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An Advent Reflection

December 3, 2014

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I have agreed to be a guest writer on facebook for a new organization -Women In the New Evangelization. The acronym is WINE. To my delight, the first time I write the daily post, the daily readings include one of my favorite passages about food and WINE.
Below is my post. If you would like to follow the daily Advent reflections just like us on facebook!

https://www.facebook.com/WomenIntheNewEvangelization/posts/292443567616033:0

A favorite passage from today’s readings.

On this mountain the LORD of hosts
will provide for all peoples
A feast of rich food and choice wines,
juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.
Isaiah 25:6

A feast of rich food and choice wines! This is what God promises us!

A feast of rich food and choice wines!

A feast of rich food and choice wines!

I don’t know about you but I love a party and I love to host parties. Gathering friends around for special moments is a wonderful part of the Christmas season. Parties take preparation and that is what Advent is about – preparing for the feast.

Preparation includes arraigning for and cooking the food. Planning the drinks decorating and making sure everyone has a place to sit. It may require rearranging a room, polishing the silver or plates from a friend. There are centerpieces to think about and…. the list goes on.

I have a friend who has the spiritual gift of hospitality. No matter what is going on in her life, when you enter her home you always feel welcome. It helps that she is an excellent cook! One day she shared with me a secret of her party prep.

She prays!

She prays for every guest that is coming, she prays for good and enlightening conversation, she prays for all to feel welcomed and loved. Sitting quietly and praying before 6 or 20 people are set to arrive at my house is not something I usually turn to in the frenzy of last minute prep but when I did it, it put my heart in the right place. I focused on my guests and not if my hors d’oeuvres would get a complement or that no one notices the stain in the carpet. Those worries are all wrong because they are focused on me and not on my guests.

This Advent as you prepare for your feasts – add prayer to your party preparation. It is one thing that isn’t mentioned in the Martha Stewart handbook!

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When is Enough, Enough?

November 28, 2014

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Liscenced under creative commomsI have not been a Black Friday shopper ever since I used to work in retail.  Although I would go out with the family and grab lunch or look around, it was a rare occasion that I would head out early and brave the crowds while I muscle my way into a store.  When our children were little, my husband did head out at 4 a.m. to get a special electronic gift for our son, but in general I have tried to avoid the shopping frenzy.  Part of my reasoning to minimized my Black Friday shopping has come from my many years of working in retail and from working on Black Friday.  Crazy is even crazier from the other side of the cash register.

The practice if detachment is spiritual practice.  Their may be some people who are called to rid themselves of all material goods but detachment is not just about or for those in a religious order.  Just as their are different ways to approach our prayer life based on our state of life – we approach the practice of detachment in different ways. The Church teaches that we can serve the Lord and grow in holiness through many ways.  But St. Paul also tells us that the Christian engaged in secular activities must inwardly detach from them: “those who have wives should live as though they have none . . . buyers should conduct themselves as if they owned nothing, and those who make use of the world as though they were not using it, for the world as we know it is passing away.”  (I Cor 7:29-31)

Detachment  is a response to God’s love for us. When you fall in love, everyone else in your life pales beside the beloved. You change your schedule and your priorities.

Putting Paul’s advise from first century Palestine into practice in 21st century America can be tough. Having news reports and ads constantly telling you that you are missing out leave you feeling like you really are missing out but I try to remember that I have enough.  Their is this little anxiety thing that  happens. It is a cross between feeling like you are missing out because you are not spending money and the fear of not having enough or being enough. This year I am even more apprehensive to fall into the spend just to spend frenzy that happens in theses days after Thanksgiving.  Long term financial security is uncertain as I work through my next career move and though I am looking forward to the time off to enjoy the holidays I do have the realization that my life seems to give me time when I have no money.

Sticking to our holiday buying budget is always important but this year we will be trying to put our spending to where it is most important.  That may mean that if the must have item is 50% off today only, I will brave the elements to get the deal but work really hard not to fall into buying the impulse item sitting next to it.  I am focusing on my time I get to spend with family and recognizing that my time is a gift as I try to be thankful for all I already have.

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Brittany Maynard, Starlings & the Body of Christ

October 11, 2014

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starling-swarm

Brittany Maynard’s story was covered in media all over the country.  If you haven’t heard, it is the story of a 29 year old woman diagnosed with brain cancer who has decided to take her own life.  By all accounts; the news, social media, and the medical community see this as a good thing and the pro-Euthanasia group Compassion and Choices (Formerly the Hemlock Society) is using this press to get more political clout to change the laws in more states to allow for mercy killing. The story painted in these reports is very easy to enter into with misguided compassion.  Brittany has been told by experts that her type of cancer is a terrible way to die and she plans to take her own life by a doctor prescribed drug on November 1, just 2 days after her husband’s birthday. The video that accompanies her story contains her testimony as well as that of her husband and parents.  It seems they are all in agreement that this is the right thing to do.
As I read this report I know their is something missing in this story.  Of course – I could site examples when people have been cured of incurable diseases. I could point out the slippery slope of euthanasia where it has become legal like Belgium where now children of any age can make the choice to be euthanized and diagnoses such as depression can be deemed a medical reason to assist them in suicide.  I could point out the lack of understanding about redemptive suffering.  A teaching of our faith that very few – even the faithful can understand. Or I could point out how this is selfish to deny others of being with her – and her time left on earth. The open letter by Kara Tippets - herself a woman dying of cancer addresses much of what is missing in this story of Brittany.

We have heard from Brittany’s perspective and her parents and her husband but the story not being told is the story from our Heavenly Father’s point of view. We do not know God’s plan.  The hardest words for me to say in the prayer the Our Father is “Thy will be done.” Who is to say that God’s plan doesn’t include a conversion of heart of those around her through caring for Brittany in her last natural hours of life on earth? Who is to say that her life will not have meaning to others? Who is to say that God’s plan and communion with Brittany is finished on this side of the veil?   We tend to think our stories are about us but in reality it is the bigger story of God’s great plan that we need to keep in mind. In our small minds we loose sight of God’s larger plan just because we cannot comprehend it.  We think because we don’t know why, then it cannot be.

A priest once reminded me that our lives are not about “me and God.” Sure – we need that personal relationship with Christ but our lives and the teaching about our faith is that it is about “US and God.” Our understanding of the Eucharist and heaven is about how we are all together – we move together  and when one person is lost it effects us all.
I recently saw a U-Tube video of a group of starlings flying together with perfect accuracy. They moved together as if they are of one mind, as if they are being controlled by something outside of themselves, as if they were being panted on canvas by a great artist.  In researching how these birds move I found out that each bird is in communion with six other birds.  They interact with those around them to synchronize their movements.  Scientists have been able to discern how the birds move together in unison but as of yet, they do not know why.  We don’t know why, but it certainly can be.

This image of swarming starlings has become an analogy for me of the Body of Christ.  I am not at all surprised that the number of birds bound with each other is seven. Seven- like our seven sacraments that bind us together.

 

I have little hope that this young woman will change her mind. Many have said, “Let Brittany die with dignity. It is her choice.” But when even one of us falls it effects us all.

 

Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Matthew 10:29-31

 

Take a few moments and contemplate the Body of Christ as you watch this video of starlings swarming.  Wonder at God’s great plan.

YouTube Preview Image
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The Pope’s Top 10!

July 29, 2014

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Finally – a “Top Ten” I can really use!

David Letterman of the Late Show often used a fake and funny top ten list to get a good laugh but Pope Francis’ Top Ten should be printed out and placed on everyone’s refrigerator.

In an interview published in part in the Argentine weekly “Viva” July 27, the pope listed his Top 10 tips for bringing greater joy to one’s life. Although listed one to ten in the Catholic Register, I am going to list them David Letterman style with my own commentary going  from number ten  to number one!

The number one tip for bringing joy into your life is....

The number one tip for bringing joy into your life is….

 

10. Work for peace. I am reminded that this doesn’t just go for peace in the Middle East, but for peace in my home, parish, community and work place.  Pray and work for world peace but demonstrate it at home.

 

9. Don’t proselytize; respect others’ beliefs. I love my Catholic faith and occasionally my friends and family get sick of me harping on the “Catholic ” teaching of things.  I have an obligation to live and teach my faith but I want others to recognize the beauty of the faith in me. If I am not living and radiating  joy – who would want to be Catholic like me. It may be an odd comparison but,  I think of a great line in the movie When Harry Met Sally –  in the restaurant scene the neighboring customer leans over to the waitress and says “I’ll have what she’s having.”  I want people to see me and say, “I’ll have what she’s having!”

 

8. Stop being negative. Oh, this one is so hard for me because misery loves company! I find the best way to get rid of the crabbiness is to talk to a trusted friend (or in my case my spouse) and get it out.  We have a saying in our house that we used when our kids were little. We say, “Over, done with, gone!”

 

7. Respect and take care of nature. This seemed easier when my children were little.  They would bring me a rock or (heaven forbid) lizard and marvel at how beautiful it was.  I remember one time when driving to visit my mother when my children were in the back seat.  My son pointed and yelled to look out the window at a rainbow and said, “Mom, look what God made for us!” Out of the mouths of babes…

 

6. Find innovative ways to create dignified jobs for young people. I found this an interesting thing to be on the Pope’s list.  I have , however always loved being with and working with young people.  The whole world is ahead of them and a little encouragement can bring them so far, but I have to say when I spend time with youth it is me who benefits from their enthusiasm.

 

5. Sundays should be holidays. We have sort of lost Sundays in this country.  It becomes yet another day to do chores or in this digital age catch up on work.  My parents used to talk about “Sunday go to visiting day” and we would visit family and friends and build that community that you just cannot get with virtual facebook friends.

 

4. “A healthy sense of leisure. Father Patrick Peyton used to say “The family that prays together stays together.”  While that may be true, I also believe the family that plays together enjoys each others company while they stay together. Have fun!

 

3. “Proceed calmly” in life.  I am sure you have seen the facebook memes that say “Keep calm and XXXX” With the X’s being one of many things.  Maybe facebook is catching on to the Pope! Maybe I’ll make a meme that says ‘Keep calm and listen to the Pope!”

 

 

2. “Be giving of yourself to others. Being stingy of my time or resources only leads me to misery.  The number one way to break out of a depression is to get involved and give to others.  It is like God’s very own Prozac!

 

And the number one way to bring greater Joy to ones life is: (Drum roll please!)

 

1. “Live and let live. When I find myself getting tied up in someone elses drama I need to remember this one.   The Pope said their is a similar expression in Rome with the saying, “Move forward and let others do the same.”  I prefer a Polish saying I saw recently. I even posted near my desk at work. It says, “Nie mój cyrk, nie moje ma?pe”  Translates into “Not my circus, not my monkey.”

 

Thank you Pope Francis, for reminding us once again how to live!

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Mary Magdalene and Me

July 22, 2014

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I suppose it is fitting that I write a post on this day – July 22.  Mary of Magdala is my patron saint and today is her feast day.  She is the saint name I took for my confirmation.  When I was in fourth grade as to what name I was to take for my confirmation name – I said Mary.  My confirmation instructor praised me for choosing Mary – the mother of Christ but I quickly retorted and said, “Oh no, I want to be the bad Mary.” I am not sure if this speaks to the bad preparation I received in my catechesis and confirmation prep or if it speaks of the bad idea of having 4th graders confirmed.

Through the years and through my reconversion to the faith, I have come to love Mary Magdalene and embrace her as my patron saint.  She is often associated with the woman caught in adultery, (John 8:1-11) but there is no biblical reference that the woman was Mary Magdalene.  She is mentioned as the women whom Jesus has cast out seven demons (Luke 8:2, Mark 16:9) and of course she was one of the women who stayed at the cross of Jesus even when others fled. Maybe the most important role she played as the apostle to the apostles is to be the first to witness Jesus after the resurrection!

Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and remove him.’

Jesus said, ‘Mary!’ She turned round then and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbuni!’ — which means Master. (John 20:15-16)

I love this narrative – I often joked that Mary Magdalene must have been a blonde! I mean really, how can someone be looking right at Jesus and think he is the gardener? But, if I am honest, how many times have I been looking at Jesus and not seen Him? And how many times have I been looking at a gardener and think he was Jesus.

Following Jesus in the steps of Mary Magdalene is very fitting for me.  I am a sinner.  I have my seven demons and I believe Jesus is casting them out one by one.  And even if the biblical figure of the woman caught in adultery isn’t Mary Magdalene, I know Jesus forgives me  like the woman caught in adultery.  I also know that Jesus defends me even when I have no other advocate (John 8:7).

So today I celebrate my Saint Day and be reminded that my sins are forgiven, that Jesus defends me and that he loves me through the most difficult times.

 

'Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalene at the Empty Tomb', artist unknown

‘Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalene at the Empty Tomb’, artist unknown

A Prayer to St. Mary Magdalene

St. Mary Magdalene, woman of many sins, who by conversion became the beloved of Jesus, thank you for your witness that Jesus forgives through the miracle of love.

You, who already possess eternal happiness in His glorious presence, please intercede for me, so that some day I may share in the same everlasting joy. Amen.

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Turn, Turn, Turn…

July 5, 2014

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flowersTo Everything Turn, Turn, Turn….

Or so goes the song written by Pete Seeger in the late 1950s. The lyrics, except for the title which is repeated throughout the song, and the final verse of the song, are adapted from Chapter 3 of the Book of Ecclesiastes.
I have come to reflect again on this bit of scripture as I find myself moving from one era of my life to another. As I have grown older and hopefully wiser I have been taking time in my prayer to reflect on these movements in my life and how they really do fit into God’s plan.
A few years ago my children when off to college and thus I started a new era in my life. My mother recently passed away and a good friend has moved away (By coincidence she lives in the same town that Pete Seeger made famous – Beacon New York) . My pastor and spiritual guide has been reassigned to a different parish. I might be ready for a midlife crisis but the seasons of life are not only for empty-nesters – these seasons have been happening all of my life.
As a High school student, I readily anticipated and embraced going off to college and being independent (or so I thought) but even the anticipation left me with fear as I left behind security and family. My 20’s were filled with college, marriage and establishing some sort of career. It was quite hedonistic in it’s way, at least in that it was a time of the unholy trinity of Me, Myself, and I, but God was still leading me even though I didn’t know it. I learned about love through my marriage to my husband. I may not have known the fulness of God’s love for me yet, but I was learning. By my 30’s the season of raising children entered into my life. I would write more about it but it is a blur of diapers, potty training, sports camps, music lessons and play dates. Yet even during this crazy time of my life, I remember savoring every minute with my little children and never wanting it to change. God has his hand in teaching me about love here too. The sacrificial way in which we love our children, but I had more to learn.
My forties brought me a surprise. My children grew more independent and this season of my life brought me the surprise of God through a conversion experience I was not prepared for. I realized I was a child of God, His beloved and loved! I filled my life with learning and a zeal for evangelization. This season of my life brought me to volunteering for my church, to my work for the Archdiocese and in contact with mentors and friends who have helped me to learn more and grow deaper in my faith. Most of all this season has taught me how to pray.
I have lately realized that God is moving me into another season. A dear friend and spiritual sister has moved with her family to New York and my pastor who brought me to my faith and guided me through much of my spiritual life has been transferred. Like my children leaving the nest, it feels like the end of an era.
Even though my children graduating from High School left me reminiscent for the past, I relish the time with my grown up children and sharing their new lives as adults! I wonder what God has planned for me in this next season of my life. Maybe this season will bring me to more  wisdom and maturity in my faith? We will see.

I am sad to see the end of this season of my life, but it may be a time to deepen my friendships with those close and who have moved away, explore my relationships with my adult children and find out what God has in store for me next!
All I know is that seasons turn, turn, turn…

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

 

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My Meeting with a Pro-abortion Feminist

April 25, 2014

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I had the interesting opportunity this past week to have dinner with Kathy Sloan. Kathy is from N.O.W. – yes that is the National Organization for Woman. Kathy is on the board of directors and is the U.N. representative for N.O.W. We normally would be on different sides of the table, but Kathy is here in Minnesota lobbying with the Minnesota Catholic Conference against the bills legitimizing surrogacy. I finally understand that phrase “Politics makes strange bedfellows.” It seems we agree on some things – Surrogacy is bad for women is one, but I found durring my dinner conversation that we agreed on a few other things as well. If you would like to know more about the Surrogacy issue – check out the Article by Katheryn Mollen from the Minnesota Catholic Conference: http://www.mncc.org/catholic-spirit-wombs-rent-industry-now-legal-minnesota/

Katheryn Mollen was the one who arraigned the meeting between Kathy and I. It was at my request because my 21 year old daughter is involved with her feminist club on her college campus. To get this meeting for my daughter made me the “rock star” in her eyes. Yes we are a diverse family with a lot of different ways in which we approach things and I support her in her efforts even if occasionally she gets it wrong, but the jury isn’t out on her yet! She is a strong independent young woman and I am proud of her.

Back to my meeting with Kathy. I have to say, I was a little anxious about meeting, as I wondered what we would talk about or if it would be adversarial. Driving to dinner I reflected on my own journey in life and my thoughts on the feminist movement. I reflected that I have much to be thankful for from the feminist movement. I am a product of the advances made by Gloria Steinem and others who fought to get equal pay for equal work and I greatly benefited from Title IX that allowed me to participate in High School and intercollegiate sports. When I am talking to young women athletes now – they can’t even imagine that less than 35 years ago there were practically no sports programs for women and if there was a program, it was not funded.

As we conversed over dinner I found out that Kathy was a fan of the music of Hildegard of Bingen (Catholic Saint) and has been working with Catholic bioethicists on the issue of donor eggs and surrogacy. Her reasoning that she is against legitimizing commercial surrogacy, (and feminists are split on this) is that it makes “women nothing more than objects … an oven… something to be used.”

Hmmm… It seems I have heard something like that before…

Man is a person, man and woman equally so, since both were created in the image and likeness of the personal God.” Pope John Paul II

This was an opening to express my difficulty with the traditional feminist movement and its stance on reproductive rights. It was… an opening to evangelize. I said, “As long as the feminist movement focuses on reproductive rights, it will keep women, and men, viewed as objects whose purpose is primarily sexual pleasure.”

My daughter Courtney and Kathy Sloan - Feminist from N.O.W.

My daughter Courtney and Kathy Sloan – Feminist from N.O.W.

From there I started speaking of the new feminism and Pope John Paul II’s writings. I can’t say she became a convert or revert right there, but she asked a lot of questions about this new feminism. I gave her a book of writings by Edith Stien and promised to send her a copy of MULIERIS DIGNITATEM.
Yes, it seemed I had more in common with this feminist from N.O.W. than I ever thought I would. I love building bridges and I have always purported that we can’t evangelize if we never meet people who are different than us.
On a side note… my daughter thinks I am a “rock star!”

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The Catholic Church in the News

April 12, 2014

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The Catholic Church has been in the news a lot lately and for the most part the only reporting has been bad news. But there is a story a local paper decided to run that probably won’t be picked up by the big media stations.
It is a story I almost missed.
I had the oppourtunity to attend daily Mass at my local parish and Catholic High School. I am normally not around for daily Mass at home, but I had an appointment in town so I thought I would make the effort to go. I almost did’t. I was running late, my hair was still wet from my shower and I needed to prepare for my meeting, but since it was daily Mass I figured I had time to attend and still be able to run back home to get ready.

What happened at that Mass was a special grace that I was blessed to be witness to.

When I showed up at the church their was a hearse sitting out front. My first thought was: Oh no, what is going on? Mass will probably take longer. I may be late for my appointment.
The Catholic High School Mass was was hosting a funeral. A funeral for a woman I did not know and a woman none of the students at the school knew. She was a woman who had recently died and had very little family left to attend her funeral.
It was a beautiful witness of a community of people reaching out to a member of their own to fulfill the corporal and spiritual works of mercy of praying for and burying the dead.
Someone alerted the local small town paper and they decided to cover the story.
I urge you to read it. You can find it here:

http://www.southernminn.com/faribault_daily_news/news/article_5124e564-21ed-5721-83ed-1ebde6c60e06.html

Photo Jace Smith/Faribault Daily News

Photo Jace Smith/Faribault Daily News


Grab a box of Kleenex. There was not a dry eye in the house.

As beautiful as this story is, there are others like it happening every day. Most don’t make the news. They are the stories of good and faithful priest and parishioners doing the good works of being good Christians. Since the media usually doesn’t report these – it is up to us to see them – everyday.
See them and be a part of them.

As we enter into Holy Week, be observant of the good works around you and when you gather with family on Easter remember to share the GOOD News of our beautiful church.

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Keats, Baseball and Surviving the Clergy Sex Abuse Crisis

March 29, 2014

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image

The English poet John Keats expressed the idea of negative capability in a letter to his brother in 1817. He described it as the capacity for accepting uncertainty and the possibility that certain questions might never be resolved. The great writers, according to Keats, are those with the greatest negative capability. He credited Shakespeare with the greatest talent in this regard, and thought that the dynamic tension created by perpetual uncertainty made for the most interesting characters and depth in story.

I came across this term while watching a baseball documentary called “The Tenth Inning”that addressed the steroid scandal from a few years ago.  In the documentary, writer George Will says “Now we live in a sports age and a baseball age, where nothing’s more valuable than negative capability because if we’re just in a rush, if we can’t wait to see Roger Clemens or Barry Bonds, or whoever it is, as right or wrong, then we’re missing the complexity of these people and the difficulty of the age that they’re living in.”

What does this have to do with the Catholic faith or anything to do with this blog?

Well, we are in a scandal of our own locally. A much darker and serious issue than baseball and steroids. Living through it can be a full time chore and the idea of negative capability intrigues me. I have to admit my cycles of anger, frustration, despair and a few “What were they thinking!” moments as I read, along with everyone else, the accounts reported by certain radio stations and other media outlets.  Working for the church does not make me immune to or “in the know” on anything, in fact, working for the church seems to make every news report of a fallen priest or a seemingly poor decision feel like a personal affront to my faith and work.

So how do you hang onto your faith when your church is in crisis?

I have been trying to tap into that Negative Capability.  It is a strange name and since I am not a literary intellect, I’ve never read Keats or studied Shakespeare and I am surprised at how I am drawn to this odd literary term.  But it seems to describe a way I aproach my faith life.  In my early stages of (re)conversion to the Church, I hungered for knowledge and devoured books.  Knowledge of the one I loved, the one I sought – so much like Song of Songs.

On my bed night after night I sought him

            Whom my soul loves; SOS 3:1

But in wanting to know God – in wanting to know Christ, I wanted to understand and figure out the complexities and abserdities of a virgin giving birth, the irrational math of the trinity and  duality of transubstantiation.  In my desire for knowledge, I couldn’t rest in faith.  I wanted proof. I wanted answers. In my struggles I could only hope for Divine Grace to step in. I needed to learn to rest in that negative capability and enjoy the tension of this amazing church that isn’t about either/or – but lives in the and/also of a faith based on a Man who is also the Son of God who really is present in the Mass.

Crisis of Faith

In regards to our current clergy abuse crisis, I have also had to yield to this negative capability in a darker way. I have to rest in questions that may never be resolved. I have been sickened by the reports. The victims are tragic and the deeds and actions of a few priest are abominable. It is very easy to paint a black and white picture of the people involved, but the personalities are as complex as are the times in which they live.  We are called to see everyone through the eye that God sees us. Through the fullness of who they are.

In all of this we are called to pray for the victims, but also the perpetrators. We are called to love our good priests and also the fallen. We must love the whistel blowers, the reporters, and the angry Catholics who have left the church.  Only in this strange church filled with the hard teaching are we called to forgive and love and carry on. (all while protecting the inocent and sin no more)

Only in this lovely faith called the Catholic Church could we celebrate the Friday that Christ was crucified and call it Good.

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The Poor (and the Cold) Will Always Be With Us

December 11, 2013

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Snowman in St. Paul

Snowman in St. Paul

On my way to work – I saw this (picture attached) where I usually see the homeless man asking for money.
It is sort of cute – being a little snow man on the corner of a busy St. Paul intersection, but it brought me to think of whom I usually see there and why I need to care if he has found some shelter.

For the last 5 years I have been driving by this spot and I often see someone asking for money. Different people. Some young, some old. Some have signs that they carry, others don’t. For a while I wouldn’t give them any change because I had bought into that idea that it might be someone who would use my money for drugs or alcohol, but lately I have changed my thoughts on that. It has caused me to reflect on what Jesus said.

“The poor you will always have with you; but you will not always have me.” Matthew 26:11

A friend recently told me that after volunteering at various food shelves and homeless shelters that she had come to a revelation. She said “We want the poor to be like us” meaning that when we give, we want the people that we help to become like us. We put conditions on our giving. While we would like to make sure that every opportunity is given to those in need to break out of the chains of poverty; that is not why we help the poor. We give and help, because we can. We give because every person is made in God’s image. We give because we wouldn’t want to miss out on the chance to serve Jesus.

In the Temptations Faced by Pastoral Workers from Evangelii Gaudium, Holy Father says in paragraph 85:
“One of the more serious temptations which stifles boldness and zeal is a defeatism which turns us into querulous and disillusioned pessimists, ‘sourpusses’. Nobody can go off to battle unless he is fully convinced of victory beforehand. If we start without confidence, we have already lost half the battle and we bury our talents.”

It is easy to think and say “I have given enough” or “Others will take care of them” or “They might just use my money for drugs” or   “I will only give to an organization” but maybe that is the defeatism that Pope Francis is referring to.

So for now I keep a dollar or two handy to give when I can and try to remember this prayer of Blessed Mother Teresa while I pray that the man I ususally see on this corner isn’t as cold as the snowman that he left behind.

Dear Jesus, help me to spread Thy fragrance everywhere I go. Flood my soul with Thy spirit and love. Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that all my life may only be a radiance of Thine. Shine through me and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel Thy presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me but only Jesus. Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as you shine, so to shine as to be a light to others. Amen.

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