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 the Evil One Upping His Game?

Does anyone else feel like the evil one is upping his game? I do. I think he's becoming desperate, especially in the past few months. Look back even farther than that with the priest sex scandals. That didn't destroy the Church. The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate estimates (from a "survey-based estimate) that adult converts to the Faith have remained fairly constant over the past 30 years. There was a huge spike in 2010 with 6.1 million conversions, but overall the mean from their estimates is 4.7 million every 5 years. Their last estimate from 2019 was 4.4 million.

Round 2

More recently, COVID forced many Catholic Churches to close their doors to the public and to cease Public Masses. Thanks to technology, many people continued to worship in their homes, thus bringing God back into homes and families.
Not being able to receive the Eucharist was really difficult; the Spiritual Communion, while inviting Jesus into our hearts, to me is not the same. I needed to feel Jesus on my tongue and taste Him. Well, at least where I live, the Churches have opened up for Masses (with regulations) and Adoration is occurring.

No one can destroy Jesus

Which brings me to what is happening as I write this. There have been attacks on Catholic Churches in the U.S. I'm not going to go into specifics because honestly, those people who are doing this need our prayers, not publicity for their ignorance. These people need Jesus, especially when the evil one has hold of them. The thoughts I have had on this during my daily reflection of the Readings boil down to this:
...something greater than the temple is here. (Matthew 12:6)
Is it horrible that these things are happening? No doubt. But the statues are not Jesus. They are not The Church. Even the church building is not The Church. We are the Church. Jesus is the head of the Church. Jesus is the temple and no one can destroy Him or our faith in Him.

U.S. martyrs?

Fr. Josh Johnson, in a podcast, mentioned that he believes the time is coming when we will see U.S. martyrs. I really believe that is about to happen. Am I scared? I am more scared of denying Jesus than I am of dying. The evil one is desperate. He is trying his best to get in our heads through social media to make the faithful nervous, anxious, and ready to denounce our faith so we will live. But if we denounce our faith, we will not live. Yes, the devil is upping his game and it may seem that he is winning and that God is nowhere to be found.
...But you do see,
you take note of every misery and sorrow;
you take the matter in hand.
Psalms 10:14
May we all stay in God's embrace and find safety and protection from satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. (Prayer of St. Michael) Feel free to copy/print the prayer by clicking below.

Draw in my Bible???

Do you ever draw in your Bible? I'm not talking about graffiti-style drawings, but drawings that speak to you through Scripture. 

Before I say anything else, let me say that I am definitely artistically challenged. So much so that when my SIL & I go to a wine & paint place, I have to indulge because it terribly stresses me out. My paintings end up looking more like one of Picasso's abstracts, and not in a good way. When I was in 3rd Grade we had to draw a bird in art. I had the most beautiful bird in my mind but just couldn't get it to paper. I'm the boy in the back of the book "The Dot" (Peter Reynolds) who says he can't draw a straight line with a ruler. Get the picture?

A friend introduced me to Bible Journaling. I don't know how long it's been around, but I just recently caught the bug. On second thought...the Book of Kells has been around since the 6th Century! My guess is that the modern Bible Journaling began with non-Catholics. Honestly, sometimes they have the best ideas when it comes to praying and reflecting on the Scriptures! Sometimes I'm a bit jealous of some of the "cool stuff" they have. There was definitely a Protestant Journaling Bible long before there was a Catholic one. And now there are 2 Catholic Journaling Bibles! Both of them contain an Imprimatur; it just depends on your preference.

The Catholic Journaling Bible (the one I have) is a joint venture between Blessed is She and Our Sunday Visitor.  (New American Bible Revised Edition)There are some pages with verses, but most of the pages have wide empty margins for you to write in. Inspire is the other one. (New Living Translation) There are more than 450 illustrations already included. The downside, though, you don't have a choice of what verses to reflect on. I like that I decide what to write/draw/color in my Bible.
From the Blessed is She/OSV The Catholic Journaling Bible
You have your what? The first time I drew in mine, I was a tad bit nervous. We aren't brought up to write in our Bibles! I was brought up that you don't even highlight in your Bible! But you know what? It's okay because it's a reflection method! My friend told me that there's no right or wrong way. It's your Bible so do what you feel is right to spend time with God. 
My first "solo" art journaling picture
I use the Bible Study Evangelista's LOVE the Word method. If you're interested in this, I would highly suggest reading her book How to Pray Like Mary. I previously tried this method but obviously had no idea what I was doing. Or, if you're more of an auditory learner, she has talks at the bottom of the page. The book really helped me understand the method. Sonja suggests trying the method for 40 days. As I write this, I'm on day 22 and am already feeling the benefits. LOVE the Word is an easier way to do Lectio Divina. It is for me, anyway.

After I do my LOVE the Word journaling (writing and meditating on the verse that stuck out for me) for the day, if I feel like it I'll get out my Journaling Bible. I don't do it every day but I'm trying to at least art journal on Sundays. Then again, if I'm not inspired, I don't do it. It shouldn't be a chore or something you feel like you have to do.  Here's an example of a very simple one I did:
Remember I told you I'm artistically challenged? I spend some time looking through some printables that I found online. Some are free, some are from ETSY. I also look through the clipart that I already have. (I did buy an LED light pad to make tracing easier.) While I'm looking around for a picture to trace, I'm thinking about the verse and my "take away" from it. 
I just wrote out the 1st 2 words on paper before I attempted to free-hand, used washi tape, a "Faith" sticker, and a stencil for the flower. 
The hard part for me is to not compare my entries with others'. My friend is very talented; she can free-hand her illustration and her writings. I have to rely heavily on tracing (even letters) and stickers. Coloring books help, too. There's this thing called "tip-ins"; it's basically just a paper you stick in your Bible. I think you're actually supposed to glue it in, which I did, but just didn't put enough glue on it! 
From Mysteries of the Rosary: A Catholic Coloring Devotional by Drawn to Faith
I will say that I've spent probably too much money; I get sucked in that way! All you really need is coloring pencils...and I'm talking Crayola, not the expensive kind that you'll see in the blogs. Crayola has these really cool coloring pencils that sharpen themselves! They actually feel more like crayons on the papers, but they are pencils. 
I used clipart for the water & boat on this one. Washi Tape quickly adds a little color. 
I'm just at the beginning of my Bible Journal journey. I like that I can pair it with my LOVE the Word take away and spend more time reflecting on what message God is sending me that day. Are they perfect? You can see for yourself that they are not. Are they pleasing to the eye? If you like Picasso's abstracts then you'll probably think mine are okay. But that's not why I'm doing it, and that's not why I'm sharing. If you think it's something you might be interested in but you're saying, "My pictures will never be as pretty as (insert name in here)", so what??? It's what you get out of it that matters. 
I found some pictures of the yoke in ETSY (Beautiful Good News). I printed out on a full-page clear label sheet and cut out.
So, go on and draw in your Bible! Write notes in it, add postcards...whatever you feel like doing that will bring the Word of God to you and will make it stick!

If you're interested in drawing in your Bible, my friend started a new Facebook Group: Catholic Art & Bible Journaling. Even though it has the word "Catholic" in the title, we all know that "catholic" means universal. People of all faiths are invited! The group is private, but just leave a note that you saw the group through this blog post & we'll le you in!

Resources for learning how to Bible Journal:

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 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?

Photo Credit
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. 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 Göktay 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"