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Discipleship Faith Formation Maurisa Spiritual Growth

Build One Another Up

Build One Another Up

26 years ago my husband, Chris, and I decided to take the leap and swim the Tiber. He suggested we start praying for God to place people in our lives who could help us navigate the waters.  Little did he realize God, in His Divine Providence, had already supplied our need.  For months, Chris’ co-worker Bill had been inviting Chris to conversation about the Faith and to attend a Catholic young adult group that met on Fridays in the base chapel to pray the Rosary and Chaplet of Divine Mercy.  Once it dawned on us that this was the answer to our prayers we began attending the Friday night prayer group.  Afterward we’d all hang out at a local restaurant or one of the group member’s homes to eat a bite and engage in lively conversations about the Faith and life, very often into the late hours of the night.  It was in this community that I learned to pray the Rosary and Chaplet and embraced a solidly orthodox Catholicism.  Our young friends were very well versed in the Faith and current events within the Church and were a perfect resource and support community for us and our budding Faith.

Unfortunately, being also a military community, it was not long before the group began to break apart and scatter, assigned to new bases across the world.  Gratefully, even from a distance, many members are still a part of our lives and it is a source of joy for us on the occasions we are able to meet up once again. Chris and I frequently reflect on how God provided so generously in our need, knowing how much a community of faithful friends would build us up and prepare us to branch out on our own as fledgling Catholics.

As we’ve moved about the world we’ve been a part of many wonderful parishes and Catholic communities, but nothing quite as intense or as spiritually rich as our first, until recently. Just over a year ago we began attending a Latin Mass offered on Friday evenings. It began quietly and small but in the last several months it has grown and flourished and become a grand weekly event to include Adoration, Benediction, a shared meal and a talk and/or fellowship following Mass in the Extraordinary Form. Friday Nights in Park City have been built and billed especially for young adults but our family and other more mature attendees have been warmly welcomed among the young. We thoroughly enjoy the joyful and boisterous conversation and fellowship.  

This group works because it is built solidly first upon the Mass and an authentic understanding and belief in the Blessed Sacrament.  It is further guided by our faithful priest who encourages us to pray more, fast more, sacrifice more and to do those things with joy for each other, for the Church, for the world.  He then leads and inspires by example. Father is the kind of priest the church so desperately needs. He encourages us to a deeper Faith through the sacraments and a fruitful prayer life but then sits and jokes and laughs with us over coffee, wine, and vegetarian fare.  

These Friday nights remind Chris and I so much of those Friday nights so long ago, when we were just baby Catholics trying to find our way.  I can’t help but look around at this group of vibrant young people and see Chris and myself of 26 years ago; young and on fire for the Faith. So many of them are new converts and under the guidance and inspiration of our priest and the support of this community they are becoming filled with the knowledge and strength they need to live out their Catholic faith in a hostile world.

This is how it should be—a community built on Faith encouraging and fortifying each other on the journey. As St. Paul so often wrote in his epistles encouraging burgeoning Churches:

“Therefore encourage and build one another up, just as in fact you are doing.”

—1Thessalonians 5:11

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds”

—Hebrews 10:24

“I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.”

—Romans 1:11-12

If you are not part of a vibrant and spiritually edifying community, I encourage you to find one or build one.  Be sure to seek God’s assistance in doing so. Everyone needs a tribe. We are not meant to walk this path alone. We need the encouragement and strength of a solid group of friends to help us along the way.

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Ink Slingers Maurisa

Across the Miles

Across the Miles, Catholic Sistas, www.catholicsistas.com

After attending our first Mass in our new parish in Maryland we introduced ourselves to our priest.  We chatted for a few moments and he then asked if he could do anything to help us settle into our new community.  I jumped at the offer and asked if he knew of any local homeschoolers we could hook up with.  His eyes lit up, “I have the perfect person to introduce you to!” He walked us over to a lovely woman loading her half dozen children into a very large passenger van.  He quickly introduced me to Sam, a life long resident of our new community who’d grown up in this particular parish.

We exchanged the usual pleasantries and Sam inquired, “So, are you planning on staying here permanently?” I explained we were a military family and did not know how long we’d be stationed in the DC area.  She then promptly replied, “Oh, I can’t be your friend then.  I get too attached to people and my friends can never move away.”

Honestly, I don’t know how serious Sam really was because her words did not match her actions.  Over the course of the 11 years we remained in that community our friendship slowly took root.  In those years we attended the same parish, ran in the same homeschooling circle, celebrated birthdays, baptisms, First Holy Communions, and confirmations together.  We established and enjoyed mutual friendships with several other moms in our parish and homeschooling group.

Sadly, the inevitable happened. My husband retired from the military and we decided to move back west. We had put down deep roots in Maryland, especially within our parish family. Pulling up those roots was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do.  Our friends threw us a lovely going away party and as a parting gift everyone in attendance recorded a special message on a DVD.  It was several months after our move before I could bear to watch the outpouring of years of friendships in those messages. 

Stretching the definition of friendship

Reestablishing myself in a parish and homeschooling group in Utah was tough.  I’m an introvert at heart and making new friends does not come easily or naturally to me.  God bless Sam, who kept in touch over text messages every so often.  Over time Sam created a group text that grew to include four more of our mutual friends, who coincidentally had also moved away from that tight knit community in Maryland.  This group has been an absolute treasure.  These women are all such diverse, faithful, and supportive friends. At least weekly we hear from each other.  We pray for each other, lift each other up and inspire each other.  As Jenn, one of our members put so nicely–“This group has been a blessing to deepen faith, prayer, and home life and just knowing you are connected with others that love being Catholic and family as much as we do especially at times when the world deflates you.”

This group of friends, spread across countless miles, has become my life line. It’s been an enormous comfort knowing I have an army of prayer warriors at my fingertips who very often are walking out the door to attend Mass or adoration just as a texted prayer request has come through. We have prayed each other through job searches, moves, home sales, marriages of adult children, births, deaths, illnesses, surgeries, fractured relationships, tribulations and triumphs. We have seen miraculous answers in many of these prayer battles.

Each of these dear ladies has taught me important lessons in being available, trusting in prayer, and being vulnerable enough to share my needs. They have shown me the need for strong, holy friendships; and while we have been uprooted from a place, we remain rooted in Christ. Godly friendships are vital because they encourage spiritual growth and remind us we are not alone. More importantly they remind us that God does indeed answer our prayers. He heals the sick, comforts the afflicted, and stretches our capacity to love.

What the Bible and Saints have to say

Women today have a great need for holy friendships which inspire, support, and lift them up.  The Bible has much to say about good, sanctifying friendships:

The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.–Proverbs 27:9

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.–Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of man he pleads with God as one pleads for a friend.–Job 16:20-21

My command is this: Love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay one’s life down for the life of one’s friends. –John 15:12-13

Many saints have also expressed the benefits of virtuous friendship:

God sends us friends to be a firm support in the whirlpool of struggle. In the company of friends we will find strength to attain our sublime ideal. –Saint Maximilian Kolbe

Love everyone with a strenuous love based on charity, but form friendships only with those who can share virtuous things with you. — St. Francis de Sales

The inner life of another that is known to God alone becomes to a much less degree open to us through friendship. It partially fills the desire of our incomplete, lonely hearts for completeness in another. Friendship brings out the best in a person through forgetfulness of self. –Saint Thomas Aquinas

God graced Sam with the ability to stretch her own definition of friendship to include those across the miles. Because of her trust we all have each other. God bless my good, holy, faithful friends; Sam, Jomary, Debbie, Jenn, and Katie.  I love you all and I am eternally grateful for your love and support. What a grand reunion we have to look forward to someday. God’s Will be done.

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Ink Slingers Linda Prayer Sisterhood Spiritual Growth

Foes, Fans, and Friends – Discerning Opinions and Dominions

Foes Fans and Friends: Discerning Opinions and Dominions

 

Our calendars should reflect what we love and where our priorities lie. If our emotional energy is increasingly sapped, it’s time to re-evaluate where and with whom are we spending our time and talents? We need to remember that when we listen to the opinions of others, we can forget who has dominion over us.

It’s an exhilarating experience when we get the opportunity to use our gifts. To be part of a team or to lead that team is quite an honor; watching our ideas build into something bigger. The excitement we experience can be a motivator or deterrent towards the next project, and many times we base that excitement on the responses we receive. To give glory to God for our gifts will keep our motives in check when we step out to use those gifts.

The people we surround ourselves with play a huge part in helping us discern who we are in God. So when those comments come rolling in (positive or negative), we can feel confident in keeping them in perspective. But how do we know who our foes, fans, and friends are?

FOES

I think it’s easy to pick out the foes in our life. They’re the people offering suggestions on making everything you do better or taking credit for your ideas as a way to get ahead themselves; the in-law critiquing your parenting skills, or the person in ministry who complains about your leadership ideas. The individual who is kind, then cold (usually acknowledging you only when they want to be in the center of your drama). They’re the people we will find easy to walk away from but that’s not necessarily the path God wants us to take.

God places “thorny” people in our lives to refine us. They’re there for a time and purpose to help us grow. God may be directing us towards them for a purpose or showing us why we must walk away.

So how do we deal with those “thorny” people in our lives? First, I think we have to bring it to God. He can take it. Tell Him just how angry that person makes you and how awful their words or actions make you feel. Point out where you’re struggling with the situation and ask God to reveal to you any part that you may play in their response.

The story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt is a perfect example of leadership that hurts. Here Moses was, pulled into a situation that he didn’t ask for, but for love of God, was obedient and embraced the leadership position. The Israelites complained, were jealous, and in frustration did things their own way, ignoring Moses’ calling. Yet Moses interceded for them just the same.

Responding to nastiness with love and respect isn’t easy. However, it is what we are called to do as Christians. What we learn from the experience of obedience will always be a place of growth and may sometimes be a message to walk away. We can walk away and still be kind and respectful to those thorny people in our lives.

FANS

Fans are not always as easy to pick out. These people may be the result of a lifetime of patterns in how and who we choose to be involved. Perhaps it’s where the “cool kids” hang out, or who is most popular. Maybe it’s a place we find our ego stroked.

Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy (Prov 27:6)

Proverbs 27:6 point this out stating that those who speak God’s truth in love, pointing out our weakness and sin, care far more for us. They’re willing to risk wounding us to keep us close to God. Those who flatter us or show us outward attention, “kisses,” usually do so with selfish hearts, gleaning what is only good for them.

Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character (1 Cor 15:33)

It’s important for us to be mindful of those we form relationships with and their worldly morals. The amount of time spent in these relationships can lead us to engage in their behaviors (anger, gossip, jealousy, prejudice, bad language) and before you know it we are no longer of Christ but of the world. Discerning our relationships with our fans will help us to know whom to let go of.

FRIENDS

“Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.” Eph 5:18-19

We are a communal people, meant to share our lives with others. But how can we be sure we are forming relationships that will point us to Christ? Here are a few qualities to look for straight from scripture.

Godly friends encourage us

Therefore encourage one another, and build one another up. (1Thes: 5:11)

Let’s be honest, we can all become a little lazy in this area. Encouragement is giving someone a bigger vision of why their obedience matters in God’s kingdom.

Let us consider how to stimulate one another toward love and good deeds (Heb 10:24)

Godly friends support us

If the one falls, the other will help the fallen one. But woe to the solitary person! If that one should fall, there is no other to help. Ecc 4:10

Those who bear our burdens and support us in our moments of weakness are good listeners, offer practical assistance to lighten the load, and never leave our side.

Godly friends expose our sin that keeps us from God

Brothers, even if a person is caught in some transgression, you who are spiritual should correct that one in a gentle spirit (Gal 6:1)

We all need friends who are willing to point out our weaknesses and sin; see the things we may not be able to see. These are the friends who keep us accountable to God; speaking to us out of pure love and kindness.

Godly friends pray for us and intercede for us before God

Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven.” Mark 2:3-5

Through prayer, we can bring our friends to the Father, asking Him to do big things in their lives, and boldness to pray for themselves.

Friend, if you’re in a place where you are discerning between opinions and dominions, ask yourself if those whom we allow to influence our lives have the qualities above. I’m learning to siphon out the opinion police from my real friends; seeking the counsel of people who care about me and the work I’m doing and not those who just want to ride the drama train. I surround myself with people who love me deeply, despite my shortcomings. They are those who will point out those shortcomings but aren’t afraid to gently share the hard things I need to hear. Those who bring me joy and draw out the good in me, make me a better person. And those who celebrate my successes and hold my hand in my defeats.

I should also mention that not all of my friends are Catholic, nor are they Christian. I marvel at the diversity of the friends I have; high school friends, forever friends, long-distance friends, even online friends. Each one reveals a different part of me. Many of them I only see once or twice a year. This is the case with one very special group of women. A few of us raised our children together. We saw each other on a regular basis. As the kids grew, we became online friends with no face to face contact at all. Then we met at a Women’s Retreat a few years back. We’ve shared so much more than the lives of our children. We shared our Catholic faith, our motherhood, our womanhood, and most precious, our sisterhood. These are women who help me refocus, keep me accountable, and are there when I can’t get out of my own way! They remind me to place faith over feelings, pointing me to the only opinion that truly matters – God’s!