Category: Spirituality (page 1 of 2)

Only For Today

A plan of life is helpful for keeping us on course, not to be perfect, but simply to be a little better than we were before.

Pope John XXIII followed a simple 10-step plan that he had written. Its focus is just on today, because that is all anyone has. Perhaps one or two of the steps will resonate with you and provide inspiration for making a change in your life.

1). Only for today, I will seek to live the livelong day positively without wishing to solve the problems of my life all at once.

2). Only for today, I will take the greatest care of my appearance: I will dress modestly; I will not raise my voice; I will be courteous in my behavior; I will not criticize anyone; I will not claim to improve or to discipline anyone except myself.

3). Only for today, I will be happy in the certainty that I was created to be happy, not only in the other world but also in this one.

4). Only for today, I will adapt to circumstances, without requiring all circumstances to be adapted to my own wishes.

5). Only for today, I will devote 10 minutes of my time to some good reading, remembering that just as food is necessary to the life of the body, so good reading is necessary to the life of the soul.

6). Only for today, I will do one good deed and not tell anyone about it.

7). Only for today, I will do at least one thing I do not like doing; and if my feelings are hurt, I will make sure that no one notices.

8). Only for today, I will make a plan for myself: I may not follow it to the letter, but I will make it. And I will be on guard against two evils: hastiness and indecision.

9). Only for today, I will firmly believe, despite appearances, that the good Providence of God cares for me as no one else who exists in this world.

10). Only for today, I will have no fears. In particular, I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful and to believe in goodness. Indeed, for 12 hours I can certainly do what might cause me consternation were I to believe I had to do it all my life.

The World is a Joyful Mystery

Spring is a tonic for the soul. After being cooped up inside during the winter, stepping outside to perceive the awakening land is a blessing. It feels like the flowers and grasses are not the only things coming back to life.

Sooner or later, though, we have to consider the garden chores that await us. There’s always a list of things to do: pruning, clearing, raking, planting. But perhaps not every corner of the yard needs to bear the mark of human cultivation. Pope Francis gives an example why in his encyclical, On Care For Our Common Home:

Saint Francis, faithful to Scripture, invites us to see nature as a magnificent book in which God speaks to us and grants us a glimpse of His infinite beauty and goodness.

“Through the greatness and the beauty of creatures one comes to know by analogy their maker” (Wis 13:5); indeed, “His eternal power and divinity have been made known through His works since the creation of the world” (Rom 1:20).

For this reason, Francis asked that part of the friary garden always be left untouched, so that wild flowers and herbs could grow there, and those who saw them could raise their minds to God, the Creator of such beauty.

Rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.

Here is a “before” photo of our yard. Hopefully at a later time we will have a nice “after” picture. A good portion of the yard will probably end up in its natural, untouched state 🙂

St. Francis is in our garden for inspiration.

Lenten Meal Blessing

In the weeks before Easter, we are given time during Lent to put extra effort in turning toward Christ and becoming more Christ-like. There are three practices to help us in this regard: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. They are three companions on the journey as we convert our hearts. They will help us to become more loving and charitable, more merciful and forgiving.

Meals can be an important part of our observance of Lent, especially when they are simple and bring our attention to the needs of others. Our food connects us with the earth and all the people involved in bringing what we eat to our table. Being more mindful of our food begins by thanking God for His graciousness to us. Here is an excellent table blessing to use from the book, The Work of Your Hands, by Diana Macalintal:

We bless you, Lord, and we praise you, for You have given us this meal to share, provided by the earth and prepared by human hands.

Help us to remember those who cannot eat because of poverty or sickness. Let the brief hunger we feel this Lent make us hunger even more for justice.

May this meal strengthen us to do Your will. Blessed be God for ever.

All: Blessed be God for ever.

This Hermitage Speaks

Carlo Carretto was a Little Brother of Jesus, a religious community inspired by the life of Charles de Foucauld. With a poetic style, he also wrote several books that explored his desire to live a contemplative life in the world.

One of those books was about St. Francis of Assisi (I, Francis), and Carretto in fact died on the saint’s feast day (October 4) in 1988. What follows is an excerpt from the preface in which Carretto reflects on his time spent in a hermitage favored by St. Francis, a cave near the Italian town of Narni:

I sought out this hermitage because it is one of the special places of the Franciscan world, where the Saint sojourned on repeated occasions, and where all blends together in a perfect oneness. Forests, bare rock, the architecture, poverty, humility, simplicity, and beauty, all go together to form one of the masterpieces of the Franciscan spirit—an example to the centuries of peace, prayer, silence, ecology, beauty, and the human victory over the contradictions of time.

When we behold these hermitages, abodes of men and women of peace and prayer and joyous acceptance of poverty, we have the answer to the anguished conflicts that torment our civilization.

You see, these rocks say to us, peace is possible.

Do not seek for luxury when you build your houses, seek the essentials. Poverty will become beauty then, and liberating harmony—as you can see in this hermitage.

Do not destroy forests in order to build factories that swell the ranks of the unemployed and create unrest; help human beings to return to the countryside, to learn again to appreciate a truly well-turned object, to feel the joy of silence and of contact with earth and sky.

Do not hoard up money—inflation and greedy people lie in ambush for you; instead, leave the door of your heart open for a dialogue with your brother or sister, for service to the very poor.

Do not prostitute your labor fabricating things that last half a season, consuming what little raw material you have left; but make pails like the one you see here at this well—it has been drawing its water for centuries and is still in use.

The ill you speak of consumerism is a cover. You fill your mouth with words in order to stifle a bad conscience. Even as you speak, you are consumerism’s slaves, without any capacity for innovation and imagination.

And then . . .

Unburden yourselves of your fear of your brothers and sisters! Go out to meet them unarmed and meek. They are human beings too, just like you, and they need love and trust, even as you.

Do not be concerned with “what you are to eat and with what you are to drink” (Matt. 6:25); be calm, and you shall lack nothing. “Set your hearts on his kingdom first, and on his righteousness” (Matt. 6:33), and everything else will be given to you for good measure. “Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matt. 6:34).

Assisi, the city of St. Francis.

Yes, this hermitage speaks. It speaks and says brotherly and sisterly love is possible.

It speaks and says that God is our Father, that creatures are our brothers and sisters, and that peace is joy.

All you have to do is will it. Try it, brothers and sisters, try it, and you will see that it is possible.

The Gospel is true.
Jesus is the Son of God, and saves humankind.

Nonviolence is more constructive than violence.
Chastity is more pleasurable than impurity.
Poverty is more exciting than wealth.

Try to think about it, sisters and brothers. What an extraordinary adventure lies here before us. If we put Francis’s project into execution we shall be escaping the atomic apocalypse.

Is it not always this way? God proposes peace.
Why not try it?

Called to Love, Called to Serve

The life of a Catholic nun or religious sister is a mystery to many people. Stereotypes abound, but as usual the reality is quite different. Even though some things change over time, the essentials do not: all that is good, true, and beautiful continues to exist.

If you are considering a religious vocation, or you would just like to know more about Catholic nuns today, check out some of these resources:

Light of Love gives viewers a look into the lives, suffering, and joys of religious life captured in a way like never before.”
www.youtube.com/watch?v=PIwJacw_Z3Y

Imagine Sisters is an organization that exists to expose the beauty of the religious life to a world desperately in need. We are so glad that you’re here, and we can’t wait to share stories of discernment, transformation, and faith.”
imaginesisters.org

Vision Vocation Network presents information on religious communities for both men and women. The site helps people considering a religious vocation to get in touch with the communities that best match their personal interests.
vocationnetwork.org/en/main

Catholics on Call supports Catholic young adults (ages 18-35) as they strive to discover God’s call in their lives, and explore the possibility of a life of service in the Church. A national vocation discovery program of the Bernardin Center at Catholic Theological Union, Catholics on Call is dedicated to helping young adults from diverse backgrounds explore a call to ministry in the Church and to learn about leadership roles as lay ecclesial ministers, men or women religious, or ministry as ordained deacons or priests.”
www.catholicsoncall.org

A Nun’s Life provides information about figuring out God’s call in your life. You’ll find articles, videos, and other resources on popular topics.
anunslife.org

Catholic Nuns Today: “What is your image of a Catholic Nun? We invite you to learn more about our active, faith-filled lives by reading our stories and frequently asked questions.”
catholicnunstoday.org

Giving Voice is a peer led organization that creates spaces for younger women religious to give voice to their hopes, dreams and challenges in religious life.”
giving-voice.org

Beloved is a film about the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia. “This joyful, holy community radiates their love for Christ and neighbor, revealing in this compelling film what it means to live the consecrated life as both a contemplative and a teacher. They manifest to the world that religious life is all about love and joy, but a love that is different and unique. It is a love that is eternal.”
www.ignatius.com/Products/BND-M/beloved.aspx

The Lord’s Prayer

Sooner or later, most of us will be in a situation where we don’t know what to say. We might be caught off-guard, or there’s something about the circumstances we’re in, or the person we’re speaking with, that ties up our tongue. It happens to just about everyone.

Sometimes words fail us when we are trying to talk with someone very important to us, even someone we love very much. Our feelings are no guarantee of fluency. If people kept track of whenever this occurred, there’s probably one name that would be on every list: God.

Being able to communicate with our Creator is one of the gifts of being human. But even though He made us, and loves us, and is always with us, we don’t always know what to say to Him. Scripture records that even the disciples of Jesus had this difficulty. “Teach us to pray,” they asked Him. Jesus replied with the prayer we call the “Lord’s Prayer” or the “Our Father.”

We know the words by heart; they are truly a God-send. The prayer begins with a declaration of faith (Our Father who art in heaven). The petitions that follow summarize the Gospel, instructing us in what we need to desire from God: sanctification through the Lord (hallowed be Thy Name), hope (Thy Kingdom come), humble obedience (Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven), trust in providence (give us this day our daily bread), contrition (and forgive us our trespasses), charity (as we forgive those who trespass against us), conversion (lead us not into temptation), and submission to His saving power (but deliver us from evil). It is the perfect prayer, given for our sake.

Perhaps the most important word in the Lord’s Prayer is the first: our. This prayer tells us who God is, and also who we are. If God is our Father, then everyone else is our brother and sister. His Fatherhood eclipses the boundaries of nationality, economic status, and religion that we tend to impose on the world. Too often we forget that Jesus said, “Give us this day our daily bread,” not “Give me my daily bread.” We belong to each other.

We cannot ask God for what we need without praying for those who go without.

Lessons of Nazareth

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Nazareth is the village where Jesus grew up and lived with Mary and Joseph. For the Little Sisters, Nazareth represents an ideal for their spiritual lives.

In the Gospel of John, Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” But Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” (John 1:45-46)

Yes, there is much good to be found in Nazareth. The ordinary life of the Holy Family can teach us things of great value.

Pope Paul VI visited Nazareth in 1964, and he beautifully described the lessons of Nazareth. Here is an excerpt:

“Nazareth is the school where we begin to understand the life of Jesus: the school of the Gospel. Here we learn to look, to listen, to meditate and penetrate the meaning, so deep and mysterious, this very simple, very humble and lovely manifestation of the Son of God. And gradually we may even learn to imitate Him… having obtained some brief lessons on Nazareth.

The lesson of silence: may there return to us an appreciation of this admirable and indispensable state of mind, deafened as we are by so much tumult, so much noise, so many voices of our chaotic and frenzied modern life.

“O silence of Nazareth, teach us recollection, reflection, and eagerness to heed the good inspirations and words of true teachers; teach us the need and value of preparation, of study, of meditation, of interior life, of silent prayer known by God alone.

The lesson of domestic life: may Nazareth teach us the meaning of family life, a communion of love, composed of simplicity and genuine beauty, its character sacred and unassailable; may it teach us how sweet and irreplaceable is its guidance, how fundamental and incomparable its role in society.

The lesson of work: O Nazareth, home of ‘the carpenter’s son,’ we want here to understand and to praise the austere and redeeming value of human labor, here to restore the consciousness of the dignity of labor, here to recall that work cannot be an end in itself, and that it is free and ennobling in proportion to the values – beyond the economic ones – which motivate it.”

A Prayer for Holy Week

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The following was written by Rene Voillaume on Good Friday, 1948. It is part of his meditations on the “Way of the Cross.”

With the Cross, Christ Jesus, You have taken into Your charge the whole of mankind, with all the weight of its weaknesses and woes and sins and death. Such is Your love for us; such is Your obedience to Your Father.

To have accepted this suffering and this death was alone a mysterious and terrible agony, so great was the contradiction of it with the wholeness and purity of Your nature.

For us, it should be different. But, in the name of Your courage and in the name of Your love, we can only beg for the light by which to discern and face our cross, the cross prepared for us by You, the cross You have fitted to each one’s very being, woven into the fabric and movement of each of our lives.

Teach us to see it as an instrument of redemption, and show us how to take hold of it.


Rene Voillaume (1905-2003) was one of the first disciples of Charles de Foucauld. In 1933, with four companions he founded the Little Brothers of Jesus.

The picture shows Sr. Mary Elizabeth Gintling on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, the traditional path that Jesus walked on the way to His crucifixion. Sister and members of her community made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1985.

The Baby Jesus is Still Hidden

baby_Jesus_crib_dec2015

Christmas today has something in common with the very first one: the baby Jesus is still hidden.

We all know why the “reason for the season” gets forgotten in our day and age: the birth of Christ has become, if you’ll excuse us, a God-send for fourth quarter profits. The modern situation is so odd; we celebrate a birthday where the guest of honor is kept out of sight and we drive ourselves silly with the preparation. Yet underneath the hustle and bustle, the stress and fatigue, the crowded stores, gift wrap, and credit card bills, Jesus is there, waiting.

If Jesus is hidden today because of our blindness, two thousand years ago it was by God’s design. In the dead of night when Christ was born, no one in Bethlehem knew that the most important event in human history was occurring, except for Mary and Joseph. After the angels broke the silence, the shepherds found the Infant in a stable, but Jesus remained hidden — hidden in the ordinary — for the next thirty years of His life.

How many people in Nazareth saw Jesus, spoke with Him, heard His voice, ate with Him, laughed with Him, and never knew they stood shoulder to shoulder with the Son of God?

The mystery of His hiddenness continues to the present day. Our Lord gives us His assurance in the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew:

I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, a stranger and you welcomed Me, naked and you clothed Me, ill and you cared for Me, in prison and you visited Me. . . . Whatever you did for those who count for little, you did for Me.

This is truly a mystery and cannot be explained fully, but in the hiddenness of Jesus we see the intimate love He has for the human family. We also learn about humility and trust, how to be generous in living for others, and the inherent dignity of every human being. Not least of all, we learn how to love God. It isn’t something we do from afar.

Bethlehem reveals the special love Jesus has for the poor. The abode of the King of Kings was a stable, His bed was a manger filled with straw. The hardships of poverty were not foreign to Him.

Is there a better way to honor the importance of Christmas than to reach out to those in need?

Praying With Five Fingers

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Through his ministry as shepherd and teacher, Pope Francis is presenting the Gospel with simplicity without sacrificing its depth. His words let the truth shine. His actions also speak clearly about the importance of humility.

While serving as the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he taught a “simple” method of prayer to children. It’s easy to remember since it uses the five fingers of the hand. It’s also not just for children.

Using the fingers on your hand, start with the thumb and pray these intentions in this order:

1.) The thumb is the closest finger to you. So start praying for those who are closest to you. They are the persons easiest to remember. To pray for our dear ones is a “sweet obligation.”

2.) The next finger is the index. Pray for those who teach you, instruct you and heal you. They need the support and wisdom to show direction to others. Always keep them in your prayers.

3.) The following finger is the tallest. It reminds us of our leaders, the governors and those who have authority. They need God’s guidance.

4.) The fourth finger is the ring finger. Even though it may surprise you, it is our weakest finger. It should remind us to pray for the weakest, the sick or those plagued by problems. They need your prayers.

5.) And finally we have our smallest finger, the smallest of all. Your pinkie should remind you to pray for yourself. When you are done praying for the other four groups, you will be able to see your own needs but in the proper perspective, and also you will be able to pray for your own needs in a better way.

The text for this prayer comes from the Catholic University of America website: www.cua.edu

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