“Do not let your heart be troubled. Believe in God and also in Me.” - John 14:1-2
Discipling a child is an “inside” job – it begins in the home. I learned about Jesus and the love and mercy of God from my parents first, and as a parent it has been my mission to incorporate practical ways to bring my faith alive for my children to ‘catch’ hold of and form them into disciples. Discipleship leads through example and draws others into a Christ-centered life. Beginning each day with praise and prayer, thankfulness and petition. It can involve sharing a simple breakfast together, encouraging each individual in their specific tasks for school or work, or offering a touch of blessing as they go off into the new day. Other acts can include reading age-appropriate books about our magnificent God and the saints and participating in daily Mass as often as possible. Mass brings every person to the Altar of Love – to the source of our help – ‘the fountain of grace.’ Hearing the Word of God proclaimed and remembering the ultimate sacrifice given for our redemption is full of richness that settles upon and within us. The Mass is our way of participating in the redeeming mercy and love of Calvary and helps keep us on the narrow path when we venture out into our day. Singing songs and playing games that reinforce the fundamentals of our beliefs brings the doctrine alive and becomes a part of our core being. Using all our senses to learn about our Catholic faith makes it an integral part of who we are as individuals commissioned to be Church to the world in everything we do.
Throughout motherhood, I attempted to teach our children to serve in all kinds of ways and to look beyond themselves and care for another. In the home, we have endless opportunities to serve each other and share the message that others are valued and important to being the Body of Christ together. I taught sharing, deferred to someone else’s wants first, offered a helping hand, worked side by side to accomplish a task, and simply enjoyed spending time together. This discipling has one goal: to bring each child to a deep understanding of their identity in God and their inheritance from Jesus. It has to be intentional and repeated in the simple day-to-day. There are countless other ways I can disciple and the Holy Spirit helps me make it real and animated as I nurture my communion with Him.
Wow, what a calling we have! The first people we “practice our faith” with are right in our own homes! As Christ Himself noted in the Gospels, sometimes this is the most challenging environment. Those who know me the most – who see all my cracks and weaknesses – can more easily dismiss me or even ignore me. Jesus Himself was not welcomed in His hometown. At home, in the raw moments shared with one another amidst the messiness of real life, we are just ordinary people to each other. Yet, in the beauty of the family, God uses the ordinary to bring about the miraculous. Love and sacrifice poured out for each other each day refines us and molds us. In rubbing against each other’s edges, we become the children God created us to be.
All this explained – discipling doesn’t assume that when we nurture our children in the faith that it is a done deal. As a mom, I do my part, every day of my life, and pray each child remains captive in the Lord’s heart as they grow and leave. It’s a freedom each of us is blessed with – to one day go forth and be disciples in a new place, apart from parental tutelage. Continuing to disciple adult children is scary and wonderful at the same time, and quite the delicate balance. I share this to remind you that we are all in different stages of being formed and in constant need of being discipled, no matter our age or state in life! My husband and I were blessed with seven children – one in heaven and six living. Of the six, four have chosen to walk away from or live on the fringes of the Catholic Church and the traditions they were raised in. I know I am not alone in this, as other families have children leaving the Church as well.
I used to stress over it and worry myself into utter agitation. Gradually, as I practice my faith more fervently, attend Mass, and bring my children in name to the Altar of the Lord, the peacefulness has returned. I am confident that the work that began in them will come to a positive end because what God desires, even more than this mama, is to have each of them with Him in eternity. He will stop at nothing to keep chasing after them! As St. Ambrose instructed Monica as she chased after her adult son, Augustine: “You have done your job. Do not talk to Augustine about God. Talk to God about your son.” I am not in charge of their decisions, but I can continue to grow in making my own choices rooted in Christ and love them no matter what. Jesus shows me ways to love and serve them where they are right now and remind them of their inheritance as a child of the living God. Sometimes it’s speaking encouragement, hard truth, or sharing my struggles. Sometimes it’s performing some act of kindness that exhibits the heart of God to them: little ordinary things like making enough food to include them when they stop by, finishing their laundry when they have to run off to work, sharing a little text message that I love them, an invitation to come play board games, or just being available to listen and keeping the door of communication always open. This also always includes inviting them to join us in the Rosary, coming with us to Mass, or other activities at the parish; not pushing – just extending the invitation.
And so, my husband and I continue to walk out each day ‘practicing’ by doing all we can to become better children of God ourselves. We leave the rest to God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Mother Mary, Saint Joseph, their guardian angels and all the saints to do what they do best. Discipling is an ‘inside job’- it grows in the living, beating heart of the home – and God works His miraculous through us to draw each of His children to Him. My confidence that He will complete His good work in each of these is secure!
Come back to me with all your heart
Don’t let fear keep us apart
Trees do bend though straight and tall
So must we to others’ call.
Long have I waited for
Your coming home to Me
And living deeply our new life
Song: Hosea by Gregory Norbet
Ever since creation, mankind has had to battle against evil. In every age, Satan has been prowling about seeking to destroy, attempting to separate us from our life in Christ. Fortunately, because God cares for us so immensely, He has given us countless tools to equip us in this battle. Romans 8 reminds us: “What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword?... For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” However, because our loving God created us in freedom, it is a daily act of the will to remain in His love and under His umbrella of protection. We have resources to help in the fight against evil, as well as advocates we can call upon to accompany us in driving away the demons that seek our ruin.
One such advocate whom we celebrate today is St. Patrick. A simple young man who was sold into slavery to Ireland in the 5th century, St. Patrick ultimately gained his freedom and chose to return to the land of his captivity as a missionary to spread the love and truth of God. While in captivity, Patrick prayed constantly and nurtured his faith to overcome the harsh circumstances, and God strengthened him to grow into a saintly superhero known for driving out demons. His prayer, the Lorica (otherwise known as St. Patrick’s Breastplate), is comprehensive in covering all the ways we can be attacked by evil. It is a beautiful prayer that my husband and I pray aloud together each morning; and I can attest to its protection in many incidences. The act of reciting this prayer brings a spiritual covering over us when prayed in faith.
St. Patrick is celebrated annually on March 17th, a feast day which occurs during the season of Lent. Today, we can attend Mass on this day and enjoy a traditional Irish meal and festivities as we remember the gift Patrick gave us by his example of driving out evil and spreading God’s love amidst treacherous conditions. He is a bigger than life example for me of how God can equip us with His power to do battle against evil. And Lent is a perfect time in the Church year to remember and celebrate him. During the season of Lent, we focus on our individual weaknesses that allow evil to creep into our lives and practice ways to defeat the darkness within and around us. We look inward and examine our thoughts, words, and actions through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. These three Lenten pillars can be physical ways to drive out evil influences, reorient our hearts and minds to serve others, and recommit to living in Christ. Having such a superhero of faith as Patrick helps me realize that I need help and cannot do it on my own.
Cardinal John Henry Neumann reminds us: “We are not our own masters. Through creation, redemption and regeneration we are God’s property and He has a triple claim upon us. We find that independence was not made for us – it’s an unnatural state, and will not carry us on safely to the end. We are creatures and have two duties – to be resigned and to be thankful.”
So, I contemplate during this season of Lent that I am in need of a Savior! Each day I need to rededicate myself to more time in self-examination and prayer for divine assistance to battle against the evil in my life. The Church offers us ways to walk with our brothers and sisters through the Stations of the Cross, to redirect us to follow in Christ’s footsteps. There’s great power in doing this together, as most battles are won by an army working together.
Other suggestions for becoming more adept in driving away the demons and battling evil are:
Lastly, I encourage you to adjust your armor daily as instructed in Ephesians 6:11, 14-18: “Put on the full armour of God so as to be able to resist the devil’s tactics. So, stand your ground, with truth a belt around your waist, and uprightness a breastplate, wearing for shoes on your feet the eagerness to spread the gospel of peace and always carrying the shield of faith so that you can use it to quench the burning arrows of the Evil One. And then you must take salvation as your helmet and the sword of the Spirit, that is, the word of God. In all your prayer and entreaty keep praying in the Spirit on every possible occasion. Never get tired of staying awake to pray for all God’s holy people.”
Through Christ and the intercession of the saints, particularly St. Patrick, I can wholeheartedly enter into these weeks of Lent to learn more precisely how to drive out the evil in my own life so I can be more disposed to proclaim the love of Christ in who I am and what I do. May you have a Lent filled with freedom from all evil and experience a deep renewal in living for Christ!
For more Lenten resources, please click here.
To learn more about St. Patrick, please click here.
On this day in the Church, we celebrate the life of St. Blaise who was a healer, evangelist, and a martyr. In churches worldwide, we come forward at Mass on Feb. 3rd for a blessing from St. Blaise to be healed of any
throat ailments and other illnesses. He lived his life in devoted service to the Lord and suffered a martyr’s death because he refused to denounce God and abandon his faith. He was willing to die rather than forsake all that was important to him. As we reflect on this saint and the impact of his life in the history of our Church, it is a perfect time to examine our own lives. As we come out of celebrating Christmas, the beautiful season of light, and walk in Ordinary Time, it is a great time to examine our level of commitment to discipleship and keeping Christ at the center of our lives. Are we totally and completely invested in following our Lord and Savior in every aspect of our life – no matter the cost?
We have the remarkable example of holy men and women who are now saints to remind us that we are purposed to love, serve, and glorify the Lord in all we do, think, and say. In a recent Sunday’s Gospel, Mary instructs the servants at the wedding feast to “do whatever He tells you.” These are the last recorded words the Blessed Mother speaks in the holy Scriptures. This is significant and her instruction is relevant to us today.
If we live each day asking God what He wants of us, we will be fulfilled beyond all our imagining. When we follow the path God sets before us, we gain more freedom, not less. When we die to ourselves and our wants, we become more whole, more alive. When we love extravagantly, we become more energized, not worn out. When we are more generous with our time, our talents and resources, we amazingly gain more time to do more things for the Lord. When we cooperate with His plan – everything good is multiplied in our lives.
God calls each of us to become saints, one day at a time, in the grind and messiness of life. We just need to be intentional about listening to His voice prompting us in all the opportunities He provides. This will sanctify us and bring us true joy. It’s important to hear this because the world screams the opposite message. As I write this, I am in the midst of adjusting to grown children leaving our home and repurposing bedrooms and discovering more time to focus on other activities. I am tempted to enjoy more things that are fun, which is good within reason. I can conjure up endless projects that I never had the time to pursue while raising six kids, working, and administering a household, but I have to ask – is this what God wants me to do? Since Christmas, I have been reflecting on all these life changes in my heart and asking for clarity in my purpose in this season of my life. And as always, God does not disappoint. He has been drawing me to more prayer time and daily Mass – and bringing to mind all those I can bring to the altar to pray for. He has clearly shown me how important it is to share more time with my husband – recreating together, talking, and sharing our ideas of what we can do as a couple in this stage of our life to build up the Body of Christ. He has brought to mind the vows I spoke 42 years ago and how I can more deeply live them out today. He specifically reminds me to always choose the most loving thing as I continue to live my vocation as wife and mother. He shows me so many ways to be available to my family and those around me. I am drinking deeply from the well of God’s love, grace, and mercy, finding that opportunities abound for me to live out my discipleship in new and exciting ways. And he gives me refreshment and joy that settles deep in my soul.
I encourage you all, in these Ordinary days of the liturgical year, to take some quiet time to search your heart, mind, and spirit to see how you are doing in the Lord’s service. Are you 100% on board with practicing your faith in your relationships, in your encounters with others, in your thought life, and in all your behavior? Making an honest assessment, then asking the Lord and all the saints to help bolster your courage, strengthen your efforts, and fortify your energy to be the disciple you were called to be will lead you to become transformed into someone extraordinary for God!
“This is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, for the glory and praise of God.” Phil 1: 10-11
It is just a couple of days before Christmas and the sparkle and bright lights of the season have been adorned in homes, neighborhoods, and towns all over the country for weeks now. Trees are trimmed, lights are hung, special foods baked, festive music plays, and gifts are purchased and wrapped. It is the season of light, but as Christians, are we receiving Christmas or are we giving it? Are we soaking in the bright warmth of all the lights – or are we being lights? The older I get, the more mindful I am of what that first gift of Christmas helps us to be. Christmas is a gift to be received deep in our hearts and then to be shared. The first gift of Christmas is love: love incarnate, love divine. God loved us so much that He sent His only Son to walk with us and instruct us how to be light in a world filled with darkness.
Unwrapping the gift of Jesus is our most important mission as Christians. We revel at the manger and are filled with warmth and joy at the birth of a newborn baby. But, we must fully comprehend the entirety of the Christmas story that brings the baby from the manger in Bethlehem to the man who was sacrificed on the hill in Calvary to ransom us from the darkness of our sin.
“Why lies He in such mean estate where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians fear; for sinners here, the silent Word is pleading:
Nails, spear, shall pierce Him through, the cross be born, for me, for you;
Hail, hail the Word made flesh, the Babe, the Son of Mary.”
William C. Dix
‘What Child Is This?’
As we enter into this holy season of light, we celebrate all the richness it bestows in our hearts and souls. Let us not forget amidst the glittery enhancements we have placed on this holiday that it is a sacred holy day- the birthday of our Savior! We receive His love that came down from heaven to earth and we rejoice in the fullness of that gift opening the door to our eternal salvation! When we really grasp the immensity of this gift, we cannot help but want to share it with everyone around us. And how do we live as Christmas lights? We shine with encouragement and support to our neighbor. We sparkle with unashamed exuberance in sharing the Good News of Christ’s saving power. We generously share what we have to those in need. We reach out in flesh and allow the divine to work through us to dispel any darkness that would prevent us from reaching our heavenly inheritance. We embody hope, peace, joy, and love in everything we do. This is how we unwrap the gift of Christmas and be His light to the world.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone
light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand and it gives light to all in
the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so they may see your
good works and give glory to your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:14-16
Many years ago, when we were settling our firstborn son in for bed, my husband would cradle him in his arms and swing him vigorously back and forth while singing “Go forth among the people, people of every nation. Tell them how Christ came to save. Tell them how he came to bring salvation.” I believe that took root in my son’s life and was nourished over the years to equip him to be a forthright disciple of Christ as an adult today. My husband and I were raised in the security of a culture of Christendom of the 1950’s and 60’s. What did this look like? Our culture, all aspects of society were steeped in Christian principles. Our laws and basic moral understanding were rooted in Judeo-Christian truth that made it relatively easy to adhere to a Christ centered life.
“Go forth and tell! O Church of God, awake! God’s saving news to all the nations
take. Proclaim Christ Jesus, Savior, Lord and King, that all the world His worthy
praise may sing.”
Over the last several decades we’ve witnessed our culture radically change. The world view of our dominant culture no longer ascribes to fundamental biblical principles, and we have shifted from the age of Christendom into an Apostolic age. Our basic mode of operation needs to change to continue to be effective bearers of Christ’s love to one another. Many Christians have become fearful and overwhelmed and even despaired because of this cultural shift. It is essential that we remain encouraged and adjust how we live so we can be bold missionaries for the kingdom of God in our world today. As far back as 1974, Bishop Fulton Sheen was a prophetic voice to help us recognize our call as Christians in a time of change. He said: “We are at the end of Christendom. Not of Christianity, not of the Church. The economic, political, and social life inspired by Christian principles has ended. But these are great and wonderful days in which to be alive. Therefore, live your lives in the full consciousness of this hour of testing and rally close to the heart of Christ.”
“Go forth and tell! God offers life to all; The Lord makes rich all who on Him
shall call. How shall they call if they have never heard the gracious invitation
of his word?”
I believe the activities and traditions my husband and I learned and practiced as we parented our six children have been instrumental in equipping them to be ambassadors of Christ in this new age of evangelization. I am forever grateful for my “upbringing,’ for the solid passing on of faith from my family, my parish, my schools, and my neighbors. The blessing of being nurtured in the age of Christendom caught me – body, mind, and spirit. Through pure grace, I continue to grow in who I am, what I am purposed to do and rely on my relationship with Jesus, the reception of the sacraments, and strive to live the Beatitudes as I journey into this current era. I am aware of the difficulties people are facing today remaining rooted in Jesus and how easy it is to fall prey to some current views that are contrary to Christianity.
“Go forth and tell! Men still in darkness lie; in wealth or want, in sin they live
and die. Give us, O Lord, concern of heart and mind – a love like Yours which
cares for all mankind.”
I recall Cardinal Wojtyla in 1976 speaking in Philadelphia to Americans, calling us forth out of our comfort into this age of evangelization to minister to the people around us in a radical new way. “We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has gone through. We are facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, of the Gospel versus the anti-Gospel.” He was clearly prophesying to awaken us to adopt a new approach to live the Christian life and to reach the people lost and on the fringes. Later, as Pope John Paul II, he pastored us in how to counter the culture of death. God has been preparing us through prophetic voices throughout history to be aware of the days of tribulation and darkness so that the Holy Spirit can be with us to be vibrant witnesses in those times. Jeremiah reminds us in 15:21 “I will rescue you from the hands of the wicked and deliver you from the grasp of the ruthless.” Many of David’s psalms emphasize God’s constant care for us and that He will never abandon us.
“Go forth and tell! Christ charges us to go. All power is His; from Him the
blessings flow. Live out your life as Christ your Lord shall choose; Your ransomed
powers for His sole glory use.”
In this apostolic age we are called to be intentionally evangelistic in a manner far different than ever before. We have to look back to the life of the 12 Apostles and the culture they lived in for our example. They were not theologians, had very few followers, had no church buildings, no foreign mission’s expertise, next to no monetary resources, no written gospels to preach from, and society was hostile or apathetic towards them. Yet they were ecstatic to go out to all the nations and share the perfect love of Jesus to all. What was it that propelled them so enthusiastically? They had the Holy Spirit. This is the same Holy Spirit we have that empowers us today and fires us up with unrestrained joy to bring life giving support to those we encounter. Just as the Apostles and early Christians – we are commissioned by Jesus through His blood shed for us and are confirmed in the Spirit to operate in His gifts. We do not have the right or luxury to say these gifts are only for some and not for me. Each of us is accountable to the call. We cannot say “I can’t,” “I won’t,” or “It’s not my gift.” Jesus calls us forth to offer words of knowledge, laying on hands for healing, saying deliverance prayers, giving encouragement, discerning spirits and to love intensely. The book of Acts is our roadmap.
“Go forth and tell! O Church of God, arise! Go in the strength which Christ
your Lord supplies. Go ‘til all nations His great name adore, and serve Him
Lord and King forevermore.”
Song: Go Forth and Tell by James Seddon
As we enter this Advent 2021 season, we are afforded a time to renew our identity in Christ, examine our mission call, and move forward as joyous disciples proclaiming the kingdom of God in everything we do. The simple truth is that God lives inside each of us. We are expected to be aware of His presence and to allow Him to do whatever He chooses through us. What a beautiful privilege! It is truly a blessed and anointed time to be alive! Let this be our great adventure together as committed Christians.
I pray daily for the lost, forgotten, lonely, wounded, and rebellious people in my family, community, and the whole world. Prayer is an action that accomplishes many things. It keeps me focused on who God is and who I am. It gives me peace to lift up these people to our heavenly Father and know that He will do what is best for them. It also supernaturally connects me to these people in a special way that crosses all geographical and physical barriers. We all have these people in our lives, and as fellow humans, we are created to be relational and find ways to build up each other. As committed Christians, we are called to actively share the love of Christ with each other and don’t we have an awesome calling in this! Recently at church, we sang the song “As We Gather at Your Table” by Carl P. Daw and this sentence grabbed my attention: “Turn your worship into witness in the sacrament of love.” I love attending Mass often, reciting various prayers and devotions daily because Mass and prayer are my food for the ministry I am called to engage in as a Christian. It is vital that I listen to a hurting family member or friend and offer hope. I am called to reach across the chasm of their doubt and despair and be the love and tenderness of Jesus to them. I am expected to extend the invitation to believe in God’s salvific power and help them find joy in His immense love for them. When I do this, my worship turns into witness. Once upon a time in my adolescence, two very loving and Godly people (aside from my parents) reached out and invited me into an active role of sharing God’s message with others. That was the beginning of my being willing to be the hands and feet of Jesus to those around me. I began assisting in teaching religious education classes to second graders who probably taught me more about sharing God’s love and truth than I imparted – but it was my entrance into focusing on others and not all of my own deficiencies. God uses us all when we generously surrender ourselves to His work.
In a culture riddled with negativity and selfishness, we are challenged to be activists with our faith. The walking wounded are all around us – many in our own families. We are on the frontlines of a war against faith, hope, and love. Malice, greed, confusion, and hatred so easily pervade the environment we live in. But we have the antidote; we have the remedy that can heal broken and torn brethren and bring them unity, joy and peace. We just have to be bold enough to share it. And the beautiful thing is that God equips us with the grace to do just this! Through my prayers, the Holy Spirit adjusts my spiritual armor to battle the evils that seek to destroy our brothers, sisters, children, friends, and co-workers. One person at a time – one opportunity as it presents itself – I extend a hand, a hug, a smile, a listening ear and let them know I accept them where they are and that I am willing to share their load and offer encouragement through truth and love.
As Christians, we also have many holy men and women who have gone before us that we can ask to intercede on our behalf to help us be the hope-filled hands and heart of Jesus to others. In a time such as this, when the world seems all topsy turvy, I like to call on Saint Jude. He is the patron saint of hope and impossible causes. When we are walking in God’s truth, we know nothing is impossible because He promised He would be victorious over all evil. This strong apostle of Jesus tells us: “But you, beloved, build yourselves up in your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in the love of God and wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.” (Jude 1:20-21). I know his intercession will help me! Another beautiful example of one who can aide us in our mission is St. Teresa of Avila. She suffered much for the faith in her life and she offers much wisdom and hope for us to pass on: “God withholds Himself from no one who perseveres.” She most definitely is a saint to call on for intercession.
I encourage you, my fellow disciples, to find joy in the work of sharing the hope that comes from being an active Christian and be devoted to this calling above all things. We have the weapons to overcome fear, loneliness, woundedness, and despair and we need to use them one encounter at a time. So, I journey through this day, calling on all the assistance from heaven, to extend God’s invitation to a life in Him, and pray each person responds with a wholehearted Yes! God uses our witness in amazing ways to accomplish His plan on this earth! Join with me and let’s do it!
“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
During my formative years, I had the distinct privilege of spending time with my grandads and even one great-grandad. In the late 1950’s and ‘60’s, our pace of life and activities was very different from today. We attended school and church, but a lot of our time was centered around our home. Even more unique were our regular visits with extended family on a weekly basis. This afforded me time to be in the company of my grandparents frequently. I listened to their talk about work and how they solved problems and the things that occupied their time. I enjoyed accompanying my dad’s dad on outings to pick blackberries and then had the pleasure of helping in the process to make wine in his cellar.
My Grandpop was a nuts-and-bolts kind of man, always busy with his work as caretaker of the cemetery, keeping their only vehicle (an old Ford truck) running, and maintaining the house where he and my grandmom raised thirteen children. It was fascinating learning things from him. I would follow him around and help load coal into their furnace and collect items from the cool cellar that housed their canned vegetables and held Grandpop’s workbench. He liked to show any of us grandkids the things he did for work, as well as the projects he worked on, such as building cedar benches for anyone who wanted one and making wine from the fruits he picked. They lived a hop, skip and a jump from the monastery church and school where they walked to 6am daily Mass. By society’s standards, Pop was minimally educated and made a meager wage that kept them in the lower economic level their entire lives. The gifts we received were hand-made and simple, but lots of time was invested in being family together. I loved being in Grandpop’s shadow and considered the cemetery near their house to be the most magical place in my world with its little streams and bridges and huge fir trees and rolling hills. Amongst those resting in peace, my dad and his twelve siblings grew up under the tutelage of my grandpop’s calloused hands and the soft-spoken voice of my grandmom.
My grandmom’s parents lived just three blocks away, and my great-granddad was a successful stone mason with a shop full of heavy, rough-hewn tools that carved important information into big pieces of granite for the deceased. As an adult, I realize how fortunate I was to have enjoyed weekly visits to my great-grandparents. Great-granddad was a tall, polite, and loving man. He would sit me atop a piece of stone and include me in the conversations with my dad and other family. He had two framed pictures over the desk in his shop – the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. As a kid, I always felt that they were watching me. These images hanging in a prominent place in his shop spoke volumes about the faith my great-granddad had. No matter how busy he was, he had a way of making me feel cherished when we came by. And a visit never ended until he sent us up to the house to get a drink and a slice of cake from great-grandmom.
My mom’s dad was another wonderful grandfather with whom I spent much time while growing up. (I never met my grandmom because she died suddenly only three months after my parents were married.) Pop was a tall, handsome man who always wore a suit, and I mean always! He was retired from the phone company and had raised five children through the Depression era. His parents and aunt lived with them in a small but comfortable row home. Most of my time spent with Pop was at our house where he would come most days in the afternoons and stay through dinner. Sometimes we would pick him up at his apartment and I loved seeing his stuff. He was an avid follower of the Baltimore City Fire Department and had a squawk box to hear all the fire calls. He had boxes with index cards full of information on the different fire houses, calls, and each fireman. When my mom was growing up, he would pile the kids in his car and they would go watch the firemen fight fires. He supported the firemen with visits and gifts and had a deep respect for what they did for the community. I loved sitting at his feet in our living room listening to him tell stories of growing up in Baltimore and of his family. He was a regular member at our dinner table in his later years and always took an interest in my studies and in the things I was doing.
When my parents would go away on their annual business trip, Pop would come take charge of our household. He made flapjacks for breakfast, walked me to the school bus stop and would meet me there each afternoon. I didn’t need an escort, but it was his way of sending me off. He played cards with us and told stories and made the best stew I’ve ever eaten! He made sure to remind me to say my prayers and he took us to church. Pop was present for all the holidays throughout the years, along with a lot of aunts, uncles, and cousins. Our house was the typical gathering place for my mom’s siblings and so I guess that’s why Pop always came over. In his later years when he could no longer drive, my parents wanted him to move in with us, but he insisted on his own independence and lived out his days, until he died at 89, in his apartment. As a kid, I never thought twice about Pop always being at our home. As an adult, I look back and see the treasure I had in being loved by a man who had all the time in the world to talk. It impacted me more than I realized. Mom and dad took care of the needs of the family, but Pop took the time to share himself with me and take an interest in what I was thinking as a young girl trying to figure out what was important in life. A generation removed, Pop made it abundantly clear how important each member of the family was to him, which instilled in me a strong desire for continued close family bonds in my adult life.
I then watched how my dad became granddad to my six children. He was busy seven days a week and lots of nights running his business and providing for our family when I was a child, but as a granddad, he learned how to switch gears and devote attention to his grandchildren through time spent together. He took his role as grand patriarch seriously and lived out sharing the gospel of Jesus with all his grands in very simple but tangible ways. He was a great encourager of all the pursuits of each one and never hesitated to share his testimony of how God helped him on a daily basis to do what he was supposed to do. He shared prayers and taught them the power of talking with God all day long. And when my parents visited for two to three weeks each Christmas season, everyone could see how he laid out his days. He would be seen in a quiet chair early in the mornings with his well-worn prayer book praying his prayers. Then he and mom would attend morning Mass with any of us who would accompany them. He joined in our family prayer time and nightly Rosary.
I have also enjoyed witnessing my husband embrace the role of Pops to our sweet grandchildren. He rejoices in the gift of each one and prays daily for them to always hear and respond to God’s call on their lives. He loves playing with them and particularly sharing his love of music with them.
The treasure of knowing my granddads and being so loved by them has been a gift in my life that I know has helped me understand the love God our Father has for me. The beauty of the continuous bond from great-grandfather to grandfather to father is powerful and assures me of my heritage. The greatest lesson I learned from these loving men was to invest yourself in others and especially to build up and encourage each member. It doesn’t seem mighty or grand, but it strengthens the foundation of our lives and nurtures deep, holy growth in our specific God-ordained purpose. The richness of a grandfather’s love and care is a gift in the family. Their patriarchal leadership and security are God’s design for how families are enjoined together through the generations and meant to relate. I have had the privilege of this delightful heritage and my prayer is that it will continue to be nourished by the fathers to come in our family.
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Summertime is here and with the change in schedules and weather, people make plans for vacations or simply enjoy a more relaxed routine. Our family vacations over the years were full of outdoor adventures in the mountains or at the beach visiting our extended families. Wherever you choose to vacation – even if it’s a staycation in your hometown – can be a beautiful time full of spiritual refreshment. Years ago, when I was in the trenches with six kids aged 18 to newborn, I read a book called Sanity in the Summertime: The Complete Summer Survival Handbook for Moms by Claudia Arp and Linda Dillow. I adopted many of their great ideas and incorporated some of my own to bring more of the richness of our Catholic heritage into our family life. This time of refreshment is a wonderful time to renew your relationship with the Lord and to help those in your family to cultivate their individual faith life. I have compiled a list of the things that we incorporated into our vacation and summertime routines over the years. This list is just a beginning and the potential for summertime recreation is limitless based on your family’s personalities and interests.
The beauty of vacation time or a more relaxed summer schedule involves soaking up the blessings of the time and intentionally bringing Jesus into the season to enrich your faith life and discover the creative ways God is moving in our lives. He has given us everything. When we can slow down and change the pace and the environment for a little bit, we can see more clearly His love and provision for us. This clearer vision of our communion with God enables us to deepen our relationship with Him and to answer His call. Let this song be our mission in our vacationing:
“Day by day,
Day by day,
O dear Lord
Three things I pray:
To see Thee more clearly,
Love Thee more dearly,
Follow Thee more nearly-
Day by day”
Lyrics by Robin Lamont
“In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” This is how I begin all of my prayers; and it comes from a long tradition in Christianity. As Catholics, we usually accompany these words by making the Sign of the Cross with our hand. Why is this so important to our faith and to me personally? To begin, I suggest revisiting and praying the Nicene Creed as it is proclaimed at every Catholic Mass. This is our profession of faith. The Holy Trinity – three persons in one – is a mystery we mere mortals can scarcely understand, but it explains our identity as children of God.
We are taught from the Old Testament that God the Father is the Creator, and He sustains all of the world. In the New Testament we are instructed that God the Son is our Savior, Jesus Christ – both divine and human in nature and whose behavior we strive to model. At Pentecost, as told in the Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament, we are shown that the Holy Spirit is imparted to each of us as the presence of God in us who gives us wisdom and boldness to act as we are taught by Jesus. The unity of these three divine beings in one God is a profound gift I believe in complete faith, and it helps me understand who I am in His Kingdom. I am a child of the Father who loved me into being together with my earthly mom and dad, I am redeemed by the body and blood poured out by Jesus His Son for all my failings, and I am aided constantly by the Holy Spirit to live and profess the Christian life in joy and exuberance! I like to think of myself as being a flesh and bone human with supernatural assistance (as long as I cooperate with the will of God)! That is a pretty amazing disposition to live out of. We read in the Old Testament’s books of the prophets that God promised a Messiah to save His people, and then in Matthew 1:2-16 the genealogy of Jesus is recorded and spiritually comes to include each of us, who through our baptism become sons and daughters of God. This is an earthly and divine bond like no other in all of creation.
There is so much more to us human beings than our earthly bodies and this temporary space we inhabit. We are walking, talking, living, breathing messengers of God the Almighty, commissioned to share love and mercy to every other living being around us. We are flesh and bone, but we are also spirit and intellect. When in right relationship with our Lord, we are the dwelling place for God to move and work in and through us. Understanding our identity and praying for guidance to live it out in what we do and say is imperative to being a member of the Kingdom of Heaven. This knowledge and the grace and virtues that flow from accepting our mission gives us the power to bring life and healing and hope and joy to a hurting, confused, and broken world.
So, if you are ready to accept the mission, be prepared to be filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit and be equipped with all that is necessary to be a present day apostle! Several years ago, one of our young sons made a simple but beautiful bookmark for my husband as a gift. It was brightly colored and had the words: WORK FOR GOD! down the middle. This summarizes exactly what we are called to do and continues to be a great reminder as it sits in my husband’s Bible. The Holy Trinity is the foundation of all our Christian beliefs and it gives me great comfort knowing who I come from and who I belong to for time and eternity, even when I do not fully comprehend it. We can sing from the rooftops: “Holy Father, Holy Son, Holy Spirit, three we name Thee; while in essence only one, undivided God we claim Thee; and adoring bend the knee, while we own the mystery” (Holy God, We Praise Thy Name by Ignace Franz).
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How are you navigating daily life these days? Are you scurrying around afraid of what is next or are you charging into each day with enthusiasm and hope? That sounds like the opening to an infomercial about to reveal some amazing product to enhance your life in some miraculous way, doesn’t it? But these are questions we need to ask ourselves as Christians; Jesus calls us to be exuberant about our mission in every moment because every moment counts. Life as we knew it before the Covid-19 pandemic has not returned, and all of us are still in some stage of the mess. But, as Easter people, we hold firmly to God’s promise that He is with us always, supplying grace and wisdom, no matter the circumstances of our present life. And this promise envelopes me personally with great comfort and allows me to begin each day with joy! The Easter message we celebrate again this year guides us through the steps of living in joy, filled with hope, even though our world seems dark and scary. Our daily scripture readings walk us through the Acts of the Apostles as the church was newly formed after the Resurrection and we learn once again of our mission as baptized priests, prophets, and kings in the new covenant Jesus established.
Thirty minutes of ingesting current news makes us aware of the many divisions within our nation and on a global scale. There is very little uplifting or good news being reported. Our world is filled with turmoil and unrest, and the doom and gloom can seem overwhelming. But, let’s flash back to over 2000 years ago on a stormy Friday afternoon when Jesus was tortured and suffered an agonizing death by crucifixion and the earth shook. This horrifying event in the news of the time seemed bleak to the early Christians, yet in actuality, this event was the defining moment for all of humanity. It was and continues to be God’s greatest gift to us. In the dismal hours on Good Friday centuries ago, Jesus our Savior exhibited the ultimate “cancel culture” by completely canceling our sins and opening the path for us to enter the glory of heaven!
In recent years, we are more familiar with a different type of “cancel culture” – one that is not merciful and has a negative message. Yet, if we focus on walking closely with Jesus, we can experience the freedom that comes from that horrific sacrifice on the Cross at Calvary. Our lives are forever redeemed, and the love and mercy of God allows us to live amidst times of great trial without fear and even be filled with joy. We have been commissioned for the work of heaven and as we live in this Easter season, we have the knowledge of Jesus’ teachings, His examples of how to love and act toward others, and His living Spirit within us to keep us steadfast in being joyful. We can smile when the world is unkind, courageously proclaiming the Good News in a culture that will scoff and try to shame and shun us because, as St. Paul says in Col. 2:13-14, “And you who were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with Him, having forgiven all our trespasses, having canceled the bond which stood against us…. nailing it to the cross.” This is truly the “divine cancel culture” that heals us and rescues us from sin and death.
The secular “cancel culture” reviles people who disagree, seeks to destroy those it determines unworthy, and ascribes to inflicting recriminations and paybacks. The “divine cancel culture” Jesus instituted from that Cross on Calvary expects us to always forgive and cancel the wrongs others do to us, as He taught us: “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Matt. 6:12). We can confidently choose to walk in the footsteps of our Lord and Savior and practice the principles of faith, hope, and love – love being the greatest of these.
We walk together, you and I, as Easter people, united in the mission passed to us personally by Jesus Himself. Even though chaos may be swirling about us, He is who transforms our lives in a miraculous way so that we can live each day with exuberant joy! Help us Lord to be your messengers of love and mercy to the lost, the despairing, the cruel, the innocent and the vulnerable— to draw all your people to your glorious kingdom forever! Amen, Alleluia, Glory!
Lent is the perfect time each year to do a personal assessment of our relationship with Jesus – to see if we are walking the path to sainthood as we are called. God calls each of us to become saints and it is imperative that we evaluate our spirituality, our actions, and our goals. This year I have been using three specific resources to aid in my self-reflection and in resetting my focus. Fr. Thomas Dubay’s Happy Are You Poor, Matthew Kelly’s I Heard God Laugh, and the music of Danielle Rose are helping me with my grand reset.
During this beautiful time of Lent, my individual assessment of my growth in holiness is both difficult and reassuring. In reflection, I am reminded that I am here to live out the Beatitudes – not to have memorized them, but to daily use the opportunities in my station in life to live them out. God also reveals to me that I am not to be like my favorite saints, but to become a saint by being authentically me, the unique person He created me to be. He also continues to enlighten me about deeper ways to communicate with Him in prayer. Little snippets in the morning give me focus to be the living sign of God’s love in the world I walk in. Then, throughout the day, I ask for help to physically live out the mission He has called me to. Simple little mantras such as: “Lord, help”, “Jesus, not my words and responses, but Yours”, “Jesus, Mary and Joseph give me strength and courage” are prayers I repeat throughout the day to help me remain in God’s will and not in my own.
Growing in our Christian life is a continual moment by moment journey of self-discovery. The more we grow in love of Jesus, the better we come to know ourselves and the importance of our individual participation in His glorious mission in the world. I am struck by the essential commitment I must have to become who I was created to be, because that is how the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ is made known to those around us. “When you hung upon the cross looking at me, You didn’t die so I would try to be somebody else. You died so I could be the saint that is just me” is the refrain Danielle Rose sings that speaks of the magnitude of Jesus’ love for each of us and the intimate connection He desires with us. These little rituals and inspired guides keep me grounded as I live in the messiness of my humanity in this complicated world.
Another aspect of my relationship with Jesus that I am examining comes from Happy Are You Poor. Fr. Dubay helps us to understand the things we are attached to, and why, and if these attachments are leading us deeper into the heart of Jesus or driving us away from Jesus. This is always a difficult process because I have to repeatedly admit to the things I am attached to that bring me temporary comfort and feed my selfish nature, and then I have ask for the grace to let go of these things I cling to so that Jesus can live in me. These practices in Lent are difficult, but not out of my reach. I attend daily Mass as frequently as possible and this communion builds the holy virtues to let go of my earth stuff, my temporal comforts, and to open myself to be God’s. At the beginning of each Mass, we recognize our fallenness and verbally repent and commit to do better. God’s love and mercy are always available to us so that we can change for the better. That is the assurance that keeps me striving. And in the quiet after receiving the Eucharist, I speak in my mind part of Psalm 95: “For You, O Lord, my soul in stillness waits, truly my hope is in You.”
Matthew Kelly gives me such tangible and direct instruction to realign my life within God’s will. His emphasis on deepening our prayer life and then giving direct ways to accomplish this are worth reading and putting into practice. He speaks to us in the reality of our busy, chaotic, and very full lives with a simpleness that I can relate with. His theology is completely understandable and therefore gives me assurance that I can put it into practice in my daily life.
Lenten rituals cause us to be uncomfortable in our flesh (as Jesus was in the desert) so that we can be totally dependent on our God to lead us. This examination, this ‘coming clean,’ is a necessary element of our Christian journey. Receiving the Eucharist to nourish us and receiving absolution in the Sacrament of Reconciliation are the wonderful gifts we have to assist us in our closer walk with Jesus and in fulfilling the individual purpose of our lives. Finding scriptures to meditate upon and asking God to reveal what He wants us to do daily to lead us to deeper levels of intimacy with Christ. All of these are designed to enlighten us, to transform us, and to bring us to a more joyful celebration of the victory of Easter! So, my fellow comrades, embrace the work that this season of Lent provides so that we may all grow deeper in love with our Lord and He may live and move and breathe through us!
“Lord make us turn to you, let us see your face that we may be saved.” -Psalm 80
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“Remember the days past when, after you had been enlightened, you endure a great contest of suffering. At times you were publicly exposed to abuse and affliction, at other times you associated yourselves with those so treated. You even joined in the sufferings of those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, knowing that you had a better and lasting possession. Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, it will have great recompense. You need endurance to do the will of God and receive what he has promised.
‘For, after just a brief moment, he who is to come shall come, he shall not delay.
But my just one shall live by faith, and if he draws back I take no pleasure in him.’
We are not among those who draw back and perish, but among those who have faith and will possess life.” -Hebrews 10:32-39
We are living in an extremely tumultuous time. For over a year, a virulent sickness has swept over the world and caused havoc with our health, our economies, and the very way we relate to one another. It has separated us from friends, co-workers, extended family, and our church community, to name a few. In battling its transmission, we have been forced into isolation—severely limiting gatherings, celebrations together, and even sharing hugs. We have been stretched beyond our normal mode of living and the equilibrium of our lives has been disturbed, with no end clearly in sight. On top of all this, we have experienced political and social unrest – polarized groups rising against one another, causing great division instead of building unity. For any individual, these circumstances could easily defeat us and have us succumb to despair. I think of the Marty Haugen song many of us sing every year during Advent: “For you, O Lord, my soul in stillness waits, truly my hope is in you.” It resounds in my mind and heart as we traverse through such unsettling circumstances.
Amidst all the unknowns and unrest, I have witnessed a beautiful vision that overrides all the devastation of the circumstances we are in. I have seen people sacrifice to care for others and people coming together to celebrate the joy of life in trying situations. I have witnessed God living and walking among us through the selfless individuals choosing to stand tall in faith and do all things in love. As Christians we are taught “God is love.” We were created out of love, for love. We are part of God’s great creation and we belong to Him. He guides, instructs, and protects us always. What a magnificent testament to hope in! We pray in our Creed: “I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” This is part of what we profess at Mass before we enter into the liturgy of the Eucharist – which is the source and summit of our faith. We receive the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord to nourish us in body and spirit. This profession of faith, this gift of communion, allows us to walk through all the adversities of life as joyful people who understand our hope lies not in this world but in heaven, forever.
This living hope comes from being nurtured by the stories from Scripture, being taught prayers and devotions, receiving the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist frequently, singing hymns of praise and thanksgiving, and practicing acts of kindness daily. What an ironclad defense we have against any evil that would afflict our body or soul! How beautiful it is that as Christians we can be united together in faith wherever we are. This is how I have remained steadfast in hope and overcome fear during these trials that continue to badger us. Surrounding myself with pictures of the Holy Family, the saints, the crucifix, listening to Christ-centered music, praying novenas and prayers, attending Mass often, and sitting in the quiet and listening for God to speak to me are all ways I actively participate in being a person of hope. Even more simply, just keeping my home clean and neat makes it a peaceful sanctuary where I can experience God’s presence.
I have no control over the things of this world that loom large over me, but that is okay. As long as I adjust my spiritual armor and remain grounded in Christ, I have every reason to walk in hope, joyously, no matter the circumstances. My husband I adopted the habit of praying Saint Patrick’s Breastplate each morning before going out into the fray and it has born much good fruit in our lives. I offer it to you as another tool to assist you in the battle against evil.
We are children of light, born of love and destined for heaven. We belong to Him. He made us a community and all around the world, individually and in groups, we profess our faith boldly, we share His message of love constantly, and we support one another in solidarity of His kingdom. It is our job to remain in Him and He will supply all the grace needed to walk tall in hope. As St. Teresa of Avila said: ‘God withholds Himself from no one who perseveres.’
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The family is the environment in which we learn to relate to others, where we are cared for and loved. But it can also be a laboratory for sadness, bruising, and wounding. Moments of grace separate one from the other. Mere humans living together in close proximity in the home, sharing the nitty gritty of life, is full of all kinds of challenges! How many times do we have a misunderstanding and have the sense to apologize? Dealing with people is messy business and hurt happens. It is heroic to operate in the grace of the Holy Spirit to ask forgiveness when we hurt one another. The simple ability to look past our own feelings and see how we impact others – that is life-changing behavior. “I’m sorry that what I did was hurtful to you. Please forgive me”—this is humility, and when we operate at this level within our family, we can change the world. As I see it, the two most important virtues of a holy family are patience and forgiveness. Thank goodness perfection is not required, just steadfastness.
The readings from the Mass for the feast of the Holy Family, which we celebrated on the first Sunday after Christmas, are beautiful reminders of how to behave and interact with each other in our families.
“God sets a father in honor over his children; a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons.
He who honors his father atones for sins; he stores up riches who reveres his mother. He who
honors his father is gladdened by children, and when he prays he is heard. He who reveres his
father will live a long life; he obeys God who brings comfort to his mother. My son, take care of
your father when he is old; grieve him not long as he lives. Even if his mind fail, be considerate
with him; revile him not in the fullness of our strength. For kindness to a father will not be
forgotten, it will serve as a sin offering-it will take lasting root.” Sirach 3:2-7, 12-14
This passage expounds on the fourth commandment because Jesus wanted us to understand the importance of family as the cornerstone of society. In her acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, Saint Mother Teresa said, “My prayer for you is that truth will bring prayer in our homes..[and] we will begin to love. And we will love naturally, we will try to do something. First in our own home, [then the] next door neighbor in the country we live, [then] in the whole world.”
In our progressed world, we think of evangelization and mission in terms of global work, but we cannot achieve spreading the faith if we do not practice in our own families.
Colossians 3:12-21 gives us further practical instruction on how to relate to one another.
“As the chosen of God, then, the holy people whom he loves, you are to be clothed in heartfelt compassion, in generosity and humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with one another; forgive each other. The Lord has forgiven you; now you must do the same. Over all these clothes, put on love, the perfect bond. And may the peace of Christ reign in your hearts, because it is for this that you were called together in one body. Always be thankful. Let the Word of Christ in all its richness, find a home with you. Teach each other, and advise each other, in all wisdom. And whatever you say or do, let it be in the name of the Lord Jesus, in thanksgiving to God the Father through Him. Wives, be subject to your husbands, as you should in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be sharp with them. Children, be obedient to your parents always, because that is what will please the Lord. Parents, do not irritate your children or they will lose heart.”
What makes the family so extraordinary is all the goodness that can come when we learn to love. We die to self in saying we are sorry for our offenses. We grow in virtue when we focus on the needs of others instead of ourselves. A quote often attributed to G.K. Chesterton states, “The most extraordinary thing in the world is an ordinary man and an ordinary woman and their ordinary children.” God has set an incredible task before us – to love the people in our family through our actions and our attitude. This is the heart of radical evangelization. And it will change the world!
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Every year I ponder why we put such great importance on December 31st—why we celebrate the close of one year and herald in the new year with such fanfare. I never have really been one to make such a ‘to do’ about celebrating New Year’s. Isn’t it simply another day on the calendar, the turning over of a number? One day rides into the next on the 31st of December no differently than all the other days of the year. But we have made it a big holiday – a day to reminisce over the past 12 months and to celebrate the beginning of a fresh new calendar year – and we believe in all of its possibilities. Many of us recommit to our mission in life or to a specific goal. With the encouragement of others, we resolve to some greater aspirations and get all fired up about them!
In our Christian walk, it is essential that we take stock of where we are and what we have done, as well as how we can make improvements, grow in holiness, love more deeply, and share the Gospel message more intentionally. We do not have to only do this examination and recommitment on New Year’s Eve: we are called to do this daily. A great time to do it is before we lay ourselves down to sleep. And then each morning, we can arise with the zeal to do our best, be our best in the new day we have been given. New Year’s Eve traditions are wonderful, but let us daily recall our actions and thoughts and celebrate the close of another day to be alive, to walk and talk as a joyful, purposeful child of the Savior, and then arise each morning to usher in a fresh new day to live and work and grow in our mission to build God’s kingdom on earth.
About 3 months ago, as we were continuing to navigate life in this pandemic, I committed to participating in daily Mass with my husband in order to become a bolder Christian, a more loving wife, a more compassionate mother, a more diligent worker, and a more available servant to my neighbor. I honestly see great fruit in these areas because of receiving Jesus daily in the Word and in Sacrament. I have experienced added gifts of grace that help me become a better child of the Most High! During this time, I awoke every morning between 3:00 and 3:45am, just wide awake and raring to go! After a week of this happening, I realized that God wanted something of me. So now I read Scripture and have a nice quiet prayer time, while the rest of my household is asleep. I would not have been able to do this five years ago, or 10 or 20 or 30. I was in the trenches raising six kids and working and managing an extremely busy household! But grace abounds at this time in my life and it amazes me how good God is! This personal reflection, prayer, and evaluation are a day-by-day occurrence, not just practices that occur once a year at the turning of the clock to January 1st.
I encourage each of you to enjoy your New Year’s Eve reflection and New Year’s Day celebration while also recognizing and committing to the importance of reflecting on what is past and committing to what is ahead as a daily activity. We are each here for a purpose. Together, with the graces God bestows, we have much to do to build His kingdom. So, one foot in front of the other, one sunrise and one sunset at a time, let us celebrate each day with the zeal of the first disciples – and God’s will most surely will be done on earth as it is in heaven!
Happy New Year, happy new day!
“God, examine me and know my heart, test me and know my concerns. Make sure that I am not on my way to ruin, and guide me on the road of eternity.” Psalm 139:23-24
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Proverbs 18:21.
The definition of the word “communication” from Webster’s dictionary is: “to share or impart information.” I look at this word and see a whole lot more. Com = come and commune = to communicate intimately. Communication can be defined as people coming together intimately to share information of all kinds. Coming together or communing is a very personal act, requiring the openness of individuals to both share information as well as receive it. This is where the very act of communicating becomes challenging. We are diverse as individuals and have a multitude of ways of perceiving what is communicated, as well as varying ways of imparting our ideas and information. When we speak to another, we do not just simply use words. We use tone, inflection, and body language. Because of all this, we can relay information in a positive or a negative manner. Keeping this in mind, it is essential to be very intentional and aware of how and what we communicate at all times. Ephesians 4:24 is plain in its instruction: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” As Christians, we want to always strive to build up and encourage with our communication.
I’ve found that for communication to be successful, there have to be some ground rules. This requires that we be intentional people of prayer who ask for wisdom and understanding. Praying also helps us to be reverent, respectful, and open. Colossians 4:6 tells us “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” This is a tall order for mere humans, which is precisely why we need God working in and with us. Our words can be blessings or weapons in any of our relationships. God calls us to love Him and our neighbor as ourselves – to serve in humility and love. Our speech has to align with this, the greatest commandment. As Proverbs 12:18 says, “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” What we say and how we deliver it reveals the spiritual battle we are engaged in. Our purpose in speaking should always be for the good of the recipient.
There are so many things we wish to impart to others in our daily lives: instructions, encouragement, advice, exhortation, expressions of love, thanks, concern, correction. The list is endless. However, a quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi sums up communication in a beautiful and profound way: “preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words.” What that means is that our goal should be to impart all that Jesus taught us through acts of love and mercy, and when we have exhausted our actions, then use words. I realize it is necessary to speak for many important reasons, but it must always be done in respect of the dignity of the recipient, aware that they are a child of God and always desiring the best for them. Since this is a challenging task, we must seek the help of the Holy Spirit and also holy people who can assist us in learning the best manner of speaking to others in all types of circumstances. It is not something we are just born with the ability to do. It comes with prayerful guidance and lots of practice. James 1:26 reminds us “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves and their religion is worthless.”
Another element of communication is discerning when it is appropriate to speak and when to remain silent. I don’t mean ignoring another or refusing to talk. I mean weighing what you ‘feel’ or ‘want’ to say versus what is ‘right’ and ‘necessary’ to impart. “The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil,” Proverbs 15:28 continues.
This requires each of us to spend a good amount of time in quiet prayer each day in order to be in an open disposition to receive wisdom and understanding about what to communicate. From there, we must pray for the grace to ‘commune’ with the recipient of our information in a loving and Godly manner. When we nurture a consistent prayer life with the Lord, we experience peace that guards our minds and hearts. Because of our woundedness and fallen nature, the world and the devil’s designs, we struggle in this area and need the guidance of the Holy Spirit to be communicators that build up, encourage, and love through our words.
In our fractured world, when people are attacking each other on all fronts about every issue imaginable, we as Christians need to be conduits of peace when we communicate. Praying for the desire to express love in everything we do will benefit us when we communicate and when we are receiving communication from others. We must grow in self-control and patience so that our communication will be positive, even in the toughest conversations. As Christians working to build the Kingdom of God, we must allow the love of Christ to flow out of us in all our actions and in every word we utter. We can come together with others and share information in many beautiful ways. God gave us voices for this. Let us always be in deep communion with God who loved us into being and calls us to be relational in order to share His love and build His kingdom on earth! Let Psalm 141:3 be our daily prayer: “Set a guard over my mouth Lord, keep watch over the door of my lips.”
To read more about charitable communication and evangelization, we invite you to read Choosing to Believe in Another’s Best Intentions or Communicating Like Chrysostom: Growing Your Skills in Speaking for the New Evangelization.