Quality over Quantity

Part of moving to a new place, or even going on vacation, is finding where you will go to church on Sunday. I remember growing up and going camping for vacation. Part of the planning was always “Where and when will we go to church?” There were a few times that we genuinely couldn’t make it to Mass so we would read the readings as a family, light a candle, offer prayers and intentions and say an Our Father. Sometimes we even tried to sing. These were special moments for our family and memories I cherish.

This weekend was the first Sunday we had to venture out and try a new parish (we are spoiled, last week Ben’s uncle, a Dominican priest, said Mass for us and some extended family at another family member’s house). After talking to a few Catholic friends in the area we decided to try one parish that is quite close to our house.

The parishioners were very inviting and if we decide to attend there regularly during our stay in San Antonio we will be getting to Mass rather early – it’s a large community! Gotta get those good seats *wink. The kids did very well for their first time in the new space and even though it was such a large community we were still recognized at the end of Mass as newcomers. Even more surprising, people actually talked to us and said “Welcome! We hope to see you again next week. When did you arrive?” And I mean multiple people, not just those with name tags on who are part of the welcoming committee.

Quality over Quantity by Daily Graces at dailygraces.net
Mustard Seed by Quinn Dombrowski (2010) via Flickr. CC. Text and object added by Kate Taliaferro (2016).

The whole experience tied in very nicely with one of the priest’s main points during his homily (yes, the kids were so well behaved I was actually able to pay attention and retain what I heard for more than 3 words at a time). The priest talked about how the disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith – to increase the quantity of their faith. He mentioned how in one episode prior to this question highlights the issue. They failed to drive a demon out of a boy because Jesus said they lacked faith. They thought they needed more in order to do more.

So much of Jesus’ message is that we should seek after quality, not quantity. The disciples didn’t need more faith, they needed a deeper faith. That is why faith the size of a mustard seed (which was one of the smallest seeds in the Middle East) can move a mountain. Think about the parables about the Kingdom of God. Jesus tells us about a man who sells all he has so that he might acquire the pearl of great price. The man doesn’t need a large quantity of pearls, he just needs the one which is a pearl above all other pearls.

Or try this on for size. Many people, myself included, often ask God for more patience. But is it more patience we need, or do we need to better use the patience we have. How many of us remember our mothers disciplining us in loud voice, say something along the lines of “I’ve lost my patience” and then answer the phone in a calm voice and carry on a conversation that required the patience that was supposedly lost? Perhaps that is a more autobiographical story than a memory…..

We have plenty of patience and, for those of us baptized and especially confirmed we have been given the gift of faith. We don’t need more, we need to grow it deeper. Consider another parable (Jesus was full of those, wasn’t he?). A man goes out and sows seeds. Some fell on rocks, others on the road, others on a bed of thorns and a precious few in good soil. The seed is faith. No matter how many seeds the man sows, if they fall on rocks there will be nothing for them to dig their roots in.

So how do we grow our faith deeper? To start with, we need to prioritize prayer. We need to go to Mass to receive Jesus. We need to talk about God in our homes, with our spouses, our children and our friends. We need to learn about our faith and understand why we believe what we profess to believe.

Now I know that not everyone likes to talk about Christmas when we are barely in October, but hear me out. Advent begins on Nov. 27. What is one of these things that you can really focus on growing in during the 4 weeks leading up to the birth of Christ? Personally, it is going to be prioritizing prayer in a more intentional way. And really, I should start today, not wait 2 months. (which means getting myself up before the kids so that I can pray in peace. Morning wake ups are not one of my strengths, which many of you who have been following this blog are aware.) Pray for me! I will be praying for you too.

Announcement!

You may have noticed that my blog has a new address! I’m so excited to announce that I officially have my own site dailygraces.net. Plus a snazzy new look. I’m so excited and thankful for the support Ben has given me during this transition. The old address will forward you to the new one so don’t worry about losing any links you may have saved or enjoy coming back to. Grace and peace for your coming week!

~ Kate

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

How Young is Too Young?

There are many, many things in life that I do not want my young children exposed to yet. John is only 4. He doesn’t need to know that pirate swords usually hurt people in movies, that the dinosaurs are all dead, that there aren’t actually undersea animal rescuers that can talk (check out Octonauts), or that he doesn’t speak whale (thanks Nemo). He doesn’t need to know that water evaporates to form clouds which will drop rain. He doesn’t need to understand how electricity works. No one needs to clue him in on the number of calories he should be intaking in a day. He is 4 for Pete’s sake (anyone know Pete?).

There are people out there who believe that a child like John or my other daughters, 3 and 1 years old, are too young for religion, too young for faith, too young for Mass, too young for prayer. If I ever entertained these thoughts, my children have thankfully banished them. Here are just a few stories from our brief family life that I think illustrate that a child is never too young for God in their life.

Continue reading “How Young is Too Young?”

“Mommy, Jesus saw a seal! I’ve seen a seal too!”

Raise your hand if remember the incredibly hysterical and spot on book series, Amelia Bedelia. I loved them growing up. I recall one where Amelia went to a school and was told to plant the bulbs with the children, meaning tulip bulbs. Amelia, in true form, has the children unscrew all the light bulbs to plant instead.

We have similar experiences in our house. Small children are so literal, it trips me up some times. One day, I asked Rosie if she wanted some plain crackers. Now, you have to understand that from before their birth, my children are wired for airplanes. Their father is, after all, a pilot. They have lived on very high air traffic bases their whole lives. They wake up to the sound of jet engines, spend the day watching a variety of aircraft circle the pattern and fall asleep to night sorties and engine tests.

So, what do you think Rosie heard when I asked her if the wanted plain crackers? Plane crackers. As in, airplane shaped crackers. Oh the drama, oh the tragedy and hysterics that ensued from John and Rosie after that misstep. Needless to say, when I ask if they want regular ol’ crackers we call them “simple” crackers. It was easier to explain. Once they start reading we will re-visit the topic, hopefully with less meltdowns.

Another such moment happened at Mass this week. In the Gospel reading Jesus said:

Do not work for food that perishes
but for the food that endures for eternal life,
which the Son of Man will give you.
For on him the Father, God, has set his seal (John 6:27)

After reading that (and the title of this post, hint hint), you may be able to guess which work caught John’s attention. Yes, seal. Obviously seals of all kinds inhabit the sea near Capernaum. It was pretty funny and required some quick whispered explanations. John still isn’t quite sure what kind of seal Jesus saw, but we did clarify that it wasn’t the seals from the zoo.

John’s literal understanding of words at this stage reminded me of my post about having faith like a child. It also got me thinking about literal versus figurative language. Since we were at Mass, this particular thought train brought me to the Eucharistic prayer.

In the three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke – called synoptic because they are all similar and based on similar sources, sometimes even the same source – see more here) we hear Jesus say exactly and specifically, “This is my body.” and “This is my blood.” If we are to have faith, and perhaps ears, like a child, then Jesus’ meaning can not be mistaken. Jesus told his disciples that the bread and wine truly became his body and blood, the food and drink of the new covenant. In the Gospel of John (where our Gospel readings from last week and this week came from), Jesus tells his followers in a series of talks that unless they eat the flesh of the Son of Man, they will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven (John 6). Jesus is very specific, even clarifying and re-stating this teaching when queried about it.

Photo from Inmagine.com
Photo from Inmagine.com

The mystery of the Eucharist is a tough mystery to grapple with. How can bead and wine change? How can we be expected to eat flesh and drink blood? The first important thing to remember is that it is a mystery. We will never fully understand the incredible grace we are participating in each liturgy. Second, we have multiple Scripture accounts of the same words of Jesus. This was a community where oral tradition, the stories told, were where records were preserved. Very little was written down and the Gospels were not written as a play-by-play of Jesus’ life. Our earliest Gospel (Mark) was probably written at the earliest, 50 C.E. That’s a full 20-25 years after Jesus’ death. 20 years is a long time for an oral story to change (remember the game “Telephone” from when you were a kid?). But we have the same words of Jesus, written by 3 different authors in 3 different places, plus the extended theology of John. Pretty convincing stuff. Finally, our understanding has not changed over the course of the whole Church. The Eucharist we celebrate today was celebrated by the earliest Christians. We see it in the writings of St. Paul. We also see it in the writings of St. Justin Martyr, a Christian living in Rome and writing around 150 C.E. If you don’t click on any other links in this post, click on this oneJustin writes about what the liturgy looked like in Rome roughly 55 years after the latest written book in the Bible. The consistency with the liturgy we just celebrated this weekend is, for me, beyond words. The liturgy we celebrate today is firmly founded in the traditions and teachings of the apostles. If they took Jesus literally, I think it’s a good bet we should too.