Thursday, January 10, 2019

How to Change Your Life (without going anywhere)

As I was cooling down from a workout, I came across a two-part (Part One, Part Two) interview with St. Teresa of Calcutta (before she was a saint.)  It was a simple, one-on-one interview that really intrigued me.  Although the interview is a little dated, it is still inspiring; I think for anyone who wants to grow in holiness, observing a saint is a good place to start.

So anyway, during the interview, Mother Teresa was asked to tell her story of how she got started with the poor.  She described her first encounter of picking up someone out of the street (who had been eaten by rats) and pleading with the local hospital to take them in.  After that, she decided she would make a place for them herself, and as they say, the rest is history.

The Irish interviewer seemed intrigued with how someone could go about doing this type of work, and Mother Teresa gave her familiar statement about Jesus being in the poor.  

She was asked how she keeps from becoming despondent over this work, knowing that the rest of the nation is not doing what it should be doing.  How does she deal with the burden of it?

As you might suspect, she didn’t see it as a burden at all.

“Jesus is only one.  He said, ‘You did it to me.’  We take one individual person, one person at a time.  We love one at a time.  Jesus said, ‘I was hungry and you fed me.’  It is Jesus, because Jesus said so.”

We are “doing it to Jesus. . . . The poor are Jesus.”  She described her concern for those living with poverty (both material and the absence of love).  She said that there are so many people who “hunger for love” and are being “abandoned” in their own homes, such as shut-ins. They are “hungry to be recognized and respected,” she said, referring to those with disabilities, as well, who are often forgotten.

Mother Teresa started doing this work by herself, then some of her former students joined her, so the initial band was about 12.  As we all know, the Sisters of Charity are huge now.  She was asked how it is that she was able to grow her order, when other orders are shrinking:

“Give people a chance to do works of love, that reaches people, ” she said.  In other words, she didn’t have to tell them what to do, but gave them the means to do it.  Humanity responds when given a chance.

But here’s the quote that struck me the most, as she was describing leaving her vocation of teaching to work with the poor in the streets:

“The work is a means to put our love for Christ into action.”   She simply “changed the means, the work, to work for the poorest of the poor.”

And here is where you and I fit in:

It really doesn’t matter what you do, if you see your work as the way to love Jesus, you’re good.  For someone with a quasi “save the world” perspective, this is a good gut check.

Maybe all you need to do is take care of one person, to love them and give them dignity in their life.  That can be enough, because you are doing it to Jesus himself.

St. Teresa’s familiarity to us might blind us, as familiarity often does.  We think we know what someone’s about, heard it all before.  But for the work of parents, for instance, who day in and day out don’t save the world, but work hard to provide a home and stability for their children, St. Teresa’s message is life-giving.

For the laborer who feels stuck in a job that they can’t stand, that feels their work is without purpose, imagine how they have the power to change their situation!  Maybe they cannot change the means of the work they do, but they can certainly change their approach to it.

Think about it.  What if you could see Jesus in every single person you encounter today?  What if you made it your mission to “see” everyone, even those who are passed by or ignored?  What if you listened—really listened—to your coworker who is suffering, feeling alone or unloved?

Mother Teresa said there are four conditions for a woman to join the Sisters of Charity:

1  1)   Health of mind and body
    2)   Ability to learn
    3) Plenty of common sense
    4)  Cheerful disposition

Maybe you could join the Sisters of Charity in spirit, right where you live and work.  My guess is, if you adopt St. Teresa’s thought on this, it will change your life.

Janet Cassidy

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

The Health Guy

I’ve been watching this video series from this health guy who gives the scientific approach to raising energy levels.  He gets into how to build up your cells internally, by increasing the number of mitochondria—the energy engine—in your cells.

Now I always watch these guys with suspicion because I know that in the end, they are just trying to sell us something—which he has already admitted is his goal. I never buy into their programs, but the interesting thing about this guy is that he does—for free—break down some of the science in his introductory videos.

Of course, as in so many cases, he spends a lot of words to say something that could be said much more simply.

Things like—routine exercise, coupled with intensity, such as weight lifting or sprinting, can help people who are sedentary.  Fasting now and again can be good for the average person (who doesn’t have other health concerns.)  

Basic stuff.

We do this with religion as well.  We use a lot of words—sometimes expensive words—to say things that could be said much more simply.

This can be challenging to people who are, maybe for the first time, dipping their toe into the water of faith.  Complicating this, we tend to use language that is totally unfamiliar, while making the assumption that everyone knows what we are talking about.

I believe that this contributes to the reason so many people either do not step deeper into their faith, or live at a very surface level.

I can say with certainty that as a beginner, some of the documents we encounter, or concepts we try to learn, are extremely challenging.  Also with certainty, I can guarantee that with increased familiarity, comprehension improves as well.

Growing in your faith almost requires learning a new language, so like learning Spanish or French or whatever, it takes time and patience.  We don’t learn it over night.  But is it worth investing our time and energy?  Well, yes, if you want to go to Spain or France or communicate in that language, and yes, if you want to grow in your faith and strengthen your foundation.

Where to begin?

Well, like any language, begin with the basics.  Like my health guy, break it down.  Whenever you read a new word, or hear some religious person say something you are unfamiliar with, find out what it means.

Also, sometimes it really helps just to dive in.  What interests you when it comes to faith or religion?  Do you want to know who believes what, or do you want to know what motivated a popular religious figure?  Are you looking to see why your church practices the way it does, teaches what it does?

Maybe you are interested in worship music.  How does it add to a service?  What is its role in worship?

Maybe you need someone to walk you through social areas you are concerned with, or how you can participate in various events.

Don’t wait for an invitation.

These are all ways to dip your toe into the shallow end, which is where we all begin.  As a youth, you don’t get thrown into the deep end without knowing how to swim, but you get familiarized with the water from a level that is comfortable first.

I encourage you today to think about where your interests are when it comes to faith and explore them.  What you will discover is a wide, wide world that can transform you at your very core.

Like the health guy trying to introduce his listeners to some basic ideas about how to get healthy, you, too, will improve your spiritual health when you open yourself up to the language of faith and some new experiences.

And the added benefit is that you don’t have to worry about someone trying to sell you something in the end.  This is God’s free gift!

God bless,
Janet Cassidy

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Why Do You Act Like That?

I was in the grocery store the other day, waiting in line at the customer service counter to make a return when I overheard a conversation between a store employee and a customer.

The customer had just asked an employee who did not work in customer service if they accepted utility bills in that department.  The employee said he did not work in that area so he did not know, but proceeded to ask someone at the customer service counter for him and got an answer.

The customer did not accept the employee’s reasoning as to why he did not know if they accepted utility bills.  In fact, as he wandered off, the customer said, “It would take me about 5 minutes to learn that, if I worked here, then if someone else asked about it, I would know.”

In other words, be willing to expand your knowledge of the job in order to help people.

I understood what the customer was saying, but in defense of the employee, I can also see how in a big retail grocery store, it would be hard to know such things outside of one’s own department.

Regardless, the customer could not let it go and he wandered off, re-stating his position and complaining within earshot of everyone around.

Then, the employee proceeded to tell another employee about the situation and they had a discussion which, although I could not hear it very well, ended in some cursing and complaining about the customer.

Oh my.

Interestingly, in the end, the customer wandered back over where I was standing, and he was still talking about it, but this time, I think he mumbled to no one in particular, some sort of an apology, or an empathetic comment.

This conversation plays right into something I have been thinking about lately.  What makes anger and impatience the reflexive response for some people while others seem to have patience as a default mode?  

If you are in the latter category, good for you.  But for those of you who are in the former group, let’s talk about it.  You can change.  You really can, and the world will be all the better for it.

Sometimes this kind of a response is ingrained in us.  In that case, we may have a lifetime of training to undo. Maybe our life experiences in general have given us a default mode that reacts with indignation or cynicism.  Or, maybe we were raised that way. (A friend of mine has spent a lifetime trying not to be his dad—that’s a lot of work.)

Clearly, I’m not saying this is going to be easy, but with some self-awareness, it can be done.

Does it seem like everyone’s an idiot lately?  That nobody does anything right? That people never do what they are supposed to do, or how YOU would do it?

Is this your default mode?  How do you get out of it? How do you change YOU?

Well, it begins with a little soul searching.  Why do you respond the way you do?  That’s an important question to explore.

Here’s a thought.  Maybe at the bottom of your behavior, after you have done an honest self-analysis, you might discover that it is very simple:  you did not get your own way.

Think about the last time you got mad.  Was it because someone did not act like YOU thought they should?  That they did not do it the way YOU would have? 

What does that say about your why?

It is possible that not everyone is actually an idiot, or annoying, you know. 

Maybe they just seem annoying because they are not living up to your standards and expectations, a ruler they may not even be aware of, let alone realize they are being measured against.

Perhaps, rather than measuring others against our own standards and expectations, which will be impossible for them to satisfy anyway, we would be wise to look at our own words and actions and measure them against Christ’s.

The quickest way to disarm our default behavior, if it is not good and we want to change it, is to ask ourselves, “Are my words and actions Christ-like?”

Janet Cassidy