Confession, Penance, and Individual Mandate

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​As a writer, I tend to overshare. 

If I talk about some good deed I’ve done or random act of kindness or whatever, I’m never trying to get a congrats or a pat on the back. I like to show people how easy it is to be kind, to be patient, to simply be nice. I’m not better at it; I just try to be aware of the opportunities when they arise, and in sharing them, I think it shows everyone how the smallest things can affect people.

The same goes for my spiritual postings. If I can feel this, so can you; if you want to. And I do truly believe that we all learn from each other; from each other’s mistakes and from our smallest of victories.

By that same token, I never know if I’m supposed to write about and share the penances I’m given. There is nothing better than that moment my priest says, you are absolved. Second to that is the satisfaction of having completed a penance, whether difficult or easy, rote or inspired. Although honestly, none of them are easy or rote.

In my growing up and seeing confessions on television, I’ve always thought of them as your deepest, darkest secrets that are supposed to be kept hidden away, never to be talked about again.

What I’ve found in practice is much different.

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RCIA – First Day

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This morning was my first day as an RCIA teacher. It took me until last night to finally sit down with the readings and the notes from the Breaking Open the Word book that I’ve had sitting in my Adobe file for the better part of a month.

It’s not that I’m lazy – not when it comes to reading anyway, but in my subconscious I thought that if I prepared and read the readings and the papers, then I would have to go through with the class. Now, keep in mind that I was a teacher for over ten years, but those were kids, and in the end, it wasn’t for me. By last night I realized that whether or not I did the homework, the assignment wasn’t going away. I call it an assignment, but I did volunteer for it. To be honest, I want to do it. It wasn’t that long ago that I was on that side of the table in the RCIA program. Just like I brought something from my background as a catechumen, I think that I can offer something in return. I have a unique perspective, and I think everyone on the team has something special to bring to the new people.
They’ve been doing this since the fall. I was the new one again.

The catechumens are dismissed by the presider right after the Gospel is read and with me we go across the parking lot to the parish center. I glanced at my watch as Father C began his homily and tried to determine how much time I would have with them before they went on to part two of their weekly learning. Forty-five minutes. What would I say for forty-five minutes? I should have guessed that I overestimated my time when Father C said he doesn’t get to do this that often and he was going to use his time to talk about Mary.

I must admit that when he got to his fourth or fifth point about the Mother of G-d, I was almost gleeful at how much of my time had whittled away. Here I was worried that I’d run out of things to say before I ran out of time.

When we finally arrived at the parish center, the other team members were wondering what had happened to us. Father J was also there, asking if he could sit in.

Um, sure.

As it turned out, while it seemed as though he did a lot of the talking, it really was an even split between the four of us. And in retrospect, the point of breaking open the Word is to get the catechumens to think and to talk about their interpretations of the Scriptures and the Readings and to ask the questions that most concern them.

We talked about the prophet, Micah, and wondered why he wasn’t given more playing time so to speak. He’s the one who prophesies that the Messiah will come from Bethlehem. That’s a pretty important piece of information. We talked about the liturgical year and the three cycles, A, B, and C that the church follows. I didn’t get to add that this is my first C cycle. I started in A with Matthew.

We talked about Mary and Elizabeth. I added my own two cents about how through Advent, we’re waiting in our modern lives, and we know what we’re waiting for, but right there in the moment, Elizabeth also knew that she was waiting for her Lord and Savior, and was astonished that His Mother came to visit her. It’s kind of amazing to realize how they watched the prophesies come to fruition.

The one thing I didn’t get to say was about how the Incarnation is in tandem with the Death and Resurrection of Lent and Easter time. Jesus is born so that he may die and be reborn. Sometimes, it’s a lot to understand. That’s one of the reasons that I enjoy going over this with the catechumens and each year as we get another Gospel writer’s point of view.

I think having Father J at this, my first class and having Father C take up so much time before dismissing us was just the icebreaker that I needed to begin my role in this ministry. I will be better prepared, although I was ready today, but next time I won’t be as full of anxiety. I’ve already met the two women, and as I walk with them on this path, I am still learning and growing in my faith.

We also talked about the interconnectedness of everything that we do and see and how it all relates around us. Father J mentioned the Star Wars connection this week in his homily, and I’ve seen things on my journey that relate back across my entire life. I’ve been wondering what I was looking for with this year of mercy, and our parish’s holy doors. I still don’t know what I want for this year, not entirely, but tomorrow is when I’ll walk through the doors. I’ll have more about that tomorrow.

Believe in the Light

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“Jesus said to them, ‘The light will be among you only a little while. Walk while you have the light, so that darkness may not overcome you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of the light.'”

– John 12: 35– 36

This is the reflection for today’s saint in The Big Book of Women Saints by Sarah Gallick. It is reflected along with the short bio of Saint Eulalia of Merida (292 AD-302 AD).

It struck me profound as it comes right in the middle of Chanukah, the Festival of Lights. Chanukah commemorates the rededication of the (Second) Temple in Jerusalem in 165 BCE. There was only enough oil for the eternal light to burn for one day, and to replenish the holy oil would take an eight day round trip. The oil remained burning until the men returned with a new supply.

For those who know my relationship to fandom, this Scripture Reflection also came one day after the mid season finale of Supernatural. Surrounding Season 11 is the storyline of the Darkness returning to the
Earth. The Darkness is a beautiful woman who rivals Lucifer in power. The television show has her as an equal to G-d. As she is Darkness, the only way to vanquish her is with light.

Obviously this is a fictional story in the sci-fi/fantasy genre, but I did find the coincidence of the timing of seeing the show and reading the reflection scheduled for today as enough to comment on.