CRHP Witness on Discipleship

Well, I went totally silent all these weeks and have not shared the CRHP process with you as I had intended.  But, the Women’s Renewal Weekend is NEXT weekend, so we are in the final ‘finishing touches’ stages.  We have gathered supplies and prepared all of the ‘things’ that needed to be prepared.  For the past number of weeks our women’s team has shared, prayed, reflected, encouraged each other, laughed, cried, and had an enjoyable time with each other and our Lord.

My witness will be on the topic of Discipleship, and how the Lord has worked in this area of my life so far.  I will be one of ten “Witnessers” speaking about Christ’s work in our lives in ten different ways: Renewal, New Life in Christ, Spirituality, Christian Community, Christian Awareness, Reconciliation, Eucharist, Scripture, Father’s Loving Care, and Discipleship.

DISCIPLESHIP – FOLLOWING, LEARNING, SHARING HIS DEATH & LIFE

SONG:                        WALK ON WATER by DANIELLE ROSE

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says this about Discipleship:  “The disciple of Christ must not only keep the faith and live on it, but also profess it, confidently bear witness to it, and spread it: “All must be prepared to confess Christ before men and to follow him along the way of the Cross, amidst the persecutions which the Church never lacks.”  (CCC 1816)

I grew up in an environment that was loving, but not religious.  We went to Mass every Sunday, but did not speak of Jesus at home.  I knew there was a God, but pictured Him like my father, critical and easily angered.

The closest I got to prayer when I was young was when I would pour my soul into my diary.  I longed for someone to find it and read it and see how much I was hurting inside.  We had a cottage up North that we would go to on the weekends.  This was my favorite place because I could just be myself and not worry about what my schoolmates thought of me.  I have a special spot in my heart for sunsets on our beach – God would draw me out of myself and close to Him as I sat there watching the sun go down.

I was convinced I was a wallflower – sitting in the back of class, too afraid to speak, and certainly not ask questions.  I used to collect little quotes that I liked, little snippets of wisdom that I found.  I did not realize at the time that I was seeking God.

We stopped attending Church when I was in middle school.  I had passed out during Mass due to a head cold, and I was so afraid it would happen again that I started to ask to stay home.  My parents did not put up much resistance.

Much of my life has been learning to overcome anxiety and self-hatred. As a teenager I began having panic attacks.  This was a difficult road, but at one point, God put a scripture on my heart that helped lead me:

2 TIMOTHY 1:7                       GOD DID NOT GIVE A SPIRIT OF COWARDICE

During a summer college class the instructor gave us a list of things that people desire, and asked us to number them in importance.  There were a dozen things like, health, wealth, and fame on the list, but what I remember is that I had numbered Wisdom as my most important and Salvation as my least important.  Even though I was confused, I was still on the right path, but not yet a disciple.  The Lord had given me a heart like King Solomon, and He was preparing to give me more than I ever imagined.

WISDOM 7:7b-12                   HER RADIANCE NEVER CEASES

In college I met the man I would marry.  There is something liberating about being with someone day in and day out who wants you, helps you, forgives you, and loves you even with your flaws.  God chose him for me, and us for each other, to help us learn to love.

His mother has given me an incredible example of womanhood.  I have never met anyone with such joy and peace. I cannot be in her presence without thinking of Our Blessed Mother. She is light-hearted and contagious, and really models for me what it looks like to care about people more than things or circumstances.

Another blessing in my life has been my dear friend and boss, Ray.  He has been a source of strength and encouragement.  He has taught me how to be a Christian in everyday life, how to conduct business with integrity and the correct perspective, and how to get my Italian emotions in check and treat people charitably.  Ray is the one who pointed out that not only do I ask questions, but I ask a lot of questions and I ask good, penetrating questions.  I like that.

I wanted to be more like these amazing people that God had put in my path.  I became their secret disciple, watching their words and studying their actions, asking questions and taking mental notes.

In planning our wedding, we began looking for Catholic Churches.  Not because we understood how awesome she is, but because my family expected us to be married there.  We found a small parish that we liked, and during the initial interview, I asked the woman “Why should I stay Catholic?”  God knows my melancholic heart so well, because He gave that woman the exact words I needed to hear in order to be faithful to Him and His Church forever: “Because Catholicism is true.  All the other faith traditions pick and choose what they want to believe, but Catholicism has all of it.”  In all of my research since, my passion for this truth has not been disappointed.

MATTHEW 7:7-8                     SEEK AND YOU WILL FIND

The pastor that married us insisted that I go to Reconciliation beforehand.  I had never confessed my sins to a priest, and I did NOT want to go.  But somehow, the Lord had softened my heart enough to go, and I went one week before our wedding.  It is the best thing I ever did – I left walking on air.  A few confessions later, I found the guts to confess the sin that I was most ashamed of. I could barely speak it, but I did. Do you know what the priest told me after I had just looked him in the eye and admitted, out loud, something so shameful?  He took a moment to listen for God’s words, and then he said “God calls you daughter.”

That moment will never in my life leave my heart, and never cease to soften it…

MARK 5:33-34             DAUGHTER, YOUR FAITH HAS SAVED YOU

By the time I was 25, God had saved me from the slavery of anxiety.  He healed me and brought me to a place where I can trust Him.  I remember the moment God gave me a special grace, and I consciously decided to stop making decisions based on fear.  I gave Him permission to let bad things happen.

To face my fears, I began carpooling to work with a girl who in many ways is my opposite, but we got along well.  One morning when I stopped to pick her up she came to the door in distress.  “Don’t leave me” she whispered.  We went to her bedroom where she had been for hours throwing up and in great pain.  She had been having migraines all week, so I thought this was a particularly bad one.  I called her mom to come, I called our boss to explain, I held her bucket, rubbed her back, and sat with her as she continued to suffer.  I felt powerless and afraid, and for the first time in my life I prayed as if God heard me and cared.  I prayed for help, I prayed for mercy, and I prayed for His will to be done.  It turns out she was having a brain aneurism and, praise God, when her mom came she was rushed to U of M and saved.  By putting my fears to death, I got to help save her life.

Soon after that I was a participant in a CRHP Weekend.  I had been going through life, tending to my nets and had no idea that Jesus was walking up to me, about to ask me to follow Him forever, to be His disciple.

It was during Adoration on the Renewal Weekend that I first really felt His love for me.  I finally let my guard down enough for His subtle, intimate gesture to break through. I prayed, “Lord, if that’s really You, what would You say to me?”  The answer was so clear and so unexpected that it could not have come from me.  I cried very hard, cleansing tears. I didn’t realize how much I had bottled up inside.  The Renewal Weekend set my little flame of faith ablaze, and my life as a disciple began, and kicked into high gear.

I started going to Eucharistic Adoration regularly, listening to Catholic Radio, and reading practically every article on the Catholic Answers website.  I read papal documents and devoured books and CD’s by amazing authors and speakers like Scott Hahn, Christopher West, Fr John Riccardo, CS Lewis, GK Chesteron, Frank Sheed, and Bishop Fulton Sheen.  It is an amazing time in history to be a Catholic.  There is so much information available for us to learn what the Church teaches and why.  She is His Bride, His Body, the Palace of Wisdom that I had been looking for, and the bottomless Treasure Chest He had been preparing me to receive.

JOHN 16:12-13                       THE SPIRIT WILL GUIDE YOU TO ALL TRUTH

The more I learned, the more I fell in love with Jesus and His Church.  He just lavishes her, and us, with gift after gift – the Eucharist, the Mass, the Sacraments, the Communion of Saints, all of her teachings and disciplines, especially the ones that are hard for people to accept – Papal Infallibility, Transubstantiation, Contraception, Marriage, the All Male Priesthood, and the Marian doctrines.  With Jesus as the foundation, the Catholic Church has kept His words in her heart for over two thousand years, reflecting on them, cherishing them, and slowly understanding their implications.  I found that all of her teachings witness to the profound love and respect she has for God and all of His gifts, they witness to God’s glory and immeasurable love for us, and they defend without compromise the inviolable dignity of each and every human person.  She is the Ultimate Disciple.

As I read the Scriptures, conversion stories, and the lives of the Saints, I started to identify with these characters – ordinary people, in love with the Lord; fallen, but trying to do His will… just like me.  God gave them to me so I wouldn’t feel so lonely here.  We share the same passion for Jesus and His Church.  I could relate to them and imitate them – become their disciple.  I especially love St Peter, St Joseph, St Marcela, and St Pope John Paul II.

JOHN 15:8                              BY THIS MY FATHER IS GLORIFIED

With the help of my current confessor, I started to pray prayers like, “Lord, may I never be lukewarm”, “Lord, how do you want to heal me?”  “Help me be docile to Your will.”  “I do not wish evil on this difficult person”, “Lord, can I spend Heaven asking You questions?”  I was finally starting to pray like a disciple!

I started to receive the Eucharist on the tongue because I wanted to show the Lord that I submit to Him and allow Him to feed me, instead of me feeding myself.

I naturally became more active at our parish.  I became an RCIA sponsor and a teacher for the RCIA Youth.  I became and Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, and joined the 24th Christ Renews His Parish Women’s Team.

I started fasting, and giving food to the homeless man I saw on my way to work every day.  I started praying outside of Planned Parenthood on my lunch hours.  I joined the Emmaus Pen-Pal ministry and wrote to a young man who was in prison.

I had always pictured Jesus’ twelve disciples as little lemmings, following Him with unwavering loyalty like baby ducks follow their momma.  But this is far from the truth.  They argued about who was the greatest, panicked when they were on the stormy water, fell asleep during the Agony in the Garden, lost Him, abandoned Him, denied Him, and one betrayed Him.  However, these are also the men that stayed when He insisted that they eat His flesh and drink His blood, they were present for the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, they confessed Him to be the Messiah, devoted their lives to Him, and ultimately died for Him.

Sometimes I wonder what I would do if I were offered the choice to renounce my faith or die.  I would probably chicken out like St Peter did at first, but I hope not.  To me the Catholic faith is so obviously true – they would be asking me to deny Jesus Himself, the one who gave me my dignity, my identity as God’s daughter.

I imagine Satan offered Our Lord this very choice on the cross – “Renounce the dignity of JSK, that stupid sinful girl who lives in that place and time, or die.”  Jesus looked him straight in the eye and said, “I will not.  I will defend her with my life.”  And He did.

SONG:                        ANOINTING AT BETHANY by DANIELLE ROSE

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A Plea to ISIS

Please, in the name of the Almighty and Merciful God, please stop.

The intense, seething, all-consuming hatred you feel is probably motivated by an intense love for God and desire to defend His honor and glory.

You are deeply disturbed by the immorality of the West and all it appears to stand for.  There are many ‘infidels’ who would agree with you – all immorality is deplorable and wicked and must be stopped.

We share our father in faith, Abraham.  Abraham is an ultimate example of obedience to God.  Abraham was surrounded by immorality in his day too.  He was as disgusted and offended by it as you are.  He was obedient to God’s commandment – Thou shalt not kill.

God does not want this bloodshed.  God is the Life-Giver.  Look at the beauty and bounty of creation!  He gives life and love and mercy and hope at every opportunity!  He does not want this hatred to consume your hearts and minds and actions.  Every life you have so brutally taken was a life that God Himself was holding in existence the very moment you took it.  It is HIS decision when a life will return to Him, not yours.

Please, we beg you to stop.

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Because His Knuckles May Begin to Hurt

My four-year-old and I were cuddling before bed tonight, talking about Jesus.  At one point I suggested we come up with a gift for Jesus.  “What do you think He might like for a present?”  I asked her.  I don’t know what I expected her to say, maybe a hug, or a drawing, or a puppy…

“A doorbell.”

“A doorbell?”

“Yup.”

“What do you think Jesus would do with a doorbell?”

“I think maybe He would ring it.”

“You know what? I think that’s exactly what He would do.”

I just found that so funny and so charming that I had to share.

***

“Listen! my beloved is knocking.” (Song of Songs 5:2)

“For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:8)

“Be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.” (Luke 12:36)

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, [then] I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.”  (Rev 3:20)

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Swinging Songs of Praise

Last night our family went out into our yard after dinner and before bed.  While my husband was mowing the yard, I pushed the girls on the swings.  They like when I push them high so they can “almost touch the trees!”  I pushed them on the swings for the better part of an hour – and it was heaven.

There was no arguing or whining, there was no pestering or instigating or bickering; I was not worried about a mess to clean or someone hurting herself.  I wasn’t being defied or ignored.  I wasn’t grouchy or short-tempered or irritable.  I didn’t raise my voice once.  All we had to do was play… play together.

The best part of all was the laughter.  The songs.  The squeals of delight.  The noises of pure happiness that came from my girls.  They called to their daddy, and waved, grinning from ear to ear.  Giggling and happy chatter.  The air was filled with such sweet joy.  It was tangible, it was contagious – I became immersed in the moment and it lifted my heart and mind to the Lord.

The smile He gave me was so deep and awesome.  I thought, “This is what we were made for!  This is the praise the Lord wants!  This is where He is, where He is happiest – when His children, pure of heart, are enjoying His creation, loving each other, and filling His world with songs of joy.”

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CRHP – Week 9 – Third Segment – Evangelization

Much has happened since we were together last. We have begun the twelve “Segments”; each has a different theme that we spend a good bit of time discussing and sharing our life experiences. In the First Segment we discussed Commitment. In the Second Segment we discussed Shared Ministry. Last night we discussed Evangelization.

The purposes of the Segments are: 1) To continue personal spiritual growth of the team members, 2) To develop a sense of discipleship in a community of love and service, 3) To prepare for the Renewal Weekend.

Commitment highlights:

You did not choose me but I chose you; and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit.”  John 15:16

“The content of one’s commitments will determine the course of one’s life.”  CRHP Manual

When I’m tempted to waver in my commitment to the CRHP process, it helps to call to mind the reasons I chose to commit in the first place: to bring God to the participants, to join our pastor and the Holy Spirit in his efforts to renew the parish, to activate my own personal spiritual growth, and ultimately, to give glory to God.

Shared Ministry highlights:

“We pray always when the One who loves us is always on our mind.  Shared prayer, then, is sharing what is on our mind.” CRHP Manual

We recently celebrated 180 years as a parish community (established 1831). Our pastor received letters from area organizations that beautifully illustrated how our parish has been woven into the larger community, serving people faithfully in many ways for many for years. In addition to all the present-day ministries, CRHP strikes me as one of the latest ways we continue that contribution.

On a larger scale, renewing our parishes will be beneficial for the Universal Church as well, bringing about the New Pentecost that is on the heart of God, as proclaimed by Pope John XXIII, Pope John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI.

Evangelization

Our discussion on the topic of evangelization was fruitful. The definition we were given was

“To proclaim the love of the Father which comes to us through Jesus Christ in such a way that through the Holy Spirit you accept it with your own free and firm commitment.” CRHP Manual

In the stories that we shared, we found some of the basic ingredients of the experience. Evangelization happens in everyday relationships - between family, friends, and strangers. It takes courage to love as Jesus loves, and it takes courage to be open to be loved.  Some essential things that we must do:

1)  Simply be there, be present to one another.

2)  Listen, Encourage, and Challenge one another.

3)  Pray.  I will pray for you.  Can I pray for you?  Can we pray together?

4)  Share Jesus, both by name and by deed.

The results are exciting and edifying. Both persons in the interaction are energized and inspired. God’s goodness, truth, and beauty is attractive to us because we were made for it.

It seems to me that evangelization is really a form of shared prayer. It is a form of worship, of sharing in God’s work on earth by offering our bodies to Him to love others through us.

There has been talk in Catholic circles about The New Evangelization. The Church is missionary by Her very nature, and The New Evangelization is a re-awakening to that mission. It has been expressed and emphasized by the last four popes – Francis, Benedict XVI, John Paul II, and John VI. Because of the current cultural climate, The New Evangelization has a special emphasis:

[God and His Church have] a sincere desire to invite all of God’s children to their place in the Church: “We want to let our inactive brothers and sisters know that they always have a place in the Church and that we are hurt by their absence—as they are. . . . we want to help them see that, however they feel about the Church, we want to talk with them, share with them, and accept them as brothers and sisters.”

I feel a direct, concrete example of this when I invite someone to a Renewal Weekend. This is what Christ Renews His Parish is designed to do, offer an invitation and an opportunity to meet Jesus in His Church.  May God bless our efforts!

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