For five years now, ever since I saw my oldest child, in her infancy, marked with an ashen cross on Ash Wednesday, a realization has been dawning: I am surprisingly hesitant to introduce my children to the less rosy parts of the Church’s faith. From the martyrdom experienced by the saints to the magnitude of Jesus’ suffering, I find myself wanting to shy away, to simplify, to sweep under the rug. Some of these difficult realities comprise focal points of the Lenten season that have deterred me from including my children in any sort of Lenten practice until very recently. Indeed, this season has proven a hard one for me to make toddler-friendly. Lent lacks the intoxicating anticipation that Advent holds as we wait for Christmas. It is not a time of joy and exultant “Gloria”s or “Alleluia!”s, which are exclaimed throughout the Christmas and Easter seasons. Instead, we are faced, during Lent, with the desert, where Jesus fasted and overcame temptations, and with the Cross, which he journeyed toward bloodied, bruised, and humiliated. It is a wonderful privilege to introduce children to new concepts and ideas, but it is quite difficult for me to tell my small, round-faced little ones – who love Jesus and his Church with a spontaneous innocence – about these somber, painful things. Further, facing the fact that these dear creatures my husband and I have cooperated with the Lord to bring into being are also sinful beings is a somber, painful reality for me. I realize it anew every Ash Wednesday, and it is all I can do not to cry when I see the ashen crosses on their tiny foreheads.
Ember Days occur four times in the church year, at the beginning of each season. In spring, those days are the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday following the first Sunday of Lent. These three days are set apart for fasting, abstinence, and prayer. We know that Ember Days have been observed at least since St. Augustine’s time, and possibly from the time of the Apostles . In fact, the observances may even derive from Jewish tradition in which there were four yearly periods of fasting.
My First Apron
It was red and blue and white all over – the first one that I bought with my uncle. Excitement flowed through my little-girl body, for I know that my uncle and I would get use them – and match! – the following Sunday at Grandma’s house. It was something which symbolized that we could bond through sharing our mutual gifts, together and for the good of our family. Our matching aprons are something I can look back on to see how Christ began to slowly form me into Himself, the woman that God created me to be – and the apron can be a tangible symbol for all of “putting on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 13:14 RSVCE).
Who wears the Apron?
“A dingy piece of cloth for objectified women?! How does that symbolize Christ and His love?!”
Although the apron’s reputation has been degraded and has traditional ties only to the woman who stays in the home, the apron can be used with a much larger vision: “As each has received a gift, employ it for one another, a good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Pt. 4:10). Especially in our current world, men and women, the youth and the aged, have discovered and developed their personal gifts in cooking, baking, and grilling, and both genders tend to contribute to duties around the household scene. As Christ came “not to be served but to serve” (Mt. 20:28), so, too, should we use our daily duties and talents in service of those around us. Although aprons largely fell out of use since the youthful days of our grandmothers, they can become for us a symbol of our interior disposition: “As I put this apron on, I am putting on Christ.” It becomes not a shield or defense mechanism between the wearer and the world but a bridge showing that one is ready to step more deeply into the mess and chaos of the world… that one is not afraid to face the ugliness of the world and sin… that one is ready to serve those in most need as Chris did. Particularly for those with gifs in the kitchen or the grill, the apron can be a symbol that inspires a person to use his or her gifts in service of another.
Christ Provides the Food
Christ came largely to serve by means of providing nourishment for people: the multiplication of the fish and loaves, the wedding feast at Cana, the Last Supper, and even the “last breakfast” after Jesus’ Resurrection, where Jesus tells his disciples, ‘”Come and have breakfast”‘ (Jn. 21:12). Jesus desires to nourish His people, because he wants to remind them that just as they were created to need food in order to live, they ultimately need God to live; that Heaven will be like a wedding banquet with “fat calves” (Mt. 22:4) and a promised land “flowing with milk and honey” (Deut. 27:3); that they must live on Him, the “Bread of Life” (Jn. 6:48), Christ in the Eucharist, his flesh and blood, which man must eat to have life (53-56). Bottom line: nourishing God’s people points to the Divine Nourisher, the Divine Giver of life. Through donning the apron, one can enter into this specific service of God: nourishing His people to point them to Heaven.
Men and Women are Complementary
As Christ shows, providing nourishment is not solely a woman’s role, as the modern world often makes it out to be. The present, sarcastic, “Make me a sandwich!” is geared towards women in the kitchen as slaves of men. Nourishment, however, is not at all about the tyranny of man and the imprisonment of woman! Yes; men and women were most certainly created differently, as “male and female” (Gen. 5:2). This does not necessarily relegate either gender to a certain room at the house. It does, however, point to the different ways in which they give themselves to God and to humanity – the way in which they serve. Both man and woman are called to “submit yourselves to one another, in fear of Christ” (Eph. 5;21). Traditionally, men, with naturally paternal hearts, show this by providing for their families (or their spiritual family – all of God’s children); women, with naturally maternal hearts, show this by nourishing their families. Both of these roles can fit into the service found with the apron: the man, in a more active role, wants to make sure that he makes available and supplies for the needs of his family; he wants to provide their nourishment. With a more passive action, the woman wants to make sure that her family is healthy, strong, and filled with life; she wants her family to be nourished. This, the apron can be a symbol of the mutual service and love between men and women and also, perhaps, a way to highlight the complementarity of male and female.
An Apron as a Symbol of Christ’s Love
Of course, the apron is not the cause of any of these good things, but it can be a symbol to remind us of our service in Christ and Baptism, where we were transformed into Christ (CCC 1265). Being physical beings, it is good and beneficial to have tangible reminders of life’s spiritual realities. Whether we choose to don the apron or not, may we always be renewed in our vigor to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 13:14) in service to one another by putting to use our gifts for the nourishment of God’s children. May the apron be a reminder for me – and hopefully for you – of the joy of serving our families through the gift of food. May it never be a symbol of division but always a symbol of unity as we choose to dive into the messiness of humanity and become “one even as [the Father and Jesus] are one” (Jn. 17:22).
Lord Jesus Christ,
as I put on this apron, may I be clothed with You.
Help me to serve those around me in love so that I may lead them to You.
Dispel all fear to dive into the messiness of sinful humanity.
I bring to You my own chaos,
along with the mess and brokenness of all those I will serve this day.
And at the end of this adventurous day, as I take the apron off,
may I give You the mess that lies upon it – the mess of Your people –
so that You may make us clean through Your Precious Blood.
To view Catholic aprons for yourself or a loved one, click here to see our full line of aprons
Christ’s inquiry this Lent:
“Do you want to be made well?” John 5:6
As a teenager, I struggled with drug and alcohol addiction.
I went through many rehabilitation programs before finally getting my life together. I recall one time being accepted into a particular treatment program and smoking pot before entering the facility to begin my recovery. When the administrators asked me when was the last time I used drugs or alcohol, I told them I smoked some pot shortly before arriving. They were so disappointed that they strongly considered ejecting me from the program on the spot. It was evident that my sincerity had been questionable.
I use this story to illustrate how I perceive Catholics when Lent rolls around. We do not prepare. It seems that we wait until Ash Wednesday arrives and then scramble and try to figure out what we need to do, or cry bloody murder that the Church requires of us an ecclesiastical fast and abstinence for the day (one meatless meal with the possibility of two small meals). Yet I am always surprised at how many Catholics survive the Ash Wednesday day of penance. The next day everyone is still alive and well, it is truly a miracle of God!
Money Faith Where Your Mouth Is
My theory is that if we were truly living an ascetical theology in our daily spiritual lives, we would not sweat Lent in the slightest. No, rather we would eagerly look forward to the sacred season of penance with gratitude in our hearts for the special infusion of grace that God faithfully provides each year in abundance. Grace is everything! Yes, God always grants us His grace freely, but, during Lent He overwhelms us with a torrent of pure love and mercy. Why do we not avail ourselves of this special time of grace? Why do we complain and become somber every time Ash Wednesday rolls around?
The Deeper Meaning
The reason we cry out when the Church asks us, in the most minimal way, to sacrifice, is because there is something wanting in our spiritual lives, something wanting in our love. There is a clear deficit in our generosity with God. He gives us everything and asks us to be generous with Him. Christ tells us that through prayer and fasting devils can be cast away! We seem to fail to realize the power that we have as Christians when we work together for the good of the mystical body of Christ.
“Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” Mt. 3:2
Prayer and fasting, done with humility and in an effort to please God, bring down God’s blessings upon us. It also expiates temporal punishment in this life. Moreover, prayer and fasting engender self-control over our passions. If Catholics were making atonement for their sins and preparing for the next life there would be less evil in the world and many more conversions.
“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Rm. 8:18
Every Wednesday is Ash Wednesday and every Friday is Good Friday. When we learn the meaning of this we will treat Lent for what it truly is, good news! It is a time of great opportunity for the Church to grow in holiness. God bless you!
Recently, I was pondering the story of the Magi and the Star of Bethlehem in the Gospel of Matthew and found myself plagued with tons of questions. Who were the magi? Where were they from? What was this pro-astrology story doing in the Bible? These and countless other questions piqued my curiosity and led me on a journey for the truth. What I discovered managed to completely shatter many of the preconceptions I had about the Epiphany story, while at the same time filling me with wonder and awe at the truth. Below, in Q&A style, I have summarized my findings for your reading pleasure. May they surprise and fill you with the same awe and reverence for God’s saving power in history on this wonderful Feast in Epiphany like they did for me!
Who were the Magi?
There are actually A LOT of theories about these mysterious men from chapter 2 of Matthew. Their exact origin is unknown; all we basically know is that they were from the East. Whether or not they were astrologers has been up for question. Some scholars interpret the wise men to be Chaldean priest-sages, while others assume they were from the priestly caste of the Medes and Persians. There are reasonable arguments for both positions (priest-sages vs astrologers). Those in favor of the priest-sage argument point to the fact that if the Magi a small group of astrologers, this would affirm the highly-condemned (among Jews at the time) pseudo-science of astrology. Rather, they were priestly-sages familiar with the prophecy of Balaam in the Book of Numbers.
I see him, but not now.
I see him, but not near.
A star will come out of Jacob.
A scepter will rise out of Israel,
and shall strike through the corners of Moab,
and break down all the sons of Sheth.
Those in favor of the astrologers argument simply argue that while the Magi were astrologers, having been exiled among Jews they would have become familiar with the popular prophecy of Balaam in the Book of Numbers.
Did the Magi actually have names?
Contrary to popular belief, the names and number of Magi are the result of a legend. In Ravenna, Italy, there is a church called the New Basilica of Saint Apollinaris, with a mosaic dating back to the sixth century depicted the Magi. In the image (pictured below), above the heads of the Magi, we can see the three names popularly associated with the magi: +SCS BALTHASAR +SCS MELCHIOR +SCS GASPAR.
What was the significance of the gifts they brought?
While Church tradition has colored the gifts of the wise men with rich theological symbolism, the historical significance of the gifts at the very least represents the Magi’s homage to the future “King of the East.” In fact, the three gifts (gold, frankincense, myrrh) were considered a standard way to honor a king or deity in biblical times. The individual importance of each gift is up for question. Some perceive that the gifts were merely products of the Magi’s country of origin. The Church sees the gifts as a fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah about Jerusalem’s restoration, where nations and kings will come and “bring gold and frankincense and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord” (Isaiah 60:6). Most folks though are familiar with the spiritual symbolism attributed to the gifts in the Church hymn “We Three Kings”: gold representing his kingship, frankincense a symbol of his priestly role, and myrrh a prefiguring of his death and embalming.
Did the Magi worship the Christ child?
Despite some scriptural translations having the Magi worship the Christ child, a more correct translation would be that they paid Him homage. The reason behind this, according to some sources, is the Magi were probably monotheistic, and likely only recognized the Christ child as fulfilling the prophecy of an eastern king.
Finally, why would the Bible promote astrology?
For early Christians the story of the Magi in the Gospel of Matthew was a source of controversy. A simple reading of the story seemed to advocate the practice of astrology, something strongly condemned throughout Judeo-Christian history. Thankfully, some of the early Church Fathers reasoned to an explanation for the complication the story brought to the Gospel of Matthew. For Origen, a belief in the widespread knowledge and influence of Balaam throughout Mesopotamia provided the answer:
If Balaam’s prophecies were included in the sacred books by Moses, how much more would they have been copied by those who were then living in Mesopotamia, among whom Balaam had a great reputation and who are known to have been disciples in his art. It is said that the race of Magi descends from him, and that their institution flourishes in eastern lands, and that they [the Magi] had copied among them all of Balaam’s prophecies, including “A star shall arise out of Jacob” [Num 24.17]. The Magi had these things written among themselves, and so when Jesus was born they recognized the star and understood that the prophecy was fulfilled.
Origen – Homilies on Numbers 13.7
The most popular explanation for the astrology in the story of the Magi comes from Saint Jerome. He wrote that whether or not the Magi knew of Christ’s birth from the teaching of demons (astrology) or the prophecy of Balaam, the coming of God’s Son (marked by the star of Bethlehem) meant the destruction of the whole power of astrology:
A star shone in heaven,
brighter than all the stars,
and its light was ineffable,
and its novelty caused astonishment ;
all the other stars
together with the sun and moon
became a chorus for the star,
and it outshone them all with its light ;
and there was perplexity [as to] whence [came] this novelty so unlike them.
Thence was destroyed all magic,
and every bond vanished ;
evil’s ignorance was abolished,
the old kingdom perished,
God being revealed as human
to bring newness of eternal life,
and what had been prepared by God had its beginning ;
hence all things were disturbed
because the destruction of death was being worked out.
Ignatius’ Letter to the Ephesians 19.2-3
- The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Alfred Edersheim.
- The Magi and the Star in the Gospel of Matthew and Early Christian Tradition, Tim Hegedus, Waterloo Lutheran Seminary, Wilfrid Laurier University, 2003, http://www.erudit.org/revue/LTP/2003/v59/n1/000790ar.html.
- The mythical interpretation of the Gospels [microform] ; critical studies in the historic narratives, pp. 46-47, Dr. Mill. 1861?
- New Testament Studies: Philological, Versional, and Patristic, Volume 10, Bruce Manning Metzger.
- The New American Bible, Revised Edition (NABRE), the official translation used by the USCCB.
As a prominent Patroness of my diocese, Our Lady of Guadalupe gradually made a home for herself in my life after I saw numerous images of her and heard saintly people asking for her intercession. However, my love for her as my Mother – for this is how she revealed herself to St. Juan Diego – was not truly nourished until I was on the brink of graduating High School . . . with a completely open future in front of me.
canon 107 par 1: Both through domicile and through quasi-domicile everyone one acquires his or her own parish priest and Ordinary.
In ecclesiastical law a Catholic person’s bishop and priest is determined by the location of one’s residence or domicile. For example, if you live within the boundaries of the diocese of Steubenville then your bishop is Jeffrey Monforton, he is your Ordinary (consider how many people from Weirton, another diocese and province, erroneously think they belong to St. Peters or Holy Family in Steubenville) . In your diocese you will find a grouping of parochial territories in which certain parish priests enjoy special jurisdiction in their respective territories. If you live within the territory of a particular parish, then that is your parish and your parish priest.
It does not matter if you did not “sign up” for envelopes. It does not matter if you “like” him. It does not matter if other priests tell you that the law has changed. If they tell you that then they are giving you incorrect information.
If your parish priest is unkind or unjust then you must approach your bishop. The presumption is that he has already heard the complaints and has either decided to tolerate the problem, or does not see a problem. What you end up with is not a problem with the priest, but rather, the bishop. He allows the issues to perdure.
A parishioner has more of a claim to a parish than a parish priest does. A parish priest is assigned there via administrative law whereas the parishioner is there by virtue of constitutive law. Priests do not enjoy the former “benefice” model in which they had a right to tenure and income. No, now they are to be transferred at the discretion of their Ordinary.
Now back to the domicile issue. If one has more than one domicile, then the domicile where one sleeps is the domicile that would determine the proper parish and/or bishop (if in another diocese).
What if one sleeps in more than one domicile? Then the domicile where one sleeps the most would determine one’s parish and/or diocese/bishop.
What if your domicile is on the line of the boundary of two parochial territories? Then the direction in which your “front door” is facing would determine the correct territory.
I wish all marriages were “gay” insofar as gay means happy. There is much unhappiness in the world today, especially in marriage. Those who endeavor to insist on the validity and acceptability of same-sex attraction and interaction have settled upon the euphemism of “gay” as their identification. I find it odd that same-sex attraction purports to bring happiness when the contrary is evident on so many levels.
Marriage is intrinsic to the creation and genesis (pun) of human life. The man and the woman were created and brought together in a special and natural way to foster and propagate human life. The first man and woman, united by God and directed to go forth and multiply, formed the first community and nucleus of society. Marriage is from God and belongs to Him.
On one level, everything belongs to God. God is the creator of the heavens and the earth, the Lord of the universe, the Author of nature. So, in a general way, everything is His. On a particular level not all is His (so to speak). For example, I go purchase a DVD, the DVD is mine, it does not belong to God. I can watch my DVD, I can give it away or I can even throw it away, it is not God’s, it is mine. My body, however, does belong exclusively to God. I have temporary custody and stewardship of my body, but, it is not mine per se. No, my body belongs to God. Especially, my sexual powers.
The lawful use of my sexual powers can be explained with the analogy of operating a motor vehicle. To operate a motor vehicle one needs some formation and a drivers license. To operate my sexual powers I need some formation and a license (read: marriage). But, just because I have a drivers license to operate a motor vehicle lawfully, it does not portend that I am at liberty to drive the car any way that I wish. No, I am governed by certain legal parameters in which to safely and effectively operate the motor vehicle. Similarly, when one is married and able to operate their sexual powers there are certain moral parameters in which one must conduct themselves.
Human beings were created by God, for God. God is our last and final end. Our life on earth is a trial, a short trial in which we journey back to God. God has provided us help through His Church and certain vocations, for example, marriage. A vocation is a vehicle in which to facilitate sanctity and transport us to God. A vocation is a calling from God to undertake a particular state of life suitable to engendering holiness. Marriage is a vocation. A vocation is meant to sanctify us, to make us holy. A same-sex marriage is not a calling from God because it is not a marriage. Same-sex marriage is not a vocation, but rather, a provocation. It is to deliberately contravene the very laws of nature itself. To go against nature is to go against God, the Author of nature.
How can a proponent of same-sex marriage claim that they have a calling from God to get married? Marriage is not a secular construct. Marriage is from God and ordained to be a sacrament between the baptized. Marriage is not a two-way street, but rather, a three-way street. It takes three to get married, one man + one woman + God. The couple render marital consent promising God to be faithful to each other and His laws. How can two people of the same sex make a vow to commit themselves to each other and God? It is not possible.
Marriage is from God and belongs to God. It is not an arbitrary institution which we may manipulate and fashion according to our designs. Marriage belongs to God. It is not subject to debate or judicial rulings. No human being has jurisdiction to overturn the law of God, not even the Pope.
To defend marriage is to defend God Himself.
God bless you!
The Dead Canonist