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!

 

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 3 Ways to Evangelize

Too many people see that word—evangelize—and think it’s the exclusive domain of priests and nuns. But Christ calls us all to evangelize, to spread the Good News of his love and his kingdom. Easier said than done, though, for the rest of us. Here are three ideas that might help!

  • Pray for people you don’t know. We’re all pretty good at praying for our family, our friends, our parishes. But there are millions of people out there who don’t have the benefit of baptism, the Eucharist, or the experience of Jesus. God hears you when you pray. Set aside a time to pray for all those who do not yet know him.
  • Be conspicuously kind. St. Francis of Assisi said you may be the only Gospel your neighbor ever reads. The first step toward people noticing you as “different” from them is in exhibiting generosity of spirit and kindness.
  • Invite others into your world. You may have a friend or coworker who has expressed some malaise to you. Invite them, gently, to a parish function or even to attend Mass with you. You don’t need to push anybody through the door, but you do need to open it to them.

There’s a lot of material around telling laypeople they need to take the lead in evangelization, but very little in explaining how. If you have ideas about how to bring others to Christ, we’d be delighted for you to share them!

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 3 Ways to Keep God in Your Back-to-School Activities… Every Day

September came around quickly this year, didn’t it? It feels like the summer was stretching out in front of us, long and lazy and beautiful and then—we’re already buying lunchboxes and notebooks and squeezing in that last run to the pool. And somehow it’s really easy to lose our connection to God when we are, like Martha, busy about so many things. How about finding some ways to keep that connection alive?

  • Start your day right. However you start your day influences how you’ll feel for the rest of it. Start it with prayer—and include praying with your child!
  • Keep God in your budget. Even if it’s just setting aside a couple of dollars with your child to light a candle of thanks on the Sunday after classes start, make sure that you spend some back-to-school money where it counts.
  • Name 5 things you’re grateful for this year. Remembering to say thank-you is important in all families—our own, and God’s.

Back-to-school can be a wonderful time of discovery, adventure, and hope. Stay close to God throughout the hectic times and it can be fulfilling as well.

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: Navigating Tough Times

We’re all in bad-news overload these days, it seems. Fires in the Amazon, political frays, grief and sadness… it’s a constant assault on our minds and hearts, and with so much bad news coming at us, it’s easy to feel small, insignificant, and ineffectual.

But we’re assured that God loves us, that he has carved us into the palm of his hand. We are important in God’s eyes, and remembering that can empower us to take action.

  • Pray about it. Prayer changes things. Prayer changes us. God has arranged his world so we can make choices, and we can often discern his will when we open ourselves to it. Remember the words of Padre Pio: “Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Worry changes nothing. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.”
  • Do something locally. The world is a vast place, and changing it is a tall order. But you can make a difference locally. Support a local political candidate of your choice. Volunteer at a local shelter. Encourage your community to reuse and recycle. Support your local parish. This is the level at which you can effectuate change.
  • Educate yourself. If you accept everything you hear, then there’s reason to be discouraged. But choose something that bothers you, or excites you, and learn all about it. Explore it from different viewpoints. Expand your horizons. The world still might not make sense, but you’ll have gotten a little control over at least your understanding of it.

We live in difficult and confusing times. So did Christ; so did many of the saints of the Church. For some reason, God has called you to live in these times. Meet that challenge thoughtfully and prayerfully, and you can make a difference.

 

 

 

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: Losing That Resentment

It happens to everyone sometime. Someone wrongs us and we feel bitterness and resentment about what they’ve done. Eventually that can develop into a resentment of the person themselves, not just the action or situation that started the whole thing.

But how can you get rid of it?

  • Approach the person, not as someone who has wronged you, but as a child of God. Remember before you speak that God loves this person just as much as he loves you. That can help your sense of perspective.
  • If you cannot approach this person as beloved by God, you may want to take the time to pray for them. Prayer is sanctifying. God can burn off the dross of bitterness and help us love others.
  • Accept that nothing in the past can be changed, not for the other person and not for you. God allows us to start every day afresh. Can you do it, too?

Ultimately, the only person who’s getting hurt when you carry resentment around with you is… you. You don’t need to do that to yourself. Forgiveness isn’t something we do for others; we do it for ourselves, so we can heal and move on.

 

 

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 6 Steps to a More Meaningful Prayer Life: Part Two

“Lord, teach us to pray!” was the request of the disciples, and it’s true that we’re all searching for a prayer life that will keep us centered on God, even when we’re not actually on our knees. Last week and this week we’re looking at some things you can do to enrich your prayer life and bring yourself into a space that’s mindful and meaningful. This week it’s three things you can do to enter fully into prayer:

  • Prayer isn’t just about words: God enters through all our senses. So try gazing as a form of prayer. Find an icon; you might like an icon of Mary or a moment in Jesus’ life or a saint. Icons are sometimes understood as windows to heaven, and they point us to God. A visually-focused prayer can be helpful to many people.
  • Pray the psalms. Though the psalter was meant as a kind of hymnal for God’s people, the psalms also work beautifully as prayer, and have been part of both private prayers and the Church’s liturgies for centuries. A bonus is that you can find psalms that can express all sorts of feelings—gratitude, love, loneliness, anger, anxiety… it’s all there.
  • Sometimes it’s about establishing a small habit. Say grace with every meal, every time. This is a great way for families to pray together; everyone can memorize a simple grace and say it together. When you’re eating alone or in public, you might say a silent prayer and bless yourself. It’s not hard to make a habit of giving thanks to God for all our blessings as we prepare to eat.

Sometimes we can feel that our prayer life is arid and joyless. At times like that, it can be helpful to try something a little different—like gazing on an icon—or go back to something we may have neglected, like asking for God’s blessing at meals. Whatever you do, know the Daughters of St. Paul are keeping you in their prayers!

Everyday Grace, Uncategorized

Everyday Grace: Why Am I So Tired?

We push ourselves every day to do more, to save time, to keep going, to add just one more thing… and then we are surprised when we find ourselves exhausted and spiritually drained. This fatigue will sap at our spiritual, mental, and physical health if we let it. But what can we do?

  1. Jesus gave us the answer. “Come to me, all of you who are weary, and I will give you rest,” he said, and then showed how: he “often withdrew to lonely places to pray.” Making and keeping specific times in the day to pray in solitude will naturally slow you down, keep you focused, and keep you energized. Prayer is a powerhouse. Use it!
  2. God takes good care of our souls, but we’re responsible for our bodies. We can only fulfill our place in God’s plan when we care for them. Getting enough sleep at night, eating the foods that will nourish but not overwhelm our bodies, and exercising are all common interventions to fight fatigue.
  3. Ask for help. We are not in this alone. We are part of a wide community of faith that can support us in prayer; we have only to ask. We are part of a physical community that can provide a listening ear, help with the carpool, the loan of a book, and so much more. We have only to ask.

So much goes into taking care of ourselves so we can care for others. Airlines regularly instruct passengers to place their own oxygen masks over their faces before helping others. We need to be strong and healthy in order to do God’s work, and the best way to attain that strength is through prayer.

One of the practices of the Daughters of St. Paul is to spend an hour every day in Eucharistic Adoration. It’s not uncommon for people to question how they find the time—to which the most frequent answer is, how can one not? St. Francis de Sales said, “Every one of us needs half an hour of prayer a day, except when we are very busy—then we need an hour.”

It might be worth a try!