Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What is this Mass you speak of? Part 1: An Introduction

"The highest point of the prayer of the [Mystical Body of Christ] is the offering of the sacrifice of the Mass"
--Frank Sheed, Theology and Sanity

The Mass is likely the most familiar and most misunderstood (or at least under-understood) aspect of the Catholic faith. How can something that has been conducted for millenia right in front of our faces still create so much transcendent beauty and mystery, inspire miracles and saints, provide spiritual and physical nourishment to millions, yet at the same time be slept-through by millions, inspire hatred and vitriol, and be called out-dated, out-of-touch, and irrelevant by those within and without the Catholic Church?

The simple answer, of course, is that just as Christ was the Savior  yet also a sign of contradiction, so the commemoration of His passion, death, and Resurrection in the Mass will both vivify and divide. But merely stating the fact does nothing to help alleviate the associated tragedy of faith in our day--namely, that millions of Catholics attend Mass every week (most very faithfully) without having the foggiest idea why they go, what goes on, from whence it came, Whom they receive, when to kneel/stand/sit without watching everyone else, or where they even parked their car when they got there 10 minutes late. There are countless American Catholics who torture themselves and their families for one agonizing hour every Sunday without being able to elucidate why they force themselves to suffer so.

So why do they? Or, more to the point, why ought they?

To save their souls, one might say. Well, yes, but good luck bearing any fruit with that answer. It seems an explanation of the Mass is in order, as the more light is shed on this greatest of Sacraments, the more apparent its value and necessity will be. And because the Mass cannot defend itself, we will do our best to provide a general guide to some of the meaning, history, and wealth of grace contained in it. In no way could this be exhaustive; instead, it is merely our best effort at explaining the Mass, in a form short enough to avoid becoming an all-text Ambien. We proclaim no great expertise, only sincere and humble effort. We hope to help Catholics of all levels of faith (ourselves included)--it's as much for the crafty veterans as it is for the awkward, gangly rookies.

All of this, however, must be seen with the eyes of the Church rather than the dismissive gaze of the skeptic. Certainly not because the Mass can't stand the scrutiny, but because if you want to see clearly in the light, your eyes have to be open. Any fool can walk by a cathedral and criticize its stained-glass windows as dark, ugly slabs because from outside, they are. Only those who go inside and look from within the Church will see the light and beauty they truly afford.

So trust your mother Church as you would trust your own mother. She will always lead us to the Truth; that is, she will always lead us to Jesus.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Smattering of things from Argentina

I'm trying to upload lots of pictures and videos, but the internet at Casa Pilar is slower than snails working on molasses in winter, as my dad would say.

Still here's a random selection of pictures and I hope a video!

Frosted Flakes have a better name in Argentina. And the slogan is something like, "Grrrrrrquisimas!".....Well, at least the name is better.

This was the beginning of a not-so-civil game of croquet at Teo's grandparents cottage.

Here is Isa (Isabel) from Ano 7B teaching us a song. These kids all speak very good English, and Isa is sort of the teacher's pet. She keeps the other kids in line and corrects their English.

And here´s a YouTube of the same class with PJ leading them in a Spanish song.

Well, that's it for now--more soon!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Meditation: The Name of God and Divine Dirt Clods

About a year ago, my good friend Ryan Purcell showed me this video he'd bought. It was part of a series called "Nooma," and this one in particular was called Breathe. I was going to describe the entire video, but fortunately it's available to embed:

While it's more artsy and Protestant than I typically prefer, the ideas Bell presents have stuck with me since that first viewing.

When we say our daily offerings and offer up our mouth--For Christ, With Christ, Like Christ, I offer you my mouth, Lord--one of the most important things to offer in that moment is our breath. As Bell so beautifully explains, our soul and existence comes from the Breath of Life God breathed into us at Creation. What greater gift can there be than to give back to the Lord our very life?

One of my health teachers in middle school wondered aloud if each person has a specific number of breaths and heartbeats, and once these are all used up, you die. I haven't bothered to see what the scientific world has to say on the subject. The teacher wasn't wedded to the idea, but it was clear they'd thought about it. They even said that exercise, even though it causes us to use more breaths and heartbeats in the short term, actually prolonged our lives because in times of rest we would use fewer breaths and our hearts would beat slower.

What if we really do have a limit to how much of the Breath of Life is given us? Whether it's true or not, the question underscores how important it is that every second of life we have be offered in service to the Lord.

I had many conversations in the past with someone about how young people are trained to always be looking forward. It's the attitude of the clock-watcher, who's so anxious to move on to the next thing that he wastes so much time doing nothing but watching the clock hands slowly turn.
When you're in middle school, you can't wait to get to high school where things matter. When you're in high school, you can't wait to go to college where things actually matter. When you're in college, you can't wait to graduate and go out into the real world where things truly matter. And then once they graduate college, some will get married and have a family. But many are still caught in the "always-looking-forward" mentality, and once they have no other cultural institution to act as a mile post for their life, they panic. I think this is usually the impetus behind the midlife crisis--what does one live for when there are no more tangible goals to attain?

What so many of us miss is to live in the moment. If you are in college, life does not begin when you graduate--your life is NOW. Life does not wait up for us to be ready, and if we do try to wait it can become--quite literally--a waste of breath, a waste of life. To paraphrase a saying I've heard several times, the past is dead and Christ already won us the future, so the only time that matters for us is now.

The only breath that matters is the one we draw this very instant.

To incorporate more of Bell, it only matters that we breath and proclaim the name of God in this moment, as our faith may falter from where it was in the past, and we cannot trust ourselves to persevere fully in the future.

I take this breath now, pronounce God's name, and in so doing proclaim my faith in Him. We cannot waste the breath, the time, the life we have right now. And every time we inhale we should rejoice that God is once again proving his love for us by yet again filling us with the Breath of Life, His Spirit, and His holy name.

Lord, I pray that you will forgive me for all the time I waste, for squandering the life you gave me to serve you. Help me to offer up to you every breath I take, and to always remember your remarkable love for me. I resolve to spend my life in service to you, so that in the end, like you did, I may give up my Spirit for the Father and the ones I love.

Back at it!

Now that Fragua 7 is over, I should have lots more time to continue writing on this site, so keep your eye out for new material:
-article on Procrastination
-meditation on the name of God
-Chapter 2 in the chronicles of Obama's ineptitude
-and more!
Stay tuned, faithful viewers...

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Quotes of the Day

"In the matter of purity there is no greater danger than the not fearing the danger: when a man does not distrust himself, and is without fear, it is all over with him."
--St. Philip Neri, from his Maxims and Sayings.

"3. O my dear Lord, have mercy upon me! I trust Thou hast forgiven me my sins—but the punishment remains. In the midst of Thy love for me, and recognising me as Thine own, Thou wilt consign me to Purgatory. There I shall go through my sins once more, in their punishment. There I shall suffer, but here is the time for a thorough repentance. Here is {346} the time of good works, of obtaining indulgences, of wiping out the debt in every possible way. Thy saints, though to the eyes of man without sin, really had a vast account—and they settled it by continual trials here. I have neither their merit nor their sufferings. I cannot tell whether I can make such acts of love as will gain me an indulgence of my sins. The prospect before me is dark—I can only rely on Thy infinite compassion. O my dear Lord, who hast in so many ways shown Thy mercy towards me, pity me here! Be merciful in the midst of justice."
--Cardinal Newman, Every Sin Has Its Punishment

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Very Rudy Saturday

I missed watching the game last night, and now I'm kicking myself even more for it.

Listen to the sound of the ball hitting the net on that 3-pointer-- just beautiful, isn't it?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Saintacular--St. Philip Neri

Some very edifying and saintly words from...well, a saint, sent to me by my friend Chris Wojnar several weeks ago:

"God in His infinite goodness sometimes sees fit to test our courage and love by depriving us of the things which it seems to us would be advantageous to our souls; and if He finds us earnest in their pursuit, yet humble, tranquil and resigned to do without them if He wishes us to, He will give us more blessings than we should have had in possession of what we craved."
---St. Philip Neri
St. Philip always sought to impart humility, an absolutely necessary virtue if we hope to receive any fruits from our faith. St. Philip is known as the "Humorous Saint," and his life further illustrates the close connection between humility and joy.

A few more quotes, via Catholic Fire and the all-knowing Wikipedia:
"A joyful heart is more easily made perfect than a downcast one."

There is nothing which gives greater security to our actions, or more effectually cuts the snares the devil lays for us, than to follow another person’s will, rather than our own, in doing good."

“Bear the cross and do not make the cross bear you.”

“There is no purgatory in this world. Nothing but heaven or hell.”

“Sufferings are a kind of paradise to him who suffers them with patience, while they are a hell to him who has no patience.”

“The greatness of our love for God may be tested by the desire we have of suffering for His sake.”

"Cheerfulness strengthens the heart and makes us persevere in a good life. Therefore the servant of God ought always to be in good spirits."