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Let Us Persevere

“A brother spent nine years, tempted to leave the cenobium.  Every day he got his things ready to leave, and when evening came, he would say to himself: ‘Tomorrow, I go away.’  In the morning he again thought to himself: ‘Let us strive again to hold out today because of the Lord.’  And when he had spent the nine years in that way, God relieved him of that temptation.”

(The Noonday Devil, pg 22)

This short story blows my mind.  Nine years!  Every day he packed up!  Yet every morning he found the strength to persevere.  It’s beautiful, really.  This is what came to my mind:

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness.”

 (Lamentations 3:22-23)

His mercies are new every morning.  Every morning God gives me the strength for today, the grace to say yes to His will that day.  Looking at life through this lens can be a lot less overwhelming.  At certain moments I may not feel like I have a whole lot left in me to give, but I have one more smile, one more sacrifice, one more act of love.  Great is His faithfulness!  And because He is faithful, I can be faithful too.

As we continue this Lenten season, perhaps your Lenten practices have become burdensome, and you are tempted to give them up. 

Do you have one more day to give because of the Lord?

 

Written by: Kristen
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God Is Love

It’s easy to see how today’s society has managed to push God out of many things we encounter on a daily basis, especially in the media.  Participating in the New Evangelization means re-introducing Jesus back into our culture in the smallest ways.  One thing that I’ve noticed, especially in my own life, is how we fail to realize that ‘Love’ isn’t simply something we do, but rather something that we are apart of – it is much bigger than us.  This understanding is why St. Francis is known as the Seraphic Father.  He was so consumed in the Love all around him that he burned with that love.  If we hope to bring Jesus anywhere, we must first recognize His presence all around us. But how?

Peter Kreeft, in his book, The God Who Loves You, wrote: “False definitions and false ideas about love have devastating consequences in life.  Broken homes, broken hearts, broken societies, broken treaties, our broken world – all result from broken definitions of love….” (pg. 49)  We must begin with the correct definition of “Love”.  God is Love (1 John 4:8) and this love isn’t just a warm and fuzzy feeling or a nice sentiment, it is ‘being’.  Out of the great vastness of His love, He created everything: the air we breathe, the simplicity in the eyes of children, that ray of sunshine that makes us smile (especially for those who live in western New York) and everything in between.  The more we begin to recognize Love in the smallest things, the more we can bring Love to others. Evangelization isn’t just telling people about Jesus, but bringing them into a relationship with Him.  For us, it doesn’t have to be a constant preaching of the Word in speech.  It could be recognizing Love in a beautiful spring day and sharing the joy of that recognition with others.  Joy breeds joy.   The beauty of the life of a Christian is being able to recognize Love in the simple things even on the most difficult day.  Seeing this Love reminds us of our hope and brings us back the joy that is ours.  Peter reminds us to “always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope” (1 Peter 3:15).  By doing this we bear witness to the infinite Love of God and that’s the love that will change the world.

 

Let us pray for the grace to see God’s love in the world around us and share the joy of that Love with others. 

 

(This image is not ours. You may find it here.)
Written by: Alycia
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No Fear In Love

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love.”

1 John 4:18

I came across this verse my junior year of college. It resonated deep within my soul and I brought it into every conversation I possibly could; so much so that when I would start to quote it to my friends they would join me, in a joking manner, like I was a broken record. There was and is a beauty to it that I couldn’t put my finger on until recently.

If I went around asking people what they were afraid of, I bet many would say: death, losing their job, becoming bankrupt or homeless, being alone, etc. But how many of us would say, surrendering to God’s will or allowing God to use us in ways that we cannot even fathom. Often times, I wonder if we think about how intimidating that could be. Take the Apostles for example and imagine yourself in their shoes. You’re spending all of your time with Jesus, and one day He looks at you and says, “But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you” (John 16:7).

Fast forward to the 20th chapter of John and we find the Apostles locked in an upper room for fear of the Jews, essentially for fear of death. They just spent 3 years with Jesus to preach the Kingdom of God, not to hide in a room. Jesus comes to them and His first words are, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19). A few verses later, Jesus breathes on them the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is now, and only now, that the Holy Spirit, the Love of God, has taken away their fear and will soon give to them the gifts to fulfill the mission they have been given (Matt. 28:19, Acts 2).   There is no fear in love because there is no fear in the Holy Spirit – the manifestation of the Love between the Father and the Son.

In my own life, I know often times I am fearful of what truly surrendering means for my life – ‘What if I mess up your plan, God?’, ‘What if this isn’t what’s best for me?’, ‘What if I don’t feel ready?’– but at the end of the day, it’s not about me, what I want or what I think I’m capable of because God’s grace is sufficient. (2 Corinthians 12:9) There’s something freeing in knowing that, in the words of Mother Teresa, “God doesn’t require us to succeed, He only requires that you try.” We simply have to be open, as the Apostles were, to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

I recently came across a project that Fr. Dave Pivonka, TOR is doing called “The Wild Goose”. This project is “a simple attempt to invite Catholic Christians into a more profound life giving relationship with the Holy Spirit”. I invite you to check out the website and watch the first few segments. They will inspire and stir up within you a deeper relationship with the Holy Spirit, who removes fear so that we can live Love perfectly.

“Stir in me a love that’s deep / A love that’s wide / A love that’s sweet. / And help me Lord to never keep it to myself / And if my heart should dimly burn / And if my feet should fail to run / Call my name and I will come right back to You.”

No Fear In Love by Steffany Gretzinger

 

Come, Holy Spirit, Come. Amen.

 

Written by: Alycia
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Hearts Afire

Our hearts were created (though I am no scientist, in fact quite far from it) to pump our life’s blood to and throughout our bodies that we may have the oxygen we need everywhere to live. More than the physical organic functioning of our hearts, its true purpose is far more necessary in order for us to remain fully alive. The human heart created in the image and likeness of God was created to be filled with Christ, that it may love, be loved, praise our Lord and be set aflame to serve. Without this flame of Love, this flame of service, this flame of Christ – the heart is deadened little by little and though it continue beating and is organically alive, spiritually it is filled with a deep poverty.

How often do we ponder our own interior lives, our heart. Self-reflection is a beautiful part of the life of the Catholic. It leads us to a knowledge of our weaknesses, failures and sins – yes. More than this knowledge it leads us to a deeper understanding of love, joy, peace and Christ’s indwelling within us. As we reflect more on this indwelling within us we are then challenged to consider how we live like Christ in our daily lives.

Do I wear my frustrations, ways of thinking differently or even my unnecessary sensitivities on my sleeve or do I wear compassion, self-sacrifice, and the love of Christ there? Often Blessed Mother Teresa spoke of seeing the Face of Jesus in the poorest of the poor, of seeing Christ in them and also being Christ to them. In this self-reflection, do we strive to bring Christ to all people and also to see Christ in them, even when it is most difficult? Is this true flame of my life’s blood flowing out in my daily life or am I resting in spiritual poverty?

Spend some time if you are able in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament at Adoration and if you can’t make it there reflect on an image of it. Even in the Monstrance the symbol of Christ’s outpouring of love to humanity is present – in the rays that extend from its center, which hold our Lord, body, blood, soul, and divinity.

Now take this meditation of the monstrance and your self-reflection of Christ’s indwelling within you and place your heart into the center of the Monstrance. For Christ is the source and summit of our faith and if we live this each day then He is not only in its center but also comprises the deepest parts of our heart. What in this meditation do you see in your heart and what rays do you see coming forth from it? Not for self-adoration do we make this prayer but for self-reflection. Can my heart be placed where Christ is? Will my heart bring Christ to those I meet? Is Christ my center and deepest recess? Is my heart afire for Christ? Am I aware of His indwelling within me? Is my heart fully alive in Christ?  

Lord, fill my heart anew with your Love. Let it radiate your rays of love, joy, peace, mercy, compassion, and unconditional service. Set my heart aflame that I may do your will and be fully alive in you more and more in all that I do. Amen.

 

Written by Nicolette

 

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Live A Holy Lent

 Ah, Lent. We meet again.

It’s funny to me how when I was younger lent simply seemed to be the time of year to give up chocolate and ice cream, and the more disciplined you were during these forty days was rewarded back to you when Easter came – the more eggs you got, the more well behaved you must have been!

Such a childish thought.

However, on this Ash Wednesday, I find my heart in a very different place with a greater understanding of what lent really is. It’s not a competition of who can give up the most things. It’s not a time to let my pride swoop in and show everyone around me what I can accomplish. It’s not about the reward that awaits me in this world. It’s a time for humility. It’s a time for Jesus. Not for me. What I do these next forty days is not about me at all. In a sense, yes, it is a time to deepen my relationship with Our Lord, but in reality, every day is the time for that. Lent is a special time for me to give back to my Savior who gave it all for me. A time to little myself in light of the Cross. A time to declare that Jesus is really my all in all, my King and my Lord, because nothing on this earth is more important to me than Him.

We let go of things that we have become attached to so that we may strengthen our attachment to the Good Shepherd. We pour out the things that we have used to fill ourselves up, so that we may be filled again from the Chalice. We give back to the Redeemer all that He has blessed us with in our ever day lives, things that we may have just become so used to that we have forgotten what life is like without them. We die for Him because we love Him.

This doesn’t mean we become concerned with how much we are giving up. The focus should be more on the hurt in the sacrifice. What does it cost you? What does it mean to you? You could do something so small that no one around you notices, but you feel it in a big way. Lent is the invitation for us to lay down our life for our Friend. So what is it in your life that can cause you to feel this death? How will you respond to this invitation?

Our prayers are with all of you during these next forty days. May this time of suffering and sacrifice lead you to a deeper union with our Christ Crucified. May you take part in His death so that you may share in the glory of the Resurrection to come!

A blessed and holy lent to you all.

 

Written by: Lindsey
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Smile!

 

 

Mother Teresa often talks or writes about smiling.  “Peace begins with a smile.” “…the

smile is the beginning of love.” “I will never understand all the good that a simple smile

can accomplish” 

MT

This is not our image. You can find it here.

 

And two of my favorites:

“Be brave and keep smiling.  You know He loves you with a tender, eternal love.”

“…the way He has chosen for you is the true way. So smile.  Smile at the Hand that

strikes you – kiss the Hand that is nailing you to the Cross….Be like a little lamb – smile

at everyone.”

Some moments the struggle can be overwhelming to turn up those two corners of my

mouth into a genuine smile that shines from within.  It really can be an act of bravery to

win that war with myself, to let joy and self-forgetfulness triumph, and to be that light

for others.  But what a difference it makes!  Here are some interesting facts about

smiles:

 

“We’re born to do it. A smile is one of the most basic, biologically uniform

expressions of all humans. Paul Ekman, the world’s leading expert on

facial expressions, discovered that smiles are cross-cultural and have

the same meaning in different societies. 3-D ultrasound technology

shows that developing babies appear to smile even in the womb. The

mood-boosting power of a smile is unfathomable. Studies show that one

smile can provide the same level of brain stimulation as up to 2,000

chocolate bars. Yet, unlike lots of chocolate, lots of smiling can actually

make you healthier. :)”  from www.dailygood.org

 

So today, smile for your family, smile for your co-workers, smile for those who make you

not want to smile.  Smile for yourself and for the Lord who knows you and loves you

with a tender and eternal love!

 
Written by: Kristen
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Are You Willing?

      The will is a strange thing.  Some people have weak wills.  We call others strong-willed.  We marvel at those who overcome addictions through sheer will-power.  Babies overcome birthing traumas and unresponsive lungs and begin to cry.  A dying loved one holds on until they have seen that last person.  Those facing serious illnesses often overcome them through the very will to live.  Human beings are capable of just about anything if they have the drive, the determination; the will.  “Where there is a will, there is a way.”  So why do so many people give up before trying?  Why do they dismiss an undertaking because they “could never….”?  Why are so many content with mediocrity?  Because embracing the strength that can be found inside even the weakest human being can be painful.  To fully embrace one’s “power of will”, a certain death is required.  The question is asked, “how much are you willing to give?”  Applied to the spiritual life – “how much are you willing to sacrifice?”  Comfort?  Desires?  Time and energy?

      In order to grow into full spiritual maturity, a constant death-to-self is necessary.  Jesus promised that if He suffered, we would, too.  “No servant is greater than his master” (John 13:16).  He also promised He would always be with us.  “I will not leave you orphans” (John 14:18).  If both of these are true, a third conclusion must follow.  Resurrection.  If we are always united to God, we must die with Him.  If we die with Him, we must necessarily rise with Him.  Because of Jesus, death goes hand in hand with resurrection.  If we can allow ourselves to die with Jesus, the glorious resurrection awaits us. 

     G.K. Chesterton said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”  The success of many goals in our lives come down to how badly we want them.  Do we really want holiness and sanctity and greater union with God?  What are we willing to sacrifice?  Will we give it all, or will we let the fear of our potential hold us back?  It seems paradoxical that catching glimpses of the greatness we are capable of would fill us with fear and cause us to avoid it.  Yet that is what happens.  One of the great tragedies of our time is that too often we look at the possibilities and leave them untried out of fear of the difficulties we could possibly face. 

     If life can be seen as an adventure on the way to Heaven, no difficulty can be too great for us.  If we truly decide to live for God, our lives must make a radical shift.  It will be a daily battle to stay on the path marked for our success.  It will sometimes take all of our strength to continue.  Of one thing we can be sure – if we have the courage to truly persevere in an authentic Christian life, we cannot fail, for “God withholds Himself from no one who perseveres” (St. Teresa of Avila). 

 

Written by: Catherine
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The Greatest Of These Is Love

     This week we celebrate the Feast of St. Agnes of Rome (January 21). St. Agnes is a very special and well-known young girl in the Catholic Church, but she also has a special place in our community as Kristen’s patron saint.

       St. Agnes of Rome is a virgin and martyr, known for her beauty inside and out.  The story of her life is a heart-wrenching one. Not only was she beautiful, but she came from a wealthy family as well. At a very young age she dedicated herself, body and soul, to Our Lord. She called Him her Spouse and loved Him as dearly as anyone would love another. There were many men who desired to claim Agnes as a wife, but she never wavered in her faithfulness to Jesus. No man could capture her heart the way the Lord had. Unfortunately, that displeased those men who wished to marry Agnes, and they persecuted her for rejecting them. She died a martyr at the age of 13 in January 304.

 Read more about St. Agnes’s life here.

     Another important day to recognize this week is the Day of Prayer for Legal Protection of Unborn Children (January 22). This day is a day of prayer for us all to lift our voices to heaven that God’s will may be done, His mercy may be given, and His protection and grace may shower upon His people.

     Both of these days can be boiled down to a common characteristic of our Heavenly Father: His love and mercy are greater. No matter our age, no matter our circumstances, no matter what life may bring us, His love and mercy are greater. Greater than our fears. Greater than our struggles. Greater than our weaknesses. Greater than our wrongdoings. Greater than our persecutions. Greater than our sorrow.  Greater than everything.

     In the midst of this life there are two things we as Christians can do relentlessly. First, we can love. Love is at the root of everything. The more we love, the more God‘s light breaks through the darkness of this world. The second thing we can do is simply pray. Pray often and pray fervently. Pray for our children, for our families, for our leaders, and for our country.  

Agnes.png

Let us reflect this week on 1 Corinthians 13. May it be a source of prayer, encouragement, and hope for our persevering souls.

St. Agnes, pray for us!

 “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

 

Written by: Lindsey

 

 

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“And There Was A Great Calm”

“Then he got into the boat followed by his disciples. Suddenly a storm broke over the lake, so violent that the boat was being swamped by the waves. But he was asleep. So they went to him and woke him saying, ‘Save us, Lord, we are lost!’ And he said to them, ‘Why are you so frightened, you who have so little faith?’ And then he stood up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.”

Matthew 8:23-27 NJB

       For the last several months, we have tried to follow where the Lord has led us, and we have felt ‘swamped by the waves’; the waves of moving, ministering, growing as individuals and a community, and simply learning to live a fraternal life. It has been chaotic, stressful, overwhelming, and all the while, a true blessing. We started the summer out visiting our families, speaking at parishes, and taking time for fellowship. We bounced around Western New York assisting with different ministries and making new relationships with the beautiful families and people in this Diocese. We went to the Erie County fair, slipped down to Georgia, spent time in Allegheny and Olean, popped into Philly to see the Holy Father, and swung out to New Hampshire. We had countless people over for dinner, meetings, and visits, and on the flip side we were invited out to meet and eat with many new friends and benefactors. We celebrated our first Thanksgiving together as a community and returned to our families for the Christmas Season. It really was a wonderful time.

      As the New Year rang in, we found ourselves resting in Adoration of Our Lord, reflecting on the adventure we had just undergone. Fireworks were booming, bells were chiming, and we were prayerfully sleeping – or sleepfully praying! Throughout all these travels and ministries we underwent many physical illnesses and injuries. We cried, we laughed, we stayed up through the night, and we overslept through numerous alarms. God truly stretched and purified us in so many ways. We felt like the disciples in this passage crying out “Save us, Lord, we are lost!”. We began to feel like we had taken on too much, that we weren’t cut out for all that we had prayed about doing. Although we felt lost and as if we were surely perishing, we never were. Just like Jesus remained with his disciples in this scripture, so He has remained with us. In the midst of the ‘go, go, go’ lifestyle we now live, we have come to realize something: the more we ‘go, go, go’, the more we must ‘pray, pray, pray’. The moment we pray is the moment Our Savior calms the storm. He may not calm it exactly how we see best or would like Him to, but He calms it none the less.

      As we all continue to follow where Our Lord leads us through this new year, may we always remember that everything is grace. Everything is an opportunity for greater love. Everything is a chance to take a step closer to the Cross. Every time the storm clouds roll across the horizon of our lives and the great thunder roars its mighty bellow, just fall to your knees in prayer and surrender. Remember that no matter how chaotic things seem to get, or actually do become, that the Good Shepherd is always tending to His sheep.

 

Written by: Lindsey
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