Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Blood of the Lamb










"In Him we have redemption by His blood, the forgiveness of transgressions, in accord with the riches of His grace that He lavished upon us." Ephesians 1:7-8

July is the month dedicated to the Precious Blood of Jesus. Reflecting on the blood of Jesus, what He shed for us poor sinners, I thought about just how vital our blood is for us in our human bodies. I can’t give a test tube worth of blood without becoming light-headed and weak. I have friends who regularly donate blood, who spend the days before "ironing up." Blood, for our human bodies, is a source of strength, essential for our human life.

Jesus, in His great love, poured out so much of His most precious blood. How weak, how pained, His poor body must have been. Physically, there was no preparation for what He went through in His passion. His body, his mind, his heart, his emotions, all of His humanity was wounded, pained, completely emptied and depleted. All that made up His human body was poured out before us, poured out for us.


I once heard a story about the process by which anti-venom is made. In the story I heard, poisonous venom is extracted from a snake, and is injected little by little into a lamb. The venom enters into the blood and after some time, again, little by little, the blood of the lamb is extracted. The extracted venom, mixed with and covered by the blood of the lamb, now contains what will be used as anti-venom. What was introduced to the lamb as poison, has been altered, purified, by the blood of the lamb.

I’m no expert on medicine, but I do know that this story points to the power that is found in the blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. Jesus poured out His blood for us as a New Covenant. The sacrifice of His body and blood paid the price of our freedom from sin and death. His blood covers us, cleanses us, allows us to heal, to love, to move forward, to move on. His blood poured out for us means that we need not be subject to the law of sin and death. Jesus has given his body and blood for us, and we can take hold of and accept the freedom He offers us, be made clean and free, subject to the law of life and the Spirit. Our lives, weak and subject to temptation and sin, have been purified by the blood of the Lamb.

"Oh compassionate blood, through you was distilled compassionate mercy!" Saint Catherine of Siena

Today, the Blood of Jesus continues to flow through us, His body. The gift of the Holy Eucharist provides for us the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Receiving Him, His mercy courses through our veins, impelling us to continue His work of salvation and mercy, bringing His love to a broken, needy world.

Let us place ourselves at the feet of our precious Savior, beholding what He poured out for us. Let us allow His blood to wash and cleanse us, to give us strength to empty ourselves of our human weakness, of whatever we’re clinging to that we need to let go of. And let us draw near to Him and His most precious blood in the gift of the Holy Eucharist, and let His sacrifice nourish our spirits, that we might be equipped to live less by the flesh, and more fully by the Spirit
.


"The concern of the flesh is death, but the concern of the spirit is life and peace." Romans 8:6

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Sarah Rzasa made her promise and became a Pauline Cooperator in 2014.  She lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.  Sarah is a teacher and a proud “cioci,” or aunt.  She cooperates with the Daughters of St. Paul in Jamaica Plain and helps the children of the Holy Family Institute in Cambridge.  Sarah is a Eucharistic Minister at her parish, St. Patrick’s in Stoneham.


Friday, June 29, 2018

The Same Gospel Message in Different Words

Human beings are tribal in our nature. Our brains are wired to pick up patterns which helps make new things automatic and intuitive. We gravitate toward what is similar out of a natural need of acceptance and self-preservation. Along with this, we tend to fear that which is strange to us. It takes intention and effort to understand and accept something different. Stories provide evidence of humans wrestling with this concept from Aesop's Fables to Dr. Seuss's Sneeches. In the twenty-first century, globalization has provided a new arena for an age-old battle. We hear about conflict in the blink of an eye in cultures we do not understand, and we are able to comment on them publicly and without filter. People are brought into conflict without a face; our homes become foxholes and keyboards become guns. We do not face our supposed enemy. We speak past one another without real dialogue or any change of understanding.
 
I recently had an experience which showed just how difficult it is to use familiar concepts and language to express a point to someone different than me. I just discovered a podcast called 'Harry Potter and the Sacred Text' where the hosts explore the Harry Potter books as though it were a holy book like the Gospels, Hebrew Scriptures, or Quran. Each episode discusses a concept associated with a chapter from the series. They read deeply and even do spiritual practices like Lectio Divina or the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises to confront themes like love, being a stranger, or vulnerability. They chose Harry Potter because it is beloved by and familiar to a whole generation. It becomes a common denominator for a diverse population who might otherwise find it difficult to have meaningful conversations.
 
One of the hosts is an atheist humanist, which is pretty far away in world view from this Catholic liturgical musician. In the episode on 'hope' she spoke about how hope is a last resort in the tough situations life throws at you. I immediately thought, are you crazy? Hope is a theological virtue! We need it from the start! She also thought that a kind of disordered love existed in Professor Quirrell toward Lord Voldemort. My response? There is no love there, only fear. If God is love, any feeling directed toward the representation of complete evil cannot be love. It got me thinking; how incredible that the two of us can use the same word in two completely different ways. We both have similar ideas towards these stories but use language differently to express our ideas. What else are we defining differently which makes our globalized lives even more difficult?

This challenge is not unlike the challenges of Sts. Peter and Paul in the first century. Both had a fire burning within them from their unique encounters with Jesus Christ, one as a Jew living in Palestine and the other as a citizen of Rome. St. Peter set forth to proclaim the Gospel as a persecuted minority within a minority in the Roman Empire. St. Paul, once among the persecutors, took up the Gospel message and preached across the Empire in unfamiliar places. They needed to look beyond their own culture, language, and creed to share the truth of the Gospel message and speak it directly to particular places and needs. The individual theme of each New Testament epistle attests to this point. Both lost their lives for this mission.
 
In our twenty-first century mission of faith, let us call upon the intercession of Peter and Paul to guide the steps of our leadership and to speak boldly, truthfully, and without fear in our words. May we, above all, live our lives with the love of Christ so that no woman or man may ever live without the deep knowledge that they are desired, chosen, and loved by God, merited only by the fact that they are there to be desired, chosen, and loved.
 
Collect for the Vigil of the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul

Grant, we pray, O Lord our God,
that we may be sustained
by the intercession of the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul,
that, as through them you gave your Church
the foundations of her heavenly office,
so through them you may help her to eternal salvation.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.




 




Kellen O’Grady is Director of Liturgy & Music at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Hastings, Minnesota. He holds a Masters of Arts degree in Catholic Studies and chairs the Association of Liturgical Ministers for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. He has a reputation for enjoying the finer things in life from hipster cocktails to dance and yoga.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes.

Multigenerational living.
Bill Stabosz & Cillian Gregg.
I thought I was done raising children forever. Then, two months ago,  my daughter Emily, son-in-law Scott, and their five children (and two dogs) moved in with my husband Bill and me while they prepared their own house to sell. We are experimenting in multigenerational living. When they sell their house, we will decide if we all want to continue the experiment to the point of buying a third house with an in-law suite. Or--because some of our other adult children are doing some thinking about the future-- perhaps we will buy land and build a family compound.

This experiment is not the result of some kind of "Benedict option" withdrawal into a small Catholic enclave. If we do wind up building a compound, the families involved are not all practicing the Faith. Rather this represents an organic growth in family dynamics since our children left the nest.

It all started with a meal.

"If you cook it, they will come." Bill started making homemade pizza for our adult children a decade or so ago. They brought themselves and their little ones over once a week. What young parent doesn't appreciate eating someone else's cooking? Eventually Bill added a weekly grilled cheese sandwich supper to his routine. More family togetherness, and more grandchildren. We started vacationing together.

Then we bought a small house in Alabama three doors down from daughter Gabe. Gabe is the child who flew furthest from the nest, moving south to work with the Edmundite Missions. There she met her true love; marriage and family followed. But we sure missed them. So we bought the house, and got to spend lots of time with our Alabama family. This also allowed more movement between the extended Stabosz family South and North. Cousins and adult siblings saw one another more often than Gabe's annual visits north with her kids.

So it seemed like a logical progression when the kids pitched the idea to us this spring of downsizing in Delaware, and finding a place with Em and Scott that had an in-law suite. No more maintenance of our big house in Delaware, or finding folks to watch it while we were away. No more wondering about decisions to be made as our health began to fail. A plan for the future.

So here we are. Em and Scott preparing their house for sale, they and their five kids living with Bill and me. Em's siblings researching the ins and outs of buying land and subdividing it into lots for family members wanting to join in. A daunting task. I may not live to see its end.

All of this is a big change in a little space of time. I've lost the luxury of free time that is the hallmark of retirement. Living in intimate quarters with Emily and her family, I am peeking behind the curtains of young family life. I am immersed in the minutiae of daily life with children. And I am changing a lot of diapers again.

I find this all quite unsettling. Living with children is the antithesis of the intellectual life. And I think somehow that I have come to think of my spiritual life as tied to my writing, editing, activism and other intellectual work of my years as an empty nester. Wrong, wrong, wrong, on so many levels.

My prayer is a lot more elemental these days. When I pray the rosary, my thoughts on the mysteries are not lofty but focus on the ordinariness of daily life contained therein. Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and the Apostles were all just going about their daily lives like my extended family is going about theirs. I have a deep visceral realization lately that the mysteries of the rosary are no more or less than the history of one extended family cooperating with the grace of their individual callings. One very important family, it is true. One crucial to the salvation of humankind. But at its essence, the gospel is the story of women, men and children forming bonds and connections with one another and with God.


The Annunciation. The Agony in the Garden. The Wedding Feast of Cana. The Ascension. These are human events, experienced by flesh and blood mortal men and women for whom the curtains of the mystery of Eternal God were momentarily opened. We meditate on them because we too have access, in Christ the Divine Man, to those realms of mystery where every human moment incarnates a divine reality.

I find it meaningful that the Pope who introduced the new, Luminous Mysteries of the rosary is the same Pope--now Saint John Paul II--who gave us the set of talks on marriage that have become known as the Theology of the Body. The Luminous Mysteries focus on the Son of God going about his daily life and mission--seeking out John's baptism, attending a wedding with his mother and his disciples, his work as a teacher and healer, his glory revealed to his closest disciples, and the last religious feast he celebrated before his death. These snapshots of Jesus' daily life as a first century Jew have eternal meaning and resonance.


As do the events of my daily life. And yours. The ephemera of our daily lives resonates supernaturally because of who we are and what Christ has made of us by his passion, death and resurrection. We are all like the two pregnant women--one young, one old--whose meeting caused St. John the Baptist to leap in his mother's womb. We are the fretful steward, first worried and then amazed, who presides over a wedding feast where the wine runs out. We are all Peter, James and John, heavy with portents of sorrow after an intensely emotional evening, falling asleep in Gethsemane. We are the newly confirmed experiencing the descent of the Holy Spirit into our hearts.

I am the grandmother of twenty, dying a little as I downsize my possessions and think of leaving my home to live with my younger, more vibrant daughter. You are the child of God encountering the divine in the present moments of your life.

We are children of ordinary life, made extraordinary because of the Son of Man who stooped to conquer. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, pray for us.


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Rae Stabosz has been a member of the Association of Pauline Cooperators since 2003. She and Bill Stabosz, her husband of 49 years, have six sons, three daughters, twelve grandsons and eight granddaughters; these hold their hearts. Rae retired in 2007 from the University of Delaware, where she was a technology and media specialist for 27 years. She is co-founder and past president of The Society of Catholic Scholars of Delaware and proprietor, since 2004, of the Pious Ladies Bookmobile.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

A Little History

 

 


All of us have a history. It’s how we got to where we are today. We don’t often reflect that we are also part of history. Our family has a history (sometimes we joke about inlaws and outlaws), our town or city has a history, so does our country and the whole world. In this article, however, I want to talk about Church History. Yes, I have a vested interest in this particular area of history because Pauline Books & Media just released my book, The Church Rocks! A History of the Catholic Church for Kids and Their Parents and Teachers. So this could be seen as shameless self-promotion on my part, but I do have a finer motive.


When we think about Church History we first remember what the Church is. Of course, she (we
always refer to the Church as "she" because of her relation to Jesus, her Lord) is an institution in her earthly organization, but she is also the gathering of all the baptized together into one Mystical Body with Christ as the Head. The Church is a divine institution; it is God’s plan for our salvation. Being divine in origin, yet human in organization has created the great drama of Church History. As Blessed James Alberione says in The Publishing Apostolate, page 164, "On one side is God’s design, on the other side human resistance which delays its implementation."

Our Founder goes on to explain how "the Church continues the work of redemption becoming herself, in Jesus Christ, the way, truth and life of human beings. She became way through the exercise of the heroic virtues of her Saints, and through gospel morality; truth by defending, propagating and inculcating the Catholic faith; life by apportioning the treasures of grace merited by Jesus Christ through the Redemption." So the Church continuing this work of redemption and our efforts to meet God’s expectations throughout the centuries "gives us what we call Church History in its true sense, which is the continuation, down through the ages, of the life of Jesus Christ."



We study Church History for the same reasons that many of us go on a genealogical search: we want to know what made us who we are today. And, just as these journeys back into our family histories never produce a complete or comprehensive picture of where we came from, so it is in studying the story of the Church through the ages. However, we can find enough to say: these are the people I came from; their lives of faith are reflected in my own life.


The novelist Jodi Picoult says in The Storyteller, "History isn’t about dates and places and wars. It’s about the people who fill the spaces between them." This is the most important and impressive way to study Church History, through the stories of the people who lived out the life of the Church from Pentecost until today – until you and I stepped on to the stage of Church History. This is how The Church Rocks! presents the history of the Church, through some of the people who lived in each century. Who were these people? Saints or sinners? What did they contribute? Did they build up or tear down? I recommend that everyone take a little trip down our shared memory lane by reading some of this history. We will meet some fascinating people of past centuries and through them we will see how the world was evangelized, how errors were addressed, and how dogma was developed. This reading will give us insights into the history we are helping to write today. Take some time and attention to the magnificent history and you will find yourself a more engaged and involved Catholic today.





Sister Mary Lea Hill, a member of the Daughters of St. Paul since 1964, has enjoyed communicating the faith through a variety of apostolic assignments. Her skills as a story teller were honed as director of audiovisual productions when Pauline Books & Media first produced animated features in the early 80s. An editor and author for many years, Sister Mary Lea has written several books, including Prayer and You, Blessed are the Stressed, Saints Alive: The Gospel Witnessed, Saints Alive: The Faith Proclaimed, and the best-selling Basic Catechism (co-authored with Sister Susan Helen Wallace).