RENEW International - Home   RENEW International - Blog   RENEW International - Shop   RENEW International - Donate   RENEW International - Request Info
Search

 
 

“Since the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money-changers seated there. He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, ‘Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.’ His disciples recalled the words of Scripture, Zeal for your house will consume me. At this the Jews answered and said to him, ‘What sign can you show us for doing this?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews said, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking about the temple of his Body. Therefore, when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they came to believe the Scripture and the word Jesus had spoken” (John 2:13-22).
 
The Lateran Basilica was dedicated in the fourth century, housed the bishop of Rome (the pope) for centuries, and is still considered the mother church of all churches. Yet it is sometimes difficult for many Catholics to understand the importance of commemorating the dedication of a church. In much the same way, it was difficult for the people in today’s gospel reading to understand the meaning of Jesus’ words. The Scripture explains that when Jesus spoke of the destruction of the Temple he was speaking of his own body. If Jesus meant himself when he said “Temple,” what do we mean when we say “Church”?
 
This is a question that has been discussed and debated throughout the history of Christianity. There is a whole discipline, called ecclesiology, dedicated to the question of what “Church” means. This week’s liturgy can help us explore that question. The second reading from the First Letter to the Corinthians says that we are God’s building, and it challenges us to recognize ourselves as the temple of our God. In an opening prayer and in the preface for this feast, the Church is described as a temple of “living stones.”
 
In today’s gospel reading, the moneychangers have violated the sanctity of the Temple as the house of worship, and Jesus angrily drives them out. To us, the Gospel says we should rid ourselves of the things that prevent us from being what we are intended to be: a dwelling place for the Spirit, a temple of the Lord.
 
Before the dedication of the Lateran Basilica, Christians met in houses to listen to the Scriptures, to pray together, and to “break bread,” an expression commonly used by early Christian communities. These communities were small, and their members were often persecuted for believing that God dwelt within them.
 
With this dedication began the possibility of gathering these small Christian communities together to worship their God as one Church of living stones, a Church of which the foundation stone is Christ.
 
Part of today’s feast is celebrating the freedom to be Christians in public. These readings also call us to the responsibility that comes with that freedom. Do others look at us as living stones? Do we look at ourselves as living stones—as even more a part of the Church than any building could ever be?
 
Adapted from, Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
 

little-girl-singing-in-churchPope Francis titled his landmark document on evangelization The Joy of the Gospel. It is a beautiful title for a beautiful work in which the Holy Father reminds us how we should truly live as Catholics. It pushes us to consider the question, do we actually live that joy?
 
On a recent weekend, I went to Mass with my brother and niece. There was a little girl, about three years old, in the pew in front of us. Whenever we would sing, or at the end of communal prayers, she would let out a shout of “YAY!” that reverberated through the church. Her parents tried to shush her, but every so often, she would shout again and giggle to herself, making everyone around her smile.
 
As we walked out to the car after Mass, my brother commented that there were far worse sounds a small child could make during Mass, to which I responded, “If only we could all be that happy to go to church!”
 
It made me stop and think. Are we that happy to go to church? Do we come to the altar with hearts full of joy, or do we see our Sunday obligation as just that, an obligation? Have we forgotten the power of the ritual of the Mass, only seeing the routine and the rote?
 
Every week, we witness a miracle. We see simple bread and wine transformed into our Savior. We receive the very body and blood of Jesus in the miracle of the Eucharist, and this should be a cause for great rejoicing.
 
We hear the very word of God proclaimed to the community of believers. How do we allow ourselves to forget the wonder and joy this should evoke?
 
We cannot come to the Mass with the cynical eyes of the modern world. We must come to the Mass with the joy-filled eyes of a people who know they are loved unconditionally by their God—a people who know that “God so loved the world he gave his only begotten Son.”
 
This is our challenge. The next time you walk through the doors of a church, try to hear in your mind, and more importantly feel in your heart, the words of the psalmist: “I rejoiced when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’”
 
Jennifer Bober is a RENEW Marketing Associate with both non-profit and publishing experience. In addition to her marketing career, she is a professional liturgical musician.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
 

Mary_RyanI am delighted to be a guest blogger here on the RENEW website and to be sharing some thoughts with you that I have titled “The Spirituality of Imperfection.”
 
I have borrowed this title from Franciscan Father Richard Rohr, who has used it many times in his books and lectures. I love this phrase, because it applies to me and to all of us: we try very hard to follow Jesus in discipleship, but we all are also broken or disabled, all of us in the human condition. It is in this brokenness, this imperfection, this vulnerability, that Jesus comes and joins with us, uniting with us and healing us.
 
When I say “broken,” I mean that none of us in the human condition can do anything perfectly. However, we should not be discouraged by our weaknesses, because Jesus knows that we are trying, and that we are doing it just right. Let’s keep in mind that Andrew, Bartholomew, Thomas, John and all the friends of Jesus at the time that he walked and lived and breathed among them, were also imperfect. I think we tend to lose sight of that: none of them were perfect!
 
So, broken discipleship should give us courage. It should remind us that we can’t be perfect every minute of every day, but as long as we live in the present moment with our Lord, we’re doing it just right.
 
I hope that any or all of this is ringing true for you. Let me give you a bit of background about myself. My husband and I have been involved in parish community as Pre-Cana leaders, members of the Parish Council, Eucharistic ministers and lectors, as well as active participants in RENEW programs.
 
I am 63 years old and have been a wife for 41 years, a mother to our four sons for 38 years, a foster parent to 27 children from Catholic Charities and Healing the Children, and “GranMary” to our eleven grandchildren.
 
I have also been totally blind for the past 36 years. My lack of sight has, at times, been a challenge for me and for my family, but I also found it to be a special opportunity to accept God’s grace in my life.
 
Jesus certainly knew first-hand the human condition and disability. We see this in his agony in the garden, where he asked God, our Father, “Please, take this from me. Please,” as he was filled with fear and confusion. But the most important thing about his prayer in that garden was this: “Father, let it be your will, and not mine.” We witness the love of Jesus for his Father, even in his desperation.
 
Jesus defines himself, and all of us, humbly and honorably, a “Servant.” He is fully aware of our imperfection, and yet he calls us to be of service to one another in his name. All in the human experience are disabled. By that I mean to say that all of us, in some area or another, are struggling, living with difficulties and challenges. So, whether child, adolescent or adult; African-American, Asian or Caucasian; male or female; and, indeed, sighted or blind: we are all challenged—emotionally, physically, psychologically or spiritually. In some way we must all face these challenges.
 
One definition of disability is any condition that may limit one’s independence, Blindness certainly fits the bill: it may limit my independence, but it must not, should not, and will not limit my identity. If I allow it to do so, if I enable it to dictate who I am and what I can accomplish, then blindness becomes for me not only a lack of sight, but a lack of vision. This is not what Jesus wants for me or from me, and it is definitely not what I intend to give him, as I journey this path of faith with him.
 
Mary Ryan lives in Westfield, New Jersey

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

 
 

clouds-806637_1920I gave up being pregnant for Lent. It wasn’t my plan. I actually started Lent giving up alcohol, soft cheeses, and sushi. But about halfway through the Lent, I had to give up something else.
 
Things weren’t going well one weekend and I had made an emergency appointment for an ultrasound on Monday morning. As I read my Lenten daily devotional on Sunday night, the prayer was, “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:5). I thought that it was a sign that everything would be fine. But it wasn’t. The baby wasn’t meant to be and I lost it.
 
A long, hard, terrible week followed. I have read about people’s “dark nights of the soul,” but I never fully understood what that meant. My faith was rocked. My world was rocked. I know God doesn’t punish us, but I felt punished. It was Lent and all I was reading about was God’s mercy, but God didn’t feel merciful to me. I had definitely hit a low point in my faith, the lowest point I had ever hit. I continued to read my Lenten daily devotional, even though my heart wasn’t really in it.
 
The next week, the scripture reading was, “Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’” (John 8:12).
 
This resonated with me. The world can be a very dark place. Watching the news is terrifying. Even more so with my own personal crisis, the world felt very dark and frightening. But without faith and without God, the world stays dark. It’s our faith that gives us the light to navigate in the darkness. It gives us the hope to navigate in a sometimes hopeless world. Without God’s love, mercy, and light, we would be lost.
 
As Lent ends and Easter begins we rejoice in God’s unending love and mercy. Be the light that your friends, neighbors, and the world desperately need.
 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
 

Mary“The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them”
(Luke 2:16-20).
 
Mary gives birth in a barn or stable and the shepherds come to see her Child. They leave singing praises. Mary ponders and reflects and treasures all these things that happen to her. She is our model in so many ways. Here, Mary is the first follower of Jesus, the first disciple. And the example she sets, the model she gives through her
actions, is that a follower of Jesus takes time to reflect on life’s events. A true disciple believes that there is meaning and mystery in daily life. A Christian takes time to pray quietly and sit at the feet of his or her Master to be still and hear God’s lessons that present themselves.
 
What can I learn from this? What is this teaching me? What is God’s message? These are questions we can ask each day as we meditate on the happenings of our seemingly ordinary life. There is always another dimension in which we live. The spiritual is real, but hidden.
 
And the way to uncover it is simply to ponder, as did Mary, and ask God to help us see with eyes of faith the important meaning, message, and challenge that we might otherwise miss. This is the role of a disciple as Mary, the first disciple, shows us. We, too, must ponder, reflect, and treasure the gifts of each day that God gives us.
 
How do I take time to listen in my heart each day, as Mary does?
 
Adapted from PrayerTime: Faith-Sharing Reflections on the Sunday Gospels, available at the RENEW International store

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
 

Considering the nature of the events in St. Luke’s narrative of the birth of Jesus, we would expect from the witnesses exactly the reaction that Luke described: they were “amazed.” But within the same few lines of Luke’s story there is a tantalizing counterpoint to that amazement: “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”

We have learned 20 centuries later about the birth of Jesus and all the circumstances surrounding it, and we hear the story repeated in a variety of ways scores of times during our lives. We have benefited from explanations of the Nativity in homilies, in our religious instruction, in our reading. Do we, in the 21st century, have the same reactions to the birth of Jesus as those who were present at the time? Are we amazed, and do we reflect on these things in our hearts?

Although we are used to the story and all the images surrounding it—angels, shepherds, the manger, the parents, the infant—the meaning of these events should still amaze us. This is not just a folk tale adorned with details calculated to charm us. This is the account of a transformative event in human history, an event in which divine life and human life intersected in a uniquely intimate way.

This was not God speaking to man and woman from the shadows of Eden. This was not God pronouncing commands to Moses from the flames on Sinai. This was God, so full of love for the creatures made in his own likeness that he himself took on human form. This was God taking on himself the whole of the human experience, excepting sin, so that men and women would be restored to their proper relationship to God through the ministry, sacrifice, and glorification of the man whose birth Luke described.

If we believe this, how can we not be amazed?

As astounding as the birth of Jesus was in its implications for the human race, it was in its immediate circumstances a very personal event—this particular child born to these particular parents under difficult economic, social, and political conditions.

Although it occurred in the first century in Palestine, a time and a place that are remote from us, we can easily relate to the story of Jesus’ birth because we understand on the one hand fear and confusion, and we understand on the other hand the joy of parenthood and the irresistible attraction of a newborn child. For Joseph and Mary, the effects of these competing emotions must have been unsettling and exhausting.

But Mary, as she so often did, set an example for us in her reaction to the Nativity itself and the framework in which it occurred: she reflected on these things in her heart.

The Christmas season at times seems to be designed to prevent us from doing any such thing. The season imposes on us, and we impose on ourselves, so many material obligations—the season immerses us in so much activity and noise—that we may not pause to reflect on anything.

But for most of us, the pressures of the holiday season are as nothing compared to what Mary confronted. And still, she reflected on these things in her heart. The birth of Jesus began the unfolding of the mystery through which each of us has been offered salvation from the consequences of sin and death.

If we believe this, how can we not reflect on it at Christmas and on every day of our lives?

Adapted from PrayerTime: Faith-Sharing Reflections on the Sunday Gospels, available at the RENEW International store

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
 

I stayed up way past my bedtime Saturday night watching Lone Survivor. Then I was up for hours with a teething infant. After hearing about the shootings in Oregon on Friday and then watching this true story of a Navy Seal team, I was so grateful to be able to be up with my baby. There are so many men and women who can’t be with their kids—and some who will never be with their kids again. These heroes defend us overseas, and, in incidents such as this most recent shooting, they defend us at home too.
 
Monday morning I awoke to the news of a thwarted attack on a California high school that was to be carried out by four of its students. Also on the news was an alert to all Philadelphia-area schools of a potential threat.
 
I drove my older son to school that morning with my heart in my throat. These attacks are coming with increased frequency, and they are occurring all over the country—how can any of us ever feel safe?
 
When a former auxiliary bishop for the military services, Most Reverend Joseph W. Estabrook, was fighting cancer, he told his good friend Sr. Maureen Colleary—a member of the RENEW International Staff—“Fear and faith can’t live in the same space.” When she told me this, it stuck with me. I think of that phrase often when I’m worried about anything—and lately these worries are about persecuted Christians in the Middle East, terrorist attacks, and mass shootings at schools, movie theaters, and other places where we should be safe.
 
I thought about that quote a lot after I dropped my son off. How is that possible? Can you really live a fearless life in today’s world? Did those college students feel fear when they stood up to the gunman and told them they were Christian before he shot them? Did the brave army veteran, on his son’s sixth birthday, feel any fear as he rushed the gunman?
 
The best we can do is to have faith, to trust in God, and to pray as often as possible. We pray for peace, and we pray in thanksgiving for the heroes that help stop these attacks at home and protect us abroad. We are all charged with being vigilant, with knowing our surroundings and exit routes, with seeing something and saying something. If we don’t have faith while we do it, fear will just consume us.
 
Amy Reed is a member of RENEW International’s Marketing and Communications team and a Notre Dame alumna.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
 

Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi—a great day for all Franciscans around the world. Today is also the feast day of our pope – who has chosen to call himself Francis after this holy and simple man of God.
 
Recently we have been challenged by Pope Francis’ encyclical letter, “Laudato Si’,” which he opens with a quote from St. Francis’ famous Canticle of the Creatures. I think it would be fair to say this is truly a “Franciscan” encyclical! Pope Francis begins, “LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, St. Francis reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us: “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with colored flowers and herbs”(No. 1).
 
Pope Francis calls all of us, especially those committed to the Franciscan tradition, to take seriously St. Francis’ profound theological beliefs about seeing God embedded in a spectacularly interconnected world—God as the source of each and every creature, no matter how small.
We read: “(St. Francis’) response to the world around him was so much more than intellectual appreciation or economic calculus, for to him each and every creature was a sister united to him by bonds of affection…Such a conviction cannot be written off as naïve romanticism, for it affects the choices which determine our behavior” (No. 11).
 
RENEW International, in conjunction with GreenFaith and the Catholic Climate Covenant, is producing Creation at the Crossroads, a small-group, faith-sharing resource that examines the encyclical through the lens of prayer and Scripture. This resource will bring people of faith a conversion of spirit that will lead to greater action to care for our common home and all who inhabit it.
 
We know that we can make a difference, opening the eyes of Catholics and other people of faith to the significance of this timely issue. While people of faith know the importance of caring for human life, they do not always grasp that caring for all of creation is an integral component of that mission. Our people and our planet are inextricably linked. We cannot truly help one while contributing to the destruction of the other.
 
Pope Francis encourages us to follow the example of Francis of Assisi whose own experience of conversion and appreciation of our connection to the environment helped him embrace all God’s creation.
 
“I ask all Christians,” the pope writes, “to recognize and to live fully this dimension of their conversion. May the power and the light of the grace we have received also be evident in our relationship to other creatures and to the world around us. In this way, we will help nurture that sublime fraternity with all creation which Saint Francis of Assisi so radiantly embodied” (No. 221).
 
Sr. Maureen P. Colleary, FSP is a member of RENEW’s Pastoral Services Team and is a Franciscan Sister of Peace.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
 

There are common phrases such as “Have a heart,” “Is your heart in it?”, “The heart of the matter is…” When I hear these, I know we are talking “essentials.’’ As we celebrate the Feast of the Sacred Heart, I consider the Heart of Jesus. I think of qualities and characteristics such as love, peace, respect, dignity, mercy, compassion, forgiveness. This feast, for me, is also an invitation to rededicate myself to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and reflect on how these essential qualities are lived through my heart and in my everyday life.

I consider myself truly blessed to know Jesus and want to be like him. It’s a gift that I treasure and enjoy sharing—knowing this world would be an even better place if everyone did. Today is a good day to delight in and share the joy and blessing of our faith in him. He has faith in us!

Anne Scanlan is a member of the RENEW staff, serves on the Pastoral Services Team, and is an exceptional liturgist.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
 

Dom_Helder_CamaraEarlier this week, the Vatican opened the cause for the canonization of Dom Helder Camara, the “bishop of the poor” and one of the most influential Latin American church leaders of the twentieth century.
 
I never met an archbishop who was smaller in stature than me. However, his smallness of height was no indication of the influence of his soul and life. He was almost 70 but seemed older with a wizened brown face, battered by years of exposure to the harsh sun of drought-ravaged Brazil. I remember, above all, his gentleness and his concern for everything in the world around him, including animals and plants (which had earned him the nickname of St. Francis).
 
It was the early 80s; I was pastoral associate at St. James Cathedral in Brooklyn, N.Y. Dom Helder had been nominated four times for the Noble Peace Prize, but it was never awarded to him. In spite of this, or maybe because of it, Riverside Church in Manhattan recognized his greatness and invited him speak at an evening of prayer during a major disarmament conference. I had the good fortune to be his host for the weekend. No fancy hotels; no special meals. He drank tea, and he ate bread and vegetables.
In 1959 Dom Helder was appointed archbishop of Olinda e Recife, a very poor diocese in Northeastern Brazil. He rejected the pomp and ceremony of his rank. He always wore a battered brown cassock, adorned only by a simple wooden cross. This was what he wore that weekend to Riverside Church. For me, one who is so concerned about appearances and wardrobe, this was a reminder of what is important.
 
Dom Helder also refused to live in the archbishop’s house! “I’m not one of those evil elitist Church-people you know. The poor are at the center of MY Gospel,” he said. He lived in a small, three-room house behind the sacristy of the cathedral. During his tenure, he was informally called the “bishop of the slums” for his clear position on the side of the urban poor. He encouraged peasants to think beyond their conventionally fatalistic outlook by studying the Gospels in small groups and asking what conclusions could be drawn for social change. He was active in the formation of the Brazilian Bishops’ Conference in 1952, and he served as its first general secretary until 1964. In 1959 he founded Banco da Providência in Rio de Janeiro, a philanthropic organization to fight poverty and social injustice by making it easier for poor people to receive loans.
 
Dom Helder Camara founded a seminary where the formation of the priest candidates in social action was as important as formation in theology.
 
When we arrived at Riverside, the church with its two balconies, which seats 1900, was jammed. After bringing Dom Helder to the sacristy, I squeezed into a spot in the balcony. The music was glorious; the procession included 25-foot-high puppets mocking armaments as a way to peace. High-ranking clerics from all over the world processed into the church, the colors and designs of the vestments were astounding. As Dom Helder entered the nave the congregation stood and applauded for what seemed to be a solid twenty minutes. Tears ran down my cheeks. I recall that as he spoke that evening he made a statement that has often been quoted since: “When I feed the hungry they call me saint. When I ask why they are hungry they call me a communist.”
 
Camara attended all four sessions of the Second Vatican Council and was instrumental in developing the document The Church in the Modern World (Lumen Gentium). Perhaps Camara’s greatest achievement was to help organize the historic meeting of CELAM (Consejo Episcopal Latinoamerican or the Latin American Episcopal Conference) in Medellin in Colombia in 1968. In a decisive break with their old role of supporting the rich and the powerful, the bishops declared a “preferential option for the poor,” openly identifying themselves with the excluded and the exploited. It was an important victory for the progressive wing of the Church, which at that time was enthused with the ideas of liberation theology sweeping through the continent, particularly Brazil.
 
Will people call Oscar Romero, a martyr for the faith who will be beatified this month in El Salvador; Dom Helder Camara of Brazil; and Pope Francis of Argentina and Rome communists because they actually love the poor?
 
You can read more about Dom Helder Camara in his downloadable book, The Spiral of Violence.
 
Sister Honora is the Assistant Director at RENEW and a Dominican Sister of Amityville, NY.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
 

StudentMassI have eleven grandchildren ranging from ages 24 to 10. Among these are twin grandsons, age 21, very handsome and quite nice. I am blessed that all of my grandchildren love and revere their faith.
 
On a spring break visit, I asked Brendan, one of the twins, if there were many Catholic young ladies at his college. You see, I have viewed endless postings of him at various functions with pretty young ladies on his arm. Brendan replied that he thought about 40 percent were probably Catholic, and he added that the percentage isn’t much more at Notre Dame, a Catholic university. I then asked if the girls he dated were Catholic. He sort of laughed and said, “Not like you and I are, Teetee.”
 
Being ROTC students, Brendan and his brother are models of “physical fitness” and work out constantly at the gym. At a couple of his Saturday night fraternity events the young lady he had escorted asked if she could accompany him to the gym the following Sunday morning and what time he would be going. His reply would always be, “I don’t know what Mass I’ll be attending, so I cannot give you a set time.” Her surprised retort was, “You go to Mass?” He’d then asked, “Are you not Catholic?” She’d awkwardly reply, “Why yes I am, but I cannot remember the last time I went to Mass.” When Brendan told me about these conversations, I asked why he hadn’t responded, “That’s sad; you don’t know what you’re missing.” He just laughed and said, “Guys just don’t talk like that, Grandma.”
 
A couple of weeks later I received a text from Brendan asking me to call that evening. He related a new incident almost exactly like the previous one. When the young lady inquired about going to the gym with him on Sunday morning, and found out he first attended Mass, she reacted the same way as the previous young lady and said she had not been to Mass for years even though she and her family were Catholic. This time Brendan responded, “Gee, that’s really sad.” End result, she attended Mass with him and has been going each Sunday since. He said sometimes they even go during the week if they are having a big test.
 
I cannot tell you how happy and proud this grandma is, and I hope Brendan will continue his missionary discipleship, being a new evangelizer in a way that he feels comfortable with and that is consistent with who he is and what he believes. Now I have to work on his brother.
 
Maria Martine is a member of the Rosary Society at Our Lady of Peace, New Providence, N.J.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

 
 

As each year begins, many people resolve to exercise and get fit. Beginning a new year is also a good time to reflect on our spiritual lives and enhance our spiritual fitness as well.
 
Here are some helpful activities to enhance your spiritual fitness for the new year:
 
 
Prayer: Reserve time for daily prayer. Intentionally spend half of your prayer time quietly listening to God whispering to your soul.
 
Examen: A fruitful extension of a healthy prayer life for many people has been a daily examen. Many have grown deeply in their relationship with God through this daily process promoted by St. Ignatius. It is a helpful method for revealing God’s presence to us on our journey through life. An audio explanation of the five simple steps of the daily examen is online here: examen.
 
Sacraments: Receive the graces of the sacraments as often as you can. Begin a new year with a fresh start. If it’s been a while since you’ve been to reconciliation, commit to go soon and place a monthly reminder on your calendar to return. Mass is celebrated daily at most parishes. Attend when possible and / or try to read and reflect on God’s Word in the scripture readings for daily Mass. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops provides them online at: Mass readings.
 
Focus and Habits: Develop spiritually healthy habits to replace former negative patterns of behavior or thought. Do something good when tempted to do wrong or when you realize that you’ve been negligent or indifferent. Recognize when you detect yourself slipping into uncharitable, unloving, selfish, or unholy thoughts. When this occurs, take a breath and pray a silent brief prayer asking for the grace to navigate every situation in a manner pleasing to God. Remember that when Peter began sinking into the lake, he cried out to Jesus, and Jesus immediately helped him.
 
People: A sign of a healthy spiritual life is our care for others and how we treat people. Reach out to others in need in a deliberate way. Be a living sign of God’s love for others by performing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. The works of mercy are explained in paragraph 2447 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and are online at: works of mercy.
 
In caring for others, make every day an All Souls Day and remember to offer prayers for the forgotten souls in Purgatory. This is a generous act of care and love.
 
These back-to-the-basics ideas, when implemented in our lives daily, can deepen our relationship with God, fill us with greater peace, and help each of us on our journey to holiness.
 
Happy New Year.
 
Christopher Burns is a member of RENEW International’s Resources and Publications team.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
 

On my way to work a few weeks ago, I passed a house with four blow-up Christmas characters in its front lawn. Not so strange, you say, it is December. However, these are not your average lawn decorations—this Santa, snowman, reindeer, and Christmas tree all tower over the house they are in front of. They must be 25 feet tall. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. I just shook my head and went on my (merry) way to work.
 
The next Sunday at Mass, the priest mentioned that house in his homily. He asked the congregation if anyone had seen that house, as it is just a few blocks from the Church. I turned to my husband and said in a low tone, “I totally have. It’s crazy and I’m glad they’re not our neighbors.”
 
Christmas has really snuck up on me this year. At the beginning of the month, my son started pre-school. So, of course, we’ve already had a double ear infection and a bout of croup. Oh, and I’m about 35 weeks pregnant. My “expectant waiting” in Advent has not quite been a contemplative journey, but rather a race against time and exhaustion. Decorating for Christmas happened in a rush one night after bedtime right after Thanksgiving so I could be sure to get the “perfect” picture for our Christmas cards. Shopping has been done online and half the time with a sick toddler on my lap. I haven’t had time to relish in the season or even begin to explain to my son the true meaning of Christmas.
 
In his homily, our priest said, “How can you not look at that house and smile?” Easily, I thought. But he went on to say how Jesus tells us to look at the world with childlike wonder. So, how, as a child, could you not look at this house and feel giddy?
 
I thought about that for a while. I pictured my son running up to those insanely large blow-up dolls and poking them, then taking a flying leap to bounce off of them, and then laughing hysterically. That definitely made me smile.
 
The priest went on to say that the world was a scary and dangerous place, and if we were too busy to see these small things, and see them through the eyes of a child, we would easily miss some of the joy life has to offer.
 
It’s so true. As a mother, and almost a mother of two, pretty much anything in the news scares the heck out of me. I am constantly worried about my son(s), my husband, and pretty much everyone I know. It’s so easy to miss the joy, even in this season, if we don’t take the time to pay attention.
 
So, in these few days before Christmas, I urge you to smile at tacky blow-up decorations and delight in all the lights in your neighborhood. And remember, Christmas is an entire season, not just a day, so relish in the joy of the greatest gift you will ever receive—God’s love.
 
Amy Reed is a member of RENEW International’s Marketing and Communications team and a Notre Dame alumna.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
 

Miriam_DemjanovichAlmost twenty years ago, I had the privilege of attending St. John Paul’s mass at Giants Stadium. There had been a lottery at my church in Verona, New Jersey, and I was chosen to attend along with my wife, Janet, and about 40 other parishioners. Janet could not attend because of work responsibilities.
 
It was a very damp and cloudy morning, and we hoped that the rain would hold off until after Mass. However, it started to rain right after the Gospel was proclaimed, and we were completely drenched. Yet, it was a most memorable and holy day that I will always cherish.
 
So after I read about the beatification mass for Sister Miriam Teresa Demjanovich at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Newark, I knew that it would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. This time, Janet came with me, and it was a very rainy morning once again. Camera trucks from all of the television networks, including EWTN were on Central Avenue, and it was fairly empty outside. We thought that we were early. Once we entered, though, we found that the cathedral was filled to capacity. We were lucky to find two chairs in the back along the side wall.
 
At 9:30 the procession began, and it lasted for at least 15 minutes. The Sisters Of Charity were well represented and processed down the middle aisle followed by the deacons, priests, bishops, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, and the celebrant, Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints. During the rite and formula of beatification, the cathedral was silent, but then it erupted with such joy and celebration. Blessed Miriam Teresa’s portrait was then uncovered as Michael Mencer—whose boyhood recovery from macular degeneration is attributed to Sister Miriam’s intercession—carried her relics, which were placed next to her portrait.
 
I cannot find the words to describe how I felt during the beatification rite. It was amazing and spirit-filling to witness the beatification of a woman from Bayonne, New Jersey and a sister from the local congregation of the Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth.
 
Two one-of-a-kind spiritual events within twenty years!
 
Richard Michalowski is RENEW International’s Controller and proud father and grandfather.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
 

Where once there was a place of torture and torment there now lies a very peaceful area in Auriesville, New York—a holy spot dedicated to the saints who once roamed there. In fact, this holy place not only contains the resting grounds of many North American martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the salvation of souls but is also the birthplace of Native American St. Kateri Tekakwitha.
 
In midsummer of 2011, I was able to make a pilgrimage to this location. It was a very special time for me, because I was preparing to be confirmed in the Catholic Church; because of this, my confirmation sponsor suggested we take a holy trip. I was twenty years old when I made the trek up to Auriesville. Never having made a pilgrimage before, I had no idea what to expect, but I had a great devotion to St. Kateri Tekakwitha, and I was more than excited to see her birthplace.
 
That area in upstate New York is absolutely breath-taking and beautiful. Surrounded by rolling hills and wide-open spaces, you can’t help but feel at peace. Even when I walked what used to be the gauntlet, where many people, including the North American martyrs, were beaten and tortured, I still felt peace. I knew their suffering wasn’t in vain. Throughout the trip I felt St. Kateri’s presence all around me.
 
St. Kateri Tekakwitha always captivated me. She is known as the Lily of the Mohawks because of her virginal purity but also because she tried to evangelize people in her Mohawk village. Even though she wasn’t officially catechized, she connected to God and the Blessed Virgin Mary at a very young age. The Jesuits had visited her village and tried to teach the Native Americans about Jesus. To do this the missionaries began learning the native language and would often refer to the faith in terms and signs that were relevant to the Native Americans. Many parallels between the Catholic faith and North American tradition started to become clear, and the Jesuits were even able to translate the Lord’s Prayer into the language of the Mohawks. However, Mohicans intruded on Kateri’s village and, as a result, the Jesuit missionaries were captured and killed, along with the chiefs of the tribe.
 
Kateri faced many difficulties, not just with the attacks from other tribes, but also from disease. She suffered from a bout of smallpox that left her face scarred and almost blinded her. This disease killed her parents, leaving Kateri orphaned. However, she did not suffer in vain; she would offer up her pain and sickness for the conversion of those around her. She would even sleep with thorns in her bed as corporal mortification for the conversion of souls.
 
Even though Kateri never really studied the faith, her heart was completely invested in the mission of Jesus. She remained pure of heart, even when she was forced to marry, and steadfast in her attempts toward the salvation of others. She chose to be baptized against the wishes of many of her friends and family. At twenty-four, I am now the age at which she died after a long period of declining health; it is worth mentioning that at the time of her death the scars on her face were cleared and some say she was glowing. St. Kateri Tekakwitha was canonized as the first Native American saint by Pope Benedict XVI on October 21, 2012.
 
When I was later able to spend a week for a mission trip with the the Native Americans of the Turtle Clan in North Dakota (Kateri was thought to be from this clan), my love and devotion for St. Kateri grew even more. Their Catholic identity is so great on that mountain in North Dakota, that I can’t help but think it is a result of the hard work, sacrifice, and prayers made by St. Kateri and the North American martyrs. They paved the way for our faith in America and we must not forget their sacrifices.
 
St. Kateri was young when she died, but she lived her life selflessly for others. As Catholics, both young and old, we can take St. Kateri’s example and apply it to our own lives. It’s never too late to start living for others, and especially for Christ. Let us follow St. Kateri’s example of faith, hope, and charity. St. Kateri Tekakwitha, Lily of the Mohawks, pray for us!
 
Callie Kowalski is a member of RENEW’s marketing and communications team and directs its young adult programs.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
Page 1 of 512345
Home / Request Information / Site Map / Contact Us / Shop Online
Why Catholic? / ¿Por qué ser católico? / ARISE Together in Christ / Longing for the Holy
Campus RENEW / Theology on Tap / RENEW Worldwide