Monday, January 21, 2013

Preparing the Manger and the Upper Room

Blessed be God!

I apologize for my long absence in blogging; life has been crazy, what with Christmas break, hanging out with Jacob in Wichita, and coming to Austria! But here, on a lazy-ish Monday afternoon (I only have 1 class for Monday morning) I wish to place a few thoughts that were bouncing around in my head and heart the other day at Mass.

At orientation for the semester, they had notice of different jobs that are available to students, as well as various volunteer ministry positions. I got super excited when I heard there were both sacristan jobs as well as a job ironing altar linens, and at first opportunity, I went running up to the TOR sister in charge of sacristan work. Within a couple minutes of talking with her, she was asking me if I wanted to be student head of sacristans for the semester. While it's not that huge of a commitment (since there are only 151 students here, and most people travel on weekends), I wanted to pray about it first, and make sure that I would have the extra time to give to that position. So at Mass that day, I really began meditating on what it means to be a sacristan, and how my role as a sacristan has changed and developed with my spiritual life over the years.

In short, being a sacristan is preparing the manger in Bethlehem. Preparing the very place where the Word made Flesh will enter Earth. Amid all of the craziness and chaos in Bethlehem with the census, Joseph and Mary gave of themselves to find a place for Our Lord to enter the world. Yes, they were tired, and maybe Joseph was exasperated. But they both took the time to find the cave to spend the night. Once in the cave, picture Mary and Joseph, preparing for Jesus to be born. Working to create an environment for a little child to come into the world; then, wrapping the baby in swaddling clothes. Their work was hidden from the outside world, but it was important.

Sacristans are hidden from the world. While the sacristan himself is visible, much of what the sacristan does is unseen to the congregation: preparing the credence table tray in the sacristy, ironing the altar linens, setting the ribbons in the Missal, and placing the items in their proper places in the sanctuary long before Mass begins. It is a hidden work, but so important for Mass to be celebrated in an environment worthy of  the King of Kings. It is also very humbling work. Sacristans prepare the sanctuary for the Mass, many times unknown to others. Though if something is prepared incorrectly (say, if there is no big Host for the priest to consecrate--I have been guilty of this many times--and the priest stands there motioning to the back of the church for a Host) many people glance sideways at the sacristan, knowing that he or she the one with the oversight.

I have been a sacristan ever since high school; when I was a freshman, I joined my school's "Liturgy Club" for multiple reasons: I wanted to meet good Catholics, I wanted to meet guys who were chivalrous and would treat me right as their sister, I wanted to grow in love of God, and I wanted to serve God. And, honestly, a huge underlying factor was FUN! Because it was super fun, and I greatly cherish my memories of times had in the school's Liturgy Club. When I was a sophomore, I began training in the sacristy, to set up the cart for the credence table. I also had been ironing altar linens, so I was working closely with some of the finer-detailed aspects. I began to value more the sacredness of the Liturgy, and the great gift that God makes of Himself through His sacrifice. Each year, my devotion grew, and the interior disposition I had towards the Liturgy became more reverent (at least, I tried). 

When I was a Junior, I was also given the great privilege to become a sacristan at a weekend Mass at my parish, which I did for the remainder of my high school experience (then I passed the role onto my awesome younger brother). Through parish sacristan work, I became much more acquainted with all of the parishioners in Liturgical ministries, and began to feel much more a part of a quite large parish. At college, I continued my work, and I am happily busy preparing for the sacrifice of Cross. As I have come to a greater understanding of the ministry, I have begun to see that I am not just preparing the manger for Our Lord; the Mass is His sacrifice on the Cross--so I am preparing the Upper Room, preparing the way for the Passion of Jesus Christ to take place. 

Sacristan work is a ministry of love, of offering one's body, soul, time, attention--offering all of one's self--to God. It is a school of humility, for all that sacristans do directs towards God and His Sacrifice of the Mass. It follows the paths of Mary and St. Joseph, as they prepared for Our Lord humbly in the stable. Like St. John the Baptist, the sacristan prepares the way for the Lord. 

*The patron saint of sacristans is St. Guy of Anderlecht, a man born near Brussels, Belgium in the 10th century. He had a tremendous amount of devotion and zeal for his work as a sacristan and caring for and cleaning the church.*

**other saintly sacristans include St. Bernadette and St. Therese of the Child Jesus**

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Zombies vs. Catholics. Let's Go to War!

I recently watched a couple awesome movies, which may seem like abnormal fare for a Jane Austen-loving, Lord of the Rings and Narnia kind of girl: Warrior and I am Legend. For those of you who have never seen these marvelous films, Warrior centers around 2 estranged brothers who are both competing in Mixed Martial Arts tournaments. Basically, it's a couple hours of guys beating each other bloody to the ground. And struggling with a fragile/non-existent relationship with their father. And without giving away too many spoilers, I want to center on one of the brothers, Brandon. Brandon is a dad, a father, a high school physics teacher. And he needs to bring in more money than his job (plus his wife's job) will give him, or else his family will lose their home. So what does he do? He trains for an MMA tournament, and puts his whole self on the line, battling--fighting for his family. Aside from some language and some scantily clad shots of females, it's a great movie, with an awesome story (it's also weird/uncomfortable watching guys without shirts beating each other up bloodily in a ring...I did avert my eyes several times). The other movie, I am Legend, was also very, very good (okay, it stars Will Smith, so it better be good). It features Robert Neville, a man who  lives in NYC when a deadly virus breaks out. His family, neighbors, friends--everyone--has to evacuate the island. And he stays behind with his dog, in order to find a cure for the virus. But he's not completely alone. The victims of the virus are basically zombies, which come after him in the dark places and nighttime of the city. And he fights, giving his whole life and energy to saving humanity and battling the zombies.

In both movies, a man's life and family were being attacked, whether by foreclosure or a deadly virus. And in both cases, the man did not sit by on the sidelines and let the zombies take over or let his family's home be foreclosed. No, he stepped into action and fought for his family.

We need to do the same. Right now.

In case you haven't noticed, there is a full-out war happening in America right now. This isn't just about the HHS Mandate. And it's not just about the gradual legalization of gay marriage. This is about a full-blown onslaught against marriage, the family, and faith in the mindsets and legalization of America. Are we going to run to the Vatican and hide? NO! Throughout the centuries, when the church is under attack, what have Catholics done? They have stood up and fought. Cue the entrance of multitudes of martyrs...St. Felicity, St. Agnes, St. Agatha, St. Tarcissius, St. Sebastian, St. get the idea. They joyfully celebrated the Faith, bringing God's love to a dark world.

And we are going to do the same.
A Master Plan for Thwarting the Culture of Death has been laid out after much prayer and discussion by the U.S. Bishops. This is a plan for the Movement of Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty. And it's quite simple; anyone can participate from anywhere. This plan will thwart the powers of evil, and regain a culture of life amidst the death and darkness in the world. Read on.

1. Attend a Eucharistic Holy Hour on the last Sunday of each month. That's one hour out of your month. So spend 1 hour of the 720ish hours you have each month in Adoration. If you can't possibly-in-any-circumstance-go on the last Sunday of the month, make a Holy Hour at some point each month. Adoring the King of Kings. Seriously? Yes, our God is that awesome : )

2. Pray a daily Rosary. Time and time again, Our Lady has asked us to pray the Rosary every day for the conversion of sinners. And time and time again, I have said "oh that's nice"--and then not done anything about it. Well, I'm a new woman (at least, I'm trying) and my family has been praying the daily Rosary together as we clean up after dinner. You know what? I've grown to absolutely love it, it's so peaceful, and it's really a nice way for my family to join together in prayer after eating. It only takes 15-20 minutes, and the time really flies by. But if you can't absolutely pull together time to pray the Rosary at once, split it up over the day. A couple decades in the morning, evening, and at night, and voila! A Rosary in a day, quality time with Our Lady.

3. Prayers of the Faithful at daily and Sunday Masses. I know in the past (okay, I still struggle with this) I'll stand up at the Petitions and go in my own world of prayer intentions and thoughts and dreams. But I'm going to try more to pay attention to the Petitions at Mass and really pray them with all of my heart, and offer my prayers for life, marriage, and religious liberty.

4. Abstain from meat on Fridays and fast on Fridays. Not gonna lie, I think this is one of my favorite parts about the Movement. Seriously, I did a happy dance when I heard about this. YES! See, abstaining from meat on Fridays used to be mandatory. Then, it turned into an occasion of "you can eat meat, but do another sacrifice." Unfortunately, most people didn't (and still don't, through no fault of their own) know about the "do another sacrifice" part. I grew up eating meatless on Fridays, whether or not it was Lent, because my parents had learned about that practice and brought us kids up on it. But it really has never been preached about on the pulpit. But hey, now we're all being encouraged to go meatless, and I'm excited. UNITY IN REDEMPTIVE SUFFERING!!!!! Give me a whoop whoop! Oh, and fasting? YES! Fasting is defined as 2 small meals + 1 larger meal = your food for the day. But, the 2 small meals < 1 large meal. Got it? Super.

5. Participate in the 2nd Fortnight for Freedom (June/July 2013) which will basically involve special events and prayers within each diocese pertaining to Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty. It especially concerns the June 2013 potential Supreme Court rulings on marriage, as well as the August 1, 2013 deadline for religious organizations to comply with the HHS Mandate. So stay tuned to a diocese near you!

Our families, our faith, our future families, future jobs, our children--everything is at stake. The deadly virus of death is spreading, and we must not sit by and let our culture die. We must FIGHT!

Rosaries in hand, joined together, let's go to war!