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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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Easter Ink Slingers Liturgical Year Maurisa

Running to the Tomb

Running to the Tomb

“The Disciples Peter and John Running to the Sepulchre on the Morning of the Resurrection” | Eugène Burnand

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb.  Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)

John 20:1-9

Eugène Burnand

I’m not sure which came first, my love for the beautiful painting by Swiss artist Eugene Burnand, or my love for this particular scene from the resurrection. Both resonate deeply with me. The exhilarating celebration of Easter each year brings me back to meditating upon them as a complementary pair.

Several years ago I was able to see Burnand’s most famous work in person in the Musee D’Orsay in Paris.  The piece is absolutely astonishing and it took my breath away to see it up close.  I stood taking in the wondrousness of the scene and studying the master artist’s brush strokes for an extensive amount of time.  The soft colors of the painting’s setting suggest an early spring morning, close to dawn.  The disciples appear breathless with anxiety and exertion as the movement of the piece indicates they are indeed running. John’s hands are clasped tightly together in a posture of fretful prayer.  Anticipation fills his face.  Peter’s brow is furrowed with worry and his eyes are open wide in suspense.  One wonders what thoughts were running through their distressed minds. Were the two men panicked at Mary Magdalene’s suggestion Jesus’ body had been unexpectedly moved or even worse, possibly stolen? Or was it fretful hope in the Master’s puzzling teachings which filled their souls? 

What we do know from Sacred Scripture is that when they did arrive at the tomb—first John and then Peter—they saw and believed. Believed in the Resurrection which they had not understood until they saw the empty linens lying in the tomb. According to Bible commentaries, the author mentions the linens as proof Jesus’ body had not been stolen by grave robbers. They likely would not have stopped to unwrap the body or would have left the cloths and the tomb in disarray.  Another curious and important aspect much commented upon is the way in which the linens were lying flat, or deflated in appearance, as if His body had just disappeared from beneath or passed right through them.

Wow, right?

Can you even imagine the thrill they must have felt as they began to understand all He had taught them, what had happened within the tomb, and what it would all mean?

We have just recently arrived at the empty tomb. What a marvelous promise He has given us—that we who believe shall not die, but should have eternal life; yes, eternal bliss with the Triune God and all His saints and angels in heaven. This is the root reason I love these first few verses of chapter 20 in Saint John’s gospel and the awe-inspiring painting by Burnand. It is the Eternal Hope and Truth of the Resurrection they both represent.

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Ink Slingers

Was the Eucharist Ever a Little Snack?


An acquaintance recently joked, “
-slippery slope! The Eucharist started out as ‘snack time’ for the Catholics and look where that went!

I’m not sure he knows how a slippery slope works.

The Eucharist is a Christian teaching that has remained constant for 2000 years. That is no slippery slope. The real slide is on the protestant side, slipping away from His Church (John 16:13; Matthew 16:18; Matthew 28:16-20) with thousands of competing denominations all claiming to be “Bible only.” The Eucharist has been the pinnacle of our services since Acts; they are the ones who have slid into little snacks. I don’t care if he doesn’t believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but I do care when Church teaching is misrepresented.

The Eucharist has never been “snack time.” About an hour of reading the first Christian writers (If one can stop after only an hour; we couldn’t!), beginning with the Gospels and epistles, then onward 300 years until the New Testament was codified (and on and on …) makes it crystal clear that these men believed in the Real Presence of Christ in the bread and wine. And these were the same men who picked and prayed our New Testament into life.

The apostles were Jews. They knew about manna from heaven. They knew what the Passover was ~ the sacrifice of the innocent lamb whose blood saved them from death. They ate their lamb. They watched Jesus bless food, break it, and feed 5000. He told them to eat His flesh in John 6. When some left out of horror, Our Lord said again that they had to eat His flesh. At the Last Supper, when He lifted up the Passover bread and wine and said, “This is My Body; this is My Blood,” they were floored. They got it. After the resurrection, with some disciples in Emmaus, He was known in the breaking of the bread (Luke 24:30-32). Paul told the Corinthians that they would be guilty of a sin against the Lord, his body and blood, if they came unworthily (I Corinthians 11:27-29).

The Didache, a catechism written in the 90’s (yes, the 90’s!), directs Christians to confess their sins before partaking in the Eucharist so that the sacrifice would be pure. Since the sacrifice of Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, what He did 2000 years ago is just as efficacious now. He is our perfect sacrifice for sin!

Ignatius of Antioch, writing in the year AD 110, said that he desired the Eucharist, the flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Justin the Martyr, AD 100-165, wrote, “For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by Him, and by the change of which, our blood and flesh is nourished, is both the flesh and blood of that incarnate Jesus.”

And on and on they wrote of the Real Presence of Jesus in the bread and wine, long before the New Testament was even bound and called sacred by Church councils. Men like Irenaus of Lyons, Tertullian, Origen, Clement, Augustine, and the council of Nicaea. The first Church council was in Jerusalem, recorded in Acts 15, when the question of circumcision was hashed out by Church leaders, then explained to the people. We believe what Jesus said to the Twelve in John 16, that the Holy Spirit would guide them into all truth. He still does. And we still follow. 

So I encourage my non-Catholic friends as they insult the Church, to at least make sure the facts are straight. When you falsely say that the Eucharist began as a little snack, your entire witticism falls apart.

To know what the Catholic Church teaches, go to its catechism online or pick up a print copy. Those of us who love our Church will call out blatant untruths and bad jokes. And tell good ones about ourselves!

Want to read some good Catholic jokes? Click here and here.


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Ink Slingers

Five Reasons Why I Love the Catechism


In the twelve years we’ve been Catholic, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) has remained dear to our entire family. Here are five reasons why:

1. It was instrumental in my husband’s conversion. Very early on in our studying of Catholicism, he bought a copy of the catechism, figuring that since he was interested in what the Church taught, he might as well go right to the official catechism. He read it cover to cover and checked every Biblical reference. He still reads it for personal encouragement and education and appreciates it more every time (He tells me!).

2. It is beautiful to read – poetic, solid, and satisfying, with footnotes from Scripture, history, and other Church documents. A random opening of my copy while writing this fell to paragraph #2842 on Christian Prayer: “When we ask to be delivered from the Evil One, we pray as well to be freed from all evils, present, past, and future, of which he is the author or instigator. In this final petition, the Church brings before the Father all the distress of the world. Along with deliverance from the evils that overwhelm humanity, she implores the precious gift of peace and the grace of perseverance in expectation of Christ’s return. By praying in this way, she anticipates in humility of faith the gathering together of everyone and everything in him who has ‘the keys of death and Hades’ who ‘is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty’.”  Magnificent. There is a footnote directing the reader to three passages in Revelation. What a devotional!

3. It covers everything, from difficult, contentious issues to heartbreaking, suffering issues to mystical, spiritual issues. Topics are neither shied-away from nor sugar-coated. We can read about sex, social justice, national laws, union with Christ, and the problem of pain (the section that brought me to my knees; see paragraphs 1499-1532.) It is something I direct my children to time and time again. 

4. It can be relied upon for instruction in our Holy Faith, for it is a “Full, complete exposition of Catholic doctrine, enabling everyone to know what the Church professes, celebrates, lives, and prays in her daily life (From the prologue by Pope John Paul II).” There are no worries about whether or not an author is faithful to the Magisterium. Jesus told the apostles, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth (John 16:13)” and Paul told young Timothy how to behave within “the ousehold of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of truth (I Timothy 3:15).” A bulwark is a defensive wall; I wonder if Paul had the formidable walls of Jerusalem in mind as he pictured the Church keeping Christians safe from false doctrines. The Catechism is the continuing of the Holy Spirit’s leading of the Church as it guards the precious deposit of faith and instructs the faithful. Jesus never left a book; he left men filled with Holy Spirit, guided into truth, forgiving sins (John 20:23), and going out to teach and baptize (Matthew 28:19-20). They did write, however, and our Church in her wisdom, gathered and compiled their stories and letters into a New Testament. The Catechism is another example of her wisdom in leading Christians here on earth.

5. Jesus is central. Again, from the prologue: “In reading the CCC, we can perceive the wonderful unity of the mystery of God, his saving will, as well as the central place of Jesus Christ, the only begotten son of God, sent by the Father, made man in the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit, to be our Savior. Having died and risen, Christ is always present in his Church, especially in the sacraments; he is the source of our faith, the model of Christian conduct, and the teacher of our prayer.” How powerful and peaceful.

I encourage you, dear Sistas, if there’s not a copy on your bed stand; put one there and dig into it. I bet you’ll love it!