Tag Archives: Mass

Sunday Musings: The End of Our Lives

angels-of-heaven-who-bring-good-tidings-from-heaven-jesus

Next Sunday is a solemnity called Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (colloquially known as Christ the King). It is the end of the Church’s liturgical calendar and is a time to reflect on the end of our lives on earth and on the second coming of Christ. (The priest in my old parish once called it “a funeral of sorts — our funerals.”)

Today’s scripture readings reflect and foreshadow these events. Daniel 12: 1-3 says:

At that time your people shall escape,

everyone who is found written in the book.

In Mark 13: 24-32, Jesus says:

In those days after the tribulation,

the sun will be darkened,

and the moon will not give its light…

He will send out the angels

and gather his elect from the four winds…

The priest at Mass this morning talked about how we should get rid of sinful habits in our lives so that we will be prepared to die and face the Lord. He also talked about the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and the attacks in 2001 on the Twin Towers in New York.

“Do you think anyone was thinking: ‘I’m prepared to meet my Maker’? Probably no one.”

We all have daily struggles. Sometimes it’s hard to stay positive amid all the stress and hardships of daily life. I know it is for me. However, we must hold to the promise that awaits us. This will get us through the tough times. As the adage goes:

Those who persevere through a storm often find a rainbow.

So, in conclusion: Am I ready to meet my Maker if I should die today?

Are you?

~t


Sunday Musings: Weekend Campout

 

Credit: Microsoft images

A few weeks ago, my sons and I had the opportunity to go on a weekend father-and-son campout with my parish youth group.

Surprisingly, my wife didn’t object when I asked her if I could start taking our sons to a Sunday afternoon youth group. At first our kids didn’t quite fit in since they’re not being raised in the most Catholic of households. Before bed, my kids and I pray the Hail Mary, and we read a Bible story each night in my oldest son’s My Little Bible.

With this being my very first outdoor Mass, and having to corral my two muddy little boys through the whole thing, I thought that it would make for some Sunday musings.

 

1. Watching Clark Kent Change into Superman

I thought it was cool that the two young priests put on their vestments among us since there was no sacristy at the campgrounds. It was kind of like a behind-the-scenes moment that I probably won’t see very often.

 

2. The “Choir”

Mothers and daughters, how we missed you.

 

3. The Spirit of God Was Alive and Well

Missals being blown off the lectern, altar cloth billowing in the wind, ball caps flying across the seats. Oh, and the now-infamous highlight of the Mass for the kids: watching some poor family’s tent being blown into the lake directly behind the altar.

 

4. A Scary Cave Experience

The homily was really gripping. The Gospel text was John 9:1-41 which was about Jesus healing a man who was born blind. The priest, a native of Arkansas, shared a personal account of exploring some of the state’s many underground caverns.

He described one cave as a five-level maze. Sure enough, his helmet light wasn’t fully charged, and it died at the wrong time. I wouldn’t want to imagine the fright as he tried to find his way out of the total darkness. Eventually, he saw a tiny speck of daylight far off into the distance. Relief flooded over him as he made his way to the light.

Needless to say, it put the Gospel reading into full perspective for me. You know, “blind but now I see” and all that.

 

5. Feeding Frenzy

No tabernacle = nowhere to place the Eucharist after Mass. I suppose the priests erred on the side of caution, because after communion, both of them stood at the altar for a very long time consuming all the leftover hosts. I bet there were a hundred extras that had to be consumed before Mass could continue. Talk about an awkward moment.

~t


Sunday Musings: Do Not Worry

credit: wallpapersus.com

This is a section entitled Sunday Musings. It consists of thoughts, observations, and experiences that I have during or immediately after Sunday Mass.

It is a semi-regular feature; I will update it on Sundays as I feel inspired to do so.

 

1. Running into Church

I cant believe it. Yesterday I was wearing shorts and sweating at the park in 80 degree (26 C) sunshine. This morning, the temperature had plunged to 40 (4 C).

You would have thought the world was ending: everyone sprinting into church from the parking lot. Alas, no spontaneous conviction of sin; just cold Texans headed into a warm place.

 

2. Mass Disruption

I’ve been reading blogs by traditional Catholics who prefer the pre-Vatican II Mass in Latin. It’s definitely given me food for thought as to the modern innovations that have taken place in the past 40 years or so.

All of this came to mind in the middle of Mass this morning when the priest suddenly asked all parishioners to come to the altar in a chaotic mob and pick up a copy of a Lent booklet. It just didn’t seem like the appropriate time to do such a thing.

Maybe the complaints of the traditionalists are starting to influence me, or maybe I’m being too uptight about the whole thing. I don’t know. I’ll just continue to trust that the Holy Spirit is guiding us as we are fumbling along into the third millennium of the Church.

 

3. Do Not Worry

The homily and Gospel reading today fit perfectly into my current positive-thinking discipline. Matthew 6:24-34 reminded me to stop worrying about things and trust that God will provide in all situations.

It also helped me to remember that the upcoming Lenten season is a time to draw closer to God as we make sacrifices that might otherwise distract us from Him.

My fear for this Lent (as well as previous ones):  Will I be holy and pious enough during the upcoming 40 days? Do not worry, Topaz.

 

4. Men’s Club vs. K of C

After Mass, a representative from the parish Men’s Club gave a recruitment spiel about the benefits of joining his “social and service brotherhood.” I don’t know if other parishes have a Men’s Club, but I found myself being offended that this group would (gasp!) dare to compete with the Knights of Columbus. We are better! You few guys need to join us! 131 years and going strong! Definitely a pride check from God.

 

5. Chalices are Back

During the winter, the chalices (communion cups) weren’t being used due to flu season. Today, all of a sudden, they were back! I know it’s the very beginning of March, but… What if flu season is still here?! After my initial panic, I got in line for the chalice. Do not worry…

~t


Sunday Musings: Franciscans Make Me Think

Credit: Jimmy Smith

This is a new section entitled Sunday Musings. It consists of thoughts, observations, and experiences that I have during or immediately after Sunday Mass.

It is a semi-regular feature; I will update it on Sundays as I feel inspired to do so.

 

1. Don’t Judge a Beard by its Cover

As we sang the opening hymn, the procession passed by me. I had to do a double-take. It’s a visiting priest, I thought. Look at that beard! It’s overtaking his face. And then more thoughts: I think he missed his exit. The Orthodox church is downtown.

It turned out that he was a Franciscan friar and had the most gentle, welcoming voice, reminding me of John Michael Talbot (below), one of my favorite Christian vocalists. The beard isn’t too far off, either.

 

2. The Ambience of an Evening Mass is Better

Because of my oldest son’s birthday tomorrow, I attended the 5:30 pm Mass today (Saturday). I don’t know, but there’s something about the (lack of) lighting that made this evening Mass more intimate and special. The candles were more brightly illuminated, and there was more of a mystical feeling in the air. I loved it.

 

3. More Bible

Of course we Catholics hear Scripture readings each Sunday from the Old Testament, Psalms, New Testament Epistles, and the Gospels. However, it’s great to hear a homily that is totally about the Bible (not that other homilies are bad).

The priest elaborated on the Gospel reading (Matthew 5: 17-37) and spoke in detail about how Jesus was the new Moses who taught the new Ten Commandments from the hillside (Sermon on the Mount) just as Moses received the tablets from the mountaintop. Eye opening indeed.

I encourage Catholics (and other Christians) who are reading this to delve into the Scriptures more to find these little nuggets of inspiration. It will deepen your faith tremendously.

 

4. Summarizing the Homily in One Statement

I liked how the priest today summarized his entire homily like this: “So, the word of the day is: the law of grace.” Boom. Succinct and effective.

 

5. Franciscans Always Make Me Think

There’s something attractive about Franciscans. It must be their vows of poverty and way of life. It’s so… impacting.

The friar this evening was wearing brown sandals in stark contrast to his flowing green vestments. As I watched him distribute the Eucharist, I couldn’t stop admiring his pure joy and humility.

Driving home, I usually turn on my iPod or listen to talk radio. Tonight, however, I spent the whole commute thinking about how I could be more like that kind friar. I didn’t even catch his name, but I’m still thinking about him. Wonderful.

~t


New Feature: Sunday Musings

credit: yen

This is a new section entitled Sunday Musings. It consists of thoughts, observations, and experiences that I have during or immediately after Sunday Mass.

It is a semi-regular feature; I will update it on Sundays as I feel inspired to do so.

 

1. When Babies Cry

During the homily this morning, a baby started screaming. Not uncommon during Mass. However, parents are usually quick to exit the sanctuary so as not to disturb others.

This is for other parishioners, though: Don’t gawk at the screaming babies. Because, most importantly, you are letting your attention drift from the homily to the crying baby. And then, you and your spouse discuss for a moment longer how annoying the situation is. By that time, you have missed out on the important message of the homily.

So, the next time a child goes ballistic, just stay focused on worship; the parents will remove the child soon enough. If not, then the ushers will step in.

 

2. Lose the Banjo During Mass!

Do I really need to elaborate?

I know this is Texas, but come on. It’s distracting and ruins the sacred hymns.

 

3. Come to Church with a Pure Heart

By this I mean one that is free of sin. When I am knee-deep in lust and pornography, I can’t quite connect to the Mass (duh).

This morning, I had chills as I approached the altar to receive the Eucharist. Being vigilant toward sin and keeping it out of our lives makes a huge difference in our perspective on all that is holy.

So, make every effort to avoid sin. You will experience the difference.

 

4. Accompany Your Kid to the Restroom

An announcement is made every weekend before Mass, reminding parents to accompany their children to the restrooms. And every week, I see four, five, and six year olds alone in there.

This morning, I was, ahem, occupied in a stall with the public restroom all to myself. I heard the men’s door open very slowly. A boy, about five years old, had just come in by himself. No sign of any parents.

Parents: I could have been a pedophile (which I’m not) waiting to pounce on your son.

Obey the announcements!

 

A Bit Off-Topic

 

5. A Great Time for Breaking & Entering

If you want to try B & E and get away with it, chances are you’ll succeed on Sunday mornings in my sleepy little town.

After Mass, the security alarm for a medical office across the street began piercing the calm Sunday morning air. Man, was it loud. Lots of gawkers. After about five minutes, I decided to call 911.

According to the dispatcher, no one had called it in yet. She said it would be 15 minutes before a police car would arrive.

I went back into church, and when I came out about 20 minutes later, the police car pulled up.

~t


11 Things I Learned From the Ordination and Installation Mass for the New Bishop of Fort Worth

Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend the ordination and installation of Bishop Michael Olson over in Fort Worth. I didn’t merely attend: I volunteered with other Knights of Columbus members as security personnel. FWPD made their presence known on the outside of the convention center. However, the diocese didn’t want any demonstrators to interrupt the proceedings or to desecrate the Eucharist, so some of us volunteered inside.

As an “insider” during this historic event — a new bishop isn’t ordained and installed in one’s region very often — I wanted to share 11 things that I learned from working behind-the-scenes at this event.

1. Priests are not always serious

Maybe it’s because I’m a fairly recent convert, but I’ve never seen priests joke around with and make goofy faces at each other. Just before the procession into the arena began, a priest came up to me at the entrance and said comically, “Run away! This is your last chance!” Scared the heck outta me, actually.

2. Seminarians are just regular college guys…

As I “guarded” the seminarians (young men who are studying to become priests) before the procession, they were a bunch of giggling chatterboxes. A priest had to yell at them to settle down, and the young men’s faces displayed the same embarrassed satisfaction that I often see on my six-year-old’s. Boys will be boys.

3. …who love their Starbucks as much as the rest of us

I mean, man, do those guys slug down the lattes. It wasn’t a question of how many were seen with the white cups and the green logo; rather, I had to ask myself how many didn’t have one. But, hey, as long as it’s consumed one hour before communion, right?

4. We are not alone

By this, I mean the Knights of Columbus. One of my security duties was to guard the vesting rooms that contained the personal belongings of the clergy and choir. I saw the vesting room for the Order of Malta which was pretty cool. Even more cool was to see the room for the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. Granted, the Knights of Columbus outnumbered these other group 10 to 1, but I hadn’t realized that there were other Catholic fraternal orders out there and that we were all unified with one common purpose.

5. Catholic schools are definitely not dying out

Since teaching in Japan, I had never seen so many young people in school uniforms! It seemed like most of them had volunteered to give directions to people: Everywhere I went, about two students were assigned to every single door in the convention center… and the place was HUGE.

6. Standing for eight straight hours isn’t always a bad thing

I think the secret is to keep busy. I was surprised to know that, while stuffing my hungry face with cheese and crackers during the reception, it was nearly 6:00 pm. Time really does fly when you’re having fun.

7. 15,000 Catholics in one place does not always result in alcohol

I have to admit, I was ready for an ice-cold beer by the end of my duties. Making a quick dash to the reception hall before anyone else (Transporting gifts for the bishop was my excuse!), I quickly scanned the gigantic hall for any sign of beer or wine. Nothing! (The lemonade did hit the spot, though.)

8. If a behind-the-scenes meeting is scheduled for 1:00, it really means 12:30

I was supposed to help guard the priests as they offered communion to the masses. The meeting was at 1:00. I arrived at 12:51. On a tight schedule, I suppose I was considered late. Everything happens for a reason is what they say. I was able to greet members of the procession as they made their way to the arena entrance, though. So, the awesome photo below wouldn’t exist had I been earlier to the meeting.

Lots of bishops!

9. Volunteering makes you feel great

My mind was occupied and my schedule was packed. Somehow, though, I felt like a million bucks. I’ve never been one to show off or to draw attention to myself. But, somehow, being engaged in an activity (church; K of C) that I really enjoyed did wonders for my mind. It said, “I enjoy this and I’m having fun. You’re not gonna take that away from me, Mind.”

Try it! You don’t have to be “religious” to volunteer. Seek out a local food bank or homeless shelter. Opportunities to serve are all around us. By helping others, you help yourself feel good. It’s a win-win.

10. An ordinary convention center can be temporarily converted into a cathedral

11. Alternate versions of the trendy 13.1 and 26.2 car stickers do exist

I saw a car in the parking garage with this sticker on the back. I’m a serious fuddy-duddy who never smiles, but this made me LOL. A refreshing sight since every other car (seemingly) has the real versions.

~t

(photos by Topaz)


Clawing Your Way Out of Hell

Blackshear-T-Forgiven-AP-Signed

Credit: Thomas Blackshear

It has been a tough week. Trying to regain my faith, I listened to a talk given by a Catholic speaker named Matthew Kelly entitled “Becoming the Best Version of Yourself.”

One thing that really struck me was when Matthew spoke about how predictable human nature is. To illustrate his point, Matthew encouraged everyone in the audience to buy a journal and take it to Mass every Sunday. Before Mass, write at the top of the page: What is God Going to Say to Me This Morning?

Listen to the music. Hear the Scriptures being read. Open your heart to the prayers. Meditate on the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. In some way, God will speak to you. When He does, write it down.

Then Matthew drove his point home: We will bring the journal to Mass the following week, write in it, decide that we don’t want anyone to read our private thoughts, and hide it in an old drawer. Days, months, and years go by. One day we happen to find the journal in the old drawer, rip out the two pages of notes that are no longer important to us, and then use the journal for something else.

In other words, without changing our habits, we will end up stuck in the same sinful life, never to break free.

The inspirational men and women of history had great habits. That’s what separates them from the rest of us.

I have found myself trapped in this disheartening cycle recently. On my way to work this morning, I couldn’t even bring myself to talk to God in spontaneous prayer. Instead, I prayed the Our Father and the Hail Mary (one example of how recited prayers are effective — They are good to fall back on when we just can’t bring ourselves to talk to God).

Listening to the motivational talk on the CD helped. An image ran through my mind afterward: the wonderful painting called Forgiven by Thomas Blackshear (see top of post). I used to see this painting in all the Christian bookstores that I once strolled through. I remember thinking once, Wow. How religious is that! before turning away to look through the bargain bin.

The image of that painting, Jesus holding up an exhausted, hurting young man who is clutching a spike and mallet, burned itself into my mind. That man is me. I’m tired. I’m knee-deep in sin. I’m emotionally drained. It all made perfect sense. It’s funny how we don’t realize the obvious until we are broken-down and ready to give up.

When we find ourselves at the bottom of a muddy pit of despair, there are only but two choices to make: resign ourselves to our “fate” or begin the arduous process of climbing out, inch by agonizing inch. Staying the same may be comfortable, but if we really want a fulfilling life and to get close to God again, we must make every effort. As the saying goes, If you want to see a rainbow, you have to persevere through a storm.

A friend of mine shared a very powerful verse with me recently from Proverbs: Though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again. (Pr 24:16)

There is a movie called Any Given Sunday starring Al Pacino as the head coach of a once-great professional (American) football team that is struggling with low morale and internal dissension. In the locker room right before a playoff game, the coach pours out his heart in one of my favorite inspirational speeches in a movie.

The transcript of the pre-game pep talk is below:

I don’t know what to say really.

Three minutes to the biggest battle of our professional lives

all comes down to today.

 

Now, either we heal as a team,

or we’re gonna crumble.

 

Inch by inch, play by play, ’til we’re finished.

 

We’re in hell right now, gentlemen. Believe me.

 

And, we can stay here and get the **** kicked out of us,

Or we can fight our way back into the light.

 

We can climb out of hell. One inch at a time.

 

Now, I can’t do it for you. I’m too old.

 

I look around. I see these young faces and I think:

I made every wrong choice a middle-aged man can make.

 

I ****** away all my money, believe it or not.

I chased off anyone who’s ever loved me.

And lately, I can’t even stand the face I see in the mirror.

 

You know, when you get old in life, things get taken from you.

That’s part of life.

But, you only learn that when you start losing stuff.

 

You find out life is this game of inches. So is football.

Because in either game, life or football,

the margin for error is so small.

 

I mean, one half step too late or too early,

and you don’t quite make it.

One half second too slow, too fast,

you don’t quite catch it.

 

The inches we need are everywhere around us.

They’re in every break of the game.

Every minute, every second.

 

On this team, we fight for that inch.

On this team, we tear ourselves and everyone else around us to pieces for that inch.

We claw with our fingernails for that inch!

 

Because we know, when we add up all those inches,

that’s gonna make the ******* difference between winning and losing!

 

Between living and dying!

 

I’ll tell you this: In any fight,

it’s the guy who’s willing to die

who’s gonna win that inch.

 

And I know, if I’m gonna have any life anymore,

it’s because I’m still willing to fight and die for that inch

because that’s what living is!

The six inches in front of your face.

 

Now, I can’t make you do it.

You gotta look at the guy next to you.

Look into his eyes!

 

Now, I think you’re gonna see a guy who will go that inch with you.

You’re gonna see a guy who will sacrifice himself for this team

because he knows when it comes down to it,

you’re gonna do the same for him.

 

That’s a team, gentlemen.

 

And, either we heal – now – as a team,

or we will die as individuals.

 

That’s football, guys.

That’s all it is.

 

Now, what are you gonna do?

Here is the video clip of the speech (Warning: Some strong language):

~t