is worth reminding everybody of from time to time: Sacraments are important because they are tangible ways that Jesus is able to share his Love with us (even as he heals, nourishes, forgives, strengthens and welcomes us).
The boys and their families agreed that when something is important, it deserves your time and attention. You wouldn’t want to take a test at school, without first having learned the information that was going to be on it. You wouldn’t only attend the hockey games that your team is in, you need to go to practice and learn how to play and how to work with your teammates. You wouldn’t just visit your Grandmother on Christmas Day in order to get a present, you spend time with her regularly because it’s the relationship that is important – not what you get out of it.
For Catholics, the same rings true. It is the relationship that is important: the relationship that each one of us has with Jesus. That relationship deserves our time and attention: prayer, participation in the sacraments, involvement with and service to others in our parish community (and beyond), and attending Mass regularly.
We’ve used this analogy in the past: what would be the point of learning to use a car and getting your license if you did not intend to drive once you passed the test? Similarly, there is no point in going through the motions of preparing for and receiving these sacramental ‘firsts’ (Baptism, Reconciliation, Eucharist) if you do not intend to use them to deepen your relationship with Jesus. Sacraments are not rites of passage, they are the passageway for life.
In our busy lives, it’s easy to forget to put in the energy required to maintain a relationship with Jesus. Our calendars are so full, most of us struggle just to get through each day. One thing that might help, put Mass on your calendar each week, every week! Look at what you have going on and figure out which Mass will work for you. There are many to choose from on Saturday evening or Sunday morning at St Francis and St Catherine’s. And if those don’t work, there are churches in the area that have Mass on Sunday nights! Make it a priority for your whole family. There’s no use of teaching our kids about our faith and having them get their sacraments if they do not plan on maintaining a relationship with Jesus. There is no greater gift that our children could receive than a relationship with God.
Have a super week!
Today was the first day of this year's LIGHT program. I was so sad to miss it, but I had no option. I'm temporarily staying in South Carolina where Maddey is working on healing her heart after a scary ten days of pain and uncertainty that began with a simple UTI. Her prognosis is good, though we are still figuring out the best place for her to continue the healing process (home sweet home or Coker College). So, as I sat at Mass in Hartsville while you were gathered together at St Catherine's today, I was reflecting on the blessing that the Liturgy brings to us all. Even though we were not physically together, we were sharing something bigger than ourselves. The gift of Jesus in the Eucharist does do amazing things, as I was reminded of first-hand last week.
Last Sunday, Maddey's prognosis was not so certain. She was struggling with pain and even the simple act of breathing was an effort. A dancer at heart, being still is a foreign concept to her and getting comfortable was near impossible in her hospital bed. "I can't even find my center" she complained. She longed to align her spine and resume the posture with which she normally moves about her day.
In the midst of a moment of anxiety and frustration, Maddey said - "It's Sunday!" (I was in a cloud and didn't know what day it was myself). She asked, as if the solution had just come to her in a flash of lighting: "Is there a Mass here?" We were in the heart of Baptist country in SC, so of course there was not a Catholic Mass in the hospital chapel (not that she could have gone anyway), but I was not about to let this opportunity slip by. I went out to the PICU desk to see about finding a priest to visit with her. The good Baptist nurses who were present that day, said that they had a preacher on call, but I explained that we were really looking for a priest because of the sacraments involved. The young RN at the end of the desk assured me that she would make it happen.
Later in the day, during another moment of despair, a small Indian man peeked around the curtain and asked to enter Maddey's room. When she saw his clerical collar, her whole body seemed to relax and she simply cried. The next twenty minutes were better than any medicine she could have been given for the pain. She received the Sacrament of the Sick and we both received communion. Father JP was a lovely, joy-filled and hopeful man who brought us both great comfort. He returned the next day to check in on her and gave Maddey another blessing and communion. He spoke to her of taking this moment of crisis to slow down and draw close to a God and to remember that she is never alone, but always in His care.
Please know that my daughter is a normal teen. Though she does not fight me over going to Mass like her brother does, she is not all that much holier than the next 17 year old girl. But at that moment, probably subconsciously, she knew that she could draw on her faith for the strength that she needed. That the Eucharist would "center" not her body, but her spirit.
We have made Mass a mandatory part of LIGHT this year - we replaced the dinnertime meal with the Eucharistic Supper. Our hope is that it will add a richness to our time together that food alone cannot accomplish. We realize that today's family has a lot on their Google calendars and it is a struggle to fit it all in. But as a mom, I can tell you that I'm glad that I do my best to make Mass a priority in our family. I got a glimpse of the benefit of this effort through my middle child last week. The seed has been planted; she knows where she can turn in a moment of crisis - and that truly is the greatest gift that we can give to our kids.
We are excited to make it a bit easier for you to get to Mass during the month by making it a part of the LIGHT program. We hope that you will work to make it happen on non-LIGHT Sundays as well. With just that one hour a week, you too can continue to plant the seeds of faith in your kids and through our LIGHT family, as well as though the other communities tp which we all belong, we'll all tend those seeds together!
Good Morning LIGHT Friends –
Since this has been a year to look at the seasons of our faith, I wanted to make note of our next great feast. Tomorrow we are pausing in the midst of our Easter season for the Feast of the Ascension. This is the day when as Catholics, we celebrate the fact that Jesus was taken into heaven and seated at the right hand of the Father. The point of our celebration though is not so much that Jesus left us for his final destination, but rather that he has joined his Father and brings us with Him in that. We are the Body of Christ, so where Jesus goes, so do we!
Three words from the Gospel from this week’s feast jump out at me and remind me of the Easter message: Go, Proclaim, & Believe.
Those were Jesus’ instructions for his disciples that day. Those same words are our instructions when we hear them today. We are members of the Body of Christ, and on the Feast of the Ascension, we are given our marching orders – GO, be in the world, not just in our little corner, but as far as we can reach; PROCLAIM – let our words and actions share the love of Jesus in all that we say and do; and BELIEVE – know that we are not alone in this and we can make a difference.
These words are a reminder of the Easter message that we explored at our last LIGHT Gathering. We are a community of Believers that are charged to Go and share the Gospel message. To Proclaim the Good News that Jesus lives! We a Catholic community: Children of God, guided by the Holy Spirit, members of the Body of Christ. We are joined together by our Baptism, and charged with the task of being Jesus hands, feet, and voice in this world. We have all that is necessary to do as Jesus asks. It is up to us to make it happen.
The Gospel goes on to tell us that “they went.” The disciples did go and do as they were instructed, even when it was hard. Even when it cost them everything they had. Are we willing to do the same?
HOLY DAY MASS SCHEDULE FOR ASCENSION THURSDAY
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Learning about hunger. Preparing the parish hall for our annual Soup-a-Bowl.
Decorating, cleaning, setting up, taking down.
Donating bread. Making soup.
Joining the ranks of twenty chefs
competing to have their name added to the ‘Soup Pot of Fame.’
Raising money for a local shelter.
Feeding the hungry in a very tangible way.
Our students were the Light!
That is a great outcome, but I saw more than that in our Parish Hall during our two days of service. I saw kids being a part of our parish community. They didn’t stand around idle. I was asked multiple times each minute, ‘What can I do?’ They wanted to work. They wanted to participate. They wanted to do their part. And they did it very well.
Our kids hunger to help, to be a part of something bigger than themselves, and that is exactly what parish life is all about. Jesus founded this church on a foundation of community. We are meant to live and work with others. This is how we are able to be the Light for others. Giving our kids opportunities to do this is a gift that they shouldn’t be denied.
As parents, we work so hard to give our kids good experiences: on sports teams, in school clubs, through the arts, by being involved in our neighborhoods and community life. These opportunities offer a lot in the way of friendship, of learning discipline, of service to others, and of being a part of something bigger than ourselves. They are of tremendous value to our kids and to our families. But at the end of the day, these groups are fleeting.
Involvement in parish life goes deeper and is much further reaching. It has permanence. It too offers a lot in the way of friendship, of learning discipline, of service to others, and of being a part of something bigger than ourselves. But it does more. Kids who know the value of being a part of a church community will always have a home, no matter where they go. They will know how to interact with people of all ages. They will understand their place in the world, the bigger picture, how they are called to serve others as Jesus did. And they will recognize that they are not alone when they do.
Thank you MidSacrament parents for helping your kids to take part in parish life this weekend! You gave them a tremendous gift. They learned a lot about hunger and they took action. They played an active role in a church event and they experienced how they can contribute to parish life. They learned more about the Light and they were the Light!!
They lived Ordinary Time very well!
We learned during our Christmas “LIGHT” gathering that Jesus is the Light. We explored how that Light can bring clarity to everything. How it can illuminate the good, and show us the Way. I’ve been thinking about this Light throughout the days of the Christmas season. This is after all the season where lights seem to shine everywhere: trees, windows, homes, workplaces, town centers. I tried to be mindful of them wherever I went and so they triggered my mind and brought it to the presence of Jesus in the world around me. There was one place however where I found light, that I was not quite expecting.
Sadly, during the week, my youngest and I attended the funeral of the dad of one of her special friends. As we all know, a family losing a father is a tragic and very sad event; perhaps even moreso when he leaves behind a young family. It was at the funeral service where I saw this light that I was not expecting to see. It came in the form of the gleam of an eye. Not just one eye, but many. On this day, that gleam was of understanding over shared grief. It was of compassion and care for those who mourned. It was of comfort for one another. It was of the determination of a community to surround this family with love and support on that day and in the difficult days to come. The gleams that I noticed in that church on that day came in many forms. Many came carried by tears. Many were there on otherwise somber faces. All of them revealed the Light that is Jesus.
Jesus was there that day in so many ways, but one important way in which His presence was tangible was in connections. Connections of various communities coming together to support this family and one another (family, friends, neighbors, teachers, co-workers). Jesus’ Light which was recognized in the gleam of many eyes, revealed the importance of these connections. Serving and supporting one another, especially in times of need, reveals Jesus at work in the life of a community.
So it is significant that Jesus’ Light reveals connections among us. Connections are in fact what it is all about. Connecting with others and even more importantly, connecting with God.
When I entered St Catherine’s for Mass yesterday, I found myself once again surrounded by these gleams. On this day, for me they were happier gleams. They were the gleams of gladness in seeing friends. The gleams of recognition of the people who I don’t know personally, but see regularly at Mass. The gleam of welcome as students enter the church and wave hello. These gleams reveal the connections that are so important in our parish community. Jesus’ Light is revealed in these connections as he shows us the Way.
Connections within communities reveal Jesus to the world. He said it Himself, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (MT 18:20).
I am so happy to be a part of our community as we work, learn, and grow together to reveal Jesus’ Light to the world. At this month’s Gatherings, we’ll be talking about how we can better know and understand the Light. I’m looking forward to sharing this time with you.
Until then, Happy New Year friends! May your 2015 be filled with many blessings!
P.S. Enjoy the rest of your Christmas season!! (Remember, we have 6 days to go!)
We began our LIGHT year in September looking at ‘seasons’ and talking about how they help to bring balance and order to our lives: both liturgical seasons and those defined for us by turning the pages of our agenda books. I’ve been thinking about that lately as we are deep into what we call “the Birthday season” here Francoeur-land. We have over 15 birthdays in our extended family in a six week span. Two of those belong to my daughters. I suppose you could also say it’s the season of expanding waistbands as we devour cake after cake! But, bakery items aside, it is a wonderful time because it allows us to take a day and really focus in on each individual who is commemorating the anniversary of his or her birth. Maddey and Ellie love their birthday seasons and are more than happy to have us concentrate our attention on them!
As each girl’s day approaches, I step back and think about who she “is” at this point in her life: what she loves, what she needs, her talents, her dreams, her desires. This allows me to figure out what her special day should include. Is this a year for a party? A special outing? What are the gifts that would bring a smile to her face? Who needs to be included in her celebration this year? It’s a gift to be able to take the time to look hard at the child who you have been blessed with and be able to see how they are growing and what that means in your life and in theirs. Life is busy and time passes by quickly. It is a benefit of the season to be reminded to pause and appreciate what is in front of you every day.
This season of Maddey’s life is focused on her love of music and dance and beginning to prepare to leave our nest in two short years. So my 16 year old got a dream trip to New York City to see her rock and roll idol in concert. Our mother-daughter trip included a concert, shopping, sight-seeing, eating, a Selfie with Al Roker, and her first college visit. We celebrated Maddey-style, doing the things that are important to her. It was a memory that we will both cherish for a lifetime.
There are many other times in our lives when we have seasons that allow us to focus in on a particular person with a magnifying glass to recall memories, to relive adventures, to appreciate what was, what is, and what can be. Some are good, some are happy, some are hard, and some are sad: births, deaths, new houses, new jobs, sickness, marriage, childhood, retirement… Each one allows us a time in our lives to appreciate, to celebrate, to remember, and to grow. That is what our Church Year calendar does for our faith.
During this month’s LIGHT Gatherings we will focus in on the lives of the saints and see how virtue shaped their lives. We’ll look at their memories and their adventures and begin to appreciate how we have their experience to draw on during every season of the liturgical year. Their memories can help us live life like they learned to, with a focus on Christ.
Looking forward to seeing you there!
Until then, enjoy the season!
We're about to enter into another fall weekend in New England. I hope that it will be a great one for you and your family!
Most of the autumn season falls into the Liturgical Season of Ordinary Time. It is important to remember however that there is nothing 'ordinary' about it. Rather, its name has to do with the fact that we use ordinal numbers to count the weeks of this season. Ordinary Time is the season that makes up most of the Liturgical calendar, and its color is green - which is fitting, because green is a color that represents life, growth, and renewal. Here is a beautiful reflection of the season from the Our Sunday Visitor website.
is a period when average people like you and me strive to become the extraordinary messengers of the Gospel that we have been commissioned to be through our Baptism.
is this day, this moment.
Have a great weekend everyone!
I really enjoyed beginning our LIGHT Season together with our newly combined St Catherine and St Francis LIGHT Family! During last week’s opening Gatherings, we began to look at the seasons of our lives as one combined reality: secular seasons and liturgical seasons – not separate, but integrated as they should be. The scripture verse that we concentrated on from Ecclesiastes hit the nail on the head as we explored the seasons of our lives. And so the question that we left with “what season is my family in right now?” has been with me all weekend. As I ponder it, I’ve been thinking about my faith family as well as my neighborhood community. The season that I chose as mine is not listed in the verse made popular in recent decades (check out Exploring the Seasons and Footloose). But none-the-less, it is certainly a season worth contemplating!
It seems that wherever I turn these days, someone is putting themselves out there for a cause. Many people from the different communities in my life have recently walked for Breast Cancer, ran for Alzheimer’s, pulled a jet for MS, rode bikes to provide Cancer hope and healing, dumped ice water on their head’s for ALS, and danced the night away to send a kid to Camp.
The fall season has somehow become synonymous with giving in our society. And what a wonderful thing that is! Choosing our cause, raising money, training our bodies, gearing up, and then taking time out of our regular schedules to participate in something bigger than ourselves. To juggle our time to fit in one more thing. To discipline our bodies in order to make a difference. To put forth an effort that not only raises much needed funds, but also awareness for a cause.
The sacrifices that we make in order to participate also have the wonderful effect of putting us in solidarity with those who struggle with different diseases and conditions. How much easier is it to pedal up a steep hill, when you know that there is someone out there facing a true uphill battle against cancer. How much lighter is a 100,000 plane when you are pulling it to help a scared friend face a new diagnosis? How much more fun is a gala ball, when you know the hefty fee you paid to attend will help a kid with a heart condition go to camp for free next summer? Joining with a community to make a difference is part of what we are called to do as followers of Christ. We can do that for causes that are near and dear to our hearts, and we can also do that for our faith. And we should!
If for you this is a Season of Giving, think about what you can give to your church community? How will you share the gifts that God has blessed you with? Maybe you have a talent that can be put to use by our Youth Committee? Maybe you’d like to check out the Christian Action Committee and work with them to provide tangible, hands-on outreach to someone in need? Maybe you will remember the sick and lonely of our combined parishes in your daily prayers? Maybe you will prayerfully consider how much your family can contribute to the financial health of our parish budgets? Maybe you will pencil in regular weekend Masses on your family calendar so they becomes more of a priority in your schedule? There are many ways to make a contribution to parish life. It’s up to you to figure out which cause you will support (or even better: causeS)!
As one of my children has been fond of saying lately, “the struggle is real”. For so many, it is. But if we embrace a Season of Giving, maybe we can help to ease the burden just a little.
Enjoy your season!
Helping our families to Continue the Catholic Conversation at home.
This blog is an extension of the regularly E-Thoughts that go out to families in our L.I.G.H.T. Program. They reflect the themes that we are covering in our program and are a way of encouraging parents to deepen their thoughts about our topic so that they can continue discussing them with their kids.