Trusting God

Today I would like to invite you to consider a different perspective within the context of increasing mandates regarding travel and COVID vaccination.

Photo by Artem Podrez on Pexels.com

The big picture has nothing to do with the COVID drama. The big picture is always eternal life with God or eternal separation from Him. That is the choice we have to make. Everything else is temporary or fleeting; it all passes. So, we shift our overall focus toward certainties, things that absolutely will happen.

First, and I know this sounds harsh, but it must be said: we are all going to die. There is no escaping death. Yes, it’s painful when someone we know and love dies. That is absolutely true. Let’s take a look at this certainty through the Catholic perspective.

The Last Judgment by Michelangelo Buonorotti 1536-41
Fresco
Sistine Chapel, Vatican City
WikiMedia Commons image, Public Domain

We believe that there are “4 last things:” Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell. All 4 of these are certainties. We will all die. We will all be judged. There are only 2 places we can spend eternity, either heaven or hell. Death is the portal through which we all must enter so that we may be judged by our Lord on our temporal lives. We will spend eternity in either heaven with God or we will be eternally separated from God in hell.

The Fall of the Rebel Angels
Getty Museum
Public Domain

Why do I mention this? This ought to be on the minds of everyone, particularly when we are in the midst of trials. How we endure these trials is one of the details that Jesus Christ will use in judging us. How merciful are we? How obedient are we to those appointed over us? How patient are we in difficulties? How well do we walk alongside others in their trials? How well do we evangelize? How do we include God in our decision-making? The list goes on and on.

Allegory of the Catholic Faith by Johannes Vermeer, Dutch
ca 1670-72
Oil on Canvas
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, NY
Public Domain

Sometimes, especially during this COVID pandemic, don’t we get caught up in the political drama or have a hard time reconciling vaccination mandates with our personal beliefs, or do we just blindly go along to get along to avoid conflict? This list of questions is long as well. All of the minutiae that we can name are mere distractions from the big picture. They distract us from God and His will in our lives. They turn us away from God and, generally, lead us into error or even into sin. Don’t get caught up in the minutiae. Keep your mind on where you want to spend eternity.

Let’s change the perspective of our situational analysis. Yes, sometimes it is God’s will that someone we love very much becomes very ill or even dies. We have to accept that. God will use the evil of the moment to bring about the good. We tend to forget this. For example, sometimes, God answers our prayers with a yes, but the only way that our intentions could possibly happen is through difficulties that we could never have imagined. Maybe COVID is the means through which more people answer His call. Maybe disease or even vaccination mandates mean better reconciliations with estranged family members. Maybe the best and most complete reconciliations happen when death is imminent. Maybe our hardened hearts can only be cured by seeing someone close to us suffer. Whether it is us or them with the disease, both parties suffer. Maybe suffering together is the only way to reconciliation. Maybe.

Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt Van Rijn, Dutch
Between 1626-1669
Drawing
Teylers Museum, Haarlem, North Holland, Netherlands

This perspective obviously requires an enormous amount of trust in God. Trust that He has your absolute best interests in mind when we are faced with difficulties like this. We must Trust that only He knows the outcomes and invites us to spend eternity with Him. Trust that He created us to love and serve Him. Trust that He loves us enough to give each of us free will. He loves us individually. None of this is easy, especially while living in the world.

Live in the world, not of it.

Remember to keep this passing world in the proper perspective. Because this world (and everything in it) is passing away, even COVID. Take a moment and think about your own perspective. Maybe you can benefit from altering it a bit by evaluating the situation in terms of the big picture: Eternal Life with God or Eternal Separation from Him. Everything else is passing details that should not rule over us.

May the Lord bless you and yours abundantly!

Ms. Renee Valenzuela, OP

We Have Much to Do

As I was praying the rosary this morning, the Joyful Mysteries, the Holy Spirit flooded my mind with work that must be done. Not in a distracting way, but in a pastoral way that related directly to the present mystery. I’d like to share this experience with you this morning.

The Annunciation, Book of Hours, Simon Bening; Tempera, gold, and ink on parchment; modern red leather binding; 1535-6, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC, Public Domain

The first mystery, the Annunciation, He instructed me to accept God’s Holy will in my life, so I may be healed. At Mass, we pray the Centurion’s prayer with hope with and a confident understanding that nothing is impossible for God. He can heal us no matter how sick or broken we are. I must remember that because He can heal me, He can heal anyone. Allowing God’s will in my life, will only progress my healing. He gives me exactly what I need for my own, individual cure. He wants me to be cured of what allows me fall to temptation. I have to want to be healed. If I truly do, I will accept His remedy, and be healed: “your faith has made you well.” (Mk 10:52, RSV-CE)

The Virgin and Saints Interceding before Christ for the Souls of the Lost, ca. 1771, Joann Baptist Enderle, Pen and black ink watercolor and gouache on laid paper, The Met, Public Domain

The second mystery, the Visitation, He reminded me that in order to be a true and faithful disciple of Christ, I must avail myself to the needs of others, no matter how dire my own situation might seem. in this mystery, Mary has just been informed that she is to be the Mother of God. She’s a young teenager, just betrothed, who has become pregnant in a world that condemns women to death for adultery. Yet, her faith in God is so deep, her trust in His Holy Will for her life outweighs her fears of what this would “surely” bring. Shouldn’t I trust God’s will in my own life with the same conviction?

Annunciation to the Shepherds, Claes Moeyaert, drawing, c1633 – c 1637; Rijksmuseum, Netherlands, Public Domain

The third mystery, the Nativity, He explained to me that proclaiming the Gospel, the evangelium, to all who would listen, is necessary for the salvation of souls. Of all the needs in this world, this is the most important and dire one. The Creed tells us exactly what we need to know and teach. There is nothing more important than explaining the life of Christ to others, in order to bring souls to Him. This is why I am a Lay Dominican. I was created to do this. I pray that I might do this well, to bring as many souls to Christ as possible.

Simeons Song of Praise – Arent de Gelder, 1700, oil on canvas, Mauritshuis, The Hague, South Holland, Public Domain

The fourth mystery, the Presentation of the Christ Child in the Temple, He reminded me that the road of discipleship is not an easy one. Choices, difficult choices, must be made throughout this journey. That choosing Him over the distractions of the world is the one thing I must do each day as His disciple. Making God the one and only priority that is superior to all others, to do things that I might not feel up to doing at that moment, but heed the call nonetheless without delay.

Note Dame Gargoyle, WikiCommons, Public Domain

The fifth mystery, Finding the Christ Child in the Temple, He reminded me that Jesus is always present in the Church, no matter what I see in this corrupt world; even if evil is done inside His church or by His clergy, He is still here, with us, until the end of the age, and vengeance is His alone. I am not faithful for the sake of corrupt laity or clergy, I am to be faithful in spite of them. The Lord is better able to administer justice than I could ever be. The Holy Spirit urges me to pray that they encounter Christ, as St. Paul did: profoundly. They are human too and are subject to temptation and sin; clergy especially, are the focus for the evil one’s temptations. He and his minions tempt all of us, and so many people leave the Church because of scandals, abuse, sins committted in the Church or by clergy. Don’t let that separate you from Christ in the Eucharist. There is only one place where He truly resides, physically and spiritually: in every Tabernacle of every Catholic Church in the World. Don’t leave; He is truly present in the Eucharist, even if consecrated by unholy men. His holiness is more powerful that their unholiness.

The Conversion of Saint Paul by Schelte Adamsz Bolswert, 1621-1633, Engraving in black on cream laid paper, The Art Institute of Chicago, Public Domain

The Lord put these things on my heart today. Thank you for allowing me to share them with you.

Ms. Renee Valenzuela, OP

Final Professions!

Hey everyone! I’m so sorry that the livestream did not work, but at last, the video is here! Thank you everyone who attended Mass with us today and to everyone who watches and shares this video! May God bless you all abundantly!

Congratulations to Mrs. Peggy Brechtel, OP, Mr. William Schmidt, OP, Ms. Renee Valenzuela, OP, Ms. Cheryl Riley, OP, Mrs. Marilyn Pipkin, OP, and Mrs. Helen Hawkins, OP on making your final professions today! May God bless our newly professed in their vocations in the Order of Preachers.

Please like and share!

Final Professions!

I am happy to announce that 6 members of our community have made final professions today.

Unfortunately the livestream couldn’t happen, but I did record it and will post here, Facebook and Twitter this afternoon.

Thank you all for your prayers throughout this journey. We couldn’t have done it without you.

Forever yours in Christ,

Ms. Renee Valenzuela, OP

The Transfiguration and Our Call to Holiness

Today, Aug 6th, is the feast day of the Transfiguration of our Lord. In the Order of Preachers, we know this day to be the day that our holy Father, St. Dominic, died in 1221, exactly 800 years ago. We celebrate this day called Dies Natalis, the birth of St. Dominic into eternal life. Thanks be to God for the saintly beauty of this man, a true gift to the world for the last 800 years.

The Transfiguration of Jesus, by Fra Angelico, ca. 1440-1442, fresco, Basilica of St. Mark, Florence, Italy, Public Domain

Today, an introspection is in order. Looking at the image above, we see the apostles Peter, James and John astonished by the sight of Jesus’ transfiguration with both Moses and Elijah present, as recalled from the Gospel reading today, Mark 9:2-10.

We also see two other figures, flanking our Transfigured Lord. On the left is the Blessed Virgin Mary and on the right, St. Dominic. Fra Angelico has captured our dual feast day perfectly in this image. The transfiguration also calls to mind that on this day, St. Dominic has received the ultimate gift, the beatific vision. St. Dominic has been born into eternal life with our Lord, our Savior, our Creator, our Triune God.

The reason why Peter, James and John were astonished is something we should ponder in our hearts. Is it mere visual stimulation that astonished them? I don’t think so. It is a glimpse of the immensity of the beatific vision. Such holiness had only been seen a few times before this moment. These are the two that are significant here: when Moses’s face became radiant in Exodus 34:27-35 and when Elijah was transported to heaven in 2 Kings 2:11. In both cases, those who witnessed this holiness were shaken with emotion, with fear and awe.

Annunciation to the Shepherds, by Claes Moeyaert, ca. 1633, ink on paper, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands, Public Domain under CC01

If we witnessed something like this personally, how would we respond? We would probably be gripped with fear and trembling because what would be running through our minds, at that point, is clear: How is this possible? What is happening? What am I seeing? Is anyone else seeing this too? It is our unbelief would be called into question. It isn’t so shocking when our faith, the act of believing itself, is challenged, but when we are faced with undeniable holiness, something we cannot explain no matter how smart we are, this is when we are astonished. Miracles can and do happen. And that is how we characterize this type of holiness.

I say that it is our unbelief that is called into question because when we are face to face with a real miracle, like levitation, bilocation, transfiguration, the biological forensic evidence of a eucharistic miracle, just to name a few, a confrontation takes place between our minds and our hearts: What if God is real? What if I really will be judged when I die? What does this all mean? Am I prepared to change the way I live? The reality of our mortality and the state of our soul comes into question, and immediately, we find ouselves uncomfortable. We realize that we have a choice to make: to believe that all of this is true or to continue to ignore our call to holiness. It’s a tough choice, because one requires action on our part and we know it, whereas the other requires no effort at all and we know that, too.

Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, by Francesco Merano, ca. 1639-1657, drawing, Art Institute of Chicago, Public Domain

Holiness really does exist, but where do we see it today? Well, that really depends on the depth of our faith. One place to start is this: Do you really believe what we profess in the Creed? This is a question that we should all ponder in our hearts. I’m challenging you today, on the feast day of the Transfiguation of our Lord and the birth of St. Dominic into eternal life, to look at the Creed. Read each line and ask yourself, “Do I truly believe this?” Answer yourself truthfully, because this is the only way you can move forward. We are each called to holiness, individually. God made each one of us indvidually, and that is exactly how we are called: by name.

The place where we see holiness every day should be wherever we look in the mirror. That’s right. God is calling you and me to be holy, everyday. We should see holiness in our own image. I know it’s hard, and I don’t always succeed at it either, but it’s certainly not impossible. We have choices to make. These choices may not seem important at the moment, but they really are. Choosing one way or the other can mean the difference in where we will spend eternity. Choose to be holy. It doesn’t matter what others think or say, the only One whose opinion matters is God. He is our only judge. Maybe, when you choose holiness, others might even follow your example. The reverse is also true, when you choose unholiness, others also may follow your example.

I would love it if every person in the history of the world would merit heaven. Unfortunately, I know that will not happen. This is what makes our choices, our responses, how we live our lives, what we believe, how we act… all of that matters. There are serious consequences; whether we understand them or not, has no bearing on the reality of the consequence we will experience in the future.

Having been created in the likeness and image of God, we have the innate desire to know Him. Our curiosity can lead us to Him or away from Him. If you’re a rebel, rebel against the world and run toward God. How does one run toward God? The best place to learn this is in the Catholic Church, the Bride of Christ.

For those who are not Catholic, if you’re interested in learning more about God and His Bride, the Catholic Church and what we teach, seek out an RCIA class at a local parish, which, classes will begin soon. While the Church itself seems to be far from perfection because it is comprised of sinners, and we’re all working on getting to heaven, it is the surest way to spend eternity with Christ. This is His Church, He founded it upon Peter’s faith, and He is truly present in every tabernacle of every Catholic Church in the entire world. It’s the only Church where Jesus Christ is actually present, body, blood, soul, and divinity. A great resource can be found here.

You are called to holiness and to spend eternity with God. I want to help you get there. Please, help me get there, too. Comment below, start a converation, ask a question, I will respond as soon as I can, by Sunday at the latest! I still have lots of prepping to do before 8am Sunday!

Have a blessed and holy weekend, everyone! Pray for our Lay Dominican community as six of us prepare to make our final professions on Sunday! I will livestream it on facebook! Give us a like and a share, too!

What’s all the hubbub?

It’s all over the news, blogs, social media, the subject of conversations in the parishes, missions, dioceses, it’s everywhere. We can’t escape it. And, we are expected to have a position on it. If we don’t, then it’s oversimplified for us: Are you rigid or are you with the Pope on this? Of course, this hubbub is the Latin Mass. I think some background, here, is in order so we can understand the debate a bit before we are forced to choose a side. I only am going to highlight some important aspects that are often left out of the conversations on this subject.

Giorgio Picchi, the Younger (Italian, Casteldurante [Urbania] ca. 1555–1605 Casteldurante [Urbania]) A Priest Celebrating Mass, ca. 1600–5 Italian, Pen and brown ink, brush and brown wash, over traces of black chalk, and lightly squared in black chalk; Sheet: 9 7/8 × 7 7/16 in. (25.1 × 18.9 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Harry G. Sperling Fund, 2014 (2014.195) http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/648559

The Traditional Latin Mass, also known as the Tridentine Mass, is known as Traditional because it had been the Mass for at least 1400 years. It was codified by Pope Pius V, in the Roman Missal of 1570, following the Council of Trent. This is why we know this Mass as the Tridentine Mass. What was ordered in this Roman Missal, however, was the Mass that was largely unchanged since at least the 7th century (1400 years ago), but also very closely followed the very Mass that St. Ambrose himself celebrated in the 4th century (1700 years ago). So, we’re not just talking about small “t” tradition in this case, we’re talking about the big “T” Tradition. This is the Mass that was celebrated by such beloved saints as St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. John of the Cross, St. Padre Pio, literally all of the saints from the 300’s AD to 1970.

Let’s think about this another way. The Mass has been celebrated in the Church in much the same way for about 1700 years before it was radically changed. Martin Luther protested the Church in 1517, just over 500 years ago. So this Mass was celebrated in the Church for 1200 years before Martin Luther came along. So, we can confidently say that the Traditional Latin Mass has some serious history in the Church.

With that in mind, let’s look at Latin. Why Latin? Latin is the official language of the Church. It is a “dead” language, meaning it does not change. The definitions of words in the Latin language do not “evolve”, the language is not “malleable”, it is precise and unambiguous.

St. Jerome Writing, by Michelangelo Caravaggio, ca. 1606, Galleria Borghese, Rome, Italy,
Public Domain

Today we hear the phrase, “Latin Vulgate” and we might not know what that really means, especially when found in the context of a bible translation. The Latin Vulgate bible was translated by St. Jerome in the late 300’s, who famously said, “ignorance of scripture is the ignorance of Christ.” It was the language used by the common people of the Roman Empire, and later the Holy Roman Empire. It was the “commoners” language, the lingua franca of the time. Think about that for a moment. This was the language that was common to those who professed the Christian faith. This translation was used for over 1500 years. So, again, we have some serious Tradition with Latin.

You might be thinking I’m taking sides here. No, I just want to highlight the facts that get shoved to the side in the name of modernism or are omitted when the discussion gets underway. These facts ought never to be ignored.

It is the Latin Vulgate Bible and the Latin Mass that provided the foundation of faith for Saints to be made. That’s nothing we should ignore.

Chalice, straw and paten used in at Mass in the Church in Germany in the mid 1200’s. Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC, Public Domain

This hubbub about the Latin Mass is a huge deal in the Church. This isn’t about the pros or cons of Vatican II. This is about restricting the Mass that has been celebrated in the Church for 1700 years. It’s definitely worth discussing and the facts are worthy of understanding before jumping to conclusions.

Also, it is worth mentioning that the Traditional Latin Mass is not widely available in all dioceses. I attend the Novus Ordo Mass because when Mass is available in my parish and deanery, that is what is celebrated. On extremely rare occasions, the Traditional Latin Mass has been celebrated near my parish, and I have attended. If both were regularly offered, I would likely attend both regularly. I love the big “T” Tradition and the small “t” tradition of the Catholic Church. I love my Catholic faith. The more I learn about the Church, the more I love her, despite all of the infighting, backbiting, name calling, and hair pulling, even with the abusive clergy. We are a family, and we certainly act like it.

I’d like to make mention of one more thing before I sign off here. Whether you’re a Novus Ordo or a Latin Mass lover, we’re all Catholic. The Mass is a sacrifice, not a party, nor a social event, nor a concert, nor is it subject to fleeting secular scrutiny nor its norms. The attitudes of the secular world should have no influence on the holy sacrifice of the Mass. When we allow that to creep into our sacred place of worship, the sin of sacrilege often results. This is the serious sin of profaning the holy. Whichever Mass you prefer, worship God with reverence, with the proper disposition of repentance, remember the purpose of your presence there and don’t forget where you are at that moment. You are in the presence of God, in the Holy of Holies, and you’re there to worship Him, with praise and thanksgiving. Do it with awe, reverence and humility.

The Antioch Chalice, ca. 500-550, Byzantine, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC,
Public Domain

Ms. Renee Valenzuela, OP

Please share this blog!

As we embark on this new adventure, we’re learning quite a lot along the way. As the admin of this site, I’m asking that you might share this blog with others. You may not know me, or maybe you do, or only know of me, I’m asking for your trust in our Lay Dominican group to bring you great catholic content that will stimulate your mind and your soul. We want to help you to not only better understand the Catholic perspective, but also to help you to invite Christ into your own personal life. He wants you to spend eternity with Him. That’s the reason why God created you, me and everyone else. And that’s the reason why this blog exists.

If you have questions or comments, a content wish list, that’s why we’re putting this out there. As this blog grows each week, share it with others and ask them to share too. We plan to add media, reflections, saints, history, events, links, social media pages and handles, all to help as many people as possible to see how God is relevant in our modern world. Right now, what you see is only the beginning. Some of us even want to start a YouTube video blog (aka vlog) which will also be added on this site.

So, please, share with your family and friends, and stay tuned for more content to be added frequently! Oh, and, we also ask for your mercy and patience as we learn how to do all of this. Thank you and may God bless you and your families abundantly!

Ms. Renee Valenzuela, OP

The Extreme Importance of Faith

It’s not news that our entire world, both sides of it, religious and secular, is in a tailspin right now. We need something to grab onto, like a buoy, to steady us and keep us from going under.

In these and future turbulent times, remember this important point: Jesus is our rock. We do not put our trust in men, we put our trust in the Lord our God. He, alone, is our Savior. Keeping our eyes fixed on God, we can discern His will in our own lives.

Sometimes God will test us. We are frequently unfaithful to Him, so he gives us opportunities to restore our relationship with Him. The graces that he offers us are innumerable, and they require our cooperation. That means we must surrender our own will to His. We can fight it and be miserable or we can accept His will for us and cooperate with it. The choice is ours. Attitude is everything.

Jesus never promised that our trek would be easy or comfortable, either. He promised us the forgiveness of our sins and an eternal share in His Kingdom, if we take up our cross and carry it daily. Yes, this is a requirement to be a disciple of Christ.

What does that mean? Well, in short, it means to accept God’s will in your life. Jesus said, “…Father, take this cup from me… Your will, not mine.” He surrendered His own will to that of the Father, giving us the perfect example to follow. Your will, my Lord, not mine. This isn’t easy, but it isn’t impossible either. Trust is essential, here. And there are steps we can take to build that.

The first step is putting God first in our lives. How do we do that? Well, arranging our secular life around the Mass schedule is a great place to start. Attend Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation. We have some Holy Days coming up. Rearrange your schedule to attend Mass on those days, even if it’s a week day.

Pray every single day. Pray in thanksgiving for something in your life. Pray before meals, even when you’re in a restaurant or at someone else’s house. Pray the rosary. Don’t know the mysteries? Has it been a long time? There are books available to help. Don’t have a rosary? Get one, a rosary book and use it. It’s the best 20 minute daily habit to start.

The hard truth is that unless we act on the graces offered to us, then the chaos of modern life will continue to drag us down. Prevent the emptiness and despair that the world offers.

So, to sum it up, this craziness that dominates our world is a distraction meant to confuse us. Don’t let it shake your faith. No one is more powerful than God. Don’t let anyone come between you and Him. By attending Mass attentively on a regular basis and praying attentively every single day, we’ll begin to feel this hunger to know more, for a deeper relationship with Him, the world around us will appear differently, we will understand that our desire will be for God and can only be sated by Him.

Putting God first, putting His will before our own, this is order. This is the way to satisfaction. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Do you want to be satisfied? It’s a true test of faith to hand your life over to God. It is truly right and just.

The Journey Begins

“To convert somebody go and take them by the hand and guide them.” St. Thomas Aquinas, OP

The journey begins, indeed. We are venturing out onto the waters here with a new page, a new blog, a future in social media, there so many ways to preach. Welcome to the 21st century!

Thanks for joining us on this adventure! Taking people by the hand and guiding them is exactly what we intend to do here. Subcribe to our blog, open your minds and hearts to God. Together we can overcome those stumbling blocks that stand in the way of a great relationship with our Creator.

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Setting sail can be daunting. You don’t have to do it alone.

On this blogsite, we will discuss all sorts of topics that relate to Christianity. We will make reflections on scripture, discuss the faith, explain difficult teachings, and talk about current events as they relate to faith matters. A solid foundation in your faith makes navigating in this chaotic world so much better.

It isn’t easy and sometimes we just need a little encouragement. The video below is a sample of what Dominican preaching looks like. It’s simple, understandable, and true to the faith. Check it out.

From Friarly…

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