Being Raised Catholic, Celebration of New Pope

What is faith?  Merriam-Webster Dictionary gives several definitions.  Faith is”allegiance to duty or person, fidelity to one’s promises, sincerity of intentions, belief and trust in and loyalty to God, belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion, firm belief in something for which there is no proof, and something that is believed especially with strong conviction.”  Faith probably means something different to each of us.

My grandparents started Manna Resort Christian Camp in Fairfield, NE. where hundreds of kids go every summer to stay in cabins, swim in the pond, go down the zip line, spend time with friends, and praise God in the sheep barn dubbed “The Praise Palace.”  I grew up attending camp, where my heart was lit with passion to know God.

I was also raised in the Catholic Church.  For me, this meant being mocked and questioned.  I often heard remarks in regards to how much it must suck not to eat meat on Fridays during lent, how holy days of obligation are stupid because church on Sundays alone is more than enough, how priests seem gay or molest children in their spare time, how all Catholics worship Mary, priests, the pope, and saints, and the list only goes on.  I didn’t always have answers for all the questions and sometimes I couldn’t tell you why I believed what I believe other than that it’s what I was taught growing up.  I will keep my answers short for you by saying: It’s not that hard to sacrifice meat on Fridays during lent.  It shouldn’t be a chore to spend an extra hour every now and then devoted to God on Holy Days.  Some priests have done some terrible things, just like other regular human beings, but just like most people aren’t rapists, neither are most priests.  They live a life of celibacy because they spend their time serving the Lord and their parishes, who are their family.  We don’t worship Mary, though she holds a special place being Jesus’s mother, just like how you probably think your mom is special.

I have never made fun of someone for their faith, tried to shove my religion down their throat, or acted like my faith is superior to theirs.  I respect the differences in what others believe and I wished growing up that people would have done the same for me.  Thanks to the media the whole world, Catholic or not, is probably aware that we have a new Pope.  Following some of the news stories I have seen many of these same comments from people who I assume to be adults.  Personally I think it’s annoying as many of them are uninformed or think that what applies to one Catholic applies to all the rest.

Moving along, I was very excited to see a new pope chosen.  I was a big fan of Pope John Paul II, who was such an inspirational man. Maybe I’ll blog about him someday.

When I went to Italy in June 2010, my mother and I attended Pope Benedict XVI’s blessing in Saint Peter’s Square.  He rode in on the popemobile and drove through the crowd waving and then gave his blessing in several different languages.  It was so exciting to get to be a part of it.  You haven’t seen a church until you’ve been to the cathedrals in Europe. The Vatican is such a neat place and St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel are pretty incredible.  The artwork is amazing.  I anxiously awaited the white smoke being released from the Sistine Chapel to tell us a new pope was chosen.

Pope Francis is the first to choose the name of the Saint devoted to serving the poor. “For many Catholics, a great deal of hope rests on the new pontiff’s choice of the name Francis, the saint who disdained formal authority, devoted himself to a simple life, cared passionately about the marginalized and saw actions as counting far more than proclamations.” –E.J. Dionne Jr.

“Reporters stateside embarrassed themselves daily by projecting their own values onto the centuries-old institution — insisting that the church has to modernize on issues ranging from women priests to same-sex marriage to abortion, ” Kathleen Parker said. “Such issues are not of prime concern to the church or the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics. Rather, Vatican concerns tilt more toward alleviating poverty in the developing world and ending the persecution of Christians. And, of course, getting its own house in order.”

She goes on to say:

No one needs a primer on the scandals that have plagued the church the past few decades — or the more recent discoveries of financial mismanagement and the “gay cabal.” The new pope will have to yoke himself immediately to these burdens. Amid such troubles — not to mention managing a world religion, an assortment of eccentric personalities and a vast charitable and diplomatic empire — he will need a sense of humor.

The church faces enormous challenges, but none so daunting as communicating the Good News, which translates to helping millions around the world. Whatever one’s personal opinion of Catholicism (I am not Catholic), the church remains a bulwark against Western secularization and the growing culture of choice. Is it really desirable, just for starters, that the leader of the Christian church embrace the destruction of human life in the womb?

One may make painful, personal choices as the law permits, but even non-Catholics can find solace in the barricade that men and women of conscience erect between human beings and the abyss of relativity. If the church means nothing to some, it is at least a welcome noisemaker in the public square, fearless in making the argument that life does matter.

Without the Catholic Church — the largest charitable organization in the world — millions of the least fortunate would suffer. Catholic Relief Services works in nearly 100 countries and reaches 100 million of the poorest people with emergency aid and health care, including 280 HIV and AIDS projects. Catholic Charities USA provided food services to 6.5 million people last year, according to Vatican sources.




Lead Me to the Cross

“Thou art dust. And to dust thou shalt return.” -Genesis 3:19

Today is Ash Wednesday and marks the beginning of Lent.  This period of spiritual growth and renewal lasts approximately six weeks until the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday.  During this Lenten season people are able to reflect on their spiritual lives and offer up prayer, penance, repentance, and almsgiving.  Traditionally people fast, give something up or make some sort of sacrifice in commemoration of the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert.

Growing up my siblings and I always dreaded the time when we had to do without something, especially if it meant giving up candy when Valentine’s Day fell during Lent.  I remember a specific year when I gave up watching TV and playing games on the computer.  Today this could probably be compared to a 40 day social media cleanse (which I considered doing this Lent, but thought my commentary and blogging grade might suffer).  It wasn’t too bad, I found other things to occupy my time.  Things like playing outside, reading books, helping my mom in the kitchen, etc.  It became a real sacrifice though when my family would sit down to watch something and I had to leave the room, being the only one left out.

What I realized when I got a little older was that it’s supposed to a sacrifice, but merely going without something is not the purpose.  The purpose is to bring you closer to God.  It’s supposed to help you eliminate being too busy to pray, too tired to attend church on Sunday, and too consumed with your own life that you don’t pay attention to what is going on in the lives of others.  It’s supposed to help you recenter your life around what’s important and get rid of all the things that are distracting you.

Many ask why Catholic don’t eat meat on Fridays during Lent.  Mark Hart gave a few reasons in his blog post “Why do Catholics abstain from eating meat on Fridays

  • Some say the Church was trying to support the fishing industry when times were tough.
  • There was a time period when fish was safer to eat than beef.
  • “Only the very wealthy could afford meat. Fish (in comparison) was the poor man’s meal. It was cheap, humble food that you had to catch yourself.”
  • “Some say that not eating meat helped folks to focus on the humility of Christ, who lived a simple man’s life.”

    He also said:

    “If we aren’t focusing on Jesus and on the cross when we abstain from the meat, then the matter can become less about Lent and more about” what we should have for lunch.

    “Jesus Christ, my Lord and my Savior, gave up His own body, His own flesh, that Friday so many years ago, for me and for you. He went through the pain of that self-sacrifice, completely mindful of God the Father. When I go through the incredibly minor act of abstaining from meat on Fridays, it is just one tiny act of self-sacrifice that points me back to that awful but Good Friday. That was the Friday when God loved me so much that He gave up His flesh in the most selfless act in history.”

    “When we abstain from meat, we focus on Christ and on our souls, rather than on self and on our bodies. It is faith in action, placing our attention on Jesus and offering Him “our flesh” as a sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2), a vessel through which He can and does work.”