Catholic Girl Journey

All things new

In the midst of a brutally cold start to winter, it can be hard to imagine the newness of springtime with the grass turning green and buds ready to burst  into flower. But in a way, Christmas and New Year’s Day are all about beginning again and starting anew.

The celebration of Christmas lasts for 12 days and near the middle is the first day of our calendar year. One can see the correlation between celebrating the birth of a child as the beginning of not just the child’s life, but also a new start for the family into which the baby is born. I find it rather significant that Christmas and New Year’s Day are so close together.

If we go deeper into the mystery of the Incarnation, we might be aware that by the simple act of  becoming man, Jesus has blessed and sanctified the everyday actions of family life. Eating, sleeping, working, learning and teaching were all things that the Holy Family engaged in as Jesus grew to maturity. The venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen said, “Our Lord spent three hours in redeeming, three years in teaching and thirty years in obeying…” Jesus was part of a family for 30 years, being a dutiful Son, not just to God the Father, but also to His earthly parents, Mary and Joseph. Do we consider our work, both household chores as well as our occupation, as something holy? Do we consider the relationships within our family as something sacred, especially with our parents? Do we respect the body’s need for rest and give it the amount of sleep it needs? How about the need for food and drink?  Do we hurry through our meals or do we take the time to enjoy the flavors and seek to nourish ourselves with a healthy variety of foods?

The calendar that we follow numbers the years based on the birth of Christ. While man has been on the earth much longer than 2,018 years, in a way creation was started again with the birth of Jesus and our daily life was sanctified  through this gift.Perhaps as we begin another year, a good  resolution would be to be to cognizant of the holiness of daily life in order to grow closer to God.

May you have a blessed new year in the journey God has planned for you!

Catholic Girl Journey

The gift exchange

A Blessed and Merry Christmas!

What constitutes a good Christmas for you? Fifty percent of the gifts you receive you like and will actually use? Is it less or more? In this season of giving, somehow even though it is “the thought that counts”, the culture is obsessed with the gifts we receive and what we do with them. But what about the giver?

Have you ever thought you found the perfect gift for someone only to see the happy expression of receiving a gift freeze on their face as they try to find something nice to say? In that circumstance both the giver and the receiver are disappointed. The receiver wonders what the giver was thinking when they picked out that gift while the giver is wondering why the receiver does not like it. After a few experiences like that, it’s easy just to give up and give gift cards so the receiver can buy whatever he/she wants or needs.

It’s one thing when a gift is not functioning or too small/large. But sometimes, if you give a gift a chance, you end up liking it much more than when you first received it. Sometimes other people’s perspective is deeper than we care to admit and their gifts do have purpose and meaning even when we don’t think so upon receiving them. It’s the same with God’s gift to us: His Son, Jesus.

Jesus is a gift in the truest sense of the meaning: a voluntary transfer between two people without compensation. He puts His glory aside and takes the form of one of his creatures, man, with the sole purpose of dying in order to save us. He spent His time on earth to teach us how to live as the Father wants us to live, in His love. We may think that when we “put Jesus on”, His ways may not fit us well. But if we keep trying, He may just become our favorite gift of all.

God knows us much better that we know ourselves and the gift of Jesus fits every person perfectly. It’s only when we cast God and His gift aside, in favor of what we think we need and want, that we find ourselves less than satisfied. Perhaps Jesus will be a gift we not only treasure, but give to others as well.

Catholic Girl Journey

Exhausted

After traveling in the last trimester of pregnancy on a donkey, exhaustion is probably a relatively mild way to describe how Mary was feeling when she and Joseph finally came to Bethlehem. Was their relief more about reaching their destination safely or because Mary did not deliver on the way? With many people traveling for the census, how many mothers did Mary encounter who relayed their birthing experiences to her: the good, the bad and the horrible? How desperate and discouraging was it for them to try to find a place to stay? A place of shelter for the baby to be born was not found with the kinfolk of Joseph in Bethlehem for the census, but rather in a crude shelter for the animals.

And how are we feeling in this third week of Advent with Christmas less than a week away? This year the whole fourth week of Advent is summed up in one day: Christmas eve. Are we looking joyfully towards the wonderful day of celebration? Or are we exhausted from trying to make the rounds of the Christmas parties, the shopping, the baking, the decorating, and all other activities that come this time of the year? Are we already tired of hearing the Christmas music and watching the Christmas shows on TV? I would hazard a guess that very few people would confidently say they are ready for Christmas: physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

In many ways our frenzied secular celebration of Christmas leaves us as exhausted as the soon-to-be parents coming into Bethlehem. So what do we do now? Stay up late and wake up early to get everything prepared? Spend three times the cost of the gift for overnight delivery? Or do we seek out the simple, the humble, and the barest of necessities? Do we trust in God to carry us through, to help us to prioritize what needs to get done, knowing that everything we do cannot even begin to compare with the birth of Jesus?

Let us take the time now to find that little quiet place and prepare the stable of our hearts for the coming of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords in the little baby Jesus. Let us seek the help, guidance, and support of Mary and Joseph, who know all too well the exhaustion before Christmas. Let us seek out the peace that only Christ can bestow to those who follow the star to where He lay.

Catholic Girl Journey

Seeking Jesus

I would like to say that I was fully concentrating on Mass this past Sunday, but I have to admit reminders of my seasonal extra long to-do list kept popping into my consciousness. I shouldn’t have been surprised when after receiving the communion host, it stuck to the roof of my mouth. It was almost like Jesus asking me to be still and silent; pay attention to Him. After all, He will only be physically present for a few moments in the host until it dissolves. Could I spare the time?

Advent is the preparation time for Christmas, and while it’s great that we want to prepare to celebrate with family and friends, the most important person to celebrate with is Jesus, who truly is the reason for the season. In the journey of life, Jesus has told us “…seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” (Matthew 6:33) If we seek first a closer relationship with God, won’t all the blessings of this celebration be even better?

In some regards Christmas preparations are like preparing gifts for a birthday party for everyone else except the one whose birthday it is. Can you imagine celebrating the birthday of a parent/spouse/child/friend by giving gifts to everyone EXCEPT them? What about if you went out and celebrated but didn’t invite the guest of honor? The Church, in her wisdom, gives us the time to prepare for Christ’s nativity with 4 Sundays to call us to reflection and repentance. In making time to seek Jesus, finding out what our stumbling blocks are and clearing them out, we prepare our minds, hearts and souls to receive Him. By celebrating Him first, we are better attuned to be able to bless others with His love and peace.

Can you spare a few extra moments in reflection of what Christmas is all about? Will we respond to the message of the angels? Can we look at the signs in the stars and start the journey towards His manger? Can we prepare our minds, hearts and souls to be a gift to baby Jesus? He’s not an item on the checklist. But if you give the Lord of Time but a moment, completely and without reserve, you give Him the best gift of all: yourself.

Catholic Girl Journey

Prophet for today

During the Church’s morning prayer, the Canticle of Zechariah is recited. I’ve been using the Magnificat for over 10 years now and was always confused as to why this was included in the morning prayer, especially the part where he addresses his newborn son.

The prayer is taken from Luke 1:68-79, when Zechariah’s tongue is freed after indicating that John would be his son’s name, as the angel had foretold. This inspiration from the Holy Spirit prompted him to not just praise God, but announce that:

“You, my child, shall be called the  prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way, to give his people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins.” (Lk 1:76-77).

For the longest time, I would read/pray this as a point of history. There will never be another John the Baptist, so why do we repeat this daily? Is it just to praise God for what He has done in the past? If that’s the case, then most of the Bible would be prayed in the same way. Yet we look to scripture to find our way in the world, to seek God and His direction for our lives today.

Recently as I was praying this one morning, the thought came to me that it is addressed to us, every single Catholic. We are all called to go out and share the good news with others. We now become the prophets of the Most High, calling others to follow Jesus and prepare the way for Him to come into their hearts and lives. Now this makes perfect sense to have this prayer every morning, to remind us what our mission in life is: preparing others for the coming of the Lord. And how should we go about doing this? By giving the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins. This is a very specific directive. People cannot appreciate being saved, unless they know from what they are being saved. If we educate people that the choices they make can be sins, and they are free to make those choices, but there will be consequences of those actions, it’s in this way they can start to appreciate Jesus coming to save them.

As we look into the mirror every morning as we prepare for the day, we look at the prophet God is sending out into the world: you and me. Let our actions reflect that mission to others.

Catholic Girl Journey

Temptation

By Sunday, all I wanted to do was become one with the recliner and take it easy. Thanksgiving week was wonderful, but very busy with much preparation and it had left me tired. The oddest thought struck me… that I should stay home, curl up in my chair and nap. But I needed to get to Mass, after all, it is my Sunday obligation.

Skipping Mass is not an idea I wanted to entertain. But with every thought of how comfy the easy chair was, came the whisper that it would be okay if I just missed it this once. ‘I don’t want to think that way!’ I kept telling myself. The thought of missing Mass seemed absurd, so why did it keep coming into my head? Why did it feel that my limbs weighed a 100 pounds each when I tried to get myself ready? It seemed the more I pushed away the thought, the stronger and harder it came and the harder it was for me to get ready.

Temptations come in all sorts of sizes, styles and timings. They come to us not when we are strong, but when we are weak. They come under the cloak of logic, they seem like they are the correct choice to make. Even if we say ‘no’ at first, they keep reminding us of what we want instead of what God wants, which entices us to think about them and consider the possibility. Sometimes we can identify them for what they are: temptations. But it doesn’t always make it any easier to combat. But the temptation itself is not a sin, nor is the battle; it is only when we choose to give into the temptation does it win over us.

I did manage to make it to Mass just as the entrance hymn was being sung. I wish I could have been more timely, but at least I didn’t give up. I kept battling myself to keep moving until I got myself to Church. But it was not my victory, it was Jesus’, as He gave me the grace to succeed, as long as I persevered. While this was just a skirmish in the big picture of my life, it all adds up. Seeing how it played out gave me the opportunity to affirm to God that I believe in Him and that He will see me through. And my nap in the recliner was much more restful and peaceful after I came home from Mass.

Catholic Girl Journey

My choice, my responsibility

If a non-believer asked you why does it matter if they believe in God, how would you answer?

I was watching a video from Bishop Robert Barron about ‘Reaching the iGens’, which concerns individuals who have grown up in a post i-phone world and the alarming number who have no religious affiliation. They are considered the ‘nones.’ He pointed out a few main considerations to think about when evangelizing to them. For instance, he mentioned seeing a billboard in California that seemed to sum up their attitude: “My Life, My Death, My Choice”… a total contradiction from the Catholic perspective, in which these are God’s choices.

The idea of having an opportunity to evangelize a ‘none’ person has me thinking of what I would say. There are so many ways to express why I believe, but most end up starting with the assumption of a belief in God, a higher power. But what about those who claim that since science hasn’t found any evidence of God, that the Bible is just a bunch of fables and tall tales like Greek and Roman mythology? I think the answer lies in society’s preoccupation with choice. Every marketing campaign starts with knowing that the consumer has a choice, they want you to choose their product. But a plethora of choices surrounds us: from the number of TV channels to ways to watch TV, to opportunities to dine out, what to make at home or even a combination of ordering from McDonalds and having it delivered by Uber. Among all these choices, how do you make a case to choose God?

“It’s my right to choose,” is far too often a defensive cry. But what if we turned that into the basis of our argument for God? Yes, we all have the right to choose, but who gives us that right? God does. He gave us freewill to either invite Him into our lives willingly or to turn away and ignore Him. However, with every choice there is a responsibility one has to accept for making that choice. For example, if I decide I don’t feel like going to work and I stay home, I have to accept the responsibility that at some point my employer is going to terminate my employment. It might not happen immediately, but eventually some disciplinary action will occur. If a person chooses to ignore God, He’s not going to go away, but at the point of their death, they must accept the consequences of this choice – eternal damnation. Would you want to wait until the point of death to realize that there is a God? God is merciful, so depending on how one lives their life, it’s still possible to reconcile with God even at that last possible moment.

I choose to believe in God. I believe that He will help me become the best version of myself. I will never reach perfection on earth, but I try because I know He’s supporting me. Even when my world seems rocked and anxiety starts creeping in, His peace is never far away. Living my life for God gives me purpose, direction and guidance along the way. I’m choosing to believe in God because I’m responsible, not just for what I do or not do in this life, but also for what happens after I die. I don’t want to wait until then to find out I should have done things differently. That reality may happen sooner than I think!