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Advent, Gospel, Motherhood, Parenting

When Your Hopes and Dreams for Your Child Don’t Turn Out the Way You Planned

Wednesday 23 December 2020

Luke 1:57-66

When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her. When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John.” But they answered her, “There is no one among your relatives who has this name.” So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called. He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God. Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea. All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?” For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.


Parents have great hopes and dreams more often than not when they bring a child into the world. What will he or she become? We pray for health and for happiness, surely. But many pray that the gifts God bestows on them will be used well and appreciated by the child, that the gifts will be used to glorify God. Whatever the hopes and prayers, things don’t always turn out the way we expect.

At some point, when expectations are dashed, parents need to pray new prayers for their children, especially our young-adult children,: “Lord, give them the grace they need to overcome the struggles. Give them peace. Heal them. Comfort them. Be with them. Keep them safe from harm. Shield them from pain, from evil. Help them to know You’re with them always, that we’re here for them. Let them know we love them unconditionally just like You do, Lord. We may not love them as much as You do, but we love them as much as is humanly possible.”

Even Elizabeth and Zechariah were probably initially disappointed or confused, certainly, by John the Baptist’s life choices. He was living in the desert, wearing nothing but camel’s hair clothing and a leather belt, and eating honey and wild locusts. He spoke truth to power. He spoke of the Truth that is Jesus, the Lamb of God. Not so long after, Jesus would mourn his death.

What we envision for the future of our children or ourselves is rarely what occurs. God’s has a plan, and it is for our salvation. We have to trust Him and what he wants for us and our children which is, ultimately, eternal life with him. Life here isn’t always what we planned.

Lynda MacFarland

Meditation

Let’s ask God, recalling the mercy he shows us through the passion, death, and resurrection of his Son, to help our unbelief.


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Advent, Family Life, Gospel, Motherhood, Women's Ministry

Living our Faith with Courage. Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent

Tuesday 15 December

Matthew 21:28-32

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people: “What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He came to the first and said, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ 
The son said in reply, ‘I will not,’ but afterwards he changed his mind and went. The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did his father’s will?” They answered, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of God before you. When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.”


When my daughter was just starting to talk, I remember wanting to make sure we always said grace before meals. Growing up, my family knew how to say grace, but we didn’t do it regularly, and especially not in public. As I’m teaching my daughter to say grace, sometimes I’m tempted to skip public prayer if we’re dining at a restaurant. But let me tell you, my four year old never skips grace!

Saying that we’ll live our faith is easy.  Actually living our faith takes courage.  

In today’s world it can be so easy to post about doing the right things. We can tell people we pray before meals or post about attending Mass online when really we slept in. But we were made for more than easy. We were made to do the work not just talk about doing the work.

We were made to do hard things and sometimes praying in front of friends or family who are not Catholic is hard. Sometimes getting up to go to Mass, even Mass on TV, is hard, but doing that work is so important because it gives us encounters with the Lord. 

What’s more, we are called to be an example to others and a witness to Christ. People have their eyes on us. From our kids, to our friends, to our social media following, what we say we are going to do is far less important than what we actually do. God calls us not just to say what we mean but to do what we say we will do. He calls us to be an example of his love and while that may be easier said than done, I encourage you never to stop trying.

Rebecca Lockhart

Meditation

What does it mean to you to be courageous in your faith?

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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!”

 

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Hospitality in the Pews: Four Gestures that Encouraged my Child in Church and One Sweet Reward

Four Gestures that Encouraged my Child in Church and One Sweet Reward

When was the last time you walked into a parish for mass without knowing anyone from the community?  Did you feel welcomed by an usher at the door, or the friendly smile of the Eucharistic minister?  Or did you feel anonymous, like a burden to the person you had to scoot past clumsily to get to the center of the pew, or ignored by your neighbors during the sign of peace?

Our family regularly visits new parishes, especially in the summertime.  When school is out of session, we like to spend weekends adventuring and exploring new places that are within driving distance of our home in the Washington, D.C. suburbs.  We often spend one night away from our home on Saturday evenings, and then make our way home on Sunday afternoons.  We stop for mass wherever our exploring leads us.

1. Greet Everyone – Even the Tardy!

This weekend, we made a retreat our family’s little cottage in Cape May, New Jersey, and attended mass at a nearby church.  As we scurried into the church three minutes before mass was to start, two ushers greeted us with huge smiles and held the door open for us.  One said, “We’re glad you’re here.”  I felt encouraged.

2. Smile at the Kiddos

Unfortunately, my five year-old, George, was not as quiet or as still in mass as I had hoped.  In fact, he really had ants in his pants, and he could not refrain from asking all about what we were going to do at the beach the next day, or singing Christmas carols.  Yes, fa-la-la-la-la in September. And flossing!  I was afraid that the woman in front of us was going to get irritated.  Instead, she just turned around on occasion, and smiled and winked at George.

3. Praise the Effort

When mass ended, an elderly gentleman walked up to George and said, “You were very good today.  It must have been really hard to sit so still.”  I prompted George to thank the man for his compliment.  The man turned around, pulled something out of his pocket and handed it to George.  It was a one dollar bill.  He told George, “You should go buy yourself a little treat.”  George was ecstatic!

4. Give Generously  

As we waited in the back of the church for the end of the closing hymn (because I could not wrangle George in the pew any longer), the faithful shuffled past us, accepting bulletins from the ushers on their way on the door.  As it happened, we were standing by the poor box, where elderly women dutifully slid their neatly folded one dollar bills into the slot in the front of the box.  It certainly made me consider the widow’s mite from the Gospel.  Always inquisitive, George and I shared a brief chat that the money in the poor box is given to people who need it.  George nodded but resumed his dancing.  He even attempted a handstand just out of my arm’s reach.

Your Hospitality Will Be Rewarded in Ways you Never Anticipated

Once we left the front door of the church, a light bulb went on for George, he said, “I know what I’m going to do with my dollar!”  “What?” I asked.  “I’m going to give it to the poor box.  Do you have another dollar,” he asked.  I told him that I did.  He asked, “Well, can we put another dollar in the candle box and say a prayer for someone?”  Sure.

So that is what we did.  We worked our way upstream through the church narthex and back to the poor box.  George folded his dollar and carefully placed it in the box.  I handed him a new dollar, and he made his way to the candles, where he placed that dollar in the money slot and gingerly lit his candle.

I asked for whom we should pray, and he said, “For Aunt Pat.  And for all the people of this church.”  Of all the prayers that George could have said, he chose the Fatima Prayer . . . George style.

George’s Fatima Prayer

Oh my Jesus

Forgive us our sins.

Save us from the fires of health.

Lead all souls to heaven,

Especially those in most need of my mercy.

Amen.

Amen, George.  This reminded me that we never know how simple gestures of hospitality – a smile, a reward, a greeting at the door, a donation – will serve as encouragement or examples to someone else, and that our small gestures will be repaid in ways we will never know.  My family felt welcomed by the greeter and the woman in front of us.  The man who showed kindness to my antsy son has helped me consider how to be more generous.  Beyond the immediate assistance to the poor, the women placing money in the poor box taught my son by example to share his reward and sparked a mindfulness of others.  Going full circle, all of the people George encountered were lifted in prayer to a God who especially asks for the children to come to Him.

Thanks for the hospitality, Cape May.  We’ll see you soon!