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Ink Slingers

Jesus, How I’ve Missed You

My children are always funny when they see blood. Nine times out of ten, they run screaming from the room, whether the blood they see is a legitimate bleed, or a small poke on the skin in which the blood barely makes it to the surface of the skin before coagulating. At the rate they are going, I won’t hold my breath in hopes that one of them enters the medical field one day.

Yet, for all their squeamishness when they see blood, especially on themselves, they certainly have a fascination for blood. Driving to school one morning this past year, my five year old cackled in her maniacal, wicked witch way, “Mom, I want to drink blood!”

Upon further discussion and conversation, she mentioned, “But, Mom, you drink blood. When you go to church, you get Jesus’ Blood!” I immediately sighed relief that my blood-averse daughter wasn’t hoping to become a vampire. Rather, she is hoping to participate more fully and actively in the greatest action of love story of all time, through the Eucharist at Mass.

For over a year and a half now, most lay Catholics have had to forgo the Precious Blood of Christ during the Mass. It’s the reality of our times, and since I know receiving the Precious Host means receiving fully Christ, I haven’t thought much about missing His Precious Blood. I didn’t even think my daughter remembered a time in which others around her would partake of both the Precious Host and Precious Blood. 

And yet, over a year and a half since I last received the Precious Blood, the faith of a little child reminds me that there is something very extraordinary about the Mass – that Christ longs to be longed for.

Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen is quoted as saying, “The greatest love story of all time is contained in a tiny white Host.” Christ is present there at Mass, simply waiting to shower each of us with His love and His Mercy.

To be Catholic is to embrace Christ – not only the young Christ we meet in the manger at Christmas, but also the Man Whose Precious Body hung on the Cross with blood and water pouring forth. 

Embracing Christ challenges us to not only seek Him, but also find Him, both in the world around us, as well as in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. 

To be Catholic is to remember the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (para. 1365), “In the Eucharist Christ gives us the very body which he gave up for us on the cross, the very blood which he ‘poured out for the forgiveness of sins.’” It is also a call to live as though those words mean something in our lives.

For many, the pandemic has been a period of introspection and reflection. While it seemed forced upon us, the pandemic gave each of us an opportunity to return Christ’s longing for us with our own longing for Him.

When Christ’s Precious Blood poured forth from His side, He was extending Himself to us, in order that through His sacrifice, we would be saved. 

To know this reality of love is life-changing, but only if we are open to being changed.

As the wheels of this world turn again, and knowing some places are just now beginning to open back up, the question to ask isn’t about Christ’s role in our salvation history. 

Rather, it’s whether or not we are prepared to be radically changed so as to play our own role in salvation history?

Are we ready to open ourselves to change, and to leave a lasting impact of faith, hope, and love in the world around us?

When we approach Christ in the Eucharist, are we ready to receive His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity? 

Are we ready to be cleansed by His Precious Blood, even if we are unable to receive it in the chalice?

Like my five year old, yearning for a more active participation at Mass, and not wanting to miss out, I pray that each of us has the courage and desire to yearn for Christ, and to ultimately be transformed by Christ’s actions on the Cross. 

In a few years’ time, I also hope we all look back on this past year and a half and recognize how God’s Love was so strong that it was continuing to guide us through this period.

Christ’s Blood and Water poured forth so that we have the opportunity of everlasting life.

When everything is said and done, and you look back on the time of pandemic, what will be stopping you from being transformed by Christ’s sacrifice in your life?

As the wheels of this world turn again, and knowing some places are just now beginning to open back up, the question to ask isn’t about Christ’s role in our salvation history.
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Ink Slingers Michelle Schroeder

The True Presence and Our Conviction

There’s been a lot of talk lately about many Catholics not believing in the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Certain I was fully convicted, I hadn’t given much thought to my own conviction, until we met with our confirmation class and the topic was the Mass. One of the other adults who was leading the discussion talked about what it means to wholeheartedly believe in the True Presence and he posed a question: Would you die for a consecrated Host? It’s one thing to ask if you’d be willing to die for Jesus but it’s an entirely different thing to ask whether you would give up your life for a little round, flat piece of bread that you believe is Jesus. The truth is, American Catholics probably don’t have to ponder that question often. That is not our reality. We are not attending Mass in secret or having to attend moving churches that change locations so anti-Catholic militia won’t find us. We don’t worry about being abducted walking from our car in the parking lot to the church door. We don’t risk our lives to receive communion. And as a result, it’s easy to say we believe. We haven’t been tested. That is not to say that I want to switch places with Catholics in parts of the world where there is a very real and very significant threat, today. At this very moment, there are people in other parts of our world who are risking their lives to consume that host. I am friends with one such person who lives in India and as a Catholic priest, he is in danger. I pray for him and I worry about him, but I would not want to be in his shoes. While I’m grateful to be able to freely live my life as a Catholic, I am also aware that I’ve never had to put my money where my mouth is when it comes to the Eucharist. I can go through life believing
that I am a believer, yet I never have to prove it. This is, most certainly, a true first world problem. So, let’s take it down a notch to try to evaluate our conviction.

Let’s put it in terms that may be more relevant to our experience by asking ourselves these questions:

  1. Am I always in a state of grace when I receive Holy Communion? Many of us perceive it as a walk of shame to go through the line and receive a blessing but no Jesus. The fear of embarrassment may actually cause us to sin again if we receive Jesus while having a mortal sin on our soul.
  2. Every time I consume the host, am I free from all distraction and I completely focused on receiving Christ? We may be wrangling kids in the line or simply allowing our minds to wander as we stroll up the aisle.
  3. If I saw someone in line slip the consecrated host in their pocket, what would I do? It’s not just the job of the ushers to prevent sacrilege but it would take courage of conviction to actually stop someone and ask them to consume the host or return it to the priest. We would
    possibly second guess ourselves either because we were unsure if we really saw them pocket it or out of fear of causing a scene. As I consider my own answers to these questions (#2 got me), I realize I have to grow in my conviction.

Fortunately for me, and maybe you, the way to do that is to simply ask God to help you. “Lord, I believe, help me to believe more,” is a simple, effective prayer that shows God our humility and desire to deepen our faith. May we all grow in love for the True Presence that we so freely receive at every Mass!

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Eucharistic Adoration Ink Slingers Michelle Hamel Parenting Prayer Vocations

Like Small Children, Run to Jesus

Like Small Children Run to Jesus

I have been blessed to raise eight children. These children have taught me to love and give as I never thought I could. They have brought me incredible joys, and at times, have brought me to the brink of despair. Life with my children has been a strong catalyst in strengthening my own relationship with God. Nothing brings me to my knees faster than their struggles. Nothing brings me to praise God quicker than their personal victories. They have taught me to run to Jesus in all things.

One of our sons, Peter, is profoundly Autistic. When Peter was around seven years old, he was still in the thick of the difficult years of parenting him. He was a very wiggly kid who still had a habit of bolting away from us. Peter needed to have constant…and I mean 24/7 kind of constant…supervision. He had the impulsivity of a young toddler and the physical coordination of a child his age. We had keyed locks on all our windows to keep him from escaping the house…put on after he escaped out of a window when I took my eyes off of him for a literal two minutes and didn’t find him until 10 minutes later halfway down the street of our neighborhood sitting on one of our neighbor’s lawn mower tractors in their driveway. Life with Peter at that point in time was extremely stressful.

Every Sunday, Peter sits next to my husband, Jay, at Mass. It was a challenging hour to get through for Peter…and us! One Sunday at Mass when he was around seven years old, Peter slid out of the pew and, before Jay even realized what was happening, he ran right up onto the altar and grabbed our Pastor’s vestments IN THE MIDDLE OF THE CONSECRATION! God bless Father Dan who didn’t even get distracted and only looked down at Peter and smiled. My husband, Jay, and I were both in shock for about 10 seconds, and then Jay made his way sheepishly up to altar, grabbed Peter’s hand, and escorted him to the ‘cry room’. I was so shocked and embarrassed that I started laughing. Then I started crying and just couldn’t stop. My 15 year old son was sitting next to me and was looking at me like I was a crazy person!

After Mass that day, we waited until the entire church had just about cleared out because we were so embarrassed. A friend came over to me and gave me a hug and told me to have a good day. I sat in the pew trying not to start crying again. My son’s friend’s grandmother was sitting a couple of rows behind us. She called my name, and the first time I actually ignored it because I was just so embarrassed. I wanted to be invisible. When she called my name a second time I turned around feeling just so sheepish. She said to me, with tears in her eyes, “Peter knew Who he was running to!” Tears filled my eyes and all I could do was nod. God used a very embarrassing situation to touch at least one person.

Peter took St. Therese’s words literally that day…“Since we see the way, let’s run together.”

Several months ago, our Parish’s Deacon (who we love) gave a homily that really inspired me. Deacon Pepin talked about how God was convicting him about spending time daily in His presence. He wasn’t just talking about doing a holy hour every day…although that’s amazing for anyone that is able to…but even just stopping in the Church for small amounts of time in front of Our Lord. Spending extra time in adoration will give us extra grace and peace….and we can certainly never have too much of either!

I am blessed to live just two miles from our parish. Our parish has an adoration chapel that is open Monday through Saturday afternoon perpetually. At the time of the homily, I was attending daily Mass on Mondays and Saturdays and I was also doing a holy hour Saturday before Mass and a “holy half hour” on Mondays before Mass.

Deacon Pepin’s homily really got me thinking. Tuesday through Thursday I could easily stop by the Adoration Chapel on my way home from work. I couldn’t do a whole holy hour those days, but I could definitely spend 10 or 15 minutes before the Blessed Sacrament.

What is one way you could spend more time with Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament?LikeSmallChildrenRuntoJesus

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Elle Stone Ink Slingers Spiritual Growth

The Mass is EVERYTHING (so why doesn’t it feel that way?)

Kinda a Big Deal

So, the Eucharist is kinda a big deal.  No crap, Sherlock. It would be the first sentence of “Catholicism for Dummies.”  And even after that they would add “duh.”

But let me be real.  This is a truth that I know in my head…but whether or not I feel it in my heart, or actually conduct my life to reflect this truth, varies immensely.  Some days I’m on fire for the Eucharist, for Adoration, for Mass. My heart is filled. I can’t keep from singing or crying or outpouring my mind onto the pages of my journal.

But sometimes…sometimes I let it slide.  I go a while without visiting Christ in adoration, even though I definitely have the time for it.  Thinking about the meal I’m making after Mass is a lot more exciting that the consecration. For the past few weeks I’ve hit a bit of a roadblock when it comes to this Sacrament.  My mind isn’t present. My heart certainly isn’t present. I’m bored. I’m apathetic. I’m distracted. I’m disengaged. The priest is going too fast. Too slow. I can’t understand him.  The family in front of me is too rowdy. They played the one praise and worship song I can’t stand. I’ve got this big project at work…

And it’s extra bad that I let this slide, because the Church could not be more straightforward about how important the Eucharist it. According to the Catechism:  

“The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.” “The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself.” (CCC 1324; http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p2s2c1a3.htm).

So, yeah.  Kinda a big deal.

But if the Eucharist is the source and summit of our Christian life…shouldn’t I…get more out of it?  It’s the source of, well, everything. This may sound painfully obvious, but… shouldn’t I get things from sources?  It’s the summit of all I do as a Catholic. Shouldn’t it just feel perfect?

Shouldn’t my heart be overflowing?  Shouldn’t my soul feel peace? Shouldn’t my mind be at ease?  Shouldn’t be strength be restored?

I recently read an awesome article, The Prayer of the Liturgy by Romano Guardini, and listened to a great podcast Praying Alone or in Community? from the Vici Mundum Show. Both really set me on the train of unpacking why I’m feeling separated from the Mass.  Bonus: they gave me insight into how I can change my mindset in order to reconnect a little better.  

I took three key nuggets of wisdom that have helped me get my head back on straight regarding the Mass.  They’re not a complete explanation or cure to why people might feel disconnected from the Mass by far–but rather three things I had not considered that I wanted to share with my sisters. <3

1. The Mass expresses the Universal Church, not us as individuals.

Stated more plainly, the mass is everyone’s prayer.  And I mean everyone. Every member of the Universal Church expresses their prayer through the liturgy.  This WAY changes the focus of Mass!

In the article by Guardini (referenced above), he states that:  
“The primary and exclusive aim of the liturgy is not the expression of the individual’s reverence and worship for God. It is not even concerned with the awakening, formation, and sanctification of the individual soul as such. Nor does the onus of liturgical action and prayer rest with the individual. It does not even rest with the collective groups, composed of numerous individuals, who periodically achieve a limited and intermittent unity in their capacity as the congregation of a church. The liturgical entity consists rather of the united body of the faithful as such–the Church–a body which infinitely outnumbers the mere congregation.”

So yes, a ton of words, but let me boil that down: Liturgy is not time for our individual prayer.  It isn’t even time for our local parish’s prayer. It is a bold, vibrant expression of our unity with the entire universal Church.

Yes, God reaches out to us in the liturgy–He reaches out to us at all times, constantly longing for our hearts.   And yes, our parish and ourselves individually should make a spot for our own prayers during Mass. But those prayers aren’t the point!

The Mass itself–and other forms of the liturgy–is our unique chance to pray with our ENTIRE CHURCH AROUND THE WHOLE WORLD.  Whoa.

I have received a ton of fruit from this paradigm shift–going to Mass as a chance to experience unity, rather than to quest for my own personal experience.

2.  The Mass must express the the full Truth, not just the parts that speak to us.

Some images of God, some mysteries, some saints, are going to resonate with our hearts more than others.  Maybe you’re more of a Good Friday person than a Holy Thursday person. Maybe Advent speaks to you in ways that Lent falls flat.  Maybe St. Therese is your girl and St. Teresa of Avila leaves your head spinning.

These are all natural experiences within our faith!  But what’s important to remember is that our Church is the fullness of all these elements.  Guardini points out that:

“If a prayer therefore stresses any one mystery of faith in an exclusive or an excessive manner, in the end it will adequately satisfy none but those who are of a corresponding temperament, and even the latter will eventually become conscious of their need of truth in its entirety. For instance, if a prayer deals exclusively with God’s mercy, it will not ultimately satisfy even a delicate and tender piety, because this truth calls for its complement-the fact of God’s justice and majesty. In any form of prayer, therefore, which is intended for the ultimate use of a corporate body, the whole fullness of religious truth must be included.”

Again, a lot of words–let me paraphrase.   Your heart might be SUPER moved by God’s incredible mercy.  Whenever there is a powerful reading about mercy, or the priest proclaims a wonderful homily on mercy, you can feel God’s presence, right then and there.

However, if the Mass were to focus only on certain things (God’s mercy, for instance), and neglect the rest of the picture (God’s justice), the mom of four kids sitting behind you, who’s heart is just wrapped up with imagines of God’s majesty, would be neglected.

What’s more, our hearts long for the fullness of truth.  If all we get is the same message of mercy over and over, but no justice, sooner or later our hearts will not be satisfied.

That means that sometimes–sometimes Father’s homily will fall flat on us.  And that’s totally ok–our hearts secretly hungered for that nugget of truth.

3. We expect too much of ourselves.

This final nugget of truth came from the Vici Mundum podcast, referenced above.  I’m going to paraphrase because it’s a little more difficult to transcribe from a podcast. (Definitely check it out though, awesome people with really thoughtful insight.)

One of the presenters expressed similar struggles as I had: not really feeling anything from the Mass.  Feel super disconnected. She mentioned that we can often get frustrated by this. But she noted that God is never frustrated with us.  He knows we’re human, He knows that we have a lot on our hearts. We might be expected more of ourselves from the liturgy than even God expects of us.

I loved this.  Because when I don’t connect with the Mass, I feel like something is totally wrong with me.  But that isn’t the case. God knows exactly where I’m at. He asks that I come to Mass, participate, and pray that my heart be open.  Other than that, it’s all in His hands. It doesn’t need to “feel” like everything. It just is, and I can rest in that.

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Ink Slingers Prayer Stephanie

Improving My Relationship with the Real Presence

Improving My Relationship with the Real Presence

Several years ago I spent quite some time not practicing the faith. I felt like I was stuck in a cold and empty space, ripe with isolation and distraction. It took the birth of my first baby to slowly drag me out of it and back into the warm and familiar waters of Catholicism. First I eased into learning more about the faith I was raised in, but later it morphed into a relentless pursuit for all the knowledge I could handle. 

Through my prayer and studies, I thankfully came to know (unshakably) in my heart that the Eucharist is the greatest sacrament. I began to think on a more personal level about why we need the Eucharist and that it is indeed the most amazing gift anyone in this life could receive. The more I grasped how incredible it is that Christ continues to give Himself to us, the more seriously I regarded Communion. This was one of the any fruits of my conversion.

For the most part, this quest for a deeper understanding and more sincere love for the Church was a blessing. It was great that I was becoming more spiritually accountable. What wasn’t so great was that I started second-guessing myself to the extreme. I had an unhealthy distrust of my own motives which stifled my potential to love God better. 

Amidst my renewed awe for the Eucharist, I made the mistake of scrutinizing the sincerity of my own belief in the real presence. Catholicism 101 basically starts with the fact that we believe it is not a symbol but is in fact His body. So, like someone carrying a secret, I wrestled internally with my own faith in the true presence. I kept thinking, if I really do believe, wouldn’t I feel more within myself while walking down the aisle to communion? Why am I not overwhelmed by the miracle before me? What if I don’t believe enough?

These questions brought me nothing but doubt and discouragement. I finally mentioned it to one of my best friends and her brief response was perfect. She said, “the miracle itself is part of the mystery, so that’s where our faith comes in. We cannot understand it completely.” I reflected on her words for a few weeks and prayed with them until I finally felt the burden of my self-imposed guilt start to fade. 

My pursuit to be an authentic believer was noble. The problem is that I placed myself at the center of my pursuit instead of Jesus. Insisting that I must fully and intellectually grasp the miracle of the Eucharist was essentially to put myself on the level of the divine. Our earthly life comes with the veil over our eyes, appropriate to our imperfect state due to sin. The more logical approach to the mysteries of our faith is indeed one that is childlike—lacking in some understanding and wisdom, but confident and trusting.

The habit of dotting the “i’s” and crossing the “t’s” of my spiritual life, searching for answers inside myself which rely solely on myself, will never bring me closer to God. The real fruits come when we make an effort to think less and love more, and only looking inward when we acknowledge that God dwells within, ever ready to love and guide us. 

My worrying about motives was all pride and no humility. Only when I let it go and told God that I wish to have as much love as possible for the Eucharist, leaving the level of my understanding to Him alone, did I feel the joy in receiving the gift of His Son. A genuine and grateful smile now erupts when I hear, “The Body of Christ”. 

What I have learned from this journey is that my faith in God and the mysteries of faith increase when my dependence upon myself decreases. If I am front and center, along with all my wavering human feelings and emotions, then I am only distracting and exhausting myself while drifting away from the truth of God’s love. When I quiet the storms of my own intellect and curiosity, then the peaceful waters of Catholicism can nourish me as I drift closer to God. 

If you are prone to second-guessing your own motives like I am, these words from St. Francis de Sales in The Art of Loving God may be worth reflection: “The mistrust of ourselves proceeds from the knowledge of our imperfections. It is a very good thing to mistrust ourselves, but how will it help us, unless we cast our whole confidence upon God and wait for His mercy?” Each of us  needs His mercy in one way or another and we can place our shortcomings or doubts of faith completely in His hands while we focus simply on loving Him. St. Francis also adds that, “Simplicity banishes from the soul that solicitous care which so needlessly urges many to seek out various exercises and means to enable them, as they say, to love God…They torment themselves about finding the art of loving God, not knowing that there is none except to love Him. They think that there is a certain art needed to acquire this love, which is really to be found only in simplicity.” May we always walk the communion line with lightness of heart, with simple love and gratitude for Christ!