Friday, 10 April 2015

The Call of Duty - Vocations Series: Religious Life

J+M+J
Franciscan Brothers

A community of prayer, a community of brothers and sisters, a family, medieval Xerox printers and fantastic beer brewers. The people of religious life can be many things, but there is one focus and one aim which is common to all of them: to sanctify themselves and serve God.  

     With this being the year of consecrated life, there is a particular focus for the Catholic Church to pray for people that are part of a religious order or congregation, or are considering a vocation to the religious life. Hopefully these prayers will help people realise their vocations (and maybe bring religious life as an option for them). 

     Religious life has a great focus on prayer and serving the church and the general world according to their charism, or way of living their service. Some communities are cloistered and live with little or no contact with the world outside of the monastery, others are active and do missionary work in the local community or abroad. Joining a community is considered to be a form of ultimate charity, the discerner is considering to commit themselves and their life to God.



     Here's what UKReligiousLife.org has to say: 'One of the first things that anyone discerning a vocation to religious life will become aware of is the great variety of forms of religious life. The main distinction is between monks and nuns who live in an enclosed convent or monastery and religious who work outside the cloister, for example in education, health-care or evangelization.
There are hundreds of different religious orders or congregations, each of which contributes a particular gift to the life of the Church. Some are rooted in the great spiritual traditions, such as Carmelites or Benedictines; others are based upon a particular ministry, such as Dominican preaching or the Missionaries of Charity’s care for the poorest of the poor.
The Second Vatican Council described how the Church presents different aspects of Christ through the variety of religious congregations: “Christ in contemplation on the mountain, in His proclamation of the kingdom of God to the multitudes, in His healing of the sick and maimed, in His work of converting sinners to a better life, in His solicitude for youth and His goodness to all people”.'
     Members of religious orders usually profess three vows: poverty, chastity and obedience. I asked a friend what it means to take these vows, this is what they said: 'Although it seems at first that there's a lot to do, a lot of effort, a lot of maturity (and it is), what happens when these things are realised to be necessary for religious life, which, if you are called to, they are also aids to make you wholly the person God made you to be, Whilst it is no small thing to follow this way of life, what you get in return for saying 'yes' and giving yourself to Christ is so much more and than the world can give you. Is it any wonder why you never see an unhappy nun or monk? The religious life is one of the closest ways of imitating Jesus, to be near our Lord and encounter him in the way we live is truly humbling. In personally owning nothing we live communally or with others and share everything, this is much how it was between Jesus and his disciples, a communal life together, a communal purse and a lifestyle which we all live out. In chastity we remain celibate (unmarried) and abstinate. Because of this we are able to dedicate all of our time to the people in our area, to the Church, each other and God, just as Christ did. By obedience we obey Our Lord and our order superiors, whether they be senior Sisters, Brothers, Abbots or Mothers. We are also obedient to our rule which governs how our life is to be led out. Benedictines live out their life in one particular monastery and have a charism of contemplation and hospitality, for example. This can be the hardest vow to follow, not chastity and poverty, they can get use to and feel natural after a while, but the lifestyle totally uproots you and changes you,sometimes you think 'what am I doing?' and then you see the work you do for others and the love you have for the Church and our Lord. In taking these vows you can almost see a soteriological [method of salvation] element. By being like him in the tradition of our particular order's charism, we can all but fail in the aspiration to live saintly lives and fulfill our first vocation: the universal call to holiness'.

Why be a monk?: http://www.monasteryofstjohn.org/documents/abbatialessays/Why_be_a_monk.pdf

     There are so many types of religious living, no doubt most of you that are aware of it will have heard of a few:

  • Order of Carmelites, O.Carm.
  • Order of Discalced Carmelites, O.C.D.
  • Order of St. Dominic/ Order of Preachers, O.P.
  • Order of St. Francis/ Friars Minor, OFM/ Capuchin, O.F.M Cap./ Conventual, O.F.M. Conv.
  • Order of St. Benedict, O.S.B.
  • Order of the Servants of Mary/ Order of Servites, O.S.M.



 "I love you, so just love each other the best you can... never be afraid to love" ~ Fr. Mychal Judge (a Roman Catholic priest of the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor, Chaplain of the Fire Department of New York and the first certified fatality on September 11, 2001)


     Having had a look around a few of the different order's websites, it is clear that this branch of great, loving and humble people are here to stay, just as they have been for thousands of years. Although, just as it is with vocation in general, there aren't as many people entering religious orders and congregations as they used to, it is certainly not decreasing in vibrancy, variety  and joy. People are still entering to live as a lay person or ordained member in the context of a particular mission or service. Some of you reading this may be contemplating such a move. The best thing to do if you are is to have a look on websites (which be be put at the bottom of the post), get in contact with the novice master at an order's centre, parish priest or vocations and discuss the feeling of a possible vocation to an order which you may be attracted to, either as a monk/friar, a nun/sister or tertiary member/ oblate (living some of the charisms and rules in the secular world).

     If you look around, you may find some good shows or clips of daily lives in the setting of various types of religious life. A good show which entails 5 men spending 40 days at a benedictine monastery in Worth Abbey can be found, called The Monastery. Another which features women doing the same thing can also be found, called The Convent. There are also others like: Into Great Silence, The Retreat, and  Finding Silence.

     Every time I hear of someone enquiring I am told that it just like joining a family, each place and each order has a different feel to different people and can take time - just like finding a home. Usually the process starts off by someone feeling drawn to this way of life, an inner pull, a calling. The next stage is to visit an order and talk to them. After visiting a few times to a particular group you feel comfortable and at home (and likewise them with you) you may be invited to spend some time with the community living as they do, then a Novitiate year or 2 years wear you get to grips with daily life living alongside taking Novice Vows. If this feels right for both you and the community then it may well happen that you profess more solid a permanent vows. 

     In this Year of Consecrated Life, please pray for those in this vocation, those considering it, our Holy Father and for your own vocation!

Andy

Website Links (UK):
UK Religious Life: ukreligiouslife.org
Carmelite Order, Discalced: http://www.carmelite.org.uk/
Carmelite Order: http://www.carmelite.org/
Dominican Order: http://english.op.org/

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Lent and Reconciliation (A Homily from Last Year)

J+M+J
A Discourse on Repentance, Lazarus and Lent




The season of Lent is the perfect time for resolving or fear of these things through the tradition of repentance, reconciliation and reparation (or penance). These three 'Rs' can be rather daunting, or rather much more like a self-help plan. It's can be scary when we need to reconcile our relationships rather than being able to sit and stew being sorry for ourselves, no doubt you know that it's scarier still when we have to do this with someone a bit bigger than ourselves, for example: with a friend, a boss, a teacher... a God.

Now, concerning the 'S' word... Sin: repentance and reconciliation is not all doom and gloom, in the old fashioned, medieval-hellish perception in which it's normally perceived.

If one were to look in the dictionary; repentance is a feeling when one feels regret or remorse for their wrongdoing. In old-school orthodox language: 'sin is what kills the soul', quite frightening, indeed! Sometimes we are aware of a nagging feeling and know that we have strayed from what we know is good, and so, naturally the best thing to do when feeling repentant is to reconcile with what we wronged or hurt, commonly known as; an apology.

Travelling up to a set of highway traffic lights, a car meaning to turn missed the junction completely and had to travel through lanes of oncoming traffic in order to get to where he needed, it appears he either didn't trust his Sat-Nav, or was having a seriously bad day.
Sin is what keeps us away from the light of God, imagine: we are driving a car, but we travel far past the turning that we needed to take, and we know sometimes, annoying though it is, that the Sat-Nav was right... Sin obscures for us, as Christians, the most important thing, the presence, love, guidance and path towards God.

We hear Jesus talk about this when he is asked why he returns to the place he was ejected from, having had stones hurled at him, he replied to his disciples: 'Are there not 12 hours of daylight? Those who walk in the light during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.' And this is quite a profound thing, not only is it the invitation to follow him, but it is also where our choice is, our free will to say yes or no, to walk in the light, or stumble in the dark not knowing quite sure where we are, missing our turn. He then makes a great reference to the valley of dry bones: 'Our friend, Lazarus has fallen asleep, but, I am going [to return] there to wake him.' Just as Ezekiel did when prophesying the word of God on the piles of bones. There is a whole verse which contains only the phrase: 'Jesus wept', or 'Jesus began to weep'. And it was for a friend which he loved. Those who wonder and sleep are woken again by Christ, he dwells in those that walk toward the light, and, as a god that loves everyone, he weeps when we turn away.

There is a great speech from Pope Benedict XVI at the vigil for young people at Freiburg which addresses this, he said: 'There is no saint, apart from the Blessed Virgin Mary, who has not also known sin, who has never fallen. Dear friends, Christ is not so much interested in how often in our lives we stumble and fall, as in how often with his help we pick ourselves up again. He does not demand glittering achievements, but he wants his light to shine in you. He does not call you because you are good and perfect, but because he is good and he wants to make you his friends. Yes, you are the light of the world because Jesus is your light. You are Christians – not because you do special and extraordinary things, but because he, Christ, is your life, our life.'

It seems that even the holiest slip up, or did in the past when seeing God wasn't clear. So, I feel that it is fair to assume that if God can pick up and raise a dead man, he can help anyone pick themselves up, just like the Saints that struggled, and that all we have to do is ask, repent, reconcile and do a bit of reparation.

And this is achieved in the tradition of Lent. We have 3 things to do, not for a sadistic sake of just depriving ourselves of something for 40 days, but a purpose; to breathe new life on our spiritual bones in Prayer, Fasting and Charity. One of the greatest prayers, is that which allows God to enter us and lead us. Perhaps we can see the light of God being our Sat-Nav so that we don't completely miss that junction. Concerning fasting, I’m willing to wager you may have given something up for Lent, but one of the greatest charities is to show others the good news of God, and one of the persons of God which is Christ.

But, part of the issue with the concept of sin is that we do sin, we don't like it, but it happens. We completely miss the junction, and sometimes it happens a lot more than we'd like or feel comfortable remembering. But, it's okay, God's got you anyway because God, the Father, sent his son to radically change the way in which we may live our lives, so that we also may lead a life of sacrifice for the betterment of other things. We, during Eucharist (the sacrifice on the altar) must remember this. Christ, which took away the sin of the world through providing us with this great way for betterment, inevitably led to his death on the cross. We must remind ourselves that we are the people that live remembering and revering the life, death and resurrection, and we must be the people of death and resurrection, we must evaluate our relationship with God, and evaluate our lives and live as Christian people, to have new life, through the Eucharist, breathing on our dry bones, reconnecting us and living again.


I hope through this Lent that we learn to pick ourselves up again, without fear of reconciliation, of whatever we must do to fix the relationships which are truly dear, to trust in God fully, even when the going is hard, let us pray that God continues to enlighten our lives, continues to radicalise our living and breathe fresh breath to our bones and share it with others so Christ may wake the ones who have fallen asleep. As it says in the story of Lazarus; Our teacher is here, and he's calling you.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

The Call of Duty - Vocations Series: Our Call to Holiness & Vocational Discernment

J+M+J
Listen out, call back but leave out the mobile phone, it won't cost a penny of credit...

I can remember, when I was a child in primary school, hearing so many of my classmates and myself fervently wanting to be a 'policeman-officer', or a 'firetruck-guy' or an 'army-man' in response to our teacher asking the greatest question OF ALL TIME: 'what do you want to be when you grow up?' Let's be honest, they're pretty cool jobs, so I can totally see why every one of us had declared those professions with pride! But, I'll put my hand up, tell the truth and admit that I said 'vicar' (and some years ago I'd have put the word 'embarrassingly' or 'how sad' in amongst that sentence, too)  and I also distinctly remember going to a dress-up party as one around that time, robes 'n' all!

     I'm willing to bet that it's still an everyday occurrence at school playtimes that children still play 'Cops & Robbers' or 'Soldier'. For me the idea of becoming an Army-man almost came to a reality. In the younger part of my teenage years I joined the Army Cadet Force, and at 16 went onto the Army applications and interviews (which I passed with flying colours, shiny sticker in this direction, please!)...

     It's unfortunate that in our lives, we usually don't get to become what we wanted to be, or do what we've always dreamed of doing. I know this well. I came within touching distance of becoming an army officer, so very close. But, that fell through. I wasn't able to join because of a technicality on the medical. Gutted.

     But that's when I realised, there are some things I can do, some things I can't do and some things I'm meant to do, which is why I have the feeling that I wanted to do something which would put me as far away from the image of the boy that dressed as a priest as much as it possibly could, even though I still had the feeling through the majority of my teen life of: 'this is what you're supposed to do in the future', this is why I also applied for and chose Law as my university degree at Sixth Form so I could become a lawyer. Until the very last minute, when I bumped into one friend that asked 'what do you want to do', and another that said 'what should you do'. And now, whilst writing this blog post, 4 years after the army application, 10 years and then some after I first went to a dress-up Halloween party, I've landed myself at a discernment weekend, in a seminary,...

For the Catholic Priesthood.

Funny how things have worked out, eh?

     By way of things you can, can't and are meant to do, every single person in this world (yup, all near 7 billion of us) is called to live their life by God in a way which is pleasing to God, righteous in God and humble through God, and in doing so we create a better world for the time we are on it, for the time for those that come after us and that we may be one with God.

     You are called by God to holiness. You are made by God to seek him, to love him and to serve him... (a roughly worded version of CCC, 1)*

Well that sounds simple enough.

     And it is, it is a simple call which we can hear, and it can lead our lives to the greatest things. But as with any path in life, we need to find out what is the right one. And because our lives and society is so busy, we need to take time out to hear this call, listen to it and find out what it is. Many people ask, in response to the vocations below, 'but I don't feel that I should do any of these things, I don't think this is what my life is for, is my normal life not enough to live?'

Of course it is enough, living a good and moral life is good, not just for you,but for other people, this 'normal' is just as sanctifying, it's a shame that when we focus on the lives of so  many saints in a monastic or ordained vocation, we forget that there are just as many that lived ordinary lives in the world. To have a job and do it well is sanctifying, to raise a family and raise them as well as you can is sanctifying, to live a life and  live it morally, ethically and in the direction of God is sanctifying, don't forget it!

    However, in addition to the universal call to holiness, where our job is to strive to be saints, there are other vocations and ministries in the Church which we may be called to, the main ones being:

(clicking on the title of the vocation will take you to the blog on it, if it has been published)




The Holy Orders: Diaconate, Presbyterate & Episcopate





Marriage

     The calling to any of these vocations is a tailor-made invitation to you, but by no means are you obligated to follow it or do it even if you know that it is your true vocation. But, this invitation is what you are made to do in your entirety, if you choose something different, you, of course, can; but whether it is as suited to you, or that you'd be as fulfilled is something to find out.

    Depending on which vocation you feel called to, and who you speak to there are different parts and stages to vocational discernment. If the discernment requires the Church or an Order to be involved there are 2 parts, informal and formal discernment alongside personal stages of prayer and how far along your journey you are.

    Informal discernment for any vocation always begins with you. There must be a relationship with you and God, a prayerful mind is a good one to have, and is a staple feature in every path, indeed life of all Christians. Time in prayer before the blessed sacrament is a hailed method by every spiritual director. You are literally sat in front of God, it is the most visible and tangible way to connect with him, so why not use this intimacy? Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta was once asked by an aspirant sister: 'I know I must pray and think hard, but how do I know if God wants me to do this?', she replied with 'sit in front of the sacrament, don't think, don't speak, don't do anything but listen and open your heart to him and you will know if he wants you to'. When it comes to Holy Orders or the Religious Life, after spending a few weeks or months (it depends entirely on how you feel for timeline, but it needs to be thought of seriously) on it if the call to these vocations is still there and persistent, then it's a good point in time to make contact with either the parish priest, for Holy Orders, or the novitiate master at a monastery or convent of the order you feel most attracted to the charism of. There are some great books out there to help with this, e.g.: To Save a Thousand Souls – Fr. Brett Brennan, Christ: The Ideal of a Priest – Bl. Marmion. With marriage and celibacy, the informal discernment comes within the relationship you have with your partner, and getting having a go at living with out on, focusing on whether this is the relationship for you, whether you could choose to love this person when the 'honeymoon' emotions eventually go. Love is not a feeling, at least not solely, it is an action, you do love, you choose to. With celibacy the questions are 'what can I do for others through being available for everyone', 'would I engage with God more in this way', 'is this the lifestyle in which I will effectively serve and was made to serve in?'. I have written a piece on single life (the previous post to this one) and there are no doubt I many more posts out there which one can find on this, do have a look round, as with all lifestyles look to other people who have tried it.

     Formal discernment begins when it is time to approach the Church with a desire to formally declare your interest in an order, the priesthood, marriage or (some places do) consecration as a celibate. For Holy Orders and Religious Life, after contact and visits with monasteries or vocations directors there will come a time when it is right to apply to join the order or apply to a seminary. The Church will listen, help and guide you during this time if the novitiate master or director feels it is the right time to do so. But it doesn't stop there, it carries on through the novitiate phase and in seminary, so there is plenty of time to find out and truly find out as you discern and the church does with you. In marriage, the formal part is intertwined with the consideration of engagement. If you go to your parish priest and say 'we want to get married', the Church can help here to with meetings to voice worries and ask questions, getting married can be just as daunting and anything else!

     While this is all well and good (as it will be for some), for everyone it will be difficult at least some of the way through discernment. Some will feel that it is too much and try and get away from it, I know I tried. One must always keep in mind that while you are meant to be searching for your purpose, if your sole is not at peace with the path you are on, it probably isn't right, there is a difference in worrying that it may be a lot to give up in some vocations, but be sure that it is not confused with it being wrong for you. Another important point is that you must be sure that the reason you discern any vocation is that you are not running away from something. Using a vocation to get away from something else is unfortunately more common than one may think and these issues must be sorted out, otherwise it may well cloud judgement and good reasoning. For example: priesthood and consecrated life should not be used because you may have commitment issues or relationship problems, these vocations are just these: commitments and relationships with the Church and God, likewise marriage and lay celibacy should not be used because one may be afraid of a religious calling.


There will be further posts on the purpose of each vocation in this series, so watch out! Pray, and if you haven't thought about it before, think, even if just for a minute, on YOUR purpose and vocation.

Andy

*CCC - Catechism of the Catholic Church (it contains pretty much all of the teachings you would ever need to know (it's a good book, get it!))

Friday, 2 January 2015

The Call of Duty - Vocations Series: The Relationship in Singleness & Celibacy

This post is featured as a guest article in the 'Godly Hearts Column' Series of the blog: annieanais.wordpress.com

J+M+J

A white dress, a sharp suit, a flowered-up church, overpriced cake, a big party and a killer hangover the next morning... Does this ring any (wedding) bells?

Of course it does! It's what happens to everyone at some point, isn't it? To trundle up to that decorated altar and say the words that promise yourself to another person, the day which makes them your life companion, joy and happiness!

Well, actually, maybe not everyone.  The truth of life is, not everyone gets married, and not everyone has a romantic relationship. Sorry, may have made that sound a bit worse than it is. You'd be surprised, but, a large number of people stay single for life, or at some point choose to live that way for a myriad of reasons.

(If you're single and know that one day you're going to  have (or are looking for, over the course of your life:) a relationship and what follows on, then you're going to have to wait for the article in this series that is going to address that, i'm just addressing long/lifetime singleness and celibacy (sorry!), if you have a question for them to answer in their piece on singleness while waiting for a relationship then fire away on the link here. My advice until then: hold on, keep calm and carry on, talk to a friend on how you feel, confide and pray.

The concept of singleness celibacy in this modern, secular world may strike some as a bit, well, odd. The done thing these days is to go out to a club, bar, social, or even out with friends and hope to God you may at some point find a lovely lad or lass, and one day fall in love. But, it doesn't always work out like that.

This article is going to cover, in this format:

  • Why people choose to be single and celibate. 
  • Celibacy as a vocation and in vocations.
  • My thoughts on celibacy, personal engagement, struggles and discussion with celibates and married people about this way of life.
  • Solutions to my struggles and advice for those considering single life and other vocations.


1. So why do some people choose to live a life on their own? 

People choose to live singly for some common and uncommon reasons, some because of personal choices or experiences and likewise for religious. Some may have had a bad experience in a relationship, or have vicariously found that relationships can cause problems, can get hurt and that's not something they wish to handle. Some feel that they are not the right material for a relationship, and so choose not to. Some are quite content on their own and there's no need for them to change that.

These are some personal reasons as to why one may stay single and choose celibacy. 'But wait!', I hear you say, 'what has this got to do with God, and how do I engage and think about this as a Christian?'

'As a Christian' is a fundamental point. In my church (Catholic) the single life is a part of many ways of coming closer to God. Celibacy is a way in which one may follow the way Christ lived, singly and chastely. To imitate Christ is one of the best ways a Christian can grow, and is something we should all strive for. As well as a choice in imitating Christ, it is also regarded as a vocation and a gift. It is a vocation which must be discerned, thought through and prayed about, it is a calling. This calling may be a feeling that God is asking them to give up what could be part of their lives to serve him in a different way than to raise a family, this may be through spending more time in prayer, working for the Church ('big c 'as in institution), focusing on your spiritual life, your love for God and his love for you. Another lot of reasons is for helping others in their spiritual lives by being a role model (single people that work at their lives in God tend to be very good guides for others in ways different to those in relations, it appears). In my discussion with celibate priests, lay and married people, there is always a mention of the profound example which celibates show, something different about them spiritually and that there is a certain 'wisdom of celibates' in their ability to look at other people's love from the outside and offer advice.

2. Celibacy as a vocation and in vocations.
One may choose to be celibate in a vocational context such as 'Holy Orders' (as a Deacon, Priest or Bishop) or in the 'Consecrated Life' as a monk or nun.

As a person in Holy Orders there is much more time to be with the people, whatever time they are needed, they are much more available. As a celibate in Holy Orders or the Consecrated Life one can truly dedicate themselves entirely to God, he is the only focus in these lives. It is somewhere said that those who give up and offer for God shall receive great things in his kingdom. In being celibate, there is a striving to aspire to be like those in His kingdom, and for its sake. (Matthew. Ch. Somewhere, Verse. Somewhere).

However, as a vocation, celibacy is not a throwaway of a relationship, which as you may have read in the title to be a juxtaposition, but it is a removal of a bond on earth with people, to a new relationship and bonding with God. As it is in a religious vocation, just as for the common person, you should not enter single life out of fear, but love. If you fear marriage and relationships as a whole, then it will be equally difficult to engage with God, they are, and must be similar interactions.

3. Thoughts, engagement and discussion about celibacy

My thoughts on celibacy, if you haven't picked up already, are quite positive, very much so. In fact, as a person feeling a call and discerning the priesthood, I must at the same time discern and try to engage with celibacy. Of course, I've had my worries, doubts and issues with the thought of, and engaging with it, I'd be concerned if I wasn't worried in some way. You may think, as most people would, the celibate way of life is a lot to grasp. And, you're right, so very right. For any Tom, Dick or Harry, thinking that you could be spending a large amount of time or your whole life as a single person is quite truly daunting, and single life can be a real struggle, here are some of the things others and I have faced:

Loneliness. Loneliness can be absolutely depressing, even at the best of times.

Envy. Yes, envy, when you choose to not engage but see some great people in great relationships it can be challenging to be around them and not feel like you're missing out, everyone gets it at some point, I'd be lying if I said I didn't.

Love. Indeed, it is a bit problematic that even though you may choose to discern and try to completely give your life to God and his service in the fashion of a single lifestyle, that doesn't stop you from fancying someone or falling in love. OK, all cards on the table, this is very much the same with marriage or long-term relationships (sorry), being quite frank, sometimes you may fancy someone when you're in either of these, too. When you're single, it is almost inevitable that immediately having made the decision to think about single life, someone very lovely may well just turn up on the spot, and you become great friends. A great struggle is maintaining that friendship and making sure it doesn't go anywhere further, it could hurt one or both of you.

Feeling that being single is not normal. I must admit, it can feel as though you are doing something very alien, some of my friends seem to think so anyway, which is then compounded by their attempts to take me out to a club or bar, find a lovely lady and one day fall in love with her, oh dear, de javu...
They are very keen to quote a saying from St. Augustine: 'Give me chastity and countenance... just not yet!'


 But here's something I've learnt while discerning this, and from receiving encouragement from some friends and mentors: you need to trust, a lot. You need to trust in God the same way in which you have faith in him and surrender to him. As with all things, giving something up is hard, companionship, I expect for most people, definitely is (we are humans, and we are made for each other after all). The surrendering part, in any aspect of life (particularly with life in God), is difficult, but we must. I was told that although there is something you're giving up, what you receive from God is exponentially larger, and I must admit, that there are noticeable differences in how I feel and what has happened to me by discerning and engaging with the single life; it has become succinctly positive, even coming to feel that along with priesthood or not, God may be calling me to be single. The way I interact with God, how I feel, pray, think and talk has changed dramatically, I wouldn't believe it if I saw it a year ago! The love for Him has increased, and the way I treat and love other people, friends, family and strangers is better, a great sense of relief, lightness and joy!

4. Some solutions to my problems and advice for those considering Single Life or Celibacy in other vocations.

Just as I had the struggles listed above, there were also solutions, thankfully! For loneliness, I've got to say, as well as Christ being an ever present companion, I have some great friends, priests and directors to talk about this with and get on with life! There must be a good part of acceptance of the loneliness in the single life, and an active use of the time spent with the availability one has as a single person. At times when I feel like i'm missing out, it's usually because I've forgotten the reason as to why I am discerning and trying to follow this way of living, the bigger picture and relationship with God must be the number one, and it is very true, this way of life is also a way of glorifying God, and serving him. At the times when there is a soft spot for someone, well, do your best, try not put yourselves in tough situations.

The hardest part which caused the greatest amount of worry about being single is that it is usually thought that it is weird and not OK, when actually, yes, it is OK, it's more than OK, in fact God takes pleasure in who you are, who you were made to be, and he calls people to do different things in life, and so, in a society where it's pretty much set by others how you're meant to get through life (as I described at the very beginning of this article; that everyone has to find someone); just stop. Take a moment and think... just wait... because, what if, bizarrely, this person that i'm meant to find and love with all my heart, to be my center, my 'life companion, joy and happiness' is Jesus?



If you feel called or interested in celibacy or a vocation that includes celibacy, do some research, think, pray and talk to your priest, friends, family or church leaders, these are all important groups of people to involve yourself with and help you.

If you liked this article or have any questions check out the other upcoming posts on my blog about discernment and vocations, or ask a question to Annie, or through her to me!

Thanks for reading,
Andy

Friday, 31 October 2014

Boo! It's Halloween!

J+M+J
                              (Everyone makes fun of Catholics until they need an exorcism...)

Halloween, its History and Why it's Important to Pray for the Dead.

It's that spooky time of the year again, where the fantasy of ghouls, ghosts and gargoyles comes alive... 

     Some of you may be celebrating this festivity by partying with a dark theme, carving pumpkins, apple-bobbing or watching a scary movie or two (as my humble student household did, and it's important to publicly note here that a certain house mate which swears he is un-scare-able didn't half-jump out of his skin whilst we watched 'The Rite'), and it's good that you do, too; it's important to keep this festival in mind... But why, and what's behind it all?

     Due to the vast secularisation of most religious holidays it seems that the meaning behind all of the dress-up has, well, disappeared. The holiday isn't quite about the celebration of witches or ghouls, but more about honouring the saints and  praying for the souls of those whom have recently departed.

     Halloween, All Hallows' Eve or All Saints' Eve is the vigil, the eve of the feast day of All Saints. A lot of the traditions which are carried out on this night, even in the secular environments, come from medieval superstition mixed into the Christian culture, for example Lighting bonfires came from the sentiment that the light would guide the souls, which are yet to reach heaven, on their way. The dressing-up side of this occasion came from a couple of  traditions: Churches used to display relics, which people could visit to see a tangible link to a saint and pray for intercession. The parishes which did not have relics would have children dress as the saints instead. A good reason for the 'guising' of monsters is to poke fun at evil, and to show courage against the devil. 

     The belief in the Communion of the Saints is what this feast day is all about, that we still have a connection with those that have died. As I sat in mass today the priest gave this great summary: 'Whenever people, particularly of religion, ask me: "why should we pray for those that have gone?" I'll just laugh'. 'Those that say that they love and ask that question are contradicting what the entire principle of what love is, love does not die, and those that are religious should know this sentiment and feeling, Although Jesus has gone up to heaven, we still feel his love, just because a friend of mine is a long distance away, does not mean I don't still think of them or say hello. Just as it is on-line, prayer can be like the social media pages, although we are not with someone we can poke a friend to get their attention or tweet them, prayer is a way of saying hello, too, and so such is the same when we honour and pray for the souls of the dead. That is why, if asked that question, I'll just laugh'.

So now you know! And do pray for those souls!

Have a safe night,
Andy

A much more detailed article: http://www.ucatholic.com/blog/halloween-and-catholicism/
Pope Francis on the Devil: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/the-devil-is-no-myth-hes-real-and-we-must-fight-him-pope-says-84177/

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Yet Another Black Mass...

J+M+J

In Tulsa, Oklahoma, America, on the 21st September 2014 there is to be a 'Black Mass'.

Some of you may know what it is, others; an idea of what it is and most of you: no idea whatsoever...

     If anyone has had the opportunity and misfortune of studying the liturgy (Latin or translated versions)  of the Black Mass as extensively as I have, you will, no doubt, also have knowledge of the strands of Non-/ Theistic Satanism, but for those that don't: allow me to explain briefly (very briefly, this stuff is extensive!) some back-story to the whole situation, what happens, the issues which arise from such events and the theology behind it all...

     The Satanic Black Mass, usually performed by theistic Satanists  (Meaning that the Devil or Satan, etc. is a dualistic, REAL power parallel to the Trinitarian God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit) to invoke him for fulfilment of intentions, just as the Catholic Mass is offered for various intentions to God. The Liturgy of this Black Mass is usually a polarised formula of what is known as the Extraordinary Form of the Mass or a Pre-Second Vatican Council version of the Mass. It is in Latin, and has references to Heaven, God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit removed and replaced with descriptions glorifying Hell and such like. Additionally, the Host (which is the wafer used in the Catholic Mass to be consecrated by a priest or bishop to be made the body of Christ) is somehow taken from a Catholic church, having been consecrated and made the Body of Christ and is abused in the Black Mass. 

     This is the most profane part of the event, a mass which has been constructed in sole purpose and intention to mock and ridicule a Faith and it's beliefs, manages to take what is believed by 1.2 Billion Catholics, and more if you are to include other Christians whom believe in the transubstantiation, (the aforementioned Body of Christ in the Host) in the world to be Christ in a Sacrament, a sign of his presence on Earth, and remove all dignity by irreverence through abuse to the Host. The abuses I write about are through releasing certain bodily  materials and other unmentionable things onto it. A further act is that in some Black Masses, there have been instances in which people have been kidnapped and forced to be used in a mass for the most heinous and unthinkable of things, as was the case in Italy a few years ago. It seems that cults over the last decade all over the world have been increasing, and as such, even if people join for fun or curiosity, the opportunity for these masses may also increase, and hopefully not increase other people being dragged into it.

     I fail to see how a civic centre and government institution can allow a surely fear-mongering mockery to take place, especially in a country which has been so heavily influenced and accumulated great progression through Christian involvement in politics. Sacrilege, even if only demonstrated as 'educational' is not free speech, is not an expression of free speech when it offends and takes what a vast percentage of the world population holds close to their heart to deface it.

     This event has already grabbed the attention of the Archbishop and Bishop of Oklahoma and Tulsa. They are urging people (and I ask too, for any of you too who can see the issue as a matter of principle) to pray, particularly the prayers of St. Michael and Pope Leo XIII. 

     The people's voice mattered and was heard when this had taken place in Harvard, and so the chance to voice against it again can happen, there is a petition on-line, which you may find here: http://www.tfpstudentaction.org/stop-black-mass-oklahoma-city.html#.U-DRhQQ_BRE.facebook

Thanks for taking the time to read, as always if there are questions you may have: feel free to ask and comment!

Andy...

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Rosary Fumbling... A (Very) Brief Informational...

Attention!: This post contains Mariology (stuff about Mary, Jesus' mum) and other Catholic practices!

J+M+J

Attention (Part 2)!: Other questions that have been asked and are up for consideration; but didn't quite make this post:

1. 'If you were to mix God with AI technology what would happen, would it be something like SkyNet?' 

2. 'Do you get a wish if you get to heaven?'

3. 'If god is better than we are, how come we can think up unicorns but he can’t make them?

4. 'Same with mermaids.'

I've come to realise over the last couple of months with sharply increasing frequency that a certain, seemingly odd, pattern of beads is catching the attention of friends and 'randomers' as they walk by (hopefully not thinking I belong to something similar to 'The Boondock Saints' sort of crowd), sometimes prompting quite a few people to voice questions about 'the Rosary'. So, here's the answer to all those who have asked or have ever wondered, but on the internet...

     The general populace has often stopped me in my tracks (by which I mean hunting down a local pub for a pint... or many, or in the pub and halfway through consuming a pint... or many), to ask what the whole thing is about; quite oft in the fashion of...

'What's that?', 'What are you doing with it?'

Well, this is a rosary, a set of prayer beads and I am using them to help me pray... The rosary is what we categorise as a devotional prayer, an act in which we seek (in this devotion to Our Lady) to ask Mary to pray for us to God. The exact origin of the rosary is pretty obscure, but some church tradition depicts it originated from a vision from the Virgin Mary giving a rosary to St. Dominic. The Rosary is a good way of praying with a tangible object, a focus which also helps you keep count of where you are in the prayer!

Some Christians of the non-Catholic persuasion may also ask, having noticed them:
(This question can also be followed with a question on whether this classes as worshipping Mary instead of God, kind of a no-no, and a good question to ask!)

     Thankfully, no it's not a heresy! Christians may notice in the Creed that they state that they ascribe to believing in this thing called the 'Communion of Saints'. This is where people in heaven (saints) can still pray with and for people (no rest for the wicked, eh?); it is much the same as asking your friend to pray for you. This is the logic we apply when asking Mary to pray for us when using the rosary or in general.

     And so, one goes around the Rosary saying that famed Hail Mary prayer on little beads and Our Fathers on the big beads, thinking about events in Jesus' life which are either quite mysterious or have levels of mysteriousness about them... these events are, in fact, categorised with the wonderfully original name : The Mysteries.

     'But can't we just pray to Jesus and God directly?' I may hear forming in your mind... Absolutely, but this can be thought of as putting in a good word for you, giving them something to pray for when you need the extra support/ someone with the time to do it, or giving your prayer or the feeling you have to someone or something that can better articulate it, sometimes we ourselves don't quite know how to say everything perfectly or easily after all!

     Indeed, 'cool beans'...

*Hilarious end-of-post picture here*











If there are more or unresolved questions on various things that Catholics or other religions do, feel free to comment!


Andy