Worth Revisiting: Journey Through the Sacraments


The other day I was having a conversation once again with a friend of mine who is the parent of a teen who was now experiencing  a conflict about her daughter’s unwillingness to attend church. Her daughter argued that she,

“does not need to go to church or receive the sacraments to experience God in her life because she experiences God in creation. Further that  church is boring and most of the people who attend are hypocrites anyway”.

This certainly is not the first time many of us have become acquainted with this perspective,  and yet how would we both address the daughter’s concerns and that of her parents?  

It must be noted that this discussion fully involves the skill of listening, even more so than providing a correct answer. Allowing each a chance to be heard, to articulate their concern is the first step in being open to consider how God might be meeting these concerns in every situation. Yet, there are theological premises here that can be invaluable in such a discussion as this.

To begin, I would say yes, we can encounter God in creation! There is no doubt that when we look at a sunrise or the beautiful world around us that God is there. We innately sense our relatedness and connectivity to the Creator of it all. Yet, this is the broadest setting in which we can experience God’s presence and action. For, in and through the church and the sacraments we are given the opportunity to visibly and intimately experience God’s grace through God’s greatest gift of Himself that of Jesus his son.

Here are tangible moments where we are met with mercy, love and unconditional forgiveness that are welcoming, nourishing and healing, felt on both personal level and in unity as a community. This is the beauty of our faith- it speaks not only to our desire for relationship with our Creator, but to our longing to be in relationship and communion with one another. Moreover, God’s offer of love, mercy and forgiveness is continuous so should our response to his offer be.

Have you thought recently about the sacraments? Perhaps you are thinking that they are simply an event to be completed once that no longer requires any new action on your part?

If so, maybe that is why your experience of church has become boring and one dimensional. Let’s take a new look at a few of the sacraments:

 In Baptism

you were cleansed, blessed and welcomed into community, with promises from your parents, grandparents and the church to help guide and support you in responding to God’s offer. Each time you bless yourself, or are making a professing of faith you are giving your response and yes to that offer of God’s salvation in your life.

In the Eucharist

we are given the opportunity to join our yes to that given by Christ on the cross. There is Christ’s offer of himself in ultimate love and mercy for us, but also we bring all that we are and do and offer it to God as well. We bring all of our strengths, and weaknesses, all of our joys and sorrows. We bring, in truth, our brokenness. Notice that I said “our” because we do this also as a community. So, when you speak of hypocrisy- we all come knowing that there are times when we have sinned and our relationship with God has suffered.

In the Eucharist we are renewing that relationship, and recommitting ourselves with our lives.  All of this requires our participation and our response. Do we look for Christ’s presence in the priest? In the people gathered? In the reading of the word, listening? In the offering of the gifts and see Christ’s sacrifice and reconciliation to us? How do we respond? Jesus took the bread, blessed, broke it and shared it with all- we are called to do the same both in bread but also with our very lives. And as such we need to be committed to dealing with hunger, poverty and justice in the world around us.

In Reconciliation

we are giving the opportunity to experience and celebrate God’s grace, love, mercy and forgiveness in our lives and in community. God isn’t as concerned with the “mistakes” but with repairing the relationship that has suffered. Jesus takes our frailties, and our  with health, peace, and hope. We are called to seek to reconcile or repair relationships, love justice, and seek peace and hope for those who have no hope.

Think for a moment about your relationship with your best friend. If you think about your relationship with God, how could this be better? Have you made time for your friendship with God in prayer, answered his calls of love and grace? Have you said sorry when you realize that you have chosen to act unloving? In those times, we don’t just hurt ourselves but our choices effect others we love and the community in relationship. Therefore, in penance we are given a chance to receive forgiveness, to show we are sorry and to repair these relationships..and celebrate as a community.

Even Confirmation

is not an end but a challenge to go forth and to be a visible sign of the body of Christ in the world. God confirms you as a member of the body of Christ and then the response and choice is yours. It is a call to a higher standard to strive for love, mercy and peace not only within the doors of the church but in the world.

To the parents specifically, there is a challenge to be a model of faith: more than going through the motions. Also seek to encourage your child to become involved in youth and peer ministry activities so that they can experience community more fully. Participate in outreach activities together, so that they too can come to understand God’s offer and our response to care for others, to love deeply and show forgiveness and mercy.

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Holy Week

The sights, sounds and scents of Holy Week that so permeate our remembrance of Easter are indeed rooted in centuries of tradition. One look around and one immediately sees layers of history and meaning in every ritual movement, prayers embedded within the hearts of a people of faith.  From the swish of the robes, to the smell of frankincense and lilies, and the lofty notes of the Exsultet sung we are drawn into the sacredness of this moment in time. More than a sign, these symbols call us to look beyond the object itself to something deeper, more meaningful, and often mysterious to be truly experienced in this same multi-layered way.

Was there one special moment that stood out for you? Did you feel the invitation to connect, to go deeper and answer God with the fullness of your heart?

After countless Triduum masses, I have found that only rarely is the answer ever the same. That is the beauty of opening yourself up to the experience of the mysteries of Holy Week again and again. Personally, I never tire of hearing the profound impressions and recollections that are taken forth from a mass. Or even the silent expression of joy or love that rests of the faces of those in attendance as they leave the doors of the church.

This all happens in spite of our best efforts, our missteps and last minute adjustments made in the course of preparation of the mass. God perfects and works through all of our faults to reach out to each person gathered in community. If but for an instant, I am certain of the unworthiness of my own efforts I am also reminded of the One far greater than myself. For that I am so truly thankful!

With that being said..those that serve for these masses carry with them the stories of errors and omissions and how God worked through all for good. One such year, due to windy weather, the option to light the Pascal fire indoors was made. Needless to say, the addition of extra isopropyl alcohol was a perfect mix to set off the silent smoke alarms, thereby alerting the fire department. The dark church, gathered for Easter Vigil, was filled with swirling red lights, and the entrance of several concerned firemen. All this unbeknownst to our beloved priest who was enthralled in singing the Exsultet and had his back to the congregation. None noted that evening that this detracted from the mass, but had in fact added to the sense of community already present.

I thought of this story as we were waiting to make the call for the fire at this year’s Easter Vigil with the promise of high winds throughout the day. Though this concern was averted, just minutes before the start of mass we found ourselves furiously working to put together more individual votive candles. The box of holders, placed near the ceiling could only be reached with the hook of the snuffer and the long arm of the priest…while standing on the counter top!

“Ministranti-ctyrak” by OndraZ

 With God’s presence as the only guarantee- through the years, I have determined these are my top 5 tips for altar servers.

  1. In serving, it’s all about what God does in the celebration of the mass. Work as if to blend into the scene. Be well rested, fed, on time, and joyful.
  2. There is a significant need for ponytail holders. Why? Because, girls, the overabundance of candles present at Holy Week and long hair do not mix well.
  3. Thurifers: Do not rest the thurible on the carpet or under the hem of the your robe. There is no need for a new martyr of the faith due to complacency.
  4. Do your best and give God the rest. Rather than becoming anxious over what you did or failed to do, let God work through it.
  5. Sing and pray- You are there to serve but it’s important that you too recognize the invitation to participate and pause for God’s voice.

With Easter Joy,

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Worth Revisiting: Entering In

Since I was small child, springtime has always been a celebration of life. This I found especially true in the South where tulips, irises, and lilies make their way early on through winter’s barren landscape.  And always so anxious to see this sight, I all too neglected to stop and befittingly reflect on the season left behind. Easter too, as a young Southern Baptist, also entailed this liturgically forward press towards life. Though perhaps not intentionally, it had become for many a celebration of the risen Christ, without the full look back at the steps that had brought us there. Amidst the shopping for the perfect Easter dress, coloring eggs, and the plan for dinner there were ample days left bereft of the journey our savior walked.

While these same observations could be made of any of us at a given time, there is within the Catholic faith the graced gift and provision of Holy Week that allows us to enter in. It is the invitation to enter into not only the celebration of life but also into the sacred mystery of Christ’s death. From the swaying of branches and cheers of “Hosanna!” on Palm Sunday to Easter we are beckoned to walk beside, and accompany Jesus on the journey ahead. From humble students of the suffering servant and participants in the first Eucharist, we are summoned to share in his anguish in the garden and keep watch. For, the enemies are pressing in and the time draws near when His sacrifice will be for all the world to see.

This incomparable spotless lamb, this gift of a Father’s love given so that we may come to know what love truly is, entreats our response. For, how can we ever truly comprehend or appreciate our redemption if we deny ourselves this time with Jesus on the way to the cross? Or the repose with Mary and John at the sight of God’s only son, crucified and suspended by the weight of the world? To do so is a privilege, one bought and paid for over two thousand centuries ago, and yet a sacred journey that we are each year implored to once again enter into.

Today as an adult, I not only joyously await the liveliness and celebration of Easter but indeed Holy Week itself. In fact, I have come to truly cherish the quiet time spent in church in anticipation before each Triduum Mass. Here I mentally walk through each liturgical motion and its significance as I pause to consider the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior. Such a incredible faith tradition we have where Christ’s presence can so fully be experienced! Please accept this gracious invitation to participate in the Triduum, from Holy Thursday, Good Friday to Easter Vigil.

Reflect:

Am I merely walking through the motions of this Lenten season? Is my gaze so fixed on the Resurrection that I am failing to enter into the mystery of Christ’s Passion and death?

Peace,

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Living Redeemed

“A pessimism of life is not Christian. It is rooted in not knowing that you are forgiven, it is rooted in not feeling the caress of God. And the Gospel, we may say, shows us this joy.” We must make “every effort to show that we believe we are redeemed, that the Lord has forgiven us everything.” Pope Francis, general audience, 12/21/17.

During Lent, as Catholics, we often speak of things given up or challenges taken on all with the intention of growing closer to God. Even the smallest thing can subtly secure a place of importance in our lives, usurping family, friends, and even Christ as the center of our lives. And at some point in our faith, each of us has felt this pull away from temptation and sin, towards God’s limitless love and mercy. Yet once aware and received, do we live it… do we live our life knowing that we are redeemed?

The first part to this you see is knowing that we are a people forgiven. Even before we speak of it, that our sin is known, but also ready to be pardoned. That though there is nothing that we can do to earn God’s grace, that it is there in anticipation -already won by Christ’s victory on the cross. Yet, part of the difficulty lies in our own struggle with forgiveness including that of forgiving ourselves. We hold onto our fears, faults and limitations and then place those upon God. Nevertheless, our God is a promise keeper and not bound by our human imaginations always ready to welcome us home.

Several years ago, I had an unexpected but similar conversation with a man then in his 50s who had stopped into Starbucks for a coffee. Noticing my t-shirt which sported one word forgiven, with forgive highlighted, he had felt compelled to ask the question. “Pardon me, but I could not help but notice your t-shirt..What is it that you could ever have to be forgiven for?”  Oh, what a conversation starter that turned out to be!

Marketing statistics note that people will read and remember a t-shirt slogan when they may not crack open a book, or even remember your name. In this case, he had looked at me, my smile and made his own presumption as to what a sinful person should look like and in general what Christianity represented. “Unfortunately, your supposition is not uncommon, I said, that as Christians we have given a false face to the incredible gift of grace and redemption. And while undoubtedly I fall short every day, I live knowing that I am loved beyond measure. How could I ever not be joyful about that? ”

With that, his look of curiosity and concern turned to a smile.  Sharing a bit of his childhood faith, he explained how life and circumstances had moved him away from church. How every time he had considered returning he had been met with an unconvincing expression of gloominess, judgement or hypocritical behavior. “Well though we are to be the body of Christ in this world, the human part of us can, at times, behave more like an amputated limb.” I quipped.  “When that happens it means that we too, even temporarily, have forgotten the love and mercy of Christ.”

Our children more easily understand what we, as adults, have made such a formidable challenge- that we are unconditionally loved. They come to us with penitent hearts and  tears but with a certain assurance too that they will be forgiven. And just as soon as they are, the sadness is replaced with joy and they are free to embrace the day and one another. With Easter upon us, let us live today with that same joy, and trust in God’s mercy, as a people redeemed, reclaimed and loved.

Pray:

“Jesus you have won the victory, the power of your life shines in me. Though I do not always live this life perfectly, I rest in knowing my life is perfected in you.  And if you send someone to me today that needs to hear this message of love and forgiveness may I reflect this light of joy in my redemption.”

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Shadows and Darkness

This Lent, our Catholic collaborative parishes will once again host a Tenebrae service of worship. Latin for darkness or shadows, Tenebrae invites us to prayerfully reflect on Christ’s pain and suffering the day of His crucifixion through both music and readings. One of the most conspicuous features of the Tenebrae service is the gradual extinguishing of candles as well as the pauses for silent prayer.  In contrast to the celebration of Easter, the mournful tone of Tenebrae enables us to enter into the reason for our hope and joy through these expressions of grief.

The service is typically divided into eight parts, an Evening Office prayer and seven Day Offices or prayers: Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers and Compline.  The first part consists of  three nocturns each composed of 3 psalms with responses and three lessons, which are taken either from scripture or from the Church Fathers.  The second part has 5 psalms, verse and response, a Benedictus song reflecting on the birth of John the Baptist and a Pater reflection on the death of our Lord. This dramatic service even includes a loud noise to indicate the earthquake that occurred when Christ died. After each of these sections of psalms and prayers a candle is extinguished until the church is left in relative darkness and silence.

It is an intentional glance forward as we begin our journey through the liturgical celebrations for Holy Thursday and Good Friday culminating in the joyful celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior. Please accept this as your invitation to join us tonight or participate in a Tenebrae service near you if you are able.  May God bless you all in this most sacred of weeks!

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: A Stop at Bethany

This week of Lent we are led to with Christ and his disciples down a path of growing awareness, one in which each  is contributing towards something fully unknown and yet momentous. Perhaps our familiarity with the story deafens us to truly hearing the significance of the words and numbs us to the fear, anxiety and profound pain at what is to come. Yet, this week we are summoned to do just this. We are to allow ourselves to be immersed in the details, to become a part of the scene, and to experience the depth of the Passion-ate love God has for each of us.

As we make our own preparations this week, we are invited to sit too at table with Jesus at the home of his friend Lazarus in Bethany (John 12: 1-11).

As you look around the room, would you be helping Mary in the kitchen in preparing the food for all the guests that had come? Perhaps serving or greeting each so that all feel included? While part of you longs to truly enjoy the company of Jesus you also recognize that your gift of service is the way you have chosen to show your love for him.

Or possibly you would have chosen to carry that immensely extravagant gift of aromatic oil to anoint the feet of Jesus? Oh, the fragrant almost intoxicating smell that suddenly fills the room! Yes, there are drying cloths to be found somewhere, and yet the closeness of his love compels the use of the soft silky strands of your own hair.

“There is honestly no place I had rather be, and here there is only You- the one who has captured and transformed my inmost being”.


Maybe you are feeling a bit like Judas, uneasy at all the attention that Jesus is drawing?  Why can’t we do all of this in private? Do we need to display our faith for all those that do not even believe..that appear to be here simply due to the newsworthiness of it all? This money we are frivolously spending to feed and entertain this gathering is that which we will need to flee when all of this comes to its inevitable end.

How fickle my heart, oh the weakness I show.  Why can’t I grasp the importance Jesus is calling to this moment and partake in the richness of the aroma that marks a time I will never have again?

Or perchance you have arrived at this place purely out of curiosity, one of the many wanting to hear the rabbi and teacher so many have spoken of. What of Lazarus, was he really once dead and if so what does he have to say of that time? Seeing the devotion of those around Jesus you wonder what draws them close, endearing them to leave behind all to follow. Beckoned in, you take a step closer, but still are unsure if you are willing to surrender all that you’ve known- to commit to that which is far greater than yourself.  You say let it go. Yet, if you did, who would you become?

As we too enter the holiest of weeks, we are asked to pay attention to the sights, sounds and inner callings of our hearts.   Amidst the business of preparations, we are asked to see the love in our gift of service and also take the time to sit at the feet of Jesus even if for a moment. To proclaim our faith in an unbelieving world, knowing that though this life ends there is something much greater that is to come.  Not merely standing at the water’s edge we are being asked to plunge deep in committing ourselves fully the life of a disciple.  This is the invitation. Come join me as I seek to walk the way of  the cross and joyously anticipate the sight of the empty tomb! God’s blessings for a beautiful awe inspiring Holy Week!

Peace,

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Failing at Lent?

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Cor. 8-9

I was beginning to wish I had given up chocolate for Lent. Nonetheless, the overachiever that I long to be decided to go for a more challenging endeavor. Couple that with a healthy dose of Catholic guilt and you have the perfect storm. What is it you may ask that is vexing this Lenten pilgrim so? An ingrained sneaky habit of gripe and honesty.

How did I become a new master at the subtle art of complaint and disclosure? For it seems that I no longer could leave unattended the age old rhetorical question, “How are things going?” with a simple “Good and you?”. And let’s be honest, this is the response the majority of people who ask the question are looking for. This socially accepted elementary exchange of greetings had become, for me, a unexpected conversation of all that was on my plate that day.

Yet, am I suggesting that lying is a better option? No, but that is the excuse that led me down this path in the first place. One that, if indulged, can cloud our perception to all of the blessings we have been given and to the grace that awaits in the struggle. And it isn’t that life is going poorly for me at all. My day is often busy and full, true, but would I really want it any other way? Not at all, but I had begun to bear my gifts and invitations to grow as if they were burdens.

‘This is what the LORD says: “‘When people fall down, do they not get up? When someone turns away, do they not return? Jer. 8:4

Not once but 3 times, last week, God sent reassurance. Through scripture, the unknowing words of a friend and then a priest his message came through loud and clear. “Stop being so hard on yourself! You act as if you are alone and unloved.” Failure doesn’t come from not achieving our goals the first time, but rather success is found in falling and getting back up again. Just take a glance at Peter- apostle, saint and martyr who publicly denied Christ three times. God not only forgave him, but offered him the opportunity to profess his renewed faith three times in return.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor; If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.” Eccl. 4:9-10

So it is with God and our walk as well. We are a people intended to be continually renewed and reconstructed to his image and purpose. And as the greatest human resource manager ever, God places us in one another’s lives to provide encouragement, and to strengthen us  for the journey. That is when his answer to my dilemma came to me.

She was visibly tired and worn. New expectations at work, long hours and demands at home had taken its toll.  We spoke briefly and it became apparent that each of us was in need of a companion, and a purpose to help this Lent. The idea of a prayer promise, a commitment that when things got overwhelming or we began to slip this Lent we don’t just pray for ourselves but for the other. It is a positive way to take the challenge and invitation to grow closer to Christ and place it exactly where it is meant to be- in community.

“Father, today, I am ready to take on Your will and plans again. I recognize Your love, mercy and forgiveness are immense and I am no longer defined or held captive by past mistakes. It is only because of this that I am able to get up again, or to have the strength to help another.  Thank you for showing me that we are never alone and that Your Spirit always stays by my side. Sweet Consolation, let me with each step grow to be who you created me to be. “

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Saints and Sacrifice

“It is by the apostolic preaching of the Gospel that the people of God is called together and gathered so that all who belong to this people, sanctified as they are by the Holy Spirit, may offer themselves ‘a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God’.”

Vatican II, Presbyterorum ordinis, 2

With Lent, the word sacrifice frequently looms and weighs upon our hearts as something undesired or sought after and yet something we are being asked to pursue. Could it be that we are working with a poor understanding of the rich true meaning of what it is to sacrifice? First as Christ has shown, and St. Paul reiterates, a sacrifice isn’t static or dead. In fact, rather than as an action performed it is more of a state of being. We are to be a ‘living sacrifice’, a testament to the continual love we have come to know as followers of Christ.

So, then we are brought to the heart of the matter. Sacrifice flows out of love. One cannot truly offer sacrifice without having experienced love otherwise it becomes a complaint ridden, shallow and inadequate substitute. It also entails giving of ourselves at a cost- from our need rather than our surplus. Just like the widow’s might, this is what it is to give and witness love.

As a young mom, I remember the countless sleepless nights- of feedings and changings, of fevers and nightmares, as well as, the meager availability of sleep and time. Yet, I cannot imagine making any other choice, than to give all that I am for the life and welfare of this great love entrusted to me. Sacrifice then also carries with it gratitude and responsibility. It is a graced notion of incorporation, for the needs of others can then remarkably become our own.

This Lent, take a moment to think of the profoundly beautiful invitation to sacrifice, to be a living witness to the love of a Father, the gift of the Son and of the Spirit’s renewal of hearts and lives.

Am I seeking to be transformed this Lent?

Is my sacrifice deep and life affirming? If not, what might God be asking me to do differently?

724f2-ashwednesdaycross“Let us remember that love lives through sacrifice and is nourished by giving…Without sacrifice there is no love.” –Maximillian Kolbe

724f2-ashwednesdaycross“True love grows by sacrifice and the more thoroughly the soul rejects natural satisfaction the stronger and more detached its tenderness becomes…”           –Teresa of Avila

724f2-ashwednesdaycross“Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.”

― Thérèse de Lisieux

724f2-ashwednesdaycross“Jesus says; ‘My daughter, I want to instruct you on how you are to rescue souls through sacrifice and prayer. You will save more souls through prayer and suffering than will a missionary through his teachings and sermons alone. I want to see you as a sacrifice of living love, which only then carries weight before Me… And great will be your power for whomever you intercede. Outwardly, your sacrifice must look like this: silent, hidden, permeated with love, imbued with prayer.”

– Diary of Saint Faustina

724f2-ashwednesdaycross“If God sends you many sufferings, it is a sign that He has great plans for you and certainly wants to make you a saint. And if you wish to become a great saint, entreat Him yourself to give you much opportunity for suffering; for there is no wood better to kindle the fire of holy love than the wood of the cross, which Christ used for His own great sacrifice of boundless charity.”-St. Ignatius Loyola

724f2-ashwednesdaycross“A sacrifice to be real must cost, must hurt, must empty ourselves. The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, the fruit of service is peace.”- Mother Teresa

724f2-ashwednesdaycross“Those who are willing to lose their own consolation for their neighbors’ welfare receive and gain me and their neighbors…and so they enjoy the graciousness of my charity at all times. […] Then she must love her neighbors with such affection that she would bear any pain of torment to win them the life of grace, ready to die a thousand deaths, if that were possible, for their salvation. And all her material possessions are at the service of her neighbors’ physical needs.” –Saint Catherine of Sienna

724f2-ashwednesdaycross“If we love each other enough, we will bear with each other’s faults and burdens.
If we love enough, we are going to light a fire in the hearts of others. And it is love that will burn out the sins and hatreds that sadden us. It is love that will make us want to do great things for each other. No sacrifice and no suffering will then seem too much.”       –Dorothy Day

724f2-ashwednesdaycross“Once we come to realize how much God has given us, a life of self-sacrifice, of working for him and for others, becomes a privileged way of responding to his great love.”

Pope Francis

724f2-ashwednesdaycross“Love Jesus, love Him very much, but to do this, be ready to love sacrifice more”. –Padre Pio

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Lenten Love Notes

Fair to say that when we remove the unnecessary, that we are more prone to notice the essential.  So too, it is in this intentional, purposeful consecration of time and space during Lent, that God’s voice can be so clear. Still, as we do not live in isolation, there remains a number of unavoidable interactions and temptations that inevitably seek to pull us away from our Lenten promises. And, I would be remiss not to call it for what it truly is-the devil at work. For, the closer we seek to walk with Christ the more determined Satan is to pull out all the stops.

Oh how prideful we can be to ever think we could accomplish any virtue on our own! What an open door these hard lessons can be for Satan to enter in with reminders of failure, guilt, suspicion and exhaustion. This voice can be so deafening that we might tend to forget that we are not alone on our Lenten journey. Or that in following Christ, we too would be tempted to abandon our faith and challenged to choose God’s ways over the world’s.

This Lent has proven not unusual in this constant barrage of testing and time of trial. Though, what has been remarkable is that God has given me the awareness to see it plainly. In disengaging from conflict, giving voice to the struggle, and going to prayer I can see my part and that of others. Regardless, however, there will always be moments missed or inadequately handled. And this is where God’s faithful love never ceases to amaze me.

In the upturned days of confusion and uncertainty , are the often missed reminders of his promises. In striking out on our own we may think it is too late to ask for guidance or call out for help. Yet, God is merely waiting for us to call on Him.  Here in our experience of frustration and loss, He meets us with intimate notes replete with love, mercy and peace.

In just a few words, and in just a mere motion of the heart much is conveyed. If but aware, the answer sought in prayer finds its homecoming in the most surprising ways.  Perhaps through a scripture passage, a conversation, a song, or creation’s beauty we glimpse God’s love laid bare for all to see.  And still, we know that these Lenten love annotations are indeed intended just for us.

Reflect:

Take a moment to write down on one side of a piece of paper the challenges you have encountered this Lent. Then on the other side, make a list of God’s promises, or answers to these challenges also experienced. Be creative in seeing God’s love spoken to you in these times of trial and testing.

Peace,Signature

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The Perfect Anchor

Marriage as a Sacrament

Life is full of so many joys, but also ups and downs, twists and turns and at times an all out storm that can bring us to our knees. Our faith, if we choose to embrace it can be that life line that tethers us when tossed about by either our own will or the circumstances that life brings. Quite often this connection to Christ is the only certainty which keeps us from going adrift altogether.  For the grace that so readily flows is available to strengthen, heal and renew us in and within all of our relationships.

Why choose a Catholic sacramental marriage?

When my husband and I were asked to speak to a group of about 24 Pre-Cana couples about what it means to live a sacramental marriage, we felt honored but also cautiously optimistic. How do we convey the permanency and faithfulness of a vocation, in a world that values instant gratification and self fulfillment over sacrifice? How do we encourage fruitfulness in a culture that seeks to limit life and the witness to life?  That this call from God to live our lives in a certain way is intended to be a dynamic collaboration between you, your spouse and God? A daunting challenge to accomplish in a mere span of 20 minutes. Yet, one most definitely worth undertaking if only to be the first to plant a seed.

Within each of the sacraments, God is doing something remarkable. Taking the ordinary stuff of life: water, oil, bread and wine , and even our vows to transform what is there to be extraordinary. Unlike other sacraments where it is the priest who is the minister of the sacrament, here it is the mutual consent to one another to accept and live this gift from God. Your full yes is the Permanent, and Faithful part of this vocational call.

A sacrament is a visible sign, we say, of an invisible in-working of grace. However, the sacraments are more than a solitary event, but rather an invitation to encounter God daily in a very intimate way.  As a church, while we have done an incredible job at promoting the initial reception of the sacraments, we haven’t been as good at imparting what to expect after. When this happens, it is as if that grace goes unnoticed, or lies dormant awaiting our yes to God’s action in our lives.

Why including God makes all the difference!

Though from the very beginning my husband and I realized the importance of God as the foundation in our marriage, it has been through the beautiful mess of life that we have experienced this grace most abundantly.  The year our youngest son was born, was to be undoubtedly one of the most challenging years of my life. In my third trimester,  my grandmother who was a both a pillar and close confident passed away suddenly from pneumonia. Unable to physically be present, I sobbed as I packed the bag I knew I could not use as travel was not in my near future. Taking the bag from my hand, my husband held me as we prayed our goodbyes together. Then 4 weeks after Thomas was born, my mom flew in welcome the latest addition. Only, that is, to discover that she could not breathe and upon a doctor’s visit that she had stage 4 lung cancer and given but a month to live.

Meanwhile, our house was being re-sided with vinyl and new windows put into our antique home. Truthfully, I felt much like that old house- stripped and vulnerable to my core with but my husband, children and God as my only shelter. In order to help my mom and settle details of the estate, my husband stepped up to take on both a full-time job and mine as well. Our marriage was not a 50-50 split at this point but 100-100 as each of us were giving more that we could ever imagine possible. That is, because God was in the middle of it all, working alongside and enabling us to do the impossible.

That Spring, we would soon discover that it would be my turn to take the reins as we received news of his imminent deployment to Iraq and selection to fly the Apache right into the worst of it. We made the necessary preparations and continually prayed that God would work it all out for good. And did he ever! My husband leaned into God, praying the rosary that each of these men and women under his command would go home if it was God’s will. One by one all but two were released, when my husband fully lifted up his own deployment status. Standing in front of the flight surgeon with the deploy stamp in hand, his shoulder x-ray was examined again. Given the choice to have the tear repaired there or return home to Boston, he knew God had intervened.

So many times things don’t go as we have planned, and others where we discover God’s plan is so much better than our own. Including God enables us to love and carry beyond our own abilities, desire to want what is best for one another and to remain faithful as God has proven to be. 25 years later, how thankful I am that God is part of this journey and vocation in life!

In Christ,

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