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Last summer, while addressing the Brazilian bishops at World Youth Day, Pope Francis spoke of the people who have left the Church disappointed. He wondered out loud if for some the Church had appeared “too cold, perhaps too caught up with itself, perhaps a prisoner of its own rigid formulas.” He asked, “Are we still a Church capable of warming hearts?”
 
The answer is: We are! This is how a group of RENEW small communities from Indiana came together to warm hearts and stir faith: “The message of Jesus rang loud and clear as we read the Scripture and discussed the love of Jesus for the poor and the marginalized. As a result of our conversation on the Gospel, our small groups have volunteered and given resources to the food pantry and Mother Teresa’s Treasure. Families have been helped in times of crisis and single mothers have received relief from their burdens. An Hispanic family has been helped with the legalities of becoming citizens of the United States. Fresh tomatoes were donated to the food pantry. One hour after returning from the food pantry, a young woman called the parish office. She was crying. She stated that she had three fresh tomatoes sitting in front of her. She had not tasted a home grown tomato in three years. She proclaimed, ‘I want to be part of any church that would reach out to me with a fresh tomato.’”
 
She ultimately moved to downtown Evansville and entered the RCIA process at a local parish and became a Catholic. How humbling. We protest and plead ignorance on the subject of how to evangelize, and in this case a tomato did it! Each one of us is called to warm hearts and stir faith by simple acts of kindness and works of mercy. The witness of our lives steeped in faith and reflected in acts of love is the only antidote to the sterility of secularism, the numbness of consumerism, and the allure of sin. We will become a church capable of warming hearts only when we open our stony hearts to the Sacred Heart of Christ and allow the fire of his deep abiding love for us to soften and reshape our heart into his own.
 
Sr. Terry is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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We have rung in another new year. I am an optimist and I believe in making resolutions for a better, fuller, holier, and healthier life in 2014. But I struggle with the truth that I have made many resolutions in the past and by the end of the month many of these resolutions have dissolved. I excuse myself. January is not the greatest time to start anew—it is cold, dark, and long, at least for us who live north.
 
So I struggle as I reflect on my life and on the positive changes I want to make. I remind myself that I live not by unrealistic optimism but by faith imbued with the hope—all things are possible by God’s grace. I also assent to what the experts tell us about making positive changes: make it doable, start small, celebrate small wins, and gradually make changes that become lifetime habits. So the dilemma: what do I resolve to do in 2014?
 
A couple of weeks ago a colleague shared with me a mantra that has been a help to her: “Let it go, start again.” This phrase has captured my imagination. Already, I have repeated this phrase to myself and others. So this is what I resolve to do in 2014: whatever new and good habits I try to embrace throughout this coming year, I will repeat this mantra when I fail at them: “Let it go, start again,” and lean on God’s mercy as well as my own.
 
If you need something concrete to do in 2014 review the suggestion below. I am going to try it but it is not a resolution! If I fail to drop in a piece of paper after a few weeks or months, that will be okay with me—I will let it go and start again.
 
Create a blessing jar for 2014.
 

 
Sr. Terry is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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In the last two years of her life, my mother received notes from various people telling her of their gratitude for her friendship and the impact she had on their lives. I shared snippets of them during the eulogy at her funeral. One is a letter from Rosemarie to my mom in honor of her 87th birthday. Rosemarie had known my mom for more than 55 years. They first met when my parents with my two older brothers moved to the house next to Rosemarie’s family. Rosemarie was sixteen and often visited my mother and
helped her with my brothers.
 
In her letter, Rosemarie recalled the birth of her first child. Her husband was working when her labor pains began. She immediately called my mom who quickly dropped my brothers off at my grandmother’s and drove Rosemarie to the hospital. Rosemarie wrote that my mother’s strong and caring presence diminished her fear and gave her a steady confidence. My mom stayed with her until the baby was born and Rosemarie’s husband arrived. Rosemarie wrote, “The memory of your contagious illuminating smile will always be with me.” The story of these two women of different generations, supporting each other in a time of both great need and deep joy, is the story of God’s presence among us.
 
On the Fourth Sunday of Advent we hear the gospel story of the Visitation. Elizabeth is aware of and welcomes into her home the presence of God in Mary. Mary is aware of the goodness of Elizabeth and knows of the messenger of God, whom Elizabeth bears in her womb. The women rejoice with one another in the impossible becoming possible in their lives and express gratitude for that great gift.
 
During their visit Elizabeth, having resigned herself to living with the disappointment of not having a child, now has to deal with an unexpected blessing. Mary in turn has to resolve living with a blessing that causes more problems than it solves. How would she explain this to Joseph? Elizabeth and Mary’s mutual encouragement enables them to go forward with more confidence and joy despite the struggles they face.
 
When Elizabeth hears Mary’s greeting, there is a leaping for joy in the darkness of her own womb. In that moment, Elizabeth experienced a bodily knowing that God was present and active in her and Mary’s lives. Through these pregnant prophets God was working out the divine will in the world.
 
During the Advent season we celebrate the various comings or visits of God into our human community—into the past, the present, and the future. Jesus is the God of Advent. How has God visited you in the very ordinariness of your life? Pay attention to the presence of God in the gathering of friends and family during this holiday season. These may be visitation moments. Don’t miss them.
 
Sr. Terry is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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As I was driving past a church the sermon topic on the sign board caught my attention: “God Answers Knee-Mail.” These titles are often expressed in catchy terms in order to attract people to come on Sunday and hear the whole sermon. I understand this phrase “knee-mail” has been around for a while, but this was the first time I had heard it. It caught my attention because the truth is that God hears all our prayers. That is the promise of Jesus: “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find; knock and the door shall be
opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).
 
What does that promise mean? First of all it is an assurance that God is present in our lives, in all our ups and downs. Second, it tells us that God wants us to communicate with him all our needs and those of our loved ones and of the larger world. And God will certainly answer our prayers – not always exactly in the way we expect, but according to his will and in his time.
 
Therefore, one thing we can be assured of is this: unlike human being who will either delete or ignore some of the thousands of e-mails coming into their inbox, God hears all our knee-mails, and he never presses delete!
 
Sr. Terry is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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During this Year of Faith, we will blog reflections and stories to accompany you on your faith journey.
 
“Give thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.” – Ephesians 5:20
 
The rule of St. Benedict prescribes that the doorkeeper shall say “Deo gratias’’ whenever a stranger knocks at the door or a beggar asks for assistance.
 
Recently, I was at the door of the convent at dusk, with my keys in my hand, when I was approached by a woman begging for money. I am always conflicted in these situations, but after a long conversation, I gave her five dollars. It wasn’t until after she left that I said, “Thanks be to God,” using the expression, as I usually do, more as a sigh of relief than as an expression of profound gratitude.
 
My response to the woman at the convent door fell way short of Benedict’s ideal or St. Paul’s admonition to give thanks always, in everything and, I would add, in everyone.
 
Expressing gratitude at Mass
At Mass we say the words “Thanks be to God” after the first and second readings, expressing our gratitude for the word of God we have received. We still use those words, “Thanks be to God,” when we respond to the new dismissals at Mass. We are expressing our gratitude for the graces received at Mass and for the call to live a eucharistic life.
 
Whichever new form of the dismissal is used, the meaning is the same: “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life”—a life of praise and gratitude.
 
Let your gratitude lead you
The dismissal calls us to show our gratefulness for the graces we have received by how we live the gospel after Mass, after we have left the church. These words that send us forth from Eucharist change our direction. They grab us by the shoulders and turn us away from the altar, pointing us to the open door of the church and into the world. It is into the world that we are sent to seek and follow Christ, bringing God’s compassionate and gracious love to all.
 
The last words we speak at Mass sum up our response to such good news: “Thanks be to God.” May these words help us to stop, to notice, to appreciate our daily blessings, and, most importantly, to give thanks always and in everything and everyone. Gratitude on our lips has the power to transform our hearts.
 
Suggestions for Prayer:
  – Cultivate an attitude of gratitude by keeping a gratitude journal, regularly writing down those things for which you are grateful.
  – The next time you encounter a person begging or someone who has interrupted an important task in which you are engaged, thank God for the person and the interruption.
 
Reprinted with permission from Living with Christ. For more information or to subscribe, visit www.livingwithchrist.us or call 1-800-214-3386.
 
Sr. Terry is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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Cisco the Convent CatTwo years ago, I was living in a convent in Jersey City with seven other sisters. With every storm, the rain poured through various holes in the roof. When the roofers finally came to put on a new roof, we thought God had answered our prayer—no more buckets. However, once they tore off the old roof the convent became infested with mice. The mice took over every floor of our home. We put up the good fight, including storing our food in jars and laying out those dreaded glue traps (I can’t imagine St. Francis looks kindly on glue traps). We called the exterminator, who caught a few baby mice, but the invasion continued. Every evening I could hear Sr. Marenid shriek as another mouse scampered through her bedroom. At a community meeting, the sisters expressed varying degrees of discomfort with living with mice. After much prayer and discernment, and a long meeting —such as only nuns can engage in—we reached a consensus. The only acceptable solution to our mice dilemma was a cat. For some, this was the lesser of two evils.
 
I volunteered to go to the shelter and pick out a cat—a frisky one that looked like a good hunter. I later learned that the correct term is a “mouser.” As soon as I laid eyes on Cisco, a pretty champagne-colored kitten, I knew he was the one. I listened attentively to all the directions on how to care for him. I bought all the necessary equipment and took Cisco to his new home. As instructed, I kept Cisco enclosed in our community room until he became “adjusted.” The sisters couldn’t wait for him to get to work. After three days I set him free to roam the house and earn his keep. Cisco refused to leave the community room. This went on for more than a week. I finally had a talk with him: “Cisco, let’s get moving or they will make me take you back to the orphanage.” Finally, after he had resisted all the coaxing, I picked him up and brought him down the stairs to the kitchen. He sniffed around and finally, after a few days, he had a half catch—a mouse stuck in one of the glue traps we mistakenly had left behind. We applauded his work. It took more than a month for Cisco to venture out on his own and prowl the house. He added one more mouse to his record and, shortly after that, the mice vacated the house. Cisco quickly won over each of our hearts.
 
Then I noticed that one of Cisco’s eyes began to tear. I brought him for a check-up and after a quick evaluation the vet asked me, “Do you know that this cat is blind?” I couldn’t believe it. I felt really sad about Cisco’s blindness. Within a couple of months Cisco totally adapted to his environment, leaping onto windowsills in a single bound, discovering each one of our bedrooms, and meowing at our doors until one of us fed him. He had each of our routines down—Sr. Mary got up at 5 a.m. every morning and Cisco was at her side, waiting for her to play with him. He joined us each morning for prayer. When I arrived home and shared the news with the other sisters, Sr. Marenid exclaimed, “We can’t treat him any differently. Don’t mention his blindness in front of him.” Sr. Veronica added, “It was meant to be that we would be gifted with a blind cat!” Even if Cisco never caught another mouse—which he didn’t—we grew to love him blindness and all.
 
I have learned lots about cats in these past two years. Cisco continues to amaze me with all he can do in spite of his blindness. He sometimes drives us crazy with his antics but also gives us many a good laugh. I later learned that most shelters euthanize blind cats, because they are deemed unadoptable. I am glad that when I adopted Cisco, I wasn’t told that he was blind. I hate to admit that I probably wouldn’t have chosen him. I really would have missed a great gift from God.
 
Cisco reminds me that God loves me even with my blind spots. I often notice Cisco lying contently on the windowsill enjoying both the warmth of the sun and the cool breeze and I am reminded to embrace and enjoy the moment. When I come home after a long day at work I am greeted with enthusiastic meows and purring and I am reminded of not only God’s love but the love of family and friends. One of the blessings we have been given is the companionship of an amazing cat.
 
Sr. Terry is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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During this Year of Faith, we will blog reflections and stories to accompany you on your faith journey.
 
Go Forth“Go forth, the Mass is ended. Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord. Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life. Go in peace.” -Dismissal Rite
 
Mother Teresa often told her Sisters to remember the “gospel on five fingers.” As she held up each finger of her hand, she would say, “You. Did. It. For. Me.” These words come from Matthew 25:40, where Jesus tells us we will be judged by how we help the thirsty or hungry or sick.
 
We are charged with a mission
The Eucharist calls us to become the Church of Matthew 25. We who have been fed, filled, and healed by word and sacrament are charged to go forth to carry God’s mission into the world.
 
The changes in the dismissal formulas at the end of Mass might be easy to overlook. But for me, they are one of the best changes in the new Mass translations. They make more explicit the relationship between Eucharist and mission. Each of the new dismissal options begins with “Go.” The dismissal is more about beginning than ending.
 
The Eucharist will guide us
The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Church’s participation in God’s mission to the world. We are sent from the liturgy of the Eucharist to the liturgy of the world. The heart of the Eucharist is missiological, reminding us through word and sign that the household of God is not meant to stay in the house.
 
The gospel we hear proclaimed week after week is God’s good news about the redemption of the world, in which we are invited to take part. In the Penitential Act, we acknowledge our sins against God and neighbor, and we do not mean just those sitting beside us in our pews or even those sitting next to us at our dinner tables. Our prayers of petition are prayers for the Church and for the world.
 
We are a people on mission—God’s mission of bringing mercy and healing to the world.
 
Go and glorify the Lord!
Every Mass exhorts us to “Go” and be the Church of Matthew 25—a community of committed disciples helping the thirsty, hungry, and sick. We are gathered and sent to go forth; to go in peace, glorifying the Lord by our transformed lives; to go and announce the gospel, the good news of Jesus’ saving love for the world.
 
Suggestions for Prayer:
  – How do I live during the week what I celebrate on Sunday?
  – Prayerfully read Matthew 25:31-46 and then pray, “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.”
 
Reprinted with permission from Living with Christ. For more information or to subscribe, visit www.livingwithchrist.us or call 1-800-214-3386.
 
Sr. Terry is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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When two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in their midst.
Matthew 18:20
 
Brooke_Healey_Vigil _ K_BologniniOn a warm August evening, candles lit the sky in prayer.
 
I live at Our Lady of Peace Convent in New Providence, New Jersey. Last week, on a warm August evening, supporters and neighbors gathered in the soccer field next to our house for a prayer vigil for four-year-old Brooke Healey. Last year, Brooke was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.
 
The candles lit up the field. I was so touched by the crowds—people of all ages and especially families with small children.
 
Brooke’s aunt, Michelle, opened the vigil by saying, “I believe in the power of prayer, I believe in miracles, and I believe in Brooke.” Fr. Bill, our pastor, led the crowd in an opening prayer as everyone’s candles were lit. “We ask you to look after Brooke,’’ he said, “give her comfort, strength, and courage…”
 
The vigil concluded with Steve Healey, Brooke’s dad, thanking the community for their prayers and support. “Over and over and over the community keeps reaching out—your support means so much,” Steve said.
 
Sickness, suffering, and death are part of everyday life but are particularly painful when they involve children. The image of Brooke in a wheel chair, debilitated and scarred by her disease, was heart wrenching. However, the faith of the community gathered there, lifting Brooke and her family up in prayer, made it a powerful moment. God was visually present in the glow of candles reflecting off the faces of Brooke and all the children present.
 
The miracle we prayed for—physical healing for Brooke—may not happen, but his presence that night, revealed in all those good people gathered on that soccer field, reassured me that God, in his own way, will ultimately take care of Brooke and her family.
 

Please pray for Brooke and her family.

Brooke_Healey

 
Sr. Terry is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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During this Year of Faith, we will blog reflections and stories to accompany you on your faith journey.
 
Centurion“Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
– Invitation to Communion
 
A number of years ago I was giving a talk on the Mass. Afterward, I asked for comments or questions. A woman stood up and said angrily, “I refuse to say the words, ‘Lord, I am not worthy.’ I have worked so hard rebuilding my self-esteem, and every time I come to Mass I am reminded that I                                  am worthless.”
 
The woman had misunderstood the idea behind that biblical statement. Our admission of our unworthiness before receiving the Lord is not meant as a self-indictment; rather, it is the recognition of Jesus as the power and compassion of God.
 
The plain truth, on a human level, is that we are unworthy to have the Lord visit us, and yet God makes us worthy for that honor and privilege. In the Incarnation, God lowered himself so he could raise humanity to be in union with him. That’s why Jesus reminds his followers in the Gospel of John, “I no longer call you slaves.…I have called you friends” (15:15).
 
Remember Jesus’ compassion
The new response to the Invitation to Communion calls to mind the encounter between Jesus and the Roman centurion found in the gospels. The centurion begged Jesus to heal his paralyzed servant, saying, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed” (Matthew 8:8).
 
Jesus doesn’t respond with the disdain others showed to Roman soldiers. Rather, he says to his disciples, “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith” (Matthew 8:10). Immediately, Jesus’ healing spirit enters the home and souls of these “outsiders,’’ healing, saving, and freeing them from every kind of paralysis.
 
Share God’s healing presence
By God’s grace we are temples of the Holy Spirit. We come to Eucharist aware of our brokenness and our need for forgiveness and healing from a God who calls us “friend.”
 
Christ does for us what he did for the centurion; his healing spirit enters under the temple roof of our very souls, setting us free to “go” and be God’s healing presence in the world.
 
Suggestions for Prayer:
  – In the Scripture passage about the centurion (Matthew 8:5-13), Jesus recognized the centurion as a model of faith. Reflect on and pray for someone who has been a model of faith for you.
  – How do I welcome Christ in my life? What stands in the way of my inviting Jesus to come under my roof?
 
Reprinted with permission from Living with Christ. For more information or to subscribe, visit www.livingwithchrist.us or call 1-800-214-3386.
 
Sr. Terry is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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It is true that going out on to the street implies the risk of accidents happening, as they would to any ordinary man or woman. But if the church stays wrapped up in itself, it will age. And if I had to choose between a wounded church that goes out on to the streets and a sick, withdrawn church, I would definitely choose the first one. —Pope Francis
 
This is one of the first quotes from Pope Francis that captured my heart and imagination. It envisions a church in the midst of the people—a church visible to those on the “outskirts.” It brought to mind Sr. Lauria, a member of my Dominican congregation, who ran a mobile kitchen from a van. She would bring meals to homeless men and women living under the Major Deegan Expressway in the South Bronx , just a stone’s throw from Yankee stadium. The only time anyone except Lauria took notice of these folks was when the police would clear them out the day of a Yankee game. Lauria not only brought the church to the outskirts but also formed church with the men and women who became sisters, brothers, and friends.
 
The ascendancy of a therapeutic culture has influenced our religious practice or lack of one. We find an array of books linking spirituality with personal healing and emotional support. But the spirituality of a committed disciple of Jesus Christ is more than a path to self-fulfillment. It is instead a journey of ongoing conversion to gospel values—loving God and loving neighbor especially the least among us. We are called to bring the compassionate presence of Christ to the streets both as individuals and as a catholic community. Authentic discipleship calls us from our comfortable pews to the mission fields of our cities, neighborhoods, and families. Jesus didn’t come to establish support groups but to form disciples willing and ready to go forth and proclaim God’s reign of mercy, charity, and justice. The street can be a dangerous place, but as the pope reminds us: better to be a wounded church among the poor than a sick one wrapped up in itself.
 
Sr. Terry is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.
 
Photo: Marko Georgiev for The New York Times

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During this Year of Faith, we will blog reflections and stories to accompany you on your faith journey.
 
braes of balquhidder“Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.” – Invitation to Communion
 
Sometime during the 8th or 9th century, St. Angus came to Balquidder, a stunning valley surrounded by forested hills in the Scottish highlands. Moved by its beauty, he said it was a “thin place”—a place where the separation between heaven and earth was very thin. St. Angus built a church on that spot, and it has survived to this day.
 
We, too, experience a “thin place” every time the priest calls us to communion by announcing, “Behold the Lamb of God.” At that moment, the separation between heaven and earth is bridged, and Jesus, the face of God, is revealed in our midst.
 
The supper of the Lamb
The new translation of the Communion Invitation uses the word “behold” rather than the simpler “this is.” The solemn word “behold” is a direct connection to John 1:29, where we read that John the Baptist announces Christ as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
 
This is implies a statement or teaching about something; behold conveys a sense of “here he is” or “pay attention” and signifies clearly and with more majesty an announcement that someone special is present in the liturgical assembly.
 
It is an invitation to look, receive, and be transformed by the body of Christ made present in our midst.
 
A solemn invitation
The second part of the Invitation to Communion, “Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb,” comes from Revelation 19:9, where the angel speaks to John about the martyrs who have shed their blood for Christ. The destiny of the martyrs is not death but a special place at the wedding feast of the Lamb—the eternal feast where all creation will be healed and God’s reign of peace and justice will prevail.
 
The word “behold” is a solemn invitation to look upon Jesus, the Word of God, the Savior of the world, our brother, and receive him who comes to transform us by his death and resurrection. As we find ourselves at the altar of the Lord, we recognize it as a “thin place” where we as Church, God’s people broken and healed, become Christ’s body and are sent forth to glorify God by our transformed lives, to go forth and announce the gospel.
 
Suggestions for Prayer:

    – Pray and reflect on the word “behold.”
    – Reflect on a “thin place” where you experience the divine presence in your ordinary life.
 
Reprinted with permission from Living with Christ. For more information or to subscribe, visit www.livingwithchrist.us or call 1-800-214-3386.
 
Sr. Terry is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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The recently published book, “Pope Francis: His Life and His Own Words,” documents the interviews Pope Francis had with two Argentinian journalists while he was still Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio. One of the journalists asked him, “Do we need to rediscover the meaning of leisure?” Pope Francis replied: “Together with a culture of work, there must be a culture of leisure as gratification. To put it another way: people who work must take the time to relax, to be with their families, to enjoy themselves, read, listen to music, play a sport. But this is being destroyed, in large part, by the elimination of the Sabbath rest day. More and more people work on Sundays as a consequence of the competitiveness imposed by a consumer society.” The pope concluded that in these cases, “work ends up dehumanizing people.”
 
It seems that in our fast-paced world we need more than ever to recover Sunday as a Sabbath day — a day of worship, leisure, rest, and family time. Two of my favorites among the memorable statements Pope Francis has made so far are that encouragement to relax more and his observation that sourpusses hurt the church’s witness and mission (Homily, May 10). I know that when I do not have enough leisure time I become a sourpuss. So as the summer begins I pledge to take more leisure time, have lots more fun, and spend more time with family and friends.
 
Sr. Terry is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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During this Year of Faith, we will blog reflections and stories to accompany you on your faith journey.
 
“When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, we proclaim your Death, O Lord, until you come again.” – Memorial Acclamation 2
 
My 92-year-old dad had been in a coma for six hours—we thought this was the end. During those last months, he refused to fight against death, but instead he fought for life with a tangible faith and a confidence in God.
 
One evening, my brother-in-law Doug was keeping vigil. Suddenly, my dad opened his eyes and said, “Hey, Doug, is that you?” Doug replied, “Yeah, Dad.” With an incredulous look, Dad said, “Jeez, am I still here? I thought the Lord already came for me.” Two days later he peacefully passed from death to life—entering into the fullness of the paschal mystery.
 
Proclaim the paschal mystery!
After the consecration, the priest now says or sings to the congregation simply, “The mystery of faith,” and we respond with a prayer proclaiming the paschal mystery.
 
The word “paschal” is derived from the Greek word meaning “pass over.” At its very heart, it is less about events and more about movement: from slavery to freedom, from death to life.
 
Each of the three new Memorial Acclamations includes us (“We proclaim,” “When we eat,” and “Save us”) and speak of what Christ did for us (“you have set us free”).
 
The very core of our faith
We respond to the words “The mystery of faith” by acclaiming that the bread and wine have been changed into the Body and Blood of Christ and that the paschal mystery is the core of our faith.
 
We acclaim that death does not have the last word—that through our faith in Christ we too will move from death to life. It is truly a mystery in that the fullness of God’s love, Jesus the Christ, is made present among us. In this life we grasp something of the mystery of God’s reign, but the full reality remains veiled before our eyes—until he comes again!
 
Our source of strength and hope
For more than 90 years my father, through God’s grace, acclaimed the mystery of faith in the ups and downs of his daily life and, yes, at Mass too. We too gain strength from the Eucharist so we can embrace our own suffering and transform it into a sure hope in the Lord’s many comings into our life.
 
Suggestions for Prayer:
   – How do we enter more consciously and more fully into Christ’s paschal mystery in our life’s daily experiences?
   -Pray each of the three Memorial Acclamations with a new sense that each one includes us and speaks of what Christ did and is doing in our daily lives—setting us free.
 
Reprinted with permission from Living with Christ. For more information or to subscribe, visit www.livingwithchrist.us or call 1-800-214-3386.
 
Sr. Terry is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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During this Year of Faith, we will blog reflections and stories to accompany you on your faith journey.
 
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts…the whole earth is full of his glory!” – Isaiah 6:3
 
When I was in the first grade, my teacher, Sr. Placida, explained that we each had a guardian angel to protect and guide us. She instructed us, “Sit to one side of your seat and make room for your guardian angel.” In Sacred Scripture, angels are God’s messengers and are part of God’s heavenly court. For me, sharing my seat with my guardian angel made God seem very near.
 
The angels seem near to Isaiah, too. Unlike any other prophet, he receives his prophetic call in a vision during temple worship
(Isaiah 6:1-9).
 
The temple is transformed into God’s holy court and is filled with a “host” of angels singing the threefold “holy.” The majestic nature of the liturgical drama that unfolds invokes a sense of praise and makes clear the sacredness and nearness of God.
 
Join in the angels’ exultation
The cry of the Seraphim in Isaiah’s vision provides the text of the Sanctus, the acclamation in which we join our voices “with angels and archangels and the company of saints” at the celebration of the Eucharist.
 
The words of the Sanctus have been “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might.” In the new edition of the Roman Missal, the words are “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts,” a more literal translation of the original Latin text and more faithful to the text of Isaiah 6:3.
 
Go out, surrounded by angels
Liturgical worship at its best engages our senses and creates an environment that moves us to a deeper awareness of the sacred presence of God. Isaiah felt the temple shake as he heard the voice of God: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” “Here I am,” Isaiah answered, “send me!”
 
The host of angels surrounds us in liturgy and in life. The world is dynamic, energized, and filled with the glory of God.
 
Every time we gather for Mass, we sing in unison with the host of angels and are commissioned like Isaiah to go out into the world, newly confident that God is near and will send angels to protect, guide, and support us.
 
Suggestions for Prayer:
– Conscious of the host of angels that surrounds you, join them in praying, “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts. Heaven and earth are full of your glory.”
– Reflect on a time when you sensed that God sent an angel to protect, guide, or support you. Give God thanks.
 
Reprinted with permission from Living with Christ. For more information or to subscribe, visit www.livingwithchrist.us or call 1-800-214-3386.
 
Sr. Terry is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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Even as we celebrate the hope of the Risen Lord, we have been confronted again with the darkness of hatred and violence. As people of faith, our response to such acts perpetrated by a handful of depraved and misguided human beings cannot be pessimism.
 
Rabbi David Wolfe offered this thought on the act of violence and terror inflicted on Bostonians on Patriot’s Day: “The paradox of tragedy is that it is a constant in life and yet never loses its capacity to surprise us. At such a time, faith has an important message, though not always the one we assume.” Spiritualizing this event, looking for quick healing, or even trying to understand the motivation of the terrorists does not ease the impact of the tragic loss of human lives and limbs. Although our hearts are scarred and we can’t take away the pain of the victims and their families, we can offer God, community, and hope.
 
The beauty and goodness of human nature overshadow the evil demonstrated by a few. The reaction to the Boston terrorist attack has been the same as it was after Newtown and 9/11—people all over the world rejecting violence and standing in solidarity with the victims and all Bostonians. The purpose of terrorism is to make us fearful and vulnerable and disrupt our way of life. Once again the American spirit, this time embodied in resilient Bostonians, has responded instead with acts of goodness, beauty, and truth. Stories of heroism continue to be told about good people running toward the bombing site to assist their fellow human beings.
 
Rabbi Wolfe continues, “In a religious world view, human life is not an empty pageant, human loss is not a final event. It is tragic, but death cannot rob even the briefest life of its dignity and its impact. Injury and illness make life infinitely more difficult but not one whit less sacred.” As Catholic Christians, followers of the Good Shepherd, we place our trust and hope in a God who has created human beings as good. We reject the violence and evil of a few and claim the goodness and beauty of God’s created world. We stand in solidarity with Bostonians and all people of our world who suffer from violence. We say no to violence, and yes to love, hope, and peace. Death and depravity do not have the last word. Jesus, the compassion and mercy of God, continues to redeem us and the world, even those who seem hopelessly unredeemable.
 
Sr. Terry is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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