Searching for Meaning

What does the Mass mean to you?  To some, coming church is what they are expected to do at Christmas and Easter.  To others, it’s where they go on Sundays because that’s what they’ve always done.  Yet to others, coming to church is a way to be a member of a living, breathing entity that has existed for over 2,000 years.  There’s no right answer to this question, because a person can have each one of those opinions at different times in their life.

The Catholic Church is all of the above.  It is a body of worshippers who come together to celebrate the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.  It is a venue for fellowship and socializing.  It is a place to go when you are seeking answers.  It is a family brought together by a common purpose, a common faith.

The central point of our mass is the Eucharist.  To Catholics everywhere, the Eucharist and wine are the body and blood of Christ – it’s not a symbol – it is Christ’s gift to us every time Mass is celebrated.  It’s part of what unites us as Catholics.  Our mass is where we come together.  We gather with our friends, family, and neighbors.  We are joined by the communion of saints to proclaim our unity with each other and to share in the Eucharistic feast at the Lord’s table.

Sister Cheryl is leading a book study on Ron Rohlheiser’s book Our One Great Act of Fidelity: Waiting for Christ in the Eucharist.  It’s an easy read and discusses the author’s journey in discovering what the Eucharist means to him.  I have found it to be a very powerful book and it has given me many opportunities to think and to figure out my relationship with the Eucharist.

I have been on my own journey to rediscover/reaffirm/understand my faith.  I’m in no way perfect, or an expert on how someone should go about doing this.  However, I have a questioning spirit and am always seeking answers.  I have been attending the classes offered by our parish staff during this Lenten season.  These classes have afforded me the opportunity to learn about the beginnings of the Catholic Church, the mysteries of our faith that I didn’t learn earlier in life (or learned and have forgotten), and the opportunity to talk to other members of the parish who are willing to share their knowledge and experiences.  This is invaluable to me.

My challenge to myself is to truly ponder what the Eucharist means in my life.  I am trying to take the time to think about the beauty and history reflected in our Mass, and to think about what the Church (as an organization, as a body of worshippers, as a faith) means to me.

I invite others to join me on this journey.  Learn everything you can.  Ask the questions you need to when you are unsure.  Become involved – attend classes, discover adoration, come to Communal Penance.

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Taking Time During Advent to Prepare

During Advent, not only are we called to be watchful, but we are called to be prepared.  We should be prepared to not only receive Christ, but to receive Him with Joy.

While waiting for the birth of Christ, we are asked to meditate on the gifts we are given.  There are the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the gifts of life and liberty, and the gift of those around us.

Too often, we are in a rush to get to Christmas.  Each year, the holiday decorations come out earlier and earlier.  Those same people who grumble about the stores having Christmas items up are rushing to put up their Christmas tree on Thanksgiving Day.  It’s not Christmas yet…it’s Advent – WAIT!

Unless we take the time to wait – to watch and prepare – to be appreciative for the great gifts we have been given, we won’t know the true meaning of Christmas.  The joy of Christ’s birth will be lost amid the rush, lost amid the day-to-day struggles we all face, and lost to time once again.

In my family, we wait to put up our tree until after my birthday in the beginning of December.  This year, as I have been listening to the homilies at church and really trying to refocus myself, I’ve come to realize that to my girls, Christmas isn’t so much about Christ.  That makes me sad, but when I think about it, Christmas wasn’t about Christ when I was growing up either.  Christmas was about family and gifts.  I think I’d like to make a change in how my family looks at Christmas.  I don’t want my girls to be so focused on Santa and the gifts he brings that they miss the true meaning of the season.  I want them to think about the gifts they have been given, and the gift of Christ.  I know it will be difficult – there’s so much focused on the commercialization and they are only 4 and 7, but I think it’s important for them to understand. While they are joyous about the season, it’s for the Santa aspect, not the gift of Christ.

Are you taking the time to prepare to receive Christ with joy?

Being Watchful During Advent

In the readings for the first Sunday of Advent, we were admonished to “be watchful”.

  • Be watchful for Jesus. 
  • Be watchful for opportunities to minister to others. 
  • Be watchful for others ministering to us. 
  • Be watchful for the movement of the Holy Spirit

Be watchful for Jesus.  To Christians, we are in a perpetual season of Advent, waiting for the coming of Christ. This is amplified annually during the Christmas season as we wait for the birth of the Christ-child. Our readings, our reflections are about watching…watching those around us for the joy of the season.

I am seeing this daily in our home. This is the first Christmas that our youngest actually understands that there’s something going on. She is sooo excited about Christmas – sure, it’s the excitement of Santa and of getting gifts, but she is enthralled by everything Christmas-related. She was so happy to help me set up our small Nativity scene the other night. We talked about each piece and what they were. Now whenever she walks by it, she says that it’s her “special thing” that she did with Mommy. For her, Advent is taking “too long”; but for us, it’s not long enough.

Be watchful for opportunities to minister to others. The holidays are a time that donations spike. People are in a giving spirit and they are called upon, whether by others or by their conscience, to give of their time, money, or talents. Ministering to others doesn’t have to be formal affair…maybe it’s as simple as holding the door for someone who is burdened with items, or a kind smile when you see someone who is frazzled. It may be volunteering for a task at work, your church, or other organization that would stretch your comfort level. It’s amazing how ministering to others can influence your everyday life.

Be watchful for others ministering to us. I tend to rush through my day always playing catch-up. I don’t always notice others as I go about my tasks. I tend to want to do things on my own, and I will struggle through a task even though someone else may have offered to help. My challenge in the coming years is to learn to accept others who are ministering to me. To accept that smile, to accept that offer to babysit, to accept that little girl’s hand in mine and not to rush through my day. Accept each person ministering to you as a gift and say “Thank you” with a spirit of thankfulness and grace in your heart.

Be watchful for the movement of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit moves in unexpected ways. Stories of people who made a serendipitous connection with a stranger abound, or how the non-answer to a prayer was really the answer to the deeper prayer. Be watchful for how the Holy Spirit moves in your life and the lives of those around you. For us, we struggled for years with wanting to have a child. We decided to become foster parents so that we could help others, but we still wanted to have a child of our own. We were finally blessed with the gift of two little girls who fit perfectly into our lives and our family. God heard our cries and even though we weren’t blessed with a child of our bodies, we were blessed with children of our heart. The Holy Spirit moved in mysterious ways.

How have you been watchful this Advent season?