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Treasures of the Church – A Walk with the Saints

March 28, 2016

Last week I had the privilege of walking with the saints, well, about 150 of them!

Treasures of the Church is a ministry of evangelization of the Catholic Church.  Run by Fr. Carlos Martins of the Companions of the Cross, its purpose is to give people an experience of the living God through an encounter with the relics of his saints in the form of an exposition.  Each exposition begins with a multi-media presentation on the Church’s use of relics that is scriptural, catechetical, and devotional, leading to a renewal of the Catholic faith for many people.  After the teaching those in attendance have an opportunity to venerate the relics of some of their favorite saints.

Every church, school, prison, entity should host this traveling exhibit of relics!

Fr. Carlos spoke in the church first. I think the talk was about an hour. He gave his back ground first, then he spoke about relics, what is a first, second and third class relic. He also spoke at length about St. Maria Goretti.

He ended his talk by explaining the layout of the relic exposition. There are about 16 tables with blue table cloths and two with gold. The gold tables are special because they are for the relics of our Lord and His Blessed Mother (Fragments of the True Cross, the Crown of Thorns, the Lance and the Veil of the Mother of God)! The blue tables hold 6-8 reliquaries and information cards about each of the saints. In his explanation he tells us that our connection with the saints is very powerful. Many people have experienced miracles as a result of venerating the relics (and he wants to hear about the miracles). Father also said, as we walk over to the gym, where the relics were displayed, pray that we will find our companion saint. Different people discover theirs in varied ways, you just know when it happens.

slide-1-officialSo I walked over, praying that I would discover my companion saint. I took off my necklace that I always wear with a Crucifix, a Miraculous Medal and a medal of St. Michael, and I held it in my hand as I walked with the saints, touching it to each and every reliquary there. I saw several of my favorite saints, Thomas Aquinas, Catherine of Siena, Maximilian Kolbe, and many others. Nothing. I was getting close to visiting all of the tables. Was my companion saint not among those present? Then I came to St. Faustina and the tears just started to roll down my face. It was her!

There was just something so special about that interaction. I just hope and pray that I and a good friend and companion in return and share my life with her and regularly ask for her intercession. The next day I went out and got a bunch of St. Faustina prayer cards so that I can scatter them around my existence so that I have constant reminders of her relationship with me.

So, talk to your pastor, your principal, about Treasures of the Church and then get on Fr. Carlos’ schedule and have him bring his Treasures of the Church to your location. You and many others will be so glad you did!

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Blessing of the Baskets for Easter – A Polish Tradition

March 20, 2016

All of my ancestors are Polish to the best of my knowledge, and one of my grandparents was born in Poland. So my family is solidly Polish-American. One of our Polish traditions is the blessing of the Easter foods basket on Holy Saturday. I don’t remember the blessing of the baskets from when I was a really young child in Detroit, but my mom probably did it, or my grandma did. st-hyacinthShe belonged to one of the lovely churches of Poletown, St. Hyacinth.

We moved away from the city long ago to a small town. It was a predominately German town. At some point in our living here, one of the priests began to offer the Blessing of the Baskets, and we have been blessed to have that blessing ever since.

Each year we put basically the same types of foods in our baskets. We walked with them to the church and sat at the center aisle, setting our basket on the floor. We enjoyed all of the Easter flowers being set up on the altar for the Vigil Mass and watched to see how many people would participate in the blessing this year, and checked out their baskets. Each year the number of baskets would be different. Father would come out at the designated time with the Holy Water and we would pull back the basket covering and open the foods. The church smelled lovely with all of the sausages opened up! The blessings completed, and maybe a small food offering would be given to Father. We cover everything back up, head home and kept the blessed foods separated in the refrigerator for the morning meal. Then on Easter morning after Mass, we would sit down to a largely cold breakfast of our blessed foods. It’s a lovely tradition.

The foods we typically include are ham, eggs, bread, sausage, butter, candies, sometimes horseradish, and pierogis. It’s our tradition.

It wasn’t until this year that I learned that “our” tradition is very close to “the” tradition. Go figure!

blessingA fellow parishioner gave me a copy of Swieconka – Blessing of the Baskets published in the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish Bulletin in Lapeer, Michigan in 2014:

Swieconka (sh-vee-en-soon-kah) is one of the most enduring and beloved Polish traditions. Baskets containing a sampling of Easter foods are brought to church to be blessed on Holy Saturday. The basket is traditionally lined with a white linen or lace napkin and decorated with sprigs of boxwood (bukszpan), the typical Easter evergreen. Poles take special pride in preparing a decorative and tasteful basket with crisp linens, occasionally embroidered for the occasion, and just enough boxwood and ribbon woven through the handle. Observing the beautiful foods and creations of other parishioners is one of the special joys of the event.

Basket Contents and Symbolism:

Maslo/Butter: This dairy product is often shaped into a lamb (Baranek Wielkanocny), reminding us of the goodness of Christ that we should have toward all things.

Chleb/Easter Bread: A round rye loaf topped with a cross, symbolic of Jesus, the Bread of Life.

Chrzan/Horseradish: Symbolic of the Passion of Christ still in our minds, but sweetened with some sugar because of the Resurrection. (May be white or pink [w/ grated red beets].)

Jajka/Eggs and Pisanki: Indicate new life and Christ’s pisankiResurrection from the Tomb.

Kielbasa/Sausage: A spicy sausage of pork products, indicative of God’s favor and generosity.

Szynka/Ham: Symbolic of great joy and abundance. (In addition to the large ham cooked for the Easter Meal, often a special small ham, called the Szynka Wielkanocny is purchased specially for the Swieconka basket.)

Slonina/Smoke Bacon: A symbol of the over abundance of God’s mercy and generosity.

Sol/Salt: So necessary an element in our physical life, that Jesus used its symbolism: “You are the salt of the earth.”

Ser/Cheese: Shaped into a ball, it is the symbol of the moderation Christians should have.

Holy Water: Holy water is used to bless the home, animals, fields and used in religious rituals throughout the year.

A candle, often marked like the Paschal Candle lit during the Easter Vigil, is inserted into the basket to represent Christ, Light of the World.

A colorful ribbon and sometimes sprigs of greenery are attached.

The linen cover is drawn over the top and is ready for the trek to the blessing.

Whether or not you can claim some Polish blood in your veins, this is a lovely Easter tradition. I hope you consider creating your own basket and get it blessed. Many Easter blessings to you!

Church Bickering, Heresies and Gratuitous Grace

March 15, 2016

Because we are all stubborn and in error, but think we are totally right, God gives us Gratuitous Grace from our “enemies” to give us pause and make us think about what we are doing. But are we so self-righteous that we don’t see and respond to God’s gift right in front of us. It is to our benefit to be obedient to God and listen to the words of our enemies. They are most likely the words of God telling us to wake up and change our ways.

king davidLook at King David in the Second Book of Samuel, he is running away from his son, Absalom, who is trying to steal the kingship away from David. As David and his party are fleeing Jerusalem, they come across a man named Shimei, who is from the house of Saul. Shimei continually curses David and throws stones at him. One of David’s men offers to silence the man by taking off his head. But the king replied: “What business is it of mine or of yours, sons of Zeruiah, that he curses? Suppose the LORD has told him to curse David; who then will dare to say, ‘Why are you doing this?’” (2 Sam 16:10)

It’s not clear what David learned or did as a result of this exchange, but it is clear that David acknowledged that this man’s outburst might be directed by God. Do we acknowledge God’s message in the outbursts of others towards us? Are we being obedient to God? There is such a thing as mutual obedience. Even if you are in charge, you still have things to learn. How do you learn them? Even the supremely intelligent can learn something from their simple brothers and sisters. They just need the humility to listen and respond.

So what about all of the endless bickering that goes on in our Church? Are we being stubborn? Are we not hearing the Word of God in the concerns and complaints of our fellow Catholics? Sadly we debate the changes in the Mass, the effects of Vatican II, as if we are talking about a baseball game. And we shouldn’t. The Mass doesn’t have close calls or three strikes. The Mass is our time in heaven, our face to face time with Jesus! The Mass isn’t a pastime. It’s not a hobby. It’s the source and summit of our lives. Most of us don’t see it that way. Some of us like the Mass this way, and others that way. And so the Mass has become a battle ground between the opinionated casual church goer and the stuck-up, self-righteous traditionalist church goer and everyone in between. What gets lost in this battle is Jesus Himself!

Are we listening to the concerns of our fellow pew sitters or do we think their point of view is irrelevant? Do we think good riddance when they finally walk away from the faith or to another church, thinking that we are purifying our parish to have only “good” Catholics? Wait a minute, isn’t the Catholic Church a hospital for sinners?

One of the big stumbling blocks in this battle field is the Second Vatican Council. Vatican II ruined the Church. Vatican II improved the Church. Vatican II created the clown Mass. Everything was stuffy, Latin shirts before Vatican II. First of all the Church is run by men, fallen men. There are always going to be problems and misconceptions and complaints. But also, the Church has over one billion members in probably every country on the planet. Jesus told His apostles to spread the Gospel to every corner of the world and they have. That gives us a lot of diversity in the Church. She can’t please everybody, everywhere, all the time. She can’t even please everyone in a small town parish. God made us unique. Diversity keeps things interesting. We have to listen to each other’s diverse needs. Some are good, and some are not so good. We need to listen and dialogue and be open to criticism and not get so offended all the time!

We still have the problem of declining Mass attendance. Many say that Vatican II is the bad guy. The Fathers of Vatican II should have just left things alone and we wouldn’t be in the state we are today. Really?

Why did Saint Pope John XXIII call the Second Vatican Council? John-XXIIIDid he just want to stir the pot? Probably not. There have been many councils called over the centuries of the Church. Councils are called mainly to address heresies. Ancient councils were called to address the Arian heresy and the Nestorian heresy and so on. So what is a heresy?

From Fr. John Hardon’s Modern Catholic Dictionary: In the Roman Catholic Church, heresy has a very specific meaning. Anyone who, after receiving baptism, while remaining nominally a Christian, pertinaciously denies or doubts any of the truths that must be believed with divine and Catholic faith is considered a heretic. Accordingly four elements must be verified to constitute formal heresy; previous valid baptism, which need not have been in the Catholic Church; external profession of still being a Christian, otherwise a person becomes an apostate; outright denial or positive doubt regarding a truth that the Catholic Church has actually proposed as revealed by God; and the disbelief must be morally culpable, where a nominal Christian refuses to accept what he knows is a doctrinal imperative.

So what was the heresy that inspired Vatican II? Actually there were many!

Most people think of the 50’s as sweetness and light, motherhood and apple pie. Then the free love revolution of the 60’s descended upon us and the Church Fathers got the free love itch and called a council to modernize the Church. Um, no.

Let’s look at some of the papal encyclicals that were written prior to Vatican II. You will find much drama and error in the twenty years preceding the Second Vatican Council and see that the writing was on the wall, and the Church had to do something to try to stop the bleeding that had already begun in the pews.

puis xiiPope Pius XII, the World War II pope, reigned from March 2, 1939 to October 9, 1958. He issued all of the following documents on the dates shown:

October 10, 1939 – On the Unity of Human Society (SUMMI PONTIFICATUS) speaks about all the people who have strayed away from the Church.

March 12, 1950 – On a Program for Combating Atheistic Propaganda throughout the World (Anni Sacri) says “often the lie is substituted for the truth” indicating that the media and culture are trying to turn people against the Church.

August 12, 1950 – Concerning Some False Opinions Threatening to Undermine the Foundations of Catholic Doctrine (Humani Generis) speaks on the religion of evolution, depriving souls of the idea of a personal God, and the promotion of materialism.

March 25, 1954 – On Holy Virginity (Sacra Virginitas) speaks on the value of virginity and how those who make a vow of perfect chastity are able to serve God and neighbor more easily.

July 2, 1957 – Against Materialism on the Centenary of the Apparitions at Lourdes (Le Pelerinage De Lourdes) says our materialism and prosperity have blinded us to the ills of the world. We need to heed Our Lady’s appeal: “Penance, penance, penance!” return to the sacraments and pray for sinners. Conversion of the individual is not enough, all of society needs to be renewed.

September 8, 1957 – On the Communications Field: Motion Pictures, Radio, Television (Miranda Prorsus) speaks about the remarkable products of technology, while created by human toil are gifts from God. In and of themselves these gifts can be good, but they can also be misused.

June 29, 1958 – Communism and the Church in China (Ad Apostolorum Principis), where he wrote about the hostilities of Communist China towards the Church and the people of faith.

——————

And so Vatican II gets the blame for the hemorrhaging of the Church, when in fact it might have been too late. The “Spirit of Vatican II” people, the free love infiltration into the Church, took advantage of the timing of the council. They took modernization to the extreme, and the people in the pews were confused. Over time the people began to take sides and now we have a terrible case of “he” said, “she” said. And neither side can nor wants to hear the other side.

We need to stop the infighting! We need to be a little more accommodating to our diversity! And most important we need to evangelize! Very few Catholics have a real relationship with Jesus Christ. Let us see and hear and respond to the Gratuitous Grace that Our Lord bestows on us in our interactions with those on the other side. We are all on the same team! Get the devil out of our dugout!

 

What is a New Age Holistic Health Technique and What Isn’t?

March 7, 2016

In the course of my own wellness journey, both personally and as a health coach, I have seen many references to certain holistic health methods as being New Age and therefore Catholics should stay away from them. I was shocked to see that modalities such as chiropractic and nutritional therapies are being labeled as New Age. Why would anyone call these methods New Age?

So, I searched the Vatican website and I found a document called Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life: A Christian reflection on the “New Age” by the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. This is an extensive document, about 60 pages, on all things New Age. It begins with the sentence, “The study is a provisional report.” This report is not dogmatic in any way, yet certain circles have dogmatically used section 2.2.3. Health: Golden Living, to steer all Catholics away from any wellness modality that the New Age Movement has claimed as its own!

This section of the report acknowledges that “formal (allopathic) medicine today tends to limit itself to curing particular, isolated ailments, and fails to look at the broader picture of a person’s health: this has given rise to a fair amount of understandable dissatisfaction.” It goes on to say that the claims of the New Age Movement imply that if we treat our bodies properly we will never die. I don’t have a direct reference for that yet, but I did find the reference for the subsequent paragraph that labels all of the New Age holistic health approaches.

The report says: “There is a remarkable variety of approaches for promoting holistic health, some derived from ancient cultural traditions, whether religious or esoteric, others connected with the psychological theories developed in Esalen during the years 1960-1970. Advertising connected with New Age covers a wide range of practices as acupuncture, biofeedback, chiropractic, kinesiology, homeopathy, iridology, massage and various kinds of “bodywork” (such as orgonomy, Feldenkrais, reflexology, Rolfing, polarity massage, therapeutic touch etc.), meditation and visualisation, nutritional therapies, psychic healing, various kinds of herbal medicine, healing by crystals, metals, music or colours, reincarnation therapies and, finally, twelve-step programmes and self-help groups.(25) The source of healing is said to be within ourselves, something we reach when we are in touch with our inner energy or cosmic energy.”

The second quote came almost directly from New Age Religion and Western Culture: Esotericism in the Mirror of Secular Thought by Wouter J. Hanegraaff. Sadly, the coverage of New Age health methods in this book and in the Vatican report is a very small portion of each publication. I have to do further research on the sources in Hanegraaff’s book, and there are many.

Back to the listing of “New Age” approaches for promoting holistic health. I cannot comment on every approach; some are truly New Age. But many of them ARE NOT New Age. Sure, the New Age Movement has been in development since the Renaissance, and some of these approaches have come into existence since then, but timing does not equal association. Other approaches have existed as long as mankind. St. Hildegard von Bingen, who lived in the twelfthhildegard century, wrote a book on “various kinds of herbal medicine, healing by crystals, [and] metals” and many other natural substances. She was just named a Doctor of the Church a few years ago. A Catholic Saint is a New Age healer? I don’t think so. Rather, the New Age has adopted the writings of St. Hildegard, and we, the faithful of Holy Mother Church need to reclaim them.

Chiropractic and nutritional therapies are not New Age either, just more modalities claimed by the movement. Do you brush your teeth? That is as New Age as chiropractic. If you eat you need to brush your teeth. If you fall down or twist your back you need a chiropractic adjustment. Nutritional therapies: sure the New Age claims it, but that the writers of the Vatican report left it in their list of health methods to avoid really boggles my mind! Yes, people have had nutritional deficiencies and corresponding illnesses since the beginning of time, but we have them even more so now because the devil is part owner of the modern food industry. Yes, the devil. We have been brain washed to think that taste is the sole health factor in the food we eat. But most of the food we eat today is processed into empty calories, if it even has calories.

There is so much more to say on this topic, but I will end this post with this: Yes, there are New Age health therapies, and we need to be aware them. Not all of the practices and approaches listed above are New Age, BUT, we do need to be aware of the people offering health services, ANY health services, be they alternative or traditional health services. Your MD could be a New Age practitioner. You can either watch for clues in the suggestions they make for your care or you can interview your doctors and other health care providers and find out what belief systems they subscribe to. New Age is not limited to the approach, it also involves the personal beliefs of the people caring for you.

We have been wonderfully made by our God. Our bodies can heal themselves if they are treated properly. St. Augustine said: “Treat the body as if you are going to live forever, and treat the soul as if you are going to die tomorrow.”

Evangelization – Yesterday & Today

October 17, 2015

Why is it awesome and fantastic that saints such as St. Francis de Sales (The Catholic Controversy: A Defense of the Faith) were able to evangelization and convert the Calvinists of Geneva in the 1500’s, but today we think that evangelization is the job of the Holy Spirit?

Why do some Catholics think that the Church needs to be “purified” of the lukewarm or cafeteria Catholics because their complaints are muddying our holy water?

Why are so many people afraid of the word “evangelization”?

How can we evangelize if we won’t talk about our relationship with Jesus? Maybe we don’t have a relationship with Jesus to talk about? What is a relationship with Jesus?

Is Jesus a real part of our life, and not just a name we use when exasperated?

How do we develop a relationship with Jesus? How do we develop a relationship with anyone? Isn’t communication a key component? How do we communicate with Jesus? How do we communicate with anyone?

What is the best way to communicate? Wouldn’t that be sharing stories from the heart? Sure not everybody can share their deepest thoughts with everyone, but if we think them then Jesus knows about them. Why don’t we take our thoughts a step further and share them with Christ?!

Did you ever receive a miracle, a saving grace, an ah-ha moment? Wouldn’t you consider those a gift from God? God communicates back to us in little miracles. He communicates to us via our conversations with others; via spiritual reading. Don’t those miracles give us a heavenly high?! Don’t you just want to share them with everyone? THAT is evangelizing!

Sharing Jesus. Yes, we have Catholic doctrine and sacraments and THE MASS! But we also have our little moments with Jesus. Share them! Bring others to Christ, today!

Evangelization – What is it Really? and a Workshop in Port Huron, MI

September 19, 2015

What is Evangelization, Really?

bewMany of us evangelize without even being aware of it, and at the same time we are put off by the word itself and stay away from anything that says “evangelization”. So what is it really? Saint Peter tells us to “always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame” (1 Peter 3:15-16). The key point here is being able to give a reason for our hope; THAT is evangelization! Some of us are good at expressing this hope and others need to learn how. While evangelization can mean speaking to strangers on street corners about Jesus, that is NOT the main goal of the New Evangelization that the popes have been promoting for several decades. Rather its purpose is to get us comfortable just talking about Jesus Christ, even at the dinner table. Many of us have lived a “private” Catholic life. We pray, but we don’t talk about religion or Jesus. Why is that? It’s like keeping your family private and never talking about them.

So it is time to become comfortable with the word evangelization. And it’s time to talk to each other about our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, just like He is one of the family. He is the hope and joy that is within us, we should be bursting at the seams wanting to talk about our relationship with Him! We especially need to be able to share our love for Jesus in these troubled times. Many a person is struggling with one thing or another, and we need to give them a reason to hope!

Do you have trouble expressing the hope that is within you? Do you want to learn how to express it better? We have the perfect opportunity for you! The Blue Water Vicariate Evangelization Committee is hosting a Basic Evangelization Workshop presented by St. Paul Street Evangelization. Yes, I know. It says “street evangelization.” Sure, there may be a bit of that talk, but there will be people there who might be interested in that level of evangelization. The basis of basic evangelization is being able to express your hope in Christ to others in ordinary, everyday situations. You don’t need a special college degree, you don’t need to be an extrovert, you just need to love Jesus. Please join us! Friday, Oct. 9 (7pm-10pm) and Saturday, Oct. 10 (9am-3pm). Refreshments and a lunch on Saturday will be provided, all for FREE! The workshop will be at St. Mary’s in Port Huron, 1505 Ballantine West. For complete details and/or to register:  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/basic-evangelization-workshop-presented-by-spse-bwvec-tickets-18477848743

The BWVEC is also hosting a Healing Service, Friday, Oct. 2, 2015, at St. Stephen’s in Port Huron (325 32nd St.). Confession is at 6:15pm, Holy Mass at 7pm, Anointing of the Sick will be during Mass. Following Mass there will be prayer teams available to pray for you and there will be Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. Registration is not necessary.

I need your help to get the most out of this thought….

June 11, 2015

In reading the Te Deum, I got to the lines:

When you became man to set us free you did not spurn the Virgin’s womb.

You overcame the sting of death, and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.

Jesus came to us through the Virgin, He opened her womb to give us the gift of salvation, by dying on the Cross and opening the gates of heaven.

Is there a theological parallel in these two openings? Can somebody point me to it? Thanks!

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