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Saturday, August 23, 2008

A Journey in Prayer

By Randy Hain

I was recently reflecting on my faith journey over the last few years. I converted to Catholicism in 2006 with my wife. I was raised in the Baptist church until I stopped attending as a 15 year old and had no relationship with God until I experienced a powerful personal conversion in late 2005 while attending my second mass. My 23 years in the “spiritual wilderness” were challenging in that my life revolved around only work and then after my marriage, family and work. God was always watching over me during these years, but I didn’t have a relationship with Him and I certainly didn’t pray to Him until after my conversion and surrender to His will.

Before I began my RCIA classes in the Fall of 2006, I studied the Catholic faith in earnest. I tend to intellectualize everything and my first thoughts were to learn everything I could about our faith. I quickly realized there was more to our wonderful Faith than knowledge, history and tradition! I then began to focus on being the best Catholic I could be and started on my true faith journey, versus simply immersing myself in books. One of the biggest obstacles for me in those days was my lack of prayer life. I knew I needed to pray, but I couldn’t ever remember sincerely praying about anything. I was struggling with the typical male challenge of asking for help, especially asking God for help! Who was I to bother Him with my petty problems?

I went to one of our Deacons, shared my prayer challenges with him and asked for guidance. He looked at me with some amusement and said I was approaching prayer in the wrong way. “Don’t worry about asking for help just yet,” he said. Simply go to the Lord with thanks and be grateful for the blessings in my life. Eventually, I learned to ask God for help and guidance, but my prayer life started by offering thanks to Him. The light bulb went off and I finally got it! I now understood that my faith journey would never grow unless I had an active prayer life. This was the beginning of my prayer journey that has continued to unfold and grow with each passing day. I would like to share with you the stages of my prayer journey as a Catholic, lessons I have learned and insights into how I pray in hopes you will find my experiences to be helpful.

Stage One of my prayer life was learning to thank God and be grateful. Going to Him in prayer and reflecting on the blessings and burdens in my life every day is how I learned to appreciate and acknowledge the Lord’s role in my life. To this day I never start a prayer without thanking Him.

Stage Two for me was learning to ask for forgiveness. I go to reconciliation frequently, but it is still important for me to ask the Lord for his pardon and forgiveness when I commit a sin-which is more frequent than I care to admit! It has become a daily Examination of Conscience for me to reflect on where I have failed Him and ask for forgiveness and the grace to not commit that sin again.

Stage Three was asking for His help and guidance. This stage of prayer is also when I also learned to pray for others and their needs. I think men in general struggle with asking for help and I am no exception. My growing prayer life and deepening faith journey has given me the humility to realize that I don’t have all the answers and that Jesus absolutely wants to help me. Early on I would tentatively ask for help with the BIG stuff like getting my family into Heaven, blessing our Priests and Deacons, giving our government leaders wisdom and so on. Now, I am very comfortable asking for His help and guidance in every facet of my life. But, first I had to gain the humility to recognize that without our Lord I am nothing and I need His strength.

Stage Four in my prayer journey has been learning to completely unburden myself to the Lord. This has occurred only in the last several months. I have always been inclined to carry my stress, frustrations, worries and fears like a secret weight around my neck. As I got better at asking the Lord for help, I began asking for His help to lighten these mental and emotional burdens. I am so grateful that I now can go to Him and absolutely give Him whatever is weighing me down, from work stress, to concern about my children’s future. Whatever it is, I share it with Jesus as he asked us to in Matthew 11:28-29, “Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart. Your souls will find rest, for my yoke is easy and my burden light.”

I am confident that there will be more and evolving stages of prayer growth for me if I am humble and focused on deepening my relationship with Christ. St. Teresa of Avila wrote frequently on the stages of prayer, especially in her book The Interior Castle. I hope to reach the contemplative and mystical prayer life she describes in her works and pray that Jesus will lead me there.

Some important lessons I have learned (and keep learning!) in my prayer life and would like to share include:

* Make time for prayer-just do it! If you don’t schedule prayer time and stick to it, it will not happen. Starting the day with prayer is often best and it builds slowly from there. Ask yourself if you would be willing to spend only 30 minutes a day with your loved ones. Hopefully the answer is a resounding NO! Ok, then why do we struggle to give the Lord at least 30 minutes a day in prayer? How you do it is not nearly as important as the act of doing it!
* Have the proper disposition before praying. It is important to have the right attitudes of humility and faith that God can and will help us before we start praying. Reading scripture or a book of meditations such as In Conversation With God or Imitation of Christ every day before prayer will help prepare our heads and hearts to approach the Lord in a deeper and more meaningful way.
* Work through the “dry patches.” We all experience dryness in our prayers or have trouble focusing. We may feel that God is not listening. We may fall into the trap of asking God to validate what we want instead of submitting to His will. I am certain that you will experience this, but keep at it! Mother Teresa’s book revealed decades of dryness and despair in her prayer life and yet she persevered!
* Eucharistic Adoration is a gift. We are so fortunate to have perpetual Eucharistic Adoration in our parish. Going before the Blessed Sacrament and having quiet prayer time in the presence of Christ often energizes you and becomes a catalyst for dramatically growing your prayer life.
* Practice more listening and less talking in prayer. Adoration is the perfect place to listen to the Lord in complete silence. We are often so busy talking that we fail to hear Him which detracts from our quality prayer time.
* We can’t grow our Faith Journey without growing our Prayer Life! We simply will not grow our relationship with Christ unless we do so through prayer. According to the Catechism (2744): Prayer is the lifeblood of your faith. Without prayer, your faith will die.

Finally, I would like to share some insights on how I pray in hopes that it will inspire you and help you deepen your own prayer lives:

* I start every day by reading the bible or the Magnificat and the scripture for the mass that day. I then read In Conversation With God by Francis Fernandez and reflect on the meditation it contains and how it applies to my life. I follow with prayer and offer the day up to God.

* I have been a Eucharistic Guardian since January of 2007 and this is the best hour of my week. No matter what is happening in my life, I can come into the True presence of Christ and open up to Him in prayer. It is absolutely uplifting and energizing and a great way to start my day.

* I started praying the Rosary just three weeks ago and typically pray it on my way to work or while on the treadmill. I put praying the Rosary off for so long, but it is becoming a critical part of my prayer life and a true blessing. This goes hand in hand with my ever deepening love and appreciation for Mary and asking for her intercession and prayers.

* The Daily Examen, developed by the Jesuits, is a critical part of my daily routine. Basically, we are asked to stop five times throughout the day for a few minutes of reflection and prayer. Each stopping point has a specific purpose such as the Prayer of Thanksgiving, Praying for Insight, Praying that you will find God in all things that day, Praying for your desires and what you seek from God and finally a Prayer about the Future and what you will resolve to do tomorrow. It is best to actually put these 5-minute blocks on your calendar throughout the day so you will be reminded.

* Pray at every meal-public and private. It is important for us be thankful and acknowledge Christ and ask for His blessing.

* My wife and I pray with our children every night. It is important for them to develop their own prayer lives, but they see our example and we also grow by sharing our prayer lives with them.



Brothers and sisters, I certainly don’t have all the answers and I am no expert on prayer. I simply want to share with you as someone who struggles with the same issues and obstacles, that my prayer life and my faith journey have grown together. I didn’t have any kind of prayer life just three years ago and now I couldn’t imagine living a life without one. To me prayer is anytime that I turn my attention to God and away from myself alone. It can be accomplished in a variety of ways and acts. Feeling worthy or inspired is not a great barometer for measuring our prayer life. Praying for….the desire for prayer is worthwhile and a good start.

Big Update

I apologize for being gone for so long. There have been a lot of links submitted since I last updated. Here they are:

Todd: Waiting in Joyful Hope
Reversion Story:Why I am Catholic

Dan: Beatus Vir
Conversion Story: How I Became the Catholic I Wasn't

J.R. Benedicite, Pater reverende

Deana: Simple Joys
Conversion Story: My Faith Journey to the Catholic Church from Fundamentalism/Evangelicalism

Jennifer: Running the Race

Leslie: The Young and Once Good Pundit

Katie: Just Another Catholic Mom

Christian: Viking Vocation

Serena: Reason Supports Belief

Joanna: Everyday Catholic Woman

Sarah: My Wonderful Life

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Travel (leaving tomorrow for another work trip), moving to a new office across town and a new puppy have kept me pretty busy lately. I have an email inbox full of new sites to add to the blogroll and promise I will get them up this weekend.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Seeking Lazarus

Seeking Lazarus

By Randy Hain

I find this to be a difficult and complex topic: Being good stewards of God’s blessings and truly helping those in need. Donating money to good causes is very important, but actually lifting the burdens of the Lazarus in your life is even more essential. If you will recall Jesus’ parable in Luke 16:19-31, Lazarus was the poor man covered with sores lying outside the door of the Rich Man. Lazarus would have been content with simply the scraps from his table, but the Rich Man did not take notice of Lazarus until it was too late-then Lazarus was in Heaven with Abraham while the Rich Man was tormented in Hell.

Proverbs 21:13 says, “He that stops his ear against the cry of the poor shall also cry himself, and shall not be heard.” Let’s prayerfully consider how we can return to basic human interaction with our brothers and sisters in Christ who are struggling and share not only through charitable giving, but also through love, prayer, witness, listening or even a warm embrace. Let’s also expand our definition of Lazarus to include not only the countless poor, sick, homeless and hungry of the world, but also more locally: the jobless neighbor, depressed co-worker, sick relative, financially struggling friend or special needs child that attends school with your own. Lazarus is everywhere in our lives…if we have the courage to seek him.

Consider the possibility that in today’s society our problem is not that we don’t see Lazarus. We see him, accept his plight and either throw money at him or ignore him. I realize that sounds harsh, especially in light of these statistics from a 2006 report written by Giving USA on American philanthropy:

  • In 2006, Americans gave $295.02 billion to their favorite causes, an estimated $11.97 billion more than they gave in 2005. This accounts for a 4.2 percent increase over the previous year.
  • The greatest portion of charitable giving, $222.89 billion, was given by individuals or household donors. In 2006, gifts from individuals represented 76 percent of all contributed dollars.


We obviously live in a financially-generous country. The enormous sums of money that flow from individuals and corporations to good causes is overwhelming. So, what is the problem? I recognize that many people generously give their time, talent and treasure to good causes and they are truly a blessing. But, many of us may be hiding behind walls of our own creation from which we only dispense money to address the problems of the world or worse, we do nothing at all.

As I thought and prayed about this article, I recalled Christ’s words in Matthew 25:35-46: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?' And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.' Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.' Then they will answer and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?' He will answer them, 'Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.' And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

This scripture is the source of the Catholic Church’s teaching on the 7 Corporal Works of Mercy, which have helped me more deeply understand our obligation, as instructed by Christ, to help the less fortunate. They are:


To feed the hungry
To give drink to the thirsty
To clothe the naked
To shelter the homeless
To visit the sick
To visit the imprisoned
To bury the dead


Nowhere in the scripture or this list do I see instructions to “write a check” or “donate online.” I recently took stock of my own stewardship and was surprised and disappointed that most of what I do consists of raising money for charities, writing personal checks and attending non-profit board meetings. Less than a quarter of my time actually placed me in front of those who needed me the most. I care very much about the charities and groups I help, but I have allowed a wall to be formed around me that keeps me from the personal interaction needed to really make a difference. I know the money I raise and the influence I wield is important, but “showing up” and really ministering to the people in need is what is required. Using our expanded definition of Lazarus, I have countless opportunities around me on a daily basis to help others, but I own the responsibility to be more proactive and reach out. “If a brother or sister be naked, and want daily food, and one of you say to them: Go in peace, be you warmed and filled, yet give them not those things that are necessary for the body, what shall it profit?” James 2: 15-16.


If you reflect on the many references to almsgiving in scripture, you must remember that in biblical times, people were most likely seeing, touching and talking directly with the people to whom they were giving alms and showing mercy. Today, however, the size of the world’s population, the economic segregation within our cities, the distance between us and advances in technology often reduces our almsgiving and acts of mercy to a “point and click” exercise on the computer. I know full well that the counter-argument to this article will be that I am negating the impact of financial giving and that there is not enough time to physically be present and reach out to others. I strongly and respectfully disagree. We are running the risk of losing our basic humanity if we continue to avoid the personal interaction I am advocating.

Again, donating money is very important, but showing up and lifting or sharing the burdens of the Lazarus in your life is even more important. My friend and fellow St. Peter Chanel parishioner John Ruane, author of Parish the Thought, An Inspirational Memoir of Growing Up Catholic in the 1960s, gave me his thoughts on the struggles he faces with this issue, “We are all so busy dealing with our own schedules and problems that it has become very easy to walk by Lazarus without seeing him. I find it very easy to recognize and help Lazarus when he or she approaches me on the street asking for food or money. We get into our own pace in life. We have our own habits, our priorities and focus. I have got to get a hundred things done today. I just have to get it done. We are focused on our mission. Taking time to stop, step outside of our habits, our pace - to recognize and help Lazarus, is the new habit I am working to develop.”


How do we reach beyond the cultural, emotional and spiritual walls we have created to show mercy to Lazarus as Christ intended? How do we meet our obligations to help our brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we overwhelmed by the world’s problems or do we feel that they don’t affect us? Is it uncomfortable to be vulnerable enough to admit the problem and act on it? Are we afraid that people will want more from us than we can give? Do we even know where to start? I struggle with these answers myself, but humbly and prayerfully encourage everyone to embrace the following actions or ideas to help us develop the courage and commitment to change our attitude towards Lazarus and make a difference:


· Pray
Pray for the clarity of sight to see Lazarus all around you. Pray for the courage to break free of the silos we have created and help Lazarus. Pray for the Holy Spirit to guide your actions. I am grateful for this insight from my friend and fellow Catholic Charlie Douglas, author of Rich Where It Counts and Awaken the American Dream, “Prayer today is so often about informing God of our wishes and our will. The truth is, however, that prayer is about conforming our will to God's. Jesus made this clear in the Garden of Gethsemane when he earnestly prayed that above all his Father's will be done. And part of our Father's will is to sacrificially carry our crosses in service to the homeless, the poor, the despondent and the unloved. To be the hands and feet of Christ to the Lazarus' all around us is a beautiful prayer.”


· Be Present….and Act Today
Watch, listen and act. Look daily for the presence of Lazarus in your family, friends, co-workers and strangers. Someone is struggling at this very moment with any number of personal ailments or challenges. In fact, we spend the majority of our adult lives at work, so your best opportunity to directly help others may be through your work colleagues. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you discern who needs your help today….don’t wait until tomorrow. Francis Fernandez shares this insight from In Conversation With God, “We cannot let a single chance of doing good slip through our hands. Today does not come round again, ever, and God expects us to fill it with love and with little acts of service towards others.”


· Love Your Neighbor
God is love. He loves everyone the same without prejudice. From Genesis 5:1-2 we know God created man in his own likeness. We need to remember this as we regain our humanity through the loving generosity we show our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus shares the Great Commandment in Luke 10:27, "First is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. Second is to love your neighbor as yourself."


· Practice and Encourage Generosity
Consider another passage from In Conversation With God, “The greatness of soul our Lord asks of his own will lead us not only to be very generous with our own time and economic means, but also to assist others to feel moved themselves to help, according to their own means, for the good of their fellow man. Generosity always leads people closer to God. On countless occasions this is the greatest favor we can do our friends-encourage and foster their generosity." Scripture says the Lord loves a “cheerful giver.” We must let the love for Jesus that we feel in our hearts be obvious to all we encounter. Forced giving or obligatory assistance to others is not pleasing to Christ and absolutely runs counter to His teachings.


· Faith Without Works is Dead
Get involved by physically being there. There are countless ministries and charities that need help, not just money. Serving at soup kitchens, visiting the elderly, participating in prison ministry, volunteering with the Special Olympics, building homes and schools in Haiti are some of the countless opportunities available. My friend Glen Jackson, head of an Atlanta based PR firm and a faithful servant of Christ recently shared these thoughts with me: “In the Book of James in the New Testament, we read an often quoted and discussed passage: ‘For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead.’ This scripture reminds us that as the body of Christ, we are to work-really work- for our Lord. We are to be men and women of action and joy because the Holy Spirit lives in us.But how should we work? James gives us the answer in a later passage when he says ‘show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom.’ It is the type of work that it’s recipients respect, appreciate and are touched by because of its unforced sincerity. Now, you simply can't do this by just sending a check. Our time on earth is a mist that appears for a little while and vanishes. So make the most of it. A prayer to say to help us stay focused is: ‘Lord, help me make a difference for you that is utterly disproportionate to who I am.’ Amen to that and let's press on and be about our work of advancing the kingdom with our time, talent and treasure.”


· Practice Detachment
This may well be the hardest for us to accomplish-detach ourselves from the pursuit of wealth for wealth’s sake and put more time and energy into our relationship with Christ and helping others. Remember Lazarus and the Rich Man? The Rich Man’s wealth and abundance blinded him to the plight of Lazarus and in the end he lost everything while Lazarus was comforted in Heaven. Pope Benedict XVI says, “According to the teaching of the Gospel, we are not owners but rather administrators of the goods we possess: these, then, are not to be considered as our exclusive possession, but means through which the Lord calls each one of us to act as a steward of His providence for our neighbor. In the Gospel, Jesus explicitly admonishes the one who possesses and uses earthly riches only for self. In the face of the multitudes, who, lacking everything, suffer hunger, the words of Saint John acquire the tone of a ringing rebuke: ‘How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses to help?’ (1 John 3:17). In those countries whose population is majority Christian, the call to share is even more urgent, since their responsibility toward the many who suffer poverty and abandonment is even greater. To come to their aid is a duty of justice even prior to being an act of charity.”


· Serve Quietly
We can’t honestly provide aid to Lazarus and honor the Lord if the motivation is recognition and glory for ourselves. As Christ said in Mathew 6:1-4, "(But) take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”

My friend Jacqui Welch, VP of Human Resources for a local Atlanta company and a devout Christian, gave me her thoughts on this topic: “I've found in my own life that the most frequent and uncomplicated opportunities to embody Christ are when only you, Christ and "Lazarus" are watching. Rather than seek opportunities for a "BIG" impact, what has been most fulfilling for me (fulfilling in terms of where I've best exemplified what I think Christ teaches us) have been those quiet moments in the shadows- clasping hands in prayer with a fellow believer, silently wiping tears and simply bearing witness. The checks are necessary but they aren't sufficient. To experience what Christ experienced we have to vigilantly seek those opportunities to serve quietly, to roll up our sleeves and get in the muck and mire of humanity.”

It is a sad indictment of our times that the more perceived gain we see from technology and the pursuit of wealth, the more distant we are becoming from the less fortunate. I have explored the scriptural basis and moral imperative for helping Lazarus, but we are also encouraged to do so through countless scriptural references to “blessings we will receive” and the “building up of treasure in heaven.” Consider the simple and compelling scripture references found in Proverbs 14:21, “He that shows mercy to the poor shall be blessed.” and Proverbs 11:24-25, “Some give freely, yet grow all the richer, others withhold what is due, and only suffer want. A generous person will be enriched.” Hebrews 13:16 says, “Do not forget to do good and to impart; for by such sacrifices God’s favor is obtained.”

God will show us the way if we only ask it and His pleasure is clear and unmistakable when we give freely of ourselves and our treasure to those in need. Jim Schippers, my close friend and the founder of the St. Peter Chanel Business Association, recently shared with me a touching story about his encounter with a homeless person in downtown Atlanta and the struggles he had leading up to that encounter, “Let us be real with God… The more we are honest with God the greater our graces will be. I realize that is such a simple statement, but let me explain what I mean. I work in downtown Atlanta and as I walk to and from work, and during my lunch break, I come across a number of homeless people. As I walk by each and every one of them, conflicts and reasons for not giving rise up within me. What will this person do with the money? I can’t give to every “beggar” that comes across my path, right? Or, I have left my wallet in the office- so no guilt there… I have struggled with this, and interestingly enough as I pass by each homeless person, I find it difficult looking them in the eye. Yes, I have these excuses per se, and after much struggle and stubbornness on my part I asked Christ to help me – I gave to Him my doubts, the whole lot of my feelings (good and bad) regarding this situation. A few nights later I was leaving a Braves game and a homeless person asked me for money. I looked him in the eye and gave him a dollar. He smiled, I smiled back, and peace entered my soul. It took awhile for me to get there, but Christ was with me prodding me along the whole way, all I had to do was be honest with myself and ask for His graces.”


In conclusion, I would again ask that we broaden our definition of Lazarus to include those people you see every day as well as the less fortunate in our community and around the world. Avoid the trap the Rich Man fell in, which cost him a life in torment. As my friend Dr. Ron Young observed, “Most of us are more like the Rich Man than the beggar, Lazarus. We have abundance, especially when compared to the rest of the world. There is so much we can do to reach out to those in need in our everyday lives, but unfortunately we can become so consumed with the trappings of success and relative prosperity (emotional and financial) that we fail to see the people who need us most.” I believe a majority of us want to help and that most are well intended. Try to reflect at different points each day on your actions towards others and examine those missed opportunities to help someone who is struggling, so you can rectify them later. Expanded horizons and active engagement is what is required. Let’s evolve our good intentions to a higher standard where we begin to recognize Lazarus more clearly and frequently and our first words are “please let me help you.” Also, remember that we all have the potential to be Lazarus some day-“There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Catching up

I apologize for not posting in a month. To be honest I didn't check the email but a couple of times during the last month. I needed a break from the blog. In a way I had started feeling hypocritical by keeping up with this blog devoted to converts to the Catholic Faith while I myself was doing little to actually practice it. I think it is important to remember that many converts have their ups and downs, from the sometimes overwhelming zeal of a new convert to the general spiritual apathy that I've been going through the last few months. It is important that we all remember to pray for each other on this spiritual journey.

All that being said, here is what I found in the inbox:

The House of Big Cheese

Today's Catholic

Of Priests and Paramedics with conversion story here

Compendium

and from Deborah Conversion to Orthodox Catholicism

Friday, April 18, 2008

Thank you to everyone who participated in the Rosary for Vocations. We didn't have quite as many people as hoped and didn't cover the full 24 hours but with prayer a few can accomplish great things.

I wanted to pass along this email I received from a reader however. I think it made the effort worth it just getting this message.


Just wanted to let y'all know that we here at St Thomas Aquinas in Charlottesville, VA are participating a bit early--we started our Adoration for Vocations last night at 6 and are ending around 5 (when Mass starts) tonight--we're the prequel, if you will, to your 24-hr Rosary :) (a good bit of those 23 hours were filled by converts--some fresh out of RCIA this year!) I saw your first post on the Rosary for Vocations and took the idea to my parish, but bc having Adoration and Mass at the same time doesn't really work, we had to go a day early. So thank you for the idea!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

24 Hour Rosary for Vocations: Starting Soon!

If you haven't signed up to participate in praying the Rosary for Vocations, please consider doing so. April 13 is World Day of Prayer for Vocations. Since we are going off the time in Vatican City it starts at 6:00 PM tonight on the US East Coast.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Monday, April 07, 2008

Jennifer's Conversion Story

Jennifer at "ET TU?" share's her conversion storyfrom atheism to Christianity and the Catholic Church.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

24 Hour Rosary: World Day of Prayer for Vocations


Please consider signing up for the 24 Hour Rosary for Vocations. So far we have three hours out of the 24 covered. April 13 is World Day of Prayer for Vocations and we'd like to get as many people as possible involved in this effort. Click on the link above for more information.





The Church prays everyday to the Holy Spirit for the gift of vocations. Gathered around the Virgin Mary, Queen of the Apostles, as in the beginning, the ecclesial community learns from her how to implore the Lord for a flowering of new apostles, alive with the faith and love that are necessary for the mission. - Pope Benedict XVI

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Thanks for visiting

Things got sort of busy around here last month:

Entered the Church in 08

Stop by and welcome Chris at Cow Bike Rider home to the Catholic Church!

Welcome to the blogroll

Welcome to Catholic Mindset to the Catholic Converts blogroll.

Randy Hain: The Fortress

Below is a new article by Randy Hain addressing evangelization. I am also happy to announce that Randy has joined the Catholic Converts blog as one of our authors. Look for the Blog Authors section on the right sidebar and click on Randy to find his other articles.

The Fortress

By Randy Hain

When I imagine a fortress, it invokes thoughts of strength, security and protection. The image is comforting, particularly when used in relation to one’s faith. I was speaking with someone I met recently about my faith and learned that he, too, was Catholic. After hearing my story, he explained to me the role faith played in his life. He described it as a fortress in that it made him feel safe and served as the foundation of his life. A little probing on my part led me to discover that he was generally very quiet about his beliefs and the thought of sharing Christ’s message with others was daunting and uncomfortable. Before my very eyes, the safe and foundational fortress of faith he described was transformed into a fortress mentality.


As Catholic Christians, do we some times fall into this trap and exhibit behavior that is absolutely contrary to scripture and the teachings of the Church regarding the call to evangelization? Do we hide within “faith fortresses” of our own making?


Like many, I some times struggle with evangelizing and I am writing this not to render judgment, but to hopefully inspire all of us to think differently, change our behavior and be Lights for Christ. One only has to read the Great Commission given to us by Jesus Christ himself in Matthew 28:19-20 to understand our expected role, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the world.” Our Lord also calls us to evangelization in Matthew 9:37-38, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”


I choose to believe that all of us mean well and have good intentions when it comes to bearing witness for Christ, but there are obstacles (many of our own making) that keep us from doing so. What are some of these and how can they be overcome?

  • I don’t know what to say.

    It is said that St. Francis of Assisi once offered this advice, “Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” It is through the love and charity we give others and our daily example of Christ’s love within us that allows us to bear witness. If we are truly Lights for Christ, people will be drawn to us and the Holy Spirit will work through us-if necessary, the words will come.

  • I am not secure enough in my faith to witness to others.

    Author Peter Kreeft is fond of saying “ …that the Catholic Church is not a museum for Saints, but a hospital for Sinners.” We are not perfect-only God is perfect. We can wait our entire lives to be prepared and worthy to evangelize and we will have wasted a lifetime of opportunity. Don’t let your pursuit of Sainthood keep you from sharing Christ’s message with other potential Saints.


  • I am not comfortable sharing anything personal, especially about my faith.

    Transparency invites transparency! We can’t expect someone to open up to us unless we are willing to do the same. Your faith journey is a blessing, meant to be shared, and the witness you give may have a profound influence on someone. As we read in 1 Peter 3:15-16, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame.” Ask a new convert or someone experiencing a spiritual renewal how they reached this point on their faith journey. They will likely credit the Holy Spirit and name someone who reached beyond their comfort zone to share Christ’s message. Try viewing yourself as a vehicle through which the Holy Spirit can utilize your witness to connect with others.

  • I don’t want to appear judgmental.

    So don’t judge. It’s not our place. Our mission is to spread Christ’s message of love and mercy, not tell people their sins. Pope Benedict XVI shares this guidance, “Nowadays, in a special way the world needs people capable of proclaiming and bearing witness to God who is love. The Church’s mission is the extension of Christ’s mission: to bring God’s love to all, proclaiming it with words and with the concrete testimony of charity.” The Holy Father is clearly saying that we must witness with love-God’s love. Be encouraging, listen attentively, offer assistance, share Christ’s message and absolutely pray-these are the actions of love that will allow you to effectively bear witness.

  • Isn’t evangelization the primary responsibility of the Priests and Deacons in our parish?

    Absolutely not. We are all called to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19). In his encyclical Redemtoris Missio, Pope John Paul II wrote, “No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples.” In Lumen Gentium, Vatican II specifically describes the mission of the lay faithful, “The apostolate of the laity is a sharing in the salvific mission of the Church. Through Baptism and Confirmation all are appointed to this apostolate by the Lord himself. Moreover, by the sacraments, and especially by the Eucharist, that love of God and man which is the soul of the apostolate is communicated and nourished. The laity, however, are given this special vocation: to make the Church present and fruitful in those places and circumstances where it is only through them that she can become the salt of the earth. Thus, every lay person, through those gifts given to him, is at once the witness and the living instrument of the mission of the Church itself, according to the measure of Christ’s bestowal.” (LG 33) This is crystal clear direction for all of us to understand our special responsibility within the Church.


  • I don’t want to alienate my friends or new people I meet.

    There is a difference between preaching and judging versus loving and sharing. If people respond to the “hope you have” and the “joy within you”, then they will be curious and ask you questions. But, this will not work if we stay inside our fortress of faith. Consider this passage from In Conversation With God by Francis Fernandez, “On our part we are called upon to be good channels through which His grace will flow and to facilitate the action of the Holy Spirit in ourselves, in friends, relatives, acquaintances and colleagues….If our Lord never gets tired of giving His help to everybody, how can we who are only instruments ever become discouraged? Once the carpenter’s hand is firmly placed on the wood, how can the tool ever have any reservations about doing its work?”


    So I ask, do these obstacles resonate with you? I personally am challenged by these, but my commitment to evangelize and witness for Christ remains strong. I grew up in the Baptist church, stopped going when I was 15 and became a convert, along with my wife, to the Catholic Church 23 years later in 2006. I am eternally grateful that I have been given a second chance to experience Christ’s love after living most of my life in the “spiritual wilderness”. Reflecting on the profound impact Christ has had on my life since my conversion makes me want to share my story with everyone I meet. All of us have been given an incredible gift-Christ’s redeeming love! At times we are weak, we may stumble on our faith journey and we are sinners, but we must remember to be grateful and joyful for the countless blessings we have been given. In fact, one of the easiest ways to evangelize to others is to be joyful. When we are happy in our faith, we inspire and encourage others and create opportunities to witness for Christ-they want to hear the Good News!


    Consider the fortress illustration again. In order to evangelize, we need to operate outside the walls of our faith fortresses. Francis Fernandez shares additional insight from In Conversation With God, “Ours is an age when Christ needs men and women who are able to stand beside the Cross, strong, daring, simple, hard workers, without any human respect when it comes to doing good; men and women who are cheerful, who have as the foundation of their lives prayer-a relationship with Jesus that is full of friendship.”


    If we only share our faith and witness with other Catholics or worse, keep it to ourselves, how will the Church grow and spread Christ’s message of love? Will we make the necessary commitments to heed the call of the Great Commission, other supporting scripture, the leadership of the Popes, Vatican II and the Catechism? What are simple ways we can all evangelize and bear witness for Christ? I prayerfully and respectfully ask you to consider doing the following:

  • Pray

    Pray for courage. Pray that the Holy Spirit will work through us. Pray for opportunities to bear witness. Pray that God will allow us to recognize opportunities for evangelization. Make the Sign of the Cross and pray Grace before each meal (public and private) and say prayers as a family. Prayer is the key, because it prepares both our hearts and those of others for those moments of truth and grace.

  • Be a Light for Christ……

    ……in your workplace, at home, in the community and with your friends. Be a joyful, forgiving and generous person: Next to prayer, this is the most effective thing you can do. Let Christ’s love and the blessings he has given you be apparent to others. They will want to know the source of your happiness and will likely initiate a faith conversation. “You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” Matthew 5:13-14, 16.

  • Keep your own faith journey on track

    It would be hypocritical for us to share the message of Christ’s love unless we believed it and lived it. This means living our faith at home and teaching our children about the Church and Christ’s love for them. Pray, attend mass, go to reconciliation frequently, go to Eucharistic Adoration, observe the sacraments, study our faith and be joyful Christians. These actions will prepare us to share with sincerity the impact Christ has in our lives.

  • Share your story with others-give witness to the blessings of Jesus in your life

    As I suggested before, be transparent! If you feel uncomfortable asking questions about their faith, why not share yours? They will most likely be moved by your example and be open in return. My willingness to be open about my Catholicism has given me countless opportunities to evangelize. As Maurice Blumberg wrote in a recent Catholic Exchange article, “Don't be afraid of witnessing to the love and mercy of God. All you have to do is tell your own story. This may sound daunting, but it isn't. Just share how your faith has made a difference in your life. The Holy Spirit will give you the right words.

    We do not need to always have a Bible or pamphlet handy in order to evangelize because our greatest witnessing resources are the Holy Spirit and our own faith experience. Most of us have had moments in which we were touched, helped, encouraged or healed by God, were deeply comforted by hearing or reading a Bible passage or listening to a moving Christian song. Often the encouragement or help came through some person, yet we were convinced it was really God who brought it about. That is what we share with the one who has opened up their heart to us: "You know, I've been through something like that in my own life. And what helped me most was my faith in the Lord."

  • Reach out to the Lazarus in your life every day

    Lazarus is the poor man covered with sores at the gate of the rich man in Christ’s parable related in Luke 16:19-31. Can you think of a greater witness for Christ than to emulate our Lord and help those most in need? Think of the sick, jobless, depressed, troubled people in your life and reach out to them. Parish ministry is one of the best ways for you to get involved and make a difference. As you help them through their troubles, the Holy Spirit can work through you to share God’s message of love!

  • Share or give a book, CD, DVD, article or homily related to the Faith

    This is a wonderful act of kindness that will help someone grow spiritually and give you ample opportunity for further discussion about the Lord. An interesting perspective on this type of evangelization is that it creates a safe environment to begin a faith dialogue. “The book I gave you really touched my heart and helped me learn to pray-what did you think of it?” or “Did you listen to the CD I sent you by Peter Kreeft on the 7 Reasons to be Catholic? After hearing it I really feel better prepared to explain our Faith to others!” You get the picture-let your gift open the door for a rich and engaging conversation, then allow the Holy Spirit to take over.

The fortress mentality is a real issue for many Christians and we have to remain committed and diligent about living our faith beyond those walls. This article is focused on simple ways to witness, but there are countless other ways to bring people Christ’s message including extending an invitation to mass or a parish event. What ever you do or plan to do, God will bless you for heeding the call to evangelization.


I conclude with a quote from Pope John Paul II, who wrote in Springtime for Evangelization: “Evangelization is the Church’s effort to proclaim to everyone that God loves them, that he has given himself for them in Christ Jesus, and that he invites them to an unending life of happiness. Once this Gospel has been accepted as the “good news”, it demands to be shared. All baptized Christians must commit themselves to evangelization, conscious that God is already at work in the mind and hearts of their listeners, just as he prompted the Ethiopian to ask for baptism when Philip told him “the good news of Jesus” (Acts 8:35). Evangelization is thus a part of the great mystery of God’s self-revelation to the world: it involves the human effort to preach the Gospel and the powerful work of the Holy Spirit in those who encounter its saving message. Since we are proclaiming a mystery, we are servants of a supernatural gift, which surpasses anything our human minds are fully grasping or explaining, yet which attracts by its inner logic and beauty.”


I am hopeful that this image of the fortress and its dual nature will encourage you to reflect on your approach evangelization. We can either live securely inside our faith fortress or we can heed the call to evangelize and operate outside its walls. To those who faithfully practice evangelization the way our Lord intended, thank you for showing us the way by your example. As lay people, we can make a dramatic impact on the lives of so many individuals if we will only accept our responsibility to share the dramatic impact Christ has on our lives. Thank you and God Bless you.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Jennifer: My Journey Into the Catholic Faith

Jennifer at My Journey Into the Catholic Faith was recently interviewed on American Catholic Radio. Listen to her interview here.

During the interview she mentions that she has hand made rosaries for sale. Check them out here.

Welcome Chrystal

Welcome to the Catholic Converts blogroll to Chrystal at Musings of a Humble Being. Also, be sure to check out her conversion story.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Welcome Leigh

Welcome to Leigh at the mommy memoir to the Catholic Converts blogroll.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Conversion Story of the Month

This is something new for the Catholic Converts blog. Each month a different conversion story will be chosen to highlight. As soon as I get a chance I'll PhotoShop a button for the sidebar to make it easy to find each month.

We are still a few days away from April but I'm going to go ahead and put up the Conversion Story of the Month for April anyway.

Conversion Story of the Month: April 2008
Julie at Happy Catholic: Becoming Christian.

Julie shares her story about growing up in an atheist home and how God used her daughter to get the ball rolling on her eventual conversion. She shares a story about a deal she made with God in which she learned that God might take our deal but sets His own terms. There is also a nice surprise at the end but you'll have to click the link to find out what it is.

Conversion of Magdi Allam

Magdi Allam Recounts His Path to Conversion

On my first Easter as a Christian I not only discovered Jesus, I discovered for the first time the face of the true and only God, who is the God of faith and reason. My conversion to Catholicism is the touching down of a gradual and profound interior meditation from which I could not pull myself away . . .

Monday, March 24, 2008

24 Hour Rosary: World Day of Prayer for Vocations

Vocations are obviously important for the continued growth of the Church. Converts to the Catholic Faith often have a lot of tough questions to be answered and we need strong leaders to answer them. The World Day of Prayer for Vocations will be observed on April 13, 2008. In Pope Benedict XVI's World Day of Prayer for Vocations he said,
The Church prays everyday to the Holy Spirit for the gift of vocations. Gathered around the Virgin Mary, Queen of the Apostles, as in the beginning, the ecclesial community learns from her how to implore the Lord for a flowering of new apostles, alive with the faith and love that are necessary for the mission.
I would like to ask all of you to join in 24 Hours of the Rosary for Vocations on April 13. The minimum we need is 24 people to each take a different hour of the day. Easier said than done I know.

Here is how it will work:

We will use the UTC (Coordinated Universal Time). Times will be based on Vatican City time 12:00 AM April 13 - 12:00 AM April 14. Vatican City is in the CET which is +1 hour UTC.

So when it is 12:00 PM (NOON) in Vatican City it is 11:00 AM in London, England; 7:00 AM in New York City, US; 8:00 PM in Tokyo, Japan; so on and so forth. Go to The World Clock to figure out where you are.

Sign up for as much time as you would like (please sign up for a minimum of 30 minutes) to commit to praying the Rosary continuously for vocations. You could also take separate times such as once in the morning and once in the evening.

Send an email to catholicconverts@gmail.com with the following information:
Name
Time Slot: Vatican City time and length (ie. 1 hour, 1/2 hour, etc) please.
Your Country

Having more than one person praying at a time is okay (the more the merrier).

Time Name Country
12:00:00 AM - 1:00 AM Chris L. USA
1:00 AM - 2:00 AM Stein Family (10) USA
2:00 AM - 2:30 AM Heidi S. USA
3:00 PM - 3:30 PM Diane B. USA
8:00:00 PM - 9:00 PM John O./Angie USA
10:00 PM - 11:00 PM Bruce G. Canada
11:00 PM - 11:30 PM Paul C. USA



If you would like to help spread the word about the effort, feel free to use this image on your website or blog. The code below will give you the image with a link back to this post.


<a href="http://catholic-converts.blogspot.com/2008/03/24-hour-rosary-world-day-of-prayer-for.html"><img src="http://i83.photobucket.com/albums/j318/clansde/24hour.jpg"
></a>

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Welcome Kristi

There's no time like the present to start praying for the next potential convert to the Catholic Faith. Please pay a visit to our newest blogroll member, Kristi at ...In Progress... and add her to your prayers as she begins her journey.

New Catholics: ‘The Church gives me energy’

LOS ANGELES, CA (The Tidings) - More than 1,200 heretofore unbaptized adults and children in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles will receive the sacraments of initiation — baptism, confirmation and Eucharist — at the Easter Vigil March 22 in their respective parishes.

Just a few days before their formal reception into the church, two of these new Catholics individually met with The Tidings to share their inspiring journeys of faith.
Read Entire Article

Welcome Home

Welcome home to all those received into the Catholic Church this weekend.

Prayer for New Catholics

Dear Lord,
our brothers and sisters have begun their lives anew,
baptized and anointed as members of your Church.
Grant that the grace they have obtained through the
Easter sacraments we have celebrated will strengthen
them in their journey to you. May our joy be everlasting
at their homecoming! May their dedication to their new-
found family with you as their Father mirror the dedication
and vigor held by the saints such as Paul, Augustine, Mary
of Egypt and Edith Stein, who where always faithful
members of your body.
Amen.

The story that everyone is talking about:
Pope baptizes prominent Muslim
Vatican City — Italy’s most prominent Muslim commentator converted to Catholicism by being baptized by the pope at an Easter vigil, the Vatican announced Saturday.

Please be sure to stop by and welcome Kelly, Erik and Stephen home to the Catholic Church.

Arkansas Catholic has a great story about one family's journey to the Catholic Faith.

New Faith Pulls Hot Springs Family Together
HOT SPRINGS -- Danny Morrison just wanted to find a place where he could worship God. This simple yet overwhelming desire put him on a road that eventually led to the Catholic Church. But he is not alone. His wife Mary, stepson, Steve, and two step-grandchildren will enter the Church with him at the Easter Vigil Mass at St. John the Baptist Church in Hot Springs. His daughter-in-law, Kristy, is also returning to the faith after being away for nearly 15 years.

Saturday, March 22, 2008


Gloria in Excelsis Deo

Surrexit Christus hodie, Alleluia

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The results are in

Catholic Blog Awards

Best Group Blog: Top 10


Thank you to everyone who voted for Catholic Converts and especially to whoever made the nomination. I've got several plans on making this blog better.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Prayer for those entering the Catholic Church

Lord, may they be welcomed with joy and thanksgivings
into the folds of Your Holy Catholic Church.
Be their Light in times of trial and darkness;
their guide in a new life of Truth.
Provide for them, holy men and women
to support the growth of their faith.
Grant that their gifts be shared to
produce abundant fruits for Your Glory.
Amen.

Two more additions to the blogroll

Welcome to Jim at The Trail Home and Ryan at Roamin' Son.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Proudly Entered the Catholic Church 2008 badge

For the third year Matthew at A Catholic Life is providing a badge for those who enter the Catholic Church in 2008 to use on their blogs. If you are coming into the church this year feel free to give Matthew a visit and get the badge.

Also, be sure to include Matthew in your prayers as he is currently enrolled in seminary to study for the Catholic priesthood.

Welcome Pax In Anima to the blogroll

Please drop by and visit our newest blogroll member: Pax In Anima.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Just a few days of voting left

Voting for the Catholic Blog Awards will end on Monday, March 17 that noon CST. Catholic Converts is currently in the Top 10 for Best Group Blog . . . out of 48 entries . . . WOW!

Catholic Blog Awards: Vote Here.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Catholic Converts nominated for a Catholic Blog Award

Catholic Converts has been nominated for the Catholic Blog Awards in the Best Group Blog category.

Thank you to whoever is responsible for the nomination.

Voting well in on March 17 at noon CST. Be sure to cast your votes in the 2008 Catholic Blog Awards.

4 more blogs added to the blogroll

First up is Amy at Knit Together in Love.

Next pay a visit to Happy Catholic and check out her conversion story.

The next member of the blogroll is currently in RCIA. Be sure to add Melissa at Almost Catholic Momma to your prayer list.

Then, we are also joined by Walter at Gloria tibi, Domine.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Holy Week Poll

It may be a little early for this poll but here it is:













I'll be in church on . . .
check all that apply
Palm Sunday
Holy Thursday
Good Friday
Easter Vigil
Easter Sunday
All of the Above
I'm pretty much moving in for Holy Week
See Results

Over 500 participated in the Rite of Election in the Diocese of Little Rock

Msgr. J. Gaston Hebert prepared those coming into the Church at Easter with a condensed version of Catholic teachings and gave them a stern warning.

On Feb. 7, 8 and 10 the diocesan administrator led ceremonies in Fort Smith, Rogers and Little Rock for the catechumens who will be baptized and the candidates who will be received into full communion during the Easter vigil. More than 500 adults and children participated in the ceremonies with their sponsors and families.


Administrator asks at Rite of Election: 'So you want to be Catholic?'".

Remember in your prayers . . .

. . . all those who are preparing to enter the Church this Easter. With the Scrutinies having begun for those in RCIA and many making their first confessions pray that they prayerfully consider the promises they will soon be making as they are received into the Church.

There is an RCIA prayer list in the sidebar. If you would like to be added, or know someone you would like to add, please leave a comment or email catholicconverts.blogspot.com

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

#100 on the blogroll!

Let's welcome Marie at Naru Hodo. as the 100th member of the Catholic Converts blogroll!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Catholics Come Home

I came across a new website today called, Catholics Come Home.

The website contains tons of information that would be helpful to anyone seeking more information on the Catholic Faith.

From the website:

Catholics Come Home, Inc. is an independent non-profit Catholic apostolate that creates effective and compassionate media messages and broadcasts them nationally and internationally, in order to inspire, educate and evangelize inactive Catholics and others, and invite them to live a deeper faith in Jesus Christ, in accord with the magesterium of the Roman Catholic Church.


One initiative they have taken on is to create a series of television commercials. The first is available on YouTube:



Here are the other two:
Movie (very powerful)
Mix1

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Welcome Samantha

Welcome Samantha at Homeskool Daize to the Catholic Converts blogroll.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Taking Back Vatican II

Blog number 98 on the blogroll: Taking Back Vatican II . . .

Monday, February 18, 2008

Lenten Devotions/Practices Question

Our last poll was before the start of Advent and we recently had a discussion question up about Confirmation names. So, I thought it was time for a new topic.

What are your favorite Lenten devotions or practices?

Please leave a comment here or if you like write a post on your own blog and leave a link.

Behold Your Mother: A Bouquet of Love to Mary from Her Children

The topic of Mary's role in our Catholic Faith has been discussed here before. It is a common point of struggle for converts. One of the best people at explaining Catholics' devotion to Mary that I've come across is Heidi Hess Saxton. She has created a new blog: Behold Your Mother: A Bouquet of Love to Mary from Her Children.

Also, be sure to check out Heidi's new book Behold Your Mother: Mary Stories and Reflections from a Catholic Convert which I posted about here.

Some catching up

My apologies to those who have emailed or commented about being added to the site . . . I'm slow sometimes.

Joyful Catholics at RECONnecting to the Truth and Under the Poetree share their conversion/reversion story.

Connecticut Catholic shares How I Came Home to Rome: My Conversion Story.

Catholic Ponderings is a new Friend of Catholic Converts.

And last but not least to join the blogroll is In Defense of the Children of Light.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

2008 Catholic Blog Awards

The 2008 Catholic Blog Awards are accepting nominations beginning at noon CST on Friday, February 15 until noon CST on Friday, February 29.

I believe there are several blogs on the Catholic Converts blog roll deserving of a nomination so be sure to nominate your favorite.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Behold Your Mother: Mary Stories and Reflections from a Catholic Convert

I have had the privelege to read an advance manuscript of Behold Your Mother: Mary Stories and Reflections from a Catholic Convert by Heidi Hess Saxton and published by Bezalel Press. A revised and expanded edition of With Mary in Prayer, the book is expected to be available in time for Easter and Mother’s Day.

A true love story between a Mother and her Son, between the adopted children of God and their spiritual Mother, Behold Your Mother gives us a glimpse rarely seen into Mary’s life. At a time when many are confused by Mary’s role in salvation history and find it hard to connect with her through scant scriptural references, Saxton shows us Mary’s humility, love and devotion to our Lord, Jesus Christ, as mother, wife, homemaker and caregiver. Furthermore we are immersed in Mary’s joys and sorrows, not unlike our own yet ever more magnified by her unique closeness to Jesus Christ.

We see how Mary’s total abandonment to the will of God and her interactions with key figures in her life, and that of her Son, would have shaped and driven her stewardship of Gods most precious gift of Grace. By reflecting on Mary as a simple handmaiden and pondering what her thoughts must have been throughout her journey with Christ we are able to draw near our Blessed Mother on a human level as a basis for our spiritual relationship with her.

For those who embrace Mary as the Mother of God, and through adoption as brothers and sisters of Christ as their own Mother, Behold Your Mother is a wonderful prayer book filled with meditations and prayers sure to draw one closer to Christ by a deeper understanding of Mary’s total devotion to him.

For those who struggle to understand Mary’s role in our relationship with Christ, Saxton’s reflections draw clear Mary’s humanity. Each page points to Mary’s role not of deflecting glory from her Son, but rather of directing our praise to Him. Her station as perfect model for our devotion to Jesus Christ shines throughout Saxton’s writing.

A wonderful addition to your own library, Behold Your Mother: Mary Stories and Reflections from a Catholic Convert would make a great gift to those coming into the Church during this coming Easter season or to anyone struggling to understand the honor Catholics offer to Mary. It would also be ideal for Mother’s Day as it is a beautiful reflection of a mother’s love for her children and a child’s love for mother.

Be sure to look for Behold Your Mother: Mary Stories and Reflections from a Catholic Convert by Heidi Hess Saxton. You can pre-order and save by visiting Mommy Monsters Inc.

Monday, February 11, 2008

It must be Lent and Easter is approaching

Check out the keywords used to find this blog from the last couple of days. Notice a trend? It seems like "guide to confession and examination of conscience" and "confirmation names" seem to be popular searches lately. Click images for larger view.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Welcome to the Blogroll and RCIA list

Erik at Y Taith Cristnogol: My Tumultuous Journey into Christendom is the latest to join the blogroll. Erik is currently in RCIA.

Christ Inspired, Secular Challenged

Below is another article from Randy Hain who contributed the popular article Is Becoming Catholic Enough?.

Christ Inspired, Secular Challenged
By Randy Hain

Do you find it challenging to live a balanced Christian life that unites faith, family and work? Does your Christ-inspired faith sometimes get deflated throughout the course of everyday life? Many of us feel overwhelmed by the obstacles we face by an increasingly agnostic media, religious-indifferent work environments, and declining family-focused values. This constant battle has worn us down to the point that we adopt distinctively different personalities for church, home and work. It is spiritually and emotionally toxic. Consequently, is it time to “upgrade” to a life where our values are aligned with our obligations?

James L. Nolan, author of Doing the Right Thing at Work, said in a recent talk to St. Peter Chanel parish: “We are in the middle of a profound sea change affecting all aspects of life: social, cultural, economic, and political. Changes are being played out all over the world. Prompted by the alienation and uncertainty of our age, people—now more than ever—want to find a reliable moral compass. They want to integrate their whole selves; integrate who they are with what they do. Some are coming to recognize a deep-seated drive within each one of us to use our talents, intelligence and imagination for the greater good.”

I think many of us want to engage in conversation that brings about change, but don’t know where to begin. Displaying courage in the face of society’s obstacles is difficult, but perhaps we should focus our attention on manifesting small acts of bravery that are meaningful. I don’t believe that Christ expects us to win the war by ourselves, but I do believe he expects us to be good soldiers.

Our Lord says in the Book of Matthew, “You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” -Matthew 5:13-14 and 16. Letting your light shine before others is about testimony. It is about setting a good example. It is about standing up for what is right and wearing your values on your sleeve. It is about the sincere public embrace of Christ.

Humbly, I propose these simple steps in Faith, Family and Work that we can follow in our daily lives to be lights for Christ, take a firm stand, and ultimately to lead a more fully-integrated life. I hope these suggestions will bring some comfort and encouragement.

Faith
Our faith is sometimes relegated only to Sunday mornings. We put on our “church” clothes, load up the minivan and think about where we’re going to eat afterward. But faith can easily be incorporated into our everyday lives with a few simple pauses and acknowledgements of Christ. Here are a few that I am working on:

Show humility and put Christ’s will before your own
• Glorify Christ and give him thanks for every grace and blessing. Put Him first in your thoughts and prayers and His will is more likely to be revealed. "The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted." -Matthew 23:11-12


Be not ashamed of the name of Christ
• Say Merry Christmas, not Seasons Greetings! Send Christmas cards, not Holiday cards. Say a blessing over your meals … in public. Christ died on the cross for us; can we not stand up for him in public?
Pray every day
• Spend quiet time in prayer with the Lord to thank him and ask for his blessing and guidance. Humbly thanking God and praying for guidance, wisdom and help is critical to our spiritual well-being. Make time every day to read scripture and other books to more fully experience the lessons God has for us.
Selflessly invest in others
• Invest in others without an expectation of return. Make your actions serve the needs of your brothers and sisters in Christ and you will inspire others by your example. Add this simple phrase to your conversations—“How can I help you?”
Be a good steward … in your church
• Do we give Christ and the church our time, talent and treasure? Is our charitable giving more than a mere tax break? Consider Christ’s observation of the Woman and the Two Coins in Mark, “He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, ‘Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.’” -Mark 12:41-44. We have opportunities and an obligation to give back to our community, get involved in church ministries and support those less fortunate than us. We just need to decide then act.
Remember Christ is our Teacher and Friend
• Christ is guide, teacher and friend on our faith journey. Joe Difato writes in his article, Reading the Signs of The Times: “The good news is that God doesn't expect us to do this all on our own. On the contrary, he is committed to teaching us and encouraging us along the way. This is, in fact, why he sent the Holy Spirit-the Third Person of the Trinity-to live in our hearts. It is the Spirit's job to open our hearts and our minds so that we can understand everything that Jesus taught (John 14:26).

Family
Time on earth with our families is precious, and we will be remembered and judged by how fully we lived that time. Balancing faith and family means living in the moment, avoiding distractions from work, and appreciating the memories we make in the time God gives us with our loved ones. Following are some ideas to consider:

Spend time with your family, not money
• Our children look to us for love, guidance and boundaries. Today’s “surrogate parents”—television, computers, video games are teaching them that materialism is a god worth following. It is our responsibility to show them otherwise. Lisa Hendley writes in a Catholic Exchange article titled, Spend Time With your Family, Not Money: “It's not wrong for us to want to give our children the world. What is wrong is for us to forget that we are supposed to be the "grown ups" in the equation — the ones who teach our kids that living within our means and not being overly reliant upon debt makes sense financially, emotionally and spiritually. So next time you are struggling with balancing the family budget, remember these words of wisdom—spend time with your family, not money!”

Set a good faith example for your children
• If you want to know what kind of Christians your children will be, look in the mirror. They look to Mom and Dad and mimic our example. If you pray, they will pray. If you are joyful about attending church, they will be excited as well. Discuss scripture and bible stories. Point out appropriate heroes for them among the figures of the bible or saints who have lived exemplary lives.
The family that prays together stays together
• Like many of you, this is a challenge my family is facing. We pray before meal time and bed time with our children and I hope the meaning of what we are doing will eventually sink in. But raising children is a marathon, not a sprint. Keep at it. You will reach them.
We are here to help our family get to heaven
• As parents, we have no greater responsibility than to help get our families to heaven. It is our mission, our vocation. As part of leading a balanced life, we should always consider how to bring our children closer to Christ. Simply attending church is not enough as writer George Barna (author of Transforming Children Into Spiritual Champions) said in this Catholic Exchange interview: “… the importance of families realizing that they are called to be the primary spiritual developers of their children. It is not a church's job to develop a family's children’s spiritually. The church is there to support the family, not to replace the family.”

Work
Everything is so closely tied to political correctness these days that company executives are running scared. It’s simply the landscape of today’s corporate environment. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t express, and more importantly celebrate, our love of Christ in the workplace by being moral, ethical, and generally good people. Here are some thoughts that are certainly appropriate for a professional setting:

Wear your values on your sleeve
• Do people know what you stand for? What you believe in? Write down your values and keep them with you. In our ambiguous world it may seem difficult to take a stand for what you believe, but your values should be your center that guides your actions and decisions.
Be a good steward … at your company
• As a complement to stewardship of faith, be a good steward of your company time, talent and treasure. Do you and your company give back to the community? It is the right thing to do and is ultimately good for business. Get involved, make a difference and contribute; perhaps if you lead, your company will follow.
Set a good example for your co-workers
• Be honorable, ethical and moral in business. Standing strong behind your beliefs in the workplace will earn you respect among colleagues and create opportunities for deeper dialogue about faith.
Make your role about serving others
• The idea of servant-leadership is not new. Serving your clients, serving your peers, serving your community … is in essence serving Christ. Pope John Paul II said, “The purpose of a business firm is not simply to make a profit, but it is found in its very existence as a community of persons who in various ways are endeavoring to satisfy their basic needs and who form a particular group at the service of the whole society.”
See your work as a vocation
• Michael Naughton writes in his article, A Labor Day Reflection: Three Views on Work: "A vocation enables work to become more satisfying but understood not solely from the perspective of the self or even from the community, but informed by God's grace. Work as a vocation transforms the worker and the object the worker produces by God's grace. A vocation integrates the divine into the activity of work."
Do the Right Thing
• It seems so basic, yet it is surprisingly challenging. Look at Enron, WorldCom and other countless examples of poor ethical and moral behavior in companies. Jim Nolan, author of Doing The Right Thing at Work, has outlined a five step program to guide us in the pursuit of ethics and virtue in the workplace: 1) Self awareness, 2) Expanding our horizons to include concern for all in God’s creation, 3) Engagement in our work and in our world, 4) Community and 5) Prayer.

My intent in sharing these ideas is to show how simply you can alter your life in a way that assimilates faith, family and work. I try every day to follow these steps, and I struggle like anyone else. The challenge is to practice them not as a bunch of new “to-dos,” but as part of a broader, unifying approach to balance and integration.

My personal story is that I converted to the Catholic Church in 2006 after 23 years in a state of “spiritual wilderness.” I was a strict separatist: my work and personal life never connected. When I embraced Catholicism, it opened my eyes to the reality that God comes first, and my will must be subordinate to His will. I experienced a conversion not only in my new faith and devotion to Jesus Christ, but in my world view. I began to see for the first time the vital necessity of integrating all three areas of my life.

My hope is for everyone to undergo a true “conversion of the soul” and lead an integrated, balanced life. It isn’t easy, but worth the journey. I encourage you to begin tomorrow with a firm disposition to do good, practice virtue and emulate Christ. Thank God and praise His name. Say a prayer to our Lord on your way to work asking for guidance and grace throughout the day. Be kind to people you meet and offer assistance freely without an expectation of return. Pray for Jesus to show you that the challenges that present themselves each day are opportunities to grow in holiness and virtue.

In Phillipians 4:8 we read, “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Put Christ first, and the rest will follow.

Finally, I would like to share this appropriate quote from Albert Einstein: “The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing." I pray that we all can become better Lights for Christ. Thank you and God Bless you.