Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A “Different Perspective” – Ecumenical Prayer Experience

This is Part 2 in a 3 Part Series on “Different Perspectives.” Hope you enjoy! Final episode soon…

Back in January, one of the priests at my parish invited me to attend a planning meeting for something called the Justice Revival. I wasn’t sure what he was asking me to go to, but I decided to step out of my Catholic comfort zone and attend the meeting at First Presbyterian Church in downtown Dallas. Over the course of the monthly meetings I attended I was so moved by the different ways people prayed and preached from their faith traditions. I was amazed at the work people were already doing in our community to help people in need. I was grateful for how a belief in Jesus could bring us together to focus on our call to reach out to others and temporarily forget those things that divide us. At first I was thrown off by the impassioned preaching and the “Amens” from the audience, but I quickly found that I was moved by the outward expression of faith in prayer.

The Justice Revival took place over 3 evenings November 10-12. While the loud music and “altar call” were still a bit out of my comfort zone for worship, I received a “different perspective” from the amazing preaching I was able to hear on the 2 nights of the revival I attended. I was graced to hear Dr. Zan Wesley Holmes, Jr. on Tuesday. His stories of many, many years of bringing together churches to work for justice in Dallas were absolutely inspirational. His ability to integrate biblical stories with his own stories with challenges to us showed me what a gift he has been given to preach. Good things have come from the churches working together in the past, and we now have an opportunity to make good things come again.

Thursday brought the Emerging Leaders Dinner and a brief presentation by Lauren Winner. I would have loved for Lauren to have been given more than the 20 minutes she was allocated. She talked about bringing together our spiritual practices and our work in the world. She has a unique ability to connect to a young adult audience in a way that made sense and also challenged us to think. Her spirituality is deeply rooted in both her education and her experience. I’m looking forward to reading some of her books.

Finally, we heard from Jim Wallis, the founder of Sojourners Magazine and the brain behind the idea of the Justice Revival. I was amazed at his preaching because he was able to use words and phrases that spoke to the entire variety of people in attendance. He truly knows and understands how to bring Christians together for something they all have in common. He spoke for 5 minutes at the Emerging Leaders Dinner, and I think this actually had more impact on me than his talk later on at the Revival. He challenged the young adults to “think about their vocation more than their career.” Because I was helping at the event, I actually missed most of what he said, but I found where he presented a similar topic online in a commencement address he gave in 2007. Unfortunately, in my Catholic world “vocation” is almost always all about the priesthood…or if we’re “lucky” they don’t forget about religious, married, or single people. However, I’ve been struggling in my studies to understand even this 4-tiered definition of vocation. It seems to limit our calling from God to merely a state in life. Jim Wallis offers up an explanation of vocation as “where your gifts intersect the groaning needs of the world.” This “different perspective” on vocation has given me something to work with as I try to put some theology around my own vocational experiences.

I’m thankful for the variety of “different perspectives” I was introduced to through the process of planning for the Justice Revival over the last year. My prayer life is different because I was able to pray with Christians of other traditions. My concern for the issues in Dallas, and around the world, is heightened because my eyes have been opened. I’ve been inspired by the work others are doing for these issues. My Catholic view of our call from Jesus to help those in need has truly become a catholic view of social justice.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A "Different Perspective" - One the Sidelines During Mass

I know that I've been completely MIA on the blogging front for quite a while. I've had so many ideas to write about, and I finally decided tonight to take some time to do it. This is the first in a 3 part series of "Different Perspectives." I'll try to get the other 2 parts out over the next week or so. Hope you enjoy this one, and stay tuned...

About a week ago, our Sunday 5pm Mass was held in the gym instead of the main church. The congregation was set up facing the altar which was under one of the basketball hoops. Adam and I were running a bit late, so we had to sit in the bleachers, on the sidelines, facing the side of the congregation instead of the altar. We were both disappointed that Mass was being held in the gym, and I was particularly disappointed that we had to sit in the bleachers! Most of the time my body was twisted to face the altar to my left, so it was not very comfortable. Although we weren’t facing the front of the “church,” I tried to focus on what was going on in the Mass. I watched the lectors and deacon make Christ present to us by proclaiming the Word of God. I watched the priest make Christ present to us by consecrating the Eucharist. I looked directly at Christ made present in the Eucharist when the priest elevated the host for us all to see.

When I returned from receiving communion, after actually receiving Christ and making him present within me, and I sat down and looked straight ahead. I looked not at the ambo or at the altar, but at the rows of people directly in front of me. I looked at the chairs filled with bodies of all shapes and sizes, colors and ages. I recognized my friends in the congregation, and I peered at the faces of people I had never seen. I saw Christ present in the many young adults who attend our 5pm celebration. I saw Christ present in the families with teens. I watched the people as they sang the communion song. I watched one couple, probably in their sixties, and watched the man sing joyfully and passionately to a very contemporary song that many “older people” might not like (probably Matt Maher or David Kauffman or something similar). I saw Christ present in this man, showing us how music can touch our hearts and move us to be closer to Him.

Although sitting in the bleachers on the “sidelines” probably isn’t the best way to have full, active participation in the Mass, I was grateful for this different perspective. I know Christ is present in the Liturgy of the Word. We all know Christ is present in the Liturgy of the Eucharist. But sometimes we forget that Christ is just as present in the community of believers as he is in the rituals we participate in every Sunday.

Monday, October 26, 2009

My blogging is pathetic

If the Archbishop of NY has time to blog, shouldn't I have time? One of these days I will post something great for you all... :)

Thanks Marcel

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Fr. Barron on Ted Kennedy

An interesting and rather poignant reflection on the political situation in our country how our Catholic faith doesn't fit perfectly into the political structures we have today. I think Fr. Barron's struggle is one many of us have today...

Thanks to Marcel for the post.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Reflection on Readings - Sunday, Aug 9

I was out of town this weekend and forgot to post this reflection on Sunday's readings. If you need a refresher, you can find the readings here.

I know there are many days when I feel exhausted and worn out and feel like I don’t have enough energy to keep up with all my various responsibilities. Sometimes I lose energy because I am not sure which direction God wants me to go. Sometimes I have used up all the energy I have on things that have come my way throughout the day or the week. Sometimes I don’t have enough energy because I haven’t had enough sleep, food, or exercise.

I am sure my struggles are very different than what Elijah experienced…after all, I’ve never traveled a day’s journey in the desert! Although I can’t relate to what Elijah was encountering in his life, I can learn something from his relationship with God. When Elijah was worn out, exhausted, and at the end of his rope, he said “That’s it God! I can’t do it anymore! You just need to take care of it!” And take care of it He did. God provided enough food and drink to strengthen Elijah for a forty day journey!

We learn in the Gospel today that God sent eternal food and drink to us in His son Jesus. Our source of strength and our energy is fueled by the intimate relationship with God that we are offered through Jesus our brother. We are blessed as Catholics to be able to experience that bread of life every Sunday, or even every day! The Eucharist, the living bread, our communion, draws us together in faith, nourishes us, and gives us the spiritual energy to not only get through our struggles, but to be an example of that living bread to everyone we encounter. With frequent reception of the Eucharist can gain strength to overcome whatever we have experienced in the past, get through whatever we are struggling with today, and prepare for whatever God is calling us to in the future

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Reflection on Readings - Sunday, June 28th

I wrote this for our parish bulletin for this weekend. Hope you enjoy it!

This weekend we conclude the year of St. Paul as designated by our Holy Father last June. I am reminded of many things I have learned in the past year about Paul’s life, writings, and especially his faith. Paul believed, above all, that all of us are holy because we are created by God in His image. In all our faults, failings, gifts, talents, and successes, we are holy. Our second reading today, from Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians, can only be understood if we know that Paul believes we are holy. As he writes the letter to the Corinthians, he is writing this letter to us today as well.

Paul calls us to excel in FAITH. Our faith is a gift from God, not something we earn or work for. We can only excel in faith if God has first made us holy to accept the gift of faith.

Paul calls us to excel in DISCOURSE. He wants us to explore the understanding of our holiness with one another by discussing it within our communities of faith.

Paul calls us to excel in KNOWLEDGE. Paul is asking us to always learn more about the holiness that has been given to us by God. We should always seek out ways to better understand our faith.

Paul calls us to excel in ALL EARNESTNESS. We should take seriously our holiness. We should recognize the importance of what it means to be holy and recognize our importance in the world because of this gift of holiness.

Paul calls us to excel in LOVE. If our holiness does not lead us to love, what does it mean? Paul always comes back to the commandment from Christ to love one another, and he is still reminding us today how important this commandment is.

Finally, Paul calls us to excel in GRACIOUS ACTS. The holiness each of us has been given from God is completely unique. Our holiness gives us gifts and talents that only we can use to participate and share God’s plan with the world. We have each been given an abundance in some aspect of your life, and Paul calls us to share that abundance with others.

What can you do this week to discover how you excel in each of these areas? Or what do you need to do to excel? What gracious act can you share with a friend, family member, our parish community, or our civic community to show how God has blessed you with holiness?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A 3 Minute Reflection

One of my friends said to me this weekend, "I'm so disappointed in your blog!" To be honest, this was not someone I would have expected to be reading my blog or commenting on the fact that I haven't posted in a looong time (mostly because I don't ever think people read it and am always surprised when someone comments!). But it did bring me motivation to pay more attention and do some writing.

I actually had all sorts of things I wanted to write about after we got back from Europe. I have a few stories in mind and will post them in the coming days.

For now, I wanted to pass along an opportunity for a 3 minute reflection. I learned of a video post offered by the USCCB everyday that reflects on the daily readings. Today's is from Dallas' own Fr. John Libone from St. Thomas Aquinas church. Take a look: