Write In Between

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Writer's Wednesday -- Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap.

How to change the world by letting ourselves be changed by the Holy Spirit
Mary is so important to the Catholic understanding of the world. Mary is the first Christian, the perfect model of the Church and the perfect model for each of us as individual disciples. We are all called to be Mary...

What did Mary do? She said "yes" to the Holy Spirit. In that "yes" the Holy Spirit filled her with new life. The early Church called Mary theotokos, which is Greek for "God-bearer." As a creature, she allowed her Creator to act in her and accomplish great things through her. In giving birth to God's son, Mary gave new life to the whole world. We're called to follow her example, each in our own way. Hearing the gospel isn't enough. Talking about our faith isn't enough. We have to do something about it. Each of us, in a personal way, needs to be a kind of theotokos, a God-bearer. The seed of faith has to bear fruit in a life of Christian action, a life of personal Christian witness, or else it's just words. Talk is cheap...

The Church, like Mary, is about new life. The Holy Spirit filled Mary with thenew life at the Annunciation and Mary gave birth to Jesus. The Holy Spirit filled the apostles with new life at Pentecost, and they immediately gave birth to a new era through their preaching and teaching. God is a god of abundance, not sterility; of confidence, not fear. God relentlessly creates new life through each of us, if we allow Him to do so. We are meant to be fertile. We are meant to bring others to new life in Jesus Christ...

"Go make disciples of all nations" was the last command Jesus gave to us before returning to His Father. It's a big one. How can simple people like us convert the world? That brings us back to Mary, and to the apostles at Pentecost. They changed the world by letting God change them and work through them. We don't need to be afraid. We need to be confident in the promise made by Christ Himself: "I am with you always, to the close of the age."

Don't be afraid of the world. The Holy Spirit is on your side. Charles Spurgeon once said, "The way you defend the Bible is the same way you defend a lion. You just let it loose."

So much of the world is already dead without knowing it. That's exactly why people respond to the truth when they hear it. Robert Farrar Capon once wrote, "Jesus came to raise the dead. The only qualification for the gift of the Gospel is to be dead. You don't have to be smart. You don't have to be good. You don't have to be wise. You don't have to be wonderful. You just have to be dead. That's it." So we pray to God to losse the Holy Spirit on the world again in our time, and in our lives, to bring new life to those dead from sin:

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and enkindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit, and we will be created, and you will renew the face of the earth.

Understand the purpose of your life. C.S. Lewis once said that "Christianity, if false, is of no importance; and if true, of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important." So, away with "moderate" love for the gospel; away with "moderate" love for Jesus Christ. Time is too limited, too valuable, too important. At the end of every day we need to ask ourselves this simple question: I have paid one day of my life to do what I did today. WAS IT WORTH IT?

At the end of Good Friday, Jesus Christ could say "yes."

How will we answer today?

-----Charles. J. Chaput (currently Archbishop of Denver), from Living the Catholic Faith, Servant Books, 2001. p. 149-150; 158-159.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

You just have to be there...

The following is a witness talk given on Corpus Christi Sunday by Meghan Richard, a young parishioner at our Church. I want to thank Meghan, a high school junior, for sharing her life with Christ, and for her permission to reprint her words in this space.

I think we’ve all had unexplainable moments. The classic, “well, I guess you just had to be there….” When you have those moments, it’s usually easier when you don’t try to explain them—it almost cheapens them if you do.

As a junior in high school, I’m fully aware of how abnormal and “uncool” it is to go to church, let alone talk about anything having to do with church. And “Jesus camp” every summer? Well, you might as well tattoo “I’m weird” on my forehead. However, there is one reason why I’m not bothered by how “uncool” I am.

As a Catholic, I believe that the little white piece of bread, when consecrated, is the body and blood of Jesus Christ, my Lord, Savior, Prince of Peace, and Best Friend. Being in the presence of the ultimate King… that is my reason for attending Mass every week.

The Eucharist is the most sacred and amazing gift God offers us—and each time I accept that gift, the effect it has on me is unexplainable.

With millions of thoughts and emotions running through my brain, the Eucharist calms me. When I’m in a hurry and everything seems to be moving too fast for me to catch, the Eucharist slows it all down. When I’m happy, the Eucharist increases my joy. When I’m lonely, the Eucharist is my companion.

I am safe, I am at home, I am confident, and I am joyful in the presence of the Eucharist.

On this feast day, I remember why I come to Mass every week. I come to be fed by the body and blood of Christ—the very essence of peace, joy, healing, and comfort. I come each week to bring everything that I am and devote it to my God, and in doing so, I unwrap the precious gift of Him, the ultimate love, the Eucharist.

He is something different for each of us, for only He knows the true desires of our hearts.

But I guess, like many other experiences, the experience of accepting the gift of Jesus in the Eucharist is the kind that you “just have to be there” to understand.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Prayers for the family of Steven Curtis Chapman

If you've been a fan of Contemporary Christian music, as I have been, you would be familiar with the music of Steven Curtis Chapman. Steven's music has ministered to millions and his ministry to encourage adoption has touch many lives. In a tragic accident, Steven and Mary Beth Chapman have suffered the loss and death of their 5 year old daughter, Maria. Details from a Tennessee paper are here. Maria's death was the result of a car accident in the family driveway, after she was hit by a vehicle driven by her older brother.

The grief from this death will be profound, and it will be even harder to bear in the public eye. Kindly pray for Maria, her parents, her brother and other siblings and extended family at this time.

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What have you done for your marriage today?

Ahhh, spring... the season for lovers... and weddings...

...and more discouraging news out of California as same-sex "marriage" gains ground in the culture of the United States.

Need a little pick-me-up? Need to be reminded about the truth and beauty of Catholic marriage?
This Catholic pro-marriage campaign is about a year old, and features excellent marriage resources for married couples and the soon-to-be-married.
For more details on improving your marriage, or to watch the TV ads that ask: "What have you done for your marriage today?" Go here.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Writer's Wednesday is back! (Joseph Ratzinger)

Holy Soil
The Word of God really penetrated the earth and became bread for us all. He is the seed, the fruitful answer in which God's speech has taken living root in this world. The mystery of Christ is almost nowhere so palpable and intimately connected with the mystery of Mary as in the perspective of this promise. When the [biblical] text says that the word, or the seed, bears fruit, it means that the seed actually sinks into the earth, assimilates the earth's energies, and changes them into itself. It thus brings about something new, for now it carries the earth in itself and turns the earth into fruit. The grain of wheat does not remain alone, for it includes the maternal mystery of the soil -- Mary, the holy soil of the Church, is an essential part of Christ. The mystery of Mary means precisely that God's Word did not remain alone; rather it assimilated the other -- the soil -- into itself, became man in the "soil" of his Mother, and then, fused with the soil of the whole of humanity, returned to God in a new form...

Men can become fruitful soil for God's Word. They can become this soil by providing, as it were, the organic elements in which life can grow and mature; by drawing life themselves from this organic matter; by becoming themselves a word formed by penetration of the Word; by sinking the roots of their life into prayer and thus into God...

To be soil for the Word means that the soil must be absorbed by the seed...

Mary's maternity means that she willingly places her own substance, body and soul, into the seed so that new life can grow.

--Joseph Ratzinger, (years prior to his elevation as Benedict XVI) from Mary: The Church at the Source, p. 14-15. (Co-authored with Hans Urs Von Balthasar.)

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age." [Mt 28: 18-20 rsv]

Okay, this is an outright plug. But we all gotta stand together or else we stand alone.

Times are hard. Donations to Catholic ministries are shrinking. Yes, there are currently many crises in the world that demand our prayers and our financial generosity. But we are called not only to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, but to preach the gospel in season and out of season... without ceasing.

If you believe that Christ calls us to preach to the nations of the whole world, and that He wants us to use the "new media" --like the internet-- to promote the Gospel, I prayerfully ask you to support the mission of Catholic Exchange. And give a donation here. The need is great. Much more can be done if the funds can be found. Thanks.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Post-graduate musings: so what do I know?

So what do I know? There are so many ways to phrase that question:
So WHAT do I know? So, what DO I know? So, what do I know?
On the educational process...

...That the more I know, the more I realize how much I don't know.

...That I don't necessarily feel smarter, just better informed. I might still stumble around in the dark at times, but now I know better where to start looking for the light switch.
...I know that daring to dream is easier than accomplishing a goal. You need the first for inspiration because the second requires perspiration.
...That you are never too old to learn.
...That it doesn't matter how fast or how slow you can read... it's what you retain that matters.
...That when you get to do something you thought was unlikely--like going back to school after age 40 for a degree--that you really appreciate the gift of that education!

...That losing a paper you forgot to "save" in a documents file is worse than losing your eyeglasses. I am embarrassed to say that I have done both multiple times in the course of pursuing my degree. Either my middle-aged brain is overloaded with too much stuff, or else, it has no retension and has sprung a leak! In both cases you deal with tears in front of a blank unreadable screen.

On studying theology...
...I know that no one should enter into studying theology lightly. It is so much more than mere subject matter. It has the power to change you. It will draw you in and either bind your heart and mind like a relentless lover, or you will walk away shaking your head in disbelief. But you will return again and again to the well which never runs dry, and you will drink deeply of it again. For when you know the Source of such refreshment, you can never fully escape its intoxication. Let's just say that's something I never experienced when I took economics, or calculus, or even my beloved music lessons.

...With theology, you have to pray a lot. If the prayer is missing, you might as well not show up to class.

...Theology will stretch you. If it doesn't kill you first (in a kind of white martyrdom-like way.)

...You realize that now that you know this stuff, you have a responsibility to share this. This is not a lone pursuit. It is a communion.

...Just when you think you have finally penetrated a truth, a deeper truth emerges and you are seeking once again. The trick is to keep following Christ and His Church.

...The next trick is to realize that you will never know it all. That is why there are specialties within theology. My personal leanings are toward dogmatic theology, Mariology, and spirituality. All discreet disciplines which in and of themselves could lead to their own PhD.

On what comes next...
...THE SUMMER! The first in four years that I don't have to study! But I will, kinda, see what's next!

...Definitely reading the 80+ books I've placed on hold until I was done with school.

...Definitely writing and finding a new rhythm to work that muscle in ways beyond research.

...Updating the resume and looking for new employment paths.

...Taking care of my health, and my home.

Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom, pray for me!

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Caption Contest!

Now what?
(Feel free to leave your own caption in the comments box!)

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Mom's Graduation --via Live Streaming Video

At my last college graduation, (you know, in the dark ages before we had electric light), the only thing streaming during "Pomp and Circumstance" were the tears down the faces of proud mothers watching their now-grown children accept their degrees!

Franciscan University of Steubenville announced a new first: a live video feed of their commencement events! For schedule and video, go here.

Yours truly "walks" this Sat. May 10th at 9am.

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Sunday, May 04, 2008

Bloggers, Podcasters, Writers, Whatnots, TAKE NOTE!

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Friday, May 02, 2008

Motherhood, Mary, and the "More" of God

Some thoughts for mothers in Mary’s month…

A mother can find her inspiration for life—by the gift of life itself—in all seasons. There are mothers who sense newness in the crisp air of fall when school begins. They feel renewed even though leaves are starting to turn. Other mothers find newness and fresh possibilities every January 1. Still others find life in the rhythm of the liturgical cycle. They dream of what’s to come from a mystical point of view. For many moms, nothing speaks to the heart like the newness of spring. They revel in delicate buds that burst forth flowers, or the brown grass greening up, or the simple joy of watching young birds at the feeder; it all tells the story of new life.

A mother sees “the more” in life… more than what meets the eye. This natural awareness in a mother’s heart comes from her experience of bringing forth human life and nurturing it. It is both primal and profound. Motherhood’s inspirations, beauty, and drama, all demand her faithful attention and response. And all this responsiveness—this receptivity—engenders faith to see the supernatural in the midst of the natural.

In short, mothers recognize and respond to the mystery and marvel of new life in all of its preciousness in humanity and in nature. It reverberates within us. It’s this intangible, indescribable, awakened life pulse that cannot be shut off. Like a quickened heartbeat, we become keenly aware of it. It is a dynamic intuition… the sense that there is something more than what we see.

Let me dare to say that this sensitivity in a woman’s life is a kind of holy intuition: a recognition of the movement of the Holy Spirit—He who is the “Lord and giver and life.” It is an invitation to grow in holiness.

What we perceive, in the newness of the life around us, is what we were born for: to receive the very life of God who made us, who loves us intimately. We are getting a taste of His Fullness of life in such moments. These experiences call us to seek “the more” of God...The “more” that we can receive when our hearts are aflame with the Spirit.

But how do we find and receive this “more” of God? By asking Him into our hearts. In doing so, we give God permission to enter in, and then we can say “yes” to his leading, wherever it may lead. During this month of May, allow me to suggest that women take Mary as their example. The Blessed Virgin Mary understands the “moreness” of God.

Nothing is more passionate than a mother’s heart for her children, especially when it is wedded to the Holy Spirit as Mary’s is. The crystal clear reality is that the heart of our Blessed Mother Mary beats for you and me.

Mary can be trusted as our mother and tutor. She’s got great credentials. If God the Father entrusted His Son to her “yes”, and Jesus lovingly submitted to her care and wisdom, we can too. (Not to mention, countless saints have already followed Mary’s path to holiness.)

Mary knows how to say “yes” to life within her, and “yes” to the life around her. She knows how to respond to the reverberations and inspirations of the Spirit. She is our model for Christian life and motherhood. She is our mother in all seasons. She understands how to keep it all in balance. What’s more, she can show us how to love her Son more perfectly. And when we love Jesus better, His Love enlivens us to love others more perfectly.

Mary models how we should respond to the move of God in our own lives, so we can live the more of God as his Spirit fills us. Who wouldn’t want more of God, right?

But, sometimes, we might find it hard to embrace Mary’s ways.

Years ago, for me, Mary seemed rather distant from my life. (But the truth was that my life was rather distant from Mary’s!) I only thought of Mary in a static dimension. (You know, like a statue.) I confused staid depictions of Mary with the truth about her nature as a human person brimming with grace. I had false impressions that were not rooted in Scripture or Church teaching. Suffice to say, her presence in my spiritual life was lacking. I treated her like she did not matter. I didn’t know what I was missing.

Enter her Son, Jesus, calling me to live a holier life. Part of that calling for me was to become a mother. Motherhood brought profound changes in me. I experienced both new depths in prayer and wonder, and new needs in my life. Having always been a resourceful and capable woman, I struggled with the more sacrificial and surrendering aspects of motherhood. Many times, I was reduced to tears… profoundly disappointed with the mediocrity of my own love. Yet, I could sense there was something more.

As a Catholic, I knew Mary’s role both as Christ’s mother and his disciple was worthy of imitation. But, honestly, my cultural feministic attitudes were deeply ingrained. I just didn’t want to give up any of the feministic or materialistic ground or power I had gained in life. I confess it was a struggle with my will. But Mary helped me reshape it.

Mary taught me to say “yes” to mysteries I could not fathom. What drew me most to Mary’s heart were her lively faith and her complete willingness to give someone else the credit. She always pointed the way to Christ. She never pointed to herself. Mary’s self-effacing title of “handmaid” was something to rejoice in! [See Luke 1:38; 46-48.] Of course, for centuries the Church has elevated her: She is “Mother of God,” and “Mother of the Church.” [See CCC 963.] Even Christ Himself gave her to us as His final gift from the Cross. [See John 19:27.] These lofty declarations about Mary implied something more about Mary that I had failed to see.

Over time, I learned that my struggle wasn’t with Mary and motherhood at all. It was with humility.

What was it about Mary’s humility that I failed to understand?

It is that hers is not a powerless humility. But her power is not her own. Mary’s humility is filled with the presence of God. In God’s economy, humility is not meant to belittle one’s personhood. On the contrary, it is the necessary condition for a Spirit-imbued life that fulfills one’s personhood.

Humility helps us grow in holiness through detachment to anything that is less than God himself. Humility detaches us from what fails to satisfy. Only by getting rid of the excesses (sins, vices, etc.) that attach themselves to our souls can we have the room and empty space that God Himself longs can fill. And as He fills it, He draws us toward deeper union with Him.

Mary’s humility is borne of pure love for the One who is greater and more perfect than she. Yet it is ready to receive and respond to the sublime Divine Love that dares to love a creature. God’s response to that perfected humility is that no gifts of grace are held back from Mary, whom the angel called “full of grace.” [See Luke 1:28.] Empty of sin, full of grace, Mary is gifted to do great things for Him who “has done great things for her.” [Luke 1:49.] And in turn, she can do great things for us as our Mother whose maternal heart beats for us and for Him simultaneously!

Mary shows us that our inspirations are good things. They reflect our inclination toward something more—our truest yearning for God. She can help us respond to God’s invitation ever more deeply. We just have to ask for her help. Ask Mary to help you love Jesus in the ways that she does. Ask her to teach you how to give a full, complete “yes” to God’s leading in your life. Recall that God holds nothing back from Mary. It’s part of her maternal role in the Kingdom of God to assist us in growing in grace. She longs for us to experience the “more” God has in store for us.

Remember, nothing is more passionate than a mother’s heart for her children, especially when it is wedded to the Holy Spirit.

©2008 Patricia W. Gohn

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

The Result is in...

I passed my Comp Exam "with Honors."

I am officially on my way to Graduation on May 9-10. Details here.

I am much relieved and truly grateful that this education cycle is coming to an end. There is much to contemplate and discern regarding future employment/ministry. And much that needs my attention. There's a lot I've been putting off these past months...

But right now, this is a time for deep gratitude.

To God.

For all who have prayed for me and supported my sometimes wobbly quest.

For all who have inspired me.
Especially Jesus, Mary, and the saints.
And, of course, the likes of you.

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