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

Called to minister

Do you have a ministry? While some are called to spend their whole lives in service in holy orders, all Christians are called to minister.

According to Merriam-Webster, one of the definitions of minister is ‘to give aid or service.’ Aid seems to be a very appropriate part of the definition, as it implies that a person receiving it is in need of help or assistance. The Beatitudes and the named works of mercy call us to be open to opportunities to help others in their need. Sometimes we are called look deeper and provide help in ways we may not have expected.

An Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion is a lay person who has been granted the privilege to distribute Holy Communion during Mass and/or immediately following to those who are unable to attend due to sickness or circumstance. On the surface, it seems quite simple in the Mass setting. As an individual approaches, the minister says, “The Body of Christ” when offering the host, or “The Blood of Christ” for the chalice. The recipient says, “Amen” and the sacrament is given. But in that moment, the recipient is coming to the Lord for His sustenance. One can look at an extraordinary minister as just a vehicle used to dispense the sacrament or an active participant in the exchange.

Being an extraordinary minister, I can’t say I’m totally comfortable giving out Communion and I hope I never will be, for when it becomes comfortable will be when I feel I don’t have appropriate respect for the Eucharist. I approach it with a mixture of awe, knowing I’m unworthy, and a bit of fear of messing up (like spilling the ciborium).

Recently I was asked to substitute at a Mass I normally attend. There were many faces I recognized and various attitudes of those receiving. However as one woman received, she seemed troubled. I did not recall her from the past and I can’t say it was one thing in particular, but rather the whole act of receiving that formed the “troubled” thought in my mind. Immediately another thought followed that I should pray for her. I don’t know who she was or what help she needed, but if through my prayers she could receive the aid she needed, then I felt obliged to pray for her. Perhaps other extraordinary ministers routinely pray for those who receive from their hands. For me though, it was a defining moment that the ministry can go deeper than what is expected if I am open to God’s will. 

We are all called to serve God in many ways, but even the simplest and most obvious can be deeper if we remain open to God’s call. Our yes to God is never a once-and-done response, but a continual call. How are you called to serve or go deeper?

Catholic Girl Journey

Saints on earth

A person who is declared a saint in heaven is perfect. They have reached perfection and now enjoy being in the presence of God. But it wasn’t always this way. The saints were once…human.

While working out recently, the gym had the Golf channel on, and while I was not actively watching it, I couldn’t help but listen to it with my subconscious. While I have no idea who the announcers were referring to, a comment was made to the effect that one of the pro golfers was seen practicing and having trouble with a particular shot. It surprised them since this particular player made that shot look so easy and second nature when playing in tournaments. When I heard the comment, I silently laughed at it and asked myself, “How do they think she got that way? She practiced and keeps at it!”

When saints are on this earth, they are much like that pro golfer. They may make it seem easy to put their faith into action, but it’s only after many years of practice and hardship, and of trial and error. Some days are good and some are filled with doubt. We hear about saints who were called by God at a young age, or have had apparitions of Jesus or Mary and think ”Well, I that hasn’t happened to me, so I’ll just go on living my life.” However, whether we receive an engraved invitation from God or not, we are all called to become saints and we are all called to be holy. Often the ones who have had a special call from God have a larger task from Him and need extra support.

Just like a pro golfer continues to practice as a professional, a saint is not a saint until they reach heaven. That means their whole life is spent in practice. It starts with a solid prayer life that seeks out a relationship with God. Just like the various strokes of the golfer, sometimes the prayer connection is strong and other times it’s a fight to pay attention. Some tournaments are won by the golfer and some have a lower ranking. For a saint-in-training, sometimes we succeed in the tasks God gives us and sometimes we fall short. Whether we are doing well or not, prayer for a saint-to-be is like practice to the pro golfer.

God calls all of us to become saints. It’s up to us if we are willing to spend a life in practice and hard work, responding to His call.

Catholic Girl Journey

Faith is more than a feeling

The Easter season gives us plenty of time to ponder the mysteries of our faith and reaffirm what we believe.

From a human perspective, we can attempt to understand the passion and death of Jesus. But His resurrection and ascension into heaven, as well as the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, are a bit beyond human reasoning. We say we believe all of these things because we have faith, but what does that really mean? According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Faith is man’s response to God, who reveals himself and give himself to man, at the same time bringing man a superabundant light as he searches for the ultimate meaning of his life (CCC 26).

After 2000 years, time does not make the resurrection and ascension any easier to understand. Even the apostles, the men that spent the most time with Jesus, had a hard time understanding what happened. Of course the most extreme example is Thomas, who refused to believe the other apostles when they told him of seeing Jesus after the crucifixion, until the Lord appeared and invited him to touch the nail holes and spear mark. Most of us will not experience the physical presence of Jesus, and so faith is not based on the tangible.

Faith is also not just a good feeling. Performing good deeds, spending time with Jesus in prayer, and adoration may make us feel good, but that is not faith. Our feelings can change from day to day and even minute to minute. To base what we believe and act upon solely on how we feel can be dangerous and Satan can use our feelings to explain away sin. In the lives some of the saints, their faith was tested by withholding the good feeling; Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta is one example.

Faith is a gift from God. If we choose to accept it, then it will grow based on how much effort we put forth into having a relationship with Him. It cannot be measured by the physical sciences and it cannot be diluted into a warm, fuzzy sense of being. It is as diverse as the population of the earth, since it reflects the uniqueness of a personal relationship with the Divine. Even the the most faith-filled person can have doubts from time to time. It is in these times of questioning that we can dive more deeper into a relationship with our Almighty Creator and our Savior.