Category Archives: Prayer

Entries dealing with prayer.

“What If We All Prayed for Just One Person?” + Radio Prayer Service for Middle East

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I am tempted – and perhaps all of us in the U.S. are tempted – to allow headlines regarding tragedy in the Middle East to “go in one ear…and out the other”.

There is just so much tragedy.

Oftentimes, we feel overwhelmed by life’s events — whether in distant lands, or in our own homes and offices. In those times, I’m reminded of Mother Teresa’s words: “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” That goes for everything — clothe just one person, hug just one person — and pray, too. If you can’t possibly pray for all the suffering people in the world, pray for just one.

In fact, it was only after my pilgrimage to the Holy Land, that I realized the Christians there are not just statistics. They are Johnny the tour guide with a sharp wit, Hanan the gracious relief worker, Rabab the singing English teacher.

Today I received an email from Brother Stephen, who works at Bethlehem University in the West Bank. He was passing along the news that one of the university’s graduates, Hashem, a husband and father of two little girls and a boy, was killed while peacefully protesting the violence in that region.

There are many stories like Hashem’s — of one person who is in need of prayer.  What if we all joined together and prayed for just one person?

For Hashem…
or for Ayham, his 11 year old who is now ‘man of the house’…
or for Sharna, the 23 year old pregnant mother killed in Gaza…
or for her baby girl, who was delivered by emergency C-section…

As Mother Teresa said, “Do not wait for leaders. Do it… person to person.” So we will. Please join in a special prayer service this week:

Live Radio Broadcast: Prayer for Our Brothers and Sisters in the Middle East
on Catholicism Live! hosted by Deacon Tom and Mary Jane Fox
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
8:00 PM – 9:00 PM (Central Standard Time)

We invite you to have a crucifix or image of Christ with you, as you listen and participate. Together, let’s follow the example of our shepherd Pope Francis, and these holy bishops:

“Let us pray much for peace in the Middle East: please pray!” – Pope Francis

“We cannot be Christian but to be for the other.”
– Bishop Barnaba Yousif Habash, Syriac Diocese of Our Lady of Deliverance

“I believe in the effect of prayer even though in the immediate moment we don’t feel any result. We have to continue tirelessly to pray for peace.” – Bishop William Shomali, Auxiliary to the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem

“The whole church of the Middle East is a church of Calvary. Do not leave us alone.”
– Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal

“Pray for us.” – Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako (Iraq)

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Encountering Christ in Prayer on the Via Dolorosa

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Imagine carrying a six by four foot wooden cross on Via Dolorosa (Latin for the Way of Suffering), commemorating Christ’s passion as He walked carrying his Cross from the Antonia Fortress not far from the Temple through the streets of Jerusalem, and then to Calvary. Remembering our Lord’s passion and His walk to Calvary has long been and continues to be an ‘active prayer’ in Jerusalem. Many pilgrims walk the Via Dolorosa each year.

Today, Via Dolorosa in the Old City of Jerusalem has Roman numerals on bronze disks along the walls of buildings marking the way the Lord carried His cross.  Each Roman numeral signifies a “station”. For example, the First Station, “Jesus takes up His Cross”, is marked outside the ancient ruins of the Antonia Fortress.  There are fourteen Stations of the Cross, the first nine are along Via Dolorosa and the last five are in the Holy Sepulcher Church built over Calvary and the area of the Tomb of Christ.    

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My husband and I just led a pilgrimage to the Holy Land where all the pilgrims had the opportunity to carry the large wooden cross along the Via Dolorosa.  Some of the marked Stations have small chapels maintained by various religious communities living in Jerusalem such as the Franciscans, the Armenian Catholics and Little Brothers and Sisters of Jesus founded by Charles de Foucauld.

One morning, Tom and I were walking along the Via Dolorosa with a dear friend living in Jerusalem, we were planning to have coffee at the Austrian Guesthouse near the Fourth Station.  Our friend who is a devout Catholic with Armenian roots invited us to visit the Fourth Station Church under the jurisdiction of the Armenian Church dedicated to the Armenian genocide that occurred around 1915.  The church’s crypt marked the site of the fourth station where Jesus met His Mother as He carried the Cross to Calvary. The foundation, part mosaic from the 5th century, had a pair of ‘sandals’ marking the spot where Mary stood.

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On the other side was a section with a modern sacred art piece with the Eucharist, the Blessed Sacrament exposed in a unique monstrance.  There was a large rug for kneeling, a few chairs and a religious nun praying.  We decided to spend an hour with Jesus there in silent prayer, adoring Him in His Eucharistic Presence.  I thought… “Lord!  I am here with you in a special way where you met your mother on your way to Calvary!”  Tom and I enjoyed our quiet one hour.

Meanwhile, on the upper level, life went on along the Via Dolorosa.  Muslim women were purchasing fresh vegetables and pastries to prepare for their Ramadan meal after Sundown, tourists with open maps wondering about, a group of Italian Catholics praying the Stations of the Cross, and the market along the Via Dolorosa open for business.

The Son of God in His Eucharistic Presence was present in silence only a few yards away.  Our hour with Jesus on Via Dolorosa will be one I’ll always remember.

To learn more about the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, visit the Franciscan Website (Custody of the Holy Land).

Want to experience a journey to the Holy Land?  Contact us!

Catholic Confession: Paralyzing fear to new life

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Have you ever been afraid? I mean, really afraid? For about two years, I went through professional counseling for past trauma that induced panic attacks. That experience helps me relate to the disciples we read about in Sunday’s Gospel. After the Crucifixion of Jesus — the man whom they believed would liberate Israel — his mortified followers gathered together, shut and locked the doors out of fear.

Little did I know how powerful fear could be until I was a grown woman, hiding from my emotions in my bedroom closet with the door closed. I would sit on the floor and cover my head with my arms, the fear was so intense. How could I hide from it? I couldn’t. My wounds would taunt me, ‘You cannot escape us. We have marked you forever. You will never be whole again; always wounded.’

Imagine the disciples going through a similar struggle, when suddenly

Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.

Exposing his glorified wounds, Jesus shows them that he has heard the taunts and jeers of woundedness and fear. But he proves that wounds do not have the last laugh. By exposing his wounds, Jesus says, ‘I have been through hell. Yet here I am, more alive than ever before. I have peace, and I give it to you.’

The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

That moment must have been when the disciples realized: the Messiah did not come to conquer political forces, or lands, as they once thought. He did not come to reign in a fortress of stone. Jesus, God’s Chosen One, came for the ultimate victory: to free human hearts from fear. He came to reign in hearts. This was God’s Master Plan; a plan to free all of humanity from the ultimate enslavement — the interior kind.

Blessed is Sunday, for on it were opened the gates of paradise so that Adam and all the exiles might enter it without fear. (Catechism of the Catholic Church pp. 1167)

This is what the disciples must have known at that moment, and so they rejoiced.

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.”

When I would sit in the darkness of my closet, writhing from the torture of emotional wounds, one of the worst pains I felt were feelings of guilt and shame. Feelings of having permanently lost my dignity and beauty and freedom.

In the Gospel, the apostles — men who had known the dank prison cells of fear, and experienced the liberation of Christ’s victory over wounds — are now empowered and sent to liberate others. Jesus charges them to go and break the shackles of fear, for those who wish to be free.

For Freedom, Christ Set You Free

My encounter with Jesus and his glorified wounds was (and continues to be) so important in my salvation, my healing, my liberation. That is why I am so grateful for the ‘birthday of the Church’ which Christians celebrated Sunday. Pentecost marks fifty days after the Passover; a Jewish feast called Shevuot commemorating God giving the Torah to his people. For Christians, we celebrate that First Covenant and the New Covenant; on Pentecost, God poured out the Holy Spirit on the apostles, fulfilling his promise:

But this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days… I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (Jeremiah 31:33)

So, why am I grateful for this day? Because when the apostles received the Holy Spirit, they were empowered to go out and free hearts likewise. They became ekklesia — people sent out (translated “church”). Today, the Church exercises this mission especially through the sacraments.

As I went through years of counseling, I also participated in the Sacrament of Confession, which is called a Sacrament of Healing and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I’m sad — and frustrated — that Confession is poorly (and grossly) depicted in pop culture, because I and countless others have there encountered Jesus and his glorified wounds.

Confession is often portrayed as dark, eerie, and devoid of emotion. I did associate those things with Confession once; when I felt trapped in an abusive relationship for over a year. My life was like a maze I couldn’t escape; I often felt like I was living a nightmarish Groundhog Day. As the weeks and months went by, I would visit Confession more frequently than before. I hated that I could not seem to escape this nightmarish cycle of hurt. That’s when I began to associate Confession with self-loathing.

Finding Freedom

A miracle released me from that relationship. But I still carried intense, negative, emotional baggage associated with Confession. Thus began my uphill battle to separate that baggage from the reality of Confession.

Thanks to professional help, hard work, and prayer, my experience of Confession now reflects what Confession truly is: light-filled, loving encounters with a God who loves more truly and beautifully than anyone else.

Unfortunately, I have heard many Catholics say: “People today go to therapists and unload all their problems, but Catholics don’t need that; we have Confession!” I admire their enthusiasm, but this attitude can be very dangerous. Confession is absolutely a place of healing. At the same time, God chooses to heal us in many ways. I hope that, if you are a Catholic who experiences intense fear, anxiety or shame, you’ll seek out a Catholic counselor. (This can feel embarrassing, but is entirely worth your effort.) He or she can help you shed light on the source of your pain and become free from any misplaced guilt or shame that may weigh you down.

Through counseling paired with the Sacraments of Confession and Eucharist, I realized: God wants me to be healed and free. He wants that for you, too.

Confession, experienced in a healthy manner, is truly a Sacrament of Healing. Jesus comes and offers you true peace. He shows you the wounds he suffered so that you don’t have to suffer them, too. He shows you that those wounds are glorified. He offers you a life that is new and fully-alive.

I pray that you will take his hand today.

Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away
– Pentecost Sequence

"The Incredulity of St. Thomas" by Caravaggio (1602)

“The Incredulity of St. Thomas” by Caravaggio (1602)

Sixth Sunday of Easter

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"Moses receives the Ten Commandments from Yahweh" by Cosimo Rosselli (1439–1507)

“Moses receives the Ten Commandments from Yahweh” by Cosimo Rosselli (1439–1507)

Jesus said to his disciples, and to us, “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” What does Jesus mean when he says we must  keep his commandments? I don’t think Jesus is just talking only about the Ten Commandments, which is the minimum we must do to be faithful to God. Jesus came into the world so that we may have a life of God’s grace in abundance. Jesus is the way to the Father and eternal life, and to keep his commandments is to believe, accept and live all that he has revealed to us. He tells us that we cannot just live for ourselves. We must deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him. Jesus tells us we must, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” and He will then see that we have all that we need. Not all that we want, but all that we need.

It is not a casual thing to place the Kingdom of God first in our lives. It takes a deliberate act of the will every day all day, because we are continually tempted to make selfish decisions or compromise our values. It is for this reason that Jesus promises that the Father will send the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, to those who love him. On our own we are not able to do what we are commanded to.

As he helps us to over come sin and grow in virtue, Jesus has given us the Church and the Sacraments as the source of the grace we need to live a life close to him. It is remarkable enough that Almighty God desires to reside in us, His lowly creatures, and yet He comes to us at our invitation and our preparation.

How important is happiness to you and the people you love? God is the source of true happiness, which we can only attain in communion with Him. There are a lot of things that give us pleasure, but those that are outside of God’s plan for us do not lead to true happiness.

Our temptation is to do only the minimum when it comes to our spiritual life. Before long, we see this as a burden and we are not willing to do even the minimum required of us.

What if we applied that philosophy to every aspect of our life? What if we only wanted to do the minimum for our education, for our career, for the people we love; would that even be love?

We are human persons created in the image and likeness of God. Our most important component is our eternal soul and our spirituality; it is what shapes us. What are we doing for our spiritual well being? If all we do is go to Church on Sunday and pray occasionally we are not truly disciples. This is exactly where I was about thirty years ago. Sometimes it takes a tragedy or a sequence of failures to get our attention so that we begin to order our life toward God, but it need not be that way. Our Lord continually offers us the grace of conversion through circumstances, situations and relationships. A reference point for me was when a work associate asked me if Jesus was the Lord of my life. I had heard the phrase many times, but at that particular moment the Lord gave me the grace to see that my heart was far from Him. After a few days of reflection, I decided I needed to make some changes. I bought my first Bible, joined a prayer group with my wife, and after a month or so, I started to get more involved in our parish. Prayer became an important part of my daily routine and was beginning to influence the decisions I had to make. That was the beginning of a wonderful journey that brought me to love God and this Church He has given us, and it enabled my wife and I to discover true happiness. Drawing close to God brought new meaning to our lives and our marriage.

God has a great plan for humanity, but it can only be realized in communion with Him.

“And only when God is seen does life begin. Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is. We are not some casual meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary. There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than to know Him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him.” (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI)

This is what gives God glory and brings happiness to our soul.

"Jesus Delivers the Eight Beatitudes (Sermon on the Mount)" by Cosimo Rosselli (1439–1507)

“Jesus Delivers the Eight Beatitudes (Sermon on the Mount)” by Cosimo Rosselli

In the Gospel, Jesus tells us that the Father will send us the Holy Spirit to be with us always, to help us to recognize His truth, so that we may remain in His love. The entire Church begins the novena to the Holy Spirit on May 30th and continues it until the vigil of Pentecost June 7th. Archbishop Gustavo is asking the whole archdiocese to pray this novena, which can be found on the archdiocesan website. Then, on the Feast of Pentecost, he will consecrate the archdiocese to the Holy Spirit.

Facing Difficulties – Lessons from St. Patrick and the Irish

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StPatrickIreland’s greatest saint is remembered March 17, which falls during Lent, and while most Americans might shrug at this and chug their green beers, Paddy is actually more closely connected to fasting and penance than to feasting and beer.

St. Patrick, determined to evangelize the Irish, was at first unsuccessful at preaching. Legend tells us that when he preached about Hell and Purgatory, no one would believe him — UNLESS! — a man could go there, live, and come back to tell them. (Sounds outrageous until you consider that these were Irish folk, and if I know anything about my Irish family members, it’s that we live for a good story.)

St. Patrick became furious at their lack of faith. It’s said Christ led Patrick to a cave, where he saw visions of Hell and Purgatory. One story leads to another, and it’s said a man was lowered into the cave, experienced Purgatory, and ‘lived to tell’.

Owain’s World

We learn more from the story of Sir Owain, or Knight Owain, whose journey through the famous cave is re-told in Tractatus de Purga-torio Sancti Patricii (Treatise on St. Patrick’s Purgatory). This Treatise is clearly the product of Irish didactic storytelling. From it, we can glean a few gems to help us with our trials here on earth:

What We Should Think

As Owain enters the cave, monks advise him that although the road ahead is treacherous, he can survive by thinking about one thing: “Hold God in your heart, and think upon the Passion that he suffered on the cross for you.”

This advice has been passed down to us from the apostles and saints through the centuries, but we seem to meditate on Jesus’ Passion only during Lent. Why? Perhaps we’re too caught up in our search for comfort and pleasure, as if these would solve our problems. But only through meditation on God’s ultimate sacrifice, on Christ’s love-above-all-love for us, can we rise above our trials.

What We Should Speak

Depiction of Christ's Temptation, from the Celtic "Book of Kells" (ca. 800 AD)

Depiction of Christ’s Temptation, from the Celtic “Book of Kells” (ca. 800 AD)

Owain is also advised: “Use God’s exalted name and the fiends can do you no harm.” Scripture tells us that at the name of Jesus, “every knee shall bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth…”

Owain learns the power of Jesus’ name as fiends tie him up to be burned, but he “called out to Our Lord and at once the fire disappeared and not so much as a coal or a spark remained.” Soon, he realizes that whenever he speaks Jesus’ name, or thinks about His love, the fiends are rendered powerless. This holds true for us, too. Demons may seem frightening, but what is actually frightful is that they are so weak(!), and we can only be damaged when we give in to their weakness. Rather, strength comes from humility; when we rely on God. So in our trials, we should pray in Jesus’ name for protection.

What We Should Ignore

As Owain walks along, he sees people undergoing unthinkable sufferings, which correspond to their sinful attachments on earth. Each time he observes one of these horrors, Owain hears demons cry out to him, variations of this message: ‘You are such a terrible sinner! Look at what penance you’ll have to endure! But you don’t have to endure suffering! We’ll take you to be our friend, and where there are comforts!’

Owain simply ignores the demons and continues forward. What a simple, yet profound, lesson! Jesus teaches us this lesson; during his temptations, he rebukes Satan with the words of Scripture. We ought never to believe our tempters, because they serve the Father of Lies. Rather, we should ignore them and continue on our journey, trusting in God.

St. Patrick and Almighty God

I hope you’ve enjoyed this bit o’ Irish lore; filled with timeless truths. As we remember St. Patrick, let’s remember this great saint — great because he knew these truths, and thus knew the power of God’s mighty love. Here’s a link to the prayer St. Paddy is said to have prayed daily: Lorica (Chainmail Armor) of Saint Patrick.

“So I’ll never stop giving thanks to my God, who kept me faithful in the time of my temptation. […] He is the one who defended me in all my difficulties.” – St. Patrick of Ireland (from his Confession)

Need spiritual direction?

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I finally got a spiritual director.

What? You’ve never heard of such a thing? Well, you’ve heard of personal trainers, right? Coaches? Teachers? These days, if you’re looking to…

  • get in shape
  • lose weight
  • excel at a sport
  • become a virtuoso
  • get motivated
"Taking the Count" by Thomas Eakins (1898)

“Taking the Count” by Thomas Eakins (1898)

…you’ll likely seek out an expert who can help you. So, if we do this for our body and our mind, why not for our spirit?

St. John of the Cross once said, “The blind person who falls will not be able to get up alone; the blind person who does get up alone will go off on the wrong road.” In other words, we all have ‘blind spots’ in our spiritual life: personal weaknesses or things we don’t notice about ourselves. We need the guidance of another person to overcome those, and to help us choose the right path.

Spiritual direction is an ancient practice that continues today. However, most people don’t know that they can (or should) seek a spiritual director, unless they are a clergyman or a consecrated man or woman. The reality is, spiritual direction is for everyone!

The principal objective of spiritual direction…is to discern the signs of God’s will for our journey of vocation, prayer, perfection, for our daily life, and for our fraternal mission.*

In plain English, that means a spiritual director will help you understand God’s calling for you, how to improve your prayer life, get rid of sin, live your faith daily, and understand how you can best serve others.

So, why not seek a spiritual director? For many years, my answer was simple: I don’t like asking for help. Yup, I’m a prideful dame. (There’s spiritual problem #1!) In high school and university, I thought God might be calling me to religious life (‘become a nun’), and for people considering religious or clerical life, spiritual direction is very common. I heard about spiritual directors frequently from my peers, and I watched them grow in holiness before my eyes.

Frequently, I wondered whether I should get a spiritual director, but I’d always give excuses, such as:

  • I don’t know who to pick as my spiritual director.
  • I only want a priest to be my spiritual director, but priests are too busy. I don’t want to bother them.
  • I already know a lot about spiritual things. I’ll leave the spiritual directors for people who don’t.
  • I’m doing OK spiritually.
  • I can work things out myself.
  • I’m too busy.

These excuses built up over time, until finally, God knocked me over the head with a two-by-four (sent me a plethora of signs, and threw my all excuses out the window), making it abundantly clear that I should ask a priest-acquaintance if he would be my spiritual director.

Now, I meet with Father every month for an hour. It’s great! You’d think that it’d be very somber or serious, and while we do have serious discussions, it seems I laugh more during spiritual direction than I do on a typical day! Spiritual direction has brought so much joy and insight into my life.

When I have questions, or when I’m having trouble making a decision, I receive support from Father. Our conversations always contribute to my personal growth. As I enact his guidance in my daily life, I feel more assured that I’m going down the path that God wants for me. Overall, this one-on-one spiritual direction has helped me with something that I have struggled with: now I’m more clearly seeing myself as I truly am, through God’s eyes.

As someone who was long-opposed to seeking a spiritual director, I encourage and challenge you to consider it for yourself. Take this intention to prayer, and ask God to help you know whether someone should be your spiritual director. It does not have to be a priest; consecrated religious sisters or brothers, or trained lay people can also act as guide and companion on your pilgrimage of life.

As she has never failed to do, again today the Church continues to recommend the practice of spiritual direction, not only to all those who wish to follow the Lord closely, but to every Christian who wishes to live responsibly his baptism, that is, the new life in Christ. Everyone, in fact, and in a particular way all those who have received the divine call to a closer following, needs to be supported personally by a sure guide in doctrine and expert in the things of God. […] [Spiritual direction] is a matter of establishing that same personal relationship that the Lord had with his disciples, that special bond with which he led them, following him, to embrace the will of the Father (cf. Luke 22:42), that is, to embrace the cross.
– Pope Benedict XVI, Address to the Pontifical Theological Faculty Teresianum, 2011

Ways to Learn More:

*Taken from The Priest, Minister of Divine Mercy, by The Congregation for the Clergy. Vatican City: Vatican Press, 2011.

How to Escape Anxiety and Stress

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Everybody knows this time of year can be stressful; no need for me to prove that point!

Last night, I began crying while unloading the dishwasher. Looking to the living room, I saw my husband sitting on the couch, which made me cry even more… ‘Why is he sitting on the couch when there’s so much to do??’ I went to blow my nose, and when I returned he motioned for me. “Come sit down with me for a second,” he said.

“No! There’s too much to do!” I argued. But I sat down anyway.

Stroking my hair, he asked what I was so stressed about. As I (blubberingly) listed everything, he asked me questions like, “Can we schedule a time for that?” and assured, “We’re in this together.” Slowly, the Enormous Problem Monster evaporated into thin air. My husband had helped me see the truth: I didn’t have to tackle everything at that very moment.

Sometimes, you’re so run-down because you feel like your entire world is set on your shoulders. That’s how I felt last night. So, imagine how I felt waking up this morning, sitting on that same couch, and reading the Gospel for today (the day I’m writing this)…

Jesus said to the crowds:
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

Yoke

Jesus knew that sometimes we’d feel just like cattle, our shoulders carrying a heavy yoke tied to our entire world, plowing back and forth…back and forth…all day long…every day. That gospel, and my husband’s wisdom, reminded me of the key to escaping anxiety:

Just be with God. “Come to me,” Jesus beckons.

“No! There’s too much to do!” we argue. When we’re constantly go-go-go-ing, and doing, we get so tired. We start thinking, ‘What can I do, so I’ll feel less tired, so I can do more?‘ But we get burned out. We weren’t made to ‘do’ everything, all the time. We’re taught in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that “human life has a rhythm of work and rest” (2184).

And what is rest?

“Come to me,” Jesus tells you, “and I will give you rest.”

After someone passes away, we pray the traditional — “Eternal Rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.” — which reveals Heaven as the place of eternal and peaceful rest! Why?

Heaven is a state of being in complete union with God, forever. That’s ‘Eternal Rest.’ Shouldn’t that remind us that, while we’re alive, the only time and space we’ll find rest is being with God? “Come to me,” Jesus says. He wants to offer you an exchange: He’ll carry the world. You just come, and learn from Him.

I’ll leave you with a song that I heard a few days ago. It reminds me of a dialogue between our weary souls and God.
Enjoy resting.

What Is the Reason For Your Joy?

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dancing_nun[1] “Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.” – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, French Jesuit theologian

The dictionary defines joy as an intense happiness. We usually don’t ask people “Do you have joy?” – we would rather ask, “Are you happy?”

And when you think about it, joy isn’t experienced in just a moment. It’s a state of being. Many people answer the question by stating concerns or problems they have, rather than thinking about what makes them happy.

Most Reverend Patrick Zurek, Bishop of Amarillo, Texas, recently delivered a wonderful presentation called the Joy of the Discipleship at the Pilgrim Center of Hope’s Annual Prayer Brunch.  Bishop Zurek said that when we encounter Christ Jesus and accept Him into our lives as our Lord, we experience joy and hope. 

Ahh…did you catch the two words, encounter and accept? They are both important – to encounter is to meet and experience; while to accept is to acknowledge, to believe.

I remember a specific time in my life when I encountered Christ through prayer and I experienced healing of an incurable illness.  When I realized it was indeed Christ who ‘touched’ my life, I accepted Him and everything about Him.  That encounter gave me an incredible deep joy I had never experienced, and it hasn’t gone away!

Thanksgiving Day is soon here, a time when we celebrate with family and friends, enjoy a meal and, more importantly, thank God for each other! This can be a reason for our joy – taking time to see each other outside the usual busy schedules, recognize our blessings and raise our voice to God in prayer. God gave Himself to you. Give yourself to God and you will find true joy!

Today is a good time to ponder: what is the reason for your joy?

I want to share with you a great joy in my life – my wonderful husband, Tom.  On November 25th, we will celebrate our 35 years of Marriage!

Fox on Galilee

An Encounter With John Paul II

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JP II Relic
I often tell friends that I have had the honor to be blessed by four Popes! Pope Paul VI in 1963, John Paul II four times, Benedict XVI twice and now we are looking forward to our Year of Faith Pilgrimage beginning on Monday, October 14th to Assisi, San Giovanni Rotondo and Rome, most especially to seeing and hearing Pope Francis in person!

The Ministry of Pilgrimages offers pilgrimages to Rome and other shrine locations pertaining to the history of our Church. It’s an exciting Ministry in many ways.  Meeting people and making new friends is always a blessing, and traveling with that “new family” adds comfort and assurance.

John Paul II is a person I admired and loved. He was one with the people, wasn’t afraid of traveling to various parts of the world to proclaim the Good News, and was concerned for all.

During one of our pilgrimages to Rome, a married couple and dear friends wanted to stay a couple of extra days in Rome to visit additional sites and simply enjoy the eternal city! It was a blessing for Tom and I also, since we would be ready to relax with friends and enjoy Rome. One morning, our friends decided they wanted to go up to the Cupola of St. Peter’s Basilica. Tom and I had already experienced this and didn’t want to climb the 320 steps! (Even though you can take an elevator part of the way.) We decided to wait for our friends in St. Peter’s Basilica, so we could have time for “spiritual rest” – we were quite exhausted after leading the pilgrimage.

Upon entering St. Peter’s Basilica, we stopped at the Tomb of John Paul II, which was surrounded by crowds: some taking photos, praying youth, Religious Sisters with their rosaries, some just staring at the entombed remains of a man that so many admired. I, too, took advantage of the moment – I asked John Paul to intercede for us and our Evangelization Ministry. After all, he coined the phrase “New Evangelization,” a phrase that became a proclamation to all the faithful to be renewed in the faith and share it with others. My prayer was one from the depth of my heart – Tom and I were seeking guidance for the ministry.

Our next stop was the Chapel. Upon entering, it was as if you were entering Heaven on earth; it was so peaceful, so quiet. We were all there for the same thing – to adore God, to take time to be silent in His Presence.

We realized that we still had time before we met up with our friends, and as we walked to one side of St. Peter’s, we noticed an area set aside for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The Vatican guard welcomed us and asked in which language we would prefer. English!  As he walked around the individual wooden Confessionals, he returned stating English-speaking priests were not available. Then all of a sudden a priest at one of the  confessionals waved the guard and said he would take us, explaining, however, that his English was very poor. Fine!

After my confession, the priest asked me a couple of questions– was I married? Children?  In fact, I found his English to be very good, which was quite interesting since he said he didn’t speak English very well.  After his blessing, he gave me a card with the picture of John Paul II and what appeared to be a “relic” on one corner. I noticed the cloth was white and asked the priest –is this a piece of John Paul’s cassock? He replied that it was, and so it was a second-class relic (something that belonged to the saint). Remarkable!

I was so excited and happy to have received this gift and KNEW it was John Paul II acknowledging my prayers. I KNEW this was an encounter with him. You can imagine how I felt. Tom and I walked out of St. Peter’s exuberant and filled with much joy and hope.

That card is framed and sits on my desk as a reminder of my encounter with John Paul II and his prayers for our evangelization ministry.

The Vatican has set the date for his canonization – April 27, 2014.  He and Pope John XXIII will be canonized on that day.  Go ahead – ask John Paul II to pray for you and your intentions.  He is a member of the Communion of Saints.

A Mountaintop Experience

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Basilica of the Transfiguration, atop Mount Tabor in Galilee

Basilica of the Transfiguration, atop Mount Tabor in Galilee

My husband, Deacon Tom, and I have traveled to the Holy Land over 40 times in the last 25 years. The Holy Land is a very special place for us. It’s often called “Fifth Gospel” because it is the land of the Bible and the land of the “living stones”, the descendants of the early Christian Church.

There are many places in the Holy Land which are marked by specific times in our Lord’s life; because of this, they’re called holy sites. One of those holy sites is Mount Tabor, located in the Galilee area — about a 30 minute drive from the Sea of Galilee. It can be seen from miles away, along with the large Church on top of the mountain called the Basilica of Transfiguration, which is under the Custody of the Franciscans. The Franciscans first came to the site in the 1630s and built a church in the twentieth century. Today, the Franciscans continue to have custody of the Basilica. You often see Franciscan friars walking about, praying and available for visitors’ questions and prayer requests.

Mount Tabor is 1,920 feet high. To reach the top, you have to take a narrow, winding road by car (or for the brave ones – by foot) where you find the Basilica of the Transfiguration (also called Basilica of Mt. Tabor) marking the site where our Lord was transfigured as we read in the three Gospel accounts:
Matthew 17:1-8
Mark 9:2-8
Luke 9:28-36

The Catholic Church marks August 6th to celebrate what happened on that mountain. It is called the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord.

The Transfiguration Scripture story is very interesting – Jesus takes three Apostles up to the mountain with Him to pray. He is transfigured before them. The Apostles hear God’s voice say, “This is my beloved Son, listen to him.”

I have been on Mount Tabor several times with pilgrim groups. The Basilica and the surrounding area, far from noise and traffic, invites one to take time for silence and prayer. The main message for me is that we need to take time to be alone with the Lord as Peter, James and John were invited to do.

These times of silence and prayer for me have been very rewarding. Though Jesus isn’t transfigured before me, I am aware that He is truly present and He desires to have an intimate relationship with me and give me insights and peace.

I invite you to take time out for a ‘mountaintop experience’ — whether it be in the quietness of your home or especially, if possible, in a chapel with the Blessed Sacrament. God is there, waiting for you.

Depiction of the Transfiguration, inside Church of the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor

Depiction of the Transfiguration, inside Church of the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor