What a wonderful way to start the day by remembering Angela Merici. She was a very special lady that lived in the 16th century. She was born in Italy and was orphaned at an early age and was sent to live with her uncle. When she turned 20, she moved back to her hometown of Desenzeno where she gathered her first group of girls and taught them the Catechism. Angela was the first woman to do such a thing. Later she founded a group of virgins called the Company of Saint Ursula in 1536. Why is this important? Because, one of my daughters, the one that is in charge of this blog site, attended an Ursuline college in Owensboro, KY. Instead of catechizing girls, she and her husband are forming their four little boys to be saints.
Angela Merici must have read today’s Gospel since she was passionate about teaching the girls the Good News and the teachings of the Church. She also believed that the person receiving catechesis should be shown interest, gentleness, and persuasiveness rather than force. She believed that the home is the best place to learn about God and the Church. She also believed that if the country was not doing well, then the family was not doing well. Wow, how true!
Jesus admits that he holds back the mysteries of God from those who do not follow him. How best to follow him than to be taught at a young age the Word of God in Bible stories and teachings of the Church? What about us adults? Is just going to church on Sunday enough to receive some answers about the mysteries of God? I feel The Lord is asking for more, much more. This last year has been clouded by what we have been asked to do because of COVID-19. We have discovered that being cooped up for months has not been good for our spiritual, mental and physical health. I have been surprised at how much it has affected me. I am a social kind of guy. Not seeing my friends and neighbors on a regular basis has had a negative effect on me. It seems to have stolen some of my joy. It made me realize that my real joy comes from the Lord. I wish I would have done a better job at filling that non-social time with more prayer to deepen my love and relationship with the Lord. I am attempting to do that now.
Now, back to children. I have always been amazed by how children are like sponges, eager to hear about Jesus. If you have young children and have been negligent in reading books to them, try this: grab a book written for children that has a Bible story in it. You will have to multitask for this. Read this story slowly and with some emotion and try to catch glimpses of the child’s face as you are reading. You will be amazed at what you see in that child’s face. You will receive a great gift and so will the child.
Also, today is my wife’s birthday. If you can, please lift up a prayer for her, she will love the grace!
Deacon Dan Schneider is a retired general manager of industrial distributors. He and his wife Vicki recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. They are the parents of eight children and twenty-nine grandchildren. He has a degree in Family Life Education from Spring Arbor University. He was ordained a Permanent Deacon in 2002. He has a passion for working with engaged and married couples and his main ministry has been preparing couples for marriage.
Featured Image Credit: Dimitri Conejo Sanz, https://www.cathopic.com/photo/376-nino-con-biblia-
Families are messy. From the outside, a family can appear ideal but underneath it all, every family, even the one that seems perfect, has issues by virtue of the fact that all families are comprised of humans and we are a messy bunch.
It seems every family I know has that one person who creates drama or that one who is quite different from the others. A large family can absorb this and still function well; a smaller family feels the ripples of the sheep who doesn’t fit well with the rest of the flock. To be fair, the friends of that sheep probably feel bad for that sheep being subjected to such a family and wonder how that sheep made it through so well. Messy.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus declares that whoever does the will of God is his brother, sister, and mother (Mk 3:35). This is good news! We are invited into the greatest of all families – God’s family. And while it is filled with some rogue sheep, it’s okay because God is our Father, Mary is our mother, and Jesus is our brother. Here in this family we are beloved daughters and sons. We are wanted. We are valued. We are adored.
God created each of us with intention and purpose and he has a plan that includes us. In this family we don’t need to worry about being hurt or forgotten. Many of us have been hurt by our earthly families. Our sinful nature causes us to wound those we love. Perhaps you have a parent who was abusive, withheld love or was overly critical. Perhaps you have a sibling with whom you fought and had a competitive relationship.
This lived experience of family can make it hard to trust God’s family and your place in it. If your relationship with your earthly father was strained, it could be hard to accept that God the Father isn’t the same. If your earthly mother was judgmental, it can be difficult to imagine Mary opening her mantle for you and interceding on your behalf. But, God is the perfect father who loves without limits. He is love and he created us in love. Mary is the perfect mother who desires to point you toward her Son, Jesus, the brother who doesn’t break your stuff or tattle on you.
These things are truths. They may be hard to grasp and accept but if you take them to prayer and tell your Heavenly Father what is difficult for you, he will help you open your heart to your valued place in his family.
Merridith Frediani’s perfect day includes prayer, writing, unrushed morning coffee, reading, tending to dahlias, and playing Sheepshead with her husband and three kids. She loves finding God in the silly and ordinary. She writes for Ascension Press, Catholic Mom, and her local Catholic Herald in Milwaukee. Her first book Draw Close to Jesus: A Woman’s Guide to Eucharistic Adoration is expected to be released summer 2021. You can reach her at email@example.com
Feature Image Credit: Carlos Daniel, https://www.cathopic.com/photo/12658-alegria-familia
One of my favorite images of the Conversion of St. Paul is found in the Apostolic Palace and is pictured here. It was painted by Michelangelo between 1542 and 1546. January 25 is a big deal for us Daughters of St Paul. St Paul’s conversion is the only conversion celebrated liturgically and it is such a powerful day for us who try to live the experience of St Paul in intimate prayer and courageous evangelization. For this to happen in our own lives, we too need to go through a Damascus event as did Paul.
At the center of our spirituality is Christ, and his desire to possess us entirely. Every thought pattern and attitude and tendency of our personality. Every desire, preference, behavior…. Everything without exception. This is quite different from making New Year’s resolutions at the beginning of January! In the Conversion of St. Paul it is Christ who comes to meet Paul where he is, in his frailty (although Paul thought he was someone important doing something significant).
There are several aspects of this painting of St. Paul’s conversion by Michelangelo which attract me very deeply. At the top of the image, which doesn’t appear here, is the person of Christ reaching down to Paul through a column of light. There are many people milling around in this image, but Paul is clearly the one who is addressed by Jesus. And Paul is the one who must take responsibility, take the risk, and answer. Isn’t it that way with us, in our unique call from the Lord?
Another aspect of this image which attracts me is the way Paul is almost held by one of the characters in the image. The circular image that is created by the arms of the person reaching down to him, as well as the position of Paul’s body, is almost soft, receptive, intimate. This is not Caravaggio’s strong blinded Paul fallen from his horse. This is a Paul who is being drawn into the mystery of God’s plan for his life and the way God will use Paul to announce the Gospel to the world. It was absolutely moving for me to pray in front of this painting in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican a couple of years ago, and to see on the other side of the chapel the depiction of the crucifixion of St. Peter. Two men who were flawed and frail and human who allowed God to do with them all that he desired.
This is what God desires for you and me. We too have our Damascus events. They aren’t as stunning as what we call the conversion of St. Paul, but they can be nonetheless life-changing. I include here a prayer of our community which reflects on the challenge of our own Damascus events.
Light and darkness,
sight and blindness,
power and weakness,
control and surrender.
The “Damascus event” in Paul’s life is often played out in my own,
though in a less dramatic manner.
Lord Jesus, I meet you in so many ways:
sometimes in silence and prayer,
or by stumbling to the ground of my existence.
As I journey through the days of my life,
call out my name,
send me your dazzling light,
and take hold of me as you took hold of Paul.
Even when I kick against the goad,
even when I lack courage or when fatigue overtakes me,
even when I fall again or lose my way—
in all these moments I trust that you are with me
and that your grace is sufficient for me.
Like Paul, let me know how to be companioned by others,
allowing myself to be led by those who can point out the way to you.
Help me to be willing to listen to what you are saying to me through them.
As you sent Paul on mission, I ask that you send me forth,
to those persons with whom I am to share your Gospel.
Give me, like you gave Paul, the words and gestures
that will reveal your mercy to me,
and the love you bear for every person you have redeemed.
Kathryn James Hermes, FSP, is the author of the newly released title: Reclaim Regret: How God Heals Life’s Disappointments, by Pauline Books and Media. An author and spiritual mentor, she offers spiritual accompaniment for the contemporary Christian’s journey towards spiritual growth and inner healing. She is the director of My Sisters, where people can find spiritual accompaniment from the Daughters of St. Paul on their journey. Website: www.touchingthesunrise.com Public Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/srkathrynhermes/ For monthly spiritual journaling guides, weekly podcasts and over 50 conferences and retreat programs join my Patreon community: https://www.patreon.com/srkathryn.
Feature Image Credit: Michelangelo, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
In this Sunday’s readings, three particular lines stand out to me.
In the First Reading, “Teach me your ways, O Lord.” Too commonly do we rely on our own understanding, failing to place our trust in Him, particularly in the more difficult times. Yet even in the simpler tasks of day-to-day life, we can also forget to ask for His help and guidance. Can we take a moment now to reflect on this request, always trying to learn from our Lord, regardless of whether circumstances are easier or harder?
In the second, “The world in its present form is passing away.” Just prior, this passage speaks of those using the world as not using it fully. Or rather, I think we often again are too distracted by some parts of the world in place of others. In a recent Kindergarten science class, the discussion of the word “naturalistic” came up. The man-made advances of technology for example, often hide us from the beauty God has given us through nature. But more so is that we are distracted by even each other’s ways rather than God’s ways for us. We fear death and what is to come after this life. Why? For if we truly love God above all, shouldn’t we be ready to embrace our Father at any and all times?
Finally, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Jesus is the epitome of the Word and He evangelizes through the Disciples, sharing His message of love for all people. He asks us to do the same, though this again may be a formidable task for us if we are not truly dedicated to His teachings. Fear and distraction may often offset us from following His instruction in our current circumstances. May we pray for His guidance and strength to act as the Apostles did, having inspiration and living in the joy of His peace, which is all glorious and eternal.
Dr. Alexis Dallara-Marsh is a board-certified neurologist who practices in Bergen County, NJ. She is a wife to her best friend, Akeem, and a mother of two little ones on Earth and two others in heaven above.
Feature Image Credit: Aziz Acharki, https://unsplash.com/photos/9W0bzKnJxpA
In today’s reading from the Gospel of Mark, crowds of people surrounded Christ and His disciples. They approached Christ because they heard that He had healed many. They, too, wanted to be healed.
Imagine living during the time of Christ and seeing Him for real—in flesh and blood—hearing stories of the miracles He performed, and knowing in your heart that He could heal you. Imagine being so convinced that you felt compelled to follow Him.
In a sense, the people in Christ’s time almost had it easy. They saw His miracles and heard His teachings; they could not deny that He was the Son of God.
It’s harder for us 2,000 years later. We don’t get that firsthand account. We don’t get to be eyewitnesses. We close our eyes and can only imagine what it must have been like. We rely on stories. We rely on faith.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, today, crowds of people still chased after Christ because they knew and understood who He really is? Some do. Yet many in our secular society scoff at those who believe. They tell us we’re “nuts” or “crazy.” They don’t understand. And they certainly don’t know Christ like we do.
If they knew Him, they would run after Him as well.
But are we always like that crowd of people in Christ’s time? Do we so desperately seek Him that we run after Him no matter what? Or do we cautiously walk, unsure of what we have been taught, unsure of what we believe, and reticent to let the world know our beliefs?
Sometimes, when things get difficult, we may feel that Christ is not with us. But we must remain steadfast in the belief that He is always there. We must take steps to feel closer to Him. We pray unceasingly. We sit with Him in Adoration. We read His words.
Christ is our light and our hope. In this, we must have faith—a faith that impels us to run toward Him, even in dark times.
We may not be able to tangibly see or touch Him, but we must believe He will never leave us, for He loves us more than we can ever imagine.
So, the next time you feel like you are all alone, remember that Christ is our constant. He is the one thing we can always count on, no matter what. He is always waiting for us with outstretched arms.
He may not answer our prayers in the exact way that we want, and He may not take away our physical or mental ailments. But, if we ask, He will give the kind of healing that matters most—a spiritual healing. And that is the only reason we are here on earth.
Susan Ciancio has a BA in psychology and a BA in sociology from the University of Notre Dame, with an MA in liberal studies from Indiana University. For the past 17 years, she has worked as a professional editor and writer, editing both fiction and nonfiction books, magazine articles, blogs, educational lessons, professional materials and website content. Eleven of those years have been in the pro-life sector. Currently Susan freelances and writes weekly for HLI, edits for American Life League, and is the editor of Celebrate Life Magazine. She also serves as executive editor for the Culture of Life Studies Program-an educational nonprofit program for K-12 students.
Feature Image Credit: Fernando Pérez Lara, https://www.cathopic.com/photo/17768-jesus-sus-discipulos