Efficiency

One of the things I am learning from Pope Francis is to focus more on people and less on efficiency. What that means is that in our quest for efficiency we can miss Jesus in the face of our neighbor when we are solely focused on completing a task, a mission, even if it’s a good work. A right and just activity should not be forged at the expense of kindness and care for others.

“We must grow in passion for evangelizing,” the Pope said. “If we must sacrifice something, let’s sacrifice organization and move forward with the mysticism of saints.”

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As the Pope exhorts us to be witnesses to the Gospel in our work and play, we might ask ourselves how we can live the “mysticism of the saints” in our daily lives? This is an immense topic to take to prayer that can help us become more holy and healthy.

I’ll share an example from my life. I’m part of a spiritual book group with some women from my Church. We meet weekly—and at first we efficiently marched through the books sharing our thoughts, but staying on track with the topic at hand. Over time, we started sharing more personal stories and experiences (that related to the book most of the time), but now it can take us months to finish a book. We might only get through a few paragraphs in one meeting.

When I look at how our time has changed, we are definitely less efficient, but I see in our approach the Pope’s call to us to live with the “mysticism of the saints.” Sharing, learning, loving, praying and caring for each other has had a profound effect on each of us. We leave our time together feeling that God has touched us and that we have shared the Gospel with each other in new, personal and substantial ways. We’ve learned that it’s not how efficiently we can review a book that matters, but that it’s the listening, loving and moving forward under the guidance of the Holy Spirit that really impacts us.

Pope Francis said, “Mission is never the fruit of a perfectly planned program or a well organized manual. Mission is always the fruit of a life which knows what it is to be found and healed.”

Being “found and healed” is such a powerful sentiment. These words remind me that efficiency isn’t solely about slowing down, but it’s also about truly tuning in to each other. The beauty of this practice is that when we pause to care, God softens our hearts and amazing changes can unfold in both the giver and the receiver.

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Here is another personal example. One day I was taking communion to the hospital and I really wanted to make it to daily Mass afterward. I admit, I hurriedly visited patients, but it quickly became clear that this was not being a good witness to the Gospel. Desiring communion for myself is a good thing, but not at the expense of taking communion to the sick. So I slowed down and took more time to converse and be present to the patients. An amazing peace came over me and I left the hospital feeling Christ’s presence in a way that was quite honestly akin to receiving him in Holy Communion. What a powerful lesson in efficiency that was for me!

So I urge you to prayerfully consider the Pope’s call in your own life and ask the Holy Spirit to show you how you can be a ‘wave of missionary passion” to others.

The Present Moment

There is nothing like the present moment. It’s right here, right now, and it demands our full attention. I first discovered the spiritual importance of living in the present moment when my husband and I moved to New Hampshire as a young, newly-married couple. 

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We registered at the Catholic Church in Hampstead, New Hampshire and I’ll never forget attending our first social event at St. Ann because we met a very wise priest. He asked us about our lives and we shared all of our plans and goals to start a family, expand our careers and much more.

I will never forget his reply to us. He said these two little words, “Just this.” He told us to focus on the here and now, the present moment, whatever was happening right here before us in our lives and to let the future unfold with full trust in God’s plans for us. 

I admit that sometimes it’s easy to do, and sometimes I look ahead or look back too much, so I am renewing my commitment to “Just this.”

As you and I seek to become more holy and healthy, these two little words, “Just this” can guide us to move throughout our day, week, month, year and entire life, with the Holy Spirit taking the lead with our hearts, minds and bodies focused on the present moment.

When we replay past events in our minds, with worry or regret, we miss the joys and sorrows of the present moment. We can’t change the past anyway, but in our humanness we go there, or perhaps we’re led there by the evil one, and what good does that do for our soul?

If we look ahead to the future, the present moment is sidelined, in fact maligned. Yes, some planning takes place in our lives, but when our future plans overwhelm the present moment, and fill us with unrest and worry, we are not truly lifting our hearts to God and living these words, “Jesus, I trust in you.”

We see Jesus teaching us to embrace the present moment in Scripture often. From Matthew 6:34, Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”

I have discovered that one of the reasons people enjoy exercise is because it forces them to be in the present moment. The do-lists, family concerns, and work struggles are not on one’s mind when they are lifting a weight overhead or swinging a kettle bell. That is part of the joy of exercise—being fully present to something that helps us feel better and become physically stronger for the mission God has set before us.

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The saints advise us to live in the present moment with trust and a spirit of childlikeness. St. Faustina of Kowalska gave us this beautiful Prayer for the Present Moment which is at my bedside to pray daily:

Oh  My God,
When I look into the future, I am frightened,
But why plunge into the future?
Only the present moment is precious to me.
As the future may never enter my soul at all.

It is no longer in my power to change, correct or add to the past;
For neither sages nor prophets could do that.
And so what the past has embraced I must entrust to God.

O present moment, you belong to me, whole and entire.
I desire to use you as best I can.
And although I am weak and small,
You grant me the grace of Your omnipotence.

And so, trusting in Your mercy,
I walk through life like a little child,
Offering You each day this heart
Burning with love for Your greater Glory.

~St. Faustina’s Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul, Notebook 1 (1)

I pray that we all discover the treasure of the present moment and that it brings us true joy and peace.

 

Simplifying our Lives for Jesus

Trying to live a more simple life can help us to become more holy and healthy. What is a simple life? That will vary for you and for me. Here are some thoughts for us to consider.

A good place to start is looking at areas of our lives where there are excesses. I’m thinking about my kitchen pantry right now that has built up with too many items; it’s time to clean it out and give food to my local food pantry. Too much stuff weighs us down. In the example of my pantry, I can’t find things quickly and easily, so it takes extra time to prepare a meal. I also end up buying duplicate items because I can’t see anything in the mess. Simplifying helps me be more efficient at home and giving food away helps others.

Another area of our lives to consider is our activity level. Do we have too much going on, feel stressed, too busy, rushed or worn out? These are signs that we might be doing too much and not doing God’s will. Taking this to prayer can help us sort out what God is calling us to do—and then we can reduce or eliminate activities that are not using our gifts and talents to be balanced and peaceful servants for Christ.

We can also look at how we spend our time. Time management can be critical in simplifying our lives. For example, we can examine how much time we surf the Internet, watch television or pursue a hobby. If we are not finding time to pray or keep up with work and family responsibilities, we might need to adjust activities that are not essential to our vocation. 

Simplifying our lives doesn’t necessarily mean we are doing less. Before making changes, we should pray and ask the Holy Spirit to help us order our lives. It might mean adding in more activity that is aligned with God’s will for us and removing those that don’t contribute to our desire to be holy and healthy. Maybe we need to add more silence to our lives, commit to a regular Holy Hour to talk to Jesus, exercise for more mental clarity, read a good book, or reconnect with a friend.

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Simplicity can make more room for God to work in us and help us be better to serve the people we love—and this can help us grow in holiness. 

“Order your soul. Reduce your wants.”―Saint Augustine

The Holy Spirit has showed me that I need to give more time to nurturing friendships. I’m trying to organize my time so that I’m more available to meet friends in person, talk on the phone and hand-write notes. Simplifying my exercise routine and spending less time online is helping me do this.

When our lives are too busy, too complex, with too much stuff, activity, or noise, we can feel lost, lonely, out-of-control, and out-of-touch with God and his mission for us.

Think about a saint you know and love. Look at that saint’s life and you will see a spirit of simplicity. One thing common among the saints is their desire to love and serve God and to do his will—and they make a lot of changes in their lives to do this. Ask your special saint to intercede for you as you seek to simplify your life to be more free to respond to God’s call to you.

The more you have, the more you are occupied. The less you have, the more free you are.” ―St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta

The Slippery Slope of Sloth

Have you ever thought about the sin of sloth? It’s number four on the list of the Seven Deadly Sins. I haven’t thought about it either, until recently, when I would catch myself having difficulty attending to both temporal and spiritual responsibilities.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church #2094 states that “spiritual sloth goes so far as to refuse the joy that comes from God, and to be repelled by divine goodness.” Wow, that’s more serious than I thought!

“Because of laziness, the rafters sag, when hands are slack, the house leaks.” Ecclesiastes 10:18

I was looking at sloth as laziness in my temporal activities, but more importantly, I was reminded how much sloth leads us away from God. If we ignore our day-to-day responsibilities, we can fall prey to the evil one who would like us to think we don’t have what it takes to serve God either. Sloth can lead us into a lonely pit of selfishness and despair.

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St. Thomas Aquinas said, “Sloth is sluggishness of the mind which neglects to begin good. it is evil in its effect, if it so oppresses man as to draw him away entirely from good deeds.”

It’s not holy or healthy to be slothful. So how do we get off the slippery slope of sloth?

We are nearing the end of Lent, so hopefully we’ve been trying to be faithful to prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Acts of love, where we put the needs of others first, can strengthen us. Reading Holy Scripture fortifies us. Frequenting Mass and the Sacrament of Reconciliation help lead us away from sin and toward God.

In my own life, I see the lure of sloth in unstructured time, so I often ask the Holy Spirit to order my day and set my priorities. Isn’t it amazing how much we can accomplish when we ask the Holy Spirit to guide us? Haven’t you been amazed at what you can do when you seek God’s will in your daily affairs… especially when you think you don’t have the time, energy or resources you need?

“I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13.

Some closing thoughts for staving off sloth:

First we can pray and ask God for everything, anything, big and small. Don’t limit God. He knows our needs better than we do and He delights in helping us with even our smallest corporal concerns.

Second, we can look deeper to see what is tempting us to sloth. There may be an issue behind our sloth that needs to be taken to prayer or addressed with a spiritual director or a faithful friend.

Finally, sloth is a sin against God and it will harm us spiritually, especially if we are not fulfilling the duties of our vocation. We have to fight like St. Paul to be Christ-like, put on the armor of God, and run to finish the race … because God is counting on us.

Our Great Need for Others

I’ve been blessed with good health, through nature and nurture, but I recently experienced a medical emergency that I could never have imagined.

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While driving to Adoration recently, my vision blurred. I was able to turn my car around and safely drive home and my husband Al drove me to Riverside Hospital emergency room. 

I felt pretty good, siting up talking normally, but my heart rate kept falling dangerously low. After five hours of testing in the ER, my body proved to be healthy, but they found what appeared to be a failure in the electrical system of my heart.

That was quite a surprise to someone who was not ill, exercises daily and teaches others to exercise as well. I’m considered relatively young to be a cardiac patient (in my 50s), I didn’t have much medical history to speak of, and this was my first time in the ER, so this was truly a humbling experience!

There I was with concerned nurses, doctors and family members hovering all around me. When they attached the paddle pads as a precaution, I knew I had to take this seriously. 

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So I prayed. I can honestly say that for the first time in my life, I prayed as Jesus calls us to pray … without ceasing. I prayed to the Holy Trinity, my guardian angel and asked for the intercession of Our Lady and the saints, especially two of my favorites, St. Padre Pio and St. Therese of Lisieux. I also felt an urgent need to pray for my family and friends, every hospital worker and patient, and the Holy Souls in Purgatory … who are closer to heaven than we are.

Much like an athlete who trains for a physical event, I felt this was it — time to run the race, to lean on God, my faith, and my loving family and friends for strength and to give every ounce of my will to prayer. Years of receiving the Sacraments, praying and serving — all the things we do as active Catholics — must mean something in the drama of our daily lives …. and for me, this was it.

So the first night in the hospital, I had a long conversation with God. I told him that if this is my time, I’ll go, but I didn’t feel ready. I still need to grow in holiness (as he knows) and there are some milestones I’d like to be here for to share with my husband, children, extended family and friends. But your will be done Lord!. Give me courage. Give my family strength. I received the Anointing of the Sick; it was time to, “Put on the Armor of God.” (Ephesians 6:11)

 We need each other as we are Christ to each other.

We need each other as we are Christ to each other.

It’s always about both prayer and action. The doctors educated me about putting in a pacemaker to regulate my heart rate. It seemed like a reasonable solution. I had to be obedient and prayerful and let the doctors and nurses do what they are trained to do. Praise God for the gifts he bestows on us so we can serve others! I was keenly aware of my great need for others and I continued to pray for them.

The day after I returned home from the hospital, I read this beautiful reflection from Pope Benedict XVI that sums up our need for others in illness.

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“It is nonetheless true that illness is typically a human condition in which we feel strongly that we are not self-sufficient, but need others. In this regard we might say paradoxically, that illness can be a salutary moment in which to experience the attention of others and to pay attention to others!”

My condition of dependence led to a beautiful crack in my faulty heart to feel a new and urgent need for God and for others. I tried to stay in the present moment—I believe this helped me stay upbeat and hopeful and freed me from the evil ones’ snares of worry, fear and ‘what ifs.’

I received a pacemaker and my heart is now operating at full speed. I feel amazing and I’m amazingly grateful for my faith and family and basically everything in this life. No exercise for a while, but I’ll return to it slowly, honoring my body and continuing to be grateful to God and to the people he has placed in my life. 

God is teaching me through this experience. He is the great physician, and his ways are not our ways. I remain in awe of his glorious love for us and I pray that my heart remains open to whatever He has in store for me next.

Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament

One of the gifts of the Church is the privilege of praying before the Risen Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. We are blessed to offer Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament at many parishes here in central Ohio, in which we can see Jesus there before us in the Eucharist, beckoning us … body, blood, soul and divinity.

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Adoration is surely a way to grow in holiness and to develop a healthy spiritual life. I have been adoring our Lord since the tragedy of 9/11 when a friend invited me to Adoration in honor of those who were called home during the tragic fall of the trade towers. 

I remember being in awe of God’s majesty as I sat in His presence to pray and to listen, and to be consoled by His love when I was trying to process that horrific event.

I wondered why I had never intentionally prayed in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament before that invitation from my friend. I realized that I had never reflected on the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist in this manner and something deep within me stirred.

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Being called to adore our Lord is truly a call from God. It is a gift of his grace to us, but we have to cooperate with that grace. Perhaps we’re called to this ministry at different times and in different ways. This call opens our hearts to spending gentle silence with the Lord in person, much like spending time with our beloved family and friends.

At times, we may feel called to invite others to join us for Adoration. I know I have, but since we are all at different points in our spiritual journey, we shouldn’t be discouraged if others don’t feel an immediate draw to pray in this manner. All in His time and in His way.

While a Holy Hour can be an amazing hour of tranquility and prayer, it can also be an hour of struggle and distraction. I’ve experienced both and you probably have too. Yet we know that God will work in us, even in our distraction and even in our falling asleep—as we are resting in His loving arms.

St. Therese of Lisieux urges us on. “Heaven for me is hidden in a little Host Where Jesus, my Spouse, is veiled for love. I go to that Divine Furnace to draw out life, And there my Sweet Savior listens to me night and day.”

He listens, He loves, He knows, He understands, He gives, and He delights in our presence and He will work in us interiorly even though His ways are mysterious to us.

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This gift of time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament can be a time to lay out the troubles of our lives to Him, a time to thank Him, to seek our life’s purpose in Him, to laugh and to cry with Him, and to just be with him. It is a joyful interlude of beloved friends.

Let us close with these words from St. Padre Pio: “A thousand years of enjoying human glory is not worth even an hour spent sweetly communing with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament."

May we rest in Him often,

Lori

Holiness in All Environments

It’s pretty easy to feel holy sitting peacefully in Church, whether at Holy Mass or in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, but it sure gets a lot harder once we walk out the door.

We are called to be holy, which means loving and serving God and our neighbor, in every environment, all the time. This is something the saints managed to do well by the end of their lives here on earth. We know from the stories of their lives that they struggled like we do. Only with God’s grace, aided by prayer and frequent reception of the sacraments, can we also hope to achieve this goal.

 Can we be holy in our work environment?

Can we be holy in our work environment?

I realize that most of the time, it’s not the environment that challenges us most, but the people in that environment. Sometimes it’s the combination of the two, such as a person in the workplace who we simply don’t gel along with very well.

St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, “Some people come into your life as blessings and other people come into your life as lessons.”

I know this to be true in my life and maybe you do too.

Some people challenge us to grow in a virtue, such as patience, kindness or humility. The Blessed Mother is a beautiful guide for us here as we seek to grow in holiness; we can ponder in our hearts, as she did, all that is happening around us and our role in it.

Addressing our challenges head-on, no matter how small, with time and attention in prayer, and with gentleness toward ourselves and others, can go along way in helping us grow in holiness. Maybe you’re like me and you even laugh when you ponder a situation and suddenly realize how silly your behavior was at that moment. Sigh.

St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta encourages us onward, “God doesn’t require us to succeed, he only requires that you try.”

So we continue to strive for holiness with all people and in all environments; at home, at work, on the playing field, at church, at the grocery store, in the car … there is no time or place where we aren’t called to be holy.

St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, “You have to be holy where you are – wherever God has put you.”

So we can’t give up or move away! We must call upon God often to help us turn these little scoundrels into sturdy strengths.

St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s words light the way, “Nothing can make me holy except the presence of God, and to me, the presence of God is fidelity to small things. Fidelity to small things will lead you to Christ. Infidelity to small things will lead you to sin.”

St. Catherine of Siena

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Have you ever had a saint burst into your life and you’re not sure why? St. Catherine of Siena has been pursuing me recently, so I became inspired to look more closely at her life and teachings.

I am a convert who has been Catholic for 32 years and I continue to be amazed at the lives of the saints and how we can develop such personal relationships with them. The saints watch over us and assist us when we call on them. They are our heavenly friends who teach us and intercede for us at different times in our lives and stand along side us on our march toward heaven.

St. Catherine of Siena is a doctor of the Church, canonized in 1461, and she is a patroness of Italy and Europe. She was a third order Dominican who lived to the age of 33. She was a spiritual guide to many, and in the words of Pope Benedict, “guided  people from every walk of life: nobles and politicians, artists and ordinary people, consecrated men and women and religious, including Pope Gregory XI who was living at Avignon in that period and whom she energetically and effectively urged to return to Rome.”

She had a profound “mystical marriage” to Christ whom she loved with intimate faithfulness. She is one of a small group of saints who Pope Benedict identified as having an extraordinary devotion to the Holy Eucharist.

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I feel connected to St. Catherine in many ways; I admire her directness and the poignant simplicity in her words inspired by her love of Christ and her understanding of the spiritual life. “If you are what you should be, you will set the world on fire.”

It’s funny how sentiments from centuries ago resonate in our times. “Proclaim the truth and do not be silent through fear.” 

Her words inspire me to deeper reflection with Lectio Divina.“All the way to heaven is heaven, because Jesus said, ‘I am the way.’”

Just as our friendships with certain people seem to start almost naturally, and can feel like we’ve known them forever, our friendships with saints can happen in the same way. 

During this month of All Saints, St. Catherine nudged me along as she became our Walking with Purpose table name. I discovered that was the saint in a small image that I had in my kitchen (who I mistakenly thought was St. Teresa of Avila until a friend cleared that up!) St. Catherine’s reflections jumped off the page as I was preparing SoulCore Rosary meditations for All Souls Day. And I am blessed to lead SoulCore at, where else but, St. Catharine of Siena Catholic Church.

I continue to pray for this amazing saint’s intercession to help me stay centered on Christ, to be courageous in speaking the truth and guiding others to Christ with humility. May we all open our  hearts to this saint, friend and “coach” as we seek to discern and live out the mission Christ has in mind for each of us.

Changes in Our Spiritual Lives

I’m writing to you from the dock on our backyard pond and I am contemplating change. While it feels like a mid summer day, it is fall, and change is in the air. Leaves are landing all around me and the wind and sun’s warmth on my face is intoxicating. This spot in nature is where I pray the Rosary, talk to Mary and Jesus, wait and listen for God to prepare me for the day.

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As I reflect on the beauty of God’s creation, I feel a rush of uncertainty in the change of seasons. While I tell my friends that I like change, I know that with change comes new responsibilities. With the advent of fall, the fireplace needs cleaned, firewood ordered and stacked and gardens and porches cleaned and prepared for winter.

Isn’t it the same in our spiritual lives? Change can be seasonal, constant, comfortable, unpredictable or a little of all of these. As we head into the winter months, we might have a tinge of excitement about change and our plan to start a new spiritual book, begin a bible study or make a retreat.

It’s funny … at the gym, my students tell me one of the things they like most about how we exercise is that it’s never the same. It may feel that way, but there is a consistent structure, and while the tools and movements vary, the change has a pattern that is familiar and comfortable to them … so there isn’t as much change as they think.

Similarly our spiritual lives may change in the way we feel called pray, but we have the sturdy anchor of the Holy Mass, Eucharistic Adoration and perhaps a calling to pray the prayers of the Catholic Church, such as the Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet. The Church and our parishes give us a sturdy structure, along with other constantly changing ways to grow in our faith no matter where we are on our spiritual journey. 

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When I contemplate change, I think of the Blessed Mother and her preparation for the birth of her Son who would change the world forever. Change must have been on her mind on her long journey to visit her cousin Elizabeth who was also expecting a son, John the Baptist. She must of known that her life would be one of constant change, but with the sturdy structure of uniting her will to the will of the Father. May her example inspire us to stay strong in our faith amidst the changes in our lives.

Let us pray: Blessed Mother, you give us the perfect example of embracing change according to God’s will for your life. We pray to imitate your surrender to God’s plan for our lives with joy, trust, and patient perseverance. Amen.

How Much is Enough?

When it comes to exercise, the general train of thought is that more is better. Sometimes my first task as a fitness coach is to gently move people to a new way of thinking that developing quality technique is more productive that doing lots of work without careful attention to how the body is moving and recovering.

Most people are exercising for general fitness and overall health for life and sport. Even when they are training for a specific event, such as an obstacle course race or a marathon, focusing on the quality of training, rather than the quantity, is essential to prevent injury and ensure they are well prepared.

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I was reminded recently, in a conversation with a friend, that sometimes we have the same view of our prayer lives … that more is better. That may not always be the case.

If we set a goal of a specific quantity of prayer, rather than allowing the Holy Spirit to guide us as to what and how to pray, we might not even start, or if we do, we might rush through without any heartfelt contemplation at all.

We might be expecting too much from ourselves based on our vocation and especially with our full lives serving family, community and our employer— which, with the proper intention, are also forms of prayer.

Asking the Holy Spirit to guide our prayer lives and coach us on how to pray can be freeing and spiritually productive — without a time element. So we start by setting aside a little time and space, in our schedule and in our hearts, and trust that the Spirit will move us to pray in the way he desires us to pray.

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St. Teresa of Avila said, “Much more is accomplished by a single word of the Our Father said, now and then, from our heart, than by the whole prayer repeated many times in haste and without attention.”

What if it isn’t clear how we should pray? 

We can stop, listen and have an openness to the gentle movement of the heart to pray, for example, a fervent decade of the Rosary for a family member. Maybe later in the day the Holy Spirit will prompt us to pray another decade. We may have a lunch date cancel and we have a desire to attend noon Mass. We might comfort a suffering friend with spontaneous prayer. We can pray the Gospel for that day in a few minutes at bedtime. The possibilities are endless and the Holy Spirit might just surprise us!

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I know that each of us have had ‘God instances’ when we asked for help with time to pray and get everything else done too. Then we look back over the day and see how Our Lady and her Son worked it out all in a way that we could never have imagined.

St. John Vianney reminds us that prayer is love rather than an item on a checklist. “Prayer is the inner bath of love into which the soul plunges itself.” With that thought in mind, let us pray with joy and confidence in the way the Holy Spirit is individually and intimately moving each of us.

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Baseball

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My husband Al and I enjoy Cleveland Indians baseball. Over the last few years, I’ve learned more about the rules and I have became a true fan as we enjoy attending games once or twice a month each season.

Interestingly, many of the virtues and habits that are necessary for professional baseball players to excel on the field are also important in helping us on the road to sainthood.

Patience. Baseball games are long — typically 3 hours or more. There can be rain delays, multiple coaching visits to the pitching mound, catcher-pitcher discussions and extra innings. Fans and players need patience. On the road to holiness, we may sometimes feel like there are a lot of extra innings when life, work and family needs reach a crescendo. St. Francis DeSales said, “Have patience with all things, but first of all with yourself.” 

Perseverance. In a game where you strike out more often than you hit, you can’t give up. For example, players work on their ability to hit different types of pitches such as the curve, slider, sinker and cutter to improve their odds of hitting. Perseverance is key to the spiritual life as well. Even when it’s tough to pray, we do it. Even when we don’t feel God close, we trust, keep loving, serving and asking for God grace to assist us in our endeavors.

Humility. When a player makes an error on the field, it is recorded and announced as an Error — to the whole world. Even though they are the best at their sport, they make mistakes that impact the entire team— and they still have to get up play the game again the next day, nearly every day for six months. Humility is a great teacher. As St. Teresa of Avila said, “There is more value in a little study of humility and in a single act of it than in all the knowledge in the world.”

Wisdom. There are a lot of decisions that need to be made in a split second in a baseball game. Experience, skill, luck, training habits,  and physical and intellectual gifts of the players contribute to the development of a player and his ability to make wise decisions whether at bat or in their fielding position. In the example of King Solomon, we can ask for wisdom. St. Augustine said, “Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.”

Trust. The success of a team is dependent on everyone doing their job well. Trusting in each other's skills, supporting and encouraging each other is important. When a pitcher is struggling, and the pitching coach walks out to the mound to check in, the infield players gather around the pitcher to show their trust in him. In our own lives, we have many ways to be encouraged and to trust on our spiritual journey when we build strong family bonds, holy friendships, frequent the Holy Eucharist, grow close to our Blessed Mother and share in the communion of saints.

 Cleveland Indians Shortstop Francisco Lindor is known for praising God for his baseball success.

Cleveland Indians Shortstop Francisco Lindor is known for praising God for his baseball success.

Faith. I am always moved when a player goes up to the plate and makes the Sign of the Cross, kisses his Miraculous Medal or Cross and even occasionally bows his head in prayer (or in the photo, looks up to heaven!) Our gifts, no matter what they may be, are given to us by God to share with others. It gives me hope to see million dollar athletes honoring God in the public eye even if only for a few seconds … and even if it’s a prayer for a hit.

Out of My Comfort Zone

Many years ago I attended an outdoor workshop in the mountains of West Virginia where we learned and practiced physical skills. We tent-camped for a week and I was definitely out of my comfort zone with camping and also with physical movement in nature.

I was an athlete in the gym, but moving in nature presented challenges that made it unpredictable — sun, rain, wind, insects, foliage, heat, cold, terrain and my own insecurities about all of that and more.

I discovered that I couldn’t balance on a log very well and in fact I was fearful of falling off of everything. I felt that my physical kills were below that of the other students in the workshop and my apprehension was hindering my progress.

I also learned that I was concerned about looking silly and I didn’t want people to see me struggle and fail.

That was an important realization and an opportunity for growth. By the end of the week, my biggest takeaway was that I needed to continue to practice letting go of tension and concerns, being in the moment, doing my best, and simply enjoying the experience.

This doesn’t just apply to learning new physical skills; it is an equally applicable to our daily lives, and more specifically, to our spiritual lives.

Very recently I went out of my comfort zone to attend a three-day out of town Catholic retreat by myself. No one I asked was free to attend, but the Holy Spirit kept prompting me to go anyway.

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I’m glad I went as it was a wonderful weekend of growing closer to Jesus through Mary, receiving the Sacraments, attending presentations, and learning more about myself through God and through others.

I met a young man there who is discerning a call to the priesthood and we instantly connected. Several years ago, I had the privilege of working with the Diocesan Office of Vocations and I greatly enjoyed getting to know the seminarians and their families. God has given me a joyful heart for seminarians.

The young man whom I met at this retreat has a beautiful devotion to Mary. With a Rosary in-hand constantly, I believe he was praying unceasingly! It appeared, through his words and actions, that he was letting go and letting God lead his life as he shared his plans for college, seminary, and continued discernment. He was at this retreat of 250 people, by himself, one of very few men, and the youngest by far at the age of 18. 

One might think that he was out of his comfort zone, but he was not. In fact, it seemed to be just the opposite. He was truly excited and grateful to be there and inspired to be with other like-minded Catholics, even if none of us were his age. 

In what I consider a small act of great love, he would rush to open doors every time a group of us entered a building. He found ways all weekend to make self-offerings. It seems to me that falling off a log wouldn’t bother him at all. In fact, I bet he would welcome it.

It’s amazing to see how God works with us so individually and his generosity is always greater than we can imagine.

I went on retreat to receive the Sacraments, hear inspiring talks and to pray. I walked away with all of that and so much more with the example of spiritual strength in this future seminarian. 

Thanks be to God for the nudge to get out of my comfort zone sometimes!

Interior Focus

One of the aspects of strength training that I really enjoy is executing a heavy barbell or kettlebell lift with careful, thoughtful, methodical precision. You are interiorly focused, especially if the weight you are lifting is near your maximum effort. You are not talking or laughing or thinking about what you have to do later that day. For that moment, you are laser-focused on the lift. You apply patient perseverance and trust your body to make a go at cracking the bar off the floor or heaving weight overhead.

Thinking, feeling, moving mindfully, and with perfect technique can be challenging especially if you haven’t developed an interior focus. New students often comment that the hardest part of lifting weights is the ability to think, feel and concentrate without distraction.

It can be like that in our prayer life as well. We might not be used to sitting in silence, interiorly focused, and waiting patiently for God to speak to us in our hearts. If we are able to quiet the mind, and ease out distractions, speaking to God and listening can be a transformative time of prayer.

Yet for many of us, that silent interior focus can be elusive.

So when I heard that Robert Cardinal Sarah, with Nicolas Diat, had written a book about silence, I felt drawn to it immediately. While I seek silence to pray, I often fight restlessness, so I sought inspiration and insight from Cardinal Sarah’s book, The Power of Silence. A sample:

“Without the moorings of silence, life is a depressing movement, a puny little boat, ceaselessly tossed by the violence of the waves. Silence is the outer wall that we must build in order to protect an interior ediface.” (pg. 68, paragraph 112)

This topic of silence and deeper interior focus is critical to a strong contemplative prayer life to grow closer to our Lord and illuminate God’s will for our lives. 

You probably agree that spending time in silence is counter-cultural; more than ever it can be challenging to find silence even in our own homes. Cardinal Sarah refers to this as the dictatorship of noise.

Back to our lifting example … when we lift heavy weights, the muscle fibers in our bodies change, grow and and over time we become physically stronger. We may not see the changes right away, but we know it’s happening as we progress to heavier weights. 

Similarly, our time in prayerful silence transforms our hearts even when we don't immediately see changes or feel any different. We trust that God’s grace is at work in us and that over time a strong interior prayer life will yield sweet fruit in our lives.

June is Devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

The month of June is devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. St. Margaret Mary Alacoque is recognized as the saint associated with the Sacred Heart of Jesus due to her private revelations in 1673-1675. She responded to Jesus by promoting the Feast Day of the Sacred Heart, First Friday devotions, and the Holy Hour of Reparation.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 478) states that Jesus knew and loved us each and all during his life, his agony and his Passion, and gave himself up for each one of us: "The Son of God. . . loved me and gave himself for me." He has loved us all with a human heart. For this reason, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, pierced by our sins and for our salvation, "is quite rightly considered the chief sign and symbol of that. . . love with which the divine Redeemer continually loves the eternal Father and all human beings" without exception.

When I contemplate the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the beautiful statue in our Church, I am reminded that he is constantly pouring out his grace to us to strengthen and guide us. With the present day challenges, turning to devotion to Sacred Heart of Jesus can comfort us and prepare us for what lies ahead in our lives.

When Jesus says, “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 rest, for My yoke is easy and My burden light.” (Mt 11:28-30) he is truly calling us to share in his love … love poured from his Most Sacred Heart and we are called to respond to his love by building a loving relationship with him and with our neighbor.

We recently enthroned our home to the the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary. This a beautiful and way to bring Jesus and Mary into our hearts in a new and special way to receive his grace. Visit www.sacredheartcolumbus.org for information about home enthronement.

The Sacred Heart Feast Day is June 23 and here is a beautiful prayer to the Sacred Heart:

O most holy heart of Jesus, fountain of every blessing, I adore you, I love you, and with lively sorrow for my sins I offer you this poor heart of mine. Make me humble, patient, pure and wholly obedient to your will. Grant, Good Jesus, that I may live in you and for you. Protect me in the midst of danger. Comfort me in my afflictions. Give me health of body, assistance in my temporal needs, your blessing on all that I do, and the grace of a holy death. Amen.

Living the Gospel in Athletics

St. John Paul II welcomed and addressed sports teams at athletic events all over the world throughout his many years as pope.

His words inspire and remind us that in athletics, as in every area of our lives, we are called to live the Gospel message. There is no ‘time off’ from being a Christian or trying to grow in virtue.

“Every Christian is called to become a strong athlete of Christ, that is, a faithful and courageous witness to his Gospel.” -St. John Paul II

He viewed the playing field as an opportunity for educational and spiritual growth that helps to “build a more fraternal and united world; sport which contributes to the love of life, teaches sacrifice, respect and responsibility, leading to the full development of every human person.” -St. John Paul II

We learn a lot about ourselves in any athletic activity, whether recreational or competitive. The human person, made in the image and likeness of God, is a gift that is to be respected body, mind and soul.

“Every care must be taken to protect the human body from any attack on its integrity, from any exploitation and from any idolatry.” - St. John Paul II

In a 2004 address, St. John Paul II reminds us that the playing field is a place to grow virtue. 

“The Christian can find sports helpful for developing the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance in the race for the wreath that is “imperishable,” as St. Paul writes.”

His words of encouragement to athletes often center on being a joyful, virtuous and humble role model who leads others by example. 

“I believe that we do not err to recognize in you this potential for civic and Christian virtues. In a world in which we often painfully recognize the presence of youth who are lifeless, marked by sadness and negative experiences, you can be for them, wise friends, expert guides and coaches, not only on the playing field, but also along those paths that lead to a finish line of the true values of life.” -St. John Paul II

By keeping the role of sport in the proper perspective, we can, as St. Paul said, "Glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor 6:20).

“The body, according to Christian concept, deserves due interest, real respect, loving and wise care, invested as it is with natural dignity, capable of a mysterious sacrality and destined to ultimate victory over death itself, as our faith teaches us.” -St. John Paul II

Striving

We strive to improve how we execute kettlebell and barbell lifts and movements in the gym. The word striving makes me think of working harder and doing more. In fact, one definition of strive is to ‘struggle or fight vigorously.’ 

Often what we really need to do when learning a new skill is to relax, slow down, feel and learn, be patient and let the process of learning and advancing unfold naturally and gently over time, rather than forcing it.

Our spiritual lives can be the same way. We might be striving for holiness by doing lots of actions … volunteering at a shelter, joining parish committees, praying multiple rosaries a day and being a caregiver to a family member or friend. 

While these are wonderful ways to serve God, it’s easy to get caught up in doing so many tasks that there is little time to get filled up with God in silent prayer and reflection. We might even get so caught up in striving for holiness, that we place our volunteer responsibilities before our family needs.

I think part of our striving should be to stop striving … to give God freedom, open space and unstructured time to do his gentle and quiet work in us — to fill us up and rejuvenate, renew and strengthen us so our service continues to bear fruit. Even 15 minutes of heart-felt prayer daily can be life-changing.

Some of our striving, or our rush to accomplish, is the nature of our secular culture where we place a high priority on productivity, setting goals and achieving results. The spiritual life is different. God already loves us just how we are; he created us, and like a loving parent, is always there waiting to guide his little children. He gives us the freedom to decide when, how and how much time we spend time with him in prayer. I think St. Francis de Sales said it well:

Every one of us needs half an hour of prayer every day, except when we are busy—then we need an hour.

While we are called to serve others, we are called first and foremost to love; to love God and love our neighbor. Growing in any loving relationship requires time, patience, gentleness and commitment. So giving God latitude to work in us in prayerful adoration, in contemplation, and through the Sacraments is less about striving and more about being faithful to slowing down and trusting that, over time, he will transform our hearts.

“Our hearts were made for You, O Lord, and they are restless until they rest in you.” -St. Augustine of Hippo

My Journey to SoulCore

Some of us enjoy being physically active for recreation and some also enjoy combining prayer and physical movement. Walking or running while praying the Rosary is a popular practice, but it’s not one I was ever able to do well. I also tried to pray between sets of lifting weights … and that led me to look for a method of praying the Rosary with gentle movement.

I discovered SoulCore and attended a SoulCore Prayer Leader Retreat and discerned a call to share SoulCore with others. SoulCore is gentle stretching, strengthening and movement (not yoga) done while praying the Rosary. We reflect on the fruits/ virtues of each Mystery with Sacred Scripture passages and wisdom from the saints. 

As it turns out, the Hail Mary prayer is the ideal amount of time to hold a stretch or to move in and out of a position, such as a squat or single-leg balance hold. Praying the Our Father prayer during planks or pushups is an excellent body and soul offering because it’s challenging!

 Auspice Maria ... Under the Protection of Mary

Auspice Maria ... Under the Protection of Mary

Exercise helps strengthen the body and settle the mind and heart in prayer and is a beautiful physical and spiritual offering to Jesus through Mary. 

Praying this way feels natural to me as our bodies are Temples of the Holy Spirit that should be celebrated with joy, gratefulness and gentleness. Being made in the image and likeness of God, and honoring our bodies in this way, is refreshingly different from the methods of exercise in our secular culture.

As with any physical activity, there must be rest and recovery. With SoulCore, we pray a reflection for each Mystery, while in a quiet and reverent position, where we can reflect on the Mystery, the life of Christ and his great love for us.

I will close with this beautiful message about our bodies from St. John Bosco:

"Health is God’s great gift, and we must spend it entirely for Him. Our eyes should see only for God, our feet walk only for Him, our hands labor for Him alone; in short, our entire body should serve God while we still have the time. Then, when He shall take our health and we shall near our last day, our conscience will not reproach us for having misused it.”

The Lost Sheep

The group of adults who I have the privilege of teaching to use kettlebells vary in their athletic backgrounds. Some people pick up the skill of lifting heavy things very quickly. Most students make steady progress over time. Every now and then someone really struggles to learn to move well for a variety of reasons.

I find the greatest joy in helping that struggling student progress. The student has to first have the courage to start, then the persistence to persevere and practice, and finally the patience to allow their bodies to adapt to the movement over time.

We have a supportive, non-competitive gym environment, but it can still be tough when you feel like you’re the only who isn't getting it in the group.

So that student is the one who makes my day when they step up to a challenge or improve in a weak area. That one improvement is more exciting to me than if the entire group lifted heavier than they ever did before. That one student is the one my husband will hear about when we have dinner together that evening.

That may be why one of my favorite Scripture passages is Luke 15 3-7 about the one lost sheep.

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

An interesting thing about the one lost sheep in the gym is that the other sheep also rejoice when that person makes progress. They might even applaud that person. Before you know it, that lost sheep might inspire others to accept new challenges or to develop a new spirit of gratitude for what their bodies can do.

Aren’t we all lost sheep at some point in our lives, whether spiritually, physically, emotionally or intellectually? Aren’t we happy when someone notices and comes after us to help us?

We can ask the Holy Spirit to show us who needs us and how we can help. One person, powered by God’s grace, can do great things to help another.

“Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.” ~St Teresa of Calcutta

Rosary Beads

I always enjoy reflecting on the incredible Columbus Catholic Women’s Conference experience. This year was different for me as a Vendor sharing SoulCore, but just as spiritually moving in a different way.

The day was about faith and fellowship. 

As a Vendor, I didn’t listen to the speakers that day (I did listen on CD later!), but I was blessed to participate in Holy Mass and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. 

 Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.  Photo by Tomorrow's Memories by Christi.

Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Photo by Tomorrow's Memories by Christi.


The rest of the day was devoted to sharing the SoulCore mission of prayer with gentle movement and talking with so many faith-filled sisters in Christ about how praying the Rosary vocally in community is so moving.

 The varied and wonderful vendors at the Conference.  Photo by Tomorrow's Memories by Christi

The varied and wonderful vendors at the Conference. Photo by Tomorrow's Memories by Christi


It was a joy to meet women from all over our diocese and beyond, hearing their stories, sharing their excitement about praying the life of Christ through the mysteries of the Rosary, and growing closer to Jesus with SoulCore Rosary prayer and movement.

 Sharing our love of prayer.  Photo by Memories by Christi.

Sharing our love of prayer. Photo by Memories by Christi.

We have a common love of Jesus, Our Lady and prayer.

At the Vendor table, I had the nearly 6-foot alabaster Rosary and the candles that I take with me when I visit a parish to lead the Rosary with SoulCore.

The Rosary especially attracted many women to the table who wanted to touch the beads, admire the beauty, talk about how much they love to pray the Rosary and some even inquired if I would sell the giant Rosary beads!

Prayer transforms our hearts.

Our senses can be a powerful way to experience Jesus in our lives. Touching the beads can remind us how Jesus and Mary touch us with their love, and how much grace and peace Jesus desires to give us through prayer.

The tactile experience of having the beads in our hands can unite us with Jesus through Mary silently, gently and powerfully.

We are called to share His Love with others.

In a related story about Rosary beads ... a few days before the Conference, a friend shared how she almost always has her Rosary beads in her hands throughout her day. She said she isn’t always praying the Rosary, but the beads comfort her and remind her to give rosaries to others -- which she does often!

What a powerful sign of our Lady and her Son working in her heart and leading her to evangelize the world by giving away rosaries!

The grace-filled day at the Columbus Catholic Women’s Conference inspires me to to do more for Christ. The prayers of the Rosary unite us, strengthen us and teach us about the Way, the Truth and the Life who we are all called to emulate by being His love to others.

Jesus and Mary, pray for us!

Prayer Tracking

Wearable fitness trackers measure heart rate, number of steps, sleep patterns and the variety and intensity of exercise. These are popular and the information can be useful in helping build new healthy habits.

While this tool can make a difference in how much we exercise, and our approach to exercise, I like to take a break from technology when I’m exercising. 

In fact, I thrive on fitness freedom, and maybe you do too. 

Moving, lifting, and stretching is a sensory experience for me and a much-needed break from the phone, computer, iPad and television. I like the challenge of listening to my body and responding appropriately with varied movements and intensity without technology.

I like freedom in my prayer life as well.

There are plenty of books available about how to pray, methods to use to grow closer to God, and at certain points in our lives, those resources can be helpful, if not critical. But we know from Scripture, and wisdom of the saints, that methods of prayer are secondary to simply giving time to the Lord in prayer to grow in a loving friendship with him.

Mental prayer in my opinion is nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us. The important thing is not to think much but to love much and so do that which best stirs you to love. Love is not great delight but desire to please God in everything. ~St. Theresa of Avila

How we feel called to pray can vary and the freedom to pray any way we’d like, anytime and anywhere, is a beautiful gift that reminds me just how personally God works with us.

While I’m not a fan of fitness trackers, I think it would be interesting to track how many times a day we think about God,  pray, read holy books, mediate on Scripture, pray the Rosary, offer an action or sacrifice to God, make a change in behavior due to a prompting from the Holy Spirit, fast, or give alms.

We are called to pray unceasingly, and even our desire to pray pleases God, so it would be interesting to see just how much time we spend with God daily compared to the other activities in our lives. Unlike fitness tracking, this type of information could be life-changing! So let's make prayer a priority in our daily lives.

Prayer is an act of love; words are not needed. Even if sickness distracts from thoughts, all that is needed is the will to love. ~St. Theresa of Avila