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.

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: Your Keys to a Bright New Beginning

Along with whatever practices we’ve set ourselves for Lent, there’s something else that’s new, at least for us in the Northern hemisphere: the undeniable start to spring. Crocuses are starting to push their way through the winter’s detritus. Just as the new year brought resolutions, spring brings a sense that it’s time to start something new. We have some ideas:

  • Pray. Lent is penitential, but it doesn’t remove joy from our lives. Make it part of your practice to spend some time outside, feeling the new softer air, watching the natural world awaken. It is hard to not pray when you’re in a garden!
  • Let go. Coming into a new season and springing forward in faith means letting go of the old season. We can’t hang on to past hurts, past struggles, and past relationships and still move through the Lord’s new springtime garden.
  • Pray again. John Paul II wrote, “Jesus Christ is the new beginning of everything.” Feel Jesus’ presence in the new warmth of the sun, in the moments you linger in a park or garden, in the whole earth giving a chorus of joy. The joy is yours, too!

There is something to celebrate in the new life God brings with the spring. We are moving slowly, inexorably toward the Resurrection, and we have hints of it all around us. God bless and enjoy!

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 3 Ideas as You Start Lent

Lent is here, and with it the inevitable questions: What should I give up? Is it too late to start a spiritual practice now? What would enrich my understanding of Lent, and my living it this year?

We have three ideas that might be helpful:

  • Add, rather than subtract. If “giving up” something isn’t working for you, then add something: go to a weekday Mass, choose an enlightening book to read, volunteer at a shelter, spend an hour in Eucharistic Adoration. Adding a practice into your daily life in Lent can help keep you focused.
  • Try fasting from one meal a week. If you eliminate something from your life, you’ll feel its absence, and that feeling serves as a reminder of both Our Lord’s journey to the cross as well as the needs of many in our world. Take the money you would have spent on that meal and make a donation.
  • Unplug. Giving up social media, even for an hour a day, frees you up for prayer or reading. Listen to silence rather than music or podcasts when you’re driving.

There are as many ways to live Lent as there are people doing it. And you can start living your Lent at any time.

 

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 3 Questions for a More Fulfilling Lent

Sure enough, it’s upon us: tomorrow is “fat Tuesday,” a last gasp before Ash Wednesday and the rigors of Lent begin. Most of us are only beginning to think about what we’ll “give up” in order to make this a spiritually fulfilling season. Here are three questions to challenge you to think differently about your Lenten journey.

  • Change your language. Instead of making “resolutions” or “giving up” something, think in terms of a Lenten practice. The way we articulate things matters, and a practice is more in keeping with what will work over 40 days than any 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 that our thoughts can focus on God. What would make you uncomfortable this 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. And Lent is the best time for that process to begin.

Everyday Grace, Uncategorized

Don’t Feel Like Praying? 3 Ways to Re-Engage!

There are times—when we’re lucky—when praying feels easy, and natural, and even wonderful. The truth is that while those times are uplifting, they’re also not the norm. For many of us, prayer can often be difficult, either to get started or to keep up. But what can you do about it? Here are some ideas:

  • Read the psalms. You’ll be surprised at how many of these songs and prayers and verses will sound familiar to you. They’ve served as an inspiration to Christians for centuries, and they can work for you, too. Just read them and let your soul drift into prayer. “I call on you, my God, and you will answer me.”
  • Go for a “prayer walk.” Don’t just walk; walk intentionally. If you take yourself out of your everyday surroundings, you’ll have fewer distractions and you’ll be able to better focus.
  • Pray with someone else. For many of us, this is difficult; we’re not used to praying with other people except at Mass. But if you don’t feel like praying, you can bet someone else feels that way, too, and there’s strength in numbers! Invite a friend over, or pray with your children or spouse.

Even the saints often struggled with prayer, but the truth is, we’re called to “pray always,” whether we feel like it or not. Prayer as a discipline flows into prayer as joy, but you can’t have one without the other!

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 3 Saints to Help With Your Winter Blues

Mid-February, and who doesn’t have the winter blues? It’s an odd in-between sort of time: even Candlemas is past, and Ash Wednesday won’t usher in Lent for another couple of weeks. And the grey days seem to go on forever! It’s not unusual to suffer from a mild depression in February, but here are three saints who might lend a hand:

  • Elizabeth Ann Seton: Did you know she struggled with thoughts of suicide during her bouts of depression in adolescence? Despite her difficult life, this saint never gave up, and she can help you persevere through tough times if you ask.
  • Benedict Joseph Labre: He tried and failed (10 times!) to enter religious communities, and once accepted into one he suffered from depression and scrupulosity. This is someone who lived a rough life and can help you with yours.
  • Jane Frances de Chantal: She was deeply depressed at her husband’s death but rallied and formed a religious congregation. She can certainly help you through your seasonal sadness—and more!

If you are experiencing clinical depression—as opposed to the winter “blues”—don’t just pray about it: seek psychological help as well. But if you’re just plain ready for spring, then invite these saints into your life and see if they don’t lighten the burden of winter!

 

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: How to Start Your Day

Most of us find when things go wrong early in the day, it casts a shadow over everything else. The good news is that the opposite is also true: when our days start well, we’re more confident, more present, and a great deal calmer! And when you intentionally start your day with the Lord, that can only keep you present with him through to bedtime. But with alarm clocks ringing and a line for the family bathroom, how do you find calm in the morning?

  • Get up. It sounds simple, doesn’t it? But hitting the snooze button two or three times; all that does is make you late. Put your clock across the room if necessary so that you’re already out of bed when you turn it off.
  • Pray. I know: you think you don’t have time. And perhaps this isn’t the best moment for a full morning prayer service or a recitation of the Rosary. The good news is, all you need is a quiet prayer while you’re getting dressed! Tell God you’re grateful for this day and that you’re putting your trust in him to guide you through it. That’s all you need.
  • Resolve to be cheerful in encountering everything in your morning. C.S. Lewis writes that where Christ is, cheerfulness keeps breaking in, and it’s true! Your mood will spread to others and enhance the day they start their days, too.

Even for “morning people,” starting the day can be difficult and frustrating. But you’re in control of more than you may think. Try these simple steps for starting the day right and see what a difference they can make.

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 3 Ways of Letting Go of Resentment

Resentment is the re-experiencing of past injustices (real or perceived) and old feelings of anger connected to them. Resentments form when people get angry and hold on to that anger. As Catholics, we are called to let go of any resentment we feel, but that’s easier said than done! Praying is the ultimate way out, but you can incorporate some other practices to help you as well:

  • Call your resentment by name. Who or what is it about? Visualize that person or group as a beloved child of God. God loves them; do you want to be apart from them?
  • As difficult as it may be, practice treating those people you have resentment toward with kindness and compassion. Notice what happens when you change how you act toward them; they will often change how they act toward you.
  • Resist the urge to be a channel for the resentment of others. The resentment of others can be seductive; it can have an almost magnetic pull. Don’t buy into it; resist the urge to join in their negativity or participate in gossip.

The stronger the resentment is, the more time you spend thinking about it, the more you’ll re-experience the anger connected to it. This is a form of mental, emotional, and spiritual bondage. Ultimately, the person holding the resentment is the one who suffers most. With God’s help, you can set yourself free!

 

 

 

Image: Trinity Kubassek for Pexels  

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: How Do I Know God Loves Me?

Sometimes it’s easy to wonder. Things can go terribly wrong in our lives, often through events or circumstances outside of 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

Everyday Grace: How to Love 2020

For many if not most, 2019 was a year of trials, disasters, and fear, and many of us find it difficult to perceive much change in the new year. 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!

  • In 2020, let’s continue our Advent tradition to #PutJesusFirst. If you start every day with even just a quick prayer, committing the day to Christ, then 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. There is always someone who needs you!

Remember that we are 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. 2020 can be a year of celebration of God’s work in the world—if we make it happen!

 

 

Photo: Moisés Becerra LC for Cathopic