WINTER 2020

Special Note: As we adjust in these difficult times to the limitations imposed on gatherings, let us spend more time in communion with God in the form of prayer at home (or if possible, in the sanctuary of our churches). EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network, available on many platforms) is also a great resource at home for spiritual nourishment, access to daily masses and excellent programs. If you agree, donations to support them would be most appreciated. In particular, tune in to “Journey Home,” a program featuring adults who have come in or back to the Catholic Faith (my post today addresses this very topic).     

RCIA

For the many people who desire full entry into the Roman Catholic Church but have not yet received grace and sanctification through the sacraments, the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults catechizes and prepares candidates from all walks of life.

Every parish carries the RCIA program and is available by contacting the pastor of the parish. Contact information for the rectory appears in weekly bulletins inside the church and also on their websites, just a google away.

In my husband’s case a couple years ago, the RCIA instructors, a very welcoming husband and wife team, set not only my husband up for an upcoming Fall program but they also invited me. This surprised me, as I was already a full member. I decided to accept their invitation because my husband would prefer going as a couple, plus an expanse of knowledge enlightens every stage of practicing one’s faith.

Weekly after Sunday Mass Stephen and Chris graciously invited us into their home, along with another couple whose husband was also a candidate. The sessions that should take about one hour often stretched into ninety-or-more minutes because the topics engrossed us so much.

The instructors employed a DVD and workbook series* developed by a theologian professor from Augustine Institute. Vibrant video sessions brought excitement to the fore by their opening images of Vatican architecture and sacred art accompanied by the magnificence of sacred music. One cannot help but sense the continuous history of Christ’s church so prominent and inspirational down through the millenia. 

Content of this series addressed such things as: Trinity, Faith & the God Who is Love. . .Divine Revelation. . .The Bible (God’s Love Letter to Humanity). . .The Story of Salvation. . .Who is Jesus?. .The Mystery of Jesus’s Death & Resurrection. . .The Holy Spirit & The Life of Grace. . .Why Do I Need The Church (The Mystery of the Catholic Church)?

Candidates further grow in knowledge and readiness to receive Sacraments of Baptism, Reconciliation (first confession heard prior to Holy Week), Holy Eucharist and Confirmation simultaneously on the eve of Easter, during Easter Vigil Mass. (Ironically, my husband who once greatly misunderstood the Catholic church learned that he received infant Catholic baptism! Therefore, he did not receive Baptism again.)

How fitting for candidates to be formally initiated during the high Mass of Easter Vigil. The sanctuary packed, the liturgy celebrated with song, incense, anointing oils, candles and sponsors presenting candidates for the first of many sacraments they may receive thereafter is cause for great joy!

The catechism in youth when fostered by all in a child’s household, while crucial, readies the young adult to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. But the journey does not end there! Remaining open to God’s will and the moving of His Holy Spirit will eventually plumb the depth and richness of our traditions and teachings with time and maturity.

How many of us forget this?

I can tell you that I came away richer for having participated in this program, especially due to my own long absence from the Church.  RCIA provides the bridge to all those who have fallen away before their sanctified Confirmation.

Also, RCIA welcomes those from other denominations who are searching for authenticity of Christian truth and institution. And especially for the person entirely unassociated with Christianity, RCIA helps one to discover the way to God Almighty and his eternal mercy and love.

 The path to true happiness will involve virtue and grace and be possible through Christ’s institutions of initiation (Sacraments of Baptism, Holy Eucharist, Confirmation), healing (Sacraments of Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick) and service (Sacraments of Holy Orders or Holy Matrimony).

Three years of Jesus’ ministerial teachings, example and church-building breathed life into his bride, the Church. Great revelation and empowerment was given to his chosen Apostles who carried out our Lord’s instructions. This New Covenant of salvation carries out, in continuum, the building of a civilization of Love, a civilization whose citizenship is heaven-bound by our cooperation with God’s will.

Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven…

Thank you, Lord, for your Salvation!

*Symbolon: The Catholic Faith Explained by Dr. Edward Sri

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Spirit and Truth

Have you ever sensed as though someone, perhaps a family member, a coworker, neighbor or old friend, felt utterly depleted or might be dying deep down inside?

And you, as a relative or neighbor, pray for that person whether asked for or not?

As one grows in faith and gains much insight as to the workings of God (and the workings in opposition to our God), should a person of faith only retain but not reflect the gifts, the answers, the hope?

Our own household is an example I would like to share with you.

My husband and I are empty nesters. I had been back to the Church for several years, and my husband (I’ll refer to him affectionately as “hubby”) noticed the difference in me. Situational depression disappeared as my spirit increased in joy and strength, my sense of peace evident. Especially every Sunday when I’d come home from Mass.

At times, I might share with him what the homily was about. Sometimes he would be the first to ask me the nature of the topic. About once a year I would ask him if he’d like to come with me, but he would always say no. Then one year, I asked if he’d like to come for Palm Sunday. He accepted!

By this time, hubby had been a faithful armchair worshipper, meaning he fairly regularly tuned in to Christian shows, listening to Protestant preachers with interest. I knew he believed in God deep down, but that he was very weak, very conflicted, and very much against Catholicism.

One time when we decided to go for a walk, at my suggestion we drove and parked at the cemetery where my parents were laid to rest, St. John’s. I had reminisced about all the names on the tombstones--how they were relatives of many of my classmates at parochial school. Only then did he realize we were in a Catholic cemetery.

“Why did you marry a Catholic, anyway?” I asked him.

He thought for a moment and replied, “I don’t know.”

Need I not say anything more about this than to tell you we were married very young, before we could really understand what life was all about. Instead of being hurt by his answer, I allowed him that space to come to terms with his thoughts and feelings, also, the space for God’s grace. Sometimes the truth is hard. I have a tough skin when it comes to my husband!

I’ve often prayed to God about relationships, especially our marriage. Sometimes I would pray specifically for hubby’s spiritual and mental wellbeing. Time is a teacher of patience. Patience is a teacher of perseverance. Virtues such as these grow as daisies among the briars of life. It is never a bad thing to pray and contemplate any transformations along the way.

After the Palm Sunday Mass that we both attended, I can’t say it transformed him immediately, but he enjoyed the “taste” of a worship service in person, and that seemed enough for him at the time.

Whether it was months or a year later I can’t seem to recall. But here and there, I would write down a meaningful scripture passage for him because I felt he had a thirst. One that seemed to break through for him was from John 4:23-24 (NIV): ...true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and truth.

One day, he said to me, “I’m thinking of finding a church to go to.” Naturally, I offered that he come to mine, but of course, that was Catholic. He said no, and I offered that we go to the nearest Lutheran church (he was confirmed Lutheran as a teen). The next Sunday, I accompanied him to that church (coinciding with my usual Mass time). While it was a friendly place, hubby was underwhelmed with the service and didn’t feel he wanted to go back there, or any Lutheran church for that matter.

The following Sunday, we tried the church a mile away from our home, another Protestant denomination of which we were not sure what exactly it was. That, too, didn’t seem right. The following Sunday, when we were going to try a Baptist church, he was ill and would not be leaving the house. I, of course, was free to go to my usual Mass.

By the following Sunday, when he just wasn’t sure what to do next, I said, “Let’s just try another Catholic Church--a more prominent one out of town.” We did. That seemed to do something for him. He was willing after that to simply come with me to my church, and has been going ever since.

God works in mysterious ways. How did a man, who carried a stigma about the Catholic church his entire life, come to the Universal Church and finally feel complete? After all the searching, practicing other religions then renouncing it all and living for himself, his path finally led him to the marvelous destination--the way, the truth, and life everlasting.

Along with my husband’s conversion, my other long-standing prayers and petitions were answered regarding a greater marital relationship. But what I love most is the unity--sitting with my darling hubby beside me at the Mass--being united with him in our family life, spiritually once and for all. Sweetest answer to prayer bestowed upon us in our 36th year of marriage. Praise Be to God!

In my next Heart to Heart installment I wish to share with you the RCIA experience. The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults properly prepares the candidate to enter fully into the Church.

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On Pilgrimage

Beloved, do you know that you are a pilgrim? According to Merriam-Webster, the term defines a pilgrimage as the course of life on earth. If we are on earth, we have a course.

Something that the deanery of our diocese has collaborated on for ten-plus years is a Lenten Deanery Pilgrimage. What a marvelous opportunity to go on pilgrimage, weekly, to the parishes that host on Wednesday evenings during Lent.

The first year that I was aware of such a beautiful experience, our priest at the time, Father Joe, expressed his desire to make known in the local Catholic Free Press this special way we can prepare for Easter. I decided  I’d give my hand a try as a guest correspondent to submit such an article. Today, our parish continues to host the pilgrimages. I look forward to them this year as well, but I’d like to share my first lenten deanery experience . . . The deanery collectively decided on the theme, Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, having been a favorite devotional theme of Pope John Paul II. I arrived early, not knowing what to expect. Our statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary (approximately four feet high) which had been moved to the center of the aisle in the back of the sanctuary sat poised on a table to greet each arrival. A garland of linen intertwined with fresh roses draped her.

Because I never had been good at taking photos, I went over to a nice man setting up video at the front of the sanctuary and I introduced myself to him. His name was David from a neighboring city church who was taping for his parish’s new website. Graciously, he agreed to take a still photo of the evocative statue for me, at no charge. I was on my way!

The visiting homilist unveiled the meaning of knots, spiritual knots, in our hearts. Isn’t it true how our own willfulness and self-importance somehow knot up the flow of goodness within ourselves and all around us? That we may recognize how these problematic obstructions twist the flow of our lives, and that we may turn to our Lord through the generous intercession of our Blessed Mother Mary renders special grace when we are sincere. The Mass was beautiful, pews were full, fellowship and refreshment that followed produced much food for thought. If one wishes to encounter Jesus, one needs only to come with open eyes and ears to these pilgrimages.

Something to mention here, also, is the opportunity for Confession, which precedes these weekly evening Masses. For the pilgrim who journeys to a sacred place (as also defined by Merriam Webster), what better way to practice Lent than to avail himself to not one, but two sacraments: Reconciliation and the Eucharist. The wayfarer will find holiness there. My article was wrapping up but awaiting the photo. Later, when the photographer emailed me his lovely photo, he informed me of the special event their parish was going to do in a few weeks. They got a professional singer who would share her story and ministry for their pilgrimage, and he felt that was also newsworthy. He got permission on my behalf with the same paper to cover that night as well, and also secured time for me to interview her before the event. Imagine my surprise and apprehension about such an assignment! I prayed to God over this. “Am I capable of doing this? Will you guide me through the process?” And of course, “Thank you for being with me every step of the way throughout the first submission, complete with the generosity of the professional photographer.”

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Her name was Tajci Cameron, and I was to meet with her prior to her featured performance, before Mass at the rectory. She was late. I was nervous.

But then she arrived cheerily with a box of pizza in her hand. “Sorry I am late! We drove up from Nashville and had van trouble and we’ve just made it to town right now. Can you give me just a few minutes to settle in before
our interview?” I thought, ‘Wow, how beautiful this Tajci was, first of all for being so gracious even though she had a long, hectic drive today.’ I also saw not one speck of makeup on her face (yet) but how beautiful she looked, by her shining countenance and willingness to squeeze in this interview.
Somehow, the petite singer managed to use hot rollers on her long, blonde hair, styled in pretty spirals, which must have occurred before the crack of dawn.

Twenty minutes later, we were ready to meet. I was nervous not only about conducting my first journalist interview, but now we were pressed for time. Still, she remained calm. Now she was made up, dressed, and must have managed a piece of pizza or two while settling in. Again, I thought, ‘Wow!’ In the interview, I learned that Tajci (pronounced Ty-Chee) rose to fame overnight as a young adult from Croatia when she won an inter-European talent contest like our American Idol contest. To give me perspective, she told me her fame in Europe matched that of our Britney Spears or Madonna. Her image, as encouraged by music moguls in the name of profit, paralleled the provocative appeal of Marilyn Monroe. After the initial magic wore off, Tajci felt empty inside. Lifeless and used. Then she had a deep spiritual awakening and took a leap of faith by embracing her childhood iron-curtain, covert Catholic faith. Tajci left it all—the fame, the fortune, being idolized. The star escaped to America where no one knew who she was. Then she started a new life and began using her God-given talent in Christian ministry, through mainstream media.

Wow.

I was glad I hadn’t known of her fame beforehand. I’m sure I would have felt intimidated. Instead, her witness, willingness and faith came shining through. Amazing journey!

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Accident Forgiveness

Over the years I’ve worked for three insurance agencies, becoming a licensed property and casualty broker after a period of being an agency’s Auto Claim Specialist.

Say what you will about insurance premiums, surcharges and company profits, but the insurance pool came into being out of necessity. Fires, floods, theft, accidents, injuries and death caused hardships for people who suffered these losses. The insurance industry was born over a hundred years ago. In fact, one of my agency’s insurance carriers, in part, insured the Titanic.

 I’d like to tell you about a recent accident experience I encountered on the other side of my professional expertise. Last summer, as I was coming home after meeting with my publisher, I did a foolish thing. Being tired from traveling to those frequent meetings and being tired after months of the editing and layout process (of Bounty Now and Forever)--wanting to put it all to bed, I just wanted to get home and relax.

On a two-way rural highway, the man in front of me was traveling too slow for my liking—about 8 mph slower than the speed limit. I looked for the first good opportunity to legally pass him. Sometimes when you see someone passing you, you realize ‘oh, I must be going too slow: I need to speed up.’ Anyway, he began to gain speed as I rallied alongside him.

I had two choices: brake and wait to get back in behind him, or . . . GUN IT.  I saw there was still a long stretch with no oncoming traffic, so I gunned it. And as I did so, I said, “God be with me!”

All was fine, although I might have been exceeding the speed limit by this time but was watching the car on my right instead of the speedometer. At the same time, I saw out of the periphery of my eye the front end of a car approaching from the left. With a grove of tall bushes and a guardrail blocking visibility, I wasn’t even aware there was a side street to consider.

 His front end did stop. I was glad because it was not safe yet to return to my lane . . . but, oh! The nose of his car stopped only for the briefest moment and began to pull out and turn. I was right there.

Somehow, God was with me as I did not panic to make things worse. In that split second, I knew not to swerve or else the car I was passing, who was now at 50 mph, would surely have been met with a catastrophic collision. I braked but had no time to employ my horn. I gripped the wheel tightly as the side-street car broadsided me. Fortunately, his nose hit below my driver’s seat, as I was in a higher SUV.

The impact caused me to spin perpendicularly. I remember how weird it felt to spin and wondered what was going to happen next. Looking straight ahead, I thought, “Oh, here comes a telephone pole . . . ” The pole finally stopped me with a great bang.

God was with me.

The accident could have been much worse, having avoided a nearby pond. My brain knew what to do and what not to do. And somehow, the manuscript, sitting in a plastic folder on my passenger seat, never flung to the floor—it remained right there, and reminded me of God’s special mercy and protection.

While sitting in a stupor, I gave thanks to God. I also confessed that this accident was caused due to my impatience. Even though I felt the driver that I was passing was ‘a jerk’ I forgave him, giving him the benefit of the doubt about accelerating on purpose to cause the mishap. And only then was I able to exit my car and handle the aftermath of the accident with grace.

Those five occupants (three small children in the backseat) in the sedan suffered no injuries but just some shock, naturally. Bits of their front end had scattered all over the road. The whole incident was stunning!

The sedan had a stop sign but obviously did not stop for the full three seconds to look. I forgave him, internally, for not thinking there should be anyone coming into his lane for his right-hand turn. I might have assumed the same thing, myself.

We cooperated in the exchange of information yet we didn’t discuss what happened. That falls to the police to investigate. Genuinely, I expressed relief they were okay, but no finger-pointing should take place at the scene between the parties involved. And no one wants to admit potential fault for hefty financial ramifications. Isn’t that what we tend to do?

Let truth and justice prevail.

A claim was filed with my own insurance company because my policy carried collision and substitute transportation coverage. In the end, I was found not to be at fault.

I had to rent a vehicle because my car was totalled. Rental did not extend for as long as it took me to replace my vehicle, leaving me to pay more out of pocket. (I knew I could submit it to the other party’s carrier. I did not know, however, that his property damage limit was maxed due to such a ridiculously low limit he had chosen on his policy.)

So I was out about $116, not to mention carrying the debt of new car payments. Again, I still felt partly at fault in all of this. I forgave him once again and wrote off my losses, just being thankful that none of us suffered lifelong consequences.

The worst injury I sustained was a bruised chest muscle from the shoulder belt. It took about a month to heal. Also the trauma caused me temporary driving anxiety. Auto insurance and God’s assurance both indemnified me.

The lessons we all learned that day will be with us forever. For myself: reliance upon God . . . grace . . . gratitude

. . . forgiveness. Good virtues.  How awesome are your ways, O God!

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40 Days

Do you remember giving up candy for Lent, then joyfully biting into the yummy chocolate bunny, after Easter dinner hosted for company, following Easter Mass?

 photo by Paula Botch

Lent is upon us, commencing with Ash Wednesday. The previous year’s palms were kept for burning into ashes and placed on our foreheads this year, in the shape of a cross. A visible sign and reminder: we are dust, and to dust we shall return; therefore, repent and believe in the gospel.

In the forty days leading to the suffering, death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, we live out a period of fasting, praying, and almsgiving throughout, in preparation to receive Christ’s redeeming covenant anew. The lenten practice’s long-standing tradition takes us down. It takes us down from any haughtiness on our part that may have materialized in the past, and gives us a humble reality check, so to speak.

Now that I am an adult, I still see the importance of the childish sacrifice in correlation with the profoundness of Christ’s sacrifice and subsequent victory that delivers joy and hope.

The number forty is a measure used several times in Scripture. We recall Moses leading God’s people out of Egyptian slavery into the desert for 40 years. Later, 

Jesus retreated to the desert for 40 days of fasting and prayer after his Baptism before starting his ministry. The desert is a barren place and difficult to thrive in, yet the arid place, a metaphor, has purpose in purging the body and reflecting internally.

When Jesus was arrested and brought before Pontius Pilate, the soldiers were ordered to flog Jesus, presumably the full 40 lashes. The Church Fathers are wise, as well as enlightened from the earliest days, to employ the ritual of joining ourselves to Jesus’ suffering and sacrifice. How else may we fully comprehend or appreciate what our Lord has done for us?

 While many Catholics give up something that would be uncomfortable to go without for 40 days, that is not the only willing choice we may make. Many may instead take up a good practice which enlightens and brings them closer to the Almighty.

I’ve partaken of many lenten practices over the years.  I did give up maybe three different foods I enjoyed.  As much as I love chocolate (which was one of them), I missed pasta even more, to my surprise.  I’m sure that is because on the Fridays of Lent abstaining from meat, I used to rely on a nice spaghetti meal instead. So then what was there I could eat if I refrained from pasta? And, what kind of a sacrifice was that if I enjoyed pasta anyway?  For me, it would be more sacrificial if I did eat FISH, something I’m just not into!

After I realized that, I looked for other ways to observe Lent. Taking a parish-recommended book to read was a good option and brought me closer in knowledge and adoration of God. One year, a 33-day retreat held at the church (to meet on a weekly basis) served me well. 

I have decided what I will do this year. However, I will not reveal it as I do it. When we fast, sacrifice and give alms (charity contributions) we are to do so privately. ‘Our left hand is not to know what our right hand is doing,’ and we do what we do out of love for God and for His glory, not ours.

How could these practices not be edifying to our minds and hearts? Anyone who might think what Catholics do is totally unnecessary errs deeply on a spiritual level. Perhaps many people who wish to stay into themselves do not want others’ appearance of servitude and sacrifice diminishing their own self-worth. 

Is this a bold assessment? I think so. But I feel it is necessary to voice. Salvation is not free. The choice to be saved from sin is free, yet the responsibility of keeping God’s commands has never ceased. Our participation with His grace and mercy remains. We grow only as we live in Christ.

Lent keeps us close to God in the form of reflection, through prayer. From this reflection, we may come to a greater understanding of perfect love, which is all that Jesus demonstrated and taught his disciples, in those days and in our days.   

This year, my brothers and sisters, why not select one of four gospels to read: Matthew, Mark, Luke or John? Be reminded, or learn for the very first time, the richness of Jesus’ life lessons. You will see an array of goodness that he stirs up and brings to the forefront. Jesus wants for us to live life in generosity, and live our lives to the fullest while in the body and beyond our lives here on earth.

Something else you will see is Jesus’ foreknowledge of the self-righteous mindsets and glory-seeking of Pharisees and Sadducees, as well as everyday people--afflicted long-term physically and mentally--who know something is wrong within themselves.

Are you in either one of these camps?

Jesus rebukes the Pharisees, bringing to light their self-righteousness. In an amazing way, his economy of words silences those haughty Pharisees. Jesus possesses infinite wisdom because he is God as well as man; therefore, he knows the hearts of the self-righteous. Lent is a time to examine ourselves, that we may recognize our own sinful nature and repent.

In a gentler way, Jesus heals the sick who have come to him, who believe in Jesus’ healing powers, whose lives are forever altered and who follow him thereafter. These are the people who come to realize they are not righteous and for whom Christ, the Messiah, has come to redeem in God’s righteousness, fulfilling atonement for our sins on the Cross.

All glory, honor and praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ!

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Compositions

 "Trampled Underfoot"--isn’t that a Led Zeppelin song? 

 Zeppelin, the Beatles, the Stones, and so many other Brits invaded my childhood as my brothers bought albums and blasted their music throughout the house.  At an early age, my ears got accustomed to this type of music, yet my parents would cringe from the rock style and sheer volume of the woofers and tweeters pumping it out from upstairs.

 I have to admit classic rock is my guilty pleasure even now.  But let me take you back to my early teen years…

 One of the British bands, in particular, played on stereo with regularity.  The band was called Yes.  My bass playing brother became an avid fan, buying everyYes album arriving at the record store.

 Some of these LP’s (long-playing albums) contained not very many songs due to their deep compositions. Often only one or two songs filled each 20-minute vinyl surface.  But all the masterful guitarwork and keyboard wizardry interspersed with, or made way for, the gentle voice of their lead singer, Jon Anderson. 

 At around age thirteen, I was hooked on Yes. The sheer poetry of Yes in particular appealed to me at this early age.

 What I loved about those lyrics were how organic they seemed to me.  Not of material or situational themes so much as they sang of an earthy relationship with nature, relating their sense of well-being for themselves and with others.  Each musician collaborated to craft the composition, launching an odyssey capable of transporting one’s spirit to a beautiful, higher place. 

 Yes’s signature of intricate music, voice and poetry seemed mystical to me--their aura stood out from the rest.  Theirs was the type of music that was best loud in surround sound, as I would simply lie on my bed conjoining these symphonies with my spirit. 

 The British group went against the grain of their time because commercial success played secondary to their art and passion.  And I would say that they were salt while other bands peppered the billboard charts with shorter songs which fit on 45’s.

 My musical retrospect I share with you because lyrics inspired me from an early age, yet my discovery of a love for writing lay dormant until I was about forty years old.  All the while, however, I became a contemplative person. 

 Time has a way of preparing ourselves for something big, even though we might have thought time has been wasted or without purpose.  No-no!

 

So what are you doing with your time?  What are you doing with your talents? Your core beliefs?

 What experience has shaped your life and brought about maturity and wisdom?  I believe whatever that might be was formed early on in your life. 

 I think the greatest gift parents can give children is a good foundation spiritually.*  Sending children off to college is not a be-all, end-all of a parent’s mission--there is so much more. 

 A sense of defeat permeates our culture.  I feel it.  It’s in contemporary music.  I may not enjoy or agree with the tone and topic of so many of today’s songs, but I may listen to them and wonder how they got so gloomy about life and relationships.  

 For years now, I wonder what has happened to all the love songs.  Rare is a song that speaks the beauty of true love.  Most, however, mistake love for lust.  Worse, they denounce relationships.  And alarming most of all, the clear expressions of dejection, division, narcissism and domination. 

 I tune in to artistic expression because these works form a study of society.  The collective subliminal undertone rings an alarm in my being.

 Brothers and Sisters, those downcast souls do not need to dwell in that sea of despondency!  We should be a wide, salty ocean to those who are suffering and not making any sense of it.  The tide must turn starting with ourselves, where we are right now. 

 Look all around you.  Pray to God for someone in your circle today, that your salt may reach the shore of an isolated island.  That you might, in cooperation with the Holy Spirit, effect the afflicted who are shipwrecked there or are in chains to their destructive ways; in bondage to their hopelessness.

 As Saint Paul himself suffered literal chains and shipwreck as he brought the good news to the Gentiles, so must we offer hope in word and deed.  Let your yes be yes, lest the poor in spirit be trampled underfoot.  Salvation is at hand!

 *Society’s underestimation of the importance of faith formation is the motivation for authoring my book, Bounty Now and Forever--Vitality of Formation.  See the Parent’s Guide tab for more information.

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20 Things

At a low point in relationship with my spouse, a couple who had been married around the same time as we were and with whom we sometimes double-dated, broke up.

For each of us, we had different reactions to the news. I was quite surprised, as this couple seemed to have it all. They worked hard and they played hard. Of course, a sadness swelled in my heart for the two of them. I reached out to her. She admitted that there had been absolutely no communication throughout their marriage. She left him, via text.

My husband had a different reaction. I think it scared him. It scared him to the point of worrying if I would do the same.

Marriage, the deepest human bond a man and woman can form, requires much of us, doesn’t it?

We may think of love as a noun: something that just happens. Maybe it does “just happen” when attraction, hormones, and a desire to share a lifetime together occur. All those factors make strong feelings of love, and I would say that love becomes more of an adjective in the infatuation phase because how love can make us feel.

In an intimate relationship, I am certain the need to be desired as in the infatuation phase morphs, in time, into a need to be appreciated.

So when my hubby was feeling insecure and even I felt quite “blah” about the existing state of our own relationship, I prayed on it. I prayed to the Father who created the two of us for strength, and I prayed to the Holy Spirit for guidance and inspiration that I so often relied upon.

I also prayed to Mother Mary, who herself is a spouse, who is the Queen of Heaven possessing great intercessory power by her espousal with the Holy Spirit to bear and raise Jesus, God with us.

When I awoke the next morning, an action popped into my head. I would write down twenty things I love about my husband.

Twenty things? Ha! I didn’t feel that I could come up with even three. But I did take a large index card and try to enumerate as many as I could think of. I wasn’t sure if the first one was helpful at all, but that’s where I started.

1) I love the way you whistle.

It’s true. That man would suddenly break out whistling a tune ingrained in his head, and he always hit the right notes. He had some wind, too, to carry the melody so beautifully. I always recognize what song he whistles

I thought of that first. The starting point helped me to enumerate the next thing, and the next thing, eventually being reminded of more substantial attributes, It took a good couple days of pondering but I did come up with twenty things. Getting out of myself and focusing on this task was a great exercise in examination and in gratitude,

After I slept on this examination, the next morning I wrote the title on the top of the index card: Twenty Things I Love About You. I left it for him when he would wake for his shift (and I would already be at my job).

It helped. I came across that list fairly recently--something he wanted to keep. This action defined a turning point in our relationship. A willing act from being open to the prompting of the Holy Spirit becomes a springboard.

Communicating love, after an absence of doing this simple but necessary deed, reminded me why I loved the man I married, and it gave some assurance of my love back to my lifelong spouse.

I find it to be true that love is a deed. Even if others do not, or have not, shown loving deeds toward me (communication or actions), still it is far better to remain open to giving love.

Faith to do so will not go unrewarded--in God’s time. Praise be to God.