Thursday, November 17, 2011

Do priests actually plan those inane homilies, or do they just ramble on aimlessly until their throats hurt? Dan, NJ

Ouch!  Dan, I understand your frustration about the message sometimes.  I cannot speak for all priests but the ones I respect often try to make the message relevant.  One of the things that is unique about being Catholic is that the Scriptures are set.  We all follow the same pattern.  Unlike Protestant ministers, our priests can’t choose what passage they would like to preach on any given Sunday.  They get what they get.

This provides them with the challenge of preaching on a wide variety of subjects, not just what they want to focus on.  I think sometimes we hit on an area they are comfortable with and sometimes we don’t.  I wouldn’t want to be asked to speak on a topic I wasn’t very familiar with.  Would you?

I think we should cut the priests a break.  They have a lot on their plates.  And everybody has a bad day now and then.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Can you provide a 'top ten' list of things parents can do with children to bring their faith into their homes on a daily basis? Joanie, ME

This is a great question, Joanie.  But the only way I can answer it authentically is to tell you the things I do with my own kids.  I admit I only came up with five.  But here is a list of what I do with my own children.

1- bless your kids
2- pray with them
3- read Scripture to them
4- pray for them…and let them see
5- make faith relevant

I make the Sign of the Cross on my kids’ foreheads before they leave my presence as often as I remember.  In fact, before leaving for school, they line up to be blessed.  I do this to remind them that God is with them when I am not and to ask God to protect them in my absence.

In our house, we mix formal and informal prayer.  My kids know that we pray before we eat.  They take turn saying the prayer they both learned in preschool, “Thank you God for family, friends and food.”  Simple but sweet.  I also encourage them to actually talk to God before going to bed.  This is less formal and more conversational.  This works well if they are anxious about something.

I try to tell them the story of Scripture.  This only works if you know it yourself.  Learn it so you can teach your kids.  Then talk about the story.  This is natural for kids and they love a good story.  We are part of the Greatest Story Ever Told.  Include them in it.

The best thing you can do for your kids is to let them see you pray.  Kids know when you aren’t being authentic.  They will see through you if it is a show.  It has got to matter to you if it is going to matter to them.

Making faith relevant is difficult.  Many kids feel that faith is what you do on Sunday or when you actually go to Church.  They aren’t interested in that.  It has to be a natural part of your conversations.  This can be done while you watch the news.  I have had conversations with my kids about what they have seen others doing.  I try to explain that we do things differently in our house because we have faith.  I would love to see more resources for parents on making faith relevant.  In fact, I’ve made it my life’s work.  Stayed tuned for Gracieland.  My prayer is that it helps in this area.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Ask Ellen: What’s the deal with relics? Is there any Biblical basis to it? Pat, MD

I saved this question for this week as we celebrated All Saints Day .  Thanks for asking, Pat.  Relics are items that are associated with a person declared a saint by the Church.  There are different classes of relics depending on how close the object came to the person.  For instance, you may have something that touched the body of a saint or you might have a piece of cloth actually worn by the person.

I’d like to focus on the Biblical basis for the practice because I think many people will be shocked to know that it is in fact in the Bible.  Catholics get a bad rap for saints in general and this relic stuff specifically.  You can imagine my joy when I discovered the practice of keeping relics within the very pages of Scripture.  I know I am outing myself as a true geek right now.  But I really was legitimately excited when I found it.

I’ve kept you waiting long enough.  The practice is described in Acts 19:11-12.  Allow me to quote it to you:  “And God did extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were carried away from his body to the sick, and diseases left them and evil spirits came out of them.”

Bingo!  There it is.  Right in the Bible that some claim to follow literally.  Please promise me something, faithful Ask Ellen reader. Don’t automatically assume that everything Catholics do is extra-Biblical.  In fact, if reading Ask Ellen has done nothing else for you, I hope it causes you to pause and question.  Dig deeper to find out why we do things as Catholics.  I think you will be surprised is most cases that the answers are both logical and Biblical.