Singing Good Vibrations Unto the Lord

Posted on January 28, 2016 by - Everyday Stewardship

The-Beach-Boys-Good-VibrationsWhen my wife was pregnant with our first child, I remember putting headphones on her stomach and playing classical music and the Beach Boys so my unborn child could develop a love for music. Some say such an action can work. Others say I was nuts. Either way, I don’t care because I was forming a bond with my child before I even really knew him.

When my first son was born, he didn’t start singing Good Vibrations, but it was as if we had already on some form of communication going on between us.

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Four Reasons Why Your Church Needs a Facebook Page

Posted on January 27, 2016 by - Catholic Tech Talk

The Apostle Paul spent a lot of time in town squares, preaching the good news of Jesus Christ wherever he went. He spoke of becoming all things to all people, in order to win some to the cause of Christ. And we are each called to do the same.

Facebook is the new town square with roughly 1.4 billion active users logging in every month. Your parishioners are here. People needing God are here. And your church needs to be here too.

Here are four reasons why your church needs a Facebook page today:

Engage-ParishionersFacebook Lets You Engage Your Parishioners All Week Long

The Mass is the center of all things for the church, bringing the sacrifice and love of Christ into the present moment. This is a message that can be (and should be) echoed throughout the rest of the week using your Facebook page.

  • Post daily Bible readings to connect your parishioners to the word of God.
  • Share homilies for those who might have missed Mass or who are physically unable to attend.
  • Post Catholic articles, encouraging words, and up-to-date news.

Facebook also gives your parishioners a place to share pictures, videos, events, news, and prayer requests all week long. And speaking of prayer…

PrayerFacebook Makes a Great Prayer Chain

Prayer is powerful and sharing prayer requests is something the church has always done. Facebook makes it easy for parishioners and visitors alike to share prayer requests or ministry requests with the community and, instantly, church members can respond and help them.

  • Encourage parishioners to share their prayer needs with the church body.
  • Remind parishioners to intercede for one another as needs arise.
  • Ask parishioners to share how God is answering their prayers.

The practice of praying together draws people closer to God, the church, and one another. Making prayer a focus in daily life can transform a person’s faith and we want to share that message in church, at home, and online.

EvangelizeFacebook Helps You Evangelize the Unchurched

Imagine if you could regularly share the Gospel with those who are lost or fallen away from the faith in just five minutes a day. Facebook provides a place for you to do exactly that.

  • Post content that directly speaks to the power of a relationship with Jesus Christ
  • Encourage parishioners to share those posts on their own Facebook page
  • As parishioners share, the Gospel is being spread to everyone they’re connected with on Facebook.

Now imagine people regularly seeing reminders of God’s love, forgiveness, and mercy. This is digital evangelization and God can use it to transform hearts and change lives.

Facebook Encourages Stewardship

We are called to practice stewardship in every area of our lives, to acknowledge that all good gifts come from God, and to use those gifts to honor him. Facebook offers multiple opportunities for your parishioners to give of themselves in their everyday lives.

  • Recruit volunteers using Facebook events
  • Encourage parishioners to ask the community for help when they need it, and to pay it forward when they are able.
  • If you are a WeShare customer, install WeShare on your Facebook page and use it for donations, events, and fundraisers.

Your parishioners are already using Facebook, so give them a way to be good stewards of that time.

For help integrating WeShare with your Facebook page, please contact your Engagement Manager.

It Is Not Naïve to Believe in Love

Posted on January 26, 2016 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, January 31, 2016, 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Photo of Michaelangelo’s Pietà.

There are a few books that can make you tear up every time you read them. One such book is Love You Forever, a children’s book written by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Sheila McGraw. It was first released in 1986 and since then has sold over sixteen million copies in English alone. It is the gentle tale of the power of love between a mother and her son. It stands as a testament to the fact that true love lasts forever and that those who experience that true love learn how to pass it on to others.

(Sorry, I can’t tell you the whole story. If you haven’t read it before, do yourself a favor: buy it or borrow it and read it. It does not matter your age, gender, or if you have children of your own. You are a human being created by God and that is all you need to “get it.”)

What does true love look like? If we look around, we can see many examples. It looks like a mother holding her baby and rocking him to sleep when he is sick and now a teenager. It is a man who looks at his wife more fondly now after twenty-five years of marriage than he did when they were first married. It looks like a woman consoling her dear friend after receiving the word that she has cancer.

You can turn on your television right now and see all the hate and despair in the world, packaged for your consumption in little two- to three-minute packages. But the truth is that love is always more powerful than hate and that love is on display all around us, all of the time. You just have to open your eyes.

Love is on display in those who have given their lives to God and service through ordination and the consecrated life. February 2 marks the end of a year dedicated to those in consecrated life. Those whom God has called to such a commitment show us how love can take over our lives and transform us.

Love can be seen in the many faces of those devoted to Catholic education, and through their sacrifice and devotion. This coming week is Catholic Schools Week, a time to highlight not only the commitment the Church has made to quality education, but also the men and women who have given so much to generations of Catholic and non-Catholic students. Recently, after almost forty years, I heard from my first grade teacher at Queen of Apostles Catholic School in Alexandria, VA. She asked if I remembered her. Of course I did! She made a huge impact on my life, for what she gave me was more than math and reading, she gave me her love.

Love was seen in the sacrifice of the thousands that braved the snowstorms of the East Coast to attend the March for Life in Washington, DC. You probably have seen by now the photos of buses and vans stuck on highways in and out of the nation’s capital. Especially powerful are the photos and videos in social media of priests from Des Moines and Sioux City, Iowa celebrating Mass on an altar made of snow with busloads of people. It was a moment where those who traveled to bring a message of love were able to, in the face of trial, celebrate the most pure example of love, Jesus.

In the end, Jesus is the source of all love and the power by which all these examples and many more are able to bring love into a world that so desperately needs it. Paul’s treatise on love to the Corinthians can too easily become a sentimental list of notions reserved primarily for refrigerators and wedding ceremonies. But it is more than that. It tells us about a force that never fails. When it appears all hope is lost, love finds a way.

It is maturity that allows one to see the triumph of love. Paul speaks about how this talk of love is not that of children. It is not naïve to believe in love. When one matures and puts away those things of childhood, love remains and now can be seen in its entire splendor. There will always be those who think they are wise or mature by seeing love as fleeting and life simply as trial. They will claim love in the manner that Paul speaks about is ridiculous. Profoundly, they are correct. The love we can experience, talked about by Paul and exemplified in our savior, Jesus Christ, is folly to this world. But maturity allows one to risk, seeing with the eyes of the divine instead of those merely human. And when we look at the world this way, not only is love all around, in its many forms it is almost unbelievable.

May your God hold and keep you, especially during this Jubilee Year of Mercy, and sing to you when shadows have fallen and you need him the most:
“I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
As long as I’m living
My baby you’ll be.”

Tracy Earl Welliver, MTS

PRAYER

Too late have I loved you,
O Beauty so ancient,
O Beauty so new.
Too late have I loved you!
You were within me but I was outside myself,
and there I sought you!
In my weakness I ran after the beauty of the things you have made.
You were with me,
and I was not with you.
The things you have made kept me from you,
the things which would have no being
unless they existed in you!
You have called,
you have cried,
and you have pierced my deafness.
You have radiated forth,
you have shined out brightly,
and you have dispelled my blindness.
You have sent forth your fragrance,
and I have breathed it in,
and I long for you.
I have tasted you,
and I hunger and thirst for you.
You have touched me,
and I ardently desire your peace.

—Excerpt from the Confessions of St. Augustine.

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Something Beautiful

Posted on January 25, 2016 by - Everyday Stewardship

SnowI love the way my children sometimes clean their rooms. They will take all their stuff that is out and covering everything and shove it their closet and under the bed. If you can’t see a mess, there isn’t a mess.

I was thinking about something similar these recent days when snow came down to cover everything I could see, or I should more correctly say, covered everything I could not see. I looked down my street and for a brief period of time, the entire neighborhood was spotless and perfect. All imperfections were covered in a blanket of white.

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Stewardship is Everything

Posted on January 21, 2016 by - Everyday Stewardship

CatherineI often tell people perhaps my favorite author on stewardship is usually not thought of as a stewardship writer at all: Catherine Doherty. She was like a Russian Canadian Dorothy Day, starting the Madonna House Apostolate of lay men and women and clergy who work with and live with the poor.

Doherty wrote about a spiritual life where God permeates our everyday lives. Of course, this resonates with me and my writing about everyday stewardship spirituality.

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Goliath! You Are Going Down!

Posted on January 20, 2016 by - Everyday Stewardship

GoliathI remember one Vacation Bible School I planned in the past years having David and Goliath roaming around all day and David had a chance to slay Goliath over and over again. The kids loved seeing our Goliath-like actor hitting the ground again and again. I guess as time went on, David didn’t seem much like the underdog anymore. They all knew what was going to happen. However, they cheered David on each time as if it was the first time they had seen him in battle.

I am sure those who were watching the real battle as recorded in Samuel had no idea that David could win. It seemed like such a mismatch. But with God, all things are possible.

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Belief Marked by Ritual

Posted on January 19, 2016 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, January 24, 2016, 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jesus proclaiming in the synagogue, from The Life of Jesus Christ Bible Videos © www.lds.org.

The online Oxford Dictionaries defines ritual as “a religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order.” Merriam-Webster broadens the definition even more to “a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, and objects, performed in a sequestered place and performed according to a set sequence.”

So why are we looking at that particular word in early January? When we hear that word ritual, church pops automatically into mind. Religious stuff! But this past week we Americans saw two rituals in the secular media. The State of the Union address is definitely ritualistic! You may have missed the second event. It was the announcement of the nominees for this year’s Academy Awards.

In the State of the Union address, every move can be predicted, from the initial announcement of the Speaker of the House—“the President of the United States”—through the speech itself with applause and standing ovations to the final sound of the Speaker’s gavel as the president leaves. This is an important event. Nothing is left to chance. It is ritualized.

The second instance, the announcement for potential Academy Award winners, though not as momentous, was equally ritualistic. The order of the categories as well as the alternation of the male and female announcers mimicked the real event. It, too, was ritualized.

So why are rituals used? When we experience them, they seem to be used to emphasize and house events that are of great or significant importance!

Today’s first reading and Gospel are both wrapped in ritual thus emphasizing their significance. The chosen people are returning home from a generation of living in foreign slavery. This solemn ritual was meant to remind them of who they are, who their God is, and that they have a solemn covenant with God. They are bound to God through God’s sacred law! They needed to hear the words of the law with the greatest solemnity! It will form them again as God’s chosen people.

As Jesus reads from the Isaian scroll, the ritual seems lighter than the reading of the law by Ezra, the priest. But is it? Not much ritual here, but great significance! Jesus, himself, chose the passage. It is the culmination of a much longer process than unrolling a scroll and searching for particular words. Luke places this event at the beginning of his good news! Chronologically, Jesus has been baptized and confirmed with the words from his God and Father, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

What a powerful, transcendent event for him! He takes forty days to digest that message and what it may mean for him and his future. That desert time was a time for Jesus to chew on and integrate those words into his very being. Jesus moves from his desert transition time with a firm step. He walks back to his starting point … the synagogue in his home town in Galilee. He knows he is chosen as the beloved Son. What that means is clearly outlined by the prophet Isaiah. He is to “bring glad tidings to the poor … liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free.” He is “to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” This is his mission. It is of the utmost significance and is thus wrapped in the ritual of the synagogue. Jesus’ mission is clear. He proclaims it in a public ritual!

All of us as Christians are disciples of Jesus. To come to the Father, we go through Jesus, being his flesh and blood on this earth now. Can we imitate this series of powerful events in his life? At our baptism each of us was chosen as a beloved son or daughter of God. And God is well pleased with us. As we live our lives, we learn in our desert experiences what that means for us. That knowledge comes to us little by little as we chew on it and integrate it into our lives. We hear God whisper in our hearts, “bring good news” to your down-and-out friend who is having problems, financial, marital, or personal. Tell him you care and are there to help. Assist your addicted relative to break through her captivity. Again, say that you care and are there to help, no matter how often she falls. Spend time with someone who is struggling with his path in life. Let him talk it through with you, hopefully to see the way. Every time we say, “I’m here for you,” we are publicly proclaiming that we are disciples of Jesus. We are choosing to walk his way.

These are significant decisions and ways of acting. Do we have a ritual to enwrap them? Actually, if we think about it, every weekend liturgy does that. When we proclaim our beliefs in the creed, we are saying that we choose to walk the path of a disciple of Jesus. We are not only beloved of the Father, but are filled with the Spirit and walk in the footsteps of Jesus according to our beliefs expressed through his church.

May we grow in awareness of who we are and what it means to be the beloved of the Father. May we have the courage that Jesus had and proclaim it in our lives! May we endorse the significance of this by a heartfelt proclamation of our creed, our belief.

Patricia DeGroot, OblSB

PRAYER

O God, throughout the ages
you have called women and men to pursue lives of perfect charity
through the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
During this Year of Consecrated Life, we give you thanks
for these courageous witnesses of Faith and models of inspiration.
Their pursuit of holy lives teaches us
to make a more perfect offering of ourselves to you.
Continue to enrich your Church by calling forth sons and daughters who,
having found the pearl of great price,
treasure the Kingdom of Heaven above all things.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Amen.

—Prayer for the Year of Consecrated Life © 2014, USCCB.

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Surprised By God – Again!

Posted on January 18, 2016 by - Everyday Stewardship

surprisedAfter a pretty mild winter in England we are suddenly experiencing a cold patch that reminds us that it is winter. Last week I had a full ‘to do’ list and a ‘full-on’ day at work; when I saw the frost outside the idea of scraping the car was something I just didn’t need.

So I approached it with a degree of grumpiness and then when I started my car to put the blower on the windscreen there was this as I looked through the windscreen…

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