Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Fight for JOY!

As we celebrate Catholic Schools Week 2015, it seems fitting that we cover the final component of this Advent-inspired philosophy: "Be blessed. Be bold. Fight for JOY!"

Be blessed: Pray. Connect. Conserve. Serve.

Be bold: Play. Love.

Fight for JOY!

​Once you start living blessedly and boldly, you can start to experience true joy. Joy surpasses and transcends happiness. It arises when our interior compass points toward Christ, and when our hearts inspire our bodies and minds to follow Him. 

Being filled with joy is a choice. It is not the result of our temporal situation. It does not result from the circumstances of our lives, because - let's face it - life is incredibly difficult. INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT! It is brutal. BRUTAL! It exhausts us. Frustrates us. Angers us. Saddens us. 

But it does not have to defeat us. Remember, Jesus says, 

Finding the Spirit takes discipline. It requires prayer that first and foremost adores our Creator. It requires sacrifice - of things and for others. It necessitates courage. It takes a playful, childlike innocence that doesn't remember that we can't​ do something, but instead believes that life is all about doing that one thing. It forces us to love without cost and with everything that we are and all that we have. 

The world can keep us from pursuing these things. But remember, He has conquered the world

He has called you - YOU - into His Royal Family. He has chosen you - YOU - for the most important and daring and necessary work in the world. He loves you - YOU - because you bring Him more JOY than you can even imagine. 

Fight for your JOY today, tomorrow, this week and always.  

You are a conqueror. You are His. 

Be blessed. Be bold. Fight for (and find) JOY!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Be Bold

Be Bold
As an extension of living blessedly, we start to see that God is not asking us to stay on the safety of the shore. When we start to recognize our need for God, opportunities for us to sacrifice for and connect to others, and how incredibly fortunate we are, we follow - unabashedly - His voice.

He is calling us into the deep. 

"Come and see." 

The disciples, upon hearing this call, jump out of their boat and swim toward him. Peter walks on water. Saul converts and fights for Christ instead of against him. 

You chose to teach in a Catholic school. You got married. Had kids. Ended an abusive relationship. Fought for justice and equality. Went away to college. Took care of a sick parent. Forgave. 

Being blessed leads to being bold. In fact, you aren't truly living blessedly by playing it safe. God wants all of us. He wants us to stake it all on Him, to hold nothing back, to put all that we have on the line for the fulfillment of His promises. 

He wants us to make a permanent commitment, like getting an irremovable tattoo that marks us as His own. Making such a leap requires a strong faith life; it also necessitates extreme courage. 

Being bold asks us to be playful. It also nudges us, despite our human frailty, to love. 

Kids are bold. They dance like no one is watching. They love like they've never been hurt. They sing as if no one is listening. They try things that are way beyond themselves and they endure countless bumps, bruises, scrapes and failures before finally accomplishing a task. They ask for what they want. They cry. They laugh. They show unrestrained excitement - to see someone, to watch a movie, to get a treat, anything. 

They are bold. 

Think of the last time you danced a good honest dance. Think of the last time you loved unconditionally and selflessly. When was the last time you sang, even if you didn't know the words? Tried something new or beyond your abilities? When did you last asked for what you wanted...or needed? True tears? True laughter? Can you remember the last time you couldn't contain your joy over seeing someone, receiving something or getting rewarded? 

When was the last time you lived boldly? 

Adopting a playful spirit can help to cultivate these child-like attributes. Embracing moments to do the things that our adult minds tell us not to do can help embolden our spirits to live more boldly and to accept the challenges being presented to us by God to follow His call. The next chance you have to sing, do it with passion. An opportunity to dance? Cut that rug like you did at your wedding. Read in a silly voice. Sit on the floor. Mix your cereals. Have a root beer float. Be playful. Go out into the deep. 

Put aside your inhibitions in safe ways and you'll start to have the courage to put aside the boo birds that start to swoop in any time you try to tackle something new. 

Be playful.

Love boldly. Be more patient than is fair. Be more forgiving than others deserve. Show compassion. Be empathetic. As you move from being blessed to being bold, you start to recognize that our efforts at loving others fall so pathetically short of what others need and of what we are capable. Before meeting Emily, I didn't think I was capable of loving someone else more than myself. I also didn't think my love for her could increase. It increases every day and I do all that I can to put her needs and wants above my own. Then, I never thought before having kids that I could love someone else the same amount that I love Emily - but I've doubled that amount of love twice and I feel the infinitude of that love I possess. It doesn't mean I always love with this type of immense love, but I recognize my potential for loving boldly. 

Being blessed leads us to start living more boldly. Living more boldly allows us to love in the way we were created to do so - completely. 

Be blessed: Pray. Serve. Connect. Conserve.  

Be bold: Play. Love. 

Fight for JOY!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Be Blessed

At some point during this past Advent season, I adopted the following tagline:

"Be blessed. Be bold. Fight for JOY!"

The first two components I lifted from the signature line on my brother's emails / message (thanks and sorry, Joe). The final piece was added from the inspiration of one of my favorite musical groups, Rend Collective Experiment. 

As I reflected and prayed throughout the course of Advent and during Christmas break, I started to form a list of steps that could be taken to live out the three components, and I realized that doing the first two (being blessed and bold) can lead to the third (fighting for - and finding! - joy). 

How can we live blessed? It seems somewhat self-righteous, doesn't it, to live in recognition of the many blessings God has bestowed upon us? It somehow feels too prideful, too greedy, too self-promoting. "Look at my blessings. Look at how wonderful my life is because of how much God loves me." While this humility helps to keep our human pride in check, In some ways that same humbleness can work against us accepting God's blessings as we should. 

Being blessed starts with prayer. We can't come to love what we don't know and we can't come to know God without a life of prayer. If you're feeling a lack of blessings in your life, it may stem from a lack of prayer. It may stem from a lack of the right kind of prayer. It may stem from the wrong kind of prayer. Jesus gives us the words we are to say when we pray, "Our Father..." Similarly, at the institution of the Mass at the Last Supper, Jesus passes on the highest form of prayer and the opportunities to participate in it. Prayer, done "correctly" (as any conversation and openness you have to God is "right"), consists of four components:

1. Adoration
2. Contrition
3. Thanksgiving
4. Supplication

Taking Jesus as our model, we also have insights into how often we are to pray. Throughout the Gospel stories Jesus frequently goes off by himself to pray:

Mark 1:35 - Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.

Matthew 14:23 - After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone.

Luke 6:12 - In those days he departed to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer* to God (scripture from

Fr. Kevin Grove, C.S.C., wrote this about the importance that Blessed Basil Moreau, founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross (who's feast we celebrate today), placed upon prayer:
Blessed Moreau knew and understood that for busy and apostolic religious who worked hard, there could be the temptation to sacrifice time in prayer. And so he says that a minister who does not pray is like a canal without water or a tree that is withered. Tiredness or weariness should not take them away from prayer, but be all the more reason to give themselves over to the Lord (FaithND). 
Take the time each day to pray. It will start to reorient your life toward a spiritual destination and will give you the eyes to see God's Hand working in your life. You will start to see that you are blessed

Being blessed continues with sacrifice. Once we start feasting on God's abundant goodness we start to live in that same abundance. Instead of sitting on it, we give it away. Through service to others we can come into a deeper understanding of the One who gave everything for us and from Whom every good thing comes. The more we give of ourselves, the more we become the people God created us to be. If you're feeling a bit lost and unsure of what God's asking of you, it may stem from a lack of self-less, sacrificial service to others.

Being blessed also involves connecting with others. The best days of your life most likely center around a connectedness to others. The best days of our lives have nothing to do with things and everything to do with people. Unplug. Stop posting, tweeting, hash tagging, instagramming, pinning, messaging, liking and commenting and start connecting (or blogging!). Eat meals with others. Spend time with others, especially time with others engaged in prayer. Accept invitations and opportunities to connect with others. Talk on the phone (instead of texting!). Write a letter (instead of emailing!). Turn off the TV and turn on the conversation with those around you. If you're feeling a bit disconnected, it may be that you are more connected to electronics than you are to people. 

Finally, being blessed entails conserving. We live in abundance. We have too much food, too many clothes, too many distractions (see above), and too little appreciation for the things (blessings) that we do have. Abundance leads to wastefulness. Wastefulness leads to greed. Greed leads to unrest. Unrest makes it nearly impossible to be blessed. Embrace a spirit of thanksgiving and gratitude, through prayer, giving of yourself, and  connecting with others instead of accumulating things. 

Be blessed: Pray. Serve. Connect. Conserve.  

Be bold.

Fight for JOY!