When I am invited by a close family member to eat at their home with them, I like to stay a while after and visit, unless some sort of emergency arises which calls me away, though this is never usually the case. To eat and leave without a word would be rude, but most of all, would be hurtful and would make them feel that I do not love them, and do not care about them. It would make them feel as though I am ungrateful for them, their hospitality, and for what they have done to make this dinner possible.
Quite often, when I go to Mass, I try to stay after and spend some time in thanksgiving with our Lord dwelling within me in the Holy Eucharist. But, many do not. As soon as the last note of the last song is sung (and sometimes before), most of the congregation is off to the races, chatting about all sorts of things with their friends, while a few people, including myself, remain in prayer. I was definitely not always this way, however. I would maybe kneel for a few moments after Mass, but get up quickly to go. There were people there that I could talk to and catch up with. It was more important to me, at that time, to catch people I wanted to speak with before they went home. There were things to do after Mass, and people to see. However, as I fell more and more in love with Jesus, my desire to stay with Him for a while after Mass grew.
When we receive the Body and Blood of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, we become living Tabernacles, carrying Our Lord within us. For about 15-20 minutes, give or take, after receiving Him, He is still present physically within us in the Sacrament. This is the best time for prayer; for bringing to Him our Thanksgivings, Reparations, and Petitions. It is the ideal time to meditate on the reality of God Himself being within us, at least for a time.
I was fortunate to spend a Holy Hour on Saturday with Our Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament. During this time, I read St Peter Julian Eymard’s direction for Adoration. He says in his “Method of Adoration According to the Four Ends of the Holy Sacrifice of The Mass” under the second quarter, directed to thanksgiving:
Express your wonder at the sacrifices He imposes on Himself in His sacramental state. He conceals the glory of His Divinity and humanity so as not to dazzle and blind you. He veils His majesty so that you may dare come to Him and speak to Him as friend to friend. He binds His power so as not to frighten or punish you. He does not manifest the perfection of His virtues so as not to discourage your weakness. He even checks the ardor of His Heart and of His love for you because you could not stand the strength and tenderness of it. He lets you see only His goodness, which filters through, as it were, and escapes from the Sacred Species like a ray of sunshine through a thin cloud.
How kind indeed is our sacramental Jesus! He welcomes you at any hour of the day or night. His love never knows rest. He is always most gentle toward you. When you visit Him, He forgets your sins and imperfections, and speaks only of His joy, His tenderness, and His love. By the reception He gives you, one would think He has need of you to make Him happy.
Pour out your whole soul in thanksgiving to this good Jesus! Thank the Father for having given you His Divine Son. Thank the Holy Ghost for having reincarnated Him on the altar through the ministry of the priest, and that for you personally. Call upon Heaven and earth, Angels and men, to help you thank, bless, and exalt so much love for you.
My desire to spend more time with Our Lord after receiving him grew, as my love for Him and my deep gratefulness for what He did for me grew. I feel that what St. Peter Julian Eymard says in his guide for Adoration, is the same for the time we have with our Lord within us, after receiving Him in Holy Communion. The journey in this life is not easy, but we can draw our strength from the One who loves us, namely, Jesus. It takes time for our love for Him to grow and deepen. I encourage you to spend an extra five minutes this Sunday after Mass, spending time in prayer and thanksgiving, and to gradually increase that time as you are able. Beg Jesus to increase your love for Him. Just as our love for our friends and family grow as we spend time with them, the same goes for our relationship with God, as we spend time with Him.
I love going to Mass, but I have learned that there is much more to the faith than just going to Mass. There are Coffee Sundays! Yes, those fantastic Sundays where everyone gets to drink coffee from styrofoam cups and eat desserts after attending the greatest moment in human history. Surrounded by the Angels and Saints, we attend the most epic of all mysteries…and then, as the smell of the incense fades, another smell emerges from the bowels of the Church basement. COFFEE. Truth be told, Coffee Sundays have always weirded me out, and I think I’m not the only one. I am a bit of an introvert (despite what my resume might say), and meeting, greeting, and mingling is one of my least favourite of all the things. So going downstairs for coffee after Mass freaks me out. Yes, I acknowledge I have a problem. I’m not even a coffee drinker (mea gulpa). I realized, especially after experiencing a Byzantine Catholic community a few weeks ago, the very reason why Roman Catholics have failed Coffee Sunday and why it weirds me out.
Sacred Heart Byzantine Catholic Church in Livonia, MI is a small Byzantine Catholic Community, yet, really appear to have a big heart. I attended a Divine Liturgy after the warm invitation I received from their pastor three weeks ago, and I have to admit, the parish is doing something right. I have attended a lot of parishes throughout my life, and have spent a lot of time questioning “what can make or break a parish?” I think that one of the main reasons why people leave the church is because they do not feel welcomed. I have not had a lot of experiences with many Byzantine Catholic communities, but after attending a five different Byzantine Catholic communities, I can say without a doubt that they are the most welcoming group of Catholics I have ever met.
As soon as the Liturgy was finished, we were personally invited to come and join them for “Coffee Sunday”. Each time we have gone, we are not just given coffee and some cheap donut holes (Timbits for our fellow Canadians), but have been fed REALLY well. You would think in the Roman Catholic Church you would see more little Italian grandmothers saying “Look at you, you’re fading away. Mange- Eat. We feed you, now.” Nope. But the Byzantines? They feed you! They introduce themselves (a novel idea), and they truly make you feel welcome by inviting you into the life of their parish.
So, what’s the point? The New Evangelization is never going to emerge if we do not love each other and become authentically Catholic Christians. As I sat with Fr. Marquis, the parish priest of Sacred Heart in Livonia, and met with a ton of parishioners during their Coffee Sunday, there was a comment on how it was apparent by his homily, and bulletin, that he was committed to the spiritual growth of his parishioners. He said that he is working to help build his church and help it to grow. I asked what is he doing to make that a reality, and he said, “it is by by being authentically who we are that this parish will grow.” He then asked, “Have you ever wondered why we paint a portrait of Jesus from the waist up on the ceilings of our churches?” We shrugged. “Because the rest of Him is on the floor.” I then realized that this is exactly the reason why I felt so welcomed, loved, and appreciated by this parish. It was because the priest, along with the parishioners realized that they were the Body of Christ, and reached out and welcomed us, just like Jesus. It is time for our Roman Catholic parishes to realize this as well, and put it into practice. How do we make this a reality when so many have become accustomed to the typical Coffee Sunday experience? Perhaps, it is time for us, who are young, to show our more wise Coffee Sunday forefathers just how to transform our parishes from the basement up and be the welcoming faces we have all longed to see.
Check out Sacred Heart Byzantine Catholic Church here
And He said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions. – Luke 12:15
I’m sure that many of us could easily admit that our culture is materialistic. From the time we were children, whether we know it or not, we learned selfish tendencies, and in more than just materialistic ways. We have been taught to look after ourselves first, and while this can be important to keep ourselves healthy (mentally, emotionally, and spiritually), unfortunately we often slip into habits of greed and selfishness, sometimes without even realizing it.
The way we interact with people may be selfish. Do we wish to surround ourselves with people that will make us feel good all the time? Do we want to only be surrounded by people that fit a certain criteria? If we surround ourselves with people that must make us feel good all time and never be truly honest or challenge us to grow to be better people, then we are simply being proud. Relationships should be rooted in love, and a desire to lead each other to holiness. If we only have friends because they make us feel good, or they satisfy a need for entertainment, then it should not surprise us if eventually those relationships wither and die.
Although there is beauty in friendship, and there can certainly be good fruits from many of our relationships, the goal should not be our own satisfaction. We certainly need care and love, and it is definitely necessary at times to ask in humility for respect and love from those that claim to love us, but the end result should aim to help the other grow closer to Christ.
Do we often think about others first? When we do things for people, do feel like we need to always be thanked, praised, or paid back? If we are truly acting out of love, then we should not feel the need for all or any of those things. Love does not require a payback, a thank you, or recognition from other people. Of course we should do what we can to thank those who are loving towards us, but when we are bitter when we are not noticed for being loving, then that loving action instantly becomes twisted with our pride. When we love, maybe we should just love expecting nothing at all. We should see the love we give as a reward in itself.
Let temporal things be in the use, eternal things in the desire.” ― Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ
I am not saying it is not a worthy pursuit to be happy. What I can say, however, is that holiness ultimately trumps an earthly happiness. What should take priority above all things, even our own happiness, is being holy, and seeking to have a good relationship with Christ. There are things in life that require sacrifice. There are things in life that will hurt, and that hurt may go on for a long time. There are things in life that maybe we didn’t plan or even want, but have been given to us to help us to grow strong, and to grow in love.
If when we were children and we were taught in schools to do what made us happy rather than to always do what is right, imagine the chaos our world would be in. If we were taught growing up to love, to do the right thing, even if it meant not getting what we wanted, and to be selfless, we would live in a world where things would be much different. If we each sought actual holiness instead of happiness, I think in turn we will also find happiness. Happiness does not always lead to holiness, but holiness will lead to a joy far greater in heaven.
During this lenten season, we are called to reflect on our relationship with Christ and prepare ourselves for Easter. The Church calls us to fast, to pray, and to give alms. We should hold ourselves accountable for sins of selfishness and greed that may be in the way of having a better relationship with God, and with the people that surround us in our homes, workplaces, and in society in general. Let us seek to live our lives that are holy above all else, that seek simplicity and truth, and that help us to be humble. The things we accumulate in this world will not come with us when we die. If we wish to accumulate something in life, it should be acts of love, and a desire to love selflessly above all else. This is what will yield good fruit, if not in this world, then in the eternal kingdom of heaven.
This past Monday, Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, made this statement to the media, on the new sex and phys-ed curriculum release by Ontario’s government.
I must admit, although I have a deep respect for Cardinal Collins, both because of his position and the many great things he has done for the local Church, I read this statement with shock and disappointment.
After a campaign against this curriculum supported by tens of thousands of Ontarians, and strong statements by other bishops and MPs, the most important Catholic authority in Ontario did not oppose the change, but instead said that our schools would deal with it, and present it in a Catholic way.
I believe this is a very flawed response, and a big mistake on the part of the good Cardinal, and the Institute for Catholic Education (ICE) under him, which made a similar statement in support of the new curriculum.
Much of this public statement presents what I would call an overly optimistic view of Catholic education. For example, it says:
“For more than 30 years, Ontario’s publicly funded Catholic schools have provided a family life curriculum consistent with our faith.”
But have they, really? The curriculum that our schools have delivered for the past 30 years has consistently been questionable. It has very often taught students to use contraception, been ambiguous on questions like abortion or homosexuality, and failed to form students in chastity. In my experience the Church’s teaching has consistently been either ignored, or presented in a manner so dumbed down as to lose all credibility, while a worldly sexuality is always taught much more rigorously.
Similarly, the statement says that Catholic schools will “continue this tradition”, with respect to conveying Catholic principles to students. For me and, I believe, many other parents, that’s what we’re afraid of. We know that some Catholic window-dressing will be wrapped around the immoral teachings, maybe a disclaimer which as often as not will be read out sarcastically by a teacher who hasn’t set foot in a church for months if not years, before the curriculum is taught essentially unmodified.
That’s what has happened in the past, and I’m not at all convinced it won’t happen now.
Further, to be frank, this is not just a Catholic issue. This curriculum is very clearly harmful to children, and it should be refused by everyone.
This curriculum is not, as the Ontario government has disingenuously claimed, designed to protect children. In fact it does the complete opposite – it will certainly encourage early sexual activity, and there are grave concerns that it will make children more vulnerable to “grooming” by sexual predators.
Just one example: students will be taught how to give “legal consent” to sexual activity, in grade 6. Now in case that doesn’t seem shocking, let me remind you that the age at which one can give legal consent to sexual activity in Ontario is 16 years old. The average grade 6 student is 10 or 11. Giving these kids the idea that they can choose to have sex at that age is an opening that abusers are certain to exploit.
But this all makes sense, given that the curriculum’s original architect, former Deputy Minister of Education Ben Levin, is himself (allegedly) a sexual predator. Back in 2013, he was charged after encouraging a mother in an online chat to abuse her child and sent him a video of it (that ‘mother’ was an undercover police officer). He was also caught in possession of child pornography. Is it any surprise then, to find that this criminal’s pet project of a curriculum sexualises children in a way no curriculum has before?
Our cardinals, bishops and priests, as well as the members of ICE, need to stand up for the rights of our children. And parents and teachers must refuse to allow this curriculum to be taught to the children under their care. Whether it’s writing to your MP, removing your children from class, teaching extra lessons at home, or even choosing to homeschool, it’s ultimately the parent’s responsibility to protect their child, especially when the government and the Church hierarchy aren’t doing enough.