Saturday, April 15, 2017

Easter Triduum with Kids...

I have to say that I was a little worried about my kids' reaction to spending Holy Thursday evening, and most of Good Friday at church.   This is a major flaw of mine.  I try to please everyone, and I often result to bribes to make it happen.

Growing up my parents emphasized the importance of honoring Christ's sacrifice on Good Friday.  We were not allowed to have an excessive amount of fun on this day, no matter how many invitations to birthday parties, beach adventures, or boating excursions were thrown our way.  This was a HUGE cross for my eleven year old self.  Imagine lots of eye rollings, and complaining! (MEA CULPA!!)

Going into this Easter Triduum this year, I wanted to be a part of EVERYTHING, and show my kids all that happens during this holy week. But I was a little concerned at how much complaining and whining I would receive as backlash.  Normally I would bribe them all with Yogurt or some sort of amazing and rare treat, but HELLO?!?!  This is Good Friday we were talking about.  TREATS would not have been appropriate!

(Also let me confess that I SHOULD NEVER HAVE CARED ABOUT WHAT MY KIDS THOUGHT IN THE FIRST PLACE. I realize this of course. I should be SOLEY be concerned with PLEASING GOD, and not give too cents about pleasing anyone else, my own kids included.)

So here is how things went down.....

I offered them nothing!

I bribed them with nothing!

They all came to pretty much everything!

And the complaining was MINIMAL!!!

WHAT?!??!  All that worrying and stress and FEAR about how my kids would respond, was for NOTHING???

Holy Thursday I had four of my kids with me at Mass.  Smelling the incense, watching the priests wash the feet of the parishioners, and being apart of the procession towards the chapel for adoration were all memories I hope to continue for my kids.

After we came home and watched the Mark Burnett movie, "Son of God" which really emphasized and repeated the importance of this time.  (Parts of this were graphic, and perhaps would NOT be suitable for young children.)

Good Friday we went for a nice family walk in the morning, then Stations of the Cross.  We visited with a old friend we had not seen in a while, and took her back to our house for a visit.  Then we went back for the Good Friday 3 PM service.

My oldest son, recognized the fact that in EVERY Catholic Church (and many other denominations as well) in EVERY part of the world, they are doing the SAME liturgy at the same time.  I love that about our church.

He also subtracted 2017 from 33 years to see if we could come up with the APPROXIMATE anniversary of Good Friday we were honoring.   1984.  This would be about the One Thousand Nine Hundred and Eighty Fourth anniversary of Christ's death.  Interesting...

The Altar was completely bare, we haven't sung an "Alleluia" since before Ash Wednesday, and the tone is somber and solemn.  Every sense was touched.  Sight, Sound, Touch, Smell, and Taste.

SO here we are at Holy Saturday.  Jesus is in the Tomb.  We will dye some Easter Eggs today and bake and decorate some Easter Cookies.

Tomorrow the Church will present the equivalent of a Spiritual Mic Drop.  There will ALLELUIAS Flying all over the place, the church will be decorated with more flowers than a Home Depot Nursery, and the Choir will be singing all the songs we know how GOOD defeats EVIL.  Every Time.

Easter is coming!

Friday, April 7, 2017

What I LOVE about Holy Week...

Next Week is Holy Week in most Christian Churches, and there are so many things I love about it!!  It begins with Palm Sunday and ends with good Saturday and there are only about a million things that go on in between.  

I would call it almost a universal 7 day retreat within a 40 day retreat, and it can be intense and prayerful as you are willing to make it.

Palm Sunday is basically the only mass all year that you will actually receive give aways BEFORE you go into Mass.  I keep thinking the Vatican is going to change that someday, because we all spend the majority of the Homily making little crosses out of the palm branches.  I happen to be very good at this!!!   The Gospel reading for this day is very long, but it is usually broken up like a play and EVERYONE gets to play a part.  I love this.  It really puts you in the scripture and reminds you just where you would be if you had been alive during the time of Jesus.  (Spoiler:  We pretty much all would be screaming "crucify Him" because none of us are that good, and we do it today everytime we sin.)

Holy Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are nice, and it is always a good thing to check out daily mass on those days.  Its also good preparation for some serious Spiritual Work outs which occur the rest of the week.

Holy Thursday is one of my most FAVORITE church services in the Catholic Church all year.  IT is like the birthday of the Eucharist!  The readings are all referencing Jesus instructions in the Gospel of John and at the last supper to, "Eat my flesh, and drink my blood."  We are reminded that Jesus is going to become the Pascal Lamb and we are going to be like the Israelites celebrating passover, eating Lamb!!!  (I know that might sound lame, but it is super beautiful!!  I promise.  Really.)

Then the most beautiful thing happens.  We hear about how Christ washed the feet of his apostles at the last supper, and so the Priest or Priests WASH THE FEET of the parishioners!!!  What a demonstration of SERVANTHOOD.  In my parish, all the priests do it, and some will wash the feet of pre-selected members of the church at the front, and then other priests will wash the feet of pre-selected people around the church.  So everyone can really witness this event.  

I have to be honest here folks. I have sort of a foot fettish.  The idea of ANYONE washing my feet, is totally out of my comfort zone.  Rest assured though, in case you are totally unfamiliar with this, EVERYONE who is getting their feet washed comes with the most impeccably clean feet I have ever seen.  So very little is actually accomplished here - it is mostly a symbolic washing.  But still I can't do it.  Maybe someday. But I am not there yet.

Good Friday, is like the MOST SOLEMN DAY of the entire year.  In my family growing up, there was absolutely no FUN allowed on Good Friday.  This proved to be difficult sometimes, because this often was a day off tied in with Easter Break and there were always invitations for beach days, or boating trips, or just play dates in general.  But that was NOT happening.

Stations of the Cross is usually held around 12:00 PM in most parishes on this day.  This is a beautiful re-enactment and reading of the final moments before Christ's Crucifixion.  Not the most uplifting events, but definitely powerful to remember.  Doing on the ACTUAL day of Crucifixion, just makes it seem more powerful and an opportunity to remember Christ's sacrifice.

At 3:00 PM there is a special Good Friday service as this is the hour that Christ died.  There is NOT Mass on this day, but the Parish does reserve Communion from the previous night's Holy Thursday service, (as my Husband likes to comment; Left-overs.) and we once again have the opportunity for our Spiritual Food. 

Then a wooden Cross is presented to the congregation and all are invited to come forward and kiss the cross.  This is Symbolic of the Gift that the cross has provided to us all, which is no less than ETERNAL LIFE.  

It sucks.  IT is UNCOMFORTABLE.  I always feel totally STUPID walking up to the front of the church and KISSING a cross.  But seriously, I am super happy that I didn't get nailed to it.  Because I hear that is the punishment for sin, and that thankfully I don't actually have to pay the price.  Right??? Can I get an AMEN for that???

Holy Saturday is like an anxious day of waiting.  I usually still feel a little somber from the day before's events.  But I also have this hopeful anticipation of what is about to COME.  

Keep in mind in our Catholic Faith we have ZERO alleluias's during Lent.  The Church has been bare for the past 6 weeks.  We have all fasted, and abstained, and sacrificed, and practiced good works for as long as we are able too.  (Some of us are not able too for very long.)

But Saturday Evening the ENTIRE church is about to SERIOUSLY PARTY!!!  (Church style - of course.)  Saturday Evening is the Easter Vigil, and the Church pulls out ALL THE STOPS.  I mean there are like a million readings from the Bible, new Catholics are officially welcomed into the Church, and the Alleluia's are coming out everywhere!!

Easter is the NEXT day and it not only is awesome, it FEELS amazing.  I swear the air actually feels fresh, and new and it seems like the entire Earth is rejoicing.


I am so excited!!  Are you??!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Did Catholics add books to the Old Testament???

This debate is a regular one in our house.  I know most people are arguing over bathroom space, or who took the last pair of clean socks, but in our house we occasionally debate Church History.  This is normal; Right???  It's not like we are going to need extra counseling or anything. Right???

I would first like to praise my Husband for his Southern Baptist influence on my family.  My kids have been memorizing scripture passages since they were three.  He reads them bible stories nearly every night, and they have all memorized the books of the bible.  Even my three year old can sing the song and recite nearly every book of the old and new testament.

Except for those darn "Extra" books the Catholics have in the old testament.  Those are NOT in the song that we have at home that lists the books.  Go figure.

First a little background.  The Catholic "Extra" old Testament texts are:

Many of you probably know about these Old Testament books, also known as the Deuterocanical, or Apocrypha, but maybe you don't know why the Catholics actually have MORE books than our Protestant and Evangelical brothers and sisters.  (You would think if anyone was going to add to the Bible it would be those bible loving Baptists, right?!?) And maybe you don't know that according to Catholics they were not ADDED at the time of the reformation. 

The short version in my own words is this:  At the time of Jesus there was not a DEFINED old testament.  Some groups of Jews used only the Torah, while others read the writings from the Prophets as well.  Some of these inspired writings, were originally written in Greek, but most originally written in Hebrew.   There were versions then that were totally translated into Greek, and then others that were not.  Different groups used different versions of the old testament for a few hundred years.

It was around the 4th century that the books of the bible were clearly identified and listed, and it was repeated at at least 4 councils.  The Synod of Rome (382), the Council of Hippo (393), the Council of Carthage (397), a letter from Pope Innocent I to Exsuperius, Bishop of Toulouse (405), and the Second Council of Carthage (419). In every instance, the old testament canon was identical to what Catholic Bibles contain today. In other words, from the end of the fourth century on, in practice Christians accepted the Catholic Church's decision in this matter.   (from Catholic Answers web site, read full article here.)

SOOOOO, did Catholics add these extra books to the Old Testament during the time of the reformation???

Or did someone else take them away?  (Ahem. Martin Luther?) 

There is so much information out there on this, and the internet is FULL OF INFORMATION regarding this specific subject.  Unfortunately not everyone agrees on what is actually the TRUTH.

Some Great Catholic Resources on this.
Catholics United for the Faith
Catholic Education Resource Center

AND just for the sake of information I am including these OTHER perspectives: (Which for the record I do not agree with.)
Some Bible website with an explanation
Something called Truth Magazine

UGH.  SO what is the actual truth?

This is when I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to build a time machine, go back in time and interview Jesus and ALL the early Christians. I want to find out exactly what was intended, and meant by every single word that was written down.  I want to know who is right and who is wrong and which denomination is the most accurate.  (ie, the BEST.)

In all fairness this is a good argument in favor of the Roman Catholic teaching on Church Authority.  I mean somebody down here should have been left in charge so we don't all argue all the time.  (*cough: Matthew 16:17-19)

But the real reality is that I need to learn to get past all this and just practice the teachings of Jesus and LOVE everyone.  It doesn't matter whether the book is included or not, it doesn't matter whether you go to a mega church with a coffee shop in the lobby, or an orthodox church which hasn't changed in 2 millenia. JUST LOVE EVERYONE, and ESPECIALLY LOVE GOD.

Alright God, I will work on that.  But in the mean time if you could help us sort the truth out, I would be real grateful!