Faith through the generations

A nice story of how generous giving was remembered more than 60 years later and a connection of faith was extended through the veil of time.

When Father Timothy Naples sent the tabernacle from St. Theresa Church in Orleans to be refurbished, he was surprised to learn a list of names had been tucked inside its lining. He thought they were the names of people who had given the tabernacle to the church in 1952.

They weren’t; he had come upon a mystery.

Even parishioners did not recognize the names.

I’m going to guess that this happens more often in Europe and covering a longer span of time.

Catholic astronauts discuss taking their faith to space

Several Catholic NASA astronauts discuss how they practiced their faith in relation to going into space. From the basic of going to confession before the flight to preparing for six months without Mass to how seeing the universe from that perch affected their perspective, it’s an interesting look into what it takes.

Under a special arrangement with the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and with the help of Father James H. Kuczynski, pastor of Mary Queen Catholic Church in Friendswood, Texas, Hopkins’ parish, the rookie astronaut carried a pyx with six consecrated hosts broken into four pieces. It was enough so that he could take Communion once a week for the 24 weeks he was aboard the ISS.

On Chocolate Crosses and Irreverence

Melanie writes today over at Aleteia on chocolate crosses and the criticism that they are irreverent or even blasphemous. Except, we have a long tradition in the Church of consuming food shipped like crosses, lambs, the Eucharist, even hammer and nails and crown of thorns.

Our faith is incarnational. Our God makes himself manifest. He comes to us under the appearance of bread and wine and demands that we gnaw on his flesh, drink his blood. These little ones are too young to partake in the Eucharistic feast, but they can begin to understand the symbolism remotely with these lesser feasts of spiced bread and chocolate crosses. And a careful mother can sneak in a little catechism lesson while they munch on their goodies.

Woohoo! We’re Number 1 …. Oh, Least Religious

The latest Pew Research poll shows Massachusetts ties for last among the states for religiosity. Only 23% say they attend worship services weekly, which is better than the Archdiocese of Boston in which 13% of Catholics attend Mass on any given Sunday. We’re also dead last in the percentage of people who believe in God with absolute certainty.

Last year, Vermont was the least religious, but this year two other New England states, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, beat it out, while Maine rounded out the top four. Connecticut was next, but Rhode Island, the fifth New England state, came in near the middle of the pack. I wonder what’s different there.

I joked with Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington, Vermont, that the only thing that changed on the religious landscape in Vermont since the last poll was his tenure. Could that be why they’re creeping back from the edge?

Lessons from a Home Invasion

Under the Gun: New life after a home invasion:

“That moment of looking back over my life was so important that I will probably spend the rest of my life unpacking it. I stared at the bracelet of the Virgin Mary that I wear every day. The fear in my body quietly dissipated, replaced with a resignation. I came to terms with the idea that my life might end on the floor of my kitchen. I remember that I did not ask God to save me, but I did ask for a quick and painless death.”

When the author had a burglar enter her home and demanded money at gunpoint, she received a moment of pure clarity. God willing, few of us will ever undergo such a trial, but maybe we can learn from her example and take the lessons from it.

The difference one priest can make

The difference one priest can make:

“Over the past eight years, by God’s grace, Father Angel’s efforts have completely reversed the fortunes of the struggling parish community. In one church, Mass attendance exploded from 25 people to 200. Another saw its numbers grow from 40 to 250. In all the churches, weekend Masses became standing room only affairs, with people coming to church even when they knew that might mean standing outside in the hot Georgia sun.”

This Colombian native in a missionary diocese in Georgia had a simple formula for turning his parish and missions around. First, he enabled parishioners’ sense of ownership and pride in their churches by initiating a top-to-bottom cleaning. Then he got people to stop treating the sacraments like a one-time purchase by offering to baptize any child, no questions asked, if the parents attended Mass every week for three months prior and then required parents of religious education children to come to “Ask Father” sessions in the church while the children were win class. He uses the time to catechize parents.

I’m sure there are other steps he’s taken that have contributed to this success, but these are quite remarkable because they strike at the heart of the problem: a lack of a sense of belonging and a lack of doing what a Catholic does.

Photo: Courtesy photo via OSV

What is the Point of the Mass?

So many battles over the Catholic faith surrounding Mass, including how we celebrate Mass, who should go to Mass, what should happen at Mass, come about because we forget the purpose of Mass.

The Mass isn’t about You.

People say, “I don’t go to Mass because I don’t get anything out of it.” You’re not supposed to “get” something out of it. That’s not its primary purpose.

People say they don’t get anything out of Mass because they don’t like the homily or the music or the way the priest celebrates the Mass. Those are all nice things, but they’re not the primary purpose.

People say, “I don’t think children should be in the Mass.” They should stay at home or be sent to a nursery or cry room or special Liturgy of the Word dumbed down for them so that everyone else can hear every word and enter deeply into a contemplative state. Sorry, you’re still missing the point. You don’t go to Mass so that you can hear every word and enter a state of quiet bliss.

Here is what everyone forgets. Mass is about you worshipping God. That you get something out of it is a grace. You may receive the Eucharist (but not necessarily!). You may receive edification. You may get a nice emotional uplift. But those are incidentals, not essentials.

If you go to a Mass and the kids are crazy and you spend the whole time containing them and don’t hear a word of the homily or the readings or the Eucharistic Prayer, you can still have worshipped God.

If you go to Mass and the homily is some feel-good pabulum, you can still have worshipped God. If the opening hymn was “Gather Us In” and the closing hymn was “Anthem,” you can still have worshipped God.

The reason we go to Mass is to give God what is His due from us, our love and adoration, our sacrifice of our praise and of our will. More formally, from the Baltimore Catechism:

The purposes for which the Mass is offered are: first, to adore God as our Creator and Lord; second, to thank God for His many favors; third, to ask God to bestow His blessings on all men; fourth, to satisfy the justice of God for the sins committed against Him.

None of those depends on you being able to concentrate fully and to meditate deeply. None of them depends on you receiving a full measure of erudition from the homily.

Now, to be sure, we should do our best to be reverent, attentive, and devout, but that’s not the purpose of the Mass. Like so much else in our crazy world, we have mixed up what’s important in all this.

The Mass isn’t about me. It’s about God.

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