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This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

When we consider that the Mass is an earthly glimpse into heaven, it can be difficult to stomach that so much of the beauty and richness of the Catholic history is sometimes lost among Marty Haugen and berber carpet. We look at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and our home parish, and it’s fair to say for most of us, that there is no comparison to be made at all. But, it is difficult for any person, Catholic or not, to dispute the beauty of a High Mass in a 300 year old Cathedral with incense, costly vestments, and extreme reverence.

Still, the Church gets a bad rap in today’s secular world for valuing beauty for our God.

It’s difficult to avoid criticisms such as this in our media. They are everywhere.

What these critics don’t understand is that the Church doesn’t lavish the Pope with beautiful vestments and accessories because he has power, but because he has apostolic succession and is THE man chosen by God through the Holy Spirit to lead us. He is a living, breathing, speaking intercessor between heaven and earth.

We aren’t celebrating the man, but the office instituted by Jesus himself, which ultimately points back to Him. The Church is, “upheld infallibly in the truth: Christ governs her through Peter and the other apostles, who are present in their successors, the Pope and the college of bishops.” CCC 869. In the liturgy, the priest acts in persona Christi capitis, as the person of Christ the head. The Mass is not meant to be a barren service, but a joyful, extravagant celebration in union with the Mass in heaven. The Pope is not the head of our Church, Jesus is.

Even in His time, Jesus faced the same ridicule. “Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. Then Judas the Iscariot, one [of] his disciples, and the one who would betray him, said, ‘Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wage  and given to the poor?’ He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief and held the money bag and used to steal the contributions. So Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. Let her keep this for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.’” John 12:3-8 NAB

In Exodus chapter 26, God gives Moses very specific directions on creating a tabernacle. That’s right, a whole chapter of Exodus is devoted to the lavish and opulent design that God asks Moses to use when creating His tabernacle. There are to be 40 silver pedestals, beautiful fabrics, gold plated columns, and on and on. This is what God asked for, we humbly oblige.

We clearly live in a culture that grossly misunderstands our motives. The Church is not some rich entity greedily keep all of it’s money for itself.  In his inaugural homily, when discussing the papal tiara, Blessed Pope John Paul II, said “Pope John Paul I whose memory is so vivid in our hearts, did not wish to have the tiara; nor does his Successor wish it today. This is not the time to return to a ceremony and an object considered, wrongly, to be a symbol of the temporal power of the Popes.”

This is why it makes me sad to say, that in these days, when The Church is so highly censured for so many reasons legitimate and not, it may be time for us to put away the beauty of the past for a while. As Blessed Pope John Paul said, we have to put away these things of beauty for a time, until there is no longer power associated with luxury.

Pope Francis has continued to scale back some of the pomp and circumstance in the way he celebrates the liturgy, and look at the praise he is receiving in the secular world. He chose to keep his simple black shoes over the red papal shoes that were so highly admonished, and suddenly The Church is now somehow more in tune with the common man, as if those shoes could have purchased meals for every hungry child in Africa. Papa Francis is humbling himself, in order to show his flock how to be humble.

Blessed Pope John Paul II continued in his homily, “Our time calls us, urges us, obliges us to gaze on the Lord and immerse ourselves in humble and devout meditation on the mystery of the supreme power of Christ himself.” He said “our time”, not forever, but now we are called to be especially humble.

We can take the example of these two loving Papas, and think of our current sacrifices as a Church as the olive branch. In the eyes of many, The Catholic Church still has much to atone for, so we must now act as servants to all to show the world that we are who we say we are. That we love every man and woman because every human being is made in the image and likeness of God.

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Christmas Ink Slingers Michelle Ordinary Time

Where Are You Christmas?

Don’t worry, you read your calendar right.  It is only June and you have not suddenly awoken to find that you missed out on the last six months.  You are also right that we just finished the Easter season in the Church just last month.  I’m sure you are scratching your head then and wondering why we are going to talk about Christmas today.

I want you to close your eyes and think about the Christmas season.  It’s chilly out, there are thousands of twinkling lights adoring stores and homes, and there are red suited Santas stationed on the corners ringing their bells asking for donations.  We hear Christmas music on the radio and we are hurrying, trying to get our shopping done.  Our minds are filled with things to do, presents to buy, and meals to plan out.  Maybe we feel extra generous this time of year and we put a few dollars in the donation pail.  Perhaps our parish is hosting an Angel Tree and we’ve selected a boy or girl to buy presents for who would not have Christmas presents to open otherwise.  When we are out shopping maybe we pick up an extra toy or two for Toys for Tots.  We may give our time at a soup kitchen or donate money to provide for meals for the hungry.  Regardless of what we do, most often we find ourselves thinking of those less fortunate and we feel pulled to help them.  We want them to have a wonderful Christmas.  We want them to feel loved, needed, and special.  We don’t want them to go without at Christmastime.    This season seems to bring out the best in us.

Now, open your eyes.  It’s June 20th again.  The sun is high in the sky, the heat and humidity are oppressive, and there isn’t a snowflake anywhere to be seen.  There are no Santas standing outside asking for donations, no Angel Trees with children’s names on them, and no Marines collecting toys for needy children.  We’re planning our vacations and taking our kids swimming.  We are enjoying a time when life seems maybe just a bit less hectic.  The truth is, most of us aren’t thinking of Christmas at all right now.  While it seems appropriate that Christmas wouldn’t be in on our minds in the middle of June, maybe it should be.

During Christmas we open our hearts to those in need.  In the summer we tend to not see the needs of others as clearly and perhaps don’t help as much or as often as we could.  More than likely this is not intentional.  It might just be that it’s not advertised as much and so we don’t tend to think about it near as often.  In the month or two leading up to Christmas we are constantly reminded that there are others in need.  After Christmas is over we don’t have those reminders anymore.  It’s easy to forget about those in need as we move forward when the New Year arrives.

In Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus first teaches us the Corporal Works of Mercy.  As Christians we are required by God to take care of our fellow man.  Christ says, “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink;I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’”

We are called to give food to the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead.  We aren’t called just at Christmas to do these works of mercy.  We should be performing them all year long.  Christ calls us to serve one another but especially the poorest of the poor.  He calls us to do this every day.  When we do, we are feeding Him, clothing Him, caring for Him.  While we rejoice in His coming at Christmas the rest of the year we should be taking care of Him by taking care of each other.

It’s easy to get caught up in our daily lives and fail to see those around us who are struggling and who need our help.  It’s easy to turn a blind eye to those who are hungry, who are poor, and who are spiritually void because they are hurting so badly.  It is our duty to care for these people.  Christ asks us to serve one another with an openness and love that is unquestionable, just as He loves us.  It doesn’t matter that it’s hot outside and that there are no Christmas lights twinkling in the night.  The spirit of giving and love that we see in abundance at Christmas time should be every bit as visible during the rest of the year.

To quote the song “Where are you Christmas?” from the movie The Grinch Who Stole Christmas:

“If there is love in your heart and your mind
You will feel like Christmas all the time.
I feel you Christmas
I know I’ve found you
You never fade away.
The joy of Christmas
Stays here inside us
Fills each and every heart with love.
Where are you Christmas?
Fill your heart with love.”

Our goal as Christians should be to capture that giving and loving spirit that we see and feel at Christmas time and spread it throughout the year.  We should be willing to give of our time, our energy, our money, and our love during every season and not just when we are reminded by those ringing bells, collecting toys, and hanging names on trees.  When we engage in doing the work of Christ, and in particular the Corporal Works of Mercy, we see that the spirit of Christmas lasts the entire year through.

“Christmas is love in action.  Every time we love, every time we give, it’s Christmas.”
~Dale Evans

Let today, June 20th, 2012 be the start of your Christmas season.  Let Christ’s love shine through you in all you do.  See Jesus in each person you encounter and strive to serve Him by serving those in need.  When you do this. Christmas will become a year-long celebration.  The Spirit of Christmas, that joy we feel from helping others, will become a part of your everyday life and not just reserved for those few weeks leading up to our celebration of Jesus’ birth.  Christ invites us to serve others, let today be the day you answer his call.  Let your Christmas spirit shine today and every day.