Thursday, October 28, 2010

Bearing Witness

It's that time of year again, when it's impossible to traverse certain streets of Philadelphia without getting accosted by the ACLU. So tonight, I'm on my way home and the oldest progeny calls and asks if I can get her some butter so she can bake some goodies to take to her friend in Massachusetts tomorrow. She miscounted the number of sticks in the fridge, as it turns out, but I digress. And as I'm walking towards the entrance to Whole Foods, my little wooden Rosary around my hand and in use, I'm approached by a young man with an ACLU t-shirt and a clipboard in his hand. "Hello ma'am, can I ask you for your help in overturning don't ask, don't tell?" And at that point, he notices the Rosary and pointing to my hand, says, "I guess not, but have a good day anyway." I went on my way. Should I have said something? Or did I make all the statement I needed to make? You decide.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

All Saints and All Souls

Next Monday Nov. 1st, The Feast of All Saints will be celebrated at St. Paul Church with Mass in the Extraordinary Form at 7 pm. The following evening, Nov. 2nd at 7 pm, the pastor of St. Paul's, Father Gerald P. Carey, will offer his first requiem Mass in the Extraordinary Form for the commemoration of All Souls Day. A catafalque draped in black and surrounded by four unbleached candles will be used as part of the requiem Mass.

Father shared something with me that another priest told him about the Traditional Latin Mass and how it's like Heaven. I'm paraphrasing, but here goes: You won't believe who you see there, you won't believe that you're there, and you won't believe how beautiful it is.

You don't have to be familiar with the Traditional Latin Mass to come. The booklets supplied before Mass are very helpful, as are many members of the congregation who will be glad to help you with whatever you need. St. Paul's is located on Christian Street between 9th and 10th with parking available in the schoolyard directly across the street from the church.

One of the things that may immediately jump out at you is how quiet it is before Mass begins. People actually pray before and after Mass. Another thing is the number of large families (by today's standards, anyway). Women are dressed modestly and the men are dressed appropriately. This doesn't mean you have to be dressed expensively or elaborately. It just means dressing in a manner that conveys respect to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. It does cause me to wonder whether or not the Church would have lost so many members and whether our society would be in its current state of deterioration had this Mass not been mothballed. Thankfully, it's been liberated by Pope Benedict XVI. I do hope more of you will take advantage of this priceless opportunity to take part in such a beautiful liturgy.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Praying the Rosary

For whatever reason, I started praying the Rosary every day months before I decided to return to the Church. I still can't recall exactly what prompted me to look in top drawer for the Rosary my late maternal grandmother gave me. In fact, when I first started praying it again, I didn't recite it correctly. Fortunately, I picked up a helpful pamphlet in the back of a church and learned to pray it "by the book."

Also for reasons unknown to me, I found it much easier to meditate on the sacred mysteries of the Rosary at first. Today, I must confess, my mind often wanders and I am continually catching myself as I contemplate more worldly matters. It is definitely more easy for me to keep my mind and heart focused when I pray in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. However, it's not always possible for me to do this, and there are times when I pray the Rosary while I'm walking to or from work. I do the best I can and I have an agreement with Our Lady that whenever I pass an undesirable or obnoxious person on the street or some poor soul who appears lost, I offer the Rosary prayers for them.

St. Therese once lamented how difficult she found it to pray the Rosary alone, when not in the company of her sisters, saying that at times, she "found it more difficult than wearing an instrument of torture." Still, she did not stop praying it. Knowing how ardently the Blessed Virgin Mary urged the visionaries of Lourdes and Fatima to pray the Rosary, it is a wonder to me that any faithful Catholic might still not feel compelled to oblige her. There are just a few days left in October, the month dedicated to both the sanctity of life and the Rosary. What will you do to increase this devotion to Mary, which she called a weapon against sin and vice? What will you do to strengthen your own Rosary prayer?

Sometimes, when I pray the Rosary while walking, I'm ashamed at how far my mind can drift from the Gospel mysteries. I think of how easily the words of the angelic salutation and the Our Father can roll off my lips, but how seldom they flow from my heart. I need to do something about that, but I also take encouragement from St. Therese, who admitted to her own struggles. "I think that the Queen of Heaven, since she is also my mother, must see my goodwill and she is satisfied with it."

Yes, because she is our mother, Mary understands our shortcomings. But just as we would not hand our mother a wilted bouquet, so must we try to offer Mary prayer as free as possible of worldly distraction and mindless lip-service.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Do Unto Others

For reasons still unbeknown to me, my former pastor asked me if I would consider being an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion only about a year after I returned to the Church. I said yes but I had some reservations about how worthy I was for this privilege. "No one is worthy" another priest told me, "but so long as you never start to think that you are, you can do it." In our parish, only one EMHC is ever used at a time at Mass and our principal function is to bring Holy Communion to the sick and home bound of the parish. When my first three-year term came to an end, I decided I no longer wanted to assist at Mass. I was a always a nervous wreck and I found myself constantly frustrated with the way people presented themselves to receive the Lord. There was the little girl still wearing filthy gloves who wanted to receive in the hand. There was the woman who insisted on receiving in her hands but never kept them flat, causing the Sacred host to slide down her hand and nearly onto the floor. I was much more comfortable with making home calls and our next pastor agreed that I could limit myself to that duty.

I never make home visits without first going to Confession, even if I don't feel the need. The time when I am carrying The Lord is not only a great privilege but also a great opportunity for personal adoration. I would never for a moment compare myself in any way to the Blessed Virgin Mary, but I sometimes think that I have been given the unique privilege of knowing what it's like to carry Jesus. I have to constantly remind myself and occasionally, when my mind wanders to some mundane thought, like what I'm going to make for dinner when I return home, I make every apology for my lack of attention and devotion.

Some of the homes I have visited left me feeling frustrated. One woman did not open the door, did not answer her phone, yet, after she thought I had left her building, came out of the elevator headed out the door to smoke. I was nearly livid. Never mind the disregard for me. How disrespectful toward Our Lord! Nothing is worse than taking the Lord into a house full of smoke. Still, some of my ladies and gents are helpless victims of their circumstances and allowances have to be made. They can't help it if their children think it's too much trouble to take them to Mass but it's no problem to take them to the casinos. I kid you not.

A few weeks ago, the coordinator of the EMHC's at my church called and asked if I would be willing to take another person. I agreed, even though the call would be a bit out of my way. I arrived at the building at the designated hour and met my new lady for the first time. She was one of the most pathetic little creatures I have encountered in a long time. Hobbled by arthritis, she could barely make it to the door with her walker. It was a great effort for her to be able to settle into her chair. She thought that she should remain standing to receive, but I insisted that she sit.

After the ritual prescribed by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for home calls, I talked to the elderly woman for a little bit and accepted her profuse thanks for visiting her. I assured her I would be coming to visit her every month. I was a little confused about whether she was actually a member of our parish or another one, and she quickly corrected me. "I've only been this bad for about a year, honey. A year ago, I was still going to Mass every morning. You don't know how much that means to me." I was very touched.

Sometimes, I admit that I don't always feel like going out on my calls. The weather might not be the best, or I might have to decline an invitation to do something else, but then I have visits like the one tonight and I think of how sinful I am. I know how I feel if I can't get to Mass every day. I can only imagine what it must be like to be home bound and not be able to go at all. Some of the people I visit don't even clear a space for me to lay the pyx containing Our Lord, but this poor hobbled old woman managed to make one on a table with a crucifix, a statue of Mary with the Christ Child and a painting of the Sacred Heart. "I should have lit a candle", she told me. No one in four years of making calls has ever suggested lighting a candle for reception of Holy Communion. Sometimes, it's a struggle to get people to turn off the television. As I was leaving, my new lady asked me if I could find her prayer books on the little table she had set up next to her chair. "I want to say after-Communion prayers once you leave," she told me.

As a layperson, I feel an enormous burden in carrying the Lord on my person and giving Him to the sick and home bound. I admit that I was looking forward to the end of my second and final term, but then I met this endearing little old woman, who is nearly all alone in the world and barely able to get around, and the thought that my visit will mean so much to her made me ashamed of myself. "I'm 87, honey," she told me. "At this point, I'm living life day to day." I kept thinking of what she said as I walked home, alone since she was my last stop. I wondered what I had done to earn such an awesome opportunity to bring comfort and joy to this frail but faithful little old woman. I hope that someday, if I find myself in a situation like she is in, the Lord will see fit to send someone to bring Him to me in my infirmity.

Friday, October 15, 2010

St. Teresa of Jesus

If, Lord, Thy love for me is strong

As this which binds me unto thee,

What holds me from thee Lord so long,

What holds thee Lord so long from me?

O soul, what then desirest thou?

Lord I would see thee, who thus choose thee.

What fears can yet assail thee now?

All that I fear is but lose thee.

Love's whole possession I entreat,

Lord make my soul thine own abode,

And I will build a nest so sweet

It may not be too poor for God.

A sould in God hidden from sin,

What more desires for thee remain,

Save but to love again,

And all on flame with love within,

Love on, and turn to love again.

- St Teresa Avila

- Translated by by Arthur Symons (1865-1945) , from Cities and Sea-Coasts and Islands, published 1918

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Evening Prayer

OK, I admit it. I'm a terrible mother. I came home from work and decided I'd rather take a walk than make dinner, so I put Rebecca in charge of boiling some potatoes and then headed out for a good brisk jaunt. On the way home, I passed by St. Rita's and realized the chapel was still open at 6:30pm because there was another Mass and novena at 7:30pm. What a treat to have the chapel practically to myself for a little quiet time with Jesus. My work situation has deteriorated to the point of no return and as I wait to hear about some other possibilities, it's been difficult to have the patience to accept that God does not work by my time clock. So I asked for the grace to embrace my current situation for the time-being and offer the displeasure in reparation for sins. Anyway, it was so pleasant, that I lost track of time and we didn't eat dinner until nearly 8pm. I didn't dare tell them why I was late. My son, who has "issues", cannot understand why I would want to go Mass every day when it's not required of me. Sometimes it's funny but at others, I wonder what I have done to help my family grow in faith. I have heard Father Corapi say that one of the most important thing we can do as mothers is get ourselves to Mass every day. I only wish someone in my family would follow suit.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Around the Parishes

Help us to observe the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary! On Thursday evening Oct. 7at St. Paul Church, we will meet at 7pm to pray the Most Holy Rosary. Weather permitting, the Rosary will be recited outside the church at Our Lady's Shrine on Hutchinson Street. Come bear public witness to our faith and honor Our Blessed Mother by following her counsel to pray the Rosary.

St. Paul's is located on Christian Street between 9th and 10th. There is off-street parking available in the schoolyard across from the church.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Distressing Disguise of the Poor

Father Kelley at St. Monica's has often told us that when people are skeptical that the devil exists, he offers them $20 to go to Broad and Snyder at 2am. "I guarantee you, you'll meet the devil within 20 seconds" he says, and anyone familiar with the area knows he's not kidding. But during the day, it's another story. Go to Broad and Snyder in broad daylight and you will see the face of Christ. You might not recognize Him at first under the layers of filth and dirty clothing, but he's there,in, as Mother Teresa reminded us, the distressing disguise of the poor. So many people today in need. And oddly enough, none of them were asking for help. Perhaps they were too down-trodden and in too much despair. In Center City, I'm familiar with a lot of the faces that haunt street corners and doorways, but I can honestly say I had never seen any of the faces that I encountered today. A man in t-shirt and shorts, with a hospital bracelet still on his wrist, emiting a putrid odor and sporting some kind of rash all over his body. An elderly woman whose gray hair was discolored from dirt, her face streaked with filth, wearing winter clothes that reeked of amonia and other bodily secretions. Where do they come from? And where do they go when you return to help them and can't find them?

It can be very discouraging for those of us who don't like to walk past anyone in need without stopping to help. I wasn't prepared for what I saw today. But it goes to show you never know when and how Christ is going make Himself known to you.

First Saturday Meditations: St. Therese on the Love of the Blessed Virgin

"We know very well that the Blessed Virgin is Queen of Heaven and Earth, but she is more Mother than Queen; and we should not say, on account of her prerogatives, that she surpasses all the saints in glory just as the sun at his rising makes the stars disappear from sight. My God! How strange that would be! A mother who makes her children's glory vanish! I myself think just the contrary. I believe she'll increase the splendor of the elect very much.

The Blessed Virgin ... wasn't as fortunate as we are, since she didn't have a Blessed Virgin to love. And this is one more sweetness for us and one less sweetness for her!"
Last Conversation, pp. 161-62

O Mary, if I were the Queen of Heaven and you were Therese, I should like to be Therese in order to see you as Queen of Heaven.
last words written by St. Therese - Sept.6 1897

(Meditation taken from "Praying the Rosary With St. Therese" by Father Louis J Kolenkiewicz)

Friday, October 1, 2010

St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, Carmelite Nun, Doctor of the Church and Special Patroness of Missions and Priests

"What attracts me to the homeland of Heaven is the Lord's call, the hope of loving Him finally as I have much desired to love Him, and the thought that I shall be able to make Him loved by a multitude of souls who will bless Him eternally"
General Correspondence, Vol. II, p. 1142
Letter to Father Adolphe Roulland - July, 1897