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Little by Little
AUTHOR
Bob  »

Growth in our spiritual life largely depends upon a lot of little decisions.  That is why we talk about practicing our faith.  It takes a lifetime of practice to become the person God intends us to be – fully alive, generous of spirit, open to life and caring of others.  The person in process is what matters; the end product takes care of itself.  More and more I am struck by how important our little choices are.  Spiritual growth seldom happens in dramatic leaps, but rather in little steps along the way. 

Years ago an old priest gave me some good guidance.  He said it’s all about habits.  Be careful to develop good habits, he advised.  When you are moved to do the right thing – standing up for the underdog, speaking out in the presence of injustice, or simply making a phone call to a lonely elderly uncle or sending a card to a grieving friend – always try to act on it.  Now.  Even if imperfectly.  Try to make virtue in little things habitual.  Exercise those virtuous muscles every day to make you spiritually healthy and stronger for when you need that strength.

He was a person who emanated kindness and compassion.  I see how he got that way.

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AUTHOR
Mark  »

My daughter, Rachel Day, turns six in September. Most evenings I am the one who puts her to bed, which means after picking out books and pajamas, brushing teeth and putting on those pajamas, after reading those books and turning out the light, it’s time for evening prayers. Usually my wife attends to our son, George DeSales, during this night time ritual.

Evening prayers with my daughter are pretty rote at this stage. I’m trying to inculcate and cultivate the value and purpose of prayer, the value and purpose predicated on an examination of conscience, thinking of others, being grateful, and not being afraid to ask for help. And so, here’s the “formula” we mostly stick to each night. The Spirit disguised as a meandering mind or spontaneous thinking of a child may veer us elsewhere from time-to-time.

Me: Did you have a good day
Rachel: Yes / No / kind-a
Me: What do we say [regardless of a good, bad, or kind-a-good days]?
Rachel: Thank You God.

Me: Are you sorry for the times you did not listen today?
Rachel Yes (sometimes… silence)
Me: And so we say
Rachel: Sorry God

Me: Are you grateful for all of God’s graces you experienced today; in laughter and learning, curiosity and discovery; playtime and running and jumping; food and family; and all things bright and beautiful?
Rachel: Yes

Me: And what do you want to ask Jesus tonight?
Rachel: Dear Jesus, please keep us safe
Me: And please keep all the kids around the world safe, especially those who are…
Rachel: Sad, lonely, or in danger

Me: And, do you want to do good and be good?
Rachel: Yes
Me: And help people and be of service?
Rachel: Yes
Me: And listen to God, Mommy and Daddy?
Rachel: Yes

Me: Is there anyone you want to pray for tonight?
Rachel: [Usually the dog, a grandparent, or “the family”]

Me: Do you have any questions for God?
Rachel: [usually, no]

Me: And so…
Rachel: We want the Holy Spirit to guide
Me: Pope Francis
Rachel: And convert the heart of the
Me: President

Together: Our Father…

Together: Hail Mary…

Together: Glory Be…

Me: [Litany of Saints] St. Margaret of Scotland & St. Barnabas (where our children were baptized)
Rachel: Pray for us
Me: Dorothy Day & Catherine McAuley
Rachel: Pray for us
Me: Saints George & Francis de Sales
Rachel: Pray for us
Me: Mary Queen of Peace & St. Cecilia
Rachel: pray for us
Me: St. Mark & St. Thomas
Rachel: pray for us
Me: St. Ann & St. John the Evangelist
Rachel: pray for us
Me: St. Dymphna & St. Kateri
Rachel: Pray for us

Me: Anything else you want to offer to God?
Rachel: No (with rare exceptions)

 End note: She complained a few months back that my evening prayers with her were too long. She suggested, once, that we pray the rosary instead. She did not believe me that it would take longer to pray the rosary than this formula. And so, that evening I acquiesced. Since that night she has not requested the rosary at bedtime.

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The Meek Mentality
AUTHOR
Mark  »

Strength. Two passages of Scripture populate when I hear the word strength.

Scripture passage number one, “I can do all things, through Christ, who strengthens me,” (Philippians 4:13); Scripture passage number two, from the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the meek…” (Matthew 5:5).

Strength is a fickle word to define. A good leader, especially in politics, like a good lineman in football is thought to be “strong,” but certainly the strength of the lineman and the strength of the politician are not the same, or are they? I think strength is born of will or desire, determination or practice. I think also strength should not be thought of as entirely synonymous with the word “might” or relegated only for the concept of physical strength. A better synonym for strength, on a football field or in a hall of power might be the word resolve. Strength as resolve is the reason, I think of those two Scripture passages. And I think those two passages are very much interrelated.

Blessed are the meek, I do not think means blessed the weak. Rather, the meek are those who are gentle, those who have the power, the strength to overwhelm, strike-down, to hurt or annihilate, but have also the strength to not react in that manner. The meek keep their swords sheathed, they do not react or over-react with their might. And, I think, that that is hard. I think it’s Christ who strengthens our resolve not to respond with might but rather with meekness. Many times, a show of force or lashing out is easier, perhaps automatic, compared to walking away, being meek. Because meekness is hard, perhaps unattainable on our own, we need Christ to strengthen us in meekness, to choose peace, or quiet, or gentleness, or compassion, or empathy, over “I’ll show you,” or “what about me!” actions and mentalities.  We do not have to up the ante, we do not have to view life as a zero-some game, but it takes strength, or rather meekness to choose a better way.

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Patient Practice
AUTHOR
Jill  »

Traffic, long lines, end of a work day it’s these little things I miss most of all (just kidding). The daily practice of patience is not for the faint of heart. Actually patience takes much heart; in 1 Corinthians 13:4 we learn love is patient. In the past the watching of a clock or the jitter of a limb gave our angst a “free pass” to steer us emotionally onto the road of intolerance. Learning to take a deep breath and trust in God when you feel you have lost all control; exercises an even more substantial virtue…LOVE.

 Practice does not always make perfect, but the practice of patience during these enduring times will steady our focus on the journey ahead of us.  So easily we may forget, and become short tempered or anxious; but it only fuels ignorance and fear. We must remember we are all in this together, so keep practicing!

How are you exercising patience in the world around you?


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AUTHOR
Joan  »

Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times.
(Romans 12:12)

At first, this quote from Romans is easier to read in “normal” times.  But, without a doubt, these are not in any way normal times to most, if not all, of us.  However, I find a surprising sense of calm emerges when I reflect about the circumstances in which these words were written.  The people this admonition was directed at were having some pretty rough times.  They probably often felt besieged and unsteady in their daily lives.  The uncertainty of the future was very real and they had little to depend on BUT hope, patience and prayer.

I remind myself of this passage often as I move along in these challenging times.  To be “patient in (my) troubles” often seems too high a bar but when I pray I find it is possible not only to be patient but to be joyful.

What simple phrase can help you sustain a sense of patience, hope and joy during these days of uncertainty?

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AUTHOR
Mark  »

“The rain to the wind said,
You push and I'll pelt.'
They so smote the garden bed
That the flowers actually knelt,
And lay lodged--though not dead.
I know how the flowers felt.”
-- Robert Frost


April showers bring May flowers. And as we are in May the poem above seems both apt and timely; for flowers and for each of us. We have bent low or laid lodged, but we have also two reasons for hope.

First, knowing that every storm we’ve experienced eventually ends and because this rain has fallen so hard and for so long, we have reason to believe that we are progressing, in time, towards a break in the storm or even this rain’s end.

Second, we have the capacity, like flower stems, for flexibility, for bending without breaking. We also have trust that with God’s grace our roots that can keep us in place even as the previously solid ground around us morphs into messy mud.

Now knowing how the flowers felt, we need not feel stuck in sorrow, but planted in empathy and solidarity. We know we can pray just as hard as the wind can push or the rain pelt.

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Unknown Faith
AUTHOR
Jill  »

During this time of uncertainty, we must remember to keep the faith. Our days right now are being strung together with news broadcast and media, that continue to alter our daily existence. It feels like a “tall order” some days to have faith in the unknown of tomorrow, but we must remain vigilant in the encouragement of one another. As we safety connect from a far via our phones, computers and through our prayers. We must keep our faith in God our redeemer; He has brought humanity through the wilderness and will do it again. For all the uncertain things, have faith we will overcome together.

Share your faith, and think of ways to encourage someone today?

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The Blooming
AUTHOR
Mark  »

It snowed. Before it snowed the stems of the daffodils had already broken the ground, growing, rising upwards. The next day, the snow melted. The stems of the daffodils are growing and rising even more. In the midst of that hallmark of Winter – snow – Spring had not stopped; in fact, she appears to have used that snow to quench the voracious thirst of the growing new life.

 Like Winter to Spring or any other seasonal transition, life had changed, not ended. This is not to say that all is normal, fine, or going well. Some seasons are impacted by flood or draught. The earth can be fickle. I too can be fickle, so I won’t belabor that point.

It may seem like snow has covered us all, that there is struggle in surviving the unexpected cold. I do not prophesy, but I do hope and though at times difficult I do trust too. A snow has fallen. I hope that the warming, elongated Light of Spring will melt that snow, turn it to good use, and I trust that with God’s help we will continue to grow and rise upwards. I look forward to the blooming daffodils, and in due time, for the blossoming of human life in a Spring-time garden. Let us hope and trust. Let us tend our gardens as we find them, as we are able.

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The True Cost
AUTHOR
Mark  »

Be careful what you sacrifice. Be mindful of how your sacrifice affects both you and those around you. Do discernment.

 

Two be’s and one action help buttress how we engage in sacrifice, because by itself, I believe sacrifice is neither good nor bad, it simply is. I believe this because some sacrifice is brought on due to external factors, such as a change in health, income, or relationships. These changes prompt us to perhaps make sacrifices to our routines to ensure health, make sacrifices to ensure ends-meet, and make sacrifices to improve relationships. Some sacrifices are brought about by internal means: spiritual discipline, psychological well-being, a new goal that requires you sacrifice the amount of time you’d spend elsewhere.


If we “have” to sacrifice, or if we “choose” to sacrifice, we must employ discernment to know the true cost of the sacrifice and to take into consideration how our sacrifice might affect others. Discernment is key. If I choose to give up caffeine, to sacrifice caffeine either for the sake of a spiritual discipline (like Lent) or simply to assist in better health, I need to ensure that my going into caffeine withdrawal should not make those around me miserable.  If I sacrifice my time to help the team at work, I need to be mindful that the time I’m giving up outside of work is perhaps time I might spend unwinding, not time I’d spend with my kids, if at all possible. We are interconnected, what we choose to sacrifice can very well affect us and those around us and so it’s very important to be careful, be observant of our sacrifice, and discern if the sacrifice is achieving the positive end and/or how the sacrifice is affecting other aspects of life.

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A Path Above
AUTHOR
Jill  »

If I had to create a timeline of my life, it would not be a linear image of my fondest memories. But it would be an unambiguous fanciful record of my life’s heartbreaks against the backdrop of my hopes and dreams. The unveiling truth of where my focus has resided gives me pause, I can trace the intermission of my soul when I chose to inhabit the promises of God. For years uncertainty and doubt caused chaos and confusion, but the day I shifted my view toward Jesus I became liberated in the path ahead.

 

Where is your focus leading you? Try to develop a daily practice of focusing on the promises of God when you feel yourself veering off your path.

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