January 30, 2012

Catholic Identity

I just finished writing a journal article to be published in several months. Although not the specific subject of the article, I do talk about Catholic Identity. I think it is obvious these days that we have lost a lot of our identity as Catholics. However, I also think that people are realizing that we gave up a lot in losing this identity.

When people lose their identity they also often lose their way. Think of those Alzheimer patients who, not remembering who they are or who their loved ones are, live a life that's neither here nor there, often literally losing their way. Some people's identity is so completely dependent on their jobs or in their relationships that when these things are lost, the person falls apart. Having an identity is crucial to who I am.

So who am I?  I could easily and truthfully say I am a wife, a mother and a daughter. I am a Pastoral Associate, a friend, an artist, a musician and a writer.  But is that my identity? Yes these words describe different aspects of my identity but even in their sum they don't do justice in identifying who I am.  So again, who am I?  I am a child of God, claimed by Jesus Christ and formed by the Word of God and two thousand years of tradition.  This is not just my Catholic identity but my identity as a human being.

This is why regaining our Catholic identity is so important. We are a people who have, in a sense, lost or are in danger of losing our way.  The world is shaping our identity, not our faith in Jesus Christ for whom people for centuries have given up their lives and continue to do so.  The world is telling us that they way we pray, the way we worship, our beliefs, and our devotions are not relevant today.  But I believe they are more relevant because they are needed today more than ever.  

Do you know who you are? If not it's time to discover who you are. Rediscover your Catholic identity.

January 25, 2012

Silence and Communication.

I have written before about silence and how important it is in our lives.  On the Feast of St. Francis de Sales on Jan 24th, Pope Benedict wrote about silence in his message for the 46th World Communications Day which will be celebrated on May 12, 2012. The question that might be asked is, what does silence have to do with communication?  Isn't silence a lack of communication? One might think so. We  often get the "silent treatment" from friends, loved ones or co-workers when there are differences or anamosity between people.  But even that is a form of communication, since it communicates negativity and the lack of desire to settle differences.

In a world filled with constant noise and instant communication, the Pope shows us the necessity of silence as a means to enhance communication, not only with God but with humanity as well. He writes:
Silence is an integral element of communication; in its absence, words rich in content cannot exist. In silence, we are better able to listen to and understand ourselves; ideas come to birth and acquire depth; we understand with greater clarity what it is we want to say and what we expect from others; and we choose how to express ourselves. By remaining silent we allow the other person to speak, to express him or herself; and we avoid being tied simply to our own words and ideas without them being adequately tested.
I happen to love silence. Sure I enjoy talking as well, in fact when I was younger my parents would say I talked too much and would call me a chiaccherona (Italian for chatterbox). Sometimes, like many women, I tell long stories to the point where it takes awhile for me to  get around to what I really want to say. I think some people would enjoy a bit of silence on my part. That is not, however,  what the Holy Father is referring to with regard to silence. We need silence in our lives in order to be able to communicate better with words.  In the silence we hear God's voice and are able to better discern His will and His desires for us with regard to communicating with words.

Silence is difficult for many people. We are so used to noise that silence makes us uncomfortable, and in conversation we often say things without sufficient reflection, leading to mis-communication.  The Pope writes that silent reflection "permits seekers to reach into the depths of their being and open themselves to the path towards knowledge that God has inscribed in human hearts."

The Pope, I believe, offers us a corrective for our noisy world and a means to better communicate and in turn to engage in the ministry of evangelization that is so necessary today. I am considering making silence a large part of my Lenten disipline this year.  The hardest part will be to stop talking to myself out loud and to not offer my opinion when it is not solicited. I think it might be good for me. The idea of silence has been coming to me clearly for a number of weeks, so Pope Benedict's message seems to be a confirmation of what I have been thinking about.  It won't be easy, but I am sure it will be worth it.

You can read the entire text of the Pope's message here.

January 21, 2012

I'm still here and thinking of Lent

Over two weeks have gone by since I last posted but aside from being extremely busy at work, I am experiencing a major attack of writers' block, which is not good since I have an article due at the beginning of February.  I am also working on preparing a special project for our parish during Lent.  We are going to be distributing a free book to any parishioner who wants one.  The book is Rediscovering Catholicism by Matthew Kelly and is part of the Dynamic Catholic Institute founded by Kelly to help Catholics not only learn about their faith but to rediscover the beauty of our Catholic Faith.

Kelly found that most Catholics have not read good books on the faith. He makes books available for a minimal fee of $2 a copy if a parish orders over 500 copies. Currently there are three other titles available in the program. Through the generosity of a parishioner, we will be able to distribute 1500 copies of the book on the first Sunday of Lent. Hopefully our parishioners will read the book as part of their Lenten discipline.   At a later time, probably soon after Easter, we will have gatherings where people can talk about what they have "re-discovered" about their faith.

I am also working on showing the series Catholicism to small groups. Yet the fact that due to a lighting project in our church, our large meeting room is set up for daily mass during the week.  This will limit the number of people who we will be able to accommodate in our much smaller meeting rooms.  I am hoping people have heard of this wonderful series which I have already viewed twice and used with RCIA and an adult formation class.  I will be asking people to invite a friend to attend with them.

Personally, I am discerning what book I will be reading for Lent as well as what other disciplines I will be engaging.  Lent is still a month away, but it is never too early to start thinking about it.  Liturgy Training Publications has a wonderful little booklet What Am I Doing For Lent This Year? that helps people with that regard.  At $1 per copy with generous discounts for large orders, it is something the parish can purchase and distribute now to get a jump on Lent.

January 4, 2012

Happy Birthday

Today is my daughter Laura's birthday.  I was reflecting during prayer this morning that it is also the anniversary of the day I became a mother, but upon further reflection I realized that I became a mother the day I conceived my precious daughter.  Yet the time of my pregnancy was a time of preparation, a time of patient waiting and a time to educate myself as to what I would need to be a good mother, and it wasn't unitl I held my precious little girl in my arms a moment after her birth that the full realization of my being a mother really hit.

In the 32 years since her birth I learned much about being a mother.  There has been a lot of water under the bridge, some good, some not so good. But I can honestly say that Laura and I truly have a loving relationship and even though an entire continent seperates us, we reamain close. It is a similar relationship that I have with my mom.

With her wedding nine months away, this year will be full of excitement and I am looking forward to being a mother-in-law to her wonderful fiancee John.  Hopefully in a year or two I will be able to be called by another title as well.

I have to thank God for giving me the gift of motherhood and for my three children.  Motherhood is a school of virtue. I've learned patience, fortitude, restraint, kindess, courage, and a large dose of humility. My faith has increased with each new challenge and I have learned to trust fully in God every step of the way.  But most of all I have learned to love more than I could have ever imagined.

Happy Birthday Laura. I am so happy you are part of my life.