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Dignity, Encyclical

I See You; You Matter

**Elizabeth here – I’m very glad to share with my readers that my dear friend (and fellow redhead) Erin Raymond is contributing to the blog this week.  Erin is a gifted speaker, former stand-up comic and speaks frequently about Catholic theology of the body. Her wit and wisdom make her a very compelling speaker to young adult and college age audiences, in particular.  This reflection is from observations she made when we attended a large Catholic conference earlier this spring. Enjoy!** 

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This is my very first blog, which seems a little weird in 2019, but there you go. I may have never attempted this had it not been for a near-midnight bar conversation with some Catholic authors at the Mid Atlantic Congress in Baltimore, Maryland. 

Said one man author to a table of women: I need some contributors for my blog – anyone interested? 

Woman author #1: It’s always kinda awkward to write a blog for someone’s page. 

Woman author #2: IKR? Who wants to hear what I have to say? 

Me: Are you kidding? Who doesn’t want to hear what I have to say? (said in a joking but not really joking manner).

I may have been joking, but the self-doubt in these talented women was palpable.

Do you recognize yourself in those comments? You have a desire to share the message that God has put on your heart, but somewhere in your psyche there a lack of confidence, fear, maybe even self-loathing?  There’s a chance that the insecurity demon may have jumped in and answer that question for you. 

If you’ve ever thought, “No one wants to hear what I have to say,” I want you to say very loudly, “GET THEE BEHIND ME SATAN!” Discouragement is not of God.

You are a beloved child of the King, and God would never speak to you that way, or permit you to belittle yourself. God loves your thoughts and ideas and wants you to share them wherever and whenever appropriate. 

Several years ago, I had the great fortune to take a class on St. John Paul II’s encyclical Laborem Exercens, with Msgr. Brian Donahue at West Point, New York. (And thank goodness! – I could never have worked through it all alone!) It’s the first time I’ve really understood the value of overtly recognizing the dignity of another human being. 

In the encyclical, St. John Paul II helped me learn to look someone directly in the eyes and tell them, “I see you; you matter.” You – the person who has experienced one bad break too many and now finds herself in the soup kitchen line – I see you! 

You are a beloved daughter of God. You – the man who is so tired from working two jobs just to feed his family, and one of those jobs is cleaning the bathrooms at the airport – I see you and you are a beloved son of God.

And I say to you – reader of my very first blog: I see you. And I want to know your story. And I want to hear your thoughts. You are overflowing with the dignity of humanity, and you bring that dignity with you every step of your day. You bring the dignity to your job – don’t ever expect your job to bestow dignity on you (shout out to JPII for that nugget of wisdom). 
One of my favorite saints, St. Teresa of Avila wrote, “Yours are the eyes through which to look out Christ’s compassion to the world.” I challenge you to look out with those holy eyes, and see the world as God made it.  Look at others with compassion. See their dignity as a person created in the image and likeness of God. I especially challenge you to start with your own dignity, worth, and value. Look at yourself in the mirror with God’s eyes. What do you see?

Catholic Family, Saints

Mary Magdalene: Apostle to the Apostles

Who is your favorite saint? Mary Magdalene is one of mine.

Today is the feast of St. Mary Magdalene, the Apostle to the Apostles. Jesus cured Mary of seven demons (Lk 8:2). Seven! Seven is symbolic that Mary’s life was replete with hardships – demons – as described by the gospel writers. Possibly her demons were mental or physical illness, living the consequences of her past sins, or maybe abusive or difficult family situations. Whatever the exact sources of her demons, Jesus cured Mary body and soul, restored her, and loved her. She loved Jesus so much that she followed him to the foot of the cross.

Jesus trusted Mary to make her the first eye witness and herald of his resurrection. But Jesus doesn’t let Mary merely cling to him and her own experience. Nope! Instead, he inspires her to run with an evangelistic spirit to spread the news of his resurrection. She announces to the disciples on the third day, “I have seen the Lord” (Jn 20:18). In this, she is the Apostle to the Apostles.

I love Mary Magdalene because she shows us how good a life with Jesus can be. No matter how wounded your past, Jesus can heal you, restore you, and send you forth to announce the good news.

In honor of Mary Magdalene, share the message of Jesus with someone who is suffering today. And as a special offering, let that sharing be with someone outside your comfort zone, even if that means talking to a stranger or a person you find difficult to love.

Would you like to talk more about Mary Magdalene and other favorite saints? Join us in the Joyful Momentum online community in our Facebook Group!

Army Life, Catholic Family, Uncategorized

Tips for Faith-filled Summer Travels

Summertime means family travel time! Pack up the minivan, stock up the car cooler, fill the gas tank. Let’s go! Perhaps you are off to dip your toes in the surf? Maybe you are headed to a family reunion, or a favorite amusement park.

This year, our family adapted our usual summer vacation to make way for a cross-country move from the Washington, D.C. suburbs to Washington State. We wove family vacation time into the move with stops in South Bend, Indiana to visit friends, a hike in the Badlands National Park, a visit to Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota, and a day wandering Yellowstone National Park.

Whether vacationing, visiting family, taking the college shopping trip, or moving cross county, travel knocks us out of our normal routines, and sometimes our faith practices get juggled around in the mix. Here are some tips and ideas so that no matter where the summer takes you, you can easily stay grounded:  

  1. Find Catholic shrines or places of interest along the way. Help your family connect to the Universal Church by finding Catholic places to visit. Catholic author Marge Fenelon recently published My Queen My Mother A Living Novena – A Marian Pilgrimage Across America. In the book she features numerous Marian Shrine across the US. Here is another state by state guide to Catholic spots from Epic Pew. Take a picnic for your visit.
  1. Load up on Catholic CDs and podcasts. In an age of smart phones in our pockets, and Lighthouse Catholic Media CD racks occupying the narthexes of many parishes, this is just too easy! Be sure to downloaded podcasts ahead of time to save data! Here are some favorite Catholic podcasts this month:

Girlfriends Podcast with Danielle Bean. Get it on any of the usual podcast apps. You can also join her Facebook group to keep the conversation going.

Father Mike Schmitz with Ascension Presents. This podcast is incredibly relatable. It’s short, so if you have teens in the car, it’s a great conversation starter. Father Mike’s sense of humor draws everyone in, but he digs into tough topics. My teens enjoy this one.

Abiding Together with trio of dynamic friends, Sister Miriam, Michelle Benzinger, and Heath Khym, these ladies bond over everyday conversations in Catholic life – family, faith, service, children, relationship, and more. I feel like I could be chatting along with these women.

  1. Find Mass along your route, especially on Sundays. It can be hard to be a stranger walking into a parish for the first time. If you’re on vacation it can be easy to make excuses to skip Mass: you don’t know if the community will be welcoming to your kids; you want to drive 300 miles in one day and an hour at Mass will cause delay; you didn’t bring church clothes. Don’t make excuses. Jesus wants to meet you at Mass, whether you are in your traveling jeans and t-shirt or a three-piece suit.
  1. Say a family novena for a feast or saint that coincides with your travels. A friend told me that novenas intimidate her. When I asked her why, she said it was because she was not quite sure what they are. A novena is a specific prayer said once a day for nine days. It could be as simple as saying a Hail Mary for a specific intention for nine days.

Right now, the Church is approaching the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene on July 22. Since she has a special feast day, her novena started nine days before the feast. We mid-way through, but you can jump in! Here are two upcoming novenas.

Novena to St. Anne, the mother of Mary, starts July 17 and her feast day is July 26.

Feast of the Assumption Novena starts August 7th for the feast on August 15.

A beautiful thing about a novena is that after nine days of repetition, it puts a new prayer on the tip of your tongue.

  1. Fast from distractions. You may take beautiful pictures on your family’s trip, but avoid the temptation to jump on your smart phones to post all over Instagram or catch up with what all your friends are doing on their vacations as soon as you get back to the minivan or hotel room. Cherish the time in closer quarters to converse, play games, and bond. Instastories disappear in 24 hours; family memories endure.

These are just five ideas to stay grounded during travel. I’m curious to learn your tips for a faith-filled summer.

Uncategorized

Control Issues? Do Whatever I Tell You.

Do you like to have control over your life . . . like where you live, sleep, eat, work, worship? I do! I’m kind of the queen of control – so much so that I alphabetize my spice rack because order makes me feel in control.

Our army family just moved from one Washington to the other. We uprooted from the Washington, D.C. suburbs and made a cross-country drive to Joint Base Lewis McChord, Washington. Moving can be hive-inducing for control freaks like me because the process rips from us the normal control we are used to exercising over our lives.  Very tangibly, your life ceases to be your own: you don’t know where you’ll sleep or eat; who your new friends will be and how long it will take to make them; if your kids will mesh well in their new schools; whether your household goods will arrive unbroken, and if they do; whether your old furniture will fit in your new house. 

We started our move in late-June and continue to live in a hotel efficiency apartment while we await quarters on post. 

During week one of the move, we watched nervously as the packers unceremoniously boxed possessions that we have curated over decades. I grew anxious as the movers stacked everything into an already half-full moving van, and I couldn’t help but jump in and give direction on how to stack my furniture so that it might have a better chance of arriving intact.

Our drive was a whirlwind. (Though it was beautiful. Check out my Instagram to see pictures from our trip.) One morning I woke up and could not remember if I had slept in Iowa or Nebraska.  It turned out to be neither – we were in South Dakota!

This move, I have tried to surrender and re-surrender my instinct to control an uncontrollable situation.  After learning yesterday that our household goods delivery is being delayed, I felt pretty out of control — and to be perfectly honest — cranky. I popped over to daily Mass to try and re-re-re-surrender this struggle because somewhere in my control freak heart, I know that God’s got this.

And here’s what I heard at Mass:

“When hunger came to be felt throughout the land of Egypt and the people cried out to Pharaoh for bread, Pharaoh directed all the Egyptians to go to Joseph and do whatever he told them.” (Gn 41:55).

Do whatever he told them ­­– those five words sent my brain straight to the Wedding at Cana, when the party had run out of wine, and Mary told the steward, “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:6).

At this point in my life, Jesus is telling our family, “Trust me. Yes, your house is in boxes in a warehouse. True, you’re not sure where to send the kids to school next year.  But do whatever I tell you. And right now, I’m telling you to trust me.”

What is he telling you?

Miraculous Medal
Uncategorized

May is for Mary Gardens

May! It’s the month of Mary, and we’re already halfway through.  Parishes are honoring Mary with May Crownings and daily rosaries.  We, too, can bring our parish traditions of honoring Mary into our homes.  How are you honoring Mary this month?

One of my family’s favorite month of Mary traditions is to plant our Mary Garden.  Every year around mid-May, my children and I make a pilgrimage to the plant nursery to pick out annuals and a few perennials to add to our garden.  I always reserve a few of these plants to a pot on the patio that serves as my Mary Garden.  The colors and fragrance create an inviting space to read, pray, or gather with friends.

With so many beautiful flowers, choosing what to plant can involve a lot of decisions.  I like to think, “WWMP? – What would Mary plant?  What would Mary have planted if she walked in your garden, lived in your climate, and enjoyed your yard or garden pots?

Here are the flowers that we chose this year:

Columbines – Another name for the blue columbine is our “Our Lady’s Shoes.”  Myth is that that they sprouted wherever the Blessed Mother stepped on her way to visit Elizabeth.  Columbines are hearty and can last in the sun or the shade.

Bleeding Heart – The bleeding heart is a perennial flower that truly looks like a pink heart.  These flowers remind us of Mary’s Immaculate Heart, her love, and even her heart’s sorrows.

Roses – Roses have long been the flower of Mary.  When Mary appeared in Lourdes, St. Bernadette said that our Lady was wearing a white garment with blue sash and that there were yellow roses on her feet.  St. Juan Diego picked rose petals from the hill where Mary directed him to build a church and put them in his tilma to carry to the bishop.  It was on this tilma that the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was imprinted.

Lily of the Valley –  Another legend is that when Mary cried at the cross, her tears turned into Lily of the Valley.

Lilies – “Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. If God so clothes the grass in the field that grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?” – Luke 12:27-28.  If you plant lilies, let them serve as a colorful reminder to trust in God.

Now that I’ve shared a few of my gardening ideas, I’m curious to know yours!  What do you plant in your Mary Garden?

Uncategorized

Encouragement from 52 Weeks with St. Faustina

I recently reviewed 52 Weeks with Saint Faustina by author Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle.  I have greatly enjoyed leafing through Donna-Marie’s book and rededicating my prayer time to saying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, the prayer that Jesus gave St. Faustina.

52 Weeks with St. Faustina lends itself to people like me!  I start the year with the greatest intention of completing a 52-week devotional and then fade in dedication and zeal and have to jump back on the wagon numerous times.  Fortunately, since the chapters do not have assigned dates, readers like me can begin the book at any time or retrieve the book and re-join the spiritual exercises with St. Faustina without feeling obliged to skip weeks.

52-weeks-cover-195x300Another thing I love about the book is that the table of contents is thematic.  If you especially need prayers for overcoming fear, there’s a chapter for that!  Grace?  There’s a chapter for that, too!  Forgiveness, doubt, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, or obedience?  There are weeks dedicated to these topics as well.  This book meets readers exactly where they are in life.  You can progress through the book week by week or jump around thematically.

My favorite aspect of 52 Weeks with St. Faustina is that Donna-Marie incorporates significant portions of St. Faustina’s Diary into the reflections.  This leaves readers with Jesus’ words to Faustina as well as a flavor of her personality and glimpses of her path to sanctity.  Friends, I will leave you with a few of my favorite quotes from St. Faustina:

On Patience:

Patience in adversity gives power to the soul.  – Diary, 607

On Staying in the Present Moment: 

Oh present moment, you belong to me, whole and entire.  I desire to use you as best I can. – Diary, 2

On Humility: 

Today, as God’s Majesty swept over me, my soul understood that the Lord, so very great though He is, delights in humble souls. – Diary, 1092

For Encouragement:

O my Jesus, despite the deep night that is all around me and the dark clouds which hide the horizon, I know that the sun never goes out. – Diary, 73

On Forgiveness:

We resemble God most when we forgive our neighbors. Diary, 1148

Do you have a favorite quote from St. Faustina?  Share it in the comments! As my six year-old says, “Sharing is caring!”