Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, Lex Vivendi

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Wow, it’s been a while.  Over a year.  The year following my graduation from CUA was a good, albeit busy one.  I spent a year following a dream of mine, and am now taking the next step into the world, looking to return to our Nation’s capitol, this time as a permanent resident, rather than a sojourning student who stops by for 4 years and leaves.  What can I say, the District grew on me… And here I am, a year older.

A lot has passed in this year.  We lost one Holy Father, we gained a new Holy Father.  His Holiness, Benedict XVI, Pontiff Emeritus, was MY Holy Father.  He was mine, just as Blessed John Paul II was the Holy Father of those who grew up in the 80′s and 90′s.  Yes, I knew about JPII, but Benedict was the Holy Father when I started getting interested in the Church.  He was the Holy Father when I was really learning about the Church and Her vast theological and liturgical treasures.  He was the Holy Father throughout my formative years, and to, well, just lose him like that, was heartbreaking.  Yes, yes, I know, he isn’t dead, but a huge part of me died when he left the Seat.  Without him, we were not only Fatherless for almost 2 weeks, but I still, at times, feel fatherless.  Yes, we have Pope Francis.  Yes, I have grown to love Pope Francis, but he isn’t MY Holy Father, in the same way that Benedict wasn’t the Holy Father of the previous generation, and wont be of the next one.

Anyway, that brings me to the point of why I even started writing this post.  Lex orandi, lex crendi, lex vivendi.  The Law of prayer is the law of belief, which is the law of life.  Let’s start with the basic definition.  As we are told in the Catechism,

The Church’s faith precedes the faith of the believer who is invited to adhere to it. When the Church celebrates the sacraments, she confesses the faith received from the apostles – whence the ancient saying: lex orandi, lex credendi (or: legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi, according to Prosper of Aquitaine). The law of prayer is the law of faith: the Church believes as she prays. Liturgy is a constitutive element of the holy and living Tradition.

That is, to say that how we pray is equal to what we believe, which influences how we live our lives.  This right here is a crucial statement to understanding the point and influence of the liturgy in our lives.  Liturgy is a very sensual act,  that is, to say, it involves the use of our senses.  Hearing, touching, seeing, smelling, and speaking.

Hearing.  
We, as a people, are a people of hearing.  We listen.  We listen to one another, we listen to God, we listen to ourselves.  We listen to friends, and yes, even to enemies.  It is by listening that we learn.  We hear the voice of God, audibly and inaudibly.  Because of this, hearing is an integral part of the liturgy.  We listen to the priest, preparing to make our response.  We listen to those bells, signifying the sacred mystery we ourselves are witnessing before us on the altar, when ordinary bread is changed into the Body of Christ, and that cup of wine becomes the Most Sacred Blood poured forth for us on the cross.  We listen to the music, whatever it might be.  Latin or English, chant or metrical hymnody, traditional or modern.  Whatever it is, it influences us and the liturgy, for better or for worse.

Speaking.
Again, we all like to talk.  Talking goes hand in hand with speaking and listening.  We talk.  We talk to know another, we talk to God, we even, from time to time, talk to ourselves.  (Though, I wouldn’t start worrying too much about that last one until I start hearing answers…)  Anyway, without talking, there would be nothing to hear.  Again, talking is a very integral part of the liturgy.  It is by talking that we receive the invitation “Dominus vobiscum.  The Lord be with you.” It is by talking that we respond “Et cum spiritu tuo.  And with your spirit.”  By talking we interact with each other.  By talking, we invite others to share in the peace of Christ.  By talking, we give our consent, Amen., to what we are about to receive.  In talking, we confess our sins to the priest and beg forgiveness of God.  In talking, we follow the old adage, those who sing, pray twice.  Again, Latin or English, chant or metrical, traditional or modern, we are talking to God and one another, spreading his light for the world.

Touch.
We do this one a lot too.  We touch icons, we touch statues, relics, all hoping to bring Christ into our lives.  We touch each other, whether it is at the Sign of Peace, or comforting our brothers and sisters in their time of need.  It is by using our hands that we are who we are, completing the work that we are doing in our own lives for Christ, from confecting the Eucharist, to comforting the sorrowful, to burying the dead, to feeding the hungry and clothing the naked.  We do it because we can use our hands and touch, not just in the physical sense of touching something, but by being there and comforting.  We “touch” the lives of those we help for the better by following the commands of Christ.

Seeing and Smelling.
This brings us to sight and smell.  We see everything, as a visual people.  We see the vestments that the Priest is wearing.  We see something that may look nice, we see something that may look bad.  We see flowers that may look nice at first, but also ones that look bad once they have withered.  We see churches that look nice, and we see churches that look downright ugly.  We smell something that may smell nice, such as fresh flowers and nice quality incense, to things that smell bad, like crappy incense and old, musty vestments that have been in a closet for decades.  Either way, we see and smell, perhaps the most.

Now, you might be asking yourself, if you are still even reading at this point, why I just spent about 1000 words talking about the liturgy and our senses.  Well, let me answer that for you.  It is through our senses, as we just established, that we live our lives, specifically, liturgical ones. It is through Christ that we have these senses, and it is through him that we put them to use.  Remember way up there when I talked about Benedict being my pope, and no matter what, Francis will never mean anything to me the way Benedict did, though I love him nonetheless?  Well, part of that has to do with the fact that Benedict’s liturgies were very sensual.  They involved the use of the senses, from his use of Latin and chant, to the visually pleasing vestments, along with the other aspects of his liturgical papacy, made your host extremely pleased to tune into them and watch.  I was never disappointed.  And, well, 6 months into his papacy, Francis leaves a lot to desire in this regard.  I know, I know, they are different men and have different styles, but one of the things that I loved about Benedict is that though everything could be the same, there was always something different.  It was never the same old thing every time he said Mass.  He used the collection of surplices, albs, copes, stoles, chasubles, miters, etc available to him in the Papal Sacristy.  Francis, on the other hand, doesn’t.  He uses the same few miters, the same essential decoration on the chasubles, the same alb, never dresses like a bishop.  It leaves things to be desired.

I know, I know, they are two different men with two different styles.  I love Francis.  I love how he has renewed our focus onto fixing worldly problems in the manner of Christ.  I love how he celebrated a prayer vigil, not only for Syria, but to end world violence!  We NEED this.  Don’t get me wrong, we desperately need an end to violence in this world, and without prayer, nothing is going to even come close to succeeding.  But does it have to look so damn bad?  Can we please let the Papal MC’s dress to the honors they have earned?  Can the Pope please look like the pope, and wear the proper vestments for such liturgical acts?  Things like this prayer vigil are important.  The ideals are important and need to desperately reach all corners of the globe, including my own heart, but if we are going to liturgize everything, can it at least be good-looking liturgy?  Please???

Remember, lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi.  If we want to influence the way we live our lives, we must first allow the influence of what we believe to influence how we pray, which then, and only then, will influence and change how we live our lives.

So, if you happened to be one of the few people to reach this far.  Pray for me.  Desperately and fervently pray for me.  I am in need of your prayers.  I want to love Francis the way I love Benedict.  I want to, really, but I need your prayers to help with this.

Saying Goodbye

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Well, here we are, at the end of another semester. Only, for me, this is not only the end of the semester, but also the end of an era, the end of an experience. You see, God-willing, I will graduate on May 12th, and officially possess a Bachelor of Arts in History. I have had many great expierences here at CUA, along with some not-so-great ones as well. However, let us remember the great ones, and grow from the those which weren’t so great.

To my friends, you have all been supportive of me these past four years in ways that I could never imagine, and I hope I have been just as supportive to you. Without my friends, my roommates, my professors, the priests, the occasional 2 x 4, and yes, even the work, my experiences here at CUA would not have been the same. It wouldn’t be the family that I love so much. And so, maybe this post shouldn’t be “Saying Goodbye”, and should be, “Until Next Time”.

The same goes for you, my loyal readers. While I hope that I will continue posting on a regular basis, without the weight of the class on my shoulders, chances are that I will forget, or can’t, for one reason or another. And so, until next time,

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Godspeed, and Good Luck!

First they came…

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While reading my fellow classmate Chris’s blog post, Applied History Lessons or Self-Serving Propaganda, I was reminded of the old poem, First they came…  This relates in a big way to this current attack on religious liberty and the family that we are all dealing with right now.  Before I continue with my thoughts on this subject, allow me to reprint the poem here for you.

First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.  Anti-Catholicism is the only biogtry left in the United States that is still acceptable for the majority of the population.  If you want to attack religion, you don’t attack the religion, you attack the Catholics and call it an attack on religion.

This is what the government is doing right now, only, they are attacking more than religion.  Yes, they are attacking religious liberty.  However, they are attacking something much greater than religious liberty.  The Church considers the family the “Domestic Church.”  This Church is being attacked in the same way that religious liberty is being attacked.  By forcing Catholic institutions to close rather than violate their consciences, the government is attacking families as well.  For it is these institutions which protect the rights of the family.  These institutions will help anyone in need, no questions asked.  They will do it with as much love and care as you can expect from a family member.  They are a family in their own way, and care for you like you always have been, and always will be a member of their family.

They came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.  We must all stand together and defend our Religious Institutions and families.  We must defend these truths that we all know, and hold them as close to our hearts as we hold our family members.

They came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.  I pray that this will never be the case.  I pray that we not only speak up for others, but that others will come to the defense of the Church and the Family, as She has faithfully done for 2 millenia.  May this day never come, but when she is silenced, there will truly be no one left to speak for me or for you.

Babies, Babies, and more babies

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So I’m sitting in Starbucks right now, and was at a loss on what to write, so my friend, Chris Anderson, suggested that I write about babies.  So, without further ado, here are my thoughts on babies.

Babies are beautiful.  Babies are wonderful.  I love babies.  Even more, I love watching babies.   The best part about watching babies is that I get to give them back to their parents after I am done watching them.

Honestly though, babies are wonderful, and I truly do not understand how someone could murder an unborn baby.  Besides the fact that this person is a living , breathing, little human being with a beating heart, they are just so darn cute.  How could anyone harm someone that cute????   And so, I pray, that everyone who God has given the grace to become pregnant, whether the pregnancy was planned or not, to have the courage and strength to carry the baby to term, and allow the cute little baby to be raised with as much, if not lots and lots more, love that they were given while being raised.

The Catholic University of America: The Groups

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Here at CUA, I have been blessed to take part in many different activities, and be a part of many different organizations.  These organizations have all been a part of my family  It is because of the members that I have stayed in all these different groups.

I will be completly honest.  I almost left Esto Vir after my freshman year, thinking it wasn’t for me because I had my issues with the leadership, and thought everyone who was in charge was like that.  What kept me?  People like Ryan Gebhart (even though I didn’t know him that well at the time) or Chris Anderson.  People like Jimmy Kimmel and and Kieran Kelly.  People who had truly become something that we all strive for, and something that Esto Vir is based on:  Brotherhood.  It is these because of these friends, nay, these brothers that I stayed in Esto Vir.

My Brothers in Esto Vir carrying me through the ropes course on a brotherhood weekend.

The Knights of Columbus, on the other hand, doesn’t strive for brotherhood, but fraternity.  It is with the knights as well that I found brothers.  People like Drew, and Alex.  People like Tim and Ryan.  Father Frank has always been there when needed (Thanks again for that ride home from Providence Father!)  People like Tim and Brett, like Victor, Ajani, and Andrew.  It was with these great group of guys that I was able to liturgy-geek it out all the time.

These Groups have also been found in other places.  It was through RENEW that I became great friends with a great group of people.  Steve, Bridget, Nora, Marley, Kathleen, and (the ever occasional) Joe and Conor.  It was with you all that I grew deeper in my faith, that I really started to expand my eyes and insight into the Gospel (when we actually read it) outside of my own small understanding.

Last, but certanitly not least, out of all  the groups I have been a part of here at Catholic, World Youth Day has certainly been one of the best.  It was an ecclectic group of people, and everyone there clearly knew a few people, but not everyone, and we all turned into one big family through all of the trials we were put through, from our first flight being cancelled, to loosing our bags at JFK, and having to wear the same clothes, to the long days and hot nights of Madrid, we all got to know each other very well.   I became great friends with some great people that trip, and being thrust back into CUA without the same people that I was living with for the past 2 weeks was rather weird.

Some of the group outside of the Prado, in Madrid

It is with these great groups that I developed my family, grew into great relationships, and will certainly miss every day I am not here.

What God has joined…now bring it to fulfillment…

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“What God has joined, men must not divide.”

“May God, who has begun this good work in  you, now bring it to fulfillment.”

Most people will hear these words at one point or another, whether in their own  Nuptials, Ordinations, or Religious Professions.  It is important, because it shows that God must be involved in your life.

“What God has joined, men must  not divide.”

“May God, who has begun this good work in  you, now bring it to fulfillment.”

Both of these statements show that God is involved in all things.  God brought the bride and bridegroom together, just as he brought that man or woman to lie prostrate before the Altar during the Litany of Saints.  God brings us together.  He creates a new family, for, as Genesis states “Wherefore a man shall leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they shall be two in one flesh.”  In a Nuptial Mass, the Man and Woman leave their respective families and create a new one.   A man leaves his family, marries the Church, and his parish or community becomes his family.   A woman leaves her family, marries Christ, and her religious community becomes her new family.   For the women religious, this new family can be so new that they are given a new name!  We all have families, and we will all leave our families at one point or another, for our new families.

Let us remember that we cannot divide these new families, for God, in his infinite wisdom, has started this good work in all of us and will bring it all to fulfillment.

The Catholic University of America: The Shrine

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In 1909, Bishop Thomas Shahan, the Fourth Rector of The Catholic University of America, applied for Permission to Pope Pius X to build a National Shrine to the Blessed Mother…

In 1921, Bishop Shahan received a letter from a woman named Mary Downs…

In 1932, the first chapel dedicated outside of the Crypt Church, the Chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes, was dedicated…

Above the east doors is a mosaic depicting Creation.  In the center is the hand of God, below the hand of God Adam and Eve, and below Adam and Eve is a mound of dirt.  Within the mound of dirt is a 21-week old baby in it’s mother’s womb…

These statues are of saints that are  known here as the nobody saints, and they remind us that we all have a chance…

You may be asking yourself, “What do all these statements have in common?”  Well, they are all various different statements about the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.   Mary’s House has really become a second home to me throughout my four years there.  Whether the Sisters, or Fr. W or Fr. B, or the Rector.  I have stayed overnight there, I have helped there through thick and thin, and will truly miss it.  I will grieve over moving away from this family.  The office has been amazing, even during all of the trials.  I will miss giving tours, sharing this beautiful building with the rest of the world.  These statements have all, in fact, come from various parts of the tour!

Most of all, I will miss the part that truly has been the physical “house”.  The sanctuary.  The Sacristy.  The liturgy office.  It is this part where I feel that I truly felt at home.  It is in the sanctuary where I served God through the Mass, the sacristy where I spent time with the Sisters, who have become like second, third, fourth, and fifth mothers to me, and the liturgy office where I learned that I do not know how to say no.

The Shrine has been like a family to me, and it is a family that I will miss.

The Catholic University of America: The People

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My good friend, and classmate, Kieran, wrote a post on why he loves CUA.  I thought it to be a very fitting post as we both are coming to the end of our undergraduate careers here at CUA, and then being propelled in to bigger and better things and places, all because of what we learned here at CUA.

So, why do I love CUA?  There are many different reasons.  It not only has been place of residence for the past four years, it truly has been my home.  I have grown here more then I ever dreamed possible.  I have learned who I really am.  I have never once feared returning g to CUA.  In fact, I looked forward to returning to CUA after every break.

The Catholic University has become my home for many different reasons.  First off, CUA has amazing people, amazing groups, amazing offices, and an amazing Church right next door! (In  fact, I’m writing this by hand in  that amazing church!  Why am I writing this down?  I know not, but I digress…)

Lets start with some people.  I got to know my friends, people who I really do think I will be friends with for the rest of my life here at CUA.  People like Drew, and Kieran.  People like Chris, Chris, Ryan and Jimmy.  People like Tim, Ryan, and Zachary.  People like Frs. Frank, Vito, and Weston.  People like the Sisters.  These are all people who have influenced my life in a huge way.  I would  not be the person I am today without them.    I met them all in different places, through different things, at different times.  Whether at Freshman retreat under Bertha, or Esto Vir or Knights of Columbus, or even the Basilica, I am extremely grateful for the chances that I got here.

From Bertha, to Morality Pie, to Goffart, I will miss my home away from home.  I will miss all these fun times we have had together, but I will never forget.

“What kind of Catholics do they think we are?”

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It was with these words that, at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, of the Knights of Columbus, got a rousing round of appluase in the middle of his speech.  Carl Anderson, rewording that famous line from Winston Churchill’s famous speech to a Joint Session of Congress, “What kind of people do they think we are?”, posed that question to the government trying to take away our religious libertyl; trying to take away our first ammendment right, which clearly states that we have a Freedom of Religion, and not a Freedom of Worship.  It is with these short words that I hope to answer this question that the Supreme Knight posed.

What kind of Catholic am I?  Well, I am pretty sure the government thinks that I am the kind of Catholic willing to violate my conscience, willing to violate the solemn truths that I profess willingly and loudly. 

However, they are wrong.

I am not this kind of Catholic.  I am the kind of Catholic willing to stand up to the Government in all of her misleadings.  I am the kind of Catholic who will not violate my conscience in order for “healthcare” for all.  I am the kind of Catholic who will not tolerate these attacks on the family.  This very family that is the future of our once great country, which can be great again.  I am the kind of Catholic willing to stand up and profess my beliefs every chance I get!  I believe in One God.  I believe in Jesus Christ.  I believe in, and will adamently defend the sanctity of all human life from the unborn baby in it’s mother’s womb, to the elderly man who is dying in bed and deemed to “have no life.” 

But most of all, I am the kind of Catholic who will not stand idly by watching Catholic instutions make plans for closure.  Why must they close, you ask?  They must close because they are Catholic.  They will close, rather than violate their own consciences, contributing to this unfortunate culture of death.  This was relayed to those in attendance at the end of the breakfast by Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, S.V., Superior General of the Sisters of Life.

In their 151-year history, this congregation has, with the help of God, survived a Civil War on their doorstep, deadly epidemics, devastating floods, economic depression and tumultuous social upheaval. Today, however, they face a new, more insidious threat — their own government. Should HHS persist in implementing the [Interim Rule and its contraceptive] mandate without major modifications, the Congregation will be forced to curtail its mission. What war and disease could not do to the Congregation, the government of the United States will do. It will shut them down.

We cannot.  Nay, we MUST not stand around and watch this happen.  Wars, floods. and disease, just to name a few things, did not close down the Dominican Sisters of the Congregation of St. Cecilia.  But the government will.  For following their first ammendment right of freedom of religion.  For being Catholic.  For fighting for families and the unborn child.  For refusing to acknowledge the so-called “validity” of homosexual unions.  For refusing to accept and embrace the unfortunate state of our society in which sexuality rules all, and, God-forbid one wasn’t having sex 24/7.

And so, in following the words of the Supreme Knight, this is the kind of Catholic that I am.  The kind of Catholic that they think I am might be different, but it does not matter.  I am going to stand up and profess the truths of the Catholic faith wherever I am, even if it means dying the death of a martyr, or in prison.  We must all take these words to heart.  We must all listen to them, and, once more, as Mother Agnes Mary, in quoting Tolkein,

Hold your ground! … A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. … This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good earth, I bid you, stand!

 

And so, we must. 
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