It is by the conversion of the bread and wine into Christ’s body and blood that Christ becomes present in this sacrament. The Church Fathers strongly affirmed the faith of the Church in the efficacy of the Word of Christ and of the action of the Holy Spirit to bring about this conversion. Thus St. John Chrysostom declares:
- It is not man that causes the things offered to become the Body and Blood of Christ, but he who was crucified for us, Christ himself. The priest, in the role of Christ, pronounces these words, but their power and grace are God’s. This is my body, he says. This word transforms the things offered.
And St. Ambrose says about this conversion:
- Be convinced that this is not what nature has formed, but what the blessing has consecrated. The power of the blessing prevails over that of nature, because by the blessing nature itself is changed. . . . Could not Christ’s word, which can make from nothing what did not exist, change existing things into what they were not before? It is no less a feat to give things their original nature than to change their nature.
- ~Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1375.
Ever keep a song on your playlist for 10 years or more? For me, this is one of those…
Did you listen to it?
Since it came out in 2000, every single time, I’m convicted by that lyric… “You are faithful, I’m forgetful.” It’s so true that I often just breeze by Christ, who is standing smack dab in the middle of my daily grind, and I miss his Presence. For me, this song calls me back to thanksgiving, every time. It’s often a song I play in the car on my way to adoration on Fridays. It’s a reminder of the wonder of adoration and the heart that calls unto to me whenever I’m there. But its a reminder to come back to Him. Daily. Over and over again. To not miss the moments that He is in. To ask him for reminders for my eyes to see that He is faithful.
I played this song again today, as I went for a walk down the country lane, as I prayed to keep Christ hidden in the center of my “to do” list for this holiday weekend. There is so much to do, and I’m already fretting I’m not getting it all done. That’s why I escaped to pray and walk and think, being mindful of what St Francis de Sales counsels. St Frank taught that a lay person ought to pray 30 minutes a day, and a busy person ought to pray an hour! (I’m trusting the logic of the saints here, big time.)
Walking back home I’m again convicted and called to make this thanksgiving weekend one in which I do not forget Him or His love for me, as I revel in the love of our crazy family reunions… yes, to see Him in their faces, every one. To even to keep a secret quiet place in my heart where His love is Present even when we are in lines of long traffic jams, or elbow deep in greasy dishes and clean up from feeding the families, or making various other small sacrifices that come when families travel far and near to be together.
“God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Cor 1:9)
There are so many things to be grateful for this year….
There are my 30 years with this man…
And all the treasures of this past year… including another kiddo out of college…
(and with a good job, thankfully!)
And another studying at a great university that is restoring what it means to be a transformative Catholic institution… and who is excited to go to Mass here…
And the discovery that I now have a future son-in-love… (though we had guessed it might come to pass eventually).
You’ve probably heard this, but there are some cool things have been happening in my little corner of the writing world…
And as I pray, I’m grateful to live where I live and to know the good friends that I have both here in New England and around the country. Your friendship is like a tranquil oasis that soothes my erratic heart, and helps bring me near to Him. (A shout out to all the Among Women community too!)
So if you pass me by somewhere this weekend, don’t look for the string around my finger, look for the silly grin of gratitude.
Happy Thanksgiving from my house to yours!
The New Evangelization reminds us that the very agents of evangelization – you and me –will never achieve that abundant harvest Blessed John XXIII described unless we are willing and eager to first be evangelized themselves. Only those themselves first evangelized can then evangelize. As St. Bernard put it so well, “If you want to be a channel, you must first be a reservoir.”
I would suggest this morning that this reservoir of our lives and ministry, when it comes especially to the New Evangelization, must first be filled with the spirit of interior conversion born of our own renewal. That’s the way we become channels of a truly effective transformation of the world, through our own witness of a penitential heart, and our own full embrace of the Sacrament of Penance.
“To believers also the Church must ever preach faith and penance,” declared the council fathers in the very first of the documents to appear, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. (SC, n. 9)
To be sure, the sacraments of initiation – - Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist – - charge, challenge, and equip the agents of evangelization. Without those sacraments, we remain isolated, unredeemed, timid and unfed.
But, the Sacrament of Reconciliation evangelizes the evangelizers, as it brings us sacramentally into contact with Jesus, who calls us to conversion of heart, and allows us to answer his invitation to repentance — a repentance from within that can then transform the world without.
What an irony that despite the call of the Second Vatican Council for a renewal of the Sacrament of Penance, what we got instead was its near disappearance.
We became very good in the years following the Council in calling for the reform of structures, systems, institutions, and people other than ourselves.That, too, is important; it can transform our society and world. But did we fail along the way to realize that in no way can the New Evangelization be reduced to a program, a process, or a call to structural reform; that it is first and foremost a deeply personal conversion within? “The Kingdom of God is within,” as Jesus taught.
The premier answer to the question “What’s wrong with the world?” “what’s wrong with the church?” is not politics, the economy, secularism, sectarianism, globalization or global warming . . .none of these, as significant as they are. As Chesterton wrote, “The answer to the question ‘What’s wrong with the world?’ is just two words:’I am,’”
I am! Admitting that leads to conversion of heart and repentance, the marrow of the Gospel-invitation. I remember the insightful words of a holy priest well known to many of us from his long apostolate to priests and seminarians in Rome, Monsignor Charles Elmer, wondering aloud from time to time if, following the close of the Council, we had sadly become a Church that forgot how to kneel.If we want the New Evangelization to work, it starts on our knees.
~Cardinal Timothy Dolan, President of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops, Presidential Address, November 12, 2012.
This week’s Among Women starts off with a look at what I’m doing lately. I’m happy to announce that my book, Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious: Celebrating the Gift of Catholic Womanhood is now available for pre-order, and is also the subject of a one-day retreat for women beginning in February 9, 2013 in Folsom, CA. If you are available this Dec. 1, join me in Chicago for another one-day event, “Blessed Among Women.”
This week’s podcast explores the trials and triumphs of a woman’s mid-life, especially that of a mid-life mother with young adult children, aging parents, and her own aging body. I welcome author-blogger Elizabeth Foss as she and I share the stresses of raising teens, coping with letting go of young adult children, and aging parents who become more in need of our care. Of particular note is the very deep gratitude we have for the Providence of God in our lives, especially as we talk about reaching the mid-life years, despite our both having suffered through different cancer diagnoses in our younger years.
This show also profiles the life of St Zita, a patron saint of domestics, as told in the words of Lisa Hendey and her book, A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms. St. Zita is the perfect role model for us, especially as the domestic duties mount up with the coming of Thanksgiving, Advent, and Christmas.
For the Year of Faith, longtime blogger Melanie Bettinelli, and friend of the Among Women podcast, is hosting a series of guest posts from bloggers around blogdom on the subject of the Creed. Your truly was happily assigned the gig for “The Father Almighty”. Here’s a snippet of my contribution…
On the shelf above my kitchen sink – the sink being the place where I do a fair amount of thinking and praying – I have a little sign with this message:
Telling God how big your problems are? Tell your problems how big God is!
That little sign reminds me of the Creed and the foundations of my trust in God.
When we pray the words, “I believe in one God, the Father almighty,” we declare the bigness of God – his omnipotence. Those same words profess a Father who loves us, as well as acknowledging our identity as beloved daughters and sons.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), paragraph 278, offers a compelling question:
If we don’t believe that God’s love is almighty, how can we believe that the Father could create us, the Son redeem us, and the Holy Spirit sanctify us?
Pondering this challenges me, and makes me think deeply. It might as well have asked me: “How big is your God?” Or maybe, “How small is your faith?” But even if I don’t have it all figured out, I can lean on this much… I can trust that God is bigger than my misunderstandings and limitations.
God has many incredible attributes, but only God’s omnipotence as “Almighty” is named in the Creed. God Almighty’s power is universal. God rules everything and can do everything. As master of the universe and the Lord of history his will is limitless. “Father almighty” states God’s infinite power as it admits a profound fatherly love for us—with all the tender affection and care a Father bestows upon his children, and so much more.
Recent decades have seen the advance of a spiritual “desertification”. In the [Second Vatican] Council’s time it was already possible from a few tragic pages of history to know what a life or a world without God looked like, but now we see it every day around us. This void has spread. But it is in starting from the experience of this desert, from this void, that we can again discover the joy of believing, its vital importance for us, men and women. In the desert we rediscover the value of what is essential for living; thus in today’s world there are innumerable signs, often expressed implicitly or negatively, of the thirst for God, for the ultimate meaning of life. And in the desert people of faith are needed who, with their own lives, point out the way to the Promised Land and keep hope alive. Living faith opens the heart to the grace of God which frees us from pessimism. Today, more than ever, evangelizing means witnessing to the new life, transformed by God, and thus showing the path. The first reading spoke to us of the wisdom of the wayfarer (cf. Sir 34:9-13): the journey is a metaphor for life, and the wise wayfarer is one who has learned the art of living, and can share it with his brethren – as happens to pilgrims along the Way of Saint James or similar routes which, not by chance, have again become popular in recent years. How come so many people today feel the need to make these journeys? Is it not because they find there, or at least intuit, the meaning of our existence in the world? This, then, is how we can picture the Year of Faith, a pilgrimage in the deserts of today’s world, taking with us only what is necessary: neither staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money, nor two tunics – as the Lord said to those he was sending out on mission (cf. Lk 9:3), but the Gospel and the faith of the Church, of which the Council documents are a luminous expression, as is the Catechism of the Catholic Church, published twenty years ago.
~Benedict XVI, Homily to open the Year of Faith.
This week’s AW is our 150th episode!!
Just how do the rosary and pregnancy go together? Well, they both nurture new life in us, both spiritually and biologically!
This week, our “Blessed are They” segment is a departure from our usual discussions about a woman saint, as we open Rosarium Virginis Mariae, the Apostolic Letter of Blessed John Paul II on the Most Holy Rosary, in honor of October, the month dedicated to the Rosary (when this podcast was originally slated to be released. But, given the superstore “Sandy”, our timeline was delayed.)
In our guest segment, I talk with longtime friend of Among Women, Sarah Reinhard, and we share themes from her new book, A Catholic Mother’s Companion to Pregnancy: Walking with Mary from Conception to Baptism. We talk about how the Blessed Mother assists and inspires a woman during the stages of pregnancy, and in preparation for having a child baptized. See the podcast show notes for how to enter our free drawing to win a copy of Sarah’s book.