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Openings and reopenings…comings and goings…home and not home! How are we supposed to know if we are coming or going in our troubled world? To remain calm and control our anxiety, it is helpful to take time to pray and remember who is really always in control.
 
I have been thinking about some of the numerous comings of God in the Old and New Testaments. Remember when Adam and Eve heard God coming in the garden right after they had sinned, and they felt the need to hide? (Genesis 3, 8-10) Recall when God came to Moses in the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-4:17) and again to Moses with the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17). How about when God came to Elijah at Mt. Horeb, not in the wind, the earthquake or fire, but just in a quiet voice? (1Kings 19:11-13) Such variety in those few examples! That should not be surprising. After all, God is the Creator!
 
Let’s consider the comings of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. Look at the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:6-7). The Son of God came to earth and was laid in a meager manger in a stable. In his ministry, he walked through Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan. Jesus’ wonderful sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7) should give us cause to be so grateful that he came to the multitudes! Once, he even came walking on the sea (Matthew 14:25)! Yet again, after Jesus rose from the dead, he appeared to the apostles despite locked doors (John 20:19). Who would expect that? How wonderful when we stay unlocked and keep a lookout for God among us! When the eleven apostles came to the mountain in Galilee where Jesus was present but about to ascend into heaven, he blessed them and commissioned them to make many more disciples; he promised to be with them always (Matthew 28:16-20.) The apostles—and we—have a mission, but it comes with a reassuring promise of help!
 
Now, in the afterglow of the celebration of Pentecost, we can meditate on the great coming of the Holy Spirit with all the spiritual gifts, refreshment, comfort, healing, guidance, and zeal that could come only from a God who is love. We are fortified for our mission of coming and going to small and even great lengths to spread that love.
 
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, CT. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries.

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With only three days left in this month of May in which we honor our Blessed Mother, Mary, it is fitting that today we remember Pope St. Paul VI who ardently encouraged devotion to her. In fact, Pope Paul wrote several documents concerning Mary and the prayers with which we, her Church, express our love for her and ask for her intercession.
 
Paul VI, who has been called: “Defender of the Rosary” (Catholic Exchange), promoted recitation of the rosary and opposed changes to the devotion. He officially gave Mary the title of “Mother of the Church” as the Second Vatican Council concluded.
 
Mary has many beautiful titles, all given to her by others, but she described herself as the Lord’s “lowly servant” (Luke 1:48). The namesake of Paul XI—St. Paul the Apostle—displayed similar humility by calling himself “a slave to all,” (1 Corinthians 9:19), fulfilling his vocation to preach the word of God “free of charge.” Paul added, “I have become all things to all, to save at least some.” (v. 22.) Paul seeks to identify with the people to whom he is preaching in order to bring them the good news of salvation. It seems that, in his humility, he understands the importance of his spreading his message which supersedes any need for recognition as a titled preacher.
 
In the gospel reading for this memorial, (Mt 16:13-19, 22-23), Jesus asks who people say he is. Simon Peter already knows that Jesus is not John the Baptist, Elijah, or Jeremiah. The apostle declares that Jesus is Christ, the Son of the living God. Then Jesus calls his disciple Peter, the rock on which Jesus will build His church. Certainly, the name, “rock” suggests great strength and power.
 
Ah, the importance of names! Let us consider today: with what names or titles do we identify? Do we live up to the expectations that accompany those designations? We can delight in the fact that we are: “children of God,” “Christians,” “disciples,” and “brothers and sisters in Christ.” In John’s Gospel, (15:15), Jesus even says we are his “friends” if we love one another as he commands. Clearly, we have work to do.
 
We will celebrate the feast of Pentecost in two days. We are reminded that the Holy Spirit, also named the Advocate, has given us many spiritual gifts to help us to live up to our names and love others while sharing the good news of the Kingdom of God. Of course, as always, we pray in Jesus’ name!
 
(Resource: St. Pope Paul VI: Defender of the Rosary, Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, October 19, 2018.)
 
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, CT. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries.

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Since so many parents and children have been staying home for long stretches of time, people have gotten creative with chalk drawings and challenges on sidewalks. I have seen the game of hopscotch in front of neighbors’ homes and have been reminded of the fun I used to have as a child playing outside.
 
Well, why not make hopscotch a learning game? And who says it has to be only for kids? We all need physical and mental exercise! As we hop from 1 to 10, let’s review some biblical facts? We can teach and rejoice together!
 

  • One: One God, the Father of all
  • Two: Two natures of Jesus, true God and true man
  • Three: Three Divine Persons make up the Trinity
  • Four: Four evangelists who wrote the four gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
  • Five: Five Books of Moses, the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch
  • Six: Six days of creation (Maybe review in the Book of Genesis what was created each day.)
  • Seven: Seven sacraments of the Catholic Church: baptism, sacrament of reconciliation, the Holy Eucharist, confirmation, holy orders, matrimony, the sacrament if the sick
  • Eight: Eight beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12) given by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount
  • Nine: Nine fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self- control (Galatians 5.)
  • Ten: Ten Commandments, the Decalogue, found in the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy in the Bible (How many do you remember?)

 
How about challenging youngsters (or those young at heart) to come up with some “Me-attitudes” that would be helpful coping and learning tools? I can get you started.
 

  1. Happy are they who share with others, for they shall see others smile.
  2. Happy are they who express thankfulness for even small favors, for they shall be appreciated themselves.
  3. Happy are they who perform little acts of kindness, for they will be pleasantly surprised.
  4. Happy are they who are carefully curious, for they will learn many new things.
  5. Happy are they who say little prayers throughout the day, for they will feel God’s closeness to them.
  6. Happy are they who stay calm and count to ten, for they will find quiet comfort.
  7. Happy are they who pay attention to little daily blessings, for they shall see God’s love.
  8. Happy are they who are cheerful, for they will spread laughter to others.

 
Numbers, numbers everywhere! Let’s be sure to count on our own God-given resilience and creativity to start fresh every day with new hope and peace!
 
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, CT. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries.

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Sources I have read online tell me that St. Rita of Cascia, the saint remembered today (May 22) in our liturgy, is sometimes honored as the patron saint of the sick and bodily ills. She was a very prayerful and charitable woman who lived in Italy in the fourteenth century, A.D. Now, in the twenty-first century, many people are asking saints and saints-in-process for prayers as they have never asked before, especially because there are so many unknown aspects of the lethal virus threatening loved ones. The readings for the memorial of St. Rita give us what seem to be good prescriptions for combatting many problems humanity is experiencing.
 
Let’s look at Philippians 4:4-9. St. Paul was not a doctor, but he is prescribing wonderful ways to combat anxiety. He encourages us to rejoice and be grateful as we talk to God. He lists what we should think about: true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, excellent, praiseworthy things. We have his promise of the presence of the God of peace. So many of us can overdose on anxiety after listening to a news report! Time to change the channel!
 
Looking next at Luke’s Gospel (6:27-38), we see Jesus’ detailed how-to list for treating the deficiencies of true love among his children. He tells us to be generous, non-judgmental and forgiving. St. Rita was a such a generous forgiver: She even forgave those who were responsible for her husband’s death and worked to reconcile the family feud that ultimately was the cause of his murder. She worked hard to encourage her sons to be forgiving too.
 
So, shall we patiently start anew in our spiritual realm, just as we try to reboot our personal home and social lives? Jesus tells us to rethink the usual ways we might respond to situations. Change the indications on our prescriptions for human interactions. Be sure there is a high dosage of mercy in those relationships with others. Pray for the wisdom to be more selfless—even generous—in our expectations of reciprocity. As Jesus says in verse 38: “For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”
 
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, CT. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries.

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If Jesus had had a pet dog
No doubt it would’ve been a rescue;
That is how our dear Lord saved us,
So that would probably make our guess true.
The dog, part retriever and shepherd,
Would’ve been well trained by its Master:
To be a servant bringing back the lost,
And protecting all from disaster.
It would’ve followed Jesus faithfully,
Going everywhere he would roam;
Loving everyone without condition,
Leading all to our eternal home.

 
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, CT. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries.

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As governors and local officials make crucial decisions about getting states and counties back to more usual routines of conducting business, they might do well to pray for St. Isidore’s intercession. I am guessing that humble saint, who is remembered today, May 15, as the patron of farmers and laborers, could easily relate to the hard-working people who have been greatly affected by this pandemic.
 
Workers at meat and other food-processing plants have had to make the tough choice to stay out of work because of the corona virus. This has disrupted the chain of food production and the personal income of these workers. Even decisions about the humane disposal of animals that are normally sources of food have had to be made.
 
We know that Isidore, himself a farmer and laborer who knew the value of hard work and proper care of animals, chose to put his spirituality and the love of God and God’s poor at the top of his everyday to-do list. Even though unexpected illnesses can affect our freedom of choice at times, Isidore’s example of a fervent belief in God and God’s love for us can keep us going in a positive direction. We can look for charitable options in our relationships with others. It’s up to us. We can choose to call our staying at home “confinement,” “hibernation,” “quarantine,” “house-arrest,” “isolation,” “an unplanned vacation or retreat,” “sheltering-in-place” or “hiding out.” We can strive to spend the time productively and fruitfully or choose to complain.
 
In the readings for Friday, the fifth week of Easter, we read about choices. In Acts 15:22-31, the apostles and presbyters have chosen representatives, Judas and Silas, to go to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas to reassure the people that they will not be burdened with excessive religious practices but only abstention “from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage.” (v.29)
 
We read in today’s gospel passage (John 15:12-17) that Jesus instructs his disciples to love one another, even to the point of choosing to lay down their lives for their friends. Jesus calls them his “friends,” and reminds them, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain…” ( v. 16).
 
The best thing we can do when we have any choice to make is to pray in Jesus’ name for help in making the most selfless and loving decision. After all, Jesus is our friend! He is never on vacation!
 
(Reference: www.franciscanmedia.org, Saint of the Day)
 
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, CT. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries.

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During the Easter season, instead of praying the Stations of the Cross, it might be inspiring to pray what I would call: “The Encounters with the Risen Jesus.” I found seven such encounters in the gospels with which to pray. A verse from the Letter to the Philippians (4:4) could serve as a refrain to begin the prayer and between the sections:
 
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, Rejoice,” and add, “Christ, our Lord, is risen! Alleluia!”
 
1. (John 20:14-17) Mary Magdalene meets someone she thinks is the gardener. Jesus calls her by name. She calls him “Rabbouni” which means Teacher. Jesus tells her not to hold on to him, but to go and tell the apostles about their meeting. She follows his directions.
 
Lord, you know my name, and you love me personally. Help me to know your loving will for me and to spread your good news to those I encounter. (Refrain)
 
2. (Luke 24:13-35) Cleopas and a companion meet Jesus on the road to Emmaus. They sadly and disappointedly tell Jesus what has just happened in Jerusalem—that Jesus has been put to death and his body is not in the tomb. They don’t know what to think. Then Jesus opens the meaning of the ancient Scriptures to them, and when Jesus breaks bread with them, they know it is he.
 
Precious Bread of Life, open my eyes and understanding of your word. Thank you for the Holy Eucharist which feeds my searching soul. (Refrain)

 
3. (John 20:19-23) Jesus brings a greeting of peace to 10 of the remaining apostles and says he is sending them on a mission. He breathes on them and gives them authority to forgive or retain sins. They rejoice at seeing him.
 
Jesus, thank you for the ministry of priesthood and for deacons. The sacrament of reconciliation is so comforting when I meet you there. Thank you for that too! (Refrain)
 
4. (John 20:26-29) Jesus visits the apostles again, and this time Thomas, the Twin, is there. Now Thomas sees for himself that Jesus is risen. Thomas declares, “My Lord and my God!”
 
5. Lord, forgive any doubt in my heart. I invite you now into my daily life and proclaim you as my Lord and my God. (Refrain)

 
6. (John 21:1-14) This passage tells of the encounter between Jesus and seven of his disciples who are unsuccessfully fishing at the Sea of Tiberias. Jesus tells the men to cast their nets over the right side of the boat, and Simon Peter recognizes the Lord after 153 fish are hauled into the boat. Jesus cooks breakfast for the men.
 
Risen Lord, you know my every need and capability. You will help me to live up to my potential and to be fruitful for your kingdom. (Refrain)
 
7. (John 21:15-19) At this same meeting at the Sea of Tiberias, Jesus speaks specifically to Simon Peter, asking three times if Peter loves him. Jesus is specially commissioning Peter to follow Him—-even to death—- and wants to be sure of his loyalty.
 
Lord, I love you. Just in case I don’t say it enough, I love you. You are the way, the truth, and the Life. (Refrain)
 
8. (Matthew 28:16-20) The last encounter of Jesus that we celebrate is at the mountain in Galilee. Jesus commissions his apostles to make disciples of all nations and to teach them obedience to what he has commanded. He promises to be with them always.
 
Jesus, we know you ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of the father. We also know you will never abandon us as we endeavor to make more disciples for you. (Refrain)

 
Conclude with the Lord’s Prayer, the Hail Mary, and the Glory Be.
 
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, CT. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries.

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St. Catherine of Siena was a very influential, prolific writer, now recognized as a Doctor of the Church. St. Catherine cared greatly for the poor and the sick. Somewhat fitting for these times, she is a patron saint of nurses. It is apparent that she knew a lot about sharing the light of Jesus with the people she encountered. The first scripture reading for St. Catherine’s memorial, 1John 1:5b-2:2, proclaims that God is light and that in him there is no darkness.
 
A couple of weeks ago, we celebrated the fact that the darkness of Jesus’ tomb was overcome by the brightness of Jesus’ resurrection. We have some indications. Luke’s gospel describes the women at Christ’s tomb encountering two men in dazzling clothes (Lk 24:4); Matthew’s Gospel (28:3) tells of an angel whose appearance was like lightning, with clothing as white as snow. The dark, morbid tomb was challenged. I can imagine that when Jesus stood up in the tomb with his glorified body there must have been a conquering brilliance in that cold, dark enclosure.
 
In the first verses of John’s gospel, we read of the Word who became flesh: “in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (1:4-5)
 
Often evil is equated with darkness. There is an unmistakable heaviness in darkness. Sin blocks out light. Thanks be to God, Jesus’ light brings cleansing as we confess and receive forgiveness of our sins. In this time before Pentecost, we are still basking in the brightness of our resurrected Lord whose blood dispels all darkness. Jesus is truly the Light of the world.
 
In the current struggles with global sickness and destructive weather systems, with all the lingering uncertainties and dangers, it is consoling to know that the whole world, and each of us personally, has an Advocate with the Father. While we may occasionally recognize some dark places in our spiritual lives—-maybe even pauses that we think are power outages—-we remember from Easter’s revelation that we can rise above them with our Savior in the life-sustaining light of his eternal love!
 
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, CT. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries.

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Have you shopped for groceries during the pandemic? At least in New Jersey, the experience goes something like this: Carefully devise your grocery list to avoid a return trip for as long as possible, drive-off and then turn around because you forgot your mask, and finally arrive at the grocery store. You hope to get in and out quickly, but your expectations are dashed.
 
The line. The long line. Seventy-five or so people pushing empty carts, snaking around the store, all six feet apart. I wouldn’t have minded the 40-minute wait to get in the store nearly so much had I worn more than a t-shirt and light fleece on the blustery 41-degree day.
 
I was reminded of my grocery store experiences when I recently interviewed author Chris Lowney and Sister Terry Rickard for a RENEW International webinar: Becoming the ‘Saint Next Door’ During the Pandemic: Lessons on Everyday Holiness from Pope Francis. I asked Chris how he was practicing “everyday holiness” during the pandemic, and he replied, “I was waiting 45 minutes to get into the grocery store, texting my wife about how annoyed I was. She texted back, ‘Why don’t you use the time to pray the rosary for those most affected by the pandemic?’’’ Embarrassed over his annoyance, he took up his wife’s suggestion. For Chris, waiting in queue outside the grocery store and everyday holiness met.
 
Starting on April 30, RENEW International will offer six-week online faith-sharing groups on answering the call to everyday holiness during the pandemic. We will use Chris Lowney’s insightful and easy-to-follow book, What, Me Holy? as a guide. In his book, Chris shares how we may associate “holiness” only with saints (and therefore it is unattainable for us) or with overly pious types. Not so, says Chris. Holiness is for all of us, and it’s not necessarily about heroic actions or pious behavior. Instead of “not sweating the small stuff,” everyday holiness is about “sweating the small stuff” and paying attention to details:
 

“What details might pave your or my path to holiness? Maybe, for example, the detail of noticing my spouse who came home discouraged today, or the elderly woman who always sits alone and unspoken to in church, or the homeless person who has shoes but no socks, or the fact that I’ve skipped my five minutes of personal prayer two days in a row.”

 
We invite you to join a RENEW International online faith-sharing group for an uplifting experience, reflecting on our call to “everyday holiness” during the pandemic. Self-quarantining at home is not an obstacle but an opportunity. Don’t miss this one!
 
Paul Krenzelok is a member of the RENEW International staff with extensive leadership experience as a faith formation professional and pastoral minister.

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The current pandemic has definitely challenged all of us to adapt our expressions of faith in new ways.
 
At my parish—the Church of the Holy Eucharist in Tabernacle, New Jersey—a group of men get together for overnight adoration every Holy Thursday evening/Good Friday morning. We pick a time, usually 3 or 4 a.m. on Friday, and we spend an hour together adoring our Lord. Then we go to a local 24-hour diner and have breakfast together. Meatless of course! We’ve been doing this for five years.
 

During the Triduum in 2019, before restrictions brought about by the Covid 19 pandemic, men of the Church of the Holy Eucharist gather for an early-morning breakfast after their Holy Hour.


 
We were all very disappointed that this year we couldn’t take part in our tradition. So, we came up with an idea. Our Blessed Sacrament Chapel, where the Eucharist is housed in the tabernacle, is on an outside wall of the church, right next to one of the parking lots. Realizing how many times Jesus appeared to the apostles while they were behind locked doors, as in this past Sunday’s gospel reading, we knew that a church wall couldn’t keep him away from us. We knew he is not bound by any physical structure. So, we decided to take our cars to adoration!
 

Men of the Church of the Holy Eucharist assemble in their cars for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on the night of Holy Thursday to Good Friday. The tabernacle in the church is located inside the wall on the right.


 
At 4 a.m., we all met in the parking lot in front of the wall where the tabernacle is, and we sat in our cars and had our Holy Hour of adoration. Some of us brought prayer books, Bibles, our iPads to watch virtual adoration online in different parts of the world, and silently prayed. Some of us got out of our cars alone and approached the wall for some private prayer. It was a beautiful night with an almost full moon, and we thoroughly enjoyed our time with the Lord, a time full of graces and blessings.
 
Here at RENEW, we have challenged ourselves to create new and relevant ways to practice the faith, offering webinars for you and virtual faith sharing sessions for your small groups. Learn about all our upcoming webinars and faith sharing sessions. We are also offering our new online program Baptism Matters for free until June 30, and we are offering our Sunday faith-sharing resource PrayerTime as a PDF for individual or small-group use. Also, browse our new online store where we have some specials running. We hope we can be a valuable source for you to continue your small faith communities online until we can all be together again.
 
Rich Vosler is a sales consultant at RENEW International. Contact him at 908 769 5400 x149 or [email protected]

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The other day, a friend of mine and I said the Divine Mercy Chaplet together over the phone as we prayed for her relative who is in the hospital. It took only a few minutes, but it got me thinking about creative uses of at-home time.
 
Wouldn’t it be a good idea to teach pre-teen children, for example, the practice of saying the rosary, maybe a decade at a time, during little break times away from online school work or playing games on electronic devices?
 
The Joyful Mysteries could be introduced with some small commentaries to which the children could relate. For example, the Annunciation could be prefaced with a few questions about announcements they had received, some good news they had heard, and then a brief explanation of Mary’s encounter. Then the Lord’s Prayer and just that decade could be said, just to take up a little break time.
 
Another time, the Visitation could be introduced with remembering, perhaps, a helpful visit to a friend or relative in the children’s life, and then a short description of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth followed by the Lord’s Prayer and a decade of Hail Marys.
 
The Birth of Jesus could be easy to talk about with children, and the Presentation of the Lord could be discussed in the context of the children’s own reception of baptism or attendance at the baptism of another child.
 
The Finding of Jesus in the Temple could be easily compared to parent-child experiences before explaining Jesus’ early ministry. Creating a little dialogue and thoughtfulness about the mysteries could help to make the praying not so rote, but more meaningful. Personal and meaningful prayer intentions could be added as well.
 
Of course, this idea could also be used with the Sorrowful Mysteries, the Glorious Mysteries, and the Mysteries of Light. With everything so fast and instantaneous in this world of computers and technology, short breaks of prayer might be good to incorporate into a child’s—or, for that matter, an adult’s—day at home.
 
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, CT. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries.
 
RENEW International is providing free online events and resources to nourish our faith lives during the pandemic. Here’s a link to Mary Foy’s recent webinar, Faith Sharing With Your Kids.” For upcoming opportunities, go to https://new.renewintl.org/events

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As we struggle to get past the bleakness of the virus pandemic, we find hope in the glow of Jesus’ glorious resurrection. We can plant seeds of renewal and joy along with, if we’re lucky, starting our backyard gardens.

 

I love pumpkins! I love decorating with pumpkins, but more than that, I love pumpkin pie and lots of pumpkin-flavored foods! I decided, a few years ago, to plant some pumpkin seeds in the springtime to see if I could raise a number of those plump orange masterpieces. I had a nice pumpkin patch starting in my backyard and was quite happy. Eventually, I saw some pretty flowers on the vines, and, after that, a few baby pumpkins started growing. I was so excited!

 

Then one day I went outside, and there  was an awful gray-colored mold on my vines. The mold overpowered my patch, and I could rescue only about three little pumpkins. What a disappointment!

 

Perhaps if I had read and followed directions for planting pumpkins, I would have known of the possible dangers and sprayed the vines with an eco-friendly herbicide or something to fortify them. I might have had more success.

 

The Scripture readings for the optional memorial feast day of St. Anselm, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, brought to mind my less than perfect gardening attempt. Maybe I should have gone a little deeper in my preparation and read the proper directions. It is possible my pumpkins would have been strong enough to survive the attack.

 

In the Letter to the Ephesians (3:14-19), for example, St. Paul prays for his Gentile listeners, that they might derive strength through our loving Father’s Spirit as they are being rooted and grounded in love. “I pray,” St. Paul writes, “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. The divine dimensions of the fullness of God’s love shown to us by Jesus Christ surpass our comprehension.” And when I read the passage from the Gospel of Matthew (7:21-29), I am reminded of the importance of not just learning Jesus’ teachings, but also following and acting on his example of mercy, consolation, and justice. With God’s love as my foundation, my rock, my success in fruitfully spreading God’s love is guaranteed.

 

St. Anselm, philosopher, theologian, scholar and Benedictine monk, pray for us as we work as you did to teach others about our one true God and the breadth and length and height and depth of God’s love. Amen.

 

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, CT. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries.

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“In the end, there are only two choices: resurrection or inexorable nothingness.” This is how the great German scriptural theologian Gerhard Lohfink begins his book Is This All There Is? On Resurrection and Eternal Life.
 
Is there anyone who has not asked, “What will happen to me when I die? Where will I go? Will I simply cease to exist?” Lohfink states what may not seem to us as obvious, but is it? If nothingness is the answer, then “countless victims of war, torture, and rape, will never experience life, justice, and love and will eventually be forever forgotten.” All the hatred and mass killings as well as individual acts of horror will reign in history without any response, only the darkness of an eternal abyss.
 
The other choice is resurrection, our resurrection, not just sometime in the future but beginning now. It has already started in Christ, through his resurrection. It is obviously not a natural event but rather a pure gift from God, an act of his creative love, a new creation in Jesus Christ. Resurrection is not an afterthought by God but what was intended from the beginning of creation. It is an everlasting process that exploded forth from the resurrection of Jesus. We are all part of that process, and Lohfink sees it as happening now in our lives, slowly revealing itself through generations. It is far from complete, but it is there every day for us through the presence of the Spirit within us. When Jesus lived on earth, he healed many people, not only of their physical sickness but also of their social isolation and marginalization as outcasts. Now, he can heal us of the emotional and social distress that comes from the anxiety and depression that may impact our lives at any time, and particularly during this pandemic.
 
There were times during Jesus’ public ministry when he seemed unable to heal, as in his hometown of Nazareth, because there was a lack of faith and willingness to repent. Healing has always been a gift to us from Jesus, but to work it must be accepted, not doubted. He never coerces us. Lohfink says that Jesus “had to suffer death powerlessly, helplessly, and to its darkest depth.” In death, every Christian, and, indeed, every human being, will at first, like Jesus, be thrown into an ultimate powerlessness. And at the very same time find “ultimate closeness to Jesus.” Imagine that! In our death we find “ultimate closeness with Jesus.” That puts a different and powerful light on our death. Yes, there is a darkness, and Jesus experienced that as well, but we are not alone. We die with Jesus, as we live with Jesus.
 
All of this starts with the resurrection of Jesus and continues with our own death and resurrection when we will encounter God forever. Lohfink writes, “Death is encounter with the living, holy God and none other.” Saint Paul wrote in his First Letter to the Corinthians that we will see God “face to face.” People have always thought of this as a time of judgement by God, and that is indeed a scary thought, but Lohfink calls it “a judgement that clarifies, purifies and heals everything in us.” Even a very good person who has chosen God and led a life of love, honesty, justice, truth, and mercy will have faults and weaknesses such as pride and a need for affirmation and honor. There is darkness in us all that needs to be healed in our final encounter with God “in the momentary transition between death and perfection,” as Lohfink describes it. It is not something we achieve but rather a gift, pure grace from God.
 
What happens in death to our whole lives and our relationships? Will all be gone forever? Lohfink says no: “Nothing is lost, not the tiniest memory. Everything that we have experienced in this life, painfully and joyfully, will become the material of eternal life with God- but worked through, purified, transformed.” Nor is anyone’s resurrection simply an individual act. It “cannot be separated from the resurrection of all the dead,” Lohfink writes. More than that, “the whole creation will be gathered together and receive its perfection in Christ.”
 
So often, when loved ones die, we pray that they may “rest in peace.” Suppose eternal rest is also accompanied by eternal life, an “unending dynamism” in the presence of God. For Lohfink, life goes on in a totally different and glorious way and, he adds, “the happiness of being together with all those one has loved only enhances the bliss of participation in the heavenly communion of saints.”
 
Bill Ayers was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. Bill was a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.
 
Is This All There Is? By Gerhard Lohink is published by Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Maryland.

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Easter has always been one of my favorite holidays. Holy Week is exhausting for me as a church musician, and when I add in my family traditions, it leaves me utterly wiped out. I sleep through much of Easter Monday, and yet I love every moment of it. This year was already going to be different as I spent Tuesday of Holy Week in the cancer center of the hospital for my final chemo infusion, but then Covid-19 made it even stranger.
 
This year, there were no palms. There was no singing of the Duruffle “Ubi Caritas” and procession of the Blessed Sacrament on Holy Thursday. There were no living Stations with choral responses on Good Friday. There was no deacon proclaiming the “Exultet” on Saturday night. There was no choir to join with brass in joyous anthems of praise on Sunday. It was a very different experience.
 
There were live streams from my parish though, and I would sit with the stream on my TV, the worship aid on my phone, and the YouTube chat window open on my tablet, so I could join with my fellow parishioners in wishing each other peace. I was able to order kielbasa from my favorite Polish butcher and managed to make a babka after my neighbor shopped for me. The Polish parish of my childhood had a blessing of the baskets through FaceBook Live, so for the first time in years, my brother and I were there together.
 
On Sunday morning, I joined my parish for Mass. Our pastor had asked parishioners to send in photos of themselves so the images could be printed and fill the church. After the Gospel, he asked us if we would like to see the pictures. He stepped off the altar and past the camera, which was then flipped around, and my eyes filled with tears. There was my church, filled with my faith community. Every pew had photos of singles, couples, and families. Our pastor commented that it was the first time he had ever had dogs in church for Easter Mass. We joined in spiritual Communion and, yes, I was on my tablet wishing everyone peace and a happy Easter. It was beautiful.
 
Afterwards I shared breakfast with dear friends as we had for so many years, even if they were at their table in Albuquerque, New Mexico while I sat at mine in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey. I then spent over an hour on FaceTime with my niece and ended the day on a Zoom with my father, brother, and sister-in-law, complete with visits from my cat and my dad’s dog.
 
I spent Easter alone in my house, and yet I spent Easter filled with love, community and, yes, joy. I could sing the descants for the hymns along with the stream. I could—after months of chemo and a long, scary surgery—feel as though I had been resurrected with our Lord. I spent an Easter filled with hope in the new life that is the heart of our faith. I could feel truly that I am part of an Easter people who will emerge from the tomb of Covid-19 to rise and live in the presence of our Lord.
 
Jennifer Bober is RENEW’s Manager of Marketing and Communications. In addition to her marketing career, she is a professional liturgical musician.
 
Photo courtesy of Elsa Garrison/Getty Images.

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With the world health challenges, it is an understatement to say that life has been disrupted this Lenten season, and not because of our usual choices of self-discipline and penance.

 

Today we celebrate St. Francis of Paola, Italy (1416-1507), who would probably be in his element if he were here. His chosen life included isolated cave-dwelling and severe dietary restrictions. He, and the orders of friars he founded, shared his focus on pursuing the eternal inheritance promised by the Lord, his “chosen portion and …cup” (Psalm 16:5a), although Francis carried on a ministry of healing and prophecy to the poor and the royal, because he felt called by God to do so.

 

Nowadays when grocery items and what we consider staples are not so accessible, we might be so distracted that we do not take the time to focus on our spiritual life and practices. It is possible, however, that we can draw strength from rising above the material realm and reassessing our needs, losses, and luxuries. True, we probably won’t opt to live in caves and eat a diet devoid of animal products as St. Francis did, but we can take the opportunity to do what St. Paul says he did: “I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ, Jesus”
(Philemon 3:14).

 

That prize! What a treasure! To attain that treasure, we may struggle with the pursuit; but unlike the grocery stores’ inventories, the supply of this heavenly treasure “that no thief can reach nor moth destroy” is inexhaustible (Luke 12:33).

 

Jesus reassures us in the gospel for this memorial (Luke 12:32-34) that it is the Father’s pleasure to give us the kingdom, that we have no need to be afraid. When there is so much uncertainty and sickness in this world, it is easy to lose sight of the bigger picture.

 

Our faith and the gospels tell us that Jesus understands suffering. We are not alone, even if we are isolated in our houses. Jesus, as he prayed to his Father in the garden on the night before he died, must have felt isolated as his close friends fell asleep instead of praying with him.

 

Ultimately, God is in control and loves his flock so much that he sent his Son as Savior. As Holy Week approaches, we can regroup. We turn our attentive hearts to where our eternal treasure is and to the sacrifice of Jesus that made our inheritance an attainable reality. Today we pray that St. Francis of Paola, who was a devout person of prayer, will intercede for us and help us attain our upward calling.

 

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, CT. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries.

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