When I presented Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI with his 90th Birthday Di Clara vestments.

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“To have Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI hold your hand and thank you, and describe your vestments as “…wonderful, beautiful…” is something I never dreamed could happen 18 months ago when I started my vestments business – Di Clara.”…Read more here: https://www.diclara.co.uk/blogs/news/when-i-presented-pope-emeritus-benedict-xvi-with-his-90th-birthday-di-clara-vestments

Crowdfunding for Priests/Seminarians and Pope Benedict’s 90th Birthday vestments – Very Exciting!!

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A representation of the back piece of the chasuble including the embroidery and Papal shield at the base.

Di Clara’s main aim is to help restore beauty to the liturgy. It also enables me to provide for my family at the same time. I absolutely love my job! It is such an honour to know that the sacred garments I am making will be used during Mass. I love getting to know and working with priests and seminarians, and also with their families and sponsors/benefactors.

My latest project is something very exciting. I have decided to launch Crowdfunding through Di Clara to help Seminarians, Priests and Parishes fundraise for their chosen vestments. So many people come to me wanting to bring beauty back to the liturgy through beautiful vestments, altar frontals etc. but are unable to commit to a large one off payment. So I decided to offer a solution to this problem by opening up the cost to those who are financially blessed and wish support them.

If you are interested in starting your own Di Clara Crowdfunding campaign just contact me at crowdfunding@diclara.co.uk and I will be able to set up your very own page that you can share on social media.

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A graphic of the embroidery design I created from the statue of Our Lady of Altötting.

The first project to be launched using Di Clara Crowdfunding will be a very special 5 piece set of Roman vestments to be made for  Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in celebration of his 90th Birthday in April 2017. It will be a Roman 5 piece set including Chasuble, Stole, Maniple, Chalice Veil and Burse.

I have taken the design from the statue of Our Lady of Altötting – a personal favourite of Pope Benedict. His Papal coat of arms will sit at the base of the Chasuble. The design will be hand embellished with semi-precious stones including fresh water pearls and garnet. I will also be adding some raised gold work where appropriate. This really is going to be a one-off amazing project.

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Our Lady of Altötting.

And YOU can be part of this! Depending on the amount you wish to donate, your name and thank you message to the Holy Father will be embroidered into the lining of the chasuble, forever being encapsulated into his 90th Birthday celebrations.

Please come and be part of this historic celebration HERE and help us thank this great man for all he has done for God’s Holy Catholic Church!

Clare x

www.diclara.co.uk

From Gay Pride to True Humility: Joe’s amazing conversion story.

Ash Wednesday marks four years since I rejected the “gay lifestyle” and came back to the Catholic Church. I didn’t have a singular moment of conversion like St. Paul. Rather, it was a slow drip, a series of gradual, often hesitant pivots towards the Church.

The first pivot came when Saint John Paul II died.

Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul II had been the only pope I’d ever known up to that time. My childhood parish had a painting of him on the altar next to the tabernacle. I’m from Chicago, so naturally I have Polish ancestry, and a Polish pope was a point of pride when other kids called me a dumb Polak or a Commie. I was a toddler when Pope John Paul II was elected, so I had never experienced a conclave before. A German? They’re calling him “God’s Rottweiler” and he was in the Hitler Youth?

Despite my secular, sinful life, I’d always had a soft spot and sympathy for Holy Mother Church, even during the explosion of the priest sex abuse scandal. I was willing to give Benedict XVI the benefit of the doubt. I wanted to know more about him. Some of the news coverage cited his pre-conclave homily as sealing the deal for the cardinal electors. Then Cardinal Ratzinger declared, “We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything for certain and which has as its highest goals one’s own ego and one’s own desires.” That hit me right between the eyes. So I started, occasionally, visiting Catholic websites, learning more about what this “relativism” is. There are some incredible resources out there.

It’s unclear how much of it was sentimentalism and how much was the pursuit of truth. I knew in my heart that my way of living was wrong. But I didn’t change my life. I was Catholic in name only. I hadn’t attended mass in years, despite a parish a block away from my apartment. The weekend gay bar hopping, binge drinking, pornography consumption, and casual hook-ups went on and on. I was young and “you only live once.” Nevertheless, a seed was planted.

The second pivot came when I found an old prayer book.

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An elderly relative had died, and I was helping family clean out their house. I found a copy of “My Prayer Book” by Father F. X. Lasance in a drawer and snuck it into my backpack. For whatever reason, I was too embarrassed to tell anyone I wanted it, or ask if I could take it. Surely they’d have said yes. The book was at least a half-century old and barely used. Most of the pages stuck together. Over the course of several months, I read it cover to cover. It was astounding.

Immersed in that culture that “has as its highest goals one’s own ego and one’s own desires,” in that book I encountered beautiful reflections on self-denial, on forgiveness, even “The Blessing of Pain and Grief.” It catechized me in a way that 12 years of Catholic schools and an ostensibly Catholic family failed to do. A few years later when I lost it, I was able to order a replacement online from Fraternity Publications. I highly recommend it.

The third pivot came after overhearing a conversation at work about the Real Presence.

The Priest says: “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.”

I’m not sure how they happened onto the topic, but the office secretary was talking to another employee about Roman Catholics, and she said, “We believe that the Eucharist is the body of Christ.” 

“We do?” I thought? Like, THE body of Christ? Huh? No, it’s just a symbol. What was she talking about? I’d never heard that before, and I’m Catholic. Whatever.

Some online research confirmed what she said. It felt like a punch in the stomach. Again, after 12 years of Catholic schools and Catholic parents I did not even know such a fundamental doctrine of the faith? How was that possible? Had I ever received worthily, validly? If one needs to be in a state of grace to approach for communion, why did everybody go up? Why didn’t my mother go to confession? How come she’d never encouraged us kids to regularly confess? The more I read about the Real Presence, the more ashamed I felt, even betrayed.

The fourth pivot came after reading an article on “the Latin Mass” on the front page of the Chicago Tribune.

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The article preceded Pope Benedict’s moto proprio Summorum Pontificum. Several Chicago parishes offered the mass. “Fans” quoted in the article gushed over how transcendent the Latin Mass was, how it was so beautiful they wanted to cry. I’d always enjoyed history, and I knew this was the mass my parents grew up with. So one Sunday, I visited one of the parishes.

I expected to witness the mass I grew up with, only in a different language, with nice(r) music, and with the priest facing the other way. What I encountered was baffling and frustrating. I had no idea what was going on. For long periods, nothing happened. The priest just stood there, facing the tabernacle. He wasn’t talking at all, much less in Latin, from what I could tell. But a realization hit me, seeing the priest there before the tabernacle: This is what mass is all about: the Eucharist!

The night and day difference between the Extraordinary Form and the Ordinary Form sent me back to the Internet. I found some podcasts on iTunes by Dr. James Dobbins that dove into the history of the Extraordinary Form, about how much traces back to the Temple in Jerusalem, the symbolism of ad orientum, and so on. It was like finding buried treasure. I returned to that parish several times, window shopping as it were.

The fifth pivot came when someone asked me to be their child’s godfather.

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For one thing, I never expected that parent to ask me. We weren’t particularly close. For another, I knew this was a serious, sacred obligation I was entering into. It wasn’t merely an honorific title. For the first time in 15, maybe 20 years, I went to confession.

The Lord blessed me with a gentle and patient priest behind the confessional screen. He counselled me that my same sex attraction was, alas, a heavy cross to bear. But he didn’t make me feel dirty, or like a pervert. After he lead me through making an act of contrition, I left the confessional absolved, attended the holy sacrifice of the mass, and approached the communion rail in a state of grace for the first time since I was a child. I slid back into my sinful ways pretty quickly. But I’d poke my head out of the sewer now and then, to listen to Father John Corapi (good preacher, pray for him, sad situation) on Relevant Radio, a Catholic radio station in Chicago, or to attend Holy Week services.

Finally, two years after my God-child’s baptism, I found myself waking up Sunday mornings with my conscience telling me, “You should go to mass.” I’d trek to the “Latin Rite” church and sit in a pew near the back, watching the priest from afar, knowing more now about what was going on. My head knew what was true, but my heart was lukewarm. Sin continued.

The final pivot came came that Lent.

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My conscience had been gnawing at me. “You’re a hypocrite. You can’t call yourself Catholic but live this way.” So I challenged myself: Lent is only about 40 days, right? Six weeks? This year’s Lent, let’s try to do everything the Church teaches, especially as it pertains to purity. No more porn. No more hours wasted on gay hook-up websites. No more lusting. Complete celibacy and chastity. Mass every Sunday. Regular confession.

I did it.

The first two weeks were rough, don’t get me wrong. Whether it was through grace, or the intercession of Our Lady, the saints, somehow I did it.

What’s more, I liked it! It was liberating. I was free of the weight, the rules, the oppressive expectations that the gay lifestyle places on you. Style your hair a certain way. Dress a certain way. Decorate your home a certain way. Think a certain way. Listen to certain music, watch certain television shows. Conform.

My friends’ first hint that I’d “changed” came from seeing my “likes” of Catholic posts on Facebook and from my decision to sit out the gay pride parade despite living so close to the parade route. My social circle has shrunk considerably. My best friend cut me off after I declined to attend his “wedding.” Other friends accuse me of being a “self-loathing homosexual.” Another friend, who I’m still close to, has told me to my face, with all sincerity, that he is worried about my mental health.

Ultimately though, this is not about me being happy or freed or spiritually fed/fulfilled/whatever you want to call it. My conversion was about understanding my role vis-a-vis God, that I was made to know, love, and serve Him in this life –not myself or my ego or its desires– and be happy with Him in the next.

I cannot quite explain why I so readily accept the Church’s teachings on same-sex attraction. It’s all perfectly logical and rationale to me. I’d lived that lifestyle and knew how ugly it was, what a lie it was. If I wanted to follow Christ, I would have to take up a cross. There was no “conversion” in that regard.

In a culture that says it’s all about Me, I realized that no, it’s not, and humility and sacrifice must be part and parcel of my life from now on. He must increase, I must decrease. Perhaps that’s why the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite played such a vital role in my conversion and continued efforts to life out the Faith. The Extraordinary Form is not about me. On that account, one might argue, its silence is deafening. I would not have reverted back to the faith without the Extraordinary Form. It has helped me strengthen my faith, grow in charity, battle my pride, and strive for purity in a way the Ordinary Form, as commonly offered, could not.

I’ve remained celibate since that Ash Wednesday in 2011. I’ve struggled with impure thoughts and actions, but am light years from who I used to be. With frequently confession and the graces flowing from that sacrament and the sacrament of the Eucharist, and His most merciful Sacred Heart, I soldier on in the Church Militant. Oh yeah, I think Our Lady’s on my side too!

Since I was invited to write this story for a family oriented blog, my advice to Catholic parents would be this: Teach your children obedience. Teach them obedience to you as mothers and fathers, and obedience to God and the Church. Model that obedience to them. It will require struggle, humility, and sacrifice, potentially the ultimate sacrifice. Never forget that your role isn’t to be their friend, or to give them the happy or comfortable childhood you never had. Your role is to get them to heaven. Trust in Jesus.

May God bless us all this Lent.

Joe.

Edmund’s Friday F.A.S.T – How would Jesus use an iPhone?

– Edmund Adamus

How would Jesus use an iPhone?

“..reflecting on the significance of the new technologies, it is important to focus not just on their undoubted capacity to foster contact between people, but on the quality of the content that is put into circulation using these means.” – Pope Benedict XVI’s Message for World Communications Day 2009.

This week I attended a conference discussing how the Church embraces information technology in order to enhance it’s work of evangelization and catechesis.  A “no brainer” as they say! As Christians, we are both leaven in as well as inhabitants of the “digital continent” to coin a phrase of Pope Benedict.

However, like all created things we also know that besides being realistic about what’s harmful, damaging and downright evil on the internet and social media, we also rejoice in its tremendous potential for good. St Paul reminds us to test the spirits as to find something’s true origin and worthiness. So here’s a thought – When we think of the word “digital” , it might be helpful to bear in mind its Latin origin, digitus (i.e. finger).

In Sacred Scripture, the “finger of God’s right hand” is a sign of the Holy Spirit. Our family life and households and daily lives are filled with all the devices of modern communications literally and often at our finger tips 24/7. On one level, that’s fine, but only in so far as our use of them is truly ‘digital’ that is to say, symbolic of the finger of God’s right hand!

But how do we know the Spirit is involved in our use of the technology? St Paul tells us to fill our minds with everything noble good, true and beautiful, so the litmus test for measuring our use of technology is simple – just check the influence of it all against the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23  ” love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”  Pope Benedict declared in 2009 that the new technologies which bring new ways of relating must promote “a culture of respect, dialogue and friendship”. If the fruits of the Spirit signified by these hallmarks are not part of our daily occupancy of the “digital continent”, then we must pray for the wisdom to know the difference and act on it.

Switch it off or switch redirect its purpose to strengthen your personal and family life.

– Edmund Adamus
Director, Office of Marriage and Family Life – Diocese of Westminster

Pope Francis: Eloquent subtle genius or a twittering idiot?

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I have been involved in a few discussion recently about Pope Francis. I cant decide whether he is a eloquent subtle genius or a twittering idiot?

When he was elected Pope i really liked him. He is obviously a man of great humility and i liked his simplistic attitude and little acts of kindness. However, as time went on i felt he was a little wishy washy on BIG issues, and really was taking this whole Pope thing in a rather relaxed fashion. Then there was the “Who am I to judge?” comment – that was taken out of context by the press, but none the less…

Anyway recently in one of his homilies he said “…And for this reason the Church asks us, all of us, for a few changes. She asks us to put aside decadent structures: we don’t need them. Instead to take up new wine skins, those of the Gospel…”

I found this statement rather unsettling. What changes? What decadent structures? Changes within the church? The upcoming Synod on the family perhaps? Changes regarding marriage and communion? On homosexuality? 

Discussing these fears on Facebook i was then aware that i was not the only one who felt like Pope Francis is a bit of a loose cannon. There was also a huge amount of negativity from really good faithful catholic’s about Pope Francis in general and lets not forget how everyone misses Benedict.

But this didn’t sit very well with me either. If i really look at the actions of Pope Francis i can see he is a truly faithful orthodox Pope. He has never actually done anything i would regard as unacceptable or even vaguely liberal in nature. He is obviously a prayerful man with great humility. It is just the way he speaks to the world that leaves me feeling a bit, well, nonplussed.

Benedict XVI,  Pope Francis

When Benedict spoke to the world he didn’t mince his words. i always remember how i laughed out loud at the utter honesty and truthfulness of his Judas comment followed up by a comment by Msgr. Barreiro, who said “for those Catholics who cannot bring themselves to believe the formal teachings of the Church on life and family matters it would be more honest to leave the Church rather than betraying Her.”

Francis seems to be continuously speaking to catholic’s on the periphery. Why doesn’t he step it up a bit? C’mon Francis – say something controversially orthodox for goodness sake! Lets shake up the church a bit! Speaking to peripheral catholic’s is boring. Most of the catholic’s you are addressing don’t even believe in the real presence. Most of them don’t even go to church. Stick to the faithful.

Benedict’s papacy was for the more  conservative traditionally minded catholic. I felt totally comfortable with him, totally comfortable but…

“…you were not made for comfort, you were made for greatness.” – Pope Benedict XVI

He’s right. And if there was one group Benedict never connected with it was the peripheral catholic’s. Francis on the other hand, does. I re-read some of his recent comments and saw a totally different man. Here is a Pope who whilst remains faithful and orthodox at his core, charms the peripheral catholic’s by speaking subtly subconscious, wishy washy worldly words (try saying that after 3 glasses of wine!) and seems to be having some success in it. One cannot deny how he has been embraced by the media as the “hope” for change in the church. But what they fail to realise is that as he romances them into the possibility of a relationship with Christ, the real change will be happening within them.

Francis’ papacy is as much for the faithful orthodox catholic as it is for the peripheral catholic – just in a different way. He certainly doesn’t waste time preaching to the converted. For the faithful orthodox catholic he challenges us, presenting us with an example to copy. Francis teaches us how to coax our lost brothers and sisters back into a relationship with Christ and His church. He is in fact, showing us how loving patience, true humility and service are key aspects of the New Evangelisation. 

For those who have also felt a little negative towards Francis’ Papacy, i would invite you to do as the great Carmelite saint Teresa of Avila suggests and “Look again”.

 

For more on this subject please see my more recent post on why orthodox catholic’s don’t trust Francis: http://www.faithinourfamilies.com/2014/09/19/you-are-loved/