Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

As the hours of 2009 wane and 2010 approaches, just wanted to say: Happy New Year to one and all. This year has certainly had its challenges. I don't know what 2010 will bring, but I certainly hope that it'll be better than 2009 in many respects.

Our New Years Eve was spent with friends we've known for a long time. With everyone married and so many children we don't get together very often. It was wonderful to do that and awesome that we all were able to be there. And our hostess announced another pregnancy as well! So we know there will be at least one more child added to our gang in 2010. I'm praying there will more! It was a wonderful night with a wonderful group of people. And because everyone has small children the party wrapped up around 8:30pm. Even though we don't have kids, that worked out well for us too!

Our 2010 will begin with Mass early in the morning. January 1 is a Holy Day of Obligation to celebrate Mary's title of Mother of God. For me this year, at this Mass in particular, I will definitely be thinking about that title a lot. And praying too that I may be able to gain the title of mother sometime between now and the end of this new year. I am mother to two saints in heaven, but I hope to be able to have that title here on Earth too. Lots to pray for!!

Happy New Year to all! I hope everyone has a great 2010 and, if you make any resolutions, that you are successful in those. I'm making a few myself, but I'll save those for a future post! Happy 2010!!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to one and all. After a very good Advent it was wonderful to celebrate the birth of Christ at Christmas Eve Mass. Christmas Eve was spent with my sister's family where we enjoyed dinner together, opened up our annual ornament gifts, and had a wonderful dessert.

Christmas morning we enjoyed a wonderful breakfast made by my brother the chef, who had the day off from his restaurant. My sister showed up later in the morning and we got to open gifts and watch my 4-year-old niece get sooooo excited about all the princess stuff she got. She showed us the Snow White dress Santa brought her and was very excited to get a series of Disney princess dolls (about 7 or 8 of them!). It's so much fun to do Christmas with little ones, they are so fun to watch!!

We have had a wonderful Christmas visiting with my family down south. And this year I'm trying to remember that Christmas is just beginning. The twelve days of Christmas started on Saturday and I love that we will continue singing Christmas hymns at church for the next two weeks and the church will remain decorated for Christmas all the way to January 10. I love the Catholic church! We try to celebrate the big events in seasons, not days. How fun! I'm looking forward to seeing our church decorated for Christmas after we get back home.

Merry Christmas and Happy Third Day of Christmas to everyone!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Advent 2009

Don't you just love Advent?? It's a time of preparation and waiting, lots of anticipation, and a time to be filled with hope. Hope for the coming birth of our Savior and all the hope He brings into our lives. These four weeks of preparation are a great time to reflect.

What do you do for Advent? Anything special to prepare for the coming Christmas joy? Do you anticipate celebrating Christ's birthday in a special way during these four weeks??

The radio station I listen to has been discussing Advent quite a bit recently. No surprise, right? They had a guest on recently who was talking about ideas for Advent. Some of her suggestions were to pray for someone who needed prayers every time you light a candle on the Advent wreath; of course, having an Advent wreath is an important part of celebrating this Advent season; and when wrapping gifts, say a pray for the person to whom you are giving the gift you are wrapping. If you have children and do this with your children, it shows them the real reason for the season. I'm sure she had other suggestions, but those are the ones I heard that stuck with me.

In my house we have an Advent wreath that we light each night before dinner. What I like about this year is that because of the kitchen renovation we've been doing, we haven't had a chance to pull out any Christmas decorations. Instead, we just have the Advent wreath and for me, it keeps my focus on what Advent really is and where Christmas belongs. Christmas BEGINS on Dec. 25 and lasts for a couple weeks after that. It doesn't end on the 25th!! So this year, I am more focused on Advent because we only have the Advent wreath out and nothing else.

Also, I picked up one of the Blue Books at Church. These little books (blue for Advent and Christmas, black for Lent, and there's a third, probably Easter, but I can't remember the color) are great for quick daily reflections. They are published by a diocese in Michigan (I think). Each night we light the Advent wreath, have dinner, and then after dinner read the day's reflection in the Blue Book.

Another thing to remember is that Advent is a penitential season, just like Lent. So, this coming Wednesday Chris and I are attending a Reconciliation service at church. As we prepare for our Lord's birthday, we should reconcile our sins with God and be cleansed through this beautiful sacrament. It's part of our preparations for celebrating Christmas.

I also like how the Church reminds us about the penitential nature of this season. Mass begins with several of the lights out, the Advent wreath is lit, and the lights come on as the Liturgy of the Word begins. Also, in the Introductory Rite, the Gloria is not sung, just like during Lent. Come Christmas, the Gloria will be back! Also, we sing Advent songs ("O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" at every Mass this year!). Christmas songs will come out on Christmas and we'll sing them through Epiphany in January. But before then, we are focused on the preparation for the joyous celebration to come.

How do you and your family celebrate Advent? What special things do you do in preparation to celebrate our Lord's birth?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Saints and Sacrifice

It's no secret that I am not that great at keeping up with my blog. I had hoped that by making a commitment to at least post my church's "Following the Message" question once a week I would get into a habit. But so far, no dice!! Are we surprised? No, not really.

So, I really, really wanted to post last week's question but just didn't have the time. But I don't want to let it go, so this post will be slightly different from my past "Following the Message" posts. I will attempt to discuss both questions from All Saint's Day and the Thirty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time.

Two Sundays ago we had All Saints Day, a Holy Day of Obligation that fell on a Sunday this year. The readings from that Sunday are here on the USCCB page. These are great readings for All Saints Day. A passage from Revelation 7 that describes the saints in heaven praising God along with the angels; a Psalm with the response "Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face"; a very relevant passage from the first letter of John; and for the Gospel reading we get the Beatitudes from Matthew.

Question: How does the example of the saints help me to live the Christian life?

Alternate Question for Kids: Which saint inspires me the most?

Usually I would post the paragraph in the bulletin that expounds on Catholic teaching regarding the question, but given that I'm trying to cover two questions I'm going to skip it this time. However, if you're curious about the Catholic teaching on saints and what we believe about saints you can do a web search for the Catechism of the Catholic Church and look for paragraph numbers 828 and 2683. I've had good success with a search string like: Catechism Catholic Church 828.

We are all called to holiness. We are also all called to be saints. The Church canonizes some people as official saints to be examples for us on how to live a Christian life. For me I am impressed with any saint I read about. Anytime I read even the smallest thing about a saint I feel that I am reading the life of someone who I should be trying to be more like, because they lived their life as Jesus asks all of us to. I am impressed with their prayer life, with how they lived their lives in service to others, how they taught others, and, for some of them, the amazing writings they left behind. I find it hard to read about any saint and not see an example of how to live a Christian life.

At different times in my life I have had special relationships with different saints. First for me was the Blessed Mother, Mary. I think she has guided me in a variety of ways before I even knew it. And I chose Mary as my confirmation name. St. Clare of Assisi was next and was the first saint I think I really started reading about. I saw her body when I went to Assisi and got to see part of the Church where her convent is. I think of her whenever I need to de-clutter my house (or my life). I think she guides me to make things simpler around me at times when I really need it. Last year I learned about St. Philomena and St. Gerard, I asked them pray for healing for me and another pregnancy. I got pregnant shortly after finishing the nine day St. Philomena Novena. Other saints have become of interest to me and I am always impressed with their lives. I like reading about the saints, they give us something to work toward.

This past Sunday was the Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time. The readings all have to do with trust and sacrifice, two things that go hand-in-hand, for to make a sacrifice you have to trust in God; and because we already trust in God we make sacrifices. This is illustrated well in the readings, found on the USCCB site here.

Question: When have I made a financial sacrifice out of love for God?

Alternate Question for Kids: When have I had to give up something that I wanted

I pondered this question a bit before mass and then I heard the readings. The Gospel passage from Mark where the poor widow gives her last coins made me wonder if I really do give as a sacrifice. I asked my husband the question on our ride home and he said yes, we do, we budget for it. That led us into a discussion on whether or not budgeting for our charity counts as a sacrifice.

I've had a few more days to think this over and looking at the question again I can say with confidence that yes, we give financially out of love for God. Our love of God leads us to give to the Diocesan Seminarian Fund every year, it leads us to give to Catholic Relief Services to help them do the work they do in poor countries around the world, and it leads us to give to priestly orders, our church, Relevant Radio, and a variety of other causes.

Is this financial giving a sacrifice for us? I think it is. Yes, we budget for it, but if we didn't I can guarantee that money would end up getting spent somewhere else. If we didn't give we'd probably be more selfish with our money and use it for things that aren't really necessary, in the grand scheme of things. As it is, I know we have set aside a certain amount for charitable causes and my husband tracks it in our budget. We give a certain amount each year to designated charities and the rest we give to other needs and charitable causes as they come up. Just the other day I asked how much we would have that we could give as the year nears it's end. I'm already thinking about which causes I'd like that overage to go to.

It's very important to both of us that out of love for God and as faithful Catholic Christians we give financially to those in need around us, both locally and in the wider world whenever possible.

There is definitely a correlation between the saints discussion and the sacrifice discussion. All of the saints made great sacrifices in their lives to follow God's word to the fullest. Sacrifices of health, material wealth, sacrificing their own will to follow the will of God, and even sacrificing their lives for God. In some cases this can lead to great suffering, but if it is for the greater glory of God we should remember that it is all for good. I heard someone say recently that in the Christian life "suffering is mandatory, anxiety is optional." Now there's something to think about!

When we are faced with a decision regarding making a sacrifice for the betterment of others versus taking the easy road, we should be reminded of the lives of the saints. We are all called to be saints, that's the road to heaven.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

All Souls Day, Join Us

Dear all Family and Friends,

This coming Monday is All Souls Day, a day when we remember all departed souls. On that day, many of our churches will be having special masses to remember all those who have passed away during the last year as well as others who we continue to pray for. I wanted to take this opportunity to let you know what will be happening at our parish this coming All Souls Day and how you can also participate either with us or at your own parish.

On Monday November 2 at 5:30pm, an All Souls Day Mass at Christ the King will include a candle lighting ceremony for all parishioners who died over the last year. Chris and I will be there to light a candle in rememberance of our little boy, Zachary Thomas, who died on January 11, 2009, and was buried from the Catherdal on January 17, 2009. Also, at Christ the King there will be a Book of Remembrance in which we can enter the names of anyone who has passed away during the last year. The Book will be present in the Church throughout the month of November.

For those who live in Lexington, you are more than welcome to join us for the Mass on Monday. We'd love to see you and have you there with us if you are able.

If you live elsewhere or if you can't make the mass at Christ the King, I encourage you to attend an All Souls Day Mass at your home parish or other nearby church. We appreciate knowing that others are taking part in remembering our son and all our loved ones. If your church has a Book of Remembrance for the month of November we would also appreciate you including Zachary's name there. I have already been told by one friend that she will be doing this.

In addition, I just wanted to add how appreciative we have been over the last 10 months of all that everyone has done for us. We received so many flowers, cards from all over, and many, many other expressions of sympathy since Zachary's death. Thanks to everyone for all your caring expressions of sympathies. I have saved every card we received from family, friends, colleagues, and others. Every one is special to me as a remembrance of our son's much too short life. Thank you all.

I hope everyone will have an opportunity to attend an All Souls Day Mass this coming Monday to remember all of our dearly departed loved ones.

Much love to everyone!
K & C

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Weekly Reflection on Serving Others

The homily I heard this Sunday at Church has had me thinking the past few days about God's plan for my life versus what I might plan for my life. Are the two the same? Are they not? If not, what needs to change on my part? How do I discern God's plan for my life? The Reflection Question brings a whole different set of thoughts.

Here's a link to Readings for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Question: How do I answer Jesus' call to serve others?

The Christian imperative to serve others is expressed beautifully in one of the great documents of Vatican II, Apostolicam Actuositatem (Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity), which urges laypeople to "take up the renewal" of the world "as their own special obligation" (section 7, paragraph 5). In the modern era, "charitable activities and works have become more urgent and universal. These charitable enterprises can and should reach out to all persons and all needs. Wherever there are people in need of food and drink, clothing, housing, medicine, employment, education; wherever men lack the facilities necessary for living a truly human life or are afflicted with serious distress or illness or suffer exile or imprisonment, here Christian charity should seek them out and find them, console them with great solicitude and help them with appropriate relief. This obligation is imposed above all upon every prosperous nation and person" (section 8, paragraph 4).

The question this week is a good one. One thing I have learned over the last few years, and especially over the last few months, is that our prayer life and study of the Word and the faith should lead us toward service, or as it says in James 2:26 "faith without works is dead."

So to answer the question, how do I serve others?? I make an effort to support certain charities financially which I believe have similar values as I do. We give to Catholic Relief Services, the Seminarian fund, and various other Catholic-based charities. Beyond financial giving, I try to be of service to my Church through various ministries or to other groups. One of the most important is volunteering as a regular adorer for the Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration Chapel.

Lately I have been feeling that I am not doing enough service. This goes back a bit to my pondering on what God's plan for my life is. This has been on my mind a lot this entire year, but it reallly came to the forefront the last two weeks. So what am I doing about it??

I prayed about it. I don't know if I really got a clear "answer" from God, but I am feeling a tug toward a particular ministry. So I turned in my "Time and Talent" survey this Sunday and I checked a new ministry. This is one that I've never done before and never thought I would volunteer for. But I did. Now I am just waiting until the person in charge of that ministry contacts me. In the meantime, I'm going to continue praying and waiting.

And now it's your turn!! How do you answer Jesus' call to serve others? I look forward to everyone's answers!

(For those reading this on Facebook, you can comment here or you can follow the link below this post that says "View Original Post" to see comments others have left on the original post on my blog. Comments can be left in either place.)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Pregnancy Loss Remembrance Day

Today, October 15, is Pregnancy Loss Remembrance Day. I posted this fact on my Facebook page this morning and several people left notes regarding the dates of their own losses. My heart goes out to everyone who has had to go through the loss of a baby from miscarriage, stillbirth, or early infant death.

To commemorate this day and to remember our little baby saints in heaven, Deanna Roy, the founder of Facts about Miscarriage, also sent the following note out regarding things you can do along with some details on a book she put together that allows you to record memories of that pregnancy. Here's the text:

Don't forget to light your candles at 7 p.m. your time!

I have put together a list of songs that are perfectly suited to play during the candlelighting. You can see this list and hear clips at:

If you've never really told your angel's story, taken time to write down every single memory of his or her little life, I encourage you to do it. I've made a video that will help you think of things to write about:
Watch the video in HQ and maximize it so you can read the words.

I did publish a baby memorial book this year, which are the pages you see in that video. Printing is happening right now, and the books will be here in a few weeks. If you have no place to paste your sonograms or dried flowers, or to write down your baby's statistics, even if you were only a few weeks along, this is why I made the book. You can get them at the publisher web site (it's $18.99 and shipping is $3.99 in the US and includes cards to paste inside if you have no sonograms):

I know this is one of the hardest things you've ever endured. It was for me too, and years later, it still is. I will think of all of you at 7 p.m. when I light my candle. If you want to post a picture of your candlelighting so we can see how you celebrated the date, feel free to add them right here on our Facebook page.

I'd love to see them.

Take care.

Deanna Roy
Founder, Facts about Miscarriage

In her letter she mentions lighting a candle at 7pm your time. The idea is that throughout the day candles are lit for one hour in each time zone from 7pm to 8pm. So as you extinguish your candle someone in the next timezone is lighting one. Unfortunately I can't be home tonight during that hour, but I have two candles at home, one for each of my babies, and I may light them while we say our Rosary tonight.

God's blessings to all of you moms and dads out there who have gone through such a loss.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Reflecting on Materialism

We are now up to the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Our Gospel reading this week is from Mark. Complete texts of the Gospel as well as all the other readings from Sunday's Mass are available here: October 11 readings.

Question: In what ways am I too attached to material things?

"Detachment from riches is necessary for entering the Kingdom of heaven" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2556). Hence "the Lord grieves over the rich because they find their consolation in the abundance of goods (CCC 2547). In contrast, "Jesus enjoins his disciples to prefer him to everything and everyone," to enter into what the Catechism describes as "poverty of heart" (CCC 2544). "All Christ's faithful are to direct their affections rightly, lest they be hindered in their pursuit of perfect charity by the use of worldly things and by an adherence to riches which is contrary to the spirit of evangelical poverty" (CCC 2545).

This is one of those Gospel readings that really makes you think. I know everytime I hear it I wonder if I am doing what is necessary to enter the Kingdom of God. And then I wonder, does Jesus mean that rich people cannot enter the Kingdom because they are rich??

I believe the answer to that last question is no. All people can enter the Kingdom of God. I think having wealth gives you a greater responsibility toward your fellow man and many people who have wealth or somehow acquire wealth during their life lose sight of that. Not all, but many do.

But this reflection isn't supposed to be on wealth only, more specifically let's focus on materialism.

For me, I try to not get too attached to material things. I think the "things" in my life that I treasure the most, besides the people I love, are the sentimental things. Pictures, old cards and letters, yearbooks, all the things that remind you of the past and the people who have touched your life. But if all those things disappeared, I still have them in my memory. Maybe not as detailed, but they'll be there.

Here's how I thought about this: if my house was burning down what would I want to grab on the way out?

Well ... nothing material, really. Me and my husband for sure. Otherwise, everything else is replaceable. The only thing that might be worth grabbing are some particular files and maybe the computer. Not because we value those "things" exactly, but because there is information on them we might need. But if it came down to it, we could probably live without that information. I wouldn't be grabbing anything just because of some stupid material worth of the item itself.

But to be honest, I am attached to material things just like everyone else. It's the reason I still hold onto my stuffed animals from my childhood. They are boxed up in the attic, but I still have them. I can't get rid of books or notes and handouts from classes or lectures I have found particularly meaningful. I like the nice things we have and I enjoy our comfortable lifestyle. But I know I could live without it.

But is that what Jesus is telling the rich man in the Gospel? That he is too comfortable and needs to rid himself of everything. Well, yes, I guess he is. But how does that translate to our time? In much the same way. We still need to have shelter and food; God provides is with an intellect and skills to be able to work hard to provide those necessities for ourselves and our families. Beyond that, we are to use what we have to help the people around us as well.

We do that in our household. We budget a certain percentage of our earnings every year to assist pre-designated charities, our Church, and other ways of giving to assist others. We make it a priority in our budget. We struggle a little with this, not because we want to skrimp at all on our giving, but because I start wanting to give to more than we can really afford. My husband sometimes has to reel me back in.

I think I'm starting to digress from the subject at hand. Sorry for the rambling ...

I think we are all attached to material things in more ways than one. It is something we all struggle with. But I like to remind myself that if everything did go up in flames, how much would I really care about? As long as my family was safe and healthy, that's really all that matters.

What are your thoughts on this questions: In what ways are you too attached to material things?

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Today I Learned

Today I got up extremely early, got ready, and left my house at 6:20am to spend half the day in the car driving to a conference. What then can I have learned today? Well ...

Today I learned that there are a lot of police cars along all the roads in Indiana! (No, I did not get pulled over, it was an observation.)

Today I learned that Mark Shultz (I think I got his name right), a Christian singer, lives in Chapel Hill, NC because his wife is doing her OB/GYN residency there. (Yes, I know it's random.)

Today I learned that when traffic starts getting heavier the closer you get to Louisville while on 64 West and it's just after 7am, you should move to the left lane as soon as you can. Don't do what I did and sit in it thinking that it's better than jumping lanes. If you don't need to get off at the Waterson, don't sit with the rest of the people who are.

Today I learned that corn season is over. (I was in Indiana!)

Today I learned that it is possible to watch the sun rise in your rear view mirror (and not get into an accident).

Today I learned that I don't like driving on state "highways" for over 100 miles. (Lights, varying speed limits, etc.)

Today I learned that Indiana drivers aren't just slow when you get stuck behind them in other parts of the country, they're slow here too!!!

Today I learned that music librarians are not as eager to do Karaoke as I thought they would have been. (But I did leave the party early, so who knows.)

Today I learned that Notre Dame has a beautiful campus with lots of different shrines all around, and that the Basilica here is gorgeous!!

Today I also learned some library things that I found interesting but that I'm sure no one else will ... so I'll keep that to myself.

Today I learned why I love coming to these conferences!!

Hope everyone had a great day today, too!

Monday, October 05, 2009

So Many Books ...

... so little time. I'm always buying books, so many things I want to read! But I never seem to have the time to read much. Plus, there are all the magazines, newsletters, and other things that come in the mail that I feel compelled to read.

It's really a never-ending, vicious cycle! One I constantly convince myself I can conquer.

I'm still working on it (maybe I need therapy?). And will probably be working on it for years and years to come! So what is it I'm actually reading these days?

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
I'm enjoying this book so far. Have always wanted to read something by Lewis (besides the Narnia Chronicles). I happened to find this book in a used book store and the cheaper price convinced me to go ahead and purchase it (as well as another, who just buys one book). I'm about three quarters of the way through. I'm finding it interesting, it's a good general overview of Christianity, but definitely doesn't get into any big issues. At least not so far. At the moment this is my Monday morning book to bring to adoration with me. More when I actually finish.

101 Inspirational Stories of the Priesthood
This is a book I bought several years ago and I'm finally getting around to reading it. I actually suggested this book to my small Cursillo group and so we're all reading it at the same time. This book, and several others like it, are compiled by a Poor Clare Sister in Washington State. They are a series of stories submitted by people all over the world, though most of them are in the U.S. It's great because the stories are anywhere from half a page to 3-4 pages. Nothing too long, all just interesting stories from regular people about priests who have made an impact in their lives. My husband and I have started reading a story or two each night before bed.

Saint Gianna Molla: Wife, Doctor, Mother by Pietro Molla, Elio Guerriero
I picked up this book recently after an encounter I had with a relic of St. Gianna. I wanted to know more about her and this book seemed like a great way to start. I have only read the Forward, Preface, and Introduction so far. I've already learned that she is the first married Catholic woman to be canonized. There have been women who were widows, but not one who was married when she died. Her husband is still alive and he and her children were at her canonization in 2004. I'm looking forward to reading more about this incredible woman.

At the moment my other reading consists of all newspapers, newsletters, and magazines we get in the mail regularly. But I have a stack of things I am waiting to read, not to mention the unread items on my bookshelves. Up next will be:

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
7 Secrets of the Eucharist by Vinny Flynn
The Return to the Prodigal Son: a Story of Homecoming by Henri Nouwen
Saved in Hope (Spe Salvi), encyclical letter by Pope Benedict XVI
Charity in Truth (Caritas in Veritate), encyclical letter by Pope Benedict XVI

Like I said: So many books, so little time!!

27th Sunday Reflection

Sunday was Respect Life Sunday in the Catholic Church, the opening of Respect Life Month. How appropriate that the Gospel reading from Mark should be about marriage and children! Check it out on the USCCB website and then continue reading below for this week's Following the Message Question.

Question: What steps might I take to strengthen my family life?

"God himself is the author of marriage ... Since God created (the human race) man and woman, their mutual love becomes an image of the absolute and unfailing love with which God loves man" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 1603-04). Sadly, when sin came into the world, "as a break with God, (it) had for its first consequence the rupture of the original communion between man and woman" (CCC 1607). "To heal the wounds of sin, man and woman need the help" of God's grace. "Without his help, man and woman cannot achieve the union of their lives for which God created them in the beginning" (CCC, 1608). "By coming to restore the original order of creation disturbed by sin, (Jesus) himself gives the strength and grace to live marriage in the new dimension of the Reign of God ... This grace of Christian marriage is a fruit of Christ's cross, the source of all Christian life" (CCC, 1615). For more information, please visit For Your Marriage, an initiative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

All life begins in the family. Thus the church is one of the biggest supporters of marriage. Marriages within the church are so special. The priest doesn't marry us, we marry each other, the priest is only there as the official witness of the Church. That's pretty powerful when you think about it, a husband and wife are the ones performing the sacrament upon each other. I believe it is the only sacrament in the Church where this happens. In every other case, for the other six sacraments, the priest, bishop, or deacon is the one confirming the sacrament on the individual. That says a lot about marriage!!

Within our marriage we represent the Church. As husband and wife we are responsible for each other's souls. And if children become a part of that marriage we are responsible for their intellectual, spiritual, and physical well-being. We are, therefore, the Domestic Church.

I love that phrase!! The Domestic Church! Really evokes a powerful image of the family.

So as a Domestic Church we need to constantly work on our family. This week's question is asking us how we can strengthen our family. But why is this important?

Well, because it is up to us to ensure that our loved ones get to heaven. Yes, we're all responsible for ourselves, but if the family is the Domestic Church, than just as the priest's job is to lead us to Jesus and ultimately heaven, it is our job, as a priestly people, to lead our spouse and children to heaven as well.

That's a big job! And an important one.

Prayer is essential. I pray during my Holy Hour on Monday mornings. And I always try to pray for my husband and the souls of my two children. I also ask our children, who I believe are already in heaven, to pray for us as well. My husband and I also pray before each meal we have together. I like that we do that, but we always use the same prayer. I'm itching to add some free-form prayers at the end.

One day I'll get to that.

But that leads me to meals together. My husband and I always eat breakfast and dinner together when we're both home. That means dinner every night and breakfast on the five days a week when we're both there (two mornings one of us is at our Holy Hour). Some people have expressed surprise that we actually sit down at the table together for EVERY meal.

It would be so easy for us to not do this. We could use the TV trays and sit in the family room for meals. But I bet we'd get too comfortable with that. Also, we probably wouldn't talk as much. Often the TV is on, in the other room, but it's more background noise than anything else. And there are plenty of times that it is not on.

If we got overly comfortable not sitting down at the table together, how easy would it be to just continue the habit as children came along? We can make promises that we'll sit together as a family once we have children, but then ...

"Well, the baby doesn't know, we'll wait till he's older."

Well, we know where that's going! Habits are hard to break.

So we eat together. In the long run, our family will benefit from it. And we, as a family of two, benefit from it now.

How else can we strengthen our family life? Again I go back to prayer.

I want to pray as a family together more. We used to try and say a Rosary together daily, but have seriously fallen short of that goal. Just like the "potential" family meal, we want to make a daily Rosary part of our children's lives, but we're not in the habit now. It's a habit we need to get into now, so it comes easily later.

And why should we wait! We're still a family. Children do not make a family, two people coming together in marriage make a family. So we should be doing this more.

Now is a great time to start! Not only is it Respect Life Month, it's also the Month of the Rosary. I love how those two things coincide!!

Attending Mass together is also important as a family. I love sitting with my husband during Mass. I love that the liturgy is happening around us physically and around us spiritually as all the angels and saints in heaven celebrate the same liturgy. Heaven touches Earth and we're a part of that, as a family. It's such a beautiful coming together of the Church on Earth, the Kingdom of God, and the Domestic Church, all at the same time. And I feel closest to my children in heaven during those moments too, because I know they are a part of this with us.

Prayer, Mass, meals together where we share our days: these are the things that I think strengthen a family. I'm sure when the day comes that we have children for whom we are responsible for in this life I could add much more to this list. But for now, those are the things I need to continue building upon or working on.

Now I want to hear from you! What steps might you take to strengthen your family life?

(For those reading this on Facebook, you can comment here or you can follow the link below this post that says "View Original Post" to see comments others have left on the original post on my blog. Comments can be left in either place.)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Reflection

There are times when I very much would like to skip one of these questions. This is one of those times.

Now, I have obviously missed some weeks, but generally that's not because I'm avoiding the question. That's more from the tired old excuse of "I've been busy."

But not today! This question really has me thinking, digging deep, and hoping that I can answer it honestly. This is after all, the point of these reflections.

The readings from today's Mass were all very thought-provoking for me. The book of Wisdom is always an interesting read, and this excerpt is no exception! It definitely foreshadows Christ's death, no doubt about that. The Psalm is a nice match for what we heard proclaimed in Wisdom and then we hear from the letter of James. James always seems to me the kind of guy that loves life and is full of optimism. This reading kind of goes against that. It's a good reminder of our selfishness as humans. Then of course we hear the proclamation of the Gospel from Mark. Just like in Wisdom, Jesus tells His disciples that he will be put to death; but that is not all. The disciples also argue about who is the first amongst them. Jesus chides them for this and tells them they must be servants to all. Then he brings forth a child and says, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.”

I love how the Gospel passage first works well with the Old Testament reading from Wisdom and the Psalm and then also touches on the selfishness we heard about in James' letter. The Church is so smart in how it puts all these together!!

But I digress ... For the full texts of the readings check them out here: USCCB website. And our question for this week:

When is it most difficult to put aside my selfishness?

This Gospel passage illustrates the problems engendered by selfish pride, as the disciples argue about who is greatest among them. The Catechism teaches that pride can give rise to envy of another, which St. Augustine saw as "the diabolical sin" (quoted in Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 2539). "Envy represents a form of sadness and therefore a refusal of charity; the baptized person should struggle against it by exercising good will" (CCC 2540). To correct the disciples, Jesus counsels that they should instead practice humility and self-giving: whoever wants to be first, should be the servant of all. As St. Ambrose wrote, "Pride transformed angels into demons; humility makes human beings into saints."

As I said at the beginning, this is a hard question. It takes a bit of honesty to admit that we feel selfish at times, even when we, as Christians, should be trying to be servants in all we do. It seems that this kind of interior reflection is popping up a lot for me lately.

First, I am in the process of reading C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity. Just the other day I read the chapter on Pride. Then, I am also taking a weekly class on campus called the Experienced Leader Academy. The recent reading I did for that class talked about how as leaders we should be focusing on developing our people and helping them to be the best employee they can be rather than the usual leadership mantra of how to get people to do the work you need them to do. This leadership philosophy takes more of the angle that we see described in the Gospel and in the quotes from the Catechism and the saints above. Be a servant to all; be humble.

So, yes, I do wonder where my pride gets in the way of who I am truly called to be. I know I can be prideful and I know I am not always humble. I like the quote above from St. Ambrose. We need to become saints in order to get to heaven. To be a saint we must be humble. And I can't be humble if I have pride or envy or am rooted in any way in selfishness.

Let's cut to the chase. How am I selfish? I know I can be selfish with my time. There are times when I really should be helping others with things and for whatever reason I fail to follow through. I always regret those times, but I know they will happen again. I used to happily volunteer for things, a lot. My calendar was often quite full. You may say, "oh, but then you need a break, it's okay, you can help out the next time." I don't think that's what we're called to. Taking a break is good, but we can't let the thought of taking breaks prevent us from ever getting involved. I'm pretty sure Christ didn't take breaks from his mission, nor did the apostles, or St. John, or any of the countless people who have dedicated themselves to serving Christ and the Church throughout history.

There's also my time at home. I should be serving my husband more than I do. Yes, I do lots around our household. I do laundry and help with dinner (he's mainly the cook), and I do other things too. But I know my laziness prevents me from truly keeping house as I would like. My husband hates clutter, but we have lots of clutter due mostly to me. I try to keep it from getting out of control, but I know it bugs him. So I need to be better at cleaning our house more often. Don't get me wrong, we don't live in a dump, it's actually fairly well kept up, but there is always plenty still to do. And it's those more time-consuming, icky jobs that are the hardest to do.

Anyone else want to admit their moments of selfishness? It's definitely a hard question, so I won't blame you if you don't comment. But it's definitely a good question to contemplate. Jesus has asked us to be servants to the people of this world. And by serving them we are serving Him. That's something I need to remind myself of often. And that, above anything else, should get me up and doing more where I am needed.

Your thoughts? When is it most difficult to put aside your selfishness?

(For those reading this on Facebook, you can comment here or you can follow the link below this post that says "View Original Post" to see comments others have left on the original post on my blog. Comments can be left in either place.)

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Reflection

Today is actually the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, but I feel compelled to share last week's question first. Today's reflection will be quickly following.

You can check out the readings for last Sunday here on the USCCB website. These were all great readings by the way!

Question: Have I ever encountered prejudice because of my faith?

Jesus emphasizes that, just as he had to suffer rejection, so too must we disciples take up our own crosses if we want to follow him. We "must be prepared to confess Christ before men and to follow him along the way of the Cross, amidst the persecutions which the Church never lacks. Service of and witness to the faith are necessary for salvation" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1816). "The Christian is not to be ashamed then of testifying to our Lord. In situations that require witness to the faith, the Christian must profess it without equivocation" (CCC 2471).

I had to answer this question because I did once feel prejudice from being a Catholic. But I will admit, that I don't believe I have ever faced prejudice in being a Christian. We are lucky to live in a country where we can practice any faith and be accepted. I have had discussions with non-believers, but usually those are open and honest conversations with both sides asking questions and both sides listening.

But several years ago I did encounter prejudice, and I wasn't prepared for it. I was in college and was visiting my then-boyfriend's family in another state. While I was in the family room with his sister, he and his mother were in the kitchen. Unfortunately it was a small house and I could hear their conversation, though I don't think I ever let on that I had heard what they were discussing. Anyway, all I remember now is that his mother was concerned that I was a Catholic and she told him that I wasn't Christian. He (thankfully) told her that I was a Christian, which I appreciated!

Now you have to also understand that at the time I was not a practicing Catholic. I hardly ever went to Church and I know I didn't really understand my faith at the time. I was in college, afterall, so not an uncommon thing for that age group. Despite that, I always considered myself Catholic and deep down knew that I would want to marry in the Church and raise my kids Catholic. It was at least ingrained in me enough that I couldn't even contemplate joining another faith. So despite not practicing at the time, this statement shocked and hurt me. I was glad to hear that my boyfriend at the time stood up for me and understood that Catholics are Christians (the first Christians, truth be told, but that's a discussion for another time). However, it was still a shock to hear it. I had never encountered that before. I also couldn't really respond, since I wasn't actually part of the conversation. I didn't want to reveal that I was eavesdropping, which, of course, wasn't hard to do, but still!

Anyway, I've come a long way since then and would know better how to respond should something similar happen to me again. I am thankful that I live in a country where we can be Christians openly without fear for our lives. Which reminds me of something I heard earlier this week during an introductory lecture to the Book of Revelation.

The lecture focused on some of the history of Revelation (authorship, dating, what the first century church was like, etc.). During the part on the first century church the teacher talked about the persecutions the early Christians dealt with, particularly death. Many, many Christians were killed for their faith, for refusing to worship the gods of the Roman empire and the Emperor, and for insisting that Christ was God. Despite all this, the Church was a place of hope and the book of Revelation is a book of hope. It is hope in the second coming, that if we live for Him, we will join Him in heaven one day for the continual worship of God! And she said that the early Christians were told not to compromise. Despite everything happening around them, they were told by the early Church fathers, and by writings such as Revelation, not to compromise. That was pretty powerful!

This is true even today. We can not compromise our moral beliefs in any way. We can not compromise our belief in Christ for anything the secular world throws at us. Despite any difficulties that are put before us, we should be willing to lay down our lives for what we believe in. And there are plenty of people all over the world who still do so everyday.

How about you? Any reflections or thoughts on this question: Have you ever encountered prejudice because of your faith?

(For those reading this on Facebook, you can comment here or you can follow the link below this post that says "View Original Post" to see comments others have left on the original post on my blog. Comments can be left in either place.)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

In today's Gospel many of Jesus' disciples leave him because they find His teaching on the Bread of Life too hard to understand. To be a follower of Christ is not easy, He never said it would be. Thus also why He doesn't call the disciples that leave to come back. In today's world it is very hard to be a follower of Christ and many, many people do leave the Church because they find one or more teachings hard to understand or follow. This week's question is a good one.

The link to the readings this week on the USCCB website.

Question: When have I reached out to someone who has left the church?

Alternate Questions for Kids: Do I know someone who doesn't go to Church?

"The first announcement of the Eucharist divided the disciples, just as the announcement of the Passion scandalized them: 'This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?' The Eucharist and the Cross are stumbling blocks. It is the same mystery, and it never ceases to be an occasion of division. 'Will you also go away?': the Lord's question echoes through the ages, as a loving invitation to discover that only he has the words of eternal life, and that to receive in faith the gift of his Eucharist is to receive the Lord himself" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1336). Let us always be ready to express that invitation!

I got a chance this morning to read the question and the Catechism excerpt before Mass started. It was nice to have the question in my head as I listened to all the readings. I couldn't help but see the importance of the Old Testament reading in relation to the Gospel. So I want to bring some thoughts in on that reading as well.

First, though, I do know several people who have either outright left the Church or don't attend Mass but maybe on Christmas, Ash Wednesday, and Easter but still consider themselves Catholic. I don't know that I have directly reached out to any of them, but maybe I have in some indirect ways. In many cases the indirect methods are often better ways to reach out anyway.

I am conscious of the fact that many of my loved ones who have either left the Church or choose not to participate fully read this blog, see my status updates on Facebook, and have other regular contact with me. Thus when I talk about my faith, my participation in the Mass whenever possible, my attendance at the Adoration Chapel, and other things I do, I hope and pray that I am showing a loving example of what it means to be Catholic. In the past I have also used this blog to explain parts of the Catholic faith in the hopes that maybe it will at the very least plant a seed in someone's mind that could grow and be pondered on and may eventually bring them fully back to the Church and her sacraments. I may never know if I have any effect on anyone, but I will keep trying.

In other respects, I do try to answer questions when people bring up aspects of the faith. This has happened among friends, with family members, and even in the workplace. I know I'm not going to change someone's mind about something right then and there, but when I discuss things I try to be as true as possible to Church teaching. I also try to live by example. My use of NFP, my attendance at Mass weekly if not daily, my open acknowledgement of the deaths of my children, and much more are all examples of how I am openly living my faith to be an example to others.

One of my favorite quotes is from St. Francis: "Preach the Gospel always, and when necessary use words."

So I don't know that I have ever directly reached out to someone who has left the Church, but I hope I have preached the Gospel by example and maybe had an indirect influence on someone's reconsideration of the Catholic Church.

Real quick, I find the dichotomy of the Old Testament reading from Joshua placed next to this Gospel reading from John quite interesting. In the first, Joshua asks all the tribes to commit to serving the Lord as he and his family do. Without hesitation they all uphold their own allegiance to the Lord because of all He has done for them. If you didn't read the whole reading at the link above, go do so now. It is quite powerful!! One thing that came to my mind in this reading with the various ways people in today's society worship other things or people and not the One who gave them life and loves them and only wants love back. We worship movie stars and material things, we saw what I can only describe as worship of politicians last summer during the presidential campaign. Our society tells us that it is okay to worship material things. Think about when the economic crisis first started. We were told to go out and shop. If Joshua were to ask people in today's society I don't think they would have chosen as the tribes of Israel did.

In contrast to this, in the Gospel of John the disciples find the Bread of Life discourse too hard a saying and they leave. What happened to the people between the time of Joshua and the time of Jesus?? Suddenly they were faced with something much harder. This was more than just following Jesus and being a good person. Now He was asking them to eat His flesh and drink His blood. Only the Twelve stayed with Him.

As I have said in some other recent posts, this teaching is still very much misunderstood today and/or rejected by many. This is one of the great mysteries of the Church and an amazing and intimate way of expressing our love for Jesus. I can't imagine a more intimate way of being close to Christ while on the Earth than to be able to physically consume Him.

Getting back to the Question for this week, I do plan in the future when talking with someone who has left the Church or doesn't attend on a regular basis (if we're already discussing Church teaching, of course) to ask them if they miss the Eucharist. Really, I would miss all the sacraments if I were away from the Church, but most especially the awesome and amazing gift of the Eucharist!

On that note, I must head to bed now and get some sleep so I can get up bright and early tomorrow. Okay, not so much "bright" since I know it will still be dark at 4:30am. I will be heading out early to spend time in adoration in front of the blessed Eucharist. Jesus did ask us: could you not keep one hour with me? I will be, tomorrow morning and every Monday morning for as long as I am able.

Finally, when have you reached out to someone who has left the Church?

(For those reading this on Facebook, you can comment here or you can follow the link below this post that says "View Original Post" to see comments others have left on the original post on my blog. Comments can be left in either place.)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time a Little Late

Since tomorrow's the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time in the Church I figured now would be a good time to catch up on last week's reflection. I also was just watching a movie with my husband that was just getting a little too scary for me to handle. So while he finishes watching a movie about people who have been infected with some weird disease and now seem to crave human blood, I can reflect on the continuing Bread of Life discourse in the Gospel of John.

Last Sunday's readings can be found here: 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Question: How am I strengthened by receiving Jesus in the Eucharist?

"Holy Communion augments our union with Christ" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1391). Indeed, the Catechism teaches that "the principal fruit" of receiving the Eucharist is "an intimate union with Christ Jesus," and that "life in Christ has its foundation in the Eucharistic banquet" (CCC 1391). At the same time, "Holy Communion separates us from sin" (CCC 1393). "The Eucharist strengthens our charity, which tends to be weakened in daily life" (CCC 1394). "By the same charity that it enkindles in us, the Eucharist preserves us from future mortal sins. The more we share the life of Christ and progress in his friendship, the more difficult it is to break away from him by mortal sin" (CCC 1395).

All three of the readings and the Psalm are wonderful this week. First we have the reading from Proverbs about the feast that Wisdom prepares for us. Through this feast we can forsake foolishness and gain understanding. That's a banquet I want to be part of. Then we get Psalm 34: Taste and see the goodness of the Lord!! We can start to see a theme here. In the reading from Ephesians, St. Paul urges the Ephesians to be filled with the Holy Spirit and to seek the will of the Lord. He urges them to watch how they live and not fall into evil. We must also seek God's will, and the hard part is accepting it, especially when it isn't our own.

Finally the Gospel to which our question directly addresses. Over the last several weeks we have gotten almost the entire sixth chapter of John proclaiming Jesus as the Bread of Life. I think we have one more week left. Here we see the Jews specifically wonder how this man can give his own flesh to them to eat. Instead of correcting them and telling them that He is only talking symbolically, he stresses the point even further:
Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you do not have life within you.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
has eternal life,
and I will raise him on the last day.
For my flesh is true food,
and my blood is true drink.

This is so powerful. I love reading this chapter. The really sad part is the next part of the chapter, which we read tomorrow, so I won't spoil anything.

I do feel real strength in the Eucharist, but not all the time. Sometimes I don't and it makes me very sad. But when I do it is amazing. I think sometimes it depends on where I am personally. Sometimes I come to the Eucharist needing strength and I pray for Jesus to strengthen (or heal) me in whatever way I need. Upon receiving the Eucharist, I can feel myself being strengthened and ready to go out into the world again. Those times when I am most in need of strength or healing or whatever is when I most feel like I get something from the Eucharist.

Other times I receive the Eucharist and my mind wonders. I watch everyone else going to Communion and I don't stop to listen to hear Jesus in my heart or feel His strength in my life. Those are times when I'm not sad that I didn't feel strengthened, but I'm disappointed in myself for not taking the opportunity to be with Christ in the most intimate way possible while we are here on Earth.

As disappointed as I am, I have to remind myself that whether I am aware of it or not Christ is with me. Not just in the Eucharist, of course, but always, everywhere, and in every way. But most intimately He is in the Eucharist that we consume into our own bodies. Such an amazing gift ... and mystery. Obviously difficult to understand, the Jews that were with Jesus at the time of the "Bread of Life" discourse didn't get it and many, many people today still don't get it. It is a hard teaching, one of the hardest. But also one of the most beautiful. The Love of Christ is everywhere in this gift of the Eucharist.

As a last quick note: if you missed my post last week there was a beautiful video in it that links the celebration of the Eucharist with the crucifixion. I highly recommend going to check it out if you missed it. Link to my post is here.

That's my reflection for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time. The movie is over (my husband said it was actually a rather stupid movie, so I didn't miss much) and now it's late and time for bed. And ... time for thoughts from my friends in the blogosphere:

How are you strengthened by receiving Jesus in the Eucharist?

(For those reading this on Facebook, you can comment here or you can follow the link below this post that says "View Original Post" to see comments others have left on the original post on my blog. Comments can be left in either place.)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time Reflection

I apologize for missing the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time. We attended Mass that Sunday at the National Shrine of Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, MA (check out the virtual tour on the website, the church was amazing). I did grab a bulletin from my church once we got home to see what the question was and intended to make a post here, but it never happened. So we're moving on ...

The past three Sundays we have been reading from John's Gospel chapter 6. This past Sunday we really start getting to the heart of the matter. It's a great reading, and I really want to go further, but we'll have to wait. For this Sunday's readings, follow this link to the USCCB website.

The Question: How do I prepare to receive the gift of the Eucharist?

In response to murmuring criticism, Jesus emphasizes that eating his Bread leads to eternal life. The Eucharist is therefore "a pledge of the life to come" and "an anticipation of the heavenly glory" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1402). As St. Ingnatius of Antioch wrote in the early second century, we "break the one bread that provides the medicine of immortality, the antidote for death, and the food that makes us live forever in Jesus Christ" (quoted in CCC 1405). The Eucharist is "already the foretaste of the kingdom to come" (CCC 2837), and in the Mass, "we already unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy and anticipate eternal life, when God will be all in all" (CCC 1326). Because the Eucharist is such a transcendent gift, let us always receive it with the greatest care and devotion. "To respond to this invitation, we must prepare ourselves for so great and so holy a moment. St. Paul urges us to examine our conscience ... Anyone conscious of a grave sin must receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to communion" (CCC 1385).

This is a great question and something that I believe many Catholics don't quite "get." I know I didn't get it for a long time. I don't think I ever understood it as a child and young adult, but as I started coming back to the Church about 8 years ago I noticed something I had never noticed before. Communion wasn't just a symbolic rememberance of the Last Supper, it was a central part of the Mass. And the reason for this was that we believe that the Eucharist is in fact the actual body of Jesus Christ. That revelation gives you a whole new perspective on the Eucharist.

At some point in my journey back to the Church I discovered the amazing words of John's 6th chapter in his Gospel. Jesus talks in parables so often, but not this time. He meant the words he said: He is the bread and his blood is the wine, and we can not have eternal life without Him. And when those around Him grumble that this can't be true, he sticks to his words. That's how this particular Gospel reading starts, with the Jews murmuring about Jesus' claims, they don't understand what he is saying. How could they? They are supposed to eat him, how can that be! It's a great mystery that we experience each and every time we attend Mass.

So, knowing that we are receiving the actual body and blood of our Lord when we come forward for the Eucharist, it is important that we prepare ourselves. I always feel best receiving the Eucharist when I have recently received the sacrament of Reconciliation.

Prayer is also important, of course. I have recently started trying to focus my prayer better before Mass begins, before receiving the Eucharist, and after receiving the Eucharist. Before Mass I focus on prayers of thanksgiving as well as asking God to open my heart and mind to listen to the readings and homily presented that day. Before Communion I have found it helpful to again be thankful and to ask for God's mercy that I may receive the body and blood of His Son worthily. Keeping this in mind has become important to my preparation for receiving the Eucharist. After receiving the Eucharist I spend my prayer time thanking God again for all his goodness. In addition I take many prayers to Him that are on my heart while he is so incredibly present in my body.

What a gift the Eucharist is!! It's no wonder it is the "Source and Summit" of our faith. The whole of John 6 is a testimony to the importance of this in our faith.

Finally, a friend recently sent me this incredible video and it is such a beautiful illustration of exactly what this "Following the Message" question is all about. So I share it with you here:

Now your turn: How do you prepare to receive the gift of the Eucharist?

(For those reading this on Facebook, you can comment here or you can follow the link below this post that says "View Original Post" to see comments others have left on the original post on my blog. Comments can be left in either place.)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Reflection: Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Once again, I bring you the weekly Following the Message question/reflection on the Gospel. This week we moved from Mark, which we had been reading most of this year, to John. And even better, from one of my favorite chapters in John's Gospel!! So here we go:

For all the readings for this Sunday follow this link to the USCCB page.

The question: How have I experienced the superabundant generosity of God?

Alternate questions for kids: When was I overwhelmed by a great gift?

Jesus' miraculous multiplication of the loaves and fish not only fed the vast crowd, but it far exceeded their desires. This miracle, prefiguring Jesus' offering of himself in the Eucharist, illustrates that God's generosity is boundless. Indeed, God's generosity is at the very root of creation itself. "St. Bonaventure explains that God created all things not to increase his glory, but to show it forth and to communicate it, for God has no other reason for creating than his love and goodness" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 293). "We believe that (creation) proceeds from God's free will; he wanted to make his creatures share in his being, wisdom, and goodness (CCC 295). We offer "a sacrifice of praise in thanksgiving" for creation at every Eucharist. "In the Eucharistic sacrifice the whole of creation loved by God is presented to the Father through the death and the Resurrection of Christ" (CCC 1359). Through the Eucharist, "the Church expresses her gratitude to God for all of his benefits, for all that he has accomplished through creation, redemption, and sanctification. Eucharist means first of all 'thanksgiving'" (CCC 1360).

Reflecting on the Gospel passage of the feeding of the 5,000 and this question of how I have experienced the superabundant generosity of God, I realize that I could go a number of ways with this. Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of time, since it's already late and I'm leaving town tomorrow. But I want to try and at least offer a small reflection on this.

First there is the obvious answer to this question. Of course, the most amazing gift ever would be Christ dying on the cross for our sins. Every Christian would agree with this. But as is revealed in the Catechism passages quoted above, there is this and much more in the Eucharist, which this Gospel passage prefigures (we're close, just need to go deeper into John 6). The Eucharist is such an amazing gift!! To be able to actually consume the flesh and blood of our savior is an extraordinary miracle!! And we can experience this every Sunday ... every day actually. As I mentioned in a previous post, I have started attending daily mass and one of the best parts about doing that is being able to participate in the Eucharistic celebration every day! Every day!! How extraordinary!

There is one other way I see the generosity of God. I hesitate to go do this direction, but I'm being brave (picture a brave face, please) and I'm going there. I read the question and I read the paragraph of CCC quotes and I think about life, namely children. God creates life: He does it out of love, He gives us free will so that we will freely choose to love Him. And this is His amazing, superabundant, generous gift to us. Life! And so many people I know (soooooo many) see that every day when they look at their children. They see God's gift of life to their children and it reminds them that God gave them this gift as well, and those children are placed in their lives to form as His people. It's an amazing responsibility and an amazing gift. It's something I'm constantly reminded of (what's the count up to now for 2009?? Anyone know? I think I lost count, must be about 15-20 babies born to family and friends of mine just this year), it hurts a lot, but I am still happy for those who get to experience this life-giving gift everyday.

It also reminds me of a discussion I got into online recently. The discussion had to do with suicide, in particular the pros and cons of assisted suicide. I feel that it is wrong and most of the others within this discussion felt that it wasn't. For me, my world view is formed based on my morals and values. If I value life as a gift from our Father in heaven, than suidcie would be like throwing that gift away. You are basically telling God that you don't care for this gift of life He has given you and you're thowing it back at Him.

Life is a gift!! I see the generosity of God in my life, in the fact that He gave me life and just in everyday things that are a part of my life; I see it in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross; and I see it in the Eucharist, the source and summit of our faith. I felt it too, when I was pregnant, particularly the second time. I felt that gift of life in me, that developing baby that would one day be in my arms. And I would sit in front of the Eucharist in adoration every Monday with that life growing inside of me and I would be overwhelmed. It is overwhelming, plain and simple.

Your turn: How have you experienced the superabundant generosity of God? All comments are welcome (just don't expect me to respond this week, I'm leaving town and will be sans Internet!).

(For those reading this on Facebook, you can comment here or you can follow the link below this post that says "View Original Post" to see comments others have left on the original post on my blog. Comments can be left in either place.)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Reflection: 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The readings for this Sunday were great!! I think, for me, some of my reaction also had to do with attending daily mass this past week and hearing readings from the Book of Exodus each day. Monday was about the Hebrew woman who hid her baby for three months, then put it in a basket in the river and Pharoah's daughter found it and named the baby Moses. From there, the rest of the week was about Moses' life, ending on Friday with God telling him to lead the Isrealites out of Egypt. After listening to that all week, to then get these readings today with the overall theme of the shepherd was really amazing. I'm so glad I've decided to start attending daily mass again, it's been years and I was really missing it!

So, the readings can be found here: Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time. These are a great combination of readings!

The question for the week: When have I freely given up my time to help someone in need?

This Gospel passage calls to mind our own shepherds, our priests. "Called to consecrate themselves with undivided heart to the Lord and to the affairs of the Lord, they give themselves entirely to God and to (us)" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1579). The sacrament of Holy Orders configures the priest to Christ and confers upon him an "indelible spiritual character" (CCC 1581-82). Therefore, through the priest, "it is Christ himself who is present to his Church as Head of his Body, Shepherd of his flock, high priest of the redemptive sacrifice, Teacher of Truth" (CCC 1548). Because the priest acts in the person of Christ, Pope Benedict XVI has spoken of the "necessary, indeed indispensable, aspiration to moral perfection that must dwell in every authentically priestly heart. Precisely to encourage priests in this striving for spiritual perfection on which, above all, the effectiveness of their ministry depends, I have decided to establish a special 'Year for Priests' that will begin on 19 June and last until 19 June 2010. In fact, it is the 150th anniversary of the death of the Holy Cure' d'Ars, John Mary Vianney, a true example of a pastor at the service of Christ's flock." Let us observe this year by praying in a special way for our priests, who dedicate their lives to minister to us. For more information on the Year for Priests, visit the USCCB's Year for Priests page.

There are two things I want to do in this post and one thing I won't do. I am not going to discuss the Year for Priests here because I have done so already in some earlier posts. What I am planning on doing is first answering this week's Following the Message question and then, second, I want to share some thoughts I had regarding this combination of readings from Jeremiah, Ephesians, the Gospel of Mark and the famous Psalm 23.

When I started contemplating this question regarding when I've given up my time to help someone else in need, I couldn't really think of anything I've done lately. I have done some small things in the past like assisting to serve a meal to the homeless at the Catholic Action Center, assisting with some event or other at Church, helping to fix up a playground that was falling apart at a school when I was in college, and other similar things. There are a number of small things we do every day as well. Most of these don't take any great amount of time, but I do find that sometimes you do have to take a moment you might not have used before to help someone else. For example, stopping to hold a door open for an elderly person or a mother dragging a toddler and pushing a baby in a stroller, or stopping to pick something up that a stranger dropped and getting it back to them. I'm sure we could all think of small things like this that we have done to help those around us.

One time I witnessed a car accident when I was in a hurry and running late for something. But regardless of what I was running late for I knew instantly that it could wait. I stopped, checked one those who were involved, called 911 and talked to the dispatcher, and waited for the police to arrive. Luckily no one was seriously hurt, but it was scary nonetheless. It was clear who was at fault and once the police were there and decided they didn't need my statement (though I gave my number to the guy who was hit just in case) I was able to leave.

I sometimes wish I could do more. I have wanted to help out in many ways, but I often can't actually be present for things. I have donated items to pregnancy help centers on several occasions, which I know is a way of helping those in need, and Chris and I do contribute financially to a number of charities we believe in. But I often feel that I lack in "action" or "works." The Catholic radio station in town has a short spot each week from the Bishop that plays during commercial breaks. In them he always mentions something about the readings, usually the Gospel reading, and invites listeners to come to church on Sunday. So this past week, his spot kind of hit struck me as relevant to my own recent thoughts. He said something about how Jesus invites us this to week to come rest in him and by resting in him our faith leads us to action and our actions lead us to deeper prayer. Or something like that! I only caught it once or twice and my memory isn't good. Regardless, it was an interesting message (plus I remember thinking that it sounds a lot like what I learned in Cursillo, and the Bishop is also a Cursillista).

My conclusion for this part of my post, I need to be more aware of my actions. I need to recognize when people around me are in need and I need to be willing to give of my time to help them.

This goes well with my second thought about this Sunday's readings, namely the idea of social justice. For several years I participated in a group that met weekly to read and discuss the readings for the upcoming Sunday (I met my husband at this group too!). Participating in that group for several years gave me a new understanding for the combination of readings we have each Sunday. They are not randomly selected and they usually all relate to each other in some way. Not only that but we read a good chunck of several parts of the Bible over the course of a year within the Liturgy of the Word at Mass each week. This week's readings are a great example of that.

In Jeremiah we hear about the Shepherd who will bring the scattered flocks back together again. The one who will do this will bring Israel security and will be the "Lord of Justice." Then we sing Psalm 23: "The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want." What a great reminder about how the Lord will always provide for us just as a shepherd provides for his sheep! The second reading from the letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians really spoke to me. Paul tells the Ephesians about peace, several times. In the Lord our God we find peace, and really when we know the Lord takes care of our every need (like a shepherd) why wouldn't we feel at peace. Finally in Mark's Gospel we see the apostles returning from their journies of preaching and healing (see last week's Gospel) and Jesus invites them to come and rest from their hard work. But the people are desperate to hear more from Jesus and they follow them. Jesus is moved by pity and teaches them. I love the line that says "for they were like sheep without a shepherd," which is a great reminder of the first reading.

Why do I see a theme of social justice in this? I think it's a combination of things. We have these readings with the shepherd theme coming out all over the place and the idea of the Lord of Justice and Peace, plus our Pope recently released his latest encyclical which has been called in a few places his social justice encyclical. On top of that, thinking about how our belief in Jesus Christ, the shepherd of all peoples, leads us to action makes me reflect on how we should be acting to bring about good in this world because of our faith.

I haven't yet read the new ecyclical, but I do hope to soon (although this is his third and I haven't read the second one yet either). I have, though, heard it discussed and heard small portions of it quoted. And from what little I have heard the spirit of it seems to reflect very much this idea of action and works because of our faith. The readings on this sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time seem to go alone well with this theme.

I think I have a lot to reflect on for the rest of the week!

How about you?? Any thoughts on these readings or on the question? When have you freely given up your time to help someone in need?

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Reflection: Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

We've had a very busy last couple of days, so this reflection is a little delayed. At long last, here we go!

This past Sunday was the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time. The readings can be found here: Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time. I love the connection between the first reading in Amos where Amos tells the priest that he's just a shepherd doing what the Lord asked of him and the Gospel from Mark where Jesus sends the Twelve apostles out to preach and heal and cast out demons. I love how the readings are always so well put together!!

This week's question: In what ways do I help to spread the Gospel?

"The whole Church is apostolic, in that she remains, through the successors of St. Peter and the other apostles, in communion of faith and life with her origin: and in that she is 'sent out' into the world. All members of the Church share in this mission, though in various ways" (Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 863). Because we "are entrusted by God with the apostolate by virtue of (our) Baptism and Confirmation, (we) have the right and duty, individually or grouped in associations, to work so that the divine message of salvation may be known and accepted by all men throughout the earth" (CCC 900). "It is from God's love for all men that the Church in every age receives both the obligation and the vigor of her missionary dynamism, for the love of Christ urges us on" (CCC 851).

The above excerpts reminded me of part of a lecture we recently went to where the Bishop was the speaker. The lecture was part of a series of lectures with the overriding theme of the sacraments. This last lecture was on the two service sacraments: Holy Orders and Marriage. It was a really great lecture; our Bishop is a wonderful speaker and I always learn something when I attend a lecture of his. During the talk, while he was on the topic of Holy Orders he mentioned that we are all, as a community of baptised Catholics, a priestly people. He had a lot more to say in a much more eloquent way that I do, but essentially we all are called to evangelize the faith in some way, whether we are ordained priests or not. It's a thought-provoking concept if you've never thought of it that way before.

Back to the question, how do I help to spread the Gospel? Well, for one thing, posting on this blog my reflections on the Gospel each week is one way. In addition, I am being more bold in being a voice of the morals and values I believe in as a result of my Catholic faith. I have become engaged in conversations on a variety of posts I've seen on Facebook and some message boards I belong to. I've gotten into debates on abortion, contraception, and suicide, to name a few. In some of these cases I am speaking with people who have completely opposite views from me and in others I am speaking with other Catholics who are questioning things in our common faith. Either way, I hope that when I speak I am allowing the Holy Spirit to guide me in choosing my words well.

Those sorts of things are great to do, but I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes from St. Francis of Assisi: "Always preach the Gospel and, only when necessary, use words." These are powerful words from that great Saint! I love them and try to remind myself of this whenever possible. I remember leaving Church on Sundays as a kid and we'd be in the car trying to get out of the parking lot (we went to a huge church and the parking lot was always packed!) and someone wouldn't let us out, or into a line of exiting traffic, or cut us off or something and my mother would always wonder aloud how people can leave church and then be so rude in the parking lot. What a great image!! (And this would really make sense to you if you could have seen the maze of cars and how they packed them all into this parking lot!). It's so true that we see people all the time who claim to be Christian but don't act it. How much different the world would be if more people actually acted in a way that conformed more with the faith they claim to profess. I know I'm not perfect and, like everyone else, I make mistakes and I slip up (insert plug for the Sacrament of Reconciliation here!), but I hope that I do act, more often than not, in a way that reflects to others that I am a moral, Christian person. I strongly believe that our actions often do speak louder than our words.

Interestingly enough, Theology on Tap started this past Monday and the Bishop was our first speaker. The theme for this 6-week series is "Beyond Sunday" and his topic was evangelization. How funny that we have this reading about Jesus sending the apostles out to evangelize and the very next day we begin a series of talks on how we can better live our faith in our everyday lives! The wisdom of the Holy Spirit never ceases to amaze!!

(Quick advertisement.) If you're in Lexington (or close enough to get here for an evening) stop by and check out Theology on Tap. Have a beer, some food and fellowship, and enjoy a talk from an engaging speaker. We meet at Shooters on Southland Dr. about 6:30, talk is at 7:00pm. Every Monday through August 17.

One last thing. I look forward to one day sharing the faith and the Gospel with my children. I am so looking forward to one day sharing the joy of the Catholic faith with my own children and being an example for them of how to live the faith. I think any parent that works at doing this is truly doing the work of God in abundant ways. So for all you parents out there: keep working at it! I hope to join your ranks one day myself.

So now it's your turn. In what ways do you help to spread the Gospel? I look forward to seeing your comments!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Adoring Christ: Heaven on Earth

Ever heard someone refer to something as like "heaven on Earth"? People may say this about some awesome dessert or a beautiful view from atop a mountain after a long hike, or any number of things. So many amazing things can be described this way and I'm sure I've used that phrase myself once or twice. But lately I've had that experience at times when people would probably not normally think of it: during Mass or in front of the Eucharist in adoration.

Last night we attended a young adult event at a nearby Catholic Church. The event had a social time a wonderful talk by one of our wonderful priests, and some praise and worship music, but at the core of the evening was adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. I had a very moving experience during part of the evening, but to understand why it was so moving for me I have to give a little background.

After we lost our first baby, Casey in March 2008, going to Mass was really hard for me. I cried a lot and particularly during some of the Eucharistic prayers the priest would say. Eventually this subsided and I could sing again and get through mass without the tears. Then we lost the second baby, Zachary in January 2009. All those emotions came back again. I couldn't sing in Church and certian prayers would set me off. Sometimes things said in a homily would bring me to tears as well. In particular I found that when the priest used the Prayer before we sing the "Holy, holy, holy" that says something like, "and we join with the choirs of angels and all the saints as we sing ..." that would really move me (I think it's in the Eucharistic Prayer II, but I'm not sure). This prayer leads into the "Holy, holy, holy" and at times I could even feel my arms aching, like they would if you were holding a child. Eventually this got easier as well and I didn't cry at Mass nearly as much.

Part of the reason that really moved me was that I could envision tons of angels and tons of saints (including my two children) surrounding the altar at those moments, kneeling in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on the altar. And our church has a big, huge open altar with lots of room around the Eucharistic Table. I would just get overwhelmed! We learn that heaven and earth come together during the Mass and particularly during the Eucharistic celebration we get a taste for heaven.

When I attended the Cursillo retreat in May, and in Cursillo meetings I've attended since, I have started focusing more on when I have "close moments" with God. In addition I recently finished reading the book The Lamb's Supper by Scott Hahn, and he talks a lot about the "Holy, holy, holy" and how the Mass is a reflection of the Book of Revelation which is a reflection of Heaven. All those things combined have really made the Mass very meaningful for me.

So last night at this Young Adult thing called The Summit we had Adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament, the Real Presence of Christ. The first half of adoration was silent reflection but during the second half they played and we sang some praise music. The words of one of the songs had a lot of "holy, holy"'s in it and I really felt that "close moment" again. I also felt that presence again of tons of angels and saints also adoring Christ in the Eucharist. When I get that feeling I feel that my children are also there amongst the saints. It's an awesome feeling. So awesome, in fact, that it moves me to tears.

So last night, and more and more often during Mass, I have these close moments and at those moments I feel that Heaven and Earth are coming together. Particularly during the consecration of the host when it becomes the body and blood of Jesus Christ, because it is usually during those moments when I am reminded that the angels and saints in heaven are also adoring Christ at that very same moment. This is not something I feel at every mass nor at each time I attend adoration, and I know that it won't always be there.

But I love it when it is there and when that presence can be felt surrounding us. Feeling that presence is so awesome. For me, that is truly Heaven on Earth.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

This Sunday's "Following the Message" question has been a tough one for me. The Gospel passage is from Mark 6:1-6. Although the "Following the Message" exercise is specifically related to the Gospel passage, I found the first reading to have some interesting parallels, which is often the case (for some reason the second reading is often harder to relate to the others, at least for me). Sunday's first reading was from Ezekiel 2:2-5.

Question: When have I been surprised to find holiness in everyday life?
Alternate question for kids: When have I misjudged someone?

From the bulletin:
Jesus is amazed at the lack of faith among the people of his own town of Nazareth, who take offense at him. Having known him and his family for years, they cannot reconcile the ordinariness of Jesus' life with his profound teaching and his performing mighty deeds. "During the greater part of his life, Jesus shared the condition of the vast majority of human beings: a daily life spent without evident greatness, a life of manual labor" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 531). "The obedience of Christ in the daily routine of his hidden life was already inaugurating his work of restoring what the disobedience of Adam had destroyed. The hidden life at Nazareth allows everyone to enter into fellowship with Jesus by the most ordinary events of daily life" (CCC 532-33). "For all (our) works, prayers, and apostolic undertakings, family and married life, daily work, relaxation of mind and body, if they are accomplished in the Spirit -- indeed even the hardships of life if patiently borne -- all these become spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (CCC 901).

Reading the excerpts from the Catechism in the above paragraph gets me thinking about the concept of redemptive suffering. I attended a lecture not too long ago on this topic and it is probably one of the hardest concepts to fully grasp. But each time I read about it or hear a talk about it I feel that I come away with a bit more understanding. The idea of suffering being a part of our everyday lives here on Earth is a difficult one. No one wants to hear that to be holy you will have to suffer. More and more in this day and age, people want things to be easy. It's just not so.

I said above that I found this question very difficult to reflect on. For me this is probably because I know that I am not very good at seeing holiness is everyday things. But there is so much holiness around us! It's in the chores we do, our work, loving our family (especially when they are not being very lovable), and in the strangers around us. And as I type I realize that I do have one example I can share from my life.

My husband and I both knew, without even discussing it, that we would follow the teachings of the Catholic Church on contraception in our marriage. In other words, we would not use any artificial means of birth control. The Church teaches that it is wrong and we both knew that we wanted to uphold the teachings of the Church in our sacramental marriage. This was a big step for me because I was very much ingrained in a culture with a contraceptive mentality. This step took faith, trust in God, and quite a bit of suffering. We decided to learn a method of Natural Family Planning to help us understand my fertility better and to be able to help us plan for our family in cooperation with God.

In our culture, there is this idea that two people (any two people) can have sex anytime they want. But that is not how God designed it. Sex is intended for marriage only, and I encountered a lot of amazement that both my husband and I had never had sex prior to our marriage, especially because we were both already in our thirties! Oh the horrors!! Not only that, but when people find out that you aren't using any form of artificial birth control they think you are nuts. Why? Because it would be too hard!! Or, you'll have a dozen children. I want to expound on the aspect of suffering in regard to the practice of NFP.

By the way, a bit of a side note: NFP is a generic term for a host of methods. All are natural, no chemicals in your body, no side-effects, no long-term effects that will cause you problems later in life. The most commonly thought of method is the Rhythm Method, but this is an old-fashioned method that I don't hear of anyone using any more. We use the sympto-thermal method (STM) as taught by the Couple to Couple League. There is also Creighton, Billings, Marquette, and many others.

The thing that people find so "hard" about the thought of using NFP is that if you have reason to avoid a pregnancy, there is some abstaining that has to happen. My doctor actually said to me once, "You have to have quite a strong will for that!" I was a little taken-aback by her comment, but I let it go, knowing that the medical establishment feels more comfortable putting chemicals into your body to prevent pregnancy than actually taking the time to learn and understand your fertility signs. I don't understand the problem with abstinence. Yes, it can be difficult, but don't people abstain when their spouse is out of town, or when one of you is sick for a week or more, or what about for 6 weeks after the birth of a baby (or however long you're told to abstain after going through childbirth). Abstaining is part of marriage, even for those using birth control. So what is the difference?

For us, we have suffered in a variety of ways, but through it all we grow in holiness. I've learned that after a pregnancy loss, we have to abstain for a time, and then I've learned that my cycles are completely out of whack. And that gets frustrating when we want to start to try again and my cycles disrupt our efforts every two weeks. My fertility signs are kind of all over the place, but despite the difficulties, we know we are doing the right thing.

It's difficult at times, but we are following what we believe to be God's will for us. We have to trust in Him and we have to suffer the rejection from the culture around us. But in the end it will all be worth it. Christianity is hard, and for us, this is part of being a Christian. It may be difficult at times to completely trust God and it might be frustrating to not get the results we want, but God knows what He is doing. I have to keep reminding myself of that. And I know that we are growing in holiness through our perseverance.

I do want to say that I found it interesting in this Gospel passage from Mark that we see Jesus hurt by the rejection of his family and friends. We are used to seeing Jesus as suffering for us all through His dying for us on the cross. That is an extraordinary act of suffering! But to see Him suffer in a way that many of us can relate to in a much more human way is also amazing. It's too easy (at least for me) to forget that Jesus is both divine AND human. This passage illustrates that well. It also shows that He persevered, a good lesson for us all.

So tell me: When have you been surprised to find holiness in everyday life? What are your thoughts on this question?