Branching-Out

Back Up and Switch Gears

Posted by Sharon Krause on Oct 28, 2020 6:00:00 AM

When I taught second graders in Sunday school, I tried to explain why we sometimes choose to sin. I would slowly walk backwards as I talked about what I called “back-up thinking” and explained to the children that we make choices that we initially see as good. For example, I see Susie’s unattended candy bar on her desk. I like the taste of candy; it is good; she is not at her desk, so I can safely take the candy and eat it. My thinking stops there, and I take the candy bar. However, if I back up farther, I might say, “But God says stealing is a sin, and I am not being the best person I can be in this situation if I choose to sin.”

Thinking things through is important, but it may take a little extra reverse-thinking time. In this speedy 21st century, we are used to thinking and doing things in a forward hurry, sometimes without thorough consideration. We also get into habits that are really thought shortcuts. Sometimes with habits comes less sense of value or appreciation. We might take some things for granted or get a bit lax.

Have you ever thought of backing up in some block of your routine and perhaps switching into slower first gear just to get a new perspective? I read an article years ago about changing the usual way you do something just to keep your brain active and flexible. For example, how about sitting on a different chair at your kitchen table? How about holding your toothbrush in your non-dominant hand as you brush your teeth?

In a more spiritual vein, I got to thinking about backing up and saying grace in-between courses of a special meal instead of before and after the meal. It may cause some interesting family conversation at the dinner tablefor example, thanking God for our tastebuds, being grateful for Grandma and her recipe for baked potatoes, praying a prayer for the truckers who deliver the foods to the stores.

So often I hear about praying one “Our Father,” one “Hail Mary,” and one “Glory Be” part of a series. How about mindfully praying them in the opposite order? Granted, routines are useful for efficiency and comfort, but especially now, during this pandemic, when our routines are somewhat disrupted anyway, it may be a good time to back up and start over in some areas of our lives. Take a new detour. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you be creative.

We might start some new spiritual habits, such as praying daily an abbreviated version of the Divine Office or praying a decade of the rosary in breaks throughout the day. Meditate on just a few verses of a book of the New Testament. We might back up and look again at little near occasions of sin to avoid—-maybe certain words we shouldn’t use or thought patterns we should avoid—-one patient backup step at a time.

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Topics: Divine Office, catholic renew progam, prayer, RENEW International, rosary, sinfulness, sins, spiritual life, slow down, saying grace

Witnesses, Sponsors, and Saints. Oh, my!

Posted by Sharon Krause on Oct 26, 2020 6:00:00 AM

More and more people are having their DNA analyzed to learn about their ancestry. Perhaps it would be interesting to have your SLI analyzed, that is your Spiritual Life Influencesno swabbing required!

Let’s start with your name. Maybe you were named in honor of a certain saintif not your first name, your middle name. If that is so, have you been mindful of that particular saint in your spiritual life? I have prayed and asked St. Anne to intercede for me occasionally; Anne is my middle name.

Have your godparents been present to you in your spiritual development? Conversely, have you prayed for your godparents and their spiritual welfare? Baptism is such an important beginning, the sacrament that makes us spotless members of the Body of Christ. Unless administered in a case of emergency, this sacrament is accompanied with joy and family unity.

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Topics: Christian witness, witness, witness to the baptism, catholic renew progam, devotion to Saints, prayer, RENEW International, confirmation sponsor, godparents, witness to matrimony

Slogans and Shortcuts

Posted by Sharon Krause on Oct 21, 2020 6:00:00 AM

Did you ever notice how we use catchy sayings in the name of efficiency or expediency in getting messages across? Certainly, it can be profitable in merchandising and advertising. Good ol’ Benjamin Franklin knew that proverbs and maxims were useful. For example, he wrote, “God helps those who help themselves,” in his Poor Richard’s Almanac.

These concise sayings can be like little lectures or sermons that are easy to remember and repeat. There are a number of these verbal shortcuts that mention God. I will mention a few and maybe some timely implications.

Let’s look at that selection from Mr. Franklin I just mentioned. The implication is that God is always there to help people who take the initiative to help themselves. While the maxim might have the purpose of encouraging us not to be lazy or dependent upon others, it is important to remember that in all circumstances, God is ever-present to us to give us physical, intellectual, or emotional strength.

Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread that of them,
because it is the Lord,
your God who goes with you;
he will not fail you or forsake you. (Deut. 31:6)

“In God we trust” is a brief statement we see on our currency; we may not really stop to think about the implications of such a familiar idea. Especially in these stressful days of pandemic, political sparring, and civil unrest, do we really trust God? Many institutions have managed to remove references to God, so it would not matter if he were trusted. How about us, personally; do we really trust God? Perhaps we should pray and ask the Lord to make us more trusting.

There are numerous prayer resources available online, but even a simple ad-libbed shortcut is useful: “Faithful Lord, I trust in your mercy and love. Strengthen my faith and trust in You.” We might want to read the story of Shadrach, Mechach, and Abed-Nego again in Daniel, Chapter 3.

I have heard people rattle off this Bible quote: “for God loves a cheerful giver.” ( 2 Cor 9:7b) and just smiled in passing. Again, in these days of businesses being closed, people scrimping and scraping to pay for necessities, and anxiety affecting many households, being a cheerful giver to those in special need is a very good idea. There are food banks and community collections that truly need cheerful donors bringing aid and support. While we know God loves us all, this short scripture quote brings home the truth that God especially loves donors whose hearts and attitudes are joy-focused.

We often hear the expression, “What would Jesus do?” There were T-shirts and various other items carrying that logo. While only four words, the question had a wide range of implications, all begging the question of how Jesus would react to our modern-day situations. Do we ever think about that now?

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Topics: catholic renew progam, prayer, RENEW International, thanksgiving, COVID, In God We Trust, What would Jesus do, slogans, Poor Richard's Almanac

The Seventeen

Posted by Sharon Krause on Oct 19, 2020 6:00:00 AM

One summer morning my husband and I were on the way to accomplishing some errands. As we drove past a church, we caught sight of the busy movement of wildlife. Filled with curiosity, we turned into the church driveway to get a better look. To our amazement, there was a flock of turkeys: one hen, one tom, and 15we counted ‘em—15 very little turkey chicks! They were busy looking for breakfast and did not disappear into the cluster of bushes bordering the parking lot. We got a good look at our feathered friends as they cavorted around the nearby neighbor’s backyard. What a family! What a serendipitous morning ride for us!

In retrospect, those turkeys remind me that, throughout the course of any given day, a few large and a number of small blessings come my way, and I don’t always pay attention or thank the Lord for them. Perhaps we should teach, or, by our example, at least remind others about gratitude.

I remember being challenged to jot down things for which I am grateful, beginning with each letter of the word, thanksgiving. That might be a good lesson for children who have extra time and challenges learning at home instead of in classroom settings nowadays. Young children could use just the letters in their first names or their pets’ names.

For adults and children, however, gratitude is not a word game. It is a means of prioritizing and resetting our thinking. I used to belong to a small faith-sharing community, and its purposeful existence was focused on thankfulness. We were called “the Glory Gang,” striving for a measure of gratitude in action and not just words. We all might be pleasantly surprised at our creativity when we tap into it.

There are a number of passages in the Bible about gratitude. Psalm 100 is short enough to copy and keep handy and visible, perhaps on the refrigerator door or nightstand:

     Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come into his presence with singing.

     Know that the Lord is God.
It is he that made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

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

     For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

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Topics: catholic renew progam, gratitude, prayer, RENEW International, thanksgiving, Psalm 100, wild turkeys

How You See It

Posted by Sharon Krause on Oct 14, 2020 10:28:20 AM

Have you ever heard of lenticular printing? Well, that is the process that is used to create the print I have hanging in my kitchen. Basically, if I look at the picture from one angle, I see Jesus at the Last Supper. If I move slightly and look again, I see Jesus on the cross. If I move again, I see Jesus as the Good Shepherd. It’s all in one picture frame, all colorful and very detailed. It is one of the best purchases I’ve ever made!

I don’t know about you, but I am inspired by visual aids. For example, I might be getting something out of the refrigerator, and as I close the door and look over on the wall where that print hangs, I see the Good Shepherd and am reminded of that beautiful Psalm 23, “the Lord is my shepherd.” A few verses might come to mind and a little prayer may be inspired. Lovely, useful visual stimulation!

We know people’s observations and conclusions do not always agree. Three individuals could understand the same concept in three different ways. We come from different backgrounds, disciplines, experiences, and belief systems; no wonder we hear of controversies and arguments.

Today is the optional memorial of St. Callistus I, a third-century pope who was greatly criticized, particularly by St. Hippolytus, on matters of discipline and doctrine. From the writings of Hippolytus, we gather that he considered Callistus too lenient toward sinners and differed with the pope on issues including the reception of Holy Communion, marriage, and even ordination requirements. They probably had read many of the same texts and documents but had come to different interpretations.

How we see things is a subject in sacred scripture too. In a few of the verses from the optional gospel reading for the memorial, Luke 22:24-26, we read about Jesus correcting the disciples’ vision of greatness.

A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them
was to be regarded
as the greatest.
But he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles Lord it over
them;
and those in authority over them are called benefactors.
But not so with
you; rather the greatest among you must become
like the youngest, and the
 leader like one who serves.”

Certainly today, with politicians at odds over a number of issues, we are bombarded with more than one opinion about many important matters affecting our country. I suggest that we bombard Jesus, our Good Shepherd, with prayers for patience, mutual understanding, and above all, for God’s will to be fully accomplished.

The way I see it, St. Paul had wonderful instructions for the Philippians that we should follow:

Do not worry about anything,
but in everything by prayer and supplication
with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace
of God, which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your
minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7).

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.

 Scripture passages are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1965, 1966 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 Resource: franciscanmedia.org

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Topics: catholic renew progam, Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, prayer, Psalm 23, RENEW International, St. Hippolytus, St. Callistus I, Letter of St. Paul to the Philippians, Lenticular printing

'Medistations' on the Holy Spirit

Posted by Sharon Krause on Sep 30, 2020 6:00:00 AM

 

We are blessed to have guidance, inspiration, and enlightenment from the Holy Spirit. Let us pray with the following little meditations—kind of miniature stations—on the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity.

 

#1. The angel, Gabriel, tells Mary she will conceive by the Holy Spirit and bear a son, Jesus.

The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the most High will overshadow you;
therefore the child to be born will be holy;
he will be called Son of God. (Luke 1:35)

 
What a life-changing announcement! Mary’s holiness and favor with God have not been overlooked. As young and naive as she was, she was willing and able to be God’s servant. What excuses do we find for not taking on even small invitations to holiness? The Holy Spirit will give us the wisdom and openness to conceive of little acts of kindness for others and then deliver them.
 
#2. John the Baptist tells the people of a powerful Messiah who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.

John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water;
but one who is more powerful than I is coming;
I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and Fire. (Luke 3:16)

 Most of us were babies when we were baptized. Before we could even understand the gifts of power and strength that were given to us, we were favored by God through the Holy Spirit. So now, let us not waste time before spreading the fire of God’s love to others. Now we know about our potential!
 
#3. Jesus promises the disciples that the Holy Spirit will teach them to defend themselves.

When they bring you before the synagogues, the rulers, and the authorities,
do not worry about how you are to defend yourselves or what you are to say;
for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what you ought to say. (Lk 12:11-12)

Do we shy away from mentioning our faith, what we believe, when we talk to others?
We don’t have to be expert catechists to share our God experiences. Saying “omg” is not enough. We can vocalize our joy and gratitude for our blessings!
 
#4. Jesus promises the Holy Spirit will be sent to his disciples.

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.
(John 14:26)

We can pray to the Holy Spirit and ask for help in understanding when we read the Gospels. We often need to be reminded of what Jesus has said to us. Sometimes we get used to hearing certain truths and need new insights. The Holy Spirit is great at new and practical insights! We just need to take the time to open our minds.
 
#5. Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit onto the disciples with the power to forgive sins.
 Jesus said to them again,

“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them;
if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (John 20:21-23)

So, the sacrament of reconciliation was born. The Holy Spirit helps us with forgiveness—not only receiving it but also giving it. Do we have trouble forgiving certain offenses? Do we hold even simple grudges? God won’t hold a grudge. We can ask the Holy Spirit for help in the forgiveness department. Reconciliation invites us to peace and new beginnings. Check out that sacrament again!
 
#6. Jesus commissions the disciples in the name of the Trinity.
 And Jesus came and said to them,

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them
in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit….(Matt 28:18-19)

 We can make disciples with the Holy Spirit’s help. We know what it is like to share good news with someone. What better news can we possibly share than the good news of Jesus Christ? We don’t have to preach in order to teach. Actions speak quite loudly.
 
#7. The Holy Spirit comes at Pentecost.

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages,
as the Spirit gave them ability. (Acts 2:4)

 Sometimes we don’t understand others, even when they are speaking our native tongue. People can get wrapped up in emotion, confusion, prejudice, fear, and say things they might not say in other circumstances. Words can take on many different meanings. We can ask the Holy Spirit to temper us in our language, help us think a little longer before we speak. We can pray to the Spirit for a unifying, patient language of love.
 
#8. The Holy Spirit helps us to pray.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness;
for we do not know how to pray as we ought,
but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.
And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit,
because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
(Romans 8:26-27)

 Help is out there! If we feel stale or rusty, or we need new prayer practices, we can ask the Holy Spirit for some help. We can ask help from friends and family, priests and deacons. Many resources are available through RENEW International. Ask the Holy Spirit for direction and motivation. 

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

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Topics: catholic renew progam, Holy Spirit, meditation, prayer, RENEW International, stations, Blessed Trinity

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