Tag Archives: heaven

Life’s mysteries, from another point of view

October 15, 2014

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images

“God should hang up a mailbox for people to send questions and complaints.”

When your world turns upside down, it may pay to look at it that way.
Young Anna does just that — and takes her grieving father along — in the subtly worded and creatively illustrated “Anna’s Heaven.”
Anna coverTranslated by Don Bartlett from the Norwegian, this picture-heavy and text-terse Eerdman’s Book for Young Readers would make for an interesting parent-child reading time, especially in households dealing with the death of a loved one.
The dialogue between father and daughter mixes the realistic and magical, often terrific role modeling for parents trying to cope with the curveballs life throws.
Stain Hole, both author and illustrator, includes interesting questioning of the role God plays in life’s mysteries.
“Why can’t he who knows everything, who can pull and push and turn over clouds and waves and planets — why can’t he invent something to turn bad into good?” Anna says.
“God should hang up a mailbox for people to send questions and complaints,” Dad answers.
Take this journey to the upside-down world. Oh, and look for Elvis and Pablo Picasso in Anna’s version of the hereafter.

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Going up? St. Thérèse was confident in her elevator to heaven

October 1, 2013

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Elevators aren't always reliable but St. Therese had great confidence in hers--the arms of the Lord lifting her to heaven. Photo/kio. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Elevators aren’t always reliable but St. Thérèse had great confidence in hers–the arms of the Lord lifting her to heaven. Photo/kio. Licensed under Creative Commons.

I’m not as eager to take an elevator as I was before I got stuck in one with five other people on a hot July night. We waited only 40 minutes before the power was restored but it seemed like a lot longer as we called for help on the elevator phone, wondered if rescuers were coming and worried about whether the elevator had an air vent.

One saint who had more confidence in her elevator was St. Thérèse of Lisieux, whose feast day we celebrate on October 1. Elevators must have been more novel in the late 19th century. I’m not sure how many St. Thérèse actually rode on or if she had any experiences like mine.

The Little Flower’s elevator wasn’t designed to take her from floor to floor in a building; it was meant to take her to heaven—on God’s power, not her own. The “button” she pushed to call the elevator was her confidence in the Lord, especially in light of her littleness and weakness. It was this confidence in God that would be a centerpiece of her much loved and imitated spiritual work, the Little Way. She wrote in her autobiography:

We are living now in an age of inventions, and we no longer have to take the trouble of climbing stairs … I wanted to find an elevator which would raise me to Jesus, for I am too small to climb the rough stairway of perfection. … The elevator which must raise me to heaven is Your arms, O Jesus! And for this I had no need to grow up, but rather I had to remain little and become this more and more.

The foundation of St. Thérèse’s confidence, as her autobiography states, was recognizing her own nothingness and expecting everything from God as a small child expects everything from its father.

Our misery attracts God’s mercy, St. Thérèse believed. “She regarded her faults as “reminders of her weakness and of her essential need for Our Lord’s constant support; they caused her to turn more completely to Him that He might alone be her sanctification. … her confidence, now unhindered, carried her swiftly towards perfection.” (Spiritual Childhood by Vernon Johnson, p. 103)

St. Thérèse became so confident in the Lord through the assistance of the indwelling Trinity, according to Johnson, who states, “Confidence is a gift of the Holy Spirit, refused to none and granted in proportion to our faith.”

This confidence is the key to Jesus’ Heart and He opens His arms, but it doesn’t disregard our shortcomings. The Lord continues that work of purification. (I Believe in Love by Père Jean du Coeur de Jésus D’Elbée)

In order to purify and sanctify us, Jesus needs only our humility and confidence, D’Elbée writes.

And your confidence will be in proportion to your humility because it is to the extent that we realize our need of Jesus that we have recourse to Him, and we sense this need to the extent that we justly realize our unworthiness.

We need this confidence when receiving the sacraments, including confession, according to D’Elbée.

We think about examining ourselves, yet we do not think, before the examination, during the examination, and after the examination, to plunge ourselves, with all our miseries, in the consuming and transforming furnace of his Heart, which is open to us through a single humble act of confidence.

St. Thérèse’s faith in the Lord’s love for her gave her complete confidence. At the same time she didn’t forget that He was doing the good in her.

When someone told St. Thérèse near the end of her life that she was a saint, she pointed to the tops of the trees in the garden, which looked golden in the setting sun.

“My soul appears to you to be all brilliant and golden because it is exposed to the rays of Love.  If the Divine Sun stopped sending me His fire, I would immediately become dark and full of shadows.”

(Autobiography, D’Elbée)

Our elevator eventually brought us to our destination and of course, St. Thérèse’s brought her to heaven. During her elevator ride through life, her autobiography reveals that she also had to wait sometimes. Even so, St. Thérèse never lost confidence in the One running the elevator.

St. Thérèse, help me to have complete confidence in God’s care for me today.

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The Assumption: Our Earthly Bodies and Heaven

August 14, 2013

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Painting in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Baltimore, MD.   Photo/Jim, the Photographer.  Licensed by Creative Commons.

Painting in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Baltimore, MD. Photo/Jim, the Photographer. Licensed by Creative Commons.

I’ve sometimes wondered if the Blessed Mother experienced the wrinkles and pains of old age. She was human and by all accounts didn’t have an easy life. The Church tells us she had no pain when she gave birth to Our Lord, but during the rest of her life there must have been some hardship and suffering.

The dying who suffer terribly in their bodies are not always sad at the prospect of leaving them to meet God. Yet the Church teaches that the Lord did take His mother’s aged body to heaven at the Assumption.

As the angels bore her body there, maybe the aging process went in reverse so that by the time she got there she looked the way she has in her apparitions. That’s not to say she wasn’t equally beautiful in her later years on earth but she has mostly appeared to us as a younger-looking woman.

Why bring her earthly body to heaven?

God could have made a new body in heaven for the Blessed Virgin. Why did he choose to bring her earthly body which, if it’s like mine, came with runny nose, bad breath and hangnails? The most obvious answer is that her body was the tabernacle of the Most High, Christ’s first earthly home.  According to Father Canice Bourke, OFM Cap.:

The womb that bore Jesus Christ, the hands that caressed him, the arms that embraced him, the breasts that nourished him, the heart that so loved him — it is impossible to think that these crumbled into dust.

Another reason appears in what we profess in the Apostles Creed: “The resurrection of the body…” This essential Christian doctrine is explained in the Catechism:

We believe in the true resurrection of this flesh that we now possess” (Council of Lyons II: DS 854). We sow a corruptible body in the tomb, but he raises up an incorruptible body, a “spiritual body.” (CCC 1017)

Our Lady was the first to receive the fruits of our redemption in her Immaculate Conception. She did not sin and it is believed that her body was immune to corruption. Would she not also be the first after Christ to experience the resurrection which all the faithful will experience?

Cremation for the Blessed Virgin?

According to the Golden Legend, a 13th century collection of saint biographies, Our Lady’s body was placed in a tomb for three days after her death (though whether she did actually die has been disputed by scholars for centuries). During that time, some who thought Christ was a traitor sought to burn her body.

It’s hard to imagine someone actively destroying the body of the Mother of God. And it makes me question whether we should do this to our own bodies, which St. Paul calls temples of the Holy Spirit.

The Church does allow cremation, “provided it does not demonstrate a denial of faith in the resurrection of the body.” (CCC 2301)

Thankfully, it didn’t happen to the body of the Blessed Mother. According to the Golden Legend, Christ and a company of angels came to bring Our Lady’s body to heaven. St. Gregory, Bishop of Tours wrote in 594 AD:

“The Lord…commanded the body of Mary be taken in a cloud into paradise; where now, rejoined to the soul, Mary dwells with the chosen ones.”

I hope to be one of the chosen ones, up there in my body. Hopefully without the dry skin and wrinkles.

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Baseball story mixes fastballs, faith and acts of kindness

December 5, 2011

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Heaven is like a baseball game, and it’s what you do in life that determines if you’ll be in uniform for God’s team, the “Saints.”

Timothy gets a chance to pitch for the heavenly home team in “Timothy’s Glove,” Kathleen Chisholm McInerney’s new book for young people.

While there’s never really a doubt about the outcome of the game, the back-story about Tim’s journey to make a place for himself on the home-team squad is what the colorfully illustrated book is about.

Adults will find the simple tale plot line reinforces the types of acts of kindness and goodness that everyone wants to see grow in children, and if a sports analogy helps get the message across to young readers, great.

To find out more about “Timothy’s Glove,” check out the author-illustrator’s website.

 

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What are indulgences and why do we need them?

September 7, 2011

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kids climbing

Indulgences give us the chance to receive a "hand up" from Christ and the saints as we seek remission of punishment for our sins. Photo by Jo Guldi. Licensed under Creative Commons.

What if the government worked out this solution to the personal debt crisis:  All Americans would contribute everything they made, beyond their personal needs, to a common treasury. The wealthy would put in their billions, and everyone else in lower tax brackets would put in what they had.

A trustworthy administrator with authority would give those who had maxed out their credit cards the opportunity to pay off their debts from the common pot if they showed remorse and determination to learn better financial habits. The treasury would always be full because of one super contributor and because others were constantly adding to it.

This may sound like a great socialist scheme but in reality, it’s an image that helps describe how indulgences work in the Church. By drawing on the merits of Christ and the saints, an indulgence enables us to obtain remission of the temporal punishment (which has a beginning and end, unlike eternal punishment) we incur when we sin.

When we confess our sins to a priest in confession, receive absolution and do the penance we’re given, our sins are forgiven. But just like sincere contrition alone wouldn’t fix a rear-ended car, forgiveness of sin alone doesn’t satisfy God’s justice, according to Church teaching.

All sin, including venial sin, involves unhealthy attachment to creatures, from which the sinner must be purified before entering heaven (CCC 1472). That purification of temporal punishment happens either on earth or in Purgatory.

Inexhaustible storehouse of merits

Typically combining works of piety, prayer and the sacraments, indulgences are granted by the Pope, who presides over the Church’s treasury of satisfaction: her inexhaustible  storehouse of the merits of Christ, the Blessed Mother and the saints.

Indulgences are not permission to commit sin, pardon of past sin or forgiveness of guilt. They suppose that sin is already forgiven. They’re not an exemption from any law or duty but a more complete payment of debt owned to God.  And above all, they’re not an attempt to purchase pardon in order to secure salvation or release a soul from Purgatory.

“He who gains indulgences is not thereby released outright from what he owes as penalty, but is provided with the means of paying it,” wrote St. Thomas Aquinas.

Besides being in the state of grace, those who seek indulgences must do the works prescribed for the indulgence, love God, place their trust in Christ’s merits and believe strongly in the great assistance they receive from the Communion of Saints, Pope Paul VI wrote in his Apostolic Constitution on Indulgences.

There are two types of indulgences: A plenary indulgence removes all temporal punishment due for sins already forgiven. To obtain it, a Catholic must do the work attached to the indulgence, go to confession, receive Holy Communion and pray for the Holy Father’s intentions (at least one Our Father and one Hail Mary).  A partial indulgence removes part of the punishment and requires that the act attached to the indulgence be performed contritely.

Facts about indulgences

  • A Catholic can obtain one plenary indulgence per day, but more than one when at the point of death.
  • It’s possible to gain more than one partial indulgence per day.
  • The faithful can obtain plenary indulgences quite easily at least twice a year, once for their church’s titular saint day and for Portiuncula (August 2), the first plenary  indulgence granted in the Church.
  • A plenary indulgence, applicable only for the dead, can be acquired on November 2.
  • See the Catholic Answers website for more information on how to obtain indulgences.

Knowing the great wealth Christ and the saints have deposited in our Church’s treasury of satisfaction–and how much we need it–we have good incentive to take the grace of indulgences seriously.

 

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Joke — no joke — just for Catholics

August 5, 2011

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Jim and Jennifer were at their wedding rehearsal on a Friday night when a tornado struck the church, collapsing the walls and roof and tragically killing them both.

They’d led good lives and went straight to heaven, where they asked St. Peter for a favor: Could they still get married?

St. Peter said, “Well, sure. Tell you what: I’ll come and get you when we can do that.”

Jim and Jennifer were pleased, but it was five years before St. Peter showed up and said they could get married.

And so they had their wedding. It wasn’t too long though that the couple realized they’d made a mistake. The went to St. Peter and asked if they could have a divorce.

“Well, we frown upon that here,” St. Peter said, “but let me see what I can do. I’ll call you.”

After waiting five years to get married, though, Jennifer was concerned that it might take just as long to start divorce proceedings. “How long will it take?” she asked.

St. Peter was miffed. “It took five years to bet a preacher up here. Who knows how long it will be before a lawyer shows up!”

AND HERE’S THE NO-JOKE:

Joseph’s Coat, the St. Paul walk-in center for the homeless and needy, will be doing it’s annual distribution of school supplies and backpacks Aug. 29 and 31, so there’s still time for all of us to donate so some kids feel good about going to school this year because they have a new backpack and school supplies like the other kids.

I’ll be taking the backpack pictured here and picking up crayons, pens, pencils, markers, 3-ring binders, looseleaf paper — all that good stuff you use to love to have — and dropping it off at 1107 West Seventh in St. Paul.

Donations are accepted on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m to 2 p.m.

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If God hired an ad agency…

October 6, 2008

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“The Happy Soul Industry,”
by Steffan Postaer

“People are not responding to the message anymore,” God tells an angel named David. The old stuff — burning bushes, parting waters, changing water into wine — aren’t working anymore. God’s looking for a new and different approach.

“In order to inspire goodness we’ve got to improve our image,” God says. “We need better copy!”

Her answer (yes, God is a she in this novel): Hire an advertising agency.

With that as a great jumping off point for the plot, author Steffan Postaer mines his knowledge of the ad biz to create a fairly interesting story with characters that readers will care about.

That is, if readers can get past the soft-porn.

David the angel gets sent down to earth to find an ad agency to “market heaven,” bumps into a beautiful woman and has sex with her the very first evening. (Is this really the way “dating” happens today? Is it art reflecting life, or does art justify — give permission to — dismissal of the virtuous life?)

And although the sex is admittedly an element of the plot, the scene does get pornographic. As do other scenes later on. They’re unnecessary and offensive. Some, too, will be offended by the language. I’m sure the crude language does reflect reality, though, and it shouldn’t be a deal breaker.

What just happen here?

What is a deal breaker, though, is that Postaer develops a handful of characters, gets us involved with them, works them into the plot and subplots, and then you find yourself asking, hey, what just happened there?

The ad exec with the overactive libido suddenly gets transformed into a caring, sensitive male. His ex-wife turns from witch to a do-gooder. The creative genius at the ad agency goes from workaholic to father-of-the-year.

But we never find out why. And Postaer never quite brings all the subplot elements together. Still, he does a pretty good job of leading us to what looks like it’ll be an engaging final scene.

I won’t ruin the ending for you, but the Greeks who invented “deus ex machina” have nothing on Steffan Postaer.

Greek tragedies aside, “The Happy Soul Industry” has worthwhile lessons to share about life and faith and virtue and marketing — if you choose to get past the offensive passages. And Postaer, a successful ad copywriter who runs Euro RSCG Chicago now, has a thought-provoking idea for an ad campaign to promote goodness to the American people. Think this would work? Picture billboards at bus stops and train platforms with messages like:

“These days, everybody’s skipping prayer.

So, how’s everybody doing?”


The insider peek into the advertising world is worked in creatively, and Postaer has a great touch with humor. It’s good writing and good reading. The pity is that this could have been a really good novel with just a bit more work on the ending and a tad less bowing to the convention that sex sells. But I guess we know where that comes from. — bz

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