brown jest for you box
caregiver, Catholic Family, Dignity

Seeing the Gift

1 March 2021

Lk 6:36-38

This smiling young man in his First Communion suit turns twenty-one today. Eighteen of those years he and his sister Sarah spent with us, fifteen of them as “official family” since we adopted them in 2005. Like many children with hard pasts, they were a handful. More than once I wondered if God was granting my exasperated mother’s wish, “One day may the Lord give you a child. Just. Like. You.” 

Instead he gave me these two. Two frightened, skittish, love-resistant little monkeys whose difficult past made it hard for them to trust us, and even harder to trust themselves. Almost from the start, it was clear that these kids were nothing like us: In school they struggled to keep up with their classmates and make friends. This was new territory for my husband and me, who were always at the top of our classes and (in the case of my husband) could talk to anyone.

As the kids continued to struggle, our social circle narrowed; running the kids to doctors and counselors, and praying for peace in playgroups, it was hard to relax long enough for meaningful conversations. But somehow slowly, slowly we became a family, and these two little kids fulfilled their special calling, teaching me the wisdom of today’s Gospel: Be merciful. Stop judging. Stop condemning. Forgive. See the gift.

Some days seeing the gift isn’t easy through the snark and smartassery. Some days there are tears are tears of joy … and others, tears of frustration. Each day became a series of little good-byes as they asserted their independence and my husband and I anticipated our own … until my own mother’s decline presented yet another special gift: a chance to take care of her the way she took care of me. Now at last God is giving me a chance to be another kind of mother: a mother Just. Like. Her.

Heidi Hess Saxton


Lord, Help us to see the gifts in our lives. Amen.

Lent Devotional 2021
Download your copy of A Time to Grow: A Daily Devotional for Lenten Pilgrims here.
adventure cold conifers evening
Advent, Dignity, Gospel, Uncategorized, Women's Ministry

Saturday of the First Week of Advent

Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and illness. At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” 

Then he summoned his Twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness. Jesus sent out these Twelve after instructing them thus, “Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.”

Surveying the neglected, unsettled crowd cut Jesus to the core. Do you react with similar compassion when you encounter God’s people, those who struggle, flock to the latest spiritual trend or guru, and have more questions than answers? Do you actively engage with these individuals, or is the prospect too exhausting for you?

Jesus didn’t “check in” with the Apostles and ask if they’d be up to the challenge before he commanded them to act. He identified an urgent need for ministry to people who were unmoored and spiritually wounded. Today, people are disoriented by politics, unsettled by demonstrations, and paralyzed with fear during this pandemic. They are depressed, angry, disgusted, and bewildered. They are searching for truth.

Are we leading people to the consolation we find in the person of Jesus Christ? Do we remind them of the words he spoke in Matthew 11, inviting us to lay down our burdens at his feet and find true rest in submitting to him? The agitated, the worried, the confused are all around us—do we offer words that are a soothing balm and supportive bolster?

Jesus commissions us to be missionary disciples and assures us that he will empower us to work miracles if we commit to do this essential work. Today, offer an exhausted stranger a smile and a kind word. Call a friend and ask, “How are you really doing?” Spend time with a lonely elderly relative. Actively listen to your children when you ask about school. Implore the Holy Spirit to strengthen you for these tasks, enabling you to see individuals as Jesus sees them and moving you to act with the compassion of Christ. 

Meditation: How did it feel to reach out to someone intentionally today? How does a missionary disciple love?

Nancy Belmont

You may download the complete Advent devotional Good Tidings HERE as a PDF

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!** 

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?