Caitlin Kennell Kim, seminary grad, baby wrangler, ordinary radical, writes about the life of a convert in the Catholic Church and explores how faith and everyday life intersect.
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August 13th, 2014
Pope Francis blesses a wooden statue of Mary in Campobasso, Italy. (CNS photo/Giampiero Sposito, Reuters)
What the heck is the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary into Heaven, you ask? Never fear! Your favorite convert here with the facts about this Holy Day of Obligation and some ideas about how to celebrate this wonderful feast!
All about the Assumption
The Assumption (August 15) refers to the Blessed Virgin Mary being assumed — body and soul — into heaven at the end of her earthly life. “Assumption” is different than “ascension” because one is passive (i.e. one is assumed) and the other is active (i.e. one ascends). It is by the power of God Mary was assumed.
As evidenced by the writings of many early Church fathers, Christians have believed for more than a millennium that the Blessed Virgin was assumed into heaven. In 1950, Pope Pius XII issued Munificentissimus Deus, which officially defined the Dogma of the Assumption. This means that the Church officially recognizes this belief as a true and necessary part of our Catholic beliefs about Mary. Like all beliefs about Mary, they illuminate our most treasured beliefs about her Son. The Assumption illustrates to …
July 25th, 2014
Are you an Anne, Nancy, Anna, Hannah, Anita, Roseanne, or Lilian? Are you a Joachim, Joaquin, Akim, or Yachim? If so, happy Name Day! July 26 is the Feast of St. Anne and St. Joachim, the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is the first year the Kim family is throwing a proper feast for our heavenly grandparents, so come along with us as we get to know them!
Getting to know your Nana and Papa
(or Grandma and Grandpa or Grammy and Poppy or Yiayia and Pappou, as the case may be)
Most of what we know about St. Anne and her husband St. Joachim comes from the Protoevangelium of James…. This “gospel” is not part of the Bible, but it does detail some aspects of the early life of the Blessed Virgin Mary that are an important part of the tradition handed down from the apostles. While it does not command the same reverence as Scripture, it is considered a reliable record of the beliefs of the earliest Christian community.
St. Joachim was a wealthy shepherd whose heart ached to be a father. He retreated to the desert to pray for a child like his
July 21st, 2014
Catholic college students in the Philippines protest the kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls from in Nigeria. CNS photo/Erik De Castro, Reuters)
In 2011, Feng Jianmei had clothes wrapped around her head as government officials abducted her from her home. She and her husband Deng Jiyuan were expecting their second child in eight short weeks. When local officials found out that the couple had violated China’s one-child policy, they sent them a notice demanding the couple pay a $6,000 fine. Feng and Deng could not pay. Feng was abducted and given an injection, which killed her baby and induced her to deliver her stillborn while in the custody of family planning officials. The heartbroken and outraged couple took to social media to shed light on this practice. They have been denounced as traitors for speaking to foreign media.
This April, roughly 275 schoolgirls were kidnapped from their secondary school by Nigerian Islamic extremist group Boko Haram (which translates to something like ”Western education is a sin”). Reports indicate that the girls have been forcibly converted to Islam and may have been given as “brides” to the militants in mass marriage ceremonies. Other reports indicate that the girls may have been …
June 27th, 2014
Candles held at the start of the Easter Vigil at St. John By the Sea Church in Alaska. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)
“Come, follow me.”
These are the words of Jesus to Peter, a fisherman casting his net into the Sea of Galilee.
“Get up and go.”
These are the words of Jesus to Saul (soon to be Paul), a zealous persecutor of the earliest Christian community.
On the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, we are reminded of the kinetic nature of discipleship. To encounter Jesus is to be set into motion. To have our plans altered (read: obliterated). To serve and encourage and comfort and teach. To be willing to empty ourselves in order to be filled with Christ.
Fr. Kenneth Walker was a priest. A young priest. He was assigned to Mater Misericordiae (Mother of Mercy) Mission. He served the homeless who came to the mission, was a passionate advocate for the unborn, and was eager to share the beauty of the Traditional Latin Mass. He was a member of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter. According to those who helped him prepare to live out his priestly vocation, he was a humble guy. He …
June 23rd, 2014
My children — The Dude, The Princess, The Puppy, Reepicheep — and I travel down the highway on our way home from a playdate a few towns away. The windows are cracked to let in the breeze. The gentle whirring of our minivan’s wheels on the pavement has lulled them into a late afternoon nap. Well, almost …
From the middle seat comes a voice. A quiet voice. A voice just barely discernable over the sound of wind whistling through the windows. It’s The Puppy. She is 95% asleep, her eyes nearly closed. She is fighting sleep the way 3-year-old people are wont to do. I watch from the rearview mirror as her long, fine hair blows across her face. She is singing in her almost-sleep, “Your grace is enough, your grace is enough, your grace is enough for me.”
And suddenly I remember. I remember my Puppy the day she was born. I remember how impossibly small she felt when they laid her on my stomach for a moment before whisking her away. I remember her soft labored breathing as she tried to nurse and the sharp ache in my breast when they wheeled her down to …
April 15th, 2014
Using Disney’s Frozen to talk with kids about the Passion
Here at Casa Kim we have Frozen on the brain. We have the dresses. We have the dolls. We have the entire soundtrack committed to memory and at the ready for a spontaneous all ages, flash mob-style, no holds barred, highly choreographed musical extravaganza. Now that Holy Week is upon us and now that the Pickles Kim are big enough to have serious questions about what this journey from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday is all about, I wanted to find a way to talk with them about the Passion that was 1) age appropriate, 2) would capture their imaginations, and 3) would help them to grow in love for Christ and for each other. This is where Frozen comes in.
Frozen is not, of course, meant to be an exposition on the saving power of the cross. As far as I can tell it’s a clever reimagining of Hans Christian Andersen’s tale The Snow Queen. But it has shades and hints of the story of Jesus. What follows are some ideas for conversation starters and activities to try with the little people in your life who might have big questions about what Jesus did for us and what …
April 11th, 2014
A companion for the Stations of the Cross if you are struggling with your health
Busted Halo Family,
I write this companion for the Stations of the Cross as I begin my wait for a kidney transplant. I am blessed to feel healthy, energetic and very optimistic. Meditating on the Stations has been especially fruitful for me this Lent. I wanted to write a version for those going through a difficult time with their health. If your way of sorrow does not include illness, I hope these Stations will help you find your own words to draw nearer to Jesus in a time of uncertainty.
Have a blessed Lent and Godspeed to you on your journey,
Jesus, today I accompany you on your Via Dolorosa — your way of sorrow. You walked this way of sorrow for me. Out of boundless love for all humankind you suffered and died. Lord, forgive me. I know that the weight you bear is not only that of the cross but of my sins. By meditating on your Via Dolorosa, I desire a spirit of repentance.
Lord, I am walking my own way of sorrow. I am ill. My body is failing me. I am afraid. Walk with me, Jesus. You will never abandon me. By …
March 25th, 2014
Last Wednesday was the Feast of St. Joseph. Truth be told, St. Joseph is a favorite of mine. As the priest who lovingly shepherded me into the Church is fond of saying, “St. Joseph’s wife was conceived without sin, his adopted son was, well, God … and then there’s good ‘ol Joe.” In the light of the aforementioned company, he seems terribly ordinary. Even unimportant. And this is why I love him.
St. Joseph gets zero spoken lines in the entire Gospel. Zippo. We never hear his voice. He does not get a Magnificat. He is a manual laborer — an “average Joe” with an extraordinary family. He is visited by angelic messengers but only in his dreams and only to receive marching orders from on high. His death comes and goes without mention. He has a supporting role in the narrative of salvation.
This year we marked his feast by papering the fridge with coloring pages of Joseph with the child Jesus perched on his work bench. We made him a small altar in the dining room. My husband had to work late for the second evening in a row and the hours passed rather uneventfully. As …
March 3rd, 2014
Are you stumped / confused / intimidated / flat out terrified by Lent? Have no fear! Your favorite convert comes to the rescue with the basics for Lenten newbies and some words of comfort for the journey. If this is your first time observing Lent in the Catholic tradition, it can be tricky. Believe me. I’ve been there. But don’t be intimidated! Lent is about making a good faith effort to be contrite (i.e. truly sorry for your sins) and to be more like Jesus (i.e. loving, just, merciful, willing to give of yourself for others) in anticipation of our celebration of the Resurrection (i.e. Easter). Do your best. Don’t be discouraged if you mess up. It happens. Pick yourself up and try again. After all, our God is the God of second chances.
Lent (just the facts, ma’am)
Lent is a 40-day period of repentance and fasting in preparation for Easter. It begins on Ash Wednesday (March 5) and ends on Holy Thursday (April 17). (Yes, sticklers for mathematical accuracy, this adds up to 44 days. Sundays aren’t technically part of Lent.) Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday are referred to as the Easter Triduum.
February 24th, 2014
Well, I did it. I deactivated my Facebook account.
Before I launch into my reasons for leaving, I want to make a few things clear. First, I begrudge no one their enjoyment of Facebook. In fact, for the first two years I was home with our gaggle of pickles, and my superhero husband was slaving away at three jobs while working on his comps and dissertation, Facebook allowed me to intellectually engage with other adults in a way that kept me from going, if you’ll pardon the expression, bat crap crazy. Second, I am not now nor will I ever be holier than thou. This is laughable. A real knee-slapper. Third, I don’t think technology is “evil.” I think technology is (for the most part) morally neutral. It can be used for grave evil. It can also be used for the glory of God.
OK, all that being said, I really did deactivate my Facebook page. Let me tell you, it feels AWESOME. As a pilgrim on her journey to sanctification (a journey wrought with more than its fair share of moral failures and spiritual shortcomings), this seems like the right path for me. It might not be the path …
February 4th, 2014
December 11, 1979, a diminutive nun in a blue and white habit assumed a grand stage in Oslo, Norway. With a quiet and steady voice, she delivered the following message:
There is so much suffering, so much hatred, so much misery, and we with our prayer, with our sacrifice are beginning at home. Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the action that we do. It is to God Almighty — how much we do it does not matter, because He is infinite, but how much love we put in that action. How much we do to Him in the person that we are serving.
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta spoke these words — to her Norwegian audience and to all the world — in her Nobel Lecture following her acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize. She shared her view that peace is not some lofty, unachievable ideal. Instead, she suggested, peace is a reality that we strive for every day in our own homes and in our own communities. Sowing peace does not necessarily involve living amongst the poor in Calcutta or embarking on some other noble …
January 28th, 2014
Thoughts on sexual violence for the Feasts of Saints Agnes and Agatha
People of God, we need to pray. Hard.
With the joyous signs of Christmas packed away, we find ourselves again in the liturgical season of Ordinary Time. Today we find ourselves between the feasts of two significant early Christian martyrs, St. Agnes (January 21) and St. Agatha (February 5). These young women possessed heroic virtue. These young women laid down their lives for their faith. These young women were survivors of sexual violence.
People of God, in honor of these women, we need to pray.
St. Agnes is a 13-year-old girl born to Christian parents in Rome during the reign of the Emperor Diocletian. Agnes is much sought after by suitors of noble stock. When she refuses their advances because she has promised herself — body and soul — to Jesus, they betray her as a Christian. The Roman Prefect Sempronius orders Agnes to be dragged naked through the streets of Rome to a brothel to await her trial. While imprisoned in the brothel, Agnes prays for the son of the prefect (her imprisoner) who has died and the son is brought back to life. Sempronius recuses himself from her trial and Agnes is sentenced to death and martyred by …
January 13th, 2014
Today, January 13, marks the Feast of St. Hilary of Poitiers. (Go ahead and say “Poitiers” a couple of times. It’s delicious. I’ll wait.) St. Hilary was born sometime around the end of the third century in the city of Poitiers in what is now France. The son of pagan parents, he possessed a profound longing to understand the meaning and purpose of human existence. Hilary had an unquenchable desire to contemplate life as a gift and to discover its Giver. His lifelong spiritual journey took him to the great philosophers and he became a Neo-Platonist. By what St. Hilary described as chance, he stumbled upon Sacred Scripture. Within those divinely inspired words, he encountered the Gift-Giver he had been seeking. Along with his wife and daughter, St. Hilary was baptized and received into the Church.
This is not the end of Hilary’s journey. In many ways, this is the beginning. Despite the fact that he was married and despite his ardent protestation to the contrary, he was elected Bishop of Poitiers. With his ordination he was thrust into one of the greatest theological controversies in the history of the Church. He fought tirelessly against the wildly …
December 9th, 2013
A pilgrim carries an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe during celebrations marking her feast day in Mexico City. (CNS photo/Edgard Garrido, Reuters)
The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12) is my favorite Marian feast day of the year! (I’m doing my happy dance. While typing. I don’t want to brag but that takes serious skills.) Who is Our Lady of Guadalupe? What does she have to do with Advent? What are some ways to honor her feast day? Your favorite convert and self-proclaimed Marian nerd here with some thoughts on how to grow in faith, make a difference, and have a fiesta worthy of Our Queen!
Our Lady of Guadalupe is the name of a Church-approved apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which took place in Mexico in December 1531. She appeared on the hill of Tepeyac to Juan Diego, an Aztec convert to Christianity. Juan Diego was on his way to Mass when he heard beautiful music and a woman’s voice calling his name in his native language. He followed the sound to the hillside where he encountered a beautiful Aztec maiden emanating golden light and standing in a cloud upon a crescent …
December 2nd, 2013
A Ukrainian-made angel adorns the Christmas tree in St. Peter’s Square. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Having emerged from your tryptophan-induced stupor, you awoke on Friday to the triumphant proclamation that it is Christmas. The TV says so. Every big box retailer in your neighborhood says so. The lights and wreathes and inflatable Santas that appeared like magic overnight say so. To this I say, bah. Humbug!
Ok, here’s the deal: I love Christmas. I love everything about Christmas. But it’s not Christmas yet! It’s Advent. Advent is the liturgical season of preparation that proceeds Christmas. New to observing Advent? Your favorite convert gives you the basics to this beautiful season of hope.
A — Advent wreath: Every Catholic church and many Catholic homes display an Advent wreath. This wreath consists of an evergreen wreath, three purple candles, and one rose candle. The candles are lit one by one on the Sundays of Advent and are meant to symbolize Jesus, the Light of the world, coming to dwell among us. The evergreens in a circle represent eternal life. Pine cones or other seed-bearing decorations symbolize resurrection. The purple candles represent prayer, penance, and preparatory sacrifices and the rose candle, lit on …
November 19th, 2013
Picture a 22-year-old Catholic college student. She is studying electrical and mechanical engineering. She has a loving family and many friends. She is pretty and full of life. She wonders hopefully about her future. She is like your friends, classmates, sisters, cousins. She is like you.
Can you see her?
Now picture her forced to hide in a three-by-four-foot bathroom with seven other women. Picture her healthy 115 pound frame whither to a skeletal 65 pounds. Picture her cringe in silent agony and terror as she hears her family, friends, and neighbors brutally murdered outside the bathroom’s thin walls. Picture her breathlessly cling to a rosary as she hears her name called over and over again by the same machete-wielding men who mowed down those she loved most.
Her name is Immaculée Ilibagiza. She is a survivor of the Rwandan Genocide. From April to July of 1994, nearly a million Tutsis — one of the two prominent ethnic groups in the African nation of Rwanda — were killed after the Hutu (the other prominent ethnic group) president was assassinated. The genocide was a fierce campaign of retribution originated by the presidential guard and other military and political officials …
October 31st, 2013
A woman stands near the grave of a relative in Mexico City to celebrate the “Day of the Dead.” (CNS photo)
In the last two years I lost both of my grandmothers. It is a strange and disconcerting reality being grandmotherless in this world. I feel their absence sharp and deep. As I sit with my grocery list planning meals for a family of six on a budget, I think of my Grammy Mary Louise who had a particular gift of making something out of nothing. When I am running all over the house like a madwoman trying to get ready for company, I think of my Grandma Pat and her effortless, artful hospitality. I think of how for so many years they were a simple phone call away and now — now that I am older, now that I am beginning to understand what it means to be the matriarch of my own little clan, now that I have swallowed my pride and realized that I have so much to learn about, well, everything — they are gone.
Throughout Latin America, in many parts of Europe, and in small pockets across the U.S., this week brings Dia de Los …
October 21st, 2013
Young adults gathering in the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz, Long Island Catholic)
Well, it’s that time of year again. The leaves are falling, everything is suddenly pumpkin-flavored, and the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) is starting in parishes all over the world. Whether you’re an inquirer (a person interested in learning more about the Catholic faith), a catechumen (an unbaptized person seeking to receive the sacraments), or a candidate (a baptized person seeking full communion with the Church), here’s a bit of advice from yours truly — a former RCIA participant and Adult Faith Formation parish minister.
1. Invest: Let’s talk about some tools it would be helpful to have on hand as you begin your journey. First, I highly recommend having access to a Catholic edition of the Bible. What’s that, you ask? Don’t all Christians read the SAME Bible? Great questions, you brilliant almost-convert! The short answer is: The Catholic Bible is the Bible that was used exclusively for the first 1,500 years of the Church. In addition to all that you would find in a standard Bible, Catholic editions contain books and chapters of books the …
September 30th, 2013
Or, Everything I know about Adoration I learned from my 2-year-old
This year, for the first time ever in Kim family history, the two biggest pickles are in school. (Ok, I’m getting a little verklempt. Talk amongst yourselves.) So, Thursday mornings the two littlest pickles and I have a standing “praydate.” With Jesus. Yep, that’s right. We go to Adoration.
What is Adoration, you ask? Adoration (short for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament) is an opportunity for prayer that happens at almost every parish throughout the world. After each Mass, any consecrated host remaining after the faithful have received the Eucharist is placed in the tabernacle (the gold box on an altar in the sanctuary usually accompanied by a lit candle). During Adoration, the consecrated host (the Body of Christ!) is taken from the tabernacle and placed in a monstrance (a gold case) on the main altar and the community is welcome to come spend time with the Lord in prayer. Some parishes even have a chapel where Adoration happens around the clock!
Adoration is new to me… at least as a weekly spiritual discipline. Here are some important things I’ve learned about Adoration from our second youngest — the 2-year-old — the one who, thanks to her …
September 17th, 2013
A painting of Mary breast feeding the infant Jesus is seen at the Milk Grotto chapel in Bethlehem. (CNS photo/Debbie Hill)
I was waiting to see my doctor for my final post-natal appointment. And, because my doctor is kind of an awesome big deal obstetrical rock-star, I was waiting a long time. A woman and her mother sat down across from me. The mother began to chat with her daughter about a news story she had read about a woman in China who had been issued a warning for breastfeeding while riding a scooter. (I know it’s not polite to eavesdrop. Shame on me. I couldn’t help myself. I had read all of the magazines and I couldn’t watch another minute of early afternoon network television without causing myself serious psychiatric harm.) The daughter laughed. The mother remarked that the worst part of the whole story was that the baby was 18 months old. This, she assured her daughter, was disgusting. Breastfeeding a one and a half year old was the objectionable part of that story … not, you know, racing along on a scooter steering with one hand while holding an infant who was not properly secured.
As a …