Archive for the ‘transformation’ Category

Have you ever been “wrecked?”

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

I have launched a new blog known as Be As One: A Single Flow … and wanted to share with you a review of an important new book. Come on over and read the review and see what else Be As One has to offer you.

 

Pain, suffering and sacrifice are dirty words in today’s world, meant to be avoided at all costs. In the process, the meaning and value have been lost.

Wrecked: When a Broken World Slams into Your Comfortable Life, the impressive debut book by blogger Jeff Goins not only restores the meaning to suffering and sacrifice, but exhorts the reader to value, embrace and learn from them.

What does it mean to be “wrecked?”

Click here to find out.

 

Click to Tweet & Share: Jeff Goins’ impressive debut book, Wrecked, “slams” into life as we know it http://wp.me/p2D9hg-1k

 

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Duty is not a dirty word

Sunday, May 27th, 2012

Today is Pentecost, the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples.

For the last ten days, my parish (St. Luke the Evangelist in Westboro, MA) has been praying the nine-day novena to the Holy Spirit. In the midst of this novena, a 40-hour devotion was held in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

I tried to live up to my duty and participate fully in this prayerful time but fell flat after the fifth day of the novena. Still, I was looking forward to mass this Sunday in my church.

However, duty called.

King George VI understood about duty, despite his stuttering which made speech making nearly impossible.

Attending to my duty

As some of you already know, my husband Rich is a deacon in the Melkite Church which is Eastern Catholic. The liturgy is celebrated in the Byzantine tradition. It is a beautiful celebration that touches greatly upon the mystery that is our faith.

My feet of clay

I am not always up to the lofty state of mind that one needs to be in to attend these liturgies. It requires that you stand for pretty much the whole hour. This is a challenge for my bad feet and sore back.

The liturgy is entirely sung. Everyone sings which is commendable but the singing isn’t always good. Unless I am caught up in the Spirit of God, the singing can prove to be quite distracting.

I am not proud of the fact that these minor matters get in the way of worshipping God during these liturgies. But they do.

I really wanted to worship at my parish where the music can soar. But duty came first.

Saying goodbye

Rich had told me earlier in the week that a longtime and key member of his church (Our Lady of Perpetual Help), Corinne, was leaving the state to be near her children. This woman had served Our Lady of Perpetual Help for 30 years and would be sorely missed.

Corinne had been one of many at Our Lady of Perpetual Help who had welcomed me as one of their own.  I wanted to say goodbye and wish her well.

Duty called, and I chose to attend liturgy at my husband’s church rather than our own.

Where duty led me

Each morning I dedicate my day to God with a prayer that Henri Nouwen prayed. In part it says, “I am ready for all, I accept all. Let only your will be done in me …”

I attended the liturgy. As a result, I experienced a gentle outpouring of the Spirit which I know I would have missed had I not done my duty.

The Spirit brings life

It began during the homily as Fr. Paul spoke of different times in the Scriptures when the Spirit was mentioned. He recalled Ezekiel 37 when the prophet Ezekiel saw the valley of dry bones come alive again into living, breathing people because he did his duty by obeying God and prophesying over them. A valley of bones rose to new life as a result.

The Spirit promises

Fr. Paul also mentioned Joel 2:28 and the promise of the Spirit:

It will come about after this
That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind;
And your sons and daughters will prophesy,
Your old men will dream dreams,
Your young men will see visions.

What had the Spirit done for me?

It was then that I began to reflect upon the remarkable yet quiet transformation that had been going on in my life since I lost my mother two years ago.

In thinking about those readings, I realized that I was like those dry bones in the valley, brought back to life. I was dreaming dreams again. All of this because of the outpouring of the Spirit into my life.

Personal Pentecost

I began to experience a personal moment of Pentecost, becoming suddenly very aware of God’s presence pressing in on me from all sides. Rather than feeling oppressed, I felt liberated, deeply loved, and grateful for the wondrous gift God had bestowed on me in the wake of my grief.

And all this I was privy to because I had opted to do my duty.

Duty can be beautiful

Doing one’s duty is the most basic reason for doing anything. But as frail humans, sometimes it’s all we’re capable of at that moment.

How wonderful God is that He will bless my performance of duty! Because I had demonstrated to Him an openness to whatever He had in mind for me, I was able to receive His blessing.

Duty had opened the door.

I had prayed it that morning and performed it through my duty: “”I am ready for all, I accept all. Let only your will be done in me …”

Rising to new life

Saturday, May 5th, 2012

Lord Jesus, lift me from the death of sin to new life!
Christ is risen, He is truly risen!

Reflection on readings for May 5 – Acts 13:44-52, Psalm 98:1-4; John 14:7-14

Acts 13: 44-52: Paul and Barnabas had preached the Word of God to the people and many were receptive to the message. But the Jewish leaders were resistant and stirred up trouble, inciting prominent women and leaders to create an atmosphere of persecution. Scripture tells us the Jewish leaders were filled with jealousy when they saw the crowds, to the point of violence.

What was pushing their hot button?

Being Chosen

For generations the Israelites were known as the Chosen People. One could get accustomed to that, being chosen. It could be clung to as a title; one could take pride in it.

One could say that because they were chosen, others were not. A sense of superiority and entitlement could rise up as a result.

Leaders of the Chosen

The Jewish leaders were not only chosen, they were also appointed as leaders over the chosen, making their position even more important. Leadership mixed with pride created the perfect breeding ground for jealousy, and for a closed mind and heart.

Unmoved

Now these leaders were witnessing their people being swayed by the preaching of Paul and Barnabas. If the people came to believe in Jesus, the leaders could lose their power and position.

The leaders desperately clung to their power. Pride blinded them to something so much greater. For leaders, their vision was small indeed.

In danger of clinging

What am I clinging to that blocks my vision? Am I proud of my accomplishments and am I ambitious for more? Are there things in this world that I love so much that it competes with my love for God and His people?

Tug of war

In the last couple of years, the Lord has lead me into reading and writing. I had not read on a regular basis since I was a child and now suddenly I live to read. Reading has born its fruits in a new love for writing. I find myself hungering to immerse myself all the time in these pursuits. I take pride in all that I am learning.

And yet, I feel the tug of competition between my new passion and my love for the Lord. I schedule time in the morning to read and reflect on the scriptures, and also to pursue my new passion. I feel that urge to “hurry up” with the scripture study so that I can get to what I “really” love.

And yet God gave me this new love! What sense does this make?

Worshipping the gift or the Giver?

Like the Jewish leaders being blinded by their love of power and position, denying themselves eternal life with Jesus, my passion for reading and writing can do the same. Even if the gift came from God, the gift can never become a god in and of itself; it must be lorded over by the only true God.

Lift me up

And so I pray for Jesus to offer his hand and lift me from this sin as He lifted Adam and Eve out of Hades and to new life  as shown in the above icon.

I ask Him to help me bring all the pieces of my life together into one whole, fully integrated so that there is no competition.

Nothing must compete with the only thing that truly matters – a growing, vibrant loving relationship with Jesus.

What’s blocking your vision?

 

Overcoming emotion before it takes over – a followup

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

You may recall in a previous post the story I shared about how anger and aggravation overcame me beginning with the task of vacuuming the pool. I shared that story with my spiritual mother who advised me to say the Jesus Prayer before I begin, and during the task. It worked like a charm! I vacuumed the pool yesterday and the prayer lifted me outside of myself so that I could remain peaceful throughout the task. It had all the elements of being just as aggravating as the last time, but this time I was armed with prayer. Yet another lesson in the idea of detaching from emotion through prayer.

You would think I would then immediately apply prayer to any other time when emotion would overtake me but I still have a long way to go with this lesson. Letting go of aggravation and anger was easy in comparison to letting go of grief and self-pity.

Holidays lately have been a little difficult. I still haven’t grown totally into the empty nester role and therefore miss the kids terribly. I grieved the loss of our family together over the 4th of July holiday. Add to that a dose of self-pity because our efforts to go kayaking were thwarted yet again, this time by my husband’s back pain. I felt very badly for him, but felt sorry for myself too.

It took all weekend to turn to prayer but I finally did as I waited for a fireworks display. I had asked my husband if I could go and he said that was fine. I went and found myself feeling especially lonely and nostalgic for past days when we would go as a family. Seeing other families around me just added to the pain. I felt totally alone, until I realized I wasn’t ever alone – God was with me if I would just call on Him.

I began with the Jesus Prayer and quickly turned to the rosary. At first I looked up at the sky, thinking of heaven. Then I turned my gaze on all the people around me, asking God to bless them, and I began to see Christ in all of them. The feelings of loneliness, grief and self-pity slowly began to dissipate as I became aware of the presence of my very best Friend, the one who will never leave me, deep in my heart, and all around me too in those people.

The fireworks display seemed extra lively and bright now that I felt surrounded by friends. Maybe next time I won’t wait so long!

Part 11: Conclusion – Becoming a beautiful Godly woman – the journey is just beginning

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

Throughout this series I have shared with you ideas that I had about becoming beautiful as God means for us to be. This has been a deeply personal journey as I have literally lived with this topic for the last 3 months, reading a little bit each day, outlining the chapters in  The Prayer of Mary by Keith Fournier and The Authentic Catholic Woman by Genevieve Kineke. As we know from gardening, a downpour is not going to be particularly beneficial to the flowers – it might beat them down and surely the bulk of the water will run off. It’s those gentle rains, even drizzle, that persist from day to day that bring the real benefit to the garden. This reading, bit by bit, day by day, has acted as a gentle rain on the garden of my soul. Where total surrender to God was once a lofty thought is now something I have embraced, and my journey has just begun in living it.

I find that I am more at peace with my life and can take the longer view down the road while still remaining in the present. Recently my husband, who is a contract worker, was between jobs and was becoming concerned that he would not find a new assignment soon enough to continue with the contracting company which gives him a salary and our health plan. He knew I was praying daily for the unemployed and asked me to remember him which I gladly did. As I prayed, I thought to myself that no matter what happened, even if he lost his job and we lost our health benefits, that everything in the long run would work out for our best. My trust in God was deeper because of this journey of surrender which I had embarked upon.

My love for Mary, our Mother, has truly grown. She truly is the most beautiful woman the world has ever known, and will ever know. She lays out a simple path to follow (simple to understand but not necessarily easy to follow), speaking it plainly at the Wedding at Cana when she instructs the servers, “Do whatever He tells you.” She knew from the many deep experiences of her life that following the Lord wherever He led was the only way to lead an authentic life. She came to understand in the course of her life that this way was not free of pain or suffering; in fact it probably was more intense because she chose a more radical way of living. Her “yes”, however, transformed all of history, helping to open the road to Heaven to every human being going back to Adam and Eve, and going forward to the end of time. She held God incarnate in her arms – caressing and kissing, listening to and consoling Him, and laughing with Him. She witnessed Him risen, saw Him ascend to Heaven, and experienced the Holy Spirit coming upon her at Pentecost. Every moment of her life was a “yes” and every “yes” opened the door wider to God’s grace and mercy.

No wonder she was the most beautiful woman the world has ever known!

I earnestly pray, beg, that God’s light, His image, like those of the beautiful icons, will glow within me and will not be blocked by any shadow. I pray, I beg, that God will help me continue to remove the wall that blocks Him from me, stone by stone and eventually, boulder by boulder as I become stronger in Him.

I deeply desire to become a beautiful Godly woman that will be evident for all to see. I desire that people will look at me and see not me, but the Lord. I want to be that bold, that transparent. I want to be like those women I admire so much in my own life who to me epitomize holiness – my Noni, the master teacher of hospitality, the realtor in my office who positively glows with God’s light, and my dear spiritual mother whose mastery of sacrificial love in spite of her illness inspires me daily.

Dear Lord, make me like those women! Make me beautiful like Your Mother. Mary, mother to us all and my mother, pray for me.

*************************************************

Thank you for following this series on becoming a beautiful Godly woman. Here are links to the other 10 posts in case you missed any:

Part 1: Discovering the beauty of woman through the eyes of God – a multi-part series

Part 2: The beauty of a Godly woman – learning to say “Yes.”

Part 3: What makes a beautiful Godly woman – Holiness.

Part 4: What makes a beautiful Godly woman? The way of beauty

Part 5: What makes a beautiful Godly woman? Modeling ourselves after Holy Mother Church

Part 6: Beautiful Godly woman – living sacramentally

Part 7: Beautiful Godly woman – hospitality

Part 8: Becoming a beautiful Godly woman – how meal times can become a beautiful sacramental expression

Part 9: A beautiful Godly woman is an agent of reconciliation

Part 10: beautiful Godly woman – the gift of healing

Part 11: Conclusion – Becoming a beautiful Godly woman – the journey is just beginning

Here are links to 2 other companion posts:

Praying in new places, in new ways – an example of a creative routine for daily prayer and scripture reading

Why does love chase away fear? – Total surrender to God chased away fear, allowing us to face anything in our lives

 

Praying in new places, in new ways

Friday, May 13th, 2011

I’ve been a bit quiet on this blog lately but it certainly isn’t because of a lack of anything to say! I just can’t figure out how to put it into words. All I can say is that I feel like I am being transformed inside, bit by bit. I have had wonderful prayer experiences with the Lord and am learning much through my reading, but right now I’m having trouble pulling it all together.

All I can say is that my prayer time has been vibrant of late and I wanted to share with you how and where I pray. These prayer experiences are not typical but are precisely a result of the transformation going on which is helping me to find the Lord in every place imaginable.

Technology definitely plays a role in my prayer time and so does my workout routine. Just to give you some teasers. :-)

Morning Prayer

My morning prayer routine begins at 7:45 every morning with the beeper going off on my iTouch, reminding me to pray for my ministry. Usually I am getting ready for work at this point so I take a moment to pray the Jesus prayer 3 times: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Sometimes I think of specific intentions such as the upcoming retreat presentation I am to give with my partner Ann on June 11 in NH; oftentimes I don’t think of any specific intention, just that the Lord Jesus have mercy on me as I struggle to serve Him.

Each day I set up my iTouch for the long ride in to work (which, by the way, I find to be a real blessing). After downloading the daily readings from the USCCB podcast, I choose music that will first, quiet my mind and heart – songs that I can pray, and then secondly, music that will inspire me to study the Word.

Songs that I use to pray include

The beauty of these songs is that they stay with you throughout the day, effectively facilitating non-stop prayer. These are songs I definitely want playing forever on the radio in my head!

Songs that I use to prepare me to hear the Word of God include

  • “Lectio Divina,” also off of John Michael Talbot‘s Worship and Bow Down album . What’s cool about this song is that it actually teaches you how to pray the scriptures using the technique of Lectio Divina (which is basically reading, praying, meditating and then contemplating the Word of God, usually by focusing on a single verse and speaking it out loud several times)
  • “Breathe,” in this case, sung by Annie Karto from her Perfect Sacrifice album
  • And a new one I tried today, “Come True Light” from Sarah Hart‘s Saint Song album.

These songs prepare my heart and mind to hear the Word and meditate upon it.


After hearing the USCCB podcast, I will then listen to chant to help me focus on the verses from scripture that struck me. The Norbertine Fathers provide wonderful chant music.

Finally I listen to music that will inspire praise. Lately I’ve been listening to Steve Angrisano‘s Live: Songs from the Road album (great to sing along with).

By the time I get into work, my head and heart are full of the Lord. :-)

Prayer Throughout the Day

I use my iTouch plus Google Calendar to help me remember to pray throughout the day. As I have it with me most of the time, it acts like the bells in the monastery, summoning me to prayer. At the moment I have 4 times set up:

  • 7:45 am, to pray for my ministry
  • 10:30 am, to pray for those who are unemployed
  • 12 noon, the Angelus, asking for Mary’s intercession for prayer intentions I keep in a prayer journal
    (on my iTouch, of course!)
  • 3:00 pm, a portion of the Divine Mercy prayer, again remembering prayer intentions

Each time is short as I am at work, but it really helps me to stay focused on the Lord

Night Prayer

This is admittedly the weakest part of my prayer routine. Strangely enough, I find it most difficult to pray at this time, probably because all I want to do is sleep! Sometimes I listen to daily mass on the CatholicTV app (I could listen on TV but the light from the TV keeps me awake!) or I will listen to the Divine Office night prayers on their podcast. A lot of times though I will give in and watch House Hunters on HGTV (that show is very addicting :-) ).

Night prayer is a discipline I will have to work on.

Next time I’ll talk about praying while I work out. Some of the most intense prayer I’ve ever experienced has been on the treadmill

What are your prayer routines?

 

Letting Go of Fear

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

(The Red Room website was calling for articles about letting go in honor of Lent so I submitted this post. This isn’t really about Lent, but it is about letting go, and it shows that it doesn’t have to be swift and painful for it to work. God is gracious and merciful).

I profess to have faith in God and as such, am supposed to trust in God. But when it came to the family finances, I never seemed to be able to find that pool of trust.

My husband and I are talented at many things, but managing money is not one of them. Even though my husband works as a financial analyst, he has no interest in using those talents to balance our checkbook. I am quite motivated, but often have to add up the numbers more than once on the calculator to get the right answer.

As a result, we always seemed to be in financial trouble, and this caused me a lot of stress. It would usually play out in the wee hours of the morning, the dreaded 4 o’clock hour: waking up, stomach hurting and palms sweaty over the big monster in the closet. Somehow that monster always shrank when the sun would rise and I’d get up for the day. The monster may not have been physically present, but the fear was very real.

I prayed to God about our finances. First it was, “Please send us extra money get through the month.” Then it was, “Please teach us how to handle our money.” I wanted a miracle, I wanted to win the lottery. But that’s not how God works.

Finally, a few years ago, something broke and it came about because of a purchase: the purchase of a tandem kayak.

We had moved into an area full of lakes, streams and ponds, and my husband kept bugging me to use the credit card and purchase a kayak. I have abhorrence for credit cards and kept saying no, but finally to keep the peace, I gave in. It turned out to be a momentous decision.

Some husbands and wives should never work together and that was us – just too competitive, each of us always wanting to come out on top. Yet, when the kayak came, that all changed. Very naturally we took our places – he handled the physical end of the boat (how to put it up on the car, how to carry it, etc.) and he graciously allowed me to sit up in the front to determine where we would paddle to. The smooth silence of the water complemented by the beautiful hot summer days made for blissfully peaceful trips down lazy rivers and streams. We’d drift and look at birds, run our hands through the warm water, stop to go fishing, all the while talking to each other in soft voices. In the kayak, I could let go of everything that was bothering me.

Winter came and the kayak was put away but I longed for that peace and harmony to continue, especially when I’d wake up at 4am worrying about money. That’s when God went to work, slowly changing me, pouring His grace upon me like a light mist falling on fallow ground, until that ground became soft and bore fruit. He used the imagery of the kayak trip to teach me about floating down His river of grace, all the while letting go and letting Him steer. Slowly I shed the worries that burdened me and turned them over to Him, letting them flow downstream. I began to sleep through the night and let the sun wake me up in the morning rather than the monster in the closet.

I learned how to let go of my fear. I learned how to trust. The good and gentle God took me by the hand, used something that was so sweet and delicious to me and taught me how to trust. And I haven’t turned back since.

Learning true humility (part two)

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

The Catholic Spiritual Direction blog had an outstanding post today on the Gospel from last Sunday (Matthew 5:38-48). It fits right in with my journey of discovery about true humility. The words of this Gospel are hard but throughout this stretch of Ordinary Time, it seems that Jesus has been constantly challenging the people of His time (and of all time) to dig deeper, finding the real meaning.  For the first time, I am beginning to understand what Jesus meant when He said, “I have not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it.” Check out this excerpt from today’s Catholic Spiritual Direction blog:

Christ the Lord When Jesus says, “You have learnt how it was said,” he is referring to the Old Covenant, the Law of Moses. That Law gave the Jewish people their unique standing among all the nations of the world, because God himself had given it to them. For 1500 years Israel’s prophets and rabbis had interpreted it, applied it to changing circumstances, and exhorted the people to live it out, but never had a faithful Israelite ever claimed authority over it. Therefore, when Jesus says, “… but I say to you…” – implying an addition to the Law – his listeners are faced with something entirely new: someone who claims authority over the Law of Moses. Jesus is requiring of them a new allegiance and making way for a New Covenant. The Sermon on the Mount was revolutionary not only in its ideas, but in the claims of the Lord who gave it.

Want to read more? Click here . . .

I’ve been turning this post over and over in my mind all day long. It is true meat to chew on!

This post is out a book I am getting tempted to buy called The Better Part by Father John Bartunek, LC. Click on the book title to purchase.

Learning true humility (part one)

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

I am extremely blessed to have 2 wonderful people in my life who act as friends and spiritual advisers – Deacon Dave from Delaware and my spiritual mother. The other day, they both gave me a powerful affirmation on the need and meaning of true humility.

It had occurred to me at the last confirmation retreat that I assisted on that I was very rigid in my routines. As God is prone to do on occasion, He shone a bright spotlight on this issue, but this was not what He was trying to show me as this was just a symptom. What became clear to me as I observed others on the retreat who lived their faith so openly and radically (and who loved so well), I was containing the Holy Spirit through micro management. I knew I was into control but I had no idea how much!

I began to deeply desire letting go of this tendency to micro manage but had no idea how to do it. This past Tuesday, God showed me how and it was a very obvious answer – prayer.

Prayer. Duh. But as my deacon friend pointed out, it could not be prayer that I dictated (which was one of my rituals). God had to direct the prayer. This meant I had to face up to a fear I had of being alone with God and quiet.

I have felt the pull to do this for quite a while. I am very dependent on technology as a tool for prayer and scripture reflection, using my iTouch extensively for everything from listening to podcasts and music, to using the new Confession app (an excellent app by the way, I highly recommend it) and various rosary and prayer apps I had downloaded. These tools work well but I was using them to avoid letting God direct my prayer.

This pull from God began to reveal a more root problem – fear of failure and a relationship based on trying to please God rather than just learning how to BE with God. This was tough stuff!

Because of all the times I have tried to be quiet with God and failed (either the mind races or I fall asleep – happens every time I go to adoration), I was afraid to try again.

Deacon Dave exhorted me to try and laid out a basic formula for it. I avoided it. My spiritual mother described how she did it which so affirmed Deacon Dave’s exhortation, and that helped. And she gave me a very wise piece of counsel – you can’t fail if you are with God. You simply do the best you can – He accepts you exactly as you are.

Yesterday was the first time I tried it but it was certainly not in a place I would expect it to work! I had spent much of yesterday putting together a PowerPoint presentation for the Sung Rosary using the Sorrowful Mysteries. Over the course of many hours I poured over images of my dear Jesus, tortured and crucified for all of us, for me. It was work at the time and I wondered why I was not moved more by the images. Later on in the day, that would all come flooding back.

I went to the gym to work out on the elliptical and proceeded to read as I always do. I was very distracted by the noise around me and realized that would not work. I plugged in my iTouch and began listening to one of my favorite classical pieces, Bach’s Cantata 140. The power of the music immediately triggered an intense period of prayer like I have never experienced before. All the images I had poured over earlier in the day flooded my mind and 2 in particular haunted me. I found myself attracted to a very physical and human Jesus as well as a powerful and divine Christ and I longed to be with Him, to touch Him. I kissed His feet and re-enacted Mary’s public devotion of washing His feet with precious perfume and drying them with her hair. I begged for Him to lift the veil and let me see His face, all while working the elliptical harder than I ever had before. There was something about the physical sensation of the running, the grunting, the panting, the sweating . . . I imagined myself like St. Paul, running the race with Jesus right beside me, just as Deacon Dave and my spiritual mother had said. For true humility is having Jesus right beside you, not behind or in front of you. Beside you, as He was with the disciples at Emmaus, opening their hearts to the scriptures and the truth.

There is more I want to write about this discovery of humility that I will share in future posts. But needless to say, this first true experience of prayer that was controlled by God left haunting memories and a deep desire to go there again. My spiritual mother was right – you can’t fail, and especially if you let God lead the way.

A tribute to our confirmation students and the retreat team at St. Luke the Evangelist Parish

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

Rich and I came home from the second of two retreat weekends for our confirmation students only a few hours ago. These weekends are so packed, so intense, and it just wears us both out both physically and emotionally. I feel poured out as I’m sure he does too. But we both agree it is one of the most rewarding things that we do for our faith.

The first weekend was back at the beginning of January. It was the first time for me and the whole experience just blew me away. I couldn’t even write about it even though I wanted to. There was just too much to sift through. This time around, I feel very raw emotionally.  A few moments ago I lay on my bed petting my cat having just finished a conversation with our grown son about how extraordinary the retreat was and how I wished he could have seen it. A life of faith committed to the church is still not for him which is his prerogative right now, but after he left the room, all I could do was lie on my bed and weep. At first it was for him but it quickly included everyone who cannot yet see. A wave of nausea swept over me as the tears ran down and I thought of everyone who is blinded by the lies of this world to the truth of God.

I know that God has laid on my heart this burden of praying for conversion, it is something very dear to me. I pray for my children constantly every day, and other family members pretty regularly. But today I felt that burden spread to include everyone, especially young people, and I want to commit myself to praying for them as I pray for my own children.

And why is this? Because I have been a witness to radical faith. Although I’ve read the scriptures over the years and have see it in luminaries such as Mother Teresa, the truth really came home to me through the people I know and love in my home parish, St. Luke the Evangelist in Westborough, MA. In a time when all you hear about is what the Catholic Church is doing wrong, I want to announce to the world that here at St. Luke’s it is being done right.

Our parish knows how to develop the talents of its people. We don’t hire professionals to come in to run our retreats; we instead call upon volunteers in our parish to give the talks, run the small groups, conduct prayer services, do the ice breakers, provide the live music and listen to the young people. Some people have been on this retreat team for over 10 years, giving up 2 weekends every January to help our confirmation students meet God in a powerful and authentic way. Besides the older adults which populate the team, St. Luke’s also has the wisdom to bring in peers from nearby Assumption College to assist in the same way.  These students are deeply committed to their faith and give such a powerful witness of how it is indeed possible to be a young person in today’s society and also be a follower of Jesus.

There were many talks given over the weekend, all powerful mainly in their raw honesty and authenticity. People shared deeply from their lives, often telling stories of great courage in navigating the often messy and stormy nature of everyday living by remaining close to Christ. There were no pat answers here, no “just follow Jesus and your life will be happy and carefree every day.” Our Lord never promised that life would be easier by having faith; in fact He pointed out that often it would be a lot harder. How could we have it easy when He carried His cross for us and died on it to reunite us with the Father? What He did promise is that He would always be beside us. There is no getting away from enduring suffering in order to get to the better place on the other side, whether it be here on earth, or in heaven, but our advantage as believers is to have our eternal Friend by our side, gently guiding us.

Each member of the team demonstrated a faith that is living, vibrant and totally integrated into every fiber of their being. Both adult and student members shared deeply from their hearts, allowing the confirmation students to see them as they really are – flawed, sometimes weak, wounded but full of faith, love and deep joy in knowing Jesus Christ.

As I am still new to the team, I mostly observed though I did provide some music and helped with a prayer service. But the message is coming through loud and clear to me what God is calling me to, and that is a radical living of my own faith. I could feel Him gently pointing out to me how I micromanage the Holy Spirit in my life. He did that by showing me how much I obsessed over the weekend over having everything just so – rearranging the furniture in my room so that it would most resemble my bedroom at home, constantly clinging to my bag that I kept with me which contained my glasses, iTouch, moisturizer for my lips, water bottle, instant coffee and throat lozenges . . . heaven forbid I should not have everything I need for my instant comfort! I obsessed too over having the time to warm up my singing voice so I could provide good quality singing – heaven forbid I should hit a wrong note! In all these things, I could see that I was not willing to give myself over totally to Jesus and trust in His care. If I was obsessing over such small and meaningless stuff, how could I possibly be truly open to what He wanted to do through me? I really got the message loud and clear that I need to let go a whole lot more and stop trying to micromanage the Spirit. As a team, we were asking these kids to let go of their cares and openly trust in the Spirit. I even did a prayer service where I asked the kids to imagine a kitchen table loaded with stuff, and then taking their arm and gently sweeping everything off the table. I was telling them to try it but was unwilling or unable to try it myself.

Now my heart burns with desire to be like so many of the team members who live their faith so radically. How fortunate I am to be surrounded by such extraordinary people, such wonderful examples of true discipleship. And it starts from the top down, beginning with our pastor whose whole life is one constant prayer, to the youth minister who loves so unconditionally, constantly pouring herself out, to my husband who has dedicated his life in service to the Church as a deacon.

I salute every extraordinary member of the St. Luke’s confirmation retreat team, and the wonderful students of Assumption College. I have received such powerful examples of what it means to be a radical follower of Jesus, and I want to follow right after you.

And what of the young people who were on retreat with us? I observed how open they were to receiving the message. They listened attentively, worked hard, and bonded with each other in the course of the 2-1/2 days. They gave up their weekend, leaving behind their worries about school, their boyfriends or girlfriends, their peers, even their cell phones. These kids were willing to listen and to experience the power of the Holy Spirit. They are now part of my heart and I want to hold them close and pray for them that the seeds planted this weekend will grow. The battle began for them the minute they left with retreat center with so many pressures pressing on them from family, peers, school, and society. I want to commit myself to praying for them constantly as I do for my own children.

I hope that by making this public confession that I can live out my commitment to pray for them and to follow the example of my own peers at St. Luke’s, living more radically for Jesus. I hope I can learn to step aside and let the Spirit truly lead. Lord Jesus, with Your help and Your grace, may each succeeding day be a footstep closer to that goal.