’ll try to think about how He felt, remember what He went through, imagine myself in that situation, etc. I’ll try really hard to stay focused, but¬†sometimes (often!) my mind will wander. I will repeatedly bring my thoughts back to Jesus in the Garden.
  13. I’ll repeat these steps for each of the other four Sorrowful Mysteries.
  14. I’ll pray the Hail Holy Queen
  15. Closing prayer (above)
  16. Sign of the Cross

If you pray the rosary frequently, you are repeatedly meditating on all of Salvation history, all of the mysteries of our faith. It covers Jesus’s conception and birth, high points of His childhood and His adulthood as He spread the gospel and performed miracles, His Passion, death, resurrection, ascension into Heaven, and His sending down of the Holy Spirit.

I really love praying the rosary. It is so beautiful and such a fulfilling way to pray. I highly recommend it.

DSC_0132^ Only two of those are rosaries, the others are chaplets (Seven Sorrows, Stations of the Cross, and Hannah’s Tears)

Happy Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary!