Life-in-Christ

Knowing Christ & His Message through Scripture, the Catechism, & the Catholic Church

Francis & the Family: What does he have to say?

 From Pope Francis to Families:

In your journey as a family, you share so many beautiful moments: meals, rest, housework, leisure, prayer, trips and pilgrimages, and times of mutual support… Nevertheless, if there is no love then there is no joy, and authentic love comes to us from Jesus. He offers us his word, which illuminates our path; he gives us the Bread of life which sustains us on our journey.

 

 "Jesus Christ reveals the mystery and vocation of the family"

  Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
in you we contemplate
the splendor of true love,
to you we turn with trust.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
grant that our families too
may be places of communion and prayer,
authentic schools of the Gospel
and small domestic Churches.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
may families never again
experience violence, rejection and division:
may all who have been hurt or scandalized
find ready comfort and healing.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
may the approaching Synod of Bishops
make us once more mindful
of the sacredness and inviolability of the family,
and its beauty in God's plan.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
graciously hear our prayer. AMEN!

iS CHRIST PART OF YOUR FAMILY?

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Family: Important to God, to the Church, to Society, to each of us…

“As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.”

The above quote is from Pope John Paul II.  This quite nicely sums up how important the Church is in every sphere of our lives.

The Catholic Church, as well as other Christian & faith-based institutions have acknowledged this in a variety of ways throughout the years.

This year, the Catholic Church is placing special emphasis on the Family by holding a “Synod on the Family.” A Synod, is a gathering of peoples from all over the world (called together by the Pope), to discern a special area of concern.

Pope Francis states the purpose of this Synod on the Family this way: ” to undertake a true journey of discernment and adopt the necessary pastoral means to help families face their present challenges with the light and strength that comes from the gospel.”

I will share more on the importance of families over the next month.  However in the meantime, I leave with a prayer that we have all been encouraged to pray for both our families, and those seeking to assist our families.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
in you we contemplate
the splendor of true love,
to you we turn with trust.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
grant that our families too
may be places of communion and prayer,
authentic schools of the Gospel
and small domestic Churches.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
may families never again
experience violence, rejection and division:
may all who have been hurt or scandalized
find ready comfort and healing.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
may the approaching Synod of Bishops
make us once more mindful
of the sacredness and inviolability of the family,
and its beauty in God’s plan.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
graciously hear our prayer.

The Synod for the Family will take place in Rome from October 5-19, 2014.

http://usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/2014-2015-synods-of-bishops-on-the-family.cfm#prayer

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Let us celebrate the birth of the Virgin Mary; let us adore her son, Christ the Lord.

Let us proclaim the greatness of our Saviour who chose to be born of the Virgin Mary. Confident that he
will hear us, we ask:
Lord, may your mother pray for us.

Sun of justice, you showed your day was dawning in the immaculate Virgin Mary;
  help us to walk in the daylight of your presence.
Lord, may your mother pray for us.
Eternal Word, in the living flesh of Mary you found a dwelling place on earth;
  remain with us for ever in hearts free from sin.
Lord, may your mother pray for us.
Christ, our Saviour, you willed that your mother should be there when you died;
  through her intercession may we rejoice to share your suffering.
Lord, may your mother pray for us.
Loving Saviour, while hanging on the cross, you gave your mother Mary to be the mother of John;
  let us be known as her children by our way of living.
Lord, may your mother pray for us.
Lord God,
  the day of our salvation dawned when the Blessed Virgin gave birth to your Son.
As we celebrate her own nativity,
  grant us your grace and your peace.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
  who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
  one God, for ever and ever.
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Labor Day & Christians – a reflection

This past Monday, our country observed Labor Day. Celebrated on the first Monday of September, this holiday pays honor to the contributions and achievements of American workers.

This is a time that we set aside to acknowledge not only those who work, but the actual work they do to make society a better place. It is a time to reflect on how it takes all different types of workers and work to have a well-functioning society.

We honor policeman for enforcing the law. We honor firefighters for putting out fires. We honor doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers for taking care of people.

As Christians we are also called to labor and have an influence on society. What is it that Christians should be known for?  The answer, quite simply is we should be known for doing the work of Christ.

As we reflect on our lives and labors as Christians, I invite us to do so in light of the Vatican II documents, most specifically Lumen Gentium (Light of the Nations). This Dogmatic Constitution is rich in content:

CHAPTER OUTLINE OF LUMEN GENTIUM
1. The Mystery of the Church (1-8)
2. On the People of God (9-17)
3. On the Hierarchical Structure of the Church and In Particular on the Episcopate (18-29)
4. The Laity (30-38)
5. The Universal Call to Holiness in the Church (39-42)
6. The Religious (43-47)
7. The Eschatological Nature of the Pilgrim Church and Its Union with the Church in Heaven (48-51)
8. The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God in the Mystery of Christ and the Church (52- 69)

However, Chapter 2 “On the People of God,” and Chapter 5 “The Universal Call to Holiness,” offer great insight into the “work” of a Christian.

At all times and in every race God has given welcome to whosoever fears Him and does what is right.(85) God, however, does not make men holy and save them merely as individuals, without bond or link between one another. Rather has it pleased Him to bring men together as one people, a people which acknowledges Him in truth and serves Him in holiness(LG 9)…

Thus it is evident to everyone, that all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity; by this holiness as such a more human manner of living is promoted in this earthly society. In order that the faithful may reach this perfection, they must use their strength accordingly as they have received it, as a gift from Christ. They must follow in His footsteps and conform themselves to His image seeking the will of the Father in all things. They must devote themselves with all their being to the glory of God and the service of their neighbor. In this way, the holiness of the People of God will grow into an abundant harvest of good, as is admirably shown by the life of so many saints in Church history (LG 40).

As Christians, as laborers for Christ, there is much to be done to better society, but we don’t act or work alone. Jesus calls us to link our efforts together so that whatever our gifts and talents, if we are using them to give glory to God and serve our neighbor, then we will not only be doing our work, but we will be doing it well. For, if we are “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord,” then we know “that in the Lord (our) labor is not in vain” 1 Cor. 15:58.

How are you working to better society?

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Daddy, I need you…

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Mt.10:14

Children are such a great blessing, but with this great blessing also comes great responsibility! Speaking only from my personal experience and conversations with my own friends and co-workers (the majority who are women/mothers) – women tend to think about & worry about this responsibility and how all those “little moments” can be teachable & future shaping moments.

Women also tend to be able to focus on how all the daily events are forming and transforming who these little blessings are becoming. Dad’s can and do, as well. Although, at times, their approach may be different.

Click on image for a video meditation.

In the cited article below, Dr. Meg Meeker, MD focuses on the father/son relationship. However, the majority of what is said can certainly also be applied to the father/daughter relationship.

Today, natural, healthy boyhood is under attack.

It is threatened not only by an educational establishment that devalues masculinity and boyishness, and not only by widely remarked social changes including widespread divorce and the rise of single-parent households that deprive boys of the responsible fathers they need, but by a noxious popular culture that is as degrading to boys as it is dangerous to girls.

As parents, we know that boyhood has been changing—for the worse. We want our boys to build tree forts and bear traps, not shoot aliens in video games. We remember when boys use to go trout fishing, sit under a tree while daydreaming about the future, and now we fear that our boys are cutting themselves off from us with iPods, earbuds, and computer porn.

Are our boys in trouble? If so, are they in more danger than past generations? Yes, and most definitely yes. But unlike some psychologists, sociologists, and educators, I believe that the troubles hurting our boys stem from three major sources:

  • Lack of close relationships with men (particularly fathers),
  • Lack of religious education, and
  • Aggressive exposure to a toxic media that teaches boys that the keys to a great life are sex, sex, and a bit more sex—and a whole lot of money and fame.

The good news is that we parents can turn this around. We must be willing to see that what our boys need isn’t simply more education, more prescriptions, more money, or more activities.

What they need is us. You and me. They need parents who are willing to take a good hard look at what their sons think and what they are doing. They need fathers who will embrace their sons and watch them with the eyes of a schooled hawk.

The foundations of any boy’s life is built on three things:

  1. His relationships with his parents,
  2. His relationship with God, and
  3. His relationship with his siblings and close friends.

If these three are strong, any boy can thrive in the midst of academic and athletic challenges, a toxic culture, and harmful peer pressure.

Fathers, think about the important role you play in your child’s life – there is nothing insignificant about you. Your child needs you. Mother’s are wonderful, but children need and will seek out a male role model — will it be you? Do you know what you child(ren) do all day? Who are their friends? Do they know how to pray? Do they know what you do all day? Do they know that you love them?

You work to provide and care for them – but they need more – they need you – time with you…

For more information/ resources:
http://www.megmeekermd.com/ The wisdom of a Pediatrician. The heart of a mother.
http://www.drray.com/ Dr. Ray Guarendi is the father of 10, clinical psychologist, author, public speaker and nationally syndicated radio host.

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Our hearts are restless, and will continue to be restless, until…

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of St. Augustine (August 28th): A short synopsis of his life is provided below (courtesy of The Catholic Encyclopedia).

As we celebrate his feast & his life, a question worth asking is “Why does someone who lived over 1800 years ago remain relevant for both disciples & non-disciples of Christ?”  The saints have a timeless wisdom that is often captured in some of their most poignant thoughts.  St. Augustine is no exception.  One of his most repeated thoughts is:

“Our hearts were made for You, O Lord, and they are restless until they rest in you.”

Meditation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UoW9m-67MME

We are made for God & it is for this reason that the Catechism of the Catholic Church begins with the Prologue titled: The Life of Man—To Know and Love God … “God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength…” (read more).

We need to ask ourselves daily – what are our hearts seeking after? If we start to feel agitated, discouraged, “unhappy,” perhaps it is because we are no longer resting in God; no longer seeking to know Him & to love Him.

Am I spending time with God?
Am I seeking to grow in my love for Him?
Am I seeking to know Him more deeply?
When am I “happiest” and most at peace?
How do I define “happiness”?
Whose voice do I listen most intently to – God’s or the culture & media?
At the end of my life, what will happen? Do I trust in God’s promise of eternal life, love, & happiness -with Him?

“FATHER,… this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” 1 Jn.17:3.

 

St Augustine of Hippo (354 – 430)
He was born in Thagaste in Africa of a Berber family. He was brought up a Christian but left the Church and embraced the Manichaean heresy, later seeing how nonsensical it was and becoming a Neoplatonist instead. He led a wild and dissolute youth. He took a concubine by whom he had a son, Adeodatus. He had a brilliant legal and acedemic career. At length, through the prayers of his mother, and the teaching of St Ambrose of Milan, he was converted back to Christanity. He was baptized in 387, shortly before his mother’s death. He returned home to Africa and led an ascetic life. He was elected Bishop of Hippo and spent 34 years looking after his flock, teaching them, strengthening them in the faith and protecting them strenuously against the errors of the time. He wrote an enormous number of works: the Office of Readings has many extracts from them. He was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Boniface VIII in 1308.  May we turn to St. Augustine today, and ask him to help us to see that God indeed made us – & we will only be truly at rest when we rest in Him (God).

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Eternal Life … Do we desire it?

A young man approached Jesus and said,
“Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?” Mt 19:16-22

For Reflection:

  • Read the entire Scripture passage: Mt 19:16-22
  • Listen: What is God saying to me?
  • What do I need to let go of?
  • Action: What does God want me to do?

 

August 20th: Feast of St. Bernard of Clairvaux –
St Bernard wrote numerous sermons, retreats & prayers including the “Memorare.”

Another famous and popular work of his is titled “On Loving God”
Click for Book Link
Click for MP3 Link

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Saint for our times…. St. Maximilian Kolbe

St Maximilian Kolbe (1894 – 1941)

He was born on 8 January 1894 in occupied Poland: he joined the Franciscans in Lwów in 1910, and was ordained eight years later, as his country became free and independent for the first time in over 120 years.
  He believed that the world was passing through a time of intense spiritual crisis, and that Christians must fight for the world’s salvation with all the means of modern communication. He founded a newspaper, and a sodality called the Knights of Mary Immaculate, which spread widely both in Poland and abroad.
  In 1927 he founded a community, a “city of Mary,” at Teresin: centred round the Franciscan friary, it attracted many lay people, and became self-supporting, publishing many periodicals and running its own radio station.
  In 1930 he went to Japan, studied Buddhism and Shintoism, and through the Japanese edition of his newspaper spread the Christian message in a way that was in harmony with Japanese culture. In Nagasaki, he set up a “Garden of the Immaculate,” which survived the atomic bomb.   He also travelled to Malabar and to Moscow, but was recalled to Poland in 1936 for reasons of health.  When the Germans invaded in 1939, the community at Teresin sheltered thousands of refugees, most of them Jews.
  In 1941 he was arrested and sent to the concentration camp at Auschwitz, where he helped and succoured the inmates. In August of that year a prisoner escaped, and in reprisal the authorities were choosing ten people to die by starvation. One of the men had a family, and Maximilian Kolbe offered to take his place. The offer was accepted, and he spent his last days comforting his fellow prisoners.
  The man he saved was present at his canonization.
Maximilian Kolbe’s martyrdom is the least important thing about him. We are none of us likely to find ourselves in a position to emulate his sacrifice, and speculation as to the heroic way in which we would have behaved in his place is a pernicious waste of time. What is important is that he acted the way he did because of who he was – or, rather, because of who he had become. It is because of who he had become that we revere him as a saint: he would have been a saint (though perhaps not canonized) even if he had not been martyred. And that process of becoming is something we can all emulate. We can all become people for whom doing the right thing is obvious, natural, and easy. It requires no heroism, no special gifts: just perseverance, and prayer. (Universalis: August 14)
The most deadly poison of our times is indifference. And this happens, although the praise of God should know no limits. Let us strive, therefore, to praise Him to the greatest extent of our powers.
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Families – standing strong together

Pope Francis recently addressed over 500,000 people at the opening of the 37th National Convocation of the “Renewal of the Spirit” in Rome. Speaking about families he noted:

Families are the domestic Church, where Jesus grows; he grows in the love of spouses, he grows in the lives of children.

That is why the enemy so often attacks the family. The devil does not want the family; he tries to destroy it, to make sure that there is no love there.

Family is the best place to progress - they allow for our imperfections, & love us anyway!

May the Lord bless families and strengthen them in this time of crisis when the devil is seeking to destroy them.

How is life in your family?

Is your home a place of safety & security – both physically & emotionally?

Is your home a place where mistakes can be made, but members still know they are loved?

Is God part of each day? Do all members know the love of Jesus, and that He is there for all of you – in good times and in bad – in plenty & in need?

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Lesson learned…

Let the children come to me…

 Psalm 51 (the great penitential Psalm) offers us a way to approach God when we have made mistakes…

Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness. * In your compassion blot out my offense. O wash me more and more from my guilt * and cleanse me from my sin.
My offenses truly I know them; * my sin is always before me. Against you, you alone, have I sinned; * what is evil in your sight I have done…

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

As I was praying this Psalm the other day, my mind went to an image of my son, Joshua, saying his nighttime prayers.

He usually starts his prayers with the sign of the cross, then prays the Our Father, a Hail Mary, the Glory Be, then the rest of his prayer time depends on how the “Spirit” is moving him. However, he always ends his prayers by telling Jesus that he is sorry for all the bad choices he has made that day (together we try to come up with 1 or 2 specific examples-depending on the kind of day he has had); he tells Jesus what he is thankful for (this comes much easier; then, tells Jesus good-night & that he loves Him.

Joshua’s prayers are quite simple, but right on target. I am not saying they are perfect, but I think as adults, we can certainly learn from his style. Let me offer a few reflective questions for your, and my own use:

  1. Do I pray every night before I go to sleep?
  2. Do I make an act of contrition – not just a rote memorization, but actually look back over the day & tell Jesus I am sorry for the “bad choices” I have made? Aren’t sins really the “adult” word for “bad choices?”
  3. Do I thank God for all the gifts and blessings of the day? There is always something to be thankful for…
  4. Do I have a personal relationship with Jesus? So much so, that it is natural for me to say “Goodnight” to Him?
  5. Again, do I have the kind of personal relationship with Jesus, that I am comfortable with and it is natural for me to tell Him that I love Him?

Yes, we can learn a lot from children. Often times the lessons we teach children are not meant for them alone. “Let the children come to me…for to such belongs the Kingdom of God!”

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M Crooks, Doctorate Pastoral Ministry: 2009-2012 http://xtnfamily.tumblr.com/