Bridge Out-Week 7

I remember when my husband was still alive, he would say “why do you always say you are wrestling with God?” The short answer to this is I am very aware that Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.”  (John 14:6-11). Jesus didn’t say a few lucky sinners would slip through the cracks, or several might get a free pass.  No, Jesus said, NO ONE comes to the Father except through Him.  So, this is why I wrestle because I know this Truth and, yet, I often still want to have “my will be done”.  I want to say “yes, with these conditions.”  If we are honest, we all do this to one degree or another.  We want to be God and when we play God, we stop trusting God because we think we know better.  We allow sin to slowly creep into our life and if we are not careful, we end up completely rebelling against God.

When I think about wrestling with God, I have this image of Jesus standing firmly planted, strong in appearance, and me, beating on His chest, asking lots of questions, like “Why?” “Why do bad things happen? Why did you do this to me? Why can’t I just have things my way?”  I am completely okay with wrestling with God. For me, it is a necessity in my life. The alternative to wrestling with God, is wrestling with the devil, and I don’t want to go there. My personal image of the devil is a Jim Carey-like figure (no offense, Jim Carey) who gets you into trouble and then when things have become a mess, he slowly tiptoes out of the room, with a Cheshire cat grin, saying: “Wow, you have really made a mess out of your life, gee, look at the time, I’ve got to go!” Don’t mess with the evil one. He is very real.

We live in a society where sin has become glamorous, acceptable and in a lot of cases, just normal and expected. We have forgotten the seriousness of sin–we have forgotten that NO ONE comes to the Father through sinning. The only way to the Father is through Jesus, most especially through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and sincere repentance.  Sin ruins our relationship with God and others. We see this in Genesis 3.

I can’t remember if it was this week of Re-Routing or not, but one of our priests said you are either walking toward the darkness or you are walking toward the Light.  I understand this. It is so easy to get re-routed in the wrong direction!  It can be so easy to turn away from God if we are not on guard. Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil.” Ephesians 6:11.  I talked about this with my kids this week.  We talked about saying things to each other that hurt each other. When we do this, we are not only hurting each other, we are hurting God.  When we don’t seek forgiveness from each other, we end up continuing a pattern of saying things that we don’t mean.  We let the devil take over our interactions.  If we seek forgiveness from each other and say we are sorry, we are walking toward the Light.  We are interrupting the destructive path of the devil.   If we hold onto grudges or bitterness toward each other, we are walking toward darkness.  I pray this week we can all help each other walk towards the Light.

From my prayer journal:

Heavenly Father, I often wonder why things happen the way they do.  I often forget that you have your hand in everyone’s life, not just mine—even when we are in sin, you are right there waiting for us to turn back to you.  Thank you for all the times in my life when you have been so patient with me.  Thank you for loving me through the bad times.  Thank you for taking on my sin, not only once in a while, but every time!  Please do not grow weary of me because I am still a sinner in need of a Savior. Help me to never forget the seriousness of sin because I want to live free and I long to live in union with You. I want to love purely—forgive me for the times I have failed to do this.  Give me the strength and courage to stand up against the games of the devil.

 I pray for those who are in spiritual battle even if they don’t know it. I pray for my parish family that we will stay close to you through prayer so as to build a fortress to protect us from the attacks of the evil one.  Help us to know that we are worthy of your love and there is nothing that we have done, that will make you abandon us, if we would just let you into our life fully and completely, and without hesitation. Please bring us closer to being the missionary disciples you have called each one of us to be. We need you.

 Amen.

 

 
Continue reading “Bridge Out-Week 7”

Re-Routing Week 6-Merge

Last weekend at Mass, Fr. John Riccardo asked the congregation if there was anyone present that wasn’t looking for true happiness.  Of course nobody raised their hand!  Who isn’t looking for true happiness?  Who doesn’t want to be loved and to love? In Genesis 2, we learn what it means to be human. We were made in the image and likeness of God to be in relationship with God and with our neighbor. “It is not good for man to be alone.” We also learn that woman was made to be a helper to man–to help him be human. If you look at all of this in its purest sense, I think it is absolutely the most beautiful thing about marriage and friendships. I have thought about this a lot this week. Being married for almost 22 years, and now a widow, I understand God’s words.  They make sense to me.  Yet, if God has made us this way, why do we often find it so difficult to be happy or to love?  Why do we allow sin to taint our relationships with each other? Why do we fear loving each other and serving each other with full surrender and vulnerability? What would happen if we did?  We, meaning, our culture, like to twist love (through rebellion), instead of understanding it as God has meant it to be. Back in November, I was at a Theology of the Body Conference for a week where we were immersed in Genesis 2 for about 8 hours a day. I would say it took me a good day and a half to untwist my mind from the culture. Imagine those who don’t know God—Genesis 2 must seem impossible to understand!  However, I believe our culture is searching for God–for authentic, true, pure love, even if we don’t know it.

The question Father posed at the end of his homily was God saying to us, “Will you trust me?” Do we trust God?  Do we know that He has our best interests in mind?  He gives us gifts, if we would just recognize them. God also gives us free will to make decisions. We are free to choose death(sin) or we are free to choose life. I want to choose life. I want freedom that only God can give.  When we choose sin, we choose to rebel, we choose to not love God or our neighbor. Sometimes we are so desperate to be loved, sin becomes our attempt to find love in an improperly ordered way.  I’m pretty sure this is not the route to happiness. A while back, I was listening to a Christian speaker say something that will stay with me forever.  He said  “When sin enters our marriages and we don’t love the way we should or we want to walk away from our marriage, we are saying that God’s power and grace that was given to us in the Sacrament of marriage isn’t strong enough to overcome our trials, our unhappiness–unhappiness that is often (not always)  caused by our own selfishness.” God knows our life. God knows that people can change. Circumstances can change. I get that more than most people. But, one thing doesn’t change.. God doesn’t change. Sin rejects God. We reject God. But, the Good News is our sin is never greater than God’s mercy because God is love–always, and forever.

“Beloved, let us love one another because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.”  1 John 4:7-8

Loving and gracious God, 

Only you know the deepest desires of my heart.  And, only you know how to satisfy them. Help me to love with a heart that is pure.  Help me to recognize the gifts that  you have given me. Don’t let me waste another day being selfish, instead, allow me to serve my family, my friends and my community in ways that reflect Your love. Thank you for teaching me what love is every time I see you nailed to the cross. You are the King of Kings. You are the Lover of my Soul. I love you, Lord, like no other. Yet, I still sometimes fail to trust you. But, every day, I try again and every day, your love remains unchanged.  Heal me, Lord, from all my past wounds. Carry me always and never let me feel alone. I pray earnestly for all marriages that have allowed sin and selfishness to invade their home.  You have the power to break these chains. Please break them. Heal the division in families because without families, our world seizes to exist.  Help me know my mission. My mission starts with my own family.  Lord, thank you for your personal call to each of us to live in holiness, to live in love, and to live in true happiness with you.  Brian, watch over me from heaven. I need you now more than ever. Amen.

 

 

 

Re-Routing Week 5-Road Work Ahead

“I believe in God, the Father, Creator of heaven and earth…”

How often do I say these words every week at Mass and never really think about what I am saying.  When we watched the video “How Great is Our God?” by Louie Guglia this week, I was thinking about this.  I have watched this video at least a dozen of times and every time I watch it something new hits me.  I love the last 10 minutes or so of this video the most.  I cry when I listen to these last 10 minutes, not only because it overwhelms me, but because God overwhelms me and I think how can I not trust Him with my life?  How can I question His plan so easily?  How can I not love more? Why am I not down on my knees in gratitude every minute of every day because God created me out of nothingness to share in His beauty and goodness?  I have been through a lot of things in my life and I can honestly say that choosing to trust God, the Creator of the Universe, is not easy.  That sounds so absurd!  Really?  If I can’t trust the Creator of the Universe, then who can I trust? By God’s grace, ever since I became a widow almost 2 years ago,  I realize more and more every day  that there is absolutely no other way to live than by trusting God.  But, what does that mean concretely?  This is what it means for me.  It means I don’t do ANYTHING big without taking it to prayer.  It means I don’t make decisions in the heat of anger, sorrow or sadness.  It means I am patient. It means I look to the word of God for answers to moral and spiritual dilemmas. It means I thank God in all circumstances and for all things–both good and bad.  It means I try to live a moral life and when I fail, I repent. It means I put my hope in Him and nothing else. It means I let Him love me.  I asked a spiritual director a couple of years ago this question, “How do I know when something is from God and not from my own head?” and he said “when it is rooted in Truth and Love, then you know it comes from God.”  Great answer! But, I have also learned that you have to know what Truth is and you have to know what Love is– meaning I have to know Jesus.

Here are some words from “How Great is our God?” that help me know who Jesus is.

“So,  you are at the toughest place in your life? How can you know that God is going to hold you together and bring you through?  You know because there is a cross standing over history and it is looming over this building tonight.  It is the place where the Star-Breather became the Sin- Bearer where the Universe-Maker became mankind’s Savior and it is proof that God doesn’t always change the circumstances.  He did not change them for Jesus on that hillside outside of Jerusalem. But, the cross is also proof that God always has a purpose in the circumstances and that His purpose and His plan will prevail & will triumph through any circumstance in this world.”  Through death, through illness, through trials, through temptations, God’s plan will prevail and He will stand in the midst of all this with us, “I will renew your strength and when you think you can’t take one more breath, I will give you enough to keep going on, and to keep going,….”

HOW GREAT IS OUR GOD?

Father, I pray tonight that I will personally know the depth of your love for me as you are  “star-breather” who became the “sin-bearer”. Watch over my children as they sleep and when they are awake, help me to be a living example to them of God’s great love story.  I prayer in a special way for marriages and families and for all priests, deacons, laity and religious sisters who make it their mission to further God’s plan for all of creation, in particular, God’s plan for marriage.  Thank you for the gift of wisdom. Thank you for the gift of life.  Amen.

There is another great video that I have watched with my kids that is worth viewing with your family.  It is by the Skitguys and the title is “God’s Chisel–Remastered.”  “You are God’s masterpiece.”

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Re- Routing -Week 4- Fog Area

I am not sure if it is coincidence or not that week 4 of re-routing was called “fog area.” I was tempted not to share a blog this week because my prayer life was dry –no,  more like distracted.  Between my own physical illness and ailments, and the spiritual “dryness” this week, I was paralyzed and overwhelmed by all the fog in my life. I spent very little time talking with my children. I tried to sit with Jesus in Adoration but I was distracted with life, I tried to read Scripture, and I found myself just going through the motions. And then the attacks came by the Evil one, telling me “you can’t blog about re-routing, you can’t even get your life together this week. You are not loved, you can’t be a missionary disciple– look at you!” And so it went on…

Do you recognize the spiritual battles in your life that prevent you from loving like Jesus loves? I recognize spiritual battles much quicker in my life these days than I ever have before. In fact, there was a time in my life that I didn’t recognize them at all because I didn’t know Jesus and I didn’t recognize the evil one for who he is.  I am convinced this week that God was trying to purify my soul and remind me of my nothingness without Him. I finally gave myself permission to sit before the Blessed Sacrament in silence and give Him my emptiness, my spiritual battles, my physical battles and just let Him love me. I realized I did need to share because the Christian life isn’t always easy and it is not always joy (only because I am stubborn and choose to wrestle with God over my will, instead of accepting His will for me). A friend told me this week that the closer you get to Jesus, the stronger the battles. I have nothing that I want to publicly share from my prayer journal this week, but I do have part of a prayer to share from Divine Intimacy that I turn to in times of need:

“O my Jesus, true light, drive away the clouds of ignorance which come from my evil nature, and give me the grace to seek the truth with a sincere heart and to love it: for you, the Incarnate Word, are the Truth. Be the only light on my path, the only Master to guide my steps. I need You, eternal Truth, to liberate me from the slavery of my frailty and wretchedness, and from the passions which often blind my conscience and hinder me from complete adherence to the good and the true which You teach me. Your truth teaches me that You are He who is, and that I am one who is not: that You alone have worth, and I have no value; that You are All, and I am nothing, and if there is any good in me, it is a wholly gratuitous gift from You. O, Jesus, grant that I may seek Your truth and love it, even when it is painful, or when, like a two-edged sword, it lays bare my miseries, my faults, my sins. Let Your truth penetrate my whole being and all my acts: make me courageously reject every light which does not emanate from You!”

Praying to always see the Light in the areas of fog in our lives.

Re-Routing Emergency Vehicles-Week 3

Watching the clips of Saving Private Ryan are always tear-jerkers, but on this past Wednesday night’s showing, when Private Ryan asks his wife, “Tell me I led a good life. Tell me I’m a good man.” I thought, “Isn’t that what we all want in life—somebody to acknowledge that we have lived this life well?” In our group discussion on Wednesday, we talked a lot about following God’s plan for our life.  We were searching for an example of someone in today’s time that was a true example of what real surrender looks like. Mother (Saint) Teresa was our closest present day example. ALL the Saints are examples of surrender and they are living, even if we can’t see them, but we were looking for someone “in our midst” that was an example. We all have a lot of work to do! If we are all striving to be Saints, we need to be examples to each other. As I prayed about this the next couple of days, I realized I am always looking around for someone to show me how to do this. Jesus, Mary and the Saints have shown us time and time again how to do this, but, at least for me, if I am honest, I always think there has got to be an easier way. Hasn’t some  Saint-in-the-making, friend of mine out there, found a short cut to becoming a missionary disciple, a path void of suffering, to help me sell out for Jesus? An easier way to “earn it?” Nope!  When I talked with my kids this week about if they think daily about how Jesus has rescued us—how he has been our emergency vehicle, they gave me the honest answers. The reason we don’t think about what Jesus has done is because WE have made other things in our lives more important. It is as simple as that.

When we go to Mass, we participate in the summit of our faith. This is one of the most important things we can do as a family.  “The liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; it is also the font from which all her power flows. It is therefore the privileged place for catechizing the People of God. Catechesis is intrinsically linked with the whole of liturgical and sacramental activity, for it is in the sacraments, especially in the Eucharist, that Christ Jesus works in fullness for the transformation of men.” (CCC, 1074)

We get all that we are looking for in life at Mass.  At any place in the world, at any time, in any decade, even when the world seems to be falling apart, the Mass is a universal constant. We get to encounter the authentic love and mercy of Jesus–every time. One of the readings this week said “Christ is the same yesterday, today and always (Hebrews 13:8). Every Sunday He gives himself to us in the Word made flesh and in the Eucharist. Take this, all of you, and eat it: this is my body which will be given up for you. We have an opportunity every Sunday, and everyday to “know” the authentic at Mass—Jesus never changes. How refreshing is that in today’s world?

I am constantly in search of the authentic —I think we all are. Nobody is looking for counterfeit anything in life, yet, we settle for counterfeit all the time for fear that this is the best it gets. We want authentic friendships/marriages. We want people in our life that enjoy spending time with us for who we are. People who want to get to know the real “us.” We want real friends, not imaginary friends. Jesus is a real friend. He wants to spend time with us-always- and we should desire to spend time with Him. He wants to know us intimately, and if we are not ready, He waits patiently.

Dear Lord,

Thank you for the gift of your self. Forgive me for the times when I have not wanted to spend more time with you– when other things have been more important. You continue to show me the real meaning of love. You have shown me that love isn’t easy.   There is no love without sacrifice. The Mass reminds me of this all the time. The Mass brings me peace because with you I am safe—you rescue me. I come to you impoverished and broken, and, yet, I am never a burden to you. You take all of me in whatever state I come to you. You see me for who I am.

Help me to be a witness of love and mercy to others. Give me the humility to let these not be just words in my prayer journal. Give me the humility to recognize how I need to be different in my life. I beg for your pardon when I fail. There was a time in my life when I thought I knew better than you what was good for me, but you have chipped away at my walls and I have slowly, let you in. But, I know it’s not time to stand still. Every day, it is time to make a decision to give my all to you. I can barely write these words– that’s how broken I am. Thank you for your patience. Thank you for not giving up on me. Help me see the joy in the process of purification. I have been here before and I know that for every period of trial, your joy always awaits around the corner.

I have many people on my heart and mind to pray for today. I pray especially for (names left out for respect of those I am praying for).

Amen.

 

 

Re-Routing–On Ramps-Week 2

Wow!  This was a tough week!  There was so much to take in during Fr. Pierre’s homily. This was not a one-and-done kind of week.  Sunday’s homily (Week 2) and Wednesday night’s discussion, need more than a quick glance.  I think this week was a key week because it is hard to grasp being  a missionary disciple if I don’t have a good understanding of what I am called to do.  Here’s what I had to do this week to absorb all that was said at Mass and on Wednesday night:  I read the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, not once, but four times!  I didn’t read it four times because I felt ignorant, although I am, I read it four times so that it would penetrate my heart.  I wanted to read it like a letter to me, and not like a textbook.  The last time I read it, I put my name in the place of “the laity” or “the faithful”  and that changed everything.  What a responsibility I have–what a responsibility we all have!  Every day in prayer something different would speak to me.    The main thing that I found relevant to my daily life was:

Neither family concerns nor the other secular affairs should be irrelevant to their spiritual life, in keeping with the words of the Apostle, “whatever you do in word or work, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Col. 3:17). Such a life requires a continual exercise of faith, hope and charity.  Only by the light of faith & by meditation of the word of God can one always and everywhere recognize God in Whom “we live, & move, and have our being” (Act17:28), seek His will in every event, see Christ in everyone whether he be a relative or a stranger, & make correct judgements about the true meaning & value of temporal things both in themselves and in their relation to man’s final goal.” Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, 4.

My heart needs to be open to God’s will.  I need to pray about my role as a missionary disciple.  If I don’t take the time to pray about it, I am pretty sure that it is not going to happen.  Prayer changes everything, and it mostly changes me. I need to understand the right order of material possessions and pleasures in my life.  I long for God to permeate every area of my life, including my work, my leisure and my family life.

From my prayer journal:

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for the gift of this past week.  

Help me move forward this week understanding what it really means to have faith.  Help me to put myself at your disposal so that everything I do, I do for your glory.  I want to be a missionary disciple, but that means that I can not live in fear.  Give me the courage to hand my life over to you, to trust your will for my life, to accept your love and mercy no matter how unworthy I feel.  When I close my heart to you, I don’t find freedom–I find pain and more disappointment.  Jesus, I trust in your love.  I trust you will guide me. I trust you will show me the task that you have chosen specifically for me. I want to advance the kingdom of God, even here on earth, in my daily life.  I pray for opportunities to do this.  Even now, I ask for you to open my eyes to opportunities.  

Thank you for the personal gift of your Son who died for my sins.  Thank you for the opportunity to participate in the sacrifice of the Mass with my family.  Thank you for the families and marriages that make up this parish that are longing to know you. I don’t ever want Mass to be an empty ritual. Forgive me for the times that I am distracted at Mass and I forget that you are present.  I pray for abundant graces for all those who are struggling with their faith,  family or their marriage.  May the Holy Spirit enter the hearts and minds of my brothers and sisters in Christ and me so that we may surrender ever more fully to you.  I want this, I really do, but I need your strength and courage.  We need to be healed as a church and as a nation.  I need to be healed.  Jesus, I trust in you.

 

 

Re-routing….finding the way home

My Catholic church started something new last week—it’s called Re-Routing. What a perfect name! I could use some good, old-fashioned re-routing in my life. Re-Routing is a 14-week series that happens during the homily at Mass, with a deeper dive on Wednesday nights for those who are interested.   I have to admit, I was hesitant at first.  I have always told my self that I am accountable for my own relationship with Jesus.  I still am, but, I have realized I can’t do it alone.  I need the Body of Christ. The goal is for our parish to become a missionary parish full of missionary disciples. And, we become missionary disciples by selling out for the One that has given us everything, including the key to happiness, love, mercy and the promise of eternal life. That sounds amazing and daunting all at the same time! How do I do this in the culture that we live in? Besides that, how do I help a house full of teenagers get to know a Jesus who doesn’t text or have an instagram account? I need help! I’m all in for this Re-routing journey. I have nothing to lose and I’m dragging my teenagers along the best I can. Take a look at our parish website: www.olgcparish.net and click on Re-routing.   I hope you will join me in this journey, whether you belong to this parish or not. Please share your stories, your ideas and your prayers. My church wants to re-route a parish—I want to re-route a culture who sees no need for Jesus.   Jesus wants his world back, but it will only happen if we make the decision to bring our families back to Jesus. We can do this together.

My prayer journal after the first week of Re-Routing:

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for all the blessings you have given me. Thank you for all the trials you have seen me through. Even when I am convinced that you are not always present in my life, I can read through my prayer journal and realize that you were always there—always. Last night, we talked about our experience at Mass. I remember a time in my life when Mass wasn’t an experience—it was a “chore” as my son puts it. I am so sorry, Lord, for not understanding your Presence, for not even taking the time to care about your Presence. Instead, I just showed up every Sunday, counting the minutes for the hour to be over so I could get my “feel good” that I did what I was supposed to do. I am so sorry because I didn’t know You. I didn’t care to know You.

My journey to you has been long, but you have waited patiently for me. I don’t know if I could have ever experienced true joy in my life without you—not  just “good times” that leave me feeling empty once they are gone, but true joy that stands the test of time and brings peace.

Thank you, Lord, for opening my eyes, for opening my heart, especially at Mass. Thank you for the heart to experience with awe all that you have done for me personally. It hasn’t always been like that for me. But, now, when I see you nailed to the cross for my sins, I want to cry in overwhelming gratittude.  You must really love me to do that. How could you do that for me? I am so unworthy of that kind of love. Lord, help me to surrender to that kind of love and mercy everyday. Help me to surrender my children, and my life to you.

I love you, Lord. I love you, Father, please, hold me close, especially when I forget who you are and who I am. Amen.

My Teenagers

The night after my deeper dive with Re-routing, I gathered my teenagers (one on face time because she is away at college) for fifteen minutes of family time. I asked them to give me 15 minutes every night to just talk about Re-routing or just pray or just connect. We talked about their experience at Mass. They were honest. I bit my tongue. But, I have opened a dialogue and they are willing participants because just as I want something more, so do they, in their own teenage world. We decided to each pick a day to pray for one another and we would text our prayer for each other (Hey, I need to enter their world!). My daughter asked her friend to join our family prayer time, but her friend responded via face time, “no, that’s okay, you go do your nun stuff.” This is the culture we live in—Jesus isn’t for regular people—only priests and nuns.

Please share your ideas to help engage your teens and kids. You might just help someone else. A great book about the Mass for adults, and maybe even teens, if you can get them to read it is “What Happens at Mass?” by Jeremy Driscoll. It’s short and changed the way I understood and participated in Mass forever.