Worth Revisiting Wednesday: Made To Love

It’s Worth Revisiting Wednesday! A place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link-up with fellow bloggers! Co-Hosted with Allison Gingras at Reconciled To You.


Made To Love

(Originally posted July 5, 2014)

As we look toward the start of a New Year, I also feel compelled to look back on my very 1st blog post!

While theology may be a verb, my initial inclination to begin this blog…let’s just say has been less than active.  🙂 With that being said, I awoke early this morning with my heart burning to embark on this journey with you-to share my thoughts, prayers and hopes as a Catholic woman of faith.

Today, I am a student of theology, hopeful saint, follower of Christ, faithful mother, wife, friend, woman … and child of God. This last identification is something that while seemingly basic is essential to recognize in ourselves as well as within each other. Created with a beautiful divine spark, we have been graced with love, each given unique gifts and a desire to grow in that love towards our Beloved. If we accept this premise then we can no longer look at others as less than made in the very image of God. This carries both a sense of awe and wonder, and a responsibility to recognize the great worth and the needs of each of God’s creations. Often quoted as Catholic’s most hidden principles, our social teachings guided by scripture beckon us to embrace our discipleship not as a solitary walk but in solidarity as a community of faith. Going beyond ourselves, our families, our parishes, we have been invited to step out in faith to accept the mission that draws us forth to reach those most in need.

Yet, before we set this as a lofty unachievable goal, this begins quite simply in answering the call to love. Over the last few weeks I have had the privilege to teach summer CCD to an awesome lively group of 4th graders. Covering the Ten Commandments, and the Be-attitudes, they took hold that it all comes down to the Greatest Commandment: to love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might, and loving your neighbor as yourself.

Therefore when given a service project to collect personal care items for needy families in our area, our students responded by collecting over 120 items in one week! This brought tears to the eyes of our director of St. Vincent de Paul who further encouraged them to continue in this life of service. It reminds me also as Mother Teresa once said that “What I can do you cannot. What you can do I cannot. But together we can do something beautiful for God”.

Today, how will we answer this call to love one another with great love?


Advertisements

Worth Revisiting Wednesday: Unpacking the Treasures of Our Faith

It’s Worth Revisiting Wednesday! A place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link-up with fellow bloggers! Co-Hosted with Allison Gingras at Reconciled To You.


Unpacking The Treasures of Our Faith

(Originally posted July 19, 2014)

As one of my BC classmates had so beautifully spoken, now is the time that we realize the joy in “unpacking the treasures of our faith”. In devoting long hours of reading, writing, and contemplating the lived experience of the US Latino/a, we discovered more of our own journeys as well. With each incredibly diverse faith experience we are given insight into our God who desires to be meaningfully encountered in our daily lives.

It is, in a very real sense, a rediscovery of who we are, and who God is calling us to be in the world around us.Yet, it is not a discarding of the past but rather embracing these gifts of faith experienced sacramentally and through prayer, song, and devotion, while reaffirming their significance today.

Theology in ContextAs I gaze at this picture,  I glimpse the divinely created men and women who are an embodiment of a lived theology, whose presence give voice to joy, struggle, and hope. They are, as well, part of the community of faith of the past, present and future hearing the call to respond to challenges, walk in accompaniment, and live out their faith expressively in the world. Muchas gracias y abrazos a todos!

How do you experience God most meaningfully in your life? Is  there a treasure of your faith that draws you nearer? Is there perhaps one yet to be unpacked, its richness yet undiscovered?


Finding Baby Jesus This Season

Today, we have a special treat from Allison Gingras, of Reconciled to You who has graciously offered to guest post this week!

 

I absolutely love the tradition of  keeping Baby Jesus out of the Nativity Scene until Christmas day.  I, however, have never followed it because I am truly worried I will forget where I am hiding Him.  In addition, my penchant for collecting nativities would mean hiding a great number of Mary’s ‘bundle of Joy’.  I would spend all Christmas morning asking or wondering, “Where have I put Baby Jesus?”


As I type there are only 3 more days until Christmas – well, at least 3 preparation days til Christmas.  I have grumbled more than once this month how the late date of Thanksgiving, has left me short on time to prepare. There is so much can be said about that one little sentence and the true meaning of Christmas.  Here are just a few of the things that come immediately to mind.

1. Christmas comes the same day every year – if I want to be completely honest with myself I’ve had 364 days or so to prepare for this year’s festivities.   If I really want to enjoy the Advent season maybe I should do my shopping and wrapping in August?

2. Why do I put so much weight on all the ‘traditional’ preparations of the holiday – particularly gift giving. Where have I lost sight of ‘it is the thought that counts”, how much thought as I flip through Amazon am I really giving these gifts?  If I really want to enjoy gift giving, maybe I should start making my own gifts beginning in January?

3. Back to the question I started with  – Where have I put Baby Jesus?   My Advent season has truly been blessed by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to blog my daily reading of  the wonderful book, the Living Gospel: Daily Devotions for Advent 2014 (Fr. R. Scott Hurd, Ave Maria Press).  I do believe if it were not for this reflection time that I would have not done much by way of spiritual growing during this month.  In addition to the gifts, cards and food preparation for the BIG DAY, I have been trying to prepare for the launch of my new radio show, A Seeking Heart with Allison Gingras on RealLifeRadio.com.  A very unexpected, yet remarkable, blessing to come into my life just before Advent began.

True confession, my number one goal for Advent was to attend daily Mass.  I have felt this nudge for a long time to try to kick my night owl ways and get myself to the Eucharist every day – and not just in Adoration (though I am truly grateful to be at a Parish where MondayFriday that is possible for me), but in reception.   At the heart of this goal was to encounter Jesus every day  – to come to Him in the Eucharist and be fed, nourished, encouraged.  Instead, I continued to work into the wee hours shopping online, writing, or preparing in one way or the other – leaving my soul to it’s own devices for the BIG DAY.

Which brings me to my fourth and final point for day’s reflection.  The Big Day — during this time of the year I am speaking of  Christmas, but when considering preparing to meet Jesus in the larger scheme of things – that day could be any of the days ahead.   Whether I am ready or not, that day, like Christmas will inevitably come.   I am either going to meet Him, through my death, or Him coming to meet us, through the Second Coming.   Would I truly be ready – would Jesus be looking for me have the perfect gift nicely wrapped for Him??  Would He peruse my Christmas Letter before passing final judgment?  I pray He won’t be seeking a snack – as I am probably one of the worse cooks in America.

I do not believe Jesus would not want any of those – though in of themselves they are not bad things, they are all good.  On their own, and in proper perspective they are all truly good, fun, and exciting parts of the Advent/Christmas season that God would want us to enjoy.  What I believe Jesus would be looking for would for my heart to be ready to receive Him, that we’d already know each other and not be strangers, and that he’d want to celebrate with us…after of course, we’ve remembered where we have put Baby Jesus

 

Copyright 2014, Allison Gingras
Host, A Seeking Heart with Allison Gingras on RealLifeRadio.com

Carry Your Candle..Go Light the World!

Linking up with Laura at Day by Day In Our World for 40 Days of Seeking Him!

As a Catholic, few can say that they remember the experience of their own baptisms…that is unless they too are a convert. Looking back, I have often thought what a blessing God has given in allowing me to so vividly recall the details of this incredible undeserving gift.  Along with those later made in choosing to become a Catholic, I can see how these sacraments have formed me, and continue to transform me throughout my journey with God.  For those who have yet to hear my story, as well as for my own children, I feel today is a good day to share.

Having grown up in a strong Southern Baptist family, I would venture to say that I spent almost as much time at church as I did at home. Yet, there was no pressure or time set aside when I was to decidedly become a Christian. This was a time of Sunday school, a time to color, to play, listen to bible stories, and sing in the Children’s choir. However, early on I began to realize that, while young, more was being asked of me. One evening, sitting with my mother I had inwardly been praying. It was a deep soul searching prayer, one in which I sat in conversation with Christ asking what I needed to do. To any onlooker, I must have looked a bit odd because I was totally immersed in the moment, unaware of things going around me. “Be baptized.. Come you are loved and forgiven” were the words that resounded in my heart. Tears streamed down my little 7 year old face as I opened my eyes and related this to my mom. Now, so intimately I knew what sin was and that in choosing to follow Christ I could not also follow sin.

Though excitedly awaiting my baptismal date, it was only to be postponed by- chicken pox. An outbreak had hit all the schools and I was among the many, including the boy that I was to be baptized with. By the time the day finally arrived, my anticipation had truly grown. My mom and grandma sat in the congregation as I expressed my commitment to follow Christ’s teachings. Then, three times my head was slowly pushed back into the water and I joyously heard the words “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit”.

As a funny aside, I was so little and lightweight that with the gown I was wearing my feet automatically sprang to the surface with each submersion.  I literally popped to the top of the water, my grandma would later tease, just like an apple. Standing up and turning to face the congregation, I was greeted by a wave of applause and a chorus of Amens. This was, as Pope Francis would be the first to add, my new birthday in the Church.

Just a few months afterward, a couple of teens broke into that church taking any items of value before setting it ablaze. I remember the sadness that I felt at the sin that had caused so much devastation. I prayed for them, asking God to help them to realize this and to find their way to Him one day. While all church records were lost, my mom provided a living witness to my baptism and letter of testimony when I sought to be confirmed in the Catholic Church. Oh, and that small Baptist church would be replaced by a new one just 2 years later..three times the size.

Father you are everything new and good in this world! You created me anew through my baptism and called me to share in the life, love and mission of your Church here on earth. You have given me a light to guide me, and an open door through which to grow and embrace a sacramental life with you within the world. Please enable me Lord to always show your light and love to the world!

Worth Revisiting Wednesday: A Spirit Led Day in Rome

It’s Worth Revisiting Wednesday! A place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link-up with fellow bloggers! Co-Hosted with Allison Gingras at Reconciled To You.

When thinking about creating a new link-up opportunity for Wednesday, this idea of sharing a cherished previous post came to mind. For, getting together with friends isn’t always about what’s new in our lives, but often a stroll down memory lane. With that in mind, grab a seat, sit back and join in the conversation!


A Spirit Led Day in Rome

(Originally posted September 17, 2014)

A year ago July, as a graduate student with Loyola Chicago, I was in Rome. Given a free day to (pardon the pun) roam around, I hadn’t made any definitive plans. A couple of friends had invited me to take two early morning trains out to Castel Gandolfo on the uncertainty that Pope Francis was to appear there that day. Alas, he was there..I was not. Sunburned and needing more sleep, I decided to climb back into bed forgoing this graced opportunity.

Yet the Spirit, as it so often is known to do, would not disappoint! Heading down to breakfast, I was greeted with my cocoa toasted cappuccino and my other friends who had yet to finalize their day.  After expressing my interest to see the Divine Mercy Shrine at The Church of Santo Spirito, we all agreed that would be a good starting place! Upon arrival, we were greeted by… wedding guests and the beautiful tones of Ave Maria as the bride walked down the aisle. This would be one of four weddings we were to glimpse that day!

From there to San Teodoro and into one of the most beloved bakeries in Rome, Cristalli di Zucchero.

To an incredible farmer’s market

then a few minutes of Adoration at the Church of San Teodoro al Palentino. Earlier at the bakery, we had spoken with a Religious Art

Expectant Mary awaiting the birth of Christ

student from Paris who had told us of a beautiful fresco of Mary in Santo Sabina’s. This was coincidentally was up Aventine Hill, where my friend MaryEllen had wanted to go. Considered one of the most spectacular views of Rome, it left us all breathless.

Aventine Hill

See More..

Embracing Advent with Open Mind, Heart and Eyes

Linking up with Laura at Day by Day In Our World for 40 Days of Seeking Him!

This Advent season, I find myself disenchanted with the stores, and the constant promotion of items to be bought in order to win smiles and love. Some years are like that we say to ourselves, and yet I know that there is something much profound at work. Searching, I recognize that while society hasn’t necessarily changed, I have.

The other day, I took a moment with a local homeless man just to talk. As he stood there, leaning uncomfortably against my church, I could not pass him by. That is, without sharing a smile and asking him how he was doing. Even from a distance, I noticed that the cold weather had left his skin and lips weathered, and reddened.  I suddenly realized that I had come prepared. For, inside my car were a new pair of tube socks with lotion, wipes, chap stick, toothbrush and toothpaste enclosed. Gladly, but a bit surprised, he accepted the gift.

Examples of items to include in a care kit..

This morning on my way to take my son to school again I saw him, with a huge smile on his face walking with a couple of other men. What a gift he had given me to see him enjoying a bit of happiness and company. The homeless life can be so very isolating, for mental illness and addictions have often served to distance them from relationships and even recognition. In our hurry and perhaps even fearful, we are accustomed to look straight ahead towards our destination.

Where are our eyes focused this Advent? Upwards toward heaven, forward in completing the day’s events, or all around seeking God in everything? Are we, as Mother Teresa observed, “seeing and adoring the presence of Jesus, especially in the lowly appearance of bread, and in the distressing disguise of the poor”?  [1] Times have been difficult in my suburban community, and many more families are either finding themselves cutting back, overextended, or without.  Yet, while we can’t do or be everything to everyone we can greet, love, and support one another in whatever way we can. Today, an invitation was extended for more volunteers at our parish food pantry in order to serve more people, and provide rest for regular helpers. Maybe an hour this Advent season is a gift you too can give.

How are our hearts this Advent? If we are serious about preparing for Christ’s coming, it’s time now to think about the condition of our hearts. Are we hardened by our own circumstances, and the pitfalls we have found ourselves in? Where are my thoughts this Advent? Trusting the path and journey we are on isn’t easy to do alone, for the temptation is to seek control.

Prayer and the Eucharist– are for me the most transforming corrections for my squinted vision, stiffening heart,  and human tendencies to control my world.  In quiet prayer, I can silence the noise and hear Jesus’ voice once again. All my pretences fall away, as I stand like a child at his feet. Feeling his embrace, my heart melts and I long to stay with him. His smile reminds me who and whose I am. Created and loved I am asked to see as he does. His daughter, I am called to be ever close to him. This intimacy of the Eucharist draws me not inward but outward.

 I am called to be more than I could have ever imagined, and all that you know I can be.  “Let faith arise..open my eyes!” 

[1] Mother TeresaIn the Heart of the World: Thoughts, Stories and Prayers

Worth Revisiting Wednesday: Music that Moves the Soul!

It’s Worth Revisiting Wednesday! A place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link-up with fellow bloggers! Co-Hosted with Allison Gingras at Reconciled To You.

When thinking about creating a new link-up opportunity for Wednesday, this idea of sharing a cherished previous post came to mind. For, getting together with friends isn’t always about what’s new in our lives, but often a stroll down memory lane. With that in mind, grab a seat, sit back and join in the conversation!


Music that Moves the Soul!

(Originally posted September 1, 2014)

Music (2)An essential part of a fulfilling community worship experience, its importance cannot be understated. Whether raised in praise, thanksgiving or lamentation, the ability of song to stir our soul and buoy our spirit is ageless and eternal.

In spiritual life formation and liturgy, music can be a tool not simply to engage the listener but to move an entire community to participation through “beauty expressive of prayer”, while preserving the “solemn character of the celebration”. [3] This tension is important to consider because not all songs are appropriate to the occasion or the solemnity of the moment no matter how beautiful or inspiring.

One age group or ministry that is making significant strides with in Youth Ministrydoing this well is the area of youth ministry. Incorporating visuals with songs, and quite often using live music, youth ministry is recognizing the importance of music as a means for evangelization and enrichment. Given the array of contemporary Christian artists, quite a few of them even specifically Catholic; there is no shortage of music styles, or diversity of gifts. While it might surprise you, in Christian music today there is not only room for outstanding gospel and praise artists, but blues, pop, metal, and rap as well.

So much more than just the confession of our sins… reconciliation is the reparation and renewal of the relationship between the believer, God, and the community of the faithful.

Having said this, I would love your help with my latest project! Within the format of the retreat setting, and sacramental preparation, I am interested in amassing an ongoing list of artists and songs to deeper engage the whole believer to participation. Then, with these songs, parishes could use them in coordination with guided sacramental programs and retreats, even garnering the assistance of local musicians if possible.

The following are an initial top 15 for Reconciliation.. Read More

Worth Revisiting Wednesday: A New Perspective!

It’s Worth Revisiting Wednesday! A place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link-up with fellow bloggers! Co-Hosted with Allison Gingras at Reconciled To You.

When thinking about creating a new link-up opportunity for Wednesday, this idea of sharing a cherished previous post came to mind. For, getting together with friends isn’t always about what’s new in our lives, but often a stroll down memory lane. With that in mind, grab a seat, sit back and join in the conversation!


Currently, A New Perspective!

(Originally posted September 22, 2014)

Currently,A New Perspective
with “A Mama Collective”!

Currently, I have been thinking about the people that enter into our lives, albeit sometimes unexpectedly,  who enable us to glimpse a new perspective.  We are reminded that the beauty of our journey as Christians  is that as questions arise, our faith tradition is filled with deep convictions, “emerging” methods,  and new beginnings!  How thankful I am for those times that as God has sought to move me, and has opened my eyes to see  a different perspective or the need for a more pastoral approach. What a vision God has of the whole picture!

It reminds me of an art class where everyone is painting the object in the center. The object isn’t the same all the way around, even the light from the windows casts the colors and shadows differently. Yet, the artists paint what is before them in the truest way possible, faithful to the teacher, and the methods that they have learned.

Listening// This week I listened to an elderly friend, who I bring communion to, describe the sightless, hard of hearing world that he lives in. Not in a complaint, but in a matter of fact way-inviting me into “seeing” his perspective.  Though the light behind his eyes has made sleep extremely difficult, he asks to be awakened for communion because this is so essential to him. As we part, he tells my husband and I how he wishes he could see us but how much he loves and is thankful for our time spent in community.

Watching// with excitement at the new appointment of Bishop Blase Cupich as Archbishop of Chicago!  Just a few days before the announcement, twitter was all abuzz. Eagerly, I studied his pastoral journey to gain a better understanding of the perspective he would bring to the position.  He appears to be moderate in his approach on most religious issues, and in touch with both the teachings and the people.  How heartwarming it was to hear him personally address the 44% Hispanic population of Chicago in Spanish!  In everything that I have seen and heard so far,  I have to say what an exciting time  it is for the people of  Chicago. 

Read More..

Never Underestimate the Gift of Ourselves

Linking up with Laura at Day by Day In Our World for 40 Days of Seeking Him!

  This morning I awoke to a beautiful gift- an extra hour of sleep, kids fed and showered, our pup taken care of as well, and my middle son making his lunch for school. As Peter stood there constructing his sandwich, in his dress shirt and tie laughing with his younger brother I felt so incredibly blessed. This was a moment that each of my family, without even fully recognizing had contributed to. To complete the gift, my hubby ushered them into the car and dropped them each off at school with percussion set and books in tow. While these are all things that are a daily occurrence, today I was given the gift of appreciation both for what I do, as well as for the gift they each bring in themselves.

Image from:Always the Holidays.com

This advent as we light each candle in anticipation, open and unwrap each day, there is an inherent challenge. Are my steps and efforts directed towards society’s expectations, in an overly commercialized season of shopping, or they a gift to Christ?  ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ (MT 25:40) What is the real gift Christ is asking of us this season? It is, I believe, to give the gift of ourselves to others. Our time, our talents, our love…all gracious endowments from God to begin with, are to be freely given to others.

Vatican’s Nativity Scene December 24, 2013

Yet, before we start thinking that these must be expressed as grand gestures, we look again at the infinite love witnessed in the tiny babe lying in the manger.  In this way, God reached out to each one of us to give us the gift of Himself – to convert and enkindle our hearts to change the world.  This love then is what we can bring each day to someone else in need. It might be a smile, a kind word, a warm meal, a handwritten note, a prayer or simply an unexpected act of love.

“One Good Thing” By Jillee

*While I have seen this idea before, I was reminded recently of a service advent calendar or advent jar. The idea is instead of receiving a candy or chocolate to honor the day, you choose a loving act of service to do individually or as a family. The ideas above are just a few, and will vary as do each of the gifts God has given you. More beautiful than gold, frankincense or myrrh will be your gift to Christ this season.

Years ago, I remember shopping with an infant in tow desperately trying to gather all that was needed so not to return. One day when walking past an aisle I saw an elderly man standing alone staring at a wall of supplies and looking completely lost. Knowing all that I had to do that day I could’ve kept going past, yet I felt that strong inner pull to walk back. As I approached, I leaned in and asked if I could be of any help. His whole body sighed as he turned and said, “Oh, thank you yes, I have been here looking for so long!” His eyes shone and his gratitude was unsurpassable. After asking him a few questions and locating the item, he then turned to me and said, “Do you know how many others have walked past me?” My heart ached at this, and still I realized that I too had been given a choice that day. That day, I saw Christ in my fellow brother, and responded to the call to love. It marks a very important faith moment in my life, one that I return to whenever I feel my own schedule has unique importance.

Jesus, this season I want to stop and celebrate your presence and love in others. Prayerfully, I desire that I can also be a reflection of you for those that are in need of love, mercy and forgiveness in their lives. Open my eyes and my heart to see where I need to be, what gift of myself that I can give, and what lessons are to be learned. Thank you for reminding me that though there is great need there is also great hope.  For, in seeking to follow, you continually guide my feet and strengthen my purpose.