Life with Conflicting Opposites

Posted on August 16, 2017 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

Connect! Sunday Reflection: Life with Conflicting OppositesFor Sunday, August 20, 2017
20th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Isaiah 56:1, 6-7
Romans 11:13-15, 29-32
Matthew 15:21-28

Richard Rohr recently wrote: “Jesus was killed on the collision of cross-purposes, conflicting interests, and half-truths. The cross was the price Jesus paid for living in a ‘mixed’ world that was both human and divine, simultaneously broken and utterly whole. He hung between a good thief and a bad thief, between heaven and earth, inside of both humanity and divinity, a male body with a feminine soul, utterly whole and yet utterly disfigured—all the primary opposites.” One of the graced blessings of Christianity is learning how to develop and sharpen the gift of discernment in the face of opposites. As believers we are asked to internalize the Gospel message, allowing it to enlighten our minds and inform our actions.

A simple authentic and honest encounter with another human being can reveal hidden truths, allow enemies to embrace, and mutual respect to flourish. It is necessary to journey into the heart of a person in order for walls, prejudices, and antiquated barriers to be removed. Inclusivity has been one of the hallmarks of God’s agenda from the beginning of time. His house is intended to be “a house of prayer for all peoples” where human dignity is safeguarded regardless of who we are, where we come from, and what we believe. (more…)

The Graciousness of Mary

Posted on August 15, 2017 by - Everyday Stewardship

An Everyday Stewardship Reflection for the Feast of the Assumption

Assumption of MaryAn everyday steward is called to be gracious. I read once that to be a gracious person meant to walk softly, speak with intent, and to leave those you have met feeling that their lives were better that day because they encountered you. What a way to live!

But alas, living like that each and every day is so very hard. I hate to think that some times people I have encountered are happy to see me go, but I know that it is true. As Christians we are graced people, but on some days, that grace can seem pretty hidden.

If you are looking for an example of gracious living look no further than Our Lady. She answered the call regardless of the cost and she lived her life with a great dignity in the face of horrible trials. She was a gracious host to the Incarnation in her womb and she continues to invite us to get to know her son better. She certainly embodies the definition of gracious living above.

We are called to always be ready and open to the call of her son. He will bring us to those in need, seeking light in a world of darkness. Our hope must be then that after our encounter with another, they will feel enriched by our presence. Of course, we will know, like Our Lady knew before us, that it wasn’t about us at all. It was about the Jesus in us meeting the Jesus in them.

The Real Possibility of Holiness

Posted on August 13, 2017 by - Everyday Stewardship

An Everyday Stewardship Reflection for the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

holinessI remember when all three of my children were learning to swim. In the beginning, it seemed like no matter how much assurance I gave them, they were certain they would drown. Even after watching me float in the water, they were pretty sure their bodies were created to sink. In time, they grew more comfortable in the water. Eventually, they could even swim the length of the pool. But this did not happen overnight. They had to grow in their faith that swimming was possible, not just for others, but for them as well.

Too many of us who are Christians believe that holiness is for someone else. We believe that the stories of the saints are about super humans who had something in greater supply than us. When our faith is weak, we assume that we can never have the faith of these holy men and women.

On the contrary, faith and holiness are not things only possible for a few. But we must practice our faith to grow in our faith. We must strive for holiness if we are to become holy.

Like a child fears the water before learning to swim, we often fear the path that leads to greater faith or holiness. We are not convinced that God can work in our lives to create a saint. Yet except for Mary, the Immaculate Conception, every saint was a sinner. God called every saint to exit the boat and walk toward Jesus on the water. In time, with practice and trust in God, they found they did not sink either.

Tracy Earl Welliver, MTS

 

A Better Back to School

Posted on August 12, 2017 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

back to schoolI am drawn to school supplies – I can’t help it. I love the little areas set aside at the local stores for parents and their progeny to sift through, mark off lists and look for just the right folders and notebooks.

I have no reason to be there, but I find myself looking at Sharpies and Mr. Sketch markers with excitement and locker decorations with nostalgia. While I peruse the aisles, I often notice my fellow shoppers and they are not shopping leisurely like me. They are harried, stressed, rushed and a little annoyed at those lists that get longer every year. I overheard one woman say, “ Seriously, three boxes of tissues? Who are these kids and why do they blow their noses so much? And a protractor…do these wear out or something? Why a new one? How new and improved could they be?” I am sure there is a really good reason those are on the lists, but in the midst of all the getting ready for the new school year the list is one more stressful thing.

An antidote to the rush and crush for families? A parish community that understands, supports, and knows just how to remedy the craziness of their families at this time of year. So I give you five ways to reach out to your families this fall to welcome and lead them gently and compassionately to Jesus who desires to be at the heart of every person and every family.

1. Host a Fun Family Night: Invite families to bring those “so last year” supplies that came home in a book bag last spring and share. That’s where we can recycle those protractors and compasses and perhaps find a plethora of the tiny pencils that go with them! The dinner should be a drop in or an open house – between 5 -7 pm with happy joyful parents and seasoned adults who made it to the other side and are offering support, laughter, mentorship and serving up a yummy, communal meal like a taco bar or baked potato bar.

2. Offer a Kid’s Only Event: Let parents get that shopping done or things organized at home or just relax and regroup. This event can be a resurrection of the best of VBS. Use the VBS games, crafts, snacks, catechesis, music, movies – whatever it takes to let the littles know they are loved. Have time set aside to talk with them about being like Jesus each day at school and how they can be kind, forgiving, and loving each day. Teach them a prayer or two to say each morning and evening. Give them a little gift – a saint medal to keep in their pocket or latched on to their backpack as a remind that they belong to a loving community!

3. Utilize Flocknote: If your families are connected to social media or technology, have them sign up for your Flocknote group. You can send them inspiration, affirmation, funny messages as well as keep them up to date on all things parish. Invite them to make weekend workshop a place to renew, tend their souls, strengthen their families and find support as parents. You can do all this on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter too. Just make everything beautiful and inviting, quick and easy.

4. Invite Families to a Special Blessing on Sunday: Sending children off to school be it preschool, high-school or college is a big deal. Parents and important adults are letting lots of other people influence their children and are trusting the world to be kind. Blessings are important. Have really fabulous intentional hospitality at the weekend Masses. Welcomers and greeters should be your very best and the coffee and donuts could be stepped up a bit, with no charge, fair trade coffee and fruit, gluten free treats and some lovely giveaways for families. Compile some how- to’s on blessing each other every morning before leaving the house, meal prayers and discussion questions that go beyond “how was your day?” Help parents meet other parents…they know how to do the rest.

5. Start a Prayer Intention day on Social Media. Invite people to send their intentions to you via email, Facebook or messenger, then ask the parish staff and pastor to take time to pray over these together. Offer affirmation, encouragement and kindness as well as a quote for the day from Pope Francis, a saint, parishioners and other ordinary disciples.

back to school Hospitality is not something that’s added on or like the icing on the cake. It is real, gritty, and must be consistent, joyful and authentic. Practicing hospitality creates community. And that is really what the Christian life is all about – a community of people who have encountered Jesus, follow Jesus, worship Jesus and want to share all of that with others. If your parish isn’t quite there yet with hospitality or welcoming, these are easy ways to start making a difference. A parish is a living thing – it is never the same community at any given time, so we can’t get lax or comfortable in who we are. May all your efforts to love and serve your families and lavish them with hospitality and welcome be a blessing to you, your parish and to our church!

Silence in the Storm

Posted on August 9, 2017 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

Connect! Sunday Reflection: Silence in the StormFor Sunday, August 13, 2017
19th Sunday of Ordinary Time

1 Kings 19:9a, 11-13a
Romans 9:1-5
Matthew 14:22-33

Have you ever heard five hundred teenagers singing? As a music minister, it’s not always easy to pull off. When I worked in a Catholic high school, there was one song that nearly everybody always sang, whether it was in the Mass, on retreat, or at a prayer service: “Oceans” by Hillsong, the music ministry of an Australian evangelical church. Here are some lines of the refrain: “And I will call upon Your name. Keep my eyes above the waves when oceans rise.”

I spent a lot of time considering why this song roused an instinctive response in so many students, regardless of grade, race, and social clique. In many ways, I think this simple song reflects the cry of the human heart. We all, at times, feel storm-tossed and unconsoled. The song isn’t just about our effort to reach out to Christ, but the steadfast presence of God as we brave the unknown.

I don’t know the history of the song, but I have no doubt it was at least somewhat inspired by today’s Gospel. Jesus has spent time alone, consoled in his weariness by the presence of his Father, and he returns to his friends by night, supernaturally walking on the waves of a stormy sea. Peter, in a classic display of bold faith, trusts that if the figure really is Jesus, than he too can walk on the water. His Lord will do the miraculous, keep him from sinking. (more…)

The Intersection of Faith and Photography

Posted on August 8, 2017 by - Catholic Tech Talk

How Good Photography Reveals Beauty and Draws People to the Church

We live in a world where nearly everyone has access to a camera. It has never been easier to document and record our lives. With the click of a button, we can share the beauty of our faith with the world, a faith that is naturally beautiful on many different levels. Our human instinct to capture beauty is a direct reflection of God’s word when he saw all that he made and “found it very good.”

Photography matters in our world—and should matter to the Church—because it is the bridge or gateway of communication and storytelling. Statistics show that more and more people are visual learners, which shows that photography makes a difference. With the Instagram generation having a bigger impact in the world of communications and evangelization, taking a photo with purpose and reason can give someone a reason to stop, pause, and be curious as to what that photo can offer. Most importantly, it offers the story behind the photo.

Imagine if that same purpose and reason were applied to the way we approach photography within church communications. Here are five tips to help the photos you take leave a deeper impression.

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Glimpse of Heaven

Posted on August 6, 2017 by - Everyday Stewardship

An Everyday Stewardship Reflection for the Feast of the Transfiguration

heaven

There are times in our lives that we get the chance to see a glimpse of heaven. It may be through the love of another, loved one or stranger. Sometimes it may even be an event that seems unexplainable, perhaps even supernatural. These occurrences may be the answer to prayer or they may surprise us by coming out of nowhere. But no matter their nature or origin, they give us hope and strength to carry on through life.

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5 Ways to Turn Youth Ministry On Its Head

Posted on August 5, 2017 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

Where were you on 9/11? Most of us reading this can tell a vivid story our experience that tragic day. Ask a teenager that same question. Most of them won’t have an answer because they were far too young to remember or weren’t even born yet. From security to the way we consume media and information, there have been seismic shifts in the culture since most of us were teenagers. While the culture seems to change in dramatic ways every year, the way we minister to teens has changed very little. I had to humbly face the fact that I had been running the same youth group for eight years with only cosmetic changes. Worse, I was running the youth group I went to when I was in high school.

youth ministryIn the midst of identify this problem and my own soul searching and Google searching, I discovered YDisciple, an online platform designed to enable parishes to engage and train other adults in the parish to mentor small groups of teenagers with training, videos for discussion, well-crafted discussion questions, and more. Through five basic steps, God turned my entire paradigm of youth ministry on its head.

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Watch Your Labels

Posted on August 4, 2017 by - Everyday Stewardship

Guest Post by Chuck Frost

labels

We are all guilty of name-calling from time to time. It’s human nature when you are frustrated, angry, or have been mistreated to lash out with an insult. We like to label people too. We label people by political leaning, intelligence, attractiveness, personality, behavior…. Even our Lord had labels attached to him:  glutton, drunkard, blasphemer.

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