Worth Revisiting: This is Community

This week, as my friends and colleagues can attest, I have been battling a rather persistent cold which has chosen to seize my vocal cords and keep me up at night. Lack of a solid night’s sleep and my stubborn refusal to call it a day or throw in the towel has not been helpful either. Yet, in waking this morning I had to smile. For in my stubborn courage, or selfless foolishness as some might see it, I realized that I had become the epitome of my own mother.  

My mom, I know, had to have been sick at times, but as the sole provider I cannot ever really remember her taking off work. As a farm girl, she was conditioned to rise before dawn and work until sunset, giving her all to each and every day. Though later an adult, her modis operendi had not changed and if I slept past six, I could look forward to a discussion of  how I had chosen to sleep the better part of the day away. There was, in her mind, much to do, to be done, and discover in the day that could not be done whilst lying in bed.

One time, however, when I was about eleven I can clearly recall my mom getting very sick and my own confusion as to how to proceed next. Since it was just the two of us and our family lived at least an hour away, I knew that my mom was now suddenly depending on me. This particular stomach virus that had beset our community had resulted in the hospitalization of the elderly and the young alike. The first two days, I had cared for my mom and myself cooking and cleaning up, while making sure my mom had enough liquids and cool washcloths.

By the third day, though, I was tired and looking into the fridge and cabinets, I knew I was going to have to ask for help soon. Not to mention, I was getting concerned that my mom might need to see a doctor, as she didn’t seem to be looking or feeling any better. Given that it was summer, and I was not seeing my friends at school, essentially no one else knew of the predicament. My mom, a true introvert by nature, had several close friends but was not one whose sudden disappearance from society would readily be questioned. I knew that the time had come when I would have to break the silence, and my mother’s privacy.

In a well placed phone call to my friend Cathy, who belonged to my church, I found solace.

“Cathy, I’m a bit worried about my mom..

Elizabeth, are you taking care of her by yourself?”, suddenly came her aunt’s voice on the other line.

Yes, ma’am. I’m just not sure what more I can do..

Don’t worry.. have you had dinner yet?

No, I was going to see what I could make”, I replied knowing that it would be a Spartan meal at best.

We were just about to sit down ourselves..I will be by in a few minutes with dinner.”

And, just like that I breathed a sigh of relief,  and knew that God had it all covered.

The very next morning, my pastor would bring my mom to the doctor for tests and anti nausea medications. Over the days to follow, the women from the church had prepared each meal that we would need, even bringing fresh well water to eliminate the chance that our water might be a contributing factor. It would be a week before my mom was up on her feet fully, and another two weeks before she could eat normally. As I look back on this moment I cannot help but wonder what I would have done for this length of time without my community, my brothers and sisters in Christ?

This is what it means to truly be a community, to be the body of Christ. We were not ever meant to be alone in our faith, but in care of others. The reading this Sunday spoke of giving generously, like Christ himself, who gave up his very life so that we could have life eternal.  We are asked to give of our excess, to be content with enough, and to share with those in need. There is, of course, a flip side to this. We have to be able to take help too when we are in need. Maybe you are the one that everyone goes to for assistance, the first on the scene. Allowing others to be of help is an invitation for them to give generously of themselves. It is also an exercise of humility on our part, a suppression of pride, and an opportunity in this moment to experience grace and mercy. How can we give what we do not fully recognize a need for in our own lives?

This week’s challenge..How have I experienced mercy in my own life? Where can I give more fully of myself to my community? Where can I show mercy as a member of the body of Christ?

Peace,

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What Truly Matters

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Can you recall a landmark moment in your life? A  time when it became suddenly visible what truly mattered, and where God was in it all? The following is one of my very own- all but a blink of God’s eyes yet a graced moment when I will forever felt held.

It was a late Spring morning in the South, ominous skies grey and overcast coupled with warm and humid conditions were the makings for the perfect storm. Locals knew the weather system well, and it wasn’t long before the tornado warnings ensued. I had never worried about these storms, not because there was nothing to worry about or because of my youth, but quite simply my mother worried enough for the both of us. Yet, that day would be different.

As students were sitting at the long adjoining tables in the school cafeteria, the alarms resounded through the halls, school, and town. Beckoned to get down beneath the little protection that we had, warnings were issued to tuck in and resist looking out the windows. That is when I saw it, just outside the huge glass window that encompassed the side wall.. An unbelievable enormous swirling combination of wind, dirt, branches, and other objects it had accumulated in its wake hovering just above the ground. There it was right before my eyes, not more than 8 feet from me, and I could not help but be both in amazement and fear.Unable to close my eyes I prayed for protection, “Lord please protect us and keep us safe from harm. Lift this tornado and carry it up and far away”.

After what seemed like an eternity, the greenish grey funnel lifted taking with it its new found treasures but leaving the middle school cafeteria building untouched. Though we breathed a quick sigh of relief, we were not out of the woods yet as there were a total of 9 funnel clouds that had formed and remained over this small town that day. Quickly, the school staff  ushered us all into the main building and into the hallway by the lockers. Deemed the safest place, we all huddled there and waited till we could leave to join our families. Beside me was a boy that I knew well, for we shared a strong Christian faith- a fact that did not go unnoticed to me that day.

Marvin, was a bright, joyful thirteen year old boy who just lit up a room whenever he entered. This was because he always carried the love of Christ with him. As we sat there, there was a brief pause and then I asked, “Marvin, I am concerned about my mother, and our families and friends..can we pray together?” “Yes..me too. Let’s pray.” And there we were- two kids praying in the hallway of a public school, oblivious that others would take notice. I still remember our prayer so clearly.

“Father, please protect us all in your loving care. Watch over our families and loved ones, and let these tornadoes pass us by. Though we would miss the things we have become attached to, it is the safety of the people we pray for today. Please take away our fear and concern and leave us with your peace. In this we pray-Amen.”

As I parted from him that day to be picked up by a neighbor of mine, I knew that God had been present in our midst. Arriving at my apartment building, I saw the devastation. No longer was there a roof but open sky in its place. Part of the roof had been hurled into the apartment of another neighbor and the rest wrapped around a lamp post. Yet where was my mother? Finally my eyes spied her,  standing solemnly inside the doorway of our apartment. To everyone’s amazement none had been injured.

Virtually everything I owned was damaged or destroyed by the winds, rain and debris. Yet, as I stood there hand in hand alongside my mother, in a pool of dirty water surrounded by the stuff in life, I realized that everything else was meaningless. I had my mother and nothing else-not the toys, the pictures, the clothes or the furniture truly mattered. Here was a recognition that God had not only answered my prayer, but of the small list of essential things in life.

With an internal prayer of gratitude I then watched as men from my community approached with tarps, tools, and provisions to cover the apartment and remove the debris. Here God was once again caring for us, this time in the shape of benevolent strangers who had stepped forward to volunteer their time and gifts for others. And while I would never see these men again, they will be forever etched in my heart.

It would be some time before I could move back into my house, but I had gained a better sense of where home truly was. It was for the moment beside my mother but always in the presence of my God. It needed no accouterments, but could be found in prayer. This was the meaning of joy in simplicity, grace through destruction and peace in crisis.  It remains for me a spiritual guidepost when I get preoccupied with the accumulation of comfort and the material things in life.

Peace,

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Worth Revisting: Conversion-This Journey of a Lifetime

Some time ago, I had promised to share my own story of conversion to the Catholic faith. The anecdote, if you will, of how a young Southern Baptist girl found herself walking in the doors of a Catholic church and leaving forever changed…


Freshman year at Mount Holyoke College was an exciting time of rigorous study, new friendships, challenging adjustments and unbelievable growth. Over 1,200 miles away from home, I found myself both seeking comfort in the familiar but also joy in discovering who I was to become. Though I studied hard and partied equally so, I still made time to attend church either on campus or locally in town with a classmate. Yet, I was noticing that something was missing, something I couldn’t define but leaving me incomplete. Perhaps the experience of worship service had changed, or I had –even a bit of both.

Then one Sunday as the minister spoke of metaphorically of finding one’s center, I realized that was it! While I knew my center was Christ, I could no longer feel his presence as near and tangible. My soul yearned for so much more. This internal pull was intense, and over the course of the proceeding months I truly felt God working within asking me to let go and let Him lead.

That morning getting myself ready after a late night out had caused me to miss the first half of service.

I could just go back to my dorm room I thought.. but wait, there is a Catholic mass starting soon. Rather than being uncomfortably late, I could be on-time. Yet, I know so little of Catholic practices…will my unfamiliarity be too easily distinguishable? What I heard in response within my heart, was “This is an opportunity, to find what you have been searching for.  God is here.”

As I turned the handle on the door of the chapel and took my seat towards the middle of the church, I knelt before God for the first time. In this silence before mass began I found such peace and comfort in my anonymity. Here in this sacred time and place, I whispered  “I am here too Father”. Admittedly, as mass began it was all too obvious as I looked to my left and right for guidance, that I was a newcomer. Yet, just when I started questioning the reasoning that had brought me here, God reached out and drew me close. On either side hands outstretched were the beautiful recognizable words of the Our Father echoing throughout the chapel space. I was home.

Soon thereafter, I was to discover the love of my life in the deep friendship that had begun previously that fall. (That story featured here) A Catholic and sophomore at UMass Amherst, I couldn’t believe how blessed I was that God had planned it all! Though we frequently attended mass together I still held back, for some time, in telling him how God was moving me ever closer to conversion. With prayer and discernment so significant in my life, I was cautious and wanted to be certain that this was indeed where God was leading me to go.

Yet, when that moment did arrive, there was no looking back. My searching heart had been filled with a fullness of faith, joy and love. And to my surprise, my family not only respected my faith decision, but prayed and supported me throughout it all. To this day, I still remember the phone call to my mother. After sharing the events that had brought me to this place, there was a long pause for what seemed like an eternity.

“It all makes sense now” was her response.

“What makes sense?”, I curiously asked.

“Before you were born I had a dream that you would be a Catholic. Standing before a multitude of others gathered, you then spoke passionately of your love and faith in God. I know now that God was preparing me for this day.”

“Mom, why have you never told me this before?

“Well, I didn’t want to persuade you should that not be God’s will. I knew that if it was, that God would certainly lead you there.”

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Fr. Joe and my fellow RCIA candidates and sponsors

 

Twenty one years have passed since this conversation, yet I thought of this moment again this weekend as I was asked to speak at St. Patrick’s in Wareham. Through these years, I have been blessed with countless invitations to serve, witness and grow in my faith. For me, it is the journey of a lifetime-one I joyously embrace and continuously seek each day.

Peace,

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Radical Hospitality

There has been much talk in recent years within ministry about the notion of radical hospitality. Not merely seeking to embrace those we know, it is an openness albeit a willingness to authentically meet and walk with one another in our weakness, suffering, and challenges of life. This is the experience of encounter, and as such cannot be superficial or thought of as just an act of charity. Each of us must be vulnerable, and ready to extend ourselves beyond our pew, well past our comfort zone, beyond even the doors of the church to welcome the stranger with love.

Yet, what does this look like in REAL life?

Some 23 years ago, my then fiancé and I were traveling the 1,400 miles to visit my family in Arkansas when the blizzard of 93’ hit. Praying that the weather would let up the further south we went, we pushed onward. However, that was not to be as the interstate in front of us was closing and we found ourselves in uncharted territory on a long stretch of road near Winchester, KY. With only 2 choices available, a 6 ft. tall snow bank to our right or a jackknifed semi to our left…we chose the snow bank. Sitting there in a car now engulfed in snow, I admit, I felt utterly despondent. For, as far as the eye could see was snow and farmland and we knew no one. We couldn’t stay there forever, as our tank of gas and thereby the heat would only last for so long. So, there my later hubby and I prayed together. And, no sooner had we done so did we see a shadowy figure approaching from a distance.

With a steaming cup of coffee in hand he gingerly made his way to check on both the driver in the semi as well as us. “How are you?, he asked”  “We are ok, but a long way from home”, we answered. “Where are ya’ll headed?” “Arkansas, to visit my family but traveling from Massachusetts”, I replied. “Well, why don’t ya’ll come on in the house, warm up, let them know you are ok, and join us for dinner.” As we walked across the field and the house came into view I breathed a sigh of relief, finally ceasing to calculate fuel reserves.

With two young children in tow this beautiful family welcomed these two strangers into their home and lives that day. Inwardly, I wondered if they had even considered whether or not we were harmless or the gift that they were offering. Their gift of generosity came so natural and was so heartfelt that we very readily felt as if we had known them for years. A very good thing too, since it would be a couple of days before the roads cleared and our car could be unearthed. Even this was another example of the breath of their commitment to radical hospitality. Knowing that we had very little extra income to spare, Mike, our gracious host, called his friend who volunteered to use his tractor with chains to help rescue the stranded Camero. Then placing heaters under the engine they were at last able to bring it back to life.

The morning we left, well rested and well fed, John and I knew that God had placed these incredible people in our lives to teach us the true meaning of hospitality and Christian love. Not only exchanging Christmas cards, with the advent of social media we have made it a point to stay connected. Their children now grown, are married and beginning  young families of their own. What a legacy of Christian discipleship Mike and Connie have modeled for their children, for my husband and I , and all those they encounter.

This is the challenge for each of us in our everyday-to go forth living out our faith with radical hospitality. To accept the invitation to meet the lost, abandoned, marginalized and wounded with generous love. Since some wounds we cannot see, and anyone of us can be in need of radical hospitality at any time, we must begin to see with the eyes of the heart. This takes practice and reminders of the moments when God has taken the initiative to rescue us, unleashing his otherwise unimaginable love and mercy.

Reflect:

When and how have I been a recipient of radical hospitality? In what ways might God be asking me to witness his radical hospitality today?

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Decision Making

If you find yourself today considering where you are in life and where God might be leading you..there is guidance found in the scriptures. What follows is a decision making tree, that doesn’t leave the outcome in your hands alone but is an invitation to walk with God, to align your heart with his will.I encourage you to spend some time with each, especially if you feel a pause in answering any one of these resolutely.

Keeping it short and sweet today, but I thought I’d share my own adaptation of a spiritual decision making tree. The first three are quite essential in that they ask of us to go to the source..

God’s word, God’s voice, and the Holy Spirits guidance in all. The other five invite us to consider our intentions, and the effects of our decisions on others. I enjoy reflecting on these particular scripture verses too, giving each a bit of time to bear fruit.

When making a significant decision,  I have also found it important to discuss the situation with my husband, a close friend and when possible with my spiritual director.

Sometimes, inviting another perspective and experience can provide both distance and clarity. Notwithstanding, in taking the time to pray together, we begin to appreciate the necessity of community and the strength found through these faithful bonds of fellowship . None of us are ever intended to embark on this journey alone, but invited to reach out, uplift, lean on, and carry one another when the way seems difficult.

Thank you Father for all those you have placed in my life- my family and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. For the truly prayerful counsel of Fr. Jim who continues to fill this time of discernment for me with great joy and faith-filled wisdom.  May every decision be less of me and more of You, for you know the way ahead so much better than I. 

Peace,

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This Advent: Where Are We Headed?

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Advent is a time to prepare yet also to discern where we are being led towards. The journey that Joseph and Mary were to make from Nazareth to Bethlehem, by many accounts, was not a fairytale but fraught with much danger, miserable weather, and challenges. Even in the best of health, this undertaking would have been difficult for the ablest of travelers. And yet, as scripture reminds us this is how God was to become Incarnate in our world. Not in comfort, or amidst luxury but One who walks with us through the most difficult moments and trials that we might encounter in life.

Along the unpaved flatland trails of the Jordan these feet do embark,
A journey not lightly undertaken but an arduous engagement of heart,
Of readiness for unforgiving weather and unforeseen dangers ahead,
Of hopefulness, peace, and joy that yet expectantly lie in its stead.

In this heavily forested valley, lions bears and boars await,
To seize upon their prey without cause to hesitate,
The ups and downs of the hilly ground that I now find myself upon,
Are unrelenting and still provide a daily impetus to carry on.

The desired and seemingly undesirable invited to travel this road together,
Bringing the weight of our cares and the sum of our joy assuredly tethered,
To the birth of our Savior who was to be born on this promised day foretold,
These 90 miles in a stable laid bare- the eternal salvation of all to behold.

Elizabeth Reardon, Come To Bethlehem, 2015

 

Not a single solitary journey but a walk together, a walk of dependence and trust on God and profound hope of God’s providence. And beautifully too

“Through Jesus, God enters into the broken and sinful territory of the human condition in order to help men and women, lost in their earthly sojourn, find their way back home to God.” The incarnation is, “the great migration of human history: God’s movement in love to humanity makes possible humanity’s movement to God.”[1]

 

Not simply a stationary commitment to inactivity, our waiting this advent is instead an invitation to move towards the divine image that God intends for us to be, while drawing ever closer into community with one another.

Where are you headed this advent?

Peace,

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[1] Hans Urs von Balthazar, Love Alone: The Way of Revelation, 5th ed. (London:Sheed & Ward, 1992) 84.

Will They Know Us By Our Love?

Over the last few weeks since Pope Francis’ departure, there has been a noticeable divisiveness within the world of Catholic social media. From Ross Douthat’s letter of critique of Pope Francis in the New York Times, to the response of theologians, priests, and Douthat again- we see firsthand a visible polarization. Yet, disagreement and dialogue in and of itself should not be disturbing. For, as Cardinal Dolan has so aptly noted of the most recent synod, “[for] Francis, and those who know better tell me so, that this is part of Ignatian spirituality: a mess, confusion, questions are a good thing.” [1] What is personally disconcerting, however, is the manner in which our discourse is taking place.  Repeatedly, I am seeing a promulgation of an article, or op-ed piece posted on social media in which the dialogue takes on a very ugly, often misinformed and even discriminatory tone having left the realm of discussion altogether.  Quick to respond, we find ourselves at the ready to wage war or nod our heads in agreement when we do not even have a full grasp of the situation.  This is neither productive nor enlightening, which is as I understand it is the goal of honest dialogue. Accordingly, if I might suggest, that we remember in both our virtual and face-to-face conversations the importance of:

Prayer

Before we tweet, post, share or comment let us take a moment to pray. For, if we consider the medium of new media as a tool for evangelization, then I believe, we must address the witness that we are so ready to make accessible to others.  Our online presence then should make our witness to Christ clearer, and the message conveyed expressive of the mercy, love and compassion of our Lord.  Yet, for those times we fail, we are reminded that we are also a “church in constant need of forgiveness” who, through the “sacrifice and self giving” of one another in community, finds strength and freedom from sin.[2]

For those times when I seek to be less than compassionate in responding…Lord help me to see you in others.

Openness

Christianity began in encountering Jesus in community and is a product of dialogue and translation embracing cultural, linguistic and religious differences.[3] For, through St. Paul’s experience we are clearly made aware of the pastoral needs of the community, and the necessary translation in witnessing to the Gentile community. While there needs to be a clear idea of what it is we believe in our expression of Christianity, without error,[4]  this need not encumber dialogue. This past week Fr. Rob Ketchum observed that “we [Christians] are sometimes more aware of what we are against and of what we fear than of what we are for and what we love”. [5]   Fear does not engender strength, or a convincing witness and does not exemplify love. As Pope Francis so eloquently remarked, “unless we train ministers capable of warming people’s hearts, of walking with them in the night, of dialoguing with their hopes and disappointments, of mending their brokenness, what hope can we have for our present and future journey”?[5]

Listening

True listening requires a humility and sincerity to respect one another-to accept change even our own. Few among us embrace change easily and for this reason we tend to romanticize the past.  Yet, if we look back historically, we can readily identify that change and disagreement are nothing new for us as a people of faith. There has been a natural, although sometimes painful, working out of our faith through the many complicated issues that have arisen over time.  Our tradition serves as guide and witness to a wealth of experience expectantly working towards conversion and transformation of the heart and situation to the mission of Christ. If the dialogical engagement is real and substantial then there is always the beautiful possibility that all involved will grow.

When we encounter a position that is different from our own, are we truly seeking to meet it with love or with pride?

While some may view this as naiveté,  I truly believe, that there can be a fruitful sharing and transformation in evangelization when there is openness, humility, and prayerful consideration of one another. This isn’t something to be feared, but as Christians our conversion of heart and mind is to be constant turning and transformation to the Holy Spirit at work in our lives and in the world. Therefore, we ask ourselves, have we as a community grown from our interactions and dialogue with humanity at large? Are we engaging, and responsive to the Holy Spirit at work in the world? This I believe is truly “an ideal which [we] can identify and to which [we] can commit [our]selves with enthusiasm and lasting zeal”.[6]

Peace,

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[1] http://www.cruxnow.com/church/2015/10/15/new-york-cardinal-dolan-sees-light-amid-the-synods-confusion/
[2]Kärkkäinen, Veli-Matti. An Introduction to Ecclesiology: Ecumenical, Historical and Global Perspectives. Downers  Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press: 2002, p. 105
[3] Gaillardetz, Ecclesiology for a Global Church: A People called and Sent.
[4] Pope Paul VI, Dei Verbum,  1965. http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651118_dei-verbum_en.html
[5] Reese, Thomas, “Pope Francis ecclesiology rooted in the Emmaeus story”. National Catholic Reporter. August 2013. http://ncronline.org/news/spirituality/pope-francis-ecclesiology-rooted-emmaus-story
[6] Gleeson, Brian, “Images, Understandings, and Models of the Church in History: An
Update”. Australian E-Journal of Theology, 12. ISSN 1448-6326. 2008

Worth Revisiting: Invited into Community

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.

Have an hour to spare and share on a Saturday/Sunday afternoon or weekday morning after mass?  I cannot think of a better way to spend such a short amount of time than bringing communion to others. These ineffable moments of grace are truly invitations to not only bring the body of Christ, but to recognize the fullness of being the body of Christ.  What if for reasons of health, age or circumstance, you could no longer receive communion? Hear a knock? Open your heart today..


Invited into Community: The Joy of Eucharistic Ministry

eucharist-2“The Eucharist is not something we do simply to commemorate what Jesus did for us. Rather it is something that Christ does for us, filling us with grace and nourishing us with His own life. Let us live the Eucharist, in a spirit of joy and concern for all our brothers and sisters in need”. Pope Francis

This morning, I was thinking (a dangerous pastime, I know) about how incredibly busy, but restful and fulfilling my Sunday had been. While it seems odd perhaps to hold these adjectives together I believe that they highlight what it really means, to me, to “work six and rest one” in keeping the Sabbath holy. As so often the case, in anticipation of Sunday, there was an extra spring in my step as I reflected and then prepared for the day ahead. You see, my joy is not solely in going to mass with my immediate family, but is found in joining my larger family in Christ, in sharing communion together. Here, I am graced with brothers and sisters from varied backgrounds, of all ages, and nationalities each praying to the same Father. Each resting the work of their own hands, to bring all that they are- to be blessed and broken and enjoined as one in the beautiful sacrifice of Christ.

As a Eucharistic minister, I witness this so profoundly as each person steps forward to receive Christ. Some hands are soft, others rugged and worn, nonetheless within their eyes, I see God…and what a beautiful sight that is to behold!  At times I sense their sadness, others times their joy and still others their deep appreciation for this moment to pause to recognize Christ present with us. Each carrying the deep imprint of God on their souls, and each with the invitation to make Christ visible today.

Yet, what of those in our community, who because of age, illness or injury cannot be with us on Sunday? While many of us were able to experience the beautiful mystery of Christ’s presence this Sunday in the Eucharist, imagine if you could not. So often we might take for granted the ability to come and partake in communion together, yet for so many of our “family” this not an option.So in reading this,  I am asking you to please consider offering your gift of faith, love and service  to bring Christ, made truly present in the Eucharist and in our community, into their lives as well.

I promise, the joy and love that God provides in this ministry is one that can forever change your own life and serve as a continual source of blessing. This has been the experience of my husband and I, who have been serving for the past five years. We feel graced to have been witnesses to the sacred, these moments of profound gratitude, and light of Christ’s love into their lives.

So, what does this gift require? Our time spent in total at a facility is about an hour, although admittedly quite often we choose to spend longer! Perhaps you may be able to go once a week, yet if you can only go every other week, or visit someone home bound, you will be providing an immeasurable gift that might make their reception of the Eucharist possible.

In faith and prayer, I ask that you consider this beautiful ministry. God Bless-


Worth Revisiting: Coffee, Communion & Conversation

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.

So, many of us are quite familiar with the 3-R’s of Reading Writing, and Arithmetic in our academic studies.. but our faith lives have their own necessities too! From which come 3 of my own favorite C’s of spiritual reflective prompts!


Coffee, Communion & Conversation

With cheers and tears, I have begun thinking about the back-to-school essentials for my children who are, by the way, returning next week. Likewise, as with any good Jesuit student, it has been a cue for me to reflect on my own much needed necessities at this time in my life as well.  While there are of course countless others that could be included in this list, these chosen three are the ones that leapt to the forefront of my mind!

1. Coffee- (Substitute tea, juice or a smoothie for those that find those more preferable.)

Strong, and certainly caffeinated, the inviting aroma beckons me to take seriously the day’s events ahead. This is my time for morning reflection, and perhaps one of the few times during the day that I will sit still without a project, paper, or errand to complete. It is quite literally the reminder for me to re-fill my cup- to empty myself and the events of the day prior so that I can be able to accept and embrace God’s gift of self in my every moment. Not the least of which are the many requests upon my own time.

Father, you ask us to be still and know that You are God, that you are always with us at the break of each new day, and that with you we will not be shaken. (Ps.46:6-11) Fill me with your love, grace, and compassion for those who might need you most today.

  2. Communion (daily if at all possible!)

Several years ago, after having made my Cusillo retreat, I consciously resolved to attend daily mass whenever the time allowed. Yet, initially, this commitment was but a new curiosity, filled with an unknowing of whether I could continue, or how I would be affected in my own spiritual growth. One morning in particular, in that first week, I noticed a woman about my own age, and felt the Holy Spirit guiding me to speak with her after mass. Having seen her before on Sunday mornings with her family, I remarked how happy I was to have another mom with small children there that day. Smiling, and with all earnestness she said something that moved me profoundly.

“I’m here because this is where I need to be as a mom, it is my time to regroup, talk to God, and gain the strength to be the mom that God wants me to be”.

Her words were meant for me, and found a dwelling place deep within my heart. God wants to do something great for me in giving me the tools and the space to break into my ordinary with the extraordinary experience of this intimate closeness with Christ. I think of this moment often these days as I slide into the pew, kneel before Christ, and let out the biggest sigh, a breath of relief that I actually made it there. No matter how I arrive- rushed, anxious, or frustrated, I leave transformed in heart, mind and spirit. As I think about the future after graduate school, I have already begun thinking about daily mass times in the area that might allow me to continue this now essential time with God in my day.

IMG_06163. Conversation(Lots, with those that uplift and draw you closer to Christ)

As you may have noticed my precursor to this one, conversation just for conversations sake isn’t essential at all. In fact, the wrong conversations are draining, disruptive, and detrimental to both you and all those in your life. We have all, at some point found ourselves in these instances, whereby the conversation turns gossipy, argumentative, or judgmental towards others. Yet, as a mom of school aged children whose time is limited anyway, I can honestly say I leave these conversations feeling unsatisfied. The question I keep returning to is whether this is healthy for me even if I am not participating.

Conversely, the right conversations lead us and others nearer to where God wants us to be, and leave us knowing our time was well spent. They inspire, nourish, enlighten, support, and buoy us up when we need to feel God’s love most. They remind us to listen deeply and speak when needed. These are moments of awareness to the Holy Spirit’s presence  guiding and filling us with peace and joy.

One of the best assignments I have been given in my graduate ministry work, in lieu of reading, was to take time to pursue that which uplifts us. Here, I was given a week set aside to reconnect, to decompress, and renew. Not surprisingly, I made sure that I met with those also in ministry to give them that much needed break as well. So essential is this for me, that I do this now on a regular basis!

With much gratitude to my advisor, friend (and creator of the above assignment), Eileen Daily for helping me to see that self-care is not selfish but vital if I am to be of help to myself much less anyone else!

Signature

The Grace We Need

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

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

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

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

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

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

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