Archives for March 2010

Eucharistic Adoration

Eucharistic Adoration

Catholics believe in the real presence of Christ in the Sacrament of Holy Communion (see Communion, like no other). Consecrated bread and wine become the true, literal body and blood of Christ preserving only their former appearance. This is what Jesus taught at the last supper and we do not doubt Him!

At Mass we are in the direct presence of our Lord and have the opportunity to speak to Him through prayer – or just to listen. His literal presence makes this distinctly different than when we pray elsewhere. For this reason parishioners come to Mass early, or stay after, for additional prayer in His presence in the tabernacle (where the undistributed Eucharist is reserved between Masses).

Many Catholic churches offer Eucharistic Adoration where the Eucharist is exposed in a monstrance — a special cross that holds and displays the Eucharist at its center. Many of those parishes have small chapels for this purpose, as does mine. Parishioners go there for quiet prayer, reflection or inspirational reading in Jesus’ direct presence.

It is highly fitting that Christ should have wanted to remain present to his Church in this unique way. Since Christ was about to take his departure from his own in his visible form, he wanted to give us his sacramental presence; since he was about to offer himself on the cross to save us, he wanted us to have the memorial of the love with which he loved us “to the end,” even to the giving of his life. In his Eucharistic presence he remains mysteriously in our midst as the one who loved us and gave himself up for us, and he remains under signs that express and communicate this love:

The Church and the world have a great need for Eucharistic worship. Jesus awaits us in this sacrament of love. Let us not refuse the time to go to meet him in adoration, in contemplation full of faith, and open to making amends for the serious offenses and crimes of the world. Let our adoration never cease. — John Paul II

CCC 1380

Parishes with Adoration go to significant effort to insure someone is always with our Lord. To that end parishioners sign-up as Adoration Guardians for specific hours at all times throughout the day and night. Some hours are committed by individuals while others may be covered by a group of people.

The guys at my Men’s Fellowship table have signed up for Thursday mornings from 3:00am to 4:00am. Some have the honor regularly while others may offer as needed. Since one of the Lenten suggestions is increased prayer, I signed up for yesterday morning (my first time).

I went to bed early but it was still a small struggle to wake up at 2:20am! There was a very light rain, but virtually no traffic so the trip took little time. Outside the adoration chapel is a large sign reminding passers-by of adoration and asking for silence. A table holds a log book for guardians which I signed.

Inside the door are holy water fonts and sufficient space to genuflect before taking a seat (the chapel seats up to 35). There were 3 other people there when I arrived. Two, including Trish whom I know, were covering the prior hour and left after a while. The chapel itself is small, very quiet, beautifully designed and appointed.

For a few minutes I just took it all in, rested and focused. It is very peaceful and easy to pray. Without rush or distractions, and in the close presence of our Lord, prayer felt deeper and more personal than usual. It was easier to both express myself and to discern guidance.

After praying, I read a short article on the Luminous Mysteries (The “Mysteries of Light” introduced by Pope John Paul II in 2002). Then, surprisingly, it was 4:00am. It is always amazing to me how fast time passes when praying and studying.

Tony had arrived for an hour he was covering by then, so I left and returned home. The clock read 4:30am when I turned the light off – about two hours after waking up. As I again laid in bed, in the darkness, I suddenly sensed a taste in my mouth. I recognized it as the faint taste of communion wine. Non-believers have all manner of ways to dismiss such, but I believe God speaks to, and encourages us, in many ways.

A blogger / singer / songwriter…

Blogger Singer Songwriter

This blog has just passed its 2nd month anniversary. It really seems much longer than that, in a good way! One of the unexpected blessings is meeting so many kind, supportive folks on-line. Some also have blogs.

Two people in particular were very helpful by introducing this blog to their own, well established readership. Julie Davis at Happy Catholic (Not always happy, but always happy to be Catholic) and Russ Rentler at Crossed the Tiber (An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism). Both Julie and Russ are converts themselves.

Russ offered to send me a CD of some music he made. I expected to receive a homemade CD with some heartfelt, but probably amateur tunes. What I got blew me away — a professionally published CD entitled Way to Emmaus. It turns out that Russ is an awesome singer / songwriter and this is his latest of several CDs.

You may remember that Emmaus was the destination of two disheartened disciples on the first Easter Sunday. Luke 24:13-35

The tracks are entitled Late I Have Loved You, Upsy Daisy Angel, Stained Glass Windows, Holy God, Nicean Blues, Whisper, Old Time Religion, Sing of Mary, The Offering, Room of Tears, Way to Emmaus, Untier of Knots and Jewel of the Caribbean.

They are all very nice, but two in particular are my favorites. First is Untier of Knots. In the early Church Mary was known as the “untier of knots.” In her obedience to God, Mary untied the knot of disobedience set by Eve. The song is a cross between the Hail Mary and Mariology 101. A sample:

The first Eve’s rebellion, led to the fall
The new Eve said yes, brought life to us all
You gave us Jesus, at fullness of time
Then He gave you to us, from the cross as He died

My second favorite song is Nicean Blues. It is a cross between the Nicean Creed and dispelling some common myths. Ornery but humorous!

I heard some people talking trash, about the Catholic Church
Listen to my story, learn from my research
It all got started, about 33 AD
When Jesus gave the keys to Peter and said keep an eye on things for Me
Rocky you’re gonna let me down and even fall into sin
But against this Church the gates of hell are never gone to win

The CD is available from CD Baby, Amazon, iTunes and better music outlets everywhere! It is inexpensive, so pick-up your copy and one for a friend.

Important Note: All proceeds from the sale of this CD go to the St. Simon and Jude Medical Clinic in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti.

Separation of church and state

Separation Of Church State

We have all heard of the Separation of Church and State doctrine. Most of us have learned about it in school. Few remember the details and without too much thought, many assume it means an absolute separation of all things government from all things religious. That is seriously incorrect.

Our founding fathers assumed the Christian morals and values of political representatives would be reflected in their leadership. Our very law has its roots in Judeo-Christian teaching. The concern expressed in the first amendment was not to protect government from religious influence but rather to protect the free exercise of religion from government.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

First Amendment

This has become so contorted in the minds of many as to almost mean the exact opposite. That is, the duty of elected officials is to somehow strictly partition their religious faith from the exercise of their public office. Moreover, it is apparently now correct for the government to impose actions on religious organizations contrary to their beliefs. For example, requiring Catholic adoption agencies to not “discriminate” against homosexual couples or force Catholic doctors to perform abortions.

John F. Kennedy, our first and so far only Catholic president, made the problem much worse. Worse not only for Catholics, but for all faithful Christians. In his famous speech given in Houston on September 12th, 1960 he said:

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute…   I believe in a President whose religious views are his own private affair…   and whose fulfillment of his Presidential oath is not limited or conditioned by any religious oath, ritual or obligation…

These were his personal beliefs, not those of the Church or required by law. To our detriment these words have been taken as gospel by many. Catholics, and all Christians, have a duty to live their faith. While it is obviously true that politicians would be wrong to be proxies of their religious leaders, they are not exempted from knowing their faith and reflecting it in all that they do.

When a politician runs for office claiming to be a Catholic or other Christian, voters assume that person will reflect the faith they profess, to the best of their ability, if elected to office. If not, why would the religious affiliation of a candidate ever come up? If the candidate has no intention of living their faith then they should at least have the integrity Kennedy did and say so.

Some of our political leaders are exemplary. Catholic Democrat Brad Stupak has garnered a great deal of attention in his determination to see that much needed healthcare reform does not come at the cost of taxpayer funded abortion. The pressure on him to back-down and put the interests of his political party first have been enormous. Congressman Stupak’s efforts are in-line with Church teaching and are no less than that required of every faithful Catholic.

There are many other politicians, while claiming to be Christian, are pro-abortion – often stridently so. Sadly that includes several Catholics in the highest leadership positions. If it were not already bad enough to ardently support abortions under the Catholic banner, they have repeatedly misrepresented the teaching of the Church and US Catholic Bishops. This has required the bishops to take the extraordinary step of issuing public statements in response to those false claims.

I believe these pro-abortion politicians simply place politics ahead of their faith. The harm that they do through abortion promotion is obvious. They also bring scandal to the Church and mislead the faithful from the truth of the Church’s teaching. Their public actions speak volumes about their character.

On Monday, Archbishop Charles Chaput (Archbishop of Denver) spoke at Houston Baptist University. His talk covered these and related points very well. He is worth listening to:

Update: see also the excellent post from Joshua Mercer: A Faith that is Personal, Not Private.

Catholic divorce

Catholic Divorce

There is no such thing.

I touched on this topic earlier in Family, sex, life quoting Mark 10:6-12. Jesus explained the nature of marriage. When pressed further by His disciples, Jesus was unambiguous with no “wiggle room” for misinterpretation. This is what the Catechism says:

By its very nature conjugal love requires the inviolable fidelity of the spouses. This is the consequence of the gift of themselves which they make to each other. Love seeks to be definitive; it cannot be an arrangement “until further notice.” The “intimate union of marriage, as a mutual giving of two persons, and the good of the children, demand total fidelity from the spouses and require an unbreakable union between them.”

CCC 1646

The Church recognizes all valid marriages between a man and a woman. Marriages may be invalid for a variety of reasons, such as:

  • The free intent to enter into, or understanding of, marriage was not present
  • Either party was previously married
  • A direct blood relationship exists
  • A party is bound by a vow in Holy Orders or religious institute
  • Murder of spouse in order to marry another (crimen – possibly why Henry VIII simply could not kill Catherine of Aragon to marry Anne Boleyn)
  • Impotence, incompetence and fraud are some additional reasons, among others

Civil authority plays no role in the Church’s recognition of a valid marriage. In this regard, there is no civil authority. Valid marriages are valid and invalid marriages are invalid regardless of secular decrees. For this reason civil divorce simply can not dissolve a valid marriage and is not recognized by the Catholic Church.

Yet there are some situations in which living together becomes practically impossible for a variety of reasons. In such cases the Church permits the physical separation of the couple and their living apart. The spouses do not cease to be husband and wife before God and so are not free to contract a new union. In this difficult situation, the best solution would be, if possible, reconciliation. The Christian community is called to help these persons live out their situation in a Christian manner and in fidelity to their marriage bond which remains indissoluble.

CCC 1649

While it is impossible to dissolve a valid marriage, it is possible to petition the Church to officially annul an invalid one. This is not divorce but recognition that the parties were in fact, never married to each other. The annulment process is intensive, exhaustive, time consuming and expensive. Evidence must be gathered and carefully examined by a tribunal established by the local Bishop. Catholics who recognize their marriage as valid do not go down this path. Of those who believe their marriage was in fact invalid, nullity is not found for a significant percentage. It is a myth that annulments are as easily obtainable as civil divorce, that annulments are “Catholic divorce” or that the Church makes any profit in their investigation.

Note that no consideration may be given to anything occurring after a valid union as Jesus Himself gave no such “out.” The validity of a marriage could not change if for example, one spouse became adulterous, abusive, or committed despicable crimes. We would pray for the couple and their family and offer the support we could – but the marriage would remain.

Annulments themselves create complications. Children are the most important (Canon law declares them legitimate in this unfortunate circumstance). Other obligations of the previous union must be resolved. If the annulment is due to a prior marriage, that prior marriage remains valid.