Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: Three Ways to Cope When Someone Dies

With over 216,000 deaths in the United States alone over the past eight months, there are few of us who haven’t experienced the loss of someone we care about. That loss is exacerbated by the covonavirus itself, which has meant that memorial services have become virtual Zoom events and family cannot gather to mourn the way we’re used to.

So how do you cope when someone you love dies?

  • Take care of yourself. This can be a dangerous time for you; many people experience a temporary “cognitive slippage” and none of us pays enough attention to eating, sleeping, driving, crossing streets.
  • Keep God with you. Keeping rosary beads in your pocket can be helpful. That immediate, physical touchstone recalls your mind and heart to God even when your feelings of grief and loss are overwhelming.
  • Celebrate life. Plant a flower, adopt a pet, volunteer some time, make a donation. In other words, do something positive. Death feels negative; it’s up to us to turn it around. 

We may have faith that those who have passed have been welcomed into the Kingdom of God, but that doesn’t take away the pain of losing them. What they would want is for their friends and relatives to remain healthy. So this is one thing you can still do for them.

Uncategorized

Reflections on the New Encyclical

I love autumn. The colors, the flavors, the crisp air—everything about it makes me want to go outside for a brisk walk and then curl up in an armchair with a hot cup of coffee, a fleece blanket, and a good book. Some books are best enjoyed this way.

Fratelli Tutti is not one of them.

Fratelli Tutti is an encyclical to be read in a straight-backed chair with both feet planted firmly on the ground, so you can spring into action whenever the text summons you to step beyond yourself and encounter Christ in someone else—which happens just about every paragraph.

What is Fratelli Tutti? The title of Pope Francis’ latest encyclical is not a topic, but a statement of truth and an appeal to live this truth. The phrase “Fratelli Tutti,” or “Brothers and sisters all,” is who we are: siblings who have been reconciled with God in Christ. It is also a summons to become who we are by realizing Jesus’ prayer that we “may all be one,” just as Jesus and the Father are one (John 17:21). This is a sublime and beautiful prayer—and, remarkably, God is looking to us to answer it. In Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis sheds light on the many places, faces, and situations where God is waiting for our answer, and reminds us that he waits with greatest longing in the very people we are least inclined to talk to, associate with, welcome, trust, or forgive.

Fratelli Tutti will challenge you. There is nothing easy about making a daily effort to “transcend ourselves through an encounter with others” (111) or to pursue reconciliation not by avoiding conflict, but “in conflict … dialogue, and open, honest and patient negotiation” (244). It takes discipline to assume an “alternative way of thinking” (127) about the world and our place in it, which is nothing short of Saint Paul’s plea to “put on the mind of Christ” (Phil 2:5). But if we choose to walk this path with God, he promises to “turn our life into a wonderful adventure” (8) of dying and rising with Jesus, one moment at a time, to a new and fuller way of living.

How can we begin this adventure? By reading Fratelli Tutti and letting it bother us. I invite you to ask the Holy Spirit to read this letter with you, and pay attention to where, when, and how the Spirit stirs your mind and heart as you read. What is your dream for unity—in the world, in your family, in yourself, and between you and God? Which of the Gospel challenges outlined in Fratelli Tutti make you uncomfortable or resistant? What faces and relationships come to mind as the Holy Father speaks of fraternity, reconciliation, conflict, forgiveness, and dialogue? Who walks into the room while you are reading, and how do you sense the Spirit inviting you to see him or her differently?

This is not a year to be wasted. As tragic and weird and frustrating and [add-your-own-adjective-here] as the year 2020 has been, it is first and foremost an “acceptable time” (2 Cor 6:2) and a new reality to claim for Christ. We must not renounce our Christian vocation by putting our feet up and biding our time until things return to “the way they were,” but rather use the unique circumstances of this year to forge a new culture of encounter, beginning with those closest to us. Fratelli Tutti can help us toward this goal.

Let us approach this letter as an urgent yet hope-filled examination of conscience on how we relate to others and how we can do better. Every step we take today under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, no matter how small, can prepare us for the day when we will finally be able to peel the masks from our faces (and from our hearts) and look at each other: God willing, with more honesty, authenticity, humanity, and love than ever before.

In the words of our Holy Father, “Let us dream … as a single human family, as fellow travelers sharing the same flesh, as children of the same earth which is our common home, each of us bringing the richness of his or her beliefs and convictions, each of us with his or her own voice, brothers and sisters all” (8). And “may God inspire [this] dream in each one of us” (287).

by Sr. Amanda Marie Detry, FSP

Christmas, Inspiration

Rejoice, for Emmanuel Comes!

This has been a year completely unlike any other year, hasn’t it? And it’s easy to react by feeling mentally, emotionally, and especially spiritually unmoored. Many of us have faced long months without being able to attend Mass or receive the sacraments. We have experienced doubt, loss, grief, and pain. And yet there is a light, shining brighter and coming closer, if only we can have the eyes to see it.

Our Church very wisely starts the liturgical year with Advent, the expectation of the coming of Our Lord, the beginning of new things: nothing less, in fact, than the salvation of humanity. And perhaps that’s the way to see Advent in this very difficult year: as a reset of sorts, a recommitment to our faith in Christ. If what we’ve experienced so far is about coming unmoored, then Advent and Christmas are here to moor us again. To help us reconnect, in the midst of confusion, with that which is never confused.

How can we do that?

We can, because we believe God is faithful. In this difficult year, despite all the signs to the contrary, we believe there is a point, and meaning, and purpose to our existence. We believe that despite the horrendous mess humanity manages to make, of the world and of itself, God loves and forgives—and even provides us the means to repair the chaos we have made.

God loves us so much he’s willing to offer us a way out of our selfishness, our violence, our lack of charity. That way out begins in a stable in a small insignificant town, on a night unlike any other night, a night of angelic ecstasy and unexpected visitors, a night when the stars dance with the One Star over the birthplace and the world for one holy moment catches its breath.

In response, we must rejoice. We are called to rejoice. To lift our exhausted gazes from the trauma of this year and breathe in the love of God.

I’m hearing from so many people that Christmas won’t be the same this time around; some even feel there’s no use in celebrating. And it’s true: this will be a different Christmas than others we’ve experienced. We cannot be with our beloved friends and relatives. We even have to order gifts early, as the post office is struggling. For many of us, this is our first Christmas after losing someone we love. That is all true.

But what a narrow view that reality gives us of Christmas, the Mass of Christ, the acknowledgment that centuries of waiting came miraculously together on that starlit night in that poor borrowed space! Emmanuel is here, God-among-us, to tell the real truth of this year: that despite sickness and unemployment, wildfires and hurricanes, even death and grief, God is here with us. He is beside us at the Zoom memorial service. He is beside us as we shutter a shop for the last time. He is beside us no matter what this year has brought; even on the worst days of our lives, he is with us.

We know that he is with us because of what started with an angel’s voice telling a young woman to rejoice. We know that he is with us because of her difficult journey to that nondescript town and the birth—surrounded by tired working animals and rough exhausted shepherds—that preceded the rest of our story of salvation.

Most of the Hebrew prophets brought God’s word to the people; Habakkuk, on the other hand, brought the people’s laments to God. He spoke of injustice, of misery, of evil, of tragedy; and yet his conclusion is clear: “yet,” he says, “I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation.”

What he only knew was coming, we have experienced: Emmanuel, God-among-us. Through Emmanuel, we have become children of God. Through Emmanuel, we shall be part of the kingdom. Through Emmanuel, life has conquered death.

This is the start. The start of the new year. The start of the story that ends, not on the cross, but with Christ triumphant. That birth, that death, that resurrection are all for us, because God loved us so much he gave us something better than health, or riches, or careers, or even family: he gave us eternal life.

There is nothing greater than that gift, and to say it’s barely worth celebrating because we are hurt and confused and lonely is to deny it. We are called to rejoice. No matter what our circumstances, we are called to rejoice. No matter what our challenges, we are called to rejoice. To let the magic of that star-drenched night seep into our skin and our hearts and our souls. To prepare for it with hope and light and awe.

Rejoice, for Emmanuel comes!

By Jeannette de Beauvoir

Photo by Filip Bunkens on Unsplash

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 3 Ways to Make a Difference in Difficult Times

We’re all in bad-news overload these days, it seems. Natural disasters, political frays, grief and sadness… it’s a constant assault on our minds and hearts, and with so much bad news coming at us, it’s easy to feel small, insignificant, and ineffectual.

But we’re assured that God loves us, that he has carved us into the palm of his hand. We are important in God’s eyes, and knowing that can empower us to take action:

  • Pray about it. Prayer changes things. Prayer changes us. God has arranged his world so we can make choices, and we can often discern his will when we open ourselves to it. Remember the words of Padre Pio: “Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Worry changes nothing. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.”
  • Do something locally. The world is a vast place, and changing it is a tall order. But you can make a difference locally. Support a local political candidate of your choice. Volunteer at a local shelter. Encourage your community to reuse and recycle. Support your local parish. This is the level at which you can effectuate change.
  • Educate yourself. If you accept everything you hear, then there’s reason to be discouraged. But choose something that bothers you, or excites you, and learn all about it. Explore it from different viewpoints. Expand your horizons. The world still might not make sense, but you’ll have gotten a little control over at least your understanding of it.

We live in difficult and confusing times. So did Christ; so did many of the saints of the Church. For some reason, God has called you to live in these times. Meet that challenge thoughtfully and prayerfully, and you can make a difference.

Inspiration

Pope Francis’ new Encyclical: A bold desire for us to achieve great things together

This Saturday, October 3, in Assisi, Pope Francis signed on the altar before the tomb of St. Francis of Assisi a landmark encyclical of hope for our times: On Fraternity and Social Friendship. “Fratelli Tutti,” the encyclical’s opening words, means “All brothers” in Italian. The phrase is taken from the writings of St. Francis, one of the major inspirations for the document.

The bishop of Assisi Domenico Sorrentino states that this encyclical “gives us new courage and strength to ‘restart’ in the name of the fraternity that unites us all.” Building on the Church’s long tradition of charity and social teaching, Pope Francis gives the reader a broad understanding of the current world situation and the language to engage in today’s issues in a way that unites us.

There is no way any of us can avoid facing the societal problems now affecting us all. Pandemic and lockdown. The killing of George Floyd and protests on our streets. Wildfires, hurricanes, and flooding. We’re in the middle of a contentious presidential election. Police both locally and internationally have rescued large groups of exploited and endangered children and brought them to safety. And the immediacy of these critical problems and issues has made us almost forget the people who are at our borders hoping for a new life, and those disadvantaged women, men, and children living in poverty and experiencing other forms of hardship within our country and throughout the world. And the list could go on.

So let’s take a moment and push pause….

Reading that list, what did you feel?

Well-intentioned people find themselves taking opposite approaches to these situations. If you’re like me, you have family and friends who fall on every side of these issues. Conversations about them can become contentious real fast. And depressing.

And I’ll be honest.

At different times, I have felt fear, guilt, anger, confusion in these conversations.

To jump into the midst of the public strife, holding one banner or other, I would find myself caught in a conceptual framework to which I can’t fully subscribe. And I have to admit, as strongly as I feel about these issues, I know in my heart of hearts that I haven’t had the opportunity to really study and pray about how the Church’s teaching about the dignity of every human life would apply in such complex situations, and how best to make a constructive contribution.

In this new encyclical, Pope Francis invites people to dialogue in such a way that they come “to know and understand one another, and to find common ground” (no. 198), no longer concerned about the “benefits of power or … ways to impose their own ideas. … The heroes of the future will be those who can break with this unhealthy mindset and determine respectfully to promote truthfulness, aside from personal interest” (no. 202).

Invest in Hope

To encounter others in this way requires an investment in hope. Pope Francis invites everyone in his encyclical Fratelli Tutti, “to renewed hope, for hope … speaks to us of a thirst, an aspiration, a longing for a life of fulfillment, a desire to achieve great things, things that fill our heart and lift our spirit to lofty realities like truth, goodness and beauty, justice and love … Hope is bold; it can look beyond personal convenience, the petty securities and compensations which limit our horizon, and it can open us up to grand ideals that make life more beautiful and worthwhile.’ Let us continue, then, to advance along the paths of hope’” (no. 55).

Encyclical Fratelli Tutti: On Fraternity and Social Friendship releasing early November. Order now and save with a pre-release discount. In the US $9.95. In Canada $14.50 CAD.

5 keys from the encyclical for engaging with others on difficult issues

Here are five concepts I chose from the encyclical that can make an immediate difference in the way I personally engage with others about issues that are so important and defining in society today. I hope that you will find them helpful:

  1. I need others and they need me

“In today’s world, the sense of belonging to a single human family is fading, and the dream of working together for justice and peace seems an outdated utopia. What reigns instead is a cool, comfortable and globalized indifference, born of deep disillusionment concealed behind a deceptive illusion: thinking that we are all-powerful, while failing to realize that we are all in the same boat.”

“If only we might rediscover once for all that we need one another, and that in this way our human family can experience a rebirth, with all its faces, all its hands and all its voices, beyond the walls that we have erected” (nos. 55 and 35).

2. I can rebuild others by lifting them up

“The parable [of the Good Samaritan] eloquently presents the basic decision we need to make in order to rebuild our wounded world. …The parable shows us how a community can be rebuilt by men and women who identify with the vulnerability of others, who reject the creation of a society of exclusion, and act instead as neighbors, lifting up and rehabilitating the fallen for the sake of the common good” (no. 67).

3. Wherever I am, with whatever I have, I can take an active part in renewing our troubled society

“Each day offers us a new opportunity, a new possibility. We should not expect everything from those who govern us, for that would be childish. We have the space we need for co-responsibility in creating and putting into place new processes and changes. Let us take an active part in renewing and supporting our troubled societies…. Like the chance traveller in the parable [of the Good Samaritan], we need only have a pure and simple desire to be a people, a community, constant and tireless in the effort to include, integrate and lift up the fallen. … For our part, let us foster what is good and place ourselves at its service” (no. 77).

4. Believe in the goodness present in others

“Good politics combines love with hope and with confidence in the reserves of goodness present in human hearts. Indeed, ‘authentic political life, built upon respect for law and frank dialogue between individuals, is constantly renewed whenever there is a realization that every woman and man, and every new generation, brings the promise of new relational, intellectual, cultural and spiritual energies.’ Viewed in this way, politics is something more noble than posturing, marketing and media spin. These sow nothing but division, conflict and a bleak cynicism incapable of mobilizing people to pursue a common goal” (nos. 196-197).

5. Think outside the categories and popular narratives for society’s problems promoted by the media and on social platforms

“Often, the more vulnerable members of society are the victims of unfair generalizations. If at times the poor and the dispossessed react with attitudes that appear antisocial, we should realize that in many cases those reactions are born of a history of scorn and social exclusion. The Latin American Bishops have observed that ‘only the closeness that makes us friends can enable us to appreciate deeply the values of the poor today, their legitimate desires, and their own manner of living the faith. The option for the poor should lead us to friendship with the poor.’… If we have to begin anew, it must always be from the least of our brothers and sisters” (nos. 234-235).

A way to open your heart to the world

My shorthand title for what Pope Francis is offering us in Fratelli Tutti is this:

From this moment on everyone is to be considered as a member of my immediate family, because they are.

When I started to write this article, I was going to write only two words: “READ IT.”

Fratelli Tutti is easy to understand. Read it yourself and don’t be satisfied with hastily-written headlines about the document. Simply by reading it, you’ll find yourself breathing in the teaching of the Church on the human dignity of every person and how it sheds light on the predicaments we are currently in. Pope Francis points to a way deep in the human heart that opens a path out of the power struggles, fragmentation, and violence that plague us. It describes how to restart our sense of social responsibility and to have a heart open to the world. It indicates a type of politics that would actually make a difference in our nations and in our international collaboration for the good of all peoples. And finally, in a straightforward way, it offers thoughtful reflection on what burdens us most as a people in the world today.

You can get the encyclical Fratelli Tutti at a special pre-sell discount. And if you don’t read it, you have all you need to start on the path Pope Francis marks out for us if you ask yourself this:

What would be different if from this moment on we all considered everyone as a member of our immediate family? Because they are.

by Sr Kathryn J. Hermes, FSP

Encyclical Fratelli Tutti: On Fraternity and Social Friendship releasing early November. Order now and save with a pre-release discount. In the US $9.95. In Canada $14.50 CAD.

Photo: Assisi, Italy

Image by Roland von Thienen from Pixabay

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 3 Ways to Reduce Stress

As the fall begins and the uncertainty of the next few months continues to affect us, it’s important to manage our stress. Here are three things you can do right now to lower your anxiety and promote health—physical, emotional, and spiritual:

  • Practice staying in the moment. Stress involves thinking about the past or the future, so it’s important to think about the present. Here’s the exercise: Take a few moments to stop and breathe deeply, and then notice your environment: What do you hear? What can you see? What do you smell? What can you touch? These simple steps can help keep us grounded.
  • Find (or create) a sacred space. A corner in your home, a nearby church, or simply a chair on your back porch can all become a quiet spot that calms you and puts you in God’s presence. Commit to spending at least 10 minutes a day in that space.
  • Simplify your life. Go through your material possessions and decide which things are necessary and which things are cluttering your life, causing needless additional stress.Jesus had little and still lived peacefully and joyfully in God. We can do the same.

Many of the factors that cause stress are outside of our control; but if we work to make the changes we are able to make, we’ll all feel lighter, more responsive, and a great deal less stressed.

Uncategorized

The North American Martyrs: Witnesses to Fraternal Love

On July 4, 1648, a group of Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) warriors raced through the village of Teanaustayé, in present-day Simcoe County, Ontario, taking the lives of everyone in their path. Teanaustayé was home to the Wyandot (Huron) people and a small community of French Jesuits who lived and worked with them. As the attack unfolded, Jesuit Father Antoine Daniel grabbed a handkerchief, drenched it in water, and spent his last moments baptizing the Wyandot men, women, and children who asked him for the Sacrament. According to Francis Parkman’s The Jesuits in North America, Father Daniel’s last words to the small group were: “Brothers! Brothers! Today we shall be in heaven.” In the midst of conflict and death, he spoke words of fraternity and life.

On October 3, Pope Francis will sign his third encyclical, Fratelli Tutti (in English, All Brothers). It seems to me that the North American Martyrs, whose feast we celebrate tomorrow in Canada (and on October 19 in the United States), and the Wyandot with whom they lived, have a lot to teach us about what it means to be “brothers,” or family in Christ.

Father Daniel was one of these martyrs. Though born and raised in France, he knew his Christian family extended beyond the boundaries of his native country. Jesus had died to gather “those from every tribe and tongue and people and nation … to be a kingdom and priests” in the service of one God, and as children of one Father (Rev 5:9-10). Father Daniel shared God’s thirst for the unity of the human family and left all that was familiar to him to work for it.  

Father Daniel arrived in present-day Ontario in 1632 and lived among the Wyandot for fourteen years. He learned their language and customs, and he contemplated God who was already at work through the Wyandot way of life. He translated the Our Father and articles of the Catholic Faith into Wyandot, which paved the way for them to pray together, as one family.

His companion martyr Saint Jean de Brébeuf took a similarly contemplative approach to communicating the riches of Christ and the Catholic Faith in North America. In a moving letter of advice to new Jesuit missionaries, de Brébeuf revealed his love for the Wyandot people—a love he must have found in the Heart of Christ Himself. “You must love these Hurons [Wyandot], ransomed by the blood of the Son of God, as brothers,” de Brébeuf wrote. “You must never keep [them] waiting at the time of embarking. Carry a tinder-box or a piece of burning-glass, or both, to make fire for them during the day for smoking, and in the evening when it is necessary to camp… Do not carry any water or sand into the canoe. Be the least troublesome….”[1] De Brébeuf observed the smallest details of Wyandot culture with love and took pains to adapt to a lifestyle that was not his own, so that Jesus’ prayer for the unity of the human family might become a reality.

The mutual encounter of French and Wyandot gave birth to new and beautiful expressions of the Catholic Faith that the Church is still unpacking. When Wyandot council member Chiwatenhwa heard the story of Jesus, he was profoundly moved by this man who cast out demons and gave His life to save the world from evil. Having grown up in a faith tradition where evil spirits were a ubiquitous threat to be feared, Chiwatenhwa experienced tremendous freedom through the news that God had conquered evil and death. Moved by the Holy Spirit, Chiwatenhwa recognized Jesus as his “elder and chief” who revealed the Face of the Father, the Great Spirit.[2] As the Jesuits shared more stories from the Gospel, Chiwatenhwa helped them with translations and played an invaluable role in reframing Christ’s Middle Eastern parables into words and images that more closely mirrored the North American experience, so that the Gospel might be more easily understood. In the words of Saint Jerome Lalemant, another North American martyr, Chiwatenhwa was nothing less than “the leaven of the Gospel that makes the dough of this new Huron church rise.”[3]

The eight North American Martyrs died at different times and in different circumstances between 1642 and 1649. Many Wyandot, including Chiwatenhwa, died for their faith around this time period as well. Their faith-filled deaths challenge us, but perhaps their lives challenge us more.

We are often content to know and love our “brothers and sisters” as those who live in our neighborhoods, belong to our political parties, attend our churches, or share our ethnic backgrounds. But the North American Martyrs—named and unnamed, French and Wyandot—push us further. Saints Antoine Daniel, Jean de Brébeuf, Jerome Lalemant, Isaac Jogues, and their companions were not satisfied to know only a few members of God’s family. They traveled to the ends of the earth to teach and baptize more of them. They gave everything, including their dying breath, to welcome more brothers and sisters into the household of God. The Wyandot likewise took the risk of receiving strangers into their communities and listening to their unfamiliar stories. As they opened themselves to the Word of God, and as the Jesuits relied on them for new ways to communicate it, the two cultures found God reflected in each other’s faces.

Perhaps we are more comfortable sitting in the same pew week after week, following likeminded individuals on Twitter, or limiting our social engagements to a subsection of the Body of Christ who looks, thinks, and acts like we do. But if this is us, we would do well to ponder the example of the North American Martyrs, French and Wyandot alike.   

Through their intercession, may God give us missionary hearts: hearts big enough to welcome more people into the family of God, and humble enough to allow others to lead us into a deeper relationship with Jesus, their Brother and ours.

by Sr Amanda Detry, FSP


[1] Quoted in John D. O’Brien, SJ, “Saint Jean de Brébeuf (1649),” in Canadian Saints, ed. David Beresford (Ottawa: Justin Press, 2015), 79-80.

[2] Quoted in Henry Bruce, Friends of God: The Early Native Huron Church in Canada (North Bay: Tomiko, 1991), https://www.wyandot.org/friendsofgod.htm.

[3] Ibid.

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 3 Ways to Enjoy Fall

In the northern hemisphere, the weather is turning crisper, the days shorter. Fall officially arrives tomorrow, and for many of us, the spring and summer were so different this year that it’s hard to feel enthusiastic about yet another season of uncertainty. Here are three things you can do to not just survive this autumn, but also thrive:

  • Set aside time for reflection. “In autumn’s vibrant colors there are reminders of summer’s fullness of life, of winter’s impending bleakness, and of the prospect of spring not far beyond. Autumn compels us to think about life’s transience and continuity all in one.” (Allen M. Young)
  • Limit your busyness. Fall seems to be a time of accelerating activities after the lull of summer, and you can lose your whole season that way. Choose one special fall recipe, and make it. Choose one craft project, and do it. The extra time you’ll find? Perhaps an hour of Eucharistic adoration once a week?
  • Celebrate the calendar. Fall is filled with beautiful celebrations! Check out this saint of the day calendar and mark these moments: St. John Henry Newman;  Sts. Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael; and coming up in October is St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the Guardian Angels, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, St. John Paul II… the calendar is chock-a-block with celebrations! Why not mark them at home and do something special?

Fall doesn’t need to be dismal: its vibrant colors, crisper air, and bright blue skies can help us find new ways of living in God’s presence. Why not try one today?

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: How to be Presence to Others

Why do we suffer? It’s a complaint humanity has lodged with God through the long centuries of our relationship, and it’s as unanswerable today as it was to the early Israelites. God never promises that we’ll not suffer; what he does promise is that we won’t be along. And just as we know Jesus us beside us in our pain, we too can be with others when they are hurting. We can be presence to them. But… how?

  • Remember God is there. God doesn’t rush in to fix things or to sugarcoat anything; God is there for us for the long haul, though everything. If we remember that, it helps us to just be with someone else who is suffering.
  • Validate the other person’s pain. The worst thing you can do is say “Cheer up, it’s not really that bad.” Even if it doesn’t feel “that bad” to you, it feels that way to them. Respect that and don’t minimize others’ feelings.
  • Be Christ to the person in pain. Don’t try to come up with answers; just offer Christ’s presence. The most difficult thing is to do nothing and just be; but you’re not doing it by yourself.

No one understands why we suffer, and there are no “right” prefabricated answers to pain. All that there is, is presence. You can be that presence; you can make sure that the person in pain is not alone. The ability to freely enter into the suffering of another is a reflection of God’s love, and it’s what we’re all called to do. 

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 3 Ways to Enhance Your Life

So many times we think about improving our lives by getting rid of bad habits, or finding another way of looking at the world. But there are small, incremental things that can have a tremendous effect on our quality of life. What are some of them?

  • Spend an extra five minutes with God. Five minutes isn’t much. It’s feasible for just about everybody. No matter what else you do, an extra five minutes can make much more of a difference than you might think. Five minutes paying. Five minutes reading Scripture. Five minutes sitting in front of an icon. Five minutes singing. This small amount of time, over time, will improve your life exponentially.
  • Read a new translation. The approved Catholic translation of the Bible is the New Revised Standard Version (Catholic Edition), and it is where we turn for our daily and liturgical readings. But often we can find inspiration and elucidation by reading another version in addition to the NRSVCE. One interesting translation is The Message, which is not a study Bible, but rather a “reading Bible.” The verse numbers have been left out of the print version to facilitate easy and enjoyable reading. 
  • Do one “good deed” a day. We are at our most fully human when we are reaching out to others. This can be a small thing—a kind word at the checkout, paying for the coffee of the person behind you in line, offering to help someone carry their groceries—but it extends God’s love through you to others.

We all want to make big, dramatic changes in our lives, but the truth is that it’s the small things that over time can make the biggest difference. Try these for a few weeks and see what happens!