Easter, Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 3 Ways to Live the Resurrection

Hallelujah: Jesus suffered, died, and was buried, as the Church lived with him through the Triduum, and now has risen forevermore! We celebrated with joy yesterday, and yet now, on Easter Monday, we must ask ourselves the question: what now? We have the Easter Season stretching out before us, inviting us into new life. How do we live it?

  • Keep up the good work! Perhaps you picked up a devotional or some Scripture reading during Lent. We need that attention and focus all the time, as we navigate the ins and outs of daily life, so keep it up!
  • The light of Christ may have come into the world, but not everyone has seen it. This holy Easter season is a good time to pray especially for the evangelization of the world.
  • If our fasting in Lent and especially on Good Friday has taught us anything, it is that hunger is no joke. Show support for those experiencing food insecurity by donating to a local food bank or homeless shelter.

We are people of the light, we live in the sure knowledge of the Kingdom. Jesus asks us to share that light with the world. How will you do it, this Easter season?

Everyday Grace, Lent

3 Ways to Keep Your Focus During Holy Week

Holy Week, as we all know, is an intense journey with Jesus through the darkest moments of life, emerging finally into the glory of the resurrection at the Easter Vigil. Through many different liturgies, our Church invites us to recall this journey and these events.

Unfortunately, in real life, most of us don’t have the option of slowing down to accommodate extra liturgies and church attendance. So how can we keep our focus on Jesus throughout the week?

  • Either alone or with your family, watch one of the many excellent movies that re-tell the Holy Week story. One favorite is Jesus taken from The Bible Stories series, with Jeremy Sisto as Jesus. You may have another favorite. This is a wonderful way to enter into the story visually and emotionally.
  • Use your social media. If you can’t unplug, then post Bible passages, appropriate poetry, and links to great works of art that point to God’s redeeming love instead of posting political rants, pictures of your cat, or updates about your activities.
  • The Good Friday liturgy is beautiful and eloquent, but you might not be able to get to church for it. If you can, take a longer lunch break at work to acknowledge this sacred time. Shut off your electronics, read quietly, reflect on Jesus’ last words.

We’d all love to be able to spend this entire week in church and with the community of faith, but most of us don’t have that luxury. Don’t give up! You don’t have to be physically in a church to carry Christ in your heart.

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 3 Ways to Feel Loved

We all know God loves us, but it’s often difficult to really believe it, to feel it. Things can go terribly wrong in our lives, often through events or circumstances outside our control. The world can feel like an unfriendly place. Where is God in it all? How do I know he loves me?

  • Look around you. We generally see what we want to see. If you expect to see bad things, you will. But if you expect to look around yourself and see God’s presence and love, even in small things, then you will see that, too. The gift of such a crazy beautiful world is a good sign of God’s love.
  • Read Scripture. Especially the Gospel of John. The leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the promise of God’s love for every one of us. And remind yourself that Jesus died for you, personally: the greatest indication of God’s love there ever could be.
  • See Christ in others. It’s easy to judge those who are different from us. If you can stop and see Christ in everyone around you, then it will be easier to be Christ to others, too, letting God’s love flow through you and into others’ lives.

God knows every one of us inside and out, far better than we know ourselves. He has promised to never leave us, to never forsake us. Saint Paul wrote, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

Everyday Grace, Lent

Everyday Grace: 3 Ways to Refresh Your Lenten Practice

This second Lent of the worldwide pandemic is weighing heavily on us all. You may have started it with enthusiasm, picking a penance or a practice that may or may not still be working for you several weeks in. Here are some ideas to refresh your Lenten practice now:

  • Change your language. Don’t talk about giving up, think in terms of a Lenten practice that will carry you through the remainder of the season and be more meaningful than a farewell to chocolate. What will be your Lenten practice this year?
  • Be prayerful in selecting your fast. We tend to abstain from the same things every year, but is that always what God calls us to? The point of a fast is to become uncomfortable so our thoughts can focus on God. What would make you uncomfortable for the remainder of Lent?
  • We forget what the Good Samaritan did after rescuing the man by the roadside. He gave money to the innkeeper to look after the victim; freely and wholeheartedly, as though giving that money were the most natural thing. For Catholics, it is! Almsgiving flows from prayer and fasting and is central to Lent. Who is your “innkeeper” this Lent? To whom will you give your money freely to help someone else?

We’ll never have all the answers, but God doesn’t expect us to. What he does expect is for us to be discerning: to ask the difficult questions of ourselves, our Church, and our world. Partway through Lent is an excellent time to ask those questions.

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 3 Ways to Spring Clean

The winter is fading—finally!—and it’s time to start looking ahead to spring cleaning. And while getting your home aired out and scrubbed is satisfying, it’s also useful to think about clearing out some of the bad habits you might have picked up over the long winter! Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • While building a habit is good, doing the same thing over and over again eventually feels rote. So clear out your prayer life with something new! There are a number of beautiful prayer books (Queen of Apostles Prayer Book, Sacred Heart Prayer Book, Holy Spirit Prayer Book, Memento Mori Prayer Book) that will give you fresh words and ideas to enhance your prayer time.
  • Notice how “stuff” gets accumulated over the winter? We’re just not as careful about cleaning then. This is a good time to clear out you interior life by going to confession. It clears the decks of all the times you’ve tripped and fallen, and you’ll be all set for the springtime of your soul! If you cannot yet go to confession due to the pandemic, spend some time instead with reflections from the Examen.
  • What can you get rid of? Are there things that you’re clinging to that are standing between you and God? Maybe it’s resenting someone else, or wishing that you had as much as someone else, or holding onto a perceived insult. Let them all go!

Spring cleaning for your soul can be just as liberating as spring cleaning for your home, and it’s a good Lenten practice to lead you closer to the glory of the Resurrection that’s only a few weeks away!

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 3 Ways to Find Hope When The World Seems Hard

Some days, it feels as if more things are going wrong than are going right. Isn’t that true? But we don’t have to succumb to the feeling: we know better, in our heart of hearts, because we’ve been given a promise. Reminding ourselves of that promise, not just on Mondays but every day, can help clear our fears and help us focus on what’s important. Here’s how:

  • Take a deep breath, and lay down your fears. Jesus reminds us in his Word not to let our hearts be troubled, but to believe and to know he goes ahead of us to prepare a place. Just before his journey to the cross, he comforted his disciples with these powerful words.
  • Don’t wait for the world to become fair. Your job is to make incremental changes where you can, and every once in a while you’ll hit a breakthrough that will create a big change. Pray for the discernment to know when and where you can best serve.
  • Make time for prayer or meditation as a part of your daily routine. As long as you can keep in touch with your reality as a Child of God, you won’t lose hope, and the best way to do that is to practice your faith every single day.

Hopelessness means we’ve lost touch with what matters to us: the love of our awesome God. No matter what swirls around us, he is there in the midst of it all. We are never alone; we need only turn to him.

Everyday Grace, Lent

Everyday Grace: Fasting this Lent

It’s the second Lent of the pandemic, and tempers are, safe to say, frayed. Everyone is exhausted. Everyone is in mourning. There is still uncertainty ahead. So how are we supposed to think about fasting when the world seems to have tilted sideways on its axis?

Here’s a suggestion.

Listen to the Holy Father: the pope calls us to…

  • fast from hurting words and say kind words
  • fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude
  • fast from anger and be filled with patience
  • fast from pessimism and be filled with hope
  • fast from worries and have trust in God
  • fast from complaints; contemplate simplicity
  • fast from pressures and be prayerful
  • fast from bitterness; fill your hearts with joy
  • fast from selfishness and be compassionate
  • fast from grudges and be reconciled
  • fast from words; be silent and listen

If we can do any of these things, in this time of pain and uncertainty and of hope, then we’ll be on the right road toward the resurrection.

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 3 Ways to Love

Valentine’s Day has come and gone, but love? Love endures. We’re asked to love others as God loves us, but that can be a challenging endeavor. How can we step outside of ourselves and love people the way God wants us to?

  • Be observant. You can’t love anyone until you notice them. The Samaritan first saw the hurting man. No one had to call or text or email him: he noticed the pain of others. He looked and saw what the man really needed, not what he thought he might need. Look around you and see what the real needs are rather than just living inside your head and your assumptions.
  • Talk to people who aren’t like you. God doesn’t choose only certain groups of people to save, so we shouldn’t choose only certain groups of people when we are looking for ways to love others. Sr. Thea Bowman invites us to walk across the room and talk to the people over there. When you do that, you’ll find you can love them.
  • Love with food. There are so many people hurting as the pandemic continues. While we can’t have dinner parties, dropping something off on a doorstep goes a long way toward showing your love through your actions. You can even quietly pay for the groceries of the person behind you in line, or anonymously leave a bag of groceries on someone’s front porch. That is true love!

We all need love, now more than ever, and as Catholics it is our greatest commandment: to love God and our neighbor. And there’s a bonus to obedience: the more you practice showing your love, the better you, too, will feel!

Everyday Grace, Lent

Everyday Grace: 3 Ways to Prepare for Lent

Hard to believe, but Lent is right around the corner: Ash Wednesday is next week! So if like many of us you haven’t yet thought about your Lenten practices, now is the time.

Yet this year is unlike every other year, and this Lent may call for more introspection, more preparation. Rather than just rushing into what we’re going to “give up,” let’s also think about what we need.

  • As you prepare for Lent, ask God what your soul needs. Just ask, and just listen. It may take several days of asking before you get an answer. This Lent may be very different from others; stay open to how you can grow.
  • Ask God what about your life brings him joy. There are things you do and think that make God happy, even though you might not be aware of them. Again, listen for a response. These are things you’ll want to encourage this Lent.
  • Finally, ask God what the world needs. There are many ways of reaching out during Lent, and we all generally just go for the most obvious. 2021 may need to be different. Listen to what God wants you to do this year.

The Lenten season unfolds so many possibilities. It is a gift of renewal. By planning before it begins, we can enter Lent in that same spirit, a spirit of renewal, of love, and of change.

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 3 Ways to Find Hope in 2021

For most people, 2020 was a year of trials, disasters, and fear, and many of us are concerned about what this new year will bring. But as Christians we are called to be a people of hope, and there are things that we can do to bring more light to ourselves and to those around us!

  • Pray first thing in the morning. If there’s no time for anything lengthy, then just start every day with a quick prayer. By doing that, you’ve changed the whole day already!
  • Don’t look for the pain. It’s all around us, and it can be overwhelming. Make it a point every day to look for the joy in the world and in your life. It’s there!
  • Get over yourself. The best way to find hope is to give it. Volunteer to do something in your parish or community. As the pandemic continues, there are options for helping out from the safety of your home, and there’s always someone who needs you!

Remember: we’re not the first ones to face difficult times, and nor are we alone. Jesus is with us, every day, every step, and our hope is built on his promises and his love. 2021 can be a year of celebration of God’s work in the world—if we make it happen!