Monday, January 31, 2011

Does God Matter?

A friend of mine posted this on her blog: The Difference

She is going through one heck of a time right now (if you have some extra prayers, please send her some). She poses the very real question of "Does believing in God matter in the midst of all the pain?"

Happy Catholic Schools Week!

This is Catholic Schools Week. I am very thankful for the Catholic School education that I was blessed to receive (all 20 years of it!) and want to publicly thank all those who work so hard to provide a quality education under often challenging circumstances. Thank you for all you do! Happy Catholic Schools Week!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Depending on God

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:3

Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits.
He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick
–no food, no sack, no money in their belts.
Mark 6:7-8

These two passages from Scripture emphasize our need to depend on God. To be “poor in spirit” means to be detached from material possessions, regardless of one’s financial reality. It is possible to own little, yet be extremely attached and possessive of what one does have. By the same token, it is possible to live in splendor and care little for material goods. Someone who is poor in spirit understands that, whether we have a great deal or relatively little, all good things come from God. To Him we owe our thanks and praise.

By the same token, Jesus sends his Apostles out into the world with very little to their name. They are given a companion (we all need friends and helpers in this world), but they have no food, no sack and no money. I don’t know about you, but I almost never leave the house without at least one of those on me, much less embark on a journey!

No, if we are going on a trip, or about to begin a new mission, we want to be prepared. We pack clothes, make sure we have snacks and drinks for the journey and adequate money in case there are any unforeseen circumstances. This is prudent.

So, what is the message God is trying to tell us in these passages? Are we supposed to take a vow of poverty and live off the kindness of strangers? Are we supposed to forsake our tendency to prepare and instead live life only on a moment by moment basis?

For some, the answer to this will be “yes.” Those called to religious life do take a vow of poverty and live largely off the charitable contributions of others. For the majority of us, however, I don’t believe that is the message we are meant to take away. Rather, I think that it calls us to stop living in fear.

Being prepared is common sense. We should do what we can to live simply and save what we able. What we should not do is be in such fear of present or future circumstances that we stop living generously. We money is tight, we tend to retract, and think of ourselves and our own needs first. God calls us instead to depend on Him. No matter how little we have, we can always share, trusting that God will repay our generosity when we need it most. And, yes, sometimes that generosity will come from the charitable efforts of others. We are all called to care for each other.

In these two passages, God tells us that we can trust Him. All our blessings, both spiritual and material, come from Him. We need to never forget that fact.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Review of "The Rite"

Patti Maguire Armstrong offers a compelling review of "The Rite" on Catholic Exchange:
Review of The Rite

Confession - There's an App for that!

Little iApps, LLC is pleased to announce the release of Confession: A Roman Catholic App, its very first application for iPhone™, iPad, and iPod touch®. Developed for those who frequent the sacrament and those who wish to return, this confession helper is priced at $1.99 and is available for download at the iTunes store. This announcement follows directly on the heels of Pope Benedict’s message for the 45th World Communications Day address in which he emphasized that new media, “if used wisely, can contribute to the satisfaction of the desire for meaning, truth and unity which remain the most profound aspirations of each human being.”

Designed to be used in the confessional, this app is the perfect aid for every penitent. With a personalized examination of conscience for each user, password protected profiles, and a step-by-step guide to the sacrament, this app invites Catholics to prayerfully prepare for and participate in the Rite of Penance. Individuals who have been away from the sacrament for some time will find Confession: A Roman Catholic App to be a useful and inviting tool.

The text of this app was developed in collaboration with Rev. Thomas G. Weinandy, OFM, executive Director of the Secretariat for Doctrine and Pastoral Practices of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Rev. Dan Scheidt, pastor of Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Mishawaka, IN. The app received an imprimatur from Bishop Kevin C. Rhodes of the Diocese of Fort Wayne – South Bend. It was the first known imprimatur to be given for an iPhone™, iPad, or iPod touch® application.

Pope Benedict’s general prayer intention for January 2011 was, “that young people may learn to use modern means of social communication for their personal growth and to better prepare themselves to serve society.” Little iApps developer and co-founder, Patrick Leinen, said, “Our desire is to invite Catholics to engage in their faith through digital technology. Taking to heart Pope Benedict XVI’s message from last years’ World Communications Address, our goal with this project is to offer a digital application that is truly ‘new media at the service of the Word.’ The app has already aided one man in returning to the sacrament after 20 years. We hope many more will take advantage of this new confession resource.”

For more information, please visit Little iApps online at http://www.littleiapps.com or contact Patrick Leinen, developer and co-founder, at marketing@littleiapps.com or 574-303-8102.
Little iApps is a mobile applications development startup with a Roman Catholic twist.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Lessons from a 4th Grade Religion Book

My children and I are studying the Ten Commandments in their Jesus Our Guide: Book 4 religion book. In doing so, I came across this passage on the tenth commandment: Thou shall not covet thy neighbor's goods. I need the reminder often! Perhaps some of you do as well.

The Tenth Commandment is like the Seventh because they both are about things that don't belong to us. But whereas the Seventh tells us not to take what is not ours, the Tenth tells us not even to covet it, which means to want it more than we should. There is nothing wrong with wanting things, but often we want them too much or for the wrong reasons. For example, sometimes we want whatever someone else has. Sometimes we feel envy, which means that when someone else gets something nice or receives a compliment, instead of being happy for him, we are sad because we feel such good things should come to us.

The Tenth Commandment also tells us to be patient, which means that we must wait calmly for the things we want and that we should not get upset if we don't get them. We should also try to be patient when things don't go our own way because we know that God permits suffering in every life to make us better than we are.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Don't focus on the family?

U.S. Catholic has an interesting interview with Julie Hanlon Rubio, Associate professor of Christian ethics at Saint Louis University and author of Family Ethics: Practices for Christians (Moral Traditions). She offers some interesting insights on how and why our families should look beyond themselves. She argues that in some cases, our families can become idols if we put them above everything else, including our service to God.

Rubio states: "We can think about our families as small Christian communities. We're not just about getting the best house, education, jobs, but moving out into the world to do something about Matthew 25, "Lord, when did we see you hungry?" How do we bring the works of mercy and justice to family life?"

Read the full article at Don't Focus on the Family

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Laboure Society - helping vocations be fulfilled

Many people do not realize that religious orders frequently require candidates for religious life to be debt-free. Given the reality of older candidates and student loans, that is a difficult task. The Laboure Society helps pay off student loans for people who want to enter religious life. Find out more: http://labouresociety.org/

Monday, January 24, 2011

Saying "Yes" to God's Plan

Last week, I posed the question of whether God has a plan for our lives. A Christian friend of mine, Dionna Sanchez, ruminates on following God's plan in this blog post: Saying "Yes" to God's Plan

Truth, Proclamation and Authenticity of Life in the Digital Age

This is the Pope's message on using social networking. He offers an important message - use it to its full advantage, but be authentic. People are always watching (and reading) what you say and do. Be sure that the message you are conveying is in keeping with the Gospel.


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On the occasion of the 45th World Day of Social Communications, I would like to share some reflections that are motivated by a phenomenon characteristic of our age: the emergence of the internet as a network for communication. It is an ever more commonly held opinion that, just as the Industrial Revolution in its day brought about a profound transformation in society by the modifications it introduced into the cycles of production and the lives of workers, so today the radical changes taking place in communications are guiding significant cultural and social developments. The new technologies are not only changing the way we communicate, but communication itself, so much so that it could be said that we are living through a period of vast cultural transformation. This means of spreading information and knowledge is giving birth to a new way of learning and thinking, with unprecedented opportunities for establishing relationships and building fellowship.

New horizons are now open that were until recently unimaginable; they stir our wonder at the possibilities offered by these new media and, at the same time, urgently demand a serious reflection on the significance of communication in the digital age. This is particularly evident when we are confronted with the extraordinary potential of the internet and the complexity of its uses. As with every other fruit of human ingenuity, the new communications technologies must be placed at the service of the integral good of the individual and of the whole of humanity. If used wisely, they can contribute to the satisfaction of the desire for meaning, truth and unity which remain the most profound aspirations of each human being.

In the digital world, transmitting information increasingly means making it known within a social network where knowledge is shared in the context of personal exchanges. The clear distinction between the producer and consumer of information is relativized and communication appears not only as an exchange of data, but also as a form of sharing. This dynamic has contributed to a new appreciation of communication itself, which is seen first of all as dialogue, exchange, solidarity and the creation of positive relations. On the other hand, this is contrasted with the limits typical of digital communication: the one-sidedness of the interaction, the tendency to communicate only some parts of one’s interior world, the risk of constructing a false image of oneself, which can become a form of self-indulgence.

Young people in particular are experiencing this change in communication, with all the anxieties, challenges and creativity typical of those open with enthusiasm and curiosity to new experiences in life. Their ever greater involvement in the public digital forum, created by the so-called social networks, helps to establish new forms of interpersonal relations, influences self-awareness and therefore inevitably poses questions not only of how to act properly, but also about the authenticity of one’s own being. Entering cyberspace can be a sign of an authentic search for personal encounters with others, provided that attention is paid to avoiding dangers such as enclosing oneself in a sort of parallel existence, or excessive exposure to the virtual world. In the search for sharing, for “friends”, there is the challenge to be authentic and faithful, and not give in to the illusion of constructing an artificial public profile for oneself.

The new technologies allow people to meet each other beyond the confines of space and of their own culture, creating in this way an entirely new world of potential friendships. This is a great opportunity, but it also requires greater attention to and awareness of possible risks. Who is my “neighbour” in this new world? Does the danger exist that we may be less present to those whom we encounter in our everyday life? Is there is a risk of being more distracted because our attention is fragmented and absorbed in a world “other” than the one in which we live? Do we have time to reflect critically on our choices and to foster human relationships which are truly deep and lasting? It is important always to remember that virtual contact cannot and must not take the place of direct human contact with people at every level of our lives.

In the digital age too, everyone is confronted by the need for authenticity and reflection. Besides, the dynamic inherent in the social networks demonstrates that a person is always involved in what he or she communicates. When people exchange information, they are already sharing themselves, their view of the world, their hopes, their ideals. It follows that there exists a Christian way of being present in the digital world: this takes the form of a communication which is honest and open, responsible and respectful of others. To proclaim the Gospel through the new media means not only to insert expressly religious content into different media platforms, but also to witness consistently, in one’s own digital profile and in the way one communicates choices, preferences and judgements that are fully consistent with the Gospel, even when it is not spoken of specifically. Furthermore, it is also true in the digital world that a message cannot be proclaimed without a consistent witness on the part of the one who proclaims it. In these new circumstances and with these new forms of expression, Christian are once again called to offer a response to anyone who asks for a reason for the hope that is within them (cf. 1 Pet 3:15).

The task of witnessing to the Gospel in the digital era calls for everyone to be particularly attentive to the aspects of that message which can challenge some of the ways of thinking typical of the web. First of all, we must be aware that the truth which we long to share does not derive its worth from its “popularity” or from the amount of attention it receives. We must make it known in its integrity, instead of seeking to make it acceptable or diluting it. It must become daily nourishment and not a fleeting attraction. The truth of the Gospel is not something to be consumed or used superficially; rather it is a gift that calls for a free response. Even when it is proclaimed in the virtual space of the web, the Gospel demands to be incarnated in the real world and linked to the real faces of our brothers and sisters, those with whom we share our daily lives. Direct human relations always remain fundamental for the transmission of the faith!

I would like then to invite Christians, confidently and with an informed and responsible creativity, to join the network of relationships which the digital era has made possible. This is not simply to satisfy the desire to be present, but because this network is an integral part of human life. The web is contributing to the development of new and more complex intellectual and spiritual horizons, new forms of shared awareness. In this field too we are called to proclaim our faith that Christ is God, the Saviour of humanity and of history, the one in whom all things find their fulfilment (cf. Eph 1:10). The proclamation of the Gospel requires a communication which is at once respectful and sensitive, which stimulates the heart and moves the conscience; one which reflects the example of the risen Jesus when he joined the disciples on the way to Emmaus (cf. Lk 24:13-35). By his approach to them, his dialogue with them, his way of gently drawing forth what was in their heart, they were led gradually to an understanding of the mystery.

In the final analysis, the truth of Christ is the full and authentic response to that human desire for relationship, communion and meaning which is reflected in the immense popularity of social networks. Believers who bear witness to their most profound convictions greatly help prevent the web from becoming an instrument which depersonalizes people, attempts to manipulate them emotionally or allows those who are powerful to monopolize the opinions of others. On the contrary, believers encourage everyone to keep alive the eternal human questions which testify to our desire for transcendence and our longing for authentic forms of life, truly worthy of being lived. It is precisely this uniquely human spiritual yearning which inspires our quest for truth and for communion and which impels us to communicate with integrity and honesty.

I invite young people above all to make good use of their presence in the digital world. I repeat my invitation to them for the next World Youth Day in Madrid, where the new technologies are contributing greatly to the preparations. Through the intercession of their patron Saint Francis de Sales, I pray that God may grant communications workers the capacity always to carry out their work conscientiously and professionally. To all, I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing.


From the Vatican, 24 January 2011, Feast of Saint Francis de Sales

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The March for Life


Tomorrow (Monday, January 24th) is the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. If you can't be out there in person, please consider joining with them in prayer and/or fasting.

Lot's Wife and Me

Lot’s wife is one of those Biblical characters we usually don’t think about very much. If we do, it is usually with a very negative impression. She is given no name of her own and is mentioned only three times in all of Scripture. The first time is in the book of Genesis. Angels came to rescue Lot and his family from the city of Sodom which God was about to destroy. The angels warned them, “Flee for your life! Don’t look back or stop anywhere on the Plain” (Gen 19:17). Yet, as they were leaving, “Lot’s wife looked back, and she was turned into a pillar of salt” (Gen 19:26).

Lot’s wife is also referenced in the book of Wisdom as “a disbelieving soul, a standing pillar of salt” (Wis 10:7). Lastly, Jesus speaks of her in the Gospel of Luke. He was teaching of the coming of the Son of Man – that He would come in glory when least expected. “On that day, a person who is on the housetop and whose belongings are in the house must not go down to get them, and likewise a person in the field must not return to what was left behind. Remember the wife of Lot. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it” (Luke 17:31-35).

In Our Jewish Roots: A Catholic Woman's Guide to Fulfillment Today by Connecting with her Past, Cheryl Dickow offers the following reflection on Lot’s wife:

In her grief, or because of her curiosity and emotions, she made the fatal mistake to look back at what was being left behind – even when she knew better.

Our lives are packed with the same predicament: God tries to move us forward but we keep looking back. . . Although looking back so that we are able to move forward in a positive way is certainly commendable, for the most part we tend to look back unproductively. And, like Lot’s wife, our lives are often in ruins because of this instinct, this longing, and this habit to look over our shoulder at what ‘was.’

. . . Did Lot’s wife suffer the ultimate consequences for that brief glimpse of what she was leaving behind? She did. And don’t we, when we nurture that part of ourselves that finds comfort in our own sorrows, or our own martyrdoms, also suffer consequences? We absolutely do. Are they the ultimate consequences? They are in that they keep us from living for God’s glory in the here and now. They hinder us from the joy that God has in mind for our lives. And in that way, they continually alter our relationship with God.


Dickow offers much food for thought. She puts Lot’s wife in a whole new light. Any one of us could be that woman who turned into a pillar of salt.

I know that I am guilty of looking back. Even when I know I am doing what God wants, I tend to mourn what I am leaving behind. Like Lot’s wife, I’m scared to leave my comfort zone; scared to move forward into a new land.
My conversation with God tends to go something like this: “God, I know you are asking me to do this and I will, although I’m kind of angry with you right now, because I was happy where I was and now you are taking it all away. I know that life will be okay in time. You’ve upended my life before and, in the end, it has worked out for the good. I know I need to trust. I’m sorry I doubt you. I’m sorry I’m scared. Please help me.”

Yet, I keep trying. Thankfully, God seems to have softened a bit since the days of Lot. Otherwise, I’m pretty sure the world would have many pillars of salt. He gives us more than one chance. He forgives and invites us to try again. And so, the struggle to keep moving forward without looking back continues for another day. Perhaps, with His help, one of these days, I’ll get it right.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Pro-Life Billboards


January 22nd marks the unfortunate anniversary of Roe v. Wade in this country. Many walks throughout the country will take place this weekend, with the main March taking place on Monday in Washington D.C.

Thankfully, Americans (especially younger Americans) are becoming more pro-life. Much of that is due to greater education about development in the womb. It is much harder to think of a fetus as "just a piece of tissue" when you realize that it has a heartbeat and arms and legs.

For example:

18 days A baby's heart begins to beat
43 days Brain coordinates movements
8 weeks All organs are functioning
9 weeks Has permanent, individual fingerprints
10 weeks Sense of touch (comfort/pain)
12 weeks A baby can smile, suck his/her thumb and make a fist

Adoption: Over 2 million couple wait to adopt - and that includes children of all races and those with special needs.

Pro-Life Billboards works to educate people about development in the womb as well as providing a number pregnant women can call for help.

Please visit their website at www.prolifeacrossamerica.org

Four "Fs" Can Help Endure Life's Challenges

Here is an article by local writer Barbara Bernard on how the "Four 'Fs' Can Help Endure Life's Challenges." I've been reading Barbara's articles since I was a little girl. She wrote for the Holyoke Transcript Telegram and now for the Springfield Republican (as well as many other publications) She always has a good life lesson to impart and the wisdom of her years shines through.

Four 'Fs' Can Help Endure Life's Challenges

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A few quotes from "A Life in Letters"

As I reviewed Thomas Merton: A Life in Letters: The Essential Collection yesterday, I thought that today I might share a few quotes from Thomas Merton with you.

From a letter to Ecuadorian artist Jaime Andrade:

You are a sculptor: I am a monk and a priest: this means we are both consecrated men, men with a vocation that is more or less prophetic; this means that we should be witnesses to the truth, not only to intellectual truth, but to mystic truth, the integral truth of life, of history, of man - of God.

From a letter to Mother Coakley, a Religious of the Sacred Heart

God is so much greater than all our thoughts and problems and the best thing we can do is forget ourselves entirely in Him and go along where he wishes.

From a letter to Abbot James Fox, O.C.S.O.

I do not aim at the heights. I aim at the depths. Not at what is exalted and spectacular but whst is humble and unenviable and unattractive and blank. I aspire to become a nonentity and to be forgotten.

From a letter to Dom Francis Decroix

God loves us irrespective of our merits and whatever is good in us comes from his love, not from our own doing.



Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Book Review: "A Life in Letters: Thomas Merton"

Thomas Merton: A Life in Letters: The Essential Collection
Edited by William H. Shannon and Christine M. Bochen
Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 2010

I came to "A Life in Letters" knowing relatively little about Thomas Merton. I had heard of him, knew he was a monk, and that he died in Asia in the 1960s. That was about the extent of it. I had never read a single word of his writings, although I had heard "Seven Storey Mountain" praised extensively on a number of occasions. For those, like me, who are approaching this book with relatively little background, the inclusion of a brief biography of the man behind the letters would have been appreciated.

My sense is, though, that most of the readers inclined to spend time with this book will already have been introduced to Merton and be familiar with his life and work. Within these pages, they will find a treasure.

Merton wrote over 10,000 letters in his life. Five volumes of his letters were previously published, each volume focusing on one area of Merton's life and thought. "A Life in Letters" is an effort to present the highlights from that vast collection of letters. The editors, who no doubt had a daunting task, have succeeded well. From these letters come a portrait of a man who, though in craved solitude and lived as a hermit for several years, loved being a writer and enjoyed written discourse with people from all walks of life. He considered writing letters an extension of his vocation and was equally comfortable writing to well-known public figures of his day such as Pope John XXIII, the Kennedys, and Coretta Scott King as he was writing to a young student who was doing a school project on what life was like for a monk.

William H. Shannon and Christine M. Bochen have divided these excerpts from Merton's letters into nine topical sections: A Life in Letters, Becoming and Being a Monk, Living the Writer's Life, Speaking the Truth, Seeking God in the Ordinariness of Life, Reading the Signs of the Times, Networking for Peace, Keeping Faith in Times of Change, and Seeking Unity Beyond Difference. Each of these sections contain letters written over many years, allowing the reader to see both the consistency and the growth in Merton's thought.

One is able to witness his struggles with his vocation, his Church, and the world around him. He was censored by his community and told not to write about peace and war. While he honored that in his published writings, he spoke about peace and war to anyone who would listen in his letters. The issue consumed him. He also devotes much time to discussing the Church at large. He was a convert to the Catholic faith and was greatly impacted by the changes of Vatican II. Toward the end of his life he was very interested in Eastern thought and interreligious dialogue.

He was a man of his time and many of his letters are concerned with current events, yet his thoughts on vocation and solitude and writing transcend any one time period and are just as relevant today.

Any student of Thomas Merton will find "A Life in Letters" to be an invaluable resource.

Please Consider Nominating this Blog

If you are a reader of this blog and find it to be of benefit, please consider nominating it in the "Blog" category of the About.com Catholic Readers' Choice Awards: http://catholicism.about.com/library/bl-catholicism-readers-choice-awards-2011.htm

I would be honored to be included!

Thank you, and as always, thank you for reading.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Belisaurius: Glory of the Romans


I haven't read it, but this book might be of interest to some of you homeschoolers out there.

Belisarius Revives the Glory of the Romans in New Catholic Novel


There are times in history when the existence of one man changes everything. That man may be a hero tasked by God to do something extraordinary. Or he may be a scoundrel who makes a terrible mistake at a crucial moment.


In the 6th century AD, the crumbling Roman Empire needed a hero. The emperor Justinian believed that he was divinely called to reconquer the lost provinces of the West from their barbarian overlords. But to accomplish such an audacious task with the limited resources at hand, he needed the greatest general in all of history. Belisarius--Book II: Glory of the Romans is the story of that general.


"Belisarius is a fascinating historical figure," says author Paolo A. Belzoni. "He was a tremendously talented and innovative general who arrived on the scene at exactly the right moment in history. What's more, his speeches show him to be a deeply religious man who believed that justice and the blessing of the Almighty counted more than strategy and courage when it came to battle."


Glory of the Romans is the second book of the Belisarius trilogy. The original book, Belisarius: The First Shall Be Last, was published in 2007 and received generous accolades from the Catholic and homeschooling communities. CatholicFiction.net called the book, "An ambitious tale, filled with action, spectacle, and intrigues of all kinds," while Favorite Resources for Catholic Homeschoolers deemed the book, "A great new resource for those of you 'reading your way through history.'" Catholic Men's Quarterly called The First Shall Be Last a "masterful blending of fact and fiction."

"I am writing this series mainly with young men in mind," adds Belzoni, "but I believe that young ladies and adults may also find something of worth in it. My hope is that readers will discover in Belisarius a model of someone who sought honor and excellence amid a very violent, conflicted and complex world, much like our own. Though he was imperfect and prone to fall, Belisarius demonstrates that wonderful resilience of character to pick himself up, acknowledge his faults, and begin again on the path of the true Christian man."


About the Author: Paolo A. Belzoni is a Catholic homeschooling father of five residing in New Jersey. His interests include Roman and Byzantine military history, archaeology, and early Christian history.



Monday, January 17, 2011

Poisoned by the Pill: Truths about Chemical Contraception

It is a simple fact of life that medicines have side effects. One must always weigh the benefits with the risks involved. I know this in my own life. I have been on a daily medicine for seven years now for an auto-immune disease. Taking it allows me to function relatively pain-free and to maintain a good quality of life. It is also poison. I have had various side effects from it over the years and I try to keep my dosage the lowest possible in order to maintain the desired results with the minimum amount of damage to my body. Yes, sometimes medicine is necessary, but it almost always has a health cost.

Sometimes, however, medicines are dispensed with little thoughts to the consequences. The birth control pill is often seen as a rite of passage for women. You get to a certain age - you go on the pill. It is given out by doctors without them informing women of the consequences. Women presume it is as safe as taking a Tylenol. Women have a right to know what they are doing to their bodies (and potential pregnancies) in order to make an informed decision. This article gives concrete evidence of the health risks women are taking by being on the pill:

Poisoned by the Pill

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Does God Actually Have a Plan for Our Lives?

When my time in this world is over, I hope that I have the opportunity to ask God one question. Actually, I would like to ask many more than one, but if could ask only one it would be: Was there a plan for my life?

A good friend and I debate this frequently. I argue that God does, in fact, have a plan for each one of us, determined before we ever take our first breath. If we tune in (also known as prayer), we can tap into that plan and do what we were sent to this planet to accomplish. My friend is of the opinion that we are put on this earth and then it is up to us to use our free will to live our lives. What happens to us is a result of those decisions. We are in charge of our destiny.

I understand the opposing view point. After all, we do have free will (although I’ve never really understood the balance between our free will and God’s omniscience – that’s another question for the Almighty). We don’t want to be mere pawns in a supernatural chess game. In addition, saying that God has a plan can be seen as a cop-out or an opiate intended to bring comfort, especially in the face of great pain and tragedy in life. People grieving do not want to be told it is God’s will. How can such extreme suffering be part of God’s plan? What kind of a loving God is that?

Yet, in spite of all that, I do still believe that God has a plan for us. Scripture supports the idea. Perhaps the most-oft quoted passage is from Jeremiah, “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe! Plans to give you a future full of hope.” (Jer 29:11) The Psalms also give evidence that God will guide our steps. “I will instruct you and teach you in the way should go; I will guide you with My eye.” (Psalm 32:8) “For this is God, our God forever and ever; He will be our guide even to death.” (Psalm 48:14)

In fact, the whole of Scripture is the story of God’s plan for our salvation. All works for the good. God may not wish the sins and tragedies to happen, but He allows them to occur, and He is able to use them to achieve His purposes. God will not be thwarted.

A secondary reason that I believe God has a plan for each of us is that I have seen it in my own life. God’s plan is often only seen in retrospect, and I fully admit that I don’t understand all the various twists and turns my life has taken and continues to take. I’m pretty sure I got off the appointed path a few times. If God had a Plan A for my life, I think I’m now on Plan C or D.

But, even with all that, I can look back over my life and see God’s guidance at work. God hasn’t abandoned me, even when I sometimes feel as if He has. I’ve had second and third and fourth chances. The challenges in my life have each taught me lessons that have served me well as I have moved forward.

There have also been times I have been given glimpses of the future. People have made remarks to me, or I have dreamed dreams, that have been totally unexpected or out of context at the moment, yet years later, came to fruition. I think that has been one of the ways God has prepared me for the paths my life would take.

A last reason I am convinced that God has a plan for us is that so many things happen that are beyond our control. We tend to suffer from the illusion that we are in charge of our lives. Yes, we do get to make decisions, but life often throws us curveballs. The only decision we get to make is how we respond to them. Those “change in plans” often lead our lives in entirely new directions.

Does God actually have a plan for us? My answer is an unequivocal “yes.” I still hope, though, that God will explain it all to me someday. I’d like to know how it was all supposed to work out, where I made mistakes, where I made the right decisions, and the purpose of the hard times. I pray that one day I will understand.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Book Review: Viper

Viper

by John Desjarlais
Manchester: Sophia Institute Press, 2011


In the book of Genesis, it is written “I will make you enemies of each other: You, serpent, and the woman. She will crush your head and you will strike at her heels.” (Genesis 3:15) That quote serves as the inspiration for John Desjarlais’ latest work of Catholic fiction, “Viper,” a compelling mystery that will keep readers in suspense.

Selena De La Cruz, a woman with a fondness for expensive footwear, is an insurance agent trying to forget her past as a drug enforcement agent. When her name shows up on a short list of people to be murdered, she is forced to face her demons – both literally and figuratively. Meanwhile, Jacinta, a young Latina, has been seeing visions in a cemetery of a “Blue Lady” many believe to be Our Lady of Guadalupe. “The Blue Lady calls for prayer and repentance, and then announces judgment upon those who are victimizing her children and bringing shame upon her people.” The individuals on the hit list have been killed one by one within forty-eight hours of when the visions occur.

A man known only as “The Snake” is the primary suspect. All of the targets, including Selena when she was working undercover, have had dealings with him. His calling card is the snake venom left in his victims.

“Viper” is rooted in Latin culture and religion. Selena is a woman trying to live in two worlds and not finding a home in either one. This is a classic who-done-it, but it is also a story of Selena’s evolution as a woman. Desjarlais has woven a highly-readable tale that mystery lovers or fans of Catholic fiction will greatly enjoy.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Living Proof - The Knights of Columbus Ultrasound Initiative

The Knights of Columbus Ultrasound Initiative works to reduce the number of abortions by giving pregnant women the opportunity to see their unborn children. This article by Donna Marie Cooper-O'Boyle will tell you more about this wonderful program: Living Proof

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Interested in "Unschooling?"

Ever since I first started learning about homeschooling, unschooling has been one of those things that has intrigued me. I'm not enough outside the box that I could ever fully embrace that philosophy of education and permanently put away all the lesson plans, but I do try to implement it somewhat in our lives in an attempt to get the best of both worlds. I do consider us unschoolers in the summer and on breaks.

I do think letting a child lead certain aspects of his or her education has great value. We do tend to learn and remember what we are interested in, not what someone forced us to.

If you are interested in learning more, please visit Unchooling.com

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Missy Buchanan and Ministering to the Elderly

This interview with Missy Buchanan crossed my desk today and I visited her blog at http://missybu.wordpress.com/. Her books are written from a Christian perspective. It seems that they speak to a real need in our world.

Even when age creeps up on the body and mind, and life changes from what it once was, is it still possible to have a purpose in life? When it is no longer possible to venture out and do the things you once loved, can you still find a reason to look forward to each day? Missy Buchanan, a leading expert and advocate for senior adults, believes that you can. Buchanan wants to encourage older adults to find their purpose, share their stories, and make an impact on those around them.



Q: What made you decide to start ministering to and writing books for older adults?



Well, as a middle-aged adult, I never had any intention of becoming an author of books for older adults. But because of the journey that my own aging parents were on, I realized how they had become disconnected from their church as their lives changed. They started off as active older adults and then that circle got smaller as they had more needs and physical limitations. As I would visit them at their retirement community, I would also see so many others that were just like them. They needed spiritual encouragement. And so that’s why I got started. The first book began as a project just for my own parents. I wrote devotions and kept them in a loose-leaf notebook. But others started asking for them and things just spiraled from there.



Q: What do you think children need to know about their aging parents?



What I realized personally was that I had been so caught up in my parents’ physical needs that I had neglected their spiritual needs. They were no longer connected to their church, at least in regular worship attendance, and that had been such a huge part of their lives. I almost made that mistake of just totally missing that, and that was the point where I began to write. I looked and there were other books written about older adults but not very many that were written to them and for them. So the first thing I would tell their children is to pay attention not only to their physical needs but also to their spiritual needs.



Q: What is your opinion about role reversal with children and their aging parents?



I hear the whole idea of role reversal where the older parent becomes a child and the grown children become the parent, and I understand what they are talking about because my own parents became more dependent on me. But I think that when we refer to it as a role reversal, and we begin to think of our aging parents as children, we strip away their dignity. We rob them of respect and we overlook the fact that they are not children. They have had a lifetime of experiences that a child has not had. And I think that is an important difference that grown children need to think about and pay attention to. It’s more of a role shift in responsibilities and not a role reversal. I know how much it hurts an aging parent to feel like they are being treated like a baby or like a child.



Q: Other than aging adults, who else has benefited from your writing?




A friend of mine in an assisted living facility asked me to bring some books for one of her tablemates. Her tablemate explained that these books were for her adult children. “They don’t understand what it feels like to grow old, and I can’t seem to make them understand, but your books say it better than I ever could.” My books are all written in the first person as if an older adult is speaking directly to God. There are a lot of adult children that are buying them for themselves and older adults buying them for their grown children.



And I’ve heard of different youth groups that have been reading my books in order to better understand what it’s like to grow old. Instead of just mocking their older peers, they are learning that they share a lot of the same feelings—feelings of insecurity, feelings of fear. As a result of reading the books, one youth group in Tennessee has even adopted the residents of the senior living center across from their church.



Q: How can faith change our idea of growing older?



So many see aging as a punishment, and they dread it so much. But even though it is difficult to be limited by an aging body, they need to look at it as a gift that God has given them. They still have so much to give. They have great wisdom to share and stories to share. I always tell my older friends that their story is not yet over.

Missy Buchanan is the author of Talking with God in Old Age: Meditations and Psalms, Enlarged Print, Living with Purpose in a Worn-Out Body: Spiritual Encouragement for Older Adults, and the forthcoming Don't Write My Obituary Just Yet: Inspiring Faith Stories for Older Adults


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Zero-Tuition College

This is an interesting blog I came across recently: Zero Tuition College - How to Replace College with Self-Directed Learning.

Book Recommendation: "Unplanned"

Unplanned: The Dramatic True Story of a Former Planned Parenthood Leader's Eye-Opening Journey across the Life Line
by Abby Johnson is a book currently getting a great deal of attention, and with good reason. I haven't had the opportunity to read it, so I am sharing the official press release below along with links on where it can be purchased.

Abby Johnson was sitting at her desk when a co-worker in the health clinic asked for some help with a patient. “I could not have imagined,” Johnson writes in “UnPlanned,” “how the next ten minutes would shake the foundation of my values and change the course of my life.”

Johnson ran that clinic – a Planned Parenthood® facility in Bryan, Texas. She spent those ten minutes assisting with an ultrasound-guided abortion. “Oh, dear God,” she writes, “what had I done?”

In “UnPlanned,” Johnson tells the dramatic story of the journey that unfolded as a result of that fateful day in September 2009 – how she literally “crossed the fence” from Planned Parenthood® leader to an advocate fighting for women in crisis – and the lives of their unborn babies. Ignatius Press will release an edition of “UnPlanned” for the Catholic market on Jan. 11, 2011.

“Stories like (Abby’s) have a purpose,” says Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, and the Pastoral Director and Chairman of Rachel’s Vineyard Ministries. “If we can better understand why someone has an abortion or how someone gets into the abortion industry and then how she comes out, we can come to understand the key to how our entire society can begin to emerge from the darkness of
abortion.

“Abby is not the first; she will not be the last,” Fr. Pavone continues. “She is part of a great ‘cloud of witnesses.’ I thank her for her courage, as I do to all who share their painful stories.”

Johnson shares that story in detail that is intimate and, as a result, unnerving. “UnPlanned” is not an easy book to read; it’s also not an easy book to put down. She realizes both are true.

“Here’s my question for you,” she writes in “A Note from Abby Johnson,” which immediately precedes Chapter 1: “…are you ready to look through the (pro-life/pro-choice) fence and see goodness, compassion, generosity and self-sacrifice on the other side?

“Did you just feel yourself squirm? If so, welcome to my journey.”

Planned Parenthood® took Johnson to court in an attempt to keep a lid on her story. Johnson won. “UnPlanned” is the result.

Ignatius Press is currently offering 35% off on their special edition with added content. http://www.ignatius.com/promotions/unplanned/

The Mass Market Edition is available through Amazon: Unplanned: The Dramatic True Story of a Former Planned Parenthood Leader's Eye-Opening Journey across the Life Line


Book Review: "Second Chance"

Second Chance: How Adoption Saved a Boy with Autism & His Shelter Dog

by Sandra J. Gerencher
Archbald, PA: Tribute Books, 2008

Sandra Gerencher is a special education teacher. Over the past 10 years,she has been on a mission to save dogs from high-kill animal shelters. Her first rescue was P.J., the black and white Pomeranian in the story. She also adopted the orange Pomeranians Shelby and Lil Rascal, and of course, Chance, the big black Rottweiler/German Shepherd mix. All characters in "Second Chance" are based on Sandra's real life family especially her adopted son, Terry. He was considered a special needs child because he was born with a genetic disorder known as Fragile X Syndrome. The disorder can cause many cognitive disorders, such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, mental retardation and depression.

"Second Chance" is told from the perspective of the dog being adopted. Chance gets introduced to his new surroundings, and the other dogs who live in his new home. He also is introduced to Ryan, an autistic boy who is also an adopted member of the family. Chance struggles to understand what both "autism" and "adopted" mean. In time, he comes to know what it means to be loved and adopted. He also comes to be able to communicate with Ryan in a special way, even though Ryan has difficulty communicating with people.

This is a sweet story about a boy, a dog, and the power of adoption. The soft watercolor illustrations are beautiful and add to the experience.

You can read an excerpt of the book at: http://www.freado.com/read/8704/second-chance-how-adoption-saved-a-boy-with-autism-his-shelter-dog


Monday, January 10, 2011

The Lost Art of Suffering

Christine Watkins, author of Full of Grace: Miraculous Stories of Healing and Conversion Through Mary's Intercession, has written a very insightful piece on The Lost Art of Suffering.

It is a guarantee in this world that we are all going to suffer. Whether it be physical, emotional, or spiritual, we are going to experience some pain. Most of the world seeks to escape that, and understandably so. Given the choice between suffering and not suffering, most of us are going to choose the less painful route. Yet, we can't escape it. When we are going through it, it is easy to despair. Watkins offers several reasons why we shouldn't and instead embrace the suffering that comes our way.

"Daniel's Gloves"

This was sent to me the other day:

"Daniel's Gloves"

I sat, with two friends, in the picture window of a quaint restaurant just off the corner of the town-square. The food and the company were both especially good that day.

As we talked, my attention was drawn outside, across the street. There, walking into town, was a man who appeared to be carrying all his worldly goods on his back. He was carrying, a well-worn sign that read, 'I will work for food.' My heart sank.

I brought him to the attention of my friends and noticed that others around us had stopped eating to focus on him. Heads moved in a mixture of sadness and disbelief. We continued with our meal, but his image lingered in my mind. We finished our meal and went our separate ways. I had errands to do and quickly set out to accomplish them. I glanced toward the town square, looking somewhat halfheartedly for the strange visitor. I was fearful, knowing that seeing him again would call some response. I drove through town and saw nothing of him. I made some purchases at a store and got back in my car.


Deep within me, the Spirit of God kept speaking to me: 'Don't go back to the office until you've at least driven once more around the square.' Then with some hesitancy, I headed back into town. As I turned the square's third corner, I saw him. He was standing on the steps of the store front church, going through his sack.
I stopped and looked; feeling both compelled to speak to him, yet wanting to drive on. The empty parking space on the corner seemed to be a sign from God: an invitation to park. I pulled in, got out and approached the town's newest visitor.

'Looking for the pastor?' I asked.

'Not really,' he replied, 'just resting.'

'Have you eaten today?'

'Oh, I ate something early this morning.'

'Would you like to have lunch with me?'

'Do you have some work I could do for you?'

'No work,' I replied 'I commute here to work from the city, but I would like to take you to lunch.'

'Sure,' he replied with a smile.

As he began to gather his things, I asked some surface questions. 'Where you headed?'

'St. Louis'

'Where you from?'

'Oh, all over; mostly Florida.'

'How long you been walking?'

'Fourteen years,' came the reply.

I knew I had met someone unusual. We sat across from each other in the same restaurant I had left earlier. His face was weathered slightly beyond his 38 years. His eyes were dark yet clear, and he spoke with an eloquence and articulation that was startling. He removed his jacket to reveal a bright red T-shirt that said, 'Jesus is The Never Ending Story.'

Then Daniel's story began to unfold. He had seen rough times early in life. He'd made some wrong choices and reaped the consequences.. Fourteen years earlier, while backpacking across the country, he had stopped on the beach in Daytona. He tried to hire on with some men who were putting up a large tent and some equipment. A concert, he thought. He was hired, but the tent would not house a concert but revival services, and in those services he saw life more clearly. He gave his life over to God.

'Nothing's been the same since,' he said, 'I felt the Lord telling me to keep walking, and so I did, some 14 years now.'

'Ever think of stopping?' I asked.

'Oh, once in a while, when it seems to get the best of me but God has given me this calling. I give out Bibles. That's what's in my sack. I work to buy food and Bibles, and I give them out when His Spirit leads.'

I sat amazed. My homeless friend was not homeless. He was on a mission and lived this way by choice. The question burned inside for a moment and then I asked: 'What's it like?'

'What?'

'To walk into a town carrying all your things on your back and to show your sign?'

'Oh, it was humiliating at first. People would stare and make comments. Once someone tossed a piece of half-eaten bread and made a gesture that certainly didn't make me feel welcome. But then it became humbling to realize that God was using me to touch lives and change people's concepts of other folks like me.'

My concept was changing, too. We finished our dessert and gathered his things. Just outside the door, he paused He turned to me and said, 'Come Ye blessed of my Father and inherit the kingdom I've prepared for you. For when I was hungry you gave me food, when I was thirsty you gave me drink, a stranger and you took me in.'

I felt as if we were on holy ground. 'Could you use another Bible?' I asked.

He said he preferred a certain translation. It traveled well and was not too heavy.
It was also his personal favorite. 'I've read through it 14 times,' he said.

'I'm not sure we've got one of those, but let's stop by our church and see' I was able to find my new friend a Bible that would do well, and he seemed very grateful.

'Where are you headed from here?' I asked.

'Well, I found this little map on the back of this amusement park coupon.'

'Are you hoping to hire on there for awhile?'

'No, I just figure I should go there. I figure someone under that star right there needs a Bible, so that's where I'm going next.' He smiled, and the warmth of his spirit radiated the sincerity of his mission. I drove him back to the town-square where we'd met two hours earlier, and as we drove, it started raining. We parked and unloaded his things.

'Would you sign my autograph book?' he asked. 'I like to keep messages from folks I meet.'

I wrote in his little book that his commitment to his calling had touched my life. I encouraged him to stay strong. And I left him with a verse of scripture from Jeremiah, 'I know the plans I have for you, declared the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you; Plans to give you a future and a hope.'

'Thanks, man,' he said. 'I know we just met and we're really just strangers, but I love you.'

'I know,' I said, 'I love you, too.' 'The Lord is good!'

'Yes, He is. How long has it been since someone hugged you?' I asked.

A long time,' he replied

And so on the busy street corner in the drizzling rain, my new friend and I embraced, and I felt deep inside that I had been changed.. He put his things on his back, smiled his winning smile and said, 'See you in the New Jerusalem.'

'I'll be there!' was my reply.

He began his journey again. He headed away with his sign dangling from his bedroll and pack of Bibles. He stopped, turned and said, 'When you see something that makes you think of me, will you pray for me?'

'You bet,' I shouted back, 'God bless.'

'God bless.' And that was the last I saw of him.

Late that evening as I left my office, the wind blew strong. The cold front had settled hard upon the town. I bundled up and hurried to my car. As I sat back and reached for the emergency brake, I saw them.... a pair of well-worn brown work gloves neatly laid over the length of the handle. I picked them up and thought of my friend and wondered if his hands would stay warm that night without them.

Then I remembered his words: 'If you see something that makes you think of me, will you pray for me?'

Today his gloves lie on my desk in my office. They help me to see the world and its people in a new way, and they help me remember those two hours with my unique friend and to pray for his ministry.
'See you in the New Jerusalem,' he said. Yes, Daniel, I know I will...

'I shall pass this way but once.. Therefore, any good that I can do or any kindness that I can show,
let me do it now, for I shall not pass this way again.'

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Three Lessons from the Baptism of Jesus

The Baptism of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew is a relatively short scripture passage – a mere five versus (Matthew 3: 13- 17), yet it offers some powerful lessons for us today.

Lesson 1: Always do the will of the Father, even when it doesn’t seem to make sense.

At first glance, the Baptism of Jesus seems like a bit of a set-up. After all, here we have the Son of God, who has no need of Baptism at all, coming to his cousin John to be baptized. John had known since he was still in his mother’s womb that his whole role in life was to prepare the way for Jesus (Luke 1:41).

John doesn’t know what to make of it. He tries to beg off. “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” Jesus insists. “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” John submits. The note in The Catholic Study Bible (New American Version) states that “to fulfill all righteousness is to submit to the plan of God for the salvation of the human race. This involves Jesus’ identification with sinners; hence the propriety of his accepting John’s baptism.”

Jesus and John were fulfilling the roles God had instructed them play. They didn’t need to know why (although Jesus probably did). They didn’t need to question. They simply needed to do. We are called to do the same.

Lesson 2: Baptism gives us the grace necessary to live the life God wants us to live.

Jesus would go on to institute a greater Baptism, one in the Spirit, which we have been privileged to receive. Yet, he was baptized by John as the first step in his public ministry.

Although purely symbolic for Jesus, it illustrates that our Baptism is the first step in our living for God. It gives us the strength and tools necessary to be what God wants us to be. Whenever we start to waiver in our belief that we can do what God asks, we can remember our Baptism and know that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are indeed with us.

Lesson 3: We all can use some encouragement

Jesus was the Son of God. He had powers at his disposal we mere humans can only dream of. Still, here at his Baptism, his Father’s voice booms from the heavens: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17)

We all like to be told that someone is pleased with us. Whether it is a simple “thank you” for a service rendered or a bit of praise for something we have done well, it feels good to be acknowledged and appreciated.

We have little control over whether others demonstrate their appreciation for us, but we do have the power to encourage others. It is often easy to find fault with others. Parents especially may find themselves doing a great deal of correction. It is necessary. But, it is also necessary to offer that praise and encouragement, to point out the good in those around us. God the Father has given us a concrete example in this Gospel. We would do well to follow suit.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Book Review: "The Rosary Workout"

The Rosary Workout
by Peggy Bowes
Bezalel Books, 2010

A former member of the Air Force, Peggy Bowes is a personal trainer, Spinning instructor and lifestyle and weight management consultant. In writing "The Rosary Workout," she sought to create "a plan that would help a person improve both physically and spiritually . . . an integrated approach to taking care of the body and soul." It is designed for people at all levels of physical and spiritual fitness and can be easily adapted to whatever stage one finds oneself.

Many people say the rosary while walking or jogging, but Bowes has truly developed a systematic workout plan incorporating both prayer and exercise. There are nine levels of progression in "The Rosary Workout," each named after one of the nine choirs of angels. "Each level is four weeks long and presents a different set of goals for both physical and spiritual fitness."

Bowes acknowledges that many people may never progress beyond the beginner levels in the fitness component (the first three levels), but we should all continue progressing on the spiritual level. She offers many helpful suggestions for maintaining discipline in both exercise and prayer. Perhaps the most important "helpful hint" is to ask for divine assistance in doing so. Another good suggestion is to keep a journal of both your physical and spiritual progress.

"The Rosary Workout" is easy to understand and offers much encouragement. If you are an Olympic-level athlete who prays three hours a day, you probably don't need this book. Everyone else will find benefit in it.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Vocation and George Bailey


I absolutely love "It's a Wonderful Life" and look forward to watching it every year. Here is a good article on what the movie teaches about vocation and sacrifice: Vocation and George Bailey

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Do you sometimes lose count when saying your Rosary?

When you say your Rosary (as I often do) while engaging in some other activity, whether it be walking, driving, folding laundry, etc., it becomes pretty easy to lose count of whether you have said 10 Hail Mary's for each decade. As I continued reading The Rosary Workout today, Peggy Bowes offered this wonderful solution: "All extra prayers are offered for the Souls in Purgatory, and I ask my guardian angel to finish any prayers that I forgot." I love it!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Some great quotes on the Rosary

I am currently reading The Rosary Workout by Peggy Bowes. In it, I came across these two great quotes about saying the Rosary:

Even for those souls who pray without meditating, the simple act of taking the beads in hand to pray is already a remembrance of God, of the supernatural. - St. Lucia of Fatima

If you say the Rosary faithfully until death, I do assure you that in spite of the gravity of your sins you shall receive a never-fading crown of glory. For even if you are now on the brink of damnation, even if you have one foot in Hell, even if you have sold your soul to the devil, sooner or later you will be converted. Heaven will amend your life and save your soul if you say the Rosary devoutly every day of your life. - St. Louis de Montfort

Monday, January 03, 2011

Novena of Confidence to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

O Lord, Jesus Christ, to Your Most Sacred Heart I confide this intention . . .

(Here mention your request.)

Only look upon me, then do what Your Heart inspires. Let your Sacred Heart decide. I count on You. I trust in You. I throw myself on Your mercy.

Lord Jesus! You will not fail me. Sacred Heart of Jesus, I trust in You. Sacred Heart of Jesus, I believe in Your love for me.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, Your Kingdom Come.

O Sacred Heart of Jesus, I have asked for many favors, but I earnestly implore this one. Take it, place it in Your Sacred Heart. When the Eternal Father sees it covered with Your Precious Blood, He will not refuse it. It will be no longer my prayer but Yours, O Jesus. O Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place my trust in You. Let me never be confounded. Amen.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

The Gifts We Bring

At Mass this Sunday, the Epiphany was reenacted. Three men from our parish community served as the three wise men; their children accompanying them, serving as pages. They laid their three gifts before the statue of the Christ child: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Those are unusual gifts for a baby. I’m sure many of you have heard the joke about how if the three wise men had been women they would have brought much more practical gifts. Yet, the gifts those wise men brought from afar had a great deal of symbolic meaning. All three were highly valuable. They were gifts fit for a king – these men who had traveled so far brought the best that they had to offer.

Gold needs little explanation. Then, as now, it was a valuable metal. Frankincense is a fragrant gum resin used in incense and in embalming. It was often used in religious services as an offering to God. Myrrh, another gum resin, was an ingredient in anointing oil. It also served as a perfume, a burial spice, and as a medicine. Myrrh was often used as a local anesthetic, including in postnatal care.

What gifts would you bring the Christ child? If you knew that you were going to meet the King and Savior of the world today, what would you offer him? It’s something to think about, isn’t it? The truth is, we have that opportunity every single day.

We can offer the Christ child material gifts. Certainly, He no longer needs that gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but as the source of all good things in our life, including money, we can give some of it back as an offering to Him. We can donate both to the Church and our neighbor.

We can also offer Jesus spiritual gifts. He has given us all that we are. He wants all our love in return. We are instructed to love God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and our neighbor as ourselves. What keeps us from doing that? What do we hold most valuable in our lives? Are there parts of ourselves that we hold back from God? Attachments we simply can’t let go of? Things we aren’t willing to give up, even when God asks us to do so?

It’s a lifelong process, and the vast majority of us will never achieve perfection, but each time we make a choice to deny ourselves and love God and our neighbor, we are taking a step in the right direction and we are offering ourselves. Every time we choose to trust Jesus even when it seems impossible to do so, we lay a gift at his feet. Each time we use the gifts (talents) He has given us to make the world a better place, we give Him a present.

Like the wise men of old, we have the opportunity every day to lay our gifts before the Lord. What will you give Him today?

Saturday, January 01, 2011

A Prayer for the New Year

This was the prayer in my parish bulletin this week:

Eternal and Almighty God, who makes all things new, we thank you that today you have allowed us to begin a new year. Here in your presence we make our resolutions for the days to come. We resolve to be faithful and true to those who love us, and loyal to those who are our friends, so that we may never bring worry to their minds or distress to their hearts. We resolve to live in forgiveness and in kindness, that, like Jesus, we may go about always doing good. We resolve to live in diligence and effort, that we may use the full gifts and the talents that God has given us. We resolve to live in goodness and purity, that we ourselves may resist temptation, and that we may be a strength to others who are tempted. We resolve to live in sympathy and in gentleness, that we may bring comfort to the sorrowing and understanding to those who are confused. We resolve to live in serenity and in self-control, that no anger or passion may disturb our own peace nor the peace of others. We resolve to show our love for God by keeping His Commandments and ask Jesus to bless us with his peace and joy for doing this.

O God, our Loving Father, you have given us the grace to make our own resolutions, grant us also the strength to keep them through the coming year.