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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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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Fort Stevens State Park, Oregon

Wreck of the Peter Iredale
Wreck of the Peter Iredale

We drove through Astoria, Oregon, but having already visited the famous column on a previous trip, we decided the rest of the town was too busy for the relaxation we craved, and we drove back to Fort Stevens State Park, where we grabbed a great campsite for a few nights. We went to see the shipwreck before setting up camp and parked abuelo in the front seat where he could enjoy the view, while we went exploring. Apparently, the rusty skeleton of the ship Peter Iredale is quite popular, so we only got a few pictures before abandoning our treasure to the next group.

rv spot at Fort Stevens
rv spot at Fort Stevens

The campsites at Fort Stevens are large and sheltered by big trees. The rv loops have water and electric hookups (good, because our solar panels don’t seem to like to charge in Oregon). There is a community dump site, community trash/recycle area, hot showers, handicap accessible spaces and clean bathrooms. Several tent loops give tent campers ample space from the rvers (read that “generators”). Fire rings and picnic tables seem to be available at all sites.

Battery Russell
Battery Russell

We made good use of the hiking and biking trails, spending most of our second day wandering through big trees, meadows, past streams  and a lake, and viewing wildlife. Thankfully, lots of signs point lost hikers in the direction of the campgrounds. The boy and I took a trail from the back of our campsite up to the bike path and all the way to Battery Russell, on the Fort Stevens Ridge Trail, where there was a civil war reenactment going on. This was a nice distraction, as we had already walked much further than we had anticipated. We took our rest in the museum and watched a video that informed us that Fort Stevens had also been attacked by the Japanese during WWII. We refilled our water bottles and began the trek back to the campsite, grateful that 7 mile hikes did not come around every day.

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Oregon state parks has a 3 level Jr. Ranger Program. The 1st level award is a badge; 2nd level, a pencil and decal; 3rd level, a certificate and patch. Ranger programs are available on wildlife, shipwrecks and more. Kayak and hiking programs are also popular offerings. Lewis and Clark National Park is also nearby. The entire area is steeped in history, with reenactments taking place all summer. The town of Hammond offers several restaurants, a laundromat, and St. Francis de Sales Catholic Mission for Saturday 4pm Mass.

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How To Find Mass on the Road

Inside Stella Maris, Goose Island, Texas

I still am getting used to the idea of using my smartphone instead of paper maps, telephone books and a cell phone. Everything evolves around here, especially with rving full-time and relying heavily on modern technology to navigate and assist in finding what we need during our slow travels. The travel tip I’ll share today is from my smartphone, it sure makes simple work of finding Sunday Mass.
yp on google play

We have previously used various websites to locate Catholic churches and Mass times while adventuring. Currently, with our smartphones, on this most recent road trip to parts previously unknown, we have made good use of the YP (yellow pages) app and the pre-loaded maps app on the iPhone4. Although, in a couple of instances we have been steered wrong, these two apps have helped us find churches, post offices, homes of friends and relatives, rv parks, campgrounds, grocery stores, and more.

maps from apple

I shudder to recall the days when Google maps always had to be backed up with a paper street map and a cell phone to call and get directions. I still laugh about my friend’s couchsurfers, who never did find the Grand Canyon, because their smartphones sent them off on a more direct route – as the crow flies, rather than as the car drives. I now laugh at myself, when I get frustrated at the phone for leading me to an empty warehouse instead of the post office, but I am learning to pull over, re-calibrate and enter different info when that happens. It also helps to drive around a bit and have a young’un who’s pretty good with reading maps and navigating. And smartphones.


We haven’t gotten lost yet, but I can tell you, we have unintentionally taken some scenic drives and did arrive late for Mass once. We haven’t missed Mass on Sunday, though. I usually check YP on Friday, map out the route to the church, then call the number provided to check Mass times. 

Our Lady of the Valley, La Jara, Colorado

I still carry a road atlas and some state maps for general route planning and reference, but to find local stuff along the way, the YP app and the maps app have been invaluable and saved an enormous amount of time and frustration. I highly recommend checking your smartphone or tablet and trying out similar apps which may be available to you, as you plan your next pilgrimage.

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