Marian Consecration

Just this past week, I started my second time through the process of consecrating myself to Jesus through Mary. It has been so busy in my life, and I find myself gravitating towards our Lady, desiring the stillness and the obedience that she demonstrated in her life. I desire to be more like her every day and to ultimately fall more in love with Jesus.

Consecration to Jesus through Mary is a beautiful devotion and preparation any time of year, but I specifically chose this preparation during the season of Advent. As we prepare our hearts for the coming of Jesus on Christmas, prayer and time contemplating the fiat of Mary can truly help us to better open our hearts for our Savior.

There are many formats for Marian consecration to choose from. This year I am focusing on a particular text that focuses on prayer and scripture. The book is entitled Totus Tuus: Consecration to Jesus through Mary with Saint John Paul II by Fr. Brian McMaster. I encourage you to prayerfully consider consecration to Jesus through Mary. Our Lady is a gift from Jesus, and she will guide us closer to Jesus as we walk the journey of our time on earth. Trust in her intercession and know that a deeper devotion to Mary will automatically increase our love for Jesus. Even if you are not feeling ready to embark on the journey of consecration, be not afraid – God will show you the path He wants you to take all in His time, and this includes the ways in which He desires for you to love Mary more.

“Always stay close to this heavenly mother, because she is the sea to be crossed to reach the shores of eternal splendor.”
– St. Padre Pio –

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Nathalie Shultz is a joyful convert to the Catholic faith and a competitive swimmer with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  She loves to share her passion for Catholicism with others, including her conversion story and how God continues to work miracles in her life through her OCD. She is the Director of Religious Education for the North Allegan Catholic Collaborative of parishes. Nathalie is married to her best friend, Tommy Shultz. Her favorite saints include St. Peter the Apostle, St. Teresa of Calcutta, and St. John Paul II.  She is also a huge fan of C.S. Lewis. If you have any questions for Nathalie, or just want her to pray for you, you can email her at rodzinkaministry@gmail.com.

Active Waiting

It’s the first Saturday of Advent. We know it is a time of anticipating and preparing for the coming of our Lord. There is a flurry and hum to this season as we actively wait for the infant’s birth. 

Actively waiting? I hadn’t heard the term; however, the concept makes a lot of sense. Think about it; waiting implies that something expected is going to happen to you or to be in readiness for an event to happen. I wait for the water to boil before I make a cup (who am I kidding, a pot) of black tea. I wait to hear the outcome of someone’s medical procedure. I wait in line to go to confession and receive the grace and mercy of God through His forgiveness. I wait in line to receive the presence, love, and grace of His Son in the Eucharist at Mass. I wait to put up the nativity scene as Advent is four weeks long. (Historically, Joseph and Mary hadn’t even left at this point in time to go to Bethlehem for the census).

I could just rock back and forth on my heels or drum my fingers while I wait. Typically, I am doing some kind of preparation to ready myself in anticipation of an event. Lists are made or post-it notes scribbled with prompts to remind me of what needs to be done. Many times, I forget to start the lists and notes with a prayer as well as to weave prayer in throughout the process.

I also forget the last line of today’s gospel, a line that usually is overlooked. “We have received without cost; without cost, we are to give.”

As children, we can be oblivious to having a winter coat or a warm bed that waits for us at the end of the day. For so many of us, those things were given without a cost to us. 

I had a friend who didn’t have a winter coat. My family wanted to give one to her from our front hall closet (it was very gently used). The offer was refused because of a perception that the gift needed to be reciprocated (I didn’t find this out until years later). I have had a couple of friends over the years who’ve needed a place to live due to the loss of their family home. Each time I had an empty bed, so the offers were accepted. I have friends who insisted I sleep in their home after a minor surgery, to make sure I was O.K. after being under anesthesia. 

What does it cost you to give to someone else? Your time? It doesn’t cost anything to give blood. You can donate gently used clothing and shoes to a shelter or community organization. Isn’t there a person who lives close that you know doesn’t get out (or have people coming to visit them)? Just saying hello, waving a greeting, or bringing a garbage can from the curb can be a small friendly gesture. By adding an extra item or two to your grocery cart the next time you are shopping, add the item as a donation to the food pantry at church, which is given to those who are in need. 

Are you available to be open and vulnerable by trusting another with your own personal story or to listen without judgment to someone else’s journey, which needs to be heard in a safe space to vent? 

Take a moment; what are you actively waiting for this Advent

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Beth is part of the customer care team at Diocesan. She brings a unique depth of experience to the group due to her time spent in education, parish ministries, sales and the service industry over the last 25 yrs. She is a practicing spiritual director as well as a Secular Franciscan (OFS). Beth is quick to offer a laugh, a prayer or smile to all she comes in contact with. Reach her here bprice@diocesan.com.

Hospitality

When he entered the house, the blind men approached him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I can do this?”

There is a beautiful subtlety to this story that often gets overlooked in our desire to see and understand the miracle.

Jesus encounters the blind men on the road, and they appeal to him using a name which defines who they think the messiah will be, not who Jesus says He is. But even though they call Jesus by a name he doesn’t choose for himself, pay attention to what happens next.

“When he entered the house, the blind men approached him.”

“When he entered the house.” Jesus encounters these men on the road. They call him by a name that Jesus chastises the scribes for using, but when Jesus enters the house the blind men go with him.

I am from the midwest and it is pretty common for people to invite one another over to their homes for opportunities for fellowship and fun. It wasn’t until I was staying in New York City and someone took me to their apartment and told me that New Yorkers just don’t invite people over, at least partially because no one can afford a place big enough for entertaining. Entering into someone’s home is special, you get invited. There are even social protocols for bringing a small gift or some food to offer in response to their hospitality.

Jesus entered into the house and the blind men entered with him. Before the miracle, before asking if they believe, it all started with an act of hospitality.

The babe, born in a stable because no one had room for his laboring mother, brings them into his home.

What a beautiful Advent challenge for us. What a beautiful and stress-reducing idea! I don’t need to make this the most amazing Christmas ever. I don’t need to make sure that each child attends perfectly to each of my carefully planned Advent activities. I don’t even need to make sure that every meal is Pinterest-photo ready. I am not the worker of miracles. I am not asking people to believe in me. I don’t want them to see me, I want them to see Jesus. My job is to follow Jesus’s example and help people to feel welcomed and wanted. My job is to imitate Jesus where I can. And while I can’t work miracles, I can look at others and see them for who they are in God’s eyes. I can offer small acts of hospitality, living moment to moment and really experiencing the joy of being with the person right in front of me. It doesn’t even necessarily mean bringing someone into my home. It might be just putting my phone down when I am around others. It might be making eye contact and saying thank you to the woman who is finishing a long shift at the grocery store. It might be paying forward a cup of coffee in the drive-thru or coffee shop. It might just be an encouraging word to someone hurting or alone. Those small acts (especially when I don’t feel like being warm and fuzzy) are the window which allows others to see Jesus at home in me.

As we continue this journey through Advent, as we prepare to welcome Jesus into our hearts at Mass and into the world at the Nativity, let’s offer to one another those small acts of welcome that prepare us for the miracle.

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Sheryl delights in being the number 1 cheerleader and supporter for her husband, Tom who is a candidate for the Permanent Diaconate in the Diocese of Kalamazoo. They are so grateful for the opportunity to grow together in this process whether it is studying for classes, deepening their prayer life or discovering new ways to serve together. Sheryl’s day job is serving her community as the principal for St. Therese Catholic School in Wayland, Michigan. Since every time she thinks she gets life all figured out, she realizes just how far she has to go, St. Rita of Cascia is her go-to Saint for intercession and help. Home includes Brea, a Bernese Mountain dog and Carlyn, a very, very goofy Golden Retriever.

The Short List

This past weekend, we listened to the Sunday Gospel in which Jesus is amazed by the soldier’s faith in him. We receive the line that we hear in Mass each week as the centurion says, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.” 

I go back to this gospel because, in today’s readings, we are reminded of three things:

  1. Trust in our Lord
  2. Give thanks to the Lord
  3. Faithful action leads us to the Lord

This short list is what we need to do in our daily lives to get to heaven and when I list it out, it looks so simple! In practice, we know it’s a bit more difficult. Here are some things you can start doing to prepare for the coming of Christ on Christmas day.

Trust
Trusting in the Lord means relinquishing control and allowing ourselves to feel the peace of God’s will. Allow yourself to understand that your plan may not always be God’s plan for you. Take the time to write down the times your plan has gone wrong only for it to all work out better than you had hoped. When things aren’t going your way, pray, “Not my will, but yours be done.”

Giving Thanks
With Thanksgiving weekend just barely behind us, it is the perfect time to continue giving thanks to the Lord besides when you go to Mass on Sundays and before meals. Open your eyes to the wonders of God in your life. Say prayers of thanksgiving when you wake up and before you go to bed. Thank God for not only the good in your daily life but also for the struggles that make you stronger and guide you along His path for you.

Faithful Action
This can be the most difficult for people to do. What is faithful action? To me, it’s taking the time to be present with your faith and the people you should be sharing it with. Ask your friends if they want to attend Mass with you and then go out to eat and discuss the readings. Say Merry Christmas instead of Happy Holidays. Find ways to serve your community through soup kitchens, your local St. Vincent de Paul Society, or consider making your own Boxes of Love for the homeless

Through each of these ideas, you will be preparing your heart not only for the coming of Jesus at Christmas but for the kingdom of heaven.

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Veronica Alvarado is a born and raised Texan currently living in Michigan. Since graduating from Texas A&M University, Veronica has published various articles in the Catholic Diocese of Austin’s official newspaper, the Catholic Spirit, and other local publications. She now works as the Content Specialist in Diocesan’s Web Department.

The Fulfillment of our Desire

“The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.” – St. Teresa of Calcutta

Throughout today’s readings, we hear of Christ’s ability to fulfill our desires. We are told, again and again, that He is our greatest desire and that only Heaven–union with God–can bring true fulfillment. As Pope St. John Paul the Great said, “It is Jesus you seek when you dream of happiness; He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you.” In this time of preparation for Christ, the readings remind us that our ultimate desire is oneness with our Savior.

The Gospel acclamation reminds us that the Lord is coming to redeem man, but we must be prepared for His coming. In the same way that the people in the crowd followed Christ along the Sea of Galilee, so too should we follow Christ. In the Gospel, Christ shows the crowd (and us) how much he loves us and how well he cares for us. He understands the needs of his flock and provides for those needs. Those who followed Him trusted that He could care for their spiritual needs. They trusted that, because of their faith, Jesus would make the mute speak, the lame walk, and the deaf hear. And so He did! The crowd followed Christ in order to tend to their spiritual needs and, in doing so, ignored their spiritual needs. But Jesus knows His people, and therefore, he tended to their material needs as well. He ensured that those who followed Him were fed and did not allow them to go away hungry. For this reason, Jesus comes to us in the Eucharist as bread; He satisfies our spiritual needs by satisfying our material needs.

In this time of Advent, as we prepare for the birth of our Savior, let us not forget that Christ has been preparing for us since the beginning of time. He has a place waiting for us at the banquet where He will welcome us home with open arms. May we welcome Him into our hearts and our homes, especially during this season, in the same way that He will one day lovingly embrace us.

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Dakota currently lives in Denver, CO and teaches English Language Development and Spanish to high schoolers. She is married to the love of her life, Ralph. In her spare time, she reads, goes to breweries, and watches baseball. Dakota’s favorite saints are St. John Paul II (how could it not be?) and St. José Luis Sánchez del Río. She is passionate about her faith and considers herself blessed at any opportunity to share that faith with others. Check out more of her writing at https://dakotaleonard16.blogspot.com.

Emmanuel: God WITH US

If you’ve ever heard me speak, you’ve undoubtedly heard me ask, “Why are we here? What are we supposed to be doing on this planet?” Because every important journey begins with understanding where we are headed and how to get to the destination. There are all kinds of things we can wonder about and discuss, but if we miss the whole point of our existence, we will spend a lot of time on things that do not help us to our goal. We have to keep going back to our beginning to understand our end!

We exist because God willed our existence, continues to will our existence, and His endless creating love works with our wills and our circumstances to continuously create our existence. He created human beings who could share His own life of joy and peace and love, and He is continuously creating. Why? Because He loves us and wants us to dwell with Him eternally.

In Genesis, God DWELLS WITH Adam and Eve, walking in Eden in the cool of the evening. When they allow their trust in Him to die and choose their own way rather than His, He must send them out of this Paradise and no longer dwell with them. A door was closed.

But Jesus came to restore this relationship: “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14). Jesus came to reopen the door that was closed so that God could DWELL WITH US again. And before his death, Jesus leaves his disciples with the Gift that will allow him to remain with us until he comes in glory: in the Sacraments, particularly in the Eucharist, Jesus can be with each one of us throughout our lives.

In the end, we read in the Book of Revelation, “the DWELLING OF GOD IS WITH MEN, and He will live with them” (Revelation 21:3). God made us in His image and likeness, and this image and likeness is love and communion  – a communion of Persons, loving one another perfectly, and desiring to share that loving communion with others because love is effusive of itself.

In today’s Gospel, we glimpse the Trinity: Jesus – the Son – is rejoicing in the Holy Spirit and praising the Father. This is a model for our own prayer: we pray with/in Jesus, to the Father, through the Spirit. We can do this because Jesus, who is one like us in all things (except sin!) is also equal to, consubstantial with, the Father; no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and this knowing and loving IS the Holy Spirit. This is how Jesus can say in another place that those who have seen him have seen the Father.

During Advent, as we prepare to welcome the Child in the manger, let us also remember that He is our Savior, who came to open the door so that He could dwell with us as Emmanuel: “God-with-us.”

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Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including newly ordained Father Rob and seminarian Luke ;-), and two grandchildren. She is a Secular Discalced Carmelite and has published five books and many articles. Over the last 25 years, she has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE. Currently, she serves the Church as a writer and voice talent for Catholic Radio, by publishing and speaking, and by collaborating with the diocesan Office of Catechesis, various parishes, and other ministries to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Her website is https://www.kathryntherese.com/.

A Different Kind of Simplicity

Here we are. We’ve made it. We are in a new liturgical year, a new season. Advent! The Lord is coming. He is drawing nigh. Our Savior, the adorable little Christ Child will soon be born. I don’t have to ask myself if I’m ready yet, because the time of preparation has just started. We have 23 days to make the most of each and every day to prepare our hearts, the “home” of our being, for this incredible mystery. We are not ready for it today. We may not be ready for it on the 25th, but we sure can try.

I know I have posted before about living a simplified, less complicated, less stressful life. Let me tell you, with four active, LOUD boys, ages six and under, that is a very difficult feat. Even if I wanted to live quietly, decibels you may have never heard before occur at my house. Even if I wanted to live simply, the number of toys required to keep the four of them occupied create mountains in my home.

Yet there is one thing I can do, one aspect of my life I can still silence and simplify, my thoughts. I have noticed more and more lately how easily I criticize others, make jest, point out faults, or gossip. Even though I truly don’t believe that I am perfect, somehow, I let the notion that I am better than others slip into my subconscious and then out of my mouth. Of course, I’m really not. I am just as good or bad as the next person, but boy, do I need a good dose of humility. If only I could keep my mouth shut. If only I could stop my mind from spinning so many negative thoughts.

So that is my Advent resolution that will spill over into 2020. I truly want to rejoice this Christmas, to see the good in others, and show goodness to others. I want the light of Christ to shine through me and flow into those around me.

I admit it has been a rough year with extremely tough issues in multiple facets of my life. They have angered me, upset me, saddened me, and I closed in on myself. I am still processing, still trying to make sense of it all, but in the meantime, I cannot put love and kindness on hold. I am a Catholic Christian and have to act accordingly.

Today’s Psalm spurs me on and renews my hope. May they inspire you as well:

Because of my relatives and friends
I will say, “Peace be within you!”
Because of the house of the LORD, our God,
I will pray for your good.
Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord! [Or: Let us approach rejoicing, the birthday of our Lord!]

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Tami grew up in Western Michigan, a middle child in a large Catholic family. She spent early young adulthood as a missionary in Mexico, studying theology and philosophy, then worked and traveled extensively before finishing her Bachelor’s Degree in Western Kentucky. She loves tackling home improvement projects, finding fun ways to keep her four boys occupied, quiet conversation with the hubby and finding unique ways to love. She works at Diocesan, is a guest blogger on CatholicMom.com and BlessedIsShe.net, runs her own blog at https://togetherandalways.wordpress.com and has been doing Spanish translations on the side for almost 20 years.

You Know The Time

“You know the time;
it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep.
For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed;
the night is advanced, the day is at hand.”
-Romans 13:11

Here we are at the beginning of Advent once again. I love the beauty in the liturgical calendar how we are either preparing our hearts or celebrating what God has done for us, but I think because it happens every year we tend to forget the point of Adevnt. 

Sure, it is to prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ in the flesh but it is also to wake up to the reality of salvation. I love that the scripture today talks about awaking from sleep. I immediately think back to the garden and that first sleep that Adam was put into before Eve was created. 

The original word for this sleep is topror, and it is not the same as taking a nap or sleeping through the night. This sleep means almost to be called out of existence. When Adam fell asleep it is as if he was called out of existence and woke up with the new reality of the human person as both man and woman, a brand new creation.

How does this relate to the reading? Well, here we are being reminded to awake from our sleep. After the fall we were put into another sleep if you will. We lost the inheritance that was given to us from the beginning. We almost ceased to exist as we were created and began existing as fallen humanity.

We should be reminded of this reality during this pentitential season, but more than that we should be reminded that Christ came to wake us from our sleep and remind us of how we were created. He came as man to remind us what the ultimate human looks like and how we are meant to be. After all, our destiny is to participate intimately in the divinity of God himself. 

So this advent season let’s wake up. Let’s all try to take some time to prepare our hearts for the wake up call that comes at Christmas. We wake up that morning and are instantly reminded of our desitny, almost as if we are called back into our original existence. That is something to celebrate, but first we must prepare. From all of us here at Diocesan, God Bless!

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Tommy Shultz is a Solutions Evangelist for Diocesan. In that role, he is committed to coaching parishes and dioceses on authentic and effective Catholic communication. Tommy has a heart and a flair for inspiring people to live their faith every day. He has worked in various youth ministry, adult ministry, and diocesan roles. He has been a featured speaker at retreats and events across the country. His mission and drive have been especially inspired by St. John Paul II’s teachings. Tommy is blessed to be able to learn from the numerous parishes he visits and pass that experience on in his presentations. Contact him at tshultz@diocesan.com.

Follow and Become a Fisher of Men

You must accept your cross; if you bear it courageously, it will carry you to Heaven.

St. John Vianney

Reading today’s Gospel I think of how it can be so easy to follow Christ at times while other times it is heart wrenching. We visited our families out of town for Thanksgiving, and while it was a joy seeing them I was filled with anxiety and sadness. Just over a year ago I was blessed to marry my best friend. With this large life change came opportunities for growth. We moved about one hour from our hometown on our wedding night and to this day I still miss my hometown.

Every time we leave from visiting our families I feel depressed. I miss my friends and often feel very lonely in our new city, and “home” has never truly felt like home. I left a field of work that I love due to high anxiety, and now I feel I don’t know my place in the world. With all of this change it is hard for me to imagine leading others to Christ when I feel my life is out of control.

When Christ asks us to be fishers of men we will often be asked to be comfortable being uncomfortable. We will be stretched, and I know that this has been the case for me this past year. While my OCD and depression make me feel as though the world is swallowing me whole I know amidst the struggle God is providing the opportunity to lean on Him more and draw close to the Holy Spirit so I may meditate upon the mysteries of God. As I grow He will use me to share His redeeming love with the world. The struggles have purpose, and no matter how anxious I get God will make me more into the woman I am called to be as I come out the other side with Him clothed with the strength and radiance of Christ.

While someday I hope to be back in the field I love and move back to our hometown I ultimately desire that my will align with God’s will, that I die to myself and give up the desires that don’t align with His desires for my life. No matter the changes and growing pains you are facing trust that God will transform you into a fisher of souls in His own timing and with His perfect plans. Be comfortable being uncomfortable, and when it all seems too much I challenge you to ask for Our Mother’s intercession and pray, “Come, Holy Spirit”. God is with you, and when He asks you to venture into uncharted territory know He will be the one that is with you and working through you.

In Your hand I place my heart,
Body, life, and soul,
Deep feelings and affections mine,
Spouse – Redeemer sweet,
Myself offered now to You,
What is Your order for me to do?

St. Teresa of Avila

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Nathalie Shultz is a joyful convert to the Catholic faith and a competitive swimmer with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  She loves to share her passion for Catholicism with others, including her conversion story and how God continues to work miracles in her life through her OCD. She is the Director of Religious Education for the North Allegan Catholic Collaborative of parishes. Nathalie is married to her best friend, Tommy Shultz. Her favorite saints include St. Peter the Apostle, St. Teresa of Calcutta, and St. John Paul II.  She is also a huge fan of C.S. Lewis. If you have any questions for Nathalie, or just want her to pray for you, you can email her at rodzinkaministry@gmail.com.

How Near Is The Kingdom Of God?

As we draw near to the end of Ordinary Time, preparing to enter into Advent, the Gospel readings are… serious. Jesus is giving serious warnings about the destruction of Jerusalem, about signs in the sun and moon and stars, about wars and the persecution of his followers. And understandably, his followers are asking the obvious questions: When will this happen? How will we know? What should we do?

We naturally feel unsettled by these descriptions. It is not comforting or empowering to think of things falling apart and ending. And yet, in yesterday’s Gospel, when Jesus described people dying in fright and the powers of the heavens shaking, he tells his followers to “stand erect and raise your heads” rather than fearfully cower in a corner. Why? “Because your redemption is at hand” (Luke 21-28).

As he speaks of these things, Jesus uses words and imagery that his listeners would understand as referring to the Day of the Lord predicted by the Old Testament prophets. This was seen by Jews as the coming of the Messiah, the end of the Old Covenant, the dividing point of all of history. Jesus is helping us to see that the Day of the Lord is more than a day: it extends to the end of time, as the experience of the first Christians – persecution, growth, war, and disaster – is repeated by every generation until Jesus returns. Jesus IS with us. Jesus WILL return in glory. And Jesus WILL reign over all eternally.

There is another lesson here. In today’s short Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples that these things will certainly come because his word is Truth. No matter what is happening in our human lives, in the culture, in the natural world, in our families, in our hearts, HIS WORD IS TRUTH. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will NOT pass away.” His word is meaningful and everlasting and absolutely stable. More stable than the sun and the moon and the mountains and the sea, more lasting than our own ideas and hopes and agendas, more meaningful than all our own activity.

All of human history is moving toward a final, climactic moment when Christ returns in glory. Each of our personal contributions to that history will be made known when Christ establishes “a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev. 21:1), and takes his place on the eternal Throne of Love. By placing these readings at the end of the liturgical year, the Church invites us to ponder the awesomeness of our eternal destiny, the seriousness with which we must attend to our baptismal calling, and the great Gift of Love that God gave us in sending His only-begotten Son to save us.

With this as our backdrop, we are better “prepared to prepare” – this Sunday we enter into Advent, when we focus our efforts on joyful preparation for our celebration of this Gift of Jesus at Christmas!

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Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including newly ordained Father Rob and seminarian Luke ;-), and two grandchildren. She is a Secular Discalced Carmelite and has published five books and many articles. Over the last 25 years, she has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE. Currently, she serves the Church as a writer and voice talent for Catholic Radio, by publishing and speaking, and by collaborating with the diocesan Office of Catechesis, various parishes, and other ministries to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Her website is https://www.kathryntherese.com/.

To Be Human

“And then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand erect, hold your heads high because your liberation is near at hand.”

Did you know that “Son of Man” was the name Jesus claimed for himself more than any other? In the 4 Gospels, it appears over 80 times. 80! That’s a lot!

Why would the Son of the Most High, who was present at Creation, who is the Word of God, why would he claim the title, “Son of man” more than any other?

Jesus was fully God and fully man. “…human nature was thereby elevated to a personal union with the Word; and this dignity is given, not on account of any merits, but entirely and absolutely through grace, and therefore, as it were, through the special gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Divinum illud munus, 4) When, through the power of the Holy Spirit, God became man, all of humanity was given a dignity never before present. Simply by the fact that Jesus walked the earth, we, the created, were raised up. No longer mere servants, through Jesus, we become adopted sons and daughters of our Creator.

When Jesus repeatedly acknowledges his humanity, he brings divinity to the world. No longer is God some unknown, unknowable, unseen force. God has trod where we trod, lived where we live, and understands from first-hand experience what it means to be human, to work, to serve, to eat, sleep and do all the things that we humans need to do to survive. Jesus came to humanize us, to take us beyond mere survival, so we can be more fully who we are meant to be.

So too, we who are the followers of Jesus, we are called to continue Jesus’s mission on earth. As the body of Christ, we are his hands and feet, and eyes and ears, his tongue speaking the divine presence of his humanity into the world.

Woo, that sounds good, but what does it mean? In real live practical terms, not just strung together words on a page, what does it look like on the street? It is our vocation to love (CCC 1604). To love our neighbor is to humanize them, to acknowledge their inherent dignity, and to treat them as who they are in God’s eyes. We smile. We make eye contact. We refrain from language that highlights differences or groups of people into “us” and “them.” We talk to people, not about them. We exercise self-discipline when we are driving or waiting in line and not treat others like they are simply impediments to getting to where we are going. We have to work at remembering that they are whole beings created by and loved infinitely by God. We not only provide food for those who don’t have it, but we also work on the systemic injustices in our society that leave people on the fringes. We need to get real about our human rights, and if even one person is deprived of their God-given dignity, we take it as our personal responsibility to right that wrong.

As we sit down to celebrate Thanksgiving today, let us acknowledge that all we have, who we are, and how even the fact that we are breathing is a gift from our all-knowing and all-loving Creator. Because we have enough awareness to acknowledge that gift, we also have a responsibility to lift up the person next to us. We can no longer be okay with just doing our own thing and letting the person next to us to their own thing. We are obligated by our devotion to Jesus to love the person next to us, even to love them so far that our love humanizes them and helps them be more fully who God created them to be.

The thing is, all this doesn’t have to be overwhelming. We don’t have to take care of the whole world all at once. We can start small. As St. Mother Teresa said, “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.” We can do this, human to human.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Sheryl delights in being the number 1 cheerleader and supporter for her husband, Tom who is a candidate for the Permanent Diaconate in the Diocese of Kalamazoo. They are so grateful for the opportunity to grow together in this process whether it is studying for classes, deepening their prayer life or discovering new ways to serve together. Sheryl’s day job is serving her community as the principal for St. Therese Catholic School in Wayland, Michigan. Since every time she thinks she gets life all figured out, she realizes just how far she has to go, St. Rita of Cascia is her go-to Saint for intercession and help. Home includes Brea, a Bernese Mountain dog and Carlyn, a very, very goofy Golden Retriever.

A Lenten Approach To Advent

I am intrigued by the readings leading up to the First Sunday of Advent. After celebrating the Solemnity of Christ the King, in which we hear the Gospel taking place at the crucifixion, the Gospels this week continue with a theme of destruction, persecution, desolation, and other heavy, dark images.

But Advent is a time of hope. A time of light and joy awaiting the birth of the Savior, Jesus. Why would this week leading up to Advent be in such stark contrast? Isn’t that more geared toward the season of Lent?

Let us remember the reason why God became man, why Jesus came into the world. Adam and Eve were living in the state of original holiness, walking alongside God in the Garden of Eden. Created with free will, they failed to trust God and made a choice that led to the state of original sin instead. Humanity fell into sin and darkness, the consequences of which are death. Our relationship with God was broken, shattered, severed. There was no way we could reestablish this relationship on our own.

Wanting to reconcile man and woman, who were created in His image and likeness (Gen 1:27), God sent His only Son into the mess and chaos. Not only did Jesus show us how to live, but He also embraced death so that we wouldn’t have to. Through His death and resurrection, the gates of heaven opened, and humanity is invited back into relationship with God.

You see, the hope of the resurrection begins with the hope at the Nativity, for which Advent prepares us. And there is no resurrection without there first being death. It is important to remember that connection as we enter this preparatory season. So as we prepare our hearts for the coming of the Lord Jesus at Christmas, may we always keep darkness in mind, for darkness is where light enters the world.

(Side note: I hope the line in the first reading “gave a great banquet for a thousand of his lords” gets everyone in the mood for tomorrow. Many prayers and blessings to all of you as you gather around the table for Thanksgiving with your loved ones, and may we carry this attitude of gratitude all through the coming liturgical season. However, may we also never forget those who go without on Thanksgiving and all days and heed the call to serve the poor.)

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Erin is a Cleveland native and graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville. Following graduation, she began volunteering in youth ministry at her home parish of Holy Family Church. Her first “big girl” job was in collegiate sports information where, after a busy two years in the profession on top of serving the youth, she took a leap of faith and followed the Lord’s call to full-time youth ministry at St. Peter Church. She still uses her communication arts degree as a freelance writer and statistician, though. You can catch her on the Clarence & Peter Podcast on YouTube as well as follow her on Twitter @erinmadden2016.