Monthly Archives: March 2013

How the movie The Passion of The Christ brought me back to the Catholic Faith

Happy Holy Week. As we begin the Triduum I have decided to share my reversion story with you… the story of how a simple movie brought me back to my faith.  Knowing that we were teaching the Life Teen students about The Passion I asked if I could share with them my story… below is what I shared last Sunday night:

How many of you like movies? Me too. I love movies. I love going to the movie theater and I love watching DVDs at home.  I am a very visual person, a visual learner. How many of you took a “learning style” quiz in school? How many of you are visual learners?  I know I am. Many people are, many people learn by seeing better than just by hearing. Do you know who else knows how you learn best? (God). God knows what makes you learn and what helps you grow as a person.

Back in the spring of 2004 I had been away from my childhood faith, the Catholic faith, for over twenty years. The movie “The Passion of The Christ” had come out and it was all over the news. It was very controversial. Like I said, I love movies … and the controversy made me want to see it even more. I wanted to know what all the noise was about. So I went to a matinee showing of the move ~by myself. Has anyone seen the movie? Okay so you know how violent some scenes are (I had my hands covering my eyes horrified at many of the scenes). I left the theater BLOWN AWAY by the power of the movie. As I was driving home in my minivan I broke down and began to weep uncontrollably. And I seriously had no idea why I reacted in that way… I did not know why I was balling like a baby. (I now know, years later, that it is the ‘gift of tears’). God had touched me. He knew what would “get me.”

That movie clicked something in me. That movie turned a light on in me. It lit a fire within me. Within 4 months I had the strong urge to go back to church, to go back to the Catholic Church. In the movie, the scene where Mary meets Jesus as he is carrying the cross he says to her, “I make all things new,” which is from the book of Revelation. Revelation 21:5 …And he did. He made me new. He gave me a new beginning. I tell people that that movie was the catalyst that brought me back to my faith. I became “born again” because of that movie.

Within 4 months I went back to the Catholic faith, to church every Sunday … but… I felt that wasn’t enough. I knew I needed to do more, to become more. That fire placed a passion, a desire, within me… SO I joined Catholic groups and read books, especially the bible. I watched movies about the faith and about Jesus and the saints. I taught CCD. I had this unquenchable thirst within me. I desired to learn and grow in my faith. This fire, the fire He set inside me back in 2004, has not died, it has actually grown within me… and it’s all because of that movie and its message. That God so loved the world that he gave us His son, to teach us, to love us and to die for us.

I watched a movie several years ago about how that movie, “The Passion of the Christ”, converted a lot of people to the faith when it came out. Even more amazing: many of the actors in the movie were converted. The actor who played Barabbas was converted after seeing Jim Caviezel as Jesus. And the actor who played Judas Iscariot, who was an atheist, converted to Catholicism after acting in that movie. The movie is very powerful. Visually it is very disturbing. After watching the movie Blessed Pope John Paul II said, “It is as it was.” Mel Gibson (the director) got it right. I now watch the movie every Good Friday to remember what Christ endured for us.

That movie brought me and many people back to the faith. You know why? ….because the Passion of Jesus Christ is what our faith is all about. His love for us. That he would do anything, endure anything, to bring us all back to Him.

He would even use a simple movie to bring us back…

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That Holy Spirit, He’s a Laugh Riot.

“I believe in the surprises of the Holy Spirit.” L.J. Suenens

This past Sunday I taught children’s liturgy at St. Thomas Aquinas. Now I usually prepare for my teaching a day or two in advanced, reviewing the gospel and trying to make it understandable and relevant to children. At times I get wrapped up and overwhelmed, trying to cover all the topics in the gospel. This of course freaks me out and I am afraid I won’t be able to remember everything I want to teach. When I first started teaching CLOW (Children’s Liturgy of the Word) I would write everything down and then stand up in front of the kids reading from my paper. Like I said I was afraid I would forget something vital and important. Of course doing this, reading from a paper (staring at the paper and not the kids), is not as affective as just speaking from the heart and interacting with the kids. So I have been trying to remember what I want to say. I do write it up first, then I rewrite it in more of a bulleted form… by then I usually do remember most of it…and I have the skeletal bulleted version with me, but I don’t usually look at it unless I am stuck. So (after years of practice) I have gotten better at teaching the kids.

As I was walking in procession this past Sunday with the altar servers (both my sons were serving), the Lector and the priest the Holy Spirit expressed to me, ‘Do not worry, keep it simple. They are children and you should keep it simple for them. What is the main message of the gospel today? Just teach that. Keep it simple Kelly. And don’t worry I am there with you.’ That made me feel better. Focus on one message Jesus wants the kids to hear. Okay. Cool.

So the gospel this week was John 8:1-11, the story of the woman caught in adultery and the Pharisees trying to catch Jesus and trip him up by asking him what they should do, the law says stone her. Of course I immediately think, “What if the kids ask, ‘What is adultery?’” What will I say? (AAAHHHH!). So I focus on… what Jesus is trying to say to them? Mercy, forgiveness and not judging others. The Our Father states to “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others”… good, we pray the Our Father at the beginning of CLOW I will talk about that. I will talk about how we all make mistakes, we all are sinners in need of forgiveness, and we are all human. We should not cast stones at each other we should be merciful. Nice. All set. I know what I am going to say.

So as I was setting up for CLOW in the church basement before mass I grabbed the CLOW book from the religious education room (I have to pick the right one, year C). I found the reading and put a book mark in it so I won’t be rifling for it when I have to read the gospel. Good, all set. So what happens?  Ha! Well the Holy Spirit used all I want to teach in an interesting and clever way. So at the beginning of CLOW, as we were praying our prayers, I mess up the Our Father. Oops. I was thinking about what I was going to teach and not thinking about what I was doing at the moment, praying. Dope.  Then I forgot what we say instead of the “Alleluia” (don’t say that during Lent! SSSHHH!)… and then I start to read the wrong gospel to the kids (there was more than one bookmark in the book! hm). How embarrassing! BUT… hey I used it. After reading the gospel I asked, “Who here is perfect? Who has never made a mistake?” … and then I pointed out that I made a mistake when I read the wrong gospel and I messed up the Our Father… Hey I didn’t want to mess that up. I was slightly horrified (not only do kids come down for CLOW but many parents do too… so I do not like to look like an idiot!). Well, the HS knows me, knows I can be scatter-brained at times… so he used that to help me teach the kids. Ha. Hahahahaha. Very clever… very funny.  Ugh. Embarrassing, but effective. But still … afterwards, for the rest of mass, I felt slightly idiotic and foolish.

Foolish. Ah. The Holy Spirit … that card, that character… likes to joke around and show me he is working in my life. “See Kelly, show the kids you are not perfect and they will understand.” Okay. Okay… I get it. But I still feel foolish. But then I remembered… I am a Precious Fool. I am a fool for Christ.  Let God work in me. Let him make a fool of me to make a great point.

I started reading Murray Bodo’s book Brother Juniper God’s Holy Fool last night. Great little book.  These lines spoke to me, “And humor, too, is like that. It is for all those who need to see their own craziness and awkwardness personified. My gift is to play the fool to free people from their need to always be correct in what they do and say. As you used to say Father Francis, ‘If you are not willing to be a fool, you probably will be.’” Okay Lord, I will be your fool.  But I still need the humility to accept it.  Ugh.

Still learning to laugh at myself.

Rejoice always Kelly, rejoice always….Image

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Obedience

First before I blog… I need to praise God for our wonderful new Pope Francis!

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“Jesus teaches us another way: Go out. Go out and share your testimony, go out and interact with your brothers, go out and share, go out and ask. Become the Word in body as well as spirit…” – Cardinal Bergoglio (Pope Francis)

In today’s gospel Jesus says, “I seek not my own will….” (John 5:30)… Obeying… doing God’s will. Like humility and patience, obedience is another virtue that I find …difficult. I have always had a hard time doing what I was told. I have always been rebellious and giddily (is that a word?) went against what others (in authority) said …sometimes “just because” it was cool, obnoxious and funny. Yes I was a pain in the @$$ when I was a teen and even into my 20’s (and 30’s… hahaha)… as a Catholic I now try (TRY!) to obey God’s word… I try to do the will of God… Your will Lord, not mine… but it is hard… Lord knows I cannot do it alone.

St. Patrick’s Day was always the time of year to relish in drunken joviality! HA!  It was another excuse for me to drink with abandon and a great excuse to become “three sheets to the wind” a phrase my mother always said …which I never understood, but it was a cool funny saying. Drinking was something I did. I was good at it and I was, in an odd way, proud of how much Guinness I could down in one night, drinking other men under the table. Yes… I could drink. And I loved my beer, ale, stouts…  Guinness being my all-time favorite. For years I drank. I never thought I should stop. Why?  I was not an alcoholic (or so I thought). I did not drink every day. I pretty much only drank on the weekends and occasionally I’d drink during the week. BUT when I drank…. I DRANK. That six pack?…  That is MY six pack. No, you cannot have one, go buy your own. No you cannot have a glass of wine from my bottle. It’s my bottle… go get your own. And … I drank the whole six pack… or the whole bottle of wine….plus some. I could never drink just one beer or one glass of wine… HA! Why bother?… what a waste… If I had one I wanted five more …fagetaboutit.  Sure I would be hung-over the next day. Man I hated hang-overs…  but there I was… buying yet another 12 pack the next Friday night (to get me through the weekend)… no problem. I wanted needed desired my beer… my husband always said, “It was like you were angry at it … you had to drink it to get it out of the refrigerator.” Yup.

So when I started hearing that still small voice telling me to stop drinking… what did this good Catholic do? I ignored it. I did not obey… I ignored. I was good at ignoring. Hm. So I kept drinking … for years… even though, as a fairly new born again Catholic revert, I knew I should stop… but I didn’t. I liked to drink. I wasn’t stopping, no way! I even drank the night before I taught Children’s Liturgy… and yes I would be hung over the next day, Sunday, at church…feeling horrible… but I would teach the kids about Jesus… PATHETIC! Yes… I ignored God’s voice telling me to stop drinking. I ignored it for a long time. I was disobedient.

And then he got persistent.  He got louder. Sometimes God needs to SHOUT at me for me to hear him…. Well, he didn’t shout… but I did hear him …very clearly… it was the summer of 2010, the end of August and I was visiting my family in Syracuse, NY. When I would visit my family I would DRINK.  I would drink every night. A LOT.  So mid-week there I was, standing in my mother’s kitchen and I heard a voice. It said, “Stop drinking.” Simple as that… and what was my response? “No way! Are you kidding me? I am on vacation!”… the next day.. in the kitchen again.. “Stop drinking.”… again I said “NO!”…. the next day, yes for the third time I heard, “Stop drinking.” …. Hm.  Really? Hm…. *sigh* So I thought about it. It was Saturday night, we were drinking again (of course, duh)… and it was one of those nights, at the end of a vacation where you are supersaturated with beer because you have been drinking all week… so much so that you cannot get a buzz on. If you drink you know what I am talking about… Bleh. I thought, “Okay Lord. Tomorrow. Tomorrow I will start. I can’t say that I will completely stop. My birthday is in a month you know….” … and I did stop on August 22, 2010. My birthday came and went… no beer…

Now over two and a half years later…. no beer. No… not one. WOW. I am still amazed …completely blown away that I no longer drink. I LOVED drinking beer. LOVED IT! LOVED MY GUINNESS… yet here I am… Me… over two years later… not drinking. And really I don’t miss it. Huh… how could that be? ….that must be God… I give all the glory to God because there is NO way I could have done it without him.  I was obedient…finally… but with His help. I am weak and He is strong. I need Him.

The only time of year that it (not drinking) is hard for me is this time of year… St. Patrick’s Day… I usually listen to The Pogues and watch Darby O’Gill and the Little People or The Quiet Man…. which makes me want to drink a Guinness. *sigh* it is the only time of year I really do want a beer… But I have always prevailed… by the grace of God.

Obedience to God …for me it is realizing that I need to grow up and get rid of my selfish childish ways. God knows what is good for me, he has a plan for me so I need to listen to Him… not only listen but obey Him. Because I can hear Him… but I don’t always do as I am told. Stubborn fool.  I still have many vices and urges to control, but I know… if God could help me with drinking, something I never thought I would stop doing, He can help me overcome all my vices.  God loves me and knows what’s best, the perfect Father. I need to be obedient and do His will… desire that His will is my desire…

For there cannot be perfect love without obedience….

Joan of Arc .. yeah.. now she obeyed God…. and she is …. awesome.

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“I would rather die than do something which I know to be a sin, or to be against God’s will.”

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Wrestling with Humility

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“Though fasting, prayer, almsgiving, temperance, any other good thing whatever, be gathered together in thee; without humility all fall away and perish.” St. John Chrysostom

(great quote for Lent)

            Interesting that one of the first things I read this morning is the Beatitudes. And the first Beatitude is the one I have the most difficulty with, “Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven” (Matt. 5:3). Ah… Humility *sigh* I had stopped praying the Litany of Humility many months ago, probably last summer. It was too hard. Here it is:

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed … deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved … deliver me Jesus
From the desire of being extolled … deliver me Jesus
From the desire of being honored … deliver me Jesus
From the desire of being praised … deliver me Jesus
From the desire of being preferred to others… deliver me Jesus
From the desire of being consulted … deliver me Jesus
From the desire of being approved … deliver me Jesus
From the fear of being humiliated … deliver me Jesus
From the fear of being despised… deliver me Jesus
From the fear of suffering rebukes … deliver me Jesus
From the fear of being calumniated … deliver me Jesus
From the fear of being forgotten … deliver me Jesus
From the fear of being ridiculed … deliver me Jesus
From the fear of being wronged … deliver me Jesus
From the fear of being suspected … deliver me Jesus

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I … Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease … Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside … Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed … Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything… Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should… Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

Wow. Like patience it is one of the hardest virtues to pray for for yourself. Recently I shared my prayer regiment I do every morning in a little show and tell for the last Catechism of the Catholic Church class. We all had to share something we got out of the class and I decided to share how 1 Thes. 5:17 has been speaking to me. I wasn’t even going to bring up that I had stopped praying the Litany of Humility but there she was, the card I received at  Secular Franciscan meeting last year, staring up at me.  And so I stated, “Oh, The Litany of Humility. I don’t pray that anymore. It’s like praying for patience..hahahah” and everyone laughed. But what I didn’t realize was that the teacher of the class, Teresa, my good friend and fellow Secular Franciscan, had something to share with me about this Litany.

The other day before mass she pulled me over and told me what the Holy Spirit had impressed on her heart about me and the Litany. She told me that she had been praying for me about the Litany of Humility since last year when I had expressed how hard it was to pray “From the desire of being loved” … now I don’t remember saying this (I’m sure I did, I just don’t remember) and I was floored that she has been praying for me about this one line I could not understand… praying for me for almost a year… WOW. Sure I pray for people… but I did not know and/or realize she was doing this. How wonderfully awesome! It blows me away! Thank you Lord for bringing me here to this town, to this Parish, to Teresa’s classes and to the Greccio Fraternity! What a blessing (but I digress!)! She stated that had she prayed that she could find a way to help me understand this line … and this week the Holy Spirit impressed upon her to tell me (I hope I don’t get this wrong, I asked her to tell it to me twice, but my memory is not that great), “If you do things for others so that they will love you you are doing it for the wrong reasons.  You need to do things for others and not expect anything in return.” Love and serve God by loving and serving others. Now I KNOW this, I thought to myself … but then why is it being brought to me again? Because… I might KNOW it… but do I really LIVE it? Hm.

I have always wanted to stand out. I have wanted recognition for the things I have done, “Look what I did!” Just look at who I was back in high school and college. I was always wearing the crazy outfits and for one year I had a blond and then a purple Mohawk (yes, yes I did). I never liked that people said, “She’s just going through a phase,” (I was) and that, “She just wants attention,” (I would deny it, but yes I did want attention). I still desire attention. I am the opposite of humble (proud). I am that big boy Stuart from Mad TV, “Look what I can do!” HA!

When I first came back to the faith I read the book The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren five times. The line that struck me every time was one of the first lines in the book, “It’s not about you.” ‘Dang… what… wait…it’s not?’ No. Its not. That line always caught me off guard and knocked me off my pedestal. I had always lived a very “I, me, mine” selfish life. Even after all these years of prayer, study and reflection I still have not fully shoved off my pride. I understand that I should… but I haven’t. I know it, life, should be about God: loving and serving him by loving and serving others. Honoring God, glorifying God, praising God, thanking God … I do… I do … I do… by loving and serving others… I … do I?

So recently I started this blog but what I found was that not too many people were reading and/or responding to it… and that (again) floored me. “Hey! I’m writing something over here!!!” <crickets> And then God spoke to me about this, “Kelly,” … “Yes, Lord,”…. “ Who are you writing for?” … “For you God.”… “Okay. So does it matter if no one reads it but me?” … “Um… no I guess not. It’s for you and only you. It doesn’t matter.” … I say this… but does it still bother me? (yes).

I have also written a collection of twenty-three pro-life Catholic short stories, all inspired by God mind you, and for years I have prayed and asked God, “What would you like me to do with them? How should I get them ‘out there’?” and so far… nothing. I have not gotten a clear direction, a clear sign. No one seems to want to publish a collection of pro-life short stories. Most Catholic publishers don’t publish fiction and if they do they refuse to publish short stories. So where does that leave me? Lord what do I do? Have you given me a sign and I am just blind (an idiot) and I don’t see it? Or do you want me to just step out in faith? Is the timing wrong? Should I wait? Is it too late? Have I not tried hard enough? I don’t know. I thought since He gave me these ideas to write about he would also give me a CLEAR way to get them out there.

I am frustrated… and then the idea of “Are they any good?” also haunts me…  I know some friends have read them and stated they liked them.. and some others have not responded as to whether they even read or liked them. What if they didn’t like them?… what if they just STINK? :-/ Was this all a waste of time? … and here I am again.. all whoa is me… LOOK WHAT I DID! …ANYONE?!!! …And I expect everyone to look… hm. Pride, Kelly, pride.

God again, “Does it matter if no one reads them?” …. “Okay God… no it doesn’t matter,”… “Patience Kelly, patience”

So here I stand in the middle of Lent… with humility (and patience?!) staring me in the face once again. I can see what God wants me to work on this next month. For fasting on liquids on Fridays was an EPIC FAIL… so fasting from SELF is what I really need to do. DO for others. THINK of others. PRAY for others. LOVE others without thinking what I will get out of it…

You see Humility is not thinking less of yourself it is thinking of yourself less.

Humility… *sigh*

Lord, help me…

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