Perfectly Loved: Three Ways in One

Mirror Trinity

 

We bought this mirror at a local garage sale. I pass it every day in my home.  But one day recently, I stopped, and saw my reflection in a new way.

It is hard to love yourself when you look in the mirror.  What we see taps into our body issues and inability to love ourselves as a “work in progress”.  It takes effort to see all the scars, wounds, and imperfections, and still say,

“I am good.  I am loved.”

And this time my tri-reflected countenance required me to do it 3 times over!

Really?

But then I began to think of the many times I have heard that a human person is made in God’s image and is meant to reflect that image to the world.

Somehow we literally have a “stamp” of God in our bodies.

Who is this God we reflect?  He is a Trinity of Three Persons:  Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

How can I, as one person, reflect all three?  It has to do with what those three Persons do.  They live in eternal union and in perfect love relationship with each other.

And that is what I’m created to do.  Love in a way that brings oneness and new life.

Of course this mirror analogy will fall short as all analogies do that try to explain the mystery of God.  I will just attempt to say what I thought about as I saw myself in this reflection.

First, I saw the Father’s love for me in my reflected image.  I’ve got a Daddy who loves me as His own.  He wants me to belong to His family as a daughter.

Then, I saw the Christ Jesus the Son’s love for me in my.  He loves me unto death.  He teaches me how to love in my relationships- to sacrifice for the good of others, and to know that my own wounds united to His, are redeemed.  He offers His Sacred Heart to me as a refuge, and as a place to learn love.

And finally,  I saw the Spirit’s love for me in my reflected image.  He sets my heart on fire. As I let the Father and the Son dwell within me, they produce this love.  It is active, gives me gifts  like wisdom and courage and fruits like self-control and joy.  He wants to possess me fully in a ministry so God’s kingdom can come.

 In getting ready to post the picture of this mirror, I realized the reflection would be the front door of my home.  It’s window contains hearts, and it’s center is a cross.

Our imaging God the Trinity as a reflection of love just waits for us to be opened. To let people be free to live and move and have their being in God.

The way will be the cross, and the reward will be knowledge of the love in God’s own heart that is given to us for our joy,

and for the ministry of bringing others into that same heart of God.

When you peer into the heart of God’s love for you this Trinity Sunday I hope you feel as you should:  perfectly loved in three ways that are one.

And I’m ready with you to be open to breathe the fresh air of freedom from that grace, and to GET MOVING in His Spirit!

We’re children, saved and free,

who are filled with the gifts that we will need to reflect Perfect Love!

Dead But Suffering

 

christ-in-tomb-1

This day is eerily silent.

 Nothing thwarted God’s plan to deliver us

from death, by death…

the death of His Beloved Son.

The crying out to His Father

in abandonment is over.  

The torture and agony done.

But is the suffering truly over yet for our dear Savior Jesus this day?

The definition of death is the separation of soul and body.

Christ’s body did become die and become lifeless.

Jesus “tasted death”. He was laid in the tomb.

But it is perhaps a little known truth that the grace of union of Jesus’ humanity

to the Divine Person of the Son in the Trinity

(a mystery called the hypostatic union),

was never separated or ever will be separated.

What does this mean for Jesus in the tomb?

It means that God in His humanity experienced death in a particularly intense way – because He truly experienced what it was like to be a soul separated from the body and what it was like to be a body without life.

When we die, our conscience will go with our soul.  We will not have a bodily awareness anymore.

When Christ died, He was still one with His Divine Conscience.  

HE WAS AWARE OF HIS DEAD BODY.

What a horrible privation He suffered!  

Because He was God, we can count this among the many sufferings He endured, that were more intense that any human could ever suffer.

May we console the suffering Jesus in the silent tomb today…with our prayers of praise, thanksgiving, and contrition for our sins—

as we await His victory tomorrow…

Forgiving Mother: A Marian Novena of Healing and Peace by Marge Steinhage Fenelon

Have you been hurt by your mother?  

The pain of that relationship can paralyze our thoughts, actions, and future relationships.  Stuck in the past and the wound that has not healed,  sometimes we’re lead to despair.

In a transparent and courageous sharing of her own experience with an abusive mother, Marge Steinhage Fenelon takes her readers through an interior journey of the heart, that leads them out from the dark places of suffering and anger to hope, healing, forgiveness, and freedom.

All of us have broken parents because we live in a fallen state since the first sin.  

Our environments growing up can leave us disabled in differing degrees. Whatever the personal experience has been, Fenelon’s words can be applied, and her guidance sheds light on way to finding true peace.

And the way?

 A new relationship with Mary, Our Mother.

Beginning with tapping into a desire to want to heal is the logical first step.

Often, however it’s just easier to stuff the past and not deal with it.  That’s why Jesus asks the ill man if he wants to be healed.

Fenelon uses Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church to help readers understand Mary’s role in bringing us to Christ, the Divine Healer. 

That proposal can be scary.  We necessarily have to look back.  The key is never to process alone, and to seek God in prayer, and the right persons to walk with us.  Fenelon mentions her spiritual director often, and the need in some situations, for good counseling as well.  Practically, it may mean a time of distancing, while continuing to work through emotions and pain.

When we are able to receive the grace and the truth that

our mothers are children of God, just like we are,

we can place them and all their fallen brokenness in our Mother’s arms.  

There’s a sense of freedom that comes from surrendering the past to God’s healing power, and our present lives into the loving arms of a perfect Mom who has the power to comfort us and intercede for us.

The book prepares the reader for the beautiful novena at the end.  

It truly blessed me in moving through the days, taking the time to journal and pray, and opening myself up to my own healing.

Moving through it slowly,  praying to want to be healed,  surrendering my past and the wounds,  seeing my mother as a child of God with her own brokenness, helped me to move toward seeing her in new ways, and knowing that God had a plan and a purpose for it all.

That might be the greatest lesson.  God makes good come out of even the most difficult situations, if we allow Him in to heal us and draw close to His Mother.

With love and real vulnerability, I must thank Marge Fenelon for offering her own life example as a way to help others move closer to Christ.

And so many of us need the love of the Good Mother, Mary.  My prayer is that this book finds its way into all the hearts who need her most.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sacred Heart of Jesus Who Leaves the 99

 

Jesus addressed this parable to the Pharisees and scribes:
“What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them
would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert
and go after the lost one until he finds it?
And when he does find it,
he sets it on his shoulders with great joy
(Luke 15: 3-5)

Happy Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus!  That Heart that leaves the 99 to go in search of the one- that’s you…and me!  This is our gospel today!

So many know and love the hearts all these great speakers above… who are so near to that Sacred Heart of Jesus– (especially at Steubenville Youth Conference Time!)

They continue to endlessly spend themselves reaching our youth and all audiences who are at every step on the journey. (Even if they’ve lost their way and missed a few steps on that path back to God.)

They want to be like Christ and leave the 99!  And now want to show us how to do it in our own areas!

Their time with Christ in prayer and their teamwork with Ascension Press have moved them beyond all comfort zones to find the one who may need God the most.

And so they’re coming to us…from the stages of Steubenville Conferences, to the varied events around the world and now to the small parish groups in your town. Give a listen to the trailer here, and the see what Ascension Press’ message is to us today!

May God’s “Sacred Heart” Kingdom come by way of the Great and Good Shepherd, and our great speakers here with hearts filled with His Love!

 

Ascension Launches New Program to Engage Catholics
and Encourage Evangelization in 2019 and Beyond

The 99 is a three-part system for evangelization aimed at kick-starting a renewal
within parish walls and beyond.

Ascension has launched a new system for evangelization called The 99 to engage Catholics and encourage them to evangelize the Church, their communities, and the culture. The system is made up of three parts, each designed to help Catholics easily organize an effective, ongoing evangelization effort within their parish walls and beyond: a short series of “mission” videos, a leadership training component, and a book. Each draws on the expertise of a group of experienced evangelization experts to help inspire Catholic individuals and groups to “go out into the deep” and share the Gospel.

“Until recent decades, evangelization wasn’t something most Catholics talked about. Then when more of us finally did start talking about it, we quickly realized it was something we weren’t really sure about. We knew the information, but we weren’t exactly sure how to share it,” says Mark Hart, author of The 99. “At a time in our world when many are interested in ‘spirituality’ and finding meaning and purpose in life, why do we feel hindered or afraid to talk about God even with those close to us? That’s where The 99 comes in.”

The 99 Experience is the centerpiece of the program and features a short series of inspirational video presentations to bring Catholics together and spark prayer and conversation.The 99 Masterclass features a lineup of seasoned evangelists, who share their experiences and knowledge in the field of touching hearts. Aimed at equipping leaders to become more effective in reaching and engaging people where they are at, The 99 Masterclass features presenters such as Fr. Mike Schmitz, Fr. Joshua Johnson, Sr. Miriam Heidland, and Leah Darrow. The 99 Masterclass is also designed to prepare parishes to host The 99 Experience. The third and final component is The 99 Handbook, which is a short book that makes the case that a life of faith is necessary, reasonable, and rewarding. It serves as an ideal follow-up to The 99 Experience. The goal of the program is for Catholics to experience a deeper personal connection with Christ and to motivate them to begin sharing their story and their joy with those around them.

“We all want those in our parishes to know the Lord. How can we really introduce and re-introduce people to the love of God, to the mercy of God, to the answer, the solution, the Savior who is Jesus Christ, who we all need daily?” asks Mark Hart. “Anyone who works in ministry knows that the need always seems to exceed what you have. My hope is that you’re going to see this as not just another study or program, but something more, something that can kick-start a movement or renewal within your parish walls and beyond.”

For more information on The 99, please visit http://www.evangelization.com.

The 99 is published by Ascension, the Catholic faith formation leader. Ascension has produced acclaimed study programs, books, and free content for over 20 years, and has helped over one million Catholics on their faith journey.

To request additional information on The 99 and/or to schedule an interview with author and presenter Mark Hart, please contact Carrie Kline at: carriek@revolutionizingmissions.com.

Happy Anniversary “Chosen”!

It’s a real gift to know you are CHOSEN.

My husband Tom and I taught Confirmation to 9th and 10th graders for over 10 years in our former parish. For our high school freshman and sophomores, sometimes “faith” was a tough sell. But our parish priest convinced us and honestly I believe it was his true genius to have a married couple teach teens together! We would spend time planning the sessions together and grew closer in the process.  (And I mean that even when we respectfully disagreed on how to present!  Dying to self was part of the deal for us both!)

Tom’s entire career has been in education of high schoolers, and I learned so much about how to “be” with them by watching him smile, talk to them with genuine interest and patiently wait for their attention.  He had an ease of conversation with them, knew how to engage them, and was willing to be comfortable with unexpected changes.   I had a real  and comprehensive knowledge of the material and a love for teaching catechetics.  The material was familiar, and so important to me, that having the chance to share it with my parish family was exciting.

Our Confirmation program was on a two year cycle. Our DRE and parish priest were very open to what programs we would use.  Having studied a lot of Theology of the Body, we jumped at the chance to teach Ascension Press’ TOB for Teens.  Then, when CHOSEN came out, we made another request and were given the go- ahead to make that the second year of our program.

CHOSEN

Our youngest son was in the class for 2 years.  He remembers the videos being so relatable.  Real people. Real stories.  Real good humor.  Small group discussions gave the teens time to sort through the topics, and think through the themes. Ascension found a way to get the best speakers of our day, on film, to talk to millions. Those teens came to know that these speakers cared a lot about God, but even more, wanted their viewers who were preparing for Confirmation to find the peace and joy of that relationship too.

And so I celebrate with Ascension on their 5th anniversary! I celebrate the conversion of many young hearts to God and to His Church.  I’m thankful that Tom and I were CHOSEN by God to teach it and I thank all at Ascension Press for helping teens know what a gift it is that they too have been CHOSEN- by God!

Read more about this exciting program and it’s great effect on the young people of our Church here….

Groundbreaking Confirmation Program Celebrates 5th Anniversary, Half a Million Teens’ Lives Touched

Ascension’s Chosen Program Has Formed Over Half a Million Teens and Looks Towards Bright Future Ahead of 5th Anniversary of the Program

 

West Chester, PA, May 21, 2019 – More than half a million teens have gone through Ascension’s Chosen program, and ahead of the 5th anniversary of the Confirmation program, Ascension and the creators of Chosen celebrate the inspiring achievements and success of the program.

 

Chosen stemmed out of a dire need in the Church for better catechesis and stronger faith formation, especially for those preparing to receive the sacrament of Confirmation. More than half a million Catholics receive the sacrament of Confirmation every year, but when studies showed that nearly half of those would leave the faith within five years – nationally renowned speaker Chris Stefanick, professor Ron Bolster of Franciscan University of Steubenville, and Ascension joined forces and decided to do something about it.

 

“We knew there needed to be a new program that would better prepare young Catholics, and Catholics of all ages going through the program, to live out their faith in the world – and would engage them and encourage them to take their faith deeper, “said Chris Stefanick, co-author of Chosen. “Because of my background working with young people and Ron Bolster’s experience teaching catechetics, we had a pretty good idea of what the program needed to look like, but we ended up spending an entire year working on the content, based on the RCIA model, and then another four years working with facilitators, presenters, writers, and media experts – to make sure that the program was the best it could be, before launching it in May 2014.”

 

A  key to Chosen’s success in keeping teens engaged is the stunning video series featuring 12 leading Catholic presenters such as Jason Evert, Jackie Francois Angel, and Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers. They discuss the faith on location throughout the U.S. and internationally — including New York, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Nashville, Rome and Florence. Chosen: Your Journey Toward Confirmation includes the video series, a student workbook, and guides for leaders, parents, and sponsors, along with extensive online resources. In 5 years, Chosen has been adopted by thousands of parishes and dioceses and has had incredible results.

 

“Since its release in 2014, Chosen has touched the lives of 500,000 students, more than 200,000 parents, and almost 200,000 sponsors. It’s amazing what God does when you see a need, and you take a leap of faith to fill that need – incredible things happen,” Stefanick continued, “We are so proud of what Chosen is and what this program has accomplished in five short years. Ultimately, it’s beauty that draws the heart. And when people hear the Gospel in a language that they can understand, it changes their lives. We can’t wait to see how this program continues to touch people’s hearts and lives for many years to come.”

 

For more information on Chosen, please visit: https://newsroom.ascensionpress.com/chosen-your-journey-toward-confirmation-press-kit/

 To request additional information on Chosen and/or to schedule an interview with one of the presenters, please contact Carrie Kline at: carriek@revolutionizingmissions.com

What people are saying about Chosen:

“Chosen speaks to youth in their language, from their culture, and with the enduring love of Jesus Christ. Chosen is a thoroughly Catholic confirmation program from the heart of the New Evangelization. Chris Stefanick and his collaborators have combined experience, wisdom, and the best tools of contemporary media to develop a compelling and comprehensive catechesis that strives to form lifelong disciples for Jesus Christ.”

–       Most Reverend James D. Conley, Bishop of Lincoln

“Our catechists rave about bringing experts into the classroom through the videos so that their role is to focus on the candidates. I really think that the background webinar and the training videos are top notch [and] the downloadable resources will be a great time saver. Ascension always impresses me with their customer service. This time, with Chosen, it is over the top.”

–       Christine Pershey, Director of Faith Formation, Cathedral of St. Raymond Nonnatus, Joliet, IL

“Before I started Confirmation, my friends and I didn’t really know what we were doing or what the point was. And then after we did Chosen we began understanding everything—and now we’re all on fire. I actually understand my relationship with Jesus, which is really good right now.”

–       Connor, Age 15

“I think the small groups really help me because I can talk about anything about my religion. I don’t have to feel so shut out when I ask questions about my faith because I know that they are just like me. They may not know the answers because they have the same questions that I do, but the teachers really help me figure out those answers.”

–       Molly, Age 12

 

 

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Happy Feast of the Annunciation

I ask God every day to make me more like Mary.

The Scriptures over the last two days (the burning bush before Moses, the reference to the passing through the Red Sea yesterday, and today’s “God is with us” and “Behold,I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your will”) have united into a short but powerful prayer for me.

I believe that in order to be more like Mary,

I need to ask the Lord to help me “burn” in His “I AM” Presence,

and be overshadowed by waves of the Holy Spirit like a Red Sea of Mercy.

Only then is God with me.

Only then am I like Mary.

Burn in the “I AM” Fire of His Presence

 

cropped-images.jpeg

Bathe in the Red Sea Mercy waves.

 

guggenheim-cross

Be more like Mary.

 

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Happy Feast Day!

Man as Bride

In Scripture, the analogy used most often to describe God’s love for humanity is spousal.  He is the Bridegroom and we, the Church, are the Bride.

I have always thought that this might be easier for women to understand than men. We “get” being brides.

How do men understand that they too, are brides?

 The key lies in receptivity.

 

silhouette of man and woman during sunset

The story of God creating the first man and the first woman can give some insight.  

“So the Lord God cast a deep sleep on the man, and while he was asleep, he took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.  The Lord God then built the rib that he had taken from the man into a woman.  When he brought her to the man, the man said:, ‘This one at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; This one shall be called woman, for out of man this one has been taken.

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife and the two of them become one body.” (Genesis 2:21-24)

Man’s receptivity is here in these verses.  First, he is cast into a deep sleep, which symbolizes his vulnerability and deep trust of God. He rests in his loving relationship with Him.

Then, God ordains that it is the place in man which guards his heart- his rib, that should be taken out.  Now, man is open and vulnerable.  Now the one who will end his loneliness, the woman, has a place to enter his heart.

And he is open to giving it. He allows God to take it.

And it is from this very rib taken out, that she is built up.

She’s created from his offering to give up his guarded place.

She is alive because of him.

God uses what man has given up in trust- his sacrificial gift of his rib which makes him vulnerable- to create someone new who can give herself back to him!

When they first see each other- they are ecstatic! Finally, a place to be gift!  Finally a place to be gift and receptivity all at the same time.

And the giving and the receiving create union and love between the two.  

And together, even in man, they know how to be God’s bride.

Together they receive God’s gift of love and give it back.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

  

 

The Great Adventure Bible: The Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth

We all want it: the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It’s what makes us confident and secure.

crucifix on top of bible

And what about the truth about ourselves?  Everyone eventually asks the questions: 

Who am I? Why am I here? 

Where am I going?

For these ultimate truths, people have for centuries, turned to the Bible as God’s Word, but we’ve often struggled to piece the whole truth together. We don’t know where to start and it can be such a challenging read!  All sorts of opinions about how it should be read abound!

We’ve had questions and need teachers who have already studied the whole library collection of books from different authors, genres, and historical backgrounds.

We’ve lost our way, given up, and been confused.  So we need clear cut instructions and a map.

God’s desire for us to have the whole truth is even greater than our own. And He’s provided the whole truth and nothing but the truth, most beautifully and clearly explained, in The Great Adventure Bible.

It is first and foremost, the complete Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Second Catholic Edition.

Additionally, this Bible’s team of editors and consultants have tied together and explained every book- categorized its key people and provided a timeline of biblical events.

The timeline begins with The Early World, telling the story of Genesis chapters 1-11. Before the Scriptural text there is a summary, an explanation of how the narrative goes, and clarification on the significance of these chapters, like God’s purpose for human dignity, creation as a cosmic temple, and the drama of sin and redemption.

The systematic presentation incorporates a color-coded Bible timeline that organizes the different stages of our powerful and magnificent salvation story.  One cannot easily forget that color-coded black section signifies Israel’s darkest period in history, or that purple reminds us of the Royal Kingdom.

The Great Adventure Bible gives clear instruction about God’s overarching covenantal plan for loving and saving us, and provides colorful charts and maps that show the progression of time and historical place.  Who would doubt that an eye-catching map of the desert wanderings could enhance the reader’s understanding of the Israelites’ 40 years of waiting in hope for a Promised Land?

Separate articles enhance the reader’s understanding of the important covenants God has made throughout history and suggest how to interpret the Bible. And a well thought out reading plan helps students know how to begin to see the overall picture, before adding some of the more supplemental books.  Lectio Divina, a way of praying with Scripture is also introduced.

And underlying each teaching tool is the Catholic understanding of the Bible- seen in its entire context and unity.  Centuries of saintly commentaries and magisterial teaching undergird the structure of the Great Adventure Bible’s contents and lend to making all the parts create a whole.

The whole truth and nothing but the truth…so help us God!  And He does.  Through the thorough and clear presentation of God’s Word, the Great Adventure Bible draws us into the knowledge of the truth:  we are the beloved children of God’s steadfast covenantal love and we’re destined to live with Him in that love forever!

 

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

RISK

In my rich pride

I think it prudent to hide

The stuff in my old haughty heart

The mask is called fear

Of what vulnerability would make clear-

Of what’s broken and fallen apart

 

Heart of Jesus

You say, “Give it to me…

And then you will see

The hundredfold reward in its place”

“Press your wounds into Mine

Crushed grapes into wine

The risk will make room for the grace”

“Give me every last shred

Give me all that you dread

Follow me wherever I go”

My haughty heart’s gone

I’m free to belong

To the One Gift I risk all to know.

Mending the Heart: A Catholic Annulment Companion by Lisa Duffy

Lisa Duffy has offered her own mended heart to a growing number of Catholics who have experienced the painful reality of divorce.

Mending the Heart:  A Catholic Annulment Companion is a clear and loving explanation of the process in the Catholic Church called an annulment. Duffy leads her readers through the purposes and practical definitions of this process while regularly addressing the emotional challenges and difficulties of those facing a broken marriage situation.

She accompanies her readers as credible witness- as one who has shared the road.

Many myths persist in regards to the annulment process, which by definition, seeks to declare that a marriage bond (unbreakable covenant) was not a valid sacramental one.  Duffy debunks each misrepresentation of the truth and explains terms like “invalid” and “impediments to marriage”.  She walks readers step by step through the annulment process and names the specific canon law grounds that might constitute an annulment being granted.  With continual warmth and concern for her readers’ hearts, she simultaneously assures readers of the true existence of a marriage relationship and gives encouragement for when the going gets tough.

Concerned with her readers dignity and worth, she lovingly encourages them to bravely confront what may have been real obstacles to a valid marriage and suggests to them that the efforts are well worth it.  The interior work required ends up being the very path to true healing and joy.

Having someone calmly explain something when emotions are complex or intense can be a great gift for someone experiencing divorce.  Like a loyal friend Duffy accompanies her readers in their confusion and pain but also places her focus on the great graces that come with using this time to enter more deeply into a relationship with God.

The book is filled with the stories of many others who have traveled the road of devastating divorce, but who have allowed God to transform their crosses into glory. Since so many divorced people as well as their families and friends find themselves in confusion about what the Catholic Church ultimately offers, Duffy’s book is extremely timely and will likely welcome many hearts back to a deeper relationship with God and fellow Catholics.

In this reader friendly Annulment Companion, Lisa Duffy is your faithful companion. As she generously shares her own story,  readers find the haunting and daunting task of annulment becomes less insurmountable.  The warmth, humility, and expertise of Lisa’s own mended heart serves to accompany  and encourage others to begin the beautiful process of finding theirs.

 

 

 

 

Tell Everyone: A Reflection on Today’s Mass Readings

Acts 5: 17-26            Psalm 34          John 3: 16-21

God SO LOVED the world.  

The whole world?  How can that be?  

How can LOVE be so all encompassing?

Our world:  Filled with domination that lays hands on…

Judgments that would silence our love…

Our world:  Filled with jealousy and jails….

The God who SO LOVED– hears the cry of the poor.

I sought the God who SO LOVED– and He answered me…

Delivered me from all my fears.

When the poor one called out the God who SO LOVED– answered me….

and from all my distress He saved me.

Small hearts, broken hearts, tethered hearts,

sword-pierced hearts- conditional love in our hearts

Lead to sin, prisons, preferred darkness and death

 

BUT GOD SO LOVED THIS WORLD- NO CONDITIONS- FULL SENDING

HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON WAS GIVEN!

 

Now all worldly hearts cease to blush with shame

And faces are radiant with JOY!

Let us go then to the temple of this world,

and “tell everyone about this life”!