Worth Revisiting: Where Everybody Knows Your Name

What is a church to be? Is it a place for the faithful who gather on a given Sunday, who come to offer up their private prayers and praise and then go their separate ways? Or rather, is it to be a home, a collective community who together in Christ is much stronger than its individual members? Throughout our life we witness numerous understandings of what it is to be church. Deep down we know and desire more  for our time together and yet we settle for less.

As a young child some of my earliest memories are from my time spent in God’s house, among those that both had a clear grasp of what it was to be church and those that clearly had no idea. In a small town of approximately 5,000 people my grandmother’s church, though one of the largest, certainly wasn’t without competition in this strongly church going community. So then, what was it that drew the faithful young and old on Sunday, and kept them returning throughout the week? Well, quite simply it was the way they embodied Christ and tangibly conveyed the reality of family.

Donning a handmade sundress and black patent shoes, I excitedly got ready to make the 30 minute drive to my see my grandma, attend church and enjoy lunch together afterwards. Walking in the doors, though not a member, I wasn’t considered a stranger but instead welcomed as family. Each man, woman, or child standing there wasn’t doing so out of obligation but considered it a privilege to get to know each person that came in for worship that day. Each time was an inclusive acceptance of my presence, without judgement or expectation.

Contrast that with the church that I would more often attend in my own hometown at the tender age of 6. Significantly larger, it had become a numbers game with numerous cliques that would gather in different sections to discuss politics, events, and also one another. While my mother and I were members, we truly didn’t feel as if we ever were. Rather than welcoming us in, as a divorced single parent, my mom suffered the judgmental stares and awkward silences . So while we came hoping for community what we experienced instead was far from it. Our Sunday experience became a time for us to privately pray and praise though surrounded by a multitude.

To varying degrees, you may have witnessed either of these examples. More often than not, we may attend church and glimpse snip-its of community wondering how to connect. Here, where the desired relationship is not immediately accessible we ourselves may have to reach out initially. Perhaps conscious of my own experience, I have made a point of introducing myself and my family when we attend Mass at a different church, even though I am just visiting. It isn’t though I expect to be treated differently, but I am modeling what community should be for everyone.

This understanding of community even extends to our common interactions in the supermarket, gym, and local coffee shop. Keep in mind, your  “Hello, how are you today?” might just lead to someone reconsidering returning to or feeling a part of church that Sunday. Just the other day, when picking up my morning brew, I was given such a gift of conversation with a parishioner whose face I thought I had seen but never met. Now I know his name is Alex… and it all started with “So good to see you again!”.

Reflect:

As I look around my own parish, where could we be better representatives of the body of Christ? How am I extending a welcoming presence at church, and within my community?

Peace,

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Necessary and Indispensable

“Three things are necessary for everyone: truth of faith which brings understanding,
love of Christ which brings compassion, and endurance of hope which brings perseverance. ”  St. Bonaventure

Given the recent turmoil in the church, these last few weeks have been challenging to say the least. Conversations ensued revolving around what hasn’t been done, what should be done and who’s to blame in this crisis. Wounds that had healed in part have been reopened and the hurt and broken trust now visible once again. Especially in a community that went through the worst of it in 2002 with two of the most notable priests having led the flock.

Even personally, I had questions too. How could we not have learned as the universal church from hard fought battles of the past? If you, as leadership, witnessed the effects of what transpired in Boston, Ireland and elsewhere why wouldn’t an investigation within each diocese occur?  Sins incurred do not go away simply because we close our eyes and change cannot occur if cannot face the truth. Shameful and egregious wrongs  must be addressed for healing and trust to return.

Am I angry? Absolutely! This is the church that I love- it is the faith that I chose and that also chose me. Yet, my faith does not rest solely on the actions of man, even holy men, but on Christ.

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building. 1 Cor. 3:5-9

As such, it cannot be shaken for my hope is in God knowing that he has called each one of us to witness to his truth and love in this broken world. We are not, however, left alone. With his Word and Spirit to guide and the Eucharist as our strength together we walk onward allowing God to rebuild us as a people. We need only look to thousands of years of tradition to see that this would not be the first time. Yet, this begins today and with each one of us.

What can we do?

Pray. I cannot emphasize enough how important this first step is. For how can we be the body of Christ in the world, his holy church, if our actions are not discerned and directed by prayer? And by prayer I mean not just tossing up a “God please fix the present circumstances”, but continually spending time with God to learn His ways rather than relying on our own. Consider adoration. It is an incredible time to listen to what God has to say, and to allow him to move your heart, mind and soul to the work ahead.

Fast.  Why fast you may ask, when the sins committed were not ours personally? First, fasting is both a way of expressing our sorrow and also to seek clarity. Secondly, our faith is not a solitary one. Every sin or injury to the body of Christ is felt by the whole. We also take responsibility in calling one another to holiness beginning with each one of us. God will raise holy men and women to be saints- and the time is now.

Work. No place to sit on the sidelines here. We are being asked to step into the messy and difficult tasks ahead. This may be to listen to a friend, co-worker or family member who simply needs to vent or is seriously considering leaving the church. It could also be explaining to others why you choose to stay. Maybe, you feel called to write to your pastor, bishop, cardinal or Pope Francis to speak to this issue requesting further measures be taken as I have done. Yet whatever you do- please do not despair. For, though “We are hard pressed on every side, (we are ) not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Cor. 4:8-9

Today I pray, fast, and work albeit willing to fight for this Church that I call home. Join me and countless others!

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Catechesis of Mercy 2

Continuing from the previous week , we go deeper to the underlying principles of a life steeped in and committed to mercy..

There are four core principles in the Catholic Church’s social teaching: respect and protection of the dignity of the human person, the pursuit of the common good, the value of solidarity, and subsidiarity—that matters are if possible to be handled at the lowest level, by those most affected. With each pope in succession, through  papal encyclicals—and most notably in the Second Vatican Council, there has been a reaffirmation of these teachings..  This is why an essential element of a catechesis of mercy involves service and active works of mercy.

Look around your community, are there service learning projects that are already available in your community that you might participate in with your child or if they are old enough that they can join in themselves? There is no need to reinvent the wheel, if a suitable service activity is already up and running. Yet, if none of these seem fitting, consider developing a new service based project. What are needs in your area that aren’t being met? What are some possible solutions? What are the resources that you might can tap into?

There are several types of service..

Direct (whereby the participate is in direct contact with the person/s they are working with. Examples include volunteering at a nursing home to read or visit, doing yardwork or chores for the elderly, or working at a soup kitchen.

Indirect (Involves fundraising, or drives to assist people in need) An example would be a toy drive for a local children’s hospital, clothing drive for a homeless shelter, or making cards or placemats.

Promotion or advocacy (Getting the word out about a cause, and working to convince the government, or organization to make a change in behavior. ) Maybe you have a gift of telling or motivating others to get involved in a cause. If so then this might be where you feel most helpful.

Whatever you choose to do, reflection is a very essential part of service learning both in deciding what to commit to as well as what was taken from the experience. This is where a trained group leader is very beneficial, both to guide the questions but to show the diversity of the experiences.

What did you expect this experience to be like?
Was there anything different from this expectation?
Did you find anything challenging and/or surprising?
Was there an opportunity to talk with those whom you were helping? If so, did you learn anything new?
What is the relationship between your service and your faith?
How does your participation in this activity affect a situation or create change in the lives of those you are with?
Is it important for you to stay involved with this activity?

Remember that it is never too early to begin a catechesis of mercy, and that your child already has that divine love within and the capacity to show that love to others. We have been given a freedom to choose love and goodness in the world, to avoid what is destructive or harmful, and to make these choices quite early in life. And though not always easy choices, it is these moments that help shape us, form us and continue to define us as we grow in our Christian discipleship.

Reconciliation

As mentioned earlier, reconciliation is indelibly linked to mercy. God is loving and forgiving, God is merciful. God forgives us when we have done wrong, when we come wishing to forgiven, and desire to be in relationship once again. If your child is old enough to have celebrated the sacrament of reconciliation before, take the time to discuss its continued importance in the life of the individual and the church.
1. Discuss how to make a good confession and examination of conscience http://www.thelightisonforyou.org/confession/

2. Set aside a time to go to reconciliation as a family. Allowing your child to glimpse the importance of reconciliation for you is an essential way for him/her to see its importance in their own life as well.

3. Reflect on how God’s love and mercy is always present and calling us into relationship.
Look at the broader understandings of reconciliation within the community and world. For ideas visit St Vincent de Paul.org, Catholic Charities, Catholic Relief Services, and the Childrens’ Missionary Association which is part of the Pontifical Society.
Discuss the importance of and ways to work for peace both locally and global

Mercy is like a small seed that requires our active participation in the planting and growing, allowing God to be the master gardener and harvester of the fruits.[1] To extend this analogy, we cannot plant that which we do not see or understand. Likewise, how could we then tend to the requirements necessary for its growth? Therefore, it is clear that first we must become aware of the poor, and the marginalized and desire to walk with them to understand their journey. Then our hearts and steps are to be guided towards recognizing our own need to take responsibility, and the essential right to a greater voice and participation in society of the least of these. Together, as a people of faith, we can then “water” those seeds planted to witness their rooting within the hearts of individuals, and the communities in which we live. While fully aware of the resistance of many for change, a catechesis of mercy relies not solely on our own efforts. But rather on the power of God for strength, and guidance to accomplish the realization of all efforts. Hope then is what our trust in God provides, it is faith that God’s love and mercy are unfailing, and that we are part of his divine plan for the world.

Peace,

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[1] Brady,Bernard. Essential Catholic Social Thought. Orbis Books, 2008.

Worth Revisiting: The Grace We Need

If she could stand, she would undoubtedly comprise all of 5 feet. Slowly, age and physical limitations have taken her ability to walk, then stand and the wheelchair that she once could move can no longer be done on her own. Yet on the inside “Grace” towers, a living witness to a profound spirituality, her inspiring reverence and appreciation for the Eucharist is faithfully compelling.  In her suffering, she has shared not only of her struggle but of the gift and essentialness of communion and community.

It was about 6 years ago in the beginning of our Eucharistic Ministry to the nursing homes, that my husband and I first met Grace. My husband, having left Harvard when our economy took a major downturn was initially unsure of this assignment but more than ready to feel of use again. While he was certain that he could impart a bit of company and joy to those he visited in fulfilling this ministry, he was not prepared for what he would receive in return. His week spent researching the classifieds and applying for new jobs, would prove relentless with the exception of Sunday. Always faithful, but at times lukewarm in intensity, Sunday was the day he reserved for God. Little did he know that God had so much more in store for him, by this simple step forward in faith.

While wanting to go with him in these first few visits, I prayerfully held back, feeling God was preparing John for something special. So, with pyx in hand and a head full of concerns I watched as John hurriedly left the house, unquestionably working on the following day’s to-do list. However, no matter how he left the house, one could not help but notice that he never returned the same. In its place, peace and joy had consumed his countenance and he practically overflowed with a renewed strength. For, during this otherwise incredibly stressful time, God had opened a window.

After a bit of time, of observing all of this, the day came when with hopeful expectation he suddenly  asked,  “Would you like to go with me today? There is someone I would like you to meet.”   This was the moment I had patiently waited for.  “Of course, lead the way!”.  Though he carried a handwritten list of names and rooms, with notes beside each, it would be completely unnecessary. He knew each one, and wasted no time in introducing me as we entered with a rap at the door.

As we neared the last room he paused, grabbed my hand and a huge smile overtook his face. This was the one he so eagerly had wanted to share, the one that had inspired the transformation that I witnessed.

“Hi Grace!”, it’s John from St. Peter’s, “I brought my lovely wife Elizabeth with me today..”
“It is really SO good to see you, thank you for coming and making time for me..I cannot tell you what this means”, she exclaimed.
Then chatting for a few min about our families, health and week, John asked Grace, would you like to receive communion?”
“Oh, Yes! I REALLY need that!” , with hands clasped and eyes closing immediately in prayer.
“We all do Grace, we all do..” he answered without hesitation.

Have you ever considered Eucharistic ministry? Be prepared, the life transformed by Christ today, might be your own!

A Pilgrim’s Journal: Sea of Galilee & Mount of Beatitudes

 

But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary.. 

Just the night before I spent hours wide awake with no respite from the events of the day. In my thoughts I pleaded for sleep as I knew that, body and soul, I needed rest. Feeling a bit “battered by the waves” myself  I prayed realizing that grace can be found here too. And, in my unrest that he called me out upon the water. Rather than sinking, I chose this time to take one step at a time. My heart responding and as I take each step eyes transfixed on our Lord, I feel no fear. These calm waters I embrace, this peace I seek to keep. You are the Christ and I am in awe of who you are. Here in these moments I appreciate profoundly the difference between spiritual peace and unrest.

“Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall inherit the earth”

Within the first five minutes at the Mount of Beatitudes, I suddenly discovered myself an unwelcome guest by the colony of red ants who previously occupied the seat that I had chosen. Deciding to walk it off, I soon felt their keen sting and began to wonder how my time here would be spent. Yet as I began to walk on, I found the spot where I had been called. A picturesque scene unfolded before my eyes as I overlooked the Sea of Galilee. At least 15 minutes passed as I stood there gazing at the Sea. My heart could not contain my feelings- a dichotomy of tranquility and overwhelming joy bringing me to tears. And there I heard Christ’s words yet again…”Blessed are the peacemakers”.

A peacemaker- an essential part of the very nature of my soul, yet still not something that I was content with calling a gift. Peacemakers, I had ascertained, are rarely welcomed unless successful. Each side clinging to their understanding yet unwilling or unable to move. Yet this, I realized in that instant was what Jesus was asking me to do- and who he created me to be. With tears streaming down my face, I finally made peace with being a peacemaker.

Processing into the church itself, I fell to my knees in front of the cross. To my delight, in gazing up to its center was Christ himself as the Blessed Sacrament. Above that still, a dove sat perched on the high arch above the altar waiting for me to notice it. Then in a fluttering of wings, it was gone. Kneeling there for some time, I thanked God for the gift of himself and for the opportunity to give him praise for the gifts he had given me.

Oh my Jesus, you are the preeminent consoler and author of all good gifts. Enable us to both discern and accept your gifts that you have placed within. And strengthen us for the steps ahead as we seek to put your plans into action.

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: A Catechesis of Mercy Part 1

The Beginnings of Mercy

Mercy begins not when we are old enough to study social justice teaching, but indeed began before we are born. It began with God, fulfilled in Christ and is to be continued with each one of us. Thus, it is not an add-on to our Christian discipleship but inherently intertwined in every aspect of our understanding and living out of the faith. For, the very root of mercy is love.

Without love, as St. Paul reminds us, we are nothing. All of our gifts, and actions are useless if not used or performed out of love. Mercy is an indelible part of love, the love of neighbor and other above ourselves. It is to walk beside, among and through the ins and outs, the ups and downs of all that our lives here have to offer. Simply put it is the gift of ourselves, to ease the suffering or pain of another, when there seems to be no other gift that is worthy enough. It is the work of our hands, our feet and soul that bring joy into everyday realities of our existence. Moreover it is to see Christ in others, and then to accept the invitation to be Christ to others.

Not just to those we know personally, or belong to our parish but to those living outside the doors of our church, in our communities that often go unnoticed. Here on the fringes of society, are our homeless and poor, our elderly, those suffering from addiction and their families, and the victims as well as the perpetrators of violence. As Christ has shown, mercy cannot be earned but is the grace of the great love that our Father has for each and every one of us.

See mercy goes hand in hand with the grace of reconciliation. Mercy is not something conferred upon someone thought of to be most in need of it, but indeed is a shared grace whereby all are reminded of their humanity and the infinite love they share in Christ. It is the opportunity to not only witness the transformation of the life of another, but to be transformed ourselves.

So, what is meant by a Catechesis of Mercy?

As parents, we are our child’s first teacher. And, looking to us for guidance, approval and encouragement we have been given a beautiful gift to model the faith we profess. In the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:7) Jesus says, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain Mercy”.

  • The need for mercy: You need not go far to see that there is a tremendous need for mercy right in front of us.  As St. Teresa of Calcutta has said,

“Stay where you are. Find your own Calcutta. Find the sick, the suffering and the lonely right there where you are — in your own homes and in your own families, in your workplaces and in your schools. … You can find Calcutta all over the world, if you have the eyes to see. Everywhere, wherever you go, you find people who are unwanted, unloved, uncared for, just rejected by society — completely forgotten, completely left alone.” †
In talking to you child about what mercy means, be sure to provide clear relatable examples.

  • Explain that mercy is more than feeling sorry for someone, it is compassion in action. It is more than a feeling but meeting that person where they are, in their sadness, embarrassment..skinned knees and all. God’s love for us in Christ is to produce love within us moving us toward love, care, and concern for those in need. This love seeks to love and serve our neighbor it gives purpose to all that we are to do.
  • Looking to Christ: Christ’s time here with us serves as an example of His mercy and what we too are to do as his disciples. Discuss with your child different ways that Christ revealed the meaning of mercy in his ministry .1. Jesus didn’t just meet with those from a similar background, but invited all to table..most often those who were on the fringes of Jewish society, the tax collector, the leper, the poor, the lost. He did not discriminate based on gender, race or nationality…his mercy was universal.
    2. Parable of the Good Samaritan, presents a beautiful opportunity to illustrate that in the course of our daily lives that we too may walk past someone in need of mercy though we should be the first to help.
    3. Feeding of the Multitudes – Luke 9:10-17
    4. Opening the Eyes of the Man Born Blind – John 9:1-17
    5. Good thief on the cross- Even on the cross, Jesus offered love, mercy and forgiveness to the one who though living a life earning him death on earth had chosen to believe and gained an eternal life with Christ in heaven.
  • Looking to the Church– Consider ways that we as a church through service help those in need. Here we can look to the corporal works of mercy which entail feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead. Taking care of our poor, is not just an act of charity but a measure of justice and love. It is returning to them what has been reserved for them by Christ. The Church is not to be a church of the proud and powerful but indeed is as Pope Francis has observed to be a church of the poor. “We need to be evangelized by them.. for there is so much to learn” They are to be our guide in understanding God’s love us.

Tune in next week for Part 2!

Peace,

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A Pilgrims Journal: The Church of the Transfiguration

A little more than a week ago I returned from a graced pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Each site now holds for me spiritual remembrance where, if I close my eyes, my soul is instantly transported. With words waxed poetically and where there were no words at all, God spoke.  Where the scriptures came alive, I took my place walking at times beside, behind and enveloped by the living Christ.

 The Franciscan Church of the Transfiguration on Mt. Tabor is a magnificent scene to behold, overlooking the Jezreel plain in Galilee. According to scriptures (Matthew 17:1-9; Mark 9: 2-8 and Luke 9:28-36) that the divine incarnation of Christ was revealed to the apostles as Jesus was transfigured before their very eyes.  And just as with Jesus’ baptism, God spoke with clarity as to who Jesus was.

“After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.  There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.  Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified.  But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.

(The following conversation is the reciprocity of my own heart to the scene that lay before me.)

 Here I am again in Your gardens, led by your hand having witnessed your splendor. Being given this time to ponder Your love for me. Offered this moment to remember who you have called me to be. Today, I recognize my surprisingly subtle demeanor is at odds with my spirit inside. Who ablaze is all consuming refusing to stay quiet and hide.

“Proclaim my love”, You say, ” In all the world let it be known”. In all creation there is no other, in all the heavens no one above. For You are Lord and this is my joy, my hope, the sum of  a disciple life’s reward. The harmony in the chaos-the remedy to new found discord. Transforming, yet disarming you ask me to follow without delay. Father, grant that I may know you better, love you greater and serve you endlessly until your face I see one day.

As I sit in the gardens atop Mt. Tabor, surrounding the site of Your transfiguration, I cannot help but be drawn to praise. Like the apostles, I seek to comprehend all that You are. To glean through a gradual unfolding of Your mysteries the fullness of your words- the gift of your presence.True God and true man, I am in awe of who You are and desire to be in my life. Oh the glories You yearn to show me and the mercy given that is greater than all of my sin!

This day I bring to you the many intentions carried here- to this place on Your holy mountain. My Lord carry them with you up to the heavens. Leaving only Your peace. And in times of Your absence, let me not be passive but let me desire the intimacy of Your forgiving embrace. This is reconciliation – this is love set ablaze. And it all happens in the stillness of a gentle breeze.

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: CatholicTV Appearance

Today, perhaps you might have been expecting a lengthier post? Well, I hope that I am forgiven by sharing with you the fruits of a graced invitation.. to be a guest on CatholicTV’s “This is the Day”!

With a cup of coffee and toast in hand, I headed out the door expecting a flurry of brake lights and delays as customary with Fridays in Boston. Yet, instead God seemed almost to clear the roads giving way to time and a very relaxing ride into the city. So much so, in fact, my hubby and I arrived well in time to also make morning Mass at the station.

Every day that begins with Mass, for me,  is an intentional one in that as the 1st reading from Deuteronomy spoke:
“you must now know, and fix in your heart, that the LORD is God in the heavens above and on earth below, and that there is no other. ”

Once God is given priority, then comes trust in His will. Father Helfrich’s homily on Matthew 16:24-28 was so on point. Much courage is needed to be a disciple, trusting in the plan that our Lord has for us,  leaving the security of the known to embrace unknown opportunities ahead. Still having difficulties doing this? You are not alone, but oh what joy lies in “giving it a try”!

If you were unable to tune in for the live show on August 11 2017..here is the podcast from the show! What a great time I had with Jay and Kevin. The time just flew by! There was even a shout out to Loyola Chicago!

Simply click the image below.

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Examening Discovery

As a child, I reveled at the picture puzzle games that challenged each contestant with keen eyes to discover a familiar item amid a quite often cluttered larger scene. And with each object found, was a renewed sense of joy and understanding of the next step of the task at hand.  Yet, somewhere between childhood and maturity the thrill and purpose of the search can time and again allude us and at times even eclipse the delight of discovery.

Such was the course of a day that was to be experienced quite recently. Waking up late, and feeling “behind the 8 ball”, I had literally jumped feet first into a scene not of my own design or desire. With limited movement, either physically or spiritually, all that could initially be seen was the clutter. Misplaced item here, piles of unattended objects there, I longed for clarity of purpose- at the very least, for the frustration and confusion to leave me be. In this life sized puzzle of sorts it became suddenly obvious that the first hidden object of my search was indeed Christ himself. He, and only he, was the hingepin to finding my next piece of my day and the surest course of making sense of it all. So began my prayer- an inner groan, offered up for peace of spirit and discernment in the way God wanted me to move in my day.

“Where are YOU, Jesus, in this jumbled scene?”

A prayerful guide to mindful reflection, the daily Examen prayer, is at its heart a path to awareness and renewed discovery. Just what exactly are we discovering? Perhaps simply our way back to God and his will in our daily walk. Sometimes, we may not have strayed far but have just lost sight of Christ within the daily tasks we tend to for family and work. How long till we see the results? That too cannot be rushed, as we well know that God’s timing is not our own. I will say, however, that I have yet to be disappointed to discover that whatever I am going through, that God is there in the midst of it all.

Discovery then, in Ignatian spirituality, is the fruit of prayer directed towards the good desire. It could be the answer to a life altering decision, or an awareness that we are exactly where we need to be. If you are facing a difficulty today that you cannot see through, or need clarity of purpose or direction, ask yourself these as you begin the Examen:

Would this decision lead me or others on a life affirming course? Am I filled with confusion, doubt, fear or instead, encouraged and invited gently to consider the next step?

5 Steps of a Daily Examen

1. Become aware of God’s presence.
2. Review the day with gratitude.
3. Pay attention to your emotions.
4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it. 
5. Look toward tomorrow.

 Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: An Invitation to Lead

The following article appeared in the University of Notre Dame’s Institute of Church Life Journal a year ago on May 23, 2016.

Since it was written, God has continued to move me towards new roles and responsibilities within the life of the church. Lay ministry is indeed a graced vocation, one that not everyone is called to but one that can go unheeded in the fast pace of our society, and amidst prior commitments. What gifts might lay untapped in your life today? How might God be inviting you to use your gifts to lead others to Christ?

There is an extra spring in my step this morning knowing that today has been reserved, indeed set apart, to spend with both some of the youngest and oldest members of this parish community. After opening prayers they bound forward, from the left and right, towards the bright red book of the Gospels that I am holding and head to the lower church for children’s liturgy. This is indeed their community, one that the over 50 gathered have come to joyously participate in. With hands held together, in lieu of uncomfortable boredom, there are instead small voices raised and petitions uttered as the prayers of the faithful are spoken.

Pausing momentarily, in the back of the sacristy after Mass, I am instantly reminded to thank the altar servers whom I personally helped train and scheduled to serve that day. A hoped-for beginning to a life of service and love, their gift can easily go unnoticed. Many of these altar servers (a large percentage of which are girls), I have seen “graduate” on to Eucharistic ministry, lectoring and service-based volunteer work within the Church, families, and the greater community upon entering college.

Lay ministry leadership then takes on visible and invisible aspects and roles, enabling the community to not only run smoothly but also to be an inviting encounter with Christ in one another. So too is the work of those who respond to serve the larger community beyond the doors of the Church. Walking the halls of one of the nursing homes that I serve, I am familiar with each name on the door and many of the family members of the residents I see. There is such grace here, in bringing Christ and community to our older, at times forgotten, members of the Body of Christ. Moreover, this joy is meant to be shared, whereby all feel enjoined and invited to partake in this beautiful ministry.

Over the years, I have seen the need, heard the invitation, and taken on these and a number of other lay ministry roles—as catechist, coordinator, presenter, and Catholic radio show host. Perhaps you too have recognized the great need within our parish communities, unearthing a desire to serve through leadership within the Catholic faith. Yet, what does this look like realistically? First, it needs to be said that women have been serving in leadership positions within the Church for quite some time—not only filling roles left vacant due to a shortage of priests but also actively involved in the faith formation and pastoral care of the community.

Still there has been a definitive shift recently in encouraging the participation of women in lay ministerial leadership roles. Pope Francis and others like Cardinal Sean O’Malley are even expressing their openness and anticipation for “more women in positions of responsibility at the Vatican.”[1] Likewise, in recent years a number of women are seeking to receive additional theological training and advanced degrees to gain the tools to better utilize their gifts and help build the Kingdom. In 2016, women held 80% of the over 39,000 lay ecclesiastical ministry positions, and 9 out of 10 “considered their ministry ‘a vocation, not a job.’”[2] This is the path that I, too, followed, and which has led to my recent acceptance of a paid staff position as Director of Parish Ministries for two parishes entering soon into collaboration. While there still remains much discussion and polarization about shape of leadership within the Catholic Church, I am witness to the innumerable ways to serve and immeasurable blessings in doing so.

Peace,

Signature


[1] John L. Allen Jr. and Lisa Wangsness, “Pope Softening Tone, not Stance Cardinal Sean O’Malley Says” in The Boston Globe (February 9, 2014).

[2] Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, Research Review: Lay Ecclesial Ministers in the United States (Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University, 2015).