A Law of Freedom, Not Oppression

A Law of Freedom, Not Oppression

The culture seems to indicate that I should feel a bit like an oppressed victim.  Partly because I am a woman and even more so because I am a young, Catholic woman.  The “male-dominated hierarchy” that imposes a radical ban on my sex from becoming a cleric is meant to be railed against.  And yet I do not imagine myself to be oppressed or a victim.  Instead, I feel genuinely free.

Recently, I started reading Breaking Through: Catholic Women Speak for Themselves and I’ve found it to be quite enjoyable.  The stories are from women who embrace the fullness of the teachings the Church has to offer, finding within the precepts a path to freedom and joy.  In the news and social media, many take it on themselves to speak for Catholic women and how we must feel.  Breaking Through makes the bold claim that Catholic women do not need anyone to speak for them; rather, Catholic women have the ability and intellect to speak for themselves.  Instead of writing us off for actually embracing the Church’s teachings, others are encouraged to listen to the personal experiences women have had as they have grappled with and eventually embraced the wisdom of the Church. Continue reading “A Law of Freedom, Not Oppression”

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The Shack: A Catholic Critique

The Shack: A Catholic Critique

Spoiler: If you haven’t read The Shack by Wm. Paul Young and don’t want to know anything about it that might take away from your initial experience, please be aware this post might not be for you.  I discuss elements of the story, but I don’t give it all away.

I recently finished reading The Shack and I found it to be, as a whole, a beautiful story of how God desires to enter into our most painful situations and transform them by His presence.  The way Young depicts the interactions within the Trinity caused me to stop and consider more deeply the perfect communion found within God Himself.  In fact, as soon as I finished The Shack, I picked up Fr. Michael Gaitley’s book The ‘One Thing’ is Three: How the Most Holy Trinity Explains Everything.  After reading about the communion of the Trinity in intimate detail, I was filled with a desire to learn more about our Trinitarian God.

The general story line of The Shack is about a man named Mack who has experienced great suffering and loss.  He receives a note from God asking him to come to an old shack to spend the weekend with Him.  When Mack does this, he enters into an incredible encounter with the living God and grows in an understanding of each person of the Trinity.

The main aspects of Young’s story I found to be edifying.  It was simply some of the side details or conversations that made me wonder if he was critiquing Christianity as a whole or specifically Catholicism.  Or, at least, his perception of what the Catholic Church teaches or is.  There are a handful of elements that struck me as a direct rebuke of Catholicism.  The two I want to focus on are ritual and institution.

There is a beautiful section where God involves Mack in “devotions” after a shared meal.  Rather than producing a Bible to read from, Mack is surprised when Jesus reaches across the table, takes the Father’s hands, and speaking honest, loving words of adoration.  It reinforces the reality that devotion is entering into a loving relationship with God, not something that is merely rote or filled with words.  After another meal, Mack expects the same thing to happen.

“What about devotion?” asked Mack.
“Nothing is a ritual, Mack,” said Papa…

What is so wrong with something being a ritual?  There are a couple other places where ritual is portrayed as unsavory and in conflict with God’s desires.  I could agree with this if ritual meant that something was insincere or done merely out of habit.  However, that is not what a ritual has to be.  Sometimes rituals are the best way to enter into something that is far above us.  Like the Mass or marriage, we follow a religious ritual because we are connected to something bigger than just ourselves.

The Catholic Church is known for saying the same Mass over and over and over again.  My students will sometimes question why they need to go to Mass each week when it is simply the same thing they heard the previous week.  But if we understand the sacrifice of the Holy Mass as it actually is–the priest in persona Christi re-presenting the sacrifice of Jesus at the Last Supper and consummated on the cross at Calvary–then we would realize that nothing else would be a fitting memorial.

Yes, it is a ritual.  But Jesus also said “Do this in remembrance of me.”  Why reinvent the wheel every Sunday when Jesus has given us His very self and asks us to share in this sacrificial meal?  More than new praise and worship songs (which I appreciate in a specific context), the Mass prayed throughout the ages unites us to the earliest followers of Jesus Christ.  This isn’t a bad type of ritual, but rather a ritual that unites Christians across space and time. Continue reading “The Shack: A Catholic Critique”

Many Are Called: A Book Review

What does it mean to be a priest?  Amidst the scandals within the Church, many have a fundamental misunderstanding of the priesthood.  In Scott Hahn’s ­Many Are Called: Rediscovering the Glory of the Priesthood, the multi-faceted beauty of the ordained priesthood is revealed.  Hahn’s work delves into what a priest is in his roles as mediator, provider, teacher, warrior, judge, bridegroom, celibate father, and brother.

Continue reading “Many Are Called: A Book Review”

The Mass: The Glory, the Mystery, the Tradition : A Book Review

The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Catholic faith.  As such, it is perfectly fitting that Cardinal Donald Wuerl and Mike Aquilina would co-write a book to teach the faithful about this crucial aspect of their faith.  Published near the time of the implementation of the new Mass translation, it guides the reader through the Mass step-by-step.

The first half of the book seeks to help the reader grow in greater knowledge about the history of the Mass, the different names for the Mass, the people involved, and the different materials used in the celebration of a typical Mass.  By covering this aspect first, they are setting the stage for the Mass to be understood in a new way.  Pictures are included to help the reader visualize the specific vessels used in Mass or the way different parts of the Mass would actually look.

Once the stage is set, the materials are identified, and the faithful are equipped with the necessary background knowledge, the authors launch into a thorough walk through of the Mass.  Each aspect of the Mass, from the simple opening prayer to the purification of the vessels after Communion, is explained and presented in a way that is both easy to grasp and yet provides knowledge that helps deepen one’s spirituality.  After reading through what the prayers mean, it is difficult to view the Mass in the same way.  I will find myself at Mass hearing a specific line in a prayer or watching the priest do something and will recall the greater significance from the book.

If the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of the Catholic faith, it is necessary to understand it as fully as possible.  Reading this book ensures that you will be able to grasp more fully the nourishment that is being offered to you through the saving Bread of Life that is Jesus Christ.  The book ends with sending you out to actually live out the Eucharist and to live out the closing words of the Mass: “Go forth, the Mass is ended!”

**I received this book free through “Blogging for Books.”