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.

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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!

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: Participating in God’s Creativity

Imagine trying to apply Jesus’ Golden Rule without creativity! He said, “In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12). So… how do you figure out what that is? By using your imagination! By putting yourself in that other person’s space. By participating in God’s creative work. We are made in God’s image, and therefore we participate in his creativity. But some days it’s not easy to feel creative. How can you manifest it today?

Here are some ideas:

  1. Ask yourself, “What if?” Every time we worry or feel discouraged, there’s always a counter-suggestion our creative minds can make. What if there could be a better food pantry in your community? What if that tired wall in your bedroom could be freshened up with an image or reminder of God’s beautiful creation? “What if” is the first step toward making change—toward creating!
  2. See what’s out there. Yes, as G.K. Chesterton pointed out, the grass is green. But how extraordinary, when you think of it, that it should be green! What a creative, beautiful color! Look at the world afresh and it will inspire you.
  3. Know you’re already doing it. You imagine every time you make a plan, whether it’s what to cook for dinner or how to educate your grandchildren. As long as you’re engaging with your mind and visualizing outcomes, you’re being creative.

God is a creator, and we as children of God have a creative side. We have a desire to make something new and beautiful. God’s world rings with wonders and we all have a part to play in the overall symphony.

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 3 Ways to Persevere

Endure and persevere. If we asked our ancestors the way through a crisis, chances are good their advice would include those words. A person who has perseverance endures, no matter what the trials or how much suffering or grief they have to go through. It’s from the root word meaning “to remain under.” It means a person would be willing to remain under trials, if necessary, and to follow God’s way. But how do we find that depth and breadth of perseverance?

  1. Read Scripture. We all look for how-to manuals; and we have one in the Bible. You’ll find if you read the Bible regularly, you’ll be less likely to get upset. (The opposite is also true: if you’re not reading the Bible regularly you’re more likely to become stressed and overreact to little things.)
  2. Keep moving. Perseverance isn’t about standing still, it’s about moving: St. Paul likens life to a race, and his images are appropriate. The world is powerful and trying to pull us down with lies, but we can discipline ourselves, and we can run. We don’t merely brace ourselves for the things life throws at us. We run through them, and we’re not running alone.
  3. Get outside yourself. We’re not only meant to persevere through our own problems: St. Paul tells us we “bear one another’s burdens,” too. Connection to both God and others will give us the strength to keep moving through whatever is before us, and in helping others persevere, we learn to persevere as well.

We can learn from St. Paul. God helped him persevere through horrific experiences—being shipwrecked, beaten, hunted, mocked, and thrown in jail. And even with all of this God gave St. Paul a “thorn” to remind him even more how much he needed God. St. Paul understood that God’s grace is sufficient for anything he might have to persevere through. God doesn’t always save us from hard times, but he will always be with us through hard times.

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: Three Ways to Find Courage

“The true pilgrim who has found the way says in his thankful heart, ‘I will run when I can, when I cannot run I will go, and when I cannot go I will creep’ (Fr. William Congreve, SSJE).” Sometimes we forget that the greatest courage can be the quietest, and that creeping along can be blest by God.

  • Sometimes, courage is loud and obvious, as when David fought Goliath. Everyone saw how he defeated the giant. But courage isn’t always showy. Sometimes it’s quiet. You might see it but not be able to identify it at the time. Be aware of looking for examples of quiet courage in those around you; it can inspire your own.
  • Courage is persevering when we don’t like our circumstances. It’s looking at the hard day ahead and putting one foot in front of the other to keep moving forward. It’s saying, I don’t want to do this, but I have to, and I know I’m not alone—God is walking with me.
  • We can rest knowing we don’t have to depend on our own strength; God will give us what we need, when we need it. We have a Heavenly Father who is for us greatly encourages us in facing our fears.

However it is that you are facing the challenges of these days, even if you are creeping through them one step, one moment at a time, remember that as you creep, you are not alone. The One who promised to be with us, even to the end of the age, is with us still, whether we are running, or going, or creeping. 
 
This week, as you creep along, look back with amazement at what you have managed, and look forward with courage, knowing that Jesus is with you, even in your creeping.

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A Strategy for Dealing with Whatever Raises Our Ire

by Sr. Mary Lea Hill, FSP 
Complaints never just appear from nowhere. They are not isolated entities. There is always a “why” to be discovered, to be befriended, to be accepted or gently dissolved. Ranting, accusing, striking out are no more helpful than cowering, whimpering, and hiding when it comes to what causes complaint. 

Because we don’t always have control over what causes us to complain, we need to develop a strategy for dealing with whatever raises our ire. Begin by honestly telling yourself why you had to complain (this will require some soul-searching). Then try to make peace with it: either there is some truth to it (however small) or it is a fabrication, something we imagined or misunderstood, and so the best approach is to admit it to yourself. 

Finally, smile at yourself for making such a big story out of next to nothing. Turn it into a prayer, a little conversation with God!

To be honest, my reputation as a complainer is far better recognized by my sisters in community than by me, the source. So much so that when I transferred out of Boston to St. Louis, as a remembrance, they sent an effigy… of me! Luckily, it wasn’t a burnt effigy, but rather tasty. A saint would have jumped on that cookie and devoured it, but I kept it on my desk as a reminder of who I’m not, yet!

It’s a good thing we only get fleeting glimpses of ourselves, otherwise we’d probably be constantly despondent. The flashes of reality give us food for thought and a reason to examine each day to see how Christ-like we’ve been. So, ever onward! Let there be no more “iffy-effies.” It’s time to put on Christ—and radiate!

Complaints of the Saints available today.

Read the first six chapters now.

Explore all of Sr Mary Lea’s books.

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 3 Ways to Develop Patience

Patience! Who among us hasn’t wished for more of it? As one humorous prayer would have it, “God grant me patience, and I want it right now!” So much of our lives would be easier and more fruitful if we could just slow down and take life in God’s time, not our own. But how do you develop patience?

  • The spiritual practice of fasting is one way many of the saints—and less-saintly people—have been able to develop patience. Fasting can help you be more calm and patient, even in frustrating situations: because it doesn’t offer immediate gratification, it can help you develop an appreciation of waiting.
  • Since we often lose patience with other people, cutting them a little slack can start with inserting the word “yet” into our vocabularies. “Mary didn’t remember to call me yet” is a world away from “Mary didn’t remember to call me.”
  • It’s good to learn to observe when our lack of patience comes from a sense of entitlement. Problems aren’t all about us! If you’re sitting in bad traffic because of an accident on the road ahead, praying for those involved in the accident takes the focus off you and your impatience to get where you’re going on time.

“Love is patient,” says St. Paul, and if we are a people of love, as we are called to be, then we need to be a people of patience. Try just one of the suggestions here every day and see if it doesn’t get a little easier—and remember that if it doesn’t, prayer will always help!