Rediscover Reverence Campaign

This is what my veil looks like. It's a champagne color, which I love because it looks blends in with my hair and isn't as bold as white or black would be on me.

This is what my veil looks like. It’s a champagne color, which I love because it blends in with my hair and isn’t as bold as white or black would be on me.

On December 8, Veils by Lily, my very favorite place to shop (often window shop) for veils, and the only place from which I’ve ever purchased one, is launching a global movement to rediscover reverence at Mass. I think this is brilliant. And lovely.

Basically, it’s a challenge to begin veiling at Mass if you’ve ever felt called to do so.

Because the very mention of veils seems to put some on the defensive, I would like to begin by saying I do not and, more importantly, the Church does not think you are failing to properly reverence the Eucharist by choosing not to cover your head at Mass.

I do, however, think it is a beautiful tradition. I’d like to tell you why.

I felt called to veil for years before I finally gave it a try. The calling started off as simply noticing the women who do chose to veil. I thought they were lovely, but I never thought I would veil. In fact, my mother has always been very vocally opposed to “those women” who veil at Mass. However, my passing glance eventually turned into a deeper pondering. Why would they want to veil at Mass? I came up with a few conclusions on my own and eventually did some internet research. The more I learned, the more lovely the practice became to me. I held a deep admiration and almost a slight twinge of envy for those who were daring enough to cover their heads. (Does anyone else see the irony in that?) But, for me, probably because of the commentary I heard growing up, it was going to take more than believing the tradition was lovely before I could take the plunge.

Because I have spent so much time thinking and praying about this topic, and in light of this Rediscover Reverence campaign, I’d like to share why I believe it is fitting for a woman to cover her head in the presence of the Eucharist. (Please note that I said “fitting”, not “mandated”,”required”, or “the Church is wrong and I am right”.) Admittedly, some of these reasons are more substantial than others, but these are the reasons that are the most meaningful to me.

  1. It is a beautiful act of humility. If a woman’s hair is the symbol of her glory (a topic which I discussed here) and Christ is fully present in the Eucharist, isn’t it fitting that I would cover my glory out of respect of the glorious presence residing in front of me? By covering my head, in the simplest terms, I am acknowledging God is God and I am not. By covering my “glory” I am demonstrating that Christ alone deserves all the glory. Moreover, I am acknowledging that any glory I possess in my nature or may attain in my life is given to me by the Glorious One who is present before me.
  2. It’s Biblical. Don’t skip this one! I’m not about to say what you think I’m going to say. While it is true that there is a cultural element to Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 11, look closer. I think as most women read, they are too busy getting offended and building a defense to catch one key phrase in verse 10. Paul doesn’t say a woman should cover her head because she is less than or because she is some kind of temptress or for any other reason people drum up. Paul says a woman should cover her head in worship because of the angels. This little phrase, to me, obliterates the cultural argument. Paul wasn’t imposing cultural standards because cultural standards are bound to time and place. Angels are not. Paul’s argument is not cultural, and therefore, it is Biblical for a woman to cover her head in worship.
  3. Because of the angels. What on earth does this mean? I asked one of my brilliant Bible professors, and he responded with something along the lines of, “Well, it doesn’t matter what he meant. Surely, Paul’s understanding of the angles far surpasses our own, so we should just believe him.” Not the answer I expected from my brilliant Scripture teacher. While there may be some truth in what he said, I needed more than that. And after months of having that question lingering in the back of my head, I think I may have found the answer! When Isaiah was commissioned for his prophetic service, he found himself in the presence of the angels, perhaps in heaven. (Is 6) The angels were worshiping God crying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts! All the earth is filled with his glory!” (Sounds familiar, right? Sounds like Isaiah got a sneak peak of the Heavenly Liturgy we emulate with our Earthly Liturgy.) As Isaiah describes the angels, he mentions they have 6 wings: 2 to cover their faces, 2 to cover their feet, and 2 with which they fly. Did you catch that? These angels, who were created for no other purpose than to worship God, have their faces covered in his presence. Maybe this is what Paul was talking about! Maybe this is the reason he gives for women to cover their heads. BUT, even if it’s not, it still struck a powerful cord with me. (It also caused me to ponder what I consider to be acceptable footware for Mass and make some changes, especially to my summer church shoe collection)
  4. If it’s good enough for Mary, it’s good enough for me. Admittedly, this is one of my weaker arguments, but I still like it. Have you ever seen a picture of Mary without her head covered? I haven’t. Maybe this is just an accurate representation of what was expected of her culturally, or maybe her head is covered because she lived with the Divine Presence. Or maybe, as is often the case with our beautiful Catholic faith, the answer is both. Yes and yes. Yes, it was culturally appropriate, and yes, it was out of reverence for her Son. Maybe this isn’t true at all. However, as I purpose to model Mary in all I do, this is one area I can outwardly represent and remind myself of my inner striving. Interestingly, this is also what resonates with my 6 year old. Last week, I was not wearing my veil. Sitting in the pew before Mass,  my little Jack tugged at my arm and said, “Mommy, why aren’t you wearing your veil? I really like when you wear your veil. It makes you more like Mary.”
  5. A veiled woman approaching Communion is a living symbol of Christ united with his Church. Marriage is often used to describe the relationship of Christ to his Church. He being the groom and she being the bride. This is seen in The Song of Songs, it is illustrated in the parables, and is made explicit by Paul in Ephesians. Over the centuries, it has been further expounded upon, most notably by Blessed John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. When a veiled woman walks down the aisle, what is the first thing you think of? A wedding. At Mass, a veiled woman walks down the aisle, approaches her groom, Jesus Christ, whom she then receives in his entirety, uniting her life completely to his. This unification is undoubtably real when anyone, male or female, receives Holy Communion, but when a veiled woman does so, the analogy is unmistakeable. The veiled woman becomes an icon of the entire Church: receptive, submissive, and obedient to Christ her Savior. (As a side note, this is also why non-Catholics and those Catholics who are not in a state of grace may not receive Holy Communion. The reception of Communion is the culmination of our earthly Christian life, much like [although not identically so! All analogies have their limits.] the marital embrace is the culmination of married life. It is a full surrender and acceptance of the other. In the case of Holy Communion, it is not possible to fully accept and surrender to one whom you do not believe in or have turned your back on in mortal sin.)
This is what I want to get next. It's always a juggling act the hold the baby, the diaper bag, and get the veil on my head as I enter the Church. I think this veil would solve my problems.

This is what I want to get next. It’s always a juggling act the hold the baby, the diaper bag, and get the veil on my head as I enter the church. I think this veil would solve my problems.

Much has been written about why women veil in the presence of the Eucharist. There is great historical information, as well beautiful spiritual insights. I learned much from what others have said, but, as I told you earlier, it took more than that for me. I needed something I could hold on to in case I ever had to defend myself. That was truly one of my worst fears and what took me so long to embrace the practice. I was so worried about what other people would think and what they might say to me. But no one has ever said anything. I’ve never received so much as a disapproving glance. I think most people either find it lovely or don’t notice. I think the ones who are opposed to veiling are actually the vast minority.

If you’re considering veiling and have stumbled upon this blog, please don’t stop reading here. There are so many pieces more beautifully written, more humble, and more insightful. I just wanted to share the big factors for me in case there’s anyone else out there than can benefit from them. Most importantly, ask the Holy Spirit to guide you and he will lead you to the information that’s right for you. As I said, I really believe that veiling is the most fitting, and I believe you will probably be guided to that realization as well.

And if you’ve already come to that conclusion – what are you waiting for? Buy a veil (or make one or improvise) and get to it! I think it would be great practice with which to begin Advent (Dec. 1) or join in a week later (Dec. 8) in solidarity with Catholic women worldwide. Even if you’re one of the few who veil at your parish, it may comfort you to know that so many others out there are doing the same thing for the first time on the same day. What a gift it is to be part of a universal Church!

My Hair, My Glory?

bad hair dayAny woman who is familiar with Paul’s letter to the Corinthians has probably contemplated his words about a woman’s hair being her glory. (cf. 1 Cor 11:15) At times I’ve attempted to wrestle with his words, but, usually, when I get the that part, I simply dismiss it as antiquated or culturally irrelevant and read on. The fact is, it just didn’t feel relevant to me. But, as we all know, what feels right to us at any given time may not be the best indicator of what actually is right or true. Granted, this is a very small topic. Certainly, no one’s faith hinges on Paul’s comments about hair. Nonetheless, I wanted to share what I recently realized.

I never felt as if my hair was my glory because I hate my hair. I’ve always hated my hair. It’s flat. It’s dull. It’s fine. And, worst of all, it isn’t even a color. It’s not brown. It’s not blonde. It’s just…blah. I have the most boring, lifeless hair on the planet. At least that’s my perception. With that being the case, I think its easy to see why I never equated my hair with glory.

Last week, I stumbled across a post by Jennifer Fulwiler (whom I don’t know, but love) and finally discovered the truth in Paul’s words. She wrote,

“Our hair is one of the main ways we express our individuality. Even for those of us who have no skill at hairdressing, the cut and style of our locks speaks volumes about how we want people to perceive us. It’s also one of the primary ways we make ourselves beautiful. Imagine a girl standing in front of a mirror, heading out to a party, determined to look as gorgeous as possible…but totally neglecting her hair. It wouldn’t happen.”

How right she is! I would never make the effort to put on makeup and get dressed up, but fail to fix my hair. In fact, if I’m really trying to look special, I spend more time working on my hair then everything else combined. Well…unless I change clothes 80 times. Which has been known to happen on occasion.

Even on the days I don’t wear any makeup and run errands in workout clothes, I still fix my hair. It may not be glamorous, but I do something with it.

The vast array of hair care products available at any store is enough to confirm the value that women and modern society place on a woman’s hair. There are at least three whole aisles dedicated to nothing but women’s hair care products at the Walmart closest to my house. The men’s hair products? They take up about 3 feet of shelf space on the deodorant aisle. And even that is a recent expansion. It wasn’t too long ago that those products didn’t exist.

My point is simply that Paul was right and I was wrong. It may not be a theologically significant point, but I take great comfort in the hidden truths I find in Scripture, even if they’re very small and seemingly meaningless. Truly though, I’m not sure that truth can ever be meaningless. Perhaps that’s why I find it so comforting and exciting when I recognize even such a little piece of it?

You Don’t Have to Do It Alone

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My sister posted this little gem on her facebook page recently. My brother saw it and shared it. It’s not the first time either of them have posted something along these lines. I desperately wanted to comment, but I knew it was futile. On the one hand, I’m glad they have some sense that God is ultimately in control. That’s a very good thing. Unfortunately, if you look at this little quip carefully, you’ll see the problem that plagues my entire family. One that I have broken free from on an intellectual level, but struggle to implement every day of my life. No, it’s not the misuse of the hyphen. Although, I have to say, hyphens and I do have a fairly touchy relationship.

The problem is a complete sense of self-reliance.

Let me explain. But, first, I’ll have to give a little background info.

The Bible does not  ever say that God will not give you anything you can’t handle. The closest is comes is 1 Corinthians 10:13. This verse says that God will not allow you to suffer a temptation that you cannot handle without providing a way for you to escape. Sort of the same thing. But not.

While difficult situations may be a temptation to sin, they aren’t necessarily. Maybe they just suck. Maybe they’re just a cause of great suffering. If that’s the case, the Bible never says that God won’t give you more suffering than you can take. After all, what’s the threshold on suffering? If it’s physical suffering, I guess death is more than we can take, but we were born to die, so that doesn’t really mean much. I don’t mean to sound flippant. I’m just trying to point out that suffering sucks and there doesn’t seem to be any real limit to how much of it we can take. Even if there were a limit, God never promises that he won’t allow us to suffer past a certain point.

(Can I just pause to say how merciful it is that God will never allow us to suffer a temptation that we can not conquer! That’s not the point of this post, but thank you God for your infinite mercy!)

So, are we just condemned to suffer at the hands of an uncaring God? Certainly not. The great apostle Paul was no stranger to suffering. In 2 Corinthians 12 he tells about a time he begged the Lord to remove his suffering, but God did not. God explained to Paul that His grace was enough to sustain Paul through anything. (2 Cor 12:9) And that’s the key.

All suffering can be endured, even great physical suffering that leads to death (i.e. the martyrs), with God’s grace.

Did you catch that last part?

The key is God’s grace.

God’s grace sustains us through whatever suffering we may endure, be it emotional, spiritual, or physical. We likely will encounter some suffering in our lives that we can’t endure. But, with God’s grace, suffering takes on new meaning.

Naturally, this leads to all kinds of other questions like why God allows suffering to exist and what the heck grace is anyway, both of which will have to wait until another time.

My point is, we’re not made to journey through this life alone. We’re going to face trials and obstacles and hardships. Some days we might be close to breaking. But if we’re surrounding ourselves with God’s grace, we won’t break. Quite the contrary. Paul goes on to tell us that it is through our weakness that we are made strong. (2 Cor 12:10)

My friend is a breast cancer survivor and she sums up her entire experience by saying that God had to knock her flat on her back (referring to the extensive time she spent in hospital beds) so that the only direction she could look was up (to God). Through her suffering, she came to understand the meaning of this verse.

So back to our family problem. We’re a “suck it up and deal with it” kind of people. We’re people who pull themselves up by their bootstraps. We’re definitely a family who believes in (although would never say so candidly) social darwinism. If we have problems, we work them out. On our own.

I can’t ever recall seeing my parents ask for help. Not the, “Hey, I’m really overwhelmed, could you watch the kids for me while I catch up on some housework?” kind of help and not the fall to your knees and put your problems in the hands of Jesus kind of help. We prayed together. And we prayed about problems. But the trust was missing. Praying about our problems didn’t change anything. It wasn’t a surrender. It was more like complaining.

We never learned the lesson that my friend learned. We kept trying to fix everything ourselves. Make it work out. Play the bad hand that we’d been dealt. We never leaned on God’s grace, placing full trust in his perfect plan, and allowed him to guide us through the turbulence of life.

As I said earlier, I understand the significance of this intellectually, and at times I succeed in letting God be God despite the suffering I may endure, but most the time I find myself standing alone in a puddle of tears before I have the sense to remember that this suffering, like all suffering, has a purpose, and that with God’s grace I can overcome it.

That’s the lesson I wanted to share with my siblings when I saw their silly little quote on Facebook. That’s a lesson that can give their lives new perspective and change their attitudes. They’re not suffering because God is mean or because he doesn’t fully understand what they can handle. He’s their creator; no one knows what they can handle better than he does. While they may indeed be suffering, God wants to help them get through it. They just need to ask him for his grace and trust in his perfect plan.

A Few More Words on Tithing

imagesJust to clarify my previous entry, I am fully aware that I am under no “obligation” to give a specific percentage of my income to the Church, as that was Mosaic law, which Jesus fulfilled. (Matthew 5:17) But let me tell you what I do know: I want my both my finances  and my personal life to be in order, and it would be foolish of me to believe that I could achieve such a task without putting my trust in the Lord and being open to His will.

Here’s what the New Testament has to say about how Christians should give:

“On the first day of the week  each of you should set aside whatever he can afford” (1 Corinthians 16:2)

“So I thought it necessary to encourage the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for your promised gift, so that in this way it might be ready as a bountiful gift and not as an exaction. Consider this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each must do as already determined without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work.”(2 Corinthians 9:5-8)

God doesn’t demand a fixed amount of money (or time) from us; He wants us to give from the heart. He wants us to give back to Him a share of what He has given to us. If 10% was the model for giving God provided His people under Mosaic law, I believe it to be an acceptable gift even now. I further believe 10% to be especially acceptable if it requires stretching and trusting the Lord to provide. (Luke 21: 1-4)

Since beginning our monetary tithe (which undoubtedly can be a stretch) God has done amazing things with our financial situation. Somehow, the remaining 90% of our income goes so much further than the full 100% ever did. That’s why I’m so excited about my “tithing time” epiphany. How much more will I accomplish in my day for my family and for the Lord when I am  “sowing my time bountifully?”

It definitely gives me a lot to think about. As I begin offering a tithe of my time to the Lord, it may be difficult to fill that time. But once I get going, I suspect I will find myself desiring even more time with the Lord. I may even honestly find myself “praying without ceasing” in a much more meaningful way than the current continuous dialog I have in my head that is often directed at the Lord. Pray for me as I set out on this journey!

Making Sense of the Senseless

challenges aheadRecently someone stated to me that “God does give you things you can’t handle.” I, unfortunately, didn’t respond as I wish I would have, mostly because I was shocked that this particular person made such a statement. My gut reaction was a blaring, “That’s not true!” Yet, I couldn’t come up with anything intelligent to say. As I thought and prayed over that statement the past few days, I’ve come to a few conclusions.

In life we are absolutely faced with challenges, hardships and obstacles which are too much for us to bear on our own. These hardships are not necessarily from God. However, God still promises to give us the strength to tackle them, grow as a person, and move on.

“I know indeed how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live with abundance. In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need. I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me.” ~Philippians 4:12-13

It’s absurd to believe that every hardship we face is a test or refinement from the Lord, when we are very well aware of the presence and effect of sin in the world. In fact, in the situation I’m referring to, the hardship being discussed is most obviously NOT from the Lord. It’s a result of a sinful person’s free will.

God gave each of us free will and he’s not going to take it away. Even when that means someone turns away from Him and chooses a completely unfulfilling and dangerous life of drinking, drugs, promiscuity, repeatedly putting oneself at odds with the law, repeatedly exposing oneself to violent individuals, driving recklessly, and surrounding oneself with other lost and equally poor decision makers. That’s the whole point of free will. God gave it to all of us, allowing us to freely choose him. Or, in some cases not choose him. Yes, it’s painful to watch someone you dearly love use their free will in such away that not only says no to God, but very regularly puts her life in danger. I know all about this pain, as I’m experiencing it too. The difference is I’m not allowing someone else’s poor choices to affect my relationship with the Lord. Allowing that doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense. All that does is invite Satan’s power to extend past the sinful person (Obviously, we’re all sinful people, but I’m speaking of this specific person.) and take hold of your own life as well.

What’s really amazing is when you stand back and look at the situation, you can see God’s hand on her life. He is calling her. He is giving her opportunity after opportunity to see the error of her ways. All we can do is pray, pray, and pray some more for this individual’s conversion and the conversion of her peers. All we can do is be a continual example of Christ’s love and light in the world and in her life. That’s it.

What we absolutely don’t need to do is lose our own faith simply because of another human’s choices. What we don’t need to do is shield this person from that natural consequences of her behavior. When she makes a choice with financial ramifications, she needs to be allowed to suffer financially. When she makes a choice with legal ramifications, she needs to be allowed to suffer legally. Continuously sheltering her from natural consequences is only teaching her that she can do whatever she wants with no resulting circumstances. If she lives in an environment where she can’t even comprehend cause and effect in its simplest most realistic terms, how can we possibly expect her to understand there are eternal consequences for the choices she makes? I personally don’t believe that the fear of hell is sufficient motivation to maintain a relationship with Christ. However, in this circumstance, this individual has no regard for consequences of any kind. Allowing her to experience consequences would probably be a really good first step toward her personal rehabilitation and eventual conversion.

Now, in regards to the original statement, I discovered this. As far as God protecting us from situations we can’t handle, He says, “No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13) But, again, I think free will comes into the discussion here. God can only open the proverbial window in response to a closed door when we turn to him and seek His help. And, actually, that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Instead of just asking for help, it’s much more efficient to turn the situation over to Him entirely. I can tell you in the situations where I had the good sense to completely surrender my situation to the Lord the outcome was so much more than anything I could have constructed myself. God always knows better, so I don’t understand why we, as humans, find it so hard to surrender to him. However, that’s a topic for another entry on another day.

The passage in Corinthians goes on to say in verse 23 (NLT) “You say ‘I am allowed to do anything” – but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything.” – but not everything is beneficial.'” I think that’s the key. Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. When temptation presents itself, we must make the decision to turn to Christ and rise above the situation with His strength, not our own, for our own will never be enough.

So, here’s the moral of the story. Yes, we will be presented with situations which we are not strong enough to endure. Often times these situations are the result of sin. And, when we are faithful to the Lord, He will be faithful in giving us the strength to endure the situation and eventually rise out of it. In a nutshell, it is true that God won’t give you anything you can’t handle, as long as you have the good sense to turn to him in your time of need. More often than not you will need His strength, as your own won’t be enough. SO, more accurately, God won’t give you anything you can’t handle with His strength. This doesn’t mean you won’t hurt or suffer. This doesn’t mean that God is promising us an easy life. This means that God is faithful to those that are faithful to Him. It means when you are hurting, the very best possible thing you can do it turn to the Lord and ask what His will is for you in this situation, then act accordingly. God uses the painful situations in our lives to teach us, to mold us, to make us more like Him. We need to embrace these situations, despite the pain, and grow with the Lord. “To learn, you must love discipline; it is stupid to hate correction.” Proverbs 12:1 NLT