This Advent: Sing with Me

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I have always loved to sing. Whether acapella or accompanied , in the shower, car or kitchen..music carries me through even the smallest of duties. Though my voice is nothing extraordinary, it has purpose and passion in every note and tune carried. It takes heart that when it is lifted in praise to its Creator that truly our prayerful petitions are amply doubled. In fact, it was in children’s choir at my church that I first discovered the diversity of gifts and the power of song to stir the soul and strengthen a community. Through tornado ravaged springs, to drought impacted fields, layoffs and closings, my small church community came together praying and singing of the hope in what was to come.

Yet, so often it seems to me that this sentiment is not shared universally by the average parishioner in the pew. For a variety of reasons given, we come to Mass but hold back in singing.

“No one wants to hear me sing” “I am here to pray, not sing”  “Too modern..too traditional” “There are others who can sing!”

Oh, how we miss the meaning when we do this! It isn’t about the quality or ability of the singer, nor is it about our personal preference of song. Rather, it is our participation and desire to pray, albeit in a different way, to our heavenly Father. It is adding our voice to the community in thanks, and petition for all that we have been given and are in need of. And in Advent, it is honoring the sacredness of God’s very gift of himself to enter into mankind out of his ultimate love for each one of us.

As a child I loved these weeks leading up to Christmas especially. My mom would pull out the Christmas songbook and together we would sing after school or church just the two of us. A few songs I steadily practiced and even clumsily learned to play on the piano, excited to offer some accompaniment. Were we looking for perfection in singing? No, but what we offered was always perfected in Him. We found community in one another, in waiting for what was to come. And to this day, it  remains one of my most cherished memories of Christmas and of her. Eleven years have passed since her death and I now sing with my own family, as well as with those in my new parish home. I can almost hear her ask me again, “Elizabeth Ann, it’s almost Christmas..would you sing with me?”

This Advent, when you gather with your own family, whether in your home parish or another, please take a moment to consider this prayerful invitation of song.

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Awe & Anticipation

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Old fashioned Candy: Growing up, I am blessed to say that I was given a beautiful gift of understanding anticipation. My mom seemed to truly come into herself during advent season. Each day had purpose and though we had little, what we had seemed ample and even brimming desiring to be shared. Handcrafted ornaments and embroidery projects, while seeming to encapsulate every spare minute, also engendered joyous expectation of their future reception. A new tin of old fashioned candy, a bowl of mixed unshelled nuts, the smell of homemade fudge and fresh bread, days spent rediscovering our favorites and making memories together.Mixed nuts

One of my first lucid memories of anticipation took place one advent when I was about 6 years old. Having spent the afternoon with my older brother, my mom had taken the opportunity to do a bit of Christmas shopping. With a gleam in her eye and an urging that she not be disturbed, she turned to carry the small bag of purchases into the bedroom. So curious, I strained to peek in the crevice of the door only to see light dancing around the room. What could it be that could catch and reflect the light so beautifully? Sounds of a flurry of paper and tape and the sparkling stopped.

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A Performance of The Nutcracker ballet, 1981 by Rick Dikeman

Then suddenly music played, the tune of the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, setting my mind racing again.   I had seen a performance of the Nutcracker just days before on a televised Christmas Special and instantly it filled my imagination that I too might dance one day.  That night and every one after it that season, I spent dreaming and anticipating what could be in those two little boxes underneath the tree.

Although I had accumulated many ideas as to what they enclosed, I was not prepared for the fullness of the gift itself.  Christmas morning came and I ran into my mother’s bedroom hardly containing my joy to find my mom already awake enjoying a quiet moment and a cup of coffee. There she sat, proudly wearing my gift to her, brightly colored floral embroidery work I had wrought on the neckline of a shirt she had sewn. She too had anticipated this moment and hurriedly went to retrieve the last gifts under the tree. Slowly I unwrapped the small rhinestone tiara, intended to commemorate first place in the local beauty pageant held just months earlier. As the community was not wealthy, and I was in the youngest division they had presented me with flowers instead.

Placing it atop my head, and looking up at my mom tears of joy filled her eyes. She was looking at me as only a mother could, as she had in all of my 7 years prior, with profound love seeing the beauty within. I could not hold it in any longer, I had to tell her of my stolen glance, of the light dancing, and of the nights of endless anticipation. But what of the music, what of the familiar song I had heard? With a furrowed brow but smiling she responded, “Open your next gift Elizabeth and you shall see!” Peeling the paper away, I uncovered to my delight a music box- marvelously gilded with fleur de lei and a ballerina performing her pirouettes flawlessly.

So much thought and love put into each of these gifts and yet my mother’s gift went beyond that which was wrapped. She had given the gift of Pointeanticipation not just for what I would open that day but for who I could be. Years later, I did take dance classes and remember clearly the day I advanced to Pointe and tried on my first toe shoes. While I never became a gifted ballerina, I learned the connection between anticipation, hope, patience and the experience of beauty and gift of a mother’s love.

Peace,

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Music That Moves: The King of Love My Shepherd Is

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 My post today is part of a series by Allison Gingras featuring a number of amazing Catholic women bloggers on the music by Sarah Kroger.  For this and more in this series, continue to check back at Reconciled to You each week during Advent. 

The Love of a Father

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What is it about the image of a lowly shepherd that instills in us a reminder of the love of our Father, the king of all love? Throughout scripture, from Genesis to Romans, this is the picturesque scene that tells of the wandering in our lives, and the constant guiding hand and voice that leads us.

The One who is the gatekeeper, and who does not passively watch over but continually seeks after each one of us.  John 10:2-4

In a beautiful contemporary rendition of this traditional hymn Sarah Kroger offers a very moving refrain from the sheep’s perspective. For, if  you “knew that Jesus is your shepherd..How could your heart ever turn away?” And still we do, but when we do we are not met with anger or unforgiveness but instead with love and mercy.

“Confused and foolish I have strayed but yet in love he sought me”.  Luke 15:3-7

Poignantly, I understand this scripture passage all too well in the challenging life decisions of my oldest son. Troubled and looking for an easy way, his choices have led him to a life and a path that we most certainly would not have chosen for him. Unable to truly feel God’s love and seeking consolation in a myriad of unsteady friends, alcohol and drugs he wanders. Unable to hear the Shepherd’s voice for the loud din of the world, he finds himself walking in circles with no discernible signposts.

All the while God is calling and seeking to draw him close.

I nothing lack if I am His..

“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want… Psalm 23:1 Wants and needs, I think of this often in my own daily choices. Are my wants, His wants and my needs one and the same? A shepherd provides for the basic needs of his flock, guards for their protection, and tends to what is best for each of them. If my wants are in line with Christ, then I will lack nothing that I need.

His Goodness faileth never..

Allowing God to lead does not mean that we will not know sorrow or difficulties. Rather, in our distress, we are given hope and comforted by His immeasurable love. Momentary emptiness, replaced and surmounted by a once inconceivable peace. At the apex of seeming despair over seeking to help my oldest son, I found peace. Through tears,and surrender I found hope.

“You are my song and strength”

Why do we sing His praise? Because we recognize “that the LORD Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves”. Psalm 100:3 Humbly, and awestruck we stand in the His presence and in gratitude for His love we sing of all that he has done for us. Oh, how he longs to be our shepherd and for us to be His people. If “today, (we) would (but) hear His voice”. Psalm 95:7

“Home rejoicing brought me” …”You are mine forever”

Our earthly existence here is a temporary place, but the home with God that awaits is a forever home. All of our time spent grazing,wandering away from, and running to the shelter of His love will come to a rest one day. It is a time that I seek, pray and strive towards, and like a child joyfully anticipate.  In Christ,  “I am convinced that neither death nor life… nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39.

This is the promise and care of the King of Love That My Shepherd Is! 

Reflect: How is God both King and Shepherd in my life today?

Peace,
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Worth Revisiting:Spiritual Sisterhood

This week I have been giving a lot of thought to the gift of spiritual sisterhood. When I consider all that I am thankful for I cannot help but include all of those women in my life that continually uplift, guide, pray for and challenge me each day. They inspire me by their own witness to offer all that God has given me as a friend, mother, teacher,  and sister in Christ to all those I encounter.

  I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now,  being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.         Philippians 1:3-8

A year ago, I attended a small gathering of women in the Northeast area for a  Blessed is She Brunch held in Boston’s Public Gardens.

With varied ages and backgrounds, careers and vocations we shared where God had led us and how he continues to both surprise and hold us through the challenges in life. Why spend a few hours with women you may have never met before? Simply, for the opportunity to pray and share true Christian fellowship..and in doing so, experience joy, share sorrow, and  peace.

At this time I wish to express my gratitude for all of the spiritual sisters that I have in my life- in no particular order and most certainly there are more…

Kristen :  :  :

Peace,Signature

Around the Table

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With the approach of Thanksgiving, my thoughts return to the table which I so customarily gathered around in my childhood. There in the small kitchen of my grandmother’s home was a simple maple table with 6 chairs around. To the eye there was nothing unusual about it, but the love and memories that always surrounded it fill me with warmth to this very day. Endless games of dominoes played, many great discussions weighed, numerous pies and casseroles made- family life had encircled its relatively small frame.

On most occasions there was plenty of room, as family would come and go at various times. Sundays after church no one dared miss her homemade fried chicken and mashed potatoes or the dessert cooling on the back porch. And though it was a small home, surprisingly it rarely felt small. Yet for Thanksgiving and Christmas every square inch of space in my Grandmother’s home seemed in use, especially her table.

As one of the youngest generation, I was always at the kid’s table. A fact that for many years I optimistically looked to change. Why you may ask? First of all, we were the last to be seated and fed. More than that, however, was that all of the interesting conversations seemed to happen at the adult table. Here, they shared their joys, sorrows, while supporting and challenging one another to stay the course. They told stories, jokes, laughed and cried.Through it all love, faith and hope remained.

Before you knew it, all my wishing to be included at the adult table became a reality. My cousins and I were home from college and were even entreated to sit for a spell. This was it, I thought, now I am finally regarded as a grown up. What I did not pause to consider, though, was the graced responsibility that being present in these conversations entailed. These were not easy problems with a ready answer, but quite often required more listening than speaking and a great deal of prayer.

Over the years, I have become a solid member at the adult table, now in the upper tier of my family. Looking back, I finally realize what all those years around the kid’s table had been for. Preparation. It was in that time spent with my cousins where we too had laughed, shared, and formed community that we would return to when we would later need to rely on one another.Thus thankfulness is for me found around the table. For more than the delicious food consumed there is the presence and gift of fellowship.

Please take time this season to offer up praise for your place around the table, whether it be at your home or at another’s. Be willing to be vulnerable in your sharing , be generous in your listening, and merciful in your response. And always let prayer and love be your guide.

In Thanksgiving for each of you,

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Worth Revisiting: Will They Know Us By Our Love?

Over the last few weeks since Pope Francis’ departure, there has been a noticeable divisiveness within the world of Catholic social media. From Ross Douthat’s letter of critique of Pope Francis in the New York Times, to the response of theologians, priests, and Douthat again- we see firsthand a visible polarization. Yet, disagreement and dialogue in and of itself should not be disturbing. For, as Cardinal Dolan has so aptly noted of the most recent synod, “[for] Francis, and those who know better tell me so, that this is part of Ignatian spirituality: a mess, confusion, questions are a good thing.” [1] What is personally disconcerting, however, is the manner in which our discourse is taking place.  Repeatedly, I am seeing a promulgation of an article, or op-ed piece posted on social media in which the dialogue takes on a very ugly, often misinformed and even discriminatory tone having left the realm of discussion altogether.  Quick to respond, we find ourselves at the ready to wage war or nod our heads in agreement when we do not even have a full grasp of the situation.  This is neither productive nor enlightening, which is as I understand it is the goal of honest dialogue. Accordingly, if I might suggest, that we remember in both our virtual and face-to-face conversations the importance of:

Prayer

Before we tweet, post, share or comment let us take a moment to pray. For, if we consider the medium of new media as a tool for evangelization, then I believe, we must address the witness that we are so ready to make accessible to others.  Our online presence then should make our witness to Christ clearer, and the message conveyed expressive of the mercy, love and compassion of our Lord.  Yet, for those times we fail, we are reminded that we are also a “church in constant need of forgiveness” who, through the “sacrifice and self giving” of one another in community, finds strength and freedom from sin.[2]

For those times when I seek to be less than compassionate in responding…Lord help me to see you in others.

Openness

Christianity began in encountering Jesus in community and is a product of dialogue and translation embracing cultural, linguistic and religious differences.[3] For, through St. Paul’s experience we are clearly made aware of the pastoral needs of the community, and the necessary translation in witnessing to the Gentile community. While there needs to be a clear idea of what it is we believe in our expression of Christianity, without error,[4]  this need not encumber dialogue. This past week Fr. Rob Ketchum observed that “we [Christians] are sometimes more aware of what we are against and of what we fear than of what we are for and what we love”. [5]   Fear does not engender strength, or a convincing witness and does not exemplify love. As Pope Francis so eloquently remarked, “unless we train ministers capable of warming people’s hearts, of walking with them in the night, of dialoguing with their hopes and disappointments, of mending their brokenness, what hope can we have for our present and future journey”?[5]

Listening

True listening requires a humility and sincerity to respect one another-to accept change even our own. Few among us embrace change easily and for this reason we tend to romanticize the past.  Yet, if we look back historically, we can readily identify that change and disagreement are nothing new for us as a people of faith. There has been a natural, although sometimes painful, working out of our faith through the many complicated issues that have arisen over time.  Our tradition serves as guide and witness to a wealth of experience expectantly working towards conversion and transformation of the heart and situation to the mission of Christ. If the dialogical engagement is real and substantial then there is always the beautiful possibility that all involved will grow.

When we encounter a position that is different from our own, are we truly seeking to meet it with love or with pride?

While some may view this as naiveté,  I truly believe, that there can be a fruitful sharing and transformation in evangelization when there is openness, humility, and prayerful consideration of one another. This isn’t something to be feared, but as Christians our conversion of heart and mind is to be constant turning and transformation to the Holy Spirit at work in our lives and in the world. Therefore, we ask ourselves, have we as a community grown from our interactions and dialogue with humanity at large? Are we engaging, and responsive to the Holy Spirit at work in the world? This I believe is truly “an ideal which [we] can identify and to which [we] can commit [our]selves with enthusiasm and lasting zeal”.[6]

Peace,

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[1] http://www.cruxnow.com/church/2015/10/15/new-york-cardinal-dolan-sees-light-amid-the-synods-confusion/
[2]Kärkkäinen, Veli-Matti. An Introduction to Ecclesiology: Ecumenical, Historical and Global Perspectives. Downers  Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press: 2002, p. 105
[3] Gaillardetz, Ecclesiology for a Global Church: A People called and Sent.
[4] Pope Paul VI, Dei Verbum,  1965. http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651118_dei-verbum_en.html
[5] Reese, Thomas, “Pope Francis ecclesiology rooted in the Emmaeus story”. National Catholic Reporter. August 2013. http://ncronline.org/news/spirituality/pope-francis-ecclesiology-rooted-emmaus-story
[6] Gleeson, Brian, “Images, Understandings, and Models of the Church in History: An
Update”. Australian E-Journal of Theology, 12. ISSN 1448-6326. 2008

A Seamless Garment

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As a child, I can’t remember my mom ever specifically relegating  any amount of time to just for herself.Up at the crack of dawn, she hit the ground running accomplishing more before sunrise than I would venture a good majority of us can claim given a regular work day. This she did this day after day and rather than storing credits for compensation later was satisfied to see the fruits of her efforts in her children, students and community.

With such an incredible witness of a life steeped in virtue, you might think that it would have been a simple hat trick to imitate. Yet, just because we may have been given a front row seat to another’s journey does not indicate a readiness to steer a virtuous life ourselves, nor does it convey the full story. In truth, a life for others  does not mean there isn’t a real daily struggle for balance in our lives. Competing needs and demanding timelines as well as a healthy measure of self care tug and wrestle at us constantly. In order to walk in virtue each one must be practiced. For, a fullness of faith, hope, charity, fortitude (courage), justice, prudence (wisdom/discernment), and temperance (moderation) are not gifts merely bestowed but a collection of daily hard won battles fought. Sound contradictory?

St. Teresa of Calcutta once remarked that “I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.”

So it is with the practice and living out of virtue. Thus, what appears to the naked eye as a seamless garment of love, is actually a pieced together working out of our journey with God and those we encounter. For this reason, we can never assume that any garment is perfect, or ever finished in this life. Though for a brief time, we might just glimpse the glimmer and handiwork of God working in our life or in the lives of others along the way.

Reflect:

Have I felt the virtues are too challenging to even attempt? If so, why? What is needed to redirect the course I follow when needs compete?

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting:Praying with Teresa of Avila Part IV

What is it to experience a mystical union with God and is this only reserved for a select few?

No, as Teresa would be the first to point out, this unity and grace is available to each of us as fruits of our baptism. Yet, do we have the temperament and conditioning to sit and be still with God? Are there also external expressions to our spiritual union with God’s love to meet the challenges we see in the world today?

Led onward to the centermost dwelling place of the soul, Teresa describes a space filled with a “cloud of majestic splendor” and a beholding vision of the Trinity.[1] No longer are our senses suspended, and we come to understand “a most profound truth…that what we hold by faith, it understands, we can say, through sight”.[2] It is a perception of the presence of God always wedded within our soul, and a passion to serve our spouse faithfully.[3] Likewise, the little butterfly of our soul no longer is separate and restless, but has found its eternal rest in Christ.[4] There is awareness that whatever we do, even in daily routine, that a part of our soul, like Mary, remains at Christ’s feet. [5] Yet, there is also great humility in recognizing, the magnitude of the call to service and how minute our efforts seem to be. We come to understand, however, that in drawing our strength and joy from Christ all “fruits” of our labors are ‘pleasing and loved’ by God. [6] In this final dwelling place is where we finally discover Teresa, who began The Interior Castle at age 62, and had experienced for five years such a blessed spiritual union with Christ.[7]

While the intended audience for this text was the Carmelite sisterhood, I wonder if she ever conceived how well her experiences would later be received by those outside the walls of the convent…

That is not to say, that everyone will describe or understand this journey in quite the same way.  For, The Interior Castle is Teresa’s own “lived experience of faith” [8], a journey towards the mystery of the Trinity, revealed in Jesus and communicated within her very soul.[9] Yet, there is promise that through prayer and openness to God within that one can be transformed in Christ and that union is possible for those that are attentive to hearing God’s call. Teresa entreats us not to stand outside ourselves, but to be open and seek God deep within our “spiritual core”[10] Further, we are summoned to be attentive to the path of prayer and humility that leads to that “ultimate reality” of spiritual union with our Triune God.[11] For, it is through our trials that we are humbled, come to understand the suffering of Christ, and in times of dryness to desire to be near God all the more.

There is much consolation here in knowing that while Jesus suffered so greatly, that our own need for healing, and reconciliation is completely understood.

One of my most profound experiences of this came through the witness of our youth and their encounter with the Blessed Sacrament at conference one summer. As the Blessed Sacrament processed slowly, up and down the walkways of the convocation center, thousands of hands reached towards Him, as tears of contrition and joy flowed. Afterwards, our own group of girls resolutely committed themselves to reconciliation, despite the long lines, and the certainty of missing dinner. So, we sat in quiet fellowship together, thoroughly enjoying our bagged dinners, and preparing for that closeness with Christ again.  Likewise, it is in these moments of intimacy, peace, and joy that we also come to understand the desire to greatly live lives of service, “cry out and spread the news abroad about who this great God of hosts is”. [12]

Thus, Teresa’s journey reemphasizes that while there is an essential inner component to spiritual development that we cannot dwell only in the mystical. For, our lives were intended to give honor and praise to God by “striving to be the least and the slaves of all, looking at how and where you can please and serve” others.[13] This highlights Teresa’s dynamic discourse on humility and passion in understanding ourselves in ministry and in the midst of everyday realities. God’s magnificence and love shown through our suffering Lord leads us to humility, not just contrition, but in serving with passion the “great God who created our soul in His own image and likeness”.[14] So often I feel that spiritually we find difficulty reconciling humility and passion in our own lives, yet that is exactly what we witness in the life, ministry and Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him, we have come to know God, and of the great desire He has to draw all souls near to Him. Therefore, as Teresa beseeches let “this fire of love in you enkindle their souls, and with every other virtue you will be always awakening them”.[15]

Praise be to God, Amen.

Peace,

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[1] Avila, Teresa. The Interior Castle. Translated by Kieran Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodriguez. Introduction by Kieran Kavanaugh. Preface by Raimundo Panikkar. The Classics of Western Spirituality series. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1979. p.175.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid., p. 179.
[5] Ibid., p. 176.
[6] Ibid., pp. 181,195.
[7] Kavanaugh, p. 16.
[8] Principe, Walter H., “Spirituality, Christian”. In The New Dictionary of Catholic Spirituality. Edited by Michael Downey. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1993, p.932.
[9] Schneiders, Sandra M. In The New Dictionary of Catholic Spirituality. Edited by Michael Downey. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1993, p.395.
[10] Cousins, Ewart. “Preface to the Series”, in Christian Spirituality I: Origins to the Twelfth Century. Edited by Bernard McGinn and John Meyendorf. New York: Crossroad, 1985. p. xiii).
[11] Ibid.
[12] Ibid., p.139.
[13] Avila, p.191.
[14] Ibid., p. 196.
[15]Ibid., p. 193.

Fully Alive: A Parish on the Move

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As far as parish life goes, it has been a very busy weekend for my parish collaborative family. Yet, when I think of it this is not that unusual for these two parishes as there always seems to be something going on. Whether it be school events, bible study, bereavement groups, healing Masses, Adoration, speakers, musical artists, youth events (you get the image) our parishes are always hopping with energy and abounding in community. So, for those weeks where I long for more energy and wish I had the saint’s gift of bi-location..it is only so that I could be present at everything!

 : Friday night, we had a youth fundraiser featuring the musical stylings of our parochial vicar and his former fellow seminarians (The Celtic Clerics) who donated their talents for the evening. With dinner, live auction, and dancing- a fun time at Resurrection Pariah was had by all! The Life Teen youth now have a needed boost to fund their upcoming mission trip to Haiti.  :

 : Saturday and Sunday began the kickoff for our annual community food pantry drive. Paper bags were personally handed out with a list of essential items attached.Next week all items donated will be collected and loaded onto a delivery truck to the waiting arms of more volunteers who will unload and stock the shelves. It is an amazing undertaking and the work done in these 2 weeks helps feed so many who otherwise might be unable to adequately provide food for themselves or their family.

Also this Sunday, we held a Remembrance Mass and reception for all of our parish families who have lost a loved one this past year. From the music and roll call of names, to the roses given out then arranged by the families gathering in fellowship, it was truly a coming together of our faith community.

Finally, my pastor and I sat down for the second meeting of  : Eucharistic minister training for those who have said yes to the invitation to bring Christ to others. The following week they will join the larger community of Eucharistic ministers as part of a spiritual retreat. Always growing,and always deepening our faith lives.

Every parish is different and each has it’s strengths. Yet, if your believe your parish is stagnant..

Odds are others feel the same way. Yet, what can you do? You are just a parishioner sitting in the pew. Or maybe you have mentioned your concern and things have yet to change.

1. First let me say that our parish priests are overworked, often understaffed, and are lucky to sit down and enjoy 15 minutes to eat in peace. They need not only helpful ideas but people willing to implement those ideas and motivate others to volunteer their time as well. If your pastor has given an event the go-ahead, and you are such a motivator take time to make a plan and consider parishioners that might be interested in being a part of it.

2. Invite: So, if there are others like you sitting in the pew or just a few people doing everything in the parish, maybe then the problem is a lack of invitation. Many people assume, albeit incorrectly, that they are not needed. Time and talents is a REAL thing folks. God has given each of us many ways to serve and at different times calls forth each of those gifts.

3. Do not underestimate the personal invitation. If you have invited and still there is a lack luster response..reconsider how you are inviting. Group emails via your parish’s  Constant Contact work for some, but nothing beats a well timed conversation. Even if you receive a no this time, thank them for their consideration. People want to know that you value their commitments too. Not to mention, next time it will be even easier to ask.

4. If the cost of an event is a consideration, perhaps there are those who cannot volunteer time but can volunteer food, expenses or supplies. What would we do without those parishioners that give so generously to sponsor or provide the means for hospitality to occur? It isn’t that there is a shortage of ways to spend money these days, or organizations vying for these funds. What is it that your event, devotion, or activity adds to parish life or community? The answer to this question and an awareness of  the mission of your parish will help guide you to who to ask.

5. Remember, you are offering a gift too. It is not uncommon to feel so grateful for the service that your volunteers would provide to forget that in serving they too are given a gift. As anyone that has served in ministry can attest to- the gift of serving is that God will never be outdone in terms of gift giving. Though not always quantifiable, the grace experienced far outweighs the time and energy spent. It may also leave you with a longing to serve even more!

So don’t be content with the excuse that your parish is dead..but be a catalyst towards a parish community that is on the move and fully alive!

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Praying with Teresa of Avila Part III

Persevering in our journey through the Interior Castle with Teresa of Avila we reflect on the 4th dwelling place..

Finally willing to submit and surrender to God’s working within, we have recognized that the life giving water which suddenly floods our soul is a gratuitous gift. Far greater than we could have imagined, this wellspring of grace inspires, renews and strengthens us to endure with greater patience any trial to come. It is such a gift that we desire to experience this over those things which formerly brought us joy and satisfaction. With the heart we now are drawn toward the shepherd’s voice, a soft gentle whistle that invites us further inward promising peace and love.

The Fifth Dwelling Place

As we progress in our spiritual journey, Teresa observes that we are drawn further inward to a “prayer of union”[1] with God, a ‘cocoon in which we experience a brief dying of self to reemerge reborn in Christ’[2]. In doing so, our transformed soul, like a little butterfly, is “restless” in the things of this world and unable to “recognize itself”. [3] This we see clearly in Teresa’s life experience as she sought to reconcile her contemplative life with the necessary affairs of the world. She describes this experience within the fifth dwelling place as an initial trial or a cross that is carried, when all we desire is to be in union with God again[4] Still, we are humbled when we imagine the smallness of our trials in comparison with the Passion of Christ and His suffering at seeing our offenses. [5] It is here that she also begins to speak of this time in union as courting, or brief glimpses where God grants mercy so that they might get to know the other more, and ultimately desire sole union.[6]

What is it to recognize my soul’s inner transformation in the world? Does my love for God find its intrinsic connection and outer expression with the love of neighbor?

Yet, our desire for union alone is not enough, as we discover a time of still greater trials in preparation for a spiritual engagement in the sixth dwelling place. In this time, Teresa vividly describes pages from her own journey in which she faced disbelief, jealousy, fear, illness, praise and persecution, towards the intimate spiritual favors that she received.  Praise, she notes, is perhaps a greater trial since we know that all good things come from God and our soul, aware of its faults, feels completely undeserving of such favor.[7] Even so, we are given moments of merciful “sunlight” that dispel the trials and awaken us with a resounding “thunderclap” to hear His call again.[8] Thus, when God so desires he pursues further in choosing to silence our outer senses and move our soul into eruptions of ecstasy and intense awakening.[9] Our soul is swept away in the grandeur of God, privy to the mysteries of heaven, and chosen in betrothal as God’s own.[10] This experience is so profound that it leaves a certainty in our soul, deep humility in our hearts, and abundant praise on our lips for the One who has called us into such intimacy.[11] Still, Teresa realized from her own error, that we cannot remain absorbed in anticipation of rapture that we neglect contemplation of Christ and the practice of virtues.[12]

Take a moment: Have there been intense moments of sunlight, rays of mercy in my life when the trials or challenges seemed to be the greatest?   Have I experienced an awakening to God’s intimate presence within- so profoundly that I embrace the encounter, am drawn into wonder and compelled to praise?

Signature


[1] Ibid., p. 92.
[2] Ibid., p. 93.
[3] Ibid., p. 94.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid., p. 96.
[6] Ibid., p. 103.
[7] Ibid., p. 110.
[8] Ibid., pp. 113, 115.
[9] Ibid., p. 127.
[10] Ibid., pp.127-130.
[11] Ibid., p. 132.
[12] Ibid., p. 150.

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