Friday, December 19, 2014

Nativity Scenes - My Own Collection

by M. J. Joachim

I’m not sure when or how it started, but over the years I’ve acquired quite the collection of nativity scenes. Most are gifts - for as long as I can remember, I’ve received at least one nativity scene as a gift at Christmas every year. 
For many years I’ve displayed these nativity scenes all throughout the house. Several are ornaments on the tree, a few are placed throughout my village set (also a gift I received), and one goes outside on display in the front yard. 

This year I decided to display the majority of my manger scenes on the piano. They come in all shapes and sizes. About four or five of them are music boxes. The little quilted one is one I designed and made myself. It’s completely hand stitched. I gave one to each of my three children many years ago. Since two of my kids still live at home, I get to display it with the others.

I’ve always enjoyed gazing at manger scenes and nativity sets. One year our family actually went to a live nativity presentation, complete with petting zoo. The kids were little and it was quite the adventure at the time. We also take evening rides strolling through neighborhoods to look at Christmas lights. I’m always happy to see so many manger scenes in people’s front yards. 

The artistry expressed in each individual nativity set intrigues and delights me. Look at St. Francis’s protective and caring observation of the child, Jesus. Mary’s expressions explore a wide range of emotions. Everything from prayerful to peaceful, joyful to tearful, tired, yet overcome with the thrill of becoming a mother…all the things every new mother feels, except Mary surely felt more as the Mother of our Savior.

The night must have been anything but silent, and yet, Silent Night fits the theme of it all perfectly.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

M. J. 

©2014 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: M. J. Joachim, Nativity Collection, ©2014 All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Away in a Manger - Nativity Scenes

by M. J. Joachim

One of the first Christmas songs I learned all the words to when I was little is Away in a Manger. I even learned to play it on the piano way back when. There’s something about this song that makes me sad, yet not in a bad way. Instead it gives me a sense of longing to cherish God in my heart, awaiting the day when I might one day be with Him in heaven. 

The lyrics of Away in a Manger speak to the true love God has for humanity, and even as a child, it was easy to understand how special the Christ child is. Nativity scenes take on new meaning when we look at them with the lyrics of Away in a Manger impressed on our hearts. Christmas is a solemn, joyful time, a time to reflect on the gift of love and the first gift of Christmas, the gift of Christ Himself to the world.

Thank you for visiting my blog today. 
Merry Christmas!

M. J.

©2014 All Rights Reserved

Photo credits: Chapel of the Manger in the Grotto of the Nativity, GNU Free Documentation License; Botticelli Nativity (1445-1510), Columbia Museum of Art, PD-US; (altar) The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem where Jesus was born, Darko Tepert Donatus, CCA-Share Alike 2.5 Generic License; Nativity scene in Austria, Haneburger, GNU Free Documentation License

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Teaching Children about Faith

by M. J. Joachim

Children are very curious about life. They need to come to terms with the fact that there is something much bigger than you and I in this world. They want to respect the spiritual life, but sometimes they can't express their feelings about it.

Have you ever been asked why the sky is blue? Has your child ever brought a lizard to you, or tried to catch a butterfly? Perhaps your child has asked whether or not their dog will go to heaven. These are things that involve the spirit.

You can teach your child about spiritual matters in a variety of ways. Taking your child to church is not the only way to introduce them to God, if that is your goal for their spiritual success. If you do take your child to church, don't make it a lesson in staying quiet and being still. Church should be a positive experience, where they can interact with people of faith, who are developing a relationship with a loving creator. If you don't take your child to church, there are several things you can do to help them tap into their spiritual side.

Quiet Reflection

Peace comes to the spirit when we withdraw from the chatter of everyday life. Set aside a time for quietness in your home. Let your child experience stillness for the sake of stillness. Spend a few moments doing absolutely nothing, not even talking, during your busy time of day. Take time to focus on your soul out of importance, not necessity. Your child will learn valuable skills through this activity. Reflections from the spirit are very helpful when times are tough.

Get away from the rat race. Take a drive up to the mountains, far away from power poles, and speeding townspeople. Sit by a running creek, and just listen to the water. Look around, without saying a word, and point to the squirrel running up the tree. Hear the leaves and sticks as they crunch beneath your feet when you walk. Feel the cool, gentle breeze when you zip up your jacket to keep warm.

Laughing with Gusto

Laugh with your child for no particular reason at all. It's contagious, and it feels good. Our spirits are alive. They need to be expressed in each of our emotions. So go ahead, let out a great big belly laugh, and hug your child like there's no tomorrow.

Teaching your children about balance between physical, mental, heartfelt, and spiritual matters is the key in helping them develop a healthy life style. Most of the time, they learn the details from us, as they watch and imitate our actions. Once in a while, they try things on their own. We can feel confident that they will be okay, since we have laid a strong foundation for them.

See the Miracles

Small miracles happen every day. Tune in and share your mini miracle experiences with your child. Encourage your child to do the same. Tell the stories of your world around you through the eyes of faith and awe in what God has created. Share the joy of birds singing, clouds raining and leaves blowing in the wind.

Enjoy Family Love

Your child learns to love from everyone and everything around him. Love is the ultimate gift family members give to each other. True appreciation for each individual expresses the love of God on a very personal level. Even discipline can be handled with love, being less harsh and more educational.

Children are gifts given from God. They grow up to be adults who are also gifts to this world. At least we hope so anyway. Teaching children about faith means being faithful and true - to the gifts of the spirit, to each other, to our children and most especially to God himself.

Thanks so much for visiting my blog today. I’m very grateful that you’ve stopped by.

M. J.

©2014 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: Fritz von Uhde (1848 - 1911), A Girl Comes to Christ, PD-US

Monday, December 15, 2014

Death and Loving Those in the World Beyond

by M. J. Joachim

Christians by definition believe in the hope of joining Jesus in heaven some day. We know there is life beyond the limits of the body, and that our souls continue living through the end of time. That’s why it’s so difficult for me to understand how some Christians fault catholics for believing in saints. Saints are people who have died, people who have gone before us and made their peace with God. Prayer is a form of communication with God and those who have gone before us.

We call children who die at a young age angels. We speak of talking to our loved ones after they have departed this earth. There’s nothing newsworthy about it. We talk to our deceased loved ones all the time. Most people are not virtuous or pure enough to make it into the realm of being called saints, but a few have paved the way, making it possible for us to revere them as role models we try to emulate them as best we can. This is not foolish behavior on our part, but rather normal, acceptable human behavior, just as is praying to God and listening to Him in our hearts.

When you pray, go to your inner room. Through prayer, we are invited to have a relationship with God from the very depths of our being. As we journey to our inner room, inviting God into our most intimate selves, we discover who we are called to be. We are saints in the making, people who love God, and desire to be one with Him.

Many of us have not accepted our true calling. Some of us will spend our entire life trying to live up to it. A few of us have been graced with the privilege of modeling it for the rest of society. These people, saints, deserve our respect and gratitude. They should rightfully take their place as friends who have helped us find our way.

When a loved one dies, we do not hide their pictures, and forget their existence. More often than not, we realize the impact they actually had on our lives. Sometimes this causes regret, or guilt to surface. Many times, it forces us to deal with subconscious emotions that have been buried deep within us for far too long. Healing becomes a necessity, as we make peace with the physical loss of someone who is dear to us.

We find ourselves thinking about our family member or friend. We wonder if they know we miss them. In the deepest part of ourselves, we realize that our relationship has changed, not ended. We wait with patience and longing for the day when we will meet again. We also talk to them when no one is around. We tell them our struggles and smile, offering them a share in our success. We keep them close to us, in the deepest part of our hearts, promising never to forget them.

Saints are included in our family of loved ones. They are people who have made a difference in our lives by the way they lived. They are people who have helped us achieve our goals of becoming better Christians. When we learn about their trials and challenges during their lives, we realize that we have a lot in common with them. An intimate relationship develops as we get to know them as real people.

Catholics don't really pray to saints. Catholics get to know saints, through desire, need or curiosity, and develop a relationship with them. We discover what we have in common with individual saints. We learn how they conquered weaknesses, or faced discrimination. We applaud their strengths, and find courage as we strive to become like them. We invite them to share in our struggles for the greater glory of God.

Saints are role models for the living. You don't have to be Catholic to learn from them, or ask for their help. Mother Teresa's picture did not get buried with her body. She lives on, and the people who get to know her are happier for it. Pope John Paul II will never be forgotten. He will continue to share the gifts he received from God with those who seek them. Saint Anthony is called upon by many to find a lost article from time to time. Saint Christopher is requested to help us travel safely. Faithful people are called upon in faith, not to dishonor God or take credit for His goodness, but to help us as we continue on our journey toward Him.

Advent is a time of preparation and opening our hearts up to the gifts God desires to share with us. As we participate in this Advent season and as Christmas rapidly approaches with the celebration of the Birth of Christ, may we too experience the miracle of the season and enjoy the love and deep longing Jesus has to be one with us, that we too may desire to be one with Him and all He has put into place here and in the world beyond.

I’m really glad you stopped by today. Your visits, comments and encouragement are very much appreciated. Thank you!

M. J.

©2014 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: The Age of Augustus Birth of Christ, Jean-Leon Gerome (1952-54) Getty Center, Creative Commons CCO 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication, Wmpearl

Thursday, December 11, 2014

God’s Love and the Price of Sin

by M. J. Joachim

God loves all people. That goes without saying for those who know Him. However, His love is dependent on our response to the love and grace we receive. St. Bonaventure, Doctor of the Catholic Church, states, “For some, it is not easy to be one’s true self. We would like to be our true self. However, many of us, and we won’t admit it, wear a mask and act contrary to the way God would have us act due to weakness and sin.”

Sin separates people from God. As much as He loves us, God never condones our sins. It is up to us to make atonement for them, not only because through our repentance, we are unified with God, but also because in doing so, we develop our friendship with Him. Friendship is a dynamic process, one that grows through different stages in our lives. Some friendships flourish for long periods of time. Others last but a moment.

So it is with our response to God’s love. We are loved by God without question, and that love intensifies, bearing fruit in our lives, if we nurture it. If, however, we turn away from God’s love, rejecting it to remain in our sinful ways, our friendship with God suffers appropriately.

Throughout the Bible, God speaks clearly about His attributes. He declares His sovereignty in Isaiah, and refers to His glory in Exodus. Mercy, goodness, and truth are referred to numerous times throughout the old and new testaments. Through it all, sin remains sin and is never dismissed. According to Daniel John Graham, author for the Christian Library, “We have rather badly misunderstood what the love of God is and to whom it is shown. We have told ourselves, our friends, and most particularly, our children that God wants us to be happy, to feel good and to have positive experiences. This borders upon blasphemy!”

The Bible speaks of God’s characteristics, and it also enlightens us about His love. Revelations 3:19 states, “Those whom I love, I reprove and chastise. Be earnest therefore and repent.” This passage indicates that God makes a choice, based on our acceptance (or refusal) of the gift of love offered. Further evidence of this can be found in Hebrews 12: 7 - 8, “Endure your trials as ‘discipline’; God treats you as sons. For what ‘son’ is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are without discipline, in which all have shared, you are not sons, but bastards.”

Even John weighs in on the controversy, “I am the vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.” (John 15: 1 – 2)

Yes, God loves some more than others. That love is in direct proportion to our response to the gift of His love. Our choice to nurture or neglect our friendship with God is what’s at stake, not because God didn’t choose to love us, but because we chose not to love Him in return.

Wishing you only good things! Thanks so much for visiting, commenting and sharing this post today.

M. J.

©2014 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: Cima da Conegliano (1460 - 1518), God the Father, Courtauld Institute of Art, PD-US

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Catholic Sacraments: Anointing the Sick

by M. J. Joachim

"Is anyone among you sick? Let him call the presbyters of the Church and let them pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord," (James 5: 14-15). Wait, did Jesus say anyone? No, no that can't be what He meant. Catholics reserve sacraments for special occasions, right? Being sick is such an ordinary event, unless you are dying.
Catholics actually are invited to receive sacraments a lot more often than anyone realizes. There are four sacraments you are only supposed to receive once. Baptism and Confirmation are considered sacraments of initiation. Holy Orders and Matrimony are sacraments of commitment. The remaining three sacraments, Holy Eucharist, Reconciliation, and Anointing of the Sick are available for Catholics to receive more often.

While Holy Eucharist is considered a sacrament of initiation, after the special First Holy Communion Mass, the faithful are invited to receive Jesus in this sacrament daily. Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick, both sacraments of healing, are available as often as necessary.

Sacraments are outward signs of grace offered to those who want them. Sacramentals, tangible items used to administer the sacraments, help strengthen and encourage the faithful in the reception of these sacraments. The sacramental used to anoint the sick is holy oil that has been blessed by the bishop.

Anointing of the Sick used to be performed only when a person was gravely ill or in danger of dying. Today, many catholic churches offer regular healing Masses. Those wishing to receive healing spiritually, physically, emotionally, or mentally, are invited to attend these services. At the proper time, prior to Eucharist, the priest takes oil and administers the sacrament with a prayer. He dips his thumb in the oil and makes the sign of the cross on the forehead and palms of the hands, invoking a special prayer. Participants respond in turn by saying, "Amen."

The gifts received through anointing are: strength through the grace of the Holy Spirit, closer union with the suffering Christ, contribution to the holiness of the Church, and preparation for the journey into everlasting life.

Anointing of the Sick does not guarantee miracles of healing. What it does promise is sufficient grace to accept God's will more than our own. It also gives us the ability to persevere during trials if we don't receive the type of healing we desire. It is to be understood that while sufficient grace is given, it is up to each individual to accept this grace fully and completely.

Catholics understand that sacraments are to be received while in a state of grace. This means that we should be reconciled to God, the Church, and our community prior to participating in the sacraments. Through the sacrament of Reconciliation, we ask for forgiveness, recognizing our offenses, and cleansing our souls. It is easier to benefit from the gifts of God (in the sacraments) if we are not weighed down with the sins of the world.

Jesus taught us to have compassion for each other. He healed many people who had physical problems including the blind man, the paralytic, and the woman with a hemorrhage. He also healed those with spiritual ailments. "When it was evening, they brought him many who were possessed by demons, and he drove out the spirits by a word and cured all the sick," (Matthew 8: 16)

All of these people went on the share the story of God's compassion for them. The Catholic Church also has compassion for those who suffer. Only God can heal them, or offer them eternal life, at the given time. The church offers outward signs of God's love through Anointing of the Sick. It offers peace and healing in acceptance of the words of Christ.

Thank you for visiting, commenting on and sharing Christian Catholic today. I truly appreciate your support of my work here.

M. J.

©2014 All Rights Reserved Photo credit:  The Last Sacraments, Henry Mosier (1841 - 1920), PD-US

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Online Holiday Food Drive

by M. J. Joachim

Effectively Human is hosting the 2nd Annual Holiday Food Drive this year. Please help us share the information, so we get as many people participating as possible.

What? When? Where? Who?
2nd Annual Holiday Food Drive

December 4 - 6, 2014

Everywhere on the World Wide Web

Hosted by Effectively Human

To help fill our local food bank shelves, so as many people as possible can get the food they need.

Promote local food banks via sharing their websites on our social network sites, profiling them in our writing, sponsoring activities for them and volunteering to help them in any way we can.

For 3 days we want to saturate the web with anything food bank and hunger related to raise awareness about hunger and help feed those in need.


Because people are hungry, food banks need our support and we want to help.


For more information, please visit the Effectively Human Blog.

Here’s to lots of less hungry people in the world. Please help us spread the word about this. You are welcome to copy and use the banner if you want. Thank you.

M. J.

©2014 All Rights Reserved   Photo credit:  Jeremy Hawkins

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Religion and Politics Entwined

by M. J. Joachim

We finished watching Borgia this past week. Something Lucrezia said during one of the last episodes made me stop and think. 

“Religion limits the mind. Spirituality expands the soul.”

One has to understand that the Borgia reign took place during a time when religion and politics were entwined. It was a battle between Catholics and non-catholics. Religion has always played a role in defining our behavior, even when so many of those in authority didn’t follow the rules.

Subjects are expected to be submissive, willing to give up their freedom and right to think and act for themselves, considering it a greater good to act for the benefit of the Church. Yet, there were still many saints during this time, people who put God first, even at the expense of challenging the Church. Many of these same people were challenged by the powers that be in the Church, because as much as they obeyed the precepts of the Church, they also questioned those who imposed those precepts without following them themselves.

There is a difference in Catholicism as an institution and Catholicism as a faith, just as there is a difference in Mormonism as an institution and Mormonism as a faith, or Protestantism as an institution and Protestantism as a faith or even Buddhism as an institution and Buddhism as a faith. No group is exempt from the powers and authorities or rules and expectations vs. the spirituality of their faith. Individuals alone must determine how to respond to each in turn.

So I ask the question, 

Do we want to be limited by the rules that bind us, or do we want to fully open our hearts and souls to the God who made us? 

One does not necessarily need to exclude the other. Wisdom demands that we recognize abuses of power, keeping ourselves pure when others might defile us with their iron hand.

This does not apply only to religions of the world. As mentioned in an earlier paragraph, religion and politics were very much entwined. As much as things changed, perhaps they have also remained very much the same.

Can you think of one or more incidents in today’s times where politics and religion have joined forces to limit the minds of their subjects and followers? Can you think of one or more incidents in today’s times where politics and religion have butted heads, because neither was in the interest of the greater good, and both sought to keep their power and control?

It definitely gives one pause…

Thank you for visiting me here today. 

Wishing you only good things,

M. J.

©2014 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: Borgia Geneology, GNU Free Documentation License

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Reflecting on the Beatitudes

by M. J. Joachim

I opened up my Bible today and this is what I read, “What values of society do the Beatitudes challenge?”

From Matthew 5

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
  • Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
  • Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
  • Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
  • Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
  • Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
  • Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

The first thing I notice about the Beatitudes is that the first and last each promise the kingdom of heaven to those who suffer. The only thought that readily comes to mind regarding society today is that we all suffer in some way, shape or form, so the kingdom of heaven will one day belong to each and every one of us.

The next thought that occurs to me is that I’ve never met a person who didn’t cry. Mourning is a natural human condition that happens when people feel a sense of loss. Doesn’t this too, apply to each and every one of us?

Meekness, on the other hand is a little bit different. Rebellious and haughty spirits will not receive much for their anger and opposition. Gentle spirits, calm heads will prevail, especially when it counts.

People hunger and thirst for righteousness all the time. The question that needs to be asked is, “Whose righteousness and how does it affect their opposition?” One man’s righteousness is another man’s trial and affliction. Don’t just take my word for it. I’m sure many of us have been on both sides of this beatitude, fighting for the sake of fighting, fighting for a cause that will help or hurt many more lives than our own, fighting for our own freedom at the expense of our brother’s. The news is full of stories where both sides of a dispute agree no one is the winner, when the verdict is finally revealed.

Mercy, kindness, compassion, love - these are things the world is in dire need of in today's society. How is it that we have reversed their meaning, to sympathize with those who violate other human beings? How is it that we re-victimize victims, in the name of justice and finding the truth? Nobody is right if everybody's wrong, but nobody's wrong if everybody is right either. Are we not obligated to take a stand at times, addressing errors which will likely lead to more errors, or at the very least, minimize the pain of another, because we simply don't choose to stand up for what is right?

Cleanliness of heart, purity - sex sells, violence is cool, especially in video games and action adventure movies. Common sense is practically not common at all anymore. It’s probably a good thing they close our eyes when we die, because not many of us will be able to see God anyway.

Is there such a thing as a peacemaker in our world today? It almost seems as if everything creates a battlefield, and we all are enlisted to fight for whichever side we deem best meets our own personal needs and desires. What is peace, if not something we preserve in our individual hearts? For it is only there that we can truly hear the voice of God, when we are silent enough to actually listen to what He is saying to us.

The saddest thing of all is that too many of us persecute each other in the name of God, but there is nothing godly or Christian about our actions. We are not actively being God’s servants when we do this. We are fighting for our will be done, not “Thy Will Be Done.” We get persecuted and in turn persecute the person or people persecuting us. This is how it is in today’s society. Most of the time it’s not even about who is right and who is wrong, but about who is victorious in getting their own way, regardless of the means they use to get it.

We’ve strayed a long way from the promises of God. The farther down the path we go, the more we end up trying to fix where we just came from, not so much for the glory of God, but more likely because we didn’t look at the bigger picture and reacted on impulse, without considering the consequences of our actions.

I didn’t mean for this post to go in such a dark and dreary direction today. The Beatitudes usually give me promises of hope when I read them. Today, however, they shine a light on our human condition, calling us out for being guilty of not loving our fellow man as we love ourselves, and being willing to sink to the depths of ingratitude to prove it.

Claiming we are Christian is one thing. Being Christian is a matter of the heart. For only the heart reveals the true nature of man, and God alone has the power to change it.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Please share them in the comments. Thank you.

Also, I’d like to invite you all to the new Effectively Human Google+ Community I created yesterday. Please stop by and see if it’s something you might be interested in joining. Hope to see you there.

M. J.

©2014 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: Sermon on the Mount, Jan Brueghel, the Elder (1568 - 1625), Getty Center, PD-US

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Prayer for Veterans and Their Families

by M. J. Joachim

You asked me what I wanted and this is what I said, “To defend my native country, I’m willing to lay dead.” You sent me into battle. I heard the warriors cry. “If this is what you want, Lord, I’ll lay down my life and die.” You took me down a long path, of broken hearts and limbs. I gave my choice so willingly, to battle for their freedoms.

As citizens we honor the soldiers in our lives, not just today, but always as we cherish all their cries. Their families not sheltered from the wrath these wars do play, we hold them close in our hearts, each and every day. For those who’ve gone before us, and those still coming home. For all those readjusting, the battle field now gone. For those who are too frightened, and those who’ve lost their limbs. For all our glorious soldiers, may Heaven sing God’s hymn.

This is for all those who serve and risk their lives to keep us safe.

We love you, Comrades! Thank you for your service!

M. J.

©2014 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: Tomb of the Unknowns, Arlington National Cemetery, PD-US

Monday, November 10, 2014

Borgia, Blind Faith and Innocence

by M. J. Joachim

A few months back my husband and I started watching a show called Borgia on Netflix. It’s a period series dating back to the 1400’s. Borgia became Pope Alexander VI. His papacy appeared to be about power, fame, fortune, status and family glory. A lot of it was about conquering the New World back then, dividing up lands and taking as many territories as possible through war.

This history of the Church is not necessarily a pretty one, and in many instances, it’s not all that Christian either. That’s not to say that Catholicism isn’t the fullness of the faith. On the contrary, for it is in our weaknesses that we often prevail the most, provided we are open to what our weaknesses have to teach us about ourselves.

Having faith like a child does not mean being ignorant of the blights against us - those imposed on us, or ones we have created ourselves. Even children have an innate sense of right and wrong. They know truth and are capable of understanding when things don’t make sense or contradict each other.

Which is why we must be vigilant in our faith, preserving the lessons Jesus teaches us about it, listening to those who not only subscribe to those lessons, but also who act as if those lessons actually mean something. For indeed they do, and no one knows the heart of a man except the God who made him. Most of us don’t even rightfully know ourselves as well as God does. Yet we carry on as if we have all the answers, blindly expecting others to do the same.

It’s not my place to tell another person how to live. I have enough problems figuring it out for myself, and even when I do good, I often fall far short of what I might have done, if only I had the mind of a child and were able to see the world through innocent eyes.

Thanks so much for visiting Christian Catholic today. Your comments and shares of my work here are always appreciated.

M. J.

©2014 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: EEIM, A Child Eye, Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 4.0 International License

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

What About the Children?

by M. J. Joachim

I know marriage is a sacrament, and ideally couples should get married before having kids, especially according to certain religious institutions. I’m not knocking marriage or sacraments at all in this post. However, we live in a culture where this doesn’t always happen, sometimes by choice, sometimes by unplanned pregnancies, where children end up being born whether their parents are married or not.

It breaks my heart that those children’s parents are often frowned upon by snooty religious folks. I speak from a Catholic background, but I’ve seen this happen in many organized religious institutions. Are any of us so naive as to believe the children of those parents don’t pick up on the disapproval of their parents?

True love doesn’t make conditions about whether or not a person abides by the rules enough to be loved. It doesn’t shun or disrespect other people, because their circumstances may or may not be ideal - according to who’s standards, btw? Did God say parents of children born out of wedlock are worse people than any other person out there? Did He say the children should be okay with their parents not being good enough for their holier than thou Christian judges, peers dealing with their own set of human imperfections, which may or may not be more scandalous than giving birth to a child, if not as obvious?

It seems to me shunning parents who give birth out of wedlock is a sure way to decrease numbers in the pews. Instead of embracing family, for once a child is born (whether the parents are married or not) a family now exist, organized religion plays a big part in defining family, and when that family doesn’t follow the rules, losing that family because they lack the love to embrace all people in that family, regardless of their circumstance as members of that family.

Somehow I don’t think the God who lived and died for us out of love for us, expects us to behave this way, whether we think we own His morality code or not. Somehow I don’t think it’s very moral to act this way in the first place. Only God can create a life. Judging the parents, which in turn is judgment passed onto the child, whether we think so or not, is pretty much like telling God His choice to make a life in that particular situation wasn’t the best one He’s ever made, which in turn makes me think it might be akin to judging God Himself in a way, and that just can’t be good at all.

Love is the answer, and if it’s not working, increase the dose. I saw that on Facebook the other day, and I couldn’t agree more!

M. J.

©2014 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: Percentage of birth to unmarried women, selected countries, CDC, US Federal Government, PD-US

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Beyond the Boxes that Define Us

by M. J. Joachim

I often think of living daily life as being spiritual. Doing the little things takes time, effort and patience. Doing them right often means we must be patient with others, many who lack patience with us.

Trust is a big one. Learning to trust our hearts to lead us in the right direction. Listening to that small still voice guiding us every step of the way. None of us are perfect. Very few of us think perfection is even attainable in this life…hardly a reason to quit trying or doing our best to be who we were meant to be.

Society is full of boxes. None the wiser, just different parameters providing different perspectives on how to live this thing called life. Somehow, we’re all supposed to find the box that best fits us and put ourselves in it to be happy.

I don’t suppose true spirituality works that way. It would take too much away from loving God if it did. God never put us in a box. He never said, “You were born a slave, therefore you’ll always be hindered by your master, even if he sets you free.” He never said, “Your past will bind you to a life of depression and a constant battle to learn to love yourself, because you need to answer for who everyone else thinks you are.” He never said, “Money is the answer. If you make more than you know what to do with, you’ll be happy by hoarding it and being powerful enough to decide who gets any of it, if and when you decide to share it.” God never said we should live for ourselves, forgetting the other guy, fitting into the box of a status in society, according to what we bring to the table.

No, God simply loved us into being. He loves us while we live, and He will love us when we die. Living life is as spiritual as we choose to make it, all boxes set aside, loving our neighbors as ourselves and knowing we are loved now and through eternity, regardless of how any box fits our souls.

Thanks so much for stopping by today,

M. J.

©2014 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: Boxes1, skrewtape, Creative Commons Share Alike 2.0 Generic

Monday, April 7, 2014

Gluten Intolerance and Receiving Holy Communion

By M. J. Joachim

The more I thought about it, the more I realized how much I truly believe in the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist. For months now, I’ve deprived myself of receiving the Body of Christ, while taking His blood when it’s been offered, because I’m gluten intolerant. For the past few weeks, something about my reasoning has been nagging at me.

If I truly have faith, which I do, that this is indeed the Body of Christ, then I know in my heart of hearts, He would never hurt me. This is the God who healed people, raised them from the dead, died for them and offers them eternal joy in heaven – everlasting life. How can I snub Him like this with my lack of faith, based on human limitations?

The story of Peter walking on water came to mind, how he so easily started walking to Jesus, only to sink and be rescued during the storm. Jesus also reprimanded Peter for his lack of faith in that story.

So this past weekend, I held out my hands and received the Body of Christ. I put my actions where my faith is, and consumed the bread offered at Holy Communion. You know what? It didn’t hurt me. In fact, it was one of the best things I’ve ever done.

I overcame my own self-doubts and fears, and accepted Jesus both spiritually and physically into my body and soul. There were no ill effects from doing so, and my heart praised God in His goodness.

Would I risk eating a piece of garlic bread, slice of pizza or bowl of cereal? No, not at all. I’ve experienced the cramps and sickness associated with eating gluten by accident, and I know all too well, it’s just not worth it. This is different, however. It’s about faith and belief in a God who loves me. It’s about knowing God and the spiritual world are so much bigger than our own physical limitations. It’s about not snubbing God, because I know He would never hurt me.

Thank you for visiting and commenting on Being Catholic today. It’s always a pleasure when you stop by.

M. J.

©2014 All Rights Reserved
Photo credit: Wilfredor, Receiving the Body of Christ, Creative Commons CCO 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Reception of the Eucharist

By M. J. Joachim

Receiving the Eucharist is vitally important for so many faiths. We partake of the body and blood of Christ spiritually, symbolically and for Catholics, physically. Catholics believe in transubstantiation, where the host and wine actually become the true body and blood of Christ during the Liturgy of the Eucharist at our Masses.

There are two distinct parts to every Catholic Mass, the Liturgy of the Word & the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The faithful believe that God is truly present at both.

Anyone can receive the Eucharist spiritually simply by asking Christ to come into their hearts at any time. Some religions practice symbolic reception of the Eucharist, while others follow the guidelines of transubstantiation, encouraging members to physically receive Christ in their bodies by ingesting His body and blood.

As someone who has developed severe gluten intolerance, I can no longer receive the true body of Christ during Holy Communion. However, I can receive His blood. This is a bit awkward sometimes, because Eucharistic ministers distributing the host don’t always know what to do with me.

Some assume I’m in the process of converting to Catholicism. Others look at me and nod, when I come up with my arms crossed over my chest. The proper response is to bless me as I acknowledge Christ in my presence, before moving on to sip His blood.

For those of you who might be confused, Catholics receive Communion by following lines to Christ’s body first, before going to receive His blood. It’s a very orderly process, so bee lining it to Christ’s blood is not something one with a gluten allergy can just do.

You might be wondering why I would avoid receiving the host, when I believe in the true presence of Christ. It’s because even though He is truly present, the host still consist of the wheat that made it. It becomes flesh, but maintains its natural properties. This is a mystery of the faith, and that’s about the best explanation I have to offer presently.

It is much easier for alcoholics to avoid receiving the blood of Christ, than it is for people with gluten intolerance to avoid receiving Christ’s body. The reason being that Christ’s body is offered first. However, either is perfectly acceptable when receiving Christ physically in one’s being, and neither is considered more acceptable than the other.

I remember when I was a Eucharistic minister years ago. We took Eucharist to the homebound, and there was an elderly lady with Celiac Disease, something that happens when gluten intolerance continues to progress, without being diagnosed. She got sick and couldn’t attend Mass, but I couldn’t bring Eucharist to her because of her gluten allergy. At the time, I didn’t know gluten was an issue for me. This is one of those things that takes years, before being discovered and diagnosed. I felt bad that I couldn’t bring her any wine, the true presence of Christ’s blood, but that was the extent of it.

Today, I can’t help wondering what I would do if I ever ended up in a similar situation. Millions of people throughout the world suffer from gluten allergies. It would be wonderful if the Catholic Church would be able to offer them Christ’s blood when they are sick or dying.

Please read this follow-up post, which explains why I now faithfully receive the Body of Christ.

Thank you for visiting and commenting on Christian Catholic today. It’s always a pleasure when you stop by.

M. J.

©2014 All Rights Reserved
Photo credit: Ultima Cena, Joan de Joanes (1510 – 1579), Prado Museum, PD-US

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Bible Verse Reflection – Ezekial 31: 13

By M. J. Joachim

The Bible Verse Reflection blog hop did not turn out like I expected. I took it as a sign. Sign-ups remained limited, if at all. One person ended up in the hospital, and was unable to post. Life kept me distracted, sending me in way too many directions simultaneously. Still, I’ve been meaning to share a reflection on this particular verse for quite sometime now. There will be no other verses scheduled for reflection after this, as I will let the inspiration for this blog speak to me as it will, and post accordingly.

Ezekial 31: 13

On its fallen trunk rested all the birds of the air, and by its branches were all the beasts of the field.

The Cross of Jesus comes readily to mind. Funny how my thoughts were so confused when I tried to write about this several times before. Today, it seems so clear.

Even the animals and creatures recognize God as their creator. They bow to him, resting in his spirit, even when his physical body no longer lives. They don’t need science to explain him, or debates to justify him. He is the God of all, omnipotent and true.

Animals are faithful beyond reason. Their innate sense of being, indeed their instincts, teach us how to live without prejudice, and with a sense or predetermined order. Pets don’t expect to explain their master’s dominance. They don’t question the actions of their provider – the person who meets all their needs, including both those of nature and nurture.

It is only the human mind that contemplates the reality of God, only the people who need proof that he exist. 

Yet, if we open our hearts and learn from the animals, they have so much to teach us. They rest with God, whether he is fallen and crucified on the cross, whether he fishes in the seas, teaching his disciples to be fishers of men, or whether he touches their spirits from heaven above. They stay close to him, within the branches of his being, living as one with all the rest of God’s creatures.

Thank you for visiting Christian Catholic today. I hope you’ll share your thoughts with me on this reflection. Maybe I’m making perfect sense to you, or maybe you think I’m way off base. Either way, I’d love to hear from you.

By the way, I’m a new Co-Host on the A – Z Challenge blog. While Christian Catholic won’t be participating – I’ve got two other blogs that will be in the Challenge this year, and I'm inviting you to join the fun. Please take a moment to see what all the buzz is about, and then sign up. It’s a great time to be had by all, and you’re invited to the party!

M. J.

©2014 All Rights Reserved
Photo credit: Tony Alter, A Meeting, CCA-2.0 Generic License

Sunday, January 19, 2014

John 8: 12 Bible Verse Reflection 011914

By M. J. Joachim

Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8, Verse 12)

What strikes me most about this verse is that Jesus didn’t say we should be bogged down by man-made rules and guilt. He didn’t condemn us or cast us aside for being sinners. 
This verse provides an opportunity to look beyond ourselves, cultures and expectations. It encourages us to think bigger, elevating our aspirations to things of God, without letting anything else get in the way.
There will be darkness, but if we follow Jesus, we’ll be okay. 
Wow, do I feel loved when I read this verse!
Thank you for visiting and commenting on Christian Catholic today. Please feel free to reflect and blog about today’s verse, adding your link in turn to this hop. 
Next week’s verse for reflection is:
On its fallen trunk rested all the birds of the air, and by its branches were all the beasts of the field. (Ezekial 31, verse 13)

Thanks again for visiting,

M. J.

©2014 All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Spiritual Poetry: Paradox

By M. J. Joachim

Linking to d’Verse Open Link Night 011414

The soul
Quenched by thirst
Yet not thirsty
Or hungry
As we know it
Defined by the world
Captured by sight
Fortune or fame
An illusion
Spirits cling
To heaven
And God

Thank you for visiting and commenting on Christian Catholic today. 

Be sure and check out my new Prayer Request 2014 and Weekly Bible Verse Reflection Blog Hop pages, located at the top of this blog. 

Also, Effectively Human is hosting a Humanitarian Biography Writing Contest, if anyone is interested in entering. 

M. J.

©2014 All Rights Reserved

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Weekly Bible Verse Reflection Blog Hop 011214

By M. J. Joachim

Saul replied to Samuel: “I have sinned, for I have disobeyed the command of the Lord and your instructions. In my fear of the people, I did what they said. (1 Samuel, Chapter 15, Verse 24)
This verse screams to me! I think of Ancient Rome, Slavery, Hitler, Roe vs. Wade and the recent housing market collapse. I think of how often so many of us just go with the flow, accepting things as if we don’t have a voice or choice in the matter. Without warning, something punches me in the gut, bringing me back to my senses.

Maybe we don’t have control over all the evil in the world, but we don’t have to stand idly by and keep to ourselves about it either. There’s no doubt we will make some people uncomfortable, when we choose the less popular side, the one that boldly states, “It’s not okay. What’s happening is wrong, and we don’t intend to play the game, for the sake of keeping peace and not ruffling feathers.”

I’m not talking about waging war on the powers that be. I’m talking about being who we are – Christians abiding by Christian principles. Only God can convert hearts. We have an opportunity to be His tools, if He so chooses to use us as such.

We in turn have tools at our disposal. One of my tools is my blogs, a place where my voice will never be silent. Just this past week, I wrote a post on Effectively Human titled, Regarding a Father’s Rights and the Right to Be Born. It was inspired by a conversation with my son, a man with rights of his own, sharing his voice to discuss important issues affecting his generation. 

These issues have affected many generations now, and they will continue to do so. Our discussion reminded me once again, silence can be deadly. We need to use our voice, exercising our right to free speech, and touching the lives around us with the tools we have been given.

Reflecting on the Word of God is vitally important for Christians of every denomination. This blog hop offers a unique opportunity for us to discuss the same Bible verse together, on a weekly basis.
Simply add your blog to the link list provided, and share your reflections in turn. All I ask is that you link to this blog in your post, since I am the host of the hop.

The Bible verse to be reflected on next week, January 19, 2014, is:

Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8, Verse 12)

I sincerely hope you’ll join us! Please remember, if you don’t have time to post on Sunday, posting on Monday or Tuesday will be just fine.

Thank you for visiting and commenting on Christian Catholic today. I’ll look forward to seeing you again soon.

M. J.

©2014 All Rights Reserved
Photo Credit: David Ball, A Bible from 1859, GNU Free Documentation License (Please note: If you use the above photo with your post, proper credit as listed must be included with your post.)

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Bible Verse Reflection Blog Hop

By M. J. Joachim

Reflecting on the Word of God is vitally important for Christians of every denomination. This blog hop offers a unique opportunity for us to discuss the same Bible verse together, on a weekly basis. 

Simply add your blog to the link list provided, and share your reflections in turn.

This week’s verse is: 

Saul replied to Samuel: “I have sinned, for I have disobeyed the command of the Lord and your instructions. In my fear of the people, I did what they said. (1 Samuel, Chapter 15, Verse 24)

Post your reflection beginning Sunday, January 12, 2014. If Sunday doesn’t work for you, Monday or Tuesday will be fine. 

Be sure to visit other blogs reflecting on this verse, to join in the discussion about what this particular verse means.

I’ll be posting another verse for next week’s reflection, at the end of next week’s post, so we can all discuss that one the following week.

Please mention and link to me and my blog in your posts, since I am the host.

Thank you in advance for sharing this post and helping me spread the word about this special blog party. 

It’s a pleasure to receive your visits here on Christian Catholic. Blessings to all!

M. J.

©2014 All Rights Reserved

p.s. This blog was formerly called, Being Catholic. I changed the name of this blog, to more accurately reflect the nature of the community I hope to develop here.

Photo Credit: David Ball, A Bible from 1859, GNU Free Documentation License (Please note: If you use the above photo with your post, proper credit as listed must be included with your post.)

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Weekly Bible Verse Reflection Blog Party Announcement

By M. J. Joachim

Hello kind followers. Today I’d like to introduce you to a new weekly feature for this blog. It is a Sunday, Weekly Bible Verse Reflection Blog Hop, where I post a Bible verse and participants submit a reflection for it. 

Each week, I will post a verse to be reflected on, in the following week’s blog hop. 

You sign up on the linky provided. Then, the following Sunday, you share your reflection to the verse provided. I encourage you to get creative with your posts. Photo journalism, poetry, thorough research, arts & crafts, family gatherings – just about anything you can think of can be used as your reflection, provided you show how it links to the verse in some way shape or form.

We all spend time visiting and commenting on each blog participating, through the week. Those linking up and not participating on a regular basis will be removed from the list.

Please mention and link to me and my blog in your posts, since I am the host. It would also be much appreciated if you would follow my blog, though it’s not mandatory since we’ll be following each other in our weekly Bible Verse Reflection Blog Party anyway.

The verse to be reflected on next Sunday (January 12, 2014) is:

Saul replied to Samuel: “I have sinned, for I have disobeyed the command of the Lord and your instructions. In my fear of the people, I did what they said. (1 Samuel, Chapter 15, Verse 24)

Please feel free to invite more people to this party as you are able, so we have lots of interesting and thoughtful posts to visit. Thank you. I’m looking forward to visiting your reflections for the above verse next week.

M. J.

©2014 All Rights Reserved
Photo Credit: David Ball, A Bible from 1859, GNU Free Documentation License (Please note: If you use the above photo with your post, proper credit as listed must be included with your post.)