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Having never been to Rome, I have not had the privilege of visiting the Basilica of St. Mary Major. My research tells me that it is one of the four major churches in Rome, a patriarchal cathedral, the largest church in the world that honors Mary, the mother of God. Originally built in 313, it was restored and redecorated in 431, and redecorated and embellished over the years. It contains a relic of the manger of Jesus, the bones of St. Jerome, as well as numerous religious signs, pictures, and emblems. It sounds to me like a very inspiring place to sit and pray.
 
Today’s liturgy celebrates the dedication of this basilica. A suggested first reading (Revelations 21:1-5a) would be so fitting to mull over whether or not we are able to sit in this beautiful house of God.
 

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth
had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new
Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for
her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”
And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.”

 
While that particular reading is very uplifting and hope-inspiring, it brought a little smile to my face because there has been something new for me recently: a new place to pray. Instead of a special spot in a room inside my house or a certain pew in my parish church, my front porch has recently afforded a pleasant area to visit with God who dwells with me. My pew is a webbed aluminum collapsible (hopefully not while I am in it) chair. It may not be the quietest place I could find, but it is comfortable and familiar. People may walk by, but not to stop and have long conversations. Birds’ songs often accompany my prayer. Soft breezes might add a calm atmosphere. Who knows? I might inspire some passerby to say a few prayers too.
 
Matthew’s Gospel (6:6) suggests that when we pray, we should go into our room and shut the door. In the Acts of the Apostles (10:9), Peter went up on the roof to pray. In Acts 16:13, there was a place of prayer by a riverside. Jesus went out to a mountain to pray (Luke 6:12) and to a deserted place while it was still dark (Mark 1:35.) We can safely conclude that there are many available places to pray—just so long as we are faithful and fervent in our prayer time. We might inconspicuously bless our prayer spot with a little sprinkle of holy water. We could have our Bible, rosary beads, prayer books, and any other helpful resources in a bag, readily accessible.
 
I am sure all of us for months have had our daily routines disrupted. I know I am home a lot more than I used to be. I have formed a few new habits. It is so important not to misplace the good habit of prayer. In my prayer place on my porch, for a little while each day, I can mindfully put myself in the presence in my Lord. And especially today, I can pray and thank holy Mary again for her selfless giving of herself to be Jesus’ mother and now our Blessed Mother, too.
 
Resources: franciscanmedia.org; mycatholic.life
 
Sharon Krause is a RENEW volunteer whose writing has appeared in several resources for small-group faith sharing. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother residing in Manchester, Connecticut. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries
 
Scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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When so many things in life are habitual, it is easy to lose sight of the true depth of meaning in them. When we slow down our pace a little, it is possible to refocus our attention and find new value in the familiar. For example, here are a few thoughts about the prayers and components of the Mass that you may find worthwhile.
 
Have you noticed that we start the Mass with the Sign of the Cross and end the Mass with the Sign of the Cross as the celebrant prays a blessing on us? I sometimes try to say the words of that little prayer just a tad more slowly to think of my Creator, my Savior, and my Advocate. While the Trinity is a mystery, three Persons in one God, we have three times the wealth and blessing!
 
We pray to put ourselves in a good place, in good standing with the Lord, by saying we are sorry for our bad choices and ask the Communion of Saints to pray for us to do better.
 
When we come to the prayer called the Gloria, we are blessed with almost a cheat-sheet filled with wonderful reminders of how we can praise God:

We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you, we give you thanks for your great glory…

 
We call Jesus only Begotten Son, Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father…
the Holy One….the Lord….the Most High…
and again we reference the Holy Trinity. When I have a problem getting into my own private personal prayer time, beginning with recitation of the Gloria can be quite helpful.
 
When we come to the Bible readings, we might notice that they are often thematically related. When the priest or deacon announces the gospel reading, we say a little prayer with gestures. I used to give religious instruction to children around the age of seven or eight. They seemed to like learning to make little crosses with their thumb tip on their forehead, lips, and heart while saying, May the Word of Christ be always on my mind, on my lips and in my heart. Those are great places for the Word of Christ to be, so that is a prayer to think about.
 
Right after the priest offers up the bread and wine that will be consecrated, and we say twice, Blessed be God forever, he prays that we will be accepted as an offering as well. He invites us to lift our hearts, and we say that we lift them up to the Lord. Have you thought about that, and not just chimed in with the response? Our hearts are the seat of our emotions, the place where love lives, where our most strong feelings reside. Can we focus and really lift up our hearts right at that time during that holy sacrifice of the Mass?
 
After the consecration, we say or sing the Agnus Dei, the Lamb of God. When we are reminded that Jesus takes away the sins of the world, I remember our troops who defend us from the consequences of certain sins of the world and who work to uphold world peace. Of course, that prayer can be prayed on a much more personal level, but so often I make resolutions to pray for particular people or causes and, with my forgetfulness, they fall by the wayside.
 
When I was younger, after the distribution of Holy Communion, the priest used to read what we called “the last Gospel” which was actually the first 14 verses of the Gospel according to John. The passage began, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a God. He was in the beginning with God. (V 1-2 NRSV).
 
You can read the rest on your own. I miss that reading at the end of Mass. I want Jesus to be with me at all my beginnings, and, especially if I am at Mass on Sunday and a new week will be beginning. Ah! Mindfulness is so important! May that Light that shines in the darkness shine in us today!
 
Sharon Krause is a RENEW volunteer whose writing has appeared in several resources for small-group faith sharing. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother residing in Manchester, Connecticut. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries.
 
Photo by Ben White.
 

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Since I was little, my favorite week of the year has been the annual beach vacation I have with my immediate and extended family in July. This year we were blessed in that everyone was healthy and able to come under the circumstances. I have always felt closest to God through nature and through my relationships, so what better way to deepen my spirituality than at the beach with my loved ones? Between long beach days and outdoor gatherings, I took time to pause and reflect on what I call “God moments,” when I feel his presence in my everyday life.
 
Perhaps the most memorable “God moment” was the family Wiffle ball game on our last day. I am lucky to belong to a tight-knit family that makes every person feel special. I loved that everyone had a role: my father and uncle coached, my sister patiently pitched, my mother and cousin were outfielders, and both players and spectators cheered for every hit. I recall looking around and thinking to myself how much this moment meant to me. God placed a wonderful group of people in my life that remind me of his unconditional love. I realized that I will cherish this memory forever, and I hope to carry on the annual tradition when I have my own children.
 
Whenever I caught the sunrise on the beach or watched the sunset from the deck, I was in awe of the fresh start God provides every morning and the heavenly sky reminded me of my grandparents watching over us. I also enjoyed living vicariously through my younger cousins while we jumped over ocean waves and built sandcastles. I admire their excitement for life’s simple joys whether it be crab hunting on the beach and riding bikes around the block. We are all children of God who have so much to laugh and smile about despite an uncertain world. I felt that same happiness when we spotted dolphins, and I spent hours on inner tubes giggling with my cousins.
 
I may not see my extended family often or live at the beach, so the bonds formed make our time spent together even more meaningful. As I settle into reality, I encourage myself to find beauty in creation. I know that some days may seem easier than others, but the peace and comfort of God’s presence is all around if I look closely enough.
 
Samantha Howath, a summer intern at RENEW International, is a rising junior at Loyola University Maryland where she studies Communications and Marketing. She is a lector for Campus Ministry. Samantha is also a marketer for Loyola’s chapter of Spoon University, a food blog, and a Greyhound Ambassador for Admissions.

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What a nuisance! A certain weedy vine kept growing up around the railing of our porch and even through the floorboards. It was heading toward the mailbox mounted on the porch wall near the front door. Persistent vine!
 
On our walk around the neighborhood the other day, I noticed for the first time a vine growing up the outside fireplace brick chimney. It just looked so lovely, as if some gardener/artist planned it that way.
 

I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them
bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

 
What a nuisance! I don’t go too far from home during these days of pandemic, so for a change of environment, I go out and quietly read a book on the front porch. I get interrupted so often with people out walking their dogs and stopping to chat. How can I do my reading?
 
I have made some new friends. I have brightened a lonely lady’s day by listening to her problems. I have met some very friendly dogs.
 

…love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. (Romans 12:10)

 
What a nuisance! My husband and I are pretty much stuck at home and are cooking all our meals. All the grocery-shopping and meal-planning we have to do, even if it is just for us. Day after day!
 
My husband and I have decided to try some new recipes together. Not bad! We have found some interesting television shows about different styles of cooking. We enjoy watching the shows together.
 

O taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him. (Psalm 34:8)

 
What a nuisance! With some slightly compromising health conditions, I am not safe going to Mass even though the churches have reopened with some restrictions. Here I am at home.
 
There are masses on YouTube, and some parishes are streaming Masses online. I can watch my parish Mass at home and even surf to other parish websites and enjoy the homilies from other priests I know.
 

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of
services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is same
God who activates all of them in everyone. (1Corinthians 12:4-6)

 
What a nuisance! The hair salons had been closed for months. I couldn’t do a good job of cutting or perming my own hair. I had to put up with my roots growing in and my perm growing out!
 
The salons did eventually open with precaution protocols in place. But the world did not come to an end. Not many people saw me anyway with my problem hair. What is really important?
 

Do not adorn yourselves outwardly by braiding your hair, and by wearing gold ornaments or fine clothing; rather, let the adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in God’s sight. (1 Peter 3:3-4)

 
What a nuisance! All these initialisms to decipher: PPE, PPP, WHO,,,etc.
 
How about making up spiritually-related initialisms just for some variety and new perspective? BLT could stand for Be Loving Today, LOL could mean Love Others Lavishly, CPR could stand for Christ Purchased Redemption, GPS could mean God’s Perfect Solutions, and PPP could stand for Prayer Produces Peace.
 
Nuisance or new attitude or new sense of what is really important? What do you think?
 
Sharon Krause is a RENEW volunteer whose writing has appeared in several resources for small-group faith sharing. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother residing in Manchester, Connecticut. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries.
 
Resource: Ignatian Spirituality.com
 
Scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Soul of Christ, be my sanctification,
Body of Christ, be my salvation.
Blood of Christ fill all my veins,
Water from Christ’s side, wash out my stains.
Passion of Christ, my comfort be,
O good Jesus, listen to me.
In thy wounds, I fain would hide
Never to be parted from thy side.
Guard me should the foe assail me,

Called when my life shall fail me.
Bid me come to thee above,
With thy saint to sing thy love. Amen.

 
This is a prayer that I learned by heart at an early age. I choose to say that prayer in thanksgiving after I receive Holy Communion. However, I have other memories that are not so poetic. For example, a very unimportant detail that I still remember from my childhood is about the morning I received my first Holy Communion. As a typical seven-year-old, I certainly did not grasp the holiness and blessing of the experience, particularly because the headband to which my little white veil was attached kept annoying me by creeping forward on my head. Now, after having received the Blessed Sacrament thousands of times, I can say I do appreciate what a blessing being fed the Bread of Life is for me.
 
St. Sharbel Makhlūf, whose memorial we may celebrate today, also had a devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. Born in 1828 in Beka-Kafra, Lebanon, he became a monk of the Maronite Rite, one of the Eastern Catholic Churches. Although he lived as a hermit, he was very willing to assist when needed with the celebration of the sacraments in nearby towns. He was known for his holiness, which I would assume was fed by his love of the Eucharist.
 
So, let us consider this idea of devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. When we can easily receive the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, we could take the privilege for granted. During this pandemic, with churches only gradually reopening for masses, we may start to appreciate what we have been missing.
 
Just imagine sitting at that Last Supper table. Those gentle hands of Jesus, that would soon be bleeding from nail holes, were serving his friends. Jesus, in his deep love for all of us, kept it simple—bread and wine with which to begin. As he was once transfigured on Mt. Tabor and showed his great glory, so he generously transformed the simple bread and the wine into his glorious Body and Blood. Now, every time the Eucharistic feast is celebrated, that transformation happens through the words of consecration. Ideally, we are changed little by little every time we receive the Bread of Heaven!
 
Two other prayers that I have memorized and love to recite after I receive Holy Communion are these that the priest might say as he purifies the chalice.
 

What has passed our lips as food, O Lord, may we possess as purity of heart.
That which is given to us in time, may be our healing for eternity.

 
May Your Body, which I have eaten, and Your Blood, which I have drunk,
cleave to my very soul; and grant that no trace of sin may be found in me
whom Your pure and holy mysteries have renewed. Who live and reign, world
without end. Amen.

 
As we remind ourselves of how blessed we are to be able to receive Jesus in Holy Communion, let us also take sufficient time to be reverent, thoughtful, and thankful in this high-speed, high-tech world of ours. We might even learn some new thank-you prayers by heart!
 
Resources: Franciscan Media, The Roman Missal
 
Sharon Krause is a RENEW volunteer whose writing has appeared in several resources for small-group faith sharing. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother residing in Manchester, Connecticut. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries

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Recently, while I was talking on the phone with a dear friend, I happened to look down at my left hand and noticed that the heart-shaped diamond in my engagement ring was slightly turned off-center. I showed my husband and asked him if he thought the diamond was in danger of falling out of the setting. He did not think so, but we agreed to take the ring to a jeweler for repair of the bent prong.
 
Later that day, while I was waiting for some onions, peppers, and zucchini to finish simmering on the stove, I sat down at the kitchen table. All of a sudden, the diamond fell out of the ring and onto the table in plain sight. Whew! That was a close one! I could have lost that diamond in the trash as I tossed out the onion skins, or down the sink drain as I washed the vegetables, or anywhere! I had been praying for inspiration for writing a blog entry, and there it was! And nothing was lost!
 
I started thinking about our spiritual life and the promise of our eternal treasure of heaven and how easy it is for any of us to get off-track or off-center. Especially with the pandemic forcing changes in our routines, it is easy to get distracted from our good habits and practices. We might get caught up in certain television programming that doesn’t encourage solid Christian lifestyles and beliefs. With our extra time away from work, we might lapse into habits of gossip, laziness, or overeating. Remember that adage: An idle mind is the devil’s workshop?
 
Let us look to Proverbs 4:23-27:

Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.
Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you.
Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.
Keep straight the path of your feet, and all your ways will be sure.
Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.

 
Ideally, I should have had my ring checked periodically to be sure the setting was secure. On a spiritual level, ideally, we should periodically take advantage of the sacrament of reconciliation (confession) to be sure we maintain the proper direction in our life journey. If we have some time, we could look into practicing St. Ignatius’ Daily Examen which helps us review each day’s activities and see God working in our lives.
 
It did not take much pressure to bend my ring prong and endanger my treasured diamond. I did not even know when it happened. In our spiritual lives, our holy supports can subtlety be weakened if we do not stay vigilant. We have the treasured good news of salvation. Hebrews 2:1 exhorts us:

Therefore we must pay greater attention to what we have heard, so that
we do not drift away from it.

 
I pray we stay straight on our path to the Lord. Through his mercy, if we get off-center, we can be forgiven. I could have easily lost my diamond—my precious stone, but, I am thankful that I will not lose God’s love. I invite you, readers, to pray with me as I happily quote Psalm 19:14:

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

 
Let’s stay centered on Jesus!
 
Sharon Krause is a RENEW volunteer whose writing has appeared in several resources for small-group faith sharing. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother residing in Manchester, Connecticut. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries.
 
Reource: IgnatianSpirituality.com
 
The scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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When we are baptized as babies, our godparents make promises for us. When we receive the sacrament of Confirmation, we renew those promises to renounce Satan, Satan’s works and Satan’s empty promises. We make those same promises during Holy Week Masses, and undoubtedly even in our own personal prayer time. We sometimes break those promises and have to seek forgiveness and make atonement. Did you ever notice, though, that when we make promises out loud, we can hear and feel anew our dedication

and zeal?

 
I got thinking about promises, pledges, and oaths, and the like. Brides and grooms promise to love, honor, and be faithful to each other. Doctors and nurses easily come to my mind in this time of pandemic. We have heard of the Hippocratic Oath for doctors, the Florence Nightingale Pledge for nurses, and similar promises medical personnel take to heart.
 
The saint whom we celebrate today, St. Camillus of Lellis of what is now Abruzzo, Italy, whether he had formally recited an oath, pledge, or promise, certainly followed a dedicated way of ministry, especially to the sick during the second half of his life. He did not find his true way until he was in his early thirties and was ordained to the priesthood in 1584. His early years had been punctuated with bad choices and self-defeating habits—notably gambling.
 
Camillus eventually founded an order whose ministry was devoted to plague-stricken and poor patients. Despite his own chronic foot infirmity—the result of a war injury—he was a guide and inspiration to others as he sacrificed his own comfort to be of assistance. He assumed the helm in hospitals. He also worked to send medical aid to wounded troops who had promised their service to their countries.
 
We can learn much from St. Camillus and from others who strive to fulfill promises they have made to God, to themselves, or to others. With so many distractions and temptations in our world today, commitment to any worthwhile cause requires focused strength. That strength is nurtured with prayer and humility. We have to be so careful to avoid those empty promises of Satan, those subtle, misinformed, persistent, little lies that try to sneak their way into our thinking.
 
We know that we serve a faithful God who helps us keep our living and loving promises.

Because the Lord your God is a merciful God, he will neither abandon you
nor destroy you; he will not forget the covenant with your ancestors that
he swore to them. (Deut 4:31)

 
And we have the assurance of the presence of Jesus at all times. He gave his word to his apostles at his ascension:

“And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt 28:20b)

 
Sharon Krause is a RENEW volunteer whose writing has appeared in several resources for small-group faith sharing. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother residing in Manchester, Connecticut. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries.
 
Resource: catholic.org
 
Scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Whether we choose to or not, we mostly likely see a number of bare feet this time of year. In the hot, humid weather, people wear sandals or flip-flops or nothing on their feet when they can. My question for you today is what kind of information do these barefoot or almost-barefoot individuals bring with them? Do we put our best feet forward and share the saving good news we have experienced?
 
The prophet Isaiah 52:7 says:

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who
announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”

 
We can imagine Jesus, plodding along around Nazareth and the neighboring towns in his sandals, with his suntanned and calloused feet, and bringing the good news of God’s Kingdom. When we read of the saint and Doctor of the Church St. Bonaventure, whose memorial we celebrate today, we see that he followed ardently in Jesus’ footsteps with that same wonderful proclamation.
 
St. Bonaventure became a Franciscan in his early twenties. Keeping Jesus as his center, he was a gifted, influential, prolific writer and philosopher who preached the good news of God’s reign. He left his footprint by writing—among many other works—a life of St Francis. It has been noted that despite all his accomplishments, he was a humble man who did not want to be coerced into accepting the position of archbishop of York for which he was nominated by Pope Clement V. A passage from the gospel reading for today’s memorial mass (Matthew 23:12) seems relevant to St. Bonaventure’s choice:

All who exalt themselves will be humbled,
and all who humbled themselves will be exalted.

 
We are reminded of humility again when we think of John the Baptist remarking that he was not worthy to untie the thong of Jesus’ sandals (Mark 1:7). And how about Jesus at the Last Supper teaching about humble service to each other as he washed the feet of his apostles? (John 13:1-11)
 
And the weary feet of Jesus were bathed with tears and dried with the hair of the penitent woman in the incident recorded in Luke 7:36-50. Mary, Martha’s sister, choosing the better part, sat at Jesus’ feet to listen to his words (Luke 10:39). Of course, we recall the terrible crucifixion nails in Jesus’ feet on the cross. Finally, in Matthew 28, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were told by an angel that Jesus is risen. As they were on the way to tell the apostles,

Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him,
took hold of his feet,and worshipped him (v. 9.)

 
In Ephesians 3:18 we read today St. Paul’s prayer:
 

I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints,
what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the
love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with
all the fullness of God.

 
Now if that message doesn’t knock your socks off, I don’t know what will! Come, Lord Jesus, and fill us, head to toe, with the power of your Spirit!
 
Sharon Krause is a RENEW volunteer whose writing has appeared in several resources for small-group faith sharing. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother residing in Manchester, Connecticut. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries.
 
Resource: http://www.catholic.org
 
The scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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When my husband and I take road trips, I take a little notebook with me and jot down highlights to remember about the journeys. When I go on a religious retreat weekend or to a day of spiritual reflection, I take a journal with me so I can record interesting and helpful concepts I hear or reflect upon throughout the experience. When I am trying to pay good attention in my personal prayer time, I write down little inspirations I receive or Bible verses that particularly touch me at the time.
 
It is useful and often enlightening to go back and review all these notes. With the road trip entries, it can be fun to relive our family adventures. The spiritual journal entries sometimes enlighten me all over again. I might read a passage and refocus on a particular word. I might surprise myself with a bit of self-revelation. I might even read a special message that God wants me to notice.
 
The writing does not have to be perfect grammar or publish-worthy. It can be just random phrases, stream of consciousness, or a Bible notation reference. Nowadays, I would not even have to carry a notebook around with me; iPads and cell phones can provide a handy place to record.
 
A number of years ago, I was inspired by some of the books of the Bible (with all due respect to biblical book titles) to begin writing a short journal-like review of my spiritual life. I suggest you might like to try your own version. For example, how about writing in gratitude about your beginnings, your fond memories of childhood—your genesis? How about the numbers in your life—, for example, 1. your relatives, 2. your friends over the years, 3. your favorite teachers or mentors, 4. your co-workers and acquaintances? What are your three favorite life maxims? What are your four best memories about church sacraments or ceremonies?
 
I made up a what-do-you-want-of-me? section in which I sought to ask the Lord what he wanted me to improve upon in my life. So as not to get too heavy, I did have a section called the book of levity, so I could record some lighter, sillier life moments.
 
Without being a poet or a songwriter, anyone can write his or her own psalms to praise and thank the Lord for all the blessings he showers down.
 
Favorite gospel stories are great jump-off places for reflection and personal life comparisons and checkups. Again, I am not recommending long, drawn-out ramblings; highlights and focus words are very useful.
 
My acts of my adulthood is a book that is still ongoing, sort of a continuing memoir—-but of the spiritual-life ilk. I hope it will contain a measure of wisdom acquired over the years. The more I write, the more there are revelations of what I need to work on to grow.
 
I cannot put myself on the same level as the prophet Jeremiah:
 

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Write in a book all the words that I have spoken to you.

 
However, I can attest to the usefulness of journaling. As I get older, I find it very beneficial to read over important information more than once. If it has a divine flavor, better still!
 
Whether I am writing or speaking, Psalm 45:1 seems to fit right in here:
 

My heart overflows with a goodly theme;
I address my verses to the king,
my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe.

 
Sharon Krause is a RENEW volunteer whose writing has appeared in several resources for small-group faith sharing. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother residing in Manchester, Connecticut. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries.
 
The scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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One day when I was around nine or ten years old, I was walking to the corner convenience store to buy a Popsicle to cool me off on a summer day. On the way, I noticed a bunch of buttons lying in the street. Hmm! I walked on by, but when they were still there the next Popsicle day, I decided to get a bag, take them home, and foster them. Why not? A little serendipitous treasure!
 
I got the buttons home and inspected them. They numbered around 50 and were quite interesting. The buttons had patterns on them: some green gingham check, some floral pattern, some raised butterfly, anchor, or beetle patterns. The buttons were small—-only about one-half inch diameter.
 
Those buttons sat in my button box for decades, like old friends-in-waiting. One day, I got creative and decided to use some of the floral buttons to decorate a plain yellow shirt I had purchased. I sewed the buttons on the bodice and sleeves. I now call this shirt my “blessings blouse” because those little buttons remind me of the plentiful, surprising, small blessings from the Lord that I have experienced in my lifetime—-like fancy buttons in the road.
 
And my gratitude grows the more I am moved to prayers and reflection. I recall other small things that lead to big and wonderful surprises. Look at Micah 5:2:
 

But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is
from of old, from ancient days.

 
Or how about the conversion of Zacchaeus, who was a man of diminutive stature? He climbed a tree to see Jesus and grew, himself, from a sinful tax collector to a generous, repentant helper of the poor. (Luke 19:1-10).
 
Although we can find many examples in the Bible of big outcomes from small beginnings, in this season of tending gardens and watching vegetation grow, I point out two more which, I am sure, are timely familiar.
 

He put before them another parable: ”The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard
seed that someone took and sewed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds,
but when it has grown, it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that
the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” (Matthew 13:31-32.)

 
Jesus tells us in Matthew 17:20b
 

“…if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain
‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”

 
Finally, consider what Jesus did with just five barley loaves and two fish….a very small food supply for lunch for five thousand listeners! (John 6:1-14). Jesus fed all the people, and there were leftovers! What an example for us! I know we cannot work miracles like that, but sometimes our small gestures of kindness, our brief, fervent prayers, or our little gentle words of encouragement can feed the needs of others in our lives in big ways that are truly satisfying.
 
Sharon Krause is a RENEW volunteer whose writing has appeared in several resources for small-group faith sharing. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother residing in Manchester, Connecticut. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries.
 
The scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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I enjoy writing and am very conscious of words and letters. I enjoy word play, poetry, and the study of words. It is not a surprise, therefore, that I noticed the repetition of the letter P in recent news reports. For example, lately I see the words and initialisms: pandemic, protesters, protocol, politics, prejudice, PPE (personal protection equipment), and PPP (payroll protection plan). I don’t make light of the sad challenges our world is experiencing at the moment, but my brain started thinking of other uses of the letter P

for more positive words.

 
P is the first letter in prayer, and prayer is our personal and sometimes communal communication with our loving God. It should not be our last resort when all our other means of control come up short. Prayer should be our first and ongoing conversation with God, whether it is to express our love and gratitude or our cries for help.
 
P is the first letter in a title of Jesus: Prince of Peace. In the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah (9:6) declares that a child to be born—now understood to be the Messiah—would be called the Prince of Peace. While this verse is often repeated around Christmas, we know Jesus is our Prince of Peace all of the time. In fact, now is a perfect time to pray to Jesus and invoke him by that special name as we ask for peace in our hearts and in our societies.
 
P is the first letter in psalms The Book of Psalms in the Old Testament is a collection of songs of praise, thanksgiving, history, and supplication. The psalms can be great springboards for prayer: helpful starts to personal prayer time. A favorite of mine is Psalm 111 from which I take this quote:
 

Great are the works of the Lord,
    studied by all who delight in them.
Full of honor and majesty is his work,
    and his righteousness endures forever.
(v. 2-3)

 
The Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, begins with p, and the Spirit came with many gifts for us at Pentecost. Wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord are very positive, holy tools with which to carry out our evangelical mission of sharing God’s kingdom.
 
One more use of p that comes to my lettered mind is in the word praise. Every day we have so many opportunities to praise the Lord. Despite our difficulties, there is so much of God’s created beauty in nature, in our personal families, in our church families, in our own great potential, and in our hopeful hearts for which to praise him. For Jesus’ saving sacrifice for us, for giving us His Body and Blood in the Eucharist, for His guidance, patience, and mercy—the list is endless, we rightly give praise!
 
Pray, praise, and prepare the way daily for the Prince of Peace….please!
 
Sharon Krause is a RENEW volunteer whose writing has appeared in several resources for small-group faith sharing. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother residing in Manchester, Connecticut. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries.
 
The passage from Psalm 111 is from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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When my parents and I picked up my belongings from my spring semester at Loyola University in Maryland, I could not help but notice the emptiness around campus. While I returned my key and walked across the quiet bridge, I recalled the liveliness of the campus when we all had returned from spring break in March.
 
Although I could not visit the bookstore or say hello to the dining hall staff, I asked my parents if I could stop by the quad, the center of Loyola’s Evergreen campus. My favorite spot on campus, I have many fond memories on the quad: eating lunch with friends on the Humanities building porch, leading campus tours, spring concerts, and the activities fair. As I took a moment to take it all in, the statue of St. Ignatius Loyola stood out to me. It reminded me of the passion for community that the early Jesuits created, inspired by Jesus and his disciples. I’ll always remember learning about care for the whole person, one of Loyola’s core values, at my orientation. Like the Jesuits, Loyola encourages every individual to grow in mind, body, and spirit. A rising junior, I still feel the power of community through the relationships that I have made with friends, professors, fellow campus ministry interns, and peers.
 
Even though the spring semester did not finish the way I expected, the Loyola community remained strong despite physical distance. Both students and staff came together in creative ways: virtual meetings with the career center, campus ministry gatherings on Zoom, livestream masses, and Facetimes with friends. I was especially touched by the tributes and virtual send-offs for the 2020 graduates. I was happy for them that the university recognized all their hard work and accomplishments. Despite disappointments, through the pandemic we have learned to adapt and to not take for granted the gift of human connection.
 
Without a doubt, campus life will be different in the fall through virtual classes, dining hall restrictions, event cancellations, and inability to travel from campus until Thanksgiving. But I am so thankful that I will safely return to my “home away from home” in August. I got to say goodbye to my friends in March knowing that I have two years left at Loyola. I know that I will come back to campus with a deeper appreciation for my family, friends, and the wonderful community that helps me find God in everyday situations.
 
Samantha Howath, a summer intern at RENEW International, is a rising junior at Loyola University Maryland where she studies Communications and Marketing. She is a lector for Campus Ministry. Samantha is also a marketer for Loyola’s chapter of Spoon University, a food blog, and a Greyhound Ambassador for Admissions.

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Doors are a big part of our lives. We use many kinds of doors every day. We lock doors, knock on doors, hold doors for others, see who is at our door, and open and shut doors more times than would want to count. Doors symbolize opportunity, protection, freedom, new beginnings, separation, privacy, and potential. We remember that in the story of the Three Little Pigs, there was a wolf at their door!
 
We can find numerous references to doors, gates, and other entrances in the Old and New Testaments. For example, in Psalm 100, verse 4 we are told how to enter through the temple door:
 

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him, bless his name.

 
We should try to remember to praise and thank the Lord whenever we go through the entry of our parish church. How blessed we are to have our churches!
 
We celebrate the solemnity of the apostles Peter and Paul today. In the reading from the Acts of the Apostles (12:1-11), Peter is locked in prison, and guards keep watch at his prison door. Despite that, an angel comes and leads Peter safely out the door—an iron gate, that opened of its own accord—to leave the city. Another passage in this book records that Paul and his companion, Silas, were in prison in Philippi when an earthquake knocked down the gates. They did not flee the prison, and that led to the conversion of their jailor and the two disciples’ safe passage out of the city (16:25-40).
 
In Matthew’s Gospel (16:13-19), we read that the Church Jesus established upon the rock, Peter, will be strong; “…and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it” (v. 18b).
 
There is no question about it: doors or entrances will not stop the love and power of our Almighty God and Father. That is very reassuring! We often hear of standing before the “pearly gates” of heaven and hoping we can be admitted. We will need God’s tender mercy when we knock on heaven’s door.
 
In Deuteronomy 6, God commands Israel to love him above all things, with all of their strength, to teach the children those words, “and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (v.9). That verse inspired some simple everyday prayers that maybe we could all attach to our doors.
 
Front door prayer: Lord, bless me and my family, friends coming through this door; delivery persons doing their jobs, any strangers, rich or poor. Help me welcome everyone and pass along your peace, and whether I’m coming or going, may my love for you increase.
 
Back door prayer: Sometimes I’m not so formal; I’m more “back door” than the front! But, Lord, no matter how I am, help me be just what you want!
 
Medicine cabinet door prayer: I see toothpaste, floss and brushes, multivitamins and pills. I thank you, Lord, for healing me of my many little ills. Help keep me clean in every way, and make it always clear how I reflect your image when I look into this mirror.
 
Refrigerator door prayer: Lord, help me to be careful, to wisely stop and think, of how you want me to love myself in what I eat and drink. Thank you for my tastebuds, my senses and appetite. Help me to be generous with anyone who is hungry day and night.
 
Car door prayer: Lord, as I go for a ride in this car, keep me safe and secure, no matter how far. Protect me from danger and keep me alert, so I and my passengers will not get hurt. Thank you for all the fun journeys I’ve made, those rescues from close calls when I was afraid. Be the King of my car and the Lord of my tires. Remind me when my emission sticker expires!
 
(Bible quotes from the NRSV).
 
Sharon Krause is a RENEW volunteer whose writing has appeared in several resources for small-group faith sharing. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother residing in Manchester, Connecticut. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries.

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I am sure we have all noticed the new practice of drive-by birthday celebrations in these days of contagion precautions. The birthday person stands outside and waves as relatives and friends—-and sometimes even the local police or rescue squads drive past the house and shout or sound their horns and sirens. It is like a party on wheels, and it is over in just a few minutes, but the message of love and caring is cleverly conveyed with posters, balloons, and celebratory smiles.
 
Today, we celebrate the nativity of John the Baptist. We cannot do a drive-by or a camel or donkey ride-by, but we can take some time to run by the story and some reasons for thanking God for such a humble and dedicated messenger of the good news of Christ’s coming.
 
The birth of John the Baptist was foretold in the Old Testament by the prophets Isaiah (40:3-5) and Malachi (3:1), but when the angel Gabriel told Zechariah that he and his wife, Elizabeth, were going to parent a son who they were to name John, Zechariah did not believe him. The angel responded by rendering Zechariah mute (Luke 1:5-25.)
 
When Elizabeth gave birth, and Zechariah insisted the baby’s name was to be John, the neighbors were more amazed and fearful than celebratory as they wondered what was in store for this child! (Luke 1:59-66) Questions! Who is this John?
 
As he grew into his mission, John was not a fancy dresser, opting for camel-hair clothing and leather belt. The attention was not supposed to be on him but on his message to his followers—namely, the importance of repentance because of the coming of the Messiah. John was the advance man, the one who baptized with water in advance of the Savior who would baptize with the Spirit and fire. John baptized Jesus at Jesus’ request, but John knew he was not worthy of performing this ritual. And at that moment, “a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’”
 
John had a calling to fulfill, and he was diligent and faithful. We know the good news about Jesus, but how diligent and faithful are we about spreading it? We certainly have a good model to follow, although we may need to use personal anecdotal stories or carefully look for opportunities to teach others about the God of mercy, love, and kindness. John was not afraid to admonish people who were sinful. We can more gently encourage others to turn from sinful tendencies and trust in God’s forgiveness.
 
John the Baptist understood that his job was to point the way to the Messiah. He was there to guide others, and ultimately, he died a martyr’s death. In Matthew 11:11a, Jesus said: Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist….
 
Let us pray and ask John the Baptist to help us look attentively for Jesus in our everyday life experiences and to proclaim Jesus’ saving presence in this drive-by world of ours!
 
Sharon Krause is a RENEW volunteer whose writing has appeared in several resources for small-group faith sharing. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother residing in Manchester, Connecticut. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries.
 
The scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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The Church recently celebrated Corpus Christi: the solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus. As I listened to my priest give a homily on what it means to be the body of Christ, my mind wandered to America’s current unrest. “When I distribute Communion and say ‘the body of Christ,’” the priest said, “I am both affirming the individual in front of me and the physical host in my hand.” These words reminded me that we are the body of Christ, and our brothers and sisters in Christ are hurting because of injustice. As Catholics, we must both prepare ourselves to receive Communion and allow the reception of it to inspire our actions.
 
Catholic Social Teaching informs Catholics about the values of solidarity, the life and dignity of the human person, call to family, community and participation, rights and responsibilities, the preferential option for the poor and vulnerable, the dignity of work and workers, and care for God’s creation. All of these values add up to tell us that we should care about our black brothers and sisters.
 
In the past few weeks, we have seen protestors gather in huge numbers in cities and towns across the country. Many of the young people looking to change the unjust situation in our country are the same young people who sit next to you in your Church pews on Sunday. Perhaps they are fighting for justice because they remember the stories of Jesus radically loving the vulnerable and marginalized of society.
 
By acknowledging how police brutality and systemic racism devalue the life of black Americans the Church has a powerful opportunity to show what it means to be pro-life. While being pro-life means working to eliminate abortion or the death penalty, it also means fighting for equality for all people. Actively living a pro-life lifestyle means working to end discrimination and promote anti-racist language, behavior, and policies. It means standing up for populations who do not have a voice. It means listening, learning, extending empathy, and amplifying voices that are different from yours.
 
We are the Body of Christ. Let us be the hands that help, the ears that listen, the minds that work for reform, and the bodies that work for justice.
 
Jessica Guerriero is the RENEW Theology on Tap Coordinator and is a student majoring in Catholic Studies at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas.

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