This week is National Vocation’s Week; it is a week-long celebration in the Catholic Church in the United States that is dedicated to praying for and discerning one’s vocation, particularly to the Priesthood, diaconate or religious order. This week, I have an opportunity to speak to over 500 students from kindergarten through 8thgrade about the vocation of marriage.
Growing up, I thought my vocation was to join the religious order. My uncle was, and still is, a Franciscan priest. I remember visiting him at his monastery in New Mexico while I was growing up and was amazed at how the friars worked together to form and serve their community. This had a great impact on me. As time unfolded, I joined the Air Force when I graduated from high school. After I left the Air Force, I went to college and that’s when I met a really cool guy.
It was when I met Jason that I knew my vocation was not the religious order but was marriage. Jason and I dated for a year, were engaged for a year and then married. Eleven years later, we have three children who fill our days with laughter and joy. I still have that yearning to be a part of a community and to serve a community. Instead of being part of a religious order, I have a domestic Church. This means that we serve God and the Catholic Church through prayer life and living as active Catholics in our own home. By having our own domestic Church, we are helping to serve our community by raising children who are and will carry on the Catholic faith.
For the past five years, Jason and I have been a part of Teams of Our Lady. Teams of Our Lady is an international movement of the Catholic Church that was started in 1939 in Paris, France. Through the decades, Teams of Our Lady has worked as a movement to make “Good marriages better and to spiritually enrich marriages.” You see, in every marriage there are three people. A man (the husband), a woman (the wife), and Jesus Christ. All too often, Jesus is left out of the picture. Mary is the Patroness of Teams of Our Lady. According to the first chapter in the Gospel of Luke, we get to Jesus through the heart of Mary, hence, “to Jesus through Mary.” She is our guide for our relationship with Jesus and therefore, is our Patroness of marriage.
Mary is also a perfect model for answering our vocations that God has set forth in each of our own lives. Mary was approached at a young age by the Archangel Gabriel and was told that she would have a son that she was to name, Jesus. When Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be done to me according to His will.” This meant that Mary offered the perfect “yes!” to God! Just look at how she has been glorified by God all for saying, “yes!” Mary knew then what her vocation was, and she accepted it without hesitation.
While we may not all have an archangel coming to visit us and let us know our vocation, we do have the Holy Spirit that will help us discern our way to mimicking Mary’s “yes” and answering God’s call in our lives. He made each of us unique and we all have a separate road to travel on the path of life. Perhaps your vocation is marriage; or, perhaps it is the religious order, the diaconate or the priesthood. Whatever it is, I urge you to model Mary and never forget to include her and her beloved son, Jesus Christ, in your plans. For surely, God will not fail you nor will He ever forget you. What is your vocation?
If Jesus had social media, what would it look like? What would He have for a profile picture? Would He use filters? What would He say, share, post and like? How much time would He spend on it? These are questions I asked myself when my 13 month old woke me up at 12:30 a.m.
It has amazed me that we have such fast access to photos and online information. Our cell phones have replaced alarm clocks, computers, planners, maps and address books. If Jesus had a cell phone and social media, would He be on it all of the time? Cell phones have replaced so many things in our lives, but has it replaced our face-to-face conversations?
The things that trend on Twitter get attention. What would Jesus have as His Twitter handle? Perhaps it would be, "@theone" or "@thetruth." Would Jesus spend countless hours tweeting His message, or would he go door-to-door to spread His message? #believe #fourmarks #oneholycatholicapostolic #evangelization #roman #catholic #theway #thetruth #thelife
Personally, I think He may have used both methods. There is nothing wrong with social media and the use of technology to spread the Gospel message, so long as it is done in moderation and it doesn't replace the human contact.
Last week, I was honored to be a guest at the Priests for Life headquarters where I saw their TV studio and used their broadcasting studio for a live broadcast with Janet Morana, the Executive Director, over Ave Maria Radio. Priests for Life streams a daily feed from the Grotto in Lourdes, France with an audio Rosary. They also have near-daily videos from Fr. Frank Pavone, the founder and National Director. Not only does Priests for Life tap into major technology advantages, but they come together for meals, fellowship and prayer on a frequent basis. This organization certainly maintains the balance of technology and human contact. I have to believe that Jesus would have done the same.
So, what do you think would happen if Jesus had social media? Perhaps he already does. He uses you, doesn't He? Do you use your social media accounts to proclaim the Good News?
The extra, magical chromosome was intricately wound through my son’s body more
than a trillion times. It was not put there by accident. It was not forgotten. The extra
chromosome is intentional. Andrew is one year old and has Down syndrome. Over the past 12
months, I have witnessed his strength, resilience and beautiful smile. He brings joy to me, my
husband, and his older siblings. He is the child that I dreamed of. I am in love with my son and
his extra chromosome.
The month of October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month. This is the time of year in
which one will notice more information about Down syndrome through the media and other
organizations. This is the month that we celebrate people with Down syndrome! Why do I refer
to this extra chromosome as magical?
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “magic” is defined as “an extraordinary
power or influence seemingly from a supernatural source.” The full or partial extra
chromosome provides “extraordinary power” in those living with Down syndrome. John
Franklin Stephens is a man living with Down syndrome whose speech to the United Nations
went viral. In it, he tells his audience that the extra chromosome is a “blueprint for medical
research in areas that include soft tissue cancer, heart disease, immune system disorders, and
Alzheimer’s Disease.” But the extra chromosome is so much more.
Those living with Down syndrome experience the same emotions as their counterparts;
they can be happy, sad, frustrated and scared. However, they are known for radiating joy.
People who have Down syndrome can be married, live independently, attend school with their
counterparts, be employed in meaningful jobs, and can contribute to their communities.
Recently, we have seen the first Gerber baby with Down syndrome, the first D.C. lobbyist with
Down syndrome and there have been many models.
According to the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS,) there are three types of
Down syndrome: trisomy accounts for 95% of cases, translocation accounts for 4% and
mosaicism accounts for 1%. Approximately one in every 700 babies in the United States is born
with Down syndrome- about 6,000 each year. Many people have told me that my son is lucky
to have me as his mother. I feel quite the opposite; I’m the lucky one. He has greatly enriched
the lives of his family members and our friends.
Over the past year, we have had health challenges with Andrew. He had surgery for
Hirschsprung’s disease when he was 15 days old and was hospitalized when he was six months old for complications with the flu. For the past year, I have driven him, almost daily, to many doctors’ appointments. He has a speech therapist and a physical therapist in our home every week. Managing his appointments, healthcare and development has been exhausting. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world. His toothless smile and his big blue eyes fill my heart with love and renewal to face the obstacles and to rejoice in his triumphs. His personality is full of love, silliness, energy and compassion. Looking back over the past year, I am thankful for how far we have come.
At the time that John Franklin Stephens was preparing his speech for the United
Nations, I was learning that I would receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. I was
overwhelmed and confused. So, I turned to Google. I googled “Down syndrome” and stumbled
upon Mr. Stephens speech to the U.N. From that point on, the confusion left, and I was
inspired. I continue to be inspired every day. October may be Down Syndrome Awareness
Month, but in my world, we are aware of Down syndrome every day. Fortunately, there is a
plethora of resources available for adults and children living with Down syndrome.
The Global Down Syndrome Foundation is a non-profit organization that is “dedicated to
significantly improving the lives of people with Down syndrome through research, medical care,
education and advocacy.” It supports the Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome which is
dedicated solely to researching Down syndrome. Dr. Fran Hickey is with the Sie Center for
Down Syndrome, located in Denver, CO. He is one of the leading pediatricians for children with
Down syndrome and sees patients from around the world. Another dynamic resource is the
National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS.) The NDSS works to bring public awareness to society about Down syndrome. There are many local support groups, or Down Syndrome Associations, across the country. These associations provide playgroups, life skills classes, education, and resources.
Everybody walks along their own path of life. Those living with Down syndrome bring
their magical chromosome with them on their journeys. They are able to be contribute much
to their communities. Their magical smiles and compassion can, and will, change the world.
20 years ago, I enlisted in the United States Air Force. Wow... the time certainly has flown by. I still remember the day I flew from Denver to Basic Training at Lackland AFB, TX. My mom told me, "there's nowhere in the world that I can't get to you." My dad told me, "if they make you a toilet cleaner, then be the best darn toilet cleaner there is." Oh boy, did their words ring true. I was assigned to an initial career field of logistics and completed tech school at Lackland AFB before being assigned to Spangdahlem AB, Germany. My time in Germany was my longest assignment. During that time, I dealt with 9/11, celebrated my 21st birthday at Oktoberfest, was on a country line dancing team that toured fests all over Germany, presented to American and Ukranian Generals, had my first (of four) knee surgeries, picked up foreign objects from the runway, hauled F-16 parts across the base, built a rudimentary database for supply parts, and made many close friends who I still keep in touch with today. My parents were by my side through it all. My brother even joined me for Christmas and New Year's one year and we toured Paris and the Czech Republic together. I took my years in Germany by the horns and held on for the ride before being transferred to Scott AFB, IL.
At Scott AFB, I was still in the logistics career field, but there wasn't a runway with F-16's. I merely had a desk job. This wasn't enough, so I was also on the Honor Guard and covered six states for military funerals and other events, this included singing the National Anthem for various events. I joined YAM, or Young Adult Ministries. It was during this time that I started to deepen my relationship with God. I was retrained out of the logistics career field and was sent to Alabama where I went to JAG (Judge Advocate General) School to become a paralegal. After JAG School, I was transferred to Langley AFB, VA. At Langley, I found yet another Young Adults group and organized Theology on Tap after working hours. Langley was my last assignment in the Air Force.
My mom flew out to Virginia to help me drive my car full of belongings all the way back to Colorado. We took a very circuitous route all over the place visiting family and fun destinations. It took us over a week, but it was what I needed to transition from military life to civilian life. I moved back home with my parents while I went to undergrad. My parents were instrumental in helping me re-learn how to be a civilian. They were, and still are, my strong and unyielding backbone. During my time back home, I was involved with the Catholic Young Adults of Colorado Springs. Here, I spent some time as the Spiritual Director and organized Theology on Tap for the Diocese, as well as organizing service opportunities. Today, many of these CYACS members are still my close friends. Fellowship always produces close bonds that cannot be broken.
During my time back home, I met a really nice and funny guy named, Jason. We dated for a year, were engaged for a year, and then married in 2008. I will never forget when Jason proposed to me. I was at a destination family reunion in Italy. I had no idea that Jason was there, too. One night, I was sitting next to my brother at a dinner when violinists came in and serenaded us. At the end of the song, one of the violinists gave me a ring box, and in walked Jason. Before I received the ring box, I literally heard God telling me, clear as day, "he is going to propose and you will say yes." It was an order from God. An order that I was more than delighted to follow through with.
Jason and I have been together for a long time. We have been through the ups and downs of life. Births, deaths, celebrations and defeats. I cannot imagine a better partner in my life. Jason makes me laugh every day; I firmly believe that laughter and joy is a gift from God. Other gifts from God came in 2010, 2013 and 2018. Those gifts are named Alexander, Abby and Andrew; my "A Team."
This morning before school, my children were asking me if I worked. I cited a recent study that said how all mothers work 2.5 full time jobs, plus I'm teaching CCD, plus I'm helping out with the school board, plus I blog and am a freelance writer, plus I'm trying to break out as a public speaker. I summarized to them that I work about 6 jobs. So, yes. I work. Abby, ever the wise child, said, "Wow, mommy. God has something special planned for you!" From the mouth of babes.
The past 20 years have flown by. They were enriched by the love and support from my parents, husband, brother, extended family and friends. My relationship with Christ has deepened over the past two decades, it has become more personal. It is a calling from God that I evangelize. I have seen and been through so much, that I firmly believe it would be a waste to not share the love of God with others. As Abby pointed out, God does have something special planned for me; but He also has something planned for YOU! God loves you and will meet you right where you are. Right now. Just answer His call.
"Behold the turtle, it only moves forward when it sticks its neck out." -Jason
These words were spoken by my husband on our phone call this morning. The original quote was from James Bryant Conant. This morning, I took Andrew on a walk by the Potomac River. I was talking to Jason while pushing the stroller when I stumbled upon a turtle in the middle of the path. We were discussing the logistics of the afternoon; one child has a doctors appointment, one child has cross country practice and the other child will be catching a nap in his carseat. Having three children, we certainly stick our neck out so that we can move forward and make progress on this path of life.
This past summer, we had reunions on my side of the family and on Jason's side. It was delightful to see the cousins play together and to watch my children spend time with their long distance relatives from Colorado, Montana and Michigan. During these reunions, I was reminded of the Holy Trinity. The Holy Trinity is a community of persons. Family reunions are also a community of persons. Community has been a huge factor in our lives lately. Our community has certainly stuck its neck out for us when we needed it.
Last week, Andrew celebrated his first birthday. I was able to reflect at what we had gone through in those 12 months. He was hospitalized at two NICU's, he pulled through abdominal surgery where part of his colon was removed when he was 15 days old, and I was hospitalized for gastroparesis attacks for over three months. Not to mention, both of my parents also had major operations. It was a tough, tough year. But we stuck our neck out, held our head high, and spent a lot of time on our knees with prayer on our lips and in our hearts. There is no way that we could have survived without the prayer and support of our community. And we are all the stronger for it.
When I go through life changing moments such as these, I always want to shout from the rooftops how great my God is. During the trying times, God has strengthened my marriage and has been by our side. Words cannot express the amount of times that I have felt Jesus' unyielding presence. I always feel Him closer through times of suffering.
Today is the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. September 11, 2001 was a horrid time for our country. The first responders and military certainly stuck their necks out to save as many lives as possible. I was stationed overseas at an Air Base in Germany when the attacks happened. I will never forget the sirens indicating that we needed to be in full protective gear. We were quickly assembled in a common room and names were called for those who would deploy that night. You could have heard a pin drop. It was eery. We were worried about our family, friends and beloved country. Many of us couldn't get ahold of our families. Fortunately, I was able to call my parents before I left the Air Base.
We now live in a post-9/11 world. My children will never know what life was like before 9/11. But our country triumphed. Love was the answer. Instead of cowering in fear, our country stood in strength and solidarity. Our country brought God to the forefront.
Over the past 18 years, it feels as if God is transitioning to the backseat... again. He is no longer in the forefront. This is evident by abortions, the sale of aborted baby parts, mass shootings in schools and public areas, and even praising evil in hit pop music.
Let's stick our necks out like the turtle and bring God back to the forefront. Let's never forget that we are God's sons and daughters; that we are a family. May we always stand in strength and solidarity, with God as our General leading us towards the victory of truth and life.
I will leave you with part of the first reading for today. "Brothers and sisters: If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Thank of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory." 1 Col. 3:1-11
Be like the turtle. Stick your neck out and progress forward. Stick your neck out and praise God. Seek Him, love Him, thank Him.
"You have made known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness and joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever." -Psalm 16:11
This is one of my favorite verses from Sacred Scripture. It is a verse that motivates me to blog, speak and otherwise, evangelize. I have found the key to life. I know what the secret to life is. It is love. Love of God and love of neighbor. Love of community and love for life. Because I know the secret to a happy life, I feel compelled to share it with everyone. That is why I do what I do.
People have started asking me what it is like to have a child with Down Syndrome. Let's unpack Psalm 16:11 for my answer. One of my favorite activities is hiking. My favorite place to hike is Garden of the Gods Park in Colorado Springs, CO. This park is full of beautiful, and rare, red rock formations and the trails are lined with red dirt.
When I look at the word "path" in Psalm 16:11, I think about the various hiking trails that one can stumble upon. There are concrete, asphalt, gravel, white dirt, brown dirt and red dirt trails. The red dirt trails are very cool, special, rare, unique and bring a fresh breath of life and joy. Having a child with Down Syndrome is like stumbling upon a red dirt trail. People with Down Syndrome are known for their love, joy and honesty. In Andrew's short 8 months of life, I already see these qualities in him. He loves to smile at people and stares into another's eyes as if he is peering into your soul. He has brought immeasurable joy and lasting happiness to our family and charms all who meet him.
One of my friends, also a mother to a child with Down Syndrome, astutely noted that she imagines people with Down Syndrome are probably what God intended for us to be like before the fall of Adam and Eve. I couldn't agree more.
Every child has value and purpose. Every life is meaningful and is a journey on a different path of life that takes us down various trails. When we allow God to walk with us on our trail, He will be beside us, carrying us through the most difficult parts. Our God will never abandon us and we will always be able to find His joy when we remember to look for it.
Our family has had some trying times these past 8 months with a lot of health challenges, but our faith has remained strong and God has carried us through. I know that we will have more challenges ahead. (After all, doesn't everyone have challenges?) But, I know that we will meet every challenge head on and emerge stronger for it.
As the school year winds down and the summer months heat up, don't forget to take God on your excursions with you as you journey down your own paths of life.
This has been an insane school year! In September, I went in for a routine pregnancy checkup with my OBGYN. She noticed something was off and sent me to the perinatologist. Sure enough, my fluid level was low and the placenta was dying. As such, I was rushed to an emergency c-section. When Andrew was just 15 days old, he had surgery for Hirschsprung's Disease. Andrew spent 30 days in two different NICU's. Watching our newborn son be transferred in an ambulance from one hospital to another and then watching him be wheeled back for surgery... it was a very scary time.
Around the same day that Andrew was born, my dad was helping my uncle build a deck in Colorado Springs while my mom took a flight out to Virginia to be with us. My dad had a pain in his knee and heard a popping sound. Sure enough, my dad had a staph infection in his knee. Four surgeries and nearly nine months later, he is doing MUCH better. From October-January, I was extremely sick with GI issues and was admitted to the hospital more times than I care to remember. I spent part of Spring Break at the Mayo Clinic. In March, Andrew was hospitalized for a couple of weeks for breathing complications due to the flu. A week ago, my mom had heart surgery.
Needless to say, this has been a VERY stressful time for our family of five. Unfortunately, we do not have grandparents, aunts or uncles less than 6 hours away from us. I am not posting all of this because we need sympathy. Quite the opposite. I am posting this to help bring encouragement to others. You see, my husband and I are much closer and stronger because of the difficult times that we have been through.
Marriage is a joyful and difficult sacrament to be a part of. It is joyful because you always have someone by your side for all of the hills and valleys that you journey through in life. Marriage can be difficult because it requires two different people with different personalities to learn to live as one. I am so unbelievably grateful for my husband who has stood at my bedside when I have been too sick to lift my head off of the pillow. When I was too weak to advocate for myself in the hospital, Jason took up the fight. My husband stayed home with three kids while working a very demanding job so that I could go and take care of my parents when they needed me there. Because we don't have family in town, Jason and I have learned to depend on each other for everything. We're becoming quite the experts at this. Next week, Jason and I will celebrate our 11th wedding anniversary and I couldn't imagine a better person to share my life with!
In the last 9 months, there have been at least 8 hospitalizations in my family. Through all of this trying time, we have prayed more fervently and offered up our suffering for the good of others. Every time I have been in the hospital (which is A LOT) I have had the opportunity to have a Christ-centered discussion with someone from the hospital staff- be it a doctor, nurse, or maintenance person. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. I have to believe that God uses the sufferings of the faithful to benefit others spiritual journey.
Alexander and Abby are 8 years old and 6 years old. During the past school year, they have seen their newborn baby brother in the hospital hooked up to a bunch of needles and wires. They have also taken mommy to the hospital and picked her up far too many times to only see her remain sick and weak at home. Through all of this, I am so proud of them for remaining steadfast in hope and resiliency. They have said countless prayers for the health of their baby brother and mommy. Alexander was even recognized at school as Student of the Month for displaying the virtue of Hope during this trying time. During my illness, I tried to teach my children that suffering has a purpose. I pray that they learn from my experience and will know that they can always fully rely on God and have hope in him, even during the most difficult moments in life.
St. Teresa of Avila said, "One must not think that a person who is suffering is not praying. He is offering up his sufferings to God." She goes on to say, "we find that those who walked closest to Christ were those who had to bear the greatest trials." Based on these words, I have to take it as a compliment from God that he trusts my family to bear witness to others through our sufferings. If we didn't bear witness to God's greater glory, then what would be the point of suffering? We are called to be Christ-like. If Christ suffered, then we must also suffer. Christ suffered and died so that others may live. If we don't offer up our sufferings for others, then what's the point? It would all become "wasted suffering" as St. John Paul II said.
I leave you with this last quote from Fr. Joseph Rampino, a priest in the Diocese of Arlington. "The hope of the Resurrection reminds us that when we offer ourselves on our own crosses, we are not simply going to our deaths, but are passing through the moment of pain and sacrifice on the way to our true glory. If we remain close to Jesus, offering our lives with his, we will also share his new life, and, as he promised the apostles, we 'will sit on thrones,' ruling peacefully in the kingdom of our Father forever." (Luke 22:30)
A few days ago, my mom had heart surgery. My mom did extremely well. She is the poster child for a successful heart surgery. While my dad and I were waiting for her surgery to begin and end, I started thinking about what my mothers heart means to me.
Yes, my mothers heart is a major organ that keeps her alive. But her heart goes way beyond that.
We often say that someone has “heart.” This means that someone who has “heart” will never lose faith or strength. Someone with a “pure heart” is a person who is sincere and honest, living without evil intent. My mom is all these things and more.
My mom spent her career as a civil servant, first as a scientist, then as the City Attorney. Beyond her career, she serves others.
From my brother, Sean: "As her children, we witnessed her self sacrifice of meals, clothing, and shoes so that we may pursue the passions of our hearts. I witnessed this through my love of snowboarding, seeing mom limit her intakes to afford my lessons and lift tickets. She even let keep a puppy that I bred, realizing this was a life changing decision for her child, despite the extra expense and effort to herself."
One of my favorite memories of my mother is when I was honorably discharged from the Air Force. My last duty station was at Langley AFB in Virginia. We packed up my little Nissan and took a very circular route back home to Colorado. We stopped in Pennsylvania, Indianapolis, Kansas City and other tour stops. It took at least a week to get back home (with the air conditioning quitting in the middle in Kansas in the middle of summer.) This time with my mom was critical in helping transform from military to civilian life.
My mom is the third of nine children. As such, she learned from a very early age that God and family come first. My parents passed this on to my brother and me; the priority of God and family now permeates in another generation while my brother and I raise our own children with our spouses. (My parents are proud to have six grandchildren.) Parents have a duty and a responsibility to raise their children to love God and to follow His commandments. Together with my dad, my mom has fulfilled this responsibility. Grandma and Grandpa are more than happy to pass the faith onto their grandchildren.
My mom has always been a pillar in the community. Be it in the City, her parish or her own family, others know that they can depend on my moms honesty, sincerity loyalty and heart. I am proud to call her my mom.
This Mother’s Day, let us reflect on the love of our mothers while giving thanks to God for them. While we appreciate our mothers on Earth, let’s not forget about our mother in Heaven. Without Mary saying “yes” to the archangel and “yes” to God’s plans for her, we wouldn’t have Jesus. Mary is the epitome of having “heart.” I am beyond proud to say that my mom is every following Mary's steps and always says "yes" to God.
Happy Mother's Day, Mom!
Love, Erin and Sean
I have been doing some deep spring cleaning lately. I’m not always in a “cleaning mood,” but I know that it’s something that needs to be done, so I do it; and I involve the family in my spring cleaning, much to my husband and children’s chagrin. On Holy Saturday, the day before Easter, Salvation Army came and picked up close to 30 filled bags from our house for donation. (PSA: In many areas, Salvation Army will come to your house to pick up your donation so you don’t have to haul it yourself!) Before Salvation Army came, I had been collecting the bags in a corner of my bedroom. I moved all the bags to the curb to await their pickup and marveled at the now empty spot in the corner of the master bedroom. Immediately, I thought of how this was a visual of what the Sacrament of Reconcilliation does for your soul.
The week prior, my husband and I took the children to Saturday Vigil Mass a little early so that we could partake in the Sacrament of Reconcilliation. Currently, 3 out the 5 family members are old enough for this Sacrament. My husband and I are firm believers that when children watch their mommy and daddy walk into the confessional, that they will follow in their parents footsteps. Remember that as parents, one of our primary responsibilities is to raise children to participate fully in the Church.
As Catholics, we are required to receive the Sacrament of Reconcilliation at least once a year. (CCC 1457) But why do this only annually? I feel as though I could go to Confession every day. (True confession, I don’t go that often.) In my opinion, confession is like a mini-Spiritual Direction session. When I am absolved of my sins, my soul is cleaned out and the cobwebs are dusted off, just like the corner of my master bedroom. It is essential that we, the children of God, partake in Christ’s infinite mercy. Confession and reconciliation make us, and keep us, accountable of our sins. Accountability and responsibility are an important key to life; avoiding accountability and responsibility is essentially evil.
We are called to live upright and to represent Christ as His disciples at all times. We cannot possibly represent Christ if we can’t turn to Him, admit that we did wrong, and bask in His ocean of mercy.
Many are afraid of going to Confession and admitting their sins to a priest. I have two points to make about this. One, the priest is a minister of Christ’s peace; after making an ardent examination of conscience, your confession truly goes to Christ. Two, recall the words that Christ spoke, “Be Not Afraid.” Do you know how many times this phrase (or form of) is mentioned in Holy Scripture? 365 times. How many days are in a year? I don’t think that this is coincidence.
My friend, don’t ever be afraid of seeking Christ’s infinite, boundless mercy. Bask in it. Seek it out. Seek Him and He will find you.
One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. These words are known as the Four Marks of the Church. This post will examine each of the marks in detail. These marks are stated in the Nicene Creed and are the characteristics of the Church.
"Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God. The Lord is one!" -Deuteronomy 6:4
St. Cyprian once said, "God is one and Christ is one: there is one Church and one chair founded, by the Lord's authority, on Peter." The Church MUST be one, for its whole purpose is to unite the world around the one God.
Another way to examine the mark of "one" is to examine the Holy Trinity. The Holy Trinity is three persons united in one God. God is one in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Recall St. Patrick's method for teaching the Holy Trinity using a shamrock. There are three leaves, but only one stem. Therefore, God is one.
Jesus' great, high priestly prayer was thus: "...that they may all be one; even as You, Father are in Me, and I in You, that they may also be in Us, so that the world may believe that you sent me. The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me." -John 17:21-23
"We believe in the Holy Church because the Church is in Christ and Christ is in the Church." -St. Peter Chrysologus
The Church is holy because Jesus Christ, the head of the Church is holy. The Church reveals and brings the holiness of Christ to the world through liturgy and sacraments, the witness of saints and martyrs, the proclamation of Scripture, adherence to Sacred Tradition and more. God reveals Himself to us through Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. From this revelation flows the foundation of our Church. Because this revelation is sacred, the Church is also sacred and thus is holy.
"Christ came into the world to save sinners." -1 Timothy 1:15
"because of the hope laid up for you in Heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel which has come to you just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth." -1 Cor. 5-6
The word "Catholic" stems from the Greek word, "kata holos" which means "according to the whole." The Catholic Church is universal- that means that the Church is meant for everyone and is predestined to reach everyone throughout the world. One of my favorite things about the Catholic Church is that she is universal. This means that the Church is united and the same, no matter what part of the world you are in. When I was stationed overseas in the Air Force, I would attend Mass in different countries; I heard the Mass proclaimed in German, French, Italian, etc. My homesick heart found comfort knowing that I was hearing the same liturgy as my family back in Colorado. Additionally, even though I barely understood the foreign languages, I could easily follow along with the Mass because it was the same format as the Mass back home. The Church is universal- it is united and it is one all across the world.
When Pilate put the sign on the Cross that read, "Jesus, King of the Jews," he put it in the three major languages of the day. It's ironic that the man who condemned Jesus was an evangelizer by proclaiming Jesus Christ as King in multiple languages so that it could be understood by as many people as possible. Pilate confirmed the Catholic Church's universality when he did this.
"Jesus answered them, 'Did I not choose you, the twelve?'" -John 6:70
The following passage is known as The Great Commission and is my favorite passage in the Bible. "And Jesus came up to them and spoke to them, saying 'All authority has been given to me in Heaven and on Earth. Go therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of age." -Matthew 28:18-20
Apostolic Succession means that the Church stems from the teachings of the Apostles who taught the world what Christ taught them. It is important because it is the basis for the Bishops of the Church today who derive their office and authority from the Apostles themselves. The Apostles handed on what they had been told by Christ by preaching, personal example and observances of Christ. This is what is known as Sacred Tradition.
"He who hears you, hears me." -Luke 10:16