Smoking my way through the Ave’s.

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Walking into Mass late wearing a mantilla is never a good look – especially if you are the only one in your parish who wears one. Of course the perfect accessory to complete this look is a swath of misbehaving children and a lack of visible husband. I guess I’m the girl who has it all! 😀

The older kid’s tooth fell out in Mass and he went into mini hysterics as he bled everywhere – ’twas the “unbloody sacrifice” no longer. The middle one was having a strop because she “didn’t want to love God” and the youngest had escaped into the pew 2 rows in front. I feel resentful that my children are spoiling my time with Jesus at Mass and I feel like a failure of a Mother.

“Jesus help me!”

That night I listen to my Divine Office through the App on my phone while I clean the kitchen. I feel guilty about combining prayer with housework, but I know that if I sit down quietly to do it I will not make it through to the end because I will be asleep because I am so exhausted.

Tuesday morning I do Morning Office in the car on the school run. The older one is fighting with the middle one and I am swearing under my breath because we have been sitting in traffic for over 10 mins. We are going to be late for school – again. I am a 9/10 on the stress levels. I hear bits of the Office – intermittently interrupted with the 3 x table and complaints that the pencilcase that I bought last week is now either lost or broken or something.

On the way home I stop in my favourite supermarket car park (you heard me correctly – I have a favourite car park) play my Rosary App, and smoke my way through the Agony in the Garden and the Scourging at the Pillar. The guilt of smoking leaves me as I realise that my Blessed Mother is showing me through these two mysteries that Jesus knows what anxiety is like, and He also knows exhaustion.

I get to morning Mass and have a quiet time where I can be with Jesus alone. I take enormous comfort in the fact that He wants me to come to Him, and He wants to dwell within me, to be as close to me as possible while I take on the work He has given me – which most of the time I don’t think I can cope with.

I get home refreshed and begin listening to the 3rd and 4th Sorrowful Mysteries. My husband comes in. He is in a bad mood. We argue loudly with the Rosary playing in the background, and then I remember the Crowning with Thorns and summon up all my strength to finally hold my tongue. My husband goes into the other room and I try to contain myself while I listen to the Carrying of the Cross, because my marriage really feels like a cross right now.

As I pull myself together and begin work, I listen to the 5th Sorrowful Mystery – the Crucifixion. I remember to submit my will to God’s will, knowing that He is in control and there is a plan to all this madness, and His Mother is always there to hold my hand.

You see, I used to think that I needed to be quiet and holy to say my prayers. I couldn’t be more wrong. Jesus and His Mother want to be there with me in the dirt and stress and struggle of my ordinary daily life. What sort of fool would I be to keep them out?

“God is found in the pots and pans.” – St Teresa of Avila

Catholic Pregnant Mum of 5 enters Beauty Pageant!

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Laura Beeson

My name is Laura Beeson, I’m a Catholic wife, mother, homemaker, beautician and sometimes singer.  So why did I, at the age of 30, with no previous experience decide to participate in a Mrs. Ohio International Pageant?  Because I wanted to.  

Now, most of my life is filled with doing things for others, and I’m happy to, I know I am serving Christ through my husband and children and volunteer work, but I learned that I don’t need to be so self-sacrificing that I won’t allow myself to have my own experiences.  If it would have been a burden to my family, I wouldn’t have followed through, but I’m frugal and self-sufficient and I’m not too proud to admit that I use YouTube videos to teach me the rest.  

For a while I struggled with guilty feelings about it all, am I just being vain?  Then one day as I contemplated it, I realized, I don’t need to feel bad about the things that bring me joy, because God gave me the interest and talent to be a beautician.  Yes, though it may seem mundane to others, hair and make-up and pretty clothes bring me joy.  And I’d go so far as to say that my Christianity helps me to filter through fads and fashion to see what truly shows beauty and discard what doesn’t, which only makes it more enjoyable.  

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Originally, I had this grand plan that I would keep it a secret that only my husband would know and after the Pageant is when family or friends would find out.  Mostly because I just wanted to do it for myself and didn’t want to come across as attention-seeking.  But after learning more about Pageantry, I realized that was unrealistic, of course they want you to promote the pageant, the community you represent, your platform and yourself. That seemed fair.  

I had chosen the Couple to Couple League – Natural Family Planning as my platform, since my husband Sean and I are a certified volunteer teaching couple through the organization, this was a wonderful opportunity to promote this uncommon knowledge to other women and couples.  I told myself to let go of the pride, don’t worry about what others think, and just do it!  So for the six weeks leading up to the Pageant, I promoted myself as Mrs Crawford County through social media and my husband graciously obliged to go along with it all, I love that man.   

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Now, let me make it clear, not all Pageant systems are created equal, but I liked what I saw within the Mrs. International system.  

What Is Mrs International®?
A FAMILY AFFAIR… The International Pageant system has been developed to promote today’s married women, their accomplishments, and commitment to family and marriage. Around the world women are finding this system to be the opportunity to work with their husband and family to become positive role models.

 

Our Mission: “To Make a Difference”
Beginning 30 years ago, Mrs. International® was developed to have higher standards than other pageant systems. Each contestant competes in Interview Competition, which is valued for 50% of her overall score, Evening Gown, valued for 25% and Fitness Wear for 25%. Each contestant has the opportunity to select a platform of her choice that she spends the year promoting. Husbands are a direct part of the show, escorting their wives in the Evening Gown competition, and the husband crowns his wife titleholder.


I’m sure there may be other Pageant Systems that I wouldn’t feel comfortable participating in or promoting, but this is a system where they value family and community work, I can stand with that.

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Now, at the time, we had 4 kids, ages 7, 5, 3, & 1, as you can see, our kids have been pretty consistently spaced with the use of Natural Family Planning (NFP).  I know, plenty of people look at us and think, “Clearly that method doesn’t work,” but to us, it’s a testament that it has.  I’ve always been the “weird” gal who wanted a larger family, but after our 4th was born, I was feeling pretty worn down and in need of a mental and physical break, which NFP assisted us with.  I loved and served the family I had, started exercising regularly which did me more good than I realized it would, enjoyed the return to normal hormone levels and the regular body functions that accompany them.  

Then, all of a sudden, I found that God had changed my heart unexpectedly and having another baby wasn’t so scary anymore, and in fact, I was interested in another baby. So, we weighed our reasons to postpone pregnancy, and there weren’t too many anymore, I’d be 12 weeks pregnant for the Ohio Pageant and if I won and had to attend the International Pageant, I’d be 6 months along.  Basically, I realized that it was more important to be true to myself and allow the possibility of another life than to worry about how I’d look in a gown or how others’ perceived the workings of NFP.  So, it was no surprise to me, that I was 12 weeks pregnant for the Pageant, but I had decided to keep it a secret since I didn’t want there to be any wonderings about biased judging, nor had I been to the doctor yet for a check up.

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The week leading up to the Pageant I packed my things, made sure I had everything I needed and reminded myself that no matter what, I was going to enjoy myself, because that was the point of me doing this whole thing.  If I made a mistake, or didn’t have something I needed, or spoke poorly, I’d let it go quickly and move on with enjoying the experience.

Saturday morning I arrived to the Pageant venue for Orientation to begin at 10 AM, there were 4 categories of ladies competing:  Junior Miss, Miss Teen, Miss & Mrs.  There were 6 of us in the Mrs. division.  Most of the day I fought the feelings of intimidation, I’d see a beautiful woman and before I’d allow myself to think one way or another about her, I’d make myself go over to her and start chatting.  And you know what?  Making yourself move is the hardest step, but after that, you start to enjoy yourself, because people are interesting!  I’ve learned that we women, do ourselves a disservice when we make judgements about other women by what we perceive from their appearance.  We miss out on possible friendships, opportunities to serve, or the chance to make ourselves a better well-rounded person. The way a woman looks on the outside, does not speak of who she is as a person.  

Over the years, I’ve had quite a few people tell me that when they first met me, they thought I was a snob (well, they used a different word, but I won’t repeat it here) but once they got to know me, they say that word doesn’t describe me at all, whew, that’s a relief!  I don’t know why I’ve come across that way, but I think that’s helped me to develop myself into being more friendly than the stand-off-ish route I used to take when meeting others.  

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Our interviews were with five different judges for five minutes each, the questions varied from “What are your plans if you win?” to “If you were an animal, what would you be?”  I’d say it went well, and a hippo was my answer.  Most of the day was filled with covering what was expected of us and practicing as best we could for the Performance Pageant the next day.

Luckily, on Sunday morning I was able to find a Catholic Church that held a 7 AM mass that was only about a 15 minute drive from the Pageant venue, because we were expected to arrive by 8:20 AM and were not permitted to leave the building for the rest of the day.  The day was filled with rehearsal, hair & make up and more rehearsal before the show began at 5 PM.  

I’d say I kept up with the “pros” just fine, I didn’t forget my name, I didn’t trip on stage, or stammer for words during the Fish Bowl question.  I did realize after one portion that I had forgotten to look at the judges, so I knew I didn’t have a perfect score, but I planned to do the best I could for the remainder of the event.  I ate pizza while waiting to showcase my Fitness Wear in the changing room, clearly I took it all very seriously.  And the best part was my wonderful husband got to escort me across the stage in my evening gown, looking quite dapper himself.  

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I wasn’t the least bit surprised that the wonderful Teri Grothaus won the title of Mrs. Ohio International, she’s a CNP who goes on mission trips to Guatemala and collects bottles of vitamins to distribute to the children there, and I think it’s safe to say we knew almost immediately we were kindred spirits.  She’s a gem, and this week I’m cheering her on as she competes in the Mrs. International Pageant representing our state of Ohio!

Looking in retrospect, I’m happy about it all:  that I did it, that I informed others about NFP, that I could show my kids that you can enjoy the things you lose at, that it helped me to develop in characteristic ways I had let slack.  

So, would I do it again?  To my delighted surprise, the answer is yes.  Will I?  I don’t know, maybe.  That’s what I love about life, I don’t have to make definitive answers about the future, because I don’t know what God has planned, but if I leave myself open to the possibilities, then I haven’t limited myself.  Whether I do or don’t, I’ll strap on the Breastplate of Christ and go about my way, hopefully letting Him carry me into unlikely places and sharing uncommon things in the world around me.

– Laura Beeson

What is modesty anyway?

modestyI was trying to write this post on modesty, and then I realised I was way too cheeky. So I scrapped the first version and am now re-writing the post from the position of someone who struggles with modesty.

I’m 38 now, overweight and knackered from my 3 kids – which helps. It was much more of a struggle when I was younger and totally hot and had loads of energy. In someways it is actually a relief to be too tired to be bothered about how I look, and all that male attention I used to get is really the last thing I want nowadays. However, I’m not dead yet. I think it is important to look nice. But there is a difference between looking nice and looking sexy.

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The truth is, if you are a woman and you have a pulse, men are going to find you attractive. It took me many years and many prayers before it dawned on me that being a woman comes with a huge amount of responsibility. It also helped when I started to learn about how porn effects a mans brain to the point where it can quite easily become a fully fledged addiction. Suddenly the smug ego trip I used to get from all the attention changed into the horrifying emptiness of the thought that some of those men would actually be aiming for holiness and I was causing them to stumble.

I started to think about how I was dressing, but quickly realised that modesty is much, much more than just the clothes we wear. It is attitude, behaviour, motivation. Lets face it – it is possible to be covered up from head to toe and still lick an ice-lolly in an immodest way. You see my point?

It is possible to wear a burka, a space suit or bin bag and STILL flash that smile and bat those eyelashes. Modesty is not just about how we present ourselves on the outside, but also what out motivations are on the inside.

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I wanted to be desired by the men and envied by the women. But it was all very much under the surface. I don’t think I was even totally aware of it myself. I wanted attention. I wanted to feel special. I wanted to feel loved and adored. I wanted to feel successful. Modern western society taught me that I would gain these things by being sexually appealing.

But my desires were not fulled by love or goodness. They were fulled by fear. The truth is that I had a self esteem problem. Deep down I didn’t believe I was special, or lovable, and so what I was trying to do was to prove to myself that I was. The problem was that the attention I was getting from men was not fulled by love or goodness either – it was fulled by lust, which meant that I was never finding the attention and love I so desperately needed – which only made me try harder to find it by becoming more and more appealing. It is a vicious circle – and it only gets harder as we age.

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If I am honest, I do still struggle with modesty, not so much in a sexual way now, but in a reality kind of way. Even now I still have echos of those deep fears that I am somehow not appealing enough as a person, and it is all too easy to paint that smile on and present a version of myself on social media that is more appealing than the real person sitting behind the keyboard. You do it too…

I am finding that the more I meditate on how Christ sees me, the less concerned I am becoming about how other people see me – or even how I see myself. Ironically, I have trouble accepting His love. Perhaps because I still don’t really believe I am worthy of it – which of course I am not, but He chooses to give it to me anyway. I hold my crucifix and still can’t figure that one out.  With Him there is no need to try. There is no need for hair dye or botox or breast implants. He created me – He knows all my flaws, inside and out, and He still loves me. For some reason I find that extremely painful and overwhelming and often find myself holding my crucifix and wiping my tears. But I guess healing does hurt sometimes.

And the real punchline here is that my whole life – while I have been trying my hardest to get peoples attention left right and centre, I missed the fact that He was there all along trying to get mine.

 

Giving more in the bedroom – Catholic style :)

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Luke 21:1-4

21 He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.”

This wonderful piece of scripture illustrated perfectly how I teach people how to fast. Often people approach fasting as a rule bound endurance test in which discipline reigns supreme and we all feel awful and end up just hating fasting – or simply give up.

The way I approach fasting is to encourage people to give up just 1 cup of coffee in the morning, but to do it out of pure love for God, in conjunction with a short prayer. You see, fasting is all about love. It is about how much we are willing to give. How much we are willing to joyfully suffer is the measure of our love (God never enjoys a grumpy faster! 😀 ).

Love and suffering go hand in hand and can never be separated. This is such a fundamental truth of Christianity, illustrated perfectly by Christ on the cross, that it can very quickly become overwhelming. My approach is very much based on the spirituality of St Therese of Lisieux: little things done with great love. If we can understand the concept of the indissolubility of love and suffering in the smallest thing, then we can begin to apply it to bigger things in our lives.

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The absolute key element is that we must be very honest with ourselves about how much we are able to give at this point in our lives. If we are holding back, then we are holding back our love and we will never grow closer to God. If we are giving too much, then we are going to burnout and become resentful about giving any more. Both of these polarised stances are as harmful as each other. Balance is the key. Honesty, patience and compassion towards ourselves, and support from a faithful and experienced spiritual director who knows us and how much we can cope with.

The poor widow got this exactly right. She un-begrudgingly gave all she could give, and it was the right amount. Of course we don’t know this woman’s circumstances outside of this story. She may have had family or friends supporting her. She may have been relying entirely on God to provide for her needs. I very much doubt Jesus would have approved so strongly of her generosity if it meant she was going to make herself ill, or cause her not to be able to cope. She realistically gave all she could at that time in her life.

Some of my friends and family know that I fast. They don’t get why! I try explaining but their hearts are just not in the right place to understand about how I want to reciprocate the enormous love shown to me by Jesus on the Cross, with little acts of self sacrifice – and I respect that. Everyone is at a different stage. I’m sure they are stronger in other areas where I am very weak.

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It struck me this morning that this story, and the way it relates to fasting can also be applied perfectly to the Catholic Churches teaching on married couples being open to life.

Of course the norm in our secular society is to use artificial contraception. We used artificial contraception for the first 5 years of our marriage. But the Church teaches that this way of having sex causes us to hold back our love. Love, in a Catholic marriage is about the entire self giving of ones self to the other – and to God. This is probably one of the hardest teachings we will ever face because it cuts down to the very core of who we are as people and our need to love and to be loved. Also, artificial contraception gives the impression that sex is something that we have the right to control and use as we please. This view is so normalised now within our secular society that being open to life and having a large family is sadly regarded as odd.

What I find so sad is that people using artificial contraception just don’t know what they are missing out on. Having lived both lifestyles, I can absolutely attest to the fact that being open to life is so, so much better. It is healthier, more natural, teaches you and your husband respect for your body and your fertility, empowers you to be able to discuss marriage, sex and babies in a much more open and giving way with God as the boss. But that is not to say that it is easy. It took me about 6 years to get to the stage where I could peacefully and happily be open to life.

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Just like with fasting, I was struggling with how much I was willing to give – how much I could give at that point in my life. This is why I say it really is a lifestyle, rather than just a part of ones life. As I prayed about being open to life, I found myself beginning to prioritise different things in my life, giving things up, re-ordering things. I found myself deciding that at this point in my life, remaining open to life was more important to me than having a career. That is not to say that I gave up my job – but only that it now ranked less important on my list of priorities. Of course at this time in our lives my husband had a good job and there was not real need for me to work – so I was in a position to be able to give that up. I was also lucky enough to have a husband who was also keen to be open to life. Many people don’t have this. We were both in good health and had support from my parents. Many people don’t have this either. But most crucially, I wanted to give more – just like I wanted to fast. I was at that stage in my spiritual life where I could feel God calling me to do this.

The rewards that came to the marriage from us both giving more came as a complete surprise to both of us. Rather than “What am I getting out of this marriage?” it changed to “What more can I give to this marriage?”. All 3 of our children were planned. In fact our second and third child were conceived quickly using NFP to determine when I was at peak ovulation. Our first child took over a year because we hadn’t learned about my cycle at that point and obviously didn’t know what the heck we were doing! 😀

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But it wasn’t always easy to get into the giving mindset. I don’t have easy pregnancies. I get very sick and very big and very tired. I really do not like being pregnant very much at all. My first experience of birth was very traumatising and I swore blind after that that I could never have another child because I could just never go through that again. The day after our first child was born my Father in law died, and my husband started a new job. We grieved all through our first days of becoming parents. It was awful. My husband was not able to get into the Father role emotionally for over a year. I had to do it on my own.

After my first two children I had crushing post natal depression. After my second I got 9 months of 24/7 tinnitus. We went through the most horrendous time as a couple. I really felt overwhelmed a lot of the time and that I wasn’t really coping or doing a good job as a Mum. I got mastitis after all 3 and couldn’t breastfeed – and I know that if I have another baby I will get it again because that is just how my body is made. And through all these times I struggled agonisingly with being open to life.

We often failed to stick to the teaching, not out of pure selfishness or greed or lust, but out of not being able to cope with the stress and the pressure of normal life, and the need to be loved and comforted by each other. I often felt like a terrible failure at these times – which was the totally wrong outlook. We are only human. Just as in fasting – you can only give your all. Any more than that and you start to make yourself ill, or resentful about giving more. And lets not underestimate for a second the damage that is caused by unchecked resentment in the bedroom, or the rest of the marriage. For some people, even giving up one cup of coffee is a struggle, and you simply cannot ask anymore of them at that stage in their life if they are truly giving their all. We are all at different stages.

IT IS OK TO STRUGGLE! Struggling means that the desire to live the teaching is there, even if you are not quite able to do it yet. My advice to this would be exactly what I would say about fasting: be patient and compassionate with yourself, take it to confession and let it go, and keep going 🙂 What would make it easier for you to be open to life? What would make it possible for you to be able to give more? Have you ever tried the Little Way Of Fasting?

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There is one last thing…

The Catholic church teaches that “For just reasons, spouses may wish to space the births of their children. It is their duty to make certain that their desire is not motivated by selfishness” CCC 2368

It is possible to use NFP with an artificial contraception mindset. That is to say that there is no good reason why you should be avoiding having another child right now. Reasons for this would be based upon a couple preferring a smaller family and a more comfortable lifestyle. This totally goes against the philosophy of being open to life and certainly is not giving your all. In terms of fasting this would be like giving up your cup of coffee in the morning, but having a cup of tea instead – you really arn’t giving anything.

Of course that is not to say that people do have very real reasons to avoid pregnancy. The mothers life might be at risk from another pregnancy for example. In my case, my husband is sick and unable to work which has put me in the position of breadwinner. I can honestly say that I am at the limit of what I can give right now. And that’s ok 🙂

It is all about love. How much are we willing to love? How much are we willing to give? Be it fasting or being open to life, the same rule applies: We must never give begrudgingly, and just like the poor widow, God does not expect me to give anymore than my absolute all. We are all a work in progress 🙂

Keep giving! 🙂

The first time I wore a mantilla…

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Rhoslyn Thomas wears a Di Clara Aubergine Mini Mantilla.

By Rhoslyn Thomas.

The first time it ever occurred to me that I might like to veil, I was 21 and walking home from Mass. I admitted to my friend that I was having thoughts about wearing a mantilla. We both laughed: What was happening to me?! This wasn’t ‘me’ at all. But we had both changed a lot in that last year and we were slowly getting used to the idea of letting God take the reins in our lives.

A few weeks later, I was living about 60km outside of Rome and attending, almost daily, an Old Rite Mass celebrated by the FSSP. I wanted so much to cover my head in Mass, not because anyone ever pressured me, but because I thought it was a beautiful gesture. However, I was very nervous and self-conscious.

Someone had once mentioned veiling to me on pilgrimage. She told me that our hair is our glory and that by covering it, we honor God while we are in His presence, i.e. in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. I am ashamed to say that, before this short conversation, I actually thought that women who wore veils were a bit oppressed! As I began to become interested in veiling, I very quickly realized that this assumption could not be further from the truth (if only I could have seen myself now, how I would have laughed!).

The first time I finally worked up the courage to cover my hair during Mass, I was absolutely terrified. I wanted to do it so much, but in my mind I felt everyone was watching me. I sat at the back of the church in Santissima Trinita dei Pellegrini in central Rome and tried to forget all my worries.

I actually felt different when I was wearing it. In a very short time, my mantilla came to be a great help to me in concentrating on the Mass and in helping me to differentiate between the outside world and God’s house, where the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass would take place and where I am in the presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.

At home, the reaction to my mantilla is almost always overwhelmingly positive. People just realize somehow that it is a very beautiful reverent thing to do in a sacred place. Now it is second nature to me and I would not be without my veil.

For those who are just starting out with veiling, a mini-mantilla might just be the thing for you. It is not as big as a full size mantilla and is also really practical if you are dealing with young kids at Mass. I have promised myself an early Christmas present of a purple one I can wear during Advent!

Until you veil, it’s hard to describe what it will do for you. The best way to find out would be to just try it! If you are feeling nervous then just start wearing it at home while you pray, then you might want to wear it at adoration, and before you know it you will have the desire to wear it every time you step into the church!

Before long, you’ll come to see how much more a veil will be to you than just a piece of material.

For a full range of mantilla veils, I would recommend www.diclara.co.uk who offer flat rate shipping worldwide.

Bishops making Catholicism more like Protestantism and Islam.

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Here we see the wonderful Bishop Egan of Portsmouth Diocese UK strongly trying to defend the Catholic Church from falling into chaos.

The issue – if you didn’t already know – is that some Bishops are calling for the divorced and re-married to be able to receive Holy Communion. This of course can never happen because a Catholic marriage is valid unto death do us part – unless an annulment is granted.

“Easy” you might say – “The Pope would never allow that to happen!”

Well, officially the Pope has not actually come out in favor of it, but he has also refused to come out and denounce it – despite several high ranking Cardinals and Bishops pleading with him to do so. This leaves the church in a very vulnerable position.

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The strength of the Catholic Church comes from it’s unbroken line of authority. Jesus made Peter the first Pope, and the authority has remained in place for over 200 years. We have the Magesterium – the hierarchy of the Church that keeps belief and teaching centralized and universal. This means that every Catholic, anywhere on earth, will be under the same authority and believe the same thing.

The word ‘Catholic’ means ‘Universal’, and it is this structure of our religion that gives us great strength. We are not at liberty to interpret the scriptures as we please – no, the interpretation has been handed down to us through an unbroken line of Faith, Reason, Scripture and Tradition. You only have to take a look at Protestantism and Islam to see how important this central authority is.

images-2106The Protestant church does not have Tradition as the Catholic church does, but instead allows for personal interpretation of scripture. This allows the individual to take a piece of scripture, and make it fit their wants and needs. It is this personal interpretation that has given rise, amoungst other things, to women priests and the support of active homosexual relationships, which have torn congregations in two in many protestant parishes.

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This freedom of interpretation is also seen within Islam. Like Protestantism, Islam has no central hierarchy, no central interpretation of the holy texts. Within Islam, any man can declare himself an Imam, set up his own Mosque, and effectively declare himself his own Pope. This is why you could have a Mosque at one end of your road full of perfectly nice and peaceful Muslims who ignore the parts of the Qu’ran that say ‘Kill the infidels!’, and a Mosque at the other end of the road in which they stick to the text quite literally and want you dead!

Within both Protestantism and Islam, this ‘freedom’ to interpret the holy texts as one wishes has only led to division, and is the cause of great weakness within the religions.

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Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta

Recently in Malta, the Bishops have taken advantage of the Pope’s silence on the matter of Communion for the divorced and re-married and has made the decision to ALLOW those in a state of adultery to receive Communion based on their own interpretation of whether they feel at peace or not with God.

“a separated or divorced person who is living in a new relationship manages, with an informed and enlightened conscience, to acknowledge and believe that he or she are [sic] at peace with God, he or she cannot be precluded from participating in the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist”. – Bishops of Malta.

This puts the average priest in an impossible situation:

Does he obey his Bishop and administer Communion to those in adulterous relationships?

Or does he obey Rome where the teaching still stands that to do so would be mortal sin?

Should the priest have to go against his conscience – and crucially, the central teaching of the Catholic Church, to remain in line with His Bishop? Would he be at fault if he didn’t? Do the Bishops of Malta not see that this is going to divide the Church and make it weak?

The Magisterium of the Church clearly states that:

85 “The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ.” This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome. 86 “Yet this Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it. At the divine command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this devotedly, guards it with dedication and expounds it faithfully. All that it proposes for belief as being divinely revealed is drawn from this single deposit of faith.”

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Of course the obviously simple solution to this is for Pope Francis to stand up and clearly re-state the central teaching on Communion for the divorced and re-married.

Why, oh why is he just sitting on the fence, enabling this confusion to continue and causing enormous anxiety to his good and faithful priests?

 

Surviving Advent as a Sinner.

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Cute little baby Jesus, Christmas trees and family gatherings are all the kind of things that give us the warm fuzzies around Advent and Christmas.

The over sentimentality and uber perfectness of TV adverts, and watching your own beautiful children in the school nativity play is enough to make even the most hardened of us cower at the fearful power of purity and innocence.

It is this purity, innocence and stillness of the nativity that, as a sinner, I can find very difficult to deal with. I am aware of my own sin – all too well this year. I am aware of my human weaknesses and can only bury my head in my hands during prayer right now and beg for God’s mercy.

Who the heck can possibly be expected to celebrate the Incarnation when they are suffering from porn addiction, having an affair, a same sex relationship or recovering from an abortion? Well, I’ll tell you who – all of us. We are all sinners. We are all in desperate need of a saviour. And if you think for some reason you do not need to fall on your face at the foot of the manger and beg for mercy from that tiny baby boy, then you have a serious pride problem.

During Advent we are all called to pray and fast to prepare our hearts for the coming of our saviour. I would suggest giving up something like 1 cup of coffee or 1 cigarette per day. No more than that. Tiny steps. It is not about willpower and it is not about discipline – it is about love. Offer it with the entirety of your heart. Give it to Jesus out of pure love and gratitude for His love.

If you can give up one tiny thing per day, and give it with your whole heart, I guarantee this will be the most life transforming Advent you will ever have.

Prayer, tiny fasting, and of course confession. This is the way for a sinner not just to to survive Advent, but to emerge out the other side as a new creature in Christ.

Let’s do this together.

 

 

Open letter from a “rigid” Hebrew Catholic to Pope Francis.

 

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Dear Holy Father,

There has been a lot of talk lately about Catholics who are “too rigid”.  Those who attend the Latin Mass have been derided for placing love of tradition over love of each other.  Those who follow the traditional teaching of the Church on the reception of Holy Communion have been similarly disparaged.  I can relate to this accusation. I love the Tridentine Mass. I go at almost every opportunity. I, too, struggle with the idea that someone who is objectively living in a mortally sinful relationship should ever receive the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ.

I can also relate to this accusation for another reason.  I am a Hebrew Catholic. That is, I am also Jewish. And as a Jew, I of course have something to say 😉

If ever one group were derided by the Church at large for legalism, it would have to be us.  Stemming from the accusations against the Pharisees in the New Testament, you have to admit, we Jews have faced all sorts of these accusations.  Indeed, are we not the ones who pass by the man on the road, leaving a Samaritan to care for him? Are we not the ones who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel, modern day Pharisees? As a Jew in the Church then, surely it is not surprising that I find myself in this “rigid” category?

The truth is that Jews are often misunderstood in their love of the Law.  So, too, are more traditional Catholics.  Being scrupulous is the plague of anyone trying to be holy, that is true, but attention to detail in keeping the Law, a desire to do what is right, is not the same as scruples, even if they might sometimes creep in.

In Judaism, when someone becomes Torah observant, we say that they are becoming “religious”. There is great rejoicing over this, not because it means people are finally “doing what they are told” and “obeying the Law”, but because they are entering into a deeper relationship with HaShem, or, as you might know him, the Lord.  Becoming religious in Judaism is a romantic experience: you fall madly in love with G-d and you want to do anything to please him.  You become aware of how small you are and how great he is, and how wonderful it is that he has chosen you.

Another way to look at it would be to say that you become more perfectly God’s child. Contrary to popular thought, the idea of G-d being Father did not begin with the earthly Jesus.  True, in knowing the Son we came to know and distinguish the Father of the Trinity properly speaking, but in terms of a paternal relationship, we have had that in Judaism as far back as Moses, if not beyond:

“Is not he your father, who created you, who made you and established you?” (Deu 32:6 NRSV) and everyone knows that “As a father has compassion for his children, so the LORD has compassion for those who fear him.” (Psa 103:13 NRSV).

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Let us go back to those passages above. Firstly, the accusation of scruples to the Pharisees is actually part of an inner Jewish debate. Look at Tractate Shabbat in the Talmud, and you can see it continued on for centuries.

Holy Father, the first important thing to note is that Christ is not correcting the Jewish Law itself. Rather, he is pointing out that at the heart of Judaism is God’s mercy by which He draws us to Him (a subject you have been focusing on intensely this past year within the church). That it is the Spirit of the Law that really matters because the Law is a tutor, and if you build the fence around the Torah too high, you will not be able to see the commandment, and the purpose of it, itself:

They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them.” (Mat 23:4 NRSV).

In Judaism, this principle is still practiced: when one becomes religious, one keeps the basics of the Torah first and builds up until one is fully observant.  What matters is that you are trying, and you are on the road to holiness.

Finally, on the Good Samaritan, I say this: the priest and the Levite are travelling towards Jericho, not the Temple. Contact with blood is a matter of ritual not moral impurity, and the only need they would have had to worry about contact with it would have been if they were travelling towards the Temple: there is no problem in getting a bit bloody in Judaism. Just make sure you wash in a Mikhveh so you are clean to worship.

In fact, even if they had been travelling towards the Temple, they should still have stopped because the Law tells us to “love our neighbours as ourselves” (Lev. 19:18). Yep, that didn’t originate with Jesus, either! (Except as the Eternal Word, of course!)

You can break any law in the Torah to save a life.  The problem was not that they would have been breaking the Law had they stopped, but that they broke it by not stopping.

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Once we understand that the Law itself is not the issue, we see that at the same time as making sure you can still see over the fence, Jesus doesn’t mean you disobey the Law. Of those same Pharisees, he says, “do what they tell you” (Matt 23:3), after all. Indeed, you don’t want the devil jumping over and destroying the garden of your soul, and “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat 5:20 NRSV). And anyone who truly loves God surely desires the latter with all their heart.

Holy Father, faithfulness, strict adherence, is not something contrary to the Gospel spirit.  It is an outpouring of a desire to be with God, just as “becoming religious” is in Judaism. Moreover, it is how we should be. The possibility of over-caution in keeping the Law, and warning against it, is not the same as saying the Law is at fault and can, or should, be broken or changed.  Of course, as Catholics, we believe that the Law is fulfilled in Christ.  I am not saying don’t have your bacon sandwich on Sunday morning! However, let us never forget that it is fulfilled, and so in its new state, we must continue to keep it with all our hearts.

Time will tell what the Church will make of Amoris Laetitia.  Until then, we pray and trust in God.  But please let us end this nonsense over faithfulness to Tradition and Church teaching is blind “rigidity”. It isn’t.  In the same way Jews are blamed for being rigid, but are, in fact simply doing everything to please God for the love of Him, so, too are those of us Catholics who are standing firm on Church teaching, and entering more deeply into the faith through an immensely enriching liturgy.

Yours sincerely,

A Hebrew Catholic.

New Di Clara Kids Vestment Sets.

Introducing the cutest way possible to foster vocations!

Gothic style Chasuble, Stole and Chalice Veil.

Made with REAL vestment orphrey bands, a real Di Clara label and exquisite embroidery, this childs vestment set is the closest thing your son will get to a real set of vestments before he becomes a real priest!

Children learn through play, and this is the perfect way for parents or First Holy Communion catechists to foster vocations and teach children about the different liturgical colours, different parts of the Mass and what happens on the altar.

I have a limited number of these before Christmas – I only have 1 set left of the Red and the Purple right now, so please buy now if you are interested to avoid disappointment. And please share with anyone who you think might be interested!

Thanks x