Category Archives: Catholicism

Faith in Action (Review: 7 Habits That Define Our Catholic Identity)

7 Habits That Define Our Catholic Identity, from a webinar by Bert Ghezzi, at ATXCatholic.com

I wasn’t raised Catholic, but I’m not a convert, either. My mom’s side of the family is Catholic, so I was baptized as a baby and received my other sacraments of initiation on the usual timeline. I never say that I was raised Catholic, though. We didn’t go to church, not even for Christmas or Easter. That just wasn’t what we did. Now that I live as a Catholic (with God’s help), and I see my friends raising their young children, I’m starting to understand what it might have been like to be raised Catholic. I hope to raise my own Catholic family with my future husband someday, but in the meantime, I just work on me.

Now, how to live as a Catholic: that is something I can do. I have managed a delightful relationship with Ave Maria Press (AMP) as a book reviewer for several years, but I also enjoy their Professional Development Webinar series. The name is a little misleading; you don’t have to be working (or even volunteering) in ministry to participate in the webinars. AMP even records each webinar and posts them on YouTube for later viewing! Out of my desire for a little spiritual growth (and the desire to clear out my backlog of videos to watch), I recently viewed “7 Habits That Define Our Catholic Identity,” given by Bert Ghezzi. If you don’t even have the hour to watch, here’s my summary and a few analytical thoughts.

Read them at ATX Catholic.

Carmelite Spirituality for the Analytical Mind (Review: “The Dark Night of the Soul” by Gerald May)

I have a relatively new interest in the intersection of psychology and spirituality. I have some good friends who are Catholics and counselors, and while I treasure the opportunities I’ve had to walk alongside people on their spiritual journeys, I’ve never wanted to pursue that path myself. I don’t even have much interest in spiritual direction. But I’m always up for a new book.

One of my roommates is aware of this interest of mine and has been recommending books that might help my casual research. Although I’ve never been much into Carmelites, I decided to give her latest recommendation a try. The Dark Night of the Soul: A Psychiatrist Explores the Connection Between Darkness and Spiritual Growth, by Gerald G. May, M.D., is perhaps the best resource I’ve encountered for beginning to understand contemplative prayer and its role in the spiritual life.

"Faith darkens and empties the intellect, hope frees the memory, and love liberates the will." Gerald G. May, M.D.

The tricky thing about contemplation is that, if you think you’ve mastered it, you probably haven’t. In that way, it’s like trying to explain the Holy Trinity: the closest analogy you can muster up is probably a heresy. I have always struggled with contemplation and contemplative prayer for that very reason. I’m a very action-oriented person, although I am also quite reflective. This is probably why I can never wrap my head around Carmelite spirituality, but Augustinian principles speak straight to my heart. So I went into this book hoping that I might understand contemplative prayer a little more.

I’ve also struggled with the concept of the “dark night of the soul.” Have I been through it? Am I going through it right now? Is it something I should fear, like a punishment? Is it something I should want, like painful physical therapy that is needed to restore health? Should I fear it despite wanting it? Can I even figure out if I’m in it, or if I have been in it, or if it’s coming?

It’s all very confusing. This book, however, is not.

Read the rest at ATX Catholic.

5 Things You Should Do at the End of Mass

In my five years of blessings as a contributor at ATX Catholic, I have taken one post per year to write something that is not a review. Instead, I write about something a little closer to my heart. They’re more like the things I post at my personal blog.

  • In my very first post, I introduced myself and expressed a desire that we not just show our Christianity through our love, but through perhaps more obvious signs.
  • In 2012, I wrote about media discernment for Catholics. Yes, I still watch Grey’s Anatomy. I’m in until the bitter end at this point.
  • In 2013, I wrote about preparing for Mass. I still do all of those things, although I’ve moved my pre-Mass readings a little earlier, and I read the Gospel in Spanish.
  • In 2014, I gushed about why I love Augustinian spirituality. I’m still enamored with Augustine.
  • Last year, I wrote about preparing for and going to Confession. I’m still a sinner.

So first, I offer a big thank you to ATX Catholic for having me as a contributor for such a long time, and a thank you to everyone who has been reading, even if this is your first post.

red door

Welcome! Welcome back! Stay for the rest of this post… and for the rest of Mass.

This year, I’d like to share my tips for what to do at the end of Mass.

Read them at ATX Catholic.

For Women Only… and A Little Bit for Men (Review: “Discovering the Feminine Genius”)

I finally found a book about women’s spirituality that is (a) not about single life and (b) one I like! That is a rare find. I read (and write) a lot about being a single Catholic woman. There’s a market for it. There’s also a need for materials that explore women’s spirituality, but that usually turns into stuff for moms. I stop short of demanding that everyone cater to my needs, but it stings to feel left out. I am delighted to share that, through the kindness of a good friend, I stumbled across the book I’ve been looking for: Discovering the Feminine Genius: Every Woman’s Journey, by Katrina J. Zeno. In it, I finally began to discover what this whole “feminine genius” thing is about, how it applies to me, and how it fits into my real life and relationships in the light of the Theology of the Body.

Zeno begins her book with basic questions of identity formation, the same thing that starts plaguing us in adolescence. We all ask, “Who am I?” Zeno’s revolutionary (at least to me) answer is that we are first daughters of God, and then the bride of Christ. One of the nice things about still being single is that I’ve had no other choice than to form my identity as a woman without a man, as a daughter of God rather than the wife of my husband. (I also have a fantastic earthly father.) Zeno shares her own process of learning to find a new identity when the plan she’d built so carefully started to unravel. Her skill as a writer and storyteller is apparent; she starts with her own story, but she never made me as a reader feel disconnected just because my story is different than hers.

circle of women

photo by Ashley Webb

Read the rest at ATX Catholic.

Mercy, Justice, and the Truth (Review: “To Render the Deeds of Mercy”)

I don’t understand the Jubilee Year of Mercy, but I’m trying to. I love learning, so, as I said on my panel during the ATX Catholic Retreat, I’m taking this year as an opportunity to learn what mercy means. I encounter tons of media already, so my learning mostly consists of keeping my eyes and ears open for any discussion of what mercy means. I’m especially curious about how it relates to forgiveness and justice. We’ve got three words, so there must be some room within there for shades of meaning and nuances of the Faith.

My latest foray into understanding mercy comes from one of my favorite magazines, First Things, and one of my favorite authors, Mr. William Shakespeare. Maybe my buddy the Holy Spirit tossed this one into my path, since this is the only Jubilee Year of Mercy I’m aware of, it was just Pentecost, and it was just the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth. Then again, maybe I just read widely and Bishop James Conley, of the Diocese of Lincoln, is just a timely writer, offering us “To Render the Deeds of Mercy.”

Cristo Redentor statue

The title, as well as the essay’s opening, comes from The Merchant of Venice. Portia’s monologue that begins “The quality of mercy is not strain’d” is often considered poetic in and of itself. As Bishop Conley notes, it is also theological. By pointing out that experiencing the fullness of God’s justice would leave us all goners, so it’s a good thing we have God’s mercy, Shakespeare connects us to similar thoughts by St. Anselm:

Anselm concluded that both punishment and mercy are a part of God’s justice. We are justly punished because we are sinners. And God is just in mercy because mercy reflects the goodness of God’s nature. Anselm wrote: “When you [God] punish the wicked, it is just, since punishment agrees with their circumstance; and when you spare the wicked, it is also just; since mercy befits your goodness.”

I have to say, that’s the first time I’ve ever heard mercy connected with justice in a way that makes sense to me. Read the rest at ATX Catholic.

Pentecost, Inspiration, and Hope

It’s almost Pentecost! I developed a great relationship with the Holy Spirit when I was in undergrad, so Pentecost is one of my favorite feasts. For some reason, it pulls other people who like to dress liturgically out of the woodwork: we all wear red. Join me on all the other Sundays! It’s awesome!

In all seriousness, Pentecost gives me an opportunity to pray for discernment and to reflect on virtue and the gifts of the Spirit as I pray the Original Novena between Ascension Thursday and Pentecost Sunday.

fire_flames

A few notes:

  • A novena is nine consecutive days of prayer for a particular intention. Some novenas require the same prayer for all nine days; some add a reflection that changes day by day.
  • The origin of the novena is the nine days that the apostles and Mary spent in prayer between Jesus’ ascension into heaven (which we just celebrated) and the descent of the Holy Spirit.
  • We call the celebration of the descent of the Holy Spirit “Pentecost” after the Jewish feast of the same name, which was occurring at the same time. The people from various regions and countries listed in Acts 2:5–11 were in Jerusalem for that feast.
  • In most of the U.S., the celebration of the Solemnity of the Ascension was moved to Sunday. The timeline of the Pentecost novena does not change.
  • I like to pray the Novena of the Seven Gifts. There are plenty of other options. It’s the timeline, not the prayers, that makes this novena the novena.

Therefore, I am steeped in contemplation on and with the Holy Spirit right now. It is in this spirit (pun intended) that I offer my reflections on the Holy Spirit, hope, and encouragement.

[Read the rest at ATX Catholic].(http://atxcatholic.com/index.php/2016/05/pentecost-inspiration-hope/)

Redemption Through Reflection (Review: “Remembering God’s Mercy”)

We all have memories of things we’d rather forget. Some things are embarrassing. Some are painful. Some are traumatic. Dawn Eden is no stranger to the latter, as she revealed in her previous books about chaste love (The Thrill of the Chaste and its recent Catholic edition) and about healing sexual wounds with the help of the saints. Many times, we are tempted to avoid even thinking about terrible things we have experienced. For those who experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), just not thinking about it is not an option. Rather than try to avoid these memories, Eden encourages readers to redeem their pain. The One who redeemed our fallen human race can take our painful memories and turn them into opportunities for purification. With some help from St. Ignatius of Loyola, Pope Francis, and a few other heavenly witnesses, Eden offers Remembering God’s Mercy, a rich guide to healing memories and opening ourselves up to the grace of God.

flower-letters-memories

Public domain image from Pixabay.

Read the rest at ATX Catholic.

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