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,

Signature

 

 

Advertisements

Worth Revisiting: Finding Patience

Have you met Faith, Hope and Charity in your own life?  Intended for our youngest readers ages 4-8, Finding Patience is a very endearing introduction to these extraordinary gifts from God.  When 8 year old Faith moves with her family to a new home and school, her initial excitement fades as she encounters the daunting challenge of making new friends.  Encouraged to seek patience in prayer, Faith soon finds the love and support of her family and a new puppy to help her persevere. This time also prepares Faith with a true appreciation for what was to come next…a new friend!

As we have come to discover in our own lives, the experience of change and disappointment doesn’t begin when we are old enough to equip ourselves with ready answers or are accustomed to waiting patiently. Much less is patience something acquired once and for all, but as with the other virtues, is a gift that we are to grow in throughout our lives. This as young Faith demonstrates so well requires perseverance.

flower-1-1527160Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  (James 1:2-3)

While so often we struggle to attain even a good measure of patience in our lives, this struggle is incredibly important. For, when tested we do have a choice- to give up to discouragement  or lift up and lean into God. When we actively persevere in trusting God, in his timing and will, it is then we receive that inner strength needed to endure whatever trial we face in our lives.  Only then, do we get to enjoy in the fullness of all that God desires for each of us –true peace and love.

For most of my early life, I believed myself to be patient. Since, accepting the failures and faults of others came quite naturally. What I did not do, however, is practice patience with myself and God’s timing with my own life. Meeting obstacles by seeking to control all conditions involved, I was left with anything but peace. I thought that God would act quickly, and if he hadn’t was depending on me to do my part to move things into place. Then, when things didn’t go as planned, I felt this was only because I had failed to execute the plan perfectly.

Like 8 year old Faith, I didn’t realize right away that waiting, and practicing patience, was an active journey in virtue. Exercising patience, unlike seeking control, requires a choice of placing the situation in the hands of God rather than solely your own. It is trusting in the outcome that God has in store and finding peace in the midst of it. As Christian parents, we seek to teach our children not only how to get through life but how to discern fully and follow Christ with each step along the way. The virtues are spiritual tools to do just that. So, why not start today on this path with your child to learn and grow in virtue?

 

Signature

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,

Signature


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

Worth Revisiting: Conformity or Conversion

“Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins, and it will be spilled, and the skins will be ruined. Rather, new wine must be poured into fresh wineskins.” Luke 5:33-39

This Gospel reading really struck home as just moments before I had received an unexpected call from someone about to enter a mandated rehab program. Knowing that I was to speak with this young man later, I found myself considering both the change offered in the new wine and the comfort he has found in the old wineskin. Was he really ready to accept a dissimilar mode of intoxication, a radical way of moving through the life he had been accustomed to?  Or was this opportunity to be lost, unable to be readily accepted in the worn and toughened shell he conveyed?

Whether we choose to admit it or not, his story is not unlike our own. For, so too our daily choices in life help to fashion the shape and degree of flexibility of our own wineskins to accept the transformative message of the Gospel.  The constricting nature of many of our decisions can leave us feeling either trapped in a life not of our choosing or content with an accustomed conformity with what is known.

And no one who has been drinking old wine desires new,
for he says, ‘The old is good.’”

And yet, how much sweeter is the promised new wine that Christ has in store for each of us! Even though spiritual conditioning, prayer and reflection may have softened the skin, we may not be ready to accept the total conversion of heart that is required. Instead we seem perplexed when seeking to take a bit of new wine and mix it with the old it does not blend well.  Leaving us dissatisfied and wondering if we should have tried to change at all. Why is this? Well, quite simply, the life altering message of Christ does not fit into old destructive behaviors, or is it content with half-hearted measures with no conviction.  This new wine holds the assurance of new life and new possibilities that can only be received when we are willing to give up conformity for conversion.

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” Blessed Mother Teresa

 †     Where in my life have I become stiffened and resistant to change? Is the pull of temptation, addictions, or conformity to the world keeping me from even desiring the new life God has waiting for me? Am I satisfied with observing empty practices or am I seeking greater meaning in my life today? 

Peace,

Signature

Worth Revisiting: The Gift of Retreat

 :

For the last two years, I have been given the gift of an Ignatian silent directed retreat at Campion Retreat House in Weston, MA . Just the thought of an unhurried, unscheduled day and release of self-imposed expectations is enough to fill my heart with joy. Teeming with insights and brimming with grace, my soul longs to soak up every moment and respond in gratitude.

Reciprocity

The word gift used here is a very full word as it implies not only what is received by the retreatant but what each person brings to the retreat as well.It is a reciprocal relationship, for truly you are only able to receive when you are willing to offer and surrender all.

Sucipe      ~St. Ignatius of Loyola

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.

You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.

Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.

When there is response and surrender, there is an openness and an emptying, brokenness and renewal, discernment and clarity.

Silence

“In nature we find silence – the trees, flowers, and grass grow in silence. The stars, the moon, and the sun move in silence. Silence of the heart is necessary so you can hear God everywhere—in the closing of a door, in the person who needs you, in the birds that sing, in the flowers, in the animals. ”
–Mother Teresa,  At Play in God’s Creation

A weekend in pure silence..my family playfully remarked might be difficult for someone, like myself, who loved a good conversation. Yet, as the days drew nearer to retreat I was almost giddy with anticipation of this alone time with my heavenly Father. Oh how we fill our days with “noise”, and clatter our prayer with the unnecessary that it’s a wonder we hear his voice at all sometimes! Silence is, for me, not nothingness, but an absence of the commotion and turbulence we are so accustomed to.

Thus, silence came to me like a wave of His hand, gently clearing away the seemingly immovable objects I had placed in my path. And with each difficulty surrendered to His care, I could once again discern the sound of His voice calling me home to where I belong. No longer a desire to fill the space, I breathed- taking in the fresh and all encompassing movement of the Holy Spirit. Complete and resting in the grace of His presence.

“Oh God, you are my God in and through it all. My heart is free to love you and I long for nothing more”

Encounter

This experience of God is one of encounter, of discovering anew who our Creator is but also who he intends each of us to be. And since we never travel alone in our journey of faith, it is an encounter of Christ in others. While exchanging  only prayerful glances, and smiles my soul did exactly this amidst complete silence. From the elderly Jesuit priests in respite, and those preparing and serving  our meals,  to those also with me on retreat- I encountered both Christ and community.

Even still, there was one whom God especially drew me to. One evening in prayer, I heard the prompting to not sleep yet, but to gather my rosary and the young woman next door and take a rosary walk. Without questioning and gently tapping on her door, I held up my rosary and moved my fingers on the other hand to signal a walk.  Met with the biggest smile, I heard her unspoken yes. Unknowingly, she had just been praying  for a prayer group. There we were joyfully moving the beads on our rosaries and lifting one another in prayer. Every step had purpose and together we embraced the grace of community. Having explored our surroundings previously, our steps quickened as we neared Our Lady in the small grotto. Looking at one another, we couldn’t hide the pure delight and recognition that this place was special to each of us.

– “Lord, I am so overcome by your generosity. You are the answer to our prayers.You call us beyond ourselves to witness your transforming love.You lead us to walk with one another, to share the journey and see your love magnified in the lives of others.”

Perhaps you find it difficult to go away on retreat right now. If so, try to carve instead some time in your day to consider and embrace these fruits of retreat found in reciprocity, silence and encounter.

Peace,

Signature

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,

Signature

Worth Revisiting: Assuming Mary

For those that have grown up in the Catholic faith, this feast is well known perhaps at times a bit too familiar. Do we stop and take the time to truly ponder the life of Mary as we celebrate this honor bestowed on a life well lived? Or do we simply take for granted Mary’s yes and assume we know her while failing to see the implications for our lives today?


Assuming Mary

“When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother,“Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home” John 19:26-27 NAB

Like all good movies, there will most definitely be a prequel and subsequent sequels to this conversational confession of my conversion to Catholicism. Yet, with the Church’s celebration of Mary’s Assumption today, I could not bear to let this day pass without sharing my own journey of rediscovery of Mary. Not having grown up in the Catholic faith, I knew of Mary, but did not truly know her. For, while well acquainted with biblical stories, I still never fully reflected on God’s choosing, her response, or her role in the life of the Church. Beginning with an initial inquisitiveness, this path has led me through faith, scripture and onto a pursuit of heart and mind to understand who Mary is and truly wants to be, in my life today.

My confirmation day in the faith was the equivalent of suddenly finding out that you have family- all over the world, spanning centuries of belief , that are joining in on the celebration. That not only are you part this timeless, vast community, but they are to be a part of you as well, and in the struggles, hopes and joys that are to be encountered.  This is such an incredible immeasurable gift that quite honestly I feel I have been unwrapping it ever since that day! So too has been the journey of getting to know our mother Mary. No longer is she resting still in the shadows of the nativity scene, just one of the many characters of a beloved story but an indelible part of my own story as a woman of faith.

mary&babyJesus
The Manger by Gertrude Kasebier

Paramount to this animation of faith, is that in considering her as God’s chosen, I am compelled to also recognize Mary’s beautiful choice to add her “Yes” to God. In doing so, she modeled a faith so pure and trusting, expressive of her love of God and desire for service, that in this moment she became the very first disciple.  At the tender age of probably 14 or 15, she possessed an awareness of the situation before her, expressed deep acceptance and commitment, and spent a lifetime of learning and growing in faith and understanding. Isn’t this what we too desire in our own lives as Christian daughters, sisters, and mothers? Do we not want to be known by our love, dedicated lives of service with hands and feet that lead others to Jesus? Following Mary’s guidance, over the last few years, I began recommitting myself to God at the start of each new day. Before my eyes even open, and despite my inclination to stay in bed,

  I simply say “Thank you God for the gift of this new day”. Then quite deliberately before my feet hit the floor I say “Yes!”. To what you might ask? It is my yes to what God has in store for me, in the ability to accept the unknown as opportunities of grace and the choice to be a part of God’s loving plan in my life.

So too has it been in my life as a mom. With each of my three children, I have prayed, “Lord please grant me a healthy child that is loved, nurtured and is to flourish within. May I be worthy of this gift of life, and may you continue to guide me in guiding him or her in the light of your love”. (Lk. 1:39-56) For me, Mary has been a part of God’s promise to do just that- to become a constant guiding light for my children. Equally as true, she has comforted me when I have been at wits end, seeking more patience than that day had allowed. In keeping with this very thought, one of my favorite scriptures as a parent has been the finding of Jesus at the temple (Lk 2:41-52). Tangibly, I can sense the very real frustration, and “anxiety” of Mary and Joseph as they, having searched for 3 days, finally discover him teaching all present including themselves.  It is said that Mary, not fully understanding, took her Son’s words and “kept all this in her heart”. 

Yes Lord, when I have failed to understand the why I too need to keep your words in my heart.

This is no more fully witnessed than at the foot of the cross. Oh, the profound sorrow that she as a mom felt at the loss of her Son, and the love poured out for a rejecting world! Yet, here too Mary was asked to meet this both with an open acceptance, and allow God to transform the pain into the hope of salvation. Even in Mary’s life, there is transformation, for in the simplicity of Jesus’ presentation of the gift of Mary to John we begin to grasp the importance of the larger family. We are never alone, but part of an immense communion of believers. Thank you God for the hopeful promise that we like Mary will enjoy an eternity with you one day. Until then,

“Father, please use my humble hands, feet, voice, and heart to serve you as you will.”

In Christ Always,

Signature

CatholicTV: Guest 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..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 (Interview begins @ 20:00 ).

 

 

Peace,

Signature

 

Worth Revisiting: CatholicMom Daily Gospel Reflections

Gospel Reflections 800x800 gold outline

This reflection written for CatholicMom.com a year ago remains a reminder to me that the path of our discipleship is not intended to be an easy one…

Daily Gospel Reflection for August 14, 2016 – Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s Gospel: Luke 12: 49-53 – Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

If taken out of the context of the rest of the Gospel, today’s readings can be both startling and confusing. While Jesus spoke often of peace, his message of the Good News invoked anything but peace for those who were reluctant or unwilling to change. Our society today also misleads in convincingly promoting the possibility to hold in tandem oppositional values of hate-love, greed-generosity, inequality-justice, and indulgence-temperance.

These are the crossroads that each of us faces in our everyday decisions to choose to be transformed by the Gospel. Jesus reminds us here that we cannot pursue both paths if we are to follow him. Our commitment to Christ then is to be a marked division from that which does not embrace the truth of his love.

So too, it is a good reminder that there needs to be a passion and fire about who we are as Catholics and who Jesus is in our lives. Does this mean entering into heated arguments or distancing ourselves from those we love but who live in contradiction to the Gospel? No, then we are neither present nor a compelling witness to the Good News we profess.

What it does entail, however, is mutually opening up to the love of Christ and to the realization that we are, in fact, loved. It is to courageously and persistently witness this truth with our very lives. God is waiting on our yes, Christ is counting on our yes, and the Holy Spirit is there to embolden us with the strength needed to express our yes to others.

Ponder:

Can you remember a time when you decidedly choose between where you felt God was leading you and where others wanted you to go? Why is it such a challenge to veer from the agendas of others?

Pray:

Lord, we ask for your help to not be consumed by the things of this world but transformed by your love. And for those times when are challenged to authentically witness truth and love within our families and communities, may we choose to walk your path and keep our eyes fixed on you.

For more Daily Gospel Reflections visit CatholicMom.com.

Peace,

Signature

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,

Signature