Catholic Girl Journey

Giving up independence

What would it take for you to give up your independence? Would you willingly give it up, or acquiesce when it was taken from you?

I’ve been thinking about the line in John’s gospel where Jesus says to Peter, “‘I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.’ He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God.” (John 21:18-19) While this may, indeed, have been prophetic for Peter, it can also be rather prophetic, minus the martyrdom, for many people as they age..

The Parkinson’s my Dad suffers from is slowly growing worse; he has lost his ability to move his legs in anything but a straight-forward direction. He needs professional care that my Mom cannot provide, not just due to her lack of training, but because at 85, she’s getting weaker herself. Yet they want to stay in their own house and live just like they have been for the 60+ years they’ve been married. They don’t want to prepare for what will happen next, they only want to take one day at a time and deal with it as it comes Since they live by themselves in a small, rural community, their options for assistance are very limited. Mom once told me, “It’s in God’s hands.”

My parents’ home and their independence are the last things they really have left that are “theirs.” I understand that things are much more comfortable in surroundings that one chooses oneself. But ultimately home is not this earth, but in heaven with God. The independence God gives us is a gift to choose Him, or not. It’s hard to go outside of our comfort zone and we all want the ability to say ‘no’. As we age, after all we’ve accomplished, it’s hard to let it all go and face the realities of diseases that bring constant pain and continually limit our abilities. Letting go of our independence might seem like we’re giving up. Maybe, though, we are giving up to the Lord. We are letting His glory shine through our weakness as we learn to rely on others.

Peter did suffer a martyr’s death and it might have been every bit as hard to accept as a slow progressing disease. Perhaps the daily challenges to our comfort zone and independence are opportunities for us to practice and prepare us to say ‘yes’ to God’s will in the future, no matter how our earthly lives complete.  

Catholic Girl Journey

Breaking boredom

When does the familiar become boring? Does routine lead to boredom or is it the busyness of our lives that leaves us unable to concentrate? Have we become so comfortable with Jesus that we don’t even work at growing in relationship with Him anymore?

The folk of Nazareth thought they knew Jesus, after all, He grew up among them. They knew His parents; spoke to Him throughout His formative years. Yet  Jesus, who healed all over the countryside, is not able to perform many miracles in Nazareth. At one point, the people become so angry with His words, they try to throw Him down the cliff outside the town. Are we much different than them? Do we expect Jesus to prove Himself to us?

Routines like Mass, the rosary, and morning/evening prayers can become just things that we do. We check them off the list of what is required and continue about our lives. During Lent we may try to give up chocolate or an extra cup of coffee and keep our Fridays meat-free, but maybe we think of it as just more to add to the checklist. Whose checklist?  Our checklist, the one we think will tally up to get us a pass into heaven when we die. Only what we forget, or maybe never knew, is that it’s not about a checklist, it’s about our relationship with Jesus. And it’s not a once and done. We can become too comfortable with routine, thinking that we know all we need to about Jesus and let daily distractions disrupt the relationship.

Sometimes we fall into the trap of judging an entire Mass based on the homily. If it wasn’t  relevant to our current life, then we feel cheated and complain we “got” nothing from going. But the Mass is more than just a homily; it includes a time to reflect on our relationship with Jesus and our weaknesses that strain it, it includes the Word of God from the Old and New Testaments, the re-presentation of Jesus’ sacrifice on Calvary and our communion with Him. Jesus may speak to us at any moment of the Mass…or not. Perhaps it occurs hours or days later when we remember something we heard and it hits home. But if we are so engulfed in our daily lives outside Mass that we have difficulty not just concentrating, but being open to Jesus speaking to us, there is no chance to grow in relationship with Him.

Lent is a time to give ourselves a shake. It’s an opportunity to go outside of our comfort zone. It’s a time to look at our relationship with Jesus and try new ways to go just a bit deeper. Can we turn off the outside world, not pay attention to the time and just listen to every word spoken at Mass? When saying the rosary, can we really mean and believe every single word we speak? Can we make a sacrifice of time and participate in Lenten events at parishes, like the Stations of the Cross or making a holy hour in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament?

Jesus is not bored with us. Let’s make sure our routine of worship does not turn our relationship with Him into a bore for us.

Catholic Girl Journey

Successful failure

It’s only the second week of Lent and already I feel like a failure. Maybe that’s a good thing.

If you remember the movie Groundhog Day where the character re-lived the same day over and over again, the last few days have seemed very similar for me. Each day it seemed like I was always running late, fumbling with whatever I needed to carry, and just when I thought things at work couldn’t get more challenging… well you get the idea. It was like everything was conspiring against me. I know that’s not true, but when you’re trying to live through it, it’s hard not to think that way. Luckily all the issues are really minor annoyances, but when they all stack up together, it can be overwhelming. One morning, in a short burst of clarity, I offered these trials up to Jesus for Lent. Many times when I do this, things don’t seem to be too bad. This time though, the challenges seemed to crank up in intensity.  

What really bothered me most was after getting rather exasperated at work about how something was handled, I remembered the gospel for that day had Jesus saying that anyone who called their brother a fool would be liable to fiery Gehenna (Matthew 5:20-26). While I might not have said it aloud, I had certainly passed judgement about the individuals involved with that same sentence.

What these trials have shown me is just how much I daily rely on God’s mercy and grace. In a way, my failure to respond to these in a Christian manner has revealed some habitual sins that I need to work on and be more cognizant. In addition to being sorrowful, I am encouraged that these situations have opened my eyes and my heart, so that I can let God into these areas and help me become a better person. Isn’t that what Lent is all about; opening our hearts to God for Him to work His mercy and grace in us?

Perhaps true failure is when nothing changes. There are still a few more weeks of Lent to go and, even if it is a bit painful, I trust in God’s mercy to see me through and His grace to help me. And these trials? They are nothing more than opportunities to practice what I believe.

Catholic Girl Journey

The purpose of Lent

Lent is a time to prepare for our walk with Jesus during the Holy Triduum. It is the most sacred, most mysterious, and most intense time in the Church’s calendar. Among other things, it is a time when we are asked to fast and abstain from meat.  So how does only eating fish and vegetables on Fridays help us?

Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are the three activities which the Church recommends during this season. We are asked to fast just two days out of the 40, that is to eat just one regular meal along with two smaller meals and and nothing between meals. These two days are at the beginning and the end of lent, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. She also asks us to abstain from eating meat on all Fridays during lent. While it may seem to help the seafood and pizza industries, the real purpose is to call our attention to the most fundamental aspect of our life — the food that sustains us. We are asked to pay attention not just to what we eat, but how much and when we eat.

When we stop and ask ourselves, ‘can I eat this?’, it makes us think. It also awakens our hunger for something more. When we start saying ‘no’ to our body’s’ craving what we can’t have, the control the material world has in satisfying us starts to diminish. As we open ourselves up to the spiritual realm, we can go deeper into prayer, like the Stations of the Cross or daily Mass. Seeking to strengthen our relationship with God, prayer takes on a more fervent concentration. Here too we now pause and listen, how is God calling us closer?

On the cross, Jesus gave everything away, even His life for us. With almsgiving, we are asked to imitate Christ and give to those in need, not just from our surplus but also to dig a bit deeper so we feel it. While money is the most literal definition for almsgiving, it can extend to our time and talents as well. Volunteering at a charity or soup kitchen, for example,  teaches us compassion and heightens our awareness of others’ poverty.

As a runner trains for a marathon, we are called to intensify our sacrifices so that we can participate more fully in the Easter celebration. Perhaps our efforts will allow us to experience the love of God in a deeper and more personal way on this side of heaven.

Catholic Girl Journey

Repent is not a bad word

Repent is a word strongly associated with Lent. As we get ashes crossed on our foreheads, we may hear, “Repent, and believe in the gospel.” Repent can seem to be a scary or bad word. It’s something that we are called to do but really don’t want to do it.

The call to repent is a call to change. The change is a challenge to surrender our control to God. Surrender control? That sounds scary. What if we don’t like what God wants us to do? Maybe we won’t be happy with what He has planned for us? In our comfortable lives we look at the lives of the saints, even the popular ones like St. Francis of Assisi, and read about how austere their lives were. They were poor in the eyes of the world. It can be hard to get our heads wrapped around a call like that. Perhaps God will ask too much of us and ask us to give everything up. Could we do that?

God calls each of us to a relationship with Him. The deeper our relationship, the less that material things matter. Why? Because everything comes from God. If He blesses you with wealth, then it’s for His purpose. If He calls you to a life of poverty, it’s so that you can rely on Him to sustain you. In either scenario, you are letting God come into your life and change you, to form you into what He wants you to be. Our fear should not be of God Himself, but rather the fear of disappointing Him and not using the talents He gives us to better our corner of the world. It may be a bit scary giving up what we want to do, but if we don’t know what God is calling us to do, why do we dread it and close our hearts to Him? Just a quick look around nature, seeing the variety and marveling in it should be enough to convince us that with God leading us, we will be able to go places that we’ve never been or even dreamed to go. And we may end up liking it more than we knew was possible.

If you still don’t like the word repent, that’s okay. Maybe when you hear it, think instead of turning away from yourself and turning to Jesus.

May our Lenten journey bring us closer to Jesus and allow us to stand at the foot of the cross on Good Friday and to experience the joy of the resurrection on Easter morning.

Catholic Girl Journey


Leprosy may not have been a death sentence to the afflicted when Jesus was on earth, but rather a sentence of solitary confinement. A leper was an outcast; avoided by all.

As a bacterial infection, the disease is treatable today, but prior to modern medicine, those suffering had to live away from the community. They were cut off from everyone except others suffering from the disease. When out walking they had to announce their disease, so that people would not get close to them. This highly-contagious illness is spread by coughing or sneezing and, while the ancient world may not have known how it was spread, they knew they needed to isolate the sick from the healthy.

Even so, at least one with such a isolated life knew about Jesus and His healing power. He begged at Jesus’ feet to make him clean. From either courage or desperation, and perhaps a mix of both, the leper does something that he’s not allowed to do: approach a clean person. Yet he not only approaches, but also kneels and announces his faith in Jesus by saying, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Jesus has pity on the man and cures him, instructing him not to tell anyone, but to go to the Temple with the prescribed offering. Instead, the man proclaims his healing to the point where Jesus cannot even enter a town openly. (Mk 1: 40-45)

We don’t know how long the man lived as a leper. What we do know is that his joy at returning to the community was demonstrated by the publicizing of his healing. He wanted to tell everyone, not just that he was healed, but by Jesus, the itinerant preacher and miracle worker.  His days of being an outcast were over and he could now mingle with friends and strangers alike. His healing made him whole and brought him back into the community.

Illness can do the same to us today, maybe not to the degree of being an outcast from all of society, but depending on the disease, it can be easier to retreat from others rather than to be in the crowd. Yet when we are healed, who do we thank first? Do we proclaim God’s generosity at healing us, or do we thank the caregivers who delivered the treatment? Could it be that we are embarrassed to proclaim God’s intervention in such a secular culture? Are we afraid of being outcasts if we give God the glory for a healing?

God’s providence is at the root of all healing. From an aspirin to cutting-edge technology, God is the inspiration behind medicine. The healer may take on a different name and face, but God works through them to heal His people. Let us give Him the thanks, praise and glory due to such a loving and merciful God who wants to heal, not just our bodies, but our relationship with Him.

Catholic Girl Journey

Receiving peace

Peace seems to be elusive in today’s world, not just at a global level, but even down to our individual lives.  It seems to escape us the more vigorously we chase it. Perhaps it’s not something to be captured, but rather given and received.

In a recent gospel passage from daily Mass, Jesus sends 72 disciples to prepare the towns and villages for His arrival and to begin to proclaim the good news. His instructions included: ‘On entering any house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If there is a peaceable man there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will come back to you.” (Lk 10:5-6) In a way, this reminds me of Jesus’ first appearance to the Apostles after His resurrection, when He said, “Peace to you.” (Lk 24:36) Peace seems to be given by the person visiting another, that is to say that a visitor does not come to bring dissension, but harmony with and to the household. I’m sure we’ve all had a visitor or two who did not bring peace to the home. Those visits are often uncomfortable and can challenge any peace we may have. But visitors, who — while they may not come in wishing peace upon the house — bring the love, joy and acceptance of friendship — end up making the visit not only enjoyable and also offer the hope for future visits.

While a visitor seems to be the bearer of peace to our homes, it’s almost the reverse in Church. Jesus’ peace is not just given during the Mass when a priest says, “Peace be with you.” His peace is offered to us the moment we step into a church or chapel. However, we cannot take it from Him, rather we need to receive it: to be open to Him. If it were tangible, we would not be able to grab at it, rather we would need to open our hands and let Him place it in our palms. We should strive not be like the guests who come to complain and criticize and then leave without His peace. Even though we are on His turf, so to speak, we still need to be like the homeowner who welcomes a visitor and lets His peace rest upon all within, no matter the distractions around us.

How beautiful it is when peace, either from Jesus or a visitor, rests on us; it is precisely this peace that we can then offer to others. It’s truly a gift.