Friday, October 19, 2018

What does God dole out? Love!

I was sitting in my car with my grandson counting dinosaurs and school buses (no, the dinosaurs were not riding in the buses, but who's to say they couldn’t have been?)

Anyway, I had brought along a little snack with me just in case our wait became longer than I expected.  A nutritionist told us about these healthy bars called LARA bars.  They only have a few, natural ingredients in them.  I am okay with them, but the rest of my family is not exactly on board.

So, I pulled out a peanut butter/chocolate chip LARA bar (doesn’t that sound good?) and offered my grandson the “cookie.”  I tore off a piece and he took a bite.  The look on his face was priceless.  I actually had to tell him to swallow it.

He scrunched up his nose, swallowed it, and shook his head as he said “no,” and handed me the other half of his bite.  Shoot.  I think I can safely say I have officially lost the LARA bar battle when a 3 ½ year old turns down peanut butter and chocolate chip.  You just can’t fool kids.

Well, sometimes you can.  

Years ago, when our oldest daughter was very young, we passed over the little creek down the road from our house.  I told her that the road had a drawbridge that had to be raised when boats came down the creek.  I thought it was pretty funny, even though it probably didn’t really fool her.  But it sure was fun trying.  

Isn’t it a parent’s right to have a little fun sometimes?

We joke about God, our Father, having a sense of humor, but I don’t think he works quite like we do.  I suppose that is an important distinction to make.  Too often, we attribute things to God that we shouldn’t.

For instance, years ago a priest helped me develop a sound perspective on things like natural disasters.  I never understood—even thought it sort of mean—when someone would go on the news and say, “God saved my house,” while they were standing next to the rubble that contained the remains of their neighbor’s house.

Does God work like that?  Does he “play favorites” among his children?

The fact is, we live in a natural, physical world, where tornadoes and hurricanes happen.  As part of this natural force of nature, tragedy strikes.  A loving God, while allowing things to happen, doesn’t make plays like pieces on a chessboard.  He just doesn’t work like that.

Father Raniero Cantalamessa (the preacher to the papal household) said in a Good Friday homily in 2011:

““Earthquakes, hurricanes and other disasters that hit guilty and innocent alike are never a punishment from God. . . . To say otherwise means offending God and man.”

A God like that could almost seem vindictive, and there is no room for spite in a loving God.  An undeveloped understanding of God can cause people to lose their faith when they inappropriately attribute tragedy in their lives to God.  Or, maybe even more common, when their prayers are not answered according to their desires.

It simply cannot be said enough—God loves us, tremendously. He extends his hand of mercy in the sacraments and blesses us as his children.

What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish? Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? Or hand him a LARA bar when he wants a cookie?”  Luke 11:11

Okay, maybe that last part was me, but you get the point.

Janet Cassidy

Monday, October 15, 2018

Looking for Peace?

When we were in the patient room waiting for the doctor to come in, I observed an electronic monitor on the wall.  It was giving a variety of information intermixed with an “inspirational” quote.  

It said:

“Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.”

What is your first thought when you read this quote?  Are you nodding your head in agreement?  Don’t feel bad if you are; you are probably not alone, and there’s a reason why.

I am kind of a big quote person.  Lines jump out at me.  My phone is full of quotes that I wish I could keep in my head.  But this one, in the doctor’s office, stood out for a different reason.

My first instinct is to recoil when I read something like this. 


Well, I know that we make many personal decisions on a daily basis that collectively impact peace in our lives, but I also believe that God is the one in whom I ultimately find peace.  

To me, this quote smacked of individualism and immediately gave me the impression that it was implying a lack of need for God.  It seems to be saying that I, alone, can attain peace for myself, thank you very much.

Due to my inquisitive nature, I just couldn’t let it be (besides, we had a few minutes before the doctor was due.)

Looking up the author of the quote, Ralph Waldo Emerson, I learned that he went from Christianity to Transcendentalism.  Apparently, his belief system erred on extreme self-reliance, which confirmed my initial thoughts about the quote. 

Anyway, a discussion about Emerson is not really my intention here.  More to the point is my concern that seemingly innocuous “inspirations” like this probably come at us multiple times a day, causing us to absorb vague concepts about faith and religion, or confirming others we have accepted, without us even paying them much attention. 

How many other people really thought about that quote in the doctor’s office?  I would guess, not too many, and likely not even the person who designed the “ad” itself.  

It reminds me of when my husband, years ago, raised a point about John Lennon’s song Imagine.  I’ve always liked that song and never thought too much about the lyrics, until my husband brought the lyrics to the attention of a Catholic hospital that was going to use it for a promotion.

He suggested that they look closely at the lyrics and consider whether they really wanted to use a song that begins with “Imagine there’s no heaven.”  I know there’s a bit of a discussion about what Lennon meant, but still.

The truth is, we do absorb a lot from our surroundings, without even realizing it. Front and center in a culture that too often adopts ideas without thinking lies the concern that subtle reinforcement of things like this slowly moves us further into a state of ignorance.  I liken it to the frog in the pot that does not realize it is being cooked to death because the heat is being slowly raised.

Now I realize that whatever company put the Emerson quote on their monitor probably figured they were just putting a nice thought, a relaxing idea out there for a patient to read.  If you nodded in agreement with the quote, that might explain its appeal.

They probably didn’t think about Emerson and his radical ideas about religion.  Admittedly, I am not imagining there was some ulterior motive, but that’s my point.

Someone probably put it there without thinking about what it really says about individualism, God and where our peace ultimately lies. They picked up the quote and decided to use it, probably oblivious to the fact that they were reinforcing a man’s particular philosophy.

We don’t want to be like the frog in the pot.  It is important for us to pay attention to these seemingly trivial things, lest we one day find ourselves looking for peace in all the wrong places.

Janet Cassidy

Friday, October 12, 2018

What Do Young People Think about God?

Wow!  I have been following Bishop Robert Barron's month-long participation in a synod (gathering) of the Church on young people.

Here is a link to his videos, but scroll down to the one that says Word On Fire--Youth Interviews.

Please leave a comment and let me know what you think!

Have a blessed weekend!

Janet Cassidy

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Lord, Give Me the Strength

My husband has been a member of the *Knights of Columbus for many years.  Because of his membership, he receives their magazine Columbia.

I was reading an article the other day in their magazine about a priest who was martyred in Iraq because he refused to close the “house of God” when the ISIS marauders told him to close the church.

In the article it said that following the funeral of a priest who had been decapitated by terrorists, Father Ragheed Aziz Ganni (who refused to close the church) “did not ask God to protect him from suffering, but he wrote what he called My Last Prayer, which I think is a wonderfully pure prayer and one that laypeople (non-ordained), as well as priests, should adopt.

 His prayer was: 

“Lord, give me the strength not to humiliate your priesthood, which I represent.”

Now you might ask, how is it fitting for a layperson to adopt such a prayer?

Well, Father Ganni was, of course, referring to his ministerial or ordained priesthood, and his desire to represent it to the glory of God, but I think this is a prayer every baptized person should pray, because as laypeople in the Church, we are all priest, prophet and king. 

Let me explain.

We are of the common priesthood.  We are not ordained, but because we are baptized into the life of Christ, we carry with us the privilege (and responsibility) of identifying with him.  Through personal sacrifice, we love others, revealing the love of God to the world.

As prophet we are called to proclaim Christ in our daily lives whether we are at work, at home with our families, or at play.  Through our words and actions, evidence of God should be made visible to those around us.

And as far as king goes, we accept the role of leader and the important work of bringing others to Christ (which includes our children.)

Like our ordained priests, we, too, need God’s strength to carry out our role as priest, prophet and king, because we are the **“hands and feet” of Christ, in the world.

This prayer is especially needed today.  I encourage you to include it in your daily prayers so that you may be aided in responding to God’s call.

Janet Cassidy

**“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”      Teresa of Avila (video)

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Giving God Wider Access

Sin is an interesting thing.  There are many different kinds and levels of sin.  It is something all humans do, to some degree.  Sometimes we feel more sinful than other times, and that’s okay.

I remember talking to a spiritual director a few years back about this.  Usually we would end my session with the sacrament of Reconciliation.  One particular day, I wasn’t feeling particularly sinful, and was having trouble identifying my sins.  I guess everything seemed pretty much okay that day.

He shrugged his shoulders, smiled and said, “That’s okay, you’ll be back soon enough!”  

I thought it was pretty funny, because he was absolutely right.  There are some days that my sins are overwhelming to me, and other days when I barely recognize them (I try to enjoy those moments of grace.)

Now when I say that my sins are overwhelming, you might be inclined to assume that I have done something big, terrible even, but that’s not the case.  I find sins overwhelming in light of who I am called to be, not necessarily how horrible my sins are. 

The thing about sins that I have come to understand is this:  we focus on our every day sins, the ones we might consider little by degree—we gossip, judge, tell white lies, whatever, and it’s good to bore down on those if we are going to try to turn away from them, but in the end, I think we may be overlooking something that is likely of particular interest to God. 

The collection of “smaller” sins do bring us harm, as they can become habitual and lead us down the wrong path.  But when you step back and look at the bigger picture, the greater danger for us is not so much the “smaller” sins that God willingly forgives when we repent, but our not moving in relationship with him.

I think of it like this:  I am in a boat and it starts leaking.  As I start working on getting the water out, I am super-focused on the immediate problem. I may not realize that the leak could sink my boat, because I am focused on keeping my stuff dry.  So what do I do?  I try to figure out how to stop the leak.

Confessing our sins helps us stop the leak, the slow trickle of sin that comes into our life; it helps us plug the hole that is disturbing our peace by asking God for forgiveness.  That’s a good thing.

But, while I set about busily trying to take care of the everyday sins that leak into my life, I may not realize that God’s greatest desire is that we allow him free access to us.  He can work within and beyond our humanity to lead us down the path to holiness.   

God can work beyond our faults and failings, but it is important that we are careful not to withhold giving him wider access to our heart, mind and soul—outside the confessional as well as inside.

This does not mean our “everyday” sins are insignificant, of course, and Reconciliation is part of a process that reveals our willingness to cooperate with God, because in itself it brings us closer to God and restores our relationship with him.

I saw a father on television the other day whose daughter had been the victim of a killer.  He had been tasked with the terrible job of identifying her body and had first-hand knowledge of the horror that had been done to her. 

Clearly a man of faith, he said, “I am supposed to forgive . . ., but I’ve asked God, ‘Have mercy on my soul,’ because I cannot do it.’”

In his humanity, he recognized his inability to do what he thought he should do and he turned his pain over to God with a heartfelt plea for help.  Even in his deepest grief he knew that God was the one he needed, and he was banking on his promise of mercy, which goes beyond our humanity.

In that painful moment, as his daughter’s killer was being convicted, the father fully submitted himself to God. 

Not submitting to God’s love working beyond our human nature—not realizing all that he truly calls us to be in him—is problematic, for while we may be laser-focused on our daily sins, God is simply trying to keep us afloat in his love and mercy.

Janet Cassidy

Here is a version of a prayer from St. Ignatius of Loyola, which you may enjoy, if you are trying to give everything to God.  It’s title means “receive” in Latin: 


Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory,my understanding, and my entire will,
all I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
 that is enough for me.

QUOTE (videos about St. Ignatius)

“There are very few men who realize what God would make of them if they abandoned themselves entirely to His hands, and let themselves be formed by His Grace.”   
St. Ignatius of Loyola