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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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Adrienne Evangelization Ink Slingers

The Crisis of Fluffy American Homilies

I’ve wanted to write a piece about strong preaching for a while, but needed a catalyst to get the ball rolling. Low and behold, this gem turned up on my news feed last week.

I’m Still Not Going Back to the Catholic Church by Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher explains that while folks have been speculating that Pope Francis’s compassionate side will bring people back into the Church, it is precisely the pontiff’s lack of emphasis on the harder teachings of the Church that will keep Dreher in Orthodoxy and out of the RCC.  In his years as a Catholic, he never heard priests preach on the hard topics.  Though I never left the Catholic Church, I couldn’t help but agree with much of everything he argued.

fluffy-bunnyTwelve years ago I moved to a new city and naturally began attending the parish closest to my apartment. It was like every other parish I’d ever visited or been a parishioner of growing up. We sang “On Eagle’s Wings” and “Anthem” for a peppy recessional. The homilies were of the only variety I’d ever heard – the soft, love Jesus more and take care of the poor type. Upon the concluding rite, still high on, “We are called we are chosen, we are Christ for one another…” I’d leave through the narthex feeling good about myself – the message was, “I’m doing great already and all I need to do is more of what I’m doing to be even better – or I can just keep on keeping on, it’s cool, I’m a good person, and that’s what Christianity is about”. I never knew there was anything else to learn about at Mass, or even about Catholicism.

A handful of years ago the position of head pastor at our parish became and remained vacant until the diocese was finally able to fill it with someone right for the task of shepherding our 6,000 family parish with parochial school, two priests and several deacons. In came a man who would soon be elevated with the title Monsignor. I still remember the homily where he introduced himself to us as his six foot tall frame towered over the ambo. With his measured beat and dry cadence, he shared his story as a convert to the Catholic Church, and challenged us with, “If you have an issue with any teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, make an appointment to see me in my office, and you had better bring your Bible and your catechism.” This was a challenge I’d never heard a priest give before, furthermore, I’d never even heard a priest approach controversy in the least, and our new pastor was inviting it.

In the months to follow, his homilies received mixed reviews. Many parishioners were startled and even offended. Monsignor addressed abortion, contraception and same sex marriage right there in the middle of a Sunday or weekday Mass. And he didn’t just mention it in passing, as if we were supposed to know it was wrong by a one word topic drop. No, he spoke at length and in depth about each topic with solid arguments and reminded our parish why the Church taught these things were against the teachings of Christ – and that Christ’s teachings still matter. The offense entered when Monsignor would reach further still and assert that anyone sitting in our pews who did not see these issues as intrinsic evils worth standing up against were complying with evil themselves. Farewell to, “I can just keep on keeping on, I’m a good person.” I was surprised to be in the midst of a priest who had the courage to preach so boldly – he was risking people’s temporal happiness and even losing many to the neighboring parish which was still preaching love Jesus more and take care of the poor.

The preaching was a change to encompass the whole of Catholic teaching. As Dreher argued in his article, we need to be preached to about God’s mercy and God’s judgment. It is clear to me that Monsignor is out to evangelize the Catholics – to reteach us authentic and whole Catholic teaching. He boldly reminds us that hell is real and we can all attain that if we follow what the secular world both teaches and scolds us to believe. He also teaches boldly and thoroughly how merciful our Lord is, but that in order to be forgiven and to attain Heaven, we need to repent, not just keep on keepin’ on. Often priests truncate Christ’s message to something like all persons can all be forgiven because there is no sin. Yet, Christ’s message is that all persons can be forgiven, that there is no sin too great to be forgiven by a repentant soul. It’s no wonder the lines for confession are nonexistent – the congregations aren’t being taught what sin is and how they’re personally committing it. And it’s no wonder Catholics think being a Christian is just about being a good person – all they hear at Mass is that they are a good person.

499px-Michelangelo,_Giudizio_Universale_02
Last Judgement, Michelangelo 1536-1541, Sistine Chapel

In addition to preaching about sin, Monsignor also makes sure to preach about the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist – reminding us that the very reason we attend Holy Mass is for Jesus in the Eucharist. And he also preaches about Confession, and corrects misunderstandings about Baptism. In a twenty minute homily every mass, we are instructed on the whole of Christian teaching, not just the easy on the ears and pride parts. Furthermore, our music made a dramatic shift as well. Out went the eagle and the anthem and anything modern and peppy. In came a large choir who sings beautiful, heavenly, old school hymns. Latin and Greek hymns have even made returns that we recite together. Mass has been restored to a formal and important Christian event, and the music reminds us that we are experiencing a unique uniting of Heaven and Earth in the Eucharist, not just getting together for preaching and a sing along.

Fluffy homilies have done a great disservice to American Catholics. I think of parents who, in moments of weakness, refuse to enforce what is right for their child because they don’t want to deal with a tantrum, and I believe this is where many priests find themselves. In a perpetual moment of weakness, priests know if they preach whole and authentic Catholic teaching, their parishioners will tantrum. I want to encourage our priests to be our parent, to be our shepherd, to be a “Father”. And I want to encourage parishioners who desire Catholic strength returned to their parishes to vocally support their priests in making the change. We’ve lost generations to cafeteria Catholicism, non-Catholic Christian traditions and even the secular world in this time of fluffy American preaching.

Though our parish did lose a good many of our parishioners to other churches when Monsignor persisted with his unapologetic homilies, our Mass attendance still remains high, if not higher than before. Catholics in our area are willing to drive up to an hour for strong preaching and a reverence in the music and liturgy. And I can see our strong pastor’s determination to evangelize Catholics even spreading down to our children as during the children’s liturgy dismissal the kids are gathered for their blessing wearing backpacks stuffed with their Bible and their Catechism. The world already has enough of itself and does a better job of being itself than our Catholic Mass could ever. Christ is made present to us at Holy Mass, so let us have the courage to demand that the human parts of the Mass, the homilies and the music, be what it is supposed to be best at being – Catholic.

The website Courageous Priests highlighted a homily of my pastor’s which can be found here: http://www.courageouspriest.com/msgr-harts-strong-pro-life-stance.

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Communion Ink Slingers Martina Sacraments

When Religious Education Programs Thrive, We All Win

Today {May 5}, I am writing at the close of the day, a day in which we celebrated our third child’s First Holy Communion. A day when Father Uche delivered a homily that packed a punch – Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus? Three down, three to go, I am thinking to myself.

What made today so daggone special?

This child has always been the everybody friend – the total opposite of me and my husband as children. We would have gladly crawled under a rock than be forced to talk or – gasp! – socialize with others. Shy, introverted, quiet – these are not words we would use to describe numero tres. So, as her First Holy Communion day approached, she embraced it with her whole being. Though she is the first to be homeschooled from Kinder onward, I happily enrolled her into our parish religious education program, a requirement for sacramental years. She jumped in with both feet this year in her class and immediately made friends – no surprise. Her teachers really took to her and it was evident that she was enjoying her class.

Somewhere along the way through this academic year,

I had to pause, reflect, and give thanks over the abundant blessings at our church.

Not for one moment do I take our religious education programs for granted, or that they are thriving. I realize that there is always work to be done, ways to improve, and things will require constant tweaking to build on the already spiritually nourishing program. One thing I am thankful for, is the experience we have had; and, I’m not afraid to share it with others, whether parishioners or not. I want you to know that things are happening at my church. My time on the pastoral council is coming to a close, three years to be exact; two of those I’ve spent serving as the chairperson, which has been a source of immeasurable spiritual growth as well as joy in working with our parish priests, getting to know the staff and their programs, and watching our pastor come back from sabbatical, ready to take us from Maintenance to Mission.

My church, St. William of Vercelli

But what does that have to do with her First Holy Communion, you might be thinking? Well, we were meant for community: to be in communion with each other. We are also meant to be in communion with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. When we are baptized, we are welcomed into the Father’s family. When we are welcomed to the Eucharistic banquet, it is through the loving sacrifice of the Son. And when we are fully initiated as the church militant, it is through Confirmation that the Holy Spirit is stirred in our souls, like chocolate syrup mixed in a cold glass of milk. Do you like that visual? I always love it when Noe talks about the Holy Spirit at our Adult Faith Formation classes and uses the chocolate milk example.

You might still be scratching your head, wondering where I am going on this long drive before I eventually make my point. Yes, parents are the primary educators of the Faith. We do the bulk of the rowing of our own spiritual boat, but it is always appreciated when those we commune with week after week at our parish help lighten the load of steering the boat. As a parent, I – along with my husband – are always at the helm, making the primary decisions in the education of our children, but I am immensely grateful for the solid leadership of our priests, unwavering in the Faith, unafraid to speak the truth in love…always in love, but always the truth. I am also grateful for the staff at our parish who are an amazing example for others. Their dedication to helping our parish realize the vision of Maintenance to Mission is nothing short of spectacular. And our religious education teachers. The ones who help ease the load of faith formation for our children. Volunteers who jump through all kinds of hoops, hoopla, and hugs from our kids – and you know they do it to see those little faces light up when something clicks.

 photo CatholicNerd43.pngI enroll my children in our religious education programs because I know it is a wonderful supplemental experience to the foundation we provide at home. I envy my kiddos’ enthusiasm of going to RE when each Wednesday and Sunday night rolls around. I sometimes laugh to myself when threats to remove privileges sometimes has to include their not being able to attend SWYM or Triumph {our high school and middle school youth ministry programs}. Our programs are seriously just that good. And I’m glad my children have access to programs like these – because when I stop being cool {ok, who am I kidding…I haven’t been cool for a while now}, they turn to their peers who are also immersed in these programs. And then they school me when I make an incorrect reference to Vatican II.

And I just wouldn’t have it any other way.