Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A look at Lumen Fidei - a leap in the dark

I am almost done reading Pope Francis' encyclical Lumen Fidei.  What a joy it is to read.  It is not to difficult or academic and it directly makes contact with my everyday life and issues related to my faith journey.  If you have not read it you can find it here and I would strongly recommend giving it a read.
Since it is so packed with information as I read it I underline words and phrases that stand out to me.  I have been going back and rereading these underlined phrases and thinking about them and praying about them.
Since these lines have been so beneficial to my prayer life and my life I wanted to share the lines and my thoughts on them and some ideas about how they can be carried out in our present lives.  My plan is to gather these up into a small series over the next few weeks.

"Faith was thus understood either as a leap in the dark, to be taken in the absence of light..."
      -Lumen Fidei, Pope Francis

I have come across this so often.  In college I studied various fields of science.  I took science classes, had scientist professors and spent a good amount of time with other students involved in the sciences.  Many of these people were not religious but the topic of religion and faith did come up.  People of faith were often spoken about as those other people.  Those people that aren't educated.  Those people who do not believe in science.  Those people who have not yet found the truth of science.

This put me in an awkward position.  Either I was a scientist or I was some poor person without knowledge, without understanding fumbling around in the dark.  I knew that wasn't true.  I knew faith was not something I turned to because I didn't know any better.  I new faith wasn't something that I believed in because I had nothing else to believe in.  I knew that I was educated.  I knew the truths of science. I had information.  I was in light.  And I still had faith.  My faith did not come out of a lack of information but from a wealth of information.

I knew this but the people around me didn't (and many still don't.)  How can we change this perception.  For one, make it known that you are Catholic.  I don't mean that you should announce to everyone that you are Catholic but don't hide it or be ashamed to bring it up in conversation.  It should come up in conversation.  It is who you are.  If one of your co-workers or friends is picturing a Catholic they should be picturing you instead of some hypothetical person.

Next, be ready to support your beliefs.  Our faith is not just a jumble of ideas and rules, there are reasons and teachings behind them.  become educated in your faith and show it off.  Our faith comes from light not darkness.

Lastly, be knowledgeable.  Show that you are a person of faith and you understand foreign policy.  Or show that you are a person of faith and you can understand a scientific journal.

For all of you are children of the light and children of the day. We are not of the night or of darkness.
1 Thessalonians 5:5

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Thank them for their service

Cloistered Nuns
Just the thought kind of scares me.  At first it seems a little weird.  What do they do all day?  They pray.  But is that really all they do?  I didn't really understand it.  But then I listened to this program on "The Good Catholic Life" (a local radio talk show) and reflected on the following line from Pope John Paul II (which I first wrote about here)

"Yes, God alone is our true and unfailing support, just as love and prayer are the only sure spiritual levers with which it is possible to lift up the world."- Pope John Paul II (1994)

It was then that I realized that the women who spend there days in prayer are not doing it for themselves, they are doing it for the Lord and for us!  They are not spending there time praying for themselves but they are praying for the Church (for us).  They might not be physically feeding the poor and ministering to the imprisoned or even evangelizing to their neighbors but they are serving the poor, the imprisoned and their neighbors in a much greater way.  They are bringing the sufferings and pains of the people and of the Church to the Lord.  Although it may not be visible to outsiders they are directly serving the needs of the suffering.

Through Prayer!

It reminds me of how we often thank our soldiers serving in the military (as we should).  We thank them for giving up their life (at least part of it) to serve our country (and us).  They are separated from their friends and loved ones as they devote themselves to others.  In a similar way a woman entering a cloistered convent is giving up her friends and loved ones to devote herself to prayer.  This prayer is a service to us all and it involves a great deal of sacrifice on their part.
We should thank them for their service.  We should thank their families for the sacrifice that they make as well.  To me it seems like an unbelievable sacrifice and an unbelievable service.
Thank them.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Two thoughts on an amazing evening

I attend an amazing Catholic worship event the other day.  It was a last minute decision.  A friend of mine invited me but I was busy then at the last minute it turned out I could go.  She was still going and I was able to meet her their.  It was well worth the drive.  It started with a dynamic and inspiring Catholic speaker.  Then there was a great Catholic band which played some praise and worship music followed by a powerful time of adoration and ended with some more music.  All throughout confession was being offered as well.  I wasn't sure about going at first but am so glad that I did and hope to be able to get to it again (it is help every month!).  
Throughout the entire evening I came away with two important thoughts that I would like to share.
First:  I left there overflowing with God's love and joy, ready to sing praise to the Lord and open up my life to Christ.  It was a powerful experience and I can only assume that many others in the room felt so filled with his love and joy as well.  This is great!  I would have loved to stay there all week.  But we as lay people need to remember that it is our job to be filled with this love and joy and then spread it all over the world.  We need to share the love with our families, we need to bring this joy to our co-workers.  Our job is to bring Christ out to the people of the world that we live in.  This isn't something that we can keep to ourselves.  When we are inspired we need to share that inspiration with our world.

Second:  The speaker was great, the music was amazing, the community was incredible but was really made the evening was adoration.  This was what really mattered.  This was why we were all there.  This was what brought us all together.  This was what the speaker spoke about.  This is what the musicians sang about.  Christ.  Christ was there.  We were praising him.  We were adoring him.  He is what made it all so powerful.  He is what we need to share with the world.
I really don't think the evening would have been the same without adoration.  It would have been nice.  It would have been inspiring.  But it would have had something missing.  I think it is important to remember this.  No matter how good we are or how enjoy able you life is if it is missing Christ it is missing something essential and it will never be the same once Christ is added.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Praying for Prayer

While I try to pray all throughout the day it is nice to have some quality devoted time to pray, to read the bible and to speak to the Lord.  I can do this best when I am either in a quiet place outdoors or in a quiet church.  This is hard to do.  I need to have the will to pray.  I need to have the time to pray.  I need to have access a suitable environment for this type of prayer.  But I know this time of prayer is amazing and fruitful.  Because of this I always say a special prayer.
I pray for prayer.
When ever I sit down to pray I first thank the Lord for bringing me there.  I thank the Lord for getting me off the couch to come and nurture my relationship with him.

"Dear Lord, Thank you for bringing me here today to spend time in front of your Blessed Eucharist."

"Dear Lord, Thank you for giving me some quiet time out of my hectic day today."

"Dear Lord, Thank you for giving me the will and the want to come talk with you today."

Then when I am finishing up my time of prayer I always ask to Lord to help me return to this time quickly.

Dear Lord, Thank you for this time together.  Please help me to come back to talk with you tomorrow."

Dear Lord, Please help me to find time tomorrow to spend time with you.

Dear Lord, Help me to stay in prayer with you through my hectic day tomorrow and give me the time to return to your Blessed Eucharist soon.

(This can also be a nice time that I think about my scheduled for the next day or so and when I will pray)

I have found this to be extremely beneficial to my prayer time and to my relationship with the Lord.  Spending any time in prayer is a hard thing thing to do and I know I can take all the prayers I can get.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Give him glory through science and exploration

"The exploration of both the micro and the macro cosmos, is a song to God's glory, which is reflected in everything in the universe.
                                                          -Pope John Paul II (2000)

As someone involved in (and loves) science this single line sums it all up.  Not only is it alright to study science.  Not only are there no conflicts between science and Catholicism.  Not only is it acceptable and tolerated but it is giving glory to God.  Just as studying a piece of artwork gives glory and honor to the artist who created it, studying God's creation gives glory to God, who created it.
When we study the intricate workings and structure of molecules, we are giving glory to God for he is the one who designed then to work just so.  When we explore the far reaches of the universe, we are giving glory to God who created such a vast and amazing structure.  All  of this was created and designed by Him.  All of the wonder and astonishing feats that are discovered through science were all put there by the creator of all, God.
I feel that exploring his creation is one way to grow closer to him and give him his deserved honor and glory.

Monday, July 15, 2013

A Unbelievable Gift

Think back to those people who followed in the path of the apostles and passed their faith onto you.  For a lot of people (myself included) this includes their parents but also think about all the friends, family, and coworkers who witnessed their faith to you.  Those people who encouraged you with their words and actions.  Those people who kept you strong in your faith or directed you back to your faith through their friendship and fellowship.
We owe these people an huge amount of gratitude.  They gave us an unbelievable gift and is worth more than any monetary gift that they could have given us.
Now think about the other side.  Who have you given this gift to?  For all the parents an obvious answer should be your children but the list should not end there.  Who have you directed towards the Lord?  Who did you influence with your words and actions?  Who did you support and encourage by your example?

This is something that we are called to do.  Something that we need to do.  This is our job.

We have the opportunity to give this unbelievably valuable gift and we are called to do so.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Persistence Genesis 32:25-27

We all go through times of struggle.  Times of illness. Times of chaos.  Times of loneliness.  Times that are prayer life is non existent.  Times that we feel hopeless and lost.  What are we to do in these times?
This passage from genesis might give us some help with that question.  

Genesis 32: 25-27Jacob was left there alone.Then some man wrestled with him until the break of dawn.When the man saw that he could not prevail over him,he struck Jacob’s hip at its socket,so that the hip socket was wrenched as they wrestled.The man then said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”But Jacob said, “I will not let you go until you bless me.”

Jacob struggles in the night.  He is hurt but he still does not give up.  He is persistent and the Lord rewards him.

We will always have struggles in our life.  We may fail and fail again but we need to keep at it and stay faithful to the Lord and he will guide us through.  It might be tough getting through.  It may be painful.  But the Lord asks us to persevere and he will be with us.  

This brings to mind the country music song by Rodnew Atkins.
If you're going through hellKeep on going, don't slow downIf you're scared, don't show itYou might get outBefore the devil even knows you're there

I think we can all use this advice.  Just keep working through it.  It will get better.  You will find a way out. And most importantly God is always with you just don't give up on him. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

You must put aside any fear

I was a 9 year old little girl.  Waiting in lines, moving through crowds and being lifted up by my father to catch a tiny glimpse of the man who we made this journey to see: Pope John Paul II.  That is really all I remember from that day but I knew something important was going on.  He must have been someone quite special to gather that much of a crowd.  I can't say that I remember or even heard anything that he said but it is still an event that I will never forget.  

This morning I was reading some of the words of Blessed Pope John Paul II and I came across this.

"Like Mary, you must put aside any fear, in order to take Christ to the world in whatever you do - in marriage, as single people in the world, as students, as workers, as professional people.  Christ wants to go to many places in the world, and to enter many hearts, through you."                 - Blesses Pope John Paul II, Homily at Central Park, New York, 1995

This was from the mass that I was at!  Even though I didn't hear it, this is what the Pope spoke to me at the mass that I was part of! So I went back and read the passage again.

"you must put aside any fear, in order to take Christ to the world in whatever you do"


That is what is stopping us.  Fear. I want to share Christ's teachings with everyone I meet.  I want to tell the world of the truth and love of the Lord.  I want to stand up for my faith and my beliefs no matter what the price.  But I am afraid.  I'm afraid of what people will think of me.  I'm afraid of what my family and friends will think.  I'm afraid of loosing my comfortable lifestyle and easy friendships.  I'm afraid of offending someone.  I'm afraid.  This is what is keeping me from bringing Christ to the world.  He sure knew what he was talking about.  

We need to put aside our fear.  We need to remember what Blessed Pope John Paul II has told us many times: "Be not afraid!"  We need to put our trust in the Lord, put aside our fears and bring Christ to the world.  I'm sure Mary had fears beyond our understandings but she pushed them aside and said yes to the Lord and brought us all Christ.  Now it is our turn to push our fears aside and bring Christ to our world.  All we need to do is push the fear aside.

Hear is the full text of his Homily that day.  I will be reading it soon.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Talking to God

One line in Tim McGraw's song "Highway Don't Care" has stuck with me the past few days.
I bet you got a dead cell phone in your shotgun seat
Yeah, I bet you're bending God's ear talking 'bout me.

There are so many people that I wish I kept in better contact with; friends from college, cousins, neighbors.  But there is only so many hours in a day and it always seems that when I do find the time something else gets in the way.  Like a dead cell phone, or they are busy, or dinner is burning or you only have a few minutes (the list could go on for days).  Things come up.  You lose touch.  

This doesn't need to happen with God.  He is always waiting for you, ready to talk.  You can talk to him while you are trying to save dinner from becoming ash.  You can talk to him when you are out of breath on a run.  Even if you just say hi for a few minutes as you wait in line at the grocery store, he will be glad to talk to you.  And even if you cell phone is dead and you are completely cut off from everyone else you can still talk to God.  

I know that I need to remember this.  Even if I don't dedicate an entire holy hour at adoration each day I can still talk to God throughout the day.  We should be in a constant conversation with God.  We don't need much to have this conversation.  All we really need is an open heart but it will give us so much more that we could imagine. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Power of Prayer

Sometimes there are things that I just can't bring myself to pray for.  I feel they are worthy of God's attention but I feel that they are just to hard.  Some things are just impossible. 

1. not possible; unable to be, exist, happen, etc.
2.unable to be done, performed, effected, etc.: an impossible assignment.
If something is impossible what is the point of praying for it.  The situation can't change.  It has already been written in stone.  Some situations are just like that.
But then I remember:
If nothing will be impossible with God why wouldn't I pray?  I really don't know.  I guess I am always trying to limit the Lord to Earthly constraints.  Because I can't do it, God can't do it.  
Really!?!  I think God can do a little more than I give him credit for.
Today he (God) showed me once again how wrong I was.  
There was a situation involving one of my students that was going very badly.  It was upsetting me greatly but I just couldn't see how it could be fixed or resolve itself.  No matter what point of view I looked at it from, it just didn't seem possible.  I didn't see a point in praying for the situation because there was no possible way for it to work out anyway.
On my way into work this morning I said a decade of the rosary because I finall remembered that nothing is impossible with God (but I really didn't see what he could do anyway.)
Then as the day began one person after another kept telling me things that I thought were impossible regarding this situation.  Now its not looking so impossible after all.  
Just another reminder of the power of prayer.
 Even though it is hard to understand (because we know what the word impossible means), we need to remember that God is more powerful then even the impossible.     

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The best advice

Think about the best advice that you have ever been given.  I can think of a lot good advice that I have been given.  I can also think of a lot of very bad advice that I have been given.  But that's all another story.  

This is about the absolute best advice that I have been given.  This is the kind of advice that you don't have to double think or wonder if it will lead you in the wrong direction.  This is the kind of perfect, all around advice.

Photo Source
Who does this advice come from?  Our Mother Mary.  She gives us the ultimate advice.  "Do whatever he tells you."  And of course the he that she is referring to is Jesus.  She tells this to the severs at the wedding at Cana in the second chapter of the Gospel of John.  They have run out of wine.  She has informed her son of the problem.  She does not know what (if anything) Jesus is going to do but she knows that the best thing that the severs can do to solve this problem that they are facing is to listen to Jesus. "Do whatever he tells you."

This was good advice at the time just as it is good advice to us today.  What ever problems we are facing.  What ever difficulties we come across.  What ever questions or anxieties we have. Just follow Mary's advice "Do whatever he tells you."  How simple it is but how hard it is to do.

How can we better follow this advice?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Prayer and Love

Photo Source

"Yes, God alone is our true and unfailing support, just as love and prayer are the only sure spiritual levers with which it is possible to lift up the world."- Pope John Paul II (1994)

I don't think we have any doubt that the world needs to be lifted up.  That is for certain. But how are we supposed to do that?

With Prayer and Love.
John Paul II states it very clearly, with prayer and love.  John Paul II has seen what we are up against, he has experienced our world, he know what we face and he still says that it must be met with prayer and love.  Not worry, anger, arguments, hate, frustration, war, protests or ignorance.  But with prayer and love.
Instead of worrying, say a prayer. Instead of arguing, show them your love.  Instead of letting anger build up inside of you, pray for peace.
For it is with love and prayer that we can lift up the world.
If we want to enact some real change, which we must, we need to pray and love.  
So often I worry about problems in the world today.  Then I get angry about them.  Maybe I will discuss the issues with someone.  Soon I will get frustrated because I feel like I can't do anything to fix the problems anyway.  This is not the way to lift the world.  The world can be lifted through love and prayer.  And this is something that I can do.  I can treat others with love. I can share God's love with others, and I can pray and pray.  Pope John Paul II is giving us a sure response to the world around us.
This is something that we must keep in our minds at all times.

That prayer and love are the secrets to lifting up the world.

This is what we must be focused on if we are going to direct the world to the Lord.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Will he recognize you?

When I sat in mass when I was growing up I probably knew the name of everyone sitting around me. The rare person that I didn't know by name, I knew by sight and would definitely say hi to if I saw them on the street.  They were part of my community.  I was part of that community.  Even now when I go to mass in my hometown I know most of the people around me and will say hi to several people after mass.  

This was just the way it was.  You went to mass with your community.  You said hi to some of them afterwards and you would no doubt see some of them later in the week at school or at the grocery store.  I never really though much about it.

Fast forward to a Sunday morning in 2013.  I am not going to mass in my hometown.  I am going to mass in a town that I have lived in for less than a year.  On the average Sunday morning I would be lucky if I knew by name even one other person in the church besides my husband.  I have gotten involved in the parish but it is not quite feeling like I am part of the parish community yet.  It is something that I miss greatly.  It is something that I have gotten upset about and am continuously working towards.  But in the meantime I sometimes feel very alone even with the church is filled.

But today I saw things differently.  I cannot remember the exact wording but during one of the prayers the priest said something about Jesus recognizing the people in the church today.  That's when it clicked. 

Knowing the person who is sitting next to you is not nearly as important as knowing Jesus.

While having the person sitting next to you recognize you is nice, it is not nearly as important has having Jesus recognize you.  

How are we living?  Are we living our lives in a way that Jesus would recognize us?  Do we talk to him?  Do we spend time with him?  Could we even expect him to recognize us?

I am still working towards becoming part of the community.  But now I recognize that I don't go to mass to be part of a community.  I don't go to mass to say hi to my friends.  I go to mass to see Jesus.