Our Mother

In February of last year, Pope Francis gave the Church a new feast day. The day after Pentecost every year is now the memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church. Cardinal Robert Sarah, the head of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, has urged priests to make celebrating this memorial a priority and he said that the readings the Church chose for this feast “illuminate the mystery of spiritual motherhood.” So I thought it would be worthwhile to reflect on the readings today and discover what it means for Mary to be the Mother of the Church and our mother.

The Church gives us two options for the first reading, one of them is from the Acts of the Apostles (I’ll get back to that one) and the other is from Genesis (Gen 3:9-15, 20). This second option is the story of when God confronts Adam and Eve after they ate the forbidden fruit. During that conversation with our first parents, God turned his attention to the serpent and made this remarkable statement:

“Because you have done this, you shall be banned from all the animals and from all the wild creatures; On your belly shall you crawl, and dirt shall you eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.”

This is the first prediction of Mary and Jesus in scripture. Adam and Eve sinned only minutes before and God already has a plan for how he’s going to fix things. The serpent (representing the devil, sin, and death) will be delivered a fatal blow to the head by a descendant of Eve.

There were only two women in all of human history who did not have original sin, Eve and Mary. Both women were given the choice of either obeying God or turning away from Him. Eve’s choice brought sin into the world whereas Mary’s choice brought Jesus (the destroyer of sin and death) into the world. Eve, whose names means “mother of all the living,” gave birth to sin and death. Whereas Mary gave birth to the Messiah and, in turn, the Church. For, as St. Leo the Great says, the birth of the Head is also the birth of the body.

This brings us directly to the gospel reading for the day. It is St. John’s account of the crucifixion (John 19:25-34) where Jesus is hanging on the cross and sees his mother. The gospel says:

“Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.”

The beloved disciple is likely John himself, but he remains unnamed and thereby represents all of the disciples who Jesus loves, in other words, the whole Church. While hanging on the cross Jesus gives his Church one last gift, a mother – his mother. And Mary doesn’t hesitate in taking on her motherly role.

Now we make it back to the other option that the Church gives us for the first reading taken from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 1:12-14). Here we see Mary, in a very human way, take up her role as Mother of the Church. This reading takes place immediately after Jesus ascended into heaven. Jesus told them that the Holy Spirit was coming but he didn’t tell them when. So the apostles went back to the upper room in Jerusalem and waited. The reading says:

“When they entered the city they went to the upper room where they were staying…[and] devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.”

Mary was here as a mother to the apostles, encouraging and praying with them as they waited for the Spirit Jesus had promised them. Mary was already full of grace and the Holy Spirit from the Annunciation all those years earlier, so she sat with the apostles and, according to Archbishop Roche (Secretary for  the Congregation for Divine Worship) “she who knew more about the Holy Spirit was helping them to persevere, and to pray, and to make a space for the coming of the Holy Spirit in their own minds and hearts.”

And Mary didn’t cease to be the Mother of the Church after her assumption. “We believe that the Holy Mother of God, the new Eve, Mother of the Church, continues in heaven to exercise her maternal role on behalf of the members of Christ” (Catechism 975).

So what does all this mean for us? This feast is another reminder for us to turn to Mary and ask for her motherly help. In my prayer time over the past several weeks the Lord has given me the image of Mary holding her children in her lap and pressing their heads against her heart. By feeling the tender heart of Our Mother we can know Our Father’s heart. The Immaculate Heart of Mary leads us to the Sacred Heart of her Son. At times when we feel distant or angry at God, we can cry out to Mary and ask her to intercede for us and pray for our hearts to soften. And when we’re desperate for the Holy Spirit we know we can ask Mary, who is full of grace, to pray for a greater outpouring of the Spirit on our lives.

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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.

One and Two

Peter and John. The rock and the beloved disciple. The first Bishop of Rome and the one whom Jesus loved.

Today’s Gospel reading is really intriguing with these two apostles. Intriguing but a little difficult to unpack.

We get so much background information about John yet the focus of the passage is on Peter’s conversation with Jesus. Both were following the Lord but where? We do not know. We feel like we are falling back in time to the Last Supper but we know this encounter takes place after the Resurrection. Not to mention, some of the language mirrors other well-known Gospel passages. Where do we even begin?

Verses 20-23 carry a subhead called “The Beloved Disciple” but from the viewpoint of Peter. It is Peter who notices John following Jesus. It is Peter who asks about John, “Lord, what about him?” It is about John whom the Lord answers initially but He turns the attention back toward Peter, saying, “What concern is it of yours? You follow me.” But then the other disciples begin to whisper about John, that he would not die until Jesus returned. There is no mention of where they are going, where it is that Peter and John are following Jesus.

I mentioned the Last Supper because there is a direct reference in verse 20. In that background information about John, he is described as being “the one who had also reclined upon his chest during the supper and had said, ‘Master, who is the one who will betray you?’” Although we are aware that this Gospel passage we read today takes place after the Passion, Death, and Resurrection, it causes us to take pause. Perhaps to remind us of the events that lead up to this point, especially as we come to the end of the Easter season.

The last little bit of this Gospel that piques my interest is the line Jesus raises to Peter, “What concern is it of yours?” Earlier in the Gospel according to John, we find Our Lord saying similar words to His Mother at the Wedding at Cana: “Woman, how does your concern affect me?” Here, we know that his question followed with the sign of turning water into wine to mark the beginning of His public ministry, turning water into wine. With regards to Peter, Jesus is instructing him to keep his focus on the task at hand – a simple one of following the Lord.

Peter or John. If you look at both apostles right now, who do you relate to? I’m a little partial to Peter right now (I guess that’s what happens when you take a job at St. Peter Church). The Lord is constantly reminding me of the simple in nature yet difficult to follow task of just following Him. Everything else I’m called to do is all because I choose to follow Him.

Side note: I would highly encourage you to prepare for Pentecost this weekend by taking a look at the readings ahead of time. Pentecost is the third-ranking liturgy in the Roman Catholic calendar, inviting the Holy Spirit into the life of the Church to keep it alive. Some parishes will even be celebrating an extended vigil that is similar to the Easter vigil. Check it out if you are able.

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Erin is a Cleveland native and graduate of the 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 follow her on Twitter @erinmadden2016.

Losing Control

Last weekend, I was driving on the highway when a single line of a random, shuffled playlist song caught my attention. The female voice sang, “Yes, I know I’ve lost what you call control, but control isn’t real and you never had it.” As a recovering control freak and a chronic overthinker, I found this concept very interesting.

Growing up, I often struggled with the idea that I was in control of everything in my life. So, when things went wrong, I was the only one I would blame. While it gave me an aptitude for creating pretty intense spreadsheets and impressive lists, it was also incredibly frustrating and disheartening.

A couple of years ago, I was finally able to realize that everything that I am given and am able to give to others comes from God. I needed to “let go and let God.”

So there I am, driving to see my boyfriend because I need to decompress, and I realize exactly why I have been so stressed out. I’m trying to control everything again! I need to remember that the concept of having complete control is a terrible joke that I’m using to abuse myself. Yes, I can control my own actions, but even then, there is not a 100% guarantee that everything will work out according to my plan.

Through the voice of a female vocalist of a pop-punk band, God was reminding me that I should be following Him, wherever He should lead me. Today, we are all reminded of this. The Gospel reading today finds Jesus asking Simon Peter three times if Simon Peter loves Him. Each time, he says yes. Finally, Jesus tells him that when Simon Peter was younger, he did what he wanted and made his own decisions. As he grows older, things will change. He won’t always be in control and he needed to know that by loving Jesus he was agreeing to surrender.

Still, it wasn’t a trap. It was Jesus asking Simon Peter if he was willing to relinquish his control, something we pretend is real and never really had, and give it to God.

In my life, Jesus has asked me repeatedly and I’m so glad he does. I said, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you,” the first time I released my white-knuckled grip on my attempt at controlling everything. This last weekend was another time Jesus has asked, “Do you love me,” in a way that really means, “Do you trust me?” I’m saying yes, again.

So while I’ve lost what you call control, I remember that control isn’t real, God’s plan is. I never had control, so I let it go. Now I have faith.

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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.

They Also May Be In Us

The Gospel Readings for today allows us to see intimately into the relationship Jesus had with His Father. It is within this prayer that we are revealed the beauty, intimacy, and trust of their loving relationship. He asks God the Father that those who believe in Him may all be one, as the Father and Son are one. He asks that they may be one Church in such unity that it resembles the unity of their relationship. “That they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and in you”. Jesus goes on to pray for our perfection, that we may be loved by the Father as He is loved by the Father and then states that we are the Father’s gift to Him.

Jesus teaches us how to pray.  He has taught us how to pray not only by the Our Father, but here and many other places in Scripture as well! Jesus is praying a prayer of petition to the Father, there are moments of reflection and gratitude in the love they share & gratitude in His reception of His people as a gift from His Father.

Today, I encourage you to write your own prayer to the Father.  Follow Jesus’ example of petition and prayer of thanksgiving. Share what is on your heart and mind and know that our Heavenly Father desires to be united to you as He was united to Jesus, that my friends, should stir our hearts to sprint to our loving God. Let us answer Jesus’ prayer today by striving for unity and love with those around us & bringing our hearts to the Father so we may grow in our loving relationship with the Father, Son, & Holy Spirit.

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Briana is a Catholic youth minister at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel parish in Cleveland, OH. She is also a nanny and 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 bring her students closer to Christ and His Church. “My soul has been refined and I can raise my head like a flower after a storm.” -St. Therese

Dissecting a Passage from Paul

In today’s first reading Paul says, “Keep watch over yourselves and the over the whole flock of which the Holy Spirit has appointed you overseers”. I would like to dissect this passage to glean its significance. It is truly incredible how reflecting on Scriptures slowly and quietly brings out so much meaning.

Let’s start with ‘Keep watch over yourselves…’ A far cry from an individualistic or egocentric statement, this is a reminder to us that you can’t give what you don’t have. In mother’s circles, this is often called self-care. I am not talking about finding a babysitter to go get a pedicure and have a latte, but rather spiritual and perhaps emotional self-care. Taking a step back from the chaos, the noise, the gadgets and devices, the errands, the novels, the endless work, to just bask in stillness and silence. Maybe you can best do this when gardening or taking a walk, maybe it’s sitting in your favorite recliner or laying in your bed, but if we do not take time to regroup in silence, we burn out and have very little to offer to others. Silence doesn’t mean driving with the radio on or exercising with earbuds. Silence means you can hear the street lights buzz and the crickets chirping. Turn it off and just breathe. Breathe deep and breathe long and breathe repetitively. Let your heart rate slow and then listen, because you have to…

[Keep watch] ‘over the whole flock’. Who is in your flock? Is it your family, your friends, the employees under you? How do you treat them? Do you take care of them and nurture them? Do you truly care about their wellbeing? Because…

‘The Holy Spirit has appointed you [their] overseers.’ I don’t think we often look at life like that. I am a mother to my 4 children, a wife to my husband, a friend to my coworkers, an aunt, sister or daughter to my family members because the Holy Spirit has appointed me. What does that mean? How does that change things? What significance does it have? A whole lot! It means that everything I do, say and think should be led by Him and have His stamp of approval.

Now I am a very task driven, goal oriented person that likes to GET THINGS DONE. Needless to say, this becomes quite a challenge with 4 active little boys running around. Just maneuvering from the fridge to the counter to make a sandwich often has me literally stepping on one of their toes. Try to take on bigger projects and you better have pretty low expectations, cuz it’s not gonna get done in your time frame. I get so frustrated, I raise my voice, I demand help, I focus, and I ignore all else. Sure, there are some cool family moments of little helpers mixed up in there, but how much am I really letting the Holy Spirit in? My eyes glaze over and I am intent on my goal!

Farther down in the passage Paul reminds us of Jesus’ words: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” It is more blessed to give of my time, attention, love, and even eye contact to my family than it is to finish putting down my patio stones. Sigh…. The Holy Spirit has appointed me overseer to these little ones. That is a huge responsibility! But it is also a huge opportunity and a huge gift. The way I let God shine through me can show them how to live a godly life.

May God grant us all the grace to take time for ourselves in order to continue caring for others with the consistent presence and guidance of His Holy Spirit.

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Tami grew up in Western Michigan, a middle child in a large Catholic family. Attending Catholic schools her whole life, she was an avid sportswoman, a (mostly) straight A student and a totally type A sister. She loves tackling home projects, keeping tabs on the family finances and finding unique ways to love. 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. Her favorite things to do are finding fun ways to keep her four boys occupied, quiet conversation with the hubby, and grocery shopping with a latte in her hand. 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 the past 18 years.

The Order That Should Have Failed

Today’s gospel recounts the final moments before Jesus’ arrest in John’s gospel. He offered up his approaching crucifixion and pleads God the Father for the preservation of his disciples. In the next chapter, Peter will deny him and rock the very newly formed priesthood mere hours after it was created.

We are currently in the midst of ordination season. Men in diocese across the world are anointed by their bishops, prostrated before the altar and take the vows of celibacy and obedience. It’s an incredible, grace-filled mass with tradition that began with the ministry of Christ and passed down through the apostles and bishops.

They spend years in seminary in prayer and preparation for this moment. While it is the end of their time as seminarians, it is the beginning of one of the most beautiful, difficult lives a man can live.

The devil hates priests. Not only do they minister to the people of God, but they bring Christ in the flesh to them through the Eucharist. Masses cannot be celebrated without priests; sins are not forgiven in the confessional without priests in persona Christi.

Because of this, we need to pray for our parish priests. The spiritual attacks that they must endure can only be overcome by means of the grace of God. We should be regularly praying and fasting for our priests. Pope Francis is always asking the faithful to pray for him because he knows that without prayer, he would fail as our shepherd.

The priesthood was made by a perfect God for imperfect men. Jesus knew that and it’s why he was praying so fervently for his newly ordained disciples leading up to his arrest. All of them fled but one. The priesthood seemed to have failed in its first moments of existence.

But by the blood of Christ and the grace of the Holy Spirit, it survived and continues to despite the attacks on the order of the priesthood today.

Gracious and loving God, we thank you for the gift of our priests.
Through them, we experience your presence in the sacraments.

Help our priests to be strong in their vocation.
Set their souls on fire with love for your people.

Grant them the wisdom, understanding, and strength they need to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.
Inspire them with the vision of your Kingdom.

Give them the words they need to spread the Gospel.
Allow them to experience joy in their ministry.

Help them to become instruments of your divine grace.

We ask this through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns as our Eternal Priest. Amen.

(From the USCCB http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/prayers-and-devotions/prayers/prayer-for-priests.cfm)

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Hannah Crites is a native to Denver Colorado and graduate of the Franciscan University of Steubenville. She has written for numerous publications and blogs including the Chastity Project, Washington Times, Faith & Culture: The Journal of the Augustine Institute, and Franciscan Magazine. She is currently working in content and digital marketing for a small web development and digital marketing agency. Connect with her through Twitter (@hannah_crites) and Facebook. Check out more of what she has written at https://hannhcrites.com/.

Come Holy Spirit

“Behold, the hour is coming and has arrived when each of you will be scattered to his own home and you will leave me alone. But I am not alone, because the Father is with me. I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” Jn 16:32-33    

These last two verses of the gospel have been keeping my attention as I prayed with the readings for today. Why? Because I believe the Holy Spirit is guiding me to pay attention to Jesus’ words.

Personally, my ‘world’ is pretty good. I have a job and a roof over my head. I have food in the fridge and in my cupboard. I have electricity, internet, running water & indoor plumbing. I am in relatively good shape and have access to healthcare. I have family, friends, and pets. I have a personal relationship with God. I am truly blessed.

Our world is troubled: massive storms & climate change, civil wars and genocides, endangered species and extinctions, social angsts and evils. There are many who do not have a home or the necessities for a productive life or what they do have is not safe. Do these things affect my world? YES, 100 percent. YES, is my answer. As a member of the world, but more importantly, as a member of the Catholic Church, I am charged through my baptism to advocate the teachings and commandments of my God and my Savior, Jesus Christ.

Jesus tells us to take courage! He conquered the world, for each of us, by His death and resurrection! Alleluia! Pope Francis in his May 26th Regina Caeli address reminds us, “Jesus returns to the Father, but continues to instruct and animate his disciples through the action of the Holy Spirit.”

Today is the 4th day of the Pentecost novena. If you are not familiar with this, it’s the first of all novenas. A novena (the Latin for nine is ‘novem’) is nine days of prayer usually for a special intention or grace, hence this novena is dedicated to the Holy Spirit. The Pentecost novena has its roots in the New Testament and the time the disciples spent in prayer after the Ascension of Jesus. The focus in the novena today is on fortitude. Do I have the courage to listen and live out what God has created and called me to do?

“In all that we do, we strive to present ourselves as ministers of God, acting with patient endurance amidst trials, difficulties, distresses, beatings, imprisonments and riots; as men and women familiar with hard work, innocence, knowledge and patience in the Holy Spirit, in sincere love as men and women with the message of truth and the power of God.” 2 Cor 6:4-7

I am not an influential writer as St. Paul was in his letter to the Corinthians and all the epistles, nor am I a talented debater as St. Paul was at the end of the first reading as he spoke in the synagogue for three months, but I am inspired by the same Holy Spirit. We can all make a difference in my world because of God’s life within us through His Spirit!

Pray with me:

A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me. Cast me not out from your presence, and your Holy Spirit take not from me. Give me back the joy of your salvation, and a willing spirit sustain in me.  Amen.

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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.

Whatever We Ask?

Jesus says something amazing in today’s Gospel, something we may think is unbelievable: “Whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you.” Really? Our experience of prayer and petition seems to tell us that the Father does not actually give us whatever we ask for, even if our request ends with the words “in Jesus’ Name” or “through Christ our Lord.” So. Was Jesus just using some dramatic hyperbole or devotional language?

No. Jesus says what he means. Jesus IS the Truth, so every word he speaks is true. And these words, spoken at the Last Supper before he gave himself as a sacrificial offering, were a kind of “last will and testament” to his disciples. They were sitting near him, eating with him, aware of the tone of his voice and the sincerity of all he said. These words are surely true, and he surely meant them. How can we understand them?

Jesus was guiding them into the understanding that things were about to change, but for the better: “The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures… Now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.” Gradually, they would come to see Jesus as the Bridge, re-establishing communion between God and His people; because Jesus is also human and we are part of his Mystical Body, all our prayer is joined to his own prayer before the Father, and shares in the efficacy of his prayer.

But does that mean that we will actually receive “whatever we ask for”? Yes, on one condition: that what we ask for is TRULY for our good and God’s glory.

We’ve all heard the expression: “Be careful what you ask for.” We always ask for what we THINK will make us happy (no one asks for something that will make them miserable!), but we have to admit that we don’t always know the full picture, we certainly can’t see the future, and so we don’t always know that what we are requesting will really bring us happiness. But God does.

The presupposition is that we are walking in God’s commandments, seeking his perfect will, and therefore that our prayer is in conformity with His will.

God hears every single prayer. But we don’t always hear His answer clearly. I like to say that God has three ways to answer our prayers:

  • Yes.
  • Not yet.
  • Actually, I have a better idea.

Let’s pray for the grace to appreciate the great gift we have been given in Christ, to seek God’s will for our own good and His glory, and to accept that His Plan for our lives is designed to bring us every good, deep peace, and eternal joy. Then we can pray in complete trust, knowing that the Father will, indeed, give us whatever we ask for in Jesus’ name.

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Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including Deacon 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/.

The Joy of a Pup

“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, ‘Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.’” – Luke 1:41-44

While reading this passage and praying through what God wanted me to receive from the verses the words above popped off the page at me. It is fascinating to imagine being in this scene with Mary and Elizabeth, witnessing baby John the Baptist leaping inside of Elizabeth’s womb. Mary walks into the house and Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit.

Both of these events, that is, Elizabeth and John the Baptist’s reactions to Jesus in Mary’s womb, seem so miraculous and so out of touch in our times. The truth is that these happenings shouldn’t be at all abnormal, but rather these should be the norm for our lives in how we rejoice in the Lord – whenever we approach Jesus in the Eucharist and receive Him we should be filled with the Holy Spirit and leap for joy.

One thing that comes to mind when I think of being joyful is the excitement that our puppy shows when we come home from a day of work or errands. His name is Gizmo, and he has the sweetest little face, and he loves to lick as a way of showing affection. He will make a high squealing noise and jump for joy at the noise of his people turning the key in the back door. The joy and excitement that he exuberates, while animalistic in nature, ultimately demonstrates an innocence and love so strong that we can compare to our own lives and relationship with God. Do we praise Him joyfully, no matter the circumstances in our lives? Do our hearts leap for joy at the beauty and mystery of receiving our Lord in the Eucharist, or does this become a mundane routine that we participate in because it is what we have always done? Do we hold onto our joy in anticipation of the time when we will be fully united with Jesus?

In The Story of a Soul by St. Therese of Lisieux she often talks about Jesus’s thirst for souls, and how all He wants is to be with us no matter what. What if we approached each and every breath we are given in life with thanksgiving and joy to God? How many souls would be drawn to our joy as a beacon in this dark world? Putting aside all of the misfortune and hurt that we experience in our lives we can be comforted by one thing – our God is the same and always will be. He is Love, the Good Shepherd, and the Living Bread.

The peace of knowing God is constant is enough reason for us to leap for joy and be filled with the Holy Spirit, and He desires that we participate in His goodness with every heartbeat. Jesus gives us all of Himself in the Eucharist – I dare you to approach Him with a leaping heart of joy and be at peace with the Spirit He gives you as you receive Him. While we may not always be happy, as this is a fleeting emotion, joy is and can be a constant in our lives if we keep our eyes on Jesus, the source and summit of our Faith. I pray that we all live with a joyful heart of anticipation just like Elizabeth, John the Baptist, and even little Gizmo.

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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.  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 nshultz@diocesan.com.

Presence Matters

I have a 4-year-old at home who is suffering from what I call “accompaniment syndrome”. It may be a form of separation anxiety, or maybe he’s just a momma’s boy but it sure can be trying at times. “Mommy, can you come to watch TV with me?” “Mommy, can you stay in the bathroom until I’m done?” “Mommy, can you sit next to me while I eat?” “Mommy, can you play with me?” All endearing requests if he were the only aspect of my world, but come on! I have 3 other kids and a husband. I cannot be joined at the hip with you all day long!

As I tend to do when I have two or three seconds of silence to reflect, I am able to relate it to my spiritual life. In today’s first reading, Paul was in Corinth, where he met Aquila and his wife Priscilla. It says that he “stayed with them and worked”. He simply accompanied them with his presence. Surely he comforted them, ministered to them and offered them friendship. Isn’t this essentially what my son is asking me to do?

In the Gospel, Jesus is preparing His followers for His Ascension into heaven. He tells them “A little while and you will no longer see me.” He is preparing them for when He will no longer physically accompany them. And they are distraught. In the same way that my 4-year-old whines and cries almost every morning when I have to leave for work, the disciples were mourning Jesus’ absence.  Our presence matters.

While I know that God is always present to me, I often question how present I am to Him. My prayer life is sorely lacking, my patience is gravely thin, and I often don’t even think about my first and one true Love. Even when I don’t make time to pray, even when I have no idea what the readings at Mass were, I can still be present to my God by inviting Him into the everyday moments. Small utterances throughout the day, a plea for help, a complaint, a word of praise, a thank you, maybe even a shared joke or two. What matters is our presence to each other, Him to me and me to Him.

Lord, help me to truly be present to others today and to be present to You as well. Help me to realize that Your presence abiding in me matters to others, and together we can make a difference. Our presence matters…

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Tami grew up in Western Michigan, a middle child in a large Catholic family. Attending Catholic schools her whole life, she was an avid sportswoman, a (mostly) straight A student and a totally type A sister. She loves tackling home projects, keeping tabs on the family finances and finding unique ways to love. 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. Her favorite things to do are finding fun ways to keep her four boys occupied, quiet conversation with the hubby, and grocery shopping with a latte in her hand. 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 the past 18 years.

Evangelization 101

Evangelization seems to be a “buzz word” in the faith. Everyone’s heard it. A lot of people seem to be talking about it. We all know it’s part of our Catholic vocation, something we are called to do. But how often are we seeing evangelization in action? When was the last time you saw someone and said, “That’s evangelization. That’s how it’s supposed to be done”? If you don’t have an answer to that question, don’t worry.

Paragraph 905 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church describes evangelization as “‘the proclamation of Christ by word and the testimony of life.’ For lay people, this evangelization … acquires a specific property and peculiar efficacy because it is accomplished in the ordinary circumstances of the world.’”

A few different things stick out to me here: “the proclamation of Christ by word and the testimony of life” and “in the ordinary circumstances of the world.” We evangelize not only by what we say – the good news of Christ in the Gospels – but also how we act in accordance with His teachings. And we are called to do this in everyday life. Think of the most mundane ordinary circumstance you encounter in a day. Now think of how you can evangelize in that moment. If you need some help, we have a great example in today’s first reading.

Paul stood up in front of the Greek people, probably knowing he was going to experience resentment and dissension, and still began to share Christ’s life anyways. First, he started with what he knew about them, “I see that in every respect, you are very religious,” and then moves on and makes a connection by saying, “what therefore you unknowingly worship, I proclaim to you.”

From that point on, he began to share what he knew about God with the Greeks: that God made the world, created everyone in it, etc. He continues by referencing poets who were known to have said “‘for we too are his offspring.’” Finally, Paul gets to the heart of his exhortation – that they not idolize divinity but rather repent. A harsh message that was probably not well received among the majority. In fact, some scoffed but others were intrigued by what Paul had said and joined him.

What can we learn about evangelization from Paul? A few basic things. 1) Start with what you know about your audience. One little thing, an aspect of comfort, can be your gateway. 2) Use that knowledge to establish a connection. 3) Share your message, perhaps starting with your more easily received points. Don’t hesitate and don’t dance around it. 4) Return to your knowledge as you continue to establish rapport. 5) Lay it all out on the table, including the most difficult news you may have to share. 6) Finally, extend an invitation to continue the conversation.

Evangelization is going to look different for everyone based on the audience. The way I evangelize to my coworkers is different than the way I evangelize to my youth group kids. It’s a difficult task but a necessary one, a task we all need to take more seriously.

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Erin is a Parma Heights, Ohio, native and a 2016 graduate of the Franciscan University of Steubenville. She uses her communication arts degree in a couple of different ways: first, as an Athletic Communications Assistant at Baldwin Wallace University and, secondly, as a youth minister at her home parish of Holy Family Church. Although both of her jobs are on complete opposite spectrums, she truly enjoys being able to span the realm of communications. You can follow her on multiple Twitter accounts – @erinmadden2016 (personal), @bwathletics (work) and @HFVision (youth ministry).

Listen to the Mourning Dove

Most mornings, I awake to the sound of mourning doves on my deck rail. They come around several times a day. Their mournful cooing sound is soothing and relaxing to me. But I have to admit that sometimes I’ve thought they are not a very smart bird. And they look a bit funny. The head never seems to be the right size for the body. However, they give me pleasure in watching them, hearing them, as well as listening to my cat chirp back at them because the doves are “invading her space.”

Do you know the symbolism of the dove? Although usually attributed to the white doves we see as symbols of love at weddings and the Holy Spirit in spiritual depictions, the mourning dove stands for new beginnings and high expectations, deliverance. In fact, the states of Michigan and Wisconsin regard the mourning dove as the official state symbol of peace! These birds represent peace of the most profound kind and are said to soothe and quiet our worried and troubled thoughts, enabling us to find renewal in the silence of the mind.

Today Jesus tells the disciples that he is going; their hearts will be filled with grief. But one is coming, the Advocate, the Comforter, who will show them truth and righteousness. The prince, ruler of the world (Satan) has been condemned. We must believe, and we must listen to the Spirit to know the truth. The Gospel refrain says it all: “I will send to you the Spirit of truth, says the Lord; and he will guide you to all truth.”

You will be hearing a lot in the next few weeks, leading up to Pentecost, about the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. But I would like you to know this – without mindful peace, silence of the heart, and trust in the Lord and the Spirit, we cannot begin to hear the truth as Jesus wants us to. It takes effort to quiet oneself to hear, as much as we must keep our mouths shut and minds open to listen to what someone else is saying to us. It’s not always easy, as our minds tend to begin to formulate answers or arguments before the other stops speaking. We miss a lot.

I find my self-control, whenever I can, when I hear the mourning doves coo. For me, they are a tangible sign of the Spirit, and their sound calms me so that I can hear what the Spirit is saying. I need to know the truth, even when I don’t want to know the truth. Such is the dilemma of the human heart.

The next time you hear a mourning dove, stop for a bit and remember what it represents for you: new beginnings and great expectations; deliverance, comfort, deep peace, truth and a quiet heart.

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.