Sunday, July 25, 2010


…And thus begins the morning; every weekday morning since June 7th. We yell “ALLRIGHT” and the room full of running and yelling 1st through 8th graders responds almost by magic, “OKAY”. Many of them cease their chaos and at least pretend to pay attention while some require a second dose, flipped around, “OKAY” with the more cohesive this time, “ALLRIGHT”. Attention acquired, we then ask them to come sit down in a general front area to begin morning program.

I said that this is the beginning of the day, and in a certain sense that is true because it’s when we begin to interact with the kids. It has a certain inaugural feel to it that makes the previous 2 hours feel like preparations. Our day with the kids as part of the Totus Tuus program begins at 9:00am but to prepare for them we start by getting up at 7.

I usually get out of bed around 7am and jump in the shower. If our host family made breakfast I have some. The trick is to eat enough so that your host’s didn’t waste their time cooking/preparing it but not so much that you just want to go back to bed. Every morning is like grandma’s house. She feeds you well whether you need (or want) it or not. Hopefully we’re out the door early enough to get to the church on time. I always dislike this part of the morning because I like being social and I feel bad leaving in a hurry, but I know if we don’t get to the church by 7:40 it will throw off the whole day.

At 7:40 we start in the church with 15 minutes of quiet reflection/meditation. Some churches have perpetual Eucharistic Adoration. If they do, we go there. This is one of the best, if not the best part of the day. It’s quiet and peaceful so we can relax and open our hearts and minds but because we’re in a church we can open our hearts and minds in the presence of God. It’s like having a divine reset button. After reflection/mediation we start Morning Prayer from the
Liturgy of the Hours and finish with a Rosary. At the beginning of the summer, this seemed like a lot, but after 6 weeks I understand that starting the day with this much prayer is the only way it’s possible to keep up the required intensity and passion all summer.

After prayer, there’s a short break that we use to make final preparations for skit, review the schedule for the day and sort out any other things we won’t have time for before the kids are dismissed at 3pm. With the prayer done, skit refined and silly songs selected we’re ready for the “ALLRIGHT! – OKAY!”. That first attention getting syllable is like the first thump of the charge that launches fireworks from their platform on the ground. It isn’t the show itself but rather the stepping off point for a time of ordered release of enthusiasm. We sing a song, perform a skit, teach about a mystery of the Rosary, explain a covenant, maybe have another song and before we even have time to wonder whether the kids remember anything we said it’s time to dismiss for the first class.

One teacher per class, one or two grades per class. First period. Snack break. Music Prep to learn songs for mass. Second Period. Mass Prep to make sure they know what the holy water is for and which knee to genuflect with. Lunch. Recess. Saint Skit. Second Period. Bathroom Break. Second Period. Closing Program to review what they learned for the day and get them all wound up before sending them home with parents.

Every morning it seems a daunting task and every afternoon it seems a miracle. After the kids leave we have a small break to do evening prayer and prepare for the high school program later in the evening, but we have to be done with both of these before dinner at 5:30 or 6:00. Because it’s different every night, the high school program requires lots of preparation. It can be coordinating with the priest for various liturgical things like Adoration and reconciliation, blocking out windows in rooms for candlelit meditations or setting up hoses and trash cans to fill water balloons for use with the little kids.

Dinner is delicious, filling and nap inducing but we’ve got no time for that. There’s social interaction with the high schoolers to be done, talks to give and then the use of whatever was setup earlier. They do night prayer with us and then are sent home. When they’re gone we plan for the next day and hope to make it back to our host family’s house by 11pm ready to start again the next day. I try to spend some time socializing with our hosts and also do some reading or writing before going to bed so I usually don’t make it under the covers until close to 1am. Normally this schedule wouldn’t work every day for months but all the prayer we get (and mass too!) makes it all possible. God really does provide for those that ask of Him.

Now that you know what I’ve been doing, next time I’ll share what I learned through all this beyond what I said at the end of the last paragraph. I didn’t know what to expect out of this summer but I knew it would be good. I haven’t been disappointed.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! (part 2)

This is coming 15 days after the events in question, but I've been really busy teaching Totus Tuus the last 2 weeks. It's been a lot of fun and adventure. My next post will be on that.

Continuing from the last post...

When the Diamond Rio song finished Brother Terry Rials was introduced and came on stage/the altar. Nice guy. Well spoken. Well dressed.

He began the message with Proverbs 14:34 - "Righteousness exalts a nation but sin is a disgrace to any people." Pretty straightforward I think. Then he had us repeat it, mentioning something about his Lutheran friend at whose church they would repeat the verse. He called it something I had never heard, but I think it's equivalent to the Responsorial Psalm we do at mass. (Historically that would make sense, but I'll not go into evolution of protestant practices from their roots in Catholicism.)

From here he began formulating an argument for the place of religion in the history of the foundation of America. His thesis was that the founding fathers did what they did for the sake of religion, that the victory over the British and the founding of America was a victory of God over evil. While it is true that the founding fathers were very much deists and many of them certainly Christian, I don't think it is fair to say that there actions were motivated by religion. (at least not to the extent that Brother Terry seemed to indicate.)

I am no historian so I can't say for sure, but I feel things were a bit different. Yes the founding fathers 'had religion' and they generally believed that God was on their side, but they weren't taking up the cross of founding a new nation for the sake of the cross, but rather for the sake of the new nation.

In the course of making this point, he said some good things and some interesting things. Here are some:

"Our history books say that puritans came to the new world. Puritans didn't come! Why would they?! Puritans purify, so why would they leave what it is they wanted to purify, the Church of England?" --Dear Brother Terry, wrong root word. Try the adjective 'purity' rather than the verb 'purify'. Puritans came to America to remove themselves from what they saw as impure, so that they themselves could remain pure.

"America is under judgment because of it's Godlessness."

At one point he was talking about the growing influence of Islam in Europe as an example of what happens when Christians don't practice their belief, when they don't stand up for what they believe is right. For comparison he cited the history of the moors in Spain and gave commendation to someone named Martin who apparently led an army against the invading moors and stopped them halfway through Spain. "You'll notice now that Spain is half Muslim and half (long pause) not Muslim. (longer pause) The other half is Catholic." He seemed to be weighing whether or not to admit that Catholics were part of his story, but I was glad he decided to go ahead and say it.

Thomas Jefferson got the idea of the legislative, judicial and executive branches of government from Isaiah 33: 22 not from anywhere else.

"It's a shame that we glorify sins." I agree, it is. As an example "TV shows that show a homosexual as a wonderful person." Now hold on... He didn't elaborate on this point but he didn't need to. He said without specifically saying, that being gay is wrong. In short, and excluding shades of gray exceptions that would be an entire other post to discuss, no. Being gay is not a sin. The misuse of God's gift of our human sexuality that homosexuality often leads to is the sinful part. Moving on.

On why America isn't seeming to be working out right, "We're doing something wrong! We need to repent." Sure.

"I'm not promoting removal of separation of church and state." He rather encouraged Christians to be active in the country, not to write God into the laws but to lead with a Christian conscience.

"Know your history! Vote!"

"If our relationship with God is right our nation will be right."

"It's gonna take more than the fish thing on the back of your car." True, all the crosses we wear, stickers on our cars and bible quotes at the end of our emails are all in vain if we don't live our lives as what we claim to be, as Christians.

Like I said before, not too bad. There were some 'interesting' things, but some pretty good things too. I would go with my grandpa again without any hesitation.

At the end of the service a girl got re-baptized because "she wanted to show us she was really changed."
1) Show us by your actions, by the way you live your life. The sacraments of the church are not for observation by the people in the pews. It's between the receiver and God, the people just happen to be present.
2) Being re-baptized doesn't make sense. Baptism (the first time) created an indelible mark on your soul, it permanently changes who you are in the eyes of God by washing away original sin. While getting 're-baptized' is a nice sentiment it is rooted in a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of Baptism. God's convenants don't 'wear off' as far as I remember... Don't take this as harsher than it is, but it seems like a religious group that believes in absolutes like once-saved-always-saved would be happy with once-baptized-always-baptized.*

*Obviously my understanding of the theology of re-baptism is limited. If anyone has spare time, could you fill me in. I am obviously skeptical but legitimately interested. Thanks

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! (part 1)

Several months ago I was supposed to go to church with my grandpa. However, on the say we were supposed to go, God gave us a foot of snow. Talking with him last week I remembered that I still owed him a church visit so we decided on the next Sunday I was in town, which in this case happened to be the 4th of July.

I went to 8am mass at St. Monica's in Edmond (can't be missing out on the Eucharist) and then headed down to Crestview Baptist Church at SE74th and Hiawassee rd for the 10:15am service. I met my grandpa in the entry area and was promptly introduced to many of his friends who I do not doubt have heard a lot about me from him. "Glad to finally meet you." was heard several times. He showed me into where he and Eva Nell, my step-grandma (what an awkward sounding term...) were sitting. They had saved their seats with a particular personal item that I realized immediately I had forgotten to bring in order to blend in. Without a bible in a carrying case, which I do own, everyone in their was sure to know I wasn't really protestant. Oh, well...

*Their meeting auditorium was the typical arrangement of of seats facing an elevated 'altar' from where the preacher preached and the choir sang. In the back wall behind the choir was a baptismal pool in which you could see the water behind a glass panel. The first time I was in a church with one of these I had no idea what it was until the preacher appeared in the window and dunked someone in the water. I just thought it was a stained glass window that was somehow still in progress. (I've obviously grown up very sheltered)

After some preliminary announcements we started in with prayer. Nothing caught my ear particularly until he got to the part about "Lord, turn the hearts of the Godless nation back to you." "That's a bit sweeping and general!" I thought to myself, followed immediately by "So, he either thinks he is Godless as well or that most everyone is Godless except those that agree with him." My indignation subsided however when I realized I was thinking it through probably way more than I ought. He just meant there's a lot of sinnin' going on! I can handle that. (although I still don't think he should've said it.)

Next came a pledge to the American flag, the Christian flag and the Bible each followed by an appropriate song to be elaborated on shortly. He prefaced these things by saying that they only do it once a year, but I wasn't sure if he meant the whole thing or just the American part. Maybe the pledge to the Christian flag and to the Bible every time. I forgot to ask. Either way, the pledge was followed by the National Anthem, both done while a member of the congregation held the American flag. Nothing unusual there. Next however, was the Christian flag. First of all, I didn't even know there was a 'Christian Flag' and it certainly never would have occurred to me to pledge to it. The Wikipedia page on the topic was quite helpful. Next, also new to me, was a pledge to the Bible followed by the B-I-B-L-E song.

Crestview Baptist takes its America seriously, so the pledges were followed by the standbys of patriotic songs: America the Beautiful, My Country 'Tis of Thee and the Battle Hymn of the Republic. I noticed that each song was completed through all verses, making sure to emphasize those last couple that actually mentioned God. I got the impression they regretted having to sing the first few to get to the explicitly Godly ones. The Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! part of the Battle Hymn was encouraged to be sung with special gusto to seemingly to emphasize the Glory of God tied with America.

Next was a video/slideshow set to a song by the country group Diamond Rio called "In God We Still Trust". The group had apparently difficulty getting the song on an album and on the radio because "the Devil was keeping it from the people". The song itself was pretty simple, basically listing where God shows up in American society, in the pledge and printed on money for example, and reaffirms that America does still trust in God just like it says next to the picture of Mr. Washington. The slideshow accompanying the song was the kind you get in email forwards, mostly stock photos of AMERICA stuff, your basic eagles, monuments, firefighters etc... The only real problem I had was that it made effort to equate flag burning with being anti-Christian. While America does have lots of Christians it is probably not true that someone burning and American flag is doing so to spite Christians.

After this follows the homily/message/preaching but this is already a long post so I'll stop here. Look for Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! (part 2) later today or tomorrow.

*As you I hope know, I am very Catholic. The things I point out here are mostly just thing I noticed. Of course I think Catholicism is better but for the most part, my view of Protestantism is not that their wrong but that their just missing things. For the most part they have good and holy intentions and so I try not to criticize too much. These are merely things I notice. Part 2, that includes the message/homily, will discuss the things I liked, which are more than you might expect.