On Motherhood and Loving Unconditionally

By Ellen Romer

Today is my least favorite day of the year to go to Mass. And yes, it’s because it is Mother’s Day.

I am not a fan of sitting in a pew dreading a homily that quite often focuses on a very gendered view of mothers. I particularly cringe as the pressure is put on to be like Mary, the only woman who ever managed to be a mother and a virgin. I could be wrong, but I don’t believe I will manage to achieve that myself.To be clear, I think Mary is pretty fantastic. I just always sit there as I hear “Hail Mary, Gentle Woman” and think to myself that someone ought write a song titled, “Hail Mary, She Who Was Tough as Nails.”

Continue reading On Motherhood and Loving Unconditionally

Why Holy Saturday Isn’t a Day of Sorrow

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By Brian Niemiec

One of my earliest memories of Holy Saturday was asking my father why Grandpop only ate bread and water on the Saturday before Easter.  I don’t even remember my dad’s response, but every year my Grandpop would eat only a little bread and water as he waited for Easter morning.  I used to think that his practice was a continuation of the fasting and repentance that the Church practices on Good Friday.  Yet this simple meal for a humble and loving man speaks less to fasting, and more to the true nature of Holy Saturday.

Each Gospel account to a greater or lesser extent portrays the Apostles in a less than flattering light. Throughout the ministry of Jesus we come to understand that at many times these twelve men were not the sharpest knives on the first century Palestine cutting block.  A particularly challenging concept for them was the Resurrection.  Jesus told them that the Son of God must be killed, and on the third day he will rise. He tried parables. He tried stories. He tried allegory. He tried the direct approach, and yet the Apostles were at a loss. 

Due to their lack of comprehension (and faith?), the Apostles fled in fear during and after the crucifixion. Even Peter, the rock of the future Church, denies Jesus and lurks in the shadows; not daring to get too close.  The first Holy Saturday was not a happy occasion. The followers of Jesus hid behind a locked door, and worried if they too would be sentenced to death.  It was only after Jesus’ resurrection, when he appeared in the midst of the disciples, did the true joy and meaning of the last few days make sense.  

Continue reading Why Holy Saturday Isn’t a Day of Sorrow

Links Worth Clicking: Holy Triduum Edition

By Katie Morroni

Here’s hoping this Lent has been a fruitful one — and that we may all find new meaning in both uniting with Christ’s suffering on Good Friday and sharing in the joy of His Resurrection on Easter.

Here are some links you may enjoy clicking as we head into the weekend:

1. Bishop Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska (and formerly of my parish here in Denver) led prisoners in Mass this week. His beautiful homily is here (“God is calling you men to be the saints of this prison.”) and the moving photos are not to be missed on his Facebook page.

2. Pope Francis’ reflection on Jesus’ final moments on the cross, at his general audience on April 1st:

“How beautiful it would be if all of us, at the end of our lives, with our mistakes, our sins, even with our good works and our love for our neighbor, can say to the Father as Jesus did, ‘It is finished.’ Not with the perfection (of Jesus) but saying, ‘Lord, I did everything that I could. It is finished,’” the pope said, speaking off the cuff.

3. …See also: The Way of the Cross, led by Pope Francis

4. Speaking of the pope, it’s a new month, which means the pope has new prayer intentions he’d like you to include when you pray. (Apostleship of Prayer)

5. …and speaking of the Way of the Cross, I’ve mentioned it here before, but now that I’ve started working through it myself, I have to recommend again the Pray As You Go take on the Stations of the Cross.

6. These nuns provide ‘death with dignity’ – but it’s not assisted suicide (Patheos)

7. The one thing you need to enter the mysteries of Holy Week (Word on Fire)

8. The Angelus at Work (America Magazine)

9. A beautiful take on 9 different kinds of silence — and worth a read as we enter into a time that benefits from a little silence and stillness (Brain Pickings)

10. An oldie but goodie: Harvard Business Review asks, “Why do we keep multitasking when it disrupts our concentration and saps our focus?” It’s an article written for business professionals, but worth considering for our prayer lives, too…

11. This reflection about Judas made me think. (Fr. James Martin)

12. Finally, just for fun… This is for those of us who wish we knew how to make something beautiful out of our palms after Palm Sunday:

Have a very happy, blessed Easter!

More than PreCana – Part II, Why Marriage Scares Me Sometimes

By Brian Niemiec

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Last Wednesday marked four months until my wedding with Ellen on July 25th. So many things are starting to happen now, and I am really excited to embark on this amazing adventure! Lent has given me the space to more intentionally pray and sit with this big life change that is approaching, and while I cannot wait to marry Ellen in July, there is a piece of me that continues to be nervous. For a while I had trouble putting my finger on it. I started thinking about how final this was, and what would happen if life didn’t work out the way I planned. What if marriage didn’t live up to my hopes, dreams, and expectations? I started sounding very… well… selfish.

Most of us who read and write for this blog are all too aware of the pervasive individualism that is at the very heart of our society. Consuming goods for our pleasure, and spending time in ways that satisfy our wants is a very well taught lesson in American life, and this lesson is indeed at odds with what is required in a marriage. Yet, I think the hardest thing to overcome is not the standard social norms (at least we can name those), but rather the experience of living the glamorized single life.

Continue reading More than PreCana – Part II, Why Marriage Scares Me Sometimes

Happy Friday: Links Worth Clicking, Almost Palm Sunday Edition

By Kate Morroni

The beginning of Holy Week is just around the corner. How is Lent going for you? It’s not too late to dig in and make this a more fruitful Lent.

Here are a few links from the last week or so that may interest you:

1. The pope is encouraging us to pray for the “grace of joy.” (National Catholic Reporter)

2. 5 ways St. Joseph can help your Lent (Catholic Exchange, via Coming Home Network)

3. What Not to Say When Talking About Confession (right here on CatholicHow)

4. Ceiling Painting at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary (McCrery Architects, via Kenrick-Glennon Seminary) – One beautiful take on “the perfected heavenly realm” from my hometown

5. Pregnant but Still Want to Keep Lent? Here Are 8 Alternatives to Fasting (ChurchPop) — These ideas could apply to us breastfeeding mamas, too…

6. “There are always ‘Holy Saturdays,’ times when God seems silent.” –Archbishop Aquila of Denver

7. This tweet:

8. And this one:

9. “Which story are we living in? What sort of a king are we following?” (ABC Religion & Ethics) These questions and much more to consider from N. T. Wright as we approach Holy Week…

10. Pope: “May Holy Week help us accept God’s ways” (Vatican Radio)

11. The Passion Narrative of Mark’s Gospel (Fr. Robert Barron)

What Not To Say When Talking About Confession

By Brian Niemiec

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This week’s homily on sin brought up a host of questions during our RCIA class. Are some sins worse than others? Why do we need to confess to a priest? Why does the Pope go to confession so often? Now, truth be told, I was a little off my game that morning. It had been a late night, but my co-catechist and I were doing a fairly good job of breaking open a subject we had not prepared to talk about.

Then, however, came the question, “But are little sins every now and again really a big deal? I mean as long as you are generally a good person, aren’t a few sins here or there ok?” Well, I fell flat on my face, and found myself waste deep in relativism. Thankfully my partner saved me from committing the greatest sin of any minister: leading the faithful astray.

My big blunder in the vocal vomit of my answer was forgetting Jesus.  In my attempt to reassure this person that we are all human, and mistakes and sins are part of that humanity, I had forgotten the all-important challenge of being ever more human, that is, to be ever more like Christ.  The Pope goes to confession so often because he has grown close to Christ in his life, and encountering the person of Jesus so intimately, he more easily recognizes the imperfections that you and I tend to miss completely. Continue reading What Not To Say When Talking About Confession

Happy Friday: Links Worth Clicking

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By Katie Morroni

Lent is more than halfway complete. It’s a good time to check our progress.

Lent has been very much a process for me, and I have fallen down more times than I can count. But I keep committing and recommitting to see it through, hobbling as best I can toward the joys of Easter.

How is Lent going for you? What’s surprised you so far in your journey?

Here’s a few links worth clicking from the last week or so:

1. Here’s a stark and much-needed reminder from Fr. Robert Barron: “I know how easy it is to domesticate Jesus, presenting him as a kindly and inspiring moral teacher, but that is not how the Gospels present him. He is a cosmic warrior who has come to do battle with all of those forces that keep us from being fully alive.”

2. Whoa. Here’s a headline I didn’t expect to read: Scholar Claims Van Gogh Hid Secret Homage to Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper In His Café Terrace at Night. Get this (emphasis my own): “According to Baxter, around the time that van Gogh crafted Café Terrace at Night, he wrote to his brother Theo, referencing the painting and claiming that he had a ‘tremendous need for, shall I say the word — for religion.’

3. I’m embarassed by how little I know about St. Patrick, but reading this article — about his time as a slave, and his advocating and empathy for others who were enslaved — made me want to learn so much more. The letter referenced? I’m going to try to track it down, especially in light of this (emphasis my own): “‘We do not have any other first person account of someone who was captured by barbarians and survived,’ the history professor explained. ‘We have nothing else quite like it.'”

4. A Mission of Love: “The Catholic idea of marriage and the family is a gift for the whole world. Catholics should give that gift away…” (George Weigel)

5. Called to Be a Saint (CatholicMom.com)

6. For those here in Denver, check out this upcoming Easter retreat. I’ve attended past retreats led by the Ignatian Spirituality Program of Denver and highly recommend their events.

7. What goes wrong when you’re always right (Unstuck) This article is intended as career advice, but I think it has insights on sin that are worthy of some reflection.

8. Jeb Bush, 20 years after conversion, is guided by his Catholic faith (NYT) I didn’t know he was a convert…

9. Keep a One-Sentence Journal, Be Happier (Science of Us / New York Magazine) PS: My favorite method? The Five-Minute Journal

10. How to Start Deeply Savoring Your Life (Shauna Niequist, via A Holy Experience)

11. For my friends on Twitter, here’s a worth invitation for this Lent, via Kathryn Jean Lopez:

12. And speaking of the Stations of the Cross…I haven’t listened yet, but this audio version from Pray As You Go is on my list to complete before Lent’s end:

The Real Problem with Judgment; Or, Listen to Isaiah the Prophet

Bible-Verses-About-Judgment

Saying to the prisoners: Come out!
To those in darkness: Show yourselves!

By Matt Janeczko, OFM Cap.

Judgement, it seems, is under judgment yet again. I’ll leave what brings this up to you and your web browser.  Take a look.  It seems that, as a society, we’re hurtling toward the place where it is never right to judge anyone else, except in those cases where those who consider themselves “right” (amusing irony) judge those who are obviously wrong (bitter irony). (This is, as a good friend of my often notes, intellectual fascism.)

It seems, however, foolish to make the claim that we will not judge.  This happens each day, in ways small and large.  Parents, employees, coaches, and teachers make judgments all the time.  So do judges.  And politicians.  And everyone else with a pulse.  What is more, moral judgments are constitutive of an examined moral life. These judgments can and must be communal as well [see what trouble the Israelites find in the desert when the community judges wrongly].

The real problem with judgment, then, isn’t the judgment itself, but how it is manifested.   In other words, the real problem, it seems (at least biblically speaking – and that’s rather important!) is when our judgments begin to affect the way we treat others.

To put it more plainly: to disapprove of a decision made by another and articulate this in the public or private square appears to me to be the root of civilization.  Being a Christian, however, obligates me to treat with charity, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness all those I meet, especially those who I have judged.

The real danger of judgment, then, appears to be the effect that it has on my own soul: the natural inclination to push others with whom I disagree outside the “camp” as it were.

In fact, to live a life rooted in the Gospel actually pushes us past and through judgment: the Good News is nothing so banal as “hate the sin, love the sinner,” but rather something more explosive: “love your neighbor as yourself.”

And this brings me back to the above-quoted portion of Isaiah 49: as the Lord calls to set prisoners free and for those in darkness to show themselves, we are not called to consider why one or another is a prisoner, or why this one or that one had lived in darkness.  No: the Lord is much more concerned with the day of salvation than with what put us in this mess in the first place.

Human to judge, divine to forgive.

It’s a good thing that Jesus is both, isn’t it?

A Late Night in Ireland – Strangers, Songs, and Something Greater

Inis Mor Pub

By Javier Soegaard

Inis Mór* is the largest of the three islands in Galway Bay called the Aran Islands. The islands are famous for their sweaters, a naturally formed rectangular pool, and for being just far enough out of the way.

I ventured to Ireland in the summer of 2012 on something of a spiritual adventure / college football pilgrimage (the two go hand in hand I promise…), eventually taking a ferry to Inis Mór for a day and a half. Wisely and unsurprisingly I made sure to book my room at a hostel with a pub (or was it a pub with a hostel?). After a long day of getting lost on hills and getting lost in prayer, I knew a Guinness would be a welcome comfort, so I headed back to my lodgings.

As travelers and pilgrims are wont to do, I made friendly with my hostel bunkmate, an Italian 20-something named Mateo. Between his forming English, my Spanish, and our mutual love for soccer we were able to have quite an enjoyable evening of conversation.

As later hours approached, revelation came bounding through the door in the form 10 boisterous Irish women, all of various ages. Instruments and music books in hand, they immediately asked the pub manager, “Ya mind if we have a bit of a session? We’re not terrible.” With the smallest, but surest of nods he went back to his business of minding to the wonderful balance of strangers and locals. Continue reading A Late Night in Ireland – Strangers, Songs, and Something Greater

Happy Friday: 10 Links Worth Clicking, 3rd Week of Lent Edition

It’s warming up here in Denver, and we should be seeing highs in the 40s, 50s, and 60s through the next week! Is there anything full of hope quite like the sun after cool days and record snowfall? I’m excited for some snow to melt and to get back into a walking routine with my newborn daughter. What are you looking forward to this weekend?

Here’s some links from the last week or so that you may enjoy:

1. A lesson from the Transfiguration: to step out of our ordinary business when we pray (Fr. Barron’s Lent Reflections)

2. Lots to unpack here, but what struck me most: “86% of non-Christians do not even have a Christian acquaintance.” Whoa. (National Catholic Register)

3. A married couple will be canonized together for the first time! (Catholic News Agency)

4. Speaking of remarkable couples, a new DVD series about marriage (Augustine Institute)

5. National Catholic Journals Unite: “Capital Punishment Must End” (America Magazine)

6. 95% of Catholics who attend Mass weekly like the pope! (Pew Research)

7. This novena to St. Joseph begins March 10th for all husbands, fathers, and families; for those who are looking for work; and those who are nearing death (PrayMoreNovenas.com)

8. The pope’s reminder to love and serve the seniors among us (Catholic News Service)

9. This tweet:

10. Highly recommend this upcoming retreat on the Christian Meaning of Suffering in Denver (Endow)

Catholics thinking "how"!

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