When we were doing the introductions at the beginning of RCIA, we were asked to give a short biography, and our faith background. I was raised Missouri Synod Lutheran, and I said that, but I also followed it up by saying that I was beginning to suspect I'd been raised 'slightly Catholic'. And I just recently re-thought about that, and how I believe it's really true, however it happened. I'm going to explain, and some of it may not make sense, but I want to get it out here on 'paper'.
I am the first of five grandchildren, born to my grandparents' only daughter. My mother has two daughters, myself and Baby Sis. My UncleB has one son, and UncleK has two. My grandfather loved children, and was thrilled with the prospect of me. :) Going off of the first sonogram, I was supposed to be named after him, Joseph. On the second sonogram, the umbilical cord had shifted. I became Josephine. :) Somewhere between that point and my actual birth, my mother changed her mind, and I became Amber.
This is the passage that was on my baptismal cake: Ezekiel 1:4 - And I saw, and behold a whirlwind came out of the north: and a great cloud, and a fire infolding it, and brightness was about it: and out of the midst thereof, that is, out of the midst of the fire, as it were the resemblance of amber. And, clearly, not the whole quote, it wouldn't have fit on the cake, but the last half, starting at 'and out of the midst thereof'.
Mom claims this is where she got my name, and I'll just choose to believe her. However, my grandfather still would call me Amberina Josephina. Which is not, by the way, my middle name, just his nickname for me, which no one else is allowed to use. Moving on...
My mothers parents, who did a lot of work helping to raise me and my sister when she came along, were/are devout Lutherans. What do you do on Sundays? You go to church. There are no other options, barring illness. My adopted-father's mother was a devout Catholic. We didn't see her as much, because her health was not so good that it permitted her to keep two young girls for extended periods of time. She had severe asthma, but she did what she could with us.
So, I either attended the Lutheran church, or went to the Catholic church, depending on who I was with on Sunday. And here's the thing- at the time, the services weren't that different! I was raised old school MS Lutheran, so there were kneelers, an altar rail for communion/blessing, everything. And the same at the Catholic church. So I just grew up assuming that they were just two different physical churches, but the same thing, at the core. Catholic grandma died when I was ten or so, and I was given (though I can't recall why at this point), one of her statues, some medals she had, and a little picture of the Virgin Mary that she kept in her car. I have carried these things around in my possession for sixteen years since I inherited them.
At my grandparents' house, in 'my room', there was always a picture hanging on the wall, of a woman hair covered, cradling a cross and a spray of roses. I always just assumed it was Mary, and never bothered to ask anyone. I inherited that picture when my grandfather died, and my grandmother moved into a smaller condo. I've carried her around for the past eight or nine years.
As I said, growing up, I attended either the Lutheran church, or a Catholic one. I assumed that all the churches were just like that.
If you had asked me, at any point in my childhood, who was the physical head of Christianity at that moment, (not that anyone would ask a kid a question like that), I would have told you the Pope. Keep in mind that my main religious formation was going on in the Lutheran church. I mean, who else was there? He was the only one I ever saw standing up for the faith, so dignified, so calm, so confident of the Truth he was teaching! I just believed that he was in charge of *all* the churches. After all, we were all Christian, weren't we? To be perfectly honest, even after I learned that wasn't, actually, so, I still sort of looked to the Pope. Again, who else was there?
I abandoned faith for a good, long while. I fell into paganism, heresy, a lot of stuff. But I was lead back out again, for which I am thankful.
I went to my mothers church, which is now Mennonite. She converted to marry step-dad, who is a wonderful man. I had, of course, by this point, learned the differences in Protestantism, Catholicism, etc. but I needed to figure it out for myself, and there was still something, in the back of my head, that told me that while the style of worship might be different, the theology would still be the same. Pft. That lasted until their second communion service. They hold communion once a month, they do not believe in the Real Presence, just like so many other Protestant denominations. I sat through a lecture about how it was the center of their worship, what brought them together, nothing more important, yadda. Then, the next month, they 'bumped' communion for a kids play. Yes, by all means, encourage the kids, but make the service a little longer and hold communion! If it's that important, people will hang in there for another ten freaking minutes! I know it's just bread and grape juice to them, but still, come on...
So I went back to the Lutheran church. Ah...well...I'm not really sure what happened in the intervening years, but they'd lost so much of what I remembered, it wasn't like the same church at all. And, and, so, transubstantiaion, consubstantiation. I was not raised to believe that the host went back to being bread! Once the Body of God, always the Body of God! So I went to the Catholic church. And there it was. Just the same, and it clicked. It still took me months to work around to the point where I knew I needed to convert, but get there I did. And after I'd made that decision, and told my family, I learned some things.
My grandfather had been raised Catholic. He left the Church because a priest that he went to for help told him that it was his fault his father was abusive. For this, though I know he died outside of full communion with the Church, I know that God's Mercy will prevail. He was a child, and he didn't know, and so much as I can, though it might be wrong, I blame that priest.
'Mary', from my childhood was St. Therese of Lisieux, and this icon had belong to my great-grandmother, who died when my grandfather was a child. She now hangs over my bed.
The statue I inherited? Who I, (very sorry for this), called 'Saint Whosit' for a number of years, because I assumed he was a saint and had no way of figuring out which one...is the Infant of Prague. The medals, are also both of the Infant of Prague. I wear one of them now at all times.
The picture of Mary from my grandmothers car? A green scapular. From catholicculture.org - The (green) scapular is reputed to have special efficacy in bringing people back to the Church and to the sacrament of penance even after many years of estrangement from their faith.
I keep the scapular at home, but I do carry a piece of blessed palm from last Easter Sunday in my car's visor.
I'm a musical person. I can't sing on key, I've forgotten how to play the only instrument I ever learned. I come from a family of people who sing and play like they breathe. The gene skipped me. But I am musical in the sense that I love music. I always have music on, somehow. And at work, when there is no music? I hear it in my head, in the rhythm of the people around me.
I belive that music is one of the purest, original forms of worship. It's transcendent, something so beyond just the physical bodies we use, the instruments we create. The angels themselves sing in worship of God, so why shouldn't we? I sing in the Mass, but softly, so as not to bother the poor people standing within earshot.
2 Samuel 6:5 - Meanwhile, David and all the house of Israel were celebrating before the Lord with all kinds of instruments made of fir wood, and with lyres, horns, tambourines, castanets, and cymbals.
2 Samuel 6:14-16: And David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, and David was wearing a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouting and the sound of the trumpet. Then it happened as the ark of the Lord came into the city of David that Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart.
Why did Michal despise David for his exuberant, joyous worship of his Lord? She thought it was undignified, beneath him as King. But God, clearly, accepted this worship. The Psalms were meant to be sung, chanted. We've been praising God in music since the beginning, so why stop now? Music is a gift from God, both the ability to create it, and the appreciation of it.
Gregorian Chant - Salve Regina on YouTube. There's about a million others linked off of that one, and well, who doesn't love Gregorian Chants?
TransSiberian Orchestra's (and Metallica apparently) instrumental version of Carol of the Bells. Less traditional, more rocky, but I love the Carol of the Bells in all its forms!
Celtic Woman's more traditional version Carol of the Bells. There's an instrumental version out there done just with bells, but I can't find it on YouTube, and I'm still not home, with access to my personal collection.
Rufus Wainwright's Hallelujah - not a religious song, per se, but I love it anyway. It moves me.
Advent, sadly, has ended. I say sadly because this is the first Advent that I have known what I am doing, felt the pull of faith in ways I haven't since I was a kid. I really set aside this time to focus on my faith, on God, and on what I am doing here.
I fasted, which as an aside, the Orthodox Church apparently also does during Advent. The fasting...I kept it a secret, except for here on the blog. The point of fasting is not so that everyone can see how holy you are (and if anyone who read this knew me in real life, they'd be on the floor herniating something at the thought of me being 'holy' like that). The point is to sacrifice to God, even if it's just a little something. To focus less on your body, and more on the spirit, which is the whole point of everything, isn't it. I believe this is a personal tradition that I will keep up.
I read religious, faith-filled books. I made my way through Catholicism for Dummies, the Shorter Summa, Rome Sweet Home, Hail, Holy Queen, Interview with an Exorcist (okay, that one not so lofty as the others, but it was interesting!), and the Compendium. I did not, as I suspected I wouldn't, finish the Catechism itself. That's all in four weeks. Plus, it goes without saying, the daily Bible readings.
"Ah, well, yes, sometimes I swim alone. It’s not a very safe thing to do though, so when I do that, I don’t swim laps, just sort of laze about, and I don’t do it for very long. I’ll mostly swim with female friends, or, I have one friend who doesn’t like to swim, but she likes to sit on the deck and read, so she can do that while I do some laps or something. And I don’t wear bikinis or two pieces. Just nice, solid one pieces. I’ve always been too afraid the bikini would…malfunction at an inopportune moment.
Swimming, like anything, can be immodest. I actually, when I began to care about that sort of thing again, really thought about it. I gave up the beach, unless I’m just walking on it, and then I’m dressed. I only swim in my own pool, not other peoples. I know I’ve got bushes and trees and lots and lots of space between me an my neighbors, most of the people I know, don’t. I’m staying a friends house right now, house sitting, and she has a pool, and a cement wall around it, but her neighbors are right next door, and I’m just not taking that chance. I don’t have mixed pool parties anymore, and when my parents do, I don’t participate, and I actually try to avoid going out there. And until the hedge grew tall enough, I went into the pool in a big nightshirt and put it back on before I climbed out, just in case. And I made myself a big terrycloth headscarf for the pool too." The above is my description of how I try to keep modest while also enjoying swimming. This was from a conversation on Umm Adams blog. She made a post about something else entirely, but it had this picture of a woman in a hijab-compliant swim suit, and of course we all latched on to the unusual outfit to discuss.
I love to swim. I could swim before I could walk. Growing up in Florida, that's what smart parents do. They teach their children to swim, as a precaution, because we are, of course, surrounded by water. Before my health issues made it impossible, I swam competitively in junior high. I just love the water, and everything about it. At the time, when modesty became important to me, I made all these changes just to enable myself to continue to swim and not violate my new sense of modesty. But looking at it, it seems like a lot to do just to immerse myself in water. Just saying that, though, doesn't reflect my enjoyment, the pleasure I get from this simple act. But on reading someone else's blog, that I can't recall, they were speaking about idols.
I am the LORD your God: you shall not have strange Gods before me. - This is a traditional Catechetical formula of the first commandment. It is not, obviously, a direct quote from the Old Testament.
In RCIA, when we went through the Ten Commandments, 'strange gods' was explained as being 'idols'.
An 'idol', according to the dictionary is –noun
1. an image or other material object representing a deity to which religious worship is addressed. 2. Bible. a. an image of a deity other than God. b. the deity itself. 3. any person or thing regarded with blind admiration, adoration, or devotion 4. a mere image or semblance of something, visible but without substance, as a phantom. 5. a figment of the mind; fantasy. 6. a false conception or notion; fallacy.
The definition that we concerned ourselves with, mainly, was number 3. An idol is not just a false god, but anything that you place before God. This can be money, your job, family, a hobby, friends, anything. I know that I have many 'idols' in my life, and I am doing my best to turn away from them. It's simply hard, after a life time of it, to reorder your life. However, swimming is not something that ever occured to me as being one of my 'idols'.
But maybe it is. I love it, I've gone to great lengths to be able to keep doing it, despite what I've come to realize are problematic aspects of it. One of the women on Umm Adams blog, Emma, belongs to a conservative Mennonite church, which views swimming as immodest, and they simply don't do it. I see that it can be immodest, and I've done my best to curtail that, so much as is possible. But the question becomes, am I placing my desire to do a thing I love before my obediance to God? It's not as though I believe swimming is going to send me to hell, far from it. But swimming is maybe just a focal point for this general question in my life. What other things am I bending and twisting around to be able to keep in my life, when I might be better served to just cut them out all together?
If I became convinced today that God forbade swimming, would I be able to stop? Do I have the strength to obey like that, in all aspects of my life?
So, this is my year of conversion, and I'm going to be doing a lot of 'firsts'.
Christmas is a Holy Day of Obligation. Catholics are obligated to attend a mass on these days. To accommodate this, for ordinary days of obligation, most parishes will have multiple masses, where typically on a weekday they will just have a morning mass. For instance, my parish, has a daily mass at 8:30 am, Monday through Saturday. On Holy Days of Obligation, they hold mass at 7:30 am, 9:00 am, and 7 pm. This is to give people who work the chance to fulfill their obligation. The only exceptions to this, that I know of, are Christmas and Easter. Christmas they hold a children's mass at 5:30 pm Christmas Eve, which counts for the Christmas obligation, a Midnight Mass, a dawn mass, and then a mass during the day. On Easter they hold Easter Vigil on that Saturday, and that counts as fulfilling the obligation for Easter, though I know of many people who will attend Easter Vigil and then go to mass on Easter Sunday as well.
Why did I go to Midnight Mass, when technically I'm not yet obligated? I felt like it was something that I needed to do. Technically I'm not obligated to even go to Sunday masses yet, but I do. I need to be there, for myself, joined in worship, though I can't receive yet. Every Sunday, I go up in line, and I bow before my Lord, present in the Eucharist, and I long for the day when I can receive him.
So, Midnight Mass. I'd been told that it was always insanely crowded, and it was recommended to get there an hour to forty minutes early, to ensure a seat and a parking space. I'd driven by earlier in the day, right before the children's mass, and it was packed! Cars parked up and down the access road, and I'm certain that there were more in the grass along the back of the church. So I got there about an hour early, around 11pm. At the time there weren't very many people there, so I found my favorite parking spot, and went inside. No trouble finding a spot in a pew, and I spent the time I had left praying.
The church did get very crowded, though there weren't people standing in the side aisles, like there was when I attended Easter Sunday. Father P conducted the mass. We have two priests, Father P's the pastor, Father A is our Parochial Vicar. I like both of them, they have slightly different styles. Father P is more down home, I guess, while Father A is younger, and tends to lean to the more formal side of things. Both are excellent homilists, it's just a matter of style, I guess. Father A chants when presenting the Eucharist, while Father P merely speaks the words. Father A makes certain to hold the bread close to the microphone in the altar so that we can hear the crisp snap when he breaks the bread, Father P doesn't worry about that. They're both great priests though.
Anyway, aside from the time, it was an ordinary Mass, which means that it was lovely, and I'm glad that I went. I was also dead tired by the time I got home, and so ready to do it again next year, when I will be receiving the Eucharist.
The picture at the top is Pope Benedict XVI celebrating Midnight Mass this year.
I was going to post about my first Midnight Mass and some other stuff, not that there's a schedule, or people who read this but me, but I have a friend coming over and we're going to watch Chuck and Supernatural dvds and just generally be girls about stuff.
I'm still house/pet sitting, and showering, I accidentally grabbed my friends shampoo. She uses Neutrogena, which is a sort of hypoallergenic brand. I put it back, but I sniffed it first. I've got to say, this is the first time that a scent brought back a memory. My grandparents used to use that stuff, and I can't tell you how long it's been since I've smelled it, it was oddly wonderful. My grandmother's still alive, but as an adult, we don't hug as much (hey, we're German, it's perfectly normal), so I don't get that close to smell her hair.
The thing about it is my memory is sort of swiss-cheese-ish about my childhood. Partially (according to doctors), it's because of my thyroid. It affects the memory somehow. Partially, they say, it's a defense mechanism. Some of the stuff I remember is bad enough, so we assume that there's other stuff my brain just won't let me recall. The point is, I don't get a lot of 'Oh! That reminds me of....from when I was a kid.' moments. But I got one for Neutrogena shampoo.
Let's just say, theoretically, that you're house/pet-sitting. For about a week and a half. You go over Sunday evening, all packed. Come Monday morning, you're getting ready for work, and you realize, oh crap! You forgot to pack your hairbrush! And you won't use your friends whose house you're at, because you're just twitchy like that. So, quick finger-comb, pull it into a pony tail, on goes the scarf, and voila! No one can tell.
This is all theoretical, of course, because no one, certainly not me, would ever forget to pack her hairbrush. *facepalm*
Muslims are, well, I actually think they're offended when we speak of God using metaphor and analogy, comparing Him to His creations. They say that we must only use the names that He has given us. I've read their list of 99 names, and I still think that they are all just analogies as well. Certainly, God contains all things in their perfect form, but when we say, 'mercy', or 'love', or 'father', we're limited to the human comprehension of those terms, which doesn't come close to the perfection of these things which is contained with God. Anyway, reading the Catechism, I came across this section on how we can speak about God:
CCC 39 - 43: In defending the ability of human reason to know God, the Church is expressing her confidence in the possibility of speaking about him to all men and with all men, and therefore of dialogue with other religions, with philosophy and science, as well as with unbelievers and atheists.
Since our knowledge of God is limited, our language about Him is equally so. We can name God only by taking creatures as our starting point, and in accordance with our limited human ways of knowing and thinking.
All creatures bear a certain resemblance to God, most especially man, created in the image and likeness of God. The manifold perfections of creatures - their truth, their goodness, their beauty - all reflect the infinite perfection of God. Consequently we can name God by taking His creatures' perfections as our starting point, "for from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator."
God transcends all creatures. We must therefore continually purify our language of everything in it that is limited, imagebound or imperfect, if we are not to confuse our image of God - "the inexpressible, the incomprehensible, the invisible, the ungraspable" - with our human representations. Our human words always fall short of the mystery of God.
Admittedly, in speaking about God like this, our language is using human modes of expresion; nevertheless it really does attain to God Himself, though unable to express him in His infinite simplicity. Likewise, we must recall that "between Creator and creature no similitude can be expressed without implying an even greater dissimilitude"; and that "concerning God, we cannot grasp what He is, but only what He is not, and how other beings stand in relation to Him."
Car is at Sears. Did the funny thing again. Mom and Dad think it's the battery, but none of us really know cars. I'm hoping it's the battery, because battery is still under warranty from Sears, and I need to have a car, as I'm house/pet sitting starting Saturday, for a week and a half. I was calm though, this time, when car did it's thing. It's an improvement.
Edit: Was not battery, according to Sears. They cleaned the contacts, etc. anyway. Took it to Ford, with a list of possibilities that the Sears guys said could be wrong with it. Ford could find nothing wrong. *headdesk* They did some maintenance, yadda, and can't get it to do the funny thing anymore. Maybe they fixed the issue when they were cleaning/maintaining. I certainly hope so. If not? Back to Ford, and they'll just have to keep at it until they find the problem.
Finished the Compendium, now on the the whole Catechism. Even with this being the only thing I read, I'm doubtful that I'll finish the Catechism before the end of Advent. I'll still read it, after Advent, but it'll be slower going. Of course, who knows, I could just finish the entire thing.
Finished Rome Sweet Home. I enjoyed the book, maybe even more the second time around. Different parts of it hit me harder this time, and it's certainly more than just their story.
On now to the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I remember reading, when I was just starting out, that a person working towards full comunion with the Church should (aside from reading the Bible daily), in order to get a beginners grasp on specifics, go to RCIA, read Catholicism for Dummies, then The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and then read the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Working your way up, as it were, from the 'for dummies' level to the whole kit an' kaboodle. So that's what I'm doing, with a few others in between.
We went over Mary and the Marian dogmas and doctrines. Interesting, but nothing that I hadn't learned before. Also the mechanics of the rosary, which, again, I've been praying the rosary nearly daily for most of a year. When class starts up again in January we're getting into the sacraments, and then moral doctrine, so I hope to learn much more then.
One thing guaranteed to make me angry? Things going wrong with my car.
So, no sooner do I start thinking about the need to work on my anger than guess what?
My car does a funny thing this morning. It's...not happened again, but still. Urgh.
Coincidence? Or God's and my angels way of helping me get better control? Need patience? God'll put you in situations where you need to practice it. Just a helping little hand. Funny, but I thought that, and then thought, 'okay, thanks, I appreciate it, but, could you try something else, something not the car?' Which would probably be the point. The car's an easy target.
Or, this could all be a giant coincidence. I'm really not one who's comfortable going, 'oh, such and such happened, God did it'. Not sure why, this just makes me uncomfortable.
Finished Hail, Holy Queen. It's a fairly short book, and very easy to read. Mary for Beginners, as I think of it. Now I'm on to Rome Sweet Home, which is Scott and Kimberly Hahn's conversion stories. Again, one of the first Catholic books I picked up, after the Bible and the Catechism. Something I have read before, and enjoyed, and will most certainly enjoy again.
Baby Sis just called, luckily Mom and Dad are out at a Christmas party.
Sis: Guess what I just did?
Me: thinking: She's just gotten another speeding ticket and is heading to jail... Not a clue. What'd you just do?
Sis: I got a tattoo! Don't tell Mom!
Yeah. Twenty year old Sis, just got a tattoo of her drum core logo and their wins on her foot. Congrats. She intends to hide this from Mom for as long as possible. Perhaps her entire life, if she can. I...have my doubts about this. She's coming home for Christmas on Wednesday. She says she'll just wear socks the entire time.
Because Baby Sis called Mom to complain that Mom had ratted her out about Baby Sis smoking (which she swears she's not, but I don't believe her, and am pissed, since I just had a friend die of lung cancer!), Mom knew that *something* was up, from a comment Baby Sis made. Consequently, Mom now knows of tattoo, but will not say anything until Sis is home. Mom had no problem with tattoo, as I knew she wouldn't. Baby Sis is twenty, will be twenty-one very soon. I promised Sis I wouldn't tell Mom, not that I wouldn't confirm a guess.
I am not, to my own mind, an angry person. I don't run around, cursing all the time, yelling, or even quietly fuming.
I like to think of myself as fairly even tempered, all told. That being said, I do get angry. Everyone does, it's natural. We can't help it some times. The question is, what do we do when we're angry? Some people have inappropriate responses to things that anger them. They take it out on others, on innocent people, or animals, or even inanimate objects. None of these responses are appropriate. None. I don't have a good suggestion as an alternative, but there are therapists who do, that's their job, they studied for it.
I've never, in so far as I can remember, ever been angry like that. I've been angry enough that I want to scream, and cry, and throw things, yes. I've been so angry that I can't even speak! I have been incoherent with rage. But, thankfully, it's internal for me. Except for the throwing things urge, which I have never given in to, because I don't like breaking things.
Earlier in the week, something at work made me so angry that I was twitching with the urge to scream and tell someone off, and make them understand why they were such total, abject morons, and how their decisions made other peoples lives harder, and made it impossible to do our jobs properly. I did none of these things, because the abject morons in question own the place where I work, and all of this would get me fired.
Now, with several days between the incident and me, I can sit here and think:
Why does any of this make me so angry? I am lucky! I still have a job, no, it doesn't pay well, but it's a job, in a time when many have none, and no prospects of getting one. I have a roof over my head, and should something happen, I wouldn't lose it if I couldn't make any money. My car is paid off, I have a loving family, I have found faith, and happiness, and contentment in so many places where before I was just a raw, wounded nerve.
So why do I let this stuff get to me? Oh, there are reasons, reasons that a psychiatrist, or just a counselor would give me, on why my anger is not my fault. And, you know, I'm calling crap on that, for myself. Others have been through much, much worse, and they can have those reasons. I don't want it. I don't want people to know and look at me, and think, 'oh, well, yes, she's got a temper, but it's because...'. No.
The only reason that anything in this world matters, is because this is all a test. In the end, money only matters because I need it for food and shelter. My job only matters because I need it to make the money. But in the larger picture? None of this is going to be around forever. None of the things that I own are going to help me get closer to God's plan for me. But it can all make me stumble. And in letting my anger get to me like that, no matter how rarely it might happen, I believe I'm letting the world win, even if it's just a little.
I'm resolved to not let this happen again. I'm pretty sure I'm going to fail at that, but I'm going to try. I'm just not sure what, exactly to do, aside from keep in mind that this is all a test, one that I do not want to fail.
My personal theory on why the Church does not mandate fasting during Advent as they used to, and continue to do during Lent?
You wouldn't think so, but Advent is the month of Christmas, even for the non-religious, which means cookies and candy and parties and happiness and excess on, and on, and on, for the whole month. For the four weeks of Advent. So, fasting, and keeping the fast? Is difficult.
I have, thank God, managed thus far. And I feel good about it. It's been more difficult, because I'm also on a diet, and I have to eat so many calories per day, in order to keep my body from 'starvation mode', but I've just sort of shifted the calorie intake around, and eaten a larger (but still healthy!), dinner than I typically do.
But yesterday, one of the girls at work, her niece brought in some snacks that she had made. Little red velvet cake's, some just with frosting, others in chocolate cups, with fruit or frosting or syrup, you get the picture. I was actually leaning over them, taking in the smell of sugar (and it does have a scent, I don't care what anyone else says!), and thinking about which one I could eat, because 'it won't hurt my diet that much, I've been so good'. And then my brain kicked in and reminded me that I was fasting, and this would most definately break the fast. It was still hard to just walk away, but I did.
I finished Aquinas's Shorter Summa yesterday, and started Interview with an Exorcist. It's a very short book, done in a question and answer format. Interesting, which I say a lot, but I find so much to be interesting! There were some things in there that I'm unsure of the orthodoxy of, but the book lacks an imprimatur or nihil obstat, so I'll double check those things, but they're not really hugely important.
Now I'm on to Scott Hahn's Hail, Holy Queen. This is actually one of the first books I'd picked up when I became interested in Catholicism. Coming from MS Lutheranism, Mary wasn't as big a problem for me as she evidently is for some others, but I wanted something simple to read that explained where the Church found the evidence for their doctine's and dogmas, and this book came well recommended. I still enjoy it.
I'm having a discussion on someone elses blog about the phrase 'Mary, Mother of God'. I read this section of Aquinas's Shorter Summa tonight:
"The error of Nestorius, who refused to acknowledge that Blessed Mary is the Mother of God, is likewise excluded. Both Creeds assert that the Son of God was born or was made flesh of the Virgin Mary. The woman of whom any person is born is called his mother, for the reason that she supplies the matter for human conception. Hence the Blessed Virgin Mary, who provided the matter for the conception of the Son of God, should be called the true mother of the Son of God. As far as the essence of motherhood is concerned, the energy whereby the matter furnished by a woman is formed, does not enter into the question. She who supplied the matter to be formed by the Holy Spirit is no less a mother than a women who supplies matter that is to be formed by the energy latent in male seed. If anyone insists on maintaining that the Blessed Virgin ought not to be called the Mother of God because flesh alone and not divinity was derived from her, as Nestorious contended, he clearly is not aware of what he is saying. A woman is not called a mother for the reason that everything that is in her child is derived from her. Man is made up of body and soul; and a man is what he is in virtue of his soul rather than in virtue of his body. But no man's soul is derived from his mother. The soul is either created by God directly, as the true doctrine has it, or, if it were produced by transplanting, as some have fancied, it would be derived from the father rather than from the mother. For in the generation of other animals, according to the teaching of the philosophers, the male gives the soul, the female gives the body.
Consequently, just as any woman is a mother from the fact that her child's body is derived from her, so the Blessed Virgin Mary ought to be called the Mother of God if the body of God is derived from her. But we have to hold that it is the body of God, if it is taken up into the unity of the person of God's Son, who is true God. Therefore all who admit that human nature was assumed by the Son of God into the unity of His person, must admit that the Blessed Virgin Mary is the Mother of God. But Nestorious, who denied that the person of God and of the man Jesus Christ was one, was forced by logical necessity to deny that the Virgin Mary was the Mother of God."
Clearly, St. Thomas was not a biologist, and he was working with the scientific knowledge of the time. But I find the argument interesting.
"But we should understand that those who are condemned to final misery cannot have after death what they craved as the best. Libertines in Hell will have no opportunity to gratify their passions; the wrathful and the envious will have no victims to offend or obstruct; and so of all the vices in turn. But the condemned will be aware that men who have lived a virtuous life in conformity with the precepts of virtue obtain what they desire best. Therefore the wicked regret the sins they have committed, not because sin displeases them, for even in Hell they would rather commit those same sins, if they had the chance, than possess God; but they cannot have what they have chosen, and can only have what they have detested."
It's interesting, a different take on Hell than what I'd thought. I'd have thought, once condemned to Hell, souls would know, and regret, their sins, but, being condemned, their regrets would be too late. After all, after you've met God and been judged by Him, how much of a question is left?
This seems to say that even in Hell, those condemned do not hate their sins, rather, they only regret that those sins have kept them from being able to commit more sins.
Baby sister is in a drum core, and they've been invited to perform at the Inaugeration! Whee! And, of course, the Secret Service is going to do a background check on the kids who go.
I called her last night, while she was at work, and left her a message. It went something like this:
"Hey Baby Sis, mom told me about the Core getting invited to the Inaugeration. Congrats. Ah, just wanted to mention, that I may or may not have, at some point, committed some acts that may keep you from getting vetted for this. I'm not really sure what they consider a 'crime' any more...Yeah, just wanted to, you know, put that out there. Bye."
I am, possibly, not a very nice sister. I'm waiting for her to call me back.
Edit: She finally called back:
"What did you do?!"
*me, laughing* Nothing, Nothing...
"No, I want to know what you did! Tell me now!"
I finally conviced her it was nothing, that I just thought it was hilarious to mess with her.
I'm about 92 pages in, and there's a lot in there, even though this is the abreviated version of the Summa Theologica. There is much that's gone straight over my head, I'm sure, and this will be one of those works that I reread multiple times, as I learn more and more.
However, interesting thing I've come away with thus far: God exists as pure action, there is never any potential action in God. He doesn't think of doing something, and then as a separate action, do it, He thinks, and it is done. Pure action, no potential.
Now I'm reading about how the human soul is incorruptible, meaning that it is not able to be destroyed. It exists, within the body, and then when the body dies, without it.
Well, it was mostly a review, how we felt about the Rite of Acceptance/Welcome. But we did go over the liturgical year, and how it was laid out, why Easter moves on the calendar every year, why December 25th was chosen to celebrate Christmas, etc. Mostly very simple stuff, and then we're off this coming Monday for the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is a Holy Day of Obligation.
I finished Catholicism for Dummies. An enjoyable, easy book, and I do think that I learned a lot. A good companion/expansion on RCIA, because there's only so much time in class. It also corrected a few things that the Deacon didn't explain correctly, or that I misunderstood.
I've moved on to Aquinas's Shorter Summa. A bit more weighty, heh, but still the shallow end of the theological pool.
Planned Parenthood Gift Certificates - I'm not even sure what to say about this one. I mean, how insane is that? 'Merry Christmas. Hang on to this for after the New Years drunken one night stand.'
Not Well Thought Out - I actually saw this on the Daily Show last night. No, really, does no one step back and look at these things before they decide to prduce and sell them? A cross that looks like it's on fire! Brilliant! Every one will want one!
This post at a muslimah's blog, Only a Few Will Attain the Love of Allah, made me start actually thinking about how I view God's love for me. I often read blogs and compose reponses in my head that I never post. It makes me actually reason and argue through my own postitions, rather than just going, 'well that's what I believe, live with it'.
I was never taught that just because God loved us, so long as we belived in Jesus we were going to Heaven. Never.
I was raised viewing God as a parent, metaphorically. (Which got me into a lot of trouble and strain when my father turned into an abusive bastard, but I've mostly worked through that.) Good parents, and we assume that God is a good parent, because He's God, and by definition, good, love their children, unconditionally.
That doesn't mean that the children can't hurt them though. Parents lay down rules (laws) for the good of the child, because they've been there, done that, and have years of experience to draw from that the child doesn't. A parent wants certain things for their child, what they believe to be best, but the child, being their own person, can and often does choose to do their own thing, whether or not their own thing is the right thing.
When a child chooses to do something that their parent would rather they didn't, does the parent stop loving them? No. Does it hurt the parents? Do the parents sometimes have to punish the child, chastise them, be angry with them? Of course. But does any of this mean that the child has lost the parents love? I don't think so. A parent, because of their love, is hurt, terribly, when the child breaks the rules, goes a way that the parent sees is wrong for them, and only going to cause them pain. If the parent didn't love, it wouldn't hurt. And yes, in some cases, all a parent can do, when the child has grown and will simply not change, will not learn and listen and realize that the path they are travelling down is hurting them, all a parent can do is step back. Hold up their hands and walk away, because, while they still love their child, they can't force them to change.
And that's how I view God's love. He loves us, and has laid down laws for us, things to keep us on the right path, the one that leads back to Him. But we've got free will, we're our own people, and we can choose to do what we want, regardless of the consequences. And I think that that hurts God, immensely, because He loves us so much. But He doesn't stop loving us because of that. If that was the case? Everyone, every last person on earth would be going to Hell, because no one has lived a life without offending God at some point, even if it's just the tiniest, tiniest thing. But does that mean that everyone is going to Heaven, because God loves us so much He can't stand sending us to Hell?
Well, no. Because actions have consequences, and laws exist for a very good reason. And at some point (death), there are no more chances. God must, despite how much I believe it must hurt Him, step back and accept that there's nothing more He can do. He gave us every chance, every time there was a choice, He wanted us to make the right one, but He can't force it on us. But death is that last moment, when all your choices are done, and the ones that you've already made have decided the rest of your life for you.
Heaven or Hell. God loves us, and desires that we all be united with Him in Heaven, but He can't make us behave. He's the ultimate parent, the Father, and He'll love us even when we're breaking His heart. And He'll forgive us, when we ask Him to, when we realize our errors and truly, truly regret them, and change our ways, because of His love.
So, my conclusion is this: God loves everyone, it's in His nature. But it's not His love that saves us. His love for us is what makes Him offer us His grace. And it's our acceptance of the gift of grace, and our obedience and continual striving to be what He desires us to be that saves us. We can accept the gift, and we can also reject it, and OSAS doesn't enter into it.
This sidebar says that the Catholic belief is that angels have a will, but it is unlike human free will. We can change our minds, back and forth, again and again. Angels, apparently, once they choose, cannot change their minds.
And this makes no sense. They're using it to, apparently, explain how an angel could disobey God. Not just one angel, but thousands (millions?) of them.
I was always raised to believe that angels have no will, they have no choice but to obey God, which is why the rebellion of Satan never made any sense to me. It's always made more sense in the (and this is just my understanding of it) Jewish stance on it, which is that "Satan" is just an angel fulfilling a purpose. A guy doing his job.
After all, if there was no evil, what good would free will do us? We'd have no options? Obey God or obey God? With Satan tempting us, we can exercise the free will that God made a point of creating us with.
And even this explanation makes little sense to me. If an angel can never change his mind, then the original decision to obey God should still hold. None of the angels should have been able to make another choice.
Maybe I'm missing something, but it just doesn't make sense to me.
Now here's the thing. I am not a people person. I prefer to not be noticed, to sit in the middle of the group, and listen, and learn, and absorb. I do not like to be in front of a group, with everyone staring at me, focused on me. Of course, this is impossible when you're being introduced to the Church in the middle of Mass. There will, by default, be people focussed on you. Given my social issues, knowing about this on Monday, I was just waiting for the panic to set in, for my brain to kick up and go, "I don't want to do this. Abort! Abort!" My brian never kicked in. That was nice.
We were introduced at the 10:45 Mass, which is not the Mass I usually attend. On a nice note, while we were waiting, a woman and her daughter came through, both wearing mantilla. So cute on the little girl! At the Mass I go to, I'm the only one covering, that I've seen, so it was nice seeing someone else.
The Rite went off without any trouble, and well, that's the day so far. All in all, very nice.
Day 11 - Church History. How do you jam 2,000 years or history into an hour and a half? You don't. But we hit the high points, and the low points, and it was interesting. Something that I'm definately going to go into at depth as I get a chance. Interesting: There are 33 Doctors of the Church. Two of them are women. All of the Doctors of the Church are also Saints, of which there are thousands. It is much harder to become a Doctor of the Church than it is to become a Saint. Also interesting: There was a point, in the 1300's where there were 2 and then 3 popes at one time. Only one of which was valid, but it was a kerfuffle.
Day 12 - Sponsor Day. We got introduced to our sponsors and told what to expect on Sunday (today) which was the Rite of Acceptance. My sponsor is a very nice lady who I shall call Babs. She's actually been in the class the whole time, acting as assistant to the teachers.
1. How does Jesus describe himself in the scriptures? a. John 4:25-26 - the Messiah b. John 6:48 - the Bread of Life c. John 8:12 - Light of the World d. John 10:14-15 - the Good Shepherd e. John 11:25 - the resurrection and the life f. John 14:6 - the way and the truth and the life g. John 15:5 - the vine
2. Jesus Is - to me, the most important 'is' is 'Word of God'. Everything else falls under that, but the Trinity makes sense, to me, if Jesus is described as the Word of God incarnate.
3. The mission of Jesus on Earth: a. To reveal the Father to us b. To bring salvation for mankind: 1. redeem us from our sins 2. establish the new and everlasing covenant c. to establish the Church on Earth for all generations
There was, clearly, more detail discussed in class, but that's the general outline.
Eight was the Ten Commandments. The first three comandments cover mans relationship with God, and last seven deal with mans relationship with other men. However, Jesus said that the first two comandments are the greatest, and that all the comandments are covered thusly: Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself.
Nine was more on the gospels, and how we got the gospels that we have. Nothing that I haven't read before, Q source, yadda, everybody copied from Mark. My problem is this: the Deacon mentioned the Nag Hammadi library, in the sense that he left the impression that there was nothing contrary to cannon in the finds. Which I know is not correct. The majority, if not all, of the texts found at Nag Hammadi are gnostic, which makes them heretical. I'll bring it up in review this coming week. I would have said something this past week, but I wasn't sure, so I waited to double check myself.
Leaving aside who I'm voting for, nationally and locally, I was unaware that the Catholic church requires that you vote. I knew that, if you voted, you had to be informed, and use the guide of the church in some areas (abortion).
Anyway. One of the things that Vic mentioned when talking about voting was that we should vote 'yes' on Amendment 2, here in Florida. Which is a constitutional amendment dealing with the marriage issues, one man, one woman, etc. However, they neglected to mention that this amendment would harm heterosexual couples who are living together but not married. And whether I agree with them living together like that or not, I do understand that sometimes, especially for the elderly, it's for financial reasons that they haven't gotten married. Also, there's the problem I have where the constitution isn't meant for this sort of thing. We have a law on the books against homosexual marriage. That's where it should stay.
I have to admit that I have problems with the Church's stance on homosexuality. I understand it, and I know, in my head, that if the Church is right on everything else, which I believe that it is, that it must be right on this too. I just haven't managed to *believe* that yet. I'm afraid it's going to have to be one of those areas where I simply obey until I believe.
We were supposed to do the tour back when we went over the layout, but the weather was horrendous, so it got put off until later.
The tour was interesting, we got to see a lot of places in the church that we'll never see again.
But here's the important thing:
I go to Mass every Sunday, but, of course, I stay in the pew, because I cannot receive communion yet. We don't have Eucharistic Adoration at my church. Last Tuesday, in the tour, we went into the chapel of the church, which is where the tabernacle is kept. We all genuflected, and then the Dec. G opened the tabernacle to show us how the host was reposed in ciboriums.
When he opened the tabernacle, I felt the air pressure in the room change. It suddenly felt very, very heavy in there, sort of crowded, as though the room were full of people. When the deacon closed the tabernacle the sensation went away. I believe, and am thankful to God for the experience, that God allowed me to *feel* His Presence in the eucharist. It was such a subtle experience, but wonderful. I believe in the Real Presence, but now I've felt it. It was amazing.
Took a *long* break there. Not on purpose, I've been getting ready for my vacation. Yay vacation! Which always makes me busier than I'd be if I just kept going to work. But the vacation is here now. This was the RCIA lesson from two weeks ago.
The People of God - The Covenants
The lesson was that the Jewish nation has always been, and will continue to be, the Chosen of God. Christians are a new graft into this vine.
But here's the part that I found interesting. The covenants. Vic gave us a listing of them, and we discussed. But here's the thing: the covenants started out very, very simple. Adam & Eve - don't eat of the tree of knowledge. They progressively got more and more detailed, culminating in the Mosaic laws, which are very complex and detailed. But then the New and Everlasing Covenant - love God, love others as yourself. Back to simple again. Oh, sure, there's more to it, as I'm certain that there was to the original covenant with Adam and Eve, shades of implication and detail. But the *letter* of the covenant. Simple. Why is that?
I'm thinking it has to do with God walking with man. In the beginning, God walked with Adam & Eve. They were without sin, and the closest to God anyone has ever gotten. Sin separated us from God. We could no longer get that close, so the covenants got more detailed, to reign in our newly sinful natures. But then God walked with us again. Only this time, He came to us, because we could not go to Him.
This is something I've been thinking about all day, so here's hoping it comes out in some sort of coherent fashion.
I used to, among other things, be pro-abortion. I fully and whole heartedly believed that a woman could do whatever she liked with her body, and if she screwed up and the birth control and/or condom didn't prevent pregnancy, then she should be able to end it. In the semi-famous words of a politician, I didn't think that she should be 'punished with a baby' for a mistake. Especially if she had been raped, or the child had a severe birth defect, or it was a pregnancy that threatened her life. I even, God forgive me, stated that if I ever became pregnant and discovered that the child had Down's Syndrome or something along those lines, that I would have an abortion. For the good of the child, you see, because I didn't want to have the child and have him suffer. Yes, that was my reasoning. You can see that it was just a cover for my own selfishness. I didn't want to be burdened with anything less than a perfect specimen of humanity.
In my long (to my mind at least) journey to where I am now, I eventually understood that, flaws and all, a child was a child from the moment they were conceived. I can't really point out a specific point where I realized this, but the 'moment of conception' realization came when I was trolling around a Catholic apologetics board. I can't remember the specifics, but one of the poster's was relating an anecdote where a professor/scientist? was lecturing to a class. He was a guest speaker, and the discussion was on proving where life began. The hosting teacher drew a line on the board, with different points along it, starting a conception and moving on down. After the lecture, the visiting lecturer continued the line, adding later in life possibilities. Graduating high school, college, marriage, getting a tenure as a professor. Those sort of things. And the point he made was that aside from the moment of conception, all of those points, all of those moments where you could point and say 'life begins here' were arbitrary. And that clicked for me.
And, thinking about it, I myself am only here because my mother chose to have me. Why? I don't know, she doesn't talk about my father, and I don't ask, because I know that it's a rough subject. I just know that she was eighteen, barely out of high school, and pregnant. I know that her parents supported her, and helped her, and for that, for my life, I am grateful. My best friend, a woman that I love as my sister, is only here because her mother chose to disregard the advice of her doctor. She was old when she got pregnant, and her doctor recommended an abortion, as a pregnancy at her age could be complicated. She didn't, and I have Eve.
So I'm thinking of these things, and I read this post over at Ave Maria, a blog that I adore. She's so clear, so concise, and right:
Because these are the arguments that you hear to support abortion, and what's to stop them from flowing over into other crimes? And people will say, well, that can't happen, because those are crimes, and an abortion is legal. But abortion is a crime, whether the secular law sees it or not. It was a crime for a lot longer than it's been legal.
And I flow from the legalizing of killing our babies before they're born, later and later in their little lives, to the mothers who kill their children after they've been born. We just now had a grand jury return an indictment on a mother accused of killing her three year old daughter.
How can a mother do that? And I can't help but think that it comes from us cheapening life. Pregnant? Doesn't fit into your schedule? Abort. It's not really a child, not really even human yet. It has nothing to offer society. How much of a stretch is it for a person, selfish and clearly damaged in some fundamental way, to reach the conclusion that her child is in her way? That the baby, toddler, preteen, teenager cramps her lifestyle? She wants to go out and party, but no, there's the kid to worry about. Well, what does a three year old offer to the world? Nothing. So it's okay to kill her, because then we can get back to doing whatever we like, when we like. I'm not saying that this is this woman's process, but I think it's something to do with it. We've told generations of people that their babies aren't really human, and that just devalues all life.
And where does this end? I'm afraid somewhere around here:
All life is either sacred and defensible, or it's not. And I'm afraid that this is where we're heading, more and more. I read this, and I remember by grandfather, who did so much to raise me. He died about ten years ago, from cancer, and toward the end, he was helpless. He was delusional from the pain, and the medicine, and he could do nothing for himself. But we took care of him. We had hospice in, and my mother and my grandmother and I all did what we could, which wasn't much. My uncles had the chance to come and see him, and when he died, he died at home, with my grandmother, with the woman that he loved. And it kills me to imagine someone saying to him that he was a burden! A drain on our family! He gave everything that he had for his family, for strangers, he was filled with so much love and kindness that I can't even begin to explain it. The least that we could do was honor him in his last days, keep him comfortable. He was worth more than any measure, from the beginning of his life to the very end.
And so must everyone else be, from beginning to end. And only God knows when that end should come. Not us.
Given my reaction to the latest medical issue with my big dog, Baby, should I ever have children I will be the terror of every pediatrician within a hundred mile radius of my home.
My dog has had problems with ear infections. We treated them, and the vet said to keep cleaning his ears out once a week, which I have done. This morning, his ears were clearly bothering him, even though I'd cleaned his ears on Saturday. So I grabbed the cleaning stuff and proceeded to clean them again. Leaving aside the part where his one ear canal was so irritated and swollen that the top of the q-tip got stuck (I did get it out, after much screaming and gnashing of teeth on my part), his ear was still bothering him so much that he managed, in about ten minutes, to scratch himself bloody.
I hung around the house until the vet opened and called, got an appointment, and Baby's got antibiotics and ear treatments, etc. And we'll see the vet again after the culture gets back.
Not the point of the post though. The point is this. I deal with problems with my babies in one way. I fix/clean up what I can, and call the appropriate doctor, getting an appointment as quickly as possible. And then, because I can't stand to see them hurting when I can't just, you know, pull out the thorn, my irritation level with the rest of the world continues to grow exponentially. I actually went to work and warned everyone, up front, that the first person to tick me off was liable to get their head smacked.
So, not sure that this is a good reaction, but there you go. I deal with the problem, but everyone else had better not irritate me while it's still unresolved.
The Rosary was one of the first things I picked up, when I made the decision to convert. I realized that I needed to learn how to pray. I am, unfortunately, one of those people whose mind goes off in a million directions at once, holding entire conversations and arguments in my head, revolving around various subjects. All while doing my job or whatever I happen to be engaged in at the moment.
This, clearly, is not conducive to contemplation. I did not, in essence, know how to simply sit and be. So I decided to learn the rosary as a way to teach myself to sit and be quiet. Now, I pray it daily, at least once a day. I'm still working on the rest of the prayer life, actually "speaking" with God, but I say the rosary to get me into that headspace, where I can think, quietly, meditate on God. Does that mean I don't get distracted in the middle of it sometimes? Of course not. I interrupt myself with odd thoughts occasionally. And I just start that particular prayer again, pushing the thought to the side.
Pope St. Pius V established this feast in 1573. The purpose was to thank God for the victory of Christians over the Turks at Lepanto—a victory attributed to the praying of the rosary. Clement XI extended the feast to the universal Church in 1716.
The development of the rosary has a long history. First, a practice developed of praying 150 Our Fathers in imitation of the 150 Psalms. Then there was a parallel practice of praying 150 Hail Marys. Soon a mystery of Jesus' life was attached to each Hail Mary. Though Mary's giving the rosary to St. Dominic is recognized as unhistorical, the development of this prayer form owes much to the followers of St. Dominic. One of them, Alan de la Roche, was known as "the apostle of the rosary." He founded the first Confraternity of the Rosary in the 15th century. In the 16th century the rosary was developed to its present form—with the 15 mysteries (joyful, sorrowful and glorious). In 2002, Pope John Paul II added the Mysteries of Light to this devotion.
The purpose of the rosary is to help us meditate on the great mysteries of our salvation. Pius XII called it a compendium of the gospel. The main focus is on Jesus—his birth, life, death and resurrection. The Our Fathers remind us that Jesus' Father is the initiator of salvation. The Hail Marys remind us to join with Mary in contemplating these mysteries. They also make us aware that Mary was and is intimately joined with her Son in all the mysteries of his earthly and heavenly existence. The Glorys remind us that the purpose of all life is the glory of the Trinity. The rosary appeals to many. It is simple. The constant repetition of words helps create an atmosphere in which to contemplate the mysteries of God. We sense that Jesus and Mary are with us in the joys and sorrows of life. We grow in hope that God will bring us to share in the glory of Jesus and Mary forever.
“[The rosary] sets forth the mystery of Christ in the very way in which it is seen by St. Paul in the celebrated ‘hymn’ of the Epistle to the Philippians—kenosis [self-emptying], death and exaltation (2:6-11).... By its nature the recitation of the rosary calls for a quiet rhythm and a lingering pace, helping the individual to meditate on the mysteries of the Lord’s life as grasped by the heart of her who was closer to the Lord than all others” (Paul VI, Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, 45, 47).
Christ is the head of the Church. He appointed Peter to be the first Pope. All the other disciples were also bishops, but Peter was the leader, first among equals. From there there is an unbroken line of succession to the current pope, Benedict XVI. Beneath the pope are the bishops, beneath them, the priests and the deacons.
Catholics and Prayer
Reasons for prayer: thanksgiving, meditation, praise, supplication, etc.
Some prayers: The Our Father, crossing yourself, Hail Mary, doxology (Glory Be, Gloria, etc), Apostles' Creed.
In our ceiling at work, I mean. They're doing some wiring in our ceiling, and they've currently gone to lunch and left panels out all over the place.
So we're sitting here, working away, and all of a sudden there's this darting, flying shape moving through the newsroom. Some shouts, 'It's a bird!', we all turn, and it gets close enough I can see it's a bat, so I shout, 'It's a bat!' and the bat then flies over to the copy desk, and then to the other side of the building, ad production.
Copy desk just happens to have a fishing net on a pole, please don't ask, and one of the guys grabs it and we follow the bat. It buzzes all of the display people and then flies into the large conference room. Fishing pole guy follows and we close the door, trapping the bat. He catches the bat, and frees him outside.
What it is, who wrote it (a variety of authors, most of which we do not know the identities of for certain). The Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old it the history of God's chosen people, leading up to the birth of Christ, the New Testament is the story of Christ's life and the birth of the Church. Understanding how the Bible is broken down, book, chapter, verse. That the Bible is considered the inspired Word of God, and therefore always correct.
Saint Jerome, in 360, translated all the extant texts that the Church was using into latin, creating the Latin Vulgate, which was sanctioned by the Church at Tret in 1546 as the official Sacred Scriptures.
The difference between the Catholic Bible and Protestant Bibles - Catholics have all the books. Protestants have removed seven, and use a shorter version of Esther. Also, some language has been changed.
Interpreting the Bible -
Pentatuch - "Torah", "Jewish Bible", the first five books of the Old Testament. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.
Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition and the Magesterium are the Deposit of Faith.
Major sections of the New Testament: Gospels, Acts, Epistles (Letters of Paul & Catholic Letters)
Sacred Scripture can be interpreted in four ways - literally, historically, spiritually and allegorically. One must look at the context of the scripture to understand how it is to be applied, though they all have multiple levels of complexity.
More basics, the structure of the Mass, the meaning of the Mass. The layout of the church building itself and the purpose of some of the objects that we don't see in a Protestant church. The weather was horrible, so we didn't get a chance to tour the church, but we will at some later point.
Aside: I am so looking forward to the movie 'Religulous'.
Odd, the thoughts that come to me when I'm walking the dogs.
So, I'm interested in women who cover from all cultural and religious traditions. I was reading some of the arguments between Muslims about whether or not the niqab (face veil) is required or not. The current general concensus seems to be (and I could be wrong), that the niqab is beneficial, and a good thing to do, but that it is not required in Islam.
The term is used, generally, to describe the headscarf the Muslim women wear. However, the term is actually meant to describe the modest clothing that the woman or man wears, their entire outfit. I don't recall what the requirements are for the men, but for a woman it is basically that the only part of her body that can be shown around men who she is not related to are her hands and face. The clothing must be loose, not form fitting. This is, according to what I have read, to protect her. This way there is nothing showing that could encite a man to lewd, inappropriate thoughts. She is guarding both her own modest and dignity, and helping the man to guard his. Hijab is, for most Muslims, the standard. There are, of course, some women who don't agree that covering the hair is required. But their opinion is not, so far as I know, widely accepted.
Niqab - The niqab is the face veil. Some Muslims argue that the surah and ahadith speaking about the veiling of women actually mean that women are to cover everything except for one or both eyes, to see. They say that the hadith saying that a woman can show her hands and face in public is weak, and therefor suspect. Some women, obviously, agree, and veil everything while in public. I've seen some niqab that include screens for the eyes, so that, while the woman can see out, people can't even see her eyes. They also wear gloves, and, I think abaya, which are the loose robes that ensure that their figure can't be seen.
Now, not being Muslim, for me, I think that the niqab is a little...extreme. It's just my opinion, and I think that the women who do so, because they believe that it is commanded by God, should be supported, not ridiculed. The niqab is seen, in general, as something that is beneficial, but not required.
I feel more kinship with the hijabi, I think, because it's a more familiar look to me. I can see their faces, I can read cues off of them. However, the thought that came to me was this: Christian women who cover, all the time, are the niqabi of Christianity!
Modest- Now, most Christians, no matter the denomination, will agree that we are called to be modest in our dress. Not everyone agrees on the exact definition of 'modest'. Some insist that it means women must wear only dresses and/or skirts, never pants, because pants are men's apparel, and when tight, are not modest under any definition. Of course, tight pants aren't modest on men either, but that's another problem. And some don't think that modesty applies, anymore. They want to wear tight pants/skirts/dresses, see through tops, etc., because it's become the cultural norm. However, modesty is the generally accepted norm of Christianity. Whether that means loose fitting pants and tops or skirts and dresses only. No over the top makeup, etc.
Covering - Done by a small, but growing, percentage of the general Christian population, this is a tradition that, arguably, comes straight from the Bible. The Amish and Mennonites are two groups that, for the most part, cover all the time. Others cover only when they are in church. However, it seems that more and more women are, independent of their particular denomination, choosing to cover full time, in addition to the modest dress that is required. There are many, many styles for the covering, some of which have cultural and ethnic signifigance, but the scarf or kerchief seems to be the popular choice. Women who cover quote Corinthians, saying that a woman might as well shave herself bald as not cover her hair. They argue that the covering of the hair is a part and parcel of modesty, and that they are obeying God in this command. I, clearly, agree with them.
But, in general, only modesty is required, while the covering, when it is not being denigrated as old fashioned or a cultural thing, meant only for the time, is beneficial, but not required. It's a bit simplistic, yes, but I see some parallels there.
I have come to two issues from this class. We were just covering basic things, what is belief, and what, basically, do Catholics believe.
And I already have an issue: I don't like the word 'begotten'. I mean, I believe that Jesus was both God and man. I believe that there is only one God. But the term 'begotten', to me, implies that God sort of made Jesus. And I know that that's just a limit of human understanding and language. But still. I don't like the word.
Secondly, when we were praying the Lord's Prayer, at the end, Dec. G was saying that when we ask God to forgive us, as we forgive others, that this is telling us that we must have forgiveness in order to receive forgiveness. Okay, but here's the thing - what if I can't forgive someone? I've tried. This is not a new concept to me, but I just cannot forgive him. And I know that I'm sort of shooting myself in the foot, only hurting myself, but that doesn't make it any easier.
Two goals have come out of this - 1. Pray for more faith. we always need more faith. 2. Pray for the ability to forgive, even in the face of all the wrongs that he has done to me. All the hell he put me and my mother and my sister through. That second one is going to be the harder of the two. I've hated him for so long I'm not sure what will be left if I ever manage to forgive.
Had a dream the other night that I went out without my scarf. I've got no idea what the rest of the dream was, all I remember was walking through our mall and suddenly realizing that my head was uncovered! Just that...'oh my god...' moment, and then I woke up. I wonder if other people who cover have dreams like that.
Not wearing it anymore. I've always hated the stuff anyway, I just started wearing it years ago because that was what girls were doing, and I desperately wanted to be just like them, and clearly the makeup would make me more outgoing and popular and all the things that I just wasn't. But, you know, I hated the stuff all the while.
And today? I just left it off. It was lovely.
Of course, I was also faced with the prospect of a four year old wearing makeup. But I have no say in this, despite the fact that I just find the whole concept of a child wearing makeup oddly horrific.
But I'm liberating myself from the whole mess. And working on a way to convince a four year old that she really doesn't like it anymore.
First night. Just went around, making introductions, telling a little bit about ourselves. Getting a general outline of what the course is going to entail. We got out binder, with an outline of the course, etc. Met Dec. G, Dec. T, Fr. P, Fr. A. It went well, and I hope that it will continue to do so.
So, go into work today, first thing I see is that a little sign my boss had given us had fallen back out of the fake fern I keep it in. I'd been playing with a four year old that had been brought into the office on Friday, and she'd pulled the sign out, and I'd put it back, but it had fallen again over the weekend. I pick it up, slide it back in between the leaves, and feel a sharp stabby pain in my right ring finger. Thinking, What in the h*ll did I stick myself on, there's nothing sharp in there, I pull my hand back, and lo and behold, there's a wasp sticking out of my finger! I scream, and there was a reappearance of my sailor vocabulary as I start slapping the crap out of myself trying to kill the thing. It flew off or fell off, I never found the body, and everyone's just sort of staring at me, asking what's wrong.
A wasp. Attacked me. Out of a plastic fern.
Luckily, I am clearly not allergic, as my hand and finger just swelled and turned red, not other symptoms, and the swelling is going down. But still. Wasp. It's not even like I sit particularly near a door!
I started covering, full time, on July 3, 2008. I had been covering at home for about a month prior, and wearing a wide headband out in public.
This is something that I had been building up to for several months. I had, in my need to know everything been reading a Catholic message board and came across some very heated debates about whether or not women were still required, under the new canon laws, to wear veils to Mass. Both side of the debate can get very...agitated by the discussion, for reasons that I can't understand. However, as I sat there reading it, it just struck me that covering was, at least for me, the right thing to do. But I shook my head, and thought, no, no, it's an old fashioned tradition. The Church took that requirement out. We no longer have to wear them, most women don't, and you'll just look silly.
But the thought wouldn't leave me alone. So I started investigating. The first sites and blogs I found were all Muslim women, wearing the hijab, explaining how they were doing it not because they were forced, but because God had commanded it. And then they would list the reasons behind the command, but it came down to something as simple as that. God said so. And so, without knowing that there were other women, aside from the Amish and some of the Mennonite branches that covered all the time, at least in the Christian faith, I went looking for more arguments for the continued covering by women in their churches. Boy, did I ever find them. Some wonderful, well thought out, well researched posts and articles. There was this entire community of women out there who felt as I was beginning to feel, that God had called them to this, to covering.
I looked at the classic passage, 1 Corinthians 11, where St. Paul instructs that women should be veiled when they pray or prophesy. That the veil is a symbol of the authority that is over her, whether that authority is God, her father, her husband, or the priest. And she should cover her glory, her hair, on account of the angels. Out of respect. Okay. By St. Paul's direction, women should cover their hair in church. The Church, when they published the new canon laws, left out any mention of headcoverings, which means that it is not forbidden, nor is it commanded. But Paul did command it. So, I fall back to that original command. Paul did not say, "these particular women, right there, in the first row, must cover, but the rest of you, 2,000 years later, you don't have to anymore." No. He said that women should be veiled when they pray, out of respect for the authority of God, and for the angels. Why the angels? Who knows. I've seen some interesting arguments as to what "on account of the angels" might mean, but I'm undecided on why the angels care that I cover. The important fact is that that little phrase, "on account of the angels" shows that it does matter to them.
Right. So, covering in church was clearly (to me) commanded in the Bible. I would start doing that, but in a subtle way, so as not to distract the other parishioners from their worship. I was distracting enough, since I cannot take communion yet, and so there is some maneuvering when people come back to the pew after receiving. This is where the large headbands came in. But I felt, at least for me, that this was a cheat. It didn't cover my head, not at all. But for the time being, it was what I had. While I tried to work out what to do, the headbands were better than nothing.
And while I'm thinking of all this, it comes to me, that we are also instructed to pray unceasingly. Right. I can do that. Oh! But wait, I have to cover when I pray. So I found an old scarf of my sisters, green with purple polka dots, sheer, and quite long. And when it was time for me to pray at home, when I felt the need to pray, I would go into my room, lock the door, and wrap this scarf around my head to pray. But people would knock, they would interrupt me, and I would have to whip off this scarf (so I didn't look odd) and go answer the door. They eventually understood that if I was cloistered in my room, I was praying, and not to be disturbed, but this just came to feel silly. I was not praying unceasingly, because whenever the need struck, if I wasn't able to get to my room, I couldn't cover. This didn't mean that I didn't pray, but I felt wrong about it. Knowing that I should be covered, and not being. And so I didn't always pray when I felt that I should.
Then, one day, doing yard work, enjoying the sun and the weather and trimming our trees, the thought came: I am constantly surrounded by God, and His angels. If He is everywhere, and we are to cover in His Presence, then that means covering all the time. Everywhere. And it was that simple. I would cover all the time, and honor God and the angels, and then, whenever and where ever the need struck, I would be able to pray. So simple.
And so in June I took the plunge. I explained to my family that I was going to start covering, and why. Around the house I could wear large kerchiefs, which cover, at the moment, 99% of my hair, and all of my head. My hair is fairly short, so that when I put it up in a little miniature pony tail it disappears under the back of the kerchief. But I couldn't wear those in public, and certainly not to work. They just weren't appropriate, dress wise. So I ordered two snoods. Very basic, one in black, one in white. That way, they would go with anything, and I hadn't put a great deal of investment into this, should it not work out. You see, I was still nervous, still worried that I would feel like an idiot, or people would say something.
While I waited, and worried, I continued to wear the headbands, but all the time now, to get myself used to wearing something on my head, and to get the people I worked with used to seeing something on my head. And then the snoods arrived. Two days before I was supposed to go on vacation for a week. So I wore one to work the next day. I figured, that way, if it was too much, if it was difficult, then people would forget about it while I was out, and when I came back, everything could just go back to normal. I knew that I should cover, that it was right, but I was still nervous.
That morning, I slipped the white snood on, pinned it with some bobbi pins, tied the ties around my little pony tail, to make it a little bun, and hopped in my truck. I was nervous, but I still felt that it was right. And then, I turn off of my street, a turn that I've taken a million times, and I saw the cross. It was just a shadow, formed out of the pylons on the interstate overpass that I drive under every day on my way to and from work. I have driven past those pylons hundreds of times, and I have never seen the shadows form a cross before, and I have never seen them do it since. A trick of the light? Maybe. But my nervousness melted away. I was confident. I was obeying God. It didn't matter what people at work might think.
But you know what? All I heard, all day, were compliments. People thought that it was lovely, that it suited me, somehow. And all of those compliments were nice, were lovely, they made me feel good, but it wouldn't have mattered. I knew that I was going to cover for the rest of my life.
And I'll be the first to admit that I haven't been covering for a very long time. A little less than two months. But here's the thing: it feels like forever. It's so simple, so instinctive to get up in the morning, pull on the kerchief before I leave my room to walk the dogs. To change into a nicer scarf as I'm getting ready for work. (I still have the snoods, but I bought a few nice scarves that I prefer.)
People that I don't know are more polite, men tend to pause, to hold doors, to let me go first. A random twelve year old at the grocery store told me that I looked pretty. And since I know I haven't changed except for the scarves, I make the connection.
And I've noticed that I, personally, have started to change. I'm...adversarial with men on many levels. But that's a story for another time. The point is, I'm not nearly as respectful as I should be to men who deserve my respect. My stepfather, for one. A good man, a loving man, who married my mother and accepted the responsibility for two nearly grown girls who had been badly mistreated by the 'father' in their lives prior to him. And I obeyed him, when I thought that he was right. But when I thought that I knew better, or that his wishes were just stupid, well. As I said, adversarial. Now, though, I still have the thoughts, but not as many. I think, I pause, I take a second, and I remember that he is a good man, with many years of experience on me, and I think about what he is saying. And you know, he's still not always right. But I can have a conversation with him, and we can work to a solution. Which he was always willing to do, but I wasn't. And the scarf makes me more careful in how I speak about others, what I think. I've, apparently, got the vocabulary of a sailor. I don't use it as much anymore. I slip, but I'm working on it.
Now, that's not to say that I'm done. I would, personally, prefer to switch to all skirts and dresses. But that's a slower process, changing over my entire wardrobe, since I generally wear slacks to work and therefore don't own many skirts. But I wear a skirt or a dress as often as possible, and my other clothes are checked over to make certain that nothing is too tight, or shifts inappropriately when I move.
And that's that. My bookmark. I want to be able to look back when I've been covering for six months, a year, and more. And see how much I've grown, how much I've changed.
So, on my very first post, my first comment was one of encouragement. Thank you! LisaM, who runs the blog Those Headcoverings, which I love, mentioned the letter to the Philippians. It just so happened that I was getting to that letter in my reading of the Bible. (No, I haven't read the entire Bible yet. I'm close though!)
I think that Philippians is a wonderful letter. I mean, they all are, but in most of the letters Paul is correcting some problem that the church he is addressing is having. We don't know the exact nature of the issues because we only have one piece of what I am certain was a more lengthy exchange. And all of it is useful, it helps guide us by showing us that these problems existed, and what the solution for them is. How the early church handled the questions and problems that arose.
But Philippians seems to be a letter of praise. Paul praises the Philippians for their generosity, their faithfulness to Christ's teachings which Paul brought to them. And he still offers advice, perhaps in a preemptive effort. He speaks against clinging to the past, to actions that offered nothing of spiritual value as they had been superceded by a newer, perfect covenant. He is speaking, it seems to me, specifically of the old laws, circumcision, keeping kosher, etc.
However, the lesson that I'm taking from this is that when taking the new path, when breaking from your old life, you have to evaluate the pieces of your old life and if they are of true value, or not. I, personally, know that there are habits, things that I enjoyed, that I would still enjoy if I let myself do them, that are of no true value. They are, in fact, harmful. And there are other things that aren't. It's figuring out which things are which, and how to phase everything over to the new way of life without a massive shock to my 'system' that is difficult.
For example, there are certain websites, certain things, that I know are harmful, that I know I need to not look at anymore. (I leave it to the imagination what the content of these might be.) And I deleted those links, and emptied the trash. Good. Done. Byebye, I won't be able to find them again, so the temptation is gone. However, the desire was still there. And I wished that I'd kept the links, and then I 'cleverly' realized that I hadn't cleared the cookies and the history of the computer, and there the links were. Yay! And I went right back to it.
I regretted it, afterward. I deleted the links again, and I wiped out the cookies and the history, and everything else. And then I did it all over again. So, delete, delete, delete. And this time I prayed, I asked God to help me, because it was perfectly clear that my simple determination to not do something that I know is bad was not going to be enough. Thankfully, God is listening, and I haven't had the desire to return to that habit, and I know that it's not through my efforts, but His grace and help.
So from Philippians, I take the lesson that we must break from the past, leave what is not just harmful, but also not of any help. It's painful sometimes, it really is. But the pain is a temporary thing. The goal, the end result will be so very, very worth it. And clearly, we can't forget our past, but, you know, that should just help us as well. We remember the past, but we see it through new eyes, with a new desire, and with the help of God to turn to, so that we can avoid falling back into our old mire pits.
It's probably a cliche, but I like this verse especially: 'Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.' - Philippians 4:8
Okay, first post. First blog, as a matter of fact.
I guess I have to admit that this blog is really for me, as I can't picture other people wanting to read it. It's an opportunity for me to put down the thoughts that I have, the things that I learn as I convert to Catholicism. There's so much to it, even though the decision, the moment when I knew that the Church was the true church and that I needed to be there was almost a non-moment. There wasn't anything flashy, no heart wrenching realization, just a moment when I knew that it was true. But after that comes the reality.
My life was not, and is not, what it should be. I know that, and I'm working to make the changes that need to be made. But it's hard, coming from the place where I was, to the place where I know that I need to be, that God wants me to be.
I try now to listen to the hints that have been there all along, but coming from someone who used to mock people who said that 'God told them' that they needed to do something, it's a bit of a bitter pill to swallow. Oddly enough, the easiest thing in the world has been something that most people don't get. While I know that it is not a requirement of the faith, and I know that the Church does not require women to cover when in the church any longer, it is something that I felt compelled to do. But not just in church. The explanation, to me, for why women would cover in church was to honor Christ as the head of the church, and His very real presence there. And to honor the angels, and God, who were all there, present. However, God is everywhere, all the time. Why should I just honor Him in one place? For me, I know that it is right to cover, all the time. And I have been, for about two months.
It is, as I said, the easiest thing in the world. I feel right about it, and I can't imagine not covering anymore. And, as I said, just in case someone does stumble over this, I know that it's not a requirement of the faith. Nor is it forbidden. I don't cover in the manner of another religion, and it is something that I truly feel that God has told me to do.
And I fully admit that I am a novice at this, I know so very little, but I yearn to learn and grow, and any mistakes, misconceptions that I have, I know that they will be corrected as I go.