Mothers come in all shapes, sizes, colors, temperaments, sanities, and the list goes on and on. To be brutally honest, my mother and I are not close and our relationship is painful and strained. I’ve never pretended that things were good; I’ve always been mature enough to know that she wasn’t a healthy person to be around, and I’m the person I am today because of her and how she raised me. I’ve gotten my best and worst traits from her, and although I’ve tried my whole life to be something entirely different from her, I once in a while find myself saying the same kind of mom phrases she used to use. It’s taken me a lifetime of prayer and healing, but I’m a stronger, more resilient person thanks to her. One thing she did instill in me is a foundation in my Catholic faith. And although I discovered my relationship with God and my faith life for myself later in high school, she was the one making sure Christ was at the center of my life. Moms and mother figures are good like that; many center us on faith and give us some moral compass to live by.
Fast forward to three years ago, when I became a mother myself. My eyes were opened to the incredible highs and lows that come with a newborn. Then he grew into a toddler, and now he’s a fully operational human boy with thoughts and feelings and opinions of his own. Vincent is only three, but seeing life through his eyes and being his mom is the very best feeling I could have ever asked for. My whole perspective on what being a parent means and how I do that on a daily basis has filled my whole being at times. It’s wild to think that I’m a mom sometimes, and I wonder how many others pause to consider that too. From the moment of conception, we’re caring for and nourishing a human person within us. We were designed exactly as God intended: to be able to do this and withstand the pain and changes that not only our bodies go through but also our minds and hearts as well. God has a plan and motherhood is part of so many of our journeys in life.
Even from a preschool teacher perspective, I never quite knew how it would feel to have a child of my own to raise and nurture and be able to introduce to God. This happens at dinner when we say Grace together; he knows the Sign of the Cross and has learned the prayer. This happens at church on Sundays when we talk about the colors, the statues, and the Cross. Vinny asks about the bells and knows how to say “Peace” when it’s time to share in the Sign of Peace. He knows that when it’s “our turn,” we can walk up the aisle for something extra special in the Eucharist. Just this past Sunday, he began to venture past the priest and onto the altar…which made the bishop (of course) burst into laughter. Mortified, I brought him back to our spot and hugged him so tight, knowing he will only be this little for a short time and that one day he might even find himself on the altar as a priest. God has a plan; meanwhile, we just wait and see what happens.
Moms suffer the greatest heartaches, the greatest of joys, and everything imaginable in between. This Mother’s Day, let’s give each other grace. Moms nowadays are inundated with information and opinions and media and choices and advice, and we’re thrown into doing so much with very little help sometimes. Let’s say a little prayer for each other for strength, courage, and patience. Mary, Jesus’ mother and the greatest of all models to look up to when getting through our day-to-day life, is someone we can turn to and ask for intercession. Our Blessed Mother, even in her perfection, still somehow experienced similar feelings to those that we feel as mothers. I’d like to think that because Mary and so many other women were great mothers, I can be too.
Finally, join me in praying a rosary for mothers. God loves all of his children; it’s our job to meet our sisters and brothers on this life’s mission and be an apostle to them on the road. As you pray these prayers, take a moment in your humility; put aside anger, resentment, stress, and distractions. On each bead, pray for a mother you know by name or someone you’ve never met. Consider praying for…
…the mother who is anxious.
…the mother who has suffered loss of a child(ren).
…the mother who is estranged from her own mother.
…the single mother.
…the mother who feels alone in her motherhood.
…the mother who has had miscarriage(s).
…the mother who is scared.
…the mother who is experiencing homelessness.
…the mother who is in an abusive relationship.
…the mother who has had an abortion.
…the mother who has healthy children.
…the mother who is sad.
…the mother who is worried.
…the mother who is the breadwinner.
…the mother who has addictions.
…the mother who forgets about her own self-worth.
…the mother who is struggling.
…the mother who is without faith.
…the mother who is doubting herself.
…the newly-pregnant mother.
…the mother who is working.
…the mother who stays at home.
How does one “prepare for Lent” in our current world? How might you quiet your life for forty days and be as if in the desert with Christ? What could Lenten preparations look like? These are the questions I considered as I began this reflection. As a mom, wife, teacher, and Catholic woman in today’s world, my life is hectic and my focus is often driven by the next prioritized event or deadline. If we’re being honest, I don’t have forty days to be consumed by a literal or figurative desert for prayer and quiet. But is that just the kind of reasoning that society is telling me? Where do I find God in the noise?
To more easily consider Lent this year, I broke it down into four categories of my life.
This Lent as a mom, I want to cherish the little joyful moments. My son is now three, and other parents may understand when I say that sometimes three is exciting and adorable, but other times it’s exhausting and I count down the minutes until bedtime. Children are the most wonderful blessing, but they are so much work too. I want to be playful with Vincent this Lent, I want to do less complaining or rushing him through things, and I want to cherish the little joyful moments.
This Lent as a wife, I want to be in solidarity with my husband as we try our best to support each other with Lenten sacrifices. For me, indulgence is an area where I want to work on sacrificing until Easter. It will be challenging, but it’s easier when you have someone beside you, helping you stick to a goal or a plan, and I know we can do this for each other. Forty days is a good time to get into better habits together and put our best feet forward for the Easter season.
This Lent as an educator, I want to intentionally pray for each of my students and their families. Having moved to teaching at a new school this year, I have new students and a new environment where I can share with children how precious they are. Although I’m not at a Catholic school, I can still treat each of my nineteen students with intention and consider them and their families throughout Lent.
This Lent as a Catholic woman, I want to add on quiet. This, for me, will look like turning off the radio for one whole commute to or from work a few times a week. During that time, I’ll sit with God and reflect: consider my actions, my gratitude, and my intentions for my day or my evening. I’ll try to avoid just picking up the phone to call someone and complain about a bad day or listening to music to drown out the day. I want to add on quiet.
Thinking back to my first questions, I still am going to find it difficult to be in quiet with God and not just find time but MAKE time for Christ. I really think that’s the difference: when we only have moments here and there to give, we’re not at peace. When we make time for Christ—schedule it into a calendar or create a time of the day for just us and God—we will feel and find his blessings that much more easily.
My challenge for you is to schedule time for God each week in Lent. Priorities will still be important and life will still be hectic and busy, but we can only sit with Christ in the desert for forty days. I wouldn’t want to miss that for anything in the world. My scheduled times with God for the next forty days will be: Tuesdays on my ride home from work, Saturday mornings for a few minutes before everyone is awake, Friday mornings on my way into work, and Sundays during the Gospel and homily when I can think and reflect on the Word in Scripture. I know I can achieve these four times each week, and I know it’s not too much for my to-do list. I’ve even added them to my calendar so I can’t forget.
We’re exhausted; Christ was too. We’re weary and burnt out; Jesus’ apostles were too. We’re calling out to our Heavenly Father, “Why have you forsaken me?” as Christ did (Mt 27:46). All you have to do is make time and be open.
I’ve lost a lot of things in my life, and while sometimes those things eventually are found, other times I never see them again. I often put something aside for safekeeping, and then when I’m looking for it, the item is nowhere to be found. I usually just blame my ADHD, but when it’s really difficult to find something and I just cannot locate it anywhere, I do what others also may do, and I ask St. Anthony to help me find it. Ever since I was little, we were told, “Say a prayer; St. Anthony will help you find it,” and usually the item showed up soon after the search party hit full speed. So as I was preparing for this reflection, I learned a lot about who St. Anthony was, why he’s the patron saint of lost things, and how we can find what’s missing in our lives in this new year.
Anthony was born in 1195, just thirteen years after St. Francis, in Portugal. Anthony was baptized with the name Fernando, and at the age of fifteen, having lived with his wealthy family up to that point, he left home and entered religious life in order to join the order of St. Augustine. Fernando, however, had a hard time adjusting to his new life. His friends visited frequently, and his time there was anything but peaceful and studious. After only two years, he was sent away for nine years to study Augustinian theology and become a priest. Fernando didn’t remain an Augustinian, however. He requested and was given permission to join the Franciscans after witnessing Franciscan martyrs of Portugal give all they had to preaching the Gospel. He received the name Anthony and left for Morocco, but he was blown off course and landed in Sicily. While in Italy, Anthony amazed people with his sermons and preaching, because he spoke in a way that connected with the people. Anthony became a teacher and taught other friars theology, and he was known to the people for going out to larger spaces so more people could hear him preach. He wrote volumes of sermons called Sunday Sermons and Feast Day Sermons that used allegory and simplistic pictorial expression, perfect for relating to the community he served. Just before his death, Anthony left for Padua, a place that was a central player in the study of law, and he was well received there. He died at the age of thirty-six, having been a Franciscan friar for ten years.
Many traditions have been associated with St. Anthony, especially in relation to his ability to help people find missing things. It is said that Anthony’s own book of psalms was stolen by a thief, but Anthony prayed to God that it would be found. The thief’s heart changed, and the psalter was returned to him, still intact with his notes for his students. Word spread of this miracle, and soon, others also began praying to God through Anthony for their missing things. Another tradition is called St. Anthony Bread. After someone’s prayer has been answered, and they’ve found their missing item, they present St. Anthony with a loaf of bread in thanksgiving for the small miracle. In many places, on the feast of St. Anthony, small loaves of bread are still blessed and given to the poor.
St. Anthony of Padua has been characterized as a humble and positive man, a man of incredible penance and zeal, full of courage to preach, and considered a “man of the people.” His preaching was regarded so highly that he was made a Doctor of the Church in 1946 by Pope Pius XII. The Church particularly urges us to imitate Anthony’s “love of the word of God and his prayerful efforts to understand and apply it to the situations of everyday life”, found here. In some ways, his ability to meet his fellow apostles in their own faith journeys reminds me of St. Vincent Pallotti, a priest who was another humble saint who preached and served in the many streets of Rome. Pallotti’s life was dedicated to accompanying the faithful and helping them live out the Gospel in their everyday lives. He once said, “What God demands of you is love, gratitude, and cooperation,” and I think St. Anthony would agree with him on that.
In this new year, let us put on the life of Christ as St. Anthony did. Let us share the Gospel with others simply by being a witness to the love we feel in Christ. Our message and our actions can feel lost in the hustle and bustle. We can lose ourselves in the busyness and in the daily tasks, but in 2023, let’s really take notice of what’s missing in our lives and pray that St. Anthony’s intercession can help us find anything we’ve lost.
Information from this post on Anthony’s life can be found here at: https://www.stanthony.org/who-st-anthony/
Visit our Feast Day Site to find more information about Saint Anthony, too!
I’d like to use this opportunity to talk a bit about my husband, who may be wildly embarrassed that I’m using him as my muse for this post. My husband works hard. He is a very predictable man, sure of himself, and resolute in his decisions. He uses humor to make light of situations and balances out my whimsical optimism with his reality-based thinking most days. But an admirable quality that he’s had since before we met is that he has an intrinsic motivation toward duty. He is a man of purpose. I love him for it all and am proud of all he’s done in service to others. Plus, I’m certain I don’t tell him that enough. So here it is, publicly acknowledged and acclaimed!
When I reflect on the men I know, I often see a sense of duty and purpose driving many of their decisions and commitments. Not only men are often dutiful, but many take pride in what they do. I’d like to reflect on this sense of purpose through the lens of the saints and Scripture. We find men of God in Scripture who did great things and were called for a purpose like Abraham and Saul. We find holy men among the saints who were called to a sense of duty like St. Peter and Blessed Father Michael McGivney. These men were each very different, lived at different times, and were challenged by God in different ways. Each one was called with a duty to serve and be faithful, too. They were men of purpose.
We know the stories from the Old Testament about Abraham and how he was chosen by God to be the “Father of Many Nations,” how he was blessed in his old age with a child, and how he was faithful to the point of sacrificing his son. God chose him to make a covenant with, and he will forever be remembered for his steadfast obedience to the Lord. We also know the story of Saul, who persecuted Christians, endorsing stoning and doing terrible things in God’s name. Then one day, a bright light knocked him down and he was blind until he converted and believed in Christ. On that day, his name was changed to Paul, and he became a missionary who traveled all over bringing with him the Word of God. Both men were called by God and were given a purpose.
There are two other holy men I’d like to consider as well, the first being St. Peter. I like to think about his example because every time I read about Peter in Scripture, he seems to lack purpose until Jesus speaks to him. At the Transfiguration, Peter’s first thought is “let’s build tents” when he sees Moses and Elijah with the Lord and he hears God’s voice in a cloud that says, “This is my Son…Listen to Him!” (Matthew 17: 1-9). Later, in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus is arrested, Peter acts on impulse and cuts off the ear of a servant until Christ tells him, ‘Put your sword away!” (John 18:10). Throughout the Gospels, Peter seems so relatable. Although well-intentioned, he often says or does things out of turn. It is after the Resurrection when Jesus forgives him and tells him to, “Feed My Lambs…Tend My Sheep…Feed My Sheep” (John 21: 15-17), that he is entrusted to be the first pope with the help of the Holy Spirit. He was taught by and learned from Jesus, and now he is ready to be the leader he was intended to be. Jesus gave purpose.
The fourth man of purpose I’d like to consider has a bit of significance to our family: Blessed Father Michael McGiveney. Fr. McGivney was born in Waterbury, CT in 1852 and grew up in an immigrant Catholic household. Later, he became a seminarian and then a beloved parish priest at St. Mary’s in New Haven where he walked with people in their daily lives. A man of purpose himself, he recognized the hardworking men in his community and started the Knights of Columbus in 1882 as a fraternal organization of Catholic men. He knew that, united in faith, these Catholic men could be invigorated to help their communities and the order grew. Fast forward over a century, and lay men both young and old are still pining for purpose and the Knights of Columbus has provided that for so many. Most importantly in my life, my husband has found faith, fraternity, and unity in his work through this organization and I’m proud that he’s found such a calling for service as a Knight. Blessed Father Michael McGivney provided him and countless other men with purpose.
At a time when so many things seem to be challenging our Catholic faith, there are ways we can keep on persevering and people who we can rely on for help. Look to those who are resolute. Look to the ones who have never waivered, to those with faith. Faith provides this duty and purpose. It comes out in a variety of ways, as shown in the examples of the many men I’ve reflected on here. We all are looking for purpose--whether it’s a small child finding purpose in helping around the house or a new member of the Knights of Columbus hoping to find purpose in fraternity and service. I challenge you to reflect on the examples of men of purpose I shared and consider what Christ is asking of you today. Where do you find purpose?
“Be a Person for Others” - St. Ignatius of Loyola.
“Seek God and you will find God. Seek God in all things and you will find God in all things. Seek God always and you will find God always.” - St. Vincent Pallotti
And the greatest purpose of all: “Love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)
I have a new hot-take: Jesus is a perfect definition of bittersweetness. This might leave some to continue scrolling down the page, but hang on. For me, I need to connect to my faith in a tangible and simple way. When you think of something like the Paschal Mystery, it’s a little daunting. To explain some more, let’s break down this little claim of mine and engage with the Paschal Mystery a bit. We know that Jesus’ Passion, death on the Cross, rising from the dead, and new life are all aspects of the core of what we believe as Catholics. The bittersweet aspect is that it was both sad and amazing at the same time. Recently, we saw how Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection, followed by his Ascension, made his disciples miss him. But, the Holy Spirit empowered them to do great things! At points of transition in our lives, even as natural as the change of seasons, we may find ourselves with feelings of similar bittersweetness.
As my life gets pretty chaotic this summer, I’m finding myself constantly split between being sad and happy or experiencing the closing and opening of chapters. I’ll be saying a fond farewell to an aspect of my career that feels like the sun setting, but there is hope of new and exciting horizons that lie ahead. As a parent, I’m grieving the baby phase that my two-and-a-half-year-old is through and gaze at his baby chub that was so squishy, when he couldn’t run fast. On the other hand, I’m loving the chatting and curiosity that his toddler age has brought to our lives and I can’t stop laughing and smiling with him lately! Also in my personal life, my husband and I are coming up on our 5th wedding anniversary this fall, and I cannot help but wonder how fast the time has flown by while loving how much we’ve grown and supported each other over these years. In all of these areas, the word I keep thinking is not bittersweet—that sounds like a tasty chocolate. It’s bittersweetness. The word for my summer is bittersweetness. I think I like the sound of it better than the type of chocolate because of the “sweetness” part. I like the sweetness in things, the joy and the happiness. I tend to skip right through the sad or longing because if I dwell on these too long, I’ll get that tightening in my throat and catch a tear in my eye. I don’t like goodbyes and I don’t like endings. I always think of the glass half-full. For example, I tell my students, “Jesus died, but three days later he rose from the dead and saved us all.” The bittersweetness of life for me always looks optimistic and emphasizes the sweetness, not the bitterness. But life is full of both, so I’m trying to push through and feel all the feels this time.
In this literal new season of summer and this transition of seasons in my life, I need this reminder to not skip the goodbyes and try to go straight to the good part. I think this summer will be hard for me in this season, so turning to prayer and God’s grace will ease that burden a bit. I’ve always found comfort in prayer, whether it is an intentional Mass or journaling some thoughts. I’m hoping to re-acclimate my heart for those things too. For at-my-fingertips-access though, I am also going to attempt to make the Revive and Rekindle App through the Catholic Apostolate Center a daily habit. I’ll first begin with the daily reflections and see what my heart needs next. I need to reflect and think about Christ, and I really enjoy doing so through the lens of Pallottine spirituality. I find comfort in the words of St. Vincet Pallotti: “Seek God and you will find God. Seek God in all things and you will find God in all things. Seek God always and you will find God always.” He reminds us to simply look for the Lord. I’m hoping this “seeking,” will bring some comfort for me and for you! Through Christ, this bittersweetness may open my eyes to new things or help me feel at peace with both emotions, embracing the bittersweetness together! Prayer will get me through. Lord, give me strength and understanding. Amen.
Fairly recently, we taught my son to say grace before meals. He contributes by saying, “Amen” and folding his hands. My husband patiently encourages him to keep them folded and he knows we pray before he eats. He even got his Grandma to say “Amen” when they’re together. It’s the sweetest thing and fills my heart with hope. Saying, “Amen” got me thinking though: What a perfect word to carry my family through Lent this year!
Think about it: what do we say to begin and end prayer? Amen. The Creed, the Our Father, the Hail Mary, our spontaneous prayers–every prayer ends with Amen. The faithful participate in the Great Amen in the Eucharistic liturgy at Mass, As the USCCB explains, “The Eucharistic Prayer concludes with the Final Doxology…The people respond with the Great Amen a joyous affirmation of their faith and participation in this great sacrifice of praise.”
What exactly does “Amen” mean though? The Catechism elaborates when discussing the Creed, “In Hebrew, amen comes from the same root as the word ‘believe’...Amen expresses both God’s faithfulness towards us and our trust in him.” (CCC 1062). This seems pretty powerful for a Lenten reflection on God’s love and mercy. God’s faithfulness endures. By responding with Amen, we acknowledge this faithfulness and express our trust in him. The section goes on to say, “To believe is to say ‘Amen’ to God’s words, promises, and commandments; to entrust oneself completely to him who is the ‘Amen’ of infinite love and perfect faithfulness” (CCC 1064). When we say Amen, we are saying “I believe” –a beautiful reiteration of our Baptismal vows. I believe. Amen. I believe.
I’m certain my two-year-old son already sees God in so many things. Already, he has many opportunities to acknowledge God’s faithfulness: After grace when he says Amen, at Mass when he closely watches the priest lift the host in consecration, and at bedtime when he says goodnight to Jesus. And through my son and his budding faith, I also see God. My son’s namesake, St. Vincent Pallotti, spoke about finding God when he said, “Seek God and you will find God. Seek God in all things and you will find God in all things. Seek God always and you will always find God.” This is such a practical application of big concepts in our understanding of God, perfect for a child to consider as he grows in faith and as we accompany his journey in life. “Seek God always and you will always find God” is also a great phrase to take to prayer this Lent. I think it will continue to help shape my prayer during this season of reflection.
As we continue throughout Lent, consider these different aspects of our faith. Every time you say Amen, I invite you to reflect on who you are saying it to and what you believe. May you more earnestly seek God, find God, and trust in his faithfulness throughout your life and during this time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Lent can be a powerful season for us, fortifying our hearts with Christ at the center. As Vinny learns more about prayer, I hope that I can continue to teach him about our Faith, the faithfulness of God, and how to “Seek God” in order to find him. Amen, I believe.
Catholic Church. Catechism of the Catholic Church. 2nd ed. Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2011. http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-webelieve/catechism/catechism-of-the-catholic-church/epub/index.cfm
The best thing about being a parent is finding joy in the moments that your child is laughing, playing, and having fun. It’s joyous and fulfilling; and there is no greater feeling. There are other times when parenting is hard--full of so many sacrifices and tough decisions that make it feel like the farthest thing from a perfect scenario. My toddler is two years old and pretty expressive about what he wants and needs. His favorite phrases right now are: “I want fruit snacks” and “New truck show.” Depending on the answer to his requests, he’s either overjoyed or devastated. He will curl into a ball with his head on the floor at my feet or just burst out into a shrieking scream of anger. I think for most parents, it’s hard to see your child struggle. While it’s important for him to learn lessons like “not-right-now,” teaching him and working through these times of struggle are not fun parts of the vocation. I’d like to think that God, our very compassionate, perfect Father, watches over us in our many struggles and is the kind of parent beside us in our tantrums, too. The weight of parenthood doesn’t affect our Father. Instead, he is the one who strengthens us, the stressed-out parents, when we ask for his help in prayer and let him in.
Jesus is the Son of the Father. When he taught his disciples to pray, he gave us the Our Father prayer. In each of these lines, we can find solace in praying to our Father in heaven. There is such beauty in the words from Christ that capture every essence of our Gospel.
Our Father, Who art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Let’s go through the prayer and break it down a little more:
By the end of the Lord’s Prayer, I see a loving, forgiving, and omnipotent parent. I feel like God is supporting me and guiding me. He is inviting me to have faith in what he wants for me and my life. The Our Father also reminds me to be grateful each day, to forgive others, and to allow myself to be forgiven, most importantly in Confession. A parent’s life is sometimes consumed by their child or children. With God’s help, we can live out our vocations as parents by looking to his example of Fatherhood. God in His Wisdom created us to be His. He made us unique, with a capacity to love and with Free Will. He made us to be thinkers and creators. He loves us so much that he brought his Son into the world to die for our sins and then be able to live with him eternally. I can’t imagine a more perfect parent than that.
This Advent is very special for three reasons. First, my son, who will be two in January, will be experiencing the lights, the beauty, and the gift of Advent in a brand new way this season and I’m so happy to share that with him. The second is because every year I teach about Advent to my class of PreK students, but because I’m really looking forward to it, I think I’ll be able to bring that joy into the classroom with me more than ever. Finally, this year in Advent I will be trying to intentionally do work in the service of others and helping where there is an imperative need. This year, I’m hoping to get caught up in the magic and in the giving and also appreciate the beauty of the season rather than waiting impatiently.
On the first Sunday of Advent, I went to Mass with my son and husband, along with another family with two young children. For the first half, my toddler was overwhelmed with excitement about the tree in the back filled with tags for people who need wrapped gifts for Christmas. He kept taking the tags off and swapping out one for another, screaming in joy about the whole thing while the congregation listened to the readings. After some quieting down, we went back into the pew with his little friends. As we knelt in prayer, I was overcome with emotion and gratitude between my husband and son. But the moment that really helped me see through the eyes of a child was when we walked up for Eucharist and my son noticed the purple at the altar, and the four candles with one purple one lit. He pointed and said, “Candle!” and in that moment I knew we would have such a joyful season of Advent. I invite you to notice something brand new about the lights, beauty, and hope that Advent brings to us all. Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love are the four weeks that bring us closer to Christ and prepare us for His coming. We can use this time to reawaken our hearts and see Advent all fresh and new, especially through the gentle ways of children!
In my PreK classroom, the children love holidays and especially look forward to Christmas. So many learn about Christmas and Advent for the first time in my class, and that is a really special opportunity for me as their teacher. Already this year, one student shouted, “Presents!” as we were talking about Thanksgiving, and I had to clarify the confusion between the holidays. Then, it struck me, isn’t that how it works sometimes? We want to skip right to something fun that might be in the more distant future instead of appreciating the celebration that might be happening right in front of us. Advent is this same phenomenon. We’re worried, anticipating, and anxious about one day every year, but if you consider that every day in Advent can be a celebration of the Season, it’s really like we have a whole month of Christmas!
There is so much we can do for others in this challenging world right now and there are many in need of our help. Winter is cold and this year has already been chilly: there is a lot we can do for our Sisters and Brothers in Christ during Advent by sharing in joy, distributing resources, praying for those sick or in need, or offering kindness. In 2018, Pope Francis said, “Advent invites us to a commitment to vigilance, looking beyond ourselves, expanding our mind and heart in order to open ourselves up to the needs of people, of brothers and sisters, and to the desire for a new world." Advent is a time for service, here are some examples of helping others during this time of giving:
Whether you look at Advent through a child-like perspective, find joy in the daily celebration, or assist those less fortunate this Season, do it all with intentional preparation for Christ’s coming on Christmas. I’ll be busy getting caught up in the magic and beauty too! Happy Advent!
Click here for more resources on Advent.
Click here for more resources on the Works of Mercy.
As the mother of a young toddler, I’ve found that life is moving pretty quickly. One moment I’m running after him so he doesn’t grab the dog’s water bowl, and the next, I’m reading his little children’s Bible for the third time in 5 minutes. I’m finding that my toddler is learning so much from his environment. Every day, he can say new words or hum or sing or dance. When I hear him say, “Mama and Vinny,” I just stop and think about Mary.
I love to imagine her as Jesus’ mother: patient and loving, giving hugs, teaching him and walking among flowers. I picture the two of them laughing and playing in the sunshine filled with joy. But I also imagine her with Jesus throughout his life. I start by thinking of Jesus as a toddler--maybe when they were still in Egypt. He likely picked up sand and tried to eat it like my little one would or looked at a camel or water and began to say his first words. Then, I can imagine Mary and Joseph both searching for Jesus while he was not where they thought he should be, but instead in the Temple with teachers showing how much he knew about Scripture. She would be proud of him and his knowledge, maybe with a pang of understanding of his purpose on earth. Then I imagine later on in his first miracle at the wedding at Cana, when she really knew it was time for Jesus to begin his ministry. She supported her son, but also knew it was time to begin God’s work. Meditating on different Scripture passages and moments in the life of Christ can deepen our relationship not only with him, but with the many powerful witnesses to the faith like Our Blessed Mother.
Reflecting on moments with my toddler and my own motherhood has strengthened my relationship with Mary over this past year. In this month of May, let us turn to Christ’s Mother and celebrate her motherhood to all of us. Mense Maio, an encyclical by Pope Paul VI which came out on April 29th, 1965 discusses prayer during May for the preservation of peace and the powerful intercession of our Blessed Mother in a variety of ways. As I was reading, I liked how Pope Paul VI mentioned different areas that need our prayers. In the twelfth section of the document called “Plea for Mary’s Help,” he writes, “she graciously lend(s) an ear to the devout pleas of those all over the world who beg her for peace.”
As we begin the Marian month of May, let us think about the people in our lives, maybe those marginalized or neglected who are in desperate need for our prayers and petitions. Let us turn to Our Blessed Mother and beg her for peace in our lives and throughout the world.
To read more blog posts about the Blessed Virgin Mary, please click here.
I often find myself avoiding sad and painful things, searching to find a silver lining and help make me or someone else feel better. It can be at the cost of seeming empathetic, too, like avoiding sitting with the pain and instead dealing with it head on. My immediate reaction is to fix something broken or to solve a problem instead of to actually let it sink in and affect me. Growing up, this was a coping mechanism that I’ve been able to turn into a strength of mine as a teacher, making split-second decisions and problem-solving throughout the day. Personally though, I think I need to wrestle with it. As we enter into the saddest, most heart-wrenching day of the year, my gut says “avoid the topic, think about Sunday,” but instead I’m going to go a little deeper for Good Friday this year.
Good Friday was what I can only imagine to be a marathon of a day for Christ to endure, only to end with his sacrifice in the Crucifixion. The brutality and agony that he must have felt while carrying his cross can be overwhelming to think about. He carried it bleeding, tired, hungry, and aching from the weight of such an enormous cross. I’ve never experienced pain like that, so I’ve found it easy to skip through, acknowledging it happened and moving on. But this is where I’ve gotten it wrong: Christ did all of that for me, for us, for every human being on this Earth. Jesus did that so we wouldn’t have to experience it for ourselves and could be together with God in his Kingdom one day. This day is the one I shouldn’t overlook.
The Stations of the Cross, a 14-step reflection on the Passion of Christ, is the perfect place for me to start contemplating Christ’s sacrifice on Good Friday. While there are many versions of this devotion, I’m using the Stations of the Cross in the Spirit of St. Vincent Pallotti to help me think more clearly about the meaning of Good Friday. There are many different Stations of the Cross to use depending on your spirituality, vocation, or age. In my classroom I like to use a coloring book version and when I taught 2nd grade, we liked this one for children. For this year’s study, I think I’ll also try this Scriptural Stations of the Cross from the USCCB’s website, located on the Catholic Apostolate Center’s resource page as well. I hope to think more deeply and clearly about the Passion of Christ and appreciate a little more heavily the price he paid for me, everyone I know, and beyond.
There are many signs throughout this Triduum that we can think about in addition to praying with the Stations of the Cross. Tonight on Holy Thursday, the tabernacle was emptied and colored cloth was placed there instead. There will be no consecration of the Eucharist until the Easter Vigil and instead of Mass, we pray, remember, and venerate the Cross. The color for Good Friday’s services changes too: red is now the color we see and use to remember his blood shed for us. Red was also the color used on Palm Sunday, when Jesus made his way through palm branches on a donkey into the City of Jerusalem in joyous celebration.
These signs in church help us remember all that Christ did for us. We may take his sacrifice for granted possibly because it is easier to avoid the sad and scary realities about the time between Jesus’ arrest and Easter morning. We also may be too “busy” to stop and reflect on not just the happy moments when Jesus was teaching, but also how he gave His life to save ours. In our lives, we must continue to appreciate and enjoy the good parts of Christ’s life and ministry. We can live knowing that the end is happy and He is Risen on Easter morning. But without Good Friday, we wouldn’t have Easter Sunday. Tomorrow on Good Friday, I invite you to join me on this sad and painful day as I look more deeply at the Stations of the Cross.
For additional resources, please visit the “Additional Lenten Resources” page on the Catholic Apostolate Center page.
This Lent looks a little different than it has in past years for many reasons. With a little boy starting to walk, it feels like things are changing fast at times and very slowly at others. I’m looking towards speeding things up to get to new milestones like running and talking, but also praying time can stand still enough to savor precious moments and little giggles. In Lent now, we are waiting for Easter and likely wanting to speed through this time of personal reflection, penitence, and prayer. Maybe if we try to slow down and take a moment to reflect, we’ll discover some time we can put into our relationship with God in a meaningful and intentional way.
This Sunday marks the Second Sunday of Lent and there are some really poignant readings to note for our hardened selves. I think they all tell of a hope and light at the end of the tunnel for us in this dark and restless time. The second reading especially tells us to not give up because God has already provided:
Brothers and sisters:
If God is for us, who can be against us?
He who did not spare his own Son
but handed him over for us all,
how will he not also give us everything else along with him?
Who will bring a charge against God’s chosen ones?
It is God who acquits us, who will condemn?
Christ Jesus it is who died—or, rather, was raised--
who also is at the right hand of God,
who indeed intercedes for us. (Rom 8: 31b-34)
This line, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” tells us so much about our God. He is always on our side, no matter what. If God is for us, we can build up a broken relationship with him. If God is for us, we can consider our sins in the Sacrament of Penance and be reconciled. If God is for us, we can slow down and take a moment to breathe in and out in mindfulness. If God is for us, we can have the strength to carry on through this pandemic, perhaps alone physically, but never truly alone. We are never truly alone or abandoned because at the end of this Lenten tunnel, Christ is there waiting for us with open arms and a tissue to wipe our tears. There is beauty in the waiting, and we’ll probably regret it if we don’t allow ourselves to vulnerably open our hearts and our lives to Christ.
So how can we build our relationship with God? How do we prepare our hearts for Easter, while still savoring this waiting and dark time before Christ comes? When we are fearful, where can we turn? When we feel exhausted and worn out, how do we go on this Lent? Through prayer.
I teach my students about prayer during Lent because it can be the absolute best tool we have as Christians. Saint Vincent Pallotti knew this to be true, saying, “The best method of private prayer is that which the spirit of the person finds easiest and most fruitful.” He totally understands us! In his wisdom, Pallotti sought to humbly serve God through his actions and be an apostle journeying with others and teaching them about God’s eternal Love.
Private prayer is so important. It can be as simple as we want it to be or as complex. We can talk to God out loud, in our hearts, through journaling, or in memorized prayers, but private prayer is essential to our spiritual lives. In the moments in which you want to slow down, try praying to God. Each time you think about the next thing that is coming and how you just need to get through it, pray. Ask God to remove your impatience and replace it with humility. Humbly putting ourselves aside during Lent can be a fruitful way to grow closer to God. Intentionality and a few personal moments are the only things we really need this Lent, for if God is for us, who could be against us?
For more resources to guide you through your Lenten journey, please click here.
For more resources on prayer, please click here.
Baptism is one of my favorite subjects to teach my Pre-K students. Often, it is the first time the boys and girls really get a chance to learn about what Baptism is. Other times, it provides them a chance to share about their own sacramental experience or that of someone they know. Throughout the unit, everyone is given a chance to celebrate being part of God’s family in the Church. Learning about Baptism is a PreK standard in their catechesis, and we begin January by learning about Christ’s Baptism in the River Jordan. We learn that it was John the Baptist who prepared the way for Jesus and offered a baptism of repentance. John came before Jesus telling the people to, “’Prepare the way for the Lord!’ preaching a baptism of forgiveness of sins” (Mk 1:3-4).
Like the people whom John baptized and preached to, we likely are feeling in need of renewal. As we welcome this new year, we can also be renewed and cleansed from such a challenging year spiritually, emotionally, and physically! We can start fresh this year, and hear John, “a voice crying out in the desert.”
For me, 2020 often felt like a desert. At times, I felt as though my thirst for the Eucharist was unbearable since going to Church was unsafe. Other times, it seemed like I was stranded alone with a new baby and deserted by any additional help. This year has taken its toll on so many, in so many ways, and everyone’s desert has been hard. This pandemic has left many of us yearning, thirsting, and begging the Lord for renewal. Let us consider putting on a new self in renewing our own baptismal promises, participating in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and entering 2021 with clean and refreshed hearts!
My son was welcomed into the Church through Baptism in September. We followed the safety restrictions, had an option for virtual participation, and were able to celebrate our little child of God being cleansed of original sin. It was a humbling and beautiful Mass and Baptism. While I was holding my son, Vincent (named after St. Vincent Pallotti), I could feel God's presence and see it unfolding before my eyes. For a moment, my desert had become an oasis. Life, water, joy, gratitude, my little boy’s squeals, and love were present there with us. I knew there and then that my son had been renewed and would in turn bring some renewal into our lives. Just as my son’s baptism brought refreshing hope into my family’s life, the Lord’s Baptism can bring renewal and hope into our lives as Catholics. At the Lord’s Baptism, he received his mission. May we continue to reflect upon our own mission as disciples in this upcoming year.
Our hearts are yearning to be cleansed and renewed amidst our many deserts. Like my students learning about Baptism for the first time, let us engage our hearts and open our ears to the Word anew. Like my son’s Baptism showed me an oasis amidst a desert storm, let us find joy in our own Baptisms this year. Here is a prayer to leave you with as we begin the year anew:
Heavenly Father, as a new calendar year begins, cleanse us with new hope and give us nourishment in your Son, Jesus Christ. Wash away our sadness, pain, and fears and help us to know your love throughout this upcoming year. Help us prepare the way for you to come into our hearts, oh Lord. Turn our own desert into oasis. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.
With everything going on in the world, it can be hard to focus on having shared and special time with a spouse. I encourage you to view this time as an opportunity to focus on making special time together a part of your schedule. When have we ever been confined within the same walls for longer than a couple of weeks? When have we ever found ourselves spending this much time with our loved one?
During this quarantine, it is very easy to feel stuck in the rhythm of getting up, going to “work” in areas of the house, or even sitting in the same places on the couch day after day. You may be bored of this quarantine, but you don’t need to be bored of your spouse! Below are some ideas for you to try to make sure you don’t fall into boredom in your marriage!
My hope for you all is that you continue to seek each day as a new beginning together. You’ll fight and argue, there may be tears, there will be emotions, and you may not agree. But know that through God, all things are possible and even a joyful marriage in quarantine is possible if you work at it each day. Marriage is no picnic, but you can go on picnics together. Best of luck, I’m praying for you!
For more resources on Marriage and Family, please click here.
My favorite things to eat are sweet treats. Chocolate any-sort-of-way is my snack of choice. I love it! During this quarantined time at home, I’ve found myself baking and eating all kinds of delicious foods and sweet treats. The end result (besides having a belly full of tasty cookies and cakes) has been enjoying these treats together with my family like a little “ritual.” Every night, there is a delicious baked-good in the house that my husband and I look forward to enjoying together. I’ve found comfort in this time together, and it’s something I want to hang onto even after quarantine. My husband and I sit back, unwind with conversation or some TV, and enjoy a yummy treat together on the couch. One might even call it our quarantine tradition!
Baking over these past few weeks has brought another level of joy for me apart from devouring the finished product. Baking in the kitchen brings me joy during this time: I decide what delicious treat to make, assemble all the supplies, read each step closely and carefully, get each ingredient measured just right, and wait patiently for it all to bake. I’m not a very meticulous person when it comes to cooking and baking, but baking with recipes has been a newfound joy that fills my heart. The patron saint of bakers and pastry chefs is St. Honore, whose feast day was just on May 16th. He was a 6th century bishop in France who is normally depicted with a baker’s paddle and wheat; he is celebrated in Paris with a three-day feast and a festival of bread. There is also a special cake in his honor called the “Gateau St. Honore” made of cream puffs, caramelized sugar, and pastry creams. Maybe I’ll honor his feast day (a little late) with a cream puff masterpiece of my own!
Baking brings me joy, and perhaps it can bring you joy during this time as well. Baking with kids, although slightly messier, can be a great source of joy that builds lasting memories. Baking with a spouse or significant other can also bring you closer together.
Here is a list of 9 ideas related to baking that will not only fill your bellies, but also your hearts—adding a little more sweetness to your life during this pandemic and time spent at home:
St. Honore, pray for us!
We are living through an unprecedented time. Just a few months ago, I couldn’t have been more excited for the spring weather, finishing maternity leave, and being able to bring my now-2-month-old to visit family and friends. That is not our reality. I am devastated that I cannot share my happiest joy with people who love my son in-person. My heart breaks for my grandmother who has never met her great-grandson, for relatives who live in different states who have yet to see him face-to-face, and for the inability to even host people safely at our home. It’s painful to think about, but knowing we’re staying safe and healthy is a relief.
This past Easter weekend was when we would have been traveling to visit family. Instead of focusing on the “would-haves,” I’m challenging myself to live in the “right-nows” and the “will-bes” even though it is so difficult. Right now, my little son is snuggled and sleeping sweetly near me. Right now, my family is healthy and safe from the virus. We will be able to get through this together and will be okay when this is over, although there is no timeline to lean on. Right now, God is watching over us and protecting us as he has always done and will do. The season of Easter that just began serves as joyful relief to my fearful and saddened heart. I know that when Christ died on the cross, Jesus’ disciples were experiencing these feelings, too.
In Mark’s Gospel, we read about the disbelief that plagued his followers after hearing that Jesus was not in the tomb, “When they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe” (Mk 16: 11). Jesus’ disciples doubted and were unbelieving, like so many of us during this pandemic. But, in John 16: 22, Christ encourages, “So you also are now in anguish. But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.” In Matthew’s Gospel, we furthermore hear Christ tell his disciples, “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28: 20). With these passages in mind, I find comfort in this Easter season knowing that however inconvenienced and pained some of us are, with God at our side this will soon pass, and we can be happier than ever before. For those who share an even more difficult level of grief from losing a loved one, may you find peace in the knowledge of eternal life with the Father.
In 1986, Pope Saint John Paul II spoke to Catholics in Australia saying, “We are an Easter People and Alleluia is our song!” He went on to say, “We realize that joy is demanding; it demands unselfishness; it demands a readiness to say with Mary: Be it done unto me according to thy word’”... and later goes on to implore the Blessed Mother to pray for us saying, “Help all your children to see that the good things in their lives come to them from God the Father through your Son Jesus Christ. Help them to experience in the Holy Spirit the joy which filled your own Immaculate Heart. And in the midst of the sufferings and trials of life, may they find the fullness of joy that belongs to the victory of your Crucified Son, and comes forth from his Sacred Heart. In this way, let us try to do the same.”
As Easter people then, we cannot forget that during this time of great trial, our hearts already know of great sorrow followed by even greater joy.
We are fortunate to be able to stay connected through this hard time with the help of social media and technology. There are so many versions of video-chatting that we can choose from. Just saying hi to someone you miss might make both of your days a little brighter. Pictures and videos of the things that you find joyful may also bring joy to someone else, so try to share the good little things with others if you can.
As we look for silver linings in this pandemic, let us pause and appreciate the good things right in front of us. Gratitude is one way to ease the pain. I’m grateful for my healthy little boy, my grandmother’s health, the beautiful day outside, my dog needing snuggles, and my husband being able to work safely from home. I pray for those who are not so lucky: those who are grieving, friends and family in isolation and alone, each and every worker who is away from their own family to fight this crisis on the front lines, and those in hospitals who are infected and sick.
Right now, when I get sad about plans changing and people missing out, I stop and let Christ into my heart during this Easter season. Right now, when I start thinking of the many fears and anxieties from this pandemic, I breathe and let Christ in. Through it all, I trust that God’s will be done. In this Easter season, let us rejoice in the risen Lord! We can get through this with Christ who strengthens us!