Dec 24, 2008


This isn't particularly Catholic, except that maybe I'm beginning to understand our Christian obligations more. In any case, is a remarkable organization in at least a couple ways - they employ micro-finance principles to aid entrepreneurs in developing countries, and they make excellent use of online technology to do so. We highlighted them in my International Aid and Development class in college.

One of our good friends gave us a $25 gift certificate to Kiva and I think it's one of the best gifts we've ever received. I've admired Kiva for a while but have never spent the time or effort to get involved with it; this small amount is really inspiring me to do more.

UPDATE: Wow. When I picked Margaret (above), she had 0% of her requested loan. In the 1-2 hours it took to get this blog post up, she received 100% of it. Go Kiva! Go Margaret!

Dec 19, 2008

Mosteiro de São Bento de São Paulo

When I went to Brazil over Thanksgiving week, I was a little worried about what I would do for Mass, since I would be in São Paulo on Sunday. In my typical geek fashion, I though I'd just look up a parish near the hotel and go there.

Luckily for me, one of the other international speakers at the conference, Chris, and his wife Bernadine, had plans to go to Mosteiro de São Bento de São Paulo on Sunday morning. Bernadine said she had been raised Catholic but was not a practicing Catholic; they were going because they had heard the opening hymnals are quite a spectacle.

They were so right. I wish I had the courage to snap a photo or two, because the whole experience of sights, sounds, and smells felt overwhelmingly sacred. I don't understand any Portuguese (except enough to ask for the bathroom, etc.), but there was no denying the sincerity and passion of the Monks' praise and worship offerings to God.

This video does hardly any justice at all - in fact, I think it may be a different São Bento Monastery/Church than the one in São Paulo. But at least it represents the style of the sanctuary and of the music, though the quality is not good. :(

The experience really nailed home a virtue I've known of the Catholic Mass, but had never experienced before ...

I don't understand Portuguese, but I could follow the Mass and participate in it. I spoke the prayers in English while the rest of the congregation spoke them in Portuguese. The Sign of Peace cut straight thru our cultural and language barriers. And while I'm still not completely fluent in Mass even at home, this experience really helped to further personalize it all for me.

Dec 16, 2008

There's something MORE about Mary

Jeff made such a great comment on my previous post about Mary that I absolutely have to follow-up with another post. I had wanted to blog something about Joseph before Xmas, but we'll see. His comment deserves full repetition so here it is:

Yeah, I'm okay with my Catholic brothers and sisters believing in Mary's perfection. But for me, it screws with my head in terms of my acceptance God's grace. Do I have to be perfect first to be imputed with His grace?

For me, a mere mortal Mary gives me hope that I can "carry" Christ in an imperfect vessel albeit one filled with imputed grace.

And it doesn't diminish Mary's faith or sacrifice. In fact, what kind of faith does a flawless human need? I'm perhaps too simple. I only have room for one spotless One.

As for me, I am hopelessly flawed. I'm probably one of those vessels used for "ignoble purposes." (2 Tim. 2:20) Paul may have had me in mind when he made reference to such household items. For example, I think I rank along side the chamber pot. Useful but stinky most of the time.

You're so right!! Seriously, check this out ... the issue became much easier for me when I realized I was projecting my own hopelessly flawed vessel onto Mary. But here we've confused cause and effect ...

Mary was not perfect and then imputed with God's full grace - she is, from conception, imputed with God's full grace so that she can be perfect. Likewise, she is not flawless and searching for faith - she is flawless because the fullness of God's grace in her gave her perfect faith.

Personally, I find it inspiring and encouraging that there is a fellow creature with such capacity for God's grace and such total faithful submission to His will. Jesus was a fully spotless man (formed from this fully spotless woman), but Jesus was also fully God - something none of us creatures will ever experience. And creation has been replete with other variously-spotted saints with whom we can easily relate our flaws. In all of the world, Mary is the only mere mortal to be purely spotless.

That's why I'm starting to really revere Mary - she is, by God's design, a restoration of the un-cracked eikon, as perfect as any of us mere creatures can be; she is the second Eve. Not by her own merit, but by God's grace, with which she carried, firstly, Christ's merit into the world. And yet she's one of us on a very personal level. So much so that I can relate her to my own grandmother.

So now I indulge in the opportunity to ask this Blessed Woman to pray to her son for me.

Dec 9, 2008

Full -> Pure -> Immaculate

Yesterday was the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.

I'll readily admit that the Marian doctrines are probably the largest mental hurdles for my developing Catholic faith. But the more I experience them, the more I find that the difficulties were largely of my own making. Last night's Mass centered on her Immaculate Conception - the 3rd of the 4 Marian Dogmas.

From the inside, it's hard to have any problem with what was revered last night. I think Deacon Yarbrough used a great metaphor - Mary, in her Immaculate Conception, was a blank slate, an empty cup; the only creature with the proper capacity to receive Christ's full merit. She was purposefully made by God as a perfect creature so that he could use her to send His Son to redeem all of His creation.

It made me think of my grandmother. I've jokingly referred to her as St. Daphne, but I now seriously and sincerely believe that she is indeed the person closest to Mary whom I will ever meet in this life; thinking about Daphne's devotion to God is overwhelming. I can't even imagine the kind of Godly life Mary must have lived to even surpass Daphne.

After all was said and done, I left with, surprisingly for me, a deeper praise for God's grace and Christ's merit, and an appreciation of how completely they were expressed and carried by the Holy Mother.

My grandmother constantly prays for me and for my entire family. So I have absolutely no more mental hurdles to clear in asking Mary to pray for us too.