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.

It's Difficult To Be a Believer!

Being a Christian isn't so easy at times. Looking at the Mass Readings for the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, we can see that it was difficult to be a believer in God even during Old Testament times.

Jeremiah 20:10-13 tells of his pain. After reading it before Mass and then listening to it during Mass, I went back and read the whole chapter. Pashhur, the priest, didn't like what Jeremiah was saying was going to happen, so he beat him and put him in the stocks. When he was released, he told Pashhur that God renamed him "Terror on every side" (Jeremiah 20: 3) to indicate what was going to happen to Jerusalem. The Reading during Mass is part of Jeremiah kind of complaining (for lack of a better word!) that he tried to get away from prophesying but the Lord would have none of it. He didn't want to be ridiculed for believing in God and prophesying but the Lord kept on him until he continued. So now, those who he called "friends" are watching him like a hawk to see what's going to happen to him. They're waiting for him to make mistakes. How stressful would that be?
Fast forward to today: How many times do we feel like people are just waiting for us to make a mistake so they can say, "See? They aren't perfect. They aren't acting like a Christian would." Or, how many times do we watch people and think the same thing? I know I'm guilty of it. But now, just as in Jeremiah's time, "...the Lord is with me, like a mighty champion..." (Jeremiah 20: 11) Will we be made fun of for our beliefs? Yep. Will people take offense when we're in a restaurant and we make the sign of the cross and say the blessing before we eat? You betcha. God's got our backs, though, and we have to pray for those people who mock us and tells us they're offended.  Those are the people who need Jesus in their lives. Our country wouldn't be in the state it's in if people had Him in their lives.  But...that's another post for another day!

Psalm 69 is the Responsorial Psalm. I pulled out my Bible and read the Psalm from there instead of just the bits and pieces that were said during Mass. Once again, here are some complaints that believing in God isn't all unicorns and rainbows. Like the end of Jeremiah 20, the psalmist is also asking that God allow him to see what vengeance God will take on those who are mocking and just being mean. Verse 9 reads: I have become an outcast to my kindred, a stranger to my mother's children. Because zeal for Your house has consumed me, I am scorned by those who scorn you.  Even within our own family, there may be members who get all fired up because of your beliefs. With my siblings, we try to adhere to not talking politics or religion. The exception is if we're talking with a sibling we know share beliefs in either of those things. But...sometimes heated discussions occur because of the disagreements. Feelings get hurt. Quite honestly, it's very difficult to not talk about religion when it is such an important and key part of your life. Again, prayers need to be offered for a return to the Church. And, silent prayers to know when to be quiet need to be sent up when someone says something about your faith.

In Romans 5:12-15, Paul reminds us that we are all sinners. We all will experience death. We are no better than the people who mock us because we are Christians and we openly show our faith. Jesus died for all of us, not just those of us who accept Him. I struggled a bit with the part about transgression not being like the gift. As I understand it, (reminder: I'm not a theologian so I may have this all wrong!) Adam is the transgressor. He's the one who handed sin and death to us in the Garden of Eden. ("transgression of the one" Romans 5: 15) The gift is for everybody. God's grace is for us all. Even for those who mock us.

In the Gospel of Matthew (10:26-33), Jesus is prepping the apostles to continue His ministry. He's warning them of persecutions that will come their way and is preparing them for martyrdom. He's telling them not to worry; God will take care of them. Just prior to this passage is the verse ...do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. (Matthew 10:19) One of the Deacons in my parish said that the grave is not our final destination. Heaven is our ultimate goal. Jesus gives a pretty strong warning at the end of today's Gospel Reading: If you deny Him, He will deny you. So, you're going to get what you give, in other words. Looking back over my life, it was so easy to joke around about Jesus when someone else was doing it; just to get a laugh. Even today there are times when I may make an off-handed remark at His expense. But, man! This hits home. Hopefully, that will make me think twice about saying something.
This passage also contains the verse about God accounting for every hair on our head. When you think about how many people are on, how many people have walked on, and how many will walk on this earth, it's unfathomable. That I matter that much to Him is just incredible. All He asks is that we acknowledge Jesus and don't deny Him. I'm all in!

Yes, being a Believer can be difficult. It's easy to surround myself with other Catholics and other Christians, but how many non-believers do we come into contact with every day? That person in the grocery store, the person in the car that we pass, the person we pass on our walks. There are many people we come across who we just don't know if they're believers or not. But we can make sure everyone knows we believe and don't deny Jesus by our actions and our words. Be kind to one another!




How Different Is This Easter?

Photo Credit
This Easter is like no other that any of us has experienced before. There is no Chrism Mass, no washing of the feet, no Veneration of the Cross on Good Friday. With the Corona Virus Pandemic, Public Masses have ceased and Churches have locked their doors in an effort to keep people home.

The Adoration Chapel at my Parish was open until the Priest felt it necessary to close for our safety. Honestly, it felt like one more blow we took. First, no Precious Blood at Communion. Then, no Public Mass. Finally, no Eucharistic Adoration. It just isn't the same streaming Adoration over an electronic device. I was going by Church every morning to stream Mass and to say a Rosary to get away from distractions at home: the dogs, a snoring husband, and knowing my laptop was there waiting for me. I realize that Jesus is begging for us to give Him attention in our homes...not just in our Churches.

Easter is going to be so very quiet this year. The thought hit me like a brick a few weeks ago as I was at my Adoration Hour: How quiet was the first Easter? How close to that first Easter will this one mimic? Think about it: Once it was discovered that Jesus was no longer in the tomb, there was no celebrating in the streets. There were no ecstatic gatherings. No, the apostles hunkered down in a locked room by themselves. They were scared about what was going to happen next. Sound familiar? So many people are scared right now, not knowing what's going to happen next, not knowing how life is going to change.

My Parish Priest discussed the scripture that tells us how to pray: But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. (Matthew 6:6) Unfortunately, that is somewhat what we are doing now; however, groups are gathering through social media and other platforms, out in the open. What a beautiful thing that is, that people are finding a way around not being allowed in the Church to worship and grow in faith!

I see good things coming out of this pandemic: families are spending time together. I live next to a park, and don't recall ever seeing so many families taking advantage of the trails, fields, and benches. Not only that, but Jesus is coming into homes. The family is the domestic church, and we're being reminded of that.

When I look back over this Lent, I see how different this season turned out than what I thought it would be like. In the beginning, I asked God to give me a new heart, a new spirit that would allow Him to find me. I wanted to be able to not just say that I love God but to really mean it. I stream Mass to find my eyes filled with tears during the Consecration and I know that my heart has completely opened to Him. And I realize that my journey to Him is beginning.


Do You See Angels During Mass?

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I have a friend who, during daily meditations, asks Jesus where they shall go on that day. I have to admit, I envy her. Jesus has taken her by the hand and taken her places. He has spoken to her.  I've tried to quiet myself and go on journeys with Him. One morning, after the Liturgy of the Hours, I closed my eyes and asked Jesus where we were going to go today (just as my friend does). At first, I thought He was taking me to a garden, but then I realized He took me The Oratory in Rock Hill, SC. While I have fond memories of The Oratory, it's not a place I think of often. It definitely was not on my mind that morning. "Why here?", I asked. He gently said, "Because this is where you first saw the angels during Mass."

I am definitely not a visionary, nor am I a mystic. I do have an incredible imagination, and I do believe that imagining Angels on the altar is God's way of letting all of us see them. I chatted with a friend from Rock Hill the day before, but she is not Catholic. The Oratory and the parishes in that town did not even enter my mind. I truly believe Jesus put those words in my head.

The priests at the parishes I attended while living in that town are Oratorians. The Oratory is a peaceful oasis in the middle of town, full of trees and beautiful meditation gardens. The Chapel is small and rather rustic. It was on that altar that I saw the angels on the altar during Consecration.

Do you see angels during Mass? I went through a period when I didn't see the angels; however, I've begun to quietly pray for the Holy Spirit to help me see them, not only on the altar but in the whole church. The devil tries to distract us during that holiest of holy moment during Mass, but our guardian angels are right beside us, keeping us on track. It was revealed to St. Mechtilde that three thousand Angels from the choir of Thrones are ever in devout attendance around every Tabernacle where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved. (From Catholic Tradition) Three thousand! Can you imagine? I know someone who said she asks God to allow her to just hear the wings...just once. It struck me that she will never hear them...they are too still with their worship to have any kind of movement. That is definitely something we should strive for during Mass. 

Recently, Fr. Josh Johnson mentioned a YouTube clip in his podcast. I went to the show notes and found the link. I think it is extremely powerful and will change the way you view not only the Consecration, but the entire Mass:

Daily Mass at my parish is very intimate. It is held in the Daily Chapel, which also doubles as the Adoration Chapel. The altar is "up close and personal". When I am able to go, I see most of the same people. I remember when I was in high school I went once to Mass during the week. There was one family in attendance, and when I walked in they all turned around and stared at me. I didn't go again until after I was married and a mother and living in Rock Hill, SC. Yes, when I went to Daily Mass it was held at The Oratory. 

I stumbled across this prayer a few years ago. I tucked it in my planner so I could say it during the "Moment of Silence" at school. Sad to say, it rarely is recited because once I'm at work I dive into what needs to be done. I definitely need to do better!

Send Your Angel to Holy Mass
O, holy angel at my side, 
go to the church for me.
Kneel in my place at Holy Mass,
Where I desire to be.
At Offertory in my stead,
take all I am and own,
and place it as a sacrifice
upon the altar throne.
At holy consecration's bell, 
adore with seraph's love,
my Jesus, hidden in the Host,
come down from heaven above.
And when the priest Communion takes,
O, bring my Lord to me,
that his sweet heart may rest on mine,
and I his temple be.
Then pray for those I dearly love,
and those who cause me grief,
Jesus' love may cleanse all hearts
and suffering should relieve.
Pray that this sacrifice divine,
may mankind's sin's efface,
then bring me Jesus' blessing home,
the pledge of every grace. Amen
---Author Unknown
(For your printable copy, please click here.)

I challenge everyone who reads this to ask your Guardian Angel to help you stay focused during Mass so you can see Angels, too. 

Picture of crucified Christ with Angels looking down

Reordering Your Life

Quote from book on dark background that reads "Joseph knew who he was because he knew whose he was"

This Advent, I am using the book Rejoice! Advent Meditations with Joseph by Fr. Mark Toups. This book is proving to be extremely powerful in not only getting to know Joseph better but also in doing some real soul-searching. One entry, in particular, laid heavy on my heart. I've thought of it before, but seeing it on paper helped me to understand what I've been feeling and what I am called to do.

Figuring it out

What is the order of your life? Fr. Toups indicates that most men order their lives with the mission being first, followed by identity, then relationship. The same could be said for women as well. What would happen if we changed our order? If Relationship with God came first? If we put the relationship with God first, then identify from God and mission for God would follow.

It makes perfect sense, doesn't it? If "mission" is first, my identity becomes based on it. If "relationship with God" is first, the mission refocuses. We become who we are because of whose we are. (pages 9-10) When putting it into the perspective of my occupation, I am still a Speech Pathologist, but that ends up as secondary. Instead of my occupation coming first, it's last. My main mission is to be a Child of God and to live accordingly. The mission is also the identity. It all begins with Relationship and having that focused, strong relationship.

Reordering = Refocusing

If I reorder my life and put Relationship with God first, every aspect of my life shifts. I'm no longer spending time away from my husband doing work-related things. My focus goes back to him and paying attention to him. I'm no longer stressed at work because my main focus is on God. That's not to say that I don't do my job to the best of my ability; rather, I recognize that the source of my ability is God. I think I actually am more focused at work when I put my relationship with God first. I'm more productive because I've put my life in the right perspective; as soon as I leave school my focus is on my husband and doing what I need to do at home.

So...how about you? Is it time to reorder your life? What changes do you expect to happen? As I wrote that last question, I wondered how many unexpected changes will also happen. Put your relationship with God first and see how He works in your life!

Pinterest pin with quote from book on the top and the text "reorder your life & see what happens" on the bottom

When We Wait, We Stray

Photo by Serkan GΓΆktay from Pexels
Waiting. We wait and if we have to wait for very long, we stray. Luke 12:32-48 urges us to be vigilant and don't give up. We don't know when He will come again; when he will rescue us from our visiting place so we will finally reach our heavenly home- our ultimate destination.

A lifetime of waiting

It seems as though we are always waiting. As children, we are told to wait. As teenagers, we can't wait to be out on our own. As adults, we can't wait for the next vacation. Expectant women can't wait for their child to be born (and to not be pregnant any longer!). Parents can't wait until their babies are out of diapers. The elderly wait to pass from this life.
So much waiting; the Bible even talks about it and tells us how to wait. Oh, but it tells us what we're waiting for and promises us that we're in for something more beautiful than we could ever imagine.

I wish instead of I can't wait

I'm guilty of being impatient. While I honestly wasn't one of those teenagers who couldn't wait to get away from my parents (although I thoroughly enjoyed the freedom during my college years), I am one who counts the weeks until vacation. I was also that mom who couldn't wait for that next stage in my sons' lives. It's easy to look back and say "I wish" instead of "I can't wait". I wish I had listened to my parents more when I was growing up. I wish I had enjoyed each phase of my sons' lives. I wish I had enjoyed my job more and looked at it from the angle of "I only have x weeks until the break to have my students grasp this concept or be able to make this sound." We spend our whole lives waiting and wishing about self-centered things. Why do we waste our lives that way? Why do we want things to be easier, less stressful? It's human nature, for sure. Even Jesus asked for the outcome of His life to be different, but He knew it was His purpose; He knew it was God's will. (Matthew 26:39)

He is coming

Be not afraid is in the Bible over 300 times. What a powerful message we are being sent by God in this messy period of history. The devil is rampant in the USA, desperate to take over this country. Yet God is telling us to not be afraid. Have faith in Him. Be vigilant in our faith. Continue to wait for Him, to wait with patience. To live as He wants us to live, always looking to Heaven because He will come.  He is coming!
picture of an elderly man on a bench and a younger man on a bench next to him. Text under the picture "A whole lifetime of waiting. What does Scripture say? followed by Psalms 37:7"

How an Adoration Chapel Spawned a Miracle Halfway Around the World

This is the story of how a small, humble Eucharistic Adoration Chapel in the Southeastern United States spawned a miracle halfway around the world. The Chapel, sadly, is not a "Perpetual Adoration Chapel" because there isn't someone scheduled 24/7. My hope is that this story will change that.
A Monsignor from Nigeria has visited my parish for over a decade. From what I understand, he is friends with a couple who lived 2 hours away. They moved into the area, so when the priest visited, he kept coming back. He was so moved by our humble little Adoration Chapel that he began one in his home parish. There are now 11 Chapels in his diocese, all because he fell in love with our Chapel. But that's not the miracle.
The Monsignor tells us that there is a man in his parish who, for three years, stopped in as he went by the Chapel. He didn't stay long, maybe not even 5 minutes. Just long enough to say "Hi" to Jesus and to let him know someone knew He is there. One day, the man was on the roof of his house, and he had a tumble. The result: He broke his neck and his vertebrae. He was paralyzed with no hope of being able to walk again. A few months later, he was alone in his hospital bed when a man in white came in. He told the paralytic that he hadn't seen him in a while, and wanted to stop in to say "hi". When the man in white left, the paralytic got out of bed and walked around his room. His wife came in and saw him and yelled for medical personnel. When his wife asked what happened, the man said, "I don't know. A man in white came in and said he wanted to say "hi" and then I could walk."
I have said numerous times how much it makes my heart hurt that people walk by the Adoration Chapel and don't just pop in. Some people think they can't go in if they don't have an hour. Some people don't even realize Jesus is there, waiting for us with open arms. He's waiting for us to acknowledge He's there. My parish just finished 40 hours of Adoration leading up to Corpus Christi. One of our current priests is working hard for an understanding of Adoration, and the graces we receive from it.
Since the miracle occurred, the Monsignor said they have people, Catholics and Non-Catholics, stopping by the Adoration Chapels. In a country where Christians are being persecuted, I think Jesus is getting His message across.
Picture of a Eucharistic Adoration Chapel with text below: The Chapel that spawned a miracle halfway around the world

June Reads: Books Read During the Month of June

Are there some good books out there, or what? Unfortunately, my stack of books to read is growing instead of dwindling. Following below are brief reviews from books I read during the month of June. Get ready to add to your "To Read" shelf!

πŸ“— Hungry Souls: Supernatural Visits, Messages, and Warnings from Purgatory      
     (Gerard J.M. Van Den Aardweg- TAN Books)
If you want to get a glimpse of purgatory and realize the importance of praying for the deceased, this is the book.  This book was fascinating. Purgatory is a difficult concept for Catholics and Non-Catholics to grasp, but this book did an excellent job of making that concept a little more concrete. There are saints' and laypersons' accounts of being visited, as well as how prayers and penance aided these souls during their time in Purgatory.
My recommendation: πŸ‘

πŸ“— Pope Joan (Donna Woolfolk Cross- Three Rivers Press)
Before I say anything about this book, I have to say that the author clearly states
that this book is fiction. In the back of the book, the author notes that there is some speculation that Joan was, in fact, a real person, and she makes some strong evidence to suggest that there may have been a Pope Joan. But, as I said, this book is fiction. Was there really a Pope Joan? That's just one of the answers we'll have when we get to Heaven!
My recommendation: πŸ‘

πŸ“— Knight of the Holy Ghost- A Short HIstory of G.K.Chesterton (Dale Ahlquist- Ignatius Press)
Yes, I knew who G.K. Chesterton was before I read this book...kind of. I knew he was an author, but this book delves into everything he was: The Man, The Writer, and The Saint. He was before his time; things that he said about the early 1900's still hold true today. For example, in the book What's Wrong With the World, he identifies four main things that are wrong with the world: big government, big business, feminism, and public education. His reasoning is that all of these things undermine the family, which is the basic unit of society, the thing that must be stable for society to be stable, the thing that must be strong for society to be strong, and the thing that is most under attack in our society today. (page 73) There are quite a few prophetic things that he wrote that are of specific interest.
The man was constantly writing, if not with pen & paper, then in his head. Constantly. If he wasn't writing books, he was writing poetry or articles for newspapers.  I was pleasantly surprised to read that G.K. is the author of the Father Brown series, which I have watched all the way through on Netflix. I had no idea he wrote the books, which now I think I have to start reading. 
Biographies are one of my favorite genres to read, especially one that is well written. I learned a lot about G.K. Chesterton by reading this short history, so much that I want to start reading some of his books. I dog-eared quite a few pages in this book so I can take notes on it and refer back to as needed. 
My recommendation: πŸ‘

πŸ“— Letters to a Suffering Church (Bishop Robert Barron- Word on Fire)
This little book packs a punch in explaining why, during this critical time in Church history, you should stay instead of jumping ship. Chapters touch on how this scandal is a "diabolical masterpiece", what scripture says about human sexuality, former history of scandals, dimensions of the treasure that explains why we should stay with the Church, and what we can do to fight for the Church. This is a short book (only 102 pages) and a very easy read. Bishop Barron hits the nail on the head when he says the Eucharist is the single most important reason for staying faithful to the Catholic Church. You can't find it anywhere else; and no wickedness on the part of priests or bishops can affect it. (page 74) One other thing about this book: it's free; you only pay shipping & handling. You can order it here.
My recommendation: πŸ‘

picture of an open book held over water with the text "June Books" over the picture. Below the picture is the text "Review of Catholic Books read during the month of June"