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Anni Ink Slingers Spiritual Growth Uncategorized

Weathering the Storm

I recently sat inside our family’s RV on a Sunday afternoon, watching the lightening, listening to the thunder, and seeing the raindrops of the most recent storm blowing through our camp. The rhythmic sound of the wind and rain lulled me to sleep, and when I awoke, I began to think of the metaphor between the storm I was experiencing in life and the storm which has surrounded the Catholic faithful.

I have always heard reference to a storm being on the horizon, with the faithful being tested through it: “Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4). As faithful Catholics, we ought to prepared for storms.

But rather than worry, St. Padre Pio reminds us, “Pray, hope, and do not worry. Worry is useless. God will hear your prayers.” 

As we analyze the components of a storm, we see the divine power within. 

Much like the verse from Isaiah 35:4, thunder is the voice which reminds us, “He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense, He will come and save you.” It wakens sleeping children, it rattles animals and humans alike, and it casts a pall of fear over those who sit directly under the boom.

Clouds roll in to darken the earth during a massive storm. Thunder breaks the silence. And yet, in a good storm, lightening illuminates the darkness. Satan loves darkness. He loves secrecy and living in the shadows. Yet lightening brightens the sky, even if only for a flash. Lightening forces the demons to scurry. It brightens the path, showing the way to sanctuary.

With all good storms, there is wind, too. The wind can cause chaos and confusion. It can blind even the best of seers, all-too-often forcing even the strongest among us to bend with the breeze and seek shelter from the wind. But the wind is also a force of change, as we are reminded in Acts 2:2: “And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.” The wind gives strength to grit through the storm.

Finally, with the storm comes the deluge of rain. Big, fat, drenching raindrops falling from the heavens and meeting the earth. Rain washes the dirt and grime from everything in its path. The rain cleanses. It purifies.

My friends, we are in the midst of a storm unlike we have ever experienced as faithful Catholics. The storm is no longer on the horizon; rather, we are in the thick of it. The Church is being tested in a manner we have not seen before.

This past month has been difficult for the Catholic Church. The devil is among us, looking to cause division, suspicion, anxiety, and suffering. And, he is hell-bent on destroying the foundation of the Rock of Peter. Literally.

Too many priests, as fallible men, have fallen into the temptations of the devil. The sins of the cover-up, even more than the abuse itself, have played directly into the devil’s hands. Most priests are good, holy men, whose chosen vocation has been thrust into a terrible spotlight. They now are battling to endure and survive this storm. They are scrambling to safeguard their sheep who are experiencing doubt, fear, anger, grief, and betrayal.

In Ezekiel 34:12, the faithful can find some encouragement, “As a shepherd examines his flock while he himself is among his scattered sheep, so will I examine my sheep. I will deliver them from every place where they were scattered on the day of dark clouds.”

This past spring, a chaplain said during his homily, “When there is unity, it is a sign that the Holy Spirit is working. When there is division, it is a sign that the devil is at work.” The devil works tirelessly, with one aim in mind: to take souls for himself. 

Yet the sun comes out after the storm. The damage and debris from the storm won’t disappear overnight. It will take hard, dedicated, tireless work. It will require us to listen to the instructions in Ephesians 6:11: “Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil.” We already believe the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church, but the cleanup will take time, effort, and energy.

At the end of the storm, the sun is on the horizon. It shines brightly, beckoning all to bask in its warmth, dryness, and glory. We are reminded that “hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:5). 

So suit up, my faithful Catholic friends. Join me for the turbulence of this storm. Let us weather it together, each playing our part to ensure the gates of hell do not prevail. We will stand together, facing toward the Son. Because He alone will be left standing, helping us out of the raging waters, drying us with His radiance.

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Anni Ink Slingers Prayer

The Power of Prayer: A Reminder of Mercy

A couple months ago, my husband and I received some news which made me deeply question my Catholic identity. In short, it was a period I found myself struggling with Church teachings, and I was angry with God. I was taking it to Him in prayer on a daily basis, and while I would leave room for Him to answer, it wasn’t a clear answer. Life would have been so much easier if He had said, “Anni, I want you to do, or not do, this,” but of course, He doesn’t typically make things that clear.

While I struggled, and while life caught up with me, I found myself distancing from the routine devotions I try to spend time praying. The Divine Mercy Chaplet and the Rosary were set aside while I poured forth from the depths of my angry heart. Even when I picked up my beads to pray these prayers, I would get angry, and set them back down. The desire to pray them was not even present. 

The last day of May, a fellow Catholic Sistas writer reached out to me in a private message, inviting me to participate in the 31 Day Divine Mercy Challenge being held during the month of June. 

Her reaching out to me, combined with the repeated failed attempts to pick up my Rosary beads and actually pray, led me to grudgingly acknowledge I was being led to spend time praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet again. So, while it was last minute, and we were in the thick of a move, I accepted that 31 Day challenge.

Within a week, peace settled into my heart over the situation which had led me to be angry. I experienced several epiphanies regarding the situation. And, while I will carry the cross that He has handed me for quite some time, there is peace in my soul about the situation and the resolution.

As I solidly entered into the second week of praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet, during the recitation one day, my thoughts turned to a phrase not even found in the chaplet – “The Lord is slow to anger.” Based on Psalm 103:8, “Merciful and gracious is the Lord, slow to anger, abounding in mercy,” I began to consider during that day’s recitation the many ways in which we, as a collective human race, have had occasion to anger God. Yet, through all the moments we have occasion to anger Him, He patiently waits for us to turn back to Him.

Let’s face it – human beings are flawed. When we face temptations, we have a tendency to (hopefully) come out batting a 50% average – half the time we fall into temptation, half the time we are able to stand faithful to God’s desires. We make false idols out of so many things these days, we engage in activities which make God upset, and we sometimes overlook our relationship with Him for a relationship with others. In short, we all sin, and we all sin repeatedly.

And yet, the fact we are alive today, living in our world at the moment we are, is solely because God had, and has, faith in our ability to overcome the adversity and temptation! He knew precisely what He was doing when He decided we would be in the world today. He knew the obstacles we would be facing, and He knew the challenges we would experience as part of a journey toward our eternal reward.

God is perfect. He is omniscient. He knows us better than we know ourselves. And, as the perfect parent, He has faith in us.

As humans, we waiver so much, going back and forth. It’s difficult to always make an executive decision. And yet, God has faith in our abilities to make the correct decisions. Even when we are finding it difficult to follow the path which will lead us closer to Him.

We are right to focus on the eternal reward. We are right to make decisions based on eternity – in fact, Our Lady of Fatima has been credited with saying, “If men only know what awaits them in eternity, they would do everything in their power to change their lives.”

However, focusing on the eternal reward, and worrying about reaching that eternal reward are two entirely different concepts. As St. Padre Pio is credited with saying, “Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.”

Too often, humankind gets hung up on the worrying aspect of life – and, we fail to adhere to the prayer and hope that St. Padre Pio encourages. Living with a focus on the eternal means we aren’t making lighthearted decisions. Rather, we are living intentionally, and discerning major decisions, aware of not just what is being told to us through the whispers of our secular society, but also aware of the greater, more lasting ramifications of the outcome of our decisions.

And, ultimately, focusing on, rather than worrying about, the eternal reward also gives us reprieve. It gives us a chance to heed Jesus’ words to St. Faustina, “Look into My Heart and see there the love and mercy which I have for humankind, and especially for sinners. Look, and enter into my Passion.” 

Through our life’s experiences, and the decisions we intentionally make, we are fully able to join ourselves with Jesus, and to envision the love and mercy He extends by virtue of His Passion. We are able to vividly imagine the Sacrifice He made for love of our souls – for a shot with spending all of eternity with us.

And, He encourages us to bring our anger, our sadness, our troubles to Him. God knows our weaknesses and doubts – and, He has faith in our ability to turn to Him when we experience those emotions and when we hear the doubt creeping in to our hearts.

A chaplain pointed out during his homily a while back that a saint isn’t called to live a perfect life. Rather, a saint is a sinner who continuously picks themselves up after erring, and relies on the mercy of the Lord. Saints in the making learns from their mistakes, and commits themselves time and again to correcting their ways. The souls who are oriented toward God and His infinite mercy are the ones who acknowledge their difficulties and weaknesses, and yet continuously search to build the relationship with God.

During the trials of life, it is common for individuals to turn away from God. Yet, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said it best, “The world offers you comfort. But you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.”

God offers us the chance at the perfect relationship with Him – warts and all. And, He shows us His infinite mercy as we take our anger or sadness to Him. We just have to open ourselves up to hearing His message of mercy, and accepting that mercy.

Rather than pointing out the flaws in my thinking as I angrily spoke to Him, He allowed me the chance to wallow in my misery. Like a parent who turns to a child throwing a tantrum and quietly asks, “Are you finished, yet?” God gently called back to me, asking me if I was ready to heed His call in my life.

The comfort I have found in His gentle consistency, and His reminder of mercy has been astounding. And, while I don’t know if the choices being made in life are the correct ones, I am able to fully embrace His message of love and mercy, and ultimately, rely on His love and mercy – not just for myself, but for all of mankind.

How has praying either the Divine Mercy Chaplet or the Rosary impacted your life? Has there been a time in which the struggle in your life was diminished through the power of prayer? I would love to hear!

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Alyssa Azul Ink Slingers

Loved as His Daughter

Loved as His Daughter

“A father loves you enough not to let you remain a child. Any parent will love you enough to make sure you become all that you are meant to be– not remain the same. In the same way, the Lord, as our Father, chastises us. He does not want us to remain in sin, but His endless mercy means that we always have a chance to return home and repent.”

This was my takeaway from Father Marc Cramer’s homily back in June. I never really understood God as my personal Father growing up. I was raised by a single mother, so having a constant father figure as a part of a family unit was sometimes lost on me.

God is a compassionate Father. Sometimes it’s hard to see that at first, like most of us do with our own dads. We see someone who works long and hard, is unrelenting, and carries high expectations. The last thing you want to do is disappoint him. There is a different kind of “fear” that I felt in front of my dad that I didn’t feel with my mom. I always feared 1) not following his orders correctly and 2) doing something that would harm my relationship with him.

We all yearn to be noticed and loved by our fathers, especially as daughters. With our God, I think it’s easy to feel like every little thing that we do puts our relationship with Him in jeopardy. That every mistake we make severs a strand of the imaginary rope of love that connects us to Him. As sisters we are already highly critical of everything that we do. We must be the perfectly prayerful and faithful sisters that we are called to be. Otherwise, we are undeserving of God’s love. The thing is, God wants our hearts just as much as we want His.

As a single person, this strikes me especially strong. I’m still navigating the waters of the future that He has planned for me, whether that is in marriage or in the religious order. In praying for a partner, the model I should be looking to is Him. My friends and colleagues often mention how the kind of husband they want is really someone who is like their fathers. It all makes sense! This is not to say that every father is perfectly graceful and perfectly loving, but there is something in our hearts that wants a man who will love and protect our (possible) future daughters with that same steadfast and tireless disposition we see in many of the men in our lives.

I remember that I would see a sliver of vulnerability in my dad whenever we were getting ready for school. He would fumble trying to put a barrette in my hair. He would put it on backwards and then give up and tell me to fix it. And he had a clumsy, awkward roughness when it came to these feminine things. I appreciated that he always tried, anyway. These are the moments of my dad that I cherish, when he was soft and inviting.

With that, I encourage us to speak to God as a daughter every once in a while. Ask Him to hold you when you are broken, to challenge you to do your very best, and to lead you in making wise decisions. Most of all, allow Him to embrace you when you are repenting. Allow him to love you so that you can change and be the person you are meant to be. This is is a father that is relentless in His mercy for us.


Reflection

What is something that you learned from your dad or any father figures growing up?

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Apologetics Bible Catechism Doctrine Domestic Church Faith Formation Homeschool Ink Slingers Mary Mass Michelle Prayer Resources Reviews Websites

Catholic Brain: Learn It. Know It. Live It.


I was recently asked if I would like to review the website Catholic Brain. Intrigued by the name, and even more intrigued by the site itself, I readily agreed. I was given a user name and password and was encouraged to dig around as much as I wanted or needed. No one needed to tell me twice!

Off I went to explore and evaluate the site. As a homeschooling mother and as a catechist, I am always looking for new ways to present our beautiful Catholic faith to my children and to my students. Today’s kids love vibrant and engaging sites. There are so many websites out there clamoring for their attention that to stand out you have to really have something special. Kids want to be entertained and at the same time adults want their children (or students) to learn. Often it’s difficult to combine the two and end up with a really winning website. When you put in the extra requirement of being Catholic and teaching the faith, well, it’s even more difficult to develop a site that can step up to the challenge.

The creators of Catholic Brain have really done a great job of making this magic happen.

When you first click on the page you see that Catholic Brain’s motto is “Learn it. Know it. Live it.” The site says it hopes to transform the way we are able to teach and learn the faith. It’s easy to see that their platform provides the tools necessary to achieve this goal.

The site is very bright and engaging. It is easy to maneuver and easy to use. On the front page you can find the Mass Readings for the day, a Saint of the day, Quiz of the day, and a Summer Catechism. I loved that these are all included before you even get to the lessons, videos, music, and quizzes!

Everything offered on the site has its own button at the top of the page so that you can easily access any part of the site at any time. I think this is a great asset as sometimes kids get bored and want to move on to something else. With these easy access buttons always at the top there is no having to backpedal through tons of pages simply to get back to the beginning.

The tabs at the top consist of links to the Bible where you can find each and every book, chapter, and verse laid out in a no-fuss manner. You simply scroll to fin the book and the chapter you want, click on it and you are there knee-deep in God’s Word.

There is as Books tab that allows you to access curriculum (coming soon), parables, saint stories, and the bible. Each book can be flipped through on your own and read or you can allow the site to read it to you. I found this to be really valuable for my non-readers. Additionally, the follow along with the site is a great way to reinforce beginning readers’ skills.

The site uses the Baltimore Catechism as their basis for catechesis. On the Catechism tab you will find videos broken down by three parts- The Creed, The Commandments, and Sacraments and Prayer. There are 34 videos in this section each highlighting a teaching found in the Catechism.

There is a tab for a Dictionary that includes a plethora of Catholic terminology. The definitions are easy to understand.

The Games tab gives you access to five different kinds of games- a name match, memory match, bible order, fill in the blanks, and a word search. I found that most of these games were best for younger kids but a few would challenge kids maybe up to early middle school. Regardless, my kids had fun on them and I thought they were a great asset to the site. I have hopes that perhaps they will include games for a slightly older crowd in the future.

The Lessons tab was one of my favorites. Here as you clicked on the tab you are taken 31 different categories to choose from. Each category then includes several lessons. The categories range from the Bible, the 10 Commandments, the Four Marks of the Church and other church teachings, to how to make a good confession and then to saints and relics. Just about anything you have questions about, Catholic Brain touches on. Additionally it is here that you can download lesson plans, watch relevant videos, play games, access printables, and take quizzes.  What’s more is that you can choose the level you wish to teach at- grades 3-5 or 6-8. For each lesson, everything you need to effectively teach is included on the page. It’s great to have everything you need together in one place.

 


The Music tab is next and this was probably one of my kids’ favorite tabs to use. Here there is music from a few different sources including Brother Francis whom my kids love. Additionally there are songs for Lent, Advent, Christmas, songs about Jesus, the rosary, and particular prayers. The songs are geared towards littler children and kept my boys especially entertained.

The Printables tab has worksheets and fun activities that you can print off to supplement your work or to keep little minds and hands busy. There is anything from coloring sheets to worksheets to crossword puzzles.

The Quiz section allows you to select quizzes for your kids to take on any of the 31 different categories from the Lessons tab. They are an invaluable tool that helps you to see how well your children/students are doing with the lessons. You can choose the level that you want to quiz- either grades 3-6 or 6-8.

The Saints tab has an alphabetical listing of saints so that you can easily find the saint you are looking for. As you click on the saint you are given a life story and a chance to watch a video regarding the saint. I really liked this as some of my kids are more visual learners and respond better to videos than to just reading.

Finally, the Videos tab contains over 200 lessons from throughout the entire website. Broken down into categories it is easy to find a video on your desired topic.

The way the site is interwoven is amazing. Not only can you find specific topics by clicking on the tabs, but within each tab you find related resources to help you teach/learn more thoroughly. The creators of Catholic Brain did a fantastic job of insuring that you don’t have to go far to supplement what you are teaching or learning.

I found that the cost of the site is well worth the investment. They have three different pricing plans: Homeschoolers/Families are able to enroll up to 5 students for the cost of $12.99/month or $129/year; Classrooms can enroll up to 25 students for $29.99/month or $299/year; and Parishes or Schools can enroll an unlimited amount of students for the cost of $149/month or $1499/year.

Catholic Brain is working to provide parents and teachers with the tools necessary to pass on a solid Catholic education in a way that is engaging, interactive, and that will stick with the student. While we want to teach the faith, we also want the faith to be meaningful for our kids. I think Catholic Brain has done a great job of using technology in a way that will help the students learn and engage the faith in a fun and captivating way.

If you’d like to learn more about Catholic Brain, please visit their website. Tell them that Catholic Sistas sent you!

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Anni Ink Slingers Motherhood Prayer Vocations

The Guiding Light of Mary: Inspiration for Deepening Our Relationship with Christ

The month of May is one of two months devoted to Mary, the mother of God. This past Lent, I found myself reflecting on the ways in which Mary endured her Son’s Passion – how she followed His final steps, and remained at His feet until it was time to accept His lifeless body into her arms, and prepare it for burial.

We then turned the page to celebrate Christ’s Resurrection, and yet, my reflection on Mary didn’t end. Instead, it took a curious turn from how Mary stood by her Son, to what her reaction was when she was able to tangibly see Scripture fulfilled before her eyes – with the child she raised, risen from the dead!

Throughout Mary’s life, she maintained an unshakeable, unwavering faith. From a young age, to being a new mom, to becoming a seasoned woman, Mary continually committed all she had in fidelity to God. No matter how bleak the horizon looked for her, she trustingly held faith in her God’s plans, and His will for her future.

And, when her Divine Son appeared to her after His Resurrection, she had to have breathed a sigh of relief. Perhaps not the kind of relief that would indicate she doubted her Son would rise; rather, a sigh of relief that, after all she had witnessed, her baby Boy was okay.

By her role as the mother of God, Mary became a guiding light for all of us to follow. In her example as a physical mother, we find the courage needed to help guide our own children to meeting God on a personal level. In her example at the mother who lost a Son, we find the strength to move forward in pursuing the will of God, even in our darkest moments. In her acceptance of being assigned the role of mother to the apostle John, we are clearly assured of the importance of spiritual motherhood, looking out for those who may not have been born of us, but who are nevertheless in need of the compassion and love our feminine genius offers.

Mary’s role as mother did not end with Jesus’ death on the cross, nor did it end upon Jesus’ Ascension. Instead, she continued to serve God in her vocation as mother long after her own flesh and blood no longer walked this earth. While apparitions of Mary are not required to be believed by Catholics, one could argue her vocation of motherhood took on an even greater role after her own death. She continues to include all of us as her children, centuries after she herself ceased walking this earth.

“To Jesus, through Mary,” is the reminder we are given when doing a Consecration to Jesus. We are reminded that Mary will lead us deeply, passionately, and unreservedly to her Son. We see her guiding light as early as Luke 1:38, when she tells the Archangel Gabriel, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.” And, again, when she confides to Elizabeth in Luke 1:46-47, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.” As early as those recorded statements are included in Scripture, we see Mary pointing back to our Lord God. We see her acceptance of God’s will, and her humility, which points not to her role, but rather, points us to her Son.

Throughout Scripture, she continually reminds us to do her Son’s will, while simultaneously affirming His role in our lives. With Mary’s light, illuminated throughout history, it is easy to see how her radiance magnifies Jesus and His role as Savior for humanity. She asks nothing of us for herself. Rather, she asks that we love her Son – the Boy she raised, the Man she knew, and the Savior in whom she loved and believed.

Therefore, this Month of Mary – May – let us follow her guiding light into a deeper understanding and relationship with the Joy of her life – Jesus.

Perhaps we can do that by meditating a little longer on the mysteries of the Rosary.

Perhaps we can do so by asking God to grant us more humility for ourselves – that we will let Jesus radiate through us, with no thought of our own gain.

Perhaps we can deepen our relationship with Christ by focusing on increasing the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity/love.

The ways we grow closer to Christ are really limitless, when we set our minds to doing so, and we commit to not allowing anything to derail our growth. Sometimes, we may just have to get a little creative. And, sometimes, we may have to ask for a little heavenly placed assistance, through Jesus’ mother, Mary.

How will you allow Mary to lead you closer to her Son this month?
How will you thank Mary for being a mother to us all?
What will help you better follow Mary’s guiding light in the month of May?