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.


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

How Much Do I Give to My Church?

I receive daily Lenten Reflections  that are based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  The most recent one referred me to paragraph 357 of the Catechism.  It comes from the Profession of Faith part of the Catechism under the section "In the Image of God."

Reflecting on us as human individuals, rather than a thing, or a creature that is not human, the Catechism speaks of our dignity and our capacity for "self-knowledge" and "self-possession" and our ability to give of ourselves freely as we enter into communion with others.

But what struck me was the summary sentence of this paragraph that pointed out that through grace from God, we alone are able to offer a "response of faith and love" to God "that no other creature can give in his stead."

We are it.  We are the ones, created by God, that can give a return of faith and love to God.  The Catechism goes on to say in paragraph 358 that "man in turn was created to serve and love God and to offer all creation back to him . . . ."

Too often, I think, we focus on ourselves.  Our life is about us, right?

But what if, reflecting more deeply on these words from the Catechism, we shifted our gaze away from ourselves and looked outward, and focused on what we can return to the Father?

Whenever a conversation about church finances comes up, I tend to preach about tithing (whatever percentage you choose) as an act of stewardship, where, in thanksgiving, we return back to God's church, the first fruits of whatever we receive.

A stewardship mindset is an attitude.  Whatever the amount we set aside, we know that it will go to help the church continue the good work begun in our Lord.  While we may not be itinerant apostles moving from town to town, we can still acknowledge--in fact there is no getting around the fact--that it takes monetary support to provide for others today (not to mention to keep the lights on.)

St. Paul in his letters acknowledges the need (and joy) of giving (2 Corinthians, Chapter 8), and indicates the support needed for the wider church in Jerusalem (1 Corinthians, Chapter 16).

We find gospel references about the disciples being sent out without a money bag, sack and sandals (Luke 10:1+) but they did depend on the generosity of those they encountered to supply what they needed.

Our churches depend on our generosity, and our own giving should come from an awareness of their needs and a desire to return to God in thanksgiving for all he has given.

Remember, we are the ONLY creatures in this entire world that can do that!

God bless,

Friday, February 16, 2018

(VIDEO0 Angels and Wild Beasts | Word On Fire

Angels and Wild Beasts | Word On Fire

Here is a great video by Bishop Barron on the First Sunday of Lent about Jesus being led into the desert.


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

This list was posted on a focus website which I thought I would share with you, in case you are looking for suggestions for Lent.   
Remember, Lent is not a self-improvement program (although you will likely self-improve!)  Lent is a time when we practice self-denial through the three elements of Lent:  prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

It is actually a beautiful time in the Church.  I hope you will take some time to open your heart and mind to God's will and that you find this to be a very fruitful time.  Take a look at the list below for some helpful ideas.

In St. Dominic,

What Should I Do For Lent? Pope Francis' 10 Tips

Every year Catholics try to answer the age old question: What should I do for Lent? Well, who better to pick for as your Lenten spiritual director than Pope Francis? He has some great ideas for you!

Here we selected 10 of his best tips:

1.  Get rid of the lazy addiction to evil
“[Lent] is a ‘powerful’ season, a turning point that can foster change and conversion in each of us. We all need to improve, to change for the better. Lent helps us and thus we leave behind old habits and the lazy addiction to the evil that deceives and ensnares us.” – General Audience, March 5, 2014 

2.  Do something that hurts
“Lent is a fitting time for self-denial; we would do well to ask ourselves what we can give up in order to help and enrich others by our own poverty. Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance. I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.” – Lenten Message, 2014 

3.  Don’t remain indifferent
“Indifference to our neighbor and to God also represents a real temptation for us Christians. Each year during Lent we need to hear once more the voice of the prophets who cry out and trouble our conscience. God is not indifferent to our world; he so loves it that he gave his Son for our salvation.” –Lenten Message, 2015 

4.  Pray: Make our hearts like yours!
“During this Lent, then, brothers and sisters, let us all ask the Lord: ‘Fac cor nostrum secundum cor tuum’: Make our hearts like yours (Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus). In this way we will receive a heart which is firm and merciful, attentive and generous, a heart which is not closed, indifferent or prey to the globalization of indifference.” – Lenten Message, 2015 

5.  Take part in the sacraments
“Lent is a favorable time for letting Christ serve us so that we in turn may become more like him. This happens whenever we hear the word of God and receive the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. There we become what we receive: the Body of Christ.” – Lenten Message, 2015 

6.  Prayer
“In the face of so many wounds that hurt us and could harden our hearts, we are called to dive into the sea of prayer, which is the sea of God’s boundless love, to taste his tenderness. Lent is a time of prayer, of more intense prayer, more prolonged, more assiduous, more able to take on the needs of the brethren; intercessory prayer, to intercede before God for the many situations of poverty and suffering.” – Homily, March 5, 2014 

7.  Fasting
We must be careful not to practice a formal fast, or one which in truth ‘satisfies’ us because it makes us feel good about ourselves. Fasting makes sense if it questions our security, and if it also leads to some benefit for others, if it helps us to cultivate the style of the Good Samaritan, who bends down to his brother in need and takes care of him.” – Homily, March 5, 2014

8.  Almsgiving
“Today gratuitousness is often not part of daily life where everything is bought and sold. Everything is calculated and measured. Almsgiving helps us to experience giving freely, which leads to freedom from the obsession of possessing, from the fear of losing what we have, from the sadness of one who does not wish to share his wealth with others.” – Homily, March 5, 2014

9.  Help the Poor
“In the poor and outcast we see Christ’s face; by loving and helping the poor, we love and serve Christ. Our efforts are also directed to ending violations of human dignity, discrimination and abuse in the world, for these are so often the cause of destitution. When power, luxury and money become idols, they take priority over the need for a fair distribution of wealth. Our consciences thus need to be converted to justice, equality, simplicity and sharing.” – Lenten Message, 2014

10.  Evangelize
“The Lord asks us to be joyous heralds of this message of mercy and hope! It is thrilling to experience the joy of spreading this good news, sharing the treasure entrusted to us, consoling broken hearts and offering hope to our brothers and sisters experiencing darkness.” – Lenten Message, 2014

Monday, February 12, 2018

(VIDEO) Our Glorious Unfolding - Steven Curtis Chapman

Below is a youtube video to one of my favorite songs by Steven Curtis Chapman:  Glorious Unfolding

Before today, I hadn't ever watched the video that goes along with this song.  I have just loved the phrase "glorious unfolding" ever since I heard it.  To me, it is a reminder that God has a plan and usually it takes time for that plan to unfold for us.

While it might be nice to have a hotline to heaven where God could tell us the right decision to make, or the best direction in which we should move, the reality is that through prayer, people and listening, God leads us.

In the quiet of prayer, we are free to talk to God, to ask questions and plead our case. This is also a time for listening.  Sometimes we will be prompted to act.

Through people--their words and actions--God can speak to us words of encouragement, inspiration and comfort.

If we pay attention, God will show us the way.  Sr. Ann Shields told me one time that we don't have to work so hard trying to figure things out.  God will show us the way.

I have always thought that was great advice and I lean into it whenever I feel the need to control an outcome or hurry a decision.

The unfolding of God's plan can take time.  This is not work we should rush through if we want to be sure we are discerning His will.

A brief spiritual direction session also brought this wisdom, another gem I think of often:

I hope you enjoy the song, and have a blessed day!


Sunday, February 11, 2018

(PODCAST) Fr. Joe Krupp talks Michigan/Michigan State sports and what Catholic priests do everyday!

Check out this recent interview from Armchair Catholic with Fr. Joe Krupp!  Learn about the daily life of a priest, and if you are a sports fan, you won't want to miss out on the conversation about Michigan/Michigan State!

Enjoy ~

God bless,

How much money should I give to the church?

When and how much money should I give to the church?  That question can raise much debate in Christian circles.  I like to refer to St. Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians (Chapter 8) for a solid perspective on giving.

Paul speaks of the “grace of God given to the churches of Macedonia” when he speaks about how charitable they have been to him, even in their affliction.  He speaks of the “abundance of their joy and their profound poverty” that led to their “wealth of generosity.”

In this account, he is testifying that these people gave spontaneously as they “begged us insistently for the favor of taking part in the service to the holy ones!” First they gave to the Lord, and then to Paul.

I think this passage reveals much about giving.  These people certainly saw the importance of their gift to Paul for the greater church.  It implies a certain trust in Paul that their gift would be used appropriately (probably for the church in Jerusalem). Their action reflects their great desire to support the work of Paul and the others, because they knew there was a need.  Spreading the gospel is the work of all of us.

They were not in it for themselves and, in fact, most likely would not directly see the results of their giving in their own community.

When we give, do we return to the Lord what he has given out of a sense of gratitude and our awareness of needs beyond our own parish?  Do we see our own parish as part of the larger church?  Do we have a concern for our brothers and sisters striving in churches that are hurting?

This attitude of giving that looks beyond our borders, comes only through the grace of God.  It is a work of the Holy Spirit that inspires and leads us to greater generosity.  It is the Holy Spirit that makes it possible to lend support “out of our poverty” so that it overflows to others.

As a church, let us pray in confidence that God will show us how to provide for the needs for others, through our trust in Him, rather than limit our generosity out of fear.

Have a blessed day!