Tag Archives: Pope Francis

Promises, Promises

I have a climbing rose bush by my garage that I cut back every winter by about half in hopes that it will bloom better in the spring.  All winter long it has looked nothing short of pathetic.  Each year I look at the stubby branches and am convinced it will never grow back.  Miraculously, it is starting to bloom again as my entire lawn and garden are coming back to life.  That is the magic of spring for me – the whole world seems to come alive after a brown and dreary winter.  God never lets me down – each spring He puts on a show which gives me a little spring in my step after a cold, lifeless winter.

God does not go back on His promises.  He is faithful.  He brings the spring back each year.  He breathes new life into us when we are feeling down or hopeless.  He takes care of our families.  He brings us and our children peace and healing as they receive their college acceptances – or not.   He has the back of a child who is struggling with academics or social pressures.  He holds our aging parents in the palm of His hand.

One of my favorite Bible verses is “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” – Romans 8:28.  God does not just bring about good in the big things.  He brings about good in ALL things – even the small things – in the little details of my life.  I know that despite my short and long-term worries for my family, God will keep his promise to me and take care of my family in ways I cannot even understand.

Just this week Pope Francis talked to a Vatican audience about how God promises the “impossible.”  He asked the audience to hope against all hope.

“Our hope is not based on human reasoning, predictions and assurances,” Pope Francis said.  Real hope arises “where there is no more hope, where there is nothing left to hope for.”  True hope “is rooted in faith and, precisely for this reason, it is able to go beyond all hope” because it is built on faith in God and his promise, he said.

“There is only one price” to be paid for this, he said. “Opening your heart. Open your hearts and God’s power will carry you forward. He will do miraculous things and he will teach you what hope is.”  Just “open your heart to faith and he will do the rest,” he added.  (Source:  CNS)

Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope, without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. – Hebrews 10:23

 Your faithfulness endures to all generations;  you have established the earth, and it stands fast. – Psalm 119:90

 The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. – Lamentations 3:22-23

The Ultimate Recommendation

This week I was filling out a parent form on my daughter for the college counseling department to prepare her college counselor to assist her on her applications to college.  “List three to four adjectives that describe her.  Describe her greatest challenge and how she handled it.  How has your child developed the most?”

It did make me think, however, what if someone was filling out this same survey about me?  What would it say?  What if God himself was answering the questions about me to see whether I could make it to “the next level.”  Would I like the responses?  Would they make me cringe and wish I could do something over again?  Or would I be proud of what my Father wrote about me?

The good news is, God knows me better than I know myself.  He knows how many hairs I have on my head.  He knows my comings and my goings.  He knows the good adjectives that describe me, and the constructive ones that I know in my heart I need to change.  He knows my greatest challenges, and has even walked through them with me.  He knows the challenges that I have ahead that I cannot even envision right now, and He already knows how they will turn out.  He knows how I have developed as a Christian, and He hopes I will make good choices in the future as I continue to become the best version of myself.

Just as I look forward with a mix of joy and trepidation to the next year of college applications with my daughter, I know that the years ahead will be a mixed bag for me as well. Thankfully, my Counselor will write me the ultimate recommendation, and I just need to keep striving to make sure I make the final grade that really matters.

“No single act for God will be lost, no generous effort is meaningless, no painful endurance is wasted.” – Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel

Disciple’s Prayer

Jesus, my Lord and my brother, let me do your work for Your sake, and not for my own pride or self-satisfaction.  As long as I want what You want,  I will act prudently and safely.  If I fret at my failures, I am working for myself and not for You.  Your will is to be done, not mine.  I hope to attempt all the good within my reach, but I will not be over-anxious about the results.  If I lose my presence of mind and my peace of soul it is because I am thinking more of Your work than of Your will.  I need only do my best.  The rest depends on the people around me and Your grace.  Let me never think I am bigger or more able than You.  I now put all things into Your hands.  Amen

 

A Good Word

If you spend any significant time around my house, you will likely hear the following phrases:  “Hello?  Kind words, please!” or “Is there any way you could have phrased that better?” There is also the ever-popular, long, drawn-out, “WhoaTone!”  With election rhetoric in full-swing with no signs of stopping, our children are being exposed to all kinds of words:  put-downs, insults, accusations, and name calling.  Marist’s day of “civil discourse” is coming not a moment too soon.

I’ve had some challenges with words lately as well.  A family member said some very unkind and unfair things to my husband and me this week.  It put me in a day-long funk where I replayed the words in my head, and it distracted me from what was important.  Even my husband said he wanted to turn the car around and go back to bed.

On a positive note (and what happens much more frequently), I have also had friends and even strangers share empathetic, uplifting and encouraging words with me this past month.  These life-giving words changed the trajectory of my day for the better, making me feel happy, peaceful, comforted and worthwhile.  I was then able to pass that grace on to others.  Paying it forward, as God fully intends.

I remember my parents telling me over and over – “sticks and stones,” but the truth is, words can really hurt.  We think that the middle-school years of sharp tongues are behind us (and for those of us with middle schoolers, we are still living in the thick of this), but even as adults we can be the recipients or deliverers of harsh, unkind or judgmental words.

What would Jesus do?  I think we all know the answer.  So simple, yet for us mere mortals, so difficult.  I know that my mouth often works faster than my brain, so I have been known to say stupid, careless things – things you want to pull back in as soon as you say them.  I know that God gave me two ears and one mouth for a reason.

During the World Youth Day celebrations this past summer, Pope Francis took a call from a teenage girl who was the victim of bullying in the form of cruel language.  He said, “Gossip is terrorism.  It’s the terrorism of words, insulting one’s heart, dignity and in this young person’s case, nationality. We must choose silence, patience and most importantly forgiveness; however, these choices are not easy. We must ask the Lord for help in choosing to forgive and forget fully, and ask Him to forgive those who hurt us.” (Vatican Radio, 7/28/16)

Proverbs is full of words of wisdom regarding the power of words:

“Pleasing words are a honeycomb, sweet to the taste and invigorating to the bones.”

Proverbs 16:24

“The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

Proverbs 12:18

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue;  those who choose one shall eat its fruit.”

Proverbs 18:21

And lastly, I leave you with a quote from the New Testament:

“Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up.”

1 Thessalonians 5:11

 

 

So. Very. Busy.

One of my friends has a unique ring tone for me.  It is the “buzzing bee” ring tone.  When she told me that, I was a bit perturbed.  Then I realized, “Oh, well.  She sees the truth.  Uncle.”  She also affectionately calls me “hair on fire,” but that’s a separate issue.

OK, so I cannot lie.  I’m a busy mom.  We are all busy parents, employees, friends, spouses and children.  Busy, busy, busy.  This past summer, I saw all the busy pass me by during a time when I was uniquely focused on my mother.  It was like watching the busy out a blurry window – the world was still constantly moving back and forth from my view, while my time stood relatively still.  I still marvel at all the busyness going on around me with the school year that is in full swing, as I wander from room to room in my grief and lack of focus, getting hardly anything accomplished except the occasional thank you note and phone call regarding “notice of death.”

Don’t get me wrong, friends.  If I had not just gone through the death of a parent, I would be right there with you.  Busy.  So very busy.  In fact, when I was at the MMPG intro meeting last week, I spoke with many friends who were already feeling quite stressed on behalf of their children and their families – and it is only September.  I am with you ladies and gents – I have felt your pain.  I so get the busy.

I have been told by a wise friend many times:

“If you don’t have time to pray and read the Scriptures, you are busier than God ever intended you to be.”

 This saying is even written on her workspace wall, and she is so very right.  Does God truly want us to be so busy that we cannot take time to talk to Him, share with Him our greatest fears, or bring to Him our greatest hopes and dreams for ourselves and our families?  This friend also says to me frequently, “We are human BEINGS, not human DOINGS!”  (I know I’ve shared that one before, but it’s worth repeating.)

So how do we use our time?  If time is a precious as we think (and we all want more “time”), then what is the best use of our time?

The Use of Time

Take time to think

– It is the source of power.

Take time to play

– It is the secret of perpetual youth.

Take time to read

– It is the fountain of wisdom.

Take time to pray

– It is the greatest power on earth.

Take time to be friendly

– It is the road to happiness.

Take time to laugh

– It is the music of the soul.

Take time to give

– It is too short a day to be selfish.

Take time to work

– It is the price of success.

Take time to do charity

– It is the key to heaven.

Author Unknown

 In Pope Francis’ visit to Cuba, he said, “Faith makes us open to the quiet presence of God at every moment of our lives, in every person and in every situation.”  What a great way to use our time, if we would only take the time.  So often we pass each other by with a quick, “Hey! What’s up?”  What might happen if we took a little more time to stop and hear the answer?

So today, let’s take a moment and try and quiet our minds and our hearts to the “quiet presence of God” that is available to us at every moment of our lives, if we would just not be so very, very busy.

“Humble yourselves, then, under God’s mighty hand, so that he will lift you up in his own good time.  Leave all your worries with him, because he cares for you.”

1 Peter 5:6-7

The Days are Long but the Years are Short

Last week during a visit to my mother’s house during spring break, I found myself having a rare opportunity to relax by myself for a few moments. I was sitting on the beach and watching a little boy about three playing joyfully in the sand. I thought to myself that it was only yesterday when I could not take my eyes off my two busy toddlers as they ran back and forth from the surf. Now my eldest was half-way across the world on the Bearing Witness trip visiting Dachau and Auschwitz, and my youngest was somewhere on the island doing an eight mile run by himself. When the kids were young, the days could feel so very long. I often reminded myself, “The days are long, but the years are short.”

I cannot believe that we are already in third term. Where has this year gone? I have been told that time goes by more quickly the older we get, and this has proved to be true. My daughter was sick this week and was home from school yesterday. We were lying in bed together chatting, and I thought to myself how the next two years of her time at Marist are going to go by so very quickly. In some ways I want to just stop time, or at least slow it down to make the moments really count.

I really enjoy a blog written by a very grounded Christian college student named Grace Valentine (gracevalentine.org). Although this list is written from the point of view of a girl, many of the life lessons could be translated to our sons as well. She encourages young girls to embrace their innocence, and stop trying to grow up too fast.

51 Things I Wish I Knew in High School (from gracevalentine.org, 12/31/15)

  1. Do not spend more than $9 on mascara. CVS sells ones that work just fine.
  2. It won’t matter later on that he was on a high school football team.
  3. Your push-up bra is obvious.
  4. Chill with the eyeliner.
  5. If he cheats on you, say goodbye.
  6. Stop subtweeting or Facebooking your life.
  7. Don’t tell your mom you hate her; you will regret it.
  8. Innocence is beautiful.
  9. Call your grandma just because.
  10. Some people will never like you; don’t let it bother you.
  11. Kill them with kindness.
  12. TPing/Rolling houses is all fun and games till it rains and you have to clean it up.
  13. You were beautiful before he told you.
  14. Don’t believe stereotypes. Get to know people personally instead of judging them.
  15. Don’t let one mistake define you.
  16. But learn from your mistakes.
  17. Eat home-cooked meals. You will miss it one day.
  18. Your mom can see a fake friend before you can.
  19. Your dad can see a crappy boy before you can.
  20. Enjoy your metabolism while it lasts.
  21. There is more to life than Friday night.
  22. If your parents buy you something, whether it’s a McDonald’s or an iPhone, say thank you.
  23. You are more beautiful than you will ever know.
  24. Prom is not the “best night of your life,” but go anyway.
  25. High school years are not the best years of your life.
  26. However, enjoy high school while it lasts, you will miss some of it.
  27. Bad times make you appreciate the good times.
  28. It’s only a bad day, not a bad life.
  29. Stop comparing yourself to others; that will never do any good.
  30. Learn to forgive. Also learn that not everyone deserves your trust.
  31. Learn to apologize.
  32. He isn’t the love of your life.
  33. Sex does not make you mature or an adult.
  34. Stop pretending to be someone you are not to impress people.
  35. Keep a journal.
  36. You’ll regret spending $90 on that Abercrombie fur vest.
  37. Eat the dang doughnut.
  38. Five for $27, appreciate it, and never forget it.
  39. Pray for your future husband every once in a while.
  40. Pray for your future kids too.
  41. Take those ACT prep classes seriously.
  42. Hug your grandpa every chance you get.
  43. Write thank you notes for everything.
  44. Tell your favorite high school teacher she rocks.
  45. Nothing good happens past midnight.
  46. Put others before yourself.
  47. Unless that person is an ex-boyfriend. You deserve happiness – stop worrying about him.
  48. If you love God, then you should love people.
  49. His plan is greater than yours (Romans 8:28).
  50. Stop speeding; especially on turns. Also stop at stop signs.
  51. Enjoy life. It goes by faster than you think.

 

These thoughts of hers make me think that my time is shorter than I think for imparting words of wisdom, values and life lessons on my children before they are out of my reach. Then I have to remind myself that I have been trying to do this their entire lives, and probably will continue to do so even when they are adults! Even my 74 year old mom has moments where she still wants to parent 47 year old me – I think that inclination never quite goes away.

“Train the young in the way they should go; even when old, they will not swerve from it.” – Proverbs 22:6

 I also have to remind myself that I am not perfect. In fact, I make a lot of parenting mistakes and mishaps. However, I pray for guidance, strength and patience, and ask God to help me to be the best parent that I can be.

“Perfect families do not exist. This must not discourage us. Quite the opposite. Love is something we learn; love is something we live; love grows as it is ‘forged’ by the concrete situations which each particular family experiences. Love is born and constantly develops amid lights and shadows.”

– Pope Francis, during visit to Cuba and the U.S. (source: Lifeteen.com)

So I am going to continue to try and train my not-so-young children in “they way they should go,” and hope they remember at least a few of the times that I actually got it right. And I will continue to work on my mission of helping them to know, love and serve God every day on their journey toward adulthood.

“And so, today, with great strength and great conviction, on the basis of long personal experience of life, I say to you, dear young people: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life.”

– Pope Benedict XVI, Homily, April 24, 2005

If you have a spare moment, take a look and listen to a favorite song of mine called “Blink” by Revive that encourages us as parents to slow down the pace of our crazy life and enjoy these gifts of children we’ve been given. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4itARWKR-A)

Peace to all of you on your journey towards Easter.

 

 

Jesus Christ – Superstar!

Happy New Year!

It’s that time of year again. The magazines are encouraging this time of resolutions and change with headlines like “The Year of You!” and “The Makeover Issue.” Personally, I like the times in the year that I have the opportunity to re-boot. The new year represents a fresh start and a chance to change things about myself that prevent me from being the best version of myself that God calls me to be.

My family and I were blessed to have been given the gift of a cruise by my mom for Christmas. We had a great young priest on the ship who did the homily on the Feast of the Epiphany. He talked about the three kings and how they went to great effort to follow a star which led them to their Lord and Savior – Emmanuel – God with us.

He then used examples of “false stars” in our lives that we sometimes follow. He used examples from the cruise – gambling, partying, and overeating. We think they are going to make us happy, but they never truly do deliver. There are also examples in our everyday lives – figurative “stars” we pursue in hopes of happiness. The other stars we follow (popularity, excessive focus on work and success, unobtainable physical beauty, etc.) will only leave us lacking and seeking something more. If we are honest with ourselves, we know deep in our souls that the only true happiness can be found in our relationship with God, which then translates into love of others.

In his new year homily, Pope Francis also touched on this idea. He discussed the hope that we have in following the star of Jesus Christ rather than the stars of the world. He warned this is not “an illusory hope based on human, frail promises, nor a naïve hope, which presumes that the future will be better simply because it is the future.” Rather, it is a hope based on God’s blessing, containing the “greatest message of good wishes there can be, and this is the message which the Church brings to each of us.” (Source: www.ncregister.com)

So this year, I resolve to try and pursue the “stars” that lead me closer to the manger, rather than the stars that lead me to false illusions. Not an easy resolution, of course. But neither is getting off this weight from the holidays! I’d better start praying….and exercising.

“The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26)