Fonticulus Fides

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

I have so very much to learn about the Catholic faith! Divine Mercy Sunday was way over my head, for example, though I did read up on it a little.

Today, I read on the Immaculate Heart blog that the month of May is dedicated to the Mother of our Lord, which was news to me. There's also a link to this great site, which has a lot of interesting information about the Rosary and how it came to be.

I've become much more comfortable praying the Rosary myself. Most days I am able to pray before everybody else wakes up, but if I can't, I've managed to find time for it. I finally have the Apostle's Creed down pat without mixing it up with the Nicene Creed. Since I learned Nicene first, I kept slipping into that by mistake.

"Hail Holy Queen" is the one prayer that I am still having trouble memorizing -- I have to use a "cheat sheet" for that one. I think it's the order of phrasing. I'm sure it's quite lovely in Latin. I shall have to find the Latin text of it and ask my husband to pronounce it for me, just to hear it in that ancient language.

Thank you, Lord -- more rain today! We were an inch behind annual rainfall as of the 10 o'clock news last night, so hopefully we will quickly make up that difference. Still have to make up the nine inches (I believe) we were short last year, though.

Joe Convert has blogged some great stuff today about sin and redemption from the Protestant-turned-Catholic perspective. I am having the exact same experience but can't write about it as well as Joe has, so please go read what he has to say.


Tuesday, April 29, 2003

It's a rainy day here in Nebraska, and that’s a wonderful thing. We've been in drought conditions for a long time now, and every little bit over our standard rainfall helps. So I'm always happy to see rain, even with leaky gutters to contend with at our house.

Funny how some people don’t understand the significance of rainfall and drought. Not long ago, a woman indicated to me that she despised rain and snow and wished it would be sunny ever day. I pointed out that the farmers needed the moisture, and she said she didn't care.

Have I mentioned the fact that I have a big mouth?

With my dander up, I glared at her and asked, "Do you eat?"

"Do I what?"

"Do you eat?"


"Then you care about farmers."

Where do people think the food stocked in their grocery stores comes from, anyway? Many of our farmers are really hurting in this country. In times of drought, it can actually cost more to raise crops than the prices farmers get for them at harvest.

I remember my father-in-law thundering about this a long time ago. He was frustrated that a box of corn flakes was almost $4, and yet he was only getting $2.20 a bushel for the corn he raised. I don't know exactly how many boxes of corn flakes a bushel of corn makes, but it's a whole lot. And my father-in-law's portion of the proceeds from that bushel of corn was so painfully low, it makes you wonder why anybody farms at all.

So what does this have to do with Catholicism? Well…maybe nothing. Or maybe a lot. Every day at Mass in our parish, the prayers of the people include requests for rain. There is an understanding here that even though nobody in our parish is a farmer (it's downtown -- any farms would be in another parish) we have a moral responsibility to pray for the rain. And yeah, there is a personal interest in that because if farmers can't produce grain for food, feed, fuel, plastic and all the other stuff it's used for, it would greatly affect each and ever one of us. But we're also told in the Bible to uphold our brothers in difficult times and to bear each other's burdens. (Galations 6:2)

There's another thing to consider. Throughout the Old Testament, God used natural catastrophes like famine and flood to get the attention of His people. And because I believe the God is eternal and therefore unchanging, I don't see why He wouldn’t do the same thing today. Maybe He's trying to tell our whole society to shape up. On the other hand, when you're dealing with people who don’t connect the groceries they buy with the farmers who raise the food, it's not a very cut-and-dried kind of lesson in this day and age.

Of course, I only learned to pay attention to things like drought after I married into a family that had a 120-year-old farm to take care of. In a lot of ways, I'm no different than the woman I spoke of above. I tend to only care about the things that affect me or somebody I love directly. Didn't care about education until I had kids, for example. I'm guilty of short-sightedness in so many ways. I hope part of my growth as a Christian includes broadening my perspective.

Well, while I think that over, I am going to be thanking God for the rain we were blessed with in Nebraska today. And asking for a little more to help us overcome the current drought conditions. Won’t you join me?


Monday, April 28, 2003

One of the things I find myself fretting about is the question, "How does one raise children in the Catholic faith?" Or in any faith, really.

Looking back on my own childhood, there is such a marked lack of spiritual awareness that I stall on this issue every time it comes up. Which is pretty often, with two little kids at home. I don't have an example to follow me, so I'm just sort of guessing how you do it.

When our son Zooey (rhymes with Huey, Dewey and Louie, please) was a little guy, I got into the habit of murmuring prayers like the Our Father while he nursed to sleep. Then as he got older, we expanded that a little to include "God bless ____" and he learned to "help pray" the Our Father by interjecting the appropriate words when I paused.

After the baby made her forthcoming appearance known, my husband took over Zooey's bedtime routine, adding the "Now I lay me…" prayer he’d learned when he was a boy. That one always bothered me because it hinted at an early death, but Zooey doesn’t seem to mind.

We also taught him to pray before meals, using the Protestant standby, "God is great, God is good. Let us thank Him for our food. Amen." We’ve since replaced that with the traditional Catholic prayer. And we have a collection of Arch Books -- if you don’t know about those children's Bible stories, they are generally set in rhyme with colorful illustrations. My husband couldn’t get enough of them when he was a boy. I haven't particularly checked to see if they uphold Catholic values, but our local Catholic bookstore sells them.

It just seems to me there is so much more to it than that. Surely our examples are the cornerstone of any faith-building. There is no other way to teach a child to speak the name of the Lord reverently than to hear it spoken so, every time.

Still, I am well aware of the fact that you can "do everything right" -- whatever that means -- and still see your children grow up to reject the Christian faith you treasure so much yourself. I've seen it happen in Catholic and Protestant families alike. Sometimes praying with them, praying for them, praying near them, talking about spiritual things, educating them about various functions of faith and worship, taking them to worship services, and even sending them to Christian school just isn't enough.

Not that I’ll quit doing any of those things.

The kids both have Rosaries, now. Our sponsors gave a very nice wooden one to the baby on the occasion of her acceptance into the Church on Saturday. Zooey's is one of the black plastic ones made for kids. I had purchased one for his Easter basket that had red wooden beads – red being his current favorite color, but it was scented. I thought that would make it a sure winner since the boy is constantly asking to smell things ("Can I smell my milk?" or even "Dad, can I smell your knee?"). Unfortunately, the smell of roses was less than appealing to him ("Bleh!!!") so I switched the red one for the black one.

Zooey got fascinated with Rosaries over the weekend, so Sunday morning, I offered to show him how to pray with one. We used the baby's, because the beads were bigger and color-coded, and I tried to abbreviate the prayers he didn't know so it wouldn't be too much all at once. (I hope that’s not a grievous sin.) For the Apostle's Creed, we said, "I believe in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ His Son, and in the Holy Spirit." And then we did the Our Father, one Hail Mary, and the Glory Be. I told him the "story" of the first mystery, and as he held the colored beads of the first decade, we did one Hail Mary, the first sentence of the Glory Be, and the first sentence of the Fatima Prayer. Then another "story" and so on round the beads, finishing with a highly shortened "Hail Holy Queen."

It's always hard for a 3-yr-old boy to sit still, but Zooey did all right. The frequency of stories about Jesus and Mary helped – he loves to hear stories. I just wanted to make it "pre-school" size for now. I intend to build up to the full-length prayers and also the full number as he gets more accustomed to it.

I'm not sure how he feels about the experience, but at least I think he knows that praying the Rosary is something special. He pulled out his own Rosary a few more times yesterday, and he asked for a carrying pouch to put it in, like my husband and I have, so I quickly stitched one up out of some scraps of felt and Velcro®.

I don't want to shove all this down his throat, so I’m trying to be sensitive to both his interest level and his intellectual ability to grasp the concepts. And I don't expect either him or the baby to be particularly pious children. I want them to grow in Faith, which I hope will mean they will become grateful to God, trusting Christ to provide forgiveness for their sins. That's all. It's something that was missing from my own childhood, and I think my own life would have been much different – less painful, less shameful – had I known about God all my life.


Saturday’s Profession of Faith

Well, we’re all Catholic now. :-)

We got the kids dressed up in their Easter finery and they looked so nice, I snapped a few photos of them before we left for Mass. The baby was enthralled with her new shoes – I know, you’re not supposed to put kids in shoes before they start walking, but her little linen-and-cotton dress just looked incomplete without shoes on her feet. And she only took a few steps in them holding onto my fingers, so I don’t think they did any damage.

I was surprised how well-attended the Saturday afternoon Mass is. (We usually go at 9:30 on Sunday.) It was packed – we got there considerably earlier than we usually do & still sat pretty far in the back of the church. Which is where people with small kids are "supposed" to sit, anyway.

Our son had been admonished to be on his best behavior and reminded that he only got one bathroom break during Mass. He did really well, only asking in a loud whisper six or seven times where his friend Jacob was (our sponsor’s son, who was sitting a few rows ahead of us).

The baby was another story. I swear, she just loves the acoustics in this old cathedral. She got pretty loud a couple times and I took her out, and then she immediately quieted down. But every time I tried to take her back in, she’d shriek again. So we just hung out in the vestibule with the ushers and the lady who was selling tickets for the altar society’s quilt raffle.

Yes, there is a baby room at our parish. And no thanks, I’d rather not. It’s a small section of the choir loft that’s been partitioned off, and it’s usually packed. Anyway, my baby wasn’t noisy in the vestibule, and I could at least see the Mass better. I couldn’t hear very well, but then I usually can’t hear well in the baby room, either.

I slipped in again and stood in line with my husband to receive the Eucharist. Father blessed the kids, too, which I always think is so very sweet. And then as soon as we returned to our pew and the song ended, the baby started to shriek again. So out we went.

Then after the Mass was ended, we all joined our sponsors and their kids in the front pew and waited for Fr. Witt to finish greeting folks and shaking hands outside. It was short and sweet – the same rite that brought my husband into the Catholic Church last week during Easter Vigil, only we (and our sponsors) were answering on behalf of the children. Our son was interested and listened intently. The baby gawked, smiled and cooed and didn’t shriek once. Maybe she realized something important was happening. And then that was that. We are all Catholic. And that feels great.


Saturday, April 26, 2003

I've received a good number of kind and encouraging notes from various folks out there in St. Blog's, and I thank you all. I hope I'm not too sacreligious here...I'm still new to Catholicism and if I accidentally say something wrong, I hope I can count on all of you to give me the heads up. I really do want to learn, so please don't be afraid to point out a mistep of mine. Thank you!

A few more things to take care of & then it will be time to get the children ready for their profession of faith this afternoon...


Friday, April 25, 2003

Today, I have been thinking about how good it feels to have holy objects within reach. Like my Rosary. I can hear Fr. Kubat's words of blessing over it echoing in my head every time I pick it up. And I look at the palm fronds from Palm Sunday nestled behind the crucifix in our dining room (is a crucifix appropriate in one’s dining room?), and I think what a lovely and grand thing it is to have a holy thing to gaze upon, to touch, to remind you of the things of Heaven.

This is something that was missing from my fundamentalist/evangelical days. There was a prevailing mistrust of considering any object "blessed" or "holy" in the Christian circles I was part of. Fear of idolatry, I suppose. In juxtaposition, there was the frantic pursuit of personal holiness, which in one particular setting took a turn for the nasty. Somewhere along the line, this group of Christians began defining holiness as "power." They sought the ability to bestow heavenly gifts like healing and prophesy on themselves and each other, even to the point that some dared to command the Holy Spirit. They measured their own value to God and the Kingdom of Heaven by supernatural abilities and presumed authority, all the while denying the need for piety as "legalism" or "false humility." The effect was alarming and, in my opinion, devastating.

So here I am now, on my seventh day as a Catholic, pondering piety and holiness and what it means to me in this context. I am so weary of sin commanding my life that piety seems like an inviting place to go. I don't mean false piety – like just muttering my way through the Rosary to be done with it so I can check it off my to-do list. When I pray the Rosary, I want it to be meaningful, and I want it to quiet my soul and help me shed the "old man" and walk with God as a new-made creature. Same for the many other opportunities to pray, such as before meals. It’s not a presumption of holiness I'm after – I want to train my soul to dwell on the things of the Lord above all else. The many prayers and holy activities (like crossing myself) and holy objects around me are reminders of His Glory, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in my soul.

There is another crucifix in my home, a heavy solid brass one next to our front door. This one hasn't been blessed yet, and I intend to take it with us to Mass tomorrow to have that remedied. I don't know if the entry hall is an appropriate place for a crucifix, either, but regardless, it's important for me to have it there. I want it to remind me that as I leave home to go about my business, that I carry the Work which Christ wrought on the Cross in my heart, and that all my dealings with the rest of the world should reflect that. And when we return, I want the crucifix to represent something of a gateway in which we leave worldly things at the doorstep and come into the refuge of peace and holy things. I can't say our home is a perfect refuge by any means, but that's the goal. At least in my head it is.


Thursday, April 24, 2003

Okay, I'm trying to set up some links to blogs I like to visit. Forgive me if I don't understand blog protocol, but I didn't ask any of these folks if it would be okay to link to them. I guess I should do that. Meanwhile, if you see your blog linked from here and you'd rather not be associated with me, just send me e-mail, and I'll fix it. sparki777 (at) yahoo (dot) com


Saying the Rosary in the early morning really does get my day off to a good start. I am 2 for 3 right now -- yesterday, the baby woke up way early herself, so I had to put it off until both kids were napping. It was still a highly positive experience, but I'd rather begin the day with it.

My son was feverish yesterday (he gets these weird, unexpected high fevers and then they go away and he's totally fine within hours), and he spent most of the afternoon clutching the prayer card of St. Hubert I'd put in his Easter basket. He asked to hear St. Hubert's story several times and he keeps calling St. Hubert "my saint" so maybe I was right that he's already chosen his own patron? I'm going to have to invest in Amy Welborn's book about the Saints, not only to have more stories to read to the children, but also for personal inspiration.

My husband and I were talking about our individual eagerness to go to Mass. We're going to try to work it out so that each of us attends a weekday Mass at least once a week, alone and without the children. Of course, we'll all go together as a family on Sunday, but anybody with a couple of small kids knows that you have to spend a great deal of time coaching the little ones through the service. As new Catholics, we each need the opportunity to attend Mass unencumbered so we can focus and learn and relish the experience. I hope that doesn't qualify as "selfish" -- we just honestly need it right now. Maybe because we're new to all of this.

Still haven't figured out the comments thing, nor have I had the chance to sit down with my pal who is well-versed in html. So please, if you would like to comment, drop me a line at sparki777 (at) yahoo (dot) com


Tuesday, April 22, 2003

In case you're interested, the patron saint I chose is St. Agnes of Prague. My sponsor asked me how I came up with this lesser-known saint, and the funny version is I was looking up a list of patrons and saw "laundresses." I thought to myself, hey, I do a lot of laundry, so I decided to investigate all the saints on that short list, which included St. Clare of Assisi. St. Agnes of Prague was a member of the "Poor Clares" order. But the rest of the story is that my Catholic grandmother (my mom's mom who died in 1998) had wanted all of us girls to be named Agnes, and my parents ignored her. They also didn't raise us kids in the Church like Grandma wanted. So when I started looking for a patron saint, I had it in my head that it would be nice to find an Agnes to aspire after, and sort of make two of Grandma's wishes come true at once. I was impressed with Agnes of Prague's generosity and simple ministries for the poor (such as cooking or mending and washing their clothing). She also had an on-going correspondence with St. Clare, and she was a relative of St. Elisabeth of Hungary, the "name-saint" I chose for my baby daughter. All this to say, St. Agnes of Prague "felt right" to me, and I hope she doesn't mind taking me on.

My husband, incidentally, chose St. Columcille (pronounced, he tells me, "Collum-keel"). And since my son has a penchant for naming every stuffed animal, wild bird, stray cat, fly, mosquito or other creature "Hubert," I've decided that it's unusual for a 3.5-yr-old to have latched onto this particular name with such tenacity, so maybe it's a spiritual sign that I am supposed to teach him more about St. Hubert of Liege. Or is that me lapsing into some old, Pentacostal wackiness?

I'm comfortable with learning about these saints and aspiring after them and even celebrating their Feast Days. Praying to them is still a hurdle for me. I feel awkward, and I honestly don't know what to say. If there isn't already a written prayer for the saint, then I wouldn't know where to begin.

I have been trying to say the Rosary. I was so often interrupted, that I gave up for a while. This morning, I was able to pray the whole thing from start to finish early on before everybody else was awake. The baby cried out just as I announced the second Mystery, but I held my breath and interjected a short prayer that she'd go back to sleep, and I guess she did. So I am going to try to do this every morning. I used to do sit-ups and other light exercises...hmmm....maybe I'll have to set my alarm 20 minutes earlier so I can pray and then do the sit-ups and stuff.

I have high hopes for the effect saying the Rosary daily will have on my life. Not sure exactly what those hopes are, but there is a great sense of anticipation in my soul when I sit down with my beautiful rose-colored beads, courtesy of my dear friend and sponsor.


Monday, April 21, 2003

"Taste and see that the Lord is good!"

I forgot to write about what it was to receive Our Lord for the first time. And now that I have remembered to make a note of it, I find the words of the English Language completely lacking.

I didn't know what to expect. I tried to prepare myself for this wonderful moment, perhaps in an attempt to sear the experience in my brain so I would never forget, never lapse into complacency. I had feared I would have doubts about the True Presence, but there were none.

In retrospect, receiving Holy Communion was amazingly simple. And I love that. I love the fact that it wasn't a riot of flavors like a good Indian curry or a bubbly sensation like champagne or anything like any other edible experience I've ever had. I love the fact that it was a bite-sized amount, not a mouthful. It was basic and pure and plain and holy. Like grain is a basic building block of most meals (bread, rice, noodles, etc.), Holy Eucharist is the basic building block of spiritual food.

I want to go to Mass again and again and again. I want to keep receiving Our Lord this way. And I want to be worthy to receive Him that way.

Which is why I have to wait again. I had a frustrating few moments this morning, and my mouth got ahead of me: I took the Lord's name in vain. Siiiiiiigh. I was instantly sorry, but the deed was already done. I've been Catholic all of 40 hours and I'm already screwing up. Well. On to confession again this week.

At least there is absolution when one is Catholic.

Easter Sunday

I wish I could say waking up Catholic felt a lot different than waking up non-Catholic, but when you have two small kids, it's pretty much always the same: any time you hope to sleep in a little, one or the other munchkin wakes up extra early. It's almost like they have some sort of internal radar. And already, they both know better than to wake Daddy up. It's okay, though. I actually like the early morning one-on-one time with one of my kids on the rare days it happens.

We'd thought about attending Mass at 9:30 as usual, but DH had trouble getting out of bed so we decided to let the kids find their Easter baskets and go to a later afternoon Mass at a different parish.

By noon, we were all on our way to the family farm, including our dog. This is my husband’s family farm, not mine. I grew up in Chicagoland, surrounded by concrete. The Hansen farm has been in the family for well over 100 years now, and my in-laws live in the frame house that Great-Grandpa Hansen built himself with a kit around 1909, I think. The original farm grew to quite a large number of acres when Great-Great-Grandpa was running it, but it's been carved up in enough portions for offspring that my father-in-law and his siblings are down to about 240 acres. My father-in-law and one of his brothers run the operation, now. They plant corn and soybeans, like most of the rest of Nebraska, and they have a portion set aside for native prairie grass reclamation, plus a large pond, which is home to beavers and frequently visited by owls, eagles, deer, coyotes and other wildlife. For a city girl like me, it's a pretty magical place.

After dinner, my husband took our son, two nephews, a niece and our dog out for a walk to the pond. My father-in-law, his brother and some of the other men were talking in the kitchen, and I joined the rest of the adults at the dining room table with the baby on my lap. And then my mother-in-law started dropping hints that she wanted to talk about religion.

I probably haven't mentioned this yet, but my husband's family is not entirely open to the Catholic faith. Well, to be perfectly honest, some of them are pretty hostile toward Catholicism. I don't have any good reasons why. My husband told his dad we were converting a few weeks ago, and while my father-in-law was respectful, he indicated that he didn't think it was a good idea, and then when we were leaving, he grabbed my husband and me and cried.

We attribute most of this reaction to simply not understanding Catholicism. My husband grew up with a lot of misconceptions about the Catholic Faith -- ideas that my in-laws still believe. It took a long time -- years -- for my husband to overcome some of these beliefs, and I certainly don't expect my in-laws to take any less time.

Anyway, my dear father-in-law had said he'd tell my husband's mom himself, but I guess he never got around to it. A few weeks ago, she called and I let it slip that we'd been to St. Mary's -- not thinking about the fact that any church called "St. Mary's" is probably going to be Catholic! She didn't say anything at the time, but there she was yesterday, trying to work religion into the conversation like a hound dog going after a treed possum. Hmm, that's not a very attractive way to say it. Kindly replace "hound dog" with "honey bee" and "treed possum" with "flower's secret nectar." Much better.

Initially, I thought the news would be best coming from my husband, so I politely ignored the hints. And then she finally asked me point blank, "What church are you going to now."

I might have hesitated a second, I don't remember. But I smiled and said, "Actually, we joined St. Mary's last night."

"Really?" she answered, in a tone that sounded surprised and not surprised all at once. My husband's brother and his wife were sitting there, and their jaws dropped. I didn't look to see how anybody else reacted, but they're pretty much all fundamentalist Protestants, so I can guess.

I said a few things about liking the church and the pastor -- important criteria from a Protestant perspective -- and then mercifully, the baby filled her diaper, so I excused myself to go change her. I don't think I've ever been so happy to see baby poop in my life.

So what happens now? You got me. My husband's not worried about it. I'm sure tongues were wagging after we left, but since they are all part of the "once saved, always saved" crowd, I don't think they'll be all that worried. The subject might never come up again. Heck, they all had plenty of notice when we started going to that Anglican church 6 years ago. They were all around for my kids' baptisms there, so they knew how "Catholic-y" we were becoming. You'd think.

Sorry for the delay. I'm generally away from my computer all weekend. Still working on the comments thing. I will have to have an HTML-literate buddy help me out. In the meantime, if you wish to comment either publicly or privately, won't you please send me e-mail? sparki777 (at) yahoo (dot) com

Holy Saturday -- Easter Vigil


I spent the day nervously trying to get everything in order. Did a bunch a laundry. Helped our son finish the giant paper mache Easter eggs that we were to give to his cousins. Tried on my outfit again. Ran to the Catholic bookstore to look for a gift for our sponsors, a Rosary for my husband and a few things for the kids' Easter baskets. I didn't find a gift (I have a thing about knick-knacks) and I couldn't decide on a Rosary, so I just bought books for the children. Then back home to shower, scribble out instructions for the sitter, nurse the baby, dress and head out the door.

My husband always looks splendid in a suit. I managed to fit into a pre-pregnancy get-up and pull it off rather well. We arrived at the church a few minutes later than anticipated. Mostly because the baby started wailing when I said good-bye (I don't think she recognized me in something other than jeans). But it was just final comments from the priest and a few other details to go over, so we didn't miss much.

I suppose the Easter Vigil Mass is the same everywhere. We filed in as a group, then they started turning off the lights. One of our regular readers is married to a blind woman, so she did all the readings out of a Braille Bible. It was riveting -- only one small flame that drew the eye, and then a mellow, patient voice reading the Word of God.

When the lights came on, the orchestra in the choir loft came in loud and clear with timpani and trumpets. Just the sort of thing to make your heart leap into your throat. An amazing feast of the senses.

After that, baptisms. I was the last one in line (conditional), and it was my third baptism so I hope this one takes. (My first baptismal certificate was thrown away in a fit of pentacostalism and my parents couldn't remember what parish I was baptized in, so I wasn't able to find the original. And I didn't have a certificate from my second baptism, either.)

Then the profession of faiths from the other candidates, including my husband. Then confirmation. Then Holy Communion. You'll be happy to know I didn’t trip or spill the wine when I brought it forward.

All in all, quite the glorious experience. Our sponsors gave us beautiful rosaries afterwards, so I'm glad I didn't find one for my husband. And one of the priests saw us open the packages so he popped right over to bless them for us.

We got home shortly after 11:15, and the kids were both still up, and both still happy. I guess the sitter won the baby over right away and she didn't cry at all. (The baby, not the sitter. Or maybe both of them were dry-eyed all night. I didn't ask.) Originally, I had hoped to have the kids with us during Easter Vigil, but in retrospect, it worked out better that we had a sitter. It would have been too hard to keep such small kids in line, especially since neither of them were in the mood to sleep. We're doing their profession of faith next Saturday.

We finally got the kids down shortly before midnight, but then neither one of us could sleep. I was hungry -- I hadn't been able to eat much all day -- so my husband dashed out for late-night burgers from the A&W. Sort of a funny way to close the day. I slept well after that, though. It was a good day. A grand day.

Friday, April 18, 2003

About 14 years ago, I was still an atheist. I hadn't been raised to believe in anything, really, so it was no surprise that I didn't have a notion of God as a Real Entity. I thought God was a nice idea, and every once in a great while, I prayed to God or read the Bible or tried on some other "moral behavior" as a test run. And then I had this very tangible encounter with God. It's a long story, but suffice to say that one moment I didn't believe God was really out there somewhere, and the next, I felt like I was staring Him in the Face.

I didn't know what to do, having had next to nothing in the way of religious education. I called around to a couple of churches and a Jewish synagogue to find out what the next step was. Most of the people seemed to be surprised to be having such a conversation with somebody like me. I am pretty sure I called a Catholic priest, but I can't remember the conversation at all.

At the time, I was bunking with an old acquaintence, sleeping on her floor until I could get my act together. She was going to this dynamic, "fun," charismatic Assemblies of God church, so out of respect to her, I tagged along for a couple of weeks. I had been asking God what He wanted me to do, but I was completely unable to figure out any form of an answer. So I had a heart-to-heart chat with Him one night, and I told Him something like, "Okay, I can't ignore You any more, and I guess You want me to be a Christian now since that's the God who seems to be making Himself known to me, so I'll do it. But I'm gonna warn You right now that I am probably going to be the sorriest Christian You ever saw. I'll do my best, but I can't see this working out very well." And that was my "profession of faith."

I feel something similar right now. I feel like I'm going to be the worst screw-up of a Catholic that ever walked the planet. I forget to genuflect. I cross myself at the "wrong" times and neglect to do it at the "right" times. I get prayers mixed up or forget to say them entirely.

And then there is the issue of habitual sin. Some of it is so engrained in my character that I can hardly fathom overcoming it. A vice, I guess they call it. The worst one for me is my tongue. I grew up telling lies and avoiding or embellishing the truth. Part of it was survival skills. Part of it was a desperate attempt to be noticed and liked ("edited truth" always had so much more "punch" than the plain truth). Part of it was because nobody ever told me not to and I always got better responses when I "tweaked" things a little. But that's neither here nor there now. The fact of the matter is, it sometimes seems impossible for me to stick to the absolute truth, with no embellishments or what have you.

I have long been weary and ashamed of this sin and have often done my best to exert my moral will and self control over the issue. But I always seem to slip back into fabricaton and embellishment. I was eager to confess this yesterday and eager to be absolved. I knew there wouldn't be a "Presto!" effect that rendered me whole immediately, but I had hoped for some sort of indication that I'd have some newfound grace with which to battle this. I can't really tell, but I've decided to walk in faith that God's doing something, and that receiving the True Body and Blood from here on out will provide me with that special Grace I've been missing. I hope that's how it works, anyway.

Over on Two Sleepy Mommies (boy, I hope that link thingamabob works), Pansy posted some prayers for Good Friday today. One of them is a prayer that you say for intention, 33 times between noon and 3 today. So I am going to say this prayer 33 times, asking God to tame my lying tongue and help me speak honestly all the time. I am not sure of these types of prayers, but I am going to give it a shot.

And the "Jesus Prayer" couldn't hurt, either: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner."


I'm trying to figure out how one adds comment capability to one's blog. Have I mentioned that I am barely computer literate? I just got the "easy to follow instructions" from one site and I can't make heads or tails from them. So it may be a while.

Thursday, April 17, 2003

Well, welcome.

Not sure if this post will actually "take" or not. It's my third try. I'm doing something wrong, I guess. I think the first post was too long. I think I hit the wrong "post" button for my second.

In case you haven't noticed, I'm barely computer literate. I'm lucky I know how to turn my iMac on and type at all.

So, here we are on Holy Thursday. Last night was a rehearsal for all the RCIA grads, so we know what to do on Saturday night. My husband, myself and 23 or so other folks. Not including the children. I'm excited. I'm nervous. Big formal things like this always make me nervous, and this Easter Vigil is ten times more complex than our wedding was. I'm being conditionally baptized (my baptismal certificate is missing), and then, of course, my husband and I are both being confirmed and both receiving our first Communion. Our kids are pretty young, so we're doing their profession of faith and acceptance into the church a week from Saturday, I think. After things have settled down a bit.

I get to bring the wine forward during Easter Vigil. My heart sunk when the priest first told me I was to do it because I could picture myself tripping and splattering wine every which way. But now I think it's a great privilege. So if you happen to be reading this, pray that I don't trip, okay?

I made my first Confession today. Having 30+ years to build up a list of sins is pretty intimidating. I walked to the cathedral, and I was in tears two blocks before I got there, so I had to go to the ladies room to settle myself down before I headed to the confessionals. The priest was exceedingly kind and patient with me. At our parish, we're allowed to go through the 10 Commandments for our first confession, just to help us get through it more efficiently, I suppose.

My list was long. And that was me trying to hit the highlights and speak in general terms like, "I have participated in gossip more times than I can count." By comparison, I thought my penance was light. I would have been much tougher on myself. Can you multiply your penance a little -- like do twice as much as the priest asks of you -- or is that disrespectful? A question for my sponsor, I guess.

I was very glad to say the Act of Contrition and to hear the words of Absolution. I wish I could say I feel completely fresh and clean. Maybe I will after receiving the Eucharist? I guess it's best to let these feelings grow, rather than try to conjure them up or analyze yourself to death wondering why the feelings aren't quite there. I am glad I went. Back when I was still a Protestant, I didn't see the need for confession. After living on this earth for so long and failing in my moral resolve time and time again, I've come to think it's crucial.

Now if I can just manage to stay out of mortal sin from now until Easter Vigil.