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Friday, August 31, 2012
In today's gospel reading, Matthew 25: 1-13, Jesus tells a parable stating, "Then the Kingdom of heaven shall be compared to ten maidens who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom."

The story goes  that five were wise and five were foolish. The five foolish maidens did not bring an extra amount of oil for their lamps, the wise did. When the bridegroom finally arrives the foolish do not have enough oil. They ask the wise maidens to share. However they are told they do not have enough to share and they must go into town and buy more of their own.

Now whenever I read this parable I am always confused by the refusal of the wise maidens to share their oil. After all aren't we taught as Christians to share what we have? It always seemed a bit greedy to me. Towards the end of the story we are told that the doors are locked to the five foolish maidens. When they ask to be let in, the bridegroom replies he does not know them.  Harsh! I am really irritated with the five wise maidens.

So I was curious what Father Paul would share today about this reading. He claims that most people share the same opinion I have. But he said to think of  the oil representing good deeds. We can not share the good we have done here on earth with anyone else. Meaning when the time comes to account for our life to God, we can't say- "I didn't help the poor, the sick, the hungry but my mom did a LOT! So I was hoping to use some of her good deeds to get me into the Kingdom of heaven."

Ahhh- now the parable makes sense to me. The wise maidens prepared before the bridegroom came. They got their lamps ready as well as extra. The foolish maidens did their own thing and assumed there would be plenty to go around. The wise weren't being selfish, they were being prepared.

The morale of the story, for me, is the ending of the scripture, "Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour."

God Bless!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012
On August 15 we celebrated the Assumption of Mary into heaven. Because she was born without sin and was gracious enough to agree to carry Our Lord and Savior, Mary's body wasn't left  here on earth but rather taken up to be with her Son. But what I want to discuss is the role the Blessed Mother plays in our life.

People who aren't Catholic and don't know about our faith think we worship Mary and even put her above Jesus. Once I was in line for some food and two women before me were talking about this very thing. They discussed how Catholic's have all these saints we pray to and how we especially worship  Mary. They ended the conversation with how crazy we all are! I think back to that and wish I had spoken up about my beliefs. However I was fairly new into learning about Catholicism, I was just starting RCIA at my church, and was afraid I would not know the correct thing to say.

At the  mass to celebrate the assumption, the priest at my church gave a great analogy of why we turn to the Blessed Mother in prayer. Father Bob stated that while he lived away from his mother  she would call daily with prayer requests. For someone in need of prayer before surgery, for another couple having trouble conceiving, a death in a family, any numerous reasons. Of course he would always pray for them. And that is how it is with Mary. We pray for her intercession  because she has her Sons ear. She will take our prayers and then  make the request to Jesus. That's all.  After that it is in God's hands and if it His will our prayers will be answered.

The same goes with the saints.Think of it like we are asking a friend to pray with us if we have a problem. We pray to any given saint to petition for us. My favorite- St. Anthony help me find my keys! But I digress.

Now I feel confident that I can give an accurate answer to why we pray to Mary and the important role she  has in our faith. She is an activist for all of us! Mary is also our Mother; and what mother wouldn't do their all to help?

God Bless!

Friday, August 17, 2012

How does reconciliation help us become better Catholics?

Have you ever felt guilt about something and avoided someone because of it? If you have, you know what it’s like to carry sin.

Carrying sin puts up a roadblock between you and the person who the sin effects. It makes you want to stay away from that person because it reminds you of what you’ve done wrong.
When Catholics commit sins, they do the same thing with God. When a sin is committed, they try to avoid God as much as possible because facing God is facing the sin.

Catholics don’t want to live life in that way. They don’t want to be ashamed when they meet God, and they don’t want to turn their backs on Him because of something they have done. 

This is why Catholics go through reconciliation.
gold crucifix

How Reconciliation Helps Catholics

When people goes through reconciliation, they take their sins and present them to the priest. The priest has the power to take those sins away.

What happens is you confess everything you’ve done that isn’t according to God’s Word. Bringing those sins out of you means you don’t carry them anymore. It means you have given them up to the Lord.

Our God is a very forgiving God. As long as you know you’ve done bad, have the courage to face your sins, and ask God for His forgiveness, you can be cleared of them.
Without the sins, you remove the roadblock between you and God. You don’t feel ashamed or guilty turning to God because you are free.

Improving Your Relationship with God

When you carry sin and can’t turn to God because you feel guilty, you lose a connection to Him. You start to shy away from praying, going to church and you may even start behaving un-Christian like.

You are rebelling against your own actions. You can’t stand to know you’ve done bad and you don’t want to face it. So instead, you may feel as though it’s no big deal. You may think that God isn’t special to you anymore. You may turn away from Him forever. The problem is you always feel something is missing from your life then. That missing part is God.
Bringing yourself back to God is simple. When you reconcile you pull God back into your life. You appreciate His love and forgiveness for you. You take Him into your life and you make Him the person you admire the most. You want to please Him and you don’t ever want to turn away from Him again.

By bringing God closer to you, the light of the Lord turns your life into one that is pure and just. You behave in Christian ways because you want to stay away from the guilt.

Regular Reconciliation Keeps Your Connection with God Strong

Since we are human beings though, we make mistakes. Going to reconciliation regularly is a way to continue building our relationship with God. It’s a way to clear the bumps in the road.

As long as you remind yourself you can always rectify your relationship with God, you will always be in His good graces - as long as you wholeheartedly confess and promise to do better. That is all God asks of you.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Understanding the meaning of the design on the back of the Miraculous Medal can help you develop a greater appreciation for it. It also tells you a little more about Mother Mary and her beliefs, so that you are better able to follow her example.

What the Back of the Miraculous Medal Looks Like

The back of the Miraculous Medal has a large M on it with a cross that intercepts in it. It has a bar across the bottom or the cross that goes through the top part of the M.
Around the top and sides of the M with the cross are twelve stars.

At the bottom of the back of the Miraculous Medal, there are two hearts. One of the hearts has thorns on it and the other heart has a spear going into it.

Sterling Silver Miraculous Medal
The Meaning of the Symbols on the Back of the Medal

The most obvious part of the back of the Miraculous Medal is the M. It stands for Mary.
The cross intersecting into the M symbolizes how Jesus and Mary connected to empower the world with God’s teachings. They worked together, mother and son, to deliver Jesus’ messages.

The bar under the cross that intersects the top part of the M refers to the Earth. Jesus and Mary surround the Earth to help deliver God’s Words. So if you look at it, Jesus’ cross on the top of the Earth, Mary on the bottom, together they wrap the world with their love.
The twelve stars signify the apostles. The apostles represent the Church. The Catholic Church surrounds Mary.

Also, in the Book of Revelation, there was a quote that described Mary with twelve stars around her head, clothed with the sun and standing on a moon.

The hearts at the bottom represent the grief Mary suffered through for the great sacrifice Jesus made for us. The heart with the thorns represents the crown of the thorns placed on Jesus’ head on his way to the Crucifix. The second heart, on the right, with the sword going through it represents the stab in the heart Mary felt when she had to witness Jesus, the Son of God, suffering and murdered.

Mary Designed It to Tell a Story

When Saint Laboure saw the vision of the back of the medal, she didn’t quite understand what it meant. All she knew was that Mary wanted this vision “struck upon this model.”

Mary wanted to tell us a story with this model. She wanted to show us that she has genuine love for us and wants us to come to her for guidance and grace. She has love for us as long as we seek her.

The back of the Miraculous Medal is one that takes you through the true meaning of what Mary represents. It shows us how devoted she is to God and His mission for the world. It shows us that we should honor her and worship God for all the love, care and blessings they can give us.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012
 As  a convert to Catholicism I am just learning about the many saints of our faith. I am always greatly amazed by the examples they have set by their lives. And none more so than St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe whose feast day is August 14.

St. Kolbe was born in Poland under the name Raymund Kolbe on January 8, 1894. As a young man he contracted tuberculosis. He always had a strong devotion to the blessed mother and as a youth had a visitation from her .This experience prompted him to take the name Maria when he was ordained a priest.  Eventually he recovered and though he was frail from his illness he went on to establish a devotion to Our Lady called the Immaculate Movement. He also started news publications that spread the message.

Later he became a Franciscan Priest, traveling to Japan and India establishing monasteries following the Immaculate Movement. During this time he also received his doctorate in theology. While in India he grew ill and returned to his native Poland. During WW11 St. Kolbe was anti Nazi and his publications reflected his stance. He had a license to use an amateur hand held radio and the saint used this medium to speak out against atrocities committed by the Nazi regime. The friary he established in Poland was a refugee for thousands of Jews during this persecution. At one point he was arrested and taken to a camp but was released.  Eventually St. Kolbe was arrested again and taken to Auschwitz. 

There are so many aspects to this martyrs life! While in the death camp, the Nazi's went about selecting 10 men to be taken underground and left to starve following the escape of 3 men. One man who was chosen exclaimed "my wife, my family!" Upon hearing this poor mans cries the saint offered himself over in place of the prisoner. 

While being held in this underground prison, St. Kolbe said daily mass never wavering from his strong Catholic faith. He sang songs and psalms with the other prisoners and every day reminded the men that they would be united with the blessed Mother in heaven. Such endurance! He died in 1941. 

This amazing saint never gave up on his faith and his strong devotion to Mary. It seems all his life he had struggles but with his strong beliefs and courage he was an inspiration to all he encountered even after his death.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

What the Front of the Medal Looks Like

The front of the Miraculous Medal is Mary standing on a globe with a serpent under her feet.
Mary’s arms are outstretched by her side with parts of garments draping down. Around her head and body is an inscription of “O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”

Gold Miraculous Medal
The Meaning of the Front of the Miraculous Medal

Most people will be most drawn to Mary standing on the serpent. The serpent represents Satan. Her standing on the serpent’s head symbolizes her power over Satan and his followers.

She is on the globe with a glow about her to symbolize that she is the Queen of Heaven and Earth. Earth is below her feet and Heaven is where she is with her arms coming down to the Earth.

The inscription is very telling of who she is and why she is honored. She is the Blessed Virgin Mary who conceived without sin. Blessed Virgin doesn’t only apply to her conceiving without sin, it also means that she is virgin of sin. She has committed no sins…
Because of Mary’s sinlessness, she is full of grace. This grace she has can be sent to others who do have sin to bless them.

Grace helps people deal with problems and have good fortune. These graces are what people who believe in Mary will experience.

How We Know It’s True

After the first medals were manufactured and distributed around Paris in 1832, many people started to receive blessings. People who prayed to Mary found their prayers were answered.
Most of the wonderful blessings people received had to do with health, peace and prosperity.

This is actually how the medal got its name “Miraculous Medal.” People were so impressed with the medal that they started to say it was miraculous.

How the Medal Works

The medal doesn’t do anything. It’s what you do that matters.

The medal only serves as a reminder for people to take time to turn to Mary. The medal around your neck doesn’t do anything but give you a clue that you need to pray to Mary.
When you pray to Mary, it’s important to honor her. To recognize all the good she has always done for God. By doing this, you are recalling what you should be doing in your life to follow her example.

As you pray to her, it’s good to tell her how you want to better your life and how you would like her to help you.

You can build a relationship with Mary. You can turn to her when you are having a difficult time and ask her to help you. You can see her good graces come upon you as long as you have faith in her.

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Friday, August 3, 2012

How the virtue of faith is displayed during the Resurrection of Our Lord

What is faith? Many people will say they have faith in God, but they don’t ever step back to really examine what faith is and the affect it has on their life.

The Resurrection of God and How it Led to Faith

Looking at Jesus’ resurrection can help us reaffirm the faith we have in the Lord.

After Jesus was crucified on the cross, He was taken down and placed in a tomb. Three days after, the stone to the tomb was removed and He was no longer inside. What happened to Him?!

Some non-believers of Jesus Christ believe His body was stolen. However, the apostles that were visited by Jesus in the forty days that followed the resurrection know that He wasn’t. Instead, he was lifted body and soul into Heaven.

Some people who were skeptical that Jesus was truly the Son of God became believers when they saw that His body was resurrected and then he came upon the apostles. They were blessed with the faith in God and that was stronger than anything they had ever felt.

How We Developed Faith in God

Now looking at our own faith in God, we must think about the reasons why we have this faith. We didn’t witness the resurrection of Jesus and He never appeared to us. So why do we have that faith in God?

We have that faith in God because it has been instilled in us from the work of the apostles. They delivered the message of God to many people all over the world. They formed churches that continued to deliver that message to its successors. Generation after generation, the power of Jesus’ teachings and the faith people had in Him was strong enough to withstand some of the harshest punishments.

jesus rising
See, many people tried to knock down Christianity throughout the years. They didn’t believe and had no faith. They tested Christians’ faith. The faith survived though.

This is why we have the faith now. The faith is strong in us because it was strong in many people before us. We believe that Jesus was the true Son of God. We believe he rose from the dead. We also believe He will come back someday.

We know that God gave us life and that he guides us as much as we allow Him to guide us. When we have faith in that, we can do a lot in life and be happy with what we do.

How to Strengthen Your Faith

Take a few minutes today and think about your faith in God. Think about how you can strengthen that faith in your life. It might be as simple as saying a prayer before starting your day. You could even keep a gratitude journal to write down everything you appreciate that God has given you. You can just sit and think about how thankful you are to have someone who cares and loves you more than you could ever imagine.

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Thursday, August 2, 2012

The History of no meat on Fridays in Lent

Catholics have been abstaining from meat on Fridays for centuries. These days though, many people seem to ignore the Canon law of abstaining and fasting. Why? They just don’t think it’s important.

These people don’t feel that eating meat is a great sacrifice. They probably don’t eat meat many days out of the year, so why is it such a big deal on Fridays during Lent?

What these people don’t realize is that it’s not simply abstaining from meat; it’s more about the meaning behind it.

metal bound crucifix
Abstaining from meat and fasting on Fridays causes you to slow down in your normal routine. It forces you to think about why you’ve made this change in your life temporarily. It causes you to think about Jesus and all that He did for us.

How Meatless Fridays Started

At the Last Supper, Jesus told his disciples they must fast for one day after He is gone. The church adopted this as an honor to Jesus. As a way to say, you told your disciples to do it and so you must have thought it was important.

Some Catholics may remember that the church used to require Catholics to not eat anything on Fridays. However, they eased up on these laws and announced that Catholics could now eat one meal or two small meals to equal one main meal with the exclusion of meat.

Why Meat?

During Lent, we want to remember the Passion of Jesus, when he was crucified. For that reason, we don’t want to hurt mammals and fowl. When eating meat, it’s considered that you are eating the flesh and organs of them. We want to preserve life in all mammals during this time.

This is why it is okay to eat fish on Fridays. Fish are not mammals so they are okay.
However, always remember that you should not indulge in it, like many do at a Catholic Fish Fry. Fish is simply just a replacement for meat.

Eating Fish and Giving Thanks

Even though it’s quite easy to not eat meat on Fridays and it makes it even easier with the ability to eat fish, many people don’t like to be restricted. For those Fridays that Catholics can’t eat meat, many will feel the pain of wanting meat greater than any other day.

As the old saying goes, you want something you can’t have. This is why not eating meat on Fridays is a good thing for some Catholics. It does force them to reflect on why they have to fight the temptation to eat meat on this day. It causes them to say, “Thank goodness I don’t have to do this the whole year.” It helps them realize that they should really thank God for all that they have in life, including the ability to eat meat whenever they want.

So when Friday rolls around again, think about this. You’re sacrificing meat because it’s something you normally eat and want on that day. You can’t have meat that day because of your faith in God. It’s all about what God has given us and what Jesus did for us. Take time out of your day to realize this and then treasure what you have outside of the Lenten season. It will bring back the meaning behind meatless Fridays for you.

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