Monday, October 27, 2014

Three Saints to Know in October

Three Saints to Know in October
All around us people are gearing up for Halloween this coming Friday night. Did you realize that the name “Halloween” comes from “All Hallows Eve” the vigil night before the Feast Day of All Saints?

Catholic Education.org reproduces a good article about the development of All Saints Day and the connection to Celtic Samhain.  It was common practice to honor each martyr, each saint, with a feast day, but there were more martyrs than days in the year, so a common day honoring them all evolved in the early 300s.  This day was originally observed in May, but in the 700s Pope Gregory IV officially assigned November 1 as All Saints Day.

It’s a great time to start learning more about the Saints, so I flipped through my Catholic calendar and realized there are so many saints the calendar can’t possibly list them all. It would be really easy to learn something basic about a few new saints each month.

Three Saints to Know in October



St. Francis - A Saint to Know in OctoberMany people have heard of St. Francis of Assisi, even before Cardinal Bergoglio chose the name for his papacy. You probably associate St. Francis with a brown robe surrounded by animals – at least that’s how he’s depicted in my St. Francis garden statue. Although he lived 800 years ago from 1182-1226, his story seems almost contemporary. Born into a wealthy family, he enjoyed an easy life, partied hard with a crowd of friends, and desired prestige and glory. When he left his hometown to fight (in the Crusades), God told him to go home, which he did. During a time of praying and waiting, Francis heard God again at San Damiano church telling him to rebuild the Church. This began his new path, leading to a simple joyful life of prayer and poverty that attracted others, creating the Franciscan order. Francis lived as he preached, owning nothing, even giving up authority of the order. He suffered greatly in his final years, with blindness and the stigmata, before dying at the age of 45. Lord make me an instrument of your peace.

Our Lady of the Rosary (Oct 7)

Our Lady of the Rosary - A Saint to know in October
On October 7, 1571, Christian Europe won a major naval battle against the Ottoman Empire, preventing the invasion of Islam to western Europe and the Americas. Though the Christians were outnumbered, their 16th century victory at Lepanto is attributed to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary through a campaign to pray the Rosary. Considering the present day attacks on Christianity across the globe, perhaps it’s time for another Rosary Army to be launched asking for protection.


St. Callistus (Oct 14)

St. Callistus - a Saint to Know is October
What little we know about our 16th Pope comes from a history written by his enemy and rival. Living during the end of the second century, a slave and convicted man sentenced to forced labor, Callistus called for mercy and equality between all Church members. After being freed accidentally and sent away from Rome, he was recalled and became an adviser to Pope Zephyrinus. Callistus succeeded Zephyrinus as Pope in 219, during a particularly difficult time of the Church. Despite a lack of evidence, he is listed as martyred in 222. 


For more information about these Saints and many others, there are many great books and online resources. If you prefer listening to audio, check out the short clip titled “Saint of the Day” by Franciscan Media Productions or the Saint Cast podcast



Friday, October 24, 2014

7 Quick Takes: Building Community

7 Quick Takes about Building Community
 - 1 -

Social Community - This past week our Life Teen took a little break from the semester's Social Justice curriculum for a Social Night. Instead of our traditional proclaim (subject lesson lecture) followed by small group discussions, we gathered the teens in the church, lifted our voices in Glory and Praise (singing), asked them to count off into teams (surprisingly harder than it sounds) and sent them outside. A simple hula-hoop relay race got the blood moving before setting up the Color My World paint powder main event. Everyone was told in advance to wear white shirts and old pants. The game resembled Capture the Flag, with the object being to throw paint on another team's leader, while protecting your own. Thankfully, we had enough post-Confirmation teens available to lead, so we adults didn't have to get dusted. What chaos! What mess! The paint powder covered not just their shirt, but arms, neck, face, hair, glasses, etc. I hated it.  The kids loved it.

- 2 - 

Spiritual Community - Thank you for all the prayers offered while I was on my ACTS retreat. A longer post is in the works about this amazing experience. Part of the spiritual development of ACTS is allowing the process to be revealed slowly as it takes place. Since I've never been on any other retreat, I can't even offer comparisons. Take it on faith and trust that this life changing event brought many of those in attendance a lot of healing. ACTS retreat also developed an immediate sense of community between both the women who attended and those who served; we are all Sisters in Christ. When it was over, one of the many thoughts in my mind was how much I wanted to share this feeling, this community, with the men and women of my own Parish. Pray that an opportunity to bring this retreat to St. Angela's will one day appear.

 - 3 - 

Building Community - Speaking of developing community, there's a discussion taking place on the Facebook page for Catholic Working Moms concerning how a parish supports Single Moms. The mom who started the discussion noted that she is a single working mom in her late 30s - too old for Young Adult ministries, too divorced for Married ministries, too employed to meet during the day for Mommy group, and too busy to volunteer much. She doesn't feel very supported at her parish and her comment spurred good conversation on the group. This morning, I saw a link to her article about the same topic on Time.com. In the article she makes an excellent point that's not about creating yet another mommy group, it's that
The Church should be aware of our existence at this point, recognize our growing numbers, and be there to offer the support we desperately need. At the very least acknowledge, that we exist.
The conversation and dialogue coming out about our shared experiences are what's important; these discussions allow us to support one another and build our own Catholic community, even in an online forum. 

 - 4 - 

Family Community - This Saturday night, our parish is hosting its annual Trunk or Treat. Are you familiar with the practice, because I'd never seen it before moving here. Families sign up for a parking space, decorate the back of their vehicle, and hand out candy to the kids in costume trick or treating. It's one of those events where families come together as a real community. Last year my family set up our truck with a Duck Dynasty theme, not exactly unique that year, and had a blast. This year we've been a little busy to be inspired, but Lisa reserved a parking space. We can't wait to see all the creative themes and costumes. Now.... how should we decorate for tomorrow night?

- 5 - 

Pet Community - When my mother-in-law died nearly 13 years ago, she had recently adopted (rescued?) a poodle mix. Not being a dog person, I don't remember the details except that Saydee needed her and she needed Saydee. My mother-in-law's unexpected death caused great stress and turmoil not just for our family, but also for Saydee. Thankfully, my husband's brother lovingly took in this crazy dog. His girlfriend, who became his wife, supported him in offering Saydee a stable home. Sadly, this week Saydee crossed the rainbow bridge. Losing this last little connection has brought back many sweet memories of my mother-in-law though I'm sure for her in heaven, it was a joyful reunion. 

- 6 - 

Secret Community - During my long daily commute, it's been my habit to listen to books on tape CD.  It feels like my "theme" this year was books about World War II communities. The most recent book, finished this morning, is titled The Girls of Atomic City written by Denise Kiernan.

While listening to this story about a secret government reservation built in the Appalachians, I kept picturing the tv series Eureka. The super-secret Site X, now known as Oak Ridge, Tennessee, was massive, gated, and heavily guarded. Workers were forbidden to talk about their jobs, even to one another, even to their spouses. They spoke in code, using words like "Tube Alloy." The author did an excellent job of collecting and using first-hand stories of the now-elderly women who said "Yes" to taking an unknown job in a place that didn't even exist on any map. Many of them boarded trains without knowing the destination, just trusting that everything would be taken care of. This secret community grew to a population of 70,000 at its height, with precious few knowing they were enriching plutonium for the first atomic bomb that would finally bring an end to World War II.  If you like reading about everyday women who collectively contributed to an historic moment, you will love this book. 

- 7 - 

Work Community - As a working Catholic Mom, I spend 50+ hours of the week either in commute or in the office. On a particularly long, stressful day, I snapped this sunrise photo when I first arrived.


And 11 hours later, I snapped this sunset picture before I left.


These two pictures that bookend my day, felt like a perfect bookend to my week. Wherever you are today, I hope you see beauty all around you, even in the little moments of the day. TGIF!!


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Five Lessons from Pope St. John Paul II

5 Lessons from Pope St. John Paul II
Today we celebrated the first Feast Day of our Santo Subito – Pope St. John Paul II. For Lisa and me, John Paul II was THE POPE; we knew no other growing up. His life, as a whole, teaches us so much and inspired us to reconnect with our faith. Here are five lessons we can learn from Pope St. John Paul the Great.

God Calls Each of Us

“If He asks much of you, it is because He knows you can give much.”

Today's Gospel reading from Luke recounts the parable of being prepared for the master’s return. It concludes with Jesus saying, “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”

Despite the global unrest and uncertainty experienced in his late teens and early young adulthood, John Paul II always said Yes to the Lord. He studied the seminary in secret during WWII, though discovery meant death. His courage and fortitude brought people hope during the Communist oppression of Poland. Surprised and humbled at how God used him, he never shied from where God asked him be, and as our Holy Father stood in solidarity with his home country, joyfully embraced the youth, and traveled around the world to deliver God’s message of love. He inspired multitudes with his writings, setting hearts on fire for the Lord.

Think about what God asks of us on a daily basis. He asks us to love one another. He asks us to trust Him. John Paul II modeled this for us, his words counseling and guiding us when we feel unworthy.

Be Not Afraid

“Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”

St. John Paul the Great certainly understood standing up to fear. How could he not have been afraid? He witnessed countless murders at the hand of the Nazis. The uncertainty of life he faced as a young man, young priest, and young Pope would paralyze many of us with fear. Even at the end of his life he knowingly faced prolonged suffering.

His message is a clarion call for us. When we feel that we can’t live up to what God calls from us; when we want to hide from Him, John Paul II reminds us BE NOT AFRAID. He said it repeatedly; it was important to him.

Even when we’re not in mortal danger of death, we are faced with fear. How often do we let fear of failure stop us from learning – growing - experiencing – taking action. I do it nearly every day. I suspect so do most people.
5 Lessons from Pope St. John Paul II


Divine Mercy

"Be apostles of Divine Mercy under the maternal and loving guidance of Mary."

St. John Paul II felt spiritually very close to St. Faustina, a Polish nun who received a message of mercy from God to spread throughout the world. Knowledge of her revelations, received in the 1930s, were known to St. John Paul II while he was studying for the priesthood in secrecy. He could see the convent and cemetery where she lived and was buried from the factory where he was forced to work. As Archbishop, he was involved in the process for her canonization. His own Canonization took place on Divine Mercy Sunday.

How many of us know the Divine Mercy chaplet? “Prayed on ordinary rosary beads, The Chaplet of The Divine Mercy is an intercessory prayer that extends the offering of the Eucharist, so it is especially appropriate to use it after having received Holy Communion at Holy Mass. It may be said at any time, but our Lord specifically told St. Faustina to recite it during the nine days before the Feast of Mercy (the first Sunday after Easter). It is likewise appropriate to pray the Chaplet during the "Hour of Great Mercy" — three o'clock each afternoon (recalling the time of Christ's death on the cross). In His revelations to St. Faustina, Our Lord asked for a special remembrance of His Passion at that hour.”

Take time this week to rest in this powerful prayer. Here is a beautiful version of the Divine Mercy Chaplet sung in a style easy to listen and respond.

Redemptive Suffering

“Thus to share in the sufferings of Christ is, at the same time, to suffer for the kingdom of God. In the eyes of the just God, before his judgment, those who share in the sufferings of Christ become worthy of this kingdom.”

When Pope John Paul II suffered from Parkinson's he did not step down as Pope. He did not take his own life to prevent experiencing pain. He never gave up. Instead, he saw this as an opportunity to share in Christ’s suffering. St. John Paul II modeled for everyone that there is an unexpected simple beauty in suffering with Christ. And caring for someone during their period of suffering is a service not only to them, but also to God.

We live in a world that devalues suffering. The world asks us to eliminate suffering through drugs, suicide, or abortion. But suffering can be a redemptive act that brings us closer to God. It doesn’t even have to be a great suffering. Consider how do we handle even the temporary sufferings of our lives? Do we embrace it and give it to God or curse it and ask why God doesn’t remove it from us?

Forgiveness

“Forgiveness is above all a personal choice, a decision of the heart to go against the natural instinct to pay back evil with evil.”

On May 13, 1981, Pope John Paul II was shot and seriously wounded. He almost died. Three days later, he forgave his would-be assassin, who was sentenced to life in prison. But St. John Paul II didn’t merely say he forgave this man, he also visited him in prison, prayed for him, and kept in touch with the man’s family.

When we feel wronged we demand justice, we demand retribution. We harden our hearts. Instead, we should be seeking God’s Divine mercy and forgiveness. Pope John Paul II modeled for us that forgiveness must start with each of us, in our own hearts. Forgiveness is something we choose to seek, to plant in our hearts and nurture so it will grow and be fruitful. It is in forgiving that we ourselves are forgiven. Although it is not an easy thing, it can bring great healing. Consider someone who has wronged you recently, pray that you can let it go, surrender it, release it entirely.

Five simple messages that require a lifetime of practice. Thank you Holy Father for modeling each with great courage and strength. May we all be receptive to whatever comes our way in this world.


Monday, October 20, 2014

Texas Early Voting Has Begun

Early Voting in Texas runs October 20-31 in 2014
Early voting in Texas begins today Monday, October 20th and runs through Friday, October 31st.  There are many reasons to early vote or to wait until election day, but registered voters in Texas are allowed to early vote in person for any reason at any voting location within their county of residence.

Because you can vote at any location in your county of residence during early voting and most location include weekend hours, it is usually the easiest time to vote.  Harris County alone has over 41 early voting locations that are open on the weekend!     

You can check the early voting locations for your county and their times by visiting the Texas Secretary of State Online Voter site here or on VoteTexas.gov.  

November 4th is the Texas General Election.


Don't forget your TX ID to vote - the US Supreme Court ruled Saturday allowing the Texas Voter ID Law to remain in place for the November general election, which means it is in effect for early voting as well.  

A Texas voter will be required to show one of the following forms of photo identification at the polling location before the voter will be permitted to cast a vote.
Texas Sample Election Identification Certificate
TX Sample EIC
  • Texas driver license issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS)
  • Texas Election Identification Certificate issued by DPS
  • Texas personal identification card issued by DPS
  • Texas concealed handgun license issued by DPS
  • United States military identification card containing the person’s photograph
  • United States citizenship certificate containing the person’s photograph
  • United States passport
If you do not have one of these forms of identification, you can obtain an Election Identification Certificate from a DPS office (which many are open on Saturdays to obtain an EIC) or from a EIC mobile station which may be found in a city near you in the next two weeks.  

Even though it is not a presidential election year, there are several key statewide Texas races that need your vote.  Senator, Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, US House Representative and several more.  In your excitement to vote for the races you see commercials for every night on TV, don't forget about your local or down ballot races.  

Your county races are just as important as the gubernatorial and other high-profile races.  It might seem overwhelming to go through page after page of judicial and local elections, but who is elected to those positions might affect you just as much or more than the Attorney General of the state of Texas.  If you aren't sure who to vote for in all the down ballot races, you can vote straight party ticket, ask a trusted friend or do some research with organizations who you believe represent your interests. 

I'm not going to give you a long lecture on why US Citizens should vote.  I believe most of us realize how important it is to do our civic duty and show up at the polls, but I recognize that it is easy to get distracted and put it off.  Don't put it off for later.  Just go Vote!  




Monday, October 13, 2014

Parenting Young Athletes

Throughout a long weekend with two children playing in a soccer tournament, my mind kept coming back to the book Changing the Game.  It seems the perfect time to share my reflections on the Changing the Game and the difficulties in raising young athletes. This post originally appeared on CatholicMom.com  
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Over 21 million kids in America are involved with youth sports programs and 70% of these kids will drop out of organized athletics by the age of 13. We as parents have so much to learn about this increasingly competitive and intense world of youth sports if we are to keep our children playing longer and playing because they enjoy the sport. So where do we as parents turn to educate ourselves on raising athletes in today’s world?

Changing the Game by John O'Sullivan A good friend of mine with three successful athletes who always seems to handle the competition, disappointment and expectations with grace told me to read a book that really helped their family. It is the national bestseller, Changing the Game: The Parent's Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes, and Giving Youth Sports Back to our Kids by John O’Sullivan.

Reading through it I kept shaking my head at things I’ve struggled with over the last nine years with my kids in sports. There are so many things I’ve never really thought about when dealing with the day-to-day reality of practices and games.



My top five reflections from reading Changing the Game.

1. Why Play Sports? - What do you want your children to take out of playing a sport? It can go beyond just teamwork and fitness. The list of life lessons to learn on a field, ice rink or swimming pool include – discipline, gratitude, perspective, fairness/unfairness, jealousy, humility (in victory), gracefulness (in defeat), commitment, relationship and sometimes failure.

And the great part about kids learning about these in sports is that we as the parent also get to learn from them.


2. Core Values & Life Lessons – Are my actions on the field, at home and at practice reflecting the values I want my child to embody? Am I grateful for the trainers, do I say thank you to the parent volunteers, do I have patience in the learning process and can I keep it all in perspective?

Reflecting upon my answers to those questions helped me realize how much I have to learn about parenting athletes.


3. Unconditional Love - Does my child know that his performance on the field does not affect my love for him? Does he know that I love him unconditionally? Does he know that even if he fails I will always be proud that he took the risk?

Sports are a great avenue for a child to gain confidence partially through marked success and abysmal failures. They ultimately learn to not only fail gracefully, but how to succeed by overcoming failure. In order for him to take risks and fail or succeed, he needs confidence that his parents love him no matter what. That love will give him the support and encouragement he needs to take those big risks.

After all, where else besides youth sports can kids fail and learn to overcome without serious consequences?


4. Communication - How am I communicating with my athlete? Do I ask him what he hopes to get out of the training or season? Why does he play? What are his goals or expectations in the short and long term? Do I ask and do I listen?

After a disappointing game, do I give him time to absorb the experience and then help him figure out the lesson when he’s ready? Am I giving him the tools he needs to deal with the coaches, players and referees?


Parenting Athletes 5. Their Game - How do you encourage your athlete to play their hardest, when do you push and how do you handle a disappointing result or performance? The book helped me to realize that my athletes need to be playing the game for themselves, not performing for their parents. My child needs to be released to the game.

The sport is HIS experience, not mine. We, as parents, are the spectators and the kid is in control of the outcome. I am simply a fan during the game. The #1 fan of course, but still, just a fan. It is our job as the parent to help our athlete set his goals and expectations and then discuss as a family how the athlete’s goals/expectations match up with those of the parents. Once we have the goals, we as a parent can push our child to meet his specific goals when they need the extra support. 


Players receive training in a sport. Coaches receive training in a sport. Parents most of the time do not. We as parents need training in how to nurture our young athletes to develop a high-performing mindset and ensure a life long love of the game.

What do you struggle with the most parenting youth in sports?

What has been your greatest influence in learning how to parent athletes?




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