Catholic Husband

Love / Lead / Serve

A Blast of Trumpets

The design of our parish draws heavy inspiration from the great Italian basilicas. A large dome binds together the transepts, and the oversized sanctuary, adorned in stone, creates a huge, open space with the altar perfectly centered. It’s the kind of design that elevates the mind; beauty that shocks the faithful out of the routine of our daily lives and reminds us of the specialness of this place.

To accompany the breathtaking architecture, we also have a robust liturgical music department. At many Masses throughout the year, guest instrumentalists join the organ and choir to truly elevate the music. A few weeks ago, a trumpet and trombone played at Mass on Mother's Day. The musicians are seated right up front, off to the right, but where the expansive sanctuary meets the dome. The result, in addition to the acoustically friendly building materials, is a church-filling sound that resounds throughout the entire space.

It’s been many years since I attended a parish where Mass was a standing-room only occasion, where young families like mine filled the pews, and where songs were sung by more than just the cantor. Add to the mix the sound of brass and stringed instruments, and it’s hard to not get taken up in the transcendent experience.

I’m grateful to Fr. Mike Schmitz and Ascension Press for their Bible in a Year podcast. It was just a few years ago that I completed the journey, and I find myself frequently reaching back to what I heard and learned that year. Having that grasp, that context, of the Bible is enriching to my daily life. Hearing the brass horns blaring at the Mass is one of those times.

We go to Mass weekly, sometimes more often, and that can have the effect of lulling us into complacency. Our encounters with the Divine are expected, scheduled, and presumed. But when you are at Mass, and the entrance procession is welcomed with a trumpet blast, your mind is immediately pulled to Psalm 47 or St. John’s descriptions in Revelation. It becomes so easy to imagine the triumph of Jesus Christ mounting His throne to the fulsome blasts of trumpets. You’re instantly reminded of what it is that you labor for, and why we don’t just give up our values and drift mindlessly through life like most of our friends and neighbors.

When I stand there, surrounded by my family, the blast of trumpets reminds me who I am, Whose I am, and where I want to be. It’s enough to shake me awake, to get back in the game, and to keep fighting for that day when I hope to be admitted to the Heavenly Mass, where the trumpets never stop blasting.

Mercy, Not Justice

Yesterday was the Feast of Divine Mercy, a holy day that Jesus Himself requested in His apparitions to St. Faustina. Mercy and grace are talked about frequently in Christian discourse and music, but it strikes me that many lack the comprehension of the completeness of God’s mercy.

In St. Faustina’s diaries, she records how Jesus describes His mercy. He uses words like “unfathomable” and “torrents.” The true meaning of these words is so deep that it’s beyond our comprehension. It’s akin to contemplating the depth and size of space, but even then, God’s mercy is beyond even that.

We receive God’s mercy for our venial offenses at the beginning of Mass, but to truly encounter the torrents of God’s mercy, we approach Him in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

On the evening of Easter, when Jesus appears to the 10 Apostles in the Upper Room, His first words to them are the first absolution. Despite their intimate years spent traveling around their region with Him, seeing all the signs and wonders He performed, and living with Him, at His passion they all abandoned Him. So, when He appears in their midst, He forgives them, “Peace be with you.” He then establishes the Sacrament by granting to them to power to bind and loose.

Through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the torrents of God’s mercy are unleashed on the repentant sinner, and even those mortal sins that have suffocated their relationship with God and destroyed sanctifying grace in their life are forgiven. Like Lazarus, they are brought back from the dead and restored to the life given to them at Baptism. That is truly complete mercy.

In the early days of her encounters with Jesus, St. Faustina brought these experiences to her spiritual director. Seeking to test them, to ensure that they were truly Jesus, her director instructed Faustina to ask Jesus what sins he had confessed in his most recent confession. The next time Jesus appeared to Faustina, she posed to Him that question, to which Jesus replied that He had forgotten. Complete mercy.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation is not a sacrament of justice, but of mercy. In a true encounter with the risen Christ, out of total love for us, He forgives our worst failings so that we might be with Him forever. That is an unfathomable mercy.

Sequence

Christians, to the Paschal Victim
Offer your thankful praises!
A Lamb the sheep redeems;
Christ, who only is sinless,
Reconciles sinners to the Father.
Death and life have contended in that combat stupendous:
The Prince of life, who died, reigns immortal.
Speak, Mary, declaring
What you saw, wayfaring.
“The tomb of Christ, who is living,
The glory of Jesus’ resurrection;
bright angels attesting,
The shroud and napkin resting.
Yes, Christ my hope is arisen;
to Galilee he goes before you.”
Christ indeed from death is risen, our new life obtaining.
Have mercy, victor King, ever reigning!
Amen. Alleluia.

At Your Altar

Parenting is a regimented and structured adventure, with known milestones sprinkled throughout the growth and development of your children. Although I know these milestones, and can see them coming, they always seem to catch me by surprise.

Over the weekend, Benedict and Felicity both participated liturgically in the Mass. For Benedict, it was his first time serving at the Altar. It had been two months since his training, and I started to sweat a little as I saw him process in with one of the candles, but he did an outstanding job. He was focused, still, and showing signs of spiritual maturity. Being around the other servers gave him permission to elevate his participation. It was also great to see the more experienced servers guide and mentor him.

Felicity, after months of weekly choir practice, sang with her choir-mates at a different Mass. They sang at Christmas, so this wasn’t her first time, but right from the front row, with only her curly haired head peaking over the front pew, she sang the parts of the Mass.

Benedict and Felicity have attended Mass weekly and, to varying degrees, participated. But there’s nothing like serving at the Altar and seeing the liturgy up-close, physically participating, to make it all possible. Together, in their ways, using their gifts and talents, they served at the Altar, elevating the solemnity of the Mass.

Renew, Refresh

About this time, every year, Alison and I are bitten by the spring projects bug. There’s something elemental about it; I never see it coming, and it always just bubbles into my consciousness.

Right on schedule, this week was the week. While last year we focused on an outside cleanup and overhaul, this year we’re totally focused on the inside. Not only is it time to refresh the wardrobe and make sure the kids have clothes that fit, we’re getting ready for students moving swiftly through their schoolwork.

Life with young children is always messy, but no matter how bad things get, I always yearn for the rejuvenation that a clean home provides. There are always different and better ways to organize and optimize. Though it’s difficult to stay on top of these things, having the right tools and plan makes all the difference.

This sense of renewal is precisely what Lent is, for our souls. We are material beings, but we’re also spiritual beings. As the house needs cleaning and refreshing, so too does the soul. As the weather changes, the buds bloom, and our bodies sense the newness of spring all around us, now is the perfect time to take care of spring-cleaning for your home and your soul.