Saturday, March 19, 2005

Congratulations Danielle Bean & Family 

The Beans just announced the birth of Raphael Joseph Bean over at Danielle Bean.com

Palm Sunday 

I mentioned that I wasn't looking forward to the Palm Sunday Procession. Well, I really didn't enjoy it, but it was somewhat saved by having four or five members of the Knights of Columbus present in full regalia. What a sight! The choir was also fully present. Father blessed our palm leaves, tossed water off an evergreen branch throughout the room in which we had gathered (to help us remember our baptism), read John's version of Jesus entering Jerusalem and then we proceeded across the parking lot to the church singing a nice fourteener ("All Glory, Laud and Honor").

Inside, we had a very long responsive reading of Matthew 27 with several people reading the parts and the congregation chiming in where appropriate. The homily was very short and focused on Holy Week as a microcosm for the whole world. We know Jesus won the battle, but there is time yet to get ready for His return.

We in RCIA were dismissed. Mass was a bit shortened because the turnout wasn't that great: it was kind of a rainy day and perhaps people feel like I do about processions. :)

Next Saturday I will be Catholic. In seven days, I will consume the body and blood of Christ.

Friday, March 18, 2005


After reading "My Descent into Death" the other day, I started thinking more about Purgatory. One of the really fine things about our church's RCIA team is the number of team members who are, shall we say, in the twilight of their lives. Whenever talk turns to suffering or disappointment or even the smallest of stumbling blocks, you can count on these folks to say, "offer it up!" or "give it up for the Church." The concept is that offering up your own suffering (take up your cross and follow me!) for the dead will lessen their time in Purgatory. The fact that these older, life-long Catholics invariably pull "offer it up" from their holsters far quicker than the younger teachers makes me wonder whether offering our suffering up for the dead is still being taught as much (or as well) as it used to be. Or, perhaps, it's just that the older one gets, the more skilled one becomes at suffering. In any event, praying for the dead and offering up our own suffering for theirs is a concept I very much like in my new faith. Perhaps the worst thing about chronic pain (for those who suffer from it) or depression or sadness or any type of loss is finding no purpose in it. Being able to "offer up" your pain and suffering (as Jesus did for us) gives meaning, deepens faith, and (truth be told) gives respite.

Anyway, my interest piqued, I bought the book, "The Amazing Secret of the Souls in Purgatory" an interview with Maria Simma. It's a tiny book you can read easily in an hour. Maria Simma is an Austrian nun whom the dead seek out for help. The dead come to her and ask for her to suffer for them, or pray for them, or have a Mass said for them, or a Rosary prayed for them so that they can leave Purgatory and enter Heaven. Sister Maria says that no one in Purgatory would ever want to return to life because once you're in Purgatory your place is assured in Heaven . . . you just have to suffer the wait in your soul. In life, nothing is certain. Maria says that she is no psychic. Psychics call up the dead, seek them out, and any response from that calling is Satanic. She doesn't seek out the dead, they seek her.

Do we have to believe Sister Maria? Again, no. Personal revelations are not required to be believed. The Catholic Catechism barely mentions Purgatory, it is comforting to hear the stories Sister Maria shares about people's lives both before and after death. The Catholic faith is rich and has practicable, practical functions for our daily lives.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Can a Family have too many Children? 

Smockmomma has found a poll asking that very question at parenting online. Go over to summa mamas and read her reply (and send off one of yours)..

Palm Sunday Procession 

OK, some things there are with which I struggle and processions are one of them. I don't know what it is, but the thought of walking across the parking lot yelling, "Hosanna in the Highest" while waving my palm branch in celebration of Jesus entering Jerusalem just doesn't sit well. I think the thing is that the real Palm Sunday was unexpected, extemporaneous, an outpouring of genuine love for the man Jesus, the Messiah in the flesh. How can we recreate the spontaneous outpouring of love that was Palm Sunday year after year after year. Please don't get me wrong, the love is there, obviously, in all of us... but it's like (for me) trying to recreate the excitement of new found love after many years of marriage.

I'm sure the re-creation of that romance, that blind, all-encompassing first wash of love, would be a good thing in any marriage, but can we recapture such moments by re-living them? At my next marriage anniversary should I take my wife to the lounge of some Dorm, buy us both some cheese crackers from the vending machine and watch a re-run of Gunsmoke? (You had to be there... and that's the point I'm trying to make.)

So, there you have it. I will process through the parking lot with my palm branch and I will think back to those days just after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and I will try to imagine what I would have done then. I will feel out of place because I am out of place. As my wife used to say about the cheese crackers, "It's the thought that counts."

Wednesday, March 16, 2005


After our RCIA class joins the church at Easter and we have our first communion, we neophytes (Catholic newbies) enter a period called "Mystagogia" in the seven weeks between Easter, when Christ was/is resurrected, and Pentacost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out for the Apostles. Our class will continue to meet on Mondays, but many of the sessions will be open to all members of our congregation. We'll discuss the Mass again with a Straw Mass, where the priest talks everyone through each step, and the reason for each step, and each area, of the Mass. We'll discuss the history of the Christian Church. We'll have a session about priests and Holy Orders. In general, we will focus on what it means to live a Christian/Catholic life.

I've not been very successful in investigatign the Greek term "mystagogia." I read that it is borrowed from "the language of the mysteries," where it means "the introduction of the uninitiated to the knowledge and the effective celebration of the mysteries." The one who leads the person through mystagogia, the mystagoge, is like a tour guide, one who knows the territory and helps the neophytes move around in this new space. I've not heard Greek called "The language of Mysteries" before, but neither have I found much information on any "Language of the Mysteries" beyond a lot of pagan mystery religions. I'll have to ask.

I read this piece, "Mystagogia: A Time of Growth" in the National Catholic Reporter.
Following the example set by the early church, many contemporary congregations welcome newly baptized believers during the Easter Vigil. In these weeks after Easter, both initiates and veteran believers are invited to enter into a period of mystagogia and thereby to be renewed in the dignity and challenge of Christian baptism. To that end, we must join with those who first heard Peter’s proclamation of the good news in asking, “What are we to do?”, and in accepting his call to reform our lives and to keep from going astray from the path of discipleship.

Personally, I had in mind that period when Paul first met Jesus, was struck blind and had to be led to Damascus where Ananias restored his sight and led him through his Christian initiation. That's kind of backwards, though.

Update: First Mystagogia Session.

Update: Second Mystagogia Session.

Update: Third Mystagogia Session.

Update: Forth Mystagogia Session.

Update: Fifth and final Mystagogia Session.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Release Barabbas 

RCIA last night concerned the Paschal mystery. The Crucifixion of Christ. Part of that story, it occurs to me, was giving a choice to the people to release Jesus, or the criminal Barabbas. "The people" in this case, was a trumped up crowd the enemies of Jesus gathered together. I have to wonder how many could have flooded the streets that day but stayed home. How many people didn't want to get involved, didn't want to stand up against the powerful of the day. I wonder how many, hearing the yelling, didn't really believe their community would stoop so low as to torture and kill an innocent man. I haven't written much, if any, about the Terri Schiavo court case, but when I was doing my daily read of summa mamas, I noticed that the court order to begin starving Terri to death will take effect on March 18th, with death expected within 7 to 30 days. Good Friday is March 25th and there the window opens for Terri's death.

Here again, Good Friday approaches and we are given a choice. Shall we, as a community, choose to release Terri from her sentence of torturous death, or will we stay at home and do nothing and let the crowd have their way. The cards seem stacked against her, a trumped up crowd is letting few others speak and none on her behalf. Today, it is even easier than 2000 years ago. Today you don't even have to leave your chair to make your voice heard. Today, you can contact your representatives here.

Don't wonder, after Terri is put to death, how it could have happened. You hear the braying crowd outside your window even now. You hear the shouts from the court, "Release Barabbas!" You hear the chants beginning, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" Will you close your shudders again and consider yourself too small a voice again?

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Heaven Always Has at Least One 

The Curt Jester blog had this interview about Sister Lucia of Fatima. I particularly liked this quote from Leo Madigan:
Many Catholics were aware of her existence – though most were surprised to learn that that existence was still continuing in this world. Heaven always has at least one “phenomenon” witnessing to its value somewhere in this world and, in its own way, heaven also handles their publicity. (my emphasis)
Well, not long after Sister Lucia passed away, Howard Storm's book, "My Descent into Death" hit the bookshelves. I just finished reading it. Apparently, Mr. Storm's been around telling this story over the last 20 years (on Oprah, on 48 hours, on the Discovery Channel, etc.), but I'd not heard of him or his story before I read his book.

Storm was an artist, a university art teacher, and a devout atheist (if 'devout' can be used with 'atheist') who had a near-death experience while on a trip to Paris, France in 1985. While he lay dying (or perhaps dead) in a Paris hospital, he experienced hell (or purgatory), called on Jesus to save him, and was taken up by Jesus near to Heaven and was able to ask lots of questions while there. After returning to health after months, he sought out a Church to attend and continually heard the voices of, and had visions of, angels. After time, he didn't feel he fit in as a University Professor anymore and finally ended up a Reverend in the United Church of Christ.

Actually, I couldn't put the book down and read it in just a couple of hours. From his nightmare descriptions of what it was like in a Paris hospital in 1985 and what he experienced in Purgatory, to his falling prostrate on the floor of his newfound church with angels spinning overhead, Rev. Storm's book never took a break.

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