Friday, February 08, 2008

Are you creating a Masterpiece?

Are you creating a masterpiece with your life? Every action or inaction we take directly effects what it is we create. The legacy we leave not only in our family’s memories of us, but with the faceless number of individuals whose lives we affect by our behavior.
Those smiles you offer to a stranger or the grumble and one finger wave you may give. The choices we make in the everyday are effecting the history we make. Not just for ourselves, but the world around us. Will you be the one to create a masterpiece? The definition of a masterpiece is the greatest work done by a person. Our world lacks these great works. Whether they are of great mind, as Albert Einstein or great painters as Michelangelo, great poets such as Robert Frost or those who lead great lives such as Mother Teresa. This becomes most challenging when we live in a world that does not appreciate the value of all persons. I think that is why our time is lacking these great works, these masterpieces for today. We do not foster an environment that upholds the dignity of everyone. In many respects, we have set the bar so low that we have not given our children a reason to achieve greatness with their lives, to reach for the stars. It is a challenge to wake-up each day and view every human being as a creation of God. This becomes most challenging when we are tired, annoyed, or too self involved to notice the humanity in mankind. We all need to be more conscience of the human spirit. Everyone has a spirit that is lifted up by us or broken down. How do you treat these everyday Spirits, Souls, Human beings that you encounter? We need to begin to try to view the world and those in it as God views them. We need to get back to what is holy and sacred. Not just in our day to day but in the history, we are creating through our actions. Enter your day with a firm purpose to see the world as God sees it. Not just in the lives, we touch directly…our family, friends, co-workers, but the many faces of God that we effect by our actions. Make your life an example of the great masterpieces this world lacks.
How do you vote? Do you vote based on the economy or based on how mankind is treated? The economy will always be changing, but how we treat each other should never change. It should always be with love, respect and dignity…no matter what! People we do not know still deserve our love and respect. Our founding fathers knew the value of this…"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" (Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776).
When did we forget that? Once in March of 1857, the United States Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, declared that all blacks -- slaves as well as free -- were not and could never become citizens of the United States. By God’s grace, and brave individuals like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., our nation realized that our founding fathers had it right…"all men are created equal that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights." Not learning from this previous misconduct, it happened again on January 22, 1973. The day our United States Supreme Court ordered a woman had the Right to choose to terminate the life of her child. How did we lose sight of the child’s Right…among these Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness? There was good reason the authors of the Declaration of Independence indicated our Right to Life as our first Right. They knew without this Right, the other Rights could not subsist. We can not have Liberty or the pursuit of Happiness without this first Right to Life. All our Rights are dependent upon this first Right.
Our nation is educating itself right out of common sense. We are making a mess instead of creating a masterpiece with our lives, and our nation, by the decisions we make. When our government says something is legal, many people, especially our young, believe it is moral. After all, all laws that govern society are laws that dictate the morality of a society. For example, we have deemed as a society that stealing is immoral, and thus illegal. So then we ask, how is it mankind is able to know what is right and what is wrong to begin with? It is by natural law. Natural law is the law written on the heart of every individual. The one that prevents us from destroying each other, received by our Creator at the moment of our conception. As a nation, we are sending the message that abortion is the "right thing to do", because we have made it the law of the land, and all laws that govern the land are based on the societies moral objectives. We are responsible for governing the conscience of the past three generations of children who have grown up with legal abortion. We have sent them the message that not everyone deserves this Right to Life, which is endowed by their Creator. We must never forget, if we are not the one who created that life, then we have no right to destroy it.
Next the question is raised how do we differentiate between a child growing in its mother’s womb versus a child growing outside the mother’s womb? Asking ourselves these questions easily does this. What is the child growing outside the womb? A human being. What is the child growing inside the mother’s womb? A human being. Science has accepted that a baby has its own distinct DNA and thus being a separate being, and in turn having its own set of Rights. By 12 days from conception this child growing inside the mother has a heartbeat (the mother would not even know she is pregnant by now.) By 12 weeks, this child is only different from the child growing outside the womb, as a toddler would be to a teenager. It only needs time to grow, it has every organ and tissue it needs for survival, if allowed to mature.
We have a responsibility to each other by the laws we enact and the politicians we vote into office. How do we handle this awesome responsibility? Are we creating a masterpiece? How do you want our world to remember you, what kind of legacy will you leave for the generations of people which will come after you? Not just in the day to day, but in the history you make by your actions in voting for those who are committed to preserving these rights handed down to us by our founding fathers?
If you believe there is a God who created everyone in His image and likeness, how do you embrace the accountability you will have to Him? We will not be judged on how strong we made the economy. We will not be judged by how much money we have or the amount of "toys" we have accumulated. We will all be judged on how we treated mankind. Is your history going to remember you for creating a Masterpiece? Now is the time to make those spiritual connections that will give that gift, that masterpiece for the ages. We are accountable for our actions. Let this be the time to resolve to hold "these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Redemptive Suffering

What good can come from our suffering?

Colossians 1:24
"Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, that is, the Church."

Far too often we look at the world through "secular" eyes, and not through the eyes of God. For a moment, close your eyes and put yourself in a position to see things as God may see them. Then realize our finite minds still do not come close to the greatness of God. We need to offer our sufferings up for the sake of others. It may be those who have already died, it may be for someone living that needs healing physically or mentally. It may be for someone struggling with a decision.
There are so many facets to God’s greatness, to His plan. It may be through your trial you are sending out many points of light. We cannot change the world, but we can trust in our God…that He is using us to change the part of the world we live in. Think of dropping a pebble into water. The water ripples outward once we changed the stillness of the water through the dropping of the pebble. That is what God does with each one of us when we allow His will to be done. He can use that ripple to affect the lives we touch, which affects the lives they touch and so on. Then, we have changed our corner of the world for the Glory of God. Do not look at your trial of suffering as a punishment, but as a way God is trying to not only sanctify you, but those who are around you. To help bring us all to Everlasting Life.
Many times, it is when we face the most difficult situations our eyes are opened to see God in the everyday. Sometimes we suffer as a nation, as we did through the 9/11 terrorist attacks, or the Hurricane Katrina disaster. Or more recently, the tragic wildfires engulfing Southern California and drought felt through the Mid-Atlantic States. Every tragedy that happens can teach you a way to God.
Although most times, we feel our sufferings individually, in the day-to-day mundane going on of life. We are never alone in our sufferings; Jesus is always with us. There is no Heaven without the Cross. Jesus suffered rejection, persecution, a crucifixion…we also will suffer but Jesus Christ redeemed our suffering. Do not let your suffering go to waste. Offer it up to Jesus, unite it to His Cross, to use for his body, the Church.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Creating Holy Moments

To show our children that they matter, that we love them, is the greatest gift we can give them, and our world. The world will be a better place to live if our children feel love, and by example learn how to give love to others. One way we do this is by creating those memories for them that they want to carry with them their whole lives. These memories do not have to be big, expensive vacations or cost any money at all. Many times, those actions we do unconsciously end up having the greatest impact on them. One such action is one that I have done since the day I took them home from the hospital. When I placed them into their crib or now when I hug them goodnight, I make a sign of the cross on their foreheads and quietly say the prayer, "May God bless you and protect you always."
They have come to expect this. One such moment that revealed this to me was a moment I shared with my son. As I was busily getting the children to bed he said, "Mom, did you do that thing to my forehead yet?"
At that moment I realized this was something they have come to expect, and must have found pleasing, for him to have asked me. Therefore, I told him what it was I do. On hearing this, he seemed to have a sense of peace about him. His eyes expressed a sense of safety, he smiled and shook his head in approval, and walked silently to bed.
I also make it a point to remind my children to say their prayers before going to sleep. Children need reminding of this, along with the dozen other things we remind them to do daily. Our lives become over scheduled. This cause us to forget where it is we come from and where it is we are going. We need to integrate these routines, these holy reminders into our children’s day-to-day schedule. It is important to not only remind our children to pray individually, but take time to pray together as a family. One such occasion to incorporate this into your day is with saying a prayer together at the dinner table before you eat. Giving thanks to God for our daily bread. The family is the domestic church. This is where our children learn and carry holy moments with them their whole lives. It is a gift we are giving our children to say grace before our communion meal together. We teach our children that life is bigger then themselves. Not only through the thanksgiving, we give to God, but through the prayers, we offer to those whose needs are greater than our own.
A family rosary is another good holy moment to share with your family. I admit I pray an individual rosary more often. Although our family has made it a tradition to pray a family rosary on January 1, New Years Day. It has become our small way to giving thanks to God for his blessings on us, and pray that He continues to guide our family into Everlasting Life.
This gift of holy moments we pass to our children is priceless. In these moments, our children learn how to quiet themselves from a busy world and give thanks to God. They learn to love themselves and all human life. Through these holy moments, they are building a relationship with Jesus Christ. We are inviting Him into our hearts, which is exactly where He wants to be.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


A Reflection...

Matthew 6:1-6

"Take care! Don't do your good deeds publicly, to be admired, for then you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give a gift to a beggar, don't shout about it as the hypocrites do -blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you in all earnestness, they will have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you do a kindness to someone, do it secretly -don't tell your left hand what your right hand is doing. And your Father who knows all secrets will reward you.

"And now about prayer. When you pray don't be like the hypocrites who pretend piety by praying publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. Truly, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, all alone, and shut the door behind you and pray to your Father secretly, and your Father, who knows your secrets, will reward you."

After reading this gospel, my first thought was humility. To do all things in a humble way, all prayer, all our actions. Many times, we face situations where we feel the need to explain ourselves. I think we can use these situations to strengthen virtues. Do not explain away our actions, just offer an apology and in quiet, look at ourselves, and determine how we could have handled the situation better.
Just like any athlete training to compete in an event, they need to strengthen their muscles. This is done through hard work and determination. You need to exercise in order to stimulate muscle growth. God works in a very similar manner with us. We cannot grow in a virtue, unless first it has been tested, worked and strengthened. If you pray for more patience, expect to face some very unpleasant and impatient moments ahead. In these situations be determined to handle them with humility, and patience. By doing so, over time, that virtue will be strengthened and give Glory to God through your hard work and determination.
I also believe one of the greatest acts of humility one can do is to examine ones conscience. To make known those times when we live in a way that would offend God. When we did not radiate love. Those times when we put another person in a dark light, even if what we were saying was true. We need to place others in Christ’s Light, not a light that makes others think less of that person. Everyone is made in God's image and likeness, we need to try harder to remember this, when dealing with these difficult situations, these temptations to talk ill of others. How many times in a day do we use God’s name in vain? This is a sin. When used in this manner, it is as if we are using it like a swear word. There are many times a day we sin. We need to seek God’s forgiveness, ask for His mercy. There is a gift God gave to us, that very few take advantage of. It is a sacrament of our church, the Sacrament of Reconciliation. How humbling a sacrament this is. "Therefore anyone who humbles himself as this little child, is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven."(Matt. 18:4)
I had once heard, we do not go to confession to tell God what we have done - He already knows. We go so He can show us what we have done. It is through Christ’s divine mercy that we are able to do penance here on earth. Let us all take advantage of this wonderful gift He has given to us.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Church Closings and our Faith

The For Sale signs are up, the doors are locked. Where has everybody gone?
It is a tragedy that church closings are inevitable. These old buildings, with their stained glass windows, and wooden pews were to many, especially the elderly, a place they considered home. They were baptized there, made their First Communion and Reconciliation, they made their Confirmation and many even were married in these beautiful, familiar churches.
I think with great tragedy comes great grace. It is only through trial and suffering do we grow, and hopefully along the way learn something about ourselves we never knew before. Only thirty-three percent of all Catholics go to Mass weekly. The core of the family is disintegrating. We no longer take our children to this familiar building, they can learn to call home for themselves. We live such over scheduled, hectic lives, we have decided consciously or not there is no time for church on Sunday. We stop going; we stop bringing our children. Our lives become more hectic, more out of control. The one time we could allow ourselves to slow down, to teach our children the importance of slowing down, we stop going. We omit the one sure thing in this world, going to Mass, going to church on Sunday. If we no longer go, if we no longer teach our children this most important aspect of their faith, then it is inevitable that the churches will close. We have no one else to blame but ourselves.
If we are the families going to church, then we need to ask ourselves if we do as is requested of us at the end of every Mass, do we go in peace, and make disciples of the entire world? Are we radiating Christ in all those we meet and pass through out the day? On the other hand, are we shaking our fists in the air at the person cutting us off in line? Are we shaking our heads in disgust at the person with one extra item in front of us in the twelve items or less line? Are we living our Catholic faith? Do we receive the Eucharist in a state of grace? Are we taking advantage of God’s great mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation? If every Catholic lived according to the churches teaching, and radiated Christ to the entire world, then I believe there would not be enough churches to hold all of those who wanted to be apart of the Catholic Church.
I think that apart from looking at the parishioners of these parishes, it is also important to look at our priests. Not necessarily the ones whose parishes are closing, but the priests as a whole. Are they preaching according to the Churches teaching? Following their shepherd, the Bishop of Rome, our Pope? Are they deciding to follow a liberal agenda according to the way they think things should be? Or are they just avoiding the tough issues and not preaching the fullness of truth. Our priests have a responsibility to teach their parishioners the whole truth. My father always told me that I was responsible to get my children and my husband to heaven. How much of a greater responsibility these Fathers have to their parishes, and making sure their parishioners get to heaven.
No matter who you are or what religion you practice, people are intrinsically attracted to the truth. We are all created in the image and likeness of God, who is truth. Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth, the Life" (John 14:6). The Catholic Church has always defended and never backed down to society pressures, the basic moral teaching which protects life in all stages of development. It is the only organized institution that can proclaim that. If our priests are looking a blind eye to our societies problems of abortion, contraception and euthanasia, never giving a homily on these tragedies, then the Truth to its fullest is never revealed. Then people stop coming; nothing attracts them to the church, consciously or not. We look like any other institution you can find, anywhere else in the world. Nothing sets us apart from all the rest.
Indeed, the Catholic Churches teaching does set us apart from other Christian denominations, but it is something the people need to hear. Unfortunately, if you were brought up a cradle Catholic and received minimal catechetical training, you probably do not know the fullness of your faith. Catholics do not seem to take the time to learn their own proclaimed faith, and our priests are not giving homilies on basic moral teachings of our church. As hard as the Truth is to face at times, humans will always be subconsciously attracted to it. If you preach it they will come … we need to pray for our priests, that the Holy Spirit protects them, and gives them the virtue of courage, to lead their children into Everlasting Life. We need to pray that God blesses us with more holy priests to serve His church. We need to encourage this holy vocation within families, with our children. This is done through stillness, encouraging quiet moments for prayer. Our children can not hear God speaking to their hearts unless they are still, quiet and not over scheduled. God will come to us in whispers...create environments that allow them to hear Him speaking to their heart.
I was watching a report on television news about another church closing. The parishioners had lost in an appeal process to the Supreme Judicial Court in Massachusetts that would keep their much-loved church open. Sadly, an older gentleman responded to the reporter, that this was it, he would no longer go to church anymore. I thought how sad it was that he did not know the source and summit of his faith. The Eucharist, as was proclaimed by the Second Vatican Council (Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 11). This is what distinguishes us from all other Christian denominations. The Sacraments, more importantly, the Eucharist. We go to church not for the mediocre music, or the beautiful stained glass windows, we go to church for the Eucharist. So we can receive our God, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. So we can have our daily bread, for the journey of life. Yes, we will miss that old building we knew as home. I pray though that we do not miss a life of receiving our God in the Eucharist, because our beautiful church must close its doors. One can only hope, that through this great tragedy of church closings, we will somehow be touched by the Holy Spirit, to remember why we are Catholic to begin with. May God awaken our stale, just going through the motion attitude and reveal to us His real presence in the Eucharist. May it set us forth on a journey to truly know our Catholic faith. To read about the lives of our early church fathers, and the saints, and see how truly awesome a gift we have been given. Then, may we radiate Jesus in a way we never thought was possible.
We need to remember, as wonderful as the building is we called home, God has a way of setting us in a place we can do the most productive work for His Kingdom. These lives we live are a journey. We are on a pilgrimage; our home is in heaven. That is what God created us for, to be with Him forever. He created us for Himself. So keep going to Mass, to church, to whichever church God leads you. Receive the Eucharist with all the zeal and reverence of knowing you are receiving Jesus Himself. Allowing God to use you in this new place, and transform you according to His will. We are all here to accomplish something. Be open to see God working in your life. Transform the sadness you feel, of losing your much-loved, familiar church, to an opportunity of pleasing God in this new place He is calling you. Ask yourself what great work God is calling you to in this new church, and quiet yourself to hear His reply. We are His hands and feet here on Earth. Live your life, in this new place, to a degree, which enables you to transform the hearts and souls around you. God has given us all the "tools" to get to heaven. The Sacraments, use them, and make saints of yourself.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Make it Important to the World!

If you want others to see the importance of it, you must show them how important it is. We do not teach others good things through our bad example. People will not be attracted to the beautiful, if we do not show them the beauty. People will not see the valuable if we do not demonstrate the value.
If you want to attract people to the Catholic Church then you must LIVE out your faith. You must demonstrate it through a good example. If every person who claims themselves to be Catholic, actually lived what they profess to believe in, then there would not be enough churches to hold all those who desired to be Catholic.
It is up to us to start living what we profess to believe, so we can show the value, the importance, the beautiful in our church. We can teach people more through our good example, our daily LIVING of our faith, then we ever could by discussing it. If we try to discuss a faith that we do not take the effort to live out, then we just look like a used-car salesman trying to sell the "lemon" on the lot. People will never believe us if we are not becoming that living witness, professing our faith through action. St. Francis of Assisi said, "To go out and profess the good news to all the world, and when necessary, use words."
We will make it important to the world if we first profess its importance through our actions.
We must also be able to defend our faith. Do you know why the priest washes his hands in the water before consecrating the bread and wine? Do you know what that cloth is called that they so carefully open and fold at the beginning and ending of the consecration...the one the bread an wine is placed on during consecration? Did you know the Mass is the highest form of prayer in the church, and that we give ourselves the sign of the cross at the beginning and ending of the Mass as you would when you pray. Do you know what the word Eucharist means?
There are so many beautiful facets of our faith. It is up to you to teach yourself about your faith.
You need to know the beautiful to show the beauty. You need to know the value to show how valuable it is. Your faith is a gift. Find out the price that was paid for this gift to be given to you. Show the world how important it is to you!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Jesus in the Temple

In thought...

While praying the Joyful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary, a light of God came to me. I was praying the fifth decade..."Finding the Child Jesus in the Temple." I have always pondered why did God only reveal to the world this moment of Jesus' childhood, and no other? He lived among us for 30 years and this was the only moment of His adolescence God revealed to us, Jesus at twelve years old. Why? I thought of his mother Mary and foster-father Joseph, how they must of felt when they left Jerusalem...three days into their journey and realize that Jesus was not with them. As any mother would feel, Mary must have been scared...Where is my child? Where is God? As the story is told, Mary and Joseph travel back to Jerusalem and find Jesus in the Temple. Jesus said, "Didn't you realize I would be here at the Temple, in my Father's House?" (Luke 2:49).
While praying I thought just maybe God only revealed this part of His childhood because He wanted us to look more closely at it too. God was bringing us to the Temple. Telling us that is where we will find Him - Jesus.
We must consider the whole picture when contemplating this idea. Remember in Mark 14:22-24, Jesus instituted the New the Last Supper. As they were eating, Jesus took bread and asked God's blessing on it and broke it in pieces and gave it to them and said, "Eat it -this is my body, given up for you. DO THIS in remembrance of Me."
Then he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it and gave it to them; and they all drank from it. And he said to them, "This is my blood, poured out for many, sealing the New Covenant between God and man."
Jesus is not giving us a suggestion...he is giving us a Commandment, telling us to DO THIS. That commandment is what is celebrated at every Catholic Mass, every day, in every Catholic Church, through out the world.
In that story...when Jesus brings Mary and Joseph back to the Temple, this is a illustration of where we should be as well. Jesus is in the Church, in every Tabernacle all over the world. He is pointing us toward the Mass...the New Covenant. He is there. He promised to be with us always (Matthew 28:20), "I am with you always, even to the end of the world."
He said he would never leave us, and He hasn't. He is truly present with us, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Holy Eucharist. In every Tabernacle, all over the world.
As He said to His Mother Mary and foster-father Joseph, He says to us...
"Didn't you realize I would be in my Father's House?"