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Alyssa Azul Current Events Ink Slingers Prayer

Head over Heart: A Quarantine Story

This year so far has been a pilgrimage like no other. I think the COVID-19 pandemic knocked a lot of people out of commission in many different ways. My quarantine story as a Catholic throughout this time was beyond rough. I experienced a crisis of my interior life.

When the lockdown order hit our city, I still carried a rather positive outlook. The introvert inside me thrived for a time of removed distractions and reduced physical movement. Seeking to strengthen my interior life, I prepared to read more and pray more. I was virtually connected to a young adults ministry and we had a daily Divine Mercy Chaplet call to keep us in touch and steadfast in our spiritual lives. I was geared and ready.

It was difficult to ignore the fact that the Lenten season looked and felt different from past ones. Easter was not the same. I did not attend Stations of the Cross or the masses, and did not see friends and extended family. There was a sorrow in the atmosphere that ran concurrent with the passion of Christ, but I dismissed it.

During this time, the Catholic community seemed louder and stronger than ever. My fellow brothers and sisters were serving in the parish with technology, praying novenas, offering up fasts and so on and so forth. They appeared to be on fire with the Spirit, not letting physical barriers and social distancing keep them from completing the “Good Catholic” checklist. I did my best to attend all online masses, virtual conferences, prayer calls, and ministry duties, but the energy to keep my engine running slowly dwindled. Social media played a huge part in allowing everyone to keep tabs on each other’s “progress”. It became mentally demanding.

I wanted to feel good about myself as a Catholic, and like others, I wasn’t going to let the quarantine stop me from serving God. As I was checking off my list of “Good Catholic” duties, I started to feel a deep restlessness and sorrow within myself whenever I was completely alone. When the screens were off and the doors were closed, I couldn’t bring myself to an honest prayer, no matter how hard I tried.

I turned to distractions to numb myself from feeling guilty about being a mediocre Catholic. Everything I did was to avoid being alone with my thoughts, feelings, and most importantly, with Him.

I made every effort to lead using my head in faith, and not my heart.

By guarding my heart from the very real feelings of loneliness, uncertainty, hopelessness, and guilt, I guarded myself in my relationship with Jesus. What resulted was a severe lack of love for myself. The urge to hide myself away was strong.

Was I just completing the “Good Catholic” checklist to feel better about myself? What was I trying to prove? These kinds of questions fuelled what I like to call my mid-quarantine spiral.

Eventually two jarring realizations about authenticity in my faith resurrected.


I needed to be:

  • True to myself, and
  • True to God

Because the sacraments, conferences, volunteer services, etc. were so readily available to us before quarantine, it was easy to fall numb to the repetition and routines of participating in them. I was told by a wise person that we often use them as “band-aid” treatments for our wounds.

All of the above are tools that help us encounter Jesus, but we need to go beyond them to find ourselves so we can be ourselves with Him. In the midst of doing all the right things to pursue the greatest Love, we forget what it feels like to be loved. We forget what and who we are made for. We take the tools for granted and sometimes hide behind them when we are most in need of mercy.

It took missing those sacramental elements of my faith to realize that I needed to lead with my heart to find myself and Jesus again. I’m ready to accept that in some strange way, His plans for my quarantine were greater than my own.

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Current Events Ink Slingers Liz Saints The Crossroads - Where Faith Meets Mental Health

Mother Teresa: A Lamp in the Darkness

st teresa of calcutta

“Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. I have sworn an oath and confirmed it,
  to observe thy righteous ordinances. I am sorely afflicted; give me life, O Lord, according to thy word!-Psalm 119: 106-107

She founded a religious congregation. She served the poor with radical acts of Christian charity. She fought for the rights of the sick, the downtrodden and the unborn. She won the Nobel Peace Prize. And this week, she was canonized. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, a busy little ray of God’s light shining onto a jaded 20th century world.

But Mother Teresa’s achievements, however brilliant, are not what draw me to seek her intercession.  Instead, I find comfort and solace in what the holy nun did not achieve during her life on earth–a lasting spiritual peace or emotional experience of God.

During the same decades that Mother Teresa was changing the world with her presence, Christ was changing her with his seeming absence. With few instances of reprieve, her adult life, even until death, was marked by an extended period of agonizing spiritual dryness, the dark night of the soul. In 1957, she wrote:

“In the darkness . . . Lord, my God, who am I that you should forsake me?  The child of your love — and now become as the most hated one. The one — you have thrown away as unwanted — unloved. I call, I cling, I want, and there is no one to answer . . . Where I try to raise my thoughts to heaven, there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives and hurt my very soul.  Love — the word — it brings nothing.  I am told God lives in me — and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul.” (Source)

Mother Teresa wasn’t the only one who had difficulty understanding the meaning of this painful struggle. Once her critics got wind of it, they used it repeatedly in their attempts to discredit her. The famous atheist Christopher Hitchens, who had gone so far as to testify against the nun’s case for canonization, wrote in Newsweek in 2007: “I say it as calmly as I can—the Church should have had the elementary decency to let the earth lie lightly on this troubled and miserable lady, and not to invoke her long anguish to recruit the credulous to a blind faith in which she herself had long ceased to believe.”

So why exactly should we rejoice in a life that was so full of inner pain? Why take comfort in the struggle of another? Why canonize someone who could not feel the light of God in her own life, who was dogged by doubts and darkness?

I’m no Mother Teresa, but as a Catholic with depression, I can relate to the hurt and confusion apparent in her writings. I can sympathize with her short periods of solace and sunshine, followed by long times of inner darkness. I can appreciate what it feels like to keep going day after day, stumbling and striving to do your best for a God whom you cannot feel. And I take great hope in the Church’s brave declaration that Christ does not abandon those who cannot sense him emotionally.

St. Teresa of Calcutta is indisputably in heaven, and her example is a lamp to the feet of all of us who travel in mental and spiritual darkness. If we continue to fight, continue to keep going, continue to believe and confess and pray and work and love, we too can ultimately triumph by the light of Christ.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us!

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Ink Slingers Karen Prayer Priesthood Vocations

Praying for Our Priests

Recently two reports were made public by the German Catholic Bishops’ Conference. In one, the results of a survey are presented claiming a disparity between the realities that families face and the teaching of the Catholic Church. In another separate survey results report, it was discovered that an estimated 58% of priests in Germany pray every day and 54% go to confession no more than once per year.Pray for Our Priests

When I first read this, I was floored. It hadn’t honestly occurred to me that it could be a common thing for a priest to not go to confession frequently or not even pray every day. But as I thought about it, I wasn’t all too shocked. Priests are human too and in need of prayer like the rest of us. But unlike the rest of us, they have a responsibility to morally guide hundreds or thousands of individuals and the onslaught of cultural sins that can’t help but to seep into every individual’s life of which priests are not immune cannot help matters. They are perpetually hit with their own and everyone else’s sins daily. And yet, they are expected to keep on; faithful and strong, they must lead the flock. Can any of us do this?

There has been more than one study that linked the likelihood of success in religious formation and practice by children into adulthood with the faithfulness and encouragement of their mothers and fathers. It’s pretty simple- if your mom and dad pray every day and attend Mass, chances are you will too. The same goes for our priests- our spiritual fathers. If our priests are strong, faith filled, and practicing the sacraments, it will resonate in how their flock worships.

In the words of St. John Vianney, “Without the priest, the passion and death of our Lord would be of no avail. It is the priest who continues the work of redemption here on earth…What use would be a house filled with gold, were there no one to open its door? The priest holds the key to the treasures of heaven: it is he who opens the door: he is the steward of the good Lord; the administrator of His goods…Leave a parish for twenty years without a priest and they will end by worshiping the beasts there..The priest is not a priest for himself, he is a priest for you.”

Our parents who pray and go to Mass also go to their priests for guidance. But who do our priests have here on Earth to turn to for guidance, other than other priests? No one. As such it is no small wonder that they can become weary, complacent, or deal with spiritual dryness.  And when that happens, it seeps into the life and vitality of the church family they minister to.  Often people approach their parish priest for only two things: to get a sacrament or to get spiritual direction in a time of crisis. How often are they approached to be told what a blessing they are to their community? Or how they are appreciated for standing up for life or for having such a reverence for the Eucharist? How can we expect our parish priest to stay strong and resilient in spite of cultural norms and wayward and complaining parishioners without any encouragement or prayer on their behalf? It seems an unreasonably high expectation, and though they have taken on the vocation of the priesthood, and to some extent this situation is par for the course, it is good for the laity to charitably attempt to reduce some of those more bitter aspects.

So, what can we do for our priests to strengthen them, encourage them, and help remind them how what they do is for the greater glory of God and actually is accomplishing something?

Try doing some of the following to support your own parish priest:

-The priesthood is the love of the heartPray for your priest

Start a novena for the priesthood and seminarians

Invite your parish priest over for dinner

Compliment your priest after Mass about something they said during the homily that made you think

Praise your priest for standing up for life and Church teaching

Thank your priest for the reverence they have in the consecration and distribution of the Eucharist

Write them an anonymous card

Write a thank you note after getting helpful spiritual direction to let them know what a blessing their wisdom has been for you and your family

These are just a few things we as the faithful laity can do to support and encourage our priests!

What else can you suggest we do to show our priests how important they are in our lives?

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Alessandra Domestic Church Faith Formation Ink Slingers Offering your suffering Prayer Spiritual Growth

My 10 Step Recipe for Spiritual Happiness

Do you feel like everything you plan just doesn’t work out?  Looking around and seeing so many people moving forward in life in so many levels but you feel like you’re stuck in neutral?  Do you sometimes feel like you pray, and pray, and pray and maybe God is not listening?  Do you feel like He is punishing you for something you have done in the past?  Do you feel spiritually dry?

We’ve been there and felt that way.  The economy is so bad, so many people out of work, it can get a bit depressing.  But looking back, I remember specific things we did to get out of this and move forward WITH God!  In May of 2008, my husband, Peter, was first laid off.  The timing was terrible, I was seven months pregnant with our fourth child.  Subsequent to this lay off we experienced a move to another state and another four lay offs in a matter of four years and a fifth child in the picture.  Finally, in early 2012, our prayers were answered and he now has a secure job.  Here is a recipe that worked for us.

1. Give all your worries and finances over to God. Trust the HE will provide for you, not you, not your husband.  Make sure your husband, the head of the household, understands this and verbally acknowledges this to God.

2. Trust in God’s will for you. I know this isn’t easy and sometimes scary sounding but it really isn’t.  Say, “I would love this Lord but I want your Will to be Done not mine.”  (I know this is easier said than done but trust me once you really do ask God for His will not yours, the graces start to flow because you trust the Lord.)  The BEST thing that happened to me was coming across a book by Saint Alphonsus de Ligouri entitled, “Uniformity with God’s Will.”

3. Go to Confession and Mass as often as possible.  I now go to Confession every other week.  Think of it like preventive medicine for the soul.

4. Keep on praying even if you don’t feel like it.  This was really hard for me, but I just kept going through the motions and going to Adoration.  Sometimes I said short prayers and just remained quiet and did more listening than anything.

5. Get your kids to pray for your situation, teach them to say, “Lord let your will be done for our family.” Pray the Rosary as a family.  If you don’t do this yet, start slow.  Get the kids to build their Rosary stamina.  We did one decade a day for a long time, especially when the children were smaller.

6. Ask your pastor to come over and bless your home at least once a year and ask him to also consecrate it to the Immaculate and Sacred Hearts.

7. Say the Old St. Joseph Novena daily until the perfect job comes.

Saint Joseph, I, your unworthy child, greet you. You are the faithful protector and intercessor of all who love and venerate you. You know that I have special confidence in you and that, after Jesus and Mary, I place all my hope of salvation in you, for you are especially powerful with God and will never abandon your faithful servants. Therefore I humbly invoke you and commend myself, with all who are dear to me and all that belong to me, to your intercession. I beg of you, by your love for Jesus and Mary, not to abandon me during life and to assist me at the hour of my death.

Glorious Saint Joseph, spouse of the Immaculate Virgin, obtain for me a pure, humble, charitable mind, and perfect resignation to the divine Will. Be my guide, my father, and my model through life that I may merit to die as you did in the arms of Jesus and Mary.

Loving Saint Joseph, faithful follower of Jesus Christ, I raise my heart to you to implore your powerful intercession in obtaining from the Divine Heart of Jesus all the graces necessary for my spiritual and temporal welfare, particularly the grace of a happy death, and the special grace I now implore:

(Mention your request & don’t forget to ask for God’s will to be done with your family!)

Guardian of the Word Incarnate, I feel confident that your prayers in my behalf will be graciously heard before the throne of God.  Amen.

8. Don’t be shy to ask family, friends, and even strangers for prayers. (SUPER IMPORTANT)  I used to be shy to ask for this but after seeing the fruits of it, I don’t shy away from it.

9. Be thankful for every. little. tiny. thing you have. I was even thankful we had running water, no joke.

10. Accept the answer God gives you with grace and a smile on your face, sometimes the answer is NO, andis  not necessarily an unanswered prayer.

This little ten step “recipe” is what my family used to get out of this cycle.  It increased our hopes and helped us be more patient for and accepting the will of God for our lives.  It is my hopes in sharing this and  it might help you or someone you know.  The lesson I learned from those four years was that God is there the whole time, in the good times and the bad times.