Friday, November 26, 2021

Thanksgiving All Year Long

As Catholics we know the gift of the Eucharist. Aside from the Real Presence that exists within this Holy Sacrament we are also aware of the fact that we are able to receive this gift on a daily basis. Many of us who have attended Protestant churches who lack both the Real Presence as well as the daily and/or weekly reception of Communion recognize the great loss that these Christians have in their faith life. This is also why many devout Catholics say that once you understand what the Eucharist truly is that you can never leave the Church. 

This hit me hardest during the pandemic when the opportunity to go to Mass was taken was away from us. I remember what it was like to return, to kneel during the Consecration and then to approach the altar again. It was such a gift to be back at Mass and I hope and pray that a shutdown like this never happens to any of us again. 

Jesus and Gratitude 

We look to Jesus for so much because of the examples He set for us on so many occasions.  Being both God and man we know that He experienced the same things that we all experience as human beings, which means that He, too knows of the importance of being thankful. With that in mind, we too can learn from our Lord, in this case, by the way He lived and not in some lesson He offered during His earthly ministry.   

As stated by Leonard J. DeLorenzo: Eucharistia means thanksgiving. How wonderful that Jesus gives thanks by endlessly offering himself and making a gift of himself to God and to men...Most certainly, he thanks God the Father, the model and ultimate source of all giving. 

Many of us have learned the lesson of generosity from our own parents, both in the lessons they have taught us along with the way many of them choose to live. Over the years it has been my privilege to read assignments from my theology students as well as hear them share in class discussions many of the lessons they have learned from their own parents in terms of what it means to give to others. 

Jesus would also be thankful to those who are willing to trust Him in their reception of Him. As DeLorenzo says: He surely also thanks the poor sinners who are willing to receive Him, who let Him enter under their unworthy roof. 

For those of us who are in the world of ministry and/or education as well as parents who seek to reconnect with their children; all of this requires the earning of the person's trust and once that happens it is truly a gift for the one seeking to prove themselves. The hope is that the mentor can help provide more to the other person's life in a way that is similar to the Eucharist making us better Christians. 

Finally, there is the example of faith and trust that Jesus would have learned from our His Mother. As stated again by DeLorenzo: I would say that He thanks the poor Maid from whom He received this flesh and blood through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. . . . What does Jesus learn from His mother? He learns to say Yes, fiat. Not just any Yes, but a Yes that goes ever farther, without getting weary. Everything that you desire, my God…. ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word.’

It is natural for us to focus on the courage it took for Jesus to face His Passion and Death but there is so much more to this idea. Being human ourselves we can imagine what it took for Him to commit His life to His earthly ministry, which could have included Him setting aside some of His own needs and wants for the sake of the Kingdom. With that in mind He too would have trusted in His Father while also receiving guidance from our Blessed Mother, who too knew what it was like to trust in the Father when it came to honoring her own Fiat. 

Catholics Are a Thanksgiving People 

We hear a lot that we are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song. Yes, indeed because without the Resurrection we have nothing (1 Corinthians 15:17). However, there is more to being Catholic than that because there is great depth to our faith. 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in 1324 says: The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life. Of course, this begins with the Incarnation which in turn means we should always be thankful for the fact that Jesus did come to us as one of us when God could have simply continued with the Law and the Prophets while putting the responsibility on conversion on us due to the fact that we are the sinners. For Jesus, that was not enough. He came to show us the way and to lay His life down for us as an offering for our sins (John 15:13). Thank you Lord. 

Further, we are also told in 1327: the Eucharist is the sum and summary of our faith: Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking. With that in mind, it should impact the way we feel when we attend Mass, as this is the place where we are able to receive the Eucharist.  There are some who claim that Mass is boring but like anything else in life, we get out of it what we put into it. 

I can think of the many time I sat through a baseball game that I was watching hoping to see my favorite team win. Many times they did not but I still took to the time to watch and see if it would happen. In most cases, it was very disappointing. However, during the Mass I will hear the Word of God, I will have a chance to pray with my community and most importantly, I will receive Our Lord in the Eucharist so how could this ever be a waste of my time? 

After receiving the Eucharist we should also make the effort to focus on prayer on what we have truly received. As stated by Fr. Michael Van Sloun: it is a perfect time to have a chat with the Lord, to mention a few of the blessings we have received over the past week, and to tell Jesus just how grateful we are. All we have is from God, and without God we would have nothing. 

In other words, we are able to do this after each moment of receiving the Lord in His Real Presence. And, if our thinking is truly in tune with the Eucharist we will recognize all that we have to be thankful for, from our daily blessings to the struggles that help us continue to build the Kingdom of God by doing the Lord's work as well as all of the things that offer us a chance to become better Catholics. This is why John Burger tells us that the term (Eucharist) used for the Catholic Mass and Sacrament have a special meaning, not just for one holiday. 

Burger continues: It is called Eucharist “because it is an action of thanksgiving to God. The Greek words eucharistein and eulogein recall the Jewish blessings that proclaim—especially during a meal—God’s works: creation, redemption, and sanctification.”

Lord, please continue to open our eyes so we can see all of the ways You proclaim Your Glory. 

Everything is a Gift, including our Suffering 

It is important to note that in Luke 22:17 Jesus gave thanks before offering the cup and bread to His apostles. Prior to that, He tells them that He was eager to have that particular Passover meal with them before He suffered. This should be an important lesson for all of us as it shows the importance of having our loved ones present prior to enduring a great trial. No wonder Jesus gave thanks before sharing the cup and bread with His apostles. Further, the apostles received the Eucharist before having to also endure the suffering and death of Our Lord. And like the apostles, we should seek and receive the Lord when we are about to encounter a great trial in our own lives. 

In the words of St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi: You will be consoled according to the greatness of your sorrow and affliction; the greater the suffering the greater will be the reward. If these are the words of a Catholic saint it would certainly be in regards to living a Christian life. Therefore, it would be the perfect example of uniting oneself to Christ whose suffering had purpose as it was for the benefit of the Kingdom. 

If that is the case then again, we follow the example of Jesus' Mother: ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word.’ Let us go with confidence knowing that all we do has purpose. In the words of St. Ignatius of Loyola: Lord, teach me to be generous. Teach me to serve You as You deserve. 

 And let us do it with thanksgiving, every single day of the year, as we remember all that You have done for us, dear Lord. 

Carlos Solorzano
BA & MA in Religious Studies from Cal State Long Beach
Certified Through the Theology of the Body Institute
Co-Founder of Humana Corpus Dignitate

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Catholic Education Begins at Home

We are at a crossroads.  Many of the narratives and ideals being pushed in the secular world are seeping into school systems, and even Catholic institutions are being affected.  A nun who teaches at a local Catholic school had expressed her fear that the educational system will push for a curriculum that goes against our Catholic beliefs and may cause a shut down of Catholic schools.  Just this month the National Catholic Register reported students walked out of an assembly on a prolife talk at a Catholic school, citing that students were claiming to be prochoice.  In the same week, Loyola Marymount, a Catholic Jesuit university, approved an on-campus fundraiser for Planned Parenthood, claiming it’s because they do more things than abortions.  Both schools being in California, the liberal, left-wing type of attitude and culture of the state may be a huge factor in the mindsets of the students.  But there is more to it that I’m realizing.  When what is being taught in school is not being reinforced or practiced at home, it will not stick. 

A study published in 2018 found that the disaffiliation for those born into the Catholic faith begins at a median age of 13 years old.  Various reasons were cited for the reason, but there is one thing they all have seemed to have in common: the why behind the "rules."  Whether they have been immersed in a secular culture in which faith is an option and societal norms oppose Church teaching, a traumatic event that causes them to question its importance or the existence of God, or the inability to get a satisfactory answer to their questions, young people are looking for the reasoning behind what is being taught.  It is no longer enough to just give a set of rules to follow.  It must be done in way that is meaningful and loving.  But a good example that is set by a child's first teachers, the parents, is one very important tool to ensure that they see the true value in the Church's teachings.
I am a product of Catholic school education, having been taught in a Catholic school for 12 years.  Growing up it was something I had taken for granted.  It was not my experiences in school that made me curious about my faith, but the spiritual experiences I had outside of it.
My grandfather was what my aunt called “very Catholic”.  Before his passing this year, he had told me that he was not actually born into the faith. He was a young boy raised in another Christian denomination in the Philippines that was similar to Catholicism in some practice but not all.  But a local priest was giving Bible study lessons after school and he began to attend. Before the age of 10, he chose to convert and raised our family to be Catholic alongside my grandmother.  We prayed at family gatherings, waiting for everyone (all 60 relatives to arrive) and gather to bless the food before we dug into our feast. My parents took my sister and me to Church on Sundays, the same Church where I received all of my Sacraments, and eventually took my children to receive their Sacraments.  Being Catholic was so engrained in me that when I had not practiced my faith for some time, I began to miss it on my own, finding my way back into my parish that had been home since I was baptized at only a few weeks old. 

Eventually that longing turned into a desire, turned into a passion for my faith until I hit the ground running and am now in this ministry that I love and am helping to grow. Having my own children taught me how much we need to lead by example at home.  My son coming home and reminding me of the 10 Commandments when I accidentally say “Oh my God!” as a reaction or watch violent films reminds me how much they are watching in our actions.  When we go to Church, my kids follow what I do, not what everyone else is doing.  When I kneel, they kneel, even though the rest of the assembly is standing after Communion (the practice they implemented at my Parish).

These are small examples of a larger picture.  Our children learn the values of being Catholic from us, not by what we tell them but by how we show them. The issues of social justice being presented today will be a source of contention, and perhaps for a very long time.  There is the possibility of it worsening before it gets better, if it will ever get better.  However, the intrinsic values of a person that is gained in the home can greatly influence their beliefs. If only we could show how these Catholic values are not just as a set of archaic and outdated rules and regulations, but actually continuously protect the dignity of our humanity.  No, not every child will follow.

We all have free will, and each person is influenced by different factors.  But unless we begin at home with the family, our children may never learn these values anywhere else.  Teaching them from an early age, praying with them, reading with them, and most importantly talking to them in a loving way that helps them to understand each person's worth and dignity may yet help them to see where the Church teachings are actually to protect that dignity from conception to natural death, and to value themselves as a gift from God.