Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Go in Peace - Book Reflection

I previously mentioned that in the last year I have come to value the Sacrament of Confession more than any other point in my life. However, I have found it is sometimes hard to know how to have effective confessions when I go more regularly (trying to go once a month). As a result, I have had more of an interest in different versions of examinations of conscience, as well as resources focusing on the Sacrament.

That desire to know more is what led me to read Go in Peace: Your Guide to the Purpose and Power of Confession: 101 Questions and Answers by Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J. and Sean Brown by Ascension Press. As the title implies, the majority of the book is in question and answer format related to different aspects of Confession. However, at the end of the book, there is also a section on preparing for the Sacrament, an Examination of Conscience, the process of the Sacrament, a glossary of terms, and indulgenced prayers.

The Q&A section examined multiple layers of Confession, such as the an explanation of the Sacrament, the purpose of the Sacrament, the historical background of the Sacrament, Biblical links, the role in (or lack of) in other religions, an exploration of sin, and purgatory. The questions are listed 1-101 without necessarily being broken down into any sub-categories or having transitions between topics; although, the flow does feel logical and there are often connections back to previous discussions in order to have a more cohesive feel.

A few examples of some of the aspects that I appreciated most are:

  • In question 34, there was an explanation of the Code of Canon Law (1457) calling for at least an annual confession followed by a rationale for more regular confessions. The authors stated, "Automobile engines run smoother if they have regular tune-ups by a mechanic, and teeth stay healthier if they are cleaned regularly by a dentist. So, too, the spiritual life of the soul benefits from frequent confession" (p. 32). 
  • When thinking about the status quo in our present day society and the recognition that there is a difference between what is acceptable in the overall general culture vs. what the church teaches, I especially loved the ideas in question 62. It talked about secular influences and the sense that sometimes we might feel like because something is so prevalent, it must not really be that bad. Fr. Pacwa shared a typical reply to those who express the sentiment of basing self-reflection off of cultural norms by stating, "You seem to be a good person, so long as you are comparing yourself to Al Capone. Once the norm for behavior is Jesus Christ, the evaluation may change" (p. 51). While my initial response was to laugh, I appreciated the reminder of what really matters and what should guide us when we are examining our conscience. Before I talked about the power of a priest as a guide because of the strong Catholic lens, rather than a lens based on current larger cultural norms. Fr. Pacwa's words here made me think back to that again, which is another reason for me to value Confession, knowing the priest will be in persona Christi and that the guidance will be in sound alignment with the Church He established for us. 
  • As a parent, I appreciated question 77 that focused on recommended frequency for children, as well as a rationale. Going on a regular basis "develops in them a good habit of examining their consciences, accepting responsibility for their misdeeds, and doing penance for their sins" (p. 62). I had not necessarily thought about the value in those terms, so that will help me as a parent to try to assist my girls in understanding why the Sacrament is relevant to their lives and how it can help them be better people. It is also a good reminder for me as an adult. One area where I realized I can improve is that I have noticed that as I confess I often qualify my sins or try to pair it with something positive about myself, rather than just going in and taking full ownership without trying to soften it or balance it out with positives. The excerpt that I shared from this question helps me to focus on a goal of taking ownership for my sins more fully.
Because Confession can be hard - voicing our short-comings and being vulnerable - this book is a good resource to establish why it is necessary and how it is beneficial for us. The main title Go in Peace emphasizes this.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Transitioning into Vacation Mode - Setting Priorities

For the first time ever, last fall shortly after I had a breakthrough in November with setting strong career boundaries, I realized that in December I could not fall into the same trap once again of having career to-dos take over the bulk of my Christmas break. Instead, I wanted to approach it differently with the recognition that there's always more to do and I will always be able to fill my days with work to-dos. In the meantime, I would be missing out on valuable family time, as well as feeling drained at the end of the break.

Instead, I decided on a compromise. I thought about how my older girls had school for one week beyond my fall term, so I decided that I would still send my youngest to day care and work that week (the first week of my break) in order to then prioritize really taking off the 2 weeks they were off. I can't remember if I was able to firmly stick to my intention last year or not, but I do know that I was able to hit the pause button more than I had any other year since I became a teacher in the 2005-06 academic year. It made all the difference.

This year I decided to do the same. As long as my kids are at home, I want to prioritize pausing work while they are on break. At the end of last week I made a list of what I would like to accomplish during the week in order to set myself up for taking a break without too much worry about pending to-dos. I also built in a day for me to catch my breath in a quiet house, mainly spending some time scrapbooking - something that has been mostly neglected this year. 

As the week went on, I realized the list was perhaps a little too ambitious. With my two priorities in mind - to have at least one day for me and to not work the next two weeks, I decided on another trade-off. Rather than going home early last night, I worked late. I re-considered my list in order to do what I thought was most important to be able to walk back through the door on the first day of winter term without feeling too frenzied. I got a start on some of the other to-dos. Then, I walked out the door with a sense of peace. Aside from needing to click publish on a couple of items for my online graduate classes the Thursday before the term starts, I will be on break. 

This morning I took the browser I use for my work email off my dashboard so that I have to go that extra step in order to check my email. Enough to give me pause and think - do you really need to check that? The vacation automated response is there and I want to try to let it do its job, sending the message that I am on break and will respond when I go back. 

What can you do during this holiday season in order to prioritize what is most important even though there are other aspects that might feel important but can really wait? How can you hit the pause button on something that might feel like it has to happen but really doesn't in order to have a more peaceful season?

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Coming Soon to my Mailbox

I recently ordered some new books to read throughout the next months. Here's a glimpse into what I am excited to receive:


Saturday, December 5, 2015

Thoughts on Teresa Tomeo's Extreme Makeover

In the summer of 2014, one of my former colleagues sent a Facebook message to me and some other women, "Just finished reading this book and wanted to recommend it to all. It is worth your time, I will be buying it to use as a reference" with a photo of a library copy of Teresa Tomeo's Extreme Makeover: Women Transformed by Christ Not Conformed to the Culture.

This past year I read the book twice - once on my Kindle and then again in paper version because I wanted to be able to flip back and forth from different sections easier, as well as be able to share it with others.

One of the aspects that I loved most about this book is that I had a better understanding of the rationale for some of the Catholic teaching when it comes to topics that often come up in culture and the media, such as the Catholic Church stance on birth control, abortion, and the role of women in the Church. Though I had an understanding of each before, the book was able to provide a deeper background, which in turn helps to strengthen my convictions and feel a stronger sense of confidence in the teachings when it comes to the well-being of humans. When talking about women's ordination, Tomeo stated, "Although the matter is considered settled, that doesn't mean we should walk away from a deeper understanding of this teaching. If you're still struggling with this issue, reading and prayerfully reflecting on the above documents and Scripture and consulting a good spiritual advisor or director should help you come to peace with the matter" (p. 123). This is a takeaway for me for any Church teaching - make sure that I am well-informed from solid Catholic resources in order to have a sense of peace through understanding.

Another concept that struck me in the book was the recognition that many Catholic adults have not been properly Catechized. As I have been learning more about my Catholic faith, I have been frequently experiencing a sense of surprise that I did not know or did not understand certain concepts or ideas that help click pieces into place to make the bigger picture make a whole lot more sense. Earlier this year I also saw glimpses of Tomeo in the Symbolon series, another key influence on my faith development.

I appreciated that Teresa started the book by sharing her journey. Though our experiences were very different, I learned so much by reading about her growth and reflections and there were implications about goals for my own faith development. I respected her courage, trust, and personal development over time. This reminded me of the power of story and how we can positively impact others if we only have the courage to share our voices and stories.

Extreme Makeover was one of the resources this year that has encouraged me to view evangelization as part of my role and then inspired me to view ways in which I was already evangelizing without thinking about it and then to also start taking steps out of my comfort zone.

Based on Teresa's inner view of the media, it was interesting to learn from her experiences about the perceptions that are and are not valued in popular media, as well as tensions for those who are living in counter-cultural ways with strong convictions aligned to the Christ's teachings. Tomeo quoted Catherine of Siena saying, "When we are whom we are called to be, we will set the world ablaze" (p. 134). I am grateful for resources such as this who help me to reflect on who I am called to be by strengthening my personal faith development and convictions.