Friday, October 28, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday

--- 1 ---
I walked into my apartment tonight and got knocked over by the stale smoke smell. I don't know which is worse; my previous neighbor, when you could smell cigarette smoke all the time so I always knew to expect it, or these neighbors, where the majority of the time it's not bad, but then the surprise of it almost makes it worse. Okay, this is definitely better, but the best will be MOVING! Soon. Very soon now, and I cannot wait!
--- 2 ---
It's the feast of Saints Simon and Jude today. St. Jude and I may be talking. A lot. He's used to hearing from me, but he might actually get tired of me today. Can saints in heaven lose their patience? I feel like not, but I also kind of want to test it. Is that wrong?
--- 3 ---
I spent last weekend with my family and it was a blast! My siblings and I are not the most mature, though we are (most of us) technically adults. Case in point, I definitely heard someone break out the "I'm not touching you" game at one time over the weekend. Hmm, perhaps this is why I'm in the mood to "bug" a saint? Probably. And I have practice with continuing to work on someone who is studiously working on remaining unperturbed. (All my younger siblings are really good at ignoring the annoyances, so it's up to us older ones to keep at them until they break.)
--- 4 ---
I got back into the climbing gym today. It felt great to be there, like it'd been forever since I climbed. Really it's only been since a week ago Sunday, but that's plenty long enough. Saturday I'm supposed to try some lead climbing. I'm a little scared of that because it's easier to fall, and it's easier to fall farther. Nonetheless, when you fall, you're still on the rope, so it's really just the skin on my knees that's at risk. (Lead climbing is how you get the rope up to the anchor point in the first place.) I am excited to try a new skill, but I'm also ready to just do it already instead of just thinking about it.
--- 5 ---
Speaking of climbing, I really wondered what my Grandma would have to say about it. I haven't seen her since I started doing it, and I thought she'd be laid back about it, but I'm never quite sure. All she said was that I was young enough to enjoy trying something new like that. Then she mentioned that she always wanted to learn to ski, but never had a chance. Interesting, especially when skiing almost sounds worse to me than climbing. At least downhill skiing, anyway. My goal is to at least get on skis a couple times this winter, so I'll let you know.
--- 6 ---
I'm out of stuff. All I can think about right now is that I want to move NOW! Not even because of the smoke smell (which is clearing out), but more because I just can't wait to have all the nasty parts of moving taken care of and all the fun parts of settling in to a new and homey place to look forward to.
--- 7 ---
Oh wait! I thought of something! I really need to get more consistent with working out. Why do I stink at that so bad? I get out on weekends a lot, but I really need to do something at least a couple other days of the week, too. You know several weeks ago when I talked about trying to get into shape to try doing a pull up? Yeah, that so does not get any closer to possible if you NEVER WORK OUT!
Have a great weekend! For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Little Guide to Mass: The Liturgy of the Word, Part 3

Once the homily is over, it's time to finish up just a few things to prepare for the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist. We begin by standing and professing our faith. Yes, this will also have some wording changes.  Our faith and the substance of what we are professing is the same, but some of the wording is different. It's long, but I'll write it out here:

I believe in one God, the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation, he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.
And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
And one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
I confess one baptism for the forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead
and the live of the world to come. Amen.

I love that this is our chance in the Mass to stand up with the other believers and proclaim what it is that we believe.  It is certainly a long prayer, but consider that it distills so many of the teachings of the Bible in one place so that we can proclaim our belief, but not just our own personal belief, but the belief of all those present, the belief of all those that are going to Mass anywhere in the world, and the belief of all those that have proclaimed their belief in these words throughout history.  The new translation has changed the wording from "we believe" to "I believe", but nonetheless, the fact that we say it together makes the unity of our belief clear.

Next, we take a moment from Matthew 18:19-20:

"Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst."

This is the time of the general intercessions.  While the Scripture verse itself may not be heard during the Mass, it is lived.  For the general intercessions, prayers are read, followed by "we pray to the Lord." And the congregation responds "Lord, hear our prayer."  I don't pretend to fully understand the mystery of prayer.  I do know this, however.  They are heard, and we should not underestimate the power of these prayers that are prayed together.

Next we sit, the baskets are passed (tithing is also quite biblical!) and the gifts (especially the bread and wine) are brought to the altar for the preparation of gifts for the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Food, Food, Food!

You know, that word looks really weird after you write it over and over again several times.

Food. Food. Food. Food. Food. Food.

Yeah. You get the point (or you would if there was a point).  That's not what I intended to write about. I just noticed it as I started typing, and I get easily distracted by things.  They don't even have to be shiny! The point is that almost two months ago, I read this book and I really wanted to talk about it. It has to be now because I'm getting into a bit of a packing frenzy (my neighbors are particularly smelly tonight), so I won't be able to find it soon.

The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite by David Kessler, M.D.  The first thing that I will say is that despite the fact that he's a doctor, I had a hard time telling how much of his expertise is specifically with obesity.  In fact, if I remember the bio right, he's actually a pedia1rician, and his look into our{country's eating habits had more to do with a personal journey rather than professional discovery.  Therefore, keep in mind that this is not specifically his area. (Or at least it wasn't. It may be now.) On the other hand, his own personal experience of overeating and obesity shed a lot of light in the book.  Furthermore, because of his background in medicine, he's able to pull a lot out of the studies that he is reading.

The whole point that he introduces is what is it about food that we can't stop thinking about it?  He says that there are some people that think about it a relatively small amount, but that a lot of us are thinking about it a lot.  If you put something we like in front of us, we can hardly ignore it until we go ahead and eat it.  He also points out that it's not just overweight or obese people having a problem with this.  It's also people with normal weights who have just figured out strategies to avoid overeating to the point of becoming obese, but are still on some level preoccupied with food.

I am one of those people.  I have a sweet tooth like you wouldn't believe.  I finally got into a normal weight range several months ago, but it's a real struggle to stay there.  I recently got back from a weekend with family, and there's always food available, and in particular there was a ton of chocolate this time around.  I started with one small serving, but by the last day, I had at least 2 normal size servings for snack and dessert.

Turns out, one of the things that he brings up is that we've loaded so much fat and sugar and salt into everything that it actually stimulates different pathways in our brains.  One of the pathways is dopamine. This is the one that keeps us honing in on that food and focusing on it.  The other is an opioid pathway, which is the pleasure that we get from eating it.  As Americans, we have so much easy access to these processed foods that we're changing the way that our brains respond to food.  These pathways even start to override the circuits that would have us stop when we're full.  Fascinating stuff! It's not just that highly processed foods pack in so many bad calories while stripping any positive nutrition from them, but also the way that it affects our brains and our responses to these foods.

It's the dopamine that had me focusing on those brownies, and the opioids that rewarded my eating them.  Of course I still have control over my responses, but that's why it can be so difficult sometimes.  Had I actually been thinking on those lines (instead of thinking, "Mmm, chocolate. Gimme more!") I actually would have probably found other ways of dealing with it. That's one of the things that they talked about in the book.  Knowing how some of this works helps you identify with when those cues occur so that you recognize them and reject them right away.

Anyway, I think it's a really good book to read, and hearing a little behind the scenes of how the food industry thinks is really eye-opening!  It finishes off with some practical tips of what you can do if you struggle.  For me, it is not what I would call life changing, but it was informational and helpful.  His writing style is a little repetitious at times, and he does get a little technical with the studies (which can be a good thing, but be aware if you're thinking about reading it).

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Climbing and Waiting

I lean back and look at the wall, examining my route. About 15 feet to the top of the alcove, then some overhead holds before reaching around the corner to climb out from under the roof.  Then another 25 feet or so to the top.  The wall under the alcove is a slight overhang, and I seriously doubt my ability to climb this route today.  My forearms are already protesting from the previous route, and I'm just not sure how to work the reach around the corner.

No matter.  Whether I make it or not, I will try.  My belayer (the person holding the other end of the rope) and I work well together.  She'll watch out and I'll be fine if I make a reach that I can't finish.  There will just be a little swing on the rope is all.

We do our safety checks, and then:

"On belay?" I ask.
"Belay is on," she confirms.
"Climbing," I say.
"Climb on," she tells me.

Our commands completed, I take a breath and reach for the first hold.

The holds are rough under my hands, and the soreness of the skin and the immediate cramping of the forearms do not bode well for this climb.  However, as much as I doubt my ability to do the entire climb, I do know that I can make a reach for the next hold.  If you can do the next hold, then it's not time to give up yet.

Fairly quickly, I find myself approaching the roof of the alcove.  The route takes me deep under the alcove, and I know that if I fall, I'm going to swing out from under that roof.  I don't mind.  Swinging is fun.  I go for the first hold on the ceiling. Easy enough.  I walk my foot over to the next foothold.  Then there is another overhead hold.  This one's a little tougher.  I try several different positions, but nothing feels quite right. I fiddle around a while, trying one thing and then another, but finally I figure out how to advance my hands and I make it to the edge of the roof, ready to come out around the corner.

By this time, my hands are tired and don't want to obey my command either to open or to close. I try to see where to go next, and my belayer helps to talk me through it.  Only one problem.  The next hand hold is completely out of reach.  As tired as my arms are, I can't use the left to get me close enough to reach with the right.  "That's it," I think. "I'm ready to come down."  However, instead of giving the command to lower, I yell down to my belay buddy, "Take!"  She pulls the slack out of the rope and I sit in my harness, holding on to the wall enough to avoid swinging, but coming off the wall to give my calves a break, and shaking out my forearms. She holds the rope tight, and I don't lose any ground when I let go.

As I rest, I take a look at the holds, and poke my head around the corner to see where I had to go. In a moment, I realized that I hadn't used one foothold.  It was only a couple inches over, but it was a little closer.  I let my belayer know that I'm going to climb again, and I reposition myself on the wall, this time using that foothold.  Amazingly enough, that was just enough to allow me to reach that first hold around the corner, and in a second, my foot was around as well, and pretty soon I had climbed out from around that little alcove.

I immediately called for a rest, and catch my breath before making my way up the rest of the wall. I'm sweaty and tired, but I finish.

This is my wait right now. There are times that I don't know if I will make the next hand hold, but I can try.  Then there are the times that just plain old hurt.  I couldn't try another reach or step if you paid me. I'm just done and there is nothing left. I can't be hopeful and positive, I'm stuck with being depressed and depressing those around me.  Those days, I am learning to yell to God, "Take!" and He does.  He holds me up there, patiently waiting until I've caught my breath and have the strength to continue. Perhaps in that rest time I don't make any forward progress, but I'm preparing for the progress by resting, if that makes sense. In some ways, I am on the wall alone, but when I am sitting in that harness, suspended above the ground, I realize that I am not alone and that I do trust the One holding me there.

Monday, October 17, 2011

When the Novena "Doesn't Work"

I have come to the point that I really like novenas.*  I didn't like them for a while, because it felt like so many of them were "say this prayer, say that prayer, do it just so at this time, and turn around in 3 circles just to be sure."  (Okay, I never saw any with that last one.) Seemed superstitious almost, the way some of them were so particular about all the little details. However, over time I have changed my mind.

I love that novenas connect the Church on earth with the Church already in heaven.  I love that they take some discipline and planning so that you can be very intentional with your prayer.

Now if only they would "work"!

Here's the thing, I can't tell you how many novenas I have prayed in years and particularly the last couple of years for ending this singleness of mine.  I hear all of the wonderful stories of praying this or that novena, and all the wonderful things that come just after it.  I have no such story at this time in my life.  I've done novenas to St. Therese, and never seen so much as a flower petal. St. Anthony, St. Andrew, a litany of saints, nothing.

However, I use the quotes about novenas "working" for a reason.  Praying is not like rubbing a genie's lamp to get a wish granted.  I have no doubt that praying those prayers bears fruit, and if I don't get the answer that I'm looking for, then so be it.  As much as I want my time of waiting for a husband to be over, I really do trust God's timing more than my own.

Prayer doesn't change God's mind or heart, it changes ours.  I think that when we ask for something, if we are open to whatever His answer is, it can change us and help us to grow closer to Him.  To be honest, I can't know for sure if His answer is "no" or "wait".  I really do feel that it's "wait". (Okay, fine, God, but not too long, mmkay?)

Anyway, since so many people share their stories of awesome answered novenas, I wanted to share mine of awesome novenas that appear at this point to be unanswered, because I know that there are others of you out there that are in the same boat.  The boat named "Everyone Else Gets Their Answers, Where Are Mine?"  I don't think that our novenas are unanswered.  I just don't think the answers visible yet.  I don't know whether time will show that there were answers on earth that we just didn't see until later, or whether the answer is spiritual fruit that we won't see here on earth.  But there are answers.

*For those of you who are not familiar, a novena is traditionally 9 days, though there are many different lengths. It is often prayed to a particular saint, asking their intercession on a particular matter that they may be a patron of in some way.  Know that the saint themselves do not answer prayer, but they only pass on an answer that they receive from God.  I know, why go to saints when you could pray straight to Jesus? Well, why did God use humans to write the Bible when He could have just sent it to us? Why did Jesus use Mary in coming to earth, rather than just appearing one day? Why depend on us to feed the homeless and visit the sick instead of just appearing Himself?  I think that God has graciously allowed the human race to be a part of His plan and take part in the life He offers.  I think praying for one another is a part of that, and we all know how awesome it is to get prayers from friends.  Such it is with the saints.  They are AWESOME prayer warriors; why wouldn't you have them praying for you?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Little Guide to Mass: The Liturgy of the Word, Part 2

Okay, so we made it into church, and it's time for Mass to begin.  For people that are used to casual worship with coffee and worship songs and fellowship, the contrast of the Mass can make it seem formal and stiff. I submit to you that that is one of the things that I love the most about the Mass.  Not that it is "stiff", because I don't see it that way.  But because it is reverent, and the more reverent (formal, whatever you want to call it) that it is, the more I like it.  Jesus isn't just my buddy, my friend, my Beloved.  Though He is all of those things, He is also my God.  As I approach God in this holy place of the Mass, the Holy of holies fulfilled, I need above all to approach Him with reverence.

(Oh, man.  I got sidetracked again!  Imagine that.  Okay, we really are going to start on the actual Mass, I promise!)

As Mass starts, we all stand together, and often on weekends we will sing an opening song.  The priest comes in, usually in procession with a crucifix and the altar servers and often one of the lectors (readers) will be carrying the Scripture in.  The deep, spiritual meaning behind all this?  Don't really know if there is any, to be honest.  We have to start some way, and I like that we all begin by standing.  I don't know how other people feel, but it brings me to attention.  Mass is starting.

Once the priest gets to the altar, he genuflects toward the tabernacle, then kisses the altar.  Again, genuflects to Jesus in the tabernacle, and kisses with reverence the table where Jesus will be made present later in the Mass. It all leads to and centers around the Eucharist.  That is the point. He is the point.

Then the Mass really gets kicked off with a bang:

"In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."

Oh, yeah.  We start with the Sign of the Cross.  In unison, we express the core beliefs of the faith that we profess and that bring us together to celebrate.

Then we move on to the Confiteor (it means "I confess"). Confession is good for the soul, and here we publicly acknowledge that we have sinned.  It is one of the things that changes with the new translation:

I confess to almighty God
and to you, my brothers and sisters 
that I have greatly sinned
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done, 
and in what I have failed to do,
through my fault, through my fault,
through my most grievous fault.

In those last two lines, we will beat our breast (left side, over the heart) with our right fist.  It is a sign of our penitence, a recognition that our sin is through our own fault.  Some people shy away, feeling that these types of displays lead to that old "Catholic guilt complex".  Not me. My best friends are the ones that are willing to call me on my crap, because they are more concerned with what is best for me rather than coddling my feelings. So is the Church.  In this small act, I join the ancient Jewish tradition of striking one's breast over my sorrow for my sinfulness: (Jeremiah 31:19) "I turn in repentance; I have come to myself, I strike my breast; I blush with shame, I bear the disgrace of my youth."  I also join the tax collector whose prayer was heard: (Luke 18:13) "But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, 'O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.'" (See here for more about the Confiteor.)

We face full on the weight of our sins, and we cry out for mercy in the Kyrie.  However, those that are concerned about any deep rooted guilt, should also remember that the very next thing is that we glorify God, knowing that He is hearing our prayer and forgiving our sins.  The Gloria will also be different in the new translation:

Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to people of good will.

We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you, we give your thanks for your great glory,
Lord God, heavenly King, O God, almighty Father.

Lord Jesus Christ,
Only Begotten Son,
Lord God, Lamb of God,
Son of the Father,
you take away the sins of the world, 
have mercy on us;
you take away the sins of the world, receive our prayer;
you are seated at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us.

For you alone are the Holy One,
you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ,
with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father. Amen.

I'm going to make an example of this prayer.  So much of what we say and do in the Mass is direct quotes of Scripture, but so much more recalls Scripture.  This prayer directly quotes Luke 2:14 at the very beginning.  In a very real way, the Mass is the marriage supper of the Lamb, so like the multitude in Revelation 19, we bless and glorify our King, God the almighty.  Not necessarily using the exact words of 19:6, but certainly the same concept.

Speaking of concepts, let's talk about some of the phrases that bring to mind concepts in Scripture: -take away sins of the world-2 Cor 5:19, 1 Jn 2:2, -only Begotten Son- Psalm 2:7, Acts 13:33, Heb 1:5, 5:5, -Lamb of God- John 1:29, 36, Rev 5:6, 7:10, 14:4, 15:3, -seated at the right hand of the Father- Mt 26:64, Mk 14:62, Eph 1:20, Col 3:1, Heb 8:1, 12:2, -have mercy on us- Jb 8:5, Ps 25:6, 28:2, 30:8, 51:1, 119:77, Is 19:22, 30:18,  so many cries to Jesus for mercy and healing in the Gospels, and really so much more, but I have to stop somewhere. So many parts of the Mass are like this.  Simple, but encapsulating so much of the Scripture message that you really cannot quote all the places that it draws from before you throw up your hands and just quote Gen 1:1- Rev 22:21.  Or maybe that's just me again.

Following that there is usually a little opening prayer.  Next, we have the readings.  The first reading is from the Old Testament, then a Psalm is sung.  I love that we sing the Psalms at the weekend Masses, because that is really how the Psalms are meant to be prayed. Next there is the second reading, usually from the epistles, and finally the Gospel. (By the way, when the priest says, "The Lord be with you," our new response is "And with your spirit." The readings follow a schedule and go together in some way. Sometimes it's easy to see why they are together, sometimes not so much.

I love that the readings follow the liturgical calender.  That is yet another way that we are allowed to not just hear, but live the Mass.  With Mary and all the Israelites through all time, we wait for the coming of the Messiah, and on Christmas we celebrate His arrival. During Ordinary time, we get to follow Jesus on the day to day of His ministry, seeing how he lives and teaches.  In Lent, we join Jesus on His forty days in the desert, not to mention the Israelites' 40 years in the desert.  During Holy Week, we live the fulfillment of the Passover, and relive the Last Supper, just as Jesus commanded (which, of course, we do at every Mass). We relive His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, His death, and His Resurrection.

This is all the reason that I laughed when my friend said that the Mass is just from the book and leaves no room for the Holy Spirit to work.  For me, it is about a book, but that book is the Bible.  The Mass is no mere reading of the Scripture, but living it out in the here and now in our own lives.

Whew! Long post, but thanks for sticking with it.  Next up is the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Dear Neighbors,

We haven't met, and I admit I'm avoiding you.  The zombie bumper stickers and grenade decals on your car are just not my thing.  Which is not to say that you're not nice people, I just don't know what to say to you.  Not to mention that you're still young enough to be into the the really tight pants thing (at least you're at the age where that would be okay- if it were ever okay to wear painted on jeans.)  Looking at you is a reminder that when I was your age, I had no idea that I would still be in an apartment at my age.

And your smoke!  I grant you that you smoke WAY less than did my previous neighbor. I only smell it some nights and not at all on others.  However, I know the cigarette smoke is going to be followed by incense.  It smells better than cigarettes, but still kind of irritating. (Also, concerning.  Are you sure you're only smoking cigarettes?)  I don't mean that it's just annoying, I mean that it still gives me a headache. Also, your wood smoke from the fireplace doesn't leave me feeling too hot.

Also, not a fan of your dog when it starts barking incessantly.

Or your occasional yelling matches.

And what is with the slamming doors?

See, none of those make you a bad person (though perhaps immature), just kind of an annoying neighbor for a crank like me.

However, tonight I didn't mind your hideously disgusting smoke quite so much, because I know that in about 3 weeks, I'll be moving.  I'm sure that there will be little things there as well, because it's a small place and an older place, but I know that no one's nasty smoke will be seeping in, because it's a stand alone little cottage rather than an apartment.  No, you may not visit.  There will be no cigarette smoke or people smelling of cigarette smoke in my new little place.

If it wasn't for your habit, I would be staying here where I can hear every time someone runs their water, opens their sliding door or walks overhead.  I would be staying here with my dark, depressing kitchen cabinets and weird lighter wood colored counter tops.  I would be staying where the water is usually lukewarm, and begins to cool down further after 5 minutes (though it does get me out of the shower a lot faster in the mornings).  I would have to put up with all those things, but I can't live with the air pollution, so now I don't have to deal with any of those things either.

So, on the one hand, thank you.  On the other hand, if cigarette smoke can make someone in a whole different apartment feel sick, don't you think you should stop, too?

So long. Farewell.  Best of luck to you.  Won't miss you in the slightest!

(My apologies if I am offending any smokers here.  None of my parents or grandparents ever smoked, and my family's all very sensitive to smoking.  It has actually sent siblings of mine to the emergency department when they are around it too much.)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

So Many Lovely Posts, So Little Time

Okay, at least in my head, they're lovely little posts, some fun, some informative and some thoughtful.  However, you're just going to have to imagine how wonderful they are, because I don't have time to write them all.  Unlike some who are organized and keep lists of ideas, I just sit down and write when I get a chance, so I'm sure I'll forget half of them.  Actually, now that I think about it, I'll probably get a TON of posts written, because I have so much to do, I'm sure I'll just end up procrastinating by blogging anyway.

In the meantime, I saw another bear this morning (or maybe the same bear, who knows!).  This time I was a little closer and he was holding up morning traffic as he ambled across the road.  He was still a cub, though cubs this time of year are kind of on the larger side. However, he was all padded with winter fat and a dense winter coat, so he looked all cute and squishy, so I wanted to get out of the car and go give him a squeeze.

Don't worry, that thought was just a passing whim.  Instead, I acted all rational and stuff.  I did get a kick out of morning prayer today (given that I was driving to work when I saw the bear).

"At the rising of the sun they (the beasts of the forests) steal away,
and go to rest in their dens.
Man goes forth to his work,
to labor until evening falls."

(From Psalm 104)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Waiting with Hope

I'm still waiting. The thing is, the last couple of weeks of waiting have been really nice.  There are still those occasional rough spots (someone my age celebrating 8-10 years of marriage makes me stop cold for a few moments!), but overall it's been nice.

Did you know that hope is a virtue?  You probably did, because you're way smarter than me.  I guess I knew that it was a virtue, but I didn't really think about what that might mean.  You know, specifically in the fact that virtues take work. Typically hard work.  How many times do we hear that "patience is a virtue"? (Oh, you don't? Maybe that's just me, then, since I wouldn't know patience if it punched me in the face.) I know that love is more than a feeling.  Loving someone, whoever it might be, often takes work.

I was treating hope as a feeling.  It was a delightful feeling that I sometimes had, but that when it left, I sort of thought maybe I'd be better off without it at all.  I would hope that at this function or when I moved to this place or started this activity, that maybe I would finally meet someone.  The hope was wonderful, but then when all of those things happened without meeting anyone that was much of a prospect, my hopes would be dashed, and I would fall into a dark place.  I then started to avoid hope, because it just wasn't worth it when hope left.

However, hope as a virtue.  What is that all about? For my answer, I turned to the dictionary.  Yes, that's right.  Even though you might think you know a word, the dictionary can sometimes dig up some interesting dirt.

1 A feeling of expectation or desire for a certain thing to happen (Oh, yes, dictionary, I hear you here. Exactly what I would have expected to find!)
-A person or thing that may help or save someone (Hmm.  This puts a little twist on it.  Who or what am I hoping for? Because if I'm hoping that meeting a guy will "save" me from anything, it might make things awfully difficult for both of us.)
- Grounds for believing that something good may happen (Well, here again. What grounds am I looking at, precisely? The grounds that I just got involved in a particular activity, or grounds that a God who loves us is looking out for us?)
2 archaic To place trust; rely

Oh. Uh, hmm. Okay. There's where the virtue comes in.  Hope is hard.  When you can't see what's coming, or if things are going to work out the way that you want, it is very hard to place trust in God's plan that you cannot see.  But it's okay, because He does have a plan, and He's going to lead us through it, whatever it may be.

That feeling of expectation or desire is fine, as long as it is based on the fact that God is the one that I am relying on the help or save me, and that my grounds for trust is that He loves me and He's got my back.  Then, what I hope for may or may not happen, but it need not crush me if it doesn't happen.  Because ultimately my hope is not in a future husband, but rather in my Beloved.

Now, if I was really holy, I could get into the fact that the virtue of hope is primarily ordered to helping us to hope to spend eternity with God.  One step at a time, people.  

Saturday, October 8, 2011

A Little Guide to the Mass: The Liturgy of the Word, Part 1

I can't tell you how tempted I am to start into more introductory material.  Why? I'm scared to go into the Mass itself.  It's so big, so deep, so wonderful, that how can I hope to do it any justice at all? Not only that, but these are just my own personal thoughts on the Mass, and I don't want to take anyone down some strange path. However, in this post, I'm going to at least try to get you into the door of the church, and maybe farther.

Keep in mind as we go through this that the Scripture isn't just a really informative book.  It's the Word of God.  It is living through us in each of our daily lives, and we are living it in the Mass as well.  The Scripture tells us the story of our salvation, and in the Mass we are living our salvation, and working out our salvation* all at the same time.

As Catholics walk through the door, we bless ourselves with holy water.  Seriously!  A whole post right here, folks! I love the Sign of the Cross.  If we think about what we are doing, it is not a mere gesture.  It is a prayer in and of itself.  It is a profession of faith.  It is a petition for mercy.  It is an acceptance of love freely offered.  We begin the Sign of the Cross "In the name".  Think about that for a moment.  One name, but three persons. Then we continue as we touch our foreheads, "of the Father", then our hand goes down to the breastbone, "and of the Son", and we touch our left shoulder "and of the Holy" and our hand moves to the right shoulder "Spirit."  We profess our faith in the Godhead, each of the three persons of the Trinity. Maybe another thing to think about as we touch our heads is to open our minds to understand, and moving on, our hearts to love Him, and offering our shoulders to serve Him.

We have professed in our words the belief in the Trinity.  We have shown by our actions our belief in the cross that saves us.  We beg mercy for our sins by placing ourselves under the cross, and we accept the love of Christ on the cross by recognizing and receiving the salvation that is found at the cross.  When we add in the holy water as at church, we are reminded also of our baptism that has saved us (keep in mind that Catholics believe that " saves us" -1 Pet 3:21- and that we are born again- or from above- of water and the Holy Spirit- Jn 3:5).

See how long this post is already?  And we haven't even walked all the way into church yet, let alone started Mass!

Often, as you walk into a Catholic church, there is a large, prominently displayed crucifix (a cross with an image of the crucified Christ on it).  It is often said that Catholics should take Jesus off the cross and recognize that He is risen.  We do recognize that.  We would be fools to follow a Christ who's passion ended not with the resurrection but with His death.  Yet how can the resurrection come about without first having His death?  Not only that, but as one priest said, if we were going to follow that logic to the end, we should take baby Jesus out of the manger and leave a sign that says "He is risen!" Rather, we leave Him up there.  Not to trap Him on the cross, but to capture our attention.  To remind us of the scope of our sins and the enormity of His love.  It is the gospel being preached in the silence. It's funny, I don't realize how much I look to the crucifix until I'm in one of the churches that doesn't have one, or only has a small one off to the side. Then I'm searching until I find it.  I want to be at the foot of the cross, and though I know a crucifix is a mere image, it is an image that helps to ground me in the reality that is to come in the Mass.

Now we are in the main part of the church. Some Catholic churches are now pretty simple.  If you love simple and minimalist, that's got its advantages.  I, on the other hand, love the ones that still surround us with the statues of the saints.  We are literally surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, who cheer us on in our own race, knowing full well what it takes to run this race (Heb 12:1).  It is true that the statues themselves are not witnessing a thing (seems silly to have to say that, but be accused of worshipping statues enough times and you learn to over clarify).  But they remind us of the people that they signify, who are truly witnesses to us, helping us and cheering us on.

We are surrounded by witnesses and in front of us is the tabernacle containing Jesus.  Unlike the ark of the Old Covenant that contained the manna of Moses, this is the true Bread from Heaven. (See John 6) Therefore, before stepping into the pew, we genuflect, or bend our knees before Him (Phil 2:10).  We bend our right knee, because the left knee was what you used to bow before a king, but the right knee is what you use to bow before divinity. Once in the pew, we kneel for a few moments of prayer, to collect ourselves and our thoughts for what is to come. Kneeling and genuflection is a sign of humility, a recognition of what He is and we are not.  It is not servile, because if we didn't believe in His love, how would we dare to come before Him at all?

In a moment, Mass actually starts.  However, I'm going to have to leave that for the next post, because this one is getting out of hand.  So much for my plan of doing this in a total of three posts!

*No, not salvation by works.  Salvation by grace, but like Paul tells us "So then, my beloved, obedient as you have always been, not only when I am present, but even more now when I am absent, work out your salvation in fear and trembling. For God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work." (Phil 2:12-13)

Friday, October 7, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday

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Thought I'd try the template today.  That was easy!
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I don't know about where you are, but it's definitely chilly here today!  It was gorgeous earlier, but then the wind picked up, and now it's kind of cold.  I was supposed to help out with a conservation project this weekend, but THANKFULLY it got postponed.  Hiking in 4 miles to pick up trash in the cold was not sounding exactly fun.
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I was driving down the street today and saw something that looked like a very large dog crossing the street a block or so down.  But then I realized that the shape and the movement were a little bit off for a dog.  Not a dog.  A bear.  A small one, but a bear nonetheless.  I have a theory that I'm safer hiking than walking in town.  The only two bears I've seen since I've been out here are in town.  I've never seen one while out hiking.
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Has anyone that's on blogger tried the new interface yet? I started with it, but it tells me exactly how many page views I have, and I hate that.  I forget to think about it if left to myself, but once I can see how many people have viewed a page, I then obsess about it. I think about how to get more (which is NOT what I'm in blogging to do). Or I get upset because a post that meant a lot to me apparently doesn't mean that much to someone else.  Yeah.  I prefer ignorance.  It's my favorite.

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Let's finish off with some pictures.
You can't see real well, but this is what I was up to this weekend. If you click on it, you can see it better.

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The other thing I did this weekend was to join the huge gold rush that was going on.  No, no.  Not standing in a creek panning for anything.  I was looking for this:

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And I found it!

This isn't the prettiest picture ever, but I thought is was interesting the way the sunlight and the aspens are streaming down the mountain together.

As much as I love the gold, I also love the reds that pop up here and there.

Happy Fall! For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Little Guide to the Mass: An Introduction

You thought the last post was an introduction, didn't you? No, silly.  That was the introduction to the introduction.

I have known a lot of people that don't get the Mass.  Some are Catholics that are going to Mass, but just aren't really sure why we do what we do.  Some are non-Catholics that have been to a Mass or two and either wonder how we can put up with the same dusty ritual over and over, or they really liked it, but didn't understand a lot of what was going on.  Some are people that used to be Catholic, but left, partly because the Mass didn't mean as much to them as some other church services did.*

The Mass is so ancient, and has so many customs that date back to the early Church Fathers and Jewish customs.  I wish I could talk more about that, because it's fascinating, but I really want to focus on the Scriptural points that come to mind.  For the most part, I don't want to look at "proof text" types of things, but rather the ways that we get to not only read or recall the Scriptures, but also to live them in some way every single time we go to Mass!  I love it!

The term "Mass" really only refers to the Roman rite, and there are many different rites of the Catholic Church.  I will speak of the Roman rite, because that is what I know.  However, whatever Catholic liturgy** you go to, you will experience the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Right there, in breaking these up into two parts, we see an echo of the Scriptures. Check out Luke 24, starting with verse 13.  The two disciples are walking when Jesus appears to them and begins to start explaining the meaning of the Scriptures and how that applied to His passion and death.  I give you... The Liturgy of the Word!  Then they sat down to supper, and the disciples came to know Him in the breaking of the bread.... The Liturgy of the Eucharist!

Now, clearly, what we do at Mass today is not exactly like what happened on the road to Emmaus.  Like I said, I'm not proof texting here.  I just want to show you that what we do in the Mass calls Scripture to mind at every turn.

Another introductory Scripture to look at is John 1:14: "And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us."  One church that I've mentioned before shows this simply and beautifully. On the lectern where the Scripture is read, it reads "The Word".  Then on the altar it says, "Was made Flesh", and over the tabernacle, "And dwelt among us."  The lectern (or pulpit), looking at the Liturgy of the Word, the altar where the Liturgy of the Eucharist takes place and the tabernacle*** where Jesus resides, as He should reside in our hearts as well after every Mass.

One thing that I should reiterate here is that Catholics believe that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist. We believe that when He said, "This is my body," and "This is my blood," that He meant it, literally. None of the rest of what we do makes any sense without that understanding. It would be awfully pointless to genuflect and do all the rest if He wasn't there. It doesn't mean that you have to agree with Catholics on that point, but understand that we do believe it, and that is what the Mass is all about.

And that concludes the introduction. Both of them.  Next time, I'll actually talk about the parts of the Mass!

*Which reminds me of a point that I want to clarify. I know I get all biased and "yay, Mass!" and all.  It is true that I vastly prefer the Mass to any other service, but I do not mean to discount the ways that other types of services bring meaning to people's lives.  My purpose is to share why the Mass has such meaning in my own life.

**Liturgy means the public form of worship.

***The tabernacle is the box where any leftover hosts are kept between Masses.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Little Guide to Mass

I get tend to repeat myself.  That is true in real life, and it's true on this blog.  At least on the blog, I could go back to look and see if I had already said some of this stuff before, but I'm way too lazy for that.  The alternative will be that if you've already read something that sounds very similar, just stop reading!  Perfect solution.

Today in Mass, we began an overview of what some of the new wording will be starting in Advent, as well as some glimpses into why we will be doing some of those things.  As Father went through the steps of the Mass, it reminded me of one of the RCIA classes that we had.  All of these little discussions about why we do what we do at the Mass.  Therefore, I decided to do a quick run through on the blog. Some of this I know I've said before (I don't even have to check), but I'll say it again anyway.

This will not be an in depth look at the Mass.  I just want to briefly go through some of the things we say and do.  I will not cover all of it, and what I do cover, I will not cover completely.  I'm writing this for myself, because I want to be more aware and intentional about what I'm doing at Mass.  For most of the Catholics reading this, you know it already, but feel free to jump in with anything else you have to add!  This is also for anyone reading that's not Catholic that may be curious, especially if you've been to a Mass and wondered what on earth was going on, or for a newer Catholic that hasn't grown up with this, or for those cradle Catholics, who, like me, have forgotten some of it.

It will be in several parts that I will link here as I get them published.

An Introduction
Liturgy of the Word, Part 1
Liturgy of the Word, Part 2
Liturgy of the Word, Part 3