servant-together

Servants Together

Our son, a college student, is home for the holidays.  As he is wont to do when at home, he goes out with old high school friends and he goes to the homeless shelter on Saturday mornings with his Dad. Every Saturday morning since he was three years old, my husband has brought him along to the local men’s emergency housing to meet the men there, have a devotional time with them and take them to breakfast.  

 

Our son remembers that once there was a man who was just released from jail the night before and had no shoes.  Another man hitch-hiked all the way from Alaska.  Weekly, several of the men engage in the Bible reading and discussion as many of them were raised in Christian homes and a number of them voice heart-felt prayers to God as the Holy Spirit ministers to them. Others ramble on about their lives, while others try to squeeze money from them with a sob story.  

 

Through the years, my husband and son have met a wide spectrum of men: old, young, sane, mentally-challenged, mild, angry, educated, and those with learning disabilities.  They listened to all their stories.   Father and son not only enter the homeless shelter on Saturday mornings, but many times, they are allowed to enter the hearts of men.  On several occasions, the Word of God cuts through the surface, prayer opens their hearts and they remember hope in Christ.

 

 

Compassion and Mercy

When our son was in high school and on days when my husband was out of town, he would get up early on Saturday morning, go to the shelter by himself, lead a devotion, facilitate discussion, open prayer and take these grown men to breakfast as he and his Dad usually do.  It never bothered him that the men responded to him differently than they did when his Dad was there.  Why would a teen give up his only possible morning to sleep-in for these random men?  Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta often said that welfare is for a purpose, whereas Christian love is for a person. 

 

Service is an integral part of the Christian life because it is a part of a life of love.  A Catholic engages in the corporal and spiritual works of mercy as an instrument of God’s love for others.  It is a way of life, following in the way of Jesus.  Compassion and mercy are at work and go beyond in recognizing that everyone is our brother and sister in Christ.  Who else will show God’s love if not us, His children?

 

 

Tasting the Joy

As Christians called to love and serve one another, especially those in need, let us bring our children along as we serve.  Our children not only witness Christian service, learn many skills themselves, encounter various people in the community and recognize each one’s dignity, but they also begin to experience the grace of the Holy Spirit as an instrument of love and come to taste the joy that comes from giving of oneself to others.

 

Last Saturday, father and son came home with more than stories, they had peppermint candy canes from the Christmas  tree at the emergency housing.

joy-to-the-world

The Lord Has Come

Ordinary Furniture

The Chinese missionary priest unlocked a small windowless room on the second floor, and we all took off our shoes as our family followed him into the room with the floor covered by a nylon mat.  The room was empty except for a low table at one end of the room, and on the table was a small box, and on each side of the box was an electric candle that was lit.  He bowed very low with his forehead almost touching the mat, and we did the same gesture.   

 

On closer look, the table was an ordinary coffee table and the small box was a cheap jewelry box like a miniature armoire with a clock on it that did not have the correct time.  In fact, the clock was not running.  Our children asked, “Where is the tabernacle?”  The priest pointed to the jewelry box as if he understood what our children asked.  The children tried to restrain their giggles.  Their gleeful amusement at an unexpected tabernacle with a clock was muted by a great effort to be reverent in the presence of Jesus.

 

 

Light of the World

“This is just like the first Christmas,” I thought.  It is like the manger where Mary and Joseph laid the Baby Jesus in that stable at Bethlehem.  Here, the Eucharist is placed in a plain jewelry box, probably the only thing this missionary priest could find to serve as a tabernacle when he came to establish the Church only a few years before with only ten Catholic Christians in this ancient small city.  

 

We all knelt there silently together, yet in our hearts, we praised God, “Glory to God in the highest!”  Jesus has come to this place that would qualify as one of “the ends of the earth.”   The people in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned.  (Matthew 4:16)

 

 

Tabernacle of  Our Heart

In just a few years, many locals were baptized and the growing church gathered for Mass in a room on the third floor of the small building with no heat in the winter.  Most of our churches here in the USA are not locked and are heated in the winter.  Jesus not only remains with us in our beautiful tabernacles with red sanctuary lamps burning, but He comes to each one of us as we receive Him in Holy Communion.  Anytime of the day, we can turn interiorly and adore Him in the tabernacle that is our heart.  “Joy to the world, the Lord has come!”

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Keeping True to Advent

What is there more to do after Gaudete Sunday?  After the rose candle of the Advent wreath is lit,  many of us almost abandon the last purple candle.  The preparations for Christmas start to reach fever pitch as lists, presents, wrappers, home decorations, recipes, guests, and family traditions all vie for our imagination and attention.  But it is still Advent.  There is one more candle waiting to be lit.

 

 

There is One

What if we have properly observed Advent this year, prepared our hearts, and now are busy making ready for the Christmas celebrations and hear, “There is one thing you lack.”  If amidst the bustle we take the time to be still, and hear in the silence of our hearts that familiar hollow sound of something missing. 

 

For some, it feels like loneliness, for others deep sadness – even pain from a broken heart.  For others it may be guilt, meaninglessness, or despair.  The relative sufficiency that we may enjoy materially or even from good relationships does not fill the emptiness, because we lack the one thing.   

 

“There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”  (Luke 10:42) 

 

This Advent, are we preparing our hearts for the “one thing necessary?”  John the Baptist refers to Him as “one among you who you do not know.”  Are we ready to leave everything in order to sit at His feet?  Are we ready to sell all we have, give to the poor and follow Him; or will we leave sad because we have many possessions?  Are our hearts prepared to become undivided for Jesus, to be single-hearted?  This is where our advent waiting and preparation should lead us – to a desire for Jesus, who is our Savior – to desire Him above all else.  He is the ONE.

 

 

Choose the Better Part

To take away the wages of sin – which is death, that Adam and Eve brought to the human race, Jesus did the one thing necessary out of His immense love and unfathomable mercy for us.  He became flesh and dwelt among us, died on a cross and rose again to reconcile us to the Father.


Jesus means in Hebrew: “God saves.” At the annunciation, the angel Gabriel gave him the name Jesus as his proper name, which expresses both his identity and his mission. (Catechism of the Catholic Church 430)  Jesus is the Messiah, who brings glad tidings to us who are poor, company in our loneliness, healing for our broken hearts, and comfort in our sadness.  He brings forgiveness that takes away guilt, hope for meaning and purpose in our lives.  There is  need for only one thing – a relationship with Jesus.

 

 

Waiting No More

In Advent, there is another one who waits.  He has been waiting a long time to come to us.  He waits for the one thing: our invitation for Him to come into our hearts.  One more candle in the Advent wreath – it is the final preparation for Christmas.  This preparation happens at the core of our hearts. 

 

If at the center of our hearts, there are possessions that possess us, or other things that rule us, or even our selves that control its universe – this is the time to dislodge them.  They do not fill the emptiness, they do not heal, or free us.  They do not satisfy our hunger nor slake our thirst.  There is only one Savior.  Come, Lord Jesus, come!  We invite Jesus to take His rightful place in our hearts to reign over us, and we take our rightful place at His feet.  We will then be ready to celebrate Christmas with true joy because we will have that which is the most essential!

 

One thing I ask of the LORD;
this I seek:
To dwell in the LORD’s house
all the days of my life,
To gaze on the LORD’s beauty 
    –  Psalm 27:4

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All is Gift

A martial arts instructor teaches his students to guard against tunnel vision wherein one who is in active combat begins to focus on one feature of the fight or on one weakness of the opponent.  He instructs his students to always be keenly aware of the whole arena and to orient himself to all that is happening around him with the opponent at any given time. 

 

Like the athlete, we can focus on our proximate reality and forget that as Christians, we have awakened to an immense reality much more expansive than the immediate world to include the spiritual reality and life beyond physical death.

 

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
                                                                                                                                                  C. S. Lewis

 

Thanks to the Giver

When the veil will finally be lifted and we can see our lives in the eternal plan of God, we will realize that all is gift from the  love of God for us.  We will understand the gravity of sin and the force of God’s love to redeem us.  We will appreciate the purposes of the small and large details of our lives.  Because we will have comprehended the greatness of God’s love and mercy for us, we will live eternity in deep gratitude and thanksgiving and praise of God. 

 

While our eyes are still veiled, our hearts already taste the joy of the Holy Spirit and we can direct our hearts to always be thankful. We celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday and take stock of all the blessings, all the relationships and all the people in our lives – and we say Thank You.  For our very lives – Thank You.  After Thanksgiving Day will be a parade of holy days and seasons: Feast of Christ the King, the season of Advent, feasts of several saints and the Christmas season.  These are all joyous occasions when gratitude recognizes that all is gift, and there is a gracious Giver.

 

With Thanksgiving

As we freely receive, let us freely give.  Let us step back a bit before the holidays begin this year, let us give thanks to God, and explicitly express our thanks and appreciation to those who love us.  Let us thank our spouses, family members, friends, co-workers.  As God and others have been lavish to us, let us be generous in kindness, liberal in gentleness, open in affirmation, and ungrudging in care for those around us.

 

Our immediate reality may be filled with worry, disappointment or hurt and we may feel far from being thankful.  Turn to God, “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 4:6-7) 

 

In the reality within and beyond the walls of our hearts is the reality of God’s tender care for each one of us.  He fixes His eyes on us.   In His gaze is the whole arena of reality, and where for us – all is gift.

 

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A Different Advent This Year

We lit the second candle of the Advent wreath and I don’t know what I did differently last week besides lighting the first Advent candle.  “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His path,”  we heard at church.

 

One of the most intriguing passages in the Bible for me goes, “More tortuous than anything is the human heart, beyond remedy; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)  Because tortuous means full of twists and turns, I imagine the the topography of my heart to be circuitous, tangled and meandering.  “Make straight the way of the Lord.”  HOW?

 

 

Removing Blocks

Many Catholics may already have gone to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and that is one way to make straight the way for Jesus’ coming.  Sin is an affront to God and neighbor, and breaks the path of love.  Repentance and the forgiveness of our sins re-turn us to a path towards love of God and neighbor.   With this sacrament, blocks are removed from our heart and the path is made clear.

 

There is another obstacle, a large one, that contributes to the tortuous-ness of our heart.  This one is the most challenging one to displace and yet it cannot be done without our will:  unforgiveness.  Hurts, wounds, injuries inflicted on us by ourselves and by others, when they remain unforgiven, can be the biggest blocks that hinder us from making a straight path.  The trouble with unforgiveness is that it is the stuff that hardens our hearts into stone, where nothing can flow – neither God’s grace nor love. 

 

Moreover, keeping grudges, clinging to bitterness, harboring anger, all make for convoluted and labyrinthine hardened hearts that distort love.  Many distractions of the holiday season only help to ignore these painful obstructions.  We merrily take more twists and turns to avoid facing them.  This Advent is a good time to forgive ourselves for the wrongs we have done, and to forgive others for the injuries they have caused.

 

 

Open Door to Freedom

Forgiveness is an act of our will that is both a very spiritual act and a very practical decision.  Spiritual because as Jesus teaches us, we must forgive others so that we can be forgiven.  The door to receive forgiveness from God is the same door that we open or close to others.  Practical because the decision to forgive others frees us from bitterness, resentment, anger and a stony heart that keep us from loving. 

 

Since it is a spiritual act, we can not do it on our own, we need grace, we need the help of the Holy Spirit.  Let us ask God for the grace to forgive.  Since it is a practical act, let us make a decision to forgive and resolve to let the bitterness go.  We can ask a trusted friend to pray with us through these blocks in our heart.

 

Next Sunday, we light the rose candle of the Advent wreath.  It represents JOY – Gaudete Sunday.  Let us look into our tortuous hearts and face the blocks that have been there for years in order to make straight the way.  Let us forgive ourselves and forgive others and become free.  This year, make the Advent season count.

advent

5 Ways to Live the Liturgical Calendar in the Domestic Church

My mom always recalled our birth-stories on our birthdays and we do the same for our children now.  I am glad that hospitals allow dads in the delivery room, so the eyewitness account we render to our children about their birth is more accurate and can be recounted by both of us.  From the first contractions, to the weather that day, to the drive to the hospital, to medical people who attended to us and procedures done, we recall and share with our children the special moments that made each birth-day memorable – especially when we saw each one for the first time.  My husband, our child and I were all the main characters of the event that day and on each birthday, we make present once more that special event in our lives and the life of our family.  Then we celebrate!

 

 

Let Us Celebrate

To celebrate is not just to remember a significant event in the past, for sure – remembrance is central to a celebration; to celebrate engages the whole person: mind, body, heart, and spirit.  We eat cake and ice cream, we sing, we give gifts, we play games, we invite friends, we dance, we take pictures, we reminisce and we pray – all to celebrate a birthday or anniversary.  In making present a significant event in the past, we mark it by making a break from our ordinary routines and engage our whole person, usually with others in a gathering – to celebrate.  It’s a community affair.

 

 

Seasons of the Church Year

This is what the Church does in living its seasons around the liturgical calendar.  The Church makes present to us the significant events of Jesus’ life as great feasts: Christmas – the birth of our Savior, Easter – His resurrection from the dead, and Pentecost – the birth of the Church, the body of Christ, as the Holy Spirit enlivened it by tongues of fire.  Seasons of preparation: Advent – preparing for Christmas, and Lent – preparing for Easter call us to attend to our hearts to be open to deeper conversion to Christ. Ordinary time is the season between the feasts and they are punctuated by solemnities, holy days and feast days.  For the Church, these are all times of great celebration!  As disciples of Jesus, we are called to celebrate – to engage our whole person because our mind, body, heart, and spirit participate in joy.

 

 

Bring It Home

Parents can make present at home the seasons of the Church calendar to help our family experience in an immediate manner the learning about Jesus’ life and to more fully participate in the life of the Church.  The rhythm of the life of our family mirrors the rhythm of the life of the Church.  Home decorations, family traditions, a Catholic culture at home all contribute to make present and make alive the Faith to our children.

 

  1. Be intentional – integrate the liturgical seasons in your family calendar of celebrations.
  2. Bring attention to the Church decorations and colors at each liturgical season and celebration at your parish.
  3. Keep a Celebration Notebook – includes celebrations your family does throughout the year, a record of family traditions, family activities, menus, special recipes, books to read to the children, etc. so that every year a family identity becomes more and more established.
  4. Be explicit about the spiritual and faith aspect of the celebrations – make these teaching moments about our Catholic Faith so that the Faith is not separate but integrated into our lives .
  5. Prayer – integrate the relationship with God by praying on family celebrations. Include prayers that reflect the liturgical season or celebration in family prayers.


Making disciples of our children is very much about familiarizing them with Jesus, His life and the life of the Church as much as it is fostering a personal relationship with Him.  Every year, the children eagerly listen to their birth-story and their siblings’ birth-stories even if they already know the details.  As parents, we do not tire of telling them either.  The Church is about to retell our story again – our salvation story.  The Church begins a new liturgical year this Sunday – the First Sunday of Advent.  At this time, the Church makes present once more the waiting for the Messiah.  Our hearts long for the coming of Jesus.

cookies

Heartfelt Thanks

It is like a match made in heaven – my husband and children, who love cookies, and a neighbor across the street who owns the best cookie shop in the city.  The Cookie-Lady, as we call her, comes to our door to deliver the special cookies herself – a large heart-shaped one for Valentine’s, fancy colorful iced ones for Halloween, a plate of assorted Christmas cookies wrapped-up with an elaborate bow for Christmas.  Whereas customers pay a price for these cookies, we get them as prizes for being her neighbor!

 

 

Enjoyment of the Gift

Saying Thank you when we receive a gift is a social grace and courtesy for acknowledging someone’s benevolence to us; saying a heartfelt Thank you, however, comes only after  we have truly enjoyed the gift.  A gift becomes precisely a gift to us not just because we receive it, but because we fully enjoy it. 

 

What woman will not take in deeply the fragrance of a dozen roses given to her and place the vase where she can appreciate their beauty?  What man will not savor every bite of a favorite meal cooked just for him?  What artist does not experience focused pleasure while applying his creative gifts on a piece of music, design, or art?   What parent does not take delight in just watching their infant’s face?  A true gift brings joy.  The proper response to a true gift is the full enjoyment of the gift.

 

 

Joy of the Giver

The greatest satisfaction that a gift-giver can have comes in the delight and relish that the gift brings to the one to whom it has been given.  The joy of giving is matched only by the joy of knowing/seeing that the recipient utterly enjoys the gift.  What man’s heart does not fill with joy as a woman he just proposed marriage to gasps and locks her eyes on the ring he just put on her finger?  What chef will not bask in pleasure as guests relish his masterpiece concoctions?  What parent does not smile at their child who opens a present and becomes ecstatic with joy?

 

 

Abundant Life

Let us stop to realize the gifts that have been given to us by our loved ones.  Let us enjoy them to the full.  They are the gift of their love, the gift of their time, the gift of their sacrifices, the gift of their intimacy, the gift of their treasure, and the list goes on.  Let us stop to realize the gifts that have been given to us by God.  Let us enjoy them to the full.  They are the gift of His grace, the gift of life, the gift of faith, the gift of our spouse, the gift of children, and the list goes on.   

 

St. Irenaeus is quoted to say, “The glory of God is a man fully alive.”  A person fully alive is a person wholly  reveling in grace, totally yielding to the Holy Spirit and using His gifts; faithfully living the gift of a new life in Christ.  Taking the time to enjoy thoroughly all the gifts that have been given to us is the greatest thanks we can give to our loved ones and to God.  The gifts are given to us so that we can “live abundantly.” 

 

At the end of the day, only heartfelt thanks can be offered, “Let me sing to the Lord for His goodness to me.” (Ps 13:7)  Living in abundance is what our family feels when we receive these very special cookies from the Cookie-Lady who lives across the street.  The cookies never last past a day because we enjoy them so much.  Our children always make a homemade Thank You card; they run to put it in her mailbox.  We hope that she realizes that our thanks are always heartfelt because they truly are.

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5 Ways to Pray with Children for Those Who Have Died

I saw my grandmother today – in the mirror!  I was shocked at how I looked so much like her.   She had very long hair and always wore it up in a bun with a comb on either side to make sure it stayed in place.  A Saturday morning of cleaning out the basement necessitated putting up my hair so it didn’t get in the way of sorting many things accumulated and needed to be discarded. 

 

Catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror temporarily jarred me out of my mission.  It has been several decades since my grandmother died and I haven’t thought much about her.  While my hands got back to working, my mind became busy with memories of her and many loved ones who have died.  Lord, have mercy on their souls.

 

4 Last Things

November is the month of praying for the the souls in purgatory.  The month of November is at the end of the liturgical calendar of the Church in which the Church directs our attention to the 4 last things: death, judgement, heaven, and hell.  The Feast of All Saints and All Soul’s Day at the beginning of November give us opportunities to remember holy men and women and to pray for the souls of our “faithful departed.” 

 

The Church has clear teachings on the saints and also of souls in purgatory and it is worthwhile to educate ourselves on these teachings so that we may participate in the prayers of the Church on earth (the Church Militant), asking the intercession of the saints in Heaven (the Church Triumphant) and interceding for the souls in purgatory (the Church Suffering).  Together with them, we are brothers and sisters in the one family of God.

Because my mother was widowed at a young age, praying for my father and relatives who have died was always included in our family prayers.  I learned about relatives I never met as she included a litany of family members in the intercession.  When we asked her about them, we not only had a picture of them as persons but we learned of their struggles and trials and choices.  As children, we could appreciate that their lives and choices had real impact on our own lives.  Our lives now is drinking from the same river of life that they drank from.  We pray for them out of love and gratitude. 

 

Teach our Children

As we make it a point to include praying for the souls of our departed loved ones, we also teach our children to do this as part of their prayer life because our children are members of the Church who prays for our brothers and sisters in purgatory.  These may be ways to pray for the souls of our loved ones:

 

1. Include this traditional prayer after meals:  “We give You thanks, Almighty God, for all Your benefits, and for the poor souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, may they rest in peace. Amen.”

 

2.  Let driving by a cemetery be a reminder to pray for loved ones who have died and also for all those buried in that cemetery.  Ask children to join in this prayer.

 

3.  Remember to pray for loved ones on their death anniversaries.  Offering a Mass for them is a tradition that we should continue and teach our children.

 

4. Offer and teach children to offer little sufferings and sacrifices for the souls in purgatory.

 

5. Learn about and understand indulgences and teach older children about them. 

 

My grandmother had golden hoop earrings that she wore permanently and I remember them because she always had her hair up.  I just bought myself a pair of golden hoop earrings.  I do not wear them permanently but they remind me of persons who lived before me, generations of them, who cooperated with God and participated in relationships that transmitted life to me and have transmitted to our children.  Some of them probably lived as saints, most as sinners like me, so I pray for them and teach our children to pray for them.  It is an act of love and gratitude as well as a spiritual work of mercy.

 

6 Ways to Introduce Saints to Our Children

Even very small things that possess beauty can move us. From one of his trips to China, my husband brought home a gift for me that I keep on my nightstand. It inspires me to reflect on the saints. It is an inside-painted snuff bottle, and I am fascinated by how the artist painted it. Snuff bottles are very small bottles that fit comfortably in the hand. During the Qing Dynasty in China they were used by rich and influential people to carry powdered tobacco, which was believed to be medicinal. The bottles were usually intricately and elaborately made to reflect the owner’s status in that society.

 

Today, the decorated bottles are made as souvenirs. An inside-painted snuff bottle has images painted on the inside cavity-walls, and the painted images are visible from outside of the bottle. Similar to these clear bottles, we are able to marvel at the beauty that God paints in the saints’ interior lives that is revealed through their exterior living.

 

Made by God

Saints are the most beautiful creatures made by God, because they allow the Holy Spirit to work in their hearts. They are deferential to the work of the Great Artist to conform them to His Son Jesus, docile to the work of the Potter to transform them in love, and submissive to the chisel of the Master Sculptor to form into reality what already exists in His mind. God, who is Beauty itself, creates the beauty of His image and likeness in souls who cooperate with Him.

 

Mary, the mother of Jesus and our mother, is the Queen of All Saints. Her fiat, “Let it be done to me according to Your will,” expressed her complete submission to God’s work in her life. She was ‘filled with grace’ which irrevocably made her the most beautiful woman.  As disciples of Jesus, we must also give our personal fiat to God. Becoming saints is the fruit of a life surrendered to God in response to His love.

 

An interesting thing about the inside-painted snuff bottle is the very small opening on the top of the bottle through which the artist may work with a brush to paint the cavity-walls inside of the bottle. The very small opening of a snuff bottle is not a hindrance to the artist but the artist does need the cap off in order to do his work. For every saint and for each of us, the YES to the invitation of Jesus to be in relationship with Him is what is necessary for the Holy Spirit to begin to produce in us a work of beauty as a new creation. Preferring the will of God to our own will is trusting in His ability to “make all things for good” – and not only good, but beautiful.

                                                          snuff-bottle_1

An interesting thing about the inside-painted snuff bottle is the very small opening on the top of the bottle through which the artist may work with a brush to paint the cavity-walls inside of the bottle.  The very small opening of a snuff bottle is not a deterrent to the artist but the artist does need the cap off in order to do his work. 

 

For every saint and for each of us, the YES to the invitation of Jesus to be in relationship with Him is what is necessary for the Holy Spirit to begin in us a work of beauty as a new creation.  Preferring the will of God to our own will is trusting in His ability to “make all things for good.”  Jesus teaches us in His parables that the Kingdom of God starts in our hearts from very small beginnings – like the mustard seed or like leaven, that grows by a hidden power.

 

 

A Plan of God’s Design

While most painters begin with big strokes for background on a canvas and then add details to define images, the artist of a snuff bottle starts with the small details in the foreground of the images as seen from outside of the bottle and ends with the background strokes. The painter of a snuff bottle already has a design in mind before beginning to paint.

 

The artist knows all of the details and where to strategically put them in relation to each other in order to complete the picture. A dot here, a line there, a smudge here, a stroke there – they may all seem random at first in the blank cavity-wall, but as the artist adds each hue and shade, an image appears, a story is told. 

 

“I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord in Jeremiah 29:11. Saints humbly trust in God, completely hope in His goodness, and faithfully embody the love of God to others. Holiness and beauty on the inside always shows on the outside, because love is expressed in attitude and action.

                                                                                

 

Friends in High Places

Let us introduce our children to the saints, who despite sin, struggles and challenges persevered with the one thing necessary; they chose the better portion and it was not taken from them.  (Luke 10:42)

 

Our children need real people who model holiness and love for God.  These may be helpful tips to encourage our children to have friends in Heaven who are alive in perfect union with God:

 

1. If our child has a patron saint or is named after a saint, learn about the saint and celebrate the feastday of that saint annually.  Teach the child to ask for the intercession of that saint.

 

2. Many parishes give away calendars in the beginning of the year with saints’ feastdays on them. This is a good way to become familiar with many saints and to look up something about some of them on their feastdays. 

 

3. Give children books on the lives of saints or books written by saints as presents.  During lent, reading these books could be a way to do something special for this holy season to rouse our family towards holiness. 

 

4. Several places, churches, schools and organizations are named after saints.  Let us point these out to our children and remind them something remarkable about these saints. 

 

5. Many Catholic families have their children dress up as saints to observe All Saints Day (Nov. 1) and celebrate this holy day with other families. 

 

6. Begin family traditions for some feastdays of saints like St. Nicholas or St. Juan Diego.  Many of us come from immigrant families.  Learn about and celebrate patron saints of the countries from where our families emigrated. 

 

 

Becoming a Saint

Leon Bloy wrote “The only real sadness, the only real failure, the only great tragedy in life, is not to become a saint.” God redeems us for a holy life, which is a path of conversion and love. By the grace of our Baptism, we are made with the capacity for holiness, and reaching that full potential for holiness is to become a saint. Jesus is the fount of holiness. The Holy Spirit sanctifies, and our part is to cooperate with grace to be transformed.

 

Just as a work of beauty, no matter how small, reflects its creator, the saints give glory to God. Let us become saints. Let us trust in God and His wondrous plan for us. The Great Artist has a design in His mind for each of us – the masterpiece He has begun inside you and me is not only one-of-a-kind, but will be one of eternal beauty when completed.

(Also appears in The Well with the title: The Great Artist at Work”)

 

 

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Love is Sacrifice

By Darcie Tallman

While my son and I were praying, we got off on a little tangent.  He asked me about the lyrics to a Christian song, The Proof of your Love by For King and Country.  We listened to it and read the lyrics.  I had heard this song many times.  Funny how the refrain hit me like I’d never heard it before:

So let my life be the proof,
The proof of Your love
Let my love look like You and what You’re made of
How You lived, how You died
Love is sacrifice
Oh, let my life be the proof,
The proof of Your love.

Love is sacrifice.  These three little words are easy to miss.  But, when you think about them, the meaning is powerful. 

This gave me pause.  In my head, I know this to be true.  It’s what my husband and I talk so much about in our pre-cana presentation to engaged couples.  Jesus sacrificed His life for us. He is our example for how we are to love our spouse. 

The other thing that was going through my mind was Jesus’ words to Peter in Matthew 26:41, “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”

 

 

Realization

Yes, God.  I get it.  You’re right.  Selfishness is something I struggle with and it gets in the way of me being able to sacrifice.  Just the night before our daughter was up most of the night with croup.  My husband had been working late at night.  I should have jumped right up and taken over for him – 100%.  I failed. 

Or, what about the many times I feel angry and resentful for finding myself having to clean up the kitchen again? 

These are just day-to-day things.  If I’m struggling with these, how can I love when it’s really hard?  When it hurts?

 

 

What are we giving ourselves to?

I’m currently reading, Heaven Starts Now: Becoming a Saint Day by Day by Fr. John Riccardo.  One of the chapters is entitled, Surrender.  Fr. Riccardo writes, “What are we living for?  What are we giving ourselves to?…” ”…we might be living for our spouse – not loving our spouse but living for our spouse.  Or living for our children, or for honors, or any of a variety of things.  But if it’s not God that we’re sacrificing our bodies to, then to whatever or to whomever we are offering ourselves is eventually going to do one of two things: disappoint us or crush us.  Because none of those things, good as they all are, are what we are made for.”

Wow.  That stopped me in my tracks.  It certainly isn’t what our culture tells us. God loves me unconditionally. He knows everything about me and His mercy is incomprehensible.  His love is beyond what I can wrap my head around.  And, yet, how do I love Him?

 

 

Starts with a Relationship with Jesus

Funny how God works.  It started with my son asking to listen to a song.  It spurred a memory about a paragraph I had recently read.  This caused me greater contemplation on an area for which I struggle and I became frustrated and mad at myself for seeing how many times I fall short.  What do I do?

I began to reflect on my past and think about other more challenging times of sacrifice in my life.  I realized that during those times I had to lean into prayer even more.  That was my answer. 

I know from firsthand experience that, “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”  I can’t do this alone.  I know I need God’s help to teach me to love. As I grow closer to Jesus in a relationship, the more I grow in my desire to love Him better.  That desire moves me to more freely and joyfully give of myself to my spouse, children, family, friends and others.  I must lean into prayer and grow in my relationship with Jesus.