Light in Darkness

Again, with Maria of Four Blessings Academy, finding moments of joy, love and light in a world of darkness.

This week I don’t have a video or article to link to, but a personal story.

William did not get into our state pre-k program this fall because we make a very small amount over the income level and he did not qualify in any of the other “at-risk” options. Joseph did last year,  but with my income and Jeff’s annual pay-increase, we didn’t qualify this year, sadly. We were very disappointed as we can not afford pre-school even on scholarship levels offered by the schools and although our family offered to help us with the cost, we got the news so late about him not getting in that all the local programs were full and had extensive waiting lists or were no longer taking children on their waiting lists. I was pretty dejected and began the process of un-schooling (I abandoned my more structured model the first week when it was clear Will is an inquiry based learner and everything I was doing was not working) for pre-K.

Will is learning so much. In addition, we are going on play-dates with neighbors doing things like leaf rubbings. And, if this could not get any more awesome, socialization is one of the things I worried quite a bit about as most of the group playdates we go on have mostly kids younger than  him. So, I was so excited to find out Will got into the children’s pre-school program at BSF! While I go and meet with my group and listen to lecture, he is in a classroom setting learning about God/ The Gospel of Matthew and getting in good socialization as well. And he LOVES it! It is only a couple of hours a week, so it gets him used to the structure of school in small, manageable increments and because it is with someone who is not me, it works to introduce this now.

Last week, as we were leaving his first class, I asked Will if he learned about Jesus and he said, “No, Mama, I learned about God, Jesus, AND the Holy Spirit.” Talk about a happy moment for me. Our parish doesn’t offer faith formation for children in pre-k so I know this will give him some foundation and since Joey is in kindergarten faith formation this year and has told me they are learning the Hail Mary and about Mary, I think what Will is learning will segue nicely into his first year of FF next year.

Having two sons on fire for Christ? Definitely a light in our world. Exposure to the SON is preventing BURNING!

God, You have spoken, and You have my full attention.

As many of you may know, I have joined Bible Study Fellowship in a study of the book of Matthew this fall. So far, I’ve been to two meetings and I love the fellowship and devotion as well as the actual study and lectures themselves. I’ll be honest, I rank the Gospels in terms of favorites 1. Luke 2. Mark 3. Matthew 4. John.  So I thought, Matthew, meh, but I do think it is wonderful to be studying as this Advent at the start of the new liturgical year we will again begin Year A which features the Gospels of Matthew.

This study could not have come at a better time in my life. Each week we are given notes after the lecture and questions to  be completed. Because prophecies are fulfilled (particularly in Matthew which was written for the Jewish converts to Christianity so they would have definitive proof that Christ did fulfill the Old Testament Messianic prophecies) you read a lot of material in the Bible in addition to the actual Gospel or study material.

Tonight, I felt called to go ahead and complete the third day’s work since I have some extra time and this weekend will be pretty full for us. And there it was. In discussing the visit of the Magi, the flight into Egypt and the murder of the Holy Innocents, was a question about how followers of Christ, Christians, treated with similar hostility as Herod showed the Jews after the Magi told him of the Star and the infant they were coming to visit. It asked me to reference 1 Peter 2.

Reading 1 Peter Chapter 2 for BSF and it jumps at me the same way it did this past March:

Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it says in scripture:”Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion, a cornerstone, chosen and precious, and whoever believes in it shall not be put to shame.”Therefore, its value is for you who have faith but for those without faith:”The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”and”A stone that will make people stumble,and a rock that will make them fall.”They stumble by disobeying the word, as is their destiny. 1 Peter 2:4-8

It’s jumping at me just like it did almost exactly six months to the day it did the last time. When I heard it as the second reading in Pope Francis’ first mass. The mass in which the Conclave ended.

Francis, rebuild My church.

And from this same Gospel we are studying now:

Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Matthew 16: 17-19

 

God, my heart is open, my spirit is willing, please guide me into making these spiritual sacrifices. I am listening. You have my full attention, I promise you. I will not reject or stumble. I trust in you, the Holy Spirit. I will build it, I will help Pope Francis rebuild it. He is in the chair of Peter, the rock upon whom you built  your church.

My head is kind of spinning right now. God has been leading me down some interesting roads this year that I never would have or could have imagined. I have had some Catholics deride me because I am devoted to Pope Francis as I was Benedict and John Paul before him.  He is, “so different” they all want to say. Until I find something that one of the other two said that is strikingly similar. Yes, his charism is different, but that Holy Spirit, as I’ve been saying, He knows what he’s doing. Better I trust Him than the arm-chair Cardinals who would have elected who? (Crickets) And it is not beneficial to anyone to use the fact that different Popes have different charisms to divide the Church.

And how do I best build Christ’s church here on earth? I heard you God, I know you called me. I’m telling the whole world here on the interwebs. I’m trying to figure out how, exactly, You want me to go about doing this. Well, here is what I KNOW I am doing to fulfill that call, thus far:

1. I am praying for the Church and Her people.

2. I am praying for Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict.

3. I am praying for those who don’t believe. Yet.

4. I am raising sons to be strong in their faith and forceful in their conviction of it.

5. I am doing what you tell me to (I went to book club and BSF for starters) that is uncomfortable to me.

6. I’m telling everyone how you called me on my blog and on facebook.

7. I’m remaining open to your instructions.

I’m sure there is going to be more that will be required. There have been a lot of twists and turns, ups and downs this past year. I’m holding on for dear life.

God, You have spoken. And You have my full attention.

 

Light in Darkness

Please pray for our hostess, Maria, of Four Blessings Academy and for her little saint.

This week I am sharing this story/ad out of Thailand. It’s probably the most jarring three minutes I’ve had in a long while and definitely tear-provoking, it reminds me of how much I have in this world and how many suffer and how one act of kindness can change the course of a life. It can all be repaid in one way or another.

Moving Outside of Our Comfort Zones

Over the last year, I realize God has had two persistent messages for me, “Submit to my will” and “Get out of your comfort zone.” 

Are those two things connected? Well, you betcha. More often than not submitting to God’s will means getting out of my comfort zone. 

Since school has started, even moreso.

As the school year started, so did a new year of Bible Study Fellowship. Many of the women I read Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts with would be attending and my neighbor and friend who led that group systematically knocked down all my arguments one by one before I even could articulate them. No childcare? That’s fine, they provide it. No money? No problem, it’s free.  Time? It’s during the day while the big kids are at school.  Catholic? You’re welcome with open arms as is anyone, even those who don’t yet believe or are not sure about believing.  So, last Wednesday I found myself at a local Baptist church with close to 100 women (if not more) waiting with nervous anticipation. I was in the newcomers group because I hadn’t been assigned a leader yet. My fingers were crossed that Will would get into the pre-school program so I could continue to attend (my father-in-law agreed to keep him for the first meeting). I more or less just wanted to see what it was all about. 

During the lecture, I began to feel calm and and even peaceful. As I listened to the leader talk about the history of the Bible and if it were a reliable source I began to realize, hey, God was right, I needed to be here. Thankfully, there was room for Will and I am looking forward to my reading and study each day. 

Today was our first day of faith formation for Joey. Which meant a huge change in our routine. I am, as you  know if you read regularly, a devotee of the 8 AM mass. I like my mass early. First thing in the morning early. But Faith Formation starts at 11:00 AM which means we’d have to leave and come back which is not desirable at all  because there is also an 11 AM mass. So, we came to mass for the first time at 9:30 AM. Which is packed. I am pretty sure people were up in the choir loft with the organist, packed. And the 8 AM is pretty full, so I was shocked. I know our parish is popular, even moreso now that it is a Basilica, but this was mind-blowing to me. In a good way, of course. When I went to the usual seats we sit in, they were empty which is good because they are good seats to hear and see from for the kids. I noticed the front two pews were reserved. Turns out it was for the Altar Guild who were briefly recognized during mass. But the lady behind me, tapped my shoulder and asked if I knew, at the time I told her no, but it is Catechetical Sunday so maybe it is because of that? And that we were normally 8 AMers but changed with the start of Faith Formation. A short while later she tapped my shoulder again and introduced herself. She told me she would be a Eucharistic minister and gave me a case to store the Body of Christ in and asked if I might get 3 host from Father when I went up to receive. I must have given her a funny look because she then proceeded to ask me if I would be going up to receive. I said yes and yes I would help her out. I know I was taken a little aback  because a) I’m a complete stranger and b) the Eucharistic ministers who are serving at the 8 AM and who double as Camillus ministers simply take what they need to distribute at the end of Communion. 

Now, okay, that is already an unusual occurence but because my brain is the way it is, I immediately begin trying to figure out the logistics of how I will receive with this not small box and herd the two boys who insist on coming up the line with me. Finally, I just give up. I’m a (recovering) people pleaser, so it’s not unusual for me to say yes to a lot of things that are strange and possibly not my favorite thing to do or cause me bizarro stress. But, I realized this was more of me being out of my comfort zone and God had some grace for me to learn and earn out of this experience. At communion I made sure to have the box and ushered the boys ahead of me in line. Father blessed them and as I approached he asked, “How many do you need?” I smiled, “three” and then I received so smoothly I was surprised.  Part of me being a recovering people pleaser is realizing I need to live my life to please God and not worry what people think, I think in this way, I succeeded. After mass, the woman behind us told me she was a retired educator told me how beautiful the boys were and she was impressed with how well they behaved and how reverent they were. 

We dropped Joey at Faith Formation and Will and I perused the book store and played on the playground until it was time to get him an hour later. 

It’s not all fun or easy or peaceful listening to God and accepting His will and especially going out of my comfort zones. Leaving after faith formation was a nightmare as I had been parked in and not only was there a full mass leaving but nine faith formation classes and then the 12:30 Spanish mass was arriving. I was hungry as I did not eat before mass (breaking the fast is a pretty big deal to me, personally) and forgot to pack myself a snack) so it was even more tempting than usual to lose my temper, but I kept it in check.  As I tried to slowly back up when traffic let up (so as not to hit the car behind me) a guy ran over, got in the car and backed it up and motioned me to continue backing up. I was eternally thankful God answered my prayer and we could get out of there without having to wait another 10 minutes. (Side note, just because your car fits in a space, doesn’t mean it belongs there! People leave space specifically so they can get out when they leave! This was a smart car, in case you were wondering.)

I hope I can continue to listen to God and follow Him as I always should. I hope one day any fear/trepidation/anxiety I have will be erased but in the mean time, I will continue to follow Him and His path and open myself more and more to His grace.