Confession With The Man Himself (Summer Journal Entry #2)

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About a week ago I had the opportunity to go to reconciliation.  That night, I was lying in bed falling slowly into dreamland, and thinking about something I read in Jason Evert’s book about Saint John Paul II:

Each year on Good Friday, the Holy Father walked over to Saint Peter’s Basilica and sat inside one of the confessionals.  His assistants then randomly chose pilgrims from the other confession lines, asking them if they’d like to have him hear their confession.  Some were ecstatic to accept the invitation, while others declined.  He made a habit of doing this every Good Friday, except for the last, the week before his death. (Saint John Paul The Great: His Five Loves, 189)

How incredible would that have been!  I thought.  Confession with JPII!

I then began thinking–dreaming, really– about exactly what that would be like.  How my disposition would likely be so different from just another Saturday morning confession at my local parish.  How, often even now, when I go to reconciliation I find myself fighting the urge to phrase my confession is such a way that makes me appear to “have it together” the most.  Yet, I couldn’t help but think it would be so different were I given the chance to have someone like Saint John Paul the Great or Pope Francis hear my confession.  How I’d likely relish the opportunity to just pour my very soul out to them—with all my struggles and all my doubts and just really lay it out on the line.

But of course— this is what every reconciliation out to be.  Because as awesome as confession with a saint would be, ultimately we go to confession to meet Jesus Himself.  I realized in my dream-like state that in my longing for such a meaningful experience of confession what I was truly longing for was reconciliation with Christ.  Like the woman who meets Jesus at the well, I longed to just be able to just be in His presence and just be real with Him.  My confession would be so different, I thought, if it were Jesus in that confessional.

But it is!

So I went to confession again this week.  And this time, my heart was more disposed to meet Jesus there. I have to say, it made all the difference.

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Summer Journal Entry #1 – Making Time For Prayer

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“Each of us needs half an hour of prayer a day, except when we are busy–then we need an hour.”

A friend of mine shared this quote on her Instagram a few weeks ago, and it was just the right kick in the pants I needed to start being more intentional about daily prayer.

I always tell myself, “I talk to God all day long!” …And I do!  God is with me throughout the day and I’ll try to constantly turn to Him in times of need or just to say a quick, “Thank you, Jesus.”  But though this is a good habit, it is different than intentional daily prayer.

Most nights, Tyler and I will get our family rosary in.  And we try to take a moment or two before we fall asleep to pray together to God for our marriage and for our family.  But even this is different than the kind of intentional prayer I feel that I need.

While “talking to God all day long” is great, and saying formalized prayers is great, and praying with my husband is great, setting aside a specific chunk of time each day exclusively to be with God in prayer–for me–makes a world of difference.

So I’ve set a little challenge for myself (actually it would be more accurate to say that God gave me an invitation to do this).  What I do is set a timer on my phone for thirty minutes–usually in the late-morning or in the middle of the day.  Those thirty minutes I offer to God.  I’ll read from Scripture, I’ll offer prayers of thanksgiving and of petition, and do my best to just give God whatever is on my heart for that time.  Prayer is a two-way conversation, so I do my best to listen as well as talk.

My holy-half-hour doesn’t look super pious.  There’s an 8 month old crawling around amidst all of this and sometimes I get distracted.  But for those thirty minutes I do my best to keep my heart focused on God.

One of the ways I do that is to journal.  Writing letters to God is one of my favorite ways to pray, but I’m not always the best at making time for it.  So for the summer I’m going to aim to keep this thirty minute daily practice, and try my best to write letters to God during it.  I’ll do my best to keep you all updated on what God does with it!

Maybe you’re looking for that kick in the pants like I needed.  Consider this your invitation.  Try setting aside just thirty minutes for God each day, and do your best to LISTEN to Him during that that—and see what He does with it.

 

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What You Believe Informs Who You Are

 

I was perusing Pinterest the other day and came across this little nugget:

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“Your beliefs don’t make you a better person; your behavior does.”

It’s a sentiment I’ve come across before.  What you believe doesn’t matter so long as you are a “good person.”  I guess I get the underlying message.  If you say you believe in charity and peace towards one another but your actions don’t reflect that, then you don’t get to call yourself a “good person.”  You have to live it out.

The problem is that’s not what the statement actually says.  It’s not “your behavior should reflect your beliefs.”  The underlying assertion here is that what a person believes doesn’t matter.  As if you could believe in murder as a virtue, and you’d still be a good person so long as you didn’t actually get around to acting on it.

I’m sorry but I just can’t agree with that.  And it makes me wonder we as a society are collectively forgetting what “belief” in something actually means.

Beliefs matter.  What a person believes necessarily informs everything about the way that person understands himself and the world around him.  Your behavior stems from your beliefs.

This also means that your behavior reveals your true beliefs.  If you say you believe in something, but your actions consistently don’t reflect this belief, eventually you’re not even going to claim to believe in it anymore.  Because if you truly believe in something, your actions are in accordance with that belief.

That’s what it means to believe in something!

If I truly believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God—that He came to this earth out of love for me and for all humankind, to save us from sin— that is going to have an immense impact on every one of my actions.  First and foremost, if I say I believe in Jesus, I’m going to strive to keep His commandments.  If I say I believe in what He taught, I’m going to strive to treat my brothers and sisters with love and compassion.  Belief isn’t a game.

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So let’s stop perpetuating this “beliefs don’t matter” nonsense.  What you believe informs who you are.  I’d say that matters! :)

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Why You Should Pray For Your Family

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(cary pennington photography)

“Marriage is to help married people sanctify themselves and others.  For this reason they receive a special grace in the sacrament which Jesus Christ instituted.  Those who are called to the married state will, with the grace of God, find within their state everything they need to be holy”

-Saint Josemaria Escriva

This weekend, my family and I are attending our fourth wedding of the year!   Seems like every time I turn around I’m at a bridal shower, wedding, or a baby shower!  It’s that time of life, I am told :)

The super-cool thing?  This makes the fourth wedding this year of awesome Catholic couples we know beginning their journey towards Heaven together! (In fact, this weekend’s groom-to-be actually used the line, ‘”seek heaven with me’” in his proposal.  Seriously.  Awesome Catholic couple land is where I live.)

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So Tyler and I began a little tradition this year of praying a novena for each of the couples’ weddings we’re attending beginning nine days before their big day.

We’ve been using Saint Josemaria Escriva’s “Novena for the Family” (and we’ve about memorized it by now!)

What I love about this novena is that it has short reflections for each day on the vocation of marriage and the family.  In typical Saint Josemaria fashion, the reflections are succinct, but oh-so practical and rich.

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I’ve said it before, but our culture is getting further and further away from understanding what marriage actually is supposed to be.  It’s a party.  It’s a way to celebrate your love.  A way to make it “official” (whatever that’s supposed to mean).  If the part of the vows that promises a lifelong union are even recited, they’re not taken seriously a few years down the road when things get tough.

But I truly believe that a Christian marriage—a truly Christian marriage at which Christ is the center, Heaven is the goal, and both spouses know and live this out—is one of the most powerful witnesses to the love of God that our culture is so thirsting for.

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That’s why I’m excited about these new families, and it’s why I pray so earnestly for them.  As Pope Francis says:

No matter what our vocation is, we all belong to a family.  So pray for families!  Pray specifically for YOUR family!  Know that I am praying for you, too.

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Preparing for Pentecost

Happy Feast of The Ascension!  Today is the day the Church remembers Jesus ascending into Heaven.  I wanted to share with you all something my dad emailed to my family earlier this week.  Check it out and consider walking in the disciples’ footsteps these next nine days leading up to Pentecost!

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Preparing for Pentecost

This coming Thursday, May 29th, is the Feast of the Ascension.  Most dioceses in the US don’t get to celebrate it on Thursday, but rather on Sunday.  It’s a bummer, because in moving the date of the celebration we could miss a very powerful opportunity to walk in the shoes of the early disciples.

Right before Jesus Ascended to Heaven on Ascension Thursday, He gave His disciples some final instructions.  He told them to stay in the city of Jerusalem “…until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49)  When Luke picks-up the story in Acts Chapter 1, he states that after Jesus Ascended to Heaven the disciples returned to Jerusalem – to the upper room – and “…devoted themselves to prayer, together with Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.” (Acts 1:12-14).  Ten days later – on the day of Pentecost, they were still together when they were filled with the Holy Spirit! (Acts 2:1-4).

So, to recap, Jesus Ascends to Heaven – the disciples pray for nine days for the Holy Spirit, the “promise of My Father…” as Jesus said in Luke 24:49 – and on the tenth day they receive the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.
…A few weeks ago, I started looking for a way to experience the Holy Spirit, together with the Church, in a deeper way this Pentecost.  I found this Novena to The Holy Spirit (http://www.ecatholic2000.com/novena/hg1.shtml).  Right about now some of you are probably groaning – oh no, another novena!?  But wait – before you dismiss this one – check-out what the website says about this novena:
The novena to the Holy Spirit is the oldest of all novenas since it was first made at the direction of Our Lord when He sent His apostles back to Jerusalem to await the coming of the Holy Spirit on the First Pentecost. It is still the only novena officially prescribed by the Church.
As I prayed about this, I got really excited. The Church throughout the World will celebrate the Feast of the Ascension later this week [TODAY!!!] – 10 days before Pentecost.  Let’s do what the early church did – let’s pray for 9 days for an outpouring of the Spirit, using the Novena to the Holy Spirit, beginning onFriday, May 30th, and concluding on Saturday, June 7th (the eve of Pentecost).  And then when we go to Mass on Pentecost Sunday, June 8th, let’s see what God does!

Praying With Mary

Acts Chapter 1 says the disciples “devoted themselves to prayer, together with Mary.”  Let’s ask the Blessed Mother to accompany us during this novena, and in order to fully prepare our hearts, let’s “go the extra mile.”  If you haven’t been to confession lately, GO before Pentecost.  Let’s also consider making some other special sacrifice during this novena, as a way to “devote ourselves” more fully to this prayer.  Maybe…
- Pray the Rosary for 9 days straight – IN ADDITION to praying this novena? Or,
- Visit the Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament everyday for 9 days straight? Or,
- Go to Mass everyday for 9 days in a row if that fits into your schedule? Or,
- Give up Facebook for 9 days (might be harder than all three of the above, combined!).
I plan to send a “Holy Spirit Novena Reminder” out [via Twitter] everyday for 9 days….
Come Holy Spirit!
Love,
Dad (Alan)