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Category Archives: Catholic Awesomeness!

First Holy Communion

There are many moments in life that, when we’re in them, I’m not sure we fully appreciate the magnitude of the moment. One of the foremost of these would be our First Holy Communion.

What a magnificent celebration for a family! Little girls dress in their finest white dresses, giving Mommy and Daddy a glimpse into the future, when one day she may walk down the same aisle to give herself to a man at her wedding. How appropriate. For at this moment, she becomes a full participant in the wedding feast of the Lamb. Your little girl is representative of the Church, the bride of Christ, come to receive her groom.

Little boys, looking for all the world like little men, dressed in their crisp suits and shiny shoes, will experience what the disciples did in a small upper room, thousands of years ago. The Last Supper was THE First Holy Communion. This is my Body, this is my Blood.

The preparation has been done, the groundwork laid. Catholic school, CCD, Religious Ed, Sunday School, Faith Formation; whatever it is  called, it has prepared these youngsters for the moment they are about to experience. Their first encounter with the Body of Christ. You watch as the children approach the priest, parents in tow. A tear wells up in Mom’s eye as Dad breaks into a grin that only Dads can get. The grin of pride. (Which, by the way, is a far cry from the sin of pride.)

And in a moment, it is done. A photographer discreetly captures the moment, a treasure for life. The priest gives his hardy congratulations and says, “The Mass is ended, go in peace.” And so begins the next phase of the journey. Just as Jesus fed the multitudes, so now He feeds another generation of Catholics. Another first. Another moment to be cherished by a child, by a family, by a community of faith.

I can’t say that I really remember my First Holy Communion. And as I look back, I can say with full assurance that, at the moment, I certainly didn’t understand the gravity of what was happening. Surely now I have a much greater appreciation of what I went through that day. And now, as I watch perfect little strangers walking toward the altar, hands folded, looking like perfect little angels, I pray that they, and their parents, can get a small glimpse of the reality they are about to encounter. Welcome to the Feast, kids! You are always welcome here.

End Dwellers

Mass begins in three minutes. You open the doors of the narthex and are relieved to see that Father and the altar servers haven’t yet made their way out. Phew! You breathe a sigh of relief and head for the sanctuary at a trot that borders on a jog, just in case the procession is right behind you. As you scan the pews looking for a place that you can inconspicuously slide into, you see them. End Dwellers. Everywhere.

It’s a sight that is endemic to every Catholic Church that I have ever been in. Each and every pew has a vast, open expanse of emptiness right in the middle of the pew. But neatly tucked at the end of every pew are the End Dwellers. And you’ve been through this exercise enough before to know that they ain’t gonna budge. Not for you, not for the guy with the broken leg, not for the octogenarian with the oxygen tank…probably not for Jesus Himself.

So you amble to a pew that you’ve staked out because you thought that these particular End Dwellers looked rather reasonable. Perhaps they may even slide in toward the center of the pew, allowing you to cause as little disruption as possible. So you sidle up next to them, signaling with a nod that you would like to be seated in their pew. And then it comes. The Look. The Look that says, This is my spot, Pal, and they’ll be wheeling me into this building in a pine box before I give it up for you. So you resign yourself to the fact that, once again, you will have to do The Dance.

End Dwellers generally have three different methods of doing The Dance. Dance #1 goes like this: The End Dweller politely stands up and steps off to the side of the pew, allowing you to walk into the middle of the pew. This is my favorite form of The Dance, as it allows me to preserve a shred of my dignity. End Dwellers who engage in Dance #1 deserve our gratitude. They should always be graciously thanked.

Dance #2: The End Dweller grudgingly tries to scooch to one side and scrunches their legs in as close to the pew as possible, allowing you to sidestep your way past them. You scuffle on by, trying not to step on their feet as you smile and nod, thanking them silently for their magnanimity. Before this Dance begins, you have a decision to make: go past them while facing them, or go past with your back turned toward to them. Most people choose the former, which has some inherent difficulties itself. One must always be sure not to bump into the End Dwellers’ heads in the next pew up with one’s backside. This can often be the most difficult part of Dance #2 to perfect.

Dance #3: The End Dweller sizes you up and decides that you are not worthy of any position shift on their part whatsoever. Thus begins The Climb. Step over one leg…now the other…don’t drop the baby! Remember your balance…charity in all things…Hey, this is Church! Finally you’ve made it. You’ve completed The Climb yet again. Is climbing K2 even this difficult? Dance #3 is by far the most difficult and frustrating of all the Dances. But in my case anyway, it is a chance to exercise my patience and forgiveness muscles. Some days are better than others.

I think I may have figured out the greatest fundraising idea ever in the history of the Catholic Church. Rent out the two seats on the end of each pew. Methinks you will be able to build that new Family Center in no time, Father!

The Crucifix

You walk into most any Catholic Church, and there you see it. Hanging above and behind the altar. Some churches have very graphic depictions. Head, hands, feet and side all oozing blood. A crown of thorns around His head. Just a small sliver of cloth covering his lower body. Other churches have the Risen One, clothed in robes, arms outstretched, as if welcoming all who will raise their eyes to him. It is Jesus on the cross. The crucifix.

Many have been the times when I have gazed upon the image of Christ on the cross. Many have been the times when I have been brought to tears, pondering the fact that He was hanging there for me. At times I will kneel down after receiving Jesus in the Eucharist and stare at the crucifix, realizing the great mystery that that same Jesus who hung on the cross is the same Jesus now dissolving on my tongue, becoming part of my very being. Wow.

The crucifix, though a huge blessing to Catholics around the world, has also been a source of division. In fact, the crucifix as we know it today, the ones that adorn our churches now are rather recent. In the early days of Christianity, the Corpus was not depicted on the cross. In fact, it wasn’t until the late part of the sixth century that this practice was done even in private. But as time went on, the practice became more common, still mostly in private, rarely in public. And the figure of Christ was usually clothed and alive.

It wasn’t until after the Reformation that the modern day crucifix came into vogue. The new Protestants were adamant about having no “graven images,” so their new churches simply had a wooden cross. Many Protestants will claim that Catholics have a fixation on the death of Jesus. Their retort to the crucifix is that we are a church of the Risen Lord.

This always reminds me of the old saying, “You can’t get to the resurrection without going through the cross.” The crucifix is a constant reminder of the sacrifice that Christ made for us. While a simple cross is a wonderful thing, the crucifix always brings to mind for me John 15:13 – “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Coffee and Donuts

I know, I know…this is not something that is peculiarly Catholic. I think that most every Church has coffee and donuts. But that doesn’t make it any less awesome!

Let me start out with a confession. I typically go to 5:30 p.m. Mass on Sunday. So I don’t often have the pleasure of imbibing in the awesome ritual of coffee and donuts. Oh, and one more confession…even when we have to go to a Sunday morning Mass, I usually get up early enough to have at least one cup of coffee before Mass. We rarely have donuts around the house, so the donut part is still very special for…uh, my kids. Yeah, that’s it! We do it for the kids!

Now, everyone knows that we are supposed to fast for at least one hour before Mass. (Another awesome thing about being Catholic, but we’ll save that discussion for another time.) Now, if you go to an early Mass and haven’t eaten a thing since you woke up, you’re probably good and ready for some grub after the final verse of the recessional hymn is sung. And if you haven’t even had a cup o’ joe…well, your beeline for the exit is done in double time! After having received the Bread of Life, you’re ready for some bread with copious amounts of sugar and jelly added. And the very beginnings of that “lack of caffeine” headache are urging you toward the parish center.

Suddenly, someone calls out your name as you blindly stumble behind the kids making their way to the home of the nectar that you crave. You, of course, pretend that you don’t hear them. But they will not be stopped; they must talk with you NOW! And so it becomes a battle of the wills. You pick up the pace, pretending to mumble something to your youngest about saving you a Bavarian Creme…or else. But your fellow parishioner, no doubt an Olympic finalist in the 100 meter dash, accosts you just as you are reaching for the door handle to the parish center.

“Listen,” they say, “I’d like to talk with you about volunteering for…” And before another word can tumble from their lips, you’re inviting them to come sit with you for some coffee and donuts. Problem solved! And so you listen to their pitch while ravaging a cruller and the last lousy cake donut. Of course, your kids have managed to pile drive four Bavarian Cremes each. But at least you’ve poured down three cups of hot, fresh java. The kids drink five orange juices each. Total “donation”: $17.50. Now all you have to do is deal with the sugar rush on the drive home. Sure, it would have been cheaper to head over to Denny’s. But the fellowship of a good old Catholic coffee and donuts session is…well, priceless!

OK, now it’s your turn! What experience about being Catholic is priceless for you?

The Sprinkling Rite

Rite of  SprinklingEach Sunday during the Easter season, we do what is called the Rite of Sprinkling. This happens at the beginning of Mass. The priest blesses the Holy Water in the font, then walks through the whole church sprinkling the people with the Holy Water. I love getting hit with Holy Water at Mass. I have had priests in the past who, it seems, try to make sure they wet down every person in the pews. I remember one priest who used a mini-whisk broom for the rite. This thing seemed to hold a gallon of water. And the young, virile priest flung his arm like an NFL quarterback. If you were within 20 feet, you were getting wet! I thought for sure that they were going to start handing out ponchos to the people in the first 10 rows…kinda like they do at Sea World for the Shamu show.

Then there are priests who are a bit less enthusiastic about actually getting water on anyone. One priest would go through about 3/4 of the church before reloading his ball-on-a-stick with water. He would give a half-hearted flick of the wrist and no water would really go out into the crowd. Yet people still would make the sign of the cross. I always thought that you only had to make the sign of the cross if you actually got water on you. In fact, I can remember a few times when I would actually lean hard to try to make sure that I got at least one drop of water on me. Not unlike someone lunging to catch a pop foul at a baseball game. In fact, I’ve probably stolen some water drops from people around me. Hmm…do I need to go to confession about that?

Ah, yes…the wetter I get, the more Catholic I feel! The Sprinkling Rite. Just one more thing that makes it awesome to be Catholic!

Catholic Awesomeness!

It’s awesome to be Catholic!

There are so many wonderful things about being Catholic. Little things that we may take for granted are actually big blessings in our lives. So I thought I would start to share some of my thoughts about things that are great about being Catholic. And there is no way that I could ever think of everything! This is where you come in! I want you to leave me a note about something that you think is awesome about being Catholic, and why it is so awesome. They can be big and obvious things, or little things that we don’t often think of. So join me in celebrating Catholic Awesomeness!!

The Sprinkling Rite

Rite of SprinklingEach Sunday during the Easter season, we do what is called the Rite of Sprinkling. This happens at the beginning of Mass. The priest blesses the Holy Water in the font, then walks through the whole church sprinkling the people with the Holy Water. I love getting hit with Holy Water at Mass. I have had priests in the past who, it seems, try to make sure they wet down every person in the pews. I remember one priest who used a mini-whisk broom for the rite. This thing seemed to hold a gallon of water. And the young, virile priest flung his arm like an NFL quarterback. If you were within 20 feet, you were getting wet! I thought for sure that they were going to start handing out ponchos to the people in the first 10 rows…kinda like they do at Sea World for the Shamu show.

Then there are priests who are a bit less enthusiastic about actually getting water on anyone. One priest would go through about 3/4 of the church before reloading his ball-on-a-stick with water. He would give a half-hearted flick of the wrist and no water would really go out into the crowd. Yet people still would make the sign of the cross. I always thought that you only had to make the sign of the cross if you actually got water on you. In fact, I can remember a few times when I would actually lean hard to try to make sure that I got at least one drop of water on me. Not unlike someone lunging to catch a pop foul at a baseball game. In fact, I’ve probably stolen some water drops from people around me. Hmm…do I need to go to confession about that?

Ah, yes…the wetter I get, the more Catholic I feel! The Sprinkling Rite. Just one more thing that makes it awesome to be Catholic!


Coffee and Donuts

I know, I know…this is not something that is peculiarly Catholic. I think that most every Church has coffee and donuts. But that doesn’t make it any less awesome!

Let me start out with a confession. I typically go to 5:30 p.m. Mass on Sunday. So I don’t often have the pleasure of imbibing in the awesome ritual of coffee and donuts. Oh, and one more confession…even when we have to go to a Sunday morning Mass, I usually get up early enough to have at least one cup of coffee before Mass. We rarely have donuts around the house, so the donut part is still very special for…uh, my kids. Yeah, that’s it! We do it for the kids!

Now, everyone knows that we are supposed to fast for at least one hour before Mass. (Another awesome thing about being Catholic, but we’ll save that discussion for another time.) Now, if you go to an early Mass and haven’t eaten a thing since you woke up, you’re probably good and ready for some grub after the final verse of the recessional hymn is sung. And if you haven’t even had a cup o’ joe…well, your beeline for the exit is done in double time! After having received the Bread of Life, you’re ready for some bread with copious amounts of sugar and jelly added. And the very beginnings of that “lack of caffeine” headache are urging you toward the parish center.

Suddenly, someone calls out your name as you blindly stumble behind the kids making their way to the home of the nectar that you crave. You, of course, pretend that you don’t hear them. But they will not be stopped; they must talk with you NOW! And so it becomes a battle of the wills. You pick up the pace, pretending to mumble something to your youngest about saving you a Bavarian Creme…or else. But your fellow parishioner, no doubt an Olympic finalist in the 100 meter dash, accosts you just as you are reaching for the door handle to the parish center.

“Listen,” they say, “I’d like to talk with you about volunteering for…” And before another word can tumble from their lips, you’re inviting them to come sit with you for some coffee and donuts. Problem solved! And so you listen to their pitch while ravaging a cruller and the last lousy cake donut. Of course, your kids have managed to pile drive four Bavarian Cremes each. But at least you’ve poured down three cups of hot, fresh java. The kids drink five orange juices each. Total “donation”: $17.50. Now all you have to do is deal with the sugar rush on the drive home. Sure, it would have been cheaper to head over to Denny’s. But the fellowship of a good old Catholic coffee and donuts session is…well, priceless!

OK, now it’s your turn! What experience about being Catholic is priceless for you?


The Crucifix

You walk into most any Catholic Church, and there you see it. Hanging above and behind the altar. Some churches have very graphic depictions. Head, hands, feet and side all oozing blood. A crown of thorns around His head. Just a small sliver of cloth covering his lower body. Other churches have the Risen One, clothed in robes, arms outstretched, as if welcoming all who will raise their eyes to him. It is Jesus on the cross. The crucifix.

Many have been the times when I have gazed upon the image of Christ on the cross. Many have been the times when I have been brought to tears, pondering the fact that He was hanging there for me. At times I will kneel down after receiving Jesus in the Eucharist and stare at the crucifix, realizing the great mystery that that same Jesus who hung on the cross is the same Jesus now dissolving on my tongue, becoming part of my very being. Wow.

The crucifix, though a huge blessing to Catholics around the world, has also been a source of division. In fact, the crucifix as we know it today, the ones that adorn our churches now are rather recent. In the early days of Christianity, the Corpus was not depicted on the cross. In fact, it wasn’t until the late part of the sixth century that this practice was done even in private. But as time went on, the practice became more common, still mostly in private, rarely in public. And the figure of Christ was usually clothed and alive.

It wasn’t until after the Reformation that the modern day crucifix came into vogue. The new Protestants were adamant about having no “graven images,” so their new churches simply had a wooden cross. Many Protestants will claim that Catholics have a fixation on the death of Jesus. Their retort to the crucifix is that we are a church of the Risen Lord.

This always reminds me of the old saying, “You can’t get to the resurrection without going through the cross.” The crucifix is a constant reminder of the sacrifice that Christ made for us. While a simple cross is a wonderful thing, the crucifix always brings to mind for me John 15:13 – “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.


End Dwellers

Mass begins in three minutes. You open the doors of the narthex and are relieved to see that Father and the altar servers haven’t yet made their way out. Phew! You breathe a sigh of relief and head for the sanctuary at a trot that borders on a jog, just in case the procession is right behind you. As you scan the pews looking for a place that you can inconspicuously slide into, you see them. End Dwellers. Everywhere.

It’s a sight that is endemic to every Catholic Church that I have ever been in. Each and every pew has a vast, open expanse of emptiness right in the middle of the pew. But neatly tucked at the end of every pew are the End Dwellers. And you’ve been through this exercise enough before to know that they ain’t gonna budge. Not for you, not for the guy with the broken leg, not for the octogenarian with the oxygen tank…probably not for Jesus Himself.

So you amble to a pew that you’ve staked out because you thought that these particular End Dwellers looked rather reasonable. Perhaps they may even slide in toward the center of the pew, allowing you to cause as little disruption as possible. So you sidle up next to them, signaling with a nod that you would like to be seated in their pew. And then it comes. The Look. The Look that says, This is my spot, Pal, and they’ll be wheeling me into this building in a pine box before I give it up for you. So you resign yourself to the fact that, once again, you will have to do The Dance.

End Dwellers generally have three different methods of doing The Dance. Dance #1 goes like this: The End Dweller politely stands up and steps off to the side of the pew, allowing you to walk into the middle of the pew. This is my favorite form of The Dance, as it allows me to preserve a shred of my dignity. End Dwellers who engage in Dance #1 deserve our gratitude. They should always be graciously thanked.

Dance #2: The End Dweller grudgingly tries to scooch to one side and scrunches their legs in as close to the pew as possible, allowing you to sidestep your way past them. You scuffle on by, trying not to step on their feet as you smile and nod, thanking them silently for their magnanimity. Before this Dance begins, you have a decision to make: go past them while facing them, or go past with your back turned toward to them. Most people choose the former, which has some inherent difficulties itself. One must always be sure not to bump into the End Dwellers’ heads in the next pew up with one’s backside. This can often be the most difficult part of Dance #2 to perfect.

Dance #3: The End Dweller sizes you up and decides that you are not worthy of any position shift on their part whatsoever. Thus begins The Climb. Step over one leg…now the other…don’t drop the baby! Remember your balance…charity in all things…Hey, this is Church! Finally you’ve made it. You’ve completed The Climb yet again. Is climbing K2 even this difficult? Dance #3 is by far the most difficult and frustrating of all the Dances. But in my case anyway, it is a chance to exercise my patience and forgiveness muscles. Some days are better than others.

I think I may have figured out the greatest fundraising idea ever in the history of the Catholic Church. Rent out the two seats on the end of each pew. Methinks you will be able to build that new Family Center in no time, Father!