A mini pilgrimage

On May 4th I was blessed to visit Mundelein Seminary to attend a mass and Marian crowning. Father Robert Barron was the officiant and I got to shake his hand afterwards. If you’re a convert to Catholicism, you know who he is! Here’s a pic with some of the people in our group:

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The mass was beautiful. The music was spectacular. I’ve been around music my entire life and have never experienced worship quite like that. The chapel itself was one of those places that make you look around and realize why we build such stunning churches to begin with – God is truly present there. Here is a photo of the mass, presumably taken by a photographer at the seminary. I was seated in the second pew on the right.

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I was really fortunate for the invitation to experience this and I have our incredible priest to thank. He himself went to Mundelein back in the 90′s and graciously allowed some of his parishioners to come to this event with him. He concelebrated the mass with several other priests, which is how how we got such great seats. After lunch, he spent hours showing us the place where he studied to be a priest. I couldn’t have donated a million dollars and gotten a better tour. The library – the LIBRARY! I’d never imagined what a seminarian’s library might look like. An entire building filled with volumes written by the greatest minds in Catholicism. I think I saw a whole wing for Chesterton. Here’s our group on one of the balconies:

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And here’s a picture of me declaring that I was never leaving:

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I did leave, though begrudgingly. What an unforgettable day, truly a monumental one for this overzealous Catholic convert. I’ve just learned that I may have another chance to visit in June for an upcoming Scripture study and dinner event. Just need to find childcare for the kids so that my husband can come this time! I’m usually very particular about babysitters, but for this occasion I might settle for any available non-felon. ;)

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A neat encounter at another parish

Yesterday I received the Eucharist from a priest who played a huge role in my return to the Catholic faith. From the earliest days of discerning my conversion, I’ve been an avid listener of his call-in radio show called “Go Ask Your Father” on Relevant Radio. Father Simon’s wisdom and wit really helped me understand that what I thought I knew about Catholicism wasn’t really Catholicism at all. We are Catholic today in large part due to his radio ministry.

It was a neat moment to receive Jesus from him after all these years. In those early days of listening to Father Simon’s show, never did I imagine that one day I’d take Communion at his parish! I didn’t get a chance to say hello yesterday, as I was attending the funeral of a dear friend’s mother, but hopefully I can thank him in person someday. God bless all priests for their ministry, especially today for those in radio ministry. They reached this family and I couldn’t be more grateful!

I encourage everyone to check out Relevant Radio sometime. There is a free app online for easy streaming of their shows on your mobile device. I have it on all the time at home and listen to the programs when I’m in the car. It’s a great way to learn more about the Catholic faith (even if you think you know it all already). :)

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Religion as luxury

Consider this incredible quote I found attributed to the Venerable Fulton J. Sheen:

“Most people today want a religion which suits the way they live, rather than one that makes demands upon them. Religion thus becomes a luxury like an opera, not a responsibility like life.” 

Don’t these words sum up what is wrong with Christianity today, particularly in the United States? It’s been noted that most “mega churches” today are located in affluent suburbs. I know firsthand that for many of these folks, the idea of faith is just a nice thing to have around. Like most material gain, the novelty eventually wears off and that’s about the end of it. 

Perhaps I’m being bitter and negative, but I prefer the term “disillusioned.” Imagine what Joel Osteen’s fans would do if he suddenly reverted to some semblance of orthodox Christianity and denounced contraceptive use. Or abortion. Or serial marriage. The place would be a ghost town. Too much sacrifice. Not enough fun. Not enough luxury. And very, very sad. 

I really don’t get this kind of faith. Christ came to earth, declared Himself to be God and gave very simple terms: eternal life in exchange for our entire being. Our whole heart, our whole mind, our whole soul. It took me a very long time to accept his offer because I knew that everything about my life would have to change – everything! Though I sin like any other person (oh, do I), indeed nothing about my life resembles the life I used to live. The ship changed direction. Certain dreams had to be revised. Certain relationships were altered. Some of it has been very unfun. Very unluxurious. Blessed and grace-filled times, but very hard. 

Here’s what puzzles me – who on earth would bother with Christianity unless they were really “sold out” for Christ (to borrow a term from my Evangelical youth group days)? What exactly is the point? To feel good about life? To be emotionally stimulated during five worship songs every Sunday? Atheist me would have rather stayed home. Venerable Fulton Sheen’s seemingly pessimistic quote about “luxurious” Christianity is sadly correct. Religion is becoming a first-world luxury. Its what all the put-together people are wearing.

I’ll never forget the scary period of my life when I considered “quitting” my faith. I was a faithful Protestant and hit a massive road block in my faith that I couldn’t reconcile. Somebody asked me, “Why do you care so much about being right?” That person didn’t understand that I wasn’t trying to be right – I was trying to be faithful. If I didn’t care to be faithful, then to hell with it all. Self-styled religion is a waste of my time. Call me a pessimist, but I’m with Venerable Fulton Sheen on this one.

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A brief reflection on living after Christ

I visited a neighboring parish this past weekend for confession. As is always the case, I went in feeling anxious and left wondering why I don’t go more often. The priest asked me to spend some time in the pew to prayerfully read a selection from the missal, one of the readings or a hymn. I chose the second reading from a Sunday I had recently missed due to illness – Sunday, January 5th, the Epiphany of the Lord:

Brothers and sisters:
You have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace
that was given to me for your benefit,
namely, that the mystery was made known to me by revelation.
It was not made known to people in other generations 
as it has now been revealed
to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: 
that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body,
and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Ephesians 3:2-3A, 5-6

God really spoke to me through this reading, especially having just left the confessional. It was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed… How blessed we are to live today. Despite all the evils of our day, we are children of the New Covenant. We enjoy union with God in ways our forefathers could have never fathomed. We are so blessed to have the Sacraments of the Church. I left that night with a renewed sense of awe at the grace of God and a new resolve to receive the Sacrament of Penance more frequently. I’m grateful to live after Christ’s coming.

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Merry Christmas (still)!

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Christmas Day 2013
(Christmas, Day 1)

Merry Christmas from my family to yours!  We had a great December 25th this year and I am making an intentional effort to keep the Christmas spirit alive awhile longer. The tree is staying up and the lights will remain on the house until January 12th. Thanks to a really weird change in holiday trends in our part of the world, most people seem to think December 25th is the last day of Christmas. It’s not. The time leading up to Christmas is called Advent. Actual Christmas is December 25th through January 12th when we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. This is really great news for people who love Christmas (and procrastinating). If only the retailers could figure this out!

So to those of you scrooges posting pictures of their Ordinary Time-esque living rooms ON CHRISTMAS DAY, baby Jesus is not impressed. Stop it. Merry season of Christmas.

May the remainder of 2013 be blessed and restful for you and yours. We are thankful to God for all he has given us this year and pray for His continued blessings in the year to come.

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Want to read the Catechism in a year?

As a still fairly-new Catholic, I’ve spent the past several months frustrated by my inability to learn everything about Catholicism at once. It reminds me a lot of how I felt at our recent Thanksgiving feast – so much to eat that even if I just sampled everything I wouldn’t get to it all. Scripture, the Catechism, the lives of the saints, Marian devotion, the daily prayers of the Church, not to mention an ever-growing reading list of books and even blogs about Catholicism – there is just so much to know about our rich and beautiful faith.  I really haven’t been successful at even choosing an area on which to focus other than the Sunday readings and my own Scripture reading.

flocknote-logoThen a friend told me about a neat opportunity from Flocknote – read the entire Catechism in a year with daily emails delivered right to your phone or computer. For me, this means that I can join thousands of other Catholics in really learning the finer points of the faith right from my smartphone. Flocknote is also offering a daily email program which will deliver the four gospels over the course of one year. My hope is that studying my Catholic faith will now be easier than ever – and for this busy mom and entrepreneur, that’s really great news.

Want to join me? This program begins TODAY, December 9, (the feast of the Immaculate Conception). We’ll be done by next Christmas! Go HERE to sign up for the Catechism program and HERE to sign up for the gospels program. I’m happy to see that Flocknote is using the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible for the gospel program. It’s a great source. I hope you’ll consider signing up.

Stay tuned for a new post coming up in which I muse about my new experiences as a catechist. As you can tell from the absence from my blog, it’s been keeping me busy. :)

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Tiny new Catholics

In August, our son Jameson Elliott was baptized into the Catholic faith.

jamie baptism

In early September, our dear friends asked us to be the godparents to their daughter Tracy. What an honor! Tracy’s parents are the godparents to our middle child, Maddie.

This is NOT a bib for cake. :)

This is NOT a bib for cake. :)

The deacon who baptized Tracy made a memorable remark. Parents and godparents don’t promise to raise “good kids.” Everybody wants a good kid. At baptism, we promise to raise a child in the faith, to know and profess the faith as their own. We know what this looks like for parents. We bring our children to mass, we teach them faith-filled living through example at home, we study the Bible and the inexhaustible riches of Catholicism with our children. Parents are a child’s first teacher. But what does the godparent’s role entail? Almost all godparents are present on the big day of baptism, but a godparents’ involvement should not end there. 

130915_0003I am now the godmother of two dear little girls in my life (little Tracy as well as my cousin who is now eight years old). I am brainstorming ideas for meaningful involvement in their Catholic lives. One idea that I particularly like is to remember each girl’s two birthdays – their day of biological birth and their day of birth into the Body of Christ. Godparenthood is a role that I will take seriously. It is a responsibility that will involve prayer, love, and hopefully a lifelong relationship of shared faith. Maybe someday I can tell my goddaughters about my journey to the Church and the challenges and trials I experienced in the process of becoming Catholic myself.

So – who else has godchildren? What do you do to stay involved in your godchild’s life? Leave me a comment with your tips and ideas for these tiny new Catholics in our lives.

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