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Like Small Children, Run to Jesus

Like Small Children Run to Jesus

I have been blessed to raise eight children. These children have taught me to love and give as I never thought I could. They have brought me incredible joys, and at times, have brought me to the brink of despair. Life with my children has been a strong catalyst in strengthening my own relationship with God. Nothing brings me to my knees faster than their struggles. Nothing brings me to praise God quicker than their personal victories. They have taught me to run to Jesus in all things.

One of our sons, Peter, is profoundly Autistic. When Peter was around seven years old, he was still in the thick of the difficult years of parenting him. He was a very wiggly kid who still had a habit of bolting away from us. Peter needed to have constant…and I mean 24/7 kind of constant…supervision. He had the impulsivity of a young toddler and the physical coordination of a child his age. We had keyed locks on all our windows to keep him from escaping the house…put on after he escaped out of a window when I took my eyes off of him for a literal two minutes and didn’t find him until 10 minutes later halfway down the street of our neighborhood sitting on one of our neighbor’s lawn mower tractors in their driveway. Life with Peter at that point in time was extremely stressful.

Every Sunday, Peter sits next to my husband, Jay, at Mass. It was a challenging hour to get through for Peter…and us! One Sunday at Mass when he was around seven years old, Peter slid out of the pew and, before Jay even realized what was happening, he ran right up onto the altar and grabbed our Pastor’s vestments IN THE MIDDLE OF THE CONSECRATION! God bless Father Dan who didn’t even get distracted and only looked down at Peter and smiled. My husband, Jay, and I were both in shock for about 10 seconds, and then Jay made his way sheepishly up to altar, grabbed Peter’s hand, and escorted him to the ‘cry room’. I was so shocked and embarrassed that I started laughing. Then I started crying and just couldn’t stop. My 15 year old son was sitting next to me and was looking at me like I was a crazy person!

After Mass that day, we waited until the entire church had just about cleared out because we were so embarrassed. A friend came over to me and gave me a hug and told me to have a good day. I sat in the pew trying not to start crying again. My son’s friend’s grandmother was sitting a couple of rows behind us. She called my name, and the first time I actually ignored it because I was just so embarrassed. I wanted to be invisible. When she called my name a second time I turned around feeling just so sheepish. She said to me, with tears in her eyes, “Peter knew Who he was running to!” Tears filled my eyes and all I could do was nod. God used a very embarrassing situation to touch at least one person.

Peter took St. Therese’s words literally that day…“Since we see the way, let’s run together.”

Several months ago, our Parish’s Deacon (who we love) gave a homily that really inspired me. Deacon Pepin talked about how God was convicting him about spending time daily in His presence. He wasn’t just talking about doing a holy hour every day…although that’s amazing for anyone that is able to…but even just stopping in the Church for small amounts of time in front of Our Lord. Spending extra time in adoration will give us extra grace and peace….and we can certainly never have too much of either!

I am blessed to live just two miles from our parish. Our parish has an adoration chapel that is open Monday through Saturday afternoon perpetually. At the time of the homily, I was attending daily Mass on Mondays and Saturdays and I was also doing a holy hour Saturday before Mass and a “holy half hour” on Mondays before Mass.

Deacon Pepin’s homily really got me thinking. Tuesday through Thursday I could easily stop by the Adoration Chapel on my way home from work. I couldn’t do a whole holy hour those days, but I could definitely spend 10 or 15 minutes before the Blessed Sacrament.

What is one way you could spend more time with Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament?LikeSmallChildrenRuntoJesus

Adrienne Ink Slingers Mass Spiritual Growth

Daily Mass and the Acts 2 Church

The Upper Room of the Last Supper and Pentecost in Jeruselem
The Upper Room of the Last Supper and Pentecost in Jeruselem

There is a phrase that runs around non-Catholic Christian circles, where groups are seeking to be the “Acts 2 church”. “Acts 2” refers to the second chapter of the book of Acts in which we read how the church began after Jesus’s Ascension. People seeking the “Acts 2 church” believe that modern Christian churches have grown away from the image of the church as described in the Bible and are looking to get back to the purest form of Christianity.

This month the kids and I have attended daily Mass, every school morning at 9 am, in following the lead of other homeschool families. It’s been a surprisingly good experience. I thought for sure the kids would complain about how boring it is and protest.

And here’s the thing, most Americans find Catholic Mass boring. I once heard a priest rebuke, “If you think the Mass is boring, then YOU are boring.” I tell you what, if you think the typical American Sunday Mass is boring, daily Mass is even more “boring”.

There is no choir. Depending on the parish, there may not be a single sung word (which makes for a speedy daily Mass, I must say). If there is singing, it’s led by the priest (who may or may not be known for his cantoring skills) or it’s led by the congregation (also who may or may not be known for cantoring skills) making for a thoroughly a Capella experience… though that word makes it sound prettier than the result usually is. If one were to judge worshiping by the quality of the music, the daily Mass would likely come in dead last.

The singing or lack thereof is raw, but the worship is authentic none the less. The people who attend daily Mass aren’t there to be entertained by worship styles or to impress anyone with their vocal skills. These ordinary people are in their, mostly empty, parish church to be with, lean on, and praise Jesus simply in the Eucharist made present by a miracle – which may not be entertaining but it is far from boring.

The ordinary folks I see at daily Mass come to commune in the daily life of the church with others. They come to hear the teaching of the Apostles in Sacred Scripture and explained through the homilies. They are foremost present for when the priest breaks the bread and Jesus is made present – an even higher level of communal life. And these folks pray. They pray for an hour or more, praying the prayers of the Mass, and they stay after Mass to continue to kneel before Jesus in the monstrance or in the tabernacle. They hand Him their worries. They praise Him. They thank Him for being present. They are an inspiration of devotion.

It is in the daily Mass that I recognize the church of Acts 2, “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.” Acts 2:42

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Destination Eternity: The Vacation of a Lifetime

A funny thing happened during a hike on my family vacation this past summer.  Or, you could say it was a God thing.  You decide.  I will explain more after I tell you where we go each year.

My husband and I have been married for nearly 17 years and we have taken as many vacations.  I am the planner and I am an expert at finding amazing deals on luxury accommodations.   We once had a breathtaking view of the Niagara river in Canada.   One year, we had a new baby and I found a great rate on a room at the Palm Beach Hilton.  When we arrived we were upgraded to the Presidential suite because it was available.  We had three balconies overlooking the white beaches and turquoise Ocean.  When we had three kids, we made the perfunctory trip to Disney.   These vacations were fun and memorable.  But, when I arrived home, I noticed how ordinary and messy our house was.  I did not feel rejuvenated.  I felt like I was missing something.

Two years in a row, my brother tried to invite us to Catholic Familyland in Ohio.  We thought it was some kind of charismatic, fringe element in the Church and shelved the idea.  But, our lackluster vacations of years past led us to finally taking them up on the offer and we joined them.  My husband and I made a pact to go and just make sure neither of us drank the Kool-aid.

We drank the Kool-aid

We have vacationed at Familyland every year since.  It is a 900 acre camp ground where families can experience Catholic culture through daily Mass, confession, Adoration, and family rosary, along with swimming, horseback riding, and fellowship with other Catholic families. The goal is to encourage family consecration to Jesus through Mary; and to live out that consecration at home and in our community.  By doing so, we fulfill God’s will and bring about peace in our homes and our communities. Their motto is “Helping families get to Heaven.”

Mornings, we rise early and eat breakfast al fresco.  Daily Mass is at 9AM, so the kids know to get their last bite in before 8AM.  The kids start early with play dates, too.  As soon as they empty their cereal bowl, they holler into the cabin that they will be at so-and-so’s cabin until we leave for Mass; it always amazes us how easy they make friends.

Daily Mass is packed.  The Mass is beautiful. The music is well rehearsed and each homily is a thought provoking, heart rending, powerful analysis of the Scriptures that is directly applied to our family life.   I am often driven to tears.  This past summer, as the waterworks started, my 9 year old daughter grabbed my arm and pleaded, “Mom, what is wrong?!”  I wiped my tears and said, “Apparently, you are not paying attention.”  Then I smiled and reassured her that I was fine, but my heart had just been touched and if she paid attention, she might be surprised at what she hears.

At the end of Mass, the children (4 and up) are dismissed to attend morning groups with their peers.  This past year, all five of my children were old enough to participate in the faith formation activities. What other all inclusive vacation provides this?  I know my kids are safe thanks to the great efforts of the Catholic Church to protect my children.  I know that they are being taught virtues through the loving example of the volunteers who teach them.  And one of the best parts is that my husband and I get some time away from them to learn more about our beautiful faith, to meet other couples who are on the same journey, and to sip coffee without interruption.

We usually have lunch back at the cabin and we plan our afternoon and evening.  There is always too much to do.  And, everyone wants to do something different.  And that is not a problem.  The kids just need to let us know where they are going and we agree to meet at the dinner shelter when they hear the meal blessing on the loud speaker.  Or, because we know that the Divine Mercy chaplet is prayed over the loud speaker everyday at 3PM, we agree to meet poolside for the chaplet.  My kids have never experienced such freedom and I have never experienced such confidence in allowing them to roam a park. At Disney, we needed those harnesses and leashes.

The teens have nightly evening programs.  I really don’t know exactly what goes on there.  But, I know that they have fun and I know that I have never had to force my kids to go. They listen to motivational talks that encourage them to live their faith.  They have opportunities for reconciliation and Adoration.  They sing and dance and they make the most wonderful friends.

The campground asks families to honor a 12AM curfew.  One night, I had fallen asleep before my daughter came home.  I awoke at 1:20AM.  Were I at home or at any other destination, I would have started pacing and calling 911. However, I knew she had mentioned that after the evening program she was going to go hang out.  So, I nudged my husband and asked him to go get her.  She was right where she said she would be, at a neighboring RV site, in a well lit cabana getting to know her friends.  The camp also asks families to honor a no alcohol request.  This creates an atmosphere of calm and respectful behavior from both adults and teens and no one is at risk of the intoxication that leads to poor judgment.

So, back to the God thing…  One afternoon, after the kids had dispersed to their activities, I was left behind with a cluttered cabin and a picnic table full of lunch debris.  My husband had set off with our four-year-old son, Joseph, to find friends.  He swiftly returned and invited me on a hike because our son had made friends with another boy named Joseph and we were invited to hike with the boy and his father.  I looked at the clutter and the lunch mess and had one of those Mary/Martha moments. I chose to leave the mess behind and headed out on the hike.

As we chatted with our new friends, I started to ask more pointed questions…what city are you from?  What parish?  And because of his answers, I asked if he knew Martina, the owner of the Catholic Sistas blog?   My new friend not only knows her, but also, he is a guest writer on the blog!  That’s right, reader, two Catholic Sistas bloggers, one from Texas and one from Virginia, met on a hike in the woods of Ohio, brought together by two little Josephs.  The only logical next step was to schedule this dual blog post.

Next time you sit down to plan your family’s next vacation, check out Catholic Familyland. It has transformed our family.  I must warn you that if you go once, your kids will insist that you go again and again. Stay tuned,  Allen’s post is up next.