Tuesday, February 26, 2013

5 Ways to Celebrate & Remember Benedict's Papacy

As Pope Benedict XVI's papacy comes to a close, I have mixed feelings, as I am sure many of you do too. I am excited to see who will be elected next, but I am also sad to see Pope Benedict step down. He is a great man, someone who greatly impacted my faith life and the lives of countless others. I pray that our new pope will be a wise and humble leader for the Church, even greater than Blessed JPII and B16.

As Benedict tips his hat and fades into a Vatican monastery to live a life of prayer, I give you five ways you can celebrate and remember Benedict's papacy this week with family and friends.

1. Arrange Times to Reminisce

I did this publicly last week with Edmund Mitchell who blogs at Edmundmitchell.com and Ryan Eggenberger who blogs at Entrecatholic.com. We opened it up to people who wanted to join us via Twitter and watch on Ryan's web site. You can view us talking through our feelings about the news, our memories of Pope Benedict, the significance of the Chair of Peter, and our favorite writings of one of the most intellectually gifted popes in history. Feel free to view the video, share with friends, and organize your own hangout session. It really helped me think through this event, and it was edifying to hear great insights from thoughtful friends:

(Start a few minutes in, and fyi the Chair of St. Peter is a feast in the US, not a solemnity)

2. Make Cupcakes 

I'm serious. One of the sisters at my convent is planning on making German chocolate cupcakes for February 28th with tiny Vatican flags (German chocolate - get it?). It may sound silly, but these little things help us as a community celebrate and "ritualize," if you will, what has been a big event for us in the Church. My mom did these kinds of things for my family when I was growing up. They seem unimportant, but they really help small communities feel a part of the larger Church community.

3. Share Your Favorite Encyclical/Writing of the Pope!

I have been astounded at the mistaken impressions many people have of this pope. It has been apparent in the coverage this event has received in mainstream media. One reason for this, is that most people get their information from hearsay, rather than drawing conclusions based on primary sources. "Try reading Benedict!" is the advice I give to skeptical friends, especially Catholics. After reading what he writes, I feel you cannot help but respect this brilliant, faith-filled man. His address to the Roman Curia in 2010, in which Benedict speaks to the horror of the abuse crisis, is one of the most heartbreaking and poignant pieces on the topic.

4. Pray for the Upcoming Conclave

I am a bit embarrassed to admit I didn't think I needed to pray for the conclave. I thought, "The Holy Spirit picks the pope so what is there to worry about?" (Pretty astounding lack of skeptical thinking for a former atheist I might say!) I later realized that my way of thinking, though seemingly pious, was incorrect.

post by Michael Barber corrected me, in which he quotes Pope Benedict, then Cardinal Ratzinger, as saying:  
"I would not say so, in the sense that the Holy Spirit picks out the Pope. ... I would say that the Spirit does not exactly take control of the affair, but rather like a good educator, as it were, leaves us much space, much freedom, without entirely abandoning us. Thus the Spirit's role should be understood in a much more elastic sense, not that he dictates the candidate for whom one must vote. Probably the only assurance he offers is that the thing cannot be totally ruined."  
Then the clincher: "There are too many contrary instances of popes the Holy Spirit obviously would not have picked!"
So long story short, one of the best ways we can celebrate Benedict's papacy is to pray for him and for his successor. We need to be on our knees praying that the cardinals will choose the right man for the job!

Here is a beautiful prayer for this purpose, written by my friend Ami, that she has given me permission to share:

Dear Holy Spirit,
Today, I offer all that I am,/ and all I am becoming with you,/ I offer all my sacrifices and penances, / mortifications and prayers, joys and good deeds and holy aspirations / for the sake of pure love and trust / in Your perfect guidance / of the Roman Catholic Church in this new millennium. / May all that I am be a gift / to the entire Body of Christ, / whether it be through my strengths / and intentional good acts, / or even through my weaknesses, / my faults, and my failures. /  May Your Inspiration fill the hearts of our Cardinals / who will be in such significant deliberations / during this Lenten season / as we move towards selecting the next / Holy Father of Your Church.  / Guide them as you guide us / to always do Your Will, / to sacrifice for the sake of others, / and to grow everyday / to resemble even more  / Our Beloved Jesus Christ. / Give them the strength / to endure any attacks / from media, misguided persons or / any other factor which may try to interfere / with your Truth being made known / on earth in these times, / as we so need You, / as we so love You, / and as we so desire You / to be with us as you promised, / present even until the end of the age. // My God, Father of all, / O blazing brilliant Holy Spirit, / O Perfect sacrifice of Love, / my Jesus, / Have mercy on us. //
You are Love, and would that / You be Loved! Trusted! Followed!

Another hi-tech way to pray for the conclave is to go to AdoptaCardinal.org and they will automatically assign you a cardinal to pray for! Super awesome idea.

Also, if you want to participate in a Fantasy Conclave and learn more about the process, visit FantasyConclave.com

5. Join the Twitter Storm

On February 27th and 28th, using the hashtag #ThanksPontifex, a storm of tweets will take over the social media site Twitter. This "storm" has been organized to thank Pope Benedict for all that he has done for the Church.  If you are on Twitter, join the list of participants here. If you are not on Twitter, pray that this Twitter storm helps others to see how loved Benedict is by the Church!
_ _ _

Hope this helps you say goodbye this week to Benedict, who has been a gentle, humble guide at the helm of the Church.

Let us join in prayer for Benedict and our future Holy Father in this historic moment in the Church!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Lessons From A Gay Mormon

I first saw this video in an article from Slate magazine. In it, Jimmy, a gay Mormon, comes out to his friends and family and videotapes their reactions. Thankfully, most of them seem positive, if a little awkward. His mother's reaction is priceless.

But the line in the video that is causing controversy is when Jimmy says, "What does being a gay Mormon mean? Well, it means that I'm going to live a celibate life... sucks!"

Of course, many people are commenting on the video on YouTube, urging him to give up the celibate lifestyle:

"It would be a real sin to live a lonely, loveless life."

"He is way too happy about being celibate and single and that is just sad."

"This is simultaneously very cool & very sad. I applaud you for having the courage to admit to yourself & to others about your sexuality. But I'm profoundly sad for you that you seem unable to also unshackle yourself from the idiocy that is organized religion"

What struck me about these comments is that many people simply do not accept that living a life of celibacy as a gay person is an acceptable choice. There are many examples of brave gay people who choose to marry the opposite sex, or choose to live a celibate life because of their religious beliefs, but this is deemed unacceptable by many. You can either be gay and acting upon it, or something is wrong with you. 

Which is kind of funny to me, because "You are free to be gay, just not a celibate gay" sure sounds a lot like the much maligned, "You are free to be gay, just not to act upon it." Both of these attitudes impose rather than invite.

When it comes to moral choices, God invites rather than imposes. This is the essence of the gift of free will. Living according to the tenets of our faith is an invitation from God. As a convert, I can say that I never felt God imposing his love upon me; he gently invited me into relationship with Him until I accepted. 

This, I would propose, is how we can approach those inside and outside the Church who struggle with same sex attraction. We can learn a lesson from Jimmy and his accepting family and friends. People who struggle with same sex attraction will almost certainly not choose celibacy if they do not find love and acceptance among family, friends and among people of faith. It may "suck" for Jimmy to choose a celibate life, but with the love and acceptance of those around him, what is difficult is made less difficult. And even more beautiful than that, what is difficult for Jimmy will surely become a source of grace for him, his family, his friends and his faith community. 

The modern world looks upon celibate life as strange, unusual, repressive, and backwards. But as someone who has also chosen to live a celibate life as a "nun" or Catholic religious sister, I can say that from the pain of giving up sexual intimacy flows great grace for myself and for others. Energy and time that would otherwise be focused on a family and husband, is now devoted in service to many people. In essence, I have given up some expressions of love, but despite what the world thinks, I have definitely not give up Love. 

So, don't lose heart Jimmy, despite what the world says, you are making a beautiful choice.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Papa Benedict's Lesson for Us This Lent

On Ash Wednesday, in the Gospel of the day, Jesus tells us: “But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. ” (Mt 6:6 ).

It is not enough to go into our room and pray; we also need to shut the door.

I think these words are especially meaningful in light of the recent abdication of Pope Benedict XVI. As I read secular media’s coverage of the event, I was struck by how completely wrong many journalists were getting it. Not only was there an abundance of examples of media just not getting the facts right, there was also a rationalization and de-spiritualization of what is clearly a spiritually significant event for many people. Attempting to understand anything Catholic, without a spiritual context, leaves much in the Church looking outdated, sexist, hopelessly bureaucratic, and well...

Read more at Ignitum Today by clicking here....

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Do You Need a Lent Pep Talk?

Do you need a Lent pep talk?

I do.

Especially after yesterday's news that gave the entire Catholic world a shock.

Pope Benedict XVI was pope when I came back to the Church; he was elected on my birthday. I have a special place in my heart for him, always will. So, his resignation is a sad moment for me, as it is for many, many people. But from following this humble, brilliant, faith-filled man very closely over the past years, I can say with great confidence and faith that this is the work of the Holy Spirit.

Elizabeth Scalia put it beautifully in her post on the subject:

If John Paul went out like the sustained note of a grand organ, fading into silence, Benedict simply senses his tiredness and the hour, closes up his piano, and bids us adieu. Ratzinger, in the end, is still Ratzinger: he does his work, kisses it all up to the Holy Spirit and moves on, not particularly concerned about the peripheral yakking of man or media.

So, like many of you, I am feeling a bit down.

I also had a minor surgery recently that took me longer than expected to recover from, and this, in combination with the pope news, is helping me to feel mentally unprepared for Lent. Normally, I would be all ready to go for Lent. I would have some ideas brewing. I start to get stoked to make sacrifices, and to live life in higher tension. Usually, Jesus gives me an idea of a theme for each Lent, (yes this is strange but Jesus knows me, I am like the Martha Stewart of Lent).

But this year, as Ash Wednesday approaches, I find myself feeling, well, blah.

So, in the interest of pumping myself up, I am going to give myself a few pointers (and hopefully they are helpful to you too!):

1.  You Don't Plan Lent, God Plans Lent: You can plan all you want and pick that perfect thing to sacrifice that no one will notice, that will make you think you are holy and have you sweetly suffering all forty days long - but none of that matters a whole lot to the Big Guy. God has a plan for your Lent, and you know what - God is a procrastinator. It might take him a while to communicate what that plan is, it might just unfold minute by minute, day by day. Are you going to be too involved in your own self inflicted sacrifices to notice?

2. Lent is an Adventure, Embrace It!: Here's a crazy idea, what if instead of choosing your own crazy sacrifices, you accepted the sacrifices that every day naturally brings you - with a smile, serenity, and yes it's possible - joy! Smiling at the annoying co-worker who visits you in your cubicle every day to ask the same question seems much harder than giving up chocolate you say? Yah, that's kind of the point.

3. Lent as Practicing Virtue: There's a reason St. Thomas wrote about the virtues obsessively. Holiness is our goodness in relationship to God, but the way this goodness can translate to action is in the practice of virtue. If we judge by most sacrifices made in Lent, it would seem that most people think they need to work on the virtue of temperance, but I am not sure they actually think of Lenten sacrifices in terms of practicing virtue! It might help to think of the virtue that you need to work on and then pick a sacrifice that will help you to work on it. This list might help.

You will be in my prayers during Lent, please pray for me!

I may or may not be posting much during Lent, I am going to leave it up to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, (here's to hoping He doesn't ask me to resign!) :)

Follow me on Twitter or like my blog’s Facebook page if you want to keep updated.

Please feel free to comment with any ideas for Lent. And if you have any prayer requests during this time, please let me know and I will put them in the sisters’ prayer intention book. 

God bless!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Free Event: Ways to Engage in the New Evangelization

I will be participating in a live interactive discussion on ways to engage in the New Evangelization. Join me and fellow Ignitum Today columnists Edmund Mitchell, Amanda Mortus, and Ryan Eggenberger this Friday, February 8th at 8pm for a live interactive discussion!

To sign up: click here

Hope you all can participate! The more the merrier. And please feel free to share with anyone who might be interested.


I sense that the moment has come to commit all of the Church's energies to a new evangelization and to the mission ad gentes. No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples. 

                                                                                      - Blessed John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio