Mass In Yellowstone NP, Wyoming


From the windows of the rec room, there is a panoramic view of the mists still rising off of Yellowstone Lake. (Okay, not in this picture.) Mass is about to begin and the young celebrant is scurrying around, arranging the altar, consulting with the pianist and greeting tourists – some in their Sunday best, some in hiking apparel.


It is interesting to note that the murmur of voices is at a far lower level than in many Catholic churches these days. Is it because we naturally respect the sacred ground we are visiting? I know that my own awe and humility are greatly increased by the wonders of Yellowstone. 


The altar is a card table, the lectern a music stand, but somehow it feels as if we are in an ancient cathedral. We are. Sometimes it is difficult to find Mass while traveling. Many National Parks, through the diligent efforts of the local Catholic communities, and even sometimes through the efforts of the local diocese, will have Sunday Mass scheduled. This may not be posted in the guide books or newsletters, but a query at one of the lodges in the park is likely to turn up a schedule of Sunday services for several denominations. Even if a regularly scheduled Mass is not available, I have found that sometimes a visiting priest is kind enough to ask for a place to celebrate Mass and pass the word as to location and time.


Yellowstone Lake Lodge is such an ethereal setting for Mass. I have to wonder if this might not be a little taste of heaven.

Check out these posts, too:

Oregon’s Best For Last – Mt. Hood

Great Sand Dunes NP and Preserve, CO

Grand Canyon Pilgrimage

Grand Canyon Caverns

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Memorial To The Unborn

St. Germaine, Prescott Valley, AZ

What is a Memorial to the Unborn?  They have been popping up all over in the last number of years.  Ranging from a simple headstone in a flower bed, to small parks at the side of a church, to Facebook pages, these memorials all have one thing in common – to honor babies who died before birth.  Whether the loss was by abortion, miscarriage or stillbirth, memorials also serve as part of the healing process for parents and loved ones of these babies.


St. Germaine, Prescott Valley, AZ

The National Memorial to the Unborn stands on the site of a former abortion clinic and now houses a pregnancy care center as well, where women can receive counseling, learn about alternatives to abortion and get real, practical help.


St. Germaine, Prescott Valley, AZ

Some memorials offer private services and placement of name plates,  small headstones or brick pavers to honor the child.  Others such as UnbornMemorials.com offer a place online for people to post memorials to their own or other’s unborn babies.  The Knights of Columbus are very pro-active in building memorials at Catholic parishes, such as the one where I took these pictures, St. Germaine in Prescott Valley, AZ.

As tragic as Roe vs. Wade (the US Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion on demand) was, and as important as it is to continue to fight to overturn it, there will continue to be a deep-seated need to provide healing and resources to parents of aborted, miscarried and stillborn children.  Memorials to the unborn, support groups and other resources can help.

St. Germaine, Prescott Valley, AZ

To locate a memorial to visit or for further information on memorials to the unborn try these sites in addition to the links above:




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Form and Substance

Outdoor altar at the Memorial to the Unborn, St. Germaine’s Catholic Church, Prescott Valley, AZ

There is a lot of contention these days about the particular form of things.  What words should be used in the prayers of the Mass.  What gestures should be made.  How we should place the furniture (ie., altar, tabernacle, pews, etc.).  These are all superficialities.  I would gladly attend Mass out in a parking lot, with a tailgate for an altar, and the priest wearing makeshift vestments.  I am more concerned about the substance of my faith. The Holy Eucharist.  The Word of God.  The Homily that touches my heart and gives me new insight, inspiration, or at least food for thought.

The only things I want to concern myself with are – am I ready to receive Jesus into my heart?  Am I trying to live the kind of life He would have me live?  Am I too attached to property, prestige and power in my life? Just give me the Mass, Holy Communion and the Word.  I hate having my faith chopped up by fellow believers who want to nitpick over fluff and stuff.  Who buy into slanders against and focus on the imperfections of our leaders.  Who want to feel superior because they use a certain form of practice which will get them into heaven, while the rest of us roast, simply because we do not subscribe to their “form”.  I could well be wrong, but I believe that God will judge on more of what is in our hearts and how we treat others.

I certainly don’t mean that form is not at all important.  I am simply of the opinion that there is a committee of guys in red hats who get paid the big bucks to worry about all that stuff.  Whatever they decide for the moment on format, is not going to impact whether I stay or leave the church.  The substance of our faith is, has and always will be the Word of God, and the Body and Blood of Christ.  As long as that continues, we’re good.  Don’t get distracted by the side show.

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First Saturday Devotions – Substance or Superstition?

Today is the first Saturday of June.  My dad’s roses are blooming profusely.  After so many Marian celebrations last month, my thoughts have turned to the First Saturdays and how they got started.  It’s been a few years since Catholic school, and I live out in the sticks, where we’re lucky to have “daily” Mass once a week.  So I did a little research on the First Saturdays.

The “official” First Saturday Marian Devotions with their attendant “promises” originated with the apparitions of Our Blessed Mother to the children at Fatima.  But Saturday had already long been a special day of devotion to Our Lady.  According to Marian Devotions in the Domestic Church, by the ninth century, Saturday devotion to Mary had already become popular.  Marian Catechist explains that, according to several theologians of the 12th and 13th centuries,  “ Mary continued to believe, demonstrating her deep faith by never doubting for a moment her Son’s promise of resurrection”.  They also give several other reasons and traditions for Saturday Masses being dedicated to Mary before Fatima.  So, long tradition.  
Okay, what about post-Fatima?  My favorite take on our current practice of this devotion is at the Bearing Blog.  I can totally relate to the author’s reference to superstition and selfish intentions.  I returned to wearing the brown scapular and the chapel veil a few years ago.  As I put on or remove my scapular, I dedicate myself to Mary, and ask her to help me to practice modesty, purity and holiness (I need LOTS of help!).  As I put on my chapel veil for Mass or Eucharistic Devotion, I ask for humility and to remember to try to be of service to the other members of Christ’s body.  It really irritates me to hear the scapular promoted as a talisman to protect a person from harm and/or hell.  The scapular in itself is just a piece of brown scratchy cloth.  It is what it symbolizes that is sacramental and only in that is it nourishing to the spiritual life.
In the same way, to complete the Five First Saturdays, including Holy Communion, Confession, fifteen minutes meditation, and five decades of the Rosary, just to benefit from the Promises – that Our Lady will “assist at the hour of death with all the graces necessary for salvation”,  seems abhorrent to me.  On the surface.  More on that in a few lines.  For one thing, there is a fifth requirement to the fulfillment of the Promise – that the devotion be performed “with the intention of making reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary”.  Someone who isn’t sincere, will not be able to complete all Five Saturdays without this intention.  Even if one starts without that intention, it seems to grow on you in the practice.  Secondly, look at the promise.  What are the “graces necessary for salvation”?  Ponder that.  This devotion is not just another easy ticket into heaven.
 
So what about the superficial motive of performing the devotion just to benefit from the Promise?  When I was a child in Catholic school I performed many of the various recommended devotions our rich and ancient tradition makes available to us.  I was sincere and devout about them at the time.  I stored up a few treasures in heaven.  Then I became a teenager and then an adult.  I finally went the way of the world, and even left the church for a few years.  What’s my point?  I came back.  I returned hungry for the Eucharist.  Starved for teaching and direction for following Jesus.  I came back with a desire to amend my life and be a better person.  Was it because of all those novenas I made as a child?  Was it because of all the prayers of my parents and loved ones?  
 
Certainly I’m not any more special than any other child of the Father.  I can’t offer any tangible proof, but I’m certainly not going to discount the power of a Promise.  I hope I have a ways to go before I have need of that final assistance.  Making another round of Five First Saturdays would undoubtedly benefit me now, as well as later.
 
 
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Come Aside and Rest Awhile

I went to daily Mass with my parents the other day. They still go to the same church I grew up in, though the building has changed. The readings and homily were about the Sabbath. The Old Testament reading about how the Jews were to keep the Passover, and the Gospel about the Jewish leaders reprimanding Jesus’ apostles for pulling grain heads on the sabbath because they were hungry – this was considered “work”, not allowed on the sabbath. Father Ted’s teaching on that day’s Word addressed the preoccupation we tend to have these days with work. How we rarely take time to rest anymore. Frequently we don’t rest until illness or disability overtake us. We’re in a hurry to fulfill our Sunday “obligation” so we can get back to work. How even sometimes priests will rush through the Mass to get people out in a timely manner.
How often I have complained about this very thing when attending Masses in the “big city”. I’ve called it the Speed Mass. To me, there is a very mechanical feel to it, a seeming lack of reverence. I am so grateful that some of these same priests have since slowed the pace a bit. After all, those who come to daily Mass are really there by choice, and not because of “obligation”. Also addressed in that day’s homily was this sense of “obligation”. For years we were taught that Sunday Mass was a requirement, and that missing it was a mortal sin. Well, it still is, but see it through the teaching of Father Ted: rest is a natural part of the rhythm of life. Rest is necessary in order to keep working. We are given this great blessing of rest and spiritual refreshment time one day a week.
My thoughts on this – someone bigger than our boss says we need a day off once a week, to relax and refresh our minds, rest our bodies. Can we refrain just one day a week from unnecessary work and come together as community to give thanks and praise to our Creator? Love and support to one another? Not “obligation”, but a joy and pleasure. A treat. One day to clear our minds so that we can think better the rest of the week? One day to rest our bodies (or maybe to exercise our sedentary ones) so that we can work better the other six? Is it more important to make money in the short term by working (for money) on Sunday? Or is it better to make just that one day holy, to care for our bodies and minds and souls, for better health in the long run, and eternal life at the end of our mortal days?
I spent many years working on the Sabbath. I see now I had other options. It took more years than I will admit to here for me to come to the conclusion that I will keep Sunday holy. Since that time, Mass has not ever been an “obligation” for me. It has been joyfully anticipated and gladly celebrated. I jealously guard my Sunday rest time, and allow myself the indulgence of an afternoon spent reading or lying around. Of course, there does come the occasion when I have to round up goats that have escaped from their enclosure, or tend to a sick animal, family member or friend. But Jesus addresses that issue in later Gospel readings. Today He asks us to “come aside and rest awhile”.
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