Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Married Priest in The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter: a guest post

for more from Father Matthew Venuti, visit his blog- Father Father

Do you believe priests should be allowed to be married? Why do you believe this view?
This is not an easy yes or no question.  What needs to be understood from the outset is that there have always been married Catholic Priests.  Here is what Church (Canon) Law says about married priests:
"Clerical celibacy chosen for the sake of the kingdom of heaven and suited to the priesthood is to be greatly esteemed everywhere, as supported by the tradition of the whole Church; likewise, the hallowed practice of married clerics in the primitive Church and in the tradition of the Eastern Churches throughout the ages is to be held in honor.  Clerics, celibate or married, are to excel in the virtue of chastity; it is for the particular law to establish suitable means for pursuing this end. In leading family life and in educating children married clergy are to show an outstanding example to other Christian faithful."-Canons 373-375 of The Code of Canon of the Eastern Churches
The tradition in the west is that priests have been celibate, while in the East priests and deacons (but never bishops) have been ordained from among married men.  I do believe that there is a high value to the celibate priesthood in the West and I do not see a reason to change the rules for the celibate priesthood in the Latin Church.  The question as to whether or not priests in special circumstances such as the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter should be married will need to be answered by the generation of men who will grow up in the church, such as my 1 year old son.  In summation, I do not see a reason for the rule of celibacy to changed in the normal Latin Rite dioceses of the West, but I do believe that the Church needs to do more work on thinking theologically about the values and detriments of the married priesthood in the Eastern Catholic Churches in the West and the Ordinariate.
How was being a married Episcopal priest different from being a married Roman Catholic priest?
Being a married Episcopal priest is equivalent to being a married Catholic Deacon in terms of work load and family integration.  Episcopal priests have at least 1, if not 2 days a week were they are not expected to be at church, say any services or be available to their parish unless there is an emergency.   As a Catholic priest I am expected to say Mass and pray the Liturgy of the Hours every day for the rest of my life and even on my one day off a week (Mondays) I am still expected to be at Church to say Mass.  Episcopal priests take care of far fewer people, as the Episcopal Church is much smaller.  When I was an Episcopal priest I was responsible for about 150 along with one other priest.  As a Catholic priest I help take care of about 700 people along with 2 other priests and a deacon.  Episcopal priests can also expect to retire in the early 70's, at which point they will be paid a comfortable salary and not be expected to have any further work in the Church, including worship services, unless they choose to.  As a Catholic Priest, I do not expect to have a retirement, as older priests are still expected to say mass and the Liturgy of the Hours daily and assist local parishes in weddings, funerals and confession even after they retire from active ministry.

Was the transition to the Catholic priesthood difficult on your marriage?
Being a priest, a husband and a father has certainly meant that my wife and I need to be flexible in our planning.  My priesthood essentially means that my wife can never work a full time job as she needs to be home for the children as my schedule is too unpredictable and busy that I cannot be the primary care taker.  As I am the only one with a full time job, it is my responsibility to support the family financially, and being a priest will never pay that well.  My wife and I have had to make sacrifices to make this all work out. 


What made you decide to become a Catholic priest?
I’m often asked why I decided to join the Catholic Church, and specifically, why I joined the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter.
The simple answer is that I came to understand through the grace of God that the Catholic Church was the Church Jesus Himself founded and He wished us all to be one.  Once I came to that conclusion, I needed to join the Catholic Church for the love of God.
For some reason people usually respond to that answer with “OK, but are you sure you didn’t really join because you couldn’t live with A, or you don’t believe in B?”  Maybe this is a common response because we as a society have become so polarized that we only know how to define ourselves in negative terms.  I’m against this.  I won’t do that.  I won’t let them do this.
For me, coming into full communion has been an experience of positives.  I have been drawn closer to God.  I feel more at peace.  I love the faith handed down to me.
While Leo XIII could not find that our Anglican orders were valid Catholic orders, he wished to put that all aside to let us Anglicans know how much the Church desired us.  He wrote “Assuredly, with an exceeding great joy, their Mother, the Church, will welcome them, and will cherish with all her love and care those whom the strength of their generous souls has, amidst many trials and difficulties, led back to her bosom. Nor could words express the recognition which this devoted courage will win for them from the assemblies of the brethren throughout the Catholic world, or what hope or confidence it will merit for them before Christ as their Judge, or what reward it will obtain from Him in the heavenly kingdom!” (from the oft forgotten concluding section of Apostolicae Curae)
The Catholic Church yearned for the return of her children to her home.  Like the father in the story of the Prodigal Son, this was not about coming to a new place to argue or to build a fortress to fight a war, but an embrace between long separated family who love each other.
So why the Catholic Church and the Ordinariate? For love.


Do you find that dealing with married couples easy because you yourself are married?
Most of the priests I know who are celibate give very good marriage advice because they understand what it means to give your body and soul to someone else.  My marriage certainly informs my marriage advice, but I don't know that it makes it any better advice than my celibate brother priests.  I do think, however, that some people find me easy to approach about marriage and family issues because I am married.

How does your wife help you in your priestly duties?
My wife helps my ministry in many ways.  She assists at our small mission community for the Ordinariate by serving as the treasurer, being a lector, being a part of the altar guild and by assisting in RCIA teaching.  She supports me in prayer, gives me advice and does the bigger share of the work at home so that I can fulfill my priestly duties.

Does having a wife distract you from your priestly duties? 
No.  I don't know how to be a priest without being married, and as we were joined in the Sacrament of Matrimony, we do this together.  Certainly I have more responsibilities at home than most celibate priests, but this is not a distraction, it is simply the two vocations that God has given me working in tandem in order to serve Him.  

Is it difficult having your own family as well as your parish family?
The difficulty for me will always be time management.  The priesthood demands my attention 24/7, so there will always be priestly responsibilities that will mean time spent at the parish instead of with my family.  I suspect most fathers have more time away from their job to spend with their family than I do.  

What are the difficulties of being a married priest?
The biggest difficulty my family faces is the lack of advice out there.  There are maybe 150 married priests in the Latin Rite of the Church, so instead of getting advice on many things we have to simply figure things out on our own.

How does being married provide advantages in your priestly duties?
Again, as I have never been a celibate priest, I cannot compare and contrast.  I will say that my family helps me understand God better than I did as a single man before ministry.  God comes to us as a Trinity of Persons in a Divine relationship, and I believe that both marriage and fatherhood help me better understand God's relationship with humanity.

How do other Catholic priests respond to you being allowed to become a Roman Catholic priest even though you were married? 
I have never encountered anything other than love and respect from my fellow priests.  Most of the priests of the Archdiocese of Mobile have gone out of their way to make sure I feel welcome, supported and loved by my fellow priests.  Interestingly enough, the only resistance I have faced about my marriage is from lay people who do not believe that the Holy Father was wrong to allow me to be ordained.  Fellow priests and seminarians have in fact told me that seeing my life has made them surer about their call to celibacy!

Do you think more men would answer the call to the Catholic priesthood if they were allowed to marry?
Absolutely not.  The Eastern Catholic Churches that allow married priests do not have more men becoming priests than the Latin Rite Church.  Comparing numbers of vocations in the Eastern and Western Churches it does not seem make a difference whether celibacy is required in term of the men discerning a vocation the priesthood.   Priesthood is a vocation, and not a job that one elects; rather, God calls men to it.  The vast majority of men and women of the world are called to a vocation of marriage and parenthood, living out holy lives sacrificing for each other for the good of each other's souls.  A married priesthood would not change this.  It also important to note that vocation in the United States are on the rise, in fact, for the first time in half a century there a men being told they can't come to seminary yet because there is not enough room for them at the school!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Green Jelly Beans & Dust Bunnies: Trying to Raise Great 'Wait' Kids in a Crazy 'Now' World

It was their dad's birthday this weekend. There would be cake after the Saturday vigil and the Sunday late morning Divine Liturgies. We have been in the thick of Easter celebrations, so sugary treats have been in abundance. 
Saturday morning, I decided to sweep under the sofa in the living room. To be honest, moving the sofa forward and doing a deep sweep probably happens every two weeks. I guess this time, I let it go three weeks. 
There was some monstrous dust bunnies, random trash, some Lego I saved and two old Easter jelly beans. I was very clear with my boy that he could not pick up the jelly beans. I reminded him that he doesn't eat trash. I reminded him that he would be eating cake in just a few hours. 
I turned away to pick up the dust pan. Looking at the trash pile, I could see that there were still two jelly beans on the floor, but Boy's lips were turning a horrid shade of green. He had spied a third bean that had rolled out of sight. What an industrious, naughty boy! I had to lay down the law; I told him he would not be eating any birthday cake that evening, but he had better be singing for his daddy's birthday- cake or not.
Daddy was more merciful than I. He amended the punishment by allowing Boy to eat some cake the next morning after his breakfast egg. It was not easy for Boy to sit there with a (extraordinarily delicious) fresh fruit salad while his friends were eating chocolate cake.  In the morning, he got his cake with some whipped cream. I asked him if it tasted better than a dusty jelly bean. He admitted it did.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

precious puppies, cute kittens & popes: we need an internet oasis- 7 quick takes

1. Have you explored Catholic Memes?
It has been a hard week. I need a laugh. Read this site- Keep a sense of humor- you might like it...
2. May I suggest the site Godvine for inspiration? It's filled with stories and videos- many of which are appropriate for older children.
3. And if you need even more inspiration, watch The Butterfly Circus
4. For readers via Conversion Diary, I invite you to click over to my girls' guest post "Being a Catholic Priest's Kid."- they were excited to write this post...maybe next time I will have my husband write a guest post...
5. Puppies!
6. Kittens!
7.The Catholic Church is not a secret society. The Vatican website has all the encyclicals at your fingertips. Have you read the documents of the Vatican II Council? I suspect the women screaming at my husband lately have not; there is nothing there that declares women should be Catholic clergy. The new catechism is here; it is very understandable for someone who is willing to learn.  I like to go here for different translations of the Bible. My favorite 'internet oasis' is pray as you go- a daily podcast with music, Bible readings and reflections. I also like to stay informed with National Catholic Register, Life Site News, and Catholic Culture, but I wouldn't call them oases. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

A Grammatical Primer to the Eastern Churches- a guest post


"To count the terms used in theology as of primary importance, and to endeavor to trace out the hidden meaning in every phrase and in every syllable, is a characteristic wanting in those who are idle in the pursuit of true religion, but distinguishing all who get knowledge of the mark of our calling...The beginning of teaching is speech." --St. Basil the Great, On the Holy Spirit I.2
"I've often written here of the need to reclaim the Church's bipulmonary nature, that is, the fact that she has two lungs, as Pope Bl. John Paul II loved to say, the West and the East.  I've recently realized that just having people mention the Eastern Church is not enough (though it is certainly a great start): people must also know what they're talking about in regards to Eastern Christianity.  One of the greatest aspects that needs to be cleared up is simply the matter of terminology.  Thus I here attempt to give a quick grammatical primer on terms that are often jumbled up by those sincerely wishing to do justice to the Church's bipulmonary nature.  My goal is not to condemn those who inadvertently misuse language, but to instruct them and call them on to the correct use.  Why does this matter?  Because laziness with language, even if unintentional, feels somewhat like a lack of caring for the Eastern Church.  I might be too sensitive, but I hope this primer will help either way.  Any incorrect information given here is strictly due to my own faults.
Churches and Rites 
Eastern Church = a very wide term, encompassing the Christian traditions rooted in the areas of (from roughly West to East) Eastern Europe, Greece, Egypt, Ethiopia, the Middle East (Syria, Lebanon, Antioch, Jerusalem, etc.), the Ukraine, Russia, and India.  This includes both the Eastern Catholic Churches (Ruthenians (Byzantine Catholics), Ukrainian Catholics, Melkites, Maronites, etc.), the Eastern Orthodox Churches (Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Serbian Orthodox, etc.), and the Oriental Orthodox Churches (Assyrian Church of the East, Coptic Orthodox, Ethiopian Orthodox (Tewahedo), etc.).  

Church = not the Church, but a particular Church; a Church is a Christian community that has retained apostolic succession and thus has valid Sacraments (Mysteries).  Thus the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches are rightly called Churches (I'll get to the Eastern Catholic Churches' specific designation below), while those Christian denominations that resulted from the Protestant Reformation and other such movements are referred to as "ecclesial communities" because they lack valid Sacraments. 

Oriental Orthodox Churches = those Eastern Churches that accept only the first three Ecumenical Councils (Nicea, Constantinople, Ephesus) and do not accept the authority of the Pope of Rome.  They are also known as "non-Chalcedonian" Churches because they do not accept the Fourth Ecumenical Council, the Council of Chalcedon.  They are also called "monophysite," "of one nature," (though at least some of them prefer the term "miaphysite," "of mixed nature") because they do not accept the doctrine of Chalcedon about the dual natures, human and divine, of Christ.

Eastern Orthodox Churches = those Eastern Churches that accept only the first seven Ecumenical Councils (Nicea, Constantinople, Ephesus, Chalcedon, II Constantinople, III Constantinople, II Nicea) and do not accept the authority of the Pope of Rome.  

Eastern Catholic Churches = those Eastern Churches that accept all 21 Ecumenical Councils (see other sources for a list) and accept the authority of the Pope of Rome.    

Sui iuris = self-governing.  This is a term applied to Eastern Catholic Churches (and, in rare occasions, to some missions).  The term (at least applied to Churches) seems to be an innovation of the 1990 Code of the Canons of Oriental Churches (CCEO), and all that this document says is that "A group of Christian faithful united by a hierarchy according to the norm of law which the supreme authority of the Church expressly or tacitly recognizes as sui iuris is called in this Code a Church sui iuris" (CCEO, can. 27).  As a general idea, what sui iuris means is that each particular Church governs almost entirely on its own, with only certain powers being held solely by the Pope of Rome.  (This is a somewhat poor description of sui iuris, but part of that is because there is little magesterial or other official ecclesial documentation on the term, from what I can find.)

Rite = "the liturgical, theological, spiritual and disciplinary patrimony, culture and circumstance of history of a distinct people, by which its own manner of living the faith is manifested in each Church sui iuris" (CCEO, can. 28 §1).  There are five Eastern rites: Alexandrian, Antiochene (West Syriac), Armenian, Chaldean (East Syriac), and Constantinopolitan (Byzantine) (cf. CCEO, can. 28 §2).  These rites (except for the Armenian rite) each are manifested in multiple Churches sui iuris: i.e. Greek Catholics, Melkites, and Ruthenian Catholics are all within the Byzantine Rite, and Maronites and Syro-Malankara Catholics are both within the Antiochene Rite.  (As a side note, there are also multiple Western rites, such as Ambrosian and Carthusian, apart from the Roman Rite).

Byzantine Catholics = a term used in multiple ways.  It is used to refer to 1. Catholics who belong to any of the Churches that use the Byzantine Rite, 2. any Eastern Catholics (which is most definitely an incorrect usage of the term), or 3. Catholics that are a part of the Ruthenian Catholic Church, now usually referred to as the Byzantine Catholic Church, under jurisdiction in the U.S. of the Byzantine Catholic Metropolia of Pittsburgh.  The main confusion comes about due to the Ruthenian Church's shift in terminology to referring to themselves often as Byzantine Catholics to reduce their ethnic specificity.  While a good thing in its expansion of the Eastern Christian tradition beyond its ethnic homelands, it does cause confusion in terminology.
Hierarchy
Patriarch = A bishop who governs all other bishops and other faithful within his particular Church, but who is also given a special title of honor that gives them precedence of honor over all other bishops (after the Pope of Rome, of course).  The tradition of patriarchs is rooted in the early Church with its pentarchy of great sees: Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, all of which had patriarchs (though the Patriarch of Rome was the Pope).  The title of patriarch has now expanded to other sees, and in the Eastern Catholic Churches at the moment, there are six patriarchs.  The title is one of a special honor on top of the governing power that any head of a particular Church has.  (For more details on patriarch, see the long section in the CCEO, can. 55-150.)

Major Archbishop = A bishop who governs all other bishops and other faithful within his particular Church, but does not have the title of patriarch.  Major archbishops have precedence of honor after patriarchs.  (For more details, see CCEO, can. 151-154).

Metropolitan = A bishop who governs all other bishops within his see, called a metropolia.  They can sometimes be the head of an entire particular Church (a metropolitan Church sui iuris), but they are not necessarily so.  They are equivalent to an archbishop in the Roman Church, and the metropolia is equivalent to an archdiocese.  (For details on metropolitan churches sui iuris, see CCEO, can. 155-173.)

Eparchy = The Eastern equivalent to the Roman diocese.
Liturgy
Liturgy = The Church's official public worship.  The term includes more than just the celebration of the Sacraments: it also includes rituals such as the Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours) and funeral rites, among many others.  A liturgy is any service of official public worship performed by the Church.

Holy Mysteries = The common term in the Eastern Church for the Sacraments.

Eucharistic Liturgy = A liturgy that involves the consecration of the Eucharist.  This includes not just the Mass, but liturgies such as the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom (Byzantine Rite) and the Holy Qurbana of Addai and Mari (Antiochene Rite).  A service that only includes distribution of the Eucharist (such as the Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified Gifts in the Byzantine Rite) would not, I think, merit this name.

Sacred Liturgy = Another term for Eucharistic Liturgy.

Divine Liturgy = The Eucharistic Liturgy of the Byzantine Rite, which comes in two forms, the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom and the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great.  (There is also a very infrequently-used form called the Divine Liturgy of St. James.)  The Armenian Rite also uses the term for their Eucharistic Liturgy.

Mass = The Eucharistic Liturgy of the Roman Rite.  It is also sometimes applied to other Eucharistic Liturgies of the Western Church, such as the Ambrosian Rite, Mozarabic Rite, Sarum Rite, and others.  In addition, the term is used for the Eucharistic Liturgies of Western Rite Orthodox Churches and for the liturgies of some Protestant Churches.  This is not the same as the Divine Liturgy: the terms should not be used interchangeably, for that shows, at least in some manner, a disrespect for the legitimate liturgical differences between the Roman Rite and other rites.  Using the term Mass for the Eucharistic Liturgies of the Eastern Rites smacks of the "Latinization" of the past, which, in its harshest extremes, tried to make the Eastern Catholic Churches into Roman Catholics who spoke a different language.  Please respect the legitimate liturgical diversity that enriches the Church (see the Catechism of the Catholic Church #1200-1209)."- reposted from Treasures of the Church with permission

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

When Your Baby is in the NICU

Jen of Conversion Diary just had a baby, and he is hanging out in the NICU for awhile. My fourth baby stayed there for five weeks, so I have experience! Here are some random tips, Jen:
1- Remember that you are postpartum! It takes me a month to feel slightly normal...I know it is hard, but get some sleep and recover from your ordeal! Jen has a big family- call in favors and have someone watch the kids for two hours a day and then sleep.....also, expect to feel the typical weepiness- anything more, consult your doctor. Having a baby in the NICU makes things worse- anxiety is something to watch for as well as depression.

2- Get the phone number of the NICU and call twice a day to meet the nurse that is in charge of your baby for the next twelve hours. Find out when the nurses do 'rounds' and try to not call during this time. Normally, rounds are 6 to 7 or 7 to 8 (both am and pm). 

3- For babies that will be hanging out in the NICU for a long time, buy some cute onesies and leave them there. Normally nurses loves to dress the babies. If your baby is in the covered incubator and/or respirator, let the nurses dress him/her in hospital grade stuff. Our baby also had a doll in her bed- make sure it is washable and write your baby's name on it in Sharpie. Normally, they will give you the onesies and dolls to wash, but I didn't want to lose the doll.

4- Write down your baby's progress whether you are visiting or calling. This will reassure you when you wake up panicked in the middle of the night. For early babies, an important milestone is the baby's weight. Ask for the weight twice a day and write it down. You will not remember the last weight, so write it down! For other babies, you might be focused on bowel movements, oxygen levels and/or feeding. Write it down! Write down questions you have- you will forget when that doctor is in front of you (I know I did)
isn't she sweet?!
5- Make sure your baby is registered as a Catholic (if applicable, readers). If you are afraid for your baby's health, have the baby baptized and anointed. You can have the baptism party when baby comes home. Our baby was small (32 weeks, 4 pounds), but healthy. I was the sick one, so we felt confident in waiting for sacraments. We still had her identified as Catholic and had some holy cards taped to her bed. I liked that the nurses 'knew' her in that way.

6- Be kind to the nurses (cookies, brownies, flowers) but demand optimal care for your baby. Ask that the nurses write things down for you. If your baby has a bad day- maybe she lost weight or had an oxygen episode- have the doctor explain everything to you or your husband and write things down. If you are sick and your husband is taking care of 20 children during his paternity 'vacation,' maybe an aunt can be given permission to speak to nurses. 

7- Don't feel guilty like I did if your baby is doing well. Our baby was born in my husband's hospital. She was healthy- just small. She was fat compared to the other babies. So I didn't communicate as much as I should have. I didn't even know that there was a breast pump in the room where I could take the baby (who was on a feeding tube)...I was trying hard to be 'good' because it is my husband's hospital AND I have yelled at doctors before- supposedly I yelled at a doctor before my first daughter got her appendix out at four years of age. I don't remember this- but anxiety can get the better of us. It's a balance. 

8- Take advantage of any services the chaplains and social workers have to offer. Whenever a friend asks 'what can I do,' tell them to bring milk and paper plates or have their kids play in the back yard with your kids with their mom supervising and you sleeping...Never say no to a meal. Just because the baby is not with the family yet does not mean that you don't need help. It is a good idea to stockpile meals in the freezer, however. It will get crazy when baby comes home. 

9- Don't ignore your husband and your other children, but make them understand that the littlest is the big priority right now! And just because you don't have to wake up every hour to take care of the baby does not mean that you can run around like a crazy person! You are postpartum and have worries about the newest member of the family. Do your best to pump....not an easy task....and recover from pregnancy. Involve the other children in making preparations for the baby's homecoming. 

10- Consider having your husband split his time off from work- one week postpartum to help momma and one week when baby comes home so he can help with the adjustment. 
finally! 5 weeks later (not quite her due date)-home at 6.5 lbs
11- Don't forget to offer up your anxieties and frustrations for those who cannot have babies or who didn't get to take baby home....
St. Gerard, who, like the Savior, loved children so tenderly and by your prayers freed many from disease and even death, listen to us who are pleading for our sick child. We thank God for the great gift of our son (daughter) and ask him to restore our child to health if such be his holy will. This favor, we beg of you through your love for all children and mothers. Amen.

Readers- If you have experience with a child in the NICU- please add your wisdom in the comment box below! I'm sure I am missing a lot

Monday, April 8, 2013

Meet Benedikta: "Why I became Catholic and stayed Catholic"

Have you ever read Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis? Have you identified yourself in it, saw all those temptations the devil was trying on you so that you would leave the church? I could be a poster girl for that book. I am a convert. And I was tempted plenty of times to leave the Church.
I grew up as an atheist. Everybody around me did, thanks to our Czechoslovak communist government. I would go to Catholic churches because they were beautiful and I loved the architecture, but my mind was made up: there was no God and the Catholic Church was the most evil institution.
God has a sense of humour though for he took all my pleadings to him before my math and chemistry exams seriously  : "God, if you are there and you are going to help me to get through this exam, I will believe in you." So when I was 16, he introduced me to Jehovah's Witnesses. We started talking. Their teaching didn't make any sense to me, but I was curious. I never met a believer before- well, none that I knew of at that time. 
A couple months later (while we temporarily lived in an apartment housed in a school for Marxist education with a big red star greeting us above the door), I suddenly knew, "Oops, there is God!" Paul needed a little miracle, so did I. Some of us are just a bit slow and need God to tell us rather loudly, "I am here!" So there I was on a lovely June day, believing and having no idea who God was. I went back to the Witnesses who sent me to a Catholic church to buy a Bible (no, you couldn't just go to a bookstore to buy one). There I met a friend of mine, a fresh convert as well, and we started talking. A lot. About God. About the Catholic Church. I listened. I argued with him. God gave him a lot of patience with me. 
When my mother found out that I was hanging around Catholics, her reaction was lovely, "If a bus ran over your leg and cut it off, it would be better!" With a reaction like that, I better knew what I was doing, right? Which church should I join? I shopped around. Protestantism didn't appeal to me at all, so I was deciding between Jehovah's Witnesses and Catholics. 
My analytical mind kicked in and I made a list of pros and cons for each of those two religions. And then decided to join the Catholic Church. Why? Simple. Apart from the obvious reason that the Catholics in Europe have the most beautiful churches, there were two main reasons. One: if God is God, there must be some mystery about Him. Witnesses could explain God perfectly: no Trinity, too complicated. I wanted a mysterious God. Two: the Catholic Church is rotten. History shows that rather well. So if a rotten institution like the Catholic Church can survive 2000 years, there must be some supernatural power behind it, either demonic and divine.
I went with the divine. It's funny that the reason why so many Catholics leave the Church - because of her sins - is the same reason I chose her. After all, I am one of the reasons the church is rotten. I am not a saint, I am a sinner.
So in April 1990, I became a Catholic. I was baptized, confirmed, and received my first Holy Communion on that blessed evening of the Feast of Divine Mercy. From that day on, I became very clear what was my real reason for being a Catholic - that little host that is God. I would sneak to church often, telling my mom that I went for a date (with Jesus, of course, but as dating was acceptable to my mother while going to church was not, little mental reservation was needed). 
A year later, I started studying theology. Another of God's jokes as I didn't particularly felt close to Him at that time and the only reason for even trying to be accepted to a theological school was because I flunked my English exam at other schools of my choice. So I studied theology in Czech for three years. I studied theology for four years in Austria. I understood clearly what the Church taught. 
When I was 26, I married an American. He was a convert to Catholicism as well. He introduced me to the Tridentine Mass and a more traditional expression of faith. For five years, we attended Mass at the Society of Pius X. And then, before our eighth wedding anniversary, out of blue he became Orthodox, a member of the Orthodox Church of America. And took our three older children with him. Only the baby that was still nursing stayed with me in the Catholic Church. 
The turmoil in me started. I was familiar with the Byzantine liturgy; we had Byzantine Catholics at our college. In Europe, I attended many Taize meetings where icons and orthodox-like chants were a norm and I loved it. Here I was, put in a situation that I was breaking up our family, that I was to join Orthodoxy for the sake of the unity of our family, to join my husband in his faith. 
My husband's explanation for his conversion was: "I realized Orthodox Church was the true Church." Not much of an explanation, if you ask me, but then my husband was never too fond of apologetics, despite the fact that he spent a few years in a Catholic monastery, in a Catholic seminary, and obtained a Master's degree in theology. So discussion was out of question and my turmoil didn't ease up. 
After all, it would be easier on some level to be Orthodox. No pope to obey, very little of "you must" as most Orthodox practices depend on one's spiritual maturity, not on any binding law of the church (even though fasting practices are rather severe, they are optional). A pretty church, family unity, beautiful liturgy, could I ask for more? After all, after five years of going to SSPX chapel, my fondness of the papacy was rather low. So as usual, I resorted to writing a list. For and against staying a Catholic and converting to Orthodoxy. If I understood then what I know about Orthodoxy now, the decision would have been much easier, Orthodoxy wouldn't have been even an option (as this is about why I stayed Catholic and not about why I have not converted to Orthodoxy, I will skip my reasons why I could never embrace the Orthodox faith). 
So why did I stay Catholic? Because I loved the pope and the papacy? No way. I consider papacy a very practical and wise institution, giving the church unity in both dogmatic and moral theology, that kind of unity that I believe is often lacking within the Orthodox churches (for example the issues of contraception and IVF). But I didn't stay for the papacy. Did I stay for Mary, the mother of God? No. I don't have a strong relationship with this beautiful, wise, and holy woman. I don't know how to relate to an unconditionally loving mother. And after all, the Orthodox are venerating Mary very strongly... 
I stayed for only one reason: I stayed because the Catholic Church can give me God on a platter every day. Every single day. I stayed for the Eucharist. It's that simple. I don't have to be holy to receive him. I am coming to him as a sick person comes to a healer. I am weak. I need him. There is no greater event any day than the Mass and the privilege to receive God so that I can become Him, become Love. Heaven comes into me, spiritually and physically, in that little Host. And this whole love story takes up only half an hour on a weekday, so that I don't have an excuse why I am not coming for the greatest date.
I became Catholic because it made sense to me, it was the rational thing to do. I stayed Catholic because of the Eucharist that I can receive every day and that I can adore every day. I stayed Catholic because I want to embrace Jesus as often as I can.

Thank you for sharing your journey, Benedikta!
Click on the 'I'm a Catholic' label below for more guest posts in this series

Monday, April 1, 2013

Being a Catholic Priest's Kid- a guest post

Casey- How has being a Catholic Priest's kid affected/influenced your relationship with God?
Well when we have a question about God or the church we just ask,  that has helped us understand more about our faith and God. We are also in church much more often than other children our age.
My dad makes sure that his example at home reflects his work as a priest. So all in all it has definitely strengthened our faith.

Bear- A very close friend is the son of a Dutch Reformed Church minister (a very conservative Calvinist) in a small Dutch community in a small city. He recalls that growing up, the family had to hide the packs of cards they were playing with whenever a member of the congregation visited. Also that they were watched regularly by the congregation, and their father was criticised for their behaviour. I wonder if the girls also feel the same sorts of expectation?
Yes!!!! Though not quite as severe, we are definitely supposed to be more sociable, helpful, and better behaved than your usual children. For example, when my little brother was five he was at the altar helping my dad as an altar servant. He bent down and fixed his shoe during the homily, and the elderly ladies made sure to scold him afterwards. We also have to gauge people's reactions about certain things, like if we're allowed to wear pants in the house. But many of the parishioners we have known since we moved here ten years ago so they have become part of our extended family.
It is funny, in the old country we get criticized for not watching normal television. They don't want us to be 'too' religious. We walk out of a room that is playing a music video because we are not allowed to watch that, but they think we are crazy. In America, we are too 'liberal' with stuff we watch- remember when some people on the blog got mad at my mom for letting us watch Sound of Music!?
Our mom says "You're in church right now because you are my children, not only because your father is a priest." So, sometimes it is my mom who decides our books, movies or music. 

jen- What is the strangest thing you've learned about as a priest's kid?
First of all, we learn the practical reasons for some of our traditions. In the Byzantine rite, the priest or deacon waves a gold cloth over the consecrated Eucharist in the chalice while we recite the creed. You would think this represents the Holy Spirit's wind/breath, and maybe it does. But first, it was a practical way to keep flies out of the holy cup!
Another thing- when you are a priest's kid, you see all the clergy as normal people no matter how holy they are. We have monks who are friends and they are normal people who tell jokes and smile. Our bishop's mother sent me a yellow stuffed M and M toy that I (Girl 1) slept with for years. 

Fluid Motion & Design- Do you feel any pressure being the child of a priest; and what have you, and the rest of your siblings done to ease whatever pressure may be felt, at times; and have you had to defend your father's vocation?
Yes sometimes we feel pressure to be perfect but it helps to know every one in your church.   Sometimes, depending on the service, we have to cantor an entire Mass in two languages and we make mistakes a lot. Girl 1 - I hide in the bathroom a little bit to "ease the pressure" Girl 2- I talk to my parents about my feelings like a chaplain (my dad's a hospital chaplain)
And answer to your second question- oooooooooh yes!!!!!! and not just about being a Priest's kid, also about being Byzantine. 
We defend our dad's priesthood by trying to explain, but sometimes people will still think we are Orthodox. 

Joey and Caren's Crazy Fam!- Do you have a funny story about being a priest's kid?
Girl 1: Every Wednesday we have the Divine Liturgy at 6:30 pm so all the people have heavy coats on.Well my baby sister had turned on the heater while we were singing and as you know we use a lot of incense. I could see the sweat dripping off peoples noses!!!!!!(especially my dad's)
Girl 2: This really happened to a friend of my dad. When the friend was preparing the altar for mass he had his back to the pews. He knew that the church was empty and he started to sing, "It's time to put on makeup, it's time to light the lights it's time to get things started on the Muppet Mass tonight!" The friend heard a titter and turned around and froze. The church was full of sisters there for a retreat. He hightailed it out of there! 
Here is when Girl 1 worked in the bishop's office- I was a very hard worker (this is one way that we have time with dad- we work with him when we can)
Hevel- Would you prefer if your future husbands entered the priesthood after you are married? Why or why not?
Girl 1:Yes and no, one of the problems about being a Priest's kid is that it is very lonely so I would hate to have my own children feel that. On the other hand, if my kids had a very important theological question, the answer is just a few steps away.
Girl 2: It would totally depend on if it is his vocation as a person. He would definitely have to be a practicing Catholic though, preferably Byzantine.
This is a hard question because we don't know what our lives will be like. 

Sean D-  Do other Roman Catholic children with whom you are acquainted struggle with the fact that your dad is a Priest
Yes. Kids that we have known for years still do not understand that we are CATHOLIC!!!!!!!!!!!!! As we said before, it's very lonely because people cannot put us in a category. We are not one thing or the other. Even if we moved to the old country, we would not fit in there, too.We love Shakespeare, and Harry Potter is cool. Phantom of the Opera rocks and so does Funny Face (that's why it helps to have a sister your own age). We don't fit in with Roman Catholics or Orthodox. Both ignore us as a church so we are ignored as kids too.
But about them not understanding our traditions, they wonder how we can be Catholic when we don't wear a scapular. 

Elisa- Do you have a favorite saint (Latin or Eastern)?
Girl 2: That is rather hard to say. It might be my patron saint Mary Magdalene (Mary of Magdala).
Girl 1: My favorite saint is St. John the Baptist (he is my patron saint), but I also really like Mary of Egypt because she showed great courage to change from her sinful life. Most people do not change, but she did.

Annie- What is your favorite feast day? 
It Is Christmas because we have extended family visits, the music and the ugliness of Halloween is gone and people try to be nicer
We both like the Easter season as well, singing Christ is risen, blessing of the baskets, eating treats on the way home from a late church service. 
Through the loneliness and challenges, we love our tradition and are very proud to be Priest's Daughters!!!!!!

An April Daybook

Outside my window...it is a grey day, but my yellow rose bush is blooming

I am thinking...that this year is the farthest distance between Easters for 
new' calendar people and 'old' calendar people- I don't like it

I am thankful...that Christ is risen!

In the kitchen...leftover ham and potatoes for lunch; lamb soup and popovers for dinner

I am wearing...green- my favorite color!

I am creating...a soup with Easter's leftover lamb- not very original, I know

I am going...to teach a class tonight! I wonder how many students will show up on Easter Monday?

I am wondering...why I didn't have an option for readers to get my blog posts emailed to them sooner

I am reading...homeschooling materials and English grammar books...I think it's time to read something for myself

I am hoping...that my school-age children do well on their mandated state testing. it is only one day, but a decent score validates me in some ways as a homeschooler- except that state testing is testing what 'they' think is worthy to know. as homeschoolers, we have different ideas about what is important- and yes, we study math and English every day...and more...

I am looking forward to...summer...I need a break...

I am learning...that I need to learn how to cook lamb well

Around the house...the children have eaten a lot of chocolate and other goodies. I said they could go crazy today. Tomorrow, most of the excess candy will be gone

I am still pondering..."O Lord and Master of my life, give me not the spirit of sloth, meddling, lust for power and idle talk. But grant unto me, Thy servant, a spirit of chastity (integrity), humility, patience and love. Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see mine own faults and not to judge my brother. For blessed art Thou unto the ages of ages. Amen."- prayer of St Ephrem

A favorite quote for today..."faith is one foot on the earth, faith is one foot in the air, and a queasy feeling in the stomach." Mother Angelica

One of my favorite things...is not an April Fools Joke (except maybe Google's Cesar Chavez tribute yesterday for Easter was an early joke?)

A few plans for the rest of the week: Although it is not Spring Break for my college, my son has the week off, so we need to find some fun daytime activities for the children...
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