Thursday, June 27, 2013

We Need to Pray for Our Clergy

Over the past few months I have read many posts regarding the state of the Catholic Church in America and the priests, bishops, and cardinals who lead her. Whether it has been the Archdiocese of New York and the handling of union health insurance contracts, DOMA, Proposition 8, calling for Nancy Pelosi to no longer call herself Catholic, or even the resounding fallouts from the new healthcare laws that will be going into full effect on August 1. The abundance of comments that are seen scream for our bishops to do something. I agree more should be done, but right now, we are waiting in anticipation to see what will happen.

In four years I have been a parishioner of four different Catholic Dioceses in the United States. There have been great moments and some not so great. But all the bishops I have met are amazing men who are trying to lead their respective diocese with great passion and fervor. We as the laity may not always see or recognize their efforts but they are outstanding men of prayer, discipleship, council, and usually a good sense of humor.

I understand that we are in a highly chaotic time within the Catholic Church in the United States. The secular media seems like it is waiting for any Catholic official to slip up publicly to turn into huge news. Then I call for this, pray for our clergy. It is increasingly easy for us to dwell on the negatives and wonder why these "super men" of the Church aren't doing more. They are taking care of the administrative needs of their dioceses, making hard decisions regarding the future of their parishes, priests, religious, seminarians and laity. They pray, work unusual hours and maybe find a brief moment of peace to themselves. The spiritual battle they face would make any of us pale, and for their efforts, I cannot thank them enough.

Please, with all the negativity pointed against us, let us strive to work together and pray for our clergy.
Heavenly Father, in these trying times when the spirit of the age threaten Christian values, give our bishop, holiness of life and wisdom to guide our (arch)diocesan family, so that we may grow in your love. We ask this through Christ our Lord, Amen. 
-Prayer for the Bishop, Catholic Online 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

American Sign Language and Abortion

Since it's the summer, I have a unusual office schedule. I try to maintain regular office hours and a routine, but because of the lack of students around, my cell phone can be somewhat distracting. I took a small break and checked my phone to see that a friend of mine had posted this short post from The Crescat. All it showed was a simple GIF of "abortion" translated in American Sign Language.

"Abortion" in American Sign Language

I am not fluent in American Sign Language but I remember my college classes in ASL quite clearly. We had a young adjunct professor who was deaf and didn't always use her cochlear implants. She chose not to use them, not because she was being rude, but to help correct our movements and rid us from our bad signing habits. As young signers, we slurred, spoke with a drawl and learned that what one movement says does not mean the same when quickly repeated.

I had American Sign Language as a block class for two and a half hours every Tuesday and Thursday. We would have a portion of the class that was book review and exercise, then the second portion was always conducted in sign to the best of our ability but in complete silence. If we didn't know a word and it wasn't in our glossary, finger spelling became our best friend. We were also required to have so many lab hours per chapter. Lastly we were required to attend events within the Deaf Community.

We were asked to keep signing as much as possible and mention that we were students just learning to sign. I have never been introduced to a more welcoming group of individuals in my life. It was through these immersion events over pizza and awareness that we learned how key facial expressions and eye contact truly were. Nothing was more annoying to them than a person who was to distracted by others. 

The other important thing I learned about the Deaf Community was how personal everything was. Each person has a unique name given to them by someone else within the community. Sure there can be multiple Amandas but there is only one you. Secondly, every sign is truly different but is meant to invoke a particular point of knowledge. For instance the sign for milk mimics the action of squeezing an udder to receive milk. A student is the personification of someone pulling knowledge from a book. Abortion, as we see above, is the  intentional discarding of a baby.

American Sign Language is meant to show the exact meaning of words. Words are chosen because of their precise meanings. If you need another meaning, you choose another sign. Even as a hearing people we use signing far more often than we realize. We use body language and gestures to emphasize what we say. As I look at the sign for abortion and look back on the experiences that I had as a student, it breaks my heart to see abortion like this. It hurts so much because there is a community of Americans who are stating what abortion truly is, whether they agree with it or not.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Evangelizing Parents

I love my job. I love the students I work with. I even like the parents of the students I work with. There is a big reason that I say I like them and not that I love them. The most common critique I receive from my co-workers is that I use too much "churchy" language and turn people off. It's a comment, that I really don't know how to take.

I am more available and ready to talk to teens. Sure I use a smattering of higher language to use it as a tool to have them ask questions, but parents, parents can be downright scary when it comes to using the right language. The reason I find parents more intimidating than students, I am closer to the age of their students than I am to them. I try to bridge this gap by trying to show my competence and show my intelligence. The truth is, parents have much more varied and just more life experience than I do. They know their student better than I do. how to talk to them and teach them individually.

Then I am stuck. If I can reach the student but not the parent, what use am I to those I encounter. As a Youth Minister, I am both teacher and advocate, resource and guide, but all the knowledge in the world won't help me if I don't have the experience to use it.

For example, I am already intimidated by a talk I will have this fall on the topic of homosexuality. Although I have loved ones who are same-sex attracted, I can handle talking to them individually, we can see eye to eye. It happens to be the large topic that throws me for a curve. Parents could have siblings, cousins, children who are experiencing this now and they don't know how to react. My loved ones and I have at least come to an understanding with each other.

To parents, I can state Church teachings from the Catechism, I can explain things from biology, I can state facts and my personal experiences, but if I "do not have love, I am a gong or clashing cymbal." (1Cor. 13:1) The biggest trap I fall in is that when I get nervous, I feel like I have to rely on what I've learned and simply regurgitate information. The truth is, information alone will not be enough to soften hearts. 

I have found this, parents who are willing to talk about hard topics of their faith are willing to show that they've been hurt in the past. It could have been hurt from family, friends, parishioners, clergy, staff or even myself. I can't always undo the hurt that I've caused but I can help parents come to a middle ground. Through coming to a common understanding, I can hopefully get them willing to talk about other issues that they have with the Church.

Lastly, the parents that I've worked with are all Catholics of the "lost generation." The "lost generation" often refers to Catholics who were poorly taught their faith during the 60's through the late 80's after the reforms of Vatican II were put into place. The average knowledge of Catholic adults about their faith is that of a 4th grade level. There are many people who live their faith out of a sense of family tradition rather than understanding what the church teaches. I believe Venerable Fulton Sheen said it best, "There are not 100 people in the world who truly hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they perceive the Catholic Church to be."

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Campaign Empowering Generation of Artists who Believe in Beauty Launches with Tour, Album, & Groundbreaking Concept

If you ask my husband or my friends, they will tell you that I am always looking for great music. If you are like me check out this new campaign. Thanks to Ryan Eggenberger at Ignitum Today for getting this word out.
Music fans everywhere now invited to become patrons of ‘good music’

NASHVILLE, TN – The Love Good Music campaign officially launched today with a web-based advertising campaign, national summer tour, and a groundbreaking twist on how the music industry develops and distributes emerging talent: turning ordinary fans into influential patrons and replacing high-level recording industry executives with everyday lovers of Truth, Beauty, & Goodness. The idea is rooted in the Church’s history of patronage and builds on the empowerment created by digital distribution and modern-day crowd funding.
“In centuries past, Church leaders and wealthy individuals have always been the great patrons of artistic genius,” noted Mysterium Records President Jimmy Mitchell, the campaign’s architect. “More recently, record labels could make or break an artist. Now, it’s ordinary music fans who can discover new talent through social media and support artists they can believe in through Kickstarter and other crowd-funding models. Because of our partnership with incredibly talented artists who are also faithfully Catholic, this campaign is a huge stride for the New Evangelization.”
The Love Good Music Campaign is a major innovation on the increasingly popular crowd-funding system of raising capital for projects. The campaign seeks sustaining members for as low as $10 per month to invest in exclusive projects from emerging artists before they ever hit iTunes, Spotify or other traditional distribution services. The real perks, however, are in the power to transform the musical landscape. These patrons will then be able to provide feedback at the ground level – essentially becoming high-level influencers for new talent before the rest of the world would ever know the music exists.
“I’ve worked closely with some amazing artists and we haven’t even scratched the surface of talent that’s out there,” said Mr. Mitchell. “The Love Good Music Campaign—together with our patrons’ direct input—could produce a whole new generation of recording artists whose work focuses on Truth, Beauty, and Goodness rather than marketability and profit. It’s an amazing way to transform culture with our faith, and as far as I can see it, it’s never been done before.”
The Love Good Music campaign website offers highlights of an impressive resume for Mr. Mitchell, whose “musical curriculum vitae” includes tour management with Matt Maher, friendships with L’Angelus, Audrey Assad, and Eric Genuis, and many special projects and events with Colleen Nixon, Kevin Heider, and Chris Cole through Mysterium Records, which has distributed nearly 30,000 copies of several albums across the world.
To promote the campaign, all albums available on the Love Good Music campaign have been discounted throughout the summer. Mr. Mitchell has also set out on an ambitious 40-city tour throughout the U.S. bringing together artists to raise awareness of the campaign. The tour dates this summer will run the full gamut of intimate house parties to public venues, spotlighting the campaign and building support for the Church’s new generation of artists.
To learn more, visit

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Recalling Life's Pilgrimages

It's not often that I find myself reading Marc Barnes at Bad Catholic and agreeing with how he presents topics to his readers. A recent post he made titled "The Difference Between a Pilgrim and a Tourist" really caught me off guard.

I have had many chances to play both the tourist and the pilgrim in my life and occasionally I've left as the tourist and returned as the pilgrim and visa versa. For example on a music "ambassadorship" I attended across Europe our group was often asked to sing in various churches and historical sites. One of which was St. Mark's Cathedral in Venice, Italy. It was a beautiful experience. I entered the church, finding the tabernacle and genuflecting per all Catholic churches we entered and we were ushered off by someone behind the Communion Rail to perform. Our first piece was a double choir piece called "Music Be Praised" the acoustics were wonderful and the tones we hit just lingered in the air. The next piece we sang was "O Magnum Mysterium" or "Great Mystery". In a Cathedral of that magnitude, there was no doubt for me, that my voice was lifted in prayer and hopefully also being echoed by St. Mark, whose relics are interred there. I entered in a tourist amongst those paying patrons seeking the frescos and ornately decorated facades and left a pilgrim honored to sing before Christ, his martyrs and saints.

In his post Marc has this to say.
The pilgrim does not walk into a cathedral because it is "a sight," but because he believes God allows himself to be present between the pillars. The tourist walks into the same cathedral because he believes culture is there, but what he does not recognize - drifting past the statues, tombs, and ribbon-rising incense - is that the culture is there because of the God and cannot be "experienced" in it's fullness without this raison d'etre [purpose], this thing, this fact that has basilicas, chapels and shrines roaring out of otherwise dignified villages in a constant fire-alarm of clanging bells, streaming people, drifting smoke, sprinkled water, and pitiful pleas for salvation. The second-hand experience is not the experience. To see something because it is a "sight" is not to see it for precisely what it is.
This reminds me of one "accidental" pilgrimage I found in my own life.

Living where I did after college, I found myself in a unique predicament. I lived in a town with around 20 Catholic Churches within a 25 mile radius. Two of these Churches were actually Cathedrals. The Twin Ports area of Minnesota and Wisconsin are both blessed enough to have their own Cathedral and they couldn't be more different from each other. During college I bounced between the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary, and two other parishes for Mass, Confession, and volunteering in youth ministry. I knew I wanted to find a place where I could engage with all these aspects in one location.

It wasn't until I had completed school and was working full time my boyfriend pitched me an idea, why not start attending masses and the sacraments with him. It wasn't a bad idea and although "across the bridge" into Wisconsin, it was a trip over that I was making frequently. That summer I fell in love with the people, what they did and how they served. It also happened that the rector of the Cathedral also served the small, local Newman Center which my boyfriend had gotten me involved in. Soon I had registered with the parish and was becoming a part of the community.

Engagement Spot
Copyright 2011 Derek MontgomeryUsed With Permission
When my boyfriend asked me to marry him we both knew we wanted to be married at the Cathedral of Christ the King. This put us in a strange predicament when reading the bulletin, it stated that in order to be married at the Cathedral, you needed to be a member for a minimum of 6 months. I did the math and I had only been a member for four months. My fiance told me not to worry and scheduled a meeting with the Rector and it turned out he had been a member since he began school there 2 years ago.

We eagerly began planning the "rest of our lives" when I accepted a job in Iowa. If you've been keeping track of the states, I lived in MN, he lived in WI and now I'm moving to IA. We sped up our wedding classes and "completed" them, on the stipulation that we would have a meeting every time I came home for a visit. We completed 6 meetings and the FOCUS test and results in 3 weeks. Along with me getting everything together for our wedding.

I moved and was quite lonely. The job wasn't anything like they promised and I was looking forward to any chance I had to go home. Especially the big, comfy Cathedral that we were going to be married in. The priest I worked for gave me extended time off for the wedding which was much longer than I was supposed to receive over the following three years. Greatful I soaked up the winter and spent time with my friends and family, working when I could and attending to last minute details.

When I could, I would "run away" to the Cathedral in order to find peace, quiet and a shred of sanity. I couldn't wait to embark on our new life and every time I was there I couldn't help but imagine the love and grace we would share there in a very short time.

Duluth + January = Brrr
Copyright 2011 Derek MontgomeryUsed With Permission
When the wedding day came, it was a slightly blizzardy January morning and we wouldn't have it any other way. We were going to be married. Most of my fondest memories of that day were contained in that Cathedral before God and with our families because we were standing there faithfully before each other and God.

Since then we have moved back to Minnesota and are quite a distance away from the Cathedral of Christ the King. We still go there whenever we are in the area which is about 2 or 3 times a year. We see people who remember us, but the most important is the presence of God that resides there. I am always moved to my knees in awe and wonder and I pray that I never lose that and only seek to gain that where ever I attend mass.

I found purpose there, my feelings and experiences are different because I can see the threads that God has woven together in my life surrounding this one place. Even today as we belong to a wonderful community that we hope we never have to leave, our deepest prayer is always to return there to be in union with that community as best we can.

In two weeks, we will be able to seek another pilgrimage there. I will see if there are times that we can receive Reconciliation and attend more than a weekend mass. I will gladly pray and rejoice in the Cathedral and know that God walks amid the pillars and is present all through that sacred place.
Copyright 2011 Derek MontgomeryUsed With Permission
Until then I will prepare for that pilgrimage by always entering into my home church with the same devotion and respect that the Cathedral of Christ the King evokes in me as well.