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A year ago yesterday I fell on my knees in this spot, before Our Lord in the Eucharist, for the first of many times.  As a missionary sang “This Is My Desire” – the song that the Holy Spirit had played over and over in my head that entire day – I wept in front of the altar at Our Lady of Perpetual Help and surrendered all of me to His use for the Kingdom.  I had no clue what that would mean for the next year.  What an amazing year it has been.  Fiat!

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Living sanctuary…..

It’s been a crazy, blessed, busy summer!

In June, on Pentecost, our two oldest children (Peyton, 14, and Jazlyn, 11) made their profession of faith, were received into the Church, and received their First Holy Communion!

In July, Peyton and I had the privilege of participating in Prayer and Action – a week-long mission within our diocese with teens from other parishes.  I went without expectation and ended up profoundly moved!  It seems selfish to have gone to serve others and somehow received so much.  I would live P&A year-round if I could!  We got a lot done in the little town of Belleville during our week there, and I know the other weeks did too!

Last week I went on a 4 day hermitage at the base of the Rocky Mountains (just enough to be out of the city, not enough to get nauseous while driving up the mountain).

 
I’ve been trying to not keep God in my little box (aka not have expectations) but wowsers did I not expect the hermitage to go as it did 🙂  I will spare you details, though, and instead share some reflections that I journaled while I was there.

DSC_3916     During the night last night, I was given Psalm 96 to read.  When I read it this morning, verse 6 struck me:

Honor and majesty are before Him; strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.

You’re familiar with the song “Sanctuary” right?  “Lord prepare me to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true.  With thanksgiving I’ll be a living sanctuary for you.”  Beautiful song!  While we were at Prayer and Action we sang that, a capella, during communion every morning at Mass.  While I’ve known the song for many years, that was the first time I’d sung or heard it since my conversion, and my heart melted.

As Catholics He truly does call us to be a living sanctuary for Him – after all, we receive Him – body, blood, soul, and divinity – in the Eucharist.  Outside of death, we cannot get any closer to our Lord and Savior than when He enters us in communion.  At that time, we come into union with Him and we truly are His sanctuary, acquiring the strength and beauty written in Psalm 96:6.

Lord thank you for calling me to holiness, for purifying my heart, for making me transparent, and firm in my love for you, that I may be, with thanksgiving, a living sanctuary for YOU!

I come not to bring peace, but a sword…….

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I have been blessed with some of the most Godly, holy, on-the-road-to-sainthood, all-in-for-Our-Father’s-Kingdom mentors.  Not only were they instrumental in my conversion, but they’ve become family – they’ve bore some of my hurt, pulled me back up when I’ve fallen, given me ever-so-gentle shoves to get outside of my box, and always given me Godly advice – I am so thankful that God has placed these people in my life

Early in my “official” conversion (aka I was already Catholic in my heart, but it was time to make it visible, official, which meant discussing it with those I love), I received some of the most harsh persecution from someone I loved and respected very much.  It hurt horribly and damaged the relationship, maybe permanently.  As I spoke with one of my mentors about this, he gave me scripture that I didn’t recall ever seeing before:

 
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;  and a man’s foes will be those of his own household.  He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” Matthew 10:34-37 RSV

 

We are not to put any relationship before God.  If we lean on others more than we lean on Him, He will cut that relationship.  Sometimes it’s done easily – someone moves and our lives move different directions.  Sometimes it’s hard like the situation I mentioned earlier.

I tend to get lonely as a stay-at-home mom.  In that loneliness I find myself reaching out to others – sometimes just to say hi, sometimes for fellowship, sometimes for support in life issues, sometimes simply to have adult conversation sans teenage logic!  But God continues to remind me to seek Him instead.  Seek Him when I feel alone and abandoned.  Seek Him when I want to scream and pull my hair out.  Seek Him when I hurt.  Seek Him when I see Him transforming the heart of my husband.  Seek Him when I see my children growing in their love for Him.  Seek Him when I see His little smiles throughout the day.  Quit running to tell others about what’s going on – share it with Him.

Brylie is baptized!

One of the things I get to experience having come into the Church with my kids at an older age is their decisions and participation in the Sacraments.

Baptism has always been very important to me – even from the time I was baptized at age 8, I felt that baptism was an essential part in a person’s walk with the Lord and accepting His gift of salvation.  I don’t recall if this was taught to me or if it’s a belief that I formed on my own, but it’s in line with the Church’s teaching on the importance of baptism 🙂

Brylie (7) has been asking for almost a year to be baptized.  When I decided to come into the Church I knew why I had hesitated before – now she could be baptized and in doing so become part of the Catholic Church! During the last of my formation/education I had asked Father Norbert, and we set the date.  Brylie was THRILLED!!!  Father knew some of her knowledge of Christianity because we had met with him as a family, and just wanted to meet with her once to make sure this was her decision (at about this age the Church considers them to be the age of reason – they know right from wrong and can choose for themselves).

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Yesterday was the big day – we had talked and talked about what it meant, the awesome gift that Jesus had given us on His Cross, and she was READY to be cleansed, become a child of God, a daughter of the King, a new creation in Christ, and receive the Holy Spirit!  Her baptism was to take place after Mass, and as Father was making a couple of brief announcements she knew Mass was all but over and could not sit still, lol!

 

She listened to everything Father said with such intensity.  It was absolutely precious!!!  10308267_572079106239420_8195425157472823316_n

She answered all of his questions perfectly (she was worried that she’d mess up) and was full of joy (Holy Spirit!!!) as she was baptized

In the name of the Father.

And of the Son.

And of the Holy Spirit!

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After her godfather lit her baptismal candle from the Paschal candle, she received a blessing (as did the rest of her family and her godparents).

10152389_572079199572744_8186176104247482169_nIt was such a joyful day for all of us!  She was still floating this morning – Mom!  Yesterday was a REALLY BIG DAY FOR ME!!!

It’s so renewing to see child so seeking God, no holding back, that reminds us to come to Him as children – without hesitation and full of joy, anticipation, hope, excitement, and love!

 

What about………? {a series}

 

Many who aren’t in the Catholic church (and many who are, even) see the Church as nothing but a rule-imposing, overbearing, government of sorts.  But I’d like to take a moment to put a different perspective on this.

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As Catholics, we don’t worship the Church.  When Christ created the Church, He set it up to be a “household” of faith (2 Timothy 3:15 …..God’s household, which is the church of the living God…..).  You have parents that you love and honor, but do you worship them?  I hope not! 😉  The Church, in a sense (more on this analogy later) acts as a parent.  Just as parents we are to guide, educate, and direct our children to God, so does the Church for it’s parishioners. 

 

 As parents we have to set rules, boundaries, and routines in the home, and so does the Church in the Catechism.  If we let our children roam free, no guidance, no boundaries, no rules then they end up a mess – they don’t know right from wrong, they are sometimes fatally insecure, and they often feel no true love.  Not to mention the chaos that would ensue as a household!  The Catechism takes scripture and applies it to our modern-day lives, answering the question of “How do I apply the instruction that God has given us in the Bible to my life 2000+ years later?”.  The Catechism is here to give us boundaries, security, and to guide us.

 

The Sacraments (Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Marriage, Anointing of the sick, Reconciliation, Holy orders) are put in place to further our relationship with God, to aid our weak, human, simple, and sinful minds to relate to and experience Him fully, to help fill us with the richness of His love for us!

 

I know that these were some of the misconceptions I had prior to hearing the call to convert  that I have grown to greatly appreciate!  What are some subjects of the Catholic Church that you don’t understand?  I’d love to share my knowledge and address some misunderstandings!

 

There are not more than 100 people in the world who truly hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they perceive to be the Catholic Church.”  – Archbishop Fulton Sheen

 

 

I choose you – you are Mine!

The class of 2014 in our parish celebrated the Rite of Sending and the Rite of Election  just over a week ago.  I should have carried tissues.  The hymn at both events was “You Are Mine”.  Here are a few lines from it:
I will come to you in the silence
I will lift you from all your fear
You will hear My voice
I claim you as My choice
Be still, and know I am near

Do not be afraid, I am with you
I have called you each by name
Come and follow Me
I will bring you home
I love you and you are mine

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“Do you think you are here because of any choice you made?  Because you chose the Church?  NO!  You are here because Christ chose YOU!”

That’s what our Bishop said in his homily at the Rite of Election.  He could’ve not said another word and I would have been left in awe.

Christ chose me.

It still leaves me speechless, and humbled, and with more thanksgiving than I could ever express!

I recently went through some inner healing, to allow Christ to heal and rebuke lies that I’ve believed about myself since I was a wee one.  It has blocked me from receiving His love all this time and I had no idea.

God doesn’t want us to go through life not knowing how much He loves us!

Our Father sent His ONLY Son, who was without ANY sin, never did wrong, to suffer for us – to receive ridicule, condemnation, persecution, lash after lash from whips, chains, blades, thorns pressed into His head, nails penetrating each of His hands, and His feet, and a spear piercing His side – unimaginable pain.  For us.  FOR ME.  Even then, He chose to suffer for me.  While He bore the weight of my sin on His back, His blood poured out FOR ME.  For the first time in my life I can accept that love – yes, with humility, but it was for me.

During these 3 Sundays in which we, as elect, celebrate the scrutinies, I invite each of you to embrace what they mean.  This isn’t a time for you to scrutinize and judge yourself or others, but a time to open up and let God scrutinize you.  Let Him seek those dark corners of your heart.  Let Him shine His glorious light on them and heal them so that you can receive His love, so that you can melt as it pours into and over your heart.

He chose YOU!  He loves YOU!  You are HIS!

    I have called you by name, you are mine. Isaiah 43:1 

About conversion, division, and your posse

This is a fairly sensitive post on some of the challenges in relationships that have come with my conversion to Catholicism (and probably a good share of those that have already converted).  I’m sharing this in hopes that others who are in the conversion process may find some comradery, knowing that they are not alone in their circumstances.  We will always continue to pray for those that persecute us, that someday the Holy Spirit may guide them into the same truths he guided us to!  When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth  John 16:13 

It seems, at times, that bearing the label “Converting to Catholicism” invites critique from everyone who isn’t already in the Church.  Much like when you’re 8 1/2 months pregnant everyone feels the need to share their birthing horror stories, to remind you that you are bigger than a 2-story house, and express their opinion on epidurals, vaccines, whether or not you’ve found out the baby’s gender, the names that you’ve picked out, etc.  You don’t even need to ask for that information – it’s volunteered!  Of course they all do so in love, in caring for you and your family, but if they stepped back and thought about what they said (or *gasp* put themselves in your shoes) they may, at least, rephrase what they said or choose their words more carefully.

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In the same way, if you haven’t been through bearing and birthing a child, or at the very least having been heavily involved in the process (like midwife, OB nurse, etc) then what you share with that pregnant mom is only here-say or opinion.  You haven’t read all of the books to educate yourself.  You haven’t taken all of the classes to find out what it’s really about.  You haven’t attended a bazillion doctor appointments, read online the many discussion forums, or researched to the last drop what meds you can and can’t take.  You don’t actually know what it feels like to carry that baby, to experience the morning sickness, the cravings, the sleepless nights, the sheer pain, or had the doubts of whether you’ll be a good mother, if you really have the strength to do this.  How about you ask a young single guy what it’s like to have a baby – see how applicable those answers are hehe!

Interestingly enough, though, everyone seems to know all about Catholicism – without learning what the Church really believes (no, we don’t worship Mary, and how about checking the Greek to learn about the many words that translate into the word “pray” in English), without reading the history of the Church, without taking time to really research.  I’ve been heavily criticized for the amount of research I’ve done.  Yes, Google was involved at times.  Yes, I’ve read much Church doctrine (from some of the writings of the early Church fathers, to documents of the Council of Trent, to the Vatican II documents, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church).  Yes, I’ve read books upon books, listened to talk upon talk.  I’ve asked more questions than a classroom full of 3-year-olds of those that are in position of the Church to answer them – priest, Catholic lay missionaries, graduate of Franciscan University, RCIA director, nun, and very well catechized members of our parish.  If the same research was done by the critics, well, it would be great to have a logical conversation.

At times this journey can feel incredibly lonely, especially if you were already churched and 90% of your friends were connected to that church (or a similar denomination). Many times fear gets a hold of them – if they ask you questions and learn will they, too, be called to convert?  Or maybe they’ve been hurt by members of the Church before (very unfortunate, but welcome to humanity.  The devil gets a hold of people from every denomination, every religion.  If one person in your family commits a crime should your whole family be sent to jail?  Of course not!  In the same way, 1 or 10 or 20 people in the Church shouldn’t mean the entire 2000-year-world-wide Church is the same).  I recently had a particularly vulnerable time after more persecution was piled on.  The tears settled in time to attend Mass, and I was incredibly blessed there (as always!) in many ways.  In the homily, Father spoke that we should be afraid of NOT carrying our cross!  After all, Jesus says “he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” in Matthew (quoted again below).  The communion hymn also touched my heart:  Long have I waited for your coming home to me and living deeply our new life. The wilderness will lead you to your heart where I will speak.  The wilderness!  That’s exactly where I feel some days!  But I will be joyful, knowing that in the wilderness I will hear him speak!

There’s a very fine line that we walk as converts in not creating division.  Didn’t Luther do enough of that 1500 years ago?  But keep in mind, Jesus himself talked about never putting relationships with others before our relationship with him:

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foes will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 10:34-39

If you are a convert, you KNOW that Jesus called you to his Church.  And he plainly tells us that if you put your love for another person before your love for him (and thus obedience to him), you are not worthy of him.  That’s not something I care to test.  So as much as we will try to smooth the bridge between the Church and our brothers and sisters in other denominations, to keep peace and not cause division, haters gonna keep on hatin’ sometimes.  Pray for them.  Pray that the Holy Spirit bless them so richly with the capital-T Truths that you end up being their sponsor when they convert!

So for the time being anyway, I consider this my cross to bear.  I will continue to witness and share the Catholic faith when Holy Spirit guides me to do so.  Remember that Jesus said:  “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.  Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you” John 15:18-20 (Thank you Cristina for that passage today! My emphasis added)

Do you need some resources to help you defend the Catholic faith?  Two that I’ve found incredibly helpful:

Answers4Catholics phone app:
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Of all of the purchases I’ve made to educate myself and others during my journey, this has to be the best $1.99!

And

This “Catholicism for Protestants” blog post has been handy to link others to for overview-answers on most of the common questions/concerns received.

Are you a convert to the Catholic faith?  Did you experience similar trials?  What resources did you find helpful to defend the faith?