November 2020 - St. Winifred

St. Winifred
Seventh century
Feast: November 3

There is no reliable biography of this Welsh martyr. According to legend, the niece of St. Beuno rejected the unwanted attentions of a chieftain’s son, who cut off her head with a sword and was swallowed up by the earth. St. Beuno miraculously restored her to life, and she either lived out her days as a nun in Wales or traveled to Rome, returning to Britain to attend a synod on hermits. In 1138 her relics were enshrined in the Benedictine abbey at Shrewsbury, England. The site of her reputed beheading, a spring called Holywell, became a famous pilgrimage destination.

Northwest Catholic - November 2020

Allow yourself to be amazed by the Eucharist

“The Church draws her life from the Eucharist. This truth does not simply express a daily experience of faith, but recapitulates the heart of the mystery of the Church, who joyfully experiences the constant fulfilment of the promise: ‘Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age’ (Matthew 28:20).”

With these words, St. John Paul II begins his final encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia. As we celebrate in our archdiocese our Year of the Eucharist, it is worth reviewing in detail this last letter, written by John Paul the Great in order to “rekindle this Eucharistic ‘amazement.’”

How much is contained in this simple yet profound expression: “Eucharistic amazement.”

What better remedy to the overwhelming lack of faith in the Real Presence registered nowadays among Catholics in our country! Rekindling once and again the amazement of the one who meets the Eucharistic Jesus consciously ­— we must make of it a habit.

That same amazement of those two who, on their way to Emmaus, meet someone who explains the Scriptures and then breaks the bread, turning invisible at that very instant, leaving their hearts burning when they find that the crucified Jesus is more alive than ever when the bread is broken.

That same amazement of those kids who, after several months of sacramental catechesis, feel in their mouths for the first time the consecrated host, letting it melt delicately on their tongues, becoming aware of the presence of Jesus in their hearts.

That same amazement of the newly ordained priest, who raises for the first time a piece of bread with his trembling hands, as the Holy Spirit, sent by the Father, transforms it into the body of Christ within his fingers.

That same amazement of thousands of pilgrims who witness the eucharistic miracles in different shrines, as tears roll down their cheeks while they gaze upon such a prodigy that overwhelms them.

That same amazement of millions of members of the faithful, who gather with their priests every week to worship Jesus, hidden within the bread from heaven that contains all sweetness.

That same amazement of the dying person, who feels in anguish how his life is escaping with no return, and receives for the last time the Eucharist, experiencing the sudden serenity that allows him to close his eyes, knowing that the viaticum will keep him company along his journey to the heavenly Father’s dwelling.

If someone no longer believes in the Eucharist, it is because he is no longer amazed by this infinite miracle of love, in which the Son of God makes himself so little, simple and humble in order to get inside us.

Let us live our Year of the Eucharist in an intentional, concrete and — most of all — passionate way. Let us be amazed at every Mass like those at Emmaus, closing our eyes after receiving Communion and feeling our hearts burning with the certainty that it is truly Jesus who dwells now within our heart.

Be passionate about our faith!

Northwest Catholic - November 2020

Jesus is the answer

In Catholic elementary school, I often heard a joke: “If you don’t know the answer on a test, just write ‘Jesus,’ because Jesus is always the answer.” At 22, that joke seems truer and truer. Jesus really is the answer to every question, but not quite in the way my classmates meant.

At my current school, the University of Washington, politics is the buzz. Elections, social justice issues and public policy seem to be of utmost importance, and I get it. Many of us see political action as the best way to make a positive impact on the world. After all, our political discussions seek to solve some of the world’s biggest problems.

But as a young Catholic, I’ve learned that political action doesn’t hold a candle to Christian discipleship.

This isn’t to say politics isn’t important — the church teaches that governments have an essential role in defending and promoting the common good, and we should bring our faith to bear in the public square. But for a Catholic, politics isn’t enough.

Take an issue like economic inequality. Yes, good public policy is necessary to correct the scandal of unjust and excessive inequality. But Jesus calls us to something higher: the virtue of charity.

“Give to everyone who asks of you.”

“Sell what you have and give to the poor.”

“Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”

When thinking about poverty or social injustice, it’s tempting to say, “That’s what I pay taxes for. The government can fix those problems.” But Jesus tells us to love our neighbor. Us personally!

The government can disburse money, but it cannot love. Only we can. To receive a check from the government can be helpful, even essential — but to be shown love by one’s neighbor can be life-changing. That’s the power of the Gospel.

I’ve learned this from my dad. By volunteering at Nativity House in Tacoma, a program of Catholic Community Services, he helps provide hot meals and housing to those in need. “When I hand someone their meal and they thank me, they’re not just thanking me for the food,” he says. “They’re also thanking me because I’ve shown them that someone cares. It’s something personal.”

My dad doesn’t see problems to be solved, but people to be loved. It’s easy to watch the news and lament, “There are so many problems in the world,” but Jesus reminds us that life isn’t a game of numbers.

As Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Mueggenborg says, everything we do as Christians is meant to be ministry — the sacred action of Christ serving Christ. We are called to say “Yes” to the presence of Jesus in us and working through us to serve Jesus present in others.

If we can do this, loving one neighbor at a time, we will change the world.

Jesus really is the answer.

Jack Mennie is a member of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Federal Way and the Prince of Peace Catholic Newman Center at the University of Washington.

Northwest Catholic - November 2020

Memento mori: Confronting death to live well

I’m the kind of mom that makes my family visit cemeteries on vacation. We’ve read poems of famous poets at their graves. We’ve said prayers at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider. We’ve taken pictures at Alexander and Eliza Hamilton’s graves and traced our fingers over dates on tombstones in little out-of-the-way towns. And yes, we’ve sat with graves of those we’ve been intimately connected to, as friends or family.

It’s not that I am morbid. Visiting cemeteries, remembering stories of those I know and imagining the tales of those I did not, intensifies the contrast between me and those who lie beneath the dirt. It makes me feel alive.

By visiting cemeteries, I am teaching my children a centuries-old Christian tradition, memento mori. Borrowed by early Christians from the Greek Stoics, memento mori is simply translated from Latin as “remember you will die.”

Memento mori brings the refrain from Ash Wednesday, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you will return,” to our everyday life. These words served as spiritual instruction through medieval times to the Victorian era — for those who fought in battle, those who went to sea, women in childbirth and those experiencing the trials of everyday life.

We remember we will die, so that we will live — well.

In the last century, we’ve become removed from death. Death now often happens out of sight. To speak of death is taboo — so much so that grieving has become a private burden we carry alone.

And now, in the last year, death knocks at our door. Death, and our fear of it, has become a shared experience. We are terrified but we cannot hide. We cannot turn off the lights and pretend we are not home.

And for us Christians, if we really believe what we say we believe — why would we be frightened?

The spiritual practice of memento mori confronts death, until we no longer find it frightening. Some practice this discipline in prayer or by placing a skull in a place of prominence as a reminder. For my family, our walks among graves serve as this discipline. We remember that one day we will die, and in doing so, we embrace life.

Poet Mary Oliver wrote, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” The spiritual practice of memento mori forces us to ask this question every day. In answering it, we begin to live more intentionally. We think about where we spend our time, our resources, our energy. Doing good work at our job or in the home takes on a new importance, as does sharing our love with those around us.

The spiritual practice of memento mori challenges us to look at each day before us as a gift — one we don’t want to waste. We live each day to its fullest, for it may be our last. 

We only have today. It’s all we ever had.

Northwest Catholic - November 2020

From the Editor - November 2020

“Who do you say that I am?” Jesus asks (Matthew 16:15). I’ve heard Christians speculate that when we go before the throne of God, this will be the question on which our eternal destiny hangs.

But there’s no need to speculate — Jesus has told us how we will be judged: I was hungry; did you feed me? I was thirsty; did you give me drink? I was a stranger; did you welcome me? I was naked; did you clothe me? I was ill; did you care for me? I was in prison; did you visit me?

Our concrete love for those in need, or lack thereof, marks us out for eternal life or eternal fire. Because, Jesus says, “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (25:31-46).

“Who do you say that I am?” For many of us, the right answer is obvious. We know the creed. But so do the demons. Knowing the right answers is not enough.

“Who do you say that I am?” Jesus asks us. Our real answer is in the way we live.

Northwest Catholic - November 2020

How to have Christ-centered friendships

Dear Kianna,
As a young adult, how can I invite God into my friendships and relationships?
– Committed

Dear Committed,
Inviting our Lord into the center of your friendships will bring new graces, beauty and unity to these relationships. When the Lord is at the forefront of your life and you are synced with the heart of Christ, the blessings that come will be as numerous as the stars.

Relationships are a central part of what it means to be human. Our Lord invites us to engage in discipleship by walking with and supporting one another. Our friends serve important roles in our earthly journeys, helping us to encounter the love of Christ more deeply.

When inviting God into your relationships, my first suggestion is to pray. Begin everything in prayer and call upon the name of the Lord. Start your prayer by calling upon the Trinity, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Pray specifically for your friendships and list your peers by name.

When you spend time with your friends, if you feel comfortable, try sharing your faith with one another. The most engaging and in-depth conversations I have had with my friends have been centered on God and our faith. Do not be afraid to speak, listen and seek to grow closer to our Lord with your peers. If you do not feel comfortable sharing your faith or verbally bringing God into your relationships just yet, ask Jesus for strength, wisdom and grace. Call upon the Holy Spirit whenever you feel afraid, and he will provide you with all the guidance you need.

If some of your friends do not practice the faith or even believe in God, this does not mean you cannot invite Jesus to be at the center of these relationships. Keep praying for your peers, whether they are believers or not, and love everyone with the heart of Christ. Through your love and friendship, you are modeling the person of Christ.

If Jesus is your best friend, then all your other relationships will build upon this. If Christ is at the center of your heart, then you will see how the graces that flow from this union will bless others in your life. It is difficult to explain what it feels like to be fully consumed by Christ and to totally offer yourself to him, but once you do, you will never want to turn back. If you have not yet taken a step toward our Lord, I encourage you to start today.

Above all, do not be afraid! You are not alone on this earthly pilgrimage, and I pray that you may encounter the transformational love and peace of Christ. “Do not fear: I am with you; do not be anxious: I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

God bless!

Northwest Catholic - November 2020

Obscure saints, fine — but feasts for buildings, really?

Yes, this month we celebrate the feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran (November 9). In a real sense, the cathedral church of Rome is a mother who has been teaching us what it means to be church for more than 1,700 years. It is worth…

October 2020 - St. Denis and companions

St. Denis and companions

Died circa 250

Feast: October 9

According to St. Gregory of Tours in the sixth century, Denis, the first bishop of Paris, was martyred with Rusticus, a priest, and Eleutherius, a deacon. The Italian-born Denis and several other bishops were sent by the pope to evangelize Gaul (France). Denis and his companions succeeded in spreading the Gospel from an island in the Seine, but were arrested during a persecution by Roman Emperor Decius. After a long imprisonment, they were beheaded and tossed into the river. Their remains were recovered and buried; a chapel built over their graves was replaced by the Abbey of Saint-Denis, now a basilica in a northern Parisian suburb. Denis is a patron of France, and of those suffering possession and headaches.

Northwest Catholic - October 2020

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