Friday, March 27, 2020

Fast from Fear, Feast on Trust

Fast from Fear, Feast on Trust

When the true seriousness of COVID-19 struck our area and social distancing began, we were about to begin a 3-day Parish Lenten Mission at our church. One of the things the mission priest, Fr. Zachary, SOLT, said over and over during his Sunday homily inviting us to the mission was “Fast from Fear, Feast on Trust.”

The first time I heard it in Mass I thought, “That’s exactly what people need to hear during this time. I can’t wait to hear the rest of his message.”

The next time I heard “Fast from Fear, Feast on Trust,” I was sitting with over 100 people in my church the first night of the mission. All day we'd wondered if this was going to be the only night of the mission because news was changing so quickly on what gatherings our County and Archdiocese would allow to continue.

The next day, the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston announced public Masses were suspended and groups of more than 50
should not gather so we had very few people in the pews for that night of the mission. Once again, Fr. Zachary said, “Fast from Fear, Feast on Trust.” I thought, "It's a good, inspiring message for what's going on at the moment. I’m so glad I’m recording this so the rest of the parish can hear it.”

The third day of the parish mission, I was sitting in an empty church. The church was shut due to further social distancing measures, but Fr. Zachary gave the last talk straight to the camera so I could record it for the parish to watch from home.

“Fast from Fear, Feast on Trust.” This time, when I heard those words, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Sitting there alone, I realized I was consumed with fear. Fear of what was happening and fear of what it all would mean for myself, my family, my parish, my community, the country, our world. I just sat at the video panel and sobbed while he kept talking to the camera. “Fast from Fear, Feast on Trust.”

This was a gut check for me, and I knew it. I write and speak about knowing that God is with me always and how knowledge of His love guides my life and fills me with joy. So why was I so afraid? Why was I not Feasting on Trust?

I sat there while Fr. Zachary continued talking and made a list of how I was failing at trusting in God. When I finished my list, I heard Fr. Zachary say, “Now is the time to turn towards God.” With those words on my heart, I prayed over my list and invited the Holy Spirit to strengthen and guide me to trust like never before. 

In the days since, I've been continuing my prayer to Feast on Trust, and Fast from Fear.  While some days are better than others, I've become a bit more calm and even tempered at home with my family, and I'm purposely looking around for the small, unintended benefits that are occurring during this uncertain time to hold those close. I acknowledge that I need to trust God to bring good out of this time and not to fear the unknown.

Pray with me - Lord, Help me to Fast from Fear and Feast on Trust in You.  Amen.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Preparing Our Hearts for Lent

Preparing our Hearts for Lent

Even though Ash Wednesday is not a holy day of obligation for Catholics, it is a day that draws so many of us to Mass every year. The solemnity of the Mass reflects on the faces of the community and prepares each of us to humble ourselves before God this Lent. We receive our ashes as a visible reminder that we are human with a propensity to sin, but it is never to late for us to turn away from sin and reconcile ourselves with God.

Lent is our opportunity to focus intensely on God’s love, to focus on our relationship with Him and to dedicate or rededicate our lives to His only son. And, at the end of our 40-day retreat, we are given the best reward, New Life in Jesus Christ on Easter.

The Church instructs us to FAST (give up), GIVE ALMS (give to others) and PRAY during Lent to rededicate our lives and journey to God. These pillars of Lent are not just for our own benefit, but for the benefit of others. As Jesus sacrificed for the sake of the world, we humble ourselves and offer our fast, alms and prayer for those suffering in the world.

Lent is our spiritual retreat to repent from sin, repair our relationship with Christ and open ourselves more fully to God. With reflection, repentance and prayer, I dedicate my Lenten retreat and sacrifices to allowing God to move more deeply in my life so that I am not the same person on Easter Sunday as I am today.

Read more about how to Give for Lent..

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Face the New Year with Trust

Forever, 2019 will be the year God fulfilled so many promises. In the future when doubt creeps into my life, this year is where I'll go for reassurance. God reached into my crazy over busy life and called me to look up and see how He loves me, never leaves me, and delivers on His promises in His time, not mine. After years of hearing "be patient" in my prayer life, 2019 is when God delivered the answers in ways that not only stirred my heart, but filled my soul.

You have probably experienced something similar in your own faith life, or maybe you're still waiting. If you're also hearing "be patient" when you pray for something life-changing, I'm here to tell you to persevere. Don't give up that call to be patient and wait, even though it may be years before His promises are delivered. Be where you are, trust that He is working in your life throughout the waiting.

Only God knows what you need and when to deliver it. Even as I type the words, this seems trite. But I'm on the other side of that prayer - years of waiting - years of asking God - why do you put this on my heart if it's not something I can have? What do I have to do to make this happen in my life?

And in my mind's eye He just smiles gently, lovingly, before turning aside and going back to His other work. However, He pulls us forward wherever we are. We work, we live, we pray. We weep. We rant. We wait. We trust. 

Wherever you are, He is always working in your life. Quietly, behind the scenes. Praise His name, even in the darkest moments. Give Him your heart, your work, your good days and bad days.

The Promises He delivered to me are personal and one day I'll share the details. But know that receiving those Promises opened up an endless well of grace and trust. If God says something will happen, who am I to ever doubt that He will deliver it in His time.

What does 2020 hold?  Only He knows. After ascending the mountain of promise, the light shining so brightly in my eyes, I find myself starting this year at a new crossroads. 2020 starts with a new tension, an energy building up, even though at the moment I'm running in place, looking at the multiple roads before me trying to discern where they lead and which to choose. 

The movie Finding Nemo comes into my mind - we are Marlin, in the whale. 
Dory: He says it's time to let go! Everything's gonna be all right! 
Marlin: How do you know? How do you know something bad isn't gonna happen?
Dory: I don't.

If God is everything, all powerful, all knowing. If God can deliver on so many promises in one year of my life, who am I to not surrender all my insecurities and worries upon Him. God is my deliverer. No matter which path I choose - you choose - we do not walk alone. We have our faith, our friends, the saints, Mary gently guiding us toward her Son, and God always watching, waiting patiently for us to do our thing and bring Him with us on our journey.

A famous saint said, Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.

This is what 2020 holds for us - Prayer and Work. Surrender and Trust. 

This year put your life in His hands to guide your path, ask Him to place His promises for you on your heart. 

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Prepare Your Spirit: Advent Resources for the Busy Heart

Advent. A time of preparation for Christ's coming. 

More often the time leading up to Advent feels like a building up of so much busy, so much noise, so much to buy, so much to prepare...for a December of decorations, parties, cookies, and making picture perfect memories. 

This past week, I realized that the week of Thanksgiving has evolved into a frenzy of Pre-Black Friday specials, "Black Friday Eve", Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber-Monday. We are being purposefully directed towards worldly things, driven to shop now, urged on by a competitive spirit of not overpaying later for something on sale now. 

Advent is a time to prepare our spirit - one of hope, peace, joy, and love. Don't stress over creating a perfect home, instead make time to create a more loving heart. 

There are no limitations on finding a daily devotion, guide, or aid for preparing your heart with love and kindness. Below are just a few I've seen that offer you the opportunity to break away from your Martha moments and be Mary, sitting at the feet of Jesus.

Rejoice! Advent Meditations with Joseph 

Rejoice! Advent Meditations with Mary 

EWTN Advent Season 2019

Best Advent Ever - Dynamic Catholic

Advent Gospel Reflection -Word on Fire

Advent Companion - Magnificat  

Sacred Advent Retreat - Loyola Press 

Messages of Hope (ebook) Ave Maria Press

The Living Gospel: Daily Devotions for Advent 2019  (ebook) Ave Maria Press 

The Gospel of Luke - 24 chapters in 24 days of December

This list is not meant to overwhelm you with one more thing to cram into an already full season. The challenge is to find one that speaks to you and that works for your life. Maybe you're like me - sitting in the parking lot at work getting in 5-minutes before heading to another full day. Maybe you're able to fit it in while sitting in the carpool line or at sports practice. Whatever works for you, whatever speaks to you.

Even if you're seeing this during the second week of Advent, it's never too late to add a little focused prayer into your life. 
”Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know which day your Lord will come.” - Matthew 24:42

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Our Lady of Charity Novena: Day Six

Lisa and I are humbled to be hosting Day 6 of the Our Lady of Charity Novena leading up to her feast day this weekend, September 8. We can't say enough nice things about Maria or her latest book, as evidenced during our conversation with her earlier this summer.

Finding Mary

Coming to know Our Lady of Charity, through my friendship with Maria, presents yet another opportunity to ponder our Holy Mother's many appearances across the world. Truly, she is everywhere, a powerful mediator with Christ through the Holy Spirit, demonstrating her graces in a loving and nurturing way. When we seek her, Mary continues to come to us under many names and titles, honored across culture and country.

A century-old print of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, given to me by my grandmother, has hung in my bedroom since I was a small child. This summer I experienced encounters with Mary under the (new to me) names Our Lady of La Leche, Our Lady of Prompt Succor, and Our Lady of Charity. While she may not visit us through any visible apparition, there are so many small (and sometimes large) "coincidences" that reaffirm her constant presence in our lives, always guiding us towards Christ's love and salvation on the cross.

Even "Cachita's" feast day, Sept 8, represents more than one personal touchpoint for me. My early career grew partly because of another Storm associated with September 8, this one in 1900 Galveston, TX. Sept 8 is the original due date of not one, but both of my daughters, three years apart. And this year, with inspiration from Maria, I started a journey towards Marian Consecration which will come to fruition on Our Lady of Charity's feast day - Sept 8. Truly, Mary's graces are woven throughout our personal lives like those sticky spider webs you walk into without noticing.

As we continue our novena, we ask Our Lady of Charity - of Love - to strengthen our courage in the storm of life, knowing that our faith is magnified when united in her blessed intercession.

Our Lady of Charity Novena Prayers

Most pure Virgin Mary, blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. We deplore our sins, knowing your Son died on the cross for our sins. May it be the fruit of our prayer that we atone for our sins on earth that we may bless eternally Jesus in heaven.

O beloved Virgin Mary, my Mother, I consecrate myself to you today: my eyes, my ears, my tongue, my heart, in other words, my whole being. I am yours, Oh Mother of Mercy, guard me and defend me as your son/daughter. Amen.

Ask for your petition here

REMEMBER, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly to thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to thee do I come; before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.

Want to Read More

For more reflection on how we can be more aware of Mary's presence in our lives, drop by Meditating on the Hail Mary, or Mary in the Front Seat.  Leave a comment telling us how Mary makes her presence known to you, and you will be entered into a drawing for a copy of Maria's book.

Many thanks to Maria Morera Johnson for inviting us to share in her devotion. If you haven't picked up a copy of her latest book Our Lady of Charity: How a Cuban Devotion to Mary Helped me Grow in Faith and Love (Ave Maria Press), why haven't you?

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