We all encounter dry spells in our faith life from time to time. Here are 10 ways that may help turn your desert wasteland into a desert oasis.
10. Pump up your prayer life
9. Throw a couple Rosaries at it
8. Cut the Gossip
7. Do Something For Someone
6. Forgive Someone
What does it have to do with a dry spell?
It's pretty interesting that Jesus said this right after he told us how to pray.... hmm? (Matthew 6: 9-13 - Our Father...)
5. Attend the School of St. Francis
Our dependency on our tech has never been greater. We are always checking our phones for notifications, texts, and updates. It gets to the point where we sometimes hear "phantom rings" and feel "phantom vibrates". I think when we reach the point where we swear we felt our phone vibrate in our pocket, even though it's on the counter... maybe it's time to disconnect. Disconnecting will also allow us to start listening to God and stop listening for everything else... ever.
2. Up your Eucharistic Intake
1. Embrace it!
No matter the reason for your dryness, embrace it. Christ calls us to take up our crosses and follow him. Maybe you're dry because you've been drifting. God's mercy is greater. Maybe God has taken the training wheels off and is allowing you to pedal on your own power for a bit. He's still with you. Maybe you're just getting comfortable. Let him shake things up a bit.
Either way... embrace the dryness. Be grateful for it. There's always someone else who has it a lot worse than you! Be grateful! Maybe the Lord sees enough in you to allow you to go through this in the first place. Embrace the drought!
Stay Strong & Keep the Faith!
You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.
We all go through a slump every once in a while. Sometimes, however, the slump is left too long and it becomes one's new reality. The presence of God hasn't been felt in a while, and you start believing that things are over between the two of you. You become comfortable with this situation. It's like you've had a big fight with a good friend and you're too stubborn to break the silence for the sake of the relationship, so you sweep it under the rug and pretend it's not there.
But... it's there.
As the days go by, it becomes easier and easier to forget what you had. Kind of sounds like getting over a breakup. Isn't that what it is? A relationship with someone you loved and invested a lot of your time and heart into, that is now over. That's it, isn't it?
In a relationship with another person, we can put this reconciliation off for as long as we want. It seems mutual. But, with the right resources, approach, cooperation from the other, and the right amount of humility, it is possible to move on and to love again. However, things are different with God. We can lie to ourselves and others all we want, but the truth still remains that we were made for intimate union with our creator. You can run all you want, but he's still going to be there waiting for you to come back. Just because you don't believe in God, doesn't mean He doesn't believe in you (Matthew Kelly - Rediscover Jesus).
I've always wondered why, for most people, the events at the beginning and at the end of their lives usually somehow involve God. There's Baptism at the beginning for many, and at the end there's some sort of funeral that usually includes God. It's like there's something within us that must acknowledge Him at those times.
If you think about it, and if you believe in an afterlife, birth and death are the times when we are closest to God - on our way in (from Him) and on our way out (to Him... hopefully). How many deathbed conversion stories have you heard about? Even if these people have lived the entirety of their lives without God, they seem to reach for Him in the end. Hospitals even have chapels and chaplains! Our souls cry out for God, and we can only muffle them for so long. We can't escape His love for us.
Issuing from the Primary Principle, creatures accomplish a sort of circuit, a gyratory movement, such that all things when they tend to their proper end are returning to the Principle whence they came forth. We were created by the Son and by the Holy Spirit; and hence it is by them that we are brought back to our end.
St. Thomas Aquinas
Sometimes when we don't feel anything, our hearts get hardened. We can get so caught up in the lack of experiential feelings that we forget that relationships are mutual. We need to do some work too! Maybe our dryness and distance from God isn't caused by God being a jerk and abandoning us. Maybe it's because we haven't taken the time to do our share. Just like a relationship with a friend or family member needs help on both accounts, our relationship with God does too.
Many of the people I have spoken to about this are people who have fallen away. They've had the mountaintop experience and have felt God, but now they've drifted and don't feel right about coming back. Maybe it's pride. Maybe it's hurt. It could be anything. In this situation, I ask them to remember those mountaintop experiences and the love they felt. Was it fake?
When you were moved to tears after feeling a wave of love from your Heavenly Father, were you delusional? Did you make it up? This experienced changed your life, how you acted, and what you found important. Would you change your entire life around for some fleeting feeling that didn't really exist? Or, are you scared? Ashamed? Is it really a case of God not loving us? Or is it a case of us not letting God love us?
"But I've made too many mistakes. I've sinned too much. I'm too far away now."
Who are you that your sins are too big for God to forgive?
Are you some sort of anomaly who has somehow figured out a way to outsmart God?
Was Christ's death for nothing?
What do I think God's response is?
One of my favourite retreat dramas is one where the main character is in line for confession, is joking around, and not taking it seriously at all. He shares with his friend, who is also in line, that he doesn't really care about this faith stuff. Somewhere along the line, a challenge is issued to him to say that in front of the crucifix three times. He finds himself in front of the crucifix saying "You did all this for me, and I don't care".
The first time he says it, something seems to catch his attention. The second time he says it, you can hear him start to struggle with the words. The third time he says it, he realizes the depth of what he is saying: "You did all this for me, and I don't care!?" The statement quickly goes from one of confrontation and spite, to one of humility and regret.
In those times we feel distant from God, let us not automatically assume that He has abandoned us. Let us use this time to take an inventory of what we are doing to build this relationship. And when it gets tough, do not forget the works of the Lord. Do not forget those mountain top experiences that brought you to where you are in the first place.
It is in these times when our faith comes into play. What else is faith for? It's easy when it's easy. When it's tough, our faith needs to carry us through. As we say at Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction: Faith will tell us Christ is with us when the feeble senses fail.
So if you are going through this right now, know that you are not alone. You are not alone because we all go through these dry spells. You are not alone because Christ is with you. You were not alone when you first experienced the love of God, and you are not alone now. When going through these troubled times, try using these two psalms to help you remember how loved you are. Let us reflect on the psalmist's words: Do not forget the works of the Lord!
Once again we are reminded of the coming of the Lord to his formerly exiled people who returned to Israel. Those who remembered the first temple were saddened to rebuild the temple because it had lost the manna, the tablets of the law and all the other original trappings. The people believed that the Temple had lost the presence of God in the temple. The people were told they would see something much greater, the presence of God everywhere.
Today, we must be aware that the World Meeting of Families is more than just a festival that comes every three years. Instead, we are waiting for our prophet, the Pope, to come to see us and tell us to take courage, take courage, take courage. He will let us know that our work is calling us. We must get to work. We are well aware of the difficulties families face across the world.
Keynote with Rick Warren and Cardinal Sean O'Malley
Rick Warren spoke first:
Our society is completely backwards on how it depicts everything. The Bible teaches that we overcome evil with good. What creates a joy-filled family? They model themselves on the joy of God. The bible says God is love, not that he has love, but that he is love. The only reason you have love in your family is because God is love. Your heart beats because you were made to be loved by God. If you were not created to love God, you would not be here. God didn't need you...he wanted you. You can't make God stop loving you, because his love is based on who He is not who you are. No person will ever love you the way God loves you.
You will only know your purpose in life by reading God's word and talking to the Creator.
You must do on earth what you do in Heaven. It's practice. You will worship in heaven, you must worship and bow down before your God here on earth to practice for eternity. Trials and tribulations make you grow and stretch to become closer to God. Satan does not tempt us with evil, he tempts us with lies about what is good. Satan did not say to Adam and Eve in the Garden "Eat this and you will become like me." No, he said "Eat this and you will become like God." We will learn peace in this chaos. The family is our launchpad for ministry to others. We serve God by serving others.
Everybody is called to serve, even though not everybody is a priest. We must practice our eternal service to God by serving others here on earth. Everybody is hungry for the Good News, no matter what walls they seem to put up. Who is going to bring the Good News to them? To serve them? It must be us.
We are never going to deserve the blessings that God gives us, but our ticket to heaven was paid for not by us but by the blood of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We must reach out as families full of joy to bring people into the family of God.
This was my second time hearing Cardinal Sean speak, as he had given an English language catechesis at World Youth Day in 2013 in Brazil.
We need to see the world through God's eyes if we are going to actually see things clearly. If we have received the love which restores meaning to our lives, how can we not share that love with others? Families are missionaries, they pass the legacy on to new members. Marriage means new life, and the Gospel must radiate from the family. Not only do parents give the message of the Gospel to their children, but the witness and love of children evangelizes the parents. It is these families that evangelize other families.
Being a family in God's family means that we make a gift of ourselves to others' service. Technological superiority deludes westerners into thinking they are better than people in the developing world. The newly baptised native peoples of New Guinea that Cardinal Sean's friary evangelized were immediately scandalized by the fact that they had met Lutheran Papuans on the other side of the island they lived on. It was immediately a scandal that the body of Christ was divided. It was these new Christians that remind us that our technical advances have not stopped us from being completely backward in other ways. If someone asked for the toughest mission in the world today, they would be sent to the U.S. or another western country because this is he new mission territory where people are rejecting God and deChristianizing our countries. The lives of the saints should be the people that we model our lives upon, not superficial celebrities.
There is a difference between a crowd and a community. It was community that lowered the paralytic man through the roof of our Lord's house. We must change the crowd into a community, first by evangelizing our families, and then everyone else. Our domestic church of forgiveness and unconditional love will evangelize the world. We must gather around our tables to share and love, and then gather around the Eucharistic table. We must build a civilization of love.
Final breakout session with Alejandro Bermudas, Joseph and Gina Loehr, and Rabbi Abraham Skorka. "How Precious is the Family"
Mr. Bermudas spoke hosts Cara y Cara on EWTN, a Spanish language program. He is a consecrated lay person. He spoke of the "Barrio" in Buenos Aires. The Barrio in South America is the reference point for the family, while the concept of a Barrio in American minds is that of a drug and gang related area. Pope Francis is nostalgic for the kind of family life that he grew up with in the Barrio in Buenos Aires. How can we make our communities, our barrios, open and supporting of family life rather than a place of hostility? Pope Francis' childhood in the barrio is one of the reasons that he believes in a culture of experience. We must go out and meet people and build communities from the crowds. Despite our imperfections, the family is still the answer for the future.
Gina used to believe that marriage and family life was useless. She is thankful to God that she had a conversion before she gave her entire life over to this lie. The family is precious because faith and the foundation of coexistence exist within it. We teach an antidote to social fragmentation by teaching coexistence in our families.
Joseph exhorted upon all of us to listen to the Words of Pope Francis in always making time for our children. Usually, children do not feel ignored by their mother, but Pope Francis used to ask fathers if they played with their children and if they had the courage to be present in their children's lives - to make time rather than just being out to make money. Children always remember who was present and who was not. Fathers, no matter how much they feel the need to provide, must provide themselves their sons and daughters.
Rabbi Skorka is a friend of Pope Francis who knew Cardinal Bergoglio in Buenos Aires. Why are we so enamoured with Pope Francis? It is because he reminds us of our Lord Jesus, who took the time to visit people, to come to them and to bless them.
Archbishop Chaput seemed on the verge of tears as he closed out our conference, and so was I. Tomorrow, with the arrival of the Vicar of Christ, Philadelphia's World Meeting of Families participants will be joined by hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of other people who will come to hear our Holy Father speak and offer Mass. I am melancholy as I write this, because I am happy about taking part of the Festival of Families (cough, Jim Gaffigan, cough cough) and being at Mass with so many other people on fire with their faith.
I was also very pleased to visit the Cathedral of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia. It is modelled on the Hagia Sophia and is breathtaking. As an emissary of Kyivan Rus said to Prince Volodomyr after visiting the original Hagia Sophia, "We did not know if we were on Heaven or Earth". I had the same feeling.
I am in need of some prayers. Apparently, someone or some bot is trying to hack your favourite correspondent's iCloud account. I have been wrestling with my iPad all day, trying to make it work to take videos for Instagram and to keep you all informed via Twitter. Sadly, what you have seen is about 1/10 of what I recorded.
All of this trivial technological nonsense is completely and utterly unimportant when I reflect upon another beautiful day at the World Meeting of Families. How blessed we all are to start each and every day of sessions and talks with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. My reflection today on the homily and readings almost seems to come from a mystical place as the "smells and bells" of the liturgy take over my mind, heart and soul. If I made the point that the Mass's homilies were amazing before, I must reiterate it again as I give a short summary today.
The Church knows that the crisis of the family is the reason that there is a crisis of society. The pastoral care of our families, our domestic church, is the priority of our church because it effects not just the individual family but rather our entire planet. This year the topic of the synod of Bishops is the family. Today's Gospel tells us that Herod killed John the Baptist because of John's criticism of Herod marrying his brother's wife. Herod is afraid, in today's Gospel, because the man that Herod is hearing about, Jesus, has a family connection to John. Despite his curiosity at Jesus message, Herod saw his own sin when he heard of Jesus.
The problems of our society are, just like Herod so long ago, directly related to our selfish desires. We must find real solutions to the real problems of the family based on the message of the Gospel. Form a Holy Family where each member prays together and grows in love for Jesus Christ. Let us pray for the blessing of God on our family church that blesses those outside our family.
After mass, I attended two sessions (fewer today because of Spanish language programming, no habla Español!)
Erika Bachiochi "No Strings Attached, Responding to Hook-Up Culture"
It is women who are cheated and suffer because of our culture's rejection in the supposed name of feminism and sexual freedom have hurt women, children and men as well. Adolescents are becoming sexualized at a younger and younger age. Young people face a social frontier of their own: they hit puberty at 13 and don't get married until past 30. Middle class Americans reject the idea of a 20 year old having a child but expect them to be having sex as much as possible.
How prevalent is "Hooking up"?
Half to 2/3 of college students hook up by senior year and drunkenness and female regret are almost always involved. Despite this, 25% of college students graduate college as virgins...and some people think the number is growing. The sense that hooking up is the norm has deemphasized dating. Young adults that are not in college or have graduated hook up at an alarming rate, and these numbers seem to be growing.
Pornography has become the normal sexual teacher of youth. Researchers believe that pornography desensitizes males' brains and they learn that aggressive and dominating sexual behaviour is the norm. Should we wonder why the rate of sexual assault on campuses is rising? 1/4 women claim that they have been forcibly sexually assaulted while on college campuses.
After being a part of the secular feminist movement Erika has come to understand that the Catholic Church is more pro-woman than any other movement on earth. She came to understand that sin was her adversary rather than Patriarchy and men.
The uneven response to the asymmetry of the sexes (men don't have babies, only women do) means that abortion and contraception were thought to be the cure for women's issues. All this meant was that men could have sex without consequences. What is a pro-woman response to sexual asymmetry? It is the catholic response. Natural Family Planning makes us face the beautiful consequences of our sexuality. Catholics who understand that our social and moral teachings go hand in hand, are the best advocates of helping poor people, who are most affected by unplanned pregnancy, despite the availability and prevalence of contraception. Sex still makes women pregnant, and pregnancy is still the burden carried by women.
We must pray that our society begins to rediscover the beauty of our sexuality and the importance of chastity.
Open your eyes and listen to the cries of the wounded. Wounds make people and families vulnerable to manipulation, bitterness, despair and exploitation...to evil and sin.
What is a home? It is not measured by acres your house and property take up. A home is a gift of a loving presence. This is why someone can have a mansion, and still be homeless. When God rules and reigns in any home, no matter the size, God heals wounds and makes a house a home for all. With Jesus, there is compassion and care. Included in Jesus care is his anger towards the evil that harms people and his attention to their needs. A healed person manifests faith in Jesus...but in the Gospel, Jesus tells the healed person to keep quiet. The Healer comes with humility to teach us to follow in example. When we are healers we must proclaim the kingdom of God, not the Kingdom of Ourselves. Jesus' kingdom is a Kingdom of healing and compassion. The parable of The Good Samaritan is a story where Jesus is talking about himself. Jesus will love and care for a stranger, even an enemy.
On a practical and principled level, the shepherd should not leave 99 sheep to get one. Why would God go and get the last sheep? Why? Only one reason: because the sheep is God's and if it cannot come home, he will bring it home. God entered into our woundedness and embraced it. He was lost, he was branded as crazy, he experienced being a refugee in Egypt, he experienced humiliation, he was betrayed but he heals by being wounded. According to the Letter to the Hebrews he was made perfect as a compassionate High priest because he was tempted in every way except sin. He transforms our wounds and they transformed him, that's why even he had the wounds of the world, of his suffering and persecution. It is the wounded Lord who saves us. Our wounds will become avenues of compassion, solidarity and love.
Let us recognize our own wounds, so that we can be compassionate and understanding of the wounded. Wounds are never clean, they can be bloody and raw...it's a dark world that we must be ready to enter. Our church is a field hospital and we must be ready to treat the wounded. Rather than desperation, our field hospital must have hope.
I don't often take notes while at mass but my wife does. The need for there to be a clear and concise summary of today's events did inspire me to take notes during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This time, only the Bishops present walked in the procession, so mass started with only about seven minutes of successors to the Apostles walking by. I'm going to be perfectly honest here: I am very worried that my reflections may be rambling, but being immersed in this conference has my head in a completely different place. Yes friends, I'm having a Catholicism hangover.
Once again, our mass readings were chosen by God, but perfectly reflect our celebration and also the commemoration of the Feast of St. Padre Pio. God uses the powers of this world for his own purpose, either for punishment or for the salvation of his people. The Babylonian emperor (In Ezra 5) who carried Israel into exile received his lot from God. The Persian Emperor who sent the Israelites back to their home to rebuild the temple, also got his just reward. The years of slavery were punishment for the infidelity of Israel. Ezra was sure of the punishment but he was also sure of God's mercy. Ezra went into personal penance on behalf of his people. How am I penitent not just for my sins but for all of our sins? The guilty people repented after Ezra's example showed them that their irregular marriages were sinful and they dismissed their wives. How can we repent and remain in an irregular marriage. We must repent and change if we are to receive the grace of God. In the Gospel, (Luke 9) Jesus sent his twelve to preach and to heal. They were to take nothing. The life of an apostle is not one of ease and affluence. The challenge for the successors of the Apostles means that there are tough conditions. May the prayers and intercession of Padre Pio be with us.
After mass, I had the pleasure of taking in two keynote sessions and two breakout sessions.
Cardinal Robert Sarah spoke with power in his voice. He played on the theme of light and dark that makes up so much of our Bible in order to make us aware of the struggles, trials and tribulations that we see today. "Light is our Catholic domestic churches, dark is the broken family that does not seek forgiveness and mercy from its members".
Adam and Eve experienced death, which they did not know before. They turn on each other because separation from God is also a separation from one another. The first human relationship begins to disintegrate because sin leaves us weakened. We believe in our sin that God does not love us, so we seek fulfillment elsewhere: money, power, etc- this is the great deception.
If we do not go to the source of our troubles, we will not solve any of our problems. Sin creates a deadly boundary which encircles everyone who sins. We are unable to open up towards God, we are unable to reach out and transcend, if sin is not conquered we cannot fulfill the law of God: Love of God and Neighbour. Putting the magisterium in a pretty box and trying to acquiesce to modern fashions is a heresy. (Here is where everyone clapped)
The book of Genesis is not just a story, it is our story. Cardinal Sarah extends an invitation: Enter into your heart Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, the Tower of Babel. Are these things of the distant past? Our does this speaks to me and my present circumstances. I am a sinner but God, rich in mercy brought us to life with Christ. God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. -God does not remain indifferent to our sin but calls us to his son.
Jesus passion accomplishes the mission of offering us divine life. Death entered the world through sin. We do not die since Jesus takes our place. Jesus effects the Union of God and humanity by breathing his last "It is consummated." The words he uses speak of a divine marriage.
All those wounded by sin and the sin of others can and must find in the church a place for regeneration without a finger being pointed of them. This is the testimony that the Christian family is called to give. The family is the first evangelizer. The family is meant to spread love and faith. Faith needs a place where it is gestated, transmitted and can grow and become a lived experience. He family is the wellspring of hope and directs itself towards the future. The family carries in itself the future. Perhaps the Cardinal was aware that he could be perceived as being too doom and gloom, so he told us something else that made the entire room clap loudly: Evil does not have the last word. Not when we turn ourselves back to Christ who died for us.
Archbishop Socrates Villegas- One Ring to Rule Them All: The Covenant of Marriage
Archbishop Villegas came to us from the Philippines and spoke of the great sadness that many parents feel when their children do not go to church anymore. He was adamant that the most important part of catechizing our children is to ensure that we are examples of people that have a relationship with Jesus Christ. Their will be renewal in the church if we look past simply the proper forms of liturgy (which are fundamentally important) and first to making our domestic church reflect the beauty of God's church.
If we want renewal, we must kneel again in humility and pray for peace and mercy. Mercy reveals the most Holy Trinity. Mercy is the fundamental action of the everyone who has Jesus in their heart. Our families are invited to kneel down in repentance.
If you don't do anything with love, how can you say that you are doing it right? The church says you should kneel to take communion, but if you don't do it with an oozing love then even the proper form of receiving the blessed sacrament can be an insult to God.
By the fact that we are baptised we already carry the mission to teach, to serve and to bless.
We as families need to lead our children into an intimate relationship with Christ or the gestures we teach them will dry up because they do not come from an encounter with Christ.
Prof. Helen Alvare- Creating the Future: The Fertility of Love
Prof. Helen says she was a convert to the "Gospel of Me" after growing up in the church. She was absolutely opposed to marriage and children. It was only as an adult that she had a reconversion to Christian faith. She was then converted to realizing the despair of living only for herself. She was converted to the ideas of family and taking care of the sick and elderly.
Fewer people are marrying at all in many countries, many are living together instead and making no promises. Demographers say there is a lower and lower number of children around the world. What takes the place of spouses and children? The world says work all the time, there is no time for anything else. People see the beauty of newly created things (here meaning things created by man and woman) but not the beauty of procreated children. Public and private leaders overlook what women need in life but instead they simply equate women's freedom with freedom from children. Children have become completely divorced from the idea of sex and marriage says Prof. Helen, which is completely cut off from God's commandment to "Be fruitful and multiply."
A welcome and stable family life is related to a society of more freedom, peace. The opposite view is that there is no link between love and life. We know that this does not work. We can count the costs to men, women, children, elderly and the poor of how a retreat from marriage and family leaves our society damaged. We are called to be fruitful in our families and to each person that God has put into our paths in life.
Cardinal Peter Turkson and President Juan Carlos Varela of Panama
If one cares, one is connected. The same ideas that framed our behaviour in kindergarten apply to Laudato Si. It is simple: Share, be kind, clean up after yourself. All things in moderation, make time for wonder (of God's creation). It seems simple, but apparently it is not, because our world is full of pollution and waste. We must do better, for our children and our children's children- especially those who will grow up in the poorest parts of the world.
Like I said, Catholic hangover. I am so very blessed to be able to share even these muddled insights with you.
My wife Kalyn and I, and our child (in utero), arrived in Philadelphia on Sunday afternoon. We are representing the Eparchy of Saskatoon along with Deborah Larmour and her husband Don. Coincidentally, Deb and Don taught us marriage preparation and Serena Natural Family Planning, and Deb is now the Family life Director with the Eparchy. All four of us were sponsored- flights, hotels, conference fees- by an anonymous donor. Archbishop Chaput wanted representatives from every diocese and eparchy in North America, so I am hoping that a lot of people took the anonymous donor up in his or her offer.
Like my past days of attending World Youth Day (Cologne 2005, Rio de Janeiro 2013) I was immediately struck by the fact that a multicultural city can at least seem like they are putting out the red carpet for both Pope and pilgrims. Everywhere you go there are signs and people telling you that you are welcome to Philadelphia "The City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection" and the Pope's visage is on everything: Art, murals, signs, cakes, plush toys- you name it, they have it!
Yesterday was very quick, we just had to register and pick up our credentials and conference supplies. Then, we took some time to explore a city transformed. Cassocks and Habits are everywhere and I heard local Philadelphians continue to comment on the "happy looking young sisters" and "new priests". There was even a Lego reproduction of St. Peter's Basilica at The Franklin Institute, along with Vatican treasures and a display of Genghis Khan artifacts. Shopkeepers keep asking us where we are from and tell us that we are welcome, and suggest where the best cheesesteaks and pretzels can be had.
Bishop Robert is a powerful speaker and gave a speech called "Living as the Image of God: Created for Joy and Love". Bishop Robert told us that God became one of us that we may share in the divine nature. Atheism, both the old and new, is predicated on the assumption that the more glory we give to God, the less we get, but that is untenable to the Holy Bible. Let's think of the story of Moses and the burning bush. The bush is on fire, but it is not consumed. He illuminates and sets his creation "on fire" without damaging it. Don't let the Atheists teach you otherwise. We must worship our God, says Bishop Robert, or we will end up worshipping false gods: money, power, our own ego.
May God Bless and keep you all, I will update you tomorrow on the breakout sessions and keynotes from day 2. Tomorrow should have twice as much content.
It was the spring of 2006 when my wife and I, early into our marriage & expecting our first child, came upon the house we intended to make the home in which we would raise our family. At a modest 950 square feet, with four bedrooms and a huge yard, it seemed like the perfect place for our young family to settle and see what would happen.
Nine-and-a-half years later, our family is very different. My wife and I are expecting our fifth child in early February to go along with the amazing two boys and two girls we already have. Our house, too, is very different than the bungalow we bought in 2006. Thanks to the help of some very generous friends (and a few reasonably priced professionals) we’ve done work in every room in the house.
But that chapter in our journey is coming to an end. My wife and I reached a difficult decision this summer: at the end of October we’ll be saying farewell to our beloved bungalow in Spruce Grove and move into a larger two-story in Stony Plain where there will be more room for our kids to live and grow both now and in their teenage years.
I have to admit, it’s been a challenging time for all of us: the expected difficulty in leaving the place we made so many memories, but also an unexpected one. As I’ve been working around the house, I’ve been considering the work we did to make our home better. I can recall mornings, afternoons, and evenings spent alone or with friends undertaking the various upgrades... and I’m left to wonder what will become of all the work I’ve put into our family home. Will the new owner appreciate what’s been done? Will she benefit from all the things I did for my family? Will she change it all, making some of our hard work seemingly meaningless?
It makes for a fascinating parallel with some of my experiences in ministry. My entire adult life has been dedicated to the service of the Church. In addition to my current work as a Chaplain, I’ve had the blessed opportunity to serve at a summer camp, as a parish youth minister, as a music minister, with traveling retreat teams, in writing, and as a speaker. Over all of these years, these ministries have not only been my job – they’ve been a calling and an opportunity to serve God with the gifts and skills He’s given me. I recognize that I’ve been given the opportunity to pour my heart and soul into some incredible ministries – some of which, unfortunately, no longer exist. Moving on from one calling to another has meant that I’ve had to leave my hard work in the hands of others: some of whom have appreciated and built onto the good I was able to do, some who took things in another direction, and some who focused elsewhere. In these last cases, it seems like some of my hard work has been for naught (particularly when the ministry no longer exists).
It’s tempting to look at both of these situations – the house and ministry – and to get caught up in a very secular mode of thinking: the value of the work comes from the legacy one leaves behind. Will people recognize the work that I did to make my house better? Do people know the ministry I am doing or have done in all of these various organizations?
And when I dwell on either of these, I’m reminded of a quote from Blessed Mother Teresa: God has not called me to be successful, He has called me to be faithful.
Being faithful to my family required me to do the work that was done these last nine years – not so that I could take someone through my house to show them all that I am able to do... but simply because that was my duty in a particular moment as a husband and a father. Similarly, when it comes down to it, my work in ministry isn’t about leaving a legacy of tangible results to lean on: it’s about responding to God’s call to serve in each moment of each day. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I worry too much about the world’s way of evaluating our successes both in my family and in my ministry, and this change moving forward is another opportunity for God to work that out of my heart. My primary care and concern is supposed to be becoming the best servant of Christ and steward of God’s mysteries I can (1 Corinthians 4:1) – the rest is just the details that I need to leave in God’s hands, not concerning myself with their long-term viability or my own ego.
If God calls us to serve Him in the moment in any situation: at home with our family, within the Christian community, at work or at school, or in any other circumstance, the mission remains the same: be faithful and do what you can. Be faithful especially when the fruits or successes of your work will not be realized. It is those moments you make an incredible gift to God: the gift He truly wants from you: a willing heart.
Part of my MDiv synthesis that popped up again:
One thing that I know is that love ensures the protection of two hearts. When one loves, s/he enables him/her self to see past the immediacy of one’s emotional needs and wants. S/he creates a safe space for the other to enter in. Within this entering in of trusting the other and displaying vulnerability, the one receiving the gift of the other is required to hold that gift of self in such high regard that it becomes ultimate priority to guard and protect. At some time or another, in all people’s lives, human beings are both givers and receivers. We are vulnerable and share, we are trusted and we receive. The details of this reception are often mistaken as an interchange of information or deeper knowledge into the other person; and although this may prove often correct, the information shared with the other is a snowballing of one’s entire life - the ups, the downs, the joys, the disappointments, the mistakes, lessons learned, and the revelation of love that happens within the context of all these things.
So while we receive, we must cradle the great gift of the other like a newborn child that cannot fend for itself. For when a person reaches out and discloses any information of the self, s/he is trusting in love. If all things that are love are God, that person is actually trusting and hoping in something eternal - in something true, good, and beautiful. S/he makes a statement that they trust in the name of God who loves and promises to protect. This intention is not always even clear to the giver. Many times when information is exchanged, one does not reflect on the subconscious reasons for giving the information.
Take for example a romantic relationship. Why do people share past histories, especially in the cases where the information is negative. People do this subconsciously because there is human urgency that all people have to be loved, accepted, and taken care of. Who doesn't like breakfast made for them in the morning or the driveway shoveled when it’s snowing? Further, when a person’s vulnerability is taken advantage of - meaning the receiver has disregarded or not protected the heart of the giver, there is great anxiety, fear, and uncertainty of the future. Sometimes this can be overwhelming, especially in the case of the giver having trust in the receiver and being let down. In these times relationships can seemingly just diminish even when there was much exchange. This is not because the two people are broken - it is because the receiver never really received the gift. Instead, it was information obtained for the sole purpose of gaining - maybe power over or security for the self.
However, when one truly enters into the state of being a true receiver, information should penetrate the heart so deeply so that it will always be protected and guarded as long as the information is true. Truth points its way to love and love is an undeniable force in the world that wants so badly to envelop every human being that sometimes it can be feared.
Let's face it. Sometimes this calling / small 'v' vocation / ministry / whatever you want to call it, can drain the life right out of you. The classroom can be so demanding, busy, and stressful that praying can just seem like another thing added on your seemingly infinite to-do list. Well, we here at The Silversmith Collective are here to help!
1. Start your day off right
"Fill us at daybreak with your mercy, that all our days we may sing for joy" - Psalm 90:14
The ideal scenario would be to take 5 or 10 extra minutes in the morning (before running around making breakfast, lunches, getting kids out the door, packing up your supplies, making sure kids are ready, etc, etc etc. - Man, life is busy). If you can make this happen whether through getting up a bit earlier, or completing some of these tasks the night before, here are some resources you can use for a productive prayer time:
If this is not possible (which for many it isn't), see if you can take a couple minutes and spend that wonderful quiet time driving to work or that elusive chunk of time before the bell rings and the students arrive, to align your day with God. Here are some great resources to help you do that:
2. Don't let prayer become another thing 'to-do'
"If you're too busy to pray... you're too busy." - Blessed Mother Teresa
When I was working in Youth Ministry for my home town Catholic school board, I fell into this trap. My then struggle with time management mixed with a large work load eventually resulted in me viewing prayer and other personal faith building activities as 'work'. Prayer and anything else above and beyond the obligatory Sunday Mass turned into more boxes to check on my to-do list and more things added to the massive pile of things I already had to do. To avoid more to do, I avoided prayer. As you can imagine, this didn't help at all! Pretty sad, hey? The one thing that is supposed to feed my soul and give me strength for the journey (my faith) was now seen as a burden. Please do not go here. This is a very bad place to be. No matter how tired you are, or how busy you are, please prioritize some time to spend with God.
"Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest" - Matthew 11:28
Notice he didn't say "I might give you rest" or "I'll think about giving you rest". Nope. He says "I will give you rest".
Take him up on that offer!
3. Frequent the Sacraments
If we truly believe what we as Catholics claim to believe, that the Eucharist is not only the Source and Summit of our faith, but that it is also the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ, and that we truly encounter Christ's Mercy and are wiped clean in the confessional - and if we view all of these truths in the context of our calling as teachers, then our need for the Sacraments should be right up there with our need for air, water, food, and shelter. Sounds extreme, I know. But, if we nourish and care for our bodies (Air, Water, Food, Shelter, Exercise) and our minds (Education), what are we doing for our souls? Just like a runner has to care for his or her body with proper nutrition, oxygen, training, detox, and rest, as laborers in the vineyard we need to be doing the same things for our souls too! The Sacraments are the perfect place to do so.
4. Go on Retreat, go to a conference, or join a group.
This may seem impossible during a busy and hectic school year, but it may be worth it if you can make it happen.
Throughout the year there are always events happening that are designed to strengthen your faith. Here are some ideas:
* The big issue here is time. You may not think you have enough time during the year. I want to encourage you to try. At the very least, try to go on retreat at the end of each school year to recharge your mental, physical, and spiritual batteries. This practice has proven to be very beneficial to my wife and I when we've been able to do it.
5. Embrace the gift you have of working at a Catholic School
Take advantage of the tremendous gift you have before you. You have the ability to work in a place where you can openly practice your faith! How amazing is that!
In every Catholic school there are always faith activities going on. Whether it's school Masses, assemblies and celebrations, Faith Development days, or simply Morning Prayer or Religious Studies classes. Take advantage of these times! Don't look at them as work. Look at them as opportunities for you to grow in Christ.
Think for just one second about the term Faith Development Day. This is a day set aside for teachers to grow in their faith. Time is set aside for this. Funds are set aside for this. You get paid for this. If you are a teacher who's school board provides these opportunities, please be thankful and take advantage of them. What a blessing!
Before I worked in parish ministry, I used to romanticize how cool it would be to work in a parish with an office mere steps away from Jesus in the chapel. During my time in parish ministry, I failed to take advantage of the many opportunities I had to be in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Now that I am not working in Parish ministry, I look back and think "why didn't I spend more time in the chapel?". Don't take this wonderful opportunity you have for granted. Many teachers have to keep their faith and work lives separate.
And as a bonus, if your students see you talking these opportunities seriously and to heart, they may be encouraged to do the same. Because, whether you think so or not, you're a role model!
5.1 - For teachers in non-Catholic schools
In this situation, all of your faith related activities will probably have to be done outside the classroom.
Whatever your situation is, know that there are plenty of great resources, people, and opportunities out there to help you on your journey, and keep your faith strong this year! Hang in there! We're praying for you!
More Faith Resources
Colm and I have decided to homeschool Jacinta, or at least try it out. We are taking it year by year with the hope that we will always make the best decision for our family. That is usually what is behind every decision we make, what is best for OUR family.
We get that homeschooling is NOT for everyone. We get that we are NOT “normal”. We also get that every family and every person is different. Homeschooling may work for our daughter Jacinta, but it may be a bad idea with Ezra. Who knows until we get to that bridge
I wanted to, in writing, finally put out there what Colm and I have discussed with many friends and family. How on earth did I go from being completely against homeschooling to now being the excited and over the top Pinterest homeschool parent? Well, let me tell you.
The conversation started 2 years ago when Jacinta was just 3, early I know but you will understand in just a moment. I am a HARDCORE introvert. I like my personal space. I like being in control of my environment and schedule. I truly dislike schedules and working around them. I am the type of person who, on a Friday, will begin to slowly panic knowing that in just 2 more days I HAVE to be at work. Now if you know me, you know I love my job. My job does NOT feel like work. I love the people I work with and I love what I do. I have also been fortunate enough to be able to coordinate a very flexible position so that I can be home with the kids, so the fact that I panic has NOTHING to do with the job, but everything to do with the words HAVE TO BE…..I have been this way since elementary school. As I read this it occurs to me that I should probably seek out some help.
ANYWAYS, so rewind to two years ago when, uh oh, I realize that in 2 short years my daughter will be starting kindergarten. That means Monday to Friday my days were set. 8:45 to 3:20, every day for 10 months out of the year. This feeling did not settle well with me. Colm and I travel a lot between Calgary and Winnipeg to visit family. Weekend visits are hard, so we extend them for a few extra days. This would not be possible with Jacinta in school. Birthday parties would now occupy every weekend, which means I would have to engage in social activities more than I care to. Yes I know there is a lot of I, I, I statements. This is just the crazy panicked thought process I went through.
A few weeks after this panic attack, I happened to come across a blog post similar to this about why this woman decided to pull her children out of school to homeschool. Now, I have encountered the entire spectrum of homeschoolers and I can say this, if the child is odd it’s not just the child. I have met some really cool and interesting kids whose parents were also the same. This woman; however, wrote in such a way that was not bashing the school system but simply stating the positive effects homeschooling has had on her family. I really appreciated that and from the get go Colm and I have tried to base the decision entirely on the POSITIVES for our family and stay away from any negatives towards school. The reason being if we decided homeschooling was not working out we wouldn’t be so tainted by our decision making.
We have some amazing Catholic schools nearby, so right off the bat keeping a positive on school was easy. Now for the positives of homeschooling. Here is our list.
I will admit, I am FREAKED OUT! I was a little sad when I heard the school alarm go off this week, and seeing everyone’s first day of kindergarten pictures and hearing their stories. I was sad because there are wonderful moments I experienced that she won’t. But then I looked back on our day. We woke up and went to mass as a family, had a back to school breakfast at Smitty’s, went to the Homeschool picnic, etc. Our day was full of time. Time that I am so grateful to have. Just a disclaimer: There was actual learning involved this week too.
What do I hope to gain from writing this? Well one, when I get a message or email asking why we are homeschooling I can send them this link first, and two, if there is a parent out there feeling as I was feeling, then maybe this can get them thinking as the other article did for me.
- Sharon Leyne