Some New and Exciting Stuff Is Coming

This is just a post to say some new and exciting things are coming to ChurchYear.Net. Stay tuned and have a happy Summer and Ordinary Time!

John Paul II and John XXIII Canonization Today

Divine Mercy imageToday, Divine Mercy Sunday 2014, April 27th, John Paul II and John XXIII have been declared saints, in a ceremony at the Vatican.

John XXIII was pope from 1958-1963. Despite being elected as a “caretaker” pope, he called the Second Vatican council, which greatly shaped the Church that Catholics know today.

John Paul II was pope from 1978-2005. He was pope when I became Catholic in 2004. His charismatic presentation of the faith, along with his fidelity to Apostolic Teaching played a big role in my becoming Catholic.

Saints John XXIII and John Paul II, ora pro nobis.

Make 2014 A Great Year With Prayer

A grave marker with a woman prayingBy many accounts, the world was pretty depressed in 2013. Wars, the still “recovering” economy, government spying, natural disasters, and more have created a general attitude of “blah” for many in the world.

I am not dismissing the negative impact the world around us can have. Despite years of economic and technological progress, human problems still remain. Nonetheless, I think as Christians we are called to not lose hope and remember our ultimate goal is to become more like Christ and develop a closeness to God.

I am not advocating a retreat from modern life. I am saying that the best relief from the troubles of the modern world is to spend time in prayer (including the sacraments).

Prayer is a deep connection to God that is available anytime, anywhere. When I was little at a “Vacation Bible School” event, the leader told us children something that impacted me spiritually more than just about anything I heard as a child. She told us that we could tell God anything. I remember feeling liberated to know that. The same is true as an adult.

I would add to this that we can experience the presence of God anytime as well, anytime we enter into prayer (whether it be vocal, meditative, or contemplative). It is a delight indeed to be able to experience the presence of our Lord “at will,” if we take advantage of it.

Why Saying “Happy Holidays” Doesn’t Bother Me

Red and Green Christmas bulbsTis the season for the “Christmas Wars” in Western society.  Supposedly there is a “War on Christmas” in American society, as the government and liberal culture stamp out any public celebration of Christmas.

While this may be true to some extent, one phrase that usually becomes the rallying point among Christians is the phrase “Happy Holidays.” It is seen as a more politically correct replacement for “Merry Christmas.” Some Christians will only shop at stores that require their employees to say “Merry Christmas.”

First, let me say I celebrate Christmas. And, I don’t care for rampant multiculturalism that squeezes out our cultural history. However, I also recognize that in our secular country not everybody is Christian, and if someone tells me “Happy Hanukkah” I’ll say thanks and wish them the same. To me, that is the decent and cool thing to do.

Now, let me say that as a Catholic, there are two reasons why I don’t mind “Happy Holidays” and even prefer it. 

First, we are in the Advent season; It isn’t Christmas until December 25th. When I wish someone “Happy Holidays” I mean that I hope they have a great Advent, and once it arrives, Christmas season. The only phrase that pithily says that is “Happy Holidays.” While stores that say it may not mean it this way, I think it fits.

Second, what does “holiday” mean? It means “holy day.” Even though the intention may be the opposite sometimes, when you are wished “Happy Holidays,” that includes a whole host of holy days, from St. Nicholas to Holy Family.

So, next time someone wishes you “Happy Holidays” relax and let it be a reminder to enjoy the rich selection of holidays that we celebrate during this time of year.

Yes, The Pope Is Catholic

saint francisLately, Pope Francis has been making waves due to a few controversial comments, especially regarding gays in the church and abortion. Basically, he’s been accused of downplaying or changing Catholic teaching on core subjects.

In case anyone is worried, yes, the Pope is still Catholic. While there are certain hot button issues that face the Church (and many of these are very important), it doesn’t mean those are the only topics a bishop can discuss.

Just because Francis would prefer to talk about other things doesn’t mean he lacks belief in any other part of Catholic teaching. Nor does it mean the Pope thinks they’re unimportant. The hot button issues of our age have been debated and taught a lot. Almost everyone in the world knows where the Church stands on them.

Can most non-believers articulate where the Church stands on loving your enemy? What about Catholic teaching on the poor? Or war? Likely, those issues are a little more muddled in the minds of other Christians and those who lack any faith.

No Pope or bishop will be able to promote the entire Catechism throughout his reign. He will certainly have his own emphases. There are lots of faithful Catholics in the world promoting Church teaching on various topics, including life and sexuality. The previous popes have also done a great job emphasizing these issues.

Now, Pope Francis is choosing to discuss other topics, ones which might have a big impact on drawing people into the fold who might otherwise never give the Church a chance. Then, the catechesis on all issues can begin.

Picking the name Francis was probably a good indicator of how his reign would be. St. Francis of Assisi, fully and traditionally Catholic, nonetheless made sure that the Church would be exposed to a different perspective from the topics of the day.

So, yes, the Pope is Catholic. Catholic means universal and discussing long held, but previously de-emphasized topics doesn’t make him any less of a Catholic. In fact, it might make him an even better one.

Thank You Pope Francis For Reaching Out

Attribution: presidencia.gov.ar

Attribution: presidencia.gov.ar

I don’t get into polemics much on this blog, because I want this to be a place of edification and prayer. I have had my fill of arguing over things that don’t really matter to 99% of the population.

This post may be a little polemical. I want to thank Pope Francis for his skill in reaching out to people that aren’t evangelized. While this has caused some consternation about his supposed orthodoxy from some Catholic conservatives, many non-Catholics are excited about the approach Francis is taking.

Personally, I like the tone of this papacy. Francis, I am convinced, is perfectly orthodox in his faith and practice. However, he has a knack for framing the faith in a way that makes sense to secularists and other non-Christians.

He reminds me of another guy who boldly reached out to non-believers, so much that many religious people of the time shuddered in fear and anger. Yeah, he reminds of Jesus.

We live in a hugely secular time, when the influence of the Christian faith is waning, at least in the Western world. Pope Francis seems like the right guy for the job, even if that means angering some of the self-proclaimed “righteous remnant” within the Church.

Visiting Beautiful Churches

inside of gothic church paintingIf there’s one thing the Church doesn’t quite understand today, it’s the role of beauty in worship. While I appreciate the simplification of the liturgy and its translation into English, I still feel we’ve lost a lot of the mystery and beauty in our worship services (and where they’re held) today.

And, the beauty we’ve lost is most evident in the way we design churches. And it’s not just the Protestant mega-churches that are designed with no sense of reverence. Even many Catholic parishes have designed worship spaces rather than true churches that inspire beauty and awe.

Visiting beautiful churches has always been one of my favorite activities on trips, especially to larger cities. However, it’s kind of a shame that a person has to travel to see majestic Catholic churches. There was a time when every town had a beautiful church that inspired wonder and mystery.

But, in today’s reality, sometimes visiting beautiful churches requires some travel. It’s an activity I recommend, especially if you are on vacation or can get away. You don’t even have to attend worship services, just walk in the church, admire the beauty, and pray/meditate.

Sometimes shrines are even better than simple churches. They are often designed with beauty in mind and even have important, even miraculous, events attached to them. It’s quite meditative to pray in these places, knowing that God has touched the shrine in some special way.

So, if you are on vacation or are close to beautiful churches, it is a fun and fulfilling day activity to go out and visit these churches. It’s always refreshing to pray and meditate in places of extreme beauty. It’s a nice vacation idea to ground yourself in your faith while you’re away from home.

The Summer Rush

summer meadow paintingSummer is often portrayed as a time of rest and relaxation. I guess those people have never gone on vacation or tried to plan relaxation! However, summer is also considered down time in many churches.

Most parishes don’t have the choir during summer and attendance is often down. While social events can be well-attended, religious oriented ones aren’t. In addition, it’s likely that many of us take a summer break from devotions and prayer during summer too. The rest and relaxation time is just too much. Call it the summer rush.

However, summer doesn’t have to be a down time for your faith. There are ways to keep up with your spirituality during the summer months. I’m going to offer a few tips.

First, start a new discipline for the summer. This will make sure that you have something fresh to pursue. Maybe it can be a prayer walk in nature, a few minutes before the Blessed Sacrament, or a decade of the rosary. Trying something new just might give you more enthusiasm for prayer during the summer.

Resist the urge to let vacation be a break from your faith. If you go on vacation, try to attend a service and make sure to emphasize family prayer. It could actually be fun. Praying together on the beach or attending a mass at a new parish in the mountains could be a breath of fresh air that everyone’s faith needs.

Finally, bring God into the midst of the stress. Take a few minutes a day just for you to be mindful of your situation and pray. It could be five minutes on your porch in the morning or silent prayer while you sunbathe at the swimming pool. Be more centered and spend time with God.

Don’t let the summer rush and the busy months get you stressed out. Find a way to keep your spirituality alive in the midst of the summer months.