RSS

You Have a Story – How to Unpack from your Adventure – A Spiritual Supply List for your Pilgrim Path – Part 7

images

Every journey, no matter what level of success or amount of challenges, must come to an end.  I am pretty predictable at the end of a pilgrimage: clean (myself, my clothes and my supplies), organize the supplies for the next trip, get some rest, and ever so slowly begin to review the pictures and the journal entries remembering the stories of the adventure that just occurred.  Just as I have a story that needs to be shared, so do you.  What is your story of faith and how often do you share it with others?

Joe Paprocki and Julianne Stanz, authors of the book The Catechist’s Backpack, wrap up their lessons to us by reminding us of the importance of sharing our story with others.  They share the wisdom found in the document Go and Make Disciples about the power of telling others our story, “Whether you were baptized as a child or joined the Church as an adult, you have a story of faith.  Whether you sincerely live your faith in quiet or have a great public ministry, you have a story of faith.  Whether you have a grade-school knowledge of the catechism or have a theological degree, you have a story of faith” (No. 6).  Isn’t the same true when returning from a backpacking adventure?  Whether you are a seasoned professional, a weekend warrior or a first-timer, you have a story to share.

Recently a very good friend, Dr. Mike Carotta, shared a story of faith about a lady he happened to cross paths with at the gym very early one morning.  As he was on the treadmill recovering from ankle surgery, he noticed this woman walking at a brisk pace with a set of Rosary beads.  The next time she passed by he checked it out again and sure enough, she was praying the Rosary while exercising.  After he completed his time on the treadmill and she was done with her brisk walk, he introduced himself and asked her to share the story of why she prays the Rosary.  After a few moments of wondering about this guy asking her a question she answers, “I’m praying this for my 7 year old nephew…he’s stubborn.”  Mike is a bit taken back because he wanted to know about the Rosary itself, not the subject she was praying for through the prayer.  Once she really understands she says, “We make 5,000 of these a year and father heads to Africa and gives them away.  They love it and I love the Rosary.”  She tells him a story of how her niece asked her to teach her the specifics of the Rosary and she had to put her off so she could research it online first.  But she told Mike that she believes in Mary’s intercession to her Son for us.  My friend was struck by witnessing how a person is intimately involved in prayer and lives it during the dark mornings before dawn around a gym track.  She may not know the mechanics but she KNOWS this prayer by and through her heart.  Mike finishes this story by saying, “I’m happy that I am courageous enough to knock on the story door, grateful for the conversation that came forth, but I notice that there is a bounce to my step; and it’s light!

It is through stories “that communal bonds are strengthened, relationships are deepened, our faith is nourished and God’s movement in our lives is revealed” (The Catechist’s Backpack, p. 94).  Today we have so many more solid and outstanding resources and methods to learn our faith than ever before in human history.  Yet, it also seems that the art of telling our love story with God is diminishing.  As someone who has been a catechist and youth minister for many years, when I encounter those who were teens in my parish programs, they never seem to remember my lessons but they do remember some of the stories.

So as this backpacking journey comes to an end and you begin to reflect on the stories, remember this quote by Native-American poet Oren Lyons, “Life will go on as long as there is someone to sing, to dance, to tell stories and listen.”

Reflection written by John Gaffney, Diocesan Director for Evangelization & Catechesis.

Julianne Stanz will present a workshop for catechetical leaders in the Diocese of Des Moines on March 3, 2016.

 

Tags:

Are you the Energizer Bunny for Christ? – Devotion to Mary and the Saints provides authentic stamina for presenting Christ – A Spiritual Supply List for your Pilgrim Path – Part 6

images

Getting lost is part of exploration.  In fact, once you are over the trauma of actually being lost many fellow explorers will tell you this part of the journey may be the most memorable part of the trip.  The problem with being lost though is that it can lead to paralysis, depression and despair.  Today it seems that we have a lot of lost souls that you and I encounter regularly.  Whether it is a traumatic event that has occurred in one’s life, a slow drifting away taking the person into unfamiliar territory or being in cognitive overload, a sense of loss pervades western society today.  The good news is that you and I have many opportunities each day to be an evangelist and share God’s light with those who feel shrouded in darkness.  Just as we have Jesus who is the light of the World for inspiration, Catholics also have the grand tradition of experiencing Christ’s light shine through Mary his mother and the saints.

In the book The Catechist’s Backpack by Joe Paprocki and Julianne Stanz, they remind us that “Faith is taught but it is also caught” (p. 77.)  Our witness role in religious formation many times comes from those who have been Christian witnesses to us.  My love of camping and backpacking came from experiences I had with my dad and my friend’s parents who also enjoyed exploring the great outdoors.  Christ called me, as part of my Baptism, to be a catechist.  He equipped me for this ministry by providing effective witnesses and teachers who have and continue to guide me.  However, we also confess our belief in the Communion of Saints.  “We can look to many such models: some living, others from the past, some known only to ourselves, and others who are great saints of the Church” (p. 78.)

Inspirations such as Mary, Joseph and the saints demonstrate to you and me how to present Jesus to the world.  Great art, especially icons, show this beautifully when you see Mary’s hand pointing to Jesus or a saint like Anthony of Padua craddling Jesus in his arms but in a way that places the emphasis on Jesus.  Father James Martin S.J. writes, “Everything the saints say and do is centered on Christ and points us in his direction” (My Life with the Saints, p. 7).  Father Martin goes on to quote noted Catholic theologian, Lawrence S. Cunningham, when he writes, “the saints also serve as our prophetic witnesses spurring us to live more fully as Christian disciples.”

Father Martin, in a wonderful DVD Series for Loyola Productions titled “Who Cares about the Saints?” includes a story from Saint John XXIII in which as a young boy he is lifted upon the shoulders of his father to watch a religious procession.  Saint John says the following, “The secret in life is to be carried by others to God.”  This is exactly what Mary and the saints do when they present God to us through the authentic witness of their lives.  May you and I be humble enough to spend our lives being carried to God through the Christian witness of our sisters and brothers who make up the Communion of Saints.

Below is an example of the Father James Martin series, “Who Cares about the Saints?”  This episode is about Saint John XXIII.

Reflection written by John Gaffney, Diocesan Director for Evangelization & Catechesis.

Julianne Stanz will present a workshop for catechetical leaders in the Diocese of Des Moines on March 3, 2016.

 

Tags:

It’s OK to Play with Matches – Making Sure You Have What is Needed for Missionary Zeal – A Spiritual Supply List for your Pilgrim Path – Part 5

imgres

What camping adventure worth its name wouldn’t include a bonfire?  I think about miles of hot dogs and s’mores that were roasted not to mention the number of stories that were told around roaring campfires that I have attended throughout the years.  Those memories are embedded in my mind along with the people who were with me.  The common denominator that brought these memories together was the bonfire itself.  What was the catalyst that ignited wood, kindling and fuel into a roaring flame?  It was the intentional action of someone who created a spark that took all these random materials and caused a radical change to take place: a bonfire.

Think about the bonfire as your local parish or our diocesan Church.

  • Some of us are the pieces of wood.  There are large pieces that will be used to form the outside of the structure while the smaller pieces are piled up inside.  Some of the wood may be wet or have moss growing on it.  For whatever reason each piece of wood was brought to this place and for a specific purpose.
  • Some of us are kindling.  When compared to the larger pieces of wood, it doesn’t seem like we measure up. Most of the time kindling is something that seems disposable: paper towels, an old newspaper or magazine, or dry brittle twigs.  From the perspective of the kindling elements, life among the larger pieces of wood may seem intimidating.
  • Some of us are fuel. This material is used to produce heat or power.  Unlike the other materials that can be used in multiple ways, there are few ways to use fuel.  Furthermore, for the heat or power to be produced requires some action beyond its ability.
  • For the bonfire that is the Church to become what it was created to be requires the spark of faith given to it by the Holy Spirit.  For the pyre to become a bonfire requires the action of the one who creates the spark. For us to continually be able to spread the Gospel requires that we provide the Holy Spirit good material to fan our spark of faith into a large flame.

Sometimes we talk ourselves out of becoming an evangelist because we think we are too small, our faith isn’t strong enough, or we are not ordained, But evangelization doesn’t come from us, it comes from Jesus.  Joe Paprocki and Julianne Stanz write in their book The Catechist’s Backpack, “The Good News we bring to the world when we evangelize is not only the message of Jesus Christ but the person of Jesus Christ, who desires a personal relationship with each one of us” (page 66).

When I was a baby youth minister I had a volunteer who didn’t think she was qualified to do anything else but welcome teens to our programming.  Although she was every bit as qualified to lead programming, she was outstanding at welcoming people into youth ministry and encouraging those who felt they weren’t faithful enough to give it a try.  Pope Francis would call her an “agent of evangelization.”  In Joy of the Gospel Pope Francis writes, “All the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization, and it would be insufficient to envisage a plan of evangelization to be carried out by professionals while the rest of the faithful would simply be passive recipients.  The new evangelization calls for personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized.  Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization; indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love” (paragraph #120).

Families today more than ever need to be evangelized by you and I that Christ’s Gospel has much to offer them as spouses along with their children.  Isn’t there somebody today that you and I will encounter that is in need of Christ’s mercy?  Having the opportunity to be open to this and to share the love that God has shown us is what it means to be someone on mission.  The real question for each of us is if we are open to offering the materials God has given so that He can fan the spark of faith into a large bonfire?  Below is one of my favorite parts of the movie Prince of Egypt about another person who wasn’t sure he had what it took to be on mission. Look at what God accomplished through him.

Reflection written by John Gaffney, Diocesan Director for Evangelization & Catechesis.

Julianne Stanz will present a workshop for catechetical leaders in the Diocese of Des Moines on March 3, 2016.

 

Tags: ,

Quest for the Real Thing – The Need for the Right Clothing and Footwear – A Spiritual Supply List for your Pilgrim Path – Part 4

images

In September, 2013, Pope Francis was asked by a reporter from America Magazine to describe who he is at the core.  Pope Francis described himself in these words, “Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?  I am a sinner. This the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.”  When young adults are asked about adults who made a difference in their lives as a teen, most point to adults who possess the traits of authenticity and consistency.  Think about your childhood and teen years, besides your parents who helped shape you into the person you are today?

For me, it was a family friend named Marietta.  Marietta was one of the most joyful people I have ever met. She lit up a room with her laughter and you felt like you were the only person in the room when you were having a conversation with her.  God was central to Marietta’s life because she had a relationship with God. God worked through her, I believe, because she rarely saw the dark side of others, but only who God created them to be and the infinite possibility of goodness they could achieve.  It was years later that I discovered that Marietta’s only child and husband were killed by a drunk driver right in front of her: her son died immediately and her husband passed away months later after lying in a coma.  Years after that I finally had the courage to ask how she come through it to be the person she was.  Marietta said, “First I told God, I don’t understand this. Over time that moved into I can’t understand this.  Eventually, I came to the understanding that I didn’t need to understand.”  I never had the courage to ask how long it took for Marietta to move through each stage.  She was a very private person and I felt fortunate that she shared this much with me.

Marietta was authentic and consistent.  She didn’t just practice her religion on Sundays but lived it every day. Somewhere along the way she invited Jesus to walk with her through the good times and the bad times. Instead of pushing Jesus away during her time of crisis, she stayed in relationship with Him.  She realized being a Christian meant she needed to also carry her cross and walk with Jesus on the pathway to Calvary. Marietta showed me what hope looked like with skin on and I have never forgot.

Julianne Stanz explained during her NCCL keynote and in the book, The Catechist’s Backpack, that to possess the correct clothing and footwear is to remember that we put Christ on when we were baptized.  As we get older and “wear Christ” we grow in intimacy with Him.  Each of us, just like Marietta and those who touched you in your life, have shared this intimacy with us.  This is evangelization.  Julianne also shared that those who are authentic share “H.O.P.E.” to those in front of them.

  • H – Healing – recognizing the need to be healed and being open to be a healer
  • O – Opportunities to be in relationship with God and others
  • P – Possibilities that God has in store for you and me
  • E – Eucharist – Receiving the intimacy of God through His body, blood, soul and divinity

As we encounter each person in our lives today, may we be an authentic witness of Christ’s love for humanity. Let us pray for the grace for a change of heart to practice what we preach.

Reflection written by John Gaffney, Diocesan Director for Evangelization & Catechesis.

Julianne Stanz will present a workshop for catechetical leaders in the Diocese of Des Moines on March 3, 2016.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 27, 2015 in Julianne Stanz, Spirituality

 

Tags:

Where are you going? The need for a solid topographical map – A Spiritual Supply List for Your Pilgrim Path – Part 3

imgres

When I began this series of reflections it was in response to some of the events of this summer which has been challenging to those who are Christian.  How are we to witness our faith to those around us?  The Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity from Vatican Council II proposes this vision to Catholics, “Our own times require of the laity no less zeal, in fact, modern conditions demand that their apostolate be broadened and intensified…Since the laity, in accordance with their state in life, live in the midst of the world and its concerns, they are called by God to exercise their apostolate in the world like leaven, with the ardor of the spirit of Christ” (The Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, #1 & #2).  St. Paul wrote about this too shortly before his martyrdom in Rome, “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2).  Perhaps the Vatican II fathers, St. Paul and those of us who love to back pack have something in common; we need a good map and compass to avoid pointless wandering.

Joe Paprocki and Julianne Stanz consider this same point as they ponder our role as Christians regarding openness to the world.  “We need to familiarize ourselves to the ‘terrain’ of this world.  The Holy Spirit was poured forth so that we could proclaim the gospel to all nations.  This serves as our map, compass, and ultimately our GPSS – our global positioning spiritual system.  Without such a system we would wander aimlessly, without direction, With it we can stay in touch with the field in which the seeds of the gospel are to be sown: the world.  We are called, however, not simply to immerse ourselves in the world but to survey it, engage it, and challenge it so that it may be transformed in and through Christ” (The Catechist’s Backpack, XIII in Introduction).

So let’s test our map.  You and I spend our days with our spouses and children, at work with colleagues and customers, in the ball parks and auditoriums.  We live our life primarily outside of our local parish’s walls and away from the priests and religious whose work shows us how God’s love story includes each of us.  Although every day can be, and many times is, a new adventure we know our terrain pretty well.  The question for you and me is how well do we experience God’s movement in our lives?  How do we know what these seeds look like to sow them into the fields in which we find ourselves?  Why not try the process below which a Benedictine monk outlined years ago to help me experience God’s movement in my life (it works really well with what Joe and Julianne wrote above):

  • Survey the soil (world) – Listen to the hopes and concerns of those around you paying special attention to those who are marginalized in your local community, around the nation and the world.  How do the hopes and dreams measure up to the standard set by the Gospel; for example the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10) or the Judgment of Nations (Matthew 25:31-46)?
  • Work the soil (engage the world) – How are the hopes and concerns of those around me when viewed with the gospel calling me to conversion of heart?  Is there a possible action found within the corporeal works of mercy that will help me respond as a Christian disciple to the person or situation that is immediately in front of me?
  • Tend the garden (challenge the world) – What care needs to be done to my heart so that I cultivate the fruits of the Spirit?  Before responding to the challenges of the secular society, have I checked my pride at the door and entered into dialogue with humility?  (Although my friend is a Benedictine, he finds the Jesuit practice of the Daily Examen very helpful.)

Perhaps the prayer below, attributed to Brother Lawrence, may be a fitting conclusion to this reflection:

Lord of all pots and pans and things,
since I’ve no time to be a great saint
by doing lovely things,
or watching late with Thee,
or dreaming in the dawnlight,
or storming heaven’s gates,
make me a saint by getting meals,
and washing up the plates.

Warm all the kitchen with Thy Love,
and light it with Thy peace;
forgive me all my worrying,
and make my grumbling cease.

Thou who didst love to give men food,
in room, or by the sea,
accept the service that I do,
I do it unto Thee.

Amen

Reflection written by John Gaffney, Diocesan Director for Evangelization & Catechesis.

Julianne Stanz will present a workshop for catechetical leaders in the Diocese of Des Moines on March 3, 2016.

 

Tags:

Food & Shelter for the Journey – A Spiritual Supply List for Your Pilgrim Path – Part 2

imgres

What pilgrimage of length could be successfully accomplished without the need of adequate food and shelter? Julianne Stanz and Joe Paprocki focus on our need for the Church and Eucharist as essential not only for journeying the Christian life, but also inviting others to journey with us.

You may be thinking to yourself, I am not a priest, a nun, or a catechist: I’m not comfortable with asking others to join the Church or be in a relationship with Christ.  Don’t worry, this is not a reflection about asking you to consider evangelizing on the street corner.  The thoughts today focus on practices that are fundamental in witnessing to the Catholic faith wherever you find yourself: at home with your family and friends, at work with colleagues and customers, while participating in sports, politics and even your selection of entertainment. Blessed Pope Paul VI taught “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses” (Evangelii Nuntiandi).  Cardinal Lucas Moreira Neves, O.P. expanded on this when he wrote, “Even when one is not involved in pastoral ministry or culture and does not know how to speak, every Christian evangelizes if he bears witness to what he believes.”

Shelter is essential to our pilgrim journey for two protective reasons: it nurtures and supports us as we form our identity AND it shelters us from the storms that impact our lives at certain moments.  The Church, both domestic and ecclesial, is where we learn to love and be loved, forgive and be forgiven and form lifelong relationships with God as well as our sisters and brothers.  We learn what it means to be a Christian by putting our faith in action.  You and I are able to experience God’s loving embrace.  Our hearts are opened wider when we freely give ourselves as an extension of God’s salvific action to the one who is immediately in front of us. We know we are living in the Spirit when we experience: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22.)  The Church and her saints who sheltered each of us during the storms we experienced, is now the same Church who shelters others through us.  We discover that none of us can live a “lone ranger” existence.  Our shelter is the Church.  Blessed Pope Paul VI expressed this beautifully when he wrote, ” She (the Church) exists in order to evangelize, that is to say, in order to teach and preach, to be a channel of the gift of grace, to reconcile sinners to God, and to perpetuate Christ’s sacrifice in the Mass, which is the memorial of His death and glorious resurrection” (Evangelii Nuntiandi, #2).

For us to have the spiritual strength needed for this life, Jesus gives us His body, blood, soul and divinity in the Eucharist: the ultimate food for the journey.  Think about any long journey you have taken lately.  At some point you know you have hit the wall and can’t go much further.  If you are like me, sometimes your body is deprived of nourishment to the level that it affects your strength and vitality.  Concentration, presence and making good decisions is compromised.  Think perhaps about your own life or those who you love, isn’t it true that when we most need Jesus in the Eucharist many of us run the other direction.  To be agents of evangelization we need to have a healthy Eucharistic spirituality and practice.   The Eucharist not only is the Body of Christ for us, but it also challenges us to become His voice, His ears, His compassion and His touch on our pilgrim path.

Reflection written by John Gaffney, Diocesan Director for Evangelization & Catechesis.

Julianne Stanz will present a workshop for catechetical leaders in the Diocese of Des Moines on March 3, 2016.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 13, 2015 in Catholic Identity, Eucharist

 

Tags:

Spiritual Supply List for Your Pilgrim Path

images

Recent events in our community, our nation and the world have not only been the fodder for broadcast news organizations and social media sites, it has also been the catalyst for conversations among friends and family on what it means to be a just society, compassionate and a faithful Christian disciple.  Our questions and concerns are immense.  Many of the events of the last five weeks have touched each one of us in a very personal way.  It is easy to see this when we read or hear the tenor in each other’s communications.  As I have pondered the events of the last few weeks and listened to people of good will be very hard on each other, I have asked myself the question, “How does a Christian disciple navigate oneself through the wilderness of our secular world?”  God answered this, I think, while on a short hike I took on Saturday.  God showed me that the environment can be both beautiful and challenging at the same time: flowers alongside poison ivy, birds singing a short distance away from a snake sunning himself on a rock, and a terrain changing from mild to rugged.  The lesson I believe God had in store for me is if I had packed everything I needed to encounter the fullness of the environment I found myself.  Perhaps this is the question God has in store for me and you as we navigate our way through our world which is both beautiful and challenging at the same time?

In May I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the 79th Annual National Conference for Catechetical Leadership (NCCL) Exposition and Conference.   On the last day the keynote was provided by Julianne Stanz and Joe Paprocki titled “The Catechist’s Backpack: Spiritual Essentials for the Journey” (Loyola Press).  It was a wonderful presentation and I ordered the book as soon as I returned home.  However, after my revelation, I realized that the lessons Julianne and Joe had for catechists, to make sure they are equipped for the task of helping children and teens form a personal relationship with Jesus and learn about our faith, were lessons for all of us too.

The General Directory for Catechesis tells us that there are three dimensions for formation in helping prepare a person to be a catechist: knowing about the faith, learning to teach the faith and being in love with Christ.  However the being dimension is the most neglected and yet the most critical when it comes to evangelization.  Being in love with Christ brings joy even in the midst of great persecution and suffering.  Pope Francis has said the “joy is a pilgrim virtue: one that moves Christians to journey out into the world preaching the Gospel and proclaiming Christ” (Catholic News Service, May 10, 2013).  So how do we prepare a supply list for this journey of faith in helping each of us grow in love with Christ?  Over the next 6 reflections we will be exploring together what should be on our spiritual supply list for this faith journey.

“Item #1 – Radical Reliance on God”

Joe and Julianne shared that on any journey it is essential to have an abundant supply of water.  Water is used in many ways in our faith beginning with the waters of Baptism and refreshed often when we bless ourselves with holy water.  There are so many powerful actions that happen in baptism that when reflected upon provide a lifetime of sustenance for each of us on our journey.

Prayer over the water: “You have called your children to this cleansing water, that they may share in the faith of your Church and have eternal life.  By the mystery of this consecrated water lead them to a new and spiritual birth.”

Anointing after Baptism:  “The God of power and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has freed you from sin and brought you to new life through water and the Holy Spirit.  He now anoints you with the chrism of salvation, so that, united with his people, you may remain for ever a member of Christ who is Priest, Prophet and King.”

Clothing with a Baptismal Garment:  “You have become a new creation and have clothed yourself in Christ.  Receive this baptismal garment and bring it unstained to the judgment seat of our Lord Jesus Christ, so that you may have everlasting life.”

Presentation of a Lighted Candle:  “You have been enlightened by Christ.  Walk always as children of the light and keep the flame of faith alive in your hearts.  When the Lord comes, may you go out to meet him with all the saints in the heavenly kingdom.”

Pope Francis, in his Angelus address, said, “Faith is not something decorative, or ornamental, it is not there to decorate your life with a little of religion.  No, faith involves choosing God as the center of one’s life” (Vatican News, August 18, 2013).  May you and I respond to the abundant waters of grace in our baptism by choosing Christ as the center of our life today.

Reflection written by John Gaffney, Diocesan Director for Evangelization & Catechesis.

Julianne Stanz will present a workshop for catechetical leaders in the Diocese of Des Moines on March 3, 2016.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on July 6, 2015 in Spirituality

 

Tags:

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 823 other followers