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Footprints on the Journey

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

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.

It’s Been a Long Time

For those of you who follow regularly, I apologize for not writing in a while. It would be so nice to say that I’ve been away on vacation or traveling on spectacular spiritual adventure or even taking some time to ‘get right with God.’ But the truth of the matter is I haven’t been doing any of those things. The thing that has kept me away from writing is the drama and the ups and downs of ordinary life.

 

I could go into a list of woes, or rattle of responsibilities, but the reality is that would just bring me down and most likely bore you. I know you, dear reader, are figuring out how to cope and live with the same things. We all have responsibilities. We all have sufferings. We all have ups and downs in our lives.

 

And sometimes, we have the best intentions but time blips by so fast that by the time you stop to assess where you are, days, weeks, even a month (as is the case with me and writing here!) can go by before you realize it.

 

For me, when time is passing in that manner, it’s never a good thing. It’s a sign that I’m not taking enough time to stop and breathe—which also means I’m not taking time to pray or ask God for help with things that are going bad, or thank Him for the things that are going well.

 

If I’m not able to talk to God, I’m also going to be unable to love and care for those around me the way they deserve. That’s because, at least how I see it, without prayer, there’s no faith and without that there’s no hope. It’s a downward spiral from there. And like the saying goes, you can’t give what you don’t have.

 

So for me, it’s time to open back up the lines of communication. Thank you to all of you still reading.

 

What is the one area of your life that generally suffers when life begins to move too fast and how do you generally fix it? Please share, as it may help other readers.

Faith Through Tragedy

Because of the religious writing I do, I often get suggestions on Facebook and Twitter for Catholic social media websites. I was recently directed towards one called Facebook Apostles. I had the chance to speak to the founder and director whose life was greatly affected by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, and whose faith shines through the darkness. 

On Sept. 11, the site’s founder, Nic Haros, Jr., who worked at the World Trade Center, suffered great losses. 

His mother, who also worked at the Trade Center for another organization died in the attacks and her body was never recovered. 

As sometimes happens in families, the two were in a quarrel that week.  However, after work on Sept. 10, Haros had to travel to Baltimore on business. When he arrived, he had a feeling he should call his mother.

“I apologized for my contribution to the argument, and she did too, and I told her I loved her. And those were the last words we ever spoke,” he said.

A countless number of friends also perished. He also lost his job. 

“Even through all that, I believed God was guiding and preparing me for what would come next,” he said. 

Taking all his skills for business, computers, and his faith, the idea for Facebook Apostles came into being.  

“Eventually I learned it was God’s vocation for me and as such it’s really become an extension of my own spiritual life,” he said. 

“What I do, I do out of love,” he added.  

What an amazing testament to faith.   You can find Facebook Apostles at www.facebook.com/Facebook-Apostles

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?

 

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