Monday, November 19, 2018

The Great Bad Mood

Have you ever been in a really bad mood?  I mean really bad? I have.  Maybe once, or twice, or maybe more than once or twice.

The funny thing about bad moods is that there are two kinds.  One, you have no clue that you are in a bad mood until someone points it out to you; two, you know you are in a bad mood and it is best for everyone around you not to be around you.  If they know what’s good for them, that is.  

The really bad moods are the ones where you really don’t even want to be with yourself!

I’m just kidding. Naturally, I find I am always delightful company, bad mood or not, but how do YOU get out of those moods?

For me—on the rare occasion I am in one—it helps to a) eat popcorn and watch a movie or b) eat popcorn and watch a movie.  Seriously, it really helps if I have a good distraction, but more often than not, I just share my mood with God.

If I don’t feel like praying (or venting, whatever you want to call it), I do find that it helps to spend some time in scripture.  When I turn to scripture, it settles me down, every time.  It reminds me that I am not in charge.  It places me in the presence of God, and it always leads me to an honest assessment of my behavior, which in turn leads to a call to conversion.

Typically, the term conversion is related to someone who is not baptized, who becomes a Christian.  But in my case, conversion is more like a stimulus that moves me to be better, to be who God wants me to be.  I am converted from being ornery and mean to being kind and charitable!

Good thing I only need that kind of conversion once every ten years or so!

I would like to say, though, the first type of conversion is simply amazing.  Having directed the process through which people enter the Catholic Church, I have had the privilege of seeing some beautiful conversions.  It is always amazing to hear the stories of people who have found their way to inquire about the Church.  What a joy it is to have a front row seat to God tangibly working in the lives of others.  It is very humbling, to say the least.

Sometimes seekers just respond to a prompting, or a lingering sense that they are missing something.  Sometimes they start the process because someone they know keeps poking at them.  Sometimes they come with a faith already in progress but have a need to move further along in their journey.

When someone personally encounters Jesus in the sacramental life of the Church, it is a profound experience.  Their conversion to Christianity brings about a beautiful transformation.  Everything begins to make sense.  There is an awareness, a coming together, where the pieces finally fit together for them.

The excitement throughout the process known as the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) grows as the catechumen (unbaptized) moves closer to Easter when they will enter fully into the life of the Church.  As the water is poured over them in baptism, they are completely immersed into a new life in Christ.  The old self is transformed by the Holy Spirit.

At that time as well, the baptized (known as candidates) are also initiated into the Catholic Church (or those who are already Catholic may complete their sacraments.)

The reason I am telling you all of this is because over the next few months, the Catholic Church will be slowly introducing the catechumens and candidates to their congregations through special rites.  These rites are steps that help them process this great unfolding in their lives.

I hope you are privileged to see the unbaptized enter into the first stage where they are accepted into the Order of Catechumens.  It can be both overwhelming and thrilling for them, but a moment of grace for sure.

There is nothing quite like coming together in community to share grace-filled moments, and hey, you never know, it might just cure that bad mood!

God bless,
Janet Cassidy

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Where is God in My Decision-making?

I’m tired of car accidents.  Fatalities, near-misses and major fender benders.  What is going on with people and cars lately? 

The other day a lady almost ran into the driver’s side of the car I was driving.  It was as if she didn’t even see me. 

Last week I was sitting in my car in a parking lot, praying the rosary while waiting for my son.  I heard this loud bang, looked up, and saw a car in the middle of a nearby intersection with its entire front end smashed in.  Since it was barely a block from the local fire station, I saw firemen moving into action, coming down the street to see what had happened. 

As I sat there with my rosary in my hand, I debated about walking down to the scene of the accident.  My thoughts made me hesitate because I knew if I went out of curiosity, I would just be a gawker, but on the other hand, it felt strange to sit there praying while this was going on around me. Was there some way I could help?  

Since I couldn’t see the other car that was involved in the accident, I decided to take a little stroll to see what was what.  Everything looked like it was under control so I started to walk back to my car.  A lady, that I had seen shuffling kids to a car was standing outside her car.  I looked at her and asked if everybody was okay. 

Turns out, the three little ones who were now in her backseat were a part of the accident and she just happened to be going by and saw them standing in the street, so she moved them to the safety of her car.  She said they were very traumatized.  I looked into her car and there were three little kids crying and shaking, visibly scared. 

We stayed with the kids and tried to comfort them, and then she had a great idea.  She remembered that emergency personnel sometimes have little bears to give children in such situations.  She inquired about it and the firemen immediately went and got three little stuffed animals for the children. 

Eventually, because the oldest child was complaining of stomach pain, the ambulance came and our role ended.  The ambulance attendants were awesome.  They hugged the littlest guy and talked to him and immediately looked over the oldest. 

The aunt (or was it a cousin?) who had been in the car with them said she was going to be taken to jail because she had marijuana in her car.  According to the ambulance drivers, the kids would end up at the hospital, probably with a social worker, and then their story would continue. The lady who had helped the children initially, did get through to their “Grannie” so the kids could talk to her.  We learned that their dad was working out of town and Grannie did not have a car.

It is my understanding that there were no car seats in the car, not even for the little pre-schooler.  It was heartbreaking. 

I’m glad I put down my rosary and took my little walk.  Sometimes we can help in ways that are not clear when we first set out.  That is true in so many situations in life. The trick, I think, is to follow those inner promptings. 

I always try to do that, even if they do not make sense to me at the time, because over the years, I have watched God work in amazing ways, in incredible circumstances. 

However, I also had a teacher who said that when he was younger, he jumped in with both feet and decided to give away everything he owned and live totally dependent on God.  He was a college student at the time, and it didn’t end well.  He found himself broke, miserable and unable to pay his debt.  Turning to his parents, he got back on track and eventually reflected on where he went wrong. 

You see, following inner promptings can be good, but they can be disastrous if they rise out of our own passion, ill-informed moral compass, or are coupled with a lack of reason.  They become dangerous if they are not carefully discerned.  The discernment part is key. It is a difficult thing, people often say, to figure out whether God is prompting us, or if it is just us.

I can usually tell whether it is God or me, because often the prompting is not something I necessarily want to do, or would likely think up myself. Our human nature often leans us to the easy, comfortable path of least resistance.  It is true that God can shake us out of contentment, but unlike my teacher who was radical, unreasoned and undiscerning, we, too, must be responsible for our own missteps, which wisely he came to recognize. 

Secondly, when you spend time with the Lord in prayer, you get a sound sense of the way in which he asks you to walk. 

Also, when God truly leads us, although we may be uncomfortable, there is typically a sense of peace, a realization, a knowing, that this is the right way to go.  A wise priest once told me that God does put desires on our heart and we need to pay attention to those, because he works with them as well. Our loving desires and passions should be brought before the Lord to see what he desires for us. 

Unfortunately, we can cause our own spiritual fatalities and near-misses if we are not careful, but thankfully, if we discern wisely, our loving God will be with us through it all.

 God bless,
Janet Cassidy

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Do You Ever Get Tired of Waiting?


I feel like lately my life has been about waiting.  Waiting for return phone calls, waiting for replies to paperwork filed, waiting, waiting, waiting. Do you ever get tired of waiting?

For people who are action-oriented, the get-it-done-now type, waiting is hard.  I must say, the fast pace of technology has not helped.  Aren’t people supposed to respond within minutes when you email or text them?

I have actually—and I am not making this up—run into people who take hours to respond because they don’t “check their phone” only a few times a day. Who are these people and how do they function in the world?

Okay, I may be kidding—maybe—but it is true that the virtue of patience and the art of waiting are much needed today.  I think if they were practiced more often, we might be a kinder, gentler nation.  How many times are violent acts initiated because of anger boiling up under an uncontrolled temper? 

Self-discipline today—whether applied to restraining ourselves with technology or whatever—is sorely needed.

We all have moments of being out of control.  Maybe yours is related to food, where you have a tendency to “feed your feelings” or maybe you explode with expletives or harsh words when frustrated, or maybe, when you don’t get your way, you become intensely self-centered and lash out at others. Maybe you need self-discipline in other, seemingly little areas.

I have had to develop some self-discipline over the years (okay, I’m still working on it) to calm my busy brain.  Because I am an early riser, by the time most people get up in the morning, I have already formed an opinion on the politics of the morning, pondered a religious topic, or worked to resolve life’s problems.  The problem arises when I feel the need to excitedly pontificate at 6:00 a.m. 

(And in case you are wondering, yes, I do have a saintly husband.)

As a kid, I remember being absolutely shocked on vacation one year when my cousin, who went with us, sat staring blankly over breakfast.  Completely wordless.  In a coma-like state.  I’m not kidding. I had never seen anything like it.  In fact, it was so shocking to me that I remember it all these years later.

That may have been the first time I realized that it takes some people time to get started in the morning.  Shockingly, not everyone likes deep conversation (or any conversation for that matter) as soon as they awaken.

Waiting and listening to others is a good discipline to learn.  Observing conversational clues where the natural give-and-take in dialogue is not only polite, but allows room for the opinions of others, can be beneficial.  It is amazing what you can learn when you are not the only one talking! 

The same goes for prayer.  Sometimes I need to remind myself of that when I pray.  Although it is lucky for me that God is an early riser and (I am assuming) never gets tired of hearing from me, the truth is, it is so easy to multiply words in prayer that sometimes we forget to be still and listen.

One of the most amazing ways to pray is simply to hold a crucifix (a cross with the body of Christ on it) and just look at it.  Let your thoughts flow in silence and listen for any prompting from God that might surface.

In an adoration chapel one day, when I was sitting before the Body of Christ reserved in a *monstrance, it occurred to me that, as I was presenting God with my list of concerns and needs, he already knew them!  While it was good for me to pray them, it was comforting to make this realization.

If you have been away from prayer for awhile, or maybe never even gave it any real effort, I encourage you—today—to try.  If you don’t have a crucifix, grab a picture of one online and use that.  Any little step you make toward God will be rewarded tenfold.  I promise.

Janet Cassidy 

*Monstrance—Receptacle used to hold the consecrated host (the Body of Christ)   
  for visible adoration.