Daily Prayer Reflection: Do we recognize our own poverty...?

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free. Luke 4:18

...or do we think we know it all? That question is at the core of whether or not we receive the Word of God and drink it in with passion. If we think we already know it all, then there is nothing to be gained by allowing the Gospel to mold us and shape us. There is no difference and no room for anything more from God. Even Jesus recognized that this would be the case with some, acknowledging that "no prophet is accepted in his own native place." When the Word of God conflicts with how we think life should be, aren't we truthfully tempted to make excuses?

Well, the writers of the Bible weren't familiar with other possibilities... (Isn't God the supreme Author and doesn't His knowledge encompass all infinite possibilities of what is and can be?)

Yes, but things in their day were very different and not as advanced... (Isn't the core of the Word always true? And didn't Jesus challenge the customs and authorities of his day?)

To live a gospel life is to live contrary to secular culture. To live a gospel life is to continue to die to ourselves each morning and to let Christ in more with each breath. As contrary as it is to modern thought to let another rule our lives, if we do not admit our own poverty, we can never obtain the saving grace our soul seeks, and we may never breathe that sigh of relief that comes with letting go and letting God do the work within us.

Daily Prayer Reflection: What does God find when he searches our hearts?

O Lord, you search me and you know me, you know my resting and my rising, you discern my purpose from afar...For it was you who created my being, knit me together in my mother's womb...Already you knew my soul, my body held no secret from you...O search me, God and know my heart. O test me and know my thoughts. See that I follow not the wrong path and lead me in the path of life eternal. Psalm 139

You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you, oh Lord. St. Augustine

Today marks the memorial of St. Augustine, perhaps one of the most dramatic conversion stories from the early years of our faith. He's been known for such quips as "Lord grant me chastity...only not yet." Now, whether or not he actually said those words, I think many of us can identify with the sentiment. Deep down, we know we were created to be holy and blameless. Yet we have this strange fear that if we live our lives according to God's design, we'll be boring sticks in the mud.

We have only to look at our own history to know that the path God chooses for us is rarely boring. In fact, we are most fully alive when we are living in the way that God intends for us to live. Jesus came to share that Good News with us "I have come so that you may have life and have it abundantly." Those are not words of wallflowers!

Today also marks the day that three young women in our area are entering the religious life. One of them shared a bit of her journey of discernment with us, sharing that she enters today filled with peace and joy, but that the journey has had its share of running away from God's plan. She is certainly not alone, and God doesn't have to be calling you to the religious life for us to go running. When God comes calling, what does he find in our hearts? A desire for the truly good life, or a desire to get to that later while we live in the world for a bit and have our "fun"?

Daily Prayer Reflection: Do we complain or pray?

Night and day we pray beyond measure to see you in person and to remedy the deficiencies of your faith. Now may God himself, our Father, and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you, so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones. 1 Thessalonians 3:10-13

"Night and day we pray..." Can you imagine the struggles of the first apostles as they set out to tell people of this wondrous, but logically unbelievable news? What of Jesus himself, who was abandoned at every turn? I think I can safely say that I would most certainly "vent" at the end of the day. Ok, let's call it what it is - I'd have a few complaints. Yet, we hear Paul talk about how the apostles prayed night and day for those to whom they went. Jesus to his very last prayed for those who betrayed him.

Prayer has a fruitful end. Whether it is the end we wish to see or an end we will ever see is not the point. Prayer in the hands of God, for the right purpose, bears fruit. Our complaints, though they may relieve us of some frustration in the short term, do not really bear any worthwhile fruit. When I was really struggling with some people in my life, I received some wisdom through a friend. She had been praying about the situation, and asked if I ever prayed for the person. I admitted I didn't really, and she suggested I start doing so every day. If nothing else, entering into prayer rather than a litany of whining changed my own heart toward them, and in the end, the only thing I can control is me.

Today, challenge yourself to lift up those people and situations in prayer that most lead you to complain. Do so daily, even just for one week, and see where God takes your heart.

Morning Prayer Reflection: What holds us back from our "YES!"?

But the LORD answered me, Say not, "I am too young." To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak. Have no fear before them, because I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD. Jeremiah 1:7-8

Having entered the Catholic Church at a campus parish during my college years, I perhaps have fewer preconceptions about what it looks like to be a servant of God. The people serving the Lord around me throughout my conversion ranged from birkenstock-wearing college folks, to missionary priests and military personnel. Some were more holy than others, but all of them showed me the love of our Lord, Jesus Christ in a special way.

I think sometimes we get caught up in our own images of what we must be in order to serve God. We build up roadblocks in our heads - we're too young, too old, too imperfect, too busy. Even the prophet Jeremiah tried that line back in the day. The thing is, God doesn't fall for that. When I was struggling with whether or not I was qualified or able to go into ministry as a career, a friend shared with me a now familiar saying. God doesn't call the qualified, he qualifies the called. In fact, the best servants simply take their direction from God and God alone. As baptized members of the body of Christ, we are given access to the Great Qualifier. If God is calling, He won't leave us to fend for ourselves.

Another roadblock sometimes grows out of a desire to see the fruit of our labor. We expect sensational results if we are serving God. However, we may not all be servants whose acts bring about glorious transformation - we can't all be St. Paul or St. Peter. Pope Benedict XVI, in writing about St. Bartholomew, whose feast day it is today, said, "Despite the scarcity of information about him, St. Bartholomew stands before us to tell us that attachment to Jesus can also be lived and witnessed to without performing sensational deeds." We have to struggle into the understanding that the glory is God's alone, and happens in His time despite our best efforts now.

What holds you back from answering God with a resounding "YES!"?

Morning Prayer Reflection: Do we recognize ourselves as part of a community in Christ?

Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. Matthew 18:20

Jesus exists in community. Even the Trinitarian nature of God as Father, Son & Holy Spirit is communal. The implications for this are astounding as we drift further and further into individualism and isolation. We cannot exist in Christ outside of community - period. This is the fundamental answer for why we need "Church," of why we cannot exist as genuinely faithful people outside of a community of faith. Spiritual, but not religious, only gets us part of the way there. God does not exist in a vacuum for our experience alone. Our relationship with God, with Christ, depends upon how we interact with those around us. More than once we hear Jesus allude to this. "Forgive one another, love one another, proclaim the gospel to one another"...never does he say "leave one another."
It is easy to move on when we feel we are not getting something for our efforts. Sometimes, being in community, it is more about giving than receiving. (I think even Jesus mentions something about this...) Do we recognize ourselves as part of a community in Christ, or just as individual "Christians"?

Health Care Debate: Planned Parenthood vs. US Catholic Bishops

I was sifting through the Facebook updates this morning and ran across a link to an article from the Catholic News Agency about an interchange between Planned Parenthood and a spokesperson for the US Catholic Bishops. In the heat of the healthcare debate, let's just say some words have been exchanged. This was, however, one of the more thought-provoking articles on the subject of abortion within the Obama health care plan.

Planned Parenthood's statement? "“Seems that, if the U.S. Conference had its way, the national health care system would make American women second-class citizens and deny them access to benefits they currently have,” she charged."

Second class citizens? Really? Funny, even Kourtney Kardashian seems to have done her research enough to know that abortion is not actually good for women. Perhaps she should have a chat with Cecile. In fact, it seems that little of Planned Parenthood's arguments actually stood up to the facts supported by research (and not just pro-lifer research either, for those that would claim bias).

For me, the most poignant part of the article was the response of Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the USSCB’s Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities. Calm, cool, no name-calling - everything the Church should be. In his response, he challenged Planned Parenthood's claim to be pro-choice, saying "“To get into the government-run health plan you must buy abortion coverage. That’s contrary to personal choice. Maybe she should be joining us in our effort.”"

Well, I don't see that happening any time soon, but kudos to you Richard! Apparently, the only approved choice is forcing those opposed to abortion to allow their tax dollars to pay for it.

I highly recommend reading the whole article - it was most definitely thought provoking. It's not a pro-lifer's dream statement, but it is the most cogent and reasonable compromise I've heard yet. It certainly challenges both sides. To our pro-life advocates, the challenge is to not use this bill to try to eliminate legal abortion, so that our poorest might receive healthcare. There is no question that we should continue to fight the good fight, but perhaps in another venue. To Planned Parenthood, the challenge is to demonstrate that they really do believe there is a choice and that both choices are equal and should remain choices.

And now, the ball is in Planned Parenthood's court.

full story

Morning Prayer Reflection: From Whom Do We Seek Knowledge?

His care is to seek the LORD, his Maker, to petition the Most High, To open his lips in prayer, to ask pardon for his sins. Then, if it pleases the LORD Almighty, he will be filled with the spirit of understanding; He will pour forth his words of wisdom and in prayer give thanks to the LORD,Who will direct his knowledge and his counsel, as he meditates upon his mysteries. Sirach 39:6-7 (NAB)

"Being smart is not the same as being wise." A friend shared these words of her pastor with me last night as we were talking, and the profundity of the simple statement struck me as so very timely. We can get so busy seeking out knowledge on matters, we sometimes don't stop to think where that "knowledge" is originating. Are we simply seeking to seem smart, or are we really asking to gain wisdom? They are two very different things. Google and Wiki can get us facts, but the veracity of them is not always so reliable. Having worked with college students, I can't even remember the number of times we had to remind them to not just rely on the internet, but to check the source of their information.

As you pray today, consider where you get your information. In this time of political and ideological debate, to whom do we turn for counsel and wisdom? If not God, are we getting the real truth?

Doesn't God give us the same instruction for life? There is a lot of information out there, and some of it seems like it is pretty true. Do we ever stop, though, to consider the source? Do we enter into prayer when it is a matter of justice, faith and morals, to open our mind to the counsel and wisdom of God, to ask for His understanding, which far surpasses our own? In the Gospel today, we hear Jesus proclaiming the Greatest Commandment - Love God with heart, mind and soul. If we consider that love is sacrifice, maybe what he is really asking is to surrender our minds to God, along with our hearts and souls, for God's goodness to fill that instrument as well.

Morning Prayer Reflection: What Do We Stand For?

Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Romans 12:11 (NAB)

Oh, we've all heard it - that old adage that goes something like, "if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything." That's just an old-fashioned platitude, though, right? I mean, in this day and age, when there are so many viewpoints and possibilities, none are better than the other, none are "more true" because then it would make someone else's ideas wrong, and that's not right, right?

What a mess we've become. We have become so fearful of offending others, especially as Catholics sometimes, that we have lost the beauty of knowing the fullness of Truth that resides in our midst. How can we begin to function as ambassadors of Christ if we don't even know what we believe among the sea of ideas and possibilities. If all ideas and beliefs are equally true, then it stands to reason that they are all equally false. That is not what Jesus Christ died on the cross for. He died for Truth with a capital T, and we squander it away for fear of offense. I am not in anyway advocating a ruthless or aggressive campaign for Truth. In fact, I'm a firm lover of St. Paul's imagery of the clanging symbol - from personal experience, no one likes a noisy gong. We must advocate in love, but that does not mean forsaking truth for comfort.

The old adage remains quite true - if we don't unite ourselves with the truth of Christ, we do fall for anything, however wise we may think ourselves. Let us hope to always stay in sync with the Holy Spirit that we might discern the Truth, speak in love and be open to new understanding as Christ wills it.

Just for Fun: BXVI & the Apple Tablet

Papa BXVI & the Apple Tablet

No, no...this isn't some new-fangled diet supplement or euphemism for our fall from grace. This picture has been circulating on the web, showing our very own Pope Benedict XVI with the Apple Tablet. So, you make the call - think PapaB is giving the Tablet two thumbs up, or is this photo as doctored as his endorsement??

Morning Prayer Reflection: Do we move forward in faith?

Gideon said to him, “My Lord, if the LORD is with us,why has all this happened to us?Where are his wondrous deeds of which our fatherstold us when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’For now the LORD has abandoned usand has delivered us into the power of Midian.”The LORD turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have and save Israel from the power of Midian. It is I who send you.” Judges 6:13-14
There is no denying these are tough times. Perhaps some of us carry the tune of Gideon in his despair: "Why have you abandoned us? If you are good, Lord, why are we in this mess?" Sometimes, the dark spiral of wallowing pulls us down into a place of helplessness and feeling powerless and abandoned. As people of faith, we know the promise of Christ to never leave us, and yet, in our humanity, Christ's presence with us isn't always what we think it should be. We can begin to think if God is with us, then we face no hardships, when the truth is, in this human life, hardship happens. With God's continual presence, we can bear those hardships with a little less sorrow. Perhaps if we are in the midst of trial, we are simply being asked to re-shape our minds in the likeness of Christ, and not humanity.
So many people, young and old alike, have been struggling in this economy. We do not downplay the serious problem that face us, but perhaps part of the problem is what we have grown accustomed to thinking is "normal" or "successful." Blessed Teresa of Calcutta is quoted as saying, "We are called upon not to be successful but to be faithful." In these tough times, are we trying too hard to be successful, to count on our own power? The Lord tells Gideon to go with the strength he has - what he is really saying is to go in the strength of God...go with what I have given you and do what I have sent you to do. In moments of helplessness, are we trying to dig ourselves out, or do we move forward in faith, relying on the strength and wisdom of God?

Just for Fun: Sin Across America

A fun exercise by researchers from Kansas State University trying to explore the habits of people around the country has drawn a map of sin across America.

A Catholic News Service article breaks down the researchers findings based on patterns of behavior. The researchers collected census information, FBI crime reports and stats from the Dept. of Human Health and Services. How did they break it down? How else but by the seven deadly sins!

Now, of course, this is not a serious study...or is it? We certainly can't point fingers at regions of the country, but it gives us some insight into our vices...and it turns out we've got a few. You won't color me shocked at that. Though it is not a study meant to identify our greatest downfalls, it is a great starting point for a look inward. I find it quite interesting what variables they used to determine the deadly sins, and am curious what we would use to make the same measure in light of our faith.

From CNS:
Here is how the Kansas State researchers calculated the sinfulness of any one region:

-- Sloth: expenditures per capita on entertainment and recreation, such as video games and movie rentals, that tend to keep people isolated from one another as reported in the "U.S. Census Bureau 2002 Economic Census: Arts, Entertainment and Recreation Report."

-- Greed: comparing total per capita income with the number of people living in poverty per capita as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau.

-- Envy: statistics from "FBI Uniform Crime Reports" related to stealing, i.e., robbery, burglary. larceny and motor vehicle theft.

-- Wrath: more statistics from the FBI, but for rape, assault and murder.

-- Gluttony: comparing the total number of fast-food restaurants per capita as reported by the "U.S. Census Bureau 2002 Economic Census: Food Services and Drinking Places Report."

-- Lust: the number of sexually transmitted diseases per capita from data collected by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

-- Pride: With no data that could be related, the researchers calculated pride as the aggregation of the other six sins.

Morning Prayer Reflection: Can We Let Go of the Shadows of the Past?

...Everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, ‘Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’ Ephesians 5:13-14 (NRSV)

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentation 3:22-23 (NRSV)

Jesus calls us each morning to arise anew in him. Yet, how many of us can say that we wake each morning in the glow of the light of Christ, the shadows and thoughts of the prior day(s) lifted from our minds? The worries of so many years sometimes follow us around, it can become crippling. It is precisely these burdens and shadows that Jesus calls us to expose to Him. Darkness is not dark for the Lord, who is Light. We can keep our thoughts and worries swirling about in the abyss of our minds, or we can hand them over to the Lord who can shed his mercy and light on them. Though this may not erase the burdens that plague us, it does lighten the load we bear when we share the load with Christ. So this morning, I challenge us all to hand over to Jesus anything that keeps us from beginning our morning aglow in the light of Christ. Today will bring its own challenges that will require us to find new strength from God. Can we let go of the shadows of the past to be fully alive today?

Looking for music? Try Nichole Nordeman's "Mercies New" found on her Woven & Spun album.

...Your mercies are new every morning
So let me wake with the dawn
When the music is through or so it seems to be
Let me sing a new song, old things gone
Every day it's true, You make all Your mercies new...

Morning Prayer Reflection: Does our cup overflow?

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and God of all encouragement, who encourages us in our every affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction...For as Christ's sufferings overflow to us, so through Christ does our encouragement also overflow. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Contrary to the belief of many in the Catholic Church of yesteryear, ours is not a private faith. As a new generation of Catholics, we are still recovering from that notion that one does not "impose" one's religion or faith onto others. From where it developed I cannot be sure, only to say that perhaps it was a natural reaction to the persecution many Catholics faced in their communities in the early years of this nation.

Yet, ours is a faith that calls us to embrace persecution. We are called to unite ourselves with Jesus Christ in those moments and allow God's grace and mercy to flow into us, not only to provide us with consolation, but to serve as a witness of the mercy of Christ to the world. Turning to Jesus in our moments of "affliction" we are filled. Uniting ourselves with Him in all things, we continue to fill ourselves not just to the brim so that we are satisfied, but to a point where we overflow with the love and mercy of God so that we can share it with others who need it. If we are not turning to Christ, however, if we take matters into our own hands, our own chasm of need remains too deep for us to proclaim what Jesus has done for us.

Does our cup overflow, or do we just keep a personal stash of Christ's mercy for troubled times? Let us pray, that inspired by the selfless sacrifice of St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe whose memorial is today, we may never embrace a solely private faith - that we may be so united with Christ that his grace, light and mercy spill out of us to all those we encounter.

Come Holy Spirit!

Morning Prayer Reflection: Are we true friends?

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:12-13

Friendship is born of love, and love is born of sacrifice. In an era of Facebook and MySpace, friendship has become synonymous with acquaintance. I was taken aback a few years ago when I heard Fr. Larry Richards say that anyone who told you they had more than a handful of friends was lying. Now, perhaps Fr. Larry was exaggerating, perhaps not. The concept however, was not lost on me. Christ tells us that to live in his friendship, we must be willing to lay down our lives. We must be willing to sacrifice our desires, our will, perhaps even our lives. How many of your "friends" are you willing to do this for? How many of your Facebook "friends"?

I noticed recently that when you go to look at your friends on Facebook, they now call them "connections." This is, I believe, a better way to look at the many people in our lives. We are all very much connected, and Facebook is quite possibly the greatest examination of the six degrees of separation. However, I do not truly have 500+ friends, at least not in the way of Christian friendship. Would I go out of my way for many of them? Sure. Would I lay down my life for all of them? I have to admit I would not, as much as I would like to say yes.

When we call someone friend, how much are we willing to give up for them? Are we true friends? Do we count Christ as our friend? Scripture tells us he has chosen us as his...

Morning Prayer Reflection: How is God molding us today?

O Lord, you are our father; we are the clay and you the potter: we are all the work of your hands. Isaiah 64:7

This verse from Isaiah always leads me back to the second account of creation in Genesis. God created man out of clay and breathed life into him. We are all constantly being formed and reformed, given new life with every breath God breathes into our souls. What we are not, is always aware of this grace. God's work is not generally instantaneous, which can definitely be a struggle in this fast-food world. Much like the work of a master artist, the work is slow, sometimes painstaking, and sometimes...well, let's face it, sometimes it needs revision and fixing as cracks appear, or as our purpose changes.

Take St. Jane Frances de Chantal, whose memorial day is observed in the U.S. today. The Lord led her first to the life of wife and mother. Yet, after the death of her husband, she was transformed by the preaching of St. Francis de Sales and went on later in her life to found the Visitation nuns and established 85 monasteries before her death. God is constantly molding us in our environment, as our situation changes, so might the way in which we are called to serve Him.

Regardless of how much work we may need, we should rest assured that God continues to work on us, to refine us, to purify us, whether we are immediately aware or not. If we let the Spirit of God into our lives, if we are open to the work of the Lord in our hearts, the transformation can be magnificent, though it may only be in hindsight that we see a glimpse of what a masterpiece He is creating. Looking back over the recent past, can we see how God is molding us? Are there instances where it is clear that he has patched us up or reshaped us for something new?

Want some music to help you reflect? Check out this song by Christian artists, Caedmon's Call:

HANDS OF THE POTTER by Caedmon's Call
Lord if i'm the clay
Then i've been left out in the sun
Cracked and dry, like the mud from the sty
Still clinging to the prodigal son

But I'm on my way back home
Yes I'm on my way back home
Into the hands (into the hands)
That made wine (wine) from the water
Into the hands (into the hands)
The hands of the potter

Lord if i'm the clay then
Let your living water flow
Soften up my edges, lord,
So everyone will know

But i'm on my way back home
Yes i'm on my way back home...

And Lord, when you listen for the song of my life
Let it be, let it be, a song so sweet
Let it be, let it be, a song so sweet
Let it be...

Lord, if i'm the clay then lay me down
On your spinning wheel
Shape me into something you can fill
With something real

And I'll be on my way back home
Yes i'm on my way back home

Morning Prayer Reflection: To What Are We Attached?

Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. Philippians 3:7-9

Let me begin by saying that not all of us are called to a life of voluntary material poverty. I say this first because I believe that the extremity of such a view often keeps us from embracing the kind of poverty we are called to share. St. Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, is talking not only of his material wealth, but also of his spiritual mindframe, his very framework of life. St. Clare, whose memorial it is today, expressed that desire to have nothing but Christ in emulation of St. Francis, which was to take on material poverty. However, the call each of us has is to detach ourselves from those things that keep us away from Christ - to be poor in spirit, realizing that any and all wealth, material and spiritual, comes from Jesus alone.

Surrounded by a culture where less is hardly ever more, what is it that we are so attached to? Is there anything we possess that we feel we could not live without? If we were asked to do so, would it undermine our faith? Pray today to be released from all but the power of Christ, so that we, like St. Paul and St. Clare, may desire no gain, no good, but that of our Lord Jesus.

Come, Lord Jesus, come!

Morning Prayer Reflection: Are we on fire for Christ?

When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned, the flames shall not consume you. Isaiah 43:2

Today marks the feast of St. Lawrence. Though much is not known about his life, it is known that he was set on fire for Christ, most literally. Under persecution, told to produce all the wealth of the Church, Deacon Lawrence brought with him all the poor, diseased and crippled to present as the riches of Christ. In response, Lawrence was grilled...again, literally set over coals to be burned to death.

We do not do well with suffering in our age. Suffering is thought a sign of weakness. In the eyes of Christ, however, suffering is solidarity and strength. It is solidarity with not only the weakest among us, but with Jesus himself. It is strength to turn over our own power and trust that amidst the struggles and flames of life, we will not be consumed if we remain in Christ. More than asking us to bear whatever may come, Jesus tells us that we must suffer for his sake! Being "on fire" for Christ is literally to be willing to come under fire for his sake.

In light of that, I wonder how many of us are, really and truly, on fire for Christ...

Read more about St. Lawrence

Mass Prep: Be imitators of God and live in love...

So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma. Ephesians 5:2

The bread that I give is my flesh for the life of the world. John 6:51

Live in love... The word "love" has been so abused over the years, this simple instruction becomes more confusing. What is it to live in love? As we continue to meditate on the image of bread, Jesus gives us an even stronger image of what it means to love. His love is to give up his flesh, so that we may live and have hope of reconciliation with God. If we are to imitate God's love, then love is no less than sacrifice. Love is living in the Truth of God. Love is not just butterflies and rainbows and the happy thought that everyone is okay.

I once heard a priest brilliantly define an issue that plagues our current culture. He said that we all go around afraid to speak out, because we are taught that we're all okay - "I'm okay, you're okay." The truth, if we are to live as authentically in Christ as we can, is quite the opposite. We are none of us "okay" - we are all plagued by something, but Jesus, the Bread of Life, offers his flesh as food for healing. So it is more accurate to say, "I'm not okay, but in You I am made well, Lord."

If we are to truly live in love, we must be willing to live in the truth that each of us is somehow suffering. Out of love, we must lead each other to the only one who can make us "okay," to the Divine Healer, to the Bread of Life who came that we too may live.

Do we humble ourselves before Christ to admit our failings and allow Him to heal us through Reconciliation and the Eucharist? If we do not, pray this weekend that the Holy Spirit may reveal and heal what it is that keeps us away from the new life we are promised.

Come Lord Jesus!

In Our Prayers: Fr. Mirek Jordanek

Fr. Mirek Jordanek is one of only few chaplains serving the armed forces stationed in Afghanistan. Together with others in the chaplaincy, Fr. Mirek serves as the spiritual leader of men and women who face challenges unheard of to us.

Read more about Fr. Mirek and the chaplains who are serving our young men and women in Afghanistan. Pray that the Lord may give them the strength to bring a message of hope, comfort and peace to so many who live in the midst of turmoil.

Upcoming Event: SUNDAY, AUGUST 9 - Fusion Young Adult Mass

Join the young adults of Fusion Young Adult Ministry at Mass. Specially designed by young adults for young adults. Fr. John Martin from St. Benedict's Monastery in Oxford presiding.

Fusion is a young adult community ranging from college-age to young professionals in their 30s who live out their Catholic faith throughout their lives. Lively and welcoming, the group hosts a variety of activities open to all young adults:
  • Area Young Adult Mass (2nd Sundays)
  • Coffee and Conversation (2nd & 4th Tuesdays)
  • Two annual retreats (Sept. & Jan.)
  • A weekly Rosary (Mondays)
  • And a variety of social events through the year!

To join the Genesis Ministries mailing list for updates on these and other young adult activities in the Oakland County area, email us at info@genesis-ministries.org.

Morning Prayer Reflection: Do we pass on the Good News?

Let this be written for the next generation, for a people not yet born, that they may praise the LORD: "The LORD looked down from the holy heights, viewed the earth from heaven, To attend to the groaning of the prisoners, to release those doomed to die." Psalm 102:19-21 (NAB)

What an honor to know the full story of Good News! If you think back to the time when the Psalms were written, people were holding out in hope that the promise of God would soon be fulfilled. We live in a time where we know that fulfillment in Christ Jesus. We know that not only did God "look down" to see our misery, but that he came down in the flesh, took on a human nature, to not only share in our despondency, but to shatter our hopelessness by throwing open the gates of eternal life to us.

How is it, then, that over two thousand years later, there are still people who have not heard this great news?!? Worse yet, how is it we have come to this place where instead of marvel and awe, the story is met with disbelief, doubt and even worse, apathy - at least doubt and disbelief take some effort. It is easy to lay blame on "imperfect Christians" - to judge the Lord by the actions of his people would certainly cast a dark shadow many days. It is even more tempting to say that the divisions in the Church, the skepticism of its teachings, provide ground for doubt and disbelief. I personally believe that is the devil at work. All that does is throw a veil over the heart of the message of Good News. Jesus Christ, God become man, came down from heaven, he lived at a point in history, he died for our sins, and was resurrected, opening for us the doors to eternal life with the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.

Christ is not to be judged by human standards - we are sinful, we fail. That's why he came for goodness sake (literally!)! I think the greater question is, in our own humanity, do we let our failings and faults hold us back from sharing this great news of our faith? Are we too scared to "rock the boat" or "offend" others? Do we ourselves really believe? If we do, how can we not share this message, which two thousand years later, has not been equaled in magnitude (and never will)? How do we pass on this faith to our neighbors and to future generations, that they may know and praise the Lord of all goodness and hope, the promise of God fulfilled?

Speak UP - Tell us about your favorite priest!

Pope Benedict XVI has declared this the "Year of the Priest." As part of an effort to increase the awareness of all that our priests do for our parishes, families, communities and Church, Genesis Ministries is looking for your stories! Nominate your favorite priest in our "Year of the Priest Contest" by sharing a story of how he has impacted your life - it can be as serious or funny as you choose.

To enter the contest, please include the following in your submission:
  • Your full name (first & last), address, email and phone number.
  • Date of birth (including year, please)
  • Your parish name and city
  • Priest's name and parish or religious community
  • Priest's address (if known)
  • Your story! (please indicate if we can reprint your story in our blog)
Submit all information by October 5, 2009, to info@genesis-ministries.org with the subject: "Year of the Priest". Winners will be announced to the public on November 1 through this blog. (Individual winners will be notified personally prior to that date.)

Grand Prize
is dinner for the winner and their nominated priest at a local restaurant and a gift certificate to Faith at Work for the entrant (restaurant to be determined with winner and priest at the end of contest). Up to 10 Runners-up will receive one of several books related to various topics of faith.

Prize eligibility requirements:

  • Must be between the ages of 18 and 39 at the time of entry.
  • Must reside and/or worship in Oakland County, MI
  • Priest must serve within the Archdiocese of Detroit area.
All stories are eligible for re-publication within our blog if so designated, regardless of above requirements. Entries will be judged by a panel of young adults within the Genesis Ministries network.

The Dunkin' Donuts of Afghanistan

Too often all we hear of Afghanistan, if we hear of it at all amidst the conflict in Iraq, is more violence, more soldiers and civilians losing their lives. There is more to the story there, and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) offers us a glimpse into the many efforts their workers are relentlessly pursuing to improve the lives of those who live amidst the turmoil.

In one such project, CRS organizes groups of women to pursue entrepreneurial endeavors, encouraging them to pool their resources and develop plans for businesses such as sewing curtains or raising chickens. The women also receive an education learning how to read, write and do basic math - all the skills necessary for them to be self-sustaining. One group of women began their own bakery as there was not one in town. They've since received a contract from the local police to provide them baked goods.

(photo by Laura Sheahan/CRS)

Now, it's nothing industrial and no images of Betty Crocker should pop up. As CRS describes,

As Woo enjoyed the freshly-basked cookies, she asked the women about challenges they faced. One hurdle is getting enough fuel for the bakery oven: wood is expensive, so often the women have to walk miles in the mountains to gather small bushes and load the bundles onto donkeys. The bushes are then dried and burned in the oven.

I don't think any of us can imagine putting that much effort into a batch of cookies. Yet, it is precisely this effort that allows them to earn enough money to feed and clothe themselves and their families.

To learn more about the efforts of Catholic Relief Services and how you can help, visit http://www.crs.org or subscribe to their blog. They have great ways for you as young people to get involved on the local level and learn more about the conditions throughout the world that need your energy and voice to be brought to light.

Morning Prayer Reflection: Do we radiate Christ?

As Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the commandments in his hands, he did not know that the skin of his face had become radiant while he conversed with the LORD. Exodus 34:29

When he is revealed, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 1 John 3:2

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord. In witnessing this holy event, the disciples Peter, James and John caught a glimpse of the glory that awaits us all in Christ. The radiance of his presence transmits the love of God for each of us. And yet, as Moses, by gazing upon the Lord in the fullness of his glory, the disciples cannot help but be transformed and called into action. Though, like us, they are a little bit at a loss as to what to do - they want to remain there, but the Lord directs them to move on and hold that moment dear in their own hearts.

The mystery of the Transfiguration always reminds me of my favorite prayer, written by Cardinal John Henry Newman and reported prayed by Blessed Teresa of Calcutta daily:

Dear Jesus,
help me to spread your fragrance wherever I go.
Flood my soul with your spirit and life.
Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly
that my life may only be a radiance of yours.
Shine through me and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with
may feel your presence in my soul.

Let them look up and see no longer me, but only Jesus!
Stay with me and then I will begin to shine as you shine,
so to shine as to be a light to others.

The light, O Jesus, will be all from you; none of it will be mine.
It will be you, shining on others through me.
Let me thus praise you in the way which you love best,
by shining on those around me.
Let me preach you without preaching, not by words but by example,
by the catching force, the sympathetic influence of what I do,
the evident fullness of the love my heart bears for you. Amen.

As we go through our day, let's take the moment of the Transfiguration, the image of Christ in all his resplendent glory and let it flow through us. Let us radiate Christ!

A Whole New Meaning to Church Shopping!

I have strolled past the Catholic Mass at the airport in Orlando. I've even seen the chapels at others. What I've never heard of is the Church at the mall. Now, I personally think it's relatively brilliant! Take the Gospel and proclaim it in places where people are - there is the evangelization of the 21st century! Bravo to the Capuchin Franciscans in Colorado Springs for such a concept, and bravo to those who are financially supporting it. You can rest assured you're getting a call from me to pick your brains and get the details!

Here is what they offer:
  • Daily 12:10 pm Mass Monday through Friday
  • 6 pm Mass
  • Confession in English and Spanish all mall hours
  • Chapel for prayer
  • Spiritual guidance
  • Faith Inquiry
  • Vocation discernment
  • Parish and Catholic charities referrals

Interesting to note that there are many parishes who don't offer as much, mostly because they do not have the resources to do so. What a great way to complement what already exists! Hey Church out there, are you paying attention? It's time to take notice of innovation within faith and find out if it is working. If the answer is yes, maybe we should all consider it a lesson learned about taking risks in union with the Spirit in the name of Jesus Christ. Playing it safe never brought a soul to Jesus. If that were the ticket, he wouldn't have reminded us so often to "be not afraid!"

If we had a Catholic Chapel in a mall or other such public location, would you swing by for Mass, prayer or any of the other services they provide? Would it take away from your attendance at your local parish?

Your Life on TV??

Reality TV is a continually growing "genre" in today's entertainment lineup. However we may feel about the multitude of shows offered, it doesn't seem as though there is any end to the madness anytime soon. So Catholic TV in the Boston area has decided "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em!" And I say kudos to them. I've been a long proponent of starting our own reality-tv series focusing on the lives of Catholic young adults in the area. The hurdle? Getting time and talent to move beyond the storyboard given my own real life!

Now, I'm not saying that I would imagine a reality series quite like the one they're doing, but I've got some ideas. Here's my question to you: would you want to be on reality tv...even if it just starts on YouTube? Would you want to be involved even if you weren't on the camera? Let me know, and maybe you could be the next big thing! ;)

Read more about what they're doing in Boston: http://www.catholictv.com/shows/default.aspx?seriesID=149&videoID=714

Morning Prayer Reflection: Do we choose God?

For you are a people holy to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on earth to be his people, his treasured possession. Deuteronomy 7:6

Deuteronomy goes on to say that it is not for any reason due to us that the Lord has chosen us, but rather, out of his love and fidelity to the promises he has made. God chooses us, even in our imperfect state, he chooses us out of love. Each day, by our words and our actions, we have the chance to make choices, to choose to act in a way that shows our love for God. We can choose to react in anger, or choose to forgive. We can choose to gossip or spread rumors, or we can choose to remain silent or defend someone's honor. We can choose to be prideful, or we can choose to humbly realize God as the source of our goodness. We can choose to think we have it all under control, or we can choose to acknowledge that the only control we have is to give it all to God. We can choose to think our little actions don't matter, or we can choose to admit that every breath and movement shows some element of our character. So choose wisely...

As we go about our daily lives, do our choices reflect a love for God, a submission to his will for us, acknowledgment of the sacrifice Christ made? In short, do we choose God?

New Video Series from Busted Halo: Busted Borders

Busted Halo has produced a video series entitled "Busted Borders" sharing the stories of undocumented immigrants - how they got here, why they are here, why they are "undocumented," in the hopes of adding the spiritual dimension to the debate, at least among the young adults the site targets.

We are called through the Scriptures and through Catholic Social Teaching, to welcome the stranger. Though many of us have different ideas of how the laws should apply to immigration, remaining faithful makes it necessary that those views should be informed by the command and call of God. Whatever our political ideology, our allegiance to Christ should come first and our treatment of those in our midst regardless of their origin or legal status, should uphold the same dignity that Christ would show.

There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28

Read more on the series at USA Today.

View all the videos as the come out on Busted Halo.

Morning Prayer Reflection: Are we self-satisfied?

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 (NRSV)

God tends to turn the world upside down, topsy turvy. Now, He's God, so He can. We create our own standards, and then God steps in to show us just how wrong we've gotten it. Sound familiar? It is so easy to get caught up in the "rules" of our world and culture that we can forget that God measures on very different standards than most of our neighbors. Especially in our culture, we are surrounded by messages that tell us that what matters are very superficial things. How much we make, what we wear, where we live, how big and fast our cars are, how "successful" we are at work - those are the questions and judgments we so often get. Yet, God shows us through Jesus that it isn't about what WE do. The disciples were not learned men of the era. They were fishermen, tax collectors, sinners just like us. Yet, in them, Jesus found his closest companions and those to whom he would entrust the future of his mission.

In my own life, one of the most powerful things anyone ever said to me was that, "God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called." How true it is if we examine the early Church. How true it remains if we truly look at our own lives. Not a day goes by that I don't feel [insert word here] to do what I am asked to do. Yet, even in those moments...especially in those moments, God sends confirmation that I am doing all He has asked me to do...if I really am, of course!

Do we judge our worth through God's eyes, or are we all too self-satisfied?

Morning Prayer Reflection: Do we let God be God?

Lord God, you have made heaven and earth by your great might, with your outstretched arm; nothing is impossible to you. Jeremiah 32:17

It is you, O LORD, you are the only one. Nehemiah 9:6

Each Sunday, as we profess our faith in the Mass, we begin by saying, "We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty...We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ..." As we go through life, I think most of us have a inner knowledge of God as the only God, and yet, it is so easy to begin to let other things direct our paths. It is equally easy to think we have things under control, or if you are like me, that we must take care of everything. Yet, it is God for whom all things are possible, not us. It is God who is the one Lord, who has created us and whose will directs us to peace and joy - not any human, regardless of how admirable the may be.

Each day provides us a chance to begin anew with the Lord, to turn our lives over to Him again and again. The question is, do we let God be God?

Mass Prep: Do not live in the futility of your minds, but be transformed in Christ.

Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal." John 6:27 (NRSV)

We continue from last week on the central image of food, of bread. Jesus is the Bread of Life. Just as God sent down manna from the heavens for the Israelites to nourish them while they were lost, he sends us Christ for our eternal and spiritual nourishment. More than simply food, the Bread of Life nourishes our souls, transforming them into a new creation in Christ. One cannot authentically encounter Jesus Christ and recognize him as Lord without being somehow changed. Every instance of such encounters in the Gospels lay evidence to that.

We not only encounter Christ, but in the Mass, he makes Himself one with us in the Eucharist. By consuming Christ, He is at work within us, helping to restore us into God's original image, holy and blameless in His sight.

How is the Lord calling you to change this week?