Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Forever Notre Dame

Getting ready to graduate can be stressful – it’s a big transition from college to the “real world”, figuring out jobs, grad school, where we’re living and who we’re living with all while finishing classes – it can be a lot. Without a doubt, Notre Dame has prepared us well for the real world – we’ve seen thousands of people go before and be successful, and so while we may be sad that our time at Our Lady’s University is coming to a close, there is nothing to fear. As we work to ensure that our plans for next year are lined up, we also need to remember to work on our faith as we enter into new stages of our lives.

After talking to graduates from the Class of 2013, here are some tips on engaging in your faith post-college as well as some general tips:
  • Find something regular you’re interested in – whether it be a Bible Study, Young Adult Volleyball or a service group – and try to go every time they meet. Seeing people consistently really helps build friendships and it’s a great way to find a community after college!
  •  Don’t underestimate how important relationships are. Don’t be afraid to pass up a higher salary or a better opportunity in order to live closer to family or friends. And remember that money is merely a means to an end and never an end in itself.
  • Living a good faith life is all about will. If you want to live a good moral and faith filled life you have to act like you want to. It takes far more time and effort to attend mass, pray or discuss morality/theology in the real world and to keep a good faith life requires putting in extra effort. You have to make a habit of wanting a good faith life and moral compass.
  •  Don’t worry about having a long term plan. Most people still have no idea what they want to do with their life even after college. If you ever feel frustrated or overwhelmed, it’s okay to vent to God about it – He’s always listening!
  • Go Parish shopping! Different parishes have different styles and different cultures. It’s okay if you don’t feel at home in the first parish you go to; it doesn’t mean you’re a bad Catholic, try a different one!
  • Go to mass every Sunday even if you’re tired, hung over, or don’t feel like you’re getting anything out of it. Mass will help create the cornerstone for your faith.
  • Once you do find a parish you like, remember to register! This generally involves just stopping by the parish house and filling out your address but it’s a good way to be more connected to the community and know when different events are going on.

 The Notre Dame Alumni Association also has some great tools available for us to use. You can sign up for the daily email here which sends the Gospel reading, a Reflection, Prayer and Saint of the day to your email Monday – Friday at 5am EST. To find times for Mass, Reconciliation and Adoration in parishes around you, check out masstimes.org. Make sure to connect with your local Alumni Club for help finding a parish. Also check out faith.nd.edu for other events and activities to get involved with and stay connected to the ND community. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Around Campus: Getting to Know Fr. Lies!

Fr. Bill Lies is currently serving as the VP for Mission Engagement and Church Affairs at Notre Dame and a priest in residence at Alumni Hall. I have the had the great opportunity to get to know Fr. Lies during my past three years here at Notre Dame and am constantly inspired by his dedication to the Lord and to Notre Dame as well as his obvious love for his family, particularly his strikingly handsome, identical twin brother.

What is your favorite thing about Notre Dame?:

The Alma Mater at the end of the football games.  Indeed, the Alma Mater at the end of anything.  It’s really not about football, it’s about the way our community embraces each other in moments like that.  It’s not just a nice tradition; it touches the heart of who we are.

photo from: www. nd.edu

How did you come to your current position?

I was the Executive Director at the Center for Social Concerns and Fr. John [Jenkins] was thinking about ways in which we might be more intentional about reaching out to the U.S. Church, and not just the bishops but Catholic Charities, Catholic Relief Services and a zillion other organizations and ways in which we could more effectively support the Church in this country and beyond through scholarship and service. Through numerous conversations with other people and myself, Father John created this Office of Mission Engagement and Church Affairs. Notre Dame is a robustly Catholic place, so many of these things were already going on.  The hope is that they will be brought together in a more official, integrated ways through this office.

What is one of your favorite memories at Notre Dame?

I have a brother, Jim, who was at Notre Dame for some years; he’s a Holy Cross priest as well. He’s an identical twin… (and strikingly handsome I might add). He first came here for graduate school, and it’s how I came to know Notre Dame and Holy Cross in the first place. Many years later, when I was looking at religious life, Holy Cross became one of the obvious options, which we had both talked about; he joined as well a couple years after me. Jim is now the VP for Mission at Stonehill College doing essentially the same thing that I’m doing here, which is almost impossible for us to believe.  One of the great graces in my life is that Jim and I are both brothers in life as well as in Holy Cross. Regarding the funniest moments here at Notre Dame, they mostly revolve around Jim and I being confused for one another… and the examples through the years are endless.   For instance, when he comes for a visit to Corby Hall, our priests and brothers residence on campus, they put an envelope with his name on it on a board in the front entry. The second that envelope goes up on that board, several Holy Cross guys at Corby will call me Jim the next time they see me. And I just set them straight and tell them that he’s not coming for another couple days.

Can you talk a little about your calling to the priesthood?

I graduated from undergrad, spent a year as a lay volunteer with the Dominicans in Chicago, then I worked for two years. I was contemplating the seminary and priesthood. One day, in the middle of time in Chicago, someone asked me, “What are you going to do?” And I responded that maybe I would be a priest, unless I fell in love and got married.  Well, I thought to myself later, am I just going to let my whole life happen to me? If someone like me, who loves the Lord, doesn’t think seriously about ways to serve Him, then who will? From there, it was a relatively easy choice to choose religious life with Holy Cross. It helps too that I come from a long line of religious people by the way.  In my mom’s family, the first is a Franciscan sister, the next is a priest, the next a Christian Brother.  In fact, it was so much a part of our life and family culture, I used to joke that this wasn’t such a hard choice… I thought everyone was doing it!

Do you have any advice to students discerning their future?

Be open and prayerful. As I look back at different times when these questions weighed heavy, I sense that with a certain openness and prayer, grace always filled the spaces of doubt and the Lord ultimately led my discernment. And get someone to talk with, like a spiritual director or confidant, who can walk with you along the way.  

Monday, April 14, 2014

RCIA: Welcome to the Church!

With Easter right around the corner, we are about to celebrate the end of this year’s Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) program on campus. This is a program through which Christians of various denominations receive the sacraments to become full members of the Catholic Church. . I had the privilege of talking with two Notre Dame members of the Elect who will receive the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist at Saturday’s Easter Vigil Mass in the Basilica. Both of their perspectives on joining the Catholic Church were beautiful to hear, and excerpts from their interviews are as follows.

Sean Yuan is a junior Business major at Notre Dame:

Q. Why did you decide to participate in the RCIA program?
Sean: I wanted that sense of peace and to participate in this wonderful community. I decided that the Catholic faith provides me with a lifestyle that teaches me to become who I was meant to be. It's a comforting thought, but not a comfortable lifestyle by any means. In fact, I think being Catholic in this world is one of the toughest decisions to make. But without being intentional, I feel that my life wouldn't have any direction.

Q. Can you walk me through your RCIA experience?
Sean: I was a bit nervous at first, because I didn't really know what I was getting into. However, I learned that I don't have to figure out everything to become Catholic. My faith journey has taught me that it's all about building a loving relationship with God, and as time goes on, God will slowly reveal to me more and more when I'm ready for it. Meanwhile, I'll do my best to keep reading and learning from my friends.

Q. What are you most looking forward to upon entering the Catholic Church?
Sean: First Communion, hands down (or up, in reverence). We're all just hungry, imperfect children, and God promises to keep us nourished in this lifetime until we may finally join him after death. Wow. I could never deserve this, but God gives freely anyway. That's some serious love.

Q. What advice do you have for someone considering joining the RCIA program?
Sean:  If any readers are at all interested in getting confirmed, or know someone who might, please contact Campus Ministry.They're seriously the happiest, most qualified people for this. It's thanks to their tireless efforts and the Holy Spirit that I made it this far. If you're a Catholic and wondering if you can help, consider applying to be someone's sponsor. It's a really rewarding experience.

Faith Spady is a Sophomore Architect Major.

Q. Can you walk me through your RCIA experience?
Faith: I remember being at the first couple meetings and wondering “Why on earth are these people so happy?” There really is a sense that everyone is sharing each other’s joy and triumphs as well as their pain.

Q. What are you most looking forward to upon entering the Catholic Church?
Faith: The Eucharist. It was one of the most powerful motivating factors throughout this process of discerning my faith, long before I ever even knew about RCIA. When I was very little, my dad used to take me to mass with him and he would take me up with him to receive communion. He had to explain to me after the mass that I couldn't partake in it because I wasn't a part of the church – growing up, the agreement between my parents on the issue had always been that I'd choose one day which Church I would belong to when I was older so I had not been baptized or received First Communion.The mass is supposed to be so much more, something that requires full and active participation. I could feel that as a young girl. If I say to anyone else that being denied a tiny little wafer was painful, they will look at me like I'm crazy. If I say it to a Catholic, they'll understand precisely what I mean. It’s rare to find a Catholic who hasn't slipped up at some point by not attending mass for a few weeks or not going to reconciliation. Many will say how hard it is, how painful when you start up again. Perhaps some of the pain is from the guilt of not coming, but mostly it’s the idea that when given the opportunity you denied yourself of the Eucharist, of Christ.

Q. What advice do you have for someone considering joining the RCIA program?

Faith: RCIA is not just to convert "pagans" or bring people back into the church. It is clearly illustrated in the definition of conversion which is supposed to be a turning towards God. That could be the initial big turn or a continued step in the right direction. It’s not supposed be like stepping out onto a straight paved road, where getting on is all you really have to do. There will be rocks and dips in the path, you will get tired and you will question yourself at times. Why did I get on this path? What am I supposed to do now? It looks disturbing up ahead, should I keep going? How can I? The little things are usually what refresh us enough to pursue the faith a bit longer.

Thanks so much to Faith and Sean for sharing your experience in the RCIA program! I am so excited for you both to be able to share in full communion with the Church this Saturday!

May you cling to Wisdom, for She will protect you…and if you cherish her, she will keep you safe.” Book of Proverbs

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Covering the Hard Issues: Gay Marriage

Gay marriage is perhaps the hardest teaching of the Church for our generation. It’s the topic no one wants to talk about because it always brings out very strong emotions and defending the Church's position is widely viewed as discriminatory. While I’ve always been vocal about my pro-life views, defending marriage is something I generally have not taken a stand on unless pressed about my beliefs. I’ve seen the fact that I defend traditional marriage drive a knife into friendships and stop others from progressing and yet I cannot pretend to change my beliefs.

In many conversations I’ve had with friends, they bring up the fact that they have friends, siblings, or other family members who are hurt because they wish their relationships and love to be recognized in marriage. I too have close gay friends who have struggled and have been hurt by this, but this should lead us to delve deeper into Catholic teaching rather than reject it outright. It is only through study and reflection along with much prayer that we can properly discuss the Catholic teaching on marriage and come to realize it’s based not on emotions, but on the ability of a man and woman to participate in creation. Consider that the Church does not officially recognize the relationship between two friends, which can be full of love, and so there must be another reason for recognizing marriage while not recognizing other relationships.

In order to understand the Church’s teaching on gay marriage, we must first understand its teaching on marriage. Marriage is one of the seven sacraments of the Church. It is important to note that it is not the wedding that is the sacrament but the marriage itself. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring”. (Part 2, Sec. 2, Ch.3 Article 7). According to this definition, the outward sign of the sacrament of marriage, sex, must have a procreative aspect, which is not possible among two members of the same sex. This definition of marriage is stated in Genesis 2 and restated in Matthew 19: “Haven’t you read,” He replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore, what God has joined, let man not separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6). The design of marriage is seen in our complementary creation, a complementarity which places the possibility of procreation at the forefront of our relationship in a marriage and which cannot be disengaged from marriage.

It is important to note that the Church does not persecute homosexual people. Pope Francis’ remarks on this topic are perhaps most revealing, “If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them? They shouldn’t be marginalized. The tendency [to homosexuality] is not the problem…they’re our brothers”. Rather than persecution, the Church calls homosexual people to live a life in holiness just as they call all men and women of the Catholic faith to live a life in holiness. Recently, great work has begun to consider more fully the Church’s teaching on homosexuality and especially the call to a deep friendship. I’d encourage anyone looking to find out more, to explore the writing on this website.

As Catholics living in an age in which gay marriage is the culturally accepted norm, we are called to engage this teaching through love and a prayerful heart. The Catholic Church considers defending the Truth as a duty of every Catholic, seen from the Apostles down through 2000 years of history. We as Catholics must do all we can to reason and learn why the Church teaches what it does and ultimately, have faith. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Catholic Aerobics

We all know that Sunday is a day of rest, so why is it that the Church insists we move around so much during mass? Kneel, sit, stand, sit, stand, sit, stand, sit, stand, kneel, stand, kneel, walk, kneel, sit, stand. Try saying that one ten times fast. The meaning behind the movements of the mass, or Catholic Aerobics, are often lost or forgotten among the other parts of the mass. So why do we go through these movements and what do they mean? I’ll admit that I knew very little about why mass involved so much movement, so I created a cheat sheet on certain aspects of mass for us to reflect upon the next time we go:

Standing: The times in which we stand during Mass are the times in which we are showing respect to either the Priest or the Word of God (during the Gospel). Just as we stand when we are introduced to a person, we stand when the priest enters to show respect. We also stand during the Gospel and Profession of Faith to show reverence and emphasize the words which we are hearing or professing.

Sitting: We sit primarily during the first and second reading and the responsorial psalms. This set-up, with us sitting and the reader standing, imitates a classroom with us as learners. During the Liturgy of the Word, we are the students, learning from the readings and from the lesson proclaimed through the homily.

Kneeling: We kneel during the sacrifice of the mass, standing only for the Our Father and Sign of Peace. We kneel during this time because we are witnessing the Eucharistic Consecration, kneeling symbolizes our reverence and respect for the sacrifice of Jesus and his physical presence. The act of kneeling links back to the beginning of the Church through Peter as he “knelt down and prayed” in Acts 9:40.*

Other aspects of the Mass that every Catholic ought to know:

Genuflecting: We genuflect when we enter or exit the pew to show reverence to the physical presence of Jesus in the tabernacle.

Transubstantiation: That hard word that we had to memorize how to spell in the 4th grade if we went to Catholic middle school and were too busy spelling to remember the meaning. Transubstantiation occurs during the consecration when the bread and wine are transformed into the true Body and Blood of Jesus. The second time that the bells are rung during the consecration alerts us that the fact that transubstantiation has just occurred.

Of course they are many more aspects of the Mass that have not been covered in this blog. If there is an aspect of the Mass you're confused about or have just learned about and would like to share, please comment below and we can continue learning!

*According to The General Instruction on the Roman Missal #43 (U.S. Version), “In the dioceses of the U.S.A., they should kneel beginning after the singing or recitation of the Sanctus until after the Amen of the Eucharistic Prayer, except when prevented on occasion by reasons of health, lack of space, the large number of people present, or some other good reason.” Perhaps this is something that we ought to look into at our dorm masses!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Universal Church: Catholic Style

Perhaps one of the greatest things about the Catholic Church is its universality – that Church teaching and the celebration of the sacraments does not change from culture to culture. This unique facet of the Catholic Church allows for one to be at home wherever you may travel. While it is true that one can pray anywhere, the physical presence of Jesus through the Eucharist is something that Catholics always have access to, even in cultures in which they are not familiar.

This past week I was lucky enough to spend my spring break in Switzerland conducting research and visiting the country for the first time. Switzerland is a very interesting country because its culture is highly influenced by its neighboring countries, Germany, France and Italy. In fact, the culture within Switzerland changes drastically from one part of the country to the other depending on which bordering country is closest.

The history of Switzerland is closely tied up with the history of Catholics and Protestants’, especially as the home of John Calvin. With such a rich history, Switzerland is full of majestic sacred architecture, of both Catholic and Protestant denominations, and touring Switzerland includes viewing countless churches and basilicas. Perhaps one of the most striking realizations of this trip was the ease in which one is able to immediately tell whether a church is Catholic or Protestant or another denomination. Upon entering a church, it is so easy to tell whether Christ is present in the Eucharist there or not, easily ruling out if the church is Catholic or not. I’ve heard other friends and family members describe to me this feeling, that walking into a church where the Eucharist is not celebrated is not the same as walking into a Catholic Church and I had a hard time believing them until this trip.

This immediate understanding of the presence of the Eucharist greatly attributes to the universality of the Catholic Church. Being in a foreign country or experiencing a new culture is always an exciting adventure but it can get overwhelming at times and having that opportunity to find a church and feel at home is one of the greatest reliefs of being Catholic.

While in Switzerland, Elizabeth, my fellow travel companion, and I decided to go to one of the great churches we had visited earlier for Sunday mass. We were excited to go to an English mass after dealing with language barriers for a couple days. Unfortunately we misread the schedule and ended up at a German mass much to our confusion. Although we were unable to understand the readings and the homily was completely lost on us, there was a beauty in being able to celebrate the Eucharist in a form in which we were familiar even though the language was foreign. We may not have learned the lesson the priest was promulgating from the pulpit through his homily, but we were able to celebrate the Eucharist in a community that was truly one, universal and apostolic.

As we traveled throughout Switzerland, unable to read any of the signs and frequently having to ask people if they spoke English, I realized that this is what it must be for children before they are able to read; unaware of their surroundings beyond what they are able to perceive for themselves or what an adult may tell them. In many aspects we were forced to have the faith of children, both a disconcerting and humbling experience. Similarly, while celebrating mass, we were asked to believe without fully understand the words, to have the faith of a child and believe. The experience was very rewarding and one which I can’t wait to repeat in future travels!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Reconciling fears of Reconciliation

Growing up, reconciliation was something I always dreaded. I didn't understand why I had to tell a priest my sins when I could just communicate them directly to God. Looking back, I really didn't have much to confess to the priest, it was probably the most innocent confession he ever heard. Yet, I remained nervous about going. My childhood-self saw the purpose of reconciliation as a shaming process: a practice designed to make you so embarrassed about your sins that you never commit them again because otherwise you have to tell the priest again and that would just be downright humiliating. Really, it’s no wonder I feared confession so much!

When I was in junior high, I remember my older sister coming home and sharing the view her friend had on confession, that confession was like erasing a dirty chalk board. I liked this metaphor because it was one I could understand. The priest absolving your sins was like walking away cleansed, free from the marks that had been there before. And there was nothing shaming about this process: chalkboards get marked up all the time, of course they had to be cleaned! While this metaphor might not exactly encompass all aspects of reconciliation, it was a metaphor that I was able to understand at the time.

Human relationships are broken all the time because we are imperfect beings. It is in our nature to get upset, to disrupt a harmonious relationship or end up hurting someone. This does not mean that we are oriented towards this end but that these things happen, and it is not necessarily something we have to be ashamed about. Rather than being ashamed, we ought to work towards fixing these broken relationships: seeking forgiveness and moving forward. This same concept applies to our relationship with God.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a way of cleansing our relationship with God. God loves us so much that He sent His only son. Jesus carried the weight of our sins on His shoulders and through His Passion, the doors of Heaven have been opened for us. To be able to enter fully into Heaven, however, we must be in a state of complete grace, a state of sin-lessness. Reconciliation is a way of entering into that state, even though it may be temporary. It is a way of deepening our relationship with God.

Many Catholics seems to lie in two different categories: either it seems as if they are going to reconciliation every day or they only go when obligated. For some, reconciliation is a sacrament that evokes fear while for others, the graces of the sacrament are truly a joyful, or freeing experience. Although there is no right or wrong amount of times to seek Reconciliation, we need to make sure we are not comparing ourselves to our neighbor but doing what is right for our faith life.

As Catholics, we have an obligation to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation at least once a year. Receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation is one of the five precepts, or duties, required by Catholics. These precepts are outlined by the Catholic Church in order to “guarantee to the faithful the indispensable minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth of love of God and neighbor”.

In my experience, Reconciliation is an especially rewarding experience when you are struggling with something in regards to your faith life or your relationship with others. It allows you to take a deep breath, acknowledge your wrong-doings and move on, striving to do better. Even though the fears of my childhood self sometimes creep up, I try to remind myself that Reconciliation is not about being ashamed, it is about striving to understand and do God’s will, and that is not something to be scared of!

Reconciliation is particularly pertinent as we enter the Lenten season. Lent provides a time for us to evaluate our lives, figure out what is holding us back and try to form new habits going forward. Reconciliation is a perfect complement to a sacrificial exercise. There may be times when we fall, but what matters is that we dust ourselves off and try again. With the beginning of Lent, I’d encourage all of you to seek out the sacrament of Reconciliation, we are blessed to have many opportunities to attend on our campus. Also check out the Campus Lenten Opportunities.