Think about those times in your life when you have felt inspired to something really great. Where does that inspiration come from?
The Holy Spirit. God inspires us to do great things with our lives.
----Matthew Kelly

Sunday, September 10, 2017

It's All About Community

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I'm so busy dealing with my own salvation that I forget about my responsibility to others. Salvation isn't just about me...it's about everyone I meet. Not just those I meet on a daily basis, but even those who may enter my life for a fleeting second.
We are called to evangelize, to spread the news of God. In today's First Reading (Ezekiel 33:7-9), I applied it in my life as meaning that if we have the opportunity to evangelize but don't say anything, we are responsible for that person not being saved. But...if we say something and that person chooses to ignore, they are accountable.
I have a co-worker whom I have seen at Mass. I mentioned to her that I didn't realize she was Catholic, and she said she wasn't; the man she is seeing is so she has been coming to Mass. (The times I have seen her, she was coming back from communion but I didn't make it a point to watch to see if she was taking the Eucharist, or if she had her arms folded.) She said she enjoys coming to Mass but doesn't understand all of it. I invited her to look into RCIA, and gave her Sister's name to call at the church office if she was interested. We were around a group of people, so I didn't want to say anything about her taking communion. I decided I would wait until I see her alone and bring it up. It also gave me time to think of how to word what I needed to say. I'm going to start by telling her that I'm not judging, just informing. That was mainly because I didn't know if she was taking communion. Last week, however, I didn't play in the choir and was sitting in the congregation when I saw her go to communion and take the Body & Blood of Christ. Now, I feel that it is imperative that I speak with her, only I haven't had time. I need to make the time to talk to her. I can't be so busy that I can't find a couple of minutes to talk to her. Am I nervous about it? Absolutely. I'm more nervous that she will say something & I won't know the right words to say back to her, but this is a discussion that needs to happen...soon.
That takes us to the Second Reading (Romans 13:8-10) and the Gospel (Matthew 18:15-20). We should love our neighbors enough to care about their salvation. Even those people we don't particularly care for deserve to be saved. I don't know about you, but being a cradle Catholic, when a Protestant friend comes up to me and spouts off Bible verses and starts talking about Jesus, I get uncomfortable. To me,  your faith is personal and is unique to each person. We don't have to say anything to evangelize...actions speak louder than words. And, as St. Francis is attributed as saying: "Preach the Gospel at all times and if necessary, use words." BINGO! That is exactly what I think the Readings are saying! Always be preaching. I'm so guilty of acting one way in the work place and another way at home. At work, I try to be all sunshine & roses, and by the time I get home I'm over it. My poor husband takes the brunt of it. It's not easy to preach all the time; in fact, it's quite exhausting. Jesus didn't say it would be easy, though.
In the Gospel, we're given a plan. If someone wrongs us, we are to go directly to that person. If he can't be swayed, then we get a couple of people to go back with us and try again. If that doesn't work, we get the church involved. (That had me a little puzzled, until the Deacon mentioned in RCIA that "church" meant "community".) If that doesn't work, then we make them aware of the estrangement. To me, this means that at some point you have to let go for your own sanity. If you've gone through every step you can to reconcile, then it's time to back away and continue to pray for that person. I'm not a confrontational person; in fact, I avoid it at all costs.  In reading the meditation from Magnificat, Pope Francis says that "This approach is one of sensitivity, prudence, humility, attention towards the one who committed a fault, to avoid wounding or killing the brother with words." In his Homily, Father said that he is often the last to know that someone isn't happy with him, because that person rarely comes to him and tells him. He finds out 3rd or 4th hand. When you go to that person who wronged you, you do it out of love. When you go to someone else and that person goes to another person, and so on, you may be destroying that person. As Pope Francis said, "words can kill". I am guilt of gossiping (I don't know anyone who isn't), but I do have a responsibility to stop gossip. I heard someone say that if you tell 1 person you're venting, but if you tell more than 1 person, you're gossiping. Oh, but isn't it so easy to "vent" to a few people at a time? And, couldn't it be avoided if you just went to that person and discussed the problem? Hmmmm...seems like I read that in today's Readings!
As Father summed up the Second Reading: "There is no evil in love". I had the pleasure of listening to Father Leo Patalinghug last year at our Diocesan CCW Convention. His advice is to pray for the person we don't care for. How can you dislike someone you're praying for? Good, sound advice!
I don't think the Readings are telling us to have the weight of the world on our shoulders. It's not telling us to be anxious about trying to save everyone. It is telling us to act like a Christian, be humble, sensitive, prudent, and attentive. Or, as Matthew Kelly puts it: "Be the best version of ourselves". If we do that, others will take notice and will want to emulate us. It's our responsibility to show that love and to spread the Gospel. It doesn't have to be with words; actions will do.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Conflicts

Photo by Kris Schulze
I really didn't want to get up and go to Mass this morning. I initially planned to go last night, but got busy with a project and didn't go. I've got to focus on Him. I definitely feel like I've lost that focus that I had over the past few years.

I read the Readings while in Adoration on Thursday...that is, after almost falling asleep saying the Rosary. The First Reading (Jeremiah 20: 7-9) had me duped.  Why was Jeremiah saying those things? Why in the world is that the First Reading? After reading it a couple of times (to make sure I read it right the first time), I opened the Bible and read what came before and after, as well as the introduction to this book. It kind of made sense after that.
Jeremiah was called to be a prophet, but it didn't always go well for him. My take on this reading is that he was just tired of being a prophet and sick of being unappreciated. The Catholic Study Bible (3rd Edition) indicates that he had more of an impact after his death. He voiced his frustration in what we read today, but then he turns it around and says that the Lord will prevail over those who are condemning him. But then...he goes back to wishing he hadn't been born. Such a conflicted soul!


The Second Reading (Romans 12:1-2) is a short one, but reminds us to stay true to God. Do what is right and don't succumb to peer pressure or what's going on right now. Our country is such a mess in terms of "if you don't agree with me, then you're (insert word here)." Instead of respecting others' opinions, the "other side" is criticized and ridiculed. St. Paul tells us in this very short passage to stick to your guns and don't succumb. You know what is right...keep doing it and believing it. Even when, like Jeremiah, you get discouraged and it seems that the whole world is against you, keep fighting the good fight.

The Gospel (Matthew 16:21-27) wraps everything up. If you stay true and conduct yourself as you should, you will receive your heavenly reward. Peter & Jeremiah both wanted to take matters into their own hands, forgetting God's will.  During RCIA last week when we discussed this week's Gospel, the question came up about knowing what your cross is that you have to bear. Maybe we don't really know what that cross is; we have to have faith that whatever it is, God will give us the grace to carry it as long as we don't turn our back on Him.

As I said in the beginning of this post: I really didn't want to go to Mass this morning. While I was in the shower, I thought about how the devil is trying to get me to not go, and he will not win. I refuse to let him win or have any power over me. So I finished getting ready & went. Imagine how surprised I was when Father said "When we least feel like being at Mass we need to be there most." That was definitely a "Jethro Slap" moment!  (If you watch NCIS, you know what I'm talking about.) No matter what you're going through or whether you're on fire, lukewarm, or kind of cool about God & your faith, keep working through it. He's there for you, and he's waiting with open arms. After all, even the saints went through cool periods in their lives.

Friday, August 18, 2017

{SQT} Stressors All Around

I'm trying to get back in the swing of Seven Quick Tips on Friday, hosted by Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum.

I've discovered that I'll never be a "big time" blogger...I don't have the issues that most of them seem to have. Has anyone else noticed that? I lived a very normal life in a small town in the South. Hmmm...maybe that's a good thing?
The solar eclipse is supposed to be at 100% in my county. All of the schools are going to be closed so we can all experience this once in a lifetime phenomenon. I was a little concerned about how scared the little ones are going to be, so I'm glad they'll be at home. The concern now is that some of them will look toward it without eye protection.
Daily prayer. I'm finding it really hard to get back in the routine since school has started. We have my son's dog staying with us until June (when he graduates); she's not quite house-trained, but she's almost there. How this ties in: it takes her a while to potty when I take her out. I'm not sure why; you'd think she'd be just about to bust when I take her out in the morning. That eats up time. I suppose I could pray while we're out, but I spend that time repeating over and over, "Come on, girl. Make your tee-tee" or "Make your poops". Makes it a little hard to concentrate on prayer. Did I mention that we don't have a fence, so she has to be on a leash, which means I have to actually walk around the yard with her? And, we live on a busy road...and she's a terrier and bolter?
Between the dog and the hellacious kitchen remodel, I was super-stressed this summer. It's been going on for 2 months and counting. Anything that could have gone wrong, has. I've felt like a prisoner in my own house, or rather, living room. With 3 dogs. There is an end in sight. Hopefully, anyway.
People in my house that don't belong here: That's a huge stressor for me. The beginning of the school year is another one. Oh, and the dog that didn't belong here, too.
Grown Boys. I have 3 grown boys: 1 lives in Washington, 1 in Louisiana, and 1 in the basement. The one in the basement is the least stressor of the three.  I'm still trying to let go and let God take care of them. Easier said than done.
Here's the thing: I don't deal well with stress. Stress makes me want to curl up in my bed and stay there until it passes. But...that's not real life. I feel like I've actually done a fairly good job dealing with the stress of the kitchen remodel...most of the time. Yes, I've shed tears in Home Depot. Yes, I've had to get a little nasty with the contractor. Yes, I will have a beautiful kitchen when it's all said and done. But, boy, if I had it to do over....

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Not Letting Fear Be the Motivator

Photo by Pexels
What is your first reaction when you meet someone who is "different" than you? I'd wager that 9 out of 10 times, it's fear. When I was growing up, any time I met a disabled person (whether it be physically or mentally disabled), I was scared. I didn't know what to say or do. I was also quite a bit anxious with some fear mixed in when, for 3rd grade, the school I attended went through integration. I was taken out of my white, middle class world and thrown in with a whole bunch of kids who were "different".
You're thinking, "yeah, well, that was when you were a kid", and that's true. As an adult, I know some people who are frightened when they see someone with a disability, and I can't say for sure whether or not I would be one of them. Since I work with disabled children, I don't have that fear any longer. I know people who, when they see a person of color, will automatically think the worst of him/her. I can definitely say that, when I meet a woman with a hijab (I hope I'm using the correct term!), my initial reaction is fear, but then I calm down and am interested. (I'm interested to the point where I really want to ask questions, but realize that it's probably not socially acceptable to walk up to a stranger and bombard her with questions about her beliefs & customs in the middle of WalMart.) Then I'm able to see Christ in that person.
Photo by Timothy Ah Koy on Unsplash
In today's Gospel (Matthew 14:22-33), Peter's fear makes him sink as he's walking on the water. He yells out "Lord, save me!", and Jesus reaches his hand out for Peter to grab. In the homily last night, Father focused on our fear of anything different than how we are.
When we feel fear and anxiety, we are refusing to see God in others' lives...in how they look and in what they wear. He urged us to not let fear be what motivates you; see Christ in everyone we meet. Fear is what takes us down. When we have those feelings, picture God's outstretched hand pulling us up and seeing Him.
Photo by Anton Darius | Sollers on Unsplash
I have friends who are protestant, or are agnostic, but I'm not afraid of them. Why then, does the fear creep in when I meet someone who is Muslim? If I met a Muslim who did not cover her head, I wouldn't know she is Muslim; therefore, I wouldn't have any fear or anxiety at all. It's the outside appearance that causes the fear and anxiety.
Our society is such that we have been programmed to look at the outside of the person first. What they're wearing or how they're acting causes our first impression. The media has a huge part in telling us how we should conceive those first impressions. What would society be like if the media reported on the inside of people, not the outside? How much nicer everyone would be to each other!
Photo by Sonja Guina on Unsplash
I wonder...do some non-Catholics feel anxious when they meet a priest for the first time who is wearing a collar?  I wear a miraculous medal necklace and a bracelet with a St. Benedict medal every single day. Still, I'm not easily identified by looking at me as Catholic because my miraculous medal is a very small part of the necklace (it's in a cross) and isn't easily detectable as such. But, if it were, I wonder how differently I would be treated.
The nuns (or "sisters" as we are now supposed to refer to religious who work in communities and aren't cloistered) who wore their habits...were people fearful of them? (I'm not talking about anyone who attended Parochial School!) What about the sisters who continue to wear their habits? Do they feel it? I have to say, I've never thought about that until just now. A cradle Catholic, being around it my whole life, there is not one ounce of fear or anxiety when I see them "out and about".
With the abuse scandals, do non-Catholics have that anxiety when they see a priest? Do they pull their children in closer to them out of fear? I think as Catholics, we may think it's silly, but think about it. How is that any different than many of our initial reactions to seeing a Muslim woman?

I challenge you to say a quick prayer "Lord, save me" the next time you come across someone who is "different" than you. Ask God to allow you to see Him in that person. If everyone did that, the world would be a much nicer place in which to live.

Friday, June 30, 2017

{SQT} Netflix Binging

I'm linking up with Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum for Seven Quick Takes. Thanks for hosting us every week, Kelly! 😁
Even though technically Summer just started, mine is halfway over already. As I mentioned in a previous post, binging on Netflix is one thing that an empty-nester school employee does during the summer. Here are some shows/movies in which I've been indulging. 
House of Cards. I started from the very beginning since I only watched Seasons 1 & 2 before, and I couldn't remember what happened. Claire & Frank are some devious people, for sure. I don't know why they had to make Frank bisexual. I guess they thought they needed to for the ratings, which is sad. It wasn't necessary at all.
Queen of the South. This one was really good. Even though Teresa is in the drug cartel, she has a good heart; I found myself pulling for her through all of the misfortunes she goes through.
The Ranch. There are a lot of big names in this show: Ashton Kutcher, Daniel Masterson, Debra Winger, Sam Elliot (BIG reason to watch!), Megyn Price, Kathy Baker, and some cameos by Wilmer Valderrama. (Kutcher, Masterson, and Valderrama all starred in "That 70's Show"). The downside is that there is a lot of f-bombs flying around and premarital sex (I don't recall any nudity), as well as a hokey laugh-track. In spite of all that, I think it's actually really funny.
Bloodline. This is one show that I kept up with, so I only watched the last season. I don't know if they had a different writer, but, man! it was weird. I didn't like that Kyle Chandler played such a bad guy in this show, and last season left off with such a cliffhanger. This was definitely a dark show.
Manchester By The Sea. My husband & I started watching this, but had to stop. It was just too weird for us & we didn't "get it". Maybe if we kept watching it would have been better, but I can't believe it won all of those awards.
Full of Grace. I saw this as an ad in my Divine Mercy emails, and it was on Netflix. The movie follows Mary through her last days, and Peter is there with her. Other apostles also come, but Peter is there first. He is in quite a dilemma as the leader of a new church, he has no idea what to do. It really makes you think about what he felt and how lost he felt as the leader of the Church. Mary guides him back to ask the Holy Spirit for guidance. The only disappointing thing of the movie was that Mary quietly passed away in the movie...she wasn't assumed into Heaven.  Disappointing end, for sure.
Father Brown. First off, the British do tv and movies so much better than we Americans do! This is a BBC series about a Catholic Priest who is quite a sleuth. The man who plays Father Brown also played Mr. Weasley in the Harry Potter movies. There are quite a few tongue in cheek jabs as only the Brits can do. 

I'm watching so much Netflix because I'm kind of stuck at the house waiting for my kitchen to be done. We're on week 3 (when we were told it would only take 2 not counting the countertops) and it looks like we have about 3 more. There was a problem with the cabinets. Every Thursday on my Life in a Small Town blog I am documenting what's going on. You can read it here

Friday, June 23, 2017

{SQT} VBS Week

It's Friday (YAY!), so it must be time for Seven Quick Takes, hosted by Kelly at  This Ain't the Lyceum
Since I "don't work during the summer", Sister asked me if I would be able to help with Vacation Bible School this week. I, along with another lady, was in charge of getting the snacks together and getting them to the kids. It's been a great week! The program that we're using has everything: activities, stories, crafts, music, and snacks that are all centered around our theme, Apparitions of Mary.  Since every group but one has been to the story room before snacks, I had to tell them about the "Apparition of the Day". By Wed., I realized that I need to do a quick read the night before to make sure I know what I'm talking about!
Monday's Apparition was Lourdes, which some of the kids thought was "Lord". (Southern accent!) When we were planning the snacks, one of the activities looked really cool: a little bit of powdered pudding, a little bit of milk, and a drop or 2 of blue food coloring, all in a ziploc bag. When the kids squished the bag to mix it all up, the "water" (blue food coloring) came to the "top of the ground". It looked good on paper!  What we should have done was make the pudding ahead of time, put a little bit in each bag and put a drop of food coloring in between the spoonfuls of pudding. Then when they squished the bag it would turn blue.
The other snack we had was cheese & crackers in the shape of a decade of the Rosary.
Cheese & Crackers arranged to look like a decade of the Rosary
I was amazed at how many kids had no idea what a Rosary is! No wonder we're losing people!
I wasn't there on Tues. due to a couple of previously made appointments, but it was "Fatima Day". The kids at least had heard of her since our parish is Our Lady of Fatima. For snack, we found (on Pinterest) some cute crackers & cheese put together to look like a sun. No one took a picture of the finished product, but I asked some of the kids how it went & they said they really liked it.
From Creative Food
Wednesday was "Our Lady of Guadalupe Day".  We made sombreros using round crackers, canned cheese (for decoration), and a grape in the middle. We also made a Juan Diego with a tilma using a pretzel rod & a fruit roll up.
Juan Diego with a sombrero and tilma
Thursday was "Our Lady of Knock Day". Snack was a crown using round crackers, cream cheese and goldfish.
Photo courtesy of Luis Ramos
Our original plan for Thursday was to let the kids put the crowns together themselves, but we decided that some would just want to eat the ingredients instead of getting the full effect of the crown, so 4 of us got them all ready. We had a few kids who said they didn't like cream cheese, so we asked them to try 1 little bite. Some ended up liking it; the ones who didn't were given crackers & goldfish.
If I had to do this over, I would use a cookie and frosting, then use the graham cracker goldfish.
1 of the women brought some tamales to share. Oh...MY, it was good! This was definitely one of the perks to being Catholic: Having a Hispanic sister bring tamales!
2nd breakfast of tamales
AH....Friday at last! "Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Day"! We made scapulars out of brownies, frosting, pretzel sticks for the crosses, and twizzlers for the string that attaches them. One of the ladies made the brownies on Wed. before we left for the day. Some of the kids who weren't going to be there on Friday were a bit disappointed.
Our music director is a young guy who is just fantastic. He's so talented, and has the talent of making music fun for everybody, no matter what your age. I would have loved to have shown you a clip of the kids, but apparently that's frowned upon!


How does this compare with Vacation Bible School at your church? Do you, or have you ever helped?

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

How My Faith Helps Me With Grieving

I was speaking with a young adult one evening when he received a text informing him of his great-grandfather's passing. I gave my condolences by saying "I'm sorry", which sparked a conversation between the 2 of us. We spoke of what part our faith plays in our grieving.
Two very different passings
Why do people say "I'm sorry" when expressing their condolences, especially in the case of the elderly? I don't know how many people told me that when my father passed away. He was terribly lonely, with my mother passing away almost 3 years earlier. In fact, he was just miserable, he missed her so much. He was ready to go, and had been for several months.  When people told me they were sorry, I responded with, "It's okay. He lived a long, full life. He was ready to be with Mama."
As I thought about writing this post, I came across a passage in Matthew Kelly's book Resisting Happiness. As I read page 62, I thought of my mother: She passed very unexpectedly. We (my siblings and I) expected that she would live the end of her days in a nursing home since she was showing definite signs of dementia. But, as someone pointed out to me, God is a merciful God. He called Mama home before her dementia was such that she didn't know us or Daddy. I had conversations with my father about that same thing. God showed all of us so much mercy by not making us live through that experience.
My father's passing was the total opposite, but again, God showed us all mercy by not allowing his illness to linger. He didn't suffer with his congestive heart failure long: He went into the hospital on Jan. 1 and passed away Feb. 1. That's another reason why I tell people "It's okay".
I miss both of them terribly, but I know I have 2 more people in heaven praying for me and my siblings. They weren't perfect, but they were just about the best parents anyone could pray for, and I can't even begin to tell you how blessed I am that God chose me to be their daughter. That gets me through those times when that hole in my heart seems enormous.
It's not them
After my mother passed, I went to the cemetery with my father pretty regularly, although it dwindled as the months passed. The cemetery is on a very busy highway & I was concerned that he may have an accident. I have to admit that, since his passing, I've only been to their graves a few times. Why? Because that's not them; they aren't there. All that is there is a shell in which their beautiful souls were encased. I don't go to their graves to "talk to them"; I talk to them all the time throughout my day. I don't think about their bodies deteriorating; that's not them.
In the May issue of Magnificat (p. 419), I read the following:
That sums up how my faith helps with grieving. I think flowers are beautiful, especially dogwoods and Bradford Pears, but it seems that the blooms are gone with the blink of an eye. So it is with our loved ones. God places these beautiful people in our lives, and, in the grand scheme of things, doesn't it seem like they're gone with the blink of an eye, too? Even if you're fortunate to have them for many years, when you look back it seems to have gone too quickly.
Faith and hope
I was so very fortunate to have had my parents with me for so long, and that they were healthy in mind and body. I'm not going to sugar coat it: There are many tears, and there is a huge hole in my heart where they once were. Their passings give me hope; my faith that they passed to me confirms that hope.
So, when someone tells me she's sorry for my loss, I have to wonder if what she really means is that she is sorry that I'm grieving, because I know my parents are in heaven, smiling down on me, and saying "We did good".