Branching Out Blog

Twelve and Counting

Posted by Sharon Krause on Oct 1, 2023 6:00:00 AM

We humans are very involved with numbers. We use numbers for identification, for communication, for evaluation, for measuring, and for much more. We count up, we count down. We add and subtract, multiply and divide.

 So, let’s count down to Christmas Day and consider how many weeks until we will celebrate our Savior’s birth. Did you count? I did. Twelve weeks from today is Christmas Day. We often use an Advent calendar to count down to Christmas. Let’s do more. I suggest, just for a prayer exercise, to devote each week a few extra minutes in our daily prayer time for some intentions that we say we are going to pray for but might postpone or even unintentionally forget because of distractions or busyness.

 Here are 12 suggested topics, but, of course, you can personalize to fit your needs and preferences.

 Perhaps for this first week of October, we can pray for the repose of the souls of those friends, or relatives of friends, for whom we have said we would pray. So many times I hear people say, “Our thoughts and prayers are with you,” and that is that. We can pray for the deceased friends and relatives and for comfort to families experiencing loss. We can even ask our Mother Mary, who experienced grief, to pray for the deceased.

  1. Week 2 could be filled with extra prayers for those people experiencing natural and manmade disasters and their aftermath–Maui and Libya, to just name two.

  2. Maybe for the third week of October we can add prayer minutes for peace in this world, especially in Ukraine. We can ask our Lord for peacemakers to encourage peaceful resolutions in nations that threaten and feel threatened.

  3. During the week of October 23, we might pray for more people to return to praying and worshiping God. We need to remember who really is in charge! I am sure we all have family members and friends who have lost their way to God’s truth.

  4. The week beginning October 30 could include extra prayers for innocent victims of crimes and various forms of abuse and war.

  5. We hear about thousands of homeless people. We can pray for wise solutions, and for safety and healthcare for these men, women, and children.

  6. The week of November 13 can be punctuated with extra prayers for health and wise preventive measures for us and for family members and friends.

  7. November 20 can start a week of adding a few prayers for safety for our first-responders and gratitude for all medical caregivers.

  8. The last week of November can include prayers for Pope Francis, our bishops, priests, and religious, and for an increase in vocations.

  9. So much in life seems to depend on spending money. As Christmas gets closer, we start spending money for gifts. We could say extra prayers for wisdom in financial matters for ourselves and for those in government.

  10. December 11 could start a week with added prayers for our military personnel. We are not at war and can forget all the sacrifices our service members make in peacetime.

  11. The week just before Christmas can be very busy. Of course, we focus on the miracle of God coming to earth in human form, but we can add some special prayers of gratitude for the blessings we have received over the past year. We might include those little graces that seem like lucky coincidences but are really God’s love strokes.

 

 

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Topics: Christmas, Advent, praying, Sharon Krause

Congestion

Posted by Sharon Krause on Sep 25, 2023 6:00:00 AM

Have you ever tried to give nose drops to a cat? Well, that was our job after our old cat, Buddy, saw the veterinarian who told us that that medication was to be the treatment for Buddy’s nasal congestion. What fun!

After we moved from Connecticut to southern Florida last November, not only Buddy but also my husband had a problem with congestion. My husband now uses an inhaler and some prescription pills for his bronchial allergies.

And, while we are talking about congestion, the traffic congestion where we live is quite challenging too! Lots of people live around here, and especially at rush hours, there are so many cars and trucks on the roads that even the spray of frequent thunderstorms does not ease or slow down the volume!

There are other kinds of congestion. We can get a bit thought-congested in our busy schedules and in our minds. We are bombarded daily with social media websites, questions about choices and priorities, and challenges to our beliefs. Just as we have to hold Buddy very still as we administer the drops we need to take time to hold still so that we can pray and listen to God’s truth and counsel. The Holy Spirit is very generous with inspiration and help. The reading from the Prophet Isaiah (55:6-9) at yesterday’s liturgy is a good place to start:

   Seek the Lord while he may be found,

       call him while he is near.

   Let the scoundrel forsake his way,

       and the wicked man his thoughts;

   Let him turn to the Lord for mercy;

       to our God, who is generous in forgiving.

   For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

       nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.

   As high as the heavens are above the earth,

       so high are my ways above your ways

     and my thoughts above your thoughts.

 

Lord, help me to stay close to you today.

Help me to think clearly and to reflect your

truth and love in my words and actions.

Assist me as I resist even the smallest of temptations to sin.

Help me to clear the way for others to find you.

Direct my paths and lead me to be grateful for your constant care.

I ask this in Jesus’ precious name. Amen.

 

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Topics: praying, Sharon Krause

Pop-ups

Posted by Sharon Krause on Sep 18, 2023 6:00:00 AM

Sometimes, out of the blue, a person or event you have not thought about in a long time pops up in your memory. It might be hard at first to figure out what has triggered the thought. There are a number of possible explanations.

A certain word, location, scent or even melody can somehow connect your brain to a relevant moment in your life. The experience can be interesting and thought-provoking. It may also be a prompt for prayer. Maybe the Holy Spirit is suggesting you say a prayer for that person who is unexpectedly popping up in your mind. Perhaps it is time to slow down a little bit and just say a thank-you prayer for that blessing you are recalling or for the time the Lord gave you strength to weather a life storm.

Have you ever had the pleasant surprise of a favorite song that just happened to play just as you turned the radio on? How about the time an old friend crossed your path without notice? More occasions for thank-you prayers! We always hear, “Our thoughts and prayers are with you” when tragedies occur, but isn’t it a good idea to think and pray during those small blessing times, too?

In today’s world it is easy to get so used to instant responses whether on our computers and tablets or on our phones. It could be that these little pop-up incidents are opportunities to acknowledge our very creative Creator and his gifts to us.

It might be a good personal prayer exercise to ask the Lord to remind you of a particular event in your life in which you took for granted him or some gift he had given you. Gratitude is a wonderful bridge to prayer. It could be time for a bit of remedial self-reflection.

Certainly, there are times the pop-ups can remind us of sad events or a bad feelings, but even in those times we can acknowledge that we have had the strength of our faith and the availability of saving graces to encourage us and give us hope.

Let us pray and consider what St. Paul recommends in his first letter to the Thessalonians, verses 17-22:

Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test everything; retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil.

 

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Topics: praying, Sharon Krause

New Dwarfs

Posted by Sharon Krause on Aug 28, 2023 6:00:00 AM

I recently heard that Disney may be coming out with an updated version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Wouldn’t it be interesting for those who work with little children to challenge them to come up with names for “holy” dwarfs and use those ideas to teach about good religious practices? I have some suggestions for dwarf names, but I am sure these are not the only possibilities.                                

Prayerful – This dwarf prays every day. Which prayers does he know? Does he make up his own prayers too? Prayers don’t have to be long and full of big words. They just have to be sincere, from our loving hearts.

Gentle – This dwarf is kind and treats others gently. He tries not to lose his temper or say unkind things. It isn’t always easy, but Gentle loves God and God’s creations.

Thankful – Thankful dwarf tells the Lord how grateful he is for his many daily blessings. Lots of time people pray for things they want but forget to take as much time in praying thank-you prayers for wonderful things they have received.

Sorrowful – This dwarf reminds us how important it is to be sorry and to tell God we are sorry for the sins we have committed. Jesus is always ready to forgive us as we try to do better. We all make bad choices now and then, but the sacrament of reconciliation is there for us to start over. And Sorrowful never holds grudges against anyone.

Joyful – This dwarf is always full of joy because he thinks about his sharing in God’s life through the reading of the Bible stories and the sacraments of the Church. What is your favorite Bible story?

Singer – This dwarf loves to sing hymns about our wonderful, generous God. He does not have to be in church to sing; he can sing in his room or with his friends. He even makes up his own songs sometimes.

Blabbermouth – This dwarf is not your normal “blabbermouth” who can be annoying and unstoppable. Blabbermouth loves to spread the word about the good news of our Savior, Jesus Christ. He talks about Jesus’ teachings and healings and other miracles. He tells everyone about the great gift of Holy Communion and even about the comforting sacrament of the sick.

It is important to teach little children and encourage their feedback. How about drawing pictures of what they think the new dwarfs might look like? And how about us adults? Do we take advantage of my fictitious dwarfs’ good attributes? Being young at heart is a good thing.

 

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Topics: praying, Sharon Krause, words

Mary - Queen of Heaven

Posted by Sharon Krause on Aug 21, 2023 6:00:00 AM

Two times in this month of August, we are reminded in special ways in the liturgy of the wonderful mother we have in Mary. We celebrated the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the middle of the month and began the readings with the entrance antiphon from the book of Revelation 12:1:

A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon

under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.

Queens I have read about usually have crowns full of precious jewels and robes made of special silks and threads. Mary, the Queen of Heaven, has a cosmic wardrobe and Scripture even tells us how angels rejoice in her assumption. The twelve stars in Mary's crown suggest some of the wonders of the Lord she prayed about in her Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55). She mentioned these twelve “star” reassuring facts about our Lord:

*the greatness of the Lord;

*He is her Savior;

*He has looked upon her lowliness and ensured that all ages will call her blessed;

*He has done great things for her;

*Holy is his name;

*His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him;

*The Lord has shown might with his arm, dispersing the arrogant;

*He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones;

*He has lifted up the lowly;

*He has filled the hungry with good things;

*He has sent the rich away empty;

*He has mercifully helped Israel, according to his promise to Abraham and his

descendants.

I suggest that each of us could list twelve “stars” or blessings the Lord has given to us in our lifetime. It may be a good exercise for a prayer time.

Mary, Queen of heaven, did not ride in a luxurious coach, but on the back of a donkey. She faithfully nurtured and raised our Prince of Peace. She heard his first words and saw him take his first steps. She witnessed his death on the cross and held His limp body in her lap. Mary, our queen and our mother, is strong and loving.  

At tomorrow’s Mass, we will celebrate the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is Queen of Heaven, the loving queen who intercedes for each of us. Just stop and think about how many times you have prayed, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.” She is a regal example of Our Lord keeping his promises. While not worshipped as a goddess, Mary is our humble, solicitous heavenly mother who gave herself unselfishly as mother to the Savior of the world. May we never let a day go by without thanking her. Hail, Mary, our Queen Mother!

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Topics: praying, Sharon Krause, words

Growth

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jul 31, 2023 6:00:00 AM

Although it was decades ago, a memory fragment of mine pops up now and then. I must have been about four or five years old when my mother brought me to our parish church, St. Joseph’s, in Middletown, New York. I recall her leading me up the aisle toward the sanctuary so I could get a close look at the altar and its immediate surroundings. I remember asking her, “Where are we going?” That is all I remember, but I assume she was just getting me used to the environment, because she had decided I was old enough to start attending Masses with her and would be quiet and well-behaved. Perhaps it is a good question for each of us to reflect upon in our spiritual life journey: “Where are we going?” or even better as we mature: “How are we growing?”

In gospel passage read at today’s Mass, Matthew 13:31-35, Jesus refers in his parables to the tiny mustard seed and remarks how it produces a large bush; and he refers to yeast and how it makes the flour mixture grow. Experience teaches that we can grow in good ways and not-so-good ways. Unlike certain, natural anatomical growth that happens spontaneously, spiritual growth is something we can nurture and pursue.

 My mother took me near the holy place in the church, the sanctuary, so I could get a close look. It is important to take a little detour now and then from our normal routine and take a close look at our path to holiness. Could it be that holiness itself is a stepping away from the familiar, normal, material world so that we can come closer to the Lord? That is one reason why daily prayer time is important.

It is so easy to become distracted and caught up in mundane habits. I look around and see people walking with what looks like a growth on their chin and it is really their cell phone being held up to their mouth as they continue their walk or other activity. I hear people seemingly talking to themselves, but really they have earbuds in their ears as they talk to others who are not near them. There can be several people seated at a restaurant table all staring down at their cell phones and not socializing with the diners so physically close to them. If we get out of touch with people near us, how are we growing closer to our Savior who is actually closer and more lovingly available than anyone?

Just like the parables’ seeds and yeast, we can start small in our quest of spirituality. So long as we water the prayer seeds and stir in the little biblical yeast tablet, day by day we can promote growth. Here is a good scripture passage to consider:

      For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue,

     virtue with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance,

     endurance with devotion, devotion with mutual affection, mutual affection with

     love. If these are yours and increase in abundance, they will keep you from

     being idle or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:5-8).

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Topics: praying, spiritual grouth, Sharon Krause, distractions from prayer

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