Category Archives: Columns

Shared Glimpses

Bishop Michael Duca (center), with the Daughters of St. Brigid at St. Mary of the Pines Parish in Shreveport. Kim Long is pictured far right.

by Kim Long, DRE, St. Mary of the Pines Parish

Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you, and considering the result of their conduct imitate their faith.” Hebrews 13:7

I had no idea what to expect when my friend Vonny met me at my home and we drove together to Bishop Duca’s ordination and installation. I certainly did not expect to feel so wonderfully Catholic, like the whole world at that moment was Catholic (or at least wanted to be!). The occasion was definitely a glimpse into a very different world, in video game speak (a fluent tongue in our home), I had “leveled up.”

As a convert to the Catholic faith and its ensuing way of life the Apostolic Succession was something that really only came to mind at the Chrism Mass during Holy Week. Seeing this ordination, participating in it, was a new experience for me. As newly ordained Bishop Duca walked through the makeshift aisles laid out in an enormous space within the convention center, blessing the crowd with holy water, I wondered if he were as self-conscious as I suddenly felt. He was newly a bishop and I was renewing my own set of promises. As the liquid fell on my face, I felt suddenly old and new, refreshed and sustained by all that had gone before me in our tradition.

As with many such liminal moments the impact lessened as time and ordinary days seeped into the foreground. That event, that sharing began to take on legendary status almost as if I were recalling an event on television where I had been an observer rather than a participant.

Then something happened.

Here’s the scene: Late one Friday night, there wasn’t much going on. I was gabbing with a friend on the phone and Jessica, the editor of The Catholic Connection, kept ringing in, but I (for a still unknown reason) kept putting her to voicemail and talking with Cindy. Finally, she and I finished up and by this time Jess was texting me, “Call me!!!” So, of course, I did. “We won! You won!” and she began to explain that I won an award from the Catholic Press Association for my column. What??? “I didn’t even know you entered my column,” and so the excited sharing went. But that’s not the something I’m telling you about. I received a text message from Bishop Duca, congratulating me and thanking me for sharing my gifts and talents with God’s people. Larger than life seemed to come into a smaller focus.

Later at a luncheon: Members of the Diocesan Liturgical Commission were gathered at Dianne Rachal’s home for our annual Christmas luncheon. Everything was breathtakingly beautiful, like Home and Garden beautiful, and where did I find myself seated – you know it – beside Bishop. There is a time when I like silence and don’t feel the need to fill the air with chatter, but this was not one of those moments. Instead, I turned to Bishop and asked him what he wanted for Christmas. Startled he answered and then asked me. I said, “Well let me tell you a funny story. I’ve wanted a meat grinder for the last three years. My children know this – and what do I get? Fancy coffee, DVDs, candles, a laptop, – all great stuff but sadly, no meat grinder.”

“Why do you want a meat grinder?” he asked. Laughing, I told him that I enjoyed eating sausage, but I like to know what is in it. He got a nostalgic look and told me how his cousin’s grandfather made sausage and at Christmas, he put an orange through the grinder with the meat and called it his Christmas sausage.

The rest of the dinner remains a blur. Smaller focus still.

Later still: I am at one of the many Christmas parties of the season and my phone rings. It was Bishop Duca asking me if I was busy and apologizing for calling last minute, but he was making sausage and wondered if I’d like to come help. I couldn’t believe circumstances prevented it. What a chance of a lifetime! But as Maureen O’Hara said to John Wayne in the movie The Quiet Man, all I could say was, “I thank you for the asking.”

And then there were the macaroons… St. Mary’s (my parish) was chosen to host the annual Holocaust Memorial Service. I was put in charge of the reception and wanted to be extremely cautious in my choice of menu items, aware of dietary restrictions of the Jewish faith community. And while St. Mary’s does not boast a kosher kitchen, I knew to keep the dairy and the meat worlds away. In fact, there was no meat at all, but there were macaroons, French macaroons, about 1,000 assorted macaroons that Annette, Kristen and I labored over for several days.

During the reception, Janice came into the kitchen and said, “The bishop is out there and he wants to know where you are.”

I hoped this was not going in a bad direction. When I found him, he was enjoying those macaroons. He asked me where I bought them and I said, (I confess my reply was tinged with pride) that I made them. He looked at me somewhat intently and then said, “I always wondered if you walked the walk with food.” I replied, “With cooking, oh yeah.” We laughed and I asked if he was pleased with the reception and he said that I had raised the bar. He left with his pockets stuffed with macaroons.

Then there was the appointment. I had never in my life “gone to see the bishop,” but I had some things on my mind. So I made an appointment and had a meeting with “the boss.” He made me feel as though he had all the time in the world and my questions about religious education (my real job) were worth discussing. I left feeling that I had been heard and listened to, I left feeling great about being Catholic…again, which in the “God business” or paid ministry work is not always so easy.

I tell you all these stories to say this: what began as a huge event evolved into a series of personal exchanges where a knowing of one another, a sharing of a handful of stories and exchanges, opened up the definition of the word “Catholic” in a direction I never could have imagined on that morning when Vonny and I drove to the convention center all those years ago.

I pray that his new assignment is all that God intends, that he not change too much, and that he can still talk food to someone who shares that interest and that he walk in the light for all his days. •

Second Collections for August and September

Diocese of Shreveport Hispanic Ministry Collection

Bulletin Dates: August 5th & 12th 
Collection Dates: August 18th & 19th

The Diocese of Shreveport Hispanic Ministry Collection helps the priests and laity of our diocese strengthen the faith of our vibrant Spanish-speaking Catholics and keeps them in the fold of the Holy Roman Catholic Church. Your participation in the Diocese of Shreveport Hispanic Ministry Collection helps Hispanic Catholics grow in their faith and dynamically share their devotion to Jesus and his Saints with us, especially their phenomenal devotion to the Holy Mother of God under her title, Our Lady of Guadalupe.

While our priests who speak Spanish in varying degrees from fluently to haltingly, are a great gift to us, more Spanish-speaking priests, deacons and catechists are needed to effectively attend to our ever-growing and dynamic Hispanic communities throughout the diocese. Fathers Betancurt, Garcia, Mondragón, Jost, Watson, Howard, Kamau, Crispin, Kallookalam, Madden and I, are happy stewards of God’s graces to them. Your participation in the Diocese of Shreveport Hispanic Ministry Collection helps us attend them with a shepherd’s care.

Your participation in this collection makes it possible for our Office of Hispanic Ministry to provide leadership training, minister to youth and young adults and married couples, provide whole family retreats, days of reflection, and liturgical ministry training for our devout Hispanic Catholics. The services of our Office of Hispanic Ministry provide spiritual formation which equips individuals, families and communities to give themselves ever more joyfully in service to the Lord Jesus and his people. The Diocese of Shreveport Hispanic Ministry Collection is our concrete way of helping our Hispanic Catholics serve English and Spanish speakers alike.

A hallmark of the Hispanic culture is the amazingly powerful family bond. Your participation in the Diocese of Shreveport Hispanic Ministry Collection ensures that those familial and ecclesiastical bonds do not break. Whatever you can give will help the Church serve our Hispanic brothers and sisters, they will bless us in return. Your donation, no matter what the size, makes a difference. Please participate as generously as you are able.

 

The Catholic University of America

Bulletin Dates: August 12th & 19th 
Collection Dates: September 1st & 2nd 

The second collection in our diocese for September is for the Catholic University of America. We ask you, the Catholic faithful of our diocese, to join with Catholics across our country to make Catholic higher education possible. Catholic education on any level is expensive. But many things we have that are of value are expensive. Catholic education is expensive, but no one ever complains that they did not receive their money’s worth. Those who were blessed with a Catholic education have excelled in life because of it. You may not know anyone who attends Catholic University, but every student at CUA is your brother or sister within the family of our Catholic faith. Please give for the strength of our Church family.

The Catholic University of America collection prepares and strengthens the current and next generation of Catholics who will explain our faith and social teaching to the rest of the world. Your gift supports scholarships for students who need financial assistance. Please support the next generation of Catholic leaders for our Church and nation – including those studying to become our future priests and religious men and women. Join your contribution to that of faithful parishioners across our country to spiritually and academically prepare this and future generations of Catholic students, particularly those who have financial need. Please give generously to The Catholic University of America collection. Strengthen the Catholic University’s mission with your contribution which will help our national university move forward, ensuring that current students and future graduates can continue to be God’s light in our world. Learn more at collection.cua.edu. •

 

Kids’ Connection: St. Ignatius of Loyola

Click to download and print this month’s Kids’ Connection on St. Ignatius of Loyola.

Vocations View: Spanish Immersion

Seminarian Raney Johnson (second from right) stands with other seminarians before Mass in Mexico as part of his Spanish Immersion program.

by Raney Johnson, Seminarian

Since the beginning of June, I have had the great opportunity to spend this summer studying Spanish in Mexico through the International Institute for Culture. I have already experienced and learned so much in my short time here. At the beginning of the summer, I wondered what God might have planned for my vocation when I arrived in Mexico, and I must admit that I felt nervous before I left for the trip. I did not know much about the program that I was attending, and initially, I thought that I did not know anyone attending the program with me. However, as soon as I arrived, all of my nerves went away.

I met five amazing seminarians from around the country on the first day, and to my surprise, I already knew one of the seminarians from my previous summer assignment at the Institute for Priestly Formation in Omaha, NE. There are also four priests learning Spanish with us who have been spiritual fathers to the seminarians throughout the program.

In my first week of the program, I reflected on why I thought we all came to take part in this Spanish Immersion program. My reflection on why eventually led me to consider the people who were our motivation for learning Spanish. Yes, it was our bishops and vocation directors who asked us to attend this program, but the true motivators for why we came to Mexico were the people of God. We came to Mexico so that we could minister to our Spanish speaking brothers and sisters in our dioceses, both native to the U.S. and from the many countries that speak the language.

Across the United States, the need for priests to learn Spanish continues to grow. In our own diocese, I know that the Hispanic community has grown over the past few years. From the time I first attended the Spanish Mass at St. Mary of the Pines Parish in Shreveport, I have had the privilege of watching the Hispanic community grow there. Likewise, from my time in college to the present, I have seen the Hispanic community in Ruston at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish grow.

Watching these two communities grow continues to increase my desire to learn Spanish and hopefully minister to my Spanish speaking brothers and sisters. However, my time in Mexico has taught me that learning about a particular culture goes hand in hand with learning the language. This is the reason this program has both a Spanish class and a class about the history and culture of Mexico. Learning about the culture of Mexico has made me appreciate the Spanish language even more. As I continue to try and grow in my ability to speak and understand Spanish, I look ahead to the future, hoping that one day I will be able to not only celebrate the Mass in Spanish but also the Sacraments of Baptism, Reconciliation and the Anointing of the Sick.

My time in Mexico has helped me understand the cultural background of Catholics in the Diocese of Shreveport who either come from Mexico or have ancestors who came from this country. By the time this article is printed, I will only have a few weeks left in Mexico. I am thankful for all the time I have had in such a deeply Catholic country. I hope to return to the U.S. with a better grasp of the Spanish language and an eager desire to serve the Hispanic community.  •

Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa

by Father Rothell Price

Bulletin Dates: July 8th & 15th
Collection Dates: July 21st & 22nd

This month our diocesan family takes up the Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa collection. “The Church in Africa is growing rapidly, but often there are not enough local resources to provide pastoral care for all the communities. By supporting this collection, you will help others to grow in their faith across the African continent.” This encouraging appeal of Cardinal Joseph Tobin to pastors and parish administrators makes each one of us realize the great spiritual good accomplished by each person’s participation in this, and all second collections.

Blessed Pope Paul VI, soon to be St. Paul VI in October of this year, was instrumental in turning the eyes of the Church to the people and continent of Africa. St. Pope John Paul II, vibrantly championed the awareness of our need for solidarity with the Church in Africa. This need for solidarity with Africa continues in the visits of Pope Francis. Through the marvel of television and social media, we are blessed to see with our own eyes the good news that the Church in Africa is growing. The people of Africa are joyous and faith-filled, but they face challenges due to poverty, food shortages, disease and migration. The Solidarity Fund is an opportunity for us to stand with the people of Africa.

Please strengthen the faith of the people of Africa as they face these challenges. The Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa is a ministry of the bishops of our country. Your contribution to this collection makes it possible for our bishops to provide grants to finance pastoral projects that support the maintenance and growth of the Church in Africa. Funded projects include religious education, Catholic schools, clergy and religious education, youth ministry, communications, evangelization, leadership formation, justice and peace, construction and outreach programs.

Any amount you give strengthens the presence and witness of the Catholic Church on the huge African continent. The size of the gift is of little importance. The love that inspires the giving of any amount is of utmost significance. The Bible tells us that God loves a cheerful giver. Your donation will ensure pastoral care to individuals, families, communities and nations. Your sacrifice will open access to the Sacraments of the Church for a spiritually enthusiastic and hungry people. Your gift will make it possible for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and other liturgical worship to be offered and received. Please be generous in your support of the Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa. Solidarity is not a hand-out, but rather a Gospel demand to stand with another out of love for God. I thank you in advance for whatever you are able to give to the Church of Jesus Christ for the care of His brothers and sisters on the amazing continent of Africa. •

Navigating the Faith: Humanae Vitae’s Unheeded Warning

by Father Matthew Long

As we approach the 50th anniversary of the promulgation of the encyclical letter, Humanae Vitae, on the regulation of human birth by Blessed Paul VI, we understand now, more than ever, the timeliness and timelessness of his teaching, and the truth and wisdom behind the essential propositions of the Church reaffirmed by his writing.

Far from just “prohibiting artificial contraception,” Paul VI foresaw the consequences that marriages and society would suffer if the use of contraception became widespread. As Karen Mahoney recently summarized in The Catholic Herald, the tribulations that would arise if Church teaching on the regulation of births were disregarded are first, “conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality,” second, the loss of respect for women by men to the point that men would consider women “as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment and no longer as his respected and beloved companion,” third, governments would use contraception as “a dangerous weapon,” and, finally, that contraception would mislead human beings into thinking they had unlimited dominion over their own bodies, relentlessly turning the human person into the object of his or her own intrusive power.

At the time, opposing voices promised artificial contraception would bring positive advancements for both marriages and society. Sadly, it is clear for all who have eyes to see and ears to hear that the past 50 years has proven the dire predictions of Paul VI to be more than accurate.

In 2018, we must recommit ourselves to understanding and living what Pope Paul VI wrote in the opening line of Humanae Vitae :

“The transmission of human life is a most serious role in which married people collaborate freely and responsibly with God the Creator. It has always been a source of great joy to them, even though it sometimes entails many difficulties and hardships.”

In short, the Holy Father reiterated that spouses, with the help of God’s grace, can realistically acquire the self-discipline necessary to practice the methods of family planning that require periodic abstinence. He wrote:

“….the discipline which is proper to the purity of married couples, far from harming conjugal love, rather confers on it a higher human value. It demands continual effort yet, thanks to its beneficent influence, husband and wife fully develop their personalities, being enriched with spiritual values. Such discipline bestows upon family life fruits of serenity and peace; and facilitates the solution of other problems; it favors attention for one’s partner, helps both parties to drive out selfishness, the enemy of true love, and deepens their sense of responsibility.”

Bishop Strickland, Bishop of the Diocese of Tyler, has placed a renewed focus on teaching our Catholic faith, which includes special attention being given to the idea of Natural Family Planning contained in Humanae Vitae. In his pastoral letter to the people of East Texas on teaching, published in May 2017, he wrote the following:

“It is providential that in 2018 the Church will celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the encyclical letter Humanae Vitae. At its promulgation, much of the world rejected, and continues to reject, the unchanging truths contained in this teaching of Blessed Pope Paul VI. Fifty-years on, seeing the unrelenting attack on the moral teaching of the sanctity of human life, we understand that the teachings of Humanae Vitae are “crucial for humanity’s future,” and it is imperative that we embrace these truths of married love, responsible parenthood and human sexuality.”

This is what is required of all of us: the effort of conversion of ourselves. Chastity “tolerates neither a double life nor duplicity in speech” (CCC 2338). We must commit ourselves to overcoming any duplicity, which we have come to rely on concerning this challenging teaching of the Church. If we are to help married couples to live according to God’s law, then we have to submit ourselves to that same law and lead the way.

This conversion begins by gently and patiently teaching and re-teaching the faithful the truth and beauty of what the Church has always taught and what Paul VI so prophetically re-proposed a half-century ago.  •

Bishop Joseph E. Strickland will speak at St. Joseph Parish in Shreveport on July 25. He was consecrated the fourth bishop of the Diocese of Tyler in November of 2012. He was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Dallas in 1985 and joined the newly-created Diocese of Tyler in 1987. Before being selected as bishop by Pope Benedict XVI, he served as pastor of several parishes, rector of the Cathedral, judicial vicar and vicar general.

Domestic Church: The Freedom to Discover God’s Truth

by Katie Sciba

Every generation of Americans needs to know that freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.” Pope St. John Paul II’s wisdom was spoken directly to an American congregation during his October 1995 visit. In visiting the land of the free, he clearly articulated what true liberty is. In such a wealthy nation, most of us are able to do what we like. We have options in marriage, work and leisure; and while wonderful, this is not the makings of freedom. When that which the Lord compels us to do – what we ought to do – is unbarred by law, society, or even personal hesitation, then we know the bliss of freedom.

Discover what you “ought”

Our vocations are our life’s work – the call of God to love through being what He made us to be. Some callings are universal (and pretty obvious) because the Lord spelled them out in the Commandments; but God’s will for our lives is also revealed through the gifts and charisms He has given us individually. For example, my husband is blessed with visual creativity that makes him a fantastic video producer; my desire to live simply keeps our home hospitable to its sweet occupants. Another indication of how the Lord calls us is examining what could be called “holy unrest” within us. The injustices that make us want to jump up and act are the ones Jesus nudges us toward so we can bring His love and mercy. Causes as wide as the pro-life movement or as local as classroom bullying need us to diffuse the wrong.

Cut back on what doesn’t mesh

It’s a thrill to finally do what the Lord made us to do, and to be what He made us to be. Moving forward though, we can begin identifying what holds us back. If work imposes on our marriages, we can rearrange our schedules or cut back an hour or two. For teens who need less time online and more of a life lived to the fullest, switch them to a “dumb” phone, reduce social media and give more real life experiences. With the Lord’s help, we can give the boot to whatever stands between us and saying yes to God.

Embrace the grace

One of my favorite Gospel stories is The Rich Young Man. After accounting for his own faithfulness, a young man asks Jesus what he must do to gain eternal life. Jesus tells the man to sell his possessions, give the money to the poor, and follow him. For the rich young man, this feels impossible and he walks away feeling crushed. I wish so much that he would have stuck around and asked Jesus for help, for grace, to do what he felt he couldn’t. Whatever it is He desires for our lives – what we ought to do – Jesus is ready to shower grace upon grace for us to do it. The Lord doesn’t intend for us to proceed alone, and asking Jesus to be with us strengthens us to do what we otherwise couldn’t.

In all circumstances, what we ought to do is clear. As men and women made in the image and likeness of God, we ought to live fully, we ought to be channels of Jesus’ mercy by loving others and ourselves and we ought to follow the Lord’s call for our lives by asking for His grace.

Prayer for the Protection of Religious Liberty
from USCCB.org

O God our Creator, from Your provident hand we have received our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. You have called us as Your people and given us the right and the duty to worship You, the only true God, and Your Son, Jesus Christ. Through the power and working of Your Holy Spirit, You call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world, bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel to every corner of society.

We ask You to bless us in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty. Give us the strength of mind and heart to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened; give us courage in making our voices heard on behalf of the rights of Your Church and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.

Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father, a clear and united voice to all Your sons and daughters gathered in Your Church in this decisive hour in the history of our nation, so that, with every trial withstood and every danger overcome— for the sake of our children, our grandchildren, and all who come after us—this great land will always be “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

 

Faithful Food: Our Touchstones

by Kim Long

When my children were young and housework was sometimes overwhelming, if I could find one surface, counter top, end table or corner of a room, that was completely in order I was encouraged to go to the next spot and reclaim it in the name of orderliness. This exercise comforted and assured me that chaos was not the victor and kept me coping with a small home and four very busy little boys, a husband and many friends.

Years later I still “play this game,” finding the one space which is exactly as it should be, calmness ensues and then I can begin to clear away the clutter and chaos (inner and outer).

I called this space a touchstone.

Over the years I began to recognize other things as touchstones and they did not all have to do with cleaning my home.

I go to Mass when I travel. This has led me to some amazing experiences as well as some underwhelming ones. In both scenarios there are certain things which catch my attention and remind me that all really is well; the smell of a church anywhere in the world which is to me the fragrance of hope and faith, the priest intoning the phrase which settles us all in, “In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” the calm which settles over me once I recognize this age old rhythm, these serve to calm me, to center me.

Touchstones.

On family vacation there is not so much a thing to which I can point but an energy which is felt by all present regardless of our differences (and believe me, we have them). We are a family, we share connections through telling family stories, listening to a song which coaxes a memory to surface and light, one of family togetherness, the feel of my oldest child’s arms around me, the way my grandson’s hand feels small in my own hand, even the shared pain of loss deepens our bond.

So it is with cooking. I admit there are times that I come home from work and am “starving,” but cast around in the pantry or fridge and nothing suits which really means I am hungry for something more, a touchstone waiting to reveal itself. This is when every single experience that surfaces brings an accompanying food. When I think of my grandmother, I remember the cake I made for her birthday, my mother and aunt brought their own dishes and my dad made delicious French toast.

A touchstone is defined as a foundation or quintessential part of a feature.

This passage from 1st Timothy 6: 18-19, speaks to our subject, “Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.”

Touchstones surround and enfold us if we choose to see, hear and, yes, even taste them. They help us build a foundation in this world and the more connected to God we become the more we see the foundation was always there, beneath us, supporting us all our days.

Here is my dad ’s delicious French toast recipe, that he prepared “when he had the time.” Recalling him with a dishtowel over his shoulder, whistling, and “rustling up some breakfast” is another touchstone, a piece of that foundation and it fills me with delight.

May your summer find you enjoying all the delights and navigating the challenges each day holds and bring you to a deeper connection to the One who holds us all together.

Daddy’s Leisurely French Toast

Ingredients:

• 1 loaf Texas toast

• 6 whole eggs

• whipping cream (1 to 2 pints)

• 1 tsp cinnamon

•  ½ tsp. cloves

• 1 tsp. vanilla

•  butter (unsalted)

Directions:

1) In a large bowl, whisk eggs until blended well.

2) Add whipping cream, cinnamon, cloves and vanilla extract.

3) Soak several pieces of the bread in the egg and cream mixture. Let bread soak in mixture one or two slices at a time. Bread will become saturated but don’t leave in so long it is falling apart.

4) Place slices on hot buttered griddle and brown to your taste on each side.

6) Enjoy with your choice of toppings, syrup, preserves, powdered sugar or whipped cream!

Note: Use real butter on the griddle and monitor the temperature closely to prevent scorching of the butter. (If, however, butter is something you need to omit – substitute 1 tsp. of butter flavored extract in the batter itself and use non stick pan spray).

Book Review: Feast Days and Holidays

Feast Days & Holidays
by Joan Marie Arbogast

Reviewed by Jessica Rinaudo

 Feast Days and Holidaysby Joan Marie Arbogast is a teaching tool for Catholic parents and teachers to not only share the significance of the Catholic faith and the life of the saints with children, but to also provide activities and prayers to help make those lessons memorable.Published in a spiral bound format, Feast Days and Holidays is organized in sequential order for the year. For each feast day and holiday in the book, there are pages that can be reproduced for handouts, crafts, puzzles, recipes and activities. There is also information about the particular feast day, liturgical season or holiday, explaining what it is, incorporating both scripture and the saints to explain why it’s important in the life of the Church.

To me, one of the best parts of this book is that it takes holidays that aren’t necessarily Church holidays, like Martin Luther King Jr. Day, President’s Day and Earth Day, and extrapolates a message of love and social justice that ties in with the mission of the universal Catholic Church.

The activities in the book can easily be adapted for different age groups, and most can be done with items found around the house. Activities encourage children to be humble servants, as well as teach them about solemnities and liturgical colors.

I know that as a mother, I often find myself struggling for the best ways to teach the faith – and all that entails – to my children. I appreciate that Feast Days and Holidays provides some concrete tools to do that, as well as help me incorporate things separate from the Church into our faith lives.

I recommend this book to catechists, teachers and especially parents who find it challenging to teach the faith and help little ones remember the message. I found that by going through the book with my children, I even learned a few things along the way. •

 

Mike’s Meditations: Reaction vs Response

by Mike Van Vranken

Have you ever found yourself excited after a great Sunday homily? Or, maybe you’ve heard a religious leader say something that confused you or even made you mad. And of course, there is that way-too-common reaction when we hear some moral message and think to ourselves: “I sure hope … (fill in the blank) heard that sermon. In other words, we can react in many diverse and varied ways. But we have this human tendency to think most good preaching is meant for someone else and not for us.

A recent sermon on love, watched and heard by over 48 million people in the U.S. and U.K. alone, provoked an array of reactions that can make one wonder if we all watched and listened to the same preacher. One person convincingly said it was a “message for the ages.” Another sarcastically tweeted that the preacher selfishly made his comments all about himself. Many were excited to proclaim the message as “what the world needed to hear.” And, many more decried it as “too long.” One even confessed how bored he felt listening to the “lecture on love.”

In each of these examples, we are talking about reactions. These are the feelings that well up within us when we see or hear something that moves us in such a way that we become emotionally changed – at least for the moment. But the real question we sometimes fail to ask ourselves is: “How will I respond?” This question inspires us to look within; to confront the person in the mirror; to search our very heart and ask: “What am I being called to do as a result of hearing this teaching?” And if we choose to do nothing, then nothing is our response.

St. Paul said it this way: “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect” Romans 12:2. I think he’s telling us to listen to God’s words through preaching or reading, and whatever our reactions are, (joy, boredom, relief, peace, impatience, confusion… ), take those feelings to God and find out how He wants us to be transformed; to change; to be different.

If we go back to our example of the sermon on love, we can feel all rosy inside thinking about how the world would be if everyone loved everyone. Feeling rosy would be our reaction. But then the real work comes. To look within my own heart and ask: “How loving am I?” Paul doesn’t tell us to transform other people. He says to transform ourselves. I have to honestly and courageously take my own “love inventory” and see (Jesus loves healing the blind), where I am missing the mark. (By the way, did you know that the Greek word for sin in the New Testament means: “to miss the mark?”)

Let me make this suggestion: every time we read a scripture; every time we hear a sermon or homily; every time we read a spiritual document or attend a Christian teaching or presentation; besides listening intellectually, let’s then experience the message internally. We do this by identifying our reactions, our feelings, those sensations and emotions calmly moving or even raging within us, and take them to God; asking him to vividly and explicitly show us where these reactions are coming from and how he wants us to specifically and even radically change our lives. How does God want me to respond? Once we have discerned God’s will (Romans 12:2), then we can respond with: “Yes, Lord, I will be transformed according to your will.” Or, “No, Lord, I will not change, even for you.” Either way, that’s our response.

Does this seem difficult? At times, it will be. I think that’s what Jesus meant when he said: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” Matthew 16:24. And I also believe it’s what he meant when he told Paul that his grace was sufficient for Paul (2 Corinthians 12:9). We can and should pray constantly for God’s grace to sustain and even empower us. Your Spiritual Director can very reverently and gently help you with this practice as well.

Reactions are our way of emotionally receiving any stimuli. Responses are what we do about it. If we always seek God’s will before we respond, we will realize transformation on a daily basis.