Coffee with Merton

J.M.J.

I first read The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton in 2009 or 2010.  Living in Kentucky at the time and being fairly new to the Catholic faith, it was hard not to be curious about Merton.  After all, Merton had entered the Trappist monastery in Kentucky in 1941 and lived there until his untimely death in 1968.  I plodded through the book, alternately fascinated by and bored with Merton.  When I finished, I put it on my bookshelf and promptly forgot about it.

When we were packing for our move to Australia, I gave some of my books to our parish, my husband sold a few on eBay, and my favorites were packed in boxes to make the trip to Australia.  Somehow, Merton’s book found its way into the trans-Pacific bound boxes.

Four months after packing those boxes, our belongings arrived at our new home in Australia.  Unpacking was like Christmas morning!  It was so good to see that our antique dining room table had arrived unscathed and to have my good pots and pans again!  We unpacked and considered ourselves truly at home again.  Merton sat on the bookshelf with my other books, unnoticed and forgotten.

But it seems Merton had not forgotten me.  A few more months went by (where does the time go, really?) and I decided to read The Seven Storey Mountain again.  After all, surely I had missed the point entirely the first time I read the book, right?  After all, I am certainly no scholar and there are thousands and thousands of people who see Merton as a visionary, a beautiful writer, someone whose words and ideas are worth remembering.  With that second reading, I think I got Merton a little more.  I saw his life from a different viewpoint, realized that he had been searching his whole life for what he seemed to find nestled in the hills of central Kentucky in that monastery.  Of course, like a lot of us, he doesn’t always know what it is that he’s looking for and the fact that he seemed to find it in that monastery doesn’t really become apparent in his autobiography.  You have to read his later writings to realize how much he grows and changes.  So Merton resonated with me more with that second reading and the book returned to the bookshelf with some dog-eared pages.  As we sometimes do when we read the lives of the saints (though Merton is not technically a saint by the Church’s process), I found a bit of myself in some of those pages.

Now, more months later, I have pulled Merton off the bookshelf again for a third reading.  The cover of the book is a bit curled, Merton in the same pose on the cover in his monastic habit, the pages are still dog-eared, and the paper has turned a satisfying shade of sepia.  Merton and I are here in the early spring weather of northern Victoria, windows open, birds singing, hot coffee steaming. 

I wonder what he will say this time.

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How are you going?

I’m cheating on this post by reblogging from my other blog! Apologies for that and I will try to post more often. Peace to you all!

ournewaussielife

It’s been waaayyy too long since I posted anything here.  This stuff is ancient history now!  Life has been pretty busy for all three of us since last Christmas.  We have travelled to the US and back, visiting family and friends, done a little travelling around Victoria, South Australia, and New South Wales.  Lily has braces now and is now almost finished with Year 7 (seventh grade to my US folks).  And on and on.  So, how are you going?

When an Aussie says, “How are you going?”, they aren’t asking if you are traveling by plane, train, or automobile.  They are asking, “How are you?”

I can’t get used to it.  I still respond with, “Fine, thanks.  How are you?”  which is terribly formal for this laid back society.  Of course, if I at least have a smile on my face, it offsets the unnecessary formality of what I…

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It wasn’t Easy to Go to Mass on Sunday

J.M.J.

It wasn’t easy to go to Mass this past Sunday.  Which is unusual for me to say.  I love Mass.  I love the pomp and circumstance, I love the altar, the vestments, the words and prayers, and especially the fact that I am sitting in the very actual presence of Our Lord. And this past Sunday was the Third Sunday of Advent and I love Advent.  It’s a time of such excited anticipation in the Church. But I had a hard time this past Sunday because 26 people, 20 of them children, whom I never met and never even knew existed died senselessly earlier in the week. Ten thousand plus miles away, my family and I felt the hurt our nation felt.  People here felt it too.  I don’t understand why, I don’t think anyone does.  We may never understand.  Maybe we aren’t meant to understand.  But being people, we want to and we want somewhere to turn. So many people turned to the faith of their choice, some maybe for the first time in years.  St. Peter said, “Master, to whom shall we go?  You alone have the words of eternal life.”  Lord, help us all come ever closer to you.

Eternal rest grant unto them, Lord.

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Mass isn’t Over Until the Casserole is Delivered

J.M.J.

I attended a wonderful talk last night by Father Elio Capro at our parish.  I won’t even attempt to go into Fr. Elio’s accomplishments as a priest during the course of his priesthood, but you can read a bit about him here: http://www.ctc.edu.au/lecturers/elio-capra-sdb.html.  Suffice it to say, he’s a fireball.  He’s energetic and engaging and hilariously funny.  His passion for the Faith is infectious.

He came to our parish to talk about the Eucharist as the centre of community.  I won’t go into his whole talk, but I wanted to share a particular story that he related.  After hearing this story, it will be hard for me to ever forget the meaning of the concluding rites of the Mass.

So here goes (true story):

A teacher in a Catholic school that was a friend of Fr. Elio’s was tasked with preparing several intellectually challenged children to receive First Eucharist. As he was going through the meaning of the different parts of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, he explained that after the concluding rites, Mass was ended and everyone went home.  One student, Philip, said, “My mum says that Mass isn’t over until the casserole is delivered.”

Intrigued, the teacher asked Philip to explain. “On Sunday morning, mum puts a casserole in the oven before we leave for Mass. When we leave Mass, mum tells us that Mass isn’t over until the casserole is delivered.  When we get home, the casserole is done.  Mum takes it out of the oven.”

Still not quite understanding what this had to do with the Mass, the teacher asked Philip to continue.

“Then mum wraps up the casserole to keep it hot and our whole family walks down the street.  We go to our neighbor about 4 houses down.  He’s old and lives by himself.  We have the casserole for lunch with him every Sunday so that he’s not by himself.  After lunch, when we go home, mum says that Mass is now over.”

After laughing for the past hour and half as Fr. Elio told great jokes between his talk about the Eucharist, the whole crowd of us sat pretty still and quiet for a few seconds while the wisdom of that sank in.  Mass isn’t over after the concluding rites.  It isn’t over when the priest makes it to the back of the church or when the music stops.
It doesn’t matter if the new translation of the Missal has changed the wording of the concluding rites.  The message is the same.

Thanks be to God!

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The Bombing

J.M.J.

A thoughtful and well spoken blog by Rebecca Hamilton.

Public Catholic

We call it The Bombing.

We don’t use qualifiers about the Alfred P Murrah Federal Building, or Oklahoma City. Anytime you utter the words The Bombing around these parts, everyone in hearing distance will know what and when you mean.

We also don’t talk about it much. This monstrous event knocked us flat as a community. It re-focused our fight away from the everyday conflicts that engaged us before it happened. Anger and rage were an indulgence we couldn’t afford. We had people to save and lives to rebuild and only so much emotional gas to do it with.

The bombing was mass murder. What happened in Denver was mass murder.

Mass murder is not entertainment.

The Colorado tragedy is on every news show, even though there’s no news to report. They are analyzing and pontificating, all without data, like so many useless hamsters in their respective cages. The…

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One Mad Catholic

J.M.J.

I woke up one mad Catholic today.  And I don’t really care who knows it.  As the day goes on, it’s not getting any better.  Unfortunately, this blog isn’t followed by His Holiness or the USCCB.  I wish it was.  I also wish it was followed by every pro-life Catholic in America.  But it isn’t and the ones who do will probably be very mad at me after they read this.  And that’s fine.  All I ask is that you consider what I have to say.  And what I have to say is that you as a pro lifer, while you wave your banner about life beginning at conception and abortion and contraception being murder, are forgetting that other populations will be adversely affected by Obamacare.  It’s incredibly disappointing to me that the Church is focusing solely on the abortion/contraception issue and is ignoring the issue of how Obamacare will affect seniors and the elderly.  The Church is neglecting to defend all vulnerable populations in this issue.

I spoke to my mom via skype this morning before taking my daughter to school.  It’s her birthday (happy birthday, Mom!!!).  What did she do for her birthday?  She got up early and went to the doctor…where she had to sit and wait too long to have her blood work drawn.  Now she’s not in the best of health and it’s hard for her to get around and really hard to sit in a doctor’s waiting room in chairs that aren’t comfortable where she can’t put her feet up.  So, going to the doctor is not the easiest thing in the world to do.

So what, you may be asking, does this have to do with me being one mad Catholic?  Well, I am so glad you asked!  While the Church I love and the people in it and it’s American leadership are focused so SOLELY on the fact that Obamacare will be funding abortions and contraception, everyone, from the bishops on down to the people in the pews, seem to be totally ignoring the impact this will have on seniors and the elderly and disabled in America.  And quite frankly, it’s appalling.

Now before you start waving the pro life banner at me, be advised…I am pro life and  I don’t like Obamacare anymore than you do, but apparently for a lot more reasons.  I don’t believe in abortion or contraception.  Jesus loved the little children and called them to Him.  I am sure He is greatly saddened by the culture of death surrounding this sad reality.  However, I believe He is greatly saddened by the fact that His Church and it’s members are IGNORING the fact that Obamacare is a terrible idea for other vulnerable populations in the US, namely, our seniors and elderly, and the disabled.  Jesus called us to minister not just to the little children, but to all His children.  This includes those beautifully wrinkled seniors and elderly (and no, Mom, I am not calling you wrinkled!!).  We are called to protect and stand up for all who need a voice, including, but NOT limited to, children and the unborn.  However, the Church and its members seem to be limiting the vulnerable population to children and the unborn.  While the calling of so many to vocally oppose abortion and contraception is an admirable calling, it’s the only aspect Obamacare that is receiving attention from the Church and it’s members.  I am sad to tell you, but if you think opposing Obamacare on the basis of its anti-pro life stance will result in Obamacare being overturned, you are sadly and horribly mistaken.  Washington, DC is a culture of death, populated by people with no respect for life who seem to forget that they have a constituency as soon they take office.  People like Rebecca Hamilton, who serves in the Oklahoma State Legislature, are disappointingly in the minority.  But I ask you, as my fellow Catholic Christians, to take off your blinders and consider that such a narrowly vocalized opposition will sway too few to repeal this terrible law.  Instead, educate yourselves on what the politicians believe that we, as the public, are too stupid to realize.  Obamacare is not pro life, on that we all agree.  It is also going to decrease access to care for our seniors and elderly while requiring them to pay more out of pocket for services and medications.  Too many of our seniors and elderly are already struggling to make ends meet and having to choose between buying medicines and buying food.  Obama would have you believe that his health plan will fix that.  It won’t.  Educate yourself at: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2010/05/obamacare-impact-on-seniors.

Be pro life.  But let that life be from conception until earthly life ends.

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Volunteering

J.M.J.

Father approached me about 6 weeks ago and asked if I would be willing to assist with the Sacramental Preparation program for the children in the parish. I agreed…hope this goes well.  Thanks be to God for the Religious Education Coordinators at the two Catholic primary schools associated with the parish and the parish secretary.  They welcomed me with open arms and have been more help than I could have asked for.  I advertised in the parish bulletin for more volunteers for our team.  I hope my prayers for willing hands are answered!  Our next sacrament is First Reconciliation which will soon be followed by First Eucharist preparation…lots to do.

I am considering getting involved with St. Vincent de Paul as well…the Society has a strong presence here in Mildura and I have spoken very briefly to one of the Sisters in the parish twice about it. There is a meeting tonight to recruit people and I will be there!  I hope I can put what small talents I have to good use there.  I have never volunteered for an organization like this before so, but hands are hands and even mine can be put to good use!

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Holy Mary, Mother of God

J.M.J.

Pray for us…

How many times in our lives do we repeat this to ourselves or out loud?

Do I ever stop to think about what I am asking?  I am asking the Mother of God, the Mother of the Almighty to consider me, to take my concerns into her hands and ask her Son, on my behalf, to answer my prayers. And Our Mother does just that whenever any of us asks.  Thank you Blessed Mother.

When my non-Catholic friends ask me about what the Church teaches about Mary, I always point out that Catholics don’t worship Mary, we honor her as the Mother of God and believe that she hears us and prays to her Son on our behalf when we ask.  She is our Mother too, and as mothers, we pray for our children, worry over them, and love them.

When I was going through the RCIA process, I thought that accepting the Church’s teachings about Mary would be hard for me.  But, in fact, my journey through the RCIA was so Spirit filled, that all the misconceptions and ignorance I had ever harboured about the Catholic faith melted away like snow on suddenly warm spring day.  They all seemed so uninformed, so ridiculous.  We honor Mary because Jesus did.  Why could I never see that before?  God doesn’t use us for His own ends and then throw us away.  That’s what people sometimes do so I guess we project that behaviour onto God.  No, on the contrary, God invited Mary to be part of His plan.  Yes, He had chosen her above all women for this task, but she still could have told Gabriel to get packing when he came visiting.  Mary still had a choice to say no.  But she said yes and entered into God’s plan even though she probably didn’t understand what it would require of her.

And after Jesus was born and grew into adulthood, God didn’t throw Mary aside and leave her to her own devices.  Jesus still showed great respect for His mother (check out the wedding at Cana) and from the Cross entrusted her to the care of the disciple He loved.  Even at the point of death in the physical pain of the crucifixion, He made sure Mary would be cared for.  He loved and honored her.  If I supposed to model my life after Jesus’ life, then that should include honoring His Mother.  Catholic Tradition teaches us that at the end of Mary’s earthly life, she was assumed into heaven.  God never abandoned Mary, He didn’t use her and throw her away.  Instead, He ensured that she was always cared for, never abandoned, and always loved.

Sort of sounds like what He does for us, doesn’t it?

Blessed are you and blessed is the fruit of your womb!

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Catholic is Universal

J.M.J.

Catholic with a lowercase “c” means universal.  It does not mean “all the same.”

Coming from a Protestant background, one of the joys of being Catholic is this universality.  It means that I can go on vacation, take a business trip, or be away from my home parish and go to Mass wherever I am and hear the same readings, celebrate the same sacred liturgy, and worship with believers who profess the True Presence in the Eucharist just as I would at my home parish.  You can’t do that in a Protestant church, at least not in the denomination in which I grew up where the teaching from the pulpit varied with the preacher.

This universality became even more of a blessing to my family and myself in late 2011 when we immigrated from the US to Australia which was the fulfillment of a dream that we had pursued for quite some time.  In the midst of a new culture 10,000+ miles from family and friends, we were able to walk into our new parish home and receive Our Lord in the Eucharist while worshipping in Mass.  We didn’t have to worry whether the pastor would be preaching a theology we agreed with, we were home in the Church.  The theology, the Mass, the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist were there in the familiar setting of the Mass.

Thanks be to God!

 

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Hello world!

Well, more like “hello again!”.  This is my second blog site on WordPress.  For some time, I have been considering starting a blog to write about faith, God, the Church, our Holy Mother, and what it’s like to be Catholic from my point of view.  I don’t know what direction this blog will take or what I will write about.  I suppose I will just see what happens.  I hope you will enjoy reading this blog and following along on the journey!

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