Monday, March 27, 2006

Faith Like a Child

I was sitting in my usual spot in the chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows after Mass this past Sunday at the Basilica and God revealed Himself in the most humble (and adorable) way! Many pilgrims were coming in to pray with our Lady in front of the statue of the Pieta, but one incidence stands out the most to me. A little Korean girl no more than 3 years old had been particularly “energetic” during Mass and continued exploring this vast new territory of our Lady after it concluded. I heard the pitter-patter of her feet coming near the chapel and then right into it next to me. She literally came to a dead halt right in front of the statue and stood mesmerized by Mary holding the limp body of our Crucified Lord. Her mom could be heard from down the way calling out her name and finally she entered this chapel, saw her daughter and beckoned her to return to her side. But the little girl stood planted there as if time and space ceased to exist and it was just her, our Lady and Jesus. Her mom tugged and pulled her jacket for her to follow but she wouldn’t budge. Finally getting impatient, mom picked up the girl and the little one began to cry as she was being taken away. Not one minute later the sound of tiny feet were heading back to the statue and the little girl stood there once again, enthralled by the mysteries contained within this sight. She then looked at me and then back at Jesus, pointed and said “LOVE!” My heart melted and I prayed for her child-like faith to permeate my heart so that I too could see what she saw with those big, pure eyes. I wish her mom had seen what I had seen and then I don’t think she would have pulled this precious child away from her Savior again, but the three year old was content after this final visit to leave.


Friday, March 24, 2006

Baby time

Phew! Now that I've been opinionated enough for one day, I thought I should post something more my style. I'm not really an academic, I just play one on weekdays.

The other day, I went to a friend's house to cook dinner and visit with her and her 2 daughters, one of whom was just born 3 weeks ago. I just wanted to stay forever because it was such a joy. At the end of the night, before putting the 2 yr old to bed, the 3 of them knelt down before the crucifix and prayed. As I sat in the armchair holding the sleepy baby, and thought, "This is heaven." Teresa of Avila says the road to heaven is heaven. Sure enough.

Altar Servers

There have been two articles from the Times and Post discussing the most recent change in policy of the Diocese of Arlington: Allowing girls to be altar servers. I'm going to skip the Latin mass half of the announcement, since I think it's such a funny pairing and probably only done to "placate" people like me.

When Bishop Keating announced that the diocese would maintain its policy of all-male altar servers, I was in elementary or middle school. I remember how ridiculous my mom thought this decision was, and she encouraged me to agree with her. So I did. Ha! It makes no sense! Big deal, if most priests were altar servers! Most priests probably ate ice cream too! So silly!

But did I feel oppressed, honestly? No, because I had never desired to be an altar server. It hadn't even occurred to me. In itself, that is a significant fact because of the fact that the altar boys got out of class to serve morning mass. Even with such a powerful incentive, I did not want to be one. It just seemed to make sense. Priest, male, altar server, male. Okey dokey.

Bishop Loverde kept this policy until now. The number of men entering the seminary has been going down and down... is this going to help, really? Why the change now? What has changed?

Of course, the Church allows girls to serve in this matter. There is nothing instrinsically important about the gender of the servers. That being said, being an altar server is a great way for a boy to be introduced to what the priesthood is like. He can get to know all sorts of things, but most especially get to know the priest as a father-figure. He can learn that a priest is a real man, a real father. He can get to know other boys who share his faith and interest in the Church. A good priest can foster in his servers a deep reverence for the Sacrifice of the Mass and encourage them in their journeys- sometimes but not necessarily to the priesthood, certainly to geniune masculinity and participation in the Church. Of course, I'm speaking of a world in which priests know and live their spiritual fatherhood. Gosh, maybe I should teach at a seminary.

Perhaps this is really just a move acknowledging that not enough boys are becoming servers and for strictly practical purposes it would help if there were double the number. Ok fine. Even if that is the case, the question seems to be, "Why aren't they joining?" rather than, "Who else can we get?" We are all aware that people are more cautious about their sons being altar boys these days, perhaps for good reason. We need to rebuild trust in the priesthood, and the best-the only- way to do that is through holiness of life. Ours and theirs.

Now, as for these specific articles. Ooooooh they make me mad. I guess in the interest of charity, I should give the authors the benefit of the doubt. They obviously don't read encyclicals in their spare time, and they probably don't even have close friends who do. To the liberal (in the wide sense of American), it is perfectly ridiculous for a community of faith to exclude half of their population from a certain role. The half that appears to be more active in the first place! If the priesthood is about authority and power, then we have a big problem- I'm being disenfranchised!! Thankfully, it is not. In fact, it is quite the opposite. The priest is there to serve me! HA! They have to spend their life, give it up for my sake! Sacrifice for me, pray for me, come when I'm sick in body or soul, get accustomed to solitude. As Balthasar puts it, something like "Both the priest and the laity are responsible for the salvation of the Church and the sanctification of the world, differently." There are just some amazing misconceptions in here, full of subtle wording that gets my back up. So let me be defensive and catty for a minute (I'm a wretch after all) In the Post:

  • People are called "critics of the ban" and "supporters of the ban." I'm sorry, what ban are you talking about? Altar servers had always been male. Serving is a privilege, not a right. The bishop's decision to keep that the case cannot, in any possible way, be considered a ban!
  • This quote is great: "I understand there are some laity against it, but they are as rare as hen's teeth because most people who have children see the innate fairness of having ministries open to everyone who qualifies," Grinnell said. Um, no, they're actually not that rare at all. Here's one! And qualifies? Does anyone qualify to stand next to the Lord's altar? Fairness? What's so fair about God Himself dying for me and taking upon Himself the guilt of my sin? I don't really want fairness, frankly, I need mercy.
  • And finally, the gem that sums up the biggest danger, the teenage girl who says: "I don't think this is as much as we should get," she said, "but it's a lot better." To the uneducated laity, this is simply a step toward the female priesthood. We need education, people! Have you not read? Have you not heard? The Church has no authority to ordain women to the ministerial priesthood. Can't do it. Nope. Impossible. Check out Ordinatio Sacerdotalis for questions.
In the Times:
  • "Hallelujah," said Rea Howarth of Front Royal, Va., who is active in Catholics Speak Out, a group that encourages reform of the Catholic Church. "Long we have waited." It goes on to say that her daughter wasn't confirmed because she couldn't serve. I'm sorry but I was a kid at that time too, and guess what, it probably had a lot more to do with her mother's opinion of the Church than her own. Catholics Speak Out? How about Catholics for Holiness? Catholics for Living Their Baptismal Vows? Catholics Speak Out about Injustice and Abortion and War and Poverty? We speak out about a lot of things, thank you.
  • The decision to allow altar girls is ultimately up to parish priests, who must write a letter to the bishop seeking the change. Praise God :)
  • The bishop also said he hoped that allowing altar girls would deepen their appreciation of Mass and encourage some girls to become nuns. Unfortunately, buying into the clericalization of the laity will have precisely the opposite effect on girls. It tells the girls, "If you really want to be involved in the Church, you should be on the altar rather than in the pews" and since sisters and nuns are laity, and live their vocations as laity, this will be the opposite of helpful. When a woman becomes a sister, it is because she identifies herself with the Church- not with Christ, in the strict sense. A sister recognizes the incredible gift that God is giving her by asking her to be one with Him. She primarily receives love as a woman; She experiences Christ as the one who loves her and calls her to intimacy with Him. There really isn't a parallel between that and being an altar server, unlike the link between serving and the priesthood.

Both of the articles betray the concept of the Church as a hierarchical power structure, in which the laity has to somehow "get involved." Even the bishop's own words about the change make me nervous: the change is to help Catholics "participate more reverently, more actively, more fully" in Mass. Ok, perhaps some girls will be more active now. Ok. On a practical level, I guarantee some poor boys will be a lot LESS engaged in the mass if they are serving next to a girl. Aren't teenage hormones hard enough to deal with? That's just an aside though. The primary and fundamental issue here is:

What is the role of the laity in the Church?

Is the most important thing about the Church what it does or who She is? Until we recover the Marian dimension of the Church, which comes before the Petrine, we will face this dilemma over and over. Check out CCC #773: Mary goes before us all in the holiness that is the Church's mystery as "the bride without spot or wrinkle." This is why the "Marian" dimension of the Church precedes the "Petrine." Mary's Fiat makes Peter's office possible. Mary is under Peter, in terms of the "hierarchy" but Peter is within Mary. The laity has a specific and important role to play. It is not simply the riffraff of "people who aren't clergy." The laity have a special mission to fulfill in the Church and the world, primarily as a people made holy, a people who receive God's love and are transfigured by His Spirit. I participate fully and completely in the Mass by standing with Mary under the Cross and accepting what Christ is doing for me, and offering myself to the Father with Him. I do not have to do the reading, or lead the singing, or do the serving to be fully active in the Mass. In fact, often when I do those things it actually distracts me from doing what I am really supposed to be doing: focusing on God, entering into the Mystery, praying. That's my role, and it's more than enough for me to handle.


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

St. Joseph!

I'm SUCH a wretch. I didn't even post on your feast day! But you know, we love you. But it's more of a need-love... we neeeeeed you!

Novenas never end up the way you see it in your head. I guess that's part of the point- they force you to conform your will more and more to the Lord's by purifying your desires. What do you really want? Do you trust Him?

I know a lot of people get visible and real signs at the end of novenas. St. Therese is of course the most famous, and many of my friends have amazing stories about receiving a rose from Therese. That has never happened for me. Each time I think maybe it's because of my lack of zeal, or trust, or something else that I've "done wrong". This time I just asked for some sign, anything really, to let me know that St. Joseph heard me. And he did hear me... I know he did, but, as for a sign... not so much. I'm supposed to have faith and I am weak. But I do believe, Lord, help my unbelief.

As I began the novena, I thought perhaps I knew a man who might be my St. Joseph. By the end, he helped me to see that it is not so, but that person is a kind of promise. He also drew my thoughts to a friend from the past to pray for him, especially that his very real gift of thoughtfulness, lacking in some very good men, may find fulfilment and truth in Christ. He also opened my eyes to the real gift of the Holy Spirit who will always direct my heart if I let Him and stay attentive to His presence.

Not what I asked for, but what I needed. Thank you, Joseph.

Saturday, March 18, 2006


Praise the Lord!! Thank you all for your prayers and support; Our class felt surrounded by a cloud of witnesses and held up by the Holy Spirit the whole day. What a beautiful experience and way to come to a fulfillment of all we've done these last 2 years.

When we had finished, the dean, Dr. Schindler, came in to find out when he could have us all over to his house just to spend time together. This is such a special graduate school! Who does that? :)

Prayers still for the wretches who have undergrad comps next week! May He bless you even more abundantly in yours as in ours. Come Holy Spirit!

Congratulations Misako and Andrew!

On your engagement!!

The Holy Spirit will grant you something of His own mode of being a communion of persons... WOOHOO! Meditate on that! I'm sooo happy for you two, you are a great couple and I look forward to being there :) May God bless your engagement with peace, joy, and more JOY!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Wretchedness at it's best

As I was laying in bed last night, mentally going through my day and all of it's moments of grace, those embraced and those that I miserably failed at, I had this feeling that I forgot something. I started doing an examine of anything and everything I could think of. Work, nope. Family stuff, nope. House duties, nope. School, definitely not because I've already graduated! And then I remembered....I forgot to start the Novena to St. Joseph on Sunday! I just crumbled and thought, "How truly wretched am I that I forgot the Wretches patron saint's novena!?!?!" Then I had a thought of small consolation, I'm definitely in the right group as we are aptly named wretched. So yours truly both fulfilled the main requirement of being wretched and failed at the only thing we have to do, say a novena to St. Joseph. I pray in thanksgiving for all the Wretches that started praying on Sunday and for a fire to be lit under all the other Wretches, who like me, were delinquent in our only commitment to this beautiful community.

St. Joseph, Guardian of the Word Incarnate, pray for me your wretched daughter.

Sacramental Logic

One of our questions uses those words and asks us to talk about it in relation to marriage. We were all puzzling over it in our study session, and today- yes, 2 days before comps- the professor just gave "the answer".

In the Incarnation, Christ took up our humanity. He then bore that humanity to the Cross, and rose again by the promise of the Father. While human, He spoke- He was- the definitive Word of the Father. In His presence at the Wedding at Cana, Christ elevated marriage to the state of a sacrament of the New Covenant. It was already a primordial sacrament in the sense that it imaged God's love for His people. It was already a powerful symbol; but now Christ brings it to be sacramental in a new way. The meaning of marriage is disclosed in Christ. Just as He shows us what the human being is, Christ's relationship with the Church shows what marriage is.

Marriage is a created reality. It was instituted by God and it is part of His divine plan of salvation. Speaking of marriage as a "purely natural institution"- of society, of whatever- is not real. It does not see what it is. The union of man and woman is related to what God wants His relationship to the human being to be.

The Fathers of the Church looked at marriage as a state of life, in comparison with virginity. They saw it as a way to follow Christ- though perhaps not always in the fulness of the way we understand that today.

When the world was Catholic, the Church took that time to define what is specific to the seven sacraments. Think the classic definition here of "visible sign instituted by Christ to give grace."

As the Protestants began to challenge, well, everything, the Church's understanding of marriage tended to veer away from the state of life to the contract. Luther and Calvin say that marriage is only a contract and part of the natural world. The Church says, no no, the contract is the sacrament (especially evident through Leo XIII in Arcanum, 1880). The Church kind of adapted to the framework in which the questions were being asked: the utter depravity of nature, human nature being irredeemably sinful and only covered over by grace (i.e. dung hill covered by snow). One of the things lost in Protestantism- perhaps the thing lost- is the sacramentality of the world and creation.

So we're trying to recuperate this understanding. You can see this movement in the documents of Vatican II and of course our beloved Pope (St.) John Paul II. The Church approaches the sacraments in light of Christology, ecclesiology, and anthropology. Christiam spouses "signify and partake of the mystery of that unity and fruitful love which exists between Christ and His Church"(Lumen Gentium 11).

Authentic married love is caught up into divine love and is governed and enriched by Christ's redeeming power and the saving activity of the Church, so that this love may lead the spouses to God with powerful effect and may aid and strengthen them in sublime office of being a father or a mother.(6) For this reason Christian spouses have a special sacrament by which they are fortified and receive a kind of consecration in the duties and dignity of their state.(7) By virtue of this sacrament, as spouses fulfil their conjugal and family obligation, they are penetrated with the spirit of Christ, which suffuses their whole lives with faith, hope and charity. Thus they increasingly advance the perfection of their own personalities, as well as their mutual sanctification, and hence contribute jointly to the glory of God.
The sacraments are the introduction of human life into divine life. Man is introduced into the Body of Christ at Baptism. His participation into the sacrament that Christ is (of the Father) is physical (head and body), nuptial (Eph. 5, Church as bride) and universal. Sacraments have to do with your relationship with Christ, which in turn is the relationship with a God who is Triune. Your whole life is called to be introduced into divine life, eternal life, which is the life of a God who is a Being-with. Being a person is to be-for God, others. The spousal gift of self must be seen in this light and in this understanding of what it means to be a person. Human love must enter into the logic of the gift.
The unity of the two in marriage is secured by the Holy Spirit. Cardinal Ouellet of Quebec wrote a beautiful article in which he wrote, "The Holy Spirit grants to the spouses a participation in His mode of being a communion of persons." Something like that. WHOA people. That's a huge deal! Because the Holy Spirit is Love, charity itself. He is what the Father and the Son are together, He is their communion, their bond of love. He is called distinctly what they are in common. The life of God is given to us in the Holy Spirit.
Marriage is also a historical reality. It is an event within history- this man and this woman join their lives together until death. It requires freedom and man's participation. Sacraments aren't like vending machines- the God who created you without you will not save you without you. (Augustine) The grace to participate in Christ's life is the same for all couples; but holiness makes a difference. The capacity of the container determines how much one can be filled!
Finally, marriage always has an ecclesiological character; it is always in and through the Church that grace passes. In this we recall the Marian dimension of the Church as Bride and Mother. Also the communion that the Church is; the unity of its members. The Church recommends that marriage be celebrated in the context of the Eucharist because it is integral to the nature of love itself. "This is my body, given for you." We are called to see how deep marriage gets into the structure of reality; a reality created by a God who is Love.
I think that's all the studying I'm doing for that question!

Thursday, March 09, 2006


Amateur Catholic B-Team Member

Wretches, we have been vouchsafed the greatest honor... we are now officially Amateur Catholics. See the side bar and website :)

St. Ephrem the Syrian (and Wretch?)

"Although I am most sinful and unworthy, I ceaslessly knock at your door. Although I am apathetic and slothful and take no care about my salvation, I wish to follow your path. Save me for the sake of your mercy, for in every way you are good, O Lord, and your compassion is in all your works."

Thanks to Sr. Spice, for this! (She's so wretched she has her own blog)

My Professor wrote this book

Fr. Antonio Lopez is the professor I have mentioned on this blog more than any other because of his amazing classes on Christology, the Trinity, and the Sacramentality of Marriage. He's in the Fraternity of St. Charles Borromeo, which is connected to Communion and Liberation (also a subject of this blog). And, I think if I am not mistaken, a friend of mine helped design this cover. It's not out yet- and I'm sure it will go over my head- but wow!

Friday, March 03, 2006

The Little Wretches

I saw this online somewhere. I do not know who wrote it but how beautiful is it? Well windy it is beautiful but it does not compare with the beauty of your dear sisters. Woooshhhhh!!!! I LOVE LENT!!!!!!

Fast from judging others; Feast on Christ dwelling in them.
Fast from apparent darkness; Feast on the reality of light.
Fast from pessimism; Feast on optimism.
Fast from thoughts of illness; Feast on the healing power of God.
Fast from words that pollute; Feast on phrases that purify.
Fast from anger; Feast on patience.
Fast from worry; Feast on Divine Providence.
Fast from unrelenting pressure; Feast on unceasing prayer.
Fast from negatives; Feast on positives.
Fast from complaining; Feast on appreciation.
Fast from hostility; Feast on non-resistance.
Fast from bitterness; Feast on forgiveness.
Fast from anxiety; Feast on hope.
Fast from yourself; Feast on a silent heart.


I got a (real) Set game in high school and loved it, and forgot about it until Happy Catholic reminded me! Check it out:

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Worthy of a Conversation

This is the new catch phrase around, started by Wave but very contagious. Use it whenever there is something that seems a bit off or reveals something deeper or may be true but only in a qualified sense.

For example, the terrible song that goes, "My faith in Youuuu, is only a shadow of Your faith in meeeee."

Now that's worthy of a conversation.

It's Bishop's Lenten Appeal time. We know, we get it, the diocese needs funds to function. They get the funds from us, at this time. Ok. Got it.

On Sunday, our angelic pastor sat down and played, per his request, the bishop's message as the homily. This was done at every parish in the diocese. So we sat there listening to a recording of our bishop asking for our support. Our shepherd in the faith. Our father. Sent a recording.

Um. THAT is worthy of a conversation.