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Footprints on the Journey

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

Check Your Messages…

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to check my cellphone because I thought I heard it ding or felt it vibrate in my bag only to find that I haven’t received any new messages, emails or updates on social media. If the statistics I’ve seen are correct and I fall into the ‘average’ user, I probably check it between 80-150 times per day.

That number really doesn’t surprise me. I communicate with most of my family and friends through texting and the messages I send and receive keep me connected. On days when I forget my phone or even misplace it for a while, I feel emotionally naked and like a social Neanderthal.

Earlier this month, Pope Francis asked some really good questions including: “What would happen if we treated the Bible like we treated our cellphones?”

“What would happen if we turned back when we forget it, if we opened it more times a day, if we read the messages of God contained in the Bible the way we read messages on our cellphones,” he asked before praying with people in St. Peter’s Square earlier this month.

When I thought about it, I realized how much time I spend on my phone and how little time I spend communicating with God. I often catch myself wondering why I can’t hear or see Him in my life. But how could I expect to have a solid personal relationship with God if I didn’t check His ‘messages?’ The pope suggested carrying a Bible or a pocket-sized Gospel at all times so God’s Word could be re-read whenever and wherever.

It’s a great idea, and since we are in Lent, now is the perfect time to start the habit. I think I’ll try reading the Bible more on my phone!

Elevator Music

The offices for Catholic New York are on one of the top floors of the high rise in Manhattan—which means the elevator ride in the morning is pretty packed. Given the early hour, its generally safe to say that enough caffeine hasn’t been consumed by enough of the passengers. As I started this day, I counted myself among those numbers.

 

I was feeling tired, fairly grumpy and was considering giving up speaking to other human beings for the 40 days of Lent. Then I heard an odd sound—a really upbeat 1980s pop song. The lyrics jolted me out of my dour mood. “Straight up now tell me, do you really wanna love me forever? Or am I caught in a hit and run?” Paula Abdul sang. I immediately smiled and looked around for the source of the sound.

 

My smile turned into a beaming grin when I realized that the song was coming from the headphones of a gentleman standing in the other corner. I realized in that moment two very important things: 1. My Lenten lessons were already beginning and my first was that I had to seriously stop with the judgments. You see, out of all the people in the elevator, I did not expect the older, serious-looking man in the business suit to be listing to 80s pop music on the way to work. And 2. God was talking to me and has been trying to for quite some time and I haven’t been paying that much attention. I don’t know how else to explain it, and it may sound weird, but I’ve been asking God where He’s been as I look around my life lately, and I heard God’s love and answer coming through this morning in that song.  

 

Maybe it’s because spring is coming and I have a song in my heart (and stuck in my head)—but Lent is a time more than ever during which we can try to be more open and connect more to God.

Giving Up and Letting Go

The one-bedroom apartment where my husband and I live hasn’t looked as good as it does right now since we first moved in. We have both been on a purging kick lately so there is a sizeable difference in the amount of clutter around.

 

I think our purge comes at a pretty good time with Lent coming up in a week. Lent is a time of fasting and abstinence that begins Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter. Thinning down our possessions and donating useful items like clothing and books is a good way to get our mind in the right spirit.

 

As we have been going through this process, I’ve come to see how I react to different objects—sometimes in very surprising ways. Generally, I’m ruthless when it comes to going through my stuff. I don’t hold on to many objects for sentimental reasons. On the other hand, I do like to collect—comic books, action figures from 90s cartoon shows, vinyl figures from shows I currently watch, and books.

 

Some items I can “give up” pieces of my collections by thinking of the action as a small sacrifice for the sanity of my husband.

 

Others, however, are harder. Those are the ones that I’m attached to for any number of reasons—they remind me of a person or an event, represent my youth and the person I long to be once again (anyone else have a ‘skinny outfit’ hidden in the back of their closet?). It’s those attachments that keep me from living the life God wants me to live—the one that is happening right now—this very moment. I often have difficulty in letting go of that stuff.

 

But, when it comes down to what is important, it isn’t about the stuff we collect: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).

 

Death of an Icon

 Mary Tyler Moore, famous actress and producer, died Jan. 25 in Greenwich, Connecticut at the age of 80. Best known for her roles on the “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and “Mary Tyler Moore Show” which aired in the 60s and 70s, respectively, she leaves us with a lasting legacy—especially for women in entertainment and the media. But not only that, she showed that even with a tumultuous life, a person can persevere.

 

Mary Tyler Moore starred and produced the show bearing her name and played the role of a television producer named Mary Richards—a single working woman. She won three Emmy’s for the role. For her success alone, she is to be admired. 

 

Her life story shows how a person can persevere through challenges that may seem insurmountable, and for that she should always be remembered. Mary Tyler Moore had more than her fair share of problems: her mother was an alcoholic and her father was strict and detached. In her youth, she went to live with her grandmother and other relatives twice. At the age of six, a family friend sexually abused her. Her brother died at 47 of cancer, just three months after attempting suicide. Her only son died in a gun accident when he was 24. She herself was diagnosed with diabetes at 33 and also dealt with alcoholism.

 

Despite all of these debilitating setbacks, she continued on with that winning smile. She really did make it after all. Rest In Peace.

Down for the Count

In elementary school, any time I was sick and had to stay at home, I’d watch one of the Rocky movies. You see, one of my older brothers used to work nights loading trucks and those movies were his favorite. I’m not sure when the tradition started, but we’d put them on and watch them until one of us fell asleep. When I feel sick today, I sometimes put those movies back on.

 

I was thinking of that this week because I haven’t been feeling well physically, and, for a long time, I haven’t been doing all that well spiritually. That can be seen in my lack of posting for the past several months. Then I remembered a couple of scenes from one of my favorite Rocky movies—Rocky IV (which both my older brothers cannot believe because nothing is as good as the original…)

 

In that movie, Drago, a boxer played by Dolph Lundgren, is basically unbeatable. He tells Rocky in one of the most favorite lines from the film, “I will break you.” I’ve pretty much felt like I’ve been competing against a competitor (a.k.a., life) lately that is saying the same thing. But, then I thought of what Rocky says at one point (and it’s a motto that is found in all of the movies, really): “Going in one more round when you don’t think you can–that’s what makes all the difference in your life.”

 

Even though my spiritual life is faltering a bit right now, and even though there are a lot of challenges around me, I’m trying hard to get up off the mat to keep going.

rocky-balboa-quotes-2

And I’d like to ask you for any advice you may have of how to build yourself and your spirituality back up when things get really rough. Please share in the comments below.

Songs and Stories of the Season

The voice of Christmas crooner Andy Williams came through the radio this morning as my husband and I made our way to work. “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” he sang from the classic song of the same name. A few years ago, I would have been belting out the song as loud as possible along with him to the probable annoyance of my husband and any motorist with their window open.

 

But this morning, I felt more similarities to a different Christmas old-time celebrity—Charles Dickens, the writer of “A Christmas Carol.” Although, to be perfectly honest, as I listened to the song on the radio, I was reminded of another work by Dickens—one that begins, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

 

Advent and Christmas are generally my favorite times of the year. I love the anticipation of the Advent season. I don’t mind the chaos in the stores. I am a big fan of the green and red decorations all around. Snowmen and nutcrackers and Christmas trees—I love them all. But…lately they also make me incredibly sad.  

 

Perhaps many of you are experiencing the same thing. This is a joyful, celebratory time of year for Catholics. It’s full of hope and wonder. However, if there are things in your life that are not quite “joy-filled” it could be difficult to get into the spirit of the season. Loneliness, thoughts of deceased loved ones, sickness in you or among family members, lack of money a job or other resources, or plenty of other hardships or disappointments can have you feeling down.

 

I don’t pretend to know how to change my frown into a perpetual smile. I wish I could help everyone reading this who is not in the Christmas spirit find it as well—but unfortunately life doesn’t work that way. But I do have hope! Particularly right now during this time of Advent as we prepare for Christmas we have two spectacular role models to look towards who were probably feeling not that great during this period as well—Mary and Joseph. I can only guess what they were going through, but I bet it was pretty hard and probably discouraging—both of them not knowing where they were going to stay, traveling down rough roads with little resources, towards a future they didn’t know, and Mary pregnant on top of it all with the child of God.

 

Somehow, that gives me comfort, knowing Mary and Joseph were also experiencing great joys and great hardships at the same time—just like all of us.

 

How are you doing this Advent season? How do you hold onto joy? Please share as it may help other readers!

 

 

The Perfect Preparation

Somewhere between the turkey and the pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving dinner at my sister in law’s house, I began to think about a word that always seems to get more use around the holidays—gratitude.

 

But I can totally understand why.

 

Looking around at my nieces and nephews smiling and laughing with each other and their friends, seeing members of the family sharing food and having a good time, I felt an enormous sense of—you guessed it—gratitude.

 

Of course things weren’t perfect. There were family members not present and those we wouldn’t see over the weekend. All of the problems and struggles we had the day before were still with us as we gathered around the table. But I realized that people I loved and people who loved me surrounded me.

 

In a way, Thanksgiving is the perfect appetizer to the Advent season. Hopefully, there are things that we all can look on in our lives and be thankful for, even if it’s something small, even in the midst of struggles. I’d like to put emphasis on the HOPE in hopefully.

 

This Advent, as we prepare for Christmas, I’m going to try my best to remember that flicker of gratitude I felt on Thanksgiving and look for something to be thankful for each and every day.

 

I hope you all had a Happy Thanksgiving!

A ‘Super’ Wedding

This past weekend, my husband and I attended a wedding that could have been right out of the pages of book—a comic book. The bride and groom had selected a superhero theme for their wedding.

 

Underneath his gray suit, the groom wore a Superman shirt—which he wore for the reception. All the groomsmen also had superhero shirts on as well…including Batman, Captain America, the Flash and Spiderman. The small children in the wedding party also wore costumes of superheroes.

superman_the_wedding_album

The more I thought about it, the more fitting the idea of Superheroes seemed for marriage…for both men and women. And really, the same can be said for all vocations—the priesthood, religious life, and those who choose to remain single. I can only speak from own experiences, so I’m going to focus on married life and say that just like the superheroes you see in the pages of comics, spouses are asked many times to consider the needs of someone else first.

 

Unlike superheroes, however, we don’t have special abilities, super suits, or powers to help us. We do, however, have our faith. We are blessed in that we can call on our faith to help us daily. Even when we think we can’t do something because we are too tired, too scared, too upset, etc., all we have to do is remind ourselves of the words of St. Paul who said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

 

To the newlyweds, and any newly married couples…may God bless your marriage!

A Change in the Weather

I love the sound of leaves rustling in the trees, and the crunch they make when they are dried and crushed under my feet. When those first cool bursts of air reach my lungs when I step outside in the morning, I feel like I’m being stirred alive.

 

And the one never-fail sign that fall has arrived in New York: Shops are swapping iced coffee drinks for pumpkin-spiced everything.

 

There have been a lot of not-too-great changes that have taken place this year. For me, the hardest thing has been seeing much-loved family members having to cope with extraordinarily difficult health situations. Maybe life hasn’t been that great for you recently, either. Perhaps you are dealing with an unexpected loss, or money problems, or your own health issues or addictions.

 

If you aren’t having the best of times right now, it may be hard to keep the faith. I know it is hard for me sometimes. There are certain changes that have occurred that are hard to accept and some I just don’t understand.

 

But then I remember a friend who told me a story from when his son was really sick. He said he was praying constantly and worried, wondering if his child would survive. While he was praying, he had a thought that stopped him from worrying so much. He told me that he thought about God, and what God would say, and in his mind, he heard God say, “He was my child first.”

 

That’s true for all of us. Throughout our lives, with every change, good and bad, God is there with us. He’s closer to us than anyone because we were His first.

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