The One Reason I Don’t Veil at Mass

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Veiling.

As a relative newcomer to the Church, I usually like to stay away from those lively, in-house hot buttons. I feel like a newly adopted kid giving her new family relationship advice – what do I know about it, anyway? I haven’t been part of the conversation that started so many years ago. Even for subjects that I do know some things about – like say feminism – the whole conversation has been reframed in a new and completely different context, and I just need to sit and listen for a while before I say a word.

But veiling.

I keep coming back to this one.

You see, as a Protestant, I practiced veiling – only, we called it “covering.”

Image result for desiree hausam headcovering
Summer, 2013

Same difference. Here’s a shot of my girls and I outside our old Presbyterian church (before we got banned – but that’s a different topic).

Sola Scriptura

We adopted this practice because of Sola Scriptura. Our personal interpretation of the Bible (informed by a variety of Bible teachers) was that women should veil in worship, and so we did. At times, a couple of other women in the congregation covered as well, but it was a minority position and tended to cause some in-house tension. At the end of my time there, I was the only woman who practiced it – along with being part of the only family who didn’t sing the hymns. Every Sunday felt like my own personal protest, staged against my brothers and sisters whom I dearly loved and desired unity with. But I could not deny what I saw in the Bible. Ultimately this path led to our complete breakage from our church home of 14 years.

By the time we later washed up on the shores of the Catholic Church, I was exhausted and heartbroken from the conflicts we had been through.  Week after week, I still faced the choice: continue to veil? Or set it aside?

Well, when I learned that the official position of the Church on veiling is that it is no longer Canon Law, and is an optional practice (want more meat? Try this one), I decided to lay my veil aside, for one reason only.

I don’t veil because 99% of the ladies in my parish also don’t veil. I’ve done my time as a Protestant; I protested until it broke my heart, for the sake of my interpretation of the Bible. That’s the fate of a Protestant who takes Sola Scriptura completely seriously. But I hung all that up when I chose to submit to the inspired guidance of the Magisterium of the Church.

The Priceless Unity of the Church

For those ladies that do veil, I have nothing but respect. It’s a beautiful, reverent devotion, and it is affirmed as valid by the Church. My heart warms to see the ladies who do it. We all come from different places, and are blessed by different devotions. I am often encouraged to see the same attitude from the veiling folks:

“Whether you join us in the devotion of wearing a chapel veil or not, we are your sisters. Let us truly be in communion. Let us pray for one another.” – Birgit Jones

But I am saddened and troubled when I occasionally encounter the attitude that it is irreverent not to veil – in Facebook threads, usually.

One thing I love about the Church is that she permits so many varied expressions of true spirituality without division. We have many different vocations, devotions, practices that are approved, and we have to accept one another under the shelter of Rome. Differences exactly like the question of veiling routinely sunder the Protestant world – yet Catholics hold together, because we all agree that the Church, not us, decides who is Biblical and reverent, and who isn’t.

The unity of faith and practice that the Catholic Church has is a priceless treasure. For a former Presbyterian, used to the endless shattering of denominations, it is simply a miracle. It IS a miracle, friends – the only reason we can all hold together is through the inspiration of the Spirit to the Magisterium of the Church.

Conclusion

So, for me, with my background and experiences, to veil in a parish setting where nearly no one else does disrupts my sense of finally belonging to a community with whom I have no quarrel. To lay it aside was an act of trust in the Church – a setting aside of my Sola Scriptura conviction in favor of submitting to the Church’s conclusion on the subject. I would don my veil again in a heartbeat if the Church asked me to, but until then, I go bareheaded in trust that this, too, is reverent.

Do you veil at Mass? Why or why not? Grab some coffee, let’s chat!

If you are thinking of starting to veil, remember that Ebates members get 5% cash back at The Catholic Company!

 

Catholic Piety for Protestants No. 3: St. Patrick’s Breastplate

(This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission from purchases made through affiliate links. My opinions are entirely my own. You can see my full disclosure policy here.  Thanks bunches.)

Welcome to the third post of my series on Catholic piety for Protestants and converts; in this series I am delving into some of the classic prayers of the Church. Catholic piety is not typically well understood in Protestant circles, and as a convert I found this to be an area that was both fascinating and also deeply important to my changing perceptions of the Church.

Other posts in the series: The Anima Christi, and The Peace Prayer of St. Francis.

St. Patrick’s Breastplate (or the Lorica of St. Patrick)
The Prayer

Full text:

I arise today Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, Through belief in the Threeness, Through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.

I arise today Through the strength of Christ’s birth with His baptism, Through the strength of His crucifixion with His burial, Through the strength of His resurrection with His ascension, Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.

I arise today Through the strength of the love of cherubim, In the obedience of angels, In the service of archangels, In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward, In the prayers of patriarchs, In the predictions of prophets, In the preaching of apostles, In the faith of confessors, In the innocence of holy virgins, In the deeds of righteous men.

I arise today, through The strength of heaven, The light of the sun, The radiance of the moon, The splendor of fire, The speed of lightning, The swiftness of wind, The depth of the sea, The stability of the earth, The firmness of rock.

I arise today, through God’s strength to pilot me, God’s might to uphold me, God’s wisdom to guide me, God’s eye to look before me, God’s ear to hear me, God’s word to speak for me, God’s hand to guard me, God’s shield to protect me, God’s host to save me From snares of devils, From temptation of vices, From everyone who shall wish me ill, afar and near.

I summon today All these powers between me and those evils, Against every cruel and merciless power that may oppose my body and soul, Against incantations of false prophets, Against black laws of pagandom, Against false laws of heretics, Against craft of idolatry, Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards, Against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul; Christ to shield me today Against poison, against burning, Against drowning, against wounding, So that there may come to me an abundance of reward.

***Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.***

I arise today Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, Through belief in the Threeness, Through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.

***The starred portion is often used alone as an abbreviated version. Text from Our Catholic Prayers.

Impact:

There is a common Protestant misconception that Catholics don’t know Jesus, aren’t Christians, or are so distracted by Mary and the saints that they don’t think about Jesus that much.

This is maybe the #1 misconception that needs to be overcome (either that, or Sola Scriptura). Our Protestant brothers and sisters love Jesus, and they need to find out that we do, too! I have said before that conflict and confusion drove me to the doors of the Church, but Jesus pulled me inside. All I had to do was darken that door with a truly open mind, and I recognized that Jesus was there in a way that I had not found before. For me, that open mind was caused by the collapse of my previous views and my forcible ejection from my former community, but it might not have to be that way for everyone. Some of us might be a little more stubborn than others. Maybe.

There are lots of ways in which Jesus is present in the Church, but prayers like this are so accessible. It is hard to say that a Catholic doesn’t care about Christ when she is reverently praying, “Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me...”

The Facts

Our Catholic Prayers says:

“St. Patrick’s Breastplate is a popular prayer attributed to one of Ireland’s most beloved patron saints. According to tradition, St. Patrick wrote it in 433 A.D. for divine protection before successfully converting the Irish King Leoghaire and his subjects from paganism to Christianity. (The term breastplate refers to a piece of armor worn in battle.)”

The prayer is also known as The Lorica of St. Patrick, and the Cry of the Deer. There have been a number of musical adaptations, including the one included below.

Further Resources

Musically, I may be in a bit of a rut, but I am finding that John Michael Talbot has sung so many of these prayers, and I have known these songs for years before I knew them as anything else. Do you have a favorite musical version?

Gift Ideas for Catholic Converts & Reverts

(This post contains referral and affiliate links. I receive a small commission through my affiliate and referral links at no impact to your shopping experience. My opinions are entirely my own. You can see my full disclosure policy here.  Thanks bunches.) 

Welcome to my Gifts for Converts and Reverts Roundup!

With the Christmas season just barely peeking around the corner and the RCIA/Religious Ed. year getting into full swing, this seems like the perfect time to pull together a gift guide. When a person is new to and still unfamiliar with the Church, there are specific items and resources that would be very helpful and welcome as gifts.

Small Catholic Businesses and Artisans
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Sweet Little Ones Shop

First off, I would like to introduce you to some small Catholic businesses and artisans that create and sell Catholic gifts online.

These are wonderful places to find handmade rosaries, beautiful prints and printables, liturgical calendars, jewelry, dolls, and more. I love to support Catholic artisans and small businesses anytime I can!

Many of these fine shops can be found on Etsy.com, so I do want to pass along that Etsy participates in Ebates! Woot! If you are not familiar with Ebates, it is a free membership that offers cash back when you shop online at hundreds of major stores including Target, Amazon, eBay (!), The Catholic Company (!!), and Etsy.  There are also in-store rebates to be had.

I have been a member of Ebates for several years; I’m not much of a shopper, but even so, I’ve gotten over $150 cash back so far – and they did pay it out. I think the minimum payout threshold is $5, so they don’t sit around on your money, either.

Finally, Ebates is currently offering a $10 Welcome Bonus to all new members who make a qualifying purchase of $25 within 90 days of signing up. So, if you choose to shop on Etsy (or just about anywhere else online) this season, check out Ebates to get some cash back on your purchases, diffuse the Christmas shopping bills, and support small businesses too.

Without further ado, ready to meet some awesome artisans?

Liturgical Calendars, Prints, and Art

Rose Harrington Shop – A variety of prints, including botanical mysteries of the Rosary.2017-2018 Liturgical Calendars

Telos Art – The liturgical year is confusing when you aren’t used to it! These beautiful calendars would make amazing gifts for someone new to the Catholic Church.

Miscellaneous Handmade
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Happy Nest Home Goods

Peter’s Square – This is not an individual seller but a “community of Catholic makers.” There are currently nearly 100 different sellers on there with a dizzying array of goods. (I am especially fond of the “Heretical Nonsense” book stamp!I love that all sellers donate at least 5% of proceeds to the Church and her ministries. Grab some coffee – you might be there awhile!

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My Little Felt Friends

Hair Bows 4 Life – Beautiful handmade hair bows including bows featuring saint medals, bows for baptisms and First Communion, bows for holidays and feasts, bows honoring the Blessed Virgin, and much more. 10% of all sales are donated to the Pro-Life community.

SaongJai – Rosaries, jewelry, cards, printables, and more.

Happy Nest Home Goods – Embroidered goods, wall art, and awesome diffuser jewelry.

My Little Felt Friends – Adorable handmade saint dolls, bookmarks, headbands, keychains, Jesse Tree ornaments, Nativity scenes, DIY nativity+scenekits, and finger puppets. Custom orders welcome!

Arma Dei – “Equipping Catholic Families.” Great selection of craft kits, books, cards, all with catechetics in mind.

Kidderbug Kreations– Christmas ornaments and a wide variety of made-to-order items.

Printables

Sweet Little Ones Shop – Religious art is important and uplifting, but it can be expensive for a convert to update the artwork in their home to reflect their faith. This shop offers beautiful printable artwork, uplifting words, and quotes from saints to affordably add to the beauty of the Catholic home.

Handmade Rosaries, Jewelry, Etc.

relicsbyrose

AveMariaFaithcrafts – Rosaries, necklaces, earrings, saint necklaces, and more.

Relics by Rose – Handmade bracelets, necklaces, rosaries, keychains.

Additional Gift Ideas

Some other good possibilities might include:

  • Books. There is so much to learn! Check out my Reading List for an exhaustive list of books for converts.
  • A wall crucifix. We were so happy to receive one from our sponsors!
  • Prayer cards. I think a little collection of prayer cards would be a thoughtful gift; converts often don’t know the classic prayers by heart.
  • Art and home decor. Like I mentioned above, sacred art is an important and uplifting thing. If a family is starting from zero religious art and decor, this can be an appreciated and lasting gift.
In Closing

I hope this little gift guide was helpful as we head toward the holidays and through the RCIA year. The final, and really best, gift suggestion I have to make is this: time. Converts can be lonely. They may have recently lost friends and been rejected by family over their conversion. They can feel confused, out of place, worried. In short, they need a friend! Go have coffee. Invite them to dinner. Say hi to their kids. These things can be a cup of cold water to someone who is walking an unfamiliar road.

Remember to sign up for Ebates before you shop to get a $10 Welcome Bonus and cash back on your shopping!

Linked up at Theology is a Verb and Reconciled to You.

Marian Virtue Series: Constant Mental Prayer

This post is a part of a Marian Virtue Series, running every Wednesday and Friday. It will conclude on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. If you are just joining the series now and want to learn more you can start here: Introduction to Marian Virtue Series.

Previous Blog Article: Surpassing Purity at The Lemke Lodge.

Next Blog Article: Universal Mortification at Coffee and Pearls.

This post features a giveaway from Sancta Bovina. Please keep reading to find out more!

“Won’t you take me as your child of light? Break me if you must, I do not care, ’til every breath I breathe is a song of praise, every heartbeat is a prayer.” Randy Stonehill, Every Heartbeat is a Prayer.

Coram Deo. 

That was the theme for orientation week when I was a freshman at an Evangelical college, pretty much forever ago now. Someplace, maybe at my parents’ house, I still have my bright yellow name tag with that phrase splashed across it in a bold, jazzy black font. A lot has changed since I wore it; marriage, 8 children, and a faith journey I did not expect. One thing that is the same since those days, though, is my desire and struggle to live out that theme: Coram Deo.

Coram Deo means “in the presence of God.” The idea is to live before the face of God, aware of His presence and in constant fellowship with Him. This is the same foundational concept as the fifth Marian Virtue in our series: Constant Mental Prayer.

Constant Mental Prayer

Constant prayer can sound a little intimidating if you are thinking of a narrow view of prayer, of simply verbally addressing God. Once, I heard someone refer to constant mental prayer as the activity of going through your day, continually mentally reciting a prayer such as the Our Father or Hail Mary.

If that works for you, well, you do you, friend. If I didn’t die of monotony, I’m pretty sure I’d burn the pork chops, get into a car wreck, or yell at some miscreant child, “BLESSED ART THOU! I MEAN KNOCK IT OFF!!” Mom points: 0.

I don’t think that’s what is meant by constant mental prayer, thankfully.  In an interview with Zenit, Fr. Jacques Phillipe describes mental prayer as being more properly thought of as interior prayer, an interior attitude of desire and confidence in God, and the humility to accept our poverty before God and wait for Him in all things.

St. Therese of Lisieux says:

“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and love, embracing both trial and joy.”

And, Padre Pio says this:

“Prayer is the oxygen of the soul.”

Our bodies are not always consciously breathing. But we live in an oxygen-rich atmosphere, upon which we always depend. This kind of prayer is the same – we’re not always talking, not always thinking. But we should be always striving to live in an atmosphere of love, friendship, and devotion to God as we go about our other activities.

Prayer in Mary’s Life

Constant Mental Prayer is, of course, a gift of grace – something that we strive for and ask for God’s grace in our hearts, and cooperate with that grace when we find it.

Fr. Phillipe’s thoughts on mental, or interior, prayer also help me understand how Mary, a wife and mom with daily earthly responsibilities, could still possess this virtue without neglecting her family. Her moral perfection means that whatever else was going on, she was aware of and happy in God’s presence, like we might enjoy the presence of a friend or spouse even when we are consciously focused on another task. We can know for sure that the graces given to Mary filled her with those three principles of interior prayer that Fr. Phillipe mentioned: a true desire for God, confidence in God, and her profound humility.

Constant Mental Prayer for the Rest of Us

So how can we cultivate this virtue in our lives?

Practice. While the idea at hand is one of a constant state of interior prayer, that doesn’t exclude other forms of prayer. In the book Ordinary Path to Holiness, R. Thomas Richard compares stages of prayer to stages of growth and development in other areas of our life, with spoken prayers being the first stage (but a stage that we never outgrow!). A regular practice of spoken prayer is absolutely necessary to our being able to begin to live Coram Deo – before the face of God.

Accomplishing this can be really hard. We’re all busy, some more than others, and it can be really, really difficult to squeeze that time into our day. That’s legit. I’m not going to guilt trip anybody and say that you need to be devoting such-and-such an amount of time to be truly striving after this amazing virtue. That’s between you and God. Listen to the Spirit, and if that doesn’t get you where you want to be, chat with your priest. He might have some good ideas.

Time isn’t the only challenge to pursuing prayer. Unconfessed sin, dryness, laziness, and even heartbreak can cause us to shrink back from trying to connect with God. We all have these problems, but don’t live there. That’s like trying to save yourself from strangling by holding your breath.

One way in which I try to pursue this virtue is to try to say a Morning Offering first thing when I get up, devoting everything that happens that day to God and offering it up to Him.  This frames my whole day, and helps me remember what it’s really all about. (Psst – I offer a free printable of a Morning Offering prayer as a free gift when you join my email list! 🙂 )

Mary, Untier of Knots, pray for us!

One lucky reader will win a Love like Mary coffee mug from Sancta Bovina. The mug will be a great reminder to love like our blessed mother. 

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Congratulations to Chastity F! Thank you for reading and entering the giveaway! Don’t forget to check out the rest of the posts in this series!

Sancta Bovina or “Holy Cow” in Latin sells modern Catholic gifts. Because it’s okay to have fun while striving for the good, the true, & the beautiful.

Please support this amazing Catholic artist (and convert!), and continue to join us in this Marian Virtue Series.  

Vanity, Faith, and Hard Times: Believing in God’s Love When Everything Goes Wrong

“Eight kids!? Wow, that’s great. As long as you can support them, that’s great.”

Preparing for my daughter to be released from the hospital after a long and exhausting week, I was chatting with one of the nurses. Making conversation, she had asked me how many kids we had.

I might not have really noticed her reply, other than that it was said (all unknowing) shortly after my husband had lost his job, and therefore hit me like a punch to the gut. We were in a terrifying place of uncertainty and insecurity at that time.

Let me just toss out there that no one knows, when they have a baby or two, what the next 20 years will bring. No one knows if the economy will crash, wipe out savings, and gut the field where the breadwinner is competitive. No one knows if a job will be lost and hard to replace, or a disability or injury will run up medical bills and limit employability, or a spouse will die, or a child will have special needs that preclude that second job and rack up bills.

No one knows if a shift in the political landscape will send your insurance premiums through the roof, or eject you from your policy altogether. No one knows if, after you lose your insurance, somebody will get cancer.

No one knows. So we try to prepare, as best we can, for all of them. And some of us win. Our preparations are on point, and we get lucky and evade the disaster we couldn’t have withstood.

And, some of us lose. Some plan for all the wrong contingencies, and get slammed by the crisis no one saw coming.

Then, if we “did it right” and remained self-sufficient through our kids’ childhoods (or maybe never had any kids for fear of not being able to support them), we can have a lot of pride and self-righteousness wrapped up in our “success,” as though it came from us, and not from Providence.

And for someone with kids and financial problems, there can be a lot of shame – but, paradoxically,  that shame can really be another form of pride. Our vanity is stung by our condition, and we can respond in two ways.

  1. Our problems might be “ALL our fault.” We can review every choice we ever made in the harsh light of hindsight, and become bitter against ourselves and those who counseled us.
  2. Or, we make excuses. We take our mistakes and missteps, and pretend that NONE of them were our fault, and that none of them could have possibly caused our problems.

I believe both of these responses are caused by vanity. If we allow ourselves too much pride when we land that job or promotion, buy the house or car, pay the bills and the debts, even give generously to charity, if we believe that we really did cause these things ourselves (rather than realizing that God blessed our labors, and that we may have had advantages that we didn’t earn), then conversely when we lose them, or can’t achieve them, we’ll feel the sting of shame and anger. Our wounded pride will turn on us like a treacherous friend.

And if we hit on hard times and focus too much on our shame and loss, then we are still viewing the situation through the self-centered eyes of vanity.

We might feel like we’re being humble by focusing on our humiliating circumstances, but it’s a trap, friends. Pride is sneaky like that. When we do this, we’ve made our world about us, about our own dreams or about how others view us, not about fulfilling God’s dream for us. In her excellent post on the profound humility of Mary, Chloe at Old Fashioned Girl says this:

“We often think that humility is about thinking less of ourselves, or thinking that we are not worthy. But the reality is that humility is not thinking less of ourselves, but thinking of ourselves less.”

The only escape from this net of pride and vanity is through grace. The grace to embrace a holy resignation to the will of God, and to trust that things are as they should be, though we feel that our very soul may bleed out from the pain, fear, and disappointment we face. The grace to know that when a well-meaning stranger says that kids are great if you can support them, that the reality is that sometimes you might have to get help, and kids are still great anyway. The grace to know that “success” in the eyes of God has nothing to do with your credit score, whether you are debt-free, or your level of financial independence (which is largely imaginary, anyway. All of us are highly dependent to one degree or another on the social network in which we live).

Shame isn’t always a bad thing, of course. Shame as part of repentance for sin is completely appropriate. But even then, as Fr. Mike Schmitz mentions in his video on learning from the past that I put up on Facebook the other day, dwelling on these things too much and refusing to move on after we repent can also be a form of self-centeredness.  As St. Teresa of Calcutta said:

“Give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in His love than in your own weakness.” 

Catholic Piety for Protestants No. 2: The Peace Prayer of St. Francis

(This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission from purchases made through affiliate links. My opinions are entirely my own. You can see my full disclosure policy here.  Thanks bunches.)

Welcome to the second post of my series on Catholic piety for Protestants and converts; in this series I am delving into some of the classic prayers of the Church. Catholic piety is not typically well understood in Protestant circles, and as a convert I found this to be an area that was both fascinating and also deeply important to my changing perceptions of the Church.

If you missed the first post in the series, check it out here.

The Peace Prayer of St. Francis
The Prayer:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
 
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen.

Impact:

My conversion happened at a crisis point in our lives. As I mentioned in my Reflection after the Easter Vigil, I was feeling pretty crushed by life when I first darkened the door of the Church. This prayer spoke to my soul, that in crisis, in rejection, in sadness, loss, and even despair, with Jesus in me, I could sow joy. I did not have to be a victim of my circumstances, always reacting, always on the defensive, but I could forget myself and serve others, even coming from a place of great lack in terms of both material goods and also emotional stamina.

In conflict with our previous church leaders, I could sow peace and pardon. In a place of despair regarding our financial future, I could lean on a strength not my own and sow hope to others.

In a place in my life where I deeply felt need of consolation and understanding, I could find purpose in offering these things to others, and forget my own craving for the comforting of my wounds. Jesus was strong enough to do these things in me, without my needing to be strong enough first.

None of these ideas were really new to me, as a believer from a Protestant background. The impact on me of many things I found in the Church didn’t always come from a place of striking difference from Protestant piety, but by an unexpected similarity met by a difference in tone and fueled by the hidden power of the Eucharist. Truths that I knew in my head and strove for in my soul sprang to life before the living reality I encountered each Sunday at the Mass.

The Facts:

Welp, friends, the first thing you find out when looking into the history of this prayer is that it didn’t actually come from St. Francis

Am I the only one that didn’t know this?

The prayer originated in France in the early 1900’s, published anonymously in a little spiritual magazine entitled La Clochette.  It became associated with St. Francis by virtue of having been published on the back of a holy card bearing St. Francis’s image, but without being attributed to him. (Dr. Christian Renoux, Franciscan Archive, 8/22/2017, 10:30 am).

The association with St. Francis makes a lot of sense, regardless of authorship; the spirit of the prayer is very much in accord with the life and spirituality of St. Francis. In the words of Jack Wintz, OFM: “Francis of Assisi may not have written the words of the prayer attributed to him, but he certainly lived them.”

Further Resources:

In closing, a musical rendition of the Peace Prayer, by John Michael Talbot. I love prayers set to good music!

 

Linked up at Reconciled To You.

Catholic Piety for Protestants Series Part 1: The Anima Christi

(This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission from purchases made through affiliate links. My opinions are entirely my own. You can see my full disclosure policy here.  Thanks bunches.)

If I had to choose the single most striking thing about our transition from conservative Presbyterianism to the Catholic Church, it’d be a tough call. There are quite a number of things I have changed my mind about, and it all adds up to a different, better religious life than what I had before.

But the thing the had the biggest personal impact on me is probably not what I would have expected. Changing my mind about Sola Scriptura, Mary and the saints, the Pope, images…these are not small issues. But the thing I least expected is far more subtle, and yet had an enormous impact on my conversion. What is this mighty thing?

Catholic piety.

Protestants have a lot of different perspectives on Catholics, and so if I seem to paint with a broad brush, forgive me. I speak from what I know and where I was. And where I was, I didn’t understand Catholic piety and spirituality at all, or even really believe it existed. I looked at the Church and her strange (to me) ways, and saw scary, creepy heresy. I saw layers of medieval superstition, instead of the clean, spare brightness of the Reformed tradition. I saw people enslaved to the outer trappings of an empty tradition.

In other words, I saw a fantasy concocted in my own mind and imbibed from the world in which I moved.

As I mentioned in my Reflection after the Easter Vigil, a memory that had a huge impact on me was that of hearing a gentleman behind me at Mass in our early days of visiting; he was participating in the prayers, and his voice overflowed with genuine faith. That moment has since struck me as a turning point in my attitude toward the Church and toward Catholics. It was the moment when I really internalized the fact that I had been dead wrong about the question of whether Catholics possessed a living faith in Jesus.


Tweet: I had been dead wrong about the question of whether Catholics possessed a living faith in Jesus.


There was so much more to the journey, and so many questions that had to be explored. This could never have been “The Reason” I converted, but that experience has become symbolic to me as that time I recognized the presence of my Lord, and could never look back.

So, I want to start a series on Catholic prayers and piety; a basic rundown of some of the classic Catholic prayers and how they reveal the heart of the Catholic Church. These prayers are a wealth of spiritual truths, and I think I am not the first nor the last Protestant to be surprised at the depths of love and faith that the Church has to share with the world.

First up:

The Anima Christi
The Prayer:
Soul of Christ, sanctify me
Body of Christ, save me
Blood of Christ, inebriate me
Water from the side of Christ, wash me
Passion of Christ, strengthen me
O good Jesus, hear me
Within Thy wounds hide me
Separated from Thee let me never be 
From the malicious enemy defend me 
In the hour of my death call me
And bid me come unto Thee
That I may praise Thee with Thy saints 
Forever and ever
Amen
Impact:

Praying and reflecting on these ancient words pulls the mind and heart to Christ. To someone who didn’t understand that the Catholic Church is all about Jesus, listening to the entirety of a large parish recite such a Christ-centered prayer with feeling was an experience that contributed to my changing perceptions of Catholics. 

The Facts:
  • Also known as The Aspirations of St. Ignatius Loyola.
  • Dates from the early 14th century
  • Often mistakenly ascribed to St. Ignatius Loyola, but predates him. St. Ignatius often references the prayer in his Spiritual Exercises
  • Often used as a communion hymn or prayer – sometimes in responsorial fashion

(Source: New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia)

Further Resources:

In closing, I’d like to share with you a beautiful rendition of the Anima Christi by John Michael Talbot (whose music is very worth exploring). I was familiar with John Michael Talbot before I knew much of anything about Catholicism, so I knew this song long before I knew where it came from.

I plan to make this an ongoing series. Do you have a favorite prayer that you’d like me to write about? Comment and let me know!

 

Catholic Piety for Protestants Series Vol. 2: The Peace Prayer of St. Francis

Linked up at: www.theologyisaverb.com and www.reconciledtoyou.com/blog.html

Grace, Works, and a Catholic Convert

(This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission from purchases made through affiliate links. My opinions are entirely my own. You can see my full disclosure policy here.  Thanks bunches.)

I used to think Catholics taught salvation by works, not grace. After all, they do teach that works are necessary for salvation, and that’s pretty much the same thing.

Right?

Well, no. I’ve mentioned before that as a new convert to the Catholic Church, I was continually surprised by the faith and piety that I encountered. I still notice, with joy and wonder, every time I go to a different parish and it, too, is jam-packed with people who obviously take their faith very seriously.

The same thing happened every time I dug into Catholic theology, including on the topics of grace, faith, works, and justification. I expected to find terrible, man-centered heresy. Instead, I found truth, and beauty.

So, I had some things wrong about grace, works, and merit before I converted.

~1~

“Catholics think they are saved by religion, not by Jesus.”

This is a common charge, and I would have said something like that, back in the day. I love this quote from Archbishop Fulton Sheen:

“Christianity is not a system of ethics, it is a life. It is not good advice, it is divine adoption. Being a Christian does not consist in just being kind to the poor, going to church, singing hymns, or serving on parish committees, though it includes all of these. It is first and foremost a love relationship with Jesus Christ.”

A lot of Protestants, my former self included, would be confused at best to hear these words coming from a highly respected Catholic. A love relationship with Jesus Christ”? Sounds like something straight out of a Bible church to me!

~2~

“Catholics think they are saved by their merit, not grace.”

The Catholic doctrines of merit sound like a foreign language to Protestants. Words and phrases like “merit,” the “treasury of merit,” or “indulgences” communicate to Protestants concepts that Catholics do not intend or believe. The main thing to bear in mind is that “merit,” when speaking of the merits of the saints, or our merits before God, doesn’t refer to anything that comes from us. Consider this quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, found online here:

“The charity of Christ is the source in us of all our merits before God. Grace, by uniting us to Christ in active love, ensures the supernatural quality of our acts and consequently their merit before God and before men. The saints have always had a lively awareness that their merits were pure grace.” – Catechism, Article 2, Section 1

Or this quote from St. Therese of Liseaux:

“After earth’s exile, I hope to go and enjoy you in the fatherland, but I do not want to lay up merits for heaven. I want to work for your love alone. . . . In the evening of this life, I shall appear before you with empty hands, for I do not ask you, Lord, to count my works. All our justice is blemished in your eyes. I wish, then, to be clothed in your own justice and to receive from your love the eternal possession of yourself.” – St. Thérèse of Lisieux, “Act of Offering” in Story of a Soul, tr. John Clarke (Washington DC: ICS, 1981), 277

For a more in-depth treatment, try this post from Called to Communion.

~3~

“Catholics think they are saved by faith + works, not faith alone.” There’s no room for grace.

You know, I remember from many conversations among Reformed friends about justification the favorite saying that “we are saved by faith alone, but not by faith that is alone.” I thought that the Catholic view that works, sanctification, etc., are all a part of justification was a corruption of the Gospel, detracting from the work of Christ on the cross.

Not so. Take this quote from Saint Augustine, widely loved and respected by Protestants:

“What merits of his own has the saved to boast of when, if he were dealt with according to his merits, he would be nothing if not damned? Have the just then no merits at all? Of course they do, for they are the just. But they had no merits by which they were made just” (Letters 194:3:6 [A.D. 412]).

“What merit, then, does a man have before grace, by which he might receive grace, when our every good merit is produced in us only by grace and when God, crowning our merits, crowns nothing else but his own gifts to us?” (Letters 194:5:19).

If you want to dig into this a little more, this article from Catholic Answers is very thorough and includes a helpful compilation of quotes from the Church Fathers. Also, Jimmy Akin has a characteristically super-thorough post on Justification by Faith Alone.

~4~

The Canons Council of Orange (529 A.D.) – the Council all Calvinists should read

I’m going to get really specific here for a minute. I was a Reformed Calvinist Protestant. Anyone who is, was, or knows a Calvinist needs to read and share the Canons of the Council of Orange. (You can find it online here.) It really tears down the idea that Catholics believe that they contribute anything to their salvation that does not come from God in the first place. In trying to select some quotes, I got frustrated, because I really want to share the whole thing with you! But here is a sample:

“That a man can do no good without God. God does much that is good in a man that the man does not do; but a man does nothing good for which God is not responsible, so as to let him do it.” Canon 20

And,

“Concerning those things that belong to man. No man has anything of his own but untruth and sin. But if a man has any truth or righteousness, it is from that fountain for which we must thirst in this desert, so that we may be refreshed from it as by drops of water and not faint on the way.” Canon 22

And,

“Concerning the will of God and of man. Men do their own will and not the will of God when they do what displeases him; but when they follow their own will and comply with the will of God, however willingly they do so, yet it is his will by which what they will is both prepared and instructed.” Canon 23

While I’m getting a little more technical than usual, some say that the Council of Trent (online here) contradicts the Council of Orange. Bryan Cross wrote a good post on that a while ago, found here.

Conclusion

So, when I was investigating the Catholic Church, I found out that my preconceptions and assumptions about the Church’s teaching on grace and works were plain wrong.  You can go as deep as you want on this topic (see some recommended reading below), but Archbishop Sheen summed up the simple truth perfectly in the quote from above:

“Christianity is not a system of ethics, it is a life. It is not good advice, it is divine adoption…It is first and foremost a love relationship with Jesus Christ.”

For Further Study

What is the Catholic Doctrine of Salvation – The Christian Freethinker

The Drama of Salvation – Jimmy Akin

Justification by Faith – Peter Kreeft

Moment by Moment: the secret of happiness for moms (and everybody else)

(This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission from purchases made through affiliate links. My opinions are entirely my own. You can see my full disclosure policy here.  Thanks bunches.)

“The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for all that He, in His goodness, sends to us day after day.” ~ St. Gianna

So the last few years, my life has felt like one long stroll in front of a firehose. Can you relate? I don’t need to rehash all the things that have happened – some wonderful, some hard, some heartbreaking. Some I have written about, and some are just too personal to share with you all. We all have those times, and even in the times when life is on the calm side, kids get crazy. Like all day, every day crazy!

In the middle of it all, moms have to ride the crazy and be a mother to each of her kids. Every one of them is a blessing and a gift, and each one needs and deserves a mother who is present to them, now, even especially when life Just. Won’t. Stop.

How do we weather these days with grace? I’m not getting any younger, and neither are my kids. I refuse to lose these years to the crazy. My baby boy will only be two once; he can’t wait for when my life stops falling apart and we get all the pieces picked up.

I believe the answer lies in St. Gianna’s quote, above. I need to be present. I need to remain IN the present moment, not aching for the past or being crushed by fear of the future. Each day, each minute, each child, each and every glass of water and skinned knee and sibling squabble and knotted shoelace matters. It deserves my attention. It’s important. More important, even, than my big grown-up problems that never seem to go away.

I’ve also found that remaining firmly in the present moment is the best way to respond gently (or at least appropriately) to the endless stream of needs that a pack of kids will bring. The child standing in front of me has a need. I might feel impatient, because I have been responding to a lot of needs, all day long (and none of them mine). It can seem like somebody is always skinning their knee around here (but mostly it’s just Emily, over and over and over again. That poor kid is, um, accident-prone, shall we say??). But, assuming that the need is legitimate, the ones that came before don’t really matter, nor do the ones that will come after. The need in front of me is what matters.

It doesn’t matter if it’s the fifth band-aid I have doled out that morning; the bumps and bruises of childhood hurt just as much the fifth time as they did the first, and deserve as much mercy every time. (Even for the really clumsy accident-prone 4-year-old.)

It doesn’t matter to my 2-year-old that I have heard all his stories before, from siblings who told me the same ones years before he was born. He needs me to hear him, to delight in him, today.

It doesn’t matter how many glasses of water I have handed out. The kid is still thirsty, and deserves not only a glass of water, but a dose of love and cheerfulness to go with it.

I daresay that if we could apply this principle to how we think about not just our own children and routine chores, but also to how we think of those in need around us, it might revolutionize our attitude.  It’s great if we fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and buried the dead yesterday. The dead may be satisfied, but I guarantee the hungry will get hungry again. Every day, just like the rest of us. One more reason I am delighted to be a part of the Catholic Church is that I get to be a part of the largest humanitarian organization in the world! One person can’t do everything (even us moms, guys. Seriously). But being part of a network where we all pitch in to see to the needs of those around us day in and day out is a privilege.

So, whether life is sailing along or falling to pieces, I’m certain that St. Gianna is right. Each moment of our lives, good or bad, has value, and has a purpose. A life lived well is really only a collection of moments used well, or moments used badly, but learned from and forgiven.


Tweet: Each moment of our lives, good or bad, has value, and has a purpose.


I love this quote from Archbishop Fulton Sheen:

“The second remedy for the ills that come to us from thinking about time is what might be called the sanctification of the moment — or the Now. Our Lord laid down the rule for us in these words: “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Mt 6:34). This means that each day has its own trials; we are not to borrow troubles from tomorrow, because that day too will have its cross. We are to leave the past to divine mercy and to trust the future, whatever its trials, to God’s loving providence. Each minute of life has its peculiar duty — regardless of the appearance that minute may take. The Now-moment is the moment of salvation. Each complaint against it is a defeat; each act of resignation to it is a victory.” (From From the Angel’s Blackboard, as quoted in a wonderful reflection on this subject by Fr. Andrew Apostoli. Emphasis mine.)

None of this is to say that we should enjoy every moment; it not a mom guilt thing. Please no! There are so many tough moments in our lives. We just don’t need to make them harder than they are by dwelling on the ones that came before, or the ones sure to come after. Sure, there will be muddy floors, broken dishes and broken hearts in the days to come. Of course there will. And of course, we carry the scars of our past. We just don’t have to live there.

Today’s trouble is enough for today. I have that on good authority.

Linked up at  www.theologyisaverb.com and www.reconciledtoyou.com/blog.html.

 

Meeting Mary on the Way to Rome: seven things I learned about the Virgin Mary when I became Catholic

(This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission from purchases made through affiliate links. My opinions are entirely my own. You can see my full disclosure policy here.  Thanks bunches.)

“Mary, if you are there, pray for me. Jesus, if this is wrong, show me. And forgive me.”

I prayed that little prayer silently in my head, too scared to whisper it out loud. It was the first evening that what Mark and I had both been thinking had been broached out loud – should we be Catholic?

So began my sojourn into the Catholic Church. As a staunch, old-school Presbyterian, I was terrified at the Catholic thoughts racing around my head, but there was no forgetting the things that I had recently learned, or the doubts that had been raised. After some talking, and some crying, I went to bed feeling as though my whole world was being shaken.

Over the next few weeks, I devoured all the literature I could find on Catholic “hot button” topics, and Mary was at the top of the list. I had held the opinion for a long time that Catholic beliefs about Mary were idolatrous. But, like a number of other things, once I really dug into the Catholic perspective, my objections began to crumble. In my reading, I didn’t find the “superstitious medievalism” that I expected. Instead, I found some things that I had never heard of or considered. There are some wonderful and profound truths in the Marian doctrines.

 

But first things first. Because if praying to Mary is actually idolatrous, I was going to be off the train to Rome as abruptly as I got on.

~1~

Foundation Matters

Like pretty much every other problematic doctrine we came across in our conversion, the questions about Mary brought us back to that foundational doctrinal problem of Sola Scriptura – the Protestant idea that Scripture alone is the sole authority of the church, without the Tradition of the Church.

Sola Scriptura is the lynchpin of the question of Mary. If Protestants are right that the Bible alone is the only rule of faith and practice, then it’s pretty clear that the Bible doesn’t have a lot to say about the relationship of the Church to the Mother of her Lord – not if you are lacking an infallible guide to help illumine the places that teach about her. Lacking any clear command to give her any particular honor or expect a relationship with her, Protestants insist that to do so is an extraneous invention, at best superfluous and at worst idolatrous, taking away from or even destroying our relationship with Jesus.

When Sola Scriptura fell apart for me, it was the beginning of a huge cascade of doctrinal questions and changes. I really don’t believe that many of the disputes between Protestants and Catholics can ever be resolved without resolving the relationship of Scripture and Tradition first. Until then, we’re just talking past each other.

For a quick refutation of Sola Scriptura, see here. For a longer one, try Sola Scriptura and Private Judgement by Jimmy Akin. The latter impacted me deeply when I first read it; we had been recently ejected from our Protestant church home of 14 years over a minor doctrinal dispute, and the wounds were very fresh. I’m thankful for those wounds now – they began my journey to the Catholic Church.

~2~

Don’t we only pray to God? Isn’t it the very definition of idolatry to pray to a creature?

In the many years since the Reformation, the development of a language barrier has deepened and hardened the divide between the Church and her separated Protestant brethren.

You see, when Protestants hear the term, “pray to,” it automatically says to them, “pray to a deity, for the kinds of things one prays to a deity for.”

Well, sure. Under that definition, praying to Mary would automatically be idolatrous, wouldn’t it?

But, I learned that that isn’t what Catholics mean. When a Catholic says that they are going to pray to Mary or another saint, they mean “pray” in the different, older sense that has fallen out of common usage in the modern Protestant world; as in, “I pray thee,” or, “pray proceed.” It meant (and means still) simply, “I ask you.” You could say it to literally anyone.

Catholics are simply asking Mary (and the saints) to pray for us, because “the prayer of a righteous man has great power” (James 5:16).

~3~

Even so, why would anyone think that Mary, or any other saint that has passed on, CAN or DOES pray for us?

Well, it turns out that the Church has believed this to be the case from the very earliest days. From Psalms to Revelation, from Clement of Alexandria to Augustine, we see this beautiful belief supported. This article from EWTN offers the grand tour of quotes on this subject from the Fathers.

~4~

The Rosary

Oh, the Rosary. How much my opinion has changed!

To my Protestant brain, the Rosary was the embodiment of everything that was wrong with the Catholic Church. Vain repetition? Check. Idolatrous prayer to Mary? Check. Participation in extra-Biblical traditions? Check. Belief in doctrines or events not directly stated in the Bible (like the Coronation of Mary)? Check. Some people even use images of Christ to aid their reflection – violation of the 2nd Commandment? Check!

Boom. The Rosary was one concentrated slug of Papist heresy, hung on a little string of beads.

If you had told me that in a few years, I would come to love praying the Rosary, and that I would carry one in my purse, I might have replied that I would be better off dead.

Ouch. Sorry. I changed my mind.

The Rosary is a beautiful and profound tour of the life of Christ. (It’s also not required, for the record. I used to think that to be Catholic you HAD to pray the Rosary. This is not the case.) Each decade of the Rosary leads you to reflect on a different event relating to Jesus’s birth, life, death, and resurrection. You meditate on the spiritual implications and fruit of that event, and how it impacts you where you are right now.

You know. Awful stuff, that.

~5~

So is the Rosary “vain repetition” like Jesus warned against in Matthew 6:7?

Not all repetition is vain repetition. If so, Psalm 136 would be a problem, concluding each of 26 lines with “God’s love endures forever!” One has to consider the purpose and effect of the repetition.

Father Dwight Longenecker has an excellent article on this; also see Our Sunday Visitor for more reading.

~6~

Mary’s Fiat

Not the car, guys.

No, Mary’s “fiat” refers to her perfect “yes,” her full submission to the will of God when she replied to the angel: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

This is not so much something that I learned about Mary from the Catholic Church; I knew this one already. But this is a profound spiritual truth that I am learning from her. When Mary said “yes,” she held nothing back, and her entire life changed in the blink of an eye. From the ridicule she must have endured as an unmarried mother, to the sword that pierced her heart at the violent death of her Son, and all the joy and heartache in between, she was never the same.

But she said, “Yes.” Just yes. I pray the Joyful Mysteries more than any other, because I want that “yes” in my heart, too.

~7~

Further Resources

For more Quick Takes, visit Kelly at This Ain’t The Lyceum; linked up at Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb.