Untangling Our Issues: Advent Reflections Week 1, Day 4

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Do you remember the things that you dream? Dreams are often absurd, but at the same time they are the subconscious’s way of processing things. I don’t remember my dreams often, but when I do, they usually mean something to me. I dreamt of dating whenever I was put into a situation where I met some cute guys. I used to have nightmares of running away from the things that scared me.

My latest dream, though, was a weird one. I dreamt that I was an assassin or some kind of mercenary with two other people. We were inside of a public bathroom when suddenly one of my teammates ends up shooting the both of us. I particularly remember being shot in the back and lying down on the floor with my fellow assassin/mercenary lying down next to me.

Then, all of a sudden, I hear someone yelling “CUT!” I get up as if nothing has happened, although there is a hole in my side. When the other assassin/mercenary gets up after and the three of us walk out of the bathroom, I realize that it was all just a movie. I chat things up with my fellow actors as if nothing is wrong and compliment them on how well they did on the scene.

I don’t really know if this dream means anything, but I think we can all relate to the idea of how our subconscious can end up troubling us in our waking life. I’ve mentioned in a previous post how sin can make us avoid change out of guilt or pride. One wonderful thing about the Sacrament of Reconciliation is that it helps us untangle the messy parts of ourselves.

I wasn’t able to really clear my head about my dream until I finally wrote it down and accepted that I won’t understand it completely. In a similar way, our consciences can never really be clear until we acknowledge that we are sinful. Through Confession, we confront our problems and find a way to understand and deal with them.

One reason Catholics confess their sins to a priest is because God acts through the priest. When the priest absolves us of our sins, we trust that God has completely forgiven us and will always love us.

The year of Mercy will officially start at the feast of the Immaculate Conception, but some parishes in my area have already started on the Year of Mercy by holding reconciliation services. Reconciliation services are days where priests go to a church to hear Confessions outside of the regularly scheduled time. Check if there’s one going on in your parish this month.

Priesthood: Why Does It Have To Be A Man's Job?

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I used to joke with my friends that if God made me a man, I would’ve become a priest in a heartbeat. But I have an easier time imagining myself as a man than not being Catholic. So here’s the question: Why doesn’t the Catholic Church allow for female priests? There are a lot more answers that go beyond misogynistic misunderstandings.

I watched the ordination of the auxiliary bishops of Los Angeles. It was my first time watching an ordination. Like the sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist, and Confirmation, the sacrament of Holy Orders is a sacrament of initiation. The Catechism says “Holy Orders is the sacrament through which the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time.” (CCC 1536)

The role of a priest is to act in the person of Christ. It’s the most literal form of imitating Christ that a person can be. And like Christ, most Catholic priests don’t marry or have families because they’re already married to the Church, who is feminine. They are literally married to their job. The feminine aspect of the Church is also why women can’t be priests, since women cannot marry women in the Catholic Church. Instead, women can choose to represent the Church and marry Christ through becoming a nun or a consecrated virgin.

One major part of the ordination was the laying of hands and the greeting of the new bishops with a handshake and kiss. Like many traditions, the laying of hands represents an aspect called “apostolic succession.” Today’s priests and bishops are all descendants of the apostles, carrying on the mission of going out into the world, baptizing and preaching. Bishops have the added responsibility of ordaining new priests and giving the Sacrament of Confirmation.

But it wasn’t watching the ordination that made me realize the responsibilities of priesthood. It was two books: To Save a Thousand Souls by Fr. Brett Brannen and Geekpriest by Fr. Roderick Vonhogen. Although the book is for those discerning diocesan priesthood, it gives a lot of insight to everything a priest does and once I finished reading it, I realized that there was no way I could do everything a priest does.

I said before that being a priest comes with a lot of responsibilities and it’s true. Priests don’t just celebrate Mass, write and preach homilies, and pray. They also baptize, celebrate marriages, visit the sick, stay with the dying, bury the dead, instruct others, counsel and guide the suffering, evangelize, perform exorcisms, and act as father figures to their flock. Fr. Roderick said that the life of the priest stressed him out. He wanted to be there 24/7 for everyone and he had a bit of a meltdown from all the stress he experienced. But once he realized that he didn’t always have to say “yes” to everything and accept the reality of his situation, things got better.

Ladies, we already stress ourselves enough as it is.  I don’t know about you, but we constantly worry about other people already and like Fr. Roderick, we tend to say “yes” to everything, even when it’s more than we can handle. We carry emotional burdens from our friends and coworkers and sometimes that emotional support can drain us. Now imagine trying to do that as a 24/7 job and being expected to be a leader and defender of the Church on top of that. I’m not saying that we can’t already do it as women, but as members of the laity, we have the advantage of having emotional support from other people and coming home or calling someone who will listen and help us carry our burdens. The priests of religious orders can come home and support each other, but it’s not the same as having a family or a spouse. Not to mention diocesan priests live alone. All priests need the support of the people.

Once I learned the number of responsibilities a priest takes on, I realized that I am blessed to be someone who could support my priests in their journey of holiness. I may not be able to consecrate the hosts or officiate weddings, but I can still represent the church by caring for those in need, defending the church, and making sacrifices and make ordinary things sacred. All of us can do the same.

Today, dear readers, I want to ask you to pray for your local pastor and reach out to them. Send them a card or a gift that lets them know how much you appreciate them. If you have a friend who’s a priest, call them up and spend some time with them. I know that I benefited greatly by having priests as friends. I got to know them as people.

The power of a priest isn’t an authoritarian kind of power. It’s the kind of power that requires having a servant’s heart, the strength to carry that emotional burden and responsibility . Today, I hope that you will pray for your priests and for an increase in vocations to priesthood and religious life.

Authentic Love Part 2: Faith Rooted in Religion

It started with a comment. I shared a short version of rejections I experienced on the Facebook page of a nondenominational Protestant who was looking for stories about rejection.

Then somebody replied to my comment:
“Just remember that it’s by faith and not religion that we feel God’s love.”

Cue flashbacks of the usual “I’m spiritual, but not religious” anthem that I hear from a lot of people. And a facepalm.

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I shared this incident with my friends who had this to say.

Olivier Coutant: On the one hand, yes, the speaker forgets that religion is the lived out expression of our faith. I also think there’s something to what that speaker said! It can be a temptation for us to get wrapped up in our pious acts and forget that our faith (our relationship with Christ) is what it’s all about.

Tristan Rios: Notice how they say “feel”. If you want to troll, maybe say, “Feel? I thought love was an action, not a feeling.” Just to kind of comment on how protestants and specifically non-denoms are overly emotional. All about the “feel good.”

Suzanne Fortin: Jesus instituted a religion: Baptism, Eucharist, laying of hands. These are always ways of feeling God’s love.

Brandon Ocampo (No relation to me): Faith in practice is religion. It’s the ultimate relationship. Where we follow His boundaries and rules to improve our relationship with Him. I might not always feel God in a pretty song, but I might feel Him by following the law. He has set forth. Jesus > Religion? Nah son. Jesus came to establish a religion. Jesus was religious. If you condemn religion, you condemn Christ. That’s not a bright move.

Rachel GohlmanOne can say “I have faith” great, even the demons believe! In fact the devils may have more faith than we do because they know it’s all real. What constitutes religion is not only saying you believe in God, but also showing it through devotions and acts of prayer. Our main way of prayer always has been the Mass and it’s not just a series of empty gestures. If anyone says it is so then ask why do people send flowers to someone they love, or write songs or take them out on picnic. Love demands action. It demands expression. This is the complement that religion gives faith.

I also would like to point out that religion is manifest in the love we give to our neighbor, in addition to the love we give to God. If a person keeps faith to themselves, there is a risk for self-assurance, an “us and them” attitude that characterizes the pharisee. By being the outward display of faith, religion obliges us to carry Christ out into the world. This is what James means when he says “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27
Therefore religion has always been part of Scripture faith. It has always been the “works” that goes along with faith. Neither by themselves save you as faith without works is dead and religion without faith is empty humanism.

While I’m not gonna respond to the comment because I don’t like starting a combox war, I will say this:

Experiencing God’s love relies on more than just feeling it. Having faith in God has to be rooted in something a lot more solid than feelings. Faith is not a feeling, after all.

Religion, and especially Catholicism, can seem particularly daunting because there seem to be so many rules. But if anything provides that tangibility of God’s love, I think it comes in the form of being Catholic.

Catholics get to see Christ present in the Eucharist.

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We smell the incense that symbolizes our prayers rising up to Heaven.

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We feel the Holy Water as we dip our fingers into the font and are reminded of when we were baptised, either as babies or at Easter Vigil after weeks of RCIA classes.

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We hear the prayers that remind us of what we believe in.

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We taste the Body and the Blood every Sunday.

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And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

God’s authentic love is manifested in having faith, but that faith is best grown when it’s rooted in a strong foundation.

All images except for one are courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. I took the photo of the Eucharist displayed in the monstrance.