Friday, May 30, 2014

this moment: soulemama linkup

 I was too busy enjoying the children's performance of a musical 'Merry Wives of Windsor,' so this is the only photo I took. This is after the final bows. It was our 7 year old's Shakespeare debut!
How often does mama get in the photos? Almost never!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

m-ai întrebat: difficulties with married clergy & other questions answered by Father

a reader asks: "You are usually very positive about being married to a priest, but nothing is perfect. What are some negative things about married clergy? And better yet...what are some things that are difficult in your husband's opinion- being married and a priest?"
Balancing spiritual and secular things can be difficult. I suppose time management and money management are also things in life that I am always checking to make sure that I am ministering to the Church and also the domestic church.  
It would be easier from a social standpoint to live in Romania where married clergy- Orthodox and Catholic- are the norm and celibate priests are very rare and usually living in a monastery. Even though most Roman-rite clergy and people are accepting of me and my family, being married and having people be shocked can be stressful. 
Because the money question is usually the top concern from lay people about any possible clergy/celibacy change, I would like to reassure them that I am not 'costing' the Church any money. But because of this, I work a full-time job outside the Church as director of spiritual care.chaplaincy at a local hospital.  So, I am very busy with multiple ministries. This could be a recipe for burn-out, but with family support, at this point, I am doing well, depending on God's grace. Marriage and the priesthood are my vocations. Being married and married to a priest are my wife's vocations. 

What are some positive things about being a priest? more specifically- a married priest? 

Serving people is the best part of being a priest. I like to hear confessions and encourage people in their spiritual journeys. Preparing homilies and preaching are my favorite parts of my priestly vocation as well as encouraging boys and men to serve at the altar and discern possible clergy vocations. It is a privilege to minister to people through all the aspects of their lives and to learn from them as well.
My joy is multiplied by seeing my wife and children's involvement in the Church. They have their own ministries within our church- and even their support in tolerating the irregular, busy schedule is a gift to me. Being married, I also have the support of the grace from marriage and being lifelong friends with my wife who supports, encourages and depends of me. 
Are you obliged to recite the Horologion office privately and daily, as Roman priests must do with the Breviary/Liturgy of the Hours (L.O.T.H.)?
I am obligated to have an active prayer life, using the Byzantine Daily Worship and sacred readings such as the Bible and writings of the Church Fathers. During seminary, all daily prayers from the Horologian were said and every deacon and then priest receives the standard prayer books to continue a stable prayer life after ordination. Promises of specific prayers said daily were not made to my bishop at my ordination, however. 

Who are some of your favorite saints?
I greatly admire St Augustine for his conversion story, St John Chrysostom for his Divine Liturgy and homilies, Blessed Theresa of Calcutta for her example of true service, Saint John Paul for his respect for the East, and Saint Basil with his entire family. 

What is a favorite Bible verse?
These two verses come to mind:
Behold I send you as sheep in the midst of wolves. Be ye therefore wise as serpents and simple as doves. ---Matthew 10:16
No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.---John 15:15

Do you have a favorite saying/writing from a Church Father? 
Here is one: "The love of husband and wife is the force that welds society together. Men will take up arms and even sacrifice their lives for the sake of this love. St. Paul would not speak so earnestly about this subject without serious reason; why else would he say, “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord?” Because when harmony prevails, the children are raised well, the household is kept in order, and neighbors, friends, and relatives praise the result. Great benefits, both of families and states, are thus produced. When it is otherwise, however, everything is thrown into confusion and turned upside-down."  –St John Chrysostom- Homily on Ephesians 5:22-23

Do you think it would be a good idea to have a Byzantine Office of Readings like in the present Roman L.O.T.H.?
I believe our horologian and Byzantine traditions are sufficient for our spirituality. Those of us in Western countries are beginning to strengthen our Eastern traditions with great vespers and other services. This, in my opinion, is what we should develop. One thing that is missing for my eparchy are approved translations from the Romanian of some hymns and prayers. 

What Bible do you use for lectio divina?
I use the 'Orthodox Study Bible,' the Douay Rheims translation as well as the New American Bible. 

Curious Roman/Latin rite reader here: How does the process take for someone like yourself to receive bi-ritual facilities and get permission from both Eastern and Latin-rite diocesan bishops?
In general, both bishops must give faculties- beginning with the 'original rite' bishop. Also, there needs to formation/education and the need for help in the second rite. Bi-ritual faculties are given only when it is the 'perfect storm' of obedience/education/need. Also, bi-ritual faculties are given for only the diocese, so a Byzantine Catholic priest might have faculties for his own rite throughout the country but only Roman-rite faculties for a relatively small space of the Roman-rite diocese

Have you read the comments of Pope Francis at his meeting this weekend with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew? What are your thoughts? It sounds a lot like he is advocating for a major reform of the papacy. And end to the Schism in our lifetime?
Unfortunately, I have not been able to read a lot about this visit. But he does seem to be emphasizing that we all come from Jerusalem- from Christ. Perhaps he was showing that more important than Rome, Constantinople, Moscow is Jerusalem. We have 40 years before 1,000 years of the Great Schism. It is Christ's will that we be one. The Holy Father seems to be setting the stage for the possibility of unity- not changing the papacy, but reassuring those not iin union now that he will not change their traditions that are holy. 

Father, Matushka was Latin Rite when you met her, right? Could you give some advice to those Byzantine Catholic men who might be discerning both priesthood and marriage with a Latin Rite woman?
Whether marrying a Byzantine Catholic or Roman-rite woman, she should be a partner in your (possible) future ministry. Personally, it would be very difficult for our family life if my wife was busy at a different Roman-rite church. Our family works together as much as possible and we worship together. I would be very wary of marrying a woman who did not share the spirituality; the bishop might be reluctant to ordain a married man whose wife is not a partner in his ministry.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Ask Him Anything- Today is Father's 12th Priestly Anniversary!

I've been blogging almost four years, and Father has never guest posted. I thought it is about time that we hear from him. I'm working on a post about his priesthood plus his vocations as husband and father of four. 
If there is anything specific you are curious about, write your question in the comment box below. Let's see if Father will answer it in the blog post tomorrow!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A Reluctant Review of The Little Oratory's Introductory Sections

I was so excited to learn about The Little Oratory written by Leila Lawler and David Clayton that I pre-ordered three copies from Amazon within minutes of learning about the book. I am terribly notorious for procrastinating and forgetting, but not this time. I might have been one of the first to get a copy besides family of the authors. Sophia Institute Press emailed me through this blog, asking if I wanted a copy to review. I emailed back, saying that I had ordered three copies, but a fourth would be welcome. I was planning on using it for a book club with homeschooling mothers and wives of the local Catholic university's tutors.
This is not my official review because I haven't gotten through the beginning sections, "About the Images" and "What is this book about?"
I am glad that this is a micro-blog because I am about to write in opposition (well, just about the first two sections; I still have high hopes for the rest of the book) to the educated, well-known critics who laud the book such as Scott Hahn, Stratford Caldecott, Joseph Pearce, Elisabeth Foss, Christopher West and more along with many five-star reviewers on Amazon. 
So, I got the book- well, three copies of it. I eagerly opened one up, not even bothering to sit down. And then I got to the part "Do we write or paint icons?"
Clayton chides those who still insist on saying "write" instead of "paint." He states that the original Greek has no difference between the words. It is a "bit precious" to say we "write" icons, and it is linguistically incorrect. Knowing this, I personally say "make" an icon. But sometimes a linguistic mistake can be a happy accident. saying "write" does set icon-creating apart from other sacred art.
I don't know about Western-style sacred artists, but in the East, there tends to be a very strict system to creating art with icon painters. The entire work of art is a prayer. There is little to no innovation in making an icon which emphasizes the timelessness of truth and also diminishes the artist. It does not matter who made this 'window to heaven.' 
I know an Orthodox priest's wife who is a very accomplished icon painter- she painted an entire cathedral in Romania- who paints the face of Christ only on Fridays and after she has fasted from all foods from midnight. I think she would appreciate being set apart a bit with the incorrect word "write."
In the biography portion, it states that Clayton is both an experienced icon painter and a portrait painter in the style of Western classical naturalism. What I don't understand is- why does he contribute primarily Byzantine-style icons (all except a reproduction of a Gothic Franciscan cross) instead of Western portraits if he has so little regard for the art form? Why did he decide to open each chapter with a icon-style sketch instead of a classical piece of his work? It just seems strange, like he wrote the following words on a bad day and he forgot to delete them from his hobby blog: 

"The iconographic style is not inherently superior to other liturgical forms, and there are no writings of Church Fathers that even suggest it (although you might not believe it to talk to some people today)."

I dropped the book like a hot coal.
I am so tired of our tradition being used by others and then tossed aside when it gets tedious. It is reminiscent of my husband celebrating two Roman-rite Masses for a group dedicated to the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. The third Mass when they discovered he was a married Byzantine-rite priest with bi-ritual faculties, they asked him not to come back. I am not an art philosopher, but it seems to me that the ancient styles of art are superior to the affected modern styles. The images not made by man- Veronica's veil, the Shroud of Turin and the tilma of Our Lady of Guadalupe- seem icon-like to me, simple and stark, not showy or innovative. And I will respectfully disagree with Mr. Clayton that "no writings of Church fathers even suggest" that iconography is more rooted in the divine than other sacred art forms. The early Church fought for the restoration of icons because they are important to our spirituality. They were used in both East and West; the only difference is that the West continued to innovate and create new styles of sacred art. Sometimes these innovations can be a distraction from the truth that art is trying to convey.

The book stayed on my dining room hutch, accusing me of being overly sensitive.
A few days later, I tried again and read the "What is this book about?" section. I settled into Leila's comforting tone and calmed down until I got to the last page. I was told to seek guidance from those in authority, that the book is just a guideline to prayer in the home, that "some people belong to the Western rite and some to the Eastern rite." 
The book went back to the hutch.
I didn't think I would need a big 'trigger warning' before reading this lovely, yes lovely, book. First, my Byzantine traditions are belittled with flippant words by an educated Catholic who is an expert in iconography and depends on using it for the beauty of his book. Then, a woman who I respect and who has personal experience in Eastern Christianity (specifically Coptic) reduces the East to one rite. In actuality there are many rites of the East Byzantine, Alexandrian, Syriac, Armenian, Maronite, Chaldean and 21 sui juris churches (for example- Romanian Byzantine, Syrian from Antioch). All are in union with Rome's authority but retaining their traditions and spirituality just as the Roman rite (with its own diversity such as the Novus Ordo, Tridentine and Anglican-use Masses) retains its own traditions and spirituality. 
So, this is me, trying to 'keep it real.' I understand that I am not the audience for this book- Hahn, Pearce, Foss and West are. But may I use another common psycho-babble phrase? 
'Check your privilege.' 
Yes, you are powerful; you are important. The Eastern rites are minuscule and inconsequential to the world. But we are not inconsequential to God. "Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father's will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered..." Matthew 10:29. The world cares about the powerful, not the little, useless sparrow, but God loves us as He loves everyone, powerful or weak.
Yes, it was just a few sentences. Clayton doesn't believe there is anything special about icons even though he uses them throughout the book. It was the absence of just an 's' on the word 'rites.' I just hoped for factual accuracy from educated Catholics; it is hurtful when it isn't a priority. But if it isn't a priority, please ignore us. 
So, tomorrow I am going to pick up the book again and read the first chapter. I am going to try to read it with the eyes of its intended audience- the Roman-rite majority. Any illusions to a rite or spirituality other than the majority rite might not be accurate, but I suppose I should be grateful that Eastern Catholics are noticed at all.  

Thursday, May 8, 2014

quick takes about mothers

“To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labours, and holidays; to be Whitely within a certain area, providing toys, boots, cakes and books; to be Aristotle within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene; I can imagine how this can exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it. How can it be a large career to tell other people about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one's own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone and narrow to be everything to someone? No, a woman's function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute.” ― G.K. Chesterton

"As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we’re doing it right—which is why we may feel invisible some days. But one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible mothers."
“The most important person on earth is a mother. She cannot claim the honor of having built Notre Dame Cathedral. She need not. She has built something more magnificent than any cathedral—a dwelling for an immortal soul, the tiny perfection of her baby’s body. The angels have not been blessed with such a grace. They cannot share in God’s creative miracle to bring new saints to Heaven. Only a human mother can. Mothers are closer to God the Creator than any other creature; God joins forces with mothers in performing this act of creation. . . What on God’s good earth is more glorious than this; to be a mother?” --- Joszef Cardinal Mindszenty
“Especially you mothers: think of Hannah’s example; look at what she did. She brought Samuel, her only son, to the temple, when he was only an infant! Who among you would not rather have a son like Samuel than one who became king of the whole world ten thousand times over? ‘But it’s impossible,’ you say, ’for my son ever to become as great as he.’ Why is it impossible? Because you don’t really want it; you won’t entrust him to the One who is able to make him great.”

“Let everything take second place to our care for our children, our bringing them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

“Don’t strive to make him [your child] a clever orator, but teach him to love true wisdom. He will not suffer if he lacks clever words; but if he lacks wisdom, all the rhetoric in the world can’t help him. A pattern of life is what is needed, not empty speeches; character, not cleverness; deeds, not words. These things will secure the Kingdom and bestow God’s blessings.”

“Your children will always be sufficiently wealthy if they receive from you a good upbringing that is able to order their moral life and behavior.”

“For indeed a house is a little Church. Thus it is possible for us by becoming good husbands and wives to surpass all others.”

“When we teach our children to be good, to be gentle, and to be forgiving – all attributes of God; to be generous, to love their neighbor, to regard this present age as nothing, we instill virtue in their souls, and reveal the image of God within them. This, then, is our task: to educate both ourselves and our children in godliness; otherwise what answer will we have before Christ’s judgment seat? …Let us be greatly concerned for our wives and our children and for ourselves as well. The good God Himself will bring this work to perfection, so that all of us may be counted worthy of blessings He has promised.”
-Saint John Chrysostom
I find inspiration in all the sentiments above. I see my mother- as a mother and a grandmother- living up to them. My mother-in-law lives up to them. I remember my grandmothers living up to these words in so many ways. I look at my sisters and sister-in-law- all who are Godly women who are embracing the challenges of motherhood and doing a splendid job at their vocation. The one mother in my life who falls terribly short is I.
What answer will I have before God's judgement seat when I have to defend my shortcomings, my laziness, my short temper, my lack of energy? Now, one of my sisters says "never judge your insides with someone's outsides." This is true. But it is also true that I can be astonished with what the women in my bubble accomplish and then I look at myself. I suppose, even at 42, I have a lot of growing up to do and I need to stop comparing..but really- she is that thin and fit, pregnant with baby #7?....her children really converse fluently in French?...the cool group is closed to members...I'm not Catholic enough for some...I only have a Master's and will be unemployed in a week...she just looks so effortlessly chic...the green-eyed monster has got me- help me, Lord....The past two weekends have been great, believe it or not...but I haven't written about them...I'll get over myself...

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Sunday, Sunday- did you have time to attend church services this weekend?

This actually means, "it wasn't important enough." It wasn't a high priority, fun, distracting, profitable or urgent enough to make it to the top of the list.

Every few days, Twitter and Facebook soak up a billion hours of 'spare' time. Where did that time come from? What did we do before social media was here? Weren't we busy five years ago?

Running out of time is mostly a euphemism, and the smart analyst realizes that it's a message about something else. Time is finite, but, unlike money, time is also replenished every second.

The people you're trying to reach are always recalibrating which meetings they go to, which shows they watch, which books they don't read. The solution has nothing to do with giving people more time (you can't) and everything to do with creating more urgency, more of an itch, more desire.

We are working on our mini-mission...and trying to make church 'worth the time,' so I found this little blog post of Seth Goden's very interesting. Faith is a gift, so having lots of parishioners is not up to us. It is up to God. But we can make sure that people know where we are, when we celebrate, how and why we celebrate the way we do....the past two weekends have been very, very busy but also very positive....if I can get my room, family room under control, I'll write a real post about the hopeful things that are happening!