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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Mother Mary’s Garden

mother marys garden

An invitation

to hear the cousins play at a tiny church festival in San Luis, prompted a leisurely drive back. We took Highway 159 toward Taos, NM, to County Road P, toward Manassa. Mother Mary’s Garden is tucked away on the left. We parked outside the gate and walked in.

mmg rock and flowers

Mother Mary’s Garden

is a non-denominational, spiritual oasis. Susan and Milt Sanderford were inspired to create it after a trip to Medjugorje, Bosnia. Because of its location, in the middle of the high desert of the San Luis Valley, it is peaceful and serene.

statue mother mary

I enjoyed wandering the gardens. Yet I wondered where they got water. I found it noteworthy that this off-grid shrine has a well, with solar-powered timers for watering.

ceremonial firepit

Pathways

radiate from the iconic statue of Mary in the middle of the garden, to each of the 7 gardens surrounding it. Plenty of scattered benches provide room to rest. In addition to 2 labyrinths, the gardens include a stone circle, a fire pit circle, a medicine wheel, a healing grotto, and a star child circle.

labyrinth

Walking the labyrinths

and strolling the paths is refreshing. The wide expanse of Alpine Valley surrounding Mother Mary’s Garden is soothing to the spirit. Vast, silent mountains provide the perfect setting for meditation and centering.

Afterward, I breathe deeply of the fresh, mountain air and soak in the warm sun as I enjoy the covered swing. Such a lovely, secret garden in what can sometimes be a harsh, unforgiving land.

Plan your pilgrimage:

http://www.mothermarysgarden.org/visit.html

 

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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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Happy New Year 2016 from Sunny So Cal!

california coast
California coast
2016 is starting out with sunshine and mid 60’s in Southern California. Not as warm as I’d like it, but not as cold as we’ve been. We’ll be heading back to sub-zero temperatures soon enough, so time to soak up that sun!
We’re enjoying time with family and friends; reviewing what worked and didn’t last year, and making plans for new projects this year. Two things in particular for Catholic Traveller: the first is to start offering “Pilgrim Guides” to specific areas. The first will be “A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Grand Canyon”, currently in the works. Sign up for updates via our FREE newsletter, Catholic Travels, in the box to the right, or on any page of the website.
Our other major project for the year is to start posting short, travel related videos on our long, inactive youtube channel. I have wanted to do this for a long time, but it is a lot of work shooting, editing, and polishing videos! Updates on that will also be included in Catholic Travels newsletter.
We hope you, too, are enjoying time with family and friends, and making exciting plans for 2016! Don’t forget to plan time to make a pilgrimage, even if it is just to the Holy Doors of the nearest consecrated “pilgrimage church”.
Buen Camino!
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Modest Dressing for Catholic Ladies

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For so many years, my Catholicism was Mass on Sunday and that was it. Don’t talk to me about birth control, modesty or chastity. There were even a few years that I “fell away”. When I returned, being Catholic meant much more to me than “getting my sacraments”. I began digging deeper. I gladly fled the world for a time. Maybe too gladly. I love the Mass. I crave the nourishment of the Holy Eucharist. But there is even more. I want to live as a statement of the love of Christ. When I’m not busy sinning. Or being selfish. Or angry. Or pathetic. Being Catholic is looking to my faith for the answers to my shortcomings. It is getting back up after each fall and cleaning off with confession. Repenting. Again. Accepting that I cannot do this life on my own but that with Christ I can do anything. He can do anything.
I have looked to the Catholic Church for guidelines to modest dressing. I found some from the 1950’s. A very few Catholic writers have addressed modesty. Apparently it is not popular to stand for things that have been thrown to the wind, for each person to determine on their own. This is probably as it should be, but perhaps there could be some guidelines to look to as well. Not necessarily rules, but suggestions.
Modesty applies to both men and women. Modesty in dress and behavior would help heal so many of society’s ills. I am talking about striving for a respectful attitude toward others. As clothing has become more and more immodest, immoral sexual behavior has become more and more widespread. We are called bigots and haters if we do not accept this. It is the behavior and not the persons that we do not accept. Because I do not accept vegetarianism for myself does not mean I hate vegetarians. Because I am a Catholic does not mean that I do not have good friends that are atheist (I do). But back to modest dressing. As Colleen Hammond so eloquently points out in her book, Dressing With Dignity, eyes are drawn to the sexual areas. No wonder such over exposure of bodies has led to such widespread corruption of sexual expression.
There is concern about violent movies and video games desensitizing our children to violence. Have we ignored the same desensitization that has been caused by immodest dress? Undoubtedly, a return to modesty will not eliminate all sexual deviancy, but it will eliminate much confusion and tension present in today’s society. When the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts have to pass rules protecting the rights of lgbt children to participate in scouting one has to wonder – why is sexual orientation even an issue pre-puberty and in early adolescence? Even in later adolescence? Something is very wrong with that.
I have a few guidelines that I follow. Some I have picked up from other Christian faiths that have actual guidelines, some I have added from my own ponderings. Here they are:
– Show no cleavage, male or female, top or bottom
– Opaque clothing, not sheer
– What is under should not show if you bend over or lift your arms
– Wear an undershirt
– Leggings should be worn under dresses and skirts, especially if they might blow up
– Sleeves at least to elbows
– Skirts at least to mid calf
– Shorts at least to knees
– Long pants preferred for boys and men
– Modest bathing suits for women – wetsuit style with long shorts and a skirt or sari cover up when not in water
– Same rules for children – do not expose their precious bodies to unknown eyes
I have been guilty of judging others by their dress, so I do not hold anyone to my standards, and I try to catch myself and behave. But I truly encourage you, if you are so inclined, to develop your own standards of modesty.
Lead us not into temptation and help us not to be a cause of sin to others, intentionally or unintentionally.
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