Tag Archives: prayer

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.

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Guilt: Too heavy a burden? A must-read novel

August 26, 2014

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How much guilt can you live with?

Knowing you’ve done something illegal and even hurtful, can the fact that the wrongful act also has brought joy be enough to overwhelm that guilt? And for how long?

M. L. Stedman brings those question out from hiding in the superbly written drama “The Light Between Oceans,” a New York Times bestseller that will soon come to movie screens.

Stedman’s setting of a lighthouse off the southwest coast of Australia and the small town that is its closest port takes readers to virgin literary territory. That’s always attractive, of course, to discover new lands through the written word.

But it’s the story that Stedman weaves that will grab readers’ attention and hold it for 322 pages, and the question she leads us to ask: What would we do?

The light coverOn that lonely island with the lighthouse between the Indian Ocean and the Great Southern Ocean below Australia, 100 miles from the nearest land, a married couple suffers through three miscarriages, the last very recent.

Then a dinghy washes up. In it is the body of a man. Although he’s dead, in the boat a baby cries, wrapped in a woman’s shawl. So the test begins.

Should the lighthouse keeper report this unusual event, or can the child become the baby he and his wife seem to be unable to create? Will he risk his career or, by dutifully telling the authorities about the child and the dead man, risk earning the scorn of his wife, who already has seen the baby’s arrival as a miracle from God?

Despite his misgivings, they keep the baby, pretending the wife has given birth. But how long with the charade last? How long can a person stand knowing that another woman is heartbroken and nearly insane from the loss of her infant child?

“The Light Between Oceans” is a wonderful read, a piece with both droplets of foreshadowing and unexpected turns of events, a testament to hope and prayer, an in-depth delving into joys and sorrows, into human nature and families, into life itself.

 

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So much to be thankful for

August 19, 2014

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thank you god coverQuick, list all the things for which you’d like to thank God.

I’ll bet you haven’t come up with as many as are in the new children’s book, “Thank You, God.”

Author J. Bradley Wigger lists in 26 pages more things for which we ought to be grateful for than most parents are likely to come up with as they pray with their young ones.

And, with typical family scenes colorfully illustrating the prayer-like text with all kinds of details, “Thank You, God” will keep the interest of young people as well, thanks to the artistry of Jago.

Just published in August, this is an imprint of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

 

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Prayer discount at the diner

August 4, 2014

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A woman and her co-workers prayed over a meal at a diner in North Carolina. When it was time for the check she found that she had received a “praying in public” discount. As any sane modern person would do, she posted the receipt on Facebook and it became a viral phenomenon.

Read more:

Local story from Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Story from The Blaze

NPR wonders if the practice is in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

 

Screen shot of the Orlando radio station's Facebook post that shared the receipt.

Screen shot of the Orlando radio station’s Facebook post that shared the receipt.

 

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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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Mark this Ukrainian’s prayer request as urgent

May 24, 2014

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Mykola and Tania Symchych with their daughter Olenka

Mykola and Tania Symchych with their daughter Olenka

We Americans know it’s important to vote but we don’t usually experience quite the sense of urgency about elections that Ukrainians feel right now.

On Sunday, Ukraine will elect a new president and other officials while Russia, their powerful and somewhat menacing neighbor looks on. With pro-Russian separatists inciting violence in the eastern part of the country and  several regions voting for independence from Ukraine, the country doesn’t exactly have ideal conditions for free and fair elections.

The outcome of the election—whether a peaceful transition to a new government or what some fear, social and economic decline and more violence—could help determine the country’s fate.

Despite the uncertainty, my friend Mykola Symchych has hope that the elections will bring stability. His Catholic faith has something to do with that hope. On May 25 he will vote for Ukraine’s president as well as for the mayor and city council of Kiev where he, his wife, Tania, and daughter, Olenka, live.

Last Sunday, the Easter season sermon in Mykola’s church, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC),  the predominant Catholic church in the country, was preempted by his pastor’s exhortation for the congregation to be sure to vote after carefully considering the candidates.

Identifying candidates who haven’t been involved in corruption or at least seem committed to avoiding it now is challenging as corruption has been systemic in Ukrainian government. To make matters worse, corrupt officials have simply formed new parties, said Mykola, who teaches philosophy at a UGCC seminary and does research. “They’ve just changed masks but they are the same.”

Good guys and bandits

While Mykola is watching or reading the news, three-year-old Olenka points to images of politicians and public figures and asks, “Is he a bandit or not?” She already knows there are good guys and “bandits,” he said.

But while there is unrest in areas of eastern Ukraine including Donets’k and Luhans’k which have resulted in deaths, and even fears of violence as far west as Kiev, Mykola said the capital remains fairly peaceful. Prices for food and other items are higher.

As he crosses Maidan square each morning on the way to work, it’s quiet compared to a few months ago when Ukrainians held mass demonstrations against the former government, he said. “It is a memorial of people who were killed there though there is no need for rallies now.”

Mykola and his family’s Easter celebrations were a bit more somber this year because of the political situation.  The UGCC, though part of the Roman Catholic church normally celebrates Holy Week and Easter with the Orthodox on the Julian calendar instead of with Rome on the Gregorian calendar in order to align with the Russian Orthodox church.

This year however, Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox observed the holy days on the same dates, something  that occurs about every four years and could be seen as a sign that greater unity among the churches and the country is possible.  “This year we were together with all the Christians of the world and it was very pleasant,” he said

Prayer is needed

Christians around the world will be watching as Ukraine elects a new government. Mykola asks us to join Ukrainians in praying for his country.

“We want to ask God to help us make the right choice,” he said.  “It is very difficult to make the right choice. Our wisdom is very limited. God knows what is best for us so we have asked him, we have prayed to Him.”

It’s not just about the election, he added.  “All our life we have to ask God to help us. “

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An Advent Reflection on Joy to go with Your Morning Coffee

November 30, 2013

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From kellywahlquist.com

Coffee

My friend Kelly Wahlquist is starting a daily Advent reflection using Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel. Her idea is to break it up into small chunks (she calls them sips like in sips of coffee) and read it through Advent. To follow along, go to her website http://www.kellywahlquist.com
What a beautiful way to prepare for the incarnation of JOY!
I plan on following… Join me!
Here’s the schedule for Advent. She will post the paragraphs and perhaps a little reflection each day to go with your coffee:

Dec. 1 2-8 (Joy)

Dec. 2 9-13 (Joy of Evangelizing)

Dec. 3 14-18 (Scope of exhortation)

Dec. 4 19-24 (Church’s missionary transformation)

Dec. 5 25-33 (Pastoral Activity & Conversion)

Dec. 6 34-39 (Heart of the Gospel)

Dec. 7 40-45 (Human Limits)

Dec. 8 46-49 (Mary)

Dec. 9 50-58 (Amid Crisis: idolatry of money)

Dec. 10 59-75 (Cultural Challenges)

Dec. 11 76-92 (Temptations of pastoral workers & Relationship in Christ)

Dec. 12 93-109 (No to spiritual worldliness)

Dec. 13 110-126 (People of God proclaim the Gospel)

Dec. 14 127-134 (Person to Person, Charisms, Culture)

Dec. 15 135-144 (The Homily)

Dec. 16 145-159 (Preparing to Preach)

Dec. 17 160-175 (Kerygma)

Dec. 18 176-185 (Social dimensions of evangelization)

Dec. 19 186-216 (Inclusion of the poor in society)

Dec. 20 217-237 (Common Good and Peace in Society)

Dec. 21 238-258 (Social dialogue as contribution to peace)

Dec. 22 259-274 (Spirit-filled evangelizers)

Dec. 23 275-283 (Personal encounter with Christ)

Dec. 24 284-288 (Mary)

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Families are Messy…

November 25, 2013

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Licensed under Creative Commons

Licensed under Creative Commons

As we approach Thanksgiving and our opportunities to be with extended family, there is one thing we need to remember – families are messy.

I am not talking about Uncle Bob who never does the dishes or the spilled gravy at the kids table; I am saying that family relationships are messy.  Some families have a no politics and no religion rule on conversations at their family gatherings.  That may help with the tension of hot button topics like same sex unions and abortion, but as people of faith we cannot put on and take off our religion at will like a sweater.  We wear our faith all of the time!

How do we deal with some difficult situations this Thanksgiving like -

Your sister and her boyfriend, who are living together,

Your uncle who is in a same sex relationship,

Your cousin who complains about the church’s teaching on contraception,

Your nephew who has left the church because of the current Clergy abuse scandal in the news…

Jesus had the answer – He loved more!

Since I have a fondness for food and mentions of food in the bible – I am taken by this quote every Thanksgiving…

Matthew 11:19, The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they said, ‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is vindicated by her works.”

I think the most important thing to remember in this passage is that WE all are the sinners.  If our church only let perfect Catholics in – the pews (and the pulpits) would be virtually empty.  I am so grateful that Jesus (and my family ) eats with me!

So set the tone with a prayer of humility and gratitude and respect and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Enjoy your messy family and LOVE MORE!

 

Prayer of Thanksgiving

God of all blessings,
source of all life,
giver of all grace:

We thank you for the gift of life:
for the breath
that sustains life,
for the food of this earth
that nurtures life,
for the love of family and friends
without which there would be no life.

We thank you for the mystery of creation:
for the beauty
that the eye can see,
for the joy
that the ear may hear,
for the unknown
that we cannot behold filling the universe with wonder,
for the expanse of space
that draws us beyond the definitions of our selves.

We thank you for setting us in communities:
for families
who nurture our becoming,
for friends
who love us by choice,
for companions at work,
who share our burdens and daily tasks,
for strangers
who welcome us into their midst,
for people from other lands
who call us to grow in understanding,
for children
who lighten our moments with delight,
for the unborn,
who offer us hope for the future.

We thank you for this day:
for life
and one more day to love,
for opportunity
and one more day to work for justice and peace,
for neighbors
and one more person to love
and by whom be loved,
for your grace
and one more experience of your presence,
for your promise:
to be with us,
to be our God,
and to give salvation.

For these, and all blessings,
we give you thanks, eternal, loving God,
through Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Pray With Us

October 23, 2013

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Madonna and Child ~ Licensed under Creative Commons

Madonna and Child ~ Licensed under Creative Commons

Praying Together for Our Church

Below is a letter from Jeff Cavins to the Archbishop Harry J. Flynn Catechetical Institute inviting us to pray.  Let us all join in this beautiful novena.

In times of difficulty I have learned to turn to Mary.

For those of you who do not know of the Catechetical Institute – I urge everyone to look into it.  I am an alumni. Go C.I.

Thank you Jeff.

 

 

Dear Friends,

 

We would like to invite you to something very special that those associated with the Archbishop Harry J. Flynn Catechetical Institute are doing in response to recent news in our archdiocese.

 

As many of you know, the Catholic Church is going through some extremely difficult times. As graduates and current students, you know that we, at the Catechetical Institute, are not only learning “what” to believe, but we are learning how to “live out” what we believe. It is difficult times such as these that call us to live what we have learned—to truly live as disciples of Jesus Christ, as witnesses to the Gospel, as Christians. This is not an easy task.

 

As Catholics, we are blessed to follow in the great biblical tradition of the heroes of faith, men and women who responded to trials with prayer, praise and thanksgiving. As a united Catechetical Institute, we are doing just that and extending an invitation to our CI community to pray together for every member who makes up our archdiocese; for, the archdiocese is not the structure, it is the people, all of us together. We are inviting you to join us in praying for the entire body of Christ and all who are suffering right now during this arduous time.

 

We are beginning an extraordinary novena, one that happens to be a favorite of Pope Francis. The novena is called, “Mary, Undoer of Knots” and has a beautiful and rich tradition.

 

This novena will begin on Wednesday, October 23rd and conclude on the eve of the Feast of All Saints. If you do not own the small booklet that explains and walks you through the novena, you can find the daily prayers at http://www.cistudent.com.

 

As mature Catholic believers, we must always ask ourselves, “What is the responsible, charitable and right way to proceed?” No doubt, many people have asked you questions about what they are hearing in the media. Our response does not merely represent our own opinion, but it represents the body of Christ. We are the body of Christ, and as such we need to always ask, “What would Jesus do?”

 

Therefore, let us ask the Holy Spirit to season all our words with love, mercy and compassion. This is not only our response to our fellow Catholics, but also the response to those who appear to be attacking the Church. The guilty, the innocent, the accused and the accusers should all be treated with dignity and love. This is what it means to truly live the faith. This is what it means to be a Christian.

 

Thank you for uniting your prayers with ours at the Archbishop Harry J. Flynn Catechetical Institute. Let us together turn to Mary, Undoer of Knots, invoking her to ask her Son to grant us pure, humble and trusting hearts.

 

In Christ,

 

Jeff Cavins

 

 

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