Category Archives: Guest Post

Guest Post: The Invitation

By Matt Patella, Guest Contributor

If I have to be honest I should say that I do not usually enjoy the initial moments of being around new people, in any setting. I enjoy going to events where I will know everyone and they will know me, I like walking into a bar and knowing the bartender and the other patrons; even in Church I like to be able to identify my friends. I can “fake it” around new people but usually I enjoy seeing the same people and going to the same places. This is a pretty important trait to overcome as a Catholic. In my own spiritual journey the most important moment was the invitation given to me during my freshman year of college to go to Mass on Sunday night. It was given to me from someone who was essentially a stranger: yet I accepted the invitation.

As Catholics we are all called to make this invitation constantly. We are called to grow our Church through our words and our actions. The best way for us to do this on a daily basis is to live a good life and base all of our actions in love. “They will know we are Christians by our love” is not just a catchy song lyric, but a truth. No matter how good we live our lives, at some point we are called to make an invitation to a person to truly reach out and invite someone into the Church. This invitation could be to a Theology on Tap, to Mass, or even just to read your favorite Catholic blog. What stands in the way of asking people to join you in your faith? What stands in the way of asking friends and family to Mass or Adoration? I believe for me it is the fear that they might say no. Yet the joy of acceptance must outweigh our fear.

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Matthew Patella is from Long Island where he went to Catholic school. From there he went on to study at The Catholic University of America, then Boston College and is now back at CUA. In between all of that schooling he took a year to serve as a Cap Corps Volunteer in Garrison, NY leading retreats with the Capuchin Province of St. Mary’s. When walking through book stores he has a tendency to end up in the areas devoted to philosophy, politics, and history.  He is a frequent guest contributor to Catholic How.

Guest Opinion: Pro-Life? Support Paid Maternity Leave

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By Michael Lewis, Guest Contributor

President Obama made a splash on June 23 when he took four working families out to lunch at Chipotle after announcing his support for some kind of paid maternity leave in the United States. In his statement, the president said that the U.S. is the only developed country that does not offer working women any sort of paid leave to give birth or spend time with a newborn. In fact, President Obama said, “many women can’t even get a paid day off to give birth—that’s a pretty low bar.”

The President’s announcement of support received little media attention as he failed to back a concrete piece of legislation to back up his support for paid maternity leave. His political opponents—many of them champions of the pro-life movement—dismissed the idea as another unnecessary, expensive government program. Obama walks the walk on paid leave, however—White House employees receive six weeks paid leave to give birth, a policy instituted when the President took office in 2009. Perhaps the disinterested reaction is not a result of our lack of caring for new mothers, but a reflection of the low value American society places on having children.

It used to be men and women married at 20 or 21, the husband had a good job that paid well, and they bought a home and had babies. Such was the American dream when our parents were growing up in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Dad worked to pay the bills and put food on the table, and Mom took care of the kids.

Now, however, many young people of prime childbearing age are pursuing advanced degrees and careers—and thereby delaying pregnancy—partly out of ambition and partly out of financial necessity. The widespread use of contraception makes it easy to remove the procreative aspect from sexual love, and many women are finding that when they get around to trying to conceive, their years (or decades) on the pill permanently altered their bodies, making conception difficult.

In addition, today’s economy makes it hard for families to survive on one income, and as the President said, taking time off to have a baby can be a financial burden for many middle class families. The Family Medical Leave Act provides employees with up to 12 weeks of medical leave, but for the vast majority of workers, this benefit is unpaid, and again, many cannot afford to lose three months of income. In contrast, countries such as Canada offer up to 17 weeks of leave, with compensation of 55% of wages up to 15 weeks. Sweden offers 480 days per child, at 80% of salary. Other nations such as Poland, Germany, France, Slovakia and other Eastern European countries offer varying levels of benefits for new parents, paid for by Social Security programs or national health funds.

Continue reading Guest Opinion: Pro-Life? Support Paid Maternity Leave

Guest Post: Worth My Time – Reflections on Holy Thursday

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By: Brother Will Tarazza, OFM Cap.

Call me crazy, but I love when the Mass of the Lord’s Supper goes for 2 to 3 hours. Yes, I enjoy the high liturgy. Yes, the choirs and the musical accompaniment captivate me. However, these are not the reasons why I would want this liturgy to go that long. When I was visiting Rome a few years ago while studying abroad in Spain, I went to the Church of Santa Susanna for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. This is a Paulist parish that is designated for English speaking Catholics in Rome. I hadn’t been to an English Mass in months, so I thought it would be a good time to participate fully in my native language. As we got to the washing of the feet, only one chair was brought forth in front of the altar. At first, I was confused. I thought, why would he only wash one person’s foot? As the priest divested his chasuble, the lector explained to the audience that all were invited to approach the center aisle to have their feet washed. Sigh. This is going to take forever, I thought. Only a few people stood immediately to get their feet washed, mostly kids. I did not plan to go.

Since there was some time, I started to reflect on my own discernment to be called to the ordained priesthood. I watched as the priest bent over to kiss each foot that passed through the washbowl. He probably didn’t know many of the people who’s feet he was kissing. He didn’t know the roads those feet had walked or the pains they have endured; yet, he washed and kissed each foot. This was a real witness to the love of Christ who laid down his life for us. It didn’t matter where the apostles had been or what they had done; yet Jesus loved them and washed their feet. They were given a task to love and serve unconditionally likewise. If this service is an unconditional task, I thought, why should foot washing be limited to a select few to save time? Shouldn’t we all recognize our need to be served no matter where we have been so that we too can serve? This really got me thinking about how I would want to live a life as an ordained minister. The ordained priest’s vocation is to lay down his life to be a representative of Christ. It is a life of service to anyone who comes to have his or her feet washed! But sometimes, we have to give the people the time to recognize their need to have their feet washed. Can we give them this time? The Church of Santa Susanna did! So a half hour into the washing of the feet, I got up and had the priest wash and kiss my feet as a response to my desire to serve Christ as an ordained priest. God allowed me to understand that if I am going to serve, I have to know how to be served by Christ himself.

It was only later that the people who jumped up immediately to have their feet washed moved me. In a sense, they were saying, “this life is tough, and I need someone to wash my feet to relieve some of my pain.” I’m not sure if any parish does this in the United States. All I know is that this affirmed the kind of priest I aspire to be. I don’t want to be selective in my love for God’s people. I want to wash the feet of anyone who sits in the chair. This may take a lot of time; however, if it brings people to Christ, isn’t it worth it? May you have a blessed Triduum.

Brother Will Tarraza, OFM Cap is a member of the Province of St. Mary of the Capuchin Order. A native Mainer, Br. Will met the Capuchins at the Catholic University of America. He enjoys liturgical theology and watching the New England Patriots. He currently resides at the province’s formation house in Jamaica Plain, MA as he studies at Boston College School of Theology and Ministry.

Guest Post: Things That Happen to a Young Woman Discerning Religious Life (if your experience is anything like mine)

–      It’s bad timing for discernment because you’re in a relationship. Or just out of one. Or headed toward one. Or have been single too long to be objective about all this anyway.

–      Your knees shake while telling your parents that you are discerning, even as you fake nonchalance: “You know, I just thought I should keep all the options open.”

–      While considering the sacrifices of religious life, you include “freedom to look totally fantastic now and then.” (Hey, the giving up of flattering clothes is real.)

–      You get incensed at the guy who dumped you because now every vocation director will think you’re just coping—poorly—with rejection. Meantime you find that, unfortunately, being in discernment does not cause your heart to break any less painfully.

–      In the midst of the habit-or-no-habit question, you grow increasingly jealous of the Roman collar and its perfect combination of functionality, recognizability, and unobtrusiveness.

–      You add Elizabeth Johnson to your reading list. If every single community has a devotion to Mary, as is apparently the case, then you better damn well find a Marian theology you can get behind.

–      You are sorely tempted to use the phrase “I’m discerning” to get out of dating a guy even though you know full well that’s not why you’re turning him down.

–      Women in orders with declining numbers tell you with certainty that something new is coming to religious life but are totally unable to give you even the slimmest sense of what that something might be.

–      You recognize that praying hard and thinking hard aren’t the same thing, and despair. You’re so much better at thinking hard.

–      One third of the time you think entering religious life would be the dumbest decision you could make. One third of the time you think it would be the most awesome decision you could make. And one third of the time you remember that it’s actually the Holy Spirit who’s in charge.

***

I’m going to be honest here. My year-plus of discernment has generally been more frustrating than rewarding. It’s just hard. But underneath the struggle has been a considerable gift. The process of discerning has forced me out of my usual pattern of thought, belief, and habit—out of my old self.

As the scattershot list above implies, there are too many new questions and experiences for me to encounter them all and remain unchanged. So I’ve changed. My prayer and reflection are taking place through a new and bigger lens, and I feel deeply grateful for that—so much so that I’m ultimately deeply grateful for discernment itself.

Discernment is hard. God is good.

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Sara Knutson received her Master of Divinity from Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. She currently works as a retreat director at TYME OUT Youth Ministry and Retreat Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and is beginning an outdoors retreat program this summer.

Guest Post: Vocations That Don’t Fit

My grandfather always thought I’d be a nun.

I didn’t find out until after his death in 2009, and I interpreted it as a subtle threat. A well-timed postmortem comment here, a lackluster romantic relationship there, and suddenly I’d wake up with a habit instead of a husband.

Over the next few years, however, I began to see religious life as an opportunity to commit to the church in a public and lasting way, and I began to crave the communal living and prayer that would support such a commitment.

At this point, I feel totally open to religious life.

But religious life feels closed to me.

A man considering priesthood or religious life has a number of excellent options. In addition to diocesan priesthood, he can consider several religious orders which are big enough that men of all backgrounds and theological viewpoints can find supportive mentors, appealing ministry opportunities, and other young men in formation.

A woman who is attracted to contemplative and perhaps cloistered living, Marian and Eucharistic devotions, and traditionally feminine ministries also has several religious communities from which to choose.

But I’m not that woman. I cringe when men open car doors for me. My deep love of wilderness renders cloistered life unfathomable. My theological views are moderately progressive, and I want to do apostolic work that engages the world.

My options up until now have been twofold:

1. Enter a convent which would not fit my spirituality or skills but would have other young women in formation.

2. Enter one of the legacy orders, as I call them, where I would almost certainly be the only woman in my year and possibly the only one in formation.

Little wonder that my choice has been to put religious life on the backburner entirely.

Most frustratingly, the barren landscape of women’s religious life has—to my eyes at least—gone entirely under the radar.

I see the great legacy orders merging or planning their dissolution, and it has barely caused a blip on the radar of the American church. While there has been a worthy and concerted effort to bolster the number of priests, the demise of active women’s religious life seems to be taken for granted by just about everyone.Not me.

I am certain there are other young women like me, many of them academically and spiritually formed in schools run by men’s orders, who find religious life compelling but are stymied by the lack of options.

It is time to create new options, so here is one possibility.

What if one new religious order with two to four communities, supported collectively by the LCWR and its members, opened its doors to young women seeking apostolic work and community living? The communities could be located strategically in different parts of the country and focus on missionary work—education, retreats, service to and with the poor, and other ministries that actively proclaim the Gospel.

What if this order had its own distinct identity but collaborated in some ministries with one or more men’s religious orders that have no female branch, like the Jesuits or Augustinians? What if it had overt support from these men’s orders so that women who are familiar with them or educated at their institutions have a solid option to explore if they wished to consider religious life?

There are other possibilities too, of course. The point is that this issue is solvable. The recent publicity around the LCWR made it abundantly clear that American Catholics love women religious and value their contribution to the life of the church.

Let’s start a conversation so that today’s young women can realistically consider making the same commitment and contribution. Our church, and the women in it, deserve nothing less.

Sara Knutson received her Master of Divinity from Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. She currently works as a retreat director at TYME OUT Youth Ministry and Retreat Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and wants to hear from other people musing about women’s religious life. If you’ve got thoughts, email her at knutson.sara@gmail.com.

Guest Post: CPR for RCIA

Last Sunday, the first Sunday of Lent, the catechumens and candidates throughout the dioceses of Boston gathered at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross to participate in the Rite of Election. I had the privilege of accompanying the group from the parish I assist with RCIA. While the Cathedral is magnificent and has a high capacity for worshipers, it is not conveniently located for public transportation and parking is very limited. Many people would be flocking to this event, so I decided to arrive an hour early. As I stood in the back waiting, my mind began to be enamored and edified by the many different people entering. From teenagers to elderly adults, women and men of many different cultures, races, and social classes, all were coming together to begin the final stages of the RCIA process. God touched each person in one way or another to begin the journey of love into the Catholic faith.

I thought about all the thoughts and emotions that have emerged in their hearts throughout this past year, all the readings they may (or may not) have done, and all the questions that may have asked RCIA teachers, pastors, or friends of the Catholic faith. This made me realize the importance of the role of being an RCIA teacher. As I have reflected and prayed through this past week since the ceremony, it has become clear that for me to hand on the faith through RCIA, I must teach with an acronym that I call CPR: Confidence, Preparation, and Responsibility. By cultivating CPR, I  authentically hand on the faith that I believe and  let God show me how I can grow as a believer in my own understanding of who God is and who I am.

One time after class, a catechumen said to me, “I’m not sure I love God yet, is that bad?”

Continue reading Guest Post: CPR for RCIA

Of Mountain Goats and Mountains: Guest Post

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The first time I read this I thought, “Silly goat get out of the clouds.” But of course the real message here is that the pilots are flying into a mountain and do not recognize their error. For me this is what the season of Lent is all about. I often times make mistakes but look to blame the circumstances around me rather than seeking the true problem. During the season of Lent one of the things we are called to do is take a look at our lives and be honest about the metaphorical mountains in our lives.

As Catholics we have the sacrament of confession to get us back on track and help us with our journey. This Lent I am trying to recognize my faults and embrace them as my own so I can change. I think that this funny cartoon is telling us all to do that because if we don’t we will hit that mountain: and it would be rather hard to to change course then!

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Matthew Patella is from Long Island where he went to Catholic school. From there he went on to study at The Catholic University of America, then Boston College and is now back at CUA. In between all of that schooling he took a year to serve as a Cap Corps Volunteer in Garrison, NY leading retreats with the Capuchin Province of St. Mary’s. When walking through book stores he has a tendency to end up in the areas devoted to philosophy, politics, and history.

Guest Post: Restoring Confirmation, Part 1

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Brian Niemec’s post on confirmation is a welcomed invitation to converse about the sacrament and its health in American church life today.  As his article indicates–and as I think any honest assessment of the state of affairs today would agree–its health is poor. Many young Roman Catholics experience the confirmation process as a painful ordeal that in no way convicts their hearts and minds. The relevancy of the religion to their lives, as Brian relates, is lost on them. No sooner has the bishop’s oil dried on their foreheads than they bolt from the church, never to darken its door again. What to do?

Brian asks how we might change the content of religious education to counter this generational apathy. But before we ever get to the pedagogy of confirmation programs, I think we need to overhaul the entire system and understanding of sacramental initiation into the church. This reform would not be a reinvention but rather an innovative restoration in light of early church practice and a renewed theology of baptism and discipleship.

Part of the problem in teaching confirmation to young people is that it’s a sacrament without a theology, as more than one commentator’s observed. We talk about it as an experience of being sealed in the holy Spirit, yet that seems to imply the Spirit was only partially present at baptism. And we describe it as a process of reaching full membership in the church–but first communion already effects this unity both symbolically and theologically.

Continue reading Guest Post: Restoring Confirmation, Part 1

What Must Prayer Contain?

From Guest Contributor, Matt Patella

I am a cradle Catholic. I went to Catholic middle school, high school, and college. I always prayed, as a matter of fact I was at times required to pray before class started. Prayer was a good intellectual exercise growing up. It was a nice way to work out problems in silence. So prayer turned into an odd brainstorming session. But prayer must contain more than intellect: it must contain love.

I did not understand how important love was in prayer, until a mentor in college explained to me a fairly simple concept. “God is the perfect Good, no amount of prayer will ever change God. Prayer can only change you, and through you the people around you.”

Well where does love fit into that? Well if we don’t love the people around us then our prayer will not affect them and it certainly will not affect our own lives. It is not necessary to like the people with whom or for whom we pray, but without any doubt we must love them.

Love is so central to the prayer that without it we are lost. As Catholics we can experience this love every day and give it out to those around us. And I mean real true love. It is the love that will get in a car and drive eight hours for the funeral of a friend’s father; or the love that compels us to sit up and talk with a friend who is having a hard time in his or her life; it is also the love that wakes  people up early in the morning to serve food at a soup kitchen. This is the love that we need to pray and this is the love that comes from prayer.

If prayer truly is a conversation with God, it is most certainly a conversation of love. It is a conversation that also contains love and then challenges us to distribute that love to the world in our own unique way.

So how may we distribute love today?

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Matthew Patella is from Long Island where he went to Catholic school. From there he went on to study at The Catholic University of America, then Boston College and is now back at CUA. In between all of that schooling he took a year to serve as a Cap Corps Volunteer in Garrison, NY leading retreats with the Capuchin Province of St. Mary’s. When walking through book stores he has a tendency to end up in the areas devoted to philosophy, politics, and history.