And We Continue

In today’s Gospel reading, the Pharisees determine that they will kill Jesus. Jesus no longer traveled with big crowds surrounding him. He no longer visited the big cities to preach. Reading only today’s Gospel makes it seem as though Jesus secluded himself and hid in fear of being captured and killed. If we continue reading in John’s Gospel and the others, we know that Jesus does not stop sharing the word with His people. He just has to be careful and creative.

The same concept applies to where we stand now, amid all the fear and possibility of disease. Yes, we must limit our contact with others. Yes, we must no longer visit with our friends and family. Still, that does not mean that we seclude our faith. It does not mean we stop living by the Word of God. It does not mean we stop living as Christians. We just have to be more careful and creative.

Maybe you know how to be careful but aren’t sure how to be creative with your faith. Below are some ideas of how you can continue living (and growing in) your faith:

  • Tune In For Daily & Sunday Mass Online
  • You can watch with Pope Francis (view)Our Lady of Mercy in Aurora, IL (view), or check your local parishes’ websites to see when they are celebrating their Masses online.
  • Pray Together, Online
  • Pray a Rosary, Novena, or the Divine Office with your friends over the phone or in a video call. The Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist (view) record daily Mass, the Divine Office, and the Rosary.
  • Pray At Home
  • Set up your own prayer altar at home. Not sure where or how to start? This link and this link, as well as YouTube (view playlist), have many Catholic ideas and tutorials to DIY your own sacred space not only for you, but for your family or roommates as well.
  • Read or Listen to a Book
  • While you probably have a bible in your house, you also have many online resources to read daily reflections, eBooks (view), and other free, community resources without having to have anything physically delivered to your house. Also, I know that I am having to re-learn the patience to read. Traditional Catholic (view) offers a list of books to read via PDF, Kindle, ePub, online, or even the audiobook version.
  • Stop. Look. Listen. Appreciate. 
  • As easy as it may be, take the time to count your blessings and enjoy the simple yet beautiful wonders that God has given you. The breeze, the sunlight, the plants that continue to grow, the beauty in a sunrise or sunset. Take this time to see your world with child-like wonder.
  • Faith with Family
  • With schools closing, a lot of parents find themselves spending more time with the children (view) and young adults (view) than they’ve ever had to do before. Other than telling your children to clean the house, now is the time to learn more about them and guide them in their walk with Christ.

Need more ideas or want to prepare for Palm Sunday and Holy Week? Click here for a folder of resources and ideas that my friend Lexxus and the Diocese of Austin, TX, shared and here for some ideas from the Catholic All Year blog.

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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.

Peace in the Storm

The last ten days have been a quick succession of life-changing decisions made for me. State of emergency declaration. No gatherings of 250 people or more. Dine-in restaurants and bars closing. No gatherings of 50 people or more. Work from home. No gatherings of 10 people or more. Just stay home.*

Even just typing that feels so heavy and restricting. It feels like the world is closing in around me. My walls of safety seem to be crumbling before my eyes. As someone joked, “This week has been the longest and most difficult year of my life.”

It’s almost crazy to think that it was only Monday when I first felt the panic and chaos well up inside of me. Evil, in the form of fear, loneliness, panic, and loss of hope, filled my thoughts. 

To combat this, a small group of us got together after work and prayed the Rosary. Prayed for healing, for illnesses, for those alone in this time, for each other, for the ability to feel God’s presence at a time like this. 

It was then that amid all the chaos, I felt at peace.

During Lent, we are called. Yes, called to pray, to fast, to give alms, but also just called. Our God seeks a relationship with us. He calls our name in times like these. In times of darkness, He calls out with His light. In times of fear, He calls out to us with hope. In times of uncertainty, He calls out our names and promises us, 100% guarantees us, His love no matter the situation. 

These are the times to listen for His voice. A little further from the distractions of the world, I ask you to listen. I ask you to acknowledge your fears, doubts, vulnerabilities, and trust in your God. 

Last, I ask that you pray with me, either once or as a Novena:

O Great St. Rocco, deliver us, we beseech thee, from the scourges of God; through thy intercession, preserve our bodies from contagious diseases, and our souls from the contagion of sin. Obtain for us salubrious air; but, above all, purity of heart. Assist us to make good use of health, to bear suffering with patience; and, after thy example, to live in the practice of penance and charity, that we may one day enjoy the happiness which thou has merited by thy virtues.

St. Rocco, pray for us (say three times).

*These items are taken from press releases issued on the State of Michigan’s website and the Center for Disease Control’s website. Please refer to your own state’s website or CDC for your state’s information.

https://www.michigan.gov/coronavirus/ (Citation for Michigan’s State of Emergency declaration, no gatherings of 250 people or more, dine-in restaurants and bars closing.)

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/ (Citation for no gatherings of 50 people or more and no gatherings of 10 people or more.)

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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.

Role Models

Not to put myself down, but I am not as fit as I once was. I participated in competitive running from 4th – 12th grade and lots of running afterward. At 25, even my elbow pops when I wake up. (That’s normal, right?) A broken ankle two summers ago, coupled with a hernia, hip misalignment, and minor ACL tear within the last year, all mean that I haven’t done too much physical activity for the last two years. This year, I’m trying to take small steps towards getting back into fitness and building strength, all while trying to incorporate a faith aspect.  

For example, my friend and I did SoulCore earlier this week. 

If you’re like me a week ago and have never heard of SoulCore, it’s a prayerful workout in which you pray the rosary while going through various stretching and strengthening moves. This way, not only are you working to focus yourself physically and mentally but also to focus yourself spiritually, as well. 

My friend and I had borrowed the DVD that goes through the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary, but to be honest, we couldn’t make it through the third decade. At one point, I remember jokingly saying out loud, “I am weak, but my God is strong,” as my arms trembled during the Our Father pushups. My friend exhaled a quick, “Amen,” to let me know that I wasn’t the only one struggling. 

Today’s first reading forced me to face the fact that what I said as a joke should really be taken seriously. It reminds us to hope in the Lord and not to seek strength in flesh. 

Most often, I find myself wanting to be like other people. I want to be fit like Andrea La Thoma. I want the modern faith life of my coworker. I want the business acumen of my mother. I want the trust in God that Saint Monica had. It is rare that I find myself saying that I want to be more like Jesus. 

If you’re like me, maybe don’t give our savior so little credit. He wasn’t a king born with privilege and opportunities at his feet, he was born in a stable and placed in a feeding trough with a carpenter and young mother as his parents. He was human. He had human emotions and struggles. His faith, his self-control, his compassion, his big-picture view of the world, are all examples for me to follow. Moreover, he placed his faith in God, Our Father, above all else.

Who is your role model? Where is your hope in the Lord?

Learn more about SoulCore here.

Read more about how Jesus is our role model here. 

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

The Short List

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Distance

I have heard today’s Gospel reading many times, as I’m sure you have as well. We hear of Zacchaeus, a well-known tax collector that took more than his share from the people. Still, Jesus tells him to come down from the tree and states that Jesus will be staying at his house. Everyone else is appalled. How could Jesus associate himself with a tax collector of all people! Doesn’t he know?!

Well… Here’s the thing; Jesus was insanely radical.

Today, many of us are blessed to know Jesus’ name. Many people associate Jesus with traditionalism and being conservative. At the time, Jesus was this amazing man with super crazy ideas. He rebuked the church officials. He publically spoke against laws. He touched the lepers. He chose to stay with well-known sinners. Jesus encouraged the inspection of traditions and the introspection of one’s own self.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus does this again in a way that we think we are familiar with because we have heard the story. In our own lives, it is alien and almost taboo to us. This is because we often like to distance ourselves from the people we see as “bad” or the “other” when, in reality, there is not much difference between any of us. That is not to say that there are not any differences, but there are often more similarities than differences. 

Still, we tell ourselves that if someone has a vastly different lifestyle that we cannot associate ourselves with them. I often hear the term, “guilty by association,” but no one ever talks about the joy and love of God rubbing off on other people. 

I know that in my life, my faith and trust in God has changed the hearts of others. I have dated people that knew nothing of Catholicism, and through (a lot of) patience and non-judgemental conversation, they now know and understand their own faith that much more. I have had friends that I drag with me to Mass and then had them tell me, “I didn’t know that’s what you believe.” I have had family members that have stopped practicing their faith, hear me talk about how much I love being Catholic, and having that Catholic community, then text me that they started going back to Mass. 

My favorite instances are when I am at a smoky bar or a rock concert, a drink in hand, and begin talking about my faith with the people around me. It normally begins with people asking where I work, and then I usually get the once-difficult question of, “How can you work for a Catholic company after everything with the priests?” I explain that priests are flawed people too, that Judas was Catholic, that this is all coming to light because we are honoring the truth, that God/Jesus/Holy Spirit and his followers are two separate things. 

Then I listen to what they have to say.

It is through patient conversations, not arguments that I see the tiny spark of a conversion of heart. This does not happen from a distance. It happens with friends, family, and strangers that we come in contact with every day. As we approach the holiday season, we must welcome the sinner and be a witness to our faith and our God just as Jesus did, regardless of how different we think they are. 

Not sure how to start the conversation? Below are some resources:


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.

Gifts From God

Initially, this blog post was about a totally different topic, but as I was searching for my blog post image, I began to think more and more about what I had already written. The image I came across, the image you now see at the top of this post, really spoke to me. With the first reading in mind, it made me think of the gifts that I have received from God and how I have responded to them. Moreover, why don’t I have the same look of excitement, joy, and amazement when looking at my gifts from God? Have I ever looked at my gifts that way?

Unfortunately, my answer is no. 

I hate to admit it, but I have always seen my gifts as something to be shrugged off or a burden. 

My laziness and ungratefulness in using the gifts God has given me remind me of what my coworker once said. “When you work for a painting company and are good at painting, it just means that everyone asks you to help them paint every room in the house.” So, at some point, you stop talking about the fact that you worked for a painting company. You don’t mention that you’re good at painting and have helped others with it. You tell yourself that if someone asks, you guess you can help, but only if they ask first. 

In today’s first reading, Paul, the Apostle, shares his gifts with the Gentiles, spreading the Word of God further than his comfort zone. It’s easy to share our gifts when we want to, on our terms. It requires a lot more faith and trust in the Lord to do things on His terms, to go where He wants us to go. 

Still, the more I look back on my life, the more I am overwhelmed by all of the goodness that God has placed in my life. All of the times I used my gifts for the good of God’s people, not because it’s easy or comfortable for me, I have been rewarded tenfold. The struggles work out. The fear is replaced by peace. Somehow (aka through God’s plan), it all works out. 

I often think back to the powerful words of Pope Francis that I was so fortunate to witness:

“My friends, Jesus is the Lord of risk, of the eternal ‘more.’ Jesus is not the Lord of comfort, security, and ease. Following Jesus demands a good dose of courage, a readiness to trade in the sofa for a pair of walking shoes, and to set out on new and uncharted paths. To blaze trails that open up new horizons capable of spreading joy, the joy that is born of God’s love and wells up in your hearts with every act of mercy. To take the path of the ‘craziness’ of our God, who teaches us to encounter him in the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick, the friend in trouble, the prisoner, the refugee and the migrant, and our neighbours who feel abandoned. To take the path of our God, who encourages us to be politicians, thinkers, social activists. The God who asks us to devise an economy inspired by solidarity. In all the settings in which you find yourselves, God’s love invites you bring the Good News, making of your own lives a gift to him and to others.” (2016 World Youth Day Prayer Vigil).

Today, I embrace my gifts, as uncomfortable as I may be at first. I want to use my gifts in a way that gives glory to God. I want Jesus, the Lord of risk, to smile down on me as I take each new leap of faith. I want to be confident in the gifts that He has given me and allow myself to be taken out of my comfort zone. The gifts that I have been given are meant to be shared. I want my life to be a gift, spreading excitement, joy, and amazement of God. 

Don’t know what your gifts are? Unsure of what ministry you would flourish in? Take the test!

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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.

It Depends on Faith

In today’s first reading, we read that God’s chosen people, Abraham’s descendants, were not going to be saved because they followed the law, but because they had faith. Reading this, I was reminded of a conversation that my family once had at the table one Sunday. 

To give a bit of background, my Sundays growing up were for family. We would attend Mass together, socialize with our parish family, gather in the kitchen as my dad cooked breakfast, then eat as a family. After breakfast, we would stay at the table, talking for an hour or more. During these post-breakfast discussions, we normally discussed that morning’s homily and the readings. Even now, I’m nostalgic!  

One Sunday, we got on the topic of being a good person versus being a good Christian/Catholic. I remember how funny it was because although we were all on the same side, it became a heated debate. We all (loudly) agreed on the fact that being a “good person” is all fine and dandy, but without the love of God and trust in God behind the action, you are not earning your place in heaven. 

Our faith is what separates us from other religions. Our faith is what gives us passage to life eternal. Following rules for the sake of following rules, even the commandments, is only the surface level of the faith that we are taught. We are meant to believe, to have faith, and to live out Christ’s mission of truth and love for all creation.

In today’s Gospel, we are reminded again of the strength that faith has as Jesus tells us: 

“When they take you before synagogues and before rulers and authorities, do not worry about how or what your defense will be or about what you are to say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you should say.” (Luke 12:11-12)

This passage reminds us that through faith, we are given all the tools we need to not only make it through our days here on earth, but the tools needed to guide us to Heaven. 

If our salvation and redemption rely on faith, are you confident in your trust in the Lord? Does your faithfully rely on God, or are you still fighting for control? 

How much faith do you put in your faith? 

Click here to read some helpful tips on “Trusting God Through the Storm”.

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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.

Choosing Joy

This morning, my dad called me as I drove into work, and I immediately knew why he was calling. My great uncle, who had been like a grandfather to me, had passed away. As I hung up, I had to pull over and cry. Between the stressful weeks at work and the end of my relationship the night before, it was just too much. 

I felt so lost, so broken, and just so sad. I let my boss know I would be coming into the office late and went straight to the Cathedral. 

Kneeling in front of Mary, I asked for peace and her unwavering trust in God’s plan. Mother Mary heard my cries, and I immediately remembered something a priest said as he was greeted by his parish staff. They asked him how he was doing, and he responded with, “Thanks be to God that I’m still alive. Although, if I were to die, what a blessing that would be!”

The whole parish staff sat in the room and gasped in disbelief, shock, and concern. They joked about the fact that he’s the one who performs the funerals and that everything would be thrown into chaos. The priest then reminded us all that death is the passage that gives way to eternal communion with God. He reminded us that our life spent on earth is only to get to heaven, so what a blessing it would be to be called home by God.

Sometimes we forget that while our life is important, it is also temporary. We forget that we are only here to get there. We forget that through God, even in death, there is peace and joy. 

Today’s first reading and the responsorial psalm are both about joy. The joy of Ezra reading the bible to the people was truly a celebration, complete with reading from the bible for the length of the 7-day feast. The responsorial psalm reminds us that God’s commandments give joy to the heart. 

In life and in death, we can feel the joys of God’s presence, or we can feel the sorrow in believing that we are alone. 

I’ve said before that while a situation may be out of our control, our joy is a choice we can always make. I wrote it for you just as much as I wrote it for myself. Many times, I lose my joy for a day, a week, a month. I feel the sadness and the heaviness of my cross weigh down on me and choose to selfishly and naively think that I carry the burden by myself. 

My brothers and sisters, we are always offered joy, and we are not alone.

As you read this, I’m not sure if you are living in joy or feel alone, but today I ask that you pray for all those suffering:

Deliver us, thus, Oh God, from the time of trial and temptation. 

But when this time arrives for us, Our Father, show us that we are not alone. You are the Father. Show us that Christ has already taken upon himself the weight of that cross too. Show us that Jesus calls us to carry it with him, abandoning ourselves trustfully to your Fatherly love. 

Thank you.

Prayer from Pope Francis’ address to the General Audience on May 1, 2019

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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.

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.

In Our Pain

Have you ever watched a movie or read a book, then learned a fact about it that changes everything? That was me today. I’ve always heard Jesus’ miracle of the fish and the loaves, but I never knew that it was literally right after Jesus finds out about the death of John the Baptist. I always thought that the miracle was just another day for Jesus, walking from city to city, preaching to huge crowds every time he stepped outside. 

I was wrong. This time was so different.

On this day, Jesus was in mourning. His cousin, with whom he met in the womb, the one who baptized him in the Holy Spirit, had been murdered and beheaded. 

While we know that Jesus is divine, we also know that he is human. He has emotions, just like us. Understandably so, when he heard of his cousin’s death, he withdrew to a deserted place by himself. 

When we are mourning a death, a relationship, an injustice, we too want to withdraw from the world. In our pain, we need to take the time to be sad and upset. We need time to process. Even Jesus, our mighty savior, knew that sometimes we need to be alone for a moment. 

However, as Genesis 2:6 says, “It is not good for man to be alone.” Jesus came back to where he had left his disciples and saw the crowds that had gathered in his absence. He did not send them away because he wasn’t in the mood.  Even while experiencing grief, “his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick.” Then, once the disciples tell Jesus that it’s late and dinner time, He does not agree to dismiss them so they can buy their own food. Instead, he provides them with food by the miracle of multiplying the fish and loaves, feeding five thousand men and many more women and children. 

Like I said before, I knew about the miracle. I even remember when I first heard about this miracle. It was when I was about 5 or 6, watching a cartoon on local TV channel. I remember seeing the bread and fish shimmer and appear in everyone’s hands as the crowds were filled with shock. 

Today was like hearing it, really hearing it, for the first time. 

To know that Jesus was in mourning? To know that even while He was dealing with the death of His cousin that He knew before birth, He did this for us? That blows my mind.

It blows my mind because when I’m in emotional pain, I find it hard to get past the part where I withdraw to a deserted place by myself. I struggle to find my way past the hurt and injustice. I forget to empathize and sympathize with others’ problems. Yet, today, we read about how Jesus is able to mourn and still puts His people and the glory of God above His own pain. 

I want to glorify God in all that I do, no matter my pain, and for this reason, I pray:

Dear Lord,

As we mourn, let us find Your plan for us,
For Your glory is greater than our pain.

As we mourn, help us to withdraw into our faith and not the darkness,

For You are our rock in turbulent times.

As we mourn, remind us of Your presence in our lives,

For You are forever by our sides. 

Finally, My God, 

As we mourn, allow us to be open to others,
For we are not alone in mourning nor on this journey of life. 

If you are mourning the loss of a loved one, I urge you to read this article for some guidance and helpful words from Fr. Eamon Tobin.


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.

Growing Up

Today is my birthday and I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to wish for when I blow out my candles. I began to run through the list of things I wanted but realized that there’s not much on that list that couldn’t be bought on my next grocery store trip. I try to run through the list of things I need but I already have a family that loves me, a job at which I feel fulfilled, and more physical possessions than I can shove into the closet when guests come over. God has blessed me with all of this and so much more.

This year, instead of trying to come up with which physical possessions I want or what basic and psychological needs I have, I began making a list of things I want out of life over the next year, goals for myself. Things I want to achieve, hobbies I want to explore, and how I want to see myself grow. 

As I turn the ripe, old age of 25 (ha!), I am understanding that material wants aren’t going to satisfy me. Nope. Instead, my satisfaction and joy will come from meaningful relationships, personal growth and spiritual growth. 

My relationship with my boyfriend gives me the support and encouragement I need to take new risks and know that it’s okay to be scared. My deepening relationship with my parents has proven that it’s okay to make mistakes and there is always forgiveness to be given. My ever-growing, ever-changing relationship with my siblings and friends remind me of the person I am and reflect the kind of person I want to become. My relationship with my Heavenly Father will help me to better understand this crazy world that we live in and reminds me of what my ultimate goal is. 

Catholic speaker Mary Bielski said that we must define ourselves by our relationship to God, not by our jobs and possessions. The world tells us that since we do a certain job and have certain possessions, then we can figure out who we are and where our place is in the world. What we should be telling ourselves is that we are God’s, which means that we have already been given not just this life, but the next, and we can do anything through God.

This shift in thinking has reminded me that today, my birthday, is a reminder of the life that I have been given by God. Knowing that my heart belongs to God means that I can appreciate the people in my life rather than being upset about the excess and the nonsense. I can see who I am through the eyes of God rather than through the lens of society. My flaws are loved, my sins are forgiven, my heart is nurtured, and my love is guided. 

I could ask you to examine your relationship with God and others, but as I celebrate my birthday, I just feel so happy and blessed. I want to share this encompassing joy with you through our short Gospel reading of today:

I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to the childlike.
Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
(Matthew 11:25-26)

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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.

He Desires Mercy

A couple of weeks ago, I shared my story of a homeless man asking for change and how I was embarrassed for wanting to give him less than a dollar. I thought I was golden for having realized that I need to be more generous. Apparently, I thought I had learned my lesson in generosity and was ready to move onto the next fruit of the Spirit. 

Today’s Gospel reminds me that just because I sacrificed my money, that does not mean that I am done. I am not 100 percent generous and holy and ready to move on. Instead, he is asking me to take a step deeper into true stewardship and community. 

Being generous is not quite the same thing as doing God’s work. There is more to helping people around you than just words and physical gifts. My friend in college used to say that “Anyone can give money, but not everyone actually gives a hoot.”

Jesus says something similar when he tells us, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” We are to look at the people around us, the lost, the poor, the weak, the people we call “other,” and see them as the children of God that they are.  Maybe I’m on Facebook more often or maybe I am becoming more socially aware, but I see such a lack of mercy in our culture, in the nation that I truly love and celebrated yesterday. 

I see animosity on social media rather than two sides learning from one another. I see people selfishly fighting each other instead of selflessly fighting for change. What’s worse is that I see people’s blatant disregard for human life just because they are born in another country, born into a different culture, born in another time period, or just simply unborn. 

I want to know where the mercy is because, for a great nation that came into existence by immigration, all I see is a self-serving sacrifice. Our God does not want a flippant sacrifice. He expects something much more complex and often more difficult for us. He desires mercy

The Lord wants, deeply desires, for us to be compassionate and practice forgiveness. He desires for us to let go of our anger and forgive people for being different than us, even though they may not know American customs, do not acknowledge the sanctity of life, and even if they do not know or believe in God. Our Father wants us to come from a place of wanting better for the people you disagree with, wanting for them to know the truth with love, not vindictively.

Today, I ask you to consider the things you read in the media and try to understand the people in the stories,  rather than only seeing the political issues. Focus on the people and what they must be going through. Consider the risks they are taking and the pain that they are in. See that the trouble that they find themselves in were never their first choice. 

In your heart, you’ll know that the choices they’ve made, right or wrong, good or bad, were not easy. 

Gracious and Loving God,
Help us in this time of great suffering,
That we may look upon those suffering with the love you have shown us.
Grant us your patience to be silent and listen when we think we are right.
Grant us your love to pour forth on those that do not know you.
Grant us your strength to have mercy for those that need it the most.
We are not done learning from each other and we are never done learning from You, O Lord.
May the Holy Spirit, our guide, lead us toward compassion.
May Jesus Christ, who forgave his murderers, teach us forgiveness.

Amen.

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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.