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Footprints on the Journey

2014 Second Place Winner of "Best Online Blog-Individual" Category from the Catholic Press Association

Going on a Pilgrimage With Jesus

With World Youth Day going on this week in Poland, my mind has been focusing on the idea of pilgrimages. I was fortunate enough to attend World Youth Day in Madrid in 2011 and the experience deepened my faith and trust in God. However, it’s been a long time since then and it’s about time I reflect and reconsider where I am in my spiritual journey and how I could renew my faith now.

 

A few questions keep coming up in my mind: Do I walk with Jesus in my life today? Do I allow him to stay by my side or do I push him away? Am I moving forward in my faith or am I standing still?

 

They are difficult questions to answer. At this current moment in time, I would have to say that I try to keep Jesus out of my life and am inclined to push Him away because I am afraid to move forward in my faith. Why would I do such a thing? In all honesty, I get too caught up in the world and focus on too many distractions that get the better of me, and forget about focusing on my faith. Moving forward in faith means becoming a better person and quite frankly, that’s a hard thing to do. Especially when you are caught up in what you want and not what Jesus wants.

 

Thankfully, He is full of mercy and forgiveness and desires for us to come back to Him no matter how many times we turn from Him or go the wrong way!  

 

So during this week, in which the Church is focusing on the idea of pilgrimage, I’m going to try harder to move forward in faith. How about you?  

What Can You Do For WYD?

 

World Youth Day officially begins today with an Opening Mass in Błonia Park. As you may know, the theme for this year is the fifth beatitude from the Gospel of Matthew, ““Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”

 

It’s a good theme to have because this is also the Year of Mercy. The theme had me thinking about the idea of giving and receiving. It also reminded me of the saying, “You get what you give.” For pilgrims in Poland, that will be very true. Whatever they put into their spiritual journey, they will get back. Pilgrimages are hard, and the harder you work at it, the more gifts you’ll receive. So to all of you in Poland: Don’t give up! Keep going!

 

But what can those of us at home do? We can also give our time to Jesus throughout the week in prayer and sacrifice. For instance, we can use our time to enrich our spiritual life—such as by reading the works of St. Faustina or St. Pope John Paul II, who, by the way, were both Polish!

 

Do you have any other ideas on how to unite yourselves to those attending World Youth Day and encounter Christ this week? Please share.

World Youth Day Is About to Begin

World Youth Day begins this coming week on Tuesday, July 26. Many Catholic New Yorkers are on their way to Krakow, Poland as I write these words. Others, perhaps, like me, will be staying home.

 

For those staying home, this week can still be one of an encounter with Christ.   There are a few ways that we can unite ourselves with those who are in Poland. One is through social media.

 

The Catholic Apostolate Center in collaboration with the WYDUSA office will have live updates and videos from Krakow that can be found at WYD2016.us.

 

Before the week begins, I thought that all of us—traveling pilgrims and people staying home—could begin our spiritual journey by thinking about the theme of this year’s World Youth Day, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” Not only that, I thought we could all ask ourselves, what exactly does mercy mean, and how are we living mercy in our lives?

 

Are you traveling to World Youth Day or staying home? What are your thoughts on mercy?

 

Color and Pray — Artwork Contest Submissions

Draw a doodle and send it to jdossantos@cny.org along with your address to be entered into the “Color and Pray” contest. Winners will be selected randomly to receive the coloring book “Color and Pray.” To find out more read the previous post.

Thank you to everyone who entered!  

 

 

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A Colorful Prayer Life

I recently received an adult coloring book from Paraclete Press titled “Pray and Color” by Sybil MacBeth. Over the past few years I have definitely been into the coloring craze and am a huge proponent of this form of relaxation—and now—this form of prayer.

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In all the times that I have colored, I never thought to combine it with prayer. But the two do fit in well together. Coloring calms the mind. It allows me, at least, to focus on the simple things—the colors, the lines—it is quite meditative.

 

I knew I could easily get hooked into this type of prayer when I read something the author wrote about how she felt while praying and coloring: “My body and mind were less antsy, fidgety, distracted, and unfocused than they had been during prayer time.”

 

Throughout the book, the author explains different types of prayers and how to use drawing and coloring to pray in the front of the book, while the rest of the book includes templates and drawings for one to color in.

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I was lucky enough to receive a few copies of the book. I thought it would be fun to hold a small contest to raffle off the books.

 

From now until Friday—I invite everyone to draw a small doodle and take a picture of it—send it by email to me at jdossantos@cny.org along with your name and mailing address. Four people will be randomly selected by those sent in by Monday at noon to win the coloring books! Your artwork will be shown on this blog! It doesn’t have to be fancy, it just has to be yours!

Taking Polaroid Moments

Yesterday, my family gathered to celebrate the 14th birthday of my niece. During the party, I saw her taking a few photos with a Polaroid camera. Yes, in this age of digital everything she was taking old-fashioned Polaroids. I thought it was awesome, and not just because I happen to take Polaroid photos, too, every once in a while.

 

I thought it was great because compared to digital photos you take on your phone—waiting for a Polaroid to develop is fairly slow. Also, you can’t retouch it or Photoshop it in any way. It is what it is.

 

The photos led my thoughts towards how many moments I take for granted—moments that are worth capturing. (For anyone thinking of Pokemon Go! right now and capturing Pokemon…yes, maybe that has something to do with my thoughts as well.)

 

In all seriousness, though, I think it’s important to live and experience fully every moment you can. I was talking about this very fact with my husband the other day.

 

Life gets so busy and stressful sometimes that “downtime” disappears. When that happens, we have to do what we can to find whatever time we can to laugh and love and enjoy. For instance, perhaps you are visiting a loved one at the hospital. That’s definitely not a place you would think you’d find happiness or joy or a moment to remember…but it can be! Just think of those times when someone shares a story, or the patient laughs and forgets their pain. There’s hope there.

 

That’s a moment to capture and cherish.

 

What do you think? Do you feel like you find time each day to enjoy life?

A Debate Online About Confession

This morning a friend of mine posted a photo regarding the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It was a photo posted to a confessional door in a church that said something along these lines: “Keep your time brief and ‘confess only your sins and offenses’ there’s no need to explain why you did them.” I don’t know if the photo was real or if it was from a real parish. But it stirred quite a debate.

 I definitely fell on one side of the debate. 


 

I understood that there would be a shortage of time for confession and that there would have to be a cutoff time—say, when Mass started, for example. But to tell people they couldn’t have their proper time with a representative of God in what I think is one of the most intimate of sacraments made me outraged. If I saw a sign such as that, I would walk away, feeling hurt and rebuffed.

 

I imagined going in there and reading my sins like a grocery list, and having them washed away like I was at a car wash—running through as quickly as possible for the next one to go through. There was a time during the Middle Ages when sins were read like a list—and the corresponding penance was given—also off a list—sometimes those sins required payment. That corrupt practice didn’t last long.

 

Sure, perhaps there are people who spend a great deal of time in confession, but maybe they need that time! Who knows what is going on in his or her lives?

 

What do you think of the sign? And do you think confession should be given a set time or do you think people should be given as much time as they need as determined by them and their confessor?

When Things Are Going Wrong, Go Right

When I was a child, I read a book titled, “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” You can guess what it was about. I feel like there should be a grown-up version of that book because there are days when “adulting” is hard.

 

It could be so many things that add up to major stress in your life—laundry piling up, work deadlines looming, bills overdue, reminiscing over a difficult past, chronic illness in yourself, a child or another loved one; or any other difficult factor. If your life is anything like mine, it may seem like when one bad thing happens…others are sure to follow.

 

In life, there are going to be good and bad days, and sometimes there are going to be those really bad days. There will be moments that knock you down over and over again…

 

When faced with those moments, I like to think we have two choices. We can give in and let defeat take over, or we can turn towards God. Sometimes that means doing the right thing, other times it means finding the “silver lining.”

 

I’ll give you an example from my own life.

 

I got sick a few years back, and if that wasn’t bad enough, I had to give up drinking because of a medication I’m on. It was hard to do so, and sometimes, it’s really hard and I struggle with it. But I try to look on the bright side of the situation. I’m alive. The medication I’m on is helping me and I no longer have to deal with hangovers! When my faith is faltering, it’s harder to fight those urges. When I do struggle, however, and have my faith on fire, I say a little prayer to God and try to remember those good things and it makes it much easier.

 

What do you think? Do you feel like God is there when you have difficulties in your life?

Use It or Lose It?

When I came into work today, one of the first emails I saw had as its subject, “use it or lose it.” It was an ad for a gym or for sports equipment or something along those lines. I didn’t click onto it because I am already negligent with the regimen I am trying to stick with—namely, walking and bike riding.

 

But the title of the email made me think of something else besides the miles and miles of ground I have yet to cover—prayer. I’m not talking about the prayers we learn in religious education. I do think that with prayers like the Our Father and the Hail Mary, and prayer practices like the Rosary and Divine Mercy, you can forget the words or the order of things if you don’t keep up with them. So in those cases, it is a “use it or lose it” situation.

 

I’m talking about, well, just “talking” to God. I mean talking to Him in the form of ordinary, everyday prayers. Sometimes when I haven’t prayed in a while, or if I don’t exactly know what to pray, I get tied up in the “What is the proper thing to do?”   or the “What am I supposed to do?” loop. It’s a paralyzing place to be.

 

When that happens, I think of something that one of my good Catholic friends told me. God wants to hear from us no matter where we are, no matter what we have to say. Yes, that’s right: good or bad; happy or sad; angry or hurt; God wants us to talk to him. Our prayers can be short or long and there is no wrong way to speak to God. That’s a form of prayer.

 

In a way, it’s very freeing.

 

What do you think? Do you ever just talk to God or do you prefer traditional forms of prayer? Please share!

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