Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas Joy

This can be a difficult time of year when everywhere we turn there is the sense that we are supposed to be filled with joy and good cheer, when, in fact, it can be a very difficult, depressing time for many.

The social pressures that surround Christmas can place undue burdens on parents who feel they have to find that one gift that their child must have; on spouses who search for the one gift that can really speak of the love they have in their heart; for those who feel they must outdo another, or overspend.  The loneliness of those who have lost a loved one or who are separated from them by distance can also put a serious damper on this holy season.

The list is endless.

But none of these things have anything to do with Christmas!  The further away we get from the miracle of the Incarnation of Jesus--the Father sending the Son to save us--the less joy we will have in our hearts.

Giving and receiving gifts can be a lot of fun, but our joy does not come from all of these external things, but from the quiet place in our heart that celebrates the greatest gift of all time.  When we contemplate the life of Jesus, we shift our focus and adopt a more grateful heart.  From this place of love, we can find true joy.

If you want to find joy again in this holy season, spend some time alone, in the quiet, in the presence of God.  Then, when you return to the tasks that must be done, you will do them from a place of refreshment.  The shopping will not be tedious, but thoughtful.

May God pour out His love on you as this holy season begins, and bring your family an abundance of love, joy and peace.

Merry Christmas!
God bless,

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Are you for or against Vatican II?
I have read that it takes 100 years for the work of church councils to be implemented and that we are about midway through the impact of the Second Vatican Council.  That should neither discourage us nor settle us into contentment.

There are some people who argue against what took place at Vatican II and the ensuing New Evangelization.  These people stand firm and hold onto the years before that church-wide gathering of the early 1960s. For others, they want to lay the past to rest and get on with it, advancing the work of the Council.

The key to resolving this conflict about pre or post Vatican II and where we should be, what is right or wrong, lies in correcting a tremendous misconception.  We are erroneous when speaking in terms of before and after, if we intend to imply division.  That is because the work of the Church is one fluid movement of the Holy Spirit.

Whatever came before, or after, is simply different ways of expressing the Church's understanding of its responsibility to dialogue with the world.  How do we speak, or engage with those who are different from us?  What is the message?  Who's job is it to proclaim it?

Vatican II is a gift, an inspiration of the Holy Spirit to the People of God.  We are stewards of that gift--all of us, religious and laity alike.  Some of us--the laity--are just waking up to the realization that we, too, are a necessary part of the mission of the Church.  No longer should we sit back, expecting our shepherds to do all the work.

There is a beautiful document that came out of Vatican II (Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity) that every layperson (non-ordained) should study and consider. You can read it here.

The interesting thing about the idea of us being midway in the process of implementing the Council's wisdom is that you and I have a wonderful opportunity to participate in something amazing! 

You have gifts that God will use in order for the New Evangelization to make an impact on the world.  What are your gifts?  How should you use them?  These are important questions for you to explore--for each of us to explore--so we can be assured of working in concert with the Holy Spirit in whatever way God wills.

God bless,
Janet Cassidy

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Are you feeling spiritually lost?

I have been noticing as I drive around that there are an awful lot of deflated Christmas inflatables in the yards in my community.  I am not sure if it is due to wind or maybe a faulty system, but it got me to thinking . . .

What if our faith were like those santas and reindeer?

Perhaps for a moment in time, we get puffed up in our faith.  Filled with inspiration from listening to a dynamic speaker, or just motivated by a new found passion, we stand tall and bright, bursting forth as a shining symbol to our community that God is great, and then, out of the blue, the air goes out of us.

We never want to look like those deflated santas and reindeer, but the truth is, sometimes, it happens to the best of us.  Even saints, such as St. John of the Cross, speak of the "dark night of the soul."  We have seen it addressed most recently in the life of St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa.)

When someone goes through such a time, where doubts creep in or they just feel lost in faith, our saints tell us to look closely at where that might come from.  If something moves us away from God, we can know for sure that it does not come from God.  While God is with us in every dark trial we go through, he does not send us there. 

Are you having a hard time with your faith today?  Have you had a general feeling of malaise when it comes to your spiritual life?

This is the time to be very intentional, turning ever more closely to God.  Go to Adoration. Pray with the scriptures.  Sit and rest in the presence of God.

Of course, I am speaking specifically of a spiritual lull.  If there is something greater going on such as depression or another physical or mental condition, then that needs to be addressed by a professional in the medical field.

But if you are having a brief experience of having the wind go out of your spiritual life, remember that God is there with you in it and he will help draw out for you a richness that can only be gained through this sense of loss.

Remember, God never gives up on us!

God bless,

Sunday, November 27, 2016

St. Paul of the Cross and our love-union with Jesus
St. Paul of the Cross says that Jesus invites us into “the closest imaginable love-union” with him.  What a beautiful way to speak of the intimate union we share with Jesus!  When we consume the Body of Christ in the sacred bread, we are taking into our bodies the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ.  It is hard to imagine being any closer!

It makes me think about whether my own body is worthy, ready to receive Christ.  Not just the physical aspects of course, which we have come to know as the temple of the Lord, but what about my whole body, the interior as well?
Is my heart one with him? 
Is my spirit open to loving as he calls me to?
Am I ready to offer myself for the sake of others?

These are big questions to which an answer in the affirmative requires big responses.  None of us feel truly ready, I would suspect, but that should not discourage us, for with God, anything is possible.

As we move into Advent, let us take time to consider the Second Coming of Christ, the reality that we will one day be judged with justice and mercy, and amend those things in our life that we can.

God’s justice, which always flows from mercy and compassion, still considers our own efforts and desires.  God understands our humanity and constantly calls us to himself.  There will be, however, some of us who choose to live as if he does not exist, and since we are not puppets and he does not force us to accept it, we are told it will not be good for us if we reject him.

Let us reflect over the next few weeks of Advent on the Good News that Jesus came to save us all, and how amazing is his sacrifice on the cross. Let us be grateful for his tender devotion to his loving children, even those who are wayward, and let us turn back toward him so that one day, when he comes again in judgment, we will not be afraid, but happy to see him!

God bless,

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Praying with the Psalms for the unfolding of your life

Two of my favorite lines to pray with from the Psalms come from Psalm 143:  “Show me the path I should walk, for to you I entrust my life (Verse 8b) and “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God.” (Verse 10)

The Psalms in general are a wonderful resource to use for personal prayer, because they themselves speak so often from the human condition.  Despair, joy, troubles—it’s all in there.

But the two verses I quoted here reflect our confidence in God and our desire to give our life over to him.  Whatever is his will for me, that’s what I want to know and follow.  To say that he is our God speaks volumes about our awareness of him as Creator.  It is an acknowledgement that we are not walking our path in this world alone.

But how does God teach us to do his will?  Where do we find it?  How can we know it?

I am reminded of the title of a song that I use when God’s answer seems to be coming too slowly, or when I do not know what to do.  The song is by Steven Curtis Chapman and it is titled The Glorious Unfolding.

I am going to copy the lyrics here ( because they are so beautiful.  I hope they will speak to you as they have to me.  No matter where you are on your journey in life, just remember, there is a “glorious unfolding” going on.  Your story is not finished yet.  Wait patiently.  I have found that this unfolding for me seems to routinely take a couple of months, so I have learned to be patient with it!

God bless,
The Glorious Unfolding
Lay your head down tonight
Take a rest from the fight
Don’t try to figure it out
Just listen to what I’m whispering to your heart
‘Cause I know this is not
Anything like you thought
The story of your life was gonna be
And it feels like the end has started closing in on you
But it’s just not true
There’s so much of the story that’s still yet to unfold

And this is going to be a glorious unfolding
Just you wait and see and you will be amazed
You’ve just got to believe the story is so far from over
So hold on to every promise God has made to us
And watch this glorious unfolding

God’s plan from the start
For this world and your heart
Has been to show His glory and His grace
Forever revealing the depth and the beauty of
His unfailing Love
And the story has only begun

And this is going to be a glorious unfolding
Just you wait and see and you will be amazed
We’ve just got to believe the story is so far from over
So hold on to every promise God has made to us
And watch this glorious unfolding

We were made to run through fields of forever
Singing songs to our Savior and King
So let us remember this life we’re living
Is just the beginning of the beginning

Of this glorious unfolding
We will watch and see and we will be amazed
If we just keep on believing the story is so far from over
And hold on to every promise God has made to us
We’ll see the glorious unfolding

Just watch and see (unfolding)
This is just the beginning of the beginning (unfolding)

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Are you dead in your ministry?

I admit that I have a tendency to do what they call "spiritualize" particular scripture passages.  This may not be such a good thing, but it is a natural way for me to meditate on them.

This is not the same as interpreting them according to my own ideas--which is not okay--but it is a way of listening to see if God is speaking to me in them.

I do believe there are numerous places in scripture that are meant to be taken literally, but, because of the variety of writing within the books themselves, there are also books or passages that emphasize a particular message or point which may use figurative language.

An example of me spiritualizing scripture can be taken from the Book of Revelation, Chapter 2.  The introductory passages are particularly powerful for me, even though they are addressed to the church in Ephesus.

From my perspective, I can relate these to ministry. Ministry can be challenging at times, making it difficult to stay uplifted in spirit.  The words in Revelation here, are so helpful.  We are reminded that God sees our endurance, our suffering, and our lack of weariness, and that is all well and good, but, as indicated, that is not the most important thing.

What we do have held against us is the loss of the love we had at first.  We must realize in ministry how far we have fallen if we do a lot of work, but do not put love into it, or work out of a place of love.

Look again at the powerful words in Revelation Chapter 3, addressed to the church in Sardis.  No mincing of words here!  "I know your works, that you have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.  Be watchful and strengthen what is left, which is going to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.  Remember then how you accepted and heard; keep it, and repent."


Are you dead in your ministry?  Are you angry or worn out?  Do you find yourself growing cynical because you have seen and experienced too much of humanity?

The first step in returning to "the love we had at first" is to acknowledge the change in our attitude.  Be aware, be watchful, protect yourself from falling.

If we turn off the distractions we invite into our lives, and we turn ourselves more and more toward God, he will restore that light we once had.  He will renew our faith in Him, and in humanity.

None of what we do--absolutely none of it--matters if we do it without love.

As always, I welcome your comments.

God bless,

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Meditating on the cross

My husband and I were on our way up north and stopped for gas.  As we were walking into the station I pointed out a wallet on the ground.  He picked it up, did a quick flip open to see if there was identification, closed it and took it into the station.  When it was our turn to see the cashier, we turned it over to her.  Someone saw what we did and said, “That was nice.” The comment caught me off guard because it insinuated that there would have been another option as to what to do with it—keep it.  

The thought had never entered my mind.

Instead, I was thinking how unfortunate it was for the person who lost it.  Surely they would be back soon to get it.  Have you ever thought about all of the personal information someone could glean from your wallet if they found it?
I was reviewing one of the online protection services one day, and they had a great idea.  They said we should list/or even make a copy of, everything we have in our wallet.  If it is lost or stolen, we would know exactly what we needed to recover.

Speaking of online, I bought a rolling carrier for files that I take back and forth to work.  I no sooner made the purchase when advertisements for rolling carriers started showing up in my email and other points of access online.  I find this a bit creepy, but I am not one to hide, and I know it is just the cost of shopping online.

Speaking of cost, have you ever considered the weight of the cross that Jesus willingly carried for us? When we spend time reflecting on his life and death, it opens us up to gratitude and humility. If you would like to expand and increase your appreciation for his loving act, a powerful prayer is to just sit quietly with a crucifix in your hand.  You will be amazed at all that can come from silently meditating on the cross.

I invite you to share your comments.

God bless,

Monday, August 15, 2016

The New Evangelization

I am quickly learning from talking to others that the word evangelization can have a negative connotation for Catholics.  I believe that stems from a stigma associated with the word and a misapplication of its meaning relative to the mission of the Church.

Let's start with what evangelization is not. It is not a specific approach to preaching the gospel that invites or requires one to aggressively push the tenants of the faith on another.  Evangelization always respects the dignity of others while being willing to express the truth.  As the popes say, we should not impose the faith on others, but propose it.  One always has the freedom to accept or reject it due to free will.

That being said, the mission of the Church is to proclaim the Gospel.  There are many people who have not yet heard the Good News that Jesus came in the flesh, as the Son of God, and died to save ALL.  He did not come for just a few people.  Not for a certain population of people.  Not for those who are by all outwardly appearances good; he came for those of us who make terrible mistakes, allow poor judgment to lead us to bad decisions, or who have become lazy Christians!

Evangelization, in the missionary spirit of the Church, is a work of joy!  It is the Christian's ability to speak genuinely about their relationship with Jesus and the impact of the Word of God and the sacraments on their life! It is one's cooperation with the Holy Spirit, the "agent" of the New Evangelization.

We do not have to be bible scholars or theologians, but a healthy foundation of knowledge, and a desire to grow in faith, does give us the beginnings for evangelization.

If the joy of our faith is attractive, our willingness to share it will produce great fruit!

May God bless you and strengthen your discipleship in His name!