To Defend My Faith

Posted by Webster
I learned from my Popeye post that taking the fight to Protestants, even with tongue squarely in cheek, is a questionable undertaking. Of the 50 or so comments beneath that post, most are positive, but a few are righteously indignant, maybe rightfully too. I might have thought twice about some statements. But when attacks are made on my faith, and especially on my fellow Catholics, I will not hold back.

Frank and I began a prayer intentions list on Monday, an innovation (of his) that I am particularly proud of. Today we received one “intention” that, unedited, reads as follows:

Catholicism is so great that we held our grandmothers funeral at a catholic church. The best part was when they past around the money basket! That is catholicism at it’s finest. Isn’t it great that if you sin all you got to do is say a couple of hail mary’s and all is forgiven? Or make a big enough contibution and your saved! I’ll stick with christianity, we don’t have a pope to worship, we worship christ himself.

There are plenty of swipes I could take at this “intention,” which Frank and I chose not to publish, for obvious reasons, but let’s take the points seriously for a moment. Our commenter apparently thought he/she was being clever phrasing them as he/she did (just as I thought with Popeye), but behind the ironic delivery there are some substantive thoughts (same as Popeye). I count three points worth taking seriously:

They passed around the money basketTranslation: The Catholic Church is rich and its clergy greedy.

Say a couple of Hail Marys, or make a big enough contribution, and all is forgivenTranslation: Catholics think they can sin freely and all will be forgiven if they just say a few prayers, especially after confession, and then make an indulgence-worthy donation to the Church.

We don’t have a Pope to worshipTranslation: The hierarchy of the Catholic Church, especially its leader, is irrelevant to personal faith.

I will answer these three points with a single word: Haiti.

I am proud of Catholics’ response to Tuesday’s earthquake.

Yes, we Catholics are passing the money basket. Please go right now to Catholic Charities or Catholic Relief Services or Cross Catholic International or some other reputable relief organization and throw something in that money basket. Please.

Yes, we Catholics are saying our Hail Marys. What else can we do? The airport in Port-au-Prince is as good as closed, yet the media are bringing us horrifying reports and images. Our brothers and sisters, including many Catholic priests, religious, and social workers, have been killed or have been injured or are desperately working to help the injured and homeless. I feel helpless. I’m sure Frank feels helpless. But at least we can pray, and I for one believe that prayer works.

Yes, our Pope is leading us. He is leading our prayers. And our Church has a bishop on the ground in Haiti, helping the Church’s relief effort. I have carefully observed my Pope at work since the day I considered becoming a Catholic in 2007, and I have never seen anything less than a wise and compassionate leader, one I would follow unto death if I had to.

I have just completed the final chapter of GK Chesterton’s book Orthodoxy and will be posting on it soon. I am afraid that our commenter, like many critics of the Catholic Church, is well described by Chesterton in this final chapter, where he wrote:

The sceptic was quite right to go by the facts, only he had not looked at the facts.

To Teach Fourth-Graders the Fourth Commandment

Posted by Webster 
My religious ed class was more unruly than ever yesterday afternoon; every minute I had to shush and beg thirteen 9-10-year-olds to listen to one another. But there was one moment of silence near the end of the class that I will not forget soon. It had to do with the Fourth Commandment.

The topic was the Ten. Having introduced them last week, I thought I would throw down the gauntlet to the class: How many of the Ten Commandments can you guys remember? Who can give me just one of the Commandments? A girl raised her hand—

Don’t kill anyone. Good, “You shall not kill.” Who else?

Don’t take anything from someone. Excellent, “You shall not steal.” How about another Commandment?

Don’t get divorced. . . .

I felt a preliminary tug at my heart from these words. They were offered sotto voce by a child whose parents may be separated. I acknowledged that this was a correct answer, although I rephrased it: “You shall not commit adultery.” We talked about this for a bit and what it meant.

K., a boy whose Attitude is as big as he is small, nailed the next one: Don’t take God’s name in vain, and C., another boy, clearly understood Respect your mother and father. We talked of “honoring” not only parents but priests, teachers, mentors, elders.

Then came another S. moment. S. is a pale, thin girl whom I have described before. I usually have to ask her questions three or four times, walking closer each time until, my ear virtually on her lips, I hear what she has to say, and it’s always on the money. I told the class that getting Five Commandments was stellar, that I didn’t expect them to remember any more, that I would be amazed if anyone could come up with Number Six—whereupon S.’s hand went up, haltingly, meekly, her gaze barely grazing my own. I asked my four questions, moved closer, and finally heard: Don’t believe in other gods. 

Which is, of course, the big Number One: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me. . . . ” I congratulated S., and she shrugged, lapsing back into body language that usually seems to say, I have nothing to say and even if I did, so what?

I had Six of Ten, and that was enough. I congratulated the class and began building the list backward from Number Ten, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods,” and Number Nine, “Ditto your neighbor’s wife.” We discussed the meaning of covet and that other odd term, bear false witness, in Number Eight. Stealing, adultery, and killing were a quick Seven, Six, and Five. We came then to Number Four, “Honor your Father and Mother.”

I said, as delicately as I knew how, that this could be a tough Commandment for some people to follow, that not every parent is perfect, that I have a friend who had a mean parent, that there may even be some of us in this room whose parents do things we can’t understand. Not all Catholic parents are like Frank, I would think later yesterday, when I read his latest post. But God wants us to honor our parents anyway. A boy looked at me wide-eyed and asked, Even parents who aren’t nice? Even them. The room was silent for the first time. Every pair of eyes was looking at me.

Honestly, I know nothing about the personal lives of virtually any of my students, and I really don’t want to know. It’s not my business. I have met almost none of their parents, and the ones I have met are nice enough, and I am sure there are many happy family times for the children in my class. But I know what the statistics say: that half of all marriages in our country are in enough trouble to end sooner or later. I know that Catholics are not exempt from such statistics, no matter what the Church teaches. Logic tells me that six, seven, eight or even more of the children in my class will have genuine difficulty putting the Fourth Commandment into practice. I felt helpless in the face of this, but went on gamely to talk about the first three Commandments, including the one no one had mentioned: “Observe the sabbath day, to keep it holy.” I urged them to ask their parents to take them to Mass.

I told Katie about the class at dinner. She made several good points, and this was one of them: Whether or not there are any troubled families involved here, the fact is, the parents of these children are all sending them to religious ed class. Perhaps, Katie said, in some cases, they are sending them to religious ed because they know they are inadequate as parents (as Katie and I know we are sometimes inadequate), and yet these parents still want what’s right for their children. Even though they themselves probably see their own contradictions, they send their children to your class, Webster, in the hopes that the children will bring something good home with them, something that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

I was very touched by this observation from my wife, who is in many ways a better Catholic than I am.

Because Being a Parent is a Vocation

I came across this little quote from one of the Doctors of the Church, St. John Crysostom today:

“The primary goal in the education of children is to teach and give the example of a virtuous life.”

How often do the pressures of everyday life lead me away from the truth of this statement? And how often are my eyes taken away from the primary goal and, instead, focused on secondary and tertiary goals? More often than I care to admit.

I was reading Webster’s post today on his lovely relationship with his RCIA sponsor whom he has dubbed Joan of Beverly. How enjoyable it must be, I thought, to be able to walk over to my sponsor’s home for a visit like that. To inquire about their health, both physical and spiritual. To be able to sit and listen to words of wisdom like those Joan gives out, take them in, and reflect upon them. Talk of our walk of faith together and sit in rapt stillness listening to her for thirty minutes as she unwinds a personal tale with a deeper meaning knitted together with her words.

And then reality hit me like a ton of bricks! This ain’t in the cards for you, ole boy. Not yet, and not by a long shot! You have three children (aged 14, 10, and 8) and they need their daddy (and your wife needs her husband!), to stay focused on the mission of bringing them up and preparing them for their eventual place in the world. And that mission is time-consuming. It can be exhausting and at Casa del Weathers, there is seemingly never a dull moment. I know many of our readers are in the same boat with me so I’m not alone on this one. Am I?

Putting on my Anu Garg costume, let’s break down the word vocation, shall we?

Pronunciation:

vo-ca-tion {voh-key-shun} — noun

Meaning:
1. a particular occupation, business, or profession; calling.
2. a strong impulse or inclination to follow a particular activity or career.
3. a divine call to God’s service or to the Christian life.
4. a function or station in life to which one is called by God: the religious vocation; the vocation of marriage.

Etymology:
1400–50; late ME vocacio(u)n
Synonyms:1. employment, pursuit.

Usage:
“Raising children can be quite an onerous task and I believe that it’s almost impossible to succeed in our vocation as Catholic parents without the support and help of the wider community.”—Maria Bryne, “It’s Not Always Easy Being A Parent,” The Irish Catholic, On-Line Edition, v1.0

You see, Anu? I can do this too! And with out any weird, defeatist, introductions. Absent also is the smugness of the know-it-all parent, who is really smart and blessed with perfect children too. I’m just a regular guy, with the three kids and a wife, trying to keep his sanity while keeping his eye on the target.

And I’m grateful that the Catholic Church stresses that raising children is a vocation in the sense of all of the definitions above, and especially numbers 3 and 4. Which is why the Church calls the family the Domestic Church and provides us instruction to complement what is said about parenting in the Holy Scriptures in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Here are a few examples:

The duties of parents

2221 The fecundity of conjugal love cannot be reduced solely to the procreation of children, but must extend to their moral education and their spiritual formation. “The role of parents in education is of such importance that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute.” The right and the duty of parents to educate their children are primordial and inalienable.

2222 Parents must regard their children as children of God and respect them as human persons. Showing themselves obedient to the will of the Father in heaven, they educate their children to fulfill God’s law.

2223 Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well suited for education in the virtues. This requires an apprenticeship in self-denial, sound judgment, and self-mastery – the preconditions of all true freedom. Parents should teach their children to subordinate the “material and instinctual dimensions to interior and spiritual ones.”

Parents have a grave responsibility to give good example to their children. By knowing how to acknowledge their own failings to their children, parents will be better able to guide and correct them:

“He who loves his son will not spare the rod. . . . He who disciplines his son will profit by him. Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

2224 The home is the natural environment for initiating a human being into solidarity and communal responsibilities. Parents should teach children to avoid the compromising and degrading influences which threaten human societies.

2225 Through the grace of the sacrament of marriage, parents receive the responsibility and privilege of evangelizing their children. Parents should initiate their children at an early age into the mysteries of the faith of which they are the “first heralds” for their children. They should associate them from their tenderest years with the life of the Church. A wholesome family life can foster interior dispositions that are a genuine preparation for a living faith and remain a support for it throughout one’s life.

2226 Education in the faith by the parents should begin in the child’s earliest years. This already happens when family members help one another to grow in faith by the witness of a Christian life in keeping with the Gospel. Family catechesis precedes, accompanies, and enriches other forms of instruction in the faith. Parents have the mission of teaching their children to pray and to discover their vocation as children of God. The parish is the Eucharistic community and the heart of the liturgical life of Christian families; it is a privileged place for the catechesis of children and parents.

2227 Children in turn contribute to the growth in holiness of their parents. Each and everyone should be generous and tireless in forgiving one another for offenses, quarrels, injustices, and neglect. Mutual affection suggests this. The charity of Christ demands it.

2228 Parents’ respect and affection are expressed by the care and attention they devote to bringing up their young children and providing for their physical and spiritual needs. As the children grow up, the same respect and devotion lead parents to educate them in the right use of their reason and freedom.

2229 As those first responsible for the education of their children, parents have the right to choose a school for them which corresponds to their own convictions. This right is fundamental. As far as possible parents have the duty of choosing schools that will best help them in their task as Christian educators. Public authorities have the duty of guaranteeing this parental right and of ensuring the concrete conditions for its exercise.

2232 Family ties are important but not absolute. Just as the child grows to maturity and human and spiritual autonomy, so his unique vocation which comes from God asserts itself more clearly and forcefully. Parents should respect this call and encourage their children to follow it. They must be convinced that the first vocation of the Christian is to follow Jesus: “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”

Wow, I wish I would have had this handy manual earlier in my calling to be a parent! What a game-changer! Of course, the manuals (the Bible and the CCC) were there all along and available to me always, but I was too stubborn to bother looking at them until after I became a Catholic. Before I was a Catholic, I would have scoffed at the idea that a bunch of celibate, religious brothers and sisters could have any insight to give me on what it means to be a parent.

Given the state of the world today, my wife and I need all the help we can get to fulfill our vocation as parents. Our parish communities and our Church’s teachings and traditions are useful and effective tools, a comforting tool kit to help us face this Herculean task.

So for those of you in the YIM Catholic community who are parents of school-age children and who get wistful and envious of Webster’s (seemingly) halcyon existence as the very model of a modern, genteel Catholic man and husband, remember me, Joe Six-Pack, The Dad, USMC. I have got your back! Send me your tired, your poor, your frustrated, your hair-on-fire parenting war stories. I want to read them and I need your support too!

Thanks to Tuesdays with Joan

Posted by Webster 
Before Christmas 2008, my friend and RCIA sponsor Joan of Beverly was diagnosed with lung cancer. In her 70s and slight of build to begin with, Joan underwent surgery, then began a grueling course of chemo and radiation, which dropped her weight to somewhere just north of 100. (No, that’s not Joan of Beverly in the picture, it’s Joan of Arc. But the resemblance is there!)

Along the way, not early enough, I admit, I began visiting her once a week. Then, two months ago, almost miraculously, it seemed, Joan received a clean bill of health: no sign of cancer, no need to visit her oncologist for six months! This is where the parallel with Tuesdays with Morrie stopped. I might have stopped my weekly visits once we knew Joan was well again, but the visits continue, because I have long since realized that I get more out of our meetings than I could ever bring to them.

When you meet someone whose faith is so solid, so unequivocal, you have to pursue the friendship. This is how I define friend today: Joan of Beverly.

I often walk up to Joan’s house from my office downtown. It’s a short walk. She’s usually waiting in her wing chair by the window. I try to bring something for her—a reading, an anecdote, a quote from one of Father Barnes’s homilies. Before her illness, Joan came to daily Mass, but she’s still not up to the 7 a.m. start, and she likes knowing what’s going on down the hill. (My office is right across from St. Mary’s.)

Yesterday afternoon, I thought I had a good one for her. I was reading Pope Benedict’s memoir and had been taken by his description of his parents’ deaths. So I read the short passages aloud to her, then looked up for her response. Thirty minutes later, she had stopped responding.

Joan spoke of her own parents’ deaths. Of her father’s passing away as she held his hand. And of her mother, whose encroaching dementia forced a family decision. Joan “put it all in the Lord’s hands,” asking God in prayer what he wanted her to do. A few days later, while she was at work, God gave his answer: Take your mother into your home.

Joan never questioned this word from God even though a couple of her siblings tried to dissuade her. It was Thanksgiving time, busiest time of year, and yet by Christmas, a room in her house had been done over and her mother had moved in. “Everything—just—worked,” Joan said, gesturing with her slender fingers that have only gained back a small amount of weight. “Everything always works when you put it in the Lord’s hands.”

Joan said to me yesterday that for the longest time she had thought she was “holding on to God”—doing all the things he asked, going to Mass, praying with her prayer group, saying endless Rosaries. Then one day, “I realized that he had been holding on to me all along.”

Joan is unwavering in such statements of faith. They are made with complete certainty. And all I can do most days is listen and nod and wonder. May you all have friends like Joan. I’m sure my experience is quite common among practicing Catholics who are friends to one another.

YIMC Book Club — It’s the Anglican by a Nose!

Posted by Webster 
The polls closed at 3 a.m.! How did that happen, you may ask, given that Webster and Frank are in the Eastern time zone and set the time limit for midnight? Must have been some chicanery in Chicago! But however it happened C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity is the next YIM Catholic Book Club selection by a final margin of 39–37 over the runner-up. You can all begin reading.

My final post on Chesterton’s Orthodoxy will be published this Thursday, and Frank will lead the discussion of Lewis, beginning next week. He will finalize the schedule and decide how we break down Lewis’s 33 chapters into readable chunks.

Reed of God by Caryll Houselander garnered 17 votes and Barabbas by Par Lagerkvist only 6 votes. Meanwhile, the runner-up that many of you wanted, The Great Heresies by Hillaire Belloc, will be our next selection.

The picture illustrating this post is C. S. Lewis reading, not Warren Jewell gloating.

Because I Can Identify with My Pope

Posted by Webster 
If you’ve ever lost a parent, as I have, you have to read Pope Benedict’s account of the death of his parents in his memoir, Milestones: 1927–1977. For all the theological observations (many of them over my head), for all the professional history, these personal passages are the ones that convince me. (Our Pope is the younger brother at left in this family photograph.)

First, the death of his father, just four months after Joseph Ratzinger assumed his first full professorship, in Bonn:

There was in August [1959] an ominous drum roll that came with unexpected force and harshness. . . . In the summer of 1958 Father had had a mild stroke while carrying my sister’s heavy typewriter to the repair shop on a very hot day. . . . At Christmas he gave us gifts whose generosity was beyond belief. We sensed that he took this to be his last Christmas, and yet we could not believe it, because exteriorly there was nothing wrong with him. In the middle of August he experienced an acute indisposition, from which he recovered only very slowly. On Sunday, August 23, Mother invited him to take a walk to the old places where we had lived and enjoyed our friends. On this hot summer day they walked together for more than ten kilometers. On their way home, Mother noticed how fervently Father prayed when they made a brief visit to the church and how restless he was awaiting the return of the three of us, who had taken a ride to Tittmoning. During supper he went out and collapsed at the top of the steps. He had had a serious stroke, which took him from us after exactly two days of suffering. We were grateful that we were all able to stand around his bed and again show him our love, which he accepted with gratitude even though he could no longer speak. When I returned to Bonn after this experience, I sensed that the world was emptier for me and that a portion of my home had been transferred to the other world.  

I am struck that not only his father but also his mother seemed to know that death was near. She invited him for a long walk to visit the old places. He gave generous Christmas gifts. He stopped to pray. . . .

And I am struck with the realization that when my father died, a piece of me went to heaven with him.

Four years later, as the Second Vatican Council was gathering momentum, Joseph Ratzinger lost his mother:

Already since January my brother had noticed that Mother was eating less and less. In mid-August her physician announced to us with sad certainty that she had cancer of the stomach, which would follow its course quickly and relentlessly. With what was left of her energies she kept house for my brother until the end of October, even though she was already reduced to skin and bones. Then one day she collapsed in a shop, and then was never again able to leave her sickbed. Our experience with her now was very similar to what we had lived with Father. Her goodness became even purer and more radiant and continued to shine unchanged even through the weeks of increasing pain. On the day after Gaudete Sunday, December 16, 1963, she closed her eyes forever, but the radiance of her goodness has remained, and for me it has become more and more a confirmation of the faith by which she had allowed herself to be formed. I know of no more convincing proof for the faith than precisely the pure and unalloyed humanity that the faith allowed to mature in my parents and in so many other persons I have had the privilege to encounter.

My mother is still very much alive, and a lively inspiration to us all. But I encounter that “pure and unalloyed humanity” every morning at Mass. Have I told you about Frank and Carrie K.? Have I boasted to you about Frank G.? (That’s him at left. How could you not love that face?) How about the Pietrini brothers? Or my big brother in the Church, Ferde?

These dear friends are my most “convincing proof for the faith.”

YIMC Book Club Vote — Down to the Wire!

Posted by Webster
There are less than twelve hours left in our vote for the next YIM Catholic Book Club book, and it’s a two-horse race, and it’s nose to nose in the stretch. Make your vote count, citizens of YIMC World! Will it be Hillaire Belloc’s The Great Heresies or C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity?

It may help to know who the jockeys are: our own Frank Weathers nominated The Great Heresies and our favorite Chicagoan, Warren Jewell, put up Mere Christianity. Just so you know who you’re betting on.

So—if you haven’t voted yet—and want to make a difference, move your eyes right and your fingers to the mouse. Point. Click. Vote.

And—if you’ve voted already—you’re going to have to get friends with other computers to help stuff the ballot box. Remember, one of the jockeys is from . . . Chicago.

Because We Are A Bible-Believing Church

Back on New Year’s Day, as we were making our way through the crowds on the streets of Pasadena, California, trying to get to the vantage point we had staked out for the Tournament of Roses Parade, I was handed several pamphlets and a small booklet by Christians holding such signs as “God Loves You” and “God Will Punish Sinners.”

The pamphlet contained select sayings of Our Lord with pictures. For example, Jesus as the Good Shepherd and Jesus Before Pilate. The small booklet contained the Gospel according to John as well as some commentary. I gladly accepted the materials and warmly thanked the person who gave them to me. I wasn’t going to read them right then, but I figured I would look them over after the parade and the merrymaking subsided.

When we were back in our lodgings and the kids were put to bed, I took out the tract and the booklet and knew right then that I would need to write this post. You see, at the end of the pamphlet and the booklet, I was advised that by simply reading either the pamphlet or John’s Gospel, and saying a prayer to our Lord promising that I believed in Him, I was now saved. In addition I was also exhorted to do the following:

Read the Bible every day and join a Bible believing church.

Keeping in mind my erstwhile fencing partner’s remarks yesterday, let me say that a spirit of competitiveness is not what I intend to convey by this post. Instead, I am writing this post in the spirit of a command given by our first Pope, St. Peter:

Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame. (1 Peter 3:15-16)

I’m all for handing out tracts and pamphlets to people on the Christian faith at parades and concerts. Because, as Webster states in his post this morning, you never know how long it will take a seed to germinate once it’s planted. As such, I’m all for sending people to a “Bible believing” church, especially when we’re talking about the original Bible-believing Church. The Church that believed in the Bible so much that it carefully and methodically compiled the Canon of scriptures that all Christian denominations use to this day. Yes, I mean the Roman Catholic Church.

That Church is a Gospel-believing Church too, and was so long before there was a New Testament written down anywhere. That’s because there was no definitive New Testament to be read until 405 AD. Surprised? Surely you realize that when Our Lord said “believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:34) he wasn’t exhorting us to run to the nearest Barnes & Nobles to pick up a copy of His latest book. Our Lord never left any written word behind because he was too busy saving the world on a tight time schedule.

It turns out that there was a lot of discussion and debate about which books would be included in the Canon of the New Testament, just as there was with the Old Testament. And of course, in the case of the New Testament, the books had to be written. So what were all these early Christians doing when they were believing in the Gospel? Looks like they were repenting, being baptized, and holding “fast to traditions” as St. Paul instructed us to do (2Thessalonians 2:15).

After reading the pamplets, I read my Bible (the LOTH and the Daily Readings) and went to Mass at the nearest Catholic Church I could find. I invite you to do the same.

Semper Fidelis.

Thanks to Anu Garg . . . Not

Posted by Frank
One of the earliest posts I did upon coming aboard the good ship YIM Catholic was entitled Because of Half-Baked Thoughts Like This. I had a little fun unraveling the phrase amour propre and crossing wits with Anu Garg of A Word A Day renown. Yesterday (1/11/2010) the word of the day was sacerdotal, which means of or relating to priests or priestly duties. But the funny thing is the introduction to the word. Anu says, and I quote:

The word religion derives from Latin ligare (to tie or to bind, as in “ligament”), but it best serves as a tool to divide people. My religion is better than yours. My god true, yours false. What, we have the same religion? No problem, my sect is better than yours.

Gee, Anu, how do you really feel? For a second there, I thought you were going to provide us with the etymology of the word religion, you know like you usually do. Instead, you got on your soap-box and slipped in a little sermon on the “problems” of religion! And there wasn’t one, single, redeeming (pun intended) quality of religion you could think of? Golly, I hoped you were more open-minded than that.

Re-reading Anu’s little 35-word sermon, it appears that the problem isn’t religion, in my humble opinion anyway, but fallen human nature instead. Maybe Anu is grumbling about people competing amongst each other to the point of silliness. You know, my dog is better than your dog. My car, house, job, etc., is better than your car, house, job. You get the picture, right Anu?

Fresh off his sermon on the evils of religion, he then hands all of his adoring fans a book selection to consider—a “thought provoking” book, he swoons, entitled 50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God by Guy Harrison, and a link to same. I’m actually surprised they gave the deity a capital G in the title. Thank God for good editors!

But I will have to decline the invitation because, like Webster’s, my bed stand is getting loaded down with really good stuff to read already, and there is no room on it for the musings of a seeker (dodger?) named Guy. That’s also because we still have one chapter left on Chesterton’s Orthodoxy and one heck of a horse race going on between Hellaire Belloc and C.S. Lewis (see sidebar), who are competing (sorry Anu!) for votes to win the prize as the YIM Catholic Book Club’s next reading selection.

You may want to check up on Anu over at A.Word.A.Day this week. Because this week’s theme is religious words, you just might have as much fun as I am with his selections. Sheeeeeesh!

Because of the Preparation

Posted by Webster
My preparation for the Catholic Church took 56 years, Frank’s something more than 40 years. I think that’s what people appreciate about converts. Like good Boy Scouts, we were ready. I thought of this today, as it was my day to serve on the altar and I had the privilege of watching Father Barnes prepare for Mass.

Father is the friendliest of priests, and if you start a conversation with him before Mass, he will not ignore you. But he will bring the conversation to a close as efficiently as possible. This is his time for preparation, and he does it silently. I do not know if every priest approaches the moment of the Mass the same way, but during the eight to ten minutes before the seven o’clock bells ring over St. Mary’s, the sacristy is, true to its derivation, a sacred or holy space.

It’s a joy for me to be there waiting one day a week when Father enters the sacristy, my duties done: I have already set the missal on the altar and prepared the chalice, the gifts, the ewer for washing the priest’s hands. I have lit the candles and turned on the overhead lights in the nave. Oh, and the sound system, I always need to remember to turn on the sound system.

But when Father Barnes arrives, the Tuesday lector, Bill Foley, and I stand still with hands folded and wait as Father vests, with a prayer for each article of priestly clothing. (Or so it seems, his prayers, if any, are silent.) Then a few minutes before the crucifix, where he reviews again the readings and maybe, just maybe, takes a final peek at his Blackberry. Then a final silent minute contemplating the crucifix, until the bells ring and we process into the sanctuary.

These moments of preparation are so important in all aspects of the religious life, aren’t they? Which is why I appreciate having the opportunity to observe Father Barnes at work one day a week. And which is why my many years in the wilderness before being received into the Church are so important to me. I sometimes envy those who were born to the Church, often regret the 56 years I “missed,” not being a Catholic.

But then I see how cradle Catholics envy me! And I remember that the readiness is all, as Hamlet said before dying—and so it is before Mass, or anytime we go before the Lord.


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