Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Little Way of St. Therese of Lisieux, A Way for All of Us

As parents, we all have a hundred things on the “to-do” list, a small number of which actually make it to the “done” list. Our days are filled with the realities of home, work, is there a uniform clean for today, what’s for dinner, and how did that piece of gum get there of all places? It’s hard to find the time to be what we may think is a great Catholic…pious, prayerful, and humble. It’s equally difficult to find time for solitary prayer or prayer as a family. How bad must it be if I fall asleep during the first decade of a well-intentioned rosary? Perhaps, in the midst of our quest for our near sighted view of perfection, the answer lies in letting ourselves off the hook ever so slightly and attempting instead the “Little Way” of St. Therese of Lisieux.

“Without love, deeds, even the most brilliant,
count as nothing.”  St. Therese of Lisieuxst_therese.jpg
The smell of fall in the air reminds me of one of my favorite traditions at the girls’ school, the All Saints Day Procession. There are countless saints that we can look to for guidance and encouragement. Visit any Catholic gift shop and you will find hundreds of medals and icons to inspire you. Do a little research and pick one! Most of us have put the Blessed Mother in our window for good weather or have buried St. Joseph in the ground (upside down of course) to sell our house. St. Therese is one of my “faves” because she teaches that having a good faith doesn’t necessitate some huge accomplishment, no grand sweeping display of how Catholic we are. Her way was to be a child of God in ALL that you do, not just the “Catholic things” you do. Her way was a little one, and if we try, every day, to be that good Catholic in a little way – it will pay off in a big way.

“What is the meaning of ‘the little way’ of St. Therese? It is an image that tries to capture her understanding of being a disciple of Jesus Christ, of seeking holiness of life in the ordinary and the everyday. St. Therese based ‘her little way’ on two fundamental convictions: 1. God shows love by mercy and forgiveness and 2. She could not be “perfect” in following the Lord” (Rev. John F. Russell, O.Carm., Seton Hall University). Well, if a wise Saint knew she could never be perfect – why even try? But, herein I miss the point. No, I don’t need to be nor will I ever be perfect, but I can strive to be relatively perfect in my little world. How do I do that? If we follow St. Therese’s philosophy - going about our daily activities with love – then we’re on the right path. There will be time later, when our children are way too cool to hang out with us, time for, dare I say it aloud, an hour of spiritual reading, prayerful meditation, a visit to the Blessed Sacrament? But, for now, in between the homework, and lunch packing and being a Mom taxi – we can remember why we are doing it all in the first place. God has blessed us all with these precious little humans, entrusted them to our care without the slightest thought of our past transgressions or behavior that, on paper, wouldn’t qualify us to be the best candidates for parenthood. But, in His infinite love, He sent them anyway and if we can keep that gift in mind, then all we do will be done with love. The love remains even when we don’t feel it - when we are screaming, “No, you cannot have ice cream before dinner” for the 20th time that day. We are all children of God, so we should act like it. And if we fail to act like it, at least try to remember it in our hearts even when our behavior shows otherwise. There are always going to be no good, terrible, horrible days, but at the end of even those, if we manage to tuck the kids into bed and say a prayer with them (even through gritted teeth) and for them (even after the fighting over what pajamas to wear and who gets the toothpaste first), then we are well on the “little way” of being a disciple of Christ.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

2012 Women's Day of Spirituality: "Faith & Femininity"

Are you in need of some "me time?" Looking for a way to jump start your personal Year of Faith? Register now for the Women's Day of Spirituality, sponsored by the Bishop's Commission for Women. This year's event will be held on Saturday, November 3, 2012 at St. Catharine of Siena Parish in Berks County, Pennsylvania, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Faith & Femininity
Saturday, November 3, 2012

As a member of the Bishop's Commission for Women, I would like to cordially invite my readers to this special day. This is the fourth Day of Spirituality sponsored by the Commission, and the first year it will take place right here in Berks County!

To further promote awareness of the evolving roles of women in the church and society Dr. Maura Hearden, Assistant Professor of Theology at DeSales University, Carole C. Chuk, Former Director of the Office of the Catechumenate and Assistant Director of the Office of Worship in the Diocese of Allentown, and Chairperson, Bishop's Commission for Women, Norine Burghardt, will fill the retreat day with faith-inspired talks. These gifted speakers have embraced as their theme Pope Benedict XVI’s “Year of Faith” which begins in October 2012. We Walk by Faith; The Blessed Virgin Mary; Heroine of Faith, Let’s Talk: Prayer-full Conversations with God; and Mary, into the Heart of a Convert are the topics they are offering to continue to enrich the faith journey of the women in the Diocese of Allentown. The Most Reverend John O. Barres, D.D. will be the main celebrant and homilist at Mass. Don’t miss this opportunity to be renewed and refreshed in your faith.

The Details:
  • Registrations must be received by October, 26, 2012.
  • A fee of $15 includes lunch and light refreshments.
  • You may register by mailing your $15 non-refundable check, payable to the Diocese of Allentown, to the Secretariat for Catholic Life and Evangelization, The Commission for Women, 900 S. Woodward St., Allentown, PA 18103 or Click Here to register and pay online.
  • If you have any questions, please call 610-289-8900, ext. 228. 
About the Bishop's Commission for Women
The Commission for Women shall serve as an advisory board to the Bishop of Allentown offering the woman’s perspective on issues of concern to our Bishop and the Church.  The Commission for Women is committed to identifying and exploring issues in which consideration of feminine perspectives and insight deepens our collective awareness and understanding of those issues.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

CCD for Grown-ups - I'm so cool I can't stand it.

Last night was my first class of "CCD for Grownups" or, more officially, the Core Curriculum offered by The Institute for Catechesis and Formation of the Diocese of Allentown.  The first offering is ICF 101 The Mystery of Faith - and can I just say that I learned more about a lot of things in last night's 2 1/2 class than I have in - well lets just say in a long time.  The description of ICF 101 is:
"This course explains God's revelation of Himself in Christ, the relationship between God and humanity, the need for salvation, and God's plan for accomplishing it." 
That's a very small nutshell for some very big truths, facts, theology, ideas, contemplation, internalization, questioning, thinking...  Our very competent instructor on this Mystery is Rev. Msgr. Walter T. Scheaffer who definitely knows what he is talking about, but I think he may have ulterior motives of not only teaching us about the Mystery of Faith - but leading us to love it.  He also introduced us last night to Lectio Divina - which I had heard of but didn't know a lot about - I still don't know a lot about it, but I want to know more and I think I'm going to love it when I do.  

Whew, I hope I have the brain power to make it through all six Core Curriculum classes that are offered through the year.  I signed up for all of them and I'm just way too geekily excited for them all.  I didn't go to Catholic school.  I had very poor catechesis in the 70's and 80's - woefully poor.  Sr. MM was coming home from school all the time talking about things about our Church that I didn't have a real idea about or maybe I knew of something but didn't really know it at all.  There was a lot of talk about Scripture last evening as well - my head is still spinning about some of it and this too is another area where a lot of cradle Catholics are seriously lacking some knowledge.

I guess my point is if your Diocese - or you happen to reside in my Diocese already - is offering CCD for grown ups - take advantage of it.  Swallow your pride and admit what you don't know.  It's going to be awesome, I just know it. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Love you...Jesus loves you!

     My mother-in-law is big on hugging.  In fact, when I met her for the very first time I got the biggest and warmest hug, like she had known me forever.  It was just fine with me.  I’m a hugger too - despite it not being innately in my genetic make up.  If I hug my sister for more than 32 seconds, she starts to twitch, so I usually hang in there for at least a minute to really make her squirm.  But, I digress. 

     I noticed also on that very first visit, that every time Mom C said goodbye to her kids, she would hug, kiss, and then whisper in their ear, “Love you…Jesus loves you!”

    My family definitely, unconditionally loves each other; we just aren't big on saying it, you know, out loud.  It was something you didn’t necessarily hear, but you knew for sure.  Now with Chad’s family, I was hearing it out loud all the time and subsequently that Jesus loves you too!  I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it.  Add this to the fact that my soon-to-be husband (even if he didn’t know it yet) was bending down to have his mom whisper in his ear that Jesus loves him?  What had I gotten myself into? 
What I discovered, however, over the last 17 years is that my husband knows, without a doubt, that Jesus does love him, no matter what.  That kind of resolve is enviable, but not unattainable.
     We might not have someone physically whispering in our ear that Jesus loves us, but we are being whispered to every day in many ways.  How many times during our busy day do we really just stop for a moment and listen for those quiet words?   How many times are we able to just be still - if only for a moment - and offer even a small prayer - “Thank you,” “Help,” “Forgive me?"  Are we ever quiet enough to listen?  What might we hear?  If we were to take care of ourselves just a little bit more spiritually, even if it’s only for mere moments of a day, would we not become better caretakers of our children and spouses?
     If you aren’t able to be as demonstrative as my mom‑in‑law, that’s okay.  I don’t say, “Jesus loves you” to my girls, mostly because Nana Christ has that covered.  But, I do find my own way to tell them what I want to be sure they hear every single day.
     And if the coffee hasn’t kicked in quite enough to muster up warm fuzzies before the bus comes, I consider my family extremely blessed that our kids go to Catholic school and so are constantly surrounded by reminders of God’s love for them.  They are greeted by angels when they come through the door.  Almost everywhere you look at our wonderful school there’s a crucifix, a statue, a picture - some reminder that, hey, guess what? “Jesus loves you!” 
     When I was growing up (not all that long ago) church doors were always open, day or night.  Churches weren’t for walking by, they were for visiting.  You could stop in, sit for a while surrounded by quiet sunlight dancing through the stained glass and ponder the universality and 2,000-year history of the truth that “Jesus loves me!”  When I was little, my Mom was one of the “church ladies” who cleaned the church.  I remember tagging along and instead of doing my assigned task of dusting; I would lie down in a pew and stare up at the ceiling.  I felt so small and so big all at once.  I’m not suggesting that anyone do that now (though, if you do, please let me know what happens.) The point is we can always seek out ways to nourish our souls and recharge the parenting batteries. 
     It seems far too soon to even think about the holidays, but Thanksgiving will be here before we know it.  We always have to begin our planning early since we have to divide our time between cities, who’s coming, who’s going, and who’s staying where.  With early thoughts about holidays, emotions begin to stir up early as well.  If that weren’t enough, muddle in some typical family politics, any drama from the past year or all-out battle lines that were drawn and by the time the holiday season does roll around, there isn’t a bridge high enough for all of the water to go under. 
     I remain hopeful that if I am diligent about finding those moments in the day to quiet my mind, those places to rest my soul, and listen to who is always trying to whisper to me…by the time the first of the holidays arrives, my heart will have softened, Jesus loves me, and I’m afloat on the magic of the season…well, until my Mom calls to say, “I think your Dad and I will come out a few days early, but don’t fuss…”