Saturday, March 05, 2005

The Second Scrutiny 

Our priest told us, at our last RCIA class, that the Scrutinies used to be just that. In the early church, when there was an ever-present and real danger of Roman spies infiltrating the Christian community, the three Scrutinies were used as intense prayers calling on God and the Holy Spirit to verify that the Catechumen were not evil plants of the Roman government. Thus even now, during the 3rd, 4th and 5th Sundays of Lent, those who want to be baptized and fully accepted into the Catholic Church are prayed over by the whole congregation.

So did the unbaptized again, as in all those years passed, come up and kneel at the alter for the Second Scrutiny. Our priest prayed for the darkness and any evil of their past lives to be banished by the Light of Jesus, just as Jesus banished darkness from the Blind Man in John 9. The prayer he said was beautiful and I don't do it justice with that synopsis. Father then put both of his hands on each person's head, in turn, and prayed intently for them. The Catechumen remained kneeling while we said all the normal prayers of our church: For a successful end to the war in the Middle East so that our men and women can come home, for an end to abortion, especially in the United States, for the dead and those who mourn the dead, for an increase in vocations to the priesthood and stable marriages and for the intentions we hold silently in our hearts.

After these prayers, the Catechumen rose to their feet and we, the Candidates for full communion who have already been baptized in other faiths, joined them for dismissal. We read the Gospel of John 9 twice over and discussed it while the rest of the congregation attended to the Eucharist.

In three weeks, we will join the church at the table.

Friday, March 04, 2005

The Blind Man 

Poussin: Christ Healing the Blind

The Second Scrutiny this year is from John 9:1, the healing of the man blind from birth. This blind man was someone to be proud of. When word got out that Jesus had healed a man blind from birth, and healed him on a sabbath, no less, the Pharisees went a little nuts. I don't mean to bring politics into this, but it does remind me of some Democrats being upset with the success of democracy in the Middle East, like ex-Clinton aide Nancy Soderberg who said of the great events taking place, (and I'm paraphrasing),
"There's still North Korea and Iran, there's hope [that Bush will still fail]. There's always hope that this [Democracy in the Middle East] will not work."
There are some who would say I'm comparing President Bush to Jesus by comparing the Pharisees to Democrats, but those are likely the same folks who seek failure in the policy of our nation for political gain, so, like Jesus said, "If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, 'We see,' your guilt remains." Ms. Soderberg, like the Pharisees, notices the good news in Iraq and Lebannon and Syria and Afghanistan: she says she sees the early signs of success of the Bush policy, she isn't blind. She, and the Pharisees, just wishes it wasn't so.

When faced with His good works, the Pharisees called Jesus a sinner because he did the work of healing on the sabbath (What work? He spit in the dust). They called the blind man to them and repeatedly asked him how Jesus had healed him. They said he must be one of the disciples of Jesus, faking it. You have to love this guy because he says, "You're all so interested in Jesus, maybe it's you who want to be his disciples." They told the blind man to praise God, not Jesus. The blind man says, "Hey, I only know I was blind and now I see. If Jesus wasn't from God, he couldn't have healed me now could he." So the Pharisees, faced with such obvious logic, throw the guy out on his ear.

I realize this, the politics, is totally off-focus for what the 2nd Scrutiny is all about. A man, living in darkness, is given a whole new life of light. That's a wonderful message for a new Catholic. I also think it's a wonderful lesson that when the ex-blind man's church threw him out for telling the truth, Jesus then went in search of him and found him. I also feel, at times, that my old church would rather I was gone -- it's a wonderful thing to be sought out by Jesus himself and led to a new home of faith.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

The Fifteenth Station 

I have a "The Catholic Prayer Book" that I like quite a lot. And I also have an "Order of the Mass" book that I enjoy. Both books have devotions for the fourteen stations of the cross as do most web sites regarding "The Stations." I was surprised, then, when our priest mentioned "The Fifteenth Station" at RCIA last Monday. My first thought was that perhaps it's like the 19th hole (the clubhouse) in golf. But in looking for "The Fifteenth Station" (which is Resurrection) I found there's much confusion and inconsistency in its application. I've been to some websites (like here) that claim the 2nd Vatican Council added the 15th Station. If that were true, why does the Vatican site still have only 14? Another site described Pope John Paul II adding the Fifteenth Station on Good Friday, 1991. But our church was built only recently & has only 14 stations on the walls.

Regardless, the 15th station adds a happy ending to "The Way of the Cross" and proclaims the worth of Christ's suffering. Perhaps I'll continue to think of it as "The Clubhouse" . . . "the 19th Hole" . . . The Resurrection of Christ . . . relief after a long and difficult path.

Lenten Messages 

From the Vatican Press Office:
"The example of a Pope who suffers is very important as we have seen in recent years: suffering is a special way of preaching. From the many letters I have received and also from direct personal witnesses, I have seen many suffering people who now feel accepted. The Association for Parkinson's Patients has written to me, thanking the Pope because he helps the ill to strengthen their image, so to speak, because the Holy Father has the courage to appear in public as a person who suffers and who continues to work. Through his suffering John Paul II has communicated many things to us: that suffering is a phase on the path of life, and that he participates in the passion of Jesus Christ, showing us how fruitful suffering can be when we share it with the Lord and live it together with all those who suffer in the world. In this way, suffering takes on a great value and can be something positive. When we look at the Pope's life, we see that this is an important message, especially in a world that tends to hide or even erase pain." --- Cardinal Ratzinger
From MamaT at Summa Mamas:

Apparently, a few years ago, Crisis magazine had an article that dealt with the "gay priest" issue, giving "warning signs" that there might be a problem with a priest. Mr. Bettinelli expanded those "warning signs" to include heterosexual priests as well, since they seemed equally valid in that situation.

And I thought he was right, and it was a good discussion.

But it was one of those "warning signs" that has stuck in my head--because it seems to me that it really applies to all of us, not just to priests. Here's the point from the magazine:

Restore simplicity to priestly life. Physical comfort is the oxygen that feeds the fires of homosexual indulgence. Cut it off. When you enter a rectory, take a look at the liquor cabinet, the videos, the wardrobe, the slick magazines, and ask yourself, “Do I get the impression that the man who lives here is in the habit of saying no to himself?” If the answer is negative, the chances are that his life of chastity is in disorder as well. It goes without saying that reforming bishops should lead by example in this department and not simply exhort.

I think it is just as easy to say "Physical comfort is the oxygen that feeds the fires of indulgence" period. And I think the question asked is appropriate to all of us. If someone walked into MY house would they have the impression that I ever said NO to myself?????

Wednesday, March 02, 2005


I have missed any advertisements for the movie "Millions," but it sounds like it's right up my alley: a 7 year old kid who imagines the saints as great superheros and whose mother recently died has a load of money dropped on him. He thinks the money is from God and goes about trying to do good works.

Damian, played by newcomer Alex Etel, learns that generosity brings satisfaction and helps him identify with the saints, who he views as superheroes. Having money, however, complicates life for him and his family.

In one of his first acts of charity, Damian brings captive birds to an open field and frees them. St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals, arrives and joins Damian by freeing two birds of his own.

In other reviews, I've read that the Father of the boy(s) decides to use the money to pay bills and in a fit of depression tells the little boy, "There is no God." But the story ends well . . . and with miracles. It's supposed to open in the USA in a couple of days.


I have my hands full in March, so even though I found Robert Byrd's name calling offensive, and the Supreme Court's decision (and here) on finding people under 18 unable to make informed decisions over life and death (except in the case of aborting their babies) confusing, I'm trying to focus on Faith. I'm not always successful.

Our RCIA dismissals are at Saturday evening Mass.

March 5: Second Scrutiny
March 7: RCIA, Christian Prayer
March 12: Third Scrutiny
March 14: RCIA, the Paschal Mystery
March 19: Palm Sunday
March 22: Chrism Mass at the Cathedral
March 23: Easter Vigil Practice
March 24: Maundy Thursday Mass of the Lord's Supper (Holy Thursday w/foot washing)
March 25: Good Friday of the Lord's Passion
March 26: Easter Vigil
March 27: Easter Sunday Masses

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The Class of 2005 

Thousands Prepare to Join U.S. Catholic Church This Easter

Easter: Come to the Water (an RCIA retrospective on ABC-TV March 27th)

Spending Prayers 

RCIA was cut rather short last night due to worsening weather. We talked about prayer and how we should approach God in prayer. We shouldn't treat God as some kind of sugar daddy in the sky, we shouldn't just plunk down our requests for what we want each night and leave it at that. So many people seem to request God to come into their own presence, rather than seeking to enter the presence of God: therefore, calm yourself in anyway you can and prepare yourself to enter into His presence.

Our priest said that the Lord's Prayer, the Our Father, is the most dangerous prayer: you ask God to forgive your trespasses as you forgive others -- and how many of us do a good job of forgiveness? You ask God that His will be done on Earth -- that's scary. The Lord's Prayer is the perfect prayer: think about it as you say it.

We talked about how easy it is to rush into Mass at the last minute, follow the rituals, and rush away. It's very easy to go on auto-pilot during Mass, especially for priests, and not even think about what you are doing and saying. So come early, 15 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes early and pray that Mass will be meaningful, pray for focus.

This, brings up something I've been wanting to write about for awhile. We didn't cover this in RCIA last night or any other night. I've noticed since Amy Welborn has started gathering homily input each week (which is always a fascinating thread to read), that so many families struggle so with their children during Mass. I admire them. When we had three kids under four years old, we could hardly face Sunday mornings and we ended up staying away more often than not. I regret that now and it's something I needed to speak about in Confession. I pray every night for my grown children to be more spiritual when 20 years ago I could have fulfilled that prayer with just a little more effort and patience on my part. Oh, we took them to Sunday School and Bible School and even CCD in one case, but getting them ready for church and chasing them around the sanctuary and shushing them from playing during the service -- we just struggled to face it. It was so much easier to read the Sunday morning paper and watch the Blackhawk Bible Hour on TV while the kids played with legos, wasn't it. We've corrected our error now that it's easy to do so, with only one child who is young. So many prayers could have been spent on other causes now had we done a better job when we were young parents. So let that baby smell and let that baby cry and let those children squirm and talk and be kids -- but let them soak in where they are and what their parents are doing and caring about, too. It will make a difference one day.

Monday, February 28, 2005

The First Scrutiny 

When it came time for dismissal, our priest called up only the Elect who plan to be baptized on Easter, not those who are already baptized. These unbaptized elect came up and knelt before the priest, with their sponsors and/or godparents behind them. The priest prayed over them intensely, calling for their renouncement of all things evil and for their protection from the same. He based his prayer on the wording of the 1st Reading about the Woman at the well. As they remained kneeling, we all prayed for them and we had the other prayers for the world and our church as we normally do. Then Father called up the rest of the Elect, those of us who have already been baptized, and we dismissed to study the Gospel.

Back in our dismissal room, the unbaptized looked around and said, "Wow." They had not been expecting to be called up to kneel, nor had they expected such a profound prayer -- just for them. They were not upset, just . . . opened.

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