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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Ben Hur

Ben-Hur riding on a chariot with the slogan "Brother Against Brother. Slave Against Empire."

Yup. Have to. Because I loved this movie and I have to shout it out. First of all, don’t listen to the negative reviews. Who knows what the critics are thinking? Maybe they’re as tired of remakes as I am. But this is more a new interpretation of the novel. The novel? Yeah, I didn’t know…

With Roma Downey and Mark Burnett as producers, you can pretty well expect an uplifting message. A few of the actors are celebrities here in the States, but it was refreshing to see so many fresh faces in the cast.

In case you are unfamiliar, Ben Hur is the story of a Jewish prince, at the time of Christ. Judah Ben-Hur’s family adopts a Roman orphan, Mesalla. They grow up as brothers and best friends. Due to his orphan past, Mesalla becomes increasingly restless, as he ponders his place in the world. His love for Judah’s sister is frowned upon by their mother, so he eventually sets out to join the Roman legion and pursue his fortune.

When Mesalla returns, he asks for Judah’s help in keeping the peace for the arrival of the new Roman governor. Instead, Judah protects a Jewish assassin, by taking the blame for an attempt on the life of the governor. An angry Mesalla betrays Judah to a long, slow death as a galley slave.

There is plenty of action. Judah’s escape from the galleys and near drowning; Mesalla’s battle exploits; the chariot race.

The chariot race. Possibly the highlight of the entire film. Even though you know how it turns out, getting there keeps you on the edge of your seat. The horses are fantastic and every precaution was taken to ensure their safety during filming. The actors insisted on performing nearly all the race scenes themselves, instead of letting the stuntmen have all the fun. The Roman Circus was a place of blood and violence, and the chariot race delivered. Even without fake blood spurting on the screen, there was plenty of gory death as charioteers were systematically ejected and trampled.

In the end, hatred and revenge give way to forgiveness and reconciliation, largely due to chance meetings with Jesus. As it should be.

Go see it today and support good, clean, uplifting filmmaking!

Currently in theaters.

 

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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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El Santuario de Chimayo, New Mexico


Nearly 10 years ago, when I came to El Santuario Chimayo on pilgrimage, it was undergoing major restoration, inside and out. When I returned this past spring, I was impressed with sweet smelling, flowering trees lining spacious courtyards. Restored signage clearly indicates Mass times and Historic information.

 

Original window gratings and adobe bricks are left exposed in areas, to show the original building style.

 

A walk through the visitor’s center tells the story of how the Santuario de Nuestro Senor de Esquipulas came to be, the story of the penitente brotherhood and the early church in New Mexico. I reflect upon how much of that early spirituality still pervades the local and surrounding areas, even into Southern Colorado.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today we are just in time for Mass. Father Casimiro Roca who has spent so much of his life devoted to the preservation of the Santuario is there with us. He now walks across the uneven flagstones with the assistance of a cane and a caregiver.

 

 

Outside, cattle graze in the valley below. Their gentle lowing makes me homesick for my little ranch. But I have given up my livestock for this life on the road. I smile at sweet memories and new adventures. From the upper courtyard, I can see the amphitheater below, in front of the shrine to Our Lady. The Stations of the Cross still meander along the river bank.

 

Today we are more inclined to check out the surrounding area. Tamales and hot drinks are sounding good, but alas, Leona’s concession stand is closed today. We continue up the road to see if we can patronize some of the local businesses that thrive during the tourist season. Maybe we’ll get some chile powder made from the famous New Mexico chiles, or blue atole – blue cornmeal which is  cooked into a delicious cereal or drink.

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Were You There When the Sun Refused to Shine?


Sometimes a line in a song cuts straight to the heart.  I feel it with the National Anthem (and the rockets’ red glare…), The Celtic Farewell (may holy angels be there at your welcoming, and all the saints who go before you there), and Were You There?  For me it’s verse 4, “were you there when the sun refused to shine?”  What event could be so profoundly tragic that the earth itself, even the sun, would go into mourning?  Only the death of God, its beloved Creator.

According to the gospel of Palm Sunday, Luke 22:14-23:56, “It was about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon because of an eclipse of the sun.  Then the veil of the temple was torn down the middle.  Jesus…breathed his last.”(NAB)


Both the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus and the pagan Roman historian Tacitus confirm the crucifixion of Jesus in their writings, but historians disagree about the truth of the other phenomena during and after Jesus’ death.  Several apocryphal gospels agree with the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), attesting to the eclipse, earthquakes and the resurrection and appearance of dead saints in Jerusalem.  Dionysius the Areopagite, witnessing the eclipse from Heliopolis writes, “Either the Creator of all the world now suffers, or this visible world is coming to an end.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crucifixion_eclipse. Historian Sextus Julius Africanus denies the possibility of an eclipse at Passover, which is held during the full moon, because a solar eclipse can only happen during a new moon. Though he goes on to quote the records of Phlegon, chronicalling a solar eclipse at full moon during the reign of Tiberius. Eusebius also quotes Phlegon connecting an earthquake with the same eclipse. Tertullian and Lucian of Antioch both imply that evidence of this darkness still existed in Roman records during their time. 


Paulus Orosius, historian and student of St. Augustine of Hippo, writes in his “The Seven Books of History Against the Pagans”, ” that Jesus “voluntarily gave himself over to the Passion but through the impiety of the Jews, was apprehended and nailed to the cross, as a very great earthquake took place throughout the world, rocks upon mountains were split, and a great many parts of the largest cities fell by this extraordinary violence. On the same day also, at the sixth hour of the day, the Sun was entirely obscured and a loathsome night suddenly overshadowed the land, as it was said, ‘an impious age feared eternal night.’ Moreover, it was quite clear that neither the Moon nor the clouds stood in the way of the light of the Sun, so that it is reported that on that day the Moon, being fourteen days old, with the entire region of the heavens thrown in between, was farthest from the sight of the Sun, and the stars throughout the entire sky shone, then in the hours of the day or rather in that terrible night. To this, not only the authority of the Holy Gospels attest, but even some books of the Greeks.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crucifixion_eclipse.

So what do all these interesting writings have to do with faith? Just that I find it utterly sad, when meditating on the Crucifixion, that even creation mourned the death of Christ.

Were you there?

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