Friday, April 7, 2017

Flexing the Muscles of Fearlessness

After spending last weekend happily rooting out nonsense that has been weighing me down for years at our Catholic Women's conference, I left feeling less afraid.

I remember when I gave up.  It's a long painful story (for another time).  The nutshell is that when I cut out an abusive person in my life as a teenager, I was emotionally manipulated by people I trusted into continuing with them in my life.  I'm certainly not the only person with this story.  The problem was, it destroyed the strength I had left in me.  After confronting this history, I felt a sense that I could go back to my much younger self and give her permission to take over where social niceties clouded my judgement and made me a quivering mess in confrontation.

I remember meeting up with an old high school friend some time after university.  Keep in mind, I had become a Christian as well, so some of my edges had come off too.  He asked me a couple of times, "What happened to you?"  When I finally asked him what he meant, he told me that he always wanted to be friends with me, so that if he was ever involved in some sort of drama, he could count on my fierceness (he might have said viciousness...) to save him.  He just wondered where the tiger had gone.

I am not, by any means, advocating for Rookie Catholic to start picking fights: delighting in scoring verbal sparring points.  There is; however, certainly room in my life for a certain amount of fearlessness that has disappeared.

Today was no exception.  I actually had prayed on the way in to work for two things: first, a desire and ability to pray all day long (I'm going to have to go ahead and re-ask for that one...).  Second, a fearlessness in sharing who I am in my faith - my love for Jesus, the Father, the Holy Spirit, Mary, the Church, et al...

So, a teacher and I were discussing a little friend in our class who has been diagnosed with severe anxiety.  The psychologist actually recommended private school.  Problem: the teacher didn't know any in our area.  I recommended our Catholic school.  When I did, her eyes widened in disdain.  I think her nostrils may even have flared.   She then told me how her husband had spent more time in the principal's office at Catholic school and hated all things Catholic now...

So, I took a baby step and blundered out something along the lines of, "Well, we're Catholic, so we love it.  You know we all had similar experiences in public school too": because we did.  We had a science teacher who (much to our delight) threw pencils at kids he hated.  We had a Vice-Principal, who told me I (the shortest by a long shot) could use the toilet instead of the sink to clean up with - wasn't he clever???  (My mother cut down half the apple tree over that one to pull herself together).  What about the PE teacher who moved in with the student 15 years his junior within a month of her high-school graduation?  As if we didn't all see that one coming....

Creepy things happen everywhere.  I know you're probably wondering why I think the halting, poorly thought out reply was a step in the right direction - but while it's maybe not even a step - at least I am turning in the right direction.

People think all sorts of silly things - or get stuck in all sort of untruths, half-truths, and mis-conceptions.  Here's the thing: it seems obvious to me God's main way or removing the scales from peoples' eyes is with.... you got, other people.

Before we read a book that can help us out, someone markets it and suggests it.  Before we change our mind about something, we quibble with someone we actually respect at a dinner.  They might feel badly or not for having the discussion, but it could change hearts.  Before we go to a talk that changes our lives, someone invites us.  Before we care about the suffering of the weak, we are challenged by teachers who share Jesus' love for all the kinds of poor people who exist around us.  No little thing.  Our words - our bravery - matters.

Proverbs 28:1 says, "The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion."

Love Jesus, love your bible, pray for fearlessness, and say your small part.  You are the only who can do it.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Maintaining the "Camp High": The Sacraments

Coming from the protestant church, I have spent many happy weeks at amazing bible-based summer camps.  The people I met, the teaching I got, the songs we sang: they were a package that packed a powerful spiritual punch.

Often, towards the last day, the camp speaker would talk about the "camp high" and how to maintain that increased enthusiasm about our faith we were all feeling.  Find a good church, go to youth group, read your bible, read your bible, read your bible.

Invariably though, that excitement couldn't be maintained.  By October or November, life had crowded in.  Church got missed: I had to study!  Youth group numbers dwindled: school, sports, music, and family nights caught my friends to differing degrees.  I read my bible - but less.

This past weekend I attended the Catholic Women's retreat in our archdiocese.  I have to laugh - coming from the protestant church sometimes these titles sound like the least fun thing to do.  BUT - and here it is - it was amazing.  I truly don't know what I expected, but I didn't expect this weekend.  4 speakers - each gave 1 unbelievable talk.  Actually, by the last talk, I just felt so emotionally spent, I couldn't imagine getting anything more out of the weekend - BUT - the last talk was a charge!  It knocked me on my pins. Michelle Benzinger challenged and empowered us, as women, to go forth and listen to the prodding of the Holy Spirit - and then act.  To not miss His guiding.  Wow.  It was such a powerful message.  I felt like I couldn't take much more.  Every corner of the weekend filled me up - I was flying.

Here's the thing: I know about camp highs.  I know about the crash that inevitably comes.  Or does it?  The last night of the weekend, I went to confession.  As I stood in line, I felt this overwhelming joy that I didn't have to lose the inspiration I felt.  God has given me gifts through His beautiful church to keep me connected to His heart, in particular: confession, the Eucharist, and the study of scripture.  When I feel flat - it's often because of sin in my life.  I have a spiritual vacuum in confession that can clean house to leave my whole life open to God any day of the week.

The Eucharist is my time with Jesus.  I can receive Him and be with Him.  I hope to add another day in each week.  To carry me to Sunday.  Finally, I can read my bible - but I can read it alongside the teachings of the Catholic church.  The Magisterium of the Catholic Church serves us by beautifully laying out the full meaning of scripture.  It opens scripture up in ways and to a depth I simply didn't know existed.  Amazing that my decades of life as a banker, mother, and education assistant didn't make me a perfect theologian...  My tool of choice (currently costing a whopping $11 USD) is the The Catechism of the Catholic Church. (If you don't have one, grab one with no shipping cost - in your currency - to anywhere in the world here:

I feel deeply thankful to the women who worked faithfully and tirelessly to put together a weekend that ignited the hearts of 250 women in our corner of the world.  Fortunately, I don't need to pack them in my suitcase for year 'round encouragement.  Jesus founded a church on the Apostle Peter that does just that.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Evangelism and Orchestras

The Apostle Peter says it plainly in 1 Peter: "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have" (1 Peter 3:15, NIV)

As I get older (and have made more mistakes), I have come to the conclusion that evangelism is best thought of as an orchestra conducted by God.  The part you play when you look at the music might make very little sense, but when God puts it all together the results are thunderous - they hold us spellbound.

When we share with people why we believe, it simply isn't possible to hold court and tell your life story.  Single notes are often what we are called to.  You say them, and then have to know that God is the one piecing together the music in that person's life.  If we really believe that God cares more for our friends and family, and longs to bring them to Him, we can relax, and play our one note on the musically speaking spiritual equivalent of a triangle when God calls us to do so.
In light of the fact that we can just say our piece and leave it, here is a personal note to encourage anyone in their faith.  

I have a precious old friend, Natalie, who struggles with her Christian faith.  She has some deep worries about her son, Justin; however, after years of friendship, I know that talking to her about God right now could be disrespectful.  She's just not in that space right now.  Regardless, God orchestrates His evangelism. 

Natalie recently shared some pretty serious concerns about Justin over a lunch we had recently. I went home, thought about and prayed for Justin and his dear parents.  

Three days later, I was unpacking boxes in our office.  Completely by coincidence, I decided to open a different box I haven't looked at in years.  The very first item my hand fell on was a set of pictures of Justin at his first birthday party and baby dedication (protestant).  I have photos of their pastor praying over Justin in his father's arms, Natalie wiping away tears, and everyone gathered there to love and support this little boy.  We were dedicating ourselves to supporting him in his faith. It stopped me in my tracks.  

This was my triangle moment.  It was like God let me know he remembered the promise everyone had made that day to support Natalie and her husband as they raised their son.  I picked up my triangle so to speak and did a very simple thing. I scanned the photos and sent them to Natalie.  I told her just briefly by text, how I had prayed for Justin and then found these photos completely by chance (I have a lifetime of these 'chances') and I promised to pray regularly for him.  That's all I felt I could do.  My friend said the timing for her was so unbelievable and felt the photos were literally, "heaven sent". 

I didn't push it any further.  I haven't bugged her again.  It would feel opportunistic to me.  I don't feel that is what God wants me to do.  

I will; however, continue to pray for both my friend and her son.  I will try and listen for further "triangle playing" moments.  When God points his conductor's baton at me for just a moment and asks me to play another note, God-willing, I will be sensitive to His urging, and play my small part in the lives of those He loves.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Never Say Never: The Catholic Church and Gravity (Reason #374 We Became Catholic)

We all know that gravity is what pulls us towards objects that are heavier than us. The Catholic Church is that heavy mass in my life.  The only thing is, for literally years, I had no idea that its weight was acting on me the way it was. I was talking to a dear friend of mine today who informed me she didn't want to get my hopes up (she's completely done with the protestant church, and it has made her done with all church...) but - and it was a big, pregnant "but" - if she ever went back to church, it would only ever be the Catholic church. 

I laughed when she said this and told her that I had said pretty much the same words to the friend who ended up being my sponsor when our family came into the Catholic church.  I remember distinctly saying to her at dinner one night, "I love that you have found the Catholic church.  You are so artistic, it just makes sense... for you."  She was just so gracious and clever.  She went along with the little wall I had put up and left it up to God.  Best choice anyway really.

The issue: this church was acting on me, on us, drawing us in.    

Today, for example, I talked to my worn-out-with-church friend about how the universality of the Catholic church grabbed a hold of hubs and I.  Five years ago, we were at a hockey tournament in the US: a 3 hour drive from home.  We were scheduled to attend a team dinner.  Our Catholic friends arrived a little late and sat with us.  It was a Saturday evening.  We asked them where they had been and they told us they had been to church.  Hubs and I were dumbfounded.  

  • they hadn't been shopping at the outlet mall?
  • they chose to go to church when clearly they were off the hook? 
  • they felt like they could just walk into any old Catholic church and fit right in?
It was actually the last straw for us.  We went to our first mass the following Sunday and have been going ever since.  

One of the many happy reasons we are Catholic today is this business of the entire Catholic church around the world being our church.  The same is just as true today as it was 5 years ago when we went to that dinner.  Since that time, we've been to many, many parishes when we travel and walk in thrilled to go to mass with our brothers and sisters from around the world.  We've even been to non-English masses and been able to follow along with the liturgy - anticipating taking the Eucharist just as we do at home.

It simply resonates with Jesus' message to His apostles to go into all the world...

It turns out, when we do this 2000 years later, we find our home there.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Minimalism and Catholicism: The Catholic Connection Found!

I have loved Flylady for years.  She was a a big part of the reason why we began to connect with the concept of decluttering.  In my mind, this is step 1 of a peaceful life of minimalism. 

Step 2 for me was watching a TED talk by Angela Horn on her awakening to the need to transform her life or risk spending it taking care of stuff.  It's a brilliant, touching talk that really got me started down the path of simplifying my life: getting rid of what wasted my life (cleaning, sorting, searching) to be able to add what I valued (a peaceful home, time with my husband, children, family, and friends).

I've continued on.  We've enjoyed a number of blogs: "Becoming Minimalist" and "The Minimalists" in particular.  Our family recently moved.  We applied all we have been learning about minimalism.  We got rid of things that were dragging us down.  We gave away, recycled, or threw out what we didn't need.  Then again, we started unpacking.  We have looked in every box with the same eagle eye - always aware another move could be just around the corner.  We don't want to be tied down to a location because of our stuff.  We want to live like we are on the move!  Ready to respond to what God brings our way.

This morning I was reading the Catechism.  Yes, you read correctly.  I am actually reading, and loving, the Catechism.  I follow a Bible/Catechism reading guide that is teaching me in the faith in crazy good ways.  If you're interested is the resource I use.  I downloaded the free version and share it with pretty much anyone who can stand it and a few who can't - sorry...😉

This morning, I found this section and it made my heart sing.  I knew there was something about minimalism that connected deeply with my faith.  Here it is (for the sake of this post, pay particular attention to 226):

"Believing in God, the only One, and loving him with all our being has enormous consequences for our whole life.
223 It means coming to know God's greatness and majesty: "Behold, God is great, and we know him not." Therefore, we must "serve God first".
224 It means living in thanksgiving: if God is the only One, everything we are and have comes from him: "What have you that you did not receive?" "What shall I render to the LORD for all his bounty to me?"
225 It means knowing the unity and true dignity of all men: everyone is made in the image and likeness of God.
226 It means making good use of created things: faith in God, the only One, leads us to use everything that is not God only insofar as it brings us closer to him, and to detach ourselves from it insofar as it turns us away from him: 
My Lord and my God, take from me everything that distances me from you.
My Lord and my God, give me everything that brings me closer to you.
My Lord and my God, detach me from myself to give my all to you."

How can I spend time with God when I am distracted and overwhelmed by stuff I don't need want or use?  

Catholicism naturally leads to a desire to make wise use of created things. This rookie Catholic is thankful as always for the resources the Catholic church puts on the path to draw us closer to God.

The Rookie Catholic Loves a Book

Small but Mighty!
If the goal is sainthood, how do we get there??

I stumbled on Surrender! by Father Larry Richards.  Someone must have given it to me at some point.  Perhaps my mom who came into the fullness of the Catholic church after us?  She has a penchant for making Catholic purchases.

Perhaps it was a baptism/first communion/confirmation gift one of the lads received.  Who knows?  All I know was that I was hoarding it and finally picked it up over spring break.

What an absolute gem. This book is going to be my new confirmation gift, my new share-with-a-friend-book, my new book for my own kids to read.  It's funny, practical, and smart.  Fr. Larry talks about why we need to surrender to God - and the deep joy it brings.  AND he tells you how to actually surrender: real life practical steps!  Hurray!

Further - get this one - Fr. Larry teaches how to pray for people we don't like (and why we need to do this).  At first I was pleased my list was the size it was (I really only have a size-to-be-guessed roomful of people who really rub me the wrong way), but then I got to thinking having the list at all is actually a reflection on me...  No matter, Fr. Larry has a plan for a rookie like me!  What a great thing to do - and it's great to know the why part!  As challenging as this sounds, Fr. Larry covers the topic with great aplomb.

Fr. Larry, of course, talks about confession - but even more importantly he talks about doing a daily examination of conscience.  Didn't really get that this was a daily practice (rookie) Catholics are encouraged to do.  Not saying I haven't heard of this before - it just hasn't stuck in my mind up until now...  Why do it?  Father Larry reveals it all.  It's a gold section of the book.

Fr. Larry gives further practical pillars for our faith.  Actually, God planned and gave us pillars for our faith.  Fr. Larry just goes over them with humour, wisdom, and a little needed firmness: the bible, the mass, daily offering, and eucharistic adoration.  Some of these can be seen as another thing to just get done.  Fr. Larry frames why they are the gifts we get to do.

Finally, Fr. Larry helps us sort out what God's will is for our lives.  I love this section.  As a mom of three, the greatest gift I can give my children is the knowledge that God loves them, made them, and has had a plan for them from before they were born.  If they truly seek God with their whole hearts and couple that love with working to the best of their ability, nothing else will matter.  Not marks, not what school they go to, not how much money they make, it simply takes the stress out of their lives.  Their heavenly Father will be the standard bearer - going before them, standing beside them, dwelling in them, making their life the absolutely most beautiful life.  Brilliant.  How peaceful and restorative in young lives that can really feel the pressure.

If you want a deep, rich, life-long connection with God, this is the book for you and those you love.

Here is are links to various sites for purchase - none of which I am connected to :))

Monday, March 13, 2017

Can the Legion of Mary Turn Me Into a Rosary Regular?

As a rookie Catholic, I am often amazed at what I don't yet know about being Catholic.  

The Legion of Mary is one of those topics I don't know anything about.  My mother, aka Nanny, also a rookie Catholic, has joined the Legion of Mary in her parish.  I'm not sure what she's most excited about: visiting strangers at the hospital or keeping the statue of Mary at her house for a week.

The whole issue of keeping a statue of Mary in your house is a topic for another day.  I can just imagine what our protestant friends would think of that.  Again, that's for another day.

Here's what I like about her little Legion group:  Nanny has to have two partners who commit to saying the rosary every day.  That's it.  Just saying the rosary. 1 time.  Per day.

I, of course, already know that I have never been able to keep that up.  So I've asked her to see if I can share the task with my kids.  So I think 2 of the 3 will do it with me. The third one is probably my biggest prayer intention as he navigates making this faith his own: a necessary but painful process! (Another topic for another day...) Possibly hubby will join in .  I'm thinking I will do every other day and they can each take just one day.  So they will end up saying the rosary 1 out of every 6 days.  Not bad considering they say it exactly 0 out of every 6 days currently.

I'm secretly hoping I might actually be successful at praying it every day despite my history of what we'll call Broken Rosary Promises.

Here's what I'm hoping will push me towards success:

  • it involves the boys (my kiddos)
  • it involves my mama (bless her sweet little heart)
  • it's the rosary...

First prayer intention: Precious Mary, pray for me!  I just can't do this on my own!