Who is stressed out? Anxious? Eager? Caught in this dreadful summer heat and growing tired of their daily routine? “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest,” says Jesus in our Gospel today from Mt. 11:28-30. Who doesn’t like rest? It’s summer, we are in Ordinary Time, and it’s the middle of the week. I don’t know about you, but I could use a little spiritual-pick-me-up! The long days of childish summers spent without a care in the world are gone, and schedules, busyness, and work have taken their place.
Where is God in your day? Is He in the woman at the desk next to you, the one who always greets you with a cheerful “Good Morning”? Is He in the children you see every day, the ones who gleam with such exuberant joy? Is He in the man who doesn’t walk by the homeless man, but generously hands him a full lunch and some change? Is He in the person others see in you? Is He in the rosary you keep in your pocket, but never use regularly? Is He in the daily readings you find here but would never consider forwarding to a friend that day? Is He in you?
In today’s society, the world rushes from one thing to the next without hesitation or a second thought. It is often difficult to find a moment for ourselves, and those moments are often eaten up by technology or more busyness. What if we begin to use that moment to ourselves as a moment with Christ? That intentional moment could be found in prayer or contemplative silence, or it could be speaking or listening to those around us. What if we just closed our eyes, imagined Jesus with us, and sat with him for a while. Would your heart be open to listen or would it not even recognize Him with you? Today’s Gospel says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” As we continue on this journey of the New Evangelization, we are called by the Holy Father to infuse our busy lives with the peace and love of Christ. In Christ’s peace we find His love, and in His love we find our peace.
Krissy Kirby is a recent graduate of The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. with a degree in Early Childhood Education.
Transitions can sometimes be the hardest part of our lives. Often, transitions are filled with hope and anticipation, but other times they are filled with fear and anxiety. The transitions I’m currently thinking of include moving, new jobs, graduation, marriage, children, losing a loved one, and many more. Everybody's lives change, both in good times and in more difficult ones; the key is figuring out how to maneuver through those changes and create new beginnings.
Transitions often change our faith-based routines. Prayer, Mass times, and proximity to a Church are the top contenders for what may be lost or overlooked in these fearful times of anticipation and uncertainty. What we forget is that prayer and dependence on Christ are the most important things to hold onto. As Psalm 77: 1-2 says, “I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and he will hear me. In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord…” When we are afraid or in trouble, God is there. He is there in the easy and joyful transitions, too, waiting for gratitude and recognition. Our faith is the vehicle by which our lives are maneuvered. All of life’s stop signs and road blocks, in each pit stop and flat tire, in every new paint job and deep clean, Christ is there as our GPS if we let him. No matter how long it takes to recalculate our journey through transitions, God is with us and wants us to ask for guidance.
I have recently graduated from college, a time that brings many changes. In our commencement address, we received one solid takeaway: nunc coepi, which is Latin for, “Now I begin.” I’m realizing, as did our incredible Catholic speaker, that in all of life’s transitions, nunc coepi is applicable. If during life’s stop signs, we say, “nunc coepi,” we can continue with our job searches. If at a financial roadblock, we say: nunc coepi, recognizing that God will provide and make sure the bills are paid. It can be a simple phrase that helps us recognize the blessings, and continue on with whatever God’s plan for happens to be. The faith behind the phrase nunc coepi shows faith in God’s plan for each of us, and through each of life’s transitions.
My favorite verse in the Bible comes from the moment that Gabriel tells Mary that she has been chosen to be the Mother of Jesus, and says in Luke 1: 37-38, “Fear not! For nothing will be impossible with God.” And then Mary responds with, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to Thy Word.” Like Mary’s response to her own life-changing moment, can we say “Yes” to God? Can we, in our own transitions, continue to say, nunc coepi? Now I begin.
Krissy Kirby is a graduate of The Catholic University of America with a degree in Early Childhood Education.
I am scared of Lent. There: I said it. This cradle Catholic, with plenty of Lents under her belt, is scared of one of the most sacred liturgical seasons in the Church.
I’m not saying I don’t love it. I do. I loved when my favorite priest buried the “Hallelujah,” and then emptied our Church of decoration, only adding more as we got further into Lent and into spring. I love (well, love/hate) fasting, and the way my mind is automatically drawn toward my dependence on God and solidarity with others. And my favorite color is purple. So, yeah, Lent is my season.
But I’m scared of it. Truth be told, I feel like I’m bad at Lent – never repentant enough, never serious enough, never sacrificing or doing enough. When I was little, I made charts to track my progress through the 40 days free of candy, or Facebook, or whatever I gave up. When I got older, I got smarter and started adding to my Lenten routine. More Scripture, more prayer, more almsgiving. Usually I do okay striking a balance between sacrificing for God and building toward God, but this year…all bets are off.
This year, away from home, family, and friends, I’ve been feeling so restless. Isn’t this season a time to rest in God, and prepare our hearts for that life-changing Resurrection? Part of me feels like, “God, haven’t I given up enough? I’ve followed you into this desert that is rural Kentucky!” But part of me (and I’m sure this is the part the Holy Spirit is dealing with) knows there is always more. We can always remove more that stands in our way to the fullness of God.
Yet, as Lent draws to an end, I still feel like I am figuring out what I’m doing. My housemates have all dutifully prayed; they have gracefully denied sweets and coffee and swear words. All I’ve managed to do is plod along through Merton’s Seven Storey Mountain, because hey – third time’s a charm, right? In the meantime, I thumb through my notebook still rewriting different versions of my Lenten plan.
And there lies my problem; I am still trying to plan Lent. I have turned it into some Christian New Year’s Resolutions/Get-Right Plan for Lent 2013. If I “do” A, B, and C, then the Resurrection will surely come! If I “do” Lent with enough sacrifice, enough Bible study, enough whatever, then I’m sure to feel the Resurrection like never before. But maybe that’s not the way to do it. The Rev. William Bradley, in a sermon given on the first Sunday of Lent, said, “The difference between us and Jesus is that he doesn’t run from…insecurity, rather he embraces, inhabits it as part of his life with God. Rather than trying to fill it with people, things, drugs, and busyness, he sits with his emptiness to see if God will show up.”
I haven’t quite figured out what I’m “doing” this Lenten season, and maybe that’s okay. Maybe I need to simply take my restlessness to God in prayer and sit with it, until I’m no longer with the restlessness but with the peace and grace that is God. Only once I can settle into being this Lent, can I start to actually do the life-giving practices of this holy season and rejoice in His resurrection that lies ahead.
Katherine Biegner recently graduated from Assumption College and is currently serving as a tutor and mentor in the Christian Appalachian Project in rural Kentucky.
Vacations with my family have the unique ability to be both one of the most relaxing and stressful times of the year. Being one of 14 people, including my six nieces and nephews ranging from infancy to 10 years old, in one house for a week can be a little overwhelming at times. While we may enjoy birthday parties and holidays together - spending a week with each other under one roof - well that really puts us to the test! But as families tend to do, mine usually teaches me some of my greatest lessons and this past summer’s vacation together was no exception.
Throughout the week my parents and I established a morning routine of attending daily mass at the local parish. After a few mornings of watching us head out the door together, while still chomping on his cereal in pajamas, my 8-year-old nephew asked if he could come with us the next day. So the following morning he eagerly got up, dressed and went to mass with us. However, looking back, I don’t know which he enjoyed more, attending mass with us or visiting the religious store afterwards and picking out a “treat”! Nonetheless, when most 8-year-olds don’t necessarily have “Going to Church” at the top of their to-do list (especially when it’s not an obligatory Sunday visit), I was pleasantly surprised by his eagerness to come.
As I mentioned earlier, while relaxing, these vacations can be rather trying and throughout the week I found myself learning lessons of patience. Sometimes we may consider ourselves very patient people until we are given a new scenario that challenges our assumptions. This may involve a four year old constantly asking us to play with her, someone who used our bath towel, or little hands always dragging us in the direction of the nearest sand castle. But as the week progressed I learned to hold my tongue and smile, and by the end of the week what used to bother me really wasn’t so bad anymore and my previous complaints seemed trivial. It gave me a new appreciation for St. Paul’s words to the Corinthians, “Love is patient”, and made me realize this doesn’t only apply to newly-weds!
As we embark on this Year of Faith I carry with me these lessons that I’ve learned from my family members, my very first teachers of the faith (CCC 1653). This vacation with my family taught me that the New Evangelization really does begin at home. Through the examples we set and, likewise, the lessons our families can teach each of us, there is an authentic communication of the joy and love that is our faith.
I once read a sign that said, “You don't choose your family. They are God's gift to you, as you are to them.” In light of the lessons they taught me, this is indeed true. I love my family and perhaps I just needed a little reminder of the great gift they are to me.
David Burkey is the Communications Coordinator for the Catholic Apostolate Center