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Bible Discipleship Ink Slingers Maurisa Prayer Reading Spiritual Growth

Battling Acedia

Battling Acedia

Anxiety, depression, listlessness, sloth, apathy—those are just a few of the emotions I’ve experienced the last year. Let’s face it, 2020 was rough and the pessimist in me is feeling 2021 doesn’t look much better. Sitting and stewing in negative emotions is not where we should be and certainly will not change the world around us. What is a faithful Catholic to do? If you have heard of Saint Benedict’s motto: Ora et Labora (pray and work), what I propose below will seem fairly familiar and may assist in overcoming the malaise of 2020.

It is proved by experience that a fit of acedia should not be evaded by running away from it, but overcome by resisting it.

Saint John Cassian

Physical Health

The “Covid-19” weight gain may be something we all joke about, but I have been truly guilty of neglecting my health the last several months. One way for us to combat lethargy and malaise is to take care of our physical health. I’m not proposing we all go on strict diets and start exercising like maniacs, but I am encouraging us all to take a look at how we are neglecting our health by eating poorly and by not moving our bodies in some way. It is a medical fact that physical health is very closely linked to mental health. For a good start, try cutting sugar, alcohol, and processed foods out of your diet and make sure you’re eating nutritiously dense foods including plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Make sure you are staying adequately hydrated (think 8 glasses of water each day).

Very few of us are employed in manual labor as Saint Benedict’s monks would have been in his day, but physical activity is an integral part of physical health. Move your body. Start slow and easy if you’ve been neglecting regular exercise. I count a good house cleaning or weeding in the garden as being physically active. Grab a friend, a child, or your spouse and go for a walk. Getting your activity out of doors is a huge plus as adequate “sunny” vitamin D is also linked to improved mood.

Idleness is the enemy of the soul; and therefore the brethren ought to be employed in manual labor at certain times, at others, in devout reading.

Saint Benedict of Nursia

Intellectual Health

Mindlessly scrolling through social media, bingeing on Netflix, anxiously watching or reading alarming news accounts can all be huge contributors to general torpor. Set time limits for yourself or avoid these activities altogether and instead focus on something that will improve your mind. In his holy rule, Saint Benedict encouraged his monks to read selections from the Holy Fathers to grow in virtue and knowledge. Read a great book, play games with your family, work on brain teasers or puzzles, learn a new skill; anything that takes you out of yourself and causes you to engage your brain in a more challenging activity. Cultivating an intellectual life will be time well spent leading to much less time scrolling mindlessly through social media.

Spiritual Health

Acedia is primarily an issue of the spirit. Squandered time and can rob us of hope and joy. This is where the battle is most importantly focused. If you’ve been struggling or have given in to listlessness take it to confession as soon as possible. Repenting of the sin of sloth is probably the most important step in overcoming acedia. Next, you must take active steps to combat this sin in your spiritual life.

Pray for guidance and help from the Holy Spirit. Start spending more time in deliberate silence, prayer, and spiritual reading. Set a goal of devoting an hour a day in prayer and/or spiritual reading. Divide that time into reasonable parts throughout the day. Try to cover the ACTS of prayer: adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, and supplication. Read from the Bible everyday. The readings from daily Mass are a great place to start. Read encouraging and good spiritual works that will help you grow in holiness. 

Anxiety is the greatest evil that can befall a soul except sin.  God commands you to pray, but He forbids you to worry.

Saint Francis de Sales

Three Hours

We are given the gift of 24 hours each day. What are we spending those hours on? Obviously, adequate sleep is important, but are we making the most out our waking hours? It may seem pretty difficult to devote an hour a day to each of the three: physical labor, education, and spiritual works. We are a busy people but it is not completely impossible. Start with a shorter length of time for each or combine two. You might listen to a podcast or pray while you exercise or clean the house, for example. The world seems to be in a real downward spiral. If we do not pull ourselves out, how can we ever hope to change it for the better? Called to evangelize the world, it is time to cast aside our inactivity, pull up our sleeves and get to work. Who’s with me?

Resources:

How Mental Health and Physical Health are Linked

How Fit Are You?

The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had

Daily Bible Reading with the Church (takes you through the entire Bible in 2 years)

USCCB Daily Readings

Divine Intimacy

The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Imitation of Christ

Sayings of the Desert Fathers

An Introduction to the Devout Life

The Noonday Devil: Acedia, the Unnamed Evil of Our Times (ebook)

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Anni Bible Catechism Current Events Discipleship Fruits of the Holy Spirit Ink Slingers Prayer Spiritual Growth

Tread Softly, Pray Fiercely

Tread Softly Pray Fiercely

The past several months of this year have been exceptionally hard to watch, as friends and family seem to quickly and easily tear each other apart. Assassinations of character, name-calling, ad hominum attacks, and vitriol seem to be spewed with nary a thought of a backward glance. All across social media, the push to speak first, think after seems to be prevalent, and the share buttons seem to promote use of simply sharing what best suits our own narrative, rather than considering the point of view of friends who may not hold that same viewpoint.

We all seem to be in a rush to drown out the other person, without taking the time to not just hear the words of the other person, but to slow down and identify the true intent behind that person’s beliefs. Social media, of late, is simply a tool being used to air grievances, ills, snarkiness, and ugliness.

There used to be an unspoken social norm that said, whenever engaging in public discourse with someone outside your home, “Never discuss money, politics, sex, or religion.” Yet, in today’s world, it seems as though we have all waded into a hotbed of discussion, with no preparation in understanding the best way forward in a debate is to listen to the opponent’s argument – both spoken, and unspoken.

And, our relationships are suffering because of our inability to listen… to truly hear each other.

Left and right we are witnessing our friends and family on social media tout their message, while lambasting those who do not agree.

This lack of voice has left many feeling downtrodden, depressed, and silenced.

This is precisely where the devil wants us.

Matthew 7:19-20 reminds us, “Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So by their fruits you will know them.”

The uncomfortable question to ask ourselves is not where we stand on any given issue; rather, the question to ask is are our actions – spoken and unspoken, in real life or on social media – bearing good fruit?

What are these fruits? The list of bad fruit, or “works of the flesh,” is found in Galatians 5:19-21 and include, “… hatreds… jealously… outbursts of fury… dissensions, factions..” and more.

Yet, the good fruits, or the fruit of the Holy Spirit, are, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

There is a time and a place to correct someone for their sins. After all, we are given the task as Catholics to perform Spiritual Works of Mercy, in addition to the Corporal Works of Mercy, which include admonishing sinners and instructing the ignorant.

However, many of us have forgotten the other Catholic Spiritual Works of Mercy: Bear patiently those who wrong us, forgive offences, and comfort the afflicted.

In an effort to prove our way is the best and most correct, we find ourselves speaking over, and forgetting the patience, the forgiveness, and the comfort to which we are called to share.

As faithful Christians, we are reminded blatantly in 1 Corinthians 13:1, “If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.”

Going back to the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and the Spiritual Works of Mercy, the guidance in 1 Corinthians is sound, but is also sometimes a hard pill to swallow.

How do we extend love to others, when we are interested in getting our own viewpoint heard, or even convince others of our approach to situations?

Quite simply:

We tread softly, gently and silently.

We assess the situation.

We determine which battle we want to choose to fight and champion.

We remember the adage that God gave us one mouth to speak, and two ears to listen, and we employ that saying as we approach the situation.

We employ the cardinal virtue of prudence, which challenges us to, “discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it…” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1806).

We recognize the bad fruit trying to sway our country toward further division, hatred, and violence. Satan operates under darkness, and in secrecy, to create division.

We call out the prince of darkness, not by casting blame at each other and hurling accusations at them, but by recognizing his sleight of hand in the strife.

We call to mind one of the last words of Christ, as He hung on the Cross, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

Finally, we pray… fiercely.

We ask God for prudence, but we also ask Him for the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and for the ability to speak less and listen more.

We ask God for both the willingness to hear the spoken word of our opponent, and the grace to see beyond the spoken word to understand the unspoken, and perhaps even subconscious, motivation behind the words.

We pray, not just for the other person, but for humility to acknowledge when our own viewpoint may be both difficult to hear, and also at times, completely incorrect.

Simply put, as we continue to wade the waters of instant gratification on social media, and swim these waters of division in this world, we tread softly, but pray fiercely.

– AnnAliese Harry

We listen to the words spoken but listen harder to the underlying motivations and experiences of the other person.

We speak firmly, but with patience.

We love each other.

We pray unceasingly (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

As we continue to move forward, let each of us visit, and re-visit, the uncomfortable question at hand – are our actions, both in real life and on social media, bearing good fruit?

Are we living with our collective and individual sight set on our eternal home?

Are we ready to squirm a little by taking accountability of our own actions, in an effort to live in a manner which is ultimately pleasing to God?

Are we being agents of love?

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Advent Bible Devon Wattam Ink Slingers Spiritual Growth

Lectio Divina: Grow Closer to God This Advent Through Divine Reading

Catholics get a bad rap when it comes to reading and knowing their Bible. It’s a shame, really, because not only is nearly every line from the Mass and sacraments imbued with biblical references and tradition, but there is so much grace, healing, and strength to be gained from spiritual reading.

Recently, I’ve been happy to see more priests and parishes incorporating biblical reading into their homilies, in addition to the scriptural references made on their bulletins, websites, and social media accounts. 

Catholics are thirsty for the active word of God in their daily lives, whether they realize it or not.

Now that the new liturgical year has begun with the start of Advent, we should all be striving to renew our hearts for the start of a new beginning and the coming of the Savior—the perfect opportunity to make scriptural reading a priority and habit.

But getting started can be intimidating, especially if you’ve never read the Bible on your own before. I’ve heard people say they’re going to read it from cover to cover, having never read even a chapter before. On the other hand, some people say they’ll just open the book and whatever page it lands on must be what God wants them to see. This lack of direction rarely ends well, especially for those unfamiliar with the scriptures. 

Lectio Divina, or “divine reading,” is a powerful way for beginners and seasoned Bible-readers to grow closer to God through the scriptures. It’s short, thoughtful, and effective. Here’s how it works:

Step One: Read

Choose a specific text from the Bible that you’re going to read. It could be as short as a few lines or as long as a chapter. Length is not important; what matters is getting to know the text. Light a candle or put gentle background music on to help you calm your thoughts, and ask the Lord to speak to your heart. 

Then thoughtfully and carefully read, paying close attention to any word, phrase, or image that jumps out to you. There’s no need to feel pressured or forced, simply sit with the reading and patiently wait for the Holy Spirit to speak to you.

Step Two: Meditate

After you’ve read your passage once, read it slowly and intentionally once more. While you do so, reflect on the word, phrase, or image that stuck out to you. This is not the time to overanalyze the theological aspects of the reading. It’s about listening to what God is saying to you. 

Step Three: Contemplate

After reading the scripture a third time, spend a few minutes in silence. Try not to pray or meditate. Instead, simply sit with God and be open to his guidance. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops tells us that when practicing contemplation during Lectio Divina, “one [is given] a unique ability to connect one’s newly discovered insights to daily life experiences.” In this way, God’s words become even more relevant to our own personal lives. They live on.

Step Four: Prayer

After reading, meditating, and contemplating on the word of God, it’s time for you to respond. What will you say back to him? A powerful way to do so is by writing down your thoughts or prayers in a journal as you read the passage. It doesn’t have to be formal or formulaic. It should be as simple and casual as speaking to a friend. Feel free to write it down, pray it out loud, or hold it in your heart.

The events, stories, and teachings of the Bible are as captivating and significant today as they ever were. There is truth waiting to be revealed to each one of us personally through the unbelievable events that took place over 2,000 years ago. I pray that this Advent season, we all take the opportunity to grow closer to our Lord through Lectio Divina.

 The Holy Spirit has things to tell us, if only we give him the chance to speak.

 

 

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Bible Food For The Soul Ink Slingers Linda Prayer Spiritual Growth

Nourish My Body, Nourish My Soul

Food for the Soul

Although what we eat plays an important part in nourishing our body, where we eat and with whom we eat nourishes our soul.  This month we’ll dig into the weeds of our triggers and temptations and be more mindful of the lies and truths we have to choose between in our relationship with food and eating.  This month, we’ll focus on the importance of the table.  Eating together was an important aspect of early Christian life and we can see throughout the New Testament how Jesus found significance in sharing a meal with others.

So far in this series, we’ve taken a broad view of our relationship with food and an understanding of where we’ve learned to place its importance in our lives.  Just as Eve took her eyes off of God during the fall, we too need to refocus and learn from Jesus’ example of his response towards temptation.  We turn to God in prayer, invite Him into our struggle and acknowledge where we are and where we want to be. 

Our first step comes from the scene in the Upper Room, our Eucharistic story where we will focus on the words Take, Bless, Break, and Share and the significance they play in our desire to trust God to nourish our body and soul.

At every Jewish ritual meal, the main points are the blessing and the sharing. The blessing recognizes that this bread is set apart for holy things. The sharing is a sign of communion with one another. For the Jewish ritual, the taking and the breaking are of secondary importance. You can’t give the bread to others unless you break it, and it’s hard to break the bread unless you take it into your hands.

(Taken from a homily by Paulist Fr. Rich Andre)

TAKE – To Be Set Apart For A Purpose

In Fr. Andre’s homily he likens the word taken to the word chosen and points to Matthew 18:20 where Jesus at the Last Supper tells the Apostles, It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you.  Each of us is chosen for a unique purpose, but we need a community to carry that purpose out.”  That sentiment is not lost when we consider that we, too, have been given the people in our life for a purpose.  We have been chosen to “do” life with one another for a purpose and what better way to communicate and grow than around the table.

The table has always been an important place of connection for my family.  Hospitality is my love language.  Preparing a meal for those I love and care for brings me immense joy.  One of the most consistent things my husband and I did, as we raised our family, was to eat together every night.  Over our 30 years of parenting, there was a small percentage of time that we were unable to do this.  It provided our children with a place to be known, understood, accepted, and loved – even on difficult days when life was less than perfect.  Whether the conversations were deep or silly, our connecting with one another created sacred space where God provided wisdom, healing, and joy.

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 
Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 1 Peter 4:8-9

However, this tradition came to an abrupt halt as our children left home, one by one, within a few short months of one another.  My ten-foot table, the center of our celebrations and everyday conversations, was extremely empty.  As you can imagine, there were a lot of emotions as my husband and I learned to navigate this new part of our lives. For me, it was a time where mindless over-eating became the ritual that fed the emotion of loss.  In my journey towards better health, I began to realize that the emotion wasn’t going to go away with whatever I was feeding it – I needed something bigger and deeper.  I needed God’s truth.  By turning to scripture, I found passages that spoke God’s truth to my emptiness and fought the lies that were drowning out His message to me. I saw that although my mind viewed this change as loss, it was merely a change; a chapter’s end where another was to begin. Once I moved past using food to feed the emotion, I came up with a plan and/or mindset that was a better fit.  For instance, Sunday dinners with the family, a dinner party with friends, and romantic dinners (candlelight and all) with just my husband and I.

I fear, in our fast-paced world, that we have forgotten that the table is more than a place to fuel our bodies, it is a place to nourish our hungry hearts as well.  The table has a significant purpose so keep those conversations going.  Ask questions. Share dreams. Ask if there’s someone they know that needs prayer – then pray, right there and then.  Share stories about your childhood or teen years. Talk about family members who are no longer here or those who may be alone. Better yet, invite someone who may be alone over and listen to their stories.  The important thing is to build memories!  Memories connect us, teach us, and comfort us.

BLESS – To Acknowledge God’s Providence

We are a relational people, made for community. God created us to be in communion with one another. Throughout scripture, God chooses to gather us around a table to celebrate, to listen, and to learn. For our family, being together at a meal meant more than nourishing our body, it was where we gathered to connect our lives to one another. It was a place where we thanked God for providing us with the gift of food and each other. 

When I think of the Upper Room and how scripture recalls, with such detail, how the Passover Sedar was to be prepared, I’m reminded of the great love God has for His people as He feeds their soul. And Jesus always showed his gratitude by giving thanks to the Father and blessing however little was before him. God always manages to multiply the blessings when our hearts are grateful.

In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 1 Thesselonians 5:18

The importance of thanking God for the gift of food and not taking it for granted.  In every account where Jesus fed people, scripture tells us that he gave thanks. He teaches us that the table is the place to remember the blessings of God.

To truly give thanks is to understand that there is more to be thankful for than just the fact that the meal made it to the table on time. We are so disconnected from our food sources.  We hop on over to the nearest grocery store or make a phone call and magically food appears at our doorstep.  It’s easy to forget the true privilege we have been given.  To stop and think about the process of God creating the earth (the rain, sun, and soil), which the farmer cares for and harvests, brings a much deeper meaning to the blessing.  Then add the people who deliver the food to the grocer and those who have prepared the meal. Take time to remember those who do not have easy access to food sources or cannot afford such luxuries. Pray for the friends and family that are seated with you to share a meal and remember those who are truly alone.  With generous thought, comes generous gratitude.

He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.  Deuteronomy 8:3

As our bodies are nourished through a communal meal, memories are made and we are drawn closer to one another. Just as Jesus appeared to Cleopas and the unknown disciple, we too, see him in the breaking of the bread.

The feeling elicited by food’s memories are powerful and should also be taken into account as an emotional eater.  Perhaps you don’t know why you are “powerless” with certain foods.  Ask yourself, “did I enjoy (or not) this food previously in my life”?  Does steak on a grill bring back great memories of picnics with your mom and dad?  Or coffee brewing or cinnamon buns remind you of special moments with a grandparent?  Asking God to reveal those memories to you can open a door to understand why you may have a weakness in that area.  Just remember, food doesn’t feed the emotion.  Turn back to God’s truth about the emotion.

Next month we will touch on the last two words of our Eucharistic blessing – Break & Share.

 

Nourish My Body, Nourish My Soul

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Antonia Goddard Bible Faith Formation Ink Slingers

In Defence of the Man with One Talent

In Defence of the Man with One Talent

The Parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard, Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1637), oil on panel, The Hermitage, St Petersburg.

I have always had a particular dislike for the parable of the talents. This is mostly because however much I try to twist my brain around it, I fail to understand it, and usually end up sympathising greatly with the Man with One Talent.

It is hard not to feel sorry for him. After all, the Master has entrusted a slave with a talent (a vast sum of money, especially to give to a man with little to no experience in banking) and instructed him to look after it. The slave solemnly promises to do so, and keeps the talent in the safest place he knows, hidden from thieves and looters and prying eyes. When the Master returns he joyfully presents the talent back to him, presumably delighted that he has succeeded in his duties, perhaps even expecting a reward or word of thanks for his prudence. And yet the Master responds by punishing him.

(Don’t even get me started on giving his talent to the man who has ten. That’s just blatantly unfair.)

Of what happened in the years while the Master was away, the Gospels are curiously (irritatingly) silent. Perhaps the slave – a poor man of economics but a kind husband and father – spent the years with his family, bringing up his children in love and respect. And yet the Master focusses only on the slave’s failure to earn him more money, comparing him unfavourably to the two successful slaves.

I have always felt a certain affinity for the Man with One Talent. I am fortunate to have been blessed with decent brains and a gift for writing; at school and university I worked hard and achieved good grades. I had to work hard for them, of course, but I had hoped – and indeed, was led to believe – that my hard work combined with the God-given talents for which I was exceptionally grateful, would be rewarded with success and employment, and an opportunity to serve God.

Of course, things are never so simple. Try as I might, I seem to be failing at every opportunity to achieve what I have worked towards for so many years. Every day I feel more like the Man with One Talent, letting the gifts that God has given me rot because I have failed to achieve what He wants of me.

*

The most common takeaway from the talents parable is the idea that success is the product of hard work and talent. It reminds me of a quote that used to hang in my ballet studio, famously attributed to Anna Pavlova:

God gives talent. Work transforms talent into genius.

Yet sometimes it doesn’t pay off. Sometimes we can work really hard with every talent God has given us, and it doesn’t work out. My failure to land a career as a ballerina was not, as I have believed for so many years, because I didn’t work hard enough. My failure to find a career where I can use my talents to make a difference in the world is not because I don’t want it enough, or because I didn’t try hard enough.

If we teach that success is a combination of hard work and God-given talent, it runs a real risk that when we fail, we are tempted to either blame God or ourselves. Neither is a helpful or healthy viewpoint.

Turning back to the talents parable, I wonder if English’s clunky double-meaning of the word talent has led us to tie it too literally to the idea of our own abilities and success. Perhaps instead of success, we owe God a return on His investment, giving him back everything that He has given us, and more. A couple of chapters before this, Jesus tells us to render unto God what belongs to God. Maybe that’s all God is asking of us: our devotion and our love.

I still don’t quite understand the parable. But devotion and love, that’s manageable for today.