Categories
Allison Welch Feast Days Ink Slingers Mary Saints

Happy Feast of the Assumption!

When I taught high school theology, it was one of many vocabulary words that students got confused: Assumption, Ascension, Annunciation. To help them remember, I offered a type of mnemonic device.  

Which vocabulary word is used to describe when Jesus bodily rises to heaven and which word refers to Mary’s rising? The word with an “m” in it is the word referring to Mary’s rising, I offered. “I thought you said all of the Mysteries of the Rosary were about Jesus…?” one astute student said, catching me in an apparent contradiction about the 4th Glorious Mystery of the Rosary, the Assumption of Mary.  

Ah, but even the Assumption of Mary is ultimately about Jesus, I suggested. Everything about Mary points us to Jesus; she magnifies the Lord. While Jesus ascended into heaven by his own power, Mary was assumed, not by any power of her own, but by her son’s. Glorious mysteries about the power of God indeed! 

As the mother of two sons, it gives me great solace to know Jesus came back for his mother’s body at the end of her earthly life. After giving birth to her son, through and with her own body, Mary swaddled and nursed his, gently bathing and burping his flesh at the beginning of his earthly life. Again in his death she held and washed her son’s body, none other than the flesh of the only begotten Son of God. Of course Jesus would take care of his mother’s body at the end of her earthly life, after she had dedicated hers to caring for him.  You can’t out-give God.  

It’s hard to imagine it–a body ascending into heaven. While the bodily Assumption of Mary is part of our Catholic Tradition (dogmatically defined in 1950), there are Scriptural precedents for it, namely Enoch and Elijah in the Old Testament. And of course, the Ascension of Jesus in the New Testament. Both Scripture and Tradition–and the Ascension of Jesus and the Assumption of Mary–remind us today of our most ancient creed as the Apostles understood it:  “I believe in the resurrection of the body.” 

The resurrected Jesus was not a ghost, a disembodied spirit. Scripture tells us Thomas touched Jesus’ side and that Jesus ate with the disciples.  Some of the earliest heresies involved the denial of the physical world, dismissing it as evil. “Right teaching” tells us that God entered into his creation by putting on flesh

Two thousand years ago Jesus, began the process of sanctifying and redeeming the created world, pouring out his blood to reverse The Fall of humanity. He did this out of love for us so we might not know eternal death, but live with Him as bride forever. We were created for the Divine life, and while separated from this by sin, we are destined for eternal communion with God incarnate. (Of course we must confirm this destiny, in the flesh, by surrendering our our will and intellect to the will of God to be animated by His eternal Spirit.)

In the age of the Walking Dead, many of my students had a hard time accepting as good the resurrection of the body. Their cultural understanding of the body was that it is more of a cruel cage that contains and restricts the soul and that upon death, we would be freed once and for all from its confines. This is not Catholic teaching. St. Theresa of Avila wrote: “The spirit is not in the body, the body is in the spirit.”  While evil can destroy the soul (Mt 10:28), it is the spirit that gives life to the body and to the soul.    

Because of sin we are mortal, but that is not God’s original or redemptive plan for us. Thanks be to God, we joyfully await the resurrection of the body.  This is the witness of the martyrs, who willingly and generously gave of their flesh in the way of Christ. 

Mary was such a beautiful example of another kind of martyrdom, a “white martyrdom,” that dare I say motherhood itself, done well, models for humanity.  In fact Mary is a perfect example of how the spirit is intended to animate us, body and soul.  “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior” (Luke 1:46-47).  This is Mary’s yes to the will of God. Thanks to her Immaculate Conception, she is so full of grace that she gives birth to the “wholly other.” While this may fill us with wonder and hope, the bodily Assumption of Mary should not surprise us for she is the first of His many disciples.

In Catholic theological terms we are “bipartite”–composite beings made of body and soul. It is ironic that in our earthly life, we spend so much time preoccupied by the body and its needs, often disregarding the needs of the soul. Then in death, we quickly dismiss the body and cling to the idea of an eternal soul. May God, in the person of Jesus and with the help of the Holy Spirit, come to our aid. May our spiritual Mother, Mary, pray for us.

On this Feast of the Assumption, let us do as our Church compels us: let us feed and nourish our body and soul with the Bread of Angels in the Holy Eucharist. Let us joyfully surrender to the wisdom that calls us into Communion with God and his Church, fully embracing in humility both: the human and the divine, united as one. 

I’ll see you this Thursday at the intersection of heaven and earth!

Categories
Amy M. Ink Slingers

Lifting Weights – Smoothing our Broken

Lifting Weights

           Our oldest son is 15.  Last year, he began lifting weights and working out before school in addition to his soccer practices.  Looking at him, he seemed to be in top physical shape.  However, every so often he “tweaked” his knee.  He’d ice it, rest a couple days, and then feel better and move on.  He had x-rays taken; trainers checked him at school, and everyone felt he didn’t have anything torn, just strained.  Then, it started happening more frequently.  We asked about physical therapy, thinking maybe more strength and stretching would help.  By the end of the summer, he had an MRI done that showed what none of us wanted to see.  He had torn his ACL.  He needed surgery.  We discussed his options with his doctor, consulted a couple different surgeons, and went to see another orthopedic doctor to figure out the best course of therapy.  
            He continued physical therapy while waiting for surgery.  To look at him, he was strong, but inside he was broken.  Without staying close to his physical therapy regimen, he would be weaker and weaker.  
            His surgery came.  He walked into the hospital with us.  The surgery was a success, but of course he seemed more broken afterward than beforehand.  He was immobilized for a few days.  Then, he had to walk for weeks in a full leg brace.  After that, he had to relearn to walk, then to run, jump, move.  Lifting Weights Post Op
            In John’s gospel last week, we heard Peter saying to Jesus, “Where would we go?” when asked if the disciples were leaving Jesus along with others who found the teaching of the Eucharistic too hard to comprehend and live.  Peter knew that Jesus was the answer and that staying close to Him was the only way to stay strong.
            Peter was human, however.  Like all of us, he strayed from Jesus.  He took his eyes off Jesus as he attempted to walk on water and immediately sunk.  He denied Jesus the night of the Last Supper as soon as Jesus wasn’t at his side.  He hid in fear after Jesus’ death.  
            But then we see him emerge as a strong, outspoken follower of Jesus once again, bringing thousands upon thousands to believe and be baptized in the risen Jesus.  What changed?  Peter came back to Jesus.  He was filled with the Holy Spirit.  He learned that his strength only came from and in Jesus.  
            That dream that seemed dead with the torn ACL?  That relationship that we thought was forever but that crumbled?  God knows the end of the story.  God’s plan is for good and not evil, for happiness and not heartbreak.  He knows the whole picture, while many times we have trouble seeing past the tears.
            Lifting Weights Return to PlayOur son’s progress has been slow.  He’s now seven months out from surgery.  He still has deficiencies in strength in some places.  However, he has learned so much about himself, his will to persevere, and his faith as he has gone through this process of breaking and recovering.  He returned to the game he loves this past weekend.  The recovery continues.  Much like our faith, it is a lifelong process.  We can’t stop moving closer to God, working to stay close to Him, living for and in and with Him.
            God takes our broken; the sharp edges that we want to hide or use as a defense and fills them in.  He can take those crushed dreams and hurt places and molds them into something more beautiful than we ever imagined.  When God does the filling, we come out of the broken places stronger than we started.  We just need to stay close to Him and find our strength in Him, only in Him.

 

Categories
Ink Slingers Karen

August: The Month of the Blessed Sacrament

Last month, we discussed the July devotion to the Precious Blood. Today, we explore the August devotion to the Most Blessed Sacrament.

August

We know, as Catholics, that we encounter Jesus whenever we go to Mass and experience the Consecration. When wine and bread are transformed into Body and Blood, and we receive Him, we are transformed. It grants a special grace to handle the trials of Christian living.

Consecrated hosts are kept in a sacred container called a ciborum that is housed inside the tabernacle. The tabernacle is what we are to face when we genuflect at Mass. Some parishes have designated times where the the tabernacle is opened and available for prayerful contemplation called Eucharistic Adoration. This is a wonderful exercise for your spiritual muscle. Take a devotional, your Bible, or simply a blank notebook with a pen and sit in quiet contemplation and take notes on what comes to you as you sit and pray. The Blessed Sacrament can teach you plenty.

 

Prayer

HERE is a prayer from EWTN that you can use when visiting the Blessed Sacrament in Adoration:

church-596933_1920Prayer While Visiting the Blessed Sacrament

My Lord Jesus Christ, for the love which You bear to men, You remain night and day in this Sacrament full of compassion and of love, awaiting, calling, and welcoming all who come to visit You. I believe that You are present in the Sacrament of the Altar: I adore You from the abyss of my nothingness, and I thank You for all the graces which You have bestowed upon me and in particular for having given me Yourself in this Sacrament, for having given me your holy Mother Mary for my advocate, and for having called me to visit You in this chapel. I now salute Your most loving Heart: and this for three ends:

  1. In thanksgiving for this great gift;
  2. To make amends to You for all the outrages which You receive in this Sacrament from all Your enemies;
  3. I intend by this visit to adore You in all the places on earth in which You are the least revered and the most abandoned.

My Jesus, I love You with all my heart. I grieve for having so many times offended Your infinite goodness. I promise with Your grace never more to offend You in the future.

Now, miserable and unworthy though I be, I consecrate myself to You without reserve;

I give You my entire will, my affections, my desires, and all that I possess. From now on dispose of me and of all that I have as You please. All that I ask of You and desire is Your holy love, final perseverance, and the perfect accomplishment of Your will. I recommend to You the souls in purgatory; but especially those who had the greatest devotion to the most Blessed Sacrament and to the Blessed Virgin Mary. I also recommend to You all poor sinners.

My dear Saviour, I unite all my affections with the affections of Your most loving Heart; and I offer them, thus united, to Your eternal Father, and beseech Him in Your name to vouchsafe, for Your love, to accept them.

Amen.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Craft

HERE is a wonderful craft you can do with your children to teach them more about the Blessed Sacrament, Adoration, and the tabernacle.

Categories
Faith Formation Ink Slingers Kerri Series You Did It To Me

You Did it to Me: To Bury the Dead

Welcome to the series “You did it to me” where we will be discussing the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy. This will be a twice a month series from March to September 2015. We hope you enjoy!

Bury dead

 

So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown corruptible; it is raised incorruptible. It is sown dishonorable; it is raised glorious. It is sown weak; it is raised powerful. (1 Corinthians 15:42-43)

Think about the basic needs your body has. Food and water are basic needs to survive. We also need shelter and clothing. This is the very basics of what we as human needs. It makes sense that four of the Corporal Works of Mercy all have to do with providing these basic needs to those who lack them. Two others, visiting the sick and visiting the imprisoned, bring relief to a body that is under undue stress of one form or another. The last one seemed a bit out of place to me at first.

How is burial of the dead a corporal work of mercy? How does burial of the dead help the body in any way once the soul has left it? I believe that these questions came to my mind because I take it for granted that we do bury our dead. Essentially, I had just never thought about the why.

So why do we bury our dead? I’ve always taken it for granted that when a loved one dies there would be a funeral and the body would be buried properly. That’s the culture I have grown up in and I imagine most of us have similar expectations.

The basic answer is that we believe in the Resurrection of Christ and His Resurrection brings us hope for the resurrection of our own the body one day. Whenever you proclaim the Nicene Creed you say, “I look forward to the resurrection of the dead.” In the Apostles Creed we declare, “I believe … in the resurrection of the body.” We are an Easter people, we believe in the resurrection of the body and we anticipate it. We must prepare ourselves not just spiritually for final judgement but also corporally for the resurrection of our body.

In contemplating this work of mercy it occurred to me that to bury the dead also fits in with the Theology of the Body that was given to us by Pope St. John Paul the Great. The Catechism tells us, “The bodies of the dead must be treated with respect and charity, in faith and hope of the Resurrection. The burial of the dead is a corporal work of mercy; it honors the children of God, who are temples of the Holy Spirit” (CCC 2300).

Respect for the body. The body as a temple of the Holy Spirit. It all fits perfectly with the Theology of the Body. Our bodies are due the same respect and care in death as in life.

But what is really special about this? For most of us, this is pretty routine. We have funeral homes that care for the body, we have carefully crafted funeral rites to give honor to the person’s life, we participate in wakes, comforting the family members and bring them meals, helping with their needs during their time of mourning. Sometimes it’s hard for us to see the simple act of the burial as a work of mercy because it is commonplace in our first-world culture. But this isn’t the case in other parts of our world and it certainly was not the case in early Christianity.

Our Jewish brothers and sisters also have a deep respect for the body and have very careful laws and commandments on care for the dead and their burial. We see this in the Old Testament in Tobit 1:16-19, Sirach 38:16, and 2 Maccabees 12:39. In addition, some of the Jewish customs of burial are also detailed in the burial of Jesus (see Luke 23:50-56 as one example; for more on Jewish burial traditions, see Judaism 101). In many ways, as Christians, we inherited this respect for the body from our Jewish predecessors. So imagine the early Christians being martyred and their surviving relatives and friends wanting to bury them in the proper way.

Until I was doing my preparatory reading I hadn’t considered what actually happened to the bodies of the early martyrs or how they were able to receive a proper burial (when they did). Those who persecuted the Christians would have known that the survivors would want to bury the dead. In my imagination I can see the persecutors getting rid of the bodies in ways that would have horrified the early Christians, blaspheming the body or cremating it. The body could also have been left out like “bait” to capture other Christians who tried to retrieve the body for proper burial. It was dangerous work and Christians risked their own lives in an attempt to bury the martyrs. (Reference HERE.)

Looking at modern current events, I wonder about the Christians who are being persecuted for their faith in Syria, Iraq, other parts of the Middle East, and parts of Africa, plus in many other parts of the world. Are those that are killed able to be given proper burial? Back home here in the States, we have many dead who also do not receive proper burial. Aborted children are considered medical waste and are tossed out. The homeless who die on the streets, are their bodies treated with respect? In some places, maybe yes, but in others, maybe not.

All of this put together tells me one thing: we must care for the body in death with as much respect and consideration as we do in life. Thus, all persons deserve a proper burial: the elderly who die in bed, the soldier who dies in battle, the sick who dies of illness, the baby who dies in the womb.

My son, shed tears for one who is dead
with wailing and bitter lament;
As is only proper, prepare the body,
absent not yourself from his burial.

(Sirach 38:16)

N.B. For anyone who might want to jump on the mention of cremation a few paragraphs back in reference to persecutors of the early Christians cremating the bodies of martyrs. The pagans thought that cremation would make the resurrection of the body impossible, although we believe that God is not limited by such things. However, cremation was at one time banned, primarily as a way of combating the Gnostic heresy that all matter is evil. Currently, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “The Church permits cremation, provided that it does not demonstrate a denial of the faith in the resurrection of the body” (CCC 2301).

Categories
Amy M. Communion Faith Formation Ink Slingers Sacraments

Reflections on First Holy Communion

1stCom3rd

Approaching the big day, my daughter started her countdown. “Mom, this is the last Sunday that I won’t be able to receive Communion.” “Dad, this is the last school mass when I won’t be able to receive Communion.” So was the week leading up to her First Holy Communion. We had “been there, done that” with our older two and figured we were old pros at what needed to be done for the day to go smoothly. Dress? Katie wanted to wear her “birthday buddy” and aunt’s dress, so… check. Hair? Curled and sprayed. Veil? Came with the dress. Shoes? Quick stop at the store to find the “perfect” ones. Banner for our pew? We are using the same one with all the children and having each one add a little something for their personal touch. Check and double check. The night before, we made sure the camera batteries were charged. Finally, a family picture with all eight of us (no judging – Nicholas is only 13 months old!)! We talked about the sacredness of the sacrament and how special it was that she was able to join us at the table of our Lord now. Sometimes that is lost in the preparation and planning for the “perfect day” though.

The day dawned sunny and warm with only a slight breeze. We made it to the church early. No, really, we arrived early! As she walked up to receive Jesus for the first time in the Eucharist, I got teary. Not because she looked like such a little lady, but because I was remembering how recently it seemed that we had watched our older two do the same thing. The same older two that now are taller and nearly as tall as I am. Gone are their “little kid” looks.

I remembered when Grace made her first communion two years ago. She did not do a countdown. She was too worried about tripping when she did her reading or when she walked up to receive. Afterward though? She counted each time she was able to receive. By the end of the first week, I remember her calling her friend and telling her that she had already gotten to receive communion FOUR times. Oh my! She was so excited!

When Jack made his first communion, his thoughts turned directly to being an altar server. When could he start training?

Each of them had a slightly different focus, but each of them knew what a blessed sacrament they received and could continue to receive in physically receiving our Lord Jesus in the Eucharist.

The Monday after First Holy Communion, our school and church celebrate by inviting the parents of the communicants to come to all-school mass and a special breakfast. Father’s homily is very similar each time (having heard it three times now 🙂 ). I am very happy about that fact. He invites members of our church community to attend this mass so that they can say what year they made their first communion. I think the oldest one this year made it in 1934!! His point in asking is that Jesus invited each of these people to make their first communion years ago. They did, but that wasn’t all. That wasn’t the end. That was the beginning! Jesus invites us to keep coming to the table; not to turn away; not to say maybe next week. He wants us all, as often as we are able.

While each person had a slightly different focus, the joy emanating at receiving our Lord was the same. Whether it be my first or second or if the number of times I have received communion is too numerous to count, I want that joy. It is easy to be lost in corralling toddlers in the line or tired from a restless night of sleep by the baby. May the sacred sacrament always be at the forefront of our minds as we go forward to receive communion and may the joy of receiving our Lord in the Eucharist always be as it was that first time.

We are so blessed to share in a Faith where we are able to receive our Lord every day if we make ourselves available to Him. He is always here for us. Always. We do not have a Lord who once was here and is now in a book. We believe in one LIVING God, who is physically present at each and every mass. Praise God!

“And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20

DSC_4919

26550_1427087084269_5541900_n