Aroma

A story.

When I was pregnant with August, I developed Hyperemesis Gravidarum. That basically means that I couldn’t keep anything down, food or drink, and vomited a lot. I lost weight at an alarming rate. I developed an intense fear of food, based upon what happened to me after I tried to eat even a few bites. To say it was a really difficult time is an understatement.

One day, a couple of ladies from my church asked if they could come and pray over me. I was happy to have them, and they came and talked to me for a bit, then busted out some anointing oil and powerful prayer. It’s hard to describe that day in words, but during that prayer I felt that intense fear let go of me and leave. The oil they used had a very specific aroma to it. I remember after they left, I was relaxing for the first time in what felt like forever, and the smell of the oil was on the back of my couch where I had been resting my head. I burrowed in and breathed deeply, and that very specific smell helped to keep me in that place of amazing peace long after they had gone. Shortly after that, I started recovering and was able to eat again, and my weight loss stopped. I know God was with them that day, and that that hour of prayer helped me cope with the rest of the struggles of my condition.

The sense of smell is an amazing thing.

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Every time I walk into our parish, I am overwhelmed by the aroma. I still am not sure if it is incense or the candles they burn, but it is beautiful, and it awakens my senses and prepares me for the encounter with my Savior that is ahead. That scent used to feel foreign to me, but now it feels like home. It draws my mind upward, that I am about to experience a connection with something extraordinary. As many things are in the Catholic world, the aroma of the church before mass is a physical and tangible way to connect my mind with the spiritual goings-on. It lifts my mind heavenward.

It reminds me of the back of of my couch that I burrowed my nose into, so sick, so desperate, just hoping that the scent would linger for a day or two longer before it faded. Only, at church, each time I enter, it is new and still there and fresh, and powerful. I don’t have to hope it doesn’t fade. It stays strong. And it helps prepare me to encounter the real presence of Jesus.

Another beautiful thing about being Catholic.

First Communion

Last week, I received my First Communion in the Catholic Church. One of the biggest moments for me was bringing up the gifts. We were asked to do that as a way to sort of help mark the special occasion, where JP was receiving communion for the first time in several years, and I was receiving my First Communion.

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I didn’t realize how cool that would be. To bring up the wine and the bread that would be used in the Sacrament. Just a neat moment where the significance of it all kind of hit me.

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Bringing up the Gifts.

Receiving the Eucharist was very emotional for us both. I think that stemmed from several things… what is happening in the Eucharist itself is enough to make one feel strongly, but that moment was rounding out a week that had begun with some very draining conversations, where we were feeling worn down, and the week ended with First Confession and First Communion for me. So quite a dichotomy! And it was just this whole thing about how on earth everything has changed for me theologically, and how now there is this access to Jesus on a completely different dimension than there was before, and how, in actuality, despite how I know and believe the theology of it, I understand it so little.

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After Mass. Lissie was in Sunday School enjoying her little self. 🙂

 

The nice thing about the Eucharist is it wasn’t a once and done deal… I can continue to grow in my understanding of it, and how it will impact my life. One of my favorite memories looking back will be seeing the emotion my husband was feeling at coming back to a fuller and richer version of his home faith community. And having his whole family there with him, participating in it as well. I don’t think JP knew what he was leaving when he left it, but he does know now, and it made returning that much more meaningful.

In other news…

The separation process in leaving our Protestant church has become very painful, in many ways. We are in such a limited position, and are just praying for some grace from our friends and for ourselves to do this thing we are doing.

 

 

 

Full Families

I used to be on the other side of this fence, too.

When JP and I started looking for a church when we moved to SE Wisconsin, one of the big things on my “list” was a good “Children’s Program.” In essence, I wanted an engaging program that taught my kids truths about our faith in a developmentally appropriate way. I also wanted to be able to focus on the service and not be distracted by little ones, so I, too, could grow in my faith through church.

Now, slowly, and interestingly, my view has changed. Some masses do have nursery, and the parish we have been attending does have a 3-5 year old program for members, but by and large, in Catholic mass, whole families are often seen sitting and standing and kneeling together.

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I had this moment last Sunday, where I looked around at all the families, wiggly ones and all, and just thought how cool it was. If parents are doing their job in forming the faith of their children at home, spending Sunday service together seems like a natural outpouring from that instruction. In mass, I can explain to my daughter what certain things mean, she can hear all the music, she can absorb some of the homily. Kids can catch on more than one might think. Through this, she also sees me and her dad living out our faith, and she sees us worshipping God with love and reverence.

This is not to say we don’t come “prepared.” There are some crayons and stickers in our row on Sunday. Though Auggie uses those more than Felicity does. And I know not every kid is going to adjust this easily, but both kids have done really well overall. The mass isn’t this long, same thing through the whole service. There is a lot of variety. Music, standing, sitting, kneeling, listening to spoken word, greeting each other. So I think as far as attention span is concerned, it’s actually more friendly to the adult and the child than some protestant services where you might have 15-20 minutes of music then a 30-40 minute long sermon.

And, not that the statistics are super awesome either way, with how many adult children leave the church, even for a period of time, but, it doesn’t seem that having Children’s Church helps change that statistic. I have ask myself: Is it really more beneficial for my daughter to learn Sunday school Bible stories, than to be immersed in the practice of worship in community, in context of the larger practice of the Christian faith?

And, finally, church history. The Early Christians didn’t have “kids church.” Whole families were together. And we too often ignore the example that was set by Jesus’ earliest followers.

I have concluded that there is a lot to be gained spiritually from one’s presence in church, and I love that my kids have a chance to learn from their parents what is happening during the service, and can see our example of how we practice our faith not only at home, but also at mass.

 

 

A Tale of 2 Services

“Something has changed within me… something I can’t explain.” Those are some of the first words from one of my favorite Broadways songs “Gravity” from the musical Wicked. And that about sums it up for me tonight.

On Christmas Eve this year, we went to our current church for service. The stage was set with wrapped gifts, and tulle, and lights, and a huge wreath in the center. The pews were packed.

On Christmas Morning this year, we went to Mass. We sat as a complete family in the pew, my eyes drawn upward toward the stained glass, and forward toward the altar. The pews, again, were packed.

On Christmas Eve, we listened to and sang with many wonderfully talented singers and children and celebrated with some lovely Christmas songs, followed by a sermon.

On Christmas Morning, we participated in the celebration of Christmas as it has been practiced by the Church for 2,000 years, with a depth and richness to each and every moment.

On Christmas Eve, we heard a call to salvation, with the emphasis on the need to make a decision… the Grande Moment in Protestantism when one becomes a Christian. Salvation as a one-time event, without comment on what that means for the lifetime that follows after.

On Christmas Day, we heard a call to live out a holy Christian life, by imitating God and showing all people, even the ones that are difficult to love, that God is love through a life lived faithfully … a Grande Answer to the question of “I believe… so now what?”

In Protestantism, you hope that one day your child will make a decision to pray a prayer and accept Jesus into his/her heart and life.

In the Catholic Church God’s grace comes to us beginning at baptism and increasing in measure as we grow in our walk with the Lord. Salvation isn’t a one-time event. It’s a a life-long, eternity-filled process.

At church, I send my daughter to another room where she is lovingly cared for and taught Bible stories. But I’m not an active part of it.

At Mass, I sit next to my daughter as she is beginning to respond with the congregation and I realize how much truth about God we can impart to her through this service each week. “Honey, see that up there- that’s Jesus come to meet with us here. We kneel because we are in front of our Savior,” “Do you notice the words we are singing? We are singing the same songs the angels sing in the book of Revelation,” “This creed is how we remember  what all Christians have believed ever since Jesus came…”

I understand the difference now between the Protestant church service and the Mass. As I move along this journey, I am finding that, to me, Mass is so much more rich. Mass is so much more beautiful. Mass is so much more reflective of the glory of my God.

I will miss our church so much in so many ways. The people there love Jesus so much. They are the salt of the earth. I hope we find time to spend with our brothers and sisters in Christ. I hope this journey we have been on brings us all closer to our Savior.

But on Sunday mornings from here on out, you will find me at Mass.