Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Prayer to St. James

He’s St. James, the son of Zebedee and Salome and brother of John, the beloved apostle, later nicknamed one of the “sons of thunder”.  And I’m sure is a distant relative by marriage of mine.  After having been blessed with a fiery husband and zealous little five-year-old daughter, I feel a real kinship to him.  Imagining him as a kind of great-uncle I never had, with God’s grace I’ve grown closer to him over the years and have frequently invoked the prayers of Salome in handling little people of thunder.

On today his feast day, I’d like to share a prayer from Pope John Paul II, who prayed this in 1989 at Santiago de Compostela, the traditional Spanish site of St. James’s remains and destination of the famous Camino. 

St. James!  We come to you in eager pilgrimage.
We come as part of a great throng of pilgrims
who through the centuries have come to this place,
where you are pilgrim and host, apostle and patron.
We come to you today
because we are on a common journey.
Place yourself, patron of pilgrims,
at the head of our pilgrimage.
Teach us, apostle and friend of the Lord,
the WAY which leads to him.
Open us, preacher of the Gospel,
to the TRUTH you learned from your Master’s lips.
Give us, witness of the faith,
the strength always to love the LIFE Christ gives.
We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Teach me, beloved St. James, the path that leads to Jesus, the path that will prepare my heart for an ever-lasting encounter with Love, the path that will deposit me safely into His arms and not those of the enemy.

Open me, powerful St. James, to the truth that Jesus Himself spoke: that He is Love Incarnate, that He came and lived and died for me.  Open wide my heart to expose it to the Great Love, so that I may understand with clarity and love others with this same burning love.  

Ever-devoted St. James, who willingly forfeited earthly pleasures for the rewards of eternal life, please pray for me that I embrace the cross of daily life that my Lord has lovingly prepared for me from all eternity with great joy and peace, knowing that I am His beloved, called to share in His passion and resurrection. Pray for me that I love my vocation as wife and mother and patiently endure the myriad sufferings this vocation requires.  Pray for me that I relish the countless moments of joy born of family life.  Pray for me that I love the sacramental life Jesus has given me in His ultimate goodness, that I delight in being washed clean in confession and rejoice at the abundant feast of the Eucharist.  Pray for me, glorious St. James, that I may love the LIFE Christ gives me!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

What Marriages Does the Church Consider Valid?: On the Road with a Canonist

This past weekend, my husband, three children, my mother-in-law and me were traveling home after a weekend away where we had attended a friend’s wedding.  My saintly petite mother-in-law had willing folded herself into the back of the car with the children between boxes, garment bags, and luggage, happily chatting, brokering peace, and watching movies with them, which freed my husband and I to enjoy a five-hour conversation in the front seat. 

With the length of Lake Michigan’s coast ahead of us and plenty of time to reflect on the weekend, my thoughts naturally turned to the Church and weddings.  This happens to be an area of expertise for my canonist husband, so I hoped that he wouldn’t mind if I asked him some canonical questions about the Church’s view of different types of marriages.  He was more than happy to oblige—in fact, I think I might have caught a twinkle of excitement in his eye when I mentioned the code—so I quickly took out my laptop to record his answer on the following question:  What types of marriages does the Church view as valid?  Because, like my husband always tells me, just like you can’t baptize with Pepsi, you need certain aspects of the ceremony to be present for the sacrament to take place, depending on who’s getting married.  My husband, with great enthusiasm, laid out the following marriage scenarios and the Church’s take on them. 

-Two Catholics with canonical form

To satisfy canonical form, a priest or deacon must ask for and receive the marrying parties’ consent in the name of the Church in the presence of at least two witnesses.  In most cases, this will be done in a church or oratory, however it’s not required to satisfy canonical form.  For example, John and Suzie, both baptized Catholics, are married during a wedding Mass.  The Church considers this marriage to be valid and sacramental, due to the baptisms of both spouses. 

A note on canonical form: when two Catholics marry, canonical form is required, though in very rare cases the Holy See can dispense the parties from the requirement of form.

-One Catholic marrying one baptized non-Catholic Christian with canonical form

Only Catholics are bound by canonical form.  Therefore, even if only one marrying party is Catholic, canonical form is still required.  (However, in this situation it would be possible to receive a dispensation from canonical form from the local ordinary.)  Also, in this instance, the Catholic party must make the additional promise to do all in his or her power to baptise and raise the children Catholic, and the non-Catholic party must informed of this promise, which is usually done during the pre-nuptial investigation by the priest.  An example of this would be if Catholic Mary married Protestant Calvin in the Catholic church.  This would be a valid—and therefore sacramental, due to the parties’ baptisms—marriage.

-One Catholic and one non-baptized person with canonical form

The Church would recognize as valid this type of marriage only if the Catholic party had received a dispensation for disparity of worship from the local ordinary (the bishop of that diocese, vicar general, or episcopal vicar) and had made the promise to raise the children Catholic.  This would not be a sacramental marriage, however, because both parties are not baptized.  An example of this would be if Catholic Elizabeth received a dispensation to marry unbaptized Stan in the Catholic church.  Also, as in the above situation, it would be possible to receive a dispensation from canonical form from the local ordinary.

-Two Protestants before their minister or justice of the peace

The Church would recognize this marriage as valid because as they are not Catholic, the marrying parties are not bound by canonical form.  Any time there are two baptized people who have a valid marriage, it is ipso facto a sacrament.  An example of this would be if baptized Methodist Jane married baptized but now agnostic Zack before the justice of the peace.  This would be both valid and sacramental, due to the baptisms of the marrying parties.

-One Protestant and one unbaptized person before a minister or justice of the peace

The Church would consider this to be a valid marriage but not a sacrament because both parties are not baptized.  An example: Baptized Lutheran Luke married unbaptized Holly on the beach before a minister. 

-Two unbaptized people before a minister or justice of the peace

This again would be considered a valid marriage but not a sacrament.  An example of this type of marriage would be if two Muslims were married in a traditional Muslim wedding ceremony.

Finally, a quick note on semel Catholicus, semper Catholicus (once Catholic, always Catholic):

My husband would like to note that currently if you were baptized (or received into the Catholic Church) you are bound by canonical form, even if you have since fallen away from the practice of the faith.  Between 1983 and April 2009, one could make an act of formal defection from the Catholic Church, but it could only be done in writing and necessarily was an act of heresy, apostasy, or schism.  After defecting, a Catholic was no longer bound to canonical form.  This type of formal defection, though, was rare and is no longer possible.  Benedict XVI changed this to reflect the principle of semel Catholicus, semper Catholicus. Therefore, currently, even if a baptized Catholic were to fall away from the faith, he would still be bound by canon law and would need to marry within the Church for his marriage to be valid.

If you have any questions, please feel free to write! 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Maintaining Our Peace

A dear mom friend of mine told me that this spring that she had experienced  TMJ.  I listened with concern over my friend’s discomfort, and I wondered why all moms didn’t suffer from it.  TMJ ought to be the natural consequence of becoming a mother.  With the diapers, discipline, meals, sleeplessness, cleaning, maintaining work, play, and charitable commitments, and (maybe sometimes) keeping up our appearance and a smile, that all moms’ jaws don’t clench shut permanently (perhaps even on a small arm after a long morning at home) is nothing short of miraculous.        

When the stress of my responsibilities at home crash into deep frustration with how everything there is going, it’s so easy for me to lose my peace.  When I feel as though I am working so hard and seeing no change for the better, it is then that I have to return to my bookshelf and find my beautiful little book entitled Searching for and Maintaining Peace: A Small Treatise on Peace of Heart by Father Jacques Philippe (Society of St. Paul).  At 110 pages, it’s a powerful little read, aimed at “filling one’s quiver” with responses to our reasons for our disquietude.  A favorite section of mine is entitled “The Reasons Why We Lose Our Peace Are Always Bad Reasons”.

Father Phillippe writes

If we seek peace as the world give it, if we expect peace in accordance with the reasoning of the world, or with the motivations that accord with the current mentality that surrounds us (because everything is going well, because we aren’t experiencing any annoyances and our desires are completely satisfied, etc.), then it Is certain that we will never know peace or that our peace will be extremely fragile and of short duration…For us believers, the essential reason by virtue of which we can always be at peace does not come from this world.  My kingdom is not of this world (John 18:16). It comes from trust in the Word of Jesus…Since Jesus tells us, even twice, that He gives us His peace, we believe that this peace is never taken away.  God’s gifts and his calling are irrevocable (Romans 11:29) (p.14).
Given how yesterday went, I think I’ll be keeping this within reach today.

“You made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” –St. Augustine (16).

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

On the Steps of the Capitol

As I reach the steps of the capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin I pass a gentleman holding a vulgar picture of our Lord and an older woman holding a sign with an unmentionable slogan seemingly promoting female license.  Others are standing by signs suggesting that our governor physically harms those with disabilities.  I continue up the steps, unsure of what I’ll find, and as I reach the top of them, I inhale sharply, shocked at the sight.  There above the steps of the capitol stand two large images of the Divine Mercy and of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  An imposing-looking Dominican in a black habit is preparing to speak to the crowd.  And the crowd, where I am now, has formed, holding rosaries, water bottles, and children.   This is not the typical Madison scene.

The Dominican, Fr. Isaac Mary, is leading our diocese’s rosary rally tonight.  With the encouragement of our bishop, we will pray all fifteen decades of the rosary for religious freedom to reign in this country.  And rather than for just a fortnight, the rally will be held every Thursday until election day in November.
Just as I am wondering if this is all really happening, Fr. Isaac addresses the crowd in his rough New York accent.  “Weah heah tonight to pray against ABORTION,”  his thunderous voice echoing in the balmy evening air, “CONTRACEPTION—”

I’m going to get shot, I think, as I take some comfort in knowing that I’m in the middle of the crowd.
“and attacks against the traditional FAMILY!”

I inhale again and wait.  No bullets.  A good start.  I settle into my place and try to communicate to my body that it will be here for the whole fifteen mysteries.

Fr. Isaac encourages the crowd by reminding them of the efficacy of prayer and penance (“which should sting a little”).  In the background stands Fr. Rick Heilman, who himself had succeeded in ousting a strip club from a neighboring town by gathering the faithful to pray regularly in front of the establishment and who was also part of the prayer vigil that had succeeded in preventing a local clinic near campus from beginning to perform late-term abortions.

Fr. Isaac begins, “In da name of da Faddah, and of da Son, and of da Holy Ghost...” Most of the crowd drops to their knees.  And one by one, we pray the mysteries as the air cools pleasantly and clouds drift past in the deep blue sky.

It does sting.  The numbness of my knees is broken frequently by shooting pains emanating from my kneecaps, and Fr. Isaac accidentally repeats the third sorrowful mystery, and on that cement step I feel closer to the crucified Jesus than I have in a long time, and I beg His mercy for my sins and those of my countrymen.  Hunched over, I feel acutely the pain of sin and my nothingness.  And I consider my deep concern over the future of my country and I feel my poverty.  Nothing can save me or my nation except Him.  And we kneel with Him and meditate on His passion.  In public.  An occasional mocking voice cuts through the peaceful recitation, but the fifteen mysteries prove too long for most of those jeering.

I stand, unable to stand the pain.  We pray the glorious mysteries.  After, I touch my rosary to a first-degree relic of St. Dominic and return a small American flag that had been handed to me.  I walk back down the steps, knowing I’ll be there next week.  I’m looking forward to this becoming the typical Madison scene.