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Footprints on the Journey

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

When Faith Is Like a Mirage

I’ve seen it exaggerated in a few cartoons. A character is lost in the desert when they all of a sudden see an oasis full of water in front of them. When the place of refuge is just out of their reach—it disappears—it turns out to be a mirage.

 

For the past two or three weeks, that is how I felt about my faith. I felt like it was just out of my grasp. But when I came close to touching it, to feeling it, it disappeared like a mirage. It was a devastating place to be. It’s a place I’ve been before. And it’s a place I’ll most likely be at again.

 

Generally, when I find myself in this state of being, it’s because I’m overwhelmed with too many things. Perhaps you’ve been in this type of situation before, too. I find that my mind races because it’s full of too many worries. My days fly by because they are filled with too many obligations that I have to fulfill. My heart aches because there are just so many loved ones in difficult situations. Or perhaps you yourself are going through a difficult time from sickness, addiction or difficulties at work or in the home or another situation that is weighing you down.

 

When this happens, there is one quote from the Bible that helps keep me grounded. It’s a really simple one. It doesn’t help me to catch up to the mirage, but it reminds me that God is present right where I am and that I don’t need to go searching to find him. He’s already with me. I don’t have to try so hard. The quote is this, from Psalm 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God.”

 

When life is swirling around, it’s nice to remember to just be still and let God do his thing in our lives.

Getting out of a Ditch

 

I haven’t posted anything in a while. That’s because I like to be totally honest and up front about my faith on this blog—and for the past few weeks, I have metaphorically driven my faith off course.

 

I kind of felt like I’ve been in a car driving fast on a highway with the radio on, but with an unruly and unhealthy passenger in the car talking next to me. I can recognize what song is on the radio, but I really can’t make out the words or put a name to it because I’m paying attention to the road and what the person next to me is jibber jabbering about. Before I know it, I’m two miles past my exit and I really have no idea how I got there.

 

When life gets like that for me—when things go so fast that the soundtrack of my life becomes fuzzy and I lose all sense of direction as to where I’m going—it’s hard for me to write about what is going on inside my soul. In all honesty, that is probably when I should write the most because that is when I’m most vulnerable to getting lost. That’s when I could use help from all of you.

 

However, sometimes we don’t do what is best for us because we are human and make mistakes.  

 

Thankfully, I know God is ready and waiting for me when I realize what I am doing and come out of my daze. He’s there ready to be by my side and get back on the road with me as I turn the music back up and start living my life fully alive and alert again.

Learning About Mercy, Through a Saint

Last night I had a date with a saint. The relics of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, a Polish sister who gave the world the famous image of “Divine Mercy,” were at St. Patrick’s Cathedral for veneration.

St. Faustina was charged with giving Jesus’ message of mercy to the world. In a vision, he told her, “I do not want to punish mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to my merciful heart.” St. Pope John Paul II canonized her in April of 2000, making her the first saint of the new millennium.

I didn’t know much about St. Faustina until I was assigned to write about the relics. I had heard of her Diary, and had seen the image of the Divine Mercy.IMG_2891

But that was about it. I honestly didn’t really know what the word “mercy” meant, either. It wasn’t until I started really talking to people about St. Faustina for the article, and heard the homily of Father Justin Cinnannte, a priest of the archdiocese, at the Young Adult Mass at St. Patrick’s last night, that the word at least started to make sense for me.

I won’t say I know exactly what mercy means—I’m still trying to figure that out—but I think I have somewhere to start now.

Father Justin told the story of a troubled boy who had been kicked out of high school. He later learned the boy was placed in a mental hospital. A while after he was let out of the hospital, this young man came back to Father Justin and asked for the sacraments of confession and anointing of the sick.

Father Justin said a phrase came to his mind: “By his wounds you are healed.”

The young man then showed Father Justin his arms, which were covered in scars from self-harm.

Father Justin said, “The reason why he was able to show his wounds to Jesus was because Jesus first showed his wounds to him.” He was referring to Jesus’ wounds on the cross.

I never before realized that mercy and healing are so closely related. No matter how scarred, or broken, or damaged we are, God wants to wrap us in his mercy and make us whole. He knows what we are going through and he wants to us to live in peace. That’s what his mercy is for, I think.    

Starting today, I’m going to try to pray more often with the words that are on the bottom of the Divine Mercy image, which says, “Jesus, I trust in you.”

Making Holy Week Meaningful With Social Media

I was going through my Facebook news feed last night when I saw a quiz that asked, “Which personality from the Easter story should you reflect on this Holy Week?” I thought it would be a fun little quiz to take that I’d quickly forget about. When I saw my results, however, I was shocked, and, truthfully, it is giving me quite a lot to reflect on.

 

The quiz tells you who you’d most likely be in the Easter story. My husband took the quiz and got Simon of Cyrene—the man who helps Jesus carry the Cross. It’s fitting because my husband is always ready and willing to help others. I couldn’t wait to see what result I would get.

 

Then I took the quiz and saw…Barabbas!

 

My initial reaction was revulsion! How could I be most like the “man in prison for insurrection and murder” Luke 23:25 who is freed so Jesus could take his place? Was I that bad?

 

The more I thought about it, however, the more I could relate to Barabbas. I recalled all the times in my life that Jesus stepped into my life to save mine—in big and small ways. He has been there to give me second, third and fourth chances to make my life better. Even though Barabbas was a known bad guy, Jesus takes his place and dies in place of him.

 

I don’t know if Barabbas changed his life or not after that episode with Jesus. Maybe he did. Maybe he didn’t. Maybe he tried and failed and tried again. No one knows. All I know is that the more I think about Barabbas, the more I realize how much Jesus loves us all.

 

If you’re interested in the quiz you can find it at the link below. If you take it, share your results in the comments below!  

 

http://catholic-link.org/2016/03/19/which-personality-from-the-easter-story-should-you-reflect-on-this-holy-week-quiz/

A Day in the Life at the Paper

For the past few Fridays, a student from Cathedral High School has been interning at the paper.  One of her assignments was to write a reflection of her time here.  Here is what she had to say:  

Interning at Catholic New York 

By KIARA A. EDWARDS

Catholic New York is no ordinary newspaper and my first time interning for them proved that.

They aren’t a regular newspaper filled with sob stories, political debates and troublesome banter. On my first day I did not know what to expect. I assumed right off the bat that all of their stories focused on the Bible and all things Catholic. However, I quickly found out they provided so much more. Catholic New York is the true definition of what it is to be a person of the faith. Everyone on their team effectively incorporates everyday life into each section of the newspaper. They work endlessly to bridge the gap between religious and secular life.

For example, in a recent issue, they featured a Navy SEAL who received an award, from President Barack Obama, for his hard work in the military. They brought secular and religious themes together, noting that the SEAL was Catholic.

At Catholic New York you never cease being amazed. Even the advertising team works hard to bridge this same gap. They are allowed to place secular advertising in the newspaper as long as it’s appropriate.

The work here is never done. Even after all the pages are put together and ready to be printed, the content has to be checked over one more time.

Not only has the team at Catholic New York taught me to be continuously motivated, but also to follow my dreams. Everyone has taught me that opportunities are always up for grabs, but finding the one for you, that’s the hard part.

Thank you every one here at Catholic New York for your hard work and useful advice.

Hoops in the ‘Hood’

The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal have released a video of slam-dunking friars in parks from the Bronx to New Jersey. It’s part of a new initiative to raise awareness for charities called “Renewal in Motion” that rolled out March 5.

 

The video is pretty cool. This one in particular is to raise awareness for Mary’s Meals.

 

If you are familiar with the CFRs (which is the order’s religious initials), you probably know that they are involved in ministries in some rough neighborhoods serving the poor and marginalized. They also have a really great outreach to youths and young adults called Youth 2000 and the Catholic Underground.

 

This new initiative should be interesting to watch as it develops. And who doesn’t like to watch gray-robed friars showing their skills on the basketball courts?

To learn more: http://www.cny.org/stories/Friars-of-the-Renewal-Use-Hoops-Video-To-Raise-Awareness-of-Marys-Meals,13745 or http://www.facebook.com/renewalinmotion

Feeling Low, and Being Raised Up

 

After about an hour in the waiting room early in the morning at the hospital, the receptionist behind the desk came out and told me, “I don’t know when the doctor will be able to see you.” I looked around, confused because there were practically no people in the waiting area.

 

I was in so much pain and, at that point, anger, that I wasn’t able to respond. My husband, thankfully, did the speaking for both of us: “Are you telling us to go to another hospital?” The receptionist merely said, “All I can say is, if you stay here, it’s going to be a while.” Hearing that, my husband drove us to another hospital.

 

I was at a very low point—in horrible pain, tired from not sleeping, stressed and angry.

 

Thankfully the next hospital took us, literally, as soon as they looked at me as we walked in the door. They were kind and treated me right away.  It turned out I had a kidney stone and for anyone who has had one, you know what that feels like. It’s not good.

 

Even though it started as a horrible night and was not pleasant being in pain, when it was all over, I was thankful.

 

Yes, that’s right. Thankful.  Why? Because I had my husband by my side and I had friends and family sending me messages asking if I were okay.  I had kind doctors and nurses who knew what to do.  I was comforted. I was consoled. I was being shown love and mercy and compassion by the people around me.

 

They were acting as Jesus in my life.

 

It was a horrible, painful situation, and one I would not wish on my worst enemy—but it showed me how lucky I am to have such wonderful people around me.  

Life in the “Fast” Lane

 

When I was a child, I was really good at fasting during Lent. If I gave up chocolate or other foods, I wouldn’t cheat. I never ate meat on Fridays. And it felt good. I liked knowing I was doing something for God. As I grew older, however, I lost my zest for fasting.

 

A lot of it had to do with my own thoughts and reasons for fasting. As a child, I would fast because that is what I was told to do. I wanted to do it because I wanted to be like the grownups around me who were preparing for Easter.

 

When I became older, I thought about fasting in more historical and logical ways. For example, I could understand the need for people to abstain from meat and fats so that there would be enough of a supply left.

 

Over the years I’ve wavered between fasting and not fasting during Lent dependent on a number of factors. I could not find a reason to really abstain once and for all. I have been thinking about that a lot lately. Especially because I received a beautiful note from Thomas, a reader who wrote, “Thanks to you, I am involved in Lent, and have been practicing Catholicism on a daily basis. I cannot thank you enough. Your words have inspired me. I am forever grateful to you.”

 

These words made me want to get even more involved in Lent myself. After contemplating on these words for a week or so, and thinking about fasting, I began to realize that fasting meant more than giving up food.

 

In fact, it’s not so much about the food at all, I think. It’s about slowing down your own thoughts and doing something for God and offering it up as a sacrifice to Him. It’s about making a choice to think about God at least three times a day and probably more, if you’re as hungry as I am (in the spiritual and physical sense) and focus on Him alone.

 

I hope that like Thomas, this kind of thinking spreads even more to my everyday life. What do you think about fasting? Is it hard for you? Please share as it may help other readers.

40 Days to Pray

  Yesterday, one of my brothers in law called me to tell me about what a child in one of the religious education classes said at his parish church. The teacher of the second grade class asked the students, “Do any of you know how long Lent is?”   One excited child shot their hand up higher than all the rest, clearly wanting to be chosen. The teacher called on the student who proudly said, “Four letters long!”   I thought it was such a cute answer. The truth is, Lent is a long 40 days from Ash Wednesday to the day before Holy Thursday (the Sundays do not count because Sundays are days for celebrating the resurrection of Jesus at Mass). It’s a time of penance and sacrifice for Catholics.   That being said, most Catholics either “give something up” or “do something extra” during Lent that shows they too, are wiling to sacrifice for the faith, or do an act of mercy in the name of Jesus.   For me, giving up an item—like chocolate, or wine, or watching television—doesn’t have the same impact as doing something. I think it is because there have been many times in my life when I had to sacrifice things like chocolate or alcohol due to medical reasons.  And giving up television, for example, wouldn’t really affect me too much because it takes me at least an hour to pick something on Netflix anyway, and by that time, I am generally too tired to watch!   But adding something into my schedule is extremely hard because I’m forgetful and tend to be lazy. I admire people who volunteer their time, and do things for others. I think that is where my soul needs a lot of work! (I think whatever you do, either giving up something or doing something—is a decision that you have to make with God.)   So this year, readers, I’m going to do a #40daystopray Lenten challenge. That means I’m going to pray for family and friends each and every day for 40 days. If you would like to be included, just add your name to the comments field below and I will personally pray for you as well.   What are you doing for Lent? Do you generally give up something or do something?        

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