Culture of Festivity

By Fr. Kyle Sanders

“The phenomenon of genuine celebration … is really present only in religious acts in which man, a creature, can grasp the truly ‘other’ and absolutely ‘new’ world of the glory of God.” – Johannes Pinsk

Jazz Festival. Jazz and Hertiage Stage 2014 by Mr. Schultz [http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jazz_and_Heritage_Stage_2014.jpg]

Jazz Festival. Jazz and Hertiage Stage 2014 by Mr. Schultz [http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jazz_and_Heritage_Stage_2014.jpg]

I’ve noticed that when I’m explaining New Orleans to people from somewhere else one particular phrase ends up coming out of my mouth: “We’re always looking for an excuse to party.” Without a doubt, we always seem to have a festival going on, especially during this time of the year before the weather has turned extra balmy. We just finished up April and May, when music is abundant at French Quarter, Festival, Jazz Fest, and Festivale Internationale.The Strawberry Festival wasn’t too far ago either. In South Louisiana, we seem to find things to celebrate: the Oyster Festival, the Frog Festival, the Pecan Festival, the Crawfish Festival, the Gretna Festival, and the list can go on and on…

Have you ever wondered why it is that we are so eager to celebrate? Why are we NOLA Catholics, at any moment, ready to get together, cook food, toast, dance, sing and drink? I submit it’s because our area is so culturally Catholic. Catholicism has been so inculturated into South Louisiana that we do things Catholic-y without even intending to. It has become an inheritance from previous generations. “That’s what we’ve always done.” I turn here to the quote, from the German theologian Johannes Pinsk, that started us.Genuine celebration is really only present in religious acts that show us, as St. Catherine so simply put it, “He is God and we are not.” In so doing, the dramatic glory of God is revealed. Catholics for nearly four centuries have experienced that profound mystery every Sunday and many, every day. Such an experience begins to shape the way we see the world, whether we were faith filled or not. We form, after years of attending (maybe not even participating) in Sunday mass a sense of celebration, of festivity.

This is where my favorite German philosopher comes in, Josef Pieper. In speaking of festivity, “To celebrate a festival means to do something which is in no way tied to other goals, which has been removed from all ‘so that’ and ‘in order to.’ True festivity cannot be imagined as residing anywhere but in the realm of activity that meaningful in itself.” Festivity, then, is just because. Worship is just because. Worship is done for the sake of the one worshipped and for no other reason.

The Beaune Altarpiece by Rogier va der Weyden

The Beaune Altarpiece by Rogier va der Weyden

The difficulty now is that many people have substituted the fruit of a culture of celebration and cast aside the tree.  So the “that’s what we’ve always done” syndrome, with regards to the celebrating, begins to settle in. No longer are those next generations attending mass that inspired the current culture. When one settles for the fruits and by doing so uproots the tree, eventually the fruit will rot and we will starve for festivity.

So try this… Enter into the whole ecosystem of the celebration of our Catholic faith. Don’t just eat the fruit but settle in the roots of the tree. Dwell within the true celebration and culture of festivity that is Catholicism.

photoFr. Kyle Sanders grew up in Kenner, graduated from Archbishop Rummel High School, and entered the seminary after graduation. He has been active in blogging since 2007 over at reverencedreading.com where he co-writes about seeing God in the mundane. He’s appeared as a guest on several other blogs and podcasts and is a part-time participant in the podcasts Steampunk Chesterton and SportsFathers. He was ordained a priest in 2012. He is the parochial vicar at St. RIta of Cascia in Harahan and is the chaplain at Cabrini High School. He loves to read, play music, write fiction, and collect fountain pens. You can contact him at ksanders@arch-no.org. Check out Fr. Kyle’s other projects at:

http://reverencedreading.com
http://www.steampunkchesterton.com/
http://thesportsfathers.com/

Under the Periscope

By Cory J. Howat

“Explore the world through someone else’s eyes”

cory

Periscope App Icon

This is the tagline of a new Periscope app for iphone and android. If Twitter didn’t scratch your technology itch enough, welcome Periscope. This app basically transforms every phone into a webcam. Install the app, press a button, and everything that comes through your phone’s camera lens is broadcast to the world. People walking around with their phones up in the air is no longer someone just taking a picture. Smile for the live camera! To some people this technology can be a scary proposition. To others, like me, this can be an opportunity… to spread the Good News!

The power of sharing a video with millions is astounding. When I first opened this app, I was transported through this interactive video direct to Nepal. I was in wonder, watching live as a Catholic Relief Services worker on the other side of the globe was ministering to those affected by the recent massive earthquake. I was at the scene – heartbreaking, moving, unifying. Just in those moments, I experienced the transformative effect of connectivity that technology can bring. I wondered, what else was possible?

A few days later, I attended Mass at our archdiocesan building with Archbishop Aymond. I decided “to Periscope” (yes, learn that new verb) the start of Mass. I immediately had users jump on from around the world, and the first online comment was, “I have always wanted to attend a Catholic Mass.” Wow. Digital discipleship! That moment was confirming. As Christians, we have to place ourselves in this new mission territory. For many, I know it ca.n be easy to feel overwhelmed by “all that social media stuff.” It can be a little scary and unknown, but I see this as an opportunity to lean in as Catholics.

During this time in our liturgical year, we hear the stories of the disciples going out spreading the gospel with triumphs and trials.Technology is the new Corinth. I am not proposing technology take the place of face to face relationships. Nothing can replace Paul going to be with the people, just the same as now. But as modern-day Christians, embracing technology is like inviting a friend (or a few hundred friends) along for the journey.

How do we use our social media accounts? Does it convey the joy of Jesus Christ? I was explaining Periscope to a friend and he remarked, “This makes us all public figures.” He is right. This does change our accountability. Isn’t that good? As witnesses to Christ, we need to be visible. Many can look at technology as an increasing “big brother” presence or an invasion of our privacy. Social media is changing from a realm where whatever we post becomes public to whatever we do becomes public. I was encouraged when I saw that witnesses to Christ were already out there in this new frontier. I found a Catholic presence on Periscope, like the early followers in a foreign land. Their presence made it a little easier to join. I could tune into the baccalaureate Mass at Archbishop Rummel High School or interact with our Vocations Director, Fr. Kurt Young during one of his social or spiritual gatherings. I could join evening chant live from a chapel outside of Boston or connect to a candlelight vigil at a small parish in Italy. So I encourage you: Go out there with the zeal of the Holy Spirit and Pentecost! Allow someone else to explore the world through your eyes, but let it be the eyes of Jesus Christ. Go now, pick up your things, login, and follow Him!

You can follow me on twitter or on my Periscope journey @cjhowat

Follow Fr. Kurt Young @Father_Kurt

C Howat Headshot 8-12Cory J. Howat is the Director of Stewardship for the Archdiocese of New Orleans.  His love for traveling, culture and adventure provide a unique perspective on life and the universal Church. For more about this blogger, click here.

Growing Lawns… And Growing Faith

By Dana Doyle

danaI take lots of pleasure and pride in my yard and garden. There is something about working the land, sowing, weeding, trimming, pruning, etc. that feels to primal and fulfills my need to nurture. Recently, I used “Weed and Feed” on my lawn… Well 2/3 of my lawn died and turned to mud!  Ugh!

Consequently, I have spent A LOT of time recently in the yard – raking dead patches of grass to get down to the dirt, spreading new Bermuda seed, watering daily, (getting impatient and planting St. Augustine plugs), watering some more…

dana2I got to thinking today how growing relationships is very much like trying to grow a lawn. It takes work, time, trust and most of all perseverance!  Our relationship with God is no exception. We have to take the time to get to know Him – show Him that we truly have a desire to put Him FIRST in our lives. This involves praying and attending mass even when we don’t feel like it.  It involves reading scripture and faith books.  It involves trusting that God will sprout those little seeds of faith in our lives when we “water daily.”

Recently, I had a conversation with someone who was struggling with many stresses and losses in her life.  Why would God allow this?  When will all the suffering end?  How much more?  I wanted so much to be able to give her a quick satisfactory answer, but knew that nothing I could say would placate her sadness.

Life has its ups and downs – to be sure! If things are going great – BAD NEWS – this will change!  If things are going terrible – GOOD NEWS – this will change! Everything in life is subject to change – EXCEPT GOD.  He always was, is and will be – unchanging, almighty!  If we give diligent attention to nurturing the gift of faith (like watering the grass seeds) in the good times, then we will have an abiding peace (the peace that He alone can give) when things happen that test our faith.

God has planted the seeds of faith in your heart.  Get out there, water them and FEEL them grow!

Dana Doyle is a teacher and religion coordinator at Lady of the Lake School in Mandeville, a wife, a mother of three, an author and an avid blogger. Visit her blog, “Catholic Working Mom” at www.danardoyle.wordpress.com. Read more about this blogger here.

A mother’s bodily love

By Dr. Tom Neal

Over the last 12 years, my wife Patti and I suffered the loss of six children through miscarriage. I say “my wife and I” because, of course, those children – God’s gift to us – were our children. But I immediately must qualify our common experience of those painful losses by saying that she suffered each loss in a way I simply cannot understand. Each of these children – the “fruit of her womb” – came into existence and perished in her body, not mine, and in her body she felt in such an intimate way both the heights of joy and the depths of sorrow. I shed tears, she heaved and sobbed. I prayed, she cried out. My heart ached, her womb labored in pain.

I have often reflected on the embodied beauty of a mother’s love; of the flesh-and-blood intimacy of mother and child during the nine months of gestation; of the post-birth communion of eyes and faces and smiles; of the self-sacrificing feeding of the newborn’s body with her body’s milk. How terrifyingly exquisite.

When my wife first found out she was pregnant with our first child, she was at the doctor’s office for a routine visit. Before administering shots, the doctor asked Patti if she was pregnant. My wife said, “I don’t think so.” The doctor quipped back, “That’s not good enough. We’ll check.” A few minutes later the doctor came into the room and she smiled at my wife: “Guess what?” After exchanging together expressions of excitement, the doctor – who never expressed any particular sense of religious faith – said to Patti: “You have to take really good care of your health, because from this moment on that baby is the center of your body, and your body will sacrifice its own welfare to keep that baby alive and thriving.”

I’ve had the privilege of knowing many extraordinary mothers over the years, and that doctor’s description of a mother’s body-language describes them all so well: “Sacrificing their own welfare to keep that baby alive and thriving.” Mothers reveal Christ in a way fathers cannot, they teach the world a unique love and tender compassion that I bow in awe before. Like the Virgin Mary, they give birth to Beauty in the world.

Motherhood involves a special communion with the mystery of life, as it develops in the woman’s womb. The mother is filled with wonder at this mystery of life, and “understands” with unique intuition what is happening inside her. In the light of the “beginning,” the mother accepts and loves as a person the child she is carrying in her womb. This unique contact with the new human being developing within her gives rise to an attitude towards human beings–not only towards her own child, but every human being–which profoundly marks the woman’s personality. It is commonly thought that women are more capable than men of paying attention to another person, and that motherhood develops this predisposition even more. The man–even with all his sharing in parenthood–always remains “outside” the process of pregnancy and the baby’s birth; in many ways he has to learn his own “fatherhood” from the mother. One can say that this is part of the normal human dimension of parenthood, including the stages that follow the birth of the baby, especially the initial period. The child’s upbringing, taken as a whole, should include the contribution of both parents: the maternal and paternal contribution. In any event, the mother’s contribution is decisive in laying the foundation for a new human personality. – St. John Paul II

TomNeal-HSDr. Tom Neal is originally from Rhode Island. He has lived over the years in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, Florida, Iowa and is now proud to be a NOLA Catholic! His wife and four children live in Metairie, LA and they love being called to be saints among Saints.  Dr. Tom Neal presently serves as Academic Dean and Professor of Spiritual Theology at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, Louisiana and has a particular passion for exposing the unlimited potential of theology to offer the faithful a deeper sharing in the mind and heart of Jesus

Do-Over

By Sr. Judy Gomila, M.S.C.

judy2The red lettering across the top of my term paper screamed “DO OVER”! Fans of a dessert I made recently offered a flattering, “This is a definite DO-OVER.” Sometimes the call for a “re-do” is an opportunity to improve, a second chance; it can also afford us the prospect of recreating.

Throughout this Easter Season, dancing with Resurrection joy toward Pentecost, I found myself reflecting on a text message I had received Easter Sunday from a friend:

“Renew, rejoice, re-think, re-love, re-hope … have become my Easter mantra.”

The unceasing, faithful love and on-going forgiveness of the Risen Christ allows our hearts to rest confidently in the knowledge that we are free. Whatever our past, we have another chance in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. God holds no grudge, harbors no ill will, has no ulterior motive. Love gave his life for us once and for all; no need for a do-over on our part. We are people of hope and experience re-hope when we grasp that “our hope is in the Lord.” Ps. 39:7

TOSHIBA Exif JPEG

This season’s scripture offers beautiful images like the Good Shepherd and the “cornerstone”. During evening prayer recently, I felt drawn back to re-think belonging to that amazing Shepherd and to re-connecting with the rest of the flock. In the new evangelization, there is the call for greater acceptance for our sisters and brothers. Compassion, justice, charity, etc. necessitate a do-over (and over again) even toward those of another fold. Such ministry is not a quick fix; inevitably, in the human condition, do-overs are often required. (You recall 70 x 7, don’t you?)

Jesus came to save us from the guilt and power of our sins. He came to reconcile us to God and make us saints in the ordinary.  Not to mix images, but the Lamb of God once slain for our sins is now the Risen Jesus, the Good Shepherd. St. Peter reminds us in Acts, “The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.” Ps. 118: 22 Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is the cornerstone of our faith.

  • What has been your experience of a “do-over”?

  • In any facet of our Catholic faith have you embraced a “do-over”?

  • How is this Easter Season helping to prepare you for the gifts of Pentecost?

Here’s a little music to accompany your reflection:

HS_JudyGomilaSr. Judith Gomila, MSC is a Marianite Sister of Holy Cross. She holds a Masters in Theology and Religious Studies from St. Paul University, Ottawa, Canada. Sr. Judy has served the Church in education/evangelization/mission outreach for 50 years. Currently she coordinates the Public Relations and Communication ministry for the Marianite Congregation and is co-director of the Marianite Associates, an organization for lay women and men who identify with Holy Cross spirituality. For more about this blogger, click here.

Couples and Families, “Behold Your Mother”

By Jason Angelette

Many Catholic weddings have a moment where the newly married bride and groom walk over to a statue of Our Lady to honor her with flowers and to say a prayer asking for her intercession for their marriage. At that time, usually, the Ava Maria is sung and then the couple walks back to their places by the altar and the ceremony continues. It is here that we see not just a nice ritual, but rather a beautiful truth about Mary and her role in our own lives together. In this moment where a special attention is brought to Mary, there should be a couple of things to remember about Mary and why we should turn to her as well as to heed the words of our Lord, “Behold Your Mother,” for our marriage and for our family.

photo 4In John’s Gospel, we read that the place were Jesus performs his first miracle was at a wedding and it was prompted by His mother. On a larger scale we can see that just as Eve prompted the fall and the divide that followed, Mary prompts redemption and the salvation that was promised. Mary’s role is no small one just as Eve’s role in the fall was no small one either. But also on a smaller scale, Mary more than took care of a young couple’s needs. Just as the couple at Cana was aided by Mary, we too can go to the Mother of God for her intercession in our lives for our marriage and for our family.

But we are not only reminded of Cana on at a Catholic wedding but Calvary as well. A bride and groom stand not only in a Church but conduct their wedding in the context of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We are brought back to the moment where Jesus gave his life for his bride. And right before He gave up His Spirit, He said to the beloved disciple, “Behold your mother.” At that very hour, he welcomed her into his home. We must see this request as not limited to the Beloved Disciple but to all of us. Christ wants His Mother to be our Mother.

Saint Robert Bellarmine, Cardinal-Bishop and Doctor of the Church wrote, “It seems unbelievable that a man should perish in whose favor Christ said to His Mother: ‘Behold thy son’, provided that he has not turned a deaf ear to the words, which Christ addressed to him: ‘Behold thy Mother’”. 

Prayer intentions and tokens of thanks fill the grotto at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in New Orleans

Prayer intentions and tokens of thanks fill the grotto at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in New Orleans

Jesus makes it a family affair by allowing His mother, the new Eve, to be Mother of us all. And so Mary is blessed among all women. She is full of grace. She is the one who continues to do the  will of the Father in Heaven, and she is our Mother who constantly intercedes for us, especially at times our requests might be made from a weak and broken heart. Her prayers will always be spoken from an immaculate heart. As mother, she is given the task to lead us and love us closer her Son, our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. And this blessing of hers does not come from her but comes from Her Son. Thanks be to God!

Mary has become Mother of us all and we should not turn away from this great gift given to us from our Lord.

One simple and powerful way we can welcome Mary into our homes is through praying the Rosary, individually, as a couple and as a family. Here’s a great resource to learn how to pray the rosary with reflections on the mysteries.

“Among all the devotions approved by the Church none has been so favored by so many miracles as the devotion of the Most Holy Rosary.” – Pope Pius IX

“There is no surer means of calling down God’s blessings upon the family . . . than the daily recitation of the Rosary.” – Pope Pius XII

“How beautiful is the family that recites the Rosary every evening.” – St. John Paul II

“The Rosary is the most beautiful and the most rich in graces of all prayers; it is the prayer that touches most the Heart of the Mother of God…and if you wish peace to reign in your homes, recite the family Rosary.” – Pope St. Pius X

May Mary, our Blessed Mother, bless and hear the prayers of all mothers, couples and families! Happy Mother’s Day!

jason_angelette_0035Jason Angelette holds a master’s degree in theological studies from the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. Jason has served as a high school campus minister and has taught theology at the high school and university levels. He speaks at youth festivals, conferences, and retreats nationwide. Jason and his wife, Elise, are co-directors of Faith and Marriage at the Willwoods Community in the Archdiocese of New Orleans. He also co-hosts Issues & Faith, a weekly program on New Orleans’s public television affiliate.

Don’t Let it Go!

By Dana Doyle

We have done our extra prayers, sacrifices and good deeds in preparation for the greatest celebration of the year – the resurrection of Jesus at Easter. Easter Sunday has come and gone. DON’T LET GO of the Easter Joy for which you’ve spent so much time preparing yourself! Remember that the Easter season lasts for 50 days – until we celebrate the birth of the Church on Pentecost.

Here are 12 suggestions for extending and fully living the Easter Joy in your families:

  1. As a family, pray each day for the 360 people in our Archdiocese who just entered the Church. This is a reason for great rejoicing!
  2. Make an “Alleluia” banner for your home, or have the kids make an Alleluia sign – complete with sparkles and “bling” for your refrigerator door.
  3. Write a thank you note to your parish priest for the beautiful Easter Mass and all he does for the parish.
  4. Adorn any crucifixes in your home with white drapes made out of small scraps of fabric as a visual reminder that we are still in the Easter season.
  5. Look up the baptism dates for each family member. Post them on the refrigerator, and celebrate those as well as birthdays!
  6. Purchase a holy water font for your home for use as a daily reminder of how we renewed our baptismal promises at the Easter mass.
  7. Plant a resurrection garden as a family, complete with flowers and a cross or religious statue. (If you use a Mary statue, you can have a May Crowning next month.)
  8. Have a family picnic to enjoy springtime and all of the beautiful gifts that God has given us in nature. Talk about how springtime reminds us of the Resurrection.
  9. Make resurrection rolls or cookies.
  10. Celebrate Holy Days together! Celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday as a family, then go home and have Divine Mercy ice cream sundaes! On Ascension Thursday, choose a family intention. As a family, pray the Holy Spirit Novena for that intention until Pentecost.
  11. Celebrate Saints feast days by learning about them and choosing a virtue to imitate – like simplicity, perseverance, or a prayer habit. Research the saint’s culture and try a dish from their country of origin. There’s St. Mark on April 25th, St. Zita on the 27th, Blessed Gianna on the 28th, and St. Catherine of Siena on the 29th.   On May 1st, there’s St. Joseph the Worker. I like to use the “Saint of the Day” audio at American Catholic.org.
  12. The World Day of Prayer for Vocations is May 11. As a family, pray for vocations. Perhaps you might even plan to attend the priestly ordination at St. Louis Cathedral on June 6th!

These are just a few ideas. Hopefully, I’ve gotten your creative juices flowing! I pray that you and your families enjoy a very blessed Easter Season!

Dana Doyle is a teacher and religion coordinator at Lady of the Lake School in Mandeville, a wife, a mother of three, an author and an avid blogger. Visit her blog, “Catholic Working Mom” at www.danardoyle.wordpress.com. Read more about this blogger here.