Life-in-Christ

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

Enlisting Witnesses for Jesus Christ…

“Catechists and Teachers are called…”

This year, the Church celebrates Catechetical Sunday on September 16, 2018, and will focus on the theme “Enlisting Witnesses for Jesus Christ.” Those whom the community has designated to serve as catechists will be called forth to be commissioned for their ministry. Catechetical Sunday is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the role that each person plays, by virtue of Baptism, in handing on the faith and being a witness to the Gospel. Catechetical Sunday is an opportunity for all to rededicate themselves to this mission as a community of faith.

Pope John Paul II reminds us in his Apostolic Exortation Catechesi Tradendae (On Catechesis in our Time) of our call to be witnesses:

Catechesis is likewise open to missionary dynamism. If catechesis is done well, Christians will be eager to bear witness to their faith, to hand it on to their children, to make it known to others, and to serve the human community in every way (#24).

Let us take time, then, to reflect on the Good News of Jesus Christ.  Whether we have “heard” it once or a hundred times, how are we handing on the Faith & being a witness to the Gospel?

By virtue of our – this is what we are called to do.  Are we doing it?

At Baptism, we receive God’s Divine Life.  We are given gifts to strengthen us and keep us united with Christ.  We are given the Holy Spirit.  Again, Pope John Paul II reminds us of this timeless truth in Catechesis in our Time, the Conclusion:

The Spirit is thus promised to the Church and to each Christian as a teacher within, who, in the secret of the conscience and the heart, makes one understand what one has heard but was not capable of grasping… Furthermore, the Spirit’s mission is also to transform the disciples into witnesses to Christ: “He will bear witness to me; and you also are witnesses (Jn 15:26-27).”

…the deep desire to understand better the Spirit’s action and to entrust oneself to Him more fully – at a time when “in the Church we are living an exceptionally favorable season of the Spirit,” as my predecessor Paul VI remarked in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi(132) – must bring about a catechetical awakening.

For “renewal in the Spirit” will be authentic and will have real fruitfulness in the Church, not so much according as it gives rise to extraordinary charisms, but according as it leads the greatest possible number of the faithful, as they travel their daily paths, to make a humble, patient and persevering effort to know the mystery of Christ better and better, and to bear witness to it .

I invoke on the catechizing Church this Spirit of the Father and the Son, and I beg Him to renew catechetical dynamism in the Church.

May we also invoke the Holy Spirit to renew us. May He renew us, and help us to be strong witnesses, so that by our witness (in word & action), we may enlist other witnesses.

The Cross of Christ…

September 14th:

Feast of The Exaltation of the Holy Cross

We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You because by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world!

The cross is Christ’s glory and triumph
Discourse of St Andrew of Crete:

We are celebrating the feast of the cross which drove away darkness and brought in the light. As we keep this feast, we are lifted up with the crucified Christ, leaving behind us earth and sin so that we may gain the things above. So great and outstanding a possession is the cross that he who wins it has won a treasure. Rightly could I call this treasure the fairest of all fair things and the costliest, in fact as well as in name, for on it and through it and for its sake the riches of salvation that had been lost were restored to us…

Had there been no cross, Christ could not have been crucified. Had there been no cross, life itself could not have been nailed to the tree. And if life had not been nailed to it, there would be no streams of immortality pouring from Christ’s side, blood and water for the world’s cleansing.
The cross is called Christ’s glory; it is saluted as his triumph. We recognise it as the cup he longed to drink and the climax of the sufferings he endured for our sake. As to the cross being Christ’s glory, listen to his words: Now is the Son of Man glorified, and in him God is glorified, and God will glorify him at once. And again: Father, glorify me with the glory I had with you before the world came to be. And once more: “Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.” Here he speaks of the glory that would accrue to him through the cross. And if you would understand that the cross is Christ’s triumph, hear what he himself also said: When I am lifted up, then I will draw all men to myself. Now you can see that the cross is Christ’s glory and triumph. It should also be our glory & triumph, but only if united with Jesus.

Where does the Cross fit in your life? Literally &/or Figuratively?

Do you wear this symbol of your Faith? How do you accept the Cross when it comes your way? Do you see the Cross & Christ together or is it just a plain symbol with no other meaning than life is now “rough?” As jewelry is it a nice design like so many others or does it mean something more to you? If it feels too heavy, turn to Jesus, He understands… it weighed Him down too. Be united with Christ & His Cross – in it is our life, our love, our salvation…

Lift high the Cross … Exalt the Cross of Christ!

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Making Decisions…

Each one of you has received a special grace, so, like good stewards responsible for all these different graces of God, put yourselves at the service of others. If you are a speaker, speak in words which seem to come from God; if you are a helper, help as though every action was done at God’s orders; so that in everything God may receive the glory, through Jesus Christ, since to him alone belong all glory and power for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:10-11

When making decisions, do you pray about your choices?
Do you seek to know God’s will? 

Sometimes decision making is about basic needs: safety, health (mental &/or physical). In order to truly know God’s will, one needs to be in a safe, peaceful place so that they can hear His voice.

Find someone who can lead you to that place…

Pray to the Holy Spirit:

 

click for meditation

In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths. Proverbs 3: 6

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Celebrating Mary’s Bday: Talking to her, asking for guidance…

Birth of Mary: September 8th

Let us proclaim the greatness of our Savior 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.
Today (9 months after we celebrate the Immaculate Conception) we celebrate the birth of Mary.  Let us take a few moments to talk to Mary. Let us ask her about her faith journey.  Let us ask for her guidance.  Let us thank her for her example & her help.
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.   Amen.
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Labor Day: A Call to Christians

On Monday, our country observes 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)…

Image result for christians working togetherThus 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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I have been blessed…

As we prepare to celebrate my daughter Regina’s birthday, I can’t help but think what an amazing blessing she is.  She came to us rather suddenly, and while we were not really planning on being parents to a 2nd child, I firmly believe that God had this in His plan from all eternity.  We are truly grateful!

As I continue to reflect on the “more” that she brings to us, I realize that sometimes our culture is looking for a different type of “more” that won’t bring the blessings a child brings.

Despite the highest standard of living in the history of humanity, we seem driven by an insatiable desire for more, better and faster. Just when we should feel most satisfied, we find ourselves bored and disillusioned. The problem is not that things are so bad, but that we have lost a gift called gratitude.

The Scriptures urge believers to maintain a spirit of thanksgiving in all circumstances. We do so not as a gift to God, but as a gift from God. He doesn’t need our thanks, but we desperately need reminders that we are created beings dependent upon our Maker. Giving thanks realigns our hearts with the apostle Paul’s expression of praise in his letter to the Romans: “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen” (11:36). Acknowledging God as the Source of all things frees us from the lie that we don’t need Him.

Unfortunately, we are born with a propensity toward greed, envy and other vices that foster discontent. Parents can help their children guard against that propensity by encouraging gratitude and explaining that we give thanks because it …

  • Makes us rich: The endless pursuit of more creates artificial poverty. The discipline of gratitude, by contrast, brings natural wealth by freeing us from the snare of comparisons and unrealistic expectations. It is impossible to be truly grateful and discontent at the same moment.
  • Cures our bent: According to Paul, contentment is a discipline we learn, not a feeling we experience. Remember, every one of us has a natural tendency toward discontent. That’s why we must remind one another to give thanks to the Source of our lives and livelihood.
  • Gives us joy: It has been said that the worst moment for an atheist is when he is really thankful and has no one to thank. A major part of joy in life is expressing gratitude to the One who meets our needs. Like helium fills a deflated balloon and lifts it to the heavens, thankfulness connects our spirits to the Source of all joy.
  • For Family Activities & Additional Scripture verses click here…

Psalm 100:1-5
Philippians 4:4-12
Colossians 3:15-17
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Hebrews 12:28

Image result for my children are my greatest blessings

Thank you Jesus for the gift of my children.

 

1) What are you grateful for? (List or elaborate on one thing.)

2) Do you make it a practice to reflect daily on the blessings that God has given you, and thank Him?

3) As a family, What are ways we can express thankfulness to God each day this week?

 

Short reflection adapted from ThrivingFamily.com

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When your faith is battered & bruised…

“My Faith can’t be shaken!” I have to say, this statement stImage result for my faith will not be shakenrikes me as completely ridiculous, and a recipe for losing your Faith entirely. While it is a nice sentiment, one has only to have been a Christian or a member of the Church for a short time to realize your Faith will be shaken. It will be shaken, tested, bruised, battered …. I could go on and on

We are disciples of Christ. His Faith was tested, as was that of His disciples: Jesus was tested for 40 days in the desert (Mt 4:1-11), The Apostles were tested on the Sea of Galilee (Mt. 8:23-27), & Peter was particularly targeted: “Then the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for you that your faith fail not: and when you are converted, strengthen your brethren.” (Luke 22:31-32).

We will see and read things like the following:

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, from the College of Cardinals, ordering him to a “life of prayer and penance” after allegations that the cardinal sexually abused minors and adult seminarians over the course of decades…July 28, 2018 (NY Times).

Bishops and other leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Pennsylvania covered up child sexual abuse by more than 300 priests over a period of 70 years, persuading victims not to report the abuse and law enforcement not to investigate it, according to a searing report issued by a grand jury on Tuesday.Bishops and other leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Pennsylvania covered up child sexual abuse by more than 300 priests over a period of 70 years, persuading victims not to report the abuse and law enforcement not to investigate it, according to a searing report issued by a grand jury on Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Perhaps, these don’t shake your Faith. Maybe a different scandal or poor judgment on the part of our Faith leaders will. Possibly, it will take a series of such things to shake your Faith – or some other betrayal by a person close to you.

Regardless, your Faith at some point will be shaken. “In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1Pt 1:6-7).

You may not feel like rejoicing, but you should be prepared!

What to do…What not to do:

  1. Do Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. You are called to follow Him. Image result for keep your eyes on JesusWhile our Priests, Ministers, & Fellow Christians are suppose to be guiding us on our Faith journey – Jesus in union with the Father & the Holy Spirit, should be our focus.
  2. Do pray daily. Find a prayer schedule that works for you & stick with it. Once you establish a rhythm of prayer & a comfort in listening and talking with God and His angels & saints – it will be hard to break that rhythm – even when the unexpected occurs.
  3. Do attend Mass every week.
    1. This support of the Christian community should lift you up – even if it is only to know that there are other believers trying to be Faithful to Christ & His Teachings.
    2. More importantly – Jesus is truly present – to feed you & strengthen you. This is done by His Word in Scripture & His Body and Blood in the Eucharist.
  4. Do Spiritual Reading regularly. There is such a richness in this area – to suit any mood or situation, beginning first and foremost with Scripture. In addition, there are writings of the Saints, current Spiritual and Christian writers…
  5. Do surround yourself with fellow believers. It is important to have friends who not only believe, but are earnestly trying to live the Christian life/the Catholic Christian life. Having someone to talk to who understands your perspective and encourages you to be faithful is important.
  6. Don’t let emotion be your guide.

    Yes, He Does.

    1. The Faith journey can be an emotional journey. It should, however, be also a journey of the mind & reason. Before making impulsive, emotional decisions – ones made out of frustration, anger, sadness… stop, think, seek guidance.
    2. Our Faith in Christ must include a strong love component. Love is also of the mind & heart. Faith & Love need to make sure that the mind is reminding and assisting the heart and emotions in any decision.
  7. Don’t be guided by the media or strong public opinion. Christ has left us a road map. We have the Church, the Catechism given by the Church, Scripture, & Tradition. Know what it is you believe & why.
  8. Don’t put your Faith so intensely in people that when they fail or fall down on their Faith journey that you fall with them. (CCC 827)
  9. Don’t think you are exempt from sin, failure, & shortcomings.
    1. Do use this as an opportunity to seek forgiveness (Sacrament of Confession) & rise again to continue on the journey with & to Christ.
  10. Do be realistic. Jesus told us we would be tested & tried and persecuted… “In fact, all who want to live religiously in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. But wicked people and charlatans will go from bad to worse, deceivers and deceived. But you, remain faithful to what you have learned and believed, because you know from whom you learned it”(2 Tim 3:12-14).
    1. This is embarrassing. It is shameful.  Depending on what is shaking your faith, you may want to hide, or avoid people.  This may work for a short time, but only if it is allowing you to stabilize and prepare yourself for remarks and comments that further shake your confidence.  Be prepared with short comments such as: “This is terrible, but not everyone is like this.” “Yes, this is truly an injustice.  Thank God, we now have, & will continue to strengthen our policies and processes so this will not happen again.” 

 

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Tempted to give up? Addressing the spiritual, physical, & emotional…

Elijah “went a day’s journey into the desert.” –1 Kings 19:4

Many of you are quoting Elijah the prophet by gasping: “This is enough, O Lord!” (1 Kgs 19:4) You can’t stand the thought of going on with your parish work, marriage, job, or Image result for i can't go on quoteseven life. You want to roll over and play dead. You are “burnt out.” You are in good company because Elijah, known for “playing with fire” (see Sir 48:1, 3), eventually became “burnt out” himself.

Image result for encouraging bible versesGod intervened by sending an angel to command Elijah to “get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!” (1 Kgs 19:7) We also must get up and eat or our ministry, marriage, or trial will be too long for us. We must wake up and eat the daily bread of God’s Word and Holy Communion. “Not on bread alone is man to live but on every utterance that comes from the mouth of God” (Mt 4:4). Image result for power of the EucharistUnless we eat Jesus’ flesh and drink His blood, we have no life in us (Jn 6:53). Unless we accept God’s grace for much more daily prayer and Bible reading, we will find life too long, fall into depression, and just “go through the motions.” Unless we celebrate Mass and receive Communion as often as possible (even daily), we won’t “have what it takes” to minister, parent, evangelize, suffer, or love. We will “burn out” unless our hearts burn in hearing God’s Word and breaking His bread (see Lk 24:31-32).  Taken from One Bread, One Body

Image result for John 6 - eucharist

 

Are you tired?  Do you feel like giving up? Have you turned to Jesus?  Have you sought His strength in the Eucharist?

When you are tempted to give up… on life, on marriage, on work, on family, on friends… turn to Jesus -Ask Him to ignite the fire of Faith, of Hope, of Love within you….Addressing the spiritual is powerful, but you must also address the physical and emotional components of your struggle.

  • Is there a physical component that needs addressed?  When was the last time you went to the doctor for a physical, for blood work, for age-appropriate tests?
    • Are you eating properly? Are you getting enough sleep? Are you exercising?
  • Is there an emotional component that needs addressed? If you feel like giving up, or you feel alone, then there certainly is an emotional component.
    • Is there someone you can talk to who will be able to listen objectively, help you develop a plan to help you emotionally, and keep you accountable?
    • This needs to be someone who has similar faith beliefs, who is known for sound judgment.  A family member may not be the best choice.

God wants to be your strength.  He wants you to be whole and filled with peace.  Visit Him, talk to Him, but then also do everything else that you can do to help you spiritually, physically, & emotionally.

Come Holy Spirit, fill us with your peace, love, & healing.

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Guiding our children (& others) in the right direction

When the whole world is running towards a cliff, he who is running in the opposite direction appears to have lost his mind.

—CS Lewis

 

Image result for the teaching of scripture

 

3 Key sources for teaching & guiding our children:

1. Scripture

Image result for 2 Timothy 3:16

Introduce your children to the Bible at an early age.  There are many children’s Bibles, teen Bibles, and study Bibles.  Let them see you reading, studying, & praying the Bible. Let the know that not only is it a good guide book, but it is also a love story from God Himself.  It is a story of our salvation, and yet, so much more.  It can bring us consolation & comfort when we are lost and uncertain.

2. The Catechism

Image result for catechism of the catholic church

On the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church by John Paul II, he wrote: GUARDING THE DEPOSIT OF FAITH IS THE MISSION WHICH THE LORD ENTRUSTED TO HIS CHURCH, and which she fulfills in every age… The Catechism of the Catholic Church … is a statement of the Church’s faith and of catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition and the Church’s Magisterium. I declare it to be a sure norm for teaching the faith and thus a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion. May it serve the renewal to which the Holy Spirit ceaselessly calls the Church of God, the Body of Christ, on her pilgrimage to the undiminished light of the Kingdom!

No matter what age our children are, they will have questions about choices to make.  The Catechism can help guide them in those choices.  It can provide other sources to help them search and explore some of life’s toughest questions.  Let them know that this great source book exists.  Sometimes our children will want to question & explore on some of these things on their own.  How great to have a book like this readily available at home.  Practice using it in front of them.  If they ask questions about the Faith, or moral issues, don’t hesitate to say, “Why don’t we look that up in the Catechism…”

3. Example

Image result for kids will follow your example

Oh yes, example!  The most obvious, but one we often forget about… We might think our children aren’t paying attention to us, or think we are “uncool,” or out of touch, but just wait, all the sudden, they will say or do something, & that alarm will go off in your head:”That’s  me talking!”  As parents, we do have an influence.  Let’s try to make sure we are modeling the behavior, actions, choices we want our children to imitate.

Come Holy Spirit, help us to guide our children & all those we meet along the path of true Life, Love, & Happiness!

Image result for come holy spirit

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Freedom, Saints, & Us…

Comfort in tribulation can be secured only on the sure ground of faith – holding as true the words of Scripture and the teaching of the Catholic Church.  – St. Thomas More

As we celebrate our country’s birth & Freedom, how important is God?

 

Image result for st thomas more

St. Thomas More (1478-1535)
Thomas was a friend of King Henry VIII and the Lord Chancellor of England–a position of power second only to the king. When the king sought a divorce and declared himself the head of the Church in England, Thomas opposed him and resigned. He was imprisoned in the Tower of London and martyred.
One of his more famous sayings, & a poignant reminder for those of us seeking to following Christ & His teachings: The things, good Lord, that I pray for, give me thy grace to labour for. Amen.Image result for st thomas more

Every time and every culture presents its own difficult choices, either for or against, our beliefs & decision as Christians to follow Christ.  This is why the Church holds up for us saints & martyrs — they serve as an inspiration and guide for us.  Although the path to Eternal Life, Love, & Happiness is difficult – many others have traveled the path, and are now where we hope one to be as well.

Let us look to these holy men and women, so that at the end of our days we may be able to say with them: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  2 Timothy 4:7

Are there things occurring today in our culture that you make you face difficult choices? Choices that are opposed to your beliefs?  What do you do?  Do you understand the root of why Christianity may say something is wrong that our culture says is right and good?  Take time to learn about your faith; to learn about Christ and His teachings; to learn about true freedom.

 

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M Crooks, Doctorate Pastoral Ministry: 2009-2018