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Some thoughts on the Mad Dash-Black Friday- Frenzy

I’m reading The Spirituality of Imperfection, Storytelling & the Search For Meaning by Ernest Kurtz & Katherine Ketcham.  Watching footage of the annual, frenzied, “Black Friday” stampedes which now begin on Thanksgiving evening across the country, I then read the following.

I think the authors’ words begin to help me name the dynamic at work in this annual phenomenon.  Granted we’re all victims to the power of marketing and advertising, I think the consumer society really has convinced us that happiness can be acquired or bought.  If we take the time, step back & think about that advertising message, we know that that’s not true.  As a matter of fact, it can lead to “misery” as Kurtz and Ketcham point out:

“…greed is the vision that everything is to be ‘gotten.’  The vision that is spirituality warns that greed and misery go hand in hand.  Misery arises inevitability from the belief that we are in control, that we can control everything and that anything we have, we deserve.

Misery is the mind-set that we must get and get and get; it is the yearning for more, the push to acquire more, win more, own more, have more.  Misery is misery because it does not know the meaning of enough.

…As Eric Hoffer observed decades ago: ‘You can never get enough of what you don’t really want.’ “

Holy Communion Under Both Species For Advent

St. Bridget’s Parish will offer Holy Communion under both species at all the weekend Masses for the Season of Advent which begins this weekend, December 1 & 2, 2012.  As you may already know, we offer both species at each Daily Mass.  Both species refers to the Sacred Host & the Precious Blood of the Holy Eucharist.  While the whole Eucharist is present in the host, that is, the real presence of Christ under the appearance of bread, each time we receive the Holy Communion Host.  Offering the chalice so that the Precious Blood of the Lord may also be received by the Assembly adds to the fullness of the symbol of the Eucharist as the Body & Blood of the Lord.

To receive from the Chalice approach the Extra-ordinary Minister of Holy Communion once receiving the Host as you make your way back to your seat.  Those wishing to receive the Precious Blood will simply stop in front of the Extra-ordinary Ministers of Holy Communion who will say, “The Blood of Christ.”  To which the communicant responds, “Amen.”

This practice was recommended by the Pastoral Council as a way to add to the specialness of the Advent Season.

Time Change for Daily Mass

I’ve decided to change the time Daily Mass is offered at St. Bridget’s from 8:30 AM to 8:00 AM effective Monday, December 3, 2012.

The reasons for making this change are two-fold.  Having Mass a half hour earlier makes it a little more feasible for both Fr. Flanagan and Fr. Flavin to offer Mass at this time and still be at their assigned place of ministry earlier.

Secondly, due to the ever increasing priest shortage it is more and more difficult to find a priest available to offer the Daily Mass when I’m away or on retreat.  Any priest that is “able-body” already has a daily Mass commitment somewhere.  So moving the Daily Mass to 8:00 assures that Mass will continue to be offered here at St. Bridget’s as much as that’s possible.

Father Devlin

Children at Mass? No sweat!

God doesn’t ask for perfection, but only genuine effort. The important thing is getting the kids to Mass, even if it’s a sweat-inducing endeavor.

By Dan Cellucci
Dan Cellucci works with Catholic Leadership Institute. He and his wife, Tricia Manion Cellucci, and their daughters, Annie and Katie, are parishioners at St. Thomas of Villanova Parish in Rosemont.

So I have a sweating problem. It’s something I am pretty open about, mostly because it’s pretty obvious. I sweat easily with exercise, otherwise known to me as “walking.” I sweat in awkward situations otherwise known to my wife as all too frequent moments in her husband’s existence. Grossed out yet?  I’m sure and with good reason. Perhaps though, fellow parents can relate to my most effective sweat-trigger – parenting the children at Mass.
You start with the best intentions. Everyone will put on their Sunday best, walk in an orderly and prompt fashion to the car while expressing their enthusiasm for another visit to the parish. In reality, before you even enter the church, you have created several more reasons to fervently participate in the penitential rite and to extend a kiss of peace. For parents (especially those of little girls) know that one’s “Sunday best” is never an easy negotiation and “orderly” and “prompt” usually implode into “frantic” and “frustrated” and “looks like we might be in time for the noon Mass when we were shooting for the 9 a.m.”
As you settle into your pew, the situation doesn’t improve. Who’s fighting with whom? Who needs to sit in between whom? Which toddler has spilled their falsely advertised spill-proof container of Cheerios on the older couple behind you? And despite the 100 other crying children in the church at that Mass, for some reason, your child’s cries seem to be somehow piped through the sound system while every good and focused Catholic seems to be looking at you and wondering why it is you can’t control your children at Mass. And so you sweat … well at least I do.
I was sharing my challenge with having the girls at Mass with a priest friend of mine. What’s the point of this week after week? My little girls don’t seem to be focused on what’s going on. In trying to handle them and prevent distractions to others, my wife and I are not as focused as we should be (in truth she is a lot better at multi-tasking). Wouldn’t we be better off dividing and conquering with one of us going to one Mass while the other tends to the children? Why keep doing this?
“Dan, I’ll give you three reasons,” he said. “First, you do it because you made a promise to God at their baptism. You accepted the responsibility to be their primary teacher of God’s word and you asked a community of believers to support you in that. Second, you do it because Jesus asks you to do it. He instructed us all to “do this in memory of me” – there is no more important foundation to our faith than the Eucharist. And third, you love those girls unconditionally and you know that ultimately they don’t belong to you. Rather you are simply their caretaker with the important responsibility for making sure they know who they are and whose they are. You do it because you want them to have every special and unique blessings God has in store for them.”
“But Father,” I exclaimed, “what of the fighting, the screaming, the dress selection? What of the Cheerios!”
My priest friend smiled. “Dan, He doesn’t ask for perfection, He simply asks for your genuine effort. He wants you to bring the messiness of life to Him so that He can grant you His pardon and His peace. The important thing is that you get there and you get them there. So don’t sweat it.”

Purgatory Seeing Fully For The First Time

Imagine being born blind and living into adulthood without ever having seen light and color. Then, through some miraculous operation, doctors are able to give you sight. What would you feel immediately upon opening your eyes? Wonder? Bewilderment? Ecstasy?  Pain? Some combination of all of these?

We now know the answer to that question.  This kind of sight-restoring operation has been done and is being done and we now have some indication of how a person reacts upon opening his or her eyes and seeing light and color for the first time. What happens might surprise us. Here is how J.Z. Young, an authority on brain function, describes what happens:

“The patient on opening his eyes gets little or no enjoyment; indeed, he finds the experience painful. He reports only a spinning mass of light and colors. He proves to be quite unable to pick up objects by sight, to recognize what they are, or to name them. He has no conception of space with objects in it, although he knows all about objects and their names by touch. ‘Of course,’ you will say, ‘he must take a little time to learn to recognize them by sight.’ Not a little time, but a very long time, in fact, years.  His brain has not been trained in the rules of seeing. We are not conscious that there are any such rules; we think we see, as we say naturally. But we have in fact learned a whole set of rules during childhood.” (See: Emilie Griffin, Souls in Full Flight, p. 143-144)

Might this be a helpful analogy for what happens to us in what Roman Catholics call purgatory? Could the purification we experience after death be understood in this very way, namely, as an opening of our vision and heart to a light and a love that are so full so as to force upon us the same kind of painful relearning and reconceptualization that have just been described? Might purgatory be understood precisely as being embraced by God in such a way that this warmth and light so dwarf our earthly concepts of love and knowledge that, like a person born blind who is given sight, we have to struggle painfully in the very ecstasy of that light to unlearn and relearn virtually our entire way of thinking and loving? Might purgatory be understood not as God’s absence or some kind of punishment or retribution for sin, but as what happens to us when we are fully embraced, in ecstasy, by God, perfect love and perfect truth?

Indeed isn’t this what faith, hope, and charity, the three theological virtues, are already trying to move us towards in this life? Isn’t faith a knowing beyond what we can conceptualize? Isn’t hope an anchoring of ourselves in something beyond what we can control and guarantee for ourselves? And isn’t charity a reaching out beyond what affectively feeds us?

St. Paul, in describing our condition on earth, tells us that here, in this life, we see only as “through a mirror, reflecting dimly” but that, after death, we will see “face to face”. Clearly in describing our present condition here on earth he is highlighting a certain blindness, an embryonic darkness, an inability to actually see things as they really are. It is significant to note too that he says this in a context within which he is pointing out that, already now in this life, faith, hope, and charity help lift that blindness.

These are of course only questions, perhaps equally upsetting to Protestants and Roman Catholics alike. Many Protestants and Evangelicals reject the very concept of purgatory on the grounds that, biblically, there are only two eternal places, heaven and hell. Many Roman Catholics, on the other hand, get anxious whenever purgatory seems to get stripped of its popular conception as a place or state apart from heaven. But purgatory conceived of in this way, as the full opening of our eyes and hearts so as to cause a painful reconceptualization of things, might help make the concept more palatable to Protestants and Evangelicals and help strip the concept of some of its false popular connotations within Roman Catholic piety.

True purgation happens only through love because it is only when we experience love’s true embrace that we can see our sin and drink in, for the first time, the power to move beyond it. Only light dispels darkness and only love casts out sin.

Therese of Lisieux would sometimes pray to God: “Punish me with a kiss!” The embrace of full love is the only true purification for sin because only when we are embraced by love do we actually understand what sin is and, only there, are we given the desire, the vision, and the strength to live in love and truth. But that inbreaking of love and light is, all at the same time, delightful and bewildering, ecstatic and unsettling, wonderful and excruciating, euphoric and painful. Indeed, it’s nothing less than purgatory.

Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI