Reach Out to The Truth! – The Last Night of Cafe Catholica

The best people in life for free.

The best people in life for free.

 

If there’s anything I learned from my last night at Cafe Catholica, it was that appearances can be deceiving and truth is something that doesn’t come in an easily appealing package. Nevertheless, we must always reach out to the truth because we find the beauty and goodness hidden within it.

The first reading from last night is a classic case of idolatry in the face of fear. The Gospel doesn’t seem like it relates to the first reading because it was just about parables. The priest who celebrated Mass last night said in his homily that from the outside, the Kingdom of God looks boring because it can’t be contained. It liberates us from earthly attachments. When the Isrealites were faced with the quiet mountain instead of the show of light and fire from Mount Sinai, they forgot everything that God did for them and turned to an idol instead. It should be noted btw, that I wasn’t exactly laughing when the priest re-told the scene from the reading where Aaron said “We just put the gold in the fire and the calf came out of it.” I get that it’s supposed to be a joke, but I don’t find it funny. A lot of others in the church did, though.

The priest said that we are no better than the Israelites. We forget the way the Lord has transformed us and the works of God that we see in our everyday lives. Instead we seek emotional highs. Wasn’t there a Blimey Cow video or two about that?

And they also did an awesome video about idolatry as well.

I think my favorite part of the homily, though, was when the priest said how he wished the Kingdom of God was more like the battle of Mordor. I genuinely laughed at that part because if you want an epic battle, wait for the apocalypse. The truth is, he said, that the Kingdom of God is less interesting than an epic battle. It comes disguised in the ordinary. Here’s how I would compare it.

We wish that the Kingdom of God was like that excited, energetic kind of happiness we feel during our birthday or the holidays or when it’s easy to celebrate. In real life, the Kingdom of God is more like a warm glow, a soft candle light burning in the night. The Kingdom of God isn’t so much like a huge bombastic rock concert as it is more like a choir singing in harmony sometimes and having a random jam session the rest of the time. It’s a hidden treasure and it’s worth finding.

The lecture last night was a lesson in apologetics. The guest speaker, Dr. Christopher Kaczor, talked about the 7 Big Myths About the Catholic Church. He focused on myths believed by secular society and the common theme about all of them is that the world perceives the Catholic Church as an embodiment of hate: It hates science, women, happiness, gays, gay marriage, children (because of the sex abuse scandals) and love (because of its opposition to contraception).

The truth, of course, is that the Catholic Church is a church of authentic love. The Church embraces a relationship between faith and reason. Many of the biggest names in scientific history are Catholic. I also learned that many cathedrals in Europe also functioned as solar observatories. The Church loves women. (Hello, Mary Queen of Heaven and Earth!?) The Church takes care of the world by serving people in need, therefore making billions of people worldwide happy here on Earth. We also teach about forgiveness, the dangers of greed, and gratitude. We celebrate a thanksgiving with every Eucharist.

We love everyone without exception, but that love doesn’t come in the form of just being nice all the time. I can’t speak for all Catholics, but know that when it comes to the LGBT community, most Catholics are trying to understand it. We are not being bigots when we say that we oppose gay marriage. We just want people to understand that there is a more authentic love out there. No the Church is not always nice. But as they say in Into the Woods “Nice is different than good.”

If there’s one myth/cliche that I hate seeing in TV is the pedophilic/evil priest because while there are issues with that going on in the Church, the world wants to make everyone think that all priests are perverts with issues. That is so so far from the truth. There is no relation between abuse and celibacy. There are also other kinds of people who do the exact same thing but don’t get the same attention. I always believe in speaking well of others and like to see the good in people. I wish more people could do the same and be forgiving about this. You can’t dismiss an entire religion for the actions of a few.

The truth is that the Church loves children and the family. Children are a source of joy and help us to be more grateful. They help us to grow in humility and teach us the value of life and give it meaning again.

The best thing I got out of Cafe Catholica overall were all the new experiences. I sang in a choir. I made new friends. I had a major boost in my social life in the form of hanging out with my new friends. I learned new songs. I learned to be brave and take risks. I learned to find happiness in setbacks. I learned to not be afraid. I learned to move on from my past. I learned to value myself. I didn’t learn these things from any one homily or something a guest lecturer said, but from all of these experiences. I learned these new things by doing them.

If there’s one thing I want to say to anyone who wants to be more involved with their diocese, I highly recommend volunteering for events like this. Take a chance and try something new, like singing in the choir or being a lector at your parish. Be a Catechist or part of youth ministry. You never know where these wonderful new things will take you.

 

Unconventional Happiness: Things I Learned at Cafe Catholica

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Lawrence.

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Lawrence. If you’re wondering where I am, I’m hidden behind the post in the choir loft.

The topic for last night’s lecture at Cafe Catholica focused on happiness and the decisions we make. I also did a bit of Mass Journaling this time. The readings from yesterday were part of the “tough love” readings in the Bible that many people would rather avoid reading, but as Fr. Ray Cook (the celebrant) said “We have to walk through the bad things. The readings always have things to tell us, but we always focus on ourselves, on things that make noise.” Although he never quoted Mother Teresa, I felt like Fr. Ray’s homily echoed the idea of God speaking in the silence of our hearts.

Last week was a real treat for me because everything was new and exciting, but this week, I had to take a step back and not get overly excited. Part of that meant trying not to sing as loudly so that I could harmonize with the choir (a problem stemming back from my children’s choir days). And when I didn’t socialize as much as I did last week, I accepted that sometimes, it’s better to just enjoy whatever small talk you make with people. You might find things about your friends that you never knew and will learn to appreciate.

Tonight’s speaker was Sr. Mary Guido, a Cenacle sister. She opened her lecture with this question: Have you ever allowed God to ask “What do you need from me? What are you looking for? What do you want?” The answer of course, can be found with the classic St. Augustine quote “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” God calls us to happiness, to be one with Christ, to have a union with God, others, ourselves, and all creation.

The rest of the lecture looked into religious life and decisions in the modern world. It amazed me at how much of religious life can apply to laypeople like me. An example of this can be found within the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. These vows aren’t just for priests, monks, and nuns, but for everyone. The vow of chastity means loving completely, without exception. There’s a wonderful video from Fr. Robert Barron that explains the kind of love Sr. Mary is talking about. It’s not the romantic, emotional love that’s seen in a Nicholas Sparks movie. It’s an unconditional kind of love that takes us outside of ourselves. The vow of poverty means remembering that the things in our lives are not our gods. The things that we want to have are just means, and not ends. And the vow of obedience meas listening to God, completely surrendering ourselves to Him.

How does all this apply to discernment in the modern world? The word “discern,” according to Sr. Mary, means to sift out things, getting to the heart of the matter. It’s not necessarily “What will I do?” because we are all called to be saints. We are all working towards Heaven. The real question is “How?” Echoing what Fr. Ray said before, Sister Mary said to notice times of peace within ourselves. We won’t always get it right, but our actions will either lead us closer to God and away from him. She recommends keeping a record for a month and see what caused anxiety and what things caused peace within our daily lives. She also recommends getting a spiritual director. She ended the lecture with a quote from Fr. Pedro Arrupe:

“Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love and it will decide everything.”

 

 

Seize the Moment Because Tomorrow You Might Be Dead: Things I Learned At Cafe Catholica

Last night, I ventured into my diocese’s annual Cafe Catholica, a young adult event that takes place in the summer. Throughout the month of July, hundreds of people come to a church in my area for Mass, dinner, and a lecture. I wasn’t just there for the lecture, though. I was part of the choir! I sang my heart out alongside my friends and marveled at the beauty of the church I was singing in.

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Reasons I love being Catholic: The many, many, many gorgeous churches!

 

The night started with my friends and me singing praise and worship songs before Mass started. I pretty much sang by ear because I hadn’t sung in choir since I was a kid. But I felt like I was performing, looking out at the crowd in front of me. Best of all, I was doing this for God, not just for myself. After Mass ended, there was a dinner. I didn’t eat much given my allergies, but I was glad to find some friends from retreats as well as fellow UST alums who were either with friends or volunteering. I even made some new friends and managed to avoid causing any drama in spite of the fact that I fangirl squeed over Taylor Swift and Calvin Harris with one of my friends and argued with someone over Doctor Who companions. (Shipping and fandoms are serious business with me.)

The lecture last night talked about authentic love and how it’s more than just a feeling. Authentic love is a reflection of God, a reflection of the Trinity. She mentioned a lot of CS Lewis and Pope Benedict, both of which scored major points with me. Overall, I felt like I had a great time.

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I’ve been complaining about how I wish my life were different on this blog a lot. The biggest thing I learned from the Mass, the dinner, and the lecture at Cafe Catholica last night was that I needed to enjoy the moment. I tend to go into events like this with a lot of expectations only to end up disappointed. This time, I just went with the flow and left the event feeling wonderful. Although there was wifi, I chose not to seek out a way to log into it because I was in a church and felt like going online, either before the Mass or during the lecture, felt improper. I also chose not to focus on the past, either, because I was there to try new things. I told myself “You are going to sing your heart out and blow their socks off!” And that’s exactly what I did.

I learned that I was getting better at making small talk. That there were other people who were going through the same thing that I was going through. Most of all, I learned that when you live in the moment, really cherishing it instead of hiding behind a smartphone or a layer of apathy/disgust/boredom, you find new, wonderful things.

So, as my favorite Slayer says “Seize the moment because tomorrow, you might be dead.”