Catholic Girl Journey

Removing the stumbling blocks

In a recent Gospel, Jesus comments about judging others and advises, “…first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:5) The whole faith journey is about improving and aligning, not just ourselves but all we come in contact with, to God’s will. It does need to start with each one of us, and the eye is not the only place where we will find stumbling blocks.

Passion is what drives many people. Others may refer to it as what we love: our families and friends, our neighborhoods, our careers, and the list continues. To describe it, we would say that it comes from the heart. So, what’s all in your heart? Do you share it with Jesus? All of it? It’s very easy to say that we do and very hard when it comes to the practice of it. When illness, strife, work and activities vie for our time, we say they lay heavy on our hearts. But imagine being small enough to be next to your heart and take inventory of it as you would a closet. How big and bulky are the items that are weighing you down? Can you even get in the closet of your heart? Now imagine wrangling items out of your heart and giving them to Jesus. What do you think He would do with them?

I picture Jesus taking the items from me and placing them in His heart. It’s a powerful image to consider. The things that I care about, so does He! But He will also put things into perspective as well. Just because they are important to me does not mean that I need to drag them around and worry about them. We carry around these stumbling blocks, not realizing that they are taking up precious space that should really belong to Jesus. Just like our physical hearts can get clogged up with cholesterol, our spiritual hearts can do the same with all the things we hold in there. And just like our physical heart, even if it gets cleaned out, we have to be cautious and watchful that it doesn’t get clogged up again.

Our Blessed Mother Mary, who was known to keep the actions and sayings of Jesus in her heart (Luke 2:51), can be a guide for us. She pondered the will of God and joyfully did it. Her thoughts and actions stemmed from a pure love of God; the passion that drove her to say ‘Yes’ to the annunciation as well as following Jesus to the hill of Calvary. Let us ask her to help us to unite our hearts with hers and Jesus’ and to help clear our hearts from the stumbling blocks that have built up in them.

Catholic Girl Journey

Daily success

The commencement speech by Admiral McRaven, providing reasons why a person should make his bed in the morning, prompted me to think about my routines and what equates to a successful day. I devised a list of five key activities to make each day successful. Three items are completed prior to other activities and two before bed.

As the Admiral indicated, the first thing to do after getting up out of bed in the morning is to make it. It does give a person a sense of accomplishment; plus, on days that are trying, a made bed is not nearly as inviting to go back to as a unmade bed. The second thing to do is pray. While it may seem a no-brainer on a Catholic faith blog, it is something that needs to be planned for and accommodated. I usually read the Magnificat morning prayers, the Mass readings and the reflection and then follow up with a rosary. All that can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how focused (or awake) I am. Morning prayers are essential, as they provide a prospective to God acting both in your life and in the world.

Lastly for the morning routine is to take care of the dishes. It only takes a few moments to place the items in the dishwasher and I find it so encouraging to come home to a clean kitchen. I discovered, however, the days when I run the dishwasher at night as I’m heading off to bed, I usually end up leaving the breakfast dishes in the sink next morning. Unfortunately, those work days seem to be more stressful and I end up leaving the dinner dishes keeping the breakfast ones company in favor of having some “me” time. Realizing the chain of events that kept happening, I saw how important it is to not just take the time, but to make the time to unload/reload the dishwasher. There seems to be more “me” benefit to having an orderly kitchen then the few extra minutes I’d have doing something else.

After learning my lesson with dishes, the first action item to finish out the day on successful note is to clean up the dinner dishes! Even if the day was a complete failure, you have a made bed and a clean kitchen from the morning; why allow failure to continue? After cleaning up dinner, the next activity is evening prayer. The Magnificat evening prayer only takes about 5 minutes to read, although meditation can take longer. Taking the time to connect again with God about the high (blessing) and the low (suffering) points completes the perspective of God acting in your life. Thanking Him for the blessings and the ability to suffer through our trials can put both in perspective. Life’s not meant to be all of blessings or trials, but reflecting on our daily lives can provide a sense of peace and purpose to each.

Pulling back the bedcovers at the end of the day, if the only thing we accomplished are those five actions, we can call that day successful. We started the day with accomplishments and renewed our relationship with God. We completed the day by not letting the day’s failure to continue and brought our focus back to one who is the center of our lives.

Catholic Girl Journey

Challenging the comfort zone

As part of the gift I gave my niece on her high school graduation was a magnet that read, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” I’m wondering if I really bought it for her, or because I need to be reminded of that.

Jesus’ teaching challenged the comfort zone during His time on earth, but He also  continues to challenge us in our time, especially in a secular culture. While it may not seem a big issue today, when Jesus talked to a woman He did not know, He was breaking a big taboo from His culture. Today, it may be easier for us to remain silent rather than speak the truth, but that is what we are called to do. Just like the woman at the well that Jesus spoke to, when He ignited her heart with the truth, she left her water jug and went to announce that truth to those who had previous shunned her. By our actions and our words, we are called to evangelize and bring the good news of Jesus to those around us.

As I search for a new job, some family suggested that I apply to companies closer to where they are located. While I don’t want to waste the time and resources of another company if I’m not ready to consider relocating to a different state, trying to determine if this is God’s will for me is not easy. I love my parish now and am active in many different ways. I have the opportunity for daily Mass and adoration is available 12 or more hours each day. Researching parishes in the new area, they seem to be active in different ways and may not have daily Mass or adoration. If my faith support system is not there, is a move a good option? Or am I so comfortable in my routine now that the thought of not having the same in the new location is serving as a deterrent? Perhaps moving to a location would allow me to try new ministries and grow my faith in different ways. Maybe the real challenge to my comfort zone is: can I allow Jesus to lead me where He wants me to go by providing a job offer in the location where I am to be, either my current location or a new one?

Jesus never promised His followers that life would be easy or that we would be comfortable with everything He asks us to do. He only promises that He will be with us every step of the way and that by doing His will, we will be happy in this life and forever with Him in the next.


Catholic Girl Journey

The gift of time

We measure it in the smallest of increments. We use it to mark milestone achievements and to remember special occasions. We complain about never having enough, but usually waste more of it than we should. Time is a precious gift from God, when have you thanked Him for it?

Time and space are two aspects that apply to God’s creation, but not to God. He is beyond time and space since He is eternal. He is without beginning or end. Yet He chose to become a part of His creation at a particular moment. Jesus, the second person in the Triune God, experienced the effects of a body changing from a wee  babe to an adult man. I wonder if, as a child, was He able to heal Himself immediately after scraping His knees? Or was He patient and let His body heal over time? He celebrated special occasions, like the wedding feast of Cana. And He experienced tears as He wept at Lazarus’ tomb, even though He knew He would bring him back to life. Being united with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit did not lessen the intensity of the pain and suffering of His Passion and Death; He felt each strike and lived each moment of agony. Yet it was all a gift of time for us.

Being in time and space allows us to journey, to prepare ourselves for eternity. We are given the option to choose: with God or without God. In order to be able to make the final choice upon death, we need to know a bit about what we are either choosing or declining. Every day we get the opportunity to meet God through His creation and learn more about Him. We get to practice following the example that Jesus gave us. If we say ‘no’ to Him one day, we can change our minds the next and say ‘yes.’ Saying ‘no’ to God damages the relationship we have with Him, but through the sacrament of reconciliation, we have the opportunity to repair the relationship and repent of our choices. All this is possible with the gift of time and through the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus.

We cannot speed it up and we can’t slow it down. We can only live each moment we are given. Let us live each one through the grace of God, with the peace of God and for the love of God.

Catholic Girl Journey

Who art in heaven

As I was praying the Our Father recently, an odd question popped into my head: Why do we state where God is? It’s not like there are multiple gods out there which we need to differentiate. It’s not like He changes locations with the seasons that we would need to keep His whereabouts in mind. And how is it that we humans can definitively know where God is?

Heaven is not about a physical place or space, as we define location. Rather it calls to mind that God is not a being limited to our world. He is Creator of all, so His signature is on everything we see around us. That helps us to bring Him to mind and ponder what He is like. After all, what better way to get to know someone than to look at what He has created? But creation does not fully reveal who God is, rather provides us examples of what God is like. Creation can lead us to a relationship with God, but not to God Himself.

If God is not a being limited to this world, then He is beyond it. When humans first roamed the earth, they had no idea what was above the clouds, as the clouds, sun, moon and stars were beyond their reach. It makes sense that the first definition for heaven in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is, “the expanse of space that seems to be over the earth like a dome.” However, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “The symbol of the heavens refers us back to the mystery of the covenant we are living when we pray to our Father. … [Christians] are in the flesh, but do not live according to the flesh. They spend their lives on earth, but are citizens of heaven.“ (CCC: 2795-6) Does that mean the Our Father is not reminding us that God is elsewhere, but that we are called to live with the hope and anticipation of getting there?

Jesus Christ came down from heaven by being born of a woman and ascended back into heaven after He completed His mission (His passion, death and resurrection). He has bridged the gap between the two realms. He has taught us to keep heaven in mind when praying by using it not just once, but a second time so that we ask for God’s will to be ‘done on earth as it is in heaven.’ Heaven is not a state of mind, but a state of which to be mindful.

Mary at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, Washington DC

Describe Mary

There are many words that are used to describe Mary: blessed, virgin, holy, queen, immaculate, mother, etc. Those that come to mind often seem to put her far away from us and make our relationship more formal than intimate. Sometimes it can be easy to forget that she is, after all,  human.

“Mother” seems to be used most often and can be more of a title than just a description. She is: Mother of God, Mother of Jesus, Mother of the Church and our mother, just to name a few. She was a also a spouse and caregiver to her family. Do we ever think of her bandaging the hand of St. Joseph when a hammer went awry? While we don’t know how St. Joseph died, any nursing activities would have been handled by Mary. She also wiped the nose of Jesus and kissed a few bruised knees and elbows as He was growing up. She cooked, cleaned and probably made their clothes. She cared for the needs of both Joseph and Jesus.

Mary did minister to human needs while she was on earth. Now that she is in heaven, her care is spiritual. Her goal is for all God’s children to be with Him in heaven. She has given us the Rosary as a tool for us to ponder Jesus’ life on earth and to help us cultivate a relationship with Him. She does such a good job, sometimes it’s easier to think of Jesus being human than Mary! Even in the prayer that we think of as hers, the Hail Mary, it’s really a vehicle to praise God for filling her with grace, blessing her among all women, and blessing her as the mother of Jesus.

Mary is also a woman of action. She does not sit by and wish that her children would do God’s will. She visits us with messages of correction and direction. Guadalupe, Knock, Lourdes, Fatima, Loreto, and Medjugorje are just some of the few places that Mary has made an appearance. She wants what is best for us and what could be better than an eternity with God? She cares for us spiritually as she did for Joseph and Jesus while she was on earth. She seeks out those who are like herself to spread her message: simple, humble, and loving.

Mary is never far away from us and will gladly lead us to a deeper relationship with God. She is human and can truly understand our needs. Let us put ourselves in her caring hands and walk with her in our spiritual journey to be closer to God.   

Catholic Girl Journey

The first Eucharist

Oh the smell of freshly baked bread; it makes one feel at home. In ancient times, one did not go to the store to buy bread, it would have been made at home. I wonder who made the bread for the first Eucharist?

I love receiving Jesus in Holy Communion and I equally enjoy spending time with Him in adoration, but the perfect round host is vastly different from what was used at the Last Supper. It was an unleavened bread, but was it round or oval/rectangular? Did it have any flavoring to it, like some olive oil or honey? Was it large, like pie-sized, or small, like a dessert plate? While the details may not matter in terms of belief, thinking about them can draw us closer to Jesus, especially to His human nature.

The month of May seems to be popular for children receiving their first Holy Communion and is synonymous with Mary, as she is often crowned during May processions. These two ideas collided in my head and made me wonder if Mary made the bread for the first Eucharist? We know she was in Jerusalem, since she was at the foot of the cross. And being Jesus’s mom, I’m sure she helped His earthly ministry in whatever ways she could. It almost seems like a logical progression: she gave birth to Jesus, and thus provided Him with His human body, so who else would be the one to make the bread that would become the first Eucharist, the transubstantiated presentation of Jesus Himself? And did she continue making the bread that was used for the Eucharistic celebrations after Jesus ascended into heaven?

Picture the scene at that Last Supper when Jesus picked up the bread made by Mary with a mother’s love, and blessed it, performing the first consecration, and then shared it with the people He loved the most, the men he called to follow Him. Now wrap that all up into the host the next time you receive Communion or are in adoration. It’s food for thought and prayer.