Enter the Chaos

My sister is a nurse. She’s worked in a hospital her entire career. She’s compassionate and merciful. As an RN Case Manager, Linda is often tasked with helping families decide where to place patients who can no longer live independently.  She walks along side of them as they make decisions and does her best to relieve their distress. When Linda’s mother-in-law was ill there were very few people available to help her carry the burden of decision-making, visiting, and supporting her.  Chaos became the routine.Lowering the lame man down through the roof 

“Mercy is to enter the chaos of another.”

Fr. James Keating, SJ, The Works of Mercy:The Heart of Catholicism

Pope Francis has designated a “Year of Mercy” to begin December 8, 2015. When I first heard this I thought of it as an educational initiative. Now I see it as a personal call that requires a response. That is because mercy acts.  It’s complicated and sometimes messy, time consuming and often hard. Walking with someone in their chaos, like my sister did, helps them to bear their burdens.   It’s the nitty-gritty, get your hands busy work that reflects Christ’s love and mercy in the world. It gives dignity to the one who is struggling. This is our call to be “church.”

“Mercy is to enter the chaos of another.”  Let’s pray together that when it’s our time to act, we will have the courage to “be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”  (Luke 6:36)

In hope,                                                                                                                                        Peggy

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Abortion, Forgiveness and The Year of Mercy

“Be merciful as your Father is merciful.”  (Luke 6:36)

Be merciful.  Mercy.  That’s a word we don’t use or experience every day, especially forgotten in our news, on Facebook, Twitter, and sometimes in our families. Imagine our world exploding with mercy! What difference would that make in your life?   We may have a chance to experience a world more focused on mercy, as Pope Francis has announced a “Year of Mercy” which will run from December 8, 2015 until November 20, 2016.  I, for one, am thrilled.

Yesterday in preparation for the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis released a letter outlining several of the ways we as a church can offer mercy. He addresses abortion specifically in this brief excerpt of the letter:

“I think in particular of all the women who have resorted to abortion. I am well aware of the pressure that has led them to this decision. I know that it is an existential and moral ordeal. I have met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision. What has happened is profoundly unjust; yet only understanding the truth of it can enable one not to lose hope. The forgiveness of God cannot be denied to one who has repented, especially when that person approaches the Sacrament of Confession with a sincere heart in order to obtain reconciliation with the Father. For this reason too, I have decided, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, to concede to all priests for the Jubilee Year the discretion to absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured it and who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it. May priests fulfill this great task by expressing words of genuine welcome combined with a reflection that explains the gravity of the sin committed, besides indicating a path of authentic conversion by which to obtain the true and generous forgiveness of the Father who renews all with his presence.”  – Pope Francis, Sept. 1, 2015

P1000126This is merciful news, right? But are you confused? Because if it weren’t for a recent conversation I had with Fr. David Angelino regarding the Sacrament of Reconciliation and abortion, I would be confused. Fr. Angelino says, “The news coverage leads one to believe that priests were not previously able to minister the Sacrament of Reconciliation to someone concerning abortion, but they can.   However, serious sins like abortion carry a penalty that can only be removed by the bishop or a priest delegated by him.  As far as I know, most if not all dioceses in the United States  grant this delegation to all of their priests in good standing.  Also, even if a case has to go to the bishop, the penitent doesn’t have to go.  It is taken care of in writing (without names) between the confessor (priest) and the appropriate authority.”  Someone seeking absolution for an abortion may definitely be absolved, but it’s a process, meant to bring healing and renewal as well as absolution.  In the eyes of the church, abortion is extremely serious, but the church’s desire is for all to be reconciled and strengthened with grace to not sin again.

So what did the letter say?  It seems that during the Year of Mercy, any priest has the authority to remove the penalty  for the sin of abortion without requiring the cause to be forwarded to the Bishop if the penitent is sorrowful. 

If you or someone you know have suffered from abortion, I say to you, “Come.” P1000111   Come to your priest. Come to Reconciliation.  I’m convinced that abortion is so very prevalent that too many have been touched by it.  Now is the time.  Don’t stay away.  Come.

Help for post-abortive women and men can be found at http://www.rachelsvineyard.org

In hope,                                                     Peggy

Special thanks to Fr. David Angelino for his consultation on this post and for the following links:

Related Post:   Show Mercy     http://wp.me/p3zUxG-b0

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Three Reasons Catholics Are Bible People

 

The Catholic Church is a  Bible Church. Does that sound weird to you? Okay, so it isn’t how we normally talk about the Catholic faith, and I wonder why not?  Here are just three reasons why I think this is true.

Reason # 3:  Bible Studies.  For years I attended a very well known non-denominational Bible study. I was intimidated at first with the women who could recite chapter and verse of key faith issues. But after a while I realized that most of them knew less than I thought, and what we learned, we learned together. What’s more, as the study progressed I became more confident in what I already knew, because I knew our faith stories and learned of our salvation history long ago through the Catholic Church . I’m grateful for my experience with that particular study, but the one I attended within my own parish community caused my knowledge and faith to grow too.  Catholic churches do offer studies and  I’m very grateful for  The Cornerstone Scripture Study. It is educational and also builds community within your local church. Visit http://www.thecornerstonescripturestudy.org.   The Little Rock Scripture Study is another option. https://www.littlerockscripture.org/P1020369

Reason #2:  Scripture is proclaimed at each and every Mass.  Passages from the Old Testament, Psalms, New Testament and Gospel are read and “broken open” for us in the homily. Maybe we take for granted what we hear so often, but really, what we have is priceless.   Scott Hahn is now an author and professor of theology and scripture, but when he was a Protestant minister  he experienced his first Mass. By his own admission, he believed that the Mass was the “ultimate sacrilege” and he attended as an observer only. In The Lamb’s Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth, Hahn describes his life changing experience.

“As the Mass moved on, however, something hit me. My Bible wasn’t just beside me. It was before me-in the words of the Mass! One line was from Isaiah, another from the Psalms, another from Paul. The experience was overwhelming. I wanted to stop everything and shout, “Hey, can I explain what’s happening from Scripture? This is great!” Still, I maintained my observer status. I remained on the sidelines until I heard the priest pronounce the words of consecration: “This is My body…This is the cup of my blood.”

“In less than a minute the phrase ‘Lamb of God’ had rung out four times. From long years of studying the Bible, I immediately knew where I was. I was in the Book of Revelation, where Jesus is called the Lamb no less than twenty-eight times.”

As a result of his knowledge of the Bible and his experience that day, Scott Hahn became a Catholic Theologian.  Can you imagine turning your life and career upside down like that? His story reminds me NOT to take our amazing Catholic faith for granted.

Reason # 1:  The Bible was inspired, written, compiled and defended in the earliest days of the church.  This was when the church was one body, before the Reformation and the divisions of Martin Luther, John Calvin, and the countless factions that separate us today.  This early church was the catholic, or universal, church. The Catholic Church of today is this same historic church and for the gift of the Bible it gave us I am ultimately grateful.

In hope,                                                                                                                                                           Peggy

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Do you Know How Much I Love You?

I’ve been sitting here trying to get a post written, but the thoughts that seemed obvious before I started make little sense now.  So I just thought… okay, what do you want me to write, Lord?

“Do you know how much I love you?”

That’s what I  heard when I asked what to write.   I don’t think He was talking just to me, so I’m passing those words on to you, and let’s just leave it at that for now.

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I hope that in your hectic schedule you find the quiet to hear those words in your heart, too.

In hope,                                                                                                                                        Peggy

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I Am a Defender

Our little town of Kingwood, Texas has hosted the “March of Remembrance” for several years.  Established to keep alive the events and memories of the Jewish Holocaust, it brings together survivors, families of survivors, and the public in an effort to educate against bigotry (and worse) and its disastrous consequences.

For me the march is deeply moving and spiritual.  It’s impossible to be untouched by the stark and painful stories laid out before us. I wonder what I would have done if I had been present and aware of the atrocities of that time.  Would I have spoken out?

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St. Maximilian Kolbe was starved to death at Auschwitz when he volunteered to take the place of a condemned man who had a wife and children. Would I have been so courageous?    http://www.americancatholic.org/features/saints/saint.aspx?id=1107

The last time I attended the march I noticed a sign along the way.

“Victim.  Perpetrator.  Bystander.  Defender.”

Those words burrowed deeply into me.  I couldn’t really concentrate because I kept thinking, “What am I? What would I have done?”  I’d like to think I would have been a defender.  I mean, I really hope I would have had the courage to speak up and defend the innocent. Of course I’ll never know what I would have done back then, but as I stared at the sign I realized something that really pleased me.

I am a defender.  I do speak up.  I’m not gonna lie, sometimes it scares the heck out of me. The time I spend volunteering for an organization that defends the defenseless is possibly the most important work I do each week. For me, there are other disturbing and grave events happening right now ~ close to home and around the world.  We have laws and practices that profoundly go against my beliefs and may jeopardize our health, safety, wellness and freedom.  Christians and others are being persecuted around the world…perhaps here as well.  I struggle with what to do about it all.  Do you also think about these things?

I’m still working out my responsibilities in all of this.  Prayer is my “go-to,” thank God! Will you pray with me?  

Dear Lord,  please make us aware of the injustices around us,
and we beg of You the grace and courage
to defend our sisters and brothers.
Just show us how.  Amen.

In hope,
Peggy

Photos taken by me in Normandy, France at the American WW II Cemetery.

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In My Arrogance

I love to listen to talk radio, especially when I’m driving.   Not  the talk shows that get you worked up and anxious, but the shows that teach something and inspire one to be better are worth my time. I’ve written about this before here.  https://wordpress.com/post/52887840/352/

Many years ago I was listening to Charles Swindoll’s radio show called “Insight for Living.”  He said something that transformed my life. It literally changed my thought process.  Now it was a long time ago so I’m going to have to remember the quote as best I can.  Here is what I remember.  “Any person who says that they are without sin stands in arrogance before God.  Let me say it again.  Any person who says that they are without sin stands in arrogance before God.”

P1000113Do you know what my first thought was?  Well that’s an arrogant thing to say!  And I stewed with that thought as he talked on.  Finally (in my arrogance) I smugly said, “Okay God, I really can’t think of any sins I’ve committed lately, so if I’ve sinned, you show me.

And he did.

Ever so graciously, in my thoughts and conscience, God revealed to me my sins.  God is good, all the time.  I’m grateful for the challenging words that brought me (okay, smacked me) into reality that day.  And do you know what? God continues to gently and kindly show me when my actions fall short of what he expects from me.  But I have hope, because God forgives.  His grace to be strong and wise is granted through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

P1000110If you would like to know more about the Sacrament of  Reconciliation, your local church is a good place to start.  Just go. Tell the priest you haven’t been in a while (or never) and he will guide you through.  All are welcome.

In hope,

Peggy

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Lay It Down

“Everything I am, everything I long to be, I lay it down at your feet.”

This is the first line of the song “Lay It Down” by Matt Maher. It’s one of my favorites. But when I sing and pray the words I inevitably start to wonder if I really mean it. When push comes to shove, when it’s my will or HIS will, can I really lay down all that I am and all that I long for? Can I accept His will and plan for me? I certainly hope so by the grace of God!

Photo by Two-Eleven Photography

Photo by Two-Eleven Photography

Take a long look at the picture above. What do you see? During an Ordination Mass, the priestly candidate is called to prostrate himself (lie face down) before the altar of the Lord. “It symbolizes his unworthiness for the office to be assumed and his dependence upon God and the prayers of the Christian community.” (www.usccb.org)  He lays down his own life, or dies to it, and takes up the life of the priest as a servant of the church. Clearly these men can say, “Everything I am, everything I long to be, I lay it down at your feet.”

Photo Courtesy of Two-Eleven Photography

Photo Courtesy of Two-Eleven Photography

What love! What joy!  We as the church can celebrate and proclaim “Thanks be to God!”  I pray to have that much love.  How about you?

In hope,
Peggy

“May God who has begun the good work in you bring it to fulfillment.” (from the Rite of Ordination to the Priesthood)

The bishop says: “Accept from the holy people of God the gifts to be offered to him. Know what you are doing, and imitate the mystery you celebrate: model your life on the mystery of the Lord’s cross.”   (from the Rite of Ordination to the Priesthood: Presentation of the Gifts)

“Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.” (from the Rite of Ordination to the Diaconate)

Featured header photo by Two-Eleven Photography

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Happy, Blessed Easter!

I pray in hope for all of you to know the love of God deeply in your heart and soul. As I placed my “He Is Risen” cross in the front yard last night I said a prayer for those Christians around the who cannot do that without placing themselves in danger of persecution. I’ll be praying for them every day. Will you join me?

My Lovely Faith

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHe is not here. He is risen. Alleluia!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In hope,

Peggy

(Photos were taken on Montserrat Mountain, near Barcelona, Spain.)

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Learning to Love the Obligation

Do you go to Mass on Holy Days of Obligation?  I go to Mass every single Sunday, but holy days lost their importance to me over the years .  The thought of going out at night after being busy all day was not pleasant, and I found reasons to justify staying home.  The fact that the church called them days of obligation didn’t make a difference to me, and maybe annoyed me, just a little.  Besides, I go to daily Mass when I can, so that makes up for it, right?

I didn’t grow up that way.  My parents taught me better 🙂

A couple of years ago I started to feel an uneasiness when I would skip Mass.  Someone recommended to me that I should make a list of the Holy Days and learn a little about them so that I could better appreciate their significance.  Do you know what I found?

First – We celebrate 8 holy days in the USA, but there are only a couple of days a year that the church asks us to attend Mass on a weekday. (3 in 2015, including Christmas)  Many holy days have been moved to Sunday so as not to inconvenience us.

Second – Holy days are supposed to help us to grow in faith.  It’s a precept of the church that asks for an “indispensable  minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth in love of God and neighbor .”   (CCC, 2041)

Third – It hasn’t been that hard to go to Mass and I feel good when it’s done.

Here is a  list of our 2015 Holy Days of Obligation.  I invite you to sit close and pay attention to this rhythm of the church year which reveals Christ to us. (Note:  Holy Days with an (*) are not celebrated on Sunday in 2015.)

*Mary, the Mother of God – always January 1st:   This ends the octave of Christmas and celebrates this beautiful woman who said yes to God and became our Mother forever. I will love her and honor her on this day and thank her for her care for us in this world. (And yes, the New Year’s Eve Vigil Mass counts toward our obligation!)

Epiphany – always on Sunday around January 6th:   The wise men sought the King. They didn’t come empty-handed, but brought their gifts to Jesus. Do we seek the Lord and bring our gifts to him? Do we use our gifts to better our world?

Ascencion Montserrat Mountain, near Barcelona, Spain

Assumption of Mary
Montserrat Mountain, near Barcelona, Spain

Ascension of the LordThursday, May 14, 2015 (Moved to Sunday in most of the USA):   Jesus returns to the Father and takes his glorified place at the Father’s right hand, and he promised to intercede for those who draw near to God through him. He has gone before us to Heaven!

The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi)Sunday, June 7, 2015 This is one of my favorite feast days. “Could it be that Jesus’ love for me is so fantastic and large that he would agree to let me eat his own body and drink his own blood? Who am I, that he would love me so much, to want to be that close to me? ME? And yet, this is what we believe and we live with every Eucharistic celebration.” –from my 1st blog post. See http://wp.me/p3zUxG-n
Assumption of MarySaturday, August 15, 2015:  (Always celebrated August 15, but if this occurs on a Saturday or a Monday there is no obligation to go to Mass)   Mary gave her unconditional consent to become the Mother of our Savior, and by doing that she cooperated in our salvation as well. In her assumption we celebrate and can look forward to our own resurrection and eternal life.

All SaintsSunday, November 1, 2015:   It’s uncertain to the exact origin of this day, but here is something I didn’t know…It was a practice in the earliest church to honor a martyr on the anniversary of their martyrdom. During the terror of the emperor Diocletian, there were too many martyrs to allow each one to have their own day, so a common day was designated to celebrate the life and martyrdom of all martyrs to the faith. We currently celebrate the day for ALL saints. On this day I’ll remember all the martyrs whose sacrifice allowed me to know our Lord.

*Immaculate Conception of MaryTuesday, December 8, 2015:    This day celebrates the conception of Mary in the womb of her mother, St. Anne. I refer you to http://www.catholic.com/blog/tim-staples/the-immaculate-conception-in-scripture for some helpful insights to this teaching.

*The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas)Friday, December 25, 2015:    I hope that you have your own very meaningful understanding of this truly “blessed event.”

I found this quick little reference  for http://www.beginningcatholic.com/catholic-holy-days-of-obligation.html  and    http://www.catholic.com  (Catholic Answers website) and http://www.usccb.org

In hope,

Peggy

 

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Show Mercy

Tom and I did something out of the ordinary last Thursday.  Tackling rush hour traffic, we headed to St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston to hear John Allen speak.  Mr. Allen is a journalist with extensive time and experience covering the Vatican.  He is the Associate Editor of http://www.cruxnow.com  and he has an insider’s perspective on Pope Francis, as he is part of a press corp that travels with the Pope.  I’m not sure what I expected to hear but I left that evening feeling hopeful.  According to Mr. Allen, Pope Francis has three strong pillars which are emerging as part of his agenda. In italics  are a few notes from his talk.

Pope Francis walking into the crowd during the Wednesday audience on October 1, 2014

Pope Francis walking into the crowd during the Wednesday audience on October 1, 2014

Leadership As Service

Did you know that when he was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, the Pope lived in an austere apartment complex?  His heat was from his kitchen stove.   So when I see photos of him among the poor, I can be sure that he is authentic and sincere.  While his actions are planned and scheduled, they are not just for show.  As a church, he expects his bishops, priests, and the laity (us) to follow his lead.

The Church is a Missionary Church.

 “Each Christian and every community must discern the path that the Lord points out, but all of us are asked to obey his call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the ‘peripheries’ in need of the light of the Gospel.”
                                                                                — Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel, #20.

Mercy is the most important Christian message of our time.

When a priest is ordained a bishop he chooses an “Episcopal Motto.”  The Pope’s  motto is “Miserando atque eligendo,” which means, “because he saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him.”  This is referring to when Jesus chose Matthew, the despised tax collector and said, “Follow me.” (Matthew 9:9-13)  

I wanted to make sure I understood the context of this idea of mercy and the Pope, so I did a little research and (in my own words) this is what I found… mercy... that even though we all sin, God does not immediately punish us, even though that is what we deserve.  He holds back his judgement and allows us to recognize our sin, find sorrow in our act of rejecting him, and come to him for forgiveness and grace.  Why would he do that except that he desires all of us to be one with him?  Mercy isn’t the same thing as acceptance or tolerance.  Those imply that we approve of, allow, or respect the beliefs and practices of another, and we cannot expect to be in agreement with everyone all of the time.  But can we, as Christ did with Matthew, see with different eyes… perhaps with eyes that embrace another as a unique and wholly loved child of God?

Being merciful as Christ was merciful is what I’m striving for.  I hope to see as with the eyes of Christ – seeing more.  If Francis is the “Pope of Mercy” then that’s a lead I’d like to follow.

In hope,

Peggy

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