“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”
These words from Paul’s letter to the Philippians rang out to us a few weeks ago on Gaudete Sunday. Rejoice? How can we rejoice when there are so many bad things happening all around us? We are approaching our second full year of this global pandemic. The virus continues to rage and destroy lives, livelihoods, and ways of life.
As a parent of small children, I feel a sense of dread each time my email alert sounds, wondering if my child has been exposed at school and will she need to quarantine again? How am I supposed to rejoice in this?
As excited and grateful as I was to feel the sense of relief when my older daughter was able to be vaccinated, I continue to feel a sense of uneasiness and concern that my younger daughter, who is under five, will need to wait many months to get her vaccine. How am I supposed to rejoice in this?
In December, there was a deadly school shooting in Oxford, MI, thirty miles north of where I grew up. My heart aches for the families and students who lost loved ones and friends. I also fear that this could happen closer to me, in my daughters’ schools, or in a public place nearby. How am I supposed to rejoice in this?
How am I supposed to rejoice in this? I am supposed to rejoice in all of this because my faith compels me to. How can we exist if we don’t have joy or trust that God is taking care of us? As people of faith, we need to respond to what is going on around us with the lens of our faith. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul continues:
“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
The world around us is full of stressors, fear, and uncertainty. Our sense of security is shaken. Throughout this pandemic, I have found that there is only so much I can do to control what is happening. I take the necessary precautions for my family and myself, but beyond that, there is a sense of liberation in letting go of what I can’t control. It helps when I put away my phone or turn off the TV, and focus on what is most important: my family and friends, my own self-care, and my faith. As Paul continues in his letter:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
As we start a new year, I encourage you to put these words into practice. Think about what is noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. Focus on the positive aspects of what is happening, take care of ourselves and those around us, and rejoice in the Lord always!
This has been a year of waiting. Waiting for the pandemic to end. Waiting for results of a COVID test. Waiting to figure out if and when we can go back to work. Waiting to see our friends and family. Waiting for our sourdough starter to be ready to bake. Waiting to celebrate important life events. Waiting to have a graduation or to get married. Waiting to memorialize a loved one who has died. Waiting for a vaccine. Waiting for everything to go back to how things were before the pandemic hit.
And here we are, this Advent season, waiting. Waiting and preparing for the coming of Christ at Christmas. Waiting, as John the Baptist did in the Gospel. He knew what was coming; he knew that Christ was going to follow him.
Our waiting for Christ is a hopeful waiting. A joyful waiting. While we do not know when the pandemic will end, we know that Christ will come to us at Christmas and we know that Christ will come for us at the end of time. We should relish in that joyful waiting while we continue to wait for some semblance of normalcy to return to our daily lives by finding moments of light, of peace, and of personal growth.
Focus on Social Justice:
This Gospel encourages us to look beyond the current situation to what is to come. In the current pandemic, we are called to do something for those around us and for our world. We can do acts of charity by wearing a mask, social distancing, staying home when we can, picking up groceries for an elderly neighbor, making dinner for someone who is sick, reaching out to a healthcare worker we may know to see how we can help them, and supporting local business.
Good and gracious God, we know you are with us in our waiting. Help us to be patient in our time of waiting. Help us to trust in you and your great plan for our lives. Help us to find joy in our time of waiting, both in Advent and in the current world situation. Help us to find peace in our time of waiting when it becomes too much to handle or is overwhelming. Amen.
This week, I challenge all of us (myself, included) to focus your energy of service on yourself in an act of self-care. Self-care is not selfish behavior. It is a way, especially during these trying times, to be able to put our best selves out into the world, to our families, to our friends, to our colleagues, and to those who serve. Take a few moments this week to do an activity that brings you joy, that allows you to appreciate this season of waiting and all of the beauty that comes with that.
This reflection comes from the Third Sunday of Advent Reflection of the 2020 Advent Reflection Guide, a collaborative effort with the Catholic Volunteer Network. To view the rest of the guide, please click here.
As we continue to navigate uncertain times, Assistant Director of Administration Monica Thom Konschnik shares how we can learn from the life and example of St. Monica during COVID-19.
For more reflections on St. Monica, we invite you to read St. Monica and the Power of Intercessory Prayer and Motherhood and St. Monica.
Monica Thom Konschnik is the Assistant Director for Administration for the Catholic Apostolate Center.
Today, the Catholic Apostolate Center is celebrating its 8th anniversary of reviving faith, rekindling charity, and forming apostles. We have both had the honor of being a part of this amazing and spirit-filled endeavor since its earliest days and remember fondly what it took to get started. When Fr. Frank Donio, S.A.C. gathered a small group of committed collaborators together to think about what the Pallottines of the Immaculate Conception Province could do to answer the Holy Father's call to a new evangelization, it was clear that we needed to work with active Catholics. We felt called to meet them where they were on their individual faith journeys. This meant that we needed to engage all that the internet had to offer, to use emerging social media, and to reach people where they were conducting their daily lives.
In the last eight years, the work done by the Catholic Apostolate Center has impacted the lives of thousands of people through conferences and events; hosting hundreds of webinars and Facebook Live events; providing learning and educational opportunities through seminars and speaking engagement; making spiritual posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram; developing programs with our affiliated partners; and providing space for collaboration among Church entities.
All the while, our mission is not necessarily to reach the masses, but to reach the one. We work collaboratively to develop our resources – working with the individual gifts and talents that each member of our team and our collaborators possess, always leaving room for the Holy Spirit.
Each of us has grown professionally and personally in an environment that challenges, affirms, and provides us opportunities to share our own gifts through presenting, writing, video production, marketing, management, and administration. We look forward—through the Holy Spirit and God’s Divine Providence—to continuing our mission for another eight years and beyond.
The Catholic Apostolate Center has had a presence at the Mid-Atlantic Congress (MAC) since 2013. Over these years, we have created spaces for attendees to gather and network; to share our resources and programs in the exhibit space; and to offer our expertise on various topics facing Catholic leaders today. This work is not done on our own: it is accomplished through great collaboration among the planners of the Congress, our presentation partners, and our team.
I have had the opportunity to be the point person for the Center’s involvement with MAC since we first started attending. Over the years I have been able to work with our team and our collaborators to develop presentations that are interesting, relevant, and useful in the Church today. Each year, I am always struck by the work of the Holy Spirit in each of the aspects of our involvement with MAC, and this year was no exception. Our two presentations brought together members of our team with two outside collaborators from the Archdioceses of Los Angeles and Washington.
Our first presentation, titled “What now? Vocational Discernment and Accompaniment After the 2018 Synod,” focused on the experiences of three young adults who were in Rome during last year’s Synod on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment. We had many conversations prior to the event about what each presenter would talk about and how they would present, but I was still struck while watching the presentation at how alive the Church is in her young people.
Our second presentation, titled “Using Social Media and Digital Resources to be Catholic Evangelical Witnesses,” helped Catholic leaders learn more about how to use social media and other digital resources to evangelize within their parishes, dioceses, and organizations. At the Center, social media and digital resources are part of our everyday work, so it is easy for me to forget how useful these tools may be for a group or parish starting to reach out by those means. Our team gave insight into the various platforms, but also offered suggestions about how to use social media in a productive, charitable way.
St. Vincent Pallotti, the patron saint of the Catholic Apostolate Center, encouraged collaboration among clergy, religious, and the laity when he was a priest in Rome in the early 19th century. His message of collaboration is still true today and a goal the Center strives for in all that we do. Events like the Mid-Atlantic Congress are a great way to live out St. Vincent Pallotti’s hope – we can grow who we are individually, spiritually, and organizationally when we work in collaboration with one another.
“We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters. (2)” – Pope Francis, Laudato Si’
This past weekend in the United States we celebrated Earth Day. Earth Day was founded in 1970 as a call to action to bring greater awareness to environmental issues. It continues to serve as a reminder to us of our place on the earth and our responsibilities as its current inhabitants.
The Catholic Church has taken a strong stance on the importance of preserving our planet and has highlighted the necessity of caring for creation as one of the tenets of Catholic Social Teaching. A document of the USCCB teaches that: “To ensure the survival of a healthy planet, then, we must not only establish a sustainable economy but must also labor for justice both within and among nations. We must seek a society where economic life and environmental commitment work together to protect and to enhance life on this planet.”
Pope Francis has also taken steps to highlight the necessity of caring for our environment. In 2015, he released his papal encyclical on the environment entitled Laudato Si’ – On Care for our Common Home. In this encyclical, he points out our moral obligation as Catholics and as humans to care for our environment.
But what can we do as people of faith to preserve the earth? What steps can we take in our daily lives to protect the world God gave us?
Go outside. Experience the beauty of the earth by taking some time to be in nature. Go for a walk in your neighborhood and look at the diversity of the flowers and trees. Spend some time in prayerful contemplation near water, in the mountains, or in your own backyard.
Read Laudato Si’. Pope Francis’s encyclical highlights the ways we are required as Catholics to work to save and protect the environment. He puts into words the importance, particularly at this point in history, of caring for the earth. He highlights specific problems that threaten the environment and offers suggestions for action. The Catholic Apostolate Center has a resource page on Laudato Si’ that includes a general overview of the encyclical, as well as other helpful links, news articles, and documents supporting or explaining Catholic teaching on caring for our environment.
Pray with the Psalms. In particular, I invite you to pray with Psalms 8, 22, 24, 50, 65, and 84. Adding these words of Scripture to our regular prayer will help to inspire a greater desire to do more to preserve our environment.
Turn off your lights and water when you are not using them. Do these and other small actions in your daily life to minimize your carbon footprint.
Learn about St. Francis of Assisi. When he was elected pope in 2013, then-Jorge Bergoglio took the name of Francis because he was inspired by the life and example of St. Francis of Assisi. When writing Laudato Si’, he again took great inspiration from St. Francis: “Francis helps us to see that an integral ecology calls for openness to categories which transcend the language of mathematics and biology, and take us to the heart of what it is to be human.” (11)
Born in 1873 as Marie-Francoise-Thérèse Martin, St. Thérèse of Lisieux was a Carmelite nun with an intense devotion to Christ. She had a simple yet profound understanding of her faith and her relationship with Christ. She provided examples to us of how to be Christ-like to those in our lives through prayer and acts of charity. St. Thérèse died at only 24 years old of tuberculosis, but lived an immense life of faith.
In his homily at the Mass where she was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1997, now-Saint John Paul II talked about the way in which Thérèse lived: “She counters a rational culture, so often overcome by practical materialism, with the disarming simplicity of the ‘little way’ which, by returning to the essentials, leads to the secret of all life: the Divine Love that surrounds and penetrates every human venture.”
Her example of living your life of faith by practicing little deeds has inspired many Catholics because it is an easy concept to grasp. We are all capable of doing something small to show our love to those around us. In his recent visit to the United States, Pope Francis talked about the importance of doing small acts of faith.
“Faith opens a ‘window’ to the presence and working of the Spirit. It shows us that, like happiness, holiness is always tied to little gestures. ‘Whoever gives you a cup of water in my name will not go unrewarded’, says Jesus (cf. Mk 9:41). These little gestures are those we learn at home, in the family; they get lost amid all the other things we do, yet they do make each day different. They are the quiet things done by mothers and grandmothers, by fathers and grandfathers, by children. They are little signs of tenderness, affection and compassion. Like the warm supper we look forward to at night, the early lunch awaiting someone who gets up early to go to work. Homely gestures. Like a blessing before we go to bed, or a hug after we return from a hard day’s work. Love is shown by little things, by attention to small daily signs which make us feel at home.”
The parish in which I grew up is now known as the National Shrine of the Little Flower Basilica in Royal Oak, MI. Made famous by the “Radio Priest,” Rev. Charles Coughlin in the 1930s, the building itself became a place of comfort and welcoming for me while in my youth, and the patroness, St. Thérèse, an example and spiritual guide.
As a student in the parish school, I felt a sense of connection with young Thérèse. She made being a saint and apostle of Christ accessible to me in a way that is much more profound in hindsight. Because she was so young and the fact that the Church made such a huge deal about her, through her canonization and being made a Doctor of the Church, was inspiring to me as a child. Maybe I had the ability to follow in her footsteps. Maybe I could live a life worthy of sainthood, even though I was only a kid.
St. Thérèse herself says, “Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.” (From No Greater Love by Mother Teresa)
Her love of Christ and devotion to his Church provides all of us with a path for our lives. As Catholics, we do not need to do great things to show others the face of God. Rather, we need to do what we can and do that in the best way possible with the talents God has given us. For some, that may be serving the Church as a lector at Mass or discerning a religious vocation or something as simple as smiling at a stranger on your commute to work.
To this day, I still follow St. Thérèse’s example of living out my faith in little ways. She continues to inspire me to live a life worthy of sainthood.
Last year on the feast day of Saint Monica, I wrote a blog entry about my affinity for the saint with whom I share a name. I wrote about her strength; her persistence in the conversion of her son, Saint Augustine; and her graceful way of dealing with her pagan husband.
I wrote all of this last year knowing that I, myself, was about to be a mother. A month before the feast of Saint Monica, my husband and I found out that I was expecting our first child, due to arrive in April of 2014. It was too early in my pregnancy for anyone to really know about it yet, so as I wrote last year’s blog entry, I was inspired by the example of Saint Monica for what I was about to embark on in a few months.
On the actual feast day of Saint Monica last year, my husband and I were able to see our precious baby for the first time by sonogram. As I looked at my child, who appeared to be shaped like a gummy bear, I said a quick prayer to Saint Monica for guidance and protection over the two of us during my pregnancy.
Fast-forward about nine months, and our beautiful Anna Ryan arrived bringing such joy and sweetness to our lives and to the lives of our family, friends, and strangers. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be her mother and to watch her grow from that little gummy bear-shaped fetus to a healthy, happy four-month-old, who, while I write this blog, is looking up at me in her dinosaur pajamas, smiling her giant, toothless grin.
As I start to navigate this whole motherhood thing, I can’t help but think of Saint Monica or the Blessed Mother or Saint Anne or the myriad of mothers in our Church. As Catholics, we are lucky to have the saints as guides for how to live our lives – as mothers, fathers, priests, religious, workers, travelers, students, teachers, artists, lawyers, and doctors. Most of these holy women and men were just like us – flawed and imperfect – but, through their faith in Christ, were able to do extraordinary things with their lives. We are fortunate to be able to rely on these people in prayer to help us assemble our lives and our journeys of faith.
For me, I rely on the model set by the saint who we will celebrate tomorrow. As the patron of married women and mothers, Saint Monica is one of my guides for sorting out this new path I am on as a wife and a mother. I pray that I will have her strength, persistence, and grace not only during the challenging times, but also in the happy, sweet moments I share with my family.
Monica Thom Konschnik is the Administration & Finance Manager for the Catholic Apostolate Center and the Administrator for the Pallottine Seminary at Green Hill.
The 3rd Annual Mid-Atlantic Congress for Pastoral Leadership (MAC) is set to take place in Baltimore, MD starting today, Thursday, February 27 and going until Saturday, March 1. For the second year in a row, the Catholic Apostolate Center will be playing a part in this gathering of pastoral leaders from around the mid-Atlantic region.
As part of our involvement with MAC, the Catholic Apostolate Center is a platinum sponsor of the event. Our Director Fr. Frank Donio, S.A.C. and advisor Barbara McCrabb will be doing a presentation on the New Evangelization through Collaboration. Fr. Frank will also be presenting with staff from the USCCB on the New Evangelization Toolkit. Additionally, the Catholic Apostolate Center staff will be exhibiting our resources in the exhibit hall.
One special session that we will coordinate again this year is a series of Collaborative Conversations. This is a networking session, of sorts, that allows the participants to get to know each other, but allows them to get to have deeper conversations beyond the usual “What’s your name? Where are you from?” banter.
During the Collaborative Conversations, participants are urged to discuss what they hope to get out of the conference and why they are attending as well as talking about greater issues facing them pastorally, in their churches, organizations, and schools. They are given the time, with a facilitator, to be able to talk about the good things that they are doing as well as taking some time to discuss the challenges that they face.
Last year at MAC, I was fortunate to be able to watch the fellowship and brainstorming that occurred during the Collaborative Conversations. It was encouraging to see many different people from all over the country come together and share their experiences and learn from one another. It was inspiring to be a part of the little community that was formed over the few days of the Collaborative Conversations.
We encourage you to join us at the Mid-Atlantic Congress this year! You can register for the conference here. Be sure to sign up for Fr. Frank and Barbara’s presentation on Thursday afternoon as well as the New Evangelization Toolkit Bootcamp session where Fr. Frank will be a part of the presentation team. The boot camp will take place before the conference begins on Thursday.
We invite you to join us for the Collaborative Conversations session and be a part of the community this year. If you have already registered for MAC, but have not signed up for the Collaborative Conversations, you can contact the organizers at email@example.com.
For more details on our work this year at MAC, click here .
To read our current Catholic Apostolate Newsletter on MAC which highlights our resources on New Evangelization and Collaboration, click here.
Monica Thom Konschnik is the Administraton & Finance Manager for the Catholic Apostolate Center.
A few weeks ago, the Vatican announced the canonization date of two soon-to-be saints. Blessed Pope John XXIII and Blessed Pope John Paul II will be declared saints on April 27, 2014 and will join the ranks of thousands of holy men and women who have been declared similarly.
As Catholics, we have a great devotion to the saints. And with good reason: saints are good models for us in our faith. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “By canonizing some of the faithful, i.e., by solemnly claiming that they have practiced heroic virtue and lived in fidelity to God’s grace, the Church recognizes the power of the Spirit of holiness within her and sustains the hope of believers by proposing the saints to them as models and intercessors” (CCC 828).
But why do we have a great devotion to the saints? What is it about these holy men and women that inspires and challenges us to live out our faith in God?
From Saints Aaron and Abadios to Saints Zoticus and Zygmunt Gorazdowski, we feel a sense of connection to these men and women because, in many ways, they were a lot like us; regular people following Christ’s example in their lives. Whether they lived a thousand years ago or died just last decade, these holy men and women help us to fashion our lives so we can become better human beings and better disciples of Christ, and strive to become saints ourselves. Blessed John Paul II himself has said: “The Saints have always been the source and origin of renewal in the most difficult moments in the Church’s history.” Who wouldn’t want to follow the way of those men and women?
Who are the saints that mean most to you? What saints have you sought out when you have needed to pray for help or in thanksgiving?
For me, as I’ve written about before, I personally have developed an affinity for St. Monica, my patron saint. Over the years, though, I have often prayed to Saints Peter and Paul, whose feast day is the day after my birthday, as well as to St. Therese of Lisieux, Venerable Catherine McAuley, St. Ignatius of Loyola, and St. Vincent Pallotti – all patrons of schools I have attended or organizations where I have worked. I have learned about each of these saints and have appreciated the role they have in the Church, both on a larger scale and for me personally.
Have you been struggling to find some inspiration in your daily prayer life? Do you want to find out more about saints that you may feel a connection to? Take a look at the Catholic Apostolate Center’s website for resources on Prayer and Catechesis, which includes information about the saints.
Monica Thom Konschnik is the Administration & Finance Manager for the Catholic Apostolate Center.
Growing up, I often balked at the uniqueness of my name. It was different and I could never find novelty license plates on vacation with my name on it. Although I secretly always appreciated being the only Monica in my class, I sometimes longed to have been named Katie or Laura or Emily, much like most of the girls in my class. At one point, I distinctly remembering yelling out in sheer desperation, “I HATE MY NAME!” because I was unable to procure sparkly pencils that said Monica. With time and maturity, though, I learned to really love my name because it was a part of me and because of the connection to Saint Monica, who has become a spiritual role model to me.
As a young student in my parochial grade school, there was never any doubt as to which saint I would dress up as on All Saints Day. I looked forward each year to wearing the long black dress and black head covering that I associated with my patroness, Saint Monica. At the time, all I knew about her was that she was the mother of Saint Augustine and that she prayed for his conversion, which eventually happened.
While we don’t know as much about her as we do about her son, we do know that she was active in her community and Church. She also had a tumultuous relationship with her husband, Patritius, who was a pagan. Throughout their marriage, they struggled with how to raise their children in terms of religion and, it being the 4th century, Monica was unable to have her children baptized as Christians. She probably also didn’t spend much time worrying about finding her name on a pencil.
Monica spent most of her life praying for the conversion of her beloved son, Augustine. As he made poor life decisions, Saint Monica worked even harder to help her son know God as she did. She made it her life goal to see him baptized, which eventually happened in the year 387.
I am grateful to share my name with a strong, faith-filled woman who spent her time devoted to God and to her family. She has provided an example to me how to remain steadfast in your faith despite what is going on around you, both in your personal life and in the greater world. Saint Monica is an excellent example for those who chose married life as a vocation. Not every marriage is perfect, but it is in that imperfection that we require the support of our partner and, more importantly, we require support from God. Saint Monica took her role as a mother very seriously. She prayed for and wanted her children to know the love of God, as she had. And, in the case of her son Augustine, she did whatever it took, including some tough love at times, to help him find his path to Christ.
As we celebrate Saint Monica’s feast day today, let us remember those Saint Monica’s in our life - people guiding our spiritual lives, praying for us along our way, and being there to support us as we discover who we are in the Church, and let us be grateful for the unique aspects of our lives and our personalities that makes us different and special.
Monica Thom Konschnik serves as the Administrator for the Catholic Apostolate Center and the Pallottine Seminary at Green Hill.
“With a happy and cheerful face, we can prove that the imitation of Christ fills our lives with joy.”
– St. Vincent Pallotti
We live in a celebratory society. We celebrate the birth of a child, the graduation of a student, and the birthday of a friend. In my family, there is always an excuse for a party. This past year, in particular, offered many opportunities for celebrations: the birth of my niece, my Grandma’s 85th birthday, my sister-in-law’s new job, the wedding of two different cousins this past fall, and my own wedding last summer. As a society and in our families, we have parties for holidays, sporting events, and sometimes for no particular reason at all. Why not take those every day celebrations and lead them into a celebration of the life of our faith? Why not live our faith life with joy?
Our Catholic faith is one of celebration; we are an Easter people, a joyful people! In his letter to the Philippians, Paul tells the disciples: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4). We are urged in our faith to rejoice and celebrate all we have been given from God.
In his book Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life, Rev. James Martin, SJ tells a story of meeting the Superior-General of the Jesuits, Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, during his formation. When Martin asks Kolvenbach what the best ways are to increase vocations, the Superior-General replies, “Live your own vocation joyfully.” Martin goes on to say, “Joy attracts people to God. Why would anyone want to join a group of miserable people?” (88). If we are living out our faith joyfully, others will take notice.
We can even look to the saints as examples of how to live our lives joyfully. St. Therese of Lisieux lived her vocation joyfully as a Carmelite nun, doing little acts for those around her; living out her faith in a simple way. St. Francis of Assisi felt that his life was a gift of love and spent his life in thanksgiving for that gift.
No matter what our vocation in life is and no matter what we are facing, we need to remember we are an Easter people and strive to live life with joy. This doesn’t mean that we have to be happy all the time or that there won’t be periods of darkness or indifference. It means that we need to cherish what we have been given, aim to serve others, and celebrate our faith in God.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice.”
Monica Thom Konschnik serves as the Administrator for the Catholic Apostolate Center and the Pallottine Seminary at Green Hill.