I’m on an 8-day retreat.
Hope to be back to writing and podcasting soon.
Let us pray for one another.
Pat Gohn - writer, speaker, catechist
Quickly, off the top of your head, try to recall 3 times that a stranger has done something kind for you and it made all the difference in your life. Then say a prayer for each of those people. Then go an do likewise. Pay it forward with your kindness, courtesy, and willingness to help.
Here are my top 3 things I have received from the “love” of strangers…
1. Faith in Jesus Christ
In 1976, I attended an Antioch Weekend — a kind of Cursillo for teens — in other words, it was a youth retreat that was staffed by strangers. The leaders were young adults and college students in their early twenties. Somehow they felt called together to put on a weekend for a bunch of high school students that they did not know, for the sake of the Kingdom. They were not the first Christians I had ever met; I had been baptized a Catholic as an infant and attended Catholic schools. But they were certainly the most influential. Their willingness to share, pray, listen, and speak about Jesus Christ helped to bring the Spirit alive in me. I will never forget their willingness to meet new people and serve those who were not their friends, but strangers. Not a year goes by that I am not grateful for that community of young men and women who touched my life so deeply, and slowly evangelized me.
There are no strangers here;
Only friends you haven’t yet met.
–William Butler Yeats
Twenty years later, I was 36 years old and still hospitalized suffering the effects of mastectomy and reconstruction surgeries. Somewhere around day 5 in the post-surgical ward, I had a total tearful breakdown and was just sobbing and sobbing. I was alone in my room. My husband and family were back at home getting rejuvenated after the many days of being at my bedside. Sometime that afternoon I became overwhelmed by everything that was happening to me. There was this nurse — all I remember is that her name was “Mickey” — she was there just doing her job. I had a lot of meds, and tubes, and monitors and bandages that needed periodic tending. She came along and found me in quite a state. She just sat on my bed and held me as I cried and cried. It was a long cry. I did not know this woman, and I never saw her again. She did not have to counsel me or embrace me or even stay beyond what her duty required. But she did all those things. That was 1996. I still remember her.
Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love of the brethren,
a tender heart and a humble mind.
1 Peter 3: 8
3. My credit cards
On more than one occasion, I have left a credit or debit card at a counter, or in an ATM machine, and the people nearby have tracked me down to return them to me. One situation happened in France when I got my card stuck in a toll taking device before entering a tunnel. This tunnel went under a city and really, there would be no returning to this exact spot. After pulling off through crazy traffic to the guard booth, I described my gaffe in a combination of broken French and some sign language. A kind woman toll taker had mercy on me. She bounded through the toll traffic, opened the device, and retrieved the card so my vacation could continue. Another unforgettable occurrence was years back BC (Before Cellphones). I had left my pocketbook in a public place and someone found my address and returned my bag and wallet by wrapping it up and sending it to me through the mail — still with the cash and the credit cards in it.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, good people, for saving me from my own stupidity, and for saving me from the replacement hassles that come with such negligence on my part.
Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another
as God has forgiven you in Christ.
– Ephesians 4: 32
Here’s a little more inspiration… those “little things” add up!
And just in case you need an upbeat reminder about the whys of Holy Week, here ya go…
Previous #Fast Fridays:
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Been there. This is the truth.
Thank you, good women of Montana, and sponsor KJCR –Billings Catholic Radio, and all the other sponsors, for an unforgettable two days of wine, women, and song! (and prayer, and talks, and sisterhood, of course!)
I really enjoyed having Jaime Thietten along for this event. Her music really complimented the message of the talks I gave on Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious and our morning and evening prayers. We were able to collaborate in a way that does not often happen between conference speakers, and I’m very grateful to the conference leadership for the opportunity to craft a program with Jaime where we could share our gifts alongside one another.
I hope to have Jaime as a guest on an episode of Among Women in the weeks to come!
In the meantime, I wanted to share this video of one of Jaime’s songs. In her testimony talk over the weekend, she shared how her the Lord has led her to sing and to be a voice for the unborn. This song is a powerful reminder of the deep heartache that often accompanies a woman’s life, even years after an abortion. Keep a tissue handy.
Finally home after this 4-day jaunt. I was amazed at the mild temps in Montana and no snow! I flew home via Minnesota and they didn’t have snow either! We’re still looking at the white stuff here in MA, as we got a few inches while I was away. There’s about a 18-24 inches covering the yard, and a 6-foot high plow pile at the end of the driveway. But my heart sure felt the surge of spring while I was away! I love those Montana women!
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Mt 5:8)”
The organ for seeing God is the heart. The intellect alone is not enough.
The ascent to God occurs precisely in the descent of humble service, in the descent of love, for love is God’s essence, and is thus the power that truly purifies man and enables him to perceive God and see him. In Jesus Christ, God has revealed himself descending: “Though he was in the form of God” he “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men… He humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him” (Phil. 2: 6-9)
Those words mark a decisive turning point in the history of mysticism. They indicate what is new… which comes from what is new in the Revelation of Jesus Christ. God descends, to the point of death on the Cross. And precisely by doing so, he reveals himself in his true divinity. We ascend to God by accompanying him on this descending path.
Jesus of Nazareth, Vol I. (emphasis mine)
This Lent, I’ve been working on a deeper sense of fasting. Of course, that’s supposed to be between me and the Lord, but I thought I’d share just a few things that I’m learning about myself and that perhaps these things will resonate with you. If not, just move along with your day, don’t let me be a distraction.
So that’s the first thing about fasting: Distraction. So many distractions that can try to pull us away.
If you are fasting on a fast day on bread and water, you suddenly see all the luscious fruit on the countertop from your last grocery shop and you secretly wonder if you don’t enjoy it now, it may go bad by tomorrow. Distraction! Or as you’re preparing the evening meal for others, you decide that maybe a glass of wine would be just what you need. Distraction!! These are the moments when fasting is really a test of your will. Identifying your distractions is helpful.
To decide to stay with your fast is the goal. So to defend your fast against distraction, it’s okay to put the fruit or the wine in another room on a fast day. It’s also okay to plan a recipe with the food you are fasting from today (or for the whole of Lent) that you will cook tomorrow (or on Easter). That way you can think about the gift that food truly is for you as you fast from it today. And you’ll enjoy a richer blessing of it tomorrow or in Eastertide.
Distraction and the temptation to end your fast prematurely will be less likely if you find the fast that works for you — that is, making fasting something truly sacrificial and something that lends to a conversation between you and the Lord, but one that is not negatively impacting those around you. Otherwise, every distraction will equal a fail in your mind, and you might consider skipping your fast all together. Talk to the Lord when you feel distracted and talk to your feet too… move away from the distraction!
The goal here is tame the will and not crush the spirit. And to let your fast be something that you can lift up for love of Jesus.
Here’s something I’ve learned about myself when I am fasting that may be a good example. In the last few weeks, I’m finding I’m less productive work-wise on a fast day. (This is a once a week bread and water fast that I’m doing). Translation: I’m a bit sleepier, slower, and finding that coffee really is my friend. I don’t want to be a grumpy faster or non-productive at work, especially when I have to lead a class or give a presentation. So what to do? If my bread and water fast days occur on a night when I have to teach, etc., I allow a little coffee into my schedule. I have to know myself, and I have to be considerate of those I interact with. I’m still working up to the full on bread and water fasts, but when I need to “on”, I choose to modify the fast. So my bread and water fast days may have additional coffee/tea breaks if needed, especially when I have to interact with others.
If moving my fast day is an option, I might do that, too. So, you might think I’m a slacker. I’m mean, why not just soldier on and keep that fast day as scheduled? Am I not holy enough to do that? Am I cheating or something?
This brings me to the second thing that fasting teaches me: The need to achieve is strong in this one.
Fasting is not about perfectionism. Perfectionism is — A DISTRACTION!!!!!!
Honestly… I’m also trying to let go of perfectionism. Perfectionism tells me I can do it all and it shows the world I can do it. My goal is to keep this between me and Jesus and not get all self righteous about my performance of this fast or task. Trust me, sometimes it takes more humility for me, and is a greater sacrifice, to change the day and to give up my control of things, than to keep the date I had scheduled. May the Lord be the Lord of my Day. Not me.
Finally, the third point about fasting and distraction… sometimes even delayed gratification is positive and moving you toward giving up full control, and that’s good too.
Delayed gratification is mortifying.
If you’re fasting from, say, television, suddenly it seems everyone you know is talking about the game you missed or the episode of such-and-such that you are now pining to see. The chatter from others, both in person or online, can be a real humbling of our need to part of the in-crowd among friends or colleagues.
(Fortunately, in the land of online streaming and DVR’s we are not really fasting from those things… we are merely post-poning our gratification… for eventually, we may indeed watch what we’ve missed and catch up.)
Certain moments like this remind me that even delayed gratification is worth doing. It is worth something not to live in an on-demand way, to accept rather humbly what comes our way, as if you are waiting for a surprise. You never know what God might send into the empty space of time you create for Him. It gives him the full access (dare I say the remote control access?) to our hearts, rather than us being in control.
Fasting is not a cruel Catholic joke. It’s meant to change us, to change what we depend on. Do I depend on myself or the Lord? If my fast does not have me seeking Jesus, then change it up. Yes, it’s okay to begin anew. To hit the restart button and select a fast that keeps you in closer contact with Christ.
So, for me, fasting is an exercise in giving up control… to say that its not my way or the highway, that I’m good with whatever the Lord is bringing my way today. He is the Lord of all Time, not me. He is Divine Providence, not me.
Gratitude and generosity, for starters.
I’m thankful for everything that Providence has supplied for me this Lent, and in many other ways.
That gratitude is allowing me to be more generous in giving alms and wanting to do more and give more and more over to Jesus. The more that I can hand myself over to Jesus, the more his Will will take root in me.
I want Jesus separate me from what I’m attached to, from what takes me away from him. And at the same time I humbly pray that I’m never separated from His Will.
#Fast Friday from last week.
#Fast Friday from two weeks ago: midlife, mid-Lent
Matthew Kelly on Fasting
A few men in my family have Joseph as a name. Many of my recent meditations on the infancy narratives have given me a stronger love for Joseph. As I’ve been praying the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius, every week I make my own little trip to St Joseph’s retreat house in Milton, MA. So I’m developing an even greater fondness for the Universal Patron of the Church.
St John Paul II thought Joseph was pretty special too. He wrote quite a bit on Joseph and about his faith. I’m particular struck by his submissive will to God’s will. We often hear of Mary’s perfect alignment with the will of God, and then we think — she was sinless. Yet St Joseph does this too, like all great saints, really — finding delight in God’s will rather than one’s own. Let’s just say I’m taking notes.
The Primacy of the Interior Life
25. The same aura of silence that envelops everything else about Joseph also shrouds his work as a carpenter in the house of Nazareth. It is, however, a silence that reveals in a special way the inner portrait of the man. The Gospels speak exclusively of what Joseph “did.” Still, they allow us to discover in his “actions” – shrouded in silence as they are – an aura of deep contemplation. Joseph was in daily contact with the mystery “hidden from ages past,” and which “dwelt” under his roof. This explains, for example, why St. Teresa of Jesus, the great reformer of the Carmelites, promoted the renewal of veneration to St. Joseph in Western Christianity.
26. The total sacrifice, whereby Joseph surrendered his whole existence to the demands of the Messiah’s coming into his home, becomes understandable only in the light of his profound interior life. It was from this interior life that “very singular commands and consolations came, bringing him also the logic and strength that belong to simple and clear souls, and giving him the power of making great decisions-such as the decision to put his liberty immediately at the disposition of the divine designs, to make over to them also his legitimate human calling, his conjugal happiness, to accept the conditions, the responsibility and the burden of a family, but, through an incomparable virginal love, to renounce that natural conjugal love that is the foundation and nourishment of the family.
This submission to God, this readiness of will to dedicate oneself to all that serves him, is really nothing less than that exercise of devotion which constitutes one expression of the virtue of religion. (From Guardian of the Redeemer)
‘Tis true! I’m named for himself!
St Patrick, pray for me and guide me!
As a spiritual director of mine once said when I was asking him to make me into another Catherine of Siena, “God already has St Catherine, now he wants St Ronda.” What we want to imitate in the saints is their love, their zeal, their intimacy with God, their astounding courage, their forgiveness, and their compassion.
-Ronda De Sola Chervin, Treasury of Women Saints
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The Back Porch is where I love to visit. Here it's coffee and conversation, and where the faith-sharing is often a friendly mix of catechesis and cannoli. It's a place where I can be unplugged... yet connected to the people and things I care about. It's also the name of my blog.
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