Are You a ZOMBIE Catholic?

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Halloween is just around the corner. And as usual, I expect to see my fair share of kids trick-r-treating in their zombie get-ups: pasty white masks with dark, vacant circles for eyes, torn shirts and pants, occasionally a little flourish of fake blood splattered here or there. It’s usually the teenagers who go all out with the most gruesome costumes, but occasionally a five-year-old will greet me at the doorstep decked out in full zombie face paint and garb. I respond the same way each time. “Oh… wow…quite a costume,” I stutter with my best perma-smile. “My, look at all that blood… here’s your candy,” I murmur, avoiding eye contact while timidly dropping a couple snickers in the outstretched bag. Then I anxiously scan the perimeter to make sure there aren’t any zombie parents lurking nearby.

Don’t chuckle. Zombies exist. They dwell in our midst.

If you doubt me, just head to your neighborhood parish where on any given Sunday, you can see the parade of Zombie Catholics. I can spot ‘em from a mile away… because I was a Zombie Catholic. After years, maybe decades of having a deadened look in my eye through the whole celebration of the Holy Mass, by the grace of God, the scales have fallen away. So, from someone who’s managed to escape the dreaded Zombie Zone, here’s how you can spot the signs and combat this haunting inclination. Beware!

SIGNS YOU’RE A ZOMBIE CATHOLIC

1.) Your seating choice is decided by how best to make a subtle, late entrance and a discreet, speedy exit. You park in one of the last pews, a mere side-step and you’re swimming in the baptismal font. Back here, you keep a Jackie O low-profile. And if you nod off during a long homily, no big whoop. No one’s making eye contact this far back. You actually scoff at the poor saps who sit up front. Why do you need to see anything? You’ve only been through the mass 5 million-gajillion times! Nothing. New. Here.

2.) The last time you willingly sang a church hymn with abandon, you were three. It’s probably been many years since you even cracked the music issue. If you do sing with gusto, perchance, it’s only because your Catholic autopilot kicks in from time to time. “Glory to God in the highest and peace to His people on Earth…” You have to admit it’s a catchy tune. I used to cringe when people around me sang too loudly, probably because they were jarring me out of my self-involved daydream. “How dare she shake me from my own thoughts with her exuberant, joyful singing!” 

3.) You approach the Holy Eucharist in the same way you would waiting in line for a prescription at the pharmacy. No awe or reverence before the real presence. Just disengaged resignation. You’ve been told you need this, but you’re not exactly sure why. You appear spaced-out as you shuffle along in line. Your posture belies boredom and impatience. In your mind, this signifies the end of mass, so let’s get this show on the road, already. I want my medicine so I can high-tail it outta here. 

4.) Your idea of fellowship after mass is grudgingly giving the old lady in the parking lot the right of way as she totters through the crosswalk. She nods and you nod back. Then you accelerate and get on with your Sunday plans. You’ve officially checked the duty box for the day.

If any of this sounds familiar, don’t lose heart. There’s hope for fighting off the march of the Zombies. Here are some tips that helped me battle my way out of it.

WEAPONS TO FIGHT THE ZOMBIE CATHOLIC

1.) Make a trip to confession even before you attend mass again. Do some serious soul searching to uncover the sin that may be creating a barrier to your intimacy with God. There’s nothing that will intensify your desire for the Eucharist and the mass than an encounter with the loving embrace of God’s mercy. It wasn’t until I finally got serious about confession that I started to dial into God’s voice during the mass. 

2.) Take a quiet moment in your car even before entering the church to say a quick prayer asking Christ to engage your mind and heart for mass. Ask him to quiet the noise in your brain so you may hear Him. Ask the Lord to speak to you.

3.) Turn off all media. Don’t just silence! Truly unplug for the hour you’re there. If your phone starts buzzing, it’s an invitation for your mind to wander. So-called smartphones can numb our brains, leading us quickly into the zombie trance.

4.) Sit closer to the action. For those of you who’ve never done this, it can be daunting at first, but there’s no Q & A where you’ll be quizzed on the words to the Nicene Creed, so take a seat up front and follow along. It’s amazing how much more you notice. This even works with my kids. You might even sing a little. Challenge yourself to truly pay attention especially during the consecration. You don’t need to understand it all, but get engaged in what’s going on. God will lead you. In Scott Hahn’s book, “The Lamb’s Supper,” which I highly recommend, he describes the supernatural drama that surrounds us during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. He explains that Pope St. John Paul II described the mass as “Heaven on Earth.” Consider getting a book about the mass. Knowledge is a powerful weapon in defeating the Zombie Catholic.

5.) Consider offering up your Eucharist for the needs of a friend or loved one who is suffering. When you lose focus, consider that person’s trials. As you approach the Blessed Sacrament, remember you are offering up the graces received in Christ’s body, blood, soul, and divinity for your friend or loved one. This can heighten the magnitude of Christ’s gift in the Eucharist and be a tangible reminder of the solemnity of the occasion.

And above all, keep at it! A Zombie Catholic has stopped trying and is just going through the motions. Once you exert a small bit of effort God will reciprocate in a big way. You’ll soon banish that morbid, pasty-faced Zombie—and in its place become a new creation in Christ. Praise God! Because it happened to this former Zombie Catholic. 

Anatomy of a Catholic Snob

Do you regularly turn up your nose at other Catholics and Christians? Is your personal piety beyond reproach? Are you constantly flaunting your superior “Catholic cred”? You may be a Catholic Snob. Here are the ways to spot “if your nose is in the air and you just don’t care!” 

You may be a Catholic Snob if…

1. You have no funny bone.

In order to really appreciate our human condition as well as our Catholic faith, it’s important to be able to laugh, especially at ourselves. Laughing at our own foibles, but with a sincere and contrite heart is a small step towards sainthood. St. Francis de Sales remarked, “Humor is the foundation of reconciliation.” While St. Padre Pio is credited with saying, “serve the Lord with laughter,” the Catholic Snob finds very little funny. They can be severe and make many harsh judgments about others and themselves. If they are found laughing, often it is because they’ve met someone who prefers the guitar mass to Gregorian chant. Continue reading “Anatomy of a Catholic Snob”

Lessons My Mom Never Taught Me

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I’ve been thinking a lot about my mom lately. It would have been her 76th birthday this October. She died nearly 25 years ago. While it’s been too long since I’ve heard her laugh, she has left me with a bounty of wisdom that sustains me. In fact, there are simply too many lessons to enumerate. She was a Catholic school teacher by profession, so it was in her nature to instruct and impart knowledge. But there were also things she most certainly did not pass down. There are some worldly teachings she decidedly left by the wayside. And for that, I am even more grateful and bolstered. Continue reading “Lessons My Mom Never Taught Me”

The Idol In My Back Pocket

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Idolatry not only refers to false pagan worship. It remains a constant temptation to faith. Idolatry consists in divinizing what is not God. Man commits idolatry whenever he honors and reveres a creature in place of God, whether this be gods or demons. (Catechism of the Catholic Church n. 2113)

At the cellular store, ten people were ahead of me. Drat! Never mind the fact that I had checked in at 10:06 precisely, mere minutes after the store’s opening. The friendly clerk informed me of the wait time. With a dozen fellow technology addicts in the queue, I took a seat and began scanning the faces of the rest of the sorry saps who were experiencing problems with their mini-wonder/ fun boxes. I saw a lot of agitation. Or perhaps I was projecting my experience on to them. Maybe. But I could swear there was some serious “jonesing” going on. Continue reading “The Idol In My Back Pocket”

Rest for the Weary

“Be still and know that I am God!” -Psalm 46:11

My kids don’t nap anymore. It all ended a little over a year ago. The realization struck me recently. My daughter had a crummy virus, so I kept her home with the understanding that she would at least try to nap. Once I shut her door, I nearly skipped to the couch with unbridled eagerness. This was the first time in a while I’d get to enjoy a nap as well. As I nestled under a throw, I lay there recalling how this had been part of my routine as a new mom. It was the sweet spot of my day; a treasured time that resulted in peace, rejuvenation and a fresh outlook—three things seriously lacking, yet in high demand during this span of my life.

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Before I truly understood the possibilities for this magic time, I thought my kids’ nap would be best utilized in getting more tasks accomplished. I’d try to pull off all sorts of things while creeping around so as to not disturb my little sleeping cherubs. Not exactly a practical endeavor when your modest, ranch-style home means all major activity, TV watching, talking on the phone, cooking, cleaning, happens within mere feet of the bedrooms. Even flushing the toilet at the designated sleep times was a big no-no. How I longed to give a piece of my mind to the obtuse architect of my 1960’s track home. Inevitably, the clang of a pan, a creak in the floor, a loud stomach growl or an annoying postman who ALWAYS rang the doorbell, would close the proverbial window of productive time with a clatter. No doubt someone would wake up, completely shattering the chance to get anything done. Continue reading “Rest for the Weary”

I’m more Catholic than you are!

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There are many times when I’ve walked out of mass, or out of a Catholic school function and thought to myself, “Hmm… that person doesn’t seem very Catholic.” In truth, I’ve thought it about whole rows of people, complete sections, even. (Oh boy, now no one is ever going to sit next to me.) I point out my sinful and serial tendency because I suspect I’m not the only person in the world who has judged a fellow Catholic and found the person in question considerably lacking in terms of their Catholicity. As if there’s this invisible yardstick by which everyone is measured to gauge whether they’re Catholic enough. Oh no, they don’t have a rosary hanging from their rearview. They fall short. He loves the guitar mass. Seriously? He’s practically fallen away. She’s seeking more fellowship at her church. Please! Why doesn’t she just head over to the Lutheran place around the corner?

Of course, the inverse is true as well. Someone knows all the Latin words to Salve Regina, or they can quote scripture like the general population quotes Seinfeld, and I think, “Whoa! Now, that’s a devout Catholic.” I can’t lie—when I spy a scapular peeking out from underneath someone’s shirt collar, I’m convinced the person has serious “Catholic cred.” Or when I see a priest in a full black cassock, I think, “Now, he’s holy!” Continue reading “I’m more Catholic than you are!”

To Be Known

Are not five sparrows sold for two small coins? Yet not one of them has escaped the notice of God. Even the hairs of your head have all been counted. Do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows. (Luke 12; 6-7)

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Recently, my husband and I officially changed parishes. We had been on the books at a very large church, which someone informed me was so large it actually classified as a mega-church. Several years back, we signed our kids up for the school and once we registered as parishioners, I set to the business of trying to make connections and build community.

My faith history as a post-Vatican II baby, growing up in the 70’s and 80’s groomed me to have extremely low expectations from my neighborhood parish. As a kid, it was the place we went to celebrate mass. The word celebrate here is even a stretch as there was never much exuberance at all. But we went to mass. And that was literally it. Not even a donut Sunday in sight. I say this with certainty because I remember there was no actual place to gather- short of a very cold, (this was Cleveland after all) impersonal hallway that led to the sanctuary. There was no narthex. (Even the term narthex is fairly new to me, a cradle catholic of 46 years!) There was a nice school gym on the other side of the parking lot, but it must have been in full bingo swing, and unavailable to parishioners who indulged in fried fats rather than gambling and smoking. I understood that our church was a stop that was necessary. Once the obligation was checked off though, you were expected to bug off, preferably in an orderly, polite fashion, a goal not often achieved. Hello church parking lot road rage!  Continue reading “To Be Known”

Do I have something in my teeth?

henrique-felix-113544How many times in our lives have we been in a social situation where the person with whom we’re conversing over dinner or lunch has something green stuck in their teeth? There comes a point when you no longer actually hear what they are saying and you become fixated with that hideous thing lodged unceremoniously between their incisor and first molar. In those situations, my brain usually begins to race… how do I let them know? Where do I even look? Do I make a discreet hand gesture, pointing to the afflicted area? Do I just casually say, “Um, there’s something in  your teeth?” Or do I just do my non-confrontational best to ignore it, mentally willing the troubling piece of food to make a quick exit without anyone being the wiser? And what about when there is a another person at the table who is also in-the-know? They see the green speck as plain as a spinach salad, and yet they’re not saying anything. They’re going along with it… Continue reading “Do I have something in my teeth?”