LET IT aLL sTART hERE
For Catholics who care...
“Every breath you take and every move you make every bond you break, ever step you take …every word you say. . . every game you play...” either enriches your faith or it does not.
As Catholics, we are called to make choices so that we are in a favorable position to meet Christ and to have Christ meet us. Anything less than that is just a game one plays called …spirituality. It is the process through which we experience Christ: prayer, study, generosity and evangelization that allow us to encounter Him. There are no short cuts.
I’ve playfully borrowed the words from the popular love song written by the Catholic raised musician, Sting, to focus on just how intentional Catholicism really is and needs to remain.
Ours is a purpose-filled faith. There is a reason for everything we are asked to do. And we must trust in that premise. Catholic traditions and practices reinforce our belief in God because they keep the quest for holiness and God foremost on our minds. These rituals and Catholic ways soften our hardened hearts to Christ’s message; they enable us to exercise (literally, as though working a muscle) our Faith. They ultimately fortify the very foundation of the Church and our own belief system. So that is why we are instructed to do what we do.
That being said, if we are honest and look around, we can see what happens when people choose to disregard traditional Catholic practices (or teachings) so that they can have it their way. The problem with the I want it my way Catholic, is that by not acknowledging the vital connection between action and faith the Body of Christ as Church is weakened. It is not enough to say we believe…we must act like we believe. We must invest ourselves in our faith in order to meet Christ where He is. We must sometimes give up what we want for the greater good and that is to fervently become a witness to Christ's real presence in our lives.
Again, ours is a purpose –filled faith and it starts with our baptism. The choice a parent makes to baptize a child and raise that child as a faithful Catholic is not one to be entered into lightly. The ultimate goal of a parent is to provide the child with every opportunity to grow in holiness.
So, I have to wonder, what sense does it make for parents to give their children bizarre, unchristian names like Autumn or Pebbles at the time of Baptism. How do these types of names share a family’s commitment to the Church teachings? The Apostles Creed, a faithful summary and ancient baptismal symbol of the Church of Rome, states clearly that we: “...believe in the communion of saints….” (From the Catechism of the Catholic Church; 194.)
Of course parents have the opportunity to choose any name they like, since the 1983 Code of Canon Law changed the rules. Prior to 1983 a newly baptized baby was offered the gift of a Christian name. For sixty-six years one was given a Christian name at baptism to mark, as it happened in the Bible, a change in one’s life...from Abram to Abraham...from Saul to Paul. These men acquired a new name, just as the newly baptized are given a name to signify a new life in Christ Jesus, a new mission.
Now, the only requirement for choosing a baptismal name is that the pastor makes certain that the child’s name is not “foreign to a Christian mentality.”
My question is: How are these unchristian names helpful? Remember saints are not born, they are made. How are these parents truly acting like they believe when they ignore Communion of Saints?
Once upon a time, a common practice when naming a baby was to choose a meaningful name, a name that passed on a noble legacy, a name a child could grow into and strive to become the definition of. Children were give strong names…the name of a person who was a good and just and admired. And so if you were baptized after 1917 you were given a saints’ name with the intention that it would be your guiding light. How often I remember hearing proud Catholic children sharing the abbreviated biography of the saint their mother chose to name them after!
I myself have the middle name of Frances. I never related to the either St. Frances of Rome or St. Frances Cabrini, albeit they were remarkable women. I was more of a tomboy and wanted to be akin to their male counterpart. So instead, I chose to misspell my baptismal name as a young girl; I ignored any connection to the feminine saint I was assigned and identified my patron saint as the extraordinary St. Francis of Assisi. As child, the more I read about the saint that prayed with the birds and animals, who called the Sun brother and the Moon sister, who wrote the first Italian poem, the more curious I became-- until my appetite for the details of this Jesus-like character’s life sent me in search of him. I knew that if I could only resemble something of who he was I would be in good shape. We all need role models. I found St. Francis and his influence in my life to be a gift. And that is the whole reason to introduce a saint into a child’s life at baptism.
Think of this...every time he or she signs her full name on a document…Ellen Monica…August Paul… God is made present through that saint’s witness of His love.
Fr. James Martin, Jesuit priest and associated editor of America magazine writes: “…the saints of the Catholic Church are intimate companions. They pray for me, offer me comfort, give me examples of discipleship, and help me along the way.”(My Life with the Saints. Loyola Press,2006)
Author Rick Riordan reminds us: “Names have power. Names have power.”
"WE aLL LIVE WITH THE OBJECTIVE OF BEING HAPPY; OUR LIVES ARE ALL DIFFERENT AND YET THE SAME..." ANNE FRANK
If I were Hermine Santruschitz (15 February 1909- 11 January 2010), aka Miep Gies (pronounced 'mip 'xis ), aka one of the Dutch citizens who hid Anne Frank... I would be, forever, a hero.
If I were to give up my comfortable life to work with and for the poor and the homeless, again, I would be considered saintly. So why then, when I try to care for someone's spiritual needs, am I not given the same consideration?
Why when someone is suffering from the malady of disbelief and I try to share the antidote that saved my life. . . am I, instead, humored, somewhat ignored, barely tolerated and in some cases treated with hostility? Why won't people accept the truth? It was not my personal strength, fortitude or resilience that brought me here, but instead my trust in God. After all, I have been the same person all along--and my life was a train wreck. If it were within my ability to live well, I would have been living well all these years. If I had realized that "sin" would cause my "train's derailment" and had every time, I would have made different choices. I am not stupid and appreciate pain avoidance. I am older now and understand cause and effect. I also understand that life doesn't allow you to put it in reverse, one can't travel back to the beginning and take the trip again. What is done is done. But honestly, every problem I have ever had was due to the Gospel not being lived. And that's the truth. And that is the lesson I want to share. Trust in God's love and live His teachings. But it is difficult to share this message.
My good friend does not believe in God. (I did not know this until recently.) We have been friends for over 20 years. I love her. All these years we avoided the subject of God, as though He were a hundred pound elephant in the room. I just thought it was a something she preferred not to speak about. I guess I just assumed that she had a "higher power" and that it just wasn't the same as mine. Unfortunately, she is God-less and for me this is as big a crisis as someone whose life is being threatened.
Having a dialogue with someone you love and who loves you should be an easy thing, regardless of the subject. But this is often not the case with people who do not believe in God. Try sharing all that God has done for you with someone who can only spell His name. It is impossible. God-less people have no reference point, their hearts are sadly hardened to His message and because they do not understand the experience of God, they get angry. Fear is fueled by lack of understanding. Fear fuels anger. "Replace fear with Faith," a half-paralyzed man once told me. Replace fear with Faith.
I watch my friend pace around the island in her kitchen preparing our supper while she asks me pointed questions she thinks she knows the answers to. Questions intended to make me realize my folly. All the while, I really only want to say the words that Jesus himself said to the Samaritan woman: If you knew the gift of God....
I wonder what keeps good people from believing in God? I wonder why those same people get so angry when they hear His name mentioned? This troubles me greatly because God is beauty and God is love and God only wants what is good and yet He is too often given a bad rap, misunderstood and abused.
My friend knows the difficult and dangerous life I have lived. She is fully aware of who I might have become if I had not chosen to follow Church teachings and I had not sought God's will in my life. So why then will she not connect the dots? Why does she refuse to accept a God that, if invited in could transform her life, as He has transformed mine? Why am I so different? And what makes her think she is so unlike me?
I cannot answer these questions. And neither can she-- satisfactorily . So I will do what I do most often these days. . . I will continue to pray.