Mass Times and Locations
 

An Easter Search for the body

At our Easter retreat on April 24, we asked ourselves a couple questions. The first was, “who are you looking for?” In the opening verses of the Passion story, in all four Gospels, there are a lot of people looking for Jesus. Why are they searching for him, and who remained once He was taken as a prisoner?

As the Passion story unfolds, each Gospel provides us glimpses into the people who witnessed the events unfold. There were those who laughed, those who mourned, and those who tried to help. Jesus loved them all.

The second question comes to us with Easter morning: “Where’s the Body?” This is a question not just for that Easter morning following Jesus’ death, but for us today. Where can we find “the body of Christ?” In Luke’s Gospel, in the days following the resurrection, a couple apostles are walking on the road to Emmaus. A fellow traveler approaches them and the men walk and talk. They stop and share a meal. Only when they break bread together do the apostles recognize Jesus’ presence among them. Challenge yourself to consider where was The Body of Christ in this story? Perhaps the story of Emmaus is what our Christian life should look like: we walk along together, we experience what others have to say and we are open to their stories. WE break bread together. We have hope. We do these things and our hearts WILL burn with love, for others and for Jesus Christ.

Catholics Reading the Bible

This semester, the high school faith formation team has focused on opening scripture. It’s been a chaotic semester with all of the weather cancellations, but we have slowly been walking through the beauty that is unfolded in the Bible.

We spent two weeks in January reading about some of the people of the Bible and some of our favorite stories. We met people like Miriam (Ex 15:19), and Joseph (Gen 37) and became reacquainted with more familiar folks like Paul, Abraham, and David. Some of our more favorite stories were the story of Joseph and his brothers, the tale of Jonah trying to hide from God, and the story of the fiery furnace (Dan 3).

Throughout our scripture journey, we have focused on how the stories of the Old Testament lead us and point to the stories of Jesus. In February, we have taken a closer look at what’s known as Salvation History – the timeline that shows us how the events written about in the Old Testament build up to Jesus’ birth and ultimate resurrection. The HS Mentor team recommends the book “The Real Story” by Edward Sri and Curtis Martin if you’d like to learn more. Copies of this book are on our book cart in the gathering space.

Wednesday, November 14: The Church and politics

On this Wednesday, our subject was the Church and politics and it was as challenging of a discussion as you might imagine. In our discussion, we challenged each other to make voting decisions in races where the decision was not clear-cut: the mayoral candidate who was anti-abortion while also supporting the death penalty, the governor’s race where the environmentally-concerned, pro-life candidate had a marital affair and was running against a candidate with no strong opinions but was considered morally strong…the list goes on. Many of our participants thought it might be better to not vote. Yet, the Church teaches that “each, according to his position and role, participate in promoting the common good and that this obligation is inherent in our dignity as humans.” (CCC 1913)

 

We then attempted to frame some of these decisions by introducing Catholic Social Teaching . These topics include Social Justice, Marriage, Family, Economic Equality, and Global Solidarity. These are tough issues. They are confusing issues where the Catholic Church often stands apart from what we hear about and read about in the rest of our culture. Just because they are uncomfortable to consider does not mean that we shouldn’t discuss them. We may not always agree with what the Church teaches either. Our role as Catholics, especially if we disagree, is to learn more. Why does the Church encourage economic equality that seems counter to our democracy? What is the thinking behind the Church’s campaign for supporting traditional family structures? The CCC (2549) even tells us “it remains for the holy people to struggle,” yet God provides us with grace to carry on. Catholic social teaching allows that we can discuss individual positions critically and provide constructive arguments but encourages us to find the basis for our arguments in basic Catholic values.

 

As I consider politics and Catholic social teaching, am reminded that the Church also teaches us the 10 commandments. Thou Shall Not Lie seems to be the one commandment that trips me up. Not that I intentionally tell lies, but I have found myself bending the truth a bit when it saves me from trouble. The beauty of our Church teachings is that we are also taught that God always forgives. He always understands and takes us back in. It is often said that our Catholic faith is one that calls for constant conversion – conversion to Christ’s way. So when we lie, we seek reconciliation and forgiveness. When we wrestle with the Church’s social teachings, we do so in prayer and we seek reconciliation, forgiveness, and mercy again. It’s a process and we, the humans, are slow to learn. Christ gets that. He waits. He comes back and picks us up and shows us the teachings again and again. That is why it is important to discuss the church, politics, and what Catholic social teaching guide us toward. We can always learn, we can always proceed toward God, even when we don’t always agree.

Going to Mass: Wednesday Reflection, October 24 & November 7

Our Catholic Mass is called “the source and summit” of our faith. Faith Formation leaders work hard to center their lessons around the weekly liturgy in order to highlight its importance in our Christian lives. For example, all the the commissions (committees) at St. John are encouraged to begin their meetings by reflecting on the week’s upcoming Gospel. Our bulletin includes a reflection on the week’s Gospel written by Sue and often includes quotes or additional insights from published sources. This year, families with kids in our faith formation programs were given a resource so that they could read the Sunday scriptures at home. These resources “point us” to the mass each week.

The question for each of us, is how do we approach the weekly liturgy as “a source?” How is it a summit, a highlight for us each Sunday? These are likely not easy questions, but with practice and participation, they can be! Consider how rich our mass is…every action, prayer, even pause is considered. It can be enlightening, amazing, and surprising to dig into what the mass is really all about. One good way to start is to consider The General Instruction of the Roman Missal, where the entire mass is explained. Simply reflecting on each week’s liturgy is another way that you can become more in tune with the ebb and flow of our weekly liturgy.

We attend mass as a source for mercy (Introductory Rite), knowledge (Liturgy of the Word), nourishment (Liturgy of the Eucharist), and encouragement (Concluding Rite). Through the experience of the Mass, we dwell in Christ’s presence and catch a mere glimpse of the eternal life He invites us to – truly the summit of our life in Christ. How is the Sunday Liturgy your source and how is it your summit? How does it make a difference in the rest of your week?

Wednesday, October 17: Being Intentional

As Catholics, we are invited to be partners with Jesus in continuing his mission in the Church; essentially, we are called to be his disciples. The challenge we have today is understanding what being a disciple looks like. According to The Catechism, “Jesus associates his disciples with his own life.” That seems like a pretty tall order! In our recent Sunday Gospels, we have heard how the followers of Jesus’ own time were instructed. Jesus expected that they follow the commandments, that they love God and others, and that they “gave their all” in following Christ. Our discussion over the last couple weeks has suggested that to be one of these disciples of Christ, we have to BEGIN to behave like one. This week, we discussed how we can start that walk by being intentional. How can we intentionally choose God, over all else, day in and day out? Consider all the ways, in an average day, that you can express an awareness of God: in all that he has given, in the faces and stories of the people with whom you interact, and in your own actions, words, and behaviors. Can you intentionally find God’s hand in these?

Wednesday, Sept. 26: What Is God’s Will?

It is certainly God’s Will that we build amazing relationships. We got a start on that with a crazy introduction game where each of us wrote down a question to ask someone we would like to get to know. The collection of questions posed was interesting and also has us asking if we need to practice getting to know one another better? We discussed 4 facets of figuring out what God’s Will for us might be. ONE of those facets was recognizing the people who have shaped our lives. Have you ever ran into an acquaintance and ended up in a conversation with them that surprised you? Perhaps God placed this person in your life once just so they could return to have that conversation! Take time to get to know each other – that is something that delights our Lord. The other facets of understanding God’s Will are:  Taking a look at what brings us joy because joy is from the Lord; Reflecting on our skills, talents, and capabilities because God gives us the gifts we need to do His will here on earth, but sometimes, we have to uncover those gifts; and finally, when we examine this beautiful world that he created for us, what matters to us personally? God made us to care for one another and for our world. If we consider world events that stir our interest, we may find that God is calling us to make a difference in those places. Relationships, Joy, Gifts, and World Issues are four things to consider as we pray for God’s guidance in our life’s journey. We can get a start on these today and in our church by taking time to get acquainted. That might mean asking another teen about their Clash of Clan skills, but we challenge you to ask something else. You never know how a conversation can change your life.

Wednesday, Sept. 19: Discernment

“To discern truth, we need to discern everything that…promotes goodness…from whatever tends to divide…”

That’s a mighty strong statement made by Pope Francis on World Communications Day earlier this year! It seems simple: if something is right, it causes no harm. Yet, there are so many shades of gray in that thinking, and how does that apply when we are faced with life choices? Would attending the University of Michigan versus attending Ohio State cause harm? How to choose one over the other? In his YouTube video called Four Helpful Rules for Discernment, Father Mike Schmitz says to ask four questions. There are: 1. Is this a “good” option? 2. Is this option a reality for me? 3. Is the choice wise? and 4. Is this choice what I want to do?  These are still difficult questions to answer, which is where prayer comes in. Particularly with big decisions, if we allow ourselves time to ponder those questions – in prayer, meditation, journaling, or all of the these – we may eventually feel a “nudge” in one direction or another. The nudge is the Holy Spirit at work! But letting God “speak” to us in our decision-making takes some patience. We might have to spend some time alone with our thoughts. Pope Francis calls this “informed and mature reflection.” God has blessed most of us with wonderful choices to make in our lives. How do we acknowledge God’s role in presenting opportunities? Have you ever felt His “push” when weighing important life options? Do you feel as if you are living the life that God desires for you? How can you check in with God about His will for you?

Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, Wednesday Sept. 12

On Wednesday, Youth Leaders from several Cedar Rapids area parishes led what they hope to be the first monthly multi-parish Worship and Adoration event for teens. I would like to support this effort as much as I can but I also recognize that it might not be practical to get our teens from Lisbon-Mount Vernon into Cedar Rapids once a month. We are pretty well-established in a routine here and being at our own church is less of a time commitment on a school night versus heading into CR. And yet…I place high value on interacting with a broader Catholic Community than what we have here at home. Our local faith community is truly amazing – I have learned so much from our community through prayer and conversation. Nevertheless, I have also been surprised as I’ve experienced prayer and conversation that are outside my comfort zone. What a gift to learn that there are “others out there!”

The Adoration event follows a format that is similar to what we’ve experienced at NCYC. It provides some time for quiet reflection, but that is interspersed with song and prayer. The lead time of vocalists do a great job of setting a tone for reflection. The next time that we have a “non-scheduled” night here that coincides with a Worship Wednesday is January 9. I plan to reach out to organize a carpool again. Between now and then, if you think an evening of Worship would suit you better than a night of learning and discussion, I encourage you to check out the Youth Ministry calendar and attend a Worship Wednesday on your own. They are geared to teens, but all are welcome

Wednesday, September 5: Evening Prayer

The Liturgy of the Hours, or Divine Office, is “the daily prayer of the Church.” There are 5 designated readings or prayer times, but my favorite has become Evening prayer, or Vespers, which occurs at 6:00 pm or before dark. I like evening prayer because it is something that is spelled out for me. I use the Laudate app on my phone and it includes all the prayers for the designated hour. However, I have also learned that evening prayer does not have to be so formal. There are many adaptations of evening prayer. For me, it’s the combination of prayer and scripture and then also knowing that Catholics all over the globe are praying at that same time. I imagine that it is a time of “super-sized” prayer where the intercessions of all the prayers are lifted up together. How fitting it is, then, that we take this time to pray for our students. during this hour, when our prayers join the prayers of our earthly communion of saints. Our students need our prayers; they are busy people holding all sorts of possibilities. Let’s pray that God is their guide in all they do.

Lumen Gentium (Nature of the Church) as We Read It Today

Last Wednesday, the High School mentor team met to kick off the school year. We chose this particular Vatican II document because it does a great job of defining a role for lay people in the Church. It calls each person to holiness as well. We thought it would be a great message to consider as we set about making plans for high school faith formation this school year. Little did we know that the news leading up to our small meeting would be dominated by issues of sexual abuse at the hand of clergy. Our discussion turned into a “how to respond” session. Our small group struggled with these current events, but we felt confident that the Lumen Gentium document will continue to provide guidance as to how our Church and its leaders can move forward in a way that honors Christ’s mission for us. Here’s a link to the document if you want to take a look at it, or stop by the Youth Office for a “plain text” version.

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