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Footprints on the Journey

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

Pope Francis Friday

Welcome back! There are a lot of memorabilia and mementos floating around to commemorate Pope Francis’ visit to the United States… and his trip is still nearly a month away! But I think this is a good thing.Much of the merchandise out there comes in the form of books and specialty magazines. The magazines that I have seen detail the pope’s life and interesting aspects about the papacy in general. One of my two favorite pieces of papal products is a comic book titled “Pope Francis: I Believe in Mercy” by Regina Doman and art by Sean Lam. 

 The story starts with Pope Francis’ call to the priesthood up to his being named pope. It’s a wonderfully enjoyable read. It includes quotes from Pope Francis’ speeches and public addresses. It also includes the drawing of the Coat of Arms of Pope Francis with his motto, “Miserando Atque Eligendo.” The motto was taken from a homily by the late 7th and early 8th century St. Bede and refers to the call of St. Matthew by Jesus and when translated means: “Because he saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him.”

I learned so much after reading the comic book. It made me see Pope Francis in a new way and helped me to get excited about his upcoming visit.

Have you seen or read anything about Pope Francis that you didn’t know before? Share what you learned and how it made you feel in a sentence or two in the comments below. Everyone who answers will be entered in a random drawing with the chance to win a fun piece of Pope Francis merchandise… a bobblehead! All answers must be in by noon on Monday, August 31, 2015 to be eligible.

Have fun! And don’t forget to keep posting on @Catholic_NY with the hashtag #PopeFrancisFriday with your personal stories about papal visits.

Fill it up, Please

Most people know the old cliché question “Do you see your glass as half empty or half full?” that determines if one is an optimist or pessimist. Well, I heard something on the radio that shattered my half-empty glass mentality completely. 

The woman said something along the lines of: “You miss the whole point with that question. You can always refill the glass.” 

 

Mind. Blown. It doesn’t matter if you’re optimistic or pessimistic, there’s always more room for things to get better. Although it may be harder for the pessimist to believe that statement, it’s rational and makes a lot of sense. 

 

When I think about my glass and faith, I imagine that my glass is half full. But I want to fill it back up. It’s something that I am trying very hard to do. For the past few days, weeks, perhaps months, my faith has been in flux. Some days, it feels like God has abandoned me. I’m having one of those days today. 

 

So what can I do to refill my glass? For me, I’ve found that straight-out praying is hard in times such as these. Reading the Bible is easier, as is reading religious books, even if it’s just a short passage. I also found that if you have a friend you can lean on and talk to, that helps fill the glass up even quicker. Sometimes emptying out your worries and your fears can help fill your glass back up with hope. 

Back to the Surface

If you’ve seen the movie Jaws, you’ll remember the scene in which the biologist is lowered into the ocean in a cage, with the hopes to inject a poison into the mouth of the monster shark Jaws, thus saving countless lives who would otherwise have become the cold-blooded beast’s dinner. 

 

That scene was terrifying to me. The thought of being lowered under water in a cage to face a monster with nothing more than smarts and a weapon that is only effective if used in one small area of the monster’s body?! Yet, the character does just that, and does it willingly to try to save the lives of others. Unfortunately, he fails and drops the needle. I won’t say any more in case there are those of you who have yet to see the movie (for shame!).

 

But I will say that as the cage is brought back up, it’s empty. 

 

I think it’s a good metaphor for problems in life. Sometimes problems seem so daunting (like Jaws) and the solution so radical (like fighting Jaws off with a needle) and the way to come face to face with those problems so scary (like the cage) that we might be inclined to never try. And what if, like in the movie, we come up empty-handed? 

 

In the words of Ian Ziering’s character in another famed shark movie, Sharknado, “You’re scared. I’m scared, too. Sharks are scary, and no-one wants to get eaten.” In other words, sometimes you have to face things you don’t want to: like illness, addiction, bad news, hard tasks, etc. and you may feel unprepared or even terrified. But faith teaches us that it’s better to give it your all, to go into the deep waters rather than not dive in and face your fears at all. 

 

Have you overcome a fear recently? How did your faith help you through it? 

Pope Francis Friday-We Have a Winner!

Welcome to the first of Catholic New York’s “Pope Francis Fridays!” Each Friday leading up to Pope Francis’ visit to the United States, you will find quizzes, information or fun facts and photos about Pope Francis and his predecessors.

Let’s start off the first #PopeFrancisFriday with a multiple-question quiz: “How well do you know Pope Francis?” Answers must be in by noon on Monday August 24.

Below is a link to our 8-question quiz on Pope Francis’ life. An entry will randomly be selected from the top scorers and awarded a prize. This week’s prize is the book, “A Big Heart Open to God” by Antonio Spadaro, S.J.

If you have a personal story you’d like to share about the pope, use the hashtag #PopeFrancisFriday and post it to CNY’s Twitter page @CatholicNY.

Good luck on the quiz, and have fun!
https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/FNQ85LR

UPDATE: Congratulations to Maria Matias of Poughkeepsie who was randomly selected from the top scorers of the quiz! Thank you all for your participation!  Check back on the 28th for the second Pope Francis Friday!

More Than Sunshine Makes Me Happy

“Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy…” I’ve had that chorus from a John Denver song stuck in my head since yesterday. This particular tune floated into my mind after I read a study that studied the effects of various things of people’s long-term happiness.   

The results: religious people are the happiest people.

 

The study was done by researchers from the London School of Economics and Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands and published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. The article ran in The Washington Post on August 14. 

 

Working with charities, learning new things, and being involved in politics were all well and good, but religion had the most lasting effect. I thought it was an interesting study and one that proved something I have felt for a long time—God fills in the blanks in our lives like nothing else can.

 

At the same time, I can hear the arguments from the other side. It’s part of my nature to question and, unfortunately, one of my biggest faults is that I generally feel that what I believe isn’t good enough so I am always ready for a fight. I can hear objections like, “Religious people are simple, not scientific, that’s why they are happy,” or “Religious people use God as a crutch, that’s why they are happy,” or “Religious people are fanatics and they get wrapped up in their fanaticism so that’s why their happy.” 

 

 And maybe some people are. But I’d say it is a small minority. There is a quote in the Bible from the book of James, and it says, “”What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. …”

 

I think that religion is so powerful and makes people happy because it’s not just a “sometimes” thing, but it encompasses every part of your life and how you view life. It even affects how you view charity, learning and politics. It’s everything. 

 

What do you think of the study? Please share—and be respectful in your answers. I know this is a hot topic. 

Hope, By Mail

A few days ago I received a package in the mail with a pen, post it’s, a bookmarker and some other items with a slogan that reads “H.O.P.E. Hang On Pray Every Day.” The message made me smile and every time I look at the items, I do the same.

hope in a box

The delivery reminded me of my first day away at college. I was sitting in my dorm room waiting for my roommate to arrive when a representative from Fordham came in through my door—which was propped open in case other freshman on the floor wanted to say hello—and gave me a bucket full of stuff. There was a book about Fordham, a maroon school t-shirt and some candy and other goodies. It turns out my parents had ordered the bucket to be shipped to me when I arrived on my first day.

That one act of kindness colored that entire first day—turning it instantly from a day of trepidation and anxiety to one of school spirit and excitement.

The “HOPE in a Box” gave me that same feeling I had on my first day at Fordham—one of happiness, surprise and hope that a great future is ahead.

I looked up the company online and “Hope In a Box” has a lot of great items including baseball caps, travel coffee mugs, etc., that would be great for those who are just going off to college. (Coffee travel mugs?! You had me right there!) But really, the gifts could brighten up anyone’s day and remind them that with prayer, hope is possible. If you want to check them out the web address is: http://www.hopeinabox.com.

Did you ever receive something in the mail that made you feel hope, love or comfort? Please share in the comments section below!

Catholic TV Interview

In case you missed it, here is my interview on Catholic TV’s show “This is the Day.” It aired August 7. 

 

On The Screen

I have just arrived in a suburb of Boston in order to prepare for my fifteen minutes of fame. On Friday, at 10:30 a.m. I’m going to be interviewed about this very blog and my book of the same name on CatholicTV.org.

The show is called “This is the Day,” I’m a little nervous about the interview. I’m used to asking the questions, not answering them.

But at the same time, I think the reversal will be fun, and honestly, being on a show is quite an honor, and that I am not taking for granted.

In fact, the whole drive up from New York to Massachusetts made me think of gratitude. I find it so easy to focus on the negative aspects of my life that I sometimes forget to be thankful for the things that are going well. I have to “tune in” to the good and “tune out” the bad (pun intended).

In any case, thank you to everyone who is reading this right now, and I hope you check out the show!

‘Best Laid Plans’

There is a quote by the poet Robert Burns that says, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Boy, do I know that. Sometimes it feels as if my life is just a accumulation of misadventures and things that have turned out wrong.

Take last night, for example. I was supposed to meet up with a family member to hang out and, I thought, to have dinner. But somehow, the plans got mixed up and fumbled, and instead of meeting me at all, this particular nameless person ended up visiting with someone else, leaving me out completely. I was definitely hurt.

Was it my fault? I thought I had been clear in my communications that I wanted to have dinner and hang out. I was looking forward to it, I told them. As the workday progressed, my excitement grew for the after-hours outing I imagined in my head. But, as is often the case in life, what was imagined was not what occurred.

At first I was full of disappointment and even rage. But then I remembered a phrase from the Bible. “Turn the other cheek.” I had to look up exactly where that phrase came from this morning when I got into work. It’s from Matthew, Chapter 5. That’s the same chapter that has the Beatitudes in it. I don’t think it’s a coincidence.

Also in that reading, it says, “Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.” That gave me comfort. Sometimes, I feel ready to give up on people in my life. But Jesus reminds us that it is our call as Catholics to go the extra mile, literally. So I’ll keep going.

Has anyone ever broken plans on you and hurt your feelings? How did you go about repairing the situation? Did you repair it? Please share as it might help others.

Spreading the Good

“Good morning.” Those are two words I don’t say enough and when I do say them, I don’t do it with nearly enough sincerity. But today the meaning of those words finally sunk into my thick skull after a co-worker greeted me with that phrase for probably the thousandth time. And I know she means it every time.

It’s funny how there is so much talk in the news about how people are becoming desensitized to violence from video games and such. I feel that for me at least, it’s just the opposite and that I am desensitized to so many good things. I’m built in such a way that I wake up each morning wondering what awaits me, worry about what is to come. But that’s no way to live. Like my coworker said, “good morning.”

It is a good morning, and it can continue to be a good afternoon if I stay in the right attitude. She taught me a great lesson with those two simple words, just because she says them so often and with so much kindness every time. That’s all it takes to make someone feel, in a word, good.

I’m going to thank that coworker for spreading something good today. It’s a simple act of kindness, and something we can all do. It just might make someone’s day.

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