If you were to take a step back right now, and think about where you are at in your life - what would you see? Are you the person you want to be? Are you living "the best version of yourself"? Are you intentionally seeking out ways you can better yourself and truly serve the people in your life as Christ teaches us to do? When you look to the lives of the Saints - who we are supposed to imitate because they lived holy lives - does that intimidate you? If you look at where you want to be ideally - does that seem intimidating to you? If I say the best version of yourself means that you are called to be holy - does that seem intimidating or impossible? What does that even mean?
If you feel like I'm calling you out right now, don't stress, and please read on. I know these questions may seem like a tall order when the life we are living right now may more times than not just feel like we are surviving. Maybe not even just surviving at times, maybe you're at the place where you feel like you're just exhausted can't seem to do more than just go through the motions and hope for the best.
I was sitting in my living room the other day, was exhausted from just not sleeping well the past few nights and decided to turn on some Netflix. As the episode ended I clicked on "next episode" (as one does...) After watching both episodes, I was tempted to click "next episode" yet again (the danger of watching a series on Netflix...) But thought to myself I had wasted enough time and I should go do something productive; I had hoped to go to Adoration for some time that night, but I ended up just doing the dishes and going to bed instead. Going to Adoration, or just praying in the Church for at least 30 minutes a day has been a goal of mine, but I've really fallen short of that lately - I've felt more like I've been going through the motions and hoping for the best.
I'm not perfect, but oh, do I strive for it - yes what a foolish person I am :) I am what some people may call a "perfectionist". Although I laugh because that in itself is impossible because no one is perfect except for God. I strive to be one of those people that has it all together and gets everything done on time, has a great relationship with God, and tries to be there for other people all the time. But let me tell you - I do NOT have it all together. None of us do! And all those questions I asked at the beginning - I want to strive for all of that too, but some days it just doesn't happen.
There are days when we just go through the motions, when we may let our minds wander at Mass, when we encounter a difficult situation or difficult person and we don't step into that situation or conversation with the mindset of how we can approach them in a loving way. There are days when we make sharp or quick remarks to people around us because we are having a bad day, when we wake up and don't look forward to anything, but look at the day as just another one to "get through". We all have our flaws, we all fall short of perfection. But that doesn't mean we fall short of holiness.
Holiness doesn't mean perfection. To be holy means that we are dedicated to God. If we are dedicated to God, that simply means we keep trying - that we don't give up, even if we have some bad days, or weeks, or months.
When I asked you before if the saints lives were intimidating, how did you respond?
Typically my answer is yes.
Generally, when I think of the saints, I think of people who lived their whole lives serving God and that they did everything right in the eyes of God. We tend to put saints up on a pedestal any maybe think of them as "superheroes" of the Church. Superheroes typically have superpowers that "ordinary people" don't have. However the only "superpowers" that the saints have over us "ordinary people" right now, is that they are in heaven and closer to God than we are.
When they were on earth, when they were living their lives, just like we are right now, they were JUST LIKE US. They messed up, they went through the motions, they had lack of motivation, and they had their bad days, weeks and months too. So, why do we look up to them? Because their lives exemplify holiness. Their lives remind us that even if they did mess up, or lack motivation, they were dedicated to God, and they kept trying.
The other reason the saints lives may seem intimidating is because we hear about so many of them who lived so long ago, or that all the saints we hear about are nuns or priests, or they were martyred for the faith. Of course those are all good things, but it doesn't make it very easy to connect with them and the struggles that they faced - we are living in a much different world, aren't we?! But let me share this thought with you - are there people in your life who you see as a living example of holiness? Who is that person who exudes that joy, that peace, and that trust in God, that even if you aren't talking about God, you can still totally tell that they have a close relationship with Him? These are the people who you could one day consider a saint, or maybe you even now consider them a "living saint".
There are also people the Church has recognized as "blessed" or "servant of God" - these are titles given to people who have died who lived a holy and exemplary life and will hopefully one day receive the title of "saint". Regardless of which title they have - these people are holy men and women who kept trying to live a life dedicated to God. If you're interested in some of their stories, click the link below:
Young and Modern Day Saints
Let me ask you again, are you living as the best version of yourself dedicated to God? No? That's ok! Are you still trying? If you are, that is what it means to live in holiness. Holiness is not this big idea you can achieve and then you don't have to worry about anymore. Take one small step today to strengthen your relationship with God. Maybe it's taking a minute at the end of the day to thank Him for 3 things. Maybe it's starting the day by saying "hello Jesus". And don't get frustrated when you lack that motivation or you feel like you're just surviving. Be patient with yourself.
Getting back to the point at hand - we have these big inspirations in front of us, and big goals in life we may want to achieve and that's a great thing! But like we said, some days we don't even have the motivation to even attempt those big goals. My advice to you - think BIG, start small, and be patient. This will lead you to live a life of holiness - and yes, that is possible.
Who Says You Can't Be a Saint?
This past weekend there was a retreat I was really looking forward to for quite some time. It was supposed to be a really small retreat, and so I was holding my breath and really praying it still might happen despite everything that is going on in our area right now with the influx of Covid cases. However, I perhaps shouldn't have dared to hope, because Wednesday night I got the email saying that this, like most everything else at this time, was cancelled due to Covid and the spike of cases happening right now in our area.
Of course I was frustrated for a bit of time, but after awhile I took a deep breath and tried to remember to trust God and find the next step forward. I prayed and was reminded that this was a very small sacrifice in light of everything that is going on, especially in the light of people I know affected by the virus. I made plans with someone to go visit the Shrine of St. Maximillian Kolbe over the weekend instead, but again, plans changed and we could no longer do that. The fact that our Faith Formation program is going virtual now is definitely a disappointment because I know that all our families, catechists and myself would rather be together in person and rather not have to worry about Covid - but we choose to put each other's safety first as we continue building our faith community and relationship with God from home. Small disappointments can add up.
There are so many things each and every day that can bring us down, there's always something cancelled, or more virtual options are placed in our lives when we are so tired of looking at a screen already. We've learned to be flexible but there are so many changes happening in our lives daily and even hourly!
A good priest friend of mine once told me to start prayer with thanksgiving. Now it is something I try to turn to in the disappointing, painful, or challenging moments of life.
Discover the little things
Share the little things
It can be so overwhelming when we focus on the pain and the stress because in that moment that is what is most real to us.
Take a minute today - maybe even half a minute, 30 seconds - and take a breath.
Find one small thing you are thankful for.
Find one small thing you think is beautiful.
Find one small thing that makes you smile or laugh.
Last week I had a rough day - mostly because technology was frustrating me and I couldn't figure out how we were going to have virtual Faith Formation if I couldn't figure out how to work our virtual platform. I left at the end of the day pretty defeated and not looking forward to the next day when I would have to go back to it and fight with technology all over again. I do love my job and everything about it! But sometimes I think we can all agree - technology can drive you crazy.
Anyway, I decided to visit the Adoration chapel at St. Margaret Mary's after work and I sat there feeling defeated and frustrated. As I was thinking back over the day, I remembered a few things that made me smile. Then I challenged myself to think of a other things that I was grateful that happened that day, and I thought of a few more.
It wasn't a lot, but it was enough to remind me of the joy of my job and the joy in my life and the ability and joy I find in serving others. Yes, there was a lot of frustration and I still wasn't super happy - but I was a little more optimistic, and I definitely was grateful for those small things that made me smile.
So my challenge to me and to you is to find the small things. Even if the small things don't come by often, remember them for when a moment is too difficult to bear.
These are a few of my small things from this past week - I want to know, what are yours?
Who am I trying to please?
I've been asking myself this a lot lately and it hit me in the face again this morning as I was reading through the Mass readings over breakfast. In the first reading from Galatians, Paul is calling out the community of believers for how quickly they are turning away from the message that God has given to them. He asks the community if they seek other people's approval, or if they seek God's approval? He says to the community,
"Am I now seeking human approval, or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ."
In so many aspects of my life, I feel like I am constantly trying to please the people around me, or live up to their expectations. What's worse is when I try to live up to what I think their expectations are, which is usually way off the charts.
I even think I need to fulfill certain expectations for myself in order to be content with how much I accomplish each day. I create to do lists and set goals for myself to try and stay healthy, mentally physically and spiritually. However, when I do so, I often set the bar so high, that there's no way I can achieve all the goals I have set for myself. In the end this leaves me disappointed and frustrated with myself and leads me to the thoughts that because I didn't achieve all my goals, others in my life, and even God must also be disappointed with me as well.
Then I have to remind myself how completely UNTRUE these thoughts are that I am telling myself. I would never tell these things to other people, so why am I telling them to myself?
I have a bad habit of setting the expectations bar way too high for myself - I want to reach that level of "perfection", I want to please everyone all the time to have that approval. I think this is something we all struggle with on some level - we want others to approve of us. When others approve of us, we believe they accept us. We have that deep desire to be wanted, to be accepted, to be loved. But sometimes we go about it the wrong way.
Sometimes we focus so much of our energy on making sure we do all the "right things" according to the culture or even just the immediate people around us.
Sometimes we compare ourselves to others.
Sometimes we lessen our standards in order to be accepted by others.
Sometimes we seek for the solution that is going to make the most people happy, but forgetting to weigh what is the goal behind the decision we are making.
Sometimes we look to our co-workers, our friends and our neighbors for their approval on decisions or their acceptance of things we do.
Sometimes we just go with the flow and agree with what the masses of people believe because if we speak out against them, we might be rejected or unwelcome.
Sometimes we just nod along to a conversation, or choose to stay silent even when we don't agree with what is being said.
What St. Paul is saying in today's reading applies to all these modern day concepts of how we attempt to please people instead of understanding what God's approval and what being a servant of God means. In the Gospel today, Jesus has a conversation with a scholar of the law and they discuss just that:
“Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”
Notice the first part of Jesus' answer applies to God. God must come first in our lives, and first and foremost we answer to Him. Jesus also tells us in the gospels that we cannot serve two masters:
“No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth."
God has put us on this earth to love and serve Him in all things. We cannot try to please those around us at all times, especially if being accepted by them means rejecting the truth that God reveals to us. Jesus didn't please everyone, and that's why He ended up dying the way He did! But He stayed grounded in the truth. He also never said this life would be easy - in fact He said the opposite! This life is difficult and we also have to understand these changes aren't going to come about all at once. We have to be patient with ourselves and work on becoming the best version of ourselves a little bit at a time.
Instead of comparing ourselves to others, Jesus wants us to be the best versions of ourselves.
Instead of lessening our standards, Jesus wants us to stay firm in our faith in him and stand up for what we believe.
Instead of seeking the solution that is going to make the most people happy, we need to remember what the goal is behind the decision we are making.
Instead of seeking approval from co-workers, our friends and our neighbors, we should only seek approval from God.
Instead of just going with the flow, speak your mind and stay true to the truths of the Church.
If we take a step back and try to look at ourselves and others through God's eyes, we will come to realize that He always wants us, He always loves us, and anything and everything we do or say is between Him and us anyway.
People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered;
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you've got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;
It was never between you and them anyway.
(accredited to St. Mother Teresa)
"One day, when the angels of God came to present themselves before the LORD,
Satan also came among them.
And the LORD said to Satan, “Whence do you come?”
Then Satan answered the LORD and said,
“From roaming the earth and patrolling it.”
And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job,
and that there is no one on earth like him,
blameless and upright, fearing God and avoiding evil?”
But Satan answered the LORD and said,
“Is it for nothing that Job is God-fearing?
Have you not surrounded him and his family
and all that he has with your protection?
You have blessed the work of his hands,
and his livestock are spread over the land.
But now put forth your hand and touch anything that he has,
and surely he will blaspheme you to your face.”
And the LORD said to Satan,
“Behold, all that he has is in your power;
only do not lay a hand upon his person.”
So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.
And so one day, while his sons and his daughters
were eating and drinking wine
in the house of their eldest brother,
a messenger came to Job and said,
“The oxen were ploughing and the asses grazing beside them,
and the Sabeans carried them off in a raid.
They put the herdsmen to the sword,
and I alone have escaped to tell you.”
While he was yet speaking, another came and said,
“Lightning has fallen from heaven
and struck the sheep and their shepherds and consumed them;
and I alone have escaped to tell you.”
While he was yet speaking, another messenger came and said,
“The Chaldeans formed three columns,
seized the camels, carried them off,
and put those tending them to the sword,
and I alone have escaped to tell you.”
While he was yet speaking, another came and said,
“Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine
in the house of their eldest brother,
when suddenly a great wind came across the desert
and smote the four corners of the house.
It fell upon the young people and they are dead;
and I alone have escaped to tell you.”
Then Job began to tear his cloak and cut off his hair.
He cast himself prostrate upon the ground, and said,
“Naked I came forth from my mother’s womb,
and naked shall I go back again.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
blessed be the name of the LORD!”
In all this Job did not sin,
nor did he say anything disrespectful of God."
I think nowadays a lot of us can feel like everything is being taken away from us. In a split second we can have so much taken from us, our health, our loved ones, the gift of being at school physically, the time and space to be close to our family and friends, etc.
What amazes me about today's reading is Job's reaction. He lost everything, his animals and way to make a living, and the very lives of his children. Yet, his very first response was "blessed by the name of the Lord." …. what??
If I were in his shoes, I can definitely say that would not be my response. How can he bless God, and not blame Him for everything that just happened? Because I think that is our normal response to the bad that happens to us, and the bad that happens in our world - we look for someone to blame because we have no explanation for what happened, so we need to find one. We need to answer the question of "why" - it has to be someone's fault! We are supposed to enjoy this life, aren't we? God calls us His children and is supposed to protect us because He is all-powerful....right?
I get caught up in this blame game myself and I forget that although it is helpful in some circumstances for us to have that closure, what we are truly called to do is to trust. We are faithful, and we are Catholic not because God is all-powerful and can fix anything, but because we believe that in having a relationship with God, trusting Him and by following His commands, He will help us to live our best lives and we will hopefully be able to spend eternity with Him.
God never promised us that this life would be easy or that we would never get sick or lose those who are closest to us. He actually says quite the opposite.
"Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?"
We are called to carry our crosses and follow Christ. We knew that this life wouldn't be easy when we answered the call to be Catholic and to follow in His footsteps. But we also knew that it would be worth it.
When we look at Jesus' life, although we do see that He suffered and died an excruciatingly painful death, we still see hope. Amidst the darkest time of His life, we look to hope because we know that death is not the end. We know that there is hope beyond the grave. Remembering this reality should give us hope amidst our own darkness, our own pain.
It is so easy for me, and I think for many of us, to hold onto the negativity of life, the difficult parts, the suffering, our weakness and the darkness because it surrounds us so often and it seems to be more real. When I get caught up in all the things that are going wrong, I don't have room in my mind or heart to celebrate and enjoy the things that are going right and too enjoy the beauty around me. Our God understands our pain, He experienced it! But even through the pain, He reminds us that we have to hold onto hope. If we don't, we will continue in an endless downward spiral and become consumed by the darkness.
Our God calls us out of that and reminds us to hold onto hope.
St. Catherine of Siena said,
"Start being brave about everything. Drive out darkness and spread light. Don't look at your weaknesses. Realize instead that in Christ crucified you can do everything."
Our world is full of darkness. If we who are followers of Christ cannot find and cherish that hope that is right in front of us, how are we to expect others in this world who do not know Him to do the same? We, like Job, and following in the footsteps of Christ, have to grasp that hope tightly and be beacons of life, light and hope for others.
When we follow God, when we trust in God, we know there is purpose to everything we do. There will be times when our crosses seem to be more than we can bear. But it is then we have to pause and remember the story of Job and how in the midst of losing everything, he still turned to God with confidence. God always walks with us through good and bad, sickness and health and every moment in between.
God is with you.
God loves you.
The journey with Him is worth it.
Trust in His plan and step forward in faith.
Lord, give me the courage to read and pray with the story of Job throughout this week and let myself enter into his mystery and his life. Use this story of Job and this Covid time to trust You more. Let my crosses bring me closer to you and not drive me further away and to be brave about everything. Help me to remember that you walk with me in every moment, and you do see my joy as well as my pain. Remind me to turn to you with both and to hold on tightly to the hope you provide. Jesus, I trust in you.
"Let us Return to the Eucharist with Joy!"
These are the words from Cardinal Robert Sarah. Sarah wrote the letter on Aug. 15, it was approved by Francis on Sept. 3, and then sent to bishops’ conferences worldwide last week. The Vatican released the text of the letter a little over a week ago.
Sarah argues that although the Catholic Church should cooperate with civil authorities and adopt protocols to protect the safety of the faithful, “liturgical norms are not matters on which civil authorities can legislate, but only the competent ecclesiastical authorities.”
Sarah also insisted that broadcast and livestreamed Masses are useful, but they’re no replacement for being physically present. “No broadcast is equivalent to personal participation, nor can it substitute for that participation."
Sarah insists that when circumstances allow, it’s “necessary and urgent to return to the normality of Christian life, which has the church building as its home and the celebration of the liturgy, especially the Eucharist, as the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; and at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows.”
We “cannot be without the Christian community,” Sarah added, “cannot be without the house of the Lord,” “cannot be without the Lord’s Day.”
Ever since quarantine started way back in March, we've all felt this isolation and separation from each other, from our faith community, and from our Lord in a very tangible way. We as human beings are social people - it is simply a part of who we are. We know that and we have felt and continue to feel that loss of connection with each other and with our Lord in the Eucharist. Christ gave us the Eucharist for a reason, and it is because He loves us so much, but also because He knows that we are humans who desire and crave for that intimacy with each other and with Him. That is what the Eucharist is - we become so intimately connected to our Lord when we consume Him in the form of the Host.
We know that we need to be fed physically, and like I talked about last week, we need our mental health taken care of as well. But we also need to feed ourselves spiritually. I don't know about you, but it's been a challenge for me over the past 6 months, especially when our churches had to close and all this time there's been so much fear about having large group gatherings, getting within 6 feet of each other, and really having that community physically present.
Deep down we know that division, isolation and fear all leave a bad taste in our mouths. And after all this time, things like social distancing, masks, and Covid have left a bad taste in our mouths as well. We do need to keep each other safe. But we need to re-discover that hope, that joy, and that community that we so strongly desire. How can we do that when these words never cease to be part of our daily conversation?
I can bet that there's not a day that goes by that you don't say one or all of these words. These words don't bring us joy, they often bring us anxiety and worry. We are taking all of these precautions to keep us and our loved ones safe and healthy physically. I won't pretend to be a doctor of that I know the answers or what is best to keep us safe. But I will turn to God and also ask:
How do I keep my soul healthy?
How do I keep my soul safe?
How do I face the fear in my own heart and help to ease the fear in the hearts of others?
Although the circumstances of our time have changed, and it doesn't always feel like it's for the better, our God has never changed. The requests and demands the Lord places on our hearts have continued to persist. He tells us point blank that He will provide for us. He requests of us to turn to Him in every situation and to keep our relationship with Him strong. He walks with us every single day, is always with us in every moment (else we would cease to exist) and He asks us for one day a week to come and worship Him. We come to Mass for a multitude of reasons, the main one being that we worship our creator and as we do so, He feeds us spiritually. Our God is so great that even when we come on the one day a week that He asks, He still gives to us the greatest gift possible - the Body and Blood of Jesus.
When we focus on gratitude, hope and the opportunities that are present before us instead of the endless stream of bad news, disappointing realities and words that leave bad tastes in our mouths, we can start to dissolve the fear and the anxiety that consumes us.
"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." ~Philippians 4:6-7
"When God gives us a directive, He doesn't put an asterisk at the end. There is no fine print with exceptions and conditions where His Word and will don't apply. We are to be anxious for absolutely nothing. By anxious, God means that we are not to be worries, apprehensive, fearful, distressed, nervous, antsy, or on edge. God knows that we will have a tendency to default to our emotions, so He gives us a better way to handle them. We are to turn our angst into peace, prayer, and thanksgiving. But it takes trust - Total Reliance Upon Spiritual Training - for that to happen.
Really, the question is whether we believe that God hears us and is actively working on our behalf. When we doubt that God's interest and commitment to our lives, we doubt God's timing. Doubt always opens the door to anxiety, restlessness, and misaligned decisions. However, when we believe that God is supreme and will perfect every single thing that concerns us, we gain the gift of peace that surpasses all understanding. And it is in this place the provision and pathways become uniquely clear.
What has mad you anxious lately, and how does that shed light on how you doubt God?"
~100 Days of Believing Bigger by Marshawn Evans Daniels
God loves you, and only wants the best for you.
Do you trust that?
Do you trust Him?
“As soon as is possible,” Sarah wrote, “we must return to the Eucharist with a purified heart, with a renewed amazement, with an increased desire to meet the Lord, to be with Him, to receive Him and to bring Him to our brothers and sisters with the witness of a life full of faith, love and hope.”
When the only Masses available are through broadcast technologies, Sarah says, “these transmissions … risk moving us away from a personal and intimate encounter with the incarnate God who gave himself to us not in a virtual way, but in a real way.” “This physical contact with the Lord is vital, indispensable, irreplaceable."
If you would like to read the full letter, click on the link below:
September is National Suicide Prevention Month. Because of this, I've decided to address a very important and prevalent topic that many of us wrestle with on a daily basis - mental health.
This photo above was shared with me by a dear friend of mine who knew I have been struggling a bit lately. I'm not sure where she found it, but I'm so thankful that she did. I have been using it lately to bring my own struggles before God and invite Him to walk with me through all of it. I know personally and understand that mental health is a real struggle for many of us, and it is not just something you can "pray away", and there isn't a one and done solution for mental health issues either - and I wouldn't dare suggest there is. Everyone who struggles with mental health is different and works through it differently as well.
As a Catholic, this is something I didn't understand at first when I started wrestling with anxiety. Anxiety is defined as: "Intense, excessive, and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations."
Anxiety disorders on the other hand, "differ from normal feelings of nervousness or anxiousness, and involve excessive fear or anxiety. Anxiety disorders are the most common of mental disorders and affect nearly 30 percent of adults at some point in their lives." Anxiety as well as other mental health issues such as depression, eating disorders, or PTSD are not uncommon.
I hadn't really heard about mental health much before and thought that the way I was feeling and my constant worrying, fear and time I spent truly overthinking certain situations was my fault, that I had done something wrong, that I needed to pray more, or do something differently in my life. The fact of the matter was, what I really needed to do was to reach out and ask for help. Anxiety comes on many different levels, and I won't pretend to know the extent of how much it can affect/consume someone's life, I can only speak for myself and my experience. Because I have reached out for help I am better informed about mental health, how important it is, and how it affects me. For me, now I know my anxiety will ebb and flow, very often based on my stress level, amount of sleep, or the amount I truly care about something or someone and want that thing to go well or that person to be well, among other things. There are often times, it also comes for seemingly no reason at all. I can also see similar patterns in my struggle with depression. I wouldn't have discovered any of this or been able to find strategies to aid my struggles if I had never reached out for help.
We know (especially nowadays with Covid) that when we are sick or when we are badly hurt we should go see a doctor and reach out for help, because they are trained to deal with physical hurt/sickness and can help our bodies to heal so they can function properly again. What we don't realize, haven't heard, or won't admit to ourselves or others is that we need help to heal mentally as well. Our mental health is JUST as important as our physical health, perhaps even more so. Mental health issues have definitely increased throughout this pandemic, and need to be addressed and we need to open our arms and hearts to those who are struggling.
People who struggle with anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, PTSD, etc. need to be seen, embraced and loved by the Church - and this means all of us because we are all part of the Body of Christ. I believe we can all understand a certain level of anxiety, fear, hopelessness, temptations or loneliness, although some experience it more intensely than others and in different forms.
Many times, people with mental health issues suffer in silence and their struggles go unnoticed - I also know that many, myself included, find it difficult to reach out for help. This is often because of the lack of mental health education, the stigma that can be associated with mental health that others will look down on us, the feeling that nobody cares, the fact that we often think we can handle our struggles on our own, or that we feel like "a bother" to someone else, etc. As Catholics and Christians, we truly believe in upholding the dignity of others no matter what, and to bring hope and healing to our brothers and sisters in Christ just as Jesus did. Another good friend of mine constantly reminds me of how I treat my own friends. When they come to me with a struggle or a problem they are dealing with, I always listen to them, am present for them, love them, and help them in any way I can. No one who comes to me is ever "a bother" to me, because I believe that is why I am on this earth, to walk with my brothers and sisters around me and help them in any way I can. My friend continues to tell me that I need to remember to treat myself as I would anyone else - with patience and kindness and readiness to ask for help. Asking for help is never looked down upon, and is never "a bother" - and I give this exact advice to you. You will never be "a bother". You are a beloved child of God and you are so worthy.
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of STRENGTH.
We also need to know and remember that "mental illness is neither a moral failure nor a character defect. To suffer from a psychiatric disorder is not a sign of insufficient faith or weakness of will. Christian faith and religious practice do not immunize a person against mental illness. Indeed, men and women of strong moral character and heroic holiness – from Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill to St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. Benedict Joseph Labre, St. Francis of Rome, and St. Josephine Bakhita – suffered from mental disorders or severe psychological wounds."
The image above is not meant to be a solution, but rather a tool to assist in times of stress and anxiety. We are all called to take care of ourselves, mind, body and soul for we are all "temples of the Holy Spirit" (1 Corinthians 6:19) We need to invite God into our lives, especially in the messiest parts. I will say, praying may not solve everything (though God is all-powerful, and He can and does heal), but just as when we get sick or need physical healing we go to the doctor or take medication, this may be a step some need to take for mental health as well. That being said, if you do struggle with any kind of mental health issue/mental illness, please do not be afraid to reach out for help. No matter what your mind is telling you;
You are worthy.
There is hope.
There is help.
You are loved.
Again, always invite God in and through those messiest parts of your life, invite Him into the struggle and into the pain because He knows what it is like to suffer. He knows and understands pain. He loves you and only wants the best for you. He wants you to ask for help and to get the help you need.
"There are people you say are perfect. You want to be like them, you try to be like them, but you will never be like them. It has manifested into an unhealthy journey to an unrealistic expectation of yourself. The comparing begins to paralyze your mind, body, and spirit. Whether subconsciously or consciously, it is draining to try to be someone else.
It's unfortunately natural to hold hands with the thoughts that tear you apart, to create fingers pointing at you in your mind, to believe the absolute worst about yourself. To blame yourself for everything.
"It's your fault. You could've been better. It's you that's not attractive enough. It's you that caused them to walk away. It's you that made them do that horrible thing. It's you that's crazy. It's you, you, you." Those are the types of destructive (or even worse) thoughts that consume you.
Please, you must try to believe this: You are the reason they say everything happens for a reason. There is no such nonsense as an accident when it comes to you. No burden is carried in your being. You believe your name is synonymous with burden. you feel terrible about every second your "issues" took out of others' lives. Listen: Humans need humans, and humans want to help humans through their suffering.
Your being is the energy that separates dark, bold, intimidating clouds in the sky. Your bravery awakens desperate sunlight. you have the heart that reflects a single star in the universe wrapped around darkness. The bones and skin and everything in between that holds you together couldn't be more perfectly placed. You are perfect in the precise way you are, even though you've never believed it.
No, you've never been a burden. No, you aren't annoying. No, you aren't any "less than" because of the crap you've been through.
You are going to leave footprints in places no one ever believed you would make it.
You are the image of a tragic story turned breathtakingly beautiful."
Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Green Bay: 920-272-8234
Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
God is our greatest love. God is our greatest hope. Do we believe this? We look to the things of this world and we fill our time with countless activities, noise, a constant busy schedule, movies, tv shows, putting on music in the car whenever we drive somewhere and even how we choose to start and end our day. These things aren't inherently bad, in fact many of them are good and exemplify our talents and abilities and bring us joy. But it is when these things take away from our time with God that they are problematic to us. How many times do we look to God during the day? How many times do we consciously think about Him or spend some time in silence?
That's a scary word - silence.
I've been pondering this word a lot lately and how little of it I find in my day to day life, and especially for our world at large. When was the last time you sat in silence? And when I say that, I mean not talking, not listening to or watching anything, not even having some light music in the background on as you drive. I think we are afraid of it - at least I am.
Because if we are silent then we might have to face the things that worry us deep inside.......we might have to face a deeper calling that might be tugging at our heart that we have put to the back of our mind...........we might have to face ourselves and our God.
I was reflecting on this yesterday as I prayed a holy hour before Jesus in the tabernacle. I want to share the quote with you that stuck out to me in the book I was reading:
"Jesus' message is entirely an otherworldly message. While we should look after the material needs of our brothers and sisters and while we ought to further the betterment of our earthly city, we remain pilgrims pure and simple."
When we sit in the silence and face the things we don't want to face and we realize there is more to this life than all the things on our to do list and just feeling better or feeling pleasure or enjoyment in the moment, we come to encounter our Lord. That is Him calling you to more, calling you to be the best version of yourself and also think about why were are here. Like the quote says "we remain pilgrims pure and simple". We are here on earth for such a short time in comparison to the time we can spend with Him for all eternity. But we have to spend our days on this earth preparing for our eternity in heaven.
Too often I think about just the things of this world, the things I need to get done during the day, and conquering everything myself. But I need that time to sit in silence to face reality and to face my God. We are not meant to walk through this world alone, but with one another and with our God. Pope Benedict XVI told us "The world offers you comfort. But you were not made for comfort, you were made for greatness"
As you might have heard Deacon Don preaching about this weekend - as Catholics we are not called to be comfortable, but heroic. God knows you - He created you! He knows how you will be satisfied, and it is not by filling yourself with the things of this world, but only by being filled with the love of God and sharing that with others. Don't push this to the back of your mind because you think you really think that "greatness" is meant for someone else. That's false. You are made to be a saint, you and only you can fulfill the call God has for you in this lifetime you have been given. How will you spend the time you've been given?
Challenge for you and for me - spend some time in silence this week, at least for 10 minutes. No distractions, no noise, just silence. Let's open our minds and our hearts to what God may be calling us to address in our lives. Let's let go of the control we wish to have on life and trust Him. If he created us, how can we doubt that He knows what is best for us? Sit in the silence and let Him speak.
Before you start reading, take 2 and a half minutes and watch the clip above....."The tales that really mattered"
No really, go watch it first......
"It’s all wrong
By rights we shouldn’t even be here.
But we are.
It’s like in the great stories Mr. Frodo.
The ones that really mattered.
Full of darkness and danger they were,
and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end.
Because how could the end be happy.
How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad happened.
But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow.
Even darkness must pass.
A new day will come.
And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer.
Those were the stories that stayed with you.
That meant something.
Even if you were too small to understand why.
But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand.
I know now.
Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t.
Because they were holding on to something.
Frodo: What are we holding on to, Sam?
Sam : That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for."
My siblings and I had a Lord of the Rings marathon this past weekend, and even if you've never seen or read the Lord of the Rings, I think these words can speak to all of us.
"Full of darkness and danger they were,
and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end.
Because how could the end be happy.
How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad happened.".
"uncertain" is a word that we hear so often now to describe the state of our nation or world, the state of our schools, the state of ourselves. Everyone's state seems to change daily, we are constantly on edge, and all this seems to be based on the state of the coronavirus, or what happens with politics or the latest murder or crime seen on the news. "How could the world go back the way it was when so much bad happened"?? I think we find ourselves asking this a lot. And this is the state Frodo is in at this point of the movie - he is reached the point of despair and he can't seem to find that hope.
If you know the story, at this point in the story it seems Frodo might be right to despair. He has been traveling for weeks and weeks and endured countless battles but he seems to be getting no closer to his goal of destroying the ring of power. Essentially, this ring is evil and all who carry it or even know about it desire to possess it and use it to be in power over all. The desire for the ring and use of it is so great, it drives everyone to war because everyone wants it for their own, and brings them to despair and ruin. There are those who would wish to use it for good, but because it is evil in nature, it cannot be used for good in any capacity. Therefore, it needs to be destroyed - hence the reason and the plot of the story.
Frodo has endured battles against the enemy - physically he has fought them off with the aid of his friends with sword and arrow. He has also endured battles inwardly. As he carries the ring, he fights the temptations of being drawn to it to use it for good or ill. He has to fight the temptation of becoming cross with those around him because they don't understand the burden he carries. He has to fight the temptation to truly desire the ring, because when he does give into this temptation, the ring is the only thing he cares about and he does not trust those around him who really do want the best for him. He is mentally and physically exhausted and Mordor (where they are trying to go to destroy the ring) is still far off, and seemingly impossible to reach because almost the whole rest of the world is against them.
Is Frodo right to despair? Perhaps we can sympathize with him for times we have done the same.
But he doesn't stay in that state for long. Why?
Sam is Frodo's constant friend and support. He has to believe there is more than the darkness and evil that is and has been constantly surrounding them. He looks back to stories and why they've stuck with him. It is because there is MORE that what we can see on the surface of the present situation. Sam admits the fact that there is evil and it is currently surrounding them. Sam admits the fact that there is despair in the air. Sam goes further than that - he dares to hope.
"Those were the stories that stayed with you.
That meant something.
Even if you were too small to understand why."
So many times in life I think we are too small to understand why things happen. The times we are living in now will stay with us, and maybe we don't know why. But out of all the bad that is happened, all the evil in this world that continues, we do strive to hold onto the good, the hope and not the despair.
How can we do this? How can we live with certainty in a world that is uncertain? How can we live with hope and trust in a world that is full of despair and condemnation? How can we wake up with a smile and say "good morning God!" instead of waking up with anxieties and worries about the day and we say "god, it's morning..."
I offer two suggestions.
One. Look to the example of Sam and Frodo. When one despaired, the other met them where they were at, but offered to hope. They walked together through the battles, and even though Sam couldn't carry the ring for Frodo, he could simply be with him and offer support and friendship the whole way. We can do this. We can offer hope to others when all seems lost. We can walk alongside them even though we cannot carry their burdens. We can ask others to do this for us. When we fall into temptation and despair, we can ask our family, our friends to walk with us, be with us, and lean on them for hope. When we cannot see or dare to hope, we can lean on others to hold the light of hope for us until we can find our way - and vice versa.
Two. Go to Joseph. Joseph bears the title "Terror of Demons". And rightly so!
"St. Joseph is a quiet man, but he is not a timid man. One glance of his eyes sends all hell into flight. One word from his mouth routs the forces of darkness as an axe levels a field of trees! Who can stand against you if the Terror of Demons protects you?
St. Joseph will protect you against Satan and his demons. Satan is not a myth; neither are evil spirits and demons. The world considers these creatures to be fairy tales and legends, but they are real. We are in a spiritual battle. Satan and his demons are out to get you. To defeat the devil, you need Jesus, Many, St. Joseph, and the teachings and Sacraments of the Catholic Church. Every Christian needs truth and the strong spiritual fatherhood of St. joseph. You are a child of Joseph. It doesn't matter if you are 6 years old or 60 years old. Jesus himself referred to grown men on the shores of Galilee as children (see Jn 21:5). Jesus is God, and he has appointed St. Joseph to be your loving spiritual father. In times of fear, oppression, mortal danger, and extreme temptation, run to your spiritual father. He will fight for you. The Terror of Demons is ready to slay dragons for you!"
~Donald H. Calloway from "Consecration to St. Joseph"
St. Joseph, Terror of Demons, Pray for Us!
It's been a few weeks since my last post - It's been a pretty hectic couple of weeks! Just to give you a quick re-cap of parish life here with our youth: here at the parish we've been on "mini-missions" with the middle and high school students serving parishioners and the parish doing yardwork. In the evenings we've been spending our time playing outdoor games, growing closer as a community and also spending time in Church with Jesus and growing in our faith. These past two weekends we've also celebrated the sacraments of 1st Communion and Confirmation and welcomed two new members into the Church through RCIA! Never a dull moment in parish life :)
I've also reflected much on the balance of busyness and peace (or lack thereof) during this time. It's something that we can all relate too. I think for some, there was a certain sense of peace or at least time to slow down during quarantine. Now that school is around the corner and our world is very chaotic, our lives seem to be picking up again. I'm reminded of the story of when Jesus comes to visit Mary and Martha in the town of Bethany.
"Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 40 But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42 there is need of only one thing.[l] Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”
Jesus tells Martha that her busyness is taking away from the time she needs to spend time in a less frantic state and find that peace and rest in Him that we all need in order to be well and focus on our true priorities. He isn't saying that all of our time should be in Church, or that we should be relaxing all the time - I don't think any of us could even imagine that! However, He is inviting us to remember that as much as we want to be there for others and make sure we do our best in all aspects of life, we must also rest. We must take time to rest in Him by making time with Him our priority. We must also take time for self-care.
If you haven't heard already this year Bishop Ricken has consecrated the year to St. Joseph. Lately I have been praying through and reading the Consecration to St. Joseph book by Donald H. Calloway MIC. It is amazing and I could go on and on about it, but today I just want to share one part with you. St. Joseph is the patron of workers, but there is also a devotion of the sleeping St. Joseph! What a balance that is needed, and such a holy man shows us this beautiful example. A French poet Charles Peguy wrote about the importance of sleep in a poem titled The Portal of the Mystery of Hope. It is written from God's perspective and is meant to remind us that God delights in his children when they sleep - here is an excerpt from it:
"Just sleep. Why don’t people make use of it.I’ve given this secret to everyone, says God, I haven’t sold it.
He who sleeps well, lives well. He who sleeps, prays.
(He who works, prays too. But there’s time for everything. Both for
sleep and for work.
Work and sleep are like two brothers. And they get on very well
And sleep leads to work just like work leads to sleep.
He who works well sleeps well, he who sleeps well works well.)
There must be, says God, some relationship,
There must be something going on
Between the kingdom of France and this little Hope.
There’s some secret there. They work too well together. And yet they
That, there are men who don’t sleep.
I don’t like the man who doesn’t sleep, says God.
Sleep is the friend of man.
Sleep is the friend of God.
Sleep may be my most beautiful creation.
And I too rested on the seventh day.
He whose heart is pure, sleeps. And he who sleeps has a pure heart.
This is the great secret to being as indefatigable as a child.
To have that strength in your legs that a child has.
Those new legs, those new souls
And to start over every morning, always new,
Like the young, like the new
Hope. Yes, they tell me that there are men
Who work well and who sleep poorly.
Who don’t sleep. What a lack of confidence in me.
It’s almost worse than if they worked poorly but slept well.
Than if they worked but didn’t sleep, because sloth
Is no worse a sin than anxiety
In fact, it’s even a less serious than anxiety
And than despair and than a lack of confidence in me.
I’m not talking, says God, about those men
Who don’t work and who don’t sleep.
Those men are sinners, it goes without saying. They get what they had
coming to them. Great sinners. All they have to do is work.
I’m talking about those who work and who don’t sleep.
I pity them. I’m talking about those who work, and who thus
In doing this are following my commandment, poor children.
And who, on the other hand, don’t have the courage, don’t have the
confidence, don’t sleep.
I pity them. I hold it against them. A bit. They don’t trust me.
As a child lays innocently in his mother’s arms, thus do they not lay.
Innocently in the arms of my Providence.
They have the courage to work. They don’t have the courage to do
They possess the virtue of work. They don’t possess the virtue of doing
Of relaxing. Of resting. Of sleeping.
Unhappy people, they don’t know what’s good."
This poem reminds us that sleep is so important and even such a simple act requires trust in God. How much more would we be able to trust God during the day, if we took this advice and trusted Him through the night, or the times that we aren't able to control what is going on around us. When we admit and we hand over our worries, fears and anxieties to God, He is able to provide so much more for us.
During these past few weeks in the busyness of the missions and preparing for the sacrament Masses, it was often difficult for me to take a step back and trust. I wanted to be in control of everything and make sure that everything went according to plan - and there were many instances where this was very important because I was running the events and planning the details of the Masses. However, there were also many moments where I was able to step back and trust God that He would take care of the moment. I have to say I didn't do this as often as I would have liked, but when I did God provided so beautifully.
For example, during the mission we were doing yard work and I was worried we weren't going to get it all done in time because we had some technical difficulties with the hedge trimmer and we weren't working as quickly as I thought we might. However, when I took a step back, put aside my worries about how much would get done, just kept working side-by-side with the students, enjoying the service we were doing and just being present in the moment, I was able to see that God provided all the time we needed for the work that needed to be done.
This reminded me of the other story in the Bible about Jesus and Mary and Martha.
"17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus[d] had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles[e] away, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.[f] Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah,[g] the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”
This happened after Jesus told Martha to spend not at much time being busy, but keeping a relationship with God as the priority. Here, Martha told Jesus that she knew God would give whatever He asked. She had that trust, even though she couldn't control when Jesus had come, she trusted Him to do what was best. She probably would have greatly preferred if her brother hadn't died, but she recognized that God's will was better than her own and she put her trust in Jesus. When she did so, the most amazing miracle happened - her brother Lazarus was brought back to life!! See how God provides so much more when we trust?
I'm not saying we can just say "Jesus I Trust in You" and all our worries and fears go away. It took Martha from the Bible some time to learn how to trust Jesus, and it will take us time as well. We must be patient with ourselves, but not give up repeating that phrase, "Jesus I Trust in You!" And truly giving to Him EVERYTHING. Remember even in the busyness that God must remain our priority, and we must make time for self-care.
"He who sleeps well, lives well. He who sleeps, prays.
He who works, prays too. But there’s time for everything. Both for
sleep and for work."
Some of the most exciting news in my life recently has been that we have been able to plan for the young people at our parish to receive their 1st Communion in August! The 1st Communion Masses are always my FAVORITE and I know the students were even more disappointed than I was when we had to postpone them receiving Jesus for the 1st time back in April. But now we are running full on ahead with preparations! Last night we had a rehearsal for them to kind of refresh their minds on what's going to happen and who they are going to receive, and how they are going to do it. I think everyone was in agreement that last night was filled with so much joy, hope and excitement!
As we were going through the rehearsal, we talked together about why we genuflect when we come into church, what happens on the altar during the consecration, why we bow before we receive Jesus, and why we say "Amen" after Father says to us, "The Body of Christ". If you don't know the answers to these questions, ask one of the students who was at rehearsal last night, or who received Jesus for the first time this year - I bet they can tell you! :)
Why do I bring this up? While I was preparing for rehearsal yesterday, I was putting together a list of everything we needed to go over - and I also realized I needed to tell them "why" for each of these things, and it made me think. Because if you tell a child to do something or you tell a child that something is true, but you don't tell them why, they aren't as apt to remember or believe you. Last night made me remember all the different reasons why.
Think about the last time you went up to receive Jesus at Mass. What are all the steps you took in receiving Him? As Father was preparing the altar were you offering yourself and all your intentions to be placed spiritually on the altar?
As Father was consecrating the bread and wine, were you remembering how Jesus did the same at the Last Supper?
As Father said, "May my sacrifice and yours be acceptable to God almighty Father." Were you thinking of the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross, the incredible pain and humiliation He went through for our sake?
As we proclaim together, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed", were you asking Jesus for forgiveness for the times you've turned away from Him?
Do we think about why we bow before we go up to receive Jesus?
As Father holds up Jesus' Body and Blood in the form of bread and wine and says "the Body of Christ" and we say "Amen", (Amen means I BELIEVE) do you really believe that under the disguise of the bread, it is truly Jesus' Body?
After you receive Jesus and you kneel in your pew, do you bow your head and just wait until Father says, "let us pray", or do you take that precious time that Jesus is so close to you, He is within you, to thank Him for the gift of Himself, and ask for the graces you need and graces for those you love to continue on throughout the week?
I can say I am very guilty of not doing these things - I often get distracted and am thinking about what I'm doing after Mass, or a million other things.
We're very habitual creatures, and once we get into the rhythm of doing something, we can forget why we are doing it, and what is it's significance. So, as the children reminded me, I'm here to remind you.
As we were going through the different parts of the Mass, I could see at first they didn't understand all of it at first, and when we practiced having them come up, bow, and make a throne for Jesus with their hands, and say "AMEN" after Jesus was given to them, they didn't get it right away. And I said to them, that's ok! That's why we are here - we are here to practice and to keep reminding ourselves why we are doing these different steps. They were used to that - they are used to having to practice something until they can get it right. Us? I don't know about you, but I've lost my knack at practicing - I like to get it right the first time!
But I think that might be the problem with growing up sometimes. We want to get it right the first time, we knock ourselves down when we can't and compare ourselves to others. But we have to be okay with making mistakes, as long as we practice and keep trying to do things the best way we can. We have to have humility and accept that we aren't perfect - that's not easy.
So I want to offer this life lesson from our 2nd graders, keep trying to focus on what is important. Stay humble. Admit your mistakes and pick yourself up and try again. DON'T believe the lie that you have to be perfect or that others expect you to be perfect. DO believe the truth that God will give you the grace to keep trying and that you can keep striving to be the best version of yourself. Don't let the Mass be "boring". Don't make receiving Jesus something habitual.
Jesus calls us to be like children. Take a minute to learn from the children in your life - they might be smarter than you think