The Devil Waits Outside the Church

The Devil Waits Outside the Church

She arrived during the homily. Walking right up to the statue of Mary Help of Christians, crowned with May flowers and lovingly arranged her small spray in the Virgin’s arms. She genuflected, then crossed to the altar and prostrated herself, before proceeding to sit on the other side.

devil waits
St. Michael and the Devil

I recognized her from 6:30 am daily Mass and from the food pantry. I had suspected for some time that she had some kind of mental illness and was perhaps homeless. Though of late, she had been fixing herself up and dressing with more dignity.

My dad, who suffers from dementia, had had a rough week, which I attributed to the heavy overcast. Therefore, I also attributed her strange behavior to that as well. It was the first time I had seen her exhibit such a level of inappropriateness during Mass.

When she went up to serve as a Eucharistic Minister, there was more bowing and prostrating. She held the chalice on the crown of her head and then kissed it. She did offer the Blood of Christ appropriately to the faithful. But when she returned it to the table at the side of the altar, there was more show, and putting it on her head and such. Finally, Father spoke a few quiet words to her and removed the vessel and cloth from her hands. She submissively returned to her seat, with no further exhibition.

All this was difficult for me to observe. I wanted it to end, to not distract me from the Mass. I was irritated. It was wasting my time and distracting me. I was not feeling loving or kind. I realized this and forced myself to be patient.

It was the comments I heard after Mass that angered me. “Someone needs to get that woman off the altar. It was sacrilegious!”  Yes, I believe she does need to be gently corrected, perhaps guided into some other area of ministry. Nevertheless, I must take issue with this.

For years now, I have watched this congregation shunt its elderly, disabled, and mentally ill to the side. Even out the door. Making them feel unwelcome and unwanted. Shame on you.

You boast of a school to form young Catholics but then you disrespect the ones who worked for decades to build this church and that school. Who gave of their time, their talent, and their money. Shame on you.

You too will be there. How will you feel when people push you further and further to the door? Did the patron of your parish love his boys but not his parents? Did he tell his mother that he did not need her anymore because her abilities were lagging? Is it only the children and youth who are welcome in the kingdom of God? People can serve many different ways. It is sad when the community only selects the bright, the beautiful, and the young and then complains that there is not enough help.

I have not seen her since the incident. I hope she has not shaken the dust of this community from her shoes. But I fear she has. May she find the love and acceptance she deserves.

The devil does indeed await us just outside the church. We must strive to continue to be the Body of Christ to the world, starting with each other.

 

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Carrick Ministries – Catechetical Artistry

 

In the few years since I last reviewed Carrick Ministries, their focus has broadened and evolved so much that I thought it was worth another mention.  Julie is still singing, writing songs, touring, and doing parish missions. Carrick Ministries has also teamed up with a number of other artists, such as Leighton Drake, another fantastic artist/minister I reviewed previously. This enables Carrick Ministries to offer a number of parish missions, events, and even a diocesan Catholic Women’s Conference, coordinated by the team.

Event choices offer themes of: Divine Mercy, Discipleship, Using the Sacraments in our daily lives, “Living Our Creed”, “Living the Mass”, and Marriage. All events are elevated by Julie’s inspirational music and exquisite voice. Dates are still available for Memorial Day Weekend, through October 4th. See Carrick Ministries website for further information and to schedule your event.

An interesting addition to the offerings is the “Gathered in Grace – Women’s Conference”. This is fully coordinated and presented by Carrick Ministries, who will work with your diocese in scheduling, managing and promoting it. The conference offerings include: 2 presenters, Julie and one other; music; materials to help get your conference set up and print ready materials for promotion, as well as a broadcast-ready Public Service Announcement. For more info, testimonials and to schedule your conference, see Carrick Ministries website.

Finally, I cannot help but recommend Julie’s amazing music. Her recordings include Catholic favorites as well as her own compositions. Her voice was exquisite before her bout with a rare and insidious form of lung cancer, and she came back even better than ever. Her personal struggles, reflected in the songs she has written, touch every one of us who have experienced the same or similar struggles. Her faithful reliance on Jesus and “Mamma Mary” is a light of hope for all of us looking for the answer to making it through the trials of this life. Carrick Ministries is now offering Julie’s music in 10 CDs, 3 DVDs, a songbook, and a complete boxed set.

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Big Church Little Church

I have to admit, I am partial to little churches and missions. My “home” congregation consists of about 60 families. I like the intimacy, the colorful characters, even the feuding. To me, it is so much more like a family. Yes, we have our differences, we frequently do not get along, but we pull together in times of crisis and need. It is our Catholic life.

In a big church, I feel lost. There seem to be so many people and so much to do. I lose focus. I get complacent. There are too many choices. The children are sent out during Mass, not taught to sit quietly, participate fully and honor the Sacrament. The music is modernized to entertain and attract an audience. Just my take on things.

Inside tiny Stella Maris, Lamar, TX

I walk in to a big, modern Catholic church and I can’t find the holy water. I want to bless myself with it when I walk in and when I walk out. It is a sacramental reminder of my devotion. Now, there is usually one large font, instead of the small ones at each door. I feel funny walking up to that big baptismal pond to use the holy water, then find my way out.

St. Anne’s, Deming, NM


I still want to genuflect when I enter the pew where I am going to sit. I am here for Mass and I want to honor my Host. I want to put the kneeler down and spend some quiet time in prayer and thanksgiving before and after Mass.  Most often, now, the Blessed Sacrament is not even kept in the main part of the church, but in an attached adoration chapel. I guess that’s okay for big churches.

View from Lake Lodge rec room, Yellowstone NP, Wyoming

On this pilgrimage of slow travel, I have attended Mass in churches in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming and Texas. It is always an adventure, come Saturday, to find out where we will be attending Mass on Sunday. The Holy Eucharist is always nourishing and enriching. Small churches just ensnare my heart. St. Anne’s in Ash Fork and St. Francis in Seligman, Arizona, where I had the honor of leading the music for 15 years. The rec room of the Lake Lodge in Yellowstone NP, Wyoming, where we attended when we were there for my daughter’s wedding. St. Anne’s in Deming, NM, where we worshiped after a long night of trying to find a campsite in the dark. Stella Maris, outside of Goose Island SP, Texas, where we shivered on top of an AC vent, until someone realized it was cold outside and in and turned it off. The pastor there had recently been healed of stage 4 cancer and spoke confidently about God’s merciful love and healing. 

This week of our full-time rving life, this awesome road trip, we will be celebrating Ash Wednesday in a big church in Texas and we will be grateful to have found another spiritual home on the road.

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Santo Nino de Atocha, Chimayo, New Mexico

 

On the same road trip to El Santuario, Chimayo, we discovered another chapel I hadn’t seen before. Just a few hundred yards from El Santuario is the Chapel to Santo Nino de Atocha. According to legend, when loved ones were imprisoned, the Christ child would come and take food and water to them. When the families saw the worn out shoes on the statue of little Jesus, they would replace them with new ones, which would soon become worn out as well, as Santo Nino continued to bring provisions to their imprisoned loved ones.

 

 

Santo Nino de Atocha Chapel is dedicated to children. Its whimsical décor is reminiscent of childhood, with carved trees, birds, flowers and fanciful sculptures. A nearby shrine holds hundreds of pairs of tiny shoes, thank you tokens for miracles received. A Milagros chapel inside the shrine holds hundreds of other tiny gifts, left in gratitude for healings received.

 

 

During WWII, many National Guardsmen from this area of New Mexico died. Survivors attributed their lives to the intercession of Santo Nino de Atocha. Devotion to Jesus as Santo Nino had been encouraged by Severiano Medina, who built the chapel near El Santuario, in gratitude for healing from a severe illness. 

 

 

 

Today, the chapel is fully restored and a delightful dessert to the serious meal of El Santuario de Chimayo. One does not have to walk very far from either one for some distinctive New Mexico chile.

 


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Oops! God, Have Mercy, I Goofed Again

 

Sunday’s gospel (Luke 18:9-14) was all about humility. The pharisee proudly reminds God how well he has kept His commandments. The tax collector, in shame, hides in a corner and begs God’s mercy. Fr. K’s homily began with a reminder that once we think we have humility, we’ve lost it. His hint couldn’t have come at a better time. More than one of us had goofed up that very day.

After Mass, several of us were discussing our humbling experiences during our monthly community meal. I had started things out by jumping into the Gloria, before the Kyrie was chanted.  My guitar player pointed out my mistake and I stealthily retrieved my chapel veil from my bag and covered my humbled head. Next, our second reader forgot “The Word of the Lord”, at the end of his reading, because it ended in “Amen”. I had to smile. I was no longer alone in my shame. The final humiliation was that sticky key on my flute, which naturally decided to stick in the middle of a solo. I guess I’d better get that fixed. At least the organ didn’t blare out of tune like it did last Sunday…
 
 
We make plenty of little mistakes all the time. Usually we play through them and nobody notices. Sometimes they are very obvious and amplified by the presence of a microphone and a large group of people in front of us. As my friend Joan commented, “God must have needed a good laugh today”. Always happy to oblige.

 

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