A Prayer After the Earthquake

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My first (true) confession

When I was a kid, I went to confession once a week. It’s not that I was a huge sinner. I went to a Catholic grade school, and all the kids had to go once a week—whether we had any sins to confess or not. A friend of mine recently sent me an article in which he wrote that he’d […]

Repentance: the art of staying on course

“You’re not making any sense,” I said. “Well, you’re not listening to me,” she said. My wife and I were having an argument, and it was not going well. I love to argue, but I don’t like it when the argument turns into a fight. I don’t like the hurt feelings and the misunderstandings. This time I was feeling stuck, […]

The creator of the galaxies lives here!

by Matthew Parris My grandparents on both sides of my family are Catholic, both my parents are Catholic, so shortly after birth, I was baptized into the Catholic Church. I went to Catholic school, celebrated the sacraments of reconciliation, Eucharist, and confirmation. My family attended Mass every week, and I was active in the youth ministry at the parish. Catholicism […]

How to forgive enemies—and loved ones

Immaculée Ilibagiza, a Catholic woman and native of Rwanda, is a survivor of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. In her book, Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust, she writes about how she hid for 91 days in a 3 ft. x 4 ft. bathroom with seven other women. At one point while hiding, she could hear the killers right outside the door. As she prayed for God’s protection, she realized God wanted her to forgive the men who were hunting her. Why do you expect the impossible from me? I asked God. How can I forgive people who are trying to kill me, people who may have already slaughtered my family and friends? It isn’t logical for me to forgive these killers. Let me pray for the victims instead, for those who’ve been raped and murdered and mutilated”¦let me pray for justice. God, I will ask you to punish those wicked men, but I cannot forgive them—I just can’t. (92-93) Unconditional love Eventually, however, Immaculée began to understand the power of God’s unconditional love. Relying on the strength and power of that love, she finally did forgive all of the killers. She even forgave the men who killed […]

A love affair that grows stronger every day

by Beth Murphy I married a Catholic man 29 years ago, and I was Methodist. The only church my husband would go to was the Catholic Church. So we went to Catholic Church. For two years I listened and was transformed by the liturgy of the Mass. The desire for the sacraments became an irresistible attraction—a love affair that grows […]

Why do Catholics pray to saints?

“Saints, preserve us!” That’s what one of my school teachers would exclaim when she was exasperated with our fourth-grade antics and lack of academic discipline. Another teacher told us that if we had a really special prayer, we should offer it to Mary, the Mother of God, because Jesus could never refuse a request from his mother—as evidenced by the miracle at Cana. My grandmother, when she was searching for lost car keys, would offer a quick prayer to St. Anthony, who is the patron of lost items. And one of my good friends—a professor of theology and a former Roman Catholic priest—is known to utter this poetic plea for mercy to St. Thérèse when searching in vain for a parking space at the mall during high-shopping season: “Little Flower, in this hour, show your power.” Is all this really “Christian”? If you grew up Catholic, none of this will seem strange to you. If you didn’t grow up Catholic, however, it can all seem a bit odd. The vast roster of saints and the sometimes particular prayers that get floated up to them are curious to some and disconcerting to others. The peculiar petitionary practice of calling upon the […]

Does God always answer our prayers?

There is a story about a man trapped at home during a terrible storm. He soon realizes the house will be flooded, and he climbs to the roof. As the waters rise, he prays to God for salvation. Just then, a neighbor appears in a rowboat. But the man refuses to get in. “I’m waiting for God to rescue me,” he says. A little while later, a sheriff’s deputy arrives in a motorboat. Still the man refuses to get in. “I’m waiting for God to rescue me,” he says again. Then, with the water lapping at his feet, a helicopter descends from the clouds and drops a line to the stranded man. But he still won’t leave the rooftop. “I’m waiting for God to rescue me,” he shouts. Inevitably, the man drowns in the flood waters. When he arrives in heaven, the man asks, “God, why didn’t you answer my prayer?” “Are you crazy?” replied the Lord. “I sent you a rowboat, a motorboat, and a helicopter! Why didn’t you get in?” God answers in unexpected ways You’ve probably heard that story. It’s an old joke. But it meant a lot to me when I first heard it. I’m just […]

Can our prayer be too big?

When I was 26, I got a job as the director of liturgy for a parish in Minneapolis. I was in charge of planning all the liturgies, training ministers, making sure we had musicians, providing scripts for the priests for special events, and many other things. I was also in charge of planning the Easter Vigil. If you have never been to an Easter Vigil liturgy, it is the biggest liturgical event of the year for a parish. It’s like Sunday Mass on steroids. There is a lot that happens and there is a lot to coordinate. If it is done well, it is an amazing experience. My first Easter Vigil My first year on the job, I wanted to make a good impression. I spent months planning and preparing. I lined up scores of volunteers to help. I sweated over the details of the physical environment. I held rehearsals for all the ministers to make sure they knew their parts. I created a detailed script that covered every possible question. When the big night finally came, I was so nervous that I could almost see my heart pounding through my suit jacket. The liturgy began about 8:00 p.m. in […]