Think about those times in your life when you have felt inspired to something really great. Where does that inspiration come from?
The Holy Spirit. God inspires us to do great things with our lives.
----Matthew Kelly

Welcome to The Not So Perfect Catholic!

Disclaimer: I am not a theologian, just a Catholic empty-nester trying to figure it all out. The views on this blog are my own.

Is Jesus Really Present in a Wafer?

Picture of communal hosts in a paten with the quote under the picture: the faithful, encouraged by Holy Mother church, come to adore Christ hidden in the Blessed Sacrament" taken from the book 100 Holy Hours for Women (TAN Books)
Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash
While looking through some Instagram posts, this comment on a priest's post caught my eye: Jesus isn't in a wafer. At first I chuckled, but then I felt sad for the person who posted the comment. I felt sad because he thought he had to post that comment. I felt sad that he doesn't know The Truth. I prayed for him that one day he will come to know Jesus in the Daily Sacrifice of the Mass.
Another reaction I had to the post was Oh! But He is!

The Long(ish) Answer

Yes, there are "wafers" (hosts) on the altar, but during the Mass, something spectacular happens: Those "wafers" turn into the Body of Christ with the priest being in persona Cristi. During the Consecration, the priest says the same words that Jesus himself said during the Last Supper (in bold):
Take this, all of you, and eat of it,
For this is My Body,
Which will be given up for you.
and:
Take this, all of you, and drink from it,
For this is the chalice of My Blood,
The Blood of the new and eternal covenant,
Which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.
Do this in memory of me.
In 4 different books of the Bible, the verse is identical: This is My Body. (Matthew 26:26, Luke 22:19, Mark 14:22, and 1 Corinthians 11:24). As the USCCB website points out:  As St. Thomas Aquinas observed, Christ is not quoted as saying "This bread is my body" but "This is my body". (Summa Theologiae, III q. 78, a. 5)  

Mary & Joseph's Adoration was hidden in Nazareth in their home. They couldn't go out and announce to their neighbors that their son was God. We adore Jesus as He is hidden in the tabernacle, in the Holy Eucharist, but we can go out and tell people we adore Christ in the Eucharist. We don't have to be quiet about it as Mary & Joseph had to.

The Apostles didn't understand when Jesus said, A little while and you will no longer see me, and again a little while later and you will see me. (John16:16) During a homily, the priest said that if we look in other people we see Jesus. In people we don't like, we should see Jesus. That makes perfect sense. They wouldn't see Jesus after his Ascension but would see Him through the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. We see Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. What a privilege to be able to partake in this most Holy Sacrament! To be able to see Jesus in the "wafer".

In the book 100 Holy Hours for Women (Mother Mary Raphael Lubowidzka, TAN Books), I read at least a couple of quotes that say it much better than I am able:

  • The great love of our Savior hidden in the Holy Eucharist is, indeed, above the comprehension of the world that Jesus embraces with His perfections. (page 28)
  • Exalted above the Heavens, He conceals HImself under the appearance of bread and wine, for the purpose of giving Himself to souls and of strengthening them with His body and blood. (page 29)
Bottom line: We can't understand how Jesus is present in the host. It is a complete mystery that can only be explained by faith. Receiving the Eucharist and truly believing that He is present strengthens our faith.

The Short Answer

So, the short answer to the question Is Jesus in a wafer? would be "no". But the long answer: After the "wafer" has been consecrated, He certainly is. He is also present in the chalice which before consecration was wine.

Picture of communal hosts in a paten with the text Is Jesus really in a "wafer"? below the picture

Podcasts: My Top 10 List for the Catholic Woman

Smartphone with white earbuds on a table with the text: Top 10 Catholic Podcasts
Photo by William Iven on Unsplash
Lately, I've been listening to a lot of podcasts. Instead of having the radio on in the car, I turn on a podcast. A friend told me about a Christian podcast, so after that, I started looking for some Catholic ones. I was a bit surprised at how many good ones there are out there! Here are a few that I found that I really enjoy listening to; they're not just for Catholic women.

1. Abiding Together
     This one is my top podcast! 3 women: 2 laypersons and 1 Sister who are friends
     share their faith and open up their hearts to their listeners.

2. Bible Study Evangelista
     How I love Sonja Corbitt! A Southern Baptist turned Catholic, she knows the Bible
    and can bring it down to my level. Every time I listen to an episode I learn
    something new and find myself saying "Wow!"

3. Catholic Momcast
     If you're familiar with CatholicMom.com, you'll want to listen in. I like that the
     hosts of this show have older children, so they are more relatable to me than
     "younger" shows.

4. Ask Father Josh
    Father Josh is a young priest from Louisiana who humbly starts each podcast by
    saying that if his advice isn't helpful, you can reject it.  I will often listen as I'm in
    the park & I wonder if the people I pass wonder why I'm laughing. (It's usually
    when he breaks out in song and then doesn't know the words.)

5. Jesus Calling
     This isn't a Catholic podcast, but it doesn't matter. Uplifting stories about how
     God is working in the lives of some people you may have heard of.

6. Shoot the Shitake
     I had the pleasure of meeting Father Leo Patalinghug a few years ago. He's also
     known as the "cooking priest" who won a throwdown against Bobby Flay. His
    guests are sometimes controversial but he doesn't shy away from asking tough
    questions.

7. Jeff Cavins
     I just started listening to this podcast, but I've already found that a lot of what     
    Jeff says hits home. I find myself wanting to take notes on most of his episodes.

8. Fr. Mike Schmitz
     Who doesn't love Father Mike? This is a relatively short podcast that is his youtube
     clip in podcast form.

9. Pints with Aquinas
     Matt Frad's Australian accent is easy on the ears, but he gives some great insight
    into the Catholic Faith.

10. The Tightrope
     Just have around 5 minutes? This is quick but very thought-provoking. The
    description says this podcast "takes 3 to 5 minutes to see and embrace the
    opportunities embedded in our busy, messy lives that are meant to help us move
    towards heaven." that would just about sum it up!

If you'll notice, a lot of the podcasts are hosted by Ascension Presents, so check out the other podcasts they offer. These would be great to listen to while you're traveling, or just doing your daily chores. What are your favorite podcasts?
Smartphone with earbuds on a table on the top section. Text in the bottom section: Podcast Suggestions for Catholics.

What Has Happened to Respect?

Photo by Ric Rodrigues from Pexels
What has happened to respect with the Church? My parents raised all of their children to be respectful when attending Mass, and to be respectful to the clergy and religious. When did people forget how to act during Mass?

Modesty, Mouthies, and Name-Calling

At a recent Confirmation practice, one of the Sponsors (who I estimate to be in his late teens/early twenties) walked into the Sanctuary with a big cup of soda. I asked him politely if he would take the cup out of the Sanctuary. He did, but I was at the receiving end of some glares. I mean, really? You're going to disrespect Jesus by bringing that in the Sanctuary and by sipping on it? Our Eucharistic Chapel has a sign on the door:
Do people not understand that our Lord is present in the Holy Eucharist? Sure, He may be hidden away in the tabernacle, but check the red candle, people!

A Catholic Priest got slammed (and his account taken down) on Twitter for requesting that women cover their shoulders when attending Mass. Granted, most of the people angrily responding to him probably weren't practicing Catholics. His reasoning could have been communicated differently: Instead of saying it was to "protect the purity of the men", he could have said, " out of respect for the Holy Eucharist". Some tweeters are calling for women to show up to Mass in his parish wearing tube tops. REALLY??? You're going to disrespect Jesus like that? Oh, how the devil is surely eating this up. It's not okay to come to Mass in ripped jeans (no matter how much they cost you), short skirts/shorts, or with half of your upper body/stomach exposed. IT'S. JUST.NOT. Show some respect!

It's also not okay to chew gum during Mass. You may not have technically had anything to eat 1 hour before Communion, but you're about to put Jesus in your mouth. Wrigleys and Jesus don't mix. I was especially appalled to see a grown woman chewing gum while in the line to receive Communion. Did she swallow it, or did she receive the Eucharist with the gum still in her mouth? I was equally appalled to see a later elementary-aged child smacking away on his gum while in line for Communion.

And what is with people calling priests & nuns/sisters by their first names, deleting "Father" or "Sister"? I read an article written by a Sister of Mercy. When the commenters mentioned her name, they left off "Sister". Out of my mother's 7 siblings, 3 were priests and 1 was a nun/sister. My grandmother called each of them "Father" and "Sister". There was no calling them by their given or chosen name. I've spoken with people who have aunts and uncles who are priests and sisters, and they all call them by their name, leaving off their title. The sister at my parish and I have become close friends. She told me I didn't have to call her "Sister" but I told her that I certainly did. Yes, I know some priests have done some horrific things, but that doesn't change the fact that each of those men and women consecrated their lives to Jesus. The Sisters have married Jesus, and the priests have married the Church. That in itself is something to be respected.

Just pure ignorance...

I just don't get it. I don't understand where this is coming from. It has to be a lack of education. People are just ignorant of what the consecrated host really is. They are ignorant about how they should conduct themselves in the house of the Lord. I've heard, "Jesus doesn't care how I come to Church; he just cares that I'm there." True to a point, but would you go to a banquet with holes in your jeans or in a tube top? There are times when I don't wear my "Sunday best" to Mass, and there are times I show up to Daily Mass in a t-shirt, but you certainly won't see me in ripped clothing or with part of my upper body showing. Even when I was a lot younger, I wouldn't have dared to show up to Mass like that. Why wouldn't you be respectful to Him who gave his life for all of us so we will have everlasting life? It's time we started educating people (in a non-judgemental way) to respect the Church.
picture of tattooed man with hands in prayer in front of his face with the text below: Respect: Let's get it back!


Book Review: Girl Arise

Picture of the book on a wood background
I was a little leery of the term "Catholic Feminist" because of its negative connotation, especially with an ultra-conservative as myself. What exactly does that term mean? Claire Swinarski clarifies the term in her book, Girl, Arise!

To be a Catholic Feminist is to love the Church and to love our sisters, those next to us in the pew and those on the other side of the world. (Introduction, page xiv) Basically, our idea of a "real Catholic woman" has to change. This phrase takes on different looks because we're all different; God has given us gifts and calls us to use them in our unique way.

Getting Involved

There were a couple of things that bothered me at first.
1) She used the word y'all in the introduction of the book. My initial thought: She's a southern woman! Wrong. It always irks me just a little when a non-Southerner uses that word. But, she did spell it correctly and even used it appropriately so I'll cut her some slack! After doing a little bit of digging I discovered that she spent some time at Tulane University in New Orleans, so I'm okay with her using that word.
2) In the 2nd Chapter, Claire references a biography on Dorothy Day. She then asks, "Where are the Catholics when it comes to sex-trafficking, immigration issues, along with sexual harassment, equal pay, and rape culture?" Inside my head, I was screaming "NCCW!" (National Council of Catholic Women) (One look at their Commissions page and you'll see everything CCW is involved with at the local, deanery, diocesan, and national level. Want to get involved? CCW is the perfect place to start!) Claire did go on to say she has had supporters of these topics on her podcast. I didn't see any hosts from NCCW as I took a quick look over past episodes, so maybe that may be a suggestion?

Claire challenges women in Chapter 3 when thinking about serving: 1) To serve is to be like Christ. 2) Don't run away. 3) Recognize the service you're already performing. She continues to say that we can't act as Christ's presence if we're afraid of a five-letter word. (page 29) But, what is that word? Labor? Serve? Maybe I'm just daft, but I had a hard time figuring that out, even after I re-read that section several times.

Staying True to the Catholic Faith

I really liked how Claire discussed women of the Bible as leaders. When she brought up the point about women not being priests, I have to admit I held my breath. But, she did an excellent job of providing alternative ways women can be leaders in their own parishes. She stayed true to the Church on this topic.

Reading the Chapter on pro-life, I can tell this is an issue that she feels strongly about. She has definite opinions and is able to back them up with good, solid reasoning (at least to me). I love, love, love this line on page 49: Adoption is incredibly complicated and difficult. But it doesn't end a life. It begins a new family.

Stepping Away

At one point in the book, Claire suggests that it's okay to step away from the noise, no matter if it's Church organizations, social media, or a community. I couldn't agree more. Your relationship with Jesus is so much more important and as she says, all of those things will be there once you get right with Him. Think about it: Most Nuns/Sisters, Brothers, and Priests go on annual retreats. As a single/married woman/mom, why don't we do that as part of our vocation? We all need to step away from the world for a while to rejuvenate our relationship with Christ. Fr. Josh Johnson says he takes a day from time to time where he turns all electronics off. He lets people know ahead of time that his phone won't be on and he won't be checking emails or social media. We all need that time to turn off the noise and listen.

Claire calls us to action in our own communities. We shouldn't think spouting off on Twitter or Facebook is enough. She devotes a whole chapter to describing what loving your neighbor doesn't look like(pages 86-89) and gives suggestions on how to remedy it.

Conclusion

In conclusion: Claire makes some excellent points all throughout her book. But why do we have to give ourselves the title of "feminist"? Aren't all of her suggestions what all Catholics and Christians should be striving for? Maybe it's just the fact that she's a 20-something Catholic woman and I'm a 50-something Catholic woman, but just seeing the word "feminist" kind of gets under my skin. I think I would rather call myself a  "Real Catholic Woman". Once I got past the whole "feminist" terminology, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and would definitely recommend it to other Catholic women...whether I perceive them to be "real" or not!
Picture of the book on a wood background with "Book Review for Real Catholic Women" on peach background on bottom of  Pinterest Pin.

May Reads: Books Read During the Month of May

Picture of wildflowers with an open book behind them; Yellow Text: May Books
May is always a busy month for me. The end of the school year is "crunch time". My word of the year is "READ" (chosen for me by Jennifer Fulwiler's Word of the Year Generator), so during Lent, I began reading during my lunchtime. I continued it (for the most part) during the Easter Season. Here's a run-down of the books read in May:

📙 Hildegard of Bingen, Doctor of the Church: A Spiritual Reader  (Carmen Acevedo Butcher). I knew nothing of St. Hildegard until I listened to the Abiding Together Podcast series on Women Doctors of the Church. This book was recommended on the podcast and it did not disappoint. Included are excerpts from her songs, visions, plays, and letters.  It took me a while to read this; there was a lot of soul-stirring going on. I wanted to take my time and take it all in. Be aware: this book will leave you craving to learn more about our newest Doctor of the Church!
 My recommendation: 👍

📙 Learning to Love with the Saints: A Spiritual Memoir (Jean M. Heimann). I was a bit disappointed in this book since it wasn't what I was expecting. I expected it to be more of a "how Saints encouraged me through my life" instead of a story of a person's personal life. At the beginning of each chapter, there is a quote (most of them are from St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Pope John Paull II, and St. Terese of Avila); however, the author fails to connect these saints and the quotes with what was going on in her life. It wasn't until around the halfway mark of the book that I felt the book was going in the direction I was led to believe it was about. That's when she really pulled the Saints into her life and discussed how they helped her get through her difficulties. That's what I expected the book to be about after reading the descriptions.
I have a hard time getting over a published book with "print" errors, and there were two towards the front of the book. I was annoyed at the beginning of the book: I wasn't expecting a book that was a "look at me, look how wonderful my life is" kind of book. Even when she discusses her troubled marriage, I was annoyed. Personally, this just wasn't my kind of book. Information that was given toward the front of the book was repeated in chapters toward the end of the book. 
My recommendation: 👎

📙 Be Brave in the Scared: How I Learned to Trust God During the Most Difficult Days of My Life (Mary E. Lenaburg). For a more in-depth review, please read this post. If you're looking for a "REAL" book to read, this is it. Mary is a wife and mom to 2 children: Courtney is her special needs daughter. She hits on some tough experiences in her life and doesn't sugar-coat anything. I had a hard time putting this book down. Make sure you have the tissues ready!
My recommendation: 👍

📙 Broken + Blessed: An Invitation to My Generation (Fr. Josh Johnson). I first heard Fr. Josh on the same podcast that recommended the St. Hildegard book. He has his own podcast (Ask Fr. Josh)and is just incredibly humble and wise. This book was fantastic! Fr. Josh gave some very practical suggestions for anyone, regardless of age or stage of life, to use in order to increase their personal relationship with God. For a more in-depth review, read this post.

My recommendation: 👍

Now that school is out, I have more time to read. I hope to have more reviews (both monthly and individually) soon, so make sure you come back! If you have any suggestions for books to read, leave them in the comments.
picture of wildflowers with a book in the picture; Text: May books in yellow.

Book Review: Broken + Blessed: An Invitation to My Generation

The following is a review of the book "Broken + Blessed: An Invitation to My Generation" by Father Josh Johnson. I received no compensation for this review; all opinions are my own.
This book may be designated as an invitation to Fr. Josh Johnson's generation, but don't let that stop you if you are old enough to be his parent or even his grandparent. I heard of Fr. Josh from a podcast and then subscribed to the Ask Fr. Josh podcast. It is so uplifting to see a young priest who just wants people of any age to know God and to have a personal relationship with Him. That is what this book is all about. Fr. Josh intertwines his own experiences with scripture, Saints, and practical ways to get closer to God. The personal experiences keep it relatable, no matter your age.

Perfect for Small Groups or Individuals

I enjoyed the format of the book. First, Fr. Josh identifies a difficulty and then relates it to a personal experience. Each chapter ends with an Invitation to Prayer followed by questions, which makes it a perfect book for small groups. Or, individuals can reflect on the questions and use one, some, or all of them as journal prompts. I found each chapter to be very interesting and came away with ways to increase my prayer life and grow closer to God.

Even though he hasn't been a priest for a long time, Fr. Josh has such words of wisdom. Yet he remains so humble. He talks about his struggles with his own prayer life and his life in general. I saw a lot of myself in situations that he spoke of. Millennials have such an advantage over my generation: They have access to priests on social media that we didn't have.

Breaking Down the Book

In the Introduction, Father Mike Schmitz describes Fr. Josh as "authentic". The reader definitely gets that vibe from this book. Here is a man who understands that his brokenness is just like ours.

In the chapter Intimacy with God, Fr. talks about knowing who God is versus actually knowing God. He puts it in completely understandable language. He is able to use pop culture so it is relatable to everyone, regardless of age. He also brings in the lives of the Saints to drive his message home.

This book hits on so many different topics: humility, truly knowing God, Lectio Divina, the brokenness of the Catholic Church as an institution, divorce & annulment, inviting God into your life completely (despite the messiness), vices, praying the Rosary, suggestions on how to pray, as well as how to make prayer a priority.

In the chapter Breaking the Chains of Sin, we are given excellent advice on how to break out of the trap of envy. Included is the Litany of Humility with the suggestion of substituting the person's name for "other". Also included in the Invitation to Prayer section at the end of this chapter is an excellent examen of conscience using 1 Corinthians:13:4-6.

I often will give a book away after I have finished reading it, telling the person to pass it on. Not this book. I will keep it to refer back to; however, I plan on buying a couple of copies to give to my sons to read...just in case!
picture of book and coffee cup on an outdoor table

Tying Preparation To the Ascension

purple letters Don't just believe it, LIVE it on a peach background
We are always being prepared for our future whether we realize it or not. I have been working as a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) for 35 years; 33 of those years have been in the schools. The other two were spent working for a company who contracted to nursing homes. When I left that position to go back to work in the schools, I thought I had wasted those two years. At the very least, I thought the only thing I got out of it was the necessity of making sure I was able to "CYA" (Cover Your A_ _) with paperwork to keep from receiving insurance denials as well as to make sure I wasn't sued.  It wasn't until 20+ years later that I realized why God wanted me in that setting: my dad got sick.

We (my siblings and I) were on the receiving end of God's mercy because it wasn't a prolonged illness. He went into the hospital with pneumonia on 01/01/2017 and passed away 02/01/17. At one point, he was actually diagnosed with "aspiration pneumonia" and a swallow study was ordered. If I had not worked in a nursing home, I wouldn't have had any idea about some of the medical stuff one of us should have known to make sure daddy was receiving the best care. I was able to go with him to the swallow study and was allowed to watch the study being performed. When the cardiologist visited daddy later that day, I was able to tell him that he did, indeed aspirate. I was able to thicken daddy's liquids and show my brother how to do it. I was able to make sure daddy correctly used the techniques recommended by the hospital SLP during his meals.

If I hadn't worked in the nursing home, I would have had no clue about the study or the recommendations (swallowing wasn't a course in my graduate program way back in the stone ages). How does this tie in with the Ascension? When the apostles were just looking up at the clouds, the angels gave them a shove and basically told them to get on with it. Jesus prepared them for this moment. They were ready to take what they learned and spread the Word. He prepares all of us for what we need; we just don't realize it. He won't let us down, especially if we rely on the Holy Spirit to guide us.

As I said in a previous post, the apostles were told to "Go do something". As I get older, I look back at certain periods in my life & realize that He prepared me. Little things that happened are just a piece of the bigger picture. I challenge you to take a few minutes and think of how something that seemed insignificant prepared you for something bigger. I'd love to hear how God has prepared you.
Purple letters "Don't just believe it, live it" on a peach background. green letters below that "Tying Preparation to the Ascension"