May We Thrive On The Cross

As I type, a heatwave has descended upon Western Michigan and surely much of the country. Mid-July is not known for the most pleasant of weather, especially for one who sports a 30–week pregnant belly. It reminds me of the years I lived in Kentucky, when I couldn’t even touch my steering wheel without burning my hand and instead of being greeted by cool early morning air as I headed to work, I breathed in sweltering temps already in the mid 80’s. Yet even this suffering pales in comparison to the heat spoken about in today’s Gospel. “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” Oh, the fires of Gehenna! How hot they must be! It makes me cringe just thinking about it.

Yet Jesus does not speak this way in order to instill fear in us, but rather the plain truth, a pointed reality. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, in other words, everything we do bears consequences. Even so, Jesus goes on to reassure us of His deep and infinite love: “All the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

Today we remember the life and legacy of St. Kateri Tekakwitha. I have always been drawn to her, since my niece bears her name and because of her courage and early death. Even during my time in “The Bible Belt” I was still able to find like-minded Catholics to befriend and share my faith with, but she was surrounded by pagan Mohawks who treated her as a slave upon her conversion. She escaped to a Christian village on foot, a 200-mile journey, to continue her journey of faith. A woman of prayer and penance, she vowed to remain a virgin and died at the tender age of 24.

It causes me to reflect upon the things I have suffered that now seem so small. I recently had to make a trip to the hospital due to pregnancy related issues. And although all turned out well, I still bear the “battle scars” of large yellow and purple bruises on my hand and arms after 5 attempts to insert an IV. Did I pay this price as lovingly as she would have? Did I acknowledge my Lord before the healthcare professionals through my words and attitude even while I “suffered”?

Today’s reflection on franciscanmedia.org states, “We like to think that our proposed holiness is thwarted by our situation. If only we could have more solitude, less opposition, better health. Kateri Tekakwitha repeats the example of the saints: Holiness thrives on the cross, anywhere.”

So may we thrive on the cross no matter where we find ourselves, whether it be in extreme heat, on a hospital bed, or in a hostile environment, knowing that in the end, the Lord will acknowledge us before His heavenly Father.


Tami Urcia is wife and mother to her small army of boys. She works full time at Diocesan and is a freelance translator and blogger (BlessedIsshe.net and CatholicMom.com) She loves tackling home projects, keeping tabs on the family finances, and finding unique ways to love. Tami spent early young adulthood as a missionary in Mexico, then worked and traveled extensively before finishing her Bachelor’s Degree. Her favorite things to do are spending time outside with the kiddos, quiet conversation with the hubby, and an occasional break from real life by getting a pedicure or a haircut. You can find out more about her here.


Think of God

Does it ever scare you how easily it is to fall into bad habits? Reading about some of the transgressions of the time in the Book of Amos today, I realize once again how alive and applicable Scripture is to us today. We just as easily “trample the heads of the weak” or “profane his name” through impure acts. Even though God called us “good” from the moment he conceived mankind, it is so easy for us to be “bad”!

Being a parent has brought so much light on this tendency and the great need I have for grace. When I was single it was so easy to volunteer, go on mission trips, say kind things, help others with a project, have a regular prayer life and be a good person in general. But once I became a mother, all that was stripped away in favor of a life of 24/7 care of little ones. Not only was I no longer able to travel or volunteer or keep up a prayer routine, but any adult company in general was hard to come by. My friends had also married and had children and we all became absorbed in our own lives. I found it easier and easier to succumb to frustration, anger, finger pointing, and a desire to control.

Then I came across a reflection where the author discussed a heresy declaring that a person could gain heaven through his/her own effort, negating God’s grace. Recognizing the tendency in myself to drive, organize and manage things, I began to ponder whether I was ever guilty of this mindset. I have always been a bit of a “goody two shoes”, so to speak, attempting to follow the rules and do acts of charity, but for the past several years, sheer exhaustion and the constant outpouring of self has made grace much more of a necessity and virtue much harder to come by.

While continuing to mull over this thought, I read on and come to the Psalm: “Remember this, you who never think of God.” WHOA! That is not someone I want to be! Is He talking to me?? I certainly hope not! I much prefer to read “He that offers praise as a sacrifice glorifies me; and to him that goes the right way, I will show the salvation of God.” Yeah, yeah, that sounds much better… that’s who I want to be.

So with a renewed resolve I make a conscious decision to think of God more, ask for His grace more and rely on it more often. For only in Him and through Him can I even begin to be good…


Tami Urcia is wife and mother to her small army of boys. She works full time at Diocesan and is a freelance translator and blogger (BlessedIsshe.net and CatholicMom.com) She loves tackling home projects, keeping tabs on the family finances, and finding unique ways to love. Tami spent early young adulthood as a missionary in Mexico, then worked and traveled extensively before finishing her Bachelor’s Degree. Her favorite things to do are spending time outside with the kiddos, quiet conversation with the hubby, and an occasional break from real life by getting a pedicure or a haircut. You can find out more about her here.


Forerunner of Christ

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Nativity of John the Baptist and on August 29 the Memorial of his Passion, a requiem of sorts of his decapitation. Yes, as gory as that sounds we celebrate the day he was crowned with martyrdom through decapitation.

These feasts always remind me of the day 21 years ago that I consecrated myself to Christ through a lay Movement. I lived the life of a religious with 3+ hours of daily prayer, theological studies and missionary work. After three and a half years, I realized this life was not my calling, despite my deep desire to serve God, His Church and His people. Looking back, I wondered if perhaps the fact that I was consecrated on this bloody memorial was some kind of ominous foreshadowing that my vocation would die.

In the years hence, however, I have come to see death and memorials as more of a celebration of someone’s life, rather than a reliving of the way they died. I can now look beyond his decapitation and remember his legacy, in the same way I can look back on my temporary vocation as a time of personal growth and service to the Church instead of a failure.

John the Baptist was known as the great forerunner of Christ, one who “prepared the way of the Lord.” He was not afraid to take on practices that must have appeared strange to others in order to proclaim his message. He was bold, unashamed, and straightforward. He did not beat around the bush. He was truly the Lord’s “servant from the womb”, a “light to the nations” and “a man after [God’s] own heart” who carried out His every wish (Ref 1st & 2nd Readings).

As Christians we are called to do the very same. By our actions, our words (when necessary), our service and our prayer we are called to boldly proclaim the truth of Christ just as John the Baptist did. Our very lives should shine with the truth of the Gospel. “I praise you Lord, for I am wonderfully made,” the Psalm declares. He made us, we are His. There is no room for fear or embarrassment. The Spirt of Truth will guide the way. So get out there and preach it! Oh, and enjoy the locusts and wild honey while you’re at it…


Tami Urcia is wife and mother to her small army of boys. She works full time at Diocesan and is a freelance translator and blogger (Blessedisshe.net and CatholicMom.com) She loves tackling home projects, keeping tabs on the family finances, and finding unique ways to love. Tami spent early young adulthood as a missionary in Mexico, then worked and traveled extensively before finishing her Bachelor’s Degree. Her favorite things to do are spending time outside with the kiddos, quiet conversation with the hubby, and an occasional break from real life by getting a pedicure or a haircut. You can find out more about her here.


Journey with Faith

After reading an article written by a former potato farmer, I was reminded of a movie I watched several years ago entitled “Faith Like Potatoes”. The films depicts a struggling family with several young children and a borderline abusive and faithless father.

After their circumstances force them to live out of a small RV for a time, he is able to obtain a plot of land to begin potato farming. Although plagued by drought and warned his crop will fail, his recent conversion assures him God will take care of them. Eventually, harvest time arrives and the workers doubtfully begin to dig up the dirt. Much to their amazement, large, healthy potatoes appear, row after row, and the family is saved. As everyone rejoices and dances around the field, it begins to rain. The drought has ended.

Just as God urged the father in this movie to plant potatoes despite the odds, Elijah urges Ahab to make haste in today’s first reading, despite no apparent sign of rain. Sometimes we are so stubborn, refusing to move and rooted to the spot by our obstinacy, when God only wants to shake us up for our own good.

God promises to bless us in abundance. Today’s Psalmist proclaims:

You have visited the land and watered it;
greatly have you enriched it.
God’s watercourses are filled;
you have prepared the grain.
Thus have you prepared the land:
drenching its furrows, breaking up its clods,
Softening it with showers,
blessing its yield.
You have crowned the year with your bounty,
and your paths overflow with a rich harvest;
The untilled meadows overflow with it,
and rejoicing clothes the hills.

God’s plans are so much better, brighter and more bountiful than our own. We corner ourselves inside of our own ideas, jealousies, or supposed needs. We are sometimes blessed to see the greater picture and sometimes we are not. But what we are always called to do is trust. Just as Ahab eventually trusted Elijah’s forecast and descended the mountain before he got soaked, God asks us to trust his ways in order to bless us abundantly. And since he desires to shower us something fierce, you may want to bring an umbrella, just in case.


Tami Urcia is wife and mother to her small army of boys. She works full time at Diocesan and is a freelance translator and blogger (BlessedIsshe.net and CatholicMom.com) She loves tackling home projects, keeping tabs on the family finances, and finding unique ways to love. Tami spent early young adulthood as a missionary in Mexico, then worked and traveled extensively before finishing her Bachelor’s Degree. Her favorite things to do are spending time outside with the kiddos, quiet conversation with the hubby, and an occasional break from real life by getting a pedicure or a haircut. You can find out more about her here.


Thirsting for God

Our family recently experienced the loss of a loved one. A joy-filled, faithful woman who gave a great portion of her time to guiding youth, helping people find jobs, aiding refugees and much, much more. So many people were touched by her that social media was spattered with memorial messages and the line to get into the funeral home was out the door. “You would have thought the Pope died!” someone commented, so enormous was the outpouring of love and attention toward the family of the deceased. She was truly an incredible woman and one who will be missed by myriads. But as cancer consumed her body and her time for the last year and a half of her life, the words of today’s Psalm became more and more real to her “My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord, my God.”

Reflecting on her life and her legacy, I recall a refection from a fellow Catholic mom from a couple weeks back. She posed the question, “have you exhausted your lover(s)?” In other words, have you made God come out in search of you time and time again, only to turn around with head bowed in sadness because there has been no reciprocation, no response? Is He exhausted from seeking out your heart and finding it cold and unopened? My family member obviously did not exhaust God, quite the contrary, but do I?

How great is my thirst for my God? Do I long for my eternal home and thus direct my life toward this goal? Or do I allow myself to get bogged down by the trivial trials that each day presents? The baby who won’t sleep through the night, the toddler who sparks an attitude, the preschooler who wants to argue about everything… where does all of this fall on the road to eternity? What significance does it have? If I am truly honest with myself, very little, unless I let it. I can brush it off as life’s drudgery or I can see each of these daily crosses as an opportunity to inch toward sanctification. I pray that with each passing day, I may choose the latter more and more.

“My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord, my God.”

May I exhaust you no longer.

Amen.


Tami Urcia is wife and mother to her small army of boys. She works full time at Diocesan and is a freelance translator and blogger (BlessedIsShe.net and catholicMom.com) She loves tackling home projects, keeping tabs on the family finances, and finding unique ways to love. Tami spent early young adulthood as a missionary in Mexico, then worked and traveled extensively before finishing her Bachelor’s Degree. Her favorite things to do are spending time outside with the kiddos, quiet conversation with the hubby, and an occasional break from real life by getting a pedicure or a haircut. You can find out more about her here.


Be Fair, Be Safe, Be Kind

“Do not complain, brothers and sisters, about one another, that you may not be judged.” (James 5:9)

The first line of today’s first reading hit me like a rock right between the eyes. I consider myself one of the world’s worst offenders in this department. I’m such a groaner! When someone doesn’t think like I do, or act the way I think they should, or dress in a certain way or rubs me the wrong way, I complain to my close-knit circle. But what does complaining have to do with judging? Complaining often turns to criticizing and criticizing to judging. It’s a vicious circle.

One Lent, instead of giving up sweets or coffee, I decided to give up complaining. Let me tell you, I spent a lot of time in silence! It was one of my most challenging Lents. I never would have fathomed how often I would have to bite my tongue. It helped me to realize how I was called to follow the example of our Lord to be “kind and merciful.” (Psalm Response)

This is the first year my husband and I have had a child attend school and it has been a whole new venture for us. We have learned so much, but one of my favorite things has been the school motto: “Be Fair, Be Safe, Be Kind”. Not only have I been able to use it as a teaching tool with my preschooler, but I have repeated it to myself over and over again as well. So often I have to remind myself to be kind. And kindness doesn’t only mean biting my tongue or not criticizing, it also means stepping out of the bounds of my complacency and giving that compliment or flashing that smile or voicing that exuberant “thank you”.

It takes a significant effort to forgo complaining and be kind, but no one ever said it would be easy to follow Christ on the straight and narrow path. We make that choice because we love Him and because we long to spend all eternity with Him. So upward and onward, my friends!

“Merciful and gracious is the Lord,

Slow to anger and abounding in kindness…

As the heavens are high above the earth,

So surpassing is his kindness…


Tami Urcia is wife and mother to her small army of boys. She works full time at Diocesan and is a freelance translator and blogger (BlessedIsShe.net and CatholicMom.com) She loves tackling home projects, keeping tabs on the family finances, and finding unique ways to love. Tami spent early young adulthood as a missionary in Mexico, then worked and traveled extensively before finishing her Bachelor’s Degree. Her favorite things to do are spending time outside with the kiddos, quiet conversation with the hubby, and an occasional break from real life by getting a pedicure or a haircut. You can find out more about her here.


Everlasting Joy

“As the Father loves me, so I also love you.” (Jn 15:9)

It is so easy to gloss past these familiar words, but let them sink in for a moment. Just how deeply does the Father love the Son? So profoundly that the Holy Spirit “proceeds” from their love. It could not be contained in two Persons, They needed a Third! And the Son loves me in the exact same way?? How is that possible?! Now that is some amazing love!

And what is the fruit of knowing His amazing love? JOY! If we know that Jesus loves us to the extent He loves His Father, we should be filled to overflowing with joy. “I have told you this so that my joy might be in you, and your joy might be complete.” (Jn 15:11) Is this not what we all seek? To be happy and joyful? But perhaps we don’t find it because we are looking in all the wrong places.

My husband and I are often guilty of this. We live on a very tight budget. Throw in Catholic School tuition and you just broke the bank. Yet we recently started getting the itch for a new home with a big backyard for the little ones to expend some of their endless energy. We also have two older vehicles and would love a new SUV…just a small one, so my husband won’t feel so claustrophobic in the car, ya know… and the wish list just grows and grows.

We want this and we want that and before you know it, we begin to sound like our kids who do not yet understand that they can’t have everything they want when they want it! Perhaps it is in fact childish, but to some degree, we believe that having these things will make us happy. If only we could send the boys outside to play in a fenced-in backyard when they get rambunctious…if only our car didn’t burn antifreeze, we would be happy (or at least relieved of one more burden). But would these things bring us joy? True, deep, everlasting joy? I seriously doubt it.

Our joy comes from our friendship with God and the love He has for us. “I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you.” (Jn 15:15) We have been called into the very life and friendship of God!

But as with most things in our Christian journey through life, there is a catch. In order to take part in this divine life, we must do what He commands, bear fruit that remains, and love one another. In other words, we have some work to do! We are loved, we are invited into joy, we are friends with God, but we have to put a little elbow grease and sweat equity into it. And if we do, our joy will truly be complete and our reward (God’s infinite love) will truly be great in heaven.


Tami Urcia is wife and mother to her small army of boys. She works full time at Diocesan and is a freelance translator and blogger (BlessedIsShe.net and CatholicMom.com) She loves tackling home projects, keeping tabs on the family finances, and finding unique ways to love. Tami spent early young adulthood as a missionary in Mexico, then worked and traveled extensively before finishing her Bachelor’s Degree. Her favorite things to do are spending time outside with the kiddos, quiet conversation with the hubby, and an occasional break from real life by getting a pedicure or a haircut. You can find out more about her here.


Divine Pruning

Does anyone else want to just cringe after hearing about all the pruning happening in today’s Gospel? “He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.”

It makes me think of taking out splinters or porcupine quills or cactus spines! Ouch!! I know I have vices and shortcomings but I am comfortable with them and I would rather not change. I mean I’m not THAT bad of a person, right?  

But Jesus doesn’t want us to be “good enough”, He wants to perfect us. So splinter by splinter, quill by quill and spine by spine, He wears down our excuses, our faults and our shortcomings with His love and guides us along the way to salvation.

The deeper we allow ourselves to delve into this passage, the more beautiful it becomes: “Remain in me as I remain in you… If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.” What a comfort, what a joy, what a relief to remain in God! To remain in His loving embrace, His gentle guidance, His hopeful promise!

When my husband was 17, he had a near-death experience on the operating table during an appendectomy. His heart stopped and his soul hovered over his body in the room for an instant before seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and the silhouette of our beloved Lord. He felt such an indescribable peace, love and joy that he wanted to stay there forever, yet an instant later, his heart was shocked and his soul returned to his body. He experienced, if only for a split second, what it meant to remain in God. And we have the opportunity to do the same with our decisions, our attitudes and our ministries each and every day.

Today we honor St. Athanasius, a man who understood what it meant to remain in God. He was sent to exile many times and endured much persecution because of His unwillingness to believe the Arian heresy. He defended the divinity of Jesus, remaining in His truth, no matter what human suffering it caused. What a great example for us!

So I would like to invite each of you today to allow Jesus to prune and perfect you, no matter how painful it may be, and to remain always in His everlasting love.


Tami Urcia is wife and mother to her small army of boys. She works full time at Diocesan, a Catholic communication company, and is a freelance translator and blogger (BlessedIsshe.net and Catholicmom.com) She loves tackling home projects, keeping tabs on the family finances, and finding unique ways to love. Tami spent young adulthood as a missionary in Mexico, then worked and traveled extensively before finishing her Bachelor’s Degree. Her favorite things to do are spending time outside with the kiddos, quiet conversation with the hubby, and an occasional break from real life by getting a pedicure or a haircut. You can find out more about her here.