Friday, April 27, 2007

An "ATM of Grace"?

1) Adoration tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. All are welcome!

2) Blogger party: next Saturday, May 5, 6-8 pm, all purpose room. Please reply under my post from yesterday, "Blogger party!", if you will attend and what you will bring.
“Ginger” made the following comments about faith a little while ago:

“(Faith is) knowing that you can handle your spiritual progress on your own. For a while I thought I needed a spiritual director but all I ‘really’ needed was the confidence of handling my faith independently and I do have that confidence now. :0)…I would rather do it on my own than have the religious whether be it priests, nuns etc feel that they are pushed by someone else to help certain people. No one is happy that way…When I say on my own I mean I will still go to Mass and get the sacraments.”

Ginger, I appreciate your candid comments, but I do have to say they are not consistent with Christian spirituality and doctrine. While each of us is on an individual journey of faith, we live out our faith in community. Faith is a shared experience. Christ brought people together. He didn’t worship the Father by himself; he gathered people together either to teach the Scriptures or gather them around a table to celebrate the Eucharist. Christ taught us to pray “Our Father” and not “My Father”. Your last sentence does convey your appreciation of the communal aspect of our faith, and that you can’t do it all on your own.

Regarding the idea that “you can handle your spiritual progress on your own”, I would advise some caution there. First, whenever we do things on our own, we run the risk of being wrong in our discernment of God’s Will. For example, a mother of five young children really feels God calling her to attend daily Mass each morning. She feels a great attraction to the Eucharist, and knows that the Mass is the greatest prayer. She thinks, how could God not call her to receive the Eucharist daily? Well, her parish only offers one Mass in the morning, and it’s while her kids and husband are busy getting ready for school and work. If she pursued this, she would be neglecting her primary vocation as wife and mother. If she has a spiritual director, he/she would remind her what St. Francis de Sales taught: God doesn’t call us to practice devotions that take us away from our primary vocations (marriage, e.g.).

Second, there is a bigger point here that has to do with the Church. If God wanted us all to walk the journey of faith individually, why did he establish the Church in the first place? The Church is not just a dispenser of the sacraments; she is not an “ATM of Grace”. For example, if I go to the Church just to receive the Eucharist on Sunday and have no other involvement with the Church the rest of the week, then I defeat the whole point of the Eucharist. The Church is God’s family of believers who experience faith, prayer, the sacraments, healing, joy, sadness, and love together. Christ formed the Church so that we would experience His Kingdom together, not merely as a group of individuals. Everything we have ever learned or experienced about Christ is because of the Church, because of what others in the Church have taught us.

Finally, Christ established the priesthood so that he could continue to offer his ministry of grace, healing, counsel, and forgiveness. Christ is the minister at every Mass, he is the minister in every Confession…it is Christ acting in the person of the priest. While it is not on the same level as the sacraments, spiritual direction and counsel is an experience whereby God often speaks through his priest. It is one of the main components of any faithful priest’s life. A priest, like Christ, is called to serve. He is called to be there for his people, listen to their problems, and offer appropriate, wise, Christ-centered advice. How many times was Christ “pushed by someone else to help certain people”? It was many times, and they all led to experiences of happiness for those involved. That is my model as a priest, and I want to offer similar experiences of happiness for you and for all those who are in need at St. Andrew’s.


At 1:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"God doesn’t call us to practice devotions that take us away from
our primary vocations (marriage, e.g.)."

That stopped me in my tracks! I've struggled with living a faith
that incorporates the practice of devotions b/c I've received opposition
from my spouse (long story). I've often stopped myself from going to a
Mass if he was still home. I thought-I don't really need to go if it's going to
cause friction. It wasn't until earlier this week that I, again, wanted to go to
a Mass, but he was home, and I became angry that I felt I "shouldn't" go. I decided
it was time for an overdue talk- I'm tired of feeling angry. We got past the "it's
just weird" stuff to the core issue- if I grew stronger in my faith, I might
find him less worthy of me and might not want him anymore. SHOCK! It never occured to
me that THIS was really his issue (I was waaay off base). I explained that Mass,
as well as several other things the church offers me, has helped me to look at
our marriage as a covenant made before God, one that I choose to honor. I explained that
the devotions to which I feel called have been the very things that have helped me in the
struggles specifically regarding our marriage. I was starting to feel like the very
thing I was counting on to help hold my marriage together was going to tear it apart, and
I was feeling confused about the different ways I was feeling pulled. I'm not saying our
talk makes all okay with him, but now, maybe, he understands a bit about what I'm really
looking for and why. It was really weird to see that quote used- kind a spooked me....

At 2:10 PM, Anonymous mindy said...

A friend emailed me a website link that I though was cool.

There is an idea that grew in response to Pope Benedict's call for acts of peace on World Peace Day. There's a website that encourages people to pledge hours that they will dedicate to doing acts that promote peace. Since January, some 1,850,967 hours have been pledged. I think it's a cool and really simple idea that deserves to be passed on. I listed just a few of the pledges that were made-

I will smile at other drivers as I commute to and from work.

I will pray an extra 15 minutes each day for peace and understanding among all people.

I pledge one hour each week in the Adoration Chapel of our church this year.

I will reach out to someone in need each week.

I will assist my church youth group and serve as a Confirmation mentor.

Every day on my way to work I will spend a few minutes in prayer for world peace.

I pledge to pray for peace, take time out each day to smile at a stranger, to say thank you to everyone I meet, call my family and tell them I love them.

Each day I will pick a random name from the phone book and pray for the person's well-being.

I will pray for the unborn so they may have peace in the womb.

I will find something to be grateful for in my home each day instead of focusing on what is wrong.

I will pray for one hour daily for the priests, religious brothers and sisters and all consecrated people around the world.

These aren't weighty, difficult or even inconvenient things to do, and it takes so little from each of us to create so much good.

At 3:29 PM, Anonymous Zophiel said...

Kat can attest that when it comes to religious and spiritual matters, I can be fiercely independent. So, I can certainly see and understand where Ginger is coming from. It a very commonly held sentiment, one heard over and over again from evangelical pulpits and a myriad of other places. And, there was probably a time in my college days when I agreed with this-- partly out of bitterness and resentment, partly out of that native "fierce independence", partly stubborness/ Pride. I, too, would rather "do it on my own."

Of course, when it comes down to it, we all have to do it on our own-- but doing something on your own does not mean doing it alone, or completely sans guidence.

As Fr. Greg said, when you forego spiritual direction/ counceling, you run the risk of not discerning correctly, because all your discernment will be completely subjective, there will be no outside input for you to consider, much less disagree with.

Spiritual direction is not putting your spiritual development completely into the hands of another mortal. It is, rather, a chance to hear something outside of our own heads. While it is true that some people possess the necessary honesty and self-discipline to be pretty OK on their own, I do not think it ever wise to assume that one it among those people. Because if you have any lack in these areas and most people, very much including myself, do lack in these areas, you end up running wild on the spiritual plains.

Without something to at least serve as a guidepost, discernment quickly becomes a self-centered thing, where God's Will becomes My Will. At this point, one is simply a Jesus-oriented Fluff-bunny Wiccan, wearing a cross and proclaiming "An it harm none, do as thou wilt!" A nice sentiment, but with no room for development or growth.

Spiritual direction, formal or informal, maintains the challenge of faith. In fact, if you never disagree with your spiritual advisor, then there's no chance for growth. The church and all the opportunities for direction are not in place to force marching orders down our throats-- they exist to serve as the structure for our growth. It is in the uncomfortable disagreements that we all grow in understanding and wisdom.

But those uncomfortable disagreements cannot happen if there is no one to disagree with. Do I always agree with 100% of what Fr. Greg, or any other person, says? Nope. And I think this is a good thing. If I agreed with everything he said, then there is no growth for me to gain from having known him.

This is not a lack of confidence in my own Faith. Not at all. It is, however, a humble (or rather, as humble as I can currently manage ^_^) admission that I am imperfect, a sin-prone mortal who needs reminding that yes, we are mortal and sin-prone, but we are called and created for something greater. That's what Spiritual direction is (at least how I see it)-- that reminder of the higher standard.

At 6:15 PM, Anonymous Kelly said...

Hi, Anon #1, What a great conversation with your husband! I would love to go to St. Andrew's for adoration every Friday night. Well, my husband is whipped on Friday nights and he longs for a meal/stay at home night. Then add in the fact that we have three teens who need supervision on Friday nights BIG TIME. So I feel a little bummed out.

If I had not sought spiritual direction, I would not have learned about God's order on this subject. Just another great example of how much we need our priests/spiritual directors.

At 11:56 PM, Blogger Kiwi Nomad 2006 said...

There are barely enough priests in my area to say Mass: I doubt they really have time to offer much in the way of spiritual direction. This must be quite common in many areas.

At 12:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"There are barely enough priests in my area to say Mass: I doubt they really have time to offer much in the way of spiritual direction. This must be quite common in many areas."

Not even close to being quite common, I fear, but we're fortunte here to have really dedicated priests at SAA. Ours are really the best!

At 12:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

kelly- I hope you will come to Fr. Greg's party- we have kids of similar age and I feel an affinity for you- I'd love to actually meet you.

At 6:58 PM, Anonymous Kelly said...

Hi, last anon, I just posted that we, unfortunately, can not make it to the party. My husband bought concert tickets 2 months ago (for the exact same day/time). I am really bummed that I will miss this chance to meet you and others who post on this site! Do you go to Friday night adoration? Although it is a rare treat for me to get there, I do plan on coming this Friday night. Maybe we will meet then or at another get together!

At 6:56 AM, Anonymous mindy said...

I usually do go to Adoration, but this Friday I've committed myself to taking some kids to Fr. Greg's basketball game at Redeemer. If you've never been- they're fun, and the kids think it's a blast! Fr. Greg is pretty humorous, and he doesn't disappoint the kids with his game play, "animated" behavior and tumbles to the ground. I hope he remembers elbow and knee pads- the pavement can be unforgiving. This week he may truly be giving his blood and sweat to the kids!

You might think about marking you calendar 5/25 for Adoration at SAA, and bring your son (7th grade, right?). Our 6th & 7th grade families will be there. Fr. does an amazing job of bringing the kids into the experience, and I promise your son will be grateful for having been there. It also might be a good opportunity to speak with a few moms afterwards regarding school choices (I'd be happy to make introductions). Just a thought.


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