Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 3 Ways to Develop Patience

Patience! Who among us hasn’t wished for more of it? As one humorous prayer would have it, “God grant me patience, and I want it right now!” So much of our lives would be easier and more fruitful if we could just slow down and take life in God’s time, not our own. But how do you develop patience?

  • The spiritual practice of fasting is one way many of the saints—and less-saintly people—have been able to develop patience. Fasting can help you be more calm and patient, even in frustrating situations: because it doesn’t offer immediate gratification, it can help you develop an appreciation of waiting.
  • Since we often lose patience with other people, cutting them a little slack can start with inserting the word “yet” into our vocabularies. “Mary didn’t remember to call me yet” is a world away from “Mary didn’t remember to call me.”
  • It’s good to learn to observe when our lack of patience comes from a sense of entitlement. Problems aren’t all about us! If you’re sitting in bad traffic because of an accident on the road ahead, praying for those involved in the accident takes the focus off you and your impatience to get where you’re going on time.

“Love is patient,” says St. Paul, and if we are a people of love, as we are called to be, then we need to be a people of patience. Try just one of the suggestions here every day and see if it doesn’t get a little easier—and remember that if it doesn’t, prayer will always help!

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 3 Ways to Tame Your Worried Mind

We all know the verses in Scripture that tell us not to worry. But it’s a lot easier said than done! Worry seems to be the default position for many people, yet it’s not good for us and it’s not good for our relationship with God. But how can we quiet our worried minds?

  1. Analyze your worry. Sometimes if we can get through the emotions associated with worry, we can gain clarity around solving problems. What has worked for you in the past when you were worried? How can you apply those lessons today?
  2. Be specific in your prayers. God doesn’t want you to live in anxiety. What are your responses to worry? Fear, discouragement, anger, impatience? Ask him for help with the specifics of your situation.
  3. Re-align your focus. When you’re worried, your situation or fears about the future take center stage. Once you’ve handed them over to God, keep your focus on him and his word. Every time your mind starts fretting again, grab a Bible or prayer book and re-focus your attention. We’re always calmer when we are feeling the presence of God!

There’s a lot to be worried about, and it’s easy for worry to take the driver’s seat in times of stress. Being worried is feeling fear about a future that has yet to arrive. No matter how you deal with the situations you’re worried about, you’ll be better equipped to face them when you remember you’re not alone.

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 3 Ways to Get Through the Dog Days

For us in the northern hemisphere, we are definitely in summer’s dog days now… but it’s a very different summer from other summers, isn’t it? With different areas offering different levels of “openness” and/or safety precautions, it’s hard to know how to plan a vacation… much less plan for what the fall and back-to-school will be like. That uncertainty is one of the hallmarks of our time, and it’s incredibly difficult to live with!

  • Do it now. If there’s something that you meant to do this summer, or in this lifetime, don’t postpone it. Whether it’s a musical instrument you want to learn or a broken friendship you want to heal, this summer teaches us that tomorrow isn’t guaranteed.
  • Find “your” Scripture. We all have favorites we turn to when life becomes difficult. In times of uncertainty, for example, you might turn to Isaiah: “do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you.” Google “Bible verses fear” or “Scripture for uncertainty” and you could find your own new favorite.
  • Check out the saints. No matter what befalls, there’s a saint who’s been there ahead of us, and we can learn something about how to adapt by studying their lives. (Think they’re superhuman? Think again: Sr. Mary Lea Hill, our own Crabby Mystic, has thoughts on that!)

Let’s be honest: humans love to plan, and we hate living in circumstances that don’t allow it. This uncertain time is a good time to remember that even if we don’t have a plan, God does. No matter what the rest of this summer, or next autumn, might bring, we’re not facing it alone. If we can put our trust in God and God’s promises, we will get through—together.

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 3 Ways to Help Your Heart

In difficult times, we often put our focus outside ourselves. We help people around us who need help. We do what needs to be done. But somewhere in there, we need to help our hearts. How do we do that?

  • Find the blessings. In every painful time, there are blessings. They don’t justify the pain, but when you keep your heart open to the goodness, you can see the way through. Whatever your struggle is today, claim your openness even to the blessings that have yet to appear and then give them room to come in.
  • Use your imagination to look past your anxiety and heart pain to what could happen when things change around you. Pray for a world in which everyone is healthy and secure. Share everything with God, and visualize your life in a new and healthier environment.
  • Read Scripture. There are passages in the Bible that are applicable to times like this… and to you. Read Psalm 9:9-10, Isaiah 40:31, Ephesians 6:10, and Psalm 107.

God loves you and wants to heal your deepest hurts. He wants you to experience his perfect peace and surrender your burdens to him. Lay each burden at his feet and release yourself from the yoke of hardship. Trust that the Giver of Life has come to heal, restore, and redeem your brokenness.

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 3 New Meditations for Change

Well, they’re not actually new, they’re ancient! But they may be new to you, and at a time when we’re all searching for ways to live though the present time and possibly make sense of it all, they may be most welcome. Choose one of the options below and sit with it, if possible in a quiet place and before a crucifix or an image, or when you are sitting with the Blessed Sacrament. See which one calls to you.

  • The principal devotion of the Pauline Family is Jesus Master, Way, Truth, and Life. We look at Christ and in him contemplate his complete personality. He gave various descriptions of himself: “I am the light of the world,” “I am the vine,” “I am the good shepherd.” But these are particular aspects of Jesus. When he wanted to describe himself completely, he said: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6). To reproduce the whole Christ in us, it is necessary to believe in his work, to follow his examples and to live his life. How can I think about Jesus Master, Way, Truth, and Life today? Can I do one thing, today, that will make others see his way in my life?
  • Our Founder, Blessed James Alberione, invites us to put ourselves in the school of Jesus the Divine Master. In this “school” we listen to the Word of God. We almost make ourselves all “ear” so that we can absorb his way of thinking, of reasoning, of loving, of choosing, of being. You might think about the virtue you most need to grow in at this time. You might picture how Jesus would conduct himself in the situations we find ourselves in right now, and listen to what he might say.
  • Why is St. Paul so great? How did he do some many wonderful things? How is it that year after year his doctrine, apostolate, and mission in the Church of Jesus Christ become better and better known, admired, and celebrated? Why? The answer lies in his interior life. The secret is here. Inflated balloons empty themselves and vanish in a day. How can I develop a genuine interior life that will sustain me and germinate seeds for others?

These are difficult questions for difficult times. Know that the Daughters of St. Paul are praying for you and with you as we move forward together.

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 3 Ways to Care for Yourself

We often think that doing for others is the only way to be a faithful Christian. But the only way we can do for others is to first do for ourselves, so we are strong and steady in helping them. When you board an aircraft, the cabin crew will tell you that in the event of an emergency, it’s your duty to first locate and put on your oxygen mask, before helping your child or parent or friends locate theirs. You cannot help anyone else breathe when you can’t breathe yourself. In these difficult times, it’s a good reminder that we have a responsibility to God and to those who depend on us—to take care of ourselves. How?

  1. Self-care isn’t bubble baths and manicures. Self-care means giving your mind and your body what they need to function well. So make sure you get enough sleep (8 hours is recommended), that you eat healthy foods, that you find ways to exercise.
  2. Self-care isn’t something that comes easily: it is a discipline. We confuse self-care with self-indulgence, whereas it is the bedrock of our lives in Christ. We cannot accomplish being okay by sheer willpower, we have to work toward it through proper self-care. We are both body and soul, and we must care for both.
  3. Know yourself. Self-care will look different from one person to the next. What really matters is knowing yourself and what restores you. What restores and sustains you during stressful times might differ from what helps your friends and family recharge.

You probably already know what your body, your mind, and your soul need to feel healthy and nurtured. Give yourself permission to engage in those practices, and take them on as a daily discipline so you can continue to grow in Christ and bring others to the joy of his presence and of his love.

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: Beginning a New Summer

Summer’s officially here! And while the glorious long days are wonderful, summer can wreak havoc with your spiritual practices. For those of you who have gone back to church, it can be difficult to focus on the liturgy while also following social distancing requirements. Some churches offer fewer Mass times in the summer, friends you count on are off on vacation, and frankly, during the lockdown you’ve been doing spiritual reading to sustain you and you might not have the energy now to read more. What can you do?

  • Make a retreat. This is the best time for it, when your family is occupied with their own summer pursuits. There are some beautiful DIY retreats you can do (Awakening Love is one of them) and you’ll immediately feel a reconnection with God.
  • Reconnect with nature. The earth is God’s gift to us, but we take it for granted most of the time (and spend a good part of the winter avoiding it altogether!). Take a walk—preferably barefoot—and drink in the beauty of God’s world. This is the year of Laudato si, Pope Francis’ reminder that we are all connected to our planet and all who live here. Take advantage of it!
  • Understand that this summer is different. With the fine weather, there’s a temptation to pretend that COVID-19 is behind us, to draw a line under everything bleak and difficult that’s happened in the first part of the year. But as you find the “new normal,” remember that we all need to talk a little differently in the world this year, and that your prayers are what keep you sane… and others safe. Pray for your community, that the summer will be a healthy one for all.

Summertime is an amazing opportunity to get outside, to feel the sun and the wind, to rediscover the world we’ve been missing as we sheltered in place. Be safe as you begin to enjoy it again!

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 3 Ways to Find Joy During Hard Times

Let’s face it, the first half of the year 2020 hasn’t offered any of us the easiest of times. Maybe you’ve lost someone you loved to COVID-19. Maybe you’ve been ill, yourself. Perhaps your business has failed as a result of the economic downturn. And then just as we felt we could finally talk about something else, we were all faced with the fallout from our systems that promoted systematic racism. Where do we find joy in any of that?

  • Know you’re not alone. James writes that “whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (James 1:2-3). Job lost everything but still praised God. We are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses cheering us on; that has to make you smile!
  • Shift your perspective. No matter what is happening in your life, there are places to find joy—even if it’s only in acknowledging that things could be worse. Look around you, right now, this moment, and see the things you have to be thankful for. God never sends trials without sending gifts as well.
  • Don’t get confused. Joy is not the same thing as happiness. Happiness is a feeling that comes and goes, buffeted by life’s circumstances; joy, on the other hand, abides. Experiencing God’s joy is a choice. During dark days, when we think we just can’t make it another step, let’s remember that Jesus never leaves us, no matter how unhappy we may feel.  

“Joy,” writes Pope Francis, “does not mean living from laugh to laugh. No, it’s not that. Joy is not entertainment. No, it’s not that. It is something else. Christian joy is peace, peace that is deeply rooted, peace in the heart, the peace that only God can give. This is Christian joy.”

We wish it to you all.

Photo: Abed Mhajne for Unsplash

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 3 Ways to Help Heal the Racial Divide

The past few weeks have been fraught with anger, fear, and distress, not just in the United States but all over the world. Who would have thought that a global pandemic would take second place in our immediate concerns. How can any of us make sense of it? How can we discern what our role needs to be?

Here are three ideas for what you can do, both now and in the long term:

  • Try to identify types of projects or activities that bring together different individuals, schools, parishes, small groups and/or communities to work together on an issue.
  • Listen to a podcast reviewing why Catholics need to care about racism.
  • You could turn to Mary and pray the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary for an end to violence.

As Pope Francis said on Pentecost: “The Spirit loves us and knows everyone’s place in the grand scheme of things: for him, we are not bits of confetti blown around by the wind; rather we are irreplaceable fragments in his mosaic.” The USCCB has resources to combat racism that include articles, videos, and more, and they might give you some ideas for remembering that we are not that confetti but are all irreplaceable fragments in his mosaic.

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).