Monday, May 30, 2011

Catholic Eschatology...In a Nutshell

One thing that Harold Camping did was to get me thinking about the Rapture,(something that I do not believe in) and about the "end times"(something I really do believe in).

I usually don't think much about either one because our Lord made it very clear that we don't have to think about it.  He said we definitely will not be able to miss His Second Coming, Mark 13:24-27, and He told us "Blessed is he whom I find doing that which I have given him to do upon my return".   All this leads me to think that the Lord has it well in hand without any help from me.

However, last night I came across a contest to write the best ever Catholic epigram.  I couldn't help myself so I made this entry. Whether or not it will end up being the best ever Catholic epigram remains to be seen.  However, it pretty much sums up what I believe about Our Lord's return.

 Unable to capture the joy of the Rapture,
 I'll forego the sham and Feast with the Lamb!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Something Celtic at Laude Arts and Gifts

This is the latest addition to my Etsy Shop.   The lead free pewter center honors St. Patrick.  The lead free pewter crucifix is a Celtic Cross which has long been an Irish symbol of immortality.   Both the Pater beads and the cruficis feature a Celtic Knot motif which is another Irish symbol of eternity.   The Avé beads are emerald colored Czech beads with a partial AB coating.  Please click here to view more of my handcrafted rosaries and jewelry. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Hail! Hail! The Gang's All Here!

Well, it’s the day after the Rapture and we’re all still here.  At least I think we are.  Is anyone doing a head count?  I was tempted to run outside at 6:00 PM last night to see if I could look up and see the souls…of the feet…of the people rising to the sky.  I had the wild thought that it would be easier and less painful for me to rise if I didn’t have to go thru the ceiling of my apartment first.  I also thought there might be a great party starting up for those who survived…um…remained.   In the end, I decided to stay inside and take my chances with the ceiling.  According to Tim LaHay of Left Behind fame, I wouldn’t have been able to go anyway because I’m a Catholic.  I beg to differ with him, but then again, I’m not a theologian, I’m just a person who believes in God. 

All kidding aside, I hope Harold Camping and his followers don’t end up as the laughing stock of the nation.  That’s probably inevitable, but I wish it wasn’t. They even joked about it on Meet the Press this morning.  I can’t imagine what Letterman and Leno will do with it. 

The reason I hope they don’t end up the butt of many jokes is that the one good thing Camping and his followers had going for them is that they weren’t afraid to stand up for what they believe in.   They had a belief, no matter how misguided, and they were willing to stand on it.   They quit their jobs and donated their money to get the word out.  While the theory they put forth was wrong, at least they were willing to put everything they had into it.  That in itself is commendable.

It could be argued that many groups do that…even the evil ones and that’s true. I don’t admire those groups.  However, I do admire any Christian, or group of Christians, who stands up for their beliefs in whatever manner they feel led to do.  I admire any Christian who is willing to further their beliefs regardless of the cost to themselves.  That is the kind of passion and zeal that converts souls.

And so while the world didn't end last night, no one was raptured, at least Harold Camping got almost everyone in the country thinking and talking about it.   He was able to get everyone, even the atheists, thinking about Jesus for a short while.  Who knows, he may have even been responsible for leading a few souls to God...and that's a good thing.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

It Isn't the Moon

I’ve just started reading The Cloud of Unknowing.  It was originally written by an anonymous 14th century Englishman.   The edition I’m reading was edited by William Johnston in 1973 with a foreword by Huston Smith in 1996.  This is all new material for me, yet it resonates with my heart in such a manner that it gives me an unexpected sense of familiarity.   It is similar to the feeling I had when I converted to the Catholic Church.  I had never been there before, yet it felt like home.

I’ve barely gotten past the foreword and already I have been blown away by what I’ve read.   I quote:   
“Implicated with mystery, the cloud of unknowing will never disappear, but it can to some distance be penetrated.  How! By activating a faculty of knowing that parts the obscuring clouds of words and thought.   The underlying idea here is the limitations of language, and no topic has received more philosophical attention in the last half-century: Heidegger, Wittgenstein, and Derida have all wrestled with it.   But (to borrow a Buddhist figure of speech) they see that language is only a finger pointing at the moon and not the moon itself...” 
                                                                   The Cloud of Unknowing, Page 4  
I connected with this particular image because I am often awed to silence by the rising moon.  My words could describe the beauty of the moon to some extent, but my words could never become the moon itself in all its majesty and wonder.

This “faculty of knowing which parts the obscuring clouds of words and thought” brings us to the heart which needs no words and thoughts for that which it knows and understands. This, in turn, brings us to the language of silence.  It is the language of lovers; it is the language of prayer, it is the language of love itself because it is known only to the heart and it is a language which only the heart can speak. 

This language of love is the most direct means of being with God and knowing God.  Yet, because it needs no words, it often leaves the mind dark and “unknowing”.  This kind of knowing with the heart does not seek to communicate so much as it seeks to touch, to “be with”, and to be in a state of being with God or the other person.  It is knowing that “being with” someone is the most direct and most intimate form of communication, yet no words are spoken.  This language seeks to touch the object itself rather than being content with a hollow finger which can only point to the object.

This language of silence falls upon us like a gentle cloak when the mind reaches for words and can find none.  How many of us have fallen silent when seeing a sunset because its beauty can not be contained in words?   How many of us move into silence with our lover because words are no longer needed to communicate our beings to each other?  How many of us learn the language of silence in the presence of God?   Even the prophets in the Old Testament, after experiencing God, protested that they could not do what the Lord had asked of them because they had no words.  They had moved into the silent language of God and their human language had become an encumbrance to them. In the silence of God, their human words seemed inadequate, worthless…even unclean, because they knew their words were but a shallow imitation of God and not God Himself.   It was not until the Lord had put His word into their mouths that they were able to move forward.   Entering into silence is relatively easy; coming back from it is not. 

As we stand on the edge of silence we are inexorably drawn into that inexpressible love which is God.   Our hearts urge us forward, yet our minds recoil.  Accustomed to the tangibility of words and thoughts, our minds retreat from that which is wordless and without thought.  Weaned on the empiricism of science we seek to avoid the paradox of knowing that it is the intangible which is reality and the tangible which is not.

Yet, if we move forward, we begin to enter into the “deep calling to deep” with the depths of our being.  We begin to enter the very heart of God, not with our minds, but with our own hearts so that we can become a part of Him and He of us.  In silence we become one with our God. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

How to Pray the Rosary

Praying is one of the most important things in my life.  I feel deeply lead to prayer and have found that praying the rosary is one of the most powerful prayers that anyone can enter into.  If entered into with an open heart it will lead us directly into the deepest mysteries of our spiritual life in the Lord.  In light of that, I would like very much to write a post explaining how to pray the rosary. It is my hope that non-Catholics who read this will have a better understanding of the rosary and that Catholics my gain deeper insight into the prayers that mean so much to them.

The rosary is not a stagnant, archaic prayer which Catholics pray by rote because they are “supposed” to. Rather it is a dynamic, fluid prayer which brings spiritual life to the person who prays it with an open heart. It is a mediation which is capable of giving deep insights into the life of Our Lord and can deepen our relationship with Him. It is a prayer which evolves and grows to meet the needs of each subsequent generation while, at the same time, remaining anchored in the deepest of church traditions. The mysteries of the rosaries are as relevant to today's needs as they were when they first came into use.

Because the 20 mysteries are the focal point of the rosary, it is important to spend a little time speaking about them before getting into the “How to” of praying the rosary. As a convert to the Roman Catholic faith, I know many Protestants look askance at the rosary and praying to Mary as though it were bordering on idolatry. It isn’t. With the exception of the Apostle’s Creed, which even Protestants pray, and with the exception of the concluding prayer, all of the basic prayers and mysteries of the rosary are deeply rooted in scripture.

The 20 mysteries are broken down into 4 themes or groups consisting of 5 mysteries each. The common practice is to meditate on each of these mysteries, one at a time, while praying the corresponding decade of 10 Hail Marys. I am not going to share any of my insights into the mysteries of the rosary because it is too much information to put into one post.  I hope to be writing about some of my meditations on the rosary in the future so...stay tuned!  :)  Therefore, I am simply going to list the mysteries with the scriptures that they were taken from. This will give a good overview of the scriptural basis of praying the rosary.

The Joyful Mysteries

1. The Annunciation – Luke 1:26-35, 38
2. The Visitation – Luke 1:39-45, 56
3. The Nativity – Luke 2: 1, 3-20
4. The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple – Luke 2:22-35
5. The Finding of Jesus in the Temple – Luke 2: 41-51

The Luminous Mysteries ~ The Mysteries of Light

1. The Baptism of Jesus – Matthew3:1-2, 5-6, 13-16a; Luke 3:21b-22
2. The Wedding at Cana - John 2:1-11
3. The Proclamation of the Kingdom of God – Matt 4:17; Matt 5:1-16
4. The Transfiguration – Luke 9:28-36
5. The Institution of the Eucharist – Luke 22:14-20

The Sorrowful Mysteries

1. The Agony of our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane – Luke 22:39-36
2. The Scourging at the Pillar – John 19:1
3. The Crowning with Thorns – John 19:2; Mark 15:17-19
4. The Carrying of the Cross - John 19:16-17; Luke 23:26
5. The Crucifixion – Luke 23: 33-49

The Glorious Mysteries

1. The Resurrection – Luke 24:1-12
2. The Ascension – Luke 24:50-52; Mark 16:19
3. The Descent of the Holy Spirit – Acts 2:1-13
4. The Assumption of Mary – Rev 12
5. The Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Rev 12:1

The basic prayers of the rosary are the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer also known as the Pater Noster, the Hail Mary prayer also known as the Avé or the Avé Maria, and the Doxology which many Protestant are familiar with. I have them listed here for people who may not be familiar with them.

The Apostle’s Creed
I believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.

The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name. Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day, our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen. Matt 6:9-13

The Hail Mary Prayer
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of death. Amen.
The first part of the prayer: “Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with you” comes from Luke 1:28, and is a quote of the greeting that the Angel Gabriel gave to Mary during the Annunciation. The next sentence: “Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb”, quotes part of the greeting that Elizabeth gave to Mary and can be found in Luke 1:42. The rest of the prayer is simply a prayer of petition for Mary pray for us.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without out end. Amen.

There are many other prayers that are traditionally recited as part of the rosary, but they are optional and do not comprise the basic structure of the rosary. One of those prayers is the prayer of Fatima

Prayer of Fatima
Oh my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of Hell
And lead also souls to heaven, especially those most in need of your mercy.

The Salve Regina
Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy! Our life, our sweetness, and our hope!
To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve,
to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley, of tears.
Turn, then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us;
and after this our exile show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb Jesus;
O clement, O loving, O sweet virgin Mary,
Pray for us, O holy Mother of God
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
The Memorare
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.

Before beginning to pray the rosary, decide which of the 4 groups of Mysteries you wish to meditate on. Then it is common to pick the rosary up, hold the cross in your right hand and the rest of the rosary in your left hand. While making the sign of the cross, the person prays: “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen”

The traditional form of praying the rosary is as follows:

· Recite the Apostle’s Creed
· Pray an “Our Father” on the first large bead
· Pray one “Hail Mary” on each of the following 3 beads. The first “Hail Mary is for an increase of Faith. The second “Hail Mary” is for an increase of hope. The third “Hail Mary” is for an increase of charity.
· Pray one “Doxology”.
· Pray one “Prayer of Fatima”

· Announce the first Mystery of the group you have chosen.
· Pray an “Our Father” on the next large bead
· Pray one “Hail Mary” on each of the next 10 beads
· Pray one “Doxology”
· Pray one “Prayer of Fatima”

· Announce the second mystery of the group you have chosen
· Pray an “Our Father” on the next large bead
· Pray one “Hail Mary” on each of the next 10 beads.
· Pray one “Doxology”
· Pray one “Prayer of Fatima
· Follow this format until you have finished with the 5th mystery of the group and finished with the last 10 “Hail Mary” prayers.

· Finish with one last recitation of the “Doxology” and one last recitation of the “Prayer of Fatima”

After the last “Prayer of Fatima” most people pray the “Salve Regina” and the “Memorare”

Mother of Pearl Rosary at Laude Arts and Gifts

Monday, May 16, 2011

Newly Listed at Laude Arts and Gifts

I am so totally in love with the Avé beads in this rosary.   They are matte blue with a semi AB coating.  They have a beautiful glow and reflect different shades of blue and green.   The Pater beads are Swarovski crystal pearls.   The center depicts the Eucharist and the crucifix compliments the rest of the rosary.  Click here to view more of my handcrafted rosaries and jewelry.  

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Save Us From the Hands of All Who Hate Us

“Through his holy prophets he promised of old
That he would save us from our enemies,
From the hands of all who hate us.”
                                    Luke 1:70-71

I read these words every day as part of the Morning Liturgy of the Hours.  They have become a familiar part of my prayer time and they have always put me in mind of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.   I’ve always thought of these words in strictly spiritual terms, in terms of our Lord coming to save us from our greatest enemy, namely our sinful nature.  I say this because it is our sinful nature that has the greatest potential to keep us away from our Lord.  Jesus alone can bridge the gap between humankind and God. 

I must also say I thought of this passage in strictly spiritual terms because I don’t perceive myself to have any enemies.   There are people I don’t trust, people I don’t particularly like, but I don’t think of them as enemies.  I don’t live in a country where I am persecuted for my beliefs or anything else for that matter.  My life is pretty good, so where are the enemies that I need to be delivered from?

I never thought of these words in a literal sense…at least not until Sunday when I heard that Osama Bin Ladin had been killed by U.S. Navy Seals.   When I watched the news on TV, the words “…He will deliver us from the hands of those who hate us” were the first words that popped into my mind.  I was perplexed to say the very least.

I was puzzled because I had never thought of the war against terrorism as a spiritual war.   I have to confess that I just did not “get” it.  I dare say many Americans did not “get” that either.   Most of us have grown up against a background of war.  Sadly, we have become used to it, inured to its reality.  I was born shortly after the end of WWII, grew up with the Korean War, protested the Vietnam War, have prayed for the troops during the Gulf War and prayed for the brave men and women fighting in the war we are presently engaged in.  I’ve thought of war as a fact of life.  I’ve seen it as a struggle for territory, wealth, ideologies and political power.   I’ve never seen it as an outgrowth of the ongoing battle between the spiritual principalities that fight eternally for men’s souls.  While it galls me to give Al-Qaeda credit for anything, I must say that is the one thing that they did “get”.  They were the ones who declared “jihad”.   

While they understood that this war is spiritual, it was anything but holy on their part.  They made it clear that they were our enemies and that they hated us.  Thru Bin Ladin and Al-Qaeda, evil has shown its monstrous face in a way that few people alive have ever seen.   Very few recognized it as such.   Yet it is those few who responded in the only way that we can respond to evil…that is to fight, to battle, to go to war.

I believe it was God himself who gave our leaders the discernment to see the evil posed by Al-Qaeda and it was God who inspired them to act in the only way we could.   Could God have wiped Bin Ladin and his forces out with a few well placed lightning bolts?  Of course, but He chose not to do that.  Instead He worked His will out in the same way He has been working His will for millennia and that is thru efforts of mankind.   He has inspired and strengthened those who believe in Him to fight for good and all that is truly holy.   It took nine very long years.  It took the sacrifice of thousands of men and women who cared enough to give their very lives to prevent evil from succeeding.  And it was thru the efforts of those who dared to do the right thing that God’s will prevailed.   

On Sunday, the Lord showed us that He has kept His age old promise and has indeed “saved us from our enemies, from the hands of all who hate us.”  His strength was revealed in all of this because it was on a Sunday, a day holy to all Christians, and on the same Sunday that a holy man of God, Blessed John Paul II was beatified, that Osama Bin Ladin was shot and killed and unceremoniously dumped into the ocean.  No man alive could have planned it to happen like that.  Glory be to God!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

My Lord and My God!

On the evening of that first day of the week,when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”  When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.  Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”  But he said to them,“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them.  Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”  Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”  Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”  Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

Now, Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book.  But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.
                                                                               John 20:19-31
Today's lesson about Thomas is one of my favorite lessons.  I refuse to call him "Doubting Thomas" because he really didn't have any more doubts than the other disciples, or any of us for that matter.  I frankly think that Thomas got a raw deal.

As I wander thru the pages of the gospels trying to imagine what it must have been like in the first days of the Resurrection, I discover that none of the disciples believed Jesus had risen until they saw Him for themselves.  In fact, the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke are riddled with doubt concerning the Resurrection.  
"Three days after the crucifixion, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb where Jesus had been buried.  She found the tomb empty and was the first to see the risen Lord.  He commaned to her to go and tell the rest of the disciples, but they would not believe her, 'Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the elven and to all the rest...But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.  But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen clothes by themselves: then he went home, amazed at what had happened. "        Luke 24:89, 11-12. 

"After this he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country.  And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them."           Mark 16:12 - 13.  

 The truth is that their unbelief was so great that Jesus took them to task about it.  
" ...later he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were sitting at the table; and he upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen." Mark 16:14
In fact, at the beginning of today's gospel, Jesus appeared to the eleven  and showed them His hands and His side (see the first quote).   This tells me that at least some of the other disciples had been thinking that they (like Thomas) really needed to see and touch our Lord's wounds before they could believe. 

So why, then, do we make Thomas out to be the "heavy" in this case? Why is he the one who is dubbed "Doubting Thomas"?  What makes him different from the rest?  He is different because he was the only disciple who was honest enough to state his unbelief outright.  The others kept it to themselves.  They let it grow and fester and were scolded by Jesus for it.  However, because of his honesty, Jesus responded to Thomas' unbelief by giving Thomas the very things he said he needed to believe.  It was an act of utmost love and generosity on Jesus' part.  At this point, Thomas proclaims (about Jesus): "My Lord and My God!" It could be added that Thomas was the first disciple to do so. 

However, doesn't Jesus do this for us all?  Isn't it true that most of us are like Thomas, unable to believe fully in Jesus until we have our own personal encounter with Him and have "seen" Him for ourselves?   Isn't it true that none of us can really believe until we have experienced Him for ourselves?  At some point in our lives, each of us could be dubbed "Doubting Thomas".   Once we make an honest and sincere acknowledgement of our inability to believe, Jesus will respond to each of us according to our needs.   He gives Himself to us completely so that we can believe completely in Him.   It is an act of the utmost love and intimacy on His part..  The gift of His love to us is so overwhelming that we can only respond in the same manner as Thomas  and proclaim: "My Lord and my God!"