Archive for the ‘use of talents’ Category

Have you ever been “wrecked?”

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

I have launched a new blog known as Be As One: A Single Flow … and wanted to share with you a review of an important new book. Come on over and read the review and see what else Be As One has to offer you.

 

Pain, suffering and sacrifice are dirty words in today’s world, meant to be avoided at all costs. In the process, the meaning and value have been lost.

Wrecked: When a Broken World Slams into Your Comfortable Life, the impressive debut book by blogger Jeff Goins not only restores the meaning to suffering and sacrifice, but exhorts the reader to value, embrace and learn from them.

What does it mean to be “wrecked?”

Click here to find out.

 

Click to Tweet & Share: Jeff Goins’ impressive debut book, Wrecked, “slams” into life as we know it http://wp.me/p2D9hg-1k

 

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Part 5: What makes a beautiful Godly woman? Modeling ourselves after Holy Mother Church

Friday, April 15th, 2011

In the previous post I talked about why Mary was beautiful and how it was because she gave herself totally over to Christ with her consistent, lifelong “yes” to Him. I would like you to consider for a moment Mary’s role as a mother, raising the child Jesus during the hidden part of His life. How do you suppose Mary handled her day-to-day duties caring for Jesus, Joseph, other extended family members and her home?

Undoubtedly Mary, because of her knowledge that her child was the Son of God, went about her daily duties with a deepened sense of importance. I imagine that each task, no matter how mundane, took on a profound spiritual significance.

We don’t have the advantage of caring for Jesus incarnate, but Jesus IS present in all of us. If we remind ourselves of that, performing mundane tasks to care for others can take on a sacramental dimension, adding great worth.

In The Authentic Catholic Woman Genevieve Kineke suggests that Holy Mother Church is the best template for realizing our potential as authentic Catholic women (page 8, The Authentic Catholic Woman). It’s an image that applies to all women providing tangible means (the Sacraments) to help us. Born from the cross of Christ and containing over 2000 years of wisdom, the Church offers a unique opportunity to discern and use our God-given gifts.

In theory, I believe what Kineke is saying. The ideal model of the Church is a great model but the reality of the Church in our world is not so pretty. We are, after all, corrupted by our sinfulness and this corruption seeps into the Church as evidenced by the constant barrage of news stories. While some of what is reported could be regarded as slanted, some of it is sadly true. Ultimately, all of it contributes to one’s perception, and perception is what often wins out in the end.

We therefore need to divorce ourselves from those perceptions and remember the Ideal Church to understand why Kineke believes this is the best image for women to model themselves after.

The Church is called the bride of Christ since it brings Christ into the world, just as a mother bears a child. Again Mary is the perfect example. She received Christ through the Holy Spirit (becoming His bride), bore Him (becoming His mother), took care of Him and nurtured Him into manhood where He could then go out and complete His mission.

We are fortunate in having the Church as a model because of the concrete examples  it provides for our  lives – the Sacraments.

In my next post I will get into specifics on how mirroring the Sacraments can give us the life that Mary experienced as she cared for Jesus.

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Links to all posts in this 11 part series

Part 1: Discovering the beauty of woman through the eyes of God – a multi-part series

Part 2: The beauty of a Godly woman – learning to say “Yes.”

Part 3: What makes a beautiful Godly woman – Holiness.

Part 4: What makes a beautiful Godly woman? The way of beauty

Part 5: What makes a beautiful Godly woman? Modeling ourselves after Holy Mother Church

Part 6: Beautiful Godly woman – living sacramentally

Part 7: Beautiful Godly woman – hospitality

Part 8: Becoming a beautiful Godly woman – how meal times can become a beautiful sacramental expression

Part 9: A beautiful Godly woman is an agent of reconciliation

Part 10: beautiful Godly woman – the gift of healing

Part 11: Conclusion – Becoming a beautiful Godly woman – the journey is just beginning

 

“Loving God . . . Loving Neighbor: A Lenten Transformation” Retreat Wrap-up

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

This past weekend (March 11-13), my partner Ann Wagstaff and I had the privilege of presenting to a group of extraordinary women at the Vita Nova Women’s retreat at the Barbara C. Harris Center in Greenfield, NH. The weekend exceeded our wildest expectations! The spirit of fraternity, affection and fellowship coupled with a real move of the Holy Spirit made it a weekend we all will remember for a long time to come.

Here are pictures from the weekend, and below the pictures, a description of what went on (including one of the talks that you can download).

Prayers for Detachment; time for reconciliation

After settling in on Friday, Ann and I led a prayer to help the women detach from their cares and focus solely on God. Music, prayers, candles and sweet scents lifted hearts to Heaven. Each woman wrote down their cares on a piece of paper – all the papers were put in a bag that was attached to mylar balloons that would lift the bag up to the ceiling!

After the prayer, everyone went to the Sacrament of Reconciliation with 3 wonderful priests, setting the tone for a Spirit-filled weekend.

Prayer

Prayer was a central part of the retreat – the Sung Rosary was done throughout the day using a Power Point presentation with images, scripture and the music of the Sung Rosary. Here’s a sample:

Loving God . . .

On Saturday morning, the presentations began. The theme of the retreat was the Two Great Commandments, based on Mark 12:28-34 – loving God, and loving neighbor.  A strong emphasis was placed upon priorities – how important it is to love God first and allowing that growing relationship to spill over into loving your neighbor. I shared teaching  on why loving God first was so important in my talk on Martha and Mary (read the text of the talk here), and Ann proceeded to share from her life about her struggles to balance between being a Martha and a Mary, and how she is becoming a “contemplative in action.”

I then spoke about how service happens through an outpouring of grace resulting from loving God, and how that grace can equip us for difficult service (in my case, helping to care for my dying mother).

The morning session concluded with an Emmaus walk, where the women, after hearing the scripture about the disciples’ encounter with Jesus at Emmaus, were instructed to take their own individual walk around the grounds as the disciples did, conversing and listening to Jesus.

Time of  Fellowship

Mealtimes at the dining hall were a highpoint as the food was so well prepared, and everyone was so warm and friendly. There was an extraordinary move of the Spirit through all the women which created a wonderful atmosphere of fellowship. It was a taste of Heaven.

Loving Neighbor . . .

The afternoon session focused on loving our neighbor by discovering and developing our natural talents and gifts, and then becoming aware of and praying for the spiritual gifts (based on scripture from 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12 and Ephesians 4) . Ann and I gave a talk tracing our time lines to see what talents and gifts kept appearing throughout our lifetimes as a way of identifying what we do well (I also traced my husband’s interesting time line which led to his vocation as a deacon). I also spoke on what I termed “hidden gifts”  – those things such as being hospitable, being a good listener, or being a good caregiver – talents our society does not value but God does.  Each woman took a written survey to dig deeper into their own gifts and talents, and small group discussion followed sharing what they found out.

The scripture on the parable of the talents from Matthew 25:14-30 set the stage for a talk on the responsibilities we have to use our gifts to serve others. Blessed Mother Teresa was held up as the best modern example of a woman who used her immense gifts to help the poorest of the poor and that her ‘secret’ to her success what that it was all for Jesus. She had a unique talent for seeing Christ in every person she saw. I shared my song about Mother Teresa, “Teach Me to Love” (click here to listen).

Afterwards, the women gathered in small groups where they read sayings from Mother Teresa about service and applied them to their lives. The work they did produced some wonderful ideas – I took pictures of all the work they did so you can see for yourself and perhaps apply them to your life:

A beautiful meditation of the Stations of the Cross (a Power Point presentation with narration) was presented in the evening.

Blessing of the Hands

Sunday morning we were treated to a beautiful mass by Father Benedict of the Franciscans of the Primitive Order out of Lawrence, MA. Afterwards, we gathered back in the gym for our sending forth ceremony known as the Blessing of the Hands. Father blessed the water and the bowl was passed around from woman to woman; each woman dipped a finger in the water and did a sign of the cross in the hand of the woman next to her as a litany was read.  Eventually the litany was opened up and women shared their own blessings. It was a very moving ceremony with many tears shed. The ceremony strongly demonstrated the spirit of love and fellowship that bound together these new friends.

More information on Vita Nova

Ann and I were delighted and honored to have been a part of this event. The Vita Nova team (all volunteer), led by Rose Marie Cussom and Shannon Best were extraordinary in their efforts; their support made it possible for Ann and I to focus solely on the content and presentation of the material. I can’t rave about the team enough! Vita Nova is holding other events – be sure and check out their website for more information.

A beautiful church, a wonderful homily, a heavenly liturgy

Monday, January 17th, 2011

I had the privilege of attending liturgy at St. Marie Church in Manchester, NH, the home parish of many members of  Vita Nova, the organization running the women’s retreat that my partner, Ann Wagstaff, I will be leading the weekend of March 11-13. Ann and I were invited to mass at St. Marie’s so we could worship with the retreat team before we had our meeting about the upcoming retreat.

I looked forward to the prospect of attending mass with these wonderful women but I had no idea just how beautiful St. Marie’s was, and I was pleasantly surprised and quite fascinated by the story of this magnificent cathedral, and its phoenix-like rising from the ashes of disrepair and a dying congregation.

This is a church that has been lovingly restored, both physically and spiritually. Approximately 27 years ago, a young 33 year priest was assigned to a dying French parish in the midst of of the city of Manchester. The church building was in desperate need of repair, but the congregation needed a much deeper healing. According to the stories I heard that Sunday, this young paced the altar in the empty church, begging God for an answer and he received a rather unusual answer: hire an evangelist. An evangelist? Where would the money come from? But following the example of Mary, the priest said yes and proceeded to secure the funds. A few days after saying yes to God, a parishioner came forward with a donation for $20,000. The priest was off and running! He hired an evangelist and the two of them gave presentations and conferences to the local area, teaching and sharing the faith. The parish community began to grow.

The priest then made another bold decision: he discontinued the practice of bingo, their largest source of funds. That occurred many years ago and today the parish is thriving. Over the years, the congregation grew in faith and numbers and today, St. Marie’s is as beautiful and healthy inside as it is on the outside.

This pastor has since been transferred after 27 years of faithful service The current pastor,  Fr. Moe, gave a beautiful homily based on the Gospel story of John the Baptist, recognizing Jesus as the Christ, and crying out that He was the Lamb of  God. In the homily Father spoke of references to the Lamb of God in the old and new testaments, concluding with the Book of Revelation where the 4 creatures are worshipping God on the throne by crying out, “Holy, holy, holy!” Fr. Moe spoke of the eternal liturgy taking place in heaven and how every earthly liturgy is connected with that heavenly one. In essence, we we were worshipping God with the saints, the angels and the heavenly hosts. As I heard Father Moe’s words and gazed upon the magnificent altar of St. Marie’s, it was easy to be transported straight to heaven, and imagine the heavenly Father, Son and Holy Spirit on the throne. When you look at this slide show I’ve prepared, I think you’ll see why.

A healing miracle has occurred for me since visiting this beautiful church and soon I will post about it. Stay tuned . . .

In the meantime, enjoy the slides of this lovely cathedral.

[cincopa AoKAKaqlifBt]

I’ve already received what I want for Christmas

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Lately two dear friends have been on my mind. They both love God passionately and serve Him earnestly through their service of others. Yet their methods of service couldn’t be more opposite, and it shows the beauty and diversity of our God, and how His light shines brightly in so many different ways.

One friend serves the youth of our parish. She coordinates service projects, retreats, social outings . . . every week in the bulletin I see yet another opportunity for young people to engage with God in our parish. Her heart is as big as Texas, so warm and caring, and the kids see that. They also see (as I and many others do) this lady’s tireless efforts on behalf of Haiti. She has been involved with relief efforts in Haiti for years, spearheading fund raising for a new hospital, sending food and necessities to orphans, and even visiting Haiti on several occasions on mission trips. This year her entire family will join her on such a trip, on December 23. I am dumbfounded at her energy and commitment, especially as the needs in Haiti are so dire that just contemplating them for a moment totally overwhelms me. How brightly the light of Christ shines through her!

My other dear friend is home bound with a debilitating illness. Her love of God is equally strong and her light equally bright. Her service is in the form of prayer, meditating on God throughout the day and into the night, and praying for family and friends. She is a front line prayer warrior. She suffers in silence from her disease. But in the spirit of St. Therese The Little Flower and Mother Teresa, my friend works hard to put on a smile and a brave face, keeping her complaints to a minimum, and loving her friends with a sacrificial love that astounds me. Her sacrifices may seem small when in fact they are huge – going out to lunch with friends even though she feels ill enough to stay in bed all day; going on trips in the car with her companion even though riding in a car aggravates her condition; writing letters and Christmas cards even though her head is spinning. Her top priority is to treat people with kindness and focus on their needs even though she could so easily become self absorbed in her own.

The friend who serves the young people of our parish and the poor in Haiti challenged me to ask God for direction as to how I should serve. I felt like I needed to be ‘out there’ more, like my friend, putting myself out on the line. So far His answer has been to remember her, to bolster her in prayer as often as I could, and to remain alert and awake for opportunities. The home bound friend reminds me that kindness to even one person is what Jesus commanded us to do, for the image of God is in all of us. Kindness can be expressed in large ways, such as the service of my Haiti friend, or it can take a very small, humble, nearly invisible form, such as with my home bound friend.

Both forms of service are equally powerful, shining the light of Christ into our dark world, and both examples teach me so much about Christ and the spiritual life.

I don’t need any other presents this Christmas. Having these two special friends in my life gives me spiritual presents that could fill my house to overflowing. I only hope that I can begin to give to them what they have given to me.

Making the most of our gifts

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

Readings for today
Revelation 4:1-11; Psalm 150:1-6; Luke 19:11-28

It was interesting that today’s Gospel reading from Luke addressed the parable of the talents (or pounds). In the story, a nobleman who was hated by his people because he was deemed harsh and unjust, leaves for a far-off country and assigns his slaves to handle his money, hoping they will increase it through trade. When he returns, he finds that most have done their bidding (and they were handsomely rewarded for their work) while one, in fear, hid away his talent and did nothing. And he had even that one talent taken away from him.

I’ve been a singer most of my life, most of the time devoting my singing to church. What was interesting about coming across this Gospel today was that just last night, I told my spiritual mother about regrets I had about not properly developing my singing ability. I described my lack of commitment to formal vocal training, exercising my voice, and keeping it in good health. I always found excuses – lessons cost too much, no time because of the kids, etc. Now in my mid 50s, the voice is showing weakness, weakness that I think could have been handled better with disciplined practice and proper training. I suppose it’s never too late the make the most of what is left, but I know did not use my gift from God to its full potential.

I also regret that I did not force myself to learn how to sight read, and learn the language of music. That would have helped so much!

I believe that fidelity was required here – a firm commitment to take on the responsibility of my gift. It’s not that I totally squandered it, and I did develop other aspects of my gift, most especially in learning how to choose proper music for liturgy (though there’s still plenty to learn in that area for sure!). And I believe I have learned to pray as I sing and that people sense that when they hear me.

I’ve spent a lot of time here talking about me. What I really want to get across here is our responsibility towards our gifts, to discern them, and to use them, to the best of our ability. Because, before you know it, that gift could be taken away! Tomorrow I could wake up with no voice at all, and I could forever lose my chance to make the most of a precious gift that God gave me.