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Holy Benedict & Holy Saturday

March 31, 2018
We have all heard the old adage – there’s no place like home. And upon reflection, this sentiment seems to ring true. Home is a unique place. It’s the place where we learn, where we retreat, and the place where we belong. And actually, the more I think about it, home is a unique place because it might be better described as a relationship than a place. When we think about “home,” we usually call to mind what it is like to be there more than we recall what it looks like. Don’t we? Home seems to be where the heart is, where the soul is, not as much where the feet have been or will be. Homeward Bound So, why are we talking about “home?” Well, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, or as he prefers to be called, “Father,” or “Papa,” Benedict, in response to questions about his health, recently wrote, “I can only say at the end of a slow decline in physical strength, inwardly I am on a pilgrimage home.” Wait, is he going back to his homeland, Germany? Well, maybe… temporarily (for a pretzel and a stein), but no. Although Germany might be where his feet have been, he is talking about the place where he truly belongs. Benedict Is Venturing Towards His True Home: Heaven. And although Benedict’s words on the “slow decline in (his) physical strength” have been interpreted in many ways, the Vatican assures us all that he is simply experiencing the “weight… of years” which “is normal at (his) age.” But as the rest of the quote suggests, Benedict himself sees the strength of the soul more than the weakness of the flesh as he “inwardly… pilgrimage(s) home.” Heavenward Found In a homily in 2010, Benedict said, He isn’t, as he’d say, “on the last part of the road” to a physical destination, but rather, to a spiritual realization. He is taking the proverbial final turn en route to realizing the fullness of the life he’s always lived,  the relationship with God he’s always had. In his own words, “‘Eternal life’ is life itself, real life, which can also be lived in the present age and is no longer challenged by physical death. This is the point: to seize ‘life’ here and now…” As Benedict exemplifies, the God to whom we have access in the here and now is the same God to whom we have access in eternity. “God does not change; He is Love, ever and always. In Himself, He is communion, unity in Trinity, and all His words and works are directed to communion (with us).” And this is a Love, a relationship, a “home,” that we need. “We have to see that the human person needs the infinite…” The infinite gives us purpose. You see, Heaven, or the infinite, is found in the waiting, but this waiting isn’t passive. It’s active. It’s purpose-driven. Holy Saturday: Easter’s Background Benedict knows this better than most. He was born on Holy Saturday, 1927. So,

Why Is Today Good?

March 30, 2018
When I was younger, I thought it was a good day because I had the day off school, and I got to dye eggs with my cousins. That sounded pretty good to me. But I have learned that today is about a much, much, much greater good than some fun family traditions. In fact, it’s so infinitely greater that it’s impossible to comprehend. When I start to think of it, the image that occupies my whole mind is one that is simple and extremely familiar. It is displayed above the altar of every Catholic church in the world and throughout many homes and buildings. It is an image of a man. His hands are flung out to the sides and nailed to the board behind them; his feet likewise fixed to the wood that holds him upright. His clothes are stripped away, showing a bloody wound in his side. His body is limp; his head hangs to one side. He is dead. Looking at this image for the first time, you might think it is anything but good. And you might think that the man is anyone but God. Once again, our good God turns our human expectations upside down. Our liturgy describes how “he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins; upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed” (Is 53:5). He meekly chose to lay down His life and by his perfect love He definitively defeated death forever and for everyone.   He not only opened a way for us to be united with Him in Heaven, but He transformed even suffering into an opportunity for good. He did all this so that we would draw close to Him by uniting our sufferings to His on the Cross. We often equate goodness with comfort, with things that bring us pleasure and help us avoid pain. But the disarming image of a God who became man and died on a cross reminds us that there is a good much better than all of these.   Good Doesn’t Mean Comfort, It Means Holiness Today is a day set apart to remind us that we are called to be set apart- called to be holy. Today, before we feast, we are solemn. We are still. We fast and deny ourselves the lesser goods of this world in recognition of the greater good before us. We pause from our other pursuits and allow the reality of God’s goodness to dominate our lives. We echo the words of our King when He stood before Pilate, freely choosing to lay down His life: As we look at Jesus crucified, we recognize that His kingdom is our kingdom and His story is our story, the story of each and every one of us. to embrace every opportunity to lay our lives down in love, and so live fully and freely in Him. On this good and holy day, let us ask for the grace to see Jesus’s

The Light Bulbs Need Changed

March 21, 2018
In our house, we usually wait until 90% of the light bulbs are out before we change one. Are we the only ones? Right now, three of the six bulbs in the kitchen are out. The little twinkle lights around the display case in the dining room, out. Both lamps in the living room and the bulbs over the fireplace, out. The one on the stairs, that’s out, too.  Laundry room, you guessed it… out. It’s getting dark in my house, and before long… my husband is going to have to do something about it. I was with some moms yesterday, chatting over coffee while the children played at our feet. The conversation turned heavy when one asked the other, “How was the funeral?” Another suicide. The Darkness Seems Darker The third or fourth I’ve heard of in the past two weeks. I’ve lost count… My stomach turns as I admit. I look into the eyes of the mothers around the circle. Three of us are young, and one is a grandmother and mentor to us all. My mind is swirling with the school shootings and stabbings, war, natural disasters, suicides, and the lonely still sitting alone. “It’s getting darker,” I say. The words fall out like vomit. There is no bucket to catch all of my fear as it falls at their feet. I look deep into their hurting souls, “Is it? Or do we just notice it more now… because of media access, or our age, or… Is it?” We all look to our mentor, because she’s got more experience walking this path, and maybe, she knows. “It’s both,” she says simply. The darkness is darker, isn’t it? If you’re like me, we keep waiting for someone else to do something about it. Shifting Our Gaze If we shift our gaze from outside and desperate to inside and hopeful, we will see that the light of Christ has, in fact, been within us the whole time. The Holy Spirit wants to remind us today that we in fact do have the answer. This answer being that the only way to drive out the darkness is with the light. Jesus, bring your light! Christian: you are called to be Christ. You have been anointed and adopted into this family and into its mission, by your baptism. The mission is to be the avenue through which his kingdom comes. The call is to BE the LIGHT. See, if “in Him was Life, and this Life was the Light of men,” then in you is that very life and light. “Me? I am called to be the light?!”  If when you read those words it’s hard to believe, I ask you frankly to focus less on over yourself and your shortcomings. It is God, your Father, who has called you and who empowers you. He sees you – all of you. He sees the good and the bad. His promise is this:

Challenged By A Children’s Book

February 21, 2018
“You Can Do It, Sam!” The book titled, “You can Do It, Sam,” hasn’t won any awards, nor has it been on any best book list for 2018. There is nothing flashy or sparkly about this book. The cover shows a simple winter scene of a little bear named Sam with a red coat and red boots walking in the snow. The premise of the book is as follows: The little bear Sam, and his mother bake some sort of yummy treat for all their close friends who live in town. After the treats are baked, he and his mother bag them up and go out in their green truck to deliver them. As they approach the first house, the young bear excitedly anticipates delivering their gift – with much joy, love, and pride out of what he has made to give to those he loves. Once they arrive at the first house, mother bear instructs her son to go on up to the house by himself as she waits for him in the truck. Initially, Sam responds in a timid and uncertain manner. However, his loving mother reinforces with confidence that he is able to carry out this task himself. Trusting his mother’s confidence in him, he exits the truck and delivers the package. When Sam returns to the truck he arrives and says, “I did it!” His mother responds, “of course.” Furthermore, the book continues and with each delivery Sam becomes more confident in his abilities and no longer needs the reassurance of his mother. Okay Monica…where are you going with this? I think sometimes we are like the Sam. Our hearts exist to love the people around us… in our own special way – by our tasty treats, listening ears, serving hands, and our creative art.   Yes To Love & No To Lies So many opportunities provide unique ways to love those around us. But too often we choose to stop sharing these gifts of love with others.  We hear the lies that, “no one really needs us, no one will appreciate that, or it will take too much time to do that.”  These lies prevent us from freely giving the love Christ calls us to share. They prevent us from knowing who we authentically are. Sam would not have realized how great of a giver HE was if his mother didn’t challenge him. She also supported him though the challenge. As a result (sorry, spoiler alert), Sam reflects with his mother on how special he is. He realizes how significant his love can be to those around him. How many of us struggle accepting the realization that we are special and that others are in need of our love? We could take the easy route, especially during this season of lent, to simply operate on cruise control…letting our promises to God be forgotten, and allowing the people that the Father is calling us to love pass by.   The story of Sam has helped me realize

Valentine’s Ash Wednesday

February 13, 2018
February 14 th, 2018 is a day when Catholics everywhere will struggle to make sense of the fact that the holiday famous for chocolate is competing with the holy day of fasting. Maybe, rather than a sick joke against all lovers of cocoa, this is a divine conspiracy to teach us the true meaning of love. That sounds like something God would be invested in, given His track record. Why do we need to be taught about love’s true meaning? Because sometimes, things get thorny. These thorns are pervasive in our culture, and they are sneaky! When we’ve grown up surrounded by thorns, we can easily fail to see that they shouldn’t be there in the first place. Thorns can look like putting work, study or sports ahead of Mass or skipping prayer time, but spending time an hour or two on Netflix. Other thorns wound us when we shape our self worth based on how much money we earn, the titles we have, or the admiration of other people. These thorns choke us by keeping us trapped by things that won’t satisfy us, and away from the One who will. So what does Jesus do with these thorns? He humbles Himself and receives them upon His head. The crown of thorns was the Roman soldiers’ attempt to humiliate and mock Jesus, twisting His claim to kingship. And yet every time we sin, are we not doing the same? Failing to recognize the supreme goodness of Jesus is like adding another thorn to His crown.   The Heart Of Jesus The great mystery is that He bore this suffering and humiliation from us, for us. Through His infinite wisdom and mercy, in an all out effort to free us from our self-imposed prisons, He took every thorn, and wrapped them around His heart so that we would see our true desire through the thorns of false desires. Repentance is seeing the heart through the thorns and realizing that they are there because of our choices. It’s rending our own hearts in contrition and making the choice to put Him first. When we do this, we are washed again in the blood and water, and there flows the flood of mercy and grace that pours forth from His Heart. In this way, He continues to pursue His Bride, the Church. It says in Scripture,   We are invited this Wednesday to receive as our valentine, the beautiful heart of Jesus. We can remove the thorns and return the humble offering of your own repentant hearts. Ask yourself: What thorns in my life are keeping me from fully receiving His heart? How does He want to help me clear those out in this season of Lent? I don’t know about you, but I’ll take that over chocolate any day!

New Year True You

January 22, 2018
Happy 2018! It’s about one month into the new year, and consequently, the time when everyone is changing everything. After the lavishness and abundance of Christmastime, everyone is ready to settle down, tighten their budgets, watch their diets, get organized, and make more room in their lives for prayer. “Come the first of the year, things are going to change around here,” is something my dad would always repeat leading up to the new year. This longing for change is best explained below,      We have an inherent desire for this. Why? One name: Jesus. He is the reason every new year we desire MORE for ourselves and others. The reason why our rat-raced autopilot to keep up, get ahead, and accumulate stuff will not completely satisfy.   Imagine yourself at your very best Imagine the person who you strive to be. Way down in your deepest and truest heart. Right now, close your eyes and open your hands. Surrender your imagination to Jesus. Picture how you spend your time, the way you treat others, the choices you make, and the way you honor God. Don’t stop this time of prayer until you have a clear vision of who you would be. Write it down, if possible. Got it? Fantastic. Guess what? THIS IS WHO YOU ARE. Chosen, cherished, handmade child of God, created in His own image and likeness: THIS IS YOU! THIS is your truest most authentic self.   Why Do We Settle?   Here’s the KEY though. If we do fall short of our true selves and who He created us to be, we MUST put on “the courage to commit humbly and patiently to improve.”   This must be our life blood. When we fail, so quickly pride makes it all about us. It is not about us. It’s about God’s mercy and glory. Meanwhile, guilt swoops in to send us on a downward spiral of self-hatred which only causes more falling. If and when we fall short, let us accept the gift of mercy that Christ has already paid for, shed the mask of a false life, and move forward in grace. You are so worthwhile, so precious in the sight God. You are honored,  loved,  created, and chosen for more greatness than you can fathom.   No one can be you.  It’s actually just so urgent that you remember who are; claim who you are, and live the abundant life you were created for. “New Year, New You?” Nah. New Year, True You.
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