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Confession Ink Slingers Last Rites/Anointing of the Sick Liturgical Year Maurisa Purgatory Sacraments

Remember Your Death

In the span of one month this past winter, three people I care very much about lost their fathers unexpectedly. The degree to which each was prepared for death varied greatly. Being spiritually prepared for our own or for a loved one’s death is not something we discuss frequently, if at all, and yet it is one of the most important things we can do. In fact, being properly prepared for death can make all the difference when it comes to the Four Last Things—Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell.

What can you do to prepare your own soul for death?

  • Remain in a state of grace by avoiding mortal sin, making use of frequent confession, and frequent, worthy reception of the Eucharist.
  • Pray for a holy death, asking for the intercession of Saint Joseph the patron of a happy death and of the Blessed Mother who we invoke with every Hail Mary—“pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.”
  • Commit to the Nine First Fridays Devotion, availing oneself of confession if needed for worthy reception of communion, attending Mass nine first Fridays in a row and receiving Holy Communion. One of the promises of fulfilling this commitment is the grace of final penitence so that one dies in a state of grace.
  • To the extent that you are able, draw close to your priest and discuss what you desire in the way of a “prepared death.”
  • Make clear funeral plans and plans for Masses to be said after your death. Make sure your family knows in detail your wishes.

What can you do to prepare loved ones for death?

  • Discuss all of the above with your loved ones, especially if they are faithfully practicing Catholics. Get a clear idea of their desires and needs when it comes to preparing for death.
  • Pray fervently for the conversion of your loved ones who are outside the faith. You can even offer your Nine First Fridays on their behalf.
  • Get a priest to them as soon as possible if death is immanent or even a possibility. This is a real responsibility. Your loved one’s soul is at stake and as much as we hope they have prepared themselves for the inevitability, nothing can replace what a priest can do for a soul near death.

What should you do after the fact?

  • First of all you should assume nothing—neither canonize nor condemn your loved one.
  • Have Masses said for them.
  • Enroll them in the Seraphic Mass Association or a similar society who offers frequent or perpetual masses for the dead. Have a Traditional Requiem Mass said, if possible.
  • Continue to pray for the soul of your loved one. Our Lady gave the following prayer to the Fatima children. She promised it would be particularly efficacious for the poor souls in Purgatory.

O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to heaven, especially those in the most need of Thy mercy.”

This month remember your death. Let us give appropriate time, thought, and prayer focused upon our own mortality and state of our souls. May we meet our death in a state of preparation and grace.


Originally, I had written this post for this past Lent and then the world turned completely upside down. It just didn’t seem to be a truly appropriate time to publish it, especially since many of us were completely deprived of the sacraments and the recommendations I gave in this post are pretty reliant on access to the sacraments. I know there are still many who have limited access to confession and getting a priest into a hospital remains a real obstacle, but much of the information provided is so very important. You may need to forcefully advocate for your loved one with the hospital, your priest, or even the diocese to get what is needed. Just remember, your loved one’s soul may very much depend upon it.

Resources:

5 Things Catholics Should Know About First Fridays

What is the Apostolic Pardon?

Seraphic Mass Association

Memento Mori Devotional

A Prayer for a Holy Death

What Every Catholic Needs to Know About the Four Last Things

On Commendation of the Soul and Expiration

God’s Final Act of Mercy: A Reminder to Remember the Faithful Departed This November

Categories
Anni Bible Catechism Current Events Discipleship Fruits of the Holy Spirit Ink Slingers Prayer Spiritual Growth

Tread Softly, Pray Fiercely

Tread Softly Pray Fiercely

The past several months of this year have been exceptionally hard to watch, as friends and family seem to quickly and easily tear each other apart. Assassinations of character, name-calling, ad hominum attacks, and vitriol seem to be spewed with nary a thought of a backward glance. All across social media, the push to speak first, think after seems to be prevalent, and the share buttons seem to promote use of simply sharing what best suits our own narrative, rather than considering the point of view of friends who may not hold that same viewpoint.

We all seem to be in a rush to drown out the other person, without taking the time to not just hear the words of the other person, but to slow down and identify the true intent behind that person’s beliefs. Social media, of late, is simply a tool being used to air grievances, ills, snarkiness, and ugliness.

There used to be an unspoken social norm that said, whenever engaging in public discourse with someone outside your home, “Never discuss money, politics, sex, or religion.” Yet, in today’s world, it seems as though we have all waded into a hotbed of discussion, with no preparation in understanding the best way forward in a debate is to listen to the opponent’s argument – both spoken, and unspoken.

And, our relationships are suffering because of our inability to listen… to truly hear each other.

Left and right we are witnessing our friends and family on social media tout their message, while lambasting those who do not agree.

This lack of voice has left many feeling downtrodden, depressed, and silenced.

This is precisely where the devil wants us.

Matthew 7:19-20 reminds us, “Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So by their fruits you will know them.”

The uncomfortable question to ask ourselves is not where we stand on any given issue; rather, the question to ask is are our actions – spoken and unspoken, in real life or on social media – bearing good fruit?

What are these fruits? The list of bad fruit, or “works of the flesh,” is found in Galatians 5:19-21 and include, “… hatreds… jealously… outbursts of fury… dissensions, factions..” and more.

Yet, the good fruits, or the fruit of the Holy Spirit, are, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

There is a time and a place to correct someone for their sins. After all, we are given the task as Catholics to perform Spiritual Works of Mercy, in addition to the Corporal Works of Mercy, which include admonishing sinners and instructing the ignorant.

However, many of us have forgotten the other Catholic Spiritual Works of Mercy: Bear patiently those who wrong us, forgive offences, and comfort the afflicted.

In an effort to prove our way is the best and most correct, we find ourselves speaking over, and forgetting the patience, the forgiveness, and the comfort to which we are called to share.

As faithful Christians, we are reminded blatantly in 1 Corinthians 13:1, “If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.”

Going back to the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and the Spiritual Works of Mercy, the guidance in 1 Corinthians is sound, but is also sometimes a hard pill to swallow.

How do we extend love to others, when we are interested in getting our own viewpoint heard, or even convince others of our approach to situations?

Quite simply:

We tread softly, gently and silently.

We assess the situation.

We determine which battle we want to choose to fight and champion.

We remember the adage that God gave us one mouth to speak, and two ears to listen, and we employ that saying as we approach the situation.

We employ the cardinal virtue of prudence, which challenges us to, “discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it…” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1806).

We recognize the bad fruit trying to sway our country toward further division, hatred, and violence. Satan operates under darkness, and in secrecy, to create division.

We call out the prince of darkness, not by casting blame at each other and hurling accusations at them, but by recognizing his sleight of hand in the strife.

We call to mind one of the last words of Christ, as He hung on the Cross, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

Finally, we pray… fiercely.

We ask God for prudence, but we also ask Him for the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and for the ability to speak less and listen more.

We ask God for both the willingness to hear the spoken word of our opponent, and the grace to see beyond the spoken word to understand the unspoken, and perhaps even subconscious, motivation behind the words.

We pray, not just for the other person, but for humility to acknowledge when our own viewpoint may be both difficult to hear, and also at times, completely incorrect.

Simply put, as we continue to wade the waters of instant gratification on social media, and swim these waters of division in this world, we tread softly, but pray fiercely.

– AnnAliese Harry

We listen to the words spoken but listen harder to the underlying motivations and experiences of the other person.

We speak firmly, but with patience.

We love each other.

We pray unceasingly (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

As we continue to move forward, let each of us visit, and re-visit, the uncomfortable question at hand – are our actions, both in real life and on social media, bearing good fruit?

Are we living with our collective and individual sight set on our eternal home?

Are we ready to squirm a little by taking accountability of our own actions, in an effort to live in a manner which is ultimately pleasing to God?

Are we being agents of love?

Categories
Doctrine Ink Slingers Mary Maurisa

Mea Culpa: Correcting Misunderstood Mariology

Mea Culpa Correcting Misunderstood Mariology Pinterest

This past December I wrote a reflection on  the Nativity using a painting I’d fallen in love with.  The aspect of the painting I so loved was that the Blessed Mother was depicted in a collapsed pose, appearing to be completely spent after laboring and giving birth to Christ.  She appeared as any mother would—exhausted and relieved after going through great suffering in delivering a child. 

As a convert, I mentioned my appreciation for this depiction because I had always found Mary and Mariology so very difficult to swallow. In this particular post I also gave lip service to the pious devotion in the belief Mary did not labor in pain. To me it seemed a sweet thought, but I needed to be able to identify with Mary and so I waved off the idea that she was preserved from arduous labor and instead bore Christ just as any woman would bear a child.  Fortunately, my mistaken idea was completely dismantled after listening to a Podcast this past Lent. Mea culpa.

[Mary] indeed conceived without shame, gave birth without pain, and went hence without corruption, according to the word of the angel, or rather (the word) of God through the angel, so that she should be proved to be full, not merely half filled, with grace and (so that) God her Son should faithfully fulfill the ancient commandment that he had formerly given, namely, to treat one’s father and mother with honor.

—Pope Alexander III

Corrected

Father Dave Nix, known as Padre Peregrino, featured noted convert and die-hard Thomist, Dr. Taylor Marshall on his recent Podcast series “Glad Trad”.  During the interview one of the topics discussed was traditional Mariology; covering topics from the Immaculate Conception to Mary’s perpetual virginity. Drawing on scripture, Church Fathers, Popes, and Councils, Father Nix and Dr. Marshall convincingly laid out the argument that Mary was spared from experiencing labor pains. Mea culpa.

Why this makes sense

Of course this all makes sense to me now. First of all, the Marian dogma of the Immaculate Conception dictates Mary was accorded the singular Grace of being conceived without the stain of Original Sin. Because of this gift, she would have been spared the punishment of Eve—an aspect of which was to bear children in great pain and suffering.

“Before she was in labor, she gave birth;

before her pain came upon her

she was delivered of a son.

Who has heard such a thing?

Who has seen such things?”

—Isaiah 66:7-8

Secondly, to bear a child in the conventional sense would have marred her perpetual virginity. It is Catholic dogma that the Blessed Mother’s virginity was left completely intact before, during, and after bearing Christ. I believed this but had not honestly connected the dots between the nature of Christ’s birth and Mary’s perpetual virginity.  In my mind, I justified my attempt at identifying with Mary as a mother by believing her perpetual virginity was more spiritual than physical. How very wrong I was. My mistaken thinking was indicative of a serious error we moderns are prone to making in searching for natural explanations for supernatural events. Mea maxima culpa.

If one takes a good look at Catholicism, most every aspect of our Theology has spiritual and material components—just as we are made up of spiritual and material components. Take for example the sacraments.  Each has a physical, material, natural sign integral to it which conveys something of the supernatural in the way of grace: water for baptism, verbal confession and absolution for penance, bread and wine for the Eucharist, holy oils for confirmation and anointing of the sick, laying on of hands for Holy Orders, the exchanging of vows and consummation for marriage.  

Consider further the Holy Eucharist and the doctrine of the Real Presence. Not only is Christ supernaturally, spiritually present when we receive him. He is truly physically present in His body and His blood when we receive Him. It becomes increasingly clear how important the connection between natural realities and supernatural realities truly are to our faith. Of course Mary’s virginity must be both natural and supernatural.  Following this truth to a natural conclusion; Mary could not have born Christ like all other women in suffering and pain.  Church Father’s describe His birth much like light passing through glass. His birth was painless, peaceful, and miraculous.

Dear Sistas, I ask pardon for my mistaken thinking; my desire to make Mary into my own image as a mother who bore her child arduously. I hope I have remedied my error and brought clarity to an interesting and uniquely Catholic teaching.

As you’ve grown in understanding of the faith have you ever discovered a mistaken belief? Tell us about it and how you came to a new and corrected understanding of Church teaching in the comments.

Resources:

http://padreperegrino.org/2019/03/gt1/

https://taylormarshall.com/2010/12/marys-painless-delivery-of-christ.html

https://catholicexchange.com/did-mary-experience-labor-pains

https://www.catholic.com/magazine/online-edition/was-mary-free-from-labor-pain

Categories
Doctrine Faith Formation Guest Posts Liturgical Year Parenting Prayer Resources Vocations

Our Children are Leaving the Church. Here’s What We Can Do About It

In 1996, I graduated from 12 years of Catholic education.

I went to Mass with my classmates. We prayed together on retreats. We sat in theology class and learned everything we could about the Catholic faith and its history.

My graduating class had 210 people in it.

Less than 25% of us are still practicing the faith.

While it would be comforting to view my experience as a statistical anomaly, the truth is that it is not. I see the same attrition rate when I survey the Catholic high school students I used to work with. There are five households on my street headed by adults with Catholic backgrounds. Only one of them – mine – still practices the faith.

It’s a pretty sobering reality, even more so when we take a look at independent research studies on kids in the faith. In August of 2016, Dr. Mark Gray released the results of a study on millennials age 15-25 who were no longer practicing Catholics. He and his colleagues at Georgetown’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate discovered the following:

  • The average age at which respondents left the Church was 13
  • 63% of those interviewed reported leaving the Church between the ages of 10 and 17
  • 20% of those interviewed reported leaving the Church prior to the age of 10

The findings certainly line up with my own experience and beg the question: why are young people walking away? Not only that, why are they walking away at an age most people would assume to be a safe zone for catechesis?

Don’t most Catholic children live in Catholic homes with Catholic parents? Shouldn’t that be enough?

As Dr. Gray discovered, the answer is a resounding no. Young people are naturally hungry for the Truth our Church offers. But for a variety of reasons (our secular culture notwithstanding), our kids aren’t getting fed the way they should. As Gray delved more deeply into the roots of his statistical analysis, he learned a number of things about the youth involved in his study.

  • Many of the respondents felt Catholicism lacked personal connection. They believed Church teachings had no relevance to their personal lives
  • Some found Church teachings to be fantastical and fairytale-like in nature. Their questions about faith weren’t answered sufficiently; therefore, the whole thing was a lie
  • Still others could not reconcile the disconnect between Church teaching and social behaviors. Why should they abide by artificial rules generally ignored by society at large?

Add to this the reality that our STEM-driven culture boasts a number of atheist and agnostic stars and you have a recipe for disaster. No matter how deeply we strive to provide a solid background in Catechesis for our children, our kids face a quasi-intellectual, secular humanist assault.

While to some extent our children’s faith journeys are up to them and their own relationship with God and the Church, we can do a great deal to give them a leg up against the onslaught of secular thought:

Liturgical Living

By grounding your family’s faith in the liturgical year, your children will begin to see the relevance of Church teaching beyond the parish doors. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or even Pinterest-perfect. Simple activities are more than enough.

Discussion

If we really want our kids to remain strong in their faith, one of the best things we can do for them is to show them the root of everything we believe. Think of it this way: are you Catholic because your parents were or you went through Catholic education? Or are you Catholic because you had questions and you sought out the truth?

Catholicism has a rich and beautiful tradition of rational, intellectual thought. Delve into the Catechism and the work of Saints and Church theologians with your children. Help them see where all of it comes from.

Resources

There are a number of catechetical resources available for use in Catholic homes. From the Catechism of the Seven Sacraments to the Friendly Defenders Flashcard set, there are solid, engaging books and activities we can use to help our kids learn more about the faith.

Personally, I am partial to a series I started for my own children called To Hear His Voice: A Mass Journal for Catholic Kids. Featuring the full text of the Sunday readings (USCCB translation), discussion questions, thoughtful meditations, weekly examen pages, and reflection space, To Hear His Voice helps children internalize the message of the Gospel, see its relevance in their own lives, and fall in love with the Eucharistic and their Catholic faith.

While it may seem our battle of saint-raising is an increasingly uphill fight, we can rest in the knowledge victory is secured. Our job is to follow in Joan of Arc’s footsteps for our children.

Let us pray for one another as we lift the banner high, that our children may see it through the flames.

Ginny Kochis is a Catholic wife and homeschooling mom of three differently-wired children. She believes grace grows in the soil of raising the quirky and exceptional and believes God equips those women He has called to that vocation. Connect with Ginny at Not So Formulaic.

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8th Commandment Confession Faith Formation Ink Slingers Martina Sacraments Ten Commandments

The Art of Keeping it Classy Online

 

The world really showed what it wants to be when news outlets recently made the decision to run a partial story. What happened next could have happened to you, your child, your spouse, or another loved one.

How we behave in real life and how we behave online ought to be similar. Let me say that again.

How we behave in real life and how we behave online ought to be similar.

The disconnect between who we are in real life and who we become online (as a society) has become so polarizing in and of itself. I frequently head out into my local community to do mundane stuff, like pick up groceries, go shopping, go to church, meet with friends, order food, etc. I have yet to run into someone in my everyday who behaves like some a lot of the folks I see commenting online. The temptation to stick your oar in is great. When Catholic Sistas began, many of the writers – myself included – had many years of online experience under our belts going in. We had seen quite a bit and witnessed the underbelly of many online forums. Sometimes under the guise of “debate” the discussions quickly devolved into ad hominem attacks. While there are plenty of opportunities to witness for the Catholic Faith, we had to also recognize that the comboxes (slang for comments on blogs/websites) could quickly spiral into occasions of sin, if not outright breeding grounds for dissent. We collectively determined that we would not babysit the comboxes, but instead would put in place a standard for leaving comments, rooted in Christian charity. So, how can we carry ourselves online in these polarizing times in a way that upholds what we believe as Catholics? Here are some quick tips of mine that I’ve developed over the years, going back to 1994 when I was the teenager online.

HOW TO KEEP IT CLASSY

  1. If you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, then don’t say it to them online. Going back to 2007, I witnessed a once well-respected online community devolve into what could only be described as a public sewer. Under the guise of being called a Debate Team, its original purpose was to engage in constructive conversation involving some hotly debated topics. It started out fine, but eventually became a cesspool that original members began to back out of. The writing was on the wall and people’s true colors came out. But, why had it become such a toxic environment? Was it due to lax rules? Lax leadership? Members constantly pushing the boundaries, stretching the rules in ways that led to the implosion of the group? Or was it simply an indicator that if left unchecked, people would turn to a mob mentality?
  2. Avoid posting on unhappy or angry impulse. Take a step back, wait and pray. Posts/comments should come from joyful experience, sincere curiosity, thoughtful reasoning, tender concern, and lessons learned. In listening to and receiving the thoughts of others, PAUSE before posting/commenting in haste or out of emotion.
  3. You are responsible for your words. Allow them to reflect a spirit of charity, understanding and good will. 
  4. Give special care when writing about your spouse and the Sacrament of Marriage. By matrimony, therefore, the souls of the contracting parties are joined and knit together more directly and more intimately than are their bodies…and from this union of souls by God’s decree, a sacred and inviolable bond arises. Casti Connubii #7. When an issue treads into the sacred realm of marriage, be deferential to different marital styles, always assuming the best of our spouses. Prudential decisions are best left between spouses. 
  5. Respect the differences of personalities and family styles. Intend charity when reading, do not assume offense is intended.
  6. Avoid lying, in all senses of the word. The Church warns us against the danger of lying: through rash judgement (who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor), detraction (who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another’s faults and failings to persons who did not know them), and calumny (who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them).

WAIT! I’ve done all these things before. Now what?

It’s not ok, but…it’s something most of us grapple with. We’ve all slipped and made mistakes. Seek out forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and then with those whom you’ve harmed by giving them your apologies and making restitution where possible. You can also read up on the damaging effects of excuses on how to craft an authentic apology.

Lastly, I leave you with this story that makes a rather profound statement of the effects of gossip and its pernicious nature. It is the story of a most unusual penance St. Philip Neri assigned to a woman for her sin of spreading gossip.

The 16th century saint instructed her to take a feather pillow to the top of the church bell-tower, rip it open, and scatter the feathers to the four winds. This probably was not the kind of penance this woman, or any of us, would have been used to. But the penance didn’t end there. Philip Neri gave her a second, and more, difficult task. He told her to come down from the bell-tower and collect all the feathers that had been dispersed throughout the town. The poor woman, of course, couldn’t do it – and that was the point Philip Neri was trying to make in order to underscore the destructive nature of gossip. When we detract from others in our speech, our malicious words are scattered abroad, and cannot be gathered back. They continue to spread dishonour and division in people’s minds days, months, and even years after we have spoken them, as they pass from one tale-bearer to the next.