A rare find. An elusive look. A unique character.
Stands out in a crowd. Turns heads. Captures one's attention. Stimulates conversation. Debunks normality.
Regular maintenance. Mercifully creative. Outside of the box. Philosophically different. Unexpected. Unnatural. Unworldly.
Is this the description of a zebra poodle ... or that of a practicing Catholic?
Think about it.
"Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind ..." - Romans 12:2
"Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance." - James 1:2-3
Our life's road is full of many obstacles. Some we can avoid; some we have to detour around; and some just hit us right in the face.
With God as our guide, our faith is made stronger as our crooked road is made straight and each obstruction is cleared from our path.
What obstacles have you stumbled upon?
Dear God, thank you for being my navigator as I steer through my life's journey with You. Amen.
Do you feel as though we're in some pretty turbulent times right now? It's like the country, and the world, are spinning in a downward spiral. A walk in the park helped to put a lot of what's going on into perspective.
The sign pointed to a "steep grade ahead", and yet it feels as though we're already sliding down a big hill. Between the pandemic, the election, losing a job, educating the kids, and visiting family, could the grade really get steeper? As it says in Mark 5:13, "... and the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine. The herd of about two thousand rushed down a steep bank into the sea, where they were drowned." Are we going to drown in this misery?
But yet, we've been here before. The sign said "prehistoric earthwork", and it was hard not to chuckle. While it seems like these are bad times, other generations have suffered through many, if not worse, pandemics, elections, social changes, and even wars. We can look back at history and know that we are here today because others survived it before. We can also look at our faith and see "... we hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us." (2 Corinthians 4:7). We are God's "earthwork"; we've been around since prehistoric times, and God has always prevailed.
Further along, the sign questioned whether this was a "fort or sacred site?". Are we singularly building up a defense or a plan of attack so we can plow through these tough times? "Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down and decide whether with ten thousand troops he can successfully oppose another king advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops?" - Luke 14:31. Perhaps instead of erecting a fort on our own so we can conquer these enemies, we should instead choose to be a "sacred site", relying on our good God to make all things right, for it says: "The one who sat on the throne said, 'Behold, I make all things new.'” - Revelation 21:5.
Jesus, I trust in You. Amen.
"Lord, You are in control of my life, my sufferings, and my death. May I never forget that." - reflection from the Padre Pio Prayer Group of Cleveland prayer calendar, 10/1/2020
Wow. What a game-changer. Obvious, but way too often forgotten.
How many times (a day!) do I want to be in control of myself, of situations, of others? I know it's too many to count.
When times get tough, when challenges pile up, when pandemic fatigue sets in, when I am too ill to lift my head, when I am not able to do what I want to do when I want to do it, when my plans and dreams cannot be fulfilled, when my neighbors irritate me ... I will remember these words and repeat them often: "Lord, You are in control of my life, my sufferings, and my death."
And may I never forget that. Amen.
"Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me." - John 15:4
The survey asked whether the COVID-19 pandemic weakened my faith or strengthened my faith.. It was definitely food for thought.
It's easy to get lax in your faith. As restrictions increase and fear persists, we find other ways to spend our regular Mass time. Watching live-streamed Mass at our convenience instead of gathering as a community can become a new norm for many.
On the other hand, as the pandemic continues and staying at home is common, many have lengthened their regular Mass time by adding spiritual reading or uplifting religious programming to their weekly or daily routine.
Psychologists and theorists can cite many examples of scientific behavior modification in people. Here's two theories for consideration: (1) Classical (or Pavlovian) Conditioning, which refers to a learning procedure in which two conditions linked together produce a new learned response in a person. (2) The 21/90 Rule, which states that it takes 21 days to make a habit and 90 days to make it a permanent lifestyle change.
We've all had months to change our behavior due to new learned procedures and habits Have you remained on the vine or separated from it?
Now it's your turn. Take the survey.
"Lift up your heads, O gates; be lifted, you ancient portals, that the king of glory may enter." - Psalm 24:7
This sign is all too familiar lately as services shut down and businesses close due to the pandemic.
Have you shut down? Have you closed your heart and mind to God's love and mercy?
King of Glory, my doors are open for business in Your kingdom. Enter the store of my heart, and fill my waiting shelves with Your grace. Amen.
" 'Do not be afraid; just have faith.' " - Mark 5:36
What's hiding under this cloth? Our imagination goes into overdrive as we conjure up all of the possibilities that we think the cloth could be hiding.
What are you hiding? We all hide something, whether it is big or small. Maybe we don't want others to see our true personality, a trial we are going through at home, or a birthday party we are planning for a friend.
But God sees all. He sees through and under our "cloth". All of our secrets are laid bare. Go to Him. Do not be afraid. There is nothing you can hide from Him.
Merciful Father, you know me inside and out. Give me the courage and the strength to share with you all that is hidden within me. Amen.
"... yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom all things are and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things are and through whom we exist." - 1 Corinthians 8:6
Have you ever been around someone who denies the presence of God? Take them into a Catholic church and you can see their anxiety as they can't wait to get out of the building.
How do they justify the beauty of creation: the sun, the moon, the stars, the hills, and the valleys? How do they justify the reason for the good and the bad in their life? How do they justify the joy of a newborn or the hope in a death?
Am I doing my part to be a spokesperson for Jesus Christ? Do I continue to show them the places that are uncomfortable to them as I witness to Jesus Christ?
Most Faithful Jesus, help those with unbelief to believe, and help those with belief to lead. Amen.
And with that call, the SpaceX rocket blasted off into the atmosphere. A decade of preparation, research, and testing culminated in the successful launch of a new era in space travel for the United States.
The plan, in the not-too-distant future, is to open up the heavens and the stars as a vacation destination for those seeking an out-of-this world travel experience.
Not sure if I would want to step on the moon or go to Mars, but perhaps it would be intriguing to visit Heaven for a bit in order to "check it out". Wonder if that would be a locale you could select when flipping through the time-share brochure.
What about you? Have you booked your reservation yet?
PHOTO: REUTERS/Thom Baur
With a keen eye, sometimes it seems as though everywhere you look, there are encouraging photos, scriptures, songs, or quotes. As you reflect on the following, share your thoughts in the Comments. What are you feeling? How has this current trial affected you? Changed you? Strengthened you?
"Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you. Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings." - 1 Peter 5:7-9
"Without the sacraments of the Church, primarily the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper as it is sometimes called, I certainly do not think that I could go on. I do not always approach it from need, or with joy and thanksgiving. After thirty-eight years of almost daily Communion, one can confess to a routine, but it is like a routine of taking daily food. But Jesus himself told us at that last supper, Do this in memory of me (Luke 22:19)…." - Servant of God Dorothy Day
"Almighty and eternal God, provident refuge in every danger, kindly turn your gaze toward us, who with faith implore you in tribulation, and grant eternal rest to the deceased, comfort to those who weep, health to the sick, peace to those who are dying, strength to healthcare providers, a spirit of wisdom to civil authorities, and a heart to draw near to everyone with love so that together we might glorify your holy name." - Opening Prayer from the Votive Mass in Time of Pandemic
"Despite the strains and stresses we have felt as a nation, and the long road that lies ahead, we remain confident in Christ’s final victory over sin and death. Illness, poverty, conflict, and death cannot triumph over Christ’s love and grace. We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28)." - Fr. Sebastian White, O.P., MAGNIFICAT
"Each one of us can say: 'I hope, because God is beside me.'" - Pope Francis
"Green pastures are before me,
Which yet I have not seen;
Bright skies will soon be o’er me,
Where the dark clouds have been."
- In Heavenly Love Abiding by Anna L. Waring (published 1850)
"Death is not the end. We were made for life. We were made for joy. Death brings the fulfillment of that life and joy, but we can live in it now. Even in the midst of grief. Even in the midst of plagues and poverty and confusion. If we are in Christ, we have nothing to fear from the terrors of the world. They cannot kill the life inside us." - Dr. Scott Hahn
"Looking at little life moments with a spiritual eye."