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”

An Open Letter to the Principal of Our New Catholic Classical School

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Dear Rosemary,

The beginning of the school year, fraught with the usual worries and tension, arrived this year with the potential for even more social and logistical land mines. As transfer students, I worried whether my kids would adjust to their new school. Would they meet nice kids who wanted to be their friends? Would our decision to move them while they were comfortably situated at their last school result in lasting psychological scars? We’d probably have to pay the piper for this somewhere down the road. Would our beautiful Catholic faith be presented to them in a way that captivated and excited them? Would the classical approach of education engage their nimble little minds and would they be as prepared as their peers at other schools? Would the staff cherish them as children of God? And let’s not forget those pesky practical concerns. Could they find the bathrooms and the cafeteria? And what about navigating car line? Continue reading “An Open Letter to the Principal of Our New Catholic Classical School”

How the Children Suffer

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When I was a kid, my mom and dad did not fight often. Though rare, I still remember those instances with crystal clarity. I recall the deep dread. There wasn’t a lot of shouting, but there was a chill that seeped into every room in the house and ultimately it took root within me. How would this shake out? Would they split? I felt angst-ridden and wanted to flee. Yet, where would I go? I had no other home and I didn’t want any other family. I desperately craved harmony but felt helpless as to how to achieve it. I didn’t feel safe until I knew they were once again in accord, which gratefully was generally pretty quick. Except for that time my mom went on strike so my dad would do more around the house. I think that lasted an interminable three days. “Mom, can you iron my school uniform?” “Sorry, honey. Ask your dad. I’m on strike to improve working conditions.” “Huh?” Continue reading “How the Children Suffer”

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”

The Babies We Lost

“but Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14)

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There were two—two of our babies that did not make it to term. My first three pregnancies went relatively smoothly, resulting in little wrinkly-faced wonders. When we conceived baby number four we were hopeful for the same. I was 41 years old, not exactly a spring chicken in the fertility department. The two pink lines on the pregnancy test signaled more transition. My body would change, our family circumstance would change and our finances would undoubtedly change. Honestly, I felt a little dread. But deep down I was also really excited. A fourth baby! The big family I had wanted since I was a small child was happening. Yet, I remember remaining consciously subdued outwardly. I am a natural “glass-half-empty” kind of gal, so part of me already understood the fragility of the pregnancy as I did with each one previous. I practiced the classic, “don’t get your hopes up…” not ever comprehending what actually awaited me. Up until that point, my children’s gestations were medically routine as my OB/GYN would acknowledge after the birth of each kid. The only personal knowledge I had with miscarriage was the explanation my mom and dad had passed down about their difficult experience before I was born. Continue reading “The Babies We Lost”