Examination of Conscience

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I remember the first time I ever went to Confession.  It was called Confession then.  It was one of the Sacraments of Initiation (I didn’t know that then) but it was right before I made my First Communion.  It was during the week, after Mass.  I went to a Catholic grade school and this was what we did, right before we made our First Communion.  I couldn’t wrap my arms around the fact that all the years I had lived, I mean I was 7 at this point, that none of those sins mattered before now because I didn’t know that they were sins.  That really didn’t make sense to me because I remember wholeheartedly that I knew some of the things that I had done were wrong, so how could they not have been sins last week but next week they would be sins.  I mean, I knew fighting with my sister or brother was wrong.  I got spankings for doing it.  I knew that saying bad words was wrong because I got my mouth washed out with soap.  So how could they not be sins, and then they were?  I was a rather stubborn child and I wanted to understand.  I found out later that being stubborn was a sin.  But I was scared to death sitting in that church pew waiting for my time to go into the confessional.  It would have been smart for the teacher to have let us go in there beforehand and explore because I was so intrigued with the kneeler that clicked the light on when I knelt down and clicked the light off when I got up.  That light told us that someone was in that confessional.  I really wanted to know how that worked.  Of course, our parish priest was a large man with a booming voice so we could all hear everything he was saying to our classmates.  That made us even more afraid.
I don’t think I ever got over my fear of the confessional.  Through the years we went to Confession at school.  I knew my mother went weekly or bi-weekly but she didn’t make us go with her unless we wanted to.  I wish I had done that more often.  But I think the Sacrament was so special to Mom that she appreciated being able to go by herself.  But all through school we went, first to Confession, then to Penance, then to Reconciliation.  They kept changing the name of the Sacrament I think to encourage more people to go.  Probably a lot of people were like me, and afraid to go, so renaming the Sacrament made it cool.  The Church was looking for cool back in the 1970’s.  When I was an adult it took the name of Reconciliation since that sort of went with the times.  I guess it doesn’t matter what you call it, as long as you do it.
Which takes me back to my fear of the confessional.  I remember a time in my life, when I wasn’t really that good of a person.  I mean, I wasn’t a bad person.  I didn’t kill anyone.  But I know that I was a Sinner with a capital S.  I knew that if I went to Confession that I would be forgiven of every sin I had committed, those with a capital S and those with a small s.  I knew that.  I believed that.  But I was afraid.  I was afraid of that priest.  I mean, it didn’t matter who the priest was, letting him know about my shortcomings and my wrongdoings was what I was afraid of.  I never wanted any other person to know some of that stuff.  And remember, I never killed anyone.  I might have wanted to, but I never did it.  Anyway, I made up my mind that I didn’t need confession.  I made up my mind that I would take my sins straight to the top.  I made up my mind that if God was going to forgive me he was going to forgive me whether I told a designated priest or not.  I believed that.  And I still do.  The problem was, I didn’t believe that.  Do I believe that God is all forgiving?  Yes, I know that to be true.  But I also was taught that unless I got that sin out of my conscience that I would continue to carry that sin with me and even though I believed that God would forgive me I don’t think that I ever forgave me.  And that’s a sin too.  So, I was in another town on business.  I was close to a Catholic church.  And I saw that they had daily confessions.  I don’t know what possessed me to go into that confessional other than the fact that I didn’t know that priest and he didn’t know me.  That poor man.  I unloaded everything I could and I asked for forgiveness.  Now these were some sins that I had already asked God to forgive me but it took that act to truly believe that I was forgiven of those sins, and I forgave myself for those sins.
I truly believe that once a semi-practicing Catholic has kids then they become this uber-practicing Catholic.  I like to think that it was my kids who forced me to become the Catholic Christian I am today.  And if you truly are an example to your kids, you’ve got to do it right.  So, I am no longer afraid of the confessional.  That doesn’t mean that I run the door down to church on Saturday afternoon to be absolved of all my sins.  I should.  I would probably be happier in my life.  I do make sure that I go to Confession.  I’m just not great at going all the time.  I remember when Communal Penance came out.  My whole family would go to church that night, including my dad.  Through the years it has been done differently but there was a time it was truly an event.  And it was easy.  You didn’t really have to think.  You just had to put that little catch-all phrase at the end, “and anything else that I may have done”.  I love that phrase.  Because I’m forgetful.  I could have a list a mile long and my turn would come along and by gosh I couldn’t remember one thing.  Okay, I could remember one thing.  But my list would leave my head.  So “and anything else that I may have done” always worked for me.  Until I started thinking about it.
We teach our kids the 10 Commandments.  And any and all sin that we commit can be identified by a good examination of conscience considering the 10 Commandments.  So, that’s what I have started to do.  What Commandment did I just break?  But being the forgetful person I am I have started listing these in my Notes on my IPhone.  Go ahead and laugh.  But it’s a good place to jot something down real quick.  Because by the time I get to the confessional I will have forgotten all about trash talking that girl at Walmart who cut in front of me in line.  I will have forgotten that grudge I was holding against those guys for what they said about me.
But I will tell you that I have discovered this great Catholic app that I use for a lot of things.  It’s called Laudate and it has Daily Readings and the Saint of the Day.  It has prayers and the rosary (in pod-cast form) and stations of the cross.  It even has Latin prayers.  But my most favorite part of the app right now is on Confession.  It has a section for children, young adults, single people, married people.  It has a daily examination of conscience.  Can you imagine on a daily basis figuring out what you did wrong so that tomorrow you don’t make the same mistake?  So when I am perusing this app I can find all kinds of things I need to think about.  When you click on a section, it gives you a little prayer to say before you proceed.  So cool.  In the section I go to there are subsections and they ask you questions:  Have I prayed every day?  Have I read the Bible?  Those are responsibilities to God.  Have I told my spouse that I love him?  Have I listened to my spouse?  Those are responsibilities to my my spouse.  Have I prayed for my children?  Have I been affectionate toward them?  Those are responsibilities to my children.  Have I avoided theft and lies?  Have I paid my taxes?  Those are responsibilities to society.  Is that not cool?  It could probably take an hour or so to go through all of them.  But isn’t that a good time frame to spend before going to Confession?  I mean, I’m all about it after it’s over.  I plan to become all about it before I go.
The Catholic Church is very specific in some things, and not the least specific in others.  I think even in Confession they are very specific but when it comes down to the nitty gritty they are not specific at all.  That’s why I think a good examination of conscience helps you to stay right with the Church but also right with yourself.  It’s good to take inventory every once in awhile.  Even if you don’t do anything with it, it’s good to know where you stand, in your own heart, in your own soul.  It’s nice to have something to work from to make it easier to participate in the Sacrament.  Don’t we owe that to ourselves?  I know that I do.
Cynthia Elder
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St. Joseph Catholic Church in Louisville – where I made my first confession –
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Extravagant Inheritance

prodigal-sonThe readings this weekend at Mass had to do with the story of the Prodigal Son. But Fr. Darrell’s take on the reading was more like the prodigal father.  And when he was talking this way he implied that the father in the story was the same as our Father in heaven.  That made me think.  He defined “prodigal” as “spending money or resources freely and recklessly; wasteful extravagant”.  That made me think.  And I think it was the point he was trying to make.  I took it that God, our Father, is immensely extravagant.  He’ll give us all that He has.  He only asks one thing of us, to follow Him.

But then I started thinking about inheritance. The prodigal son asked for his inheritance early.  I don’t think I could do that.  If you were to get your inheritance before you were entitled to it, to me, it’s like asking for the person who is “leaving” you something to leave.  Now, if I had a rich old aunt that I didn’t know about that was going to leave me a gazillion dollars, I might want a part of it right now.  But I think I know about all of my aunts and I can tell you that none of them are rich.  But if I did . . .

When my grandmother died, I inherited a small sewing rocker that I had bought for her. I had bought it at an antique store.  She had been with me and told me about her mother having one of those.  I was so proud that I was able to take my babysitting money and go back to that store and buy it for her.  When she died, her daughter, my aunt, gave it to me.  I treasured that little rocker.  I still have it although I wouldn’t recommend sitting in it.

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This is not Grandma’s sewing rocker but it looks just like this one.  I inherited it after she died.

 

When my father died my mother inherited everything. We didn’t know there was anything to get.  About a year or so before my mother died she started giving everything away.  She put our names on everything.  What she didn’t divvy up, we did not long after she died.  We had all of the furniture to get rid of, just all kinds of things.  It seems strange to me now, but I ended up with quite a bit.  Through the years I have lost some of those precious items but other things I still have.  It’s a shame that I have allowed the memories of those items diminish.  Sometimes you just have to move on.  Every once in a while I note a table that Mom got from her aunt or a pair of earrings and I remember what Mom used to wear those earrings with.  They’re nothing special except I can still see her wearing them, some 30 years later.  I kept Mom’s Evan Picon red suit too.  It was a size 6.  It’s been awhile since I’ve been a size six.  I wanted to give it to my daughter one day.  If I had made up my mind that I wanted to do that then I should have taken better care of the suit because when I pulled it out for my daughter to wear it for senior pictures it had all kinds of moth holes in it.  Oh well, it still made me smile.  Just like my son wore my daddy’s suit coat for his senior pictures.  Again, moth holes; again, it didn’t matter.  He looked so much like my daddy in that jacket.

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I inherited Daddy’s Love Story jacket.  It resembles the one that Ryan O’Neal wore in the movie from the 1970’s.

 

But if God promises us the kingdom of heaven, do I expect that I will go around putting my name on the bottom of items I want? I don’t think so.  You know, I’ve never wandered what I would do if I am lucky enough to make it to heaven.  I’ve never considered how my existence will be.  I just want to be there.  I just want to be welcomed in.  It doesn’t matter if the streets are lined with gold, I won’t care.  All I want is the streets to be lined with those who have gone before me.  I want to see my grandmothers again.  I want to sit down and analyze my life with my mom and dad.  I want to hold my precious granddaughter Lucy in my arms, for all eternity.  And I want to bask in the glow of the Father and His Son.

I know that God has been extravagant with me. I know that He has given me anything and everything that I need.  He might not always answer my prayers but He knows what’s good for me, and what’s not.  Now if only I could figure that out then I feel that I will be welcomed into His arms.  Because when it comes down to it, that’s all I could ever want.

Cynthia Elder

Pentecost

“No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’, except by the Holy Spirit.”  1 Corinthians 12:3

On the first Pentecost a huge wind came upon the house where the apostles were hiding.  And then, tongues of fire came to rest on each one of them.  And then they left the house and everyone who heard them understood them.  I always took it that the apostles were speaking in all languages but it was the people who were able to understand everything that they said.  Wow.

Catholics believe that when we are confirmed that the Holy Spirit comes into us.  At that time then we become a “soldier of Christ”.  I learned that when I was confirmed in the 3rd grade.  I may not have always practiced that but I have always believed it.

Through the years though I know that the Holy Spirit has been alive in me.  I can feel it when He descends upon me.  I can feel it right before I serve as Lector during Mass.  I can feel it when I watch my children practice their faith.  I can feel it when I attempt to influence others in my faith.  I can feel it.  And it’s not just a feeling.  It’s physical.  In other situations I would consider it to be butterflies.  But when I am professing my faith those butterflies take on a whole new meaning.

Right now I feel those butterflies in my arms, not telling me what to write but encouraging me to write.  Writing is pretty scary.  I can understand how scared those apostles had to be.  They saw what happened to Jesus.  And yet they were told by Jesus that they had to go out, put themselves out there, to teach about Him.  I’m sure they were sitting there going, “yeah, right”.  I can remember when I made up my mind to do what God asked me to do.  It was only then that He made me write.  Writing is one thing, letting someone read it is something completely different.  But when He had me to write, He also put people in front of me that I could ask to read my writing.  I remember my son, who is a writer, and a teacher, proofread my writing.  I had to go back to him and tell him I wasn’t looking for an editor, I was looking for his opinion.  I let others read what I had to write and most didn’t comment at all.  That was good for me.  A no comment meant to me that they didn’t hate it.  Subsequently I have gotten good comments out of those people.  But those silent opinions made me realize that maybe I could write, maybe I did have something to say.  And so I have decided that it is my writing that the Holy Spirit wants to see out of me.

He wants different things out of different people.  In that 1 Corinthians reading this week at Mass it goes onto say “As a body is on though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ.”  In order to accomplish all that we need to do for Christ we must all take our talents and put them out there.  I claim a “hand” in that body.  You’ve got to have a “hand” to write.  I could see my youngest son saying “I get the mouth”.  He’s not much of a writer but he has a lot to say so give that boy a microphone.

I have always liked the image of the tongues of fire.  I took a picture years ago of a confirmation class at Youth 2000.  We had all the kids lined up with the monks who put on the retreat.  You can see orbs in that picture, over some of the kids’ heads.  I thought that was so interesting.  If that doesn’t make you believe I don’t know what would.  Honestly, when I dug out that picture I thought there were more.  It’s still pretty cool.

confirmation

What’s more important is that we do have the Holy Spirit in our lives.  He’s there, whether we feel Him or not.  Sometimes life will squash him down but He’s still there and given the right opportunity He will make His presence known.  We just have to be open to listening to Him.

Cynthia Elder

 

An Easter Wake-Up Call

Days after holidays are my favorite Facebook days!
Never get to go to church on Sundays
Because of my work schedule
Got to go to church 4 times last week
It was awesome and did me ALOT of good
Best part was I managed to stay awake
And go to Easter Sunday mass yesterday (early mass)
I was sitting in the back pew
Drifting off just a little when SUDDENLY…..
I was startled by a cold gush of many holy water sprinkles
Splash me from behind and run down my neck
I had not seen Father leave the altar
With that big bucket of ice cold Easter water
Needless to say, Father Darrell took much enjoyment
When he returned to the altar after generously “blessing” us all
It was then that he simply, but proudly confessed…

“THAT…is one of my favorite things I get to do as a priest!”

Susan Mills Carrico12923214_10207731927349804_6045123536555060282_n

Mountains and Sands

“Show us the way that leads to your side, over the mountains and sands of the soul.”

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This line, from the song, “Change Our Hearts” by Rory Cooney, really spoke to me this week at Mass.  I’ve always liked the song but I caught site of that line and it made me think of the peaks and valleys of my soul.  I never think of my soul as having peaks and valleys.

But that would make sense, wouldn’t it?  There are times when my soul soars but then there are times when my soul is in the doldrums.

We were talking about that very thing in our PRE class this week.  We’ve been talking about prayer and this week we were talking about personal prayer.  I let the 11th graders know that there would be times they really needed to take a break in their prayer life and that would be fine.  But that their relationship to prayer was just like a good friend and it needed to be cultivated to grow.  You’re not going to go a week without talking with your best friend, why would you go a week without praying?

But the thing about this line in the song, mountains are glorious, if you’re on top.  But they are very intimidating at their base.  And if you have to climb that mountain that’s a lot of worry and work.

But then the sand part.  I love sand.  I love the beach.  But walking on sand is so hard to do.  First, it’s hot.  Then, if it’s loose, you early have to go barefoot, sort of like walking in mud.  And if you walk out in the water then the sand slips out from beneath your feet.  It is so easy to lose your footing.  Isn’t that the same in prayer?  There are times that you are not sure footed and some times the bottom falls out and you have to scramble to keep your footing.

I guess the point is that no matter how hard we try there will still be things that force you to climb or that cause you to lose your footing.  I guess we always have to be at the ready for that, and for the bridegroom.

Cynthia Elder

The Rosary on a Cold Night

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January 20, 2016

Whenever I was younger one of my teachers told me to hold my rosary like I was proud to use it. I’m sure you could imagine little stubborn Katie did not have any of it. Now I hold it higher than I hold anything else. I’m sure you all are wondering why I’m not in Washington D.C. God had other plans. Tonight I attended the rosary at the grotto. There are wonderful women and usually dad who will go through anything the elements throw at them to pray the rosary for anyone who needs it. Brothers and sisters, I come to you not to preach, but to encourage. You see, instead of being on a bus with other pro-life members, I was in Fancy Farm. I could’ve easily chosen not to go to the rosary. In fact, I was really thinking about it. I went. Silly me forgot her new gloves that her wonderful father bought her for the March. I got through it ladies and gentlemen. Tonight was the sorrowful mysteries and I cried because I wasn’t in Washington. I then calmed down. (I’m the master of silent crying.) If you don’t know, the fifth sorrowful mystery was of course the one that always hits home. Jesus dies on the cross. I bawled of course. It’s funny how He died for us on the cross and we take that for granted often. I know I do. We try to be holy. Like the red words say, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. I encourage you all to come to the grotto. I know many of us try the New Year’s Resolution of losing weight. What about becoming more holy? Or at least try? The Lenten season is coming up and I cannot be more excited as I am giving up bread. (Except the Body of Christ obviously.) I encourage you all to come out to the grotto on Wednesdays at 5:30. Many of you go to The Stations of the Cross, why not come pray the rosary before it? I’m just asking for you guys to try. If you’re busy I understand. As for Washington I will be at the church tomorrow to pray the rosary, as will hopefully a bunch of others to pray for life. If you can’t come, pray at home! Below are my fingers freezing off, but if Jesus can suffer all he went through, I can get through the rosary on a cold night.

Katie Elder

You Are the Light of the World

I love the play “Godspell”.  I love the music.  And yes, I know that I am a child of the ’70’s but I could play that music over and over and over.  One of the songs is Light of the World.  “You are the light of the world”.  Sorry, you’re going to have to listen to it.
BushelBasketWe are the light of the world.  If we don’t shine for all the world to see, then what in the world are we doing here?  I ask you, what?
We are a reflection of all that we see and hear and learn and know.  And as a light of the world then we shine all of that for the world to see.  If we are not confident in who we are and what we know then it’s real easy to put that light under a bushel and then “it’s lost something kind of crucial”.  We have got to let that light shine, we just have to.
Today is the Feast of the Epiphany.  Used to, the Feast of the Epiphany was celebrated on January 6th.  I can understand why it now is celebrated between January 1st & 6th.  It is important to be celebrated as a full community and the best way to do that is at Sunday Mass.  This is the day of gift giving.  There are those who wait until the Feast of the Epiphany to exchange gifts.  I thought it would be cool to offer spiritual gifts today.  So today I pray for my friends and family so that they will experience peace and good health.  I also offer prayers of peace for our world.
Fr. Darrell talked about the Feast of the Epiphany being a feast of light.  And the readings today seemed to concentrate on the Star of Bethlehem.  I love stars.  Can you imagine being an amateur astronomer and seeing this star that is new to the sky?  Can you imagine going back into your notes of all the stars in the sky and realizing that this star had never been in the sky before?  Can you imagine going to your stargazing friends and conferring with them and then all of you decide that you need to scope this out?  Can you imagine?
Well, we have all been tapped to follow that star, haven’t we?  We have been trained to take our notes and confer with our friends and to scope out what was in the sky so many years ago.  And we have been tapped to spread that light wherever we can.  I’m not talking about preaching about it, I’m talking about living it.  We know how to live to share that light.  We just have to do it.
When I was looking at this day I found that today is the Feast of the Epiphany but it is also the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus.  It is also the feast day of Pope St. Antherus, St. Genevieve, St. Kuriakose Elias Chavara, St. Odilo of Cluny, St. Athanasius of Cilicia, St. Bertilia of Mareuil, St. Fintan of Doon, St. Gordius of Cappadocia, St. Theogenes of Cyzicus, Blessed William Vives, St. Zosimus of Cilicia, Blessed Arnold Wala, St. Bertille of Thuringia, St. Blitmund of Bobbio, St. Cyrinus of Cyzicus, St. Daniel of Padua, St. Eustadius, St. Finlugh, St. Florentius of Vienne, St. Florentius of Vienne the Martyr, Blessed Gerard Cagnoli, St. Lucian of Lentini, St. Melorius, St. Munchin of Limerick, St. Primus of Cyzicus, St. Salvator of Belluno, St. Theonas, St. Theopemptus of Nicomedia, St. Wenog, Martyrs of Africa, Martyrs of Tomi, Blitmund of Saint-Valery, Daniel Himmerod the Younger, Hymnemodus of Saint-Maurice, and Imbenia.
The thing about all of these people is that they took the message that they were the light of the world to heart.  They took their knowledge and their love of their faith and proclaimed it for all of the world to see.  So even though they lived between 235 AD and 1871 AD they let their light shine and it is still shining for all of the world to see.  If not, why would we care that today is their feast day?
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You are the light of the world, you are the salt of the earth, you are the City of God, but  “you’ve got to live right to be the light of the world”.  So is it time that you took after the wise men and the saints that have come before us and let your light shine?  Is this the year for you?  I think it could be.
Cynthia Elder