Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: How to Not Lose Hope

We’re living in difficult times. Every day we wake up to news that seems to get worse and worse as the days progress. It’s easy to feel discouraged! We know that as Christians we are people of hope. But how do we stay hopeful in the midst of everything?

  • Stay positive in your messaging. It’s easy to take to social media with complaints and accusations; it’s easy to feed the negativity around us. But if you consciously decide to not participate in it, if you keep your messaging positive no matter what, you’ll find that there are things to be hopeful about. Pope Francis said in 2017:  “never to yield to the negativity that tears things and people down, but keep building, try to make this world conform ever more fully to God’s plan.”
  • Read about a saint who found hope in the midst of trials. The saints weren’t those who never fell, but those who never gave in to their falls. There have been times as difficult as ours, and in every age people have risen to the challenges presented to them. This is a good time to develop a devotion to one such saint.
  • Pray. Prayer grounds us in the realization that, first of all, we are not alone. Even when seemingly no one else hears us in our pleas, God always hears us. It reminds us that the truly important things in life are bigger than us and we must set aside our pride to focus on what is truly important in life.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in his encyclical Spe Salvi (Saved by Hope) stressed how the virtue of hope is critical for anyone who encounters suffering: “[T]he present, even if it is arduous, can be lived and accepted if it leads towards a goal, if we can be sure of this goal, and if this goal is great enough to justify the effort of the journey” (Spe Salvi 1).

Everyday Grace

3 Tips for (Soul) Spring Cleaning

It may have felt that spring was somewhat delayed this year, but it’s really here and it’s high time to start thinking about 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 and through the long pandemic. 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) that can 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. Even if you cannot go to confession, you can clean out your interior life by making an Act of Contrition. 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!
  • 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. It will give you a whole fresh outlook on life!

 

image: The Creative Exchange for Unsplash

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: Be Brave!

We’re living through a time that asks us to do things we’ve never had to do before. We’re choosing to do what is right for our communities and our families, even though it is sometimes costly for us. And now, as it seems that our environment is changing yet again, we’re called upon to be brave. To continue to do what is right for all of us. Christian courage is the willingness to say and do the right thing regardless of the cost. Jesus promised that nothing on earth was going to be easy, and he was right! What can you do to find courage in everyday life?

  • Make specific plans. If you know you’re going into a situation that is going to demand you to take a stand, think about it ahead of time. Practice what your response will be. The more prepared you are, the less scary things will be.
  • Find role models. You’re not the first person who has had to be courageous. The Bible is filled with stories of people who were scared but moved forward anyway; so are the lives of the saints. Fill your heart and mind with them.
  • Pray without ceasing. You’re not in this alone: the Holy Spirit is with you every step of the way, in every conversation and every awkward situation and every danger. Do not hesitate to call for help: that’s what the Spirit is there for!

Life can be scary, and times can be challenging, but when you’re called to be courageous, you have tools you can use to help you. You have this!

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 3 Ways to Tame Your Anxiety

We’re all experiencing anxiety these days. We don’t know what the future holds; we’re isolated from supportive environments and people; we can even feel abandoned by God. And our bodies make it worse, because they’re treating the discomfort of anxiety as danger to our organisms.

What do we do when we’re in danger? Our bodies have only three responses: fight, flight, and freeze. None of those responses is helpful in our current situation. But there are some things we can do that will help alleviate some of the distress and discomfort of anxiety:

  • Remind yourself: you’re okay and you’re not alone. Everybody is experiencing anxiety right now. Try writing down your worries, getting as granular and close to the root cause as possible. As you write, what may have seemed like an overwhelming, murky constellation of problems will suddenly come into focus and be narrowed down to a set of realistic concerns.
  • Be easy on yourself. Some days will be worse than others. It’s important to cut yourself some slack on the days you’re feeling bad—days, even, when things do seem unmanageable. We’re living through a global health crisis, after all; times are tough, they’re stressful, and struggling with dark thoughts or overwhelming feelings is to be expected.
  • Use your tools. We’re so blessed to have our faith to help us keep perspective through this terrible time. There are many online opportunities—to join a prayer circle, to stream Mass, to read spiritual classics—as well as your own devotions. Why not say a Hail Mary during your handwashing time? Why not add an Examen at the end of the day? These practices will all help you keep your anxiety at a social distance!

We’re all so used to being in control, so see this time as an opportunity to know that God’s in control, and to just give him more control: let go, and let God.

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: Finding Courage in Everyday Life

Christian courage is the willingness to say and do the right thing regardless of the cost. Jesus promised that nothing on earth was going to be easy, and some times seem more difficult than others; we live in one such time. What can you do to find courage in everyday life?

  • Make specific plans. If you know you’re going into a situation that’s going to demand that you stand up for your beliefs, think about it ahead of time. Practice what your response will be. The more prepared you are, the less scary things will be.
  • Find role models. You’re not the first person who has had to be courageous. The Bible is filled with stories of people who were scared but moved forward anyway; so are the lives of the saints. Fill your heart and mind with them.
  • Pray without ceasing. You’re not in this alone: the Holy Spirit is with you every step of the way, in every conversation and every awkward situation and every danger. Do not hesitate to call for help: that’s what the Spirit is there for!

Life can be scary, and times can be challenging, but when you’re called to be courageous, you have tools you can use to help you. You have this!

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 3 Ways to Cope with Pandemic Fears

When we’re afraid, bad things happen to our bodies, minds, and souls. Fear activates the brain’s amygdala, a sensor that gives us three response options: fight, flight, or freeze. To ensure we have everything we need to carry out this instinctual response, the amygdala limits activity in the prefrontal cortex, where logical thought, clear decisions, and rational choices are generated. So fear keeps us from being our best selves.

What can we do?

  1. St. Augustine said, “Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.” When faced with fear, pray for courage, and trust that all things work for the good for those who love the Lord. You’ll find it easier to plan your next steps when you start with prayer.
  1. Take action. Help someone else, volunteer some time, donate some money, share a meal or a coffee (via Zoom!) with a friend, cool down when you feel angry by breathing deeply or taking a walk. Do your best to turn toward solutions rather than amplifying problems.
  1. Choose joy. In these difficult times, joy is an act of resistance against the darkness. There are moments of beauty and peace all around us: try to see them. If you can see the light, you can become a light for others.

Remember that there has always been something to fear. We’re not alone; history proves that there have been times worse than the one in which we live. If we can see the world as it is, rather than as we are, our perspective changes. God made this world and loves this world. If we can reflect that love, the world will become more lovable.

Easter, Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 3 things you can do in the next hour to find joy

It’s been a scary year so far, and most of the strategies people adopt to get through are fairly long-term. What can you do in the next hour to feel better right now?

  • It’s Eastertide! The Lord is risen! This is a time for prayer, but make it joyful! One option: Father, help us to seek the values that will bring us lasting joy in this changing world. In our desire for what you promise make us one in mind and heart. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
  • Plan to prepare a special festive meal. We shouldn’t just think of Easter day as a time for festivities, but this entire first octave of Easter fairly bursts with hope and joy. Because in our current time we cannot invite family and friends to join us, we tend to skip the events we usually share. But this is a time of rejoicing, so sit down now and plan a menu for a special meal, and decorate your table with flowers, even if it’s a meal for one or two people. This is sure to lift your spirits!
  • Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said, “There is no experience of God unless one goes out from the business of everyday living.” The Easter season is an opportunity for us to look upon the world around us with new eyes. Make a list of all the things you have learned through this time “out from the business of everyday living,” and that you’re grateful for. The list could include appreciation of being able to go to church; a fresh look at acts of goodness and kindness; a sense of solidarity with others suffering in the world.

Easter is the greatest Christian feast, so great, in fact, that it cannot be celebrated adequately on a single day! All eight days from Easter Sunday to the Second Sunday of Easter are considered solemnities, the Church’s highest-ranking feast, and each day is celebrated with festivity and joy. If we can keep that in the forefront of our minds, then even a virus will not be able to dim our joy at the resurrection.

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 3 Scriptures for a Pandemic

We’re all in a period of not-knowing right now. In times like these, it’s easy to fall into a state of anxiety and allow worry to rule your thoughts. When that happens, we’re unable to live presently—because our thoughts are being hijacked by tomorrow’s concerns. We’re not the first ones, or the only ones, to feel that kind of fear and anxiety, and God’s word addresses our concerns:

  • Remember God’s love: “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7)
  • Breathe deeply and let go of anxiety: “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4: 6-7).
  • Trust that God is in control: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55: 8-9).

The word of God is a consistent force of sustenance in our lives in the midst of disorder and confusion. Sometimes reading Scripture might feel like the only thing that gets you through—but it will always get you through.

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 3 Saints to Give You Confidence in God

Like everyone else these days, you’re probably inundated with emails telling you what to do, how to protect yourself, a true cacophony of voices that it’s hard to sort through. But there are three voices we’d like you to listen to, today, three voices that can perhaps help lessen your anxiety and give you confidence that God is with you. Here’s just a few words from each of them; go and explore more if you feel they’re speaking to you.

  1. Meet Jean-Pierre de Caussade. Priest, spiritual director, and a voice of reassurance. “When I have done all in my power or which I felt before God I ought to do, I leave the rest to him, abandoning everything entirely and with my whole heart to Divine Providence, blessing him beforehand for all things and wishing in all and above all that his holy will be done. I am convinced by faith and by numerous personal experiences that all comes from God, and that he is so powerful and such a good Father that he will cause everything to prosper for the advantage of his dear children. Has he not proved that he loves us more than life itself…?”
  2. Meet John of the Cross. Carmelite mystic, and a Doctor of the Church. “People, then, should live with great patience and constancy in all the tribulations and trials God places on them, whether they be exterior or interior, spiritual or bodily, great or small, and they should accept them all as from God’s hand as a good remedy and not flee from them, for they bring health. The combat of trials, distress, and temptations deadens the evil and imperfect habits of the soul and purifies and strengthens it. People should hold in esteem the interior and exterior trials God sends them, realizing that there are few who merit to be brought to perfection through suffering and to undergo trials for the sake of so high a state.”
  3. Meet Teresa of Avila. Another Carmelite mystic. Perhaps their time has come! “It wouldn’t be bad when at times you wake up with those impulses of love of God to sit up in bed for a while; always being careful though that you get the sleep your head needs (for unawares you could end up incapable of prayer). And be careful and try not to suffer much cold, for the cold is not good for the pains in your side. I don’t know why you want those terrors and fears, for God is leading you by love. They were necessary back then. Don’t think it is always the devil who impedes prayer, for God in his mercy sometimes takes it away.”

We don’t ever have to go through trials or difficulties alone, though these days with churches shuttered and social distancing in practice, it may feel that way. We have a host of people who have been through trials as well and have triumphed. It is time to turn to them

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 3 Ways to Cope with Fear

This is a scary time for all of us.

Did you know that when we’re afraid, bad things happen to our bodies, minds, and souls? Fear activates the brain’s amygdala, a sensor that gives us three response options: fight, flight, or freeze. To ensure we have everything we need to carry out this instinctual response, the amygdala limits activity in the prefrontal cortex, where logical thought, clear decisions, and rational choices are generated. So fear keeps us from being our best selves.

What can we do?

  1. Pray. St. Augustine said, “Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.” When faced with fear, pray for courage, and trust that all things work for the good for those who love the Lord. You’ll find it easier to plan your next steps when you start with prayer.
  2. Take action. Help someone else, volunteer some time, donate some money, share a meal or a coffee with a friend to talk, cool down when you feel angry by breathing deeply or taking a walk. Do your best to turn toward solutions rather than amplifying problems.
  3. Choose joy. In these difficult times, joy is an act of resistance against the darkness. There are moments of beauty and peace all around us: try to see them. If you can see the light, you can become a light for others.

Remember: there has always been something to fear. We’re not alone; history proves there have been times worse than the one in which we live. If we can see the world as it is, rather than as we are, our perspective changes. God made this world and loves this world. If we can reflect that love, the world will become more lovable.