Worth Revisiting: Work Harder, Pray More

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In light of upcoming elections, many of us have spent time considering our options, weighing the consequences and praying that not only our nation survives but can address necessary issues. As difficult as this election year has been, I am reminded that my faith, though resting solely in Christ, cannot remain isolated from the reality that it is practiced in a world that often runs counter to that faith. Noted Lutheran theologian and pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, stressed three elements of “costly discipleship”: (1) prayer, (2) community, and (3) an engagement with surrounding political realities.

At this time in my life, I  seek to have an active life of prayer, a discipleship in community, and in small everyday ways to be engaged with the political realities in the world around me. Yet, in my youth, I was undoubtedly more political- even devoting my undergrad entrance essay to the the apathetic attitude of Americans towards voting and working towards change. In the last 10 years, admittedly I have become somewhat disillusioned in the leadership to protect and preserve  life, and determination to truly accomplish transformative change. However, the mission of  working towards the kingdom of God  is calling us forth as a church, as the body of Christ, to respond. And before we ask, “What can I do?”, we need only look to the efforts of those individuals who have taken that step to make a difference and the power of a “Yes!”

“Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.”

St. Catherine of Siena knew the intimate connection between contemplation and action, between our baptism the living out of our discipleship. Renowned for her care for the poor, diseased, and the conversion of sinners, she used her insight, and conviction to influence both pope and city state leaders alike in a call for peace and unity of the church.

“Ora et labora”

For St. Benedict, prayer and work were the basis of monastic life directed towards the commitment to  further“seek after peace and pursue it.”

“Praying with my feet”

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel first gave this response when asked why he, a renowned Hebrew scholar, chose to march with Martin Luther King in Selma. For when prayer is centered on God, there is an invitation both to piety and praise, as well as to commit our actions towards that love of God. Whether or not you feel represented, led or inspired by either candidate in this election, the majority of us can agree that there remain many steps to be taken ahead.

“May prayer and action always be deeply united. A prayer that does not lead you to practical action for your brother.. is a sterile and incomplete prayer. But, in the same way, when ecclesial service is attentive only to doing, things gain in importance, functions, structures, and we forget the centrality of Christ.” Pope Francis, Angelus 7/21/13

Pope Francis is setting a beautiful model that we can all emulate in calling us to reach out as a community to meet those who are suffering and in need…to embrace, heal, provide reconciliation and be a means of hope. He articulates the necessity to be aware of the intimate presence of God within, to seek moments of contemplation in our everyday world, work for the common good, and encourage others to do the same. It is here that I see my place currently within the community of faith in working towards these initial steps, and in enacting my faith albeit locally towards new paths. Each step is a prayer, and a hopeful course of action. Each life encountered, an opportunity to see and meet Christ in one another.

Reflect: What shape does “costly discipleship” take in my own life today and in the years ahead? Am I engaged in active discipleship and willing to “pray with my feet”?

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: When God Talks

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What is it to say that God talks? How do we know that God is really speaking and guiding us as we seek to follow?

I would venture to say that nearly every believer has at some point in their walk of faith has questioned and sought certainty of God’s constant dialogue with them. Silence might seem deafening at times and the fear of abandonment or trial just too great. Hang in there, you are in good company…what you are describing has been felt by countless saints and even uttered by our Lord himself on the cross.

Not that long ago, my teenage son who had experienced a very difficult day with a friendship, and dealing with academic pressures found himself unable to sleep. Pausing by his room to say goodnight, I became suddenly aware that he needed to talk.

“Mom, why is it that when I pray I cannot hear God speaking to me? I pray every night, even apart from our family prayer…and I never hear anything back.”

“What is it that you are expecting to hear”, I ask, “an audible voice?”

“I’m not sure, he responds, but right now it’s just silence.”

“What is it that you feel…can you feel God present even if it may seem he isn’t that close?”

“Yes, but I really wish he would answer me, and help me figure out how to handle all that I am dealing with”

Smiling, “Were you just praying earlier? Have you ever considered that is why I am here now?”

Thinking of this moment today, I am reminded that perhaps we sometimes set expectations on just how God is to respond to our prayer and miss him working in the events and lives of all those around us.

Setting time aside for scripture is another way that we, if open, can “hear” God speaking to us. This past week was a beautiful testament of this! With a number of prayerful concerns on my mind last

 Monday,

I picked up my coffee and sat down with a few scriptural reflections for some Father-daughter time. Asking God for guidance, I opened my eyes and to my delight was a reflection on Luke 11:8-9..

“And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

God was asking me not to carry these matters alone but to ask, seek and depend on him. Though I was pleased with this consolation, God was not satisfied. He underscored it with the 2nd completely distinctive reflection on James 1:5-6…

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and he will be given it. But he should ask in faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind.

It wasn’t enough for me to simply ask, God was telling me I needed to trust that he had it all in control. Without faith and trust, my prayers and conversation were shallow and superficial, not at all the deep friendship that God longs to have with each and every one of us.

Wednesday:

I had hit the ground running from the moment my feet first met the floor. Scrambling to get put into place things that should’ve been done earlier I had skipped my morning reflection time. God had not given up on me though. My chosen post for Worth Revisiting was a reflection on Matthew 13:1-9, and focused on the essentials of prayer, mass, love and scripture. Quickly I had uploaded it and opened the linkup for the week without giving the post itself the needed read. That is until the Holy Spirit got my attention. Unbeknownst to me initially, my colleague Allison Gingras had also chosen that very same scripture passage to revisit. As she and I both sat in amazement, I knew that there was something God wanted me to notice in that passage and post. Then there it was, in my writing by my own hand. I had woken up without tending to my own weeds and preparing my soil adequately. “Father, thank you for your patience, persistence and humor in seeking me- when I am otherwise occupied and not always seeking you!”

Thursday:

Having come to the realization that all of my notes for my radio interview that day no longer existed, I was feeling quite dismayed. That is, until I turned to this reflection,

“We must always be starting again. These continual recoveries, this endless beginning again, tires and disheartens us far more than the actual fighting. We would much prefer a real battle, fierce and decisive. But God, as a rule, thinks otherwise.” — Dom Augustin Guillerand

Once again I found strength and determination to take up the task at hand, knowing that God had a purpose in the re-do, in my beginning again. Humble but reassured, I saw purpose in the work ahead.

So, how do we know when God is talking to us?

This tangible experience of his presence, which is at times overwhelming and also more subtle, is both anticipated and yet surprising. It lifts us up, reassures, comforts and guides, giving us hope when we have none. Even when we are not aware of it, God is ever present and faithful.. waiting for us to make space in our day. When we do– the more attentive and attune to the sound of His voice we are, no matter what the world throws at us. When was the last time you heard God talk?

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Walking the Road of Peace

This was written a year ago as the Scotus decision on the redefinition of civil marriage was first issued and with tensions at their peak. Perhaps today we have attained a measure of distance from the issue- to listen better and speak less and to witness through our lives rather than instruct through a sharp tongue.

For as long as I can recall, God has placed deep within me a compelling summons to see and walk the road of peace in the midst of heated disagreements, and to mediate when necessary.  Yet, not a diplomat in a shallow sense, I see the people behind the conflict, and the far reaching consequences of the steps we take today. It is not an easy path, and at times diplomacy entails being disliked by both parties, but the cause of peace and respect for the human person within the human family is worthwhile enough to pursue.

As some may have noticed this past week, I have been noticeably silent as the Scotus decision on the redefinition of civil marriage was proclaimed.  While unwavering in the sanctity of marriage as a sacrament in our faith, I also understand the real need for compassion and active listening. This polarizing issue, which has turned our Facebook profiles rainbow, and overlaid with the Vatican flag for Catholics and non-Catholics alike is a visible expression of the division we have been experiencing as a people of faith.  Many have felt that the need to take this visible stand, and though I understand your need to do so, please consider why I have not.

Most notably, with emotions on the issue at an all time high, a majority of people are responding reactively. Finding ourselves in a position of either defending our beliefs, or asserting alternative ones few seem to be in a position of listening. The immediate consequence that I see is that we begin to alienate whole groups of people by our actions that we choose going forward. I have personally witnessed people selectively removing others that have chosen to bear either flag from their contacts. Where do you go from there, if there is to be true dialogue possible?

I am not arguing for a compromise in values, but instead a time of prayerful discernment in choosing our words and actions. So many things are being spoken from positions of fear, judgment, and righteous indignation without full consideration of their effect. When the dust settles from all of this, we as a people of faith will be truly in want of reconciliation and healing. Given the long breath of our church history, we have been here before as a Church.

Still there may soon come a time when there will be a need to consciously and conscientiously attend to a line drawn by secular intrusions on the practice of the right to religious freedom. That is why this time is so very important. Before we speak, pray. Pray for our shepherds who have been called to lead, that they do so attentive to the teachings of our faith, and pastorally to the people they are to tend to. Pray that everything we do is with the eyes of Christ, and everything we say is spoken with love.

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting:Joy Stealer or Faith Grower?

Perspective they say is everything, and when we choose to look at situations with new eyes, better yet God’s eyes, we are given a real invitation to grow in faith..

Currently, in our society where individualism and our own happiness has been regarded as utmost priority there is great emphasis placed on that which makes us momentarily feel good.  We are quick  to avoid the situations that disturb our inner peace, upset out schedule and call us out of our comfort zone. Even in our relationships we grumble, resist and distance ourselves from those that are most difficult to deal with.

I pause here for an honest confession… I have chosen the path of feeling annoyed and complaining lately. Faced with a seemingly unchanging resistance from others to my own desire to be joyful,  I had decided it best to create some distance. A mini retreat of sorts, I recognized that I needed a break in order to get a bit of perspective. In taking this opportunity to go out into the “wilderness”  to spend some alone time in prayer, to reflect on what  is being asked of me I now have a better understanding of what Christ desires.

First, I realize that I cannot remain on permanent retreat from all that I feel attempts to steal my joy. Obvious exemptions would be situations that are physically or mentally abusive. Yet, what I am talking about are difficult people, or particularly trying situations that continually test my patience and call for regular forgiveness.

Case in point:

1.The “one way or no way” attitude: The phone rings and I notice the caller id. As the conversation ensues I am struck by the familiarity of the questions and topics of discussion.  Can we ever go deeper? No, not if it remains a one sided barrage of questions where there is only one answer desired. No, not if there isn’t active listening, appreciation of the other person, and a desire to have true dialogue. So, I listen and leave the discussion wondering why I spent my time in this way.

2. The “blinking red light”: Here is the person that is constantly in hot water. If the issue doesn’t involve them directly they feel it necessary to stir the waters that potentially create a tempest situation. Oh, did you have plans today? Well, this is far more important and if you weren’t concerned before..you should be by now.  So, I listen, offer advice, help where I can, and spend the day praying that they find peace.

Selfishly at times I have asked God, “Why have you placed these rocks in my path, why am I being asked to deal with stubbornness and anxiety?”

His answer, “Elizabeth because you have yet to learn the incredible lessons of love and forgiveness that I have been so desperately seeking to instill in you! Do you honestly think that you are without fault, malleable, secure in my loving plan and accepting of all that I am calling you to be?”

“No, Father… I have much to learn. Yet, I am desperately trying to understand though. Isn’t that good?”

Yes, but you cannot get comfortable with where you are- because I am asking so much more of you. Each of my children has a purpose and a journey. Sometimes this journey leads others to learn from you and other times their purpose is to challenge you to grow.

I have choices in how I encounter others. If my life isn’t rooted in love, patience, and forgiveness, how are others to truly  know Christ through me?  Moreover, our lives are meant to be proof of God’s deep call to a new life, faith that though times get difficult there is hope that our loving Father is working all for good.  This inbreaking of the Kingdom of God isn’t merely an inner journey or a futuristic promise of heaven…but it begins with me today.

Peace,

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An Engaging Faith: 11/16-11/20

You are invited to join me this week for An Engaging Faith on Breadbox Media daily at 4pm EST.

Enter To Win a Copy of
Befriending Silence: Discovering the Gifts of Cistercian Spirituality by Carl McColman (Ave Maria Press), 
Drawing runs 11/16-11/22 Click to enter..

Finding God within, and encountering the world without!

Carl McColman of Befriending Silence:Discovering the Gifts of Cistercian Spirituality , Teresa of Avila: An Interior CastleTony Agnesi with Finding God’s Grace in the Everyday , Encore of Mark Hart, aka The Bible Geek and  John Zmirak with Disorientation: How to Go to College Without Losing Your Mind

Monday:Carl McColman, is the author of The Big Book of Christian Mysticism and Answering the Contemplative Call, and his latest Befriending Silence:Discovering the Gifts of Cistercian Spirituality. Carl also writes for Patheos, Huffington Post, and Contemplative Journal. He also has his own popular website and blog devoted to Christian and world mysticism. McColman is a member of the Lay Cistercians of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit, a contemplative community under the spiritual guidance of Trappist monks. A Catholic in full-time ministry as a retreat leader and speaker, McColman frequently leads workshops and retreats on contemplative spirituality at churches, seminaries, monasteries and retreat centers. He was trained in the practice of Christian contemplation through the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation in Washington, DC. He received training in spiritual direction from the Institute for Pastoral Studies in Atlanta. He lives in Stone Mountain, Georgia.

Tuesday: Teresa of Avila: An Interior Castle,  Yearn to take an inner pilgrimage, or encounter God in a life changing way? Then, I invite you to join my friend and companion, saint and mystic Teresa of Avila for a time of intimate discovery. Join me for a walk through Carmelite spirituality and a discussion on how this young 16th c.nun still speaks to us today.

Wednesday: Tony Agnesi, who is Finding God’s Grace in Everyday Life is the Senior Vice President of Rubber City Radio Group, WQMX, WONE, and WAKR in Akron and WNWV in Cleveland and member of Radio and Television Hall of Fame. A relentless storyteller, his Sunday blog and Wednesday podcast have an International audience in over 70 counties and has been translated in over 40 languages. Tony and his wife Diane have two adult sons and are members of the Sacred Heart of Jesus parish in Wadsworth, Ohio.

Thursday:Mark Hart serves as Executive Vice President for Life Teen International. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame and a twenty-year veteran of youth ministry, Mark Hart is one of the most sought-after speakers serving in the Catholic Church, today. The author (or co-author) of over a dozen books, including best-sellers “Blessed are the Bored in Spirit”, “Behold the Mystery”, “Ask the Bible Geek”, “100 Things Every Catholic Teen Should Know” and “The “R” Father”, Mark’s writing style is humorous yet deep, accessible to and enjoyed by readers of all ages.

Friday: John Zmirak a composition teacher at LSU and screenwriting at Tulane University, John has written screenplays for and with director Ronald Maxwell (Gods & Generals and Gettysburg). He was elected alternate delegate to the 1996 Republican Convention and been Press Secretary to Louisiana Governor Mike Foster. His essays, poems, and other works have appeared in many publications including ” “USA Today,” “”The Atlantic,” “The Intercollegiate Review,” and “The National Catholic Register”. From 2000-2004 he served as Senior Editor of “Faith & Family Magazine” and a reporter at “The National Catholic Register.” He works now as an editor for several publishing companies. He joins us today to discuss his latest book, Disorientation: How to Go to College Without Losing Your Mind

An Engaging Faith: 11/2-11/6

You are invited to join me this week for An Engaging Faith on Breadbox Media daily at 4pm EST.

Enter To Win a Copy of The Fransciscan Heart Of Thomas Merton by Fr. Dan Horan, O.F.M(Ave Maria Press) , Trusting God with St. Terese by Connie Rossini 
Drawing runs 10/19-10/25 Click to enter..

How important are contemplation and dialogue in our daily lives?

Jordan Denari  with Interfaith Dialogue and Islamophobia,  Dan Horan, O.F.M joins us with The Fransciscan Heart Of Thomas Merton, Connie Rossini with The Contemplative Family, An Encore of The Ignatian Solidarity Network(ISN)

And Karee Santos to discuss closing thoughts on the Synod of Bishops On The Family 2015.

Monday: Jordan Denari, is a writer, speaker, and Research Fellow for the Bridge Initiative, a project of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University. A voice on interfaith issues, Jordan writes about Islam, Christianity, the Middle East, and Islamophobia. Jordan has published articles in TIME, America, Commonweal, Sojourners, Huffington Post, On Faith, Busted Halo, and other outlets.


Tuesday: Fr. Dan Horan, O.F.M
is a Franciscan friar of Holy Name Province (New York) and is currently a Ph.D. student in systematic theology at Boston College. Fr. Dan has previously taught at Siena College and St. Bonaventure University and currently serves on the Board of Directors of the International Thomas Merton Society. The author of many scholarly and popular articles, Fr. Dan received a 2011 Catholic Press Association first-place award for his writing on spirituality. He is the author of several books, including Dating God: Live and Love in the Way of St. Francis, Francis of Assisi and the Future of Faith: Exploring Franciscan Spirituality and Theology in the Modern World, and The Franciscan Heart of Thomas Merton. In addition to his column in America, Fr. Dan is a regular contributor to Give Us This Day, The Huffington Post and blogs at DatingGod.org. 

Wednesday: Connie RossiniConnie Rossini gives whole families practical help to grow in holiness. She is the author of Trusting God with St. Therese, A Spiritual Growth Plan for Your Choleric Child, and the free ebook Five Lessons from the Carmelite Saints That Will Change Your Life. She writes a spirituality column for The Prairie Catholic of the Diocese of New Ulm, Minnesota, and blogs at Contemplative Homeschool. She is also a columnist for SpiritualDirection.com. Her posts have appeared on Catholic Lane and elsewhere. She administers the Catholic Spirituality Blogs Network and owns the Google+ Community Indie Catholic Authors. Connie and her husband Dan have four young sons.

Thursday: The Ignatian Solidarity Network(ISN): a national social justice education and advocacy network inspired by the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola will be discussing the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice to be held November 7-9 in Washington D.C. ISN was founded in 2004 and is a lay-led 501(c)3 organization working in partnership with Jesuit universities, high schools, and parishes, along with many other Catholic institutions and social justice partners. Executive Director, Chris Kerr and intern Grace Donnelly will be joining us to share their passion for social justice at work in our communities today.

Friday: Karee Santos, will be joining  us again this time to talk about the Synod of Bishops On The Family 2015.. Karee and husband, Manuel P. Santos, M.D., a psychiatrist, began teaching marriage preparation and enrichment classes in New York City in 2003. Their Catholic marriage advice book The Four Keys to Everlasting Love will be published by Ave Maria Press in 2016. She also blogs at Can We Cana? a community to support Catholic Marriages.