How We Are Observing Holy Week

We are smack dab in the middle of Holy Week! Has this Lent gone by fast to you? It sure has for me – but I LOVE Holy Week, so I am savoring each day.

This year my family and I decided to give up screen time for the entire week. This doesn’t mean that I can’t work, but it does mean our TVs, game systems, tablets, etc. aren’t to be used for entertainment. My kids are actually doing quite well. Our older boys get it, the 4 year old had a bit of difficulty but is doing pretty well.

Instead of watching TV before bed my husband and I are reading – which is fantastic because I have started about 20 books and keep buying more.  It’s a problem, I know! But it’s books not boots so that’s okay, right? It would be one thing if I finished the books but most of the time I don’t. I am happy to report that I have completed one book from start to finish and I am half way through a second (but only because I had already read through half of the book before being distracted by another one). This might be something we need to keep doing, at least a few times a week.

As a family, we have also been listening to Father Rocky’s 5-part Holy Week Mission from Relevant Radio. It’s called Close to Jesus to the Last and is the Passion of Christ in 5 parts. It’s not too late to start listening. It is prayer, reflection, teaching, music – I just love it and it has really enhanced by Holy Week experience over the past couple of years. This is the first year we are listening to it as a family. We listen to the first half during dinner and the last half, 30 minutes before bedtime. In years past we have done something similar, by listening to an audio recording of the Bible that I purchased from EWTN.

Today, is Spy Wednesday and I came across a wonderful reflection on the Gospels reading. You should take a moment to check it out…

Spy Wednesday Offers Conversion To Everyone!

I may hide  30 pieces of silver (quarters) but even as I type this, I am still undecided. I just envision a big fight and something getting broken – but it could be really fun too. We’ll see.

Tomorrow for Holy Thursday, my older boys will be participating in a prayer service, followed by a re-enactment of the Last Supper. I also, for the first time ever, plan to do a small Last Supper/Passover meal. During CCD when I was a child, we did one – and it made a big impression because after all these years, I still remember it. I have read pros and cons regarding doing a Seder Meal, which I do not plan to do, but I think it will be a good learning/discussion time for our family to incorporate some of the foods that would be served during Passover and talk about the meaning behind them. This article has some good information connecting the Last Supper and Passover: How Does the Last Supper Relate to Passover?

The Last Supper is also when Jesus instituted the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist (read: Evidence Christ Offered the Last Supper as a Sacrifice via Catholic.com), so that in and of itself is worth reflecting upon, which is another reason I thought it would be nice to do.

On Good Friday, we fast and abstain from meat. My children have a 1/2 day for Good Friday but in the morning the Middle School students participate in an absolutely AMAZING Shadow Stations of the Cross. It is so well done and something that school families (Catholic and non-Catholic alike), as well as parishioners, look forward to every year. It is a beautiful and emotional experience.  Below, you will find a YouTube video that gives you and idea of what Shadow Stations looks like but it isn’t from the school my children attend. This is a condensed version, less than 5 minutes, and still brought tears to my eyes!

We will attend The Passion of the Lord that evening at our parish and Venerate the Cross.

On Holy Saturday, I may try to make it over to Morning Prayer and later that evening, before the Easter Vigil, the Boy Scouts will build a Vigil Fire. My boys are new to Scouting, so this will be the first time we participate in it. We won’t be attending Vigil Mass because with a 4 year old, it could get a bit uncomfortable. However, when my boys are older I definitely want to start attending those regularly. Instead, we travel to my Mom’s Parish for Mass on Easter Sunday, which is always a wonderful experience.

So, that is how we are doing Holy Week! Nothing too crazy but hopefully starting some new traditions that will make this week even more meaningful to our family.

What are your plans?

May the LORD bless and keep you!

What Stops You From Letting Your Light Shine?

I had the pleasure of reading a book recently by Matthew Kelly, entitled Resisting Happiness. We attended Mass at my mom’s parish after Christmas and it was handed out there. It was excellent! I highly recommend it and I am quite certain that I will refer to it in future blog posts. The book really spoke to me, because I recognize that I give into resistance a lot. I suppose that is why I haven’t posted on this blog since August!

I have things I would like to write about. I know that those things have the potential to help or encourage other people. Yet, I busy myself with so many other things. It’s not that those things aren’t important. Some are – but some aren’t.

Here’s the thing though. I have spent most of my life running from or resisting God – and that holds me back from being the person God created me to be. I do not resist out of lack of love for Him – I do love Him! I don’t resist because I doubt his existence –I know He does. Not even because I think I am better off without Him – I know that I am not.

For years, I resisted his gentle pursuit because I didn’t truly believe in depths of His love and mercy. I  didn’t feel worthy and I was afraid to trust Him with everything. I also didn’t understand how He lavishes grace upon grace (JN 1:16) and allows the Holy Spirit to work through those who call upon Him. It wasn’t until I started reading and meditating on scripture – those God breathed words – that I began to understand a bit more  and to rest in His promises. I began to realize that I don’t always have to know where I am going, because the Lord is in all my days. Also, “God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called”.

In Chapter 32 of Resisting Happiness, Kelly asks

Are you letting your light shine?

I like to think that I do. I try to always greet people with a smile and to be kind, supportive, and positive. I try to use my knowledge and talents to glorify God. This is not something I have always done, but I really try to think about what I am spending my time doing and make sure that most of what I do aligns with what God asks of me.

Except…except this blog and my writing. Not so much my personal journal writing or the writing I do for my clients – but I know God is calling me to more. So what is stopping me from writing those books I have been thinking about? What stops me from producing the tools I know can help Catholic families connect and strengthen their faith and knowledge? What stops me from writing the many blog post ideas that I have?

Matthew Kelly tells us that God created us to let our light shine and that resistance doesn’t want that to happen. Resistance doesn’t want us to share the light of Christ with others through things we do or say.

I started thinking about this. What stops me from letting my light shine?

I determined that it comes down to a few things. Maybe you can relate.

Fear of Failure

What if I spend all this time on something and I pour myself into it and no one likes it. No one notices it. It doesn’t help even one single soul.

Fear of Rejection

What if I create something and it is met with criticism? What if it isn’t as helpful as I think it will be? What if I write a book, spend hours doing the writing and research necessary, and no one wants to publish it – or read it?

Comparison

There are so many talented individuals out there creating great resources for Catholic families. Sure, I see a need or a hole my content can fill – but it will never be as good as the things I see others doing.

Here’s the thing that I am am realizing and that I must remember. Doing these things is not for me. God created me for His purpose and I have work to do. The things I want to accomplish aren’t meant to make a light shine on me.  What they are meant for, is to share the light of Christ with others. These things I am called to do are not for my glory but for the glory of the Lord. It is all to lead others to Him; who is the way, the truth, and the life. (JN14:6) If it is truly his purpose for me to do something, he will make my path straight and regardless of outcome all efforts will be used for His good.

Don’t look back. St. Paul said, “I press forward.”You and I have work to do and we must do it together. Every man, woman and child must know Jesus. God has created you with a fire, a spirit, to inflame others. You can no longer sit, waiting for something to happen. You make it happen. You’re the only one God has.

-Mother Angelica

Each one of us is here for a unique purpose. How will you use your gifts? How will you multiply God’s Grace? What is stopping you from letting your light shine?

Let Us Love and Encourage One Another!

Yesterday, while picking up a prescription for one of my boys, I overheard an exchange between a Pharmacist and a Pharmacy Tech.

As the Pharmacy Tech was looking up the prescription I needed, she turned to the pharmacist next to her and said, “So what are you doing for your birthday tomorrow? I know your husband isn’t going to do anything for you,” she chuckled, “but how about your mom or your kids are they doing anything?”

“Well, tomorrow is my kids’ end of the year baseball party, so that’s what I’m doing.” She said with a smile, “When you have kids, that’s how you spend your birthday some times.”

With a snarky snort the Pharmacy Tech said, “Yeah! When you have kids, you have no life!”

The Pharmacist paused for a moment and then replied, “I have a life! My kids are my life but I have a life”

“Yeah, your kids are your life.” said the Pharmacy Tech as she moved to the shelf to grab my prescription.

Joy Filled Catholic

Parenting is SO Much More Joyful than You Think it Is! Be positive and tell her, “Spending the day with your family sounds perfect!”

That’s what I wanted to say to the prickly pharmacy tech when she brought my prescription…but I didn’t. The exchange has been running through my mind since yesterday afternoon. I wanted to tell her that kids are a HUGE joy and she should be an encouragement instead of Ms. “Debbie Downer”! I wanted her to know that when a parent says that our kids are our life, that doesn’t mean we don’t exist anymore – our existence is transformed into something much greater.

My children are also my life! If not for them, I believe that my world would look quite different! I know I would be much more selfish and self-centered. I know, because that’s how I lived for many years. My children and my husband are helping me to become a better person.

I think about those many times when I was so tired, and one of my boys would wake in the middle of the night. I would shuffle into their room, praying as I went, for him to fall asleep quickly, so I could go back to bed. I remember so vividly rocking each of my babies back and forth, while humming a song to get them to sleep. I was forced to slow down, to be patient, and to do something for another person who was completely dependent on me.

It was amazing how the frustration and exhaustion would transform. It was still there but as soon as I looked at that sweet face in the glow of the nightlight and kiss those plump soft cheeks, I could feel myself changing! As I gazed down at my child, you might find tears streaming down my face from the mix of exhaustion and JOY.  If not for my children, I would never experience the juxtaposition of these emotions during such a precious moment.

Joy Filled Catholic

I wanted that tech to be an encouragement – but am I? Why do I sometimes assume the worst about people’s lives?

As my mind begins to marinate on the exchange I just described, I imagine that the lady (without kids, I am assuming) has a picture in her mind of how life sucking having children must be. She probably envisions kids running around wild, breaking vases, the mother screaming, while all the kids are shooting each other with silly string.

Meanwhile, I am picturing how lonely her life must be. Sitting in a darkened room that is bouncing with shadows and flashes of light created by the glow of the television. Each night, I imagine, she nestles in her recliner with a TV tray in front of her, while stroking one of her 15 cats and eating Chinese take-out straight from the box.

The truth is, when we don’t know someone’s life, we can only assume what we do not know, until we do – and even then we still don’t really know. What I mean is, that woman can’t possibly know the joy of parenting and all of the precious moments and love it provides and what it means when a parent says that their children are their life – and in turn, I don’t know how fulfilling all the activities and events she experiences without children truly are. After all, not everyone is called to marriage and family, and there can be extraordinary joy and great satisfaction in those vocations as well! I know, because I have seen it happen for people I know and love.

But do we have to know these things to love and encourage others? I don’t think so. We can love people right where they are and if being encouraging doesn’t come to us naturally, we can ask the Lord: “What can I do to be an encouragement to this person?”

So, what can I do? I can start by thinking positively about the person and their intentions, instead of assuming the worst.

Joy Filled Catholic

 

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Feeling Like an Outcast in God’s Family

www.joyfilledcatholic.com

You know that feeling you get, whether it is a big event, a meeting, or even just a conversation within a small group, when you suddenly think:

“What am I doing here? I don’t really belong. I don’t quite fit it.”

When I find myself in those situations, it feels a little awkward and uncomfortable. It is an unsettling feeling, which usually leads me to excuse myself and head for the door.

Now, let me ask you, have you ever felt that way as a member of God’s family? I know that I have! There are many times I observed other Christians living out their faith or attended church services, and though I desired to have that peace and blessed assurance, I never thought I would ever find it.

I would attend Mass with my mom infrequently. I would say all the things I had been taught to say, I would kneel, make the sign of the cross, and participate – but I felt like an outcast. I mean, I was there, but I didn’t feel like I really belonged – or that I was worthy to belong.

I even tried going to other churches to see how that “felt” but something was always a little (sometimes a lot) off for me. However, I did keep trying to find my place in God’s family. I admit that I didn’t try too hard, but I was seeking.

Once I finally realized that God wanted me back in the Catholic Church, there was no where else to go. Suddenly, I had an insatiable desire to know all about His Church, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Blessed Mother, the saints, and the Bible. It is a fire that continues to burn inside of me today and I pray it will continue for the rest of my life!

What brought me back?

Not what, it was who! It was Jesus pursuing me with His mercy! He was relentless, compassionate, and loving. Every time I said,

Lord Jesus, I am not worthy. I have committed sins too terrible to truly be forgiven. I ignored every blessing you put before me to pursue what I wanted. I chased after all the things I thought would make me happy, complete, and adored. Instead, this pursuit has left me broken, anxious, and despising the person I have become. I can no longer live this way but I am still not worthy to be in your family. Lord, you see me. You know my sins. You know my heart. I think we can now both agree that I am not worthy.

But he did not agree! He did not agree with me at all.

I had a lot of work to do. But when I finally stopped running from him, because I was too ashamed to face him, I ran to Him and my life has never been the same. Once I realized and accepted that I had not ruined God’s plans for my life, everything changed. Yes, I chose a path that was a lot bumpier, and far more perilous, than it could have been if I had made better choices. However, the Lord showered me with graces that have made me the person I am today.

He has used those trials and suffering to bring about so much good in my life and he will surely do the same for you. If you are feeling like an outcast in God’s family, take heart! You are so loved by a Heavenly Father who knit you together in your mother’s womb and He knows you inside and out. He wants to shower you with His grace and mercy.

 

Journal idea: Are there times in your life when you felt like an outcast in God’s family? What changed that feeling for you? Who did God place in your life to plant seeds? How did He guide you back and show you how forgiving and merciful He truly is?

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