God Became Man – my latest article at Catholic Digest

God Became Man – my latest article at Catholic Digest

Belief in the true Incarnation of the Son of God is the distinctive sign of Christian faith.” (CCC, 463)

As Catholics, we profess our belief in the Incarnation in the Nicene Creed: Jesus Christ “came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.”

The Incarnation is a unique and singular event. Its truth informs the way we view God and ourselves.

Divine condescension

When Jesus arrived on the earth, he changed the way humanity viewed God. In Jesus, God came down from heaven to earth, without compromising his divinity.

The Incarnation of Christ crowned centuries of divine revelation, God’s slow revealing of himself, making himself known to humanity over time. God’s divine communication was now to be known through the Person of his Son. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines the Incarnation as “the fact that the Son of God assumed a human nature in order to accomplish our salvation in it” (CCC, 461).

This is the deepest meaning behind our Christmas celebrations.

[T]he Incarnation of the Son of God does not mean that Jesus Christ is part God and part man, nor does it imply that he is the result of a confused mixture of the divine and the human. He became truly man while remaining truly God. Jesus Christ is true God and true man. (CCC, 464)

This holy condescension of God means that we can never accuse God of being absent or lofty or unreachable or inaccessible. The Incarnation—the taking on of flesh in the Virgin’s womb—is the moment whereby the inexhaustible, inexpressible, invisible, omnipotent, and almighty Holy One takes on human visage. The divinity of God shines through a human person now.

At the time appointed by God, the only Son of the Father, the eternal Word, that is, the Word and substantial Image of the Father, became incarnate; without losing his divine nature he has assumed human nature. (CCC, 479)

Divine dignity

Jesus, coming as a human person, changed the way we view ourselves. The Second Vatican Council declared that the Incarnation raises our own human dignity.

He who is “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15) is himself the perfect man. To the sons of Adam he restores the divine likeness which had been disfigured from the first sin onward. Since human nature as he assumed it was not annulled, by that very fact it has been raised up to a divine dignity in our respect too. (Gaudium et Spes, 22)

Humanity now counts the face of God among its own.

Never again may I look at another person, or myself, with disdain or disrespect, for there is an inherent dignity in all.

Read the rest at Catholic Digest.

I’m pleased to be a regular columnist there writing about the beauty and inspiration that comes from the Catechism of the Church. Click here to subscribe to Catholic Digest. 

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The Pink Candle and other Musings – from my Patheos archives…

The Pink Candle and other Musings – from my Patheos archives…

To the uninitiated, that pink candle at church makes no sense from a decorating point of view. It throws off the symmetry of the other three purple candles in the Advent wreath. Yet, it immediately draws attention.

A common sight in Advent, the pink or rose candle lit on the Third Sunday is a harbinger, a signpost, a little light that stirs the imagination. Something is a little bit different this week . . .

And what are we paying attention to? A respite from purple candles? Um, in a way, yes. But there is a much bigger picture, a broader context than ambience and church décor. Like so many visuals in the Mass, color is just one of the things that corresponds to the liturgical season, always pointing to a deeper truth.

If the purple candles are to remind us of the penitential and preparatory season of Advent, then the pink or rose candle is there to remind us of the soon coming joy of Christmas and the future joy of Christ’s coming again. Therefore, the object of our love and devotion should animate our penance, prayer, and service.

In years gone by, most Catholics learned that the Third Sunday was commonly called Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete was translated from the Latin as “rejoice”! Gaudete Sunday gets it name from the opening antiphon and prayers of the Mass that declare: “Rejoice in the Lord always” (“Gaudete in Domino semper”) (Phil 4:4).

This Third Sunday, the Church is harkening to its good news: the Word is made flesh in Jesus, and the Kingdom of Heaven is born in our midst.

The imagery in Sunday’s First Reading from Isaiah, recorded centuries before the first coming Christ, hints at this coming joy.

The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom.

They will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song. The glory of Lebanon will be given to them, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God . . .

Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you . . .

Those whom the LORD has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy; 
they will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee (Is 35:1-2, 4, 10).

As always, there is much to meditate on, but the simple phrase that captures my attention as we come to this Sunday with joy is that once-and-future hope that the prophet gives about one day coming back to our true homeland, “crowned with everlasting glory.”

And I wonder if we could envision ourselves on that special Day, would we live any differently than we do now?

After all, rejoicing, as a verb, means it is something that we do.

Why? Because it is something that we Christians are: Joyful.

Or, are we still works in progress in the joy department?

It is here that the Church is giving hints to what our witness ought to be even within a penitential season. While the ransoming of our lives through Christ takes place long before the crowning occurs, such knowledge is a deep well for joy, hope, and the kind of repentance that leads back to joy.

Joy can be our watchword in this season for it reveals the deepest truth about the deepest reality of Christ’s Coming. But even more profoundly, that he has come and will come for me. And you. This joy is personal as well as corporate.

(Read the rest over at Patheos…)

I write for Catholic Digest; Make this your easiest-to-give Christmas present…

I write for Catholic Digest; Make this your easiest-to-give Christmas present…

imageFor a few years now, I’ve been privileged to be a columnist in the Catholic Digest. My space is “From the Catechism”. (I always thought it should be called “The Pat in the Cat” — but I’m grateful to my editor, not only for the work each month, but for her good taste in not posting every title I recommend to her.)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is not on everyone’s reading list, I know this. That’s why I love to introduce it in snippets. Often I highlight themes from the liturgical year or from the themes captured in each issue. It’s a page or two of faith and Catholic doctrine served in easy digestible bites. Each column I write offers something positive and inspiring from the book I’ve grown to love since it first came out in English is 1994.

Now and then, I’ll write a feature besides the column. Last year I shared about my book and spiritual motherhood. In a coming issue, I’m writing about healing.

I not only write for Catholic Digest, I also subscribe!

Sure, I totally love the seasonal gift guides, and the books it recommends. But there’s more! This past year, there was a special issue commemorating the canonization of Saints John XXIII and John Paul II.
photoFor me, it’s the family-friendly Catholic content that wins me over. And it’s beautiful shot and laid out with photos and lovely fonts that make reading it nicer than ever. Once in a while I try one of the recipes…

This new issue has Mary Ellen Barrett, my recent guest on Among Women, talking about thoughtful gift giving, Daria Sockey writing about purgatory, Sean Patrick describing about growing up Catholic in America, and Tom Hoopes with his take on the ice bucket challenge with an amazing story of his Mom and her legacy despite her battle with ALS. And who knew that actor Ray Liotta, from the movie The Identical was a faithful guy? Susie Lloyd’s got that interview.

Some of Catholic Digest’s content is online after the magazine publishes, but not as much as you’d like. So its best to just subscribe. You can even get a free trial.

Think Christmas, good people! This is a gift that keeps giving. And it helps to add salt and light to the culture around us!

This is the gift to send to your distant relatives — think of the shipping you’ll save and the smiles you’ll bring!

imageThis is the gift to give that religion teacher your children are so fond of, or your auntie in Florida and your Godmother in Tucson, or that young family down the block. This is the gift you could send to all the Catholic newlyweds you know. Or your dear old Mom and Dad.

Really. Subscribe for yourself and for someone you love. 

People ask me all the time for Catholic Resources and I tell them what I like. Catholic Digest is something I like so much that I work for them. If you like the work I do, as a writer and a speaker, or as a podcaster, here’s one way you can support that. Really. Thank a Catholic writer today.

 

I’m over at CatholicMom.com today… with 3 Reasons to Offer Things Up

I’m over at CatholicMom.com today… with 3 Reasons to Offer Things Up

Here’s an excerpt from “3 Reasons to Intentionally Pray: Jesus, I Offer This to You”… from CatholicMom.com

When I was growing up and going through some trial, well-meaning Catholics would tell me to “offer it up.” For a very long time, I didn’t understand what benefit that might bring until I learned that my offering something to God was not about what I was doing with it, but what God did.

In recent months I’ve been using this simple prayer throughout my day: “Jesus, I offer this to you.” I pray it when facing some kind of trial or frustration or problem. Nobody likes to go through unpleasant stuff. Yet offering these moments is lot like praying that beloved and familiar short prayer from the Divine Mercy devotion: “Jesus, I trust in you.”

Many Christians pray the Morning Offering – giving the whole day to Christ. That’s a very holy prayer. Yet Jesus also desires our hearts to come to him throughout the day, as St Paul says, “to pray without ceasing (1 Thess 5:17).” Giving over both large and small difficult moments to Christ is one way to fulfill that prayer.

Here are three good reasons to pray with intention: “Jesus, I offer this to you.”

1. What is difficult for me can become a blessing for others. 

“Jesus, I offer this to you.” This is much more than Jesus making lemonade from our lemons. Offering up our concerns in much greater than some kind of pious wishful thinking. This is trust that that graces from Christ’s Cross flow even now. Our trial of the moment may remain, but we ask God to use it for good. Through it, graces are unleashed and we participate in Christ’s saving work on earth.

When I suffer something in my own body, I’m painfully away of my own body and blood—the value of my own life and mortality. In some small way I take in the purview of what Jesus suffered for me.

Recently, I prayed as I sat in the oral surgeon’s chair to receive a dental implant — the process that inserts a metal screw inserted into my skull to hold a future porcelain crown. The procedure is a bit jarring. I experienced the disconcerting physical pressure of the drill without the unpleasantness of pain, spared as I was by painkillers. As the dentist drilled into my bone, my little prayer, “Jesus I offer this you” brought about that very image of Jesus’ suffering the nails being driven into his flesh and bones, His being impaled without any anesthesia.

Jesus trusted in His Father to forgive his executioners (Cf. Luke 23:34) and to bring forth something good and holy from his excruciating suffering. Trust and offerings go together.

The key to offering something up to God builds upon the trusting foundation we have in Jesus.

Read the rest at CatholicMom.com.

Patheos is 5 years young! Thanks to @TheAnchoress for the growth of @PatheosCatholic!

Patheos is 5 years young! Thanks to @TheAnchoress for the growth of @PatheosCatholic!

I’m grateful for Elizabeth Scalia’s suggestion back in 2010 that I do a little writing on Patheos in a column called ” A Word in Season”. It’s not the only place I write, and despite my current hiatus as I deal with some family needs and my life/writing balance, I’m still very grateful for my piece of real estate there.

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Some of my favorite past columns have been these:

From the personal reflection category:
Something of the Glory of God Shines on Your Face
Exquisite and Extraordinary: The Life of Married Love

From the practical Christianity category:
 From my writing on women’s issues and the feminine genius:
From the “getting acquainted with magisterial documents” files:
This is my series unpacking Francis’ first encyclical – Lumen Fidei – by chapters:
Head on over to the Catholic Portal for the celebration! I’ve enjoyed these links so far:
More will be added all week long from bloggers and columnists so bookmark the Catholic portal at Patheos, or find it on Facebook!   Patheos hosts several religion channels besides the one for Catholicism. For more on Patheos’ 5 year history, go here.
Raising Them for Jesus – 3 influences your kids need today to have faith tomorrow

Raising Them for Jesus – 3 influences your kids need today to have faith tomorrow

I’m over at CatholicMom.com this week, sharing a post on parenting…

The young bride-to-be, a good friend’s daughter, sent me a thank you note for my gift and my attendance at her bridal shower. She wrote: “Thank you for being a ‘second mother’ in my life. I am blessed to have grown up with role models of faithful, holy women.” That’s the second time I’ve heard her call me that. The first time was at the shower as she opened the gift. Her mother smiled at the compliment, recognizing how she, too, has been a kind of spiritual mother to some of my children.

Every young Catholic, especially teens, needs to find credible witnesses for the faith. I’m so grateful to the family members and the friends who have helped to spiritually mentor my children – especially in their teenage years on the way to adulthood. Those Catholic friends made the faith real to my children. I’m seeing its effects now as my grown children age into their mid-twenties.

Spiritual mentoring, or other faithful adults whose witness bears an impact, is just one of three important factors that raises the odds for our children having an adult faith.

Three powerful influences help shape the spiritual life in children in a lasting way – the faith practice of their parents, a spiritual mentor or two outside of the family, and a personal encounter with God.

The first is the practice of faith in the daily life of the family. There is no replacement for the genuine faith and devotional practices of a child’s parents in leading the family. The eyes and ears of children are the most sensitive spiritual surveillance systems ever designed. They pick up on authenticity, honesty, and integrity of their parents’ relationship to God and to the teachings of the Church better than we imagine.

Read the rest at Catholic Mom.

I’m cooking up something for St Patty’s Day at The Practicing Catholic today

I’m cooking up something for St Patty’s Day at The Practicing Catholic today

soupandstoriesToday I’m sharing a little recipe for St Patrick Cheddar Soup, along with some of my musings about the my favorite prayer of St Patrick, at The Practicing Catholic blog. It’s Soup and Stories: a clever idea that combines favorite soup recipes with the penitential season of Lent. Here’s a taste…

I was born in New York to a mother of Irish descent. I arrived just a few days shy of Saint Patrick’s Day. Thus I am named both for himself and my Godmother.

Some of young Patty’s fondest Catholic memories are childhood visits to the towering Cathedral of St Patrick on Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan. It always left a powerful impression on me, when compared to our rather plain suburban church.

St Patrick’s Day was also parade day – so it was pretty cool to be named for a saint that was recognized both by the church and the culture at large.

So why not a soup to celebrate the day?

When I had a family of my own, I was happy to have this soup to vary our menu and to call attention to my patron sake, and to tell his story. Since March 17th usually falls within the Lenten season, I found this to be a tasty soup that was somewhat penitential, since it was meatless, yet very nourishing.

Read the whole thing. I hope you’ll join me as well as all the others who are souping’ it up for Lent! Thanks to Lisa and Joel Schmidt for the invitation to participate!

Welcome to my chaos, Jesus

Welcome to my chaos, Jesus

It’s been a difficult winter season here. No getting around that. And I’m not just talking about the cold and the snowfall. In some ways, that has added some beauty to the landscape, and frankly, the excuse to cocoon a bit. Just a bit, because I’ve been out straight as they say. To compensate I’ve have to let go of a few things in order to embrace whatever fire is burning in front of me. To that end, I’ve missed writing and working consistently, I’ve missed getting together with friends or experiencing restful downtimes, I’ve missed podcasting, I’ve missed walking, and I’ve missed what I call balance-in-my-life. Even my prayer life — the anchor of each day — has been getting shifted into new times and forms, though that’s not always a bad thing.

My heart has been broken over sadnesses within my family, my friends’ lives, and mounting pressures — some unavoidable and some self-inflicted. Thank God for the menopausal crying jags… they cleanse me when I least expect them! If you know me, you can laugh at that last thing. Being a woman is still a wonderful thing — and it’s a wonder that I can recognize this new me on some days! Haha!

I’m not griping or ranting as if I’m looking for pity or for sympathies. I’m just a beggar who knows where her bread comes from, and I’ve written about in my latest over at Patheos. I had one of those Jesus moments that I’ve been mulling over for quite some time.

Here’s some of that…

All I wanted was a minute’s peace.

No, that’s not accurate. All I wanted was world peace, or something akin in my own little corner of it. At the very least, I wanted the noise in the church to go away. I wanted peace and quiet and escape from all that burdened me.

The Christmas season was ebbing away. I closed my eyes to pray after communion at Mass, to adore the Presence of Jesus in that moment. I attempted to pour out my heart, to break free from my troubles, to lean in and let him restore me with his holy food.

Instead I was remarkably distracted.

Normally, in prayer, I can tune out what’s around me. This day my concentration proved inadequate to the distractions.

The church seemed chaotic. I could not escape the scratchy shuffling of communicants in line to receive. After a New England snowfall, the “snowmelt”—salt and sand that sticks to the bottom of shoes—makes a scraping, gritty contact with the floor tiles in our church.

It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard.

Even the music distracted me; the cantor, Lord have mercy,was out of sync with the hymn.

Oh geez, I know I am pitiful as I nitpick others—after communion, no less! Lord have mercy… on me.

There’s the distinctive cry of a newborn baby, and a new momma trying all she can to console, to no avail. She’ll figure it out soon enough. She needs to be here as much as we need her to be here with her little one. And their small chaos jolts me back to where I am.

I refocus, this time on the other baby within my line of sight—the Babe in the manger—in all his poverty and humility; Jesus born into our chaos.

 Read it all. 

:::

You can subscribe to this column here. 

 

 

Reprise: Woman, you are a gift! Respecting women respects life!!

Reprise: Woman, you are a gift! Respecting women respects life!!

Last year, on the anniversary of Roe vs Wade, and the March for Life, I penned this column as a summary of the beauty of womanhood, and her gift of maternity and it was featured in the online version of the Washington Post…

Here it is in its entirety.

Woman, you are a gift!

From the first presentation of woman to man in the Garden of Eden, the gift of who you are is nothing less than “wow!” Your dignity comes from the gift of your being, and the gift of your being created feminine.

Man saw your profound and complementary gifts right away, and rejoiced. In God’s first act of blessing humanity, the creator smiled upon and blessed the union of the first couple, encouraging them be fertile and multiply (Gen 1:28).

Their loving union was a blessed gift to each other, and their offspring, delivered through woman’s maternity, was designed to be a visible sign of that blessing; another gift.

Then sin entered the world. For their failures the woman and man suffered grievous losses, and because we are their progeny, our own pains followed.

Tragically, humanity has habitually lost sight of the true gifts we are to one another, and the treasure of maternity was rarely appreciated as the blessing it is, until Jesus; the savior of all was born of a woman.

In and through Mary, the world heard once more: Woman, you are a gift!

Blessed John Paul II was especially eager to teach that women, by the beauty of their physiology and God-given design, are particularly well-disposed to seeing, comprehending and loving human persons. This is our “feminine genius.” This particular strength of woman bears repeating and rediscovery, as we survey the political rhetoric of the day that tends to degrade maternity, especially as the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade comes to pass.

The late pontiff’s major treatise on women, Mulieris Dignatatem, exults in the dignity and beauty of femininity. The gift of maternity, he wrote is a strength, not a weakness.

There’s no mistaking biology. Womanly bodies are wonderfully made, and purposefully created with an empty space of a womb carried under her heart.

A woman’s womb, her uterus, signals that she is made for something and someone more than herself. This reality touches a woman at her very core — physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The womb’s raison d’etre illuminates this gift that welcomes and receives the life of a child, sheltering and nurturing it, until finally, a woman gives birth. We even use the expression — giving birth — denoting the gift that it is. The maternal gift ought to be honored and celebrated.

What’s more, a pregnant mother is entrusted with carrying an immortal soul besides her own — a soul that is destined for eternity. That’s why a woman really needs to be aware of the dignity of her feminine creation, and the sublime gift of her maternity, so she can confer that dignity on her child, and upon others through her love of life.

The gift of maternity is inherent in all women. They are predisposed to motherhood by their design. Yet, as we know, not all women bear children. Even if a woman never gives birth, a woman’s life is still inclined toward mothering. All women are entrusted with the call to care for the people within their sphere of influence. This broadens our ideas of maternity beyond gestation and lactation.

A woman’s relationships with others, even though they may not be fruitful biologically, can be fruitful spiritually. Therefore a woman’s life–her feminine genius–is characterized by physical and/or spiritual motherhood.

When the gift of a woman’s fertility and maternity are devalued, they are misinterpreted as liabilities or threats to a woman’s potential happiness, or earning power, or freedom.

Both women and men are crippled when disrespect for any of the gifts of the other are ignored, stifled, abused, or rejected. But women are demeaned when this precious part of them is reduced to a faculty to be managed, rather than a capability to be treasured.

Our beautiful maternity, and the lives and loves that issue forth from it, is why the church continues to stand in defense of chastity and marriage, along with its opposition to the use of contraception, abortion of the unborn and any other threat to human life.

Finally, dear woman, here’s something else the church teaches: If we’ve failed to live up to this teaching on maternity, if we’ve disrespected or abused the beautiful gifts of our womanhood, we can make our way back. The gifts of grace and forgiveness through the sacraments provide that path.

Let us trust that grace. Let us be gentle and generous in dealing with our own failures as regards our sexuality or our maternity. Jesus wants us to be healed, and especially to be healed of wounds related to our sexuality and maternity.

Let us come to him with our brokenness, and the sins against our genius of maternity, no matter how grievous or painful.

Let us come to know this God who came through the womb to save us.

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The On Faith column of the Washington Post has moved to On Faith at Faithstreet.com. Here’s the link for the column above.

 

I’m off my rocker… over at CatholicMom.com today

I’m off my rocker… over at CatholicMom.com today

I have a now-and-again series at Catholic Mom I affectionately call “Tales from the Empty Nest”.  This latest installment talks about the bittersweet heartache of losing my rocking chair…

Here’s an excerpt:

A long time back, almost 27 years ago, my husband bought me a rocking chair. We were expecting our first baby. I was looking forward to refinishing the rocker. It would be one of my household “nesting” projects as we prepared for the new baby. I used a maple stain and a satin finish on the rocker’s wood. The chair was a fixture in our home all through our childrearing years. Over time it rocked a lot of babies and a lot of guests who visited our home. Until recently.

The rocker developed a small split in one of the natural curved seams of its wood. Eventually one of the braces split and the back support broke. Sadly, it rendered the chair unstable and beyond repair.

A little part of my heart broke along with the rocker, as it seemed to signal the end of an era. With our children grown now, and our youngest son is in college, I’m already pretty far from the days of little ones wanting hear a story or waiting to be rocked and held before naptime.

I could not help but notice that the rocker’s demise coincided very closely with my entering menopause… another end of an era where motherhood is concerned.

Both of these changes, the rocker’s demise, and the menopause, have rocked me a bit, if you’ll forgive the obvious pun.

Somehow I thought the rocker would be with me as I aged. I’m going to miss the therapeutic soothing of my rock-a-bye chair, but I miss a more youthful and vigorous body even more. Yet I’m learning to be more comfortable with the woman I am now, and not worry so much about losses or gains. Midlife has its unique challenges, but it also has new blessings to offer me.

Learning to let go is one of the primary tasks of motherhood, and it comes to us in many different ways, even if we do get sentimental about a chair or certain phases of life now and then…

Read the rest at Catholic Mom.