To be Holy

I want to be holy. Holy as my Heavenly Father is holy. Holy as the saints and martyrs, priests, nuns, and other ‘holier than me’ people in my everyday life are holy.

After what I experienced earlier in the day on Monday, I was not sure that being holy was even a possibility. I had the (honor? privilege? horror?) opportunity to attend a funeral. A former childhood classmate had lost her son. Her son, who she gave birth to just 4 months ago, had passed away unexpectedly on Tuesday, March 22nd.

There were so many moments during the funeral that I noticed my whole body pulsating to hold back tears. At one point, I thought I would have to leave because I felt I was about to be sick. I happened to be sitting on the end of the pew, so I spent the entire Mass staring at this tiny casket. The reality of the loss of a child was quite literally in my face for an hour. I tried to hear the words of hope. I tried to grasp the “glory of the Resurrection” and I started thinking some scary thoughts.

The main one being, “I just came home to the Church, how can I stay? How can I joyously celebrate Easter one day, and the next not feel any comfort or trust in the words about that Easter promise for this child?” The next recurring thought I kept having was, “if these words aren’t helping me find comfort, how is any of this doing any good for my friend and her husband, their families?”.

The day before, I had reached out to our former classmates. We decided on setting up a prayer calendar for Michelle and her family for the month of April. As I left the funeral, I kept seeing messages file in with everyone picking their day, volunteering themselves and their families to also pick a day. The way everyone came together to fill up this calendar, offering to pray for this woman who many of us haven’t been in touch with in a while, was amazing.

It was as if God had played out the action of hope before me in a single day. “This is how,” He showed me. We live out the resurrection by being open to be the body of Christ that holds up those who are weary. Jesus gives us rest in the strength of one another’s arms. This is how they will go on, how we can go on. The ways in which we remain faithful, even in the darkest moments, is how the Church continues to be a hope for the hopeless. Even in the tomb of sadness, there is joy, there is hope.

I was worried that I would lose my faith and those I’ve known since childhood quickly restored it. Always have an open heart to be surprised by the ways God may choose to work. Always. Only He can make us holy.

 

Advertisements

Trust, even to death!

Tonight, I went to our parish’s weekly mission of mercy they are doing for Lent. The theme was marriage and friendship so I didn’t know how the homily would affect my very single self, but apparently, I was there for something else.

The first reading. Well, who can pay attention when the reading is about Shadrach and Nebuchadnezzar? Usually, not me! But something jumped out as I tried to focus. Shadrach and his buddies, Jewish men, refused to worship a false god and responded to the King this way:

Daniel 3:16-18

“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego a answered King Nebuchadnezzar, “There is no need for us to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If our God, whom we serve, can save us from the white-hot furnace and from your hands, O King, may he save us! But even if he will not, know, O King,  that we will not serve your god or worship the golden statue which you set up.””

Imagine that? This was before Jesus. This was before a savior came for the Jews! Yet, they trusted God so strongly, that even if He did not will to save them from the furnace, they would still not deny Him. How often do we say to God, ‘answer my prayer and I’ll believe, I’ll be devoted, I’ll do what’s right forever’? These men said to God, ‘save us or not Lord, we will not deny you’!

Then I thought about Romans:

Romans 14:8

“For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”

Live or die, we are the Lord’s chosen ones. How much less do we have to fear now than Sadrach and his buddies? We know that Jesus died for our sins, rose from the grave and went on to prepare a place for us, opening the doors of heaven to us. We know the promise of salvation has been revealed.

Jesus, when I’m in danger or simply feel like I can’t keep going, help me to remember that whether I live or die, whether this cup remains or passes from me, I belong to you. Your promise is to be with me always, in life or death. Increase our trust in that promise! Amen!

A long way off…

Returning to daily Mass during the year of Mercy has led to me hearing the Gospel of the Prodigal Son more than once this Lenten season. I heard it at a Mass of Reconciliation, another daily Mass, and this past Sunday’s Mass. One line has struck my heart profoundly. It’s amazing that this can happen with Scripture. I’m not sure if it happens with other stories or novels because I am not an avid reader, but  with Scripture, no matter how often you read or hear a passage, there is so much to meditate on.

“While he was still a long way off…”

The prodigal son had been away, we are not sure how long it took him to squander his inheritance, but he’d been on his journey likely a while. He was starving while working with the swine, so he must have still been hungry during his travels back to his father’s house.

I am sure you can recall a time when returning from a trip of some kind and being completely tired and knowing you still have a long way to go. You were hungry, and nothing was open because it was late. Usually, this is when I start to wish teleportation devices existed and that I could just be zapped home to my bed. You were alone, desperate to be home just to feel relaxed from the journey.

What must have been going through his mind when he saw his father running towards him, not yelling, “Get out of here, you are nothing to me,” which could be expected. He was running towards him with open arms, ready to embrace him and welcome him home. He ran a long way off to greet his son.

He ran a long way off…to a son who basically told his father he wished him dead by asking for his inheritance prematurely. A son who was so wrapped up in himself and his own desires. A son who planned to take his father’s hard earned wealth and spend it on things that only temporarily satisfy.

While we are still a long way off, we can be heading in the right direction. If we are willing to head in the direction of our Father, He will run a long way off to meet us there. He will not treat us as a servant, as a hired hand because of our sin or lifestyle, he will welcome us home as sons and daughters. Not because we could ever deserve it, but because his mercy requires it.

 

 

 

2 Things about Prayer

The other day, I was driving somewhere, contemplating my new routine of daily Mass and Rosary for those who signed up for my Lent Prayer Pact and I realized some things about prayer. I’ve written here before about only needing faith the size of a mustard seed in order to move mountains and this is what is becoming more apparent to me each day.

One. How often do we pray with doubt? “Well, I’m going to offer this up, but I don’t think it’s really going to change.” Or, “I’ll pray for this person to be healed, but miracles only happen in rare circumstances.” It’s tough to admit, but I think all to often, many of us pray from a place of doubt. We wonder why nothing happens, but if we’re honest, we never truly expected it to.

Two. How different would things be if we prayed with hope? If we prayed with that tiny mustard seed sized faith, how would God move differently in our lives?

This last year, for our family was not all that good from an outside perspective. We had a major loss last March in our family, and it did not get any better from there. Another family loss followed, then another. Then in the fall, my step brother was sick and almost died. His life will never be the same and neither will ours. As bad as all of that was, I rejoice because today, my grandparents are healthy, my step brother drank a full glass of water without choking last week, my parents and I are spending more time together, my sister successfully took charge of her future through a successful surgery, and I have returned home to the Church where I belong. None of this happened because of prayer from doubt.

All of these things happened because we prayed. We prayed knowing that God would hold us together. That God not only could, but would triumph in the midst of seemingly overwhelming darkness. I say this not to brag, not to boast in myself, my prayer, my faith, or that of my family’s. I say this because in Christ, He has done this work in our lives that I must call witness to. I must say, run to Him. Not in doubt, but in trust in His providence to give you your hearts desire. Not holding back, even in the least. Run at full force into his unshakable hands where there is mercy, love, forgiveness, and healing.

To whom shall we go?

After weeks of hearing Gospel after Gospel about how Jesus is the bread of life and how we have to eat his flesh and drink his blood to have eternal life, we finally got to the end this week. The part in the story where most followers finally state the obvious. “Are you sure? That’s hard to swallow!” (no pun intended)

Shocked at this teaching, many left and went back to their old life because they couldn’t accept that concept. When the disciples were the only ones left, Jesus asks if they are going to leave too. I love the honesty that follows. Simon Peter says to Jesus, “To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

It’s a question I’ve asked multiple times. I’ve struggled with whether or not to remain in the Catholic Church. My thoughts and beliefs on certain things have been evolving and I didn’t know how to be Catholic while not fitting into what I thought meant being a perfect Catholic. When I began to research what churches to visit, I realized something like the disciples did that day. I believe in the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist. I believe in the Sacraments. I believe in One, Holy, Catholic, & Apostolic Church. I found myself asking, “To whom shall I go? To where? How could I live without these things?” The answer was clear. Nowhere.

Which interestingly enough, leaves me speaking the same words as Joshua from the first reading from this Sunday’s Mass:

As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.

What? A blog? Oh yea…

Millions of thoughts have been flooding my head in the past months and I’ve been wanting to write them out and share them. I felt “tugged” toward blogging, but would I remember my password or even the site I had used last?

I did remember. I almost fell on the floor in disbelief when I logged in and saw my first notification, “Happy Anniversary! It’s been 2 years since you activated your WordPress account.” Even more intriguing was the fact that I called it “The real me, Finally!”

I’m pretty sure that 2 years ago, I still had no idea who the heck I was. I’ve come quite a long way. Thank you Jesus! (And I’m not just saying that, it is all due to Jesus!) I looked back at one of those posts from August of 2013 about how I’d finally opened up and asked those going on pilgrimages to pray for me. Let’s just say, prayers work. I am not perfect. I am not done. Yet, I find myself in better place everyday. Never give up!

One major thing I’ve wanted to share here is about Power. In July, I went to a Jeremy Camp concert with a friend. We heard a song that could have knocked me off my feet. It’s called Same Power.

The chorus is: The same power that rose Jesus from the grave, the same power that commands the dead to wake, lives in us, lives in us. The same power that moves mountains when he speaks, the same power that can calm a raging sea, lives in us, lives in us. He lives in us, lives in us.

If you haven’t heard it, YouTube it, iTunes it, whatever you have to do to hear this song. I get pumped up and empowered every time I hear it. Mostly because…it’s TRUE!

While driving one night, I turned off the music and had a total preach-a-thon in the car with myself. At baptism, we are anointed priest, profit, and king. We are claimed for Christ. We are given new life in Him. From that moment, we are infused with the power to bring the sacraments to others (Eucharistic minister, baptize), share the gospel (in loving, kind words and by example), and speak life, speak healing, and speak truth with authority. God knew it would not be easy to bear that power, so He gave us the Bread of Life to sustain us. Then, we still need some help to not lose sight of that power, so God gave us the Sacrament of Confirmation. We don’t wait until then to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit or the power. We have it all at baptism. Remember, at Confirmation, the priest or bishop tells us “Be sealed“. It is then that all of the power is sealed, forever, within us. We are then, considered fully initiated into the Catholic faith. We have everything we need. What’s even better is that we can execute this power with faith as small as a mustard seed! We don’t have to be ‘holy rollers’, we don’t have to be saints, we don’t have to be religious or project a ‘pious’ persona. We need only the tiniest amount of faith that God is real, Jesus is real, and the Holy Spirit is real. We let so much power go to waste every second.

Are you willing to acknowledge your power? Are you ready to use it? Speak healing over your life. Speak truth into your life. It’s not magic. It’s a gift. It is not reserved for the ordained, consecrated, or saintly. It’s for all of us.

Matthew 17:19-20 (NASB): Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not drive it out?” And He said to them, “Because of your littleness of faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.”

The disciples with him had faith less than a mustard seed. Thankfully, we get to be even closer to Jesus than the disciples, because we have the Eucharist. The ability to gain faith even bigger than the disciples is ours. Let’s not waste another moment!

St. Anthony, my BFF

In the fall, I went to have a massage by a dear friend. While she gave me my massage, she prayed over me and with me. At the end we talked and I realized that I definitely needed to start praying more to St. Anthony. St. Anthony is the patron saint of lost things. Apparently, he’s also the patron saint of my life!

When we started to talk about St. Anthony, the relevance was clear. I was lost. Praying for your own self is also never the first thing we think of doing for some reason. At this moment, I knew it was time to pray to St. Anthony on behalf of myself. I was lost. I was so tired of being lost. He found me. Things started to change and I found myself at Mass one Sunday after Yoga for the first time in a long time actually wanting to be there. As I sat in the pew during communion, I felt a hunger to receive the Eucharist that I have never felt before. 

I was found. And since then, St. Anthony has been my BFF (best friend forever). I found trust in God. That trust in God has led to some pretty awesome things that I’ve been waiting for a long time. My mental freedom, my job, taking charge of my health, and now even a new car. I literally say his name and find what I’m looking for without even trying that hard. To explain how tight me and St. Anthony are, here’s 2 things that happened just in the last two days:

1. I couldn’t find the Title to my old car. I searched all of the boxes that contain the remnants of my move from Naugatuck. I figured it had to be in there since I am pretty sure I paid off the car while still living there. The only mental image of the title was of it on the floor somewhere. It wasn’t in those boxes. I searched like a mad woman on Saturday and Sunday morning. I gave up, went to Church and was pretty much out all day. I said, “St. Anthony never fails me. I will ask him to find it and I just know I will have it when I get home”. I got home and wasn’t feeling great so I laid on the couch, forgetting about the title. Just before I went to bed, I realized I needed to find it. I said out loud, “Ok, St. Anthony, balls in your court!” I went over to my nightstand, lifted one book that I haven’t touched since I put it there, and it slipped out of my hand, and there was the title underneath. Which meant, feeling like crud, I could simply turn out the light and go to bed. Thanks, buddy!!

2. Tonight, I got home from work. I hit play on the DVR recording of Bones from Friday night. I knew it was a re-run but I figured I’d watch anyway. The episode is the one where Bones is on a jury. *DING* I got a jury duty notice that I totally forgot about. I recall that it was for early March and I wanted to postpone seeing that it’s only my second week of work. But where did I put that piece of mail? Who knows, my place is a mess at the moment! I literally walked over to a small pile of papers on the love seat, said “St. Anthony”, picked up a note pad, and there it was. The date was Wednesday and I was able to go online and postpone until August. 

3. This is the BIG one! When I was cleaning out my old car Saturday morning, in the trunk I found a package of prayer cards (probably leftover from a retreat back in my St. James Youth Ministry days). I noticed the 3rd one down is a prayer card with a chain attached with a prayer to St. Anthony. I figured, great, it’s probably a medal I can hang in the new car. *Important Back Story: Since I was successful in praying to St. Anthony to find myself, I quickly started praying to him for my future spouse because clearly we can’t find each other!*  When I got home with the new car, I went into the bag to grab the chain/prayer card. I lift the prayer card, and underneath it, I find a second one. In the entire bag, there is no other duplicate card. The only thing I have two of is this prayer to St. Anthony and the chain. On the chain is a heart shaped medal with an image of St. Anthony holding the child Jesus close, almost cuddled up. I was so excited when I saw the second one. I know exactly who to give it to. I can’t wait for the day that we find each other and trust more than ever that in God’s perfect timing, we definitely will. 

St. Anthony, pray for us!