Branching-Out

Grandma's Attic

Posted by Sharon Krause on Oct 3, 2022 6:00:00 AM

Many years ago, while driving two and a half hours to see our extended family, my husband and I used to play a word game with our little daughter so the ride would not seem so long. It was called “What’s in Grandma’s Attic?” Long before video games and cellphones, this alphabet game would keep our daughter amused, at least for a while. Using the letters of the alphabet, and players taking turns, the answers to the game’s question might be to say that in Grandma’s attic there was an Album, a Ball, a Cane, a Dolly, a toy Elephant, and so on. The game often got us laughing and thinking of silly answers.

Now what would make me think of that game after decades? We are in the process of moving out of the house we have occupied for a very long time. We are busy cleaning out our rather big attic! Let me tell you, there is a lot of stuff in this grandma’s attic! I don’t find the work amusing, but it is interesting so see how, for various reasons, when something is out of sight, it is often out of mind!

I have been finding items that bring back very fond memories. I feel the need to thank God for some wonderful past experiences just in case I forgot to thank him at the time, in all the excitement. I am sure there is no statute of limitations on gratitude to our loving Lord! Blessings come in all different ways and at any time throughout our lives.

I have been finding things upstairs that I have decided not to keep anymore, things that have outlived their usefulness. In my present life, maybe I should pause and think about any thought patterns, habits, or attitudes that have also outlived their role in my life. Maybe it is time to ask Jesus to help me to be honest with myself and weigh what really is important in my quest to love him above anything else.

There may be items in this attic that I could donate to others in need. My “treasures” could be shared if someone else’s need arises. For example, I some perfectly good, original, only-worn-once Halloween costumes that I had designed and made for my three grandchildren. Why not pass on the fun?

And why not pass on “What’s in Grandma’s Attic” with a few changes? How about sharing with children or grandchildren a game about our wonderful Catholic faith? We could call it: “What About our Faith Words?” and use the alphabet to teach or review. We could start with Absolution, Baptism, Confirmation, Deity, Eucharist, Forgiveness, Grace, and so on. We could even consult the Bible for some Old Testament words or names. Time spent with children to learn about the love of God is certainly worth the effort!

There is a commercial on television that asks, “What’s in your wallet?” I am asking you now, What’s in your attic? If you don’t have an attic, you might have a basement or closets that offer the same answers! Go for it!

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Topics: God's blessings, Holy Spirit, teaching children about God, Sharon Krause

"Hear the Word! by Bill Ayres: Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Oct 1, 2022 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Habakkuk

(Chapter 1:2-3; 2:2-4)

“How long O Lord? I cry for help but you do not listen! I cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not intervene. Why do you let me see ruin; why must I see misery?” Habakkuk was one of the 12 minor prophets of Israel and, like most, he was speaking in a time of oppression by a foreign power. God answers him: “For the vision still has its time, presses on to its fulfillment, and will not disappoint; if it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late.”

This was written thousands of years ago, but it has meaning for us today even though our situation is not so challenging. Or is it? Perhaps there are times when we can identify with this ancient man’s cry. Not that we have to deal with hostile Babylonians, but maybe we have troubles with our health, our family, or our work. We still can rely on God’s promise of ultimate salvation.  

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9)

“If today you hear his voice, harden not your heart.” How and where can we hear the voice of God? Sometimes it is at prayer, at our Eucharistic celebration, in nature, or any time when we speak to a loved one or look into her or his eyes. Or, it may be in times of stress, danger or disappointment. But we can truly hear God’s voice only if we have open, not hardened hearts.

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Stays of Execution

Posted by Alice Hugh Brown on Sep 27, 2022 9:00:00 AM

None of us want to have a dreaded appointment delayed time and again. Think, then, of the great anxiety caused when a prisoner must repeatedly anticipate his death. Then consider these stays of execution for Richard Glossip:

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Topics: justice, mercy, Catholic social teaching, dignity of each person, social justice, Dignity and the Death Penalty

Roads We Travel

Posted by Sharon Krause on Sep 26, 2022 6:00:00 AM

I was cruising the television channels recently and landed on a station that was airing an episode of the classic series, M*A*S*H*. I saw the wooden directional road sign that displayed the names of various cities in America as well as Seoul and Tokyo. It got me thinking about the various roads we travel or places we go in our lives and the virtual road signs we could use to help us find our way. Just as in the TV series, road signs can be a way of coping with challenging situations.

Let’s imagine, for example, some hypothetical road signs. So much in our lives is very literal and visual. If we can visualize a sign that reads “Patience,” we might try to follow that road when tempted to lose our temper. The arrow on the sign may point us to Ephesians 4:1-3:

   I, then, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you

   have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one

   another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond

   of peace…

Life can present us with many problems. We can get stuck on the road of “Resentment” toward someone concerning a past conflict. It is best not to go there! Our new road sign could point us to Philippians 3:12-14:

   It is not that I have already taken hold of it or have already attained perfect

   maturity, but I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it, since I have

   indeed been taken possession of by Christ Jesus. Brothers, I for my part do not

   consider myself to have taken possession. Just one thing: forgetting what lies

   behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the

   goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Jesus Christ.

Another sign that can easily pop up on our brain-post is “Anxiety.” What direction can we take to relieve anxiety or that of someone else? Proverbs 12:25 tells us:

   Anxiety in a man’s heart depresses it,

   but a kindly word makes it glad.

And St. Matthew tells us in his Gospel, 6:34:

   Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day

   is its own evil.

And St. Paul reassures us in Romans 8:38-39:

     For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor

     present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other

   creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

The post in M*A*S*H* had 11 directional signs displayed in a bit of disarray. Our personal signposts may have more or fewer signs and can change as time passes. Sacred Scripture is full of wonderful hope and direction to point us to the right pathways. I have provided only a few examples. Each of us can find our own help. Even if our signs say things like “Doubt,” “Temptation,” “Fear,” “Confusion,” or “Transition,” the Holy Spirit is a great travel guide through prayer and Sacred Scripture. Blessed travels to all of us!

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Topics: applying Scripture to your life, Holy Spirit, Sharon Krause, choices

"Hear the Word! by Bill Ayres: Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Sep 24, 2022 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Amos

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Blanket Coverage

Posted by Sharon Krause on Sep 19, 2022 6:00:00 AM

When my three grandchildren were little, we would often sit on my couch, and I would read to them from numerous popular softcover books. There was a very lightweight quilt on that couch that we would carefully throw over our laps as the reading session proceeded. We called it the “story blanket.” It added to the fun and magic of those shared moments. The four of us were unified and joyful as we shared the tales about pokey puppies and silly bears and adventuresome spiders. Those were the good old days!

Recently I got thinking about that story blanket and wondering if something similar might be useful in times of stress or anxiety. It could be an actual or even virtual “prayer blanket” or “no-worries blanket” that could be thrown over one or more of us together to offer a respite from discomfort. For a little while, we could distance ourselves from whatever is causing any upset in our lives. Blankets cover up people and things. They provide protection, a measure of warmth, inclusivity, and privacy. Most blankets are soft; so much in our world is abrasive and rough.

With the constant presence of cellphones and computers nowadays, it is not so easy to separate ourselves from outside stimuli. I see people walking, talking, texting, and listening everywhere I go. While it is all done in the name of convenience, there is something to be said for being able to take time to clear one’s head, connect with our loving Father God, and feel a non-technological connection with others. The comfort of the real or imagined “prayer blanket” could give gentle peace a chance.

So many times I hear people say in an effort to comfort others: “We are sending you our thoughts and prayers.” Can that become a stock expression? Do we always really follow through and take the time to think and pray for those individuals as we plow through our busy days and nights?

So let’s frequently pull our prayer blankets over ourselves and be comforted by what St. Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans (8:38-39):

   For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor

   present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other

   creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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Topics: everyday prayer, Sharon Krause, serenity

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Clone)

Posted by Bill Ayres on Sep 17, 2022 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the prophecy of Amos

(Chapter 8:4-7)

We tend to think of ancient Israel as a poor nation, and that is true. Most of the people were poor peasant farmers who barely got by and often were vulnerable to the whims of their landlords, seed providers, and more well-off merchants who cheated the poor families that depended on them for their livelihood.

Amos, teaching in the eighth century before the birth of Jesus, socks it to these predators: “The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Never will I forget a thing they have done!” This was a time of relative economic growth, but poor people saw little if any of that money. Sound familiar? One of the biggest issues in our society today is economic inequality. It is not only an economic concern but also a moral issue. People who are working hard, often at two or three minimum-wage jobs per family, are still poor and hungry in our rich country. Imagine what Amos would be saying today, how angry he would be. How should we, as followers of Jesus, act to overcome economic injustice in our society? Can we say that we are truly on the side of those who live in poverty?

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 113:1-2, 4-6, 7-8)

“Praise the Lord who lifts up the poor.” How does God really lift up the poor unless we believers act as God’s partners here on earth?

A reading from St. Paul's letter to Timothy

(Chapter 2:1-8)

The early Christians were not big fans of kings, the Roman emperor, and other officials, but the author of this letter calls upon Christians to pray “for kings and all authority.” He also asks the people to pray “without anger or argument.”

That was a difficult task then, and it is today, especially if we do not agree with our local, state, or national leaders. We can pray to change their minds, work to challenge their positions or their leadership within our democratic process, and join in an ongoing debate on the issues we hold dear.

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Hear the Word! by Bill Ayres, RENEW International

Human Dignity vs Dehumanization: A Conversation

Posted by Alice Hugh Brown on Sep 13, 2022 12:02:00 PM

James Allen Coddington (March 22, 1972  - August 25, 2022)

“James Coddington is dead.”

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Topics: justice, mercy, Catholic social teaching, dignity of each person, Dignity and the Death Penalty

Remember and Follow

Posted by Sharon Krause on Sep 12, 2022 6:00:00 AM

   Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them saying,

   “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.” (Luke 22:19)

What a wonderful memory that is, revisited at every consecration at every Mass! We remember and treasure that saving, nourishing miracle of our Savior. We have followed his direction gratefully for so many years.

What else do we remember learning about and from Jesus? What else can we do in his memory? We certainly recall his telling Peter to forgive transgressions seventy times seven times. (Matthew 18:22) That’s a tall order, but we can try to develop a willingness to be forgiving and understanding. We remember how good it feels to come out of the confessional. Starting over with a spouse or friend after a disagreement feels very refreshing.

We remember how many times we read in Scripture of Jesus healings of the blind and disabled. We cannot perform healing miracles like those, but we can offer sympathy, aid, and understanding to people who are suffering. Crowds would follow Jesus, even break through a roof, as they brought numerous friends and relatives to be touched by him. They persisted even though Jesus must have been extremely weary. Let’s stop and think about his example when a whining child pursues us or an impatient friend is complaining about a personal problem and wants our help. Remember what Jesus would do.

If we cannot recall all of the Beatitudes, we can read them again. (Matthew 5:3-11) Jesus’ teachings are memorable and give us goals for which to strive. In our world that often encourages selfishness and egocentricity, Jesus reminds us of the holy way of life. When we do the right work on ourselves regarding priorities, peace-making, and mercy, we are “blessed.” Jesus was a methodical and thorough teacher; we can try to emulate his style.

Remember when the Pharisees and Herodians were trying to get Jesus in trouble about paying the tax to Caesar? We see that Jesus amazed them with his answer about the right order of things. (Mark 12:13-17)

   So Jesus said to them, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what

   belongs to God.” (Mark 12:17)

Keeping things in the right order, keeping our priorities right is a challenge. The Holy Spirit is available to help us.

As we get older, sometimes our ability to remember things becomes far from perfect. That is not so with God. We can take great comfort from the Lord’s words to Israel in Isaiah 49:15-16:

   Can a mother forget her infant,

       be without tenderness for the child of her womb?

   Even should she forget, I will never forget you.

   See, upon the palms of my hands I have

     written your name;

   your walls are ever before me.”

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Topics: we remember, follow Jesus, follow the gospel, Jesus as teacher, remembering, Sharon Krause

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted by Bill Ayres on Sep 10, 2022 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of Exodus

(Chapter 32:7-11, 13-14)

This reading is about the infidelity of the people who were saved by God from slavery in Egypt. "The Lord said to Moses, ‘Go down at once to your people. … They have soon turned aside from the way I pointed out to them, making for themselves a molten calf and worshiping it, sacrificing to it and crying out, “This is your God, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt!” I see how stiff-necked this people is. … Let me alone, then, that my wrath may blaze up against them to consume them.’"

“But Moses implored the Lord, his God, saying ‘Why, O Lord, should your wrath raise up against your own people?’” Then Moses began to bargain with God. This may seem strange to us but “Semitic bargaining” was a feature of life at that time. And God relented and said to Moses, “I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and all this land that I promised, I will give your descendants as their perpetual in heritance.”

Notice that at first God refers to the Hebrews as “your people,” even though he has always considered them as his people. Then, after he has forgiven them for their idolatry, they are once again his people.

We do not worship any golden calf today, but we may be tempted to worship power or money or possessions. Of course, we would never say that, but we might be tempted to discard our values for power or possessions. It is good to ask ourselves these questions every once in a while. What are we tempted to worship? Does anything hold power over us?

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 51:3-4, 12-13, 17, 19)

“I will rise and go to my father.” The first line of the Psalm says, “Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness; in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.” God’s mercy is always there for us.

A reading from St. Paul's letter to Timothy

(Chapter 1: 12-17)

St. Paul was more responsible for the growth of the early Church than any other person. But he had been a really “bad guy.” As he writes, “I was once a blasphemer, a persecutor, a man filled with arrogance.” This great man had participated in the murder of Christians before his conversion: “But because I did not know what I was doing in my unbelief, I have been treated mercifully, and the grace of our Lord has been granted me in overflowing measure, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. … Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Of these I am the worst. But pm on that very account I was dealt with mercifully, so that in me, as an extreme case, Jesus Christ might display all his patience, and that I might become an example to those who would later have faith in him and gain everlasting life.”

In the first reading, from the Book of Exodus, we read about God’s mercy for his people. Here, Paul talks about the great mercy that he received from Jesus, a mercy that literally turned his life around.

Has the forgiveness of God, the mercy of God ever turned your life around? Has it helped you out of depression, self-doubt, even self-hatred? The healing mercy of God is truly amazing, transforming, life- changing. Perhaps you know someone who is in need of God’s mercy but does not know it or does not know how to ask for it. Have you ever thought that one of our great gifts and roles in life is to embody the merciful love of Jesus in your life and work? It is right there within us, and the need is all around us.

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Topics: Reflections on the coming Sunday's Gospel, Hear the Word! by Bill Ayres, RENEW International

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