Monday, October 27, 2014

What To Call The Fullness of Christian Faith?

Lately I have been reflecting on what it means to be a faithful Catholic.  Over the last 20 years I have gone through more than a few spiritual transformations where I always considered myself Christian and Catholic but with only a vague understanding of what differentiated the two.  When pressed by friends or co-workers about my beliefs I would reference my Episcopal upbringing as part of my Christian identity.  I didn't hold any Episcopal beliefs but non-Catholics seemed to be less confrontational when I explained myself in this way.

As I better learned my Catholic faith I developed a stronger Catholic identity and openly referred to myself as such despite confrontations with protestants.  I also became painfully aware of the large number of Catholics in name only.  These "fallen-away Catholics" still consider themselves Catholics in good standing with the Church.  Still to this day faithful Catholics battle the negative stereotypes that exist because of these people.  I quickly learned that I needed to refer to myself as a "practicing Catholic" to differentiate myself from this group.

But I have learned that a "practicing Catholic" is considered someone who goes to church regularly, not necessarily someone who believes and lives out the Catholic faith.  For a while I subscribed to the idea of referring to myself as a "conservative Catholic" but people like Cardinal Dolan have been referred to as such so it's clear that I do not fall into that camp.  Besides, the idea of liberal/conservative Catholics suggests that the two are like political camps where both are Catholics but with different views on who God is, kind of like protestantism.

At one time being called "Christian" was all that was needed to distinguish the faithful followers of Christ, but it became necessary for those who were faithful to all of Christ's teaching to differentiate themselves from those who did not by calling themselves "Catholic".  After the disaster better known as Vatican II it is clear that the Church is becoming more divided between those who accept Catholic teaching as it has traditionally known, and those who accept compromise and wish to "make a mess".

Now I consider myself a "traditional Catholic" which helps me distinguish myself from the millions of pseudo-sedevacantists who reject fundamental Catholic doctrine on marriage, the sanctity of life, and even the Holy Eucharist.    I've been introducing myself as such to both Catholic and non-Catholic alike for some time now.  Through this introduction I have found a greater opportunity to evangelize others - even apostate Catholics because they retain a certain nostalgia to what was lost.  Most of all I love sharing the profound beauty and deep reverence that is found in the traditional Mass!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Think Your Kids Won't Form Opinions About Your Drug Use?

Growing up drugs were a part of every day life, my parents did drugs.  Though they managed their  addictions in different ways, never the less the outcome was the same, everyone suffered.  Children of addicts suffer more than their parents realize, and it should come as no surprise that I have little compassion for "recreational" drug use.  

Some of my first memories are of my father and his friend talking while holding up a big bag of weed.  I was probably 3 years old, I remember the smell of marijuana, thinking about how the aroma was pleasant and nice.  I remember waking up early, to the empty bottles, empty glasses.  On the coffee table would lay a 10x10 metal baking pan with zig zags, ashes, seeds, and remnants of a "good time".  I would smell the bottles, taste the ashes, eat the left over chip crumbs and popcorn.  All these things meant happiness and fun, or so I thought.

Shortly thereafter I remember being curled up in a ball on the floor as my mother and father argued, yelling at each other with only a lamp table between them as they sat in their opposing reclining chairs.   I didn't know any better then, but they were getting divorced, we stayed with our dad who retained custody.  My mom always blamed the drugs.  More than once my mom said,  "If not for he drugs your dad and I would still be together".

You see, marijuana is just one drug in the devil's arsenal of slavery and lies.  My parents were also doing cocaine at that time,  destroying their marriage along with my childhood  security and happiness.  I have many bad memories from my mother, enough to solidify my hatred of both cocaine and marijuana, both destroyers, one just more subtle than the other.

My mom got a job selling waterbeds.  On Fridays my dad would drop off my brother and I at the store near closing time.  We spent many hours playing amongst the displays and warehouse boxes, I actually consider those fond memories.  But it was also here that she met a new man who struggled even more with drug addiction.  It was during this time that she almost died from a cocaine overdose.  I was there and remember the situation, my mother in the bathroom on the floor.  I was too young to understand.

Having survived that ordeal, my mother would recall that frightful night, how she overdosed and almost died, how cocaine was the most evil drug in the world, how seductive it was, until it destroyed you.  That night she flushed what remaining coke she had and vowed never to do it again... and after 1 or 2 more times she never did - having lost the desire for it.  Marijuana became the drug of choice after that, after all, "Native Americans had been doing it for hundreds of years" and "It's natural"..  I can't tell you how many times I heard that. 

But lunch money never came before drug money, which is why we lived with our dad, whom despite his addictions was a much more capable provider.  My mother always said that my father was a "good provider" and she was right, he never failed to provide for our temporal needs, though he struggled as a father due to his own deficient upbringing.  He had the common sense to hide his addiction but it resulted in long hours hidden away in his locked bedroom where kids were not allowed.

I look back now as an adult and I can see how my parents' drug use ruined their lives, not to mention the ripple effect it had on my life and the rest of our family.  My mother remained a slave to addiction for the rest of her life, a mere 52 years.  The man she me met selling waterbeds? - on permanent disability with severe mental and neurological disorders. Real freedom and happiness? Up in smoke years ago. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

St. Mary's Cathedral in Gaylord, MI

Cathedral of St. Mary's Gaylord, MI

 Birth of Tradition


About this time last year I learned that the Diocese of Gaylord was providing a Latin Mass at St. Mary's Cathedral.  Through Divine providence my family was able to participate in praying the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at St. Mary's while on Vacation in East Jordan, MI last summer.  Previously we had attended Holy Mass at St. Mary's in downtown Charlevoix, but there seemed to be much disunity amongst the parishioners, the pastor at the time was being ostracized in the local paper for "turning back the clock" etc. etc.   So sad!  We considered the SSPX chapel in Mancelona but since the Diocese was allowing the TLM I felt we needed to show our support.  Plus I was curious!

Last year we didn't know what to expect.  Nothing was posted in the bulletin and if not for some personal correspondence with a blogger from northern Michigan I would have had no idea that Mass in the extraordinary form was being offered.  Even when we pulled up to the Cathedral we had our doubts, Mass schedules were clearly listed on the sign out front, but absent was any mention of a Latin Mass.  We pulled up to the front of the church and found only 1 or 2 other cars parked out front.  The doors to the main sanctuary were open but the lights were off and nobody was inside.  I left my family in the car as I ventured inside for a better look.  If not for the custodian I probably would have just gone home, but I asked him whether or not the 3pm Latin Mass was to take place and he directed me to the chapel!

So I gathered my family and we made our way through the dimly lit main sanctuary to a little chapel along the back side of the church.  As we entered we were greeted by about 20 or 30 people occupying a rather well furnished chapel.  Three sections of full sized pews, a respectable altar, miniature organ, and of course - tabernacle were all present.  The tabernacle looks like something straight out of the 70's, I couldn't help but wonder why the tabernacle sits behind the glass of the chapel rather than within the center of the main sanctuary, but this church is a modern design so what else is new right?

Chapel containing the Blessed Sacrament - St. Mary's Cathedral in Gaylord, MI (Novus Ordo Mass)

Fast Forward 1 Year


So my family finds themselves up north once again this summer.  Much like last summer we were eagerly anticipating the fulfillment of our Sunday obligation at St. Mary's Cathedral in Gaylord, MI - 3pm Latin Mass of course.  I was curious whether or not the TLM was still being offered, thankfully yes!  We even confirmed it in the church bulletin.  Funny enough, after talking with a local parishioner I learned that the Mass schedule in the weekly bulletin did not contain the Latin Mass time until just a few weeks prior!  Call me suspicious but I have a feeling the delay was not accidental. 

Our second visit was just as pleasing as the first.  Solemn High Mass in the chapel!  Such an intimate and spiritual experience!  I feel so blessed that God has provided the traditional Latin Mass within the Diocese of Gaylord.  Considering my family has owned a cottage in East Jordan, MI for generations, there is no excuse for missing Mass on Sunday while on vacation, especially when you do a little bit of research on the internet.  

When I thought about going up to our cottage this year, the #1 thing on my mind was returning to St. Mary's in Gaylord for Mass!  I am so thankful to the Holy Ghost that I have this feeling of anticipation for praying Mass, that I long for this union with Christ!  There was a time that I breathed a sigh of relief while on vacation because I felt I had an excuse to miss Mass.  Even when my family attended Mass while on vacation it seemed like fulfilling an obligation, something I was glad to be done with.  I know that many Catholics skip Mass while on vacation, but I strongly encourage finding the local Mass times and to plan in advance where and when Catholic Mass is being offered!  The internet provides easy access to the necessary resources.  Vacations can be a great time experience how a different parish celebrates the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, it's also a great time to experience a traditional Latin Mass if you never have.  

St. Mary's Cathedral in Gaylord, MI offers a traditional Latin Mass every Sunday at 3pm in their chapel which is directly connected to the main sanctuary.  If you park on the back side of the church and enter the door closest to N. Ohio St. you will be closest to the chapel entrance.  There you will find plenty of Latin/English translation booklets and a group of Catholics dedicated to the preservation of Catholic tradition and timeless Catholic worship.  While my young family with 5 kids surely stood out, I never for a moment felt out of place.  May God's grace reveal to you all that He has revealed to my family in Gaylord, MI!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Novus Ordo: Equal If Not Superior?

I had a brief and rather unpleasant conversation with a Catholic gentleman at my parish recently.  I say unpleasant because the topic of Holy Mass preference came up and I found myself making an impromptu argument for the Traditional Latin Mass, all the while staring at a frowning and unconvinced face.  The conversation basically started with, "You love the Latin Mass and I love the English Mass".  I just could not let that go, and without thinking I blurted, "I could never go back to the Novus Ordo" and proceeded to explain why I preferred the Latin Mass until he changed the subject.

In many respects I totally blew my opportunity to properly share the beauty and spiritual depth of the TLM and likely came off as arrogant and judgmental just like the stereotype.  Encounters like this though few, seem to have a common outcome of misunderstanding.  I found myself apologizing to God repeatedly for mishandling the opportunity to help awaken a deeper interest in the Latin Mass.

I've been replaying the whole scenario in my mind for several weeks now, and though I have a benefit of hindsight, I'm still uncomfortable with the stonewalling that I got from this gentleman.  Sure seemed like he had his defenses up, almost like when a Catholic is confronted by some fundamentalist - one who's views are strongly motivated with a misplaced zeal and well learned talking points.  Almost like a Jehovah's Witness where the brainwashing is so thorough that you don't even want to enter a conversation with them.  This same apprehensiveness was now coming from a fellow Catholic, I know because it's the way I felt when conversing with an SSPX member many years ago.

So why all this animosity between Catholics?  I get defensive whenever anyone attacks the Church and I get defensive when someone calls me holier than thou, I even get defensive when a pope suggests that my love of the Latin Mass is merely a fad.  But I embrace the opportunity to share the beauty and spiritual depth so masterfully preserved in the Latin Mass.  I desire to share all the spiritual benefits I have come to know through the Latin Mass, I feel an obligation to share this gift from God.

So this brings me to the questions I've been pondering since my rather unpleasant conversation:  Does the Novus Ordo offer something spiritual that is lacking in the Vetus Ordo?  If so then why have I never encountered a Catholic with valid arguments to persuade me?  Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever experienced anything of the sort!  Even the gentleman reference above made no effort to correct any perceived misconception on my part.  He did boast of his large family and many grandchildren - a clear attempt to establish his Catholic orthodoxy which was never called into question.  On the contrary, when I meet someone who appears to be a practicing Catholic I feel obligated to share this spiritual treasure with them!

But these people typically will not go to a Latin Mass with an open heart and open mind.  They forgo any preparation and perhaps begrudgingly attend one or two Latin Masses just to say, "There I did it and it wasn't for me, now leave me alone".  A more typical attitude is one of complacency, "I don't feel like I'm lacking anything" or "My family could never sit through a Latin Mass".  Please don't misunderstand, I'm not suggesting that these people are bad Catholics or lacking in faith and conviction, just that they are convinced the Latin Mass contains nothing but nostalgia, this is what is taught after all!

Going back to the gentleman referenced earlier, he was a Catholic convert of nearly 40 years.  I always say that converts make some of the best Catholics!  Anyway, he didn't mention how many of those years were spent attending a Vetus Ordo Mass (presumably none).  Now on the day we talked I'm pretty sure he attended the same Mass that I and my family did because of obligations afterward, but was he merely attending?  What I mean is, did he pray the Mass?  Was he even aware of the differences in the prayers?  These are questions that now run through my mind.

You see I regularly attended the Novus Ordo from my early teen years until I was 30 years old.  Of those 15+ years I would say at least 7 of those years were experienced as one who fully understood the Catholic faith with all it's splendor!  Now I have almost 7 years of experience with the Latin Mass and friends I'm not going back.  Some things are so precious that compromise is not a consideration, but Our Lady Akita reminds us:

“The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see Cardinals opposing Cardinals, Bishops against other Bishops. The priests who venerate Me will be scorned and opposed by their confreres. Churches and altars will be sacked. The Church will be filled with those who accept compromises, and the devil will induce many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord. "

I work in the HVAC trade and when it comes to certain model furnaces we have a saying, "If you don't find a failure in that model furnace you're not looking hard enough".  Friends, if you don't see a failure in the model of modern worship within the the Catholic Church you just aren't looking hard enough.  

Thursday, May 8, 2014

I Have A Confession To Make..

My first confession was a breeze.  A 10x10 tent-like structure was set up in the sanctuary where I and the other young catechumens filed in to confess our lack of obedience to our parents and perhaps a few other venial sins.  Confirmation soon followed.  I wish I could say the same was true for my general confession 10 years later.

I had all but forgotten about Confession leading up to that 10 year milestone, though I was aware that I had committed many sins.  I had a desire to utilize the Sacrament but I didn't know where to start.  I had never actually used the Confessional, I honestly didn't even know where it was!  My mother had encouraged me to go for many years and that is what got me thinking about what to do.

Fear of The Unknown


I was roughly 23 years old when I realized that I needed to go to confession.  The weight of sin was wearing on my soul.  I had a lot of stress in my life at that time and had been turning more and more to my faith for answers.  At that time I had a regular habit of viewing porn on the internet.  I was having a hard time praying the Rosary after I finished browsing naked photos without feeling very guilty.  I had also been reading City of God by Mary of Agreda, where I learned of the powerful intercession of St. Joseph and I asked him to help me find a way to overcome my habitual sin.

As I became more aware of what the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass really was, it became harder for me to ignore the state of my soul when I went up to receive Holy Communion.   Still I didn't know what to do and I was afraid.  My very first confession was a blur, I didn't even consider that comparable to what I needed to do now.  So I started doing some research online in order to prepare myself.

After reading some articles online I acquired a pocket sized book titled: The Little Book on Confession by The Catholic Bishop of Lincoln.  This little booklet contains a guide for the examination of conscience and outlines exactly what the confessor and penitent should say.  After a thorough examination of conscience I created a written list of sins that I intended to confess in kind and number.  I then found the time when confessions were heard by browsing the first page of the church bulletin.

A Crossroads


It was a mild Saturday afternoon when I entered St. Jude parish in Grand Rapids, MI for what I consider my first confession.  There was no turning back, I was committed.  I had some time to mentally prepare myself as 4 or 5 people were sitting in the pews ahead of me.  I figured out that the door to the right of the altar was the entrance to the confessional.  A light would change from red to green whenever the priest was ready for a new penitent.  My turn was approaching. 

Nervously I entered the confessional room where much to my relief I was greeted by a kneeler with a thick burlap curtain.  I kneeled down and pulled out my booklet and written list of sins.  I was greeted by a familiar voice of the current pastor blessing me in the name of the Father, Son, & Holy Spirit.  I was greatly appreciating the anonymity provided by the curtain.  I began with, "Bless me father for I have sinned, it's been more than 10 years since my last confession, and I'm not really sure how I should start?".  He responded with, "These are my sins.."  or something to that effect.  So I started reading off the list of the sins that I accused myself of, saving the most embarrassing and humiliating for the end.  It was very difficult to admit to another human such personal faults, my voice was weak and shaky, I was sweating, my body shaking.

The priest explained to me that I was making a general confession and that I was at a crossroads in my faith and in my life.  I don't remember much else of what he said at that time, but I knew he was certainly right.  I was then asked to make an act of contrition for my sins.  Thankfully a large laminated card was present with the a prayer of contrition as I was in no shape to flip through the booklet I had brought.

 "I absolve you of your sings in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit".  I wouldn't say I felt some supernatural wave of energy or anything, but at that moment I knew for certain that I had just experienced God's mercy in a more profound way then I had ever known in my life.  I thanked the priest and ended with, "His mercy endures forever".  I walked back to my car feeling on top of the world!  I felt like I had just defeated the devil in the most epic of battles,  I just remember feeling a deep happiness and inner peace.

More Than A Spiritual Renewal 


When I attended Holy Mass the following Sunday I had a totally different appreciation for the Eucharist.  For the first time in as long as I could remember, I was receiving Christ in a state of grace, and I really didn't want undo that reality.  It was at this moment that I began to recognize the grace of the Sacrament affecting my life, I no longer felt like a slave to sin.

If spiritual freedom wasn't enough I also found that many of my temporal problems were also disappearing.  Within a few months of going to confession I remember reflecting on how all the stress in my life had disappeared, I was facing only trivial problems in life now.  While I can't say for sure, I do believe the two to be related.  

The Power of The Sacrament of Reconciliation 


Satan can gain a lot of control over a person through sin, and it can be very difficult to recognize how strong of a grip he has until it is broken.  The confessions I make today are hardly as embarrassing or humiliating as they once were, though I still desire and need the grace that comes with the Sacrament.  I won't lie, I hate going to Confession, it's still embarrassing and humiliating, but I hate the thought of approaching the Blessed Sacrament with mortal sin on my soul.  I would not be the person I am today without the grace and mercy that comes through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.


Friday, April 25, 2014

May you have a blessed Earth Day season!

An article from the Midland Daily News caught my attention today:  Blessed Sacrament Catholic School in Midland celebrates Earth Day

 "Waltz directed the show and said her 19 students had been practicing their speaking and singing roles for a month."

One does indeed wonder what in comparison was practiced for the celebration of Easter?  One need only click on the Core Beliefs & Values link found on their parish website where "inclusiveness" and "inclusivity" (whatever that is) are also top priorities.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Here's Your Sign: Bishop Turns to TLM as "new shape and form" to Save Church.

Interior of St. Walburge's Catholic Church 

(Full Article)

Here is the most interesting portion of the article:
But now the Bishop of Lancaster has announced the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, which celebrates the traditional Tridentine Mass, could be conducting services in the church by the autmun. “The future of St Walburge’s Church came into very serious question in the light of much fewer people at Mass in this vast and yet most beautiful church,” said Bishop Michael Campbell in a statement read out at Preston churches on Sunday.
“The arrival and presence of the Institute at St Walburge’s will enable the sustainability and care of this magnificent church so that it can be open each day as a shrine or centre for Eucharistic devotion and adoration.”
St Walburge’s was built in 1847 and its spire is the third tallest in the UK. But falling attendances - a cause for concern within inner Preston - meant it could have faced decommission.
There are some voices - even now - who tell me that the presence of the Catholic Church in inner Preston is finished,” added Bishop Campbell. “I cannot agree. We need to be here in a new shape and form and at the same time to strengthen our missionary presence and vitality.”
 Imagine facing a future where the presence of the Catholic Church is "finished".  Now imagine you are responsible for making the difficult decisions of what to do?  The Bishop of Lancaster apparently facing just such a scenario, decides to take drastic measures by bringing in something "new"!  A new shape and form!  In this case, the Extraordinary Form in the shape of Christ the King Sovereign Priest.  What does the good Bishop expect from this move??  A strengthened "missionary presence and vitality".

But I thought the New Mass...???  Well don't you fret.  
St Walburge’s will continue to celebrate the Ordinary Form Mass on a Sunday for as long as there is a need.
 For as long as there is a need.  Prophetic words indeed.