What: Me, Holy?

For a very long time, I thought I might have a vocation to the religious life. It turned out that I didn’t, but I gave the possibility a lot of time and thought and prayer. My everyday life seemed very far removed, indeed from what I envisioned for my future. Instead of spending hours rapt in the chapel, I was spending hours working, running errands, dealing with people, making mistakes. I didn’t want that everyday life: I wanted holiness, and I believed that the way to holiness was through the monastery doors.

Yes, well, that shows you how little I knew about vocations, about holiness, and about life!

Here’s the thing: We’re called to be holy, to be a holy people. That call is clarion-clear on nearly every page of scripture; today we hear it from Saint Paul, writing to the young Christian communities in Thessalonica. (He also talks a great deal about it when writing to the communities of Corinth and Ephesus.) And it’s reasonably easy to imagine those people, living still in apostolic times, believing the end to be near, risking everything to worship: yes, we say, those were holy people.

But how does holiness translate into the modern world? How do we live it in everyday life?

Living holiness doesn’t mean living perfection. Looking back on those first communities, once we get past our admiration for their courage, once we focus on what Saint Paul was saying to them—well, it’s clear they were up to things they shouldn’t have been; otherwise he wouldn’t have had to be so forceful in his recommendations! Their lives weren’t perfect and flawless, any more than the lives of the nuns I so wanted to join when I was young were perfect and flawless. We’re all human, and being human means being stuck in the everyday bustle and noise and frustration of ordinary lives. 

And that very ordinariness is blessed, made holy, by God through the incarnation. Jesus was born into an ordinary human family. For most of his life, he worked at a job, and he took on the same social relationships that complicate our lives today. We sometimes think it would be easier to be holy apart from the people with whom we live and work. But the incarnation reminds us that God calls us to be holy precisely in the midst of those relationships. 

Holiness is found in the daily struggle. We shouldn’t think lightly about how difficult it is to show up every day. To not give up. To do whatever tasks your life has set before you and tend to them as best you can. A character in the wonderful movie Chariots of Fire says, “You can praise God by peeling a spud if you peel it to perfection.” 

And you don’t peel potatoes in the chapel.

Weathering the storms of life is difficult, and Jesus knows that. He’s been there. And yet still he asks us to carry our daily cross. Struggling to take that cross through the chaos of life is practicing holiness, no matter how messily we carry it or how many times we drop it. The very act of picking it up and moving forward is part of acquiring holiness. Perseverance is a holy act. When we navigate life, work, relationships, problems, joys, and concerns with Christ in our hearts, we are practicing holiness.

The popes are well aware of this. In his 1981 papal encyclical On Human Work, Pope John Paul II explained that work is our sanctification; it is redemptive in nature. “The Christian,” he wrote, “finds in human work a small part of the cross of Christ and accepts it in the spirit of redemption in which Christ accepted his cross for us.”

And Pope Francis devoted an entire apostolic exhortation to the call to holiness. “To be holy does not require being a bishop, a priest or a religious,” he wrote. “We are frequently tempted to think that holiness is only for those who can withdraw from ordinary affairs to spend much time in prayer. That is not the case. We are all called to be holy by living our lives with love and by bearing witness in everything we do, wherever we find ourselves. Are you called to the consecrated life? Be holy by living out your commitment with joy. Are you married? Be holy by loving and caring for your husband or wife, as Christ does for the Church. Do you work for a living? Be holy by laboring with integrity and skill in the service of your brothers and sisters. Are you a parent or grandparent? Be holy by patiently teaching the little ones how to follow Jesus. Are you in a position of authority? Be holy by working for the common good and renouncing personal gain.”

The sanctification of ordinary work was the cornerstone upon which Saint Josemaría Escrivá founded Opus Dei, an apostolate dedicated to spreading the message that work and the circumstances of ordinary life are occasions for growing closer to God, serving others, and improving society. “For the ordinary life of a man among his fellows is not something dull and uninteresting,” he said in a homily. “It is there that the Lord wants the vast majority of his children to achieve sanctity. Either we learn to find Our Lord in ordinary, everyday life, or else we shall never find him.”

Saint Augustine, as usual, finds the right words to express what is in many people’s hearts:

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit,
That my thoughts may all be holy.
Act in me, O Holy Spirit,
That my work, too, may be holy.
Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit,
That I love but what is holy.
Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit,
To defend all that is holy.
Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit,
That I always may be holy.

So here’s the conclusion I’ve come to. Right now, they’re not making saints like the ones I used to read about and admired. They lived in different worlds and had different graces suited to their times. But God has asked me to live my life in this world, to sanctify it somehow, to make of all the distractions and drudgery and lack of time a holy thing, an offering of love.

That’s a call to holiness I can handle.

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Jeannette de Beauvoir is a writer and editor with the digital department of Pauline Books & Media, working on projects as disparate as newsletters, book clubs, ebooks, and retreats that support the apostolate of the Daughters of St. Paul at http://www.pauline.org.

True Freedom

Today is the Memorial of the Passion of St. John the Baptist. The Gospel recounts the story of this event, and in it, there are two men, King Herod, and John the Baptist, one of them imprisoned and the other truly free.

Whenever I hear this story, I end up having some sympathy for Herod. He doesn’t seem to want to kill John because something about the prophet struck at his heart. When Herod “heard him speak, he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him.” Herod wasn’t free to do what he truly wanted. He was enslaved by his sinfulness, by his choice to marry his brother’s wife, by the opinions of his party guests, and by the fear of losing his reputation. Even though it was John who was sitting behind bars, it was Herod who was imprisoned.

St. Paul sums up this slavery to sin in Romans where he says, “For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want. Now if [I] do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me” (Romans 7:19-20).

John the Baptist, on the other hand, was radically free. His whole life was marked by a desire to do God’s will, no matter the cost. He doesn’t appear in the Gospels like a man terribly concerned with the opinions of others or his social status. He cooperated with the Lord to such an extent that he was able to do what he truly wanted, even when he knew that would cost him his life.

This radical freedom possessed by John is also freely available to us. The Catechism says that grace frees men from our enslavement to sin and heals our wounds (Catechism 1990) and that “the more docile we are to the promptings of grace, the more we grow in inner freedom and confidence during trials, such as those we face in the pressures and constraints of the outer world” (Catechism 1742).

Grace helps us recognize our true identity as sons and daughters of the Father. From that truth about ourselves, we understand that we don’t have to earn our dignity and value from the opinions of others; instead, we are immeasurably valuable just because of who we are as children of God. And if we are God’s children then, just like the prodigal son, we always have access to the Father’s mercy and forgiveness when we sin. If we truly believed this about ourselves, like in the depths of our heart believed this, then we would no longer be enslaved by the fear of what others think or of losing our reputation. If we truly believed this, we would be able to do what we genuinely want to do.

So I invite you to sit with Jesus for a few minutes and in the quiet ask Him to show you where you are enslaved, to show you what prevents you from doing what you truly want, and ought, to do. And then ask St. John the Baptist, and all the holy martyrs, to pray for you for the grace that makes you truly free.

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Paul Fahey is a husband, father, and a parish director of religious education. He can be found at his website, Rejoice and be Glad: Catholicism in the Pope Francis Generation or read his work at Where Peter Is.

Feast of St. Augustine

My friends, today on the memorial of St Augustine, the Church has given us readings in the Liturgy and in the Office of Readings that focus on the amazing attraction of Jesus on our souls.

St Paul so clearly describes our experience in the First reading. He says that sometimes we are “shaken out of our minds,” “alarmed,” “deceived.” A person in this spiritual space is the one who is fearfully trying to find his or her way to salvation amid the sometimes terrifying realities around them. Paul indicates that the Thessalonians were alarmed at the imminent coming of the Lord. We are alarmed at many things that also strike at that very basic core of fear within the human heart: survival. Take a deep breath. What are you alarmed about? What news upsets your peace of soul? What family matters are overwhelmingly oppressive at this moment? Where do you worry about your or another’s salvation?

Immediately St Paul refocuses our vision: you are called to possess the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is what the Gospel calls you to, promises, lays out before you as an infinite horizon toward which you can walk as far as you want, and as quickly as you desire. We are called to a magnificent hope! Promised eternal glory in the Lord Jesus Christ!

I remember assuring some very fearful women who had come into our book center in Metairie, Louisiana to purchase candles in preparation for the imminent three days of darkness prophesied by someone on a television program they had been watching, “Jesus never encouraged us to be afraid of him,” I told them. “He said instead that he was going to prepare a home for us in his Father’s Kingdom and that he would come to take us back there with them.” They exchanged their candles for the Chaplet to the Divine Mercy and left with much peace in their soul.

God our Father has loved us and given us this everlasting encouragement that we might not live in fear any longer, but might have “good hope through his grace,” and experience encouragement and strength so that our lives would flow with every good deed and word.

Certainly, this is a process. It could be that the scribes and Pharisees whom we encounter in the Gospels never had the courage to risk the trust of this adventure in truth. However, Saint Augustine, whom we celebrate this day in the liturgy, did. The reading for the Office of Readings so beautiful describes this journey made by Saint Augustine, and which is documented in his book Confessions of Saint Augustine.

Here we learn from this great convert, the essential ingredients for the spiritual growth Saint Paul calls all Christians to:

 

Augustine “reflected upon himself.”
He entered under God’s guidance into the inmost depth of his soul. This is a journey that God is inviting each of us to. He himself makes this journey possible. Through his grace he is the helper of our soul.

When Saint Augustine entered within the inmost depth of his soul he discovered with the eye of the soul what was beyond him, beyond his spirit. He saw the immutable light of God’s glory shining in him. ”This light was above me because it had made me; I was below it because I was created by it.” Within our soul we find not ourselves, not even our best selves, we discover God himself who wishes us to possess the glory of the Lord and to lay hold of the promises of the Gospel. This, as both Saint Paul and Saint Augustine say, is the truth and beloved eternity.

Discovering this truth within him, creates within Saint Augustine a sighing day and night for the one who was drawing him closer to himself so that he might see him there within him.

This truth, then, burst forth in his entire being as one great cry of love: “Late have I loved you. O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside… You called, you shouted, you broke through my deafness… You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you.” This journey of spiritual transformation is not one of personal growth for the purpose of becoming a better person. It is a journey to lose oneself in the ocean of Divine Splendor who touches us and burns our hearts that they might be transformed into one great longing for God himself to the point that we gradually, and finally at last, leave ourselves and self-interests behind.

May this journey that God is right now leading you into, become your chosen path, your only desire, your greatest satisfaction! Amen.

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Kathryn James Hermes, FSP, is the author of the newly released title: Reclaim Regret: How God Heals Life’s Disappointments, by Pauline Books and Media. An author and spiritual mentor, she offers spiritual accompaniment for the contemporary Christian’s journey towards spiritual growth and inner healing. She is the director of My Sisters, where people can find spiritual accompaniment from the Daughters of St. Paul on their journey.

Website: www.touchingthesunrise.com

Public Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/srkathrynhermes/

For monthly spiritual journaling guides, weekly podcasts and over 50 conferences and retreat programs join my Patreon community: https://www.patreon.com/srkathryn.

Be Delighted

The Lord delights in you.

Let that sink in for a moment.

The Lord DELIGHTS in you. The Lord delights in YOU. Today, I invite us to reflect on the responsorial psalm and the way we can emphasize these two words in our lives: delight and you.

First, delight. Merriam-Webster defines delight as “to take great pleasure.” The Lord takes great pleasure in you. Our God is a God of great, big, unending, unfailing love. He loves us so much that He couldn’t imagine a life without us, despite the consequences of the fall and original sin. And, out of love, God sent His only Beloved Son to live among us, to suffer and die in order to reconcile us to the Father, to return us to His love and to eternal life with Him in that love.

When we live our lives according to His ways, His heart, His desires, He takes great pleasure in us. When we accomplish His works of sharing the Gospel and building the Kingdom of God here on earth, He takes great pleasure in us. When we work to bring others into the kingdom, He takes pleasure in us. When we remain faithful to Him in prayer and in the sacraments, He takes great pleasure in us.

But what about those other times when we are broken, bruised and damaged from sin, from the darkness that creeps into life? Can He really take pleasure in that?

Yes. He takes pleasure in our return to Him when we seek a way out of the messiness and into the light of His love. When we return to the open arms of a loving Father, no matter how slow and no matter how painful it may be, He takes pleasure in us. All He wants to do is to show us how much we are loved, to show us how He sees us in the eyes of love.

Second, you. Our identity is rooted in God. We are a beloved son or daughter in His eyes, nothing less. God wants to show us how much more He loves us, values us, cares for us than we do ourselves. There is nothing that we can do that can destroy our identity in Christ. The biggest, worst sin we could commit is nothing compared to the cross, to the sacrificial love that the Father showed us in Jesus Christ.

Many of us struggle with affirmation, with being told how good we are or how strong we are or how (insert anything here) we are. If we struggle to hear these words on a human level, what happens when we hear it from our Heavenly Father?

Take some time in prayer, brothers and sisters, before the Blessed Sacrament if you can. Sit before Him and bask in His love. Be affirmed that you are good in His eyes. Open up those spaces in your heart that have been hidden in darkness and self-condemnation and begin to delight in yourself as the Lord delights in you.

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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 hopes to use 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.

Come and See

I love the sweet simplicity of today’s Gospel. Philip was looking for Nathanel and as he finds him, shares that one whom the Jews were waiting for is here, Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth. But Nathaniel said to him, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip responds, “Come and see.”

Nathaniel’s response shocks us into remembering the complete humility of God. Nazareth is not a place anyone would expect the Son of Man, the Messiah, to come from.  It is not high class, but ordinary. By Nathaniel’s response, I think Nazareth is even a bit below an average town. Philip doesn’t debate this with him but responds with a request for him to see for himself. All of us as Christians can take note of this simple response.

How often do we get into lengthy conversations when trying to evangelize? How often do we feel the need to defend and prove? We should be more like Philip and simply request others to come and see for themselves. When Nathaniel goes, he meets Jesus. Jesus greets him, and Nathaniel asks, “How do you know me?” Jesus goes on to say that he saw where he was before Philip went to get him, under the fig tree. Nathaniel then proclaims, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” And he said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Let us be like Philip today, bringing our friends closer to Jesus in simplicity. In the simple request of “Come and see.” Let us remember that Jesus sees us in every moment of our day, like Nathaniel under the fig tree. He sees us in every moment of our day. We are fully seen and fully known, may that bring you peace today.

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Briana is the Pastoral Minister at St. Mark Church in Cleveland, OH. She is also a district manager at Arbonne. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Theology and Catechetics from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, OH and is excited to use these skills to serve the Church. “My soul has been refined and I can raise my head like a flower after a storm.” -St. Therese

A Blueprint for Love

“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

I’m going to guess that most of you reading this post today believe you have the first and greatest commandment down pat. Love God. It’s the “with all our heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” part that I question. I also question it in myself. Is my love for God whole? Or are parts of me still holding back? I ask because if we truly did love God wholly, do we really need the second commandment? Think about it. Perhaps it depends on our definition of what it means to love wholly. But this will not be the focus of today’s reflection.

Instead, let’s look at “The Greatest Commandment, Part II.” Or, the Sequel. Love of neighbor. For this, I’d like to offer you a blueprint for love of neighbor, one that I’ve used often in prayer and when delving into my understanding of how to love others. I hope this will help you also:

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”   -1 Corinthians 13:1:7

There – the blueprint. The road map. What I most like about using this passage in my journey to loving others is that I can take baby steps. The first part reminds us that loving is more important than anything else we do. But the second part – this part lets us take those small steps. We can pick this apart and work on each of our shortcomings.

Perhaps we can start with patience if that is your downfall. Maybe it’s arrogance or irritability. Rudeness is a big one; jealousy, or perhaps too much rejoicing when someone you dislike experiences hard times. Are we happy in that? Or can we instead say a prayer for that person to help them? You must know that if you have not yet moved forward in your efforts to love, it cannot be done all at once. Dissect the blueprint. Pick one step and take the time necessary to improve this act of love. You may have to bite your tongue along the way. Try not to! But if you do, step back a bit on the road and look just ahead of you. What could you have done differently? Then, step forward and try again. Each time, with practice, should be easier. One – step – at – a – time!

Note that Jesus says we must love our neighbor, but often, I am asked how to define a neighbor. Well, look up from your phone and texting and social media and glance around you. You will find no shortage of neighbors to love. Whatever their race, creed, ideology, nationality, age, sexual orientation, body type or hair color — these are your neighbors. These are the folks you are commanded to love. Jesus also said that we should love these neighbors as we love ourselves. Love of self must be in the likeness of Jesus’ love for us, not in self-centeredness. Understanding how Jesus loves you will move you forward on our journey to loving your neighbor. Then, perhaps one day, who knows when our love of neighbor will also include those enemies whose only goal is to destroy us. An outlandish idea? Not in the eyes of Jesus. Yes, perhaps one day! Perhaps —

God Bless.

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Jeanne Penoyar, an Accounts Manager at Diocesan, is a Lector at St. Anthony of Padua parish in Grand Rapids, MI. Jeanne has worked in parish ministry as an RCIA director, in Liturgy, and as a Cantor. Working word puzzles and reading fill her spare time. Jeanne can be reached at jpenoyar@diocesan.com.

An Invitation of Love

I have written about this before, but I absolutely love when God’s love for us is described with marital imagery. As most of you know, having been recently married, it is a time in my life when I can relate to marital themes. It has been said that God wants to marry us spiritually and is sending us a proposal; what we must do is say yes.

Today’s Gospel seems very dark and strict, but it’s not if we really enter into the marital imagery that Jesus is using. Put yourself in the proper mindset here. Imagine your best friend was getting married and you wanted more than anything to attend the ceremony and be there with your friend. You wait for months hoping to receive an invitation, wondering if you are among the list that will be accepted. Finally, the invitation comes, and without a second thought, you get on their website and RSVP, giving what food you would like and how many people will be attending. You let them know you care by quickly telling them you have set aside the time and want to support them.

Now imagine this friend is more of an acquaintance from college or a distant cousin that you don’t really talk to. You know they exist and have been in your life before, but you’ve let that relationship go by the wayside. Now you get the invitation and you may think that this is an inconvenience because at the very least now you need to get them a gift and at the most you are attending another wedding. Maybe you wait to fill out the RSVP in hopes that something else will come up and you will have an excuse or maybe a better friend will invite you to their wedding and you would rather attend that, leaving your friend unanswered.

Now imagine you don’t know this person at all. You get an invitation in the mail, and you wonder if it has been misaddressed because you don’t even recognize the couple in the pictures. You try to find them on Facebook to see if you maybe met through mutual friends, but you can’t find them there either. You have no recollection of ever meeting the couple, and so you tear up the invitation and throw it away.

My simple question for you and myself today is this; which scenario most depicts yours when God sends us his invitation. Do we accept, do we wait for something we think may be better, or do we reject it completely? Let’s pray for the grace to be prepared when God sends us his invitation of love. From all of us here at Diocesan, God Bless!


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.

A Joyful Celebration

Are you someone that gets to Sunday Mass ten to fifteen minutes early? Are you someone that seems to make it right on time? Or are you always running late, getting there after Mass has already started? Well, this may sound odd to you, but I love watching the faithful who run late and sneak in after the entrance song or First Reading. I love to observe the faithful around me, the variety of expressions on people’s faces. The grandma staring down the new young family that has a noisy child, the people who roll their eyes as others come in late… 

Jesus shares with us today in the Gospel, a pretty lengthy parable.  The landowner hires laborers for his vineyard and some have been working all day in the heat.  The landowner runs into more laborers who are just standing around late in the day. He asks them why they aren’t working and as he finds that no one has hired them, he does them a favor and sends them into his vineyard.  At the end of the work day, everyone was given the usual daily wage. The laborers who started early in the morning were upset they did not receive more, since they worked far more hours in the hot sun then those who were hired later in the day. The landowner said to them, “My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’ Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

I absolutely love the message Jesus gives us in this parable.  Here we find the absolute generosity of God! Today, I believe we’d all have the same grumbles of the first workers if we were in their shoes.  We’re use to clocking in and clocking out. Maybe many of us would be offended if an entry level worker went home with the same paycheck as the top earner.  The landowner reminds them that he is free to use his money as he wishes and calls them out on being envious. 

I’d like to challenge you to think of this story in the context of God’s grace. How many of us act like the grumbling laborers spiritually?  Perhaps you work so hard day in and day out to please the Lord. You have countless holy hours, daily rosary & Mass… Perhaps you see other’s blessings and tend to feel jealousy since you “work harder”. All those spiritual efforts and works are so good and bring the Lord much joy, but we must be as generous as He is.  When the family that has a new baby arrives late to Mass, we should smile in joy that they still decided to come! When someone sneaks in the back after the Gospel reading, we shouldn’t look at them with judgement, but offer welcome and hospitality. When multiple toddlers are being noisy and distracting, may we praise God for them. The Church is our Mother and should be flexible and generous to all families. We, as the Body of Christ, must cultivate that same attitude of generosity! I believe it’s important to remind ourselves that we don’t know the hearts of those around us. We don’t know their crosses, pains, and circumstances. May we look at our brothers and sisters in Christ with the generosity that the landowner had one his laborers and remember that the last will be first, and the first will be last.

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Briana is the Pastoral Minister at St. Mark Church in Cleveland, OH. She is also a district manager at Arbonne. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Theology and Catechetics from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, OH and is excited to use these skills to serve the Church. “My soul has been refined and I can raise my head like a flower after a storm.” -St. Therese

Seasons of Hardship

Have you ever gone through a period of great suffering in your life, a time when you felt like enough was enough and just couldn’t go on? I mean, how many things can snowball into a stark reality before you go absolutely crazy?

In today’s first reading, Gideon wondered the very same thing. Begrudged by the oppression of the Midianites, he was an unhappy man. So God sent HIM to do something about it. As I type, my body is wracked with soreness and exhaustion, my soul is bruised from wounded relationships and unexpected realizations, my mind is whirling with a hundred things that crush my thoughts. How long can this go on?

Faced with the eviction of close relatives who trashed a living space we owned, we have been forced to spend countless hours and thousands of dollars that we don’t have just making it livable again. We count on the rental of this space to pay our bills and every month it lays vacant we go more and more in the hole. So each night, after working all day, my husband and I trudge over to our “side job.” Most days the to-do list is so long we can see no light at the end of the tunnel. Now, with most cosmetic aspects in place and a smaller list of practical details to finish we feel a certain amount of relief. It is short-lived, however, as we realize how much work we have to do on our own home, all projects abandoned in a rush to finish the rental.

To top it all off, my husband has begun a new venture that he loves, but that also entails a certain amount of stress and takes up a good portion of his time. The kids are fighting and cocking attitudes. School is about to start. We have family visiting for a week. Did I mention we are EXHAUSTED?…the words of the Psalm come as a balm to my weary soul.

“I will hear what God proclaims; the LORD–for he proclaims peace to his people, and to his faithful ones, and to those who put in him their hope.” (Ps 85)

“For everything, there is a season, even a season to suffer, to be tired and to wonder why. And in every season God is there and there is hope. For every season there is a reason. And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life.” (Mt 19)

Someone once told me that it was kind of nice being in the depths of the pit because you knew the only direction you could go from there was up. So here’s to moving forward, to ascending the heights, with my sights on the eternal goal, my final climb heavenward. “For God, all things are possible.”

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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.

Fulfilled Hearts

As a young adult, I recognize myself in the young man that we read about in today’s Gospel. We want to know the rules, the step-by-step instructions, the exact path to walk down for perfection. I’ve talked about it before, how as technologically advanced people, we want to be able to perfect the art of being happy and of being holy.

Today, the young man follows the rules, the Ten Commandments, and yet he does not feel like that is enough. He is correct.

Living out a faithful life is more than simply going through the motions. Most of us are not murderers, don’t steal, don’t commit adultery, don’t lie, and we honor our parents. We treat others kindly. Yet, we still feel empty.

I think back to when I was depressed and yearning for God’s presence in my life. I was going to church and following the commandments, but I didn’t feel the faithful joy that others were experiencing.

Finally, I realized that going through the motions of being a Catholic is not the same as living out your Catholic Christian duty. Both your actions and heart must be in it. Also, even if you want your heart to be in it, it’s not that simple. You have to understand what you’re gaining. You have to value yourself and your place in God’s world.

I find it comparable to the workplace. You can like having a job and the financial/health benefits that it gives you, but that is not the same as having a job that you find fulfillment in.

For me, working for the Catholic Church through technology gives me everything that I need to be fulfilled. I love knowing that I am helping the Catholic Church be more relatable and accessible to this generation. Without knowing what I am doing this all for, I’m not sure the work that I do would be fulfilling.

All the emails, all the meetings, and all the stress wouldn’t be worth it if it was only about emails, meetings, and stress. It’s the problem solving and lightbulb moments that give my job meaning. It’s about the bigger picture and my role in it that makes it worth it. It’s knowing that my actions are in line with my goal of heaven and service to My Father.

The same can be said for being Catholic. We can go to Mass and do all the Catholic “work,” but if we don’t understand why we’re doing it then it won’t be meaningful.

I ask that you not give in to being complacent with your faith. Ask what your God means to you and how you allow him to play a role in your daily life as you “go through the motions” of your life.

Is your heart fulfilled with the service you’re providing to God and his people?

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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.

Set the World Ablaze

“I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!” -Luke 12:49-50

I can still distinctly remember standing in my scout uniform at attention while the casket of President Gerald R. Ford passed by. The faces that day were a mix of honor, sorrow, and patriotism. I remember the flag waving in the breeze and even at a young age, I knew that this day was important. I was blessed to be able to attend the funeral of a past president as a Boy Scout. This was one of those times we all experience where we have an urge to change the world, be better than we are, or to fight for a noble cause. It was a tangible moment that I can remember made me want to do something big.

Another such moment came when I walked across the stage at graduation. My parents brimming faces and those of my friends, most of which never thought I would actually graduate, and the feeling of accomplishment took me over as I knew I was made for something great.

The most recent time that this inner pursuit took me over was on my wedding day. As I saw my bride walking down the aisle, I knew I wanted to be the best man I could be for her. I wanted to fight as hard as I possibly could to be my best self for my bride.

Fast forward to today and these beuatiful readings. Jesus says it very; clearly, he has come to set the world on fire, and he wishes it was already blazing. Then he mentions the importance of baptism. While all of these moments I recounted were very special to me and changing points in my life, none are so important as the day of my baptism, when I became part of God’s family.

I think it is hard, especially for cradle Catholics, for us to remember our baptism and the power we still receive every day from God. This day should make us want to fight the good fight and run the race. It should make us want to set the world on fire. But fear, despair, loneliness, the day to do of life, and time seem to erode the power of what happened so many years ago. It’s as if God’s grace was on a timer, and every day, the sand comes closer and closer to running out.

Though it can seem this way sometimes, it couldn’t be further from the truth. We need to realize and claim the power that we received on that glorious day when we were made new. We need to remember that it was on that day that we were called to be witnesses to the Gospel and share the love of Christ with the world. It was on that day that we started our journey to sainthood.

So here is my challenge to you. Look up your baptismal records and figure out when exactly you were baptized. Then pray to God and ask him for the grace to always remember that beautiful day and to thank him for the grace he has given you ever since. And finally, let’s all ask God how he has chosen for us to set the world on fire. We all make up a different ember in the fire of faith, what does your ember look like and have you made sure it doesn’t go out? The world needs your light.

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.

Wholehearted Trust

Do you ever miss being a child? Some of you may read that question, roll your eyes, and say, “Who has time for questions like that?” Or maybe that seems so long ago, that you’ve forgotten that time of life. Perhaps you read that question and automatically responded with a head nod, longing for what it’d feel like to not have a mortgage and laundry list of responsibilities.

Personally, I don’t think I miss those days as much as I like to reminisce upon them. Reminiscing upon the days that were filled with imagination and play. A time in which all of us needed much help. We were incapable of doing simple tasks on our own – a time in which our day to day required trust. We trusted wholeheartedly, whether we realized it or not. Day in and day out, we trusted our parents.

In today’s readings, I am reminded of the littleness I’ve felt in my life and of how little I am today. I don’t mean physically little, although I am an astounding five-foot-tall Italian who always feels small. I mean that I, as a human person, am pretty small in this great big world, and I am pretty small in comparison to the vastness of God.

In today’s Responsorial Psalm, we are told our inheritance is the Lord. We state this four times as we proclaim that the Lord is our refuge, our portion and cup, our counselor, our guide, and our joy. The Gospel today is short and sweet, Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.”

I believe it’s important to reminisce on what it means to be a child, to think about yourself as a child again. For me, it’s a way to keep a part of my heart child-like. Jesus is completely straight forward with us that we must be like children to enter Heaven! Those beginning years of our lives were VERY important! Of course, this does not mean any adult should be acting like a child because that would not be good nor appropriate. But God calls us to be child-like, looking at the beauty of children and taking the lessons to heart. I believe Jesus calls us to trust again like children, to remember that He is bigger than the challenges we face. He is bigger than us! Trust our Heavenly Father in our needs, our wants, and in our future. Wholehearted trust that He brings us comfort, joy, and guidance. Trust that He has our back. Trust that He is faithful to His promise, the inheritance He has waiting for us, life everlasting. May we trust like children trust their parents. May we trust our Heavenly Father completely today. Amen.

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Briana is the Pastoral Minister at St. Mark Church in Cleveland, OH. She is also a district manager at Arbonne. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Theology and Catechetics from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, OH and is excited to use these skills to serve the Church. “My soul has been refined and I can raise my head like a flower after a storm.” -St. Therese