Whose Calls Are You Taking?

Some time ago I was approached by a friend’s mother who was going through an extremely difficult family situation.  As is often the case, I had not planned to be there at that moment, but had felt an inner pull to change my plans for the day.

Seeking advice, comfort and direction she began relaying the details as well as the inability to find any peace. Listening, I wondered initially if we should perhaps relocate to a different setting. Then quite suddenly,  I became keenly aware of the Holy Spirit’s presence.  As she spoke I could feel her anxiety and fearfulness and knew that this was the time and place that each of us was meant to be.

Father, help me to let her know how much you love her. Let your Spirit guide my words and her to find you once again.

“Have you prayed recently?”, I asked.

“I still go to mass on occasion, but I can’t say that I feel close to God. I know the prayers that I was taught as a child, but I really don’t know how to pray any other way.”

“Can I ask you another question? Whose calls do you answer each day?”

“You mean on the phone? Well, that would be from my family or my close friends.”

“Those moments are meaningful because conversation is so essential in our relationships. There is a give and a take, a time to listen and a time to speak. And when you do so, you each share in one another’s lives.”

“Yes, that is so true! Though lately, I want to help but question whether I am being listened to.”

“God feels the same way . He is there waiting for us to talk to him and yet we so often let his call go unanswered.  He wants so desperately to be in relationship with us, to be invited into our day and our problems. Sometimes, we simply need to start small.”  “Ever notice a particularly beautiful sunset or a gift of a new day or grandchild and feel compelled to say Thank you?”

“Oh, I have! I had forgotten about that!”

“Gratitude is a indelible part of becoming aware that God is near, noticing all the little ways that God is there for us in our everyday. Today, I can say with certainty that God is here with us. If it’s fine with you, could we pray together and ask for His help in this situation?”

“Yes, but how do we begin?..”

 Father..thank you for the gift of bringing us together today. You love us so dearly and want to be ever close to us.  This is our desire too today. Lord, please let “Mary” know that you have never left her-that you are there to listen, guide, and bring her peace. That though we do not know where the road leads that you are always walking beside us.  Please also help remove the fear and anxiety that are troubling her, and replace it with your loving embrace. We love and praise you –in Your name we pray Amen.

Today, the readings from 1 Samuel  (3:3-10; 19) and John (1:35-42), really hit home. I was reminded of this conversation and of the importance of listening in my faith life. For in this busy demanding world that we find ourselves in, hearing God’s voice requires a desire to tune out the noise and tune into the Father. Moreover, it is being ready to pick up the “phone” when he calls rather than letting it go to voicemail.  Only then can we “Come and see” what He has planned for us, where we are to go and lead others to Christ.

Reflection: Did I seek to listen to God today? Did I invite him prayerfully into my life-sharing my joys, concerns and difficulties with him? If not, why wait..He’s standing by!

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting Wednesday: Sowing seeds

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.


Sowing seeds: How is your soil prepared?

(Originally posted July 13, 2014)

Gospel Reading: MT 13:1-9
On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.
Such large crowds gathered around him
that he got into a boat and sat down,
and the whole crowd stood along the shore.
And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying:

“A sower went out to sow.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path,
and birds came and ate it up.
Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil.
It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep,
and when the sun rose it was scorched,
and it withered for lack of roots.
Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.
But some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit,
a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.
Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

Today as I prepared for leading Children’s Liturgy, I wanted the children to consider some of the ways that we too nourish the soil in our hearts to allow God’s Word to grow in our lives. It isn’t simply that God’s Word is spoken, and we can choose to accept it or not. There is much that we can do to prepare our hearts to hear the Word each week, and continually to nourish it. Just like a tender young plant, it needs our awareness (found in prayer), attentive removing of weeds and rocks (through confession and reconciliation), our participation (experienced in community at mass), and above all- love.

 While so simple, do we arrive at mass, and leave without noticing any change at all in our lives? Do we even remember the Gospel reading or the homily?

To this, I sometimes challenge my family to tell me what they heard at mass. At times it is a joke from the homily, perhaps a song, a particular prayer, and quite beautifully the Word itself. It’s is so interesting to hear how each one of us is touched differently, and yet carries the potential to bear fruit not only in our lives but in the world around us. This is the second important take away that this parable contains. We are not only the soil but when we live fruitful lives, we then can be sowers of God’s love in the lives of others. Carrying God’s Word within, we become sharers and sowers in the darkest places of hate, division, and despair.

That evening was the wake for the father of one of our youngest faithful. Together, we lifted her and her family up in prayer together in community. Lord, may this seed of love bear much fruit in the hearts of your faithful, and may you grant this family peace as they remember this loving father, husband and friend to many.

Peace,

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Examen-ing Procrastination

Linking up this week with CatholicMom.com. Small-Success-Thursday-250px

Procrastination

thy name is mine- Reminiscing.
Warm sand, waves crashing
I am engulfed by your inspiring presence.

Laughter of children
Amazed by your splendid treasures,
My soul sings with joy.
Little palms upturned, bare feet carrying such gifts.

 

 
sea, beach, grass:

 

And yet I hear you
Not in a rushing wind rather
A small gentle breeze
Instantly mindful of the infinite ways

 

 

 

morgueFile free photos:

 

You long to converse
Desiring to be discovered
You hide not from me.
But smile-sunlit rays dancing upon sea sprays.

 

 

 

morgueFile free photos:

 

Suddenly I find
Myself exceedingly thankful
Gifted graced moment
Aware that I am unbelievably loved.

 

 

 

Oh yes, procrastination thy name is mine! Returning from Winter Break I honestly felt that I needed a day to recoup, a time to catch up on neglected chores and conversation over a cup of coffee with a close friend. Back to school for my children, work for my hubby and I find I am finally enjoying my groove in the normalcy of a routine.

Yet, there is definitely a need in our lives for retreat and a break from the everyday. A time to reflect on all of our commitments, re-examine our priorities, as well as to appreciate all that God has given us. As I sat on the sand, my children laughing as the waves were crashing I was reminded of the joy intended for us. Moreover, that through the ups and downs God is always there, breaking into our day to allow us a respite, moments of peace, clarity, joy and love.

What then is waiting for me? There is that elusive final integration project (aka thesis) needed for my Master’s degree.  Procrastination in part stems from placing extremely high expectations on myself while knowing full well that perfection is not what is required, or even possible through my own efforts. I find solace in recognizing that if meant to undertake a task, speak to a situation, God will give me what is needed to do all these things and more.

 So the other part to this picture is discernment and that is the better part of delay. The time that I spent with my family and with God was necessary. Can we continue to race forward with endurance if we do not pause to reflect on where we have been, where we are and desire to renew our spirit? Connection, we were never meant to do it on our own, the love, support and guidance are there to be discovered.  With this, I ask for your prayers as I embark on the path ahead.

 Peace,

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Worth Revisiting Wednesday: An Extraordinary Assembly

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.


An Extraordinary Assembly: Synod on the Family

(Originally posted October 5, 2014)

The Holy Family, courtesy of Catholic Culture.org

“May the Wind of Pentecost blow upon the Synod’s work, on the Church, and on all humanity. Undo the knots which prevent people from encountering one another, heal the wounds that bleed, rekindle hope” Pope Francis (Prayer Vigil 10/4/14)

Our family on the occasion of our wedding some 20 years ago!

Today, is the opening of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the  “Pastoral Challenges to the Family in the Context of Evangelization”. What a beautiful opportunity to affirm both our commitment to our shared tradition, and to those memories still yet to be made in the joys and challenges that lie ahead. It is through a “living Gospel…as testified in the Scriptures, preserved through the example of the martyrs, and witness of ordinary believers” that we best understand our memory and identity as a people called to be church.[1] And yet, this same commitment invites us to dynamically respond to God’s grace in present and future situations which continue to shape and form us as followers of Christ.

Available from John Paul II Institute- Communio: International Catholic Review 2014

Here, we are acknowledging the relationship of the memory of the believing community with that of doctrine, the preserved expressions of faith, and that of the authority of office. Understood in this way, the community of faith is to be foremost in service to the truth of the gospel of Jesus. The doctrine then is to be reflective of the community in its various historical contexts, and the authority of office in service to all of these. It is, as Gaillardetz observes, “ not a monarchy or a democracy but a spiritual communion of persons called to submit themselves to hear God’s word and discern God’s will in the concrete circumstances of community” [2]

So then we come to the situations that have prompted this particular synod on the family, said to be seeking pastoral solutions in light of the Gospel. Specifically, the issues that the Synod is expected to address  are those of the eligibility of divorced Catholics to receive communion, scandals of abuse, same sex marriages, contraception, and cohabitation. As Pope Francis notes, there is a “special need for mercy in the church today” and to listen attentively and “discuss sincerely” with those faithful who have become “frustrated and marginalized”.[4] Here, in reflecting on Vatican II, we glimpse the special role of the bishop within the community as teacher and judge of the faith, guiding us in the truth of the Gospel. Likewise, in light of Lumen Gentium, as laity we see our responsibility, in patience and love  “to express our opinion on matters which concern the good of the church”. [3]

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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?


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

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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