I don’t know why, but this past year has been one of many trials and tragedies around the world and close to home. It would be a much different blog post if I were writing about these events that hit me personally but I am writing as a bystander looking on.
Many friends and acquaintances have experienced unimaginable grief and loss this year, and I have found myself lost and scrambling and wanting to fix their broken hearts while mine is breaking for them. It is a very difficult spot to be in when you feel helpless, when you aren’t sure of what the right actions to take are or know the right words to say. I know what I would want, I would probably want to bury myself away and not deal with anyone, or hear the same old platitudes, but is that what my loved one needs? How do you help ease some of the burden, knowing you could not possibly remove their pain, as much as you would desperately like to?
This Easter season has been one of much reflection for me, not about Jesus and his pain and suffering but more on the bystanders, those who watched and could do nothing, feeling helpless. On the road, in front of the cross, watching on, heartbroken, that is where I have been. I found myself focused on John. John who had followed Jesus, heard his teachings, and now was tasked by Jesus himself to look out for his mother. What would those next few days, months, years have been like for him? Caring for a mother who had just witnessed the horrific death of her son. Had he questioned the purpose of this suffering? Had he doubted Jesus’ promise that there was a plan, a reason for his death after I am sure sleepless nights hearing and watching Mary grieve? How could this possibly have been in God’s plan?
As I think of John, as I witness the pain of those that I love, all I can think is that he said yes to walk with Mary in her suffering. He could not have understood fully why any of this happened, why his best friend died, why a wonderful woman had to go through the rest of her life without her son. God does not need to give us answers, but He can, if we ask, give us strength to do what is necessary to love without ceasing, to sit in awkward silence when words do not suffice, be given the right words when it is time to speak, and to drop everything to just be there.
When asked what I could do, these have been the top five things people have said soothed them when going through their own grief.
1: Food. I am sure that Mary was in no position to cook or think about meals, so I can only imagine John having to feed her in those times where she could finally bring herself to eat.
2: The right words. People mean well when saying things like, God has a plan, God had a reason, just trust in God; however, we don’t know how they are feeling about God right now, in their time of sorrow, so this may not be what they want to hear. Making God the reason for their pain, especially when dealing with a tragic sudden death, miscarriage or any loss, puts the blame on Him instead of God being a source of comfort. Saying you will be praying; however, is acknowledging that God is still present in the situation, and shows them they are not alone through this. Which brings me to point 3.
3: PRAY! If you say you are praying for someone, do it. Name them in your prayer. Even through my doubts and anger towards God during these times, I trust that the prayers I offer up for those I love do make a difference in some small way.
4: Keeping in touch long after. I know for myself my tendency is to give people space, to not intrude, but this can easily turn into weeks, and months. Long after the flowers have died, food has run out, visits and calls have stopped, people have said the grief becomes stronger. As life tries to get back to normal it becomes very evident that nothing will ever be normal. Their loved one is gone, and everyone has disappeared leaving them truly feeling alone. Here is where a text, a mass card, an invitation of any kind would be a reminder that they are not forgotten, that they are still cared for.
5: Be there how they need you to be, and let them grieve how they need to grieve. Everyone grieves differently. So just ask how you can help and ask more than once, because their needs change.
My newfound love and respect for John has been a revelation to me. It is only as we grow older that we are placed into John’s position more and more. My hope is that I can care for those I love the way I imagine John did, and that those who are suffering may feel the comfort Mary may have felt in discovering she was not alone in her grief.
“Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, Jesus himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death.”
When I think about death two different reactions can occur. One reaction is excitement at the thought of meeting Jesus and being with Him forever. The second is a twinge of fear, uncertainty and doubt. Unfortunately, the latter generally rears its head more than the former.
There are times I fear the manner in which I could die. I have a very active imagination so it is not hard for me to imagine the worst in any given situation. It takes effort once a potential scene has played out in my head to then turn to God in surrender and trust. “Your will be done. May You be glorified".
Most of us enjoy a sense of control, though in reality we have control over very little in our lifetime, as well as at the conclusion of it. Maybe this is why suicide and assisted suicide are so appealing to some people. The thought of having control over the timing and manner in which one dies somewhat satisfies that particular fear of something being outside of one’s control. I cannot imagine what it would be like to reach the point of desiring to take the life God has given me into my own hands to end it, and I hope that I never reach it. The thought of death brings with it an uncertainty with regard to time, place and what it will ultimately be like. Even going about the suicide route, we still truly do not know for sure what it will be like, and that can be unnerving.
Finally, there is doubt. Once in a while I wonder if what I have been taught about death, God, heaven, hell, purgatory, etc. are really true. What if I am living an illusion? It is then that I have something to fear, because the alternative is a life without purpose and hope.
At this point it is vital to call to mind, not only what I have been taught, but also what I have seen and experienced to be true, as well as what God has revealed to others (the saints, people present in my life, etc). In my daily life God has proven that He is not dead. He provides me with strength, peace, guidance, and wisdom. He has proven His presence and existence with miracles both big and small, such as saving my life on a number of occasions. He has spoken directly to my heart and through the Scriptures. He has provided words of wisdom and advice when I needed them the most, and in any “impossible” situation He has proven the words, “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). I would be a fool after all I have witnessed in my own seemingly insignificant life to turn my back on what I have seen and know, to say, “There is no God.”
His own name is Emmanuel, “God with us.” He is truly with us. He promised that He will be with us ALWAYS (Matthew 28:20), and He does not lie. When I remember these things and all that He has proven of His love and presence throughout history, and I allow these things to overtake my heart and mind, it is then I am filled with peace and joy at the thought of being with God, the one who formed me and loves me more than I could ever comprehend. I still do not know how or when the day of my death will arrive, but I hope that when that time comes, I will remember that He is with me. If He is with me, I have nothing to fear, even death.
First of all, I want to say that I am convinced that this "epiphany" is a result of me going to confession right before Mass. Confession rids your soul of sin and allows you to be more open to the Holy Spirit working in your life.
Yesterday we celebrated the feast of the Epiphany. We celebrated the 3 Wise Men reaching Jesus by following the star.
In Mass yesterday, our priest said something profound that I have never thought of before. At first, he reiterated the fact that Herod wanted the 3 Wise Men to find the child and return to him with the location so that he may go pay him homage. As we all know, after being warned not to return to Herod, the 3 Wise Men decided to go home a different way - on a different road.
Our priest noted that after encountering Christ, the 3 Wise Men began to travel down a different road. After encountering Christ, we need to travel down a different road just like the 3 Wise Men.
As Mass went on I continued to think more about this.
After they encountered Christ, the 3 Wise Men were called to travel down a different road. When we encounter Christ for the first time, we are called to travel down a different road. After we encounter Him in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we are called to travel down a different road. After we encounter Christ in the Eucharist at Mass and in Eucharistic Adoration, we are called to travel down a different road. When we encounter Christ in other people, we are usually impacted by that in some way and we end up changing and travelling down a different road.
By different road, I mean we are called to not go back to our old ways. Our encounter with Christ challenges us to change our ways, start fresh, and go about things differently. We are challenged and called to abandon our old sinful ways of doing things and resolve to change. We are called to travel down a different road. A different path.
As was the case in so many Gospel accounts, people were impacted and changed as a result of their encounter with Christ. Zacchaeus's heart was convicted so much that he promptly resolved to give half of his possessions to the poor and repay those he had cheated four times over! Peter, James, and John's encounter with Jesus impacted them so much that they "brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him". These are just to examples of how an encounter with Jesus can have a massive impact on someone's life.
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Special thanks to:
The Yaretz Family for the use of the space.
Music: Dance - Bensound.com
*The views expressed in this podcast are the views of the individual hosts. The hosts are not speaking on behalf of any particular school, school division, or educational institution.
Want audio only?
- We explore the permeation of faith within the Math and Science areas of study. What are some strategies and tips that can help bring about permeation?
- How can we build relationships between parishes and schools?
This episode is hosted by Daniel Yaretz, Lance Rosen, and Ryan Fox.
Segment 1 Strategies & Resources
Segment 2 Strategies & Resources
(Relationships between Parish & School)
The University of Lethbridge for the use of the space.
Ryan for making the trip to Lethbridge
Music: Dance - Bensound.com
*The views expressed in this podcast are the views of the individual hosts. The hosts are not speaking on behalf of any particular school, school division, or educational institution.
When my prayer life is on track, this quote makes me want to raise my hands and yell "PREACH MOTHER T!"
When God and I are super tight, and my life is in balance, I LOVE this quote. I have even been known to share it with people who may need a bit of encouragement in this area. After all, I know all the good super holy quotes to help people with their floundering prayer lives... Poor things... #sarcasm
THAT'S A LITTLE HARSH!
As wonderful as scenario number one seems, it's not really the case. Nine times out of ten I get a bit defensive when I read this quote. Sometimes my ego flares up and I start justifying my lack of prayer with shopping lists of things I am doing for God. How could you say that St. Teresa? Do you not know who I am? Do you not know what I am doing?
I pray... I'm a Knight of Columbus (even though I haven't been to a meeting in a while)... I am doing all the things!!!! How dare you question my prayerful prowess?
Prayer = Work; The Slippery Slope
At the beginning, my prayer life was great. I would go into the chapel in the morning, go to morning Mass, and offer my day to God. So Holy! As the year got going, however, I got busier and busier. People's expectations of me increased. My plate got more and more full. What were the first two things to fall? My prayer life and my physical activity (Isn't it funny how the two most important things are always the first to go?).
I ended up getting so busy that I burned out. The burn out was a result from a number of things, but my lack of prayer definitely had something to do with it. Additionally, it got to the point where I would equate prayer with my job. My job burned me out (because of my lack of balance) and made me tired. Prayer just reminded me of that. Thus, I avoided it. NOT GOOD!
After getting things under control in my life, I was able to achieve balance. As a result, my outlook on prayer changed. It was not work anymore. It was oxygen to my soul. Things turned around, but I can't forget how I slid down that slippery slope. I was too busy to pray. Therefore, I was too busy. Plain and simple.
Take Some Time
- Matthew 11: 28
Take some time today, no matter how busy you are, and spend it with the Lord. Give your burdens to Him. He won't disappoint. If you have trouble making time, just remember these convicting words of St. Teresa of Calcutta:
"If you're too busy to pray... You're too busy"
St. John Chrysostom, pray for us.
He tells us that allowing yourself to be found by God is an important way to approach prayer and one which we tend to forget. I include myself in this when I say that we constantly fall into the trap of thinking that we are the ones in search for God, and yes we “search” for God to a lesser extent, but truly, as these three parables demonstrate, it is God who searches almost irrationally to find even those counted among the least. Even in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, it is the father (God) who RUNS TO MEET the Son, even when he is still far off. It is God who diligently seeks, finds and rejoices to the fullest when we have been found.
I often think back to how my little girl responds to certain situations to try and get a visual on what the interaction between God and I should be like. He has given me a living example of what “childlikeness” is and I hope to learn as much as I can from her while she is still little! This morning gave me a beautiful example of what seeking, finding and allowing yourself to be found looks like. My little girl (15 months old) was running around the living room, and stopping every few steps to “hide,” and I was crawling around the floor “finding” her. There was a look of sheer joy on her face as I would get closer and closer and she would giggle uncontrollably. There were times that she would keep running a little farther at these moments, but sometimes she just stood there, giggling and waiting to be caught…to be found. It was during these moments she would giggle even more, which in turn made my heart overflow with joy.
God uses even the smallest person to teach us big lessons. I think He allowed me to experience this moment today to give me a glimpse at His joy in finding me, and the joy that is available to me when I allow myself to be found. When we allow ourselves to be found, to just BE with our Father, there is much rejoicing in heaven and in our hearts too. As Bishop Barron says in his homily, “God is the one that searches for us…our quest [for God] is but a pale echo, a vague reflection of God’s passionate, over-the-top, unrelenting quest for us…I think your whole spiritual life will change once that idea really gets into your heart.”
May you allow yourself to be found.
Barron, Bishop Robert. “Homily: A Coin, A Sheep, A Son.” Word on Fire, Bishop Barron’s Podcast, 14:18. http://www.wordonfire.org/resources/homily/a-coin-a-sheep-a-son/5264/ (accessed September 13, 2016).
Stewardship is a good metaphor for life in Christ. Our master has entrusted us with time, talent, and possessions during this life - at the end of which, we will need to make an account of our stewardship. How is it that we've used what God has entrusted to us? In this spirit, stewardship ministries, committees, and programs have sprung up in many parishes and dioceses across the continent. These groups and ministries exist with the intention of challenging the people of God to recognize their time, talents, and treasure as a gift from God... and to return them to Him as a sign of our gratitude for these same gifts. It's a big challenge that has the ability to engage and awaken all of us who sit in the pews Sunday after Sunday. In my experience, the fruits of stewardship have been limited because it's only discussed on ministry sign-up Sunday, or when the annual parish financial statement is presented. What is needed is resources that challenge us to look at stewardship on a more personal, more regular basis. This is precisely the goal of Tracy Earl Welliver's book, Everyday Stewardship. Welliver states "One of the greatest mistakes we can make in life is thinking that as we grow older, maturity is something that just happens naturally" (page 16), and this book is intended to be a tool to help attain greater spiritual maturity. It contains more than 60 reflections on stewardship each of which follows the same fort of pattern. First there is an excerpt from scripture, which is followed by a brief commentary, an idea to put this reflection into action, and a question which is meant to stretch the mind and the heart. He then leaves a 'doodle box' left for those who would like to journal, scribble, draw - it's a place to start responding to the question.
These reflections center on Welliver's 6 characteristics of an 'everyday steward': one who is mindful, prayerful, grateful, gracious committed, and accountable. He describes them as follows:
- To be mindful means to pay attention to God in even mundane situations.
- To be prayerful is to spend time talking to God, listening to God, and resting in God's presence. Welliver suggests 2 daily prayers that would assist with this - a morning resolution from St. Francis de Sales and the Suscipe of St. Ignatius of Loyola.
- To be grateful is to have an an attitude of gratitude.
- To be gracious is to be welcoming & hospitable.
- To be committed means using the help God provides (prayer, study, scripture, the Sacraments) to press forward & to get up when we fall down.
- To be accountable is to be part of a community, a family to whom we are responsible (and who is equally responsible to us.) As a member of this family, who we are and what we do matters - and so we must give account to those who journey with us.
This book is a good and practical resource to take stewardship that step beyond a call for volunteers or more money. Welliver's commentaries come from the fruit of his own life in Christ - and are both accessible for someone beginning the journey and substantial enough for someone who is already a good way down the road. I particularly appreciated the practical applications of Welliver's writing - stewardship can be the service we offer to our parish community, the quiet time we take for prayerful contemplation, and the making of a sandwich for a child's lunch. In addition to the six characteristics mentioned above, he also leads us to reflect on our notable liturgical seasons (Advent/Christmas & Lent/Easter) and the life of Mary, the Mother of God. I found these reflections to be particularly beautiful - pages I hope to revisit to help bring some more practical meaning to those seasons in the liturgical year.
For anyone looking for a resource or a faith study that has a practical & hands on application for your life in Christ, then Tracy Earl Welliver's Everyday Stewardship just might be a good book for you.
(Mike Landry is a husband, father, & Chaplain who serves ten schools west of Edmonton, AB. You can read more from him at www.thirdplaceproject.com.)
Did I just win the lottery?! I instantly changed from feeling like a segregated youth minister out in the middle of nowhere, to feeling supported and a part of a big community. She invited me to their annual gathering at Star of the North Retreat Center in St. Albert, Alberta the following January. Given my extreme extroversion, I signed up immediately!
The gathering was an awesome peek into what WCACYM truly is. The weekend offered a retreat element, some professional development, as well as a very surprising professional element. They had a very professional meeting as well following Robert's Rules and everything. I was very impressed. This was a group of Youth Ministers and this meeting was something you'd see in a fancy board room somewhere.
This weekend instilled a desire in me to get involved with this organization and was the starting point for me discovering everything WCACYM represents.
WCACYM will always hold a special place in my heart.
Please consider getting involved. You'll be glad you did!
My name is Lance Rosen and #iamwcacym.
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