Sunday, 17 November 2013

The Real Presence

The hormone oxytocin is released during sex, childbirth and breastfeeding. It is a bonding agent. So, during these instances, not only are you bonded physically and spiritually, but chemically too. It makes sense, right?

A small amount of this hormone is also released every time you make eye contact with someone. It is for this reason you come to trust other people (see here and here for more info). Now all you'll be able to think when you make eye contact with someone is "Oxytocin. Oxytocin. OXYTOCIN."
You're welcome.

So, I've been wondering... is oxytocin released during Eucharistic adoration?

Okay, okay I know - Woah! Hold ya horsies, Michaela! Can we at least get a linking sentence?

Let's take a few steps back then, starting with the Eucharist:
"Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me and I in him." (John 6:53-56)

"As a result of transubstantiation, the species of bread and wine undoubtedly take on a new signification and a new finality, for they are no longer ordinary bread and wine but instead a sign of something sacred and a sign of spiritual food... For what now lies beneath the aforementioned species is not what was there before... since once the substance or nature of the bread and wine has been changed into the body and blood of Christ, nothing remains of the bread and the wine except for the species—beneath which Christ is present whole and entire in His physical "reality," corporeally present, although not in the manner in which bodies are in a place." (Pope Paul VI, Mysterium Fidei ¶46)
Though we recognise God in each of us and "where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matthew 18:20), Jesus can be present to us in different levels (hear more about this from Fr Robert Barron here). Through the institution of the Eucharist, Jesus becomes fully present to us.

Therefore, when we place ourselves in Eucharistic adoration, we place ourselves in the true presence of Christ. Like a date with a loved one, there He sits before us.
"During Eucharistic adoration, it is not only we who behold Christ, but it is also He who beholds us. When we adore the Blessed Sacrament, we are not just gazing at a beautiful but inert object. The contemplative mode of prayer that we learn during adoration presupposes that Christ returns our gaze." (Archbishop Aug DiNoia)
So, thus I wonder... as Christ gazes back upon us, does our brain release oxytocin? And if this is the case, then are we not bonded further to Him through each moment spent in His Real Presence? There have not yet been to date any experiments to prove this but what we can look at is the result of Eucharistic adoration on people's lives. I can personally attest to the change that has been made in me by spending an hour a week in adoration.

I call you, Catholics, spend regular time in Eucharistic adoration - only good can be done. And all you other peoples, I dare you: find a local Catholic Church and go to their holy hour. See if your life isn't changed.

For those in Brisbane, here's a good starting point:
God bless,

Wednesday, 30 October 2013


I disgust myself. I’m a hypocrite. A fraud. I’m no better than a Pharisee. 

I was walking briskly out of Toowong Shopping Centre when a man (who was clearly homeless) called out to me. I mumbled something about being in a rush and continued on. I was late and I was on my way to Mass. The irony.

Granted, he caught me off guard, but with every step I took towards that church and away from that man, my self-disgust increased. Just turn back, Michaela. Just turn back. But I didn’t. I continued on my way even though I knew being late for Mass was a pitiful excuse for denying Christ to this man.

I’ve since realised there are two common lies at work in my mind:

1. It’s not safe for a woman to help a stranger
Do you think Blessed Mother Teresa or St Elizabeth or St Gemma allowed these fears to prevent them from loving strangers? Hello! Ever heard the story of The Good Samaritan? The Samaritan could have ended up in the same state as the man that he helped - who knows if robbers were still lurking. Yet he helped him all the same.

2. Don’t give them money, cause they’ll just spend it on booze or drugs or both
I’ve heard of people who will give the homeless (who ask) their lunch or buy them a coffee instead of giving them money.
"God blesses those who come to the aid of the poor and rebukes those who turn away from them: "Give to him who begs from you, do not refuse him who would borrow from you"; "you received without pay, give without pay." (CCC 2443)
I wonder, though, what this says to them. Do they see it as kindness or as a big fat sign saying you are not trustworthy enough to buy your own food with this money?

I’ve heard of another idea – taking them out to lunch. It means holding a conversation with them. It means connecting with them.

And now here’s a really radical thought: Ask them what they actually want. They ask for a dollar, you stop, look them in the eyes and with complete genuineness, ask them what it is they really want and need and be willing to spend a little bit of time or money on getting it for them. After all, the meeting we are going to be late to, the children we were meant to pick up 15 minutes ago, the lunch break that is wearing thin is tiny – absolutely miniscule in relation to the value of the human life you are about to change by being Christ to them. Treat them as a fellow child of God. Treat them as a human being.

"Not uncommonly, the poor and needy are regarded as a "burden", a hindrance to development. At most, they are considered as recipients of aid or compassionate assistance," the communique states, echoing the words of Pope Francis. "They are not seen as brothers and sisters, called to share the gifts of creation, the goods of progress and culture, to be partakers at the same table of the fullness of life, to be protagonists of integral and inclusive development." (Pope Francis July 13, 2013)
These works are called mercy.

"The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities. Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently. The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead." (CCC 2447)
I cannot imagine the courage or desperation that it would take someone to let go of their pride and ask a complete stranger for help. No wonder they always ask for so little.


God bless,

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Good Catholic

I attended a protestant friends' youth group recently and when we went inside to hear her preach, everyone hesitated on where to sit. I was about to say, "good Catholics sit at the back". Then I remembered I wasn't surrounded by Catholics.

Why does this negative perception of Catholics exist in my head? I know I'm not the only one. For instance, when I say "good Catholic schoolgirls", I bet this is not what comes to mind:

More importantly, what can be done about these perceptions?

Only by becoming truly Catholic can we begin to change that perception. So what is a "good Catholic" anyway? Dummies guide to Catholicism give the essentials of being a devout Catholic here.

What do you think?

God bless,

Friday, 4 October 2013

What’s so bad about suffering anyway?

"If God exists then why is there suffering in the world?"

You’ve probably heard this argument about as many times as I have – too many to count. If you’ve done your research or been 'round the block a few times, you’ll know that the answer lies in free will. That’s not what I want to talk about today, though. What I want to explore is the fact that many cannot see compassion or mercy of a loving God in pain and suffering.

God loves us too much to leave us as we are. Think over your life – how many of those rocky paths that you’ve encountered brought you out on the other side as being stronger, wiser or better equipped to face the world?
"More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." (Romans 5:3-5)
 And in this suffering, how many times have you leant on God to get you through? Isn’t it when you are in that deep, dark place that you run into His arms? When you have nothing left and have no choice but to turn to Him?
"Therefore, I will allure her now; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her." (Hosea 2:16)
Pain and suffering is proof of a loving God. Take a bushfire as example:

Granted, suffering is anything but comfortable. I doubt that these people would have openly welcomed it into their life:
But I choose to see hope in the midst: that eventually everything will be okay – whether in this life or the next. To which horizon do you set your eyes?

Further info:
God bless,

Thursday, 12 September 2013

I'm too cowardly to say this to your face

Warning: this blog entry contains explicit language.

Every time you do it, I cringe. Yet I stay silent. I feel that saying it here is the only way I would ever be brave enough to call you on.

My dear Christian friend, why do you use the Lord's name in vain? How is it that you overlook His clear commandment:
"You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain" (Exodus 20:7)

It makes me shudder every time I hear you say this:

and this:

and this:

Do not fool yourself in thinking that this is okay. Where's your respect?
"'The Lord's name is holy.' For this reason man must not abuse it. He must keep it in mind in silent, loving adoration. He will not introduce it into his own speech except to bless, praise, and glorify it." (CCC 2143)
Just think twice next time you feel inclined to say "OMG".

God bless,

Thursday, 5 September 2013

The call of a Christ follower

When I first started working for the Ignite Conference in 2012, we sat down to have our first team meeting and as a little ‘get to know you’ exercise, we went around the table sharing what we had to offer to the Ignite Conference. I remember a cold shiver of panic ran up my back and my heartbeat quickened – I had no idea what to say. Eventually when it came to my turn, I said simply “All I have to offer is my yes”.

I felt like the widow who gave only two coins to the synagogue treasury (Mark 12:41-44). I had so little to offer, but I was willing to offer it all.

Since then I’ve grown and changed and come through (almost) two Ignite Conferences (twenty-one days to go!). Obviously I’ve learnt a lot and now have at least something to offer. It’s the same for all – for everyone has to start somewhere. It’s the catch-22 of any school leaver looking for work: no one will hire them because they have no experience, yet if no one hires them, then how do they ever get any experience?

It’s cliché, but true all the same: God does not call the equipped; He equips the called. He stretches us in ways we never imagined and we come out on the other side bigger, stronger, braver: equipped. And then He calls us again.

So don’t think you’re exempt. Just because you’re studying full time or have four children or are trying to pay off a mortgage, that He doesn’t have a call to service in the Church for you. Perhaps it’s something little, like bringing up the offertory at Mass or serving tea and coffee afterwards. Perhaps someone in your parish needs a lift each Sunday or there are pilgrim billets coming to town. Perhaps it’s something of a larger commitment, like worship or children’s ministry or chaplaincy at your local high school. Though, perhaps your call is subtler like that of St. Therese of Lisieux: in each action to act with love, to quietly serve in the background – in prayer and fasting, in almsgiving, in doing the things that go unnoticed. Like the dishes, the laundry, the letterbox drop for the upcoming election…

For many of these tasks, only God sees. And further, for many of these tasks, only God sees the heart with which you do it.
“Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)
 Whatever it is, you have a place in the Church and He has called you to be a part of it.
“The duty of Christians to take part in the life of the Church impels them to act as witnesses of the Gospel and of the obligations that flow from it. This witness is a transmission of the faith in words and deeds. Witness is an act of justice that establishes the truth or makes it known.” (CCC 2472)
So, whether you’re a priest in the pulpit, the worship leader in the band, part of the hospitality team bringing cakes and slices, or a teenager reading out the first reading, God has called you to act as a witness of His love in your situation. For what good is being a Christ follower if we do not act like Christ? Even amidst the anger, the frustration, the impatience, we are called to love.
“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.” (Romans 13:14)
A friend messaged me with some wise words a few days ago:
“Find peace amidst all the busy-ness, that it would not distract you from the One who this is all about.” 
It was a nice little reminder of why I said yes in the first place…

Some info on stewardship of your time, talent and treasure:
God bless,

Friday, 30 August 2013

Powerful beyond measure

I don’t think you realise just how powerful you are. Did you know that - that you are powerful? That your life does make a difference? That your actions, your thoughts, your words, your existence counts?

Maybe you’ll be the next Albert Einstein, the next William Wilberforce, the next Mother Teresa. Or maybe not. Perhaps your effect will be by your prayers for your children, like St. Monica for St. Augustine or your support of the mission of those around you, like Fr. Julian Tenison-Woods to St. Mary of the Cross Mackillop? Only God can see the bigger plan for your life – the mark that you will make.

Now, Mother Teresa would not today be Mother Teresa without each individual act of love. You are the sum of your choices, whether intentional or unintentional. Have you ever stopped to consider how even the tiniest of your actions – or lack thereof – has a ripple affect? Your sneeze at work costs a colleague a trip to the doctor. Your unintentionally strong handshake intimidates a visitor to your church. Your lack of having your Go-Card at the ready causes your bus to run late. Have you ever considered just how far the ripples run?

More to the point, have you ever considered the adverse effect your words have on the world? My parents always said, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Whilst I don’t believe it’s a blanket rule, there remains great merit in such a statement.
“Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.” (James 1:26)
Your words are powerful. They can build up. They can tear down. Gossip is not just the pastime of teenage girls.

Your casual conversation about what she wore, what he said, what they did, whether true or false, has an effect. Like a game of Chinese Whispers, your words take on a life of their own. 
"When we prefer to gossip, gossip about others, criticise others -- these are everyday things that happen to everyone, including me -- these are the temptations of the evil one who does not want the Spirit to come to us and bring about peace and meekness in the Christian community." (Pope Francis, April 2013)
Let us not be a people of tall poppy syndrome. Let us not tear others down to make us feel better about ourselves or have a rant about someone behind their back because we are too afraid to say it to their face.
“Do not judge anyone" because "the only Judge is the Lord." Then "keep quiet" and if you have something to say, say it to the people involved, to those "who can remedy the situation," but "not to the entire neighborhood." (Pope Francis, April 2013)
Ask yourself: Is this true? Is this helpful? Is this life giving? For “The prudent man looks where he is going” (CCC 1806).

Further scriptures on the power of your words:
  • "Let the words of my mouth be acceptable, the thoughts of my heart before you." (Psalm 19:15)
  • "Those who guard their mouths preserve themselves; those who open wide their lips bring ruin."(Proverbs 13:3)
  • "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and they who indulge in it shall eat the fruit of it [for death or life]." (Proverbs 18:21)
  • "By your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned." (Matthew 12:37)
God bless,