Thursday, August 16, 2018

Marching like ants?

Like clockwork, every year in the spring we develop an ant problem in our kitchen.  We never know if they are going to be tiny little ants, or big black ones, but either way, they are not welcome.  (I should preface all this by saying that I have an aversion to big crawly things.  When they pursue me in the basement as I sit comfortably watching TV, they quickly learn what it feels like to be swept up in a tornado via my vacuum.)

Anyway, this year we had the big black ants.  They made a straight line from one corner of our kitchen to the other.  Mindlessly following each other, their little path led them to the sweet poison that we put out so that they would gorge themselves and take it back to their nest and die.  Occasionally one would get a little off track, but mostly they were like little soldiers, walking in lockstep.

I know this all sounds ever so tragic, but there is a happy ending, unless you are an ant, of course.

I decided to outsmart them.  I moved the wastebasket that was their original foodie destination across the kitchen.  It took them about five minutes to find it.  So, out to the garage the wastebasket went (a great inconvenience to us, I might add.) 

Fortunately, when we returned from vacation, our problem was solved! (See, happy ending for us!) But then the other day one lone ant was found traversing our family room carpet.  I decided to name him Jerry, but honestly, Jerry did not live long enough to enjoy his new identity--thanks to my husband. 

All this stuff about ants makes me thing about all of the criticisms people level against members of the Church.  We are told that we leave our brains at the door; that we mindlessly follow the Pope, etc., etc.  Nothing could be further from the truth. 

You see, we believe that as the Vicar (representative) of Christ on earth, the Pope is a holy man, but as a human, he himself is not free from sin (that’s why he goes to confession.)  

If a Pope were to make an *infallible statement that requires our assent, there are certain protocols that must be followed in his doing so.

It is good for people of faith to question things.  It is how we learn.  It does not imply unfaithfulness, but reflects the genuine human struggle to understand and follow the truth.

Unlike those ants in my kitchen, marching mindlessly to their death, we hope to be journeying wholeheartedly to heaven!

If you are one of those people that like to dig deep into things, maybe you will like this article, which is quite clarifying in regards to papal infallibility: 

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Have a blessed day! 

Janet Cassidy

*An infallible statement is a definitive statement of doctrine on faith and morals.  Two such formal statements have been made throughout the Church's history--both about Mary, the Mother of Jesus.  They reflect long-held beliefs in the Church.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

A Catholic bishop's heartfelt response . . .

Here is a statement from the Bishop of Lansing, Earl Boyea, about the removal of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

I am writing this to you due to the recent removal of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick from ministry. Once again, the sins of a cleric have hurt victims, scandalized the faithful, raised anger in many hearts, and brought ill-repute upon the Catholic Church. Archbishop McCarrick’s abuse of minors, his homosexual activity, and his abuse of seminarians and young priests are beyond the pale.

In addition, some knew about this and did nothing to address his behavior. I am as shocked as you.

So, first of all, I apologize for his behavior and the behavior of those who did nothing to stop him. It is incredibly wearying and demoralizing to hear yet again about these sexual sins and alleged crimes.

Let us hold each other in prayer.

As you may know, each bishop is ultimately responsible to the Holy Father, who is the only one who can remove him. Still, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops will be discussing how we bishops might attempt to hold one another accountable, given this limitation. I can never give a guarantee that there will not be other clerics who violate their promise of celibacy and abuse their positions. We are all sinners. The Lord Jesus knew what the archbishop did just as he knows our sinful selves as well.

Beyond what we can do as human beings to address the behavior of one another, we also commend ourselves and each other to the charity and justice of our God. Christ is our hope in all things. May God have mercy on us all.

Bishop Earl Boyea, Diocese of Lansing

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Feeling guilty about using a nursing home? Read on . . .

My mom went into a nursing home about three years ago.  She went to the hospital and was never able to return to her home.  It was up to us kids to sell or distribute all of her personal belongings, including the house.  One of my brothers always said the day would come when we would drive by mom’s house—our house—and we would see little kids playing in the yard.

Well his prediction came true.  I drove by her house several months after it was sold and saw a child sitting in the window—in our window—above where the couch always was.  What was he doing sitting beneath the window sill that always held mom’s pretty glassware that sparkled in the sun?

The memories are powerful.  Good, solid memories made over 50+ years. It always broke my heart that she was not able to return to our house.  She was too weak to walk up the handful of stairs into her kitchen.  Her legs could not support her anymore.  She was not strong enough to live alone.  A nursing home was our only choice and one she has come to accept.

It’s interesting that she accepted it because she always said she would never move.  But, as it turns out, she has much more social time than she would have had at home, sitting alone, waiting for one of us kids to visit.  She has made many friends and enjoys weekly “bingo” games.  She knows the staff so well that one might think she is one of them!

Maybe you have found yourself in a similar situation, where it seems the dreaded nursing home is your only solution.  Maybe you are riddled with guilt over making the decision. If you are able to keep your parent in their home (or yours), that can be a wonderful thing.

But there are times when that is not in the best interest of the parent/child or spouse. Too many husbands and wives try to care for each other at home, when they are not physically able to, compromising their own health or that of their loved one, often because they made a promise to them that they cannot bear not keeping.  Promises can be made with the best of intentions, but some promises need to be adjusted.  Faithfulness and devotion to a loved one can still take place, even in a nursing home.

I know it is not home, and there are more limited choices regarding food and other things, but it does not have to be so terrible.  We have come to know the staff of our mom’s nursing home, not to mention the other residents and even some of their families.  It seems that a community has formed in the home.

Is it perfect?  No.  Do we have complaints now and again?  Of course.  But, it is what it is.  As I said, sometimes families are just not able to take care of their elderly relatives (and sometimes the elderly do not want them to.) Also, it may be better in some situations for the parent and their adult children to continue the parent-child relationship, rather than create a patient/caregiver relationship.

But, in the end, the one thing that is most disturbing are residents who have no one.  There are lots of reasons why people do not have visitors, but a lack of concern by family members is the most heartbreaking thing to witness. If you do find it necessary to have your loved one live in a nursing home, just be sure not to abandon them there.  They still need strong family advocates, as well as someone to just sit and talk and listen to their concerns.

And about that guilt, a wise priest told me one time to decide what is doable in terms of weekly visits, and then commit to that.  In that way, we can continue to carry out our responsibility to other family members who may need us as well.

Accompaniment is an important part of love.  Walking with each other is what we are called to do.  I am thinking of the mother of Jesus and how throughout his life she walked with him.  Her role wasn’t to take away his suffering, but to be there with him in it.

What a perfect model we have in Mary, the mother of Jesus.  As we celebrate her feast day on August 15th, let us be grateful for a wonderful mother who continues to be our advocate, even today.

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God bless,

Janet Cassidy

Thursday, August 9, 2018

God's Law -- written on our hearts

One day a number of years ago, I peeled a bunch of potatoes and shoved the skins down our garbage disposal.  A few minutes later, our son started shouting from the basement that there was something leaking down the wall.

Yup, you guessed it, the disposal had started shaking so violently that it became unattached and the liquefied potato peel water started running down the basement wall.  It wasn’t pretty.

I said to my husband the other day, “There are too many rules about the garbage disposal!  I don’t know what it can handle! Do eggshells go in?  What about the tops of our strawberries?”

Too many rules can be hard to follow, but most are made for good reason.  There is one very simple truth that God gave the Israelite people.  From the Prophet Jeremiah (Chapter 31, Verse 33b):  “I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

It is called a covenant, and it is something God will never break.  We, of course, can reject, ignore or simply walk away from it, but God never will. The great thing about God’s covenant with his people (which includes us today), is that it isn’t hard to follow and doesn’t require learning a bunch of rules.

In the first part of verse 33, the Lord says, “I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts.”

This is a significant passage in the Old Testament.  Here’s what the footnote for this section says:

“Its law will be written in the heart, not merely on tablets of stone; The knowledge of God will be so generally shown forth in the life of the people that it will no longer be necessary to put it into words of instruction.”

Read that again.  Ponder it for a minute.

This statement reflects how prominently our faith should shine through our words and actions.  Think about it.  Is that the case today?  If not, what might you need to do to give greater evidence of your faith?

We do continue to need instruction in the faith today.  Words matter.  Even John the Baptist used words when he pointed out Christ to those who followed him by stating, “Behold, the Lamb of God” (John 1:29). A solid combination of words and actions go a long way.  

Of course, I would not recommend you being as aggressive with people as I was with my potato peels.  Remember, the law of God is already within everyone’s heart.  Sometimes, our work, implicit in St. Paul’s words, is simply to “stir into flame the gift of God.” (2 Tim 1:6)

God bless,
Janet Cassidy

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Want to just get away? So did Jesus, apparently!

Do you ever feel like you just need to get away?  How many times in the past week have you told someone you were going to run away from all the crazy, go somewhere where there is NOBODY around?

If that sounds familiar, then so should the “Walking on the Water” passage in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 15 (Verse 22.)

It begins with this:

“Then he [Jesus] made the disciples get into the boat and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds.  After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.”

Even Jesus, inundated with the crowds and his questioning disciples, needed some solitude!  First he sends off his disciples in a boat, and then tells everyone else they can leave!  Notice though, what he does with his time.  It is very telling.

He goes off by himself to pray.  What would you do if you had some time alone?  Would praying be the first thing you would think to do?  For many, our idea of being refreshed in the solitude isn’t really solitude.  Would you take your phone or tablet?  Maybe a good book to read?

Is solitude only the absence of people?

Jesus clearly took nothing with him—whatever his equivalent of our modern day distractions would be.  I think he is on to something here.  How long could you be by yourself without something to do?  

When we were discussing how to do an opening prayer before a meeting one day—considering silence as an option—a friend said ten minutes would be much too long for her to simply sit still.

Why not try it and see how you do?  Send me your ideas about how you pray and manage to sit still in the quiet.  If you share your struggles, that might help others as well.

Remember, we are never alone, as God is always with us.  Listening in the quiet is a big part of prayer.  Just think, that let’s us off the hook from having to “do” anything!

God bless,
Janet Cassidy

Friday, March 2, 2018

Would You Push an SUV up a Hill?

Curtis Martin of FOCUS tells a story about pushing an SUV uphill.  He says that there is nothing wrong with the SUV except that nobody turned on the ignition.  How hard it would be to push an SUV up a hill without the engine running!

It is a good example that allows us to relate to the challenge of evangelizing.  While our parishes have all we need to move forward in sharing the gospel, are we trying to do it manually, without the Holy Spirit?  Without first becoming disciples ourselves?

What will it take to "turn on the ignition" in our parishes?

It begins with an activation of the Spirit in our personal lives.  When we are transformed ourselves, so that we are bursting with joy at the Good News of salvation, then we can evangelize, because a joy-filled faith is attractive.  Others might wonder, "Why are you so animated in your faith?"

But so many of us are struggling in our faith.  We feel stuck.  We don't know how to move. We lose confidence and trust that God is present. 

Whenever I hit a bump in the road that shakes me, I turn to scripture.  As the inspired Word of God, the bible is God's revelation of himself to us.  What could be a better aid to help us move out of a spiritual slump than to sit quietly with the Lord and just listen.

His words of comfort can come through others, too.  Sometimes they are a word of encouragement or simply a quiet prompting.  Regardless, we must never give up.

It might sound too easy, but sometimes if we just sit with a crucifix in our hand (a cross with the body of Christ on it) and focus on the cross, powerful thoughts may arise.

We should be careful not to grow too content in our faith.  We do not want to become (or remain) nominal Christians.  If we want to become evangelizers, we must begin by stepping out.  Take a class!  Listen to a podcast or go to a presentation!  Go on retreat!

We must do something that we have not done before and open ourselves to God through opportunities.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Janet Cassidy

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Moving the Dial on Culture

I heard Curtis Martin of FOCUS make this statement during one of his talks:

"Culture eats strategy for lunch; we need to renew the culture; good culture makes it easy to make good decisions (and the reverse)."

Reflecting on his statement recently, I now have more clarification as to what he meant.  We can make our elaborate plans.  We can put on our programs for change.  We can encourage, scold and prod people until they cannot take it anymore, but in the end, without a wide cultural shift, our success will be limited.

So what can you and I do?  We are just one person.  How can we impact the wider culture so that it becomes easier for our children to make good decisions?

Well, we may not be the head of a multi-million dollar corporation, but we do have--as Stephen Covey says--our "circle of influence."

Like that proverbial pebble making ripples in a pond, we begin where we are.  The waves will carry our work out, further than any one individual can reach.

Here's an example.  Let's say I want to "change the culture" around me ("my circle of influence") to help people understand why exercise is important.  First, I must act on my belief, so I start exercising every day.  What I discover along the way is that exercise makes me feel better.  While I may not be moving the dial on the scale, I am moving the dial on my life.  My movements come more easily when I exercise.  I have a lot more energy.  My clothes fit better.  You get the idea.

As those personal changes begin to take place and begin to affect me, I notice that from my increased level of energy, I can actually be more productive.  This ultimately benefits those around me, as I inspire and encourage them.  This does not simply happen because I talk about exercise more, but because the changes they see in me testify that what I am saying and doing is true.

This can be applied to the moral concerns of today as well.

So we can see, then, inspiring the two (or ten) people around us by living out our beliefs can potentially change the culture, as others are moved to make change as well.

Admittedly, this may be a very slow process, but it is a place to start.  What can YOU do today, in your "circle of influence" to move the dial on our culture?

I welcome your comments.

Janet Cassidy

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Is Your Child Exploring ALL Their Gifts?

So I have been thinking lately about families--kids and their activities.  I wonder how we are doing in providing children a variety of opportunities so that they can see the multitude of gifts God has given them.

When I was in 6th grade, I tried out for cheerleading.  The reason that stands out for me is because there was really no way I was destined to cheer.  Oh, I had enthusiasm all right, but definitely not the moves.  I actually, sort of knew that going into the audition, but I tried anyway, being a little hopeful.  End of story.

Before that, I had a love for teaching and writing. 

I like to say I had the most well-educated stuffed animals around.  They would spend their time lined up on my bed as I taught them on my big chalkboard (which, I must say, was the BEST Christmas present ever!)

Some evenings I would type away on my mom's portable, electric typewriter, working on stories that I was sure were wonderful.

My point is, my mom never limited me.  I could try whatever interested me and succeed or fail, it didn't matter.  I believe it built my confidence as I tried many things.

I like to play the piano--and I must say, the key word here is "play."  Am I good at it?  No, not especially.  But do I enjoy it and get pleasure from it?  Definitely.

So what about children today who are focused on only one thing--perhaps being the best gymnast or hockey player or wrestler?

How will they discover their hidden talents (or at least explore various interests), if they only focus heavily on one thing?

I know there are exceptions--like our laser-focused olympic athletes--but I expect it is not every child that has the skill, discipline, financial resources and focus to achieve that level of expertise.

Come to think of it, this sort of reminds me of our homeschooling days.  Some homeschoolers thought it was enough to let their child take the lead in deciding curriculum.  For instance, if their child liked taking things apart, then they would center their curriculum on that, figuring they could encompass other subjects and get all they needed.

That never made sense to me, because if they were mostly focused on one thing, they might miss exploring some other things.

So when it comes to our children, I believe parents would do well not to let their children have all of their confidence come from one particular activity.  Not only does it put way too much pressure on them, but perhaps more importantly, it sets children up to see their whole identity as wrapped up in one thing.

God gave us all a variety of gifts.  We would do well to give our children a variety of ways to discover them.

I welcome your comments.