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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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Note: We can pray with the liturgical readings of the day, even if we can’t attend Mass during the pandemic. Sharon Krause continues to offer her reflections to inspire our prayer.
 
“Breaking news!” Accompanied by some special music, the news on television is often interrupted by a breaking news update, and it is usually not good news. The interruption is meant to get the viewers’ attention, but after a while, viewers can become almost unresponsive to the momentary lure.
 
If we want really good news that is worthy of attention no matter how many times we have heard it, we can look at the Gospel reading for the liturgy today (Luke 1:26-38), the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord. This is not just “breaking news,” but more like “Jesus breaking into our lives news!” Our response includes hope, gratitude, and great joy!
 
Mary offers her pure body, her womb, to mother the sacrificial Victim that will establish a new order and life-saving accessibility to God. As with many news announcements, there are a number of details unavailable to Mary in the beginning. Mary, as young as she is, trusts God’s plan, although she does not understand it. There are no reservations in her response, just, “May it be done to me according to your word” (v. 38). Mary’s body would nourish her child; she would carry and protect him. No doubt, Mary would pray for his well-being and her own throughout the nine months until his birth.
 
Nine months from today, we will celebrate Christmas. What can I do to help Jesus’ message grow in me all that time? What can I do to nurture my discipleship so that I can better offer myself to do God’s will? Even if I am tempted to feel that, with my shortcomings and sinfulness, I am occasionally “bad news,” I remember that nothing is impossible for God. We read in the Letter to the Hebrews (10:10), “we have been consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Every day there is an invitation to respond: to savor and carry Jesus to others.
 
Some parents who are awaiting a birth read to the child even before delivery. When the child is born, it appears that it recognizes their voices when it hears them again. In these three trimesters, as we await the celebration of the saving fruition of the Annunciation, reading and praying with Scripture passages, God’s Word, can help us to recognize God’s voice again and offer us a kind of rebirth.
 
Once a child is born, parents send out birth announcements. None of us has to wait
to start announcing with words and witnessing about the salvation, truth, and kindness of the Lord (Psalm 40:7-8a,8b-9,10,11). With joy, along with Mary, “we shall name him Jesus.” (Luke 1:31).
 
Sweet Virgin, Mary, thank you for giving yourself over totally to our Father’s loving will.
Pray for us as we strive to share your Son, our Savior, with others.
 
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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I believe that while I was on a Lenten weekend retreat, the Lord showed me my own personal parable. With no apparent provocation, I was reminded how, many years ago, when I was a little child, I was sitting on my front porch steps waiting for my daddy to come into view as he walked home from his job as a bookkeeper at the New York, Ontario & Western Railway Company a few blocks away. At last, I spotted him, and I got up and started running towards him. But I tripped and fell flat on my face on the concrete sidewalk, which was in a sorry, crumbly state. My dad rushed to my side, picked me up, and carried me the short distance to our house. I had a skinned knee and little pebbles on my face and some in my crying mouth. Once we were in the house, my mother came to my aid and cleaned up her pride and joy.
 
I wondered why that incident from decades ago came to mind during my quest to get closer to God. Almost immediately, I sensed that the Lord was reminding me of something I had been taught throughout my search: that in my waiting and watching for God, I might stumble and fall, sometimes experience life crumbling beneath me, but my loving Father is watching and will pick me up and carry me. Blessed Mother, Mary, is also there to help me with her loving prayers. Wow! This was, indeed, my own personal parable!
 
My dad died when I was 11. It was good to think of him again and remember his scooping me up in his arms. It was also reassuring to be reminded of my loving Heavenly Father who is always in control and of Mary who is praying for me.
 
St. Joseph, whose solemnity we celebrate today, is another father who loved his child. No doubt, he was a man of strong faith; he is called a “righteous man” in today’s gospel (Matthew 1:19). Joseph must have been a strong and protective influence in the young life of Jesus. And in a passage in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 2:41-51a), which is an optional reading for this solemnity, we read of the “great anxiety” he shared with Mary as they searched for Jesus who, at age 12, was teaching in the Temple.
 
A protective foster father, Joseph kept his child safe by fleeing to Egypt with his family when Herod threatened Jesus’ life. Joseph’s strong faith and loving availability are attributes every parent should strive to possess.
 
St. Joseph was a craftsman, perhaps a carpenter. Let us pray, asking him to help us build a holy and fruitful last two weeks of Lent:
 
St. Joseph, guardian and protector of our Savior, Jesus,
pray for me, that I may measure my life
by your example of faith and willingness
to do the will of our God, our Father.
Help me to hammer out all the temptations
the evil one suggests in his deceitful plan,
and help me to build a holy life
on a firm foundation of love. Amen.

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On this St. Patrick’s Day, parades and parties have been postponed as we respond to the coronavirus. Yet it remains fitting to honor St. Patrick, to ask for his prayers, and to allow him to teach us the holiness we need at this difficult time.
 
St. Patrick was a very poor and humble man who lived in the fifth century. In his autobiographical Confessio, he calls himself “a sinner, a most simple countryman.” After having been taken captive from Britain to Ireland as a teenager, Patrick turned his heart toward the Lord and found his gift of preaching.
 
In the optional reading for the memorial of St. Patrick (1 Peter 4:7b-11), we receive encouragement about using our gifts of hospitality, preaching, and other service to one another to ultimately, and, most importantly, glorify God.
 
In the episode described in the optional gospel reading for the memorial (Luke 5:1-11), Jesus tells Simon Peter to cast his empty nets over the side of his boat, and Simon catches a phenomenal number of fish after a very unsuccessful night of fishing. He falls to his knees and, like Patrick, calls himself a sinful man. Jesus reassures Simon and tells him, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”
 
These readings fit well with the memorial of St. Patrick. In his Confessio, Patrick mentions that he had “baptized so many thousands of people”; he was catching men and women and sharing the Christian message by using his gifts of deep faith and preaching. Patrick refers to the story from St. Luke’s gospel and says, “It behooves us to spread our nets, that a vast multitude and throng might be caught for God.”
 
We have heard many times the story, perhaps the legend, that St. Patrick taught his listeners about the Holy Trinity by using the visual aid of the three-leafed shamrock, i.e., three leaves, yet one plant—three persons, yet one God.
 
It occurred to me that, during Lent, we could use the shamrock to remind us of other aspects of our faith. For instance, the three practices that can make for one Holy Lent are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. The Sacrament of Reconciliation, one of the great sacraments of the Church, has three main components: confessing with sorrow, doing penance, and metanoia or turning away from sin after having received God’s loving forgiveness.
 
When we think of the culmination of Lent, the shamrock can remind us of the story of our redemption with the three components of the passion, death, and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
 
What else can the shamrock represent for you this Lent? Maybe you have three favorite prayers or practices in your one morning prayer time? Maybe you can make three caring phone calls or texts in one day to reach out to the sick or lonely?
 
St. Patrick, pray for us all, whether we are of Irish descent or not. Thank you for giving us such a good example of sharing the good news of Jesus!
 
(Reference: The Confessions of St. Patrick, Create Space Publishing, February 21, 2016, pp. 5,21.)
 
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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Life in the 21st century is anything but slow-paced. With the high-speed internet, high-speed transportation, and high-speed food preparation—just to name a few fast things—humans are able to find time to accomplish many tasks and often simultaneously. Multitasking is faster, more popular, and easier than ever.
 
On the Church calendar for March 9 is the optional feast of St. Frances of Rome (1384-1440). Frances apparently was very adept at multitasking centuries ago. With a huge capacity for loving, she poured herself into a life of service to her husband and children and, at the same time, assisted a group of like-minded women in giving aid to the poor people of Rome. Prayer was a major component of her life, and I am sure that such a boundless resource is better than high-speed anything in sustaining a Christian wife, mother, and caregiver. Her example must have been such an inspiration to all those around her.
 
The optional first reading for today’s Mass (Proverbs 31:10-13,19-20,30-31) describes a “worthy wife.” That expression may sound patronizing in the 21st century, but the woman described in the reading is busy not only at home but also in the community where she “reaches out her hands to the poor” and “extends her arms to the needy.” St. Frances was like that. Chris Lowney, in his book What, Me Holy? from RENEW International, says sometimes a woman has to be both a Martha and a Mary (Luke 10:38-42), and clearly St. Frances worked tirelessly at being both. The rewards of living such a multitasking life—when the tasks include seeking the Lord, taking refuge in the Lord, and praising the Lord at all times—are recounted in the psalm for today, “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord” (Psalm 34:2-3,4-5,6-7,8-9,10-11).
 
Lent is a special time of multitasking with love: a time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. The Gospel passage for the memorial of St Frances (Matthew 22:34-40) tells of the two great commandments, love of God and love of neighbor as we love ourselves. Prayer intensifies and sustains our loving relationship with God. We pray for ourselves and others. Fasting helps us to keep in mind what is truly valuable and important in life and how to keep things in right proportion. Thus, fasting is loving ourselves, too. Almsgiving teaches us to be generous as our faithful God is generous. We love others selflessly.
 
Being good Christian multitaskers, we can pray, fast, and give alms all at once! Try it! Be creative! Here is an example: on a day when you are fasting from a certain food you enjoy, volunteer at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter and pray a silent prayer for each person as you are serving them! How about fasting from electronic devices for a day, while bringing a person who needs transportation to church to make a visit and pray together in front of the Blessed Sacrament?
 
For worthy wives and their worthy husbands, how about being extra “worthy” for the day and refrain from complaining about that little habit your spouse has, while saying some extra prayers of gratitude for him or her and, perhaps, helping each other clearing closets of perfectly good garments, outgrown or no longer worn, and then delivering those clothes to the local clothing bank?
 
I am sure you can come up with your own multitasks of love. “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord” this Lent!
 
(Resource: franciscanmedia.org)
 
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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“Little lazies” is what I call them. You know them: those small chores or actions you don’t do, because you don’t deem them urgent or important; or, better still, you think someone else will do them. Remember that saltshaker you did not refill, or that paper-towel dispenser that was on its last towel? I think we all give in to them at times. “Little lazies” are just slight lapses in self-discipline that eventually catch up with us, either because necessity forces us to carry out these tasks or because we are confronted by someone else who did.

 

I see someone in a store, and I think to myself how sad that person looks. Even if I don’t know him or her, would it hurt me to smile and just say, “Good morning?” A passerby has a pouting little child in her shopping cart. Would I take a few seconds to compliment the mother and say a few kind words to the child instead of just going about my errands? Openness is a way of overcoming the “little lazies” insofar as we don’t withdraw from our surroundings and selfishly turn inward. Small acts of kindness are little disciplines we can either ignore or lovingly carry out. We don’t have big demands made on us in these simple situations, but we can start somewhere, and practice can help prepare us for the bigger discipline demands.

 

Today the Church observes an optional memorial for St. Peter Damian, who was a bishop in the 11th century and has been named a Doctor of the Church. St. Peter Damian was definitely familiar with discipline. I would guess that he did not give in to those “little lazies” and certainly not big ones! His Wikipedia biography entry tells of his extreme self-mortification all the while being a forceful reformer, a writer, a leader, a cardinal, and a legate for the pope. The readings for his memorial Mass call us to be active, persistent, and fruitful (2 Timothy 4:1-5, John 15:1-8). We cannot be lazy, because, as the Responsorial Psalm proclaims, “You are my inheritance, O Lord” (Psalm 16:5a). We have good reason and motivation to be energized! See what is waiting for us!

 

In St. John’s Gospel, Jesus invites us to be his disciples. Did you ever notice that “disciple” and “discipline” have the same first seven letters? Disciples have to be disciplined, and we can be, because we are the branches abiding on the nourishing vine that is Jesus. If we start to get a little lazy or a little weak, we can confidently pray to our personal Source for strength and perseverance. This is good news that can bolster us again and again!

 

We are close to the end of the week, and sometimes by then we are running out of steam. In my prayer time today, I might ask for a little boost of self-discipline so that I can try to glorify the Father by bearing fruit for his kingdom—even some small fruit!

 

We all might consider making a loving phone call, sharing a comforting Gospel story, spreading an uplifting attitude, praying for a soldier who is deployed, or good-naturedly completing someone else’s “little lazy” chore. We have a strong example of a disciplined person in St. Peter Damian. Best of all, we have the loving example of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Holiness, here we come!

 

Think about it:

  1. What are some of your “little lazies?”
  2. In what small way can you add to your response to the call to be a disciple of 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, CT. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries.

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Blessed are we who are comforters,
for we shall ease each other’s pain.
 
Blessed are we who forgive our partners,
for we shall know peace.
 
Blessed are we who are sympathetic listeners,
for we shall better understand ourselves and our partners.
 
Blessed are we who remind each other of happy memories,
for we both shall grow in joy.
 
Blessed are we who pay attention to good details,
for we shall have a fuller relationship.
 
Blessed are we who are gentle sharers,
for we shall be surprised by wealth.
 
Blessed are we who don’t sweat the small stuff,
for we shall be free of grudges.
 
Blessed are we who readily adapt to changes,
for we shall realize our own versatility.
 
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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One of my favorite forms of prayer, one that I learned in my studies for spiritual direction, is the Daily Examen, which St. Ignatius of Loyola described in his Spiritual Exercises. As he began writing the Exercises in a cave, Ignatius realized that he needed a tool or a method that would bring back into focus for him who he was, what was important to him, and what his priorities were. The result was the Daily Examen.
 
For me, writing is clarity, and so I journal my Examen daily. I have gone through dry periods or chosen other types of prayer, so I took a break, but I always return to the Examen as it has been a very rich prayer experience for me.
 
As a businessman brought up through sales and operations, and as a former business owner, I found the Examen an invaluable help in dealing with the pressures of balancing my faith and work lives. Between those pressures and being a single father and raising nine kids on my own, I had to have daily prayer time. Otherwise I couldn’t have done all that I did.
 
The Examen allowed for a daily time to thank God, look at my emotions and at how I drew closer to God daily, or fell away from him, and ahead look to the next day by asking God for what I needed. It was part of the recipe I used for a successful life.

Here are steps to the Examen:

  1. Become aware of God’s presence.
  2. Review the day with gratitude.
  3. Pay attention to your emotions.
  4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.
  5. Look toward tomorrow.

 
The Daily Examen is the subject of one of the sessions in RENEW International’s faith-sharing book Balancing Faith & Work. This is a fantastic resource for people who are trying to live a faithful life while balancing all the other daily concerns. It can be very challenging to live a life of faith in today’s world.
 
This book can be used by individuals or, more powerfully, in a small group. If you have an existing small group and you are looking for a new resource, check this out. We can also help you start a small group or a small-group program in your parish with this resource and the others that RENEW offers.
 
Check out Balancing Faith & Work by clicking HERE.
 
Rich Vosler is a sales consultant at RENEW International. Contact him at 908 769 5400 x149 or [email protected]

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Late-Christmas-season greetings from RENEW’s newest staff member! I am a Dominican sister from Caldwell, NJ, who professed first vows in August 2019. As we celebrate Sunday’s great feast, I share an adapted reflection on the Baptism of the Lord that I wrote in 2018 while at the Collaborative Dominican Novitiate in St. Louis, MO.
 
It was the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, and I was at a vigil Mass in my home parish. The homilist spoke of Isaiah 42’s “bruised reed” and “smoldering wick”: God’s love for each of us is so extravagant that God refuses to break the reed or quench the wick that still might have some life, some potential to live and love as we are called. I thought of the great commissioning that we share with Jesus through our own baptism. The Spirit who opens the heavens to rush upon Jesus yearns also to rush upon us, to anoint us to do God’s work. Dare we believe this? If we do, we must change—a daunting prospect!
 
The homily that night offered challenge, yet it also gave hope, calling us deeper into life as God’s beloved sons and daughters. It called us to know that God’s words about Jesus, “This is my beloved” (Mt 3:17), are words that God speaks of us, too.
 
Even with these joyful tidings, something greater happened for me that night. Indeed, it was something beyond the joy of the music, beyond the beauty of the church adorned with evergreens and lights.
 
It was the meditation after Communion that spoke to my soul. What words did that meditation speak? None! It was a prolonged silence, punctuated by a child who babbled and someone who coughed. The silence continued several minutes. How fitting, I thought. We, the baptized, have been commissioned, but the next step is to be still. How else to answer the wondrous call to share the very work of God’s own Son? The call to know our belovedness and to preach it in word and deed is, surely, a call to action. But first, we must ponder the gift of this call. We must be still.
 
So sit for a minute, or more! As January’s routine resumes, the Baptism of the Lord is easy to overlook. Make some time for silence. Bless yourself with some holy water, if you can. Remember your own baptism. Remember that you are God’s beloved. Bask in that certainty. And then, give God’s love to someone else. Happy feast.
 
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
 
Image courtesy of FreeBibleImages.org.
 
Sr. Gina Scaringella, OP, is a Communications Associate at RENEW International. She is a newly professed Sister of Saint Dominic of Caldwell, NJ, who worked in medical communications for many years.

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This morning was one of those mornings. I had not slept well, I was dragging, and every little inconvenience was amplified as I dropped my keys while my hands were full, caught my sweater on the door, and the drive-thru line seemed to take forever. I was fighting hard to not let things get to me.
 
I was running a little behind and, as I got close to the office, I realized I had forgotten part of my lunch in my refrigerator at home. Okay. I was about to pass a grocery store, so I would run in quickly. When I got to the checkout line, I was the third person waiting. The old woman at the head of the line was talking to the cashier, and it was taking a while. The woman in front of me realized the problem before I did. The old woman didn’t have enough money for her groceries.
 
Without hesitation, the young woman in front of me pulled a dollar out of her wallet and handed it to the cashier. When the cashier said there was still change needed, I opened my own wallet and grabbed the extra quarter required. The old woman was so grateful. I commented to the woman in front of me that it was wonderful to be reminded that there are good people in this world. As the cashier wished the old woman a nice day, she replied, “It will be now. I am so blessed.”
 
What a profound truth to be reminded of for $1.25 contributed by two people. We are all blessed, and we are all called to share those blessings with those we encounter in our everyday lives—friends and strangers alike. Simple kindnesses have the power to change someone else’s day, and your own along with it. This morning, God reminded me of that in the best way possible.
 
Jennifer Bober is RENEW’s Manager of Marketing and Communications. In addition to her marketing career, she is a professional liturgical musician.

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When you’re little, the adults in your life tell you that sharing is “really fun” and “a nice thing to do.” Until you’re older though, you don’t realize how truly rewarding it is. One of my fellow summer interns here at RENEW is a junior at St. Edward’s University in Texas and originally from Ohio. Before working here, she had never been to New York or New Jersey. Being raised in northern New Jersey and so close to Manhattan, I like to think I know how to get around in the city. So, on a Wednesday afternoon adventure tour, my joy came from embracing the little things about my favorite city and sharing them with my friend.
 
Our day started across the street from Bryant Park, where we attended a meeting in the Salesforce tower. We met representatives from two other nonprofits as well as a few employees at Salesforces where we learned about the software and how it could benefit everyone here at RENEW. Along with meeting these wonderful new faces, we were taken up to the top of the Salesforce tower, where we got the opportunity to overlook a beautiful 360-degree view of the entire city. I was overwhelmed with joy seeing this view of the city and sharing it with my friend who had not seen anything like it.
 
After the meeting, our colleagues and Jessie and I went our separate ways, and we were given the chance to do some exploring and adventuring on our own. My day of showing my friend around my favorite city would continue wherever the wind took us. We landed in Times Square at the TKTS booth and bought last-minute tickets to the matinee performance of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. We were pleasantly surprised to see that our seats were much closer to the stage than either of us anticipated. By the end of the show, we were both so full of joy. The story was heartwarming, the music was fun, and we got to share it.
 
We continued to dinner at Stout on 33rd street, one of my favorite spots in the city. We shared a plethora of food that had us full for what felt like days, and plenty of stories that had us laughing and smiling for two-plus hours. When it came time to catch our trains home, neither of us wanted our day to end, despite the fact that we were going to see each other in less than twenty-four hours.
 
It was day filled with one joyous event after another. My joy was rooted in the idea of sharing my favorite place with my new friend. Being able to see New York City through another person’s eyes, where everything is new and getting to be the tour guide for it all was a job I loved. I will surely never forget our day in New York City with my forever friend, filled with nothing but smiles and joy from start to finish.
 
Anne Howath is a senior communications major at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. Annie plans to pursue a career in digital media and marketing. She is the editor-in-chief of the SJU Her Campus chapter and a former intern for Katz Media Group and Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville. “I am very grateful for my summer at RENEW,” she says, “and I have been learning a lot about working in a nonprofit environment!”

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Here at RENEW, we’ve been having much-needed repairs done on our roof, particularly the flat part towards the rear of the building. One afternoon, the workers came across a tiny baby bird that had been uprooted, possibly by a severe wind storm two days prior. The bird had fallen to the ground, and was following the crew around, anxiously looking for some lunch. The workers waited a bit, hoping the parent would return, but the day was getting warmer and warmer. Afraid someone might step on the bird or that a cat might find it, the crew brought this situation to the attention of our shared-services department, those wonderful people who answer our phones and help direct our emails, who fill orders and help make sure things in general run smoothly.
 
Animal lovers Marty and Dawn rose to the occasion and took our guest under their wings, so to speak. They researched best practices on the Internet and were soon fashioning a new nest in one of our shipping boxes. Lunch for our visitor consisted of smashed blueberries and some dog food, brought in by Dawn’s family. The dog food is reported to be high in protein and similar in taste and consistency to the baby’s usual diet of digested worms and bugs. Having no prior experience with any of this, we took “the hive’s” word for it. Apparently, the advice was correct, and the bird was soon enjoying a real feast.
 
After lunch, it became clear that the bird needed more care. It was then transported to a local bird sanctuary, The Raptor Trust, where it could get what it needed to grow up healthy and strong.
 
In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis says, “Nature cannot be regarded as something separate from ourselves or as a mere setting in which we live. We are part of nature, included in it and thus in constant interaction with it.” (129). We at RENEW had the opportunity to take part in a particularly special type of “interaction” and to reach out to help a fellow member of God’s kingdom here on earth.
 
Every day, there are opportunities for us to be part of creation, maybe by planting a garden or caring for our yards, or by caring for a baby bird. Love and discipleship, following the Lord in his way of love, cannot be confined only to an hour of church each week. It is truly something that must extend into our everyday lives, be contained in each breath we take. As we do for this one, this family member, this loved one, this friend, this stranger, this refugee, this criminal, this baby bird, so we indeed do for him. Just as we were able to find sanctuary for our bird buddy, let us be ready to seek out sanctuary for all those around us in need, be it a homeless shelter, a drug recovery program, or simply our sincere attention.
 
Today, keep your eyes open for ways you can be part of the work of God, ways you can sustain creation. Think with broad thoughts, not narrowed by what you may have done in the past or anything you read or were told. Join our Lord as a partner in his ministry and see what could happen. You never know where that next surprise may lead.Lords
 
Mary Foy is RENEW’s Assistant Director of Pastoral Services and project manager for Baptism Matters. She is also a Pastoral Associate at St. Joseph Parish in North Plainfield, NJ.

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Have you ever been with someone who spends much of the time checking his or her cell phone or writing and receiving texts? It is as though you were not there.
 
Have you ever had a conversation with a co-worker, neighbor, relative, friend, or family member in which a controversial topic came up—especially regarding politics or religion? Neither side really listens, and one or both may get hostile. How would that affect your relationship and your connection to truth?
 
Scenarios like these are part of the great disconnect that haunts our society.
 
There are many things that can break us apart, and not all are controversies or annoyances or misunderstandings.
 
For example, we live in a very mobile society. Young people grow up with beloved families and friends and then go away to school or military service and never come back except to visit. A person gets married and has children, and whether he or she stays local or moves away, lives in a different world. Other people change jobs, either because they see better opportunities or get laid off. Perhaps they had good relationships in the old job, but they lose touch with most or all of their former co-workers. Some relationships may survive such changes, but many do not, at least not on the same level of connection.
 
We live in a very fast-moving, disconnected society; yet, there is always hope for connections and reconnections rather than isolation. That’s because most of us are naturally communal beings.
 
Remember when you were a child and were taught that you and all people were created in the “image and likeness of God”? Did you associate that idea with God the Father or with Jesus, the Son of God? What about the Holy Spirit, the forgotten member of the Trinity?
 
If, as we believe, God is a community of equal persons, and we are created in the image of this communal God, then we, too, are called to be communal, living in relationships with others. This is the great mystery of God’s everlasting love, a community of love.
 
Yet, we are torn in so many directions, so distracted by cell phones, the Internet, social media, cable TV, and video games that we can lose one another and drift into isolation and perhaps depression.
 
When was the last time you had a deep and meaningful conversation with someone you love?
 
Are you involved in a community—whether spiritual, healing, or intellectual—or in a cause beyond yourself? Perhaps your involvement is local, connected with your school, place of worship, or a community-based service program. Maybe you are attracted to a national organization or movement for justice or protection of the environment or another issue that is in your heart but has not yet involved your presence.
 
We each have different interests, beliefs, personalities, and availability, but we all need connections, some form of community and belonging. Yes, we are all living in the mystery of God’s community of love, created in the image of a loving God who is a community of persons. Let us rejoice in who we really are and who we are called to be.
 
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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My friends all know that I am a Catholic, because I have always been very open with them about my faith. So, when the news broke about Cardinal McCarrick, who long served in my home archdiocese of Newark, and the grand jury report was released in Pennsylvania where my father now lives, many people asked me, “How can you stay when the Church is so corrupt?”
 
I think my answer surprised them. I told them, “I stay, because the clergy are not the Church—I am. The Church is the millions of people of faith who sit in the pews every Sunday and then go out into the world to do good.”
 
I stay also because my Catholicism is so deeply rooted in my identity. My ethnic heritage, my family life, and now even my professional life are intertwined with my faith life. To walk away from the Church is to walk away from who I am.
 
Most importantly though, I stay because this is where I find God. I stay because through the sacraments and prayer I nurture my relationship with God. Where else would I go? As a Catholic, I believe that in the Eucharist I become one with my Savior. That cannot happen anywhere else.
 
We all have different reasons for staying. I believe, however, that we all need to think about my initial response to my friends. Now, more than ever, those of us who are not clergy need to stand up and claim our Church. We are the Church. We cannot be “consumer Catholics” who just show up at Mass on Sunday and then walk away. We need to engage. We need to be willing to take on leadership roles in which our voices are heard.
 
Many Catholics are hurt and angry and feel betrayed by this latest wave of abuse scandals. They have every right to those feelings, and we must address those feelings in our faith communities to begin working through them. At the same time, we need to understand our role in making sure that it does not happen again. We need to listen with open hearts to the stories of victims. We need to be vocal, engaged members of our parishes who will not be quiet until we know exactly what is being done to prevent future abuse. We need to be willing to serve on lay review boards or as secondary ministers/volunteers, so NO adult is ever left alone with children.
 
We are not powerless. We have a voice. We must use both. It is up to every single one of us to answer God’s call to St. Francis of Assisi: “Rebuild my Church.”

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

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