Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 3 Ways to Start Advent

Can you believe it—we’re in Advent already! Whoa! How can you slow things down so you can really mark the season?

  • Start with reconciliation. Confession is an important part of preparing your heart for Jesus: it will help you identify any cobwebs you may not be seeing on your own, especially in the bustle of Thanksgiving and the holiday season. Start your Advent this year with a clean slate!
  • Prepare for light. We’re entering the darkest time of year, which can be difficult for many. There’s light coming, in more ways than one, but it can feel very far away. If you feel sad or just “down,” consider a “Happy Light” for light therapy. It’s hard to feel joyful when you’re feeling depressed!
  • Bring music into your heart. There are so many beautiful Advent carols and songs, some of which are familiar, some less so. Take a moment every day to use them for reflection with our free book, Angels from the Realms of Glory.

Advent is a time of preparation, but doing too many things at once will always make you feel unprepared. Banish those feelings and get ready to welcome the Light of the World!

 

Image credit: David Bartus for Canva

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 3 Ideas for Finding Gratitude

It’s Thanksgiving week, the one day a year we set aside as Americans to practice gratitude. As we look around God’s big, beautiful world, it’s hard to believe that we make thanking God an event only once a year! Here are three ideas for inserting a little thankfulness in our lives—every day.

  • Don’t be picky: appreciate everything! Gratitude doesn’t have to be saved for the “big” things in life. The habit of being grateful starts with appreciating every good thing in life and recognizing that there is nothing too small for you to be thankful for. Even if it’s as simple as appreciating the clear weather or how quickly your mailman delivered your mail last Friday, don’t leave anything out when practicing your gratitude.
  • Volunteer: For many people, the key to having more gratitude is to give back to others in their local parish or local community. Not only will it make you more grateful for the things that you may take for granted, but studies have shown that volunteering for the purpose of helping others increases our own well-being, and thus our ability to have more gratitude. (University of Pennsylvania researcher Martin Seligman found that volunteering is the single most reliable way to momentarily increase your well-being.)
  • Remember that materialism fuels ingratitude. Our culture and greed often lead us into a vicious circle of materialism: The more we get, the more we want. Materialism leads to the “give me” mindset in which “stuff” fills the void of our hearts. It is important to focus on the non-material world where we share our thanks with words of affirmation, kind deeds, and prayers of thanksgiving. This is especially true with raising children. In fact, we do not always need to “reward” them with things, but instead we can affirm them and their dignity as children of God. Consider praying before making a big purchase or a spontaneous one.

We wish you the most happy and healthy Thanksgiving ever, and we pray that we all might be open to and grateful for everything God accomplishes in our lives!

 

image: Pixabay

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 3 Ways to Find Peace in the Midst of Turmoil

Every day it feels like we’re moving closer to some apocalyptic future, with politics gone awry, climate change threatening our children’s world, and hatred everywhere we look. How do we as Catholics keep ourselves apart from the fray while still living in the middle of it? How to we find peace in the midst of turmoil? Here are three ideas:

  • It’s important to recognize what John 14:27 tells us: he makes it clear where peace is not found. It is not found in the world, ourselves, circumstances, or comfort, all of which we tend to seek for peace. Christ has made it clear in his Word that the peace we seek is bought, assured, and sustained by Christ alone.
  • Remain close to the community of faith. Church community, family, and friendships are all God’s design to bring refuge to those who are troubled. As St. Paul instructed the church of Colossae to remain in fellowship with one another to keep the peace of Christ, so does he instruct us to do the same today.
  • When we don’t know what to do next, we can pray. Why talk to Jesus? Because he understands suffering—not in some distant cosmic way, but in the flesh. He suffered greatly during his time on earth. He understands what you’re feeling.

Our times are difficult, but other times have been just as difficult for those living them. Keep that perspective, keep praying, and keep your faith, and you’ll find peace.

 

 

Photo: Deepu B lyer for Pexels

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 3 ways to honor our deceased loved ones

November is a month of precious memories of friends and family who have gone ahead of us into eternity, loved ones we hold in love and prayer. How can you honor your own loved ones this month?

  • Enroll their names in the Daughters of St. Paul’s novena of masses. The sisters’ prayers and suffrages can bring comfort to those who’ve gone ahead of us in death. Pray for your departed loved ones by enrolling their names in these nine masses.
  • Pray with the Memento Mori prayer book. It contains everything you need to connect more deeply with God when you’re grieving.
  • If you don’t have the Memento Mori prayer book, pray all the same. Spend an hour this month in Eucharistic adoration and pray the St. Gertrude Prayer: “Eternal Father I offer you the most precious blood of your divine son Jesus, in union with all the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the holy souls in purgatory, for sinners everywhere, sinners in the Universal Church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen.”

November is the month in which we remember why we’re here, where we’re going, and those who have gone before us into eternity who still need our comfort and the compassion of our prayers. They are like “angels among us” still, and they remind us from eternity that life is truly about Good News! They know God’s salvation and mercy in a way we can now only hope to understand: that we are loved by God individually, uniquely, and eternally.

 

Image: Thomas Vogel for Unsplash

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: Are You Worried About the Environment?  Here are 3 Ways to Help

It is because we value our relationship with God and God’s creation that concern for the environment and about climate change is for us Catholics a profoundly spiritual, ethical, and moral issue. Saint John Paul II said, “We cannot interfere in one area of the ecosystem without paying due attention both to the consequences of such interference in other areas and to the wellbeing of future generations.” But what can we as ordinary Catholics do? It turns out, plenty!

  • Abstain from meat on Fridays—and as often as you can. The Catholic practice to abstain from meat one day a week is to remain mindful of what Christ did for us, but also has significant environmental benefits. The less meat we demand, the less slaughterhouse pollution we contribute and the fewer natural landscapes we convert into pasture.
  • Buy less, use less. We live in a commercial culture that demands the newest, the brightest, the best in everything from clothing to electronics to automobiles. This consumerism comes at a price that is both spiritual and environmental. Consider buying things second-hand—or not buying them at all.
  • Sign the Saint Francis pledge. It is simple and yet powerful: you commit to praying with and for creation, living more simply by lowering your family’s, parish’s, and/or religious community’s carbon footprint, and advocating to protect our common home.

What was once an individual decision is now a moral issue, since it is the poor and marginalized who will suffer the worst consequences of our changing environment. But the good news is that we can do something about it! We can show through our actions that we are a people apart, that as Catholics we live differently from the consumer culture around us. One step at a time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“We are losing our attitude of wonder, of contemplation, of listening to creation, and thus we no longer manage to interpret within it what Benedict XVI calls ‘the rhythm of the love-story between God and man.'” (Pope Francis)

 

 

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 3 Ways to be of Good Cheer

Cheerfulness. The very word can grind when we’re not in the right frame of mind. Monday mornings, gray weather, not enough sleep, too much to do… there are a lot of reasons to not be cheerful. Yet it’s what God asks of us. St. Paul is constantly urging the churches to rejoice, to be glad; and in fact as Christians we are bound for eternal life with Jesus—there’s the best reason of all to be cheerful!

Still, when the tribulations of life seem overwhelming, there are things we can do.

  • Start every day with a resolution. Add this one phrase to your morning prayers: “Make me honest, painstaking, and cheerful.” Speaking the words helps rewire your brain to anticipate the behavior.
  • Let go. One of the biggest barriers to cheerfulness is holding on to the past, worrying about the future, and letting negativity rule your mind. It’s not easy, but you can do it. Forgive; focus on the here and now; let the past go.
  • Put on your acting hat. Our minds and bodies like patterns. If you have a pattern of being disgruntled, that is where you’ll feel most comfortable, and that’s how you’ll continue to behave. Give yourself a new pattern to follow: acting cheerful leads to feeling cheerful and thinking cheerful thoughts.

Fr. Roger J. Landry says that “the clearest sign of the greatness of faith is joy. It’s the clearest sign of the loving trust and total surrender that is involved in faith.” If we go about our days with cheerfulness and joy, it is a sign to the world, it is us living out the Gospel and drawing others to Christ. Not a bad reason to be cheerful!

 

Photo: Sithamshu Manoj for Unsplash

 

 

 

 

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 3 Steps to Memento Mori

Memento mori (literally, “remember that you have to die”) is an ancient practice of reflection on mortality, the reminder that this life is not forever. French painter Philippe de Champaigne illustrated it in his painting Still Life with a Skull, showing the three essentials of existence: a tulip (life), a skull (death), and an hourglass (time). The practice isn’t meant to be depressing, but rather to remind us of where our real life lies.

  • Remember that every day on earth is a gift from God. How many people died in their sleep last night? You weren’t one of them. Wake up with a sense of gratitude.
  • Keep this life in perspective. When someone angers you or hurts you, step back from it. Will it matter a year from now? Ten years from now? Take the long view.
  • If you were to die today, what would be left unsaid, what would be left undone? Make a list, and start crossing items off.

Scripture tells us that we never know when God might call us home to live with him in eternity. Memento mori is a practice that reminds of that, every day. We are just passing through this life: our real home is in heaven.

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 3 Ways to See Why God Loves You So Much

If we’re made in the image of God, if we’re one with God, then we were created as perfectly beautiful and infinitely precious. This can be very hard to accept! Our culture is constantly telling us our worth is based on what we do, what we accomplish, how we look, how much we have, the roles we play, or what people think about us. How can we come to love ourselves?

  • Start from where you are. Right now, God loves you more than you can even imagine. You are his beloved child. Right now. Sit with that realization, pray with that realization. If God thinks you’re this awesome—and he knows you far better than you know yourself—who are you to disagree?
  • As Catholics, we need to always reflect the glory of God. “You may be the only Gospel your neighbor ever reads” (St. Francis). Self-debasement sends a message to others. St. Paul writes, “For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body” (I Cor. 6:20). Remember that purchase price in everything you do: God thinks you’re worthy of his son dying for you! Once you really understand and believe that, it will change the way you think about yourself.
  • Practice patience with yourself. This isn’t self-indulgence; it’s simply acknowledging yourself as a work in progress. Think of the patience a parent shows their child, and acknowledge the child within yourself that needs to grow and blossom.

Two books by Sr. Marie Paul Curley, FSP, can be helpful in learning self-love and self-patience:

  • Meditations to Grow in Self-Esteem: This set of reflections is designed to help you develop one area of your spiritual life: growing in self-esteem through the love of God who loves and cherishes you. God will lead you to be interested in certain meditations, so you can go wherever he leads you!
  • See Yourself Through God’s Eyes: This amazing book will take you on a journey not only of self-discovery but of inner healing through the experience of how much you are cherished by God. These 52 meditations are short enough for daily prayer but profound enough to break open your heart to the grace that saves and rebuilds what has been broken. Indeed you will learn to see yourself through God’s eyes!

 

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 3 Ways to Let the Light In

There’s a song that says, “There’s a crack in everything/That’s how the light gets in.” We all have problems and imperfections, but they do not have to define us. Here are three ways you can take the cracks in your life and see the light of God shining through them:

  • Start by remembering you’re not alone. God’s working with what he has to hand—original sin pretty much guarantees us imperfections (at the very least!) and Scripture gives us a long parade of less-than-stellar people. But God loved all of us and reaches all of us, and we learn humility through our mistakes and imperfections.
  • Imperfection is a call to practice compassion on yourself. Theologian and mystic Meister Eckhart wrote, “To get at the core of God at his greatest, one must first get into the core of himself at his least.” Let it point you to God who comes through that mistake to embrace you and love you.
  • It’s an antidote to perfectionism, our goal of appearing “together” in every setting (so we don’t take on difficult tasks or take risks for fear of failing; we take the blame for everything; we refuse to ever own up to mistakes, blaming other people for what went wrong, etc.). We let God’s light in when we accept our imperfections and consider our actions and thoughts prayerfully.

We are all imperfect at best; Adam and Eve saw to that. But if you ever feel you aren’t worthy enough, remember—Jesus used a lot of flawed people to share hope to a flawed world. It’s time to share that hope now, however imperfectly!

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 3 Ways to Deal with Anger

Your husband forgets an event you planned. Your coworker takes your lunch from the communal refrigerator. Your child deliberately tests your boundaries. You do something you know is stupid. The times we experience anger are too myriad to list, and the truth is, no one wants to feel angry. It uses up energy and keeps us from seeing others (or even ourselves) as children of God. But what can you do?

  • Stop talking. When you’re angry with someone, it’s really easy to say hurtful things. Remember when you were a kid and pretended your mouth was zipped up? Try that now. Taking a moment or two will help you collect yourself and step back from the situation.
  • Take the long view. Ask yourself, “Is this situation worth getting angry about?” Sometimes it is. Much of the time, it isn’t. There’s a distinction between righteous anger (the anger of the prophets, the anger of Jesus facing the moneylenders, the anger we feel when we do not see justice done) and personal anger (what we experience when we feel thwarted, insulted, etc.). Be clear about what you’re feeling.
  • As soon as possible, reconcile. “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us” is at the core of our beliefs as Christians; but it needs to be acted upon every day, every moment, in every situation.

Anger is a natural and normal feeling. It can spur us to constructive action, or destroy a relationship. Discerning which is the most likely outcome takes time, prayer, and recollection. But you can do it!